Boer Republics

The Boer Republics (sometimes also referred to as Boer states) were independent, self-governed republics in the last half of the nineteenth century, created by the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of the Cape Colony and their descendants, variously named Trekboers, Boers and Voortrekkers in mainly the middle, northern and north eastern and eastern parts of what is now the country of South Africa. Two of the Boer Republics achieved international recognition and complete independence: the South African Republic (ZAR or Transvaal) and the Orange Free State. The republics did not provide separation of church and state, and initially only the Dutch Reformed Church, then also other churches in the Calvinist Protestant tradition, were allowed. The republics came to an end after the Second Boer War which resulted in the British annexation and later incorporation into the Union of South Africa.

Boer Republics and Griqua states in Southern Africa, 19th century


The United Kingdom took over from the Netherlands as the colonial power at the Cape of Good Hope in 1806. Subsequently, a number of its Dutch-speaking inhabitants trekked inland, first in smaller numbers, then in groups as large as almost a hundred people,[1] after 1834 even in groups of hundreds. There were many reasons why the Boers left the Cape Colony; among the initial reasons were the language laws. The British had proclaimed the English language as the only language of the Cape Colony and prohibited the use of the Dutch language.[2] As the Bible, churches, schools and culture of many of the settlers were Dutch, this caused a lot of friction. Britain abolished slavery in 1834 and allocated the sum of 1,200,000 British pounds as recompense for the Dutch settlers' slaves. The Dutch settlers disputed the requirement that they had to lodge their claims in Britain and objected that the value of the slaves was many times the allocated amount. This caused further dissatisfaction among the Dutch settlers.[1]:199 The settlers believed incorrectly that the Cape Colony administration had taken the money due to them as payment for freeing their slaves. In truth, the allocated money was simply too little to cover even half of the claims.

South African Republic

In 1835, one of the large groups of Boers arrived at the Vet river. Louis Tregardt and Jan van Rensburg split off from Hendrik Potgieter's group, and continued on to establish Zoutpansberg. Potgieter's group remained at the Vet river and founded a town called Winburg.[1]:222

The establishment of the South African Republic had its origins in 1837 when the commandos of Potgieter and Piet Uys defeated a Matabele raiding party of Moselekatse and drove them back over the Limpopo river. Potgieter declared the lands north and south of the Vaal river as Boer lands.[1]:224 Boers started settling on both sides of the Vaal river and in March 1838, Potgieter, Uys and the men of their commando provided relief to Gerrit Maritz, and early in April 1838, Uys and his son were killed. During April 1838 Potgieter returned to the area north of the Vaal river and founded the town of Potchefstroom.[1]:225 At this time, this new country included the area north (Potchefstroom) and south (Winburg) of the Vaal river.

In 1848 the British Governor of the Cape, Sir Harry Smith, issued a proclamation declaring British sovereignty over all the lands to the north and to the south of the Vaal river.[1]:230 Commandant-General Andries Pretorius led the commandos against the British forces later that year, at the battle of Boomplaats, near Smithfield. The Boer commandos were defeated and General Pretorius and the remainder of his men fled north across the Vaal river. The Volksraad from Winburg was transferred to Potchefstroom and the South African Republic was established as the name of the new country.[1]:231

Independence of South African Republic

The people north of the Vaal River in the South African Republic were recognized as an independent country by Great Britain with the signing of the Sand River Convention on 17 January 1852.[3]:357–59

Flag of Transvaal
Flag of the South African Republic

Transvaal Civil War

Natalia Republic

In April 1837, a party under leadership of Piet Retief arrived in Thabanchu. In June 1837, in Winburg, the newly elected Boer Volksraad appointed Piet Retief as Commandant-General. An argument between Maritz and Potgieter, both elected to the Volksraad, led to a split. Maritz and Piet Retief decided to secede from the Potgieter- and Uys-led Boer country. The Boers under the leadership of Piet Retief obtained a treaty from Zulu King Dingane to settle part of the lands the Zulus administered or held sway over, but Dingane later changed his mind, killing Retief and 70 members of his delegation. Dingane's impis (Zulu warriors) then killed almost 300 Boers who had settled in the Natal region.

