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A Youngster’s View Of The War

March 2023
3min read

“The author of this history, who is eight years old …” So begins the preface that introduces the youngest published American writer on record.

The Boer War, A History , printed in 1902, is a forgotten but still unique treasure of the Rare Book Division in the Library of Congress. The unsigned preface is obviously the contribution of a pedantic adult: it lacks the charm of the mistakes the work itself contains in abundance, such as “new commers,” “Britian sent trupes.” “Atention,” “Calvery.” “he might ot had the gold …” According to the writer of tlie introduction, “the humane purpose; for which this book was written, and the perseverance and originality of the author, will commend it to all readers of history.” He goes on to explain the circumstance’s in which the book was produced:

The author has been, since the war began in South Africa, an ardent admirer and partisan of the Boers, and this in spite of the fact that all his immediate family favor the British cause. The reported sufferings of Boer women and children in African concentration camps and the destitution of Boer prisoners in the Bermudas aroused his sympathy and the desire to do something to relieve their condition. He determined to write a history e>f the war with the avowed purpose of sending the money, which he should receive from its sale, to the Boer Relief Committee. He industriously gathered his facts, and day after day, tor nearly two months, wrote out what he had read and heard together with his opinions and conclusions. It is needless to say to one who reads this volume that throughout his labors, the author has been entirely free from suggestion or correction in regard to subject, language or arrangement.

Chronologies by the young author follow, with description of developments, all laced with frequently biting commentary. Sample excerpts include:

The British did not know at first that the Boers were going to be so hard to conquer or they would not have started the war but now they think that they cant surrender to such a little country. England will gain very little by the war for it will cost a gret deal to run the mines and the war has already cost England 1,000,000,000 Dollars and the war may not be near an end yet.

The British found that if they could not fight the Boers out of their land they would burn them out, so they began to burn the land, but they could not burn the houses and have the poor women and children starve to death, so they had to huddle-them altogether and tried to feed them as well as they could so that they could get the land. This camp where they kept the women and children is called a concentration camp. It sounds very bad to think of having everything burned up and it was very bad, for you would have to leave your house and go and be all in one camp and they probely got very bad food. Some people think that the British rule is not verybad, but you have to do just what they say, and you cannot teel free to do what you want, like you could if they had their own rule. Many babies died in the concentration camp and the women were all the time crying because they could not see their husbands.

The British saw the farm burning did not hurt the gold but it did the Boers, they were after the gold and they did’nt care what they did to the Boers just so they got it. At one time 800 babies died in one concentration. …

Once when Botha attack Lord Roberts, he and his soldiers went and hid behind the concentration camps for safety and the Boers in trying to kill the British killed i i of the Boer women. That shoes how unmanly and cowardly the British are, trying to conquer the Boers.

During the latter part of the war the Americans have been enporting horses to South Africa for the British to use. The people who are having it done dont know how much it helps the British. They think if they send i ,000 horses to South Africa that it wont be much to 300,000 trupes but they think that they can get money and not help the British very much, but they keep on doing it till it does amount to sumthing. I think that England is big enough to get her own horses and if not she ought not to have started the war, for she cant depend on other nations to supply England with horses. This enportment of horses to South Africa is not done by the government but by private people for the reason that the Government can not stop it.

Final conclusion drawn in Chapter Seven. “The Last,” include these:

The Boers love their country, and they ought to have it in spite of the wicked British who are trying to rob them of it. All this talk about the Boers having slaves is not true, for the Boers have not had any since 1832, a Boer captain told me so. I hope that the Boers will win, for the Boers are in the right and Britian in the wrong.

The book must have been quite successful: available copy represents the third edition.

The author expanded his interest in international affairs while growing’ up, and entered our diplomatic service shortly belore the First World War. He played a notable part in the second one and subsequently directed the Central Intelligence Agency for several years. His name was Allen Dulles.

Andor Klay

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