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prepared the way for a political nationality,— it has subdued much local feeling, prejudice and habit, and replaced them by a wider and stronger element of German nationality.” Even so the Customs Union in South Africa was the first step in what might be called the “South Africanization of the people: it helped the people to look upon themselves not as Transvalers, Free Staters and Colonials, but as South Africans; it broke down some of the strongest factors working for alienation and hostility; it undoubtedly prepared, if it did not force, the way for political unity; lastly it replaced localism, prejudice and absolute antagonism by the broader and constructive element of a South African nationality.
Many attempts were made in South Africa for obtaining a union or a federation of some sort between the different states and colonies before the movement for commercial union started. Sir George Grey started the movement in the middle of the 19th century. The historian, Froude, was sent out, Bartle Frere, diplomat and statesman, was sent out, even violence was used in 1877, when Sir Theophilus Shepstone made his unwarrented annexation of the Transvaal, but it was all of no avail. Even before this annexation of 1877, Mr. Hofmeyr, with whom we have made acquaintance above, had written as follows: “If confederation is perhaps impossible, would a Customs Union also be so? The one would lead to the other, even as the German Zollverein eventually developed into the German Empire.” Mr. Hofmeyr's party was also in favour of a Customs Union, and was an early champion of the movement. (1). Mr. Hofmeyr's prophecy came true as we shall see, and though it came true by gradual steps, he had the pleasure of seeing it come true.
This year 1884 was an important year in the history of the South African Customs Union. In that year the Cape found it necessary again to raise the customs duties. This meant more of the inland trade for Natal. A comparison of the tariffs of the two colonies at about this time (2) will clearly
1. J. H. Hofmeyr: The Life of J. H. Hofmeyr, p. 320 (Chapter 19).
2. Rawson: Tariffs and Trade of the British Empire, page 17. Rawson also arranged the British possessions in the order in which they stood as to the average rate of duty charged upon the total value of their importations. The arrangement is as follows: Order.
10.7. See page 21. Note continued on next page.
show how much lower and simpler Natal's tariff was than the Cape Colony's:
In order io have the higher duties but at the same time keep the trade of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, i.e. the inland trade, an Act was passed by the Cape Parliament on July 25, 1884, authorizing the Governor to grant a rebate of customs duty in respect of goods removed overland to certain places beyond the borders of the Colony, as was noted above. (1).
A quotation from this Act will give us a glance into the situation. There was 1. the difficulty with Natal; 2. the imposition of duties on South African produce. It was thus enacted, inter alia, as follows: “Whereas it is expedient to grant a rebate of customs payable on goods imported into this Colony when such goods shall be removed overland to certain places beyond the borders of the Colony: be it therefore enacted... that:
1. Whenever any goods imported, or warehoused on importation into this Colony, upon which duties shall not have been paid, shall be removed overland to any state or territory beyond the borders thereof,to which the Governor shall, by proclamation, declare this Act to apply, it shall be lawful for the Governor to grant such rebate of the customs duties payable on the said goods, as notice may from time to time
1. Cape of Good Hope Statutes, 1652 – 1905, Volume ii, p. 2,217. The Act was known as the “Customs Rebate Act of 1884.” This Act was repealed by Act No. 39 of 1888 — the “Customs Union Tariff Act of 1888."
“The Natal tariff appears to have been originally founded on that of the Cape of Good Hope, its mother colony, if indeed it were not once indentical; but it has not expanded in concert with the latter, as the number of articles charged with specific duties, and the rate of ad valorem duties, are at present about one-half in the former.”. Rawson, p. 11.
be given of in the Gazette, but such rebate shall in no case exceed the difference between the amount of customs duties payable at the time on such goods in this Colony and the Colony of Natal. 2. No customs duties shall be payable in
pect of the importation into the Colony across the inland border thereof, of any articles grown or produced in South Africa other than the following, namely: beer, wine, spirits, tobacco, coffee, sugar, molasses, and other articles that may hereafter be excepted by proclamation of the Governor. (1).
In the same year, on May 17, a supplementary agreement between the South African Republic and Portugal was arranged in a protocol whereto it was stipulated that “the Government of the South African Republic, with the object of causing other South African States or Colonies to enjoy greater advantages, has signified its intention to introduce a Customs Union, the benefit of which, however, shall not extend to Portugal by virtue of the right of most-favoured-nation treatment, and that the Portuguese Government acknowledges that it has no right to obtain those advantages when the Customs Union shall have been established.” (2). Moreover, on September 17 it was resolved in the Volksraad by unanimous decision that “the Volksraad, being of opinion that the Government of the South African Republic should enter into communication with the Governments of the states and colonies of South Africa, with regard to the necessity of forming a Customs Union on the basis of reciprocal free importation of the products of the industry of those states and colonies, hereby empowers the Government to invite the Governments of the said states and colonies in order to treat of the forming of such a Customs Union, to which conference the Government of this Republic shall send as delegates...... members. Meantime the Government is instructed to enter into communication, with the Government of the Cape Colony with a view to discontinuing reciprocally, for the present, the levying of import duties on productions of both countries, till such time as the formation of a Customs Union shall be decided on.” (3).
