, CH, ED
, KC, FRS
(24 May 1870 – 11 September 1950) was a prominent South African and British Commonwealth
, military leader and philosopher. In addition to holding various cabinet posts, he served as Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa
from 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until 1948. He served in the First World War and as a British field marshal in the Second World War.
Since earlier in his life and for most of his political life, Smuts believed in racial separation.
In all the previous cases of wholes, we have nowhere been able to argue from the parts of the whole. Compared to its parts, the whole constituted by them is something quite different, something creatively new, as we have seen. Creative evolution synthesises from the parts a new entity not only different from them, but quite transcending them. That is the essence of a whole. It is always transcendent to its parts, and its character cannot be inferred from the characters of its parts.
... the tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution ...
Having no human companion I felt a spirit of comradeship for the objects of nature around me. In my childish way I communed with these as with my own soul; they became the sharers of my confidence.
The intimate rapport with nature is one of the most precious things in life. Nature is indeed very close to us; sometimes closer than hands and feet, of which in truth she is but the extension. The emotional appeal of nature is tremendous, sometimes almost more than one can bear.
The British Empire is the greatest stimulant of organised freedom which the world has ever known. By geography, by experience, by practical idealism, by political maturity, by character, the British have a part to play which no other race could do so well.
, CH, ED
, KC, FRS
(24 May 1870 – 11 September 1950) was a prominent South African and British Commonwealth
, military leader and philosopher. In addition to holding various cabinet posts, he served as Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa
from 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until 1948. He served in the First World War and as a British field marshal in the Second World War.
Since earlier in his life and for most of his political life, Smuts believed in racial separation. Much later on in his life, Smuts went on to lead his government to issue the Fagan Report
, which stated that complete racial segregation in South Africa was not practical and that restrictions on African migration into urban areas should be abolished. In this, the government was opposed by a majority of Afrikaners under the political leadership of the National Party
who wished to deepen segregation and formalise it into a system of apartheid. This opposition contributed to his narrow loss in the 1948 general election
. Smuts is recalled as one of the few South African politicians of the time who believed that the country's black majority
could convince the ruling white minority of their equality through the black embrace of European cultural norms.
He led commando
s in the Second Boer War
for the Transvaal
. During the First World War, he led the armies of South Africa against Germany, capturing German South-West Africa
and commanding the British Army
in East Africa
. From 1917 to 1919, he was also one of five members of the British War Cabinet
, helping to create the Royal Air Force
. He became a field marshal
in the British Army in 1941, and served in the Imperial War Cabinet
under Winston Churchill
. He was the only person to sign the peace treaties ending both the First and Second World Wars.
One of his greatest international accomplishments was the establishment of the League of Nations
, the exact design and implementation of which relied upon Smuts. He later urged the formation of a new international organisation for peace: the UN. Smuts wrote the preamble to the United Nations Charter
, and was the only person to sign the charters of both the League of Nations and the UN. He sought to redefine the relationship between the United Kingdom and her colonies, helping to establish the British Commonwealth
, as it was known at the time. However, in 1946 the General Assembly requested the Smuts government to take measures to bring the treatment of Indians in South Africa into line with the provisions of the United Nations Charter
In 2004 he was named by voters in a poll held by the South African Broadcasting Corporation
(S.A.B.C.) as one of the top ten Greatest South Africans
of all time. The final positions of the top ten were to be decided by a second round of voting, but the programme was taken off the air due to political controversy, and Nelson Mandela
was given the number one spot based on the first round of voting. In the first round, Field Marshal Smuts came ninth.
, in the Cape Colony
. His family were prosperous, traditional Afrikaner
farmers, long established and highly respected.
Jan was quiet and delicate as a child, strongly inclined towards solitary pursuits. During his childhood, he often went out alone, exploring the surrounding countryside; this awakened a passion for nature, which he retained throughout his life. As the second son of the family, rural custom dictated that he would remain working on the farm; a full formal education was typically the preserve of the first son. However, in 1882, when Jan was twelve, his elder brother died, and Jan was sent to school in his brother's place. Jan attended the school in nearby Riebeek West
. He made excellent progress here, despite his late start, and caught up with his contemporaries within four years. He moved on to Victoria College
, Stellenbosch, in 1886, at the age of sixteen.
At Stellenbosch, he learned High Dutch
, German, and Ancient Greek
, and immersed himself further in literature, the classics
, and Bible studies
. His deeply traditional upbringing and serious outlook led to social isolation from his peers. However, he made outstanding academic progress, graduating in 1891 with double First-class honours
in Literature and Science. During his last years at Stellenbosch, Smuts began to cast off some of his shyness and reserve, and it was at this time that he met Isie Krige, whom he was later to marry.
