§ (4.28.) Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I wish to point out that this Bill contains only a preamble, one clause, and a Schedule, and the Schedule contains statements of fact which cannot be altered by Amendments. Under these circumstances, I desire to know whether, upon the Motion for the Second Reading, it will be in order to move a Resolution as an Amendment, or whether, after the Bill has been read a second time, it will be competent for hon. Members in Committee to object to any of the details of the measure. The operative words in the Bill are these, "The assent of Parliament is hereby given to the provisions of the Agreement set out in the Schedule of this Act."
§ * MR. SPEAKER
It is competent for any hon. Member to move a Resolution 744 superseding the Motion for the Second Reading, but it is not competent to add words to the Motion that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ MR. A. O'CONNOR
Suppose it was desired to qualify the Agreement so as to preserve the liability from military service of the children of all present inhabitants of Heligoland. Would it not be necessary to make provision for that at the present stage of the Bill, seeing that an Amendment in Committee would necessarily be an abrogation of the principle of the Bill as affirmed by the Second Reading?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
That would be, I think, a question for the Committee to decide. It appears to me a modification could be made in the provision.
§ MR. A. O'CONNOR
But it might be ruled by the Chairman that the Schedule could not be altered, as being a statement of facts.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
That is not a question of order for me to decide. It appears to me that the hon. Gentleman may embody in a Resolution such of the points stated in the Schedule as he may desire to refer to.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
Is it competent for Members, on the Bill for the cession of Heligoland, to discuss the Agreement so far as it relates to Africa?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The other part of the Agreement is an equivalent for the cession of Heligoland, and, therefore, the Agreement with regard to the African question can be entered into.
§ *(4.33.) THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir J. FERGUSSON,) Manchester, N.E.
In moving the Second Reading of the Bill I shall be able, in accordance with the usage of the House, to make good the case upon which it is proposed to sanction the arrangement made by Her Majesty's Government with the Government of the German Emperor to cede or transfer Heligoland to the German Empire. Small as is this territory, and small as is its population, the' House and the country will not forget that its acquisition by Great Britain is connected with a glorious page in the history of this country; that for a great part of a 745 century it has remained a part of our Empire; that our relations with it have not been troubled by any friction; that under the British flag its population have happily dwelt; and that its separation from us is not desired on either side, and can only be regarded with regret by both. The island was acquired by conquest in the course of the long war waged with the first Napoleon, and it was found to be useful during the closing of the German ports, which were then in French hands. Its fortification by us during the war was unnecessary, because we had the undisputed command of the sea, and after the war it was clearly unsuitable and unnecessary that it should be fortified against a nation with whom lately we had been allied. The island was inexpensive to us, although not profitable financially, and it did not contribute anything to the strength of the Empire. Its tenure by this country has never been challenged neither by Denmark nor when Schleswig became part of the German Empire by the Germans, although it was well known that to the national sentiment of Germany it was not unattractive. No British statesman has ever contemplated its cession, and when some speculative person suggested such a thing, without equivalent, it was always resisted by the Government of the day. It is said that, though, as I hope to show, we have got an ample equivalent for ceding the island, we have no right to transfer the population without consulting their wishes, and without securing their consent. It has been always the policy of this country that those who have come under the British sway, by conquest or otherwise, should be treated with the utmost liberality. This has been our policy with the French in Canada, with the Maltese, and with the people of India, as well as with the Heligolanders, and the result has been to render their lot happier than before, and to attach them to the British Crown. But still the retention of a possession must rest on high Imperial grounds. To us this island is of no material or strategic importance in these days; it has, however, it will be generally admitted, attractions for the German people from a sentimental point of view, which is a motive strong among nations, and which 746 has commonly actuated them in the most important transactions of life. Besides, the island may probably be of more strategical value to the Germans than to us. In return for the island the German Government have thought it worth while to make large concessions in a Continent in which they have latterly obtained an extended footing. They have come to an agreement with us which Her Majesty's Government confidently submit to the House as likely to be pregnant with important results to British enterprise and trade, and I hope with advantage to the people with whom we shall have to deal. Before proceeding to make that good, I should like to notice some criticisms and objections which have been made. It has been said that the ceding away of Heligoland has not given satisfaction to the inhabitants. We have, however, heard less and less of the objections of the people of late. At first visitors ran over there and came back reporting that there was a strong feeling on the part of the inhabitants against the cession. Curiously enough a gentleman did me the honour of calling on me at the Foreign Office to-day, and he said he had been in the habit of visiting the island, and that he was able to speak with confidence as to the feelings of the people, as he was able to converse with the people in their own dialect. He told me that he had conversed with more than 100 natives, and that he had found only one man who entertained an objection to the cession. They told him that they had been altogether deceived as to the conditions of the cession, and that they had been informed that they would lose all the privileges they had enjoyed; but when it was shown that all their immunities would be secured to all now living, and that they would have the option of electing to be British subjects, they were entirely satisfied and grateful for the care taken of their interests. In accordance with the provisions of German law, the children of such persons as wish to remain British subjects will be exempt from military Service. I have no doubt that when the island has been for some time incorporated with the German Empire the people of Heligoland will be animated with the same sentiments which inspire the people of Germany with regard to 747 the Fatherland. Her Majesty's Government have also secured for British fishermen, who have been in the habit of resorting to the island, the full enjoyment of all the privileges they have hitherto possessed, except that of fishing in the territorial waters. Now, I turn to the quid pro quo, and the result of the Agreement made for the extension of Her Majesty's sphere of influence in Africa. In the first place, the House will recall the position in which we stood not long ago. Thanks to the explorations of intrepid British subjects, wonderful discoveries have been made in Africa during the past century. There was a time when we might have made almost any part of that continent oar own had we been prepared to undertake the outlay and responsibility. Even in the last decade, when that portion of Eastern Africa was thoroughly investigated, it would have been in the power of the Government of this country so to have taken possession of a sphere of influence in that region that no other Power would have thought of obtaining a lodging there. That was not done. I do not think it worth while to impute want of duty on the part of those who held office at that time. I apprehend that the policy and conduct of the Government of the time was in accord with public opinion, and that the Government were not prepared to undertake great and unknown responsibilities by taking possession of a large part of the continent. Consequently, the efforts of discovery did not immediately result in an acquisition by this country of a sphere of influence over a large portion of the continent which is now engaging our attention. Other nations were not so indifferent. One after another the great nations of Europe became alive in time to the great opportunities for the expansion of commerce in Africa. The Germans, especially, were active in Central Africa, and in 1885 they had established themselves, so as to constitute a valid claim to their interests being considered, in the great tract between the lakes and the sea. Still it is not surprising that responsible Governments were unwilling to accept unknown responsibilities. But when the results of the discoveries of great travellers became better known, then a desire was manifested to gain possession of the continent. In 1886 748 there was an arrangement made by which the German and British spheres of influence in Eastern Africa were so far delimited that the districts inland were divided between the two Powers. But the Germans had established themselves to the northward as well as to the southward of us, and there was great risk of our endeavours being frustrated, and the chartered companies being overlapped and outflanked by the operations of energetic explorers. It therefore became exceedingly necessary that some better arrangement should be made. It was hardly possible that the Germans would have been able to give up a protectorate, on which some of their subjects had expended considerable sums of money, without some equivalent. They had been as active as ourselves in prosecuting journeys into the interior, and they had established themselves on Lake Nyassa. Only a few weeks ago it was commonly stated in this country that we were to lose the fruits of so much energy and outlay on the part of our enterprising fellow-subjects; that we should lose the Stevenson Road and the country covered by Mr. Stanley's treaties, and that, in fact, we should become a very inferior Power in the continent in which we had been the pioneers of discovery. The difference between our position so viewed and now is singular. There is hardly anything which our people claimed at that time, which is not now secured. The map will show that we have covered within that sphere all parts of the African continent in which our traders and missionaries have established themselves. I believe that there are two exceptions, where there are mission stations within the Gorman sphere occupied by our fellow-subjects, and for these the Government have secured the fullest liberty and safety for all time to come. The Agreement has been the result of the most friendly negotiations with the German Government. Her Majesty's Government could not have accomplished what they have done had they not been met in a generous and friendly spirit by the German Government. That was the spirit which actuated them as well, I hope, as ourselves. But it is not alone with Germany that arrangements have been made. It would have been no small achievement if we had but 749 obviated all chance of collision and jealousy between the German people and ourselves. But other great nations had shown eagerness to secure a footing on this continent, and there were, consequently, risks of friction with them. Last year the Government made an important arrangement with France in respect of territories held by them on the WestCoast of Africa which border on our colonies, and so settled questions which, for a long time, had caused considerable trouble to the two countries. Her Majesty's Government are, at the present moment, negotiating with France for a larger delimitation, which, I hope, will be brought to a happy conclusion. I am glad to say we are also negotiating with Portugal, with every prospect of such a settlement being arrived at as will obviate future risks of jealousy and conflict. So that on the greater part of the continent of Africa, we shall have avoided the risk of friction with the other Powers of Europe. In thus arranging these matters in times of peace we avoid fruitful causes of jealousy and danger, and render continuous peace possible. It has been suggested that in concluding these agreements, which, I contend, could not have been concluded on terms more satisfactory to this country, there must have been some secret understanding that in some way we are bound more than before in alliance with these Powers. I will say again that in the Agreement either with Germany or any other Power to cement further the friendship which exists, and ought to exist between us, and to apportion our respective rights, there has been no advance upon or departure from the policy which has been over and over again announced to Parliament. I am glad to see that the Agreement has been received by responsible politicians in this country in a spirit which, I think, is eminently patriotic. There has been for some years a disposition to abstain from making foreign matters Party questions, and it adds immensely to the moral force which the Government of the country ought to exercise in the councils of the world when, in the main, Parties are allied in protecting British interests, and not taking them into the field of Party strife. Some hon. Members, however, have spoken as if by this 750 Agreement we were dealing with the liberties of other people in a manner we had no right to. It has been said that Her Majesty's Government have no right to deal with these populations as if their property had become our possessions; but I affirm that in the proceedings which Her Majesty's Government have taken they have in no way infringed the property of the tribes of Africa. In every case the footing of the chartered companies in Africa has been gained by treaty agreement with the inhabitants. I believe the East Africa Company have shod the blood of no man; but, on the other hand, they have set free thousands of slaves. That company have already won over the tribes in a vast region to more peaceful habits, and have shown them that their interests lay in peaceful commerce rather than in internecine war. We have shown them that they may better enrich themselves by trading with European Powers, than by the devastating pursuit of the Slave Trade, and wherever we have gone, law, order, and justice have prevailed. And I may here refer to the efforts made in this present year by Her Majesty's Government, in concert with the representatives of all civilised nations, for the effectual abolition of the Slave Trade. The fruits of the Conference which has been held with regard to the Slave Trade have, of course, yet to be seen, but I do not think that the temporary check that has occurred from the abstinence of one Power will be permanent, and that measures will be agreed upon and that united efforts will be made on a greater scale than before which will result in abolishing that trade, which it has long been recognised as the duty of all Christian men to destroy. With regard to Zanzibar some have spoken as if the protectorate was the only thing-given in return for the cession of Helligo-land; but we have doubled our coast line by the Agreement, and enormously increased our area of influence in the interior. That protectorate does not interfere with the Agreement of 1862. Muscat and Zanzibar had been separated, as the result of an arbitration between the two sons of the Imaum of Muscat, and we bound ourselves to respect the independence of the two States. It has been 751 said that, in assuming the protectorate of Zanzibar, we have only come back in a partial degree to the position in which we stood five years before. This is not so. In the first place, we have never before assumed the protectorate of Zanzibar. It is true that ever since that great man, Sir John Kirk, had exercised influence at Zanzibar, the influence of this country has been predominant, and has been eminently successful in leading the ruler of that State to increase the civilization of his subjects and check the Slave Trade and assist British commerce. But we had in no sense then assumed the protectorate of Zanzibar, and now we do not propose to assume it in such complete fashion, or so as to hinder the commerce of any other Power, but in such a way that we shall secure the Sultan the dominions which remain to him, and make his position more comfortable. With regard to the small islands to the north, and the coast line from Wanga to the River Juba, the tenure of the Sultan will be more secure; and though he codes the Sovereignty of the German coast, he had previously given a lease of 50 years of the administration. Here I should like to point out that, in securing this sphere of influence, we deliberately prefer not to disturb the authority of the Sultan. For the last 30 years and more, the happy policy has been pursued by England of not disturbing the sovereignty of native rulers, but by guaranteeing their possessions, and exercising a friendly influence in their States, of making their position more secure, and their people happier, while, at the same time, the rulers exercise their independence. This is the position which we have taken up with regard to the Sultan of Zanzibar, and I think that the House will agree that it is better to deal in this way with native races than to undertake all the responsibility and danger of their government. I will now notice some of the objections which have been made to this Agreement. It has been said that the Stevenson Road connecting two lakes has been made by British capital, and is the scene of British missionary efforts and the site of trading stations, and that if the road alone were secured to us there would be great inconvenience. All these things have been met in the negotiations, 752 and sufficient space to the east will be secured to prevent all inconvenience, while access from one lake to another will also be secured, and absolute freedom of trade and transit is guaranteed. Referring to the south-west, of course there is a great region with regard to which there has been considerable controversy —namely, Namaqualand and Damaraland, which some years ago had fallen into the hands of Germany, owing to indisposition on the part of the Imperial and Cape Governments to assume the responsibility. I am by no means imputing blame to those who did not assume this extended responsibility, but at all events Germany acquired the protectorate over those regions. I venture to say that the contention that the Cape Government has a vested right to all the country south of the Zambesi is one which cannot be maintained, and I do not think that it is possible for this country to maintain it and be on good terms with other nations. It would not be possible for us to claim a sphere of influence in those two great provinces, but we have secured in a vast region in the interior a most valuable sphere of influence in which British trade will find ample room for employment and the great South African colonies for expansion. These are the leading features of the Agreement, with respect to which the House is asked to sanction the cession of Heligoland. I am happy to note that these questions have been well considered by the country. I believe that we may claim for this Agreement the merit of providing for the interests of our people in this sphere, but I would congratulate the country still more on having removed far away any chance of jealousy with a great and friendly nation, an object which was not confined to Germany, but which we hoped to extend to all our neighbours, so that colonisation might not lead to any fresh danger to this country, but rather increase our friendship with those nations with whom it was most desirable that we should live in harmony. I now beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir J. Fergusson.)753
§ (5.12.) MR. W.B. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
The right hon. Gentleman has divided his speech into two portions, the more considerable of which is not directly before the House. He has spoken of the conditions of the arrangement as to Heligoland, and he has spoken of the Anglo-German Agreement in Africa. It will be my duty—and I think my principal duty—to point out that there is a third division of this subject, a third point appertaining to it, of which he has taken no notice whatever, and which, in my opinion, is of even more vital importance than any of the matters upon which he has touched. I reserve my remarks upon the development of that idea until I have dealt with the matters touched upon in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He said, towards the close of his speech, that the House was asked to accede to the cession of Heligoland. That is perfectly true in point of form. It might be said, if we looked at it from the outside only that this is only an affair of parochial legislation, because the population of Heligoland, I think, is not equal to the average population of any of the 10,000 parishes of England. But, Sir, I wish to point out that, although the Vote of the House is only to be taken upon the Agreement as to Heligoland in point of form, yet in point of substance the Vote of the House is upon the entire treaty. Now, upon that there can be no question whatever that the whole treaty-making power of the Crown is thrown into the hands of the House, in respect not only to Heligoland, but to all the conditions relating to the South African portion of the Agreement, although upon the form of proceeding there is no indication whatever to that effect. I am bound to say I have no complaint to make of the tone and spirit of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. On the contrary, I think that tone and spirit most satisfactory, and some part of the positive information he was able to give us was satisfactory also. In the first place, I think it my duty to give unqualified credit to Lord Salisbury for the spirit in which he has set about this Agreement. I think it has been a good spirit, having regard to the best interests of England, and, likewise, the spirit of one who does not wish at all to view those interests in 754 a narrow or selfish manner, but who wishes, in discharge of this great colonising, protecting, or superintending function, that the benefits attending the extension of power and influence shall be, of course felt in the first instance in this country, but shall be extended, not grudgingly, to all the countries concerned. I apprehend that the rights of natives, whatever they may be, in their relations with European powers, are not now before the House, and can in no respect be diminished or disparaged by any Agreement with Germany, France, or any other European nation. They remain intact exactly as they were before the Agreement. The whole force of the compact the Government have been engaged in making bears absolutely and exclusively upon the mode in which we shall regulate our relative concerns among ourselves in Africa. One matter I must mention with some regret. I think it is clear, even to the Government themselves, that an error has been committed in concluding this arrangement with Germany before arriving at a final understanding with France with regard to the protectorate of Zanzibar. I am very reluctant to dwell upon this point, because negotiations with France are now in progress, and it would be difficult to comment upon it without, I fear, importing some embarrassment into the proceedings of Her Majesty's Government. But I must own there has been an error in that respect; an error which it is not difficult to account for, when I recollect that in the person and in the hands of Lord Salisbury—than whom there seldom has been a person more competent to meet the difficulty, if it can be met at all—are united functions which it has never been found possible in this country to unite before; and which, I must say from conviction and experience, I entertain the most confident expectation will never be united again. To discharge the functions of Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary of England exceeds the power of the human brain, unless you can raise from the dead a man of the stupendous powers of Napoleon, or of another man, a countryman of ours, whose brain was not less than his—I mean Oliver Cromwell. I fear the over-pressure of subjects of anxiety has led to some difficulty in this particular case, which, however, I do not mean 755 to dwell upon. I am bound to say that, as far as I can judge, I do believe the general effect of the Agreement in Africa will be beneficial to the parties concerned, and that the proceedings have been conducted with a due and impartial regard to the different interests involved. With regard to Heligoland there are, I think, three points which it is our duty to take into view. The first of these questions is, whether there is any sufficient ground of British interests to lead us to take objection to the plan of Her Majesty's Government. The conclusion at which I have arrived is that there is no sufficient ground, and I am not going to give judgment on the scheme upon any such plea. I am not sure the question of the strategical importance of Heligoland is entirely disposed of. I can conceive contingencies of war in which it might not be without some material weight as to strategical operations; but, at the same time, viewing the state of the case, viewing the nature of our relations with Heligoland, and viewing the fact that those relations rest on conquest, and date from comparatively modern times, I feel that the welfare of the people of that island and the relations to their neighbours ought to be the dominant considerations in determining its destiny. I am not prepared upon the mere ground of British interests to take objection to the proceedings of Her Majesty's Government. Sir, there is one ground which appears to me to involve, and still appears to involve, very serious considerations; but then the right hon. Gentleman has given us, at any rate, some hope of a state of facts in this respect better than has been represented in various quarters. It has been the language of some that in cases where the inhabitants are numerically so insignificant we are not bound to have any regard to their consent or inclination in determining their political condition. I am not able to accede to that proposition. I do not think that the mere number of inhabitants will absolve us from our obligations to the persons who have the deepest interest in that country. There has been much said by British travellers to the effect that there is a disinclination among the Heligolanders to become the subjects of this cession. Well, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has given us a consolatory assurance in his speech to- 756 day. I am afraid the witnesses are not unanimous. I have myself to-day received a letter in the contrary sense from a gentleman who is considered to have good information, and who says that the more he goes into the question the more he is convinced that the Heligolanders do not wish to become a portion of the German Empire. I do not feel that we are able to accept British assurances to that effect. It would be only from the Heligolanders themselves that I, for one, could take assurances of their disinclination to become part of Germany. But if there be any prudential or other considerations which prevent them giving that assurance, I am bound to accept the declaration of the Government, whose duty undoubtedly has been to examine the matter, that they have assured themselves there is no such disinclination on the part of the Heligolanders; and in the absence of such disinclination, I cannot set up a handful of British opinions, which the Germans might fairly consider prejudiced opinions, against the conclusions which the responsible Government have arrived at. The absence of dissent from that kind of assurances of the Government, together with the duty of the Government to make the matter the subject of serious investigation, are all, I think, that I have a right to know. Then comes the question not of the principle of the cession, but of the particular terms which Her Majesty's Government have arranged on behalf of the Heligolanders. I quite see that they have made apparently careful provision for the perpetual preservation of the rights of British fishermen. As far as I can judge, that is an adequate provision, and I own I should have been extremely sorry if the case had been found to be that we had been more careful of the rights of fishermen, who find it for their interest to frequent the waters of Heligoland, than of the Heligolanders themselves. Though certainly an interesting people, with a good deal of substantial existence, the nationality of the Heligolanders is more microscopic than any other subject to which the idea of nationality has yet been applied. But they are a people with a good deal of character, with some peculiarities in their history, and distinct severance of language from those portions of the mainland with which they are most 757 closely associated. They have a great claim upon our interest. On the subject of fortification, it is very difficult for us to enter. There are those who think it will be the interest and policy of Germany to convert Heligoland into a fortress. There are others who think it would be a great mistake. The introduction of fortifications on a limited space of ground entails many severe consequences, and it is quite conceivable that to fortify Heligoland might entail a great displacement of private rights and arrangements so as materially to alter the whole condition of the inhabitants of the island in a manner very detrimental to their interests. I earnestly and respectfully trust that, whatever may be done by Germany in the exercise of the sovereign power which she is to acquire, there will be considerable, and I will even say tender, regard given to these considerations. It is one thing to interfere with private arrangements in a country where the whole feelings of the people are. traditionally and from antiquity, enlisted on the side of those who find it necessary to acquire their territory; it is another thing to go into a country as strangers—for the Germans, are, after all, politically, as much strangers to Heligoland as we were when we went there in 1807—and for those who are strangers to inflict great personal inconvenience upon the natives; and I trust, therefore, that every effort will be made to avoid such inconvenience. But there is another question upon which we have had a declaration to-night, which, if I understand it aright, removes many difficulties from my mind, and conveys to me considerable satisfaction. After all, what must have struck every Englishman in considering the case was this—what is to be the condition of these Heligolanders as to naval, and even more as to military, service, as to coercive military service in and on behalf of a country with which they have never been connected, and to the military strength of which they would hardly make even so much as an infinitesimal addition? Now, we see that there are two provisions in the Agreement which boar upon the question. The first is the provision where it is positively stipulated that all native Heligolanders now in existence, parents and children, shall be exempt from military service. 758 If that stood alone, I own it would give me no sufficient satisfaction, because I should say, "We are aware that in certain countries where slavery has prevailed, laws have been passed to provide that everybody born after a certain date should be born free; but it is quite another thing to provide that everybody born after a certain date shall be born subject to a heavy burden and to a heavy restraint, which may be very odious." But there is a second provision which the right hon. Gentleman has explained tonight. That is the provision with regard to what is called opting to be British subjects. Now, if I understand the right hon. Gentleman rightly, every man in Heligoland, being a Heligolander, may opt to become a British subject, and, if he opts to become a British subject, he may remain in Heligoland as such; his children will be born there; they will be British subjects also, and, being British subjects, they will not be subject to compulsory naval or military service in Germany.
