HC Deb 29 July 1885 vol 300 cc455-68

(2.) £24,690, to complete the sum for South Africa and St. Helena.


I think, probably, I can save the time of the Committee by rising at once, in connection with this Vote, to make a few observations by way of explanation. It seems to be supposed by some hon. Members that I am going to make a general statement in regard to South Africa; but I do not find myself in a position to do that at the present time. I hope the Committee will understand that at the present moment we find ourselves, so to speak, in an intermediate position of affairs. The Expedition which was sent out to South Africa by the late Government, under the command of Sir Charles Warren, has, I am happy to say, fulfilled the primary duties expected of it. Under that able Commander it has fulfilled these duties without bloodshed, and in a manner which seems to have carried out most efficiently the objects for which it was sent out. Sir Charles Warren, I think it may be fairly said, has, by the manner in which he has performed his task, added to the lustre that already attached to his name. On the other hand, I must not be allowed to pass by this subject without one word of commendation of the present High Commissioner at the Cape, who has discharged his duties towards Her Majesty's Government with great loyalty and fidelity, and under circumstances of somewhat considerable difficulty. Speaking as I do in the present state of affairs, I am sorry to say that I am unable to offer to the Committee any very definite information with regard to the immediate future. I think I have led the Committee to believe that I am not likely to make a statement of any very startling character; and, even if I had no other reason for it, this consideration would greatly weigh with me—that in all these matters we require to proceed as calmly and dispassionately as possible. If I endeavour to lay my hand on what seems to me to have been a special fault of our South African policy in times past, it seems to me to have been this—that it has been a policy of vacillation, and that the hot fit of sending out Expeditions has, on the other hand, almost inevitably been succeeded by the cold fit of returning and leaving the Colony to its own devices. Therefore, for all these reasons I hope that in the course of the next few months we may proceed with care and moderation; that we may take the situation as we find it; and that we may make the best of it, endeavouring simply to promote, as far as we can, the welfare of the people who are placed under our rule. Endeavouring, without necessarily adhering in all details to the policy of our Predecessors, and without, on the other hand, attempting anything in the nature—which I should be sorry to attempt—of a policy of reversal, but acting on the information which we are in the course of receiving almost daily, I hope we may approach this great question in the manner which it deserves, and deal with it in a mode which may offer for the future some reasonable assurance that these questions will not be dealt with in the spasmodic manner in which, unfortunately, they have been dealt with heretofore. Well, Sir, this Vote is of great importance, and the questions which will arise in connection with it are of the very widest possible description. In the course of an answer which I gave to a Question the other day, it was my duty to say that an offer had been made of the cession of a vast and rather undefined piece of territory North of the Protectorate. Upon that matter I am bound to say that I think it extremely desirable for the Government to act with extreme care. We have learned a bitter lesson by those vague extensions of undefined territory; and it is by no means clear that the offer, however liberal it may appear to have been under the circumstances in which it was made, is one which the Government could at all be disposed to accept without the very gravest consideration, not only as to immediate, but as to future consequences. Still, Sir, it would be to defeat the very object for which I rose if I went into details on this matter. This lean say—Sir Charles Warren's Expedition, having primarily established order on the boundaries, and having dispossessed those who, without authority, had occupied the land in the Protectorate, has now achieved its first purpose; and acting in conjunction with the High Commissioner, and with Sir Charles Warren himself, we look forward, not to the entire abolition of this Force, but to its early diminution, and to the substitution, as far as may be, of the force of Regular soldiers now there, by a body of police, more suitable for the work to be done. This, of course, can only be carried out gradually and after consultation with those authorities who, being upon the spot, are best able to judge of the special necessities of the case; and I am not without hope that some of those who are in the Force—a great many of them—which has done admirable service, may be induced to form a part of this new Force, thus bringing to the Border work the experience which they have gained in the course of this year's Expedition. I do not think that I shall be guilty of any indiscretion in saying I hope this Force may be placed under the command of an officer who knows the country well, and who has distinguished himself on many occasions — namely, Colonel Carrington. The immediate details of the expenditure do not come within my view; but I am in communication with one of the authorities of the War Office, who I have every reason to trust. I am in- formed that, so far as present knowledge goes, it is not likely that the Vote for which Parliament has been asked will be exceeded. There is, indeed, every reason to hope that the Expedition will be brought successfully to an end within the amount Parliament has voted. Of course, we do not lose sight of the importance of reducing, as early as possible, the Force which was sent out for a special purpose. It is in no way intended to form that Force into a permanent garrison. We shall do all we can at the present, however, to maintain law and order in the territory of which our troops are in occupation. But as the Committee are aware, arrangements have to be made, not only as regards ourselves, but as regards the Colonies, and especially Cape Colony. The nature of the final arrangements depends so largely upon the action of the Colonial Parliament, however, that I do not think I am in a position to make any definite announcement at this moment. I am sorry I am not in a position to give the Committee at this moment any further information. I beg to assure the Committee that I am in no way anxious to keep anything back.


