HC Deb 22 May 1857 vol 145 cc753-65

said, he hoped the House would allow him to take that opportunity of directing its attention to the excessive expenditure incurred in disposing of the German Legion by locating them on the Cape Frontier, and to the impolicy of thereby continuing and extending a charge on the revenues of this country in relief of the colonists from the defence of their own frontier against Kafir invasion. Although it was almost too late to express any opinion, seeing that the expense was already incurred, yet he thought it was the duty of the House to inquire whether the heads of departments in this country were justified in taking measures, involving a vast outlay, without having in any way consulted Parliament upon the matter. The reply that would be given, no doubt, was that it was the easiest way of disposing of the German Legion—that it would lead to the formation of military settlements on the frontier, and would tend to relieve this country of the share of expense of the Kafir wars. He thought he could show that those expectations were mistaken. With respect to the disposition of the German Legion, he was of opinion that it could have been got rid of at a much less expense than had been incurred. He believed he could show by the clearest evidence that that object might have been accomplished at one-fifth of the expense which had actually been incurred. The men of the German Legion might have been disbanded by paying each of them 1s. a day, or £18 for one year, and £2 more for passage home, while the actual charge for sending each of those men to the Cape amounted to £100. All the men who had been discharged had been got rid of for £20 a head. There were in all 8,000 of those men, and at the rate of £100 for each, their removal to the Cape would have cost £800,000; and all that large sum would, by the offer of the Government, have been expended without the sanction and control of Parliament. But, fortunately for us, only 2,500 out of the 8,000 had accepted the offer to be removed to the Cape. It was true that the sum set down in the Estimate for that removal amounted to only £91,000, and there was a charge for building cottages and furnishing outfits. But, besides, we had undertaken to pay the men for three years, and there was to be added the cost of conveyance to the Cape, which, at a moderate estimate, was £12 a head, in addition to the conveyance of the men's wives and families. Indeed, so liberal was the scheme of Lord Panmure that he not only proposed to take out the wives of the men, but had sanguine hopes that the unmarried men might be induced to find wives here who should be taken to the Cape at the expense of this country. The Estimate made no mention of the cost of supplying the men, their wives and families, with rations for one year; nothing was said of public works, of schools, magistrates, courts, chaplains, and other expenses which the scheme expressly involved. It was true the Cape had offered to contribute the modicum of £40,000 towards the expenditure, but that contribution they would certainly reduce by the proportion of diminished numbers going out, as it was a vote on account for 8,000 men, and intended as their share of the £800,000 first proposed. It was said, that land in consequence of the location of the German Legion on the frontier would rise in value £100,000, which would go towards a liquidation of the expense. With respect to the expectation of the increase in the value of land on the frontier, in consequence of the settlement there of the German Legion, even if such increased value should accrue, the benefit would be derived by the colony alone; and he repeated that the total expenditure to this country for each man could not amount to less than £100. But it was said that by that measure we should get rid, for the future, of the enormous expenditure entailed by Kafir wars. He believed, however, that it would be productive of no such result. The fact was that our immense outlay in those wars had arisen from the temptation held out to contractors in the colony by the ready offers of England to foment and prolong hostilities along the frontier, by which they were themselves certain to make large fortunes. There were many men who had been poor at the commencement of those wars, and who at their close had been in possession of very considerable wealth. Of course the proposed plan had been highly popular in the colony, and addresses expressive of satisfaction had been sent, as would always be the case when a promise was made of great expenditure by the mother country for the benefit of her dependencies. The system of sending out hired mercenaries to defend the frontiers of our colonies was one therefore which, in his opinion, was utterly futile, by way of stopping colonial warfare; and if English colonists could not defend their own frontiers he thought it high time that the connection with such dependencies should be severed. Indeed, he did not think it too much to expect, that they should not only defend their own frontiers, but contribute to the defence of Imperial interests. They knew that in the Russian war the colonists of Canada offered to raise a body of troops in aid of the British forces engaged, and would have done so had not Her Majesty's Ministers discouraged them. With the enormous possessions of England all over the world, if she could have the assistance of her colonists she would be superior to every other country. As a defence this German Legion was the worst that the colony could have. Regular armies had never been able to cope with the incursions of savages; and the best protection which the Cape colony could have was that commando system which the settlers themselves established, but which was suppressed in deference to the feelings of English philanthropists. That was abundantly proved in the case of Virginia; as long as the American colonists had the so-called protection of regular troops from England, they were always at the mercy of the Indians, whereas, as soon as the protection of the frontier line was left in the hands of the hardy hunters who formed the colonial militia themselves, they very soon met them on their own system of