§ * SIR J. FERGUSSON
May I give the exact information we have—Minors, being children of fathers who have opted for British nationality, will also possess that nationality.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
As I understand, they will be permanently British subjects, as much and as fully British subjects as their fathers were, and, that being so, the same law will apply to their children in their turn.
§ * SIR J. FERGUSSON
The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that even the children of fully-born British subjects residing in foreign countries lose their nationality. [Cries of "No!"] I beg pardon. The children born in France of British parents lose their immunities, and are liable to conscription.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
What laws a Foreign Power may be competent to make within its own jurisdiction I am not concerned to discuss. I am speaking of actual law and actual arrangements. I am not sure that I can ask the Government to provide that there shall never be at any future time any detriment imported into the laws affecting these subjects; but, as I understand the 759 matter, the present Heligolanders opting to be British subjects will see their children growing up to be British subjects in the plenitude of everything which belongs to British citizenship as fully as they themselves enjoy it; and they, having those rights, will, under the present German laws, have the same power of transmitting them to their children. [Sir J. FERGUSSON: Yes.] If that is the case it is to me a very satisfactory declaration.
§ * SIR J. FERGUSSON
I will read the whole Paper—With regard to last paragraph, acting Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs informs me that German Government consider the supposition contained therein in accordance with the sense of the agreement of July, and that minors being children of fathers who have opted for British nationality will also possess that nationality.Thus the children of persons who have opted for British nationality will also possess that nationality whether born before or after.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I understand that declaration to have no reference whatever to the limited term of time mentioned in the Agreement.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
It clearly applies to children not in existence. I can only say that what I have heard from the right hon. Gentleman is a great relief to my mind, with regard to the most serious part of this matter—that is, the making the best provision possible for the future comfort and well-being of the natives of Heligoland, and those descended from them. Of course, if they choose not to opt to be British subjects it is their affair. I have to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the assurance which we find in his speech with reference to this very important point. But I have read somewhere the declaration of a statesman who said, in answering a speech, that what he had to answer was not what the speech contained, but what it did not contain, and that is my complaint against the right hon. Gentleman. Over the speech of the right hon. Gentleman I have been able to go, I hope, in an amicable and dispassionate spirit; but the right hon. Gentleman, following the example of the Government in the House of Lords, has taken no notice whatever of the fact that by the 760 demand made to-day upon the House of Commons to give its vote or assent to a cession of territory, he is placing the House in a position absolutely without precedent and introducing a novelty into the practice of this country, which, whether it he right or wrong—and upon that I give no opinion —involves a matter of vast importance and of enormous difficulty. Is there any doubt at all that this proposal is an absolute and entire novelty? In the whole course of its existence the House of Commons has never been asked to vote a cession of territory until to-night. My right hon. Friend (Sir W. Harcourt) reminds me that the practice has been upon various occasions to invite the subsequent approval of Parliament to arrangements made by the Executive Government in the form of Addresses to the Crown. Of that we are perfectly aware; but that is not voting the subject-matter of the Treaties that have been made. It is giving an opinion upon them; it is not giving them validity and constituted force. There may be an idea in the minds of hon. Gentlemen that the United Kingdom has always been a Power whose course has been onwards and not backwards—a Power which has endeavoured continually to make additions to its territory and not diminutions of it. That is quite true generally, but it is at the same time true that there have been occasions—I will not go back beyond the Restoration, because I do not know in what manner the British provinces of France were ceded to the French Crown—it is at the same time true that cases of actual cession of British territory since the Restoration of Charles II. have not only occurred, but that they are to be counted by scores. In India alone, before the Mutiny in 1857, there were no less than 23 cases of cession of British territory to another Power. So the present cession is not a case without precedent, and in those cases that have occurred Parliament has not been asked to give judgment beforehand. Everyone, therefore, must feel that this is a step of vast importance. The question of the Treaty-making power is undoubtedly one of the most difficult questions of practical politics in the world. The proof of that is to be found in the history of the Constitution of the United States. The able and sagacious men who considered this 761 question there arrived at a solution of the difficulty by adopting a compromise. They gave the power of intervention to the Senate of the United States; they did not not give it to the popularly-elected body, and that body has nothing whatever to say with respect to a Treaty concluded with a Foreign Power, and it has no power of interfering with the conditions of that Treaty either directly or indirectly by censuring or punishing those who have made it. No one doubts, Sir, that this power of Treaty-making lies in this country with the Crown, subject to certain exceptions, which, I believe, are perfectly well understood. Wherever money is involved, wherever a pecuniary burden on the State is involved in any shape, I say, it is perfectly well understood, and I believe it is as well known to Foreign Powers as to ourselves, that the Government is absolutely powerless without the assent of Parliament, and that that assent, if given, is an absolutely independent assent, upon which the Crown has no claim whatever, presumptive or otherwise. I believe it to be also a principle—and I speak subject to correction—that where personal rights and liberties are involved they cannot be, at any rate, directly affected by the prerogative of the Crown, but the assent of Parliament, the popularly elected body to a representative chamber, is necessary to constitute a valid Treaty in regard to them. But, Sir, setting aside these eases which are well defined, both in principle and in practice, there remains a vast range over which this Treaty power extends. It is not a question of the cession of territory alone. There is the question of acquisition of territory. The acquisition of territory is as important as the cession of territory. The cession of territory is undoubtedly included in the Treaty-making power, and included in what is sometimes called the prerogative of the Crown—a phrase I do not wish to use, because I think it would rather tend to prejudice the case on this occasion; and I am sure it is most important that the Members of this House should look at this question from a practical point of view, and should understand what change, if any, is being made, and what the bearing of that change will be upon the practical power and position of this Government. 762 Now, Sir, what is the true doctrine, according to the best authorities, and what has been the uniform practice with regard to the cession of territory? Heligoland, small as it is, is a territory, and the doctrine applies, in its integrity, to a single acre as much as it does to half a continent. I believe Blackstone may be accepted in this matter as a very sound expositor of Constitutional Law, and the effect of his language is that the Crown unquestionably has the power of ceding territory, but that Parliament has the right to control the exercise of that power by punishing those who misuse it. Instances are not difficult to give. Dunkirk was ceded by Charles II. when Clarendon was, perhaps, his principal adviser. The cession held good. Clarendon was impeached. Impeachment passes out of view or out of fashion, and we come down to the great period of the disruption of the British Empire by the loss of the American colonies. A Treaty is concluded by the King—a very just and wise Treaty—recognising the independence of America. The House of Lords, I believe, approves that Treaty, and the House of Commons disapproves that Treaty. Most of us on this side of the House, perhaps most of us in all quarters of the House, would be of opinion that the House of Commons was wrong, but that, of course, is not the question. The question is the power of the House of Commons, and observe that, while the House of Lords approved the Treaty, and that approval of the House of Lords remained wholly valueless and ineffective, the House of Commons censured the Treaty and, censuring the Treaty, punished the Ministers in the only mode known to modern practice—namely, by ejecting them from office. Blackstone lays down this doctrine, which, upon the whole, I believe to be a wise and sound doctrine, and in speaking of the control of Parliament, he did not speak of that which was shadowy and valueless. I admit that there are to be found, in various quarters, declarations of lawyers which raise doubts, at any rate, upon the extent of the power of the Crown to cede territory. Let me say, in the first place, that no one of these doubts touches the case of Heligoland. So far as I know, doubts were expressed by Sir Roundell Palmer, the present Lord Selborne, in the Debate in 763 1863, upon the cession of the Ionian Islands, which, though a cession of very-great importance to the governing Power, was not a cession of territory, inasmuch as those islands formed no part of the territory of the Crown, and were legally judged to form the Septinsular Republic, as it was then called. Sir Roundell Palmer—I believe he was then Solicitor General—in speaking of the Ionian Islands, had to follow Lord Palmerston, a Constitutional Authority of great experience, who laid down broadly the doctrine that the power of cession was in the Crown. Sir Roundell Palmer, following him, said it was undoubtedly in the Crown, unless it was thought that a question might be raised if the territory purporting to be ceded had been made directly the subject of Parliamentary legislation, or in a case where representative institutions had developed upon the territory under lawful authority, and thereby the people had acquired rights in regard to it. Now, I look with all possible respect upon the declarations of so eminent a man, and I believe similar declarations might be picked up here and there, at any rate in vague indications, as having occurred to the minds of lawyers. I further believe they have been suggested by the contemplation of extreme cases. Such questions as this have been put,"Could the Queen cede the Isle of Wight? Or Lancashire? Or Yorkshire?"
