§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [24th July],"That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ And which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months,"—(Mr. Philipps,) —instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ *(5.28.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
The greater portion of the Debate last night was occupied by the discussion of a very intricate and important question relating to a constitutional innovation which the Government have brought about by the way they decided to present this measure to the House. Into the merits or demerits of that course it is not my intention to enter tonight, but this I would point out, that if the Government were right—and I do not say they were—in presenting a Bill 918 to this House, it was their bounden duty to take what opportunity they could to enable the fullest possible discussion to be had on the measure. As there was an important constitutional question to be discussed, it was only at a comparatively late hour of the evening that it was possible for the House to address itself to the merits of the proposed arrangement with Germany. Under the circumstances, it appears to me that the course adopted by the First Lord of the Treasury last night in attempting to close the Debate on an arrangement which involves the destinies of half a continent, was very much mistaken, and one to be strongly deprecated. I trust that no such attempt will be made tonight, looking at the large number of Members who are interested in the matter. The immediate interest is, no doubt, connected with the cession of Heligoland, and on that question there are, no doubt, two questions that force themselves upon our attention. The first is, whether the consent of the inhabitants of the island has been obtained to the proposed cession. We are told the Government have made informal and confidential inquiries, but no attempt, apparently, has been made to take, directly or indirectly, the sense of the inhabitants upon the question. The opinion of observers and visitors to the island differ very greatly. One gentleman who called on the Under Secretary yesterday gave him one version, but other gentlemen have given totally different versions as to the opinions of the inhabitants. It seems to me that to hand over territory to a foreign Power without first obtaining a clear expression of opinion from the inhabitants is to 919 establish a very bad precedent. But there is a second point connected with the cession of Heligoland as to which we are entitled to ask for some explanation. There is reason to believe, from the German military newspapers, that the first act of the German Government will be to construct upon the ceded island extensive and very strong fortifications. A very important article appeared yesterday morning in the Kreuz Zeitung. The article opened by saying that the appearance of the article had been delayed until yesterday, because they wished the Second Reading of this Bill to have been passed in the House of Commons before the publication. The information possessed by the publishers of the newspaper as to the doings of the House of Commons appeared to be very faulty. The article went on to attach the greatest importance to the proposed cession of Heligoland, and to admit that the German Press had minimised the importance of the proposed cession of Heligoland in order that the German Government might make a better bargain in South Africa. I hold that the quid pro quo obtained for our concessions is inadequate. In the event of war between Germany and some other Power Heligoland would be of vast importance to the former. Therefore, in return for the island we ought to obtain more than we shall under the Agreement. In Africa we are to have the Protectorate of Zanzibar, but that does not amount to very much. The Protectorate will only be over the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. Formerly this country enjoyed far greater influence on the East Coast of Africa than it will have under this Agreement, for, before the Treaty of 1886, when Sir John Kirk was the keeper of the conscience of Sultan Seyyid Bargash, the influence of this country in East Africa was paramount. The events of the last few years show, what the Government no doubt will admit, that the influence of England on the East Coast of Africa is not what it was five, six, or seven years ago. It seems to me that we are getting back very much less than we actually possessed before. Before we acquire the Protectorate of Zanzibar we have to consult Prance. We are glad to hear that Prance is entering into the negotiations in a thoroughly friendly spirit, but surely it would have 920 been more advantageous to this country if we had consulted Prance at the time of the negotiations with Germany than to arrange with her subsequently. Then, again, there is another point of importance connected with East and Central Africa, and that is that one result of the Agreement will be the perpetuation in Africa of the separation between the British sphere of influence in the north and the British sphere of influence in the south. It will be impossible to get from Lake Tanganyika to the Victoria Nyanza without passing through German territory. A concession from Germany which would have had the effect of preventing this undesirable state of things ought, if possible, to have been obtained. The Agreement should also be considered in its relation to the future development of Southern Africa. There will inevitably, at a no very distant date, be a large influx of British people into Cape Colony, and then it will be necessary to make a new Agreement with Germany with respect to the territories near Walfisch Bay, and we shall be unable to obtain as favourable terms as we might have obtained now. The relations of Germany with South Africa may very likely, in the course of not many years, undergo a great change in consequence of the increase of the area of the German Empire in Europe. The English framers of the Agreement do not appear to have considered what will be the effect upon the course of events in South Africa of the incorporation of the Kingdom of Holland with Germany. In that event, Germany will obtain Amsterdam and Rotterdam, 40,000 able seamen, and all the Dutch colonies, and her interest in the affairs of South Africa will be enormously increased. One would suppose that the commercial interest in Germany connected with the colonies is of so strong and potent a character as to be able to dictate to the Government what course to adopt. As a matter of fact, the German commercial interest in South Africa has been dwindling for some years past. The Report of the German Colonial Society was published a day or two ago, and I noticed from it that, during the last year, no fewer than 1,700 gentlemen have ceased to be members, owing to default in the payment of subscriptions. Her Majesty's Government should have looked ahead 921 when making to Germany a very considerable concession in the shape of Heligoland. They ought to have obtained a more fortunate arrangement in Africa, from our own point of view. The Government have not obtained the best bargain they could have obtained. No doubt the Agreement is an honest attempt to arrive at a good understanding with Germany, but when any impartial observer looks at the details, he cannot but be struck with the fact that England has not obtained the treatment she might have been able to obtain, and which, undoubtedly, she would have obtained if she had pressed with greater emphasis the claims of the British colonists in South Africa, and if also she had laid greater stress on the importance of Heligoland to Germany, and the regret this country felt at parting with the possession. On these grounds I intend to support the proposal of the hon. Member for Mid Lanark (Mr. Philipps). There was no immediate necessity for an Agreement of this kind. If more favourable terms could have been obtained next year, next year would have done equally well for the making of the Agreement. Surely the people of England and the colonial subjects of the Queen have a right to expect that greater attention would have been paid to their interests in this matter, and that, in view of the influx of a British population into Africa in times to come, greater care would have been taken to maintain unimpaired the interest we have in that country, and to render possible the free development of their energy in that continent. On these grounds I find it necessary to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend. If the Agreement be regarded by the present Government as a final settlement, I think the condemnation it deserves is certainly more severe than any I have endeavoured to pass upon it. But I cannot believe that the Agreement is intended by the Government to be a final settlement of the difficulty. There is no pressing necessity for arriving at an understanding of this kind. The question can wait for a more adequate and a more favourable solution, and I think that, in view of the attitude the German Press is adopting now, it sees that the House of Commons has practically passed the Agreement, the 922 Government may be fairly called upon to consider whether it is not possible to amend the Treaty by subsequent Agreements, dealing with particular parts.
*(5.53.) ADMIRAL MAYNE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
The question has been divided into two parts, the cession of Heligoland and the advantage we have gained, or otherwise, in Africa. I have been greatly surprised at the views expressed in the House as to the little island of Heligoland. It has been said that the Germans would probably make it a powerful fortification, while one hon. Member has applied to it the title of the Gibraltar of the Baltic. I believe that the gentleman who took the island, in the days before steam, did so describe it, but I also believe that not a single person who is capable of judging would now consider such a title as anything but ludicrous. How can this little island at the entrance to a German river be compared to the gate of the Mediterranean, through which all the traffic to the East must pass? Is England prepared to fortify this island? We have it on the authority of Sir John Coode that it would cost at least £1,000,000 to make a harbour there, and at least £2,000,000 would be required to fortify it. Is any hon. Gentleman prepared seriously to propose to the House that England should fortify the place—an island at the entrance to a German river—considering the present relations between the two countries? If not a casus belli, it would at least be the nearest thing to it. The Germans may possibly fortify it to satisfy their feelings of pride and vanity, but they will never do so with the view of holding it in war against us. The possession of the island would have no bearing on a war between this country and Germany. The loss or gain of Heligoland would bring neither country to its knees. A passing ship might amuse itself with a little target practice. It would probably throw half a dozen shells into the place for a morning's entertainment, and, if the Teuton showed his usual sense, he would as promptly as possible get into his steam launch and make for the nearest port on the mainland. It would be an utterly useless risk of life for any Government to attempt to 923 hold it in the face of a superior fleet. The island would be treated in the way that all such islands have invariably been treated in time of war. They are held by that country which has the biggest fleet in the adjacent waters. If we went to war with Germany we should hold the island if we wanted it, so long as we had a superior fleet in the vicinity, as we held Belle Isle, Houat and Hoedié off Quiberon Bay, Diamond Rock off Martinique, and other islands during the war with France. In that way we should hold it, and in that way will the Germans or any other people hold it if they have a superior naval force. I have never heard a single officer of any rank or position say that Heligoland is of any real value to us, or that we should attempt to hold it if we went to war. We could not attempt to hold the island without a powerful fleet, and nobody could possibly take it from us if we had a superior fleet. If a difficulty arose an enemy would be able to find refuge easily in neutral waters, and the necessity of keeping a constant watch would be a source of endless trouble to us. The hon. and gallant Member quoted the words of admiration used by Mr. H. M. Stanley for Lord Salisbury when the details of the Treaty were made known, and he said that Captain Cameron, another distinguished authority, claimed the arrangement to be a moral and territorial gain to the British Government, and expressed his opinion that the House and the British public would value the opinions of those gentlemen more than those who had given contrary opinions in the House. German influence has for some time existed in Africa, and it ill becomes hon. Gentlemen opposite, whose policy in Africa has never been of the boldest, to upbraid the present Government for parting with what had really been parted with before they came into power. The whole Treaty is well summed up by the German opinion that the "Agreement is a Treaty of Peace of all the more gratifying kind because it has been preceded by no struggle, and because it secures the continuance of friendly relations between Great Britain and the German Empire for an incalculable length of time." I confidently believe that a very large majority of the House will vote for the Bill.
§ (6.15.) MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
I am prepared at once frankly to admit that I hail with great satisfaction the course which has been adopted by the Government in reducing to the form of a Bill a sanction which has hitherto been absolutely ineffective; and I am not to be deterred from giving my approval there to by the consideration that that power is to be exercised co-equally with the other House of Parliament. The right accorded to the House of Commons of exercising an effective control over Treaty-making is entirely in accordance with the principles which obtain in all democratic and all constitutionally-governed countries. It is a curious fact that in the United States whenever a cession of territory is made the assent not only of the Senate but of the House of Representatives also is required. I turn now to those questions which, after all, are of more practical importance. In the first place, there is the question of Heligoland; with regard to that question, I am bound to say that I think the Government would have done well if they had departed from an old-established precedent, and had established another by obtaining the sanction of the inhabitants to the cession. I will ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether the Government have taken the trouble to investigate the precedents in the case? According to all eminent jurists it is not only the universal practice, but a condition of absolute necessity, that in such a case the opinion of the inhabitants should be obtained. The gallant Admiral (Admiral Mayne) has spoken of the little importance of Heligoland, but he sedulously avoided committing himself to any opinion as to what it might become as a possession of Germany. According to German experts, there is good ground for believing that, by the expenditure of £1,000,000, or more, Germany may establish Naval Dockyards in the island, which would contribute very much to enhance her maritime power. However, I am bound to admit that it is of great importance that we should cultivate friendly relations with Germany. Germany is the natural ally of England, and as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce), there has been no occasion on which this country has been brought into conflict with Germany. I 925 cannot forget that there are troubles with France looming in the not distant future in relation to a portion of the East over which we exercise Suzerain Powers. Previous to 1884 we were practically supreme in Africa, with the exception of the Portuguese possessions. Before that year Germany practically had not made any lodgment in Africa. In 1884, in the Secretary ship of Lord Derby, we made the first concession to Germany. It was contrary to the wish of the German Emperor and of Prince Bismarck that Germany embarked in the business of colonisation. In 1884 we deliberately abandoned the right of exercising a Protectorate over Damaraland, and let Germany in. In 1886, when Lord. Granville was at the Colonial Office, the German Colonisation Committee, under Dr. Peters, came and exploited the land lying to the West of Zanzibar. Representations of the strongest character were made to Lord Granville by Sir J. Kirk, and by the Sultan of Zanzibar, who complained that the action of those German exploiters was an infringement of his sovereignty. The reply of Lord Granville was that we could not interfere with a friendly Power in what we believed would be a useful work of colonisation, tending to the benefit of the African people, and to the spread of civilisation throughout Africa. Therefore, Her Majesty's Government found themselves in a position which, whether rightly or wrongly, was formed for them by their predecessors, and they were bound to make an arrangement which would be for the interest of all parties. With regard to Heligoland, I hope before the final settlement that Her Majesty's Government will take the wishes of the people into consideration, as was done in the case of the cession by England to France of the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, on the coast of Newfoundland. Personally, I am prepared to support the policy of Her Majesty's Government on this question of the Agreement, which I am glad to find has obtained general approval.
