HC Deb 09 July 1877 vol 235 cc974-1002

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it would fortunately be unnecessary for him to detain the House at any great length in explaining details. This measure had now for some time been in the hands of hon. Members, and it would be affectation on his part if he were to assume that they were not perfectly familiar with the grounds on which it had been laid before Parliament, and which had been fully stated in "another place" by his noble Friend the Secretary of State. No doubt, the measure had received the careful attention which it merited from all those who took an interest in the question. It would not be necessary to enter at length into the subject of Confederation, it had frequently been discussed, and the principle had been commented upon in various quarters; but he would, point out that as it had been already in force in the great Canadian Dominion now for some 10 years, we had had an opportunity practically of viewing its application to Her Majesty's Colonies. The circumstances, however, in which that Confederation was established by the British North America Act were different in many essential particulars from the circumstances of the case he was now submitting to the House. The great object which it was sought to attain at that period was greater convenience of administration, and the establishment of an efficient means of uniting the British Colonies on the other side of the Atlantic. In the Canadian Bill many details were given in the original draft which in the present measure were conspicuous by their absence. The reason of that difference was not far to seek, because in the case of Canada an agreement had practically been arrived at previously among all the parties concerned. In the present case the Bill was essentially of a skeleton character, and its details were left to be filled in according as circumstances might arise. He had said that the circumstances of South Africa differed materially from those of Canada at the time of the adoption of the British North America Act. The reason was that the union, which in the case of Canada was a matter rather of administrative convenience, in the case of South Africa assumed a character of urgent and pressing necessity. A union of some kind had long been felt both in this country and in South Africa to be essential to the security of Her Majesty's dominions in those parts. The House was aware that the population of South Africa was mainly composed of large Native elements, with a comparatively small proportion of Whites. At the Cape of Good Hope the coloured population was more than double the white, and in Natal the difference was far greater, for while there were only some 17,000 Whites, there were 280,000 Natives. Then there was another question—namely, the trade in arms. Some common system whereby this dangerous form of commerce could be effectually controlled must strike the most casual observer as a matter of vital necessity. The perusal of this Bill would reveal one element which had now disappeared from the Continent of Africa; he alluded to the South African Republic. And in speaking of that subject he wished to allude for a moment to the observations which had been made with regard to the Vote which stood on the Paper for tonight. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had already explained how it was that the Vote of £100,000 in connection with the annexation of the South African Republic appeared upon the Estimates, and, therefore, he should not further allude to the matter, beyond saying that he thought the House would have had a right to complain of the conduct of the Government, if they had asked them to give a second reading to this Bill while keeping them in ignorance of such an essential fact. As regarded the Transvaal Republic, it was a matter to which he wished to devote a large portion of his observations. The White population there was, on an approximate estimate, 40,000, as against 1,000,000 blacks. The House was aware that the Transvaal Republic owed its origin to the emigration in 1834 of some of the white settlers from the Cape, and it was in 1852 erected into an independent State. Since that period the State, under a Republican form of Government, had continued in friendly relations with the British Empire. That state of matters Her Majesty's Government were most desirous to continue, and nothing but circumstances over which they had no control had led to any change in our policy with regard to it. The House was aware that a war had unfortunately sprung up between the Native tribes and the South African Republic. With their internal or external relations Her Majesty's Government had no concern so far as those relations affected themselves alone. It was only when their policy was productive of danger to Her Majesty's dominions that, in his judgment, the Government were justified in at all interfering. It had been said that the treatment of the Native tribes, both within and without the actual confines of the Republic, was not such as to commend itself to the people of this country. But so long as the South African Republic was in a position to carry out any policy they chose and prevent the result of that policy being in any way productive of danger to us, we had no business to interfere; but, unfortunately, they became engaged in warlike operations which it was entirely out of their power to wage. The adult male population was not more than 8,000, and with the necessary deduction for non-combatants, 6,000 odd might be calculated as the entire White population which it was in the power of the Republic to call upon to bear arms. Even if the bulk of this population was brought into the field, their power successfully to encounter the vast hordes in arms against them would obviously be impossible. The South African Republic, therefore, was repeatedly warned by the Secretary of State, through Sir Theophilus Shepstone, on the grave nature of the course they were adopting. The failure of their attack on the Native Chief was a matter of history. It was successfully repelled by the Native tribes. They succeeded in overpowering the Forces sent against them. Now, with the success or the failure of the Forces of the Republic, as with their policy when viewed by itself, we had no concern, so long as their contests affected themselves alone; but he need hardly remind the House that the overpowering of a White force in a country surrounded, and to a great extent peopled, by large Native tribes, was a matter which the Government could not view without concern. The proof of the superiority of the Native tribes over the European settlers most probably would not have been kept within the limits originally assigned to that contest, and the destruction of the Transvaal State would have brought on the whole of South Africa the consequences of a Native war. That was the state of affairs which brought about the present position. In dealing with the matter as he had, Sir Theophilus Shepstone was entrusted with very full powers by Her Majesty. From his large experience of Native affairs in South Africa, it was needless to say, Sir Theophilus Shepstone had the complete confidence of his (Mr. Lowther's) noble Friend the Secretary of State, and therefore, within certain defined limits, he had power to act practically on his own responsibility. When this subject was last mentioned, the Secretary of State said, as he felt bound to do, that the policy of Sir Theophilus Shepstone had not been fully explained, and that he must necessarily reserve his opinion until he was fully informed of it. That fuller explanation had now arrived, and the House would be quite prepared for his (Mr. Lowther's) statement that the