Monday, January 10, 2011

January 3, 1896 --- The Kruger-Gram

The so-called "Kruger-gram" from Kaiser Wilhelm to the Boer leader, "Oom Paul" Kruger (left), poisons Anglo-German relations. 

The Boers had just smashed a quixotic raid on Johannesburg led from British Rhodesia.  With 600 men, "Dr. Jim" Jameson, Cecil Rhodes' top administrator, hoped to ignite an uprising among the British majority in the disputed gold-rich Transvaal.  The raid is a fiasco; in five days, Jameson is captured and 65 of his men are dead,  The Boers lost just one man.  The wire from Kaiser to Kruger reads, in part: "I express to you my sincere congratulations that without appealing to friendly powers you and your people have succeeded in repelling ... the armed bands which had broken into your country." 

In Germany, the Kaiser's little gloating is well-received.  Allgemeine Zeitung claimed, "Nothing that the government has done for years has given as complete satisfaction."  In England, the opposite reaction is immediate.  The more bloodthirsty papers demanded war.  The Queen, though mightily displeased, asked Prime Minister Salisbury to "hint to our respectable papers not to write violent stories to excite the people."  In addition to more formal diplomatic protests, the Queen sends a "Dear William" wire to the Kaiser: "As your Grandmother ... I feel that I cannot refrain from expressing my deep regret." In return, to his "Most beloved Grandmama," the Kaiser insists that he merely meant to stand up for law and order, "I challenge anybody who is a Gentleman to point out where there is anything hostile to England in this." 

The Times calls the situation "very grave" and the Kaiser's action "distinctly unfriendly."  The Kruger-gram serves to make the feckless Jameson into a hero; brought to London for trial, he received a light sentence.  The Kaiser's meddling also strengthened the hand of those in the Admiralty and Parliament seeking a larger Naval budget to counter the Kaiser's growing fleet.  The Morning Post vowed, "The nation will never forget this telegram."  Feelings were also hardened against the Boers.  Victorian thought the Afrikaaners "horrid, cruel & over-bearing."

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