§ (6.30.) MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
I do not intend to touch upon the constitutional question. I think it is fortunate that the German Debate took place last night, because it afforded the Government an opportunity of stating their case. But the Government have avoided stating the 926 case with respect to the Cape Colony and South Africa altogether. Several Ministers have spoken, and the Representative of the Colonial Office occasionally entered the House and walked out again. The Government appear to consider that South Africa and our greatest colony there have nothing whatever to do with the matter. Will the Government continue to maintain to the end that secrecy with regard to the opinions of the people on the spot, and is the House of Commons to be asked to pass this Bill without knowing what their fellow-subjects in South Africa think on the question? I know what men of business think, and their opinion is universally adverse to this Anglo-German Treaty. [Cries of"No!"] I wish to know whether the Government can bring forward proofs of acquiescence on the part of our South African fellow-subjects in the Agreement? Under the Agreement, all that is given is to be supplied by South Africa, with the exception of Heligoland. Our colonists complain that the great territories of South Africa are now outflanked on the West and on the North; that they are blocked; that a trade route is handed over to Germany from the West Coast right across and touching the Zambesi. They also complain that traders who are British subjects in that country are not very well treated by the Germans. We give up Heligoland, and allow the Germans to stretch their frontier, but we do not insist that the question of the delimitation of Walfisch Bay shall be contained in the Agreement; on the contrary, we leave that question an open one. I ask the Under Secretary for the Colonies to lay before the House the information which he possesses from the Cape Government, or to tell the House the purport of the communications between the Colonial Office and the Cape Government on this subject. It appears to me that the colonists will say, "We have no recognition of our claims; we are not even allowed to make a statement of our claims; the statement of our case is suppressed by the official Department which is bound to protect and to, assert the claims and the rights of the colonists." I fear that if the colonists find that they cannot get a sufficient representation through the ordinary official sources they will demand some more reliable channel of communi- 927 cation with the Government and the House. We are in danger of giving up, for the friendship of Germany, the affection of our colonists. Unless the Government can give an assurance of a re-consideration of the Agreement as regards South Africa, or unless they can state, as I hope may be the case, with authority that the opinion of our fellow-subjects on the spot in South Africa cordially supports the Agreement, I fear that it will be impossible for me to vote for the Bill as it stands.
§ *(6.50.) MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
I think the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, after hearing speeches from his hon. Friends like the speech last delivered, must be inclined to exclaim with Sheridan, "Save me from my friends." I rejoice that the attempt to closure the Debate failed, because I maintain that two days are not too many for the consideration of such an important question. Now, I cannot help asking myself what would have been said of this Treaty had it been brought forward by a Liberal Government, and concluded and signed by a Liberal Ministry. There would have been an outcry raised by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who would have said that the Liberal Government were bartering away British interests, and selling their birthright for a mess of pottage. On the other hand, I cannot help thinking that there is something high-handed in the way in which two great Powers have proceeded to divide territory as large as three first-class European States, and to which they have no more right than I have to any umbrella or any coat to which I may take a fancy in the cloak-room. The whole effect of the Agreement really resolves itself into the question whether Heligoland is worth exchanging against Zanzibar. Military opinions are divided as to the value of Heligol and to Great Britain in time of war; but if the island is of small strategic value to this country, it is admitted to be of great strategic value to Germany, and that fact ought to weigh in a consideration of the Agreement. As to Zanzibar, the concessions to Great Britain in that direction are dependent on the consent of France, and that being so, this is really a tripartite Treaty, while there are only two signatories to the actual Treaty. I should be 928 only too glad to hear that the remaining causes of friction and difficulty with France are to be finally settled, for there is no nation with which it is more important that Great Britain should be on friendly terms. But until I can learn more certainly that this will be the effect of the Treaty under discussion, I cannot vote with the Government, though, on the other hand, I do not feel justified in voting against the Bill, for to do this would be to assume a responsibility which rests, and ought to rest, with the Executive which is in power.
§ *(7 0.) SIR R. TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
After the wholesale, but somewhat diffuse, criticisms which have been indulged in by the Opposition, it seems to me to be high time that a Member on the Ministerial side of the House should rise to offer some defence of the African part of the Anglo-German Treaty. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down seemed never to strike home, but yet tried to wound the Government in every way, and last evening the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen, and other Members on that side of the House, who seem to think and act with him, criticised the foreign arrangements of Her Majesty's Government in a style which to us on this side of the House was truly refreshing. That right hon. Gentleman seemed, during the greater part of his speech yesterday, to imply that a more spirited foreign policy should have been adopted by Her Majesty's Government, and that they had yielded too much to Germany and to France. According to him we have given in too much to Germany in Zanzibar; to France in the Australasian Archipelago; to Germany, again, at Samoa and other places in the Southern Seas. Yet no sooner is a policy adopted, which virtually means a standing up to perhaps the most formidable of all our rivals in Eastern and Central Africa, than the right hon. Gentleman begins to carp, cavil, and criticise, to disparage, belittle, and minimise all the advantages of the Anglo-German Agreement in Africa. That being the case, I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments while I strive to give a practical summary of the benefits which that Agreement seems to confer on the British Empire in 929 Africa. The right hon. Gentleman observes that the territories in question are recognised as within the British sphere by Germany alone. Now, I feel sure that these territories are now actually taken over by England, and that she will keep her hold upon them as against any Power in the world. Again, he seems to consider that the territories within the red line are not annexed, and that we have only got freedom or immunity from German interference. But protection and annexation in a country like East Africa virtually mean the same thing. I venture to say that in all these regions there will be one manifest consequence of protection or annexation, namely, the conservation of all the rights of the natives in the land and in the produce thereof. Let me consider for a moment, in the briefest manner, some of the advantages of this Anglo - German Treaty. First as to Zanzibar. I quite admit that up to a very recent date England was supreme in Zanzibar, and in the neighbouring Island of Pemba. I know that for the reason that when I governed Bombay the trade in Zanzibar was financed from that great centre, and that my predecessors in the Government considered themselves as virtually the masters of the island. That may be all very true—it is, indeed, to the natives of India that the prosperity of Zanzibar is attributed, and is attributable. Why, the partition between the kinsmen, the Sultans of Muscat and Zanzibar, took place under British supervision. But if we have drifted into a very uncomfortable position there I rather think it began to happen during the time that the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last was in office; at all events, without saying whose fault it was, we must admit that we have allowed Germany to slide into a very dangerous position of competition and rivalry or participation with us in the supremacy at Zanzibar. All this will be terminated, England will be the sole protector, and her former supremacy is formally restored. Then the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down spoke of our relations with France in reference to Zanzibar. Well, as regards the relations it is obvious that all the Agreement we have entered 930 into with France is to respect the independence of the Sultan; and that we do respect in the Agreement; but nothing has been said to France about a Joint Protectorate. The result of the Agreement with Germany will be that we shall have a true supremacy, and will never permit France nor any other Power to dispute it with us. Now, what is the position of Zanzibar? It has been described by our rivals as being the key, commercially and politically, of the whole eastern coast of Africa. Outside the British Dominions it is to us the sixth most important stategic point in the world, the other five being Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, Hongkong, and Singapore.
§ * SIR R. TEMPLE
I am not saying that the right hon. Gentleman did not do so, but I say that on that point the right hon. Gentleman's observations were below par in that part of his description, however just it may have been in other respects. When it is said that we have-not obtained a quid pro quo for the cession of Heligoland, I contend that we have got an island worth to us ten thousand Heligolands.
§ An hon. MEMBER: We have not got it.
§ * SIR R. TEMPLE
We have got it, and in the event of any general disturbance we can make it a strategic point of vantage for England. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, also asked whether there was any point on the coast opposite to Zanzibar under British control. He contended that the coast opposite was under German control. That is indeed true, for the coast there is the German "Hinterland." But I ask the House to recollect that besides Zanzibar there is the Sister Island of Pemba which does come within the red line, as also does the coast line nearly opposite the north point of that island. From that coast we have a stretch of country extending 500 miles inland to the lake region at the head of the waters of the Nile; and, geographically, this is one of the most important positions in all Africa. In that region we have got a range of snow-clad mountains and a country fit for habitation by Europeans. No doubt we shall make settlements there, as we have done in the Himalayas. Besides all this, we have kept Germany 931 out of two places within that region, where German influence would have been very inconvenient to us—namely, Uganda and Vitu. This alone is worth the cession of many islands like Heligoland. From this region northwards we take over the whole country right up the coast opposite Aden. Turning, again, far southward, I observe that the Stevenson Road comes well within the red line, and, although the width of the strip outside of it may appear to be very narrow on a small map, on the spot it will be a very appreciable belt of British territory, which can, if need be, be made a defensible frontier for us. This is certainly one of the most important lines of communication in Southern Africa, for it connects the Lake Nyassa with the Lake Tanganyika. It is around the shores of these lakes that our missionary posts and our commercial stations are situated. In addition to this, we have got Germany out of the whole region of the Shire and that portion of the lower valley and basin of the Zambesi. Lastly, I would refer to Damaraland, in the South-West corner of the area under this Agreement. The right hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to criticise our conduct in regard to that territory; but we should remember that in 1884, whether rightly or wrongly, we allowed Germany to assume the protectorate of all that land. When the history of that matter is looked into, it will not be found that our Party on this side of the House is at all responsible for it. But, still, the thing has happened, and what are we doing by this Agreement? My right hon. Friend below me (the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs) will correct me if I am wrong, but my belief is that Germany wanted to reach eastward as far as the 23rd deg, of east longitude, and we have kept her to the 20th deg., thereby saving three degrees of longitude for British interests, and surely that is something. Then, on the whole, I would ask the House to consider what is the sum of this Agreement. According to my reckoning, on the map this Anglo - German Agreement adds one million of square miles to the British Empire. This is a sensible addition to the eight or nine millions of square miles which that Empire has in 932 all parts of the world. This new territory is fertile and capable, under British administration, of maintaining a vast population, of which every man, woman, and child will be consumers of British manufactures. That is something as a prospect for trade. Again, the Agreement secures all the rights and privileges of those enterprising corporations and companies, who by private resources are trying to found a new dominion for us in Africa. Further, and not the least important, it secures protection for our Missionary Societies. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway choose to sneer at missionary work. ["No, no!"]
§ * MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
Perhaps as I was one of those who interrupted the hon. Baronet, and should not have done so, he will allow me to explain that I meant no sneer at missionary work; my ejaculation was occasioned by the enunciation of a piece of sham, sentiment in support of this proposal.
§ * SIR R. TEMPLE
Accepting the explanation of the hon. Member, I must yet notice that the description of one of the objects of the Agreement, as being the protection of missionaries in Africa, appears to him to be as "sham sentiment." Well, that opinion of his, against which I protest, may be shared by those who sit with him below the Gangway opposite. But it will not be shared by many hon. Members who sit above the Gangway opposite, and who sympathise with the missionary cause. I repeat that one of the objects sought and attained is the protection of the pioneers of Christian civilisation. And, Sir, I need not dwell upon one great principle which has been in the minds of those who framed this Agreement; one object it will secure; it will strike at the root of the Slave Trade. This is so obvious, after the Debate we had on the subject last year, that I refrain from going into this part of the subject. Despite the interruptions of hon. Members opposite, I say it will afford a means of uprooting the Slave Trade system and stopping the traffic in human beings. I maintain, too, that it is a most important step in the furtherance of Imperial British interests in Africa. The right hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr, Bryce) was 933 kind enough to tell us that the Conservative Party will get no credit for this in the coming General Election; but this I know, that the present Government will get credit for this action in my own constituency, and there, and before any of the electors in this country whom my voice can reach, I shall, with confidence, describe this Anglo-German Agreement as one of the most triumphant achievements of the present Government.