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The hon. Baronet surely does not suggest that. In my opinion you cannot take a more unsafe guide to Constitutional legislation in this country than by raising extreme cases, because if you make them the foundation of your action you will find that, instead of having the best, you will have perhaps the worst and the most absurd Constitution in the world. What would be the result if the House of Commons, in the exercise of its undoubted right to refuse Supply, refused all supplies? What would happen if the Queen, in the exercise of her undoubted right to dissolve Parliament, were to dissolve all Parliaments, without permitting them to do any work? We must proceed in all these great matters upon the belief that a certain amount of common sense does, 764 after all, enter into the transactions of mankind, or if, unhappily, the stock of it should on any occasion altogether fail and be exhausted, a remedy would be found when the exigencies should arise. But I deprecate discussing this question on the basis of extreme cases. No such extreme case has ever come into view in the exercise of the power of the Crown to cede territory, any more than it has in the exercise of the power of the House of Commons to refuse all supplies, or of the Crown or its advisers to baffle Parliamentary institutions or frustrate them by successive dissolutions. There is one thing which I think is still higher than the dicta of Legal Authorities in this important question, and it is our long, uniform, and unbroken course of practice. It is one thing to stand upon the opinion of an ingenious or even a learned man; it is another thing to cite the authority of an entire State, signified in practical conclusions, after debate and discussion in every possible form, all bearing in one direction and stamped with one and the same character. It is hardly possible, I believe, to conceive any kind of territory —colonies acquired by conquest, colonies acquired by settlement, with representative institutions or without representative institutions—it is not possible to point out any class of territory where you cannot show cases of cession by the Crown without the authority of Parliament. Do not let it be supposed that I am in favour of action outside Parliament. I will come to that point by-and-by, when I deal with the doctrine as to the way in which these matters are conducted. Is there any doubt, is there any question, that land subject to the authority of Parliament has been ceded by the Crown without reference to the action of Parliament? Twenty-three cessions, as I have said, have been stated in judicial proceedings to have been made in India before the Mutiny, and since 1784, at any rate, all Indian territory has been absolutely subject to the authority of Parliament. In the case of Newfoundland, the Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, which were necessary to Prance to enable her to exercise the rights of fishing secured to her by Treaty, were ceded to France. If there be any doubt on the point there are others more learned than myself who will be able to exhibit the doctrine in 765 its plenitude, in an overwhelming mass of evidence, so much so as really to bear out what I have said—that it is hardly an exaggeration to say that in scores of cases cession has taken place, and in all cases the practice has been uniform for the Ministers of the Crown to advise upon their responsibility, for the Crown to act, and for Parliament to accept the results. I am ready to admit that a great deal may be said in the way of presumptive argument against such a practice. It is very easy to state such an argument. It is easy to say that the negotiation of Treaties is much more in the nature of a legislative than of a merely executive function, and if you will not entrust legislation to the executive power, why do you trust to the Executive Treaty-making, which involves legislation of the most important character, the more important and more dangerous that to alter it or to revoke it does not depend upon ourselves, but requires the assent of another party? But, looking broadly at the case, I take it to be thus. I have searched for precedents—I have considered the whole time covered by my own life, and, as well as I could, some time before my own life, and I have not been able to find a case in which a Treaty has been made which has been disapproved by the majority of the House of Commons. I do not think there is a single instance of this. I can point to instances of Treaties having been disapproved of; there are, no doubt, instances in which I have disapproved of certain Treaties myself, which have been entered into, but on these occasions I was, unfortunately, in a minority, and not in the majority of the day. I am thinking directly of the Treaty entered into some 12 years ago with regard to Armenia and Cyprus, a Treaty which, I must own, differed from this, which has nothing to do with Party considerations. I was opposed to the Armenian Treaty. I thought it was a bad Treaty, but it was approved of by the majority of the House of Commons. If the House of Commons does not approve of a Treaty which has been entered into it can, of course, turn out the Government of the day, which would be very careful, on returning to Office, not to enter into such Treaties again. The effect of the present system, therefore, be it theoretically good or theoretically bad, places in the 766 House of Commons the supreme contro over the Treaty-making power of the Crown. Is that to be the case after the Treaty-making power comes to be handled by this Bill? It seems to me almost a necessity that out of this proceeding some complications of weight and importance must grow, deeply affecting the relations of the Crown and Parliament and the administration of political power. Speaking roughly, as the matter now stands, we have virtually, the whole control. The other branch of the Legislature—the House of Lords—cannot turn out a Government. We, if we have votes enough, can. But will that be so after this? No. That which we now have exclusively you invite us to halve with the other branch of the Legislature. Now, I have said I do not wish to make this a Party dispute, and, therefore, I do not want hon. Gentlemen opposite to listen to this, which I offer rather as consideration to Members on this side, who have a natural tendency to say, the more you take from the Crown and give to Parliament the better. That is a presumption in the Liberal mind; it may be sound, it may be right; I do not discuss it. But I must point out that what is now proposed is to take a power which we now possess in a form, theoretically irregular, but practically effective—to take this power out of our hands and divide; it with another Assembly. I hope I shall not be thought guilty of introducing Party prepossessions if I point out that while the political complexion of this Assembly varies after General Elections, the political complexion of the House of Lords never changes. I do not anticipate any Administration of the same colour as the present Administration will meet with any obstacle in the management of the Treaty-making power in making it subject to the action of the House of Lords. But, having regard to the fact that since the Reform Act 12 out of the 14 Parliaments have had a Liberal Government in office, I can conceive that some difficulty might, in the future, arise in bringing into complete unity the general political sentiment actuating the House of Lords, and that which a Liberal Government, and a Liberal House of Commons, might feel due to the wishes and interests of the people. That being so, I find myself in 767 great difficulty. I think it is quite obvious that, in a matter such as this, of such vital importance, if we are to depart from the uniform and thoroughly established practice, thoroughly rooted in the Constitution of the country, such a change ought to be made with care and caution, after investigation and upon the fall responsibility of Ministers of the Crown, who have not, on this occasion, found it necessary even to mention that such a change was—not meditated, not contemplated, not in any of those limbos where certain legislative projects, such as Irish local legislation still abide—but alive, at work, and embodied in a Bill to which we are now asked to give a Second Reading. I believe that I am right in saying that no statesman of this country, no person whose name can be quoted as of established authority in this Assembly, has ever questioned the existing system. Fox thought of questioning it in 1782, but when he came to look closely into the subject he abandoned his intention. In 1843, which is in my own recollection, in the case of the Maine boundary, when territory had, undoubtedly, been given away, Lord Palmerston challenged the arrangement, but never questioned the competency of the Crown to do what it had done. If we are to change all this, we ought to think well how we change it, and how far the change is to go. Already, in connection with this proceeding, while we seem to be considering the cession of Heligoland, we are considering the whole Anglo-German Agreement, which becomes waste paper if you withhold your approval from the cession of Heligoland. I think I shall receive the universal assent of the House when I say that such a change, if it ought to be made—and I am far from precluding the discussion of it—ought not to be made until the matter has been examined and sifted to the bottom. Such a change ought not to be made sub silentio. It should be made, if at all, with our eyes open, and our minds awake, with full knowledge of what it is we are abolishing and why we abolish it, of what we are substituting, and why we venture on such a substitution. Under those circumstances, I find myself in a position of difficulty, which precludes mo from taking part in the proceedings on the present Bill. I have not shrunk from 768 the responsibility of going over the subject matter of the Agreement which has been made;and, if legitimately proposed, I would not wish to withhold my assent to what has been laid before us on the merits of the proposal. Unquestionably I cannot vote against the Bill. What has been promised to Germany Her Majesty was fully entitled and authorised to give, and it was what the German Government was perfectly entitled to believe that Parliament would at once affirm. The German Emperor lives in a learned land, where doctors and professors abound. There are those about the Gorman Government who know the history of other countries better than the inhabitants themselves, and I have no doubt that they know very well that the Treaty-making power lies with the Crown, and that the reservation that has been made is a reservation merely complimentary and formal. I do not feel myself able, if I had the right, if I wore entitled to give or withhold it, to withhold my assent to the Bill. But I am not competent to deal with it. I am not disposed to lend any aid in making this precedent on a matter of profound and vital importance in the constitutional practice of this country. I value the British Constitution, and would not touch it except on good cause shown. I do not see any good cause for touching the Treaty-making power at the present moment. I do not know to what extent this Bill, which I suppose will go forward, will create a precedent; I do not know what bearing it may have on the power of the Crown to cede territory. I can conceive that it might be urged, if Parliament is asked to vote the cession of Heligoland, questions as to the validity of other cessions in former times may be raised, because the Crown made those csssions without the sanction of both Houses of Parliament. I must decline to be a party to instituting such aprece-cedent at all, and I must decline taking any part in the proceedings on the present Bill. That may be consolatory to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, for he considers the dispatch of business towards the end of the Session constitutes the Alpha and Omega of our duty. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will give me credit, in endeavouring to sustain my argument, for not being actuated by any factious feeling. It really 769 touches a matter of deep, serious, profound interest and importance. I wish to wash my hands of these proceedings as constituting a precedent. I repeat my assurance that I appreciate the motives that have actuated Her Majesty's Government in these proceedings, but I do trust that the House will bear in mind that we are dealing with matters which, though not very immediately in view, are, nevertheless, of vital consequence to the country, and that in making changes some care, and some reverence even, is due to the Constitution under which we live.
§ (6.15.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I beg to assure the right hon. Gentleman that it is no consolation to Her Majesty's Government that he should propose to withdraw from further discussion of the Bill. Looking at the tone and spirit with which he has treated the question, it would have been a great satisfaction to us to have had the advantage of his great knowledge and experience. The right hon. Gentleman has paid a compliment to my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He has given unqualified praise to my noble Friend for the spirit with which he has conducted the negotiations; and I am glad that it should be known, both in Germany and elsewhere, that, so far as the substance of the Agreement is concerned, the right hon. Gentleman, representing as he does so large a proportion of hon. Members who sit opposite, should have associated himself with the general feeling of satisfaction that an Agreement has been come to with the friendly Power of Germany. I will not follow my right hon. Friend in the first part of his speech. I see with great pleasure that, so far as the African question is concerned, he considers that the rights of the natives remain in exactly the same position as now, and that the Agreement will not to any extent change their position. I am sure that he will also associate himself with the general feeling which I believe will exist in this House, that it is satisfactory to have terminated the race or competition with Germany in those regions, and that we shall, for the future, be able to pursue our colonising efforts without that jealousy which otherwise might have existed. 770 The right hon. Gentleman spoke with great discretion, and touched in the slightest possible manner, on what he called the error of my noble Friend in having concluded negotiations with Germany before he had invited France to consent to the proposal with regard to the protectorate of Zanzibar. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman, through the delicacy with which he touched upon the question, has relieved us from the necessity of going into the matter during the pending negotiations with France, which, I believe, in a short time will be brought to a satisfactory termination. At any time after the negotiations are concluded we will be prepared to enter into a discussion of "the error," as he called it. With regard to Heligoland, we do not take any exception to the hope which the right hon. Gentleman expresses with respect to the declaration of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs as to the status of British subjects in Heligoland and their children in the future. The question is a complicated one; it depends on the interpretation of German law. We are satisfied that the statement of my right hon. Friend was absolutely correct, and that the inhabitants of Heligoland and their children retain the full rights of British subjects. We have made every provision possible for the status of those from whom we part. The main point of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman touched upon the Constitutional question of the treaty-making power, and we must admit to the full the right and the duty of the right hon. Gentleman, holding the views that he does, in placing his most interesting and learned arguments fully before the House. He has saved the House from the remark that a matter of this kind had been passed over sub silentio. I notice that the friends of the right hon. Gentleman in the House of Lords did not raise the question. If they had done so my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would have been most competent to deal with it. At all events, I am prepared to the best of my ability, though practically without notice that this particular point would be raised—but of that I make no complaint —I say I am prepared to deal with it. With one most important point in the conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech let me at once attempt 771 o deal. The right hon. Gentleman said if we attempted to find a precedent for the course we had pursued in asking the assent of Parliament to the cession he doubted if we could find it. We do not for a moment base our argument on the assumption that the assent of Parliament was indispensable to the cession. If we were to say that by no other means would it be legal to make the cession, then there would be something in the argument of my right hon. Friend. Bat we do not take that ground. There is one point to which the right hon. Gentleman did not call attention, and. that is, that in the agreement itself it is stipulated between the Crown and the German Emperor that the assent of Parliament shall be given. It is a perfectly right contention that we were right or we were wrong in stipulating for the assent of Parliament, but it is not for Parliament to say that such an assent should be reserved to it. It is the Crown which has stipulated for the assent of Parliament, and it is the prerogative of the Crown to deal with the matter. But it was the wish of the Crown that Parliament should be associated with it in this case. My right hon. Friend called attention to the fact that some doubt has been expressed upon the point of whether the assent of Parliament was required. I think I shall have the assent of Members in various quarters of the House when I say that if there was any doubt on the point it was better that it should be solved by taking the assent of Parliament. But I do not rest upon that argument. I rest upon the argument that we were not obliged to ask the assent of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman, with some ingenuity, put the question of the whole treaty-making power on this particular point, which involves the cession of territory. I should be as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman to preserve to the Crown the Treaty-making Power. I know that is not the view of some hon. Members—those who contend that the Treaty-making Power should be transferred to this House. I am glad that we are strengthened by the very powerful speech of the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the policy of retaining the Treaty-making Power in the Crown. We do not wish to set the example that Treaties should invariably or generally be submitted to this House before they 772 are made. I wish to reinforce the argument of my right hon. Friend on that head. I wish to say that there are many cases in which to require the sanction of Parliament to the making of Treaties would be extremely impolitic. I am perfectly ready to leave as a general question the risks which the right hon. Gentleman intimated might follow, when he said that the present position was this—that it was the House of Commons, and not the House of Lords, with whom the ratification of the Treaty-making Power rested, because the House of Commons has the power of punishing Ministers, and the House of Lords is deprived of that interesting function. That power of the House of Commons, no doubt, is a great restraint upon Governments in negotiating Treaties, and it must keep the entire responsibility of it. But I am not sorry that, upon a point so vital as the cession of territory, in time of peace and not under the pressure of war, Parliament should have been asked to give its assent. It is not an indispensable assent. It is indispensable in this case, because the Crown has inserted a clause to that effect. I followed with attention and interest the precedents quoted by the right hon. Gentleman. None of those precedents bears even a near analogy to the present case. But the very fact that these negotiations were not an absolutely indispensable settlement of an international dispute, bat merely a matter of policy, adopted without pressure, and under no compulsion from any Power whatever, seemed to make it more desirable that we should have the assent of Parliament to the transfer of persons who are British subjects; because the cession of territory in which there are British subjects is a matter which should be dealt with with extraordinary prudence and the fullest consideration on all sides. We accept this responsibility. We admit that it is a departure in a certain sense from practice, though there is no precedent which would be exactly analogous to this case. This view does not involve that the assent of Parliament is indispensable to Treaty making, or even to the cession of territory. But there are occasions when the Crown, while reserving its full right of making a Treaty, if it chooses, may, on the advice of its Ministers, after an Agreement has been made and entered 773 into, which transfers British subjects from one allegiance to another, submit it for the approval of both Houses of Parliament.
§ (6.33.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I have listened most attentively to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I am as far as ever from understanding why the Government have thought it worth while, on a great constitutional question, to change absolutely in silence the whole practice of Parliament, affecting, as it does, the relations of Parliament to the Grown, and of one House of Parliament to the other. It is, I suppose, a part of that remarkably morbid passion which the present Government have for unnecessarily raising constitutional questions on matters where every one is agreed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot deny that there is no example in the history of the English Constitution of a Bill of this character for such a purpose. The ordinary form in dealing with Treaties, whether they be Treaties of cession, or any other Treaties, is to lay the Treaty before both Houses of Parliament, and, if the Treaty is of sufficient importance, to move an Address of approval by Parliament to the Treaty made by the Crown. If, as in cases of minor cessions, the Treaty is not of sufficient importance, it lies on the Table; no one thinks it worth while to move an Address; and the cession takes place without the approval of Parliament. That is unquestionably the Constitutional Law and practice, and why has it been departed from? Why have the Government not, in both Houses of Parliament, moved an Address approving the Anglo-German Agreement? That is the constitutional practice, and if it had been followed we should have had the whole Treaty before us. But instead of that the Government bring in a Bill in a way never before heard of. They pick out one article, and the opinion of the House is not asked as to the whole Anglo-German Treaty, but only as to this one article referring to Heligoland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that nothing was said about this procedure in the House of Lords. I should think not; it is far too much to their advantage for them to raise any such question of law. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that it was not necessary to ask the leave of Parliament, but that this was 774 done merely out of the bounty of the Crown. But I will tell the right hon. Gentleman this—that if there is anything clear and certain in the constitutional history of this country it is that where taxation or anything else has been empowered by prerogative alone, and the interposition of Parliament has been subsequently invited or enforced, that prerogative has gone. No constitutional lawyer can deny that, for it is proved in every chapter of history. The growing power of Parliament and the waning power of prerogative are attributable to the fact that Parliament has been introduced into matters that were once done by prerogative alone; and once 'the interference of Parliament has been established it cannot be disestablished. Do not let it be supposed that this is a small thing. There was another argument used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which was hardly worthy of his abilities. He urged that this was nothing, because it was inserted in the Bill that the Crown had itself in the Treaty proposed the assent of Parliament. The Crown has always done that in the class of Treaties to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian referred. The Crown is obliged to do it. Take any Treaty of Commerce—your own Sugar Treaty, for example. In that Treaty the Crown inserted that it should be under the assent of Parliament. Was that because the Crown reserved the power not to ask the assent of Parliament? Why is the Parliamentary assent given to Loan Treaties or Commercial Treaties? Because it does not belong to the prerogative of the Crown to tax or lend the money of the people. Therefore, when a Treaty of this kind is made, the assent of Parliament is reserved exactly in the words that he used, because the Crown cannot do it without the assent of Parliament. The suggestion that the Crown has the power to do these things without the assent of Parliament is contrary to practice. Does any man deny that, in every case whore cessions have been made, they have been made by the prerogative of the Crown without a Bill? In 1783, when the great cessions were made in the Treaty of Lord Bute, they were violently opposed, as everybody remembers, by Lord Chatham If he could have argued that 775 those cessions to Spain and Franco must have the assent of Parliament by Bill, he would have advanced that argument. How did this unlearned doubt ever arise? This is a subject into which I was professionally called upon to inquire some years ago, and it was carefully sifted in the Courts of Law before a very competent tribunal. As far as I know, the idea that a cession of territory required the authority of Parliament was suggested for the first time in the Debate, during the Shelburne Administration, which gave rise to the notorious coalition, and which was started by Lord Carlisle in the House of Lords. The idea received some countenance from Lord Loughborough, but it was stamped out forever by a speech of Lord Thurlow's, then Lord Chancellor, who treated it with the greatest contempt, for he said that no one ever heard of an Act of Parliament being required for a cession of territory. Mr. Pox, and all those who were violently opposed to the cessions in the Treaty of 1783, would have used this argument if they could have done so. The cessions were far more important than that which the House is now dealing with. They included Minorca, Florida, St. Pierre, and Miquelon, and there was no attempt to carry them out by Bill. From that time the proposition that cession of territory requires the sanction of an Act of Parliament has never been maintained by any responsible statesman or by any author worthy of any credit or authority. People who have not examined the subject say that the cession of territory is different from other Treaty-making powers. They do not differ at all. Cessions of territory are almost always made for corresponding considerations to those in this case; and you cannot deal with one part of a Treaty without dealing with the whole. Although, apparently, in this case the House is asked only to deal with the cession of Heligoland, you are, in fact, dealing with the whole Treaty-making power. Commercial Treaties are generally made as separate Treaties, but cession is always a consideration for some other advantage, it may be the cession of some other territory, or it may be the settlement of some disputed question, as here. I venture to assert there is no precedent for asking the assent of Parliament 