warfare, and put an end to the conflict. The present experiment was to be tried on the representations of the governor, Sir George Grey, on the ground that he bad successfully tried it in New Zealand. Now he had considerable knowledge of that country, and he knew that, in the opinion of the settlers in New Zealand, no greater failure in the way of colonisation had ever taken place than in the military colonisation of New Zealand. The military pensioners could scarcely be said to have lived—they had vegetated; but further than that, they had done nothing. That body of settlers cost just five times as much as emigrants would, and were not worth more than one-fifth of what free settlers would be. Could the right hon. Gentleman point out in the whole of history a case under which such a thing had succeeded as military colonisation; or a case in which, for the same amount of money, a much better system of free colonisation could not be carried on. He knew that it was always considered a failure, and that it was at this moment as fast as possible being abandoned. Neither could he conceive how, as far as England was concerned, it could succeed. Every one knew what had been the fate of our own pensioners in Canada, who were even now troubling the Government; and the success of Russian, Austrian, or Prussian military colonies, if they had been successful, could not be cited as an example to us, because their colonies and their system were so entirely different from ours. Military colonies could not succeed, because they wanted all the elements of successful colonization—perfect freedom, perfect self-reliance, and perfect self-action. This was an attempt to combine two incompatible things—military occupation and colonization. Soldiers were the worst colonists in the world, and probably colonists made the worst soldiers. It was essential to the success of colonists that they should roam where they liked; and how was that possible, in this scheme of Sir George Grey's, for these settlers were actually to serve for three years, during which they were to be under drill thirty days a year; du- ring the four succeeding years they were to be ready for service, and were to have twelve days' drill each year, and every Sunday they were to appear on parade. Fancy colonists going to parade every Sunday! Then what was to hold them to the spots to which they were sent? The Boers in the neighbourhood were raising funds to induce labourers to go to them, and what a ready body of immigrants this German Legion of their compatriots would furnish. Would they continue to serve us at 6d. a day, while their Dutch friends offered them 5s. a day, as labourers? What, then, would operate to prevent their emigrating to another part, and thus, as far as the system was intended as a frontier defence, it would utterly fail? In fact, the whole plan was just such a one as might originate in an office, and might be made to look well on paper; but even, supposing for a moment, that it could be carried out, what a state of artificial society it would be! Of all the systems of which he had ever heard, none was so purely artificial as this proposed combined system of defence and colonization. In conclusion, he stated that when the actual Estimate came before them, he should, if no other hon. Member did it, take the sense of the House upon it, with a view to check the progress of such a system.


said, that he regarded the question to which the hon. Gentleman had called the attention of the House as one of the most important and difficult connected with our whole colonial system. To decide what plan should be pursued for the defence and protection of the Cape, was the most harassing to a person holding his position, of all within the sphere of his duty, and one which he ought to regard with the most constant vigilance. The House ought to take care not to be led away by principles whose primâ facie application to the question might be forcible, without considering the particular circumstances of those to which they were to be applied. The House had already had severe experience of the difficulties in which this country might be involved with respect to the affairs of that colony. Only a few years ago we were engaged in a war with the Kafirs which, besides all the misery it caused to the colony, entailed enormous expense upon the mother country. His belief was, that that war was mainly owing to the fact that the Government of the day, actuated by the best motives, had left the colony entirely destitute of troops. Our experience upon that occasion ought to serve as a warning to the House not to carry any general principle to such an extent as might lead to the recurrence of similar calamities. They were aware that for the last two years there had been a constant apprehension of the renewal of disturbances in the same quarter. That another outbreak had been prevented was owing, he firmly believed, to the presence of a sufficient force of Queen's troops to overawe the Kafirs and maintain the tranquillity of the colony. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman that we ought to rely for the defence of the Cape, not so much upon the troops of the Queen as upon the efforts of the colonists themselves; but it would be mere pedantry, the height of folly and absurdity, when one knew the colonists were not in a position to protect themselves adequately, to expose ourselves to the misfortune of seeing the colony attacked and being involved in a Kafir war with all its horrors and expense. The danger of the Cape at present arose from the fact that the whites were not numerically strong enough to resist their barbarous neighbours. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think that he (Mr. Labouchere) had been guilty of very illogical language whilst advocating a reliance upon the efforts of the colonists themselves in defending the measure of sending out foreign troops amongst them. But these men, he believed, would turn out to be very useful colonists, and able defenders of the country against the Kafirs. Why, any emigrant, any new man, would be an addition to the strength of the white population in resisting the attacks of the savages, and in defending the base of the triangle, at the apex of which lay the chief seat of the colony; but, above all, surely the presence of a certain number of men accustomed to the use of arms and to act together as soldiers must prove the best security for the preservation of peace. If they wished to preserve the colony at all, it was necessary that a body of men always capable of acting together should be on the spot to meet any emergency. In fact, the condition of the Cape colony called for unceasing vigilance on the part of all persons. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the Government had made an extravagant bargain in dealing with the German Legion. It would be recollected that the Legion was formed at a period when the Govern- ment,at the call of the country, which was then engaged in an arduous struggle with Russia, was doing everything in its power to find soldiers to fight our battles. The war was brought to an honourable and successful close before the services of the German Legion were required; but, from what he had been told by those who were competent to form an opinion on the subject, he was convinced that if the war had continued, the men of the Legion, such were their efficiency and state of discipline, would have proved themselves worthy comrades in arms of our own brave troops. It was not their fault that they had no opportunity of rendering service to this country in the Russian war; and when they came to be disbanded, every Member of the House felt that they should be treated not only with justice, but with liberality. The Government had necessarily entered into very onerous engagements in raising the Legion. They had bound themselves to send as many of the officers and men as chose to remain under the rule of Her Majesty to the North American Colonies, and to pay them a sum of money each. The expense of carrying out that arrangement would have been about £64,000, which, of course, must be deducted from the cost that had been incurred in sending a portion of the Legion to the Cape. But, according to the hon. Gentleman, the House had been taken by surprise. He was astonished that the hon. Gentleman should have ventured to make such a statement, for the intention of the Government to send the Legion to the Cape was known to the House last year; it was discussed in the public prints, and was notorious throughout the whole country. Nobody could suppose that such a scheme could be carried into effect without incurring some expense. If the Government had been extravagant the proper time for censuring them was, when the accounts were laid before the House; but the very last charge that ought to be brought against them was, that they had taken Parliament and the country by surprise. The hon. Gentleman had also complained that it was not easy to make out what the expenses were. That arose partly from the items appearing in the estimates of different departments, and partly from the circumstance of the expenses being spread over three years. He was in a condition to state, however, that the total cost of sending the Legion to the Cape, including everything, would be £205,000. From that sum must be de- ducted £64,000, the expense which would have been incurred if the soldiers had not been sent to the Cape. The colonists themselves had already voted a sum of £40,000 towards defraying the expenses of the Legion, and had made arrangements for voting a further sum of £40,000 for the same purpose. It was true that that grant of money had been made upon the supposition that a larger number of men would be sent; but he had no doubt the colonists would adhere to what they had done. After deducting those two sums—£80,000 and £64,000—from the £205,000 which he had stated to be the entire cost of sending the Legion to the Cape, the hon. Gentleman would see that the expense remaining to this country would be about £60,000, leaving out of the calculation that which the Governor mentioned as likely to be available from the increased value of land. The charge thrown upon the country by the proceedings referred to by the hon. Gentleman would not, therefore, be so extravagant as he seemed to suppose. He was unwilling to trespass further upon the attention of the House, but there was one question which had been alluded to with regard to which he wished to say a few words. A reproach had been cast upon the Government that they had shown a disposition to send troops to the Colonies from this country, while they had neglected to avail themselves of the military resources of the Colonies themselves; and the conduct of the Government with regard to Canada during the late war had been more especially adverted to. Now, he would remind the House that the Colonies were not the best places to procure troops, because in the Colonies labour was scarce, there was great demand for it, and consequently wages were high and, generally speaking, instead of being able to spare men, they were glad to receive additional labour, so that to raise troops in the Colonies would probably be neither economical nor satisfactory. Now, an impression did exist in certain quarters that Canada, during the late war, had not received that treatment which her distinguished loyalty and patriotic spirit merited, and that some slight had been cast upon the exertions made in that colony. Now, his answer to that charge was very simple, and he believed alo very conclusive. Some five or six public spirited gentlemen had, during the late contest, offered to raise troops for active service, and the course which the Government adopted with regard to those offers was, he believed, the most prudent course open to them. They referred to the Canadian Executive for advice upon the subject, and the answer they received was, that the colony was at that time engaged in organizing its militia, to which they attached the greatest importance, and they strongly deprecated any endeavour on the part of the Imperial Government to induce the youth of Canada to leave their own country and enter into the service of this country. A proposal had also been made to raise two regiments for the British service, and that proposal had received the utmost consideration. For his own part he