(7.20.) MR. LABOUCHBRE (Northampton)
I hope the hon. Baronet, to whom we entertain the most friendly feelings, may gain the approbation of his constituents. He no doubt will gain the approbation of Government supporters, and therefore he may be perfectly happy without having gained, politically, our approbation by his speech. It was a surprising addition to their long series of blunders that the Government moved the Closure last night. To your restraining hand, Sir, we owe the fact of our being able to discuss this important matter to-night. It does seem to me a most extraordinary blunder, and a most untenable position for the Government to take up. They negotiate a Treaty with a Foreign Government; they insert in that Treaty a condition that it shall receive Parliamentary approval; they start a great constitutional question by their action, and then they move the Closure after two or three hours' Debate. But it would seem the Government would go infinitely beyond this; they consider Lord Salisbury so eminent a Minister that no matter what he does, whatever Bill he puts before us, we ought not to venture to discuss it; we should simply throw up our hands and thank Heaven for sending us such a wonderful Minister as Lord Salisbury. I am led to make this remark after seeing in a newspaper a report of some observations made last night by the Secretary to the Local Government Board to the electors of Warwickshire. He, speaking I presume with the full concurrence of his colleagues, said—The fight now going on in the House of Commons as to the Agreement with Germany-was a disgrace to the British Parliament.So it appears it has really come to this: that we are to be called disgraceful if we venture to discuss even for a few moments a great and important Treaty like this, involving the cession and annex- 934 ation of territory and great constitutional points! It is always an interesting matter to consider whether the messes Ministers get into are brought about by blundering simply or by design. Certainly, after what has occurred during the Session, we may suppose that much of it has been due to ignorance. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, who always takes a kindly view of Ministers, suggested last night that they had fallen into this particular blunder on a great constitutional question through ignorance. But I think my right hon. Friend was too kind. I see in this a sinister design. Yes, I do. What happened on the Procedure Committee? In that Committee there was an attempt made on the part of Her Majesty's Government by a side wind to deprive the House of Commons of power over its own Bills, and an attempt to give the House of Lords a greater power over those measures. That attempt, however, was foiled by the watchful patriotism of the right hon. Member for Derby. By means of the present Bill Her Majesty's Ministers hope to be able, again by a side wind, to give the House of Lords greater power over Foreign Treaties; but again there is the right hon. Member for Derby standing in the breach and defending the Constitution from the reckless attacks of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. My hon. Friend and Colleague (Mr. Bradlaugh) generally takes a sound view in political matters; but as I listened to his speech last night, it struck me that his view was not so sound as it ordinarily is. My hon. Friend and Colleague said he should vote with the Government in this matter because in the Bill the Government have attacked one of the prerogatives of the Crown; well, but what is the Crown? The Crown is merely a figure of speech. The Crown means the centre and source of power, and what is the centre and source of power in this country? The House of Commons. The prerogative of the Crown, then, means the prerogative of the House of Commons. [Laughter.] If hon. Members who laugh will take the trouble to read constitutional writers, they will find that authorities lay this principle down: that in the nature of things the action of the Crown is taken on the advice of the Executive Ministers, who are responsible to the House of Commons; we have the 935 power, we have the Crown, and any attack on the prerogative of the Crown is an attack on the prerogative of the House of Commons. Let us look practically at the matter. Hon. Members seem surprised; but if they sit here long enough, I really think they will begin to know something about the Constitution. Let us look at the effect of the change suggested—this bringing in a Bill to give effect to a Treaty. At this moment the Treaty-making power is in the hands of the Executive. What is the Executive? It consists of the representatives of the great Party majority in this House. Consequently, when the Executive makes a Treaty, it has—it must have, in the nature of things—this House at the back of it. But what is the change proposed by this Bill? That you take out of the hands of the Executive the power of contracting a Treaty, and you give the House of Lords the power of vetoing that Treaty. Now, we all know perfectly well that, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has said, the House of Lords is a permanently Conservative Assembly. It is not in any sense of the word a Popular Assembly; it is, in the Party sense of the word, simply a Conservative Assembly. Now, supposing a Liberal Ministry wanted to make a Treaty with a Foreign Power, what would that Foreign Power say? It would say, "No, we will not treat with you, because you will have to submit the Treaty to the House of Lords, and you have not a majority in the House of Lords. The only result will be a waste of time, because you will have to submit the Treaty to the House of Lords, and the House of Lords will not agree to it." Take as an illustration the case of the retrocession of the Transvaal. We know that in the minds of hon. Gentlemen of the Party opposite that appears one of the most monstrous acts ever committed. Well, they had a majority in the House of Lords, and may we not suppose that if it had been necessary to pass a Bill for the retrocession of the Transvaal the House of Lords would have thrown out that Bill? There is not the slightest doubt but they would, just as they would reject this Bill if it had emanated from the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. Supposing the right hon. Gentleman 936 for Mid Lothian had proposed to cede Heligoland, Gentlemen opposite would have been up in arms to denounce it as a horrible thing, and the country would have rung with Jingo oratory in defence of the integrity of the Empire. No doubt, the House of Lords, in such circumstances, would reject this Bill for the cession of Heligoland. But I want hon. Gentlemen to see the effect of this attempt to bolster up the view that the prerogative of the Crown is something in opposition to the sense of this House. I will take, for instance, two Bills. Suppose a Bill is introduced to provide that no new Peers should be created without the consent of Parliament. What would be the effect of the passing of such a Bill? The House of Lords would never consent to a Bill creating Liberal Peers, and so only Conservative gentlemen would be sent up to the other House. "So much the better," says an hon. Friend of mine, and perhaps the objection is not so strong as in the other instance I will give. Suppose, again, an attack made on the prerogative of the Crown to dissolve Parliament, and a Bill passed providing that dissolution shall require the assent of Parliament. Again, that would be giving the House of Lords power to prevent a dissolution if they chose, no matter what the will of the House of Commons. So, I say you are taking away power from the popular element in Parliament, while theoretically attacking the prerogative. When we talk of giving power to Parliament we must remember that Parliament consists not only of a Popularly-Elected Assembly, but partly of a permanent, hereditary, Conservative Assembly, and it is very dangerous to take away the prerogatives of the Crown, as you call them, but, as I call them, the prerogatives of the House of Commons, and give them to a Parliament of both Houses. What we say, and what we Radicals have always urged, is that this House ought to be consulted in regard to Treaties—that Treaties ought not to become valid without the consent of the House. Treaties should not be made by Ministers in the dark. The majority here should have an opportunity of expressing an opinion in regard to them. What I think we ought to do in such cases is this. A Treaty is signed by those who have full powers to sign it, 937 and it then has to be ratified. Before it is ratified it ought to be submitted to this House, laid on the Table for a certain number of days, and if during that period no action is taken against it, it would be rendered effective. But, in the meantime, the House would have the opportunity of challenging the wisdom of the Treaty. If it were challenged and rejected it would disappear, and the Government would disappear with it. That, I think, would be far better than the scheme the Government has put forward in the present case, namely, that the two Houses should have a veto only under the circumstances which the Government have submitted. I think that the action taken by the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Mid Lothian and for Derby will make it clear that this is not to be a precedent, and that the Liberal Government will revert to the old constitutional system. With respect to the merits of this particular Treaty, I disagree with a good deal that has been said on this side of the House. I have no sort of objection to the cession of Heligoland. I consider that that island is not of the slightest use for defensive purposes, because we have not even fortified it, and I am afraid that in these days, if a fit of Jingoism happened to be going over the country, we might be called upon at some particular moment to spend a million or two for the fortifications of that place. I am glad we have got rid of Heligoland. We are told it may be of use defensively to Germany. I am glad if that is the case, because I think that the best security for peace is that every country should be strong defensively, and not strong offensively. Hitherto we have wanted Heligoland to be strong offensively against Germany, but Germany wants it to be strong defensively against any Power that may attack her. That is the reason why she has done so much to acquire the island; but it is somewhat absurd that this proposal should be made by Her Majesty's Government, considering that only about three weeks ago, when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy and myself took the liberty to suggest that Heligoland was a worthless possession, we were denounced sky-high by Her Majesty's Ministers. "What," said the Under Secretary for the Colonies, "This is rank 938 treason ! Give up Heligoland, that glorious possession of the British Crown; you will next give up the Isle of Jersey or the Isle of Wight." I cannot understand how it is that after this act of the cession of Heligoland has been done by the Government the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies is still found sitting on the Ministerial Bench. I should have thought he would have resigned on the instant rather than have become a partner in their guilt. But no—Ministers do not resign, bye-elections may go against them, public opinion may condemn them, but they have one policy to which they have been true up to the present moment—that of sticking to their places. I must, however, endeavour to relieve the minds of some Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House with regard to the feeling of the Heligolanders. There are some gentlemen on these Benches who have been greatly moved by the thought that the Heligolanders do not wish to have anything to do with Germany, and that they are in a state of utter despair at the cession of their island to that country, whereby they cease to live under the British flag. I would remind those hon. Members that in 1871, while the Franco-German War was going on, a request was made by the French people to the Heligolanders to give them pilots. Well this is what the Heligolanders, whose dream is said to be ever to remain British subjects, replied to that invitation—We, the inhabitants of Heligoland, feel compelled to remind you that we still continue to have German blood in our veins. German is at present, as it ever will be, the language of our schools and our Church. We have no sympathies other than what may be called German sympathies, and we think it but right to remind Germany that here, in the middle of the North Sea, there are Germans who are still awaiting their liberty.Therefore, I say, we have at least the satisfaction of knowing that we have done a grateful act towards those Heligolanders who informed Germany that they were awaiting their liberation from us. Now, as far as Heligoland is concerned, I should be entirely in favour of the present Treaty, but when I look at the quid pro quo which is to be given for the cession of Heligoland I can hardly regard it as sufficient, although I 939 do not say this for the reasons urged by hon. Members on this side of the House. I am not going to haggle and naggle about the interior of a country of which very few persons know the exact geographical position. I am not going into questions relating to the rivers, of which we know nothing, or to extensive forests and pigmy races which Mr. Stanley and other travellers have seen, but of which we have little or no knowledge whatever. I think, however, we are giving too much of Africa, and that the public are getting too little. We are told that we get a Protectorate over Zanzibar. An hon. Member was very indignant because I said we had not yet got Zanzibar. I repeat that we have not yet got it, because we have entered into a Treaty with France. [Cries of "No."] Hon. Members say "No," but I have it here in French. [Cries of "Read."] No, I will give it in English. It runs thus—"They, the two Governments, have reciprocally engaged to respect the independence of Zanzibar. "And in a letter from Mons. Freycinet, four years afterwards, that Minister pointed out that on the 20th of March, 1862, England recognised the independence of Zanzibar, so that we have absolutely guaranteed the independence of that State. I am not complaining of this for a moment, because I should be very glad if France were to interfere and say we are not to have a Protectorate over Zanzibar, because that Protectorate means that we are to guarantee the territories attaching to Zanzibar against all other countries. That is a most responsible engagement. We have a wide field, it is true, and the Government are always increasing that field; but, still, we are always told that the great object is to secure the safety of the possessions we have already acquired. Therefore, I say it is a very strong measure for the English Government to guarantee the island of Zanzibar against Russia, France, Germany, and the rest of Europe. This, however, is what the Government are pleased to call the quid pro quo for Heligoland. What else do we do? We not only hold an enormous amount of territory, but we are desirous of augmenting that territory. Many hon. Members will remember the horror which some years ago was excited in the breasts of most 940 Englishmen when Sir Bartle Frere announced that he was going to found a great empire in Africa. Sir B. Frere at that moment never dreamed of the great empire we are attempting to found at the present time. At that time the suggestion was that we should go as far as the Orange River, but we have gone far beyond that, because we have gone-to the Zambezi, and created what is, in reality, an enormous empire; and we are-not content with that, we have laid hold of Egypt and are remaining there, and have practically come to consider that Egypt is a part of our Empire, and because we have Egypt we must have something else. We must have the Equatorial Provinces, containing some 12,000,000 inhabitants. Then, having got the Equatorial Provinces in the north, and the huge empire I have spoken of in the south, the Government is denounced because it does not lay hold of the strip of territory which connects the two. It is said we ought to have that territory, and this seems to me very much like stealing a man's hat and boots, and then saying because you have got his hat and boots-you ought also to have his trousers. We are incurring enormous responsibilities in regard to this matter, and, so far as I can understand it, the Jingo-dream at the present moment is to have a great empire stretching from Alexandria in the north down to Simon's Bay in the south. For my part, I am glad that Germany has interposed to prevent the connecting links being made between our northern and southern territory in Africa, or rather between our equatorial territory and our great southern empire. I am only sorry Germany has not got more. [Cries of "Oh!"] Yes, I am very sorry, and I would point out to hon. Gentlemen opposite who interrupt me that that would be a judicious step to take, because it would tend to the security of peace. The more Germany has to look after the less likely is she to go to war. She seems to want colonies. We have enough. Let Germany have what she wants of these territories and undertake the work of civilisation which that possession will necessitate, and we shall have a guarantee that Germany will not attack us, because if she does we shall then be enabled to lay hold of the whole of the continent which the Germans may have assisted in civilising at 941 enormous cost. We laid hold of India and took it from the French. We did the same thing with regard to America, and we have done something like it in most places throughout the world. In fact, we are the most thoroughgoing buccaneers and land grabbers that ever existed. Some of us have cultivated land grabbing in Ireland, and we want to apply the same system to the entire globe. The earth hunger of this country is one of the strangest things I know of. We do not want these countries, but yet no sooner is a new province explored in any part of the world than we try to get hold of it, not because we really want it ourselves, but in order to prevent anybody else obtaining possession of it. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies has pointed out that there was a time when we could have got the whole of Africa by merely taking it. Why did we not take it? Simply because nobody else wanted it at that time. But no sooner does Germany and Prance go there, than we lay down a sort of manifesto that the whole of Africa belongs to us, and that we are at any rate to have the best portions of it. I say that we have no right to be there at all. Some hon. Gentlemen argue as if we had a right to the whole of Africa. But, in the first place, I assert that Africa belongs to the Africans; and, in the second place, if it is admitted that we ought to have colonies there, we have no more right to the interior of Africa than has any other country on the globe. It is precisely this notion, that we have a sort of primitive right to every part of the globe, that gets us into trouble. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs stated that no secret Treaty had been entered into with Germany. What I ask is, what secret Treaty has been entered into before with Germany; what obligations have we taken with regard to the Triple Alliance? The Under Secretary said there had been an exchange of Notes. Are these negotiations not going on now? Those communications ought to be submitted to the House. All I can say is, that certain communications having been made by Lord Salisbury in reference to the Triple Alliance, Italy was induced to join it. Why have those communications not been laid on the Table of the House? If they are not, all we can say is that Italy 942 and Germany must thoroughly understand that these are mere expressions of opinion on the part of Lord Salisbury, and that this country is in no way responsible for the engagements that Lord Salisbury negotiated. I recall with surprise the expressions of approval of Lord Salisbury as Foreign Minister which have come from this side of the House. I regard him as one of the most dangerous Foreign Ministers that ever has been in the Foreign Office. His policy is simply that of interfering in Europe by truckling to Germany, and whenever he gets the opportunity of turning the cold shoulder to France. I hope that we will soon have a General Election, and so avoid the danger which I am perfectly certain we incur of being dragged into some European War. With regard to this Treaty, I am not opposed to getting rid of Heligoland and the Governor's salary. But I am opposed to the Treaty, because in South Africa we incur great responsibilities and liabilities which will eventually increase the taxation of this country. On the Colonial Votes I shall have something to say about the Chartered Companies. I can only say that in the territories which we do obtain from other Powers, we realise the very worst fears of the people by putting them into the hands of Conservative Dukes and others under the guise of Chartered Companies. Lastly, I object to the Treaty because it is an attempt to establish an exceedingly bad precedent, and I can only console myself with the thought that no Liberal Government ever can or will accept the precedent.
§ *(7.54.) MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
The Government need not despair of carrying their Bill after the speech we have just heard. At first the hon. Member said we had got too little for Heligoland, and then that we had really got too much. Which argument does he prefer to stand by?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I did not say we had not received adequate value. I said we had received too great value, improper value, which really would cost us a great deal of money without any countervailing advantage.
