HC Deb 03 August 1882 vol 273 cc633-8

said, he rose to call attention to the recent despatches of the Secretary of State for the Colonies regarding responsible government in Natal with special reference to the policy pursued towards the Native subjects of the British Crown in South Africa, and to move for Papers on the subject. He was anxious that Great Britain should occupy the South rather than the North of Africa, yet we had practically no power over the South African Colonies, which might at any time decide to proclaim themselves independent. He had had his Motion on the Paper for a long time, and the importance of it had now to a certain extent died out, as the Colony of Natal had shown its indisposition to accept responsible government in the terms in which it was offered by Her Majesty's Government; but the fact remained, nevertheless, that Her Majesty's Government did absolutely propose to make over to a body of Colonists, variously estimated at from 20,000 to 30,000, the rule and dominion over 400,000 black Natives of the territory. No opportunity would be given to the Natives, or to the British Parliament, to express any opinion beforehand as to the justice or propriety of a proceeding which embraced the fortunes, not only of these immediate 400,000, but to a large extent of the hundreds of thousands of Natives beyond the border, who, unlike the Maoris, rather increased in number and vitality than succumbed to the White man. He was not one of the "Rule Britannia" school. He was in no degree in favour of extending our Empire; but he felt that we must exercise great care and great consideration before we withdrew from an Empire and a rule which we had already exercised, and it was in that sense that his mind had been a good deal exercised in regard to the policy which successive Governments of Her Majesty seemed to be bent on carrying out in South Africa. It seemed to him that the Natives of South Africa, who were now subjects of the British Crown, had a very strong case indeed for the continuance of the protection which had hitherto been accorded to them. It was unfortunately the case that where the mercantile interests of these islands were concerned, the people were much more disposed to take strong views with regerd to empire than to strictly observe the principles of faith and honour. This mode of conduct was strikingly displayed in our treatment of the Basutos, who had given up their independence on condition of being protected, and were then, without any consultation of their wishes, handed over to the Government of a Colony. He was in favour of retaining British control over the Native States of South Africa on various grounds. These Natives had already been receiving the protection of the British Crown, and in justice that protection could not suddenly be withdrawn. This policy might impose certain burdens on this country; but they would not be great, as, with the exception of the Zulus, the Natives were peaceable and docile, and the further one went into the interior the more peaceable they were. To afford this protection contingents from the Sikhs, Afghans, Beloochees, and other Indian troops might be employed. The climate would suit them; it would enable British troops to be employed elsewhere, which, owing to the smallness of the Army, would be an advantage, and a larger Indian force might be maintained, without keeping too many Indian soldiers in India. The South African Natives, when civilized, were a peaceful, hard-working people, quite capable of becoming good subjects, and especially capable of becoming good Christians. Further, it would be for all parties better that, under English guidance, these Colonies should eventually become English-speaking Colonies than Dutch-speaking Colonies, in some respects antagonistic to us. The more this subject was discussed, the more was he convinced that while our highway to India through the Suez Canal was very useful in time of peace, our real resource, in a time of difficulty and war, was the route by the Cape, and it was, therefore, of the utmost importance that we should maintain our hold on the South African Colonies. He begged to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty that She will he graciously pleased to give directions that there he laid before this House, further Papers relating to the policy pursued by the Government of Natal towards the Native subjects of the British Crown,"—(Sir George Campbell,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he desired to point out that, although the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) began by admitting that the time for bringing forward his Resolution had passed, as the Colony of Natal had recently declined to accept responsible government, yet he had managed to bring into his speech a variety of subjects, and had stated views as to the proper mode of dealing with the Natives in South Africa, in which he (Sir Henry Holland) hoped very few Members would be found to concur. The hon. Member had not hesitated to declare that this country ought to take under its direct protection and care all the Natives outside the Colonies. This was a very sweeping proposal; and the way in which it was to be worked out, if he had rightly understood the hon. Member, was most extraordinary. First, he proposed to flood the poor Natives with Sikhs, Beloochistanees, and other Indian troops; secondly, to make the Natives pay all the expenses, so that this country should not be mulcted; and, thirdly, to make them all Christians. The question how to deal with Natives outside the Colonial frontiers was grave enough; but it could hardly be disposed of in this off-hand manner. Then, as regarded Natives within our Colonies, the hon. Member said he would not go into detail; and it was fortunate he did not, for it would have been very difficult for him to show from the correspondence that Her Majesty's Government were prepared to hand over the absolute government of the Natives to the Colonists upon their acceptance of responsible government. He (Sir Henry Holland) should be very much surprised if hon. Members on the Government Bench assented to this view. In truth, the very reverse was the fact, for the Government made it an express condition that all legislation affecting the Natives should be subject to the consideration and, if necessary, veto of the Home Government. But he (Sir Henry Holland) had interfered in the debate mainly to protest against it being thought, as the hon. Member seemed to think, that the Natives were now unfairly treated and oppressed by the Colonists. The hon. Member had drawn a contrast in this respect between the Cape Colony and Natal in favour of the former. He (Sir Henry Holland), while contending that the Natives in the Cape Colony were well treated, was satisfied that they were not less well treated in Natal. During all the time that Sir Theophilus Shepstone managed Native affairs the greatest consideration was shown to them; and he asserted, from his experience at the Colonial Office, that, as a rule, the Natives were well satisfied and content. The best proof of this was, that during all the time when there was so much disturbance in Zululand, and elsewhere outside the Colonial frontiers, the Natives within the borders remained quiet, and, indeed, supported the Colonial cause. And, as a further proof, he would point to their increase of numbers, and to their increasing wealth and prosperity, and generally improved condition. These were facts, and he had thought it only due to the Colonists to rise in his place and defend them against attacks of this kind. There were no grounds for assuming that the case would be different if they had responsible government; but, if they were so inclined, the Home Government had reserved a power to interfere.