policy adopted by Sir Theophilus Shepstone had the full approbation of the Government. The presence of Sir Theophilus Shepstone in the capital of the Transvaal State during many weeks, accompanied as he was by a small body-guard of 26 policemen, might surely be taken as a sign that the feeling of the State was not inimical either to him or to the notorious object of his mission. He fully explained to the authorities of the Transvaal State that the security of Her Majesty's colonists was a matter of the utmost importance, and that he required to take measures for securing that object. The addition of the Transvaal State to the property of the British Crown had been in some quarters termed rank aggression; but he hoped it would not be so characterized in that House. He asked the House to reflect on the fact of an English gentleman, a civilian, accompanied only by 26 policemen, performing the act he had described in the midst of a State consisting of 40,000 of White population, and then say whether that act could in any way be stamped with the character of aggression. He entered freely into communication with the recognized officials of the Republic—he explained the alternative he might be compelled to adopt in the event of their failure to comply with the conditions which he deemed essential to the general safety. His representations were received throughout in the most friendly manner, and whilst protesting, as they considered they were bound to do, against the proposal, no impediment was placed by them in the way of Her Majesty's Government. As no doubt the House were aware, from the Papers that had been laid on the Table, the late President and several others connected with the Government of the Republic protested against the proposed change, and two of them followed up their protests by visiting this country as delegates from the late South African Government. Those two gentlemen were received the other day by the Secretary of State; he (Mr. Lowther) was present at the interview; and, without entering into the details of the conversation, he would mention that it was at once pointed out by his noble Friend that the Act performed by Sir Theophilus Shepstone was irrevocable, that it would be idle to enter upon a discussion of it, that it was accomplished, and that any further discussion of it would be a waste of time; but his noble Friend added that, with reference to the future administration of the State, he should be happy to receive any communication from them, and they cordially assented to the Secretary of State's proposition, and expressed their willingness to enter upon a discussion with regard to the future. It was, further, worth observing that previous to the departure of these gentlemen for this country, they had asked Sir Theophilus Shepstone if he would retain their services in his new arrangements, and make temporary arrangements for the discharge of their duties, and he at once assented to the course they proposed, leaving them free to visit England for the purpose of making representations to the Government in this country. He mentioned these details to show that the spirit in which the negotiations had been carried on was very different from that which in some quarters it was supposed to have been. With regard to the obligations incurred by England on our assumption of the government of this State, he found that the present debts of all kinds were about £220,000. A sum of £25,000 would be required for the removal of troops and the expenses connected therewith, and £25,000 it was estimated would very shortly be required for the payment of interest on the Debt, and to meet other claims, the payment of which could not be delayed; but in making these statements he wished to guard himself against its being supposed that Her Majesty's Government would necessarily admit every claim that might be made against them. While every bond fide debt and obligation would be punctually acknowledged and discharged, it would be imprudent to hold out a hope that recklessly - assumed obligations would necessarily be acknowledged. He had mentioned the dark side of the picture first, but it had its bright side. The natural resources of the country, notwithstanding the smiles of hon. Members opposite at the use of the phrase, were very great. The South African climate was very good for Europeans, and the great bulk of this country was a table land 4,000 feet above the level of the sea. It was cool and healthy; the agricultural and pastoral resources were very great; the minerals required only energy for their development — [Mr. LOWE: And capital]—and we might assume that the essential element of capital would not be deterred from embarking in the Transvaal now that Her Majesty's Government had interfered in order to secure the good government of the district. Indeed, the tendency of that change would be to re-assure capitalists and encourage European imigration. The mines had already been the subject of inquiry; it had been ascertained that gold, copper, lead, silver, and coal existed in considerable quantities; and the development of these mineral resources could only be a matter of time. Their very existence placed beyond doubt the payment of interest upon the Debt, the reduction of its amount, and the future commercial prosperity of the country. The revenues of the State had been up to recently quite sufficient for the expenses. A vast railway scheme was, however, embarked in beyond the powers of the former Government, and, in other ways, extravagance was unfortunately embarked in which he might assure the House would not occur again. They were not taking over a bankrupt community that was unable to pay its way; but it was a country which—although it had unfortunately, through the policy that had unwisely been adopted, got into serious financial as well as military difficulties— need not cause us any alarm or prevent us from anticipating a happy furure. With these remarks, he would move the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. J. Lowther.)


in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, said, he could not admit the assumption, implied in the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, that the House was well acquainted with the principle of Confederation as proposed to be applied in these Colonies. On the contrary, there was a great deal of confusion and defective knowledge respecting it, and more especially as regarded the Transvaal. The professed object of the Bill, as presented to the House, was to facilitate the voluntary combination of the colonies, and from that point of view it would be difficult to object to it; but the matter assumed a different aspect when it was known that not one of the colonies desired this scheme of Confederation, that it was altogether inapplicable to them, that it had not originated with them, but in this country, and that the object was to re-acquire for Great Britain certain outlying territories which we deliberately parted with more than 20 years ago. There was no parallel between this Bill and the Canadian Bill; the latter came from Canada to us; the Colonial Office had nothing to do but to express its approval of it; it was negotiated in the colonies, and it was put into shape before it came here; and all that this Government did was to give the new State a name; but the Confederation of South Africa had sprung up here, and its main object was to re-attach to us certain territories which we had resigned. There were difficulties in South Africa which did not exist in Canada, for in South Africa the great mass of European settlers were Dutch in language, habits, manners, and love of independence; and, besides them, there was a large Native population. Troubles