J. B. M. Hertzog

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J. B. M. Hertzog
3rd Prime Minister of South Africa
In office
30 June 1924 – 5 September 1939
MonarchsGeorge V
Edward VIII
George VI
Governors‑General1st Earl of Athlone
6th Earl of Clarendon
Sir Patrick Duncan
Preceded byJan Christiaan Smuts
Succeeded byJan Christiaan Smuts
Personal details
James Barry Munnik Hertzog

(1866-04-03)3 April 1866
Wellington, Cape Colony
Died21 November 1942(1942-11-21) (aged 76)
Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa
Political partyNational
SpouseWilhelmina Neethling[1]
Alma materVictoria College
University of Amsterdam

General James Barry Munnik Hertzog KC (3 April 1866 – 21 November 1942), better known as Barry Hertzog or J. B. M. Hertzog, was a South African politician and soldier. He was a Boer general during the Second Boer War who served as the third prime minister of the Union of South Africa from 1924 to 1939. Hertzog advocated for the development of Afrikaner culture and was determined to prevent Afrikaners from being excessively influenced by British culture.

Early life and career[edit]

Hertzog first studied law at Victoria College in Stellenbosch, Cape Colony. In 1889, he went to the Netherlands to read law at the University of Amsterdam, where he prepared a dissertation, on the strength of which he received his doctorate in law on 12 November 1892.[2][3]

Hertzog had a law practice in Pretoria from 1892 until 1895, when he was appointed to the Orange Free State High Court. During the Boer War of 1899–1902, he rose to the rank of general, becoming the assistant chief commandant of the military forces (Commando units) of the Orange Free State. Despite some military reverses, he gained renown as a resourceful leader of the Boer commandos who chose to continue fighting, the so-called "bitter-enders". Eventually, convinced of the futility of further bloodshed, he signed the Treaty of Vereeniging in May 1902.

Early political career[edit]

Botha government 1910

With South Africa then at peace, Hertzog entered politics as the chief organiser of the Orangia Unie Party. In 1907, the Orange River Colony gained self-government and Hertzog joined the cabinet as Attorney-General and Director of Education. His insistence that Dutch as well as English be taught in the schools aroused bitter opposition. He was appointed national Minister of Justice in the newly formed Union of South Africa, and continued in office until 1912. His marked antagonism to the British authorities and Premier Botha led to a ministerial crisis. In 1913, Hertzog led the secession of the Old Boer and anti-British section from the South African Party.

At the outbreak of the Maritz Rebellion in 1914, Hertzog adopted a neutral stance towards the conflict. In the years following the war, he headed the opposition to the government of General Smuts.


Time cover, 27 Apr 1925

First government (1924-1929)[edit]

In the general election of 1924, Hertzog's National Party defeated the South African Party of Jan Smuts and formed a coalition government with the South African Labour Party, which became known as the Pact Government. In 1934, the National Party and the South African Party merged to form the United Party, with Hertzog as Prime Minister and leader of the new party.

As prime minister, Hertzog presided over the passage of a wide range of social and economic measures that did much to improve conditions for working-class whites. According to one historian, "the government of 1924, which combined Hertzog’s NP with the Labour Party, oversaw the foundations of an Afrikaner welfare state".[4]

A Department of Labour was established, while the Wages Act (1925) laid down minimum wages for unskilled workers, although it excluded farm labourers, domestic servants, and public servants. It also established a Wage Board that regulated pay for certain kinds of work, regardless of racial background (although whites were the main beneficiaries of the legislation).[5] The Old Age Pensions Act (1927)[5] provided retirement benefits for white workers. Coloureds also received the pension, but the maximum for Coloureds was only 70% that of whites.[6]

Second government (1929-1933)[edit]

The second Hertzog cabinet in 1929.

