Jameson Raid Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

An abortive attempt to overthrow the Afrikaner government of the Transvaal in South Africa, the Jameson Raid increased tensions between the British government and the region’s two Afrikaner republics and contributed significantly to the outbreak of the South African War nearly four years later.

Summary of Event

Throughout the nineteenth century, South Africa’s Afrikaner people continually resisted British interference and domination, as evidenced by the fact that thousands of them left the Cape Colony during the 1830’s and set up their own republics inland. During the 1890’s, they and the British continued to be at odds over which groups would control the destiny of South Africa. After the discovery of gold in the Afrikaner-ruled Transvaal, British interest in creating a consolidated South Africa under their authority increased significantly. British capital flowed into the Transvaal mining industry, providing the British government with a vested interest in controlling that industry’s progress and profits. However, the Transvaal’s Afrikaners intended to use their republic’s mineral wealth to ensure their independence from British authority. Into this situation stepped the millionaire English businessman, imperialist, and prime minister of Britain’s Cape Colony, Cecil Rhodes. Jameson Raid (1895-1896) Jameson, Leander Starr South African Republic;and Jameson Raid[Jameson Raid] Uitlanders;and Jameson Raid[Jameson Raid] British Empire;and South Africa[South Africa] [kw]Jameson Raid (Dec. 29, 1895-Jan. 2, 1896) [kw]Raid, Jameson (Dec. 29, 1895-Jan. 2, 1896) Jameson Raid (1895-1896) Jameson, Leander Starr South African Republic;and Jameson Raid[Jameson Raid] Uitlanders;and Jameson Raid[Jameson Raid] British Empire;and South Africa[South Africa] [g]Africa;Dec. 29, 1895-Jan. 2, 1896: Jameson Raid[6085] [g]South Africa;Dec. 29, 1895-Jan. 2, 1896: Jameson Raid[6085] [g]British Empire;Dec. 29, 1895-Jan. 2, 1896: Jameson Raid[6085] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Dec. 29, 1895-Jan. 2, 1896: Jameson Raid[6085] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Dec. 29, 1895-Jan. 2, 1896: Jameson Raid[6085] [c]Crime and scandals;Dec. 29, 1895-Jan. 2, 1896: Jameson Raid[6085] Rhodes, Cecil [p]Rhodes, Cecil;and Jameson Raid[Jameson Raid] Kruger, Paul Robinson, Sir Hercules Chamberlain, Joseph [p]Chamberlain, Joseph;and Jameson Raid[Jameson Raid] Salisbury, third marquess of [p]Salisbury, third marquess of;and South Africa[South Africa]

By 1893, Rhodes was leading a chartered company that controlled what is now Zimbabwe, immediately north of the Transvaal. He had also formulated a plan to overthrow the Afrikaner government in the Transvaal and open the region to British development and control. Rhodes believed the Transvaal’s South African Republic to be weak and unable to respond to a major internal challenge. Under his plan, a column of British troops entering the Transvaal from the north would incite a rebellion among the mainly British Uitlanders, or outsiders, living and working in the Transvaal.

The Transvaal’s Uitlanders had long caused difficulties for the Afrikaners, and they formed an organization called the Transvaal National Union in 1892. They opposed the severe voting Voting rights;in South Africa[South Africa] restrictions imposed on newcomers by the Afrikaner government, the governments’ forced conscription Conscription;South African for its wars of expansion, and Afrikaner monopolies in politics and business. To Rhodes, the Uitlanders appeared to be the perfect on-the-spot constituency to rise up against the Afrikaners and support a British takeover. When the conservative government of Lord Salisbury came to power in London in 1895, Rhodes found many politicians in the British government interested in his plan. Among them was Joseph Chamberlain, Chamberlain, Joseph [p]Chamberlain, Joseph;and Jameson Raid[Jameson Raid] the new secretary of state for the colonies and an avid imperialist. With his support, Rhodes moved ahead with his arrangements.

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Rhodes developed a strategy with his allies in South Africa and laid his plans. Under the command of his close associate Dr. Leander Starr Jameson, his troops would be stationed at the border between British Bechuanaland and the Transvaal under the guise of protecting a railway from aggressive Tswana groups. When the Transvaal’s Uitlanders—who would be supplied with smuggled weapons—rose in revolt, Rhodes would then leak a fake letter to Cape Colony newspapers pleading for British intervention to stop the chaos. In response, Jameson would then lead his massed troops into the Transvaal to put down the insurgency. Meanwhile, Sir Hercules Robinson, the governor of Cape Colony and British high commissioner for South Africa, would wait for the right time to respond to the requests for mediation, effectively ensuring imperial control over the Transvaal government.

As the moment approached for Rhodes’s coup, all the pieces seemed to be in place. However, there was one fatal flaw: The Uitlanders, whom Rhodes expected to instigate the uprising, were not as motivated to take action as he had believed. Although many of them had initially been interested in his plan as a way to promote a change in Transvaal government policies, many of them wanted to postpone action. Despite their lackluster support, Jameson decided to go ahead with the plan under the belief that once his force entered the Transvaal, the Uitlanders would be roused to action. To prevent Rhodes from ordering him to halt, he cut all his lines of communication with the south and then proceeded across the border.

