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Jan Smuts

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Jan Smuts

Field Marshal The Right Honourable
Jan Smuts
Smuts in 1947
2nd Prime Minister of South Africa
In office
5 September 1939 – 4 June 1948
Monarch George VI
Governor-General Sir Patrick Duncan
Nicolaas Jacobus de Wet (Acting)
Gideon Brand van Zyl
Preceded by James Barry Munnik Hertzog
Succeeded by Daniel François Malan
In office
3 September 1919 – 30 June 1924
Monarch George V
Governor-General The Earl of Buxton
The Prince Arthur of Connaught
The Earl of Athlone
Preceded by Louis Botha
Succeeded by James Barry Munnik Hertzog
Personal details
Born (1870-05-24)24 May 1870
Bovenplaats, Cape Colony
Died 11 September 1950(1950-09-11) (aged 80)
Irene, South Africa
Nationality South African
Political party South African Party
United Party
Spouse(s) Issie Krige
Children Jannie
Alma mater Cambridge University
Inns of Court
Profession Barrister
Religion Calvinist

Jan Christiaan Smuts OM CH DTD ED KC FRS PC[1] (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 of the Union of South Africa from 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until 1948. He was a supporter of racial segregation based on separate territory for blacks and whites, but by the time of the 1948 elections he supported a policy of initiating some measures of integration.

He led a Boer Commando in the Second Boer War for the Transvaal. During the First World War, he led the armies of South Africa against Germany, capturing German South-West Africa and commanding the British Army in East Africa. From 1917 to 1919, he was also one of the members of the British War Cabinet and he was instrumental in the founding of what became the Royal Air Force (RAF). He became a field marshal in the British Army in 1941, and served in the Imperial War Cabinet under Winston Churchill. He was the only man to sign both of the peace treaties ending the First and Second World Wars.


  • Biography 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Climbing the ladder 1.2
    • The Boer War 1.3
    • A British Transvaal 1.4
    • The Old Boers 1.5
    • First World War 1.6
    • Statesman 1.7
    • Holism and related academic work 1.8
    • Smuts and segregation 1.9
    • Second World War 1.10
    • After the war 1.11
  • Support for Zionism 2
  • Other offices held 3
  • Family 4
  • Legacy 5
  • Honours 6
    • Other awards and decorations 6.1
  • See also 7
  • Footnotes 8
  • Bibliography 9
    • Primary sources 9.1
    • Secondary sources 9.2
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


Early life

The life of Jan Smuts
Early life 1870–1895
Transvaal 1895–1899
Boer War 1899–1902
British Transvaal 1902–1910
The Old Boers 1910–1914
Jacobus and Catharina Smuts, 1893.

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 Afrikaner farmers, long established and highly respected.[2]

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.[3]

At Stellenbosch, he learned High Dutch, German, and Ancient Greek, 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.[4]

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, Cambridge.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] The thoughts behind this book laid the foundation for Smuts' later wide-ranging philosophy of holism.[9]

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.[10] One of his tutors, Professor Maitland, a leading figure among English legal historians, described Smuts as the most brilliant student he had ever met.[11] 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: John Milton, Charles Darwin and Jan Smuts."[12]

In 1894, Smuts passed the examinations for the Inns of Court, entering the 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 there.[13]

Climbing the ladder

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 Afrikaner Bond. 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 of Rhodes.[14]

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 Republic, Pretoria.[14]

After the Jameson Raid, relations between the British and the Afrikaners had deteriorated steadily. By 1898, war seemed imminent. Orange Free State President Martinus Steyn called for a peace conference at Bloemfontein to 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 Africa to war.[15]

The Boer War

Jan Smuts and Boer guerrillas during the Second Boer War, ca. 1901

On 11 October 1899, the British invaded the Boer republics, beginning the Second Boer War. In the early stages of the conflict, Smuts served as 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 under 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. President Kruger and 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.[16]

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 Smith wrote that General Smuts read from Kant's "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.[17] 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.[16]

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 State and 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 Afrikaner people 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."[18] 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 government.[19]

A British Transvaal

Jan Smuts, c. 1914

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),[20] to fight for the Afrikaner cause. Louis Botha was elected leader, and Smuts his deputy.[14]

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 Balfour collapsed, 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.[14]

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.[21]

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, who demanded Calvinist teachings in schools. As Colonial Secretary, he opposed a movement for equal rights for South Asian workers, led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.[21]

During the years of Transvaal self-government, no-one 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 convention in Durban, in October 1908.[22]