776 merely to a cession of territory. When the subject of the Ionian Islands was under consideration an hon. Member said that they ought not to be given up by Act of Parliament. Lord Palmerston said it was not a cession; but if it were he said that there was no question that the Crown, by its prerogative, might make a Treaty alienating such possession without the consent of the House of Commons, and that the history of the country furnished numerous instances in which cessions of this kind had been made, as in the case of Senegal, Minorca, Florida, the Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, which were all ceded by Treaty to some Foreign Power. Therefore, there can be no question as to the competency of the Crown to make the cession. I do not understand the Government to deny that this Treaty-making power resides in the Crown alone. It seems to me to be perfectly gratuitous to depart from the principle. It it were necessary I could show this by appealing to the highest authorities. Kent, in his Commentaries, says that wherever resides the Treaty-making power there resides the right of cession, unless the Constitution expressly excludes it. This subject was carefully considered by the founders of the American Constitution, to whom my right hon. Friend has referred in terms of well-deserved eulogium. In 1788, after the original Union of the States, and when the Federal Union was constituted, they carefully considered the Treaty-making power and the powers of the Executive of the United States; and there is nothing, I think, in the history of Constitutional Law so instructive as the discussion of those matters in the Federalist by Alexander Hamilton. In an 1869 number he says—The King of Great Britain can, of his own accord, make Treaties of peace, commerce, and alliance. It has been asserted that his authority in this respect is not conclusive, and that conventions with Foreign Powers are subject to revision and stand in need of ratification in Parliament, but I believe that this doctrine was never heard of until it was broached on this occasion. Every jurist of that Kingdom and man acquainted with its Constitution knows it is an established fact that the prerogative of making Treaties exists in the Crown in its utmost plenitude. Parliament, it is true, is sometimes seen employing itself in altering existing laws in conformity with the stipulations of new Treaties, and this may possibly have given birth to the imaginations that its co-operation 777 was necessary to the obligatory efficacy of a Treaty.I understand that that doctrine is not denied by the Crown. I have heard it said that this doctrine only applies to cessions made after a war. There is no foundation for any statement of this kind; there is no authority, no example. Cessions have been made in peace, as well as Treaties at the conclusion of a war, over and over again. For instance, in 1814 Bantam was conceded to Holland. It has been said that there might be a different rule in respect of Treaties for which Parliament has legislated. There is no foundation for that distinction at all. The Crown has conceded territories over and over again, besides the Indian territories, where Parliament has legislated in respect of them. I give, as an example, the cession of the Gold Coast to the Dutch in 1867 by the Government of Lord Derby. That Treaty was signed by Lord Carnarvon (whose loss, I am sure, we all deeply deplore) and by the present Lord Derby. In 1843 an Act of Parliament was passed specially dealing with that territory, and in order to enable Her Majesty to provide for the government of her settlements on the coast of Africa. I. would also give the cession of the English possessions in Sumatra, which were legislated for by Parliament. They were ceded by Treaty to the Dutch in exchange for the possession of the Straits Settlements, without an Act of Parliament. No instance can be given in limitation of the prerogative in this respect. I say this with some confidence, because it happened that in 1875 I was counsel in the Privy Council in a matter where this question was raised. The High Court of Bombay held the doctrine that an Indian cession was not valid because it had not been confirmed by Act of Parliament. On appeal, we challenged that doctrine. It was argued at great length before the Privy Council, and it is a remarkable fact that Lord Cairns, who was then the Chancellor, challenged Mr. Forsyth, who appeared as counsel on the other side, regarding this point. He was challenged to produce an instance; and he admitted that he could not. This is the first example introduced by the Government without a word of explanation or of warning to the House of Commons that they are changing the constitutional practice; and until the 778 Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke, no account has been given of the remarkable course pursued. Something has been said about the American practice. I know there are gentlemen who think that the American practice should be adopted in this country; but this is not the American practice. It goes a great deal further than the American practice. If anyone wishes to understand the American practice I will recommend him to read a most interesting and instructive chapter in Storey's History of the Constitution, in which the author explains why the Americans adopted the concurrence of the Senate, and why it did not include the House of Representatives. It points out that there the chief of the Government is not, as in the case of the monarchy of England, perpetual. He only lasts for four years. It was, therefore, deemed necessary to have some other Treaty-making Power associated with him. But the Senate, and not the Legislature was so associated, and the Senate acts, not as part of the Legislature, but as part of the Executive. It is more like the association of the Privy Council with the Sovereign in matters of this kind. If anyone will consider the point, they will see how impossible it is to conduct the affairs of a great nation if the Treaty-making powers are dependent on the Legislature. Therefore, do not suppose that what the Government are doing is what the Americans have done; they are doing a great deal more than the Americans did. I ask what is the meaning of this departure on the part of Her Majesty's Government from the Constitutional practice in this case? I must say that a lamer reason than that given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer I never listened to in my life. You cannot touch the Constitution of this country by bits. Any interference with one part of it is likely to bring down the whole edifice about your ears. The Government appear to labour under the notion that they can tamper with the Constitution without consideration and without warning. We must consider the future, and see how far these things reach, and I venture to say that this is a matter that reaches very far indeed. When you have once made Parliament a partner in this matter you cannot repudiate the partnership. In 779 my opinion the Government have by this proceeding destroyed the treaty-making power and prerogative of the Crown as far as the cession of territory is concerned. In my opinion they have gone further than that, because the cession of territory is only a part of a treaty, and we cannot consider the cession as a whole. Therefore, do not imagine that this is only an affair of today, because it concerns the generations that have to come after us. What are the consequences of this proceeding? The Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to cessions made before, and said, "Oh, the argument that they will be invalidated is unfounded." I think it is perfectly well founded. If you pass an Act of Parliament to validate this cession you re-open all the questions which wore raised in the case I speak of in the Privy Council. In that case it was alleged that English jurisdiction survived because the cession was invalidated and incompetent, because it ought to have been ordered by the Houses of Parliament. In future people will point to the cession of Heligoland and say the authority of Parliament was necessary by Statute. In the cases of Sumatra, the Gold Coast, and India, the cessions have not been made by Act of Parliament. By their action Her Majesty's Government have tied the hands of the Executive. In my opinion the moment this Bill is carried the Government are bound to introduce a Bill to validate all past cessions which have been made without the authority of Parliament, and if this is to apply to a Treaty of Cession, why not to all Treaties? Annexations may bring with them responsibilities and dangers far greater than any loss sustained by cession. Why, then, are annexations not to be subject to the approval of Parliament? There are alliances offensive and defensive with the great military Powers of Europe. These involve consequences infinitely greater than the cession of Heligoland. Why are they not to be confirmed by the authority of Parliament? As my right hon. Friend has said, this opens up one of the greatest Constitutional questions that can be opened. Her Majesty's Government have taken a course which involves the rights of the Crown and the relations of both Houses of Parliament. It has been said that this is a question 780 of prerogative of the Crown, and so it is. But what is the prerogative of the Crown? In the old days, perhaps, it meant that the Crown had the right, irrespective of any control whatever, to enter into Treaties for the cession of territory; but that is not what it means now. In these days the prerogative of the Crown means the prerogative of the House of Commons. The Ministers of the Crown are the creation and the creatures of the House of Commons, and any impeachment of the prerogative of the Crown is an impeachment of the right of the House of Commons. The House of Commons can say how far the prerogative of the Crown shall be exercised, and that, in my opinion, makes the prerogative one of the most valuable of all the rights of the House of Commons, because the Ministers of the Crown exercise it under the authority and by the direction of the House of Commons. Therefore, no hon. Member who regards the prerogative from this aspect will be disposed to assent to the catting down of the prerogative of the Crown. Do not let it be supposed, therefore, that in fighting for the prerogative of the Crown we are fighting for anything that is opposed to popular rights, because we are, in truth, fighting for that which is one of the great weapons that can be used in support of popular rights. What is the effect of this proposal of the Government? I do not call it this insidious proposal of the Government, because I do not believe that the Government have ever considered its gravity. I do not suggest they have made this proposal in order to give to the House of Lords the power of veto in regard to the foreign policy of the country. I believe when Dr. Johnson was asked how some errors had occurred in his dictionary, he replied, "From sheer ignorance." I believe that that is the case with Her Majesty's Government in this matter, and that they have made this mistake in sheer ignorance. Had they made this attack upon the Constitution of the country intentionally, they would have been acting most unfairly both to Parliament and to the country. I believe, however, that that is not the case, and that Her Majesty's Government have introduced this measure sheerly from want of consideration of the important 781 change which it would effect in constitutional practice. The policy that induced Her Majesty's Government to bring forward this measure may have very serious consequences. In 1713 there was a Whig majority in the House of Lords, which supported the Duke of Marlborough against the Tory Government of Bolingbroke, and the Government had to create 12 Peers in one day in order to bring about the peace of Utrecht. Coming to later days, there was no period during the Foreign Administration of Lord Palmerston when he had not a hostile majority opposed to him in the House of Lords, and if matters of this kind had been submitted to that Assembly they would have destroyed his policy altogether. Over and over again the House of Lords passed Votes of Censure upon him, but Lord Palmerston, having the support of an assured majority of the Representatives of the people in this House, took no notice of those Votes of Censure. What would be the consequence if a Government, having a large majority in the House of Commons, were to find measures of this kind embodying their foreign policy thrown out by the House of Lords? The result would be to make the consent of the House of Lords an absolute condition precedent to a Treaty involving the cession of territory. I do not say it is the intention, but it will be the consequence, of this proceeding that any Treaty which the House of Lords disapproves cannot be ratified. Thus you give a veto to the House of Lords on the foreign policy of this country. This is a most dangerous and mischievous innovation. It is said if you do not do this the Isle of Wight might be given up. That is absurd. You might as well talk of vetoing the Mutiny Bill or the Appropriation Bill. These are points not worth considering. We are here dealing with a practical question. What is the situation? You have a principle founded on the Constitution. There is no exception. No authority can be quoted against it. In the case before the Privy Council it did not become necessary for the Court to decide the point, and the Judges are always very happy, when there is a large point and it small point, to decide on the small point. If you will look at that case you will see there is no doubt what the views of the 782 Judges were. About that no man who reads the case, in which I was concerned with my friend Mr. Justice Fitzjames Stephen, can have any doubt. Well, that is the situation in which the Government have sprung upon us this new proceeding. They had before them the plain and simple course of proceeding. If they had chosen, this important matter might never have arisen. They might have laid the Treaty on the Table, and allowed any one to question it. If they had thought fit they might have moved an Address of Approbation of the Treaty. They had the cases of 1783, 1815, 1863, and 1856. How was the opinion of Parliament invited in those cases? It was invited by an Address in both Houses, thus leaving it open to the House of Lords to approve or the House of Commons to disapprove. My opinion is that this is an enormous constitutional mischief. It touches the foundation of your Executive Government and your relations with every country in the world. How is a Government that has not the command of a majority in the House of Lords to treat with any foreign nation? A foreign country would say—"We cannot treat with you. You have not got a majority of the House of Lords; we are not going to enter into a Treaty." A more serious condition of things it is impossible to conceive. I can only express, in conclusion, my astonishment at the action of the Government in having thought it desirable, in this wanton manner, to violate all Parliamentary precedent. I can only say that I shall associate myself with my right hon. Friend in the action he proposes to take. We have no wish to raise any question with Germany in this matter. It is not a question affecting the foreign country. Germany has nothing to do with it. It is a question belonging to our own Constitution. The form in which you have presented this arrangement for our acceptance is one that is not in accordance with, but in complete contradiction of, the constitutional practice always pursued by this country. We do not vote against your Bill, because we do not wish to break the Agreement with Germany. We cannot vote for it for the reasons given by my right hon. Friend. It remains only for us to enter our solemn protest against the proceeding which the Government have taken, 783 in the hope that it may not form a precedent in the future.
§ *(7.22.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
For one thing, at all events, I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. He accuses the Government in submitting this question to Parliament of having made a formidable breach of the Constitution. He accuses us of increasing the power of the House of Lords at the cost of the House of Commons; but he is good enough to say that we did not do it by design. I am thankful for the admission, because I remember the last time I came into conflict with him on a constitutional question he was good enough to accuse me, with regard to a certain proposed Standing Order, that my special object was to destroy the power of the House of Commons, and increase the power of the House of Lords.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am utterly unable to understand whence has been born the right hon. Gentleman's new passion for the prerogative of the Crown. My impression was that, by conviction and tradition, the right hon. Gentleman was unalterably opposed to the prerogative of the Crown, and that his one desire was to diminish it. I now find him standing up as the champion of the prerogative of the Crown against, of all Parties in the world, a Conservative Government. I could not understand this strange protest until we reached the latter part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and then I discovered that what he was afraid of was not the action of the House of Commons, but the action of the House of Lords; and if there is a thing that he dislikes more than the prerogative of the Crown it is the power of the House of Lords. The greater hatred has overcome the lesser hatred, and we have the right hon. Gentleman standing forth, for the first time in his life, as the great champion of the prerogative of the Crown. Now, what is the value of this precious argument that he has unearthed as to the possible action of the House of Lords with regard to a Treaty? He asks how any Government can negotiate a Treaty with a Government if it 784 happens to be in a minority in the House of Lords, which can set the Treaty aside? ["Hear, hear!"] Well, I am glad I have correctly stated his argument. Then let the right hon. Gentleman have the courage of his opinions. Let him be consistent. Let him withdraw from the House of Commons what it has now by immemorial usage, the right to have its assent asked to any commercial Treaty, to Treaties embodying financial proposals. We are told that to associate the House of Lords with us in any matter of this kind diminishes rather than increases the power of the House of Commons. Then, I say to the right hon. Gentleman, let him carry his argument to its logical issue. Let him carry out his new opinions, which we have heard for the first time in our history; let him advocate the doctrine that all Treaties shall be withdrawn from the cognizance of Parliament. Until he does that he has not a leg to stand upon, when he tells us that the power of this House is diminished or destroyed when we substitute the assent of Parliament for the prerogative of the Crown. I think that disposes of his argument. [Opposition Laughter.] Well, I will not say it disposes of his argument, but I will say that it disposes of the consistency of the right hon. Gentleman. I think there is one argument which, if it had had any foundation in fact, would have had a far more serious import—I mean the argument that all previous Treaties ceding territories will be invalidated if we once admit the principle that the assent of Parliament is required. But the right hon. Gentleman must know that that is not good Constitutional Law. If we were to come forward and say to France, "We find that we have ceded you territory under conditions not in accord with the constitutional usage of the British Empire; you will be good enough to hand it back to us," France would laugh at us. The weakest State in Europe would laugh at us. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman that such cessions are absolutely invalidated must fall to the ground.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I did not go to the full length of that statement. My argument applied only to the great danger which would arise in regard to Indian cessions.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I believe I am right in saying that a cession made on the authority of the Sovereign is a valid cession. The right hon. Gentleman said that Lord Loughborough had given his assent to the doctrine that Parliament was required to give its consent to the cession of territory, but then, he said, Lord Loughborough was a man of indifferent character, and his argument was immediately bowled over by Lord Thurlow. But then Lord Thurlow also was a man of very indifferent character, and I believe that historians to this day have not been able to make up their minds whether Lord Loughborough was a greater scoundrel than Lord Thurlow, or whether Lord Thurlow was a greater scoundrel than Lord Loughborough. I come down, then, to more recent days. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian is not in his place now, but he quoted Lord Selborne as an authority for the doctrine that the assent of Parliament was necessary. [Cries of "No."]
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
At all events he quoted Lord Selborne as having directly traversed the doctrine that he, the Member for Mid Lothian, has laid down, that under no circumstances could Parliament be required to give its assent. But there are other authorities of not less weight than Lord Selborne, and even of later date, and I am surprised the right hon. Gentleman did not know that. In two years, in the year 1870 and in 1884, I believe I am right in saying that the then Law Officers of the Crown expressed an opinion upon this great constitutional issue precisely in accordance with the doctrine now advanced by Her Majesty's Government. These are the opinions of very eminent legal gentlemen, who are responsible for the advice given to Her Majesty's Government.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that would not be a possible proceeding.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I rise to order. I say that if those documents are not produced, they ought not to have been mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman is surprised I was not acquainted with 786 them. How should I be? The right hon. Gentleman knows that the value of them depends upon what the circumstances were, and what were the opinions taken, and to make a vague statement on the matter is worthless.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman calls that a point of order or not, but I have no objection to it. It is not necessary, however, that the opinion of the Law Officers should be produced in the manner required, because all that is wanted for my argument is to show that there may be and have been doubts expressed by competent authority. I should be very sorry to lay it down as a doctrine to be held by every Government that it was absolutely necessary to make a cession of territory valid that it should be done with the assent of Parliament. What I do say is that eminent Legal Authorities, consulted specifically, have given it as their opinion that such assent is necessary. The question is, therefore, in a nebulous condition. It is one of those undecided cases of constitutional practice and law. Such cases constantly arise, and must constantly arise in, every unwritten Constitution. They do arise under our Constitution, and the question the Government had to determine was this—the matter being so far undecided—on which side were they to lend the weight of their practice and authority? On which side should they attempt by a precedent to determine this undetermined question? I say we were undoubtedly right, having those two alernatives before us, to choose the alternative which gave greater authority to Parliament, instead of choosing the alternative which diminished the authority of Parliament. Now, does anybody doubt that? The right hon. Gentleman and the Member for Mid Lothian talked throughout their speeches as if this procedure diminished the power of the House of Commons. What is the power they claim for the House of Commons? The power of turning out the Ministry if the Ministry do not please them. Well, that power is retained; that power remains undiminished, and if they disapprove of a Treaty submitted to them they have only to pass a Vote of Censure, and the Government of the day vanishes into thin air. But I differ from the right hon. Gentleman. He seems to think that the control of Parliament 787 over the Executive, control after the event (to use a somewhat Irish expression), the control by punishment and not by prevention, is in all oases the best method of managing international affairs. I do not think it is the best method. I admit that you could conclude a Treaty at the end of a war without Parliamentary consent. You could not conduct delicate foreign negotiations through the medium of the Houses of Parliament. I go much further, and I say to require the assent of Parliament to those exchanges or cessions of territory, which have constantly attended the conclusion of a peace, would be wholly absurd, and I, for one, should never think of being a party to any precedent that would make such a course obligatory on the Crown. But when I am told that, in all cases, this power of punishing the Ministry is ample security for managing international affairs I venture to differ. Prevention, as we all know, is better than cure. Here the right hon. Gentleman does not prevent; he punishes; he cannot cure. Under these circumstances it does seem to me that in these days, when the whole tendency of events is to increase the power of Parliament over the Executive, it is good to give Parliament not merely the power of punishing, but of preventing the Ministry from falling into error. That has been the policy we have followed in this case.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman interrupts me by saying this is a binding precedent. I do not object to its being a binding precedent if you do not exceed the precedent. The precedent is this—that in a time of profound peace, when no great public emergency threatens the State, when no other and ulterior considerations were involved, when no difficulties of negotiation would be produced, then, and then only, a cession of British territory, and the transfer of British subjects to a foreign dominion, should not be undertaken until the assent of both Houses of Parliament had been declared. That is the precedent we have set. That precedent, I hope, will always be adhered to. and I hope—I do not shrink from it—the time will never come when, under the conditions I have enumerated, any Govern- 788 ment will attempt to concede portions of the British territory without first asking the assent of this House and the House of Lords. Is it not absurd that it should be a doctrine of our Constitutional Law that any Treaty which involves even a sixpence of expenditure should require the assent of this House and the House of Lords, but that a Treaty, which a eight involve the cession of places of vital interest to the safety of the British Empire, should be able to be passed unquestioned by a Ministry who might be called to account, but could not be prevented from carrying out their policy? I am not afraid, for my own part, of any conclusions that may be legitimately drawn from the action of Her Majesty's Government. The precedent we accept is one from which we do not shrink. It is a precedent which we think ought to be followed. We know that it does not interfere with the Treaty-making power of the Crown; we know that it does not interefere with the power of the Crown in a great national crisis, without the assent of Parliament, to pass Treaties which may involve far greater cessions than that of Heligoland; and we do not object, but rejoice in the fact that if this precedent has been set it will not be in the power of any Government to come, in a period of profound peace, to manipulate the territories of the British Empire without asking the assent of the British Parliament.
