Francis William Reitz

Mr. Francis William Reitz. 7th child and third son of Francis William Reitz (1810-1881) and Cornelia Magdalena Deneys (1813-1893). He was born at Surbiton, Swellendam on October 5, 1844 and died in Cape Town on March 27, 1934. His funeral was at the Groote Kerk and he was buried in the Woltemade Cemetery, Maitland, Cape Town.

A lawyer by profession he rose to high office in the land, serving successively as:
President of the Orange Free State Court of Appeal (1874-1876)
Chief Justice of the Orange Free State (1876-1888)
President of the Orange Free State (1889-1895)
Advocate and Judge in The South African Republic (1896-1898)
State Secretary (in modern terms, Minister of Internal and Foreign Affairs of the Transvaal) of the South African Republic (1989-1902)
First President of the Senate of the Union of South Africa (1910-1919)
Senator (1919-1929)

In the performance of these duties and wherever he went, he remained a champion of Afrikaans and strove for the intellectual and spiritual development of the Free State youth in the widest possible sense of the word.
He spent his youth at Rhenosterfontein, his father's model farm on the banks of the Breede River. Here he played with his coloured companions, Oukousand Platvaatjie, and full of questions, explored the veld with his brothers and sisters. This, together with a belief in the love of God and of one's neighbour, fundamental principals in the Reitz household, gave him his unaffectedness and honest sincerity. In many ways he and his father were kindred spirits, especially in their love of the soil, their aptitude for science and their subtle feeling for language, which became obvious in his later life.
During the first eight years of his life he was sometimes taught by a governess and sometimes on a neighbouring farm. At the age of nine he went to Dr. Drossel's Rouwkoop boarding school at Rondebosch. He did so well that after three years the Senate of the South African College made him a Queen's Scholar, so providing him with a free education. For six years he received a varied education which gave him a broad background and in December 1863, at age 19, the Cape board of examiners gave him a "second class certificate in science and literature", the equivalent of a B.A. His mischievousness, high moral standards and qualities of leadership made him popular among his comrades and he developed into a well-balanced young man.
He decided to take up law and studied under F.S. Watermeyer, who, in 1864, had succeeded J.H. Brand as Professor of law at the South African College. Watermeyer's sudden death in August 1864, affected Reitz to such an extent that he decided to continue his studies at the Inner Temple, London. This was a difficult decision as he was poor and his father still hoped that he would return to the family farm. But his idealism surmounted all obstacles. On June 11, 1867 he was called to the Bar and took the oath at Westminster. Already he was intensely interested in politics and watched several famous Statesman, such as Gladstone and Disraeli, in action in the House of Commons. But it was John Bright who, as an orator, was to him an ideal. The wide variety of opinions he heard expressed gave him a life-long aversion to narrow views and actions. He also visited other countries in Europe and returned to South Africa towards the end of 1867, inspired with a desire for progress and development.
On January 23, 1868 he was admitted to the Cape Bar and started practicing as an advocate in the Supreme Court. He found it difficult to make a living and what is more, met with strong competition from capable advocates such as James Buchanan and J.H. de Villiers. The first important law-suit in which he appeared was "Dantu v. Widow Hart's Executors". As a pro deo advocate, he won the case of "Daviau v. Daviau" and made such an impression through his logical arguments and behaviour that the judge sent a letter of congratulations to his father. It became clear that Reitz would be a leading lawyer. In the western circuit he gained a knowledge of human nature that proved valuable and his ability to mix in frank fashion with others, together with his strong sense of humour, drew attention. Starting in 1869, he wrote editorials for the Cape Argus, and was as sub-editor and parliamentary reporter for almost two years. This not only supplemented his income, but the discipline of lucid expression and his knowledge of parliamentary procedure at the Cape served him well later on.