On graduation from Victoria College, Smuts won the Ebden scholarship for overseas study. He decided to travel to the University of Cambridge
in the United Kingdom to read law at Christ's College
. Smuts found it difficult to settle at Cambridge; he felt homesick and isolated by his age and different upbringing from the English undergraduates. Worries over money also contributed to his unhappiness, as his scholarship was insufficient to cover his university expenses. He confided these worries to a friend from Victoria College, Professor JI Marais. In reply, Professor Marais enclosed a cheque for a substantial sum, by way of loan, urging Smuts not to hesitate to approach him should he ever find himself in need. Thanks to Marais, Smuts's financial standing was secure. He gradually began to enter more into the social aspects of the university, although he retained his single-minded dedication to his studies.
During his time in Cambridge, he found time to study a diverse number of subjects in addition to law; he wrote a book, Walt Whitman
: A Study in the Evolution of Personality, although it was unpublished until 1973. The thoughts behind this book laid the foundation for Smuts' later wide-ranging philosophy of holism
Smuts graduated in 1893 with a double First. Over the previous two years, he had been the recipient of numerous academic prizes and accolades, including the coveted George Long prize in Roman Law and Jurisprudence. One of his tutors, Professor Maitland
, a leading figure among English legal historians, described Smuts as the most brilliant student he had ever met. Lord Todd, the Master of Christ's College said in 1970 that "in 500 years of the College's history, of all its members, past and present, three had been truly outstanding: John Milton
, Charles Darwin
and Jan Smuts."
In 1894, Smuts passed the examinations for the Inns of Court
, entering the Middle Temple
. His old college, Christ's College, offered him a fellowship in Law. However, Smuts turned his back on a potentially distinguished legal future. By June 1895, he had returned to the Cape Colony, determined that he should make his future there.
Climbing the ladderSmuts began to practise law in Cape Town
, but his abrasive nature made him few friends. Finding little financial success in the law, he began to divert more and more of his time to politics and journalism, writing for the Cape Times
. Smuts was intrigued by the prospect of a united South Africa, and joined the Afrikaner Bond
. By good fortune, Smuts’ father knew the leader of the group, Jan Hofmeyr; Hofmeyr recommended Jan to Cecil Rhodes, who owned the De Beers
mining company. In 1895, Rhodes hired Smuts as his personal legal advisor, a role that found the youngster much criticised by the hostile Afrikaans
press. Regardless, Smuts trusted Rhodes implicitly.
When Rhodes launched the Jameson Raid
, in the summer of 1895–6, Smuts was outraged. Feeling betrayed by his employer, friend and political ally, he resigned from De Beers, and disappeared from public life. Seeing no future for himself in Cape Town, he decided to move to Johannesburg
in August 1896. However, he was disgusted by what appeared to be a gin-soaked mining camp, and his new law practice could attract little business in such an environment. Smuts sought refuge in the capital of the South African Republic
Through 1896, Smuts’ politics were turned on their head. He was transformed from being Rhodes’ most ardent supporter to being the most fervent opponent of British expansion. Through late 1896 and 1897, Smuts toured South Africa, furiously condemning Great Britain, Rhodes and anyone opposed to the Transvaal President, Paul Kruger
In April 1897, he married Isie Krige of Cape Town. Professor JI Marais, Smuts’s benefactor at Cambridge, presided over the ceremony. Twins were born to the pair in March 1898, but unfortunately survived only a few weeks.
Kruger was opposed by many liberal elements in South Africa, and, when, in June 1898, Kruger fired the Transvaal Chief Justice, his long-term political rival John Gilbert Kotzé
, most lawyers were up in arms. Recognising the opportunity, Smuts wrote a legal thesis in support of Kruger, who rewarded Smuts with an appointment as State Attorney. In this capacity, he tore into the establishment, firing those he deemed to be illiberal, old-fashioned or corrupt. His efforts to rejuvenate the republic polarised Afrikaners.
After the Jameson Raid, relations between the British and the Afrikaners had deteriorated steadily. By 1898, war seemed imminent. Orange Free State
President Martinus Steyn
called for a peace conference
to settle each side’s grievances. With an intimate knowledge of the British, Smuts took control of the Transvaal delegation. Sir Alfred Milner
, head of the British delegation, took exception to his dominance, and conflict between the two led to the collapse of the conference, consigning South Africa to war.
The Boer WarOn 11 October 1899, the Boer republics invaded the British South African colonies, beginning the Second Boer War
. In the early stages of the conflict, Smuts served as Kruger’s eyes and ears, handling propaganda, logistics, communication with generals and diplomats, and anything else that was required.
In the second phase of the war, Smuts served under Koos de la Rey
, who commanded 500 commandos in the Western Transvaal. Smuts excelled at hit-and-run warfare
, and the unit evaded and harassed a British army forty times its size. President Kruger and the deputation in Europe thought that there was good hope for their cause in the Cape Colony. They decided to send General de la Rey there to assume supreme command, but then decided to act more cautiously when they realised that General de la Rey could hardly be spared in the Western Transvaal.
