Field MarshalJAN CHRISTIAAN SMUTS OM , CH , ED , PC , KC , FRS (24
May 1870 – 11 September 1950) was a prominent South African and
British Commonwealth statesman, military leader and philosopher. In
addition to holding various cabinet posts, he served as prime minister
Union of South Africa
Union of South Africafrom 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until
1948. Although Smuts had originally advocated racial segregation and
opposed the enfranchisement of black Africans, his views changed and
he backed the
Fagan Commission's findings that complete segregation
was impossible. Smuts subsequently lost the 1948 election to hard-line
Afrikaners who created apartheid. He continued to work for
reconciliation and emphasised the British Commonwealth’s positive
role until his death in 1950.
He led a
Boer Commandoin the
Second Boer Warfor the Transvaal .
First World War
First World War, he led the armies of
Germany , capturing
German South-West Africaand commanding the
British Armyin East Africa .
From 1917 to 1919, he was also one of the members of the British
Imperial War Cabinetand he was instrumental in the founding of what
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force(RAF). He became a field marshal in the
British Armyin 1941, and served in the
Imperial War Cabinetunder
Winston Churchill. He was the only man to sign both of the peace
treaties ending the First and Second World Wars. A statue of him
stands in London's
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Early life
* 1.2 Climbing the ladder
* 1.3 The Boer War
* 1.4 A British Transvaal
* 1.5 The Old Boers
First World War
First World War
* 1.7 Statesman
Holismand related academic work
* 1.9 Smuts and segregation
* 1.10 Second World War
* 1.11 After the war
* 2 Support for
* 3 Other offices held
* 4 Family
* 5 Legacy
* 6 Honours
* 6.1 Other awards and decorations
* 7 See also
* 8 Footnotes
* 9 Bibliography
* 9.1 Primary sources
* 9.2 Secondary sources
* 10 Further reading
* 11 External links
THE LIFE OF JAN SMUTS
Early life 1870–1895
Boer War 1899–1902
British Transvaal 1902–1910
The Old Boers 1910–1914
Early life of Jan Smuts Jacobus and Catharina
He was born on 24 May 1870, at the family farm, Bovenplaats , near
Malmesbury , in the
Cape Colony. His parents, Jacobus Smuts and his
wife Catharina, were prosperous, traditional
established and highly respected.
Jan was quiet and delicate as a child, strongly inclined towards
solitary pursuits. During his childhood, he often went out alone,
exploring the surrounding countryside; this awakened a passion for
nature, which he retained throughout his life.
As the second son of the family, rural custom dictated that he would
remain working on the farm; a full formal education was typically the
preserve of the first son. However, in 1882, when Jan was twelve, his
elder brother died, and Jan was sent to school in his brother's place.
Jan attended the school in nearby
Riebeek West. He made excellent
progress here, despite his late start, and caught up with his
contemporaries within four years. He moved on to Victoria College ,
Stellenbosch, in 1886, at the age of sixteen.
At Stellenbosch, he learned High Dutch , German , and
and immersed himself further in literature, the classics , and Bible
studies . His deeply traditional upbringing and serious outlook led to
social isolation from his peers. However, he made outstanding academic
progress, graduating in 1891 with double first-class honours in
Literature and Science. During his last years at Stellenbosch, Smuts
began to cast off some of his shyness and reserve, and it was at this
time that he met Isie Krige, whom he was later to marry.
On graduation from Victoria College, Smuts won the Ebden scholarship
for overseas study. He decided to travel to the University of
Cambridge in the United Kingdom to read law at Christ\'s College .
Smuts found it difficult to settle at Cambridge; he felt homesick and
isolated by his age and different upbringing from the English
undergraduates. Worries over money also contributed to his
unhappiness, as his scholarship was insufficient to cover his
university expenses. He confided these worries to a friend from
Victoria College, Professor J. I. Marais. In reply, Professor Marais
enclosed a cheque for a substantial sum, by way of loan, urging Smuts
not to hesitate to approach him should he ever find himself in need.
