Steyn, Marthinus Theunis


Steyn, Marthinus Theunis

▪ president of Orange Free State
born Oct. 2, 1857, Rietfontein, Orange Free State [now in South Africa]
died Nov. 28, 1916, Bloemfontein

      leader of the Orange Free State and its president before and during the South African War (1899–1902).

      Steyn, educated at Grey College in Bloemfontein and at Deventer, Neth., became state attorney and was appointed to the high court of the Orange Free State in 1889. After winning the presidential election of February 1896, Steyn pursued a policy of economic independence and of protecting the Dutch language against immigrant influences. In foreign affairs he worked toward a Free State–Transvaal alliance, which was concluded in 1897. In an effort to prevent a conflict between Britain and the Transvaal, Steyn was host to the unsuccessful Bloemfontein Conference in May–June 1899 between President Paul Kruger and Alfred Milner, the British commissioner. Not until September did he give his ally full support and join in the South African War. When British troops took Bloemfontein in March 1900, Steyn fought on as a guerrilla leader. Poor health prevented his signing the formal surrender at Pretoria on May 31, 1902 (Peace of Vereeniging).

      The war so shattered Steyn's health that he never held office again. Idolized by the people, the former president became a behind-the-scenes power and resisted the program of conciliation put forth by Louis Botha, premier of the Transvaal.

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Universalium. 2010.

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