§ * MR. W. P. LAWRENCE
I am prepared to accept the hon. Member's correction, though I have no doubt the reporters to-morrow will refresh his 943 memory as to what he did say. Anyhow, whatever the hon. Member did say, his speech was not one about which we need take any particular care. After two days' debating, there is very little that is new to be said on this subject. For my own part, I am perfectly prepared to support the Agreement, not because it is perfect, but because it is as good as can be expected under the circumstances. Considering those circumstances, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, like the right hon. Member for Denbighshire, who lost us the Cameroons, half of New Guinea, and Damaraland, ought to be a little silent or criticise more fairly the present Agreement. I admit, however, that there are questions left unsettled in Africa which will be of great importance to us at a later stage of our national existence. South African colonists, for example, have a good right to complain that they should have their northern line cut off by a strip 20 miles broad, enhancing the value of Damaraland and shutting off their trade to the North, and arresting the natural expansion of South Africa. I believe even more important still is the question with regard to Walfisch Bay; and that that matter is left unsettled, while Heligoland is surrendered, is a serious blot in the Agreement. An hon. Member has urged the Government to put friendly pressure on Germany. The remark shows how little he understands the signs of the present day. I ask the hon. Member whether Germany has ever yielded to friendly pressure, and whether her pressure has ever been friendly. Passing from those points, however, considering that the circumstances of this case are totally different from the circumstances of past years, and considering also how much has been gained, the House ought, I think, to be thankful. Germany entered upon the negotiations knowing full well that the Government would not be supported by the British electorate in moving a ship or landing a battalion in order to obtain an acre of land in Africa. How different is the position of the German Emperor. Hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to go to the country and toll their constituents to support a spirited foreign policy. I do not agree that we do not want these countries for ourselves. I have heard that all the great wars of the last century 944 were undertaken for the purposes of trade. I am prepared to further forward a policy for the purposes of trade; for, although we have' great colonies, and surrounded by friendly nations, all our markets are shut up; we are hemmed in by protective duties, and unless we can find new countries we may as well shut ourselves up at home. I think that, on the whole, Her Majesty's Government are to be congratulated on the great field which they have opened up to British trade, for which there is a great future in that district. I am prepared to forward a policy which will develope our trade by firmness, and by force, if necessary. This Treaty is not only to be looked on as beneficial to the East African Company, but to the whole country, as it opens up a route for trade to the Nile. I am not inclined to underestimate the interests of our South African colonists. There are, undoubtedly, some points in which their feelings and wishes ought to have been met, but I hold that by this Agreement they have a great area for extension opened up. They have an enormous tract of territory that it will take at least a century to open up and adequately develope, and though I am sorry that the Damaraland boundary has been altered, I am sure that if the colonists will stand shoulder to shoulder and drop their racial differences, they have a future before them almost as great as that of Australia, and perhaps even greater. Though I have been bound to offer these criticisms to some parts of the Agreement, I am bound to give support to it on the whole. (8.5.)
§ (8.35.) MR. A. PEASE (York)
I rise to add my protest against the very humiliating Agreement, which depends on the passing of this Bill. No great amount of eulogy or praise has been bestowed on the Government measure even by the supporters of the Government. Even the speeches of the Prime Minister in another place, and of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in this House, were made in an apologetic tone. The hon. Member who last addressed the House said he was in favour of a spirited foreign policy, and a policy of resorting to force, if necessary, to back up the commercial enterprise of this country. I do not pretend to be 945 governed by the motives actuating the hon. Gentleman when I say it is a disastrous thing for this country if legitimate commercial enterprise is hindered by any action of the Government, and I think that legitimate commercial enterprise is restricted and endangered in many quarters of Africa. One hon. Member has said that we have bartered away our birthright in Africa for a mess of pottage. We have bartered away our birthright, but I cannot see where the mess of pottage comes in. I cannot see what we have gained in any direction by the Anglo-Gorman Agreement. If we compare our position in Africa in 1886 with our position there to-day the change is distinctly for the worse. We were told that the proposed concessions and surrenders, and the evacuation of Heligoland are necessary in order to secure the friendship of Germany. I feel pretty confident that even after we have done all that is proposed, Germany's policy will still be mainly dictated by her own interest. In my opinion, the first step towards obtaining the friendship of Germany would be to obtain her respect, and I cannot see how Germany can have any respect for a Government or a Power which so willingly and, I believe, so unnecessarily surrenders her hold upon great areas in Africa. I willingly admit that there is ample room for dissatisfaction with regard to the policy pursued by the Liberal Administration with regard to Damaraland and Namaqualand, but I maintain that things have been made infinitely worse by the concessions just made. It is contended that we still retain our influence at Zanzibar; but let me point out that our influence is now restricted to the Islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. Before, however, I deal with the question of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, I desire to refer to the Heligoland part of the Treaty. An hon. and gallant Member has deprecated the position of Heligoland as a point of strategic value. I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member is a more competent authority than some of those authorities who appeared before the Commission on the Colonial Defences, or whether he is a more competent authority than some of the great men who preceded those authorities. But whilst the 946 hon. and gallant Member was speaking I turned to a Despatch written by Admiral Russell in 1807, in which the gallant. Admiral said of Heligoland that at a small expense the island could be made a small Gibraltar. I do not profess to know anything at all about the question of the strategic value of Heligoland, but I remember that even Lord Salisbury in another place dwelt on the great use that Heligoland had been when Napoleon promulgated his decrees against the commerce of Great Britain, and endeavoured to suppress British commerce on the Continent of Europe. He pointed out how, Heligoland being a smuggling emporium, it was Heligoland smugglers who arrested and defeated the policy of Napoleon. I suppose if Heligoland was of use at the beginning of the century, events may arise that may make Heligoland again useful in that or in other respects impossible now to anticipate. But the Prime Minister has also stated that it is better to cede Heligoland when we can get a quid pro quo than to undergo the humiliation of surrendering it in time of war; and he has pointed out that we should be obliged to do that, because within a few hours of a declaration of war Germany would send a fleet, an armed force, and artillery to occupy the island, and we should be ousted from our possession. But I presume that, in the event or probability of war with Germany, some steps would be taken to protect the island from the fate foreshadowed by the Prime Minister. For my own part, I do not anticipate any trouble with Germany in Europe. I cannot imagine any event in Europe that would bring the two countries into conflict or unfriendly contact. Our interests are in common, and there is no reason to suppose we shall have any but friendly relations with the German Empire; and even if it were not so, Germany has little power to damage us in Europe, whilst I should have supposed that those in favour of a spirited foreign policy, such as indicated by the hon. Member who spoke last, would have hesitated before handing over our outpost in the North Sea. The reason why I regret the cession is because the inhabitants have shown plainly, absolutely, and resolutely a preference to remain subjects of the British Crown, 947 while we abuse their loyalty by transferring them, as if they were cattle, to the dominion of another State. Germany, at any rate, has no old claim to Heligoland. This is not a recession of territory as has been stated by one hon. Member. Heligoland, I believe, has never at any time belonged to Germany. Lord Salisbury deprecated a plebiscite being taken; but I think, at any rate, he might have taken the opinion of the Nominee Council. We have no evidence that he did seek any information in that direction. But I regard the cession of Heligoland as the smallest part of the Agreement, and I should be willing to support it provided we get a proper equivalent. I ask the House for a moment to follow me whilst I endeavour to show what is the position of this country and Germany in Africa, where we are supposed to have obtained an equivalent as compared with that of four or five years ago. In a Despatch to Sir Edward Malet in 1885, Lord Granville pointed out thatApprehensions with regard to the policy of Germany towards the Sultan of Zanzibar are not shared by Her Majesty's Government, who continue to respect the assurances given to Sir Edward Malet by Prince Bismarck on May 28, 1884, that Germany will not endeavour to obtain a protectorate over Zanzibar.And then he goes on to state that for a century the Sultans of Zanzibar and Muscat had been under the administrative influence of this country and the Government of India, and that in 1861, by the decision of the Viceroy of India, the two countries, Muscat and Zanzibar, were divided by an arrangement which has continued since. The Despatch went on to point out that Her Majesty's ships had kept the peace in Zanzibar waters; that British trade was closely connected with the country, that the British Government had subsidised steamers from this country to Zanzibar, and that British-Indian subjects had settled there in considerable numbers, and that British influence was used for the advantage of the trade of all nations under liberal Commercial Treaties existing with the Sultan. Well, what was the condition of things that followed upon this? Germany assumed certain rights by force over certain territories behind the coast line of the Sultanate on the mainland. The Sultan protested, and the British Government preceding the 948 present, if anything supported the Sultan in his protest; but, later on, in September, 1885, we find Lord Salisbury had changed the tone towards Germany, and received compliments and thanks from the German Government for good offices in bringing pressure to bear on the Sultan of Zanzibar. I could quote from the Blue Books several instances of pressure brought to bear upon the Sultan, and there is one instance that shows indisputably how this pressure was brought to bear on the Sultan in favour of Germany, and which I intended to quote, but I find I have not the book with me. It is an instance in which, in a Despatch, Lord Salisbury declares that such pressure was employed. I might refer also to the quotation that was used in another place from a Despatch by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) showing what the position was in 1886. The noble Lord said—Our position at the moment is one of immense value and strength; the whole of the tribes in that territory are under our influence, look up to, and are determined to be guided by us;and he went on to point out how preponderating was the influence of this country in Zanzibar. Germany, step by step, sometimes by violence and sometimes by pressure exercised on the Sultan, though the English Foreign Office obtained a footing on the Zanzibar coast of Africa. And now, to sum up, look at the position of this country in Africa and in Europe in relation to Germany, as compared to what it was in 1886. In 1886 we possessed Heligoland; we had a preponderating influence and power throughout the Sultanate of Zanzibar, the Island of Zanzibar, the Island of Pemba, and 500 or 600 miles of coast line; the question of Damaraland was not settled; Germany claimed certain concessions in the district which we had not consented to acknowledge. To-day what is the position in which this country finds itself? Germany has got Heligoland, Damaraland, Namaqua-land, and the mainland territories of the Sultan of Zanzibar; concessions in other districts, for instance, in the Gulf of Guinea; and I presume, after 1910, according to this Treaty, she will have power to exclude our trade from the Sultanate of Zanzibar or the mainland 949 coast of Africa. What is our position? We have lost Heligoland; we have lost the enjoyment of some of the fruits of British discovery and enterprise in North East Africa; we have a lessened authority in Zanzibar, a Protectorate dependent on concessions from France and the Sultan; and our fellow-countrymen who are engaged in the enterprise of the British East Africa Company are cut off from communication between Tanganyika and Central Africa, debarred from the route extending from Central Africa to our possessions in the South; we have a discontented colony at the Cape in consequence of concessions made to Germany without consulting the colonists; and the probability of friction with France. And the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has stated that even such authority as we have in Zanzibar is to be exercised in no exclusive manner; he seemed to deprecate even the little influence left to us in that island. I cannot understand why there is this sacrifice of British interests in Africa and Germany. I much prefer English methods of colonisation to German and French methods. We have had most lamentable occurrences by the Germans on the mainland of the Sultanate of Zanzibar. There have been methods adopted which have been condemned by our Naval Commanders on the African Coast. As the noble Lord the Member for Paddington has pointed out, one concession after another has been made in order to secure our position in Egypt, and he has pointed out the fruits and consequences of the policy we have pursued. There are other advantages almost as undesirable we have given the Germans. We have allowed Captain Weissman to go to Egypt and recruit a force there for his expedition into Central Africa. You would never have allowed a French officer—I doubt if you would have allowed an officer of any other country—to recruit forces in Cairo and other parts of Egypt for warfare, or any other enterprise in the interior of Africa. That I may be under no accusation of misrepresentation in this matter, let me call attention to the answer given by the Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar. My hon. Friend asked if the attention of the Government had been directed to a telegram, dated Alexandria, February 25, to 950 the effect that Captain Weissman had arrived on his way to Zanzibar; that he would proceed to Cairo, and would recruit his force with some 100 blacks, and whether the consent of the Egyptian Government had been obtained to the enlistment of Egyptian subjects. The answer was that Sir Evelyn Baring had reported the arrival of Captain Weissman at Cairo; had stated that his proceedings had received no official sanction, but that the Egyptian Government did not propose to offer any objection to the voluntary enlistment of a few blacks for certain police purposes. Well, we know how the police force is used by the Germans in their work of colonisation. Much has been said about the "Hinterland" doctrine; and though it has in some degree been denied, it is practically a doctrine admitted in this Anglo-German Agreement. The Hinterland doctrine, it would seem, is to be allowed to be applied by Germany, but it is not to apply to any other country. We know the position taken up by this country in regard to Portugal. If any country has a right to claim territory on the Hinterland principle that country is Portugal. She has territory on the coast line on West and East Africa, not a bare coast line, but territory reaching a considerable distance into the interior. But Portugal is a very weak State, and Germany a very strong one. We have, I say, in this Agreement practically admitted the Hinterland doctrine, and I think that is pretty clear from the Despatch of Lord Salisbury to Sir Edward Malet on June 14th last. The second paragraph of that Despatch reads—The claims of the German Government are based chiefly on the contention that where one Power occupies the coast another Power may not, without consent, occupy unclaimed regions in its rear. It would be too much to affirm that this contention is entirely destitute of support from international usage,That, I say, is conceding the doctrine in some degree—But its operation cannot be unlimited, while the boundaries within which it should be restricted are very hard to draw.Later on, Lord Salisbury fully admits the doctrine. He goes on to say—Her Majesty's Government had, therefore, no title to advance which could countervail the claim which the German Government based on the fact that this region"—951 that is, territory to the north of Tanganyika,—Was in the immediate rear of their own; and their pretension derived additional support from the circumstance that it would practically have the effect of dividing the shares of Lake Victoria Nyanza into two portions approximately equal between the two Governments, &c.Well, I say, the Hinterland doctrine is conceded wherever the Germans have set it in operation; while the Foreign Office have, so far as I can gather from the correspondence, never once insisted absolutely on any point they have urged. So much has been said about concessions in the South-West of Africa and the lamentable extension of German territory along the banks of the Chobe River to the Zambesi, that I need not dwell on that. I admit that the first concessions in that direction were begun under a Liberal Government; but I consider that the present Government, knowing what were the concessions to British subjects in Damaraland; what was the feeling at the Cape; what was the feeling of the King of the Damaras, are very much to blame in not taking care that the interests of British colonists at the Cape, and the interests of the natives were protected by restricting the concessions in Damaraland to a much narrower district. I know it is too late now to do anything towards upsetting, altering, or amending the Agreement; nevertheless, I do believe it is the duty of Parliament to reject this Agreement, and, although few may vote against it, I certainly shall vote with my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark against what I consider this most humiliating Agreement. While I give every credit to the desire of the Government to maintain friendly relations with Germany, so far as I can see they do nothing towards obtaining or securing the gratitude of Germany, while I can see that they may land us in material difficulties with our colonists before very long.