arose between us and the Dutch settlers as long ago as the year 1834. The Dutch then went northwards, and founded the Colony of Natal. We followed them, headed them back from Natal, and defeated them. They then went beyond the Transvaal, but we followed them, and held that wherever they went they carried subjection to the British flag with them. In 1852, however, finding we could not follow them any further into the interior of Africa, we recognized the independence and sovereignty of the Transvaal Republic, hoping by this means not only to free ourselves from the difficulties that had grown up, but to interpose between ourselves and the Native States a State which would protect our Colonists from any danger on the part of the Natives. Sir George Clerk, a distinguished public servant, was sent out by Lord Aberdeen's Government to report on the Orange River Free State. He described the sparseness of the population and the extent of the territory, and strongly deprecated the assertion of British sovereignty over such a State. Sir George Clerk's description of the Orange River Settlement was equally true of the Transvaal Republic at the present moment. His opinion was adopted by the Duke of Newcastle, at that time Colonial Secretary, and the Government of that day determined to renounce all sovereignty over the Orange River State, on the ground that its management cost too much in labour, and entailed too heavy a charge upon the British taxpayer. The Orange River Free State was thereupon set up as a buffer between us and the African Native population, but was incapable of being managed as an English settlement or English territory. After we had left the Orange River State, and it had become independent, the people had wars with the Natives, and petitioned to be taken back again under British rule. We refused, although if ever there was danger of disturbance and contagion from one State to another it arose between the Orange River Free State and Natal. In fact, every argument that was used in support of the annexation of the Transvaal Republic might have been applicable with greater force in favour of the annexation of the Orange River Free State, whose territory was to a great extent conterminous with Natal, while that of the Transvaal Republic just touched Natal at one corner, and Sir Theophilus Shepstone took 30 days to get from Natal to Prætoria. The Orange River Free State went to war with the Basutos, and had the worst of it. They persevered for four years, although they sustained frightful losses —not less than one in five, as it was said, of the adult male population having been killed. That calculation was, perhaps, excessive, and one in 10 was, perhaps, nearer the mark. But did the war extend to Natal? Not at all. If, however, it went on for four years in a territory contiguous to our own, how could it be contended that the state of the Transvaal rendered it necessary for our peace and quietness that it should be annexed? In the year 1858 there was a movement to re-annex the Orange River Free State. A change of Government had occurred here at home, and the late Lord Lytton, who was appointed head of the Colonial Department, sent out to consult Sir George Grey as to the feasibility of a Confederation being established in South Africa, and to ask him whether he was in favour of the adoption of such a course. Sir George Grey wrote back, commenting upon the dangers of the existence of a number of small States, and even went so far, without waiting for instructions from home, as to take into consideration the scheme of Confederation; but he was recalled, and there was a change of Government soon after. From the termination of the war with the Basutos he had alluded to, the Orange River Free State continued to grow in wealth, and its present condition was described, in a Natal newspaper as being so prosperous that that Colony was desirous of having it annexed to itself. That reminded him of the Irish gentleman who carried off an heiress, because he said she had every blessing in life except a husband, and he was determined she should want that no longer. Such as the Orange River Free State was now is the Transvaal, and if it were only let alone it would develop its own resources, both mining and agricultural. The Dutch inhabitants would bring its land under cultivation; it would become stronger and stronger, by-and-by probably reverting to a free union with us, but in the meanwhile perfecting its own organization, it would be most useful to us as an independent free Republic. But Sir Theophilus Shepstone, who had done very good work as a member of Native Affairs, appeared upon the scene, and acting with an ambition to which he (Mr. Courtney) might apply the words of Shakespeare— Man, proud man! Dress'd in a little brief authority, Plays such fantastic tricks before high Heaven As make the angels weep, seemed to think that a great deal could be done in South Africa, as had been done in Canada. There was also another adviser, Mr. Froude, who, instead of continuing his labours as an historian, and producing a work which might have been harmless, returned to the study of politics, and having gone to South Africa got the notion into his head that Confederation would be a very great thing. The proposals sent out to Africa by Lord Carnarvon displayed in their conception an ignorance, which was almost incredible; and the whole process of the Confederation scheme from beginning to end seemed to have been conducted without due regard to the conditions of life in South Africa. Before communicating with the Governments of the Transvaal and the Orange River Free State in so delicate a matter, Lord Carnarvon published the invitation to them to take part in the Conference respecting the Confederation, which was in itself a delicate matter, and the course adopted had justly been resented by those free States as bordering upon insult. Lord Carnarvon had also asked, of course, the Cape Colony to come into the proposed Confederation, and to send Representatives for that purpose. But there were two Provinces in Cape Colony, and the one was at variance with the other. Lord Carnarvon suggested that certain members should attend the Conference, evidently without being aware of the position in which they stood in relation to each other, for he had recommended, through Sir Henry Barkly, that Mr. Molteno should be a member of the Conference, and that another member of it should be one of those who belonged to what he might call the Home Rule Party in the Colony, which was much the same thing as if the Leader of Her Majesty's Government in that House were invited to take part in a Conference with the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt). That, of course, created the greatest excitement in the Colony, and Mr. Froude found the place in a flame when he arrived, so that he could do nothing. In the Eastern Province alone a desire for separation existed. There Mr. Froude was received with enthusiasm, just as a man would be received who came from America to Ireland to propose federation with the United States. The people in the Eastern Province said—"Lord Carnarvon has promised to give us Home Rule; we go in for Confederation because it breaks up the union which at present exists." A Conference was held at home, as suggested by Lord Carnarvon when the preceding plan was found to have failed, to which Mr. Molteno was invited, but that gentleman would have nothing whatever to say about Confederation. A representative was invited also from the Orange Free State, but he likewise refused to have anything to do with Confederation; and Mr. Brand, the President of the Conference, said—"lam here with orders not to have anything to do with Confederation, and