The discovery of diamonds at the Vaal River gave him hopes of a more successful practice, and on September 13, 1870 he informed President J.H. Brand that he had decided to practice in the Orange Free State, which at this stage still exercised ownership rights over the diamond fields. Although he soon visited Bloemfontein he did not write the legal examination required by the O.F.S., probably because there was little work for an advocate in Bloemfonteinand he would have to compete with a well known lawyer named H.A.L. Hamelberg. After leaving Bloemfontein, he tried his luck on a claim at Pniel, which he bought from the Berlin Missionary Society for six pounds, but the results were disappointing and after a few months he returned to the Cape. He resumed his legal practice and was more successful because of the economic prosperity which the annexation of the diamond fields brought to the Cape Colony after 1871. Reitz became well know and in 1873 he was persuaded to represent Beaufort West in the Cape Legislative Assembly.
To both father and son May 30, 1873 became a significant date, for immediately after Reitz had taken his seat as an member of the Legislative Assembly, his father announced his retirement as member for Swellendam. His parliamentary career was brief. In July 1873 President Brand offered to make him President of the newly established Free State Court of Appeal. Reitz felt he should refuse because he could not satisfy requirements such as that of age. After Advocate Andries Stockenstrom had also refused the post, President Brand, on May 9, 1874, persuaded the Volksraad to approve Reitz's appointment, whatever the requirements. Reitz's appointment was a major step forward in the struggle for legal reform in the Orange Free State, for his rectitude, modesty and great ability meant sound progress from the start.
In a foreign country he not only had to reform the law but adapt himself to the characteristic conservatism of a community almost exclusively Afrikaans speaking. So completely did he identify himself with his new environment that before long he, born in the Cape Colony, became the national symbol of most of the inhabitants of the Orange Free State.
On June 24, 1874, before he left for Bloemfontein, he married Blanka Thesen. Blanka Thesen was born in Stavanger, Norway on October 14, 1854. She was the daughter of a sea captain, who with his wife, daughter Blanka and son C.W. Thesen arrived in Knysna from Norway on November 16, 1869. She died in Bloemfontein on October 5, 1887, some months after the birth of their eighth child. She bore him seven sons and one daughter.
On August 5, 1874 he arrived in Bloemfontein and on August 17 the Court of Appeal began its duties. At the very first session, during which he was assisted by two assessors, W.W. Collins and C.W. Hutton, he ended the negligent way in which legal proceedings were conducted. But as long as the circuit court, consisting of magistrates, most of them without legal training, retained its extensive powers and tried the most important cases, the influence of the Court of Appeal was confined to the cases filtering through to it. Thus Reitz considered it essential that all important cases should be tried by a properly constituted Supreme Court consisting of well trained judges. On May 20, 1875 this was partly achieved when the Volksraad adopted Ordinance No. 2 of 1875, whereby a Circuit Court and a Supreme Court were established. Reitz became Chief Justice and when two capable lawyers James Buchanan and Melius de Villiers, became additional judges, justice at its upper levels was for the first time -from June 1876 - exclusively in the hands of lawyers and the first Supreme Court had been established in the Orange Free State. When there was an unpleasant dispute with the Volksraad about judges' salaries, his firmness impressed the public, who began to regard him as a courageous personality who demanded strict justice.
In June 1877 Reitz accompanied the circuit court to the rural areas for the first time and over more than ten years gained in this way a profound knowledge of the beliefs and way of life of the people of the Orange Free State. He did much to codify and revise the laws and with C.J. Vels, D.J. Truter and J.G. Fraser as co-editors, he was responsible for the first "Ordonnantie boek van der Oranje Vrijstaat", which appeared in 1877 and made acts and ordinances accessible to everybody. In May 1877 he became a member of a commission which did valuable work in supplementing and improving those provisions of the constitution relating to citizenship and franchise. He was chairman of the commission which examined prospective legal practitioners and it was only in May 1880 that a general commission of public examiners came into being and his assistance became superfluous.
