Remarkable People

ID #5254

Jan Smuts 3 Return to South Africa.

Smuts began to practice law in Cape Town but his abrasive nature made him few friends. Finding little success in law, he began to devote 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 advisor, a role that found him much criticized by a hostile Afrikaans press. However, when Rhodes launched the Jameson Raid, in 1895-6, Smuts was outraged. Betrayed, he resigned from De Beers and disappeared from public life. Seeing no future in Cape Town, he decided to move to Johannesburg. However, he was disgusted by what appeared to be a gin-soaked mining camp, and his new law practice could attract little business. Smuts sought refuge in the capital of the South African Republic (Transvaal), Pretoria.

Through 1896, Smuts’ politics were turned on their head. He was transformed from being Rhodes’ most ardent supporter to being a fervent opponent of British expansion. Through late 1896 and 1897, Smuts toured South Africa, furiously condemning the United Kingdom, Rhodes, and anyone opposed to the Transvaal President, the autocratic 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 in June 1898, when Kruger fired the Transvaal Chief Justice, most lawyers were up in arms. Recognizing the opportunity, Smuts wrote a thesis in support of Kruger, who rewarded Smuts with the post of State Attorney. In this capacity, he tore into the establishment, firing those he deemed to be illiberal, old-fashioned, or corrupt. RSAJCS3

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Last update: 2014-03-17 02:35
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.3

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