Le Paul Kruger

Paul Kruger (Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger) was born on 10 October 1825 at Bulhoek, his grandfather’s farm near Cradock in what is now the Eastern Cape.
He spent his early childhood on the Vaalbank farm near Colesberg (Northern Cape). His school was the veld, having just three months formal education.
The Great Trek
In 1836, at the age of ten, his family set out as part of the Great Trek into the interior, firstly with Piet Retief on his trek to Natal, and then with Hendrik Potgieter into the Transvaal.
Kruger witnessed his first battle in 1836 at Vegkop (fight hill), where Mzilikazi’s Matabele impis suffered the first of their defeats against the Boers.
The Boer trekkers crossed the Vaal River in 1838 and at first stayed in the area that is known today as Potchefstroom – the first capital of what would later become the South African Republic. Kruger’s father, Casper Kruger, later decided to settle in the district now known as Rustenburg.
At the age of 16, Paul Kruger was allowed to choose a farm for himself at the foot of the Magaliesberg where he settled in 1841.
The following year he married Maria du Plessis and the young couple accompanied Casper Kruger to live in the Eastern Transvaal for a while.
After the family returned to Rustenburg, Kruger’s wife and infant son died, probably from malaria. He then married Gezina du Plessis,  and had seven daughters and nine sons, some dying in infancy.
South African Republic 1852
Over time Kruger emerged as a leader of the Boers. He started as a veldkornet  (field cornet) in the commandos. He was present at the Sand River Convention in 1852 when the Transvaal South African Republic was granted its independence.
Three years later he was appointed member of a commission of the Volksraad (Republican Parliament) that drew up the constitution for the new republic whilst serving as Commandant-General of the Transvaal.
People began to take notice of the young man and he played a prominent part in ending the quarrel between the Transvaal leader, Stephanus Schoeman, and Marthinus Pretorius. The latter was to become the first President of the South African Republic and founder of Pretoria, which he named after his father, Andries Pretorius.
In 1873 Kruger resigned as Commandant-General and, for a time, held no office but retired to his Boekenhoutfontein farm. In 1874, however, he was elected to the Executive Council and shortly after that became Vice-President of the Transvaal.
1st War of Independence 1880
In 1877, when the British annexed the Transvaal, Kruger became the leader of the Boer resistance movement to regain and keep their independence. During the same year, he visited England for the first time as leader of a deputation. In 1878 he was part of a second deputation.
These first two visits to England, and his negotiations with the government of Benjamin Disraeli, proved fruitless, as was his campaign of passive resistance back home. However, these attempts established him as a patriotic Afrikaner leader and a skilled politician. During his second visit to Europe he was able to fly over Paris in a hot air balloon.
In 1880 the Transvaaler’s, under the leadership of Paul Kruger, Marthinus  Pretorius and Piet Joubert, led the first War of Independence against the British authorities in the Cape. The invading British forces were defeated by Joubert’s burghers at Laing’s Nek, Ingogo, and most famously at Majuba Hill in 1881.
Once again, Paul Kruger played an important role in the negotiations with the British, which led to the restoration of the Transvaal’s independence under British sovereignty.
President Kruger 1883
In 1883, at the age of 57, Kruger was elected president of the South African Republic. He again left for England in 1883. Empowered to negotiate with Lord Derby, he proceeded to agree complete independence from Britain at the London Convention of 1884. Pretoria; Gauteng;
Kruger House Museum;  Kruger National Park
Cecil John Rhodes; Leander Starr Jameson; Barney Barnato
Photo gallery – Boer propaganda
Kruger and his delegation also visited other European countries including Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Spain. In Germany, he attended an imperial banquet at which he was presented to the Emperor, Wilhelm I, speaking at length with the renowned Bismarck.
Back home Kruger had an arch-enemy in the form of Cecil Rhodes and his Cape political associates. Rhodes regarded the western parts of the Transvaal as the Imperial way across the Limpopo and into the northern interior. Kruger had, in violation of the terms of the London Convention, proclaimed these northern territories a Transvaal protectorate, and had to withdraw. Later this land became the British protectorate of Bechuanaland.
Gold and the Uitlander problem
In 1886 the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand resulted in a flood of foreigners ( ‘uitlanders’) to the area. This was a threat to the new political independence of the Boer republic and the Afrikaner identity. Although Kruger’s government needed the revenue from the mines and didn’t have any legitimate reason to remove these ‘uitlanders’, to grant them full political rights would negate everything the Boers had fought for.
Cecil Rhodes, the uitlanders, and their Johannesburg representatives in the Reform Movement, increased the pressure on Kruger for equal rights but with little success.
The Jameson Raid 1895/6
In late December 1895 the Uitlander frustrations culminated in a raid into the Republic – a raid that was led by Leander Starr Jameson, but which was secretly instigated by Cecil Rhodes.
The raid failed and in early 1896 Jameson was forced to surrender. He was taken to Pretoria and then handed over to stand trial in London for this illegal act. Barney Barnato is said to have negotiated with Oom Paul (‘Uncle Paul’ as he was fondly known by many of his followers) for Jameson’s trial to be under British jurisdiction.
In 1898 Kruger was elected President for the fourth and last time, and although he did make some concessions to the British, the High Commissioner (Alfred Milner), made increasingly difficult demands. Britain was determined to create a unified South Africa and negotiations were no longer about the rights of uitlanders.
The Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902
On 11 October 1899, the Anglo-Boer War broke out. Kruger, now 74, remained in Pretoria because of poor health until 1900. On 7 May, Kruger attended the last session of the Volksraad and on 29 May he left Pretoria as Lord Roberts advanced on the town.
For many weeks Kruger stayed either in a house at Waterval-Onder, or in his railway carriage at Machadodorp in the Eastern Transvaal (now in Mpumalanga).
Finally, on 21 October, Kruger boarded the Dutch warship De Gelderland, sent by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, at Lorenzo Marques, and left for Europe. His wife was much too sick to accompany him and Gezina died on 20 July 1901.
Kruger landed in Marseilles to an overwhelming ovation. He travelled through Europe to Holland where he stayed for the remainder of the war, his last home being Oranjelust in Utrecht. Here he received the news that the treaty (the Peace of Vereeniging) had been signed. The Boer generals – Botha, De Wet and De la Rey – also paid him a visit when they were in Europe in 1902 after the war.
The President moved to Clarens in Switzerland where he stayed for the last six months of his life.
He died on 14 July 1904 and his remains were temporarily interred at the Hague and were brought to Cape Town in the Dutch ship De Batavier VI. His body was then taken to Pretoria by train and he was buried on 16 December 1904 in the Church Street cemetery.

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