Thanks to Marais, Smuts's financial standing was secure. He gradually
began to enter more into the social aspects of the university,
although he retained his single-minded dedication to his studies.
During his time in Cambridge, he found time to study a diverse number
of subjects in addition to law; he wrote a book, _
Walt Whitman: A
Study in the Evolution of Personality_, although it was unpublished
until 1973. The thoughts behind this book laid the foundation for
Smuts' later wide-ranging philosophy of holism .
Smuts graduated in 1893 with a double first . Over the previous two
years, he had been the recipient of numerous academic prizes and
accolades, including the coveted George Long prize in Roman Law and
Jurisprudence. One of his tutors, Professor Maitland , a leading
figure among English legal historians, described Smuts as the most
brilliant student he had ever met.
Lord Todd, the Master of Christ's
College, said in 1970 that "in 500 years of the College's history, of
all its members, past and present, three had been truly outstanding:
Charles Darwinand Jan Smuts."
In 1894, Smuts passed the examinations for the
Inns of Court,
Middle Temple. His old Cambridge college, Christ's
College, offered him a fellowship in Law. However, Smuts turned his
back on a potentially distinguished legal future. By June 1895, he had
returned to the Cape Colony, determined that he should make his future
CLIMBING THE LADDER
Jan Smutsin the
South African Republic
Smuts began to practise law in
Cape Town, but his abrasive nature
made him few friends. Finding little financial success in the law, he
began to divert 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
AfrikanerBond . By good
fortune, Smuts' father knew the leader of the group, Jan Hofmeyr .
Hofmeyr in turn recommended Jan to
Cecil Rhodes, who owned the De
Beers mining company. In 1895, Smuts became an advocate and supporter
When Rhodes launched the
Jameson Raid, in the summer of 1895–6,
Smuts was outraged. Feeling betrayed by his employer, friend and
political ally, he resigned from De Beers, and left political life.
Instead he became state attorney in the capital of the South African
After the Jameson Raid, relations between the British and the
Afrikaners had deteriorated steadily. By 1898, war seemed imminent.
Orange Free StatePresident Martinus Steyn called for a peace
Bloemfonteinto settle each side's grievances. With an
intimate knowledge of the British, Smuts took control of the Transvaal
delegation. Sir Alfred Milner , head of the British delegation, took
exception to his dominance, and conflict between the two led to the
collapse of the conference, consigning
South Africato war.
THE BOER WAR
Jan Smuts in the Boer War
Jan Smutsand Boer
guerrillas during the Second Boer War, ca. 1901
On 11 October 1899, war was declared with a Boer offensive into the
British-held Natal and
Boer republics, beginning
Second Boer War. In the early stages of the conflict, Smuts
Paul Kruger's eyes and ears, handling propaganda,
logistics, communication with generals and diplomats, and anything
else that was required. In the second phase of the war, Smuts served
Koos de la Rey
Koos de la Rey, who commanded 500 commandos in the Western
Transvaal. Smuts excelled at hit-and-run warfare , and the unit evaded
and harassed a British army forty times its size.
the deputation in Europe thought that there was good hope for their
cause in the
Cape Colony. They decided to send General de la Rey
there to assume supreme command, but then decided to act more
cautiously when they realised that General de la Rey could hardly be
spared in the Western Transvaal. Consequently, Smuts was left with a
small force of 300 men, while another 100 men followed him. By this
point in the war, the British scorched earth policy left little
grazing land. One hundred of the cavalry that had joined Smuts were
therefore too weak to continue and so Smuts had to leave these men
with General Kritzinger . Intelligence indicated that at this time
Smuts had about 3,000 men.
To end the conflict, Smuts sought to take a major target, the
copper-mining town of
Okiep. With a full assault impossible, Smuts
packed a train full of explosives, and tried to push it downhill, into
the town, where it would bring the enemy garrison to its knees.
Although this failed, Smuts had proven his point: that he would stop
at nothing to defeat his enemies.