After Pretorius was recruited to fill the leadership vacuum created by the deaths of Piet Retief and Maritz, he offered to negotiate for peace with Dingane if he were to restore the land he had offered to Retief.[4] Dingane responded by attacking the Voortrekkers; on 16 December 1838 the battle of Nacome River (later named the Battle of Blood River) occurred, during which 300 Voortrekkers survived and won a decisive battle against thousands of Dingane's impis.

The Natalia Republic was established in 1839 by the local Boers after Pretorius entered into an alliance with Mpande, the new Zulu king.

Orange Free State

In June 1852 a public meeting was held in Bloemfontein where all the European people voted on a resolution whether to pursue independence or remain under British rule. The vast majority of people voted to remain under British rule. Sir Harry Smith, however, had instructions to hand the country over to the Boers. In 1853, Sir George Clerk was sent as special commissioner to give up the land and to establish self-rule.[1]:232 16,000 people sent a delegation of representatives to inform Clerk that the people wished to remain governed by Britain. Clerk however had clear instructions to establish self-rule, and with a minority Boers represented by J.H. Hofmann, agreed to a convention of independence.[1]:233

Independence of the Orange Free State

The Orange Free State was recognized by the UK on 17 February 1854. The Orange Free State became independent on 23 February 1854 with the signing of the Bloemfontein or Orange River Convention. The Orange Free State was nicknamed "the model republic".

Flag of the Orange Free State
Flag of the Republic the Orange Free State

Other republics

New Republic

The New Republic (comprising the town of Vryheid) was established in 1884 on land given to the local Boers by the Zulu King Dinuzulu, the son of Cetshwayo, after he recruited local Boers to fight on his side. The Boers were promised and granted land for their services and were led by Louis Botha who would go on to prominence during the second Anglo-Boer War. This republic was later absorbed into the Transvaal/South African Republic.


The Zoutpansberg Boers came in 1835, settling along the Limpopo River, where they learnt gold working from the natives. The white settlers in Zoutpansberg had a long reputation of lawlessness, often being called typical "Back-veldt Boers". In 1864,they were inevitably incorporated into the South African Republic (Transvaal),after the Transvaal Civil War. As a district in the Republic, they had the largest native population in the South African Republic.

Goosen (Goshen)

Located in an area of Bechuanaland, west of the Transvaal, the State of Goshen existed as an independent nation for a short period: from 1882–1883 as the State of Goshen and, after unification with neighbouring Stellaland, as the United States of Stellaland (Dutch: Verenigde Staten van Stellaland) from 1883–1885.


States were also established by other population groups, most notably the Griqua, a subgroup of South Africa's heterogeneous and multiracial Coloured people. Most notable among these were Griqualand West and Griqualand East.

Boer countries

The Transvaal and the Orange Free State developed into successful independent countries which were recognized by the Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium, the United States, and Britain.[5] These two countries continued to exist for several decades, despite the First Boer War with Britain. However, later developments, including the discovery of diamonds and gold in these states, led to the Second Boer War. In this war, the Transvaal and Orange Free State were defeated and annexed by the overwhelmingly larger British forces, ceasing to exist on 31 May 1902, with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging. A new British colony, the Union of South Africa, was established, in which the Transvaal and the Orange Free State became provinces along with the Cape and Natal.