Jameson’s invasion of the Transvaal did move the Uitlanders to take action to encourage the president of the South African Republic, Paul Kruger Kruger, Paul [p]Kruger, Paul;and Jameson Raid[Jameson Raid] , for reforms, but not to take up arms or in any other way justify Jameson’s rash undertaking. Jameson never got close to the major mining center, Johannesburg, as government troops met his detachment and forced him ignominiously to surrender. The entire invasion lasted only five days.

Jameson’s raid had failed miserably and left the British government in an embarrassing diplomatic position. High Commissioner Robinson did travel to the Transvaal as planned, but not to oversee the establishment of British authority. Instead, he went there to plead for clemency on behalf of Jameson and his imprisoned followers. Rhodes, who had not tried to stop Jameson, even after the Uitlanders wavered in support, was forced to resign as prime minister of the Cape Colony. Chamberlain’s government distanced itself as much as possible from the fiasco, denying any involvement.

Cartoon by Francis Carruthers Gould (1844-1925) lampooning the disastrous Jameson Raid. The cartoon’s panels mimic the panels of the famous medieval Bayeaux Tapestry, which chronicles William the Conqueror’s invasion of England in 1066.

President Kruger responded remarkably moderately. He released Jameson and his troops to the British to be tried, and the Uitlanders who had joined in the plot served prison time in the Transvaal. Rhodes’s reputation suffered severely at first. However, when Germany’s Emperor William II William II (emperor of Germany) [p]William II (emperor of Germany)[William 02 (emperor of Germany)];and South Africa[South Africa] sent a congratulatory message to Kruger, the British saw his action as a clear sign of German involvement in Transvaal affairs. In the public eye, Rhodes was redeemed and his conniving was forgiven. He once again became the hero of imperialism, and the British government rebounded from the scandal.

Significance

Although Kruger reacted mildly in response to what could certainly be considered a hostile invasion, the Jameson Raid served to sour the already shaky relations between the Afrikaners and British. From the Afrikaner point of view, it became obvious that the British were intent to undermine the sovereignty of the South African Republic. Kruger became a national hero in the Transvaal, strengthening resolve not to consider any British participation in his government. The Jameson Raid made it all the more clear to Afrikaners that British Uitlanders posed a threat to their security, justifying their excluding Uitlanders from participation in their government and economy. Continued Afrikaner conflict with the British appeared almost inevitable.

From the British perspective, the Jameson Raid was a humiliation. Despite that fact, Chamberlain and Rhodes were both convinced consolidating South Africa under British rule was the only way to bring peace, security and prosperity to the entire region. The looming German threat and apparently close German relations with the Transvaal only served to increase anxiety in Great Britain that the gold mines and South Africa itself were in danger. For the British, the only solution was incorporating the Transvaal into the British Empire. In a sense, therefore, the Jameson Raid was a trial run for future imperialist efforts to control South Africa, and the British intended to continue until their imperial objectives were appeased. The eventual result was the outbreak of the South African War South African War (1899-1902);and Jameson Raid[Jameson Raid] in 1899.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Butler, Jeffrey. The Liberal Party and the Jameson Raid. London: Oxford University Press, 1968. Discusses the response of the Liberal Party in Great Britain to the Jameson Raid and the subsequent political fallout in Parliament.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Davidson, Apollan B. Cecil Rhodes and His Time. Translated by Christopher English. 2d ed. Pretoria, South Africa: Protea Book House, 2003. Up-to-date biography of Cecil Rhodes that discusses his role in South African politics.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Makhura, Tlou John. “Another Road to the Raid: The Neglected Role of the Boer-Bagananwa War as a Factor in the Coming of the Jameson Raid, 1894-1895.” Journal of South African Studies 21, no. 2 (June, 1995): 257-267. Brief study that makes a compelling case for attributing the support for the raid of British living in the Transvaal to their resentment of the Afrikaner war with the Bagananwa people.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Pakenham, Elizabeth. Jameson’s Raid. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1960. Attempt to unravel the complicity of all the various parties involved in planning and carrying out the Jameson Raid.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Phimister, Ian. “Unscrambling the Scramble for Southern Africa: The Jameson Raid and South African War Revisited.” South African Historical Journal 28 (1993): 214-220. New look at the role of the Jameson Raid in the objectives of the British imperial machine.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rhoodie, Denys. Conspirators in Conflict: A Study of the Johannesburg Reform Committee and Its Role in the Conspiracy Against the South African Republic. Cape Town, South Africa: Tafelberg-Uitgewers, 1967. Brief analysis of the Uitlanders, their connections with Cecil Rhodes, and their part in the Jameson Raid.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Van der Poel, Jean. The Jameson Raid. London: Oxford University Press, 1951. Classic account of the raid, placing it in the context of British imperialism.

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Joseph Chamberlain; Paul Kruger; Cecil Rhodes; Third Marquis of Salisbury. Jameson Raid (1895-1896) Jameson, Leander Starr South African Republic;and Jameson Raid[Jameson Raid] Uitlanders;and Jameson Raid[Jameson Raid] British Empire;and South Africa[South Africa]

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