believed, that had it been possible it would have been of great advantage if some such scheme had been carried out; but the practical difficulties were so great, and the objections to stripping the colony of men were so strong, that that proposal could not be entertained. He could assure the House that there had been no intention of treating the colony with disrespect, and every one of those gentlemen who had offered to raise corps received the thanks of the Government for the public-spirited and patriotic feeling which had induced them to make that offer, though, from the reasons he had stated, the Government had felt themselves obliged to decline it. With regard to the Cape Colony, the defence of that colony had occupied his serious attention. It was neither wise nor politic to leave the colonists exposed to the frightful evil of a Kafir war, and he believed that, so far from abandoning the principle of teaching the colonists to rely upon themselves, the sending these German colonists, who were trained to arms and able to defend themselves, would tend to inculcate that feeling among them.


did not find any Vote with regard to the German settlers in the Navy Estimates, and he objected to a discussion upon military subjects upon going into Committee on those Navy Estimates, although he was glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman intended to revert to the subject on a more fitting occasion. The subject was of too large a nature to be capable of being discussed on the present occasion. In the first place, the question might be raised whether this country should have employed these Germans at all, and then it might be asked why these Germans, who had never seen an enemy or heard a shot fired in anger, should be treated more liberally and gene- rously than any portion of those troops who had undergone the danger and labour of the war. The regular troops had been disbanded with very little courtesy, and, in some instances, without much justice, but these foreigners had been enlisted for three years beyond the termination of the war. These Germans now had a claim to permanent protection, and at some future period, when unable to defend themselves, it might be necessary to send British troops to their assistance. There was no doubt that the frontiers of the Cape Colony at the present moment were in very much the condition of the northern border counties of this country some hundred years ago. There would always be cattle-stealing under such circumstances; but if they thought to defend the line of frontier by the settlement of a German Legion of 2,800 men, they would be very much mistaken. If the colonists were not able to defend themselves without their assistance, he was sure that they would not be able to do so with their help, and some additional measures would have to be resorted to. The experiment of a military colony at the Cape frontier had been tried twenty years ago and had failed, and yet the same course was being repeated. He believed the system was most fallacious. The principle was opposed to the whole spirit of colonial legislation of late years, and he for one could not regard it with favour. The late Sir W. Molesworth had directed his attention very earnestly to the promotion of the policy of giving the power of self-government to our Colonies, and it had over and over again been urged on behalf of the colonists that if that power were accorded to them they would be prepared to defend themselves; and that if that principle were adopted we should not be compelled to keep at the Cape so large a military force as was at present the case. Well, the colonists had now obtained self-government; and when Sir G. Grey had been sent from New Zealand to govern that colony, it was supposed that its affairs would be less expensively managed; but it appeared that a larger military force than ever was needed, dissemination, always an error, had been adopted, and, as a consequence, a greater amount of expense than existed before his appointment had been entailed upon the country. It had been generally believed that Government was about to withdraw a large portion of those troops, but, instead of that having been done, eight or nine regiments of infantry, and a numerous body of cavalry had been kept there to defend the colony against a set of miserable barbarians. One of the arguments which had been used in favour of stationing our troops in large numbers in the colonies was, that the people of this country were opposed to their being quartered at home in any large numbers, and that troops quartered in the Colonies might be easily brought home whenever a great emergency should arise. Well, what had been the fact? Why, that we had not been reinforced by one regiment from the Cape during the last war. It was also stated that it was impossible to defend the colony except by means of the regular army; but it should be borne in mind that Sir George Napier, who had conducted that government for a period of seven years, had adopted against the Kafirs a course, or rather a calculation, not demanding the employment of large bodies of troops. He, in fact, calculated that about £5,000 worth of cattle was reciprocally stolen by the Kafirs from our settlers on the one part, and by our settlers, on the other, from the Kafirs. In short, he calculated that the system of retaliatory theft was far preferable to be allowed to continue rather than recurring to the heavy expenditure of a national war. Other Governors had, however, pursued a different course, and had made the most trifling occurrences the grounds for entering into hostilities. One war had taken place about a stolen hatchet and another about eleven head of cattle. The noble Viscount at the head of the Government, who was so zealous respecting the honour of the British flag, would of course regard this as a casus belli. That was a policy which he had hoped had been abandoned, but it would appear that it was one in which the Government were resolved to persevere, and even proceed further in by sending out a new description of armed force with which to contend with those wretched Kafirs. He could not but sincerely regret such impolicy on the part of the Government.