As Chief Justice he did a great deal to improve Free State prisons and district offices. In February 1880, for instance, he submitted a lengthy report to the authorities, in which he made recommendations for the improvement of the prison system. The good response to his report encouraged him to attempt the reform of the whole prison system. At his instance commissions were obliged to pay regular visits to all prisons, corporal punishment was controlled and proper magistrates' offices and prison buildings were erected. The struggle for better salaries and pensions reached a climax in October 1880 with the retirement of Mr Justice Buchanan. Reitz headed an organized campaign and in May 1881 the Volksraad granted special pension benefits to all judges and public servants.
Although he never gave serious consideration to requests that he stand for the presidency, the attention he attracted led to his being mentioned as a possible candidate in 1878. President Brand's position was unassailable and Reitz stressed his very high regard for Brand's indisputable capabilities. The annexation of the Transvaal Republic in 1877 and the outcome of the First Anglo-Boer War had led to a violent reaction in the Orange Free State, and on April 7, 1881 Reitz and C.L.F. Borckenhagen published a constitution for an Afrikanerbond in the Orange Free State. The Bond was established on May 11, 1881 and later that year Reitz became its president. He was strongly criticized for political interference but the real objection to the Bond was its Afrikaans character and the fear of the English-speaking that its power would grow among the Afrikaners. No criticism could make him deviate from his course.
President Brand did not conceal his dislike of the Bond, indicating his inability to assess the political situation in the Orange Free State, whereas Reitz automatically became the political leader of the future because he was in the van of a re awakening national consciousness. Prior to the presidential election of 1883 Reitz was often asked to stand, but he assured his supporters in public that he would never oppose Brand, whom he held in the highest regard. He fully realized that Brand's statesmanship and unifying influence were still indispensable.
Immediately after Brand's sudden death (July 14, 1888) Reitz's candidature was supported everywhere with great enthusiasm, and in the numerous requests that he stand, it was pointed out that he was suitable for the presidency because he was pro-Afrikaans and thoroughly conversant with the aspirations of the people. On December 18, 1888 he was elected by an overwhelming majority and on January 10, 1889 he was, with great public interest, sworn in as President of the Orange Free State, in the Tweetoring Church in Bloemfontein.
On his birthday in 1887 his first wife died. He married Cornelia Maria Theresa Mulder on December 11, 1889 in Bloemfontein. She was born in Delft, Holland on December 25, 1864 and died in Cape Town on January 2, 1935. She was the acting Principal of the Bloemfontein Dames Instituut. She was the sister of the future wife of his son Hjalmar and the wife of the celebrated South African sculptor, Anton van Wouw. She bore him six sons and one daughter.
Although as President, he had to account to the Volksraad for all his actions, his determination to follow an independent course led to a sharp clash in May 1892. When the Volksraad refused him permission to go beyond the borders of the Orange Free State, he tendered his resignation and repudiated the Volksraad resolution as unconstitutional. He withdrew his resignation on being assured that the resolution was not a motion of no confidence in him.
His compulsory annual visits to the rural areas kept him conversant with the problems with which the population was struggling and consolidated his personal influence. He continually received tokens of gratitude because he could be approached by everybody, although he found the journeys very exhausting. He was fully aware of the race problem and was the first person who openly formulated and propagated the broad lines of the future Bantu policy. It was his view that the tribal system and paramount chieftaincies had to disappear as they constituted an imperium in imperio of the most pernicious kind. Pagan rites and polygamy had to be suppressed through legislation, and the principle that there was no equality between White and Black in South Africa had to be accepted and implemented. Although the untenability of many of his arguments was immediately pointed out to him, there was also admiration for his daring in openly discussing this question. He was as definite about the Indian question. Just after the Volksraad had, on July 1, 1890, passed an act prohibiting Indians from living in the Orange Free State in the future, the British government intervened.
After a protracted correspondence Reitz informed the British High Commissioner that the Free State government would not tolerate any further interference. His inexorable stand on sovereign rights of the republic and its ability to solve its internal problems safeguarded the Orange Free State from continued interference from British and philanthropic quarters.
From 1887 there was a general improvement in the economic position of the Orange Free State and Reitz tried to convert these financial benefits into lasting assets. Because of his new enthusiasm the public adopted a new, positive approach to the mineral wealth of the country. His active participation in agricultural matters began in 1883 when he became chairman of the Oranje Vrijstaatsche Landbouwkundig Genootschap.
