It is agreed by every authority whose opinion merits consideration, that upon the termination of the war we shall witness a mining boom in comparison with which the historical boom of 1895 will sink into insignificance. The present symptoms undoubtedly point in that direction, and the prediction, therefore, seems almost assured of being verified. But when will the war terminate? No man can tell. And yet it is tacitly understood, or, rather, vaguely felt, that we shall welcome that happy day not later than the beginning of autumn. The wish in this case is evidently father to the thought, for the depression, not only on the Stock Exchange, but in all trade and commercial circles, is getting acute, and there is no foreseeing the serious consequences to which it might lead should it be prolonged for an indefinite period. In spite of the apparent calm upon the surface, there is much discontent beneath. This discontentment we conceal beneath a set determination to submit to a sacrifice in which we are sustained by our highest instincts, and the only fear is that those higher instincts may not sustain us long enough, that our lower instincts may burst the bonds in which we have resolutely imprisoned them, wage a contest with the higher, and then vanquish them, with possibly deplorable consequences. We are not a pre-eminently patient people. We have not received the discipline necessary to inculcate that virtue in us. We have not accustomed ourselves to put too prolonged a restraint upon our natural impulsiveness. We can rise to a great occasion when necessity demands it; we can suffer with philosophical resignation when there is no averting it; we can be heroic when our honour is at stake and our character impugned; but we soon tire of rising and suffering and posing, our inborn restlessness still agitates us, our impatience urges us to action, and that action is oftentimes undirected by reason and wisdom. We have not the imperturbability and patience of the martyr. A temporary self-sacrifice is the loftiest height we can rise to. We have endured the self-sacrifice already; it seems now as if martyrdom is demanded of us. And the prospect appals us. We are submitting to it with ill grace. We are dragged into it against our inclinations. It is with no meekness that we suffer the indignity. We will undergo it for a time, but only for a short time longer. We have endured quite enough; we cannot endure more. If more is demanded of us we shall revolt, and may the consequences be averted!
This, then, is the stage to which events have enforced us. It is an unfamiliar experience, and it is a disagreeable one. We have already prided ourselves upon our heroic sacrifice, upon the exceptional patience with which we have borne a misfortune not of our seeking, and certainly not of our deserts. Surely we have suffered enough? Surely we have earned our reward? Have we the vitality to suffer more? No; we have spent it all, and spent it to a good and holy purpose. Our part is performed. Now it is time we enjoyed the delights of liberty again.
This, I think, represents the attitude and the feeling of the nation to-day if we will look deep enough to see the symptoms. We all think we have done our part, that we have borne our sufferings long enough, that we have submitted to sacrifices few peoples would undergo. It is beyond reason and every sense of justice that more should be demanded of us. There is a limit to human endurance, and that limit we reached long ago. Therefore we are anxiously asking, Is there more to suffer yet? We gaze keenly into the face of Destiny to read our answer there. But Destiny wears an impassive look. Her countenance is not expressionless, but the expression is so subtle that we know not how to interpret it. Hence our fears and our doubts. Hence our restlessness, our impatience. Hence the longing with which we ever watch that impassive face for one faint expression which will foretell to us what our future is. Happily, most of us read in that countenance a faint expression of hope. We may be deceived; but it seems to us more like hope than despair, knowing not that we see only what we bring the wish to see.
Therefore it is upon this hope that we build the prospect of a mining boom in the beginning of the autumn, because the beginning of the autumn will see the end of the war. The Banishment Proclamation cheered us not a little, and though that event was not needed to implant a hope that we had already been nurturing, it sufficed to deepen and strengthen that hope, and hence it brightened the immediate future for us considerably. Why it is that the Boers are obliging us by continuing the war until we have enjoyed our holidays, we do not stay to ask. But they are obliging us, and it is very considerate of them. We do not want the war to stop suddenly in the midst of our holidays, for it would upset our plans and calculations. It would disconcert us by finding us unprepared. After what we have gone through - especially in the way of anxiety and suspense - we certainly deserve a holiday to prepare us for the arduous work to come. Therefore it will suit us all very nicely if the Boers will make peace, say, at the latter end of September. We shall all be recouped and strengthened then, and ready to face the stern duties which the new era will bring with it.
Why we should wait until the end of the war before we enter upon this grim work of speculation no one can satisfactorily answer. There seems to be a tacit understanding that we must wait until then, and lie idly watching the face of Destiny in the meantime. We are all accumulating vast hoards of money which we don't know what to do with, and we are every one dissatisfied with the slowness with which it does accumulate. We want to see it grow and grow into mountainous heaps, not by imperceptible accretions, but by vast and rapid depositions, and there is no process more rapid and sure in its working than mining speculation. Therefore we are all longing for a mining boom. It is the one hope we cherish in these days of doubt and darkness. And that hope will come to fruition. There is no doubt of it. It will come sooner or later, and let us all pray that it may come soon. We cannot sit idling long.