The establishment of the South African Iron and Steel Industrial Corp in 1930 helped to stimulate economic progress,[5] while the withdrawal of duties on imported raw materials for industrial use encouraged industrial development and created further employment opportunities, but that led to a higher cost of living. Various forms of assistance to agriculture were also introduced. Dairy farmers, for instance, were aided by a levy imposed on all butter sales, while an increase in import taxes protected farmers from international competition.[5] Farmers also benefited from preferential railway tariffs[7] and from the widening availability of loans from the Land Bank. The government also assisted farmers by guaranteeing prices for farm produce, while work colonies were established for those in need of social salvage.[5][8] Secondary industries were established to improve employment opportunities, which did much to reduce white poverty and enabled many whites to join the ranks of both the semi-skilled and skilled labour force.[5]

An extension of worker's compensation was carried out,[9] while improvements were made in the standards specified under a contemporary Factory Act, thus bringing the Act into line with international standards, in regard to the length of the working week and the employment of child labour.[8] The law on miners' phthisis (pulmonary tuberculosis) was overhauled, and increased protection of white urban tenants against eviction was introduced at a time when housing was in short supply.[8] The civil service was opened up to Afrikaners through the promotion of bilingualism,[6] while a widening of the suffrage was effected, with the enfranchisement of white women.[5] The pact also instituted "penny postage", automatic telephone exchanges, a cash-on-delivery postal service, and an experimental airmail service which was later made permanent.[10]

The Department of Social Welfare was established in 1937 as a separate government department to deal with social conditions.[5] There was increased expenditure on education for both whites and Coloureds. Spending on Coloured education rose by 60%, which led to the number of Coloured children in school growing by 30%.[6] Grants for the blind and the disabled were introduced in 1936 and 1937 respectively,[11] while unemployment benefits were introduced in 1937.[12] That same year, the coverage of maintenance grants was extended.[13]

Although the social and economic policies pursued by Hertzog and his ministers did much to improve social and economic conditions for whites, they did not benefit the majority of South Africans, who found themselves the targets of discriminatory labour laws that entrenched white supremacy in South Africa. A Civilised Labour Policy was pursued by the Pact Government, which involved replacing black workers with whites (typically impoverished Afrikaners), and which was enforced through three key pieces of legislation: the Industrial Conciliation Act No 11 of 1924, the Minimum Wages Act No. 27 of 1925, and the Mines and Works Amendment Act no. 25 of 1926.[14]

The Industrial Conciliation Act (No 11 of 1924) created job reservation for whites while excluding blacks from membership of registered trade unions, which therefore prohibited the registration of black trade unions.[15] The Minimum Wages Act (No. 27 of 1925) bestowed upon the Minister for Labour the power to force employers to give preference to whites when hiring workers,[16] while the Mines and Works Amendment Act (No. 25 of 1926) reinforced a colour bar in the mining industry, while excluding Indian miners from skilled jobs.[17] In a sense, therefore, the discriminatory social and economic policies pursued by the Pact Government helped pave the way for the eventual establishment of the Apartheid state.

Constitutionally, Hertzog was a republican, believing strongly in promoting the independence of the Union of South Africa from the British Empire. His government approved the Statute of Westminster in 1931, and replaced Dutch as the second official language with Afrikaans in 1925, as well as instating a new national flag in 1928. His government approved women's suffrage for white women in 1930, thus strengthening the dominance of the white minority. Property and education requirements for whites were abandoned in the same year, with those for non-whites being severely tightened, and, in 1936, blacks were completely taken off the common voters' roll. Separately elected Native Representatives were instead instated, a policy repeated in the attempts of the later Apartheid regime to disenfranchise all non-whites during the 1950s. Through the system of gradual disenfranchisement spanning half a century, the South African electorate was not made up entirely of whites until the 1970 general election.

Third government (1933-1938)[edit]

Smuts (furthest left) and Hertzog (furthest right) with their wives, circa 1934.

In foreign policy, Hertzog favoured a policy of distance from the British Empire and, as a lifelong Germanophile, was sympathetic towards revising the international system set up by the Treaty of Versailles in favour of lessening the burdens imposed on Germany.[18]: 297  Hertzog's cabinet in the 1930s was divided between a pro-British group led by the Anglophile Smuts, and a pro-German group led by Oswald Pirow, the openly pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic minister of defence, with Hertzog occupying a middle position.[18]: 297  Hertzog had an autocratic style of leadership, expecting the cabinet to approve his decisions rather than to discuss them and, as a consequence, the cabinet only met intermittently.[18]: 297 