said, that, having served three years in the Cape, two years of which he had been engaged in the late war, he hoped the House would extend to him its indulgence while he made a few observations upon the subject under their notice. He was surprised to hear the hon. and gallant Member who had just spoken call the Kafirs "miserable barbarians," and he was sure he would not have done so if he had known that there were 12,000 of them in the colony who, when armed with rifles, formed the material of the finest light infantry in the world. During the late war at the Cape our troops, when opposed to them, met with a series of reverses, and he had had the mortification of seeing two of the best regiments in the service compelled to retire before them. The hon. and gallant Member was completely mistaken, therefore, in supposing that the Cape colonists could easily defend themselves against their attacks. They might have done so to some extent when the Kafirs were not supplied with guns, but they were now tolerably well furnished with both guns and horses, and it was plain that the old commando system could no longer be of avail. He felt it to be his duty, under those circumstances, to warn the House to vote money for the defence of the Cape colonists, otherwise they must be prepared to take upon themselves the responsibility of an amount of bloodshed which it was fearful to contemplate. Few persons in England had any idea of the nature of the Kafir tribes. He, however, had some acquaintance with their language; had, after the last war, been much among them, and had conversed with their principal chiefs. From the knowledge of their habits thus acquired, he felt confident that the only reason why hostilities had ceased upon their part was because they had expended all their gunpowder, and because no facilities for the manufacture of a fresh supply existed among them. The best way, therefore, to put a stop to a Kafir war was to prevent the importation of gunpowder from the colonies. Three years was the time usually allowed to elapse between those wars, and we might therefore expect to witness in the course of another year a fresh outbreak of hostilities. The only reason why he was disposed to look with any apprehension upon the presence of the German Legion at the Cape was, that they and the Dutch Boers were to some extent a kindred people, and that as a consequence, in case those Boers should again take it into their heads to rise in opposition to our power, they might succeed in seducing the soldiers of the German Legion from their allegiance. The subject was a serious one, and he hoped the House would not be niggardly in any vote for keeping up the supply of troops at the Cape. He was confident that it was only the awe which the Kafirs felt for our troops that kept them quiet, and if that awe were dissipated there would be another Kafir war, at a cost of several millions of money.


observed that there had been no attempt at amalgamation at the Cape of Good Hope, or to infuse good feeling into the breasts of the contending parties. He could not understand why the same system of amalgamation should not be pursued at the Cape as had been pursued in India—namely, that of enlisting under our banners some portion of the native population; and the result of which had been that such a friendly feeling had been infused into those once our enemies that they had become our friends.


said, the German Legion had been enlisted under a pledge that they should receive certain pay, and if disbanded before a certain period, be sent out as colonists to Canada or the Cape of Good Hope. It might have been wrong to employ them, but, having done so, the question was really a narrow question of contract. If the sending them to the Cape were such an immense advantage as the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir De Lacy Evans) represented, how was it that out of 10,000 men only 2,000 had accepted the boon?

Motion agreed to.