During the 1880's he gave farmers valuable advice through his public lectures and, as President, he fought hard to persuade the farmers to use scientific methods against pests. Communications were improved ; a new Volksraad Chamber (now referred to as the Fourth Volksraad Building) was opened in June 5,1893 and the second storey of the government buildings was completed in 1895.
As an ardent republican he advocated closer co-operation with the Transvaal Republic and found that most of the public shared this view. On March 4, 1889 at Potchefstroom, he and President S.J.P. Kruger concluded a defensive alliance as well as agreements relating to railways and trade. In this manner Reitz paved, though his positive policy, the way for the federal union which was to be established between the two Republics three years after his resignation.
On January 15, 1889 the Volksraad resolved that a customs union embracing all states and colonies in South Africa should be established and Reitz was entrusted with the task of achieving this diplomatically. After protracted correspondence with President Kruger and the governments of the Cape Colony and Natal, the Bloemfontein customs conference took place on March 20, 1889. For several reasons Kruger did not attend. A customs agreement was concluded between the Cape Colony and the Orange Free State but Natal refused to join as it did not wish to raise its customs tariffs. The Orange Free State subsequently received three quarters of the customs duties on all goods imported via the Cape Colony.
This was a major economic advantage to the Orange Free State and led to expansion and development in virtually every sphere of national life.
In the North-Eastern districts, however a great deal of dissatisfaction arose as, owing to Natal's refusal to join, these areas had to pay, on imports from or via Natal, a duty five percent higher than that paid by the rest of the Orange Free State on similar imports from the Cape Colony. From Harrismith Reitz became the target for attacks, despite his untiring though vain attempts to bring the Transvaal Republic and Natal into the customs union.
Reitz's part in the development of the railways began four years after his arrival in the Orange Free State, when he was appointed secretary of the first railways commission, which functioned until 1885. He made an important contribution by obtaining accurate returns of the imports and exports of the Republic and making valuable recommendations in this connection.
Both verbally and in writing he advocated a direct railway link with the Transvaal and, in May 1889, the Volksraad approved the concession he had granted the Cape Colony for the construction of the Colesberg-Bloemfontein line, which was festively opened on December 19, 1890.
When in 1891, there was talk of extending the railway to the Vaal River and certain Volksraad members supported, in the interests of the grain-farmers, a detour via Senekal, Reitz declared that, in the national interest, he would have conscientious objections to the implementation of such a resolution. An imminent crisis was averted when, at his insistence, a direct route was agreed on by a majority of three votes. On May 7, 1892 the line reached Viljoensdrif and on September 15, 1892 the first train from Cape Town steamed into Johannesburg. In July 1892, after negotiations and a railway agreement with Natal, a line from Ladysmith to Harrismith was opened to traffic but his negotiations with the Governor of Natal about the linking of this line with the Cape main line proved fruitless. In dealing with railways, which were so important to the future of the whole of South Africa, he showed greater vision than did other statesman of his day. He wanted particularly to use railway links to end the disunity and distrust prevailing amongst the various South African territories. He succeeded only partially, but his honesty and sincerity brought him great prestige as a statesman both within and beyond the borders of the Orange Free State.
Highly talented, Reitz inspired his country culturally. When he arrived in the Orange Free State, cultural activities were largely unorganized and the need for positive direction had not yet been fully realized. As far back as 1870 he had started experimenting with "Kaapsch-Hollandsch" by writing his poem "Klaas Gezwint en zijn paert", an adaption of Robert Burn's "Tam O' Shanter's ride", which appeared in Het Volksblad (July 19,1870). In his poem he made one of the first contributions to a language which, during his lifetime, was to develop into the literary language of the Republic and an Anglicized Cape Colony. His other early Afrikaans poem "Die steweltjies van Sannie", humorous and full of popular wisdom, also appeared in Het Volksblad (November 29, 1873).