From 1934 onward, South Africa was dominated by an informal "inner cabinet" consisting of Hertzog, Smuts, Pirow, the Finance minister N.C. Havenga, and Native Affairs minister P.G.W. Grobler.[18]: 297  Generally, the "inner cabinet" would meet in private and whatever decision they reached in their meetings would be presented to the cabinet to endorse with no discussion.[18]: 297  Though Hertzog was not as pro-German as the faction led by Pirow, he tended to see Nazi Germany as a "normal state" and as a potential ally, unlike the Soviet Union, which Hertzog saw as a threat to the West.[18]: 301 

Alongside that, Hertzog saw France as the main threat to peace in Europe, viewing the Treaty of Versailles as an unjust and vindictive peace treaty, and he argued the French were the principal trouble-makers in Europe by seeking to uphold the Versailles Treaty.[18]: 303–304  Hertzog argued that, if Adolf Hitler had a belligerent foreign policy, it was only because the Treaty of Versailles was intolerably harsh towards Germany, and, if the international system was revised to take account of Germany's "legitimate" complaints against Versailles, then Hitler would become a moderate and reasonable statesman.[18]: 301  When Germany remilitarized the Rhineland in March 1936, Hertzog informed the British government that there was no possibility of South Africa taking part if Britain decided to go to war over the issue, and, in the ensuing crisis, South African diplomats took a very pro-German position, arguing that Germany was justified in violating the Treaty of Versailles by remilitarizing the Rhineland.[19]

Hertzog's principal adviser on foreign affairs was his external affairs state secretary, H.D.J. Bodenstein, an anti-British Afrikaner nationalist and a republican, who was seen as the eminence grise of South African politics. No other man had the same degree of influence on Hertzog as Bodenstein.[18]: 297–298  Sir William Henry Clark, the British High Commissioner to South Africa, had a long-standing feud with Bodenstein, whom he accused of being an Anglophobe, writing in his reports to London that Bodenstein always presented the British position in the worst possible light to Hertzog, and noting with anxiety that Bodenstein's best friend was Emile Wiehle, the German consul in Cape Town.[18]: 298  The Germanophile South African minister in Berlin, Stefanus Gie, largely embraced Nazi values as his own, and, in reports to Pretoria, portrayed Germany as the victim of Jewish plots, arguing that the Nazis' discriminatory policies towards German Jews were only defensive measures.[18]: 299  Though Hertzog did not share the anti-Semitism of Gie, the latter's dispatches portraying the Third Reich in a favourable light were used to support the prime minister's foreign policy preferences.[18]: 299 

In a statement of foreign policy principles for South Africa drawn up by Pirow for the cabinet in March 1938, the first principle was combating Communism, and the second was having Germany serve as the "bulwark against Bolshevism".[18]: 300  In a message to Charles te Water, the South African High Commissioner in London in early 1938, Hertzog told him to tell the British that South Africa expected "immediacy, impartiality and sincerity" in resolving the disputes of Europe.[18]: 300  Just what was meant by that was explained by Hertzog in a letter to the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in March 1938, which stated that South Africa would not fight in any "unjust" wars, and that, if Britain choose to go to war over the events in Czechoslovakia, then South Africa would remain neutral.[18]: 3030  On 22 March 1938, Hertzog sent Te Water a telegram stating that South Africa would not under any circumstances go to war with Germany in defence of Czechoslovakia, and stating that he regarded Eastern Europe as being rightfully in Germany's sphere of influence.[18]: 304 

Fourth government (1938-1939)[edit]

In another letter in the spring of 1938, Hertzog noted that he was "exhausted" by France, and that he wanted Chamberlain to tell the French that the Commonwealth, and South Africa in particular, would be neutral if France went to war with Germany because of a German attack on Czechoslovakia.[18]: 304  When te Water reported to Hertzog on 25 May 1938 that the British foreign secretary, Lord Halifax, had promised him that the British government was applying diplomatic pressure on Czechoslovakia to resolve the dispute over the Sudetenland in Germany's favour, and was pressuring France to abandon its alliance with Czechoslovakia, Hertzog stated his approval.[18]: 305  On 14 September 1938, te Water complained to Lord Halifax about the "astonishing episode" of Britain drifting to war with Germany over the Sudetenland issue, stating that as far as South Africa was concerned, Germany was in the right in demanding that mostly German-speaking Sudetenland be allowed to join Germany, and Czechoslovakia and France was in the wrong, the first by refusing the German demands, and the second by having an alliance with Czechoslovakia that encouraged Prague to resist Berlin.[18]: 312 