Norman Kemp Smithwrote that General
Smuts read from Kant's "
Critique of Pure Reason
Critique of Pure Reason" on the evening
before the raid. Smith contended that this showed how Kant's critique
can be a solace and a refuge, as well as a means to sharpen the wit.
Combined with their failure to pacify the Transvaal, Smuts' success
left the United Kingdom with no choice but to offer a ceasefire and a
peace conference, to be held at Vereeniging .
Before the conference, Smuts met Lord Kitchener at Kroonstad station,
where they discussed the proposed terms of surrender. Smuts then took
a leading role in the negotiations between the representatives from
all of the commandos from the
Orange Free Stateand the South African
Republic (15–31 May 1902). Although he admitted that, from a purely
military perspective, the war could continue, he stressed the
importance of not sacrificing the
Afrikanerpeople for that
independence. He was very conscious that 'more than 20,000 women and
children have already died in the concentration camps of the enemy'.
He felt it would have been a crime to continue the war without the
assurance of help from elsewhere and declared, "Comrades, we decided
to stand to the bitter end. Let us now, like men, admit that that end
has come for us, come in a more bitter shape than we ever thought."
His opinions were representative of the conference, which then voted
by 54 to 6 in favour of peace. Representatives of the Governments met
Lord Kitchener and at five minutes past eleven on 31 May 1902, Acting
President Burger signed the
Peace Treaty, followed by the members of
his government, Acting President de Wet and the members of his
A BRITISH TRANSVAAL
Jan Smuts and a British Transvaal Jan Smuts, c.
For all Smuts' exploits as a general and a negotiator, nothing could
mask the fact that the Afrikaners had been defeated and humiliated.
Lord Milner had full control of all South African affairs, and
established an Anglophone elite, known as Milner\'s Kindergarten . As
an Afrikaner, Smuts was excluded. Defeated but not deterred, in
January 1905, he decided to join with the other former Transvaal
generals to form a political party, Het Volk (_People's Party_), to
fight for the
Louis Bothawas elected leader, and
Smuts his deputy.
When his term of office expired, Milner was replaced as High
Commissioner by the more conciliatory
Lord Selborne. Smuts saw an
opportunity and pounced, urging Botha to persuade the Liberals to
support Het Volk's cause. When the Conservative government under
Arthur Balfourcollapsed, in December 1905, the decision paid off.
Smuts joined Botha in London, and sought to negotiate full
self-government for the Transvaal within British South Africa. Using
the thorny political issue of South Asian labourers ('coolies '), the
South Africans convinced Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
and, with him, the cabinet and Parliament.
Through 1906, Smuts worked on the new constitution for the Transvaal,
and, in December 1906, elections were held for the Transvaal
parliament. Despite being shy and reserved, unlike the showman Botha,
Smuts won a comfortable victory in the Wonderboom constituency, near
Pretoria. His victory was one of many, with Het Volk winning in a
landslide and Botha forming the government. To reward his loyalty and
efforts, Smuts was given two key cabinet positions: Colonial Secretary
and Education Secretary.
Smuts proved to be an effective leader, if unpopular. As Education
Secretary, he had fights with the
Dutch Reformed Church, of which he
had once been a dedicated member, which demanded
in schools. As Colonial Secretary, he opposed a movement for equal
rights for South Asian workers, led by
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
During the years of Transvaal self-government, nobody could avoid the
predominant political debate of the day: South African unification.
Ever since the British victory in the war, it was an inevitability,
but it remained up to the South Africans to decide what sort of
country would be formed, and how it would be formed. Smuts favoured a
unitary state , with power centralised in Pretoria, with English as
the only official language , and with a more inclusive electorate. To
impress upon his compatriots his vision, he called a constitutional
Durban, in October 1908.