Consequently, Smuts left with a small force of 300 men while another 100 men followed him. By this point in the war, the British scorched earth policy
left little grazing land. One hundred of the cavalry that had joined Smuts were therefore too weak to continue and so Smuts had to leave these men with General Kritzinger. With few exceptions, Smuts met all the commandos in the Cape Colony and found between 1,400–1,500 men under arms, and not the 3,000 men as had been reported. By the time of the peace Conference in May 1902 there were 3,300 men operating in the Cape Colony. Although the people were enthusiastic for a general rising, there was a great shortage of horses (the Boers were an entirely mounted force) as they had been taken by the British. There was an absence of grass and wheat, which meant that he was forced to refuse nine tenths of those who were willing to join. The Boer forces raided supply lines and farms, spread Afrikaner propaganda, and intimidated those that opposed them, but they never succeeded in causing a revolt against the government. This raid was to prove one of the most influential military adventures of the 20th century and had a direct influence on the creation of the British Commandos
and all the other special forces which followed. With these practical developments came the development of the military doctrines of deep penetration raids, asymmetric warfare
and, more recently, elements of fourth generation warfare
To end the conflict, Smuts sought to take a major target, the copper-mining town of Okiep. With a full assault impossible, Smuts packed a train full of explosives, and tried to push it downhill, into the town, where it would bring the enemy garrison to its knees. Although this failed, Smuts had proven his point: that he would stop at nothing to defeat his enemies. Norman Kemp Smith
wrote that General Smuts read from Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" on the evening before the raid. Smith contended that this showed how Kant's critique can be a solace and a refuge, as well as a means to sharpen the wit.Combined with their failure to pacify the Transvaal, Smuts' success left the United Kingdom with no choice but to offer a ceasefire
and a peace conference, to be held at Vereeniging
Before the conference, Smuts met Lord Kitchener
at Kroonstad station, where they discussed the proposed terms of surrender. Smuts then took a leading role in the negotiations between the representatives from all of the commandos from the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (15–31 May 1902). Although he admitted that, from a purely military perspective, the war could continue, he stressed the importance of not sacrificing the Afrikaner people for that independence. He was very conscious that 'more than 20,000 women and children have already died in the concentration camps
of the enemy'. He felt it would have been a crime to continue the war without the assurance of help from elsewhere and declared, "Comrades, we decided to stand to the bitter end. Let us now, like men, admit that that end has come for us, come in a more bitter shape than we ever thought." His opinions were representative of the conference, which then voted by 54 to 6 in favour of peace. Representatives of the Governments met Lord Kitchener and at five minutes past eleven on 31 May 1902, Acting President Burger signed the Peace Treaty, followed by the members of his government, Acting President de Wet
and the members of his government.
A British Transvaal
had full control of all South African affairs, and established an Anglophone elite, known as Milner's Kindergarten
. As an Afrikaner, Smuts was excluded. Defeated but not deterred, in January 1905, he decided to join with the other former Transvaal generals to form a political party, Het Volk
(People's Party), to fight for the Afrikaner cause. Louis Botha
was elected leader, and Smuts his deputy.
When his term of office expired, Milner was replaced as High Commissioner by the more conciliatory Lord Selborne. Smuts saw an opportunity and pounced, urging Botha to persuade the Liberals
to support Het Volk’s cause. When the Conservative
government under Arthur Balfour
collapsed, in December 1905, the decision paid off. Smuts joined Botha in London, and sought to negotiate full self-government for the Transvaal within British South Africa. Using the thorny political issue of South Asian labourers ('coolie
s'), the South Africans convinced Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and, with him, the cabinet and Parliament.
Through 1906, Smuts worked on the new constitution for the Transvaal, and, in December 1906, elections were held for the Transvaal parliament. Despite being shy and reserved, unlike the showman Botha, Smuts won a comfortable victory in the Wonderboom constituency, near Pretoria. His victory was one of many, with Het Volk winning in a landslide
and Botha forming the government. To reward his loyalty and efforts, Smuts was given two key cabinet positions: Colonial Secretary and Education Secretary.
Smuts proved to be an effective leader, if unpopular. As Education Secretary, he had fights with the Dutch Reformed Church
, of which he had once been a dedicated member, who demanded Calvinist teachings in schools. As Colonial Secretary, he opposed a movement for equal rights for South Asian workers, led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Despite Smuts’ unpopularity, South Africa's economy continued to boom, and Smuts cemented his place as the Afrikaners’ brightest star.
During the years of Transvaal self-government, no-one could avoid the predominant political debate of the day: South African unification. Ever since the British victory in the war, it was an inevitability, but it remained up to the South Africans to decide what sort of country would be formed, and how it would be formed. Smuts favoured a unitary state
, with power centralised in Pretoria, with English as the only official language
, and with a more inclusive electorate. To impress upon his compatriots his vision, he called a constitutional convention in Durban
, in October 1908.
There, Smuts was up against a hard-talking Orange River Colony
delegation, who refused every one of Smuts' demands. Smuts had successfully predicted this opposition, and their objections, and tailored his own ambitions appropriately. He allowed compromise on the location of the capital, on the official language, and on suffrage, but he refused to budge on the fundamental structure of government. As the convention drew into autumn, the Orange leaders began to see a final compromise as necessary to secure the concessions that Smuts had already made. They agreed to Smuts’ draft South African constitution, which was duly ratified by the South African colonies. Smuts and Botha took the constitution to London, where it was passed by Parliament, and signed into law by Edward VII
in December 1909. Smuts' dream had been realised.