the moment that question is raised I shall retire from the room." At the Conference at home Lord Carnarvon addressed Sir Garnet Wolseley, two members from Natal, and Sir Theophilus Shepstone. These were the only persons present, and when things were examined closely it would be found that those members from Natal who did come home were treated very badly; because while they were in this country, Lord Carnarvon forwarded to the Cape a draft Bill which was not submitted to the consideration of the members from Natal until it had been sent back again. An examination of that Bill would, he thought, justify every word he had uttered in condemnation of the haste and the thoughtlessness with which the noble Lord's policy was pursued. The Bill was, in effect, the British Canadian Act with certain provisions left blank. The prime object for which the Dominion of Canada was established was not to unite Provinces together, but to dissolve the Provinces which had been united. Now, if any lesson was to be derived from Canada as applicable to South Africa, it had reference to dissolving the union between the Eastern and Western Pro- vinces. But this was not involved in the scheme. When the Canadian Bill was under the consideration of that House, the weakness and utterly unworkable character of a nominated Senate were pointed out. Well, since then it was known to have proved an utter failure, and that it had gathered to itself no respect, no authority, no weight in the Parliament of Canada; and yet Lord Carnarvon sent out this Bill for a nominated Senate in South Africa, although in the Cape Colony an elective Upper Chamber already existed. It was still more extraordinary that such a proposal should have been made to the Free States. Would any independent State think of sacrificing its independence by consenting to be put under the rule of a State, the Upper Chamber of which was nominated by the Crown? It was not proposed to enfranchise the Native population. The consequence was to produce such a disproportionate representation of interests between the two English States that Natal said—"We cannot have this. We have a small English population, but in other respects we bear a fair proportion to the Cape Colony. Can we enter into such an arrangement as will give us only a small representation?" The Natives were treated in different ways in Natal, in the Cape Colony, and in the Dutch Republic. When the scheme for a Conference came to an end and a scheme for a limited Conference at home was proposed, Lord Carnarvon requested the Governor of the Cape to send him the laws of the three States. This circumstance showed that at that period his Lordship did not know what were the laws of the three States relating to this subject. Was it reasonable to ask the South African States to adopt such a scheme as that involved in the Bill now before the House? Bit by bit everything had been taken out of it. It had been so maltreated by criticism in the Colonies that it was now reduced to a mere skeleton, which he did not think that House, with any sense of responsibility, could sanction. It was a Bill to enable certain States in South Africa to join in a Confederation. The Confederation was to be ruled by a Senate to be appointed as the Queen might direct; by a House of Commons consisting of such Members as the Queen might direct, to be apportioned as the Queen might direct, with such rules for the representation of the Native population as the Queen might direct, and such a distribution of powers as the Queen might direct. How was it to be supposed that the South African States would assent to a scheme which conferred such monstrous powers on the Executive? In being asked to sanction this Bill, the House was, in effect, being asked to lay down the abstract principle that we should hand over these colonies, which had absolutely repudiated the whole scheme, to the Colonial Secretary to deal with as he liked. He could not conceive that the House, realizing the force of the situation, would give its sanction to any such scheme; and he contended that they were not justified in putting such confidence in Lord Carnarvon, or any Colonial Secretary whatever. The Canadian Bill, as he had said, was one which originated in Canada, was perfected and worked out in that country, and then came before the British Legislature for approval; but this South Africa Bill originated in the minds of Sir Theophilus Shepstone and Lord Carnarvon, and had been rejected by the Cape Coast Colony, by Natal, and the Transvaal Republic. Besides, the House was asked to sanction a scheme of which the very conditions whereon that sanction was recommended had been ignored. Sir Theophilus Shepstone obtained the commission to go out to annex the Transvaal Republic, but on certain conditions — that, before doing so, he should obtain the consent of the people and the concurrence of the Governors of the colonies. But neither of those cenditions had been fulfilled. Sir Theophilus Shepstone had not used his influence with the Natives; he stopped at the Cape and at Natal, and then, when rumours of peace were rife, he marched out. By that time the dangers were over, and the Native Chiefs amenable. The Under Secretary to the Colonies had put forward as a reason for passing the Bill that there was a danger of the war in South Africa spreading, but that apprehension was not borne out by experience, as in the case of the Orange River State, and the argument had been disproved by the conduct of Sir Theophilus Shepstone himself and the reception he met with from the States now in question. Certainly, the more he considered the matter, the less he (Mr. Courtney) approved of it. The man was authorized to do a particular thing, and now they were to approve quite another achievement. Nor was the moment chosen a good one, for it was still more to be deplored if they considered the particular moment at which the annexation had been perpetrated? Was this a time to make annexations? There were some hon. Members of that House—probably a majority of the House—who looked to a time, perhaps not far distant, when they would have to remonstrate against, and perhaps even to take up arms against another Power. Were they prepared to give that other Power the opportunity of taunting them with what they had done now? Did they consider it good to go to South Africa and annex, on the feeblest of all pretences, this State, when they might have to discuss questions of annexation on the Bosphorus? This case would make them stand ashamed when their enemies were in the gate, and he was astonished that the act of annexation had not been repudiated by the Government. It might, indeed, be said that the thing was done, and could not be undone; but whether it could be undone depended upon the instrument chosen, and it was not impossible to rebuild the Transvaal Republic in a country where the corporate life was very feeble and the whole modus vivendi almost patriarchal. He heartily wished that the only question was the policy of Confederation in South Africa; but that was not so, and the House would have to judge of a policy hastily caught up and unwisely followed. Whether he was supported on that side of the House or not, he should fight against this Bill as much as he could. He opposed it because he believed Confederation to be inapplicable to South Africa, and that it would saddle the English taxpayer with costs and damages in defence of a policy which had been repudiated more than 20 years ago. He opposed it still more because it had involved them in a deed which made Englishmen blush, and which, if ratified, would bring disgrace and dishonour on the English people. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the rejection of the Bill.