There, Smuts was up against a hard-talking Orange River Colony
delegation, who refused every one of Smuts' demands. Smuts had
successfully predicted this opposition, and their objections, and
tailored his own ambitions appropriately. He allowed compromise on the
location of the capital, on the official language, and on suffrage,
but he refused to budge on the fundamental structure of government. As
the convention drew into autumn, the Orange leaders began to see a
final compromise as necessary to secure the concessions that Smuts had
already made. They agreed to Smuts' draft South African constitution,
which was duly ratified by the South African colonies. Smuts and Botha
took the constitution to London, where it was passed by Parliament and
given Royal Assent by King Edward VII in December 1909.
THE OLD BOERS
Jan Smuts and the Old Boers
Union of South Africa
Union of South Africawas born, and the Afrikaners held the key
to political power, as the majority of the electorate. Although Botha
was appointed prime minister of the new country, Smuts was given three
key ministries: Interior, Mines, and Defence. Undeniably, Smuts was
the second most powerful man in South Africa. To solidify their
dominance of South African politics, the Afrikaners united to form the
South African Party, a new pan-South African
The harmony and cooperation soon ended. Smuts was criticised for his
overarching powers, and the cabinet was reshuffled. Smuts lost
Interior and Mines, but gained control of Finance. This was still too
much for Smuts' opponents, who decried his possession of both Defence
and Finance: two departments that were usually at loggerheads. At the
South African Partyconference, the Old Boers (Hertzog, Steyn, De
Wet), called for Botha and Smuts to step down. The two narrowly
survived a confidence vote, and the troublesome triumvirate stormed
out, leaving the party for good.
With the schism in internal party politics came a new threat to the
mines that brought
South Africaits wealth. A small-scale miners'
dispute flared into a full-blown strike, and rioting broke out in
Johannesburg after Smuts intervened heavy-handedly. After police shot
dead twenty-one strikers, Smuts and Botha headed unaccompanied to
Johannesburg to resolve the situation personally. Facing down threats
to their own lives, they negotiated a cease-fire. But the cease-fire
did not hold, and in 1914, a railway strike turned into a general
strike. Threats of a revolution caused Smuts to declare martial law.
Smuts acted ruthlessly, deporting union leaders without trial and
using Parliament to absolve him and the government of any blame
retroactively. This was too much for the Old Boers, who set up their
own National Party to fight the all-powerful Botha-Smuts partnership.
FIRST WORLD WAR
During the First World War, Smuts (right) and Botha were key
members of the British Army.
First World War
First World War, Smuts formed the Union Defence Force .
His first task was to suppress the
Maritz Rebellion, which was
accomplished by November 1914. Next he and
Louis Bothaled the South
African army into
German South-West Africaand conquered it (see the
South-West Africa Campaignfor details). In 1916 General Smuts was put
in charge of the conquest of
German East Africa
German East Africa. Col (later BGen)
J.H.V. Crowe commanded the artillery in East Africa under General
Smuts and published an account of the campaign, _General Smuts'
Campaign in East Africa_ in 1918. Smuts was promoted to temporary
lieutenant general on 18 February 1916.
While the East African Campaign went fairly well, the German forces
were not destroyed. Smuts was criticised by his chief Intelligence
Richard Meinertzhagen, for avoiding frontal attacks
which, in Meinertzhagen's view, would have been less costly than the
inconsequential flanking movements that prolonged the campaign where
thousands of Imperial troops died of disease. Meinertzhagen believed
Horace Smith-Dorrien(who had saved the
British Armyduring the
retreat from Mons), the original choice as commander in 1916 would
have quickly defeated the German commander Colonel (later General)
Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck. As for Smuts, Meinertzhagen wrote:
"Smuts has cost Britain many hundreds of thousands of lives and many
millions of pounds by his caution...Smuts was not an astute soldier; a
brilliant statesman and politician but no soldier." Smuts was
promoted to honorary lieutenant general for distinguished service in
the field on 1 January 1917.
