§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, between the 26th January, the date of the receipt of the first proposals of President Brand to mediate, and the 27th February, the date of the last of the three reverses with heavy loss of life experienced by British troops, any telegram was sent by Her Majesty's Government to the late Sir George Colley, directing him either to suspend hostile operations or to obtain from Boers armistice, for consideration of "guarantees under which armed opposition would cease" (President Brand telegram, Jan. 29th, page 86, South Africa Papers (C. 2783), 1881)?
I will endeavour, Sir, to give the noble Lord an answer in the clearest terms I can command; and in order to make my answer quite clear, I may remind him and the House that, in reply to communications from Mr. Kruger, certain announcements were made to the Boers with a view to a settlement, and Sir George Colley was told to allow a reasonable time for the transmission of those announcements and the receipt of an answer from the Boers. The instructions given for his conduct before the receipt of the answer have already been stated in their full substance to the House; but, further, he was instructed to the following effect—that if the proposal of the Government were accepted, he was in that case authorized to agree to a suspension of hostilities. We have never directed our Commanders to ask for or obtain an armistice; but we entirely approve of the conduct of General Sir Evelyn Wood.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
asked, Whether the right hon. Gentleman could give the dates of the communications?
It would, Sir, be rather difficult for me to give them from memory; but I think I stated yesterday that the 16th of February was the date of the instructions relating to the conduct of General Sir George Colley during the interval before the answer of 552 the Boers was received, and I believe it was on the 19th—not later—that the instructions were given which I have just explained to the House, when, if the propositions were accepted, Sir George Colley was authorized to agree to an armistice.
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the proposal for the armistice with the Boers proceeded from Her Majesty's Representative in South Africa after the knowledge of the defeat of Her troops on Sunday 27th February; and, if so, whether such step had the direct sanction of Her Majesty's Government? He wished also to know, Whether any active steps had been taken to promote an armistice since the 27th of February?
I think not, Sir; but, at the same time, I do not like to answer a question of dates, or one involving a matter of dates, without having power of reference. But with respect to the other part of the Question of the hon. Gentleman, I would only say that I do not wish to be considered as being a party to a statement that the proposal for the armistice with the Boers proceeded from Her Majesty's Representative in South Africa. That is a matter upon which our information may henceforward be fuller than it is at present; but, so far as I am able to judge, I could not affirm that proposition. Undoubtedly, whatever Sir Evelyn Wood has done in becoming a party to the conclusion of an armistice must have been done in full cognizance of what was done on the Sunday.
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
gave Notice that, on Thursday, he would again ask specifically, Whether Her Majesty's Government had taken any active steps whatever since the disaster of the 27th of February towards the promotion of an armistice?