§ (9.10.) CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
I am sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman is going to vote against the Bill for the reason he has given, namely, that the Hinterland doctrine has been applied solely for the benefit of Germany. He and other speakers on this side have overlooked one part of the arrangement. While it is true we have 952 given up considerable territory on the Hinterland principle to Germany on the-East, it is also true that south of Lake Nyassa there is a territory of 60,000square miles secured on the Hinterland principle to this country. So it is unjust to say that the Hinterland doctrine has been applied solely for the benefit of Germany. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) gave us a long controversial argument, in which he attributed sinister designs to the Government and the House of Lords. I do not know whether we are to consider the hon. Gentleman as a Constitutional Authority, but I do not think he convinced the House that the constitutional question involved is a very serious one. His hon. Colleague the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) hailed the introduction of the Bill with satisfaction as a precedent by which a prerogative of the Crown is limited or forfeited. He argued that when once the Crown had abandoned a prerogative it had never been asserted again. Now, I think, to-such a statement there are very considerable limitations. It is true that prerogatives of the Crown being abandoned after conflict between Crown and Parliament have never been revived, but I do-not think it can be asserted that a prerogative abandoned by the will or the wish of the Crown, waived, so to speak, is absolutely abandoned.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
What I stated, and what I believe to be the case, was that there is no case in which, the Crown having lost its prerogative by enactment to which, of course, the Crown had to be a consenting party, that prerogative was ever reasserted or re-taken.
§ CAPIAIN BETHELL
That is very likely, by express enactment, but as we have been assured, and by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, most emphatically, this at any rate is not to form a precedent. But the hon. Gentleman considers it is to form a precedent for a prerogative abandoned by the Crown. Now, in regard to the cession of Heligoland, I fear there is a prospect that the running sore between this country and America may find its counterpart in the complications which will arise under a sub-section of the 12th Article having reference to rights of fishing. It is provided that our fishermen are 953 to have rights of taking in provisions and water, and other rights for all time. This is just one of the provisions that have given rise to so much difficulty and correspondence with America, and I think the sub-section is also likely to give rise to future trouble with the German Empire. I should have thought it would have been wiser to have limited the reservation of rights to some specific period of time. Upon the cession of the island I do not propose to say anything further, except to remark, upon the complaint that we have not an equivalent concession, that a few weeks ago in a discussion on the Estimates several hon. Gentlemen on the other side expressed a desire to cede Heligoland, not for any quid pro quo, but simply on sentimental grounds, and it was not until the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) suggested that it was a valuable property to Germany, and that if we gave it up we ought to get something substantial in return, that Members then considered it might be desirable, and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), correcting what he had previously said, explained that he did not mean that the island should be given up for nothing, and out of friendship merely. It is a little surprising now to find hon. Gentlemen so shocked and horrified at finding we are to get so little in return. I should take out of the Agreement altogether, for the purpose of summing up our gains and losses, a large piece of Central Africa. Consider, then, what remains. We have given up Heligoland and a certain portion of South-West Africa. The cession of Heligoland has already been sufficiently discussed, and it is to the South-West African question that I wish to direct my criticism. Some weeks ago, before this arrangement was concluded, we had a discussion on this question in Committee, and on that occasion I took the opportunity of saying I was strongly opposed to ceding any more territory to Germany in that region. My reason differed from that given by the hon. Member who last spoke. Where he got his information about Namaqualand I cannot imagine. I never heard that that country had been explored.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
That may be so. The hon. Gentleman seems to take a very rosy view of the country. My objection to this arrangement, however, is an almost sentimental one. I am looking to the future of the Anglo-Saxon Empire South of the Zambesi being prejudiced by the intrusion of another foreign element. I think the original admission of the Germans was a gross mistake, and I deprecate as strongly as I can the giving up of anything further in South Africa to the Germans, because it will tend to render more difficult our ultimate success there. I cannot understand why Germany is so very anxious to get this territory. I have heard that the German negotiators were very stiff-necked about it. I could understand our Foreign Minister making a concession if he were going to get a quid pro quo; but I do not think he has-got one in this instance. I may say, therefore, that so far as this portion of the Agreement is concerned I join with those who deprecate the concessions, which have been made. In estimating our gains and losses by the Treaty, I certainly think it should be noted that one great gain we have secured is such a re-arrangement of territory among the nations in Africa as will tend to obviate disputes and difficulties henceforward—difficulties that have led to trouble in, the past, and might easily do so again, unless the position and territory of each country is clearly defined. Whatever other value the Agreement may have I venture to say it is most valuable as constituting an important factor in the peace of the world, and no doubt that consideration was present to the mind of Lord Salisbury. As to Zanzibar, I hope, that, notwithstanding the action of France and Germany with regard to the island in the past, we shall in future exercise a substantial Protectorate over it. With regard to the remarks of the senior Member for Northampton, it will be remembered that the French and ourselves guaranteed the independence of the Sultan of Zanzibar. So also did the Germans, and now that they have withdrawn, surely we are not bound to insist on that independence. In fact, the word guarantee was not used in the Treaty: the engagement was to respect the Sultan's independence, and not to guarantee it—a very different 955 thing. The value of the island and the Protectorate will largely depend on the results of German colonisation in Africa. If that action is successful, and they are able to create and develop ports on the coast sufficient for the purposes of their trade, Zanzibar will not be so valuable as it would otherwise be. Still, there can be no doubt that it will always be a valuable British possession for warlike or maritime purposes, and especially as a coaling station. Although I am glad to see Great Britain getting her fair share of possessions in Africa, and other parts of the world, to which she is entitled, yet I do not see why this country should be regarded as the only colonising and civilising Power in Africa. Germany, or any other country that undertakes this work, should have its fair share of territory to carry out its purposes, and with regard to the contrast that has been drawn between Lord Salisbury's treatment of Portugal on the one hand and of Germany on the other, it should be remembered that though Portugal first discovered the territories in Africa which she claimed, she has never established herself in them, and in the circumstances it was impossible for Lord Salisbury to recognise all her claims. It must be admitted that we can no more rest our claim to the territories we have discovered in Africa on their original discovery by us, since we have not established ourselves in them, than Portugal can lay claim to the territories North of the Zambesi. Therefore, I do not think that Lord Salisbury has acted towards Portugal as a weak Power, while he has acted towards Germany as a strong Power. On the contrary, I believe he has acted towards that country with much dignity. I hope that in the negotiations with France and Portugal the same dignified efforts will be made to reconcile the rights of all.
§ *(9.30.) MR. STOREY
I am sorry I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in one of the observations he made. He said that Lord Salisbury had treated Portugal in exactly the same spirit as he treated Germany, but I am afraid that I must, even at the risk of condemnation, come to the conclusion that Lord Salisbury treated Portugal as a weak Power, and Germany as a strong Power. He negotiated with the one, and took a 956 strong handed course with the other, which he would not have dared to had she possessed the power of Germany. I differ, too, from many of my Liberal and Radical Friends in regard to this Agreement. I entirely concur in the wisdom of the cession of Heligoland to Germany, and I think Lord Salisbury is entitled to much credit for having done a very sensible and statesmanlike thing. The importance of Heligoland to this country has been greatly over-estimated, and I have come to the conclusion, after listening to the Debates, and reading what has been said in some of the newspapers, that a great many Gentlemen who have discussed the matter have never seen the island, and have never taken the trouble to understand what it is. One hon. Gentleman described it as the key to the North Sea. What magnificent folly to describe it in that fashion. Another, out-Heroding Herod, has spoken of it as the key of the Baltic, which is about as sensible as if I were to say that the Isle of Man is the key of the English Channel. Heligoland is a beggarly little rock, with a little bit of sand tacked on to it, as a sort of fringe to its garment; it has got a population limited in number, but German in sympathy and in many other ways. Therefore, as far as the rock is concerned, I am glad it is going to Germany. I wish hon. Gentlemen who oppose this cession would realise what we should feel if the Goodwin Sands were once more to stand perpetually out of the sea, and if every ship in and out of the Port of London were to see the German flag flying there. It would do us no damage, but it would offend our sentimental feeling. The Germans must have the same feeling at seeing the English flag flying on this little island close to the mouth of the Elbe. It is only natural that they should, and I commend Lord Salisbury for the taking note of that sentiment, and frankly handing Heligoland over to Germany. But I have to make one remark on the point, not of a complimentary character. I would make it a rule to have a very generous feeling towards the sentiments of foreign nations. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said that we ought to have got something in return for Heligoland. I think that great nations in treating with one another ought not to 957 seek a quid pro quo, but ought to act with the generosity of gentlemen, and not seek for a quid pro quo in the spirit of a pedlar. The complaint that I have to make against Lord Salisbury is that he has sought for concessions in other parts of the world. And what sort of a bargain has he made? Germany has to give us a lot of territory which is not hers to give, and we have to give Germany a lot of territory which is not ours to give. Since the day Dick Turpin and Tom King met to divide the plunder of Hagley Hall I do not know of any more atrocious thing than has been done by those two great civilising Powers in Africa. The Under Secretary has talked in magniloquent terms about partitioning Africa. The right hon. Gentleman partitioned to Germany what was not his, and accepted from Germany what was not hers, and this without considering the views of the people who inhabit the land. I am utterly against England having possessions or points of land scattered up and down the world, except for one reason. I admit it is absolutely essential that England should have coaling stations throughout the world. I shall never be opposed to obtaining fairly, and keeping with a strong hand, such coaling stations as are necessary for our Fleet and our Mercantile Marine. Heligoland never could have been a coaling station. Coaling stations must be defensible, and to fortify and defend that island would have involved enormous expenditure, the benefits derived from which would never be commensurate with the outlay. I have no objection to our having Gibraltar, Malta, and other places of the kind, and, therefore, I have not the smallest objection to make to Lord Salisbury's acquiring the Island of Zanzibar. But, having surrendered Heligoland to Germany because it is close to that Empire, the very same condition of things will exist 50 years hence with respect to Zanzibar. Zanzibar will be an English island placed just off the coast of an enormous German Empire, and the same sentimental feeling which makes us surrender Heligoland to Germany now will compel us then to surrender Zanzibar to the holders of the German Empire in Africa. Just now I unwittingly incurred the censure of the hon. and gallant Member for Evesham by sneering at an observation he made. He thought that I sneered at 958 the missionaries, but I sneered at the sentiment he was enunciating. So long as he talked about the relations between the two Powers, and about the advantages of trade, I thought he was on common-sense ground, but when he suggested the utter cant—and I can call it by no other words—that we were going to Africa to support the missionaries, I could not help sneering, and I shall sneer every time such observations are made by any Member of this House. What is the use of humbugging, or attempting to humbug, the world? We do not go to Africa to support the missionaries, or to civilise the natives; as everybody knows in his secret heart, we go for the purpose of obtaining land and making money; and what becomes of those poor wretches the Africans we care not one button. Did we go to North America, to civilise the Indians; to Australia, to civilise the natives; or to New Zealand, to civilise the Maories? No, we went to make money, to carry on trade, to acquire land, and to make an opening for our sons. That was our purpose, and we ought to say so honestly. We did not go to civilse. What do we carry to these natives? We carry to them the three R's; not those which we give to the children of this country, but the rifle, rum, and religion. The rifle and the rum are slowly destroying these populations. Heaven grant that the third of the three R's—religion—may give them entrance to a place where grasping Emperors do not govern, and where philanthropic and pious traders are unknown. I have learned one lesson from this action of ours in Africa. We are giving land to Germany which we have no right to give, and Germany is giving land to us to which she has no right. There is, however, no opinion taken of the populations of these territories. I do not admit that they are poor and scattered. I believe that they are not of the bloodthirsty and plundering types which have been found in other uncivilised portions of the world. Probably in that favoured region there are races capable of great development. I am sure of one thing, that the ordinary processes which have characterised the march of the Anglo-Saxon and every other European nation in their dealings with savage nations, will, if adopted in this case, civilise these peoples off the 959 face of the earth. Now, the lesson I have learnt is this: that all our outcries against Russia, on the ground that she has acquired enormous territories by nefarious means, are the merest sham. With what sense of moral worth can our Government hereafter complain—with what justice can the Tory Party hereafter complain—about Russia? I was in the House when the unfortunate butcheries in Afghanistan occurred during the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. I can remember the outcry raised by Members of the Conservative Party as to the grasping tendencies of Russia, and the nefarious means by which she managed to get control of one Khanate after another, and one valley after another. I can remember the outcries from the same ranks when Russia re-acquired Bessarabia, which we took from her in 1856. How piously we then condemned Russia. But with what face can England hereafter condemn acquisitions by other Powers? If there is any Power which goes up and down the world, like a raging lion seeking what it may devour, it is this great Empire of Great Britain and Ireland. Look at the acquisitions we have made in recent days. Who took Cyprus? The Tory Government. Who took Burma? The Tory Government; and if the hon. and gallant Member for Evesham had his way we should absorb not only all this earth, but the moon too, in the name of Great Britain. You have acquired land in every part of the world without the least regard for the interests of the inhabitants, simply through a greed of lust, and power, and growth, which seems inherent in a certain class of the English people. Yet, when other nations commit this offence you hold up your hands and thank Heaven you are not as other men—not even as this publican Russia. I think it is very much to be deplored that any Party in this House should connect itself with such a wholesale proposal of partition as is contained in this Bill. I admit that the partition is nominal, and on paper; it is not a proposal that you should at once acquire land, because, if it meant that, it would involve an expenditure of money and men, which would speedily push the Government from Office. I can understand a Government taking possession of a 960 territory which it feels the circumstances of the time require it should, but for the first time in our history you have entered into a covenant for the possession of an enormous amount of plunder in land of which neither of the contracting parties can yet take possession. You are setting a bad example to other nations of the world, and you are doing more, for. you are shutting our mouths, if ever there should be cause for righteous complaint. When Russia comes down to the Bosphorus, as she will, or if she acquires Persia, she will reply to our complaints by pointing to this Treaty with Germany, and will say that we entered cold-blooded into a Treaty to partition half a continent. I have learned another lesson from this transaction. If I, as a humble Member of the Radical Party, try simply to change the form of Government in Ireland, and to give the Irish people the right to manage their internal affairs, I am told that I seek the disintegration of the Empire; but if the Tories sell, in the spirit of a pedlar, a portion of the Empire to another nation, then they are not disintegrating the Empire. I trust that the public of this country will learn that lesson. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General last night made some observations on the serious constitutional question raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. I do not propose to attempt to discuss that question, but one remark made by the hon. and learned Member particularly struck me. He said he had always understood that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby hated the power of the Crown, and that that night he had been amazed to see him defending the prerogative of the Crown as against the power of the House of Lords. He added that the right hon. Gentleman's hatred of the Crown had been obscured and swallowed up by his hate of the House of Lords. What right had the hon. and learned Member to assume that any person on these Benches, either a Constitutional Whig, as I should call my right hon. Friend, or an extreme Revolutionist, as I might call myself, ever hated or was opposed to the prerogative of the Crown. Everyone knows, I presume, that if at this time, I were called upon to mould a Constitution for this island, I would not make it monarchical. But, then, like 961 most other northern people, I have just got sufficient common sense to know that a change from the system which has grown up, and has, on the whole, worked so well, involving, as it would, an enormous expenditure of money, time, and perhaps blood—I say that a change of such a terrible nature would never be compensated for by any advantage that would accrue from our having merely the form we prefer. Like common sense people we accept the present position of things. Anyone who suggests that I am opposed to the prerogative of the Crown is manifestly mistaken. We, on these Benches. regard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian and his Colleagues as the guardians of the present English Constitution against the revolutionary persons who constitute the present Government. Everyone knows that the prerogative of the Crown is the prerogative of the House of Commons, and that the prerogative of the House of Commons is the prerogative of the majority of the people of this country. We do not hate the House of Lords. In the present circumstances, the House of Lords are, unfortunately, our masters, and therefore, we assert against hon. Gentlemen opposite the prerogative of the Crown. I believe that what the Government are aiming at is the exalting of the power of the House of Lords in this as in other matters, so that the House of Commons could not decide any foreign question unless the House of Lords liked. We are not prepared to put the House of Lords into such a position as that. Rather than give them more powers on foreign matters, we desire to reduce their powers on home matters. I venture to think that a great number of constitutional Radicals prefer the old method of the will of the Crown, which is the will of the people, being supremo in foreign affairs, and, therefore, we are unable to vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend any more than for the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill,
§ (10.5.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
Sir, I will not abuse the right which the Amendment gives me to say a few words. The Attorney General has charged the Opposition with having taken the Government by surprise; but I am surprised that the Government 962 should have been taken by surprise. A Cabinet which consists of responsible Ministers of the Crown ought not to be taken by surprise when they are asked why they have abandoned what they admit to be an established head of a prerogative which has never been abandoned before. I venture to say that if the Bench of Bishops were to drop one of the 39 Articles, and then, when asked why they had done it, were to say, we would like to have time to consider before we give a reason, it would be rather an extraordinary situation. Primâ facie, Ministers of the Crown are the Trustees of the prerogative of the Crown, and when they come to the opinion that it is necessary to change a constitutional practice. one would suppose that they would first of all state to Parliament why they have done so; but when the Government are asked for their reasons they say they are taken by surprise. Having been asked, they have attempted various answers. I really have risen for the purpose of attempting to reconcile, as far as I can, the statements they have made in the interests of what I believe Theologians would call the harmony of the Gospels of the Treasury Bench. The view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, one of the greatest authorities on the Treasury Bench, is that this is a thing which the Government are bound to do on this occasion, though they would not be bound to do it upon any occasion, nor even in a similar case. He says, "I rest upon the argument that we are not obliged to ask the assent of Parliament." I venture rather to demur to this, and to contend that there is some danger if this is done once that it may be done again, and that Parliament might claim that having been done once it should be done again. Then came into the field a very different knight from the Chancellor of the Exchequer—a dashing authority, the Secretary for Ireland. He said that they found the Treaty-making power of the Crown in a nebulous condition.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
Not the power of Treaty making, but the power of dealing with cessions of territory.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I beg pardon; that is what I meant. Philosophers distinguish between the effective and 963 subjective of the question. I admit the nebulosity, but I cannot state whether it was in the person contemplating or the thing contemplated. The matter is perfectly clear, and it is not a question of this lawyer or of that. I do not wish to speak disrespectfully of the lawyers, but I cannot help remembering the criticism of Mr. Burke, when the lawyers gave an opinion in the case of the impeachment of Warren Hastings. He dismissed the opinion of the lawyers with the remark—That a rabbit could not be a judge of the gestation of the elephant, and, therefore, he could not conceive that the opinion of practising barristers in the fields of private business were conclusive upon great constitutional questions.Though not complimentary, I think that view of Mr. Burke was well founded. On the other hand, the Secretary for Ireland said this was one of the undecided cases of constitutional practice and law. How undecided? It has been decided by the practice of centuries. There has not been a single exception, and, in my opinion, that is a decision of Constitutional Law which stands farabove the opinion of any lawyer or individual. The Chief Secretary also said that the Government found the question in a nebulous condition, and determined—though they were taken by surprise—to establish a precedent which should dispose of this nebulous state of things, and settle Constitutional Law for the future. It will be observed that a very different view was taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said it would decide nothing for the future. I said across the floor of the House: "Is it a binding precedent?" The Secretary for Ireland said: "Yes; it is a binding precedent." That is very important. The Government have decided an undecided question of Constitutional Law. The Secretary for Ireland says that what the Government have to do in this doubtful and undetermined condition of the Constitution, is to decide for the future on which side they should attempt, by establishing a precedent, to determine an undetermined question. We shall know what it is this reflecting and unanimous Cabinet have determined is to be the real Constitution for the future. Now, the object was a very good object; it was "to enable Parliament to prevent 964 the Ministry beforehand from falling into error." A very necessary object, especially in the present day. Parliament was to be invited to prevent Lord Salisbury from falling into error by the action of Parliament anticipatory of that of the Foreign Office. I commend this to the attention of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. I suppose this new principle is to be inscribed in letters of gold in the Foreign Office—the principle that Parliament is to be called upon to prevent the Government from falling into error. Well, let us examine the precedent which is thus laid down by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, and see what it really amounts to. First of all we are told that is only to apply in time of profound peace; that Parliament is not to be consulted in case of war; that is not to be within the precedent. Very well, to this extent we have got at the mind of the Government. In time of profound peace, when no great emergencies threaten, Parliament may be consulted; but if great emergencies arise Parliament is not to be considered. Then there is the further condition that no ulterior considerations are involved, because if they are present Parliament must not be consulted; but where the surrender of territory involves no ulterior considerations Parliament may be consulted. We might suppose that the surrender of Malta and Gibraltar involved ulterior considerations, but in that case Parliament is not to be consulted. This is the settlement of the law which the present Cabinet announce. Then, if difficulties of negotiation are introduced Parliament is not to be consulted; but in that case I do not see how we are, beforehand, to prevent the Ministry from falling into error, which is the object at which this new principle is to be aimed. This is the new settlement of a nebulous question by which the Cabinet has decided to determine the undecided principles of the Constitution. The proposition, in fact, amounts to this: the Government may say, "Oh, yes; let us make such or such a cession of territory; but if it involves ulterior considerations Parliament is not to be consulted in the matter." The result must be that if all these conditions are to be fulfilled no transfer of territory could take place till the assent of both Houses 965 of Parliament is obtained. That is the constitutional view which is presented by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, and then, having announced this clear and definite principle of constitutional usage, he says, "This is a question which we have settled, and this is a principle which I hope will always be adhered to." This being the view presented by the right hon. Gentleman, he was followed by the Attorney General; and I noticed that the hon. and learned Gentleman was a little more cautious, owing, no doubt, to his professional experience, than the Chief Secretary. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not tell the House his own opinion, and in that I think he was wise, because he would have found it very difficult to have reconciled any opinion he might have been able to give with the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Therefore, he did not give us his own views on this great constitutional question; nor did he tell us whether his opinion had been consulted. He gave us the opinions of other Law Officers; but what were the views of the present Law Officers he took good care not to state. The hon. and learned Gentleman brought forward a very curious statement about the Orange River case, and he rather reproached me with having been ignorant of what had happened in regard to the Orange River territory. I may, however, tell him that I was perfectly familiar with that case, and may also state that it has nothing to do with the case before the House. We are here talking of a Treaty cession by Parliament; in the Orange case there was simply an abandonment of sovereignty by the Sovereign Power. The hon. and learned Gentleman quoted what he supposed to be the opinion of Lord Selborne, when he was Sir Roundell Palmer, in regard to this question of cession. I was a little amazed at what he told us, and I think the hon. and learned Gentleman was not very kind to Lord Selborne, because he suggested that that eminent lawyer had given an opinion that the Orange River territory could not be abandoned without an Act of Parliament. If the then Sir Roundell Palmer did give that opinion, everybody treated it as worthless, because the sovereignty of that territory was abandoned without an 966 Act of Parliament. As an old friend of Sir Roundell Palmer, I should like to defend him, and I should trust that no such opinion was ever given by him. I remember that Sir Charles Adderley, now Lord Norton, made a speech, in which he said he had not read the opinion of Sir Roundell Palmer; but he stated what he believed to be the views of that Law Officer, as he understood them from a conversation he had had with him on the subject the night before. Sir Roundell Palmer was a man of subtle mind, and the opinion the Attorney General cited as that of Sir Roundell Palmer was an opinion which he had obtained after it. had been filtered through the mind of Sir Charles Adderley, the object being to afford the Attorney General a Constitutional authority for overthrowing the Constitutional practice of generations. I do not know what Sir Roundell Palmer's opinion was in those days; but in 1875, when the question was argued before the Privy Council, I am sure that Sir Roundell Palmer held none of the opinions attributed to him by Sir Charles. Adderley. So much for the opinions of the Law Officers, to which the Attorney General referred. I now want to examine what is the opinion of the Attorney General himself on this question. The House will find that the hon. and learned Gentleman differs very widely from the doctrines laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and harks back on those of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He said he contended that there was no change whatever involved in the procedure of the Government. Now, the Chief Secretary for Ireland had laid down a new principle, which is to govern the future, in consequence of the undetermined condition of the law, and then he said that if that was so there was a binding precedent. But the Attorney General's doctrine was that the question was as to its being in the power of the Crown to act in one way or the other. It was an optional prerogative. And afterwards, speaking of the settlement in Africa, the hon. and learned Gentleman said the existing condition of things was that of a "go-as-you-please contest."
§ * THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
I do not wish the right hon. Gentleman to misrepresent me. The phrase "go-as-you-please contest" was not applied by me in con- 967 nection with the constitutional question. I applied the phrase, which was suggested by the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, to the idea of the European nations being allowed to do what they liked in Africa.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's correction, but I was only applying the phrase to the doctrine of the Attorney General, which struck me as pointing to a go-as-you-please prerogative—a prerogative which you may use or not, just as you like, which you may give up one day and take up the next. That is the doctrine of the Attorney General, who did not contest the right of the Crown to cede territory without the consent of Parliament, when the nature of the negotiations or the interests involved rendered it desirable to proceed in that way. He said—The Crown had the right to cede territory without the consent of Parliament, but the fact that the prerogative of the Crown may sometimes he exercised that way did preclude the Crown from the possibility of adopting the other way when it appeared expedient to do so.That is the hon. and learned Gentleman's doctrine: you may act either one way or the other, as you deem it expedient. Well, this doctrine was so new to me that I shook my head, and the hon. and learned Gentleman rebuked me for shaking my head; but I venture to think that when the Crown invokes a partner in its acts in this way it cannot always very easily get that partner out of the concern. Now, I should like to put to the Attorney General the case suggested by my hon. Friend the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere.) I hope the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) will forgive me for preferring the constitutional doctrine of the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere.) Suppose, to take the case put by the senior Member for Northampton, the House were asked by Bill to assent to the creation of new Peers, would the prerogative be left where it was before? Suppose the Crown, by means of a Bill, asked the assent of Parliament to a dissolution, would the prerogative remain exactly where it was before? I should say, certainly not. I am told I stated too broadly that the prerogative would be gone at once if Parliament were ever associated with its exercise. I hope 968 not. So anxious am I that it should not go, that I will not assert that in a broad way. But I say that if a practice of this kind were acquiesced in and continued the prerogative would be impaired, and ultimately destroyed. That is the history of all the limitations of prerogative in this country. The Attorney General challenged me to give examples where the prerogative has been destroyed by associating Parliament with the exercise of that prerogative. It would take an hour to give all the examples. Hundreds of things are now done by Parliament which in old days were done by the prerogative. Orders in Council, proclamations, monopolies, patents, standards of weights and measures, coin—all these things were pure prerogative rights in former times, and now are all controlled by Parliament. I am stating no new doctrine when I say that if the action of Parliament upon a prerogative right be invited and acquiesced in, in time that prerogative right will be altered and impaired. That is the seriousness of the proceeding of the Government in the present case. If Treaties of Cession are to be dealt with by Parliament it is impossible to say that we can revert to the prerogative unchanged as it was before. The Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) taunted me with a new-born zeal for the prerogative. I do not know why he attributed to me such ignorance of our constitutional history. What Liberal does not know that the great reforms that have taken place in this country since Parliament was reformed have been effected by the prerogative? The old feeling about prerogative depended upon the existence of a corrupt Parliament, which was controlled by the King. The great struggle with the House of Lords in 1832 ended and the people prevailed by the courage with which Lord Grey and Lord Brougham used the prerogative of the Crown. It was the prerogative of dissolution which struck the first blow, and what struck the last blow and overcame the House of Lords was the insistence of Lord Grey and Lord Brougham that they should have unlimited power to create new Peers. Every man who understands how this contest has been fought before, and may have to be fought again, knows the value of the prerogative. Are we going to deprive ourselves of those 969 weapons which were used with so much effect, and place any prerogative of the Crown at the mercy of the House of Lords? It is surprising to some people that those on this side of the House should be the defenders of the Constitution. Why should we not be? Who made the Constitution?—the Liberals or the Tories? Who limited the Monarchy? Who restrained the power of the Church? Who has restrained the power of the House of Lords? Who has aggrandised the powers of the House of Commons, and made its Members the representatives of the people instead of the nominees of the owners of rotten boroughs and the aristocracy? Was it the Tory Party? I should like to know why we should not defend the Constitution. When you taunt us with defending the Constitution we say you are attacking the Constitution by the precedent you are establishing to-night. It is because we see the mischiefs and the dangers of this proceeding that we have protested against it, and I should be very happy if I could accept the doctrine, not of the Secretary for Ireland, but of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Attorney General, that the prerogative given away to-day may be resumed tomorrow.
§ *(10.40.) SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
I am sorry to prolong this Debate, the inutility of which has been amply demonstrated. I think there were a good many persons in the country this morning who must have asked why my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) made his speech of last night; but still more persons to-morrow will inquire why the second edition of that speech has been delivered. Recollecting, as I do, the views which my right hon. Friend has before expressed, I cannot solve that question except by reference to a law of physical science. Electricians tell us that if you have a very high tension of electricity it ceases to be a useful agent and expends itself in wasteful and dangerous sparks. My right hon. Friend has been for some time in such a high state of opposition tension towards the Government, that he is constantly emit ting, if he will allow me to say so, wasteful and dangerous sparks. This is a very interesting occasion. Of course, we all pay deference to the observations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid 970 Lothian in this House, but it is quite clear that he only represented a secondary current, induced by the primary current of the Member for Derby. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby has come forward in an entirely new capacity. He is a defender of the prerogative. Very eloquent on the subject he was in his peroration. He would not have it destroyed, or even impaired. But I recollect another night, and another scene. My right hon. Friend was then in a powerful state of Liberalism. His place was below the Gangway in those days, and, standing erect in the purity of his Liberalism, he said, "Mr. Speaker, we below the Gangway do not like prerogatives." My right hon. Friend is bold enough to say that those who made the Constitution of this country did so behind the shield of prerogative. To my mind, the reverse is the fact. Our Constitution, as it now exists, was made by the men who fought against, not for, prerogative. Well, Sir, we Liberal Unionists are sometimes charged with having mitigated our Liberalism in order to support the Government; but here is a change of Liberalism in order to attack it. My right hon. Friend says the Government have abandoned prerogative, for once having submitted to Parliament a subject which can be dealt with by prerogative you can never again deal with it by prerogative.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I said the continued practice of submitting it to Parliament would in time destroy the prerogative.
§ * SIB H. JAMES
I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon. I was speaking of what he stated last night, not of the revised edition. My right hon. Friend distinctly stated last night, "If once you submit a subject that can be dealt with by prerogative to Parliament to exercise its discretion upon it, the prerogative action is lost and cannot be exercised again." I wish to know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby can support his position by authorities? Let me remind him that the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, in 1871, introduced into this House a Bill for the abolition of purchase in the Army—a matter that could have been dealt with directly by the exercise of the prerogative of the Crown. That Bill was rejected by Parliament, but within a 971 few hours of the rejection the prerogative of the Crown was exercised, and purchase in the Army was abolished. It is rather strange that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby under these circumstances should adopt the high tone he does when he suggests that, because the Government have submitted this question of the cession of Heligoland to Germany for the approval of Parliament in the form of a Bill, henceforth there is an end of the prerogative of the Crown to conclude Treaties with Foreign Powers. I am rather diffident after what he has said to enter into this question, which is not a very practical question, at any great length, because the right hon. Gentleman, referring to the old saying of Mr. Burke as to a comparison between a rabbit and an elephant, said it was unbecoming in a lawyer to deal with this subject. I have listened carefully to the right hon. Gentleman, and I should like to know what position he wishes to occupy—the position of the rabbit or the elephant. Perhaps he is something between the two. But a rabbit may be so inflated as to cause people, or to cause the rabbit at least to think that he is an elephant. I confess I think the right hon. Gentleman has to-night spoken rather as a lawyer, which he was and is—than as a constitutional statesman. The right hon. Gentleman has said that this measure involves a great constitutional question, but in that case I should like to know what effect the right hon. Gentleman's observations, made 19 years ago, will have upon the hon. Members below the Gangway to whom he to-night addresses himself. Will those hon. Members divide in favour of the exercise of the prerogative by what the right hon. Gentleman characterises as being the most incompetent Ministry that has ever conducted the business of the country, or will they divide in favour of that prerogative being exercised with the approval of Parliament? I must confess I welcome the step that has been taken. My right hon. Friend told us in his speech yesterday that the power of the Crown was diminishing, that the prerogative was not so powerful as before, and that the power of Parliament, which to him is the power of the House of Commons, is increasing. This is another offering to the increased power of the House of Commons. Will any of 972 the hon. Members below the Gangway object to the action of the Government in the exercise of its discretion submit-ting a question of this kind to the-decision of Parliament in a cas3 where-the Crown choses to do so? My proposition is that the prerogative of the Crown is in no way diminished or weakened by the fact that the Crown has chosen to ask the approval of Parliament to the terms of this Treaty. This is not an attack on the Crown but a concession by it. The Attorney General was quite right when he stated' that the prerogative of the Crown to make such Treaties remains undiminished although Her Majesty's Ministers have brought in this measure. I altogether repudiate the narrow view which the right hon. Member for Derby has taken, that the introduction of this measure abrogates the prerogative of the Crown to make Treaties without the assent of Parliament. The position that the right hon. Gentleman has taken up is that, notwithstanding the fact that the power of the prerogative is diminishing, while the power of the House of Commons is-increasing, he desires that all questions, relating to Treaties shall be decided by the Crown independently of the opinion of Parliament. For my own part, I heralded this concession to the power of Parliament as against the arbitrary action of Ministers as an acknowledgment that we are advancing towards a fuller exercise of Democratic power. I believe-the present system is an insufficient system. When you ask Parliament to-express its approbation or disapprobation of a Treaty what does the request amount to? The Treaty has, then, been made and carried into effect. You can do no more than pass censure on the Government, which may, in consequence, be thrown out of office. There is many a Treaty which a man will condemn but in regard to which he will say, "I must leave my opinion unexpressed, because, if I express it, the Government will go out of office." That is not a true expression upon a Treaty. The purest way of obtaining the opinion of Parliament by those who value it is to ask Parliament for an expression of opinion directly upon the Treaty itself. How is that to be done unless the Treaty is submitted to Parliament? If the circumstances attaching to the Treaty are such that the Government, acting on he advice of its Ministers, say, "We 973 will consult our Parliament and our people before we allow the Treaty to come into positive effect, "where is there any impairing of the proper position of the Crown? In showing greater confidence in the country where is the injury to the State? My right hon. Friend has not pointed out any substantial injury. Let me look to the future. Any cessions of territory we may hereafter make must be of territory in India, the colonies, or of a few valuable possessions, like Gibraltar and Malta, in Europe. India presents many peculiar considerations, and of it I will say nothing. Are are we to be told by one professing Liberal principles that before any cession of territory is to be made the sanction of Parliament should not be given? Ought any of our colonial possessions, to which we have given Legislative powers, to be ceded without the sanction of Parliament? And I ask if any of our few possessions in Europe, if Gibraltar and Malta had to be given up, is there any man, who values the proper condition of political life in this country, who would allow his hatred of a Ministry to influence him so much as to cause him to object to the fact that before those valued possessions are yielded up the policy of the Ministry in so doing should be discussed by Parliament? Avowedly, when we have legislated for our territories, they should not be ceded without the assent of Parliament, for if they were, the Crown might so repeal the legislative Acts of Parliament. I regret that I have occupied the attention of the House, even for a short period, but I was anxious that some old comrade of my right hon. Friend (Sir W. Harcourt) in the happier days of his truer Liberalism should remind him of the time when his actions and opinions were not distorted, as I fear they now are, by the overpowering desire to defeat a Party and destroy a Government.
§ (11.0.) SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
The Division that is shortly to take place looks as if it were going to be a go-as you-please Division, and before voting I should like to say a few words on the Bill before us. I think we have got into a rather extraordinary position. The position of Parties seems to a casual observer to be somewhat reversed. We have our Tory Friends opposite apparently giving up the prerogative which they are generally 974 supposed to support. We have some of our Radical friends going to vote for the Government. What is more remarkable, we have a difference of opinion between the two Members for Northampton, and, most remarkable thing of all, we have a declaration from the Members on the Front Opposition Bench that they are not going to vote at all. I daresay that is a patriotic, and I have no doubt it is a prudent, course. We have heard a great deal about the object of the Agreement—about opening out Africa. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs said the object of the Agreement was to make the Sultan of Zanzibar more comfortable. We have been told a great deal about "spheres of influence." We have been told that it is for the good of the human race. Then we have had Christianity and civilisation brought in. I got a circular the other day from the Duke of Fife, asking me to take shares in a steamer for the African Lakes, which he said was going to promote Christianity. I do not believe in Dukes promoting Christianity among the Hottentots by steam. When Englishmen talk about Christianity and civilisation in those parts of the world they mean rum and gunpowder. We are told from the opposite side of the House that this is a great and statesman like policy. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) said the Agreement was to the effect that within certain limits Great Britain and Germany would not interfere with one another. But they agree that they will interfere with the natives to whom the country belongs, and with whom they ought to have nothing to do. It is a Treaty to divide the spoil. Of course, the principal thing mentioned in the Bill is the giving up of Heligoland. I take a great interest in Heligoland, because I have been told it is the cradle of my race. The Under Secretary of State told us that some man had been there and talked with a hundred people, and that he only found one who did not wish to be united with Germany. I should like to know who it was that got the information. I admit that there is some good in this Treaty—in some parts of it. It frees the Heligolanders and arranges for the preservation of their native customs. I do not altogether dislike this giving up of Heligoland. It 975 is a good precedent. The hon. Member for Whitby, in his able speech last night, alluded to Heligoland as the Northern Gibraltar. Well, when the Tories give up the Northern Gibraltar I hope to goodness when the Liberals come in they will give up the Southern Gibraltar. On these grounds I have come to the conclusion that, on the whole, this Treaty will not do any more harm than most Treaties do. I was very strongly tempted to vote for it; in fact, it was a long time before I could make up my mind. I do not quite agree with my hon. Friends who so ably discussed the constitutional question. I daresay they are right, as they understand the matter so thoroughly, which I do not pretend to do. Ever since I have been in this House I have done all I can to procure for it a more complete control over all these Treaties. I agree very much with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary last night, or with a great portion of his speech. He said that to take these matters into consideration before the evil was done was better than inflicting a punishment after the event upon those responsible, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby seems to think would be sufficient. The Chief Secretary said, "Prevention is better than cure." He also said he wished to give the greatest authority to Parliament in this matter. These are very Radical doctrines, in my view. I agree with them, as I think that, though there may be objections to what is going on, it is a great thing to have it admitted by the Tory Party that these things ought to be under the full and complete control of Parliament. As the junior Member for Northampton said in his speech, "You cannot go behind it when you have done it." It was the same with the Compensation Bill. If you had bought out the publicans you could never have got behind it, and if you bring one Treaty before Parliament you can never make another without bringing it fully and completely before Parliament. That is my opinion, and, because I believe in representative Government, I believe the Representatives of the people ought to have full and complete control over all these matters. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby pointed out a danger when he said, "You should not give a veto on foreign policy to the House of 976 Lords." I quite agree with that. I should like to give them a veto on nothing, but we cannot help ourselves. The House of Lords is a danger to all our proceedings. They never do any good anywhere. If we ever do a good thing, they upset it—that is their business, and so long as the people of this country are willing to keep a House of Lords to overthrow whatever we do, we must make the best of it. Parliament is Parliament. I thank the Government very cordially for having taken this Radical step of introducing a Bill on real Radical lines, instead of keeping the thing out of the power of the House of Commons. But to come to the Bill itself, which has not been very much discussed, it is a measure intended to meddle and muddle and interfere with places and people whom we had much better let alone, and, therefore, on that ground, thinking the Bill is calculated to do more harm than good, I shall vote with my hon. Friend.