§ (7.42.) SIR HORACE DAVEY
After the speech we have just heard we now know from the highest authority that the right hon. Gentleman not only defends the cession of Heligoland, but he rejoices in it and hopes it will be a precedent for the future. The precedent set by the Government in this matter is one of the most important constitutional changes that has ever taken place, certainly within my political recollection. Now, Sir, what is the position in which we stand in relation to this matter? The right hon. Gentleman has told the House that he makes certain limitations to the generality of the doctrine he has just laid down. If I understand him rightly, he says the Government deliberately intend, by the form they have given to this Bill, to set a precedent by which it will be impossible for any future Government to make any Treaty without the assent of Parliament under certain 789 conditions. What are those conditions? Anything more vague or more unsatisfactory cannot be conceived. There is to be no difficulty in a time of profound peace, but only in case of a national crisis. But who is to judge of whether there are difficulties of negotiation, or whether the time is one of a national crisis? Who is to judge, moreover, of whether there are ulterior considerations? Not only no lawyer, but no layman, would be able to grasp such a proposition of Constitutional Law as the right hon. Gentleman laid down. The proposition laid down by the right hon. Gentleman is that there is an exception to the Treaty-making power of the Crown in certain cases, which he is utterly unable to define by words which are capable of being put into a proposition of law.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am unwilling to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman. Nothing in my speech implied any limitation upon the Treaty-making power of the Crown; it was entirely the power of ceding territory.
§ SIR H. DAVEY
If you put, a limitation upon the power of ceding territory, you put a limit upon the Treaty - making power of the Crown to cede territory. No one contends that the Crown can cede territory otherwise than by Treaty. I believe I am perfectly accurate when I say that in not a single instance has any doubt been thrown upon the power of the Crown to cede territory. It is quite true that the Minister who advises the Crown to make a cession of territory may be impeached, but I am not aware that Parliament has ever been asked by the Crown to give its opinion as to a cession of territory or the manner of making it. Our Constitutional Law is based upon precedents. We. have no written Constitution. I ask where, if there are any precedents, am I to find this new constitutional theory? Black-stone, and all the great writers upon constitutional law are silent upon it. They place no limitation upon the power of the Crown to make a Treaty even for the cession of territory. The right hon. Gentleman said there were opinions quotable each way. I should like him to quote them. What is the use of telling me that the Law Advisers in a certain case gave certain opinions, unless I have an opportunity of reading 790 those opinions, and of knowing the circumstances of the case to which they apply? The opinion of a lawyer without the case on which it is written is of singularly little value. But here we have not got even the lawyer's opinion. We are only told that the lawyer has given his opinion. I shall discard from my consideration any of those apocryphal opinions of the Law Officers. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the opinion of Sir Roundell Palmer, for whom I have as high a respect as anybody. Sir Roundell Palmer, in answering a question in this House, said the Crown had power to cede territory, but that he thought there might be a difference when Parliament had legislated for the cession of territory. So far as I know there is no authority in any text book, and no authority in any precedent, for the qualification, for it does not amount to more than a qualification, which Lord Selborne (Sir Roundell Palmer) was disposed to make in giving his answer. Lord Selborne did not say anything about a time of profound peace or ulterior considerations or difficulties of negotiation. I would much rather pay attention to the opinion of Lord Selborne after he has heard the argument of counsel, and, with the assistance of Lord Cairns, gives the judgment of the Privy Council, than to an off-hand answer to a question in this House. What was it that Lord Selborne said in giving the judgment of the Privy Council? He said—Their Lordships think it sufficient to state that they entertain such grave doubts, to say no more, of the soundness of the general abstract doctrine laid down in high quarters as to be unable to advise any decision on the question.I must congratulate the Party which calls itself the Constitutional Party on this new departure from Constitutional Law. In my opinion, it is revolutionary; in my opinion it is a precedent of a most dangerous character, and, so far as I can see from the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Gentleman, not a single shred of justification has been given for this departure. Has the Chancellor of the Exchequer given any justification for it? All he has said was that the Government did not think it right to cede territory in which there were British subjects living, and that there 791 were British subjects living in Heligoland. There are British subjects living in every portion of the British territory, and if the justification of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were sound, you could never cede any British territory at all without the assent of Parliament. The deliberate opinion of Lord Palmerston, who was a man of the highest experience in these matters, was that the Crown had, without the assent of Parliament, the most ample power to cede territory. Of course, if a Minister of the Crown does it, it is at the risk of being censured and called to account in this House. But subject to that limitation, it appears to me a precedent of a most dangerous character, which we are now told has been deliberately set in the form in which this Treaty has been made and this Bill has been introduced.
§ *(7.58.) SIR G. BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down has described this as the most important constitutional change of the century, and one without the slightest justification. But the Government had no other course open to them than that which they adopted. Distinguished constitutional lawyers have told us that it still remains doubtful whether by prerogative of the Crown it is possible to cede territory, and still more it is doubtful when you include inhabitants for whom this Parliament has legislated. I have noticed that speakers on the other side of the House imagine that Parliament has only one way, especially the House of Commons, of controlling the prerogative of the Crown, and that is by moving an Address to the Crown. But it must be acknowledged that in any Treaty which requires a legislative enactment to carry out its terms Parliament must have full control over that portion of the Agreement. I venture to say that in many cases Parliament has exercised that control where the right of the British subject has been recognised by Parliament, and the Crown does not cede that right without the sanction of the Legislature. With regard to Heligoland, Parliament has legislated on many details affecting the residents; there is no doubt Parliament has control of Heligoland, and the Agreement 792 will affect a state of things which the Legislature has sanctioned.
§ * SIR G. BADEN-POWELL
I daresay the right hon. Gentleman is well aware of the power under which the Supreme Authority in England confers the right of legislating for the colonies by Order in Council. This is done by virtue of the General Statute Law, and the Order in Council merely carries out the general Statutes of Parliament. In my humble opinion, the Government have no other course but to come to Parliament, considering that in this particular case the Treaty would interfere with the legislative enactments passed by Parliament itself. It is no question whether the Bill forms a precedent or not, for it does not change the Constitutional action of this House in regard to the prerogative of the Crown. As to the general question, whilst no doubt we feel we ought ourselves, by reason of our experience, to make the best use of Africa, we should not object to other countries making some use of it. Personally, I have no jealousy of other countries; and I think that, provided we obtain low Import Duties and free transit routes, we need not fear any other Power, especially when we remember that we have in Africa a million square miles of territory which will surely form a sufficient area for our operations during the next century or two. Wherever our civilisation extends markets open for British goods, and we are able to obtain from the natives in return supplies of food and other objects of commerce which are very valuable to us. It has been said in relation to this Treaty that we need a free course for our trade from the Zambesi to the Nile. That is an argument which will not hold water. We do not want to go from the north to the south in Africa, but to carry our goods by the shortest route to and from the coast, and our course will be east and west rather than north and south. From this point of view I have no fear of the extension of German influence right up to the boundaries of the Congo State. I think it a great pity, however, that the Government has not been able to negotiate for the Protectorate of Damara land and Namaqualand. It has been said that 793 the German occupation of those terriories is purely our fault and not the fault of the Cape Colony. If we look at the history of the question we shall find that at no very distant date the Cape Colony absolutely repudiated any idea of extending British authority over those territories. In 1885 the Cape Parliament resolved upon the desirability of annexing the coast up to Walfish Bay, but they specifically excluded the interior from annexation. Sir Bartle Frere, with with the free assent of Lord Carnarvon, urged both Governments to annex the whole of the territory up to the Portuguese boundary. The Cape Government was at the time in some difficulty, and it declined to annex those territories. It also withdrew the two British Residents from them, because, as it was distinctly stated, the moral force with which they sought to control the districts had failed to control them, and they were not prepared to use any other force. In February of 1884 our Ministers began again to urge the Cape Ministers to combine with them on this subject. It was not till June that they got a reply from the Cape, and by that time it was too late, because the Germans, had taken possession of the territory. To my mind, there are very strong and urgent reasons why we should, if we could, have negotiated with Germany to got back these territories. I think, myself, that the whole of South Africa below the parallel of about 20 south-latitude, should be under one flag and united together in one confederation or dominion, and I am convinced that all the European races in South Africa are willing to come together in one confederation, and will inevitably do so as soon as local jealousies have time to cease. For this reason I should like to see Damaraland and Namaqualand made an adjunct of the Cape Colony or Bechuanaland, so as to round off the South African States system. These countries would, I think, be best opened up from the Cape and Kimberley—as we know they do not, as it is, deal direct with Europe. I regret that there is no arrangement from the retrocession of these great territories, but, at the same time, I think the Anglo-German Agreement will confer inestimable advantage on the whole of Africa and enable us to work hand-in- 794 hand with the other European Powers. I only hope that our negotiations with France and Portugal will be as successful as those with Germany. I do not think Her Majesty's Government had any other constitutional course open to them than to come to Parliament to sanction this Treaty to enable us to cede Heligoland. For we have legislated for the people of that island and could not hand them over to a Foreign Power without the consent of Parliament. (8.20.)
§ (8.43.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ *(8.45.) MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I intend very briefly to give my reasons for supporting the Government. I have always desired to limit the prerogative of the Crown, and it is because I conceive that this Bill, whenever it receives the Royal Assent, will distinctly limit the prerogative of the Crown that I shall go into the lobby with the Government. If I had any doubt on the matter, my doubt would have been cleared away by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour). The right hon. Gentleman said that there were authorities quotable on both sides of the question, and that the Government had taken the course which he said was undoubtedly the right course to take, namely, that which gave greater authority to Parliament. If the right hon. Gentleman's words have any meaning, they mean that the Government, a Conservative Government, has with its eyes open selected a course which will in future diminish the prerogative of the Crown and increase the authority of Parliament at the expense of that prerogative. It is perfectly true that the right hon. Gentleman said that the limitation of the power of the Crown will be confined to the precedent we are dealing with this evening. I submit that there is no distinction or possible separation of the Treaties under different categories, except so far as those Treaties already come under categories where Parliament has already authority. The Chief Secretary said that any future action in reference to such a matter will be limited by the consideration which he said governs the House now in relation to this Treaty, namely, questions as to 795 whether there was outside excitement, and a number of matters to which I need not allude. I submit confidently that the only precedent that will be possible for reference will be the precedent of the Statute itself, and that it will not be competent to go outside the Statute to discuss the reasons which may or may not tempt or induce Members of either House to concur in the passing of the Bill; that it is quite impossible to take anything exterior to the Statute itself to determine whether or not the Statute limits the prerogative of the Crown or the extent to which it limits it. That this Bill if it becomes a Statute will limit the prerogative of the Crown is clear. It will not be competent after this Bill becomes law for anyone to go behind it and say that it was doubtful or that it might or might not have been done in some other way. The whole of the utterances as to the limitation of the prerogative of the Crown in the highest Constitutional Authorities show a gradual limitation by Statute after Statute, and it has been held over and over again that it is impossible to limit the prerogative by words of doubt; it must be limited by words which I say we have here. This, by the assent of the Queen, will be a relinquishment of the prerogative of Her Majesty and her successors to make, in the words of one of our greatest Constitutional Authorities, Treaties, leagues, and alliances with Foreign States and Princes without the consent of Parliament. I submit that that is a legal submission which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General will hardly dispute. The express words of the Chief Secretary for Ireland were that the Government intentionally and knowingly proposed—I am not quite sure about the intention—to give greater authority to Parliament; greater authority against whom? It can only be against the Crown. There is no authority given by this Bill against anybody except against the Crown. It may be that the exigencies of the argument will require the Attorney General, who, I notice, dissents, to contend that the prerogative has been abandoned in this particular only. I assent, without fear of contradiction, that such a contention would be laughed out of any Court in the realm. There never has been the contention that the prerogative, limited in 796 one Statute, could be re-taken by the Crown of its own will; it needs the consent of the two Houses of Parliament to restore to the Crown the prerogative it has voluntarily abandoned, and the whole of the theory of our limited Monarchy and the whole of our Constitution has grown in that way, and it is because I desire to limit the prerogative of the Crown, to make the Chief Magistrate of this country subject to Parliament, because I hope that this proceeding may lead to the prevention of wars by preventing the making of Treaties which end in wars, that I intend to vote with the Government in support of this Bill. It has been said that the assent of Parliament is necessary, because it is a matter of doubt. I suggest that the burden is upon the Attorney General or whoever may reply to show one solitary case in which any Treaty has been impeached on the ground of the inability of the Sovereign of these realms to enter into it. It is quite true that there is the danger that the effect of this Bill will be to increase the power of the other House, as well as of this. I am not concerned with the other House. I am concerned with the powers of this House, and it is because I am sure that this Bill will increase the power of Parliament—meaning by that, both Houses of Parliament—and will limit seriously in this respect the prerogative of the Crown, that I intend to vote with the Government. It is said that as there is in the House of Lords a Party predominant over the Party to which Members on this side of the House belong, you will paralyse Liberal Governments. I am willing to take the risk of that. If I am sure I have reduced the power of the Crown to make Treaties which involve impositions upon the nation, I shall be quite content to rely on what experience has taught us, that when the House of Lords enters upon a struggle with the House of Commons on questions of public policy, it is the House of Commons that prevails. But at present the House of Commons is powerless against a Ministry in relation to a Treaty. A Ministry may be thrown out of Office by a hostile vote of this House, but the repudiation of a Treaty never follows. I intend to vote with the Government, and it is something to be able to defend 797 one's self before the country by showing that those who boast most of being constitutionalists, either intentionally or in ignorance, are most frequent in trampling upon the Constitution. It would be a special pleasure to me to assist the Government in modifying one part of the Constitution, because I had to struggle against them in defence of another part. I need not occupy any length of time; the way lies so clear that words weaken rather than strengthen the case. The point is not as to what Treaties have been before, but as to those we are to have in the future. I admit that whatever has been done by the Crown in virtue of prerogative; whatever has been done before this Bill becomes law, is not affected; but from the moment this Bill receives the Royal Assent, it is an admonition to the Sovereign that the Crown has no right to enter into alliances or engagements with any Foreign State or Prince without the authority of Parliament, and, therefore, not without the authority of this House. This is so clear to my mind that on this ground alone I shall vote with the Government in limiting the power of the Crown.
§ *(9.1.) MR. BAUMANN (Camberwell, Peekham)
Perhaps I ought to apologise to the House for descending from the Olympian heights of Constitutional Law to the prosaic level of the Agreement itself now before the House; but I do not think we ought to allow the constitutional aspect of the question, important as it is, entirely to obscure the merits or demerits of the Agreement which we are asked to assent to. The present Sir Robert Peel once said the Constitutional Lawyers were the greatest bores in the House of Commons, and at this stage of the proceedings I think it is a dictum that Members will not be disposed to deny. If we are to consider the Treaty itself, it is about time we said good-bye to Constitutional Law. Most hon. Members will agree that it is a new and sound departure in our foreign and colonial politics when we resolve to settle international differences by bargains rather than by battles, as in former days; and I am very glad to infer from what has been said by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs that this Agreement is likely to create a precedent, and that we may in future, by 798 conceding in West Africa something to the just demands of France, settle without further disagreement the question of the Newfoundland fisheries. France has behaved towards us with great forbearance and comity in this matter, and I certainly hope that, having made this Agreement with Germany and having left France rather out in the cold in the matter, we shall not be slow, when we come to deal with the question of Zanzibar, to follow the lines on which Lord Salisbury has proceeded up to the present, and make some concession to France on the West Coast of Africa. With regard to the East African part of the question and the concessions we have made to and obtained from Germany, I will say only this, not being peculiarly well qualified to speak on the matter—that I think the settlement is of a statesmanlike character, and that it is well worth giving something to secure the friendship of the greatest Protestant Power in Europe. But with regard to that part of the subject which deals with South Africa, and about which I know a little more, I am bound to say that I cannot altogether approve the arrangement which Lord Salisbury has made, because I think the noble Lord has gone too far, and unnecessarily far, in allowing the Germans to come within our sphere of influence in that part of Africa. It is not only that he has allowed Germany to come east of the 20th degree of longitude, and as far as the 21st degree; but that when they reach the 18th parallel of latitude, he has allowed the Germans to go a great deal further east to Victoria Falls in such a way as to block or cross the path of our expansion in the Bechuanaland Protectorate. In order to appreciate what Lord Salisbury has done in admitting the Germans within our sphere of influence in South Africa, it is necessary to allude shortly to the history of that sphere of influence. Our sphere of influence was proclaimed with all due solemnity and deliberation on February 11, 1888, by Mr. Moffatt, then Acting Commissioner; and on July 25 in the same year, Sir Hercules Robinson wrote to the Transvaal Government that Her Majesty's Government regarded territory north of the South African Republic, South of the Zambesi, east of the 20th degree of east longitude, and west of the 799 Portuguese settlement of Sofala, as exclusively within the sphere of British influence. Now the phrase "sphere of influence" was new in colonial politics at that time, and it struck the ear of the Dutch Republic, and they asked the British Government to give an explanation of what was meant by "sphere of influence," and they asked what was the position under the law of nations of such territory, and as this is of great importance in colonial politics, I hope the House will forgive me if I read Lord Knutsford's answer. He instructed Sir Hercules Robinson to reply to President Kruger on March 29, 1889, in the following terms:—In answer to the question in paragraph 5 of your Despatch as to what would be the position under the law of nations of territory exclusively under British influence, I am directed to state that such territory could not be without the consent of Her Majesty's Government, annexed by the South African Republic or by any Foreign Power, nor could any concession be made by any King or Chief within such territory which would place British subjects or British trade in a position of disadvantage.I ask with what face, having on those conditions rigorously excluded the Boers from the territory which marches with their own country, and into which they might legitimately ask that they might be allowed to expand and overflow, can we admit the Germans to it? I think the 3oers have some reason to complain that we have hemmed them in on every side, but I think they have a double reason to complain when we have told them somewhat bluntly that the Protectorate territory is moat not for them but their masters, and now allow the Germans to take out a large slice of this, to them, forbidden territory. I cannot help saying our conduct in this regard appears, I had almost said contemptible, when we compare it with our attitude towards Portugal. Before the awful personality of Serpa pinto we are arrogant and unbending: before Germany we are complaisance itself. It is extraordinary what a cementing bond of friendship is the mastership, mastership of many legions. I warn Lord Salisbury, however, that in admitting Germany within our sphere of influence in South Africa without, I believe, taking any counsel with the Government of Cape Colony, he is opening up a vista of future troubles. 800 I am afraid he is raising a crop of troubles in South Africa, because it is impossible that there we can have a double reign. I have, therefore, felt it to be my duty to protest against unnecessary concession to the Germans in South Africa, especially as we receive nothing in exchange. Viewing the Agreement as a whole, however, I regard it as a solid monument of statesmanship, and I shall vote for the Second Reading of the Bill.