The Boer Republics were predominately Calvinist Protestant due to their Dutch heritage, and this played a significant role in their culture. The ZAR national constitution did not provide separation between church and state[3], disallowing the franchise (citizenship) to anyone not a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1858, these clauses were altered in the constitution to allow for the Volksraad to approve other Dutch Calvinist churches that separated from the Dutch Reformed Church in the wake of a number of splits. Members of the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian churches were not allowed to become citizens of the ZAR.[3]:358–59

Land claim

On 24 April 2014, political party Front Nasionaal (FN) submitted a land claim to the Land Claims Commissioner in Pretoria on behalf of the Afrikaner nation. The claim pertains to the land described in National Archives of South Africa R117/1846: "From Ohrigstad to the north till the Olifantsrivier, then downwards to the Delagoa Bay line; to the south till the Crocodile River; to the west to Elandspruit till the 26 degrees line; east till where the Crocodile River joins the Komati River."[6] FN states that the sale of said land was between King Masous (representative of the Zulu) as seller; and Commandant SJZR Burg (representative of the Dutch South African nation) as buyer. A copy of the agreement is filed in the Government Archives under file R117/46. FN further states that the land was legally bought and paid for on 25 July 1846 as an ethnic group and not as individual landowners and was only in custodianship of the pre-1994 government as they were regarded as descendents of the ethnic group. There was therefore no legal right to hand this land over to a "foreign" government in April 1994 and away from the original ethnic group.[7] The new land claims process has not yet been finalised however.[8][9][10]

List of Griqua states and Boer republics in Southern Africa

Boer republics

Griqua states

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i D. Fairbridge (1918). History of South Africa. pp. 220–21.
  2. ^ Kachru, Braj; Kachru, Yamuna; Nelson, Cecil (2009). The Handbook of World Englishes. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 160–61. ISBN 1405188316.
  3. ^ a b c Eybers (1917). Select_constitutional_documents_illustrating_South_African_history_1795-1910. pp. 367–68.
  4. ^ The Great Boer Trek. Stephen Crane. Archived February 10, 2003, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ The Story of the Boers. C. W. Van Der Hoogt. Chapter: A Century of Injustice. p. 96.
  6. ^ "Land claim submission for old Boer Republic land-rights 24 April 2014". Archived from the original on 2016-03-11. Retrieved 2014-05-16.
  7. ^ Largest Land Claim in South Africa: old Boer Republic
  8. ^ "Land restitution bill passed after heated debate". News24. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  9. ^ "Front Nasionaal hands in massive land claim". SABC Digital News. 25 April 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  10. ^ Vermaak, Narda (15 May 2014). "Party is upfront about its land claim". Steelburger. Archived from the original on 16 June 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
Battle of Driefontein

The Battle of Driefontein on 10 March 1900 followed on the Battle of Poplar Grove in the Second Boer War between the British Empire and the Boer republics, in what is now South Africa. In the first half of 1900, the British made an offensive towards the two Boer republic capitals of Bloemfontein and Pretoria. The Boer forces under the command of Christiaan de Wet were holding a 7-mile (11 km) line covering the approach to Bloemfontein. Lord Roberts subsequently ordered a division under Lieutenant General Thomas Kelly-Kenny to attack the position from the front, while Lieutenant General Charles Tucker's division moved against its left flank. The Boers were subsequently forced to withdraw losing 124 men killed and captured, while the British lost 82 killed and 342 wounded.


Boer (; Afrikaans: [buːr]) is the Dutch and Afrikaans noun for "farmer". In South African contexts, "Boers" (Afrikaans: Boere) refers to the descendants of the then Dutch-speaking settlers of the eastern Cape frontier in Southern Africa during the 18th and much of the 19th century. From 1652 to 1795 the Dutch East India Company controlled this area, but the United Kingdom incorporated it into the British Empire in 1806.In addition, the term "Boers" also applied to those who left the Cape Colony during the 19th century to settle in the Orange Free State, Transvaal (together known as the Boer Republics), and to a lesser extent Natal. They emigrated from the Cape primarily to escape British rule and to get away from the constant border wars between the British imperial government and the indigenous peoples on the eastern frontier.The term Afrikaner is generally used in modern-day South Africa for the Afrikaans-speaking white population of South Africa, the descendants of boer settlers and the bulk of White Africans.


