A. Theodore (Augustus Theodore) Wirgman.

Storm and sunshine in South Africa, with some personal and historical reminiscences online

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^i* Francis R. Grahamstown.




Among the papers left by the late Archdeacon Wirgman
was the manuscript of this book. He seems to have
felt, and rightly, that the records and reminiscences of
a life that was singularly full of interest ought to be
given to the pubhc. To the preparation of this work
for publication he gave the greatest diligence. Besides
the fair copy there were several rough drafts among his
papers, the earliest dating from as long ago as 1898.

Unfortunately the Archdeacon was not spared to
complete his labours, and the narrative ends abruptly
with the death of Cecil Rhodes. The final recasting
of it was made, however, during the years 1914 to 1916 ;
so that the events recorded are seen in the light of the
Great War and are orientated in accordance with the
new outlook on world problems, social, political, and
spiritual, forced on man by the greatest of all " troublings
of the waters ".

The book must, of course, be judged on its own
merits, and doubtless there are statements which will be
challenged, for it deals with controversial topics. This
is to be expected, for it is the work of one who was
singularly clear in his opinions and definite in the state-
ment of them. Essentially loyal both to his Church
and to his country, the Archdeacon was ever bold in the
defence of them ; but his defence was never prejudiced.


His views were indeed strongly held, and as powerfully
stated as they were strongly held ; but he invariably
took great care to know his ground before he formed
them — a virtue which is not always manifest in the
statements of controversialists.

The forty years dm'ing which, as Rector of one of
the most important churches in the country, he was in
closest touch with the affairs of South Africa, were great
years. They were the time when the country passed
from bud to blossom, the years in which the early
inchoate beginnings of Church and State found shape
and form in the free Church of the Province, on the
one hand, and the Union of South Africa on the other.
Towards the attainment of those two great ends Arch-
deacon Wirgman devoted all the strength of his daunt-
less personality, the power of his virile pen, the fire
of his fearless oratory.

That men should think great thoughts and strive to
carry them out greatly was the thing that mattered to
him, and thus while his work dwells lovingly on his
great hero, Cecil Rhodes, one may detect also a vein
of admiration for the rugged personality of President

There is one point on which a word, not of apology
but of explanation, is needed. It may be thought that
the ecclesiastical controversies are dealt with at a length
which their importance does not justify. It must not
be forgotten, however, that it was along the difficult
and thorny paths of these controversies that the South
African Church found its way to that freedom and self-
government which has made it the pattern of other
Colonial Churches. Kipling's words, "Lest we forget,"
are wide in their application and we should do ill indeed


if we forgot those faithful and wide-minded men who
hewed out those paths on which we walk.

Now that the War has shattered so many ideas that
we formerly held as fixed principles, it is well to retain
some solid basis to rest on out of the achievements of
the past, on which we may establish the future. Count
Cavour's " Free Church in a Free State " was always
Archdeacon Wirgman's ideal, and more blest than most,
he saw his ideal in the realisation, and accepted it as the
unchangeable foundation of South African policy.

His own part in the great two-fold work was a large
one. He was ever in the heart of things, knew intimately
the great builders and founders of Church and State,
and contributed a worthy share to the sum of effort.
The book, then, is a record of —
Quseque ipse vidi
Et quorum pars magna fui.

— Virg. Mn. H. 5, 6.

G. B. F.


My life work has been in South Africa, a country
which has been called by some the grave of reputations.
I came to South Africa with no reputation to make or
mar, as a young priest of twenty-seven, who had been
taught by the Bishop who ordained him that the
Anglican Communion was a wider sphere than the
Church of England, and that an English priest might
fitly consider service in a wider sphere as much a duty
as service in England. I have always been thankful
that I came to serve " a free Church in a free State ".
In no part of the British Empire has this famous ideal
of Count Cavour's been more fully realised than in
South Africa. Through storm and stress, lights and
shadows, the South African Church attained her free-
dom and her unity. Through the mist and darkness,
the blood and tears of a bitter struggle and a great war,
the South African States have won their way to Union.
I have for the greater part of my life watched and noted
the progress of the Church and the people towards the
unity now attained, and if my personal recollections do
not illustrate the course of events and make them plainer
to those who may care to read these pages, the fault will
lie rather with my intelligence than with my lack of
opportunities. I do not apologise for the personal note


in what I have written. It is inevitable in recollections
of an autobiographical character. I have tried to be
fair in my judgment of public men and public events,
and I trust that I have not consciously yielded to the
influences which must inevitably accompany the posses-
sion of strong personal convictions.