(9.15.) MR. PHILIPPS (Lanark,Mid)
The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs has said that British interests should be above Party fights. Now, I remember that, on June 2nd, an hon. Member moved a reduction in the Vote for the expenses of Heligoland, on the ground that it would be desirable to trade away the island to Germany for some concession in Africa, and upon that 27 Members voted in favour of the proposition and 150 against it, who are now disposed to accept this Agreement, and, in view of these things, I am disposed to doubt whether the House does put British interests above Party fights. I remember, after the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division had suggested the exchange of Heligoland for some advantage in South Africa, the Under Secretary for the Colonies said thatNot a shadow of reason or excuse for giving up one of the possessions of the Crown had been brought forward by the hon. Members.Well, we have not yet heard of the resignation of the Under Secretary for the Colonies, and I do not think he is going to speak on this question. Therefore, I think the right hon. Gentleman (Sir James Fergusson) is a little sanguine in expressing the hope that this will be treated above Party considerations. It has been said in favour of giving up Heligoland that there is difficulty in defending an outlying possession such as this; that we have not an army to garrison such. But do we garrison outlying islands around our coasts? No garrisons are needed; they are defended by the knowledge that they are defended by the power of the British Navy, by the knowledge that if invaders landed, they would soon be surrounded, and have to surrender to a British Fleet. Surely there is no serious argument in 801 this difficulty that we cannot garrison our possessions. The cession of the island I do not regard as of very much importance, but it is a new principle that we should give up a population of 2,000 persons who have no wish whatever to be surrendered. The only evidence of their willingness is that Lord Salisbury said he had an impression that they did not object, and the Under Secretary has stated that we hear less and less of objection on their part every day. Well, I suppose that is natural, for the people are poor and powerless, and as they feel it is more and more likely they are to be handed over to Germany, they would naturally be more and more reluctant to raise objections. There is only one way of settling the question, and that is by taking a plebiscite. I do not wish to exaggerate the importance of Heligoland, though I believe there is some evidence that Naval and Military Authorities do consider it of some value. The Under Secretary does not dispute that Heligoland is of greater value to Germany than to us. Its value to them, from a sentimental point of view, is considerable, and possibly it has a naval value. On that account we ought to get a very good bargain from Germany, but the fact is we have only obtained two things which can be called concessions at all, namely, certain rights in Uganda and in the Sultanate of Vitu. The value of these rights is very doubtful. They may be of certain value to trading companies, but my point of opposition to the Anglo-German Agreement is that we are seeking to create in Central Africa a place for future colonisation, and I do not believe in a pestilential place like Vitu or equatorial districts as a place where Europeans can settle, live, and thrive. On the other hand, there are in East Central Africa alone two things of great importance to us—first, the plateau of land to the East of Lake Tanganyika, which many travellers, Commander Cameron and others, say is suitable for European colonisation; and, secondly, a British belt running from north to south. With this we should have a frontier continuous with the Congo State and Lake Tanganyika as a frontier for 400 miles. Neither of these two things are obtained for us. The Government have reserved the right to a, road from one British territory to 802 another—I could have wished that it was the right to a railroad, which will be of far greater consequence. But it is in South-West Africa that we have made the most disastrous concessions. The value of that country has only recently become known. It is fit for pastures, and is of great mineral wealth. It is just as we have got to know its value that we have gone out of our way to surrender a large slice of it to Germany. The Germans are making no use of Damaraland and Namaqualand. I do not think there are more than 200 German citizens in all that vast territory. They are simply settling on it, waiting until the work and capital of our people make it valuable, and then they will step in and claim it. While I do not say the Government could have got it back I do say, repeating what has been said by the hon. Member for Peckham, that it is an outrageous thing that German territory should be extended from longtitude 20 deg. E. to 21 deg. E. at the expense of the Chartered Company, and by a strip of 300 or 400 miles to the upper waters of the Zambesi. There is no concession whatever made to us in that part of Africa. We have thrown away the interest of Englishmen, of Boers, and of all the peoples of South Africa, and have got no earthly advantage in return. It is a serious matter, for this is one of the richest countries in the world. It is rich as an agricultural country, it abounds in mineral wealth; it has gold, and gold attracts settlers. These will find a fine climate, where they and their families can live and thrive, land for pasture and agriculture, coal just under the surface, iron ore, and other minerals. From all this we deliberately shut ourselves out. There are other and minor reasons against the arrangement. The line of division will cut through the country of the Makololo and Baroto tribes, and experience on the Afghan frontier with the Turcoman tribes, under like circumstances, should warn us against troubles that may arise from this cause. We have heard a great deal about the Hinterland doctrine; we are told that where a country has the coast line it ought also to own the land behind it. But I have noticed in this case that wherever the Hinterland doctrine has been in our favour, the principle 803 has been departed from, whereas it has been kept when it has been against us. Why have we not the Hinterland principle applied in the case of Walfisch Bay? If the Government got the right to run a railway from Walfisch Bay into the interior, it would be some compensation for the wicked surrender which they have been making. I do not want to repeat what has already been said about Zanzibar. I think it is agreed that in 1886 we did practically exercise a Protectorate there. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs has admitted that at that time our influence in Zanzibar was predominent and successful. In the year 1886, I repeat, we were exercising a Protectorate in Zanzibar, but by the action of the Government, Germany was allowed to get into the island, and now the only real concession which we have got under this Agreement is, that we are allowed to have back again the island of Zanzibar. At the same time, we do not recover possession of the five or six hundred miles of coast line which make the possession of the island valuable. The fact is, having once given up the island, we are surrendering Heligoland in order to get it back again. We are told, Sir, that we must not look at this Treaty bit by bit, but that we must consider it as a whole. But how can we do that unless we first take it bit by bit? We give a concession and we get a concession, and the question is, where does the balance of advantage come in? We get nothing given us except certain definite rights over two places in the Equator, the Sultanate of Vitu and Uganda. Moreover, under the Treaty, we shall have to buy the island a second time from Prance. That is a bargain which only requires to be mentioned in order to be condemned, and I am sure that if hon. Members vote as they feel, this Anglo-German Agreement will not meet the approval of the House to-night. I am not attacking the Agreement in any spirit of Jingoism. Jingoism is, I think, a hateful thing. We know what it is. We know that men on the platform shout about this great Empire, and howl about giving up the territory which our forefathers fought for, but I venture to think that their forefathers had little to do with the building up of this Empire. The reason why I dislike the Agreement is this. I 804 know that this country is a country in which white men can live. I believe it is a country where millions of our fellow subjects may live and thrive. You have many States happily coming well together. You have the Cape, Natal, the Transvaal, and the Orange Free State. They are getting on better and better, and we are coming rapidly nearer to the day when there will be a confederation of all the States in Africa. Yet we arc, by this Agreement, throwing in among them a German Official element, connecting them with another European country, with which they cannot coalesce or combine. In South Africa there are already nearly half a million of white men spread over the different States—an hon. Member near me says there are 1,000,000. I did not know there were so many, and I have stated there are 500,000, because I believe it is best to be on the safe side. But in the German territory in the South-West you have only about 200 Germans. Why, then, do the Government want to give up more territory to these few Germans, who do nothing to civilise these States, but simply sit down to take their ease, leaving it to British and Boer enterprise to develop the country and make it more valuable to them some day? In the meanwhile, the people of this country are increasing at an enormously rapid rate every year, and we must find some country for our emigrants in the future. I, therefore, deplore immensely that even one square mile of Africa should be given up without absolute necessity. It is difficult to understand why this Agreement was ever made. They tell us that we have the advantage of having secured the friendship of Germany. I hope that we have, but it seems to me that friendship may be sometimes too dearly bought, and I think it will be much too dearly bought if it is purchased by giving up valuable territories in the colonies and in Africa. We do not require interest in Europe. The less we have to do with European politics the better. I think that friendship purchased in Europe will prove a very dear bargain indeed if we give up for it valuable territory in the colonies. I am opposing this Agreement because of the intense interest I feel in this 805 continent and in the subject of colonisation. Africa is a country in which white men may live and thrive, and it is because of my regret at seeing Her Majesty's Government giving up even a small bit of this immensely valuable territory that I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time this day three months.
§ 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. Philipps.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ (9.40.) SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)
We must all congratulate Lord Salisbury upon having succeeded in closing an open sore between this country and Germany. No doubt it is possible to point out various localities in which we might have had something more, but to intimate, as the last speaker has done, that there has been a throwing away of an opportunity, and a neglect of the interests of our colonies, is very unfair. The feeling of the country will be that there is great cause for satisfaction at the conclusion of this Treaty. It is well to observe how marvellous has been the change of opinion during the past few years with regard to the acquisition of territorial influence. A short time ago we were anxious to get rid of, or, at all events, there seemed to be a feeling that we cared nothing for our colonies or colonial possessions—that they were a burden to us, that we had more on our hands than we could manage, and that we might get rid of everything outside our islands. The change from that state of feeling has been most marked, and only a few months ago we were oppressed with the fear that Germany had altogether out-stripped us in the race, and that we were likely to be crowded out of Africa altogether. There was fear that our commerce in seeking new outlets, and our missionary enterprises which had sent forward so many devoted men, and had expended millions of money, might have their 806 energies hampered. Because we must remember that it is this English enterprise and English zeal which has opened up Africa in the way it has been opened up. English money has been spent to a very large extent, and it is only right that we should have a full and free scope for our energies, both in respect to commerce and to missions. When, therefore, the Agreement came to light, it was agreeable to find that our interests had been safe-guarded to a very great extent. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken threw scorn upon Uganda, but it has been proved that the country, as described by Mr. Stanley, is a very rich one and fertile, and I hope that when opened up by the East African Company, as it will be, it may prove a very useful outlet for colonisation to develop and promote civilisation in these parts. When, too, we remember the tension which existed a short time ago between this country and Germany, and the good feeling and hearty good will which now prevails, we shall feel that great importance should be attached to the present Agreement. The East African Company, which has already done so much, and is competent to do more, and the Missionary Societies will now be able to go forward with the sure knowledge that their energies will not be hampered. The House has heard a good deal of high oratory this evening respecting the clause which makes the Agreement subject to the assent of the British Parliament, and that high oratory has come from those who are, no doubt, well qualified to speak on the matter. We have been told that this is a great blow at the Royal prerogative and the hon. and junior Member for Northampton has said that he will support the Bill because it is a clear limitation of the Royal prerogative. My right hon. Friend the Irish Secretary, always an advocate of a heroic policy, has rushed forward in defence of the clause, and at once wished to take the view hat it would have great effect in the uture. I hardly know whether other Members of the Government will take exactly that view. I, myself, have regarded it not so much in the light of a precedent, but I think that this clause was inserted at the request of His Imperial Majesty 807 the German Emperor, who wished this Agreement to be not merely a Treaty with the British Government, but one with the British people, for he desired the question to be decided in amity between the two nations, and to be regarded as a token of the wish of the two peoples to live in strong friendship. This being the case, I hope and trust that, whatever we may think of the legislative achievements of this Session, we shall at all events look back upon this Agreement of 1890 as one which forms not only a bond of union between the two peoples, but also a precedent to the settling of such matters in a spirit of mutual concession and conciliation, which will enable them to go forward in the future in the work of civilisation in which these two Christian peoples are working together.
§ (9.50.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
If it were not for the African question I should strongly support the Second Reading of this Bill. I am glad that the Government have given up Heligoland, but, inasmuch as a great tract of valuable land is being given up in Africa as well, I shall oppose the Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs is mistaken in saying that the Cape Government refused to take over Namaqualand. The fact is that in 1883 a Mr. Spence was organising an expedition in Cape Colony to go to Namaqualand, and take over some land for which he had obtained a concession there. About that time a German subject obtained from a Hottentot chief, for a few pounds and some cattle, a concession of some five miles of land, and the object of Mr. Spence's expedition was to turn the German out. Prince Bismarck asked the British Government whether we had a Protectorate in Namaqualand, or whether we would undertake to protect German subjects there. To that question for many months Lord Derby gave no reply. From September, 1883, until June, 1884, both Mr. Montana, as Colonial Secretary, and Mr. Scanlan, as Prime Minister, wrote to the High Commissioner strongly urging 808 that the Imperial Government should take over the country, and when that Ministry was displaced by Sir Thomas Uppingham strong representations continued to be made to the Imperial Government to take over Namaqualand. Sir Hercules Robinson telegraphed to Lord Derby urging that the Imperial Government should accede to the wishes of the Government of Cape Colony, but Lord Derby telgraphed back asking Sir H. Robinson to prevent the matter being brought before the Cape Parliament. Those facts I learned in conversation with members of the Cape Ministry, and they also appear on the Despatches. Yet we are told by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs that neither the Imperial nor the Cape Government would take over Namaqualand, and hence the Germans took it over. It was not until Prince Bismarck had waited for months for an answer which he did not get that he stepped in and declared the five miles or so of land which were claimed by the German subject to be German territory. Now that has blossomed into one-half of Africa. No doubt the Liberal Government are to blame, but the Cape Government expected that in a matter of that kind the present Government would ask them whether they would sanction the course about to be taken. Then, why should the Government hand over to Germany a portion of Bechuanaland upon which so much British money has been spent? The Makololo and the Bechuanas will be partly under English and partly under German control. In exchange for all that territory, we are getting a strip of coast land. But everyone knows that in Africa the coast line is the least valuable, because of the fever, which makes it impossible for white men to live there. The really valuable land is in the well-watered uplands some 5,000 or 7,000 feet above the sea, and that is the kind of land which has been given up to the Germans. There is now a more friendly feeling than there has been for a long time between the two sections of the population of South Africa, the Dutch and the English. There is less race feeling existing there now, and the first step has been taken this year by having a Customs Union. The men who have 809 been fighting us are becoming loyal to the Crown, and there is a still more kindly feeling developing in the Free State and the Transvaal, where a British subject can have a vote after two years, and can become naturalised after five years. But now you are introducing the German element in Bechuanaland; you are bringing it to within easy distance of the Transvaal. I do not disapprove of the cession of Heligoland, which is to Bremen and Hamburg what the Isle of Man is to Liverpool and Manchester; but as regards South Africa, nothing more foolish has been done in the last 20 years than has been done. I yet see the sources of strained relations with Germany. In certain territories British subjects are prevented from entering by German officials. That those who have spent their money and time there are to be subject to a few people on the coast seems to be the height of folly. I say you have introduced an element of discord when Boers and Englishmen were beginning to see the merits of each other. You have brought the German force within a fortnight's march of the borders where the Crawford incident took place. Her Majesty's Government have done this, when they might have developed the magnificent territories and obtained the assistance of the Cape Government in establishing a position which they have now sacrificed.
§ (10.5.) MR. E. BECKETT (York, N.R., Whitby)
Sir, though this Agreement seems likely to encounter no very violent opposition in this House, and will probably be sanctioned without a Division, I do not think it is one in which the Government and the country need take any particular pride. I think the Conservative Party have not studied the question, feeling the utmost confidence in the statesmanship of Lord Salisbury. Still, I fear that they have an uneasy sense that all is not well. They do not think it is quite what they would have approved of in 1885. It certainly is a fact that if any cession is proposed by the other side of the House, we shall not be able to oppose it with the freedom we should have felt had this 810 Agreement not been in existence to bear witness against us. Lord Salisbury, in his speech in the House of Lords, did not claim any great merit for this arrangement, though extravagant eulogies have been passed upon him by his supporters. He said that the chief merit of this Agreement was that neither England nor Germany gained any advantage over the other. I think it will be granted that England will get no advantage from Germany, but no one will say that Germany does not get very considerable advantage from England. Germany has been too much favoured and England too much forgotten. We have made a cession for which we have received no adequate return. We have thrown away huge territories in Africa with a reckless prodigality that reminds one of the rake's progress, and in our passion for parting we take the Gibraltar of the Baltic and chuck it into the German Emperor's lap in order that he may say to the world, "Behold, another Bismarck is here!"A great deal has occurred in South Africa which I think is best illustrated by taking a description of England in Africa a few years ago written in a German journal of high authority—England has laid her hand on all South Africa, whore the Orange Free State alone prolongs an independent existence for perhaps only a few years. She has assumed a semi-autocratic position in Egypt and Zanzibar, and the cry has gone through the English papers to win the great and newly discovered territories of the Congo for Great Britain and to create in them a new and gigantic market for Egyptian merchandise.After dazzling his readers with this picture of England sitting enthroned in the Continent of Africa, the writer added in a deprecating way, "But Germany ought not to resign this immense spoil to England." Nor has she. You cannot say that now our possessions in Africa are like an ocean whose broad expanse is broken only by a solitary island. The Transvaal has emerged from the waves. The waters have receded from Damaraland and appear likely to leave Swaziland tin-covered. Our autocratic position in Zanzibar has been resigned and only partially resumed; so that all that remains to us is our semi-autocratic 811 position in Egypt and a bare half of our former possessions in South Africa. It has been contended that we ideally have no Protectorate over Zanzibar, and the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs used rather a hard expression, for he said that we would not resume the Protectorate of Zanzibar in a concrete form.