Early in 1917 Smuts left Africa and went to London as he had been
invited to join the
Imperial War Cabinetand the War Policy Committee
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George. Smuts initially recommended renewed western
front attacks and a policy of attrition, lest with Russian commitment
to the war wavering,
Franceor Italy be tempted to make a separate
Lloyd Georgewanted a commander “of the dashing type” for
the Middle East in succession to Murray , but Smuts refused the
command (late May) unless promised resources for a decisive victory,
and he agreed with Robertson that Western Front commitments did not
justify a serious attempt to capture
Jerusalem. Allenby was appointed
instead. Like other members of the War Cabinet, Smuts' commitment to
Western Front efforts was shaken by Third Ypres .
In 1917, following the German Gotha Raids , and lobbying by Viscount
French , Smuts wrote a review of the British Air Services, which came
to be called the Smuts Report. He was helped in large part in this by
General Sir David Henderson who was seconded to him. This report led
to the treatment of air as a separate force, which eventually became
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force.
By mid-January 1918
Lloyd Georgewas toying with the idea of
appointing Smuts Commander-in-Chief of all land and sea forces facing
the Turks, reporting directly to the War Cabinet rather than to
Robertson. Early in 1918 Smuts was sent to
Egyptto confer with
Allenby and Marshall and prepare for major efforts in that theatre.
Before his departure, alienated by Robertson's exaggerated estimates
of the required reinforcements, he urged Robertson's removal. Allenby
told Smuts of Robertson's private instructions (sent by hand of Walter
Kirke , appointed by Robertson as Smuts' adviser) that there was no
merit in any further advance and worked with Smuts to draw up plans,
reinforced by 3 divisions from Mesopotamia, to reach
Haifaby June and
Damascusby the autumn, the speed of the advance limited by the need
to lay fresh rail track. This was the foundation of Allenby's
successful offensive later in the year.
Like most British Empire political and military leaders in World War
I, Smuts thought the
American Expeditionary Forceslacked the proper
leadership and experience to be effective quickly. He supported the
Anglo-French amalgamation policy towards the Americans. In particular,
he had a low opinion of General
John J. Pershing
John J. Pershing's leadership skills,
so much so that he wrote a confidential letter to Lloyd George
proposing Pershing be relieved of his command and that the US forces
be placed "under someone more confident, like himself". This did not
endear him to the Americans once it was leaked.
Smuts and Botha were key negotiators at the Paris Peace Conference .
Both were in favour of reconciliation with Germany and limited
reparations. Smuts advocated a powerful
League of Nations
League of Nations, which
failed to materialise. The
Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versaillesgave
Class C mandate over
German South-West Africa(which later became
Namibia), which was occupied from 1919 until withdrawal in 1990. At
the same time, Australia was given a similar mandate over German New
Guinea , which it held until 1975. Both Smuts and the Australian Prime
Billy Hughesfeared the rising power of Japan in the post
First World War
First World Warworld. When former
German East Africa
German East Africawas divided into
three mandated territories (Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanganyika)
_Smutsland_ was one of the proposed names for what became Tanganyika.
Smuts, who had called for South African territorial expansion all the
way to the River Zambesi since the late 19th century, was ultimately
disappointed with the League awarding South-West Africa only a mandate
status, as he had looked forward to formally incorporating the
territory to South Africa.
Smuts returned to South African politics after the conference. When
Botha died in 1919, Smuts was elected prime minister, serving until a
shocking defeat in 1924 at the hands of the National Party . After the
death of the former American President
Woodrow Wilson, Smuts was
quoted as saying that: "Not Wilson, but humanity failed at Paris."
While in Britain for an Imperial Conference in June 1920, Smuts went
to Ireland and met
Éamon de Valerato help broker an armistice and
peace deal between the warring British and Irish nationalists. Smuts
attempted to sell the concept of Ireland receiving
similar to that of Australia and South Africa.
As a botanist, Smuts collected plants extensively over southern
Africa. He went on several botanical expeditions in the 1920s and
1930s with John Hutchinson , former botanist-in-charge of the African
section of the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens and taxonomist
of note. Smuts was a keen mountaineer and supporter of mountaineering.
One of his favourite rambles was up
Table Mountainalong a route now
known as Smuts' Track. In February 1923 he unveiled a memorial to
members of the Mountain Club who had been killed in
World War I
World War I.