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.[22]

The Old Boers

The Union of South Africa was born, and the Afrikaners held the key to political power, for they formed the largest part of the electorate. Although Botha was appointed prime minister of the new country, Smuts was given three key ministries: those for the Interior, the 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 Afrikaner party.[23]

The harmony and cooperation soon ended. Smuts was criticised for his overarching powers, and was reshuffled, losing his positions in charge of Defence and the Mines, but gaining control of the Treasury. 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 1913 South African Party conference, the Old Boers, of Hertzog, Steyn and 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.[24]

With the schism in internal party politics came a new threat to the mines that brought South Africa its 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 personally resolve the situation. They did, facing down threats to their own lives, and successfully negotiating a cease-fire. The cease-fire did not hold, and, in 1914, a railway strike turned into a general strike, and threats of a revolution caused Smuts to declare martial law. Smuts acted ruthlessly, deporting union leaders without trial and using Parliament to retrospectively absolve him or the government of any blame. This was too much for the Old Boers, who set up their own party, the National Party, to fight the all-powerful Botha-Smuts partnership.[24]

First World War

During the First World War, Smuts (right) and Botha were key members of the British Army.

During the 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 Botha led the South African army into German South West Africa and conquered it (see the South-West Africa Campaign for details). In 1916 General Smuts was put in charge of the conquest of 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.[25] Smuts was promoted to temporary lieutenant general on 18 February 1916.[26]

While the East African Campaign went fairly well, the German forces were not destroyed. Smuts was criticised by his chief Intelligence officer, Colonel 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 Army during 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."[27] Smuts was promoted to honorary lieutenant general for distinguished service in the field on 1 January 1917.[28]

Early in 1917 Smuts left Africa and went to London as he had been invited to join the 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.[30] Like other members of the War Cabinet, Smuts' commitment to Western Front efforts was shaken by Third Ypres.[31]

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 the Royal Air Force.[32][33]

By mid-January 1918

Political offices
Preceded by
New office
Minister for the Interior
Succeeded by
Abraham Fischer
Preceded by
New office
Minister for Defence (first time)
Succeeded by
Hendrik Mentz
Preceded by
Henry Charles Hull
Minister for Finance
Succeeded by
Sir David Pieter de Villiers Graaff
Preceded by
Louis Botha
Prime Minister (first time)
Succeeded by
James Barry Munnik Hertzog
Preceded by
Oswald Pirow
Minister for Justice
Succeeded by
Colin Fraser Steyn
Preceded by
James Barry Munnik Hertzog
Prime Minister (second time)
Succeeded by
Daniel François Malan
Preceded by
Oswald Pirow
Minister for Defence (second time)
Succeeded by
Frans Erasmus
Preceded by
James Barry Munnik Hertzog
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Daniel François Malan
Party political offices
Preceded by
Louis Botha
Leader of the South African Party
SAP Merged into United Party
Preceded by
James Barry Munnik Hertzog
Leader of the United Party
Succeeded by
Jacobus Gideon Nel Strauss
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir Wilfred Grenfell
Rector of the University of St Andrews
Succeeded by
Guglielmo Marconi
Preceded by
The Prince of Wales
later became
King Edward VIII
Chancellor of the University of Cape Town
Succeeded by
Albert van der Sandt Centlivres
Preceded by
Stanley Baldwin
Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
The Lord Tedder
  • Works by Jan Smuts at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Jan Smuts at Internet Archive
  • "Revisiting Urban African Policy and the Reforms of the Smuts Government, 1939–48", by Gary Baines
  • by Jan Smuts at archive.orgAfrica And Some World Problems
  • by Jan SmutsHolism And Evolution
  • by Jan SmutsThe White man's task