regretted that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would not be in a position to tell them before the Session came to an end what decision the Government had come to with regard to the ultimate destination of the Protectorate—whether it was to be under Imperial or Colonial Government; still he was fully aware of the intricate and difficult nature of the question. He was aware that it was difficult, having regard to the Colonial complications and jealousies, to make any distinct announcement that evening. Still, while it was true that they should avoid spasmodic action in South Africa, he would remind the right hon. and I gallant Gentleman that delay often created difficulties which an early settlement might obviate; and he thought this question of the destination of the Protectorate, whether it was under Imperial or Colonial ride, was nearly ripe for settlement. As the Government wished to get the Vote that night, it would be very wrong of him if he obstructed them by entering into a discussion upon South African politics, although he should like to do so under other circumstances. Reference had been made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to the Expedition sent out by the late Government. He ventured to claim for that Expedition a very largo amount of success. It was an Expedition which had done immense service to South Africa; and although it had cost money, no blood had been spilt, and the money, he ventured to say, had been well spent. The late Government owed their success in that Expedition greatly to the wisdom they showed in the selection of Sir Charles Warren; and, although the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) the other day said that Sir Charles Warren was guilty of great indiscretion, and was totally I unfit for the place he occupied, and that his conduct had aroused a bitter feeling in South Africa, he begged, with all due deference to his hon. Friend, to differ from him. There was no doubt Sir Charles Warren had a good deal of the fortiter in re not always combined with the suaviter in modo; but the Government sent him out as the man who would act fortiter in re, and as the man most likely to meet with the favour of the people among whom he had to act. What they must remember was this—that in a half-civilized country, such as he had to deal with, diplomacy and attempts at conciliation were not liked or appreciated. What those races in South Africa liked to feel was that they had a strong man who was just, and who wished to be just; but they did not appreciate any attempts at mere diplomatic conciliation. No doubt, they might find fault with certain expressions he might have used, and on particular occasions he might have kept silence; but he had to contend with an element which was distinctly antagonistic to the work he had to carry forward, and it was only by means of great determination that he was able to fulfil his task. The Boer element in South Africa, however, appreciated his work, and no real ill-feeling had occurred in consequence of his action. He would like to say one word in regard to Sir Hercules Robinson, and what had been said of the disputes between him and Sir Charles Warren. They must all appreciate his services, and he was, without doubt, a most valued servant of the Crown. He might point out, however, that Sir Hercules Robinson, living in Cape Town, and surrounded by an- tagonistic influences, was not in a position to judge so well as Sir Charles Warren could of the actual necessities of the case, and the bearings of the questions at issue. As to the future, he gathered from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that he was not hesitating about adopting the Protectorate announced by the late Government, but that he was hesitating — rightly and justly, as he thought—as to whether he should listen to the claims of those who had asked them to go further North to the Zambesi. He would just answer one question which had been put by his hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), who had asked why the late Government should extend the Protectorate, pointing out in reference to the trade route that the districts mentioned were nearer to the sea East and West than to the Cape Colony by the trade routes. But let him inform his hon. Friend that the trade routes in this country did not depend on the question as to whether they were distant from the sea or not, but whether there was a supply of water. Her Majesty's late Government therefore found that if they did not take some steps to extend the Protectorate of this country further North than the possessions of Mankoroane and Montsioa, they would be very much in the position of men who went out to ferret rabbits and did not watch the hole. Those freebooters whom they had expelled — not only for the credit and honour of England, but for the benefit of the country—would merely have doubled round and would have gone to attack the persons out of the boundary; and, therefore, they were bound to extend the Protectorate. The question now was, whether that Protectorate was to be maintained by us or handed over to the Cape Colony. He did not pretend to say that the late Government had come to any decision upon that matter before they left Office; they were waiting for information. His own opinion—for what it was worth, and for three years he had been more or less constantly studying South African questions—was that the Cape Colony was absolutely and totally unfit to take charge of the Protectorate. The reasons for saying that he had not time to enlarge upon; but if they wished to render nugatory the Protectorate which had been accomplished, and to render the money they had spent wasted, then they should hand over the Protectorate at once to the Cape Colony. If they wished to reap where they had sown—if they wished to attain, after the trouble and expenditure of the last few years, what he believed they could attain—namely, the consolidation of their Colonial power and authority in South Africa — then he said let them make up their minds for a definite term of years to maintain the Protectorate in their own hands. He did not believe that that would cost a very large amount of money. In the initial stages it might cost something, though not very much; but many of those Native Chiefs were men of considerable wealth and power, and they would be willing to meet the expenses which might be incurred. The working of a Protectorate in a country of that sort preserved a state of peace which would not otherwise exist, and that without any real exercise of force on the part of the protecting Power. It operated to prevent the Native Chiefs from being roused by outsiders to quarrel among themselves, and thus let in the freebooters. He would not delay the Committee longer, and would only say that he hoped the Government would have the courage to reap what had been sown. It was impossible to leave South Africa; and, by giving the Imperial Protectorate for a definite number of years, they would consolidate their power in that country.