In the middle of September 1938, when Britain was on the verge of war with Germany over the Sudetenland issue, Hertzog clashed in the cabinet with Smuts over the course of action that South Africa would pursue. The former favoured neutrality and the latter was for intervention on Britain's side.[18]: 309  On 15 September 1938, Hertzog presented the cabinet with a compromise plan that South Africa would declare neutrality in the event of war, but would be neutral in the most pro-British way possible.[18]: 328  The cabinet was divided. Pirow favoured South Africa allying itself with Germany to fight against Britain. On the other hand, Smuts favoured South Africa allying with Britain and going to war with Germany, and threatened to use his influence with the MPs loyal to himself to bring down the government if Hertzog did declare neutrality.[18]: 328 

On 19 September 1938, as a part of a peace plan to resolve the crisis, Britain offered to guarantee Czechoslovakian territorial sovereignty if the latter agreed to allow the Sudetenland to join Germany, which led te Water to inform Lord Halifax that South Africa was utterly opposed to being part of the guarantee, and advised Britain against promising one, through he later changed his position, saying that South Africa would "guarantee" Czechoslovakia if it was backed by the League of Nations, and if Germany signed a non-aggression pact with Czechoslovakia.[18]: 316 

On 23 September 1938, at the Bad Godesberg summit, Hitler rejected the Anglo-French plan for transferring the Sudetenland to Germany as insufficient, thus putting Europe on the brink of war.[18]: 312–313  In a telegram to Chamberlain on 26 September 1938, Hertzog wrote that the differences between the Anglo-French and German positions were "mainly of method" and that, "as the issue was one of no material substance, but merely involves a matter of procedure for arriving at a result to which it is common cause between disputants Germany is entitled", there was no possibility of South Africa going to war over the issue.[18]: 313  Even after Hitler's belligerent speech on Berlin on the same day, proclaiming that he would still attack Czechoslovakia unless Prague settled its disputes with Poland and Hungary by 1 October 1938, Hertzog, in a telegram to te Water, wrote that he felt "very deeply that if after this a European war was still to take place the responsibility for that will not be placed upon the shoulders of Germany".[18]: 315 

In his messages to te Water in the last days of September 1938, Hertzog consistently portrayed Czechoslovakia and France as the trouble-makers, and argued that Britain must do more to apply pressure on those two states for more concessions to Germany.[18]: 3186  Te Water and the Canadian high commissioner in London, Vincent Massey, in a joint note on behalf of South Africa and Canada to Lord Halifax, stated that Sir Basil Newton, the British minister in Prague, should tell the Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš, that "the obstructive tactics of the Czech government were unwelcome to the British and Dominion governments".[18]: 318  On 28 September 1938, Hertzog was able to get the cabinet to approve his policy of pro-British neutrality subject to parliamentary approval, adding that South Africa would only go to war if Germany attacked Britain first.[18]: 329–330  Given his views, Hertzog very much approved of the Munich Agreement of 30 September 1938, which he regarded as a "just" and "fair" resolution of the German-Czechoslovak dispute.[18]: 333–334 

On 4 September 1939, the United Party caucus revolted against Hertzog's stance of neutrality in World War II, causing Hertzog's government to lose a vote on the issue in parliament by 80 to 67. Governor-General Sir Patrick Duncan refused Hertzog's request to dissolve parliament and call a general election on the question. Hertzog resigned and his coalition partner Smuts became prime minister. Smuts led the country into war, and political re-alignments followed: Hertzog and his faction joined with Daniel Malan's opposition Purified National Party to form the Herenigde Nasionale Party, with Hertzog becoming the new Leader of the Opposition. However, Hertzog soon lost the support of Malan and his supporters when they rejected Hertzog's platform of equal rights between British South Africans and Afrikaners, prompting Hertzog to resign and retire from politics.[20]

Death and legacy[edit]

Hertzog died on 21 November 1942, at the age of 76.