On the literary level Reitz, although not a member, gave his full support to the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners after 1875; he was an enthusiastic contributor to Die Suid-Afrikaanse Patriot, collected poems and had his own printed in various publications. Long after the Eerste Afrikaanse Taalbeweging (the First Afrikaans Language Movement) had come to an end, he continued his poetry and other writing. In 1910 his "Oorlogs en andere Gedichten" appeared and in 1922 and 1924 he was still published in magazines. Although he belonged to the First Movement, his approach differed from that of the Patriot poets.
He was not primarily didactic (although he did take part in polemics as well); he wrote poetry in Afrikaans because he had the urge to do so and his poems met with a response in the hearts of the people, mainly because he succeeded in depicting the genial national humour of that time, both in adaptations and original verses. In this sense he can be called a popular poet. In simple colloquial language but with subtle understanding he captured the wit and idiom of rural language.
His adaptions from English, on which his writing was largely based, are not mere translations or even free adaptions. Usually the original poem was entirely transposed into the South African situation, not only in theme but also in its literary and stylistic aspects. "Klaas Gezwint" is a fine example of the way he transformed original poems into Afrikaans poems with their own metaphor and pattern of expression. The situation in Burn's "Tam O' Shanter" was applied to the Hottentots, as Reitz himself said, "as I learnt to know them in my young days at the Zuurbraak mission station near Swellendam". He drew on his own imagination and by using or creating purely Afrikaans imagery "Plezier is netseen jong komkommer,/ Als jij hom pluk, verlep hij sommer", he captured the mood effectively. The same applies to the poems such as "Antje Schut", an adaption of the English love-song and "Jan Jurgens", (Cape Monthly Magazine, October 1875), an adaption of William Cowper's "John Gilpin".
It is the wit and cheerful tone of Reitz's poems that are striking. The tone of his poetry varies from the genial humour of "Die steweltjies van Sannie" to the open scorn in his war poem, "De Lady Roberts", which first appeared in Ons Klyntji and in "Die Proclamatie of Papieren Bom", which pokes fun at a proclamation of Lord Kitchener's. A merit common to all the poetry he wrote is the popular tone, the subtle use of language and idiom derived from rural life, and the unaffectedness and wit bound up with this. But in a few poems Reitz made a contribution which, not only for cultural and historic reasons but also on the grounds of aesthetic value, had an abiding significance for the Afrikaans literature. Such a poem is his elegy, "Ter nagedachtenis van kommandant Louw Wippenaar", which appeared in the Orange Free State Monthly Magazine in November 1877 and of which the following stanza has often been quoted:

"Hy leg op Thaba Bo-si-go,
Geen grafsteen zal hij verge,
Zijn monument het god gebouw,
Die Bouw heer van die Berge".

With the establishment of the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (G.R.A.) in August 1875, Afrikaners were urged not to rest until Afrikaans had gained general recognition, in every respect, as a national language of South Africa.
This became Reitz's slogan in the Orange Free State, and from then on his Afrikaans verses were no longer a pleasant pastime but the result of an urge to promote a separate national language. Gradually Afrikaans became a public issue and in the Orange Free State it was considered significant that even prominent and learned personalities such as Reitz and Dr. Johannes Brill concerned themselves with it. From English and Dutch circles in the Cape Colony venomous attacks were launched against Afrikaans and unsympathetic critics in the Orange Free State intensified their objections.
But De Express, which had been quite unsympathetic to Afrikaans, gained many supporters for Afrikaans when, in August 1877, it expressed its concern about the increasing role English was beginning to play in the Republic and at the same time advocated the use of Dutch, the official language of the country. The Reverend Douglas Mackenzie, an Anglican headmaster in Bloemfontein, seized this opportunity to point out cuttingly that the official language of the Republic was not pure Dutch but a kind of bastard Dutch "addicted to the influence of the Hottentot and the kitchen". In January 1880 the Reverend A.T. Wirgman subscribed to these views by stating in an article that Afrikaans was a barbaric language. It was no longer possible for Reitz to conceal his feelings and, in his crushing attack on Wirgman, in which his skill as a polemic became apparent, he provided convincing evidence to the effect that a language did not become barbaric if it was assimilating foreign words, and declared that Dutch, as a spoken language, had the right to exist only among Hollanders who had just arrived in the country.