For most of the 1930s, Smuts was a leading supporter of appeasement .
In December 1934, Smuts told an audience at the Royal Institute of
International Affairs that:
How can the inferiority complex which is obsessing and, I fear,
poisoning the mind, and indeed the very soul of Germany, be removed?
There is only one way and that is to recognise her complete equality
of status with her fellows and to do so frankly, freely and
unreservedly ... While one understands and sympathises with French
fears, one cannot, but feel for Germany in the prison of inferiority
in which she still remains sixteen years after the conclusion of the
war. The continuance of the Versailles status is becoming an offence
to the conscience of Europe and a danger to future peace ... Fair
play, sportsmanship—indeed every standard of private and public
life—calls for frank revision of the situation. Indeed ordinary
prudence makes it imperative. Let us break these bonds and set the
complexed-obsessed soul free in a decent human way and Europe will
reap a rich reward in tranquility, security and returning prosperity.
Though in his Oct. 17th 1934 Rectorial Address delivered at St
Andrews University he states that:
The new Tyranny, disguised in attractive patriotic colours, is
enticing youth everywhere into its service. Freedom must make a great
counterstroke to save itself and our fair western civilisation. Once
more the heroic call is coming to our youth. The fight for human
freedom is indeed the supreme issue of the future, as it has always
HOLISM AND RELATED ACADEMIC WORK
While in academia, Smuts pioneered the concept of holism , which he
defined as " fundamental factor operative towards the creation of
wholes in the universe" in his 1926 book, _
Smuts' formulation of holism has been linked with his
political-military activity, especially his aspiration to create a
league of nations. As one biographer said:
It had very much in common with his philosophy of life as
subsequently developed and embodied in his
Holismand Evolution. Small
units must needs develop into bigger wholes, and they in their turn
again must grow into larger and ever-larger structures without
cessation. Advancement lay along that path. Thus the unification of
the four provinces in the Union of South Africa, the idea of the
British Commonwealth of Nations, and, finally, the great whole
resulting from the combination of the peoples of the earth in a great
league of nations were but a logical progression consistent with his
SMUTS AND SEGREGATION
Smuts was for most of his political life a vocal supporter of
segregation of the races, and in 1929 he justified the erection of
separate institutions for blacks and whites in tones prescient of the
later practice of apartheid :
The old practice mixed up black with white in the same institutions,
and nothing else was possible after the native institutions and
traditions had been carelessly or deliberately destroyed. But in the
new plan there will be what is called in
two separate institutions for the two elements of the population
living in their own separate areas. Separate institutions involve
territorial segregation of the white and black. If they live mixed
together it is not practicable to sort them out under separate
institutions of their own. Institutional segregation carries with it
In general, Smuts' view of Africans was patronising, he saw them as
immature human beings that needed the guidance of whites, an attitude
that reflected the common perceptions of most non-Africans in his
lifetime. Of Africans he stated that:
These children of nature have not the inner toughness and persistence
of the European, not those social and moral incentives to progress
which have built up European civilization in a comparatively short
Although Gandhi and Smuts were adversaries in many ways, they had a
mutual respect and even admiration for each other. Before Gandhi
Indiain 1914, he presented General Smuts with a pair of
sandals (held by
Ditsong National Museum of Cultural History) made by
Gandhi himself. In 1939, Smuts, then prime minister, wrote an essay
for a commemorative work compiled for Gandhi's 70th birthday and
returned the sandals with the following message: "I have worn these
sandals for many a summer, even though I may feel that I am not worthy
to stand in the shoes of so great a man."
Smuts is often accused of being a politician who extolled the virtues
of humanitarianism and liberalism abroad while failing to practice
what he preached at home in South Africa. This was most clearly
India, in 1946, made a formal complaint in the UN
concerning the legalised racial discrimination against Indians in
South Africa. Appearing personally before the United Nations General
Assembly , Smuts defended the policies of his government by fervently
pleading that India's complaint was a matter of domestic jurisdiction.