The Old BoersThe Union of South Africa
was born, and the Afrikaners held the key to political power, for they formed the largest part of the electorate. Although Botha was appointed Prime Minister of the new country, Smuts was given three key ministries: those for the Interior
, the Mines and Defence
. Undeniably, Smuts was the second most powerful man in South Africa. To solidify their dominance of South African politics, the Afrikaners united to form the South African Party
, a new pan-South African Afrikaner party.
The harmony and cooperation soon ended. Smuts was criticised for his over-arching powers, and was reshuffled, losing his positions in charge of Defence and the Mines, but gaining control of the Treasury
. This was still too much for Smuts' opponents, who decried his possession of both Defence and Finance: two departments that were usually at loggerheads. At the 1913 South African Party conference, the Old Boers, of Hertzog, Steyn and De Wet, called for Botha and Smuts to step down. The two narrowly survived a conference vote, and the troublesome triumvirate stormed out, leaving the party for good.
With the schism in internal party politics came a new threat to the mines that brought South Africa its wealth. A small-scale miners' dispute flared into a full-blown strike, and rioting broke out in Johannesburg after Smuts intervened heavy-handedly. After police shot dead twenty-one strikers, Smuts and Botha headed unaccompanied to Johannesburg to personally resolve the situation. They did, facing down threats to their own lives, and successfully negotiating a cease-fire.
The cease-fire did not hold, and, in 1914, a railway strike turned into a general strike, and threats of a revolution caused Smuts to declare martial law. Smuts acted ruthlessly, deporting union leaders without trial and using Parliament to retrospectively absolve him or the government of any blame. This was too much for the Old Boers, who set up their own party, the National Party
, to fight the all-powerful Botha-Smuts partnership. The Old Boers urged Smuts' opponents to arm themselves, and civil war seemed inevitable before the end of 1914. In October 1914, when the Government was faced with open rebellion by Lt Col Manie Maritz
and others in the Maritz Rebellion
, Government forces under the command of Botha and Smuts were able to put down the rebellion without it ever seriously threatening to ignite into a Third Boer War.
Soldier and statesman
. His first task was to suppress the Maritz Rebellion, which was accomplished by November 1914. Next he and Louis Botha
led the South African army into German South West Africa and conquered it (see the South-West Africa Campaign
for details). In 1916 General Smuts was put in charge of the conquest of German East Africa
. While the East African Campaign
went fairly well, the German forces were not destroyed. Smuts was criticised by his chief Intelligence officer, Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen
, for avoiding frontal attacks which, in Meinertzhagen's view, would have been less costly than the inconsequential flanking movements that prolonged the campaign where thousands of Imperial troops died of disease. Meinertzhangen believed Horace Smith-Dorrien
(who had saved the British Army during the retreat from Mons), the original choice as commander in 1916 would have quickly defeated the German commander Colonel (later General) Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck
. As for Smuts, Meinertzhagen wrote: "Smuts has cost Britain many hundreds of thousands of lives (sic) and many millions of pounds by his caution...Smuts was not an astute soldier; a brilliant statesman and politician but no soldier." ( Army Diary Oliver and Boyd 1960 page 205). However, early in 1917 Smuts was invited to join the Imperial War Cabinet
by David Lloyd George
, so he left the area and went to London. In 1918, Smuts helped to create a Royal Air Force
, independent of the army.
Like most British Empire political and military leaders in World War I, Smuts thought the American Expeditionary Forces
lacked the proper leadership and experience to be effective quickly. He supported the Anglo-French amalgamation policy towards the Americans. In particular, he had a low opinion of General John J. Pershing
's leadership skills, so much so that he wrote a confidential letter to Lloyd George proposing Pershing be relieved of his command and that the US forces be placed "under someone more confident, like himself". This did not endear him to the Americans once it was leaked.
Smuts and Botha were key negotiators at the Paris Peace Conference. Both were in favour of reconciliation with Germany and limited reparations. Smuts advocated a powerful League of Nations
, which failed to materialise. The Treaty of Versailles
gave South Africa a Class C mandate over German South West Africa (which later became Namibia
), which was occupied from 1919 until withdrawal in 1990. At the same time, Australia was given a similar mandate over German New Guinea
, which it held until 1975. Both Smuts and the Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes
feared the rising power of Japan in the post First World War world. When former German East Africa was divided into three mandated territories (Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanganyika) Smutsland was one of the proposed names for what became Tanganyika.
Smuts returned to South African politics after the conference. When Botha died in 1919, Smuts was elected Prime Minister, serving until a shocking defeat in 1924 at the hands of the National Party
. After the death of the former American President Woodrow Wilson
, Smuts was quoted as saying that: "Not Wilson, but humanity failed at Paris."
While in Britain for an Imperial Conference in June 1920, Smuts went to Ireland and met Éamon de Valera
to help broker an armistice and peace deal between the warring British and Irish nationalists. Smuts attempted to sell the concept of Ireland receiving Dominion
status similar to that of Australia and South Africa.
