HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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THE ATTITUDE OF THE HOLLANDERS OF IOWA DURING THE BOER WAR
DURING the closing months of the nineteenth century England had no enemies fiercer than the Hollanders of Iowa. They manifested a vital concern in the outcome of differences between Boers and Britons and contemplated every event in South Africa with feelings of intensest partisanship: never were newspapers more in demand, never were campaigns followed with keener interest, and never did victories call forth more genuine exclamations of triumph.
Recalling the Jameson Raid and the role played by Cecil Rhodes, "a great bandit", in South African affairs, and seeing how British aggression was gradually forcing the Boers into an unequal contest, the Hollanders were roused from their accustomed lethargy to vehement expressions of indignation. They interpreted events in South Africa as a veritable call to arms to all Hollanders who loved justice. Furthermore, did not they and the Boers spring from the same fatherland and speak the same language?
Those who advocated the principles of the Democratic party were not the only Hollanders who insisted that President McKinley should intermeddle in Boer-British affairs. When matters were reaching a crisis the Republican administration called forth more and more criticism and abuse for its policy of neutrality, and when war finally broke out McKinley and all Republicans were loudly accused of hostility towards the Transvaal.
No Dutch newspaper in Iowa gave more radical expression to its anti-Republican and anti-British feeling than De Vrije Hollander of Orange City. Van Oosterhout played upon the heart-strings of his readers. Patriotic Hollanders were reminded that the Boers were forced to fight for their freedom and their hearths against the mightiest country in the world; all Hollanders were urged to show their sympathy for that heroic people. "Let our Dutch newspapers declare themselves on this matter; let us call meetings; let us prepare subscriptions", declared the editor, "and let us show that we are with the Boers in their struggle heart and soul, let us help their widows and orphans - this is better than resolutions and telegrams."
On the 15th of November, 1899, the first Transvaal meeting was held in Sioux County. Several ministers of Dutch churches took a prominent part, and a fund for Boer orphans and widows was at once started. Heading the list with a donation of $50, De Vrije Hollander for over two years contained weekly reports of the donors and the amounts of their gifts.(306)
On December 1, 1899, there was published the following appeal: (307)
The Hollanders gave way to unbounded excitement and pleasure when news of Boer successes reached them. At Pella the Dutch newspapers published all the latest despatches from the front, and the post-office was kept open until a late hour at night so that citizens might get mail brought by the last evening trains. Ministers spoke at all the Boer meetings in the neighborhood. Pella's Nieuwsblad posted bulletins. Everywhere the Hollanders in Iowa welcomed the reports of British disasters: although they could not expect a handful of people to prevail against such overwhelming odds, the Hollanders rejoiced in months of British reverses and wished English armies nothing but confusion.(308)
The Sioux City Journal made the sensational announcement that the business men of Alton, Maurice, Ireton, Le Mars, and Fort Dodge had collected $25,000 to send two companies of fifty men each to the Transvaal to help the Boers, provided the Federal authorities could be outwitted. It was reported that this filibustering party had been organized under the command of a member of the First Regiment of Illinois Volunteers and of veterans of the Cuban and Philippine war; and that the men drilled after dark outside the town of Orange City.
Equally untrue statements appeared in correspondence from Sioux Center to the Chicago Times-Herald published under the following headlines: "A Whole Regiment. Hundreds Leave Sioux County for the Transvaal to Help the Boers." It was reported that these adventurers intended to proceed to the field of war by threes and fours by various routes in order to escape the vigilance of the United States authorities. The fact that numerous young men who had talked of serving in the Boer army disappeared suddenly without leaving word behind lent color to the rumor that they had started on the journey: their relatives, it was said, felt no uneasiness at their absence, which obviously would not be the case if they were ignorant of all the facts.(309)
Money poured into the treasury of the Iowa Transvaal Committee from the Hollanders of Minnesota, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and from all the Dutch communities in Iowa, as well as from such towns as Sioux City and Iowa City. Governor John Lind of Minnesota sent $10, together with a letter in which he declared that the war was due principally to Cecil Rhodes's press bureau, his tremendous capital, powerful influence, etc. Within four months the Committee forwarded $1,000 to Dr. Leyds at Brussels and $300 to Amsterdam.(310)
Merchants among the Hollanders advertised "Transvaal Days" to be held in their stores: for several weeks a druggist whose advertisement in large type began with "Hoera voor Transvaal!" promised to donate 5% of his sales on Saturdays to the Boer cause. All good Hollanders wore "Oom Paul" buttons on their coat lapels, and many a child born during those stirring months was named after Paul Kruger, Piet Joubert, Piet Cronje and other Boer generals.(311)
On the 2nd day of January, 1900, the following resolutions were spread upon the minutes of the city council of Pella:
A few days later similar resolutions were adopted by the city council of Orange City as follows:(312)
On the 22nd of January, 1900, the Sioux County member introduced into the State House of Representatives the following resolution:
By a vote of 57 to 22 this resolution was laid on the table. The Democratic editor of De Vrije Hollander thanked the six Republicans who favored the resolution, three of them representing large Dutch constituencies in the counties of Sioux, Marion, and Grundy.(313)