Burgher may refer to:

Burgher (title), a medieval, early modern European title of a citizen of a town, and a social class from which city officials could be drawn

Burgess (title), a resident of a burgh in northern Britain

Grand Burgher, a specific conferred or inherited title of medieval German origin

Burgher (Boer republics), an enfranchised citizen of the South African Republic or the Orange Free State

Burgher (Church history), a member of the United Secession Church who subscribed to the Burgher Oath

Burgher people, an ethnic group that formed during the colonization of Sri Lanka

Burgher (Boer republics)

In the South African Boer republics of the 19th century, a burgher was a fully enfranchised citizen. The rights to political representation and the ownership of property were collectively referred to as "burgher rights". In the Orange Free State (1854–1902), the constitution restricted burgher rights to white male residents only, though coloured people (those of mixed ancestry) did have some rights regarding property. The South African Republic, or Transvaal (1852–1902), gave burgher rights to white males only and explicitly barred their extension to "persons of colour". A bill passed in the Transvaal in 1858 permitted "no equality between the white and coloured inhabitants, neither in Church nor in State".Burghers were "citizen-soldiers" who, between the ages of 16 and 60, were obliged to serve without pay in the republic's commandos, providing their own horse and rifle, 30 rounds of ammunition and their own rations for the first ten days. Most of them were Boers. Following the discovery of diamonds and gold in the Boer Republics and their environs in the 1870s and 1880s, white immigrants of mostly British stock began moving to the region in large numbers. The Boers referred to these people as uitlanders (out-landers). The uitlanders demanded full burgher rights in the Transvaal, but the local government under President Paul Kruger was unwilling to grant these, surmising that the sheer number of uitlanders might imperil the republic's independence. The uitlander problem and the associated tensions between the South African Republic and Britain led to the Jameson Raid of 1895–96 and ultimately the Second Boer War of 1899–1902. Following the British victory in the latter and the Treaty of Vereeniging, the Free State and the Transvaal were annexed by Britain as the Orange River Colony and Transvaal Colony.

Cape Dutch

Cape Dutch, also commonly known as Cape Afrikaners, were a historic socioeconomic class of Afrikaners who lived in the Western Cape during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The terms have been evoked to describe an affluent, apolitical section of the Cape Colony's Afrikaner population which did not participate in the Great Trek or the subsequent founding of the Boer republics. Today, the Cape Dutch are credited with helping shape and a promote a unique Afrikaner cultural identity through their formation of civic associations such as the Afrikaner Bond, and promotion of the Afrikaans language.

First Boer War

The First Boer War (Afrikaans: Eerste Vryheidsoorlog, literally "First Freedom War"), also known as the First Anglo-Boer War, the Transvaal War or the Transvaal Rebellion, was a war fought from 16 December 1880 until 23 March 1881 between the United Kingdom and the South African Republic (also known as the Transvaal Republic; not to be confused with the modern-day Republic of South Africa). The war resulted in defeat for the British and the second independence of the South African Republic.

History of South Africa (1815–1910)

During the Napoleonic Wars, the Cape Colony was annexed by the British and officially became their colony in 1815. Britain encouraged settlers to the Cape, and in particular, sponsored the 1820 Settlers to farm in the disputed area between the colony and the Xhosa in what is now the Eastern Cape. The changing image of the Cape from Dutch to British excluded the Dutch farmers in the area, the Boers who in the 1820s started their Great Trek to the northern areas of modern South Africa. This period also marked the rise in power of the Zulu under their king Shaka Zulu. Subsequently several conflicts arose between the British, Boers and Zulus, which led to the Zulu defeat and the ultimate Boer defeat in the Second Anglo-Boer War. However, the Treaty of Vereeniging established the framework of South African limited independence as the Union of South Africa.

Jan Willem Spruyt

Jan Willem Spruyt (4 July 1826 – 8 September 1908), also known as Jan Willem Spruijt and Jan Willem Landskroon Spruijt (birthname), was a South African civil servant, lawyer and statesman of Dutch descent. Spruyt was government secretary (1856–1862) and several times acting state president of the Orange Free State, and state secretary of the South African Republic (1866–1869).