The reaction to his defence in the Orange Free State made him realize that it would not be an easy task to persuade the doubters to support Afrikaans. He was openly censured for not devoting his energies to a better cause. But the success of the Afrikaner bond and the outcome of the First Anglo-Boer War were to draw Afrikaners together and teach them the need for solidarity. The hold English had begun to have on influential circles, on schools, home-life, the press and even the public administration was clearly recognized and viewed with concern.
In the struggle revolving around English, Dutch and Afrikaans, he was, above all, a realist, well aware that for the time being the supporters of Afrikaans had to co-operate to prevent Dutch from being ousted by English. In 1882 this concerted action led to the adoption of an ordinance consolidating and safeguarding the position of Dutch. After his election as President he considered it his duty to uphold the language of the constitution. On more than one occasion this brought him into conflict with men such J.G. Fraser, who strongly supported English. The appeals of Reitz and his supporters resulted in the adoption of Ordinance No. 2 of 1891, whereby the legitimate use of Dutch in schools was insured. From 1876 Reitz was a member of the Grey College Board of Trustees and from 1881 to the end of 1888 he was chairman.
It was he who was responsible for the transfer of the college to the state and for many developments and improvements. After his election as President he did everything in his power to afford the rising generation the same educational facilities as those enjoyed by the boys and girls of neighbouring states. In this he undertook an enormous task for the census of 1890 showed that more than 23,000 Whites in the Orange Free State could neither read nor write.
But with the improvement of the state finance it was possible for him to persuade the Volksraad to grant increased financial aid to education, with the result that, by the end of Reitz's regime, this was three times that granted in 1889. He was also an advocate of the efficacious system of education in the rural areas.
Reitz played a leading part in the establishment of the Letterkundige en Wetenschappelijke Vereeniging in January 1877. Five years later he was elected chairman and in debates he proved to be a daring and humorous speaker and an independent thinker. He recited inspiringly from Don Quixote and gave an absorbing lecture on the national character of the Romans and the Greeks. But it was especially when he was speaking on literature that his opinions showed his discerning judgement. As a cultural leader and a professional man he realized that there could be no sound progress and cultural development without extensive reading matter being made available. He pressed for the establishment of a library in Bloemfontein, was a member of the board of management in 1877, and was gratified to see steady progress from 1883. In addition, the establishment of a museum was mainly the result of his efforts. In July 1877 he became chairman of the first board of management and at his instance and under a capable first curator, Dr. Hugh Exton, the National Museum made remarkable progress. He helped to provide a cultural treasure for the republic which was praised by overseas visitors and enthusiastically supported by the public.
In July 1893, before his first term of office had ended in 1893, the Volksraad recommended his candidature by forty-three votes to eighteen. He accepted the nomination on condition that he was granted three month's leave to pay a private visit to Europe. With a large majority he became President for the second time on November 22, 1893.
In June 1894 he left Bloemfontein accompanied by his sons, Hjalmar and Deneys, to join his wife and children in Europe. On his arrival in Plymouth he was interviewed by a large number of journalists and stated plainly that he wanted to see the republican principle upheld in South Africa and that he considered that British interference in problems affecting the Bantu was unnecessary. He and his family then travelled through Europe, where he was received by various heads of state and political leaders. When the family returned to Bloemfontein on October 3, 1894, he was warmly thanked for what he had achieved for the Orange Free State abroad. Shortly afterwards he suffered an attack of jaundice which had an adverse effect on an overtaxed body and caused insomnia.
On the recommendation of his doctors he returned to Europe in March 1895, this time for six months. His condition gradually improved and early in September 1895 he was able to resume his official duties. But on November 16,1895 it was evident that there was no hope of complete recovery. He resigned and asked the Volksraad to nominate his successor. On December 11, 1895 the Volksraad regretfully accepted his resignation and granted him an annual pension.
