HC Deb 18 March 1889 vol 334 cc94-103

(3.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £28,310, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1889, for certain Charges connected with the Orange River Territory, the Transvaal, Zululand, Bechuanaland, the Island of St. Helena, and the High Commissioner for South Africa.

DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)

I beg to call attention to the fact that there are not 40 Members present.

The House was counted, and 40 Members were found to be present.

*SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)

I have given notice of several reductions of this Vote; but as they refer to totally different subjects, I hope you, Sir, will allow me to move them separately. In the first place, I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £250, the cost of Missions to Tongaland and Swaziland, and I do so for the purpose of obtaining information as to those Missions, and also as to the state of things existing in those countries. I want to know what has been the result of the Missions? I want to know whether we have a Resident or an Adviser in Swaziland? I want to know who is Mr. O. Shipstone, who I see mentioned in the papers? I want to know who he is, and what his present position there is? We have been told that by the Convention of London we have bound ourselves to maintain the independence of Swaziland; but my impression is, that that Convention has been broken in a good many particulars since it was made. At all events it seems to me there is no use whatever in guaranteeing the independence of Swaziland, if we really leave the country a prey to adventurers. If any sort of independent Government is to be maintained there, some civilized Power must protect it. If we are not prepared to protect it properly, we had better leave it alone altogether. Swaziland is much in the same position as Lord Salisbury has said Samoa is in—that is to say, the native Government cannot stand alone. If there is any interference it would be better it should be on the part of one Power. In the case of Swaziland there is not the serious quarrel between great Powers which there is in the case of Samoa; indeed, I think we are probably in a position to deal with the native Government if we are so wishful. I am not for annexation of any kind, for we have enough on our hands already, but I have always thought that if we are to extend our interests in Africa, it is better we should do so in districts near the sea—not in the far interior of the country, where we are altogether shut in by other territories. Now, as to Swaziland, I think we ought either to thoroughly, effectually, and practically protect the native Government in the independence we have guaranteed them, or wash our hands altogether of any responsibility. I confess the affairs of Swaziland have no great interest for me, and that probably I should not have thought of bringing them before the Committee if it had not been for something I read the other day in the newspapers. It seems that a Committee of white traders have established themselves in the country, and that they have passed a tariff of import duties, with what authority I do not know. I see it was unanimously resolved by this Committee—and this is what I most strongly object to—"that no Asiatic shall be allowed to trade in Swaziland." I do not wonder that they were unanimous; traders generally like to exclude rival traders. If the Government profess to exercise any influence in the country, I want to know whether they will permit this gross monopoly on the part of the white traders; whether they will allow our Indian subjects to be shut out of that country? I am afraid the Resolution I have quoted is only a symptom of a feeling which is growing very widely in the South of Africa, and especially in our own Colony at Natal. There is no objection in Natal to the Indian community as long as they are represented by men acting in the capacity of hewers of wood and drawers of water, but the moment Indians by their own industry and their own talent begin to accumulate property and to rise in the world—


The hon. Gentleman is travelling beyond the item. The item his Motion refers to only justifies discussion as to our relations with Swaziland.


I only referred to the state of things at Natal as illustrative of that at Swaziland, the traders in Swaziland being a kind of overflow from Natal. I want some assurance that the interests of the Swazies will be cared for, and that if we Lave any influence in the country it will be exercised most strongly in favour of the natives. I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by £250.

Motion made, and Question proposed: "That Item D. 3, £250 for High Commissioners' Travelling, be omitted from the proposed Vote."


The hon. Member proposes to reduce the Vote in connection with the Missions to Tongaland and Swaziland.




Also Tongaland.


My observations applied to Swaziland only.


