HC Deb 19 May 1871 vol 206 cc1037-9

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he can state what information has been received by Her Majesty's Government regarding the claims put forward by the Orange Free State to the South African diamond fields; whether the rumour is true that the Boers are marching with a large hostile force to demand from each digger a sum of money as an acknowledgment of their alleged rights; and what measures have been taken to prevent any outbreak of hostilities?


replied that it was somewhat difficult to answer a Question of that kind without entering into details. But as the matter was of some importance he would endeavour as briefly as possible to state the actual facts of the case. Sir Henry Barkly, the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, shortly after his arrival in the colony, endeavoured to persuade the rival claimants to submit their claims to arbitration. President Pretorius of the Trans Vaal Republic had acceeded to this proposal; but President Brandt, of the Orange Free State, felt some difficulty in the matter, and subsequently Sir Henry Barkly discovered that the Boers had marched into, and were occupying some of the disputed territory. As soon as he had obtained this information he addressed a strong letter of remonstrance to President Brandt, and ordered a body of mounted police to march to the frontier for the protection of British subjects. The latest intelligence on the subject was contained in a despatch from Sir Henry Barkly, dated 28th March, in which he said that he had just received a reply from President Brandt, stating that the Boers had only been marched into the territory to protect the rights of Free State subjects in the event of certain contingencies, and that he intended to lay the whole matter before the local Legislature on the 3rd of April. Sir Henry Barkly did not think there was any risk of war, and he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) must say that he appeared to have acted with great prudence and energy, and Her Majesty's Government had full confidence in his ability and discretion. In consideration of the great number of British subjects who were already at the diamond fields, and of the growing increase to their number, there was an absolute necessity for the establishment of some settled government, and a strong wish had been expressed that the British Sovereignty should be extended over the whole settlement. The Griqua chief, Waterboer, strongly desired to place his country under British rule, and, pending arbitration, the Government had advised Her Majesty to accede to that proposal, on the understanding that the Cape authorities should accept the responsibility of governing the territory. Instructions to that effect would be sent out immediately, and he had every reason to hope that the results would be satisfactory.