Reitz's work in the Orange Free State spanned virtually every sphere, while it was his ideal that the Orange Free State should become a worthy nation. As Head of State he was not without his shortcomings: at times his actions were tactless and not always thoroughly weighed, and he had to admit that some times his decisions were rash and wrong. But above all he distinguished himself as a legal reformer and a bold and uncompromising advocate of Afrikaans interests.
Convinced of the soundness of his political principles, he defied all opposition and followed a progressive republican policy. He remained essentially a democrat and the welfare of his people was the touch stone of his idealism. He tackled the major South African problems with the same idealism and was indefatigable in his attempts at securing closer co-operation among the South African territories.
After his resignation he again went to Europe in June 1896, and his health improved to such an extent that he returned to the Cape after five months. In July 1897 he settled in Pretoria, where he started practicing as an advocate and where his mature experience and wide knowledge stood him in good stead.
The struggle between the Transvaal legislature and the Judiciary which led to the dismissal of the Chief Justice, J.G. Kotze', resulting in Reitz being sworn in as a Transvaal Judge on February 28, 1898. After the departure of Dr. W.J. Leyds as foreign envoy in Europe, Reitz was elected Staatsekretaris (State Secretary) in June 1898 after Abraham Fischer had refused the post. His task as Transvaal State Secretary was prodigious; after Kruger he was the most important member of the Executive and, as the most senior public servant, he had to ensure the implementation of all acts and resolutions, submit all important correspondence to the Head of State, and be familiar with the reports of various commissions; as an intermediary he co-ordinated the activities of heads of departments, the Executive and the First and Second Volksraads; he had constantly to be conversant with the foreign policy of the Transvaal Republic.
Gradually he built up an efficient department; he appointed an archivist for his department in 1899, and demanded that all correspondence addressed to the Transvaal government should be in Dutch. But he found the time to keep in touch with younger people through popular lectures delivered to English, Afrikaans, Jewish and Christian societies.
After his appointment it was predicted in certain circles that he would be completely subservient to Kruger, but it was soon evident that he had the will to do what his conscience dictated. Occasionally sharp clashes took place between him and Kruger, but with his inexorable resistance to any irregularity, he refused to give way and on at least two occasions Kruger had to accept Reitz's recommendations. At first British statesmen spoke highly of his courteousness, but he was criticized as soon as it became clear that he, too, put the independence of the Transvaal Republic before anything else, and he became the object of their acrimony. Sometimes he acted thoughtlessly and, for instance, wrongly claimed sovereign status for the Republic, a blunder which was exploited by the British and which a cautious Leyds in Europe also considered a grave error. With Kruger and the young Attorney-General J.C. Smuts, he came to the conclusion that the Transvaal Republic had to react aggressively to British pressure.
But the ultimatum eventually drawn up by him and Smuts and submitted to the Orange Free State in September 1899 was so strongly worded that the Orange Free State objected to it and an amended ultimatum was presented to Britain on October 9, 1899. There is no doubt that Reitz (with the assistance of Smuts) was primarily responsible for the idea of an ultimatum.
With the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Boer War on October 11, 1899 and the conscription of many public servants, Reitz's task during the first months of war became infinitely more difficult. On the approach of the British forces he had to leave Pretoria with Kruger on May 29, 1900. The seat of government was moved successively to Machadodorp, Waterval-Onder, Nelspruit and Hectorspruit. There Kruger crossed the Portuguese border and finally went to Europe to plead the cause of the Boers. As temporary head of the Transvaal government in the field, S.W. Burger was appointed acting president, with an Executive consisting of Reitz as State Secretary, Commandant General Louis Botha, General Lucas Meyer and J.C.Krogh. On the instructions of Botha and with a guard of twenty men, the government always had to be on the move in the Highveld until the end of the war, so as not to fall into the hands of the enemy, and before long was known as the "Flight Commando". Up to March 1902, the "Kapkar Regering" moved sixty-two times in all.