Then, with regard to Swaziland, I have to say that the money set down was expended in defraying the expenses of Colonel Martin, who went to Swaziland to meet the Portuguese Commissioner and also the Commissioner of the Transvaal with regard to the question of delimitation respecting Delagoa Bay. That question was satisfactorily settled at the time, and the Portuguese Government accepted the award, although it was not very favourable to the views they put forward. The hon. Member asks me what we intend to do with Swaziland, and he said we had either a Protectorate or we had not. I can inform the hon. Gentleman we have no Protectorate, and that, therefore, we are not responsible for what takes place. It is perfectly true that a Committee of 15 members exists in Swaziland; but those gentlemen are not in the slightest degree, directly or indirectly, connected with the British Government, and we have no control whatever over them. The hon. Member alluded to Mr. Shepstone. Mr. Shepstone Is simply a private individual, who is the head of the White Committee of 15, and the principal adviser of King Umbandine. I do not know whether this Committee has made a stipulation that no Asiatic shall trade in Swaziland; but if such, a restriction exists Her Majesty's Government have nothing to do with it—it depends entirely on the will of King Umbandine and his European advisers. Therefore, it is not necessary for me to pursue the subject further. Neither in Tongaland nor Swaziland have the Government any direct or indirect influence whatever.


I should be obliged if the Under Secretary will say whether any portion of this £250 represents expenses incurred by Sir Hercules Robinson or by Sir Sydney Sheppard?


No portion of it.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

Last year I asked my hon. Friend (Sir G. Campbell) not to discuss this question upon the main Vote, in the hope that Her Majesty's Government would do something in South Africa, and that this year we would know what their South African policy is. But, as far as we know, Her Majesty's Government have no policy in South Africa, but that of drift. We are spending money foolishly in Swaziland, just as we are in every other portion of South Africa where we can get a chance to do so. The Under Secretary tells us the Government have no control over the whites. That is perfectly true, but it is a fact of which the Government ought to be ashamed. Although you repudiate control, you are morally responsible for the condition of things in South Africa. To repudiate control in Swaziland is to my mind dishonourable on the part of the Government. Swaziland is a portion of the Transvaal; it was cut away from the Transvaal when we gave that country back to the Boers, because it was principally inhabited by natives themselves. I thought at the time the arrangement made by the Convention was a very wise one, for it gave the people an opportunity of developing their own civilization. If Her Majesty's Government had aided and abetted the Swazies in keeping Swaziland for themselves, we might have witnessed an improvement there similar to that which has taken place in Basutoland. King Umbandine has granted mineral concessions over nearly the whole of his territory, and sometimes the same concessions have been given to different persons, so that the strongest bold what was given to them against their weaker competitors at present. Swaziland is nearly parcelled out amongst white men, principally from Natal, the bulk of them being British subjects. These men control the country; they have set up a Custom House, and they levy blackmail on all goods passing through the country into the native territory and into the Transvaal. The result is that the Swazies have no chance at all in their own country. The Government will not even carry out the policy of their own High Commissioner. Sir Hercules Robinson has pointed out to them that a condition of anarchy exists in the country, and has strongly recommended them to modify the treaty. You will allow the thing to go on until you have a row between the King and his White Councillors, and then somebody will have to step in, and you will have to spend, perhaps, half a million of money. It will be the old story of Bechuanaland over again. You are spending a little money now, and you will probably be compelled to send a big expedition by and by. I do not know what on earth Her Majesty's Government intend to do, but the poor unfortunate natives are being driven away from their own territory and the condition of things is truly deplorable. From what I have seen myself, I know that the people are being demoralized by that great engine of civilisation, grog—that is to say, bad Hollands gin, and a species of Scotch whisky which is called rum. You may shirk responsibility as much as you like; but you are morally bound either to take over Swaziland yourselves or to let the Transvaal take it over. I do not expect that you will offer it to the Transvaal; and the difficulty will be how you are going to get there, as you cannot do so through your own territory. Some of my hon. Friends think that the Transvaal Government does not behave very well to the native races. All I can say is that the natives who live under that Government have more comfort and a higher degree of civilization than in any British Colony in South Africa.

