In the South African Boer republics of the 19th century, a burgher was a fully enfranchised citizen. The rights to political representation and the ownership of property were collectively referred to as "burgher rights". In the Orange Free State (1854–1902), the constitution restricted burgher rights to white male residents only, though coloured people (those of mixed ancestry) did have some rights regarding property. The South African Republic, or Transvaal (1852–1902), gave burgher rights to white males only and explicitly barred their extension to "persons of colour". A bill passed in the Transvaal in 1858 permitted "no equality between the white and coloured inhabitants, neither in Church nor in State".
Burghers were "citizen-soldiers" who, between the ages of 16 and 60, were obliged to serve without pay in the republic's commandos, providing their own horse and rifle, 30 rounds of ammunition and their own rations for the first ten days. Most of them were Boers. Following the discovery of diamonds and gold in the Boer Republics and their environs in the 1870s and 1880s, white immigrants of mostly British stock began moving to the region in large numbers. The Boers referred to these people as uitlanders (out-landers). The uitlanders demanded full burgher rights in the Transvaal, but the local government under President Paul Kruger was unwilling to grant these, surmising that the sheer number of uitlanders might imperil the republic's independence. The uitlander problem and the associated tensions between the South African Republic and Britain led to the Jameson Raid of 1895–96 and ultimately the Second Boer War of 1899–1902. Following the British victory in the latter and the Treaty of Vereeniging, the Free State and the Transvaal were annexed by Britain as the Orange River Colony and Transvaal Colony.