The Long, Long Trek of the Afrikaners

New Nation

Once more, British authority followed them.  In 1848 the Free State was proclaimed the Orange River Sovereignty, with a Resident Commissioner to represent the British Government.  By now the Afrikaners, like the first Americans on the other side of the world, had ceased to be Europeans.  They had their own language [Afrikaans], their own lands.  Though they still worshipped their stern Calvinist God,[3] there was no thought of ever going “home” to Europe, because there was no home to go to.  They lived by the Bible and the gun.  A new nation had been born on the face of the earth.

At the Sand (Zand) River Convention of 1852 the British Government recognised the South African Republic (Transvaal) as an independent republic.  The Orange Free State was given independence at the Bloemfontein Convention of 1854.  But, for the next 50 years, crisis followed crisis in Boer/Brit relations.  The Boers beyond dispute were wickedly pushed around.

The position was intolerably complicated by the discovery of diamonds on the Orange River in 1867.  “Gentlemen,” said the British Colonial Secretary, “This is the rock on which the future success of South Africa will be built.”  Indeed, a quarter of a billion carats were to be dug out in the next century.  But, since the diamonds lay in Afrikaans lands, the British simply declared they were annexing these lands.  British and foreign miners came pouring in.