However, the General Assembly censured
South Africafor its racial
policies and called upon the Smuts government to bring its treatment
South African Indiansin conformity with the basic principles
United Nations Charter.
At the same conference, the
African National Congress
African National CongressPresident
Alfred Bitini Xumaalong with delegates of the South African
Indian Congress brought up the issue of the brutality of Smuts' police
regime against the African Mine Workers\' Strike earlier that year as
well as the wider struggle for equality in South Africa.
In 1948 he went further away from his previous views on segregation
when supporting the recommendations of the
Africans should be recognised as permanent residents of White South
Africa and not only temporary workers that really belonged in the
reserves. This was in direct opposition to the policies of the
National Party that wished to extend segregation and formalise it into
apartheid. There is however no evidence that Smuts ever supported the
idea of equal political rights for blacks and whites. However here is
another quote by Smuts:
The idea that the Natives must all be removed and confined in their
own kraals is in my opinion the greatest nonsense I have ever heard.
Fagan Commissiondid not advocate the establishment of a
non-racial democracy in South Africa, but rather wanted to liberalise
influx controls of Africans into urban areas in order to facilitate
the supply of African labour to the South African industry. It also
envisaged a relaxation of the pass laws that had restricted the
movement of Africans in general.
SECOND WORLD WAR
Smuts, standing left, at the 1944 Commonwealth Prime Ministers\'
After nine years in opposition and academia, Smuts returned as deputy
prime minister in a 'grand coalition' government under J. B. M.
Hertzog . When Hertzog advocated neutrality towards
1939, the coalition split and Hertzog’s motion to remain out of the
war was defeated in Parliament by a vote of 80 to 67. Governor-General
Sir Patrick Duncanrefused Hertzog's request to dissolve parliament
for a general election on the issue. Hertzog resigned and Duncan
invited Smuts, Hertzog's coalition partner, to form a government and
become prime minister for the second time in order to lead the country
World War II
World War IIon the side of the Allies .
Smuts had served with
World War I
World War I, and had
developed a personal and professional rapport. Smuts was invited to
Imperial War Cabinetin 1939 as the most senior South African in
favour of war. On 24 May 1941 Smuts was appointed a field marshal of
Smuts' importance to the Imperial war effort was emphasised by a
quite audacious plan, proposed as early as 1940, to appoint Smuts as
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, should Churchill die or
otherwise become incapacitated during the war. This idea was put by
Sir John Colville , Churchill's private secretary, to Queen Mary and
George VI, both of whom warmed to the idea.
In May 1945, he represented
San Franciscoat the
drafting of the
United Nations Charter. Also in 1945, he was
Halvdan Kohtamong seven candidates that were qualified
Nobel Prize in Peace. However, he did not explicitly nominate
any of them. The person actually nominated was
AFTER THE WAR
Jan SmutsMuseum, Irene,
In domestic policy, a number of social security reforms were carried
out during Smuts’s second period in office as Prime Minister.
Old-age pensions and disability grants were extended to 'Indians' and
'Africans' in 1944 and 1947 respectively, although there were
differences in the level of grants paid out based on race. The
Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1941 “insured all employees
irrespective of payment of the levy by employers and increased the
number of diseases covered by the law,” and the Unemployment
Insurance Act of 1946 introduced unemployment insurance on a national
scale, albeit with exclusions.
Smuts continued to represent his country abroad. He was a leading
guest at the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of
Edinburgh . At home, his preoccupation with the war had severe
political repercussions in South Africa. Smuts's support of the war
and his support for the
Fagan Commissionmade him unpopular amongst
the Afrikaners and
Daniel François Malan's pro-
Reunited National Partythe 1948 general election . The 1946
Jan Smutsused when he was the prime minister of the Union of
Jan SmutsMuseum, Irene,
He accepted the appointment as Colonel-in-Chief of Regiment Westelike
Provinsie as from 17 September 1948. On 29 May 1950, a week after the
public celebration of his eightieth birthday in Johannesburg and
Pretoria, he suffered a coronary thrombosis . He died of a subsequent
heart attack on his family farm of Doornkloof, Irene , near
on 11 September 1950. Statue in
Parliament Square, London, by
SUPPORT FOR ZIONISM
South African supporters of
Theodor Herzlcontacted Smuts in 1916.