Mass meetings were frequently called at Pella, Otley, and Sully, and at Orange City, Sioux Center, Maurice, Alton, Rock Valley, and other towns in the vicinity. Hollanders also spoke at meetings in Le Mars and Sioux City. All these gatherings ended with generous donations for the Boers. Much money was collected also through the churches and by means of concerts and subscription lists which were carried from house to house. In August, 1.900, three young men from Sioux County - A. Kline, H. Dekker, and M. to Veltrup - were thus enabled to enlist in the Boer armies: they fought until the Boers were overwhelmed.(314)
In the summer of 1900 C. H. Wessels, President of the Orange Free State Volksraad, passed through Alton where the Transvaal and Orange Free State flags were flying at the railroad station. A large crowd of Hollanders from all the neighboring towns greeted him with loud hurrahs for the Transvaal and listened to his address in the Dutch language. The Boer representatives who accompanied him were A. D. W. Wolmarens and A. Fisscher.(315)
De Vrije Hollander at Orange City and Pella's Nieuwsblad never ceased their violent attacks upon McKinley for his "murder and robbery policy" and his failure to aid the Boers. Republican and Democratic rallies in the autumn of 1900 assumed additional importance among the Hollanders - the Democrats even obtained speakers in the Dutch language. William J. Bryan gained many votes as a consequence.(316)
Money continued to be collected in every possible way during the year 1901: at Pella the Moonlight Mission Band of the First Reformed church held socials. In Sioux County at the Christian celebration of the Fourth of July a large sum was contributed for the Boers. Shortly afterward H. D. Viljoen, Field Cornet, and Commandant Liebenberg were commended to the good-will of the people of Iowa by the proclamation of Governor Shaw. These two men who had fought in the war put up a large tent wherever they stopped, delivered addresses on the Boers and their land, attracted great crowds in all the Dutch communities at an admission price of twenty-five cents, and raised about $1,000 for Boer orphans and widows.(317)
In the month of October, 1.901, Rev, van Broekhuizen spoke in nearly all the Dutch churches of Iowa: he raised $560 in two meetings at Pella, $530 at Orange City, $350 at Sioux Center, over $200 at Hull, and about $500 at Middelburg, Maurice, Boy den, Rock Valley, and Hospers.(318) A program of one of these gatherings runs as follows:
About this time also the hearts of Hollanders were filled with indignation by the exaggerated reports of terrible suffering in the reconcentrado camps maintained by the English in South Africa. President McKinley was asked in a long petition to use his influence to stop the system. Later De Vrije Hollander displayed the picture of a child in the last stage of starvation in one of Kitchener's camps. Ministers of the gospel met at Newkirk in Sioux County and drew up a petition to the congressmen from Iowa asking them to protest in the name of Christianity, civilization, and humanity against the judicial murder of Commander Kritzinger or other Boer officers who might be captured, and also to use all their influence with the American government to protest against the cruelty and inhumanity of the reconcentrado camps where the death rate, according to official statistics, ranged from forty to fifty deaths per one hundred each year.(319)
Late in the year 1901 came the call for money and clothing for Boer war prisoners on the Bermuda Islands. The Iowa Transvaal Committee sent over one dozen large boxes of clothing besides money for the prisoners, the Ladies' Aid Societies of the churches doing especially good work. When De Vrije Hollander published a letter from a friend on the Bermudas to the effect that all they needed was tobacco, money was at once forthcoming and tobacco was supplied to them.(320)
Pella's Weekblad discovered political capital in the favor which Roosevelt was alleged to show towards the English: did he not allow Englishmen to buy horses in America for the wart During these months, indeed, it was well-nigh impossible to buy horses and mules from the Hollanders of Iowa: they regarded every horse-dealer with suspicion, for how should they know but that their animals might be wanted for shipment to the English armies? (321)
As late as September, 1902, in answer to the final appeal of the Iowa Transvaal Committee, money was pouring in. Although no account of sums collected and despatched can be obtained, it is confidently believed that the Hollanders of Iowa gave to the Boers over $10,000 of their wealth, besides clothing and three volunteers.(322) And among the most powerful promoters of the Boer cause were the two Dutch newspapers Pella's Weekblad and De Vrije Hollander, while no single man exerted himself so ceaselessly as did Martin P. van Oosterhout.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(306) De Vrije Hollander, October 13, and November 3,10, 17, 24, 1899. The writer is indebted to Mr. H. Toering for the use of the files from 1899 to 1903.
(307) De Vrije Hollander, December 1, 1899.
(308) Pella's Nieuwsblad, November 3, 10, 17, 24, 1899, March 23, 1900.
(309) The Sioux City Journal, December 8, 1899; and De Vrije Hollander, January 5, 1900.
(310) De Vrije Hollander, December 22, 1899, January 12, 19, February 2, March 30, and May 4, 1900.
(311) De Vrije Hollander, December 15, 1899, January 5, 1900.
(312) De Vrije Hollander, January 12, 1900.
(313) De Vrije Hollander, January 26, 1900; and House Journal (Iowa) , 1900, p. 122.
(314) De Vrije Hollander, February 2, May 4, 25, and August 17, 1900.
(315) De Vrije Hollander, June 15, 1900; and Pella's Nieuwsblad, June l, 15, 1900.
(316) Pella's Nieuwsblad, November 2, 1900; and De Vrije Hollander during the months of October and November, 1900.
(317) De Vrije Hollander, June 14, July 12, 19, and August 2, 1901; and Pella's Nieuwsblad, February 8, March 1, April 19, and July 5, 19, 1901.
(318) De Vrije Hollander, October 4, 11, 18, 1901; and Pella's Nieuwsblad, October 18, 25, 1901.
(319) De Vrije Hollander, July 12, and December 19, 1901, February 28, 1902.
(320) Pella's Nieuwsblad, November 1, 1901; and De Vrije Hollander, December 16, 1901, and March 21, and April 4, 1902.
(321) Pella's Weekblad, March 27,
(322) De Vrije Hollander, January
10, 24, 31, February 28, March 14, 21, April 25, May 9, August 1, and
September. 19, 1902.
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