National Geographic : 1896 Nov
THE WITWATERSRAND AND British policy in South Africa has been one of consistent and deliberate oppression. Vacillating it has been, through changes in party government, through ignorance in the colonial office of conditions in South Africa, and through the idiosyncrasies of arbitrary or doctrinaire commissioners. Many of the British governors have lost reputation and have been recalled in conse quence of their mistakes, but South Africa has gained little by the penalties meted out to her rulers. In public affairs enlight ened wisdom is more useftil than virtue; for wrongs, though unintentionally committed, can seldom be righted or even fully atoned for.* Gold had been discovered in the Transvaal in the Lydenburg district as early as 1867, and prior to 1881 it had been found at other points as well, but none of these discoveries were of a very sensational character. The marvelous deposits of the Witwaters rand were detected in 1885. The Witwatersrand as a gold-producing district has no parallel in history. It is now producing from an area no larger than the District of Columbia at the rate of more than $40,000,000 worth of gold annually, and, as has been mentioned, there are good reasons for believing that the ultimate total production will be approximately $3,500,000,000, or about ten times the total value of the product of the Comstock lode.t Production did not begin till 1887. Of course, Johannesburg, the chief town of the district, grew with the utmost rapidity. A census of the district within three miles of Market square was taken in July last. It showed 51,225 whites and 51,849 colored people. Doubtless the enumerators missed some resi dents, but probably no large proportion of them. The sudden development of this vast industry naturally pro duced a profound effect upon the financial circumstances of the Transvaal, although the Burghers did not take part in the ex ploitation of gold. The Boers sold land at enormous valuations, furnished transportation at high rates, sold produce at famine prices, and levied most profitable taxes. How greatly they bene *The loyalty of many Englishmen is so extreme that they esteem it a blessing for any people to come under English domination, whether willingly or otherwise. They cannot understand how people can prefer independence to the British rule. This fact explains many instances of aggression which to an American seem without excuse. tAs estimated by the Mint Bureau of the United States, the Comstock produced up to January 1, 1896, about $149,000,000 worth of gold. If silver is reckoned at the coin ing value, or $1.2929 per fine ounce, the total product of the lode is estimated at $357,472,626.85. The gold is about 42 per cent of the total value. Last year the produc tion of this great lode fell below a million dollars.