External links

Further reading

Secondary sources

Primary sources


  1. ^
  2. ^ Cameron, p. 9
  3. ^ Hancock – Smuts: 1. The Sanguine Years, 1870–1919, p. 19
  4. ^ Smuts (1952), p. 19
  5. ^
  6. ^ Letter from Marais to Smuts, 8 August 1892; Hancock et al. (1966–73): vol. 1, p. 25
  7. ^ Hancock – Smuts: 1. The Sanguine Years, 1870–1919, p. 11
  8. ^ Jan C Smuts: Walt Whitman – a Study in the Evolution of Personality, Wayne State University Press 1973
  9. ^ Hancock – Smuts: 1. The Sanguine Years, 1870–1919, p. 28
  10. ^ Smuts (1952), p. 23
  11. ^ Letter from Maitland to Smuts, 15 June 1894; Hancock et al. (1966–73): vol. 1, pp. 33–34
  12. ^ Jan Smuts – Memoirs of the Boer War (1994) Introduction, p. 19
  13. ^ Smuts (1952), p. 24
  14. ^ a b c d Heathcote, p. 264
  15. ^ Hancock – Smuts: 1. The Sanguine Years, p. 89
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^
  18. ^ Hancock, WK and van der Poel, J (eds) – Selections from the Smuts Papers, 1886–1950, p. 532
  19. ^ Gooch, p. 97
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b
  22. ^ a b
  23. ^ Martin Meredith, Diamonds, Gold and War (New York: Public Affairs, 2007), 380–1
  24. ^ a b
  25. ^ Crowe, JHV, General Smuts' Campaign in East Africa
  26. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29477. p. 1791. 15 February 1916. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  27. ^ Army Diary Oliver and Boyd 1960 p. 205
  28. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29886. p. 15. 29 December 1916. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  29. ^ Woodward (1998), pp. 132-4
  30. ^ Woodward (1998), pp. 155-7
  31. ^ Woodward (1998), pp. 148-9
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ Woodward (1998), p. 164
  35. ^ Woodward (1998), pp. 165-8
  36. ^
  37. ^ Dugard, p. 38
  38. ^ Howe, p. 74
  39. ^ Smuts (1952), p. 252
  40. ^ a b Imperial ecology: environmental order in the British Empire, 1895–1945 Peder Anker Publisher: Harvard University Press, 2001 ISBN 0-674-00595-3
  41. ^ Kee, p. 54.
  42. ^ Smuts (1934) pp 28–29.
  43. ^ Crafford, p. 140
  44. ^ a b
  45. ^
  46. ^ a b c
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35172. p. 3004. 23 May 1941. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  53. ^ Colville, pp. 269–271
  54. ^ a b c Heathcote, p. 266
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^ Union Defence Force Order No.4114. 5 July 1949
  58. ^ Hunter, pp 21–22
  59. ^ a b Beit-Hallahmi, pp 109–111
  60. ^
  61. ^ Crossman, p. 76
  62. ^ Lockyer, Norman. Nature, digitized 5 February 2007. Nature Publishing Group.
  63. ^ Klieman, p. 16
  64. ^ Chancellors of the University of Cambridge. British History Online. Retrieved on 30 July 2012.
  65. ^
  66. ^ Crafford, p. 141
  67. ^
  68. ^
  69. ^
  70. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37835. p. 4. 31 December 1946. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  71. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30202. p. 7591. 26 July 1917. Retrieved 18 May 2013.


See also

Other awards and decorations

Medals, Commonwealth and South African
Order of Merit (1 January 1947)[70]
Order of the Companions of Honour
Dekoratie voor Trouwe Dienst
Efficiency Decoration
South African Republic & Orange Free State War Medal
1914–15 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal
General Service Medal
King George V Silver Jubilee Medal
King George VI Coronation Medal
Africa Star
Italy Star
France and Germany Star
Defence Medal
War Medal 1939–1945
Africa Service Medal
International and Foreign Awards
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (United States)
Order of the Tower and Sword, Grand Cross (Portugal)
Order of the Netherlands Lion, Knight Grand Cross (Netherlands)
Order of Muhammad Ali, Grand Cordon (Egypt)
Order of the Redeemer, Grand Cross (Greece)
Order of Léopold, Grand Cordon (Belgium)
Croix de guerre (Belgium) (26 July 1917)[71]
Légion d'honneur, Commander (France)
Order of the African Star, Grand Cross (Belgium)
King Christian X Frihedsmedaille (Denmark)
Cross of Valour (Greece)
Woodrow Wilson Peace Medal (United States)
A 1944 painting of Smuts by William Timym in the Imperial War Museum


In 2004 Smuts was named by voters in a poll held by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (S.A.B.C.) 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 Mandela was given the number one spot based on the first round of voting. In the first round, Field Marshal Smuts came ninth.[69]

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 Oliver Tambo.[68]

In 1932, the kibbutz Ramat Yohanan in Israel was 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.[67]

One of his greatest international accomplishments was the establishment 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.[46]


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.[65]


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, becoming the first person from outside the United Kingdom to hold that position. He held the position until his death.[64]

Other offices held

Smuts once said:

Smuts' wrote an epitaph for Weizmann, describing him as "the greatest Jew since Moses."[62]