§ MR. E. BECKETT
Our relations with, and our services to, Zanzibar date back 30 years and more. In 1860 an insurrection, organised by the Sultan's brother, was suppressed by our aid, and the Sultan saved from ruin. Ho and his successors were devoted to the British alliance, our object being, independent of trade, the suppression of slavery. We also provided a Christian Church, and have something like 10,000 children in Christian schools. Furthermore, we have greatly reduced, if not altogether abolished, the Slave Trade. In 1872 we sent Sir Bartle Frere on a special mission to Zanzibar to arrange for the suppression of the Slave Trade. We have by these and other events established a virtual Protectorate, which was acquiesced in by the Powers of Europe, and the Sultan looked to us to support him. In 1873 there was no mail service to Zanzibar except that of England, and in 1875 the Sultan visited England, where he was received with great state and cordiality. On his return new rules for the suppression of the Slave Trade were made, and in 1875 the Bishop there wrote that the Slave Trade was practically at an end. In 1879 Egypt thought to secure the trade of Central Africa, and senta fleet to Zanzibar. This, however, was protested against; the protest was supported by England, and Egypt gave way. In 1880 Sir John Kirk, our able and zealous Consul there, left on two years' leave of absence. He was received with great demonstrations, and treated with special marks of distinction. On his return he decorated the Sultan with the Grand Cross of St. Michael and St. George sent by the Queen, and in the following year the Sultan entertained the officers and men of the British Fleet. From 1883 dates the growth of German 812 influence. Owing to the apathy and indifference of the English Government the Germans tried to undermine and oust us. The Sultan, however, still looked to England, and in 1884 he wrote—Confiding in the good Providence of the Most High God and relying on Her Most Gracious Majesty we have no fear of aggression from any one.In 1886 Germany made claims which were resisted by the Sultan, but a convention was made between England and Germany which deprived Zanzibar of nearly all its possessions, but reserved a 10 mile zone on the mainland. This was done to satisfy English public opinion. The Government did not dare to hand over unconditionally the territory of a faithful ally, who had trusted us and followed our advice for a quarter of a century; but in 1888 the territory of Zanzibar was further contracted, and the whole mainland was practically surrendered to Germany, and what was the result? From the date of that usurpation the natives became dissatisfied, and rebelled; murders were committed; Germany expressly bound herself in 1886 and again in 1887 not to operate in, or permit operations in, the territory we have now surrendered to her. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary has to-night made use of a very remarkable expression, for he said we did not assume this Protectorate in a concrete fashion, but that our operations in this part of Africa were for the common good of the human race. It seems to me that to say we only go to Zanzibar on philanthropic considerations and for the good of the human race in general is hardly a thing worthy of consideration. It is said that we have trading rights over the German sphere of influence in East Africa. We had already trading rights over the German sphere of influence, but Germany has excluded British traders and caravans from that sphere and placed great obstacles in the way of our traders. The utility of our trade route has been made light of. Is it as useless as some seem to think? Before the Anglo-German Agreement was published, I stated that the Power becoming 813 possessed of this route would have the control of the inland trade, which has been valued at £15,000,000 a year, and I predicted that Germany would stand firm. Lord Salisbury has said that rather than give way Germany would have broken off the Agreement; bat it must be remembered that we have trading rights secured by the Berlin Act of 1885, which, however, have been absolutely disregarded. They tried to ruin Mombassa. A South African told mo that it was almost impossible for Englishmen to trade in Damaraland. In 1888 the Consul made a claim on the mines in Damaraland, saying that by the law of Germany the mines could only be owned and worked by German subjects. The Germans are bad neighbours, and their action in Africa has been marked by continued hostility to us, while we have been putting into their hands the sticks with which they beat us. We have meekly yielded to their aggressions, each concession having been the prelude to a fresh claim. With regard to the presence of the Germans in Uganda, Bishop Smythies writes—The result of the Germans coming has been that, after living safely among the people for 20 years, our relations with them becoming ever more friendly, we now see our work hindered, our lives possibly endangered, and our religion degraded, because we are now associated with violence and oppression. And all to what end?We may well ask to what end? And the answer is, the aggrandisement of Germany and the humiliation of England. We have allowed the Germans to extend in Damaraland, Namaqualand, across to the Zambesi, so that we cannot reach the fertile lands except through the German territory. It was proposed to construct a railway from the Victoria Falls to the Zambesi, the Portuguese having given a concession for that purpose. If it were made, unquestionably it would open up a valuable market in a highly fertile region. The hon. Member for Caithness hit the right nail on the head when he said that the arrangement was unfortunate at the present moment for the South African people, because we have allowed it to appear to the natives that another nation has taken advantage of us and is stronger than we are. It we 814 wish to unite the white men in South Africa in a confederation with the Government of England, we must show that we are prepared to assert supremacy and power. The day of confederation will be postponed as long as Her Majesty's Government show that their policy is one of shuffling and retreat. No one can pretend that we have gained anything in South Africa, and we have gained nothing in East Africa to which we had not a right before. I do not think that anyone has attempted to assert that we have obtained a good bargain in Africa, and I do not see why concessions in Europe should have been added to our concessions in Africa. We must look at this South African question in the light of past history, and it is an unfortunate thing that to the African mind of late years we have always appeared in the light of surrendering something to somebody. A Union, under the headship of England, is now the dream and aspiration of South Africa. If Germany could have been induced to clear out of Damaraland and Namaqualand a great stride would have been made towards the realisation of that dream. Confederation will become easier in proportion as the over-mastering power and ruling capacity of England are felt and recognised; but as long as our policy is one of shuffle and surrender, so long shall we postpone the day of confederation. As it is, Germany has gained an extension of territory to the Congo, and absolute possession of the coast line, and she has only ceded regions none of which ever belonged to her, while we have only gained a resumption of our Protectorate over Zanzibar, which Germany boasts she can render valueless to us if so inclined. We have yet to know what we have to pay for Zanzibar. But if our bargain has been bad in Africa, what has it been in regard to Heligoland? In return for Heligoland I think the Government might have asked Germany to retire from these disputed portions of the African territory. It seems to me to be a most extraordinary thing in the negotiations for surrendering Heligoland that we should have said that the island was practically useless to us. No doubt it is valuable to Germany, but it was also valuable to us; 815 indeed, in the event of war with Germany the possession of Heligoland would be invaluable to this country. Its possession would have the full worth of a fleet to us, and this was the opinion of one of our greatest Admirals—Admiral Russell. A German paper —the Hamburger Nachrichten —says—England has always possessed in the island the means of keeping Germany strategically insecure, of indirectly molesting her, and of dangling before her eyes the great value of her friendship. Think of the rôle which Heligoland played in the wars of 1864 and 1870! Its possession, in short, gives us the command of the North Sea; the commerce of Hamburg will gain by its cession to us, for a blockade of the Elbe will now be an impossibility.No doubt if we were to go to war with Germany the cession of Heligoland must add heavily to our responsibilities, because the attempt to blockade Hamburg and the mouth of the Elbe would be exceedingly difficult, dangerous, and expensive. I believe that Germany would have been willing to have given up much more than she has ceded for the possession of Heligoland. Its value to Germany is very great. It gives her an eye to see, and an arm to strike at Holland, Belgium, France, Russia, and Denmark. We do not want anything in Europe that Germany can give us; we are perfectly able to protect our own coasts. Would the friendship of Germany prevent Russia from attacking us in India, or France from harassing us in Egypt? Would it make negotiations with Franco easier in Newfoundland? It remains to be seen whether this would be the case, but, at all events, if friendship is worth anything it should be reciprocal, and Germany has shown very little reciprocity in this Agreement. She is anxious to take everything; we seem anxious to give everything. It was, I believe, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, who said the other day that Heligoland was the tomb of Jingoism, and that in it were interred the principles of Lord Beaconsfield's foreign policy. I confess that, although I am not a Jingo, the policy so described had its good points as well as its faults. We must not forget that one of its fruits was 816 peace with honour. Although the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had its merits, one of its chief results was war with dishonour; and, for my part, I prefer the aggressive principles of Lord Beaconsfield's foreign policy, which shattered Zululand and reduced Afghanistan, to the moderate principles of the foreign policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, which dictated the disgraceful Transvaal surrender and the desertion of Gordon.
§ (10.30.) SIR LEWIS PELLY (Hackney, N.)
The hon. Member for Mid Lanark is mistaken in saying that the Sultanah of With was awarded to us. It was the Port and Island of Lamu that was submitted to arbitration, and declared to belong neither to us or to Germany. Subsequently, the Sultan of Zanzibar handed Lamu to us. It is also a mistake to suppose that "Hinterland" has been given to Germany, but not to us. Our boundary line runs along the first parallel of South latitude, right across to Victoria Nyanza, and into the region South of Uganda, where it turns a little South and embraces the mountain Mfumbiro. It then continues West, until it strikes the frontier of the Free State of the Congo. Our "Hinterland," therefore, is reserved to us almost equally as well as the Hinterland of the Germans is kept for them. It is in vain to compare the position of political affairs on the East Coast of Africa, with a condition of affairs which obtained at some more or less remote date. I remember the coast of East Africa at a time when the word of a British Representative round the whole shore line of the Indian Ocean was law. Those days are gone. Then no foreign Power interfered with us. Now, other Powers have come in, and we have had to take our place with them. The question is, what was the position immediately before this Agreement was made? The East African Company, finding that Germany had declared a Protectorate over an immense region lying between the Rivers Jana and Juba to the North- 817 ward of the British sphere of influence, and thus finding themselves squeezed in, both to the South and North, by Germany, felt it would be impracticable for them to carry out the enterprise they had in hand. But the result of this Agreement is, that while the Germans surrender their Protectorate over that vast region, our influence reaches up to the northernmost tributary of the River Juba—thus increasing our shore line by 200 miles, giving us access to the river itself, and increasing our Hinterland until it strikes the frontier of the Congo Free State beyond Lake Albert Nyanza. I think we have no reason to complain of the provisions of this Agreement. On the contrary, it strikes me as being a measure that has been carried out with great tact, great patience, great skill, and great success. I believe I speak the opinions and feelings of those directly interested in the present political, commercial, geographical, and other interests in this region, when I say they are very much obliged to the Government for the manner in which the arrangement has been effected. We obtain the finest port by far on the coast and nearest to the British Empire in India. I allude, of course, to the Port of Mombassa. We obtain access to two great rivers and one inferior river—namely, the Juba—the Tana, and the Sabaki, and we obtain the nearest line of railway from the coast to Lake Victoria Nyanza. Those of us who are directly interested in the arrangement are quite satisfied with the advantages which the Government have secured for this country.
§ *(10.35.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down into the question of the advantages that the Agreement will secure for the Royal East Africa Company, because it would be impossible to do so, unless you, Mr. Speaker, were to permit the innovation of the suspension of a gigantic map from the clock to the Bar. I think the satisfaction the hon. Member expresses will be qualified in the mind of the House by the knowledge that he represents the Royal East African Company. The complaint that has been made with regard to the delimitation of Eastern 818 Africa is that the interests of England in other parts of Africa have not been sufficiently kept in view, and that valuable territories in the South, valuable lines of communication in the interior, have, been surrendered in exchange for some hundred miles of arid coast. I do not propose to refer to the constitutional question arising out of this Bill for the cession of Heligoland, because that has been sufficiently dealt with earlier in the evening by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian and my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, further than to repeat the demand they made—that the Law Officers of the Crown should produce the precedents on which the Government rely for bringing in a Bill to ratify a Treaty for the cession of territory. One thing at least is clear, that although there have been many cessions of British territory in various parts of the world, none of these has yet been thought to need a statute to effect it. I desire, however, to call attention to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland admitted the very doctrine for which my right hon. Friends contended, namely, that this is a constitutional change of great magnitude, and one that cannot help having its results in the future. The argument of the Chief Secretary goes to show that this will be no longer resintegra, but that when the question of any other Treaty arises the Government will have to consider whether it should or should not embody it in a Bill and place it before Parliament. If any Members on this side of the House have not fully apprehended what is the ground on which we consider this a change of profound import, whether for good or for ill is a matter which I do not now inquire, let me remind them again that this is not a question of increasing the powers of the House of Commons in regard to the foreign policy, but of enlarging the powers of Parliament which includes another Chamber. Whatever power the House of Commons may have in future for rejecting a Bill will be, under this precedent, equally enjoyed by the House of Lords. The power given to the House of 819 Commons will be counterbalanced by the veto of the House of Lords. I hope if there is any authority for the course the Government have adopted in bringing in this Bill, the Law Officers of the Crown will not be slow to furnish us with it. As to the merits of this Agreement, I must frankly own that I cannot dissent from the view taken by Her Majesty's Government as to the small strategic value of Heligoland to us, seeing that for the 83 years during which it has been in our possession we have made no attempt whatever to fortify it. It has been said that notwithstanding that fact it would have been of great service to us in the event of our being involved in a war with Germany. I hope, however, it will not go forth from this House that there is any danger, or even a remote possibility, of our being involved in a war with that country, with whom we have for such a long period been on the terms of the greatest friendship. We have not been at war with Germany since the 13th century, and I think we may fairly hope that in no time we can contemplate now will any likelihood of such hostility arise. At the same time, it is only fair to say that by the possession of Heligoland we always held a trump card, which we could play whenever we desired to make a bargain with Germany, as it is well known that that country sets the highest value upon the island. There can be no doubt that in a war between Germany and any neighbouring Power the possession of Heligoland would be of great importance, and I think we may, therefore, say it was the duty of the Government to secure substantial advantages in return for it. I confess, however, that I cannot express myself equally favourable with regard to another point arising upon the Agreement. I think that we are entitled to hear from the Under Secretary some evidence as to the feeling of the people of Heligoland with regard to the cession. We should have evidence laid before us that the Heligolanders, if not in favour of it, are not opposed to it. No such evidence has been given. Not a single word has been said in this House, or in the House of Lords, to show that any steps whatever have been taken to ascertain the wishes of the people of Heligoland. 820 The case before us is, no doubt, a small one. The population of the island is small, less than that of an average English parish, but as a precedent it is important. This is the first time that this country has established the precedent of handing over British subjects to another Power, as if they were cattle, without even ascertaining their wishes, much less obtaining their consent. I pass from that subject, having made this protest, and desire now to observe that we require a far stronger justification for the cession of the island than any yet offered. Such justification of the cession as has been made is to be found in the settlement of questions affecting Africa, and what we have to ask is, are the advantages which this country is to receive in Africa adequate compensation for the giving up to Germany of a possession which is to her of so much importance in Heligoland? I am anxious in what I say about Africa not to be misunderstood. I do not wish to be thought to give any countenance to the doctrines of African annexation and extension, doctrines which are not held on this side of the House, though they have found expression opposite. We have no more right to Africa than any other European Power. We have no right to any exceptional position of authority there. There was never a time when England, though she has much reason to be proud of the work of her discoverers, has formally founded upon that work any exclusive claim to the possession of the interior of tropical Africa. I am sure that there is no country which can so well spare something to other countries as can England. He would be a rash man who would ask us to undertake, with our existing colonial and foreign responsibilities, the task of reducing to order the gigantic territory of Equatorial Africa. Surely there is the greatest difference between the acquisition of land in temperate climates, into which our own people can overflow, and where their commercial genius can grow and flourish, as in Canada and Australia, and the acquisition of a tropical country, with unhealthy coasts and savage inhabitants, where enormous sums would have to be spent in laying the foundations of trade. Much has been said of trade to come; 821 but remember that is a distant and doubtful prospect, and between us and that prospect lies vast expenditure and the likelihood of sanguinary conflicts with native races. I should like to invite the attention of the House, also, to this consideration—that all these distant dominions, for which France, Portugal, Belgium, and Germany show an appetite, can only be hold by the sea. While England holds command of the sea these possessions are virtually hostages. They are a pledge that if these countries quarrel with England, they place within the hands of England their communications with, and possibly even the ultimate ownership, of these outlying territories. I hope, therefore, that the House will not allow this prospect of enlarged territories in Africa to fascinate the imagination. Let us also remember that this Agreement with Germany gives us no additional direct rights over the soil and the inhabitants. It does not even infringe upon the rights possessed by any other European Power, except Germany. It is a simple Agreement between England and Germany that within certain limits they will not interfere one with the other. Do not let this Agreement be quoted as an Agreement for the sanction of annexation. For my part, I should have preferred an Agreement in the nature of a self-denying ordinance for East Africa, similar to that made for the Congo basin in West Africa. However, let us come to this Agreement, and examine it in the light in which Ministers present it to us as a bargain. So regarded, we shall find it to be a poor bargain. It constitutes no triumph for British diplomacy, and I do not think the Government can go to the country on the strength of it, and ask for a vote of confidence in their foreign policy. I had hoped to hear from the Undersecretary an acknowledgment of the very exceptional forbearance he has received from the Opposition by questions or Motions during the last four years. We have been extremely careful in not interfering with pending negotiations, lest any harm should be done, and the Government have been allowed greater scope than was allowed in the period from 1880 to 1885 to their predecessors. I want to ask whether the Government, 822 having these exceptional advantages, have used them properly. I do not altogether disapprove of the general tone and line Lord Salisbury has taken, and, indeed, we have some reason to congratulate him upon having come over to the pacific views entertained on this side the House. The hon. Member for Whit by said that this is not an Agreement that Conservatives would have approved of in 1885. We agree heartily with him in that declaration. In the fact that it is wholly unlike the former attitude of the Tory Party consists the main virtue of the present Agreement. Let me briefly recall to the House some of the leading incidents in Lord Salisbury's conduct of foreign affairs. He began, in 1887, by withdrawing from Port Hamilton. That surrender was allowed to pass by the Tory Party because it came from their own leaders. It was a very proper act, and we took no exception to it. Next came the question of the New Hebrides, and the Government were obliged to buy out the French, who had no right whatever in the New Hebrides, by surrendering British rights over the Island of Raiatea. Next we had the question with regard to Germany and Samoa. Here the Government left the assertion of our rights, and those of poor King Malietoa, as against Germany to America, and all that has been gained is due to the efforts of the United States. It is not necessary to go over the points of surrender in the present Agreement as regards Africa. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Baumann) has referred to the South West, the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) has complained of neglect of the wishes of the people of Cape Colony, and the hon. Member for Whitby (Mr. Beckett) and the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. Philipps), in his able and vigorous speech, have condemned the whole Agreement from beginning to end. The defence on the points raised by these Members has been very imperfect. A settlement is always obtained by the Government by the simple process of always surrendering to their opponents. In point of fact, the Government have advanced no reason for the surrenders they have made in South Western and Central Africa, except that, when Germany asked it was much easier to submit than to stand 823 out and contest the point. Now, a few words upon Zanzibar. Zanzibar is a great trade emporium, and from it goods are distributed over all the adjoining parts of Africa. What I want to know is whether we are to understand that complete Free Trade is now secured between Zanzibar and the different ports of the mainland which is to become German. Is Germany to be prevented from establishing Custom Houses on the mainland, and from thereby destroying the commercial value of Zanzibar? That is a point on which no information has been given. Why, when this Agreement was being made, were steps not taken to have the whole area secured for Free Trade, carrying out thereby the provisions of that Berlin Act to which Germany was a party? If this has not been done it is a very serious omission and greatly reduces whatever value there is in the Agreement. Nothing has been said to explain why the. Government consider Zanzibar of more value now than it was in 1886, when they virtually abandoned our interests there. It has been admitted that in 1886 Zanzibar was virtually under the control of this country. Sir John Kirk was virtually master of Zanzibar by the consent of the Sultan. The Sultan recognised in him a capable and upright adviser, and British ideas and policy were virtually supreme at that time. That was the case in 1886, when the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian quitted Office. Why was that position of advantage thrown away? If Zanzibar is as valuable as we are now told it is, surely our position there was well worth keeping. Why was Sir John Kirk recalled; why was his influence taken away and the place practically left for the Germans to do as they pleased in it. It seems to me we are simply buying back in 1890 a part, not by any means the whole, of what was thrown away in 1886, and that view is confirmed by the language the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs has used. He said that we had not even now assumed in any practical sense the protectorate of Zanzibar; he said that a protectorate has not been taken in any concrete fashion.