A. T. W.



Foreword by the Bishop of Grahamstown v

Editor's Preface vii

Prefatory Note by the Author xi

Early Days and Recollections 1

Early Days in South Africa 34


Dark Days — The Kafir and Zulu Wars — The First Annexation of

the Transvaal 64


The Judgment of the Privy Council in the Grahamstown Cathedral

Case — Its Prelude and Postscript 101


The Basuto War of 1880-81— The Revolt of the Transvaal, and
Majuba — Cecil Rhodes — General Gordon — Hofmeyr and the
Bond — Ecclesiastical and Political Remembrances to the end
of 1887 156


The Beginnings of Rhodesia in 1890 — The Rhodes Ministry — The
Rhodes-Hofmeyr Alliance and its Outcome — The " Southern
Cross " — The Provincial Synod of 1891 — Sir Francis de Winton
and Svraziland — The Transvaal and the Free State — Dr. Leyds
and the Netherlands Railway Company — The Controversy of
the Drifts — My visit to England in 1893 — Archbishop Benson
and Natal — The Birmingham Church Congress — Sermons at
S. Paul's and Cambridge — Return to South Africa . . . 200




Literary Work — The Burning of S. Mary's in 1895— The Work of
Restoration — My Visit to Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and
Pretoria — My Interview with President Kruger — The Jameson
Raid and its Cause and Consequences — The Provincial Synod
of 1898— The Beginning of the Boer War 235

Reminiscences of the Boer War — Visit to the Continent . . . 268


The Death of Cecil Rhodes— Re-settlement of South Africa . . 305

Biographical Sketch 312

Publications 339


Venble a. Theodore Wirgman, D.D., D.C.L., Archdeacon of

Poet Elizabeth . Frontispiece

to face pagb

The Archdeacon's Book-plate 6

Peter Wirgman's Book-plate 7

The Old S. Mary's, Port Elizabeth 236

The New S. Mary's 239

From a Photograph by Middlelyrook Stiidios, Port Elizabeth.

Grave of the Abchdeacon 888



England and Europe from 1846 to 1851.

I WAS born on September 22nd, 1846. Those " early Vic-
torian " days are far more remote from the second decade of
the twentieth century than Sir Walter Scott's " 'Tis sixty
years since " of Waverley was from Prince Charles Edward's
heroic adventure in the " '45 ". Louis Philippe, the "bour-
geois " King, was the ruler of France, and the infamy of the
"Spanish marriage" had not yet shaken the throne. His
victim, Queen Isabella of Spain, and his dupe Montpensier
had acquiesced in their fate, and the vision of a closely knit
family tie between the Orleans King at Paris and his son, the
futui'e Orleans King of Spain, had not vanished. England
was distracted by Chartism and was seething with economic
and social discontent. The young Queen had not yet had
time to restore the true ideals of British monarchy, and her
German husband was profoundly distrusted, in spite of his
undoubted political capacity. Italy was seething with the
desire to become a united kingdom under the leadership of
the House of Savoy, Hungary was on the edge of the revolu-
tion against Austria so soon to break out under the leader-
ship of Kossuth. Ferdinand of Austria was coming to the
end of his tether as an irresponsible and foolish autocrat.
Prussia was beginning to aspire to the leadership of the
smaller German states, although Austria and Europe did not
take her ambitions very seriously. Bismarck was an obscure