*SIR G. BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

I should like to ask the Under Secretary for the Colonies (Baron Henry de Worms) why this particular item comes in the High Commissioner's Vote. There is, I believe, to be a considerable agitation in this country respecting our rule in South Africa, and it is news to me to find Swaziland and Pondoland placed under the Vote for the Commissioner, I should have expected to find them under the Special Commissioner's Vote. No doubt, however, the High Commissioner is now the representative of Imperial authority in South Africa, and I am one of those who are determined to see the Imperial policy in South Africa made consistent and strong, and to prevent its drifting. I think my right hon. Friend, the Under Secretary, has explained the official view of this Vote, but I do not think he has yet stated the views of Her Majesty's Government as to the consequences of the mission. I suppose we should not have sent a mission to Swaziland if we had not felt that we had a duty to perform to the Swazis. We are bound by duty and honour to look after them, and are also bound from the point of view of our material interests to do so. There are many hundreds of thousands of British capital invested there. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he has heard that a foreign nation is supposed to be buying up concessions in Swaziland, with a view to putting an end to the independence of the Swazi nation? We are also bound to look after the Swazis by the tie of honour. Not only did we originally guarantee the independence of Swaziland, but we are bound by the Convention of 1884 to uphold and maintain its independence. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us that the Government are considering the policy of placing in Swaziland a resident Commissioner to represent the Imperial Government. We cannot, looking at the matter either from a business point of view or from the point of view of our own honour, allow the Swazis to pass under the control of adventurers, and I think the first step we ought to take is that of appointing a Resident or Commissioner in the country.

*SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

There is much force in what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark), and also by the hon. Member opposite (Sir G. Baden-Powell), but I must say I am not aware that we have entered into any obligations towards the Swazis which should bind us to protect them against invasion. I am not prepared to object to the policy stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies, when he told us that the Government had no influence in Swaziland. At the same time I want to know why it is, if the Government have no influence in Swaziland, we are asked to vote this money for the demarcation of the boundary line. If we can do nothing there to protect either our white or our coloured subjects, should this House be asked to pay this £250? It seems to me that if Her Majesty's Government are really determined consistently to follow out the policy of non-interference which has been announced by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary to night, all we can do is to say to the Swazis, "Be independent if you can; we are not going to protect you." The only interference we can exercise is to say to Germany and other Foreign Powers that we think we may fairly claim that they should not interfere in the country. As the Under Secretary has given no reason why we should pay this £250, I feel compelled to divide the House Committee against the item.

*MR. BEADLAUGH (Northampton)

I shall certainly support the Motion to reduce the Vote, because the explanation which has been given to us is of the vaguest and most unsatisfactory character. It is quite clear that if we have nothing whatever to do with Swaziland we ought not to be called upon to pay anything for it; and if we have anything to do with it we need some further explanation. It is quite clear that, under cover of these missions to different parts of South Africa, during the past six months, there has been an amount of disgraceful jobbery, which the Government has not been perfectly straightforward about in its answers in this House. The answers to questions put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) and myself, with reference to the High Commissioner, have been absolutely contradictory in terms. Probably a modification was made in the answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, because of his greater influence in this House, but it was a modification of an exceedingly serious character, and, unless some further explanation is given, it will not only be my duty to divide on this Vote, but to take every opportunity of getting at the truth of the matter. When you find the High Commissioner figuring in connection with transactions such as that to which the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) has alluded, it is time something was done in this House to prevent the recurrence of scandals of so disgraceful a character.

*SIR W. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)

No one who has read the papers or who has known anything about South Africa during the last year or two can feel that the Government has taken up as strong a position in regard to that part of the world as we have a right to expect. If we are to hold these territories, many of which I believe to be all important to this country, we must know precisely on what terms they are to be held. Our High Commissioner ought to be a Commissioner over all our interests in South Africa, and should not be mixed up with any particular Colony. How can a man who is Governor of the Cape Colony do justice to the great imperial interests we have in South Africa?


The hon. Gentleman is entering into too large a subject. The Question must be restricted to the missions.


