The Tax Resistance Case that Launched the First Boer War

When I was hunting up sources on the act of tax resistance that sparked the First Boer War, none of the ones I found seemed very thorough, so I punted and included excerpts from several in We Won’t Pay! in the hopes that between the lot of ’em would emerge something like a fleshed-out story.

However, since then I discovered The Memoirs of Paul Kruger (the guy on the Krugerrand). This book has a better description of the tax resistance that shows that it wasn’t an isolated act but was part of a tax resistance campaign against the British occupation government. The account also gives a first name for the resister, Piet Bezuidenhout (something none of the other accounts seemed to think was important):

The first sign of the approaching storm was the incident that happened at the forced sale of Field Cornet Bezuidenhout’s waggon, on which a distress had been levied. The British Government had begun to collect taxes and to take proceedings against those who refused to pay them. Among these was Piet Bezuidenhout, who lived in the Potchefstroom District. This refusal to pay taxes was one of the methods of passive resistance which were now employed towards the British Government. Hitherto, many of the burghers had paid their taxes, declaring that they were only yielding to force. But, when this was explained by the English politicians as though the population were contented and peacefully paying their taxes, some asked for a receipt showing that they were only paying under protest and others refused to pay at all. The Government then levied a distress on Bezuidenhout’s waggon and sent it to public action at Potchefstroom. Piet Cronjé, who became so well known in the last war, appeared at the auction with a number of armed Boers, who flung the bailiff from the waggon and drew the waggon itself back in triumph to Bezuidenhout’s farm. Bezuidenhout and another burgher were sent to me at my farm of Boekenhoutfontein, in the Rustenburg District, to ask me to come at once to Potchefstroom, as the burghers were ready to commence the war of independence. I obeyed this request and found the burghers collected not far from Potchefstroom. The officer in command of the English troops at Potchefstroom sent to ask if he could speak to me, and, when I answered in the affirmative, he came out, described what had happened at the sale of the waggon and ended with the words:

“You must admit that this is open rebellion.”

I answered:

“I should agree with you, if we had acknowledged the annexation; but that is not the case. We do not look upon ourselves as British subjects, and the question of the tax is not a private question of Bezuidenhout’s, but a question of principle which concerns the whole country.”