As a botanist, Smuts collected plants extensively over southern Africa. He went on several botanical expeditions in the 1920s and 1930s with John Hutchinson
, former Botanist in charge of the African section of the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens
and taxonomist of note.
For most of the 1930s, Smuts was a leading supporter of appeasement
. In December 1934, Smuts told an audience at the Royal Institute of International Affairs
"How can the inferiority complex which is obsessing and, I fear, poisoning the mind, and indeed the very soul of Germany, be removed? There is only one way and that is to recognise her complete equality of status with her fellows and to do so frankly, freely and unreservedly...While one understands and sympathises with French fears, one cannot, but feel for Germany in the prison of inferiority in which she still remains sixteen years after the conclusion of the war. The continuance of the Versailles status is becoming an offence to the conscience of Europe and a danger to future peace...Fair play, sportsmanship-indeed every standard of private and public life-calls for frank revision of the situation. Indeed ordinary prudence makes it imperative. Let us break these bonds and set the complexed-obsessed soul free in a decent human way and Europe will reap a rich reward in tranquility, security and returning prosperity."
Holism and related academic workWhile in academia, Smuts pioneered the concept of holism
, defined as "the tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution" in his 1926 book, Holism and Evolution. Smuts' formulation of holism has been linked with his political-military activity and his belief in white supremacy
. One biographer said:
It had very much in common with his philosophy of life as subsequently developed and embodied in his Holism and Evolution. Small units must needs develop into bigger wholes, and they in their turn again must grow into larger and ever-larger structures without cessation. Advancement lay along that path. Thus the unification of the four provinces in the Union of South Africa, the idea of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and, finally, the great whole resulting from the combination of the peoples of the earth in a great league of nations were but a logical progression consistent with his philosophical tenets.
Others, doctor and author Julian Tudor Hart
, have considered Smuts' formulation of holism as "a soapy term which evades necessary conflict," which fitted with his belief in excluding the African majority from democracy.
After Einstein studied "Holism and Evolution" soon upon its publication, he wrote that two mental constructs will direct human thinking in the next millennium, his own mental construct of relativity and Smuts' of holism. In the work of Smuts he saw a clear blueprint of much of his own life, work and personality.
Smuts and segregationAlthough some people have at times hailed him as a liberal, Smuts is often depicted as a white supremacist who played an important role in establishing and supporting a racially segregated
society in South Africa.
He thought that it was "the duty of whites to deal justly with Africans," "raise them up in civilisation," and that they should not be given political power. Giving the right to vote to the black African majority he feared would imply the ultimate destruction of Western civilisation in South Africa.
Smuts was for most of his political life a vocal supporter of segregation
of the races, and in 1929 he justified the erection of separate institutions for blacks and whites in tones prescient of the later practice of apartheid:
In general, Smuts' view of Africans was patronising, he saw them as immature human beings that needed the guidance of whites, an attitude that reflected the common perceptions of most non-Africans in his lifetime. Of Africans he stated that:
He was not alone in these views. On 7 March 1908, Gandhi wrote in the Indian Opinion
of his time in a South African prison: "Kaffirs
are as a rule uncivilised—the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live almost like animals." On the subject of immigration in 1903, Gandhi commented in 1903: "We believe as much in the purity of race as we think they do... We believe also that the white race in South Africa should be the predominating race." Gandhi protested repeatedly about the social classification of blacks with Indians in South Africa and described Indians as "undoubtedly infinitely superior to the Kaffirs". Remarks such as these have led some to accuse Gandhi of racism. It is worth noting though that the word Kaffir had a different connotation in Gandhi's time than its current day meaning.
Although Gandhi and Smuts were adversaries in many ways, they had a mutual respect and even admiration for each other. Before Gandhi returned to India in 1914, he presented General Jan Smuts with a pair of sandals made by himself. In 1939, Smuts, then prime minister, wrote an essay for a commemorative work compiled for Gandhi’s 70th birthday and returned the sandals with the following message: "I have worn these sandals for many a summer, even though I may feel that I am not worthy to stand in the shoes of so great a man."
Smuts is often accused of being a politician who extolled the virtues of humanitarianism and liberalism abroad while failing to practice what he preached at home in South Africa. This was most clearly illustrated when India
, in 1946, made a formal complaint in the UN concerning the legalised racial discrimination against Indians in South Africa. Appearing personally before the United Nations General Assembly
, Smuts defended the policies of his government by fervently pleading that India's complaint was a matter of domestic jurisdiction. However, the General Assembly censured South Africa for its racial policies and called upon the Smuts government to bring its treatment of the South African Indians in conformity with the basic principles of the United Nations Charter
At the same conference, the African National Congress
President General Alfred Bitini Xuma
along with delegates of the South African Indian Congress
brought up the issue of the brutality of Smuts' police regime against the African Mine Workers' Strike
earlier that year as well as the wider struggle for equality in South Africa.
