HC Deb 16 February 1865 vol 177 cc312-6

I rise, Sir, to ask for leave to bring in a Bill to annex to the colony of the Cape of Good Hope a small British territory, which, though technically and legally a colony, is practically and in fact a portion of the Cape Colony. The papers which have been laid on the table will show to those who have taken the pains to read them the reasons which induce me to make this proposal on the part of the Government, and the reasons which have rendered it necessary to deal with the question now, and they will relieve me from the necessity of troubling the House with any long statement on the subject. Previously to 1847, the Great Fish River was the north-eastern frontier of the Cape Colony; but when Sir Harry Smith was Governor at the Cape, and there were troubles with the Kaffirs on that frontier, he thought it expedient for the safety of the colony to annex that portion of the country which lies between the Great Fish River and the Keiskamma, and a Proclamation to that effect was accordingly issued. In the year 1848 he also annexed to the colony the port of East London, which is the port as well as the source of the Customs' revenue for British Kaffraria. The rest, up to the River Kei, remained a military outpost of the colony, and the revenues went into the treasury of the Cape Colony, and the expenses were defrayed partly, if not entirely, from the revenues of the Cape. Therefore, from that time, that part of British Kaffraria remained entirely and solely a dependency of the colony. At the close of Sir George Cathcart's war, in 1852, the Kei still remained the north-eastern boundary of the colony; but in 1858 there had been disturbances with Kreli, the paramount Chief of the Kaffirs, who was driven beyond the frontier river and across the Bashee, so that the territory between the Kei and the Bashee rivers remained unoccupied territory under British dominion. In 1860 letters patent were issued constituting the territory between the Keiskamma and the Kei a separate British Crown colony, of a character so peculiar that it had no Legislature—the Governor combined in his own person all the executive and all the legislative power. At that time it was intended to annex to this colony—that is to say—to British Kaffraria the district between the Kei and the Bashee. But the House will remember that in the autumn of last year there was a sudden alarm that Kreli was assembling his forces, and was likely to cross the Bashee into British territory, and therefore that we might not improbably be engaged in another of those troublesome, inconvenient, and costly events which formerly were familiar to us under the name of Kaffir wars. Happily for the colony, that alarm was unfounded, but it rendered it the duty of the Government carefully to consider what was the value to Great Britain of this territory between the Kei and the Bashee; whether it constituted, in fact, a source of support or a source of danger, and whether there was any point of British policy or of British interest rendering it worth while to annex this frontier territory to the possessions of the Crown. Those who have read those papers must feel that the first suggestion made to us emanated from a person entitled to great respect— the chief of the police—and this was that Kreli should he driven back beyond a further river, the Umtata; and so we might have gone on from point to point until the whole of the territory in question was absorbed within the British dominions. The Governor, Sir Philip E. Wodehouse, and the Commander of the Forces justly disapproved this proposal, and determined that it was not desirable to extend the frontier, as proposed by the chief of the police— and the Commander of the Forces said that the military force, maintained at considerable expense in that colony, would not be adequate for the maintenance of so extended a frontier as that of the Bashee. In that view Her Majesty's Government entirely concurred. We said our desire was to maintain the frontier which would be most likely not to lead to hostilities, and would be most easily defended should hostilities arise. We believed the Kei to be that frontier, and we have, therefore, given instructions for the abandonment of the country beyond it. We further desired, if possible, to find a location for Kreli, and the followers we had driven to a territory in which it was impossible for him to remain, in consequence of the proceedings of other tribes; because it was clear that if any restlessness arose on his part that was rather to be attributed to the position in which we had placed him than to any other circumstance. This despatch had been anticipated by the Governor, who replied that he had already settled the Chief on a territory and made him a small allowance to secure his attachment to British rule, which he had gratefully accepted, and that the Chief and his people were quietly taking up their abodes on that territory. There, therefore, remained only the very small territory of British Kaffraria—a territory too small to constitute itself a British colony, too small to provide materials for a Government. It remains for you to consider what you will do with this territory, and the measure which I ask leave to introduce is one to unite it to Cape Colony. There are other reasons why the present opportunity should not be let pass by. The Governor has just closed the first Parliament held at Grahams Town, under circumstances which give very satisfactory promise for that experiment; the Parliament of Cape Colony has determined to have a census with a view to the revision of their representative system, and the Governor is of opinion that after this change has been effected it may be more difficult to accomplish the annexation than it will be if we attempt it now. It is true that the measure has not the concurrence—the formal and official concurrence—of Cape Colony. I cannot say that it has that concurrence. On the contrary, I must admit that if we took no steps to carry out the measures until Cape Colony took it in hand, it is not likely it would be accomplished. It is necessary for the voice of the British Parliament to carry it into effect. One reason why Cape Colony is not likely to take the initiative is this—that Cape Colony knows Her Majesty's Government could not leave a small colony like British Kaffraria to its own forces in the event of defence being necessary; and the Cape Colony cannot be invaded without the enemy passing through British Kaffraria; and it is too much to expect that a Colonial Parliament should not take advantage of such a state of circumstances. I propose to introduce a Bill which will leave it to Cape Colony to make such arrangements as it thinks fit, in conference with the Governor of British Kaffraria, who is both an executive officer and a legislature, as to the terms on which this union shall take place; but I propose that, at all events, with the sanction and by the authority of the British Parliament, a union shall take place, and that the dominions of the Queen within the boundaries of the Keiskamma and the Kei shall form one territory with the Cape Colony. This will be of great advantage to British Kaffraria, to Cape Colony, and to Great Britain; and I would observe that, though the Parliament of Cape Colony has not in the aggregate agreed to the Bill, the Legislative Council of that colony has expressed its opinion that the proposed annexation is expedient. In that opinion the Governor coincides, Her Majesty's Government coincides, and I think the House will coincide. A Committee of great weight Bat in this House in 1861, and revised the military expenditure of this country in our several colonial dependencies. That Committee agreed to a recommendation that those dependencies should in future depend more upon self-reliance and less upon large forces maintained at the expense of the Imperial Treasury. My desire is to give just effect to the opinions of that Committee, and therefore I am anxious that a small territory, taken originally as a dependency of Cape Colony and for the purpose of defending it, should not be treated as a separate colony. Clearly it is better, in the interest of British Kaf- fraria, in the interest of Cape Colony, and in the interest of Great Britain, that this small dependency, which is unable to provide for its own military defence, should be annexed to the colony for whose defence it was thought advisable to occupy it in the first instance. With this short explanation I hope the House will see that the Bill is one which it is advisable to have introduced. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.

Motion agreed to.

Bill for the Incorporation of the Territories of British Kaffraria with the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Secretary CARDWELL and Mr. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE.

Bill presented, and read 1o [Bill 27].