said, he had not intended to have spoken, but as no one rose to second the Amendment just moved by the hon. Member behind him (Mr. Courtney) he, agreeing with it as he did, would do so. It would be absurd in him to go over the whole of the grounds upon which the Bill was liable to objection. The opposition which had been put forward to it by his hon. Friend was not, he believed, very popular on that side of the House; but that was probably because, as he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) thought, many hon. Members imagined that the question involved in the Bill under consideration was that of the annexation of the Transvaal Eepublic; and it was because he believed that the objections to the Bill would be just as strong, whether the annexation of the Transvaal was involved in it or not, that he wished to address a few remarks to the House. The Bill did not distinctly raise the question of the annexation, and it would be better, therefore, to reserve it for discussion on the Transvaal Vote. He had listened with the greatest astonishment to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, who, in moving the second reading of the Bill, could hardly be said to have spoken one word to the House on the merits of the proposition. He was amazed that the hon. Gentleman should have made his whole speech in defence of the annexation of the Transvaal Republic. There was much to be said for and against that annexation; but that was not the question now at issue before the House. The House had now to vote Aye or No to the Confederation of the South African States, in which the question of the annexation of the Transvaal was not distinctly involved. The Bill, in fact, seemed rather from its terms to contemplate the non-annexation of the Transvaal. In fact, the only clauses in the Bill which alluded to annexation were Clause 4 and one other which spoke of the Colonies voluntarily wishing to come into union; so that the only reference the Bill made to the Republic was one which treated it, not as a British Colony, but as a still independent Republic. With regard to the Bill on its merits, the burden of proof lay with those who proposed it, and it was not for others to give a great body of reasons why the Bill should not pass. He had not heard as yet any such arguments as should induce the House to pass the Bill, which, as had been admitted, was imposed on the Colonies by Lord Carnarvon. The Colonies did not accept it. They might sum up the case as between the Cape and Natal thus— that whatever scheme would be acceptable to the one, would be sure to be distasteful to the other. The Under Secretary of State for the Colonies had spoken of the Transvaal as having devised immense railway schemes, the proposals for which had thrown light on the financial rottenness of the State. But one of the great advantages from Confederation was the pushing of railway enterprize, and he would ask the Government to explain how railway matters were dealt with by the Bill. There was another question which laid at the root of the measure. What was "South Africa?" What were its "States and Colonies?" In connection with this point, he complained that the Bill was utterly vague in its character. There was nothing in it definite or tangible. The Government might, in fact, use it through the medium of Orders in Council to effect in South Africa any revolutionary change they liked. There was no definition in the Bill of what South Africa was, and under it all the States of Africa might be included in Confederation, not excepting Egypt itself. Besides, it was purely artificial in its construction; it did not indicate what was to be the policy of its authors, and nothing of an explanatory character had been heard from the front Opposition Bench. Further, with regard to the Transvaal, if they were not to discuss the Bill on its merits, he would ask the Under Secretary of State not only to produce his Vote of £100,000, but to give some intimation of the use to which the money was to be applied, as the House could not pass the Bill without being in some measure committed to the Vote. He was sorry to hear the remarks of the Under Secretary about the gentlemen who had come to this country to represent the interests of the late South African Government. His hon. Friend had said that these gentlemen had an interview with Sir Theophilus Shepstone, and that they had been offered employment by the British Government. That statement, coupled with the Vote of £100,000, would lead many to think that this union had been brought about in the same way as the Union between England and Ireland. All the newspapers of South Africa had stated over and over again that there was not likely to be much trouble with the leading men of the South African Republic, inasmuch as they would get high employment under the British Crown. The House ought to have some explanation of the position in which the Transvaal Republic was left by this annexation or semi-annexation. It was said that the Transvaal, at all events, voluntarily entered the union. But a regiment and a-half of British troops had marched in and were still in possession. Perhaps the Under Secretary of State would inform the House how the legislative assent of the Transvaal to the union was to be given to Lord Carnarvon under the Bill? And, then, what was to be the case with regard to the Orange Free State? Considering the unconstitutional nature of the Bill, he should certainly pause, if a different explanation from what we had already received was not given, before assenting to the second reading of the Bill.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Courtney.)


regretted that the question of the annexation of the Transvaal had been mixed up with the question of Confederation, because he held the Bill now before the House to be an urgent measure and necessary for South Africa. That was not only his opinion, but it was the opinion of the present Secretary of State, and of two preceding Secretaries of State. Certain charges had been made against Sir Theophilus Shepstone on account of the annexation of the Transvaal. He was glad that the Government had taken the responsibility for the annexation in advance upon themselves; for however great might be the ability and judgment of an officer, it would not be right to place upon him the responsibility of taking so grave a step as annexation. In the instructions to Sir Theophilus Shepstone there were certain conditions attached to annexation, the first being that it should be necessary for the peace and safety of our Colonies. In his opinion it could be shown that the peace and safety of the Colonies were endangered by the state of things in the Transvaal. The next condition was that Sir Theophilus Shepstone should have the assent of a sufficient number of the people to the change. By "sufficient" he thought was meant, not that Sir Theophilus Shepstone should have the formal assent of the majority of the inhabitants, but that he should have satisfied himself that a sufficient number of persons approved of the change, so as to ensure that change being effected not only without disturbance or breach of peace, but to the general contentment of the people. The third condition was that he should submit the proclamation to Sir Henry Barkly. He thought it would not be difficult to show that Sir