John Xavier Merriman, 1887 (a sketch by W.H. Schröder)
John X. Merriman, son of Archdeacon Merriman, was one of the most brilliant politicians at the Cape. His long political career spanned most of the major political events of the late-19th and early 20th-century, culminating in the prime minister’s office just before Union in 1910. Merriman was initially a liberal, working closely with Rhodes when the latter became prime minister, but subsequently became firmly pro-Boer.
The Selections From The Correspondence of J. X. Merriman has been published as three volumes:
VRS I-41 covers 1870-90 – It tells of Merriman’s early life on the eastern frontier of the Cape, and the first years of responsible government from 1872. Economically this period also covers the discovery of diamonds and gold, known as the mineral revolution.
VRS I-44 covers 1890-98 which includes the first Rhodes’ ministry, of which Merriman was Colonial Treasurer, his break with Rhodes, and the period leading up to the South African war.
VRS I-47 covers 1899-1905, including the South African War, Merriman’s participation in the pro-Boer Schreiner ministry, and a period in opposition. During this time, he fought against the suspension of the Cape constitution and for a fair deal for Cape rebels. It concludes with his participation in the South African Native Affairs Commission and the election that brought Dr Jameson to power as prime minister.
VRS I-50 covers 1906-1924 – It deals with the establishment of the Union, his views on constitution-making, and his time as prime minister of the Cape Colony. Merriman remained in parliament after Union, participating in events leading up to, and just after World War I.