desired to say just a few words of warning as to the course which they seemed to be about to continue in South Africa. The question of South Africa was the most dangerous I problem they had to deal with in the whole of their Colonial Empire. They were constantly finding themselves led on either from annexation to annexation or from protectorate to protectorate; and they were, consequently, unable to do justice to themselves in the responsibilities which they were assuming. If they were not very careful they would be liable to have hot fits alternating with cold fits, and both followed by disgrace. South Africa presented a problem that they had not in any other part of their Dominions. In most of their other Colonies or Settlements they had a Native population who disappeared before them; but in South Africa they had to deal with a conquering and vigorous race of Natives and a conquering race of White men, who were just as warlike as we were, and who both increased more rapidly than we could, so that the problem, instead of becoming simpler, was always becoming more difficult; and the danger was that if they went on adding annexation to annexation and protectorate to protectorate, they would be involving themselves in duties which they were unable to perform. He did not wish to say more than that; but he did hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who had charge of the Colonies (Colonel Stanley) would look back at the failures and constantly repeated blunders of successive Governments in South Africa. He was certain that if he would look at the facts of the last 15 years he would see that the blunders alike of Liberal and Conservative Governments had always arisen, not from the wilful adoption of fresh responsibility, but from the attempt to grasp at the more immediate and easy settlement of the questions in dispute without looking at matters all round to see the dangers which such a process inevitably involved.


said, he would not detain the Committee many minutes. His hon. Friend had expressed the usual sentiments which always followed any fresh annexation, and which the Secretary of State for the Colonies no doubt fully appreciated; but he had to deal with a peculiar state of things at present. Sir Charles Warren's Force had been constructed in the very best way for governing the races with which it was to deal; and he trusted that they would hear from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that the Government was prepared to carry out the spirit of the undertaking which was entered into a year ago by the Liberal Government. He trusted also that they would not dissolve the armed Force that had been sent out, but would be able to constitute from it at a reasonable cost a Police Force which would maintain order in the portion of South Africa which had been recently taken under their protection, and which they could not give up. They were morally bound to protect that part of Africa from the incursions of its cruel neighbours. Anyone who had read the Blue Book would see that the differences which had occurred, and which had been alluded to, between Sir Charles Warren and Sir Hercules Robinson, were not of such a nature to reflect discredit on either of them, and practically occurred owing to the peculiar nature of the position to which Sir Charles Warren was appointed. He was bound to say that, if anyone read the Blue Book carefully, he would see that there was no reason why Sir Charles Warren should not continue to be a very effective officer, who, no doubt, would in a short time regain the good opinion of his superior at the Cape. He thought that if they were to retain that country in any degree, it must be retained under their own protection, and that might, he trusted, be done at a comparatively small cost. It was interesting to learn that Sir Hercules Robinson himself thought that 200 mounted police would be sufficient to maintain order. That might be too small a force to do the work; still, it was Sir Hercules Robinson's opinion. It was interesting, also, to find, that Sir Charles Warren thought that if only the importation of ardent spirits could be kept out of the country he would be able to obtain from the Natives a large contribution towards the expenses of Government. One word more with regard to their opponents there. In a letter which he wrote on April 7 Sir Charles Warren stated that there were numbers of the marauders, both Boers and English, hanging about in the neighbourhood, only waiting until the troops left to recommence their marauding. Well, he hoped that the Secretary of State for the Colonies would remember that, and that England would not again be disgraced in the face of he world by a vacillating policy; for no Government was so bad, so cruel, or so injurious to any nation which it came across, as the Government of a Christian, a civilized, and a strong Power, which was at one lime influenced by a hot fit and at another by a cold fit in its Colonial policy, which was weak today and strong to-morrow, and, by its tyranny and vacillation combined, exhibited its in-competency for government. He trusted the Government now; in power, whether they held the reins of Office for a long or a short period, would show that they had some appreciation of what had been intrusted to them, and would sooner or later, when the hour came, hand these interests back in the same state in which they received them.


