FINEST HOUR 136, AUTUMN 2007
BY JAMES LANGWORTH
Jan Christian Smuts, who had first met Churchill in South Africa in 1899, rapidly rose through the ministerial ranks when the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910.
When Smuts arrived in London on 17 March 1917, Churchill wrote this memorable welcome: “At this moment there arrives in England from the outer marches of the Empire a new and altogether extraordinary man….The stormy and hazardous roads he travelled by would fill all the acts and scenes of a drama.”
In 1919 Smuts became Prime Minister and also Minister for Native Affairs. In 1924 he was defeated by the Nationalists. Out of office, he watched with dismay the rise of the Radical Nationalist Party under Hertzog. Still in the wilderness, he came to England in 1929 to give the Rhodes memorial lectures at Oxford. Here is an extract from one of those lectures, from Jan Christian Smuts, a biography by his son of the same name (Cassell, 1952):
We are concerned to-day with these racial reactions in so far as they affect Europe and Africa—a small question, but still a very large human question, fraught with immense possibilities for the future of our civilisation as well as that of Africa. What is wanted in Africa today is a wise, far-sighted native policy. If we could evolve and pursue a policy which will promote the cause of civilisation in Africa without injustice to the African, without injury to what is typical and specific in the African, we shall render a great service to the cause of humanity. For there is much that is good in the African which ought to be preserved and developed.
For a thorough account of Churchill and Smuts see Paul Courtenay, “The Smuts Dimension,” Churchill Proceedings 1998-2000.
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