Several streets and a kibbutz, Ramat Yohanan, in Israel are named after Smuts.[59]

He lobbied against the White Paper of 1939.[61]

[60] sentiments among Afrikaners.anti-Semitic that was aimed at preventing Jewish immigration to South Africa. The act was seen as a response to growing Aliens Act However, Smuts was deputy prime minister when the Hertzog government in 1937 passed the [59] in 26 May 1948 General Election, 12 days after David Ben Gurion declared Jewish Statehood, the newly formed nation being given the name Israel).Reunited National Party recognition on 14 May 1949 (following the defeat of Smuts' United Party by the de jure on 24 May 1948 and Israel recognition to de facto His government granted [58] South African supporters of

Support for Zionism

He accepted the appointment as Colonel-in-Chief of Regiment Westelike Provinsie as from 17 September 1948.[57] 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 Pretoria, on 11 September 1950.[54]

The 1946 Cadillac Jan Smuts used when he was the prime minister of the Union of South Africa. Jan Smuts Museum, Irene, Pretoria

Smuts continued to represent his country abroad. He was a leading guest at the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. [56] 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 Commission made him unpopular amongst the Afrikaners and Daniel François Malan's pro-Apartheid stance won the Reunited National Party the 1948 general election.[54]

Jan Smuts Museum, Irene, Pretoria

After the war

In May 1945, he represented South Africa in San Francisco at the drafting of the United Nations Charter.[54] Also in 1945, he was mentioned by Halvdan Koht among seven candidates that were qualified for the Nobel Prize in Peace. However, he did not explicitly nominate any of them. The person actually nominated was Cordell Hull.[55]

[53] Smuts' importance to the Imperial war effort was emphasised by a quite audacious plan, proposed as early as 1940, to appoint Smuts as

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 Nazi Germany in 1939, he was deposed by a party caucus, and Smuts became prime minister for the second time. He had served with Winston Churchill in World War I, and had developed a personal and professional rapport. Smuts was invited to the Imperial War Cabinet in 1939 as the most senior South African in favour of war. On 24 May 1941 Smuts was appointed a field marshal of the British Army,[52]

Smuts, standing left, at the 1944 Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.

Second World War

[51] that had restricted the movement of Africans in general.pass lawsThe Fagan Commission did 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
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.[50]
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: National Party This was in direct opposition to the policies of the [49] that Africans should be recognised as permanent residents of White South Africa and not only temporary workers that really belonged in the reserves.Fagan CommissionIn 1948 he went further away from his previous views on segregation when supporting the recommendations of the

At the same conference, the African National Congress President General Alfred Bitini Xuma along 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.[48]

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 illustrated when 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 Africa for its racial policies [46] and called upon the Smuts government to bring its treatment of the South African Indians in conformity with the basic principles of the United Nations Charter.[46][47]

Although Gandhi and Smuts were adversaries in many ways, they had a mutual respect and even admiration for each other. Before Gandhi returned to India in 1914, he presented General Smuts with a pair of sandals made by 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."[45]

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 period.[44]

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:

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 South Africa "segregation"; 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 territorial segregation.[44]

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:

Smuts and segregation

It had very much in common with his philosophy of life as subsequently developed and embodied in his Holism and 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 philosophical tenets.[43]

While in academia, Smuts pioneered the concept of holism, defined as "the tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution" in his 1926 book, Holism and Evolution. 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:

Holism and related academic work

"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 been." [42]
Though in his Oct.17th 1934 Rectorial Address delivered at St Andrews University he states 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."[41]
that: Royal Institute of International Affairs. In December 1934, Smuts told an audience at the appeasementFor most of the 1930s, Smuts was a leading supporter of

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.[40] One of his favourite rambles was up Table Mountain along 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.[40]

While in Britain for an Imperial Conference in June 1920, Smuts went to Ireland and met Éamon de Valera to help broker an armistice and peace deal between the warring British and Irish nationalists. Smuts attempted to sell the concept of Ireland receiving Dominion status similar to that of Australia and South Africa.[39]

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."[38]

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, which failed to materialise. The Treaty of Versailles gave South Africa a 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 Minister Billy Hughes feared the rising power of Japan in the post First World War world. When former German East Africa was 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.[37]


Like most British Empire political and military leaders in World War I, Smuts thought the [36]

[35] by 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.Damascus by June and Haifa, 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 Walter Kirke 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 Marshall Early in 1918 Smuts was sent to Egypt to confer with Allenby and [34]

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