Theophilus Shepstone had fulfilled these conditions. What did he find? He found on one hand an aggressive Government, relying, mistakenly as the result proved, on their own resources, making unwarrantable claims of territory to East and West of the Republic. This was not done without earnest warnings from Lord Carnarvon, who pointed out more than once that in the interests of South Africa such claims could not be allowed by Her Majesty's Government; that they would inevitably lead to collision with the Natives, and raise complications which might affect the peace and security of our Colonies. He found this Government defeated, absolutely bankrupt, disorganized, distrusted by and unable to defend their own people. On the other hand, he found a warlike nation— the Zulus—flushed with the victory they had obtained over the Boers, proud of defeating the white men, thoroughly well armed, and combining with other tribes around them to attack the white men. He found also a sham peace which had been hastily patched up, and which was characterized as a "happy illusion." As to the Natives being well armed, he would not rely only on Sir Theophilus Shepstone's report of their "almost universal possession of rifles," but would cite Consul Elton's Report of 1877 for the year 1876. He says— Trade in arms and ammunition continues to flourish, and it is notoriously a fact that both the Zulu nations and tribes bordering on the Transvaal are now provided with good arms and ammunition. It was difficult to conceive a state of things more dangerous to the Transvaal and to the colonists. As to the Transvaal, their weakness invited attack from without, and their Government must have fallen from troubles within. It could not be argued that Sir Theophilus Shepstone was prejudiced, and described the state of things in too dark colours, because President Burgers, in his addresses to the Raad, entirely confirms that view. He describes their bankrupt and disorganized condition, which it would require little short of a miracle to put right, and in strong terms he blames the people for their disloyalty to the State. If one reads between the lines of his speech, one sees that he points not only to Confederation as expedient, but to annexation as possible. With respect again to the great danger to the peace and security of the Colonies, he did not rely solely on the statement of Sir Theophilus Shepstone. Sir Henry Barkly, Sir Henry Bulwer, and several magistrates all agreed on this point, especially with reference to the Colony of Natal. How could it be otherwise? In Natal there was a handful of white men surrounded by Natives. And these Natives were not, as in other places, disappearing before civilization and brandy, but they were increasing in numbers annually in proportion to the white inhabitants. That, be it observed, was mainly owing to that just and liberal treatment of them which might be said to have been initiated and carried out by Sir Theophilus Shepstone. He thought the other conditions imposed on Sir Theophilus Shepstone had been complied with. A large number of the Transvaal people had assented to the change. The statement of Sir Theophilus Shepstone showed that during his stay in the capital he had numerous interviews with all classes of the inhabitants, who showed a most friendly feeling and a conviction that his mission offered the only possible solution of their difficulties. Numerous addresses had been sent to him, and memorials had been subsequently forwarded to the Government. All the towns and villages had expressed their approval of it. The whole country was rejoicing at the change. Sir Henry Barkly had left before the proclamation was issued; but Sir Theophilus Shepstone was well aware of Sir Henry Barkly's views, and he was not bound in all cases to submit the proclamation to the Governor of the Cape. He had a discretion vested in him by the express terms of his commission, which he had wisely exercised. As showing the necessity for the annexation, he would call attention to the fact that it was approved of in the Cape Colony, though in the Western part of that Colony there would be great sympathy with the Boers: and he believed there had been only one protest raised in the Orange Free State, though that State would be jealously alive to any change that added to the power of the British Government. Turning from this subject to the question of Confederation, it had been said by the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) that Lord Carnarvon had acted most improperly in pressing this measure on the Colonies and States. But in 1875, when the question arose as to the Conference, a resolution was passed by the Legislative Council of Natal strongly in favour of the Conference and of a closer union of the Colonies, and the same year the subject was favourably discussed by the Orange River Legislative Council, who thanked Lord Carnarvon for the warm interest taken by him in South Africa; so that it could by no means be assumed that Lord Carnarvon's conduct had been treated as improper by the Colonies. Indeed, it would be found that although the Cape Ministry at first opposed the Conference from a misapprehension of Lord Carnarvon's views, the whole of the Eastern part of the Colony and a majority in the Western part were in favour of a careful discussion of the question. He cordially agreed with the object of the Bill—to promote Confederation in South Africa— and with the arrangements by which it was proposed to be carried out. It was to be observed that while Lord Carnarvon had been guided in framing this scheme by the plan which had been adopted in confederating the Provinces in British North America, and which had most thoroughly answered, he did not, when sending it out, in any way bind himself to the clauses as they stood. They were merely sent out for consideration; and suggestions which had been made in the Colonies had been adopted and incorporated in this Bill. It might, therefore, be assumed without doubt that the scheme in principle met with the approval of the Colonies. It might be, after all, that not one of them would adopt the Bill, for it was permissive; but, at all events, it was important to them to have a scheme the details of which they were at liberty to fill up; and it was important to them to know how far they could go with the assent of the Imperial Government; and, further, that any laws affecting the Natives must be reserved for the approval of Her Majesty. The Preamble of the Bill clearly pointed out that it was expedient to declare and define the general principles upon which a union might be established, and to enable the details of the Constitution and of the establishments to be provided for after the wishes of the Colonies and States interested had been duly represented to Her Majesty through their respective Legislatures. The words "as the Queen may direct," which had been commented upon, referred only to the period anterior to the agreement of any two Colonies to confederate; and when once a Union Parliament had met, the authority of the Queen in Council would cease, except as to points in respect of which the Eoyal Prerogative was specially preserved. He heartily commended the Bill to the House, and he was satisfied the Colonies would accept it gratefully, even although they might not choose to act upon it at once.