It was during these long months of flight and deprivation that Reitz's courage, faith and cheerfulness were a source of inspiration to all those round him, and he wrote his war poems. Widely read, they even appeared in Europe, where friends of the Boers distributed them on postcards.
"Die mieliepit" and De Lady Roberts" poked fun at the enemy. To inspire his burghers he mocked Lord Roberts and the British but, when women and children died in the concentration camps, he became embittered and biting in his poems.
In April and May 1902, Reitz was present during the peace negotiations at Klerksdorp, in Pretoria and at Vereeniging and signed the Treaty of Vereeniging on May 31, 1902 in Pretoria. But he stated dramatically beforehand that he was signing as a member of the Transvaal government and not as F.W. Reitz. He found it impossible to live in the Transvaal any longer and on July 4, 1902 he left South Africa as an exile and joined his wife and younger children, who had already left for the Netherlands in May 1900. To ease his financial difficulties he and his wife went to the U.S.A. in September 1902 to lecture on the war that had just ended. But public enthusiasm for the cause of the Boers soon flagged and, financially, the lectures were a failure. After six months he was obliged to return to the Netherlands, where his health failed. But, through the loyal support of his wife and effective treatment from Professor Erb, of Heidelberg, and Professor Rosenstein, of Leiden, he gradually regained his health. In these difficult times Reitz and his family were given moral and financial support, especially by Dr. W.J. Leyds, Dr. H.P.N. Muller and the Nederlandsch Zuid-Afrikaansche Vereeniging (N.Z.A.V.).
At the instance of Botha and Smuts he returned to South Africa in 1907 and settled in Sea Point, Cape Town. In 1910 he became the first President of the Senate of the Union of South Africa. Once again he experienced a period of remorse as a result of events after 1912: the omission of General J.B.M. Hertzog from the Botha cabinet, the Witwatersrand strikes of 1913-1914 and the tragic events of the Rebellion, 1914-1915.
In the Senate he openly admitted that he was a republican and would always remain one. Owing to his outspoken views, which were diametrically opposed to the policy of the Smuts government, he was not re-elected President of the Senate in 1920. He remained a senator until 1929 and to the end of his life was treated with the highest regard and affection by the public.
Eventually he withdrew from public life and settled at Gordon's Bay. Later his daughter, Dr. Bessie Reitz, looked after him at his house Botuin, near Leeuwenhof, Tamboers Kloof. To the end he occupied himself with writing and translation. On March 27, 1934 he took ill while he was translating a psalm and died within a few hours. Three days later the State funeral began at the Groote Kerk; he was buried in Woltemade Cemetery, Maitland.
Francis William Reitz's long and fruitful life was a colourful one in that he played an active part in many of the important events of the South African history of his time. His career was varied and his influence was wide because of the important contributions he made in judicial, political and cultural spheres in the Cape Colony, the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal. He was a steadfast man with strong convictions, and never abandoned his views because of either praise or censure.
He retained his natural simplicity in the highest posts and always was accessible, open-hearted, generous and sympathetic towards his fellow-men. Like his father, he was a man of the people, a statesman, a poet and above all, a great communicator. He abjured formality and the trappings of his high offices; a cousin recalls meeting him on his way down the Government Avenue to the Senate in Cape Town, in earnest conversation with a coloured washer woman whose basket he was helping to carry!
Reitz's name lives on in the Orange Free State where a town was named after him in 1889. The village of Cornelia in North Eastern Orange Free State, 155 km from Johannesburg on the road to Durban was established in 1917 and named in honour of President Reitz's second wife. The locality is best known for a farm 10 km north of the village which is the site of one of the most famous fossil beds in the Orange Free State. In December 1923 an honorary doctorate of Laws was conferred on him by the University of Stellenbosch. A ship, the President Reitz (7,176 tons), was named after him but was wrecked near Port Elizabeth in 1947. There are numerous busts, statues and paintings of him in South Africa.

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