Burgers, Thomas François


Burgers, Thomas François

▪ president of Transvaal
born April 15, 1834, near Graaff-Reinet, Cape Colony [now in South Africa]
died December 9, 1881, Richmond, Transvaal

      theologian and controversial president of the Transvaal who in 1877 allowed the British to annex the republic.

      After graduating as a doctor of theology from the University of Utrecht, Burgers in 1859 returned to Cape Colony, where he became the minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Hanover. His unorthodox views, in which he questioned the literal truth of the Bible, led to his suspension by the Cape synod (1862). The decision was reversed by higher courts, and those judgments were upheld by the British Privy Council (1867).

      Burgers' eloquence and culture recommended him to influential Transvaalers seeking a successor to President Marthinus W. Pretorius, who had resigned in 1871. Elected by a large majority, Burgers took office in July 1872, but his sophisticated ideas in government, education, and religion soon antagonized the Boers. To further his scheme to link the Transvaal by rail to Delagoa Bay, on the Indian Ocean, he traveled to Europe in 1875 to raise money. The now unpopular Burgers returned to engage in a disastrous war with the Pedi chief Sekhukhune, whose lands lay athwart the proposed railway. Insolvent and on the verge of anarchy, the Transvaal was annexed by a British government anxious to promote federation in South Africa. After delivering a feeble protest, a dispirited Burgers surrendered the republic to Sir Theophilus Shepstone and his annexing force of 25 policemen representing the British crown. Burgers then retired into obscurity.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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