Spruyt grew up in the Netherlands, studied law, but did not complete his studies, and worked as a schoolteacher, before coming to South Africa. Here he practised as law agent in private practice in both Boer republics. Soon after his arrival he was also quickly enrolled in the administration of the Orange Free State, and attained a powerful position as government secretary. In this capacity he stood in for state president M.W. Pretorius several times in the period 1860–1862.

In the third quarter of the nineteenth century several many Afrikaner politicians and government officials served in both Boer republics. So did Spruyt, who finished his career as state secretary of the South African Republic.

Johannesburg Vrijwilliger Corps Medal

In the Colonies and Boer Republics which became the Union of South Africa in 1910, several unofficial military decorations and medals were instituted and awarded during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Johannesburg Vrijwilliger Corps Medal is an unofficial private campaign medal which was instituted in 1899 by Lieutenant Colonel S.H. van Diggelen, the founder and Commanding Officer of the Johannesburg Vrijwilliger Corps, for award to the officers and men of his unit.

Kimberley Star

In the Colonies and Boer Republics which became the Union of South Africa in 1910, several unofficial military decorations and medals were instituted and awarded during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Kimberley Star is an unofficial private campaign medal which was instituted by the Mayor of Kimberley in 1900. The medal was awarded to all who took part in the defence of the diamond mining town during the four months in 1899 and 1900 while Kimberley was besieged by Boer Republican Forces during the Second Boer War.

Kruger telegram

The Kruger telegram was a message sent by Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II to Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger, president of the Transvaal Republic, on 3 January 1896. The Kaiser congratulated the president on repelling the Jameson Raid, a sortie by 600 British irregulars from Cape Colony into the Transvaal under the command of Leander Starr Jameson. The raid was intended to trigger an anti-government uprising by the primarily British expatriate miners, but was a fiasco with 65 of the raiders killed to only one Boer, and the rest surrendering. The telegram caused huge indignation in the UK, and led to a further inflammation of tensions between Britain and Germany.

National anthem of the Transvaal

The national anthem of the Transvaal (Afrikaans and Dutch: Volkslied van Transvaal, literally "People's song of Transvaal") was the national anthem of the independent Boer Republic called the South African Republic, also known as the Republic of the Transvaal. It is one of many South African flag songs.

The words and music of the 'Transvaalse Volkslied' were written by the Dutch poet Catharina F van Rees in 1875 - surprisingly it dates back to the period before the annexation of 1879, and the emotions seem to blend well with those of the victorious rebels of 1881. Possibly, this date accounts for the song's non-avoidance of the word Transvaal, which was the name of the state so strongly rejected in the uprising of 1880-81. The arrangement is by G G Cillie.

Netherlands-South African Railway Company

The Netherlands-South African Railway Company (Nederlandsche Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorwegmaatschappij) or NZASM (also sometimes called ZASM in South Africa) was a railway company established in 1887. The company was based in Amsterdam and Pretoria, and operated in the South African Republic (ZAR) during the late 19th century. At the request of ZAR president Paul Kruger, the NZASM constructed a railway line between Pretoria and Lourenço Marques in Portuguese East Africa (now Maputo in Mozambique).

Postage stamps and postal history of Griqualand West

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Griqualand West, a former British colony that is now part of South Africa.

Second Boer War

The Second Boer War (11 October 1899 – 31 May 1902) was fought between the British Empire and two Boer states, the South African Republic (Republic of Transvaal) and the Orange Free State, over the Empire's influence in South Africa. It is also known variously as the Boer War, Anglo-Boer War, or South African War. Initial Boer attacks were successful, and although British reinforcements later reversed these, the war continued for years with Boer guerrilla warfare, until harsh British counter-measures brought them to terms.