The international criticism of racial discrimination in South Africa led Smuts to modify his rhetoric around segregation. In a bid to make South African racial policies sound more acceptable to Britain he declared already in 1942 that "segregation had failed to solve the Native problem of Africa and that the concept of trusteeship offered the only prospect of happy relations between European and African".
In 1948 he went further away from his previous views on segregation when supporting the recommendations of the Fagan Commission
that Africans should be recognised as permanent residents of White South Africa and not only temporary workers that really belonged in the reserves. This was in direct opposition to the policies of the National Party
that wished to extend segregation and formalise it into apartheid.
There is however no evidence that Smuts ever supported the idea of equal political rights for blacks and whites. The Fagan Commission did not advocate the establishment of a non-racial democracy in South Africa, but rather wanted to liberalise influx controls of Africans into urban areas in order to facilitate the supply of African labour to the South African industry. It also envisaged a relaxation of the pass laws
that had restricted the movement of Africans in general. The commission was at the same time unequivocal about the continuation of white political privilege, it stated that "In South Africa, we the White men, cannot leave and cannot accept the fate of a subject race".
Second World War
in a 'grand coalition' government under J. B. M. Hertzog. When Hertzog advocated neutrality towards Nazi Germany
in 1939, he was deposed by a party caucus
, and Smuts became Prime Minister for the second time. He had served with Winston Churchill
in World War I
, and had developed a personal and professional rapport. Smuts was invited to the Imperial War Cabinet
in 1939 as the most senior South African in favour of war. On 28 May 1941 Smuts was appointed a field marshal of the British Army
, becoming the first South African to hold that rank.
Smuts' importance to the Imperial war effort was emphasised by a quite audacious plan, proposed as early as 1940, to appoint Smuts as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
, should Churchill die or otherwise become incapacitated during the war. This idea was put by Sir John Colville, Churchill's private secretary, to Queen Mary
and then to George VI
, both of whom warmed to the idea. As Churchill lived for another twenty-five years, the plan was never put into effect and its constitutionality was never tested. This closeness to the British establishment, to the King, and to Churchill made Smuts very unpopular amongst the Afrikaners, leading to his eventual downfall.
In May 1945, he represented South Africa in San Francisco at the drafting of the United Nations Charter
. Just as he did in 1919, Smuts urged the delegates to create a powerful international body to preserve peace; he was determined that, unlike the League of Nations
, the UN would have teeth. Smuts signed the Paris Peace Treaty, resolving the peace in Europe, thus becoming the solitary person who was a signatory of the treaties ending both the First and Second World Wars.
In 1945, he was mentioned by Halvdan Koht
among seven candidates that were qualified for the Nobel Prize in Peace. However, he did not explicitly nominate any of them. The person actually nominated was Cordell Hull
After the war
made him unpopular amongst the Afrikaners and Daniel François Malan
's pro-Apartheid stance won the Reunited National Party the 1948 general election
. Although this result was widely forecast, it is a credit to Smuts's political acumen that he was only narrowly defeated by eight seats (and, in fact, won the popular vote by 620,682 votes to 462,332). Smuts, who had been confident of victory, lost his own seat in the House of Assembly
and retired from politics. He still hoped that the tenuous National Party government would fall; but it was to remain in power until 1994, when after nearly five decades of Apartheid, a transitional government of national unity was formed.
as from 17 September 1948.
It is widely believed in Lesotho
that the British attempted to bolster Smuts against Malan's PNP by breaking the power of the Basutoland chieftaincy and allowing the protectorate to be incorporated into South Africa. Two dominant chiefs, Bereng Griffith (twice presumptive heir to the throne) and Gabashane were hanged in controversial circumstances for ritual murder (liretlo) but this occurred after Smuts' election defeat.
Smuts's inauguration as chancellor of the University of Cambridge shortly after the election restored his morale, but the sudden and unexpected death of his eldest son, Japie, in October 1948 brought him to the depths of despair. In the last two years of his life, now frail and visibly aged, Smuts continued to comment perceptively, and on occasion presciently, on world affairs. Europe and the Commonwealth remained his dominant concerns. He regretted the departure of the Irish republic
from the Commonwealth, but was unhappy when India remained within it after it became a republic, fearing the example this would set South Africa's Nationalists. His outstanding contributions as a world statesman were acknowledged in innumerable honours and medals. At home his reputation was more mixed. Nevertheless, despite ill health he continued his public commitments.
On 29 May 1950, a week after the public celebration of his eightieth birthday in Johannesburg and Pretoria, he suffered a coronary thrombosis
. He died of a subsequent heart attack on his family farm of Doornkloof, Irene
, near Pretoria
, on 11 September 1950, and was cremated in Pretoria on 16 September. His ashes were scattered in the veld on his farm Doornkloof.