country squire, and Moltke a major in the Danish Army.
Prince William of Prussia, the future conqueror of Paris, to
be proclaimed "Kaiser" in the historic Palace at Versailles,
was in obscurity as an unpopular soldier and fervid foe of
democracy. The splendid figure of Czar Nicholas of Russia
dominated Eastern Europe. Russian discontent was buried
beneath the aspirations of Slav conquest, and already
Nicholas, in vision, saw himself crowned in S. Sophia as the
Emperor of Constantinople. Louis Napoleon was in exile
in London. No one took him seriously after his futile
attempts at Strasburg and Boulogne. The escaped prisoner
of Ham was not considered worth watching as a serious
danger to the throne of Louis Philippe.

In 1848 the storm burst. The whole of Europe was ablaze
with revolution. The Chartists had proposed to march on
the Parliament at Westminster. The old Duke of Welling-
ton planted cannon to sweep Westminster Bridge, and
Louis Napoleon kept order in the streets with the truncheon
of a special constable. Louis Philippe fled to England dis-
guised as " Mr. Smith," and after a while Louis Napoleon
became President of the brand new French Republic.
Ferdinand of Austria abdicated and was succeeded by a boy
of eighteen, the Kaiser Franz Josef, whose last days were
merged in the whirlpool of the world-war, and the people of
Italy revolted against their separate Governments. Pope
Pius IX fled from Rome to Gaeta, and the Roman Republic
was proclaimed. Then came a settlement and a reaction.
Pius IX was restored by French bayonets and became the
reactionary opponent of Italian liberty and unity. The de-
feat of Charles Albert of Sardinia by the Austrians at Novara
threw Italy back into the hands of its separatist autocracies.
Louis Napoleon's coup d'6tat made him Emperor of the
French, and Prince Albert imagined that the Great Exhibi-
tion of 1851 was the inauguration of an era of universal
European peace and prosperity.


I record these political happenings because they showed
a new Europe in the making, and incidentally influenced
most profoundly the relations of England and her Colonies.
The outcome of the new Europe was the British Empire
as we see it to-day, and the new South Africa as it emerged
from the war of 1899. What will be the chai-acter of the
" newer Europe " and the United British Empire after the
world-war of 1914 none can imagine or forecast.

Earliest Eecgllections.

One of the earliest recollections of my childhood was
hearing of the wonders of the Great Exhibition of 1851
and being shown pictures of it in the " Illustrated London
News". My father always impressed on my mind as a
child any great events that were transpiring, and so my
recollections of childhood are unusually clear and definite.
The death of the Duke of Wellington took place in 1852,
when I was six years old. My father explained to me
why the church bell was tolling and what a mighty warrior
the old Duke had been, and I was very proud to receive
from the postman the first newspaper ever addressed to
me, which had pictures of the funeral and a long account
of it, which was read to me. I have lived to commemorate
the centenary of Waterloo. On one point my memory fails
me. I never remember a time when I could not read easy
words, and pick out a tune from ear on the piano. Nor do
I remember when I learnt to draw. I can remember
copying pictures of soldiers and natives from the illustrated
papers dealing with the Kafir War of 1852. I found a
letter addressed to me by an old friend of my mother's on
my seventh birthday, in which she asked me if I was still
fond of Heraldry ! I was given a book on Heraldry as
soon as I could read, and it had very fine coloured plates. I
used to pore over it with delight.


My Uncle and the Crimean War.

In 1854 came the Crimean War. My uncle, Theodore
Wirgman, was at that time an officer of the 10th Hussars,
which came overland from India through Egypt to strengthen
the Light Cavalry Brigade after the disastrous Balaklava
charge. His weekly letters to my father were read to me
and every scrap of war news was duly impressed on my
mind. I well remember the battle of the Alma and the
Charge of the Light Brigade. Inkerman, the soldiers' battle,
was a vivid picture in my mind. I thought of little else but
the war, and one day amused my father by exclaiming : " I
would give anything to be in the Crimea". After the peace
in 1856 I first met my soldier uncle. I was staying at
Henley Vicarage with my uncle, Henry Pearson, and the
returned warrior came to see us there. I was very much
impressed with his bronzed countenance and was struck by
the mark across his forehead made by the Hussar undress
service cap, which left a diagonal patch free from tan. He
was very kind to me as a little lad, as he always was as long
as he lived. His stories of the Crimea fascinated me, and
made me long to be a soldier.