§ * MR. BRYCE
I took the right hon. Gentleman's words down at the moment, because they surprised me, and they were "in any concrete fashion." I can only suppose this Protectorate is an abstract Protectorate, and what is meant by that? What is the value of it? However, I do not wish to insist on any phrase which is repudiated, but to inquire what is meant by the language, the Under Secretary has used. Whatever value the Protectorate may have seems to be still further reduced by the fact that it is subject to the consent of France. I should be sorry to say a word which would hamper the Government in the negotiations with France; but when we find that what we have got from Germany has been got subject to the consent of another Power, and we do not yet know what that other Power is going to propose as to the terms of its consent, it is clear we have not got the whole matter before us. We do not yet know what the demands of France are, and we do not know what terms are going to be made with Portugal as regards her claims on the Zambesi, claims very material to the use that can be made of the Nyassa region. Altogether, therefore, the House is asked to sanction that of which we cannot yet say whether it will turn out to be a benefit or not. It would have been more satisfactory if the Government had been more candid. Why did they not tell us, in the first instance, that France had to be consulted? Looking at all these points, if I am asked whether this Agreement is a good bargain, and one that reflects credit on Her Majesty's Government, the answer cannot be in the affirmative. If the Government are going to the country and claiming to counterbalance the defects of their domestic policy by the skill with which they have conducted foreign policy, it is the duty of the Opposition to put on record its opinion that their conduct of foreign policy has not been successful, and that in this matter they have not shown themselves skilful in making a bargain. It is true the Opposition have no intention to vote against this Agree- 825 ment, not because, though "willing to wound, we are yet afraid to strike." On any fitting occasion I hope we shall always be ready to record our opinion on questions of foreign policy, just as upon questions of domestic policy It is sometimes the duty of an Opposition to denounce and resist a Ministry which is pursuing a dangerous course abroad, and so we did denounce and resist Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury from 1876 to 1879. In this instance, however, opposition, though it might injure the Ministry, would not necessarily correct what has been done amiss. We, therefore, do not propose to divide against the present Agreement, because we feel that when an Agreement such as this has been made the position of things has been vitally altered, and that it is not possible to go back to the state of things which existed before the negotiations began. The Agreement may be faulty, and yet the injury to national interests from rejecting it may be greater than those which an acceptance of it could involve. I admit that some arrangement was needful, looking to the jealousies of competition and the danger even of conflict between the pioneers of England and the pioneers of Germany in East Africa, and I think Lord Salisbury was well advised in being anxious to put an end to the difficulties of the situation. I think that we must also feel that the rejection of this Agreement would mean some ill-feeling on the part of Germany. She has come to feel that Heligoland is by this time virtually hers, and to take it back once it has come almost within her grasp would be regarded as an unfriendly act. And we ought to be friendly with Germany, with which we are connected by the ties of blood and of religion, and with which we have had no national hostilities for many centuries. Therefore, without at all desiring that we should have any exclusive alliance with any Power, we must on both sides of the House welcome and approve the desire which Lord Salisbury has shown to live at peace with Germany, even though we may think that he has given far more to her than she had any title to claim. From what has passed this evening we have seen that there is a good deal of discontent 826 among the Conservative Party as to this Agreement, and the Liberal Party might, had they given vigorous opposition to it, have reduced the Government majority to a point which would seriously injure their authority in the country. I hope, however, that hon. Members opposite will give us credit for never having had any such intention. We have felt that there are far higher interests and duties in matters of foreign policy than those connected with Party, and that there in this case are interests involved which may determine the future of colonisation in Africa for centuries to come, and we feel that the rejection of this Agreement might lead not only toill-feeling on the part of Germany, but to a general scramble amongst other European Powers for territory in Africa. Therefore, although mere Party motives might have prompted a different course, and although we may feel that the conduct of the Government has not been marked by as much skill or judgment as we could have wished, nevertheless, in the interests of the country at large, we feel bound to allow the Agreement to be ratified.
§ * MR. BRYCE
I do not see that our position is made worse with regard to Prance by this Agreement. We desire to be friendly with Prance also; and there is nothing in the substance of the Agreement arrived at, though the manner of introducing it might have been more courteous. Its rejection might aggravate the condition of the inhabitants and retard the measures being now taken for the extinction of the Slave Trade. Therefore, whilst retaining the opinion I have stated as to the character of the Agreement, I must feel that, upon the balance of loss and gain, the advantage of accepting it is greater than anything to be gained by moving its rejection.
§ *(11.16.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir. R. WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
I do not wish to detain the House at any length, as we are all anxious that a Division should be taken to-night, but I should be wanting in courtesy to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and also the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and others who have made appeals to me, if I did not make some reply to their challenges. It is a little difficult quite to understand for what section of the House the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down spoke, because if we contrast his observations with the tone of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, it is difficult to conceive that the two speakers were in accord. In his most interesting speech the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian began by stating that he must congratulate Lord Salisbury not only upon the spirit in which he had entered into the Agreement, but also on the terms of it, and he devoted the greater part of his speech to the constitutional question, without making any severe criticisms on the terms of the Agreement itself.
§ * SIR R. WEBSTER
I will not enter into a controversy with the hon. Gentleman, but I listened to every word the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian spoke, and I certainly failed to hear any real criticism or expression disapproving of any of the terms of the Agreement, though, perhaps, that was intended to be part of the unspoken criticism. All I wish to convey to the House is the impression which reached my mind. I now propose to deal with the constitutional question. We were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, among others, that there never has been any difference of opinion on this question, and that no person whose opinion is worth quoting has ever expressed any sanction of the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Govern- 828 ment in advising Her Majesty to insert in the Treaty that the cession of Heligoland should be subject to the assent of the British Parliament. Some caustic observations were made on the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, who complained that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not produce precedent after precedent to the House. I confess I thought that that argument came with little grace from a speaker who must 'admit that not the slightest notice was given to any Member of Her Majesty's Government that this point was to, be raised. Of course, it is the duty of the Opposition so to conduct opposition as to embarrass the Government; but I must point out that it is somewhat ungenerous to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to twit him with not being prepared with chapter and verse on the spur of the moment, especially when in the most interesting Debate in the House of Lords there was no allusion, direct or indirect, to this point, although such high authorities as Lord Rosebery, Earl Granville, and others, took part in that Debate. What has been the excuse for this? I think that the Colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby in the House of Lords will be somewhat surprised to hear it. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Of course they did not raise the point, because it did not suit the House of Lords," suggesting that they were willing to extend their own power even at the risk of sacrificing the privileges of the Crown. I venture to think that Lord Herschell, Lord Rosebery, Lord Granville, and Lord Kimberley, hardly deserve such treatment at the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. Before this point was put with such great confidence it would have been well if the right hon. Gentleman had extended his researches to a little later period than that of Lord Thurlow and Lord Loughborough. The hon and learned Member for Stockton (Sir H. Davey) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby fell foul of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary because he did not produce and read the opinions to which he referred. Well, no one knows better than they that while my right hon. Friend was right in pointing out 829 that it is not correct to say that no one of any position expressed any doubt on this matter, 'yet my right hon. Friend would have been wrong to produce opinions which would have disclosed negotiations on other matters perfectly well known to Her Majesty's advisers at that time. But I can give the right hon. Gentleman the weighty opinion he desires. In 1870 there arose an important question respecting the cession of the Gambia to the Emperor of the French. Questions were asked in the House as to whether negotiations with a view to the transfer had taken place, and whether it could take place without the consent of Parliament. I may remark at this point that the European population of the Gambia at that time was 39 males and 18 females. In answer to questions by Mr. R. Fowler—now Sir R. Fowler—and Sir John Hay, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian said—That his impressson was that such an arrangement could not he carried out without the consent of Parliament. He could not answer positively, hut such was his impression and belief.A little later the right hon. Gentleman added to what he had already said with reference to the power of the Government—That there had never been the slightest intention of taking any proceedings of the kind without the consent of Parliament.If modern history is searched, it will be found that proposals were made for the cession of the Gambia to France, though they were not carried out.
§ * SIR R. WEBSTER
The proposal was one to obtain the sanction of Parliament by Bill. This is not the first time that the question has been raised. There was a Debate in 1854 on a proposal to cede the Orange River Free Territory, and a Motion was actually moved that an Address be presented to Her Majesty praying her to re-consider the proposal for the abandonment of her sovereignty over the Orange River. The opinions of Sir Roundell Palmer and Mr. Wills were read to the House, stating that the 830 territory having been fully recognised as a colony, the Crown could not, by virtue of its prerogative, constitute any branch of its subjects into an independent State, and could not, without the consent of Parliament, cede its sovereignty over that territory, and much less over any of its subjects. I strongly protest against the assumption of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby that nobody whose opinion is worth anything has ever expressed the views which have, on this occasion, actuated Her Majesty's Government. In the Debate of 1854 speeches were delivered by the late Lord Chief Justice Cockburn and Sir Frederick Thesiger, which proves that most weighty opinions were expressed on both sides. It is clear that Sir Roundell Palmer looked on the matter as one which required to be carefully considered, for he spoke as follows:—When British subjects have settled in newly discovered territories they carry with them the laws of this country. In that case cession cannot take place without the consent of Parliament. In the case of conquered or ceded countries, if Parliament had legislated concerning them, then the concurrence of Parliament might be necessary.The consent of Parliament which is there implied is not a consent to approve the transaction or turn out the Ministry of the day; but a consent to make the cession operative. I contend that there is no change whatever in the Constitution involved by the procedure of the Government. It is a question of its being in the power of the Crown to act in one way or the other, there being undoubtedly more than one method open. It has been assumed that there has been no legislation for Heligoland. But there have been Orders in Council founded upon general Statutes, and I can well understand that if it had suited the purpose of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and we had proposed to proceed by Royal prerogative, they would have founded a strong argument against action being taken without the assent of Parliament. There is no change in the Constitution involved in this mode of procedure. It is a question of its being in the power of the Crown to act in one way or the other, there being undoubtedly more than one method open. I do not contest the right 831 of the Crown to cede territory without the consent of Parliament, when the nature of the negotiations or of the interests involved render it desirable to proceed in that way, but the fact that the prerogative of the Crown has sometimes been exercised in that way does not preclude the Crown from proceeding in the other way when it appears expedient. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Harcourt) cannot shake the argument away by shaking his head. I challenge the right, hon. Gentleman to show by instances that when the Crown elected to act in one of two ways the other mode of action ceased to be within the prerogative. If in the case of financial and commercial Treaties it is not un-constitutional to ask the consent of the House it cannot be suggested that it is wrong in a case of this kind. Nobody can say it is un-constitutional to ask the consent of Parliament in a case where there may be other considerations which may come into play and lead Her Majesty's Government to hold their hand. Her Majesty's Government are prepared to advise Her Majesty to assent to the Treaty, believing that its terms are for the interests of the nation, but which they are ready to subject to the criticism and judgment of the House of Commons. It has been argued by Members on either side of the House that the conduct of the Government in allowing Germany to extend her Protectorate over Damaraland and Namaqualand is such as cannot be approved, and the hon. Member for Aberdeen has said no reason for their action has been given by Her Majesty's Government. But it is conceded that in 1884, by the action of the then advisers of Her Majesty, which we may regret, but cannot do more, Germany was allowed to assume the Protectorate over Damaraland and Namaqualand. That being the case do hon. Members suggest that the Government ought to contest the matter hostilely with Germany? I venture to think that if that had been the spirit in which the negotiations had been carried on, they would not have deserved the encomiums of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. It is necessary to conduct the negotiations on the basis of the existing state of things, and in accordance with the action of the Government of 1884. for in these 832 matters of foreign policy there must be continuity,
§ * SIR R. WEBSTER
It is based upon the arrangement made in 1884, With respect to Uganda it has been said that the Government have not acted with wisdom, because the Protectorate of Great Britain was recognised there long before the advent of the Germans in that part of Africa, My information does not lead me to that conclusion, but to the conclusion that grave questions certainly exist as to the extent of the recognition accorded to the British Protectorate, and as to the limits within which German influence prevails. What is the alternative policy that is proposed? Is there to be a steeplechase, or rather go-as-you-please contest in Africa? Is each nation to struggle to get what it can, the interests of the natives suffering in consequence? For my part, I believe that it is far wiser to negotiate in a conciliatory and friendly spirit with the Powers likely to colonise, and to fix our limits of influence once for all in order to avoid contentions and disputes in future. The House has heard criticisms of the arrangements made by the Government from Gentlemen on both sides of the House, some of whom are, perhaps, not quite impartial, being connected possibly with companies which have been disappointed, or companies which have been gratified, I confess it is a satisfaction to me to notice that in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby there was very little tangible argument against the Agreement. They rode off, in fact, on the so-called great constitutional question, and I hope I have shown to the House that that point does not deserve the importance assigned to it. When this matter comes to be canvassed I think the House and the country will be of opinion that Her Majesty's Government have reason to be proud of the arrangement they have 833 made. The hon. Member for Aberdeen said the reason why success has attended the Government in foreign matters is not because the policy of Lord Salisbury is altogether approved of, but because the Opposition have been so indulgent as to foreign matters.
§ * SIR. R. WEBSTER
I think, however, that if Her Majesty's Government had been discredited there are gentlemen on the opposite side of the House who would not have failed to avail themselves of the opportunity. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has over and over again said that he has no fault to find with the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government, therefore I think it has not come with very good grace from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen to attribute the success of Her Majesty's Government in foreign matters to want of interference on the part of the Opposition. I hope I have now sufficiently dealt with the points raised. I submit to the House that this is an instance of an Agreement conducted and carried through in no selfish spirit, with no desire to grab or get for Great Britain anything to which she is not entitled—an Agreement which, I believe, will be to the future advantage of both countries, arid which Her Majesty's Government do not desire to carry through simply by virtue of the prerogative, but which they are by no means ashamed to submit to the judgment of the House and the country.
§ *(11.45.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)
The hon. and learned Gentleman takes shelter from many disagreeable arguments behind the approval of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. Our contention and our complaint 834 is that there has been no quid pro quo for the cession of Heligoland. We also complain that it was only by process of time that we were able to discover what the Agreement with regard to Damara-land was, the two maps published presenting a very different appearance. Lord Salisbury said Heligoland was to be taken as equivalent for Zanzibar. All Great Britain seems to get is a Protectorate over Zanzibar and Pernba, a territory under the rule of a native chief, which will make our responsibilities there of a very difficult character, while the Germans receive in freehold a coast line of 600 miles. It was some time before we discovered what the Sultanate of Zanzibar means. Lord Kimberley, when he asked a question in another place, was informed that a Sultanate bore the same relation to a Sultan as a monarchy to a monarch, but subsequently we come to the information that the Sultanate was restricted to the two islands, and did not include the 600 miles of coast line. Was not this sufficient concession without throwing Heligoland into the pot? Heligoland should not have been ceded except as an equivalent for Damaraland. Not even yet have we had an answer to the question whether the Germans can restrict our trade by the establishment of Custom-houses on German territory. For the last 100 years we have traded supreme in districts now held to be within the German sphere of influence on a continent where, seven years ago, Germany did not possess a square foot of territory. The Under Secretary has referred to the state of matters at Zanzibar, when that great man, Sir John Kirk, was there, and we have never been told why he was recalled or why the system, which was much more to the interests of this country. A virtual Protectorate without the actual responsibility entailed by this new system was abandoned. Much as we value a good understanding with Germany, and little as we desire to embark in landgrabbing in Africa, I do not think that Her 835 Majesty's Government will have much cause for congratulation over this Agreement.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The Debate has opened a grave and important constitutional question, the discussion of which occupied the earlier portion of the Debate. The second part of the subject can scarcely be said to have been adequately discussed. I hope the House will allow the Debate to proceed.
§ Debate adjourned till to-morrow.