Support for ZionismSouth African supporters of Theodor Herzl
contacted Smuts in 1916. Smuts, who supported the Balfour Declaration, met and became friends with Chaim Weizmann
, the future President of Israel
, in London. In 1943 Weizmann wrote to Smuts, detailing a plan to develop Britain's African colonies to compete with the United States. During his service as Premier, Smuts personally fundraised for multiple Zionist
organisations. His government granted de facto recognition to Israel
on 24 May 1948 and de jure
recognition on 14 May 1949 following the defeat of Smuts' United Party by the Reunited National Party in the 26 May 1948 General Election, 12 days after David Ben Gurion declared Jewish Statehood and giving the newly formed nation the name Israel. However, Smuts was deputy prime minister when the Hertzog government in 1937 passed the Aliens Act
that was aimed at preventing Jewish immigration to South Africa. The act was seen as a response to growing anti-Semitic sentiments among Afrikaners.
He lobbied against the White Paper
Several streets and a kibbutz
, Ramat Yohanan
, in Israel are named after Smuts.
Smuts' wrote an epitaph
for Weizmann, describing him as the greatest Jew since Moses
Smuts once said:
Other offices heldIn 1931, Smuts became the first President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science
not from the United Kingdom. In that year, he was also elected the second non-British Lord Rector of St Andrews University (after Fridtjof Nansen
). In 1948, he was elected Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, becoming the first person from outside the United Kingdom to hold that position. He held the position until his death.
Jan Smuts in popular cultureThe Libertines
recorded a song titled General Smuts in reference to a pub named after him located in Bloemfontein Road, Shepherds Bush, London, close to QPR football club. It appeared as a B-side to their single Time for Heroes
In the television programme, Young Indiana Jones, the protagonist at a period in the First World War in East Africa encounters a group of superb soldiers, one of whom is a General with more than a passing resemblance and character (though not the name) of Smuts, particularly during engagements with General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck
in East Africa
Smuts is played by South African playwright Athol Fugard
in the 1982 film Gandhi
Wilbur Smith refers to and portrays Jan Smuts in several of his South Africa based novels including When the Lion Feeds, The Sound of Thunder, A Sparrow Falls, Power of the Sword and Rage. Smuts is often referred to as "Slim (Clever) Jannie" or Oubaas (Old Boss) as well as by his proper names.
Place namesThe international airport serving Johannesburg was known as Jan Smuts Airport from its construction in 1952 until 1994. In 1994, it was renamed
to Johannesburg International Airport to remove any political connotations. In 2006, it was renamed again to its current name, OR Tambo International Airport, for the ANC
politician Oliver Tambo
Residences at the University of Cape Town
and at Rhodes University
are named after him, as is a library housing international law materials at the University of the Witwatersrand
In 1932, the kibbutz
in Israel was named after him. Smuts was a vocal proponent of the creation of a Jewish state
, and spoke out against the rising anti-Semitism of the 1930s.
- Privy Counsellor
- Order of MeritOrder of MeritThe Order of Merit is a British dynastic order recognising distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture...
- Companion of Honour
- Dekoratie voor Trouwe DienstDekoratie voor Trouwe DienstThe Dekoratie voor Trouwe Dienst was a South African military decoration. It was authorised on 21 December 1920, as a retrospective award for Boer veterans of the Anglo-Boer War...
- Efficiency DecorationEfficiency DecorationThe Efficiency Decoration is a defunct medal of Britain and the Commonwealth awarded for long service in the Territorial Army of the UK, the Indian Volunteer Forces and Colonial Auxiliary Forces....
- King's Counsel
- Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS)
- Bencher of the Middle TempleMiddle TempleThe Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, commonly known as Middle Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to call their members to the English Bar as barristers; the others being the Inner Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn...
- Albert MedalAlbert Medal (RSA)The Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts was instituted in 1864 as a memorial to Prince Albert, who had been President of the Society for 18 years. It was first awarded in 1864 for "distinguished merit in promoting Arts, Manufactures and Commerce"...
Medals, Commonwealth and South African
- Queen's South Africa MedalQueen's South Africa MedalThe Queen's South Africa Medal was awarded to military personnel who served in the Boer War in South Africa between 11 October 1899 and 31 May 1902. Units from the British Army, Royal Navy, colonial forces who took part , civilians employed in official capacity and war correspondents...
- 1914–15 Star
- British War MedalBritish War MedalThe British War Medal was a campaign medal of the British Empire, for service in World War I.The medal was approved in 1919, for issue to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who had rendered service between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918...
- Victory MedalVictory Medal (United Kingdom)The Victory Medal is a campaign medal - of which the basic design and ribbon was adopted by Belgium, Brazil, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Siam, Union of South Africa and the USA in accordance with decisions as taken at the Inter-Allied Peace Conference at...
- General Service MedalGeneral Service Medal (1918)The General Service Medal was instituted to recognise service in minor Army and Air Force operations for which no separate medal was intended. It was equivalent to the 1915 Naval General Service Medal.- Description :...
- King George V Silver Jubilee MedalKing George V Silver Jubilee MedalThe King George V Silver Jubilee Medal was a commemorative medal made to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the coronation of King George V.-Issue:...
- King George VI Coronation MedalKing George VI Coronation MedalThe King George VI Coronation Medal was a commemorative medal made to celebrate the coronation of King George VI.-Issue:For Coronation and Jubilee medals, the practice up until 1977 was that United Kingdom authorities decided on a total number to be produced, then allocated a proportion to each of...