Of course. Sir, I obey your ruling, though I would point out that at the head of these Estimates appear the words: "High Commissioner, travelling." Well, I may say I look on these questions of Swaziland and Delagoa Bay as being of the greatest importance to this country. We might have had Delagoa Bay, which would have formed, an admirable connecting link between Natal and Swaziland, and in my judgment we ought not to have left a stone unturned till we had obtained Delagoa Bay. I know the views and opinions of my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary; I do not think his poliey would be in unison with the policy which he has expressed to-night. My belief is that if he was in charge of the Colonial Office he would adopt such a poliey that we should hold our own in South Africa, and I hope he will be able to express an opinion more in consonance with the views held in this country than he has done up to the present.


The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) and another hon. Member said they could not understand why, if we bad nothing to do with Swaziland, we should be called upon to pay £250 for a mission there. The explanation is very simple. The Convention of London of 1884 provided that the independence of Swaziland within the boundary line should be fully recognized. The mission of Colonel Martin is simply for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of that treaty by arranging with the Portugese Commissioner that the limits there laid down should be strictly observed. As to the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark), his arguments were extremely ingenious. The hon. Member was very indignant that we should do nothing in Swaziland, and went on to say that if we did anything we should be violating the Convention of 1884. But he blamed the Government all the same. Therefore, we are blamed for not doing that which he considers we could not by any possibility do. Having told us that we ought to do it, and having satisfiel himself that by the Treaty of 1881 we could not do it, he then most ingeniously suggests that we should allow Swaziland to pass into the hands of the Transvaal Republic. Now, Sir, the hon. Member is a very able advocate of the interests of the Transvaal Republic, and I cannot always in my own mind divide the hon. Member for Caithness from the Consul-General of the Boer Republic. It is somewhat difficult for me to do so on an occasion of this kind, when I find that under guise of an attack upon the Government he suggests that we should be parties to assisting the Transvaal to take Swaziland, notwithstanding the Convention of 1884. If his argument means anything it means that. Well, Sir, I say that Her Majesty's Government will enter into no such arrangement. My hon. Friend the Member for Sussex (Sir. W. Barttelot) said he hoped we would pursue a firm and just policy in South Africa. It is because we feel it necessary to have a just and firm policy that we conceive our first duty to be not to violate international Conventions, but to respect them to the utmost. If the course of events should render it necessary either for the protection of the natives or for the security of British interests generally to modify those Conventions, Her Majesty's Government will not shrink from the responsibility of so doing. But between modifying them and breaking them, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Caithness, there is a vast and important difference. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) asked me a question with regard to the mission to Tongaland. That mission was undertaken by Colonel Martin for the purpose of cementing the friendly relations which exist between us and the Queen of Tongaland. I hope now the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir G. Campbell) will withdraw his Motion.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

Of course, we have got the usual reply from the Treasury Bench. It is the old story. The Government have nothing to say as far as the facts or arguments are concerned; but they always talk about the Member for Caithness being Consul General for the Boer Republic, and they also give me the credit of being the author of the policy recommended to them by Her Majesty's High Commissioner and which they published a couple of years ago. All I say is that you should either carry out the advice of Her Majesty's Commissioner or take Swaziland yourself. It is said that by the Convention of 1884 our hands and the hands of the Transvaal are tied; but it is perfectly well-known that the Transvaal is quite willing that the Treaty should be modified, because the conditions are changed. The Treaty was made at a time when there were very few white men there. Now there are many white men, and the land chiefly belongs to white men.

MR. CONWAY (Leitrim, N.)

The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies has not seen fit to give the House any assurance whatever with regard to protection being afforded to Indian traders in connection with exploiters from Natal. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not encourage people from Natal in using these Indians as hewers of wood and drawers of water, as remarked by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir G. Campbell).


I think we ought to support this Vote, in order to enable Her Majesty's Government to carry out their existing policy. Those who oppose the Vote oppose a consistent policy in South Africa.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 64; Noes 156.—(Div. List, No. 24.)

Original Question again proposed.