Steyn, Martinus Theunis
STEYN, MARTINUS THEUNIS (1857- ), last president of the Orange Free State, was born at Winburg in that state on the 2nd of October 1857. He was a student in Holland and later in England at the Inner Temple, and was called to the English bar in November 1882. After his return to South Africa he practised as a barrister at Bloemfontcin, and in 1889 was appointed state attorney of the Free State. A few months afterwards he became second puisne judge, and in 1893 first puisne judge of the high court. His decisions won him a reputation for ability and sound judgment. In 1895, upon the resignation of President F. W. Reitz, Steyn was the candidate of the pan-Dutch party for the vacant post. The election resulted (February 1896) in a decisive victory for Steyn. As president he linked the fortunes of his state with those of the Transvaal, a policy which led to the extinction of the republic. After the occupation of Bloemfontein by Lord Roberts Steyn wandered about South Africa, carrying on a semblance of government, and on occasion taking charge of military operations. More than once he narrowly escaped capture. Regarded as one of the most irreconcilable of the Boer leaders, he took part, however, in the preliminary peace negotiations at Klerksdorp in April 1902, but was prevented by illness from signing the instrument of surrender at Pretoria on the 31st of May. At that date he was suffering from locomotor ataxy, brought on by his constant exertions; and in the July following he sailed for Europe, where he remained until the autumn of 1904. He then took the oath of allegiance to the British crown, and returning to South Africa partially restored to health resumed an active participation in politics. In 1908-1909 he was vice-president of the Closer Union Convention, where he was distinguished for his statesmanlike and conciliatory attitude, while maintaining the rights of the Dutch community.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)