- Africa StarAfrica StarThe Africa Star was a campaign medal of the British Commonwealth, awarded for service in the Second World War.The Star was awarded for a minimum of one day service in an operational area of North Africa between 10 June 1940 and 12 May 1943...
- Italy StarItaly StarThe Italy Star was a campaign medal of the British Commonwealth, awarded for service in World War II.The medal was awarded for operational service in Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Pantelleria, the Aegean area and Dodecanese Islands, and Elba at any time between 11 June 1943 and 8 May 1945...
- France and Germany StarFrance and Germany StarThe France and Germany Star was a campaign medal of the British Commonwealth, awarded for service in World War II.The medal was awarded for operational service in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Germany from 6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945...
- Defence Medal
- War Medal 1939–1945War Medal 1939–1945The War Medal 1939–1945 was a British decoration awarded to those who had served in the Armed Forces or Merchant Navy full-time for at least 28 days between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945. In the Merchant Navy, the 28 days must have been served at sea...
- Africa Service MedalAfrica Service MedalThe Africa Service Medal was a South African campaign medal for service in World War II. It was instituted by King George VI, in his capacity as South African head of state, on 23 December 1943, and was awarded in addition to the British stars and medals issued for the war...
Foreign decorations and medals
- European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign MedalEuropean-African-Middle Eastern Campaign MedalThe European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal is a military decoration of the United States armed forces which was first created on November 6, 1942 by issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt...
- Order of the Tower and SwordOrder of the Tower and SwordThe Military Order of the Tower and of the Sword, of Valour, Loyalty and Merit is a Portuguese order of knighthood and the pinnacle of the Portuguese honours system. It was created by King Afonso V in 1459....
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion (Netherlands)
- Grand Cordon of the Order of Muhammad Ali (Egypt)
- Grand Cross of the Order of the RedeemerOrder of the RedeemerThe Order of the Redeemer , also known as the Order of the Savior, is an order of Greece. The Order of the Redeemer is the oldest and highest decoration awarded by the modern Greek state.- History :...
- Grand Cross of the Order of LéopoldOrder of LéopoldThe Order of Leopold is one of the three Belgian national honorary orders of knighthood. It is the highest order of Belgium and is named in honour of King Leopold I. It consists of a military, a maritime and a civilian division...
- Croix de guerreCroix de guerreThe Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...
- Commander of the Légion d'honneurLégion d'honneurThe Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...
- Grand Cross of the Order of the African StarOrder of the African StarThe Order of the African Star was established by King Leopold II of Belgium on 30 December 1888, in his capacity as ruler of the Congo Free State, and was awarded for services to Congo and for the "promotion of African civilisation in general". It was incorporated into the Belgian honours system...
- King Christian X Frihedsmedaille (Denmark)
- Cross of ValourCross of Valour (Greece)The Cross of Valour is the second highest military decoration of the Greek state, awarded for acts of bravery or distinguished leadership on the field of battle...
- Woodrow Wilson Peace Medal
- Military history of South AfricaMilitary history of South AfricaThe history of South Africa chronicles a vast time period and complex events from the dawn of history until the present time. It covers civil wars and wars of aggression and of self-defense both within South Africa and against it...
- When Smuts GoesWhen Smuts GoesWhen Smuts Goes is a dystopian future history of South Africa , published in 1947 by Dr. Arthur M...
- History of Kenya – Colonial History
- History of Tanzania – First World War
- Hancock, WK and van der Poel, J (eds) – Selections from the Smuts Papers, 1886–1950, (7 vols), (1966–73)
- Spies, SB and Natrass, G (eds) – Jan Smuts – Memoirs of the Boer War Jonathan Ball, Johannesburg 1994
- Armstrong, HC – Grey Steel: A Study of Arrogance, (1939), ASIN B00087SNP4)
- Clark, NL – South Africa: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid, (2004), (ISBN 0 582 41437 7)
- Crafford, FS – Jan Smuts: A Biography, (1943), ISBN 1-4179-9290-5
- Friedman, B – Smuts: A Reappraisal, (1975)
- Geyser, O – Jan Smuts and His International Contemporaries, (2002), (ISBN 1-919874-10-0)
- Hancock, WK – Smuts: 1. The Sanguine Years, 1870—1919, (1962)
- Hancock, WK – Smuts: 2. Fields of Force, 1919–1950, (1968)
- Hutchinson, John – A Botanist in Southern Africa, (1946), PR Gawthorn Ltd.
- Ingham, K – Jan Christian Smuts: The Conscience of a South African, (1986)
- Lentin, Antony – General Smuts: South Africa, London, Haus, (2010). ISBN 9781905791828
- Millin, SG – General Smuts, (2 vols), (1933)
- Reitz, D – Commando: A Boer Journal of the Boer War, (ISBN 0-9627613-3-8)
- Smuts, JC – Jan Christian Smuts, (1952), e-book (ISBN 978-1-920091-29-3)