The war started with the British overconfident and under-prepared. The Boers were well armed and struck first, besieging Ladysmith, Kimberley, and Mahikeng in early 1900, and winning important battles at Colenso, Magersfontein and Stormberg. Staggered, the British brought in large numbers of soldiers and fought back. General Redvers Buller was replaced by Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener. They relieved the three besieged cities, and invaded the two Boer republics in late 1900. The onward marches of the British Army, well over 400,000 men, were so overwhelming that the Boers did not fight staged battles in defense of their homeland.

The British seized control of all of the Orange Free State and Transvaal, as the civilian leadership went into hiding or exile. In conventional terms, the war was over. The British officially annexed the two countries in 1900. Back home, Britain's Conservative government wanted to capitalize on this success and use it to maneuver an early general election, dubbed a "khaki election" to give the government another six years of power in London. British military efforts were aided by Cape Colony, the Colony of Natal and some native African allies, and further supported by volunteers from the British Empire, including Southern Africa, the Australian colonies, Canada, India and New Zealand. All other nations were neutral, but public opinion was largely hostile to the British. Inside the UK and its Empire there also was significant opposition to the Second Boer War.

The Boers refused to surrender. They reverted to guerrilla warfare under new generals Louis Botha, Jan Smuts, Christiaan de Wet and Koos de la Rey. Two years of surprise attacks and quick escapes followed. As guerrillas without uniforms, the Boer fighters easily blended into the farmlands, which provided hiding places, supplies, and horses.

The UK's response to guerilla warfare was to set up complex nets of block houses, strong points, and barbed wire fences, partitioning off the entire conquered territory. In addition, civilian farms and live stock were destroyed in the scorched earth strategy. Survivors were forced into concentration camps. Very large proportions of these civilians died of hunger and disease, especially the children.

British mounted infantry units systematically tracked down the highly mobile Boer guerrilla units. The battles at this stage were small operations. Few died during combat, though many of disease. The war ended in surrender and British terms with the Treaty of Vereeniging in May 1902. Both former republics were incorporated into the Union of South Africa in 1910, as part of the British Empire.

State's attorney

A state's attorney or state attorney is a lawyer representing the interests of the state in a legal proceeding, typically as a prosecutor. It is an official title in the United States, sometimes appointed but most commonly an elected official serving as the chief law enforcement officer of his or her county, circuit, or district. The offices of district attorney, commonwealth's attorney, county attorney, county prosecutor, or prosecuting attorney are more frequently the case in the United States although South Carolina uses the term solicitor. The state of Florida and other countries also use or used the term state's attorney, like the Boer republics of the Orange Free State (1854–1902) and the South African Republic (1852–1902) in South Africa. In these cases the position corresponded to that of the attorney general in the British judicial system. It is used within the Attorney-General's Department of Sri Lanka.

State of Goshen

Goshen, officially known as the State of Goshen (Dutch: Het Land Goosen) was a short-lived Boer Republic in southern Africa founded by Boers opposing British rule in the region.

Located in an area of Bechuanaland, west of the Transvaal, Goshen existed as an independent nation for a short period; from 1882 to 1883 as the State of Goshen and, after unification with neighbouring Stellaland, as the United States of Stellaland (Dutch: Verenigde Staten van Stellaland) from 1883 to 1885.

During its history, Goshen, though small in size, became a focal point of conflict between the British Empire and the South African Republic, the two major players vying over the territory. After a series of claims and annexations, British fears of Boer expansionism ultimately led to its demise and, among other factors, set the stage for the Second Boer War of 1899–1902.


Uitlander, Afrikaans for "foreigner" (lit. "outlander"), was the name given to foreign (mainly British) migrant workers during the Witwatersrand Gold Rush in the independent Transvaal Republic following the discovery of gold in 1886. The limited rights granted this group in the independent Boer Republics was one of the contributing factors behind the Second Boer War.


Upingtonia, or the Republic of Upingtonia, was a short-lived Boer republic in the area of present-day Namibia. Declared on 20 October 1885, in 1886 it changed its name to Lijdensrust. In 1887 it was merged into German South-West Africa.

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