§ *(11.12.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, B.)
(who spoke amid loud cries of "Divide!"): I intend to record my vote against this proposal, because I think it is an odious and a dangerous precedent to hand over British subjects and an English colony to a foreign country without formally and in a constitutional manner ascertaining the wishes of the inhabitants. As a Radical, I have no sympathy with the Jingoism which has talked of nothing during the last two nights' discussion but the conquest and appropriation of different spheres in Africa. That, and the grave constitutional question raised by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, have taken up the whole of the Debate, and practically nothing has been said on the real point raised by this Bill. I wish here to enter my protest against handing over these people to a foreign Power without consulting their wishes.
§ (11.15.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I should not have risen but for two reasons; one is the unseemly howls which have proceeded from the other side of the House——
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member is entitled to a hearing, which I hope he will receive, but he is out of order in making use of such an expression.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I bow to your ruling, Sir, and will not use such an 977 expression again, and I hope I may be allowed to proceed. I was going to say another reason why I intervene in the discussion at this point is because certain words fell from the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth to which, as a Radical, I must take exception. The hon. Baronet has fallen into the bad habit of congratulating and complimenting the Party opposite, a habit which I think ought to be repudiated on this side, particularly when the hon. Baronet says that a precedent is being set for the Radical Party. Rightly considered, it is a precedent of a most vicious character, against which Radicals should protest, because if you consider the true aspect of the question, from a constitutional point of view, it is perfectly clear that although the Tory Party are pretending to do something to transfer some of the Treaty-making power from the Crown to this House, in effect they are doing nothing of the kind. They are diminishing by one-half the power this House has hitherto possessed by allowing the other House to interfere in the control this House possesses over the Ministry in the exercise of the Treaty-making authority that lies with the Crown. For this reason, and on this constitutional ground, I strongly resent the suggestion that Radicals should support the Government proposal as a good precedent. My hon. Friend (Sir W. Lawson) has commented with approval upon what the Chief Secretary said last night, that "Prevention is better than cure," but it has not been shown how this copy-book aphorism bears on this case. The Government come down and throw this Bill at our heads, but the Treaty is signed already, and much mischief is done, even though we refuse to ratify it by rejecting the Bill. We should do something on the Radical lines if we could compel a Conservative Government, before the signing of a Treaty, to come to the House of Commons and say, It is for you to decide whether this should become a Treaty or not. It was for that reason that within a few months of my entering the House I voted against my own Government for a Resolution tending in the direction I have indicated, and I am not going back upon that vote now by my vote to-night, which I shall give heartily, and without the least conpunction, against the Government. I would make it necessary for 978 the Government to come to this House, and not to go to a hereditary House, who represent nobody but themselves, before signing a Treaty, and get the consent of this House. Such a proposal as that would proceed on Radical lines, but this Bill forms no precedent of the kind. If I may leave the constitutional question I will say a word or two upon the Agreement as it stands. I have followed the Debate throughout, but I have not heard the important question argued that we ought to have insisted at all hazards on the retention of the right of way—not an imaginary easement, but a solid right of way—provided in the Agreement between Lake Tanganyika and the Victoria Nyanza. I refer to that because, so far as I am able to judge, nobody, with all the talk of the necessity and duty of ourselves and Germany to carry civilisation through Africa, has pointed out that the most effective method of civilisation will be by opening railway communication. Those who look beyond the immediate present, and take a fair view of the future, know that one of these days a trunk line of railway must be constructed north and south, and by the limitations involved in the acceptance of the Hinterland doctrine laid down by the German Government, and allowing them to push their territory from the coast to the boundary of the Congo territory, our Government have cut off this country from all right to lay down such a means of communication to connect our territory on the Zambesi with that north of the German sphere of influence. This is a fatal blot in the Agreement, however beneficial it might be in other respects. There are some hon. Members on this side who have said we ought to have thrown Heligoland to Germany as a gift, without compensation or quid pro quo, but I disapprove of the cession, not as the giving up of a mere piece of land, but as disposing of the population without their consent, or any attempt to ascertain their wishes, for political purposes, as if they were mere pawns on a chess-board, or mere appurtenances of the island. I do not think it is incumbent upon us on any high moral doctrine to say to Germany you shall have it without anything in return. It is of value to us if it has a value to Germany, and we are justified in making the best arrangement we can. While I admit this, I must protest against the 979 Jingo doctrine of unlimited annexation. I do not desire that we should go about the world snapping up any "unconsidered trifles" of land, and warning the rest of mankind from poaching on our manor. But I do say this, that when by colonising actively we have secured anything like power and influence over territory, where we have shown ourselves able to introduce order and good government, and to confer benefits on the native population—I say when we have done that, in spite of all the evils of the three R's my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) described, then we have a right to take such steps as will protect our interests. But my contention is that we have yielded to Germany in every quarter of Africa, and the concessions in return are of little worth. It is not necessary for me to travel over the whole ground covered by the Agreement. I could point to Despatch after Despatch in which, although it may be true that we have not in so many words guaranteed the independence of Zanzibar, we have entered into solemn engagement to respect the independence of the Sultan of Zanzibar, and I want to know how we can face the world and claim respect for Treaties when we go behind the back of one contracting Power, France, and make an arrangement with Germany, deliberately violating that independence of Zanzibar which, with two other Powers, we entered into engagements to respect and protect. What is the meaning of respecting the independence if we are going to take over the Protectorate, that is to destroy the sovereignty of the Sultan on the island, as a quid pro quo for concessions given to Germany? One of two positions it is impossible to deny; either we are getting nothing at all, so far as Zanzibar is concerned, for Heligoland and all the rest of the sacrifices made to Germany, or else we are getting actual sovereignty over Zanzibar, going back upon our word, tearing up a Treaty, and flinging an insult in the face of France, a party to that Treaty, and with whom we must, I suppose, arrange to give up some little corner of the Empire as a solatium. All this is done by the Party who, a few years ago, were rampaging up and down the country declaring against separation and disruption of the Empire, because we proposed to give the power of dealing with their own affairs to one section of 980 our fellow-subjects. But the action of hon. Gentlemen on those Benches does not surprise me; it is only one more of their election pledges broken, for which their constituents will, ere long, call them to account.
§ (11.30.) Mr. SYDNEY GEDGE
rose in his place, and claimed to move "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Debate resumed.
§ (11.30.) SIR J. SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
I ask the House to allow me a few words. Though a seaman by profession, I do not pretend to be a sea lawyer, and, passing by the constitutional question, I look at this from a plain business-like point of view. Here we have given up to Germany, Damaraland and Namaqualand, while we retain Walfisch Bay. I do not pretend to be envious of the possession of Damaraland and Namaqualand; no doubt, the territory has considerable mineral wealth, although there is a great lack of water. But I do protest against Walfisch Bay being held without any determination of boundary: it is extremely likely to lead to complications with the German Empire. This is a question of great importance to Cape colonists, to the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal Republic. Both of those great countries will, no doubt, in a short space of time find it to their great advantage to join the English colonies of the Gape of Good Hope and Natal in a confederation, such as that of the Australian colonies, or in some way to come under the British flag. These colonies are now rapidly developing their trade. I call them colonies, for although the Orange Free State and the Transvaal have separate flags, we have suzerainty over these States. They are most anxious to develop trade to the North-West. I have had personal practical experience, which I think no other Member of the House has had, as a resident in the country just south of Zanzibar, and I know that to the North-West of the Zambesi and the Victoria Falls there is a populated country, which is of the utmost importance to Cape Colony and the Orange Free State as a market for their produce and European imports. I would not propose taking possession of that, but it is important that the route should be kept open, and 981 the effect of the extension of the German boundary to Long. 21° E., and to a point north as far as Victoria Falls is that, to use a familiar expression, the South African colonies have "got their head into Chancery," with the German arm round their neck. We are left with but a narrow neck of territory of 300 miles between Victoria Falls and Zumbo Now, I contend Germany should not be allowed to make good this claim to put an arm round Cape Colony. Germany has, I believe, only some 200 German subjects in Damaraland and Namaqualand, and it is quite absurd for them to put forward the declaration that they wish to open trade to the North-West of the Zambesi. Then a part of the Treaty applies to the route between Nyassa and Tanganyika. There we have the Stevenson Road, and the Germans come within three or five miles of that road, with the consequence that there will be everlasting disputes, and that trade will be choked. It has been urged, and I do hope the Government will still urge, that the German Government should allow their boundary to be pushed to latitude 8°, including within British territory the highlands to the North-East of Lake Nyassa, a health plateau of enormous value as a sanatorium to our miners and traders. This is really one of the most important points in this Treaty, this highland at the North End of Nyassa, and we ought to secure a belt of British territory to the end of the Stevenson Road of 60 or 100 miles. We are to have the "Protectorate" of Zanzibar, but why modify terms? What is really meant is, we are to take possession. But we cannot do that without coming to terms with France, and what terms will France demand? She will demand possession, call it a Protectorate if you like, of the Island of Madagascar. Consider the effect of this. In ease of war the Suez Canal would be blocked in a fortnight, and all our communication with our Indian possessions would have to be round the Cape. From Madagascar there would be ready means to harass, if not to stop, our communication with India. These are matters that should be taken into consideration in a broad view of the situation and its probabilities. We have heard a great deal of the benefit of our rule to native races, but this has been by no means an unmixed blessing. Tribes have dis- 982 appeared in consequence of European vices and diseases introduced among them. What may we reasonably expect from the German rule? One of the first things they did when they got possession of the Zanzibar coast was to follow the bad old British custom of bombarding the natives. I had hoped this custom had been given up, but the Germans followed our bad example of the last century. Again, I would press on Her Majesty's Government to re-consider the boundary between British and German territory, and not to allow the German boundary to be pushed up to Victoria Falls, where they have no earthly claim, and within five miles of the Stevenson Road. We know from experience traders frequently make a dâtour of 200 or 300 miles through a sandy desert rather than go through the Transvaal Republic, where they would be harassed by the authothorities and subjected to duties, and I fear that equally deterrent difficulties will present themselves when the Germans have established themselves permanently in the North-West of Cape Colony. I do hope that Her Majesty's Government will endeavour to modify this part of the Agreement.
§ (11.40.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I only wish to indicate the magnificent nature of the gift Her Majesty's Government are making to the German Emperor. Heligoland is admirably adapted for fortification, and could be made most formidable in time of war. When German engineers and Krupp have had it in hand for two or three years it would be a very difficult thing, I think, for the whole British fleet to take possession of it after a three years' siege, even if not a single German ship were to sally out from ports in the rear. It is just the right size for fortification; the cliffs are admirably adapted for it, and the garrison need not be large. It is not adapted for a good Naval port, but the Germans do not want it for that, but as a fortress, under protection of the guns of which German vessels can run when attacked by superior force. Vessels can, I believe, run close in, for there is a depth of 26 feet at low spring tides. Its position is just what is required by Germany, and if the German Emperor had the power of moving the island I do not think he could find a better place. It is 25 miles 983 from the mouths of the Weser and the Elbe, and as there are guns that will carry 15 or 16 miles, the Germans will have a full command of the passage between the island and the main-laud, and it would be impossible for any large ship to intercept communication with the mainland in time of war. In future warlike operations all lines of blockade will have to be drawn outside Heligoland, and that means a line so long that it would be practically impossible to effectually blockade the Weser and the Elbe. Nothing is more likely to lead to complications with neutral Powers than an inefficient blockade of a belligerent port. If Heligoland is not in the hands of the German Emperor it is possible to blockade the Weser and Elbe, but if Heligoland is in the hands of Germany, it will be impossible, even for a great Naval Power, to keep up an efficient blockade. I do not blame you for giving this gift to the German Emperor, but why did you not at the outset say what you were giving? The Ministry and the Conservative Party, with one or two exceptions, have minimised the value of Heligoland because they do not wish the English people to think they are giving away too much. I acknowledge the island is far more valuable to Germany than to England, but still it would be valuable to England. I should like to know whether it is true, as reported in the newspapers, that Russia has addressed remonstrances to us against the cession. I can understand that Russia will not like Heligoland in the hands of the Germans, because it will be a sort of temptation to the German Government to one day annex Holland. In that case Germany would be a formidable rival of ours, both at sea and in respect to our Colonial Empire.
§ (11.50.) The House divided:—Ayes 209; Noes 61.—(Div. List, No. 201).
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.