Under other circumstances he might have played a much greater role in South Africa, even, perhaps, altering the course of events. At the same time, in the tempestuous, multi-cultural South Africa of today, 101 years after Steyn’s death, many of his ideas are unacceptable, for, like his white compatriots, J.C. Smuts and J.X. Merriman, he could not imagine a society in which black men (let alone women) had a right to political equality. Yet this volume has relevance as it contributes, inter alia, to our understanding of political racism; of equal value is what it tells us about how to make a new country.
Marthinus Theunis Steyn features prominently in two earlier volumes published by the Van Riebeeck Society (VRS), viz. Die Konvensie Dagboek van F.S. Malan (1951) and Selections from the Correspondence of John X. Merriman, vol. 4 (1969). In both, however, what he said or wrote are parachuted into the text as they form only part of larger narratives not focussed on him. The run-up to his words in these volumes is thus absent, making it difficult for readers to appreciate how and why he reached the opinions he expressed.