would vote in favour of the Bill by way of assenting to a general proposition, that Confederation was the best thing that could happen to the South African States; but he regretted the manner in which it had been introduced, because the subject was independent of the Transvaal annexation, which could have been explained at another time, and the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies said nothing at all about the real reason for introducing the Bill, nor had he explained any of its provisions as might have been expected. If he had wished to introduce the Transvaal annexation into the debate, he might have done so in a perfectly legitimate manner by stating that which was doubtless the fact—namely, that the Bill had been drawn long before the annexation had been thought of. As far as that matter was concerned, he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) was bound to say that of the annexation itself he approved, and he endorsed the action of the Government with regard to it. He believed it was not only justified, but that it was absolutely necessary. It was all very well to talk about the beauty of the Dutch Government, of which the hon. Member for Liskeard was so enamoured, but careful study would show that there were some drawbacks to it when administered in the Colonies of South Africa. It was said by the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) that we were wrong in having annexed the Transvaal, and that our system of government was unsuited to that country, and would not succeed, because we governed upon different principles from the Dutch in South Africa. Thank God we did, and it was because we did that the Natives appreciated the blessings of British rule as much as they detested that of the Boers, whose whole history in South Africa had been a record of cruelty and oppression towards the Natives and of rapacity in annexation of Native lands. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of the immigration of the Boers in 1834, and he had depicted them as honest farmers, only desirous of settling down quietly, but followed by the cruel British Government, who never would lot them alone, but drove them from place to place, always claiming sovereignty over them, and eventually allowed them to become a Free State, hoping that they might act as "buffers" between our colonies and the Natives. But the hon. Member's reading of history was by no means correct. What was the cause of the immigration of the Boers in 1834? The Boers immigrated in 1834 because they would not submit to the abolition of slavery, and instead of being a buffer between us and the Natives, by their rapacity and wrongdoing they continually stirred up strife and exposed us to constantly increasing dangers. The truth was that they wished for the advantages and privileges of British subjects without discharging those obligations which Great Britain required from her Colonies. So far as the Transvaal was concerned, full explanation could be given of the annexation when the £100,000 was asked for; but financial considerations must be thrown to the winds when the honour, dignity and interests of the British Empire and the safety of European colonists were as much at stake as they were in this case. The annexation was absolutely neeessary for the security, not only of the British Possessions, but of all European settlers in South Africa. He (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) agreed with the hon. Member for Liskeard, that they should speak in that House under a sense of responsibility, and he was surprised that immediately after uttering that sentiment he had gone on to say that we had "acted with violence towards the Transvaal, accompanied by something very like fraud," and that Sir Theophilus Shepstone had acted as one "clad with a little brief authority," and not as he should have acted. With all respect for the hon. Member for Liskeard, he ought not to have made such charges against the Government and its officials, unless he had been able to say something more in justification of them; and the hon. Member had no right to speak as he did of everything having been done in inconceivable ignorance about the Colonies. In saying this he did not absolutely endorse all the actions of Lord Carnarvon, and, particularly, he never could understand the object of sending out Mr. Froude, who had better have stayed at-home, as his hon. Friend remarked, and finished his history. If the British Government had good and efficient Governors at the Cape and at Natal, all necessary information might and should have been obtained through them, and it was a slight upon them to send out a stranger to carry on negotiations respecting a matter concerning the Colonies which they governed. This was the more inexcusable when they had as Governor of Cape Colony Sir Henry Barkly, than whom there was no man of higher standing, greater ability, and tried probity in the Colonial Service. The hon. Member said that we were reversing the wise policy of 20 years ago, when the Orange River Territory was abandoned. But he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) would not scruple to say in his place in that House that in his opinion there never was a greater mistake than that committed 20 years ago. The Orange River Territory was annexed by proclamation issued by Sir Harry Smith. The only possible solution of the existing difficulty at that time was to bring it under British authority. An unhappy idea of economy soon afterwards seized this country, and the troubles that had ever since occurred in consequence were inconceivable. Lord Grey had written a despatch to say that England had no interest in keeping that territory, unless the majority of the inhabitants would support her authority. He left office, and Sir John Pakington, who followed, was in favour of aban- donment. Then came Lord Aberdeen's Government, and Sir George Clerk was sent out by the Duke of Newcastle to do a certain thing, and he did it, and it was under the Duke of Newcastle that the abandonment was effected. There was a party in the State who were in favour of abandonment, but there was a stronger party against it, and it was in order to save expense, and not because it was the wish of the people, that the abandonment policy was adopted by the British Government. In fact there were many Petitions against the abandonment. General Cathcart had just won the battle of Berea, the expense was over, the difficulties past, and all would have gone on well, but for the fear of the Home Government, lest the British taxpayer should cry out, and their consequent fatal policy of abandonment at the very moment when the fruits of success had been obtained and tranquillity established. The territory got into difficulties immediately afterwards, and as his hon. Friend had said, the inhabitants actually petitioned to be taken back under British protection but were unfortunately refused. The hon. Member for Liskeard said that the Orange River Territory had been ever since continually prosperous. He did not know what his hon. Friend called prosperous, but he had himself told the House in his next sentence that one in five of the adult inhabitants engaged in the war with the Basutos had been killed. And what was that war? A contest between the Boers of the Orange Free State and the tribe of Moshesh, in which the Boers, when victorious, always annexed more of that Chief's land until at last he came under British Sovereignty to save the rest. And what was the language of the hon. Member for Liskeard as to the Orange Free State? He said "we took the Diamond Fields to which the Orange Free State had claims, and we have since practically admitted their claim by paying them £90,000 to relinquish it." Well, there were some people in this country who invariably took part against their own countrymen in all these matters, and here his hon. Friend and Mr. Froude were much alike, for so partial was the latter to the Boers that he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) had heard that they said of him that he was a good friend to them but must be a bad Englishman. But this language respecting the Diamond Fields gave quite a wrong idea of the real facts. He contended that the action of the late Government in regard to the Diamond Fields was perfectly justifiable, while the payment of £90,000 to settle the claims set up was one of the most questionable acts of Lord Carnarvon's Government. The Orange Free River State claimed the whole of this territory. They made themselves judges in their own cause, and refused all arbitration. When Waterboer, the Chief who claimed this territory, disputed