A 4-metre-high statue of Hertzog was erected in 1977 at the front lawns of the Union Building. The statue was taken down on 22 November 2013 and moved to a new location in the gardens. It was still in good condition, save for the removal of the spectacles that were originally included on the statue. The statue was removed to make way for a 9-metre-high statue of Nelson Mandela.[21]

Supporters of Hertzog invented the Hertzoggie, a jam-filled tartlet with a coconut meringue topping, that is still a popular confection in South Africa.[22][23]

He is the only South African Prime Minister to have served under three monarchs: George V, Edward VIII, and George VI, due to serving the year of 1936.


  1. ^ "James Barry Munnik Hertzog - South African History Online". Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  2. ^ Hertzog, J.B.M. (1892). De 'income'-bond, zijn rechtskarakter en de waarde zijner economische en juridische beginselen (Doctoral thesis). Amsterdam: Universiteit van Amsterdam.
  3. ^ Album academicum van het Athenaeum Illustre en van de Universiteit van Amsterdam. Amsterdam: R.W.P. de Vries. 1913. p. 173.
  4. ^ Butler, Anthony (2017). Contemporary South Africa. Macmillan Education. ISBN 978-1-137-37338-0.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Pact Government administration". Archived from the original on 23 March 2005. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Giliomee, Hermann (2003). The Afrikaners: Biography of a People. C. Hurst & Co. ISBN 978-1-85065-714-9.
  7. ^ Seekings, Jeremy (April 2006). ""Not a Single White person should be allowed to go under": Swartgevaar and the Origins of South Africa's Welfare State, 1924-1929" (PDF). University of Cape Town. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
  8. ^ a b c Davenport, T. R. H. (June 1991). South Africa: a modern history. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-5940-6.
  9. ^ Feinstein, C. H. (2005). An Economic History of South Africa: Conquest, Discrimination, and Development. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-85091-9.
  10. ^ "F.H.P. Creswell - Ancestry24". Archived from the original on 13 July 2012.
  11. ^ Haroon Bhorat (2001). Fighting Poverty: Labour Markets and Inequality in South Africa. Juta and Company. ISBN 978-1-919713-62-5.
  12. ^ "South Africa" (PDF). ssa.gov. 2011. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  13. ^ Haarman, C (2000). Social assistance in South Africa : its potential impact on poverty (PDF) (PhD). University of the Western Cape. hdl:20.500.11892/101694. Archived from the original on 12 September 2014.{{cite thesis}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  14. ^ Alistair Boddy-Evans. "South Africa's Pact Government of 1924 to 1933". About.com Education. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  15. ^ Alistair Boddy-Evans. "Pre-Apartheid Era Laws: Industrial Conciliation Act No 11 of 1924". About.com Education. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  16. ^ Alistair Boddy-Evans. "Pre-Apartheid Era Laws: Minimum Wages Act No. 27 of 1925". About.com Education. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  17. ^ Alistair Boddy-Evans. "Pre-Apartheid Era Laws: Mines and Works Amendment Act No. 25 of 1926". About.com Education. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad Fry, Michael Graham (1999). "Agents and structures: The dominions and the Czechoslovak crisis, September 1938". In Lukes, Igor; Goldstein, Erik (eds.). The Munich Crisis, 1938: Prelude to World War II. Vol. 10. London: Frank Cass. pp. 293–341. doi:10.1080/09592299908406134. ISBN 978-0-7146-4995-5. {{cite book}}: |journal= ignored (help)
  19. ^ Weinberg, Gerhard (1970). The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Diplomatic Revolution in Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 258. ISBN 9780226885094.
  20. ^ "J.B.M. Hertzog - prime minister of South Africa".
  21. ^ Madiba's statue to be unveiled today on YouTube
  22. ^ "Hertzoggies – The Political Food Show". The Political Food Show. 26 February 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  23. ^ Baderoon, Gabeba (2014). Regarding Muslims: From Slavery to Post-Apartheid. Johannesburg: Wits University Press. p. 93. ISBN 9781868147694.

External links[edit]

Media related to J. B. M. Hertzog at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
New title Minister of Justice of South Africa
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of South Africa
Succeeded by
Jan Smuts
Party political offices
New title Leader of the United Party
Succeeded by