said, that during the 10 or 15 minutes his hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy had addressed the House, he had managed to introduce more new ideas, more average questions, and more involved and insoluble problems than he had ever heard in one speech before. The questions of the disposition of the Indian Army, of the Constitutional rights of interposition, of the general question of Colonial Government, he would, with the hon. Member's permission, pass by. With respect to Natal, that Colony was quite an exception among our Colonies. It enjoyed a representative system of its own to a certain extent, but had not full responsibility. His hon. Friend was perfectly right in saying that the question of full, responsible, representative institutions was not the pressing question. He begged distinctly to express his agreement with his hon. Friend opposite (Sir Henry Holland) as to the conduct of the Colonists to the Natives. There was, no doubt, great temptation to a certain class among the Colonists to trespass on the rights of the Natives. But he was convinced that the great body of the Colonists did not do so. He wished to tell his hon. Friend that there was no such thing as a particular territory occupied by the Natives, while the rest was given up to the Colonists. The Natives and Whites freely intermingled with each other, and were on the best terms. Lord Kimberley, in his recent despatch on the question of responsible self-government in the Colony, had dwelt on the importance of securing the rights of the Natives in their locations. These "locations" were a very different thing from a territory. They were lands vested in trustees for the good of the Natives, and Lord Kimberley desired to see the Natives secured in the enjoyment of them. There could be no doubt that, if the offer of self-government had been accepted by the people of Natal, the Colonial Office would have taken care that the provisions hitherto made for the protection and prosperity of the Native population should be secured to them by legislative enactment. The Basuto Question was entirely distinct. After the receipt of Lord Kimberley's despatch, the Colonial Assembly was dissolved in order to obtain the opinion of the people by a fresh election on the questions submitted to them by that despatch. No official information or Papers had been received, and for the present he could say no more on the subject.


said, that as there were no Papers to give, he would, of course, withdraw his Motion. He wished to explain, however, that he in no degree charged the people or the Government of Natal with oppressing the Natives.


said, he thought the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy did well to keep a sharp look-out on the treatment of the Natives of South Africa. When the South Africa Bill was under discussion, he (Mr. O'Donnell) had succeeded in passing an Amendment, the effect of which had been described in the statement that Natal was forbidden to annex anything. The Bill had been virtually dropped, and after five years the Government had recognized that the Irish Members were fully justified in the 26 hours' vehement opposition which they offered to it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."