The Indian Mutiny.

In 1857 the terrible scenes of the Indian Mutiny were
deeply impressed upon my mind. I used to picture to my-
self the horrors of Cawnpore, the pathetic heroism of
Lucknow, and the glories of the siege and capture of Delhi.
I suppose that I was, in some ways, rather unlike most boys
of my age. I was very keen on public events and on battle
stories. I read every book on war and battles that I could
lay hold of. I remember reading Sir Walter Scott's " Court
and Camp of Bonaparte" before I read any of his novels. I
believe that I was much more influenced in my ideas, tastes
and judgments by my father's family than by my mother's :

The Archdeacon's Book-plate

A. T. WiuGMAN, D.D., D.C.L.
Archilcftcon of Port Elizabeth

Peter Wikgman's Book-plate


so it seems to me that I must break in upon my early recol-
lections at this point with some account of my family connec-

The Wirgman Family.

The Wirgman family settled in London in the eighteenth
century and came from Gothenburg in Sweden. Our chief
authority for our family history is a journal kept by Peter
Wirgman, the first of the family born in England, written
apparently between the years 1732 and 1749. He tells us
of his grandfather, Peter Virgunder, who was born in 1624
at Biorkeroes in the district of Smaland in Sweden and edu-
cated at the University of Upsala for the ministry. He
obtained a parish when he was twenty-four years of age and
married a lady whose family name was Croc. He had twelve
children. Some of his sons entered the army and kept the
original family name, but the youngest but one changed its
form on entering into commercial life, as the rule of the
family was, and was known as Abraham Wirgman. He be-
came an Alderman of Gothenburg early in the eighteenth
century and married into the family of Wallman, of Gothen-
burg. His son Gabriel settled in Denmark Street, London,
and married Mary, the eldest daughter of Francis Upjohn.
Gabriel died at Bath in 1791, and his wife died at Brighton
in 1794.

Thomas Wirgman.

His son Thomas, born in 1771, was my grandfather, who
died in 1840 and was buried in the Upjohn vault at S. John's,
Clerkenwell. He married in 1799 Sophia Russell, the only
child and heiress of John Russell, of Buckingham Street,
London, and Anne Surmont, of French Huguenot descent.
He had three sons : Ferdinand, born in 1806, and the twins,
Augustus (my father) and Theodore, born in 1809. There was


a curious interlacing of families, for my great-grandmother,
Anne, married, as a widow, the same Peter Wirgman who
wrote the Journal or Family Eecord mentioned before. He
died in 1814, and her portrait shows her to have been a
woman of strong character. Peter, the youngest son of the
seventeenth-century Lutheran minister, settled in business
in Windsor Court, Strand, in 1706, and married twice, first
a Dane and afterwards a Swede. His eldest son, Peter, the
journalist, was a travelled man. He journeyed through
Holland and Germany twice and spent two years at Dresden
t€?5^arn German. He settled in business in London at 68
St. James's Street, and in 1750 married Elizabeth Breholt.
I have in my possession a copy of the " Whole Duty of
Man," with Elizabeth Breholt's name in it, and the date
1741. She put her husband's book-plate in it after her
marriage, and the Wirgman armorial bearings on this book-
plate show that our family were "armigeri " in Sweden.

Our Armorial Bearings.

My grandfather had them duly registered at the Heralds'
College, and my father and uncle had them re-granted from
the Heralds' College with my grandmother Eussell's arms

There are two windows in the hall of Magdalene College,
Cambridge, which are filled with the armorial bearings of
members of the College who have been considered worthy of
some remembrance during the past and present century.
My armorial bearings, with my name underneath, were
placed in one of these windows in the year 1911.

