Johannes Paulus Kruger (10th October 1825 – 14th
July 1904), better known as Paul Kruger and fondly known as Oom
Paul (Afrikaans for "Uncle Paul") was State President
of the South African Republic (Transvaal). He gained international
renown as the face of Boer resistance against the British during
the South African or Second Boer War (1899-1902).
was born at Bulhoek, his grandfather's farm in the Steynsburg district
near the town of Cradock, and grew up on the farm Vaalbank. He received
only three months' formal education, his master being one Tielman
Roos, but supposedly became knowledgeable from life on the veld.
His father, Casper Kruger, joined the trek party of Hendrik Potgieter
when the Great Trek started in 1836.
trekkers crossed the Vaal River in 1838, and at first stayed in
the area that is known today as Potchefstroom. Kruger's father later
decided to settle in the district now known as Rustenburg. At the
age of 16, Kruger was entitled to choose a farm for himself at the
foot of the Magaliesberg, where he settled in 1841.
following year he married Maria du Plessis, and the young couple
accompanied his father to live in the Eastern Transvaal for a while.
After the family had returned to Rustenburg, Kruger's wife and infant
son died, probably from malaria. He then married Gezina du Plessis,
who was his constant and devoted companion until her death in 1901.
Seven daughters and nine sons were born of the marriage, some dying
time, Kruger emerged as a leader. He started as a field cornet in
the commandos, eventually becoming Commandant-General of the South
African Republic. He was appointed member of a commission of the
Volksraad, the republican parliament that was to draw up a constitution.
People began to take notice of the young man and he played a prominent
part in ending the quarrel between the Transvaal leader, Stephanus
Schoeman, and M.W. Pretorius.
1873, Kruger resigned as Commandant-General, and for a time he held
no office and retired to his farm, Boekenhoutfontein. However, in
1874 he was elected to the Executive Council and shortly after that
became Vice-President of the Transvaal.
the annexation of the Transvaal by Britain in 1877, Kruger became
the leader of the resistance movement. During the same year, he
visited Britain for the first time as leader of a deputation. In
1878, he was part of a second deputation. A highlight of his visit
to Europe was when he ascended in a hot air balloon and saw Paris
from the air.
First Boer War, also known as the "First War of Independence",
started in 1880, and the British forces were defeated in the decisive
battle at Majuba in 1881. Once again, Kruger played an important
role in the negotiations with the British, which led to the restoration
of the Transvaal's independence under British suzerainty.
30 December 1880, at the age of 55, Kruger was elected President
of the Transvaal. One of his first aims was the revision of the
Pretoria Convention of 1881, the agreement between the Boers and
the British that ended the First Boer War. Therefore, he again left
for Britain in 1883, empowered to negotiate with Lord Derby. Kruger
and his companions also visited the Continent and this visit became
a triumph in countries such as Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands,
France and Spain. In Germany, he attended an imperial banquet at
which he was presented to the Emperor, Wilhelm I, and spoke at length
the Transvaal, things changed rapidly after the discovery of gold
on the Witwatersrand. This momentous discovery was to have far-reaching
political repercussions and to give rise to the uitlander, or foreigner,
problem, which was eventually to cause the fall of the Republic.
Kruger acknowledged in his memiors that General Joubert predicted
the events that were to follow afterwards, declaring that instead
of rejoicing for the discovery of gold, they should be weeping because
it will "cause our land to be soaked in blood."
the end of 1895, the failed Jameson raid took place; Jameson was
forced to surrender, taken to Pretoria and handed over to his British
countrymen for punishment.
believed that the Earth is flat; in 1897 he said to a sailor sailing
round the world "You don't mean round the world, it is impossible!
You mean in the world. Impossible!"
1898, Kruger was elected President for the fourth and last time.
11th October 1899, the Second Boer War broke out. On 7th May the
following year, Kruger attended the last session of the Volksraad,
and left Pretoria on 29th May as Lord Roberts was advancing on the
town. For weeks he either stayed in a house at Waterval Onder or
in his railway carriage at Machadodorp in the then Eastern Transvaal,
now Mpumalanga. In October, he left South Africa on the Dutch warship
De Gelderland, sent by the Queen of the Netherlands Wilhelmina,
which had simply ignored the British naval blockade of South Africa.
His wife was too ill to travel and remained in South Africa; she
died on 20 July 1901.
went to Marseille and stayed for a while in The Netherlands, before
moving to Clarens, Switzerland, where he died on 14th July 1904.
He was buried on 16th December 1904 in the Church Street cemetery,