Kruger’s parents were respectable farmers of Dutch descent on the northern outskirts of the British Cape Colony. He had little formal education but was able to express himself clearly in writing. Of more importance was the religious instruction he received from his parents according to the strict tenets of Dutch Calvinism. When he was 10, his family took part in the general emigration of frontier farmers who sought to found an independent political existence in the northern interior. As a young boy, he was strongly influenced by the stirring events of the period when the emigrants had to struggle against the warlike tribes surrounding them and to establish an orderly government of their own.
While still in his teens, Kruger played a part in public life as a local field-cornet, a post in which civil and military duties were combined. In January 1852 he was present when the Transvaal leader, Andries Pretorius, concluded the Sand River Convention with representatives of Great Britain, by which the independence of the Afrikaners (Boers) north of the Vaal River was recognized. He took part in 1855–56 as member of a commission that drew up the constitution of the new republic. During the civil disturbances of 1861–64, he played a prominent part as commandant general in unifying and pacifying the country in support of constitutional authority.
Upon the British annexation of the Transvaal in 1877, Kruger became the recognized champion of his people in the struggle to regain independence. With that purpose in mind, he visited England in 1877 and 1878, and, when he failed to persuade the government of Benjamin Disraeli to undo the annexation, he helped organize a movement of passive resistance to British administration in the Transvaal. In 1880 he pinned his hopes to the promises of William Gladstone, the Liberal leader. Disappointed when the new Liberal government failed to live up to his expectations, Kruger succeeded in gaining the sympathy and political support of the Cape Colony against the British attempt to