some of the documents they brought in support of their claim, they quietly went on without him and divided it between themselves and the Transvaal Republic. When they afterwards attempted to show some of their proofs to Sir Henry Barkly, their documents were of a very suspicious character, and one purported to be a letter from a Chief named Cornelius Kok, who was proved and admitted to have been unable to write. Waterboer had the best claim, and he had come under British Sovereignty. The annexation was most wise and desirable. he believed that Lord Carnarvon had paid 'this £90,000 for a claim which was worthless, partly with a view to dispose the Free State towards Confederation, but he doubted whether it would have that effect. Since the Transvaal had been annexed, the Free State would be almost entirely surrounded by British territory, and would have less difficulty in resisting the Natives on their frontier. With regard to the Bill before the House, the second reading was not a stage for criticizing the details too closely. Members on his (the Opposition) side would not prefer a nominated Council if they could get an elective Council; but it would not be fair to reject the Bill on this ground until they had heard the arguments of the Government in Committee. No doubt a Confederation of the South African States would be a most excellent thing if it could be effected so that the Natives might have confidence that the same equal laws would be administered over the whole of the South African States. He should be sorry to say anything harsh of foreign colonists, but truth must be told, and there had been acts of oppression committed against the Natives By two of these communities which were a disgrace to any civilized Governments. He sincerely hoped the Orange Free State would willingly come into the Confederation. He believed the Orange Free State would receive considerable benefit from this annexation from the increased security of its frontier. With regard to the second reading of this Bill, he must say that, while he reserved to himself the utmost liberty in the consideration of it in Committee, he could not do otherwise than record his vote in favour of the second reading. He thought it was the duty of anyone who had held the office which he had held, and who knew the great responsibility of managing Colonial affairs, to give a fair and generous support to the Government, which had attempted to do a great work in South Africa. With regard to what had been said respecting the interests of the Cape Colony and Natal being opposed, he did not understand that it was intended that precisely the same laws upon every subject should obtain in every State that might be confederated. But what was intended was that with regard to matters of general importance, such, for instance, as the importation and sale of arms, and more especially as to the manner of dealing with the Native tribes, the same principles should prevail; they would not have English principles upon one side of a river and Dutch principles upon the other, but equal laws would be administered to all in South Africa. He regretted the expressions which had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard against the course adopted by Sir Theophilus Shepstone, who was a gentleman of ability and great administrative power, and who had only done that which he felt it was necessary for him to do. He believed Sir Theophilus Shepstone had acted from the best of motives, and he gave his support to the Government with regard to the annexation. He hoped the Colonies of South Africa would be welded into one Confederation, and when they were thus confederated we might hope that South Africa would make a great stride forward in improvement.


in supporting the Bill, defended Mr. Froude from the strictures passed upon him by the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), and said, it was a matter of considerable importance that the House should learn distinctly from the Treasury, whether they were warranted in supposing, as they had told the House, that a large portion, if not all, of this Supplementary Vote of £100,000 would be returned to us from Local Revenue. The grounds on which he desired to support the Bill were two-fold. He thought it would not only produce the very great advantage which proverbially resulted from union, but that it would produce a great advantage by making the work of responsible government in the Cape of Good Hope more possible and more successful, and ultimately he trusted that the system of responsible government would be extended to all the groups of Colonies which were to be in this Confederation. Another effect of the Bill would, no doubt, be to lessen the evil of the multiplication of instruments of government; for the Colonies had a great tendency to increase indefinitely the different Departments under which they were governed. Those who had studied the history of our South African Colonies knew very well that in times past, when we spent millions upon the Kaffir War, one of the causes of that expenditure was, that the interests of the frontier tribes were not identical with those the colonists of the Cape. It was perfectly notorious that a large portion of commissariat expenditure at that time went into the pockets of the colonists of the Cape. The very circumstance that our South African Colonies were largely inhabited by warlike races constituted a strong argument in favour of Confederation from a military point of view. Confederation would reduce the temptation to engage in war as between the colonists and the Native races. He hoped we were not going to have war; but we must be prepared for that contingency. But, whatever happened at the Cape, he hoped we should not be guilty of our old error of sending large numbers of troops to these Colonies, because experience had proved, especially in New Zealand and at the Cape, that the troops for these Colonies ought mainly to consist of local levies. He hoped the House would pass the Bill; but great care would be necessary in considering its details; for instance, with regard to the Council, he hoped the existing provision would be amended so that it should be an elected, instead of a nominated, Council.


having special and personal knowledge of the course of Sir Theophilus Shepstone's administration at Natal during 30 years, wished to deny the accuracy of the charges that had been brought against that gentleman of having been guilty of aggression and oppression, and of having exceeded his authority. Those charges evinced a reckless disregard of the circumstances of the case, for during that period Sir Theophilus Shepstone had not only administered the affairs of that country without giving offence to the Natives, but had preserved peace throughout the entire district. Long before Lord Carnarvon took steps for establishing a Confederation among these Provinces Sir Theophilus Shepstone had been requested to intervene. There was another matter which deserved the careful consideration of Her Majesty's Government. The Sultan of Zanzibar had implored the British Government, through that gentleman, to assist him in developing the immense territory nominally subjected to him which stretched towards the inland lakes of Africa, with the view of putting an end to the slave trade which flourished there.


rose to Order. He wished to know whether the hon. Member was in Order in discussing the propositions of the Sultan of Zanzibar on the second reading of that Bill.


ruled that the hon. Member was in Order.


in conclusion, repeated his protest against the undeserved attacks which had been made upon Sir Theophilus Shepstone, and hoped the Government would favourably consider the request of the Sultan of Zanzibar to which he had referred.


said, he felt obliged to vote against the Bill. If it had been drawn with less vagueness his objections might possibly have disappeared. He was not at all satisfied that sufficient precautions would be taken to secure to the Native populations, under the new system, those rights to which they were entitled, and it mixed up the Transvaal question with the other objects of the Bill. The Dutch appeared to be far from satisfied with the treatment their kindred had received from us in South Africa, for in Holland he had seen in circulation a number of protests, on the part of the Dutch population, on the subject, in which everything that the Under Secretary for the Colonies had painted white was in those protests painted distinctly black.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 81; Noes 19: Majority 62.—(Div. List, No. 226.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.