Smuts, who supported the Balfour Declaration , met and became friends
Chaim Weizmann, the future
President of Israel
President of Israel, in London. In
1943 Weizmann wrote to Smuts, detailing a plan to develop Britain's
African colonies to compete with the United States. During his service
as Premier, Smuts personally fundraised for multiple Zionist
organisations. His government granted _de facto_ recognition to
Israelon 24 May 1948 and _de jure _ recognition on 14 May 1949
(following the defeat of Smuts' United Party by the Reunited National
Party in the 26 May 1948 General Election, 12 days after David Ben
Gurion declared Jewish Statehood, the newly formed nation being given
the name Israel). However, Smuts was deputy prime minister when the
Hertzog government in 1937 passed the Aliens Act that was aimed at
preventing Jewish immigration to South Africa. The act was seen as a
response to growing anti-Semitic sentiments among Afrikaners.
He lobbied against the
White Paper of 1939.
Several streets and a kibbutz ,
Ramat Yohanan, in
Smuts' wrote an epitaph for Weizmann, describing him as "the greatest
Smuts once said:
Great as are the changes wrought by this war, the great world war
of justice and freedom, I doubt whether any of these changes surpass
in interest the liberation of Palestine and its recognition as the
Home of Israel.
OTHER OFFICES HELD
In 1931, Smuts became the first President of the British Association
for the Advancement of Science not from the United Kingdom. In that
year, he was also elected the second non-British Lord Rector of St
Andrews University (after
Fridtjof Nansen). In 1948, he was elected
Chancellor of the
University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge, becoming the first person
from outside the United Kingdom to hold that position. He held the
position until his death.
Smuts married Isabella (Isie) Margaretha Krige (in later life known
as "Ouma") in 1897. Isie was from Stellenbosch, and lived near Smuts.
They had six children.
One of his greatest international accomplishments was the
establishment of the
League of Nations
League of Nations, the exact design and
implementation of which relied upon Smuts. He later urged the
formation of a new international organisation for peace: the UN. Smuts
wrote the first draft of the preamble to the
United Nations Charter,
and was the only person to sign the charters of both the League of
Nations and the UN. He sought to redefine the relationship between the
United Kingdom and her colonies, helping to establish the British
Commonwealth , as it was known at the time. This proved to be a
two-way street; in 1946 the General Assembly requested the Smuts
government to take measures to bring the treatment of Indians in South
Africa into line with the provisions of the
United Nations Charter.
In 1932, the kibbutz
Israelwas named after him.
Smuts was a vocal proponent of the creation of a
Jewish state, and
spoke out against the rising anti-Semitism of the 1930s.
The international airport serving Johannesburg was known as Jan Smuts
Airport from its construction in 1952 until 1994. In 1994, it was
renamed to Johannesburg International Airport to remove any political
connotations. In 2006, it was renamed again to its current name, OR
Tambo International Airport, for the ANC politician
In 2004 Smuts was named by voters in a poll held by the South African
Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as one of the top ten Greatest South
Africans of all time. The final positions of the top ten were to be
decided by a second round of voting but the program was taken off the
air owing to political controversy and
Nelson Mandelawas given the
number one spot based on the first round of voting. In the first
Field MarshalSmuts came ninth.
A 1944 painting of Smuts by
William Timymin the Imperial War
MEDALS, COMMONWEALTH AND SOUTH AFRICAN
Order of Merit
Order of Merit(1 January 1947)
Order of the Companions of Honour
Order of the Companions of Honour
Dekoratie voor Trouwe Dienst
South African Republic-webkit-column-width: 30em; column-width:
30em; list-style-type: decimal;">
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