quite understood that they were not likely to hear any very startling announcement from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman; but, at the same time, he thought they should have heard something a little; more definite. There were two diametrically opposite policies open to them in South Africa—the policy of prudence and the policy of extension. For his part, he had hoped that they had done with the policy of extension, which had cost so many millions of money, and such a vast quantity of blood. Surely they should remember the enormous responsibilities this country had already undertaken. He confessed that he felt more anxious on the subject in consequence of the able speech recently delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) in which he advocated still more interference in South African affairs. For his part, he hoped that would not be done. The arguments now put forward might be used to urge further and further annexations. The right hon. Gentleman expressed his opinion that if they did not go further they would inevitably lose the Cape Colony altogether. On the contrary, he thought that their interference in those matters was tending to alienate the Colonists, and that the more they avoided those complications the more surely they would retain the loyalty and good feeling of the Cape. He regretted the assumption of a Protectorate over Bechuanaland; it seemed a repetition of their action in the matter of the Transvaal; but, at any rate, he hoped that the present Government concurred in the policy of their Predecessors —namely, that— Her Majesty's Government continued to consider it desirable to bring Bechuanaland and Kalahari under the control of the Colony as soon as possible, due provision being made for Native interests, and that Parliament has advanced a railway loan in confidence that no minor differences could make the Colony hesitate to accept Sir Charles Warren's arrangements. The reply of the Cape Ministers was far from re-assuring. They declined to commit themselves, and appeared very reluctant to take over the country. Nor could they wonder that the Cape officials should be reluctant to take over Bechuanaland. Sir Hercules Robinson told them on the 23rd of March that though there might be much to be said in favour of a Protectorate— Let it be clearly understood that it will cost the British taxpayers £120,000 a month, while the present Expedition remains in the country, and thereafter not less than £250,000 per annum. He must confess that he deeply regretted a policy which would cost them £250,000 a-year, varied by probably a war with the Boers every four or five years. If anything could lose them their Cape Colony he believed that would do so, as it could not but create very angry feelings between their Representatives and the Dutch population. The right hon. Member for Bradford had expressed the opinion that it would be, on the whole, better if the Cape Colony did not take over Bechuanaland. His right hon. Friend spoke with great weight, and it was with extreme diffidence that he ventured to express an opposite opinion. They must remember, however, that the responsibilities of the country were already enormous, and they ought not to be extended without very strong reasons. Did any such reason exist? In the first place, whatever might be the case as regarded Mankoroane, there was not a shadow of responsibility on their part towards the Chiefs further North. But even as regarded Mankoroane he was not prepared to admit any liability on our part. Sir Hercules Robinson gave the following summary of the events which I led to the recent troubles:— In the early part of November, 1881, Mankoroane, assisted by a few White Volunteers, attacked Massouw, captured some cattle, burnt a I village, and retreated to Taunts, his head station. Both sides then enlisted White Volunteers, Massouw's Volunteers greatly outnumbered those obtained by Mankoroane, and after a year's righting, in which Massouw was victorious, a peace agreement was signed, by which a large tract of country belonging to the two Chiefs was granted to the White Volunteers on both sides. Mankoroane, therefore, appeared to have been the aggressor. As regarded the settlement, there might be some doubt whether the Chiefs had not exceeded their powers; but even if we set everything right Sir Charles Warren himself admitted that matters would soon go wrong again. The whole question was full of difficulty. They had, on the one hand, an energetic and warlike population thirsting for more land, and, on the other, a number of Native Chiefs belonging to different races, and often quarrelling among themselves. If they set themselves to act the part of police throughout South Africa they were undertaking a Herculean task, and one which would severely task all the resources of the Empire. Moreover, Sir Charles Warren seemed to be taking no steps whatever to