This step was brought about mainly by the fact that the Transvaal saw that it was a matter of vital importance for
1. This was retaliation on the part of the Cape after the Transvaal had levied duties on several articles of Colonial produce, including brandy, (October 21 and 22, 1881).
2. State Papers, Volume 75, pp. 636 — 638.
her to foster trade relations with the Cape Colony. On the 30th of July, 1885, the State Secretary telegraphed to the premier of the Cape Colony as follows: “How about a Customs Union? Is there no chance that we take off the duty on Colonial brandy and Colonial-made waggons, and you the duty on our tobacco ? We want to bring the matter before our Volksraad.” (1). Mr. Upington's reply to this was: “We are ready to consider any proposals the Government of the South African Republic may make for a Customs Union.” The State Secretary replied by repeating the request, whereupon the Premier wired back that he had no authority from Parliament, and that “much inquiry would be necessary before we could ask for authority."
This was discouraging. Nevertheless at the beginning of 1886 the Transvaal again communicated with the Cape Ministers regarding the matter. Again an unsympathetic reply was received. This same policy was followed by the Cape Government when it was requested by the Transvaal to carry on its railway from Kimberley to Pretoria. (2).
The next move came from Sir John Brand, the President of the Free State. On January 8, 1886, he addressed a despatch to the Governor of the Cape, in which he suggested the holding of a conference of commissioners from all the South African States and Colonies to discuss the subject of a general Customs Union between the several colonies and states of South Africa ; and the apportionment to the Inland States and British Bechuanaland, of their equitable share of the Customs dues collected at the Cape and Natal seaports, on the goods consumed by the inhabitants of those inland countries." (3).
Things now began to move more rapidly. The public in the Cape Colony had by now begun to take serious interest in the matter of fair treatment to the Republics, and that of a South African Customs Union. The famous Bond Party had strongly supported the movement in February, 1886, and when Parliament met on April 9, Mr. Upington came forward with a motion (which was agreed to) to empower the Government “to appoint a person or persons, who shall be authorised to act with persons appointed by the neighbouring States and Colonies, in any inquiries which may be held into the question of Border Customs and Duties.” (4).
1. See J. H. Hofmeyr: "The Life of J. H. Hofmeyr, pp. 324 - 325.
In this session of Parliament, the question of the application by the South African Republic, for a share of the customs duties collected on their goods at Cape ports, was also brought up (on June 20). There were two opinions in Parliament: the one movement was dead against this request; the other was in favour of treating the Republics squarely. Rhodes, who was at this time working for a confederated South Africa, and who had “urged upon President Kruger with all the power at his command, the advantages which would accrue through the establishment of a preferential tariff between the four leading Colonies and States of the subcontinent,” (1), wanted the Republics to be fairly treated. He made the following speech in support of his views: “If we take a statesmanlike view of the situation, we should deal with the Transvaal about the internal customs and the extension of the railway to Pretoria. They are hard up [this was after the War of Independence and the War with Sikukuni] and as they have no customs duties they must get revenue some way; they must put a duty on the goods from the Colony. If we are going to approach the Republics by laying down the law that we will not give them any share of the duties, we shall only increase the feeling existing at present. It is time to approach this question from a much wider point of view, and deal with them on a basis of giving them some share of the customs. It might seem as if I were asking the house to give up revenue, but if the Delagoa Bay Railway is about to be constructed, our trade will go through that port. That is the question we must deal with, and if we make no concession, we shall get no customs duties at all, for we shall lose our trade and our railway receipts. Now is the time to act or we shall find our trade gone, hostile tariffs established against us, and the reason for which we built our railway to Pretoria swept away. I think the house should weigh the question in a broad spirit and with the idea always before us that we should be the dominant state in South Africa.' (2). And Sir L. Mitchell continues : (3) "To understand the points here put it is necessary to know that, in the absence of a general Customs Union, the Coast Colonies were, (at this period] pursuing a policy of flagrant injustice toward the interior states. To assist in meeting, as they said, the cost of dock accommodation, they persisted in retaining the whole of the customs duties levied at their ports on goods destined for Transvaal [and the Orange Free State] consumption. This
1. Howard Hensman: Cecil Rhodes, p. 95.