The Orange Free State was a Boer republic in southern Africa. The Boers, of Dutch ancestry, had settled the area earlier in the nineteenth century. The 1854 Bloemfontein Convention recognized the independence of the Orange Free State, which was located between the Orange and the Vaal Rivers. The Orange Free State was a republic modeled upon the U.S. constitution, but restricted franchise to white males.
In 1867 diamonds were discovered in the Orange Free State and by 1870 there were sufficient reserves of diamonds to stimulate a “rush” of several thousand fortune hunters. Other important Orange Free State exports that gained a wider world market during the 1860s were ostrich feathers and ivory, obtained by hunting the region’s elephants. The expanding commercial trade prompted the United States to complete its first international agreement with the Orange Free State, the Convention of Friendship and Commerce and Extradition of 1871, and also recognize the young republic.
Full diplomatic relations between the United States and the Orange Free State were never established. In 1899, the Orange Free State declared war upon the British and fought alongside its sister Boer republic, the South African Republic, during the Boer War (1899-1902). The British occupied the capital of Bloemfontein in 1900. The 1902 Peace of Vereeniging, which ended the Boer War, annexed the Orange Free State to the British Empire.
Mutual Recognition, 1871.
The first known act of recognition between the United States and the Republic of the Orange Free State occurred in 1871 when plenipotentiaries for the two states signed a Convention of Friendship and Commerce and Extradition on December 22, 1871.
Bloemfontein, December 16, 1891
The first U.S. Consul assigned to the Orange Free State was Ernst Richard Landgraf, who was appointed as U.S. Consular Agent to Bloemfontein on December 16, 1891. U.S. consular agents remained posted at Bloemfontein after its incorporation into the British Empire until the post was closed by agency order on November 30, 1928.
Establishment of Diplomatic Relations.
The United States and the Orange Free State never established diplomatic relations.
Treaties and Agreements
Convention of Friendship and Commerce and Extradition, 1871.
On December 22, 1871, the United States signed a Convention of Friendship and Commerce and Extradition with the Orange Free State in Bloemfonten, Orange Free State. The convention was negotiated and signed by U.S. Special Agent Willard W. Edgcomb, who served at the time as American Consul at the Cape of Good Hope, and the government secretary of the Orange Free State, Friedrich Kaufman Höhne. This convention was denounced on January 4, 1895 by the Government of Orange Free State.
Extradition Treaty, 1896.
On October 28, 1896, U.S. Secretary of State Richard Olney and the Consul General of the Orange Free State in the United States Charles D. Pierce signed an Extradition Treaty in Washington, D.C.
Issues Relevant to U.S. Foreign Diplomacy
The Orange Free State ceased to exist as an independent, sovereign state in 1902 as a result of the process of colonization that carved up much of the African continent into areas of European empire. There were several states like the Orange Free State, with which the United States had treaties or sometimes even diplomatic relations, that were incorporated into another state’s overseas empire.
- William M. Malloy, Treaties, Conventions, International Acts, Protocols, and Agreements Between The United States of American and Other Powers, 1776-1909 (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1910).