raise any revenue in Bechuanaland. When he was asked by Sir Hercules Robinson on the subject he seemed quite surprised. He said on the 2nd of April— You refer to your not having yet received an estimate of revenue for the year; I can find no record of revenue having been mentioned before. My instructions contain no mention as to raising revenue. From whom do you propose that I should obtain the revenue? It was very ominous that Sir Hercules Robinson evidently doubted whether Sir Charles Warren was really endeavouring to carry out the views of the Home Government. Writing to Sir Charles Warren, he said— Your concluding observations appear to indicate your disapproval of the policy of Colonial control desired by Her Majesty's Government, and your unwillingness to assist in furthering it. Sir Hercules Robinson appeared to have acted with great tact and judgment. It was very unfortunate that such serious differences should have arisen between him and Sir Charles Warren; but it was even more serious that Sir Charles Warren's relations should be so strained not only with the Transvaal, but also with our own Colony. He observed with regret that Sir Charles Warren accused the Cape Ministers of being— In sympathy with the filibusters, that they favour the Revolutionists, and refuse assistance to those who ask for peace and order. While, on the other hand, the Cape Government stated that— In view of the imputations cast upon the inhabitants of this Colony and upon Ministers by Sir Charles Warren, they declined to attach any weight to the representations of that officer. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford deprecated any action which could possibly tend to alienate the Cape; but surely the existence of such relations between our own Colonial Government and our Commissioner was likely to weaken the connection between the Colony and the Mother Country. While such a feeling existed, any satisfactory arrangement must be very improbable. Her Majesty's late Government appeared to have been still in favour of the annexation of Bechuanaland to the Cape Colony. In the closing sentences of the Blue Book they said— Her Majesty's Government have no intention of creating a Crown Colony in Bechuanaland; continue to wish that Cape Colony should, if willing to do so, assume management of Protectorate without delay. They, therefore, request you to obtain information whether, and under what arrangement, the Colonial Government will now propose to Parliament annexation of so much territory as it considers it desirable to include in Colony, and protection of remainder of Protectorate. He trusted that the present Government intended to act on the same policy. The question was one of great difficulty, and could only be solved satisfactorily if their Representatives acted cordially together, and as far as possible in sympathy with their Colonial fellow-subjects. He was glad to see that Sir Hercules Robinson was on friendly terms with the Cape Government. On the other hand, it was most unfortunate that the relations between Sir Charles Warren and the Cape Colony were far from friendly. In the meantime, while they were unable to meet their expenditure at home, and were compelled to borrow £4,000,000, they were spending hundreds of thousands in this remote region for no definite object or purpose. He trusted that the Government would be able to say that the relations between Sir Hercules Robinson and Sir Charles Warren were more harmonious; to give some assurance that steps were being taken to put an end to the large expenditure of which the British taxpayer had great reason to complain, and the advantage of which to the Native tribes was, after all, very doubtful; and last, but not least, that they would not, without most careful consideration, commit us to any further responsibilities in South Africa.


said, he thought they were entitled to have some definite statement from the Government on this question. Although it was late in the Session, and they were all anxious to see their way to leave Westminster for a time, this was a very much more important matter than holiday making. If the Government were not prepared to give the explanation he would move to report Progress.


said, he hoped the hon. Member would not persevere in his Motion. It was on account of the importance of this matter that his right hon. and gallant Friend was not able to make a more definite statement. If hon. Members were anxious for further information, and thought it could properly be given after they had considered the remarks of his right hon. and gallant Friend, they would have an opportunity of asking for it on the Report.


, upon that suggestion, considered they should be told when the Report would be taken. If it was to be taken at a reasonable hour, he saw no reason why the Vote should not be allowed to pass.


We will take it at as early an hour as possible.

Vote agreed to.