My grandfather, Thomas Wirgman, was the second son
of Gabriel Wirgman, who married Mary Upjohn. I
can remember my father's second cousin, the Eev.
Francis Upjohn, as a rather eccentric old gentleman who
had retired from active work. He had been a Captain


in the Life Guards and fell under the influence of the
Evangelical Eevival in the days of the Regency. He resigned
his Commission, went to Cambridge and took Holy Orders,
At one time he lived at Ashbourne Green Hall, Derbyshire.
He was my brother Edward's godfather. My grandfather's
younger brothers, Charles and James, settled in America at
the close of the eighteenth century and founded the Ameri-
can branches of our family in Virginia, Philadelphia and
New York. His sister Sophia married Mr. H. K. Hemming.

G. W. Hemming.

Their son, George Wirgman Hemming, went to S. John's
College, Cambridge, and was Senior Wrangler and first
Smith's Prizeman in 1844. I believe that he furnishes the
solitary instance of a Cambridge Senior Wrangler being an
athlete in the days before athletics loomed as largely as they
do now at the public schools and universities. He won the
University sculls and combined the blue ribbon of the
Cam with the blue ribbon of the Senate House. He went
to the bar and became a Q.C., and one of the Counsel of the
University of Cambridge. He was also Librarian of Lin-
coln's Inn and Official Referee of the Supreme Court of
Judicature in England.

My Grandfather Translates Kant.

My grandfather was a man of considerable intellectual
power. To him, more than to any other man, is due the
attention which began to be paid to Kant's Philosophy in
England and Scotland during the early years of the nine-
teenth century. He had a controversy with Professor
Dugald Stewart, of Edinburgh University, on the subject,
and spent large sums of money in publishing works to
further his object in making Kant's system known to
English-speaking people. He was an accomplished German


scholar, and his translation of Kant's " Critique of Pure
Reason " was the first which appeared in the English lang-
uage. He was one of the chief proprietors of the " Encyclo-
paedia Londinensis," which was published at intervals between
1815 and 1825 as a rival to the " Encyclopaedia Britannica,"
mainly because Professor Stewart had written the articles in
it which attacked Kant. He wrote the articles in it on Kant,
Logic, Metaphysics, and Philosophy. His philosophic
studies brought him into contact with the famous Madame de
Stael, and he treasured the following little note, in which
she asked to see him :

" 2 Janvier, 1814.

"Je d6sire de vous connaitre, Monsieur, puisque vous
vous occupez de Kant, et que vous cherchez h le faire
admirer. Voulez vous passer chez moi, jeudi matin, entre
deux et trois heures ? Nous causerons quelques instants.
" J'ai I'honneur d'etre, Monsieur,
" Votre tr^s humble et tr^s ob6issant servante,
" Neckek de Stael Holstbin.

•• To Thomas Wirgman, Esqre.,
" 68 St. James's Street."

It seemed a trivial note for my grandfather to keep, but
the lady left her mark upon history in more ways than one,
besides her writings on Kant. My grandfather's literary
schemes cost him the bulk of his fortune. And besides this
source of expenditure he evidently must have given substan-
tial aid and services to the exile of Hartwell, who became
Louis XVIII at the Bourbon restoration of 1814.

Louis XVIII Decokates My Gkandfather.

Before Louis XVIII left England he instituted a new
Order of Merit called the " Order of the Fleur de Lys," for
the special purpose of decorating the emigres and others who
had aided him in exile and helped to restore him to his


throne. He made my grandfather a Chevaher of the Order
of the Fleur de Lys, which was attached as a pendant to the
Wirgman Arms (see "Burke's Dictionary of Heraldry");
but it was only so used during my grandfather's lifetime.

In his controversy with Dugald Stewart about Kant my

Online LibraryA. Theodore (Augustus Theodore) WirgmanStorm and sunshine in South Africa, with some personal and historical reminiscences → online text (page 1 of 26)