HC Deb 31 July 1894 vol 27 cc1461-92
SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

said, he wished to call attention to the present position of affairs in the Transvaal. He thought he should be able to prove without difficulty that the condition of our fellow-subjects in that part of South Africa was very serious. The dissatisfaction which prevailed amongst British subjects in the Transvaal 13 years ago in consequence of the mournful surrender of their interests by the then British Government had not seriously diminished, and he was told by those who knew South Africa best, that never since the surrender that followed Majuba Hill had there been such grave discontent amongst British subjects in the Transvaal as at the present moment. The British people in the Transvaal numbered 70,000.


, dissented.


said, he had this information on good authority, and was told the British subjects far outnumbered the Boers, who were the governing and ascendant race. He believed also that British residents in the Transvaal paid nine-tenths of the taxation of the country, whilst it was the fact that to British enterprise and British capital the Transvaal owed its remarkable development within the last 10 years. The gold mines of the Randt District had been developed almost exclusively by British capital and energy, and the fact that the Boer Government now enjoyed a surplus of nearly £1,000,000 a year was due to British enterprise, labor, and capital. The British in the Transvaal were impressed with the idea that their interests were wholly neglected by the Home Government. They felt that they could not depend upon the Home Government to defend their rights or even the most elementary privileges which residents in a quasi-foreign country had a right to demand. The Boer Government had deliberately set to work to deprive our fellow-subjects of their rights and of all power of asserting those rights, and of gaining the ordinary privileges of citizens. Six months ago a law was passed with regard to the franchise. British subjects in the Transvaal would be perfectly satisfied to take their chance if they were put on a level with the Boer citizens. They demanded the right to acquire the franchise after residing for a certain time in the Transvaal and fulfilling certain conditions. The law, however, passed by the Boer Volksraad prevented British subjects from gaining the franchise on any terms unless their parents had been naturalized before them The next step was to forcibly commandeer British residents, to take them from their homes by force, to carry them off to the front and to compel them to fight in the commandos against the native races. It was hardly credible that the Colonial Office should have allowed to prevail for so many years a state of things under which action of this kind could be taken, and it was the one partly satisfactory point of the Government case that they had at last raised themselves to a realization of the position, and had succeeded in putting an end to this monstrous system of commandeering of British subjects. Still, so poor was the British reputation with the Boer Government, and so afraid was our Government of taking energetic steps, that they had actually waited until the commando was sent back before the British subjects who had been commandeered were released. [Mr. S. BUXTON dissented.] The hon. Gentleman had distinctly told the House that the British subjects would not return to their homes for two or three weeks, when the whole of the command would be sent back. Well, all this happened whilst the Queen was Suzerain. Under the Conventions of 1881 and 1884 the Boer Government were forbidden to conclude any Treaties with foreign nations who had not the approval of Her Majesty's Government. The commandeering of food and supplies still remained in force, and British subjects were liable to have the Boer Field-Cornet, a comparatively subordinate officer in charge of a district, coming down upon them and demanding supplies for the Army. When it was realized how ignorant and brutal in many cases these subordinate Boer officers were, it would be easily understood how objectionable this form of commandeering was to British subjects. So far as he knew, no protest had been made by Her Majesty's Government against this action of the Boer Government. He came now to the last and worst act of oppression. It was hardly credible that in the 19th century, and while the Queen was Suzerain of the Transvaal, the Boer Volksraad had passed a law in secret session which practically took away from British subjects all right of public meeting. According to the statement made by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Buxton) the other day all right of outdoor meeting, all right of procession, and any form of demonstration in the open air were forbidden by this law. He very much doubted whether there were half a dozen rooms in the whole of the Transvaal suitable for indoor meetings, so that this law practically took away from the 70,000 British subjects in the Transvaal all right of expressing their grievances. The Volksraad had also added a clause forbidding the assembly of more than five persons in a room without the consent of the Boer Local Authorities. There was no doubt that the Boer Local Authorities would not hesitate to refuse to British residents the right of meeting when they knew that such right would be used with the object of urging their claims. The police were empowered to break in upon meetings held contrary to this law, and suppress them by force, whilst any person who was proved to have violated this monstrous enactment was liable to two years' imprisonment, and a fine of £500. Such an outrage had never been inflicted upon British subjects before, especially in a country where the Queen still possessed the right of Suzerainty. Since he had called public attention to the subject by questions in the House he had received a large number of letters from persons who were interested in it. The point which his correspondents were most indignant about was that the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. S. Buxton) had actually gone out of his way to throw his aegis of approbation over the law just passed by the Volksraad. He did not think that a British Minister had ever committed himself in such a mistaken and humiliating way as the hon. Gentleman did when he made the statement that whatever might be the merits or demerits of the law the South African Republic appeared to be acting within their rights in passing it. Even if it were so, what business had the hon. Gentleman to make such a statement in the House of Commons? He knew that 70,000 of our fellow-subjects in the Transvaal were denied the most elementary rights, that they were being oppressed, bullied, and cowed, and that whenever they had attempted to hold meetings they had had large numbers of armed Boers riding amongst and threatening to shoot them down unless they disappeared. The hon. Gentleman had no business to make such a statement knowing that it would be immediately telegraphed to South Africa, and would be held by the Boers as ample justification for the oppression of our countrymen. People who knew the Transvaal best said that the neglect of British interests there and the abandonment of the British colonists who in 1881 made such sacrifices to maintain British supremacy was producing a most disastrous effect on our position in South Africa. There was a great risk of repetition of the case of the American colonies. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would give up trifling with this question and would take up the firm and resolute line of action which was most likely to avert conflicts. It was only because the Boers thought they could safely oppress British subjects and bully the Home Government that they attempted these extreme measures. Surely the men who had turned the Transvaal from a ruined and bankrupt wilderness into a flourishing country had a right to the protection of the British Government. As to Swaziland, under the Convention of 1884 the Swazis were guaranteed their independence. It was a country of great natural wealth, and the Swazi people were unanimously opposed to annexation by the Transvaal. But, whatever settlement might be arrived at, he hoped that above all things Her Majesty's Government would insist on British subjects being allowed to assert their rights by constitutional means.

SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)

said, he hoped the eloquent words which had fallen from his hon. Friend would have some effect upon the Government. If the British colonists in the Transvaal could not get the British Government to listen to their grievances, they might at least feel that some Members of the House of Commons were anxious to support them. The Queen was suzerain of the Transvaal, and that must imply some influence in domestic affairs, especially with respect to the interests of British subjects. That was certainly the view which would be taken by British colonists in South Africa, and our position had never been so easy there as in other colonies. Therefore, it was just as well to secure the cordial allegiance of the British colonists; and their position now was intolerable. In no other part of the globe in which England had any supremacy was anything so unjust allowed as the method that had been adopted there to raise contributions in kine and capital. How long were these unjust conditions to remain in force? He was glad to hear that the President of the Dutch Republic was on his way to visit England, and he trusted that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs' would convey to him in very strong terms the views that had so often been expressed on the matter by responsible Members of that House. He was anxious to know what steps the Government intended to take with regard to the Swaziland question. They had been informed that the interests of the natives would be fully provided for under the terms of the Convention. When, however, they were able to examine the terms of the Convention for themselves, they found it laid down that the natives were not to be made the absolute subjects of the Boers unless they freely consented to submit to Dutch protection. This seemed a very menacing condition to the independence of the natives, for, whatever might be the view taken of the matter by the native Sovereign, the Boers would have but little trouble, he believed, in obtaining the consent of the natives to their exercising the rights of suzerainty over their territory. Indeed, complaints that such was likely to be the case had lately been received, and he hoped, therefore, that the Government would see that the terms of the Convention were very strictly enforced. It was not to be forgotten that in former years England had undertaken a moral responsibility in the welfare of these people which it was her duty to carry through. Moreover, the Convention went so far as to give to the natives a freedom of choice in the matter, and, that being so, it became doubly our duty to see that their right of liberty of choice was not taken away from them by the Boers. It was also a matter of the greatest importance to this country to maintain the independency of that territory. Whatever rights the Boers had acquired over the country they were certainly less than those possessed by England, and therefore from a strategic as well as from a moral point of view it was obviously to our interests that the independency of that country should be very carefully guarded. He did not know whether the House had carefully read the Agreement referring to Matabeleland and Mashonaland. It was unquestionably a most intricate document; but still, as it had been submitted to the considera- tion of hon. Members of that House, he as one of them would like to offer his opinion upon it. The first thing that struck him was that the powers that England had reserved over this tract of territory that had lately been acquired and polished by the energy of our own countrymen seemed to be so divided and scattered. One would have supposed that there would be somebody in sole command; but in some respects the chief officer of the British South Africa Company in Matabeleland was under the Secretary of State, while in other respects he seemed to be under the High Commissioner for South Africa. This country had never governed her territories in the East in that way. The Viceroy of India, though responsible to the Secretary of State for India, was in sole command in all respects in India. In Matabeleland, on the contrary, the appointment of some officials had to be sanctioned by the Secretary of State and others by the High Commissioner. As to the rights of the native inhabitants in these territories, it was very satisfactory to observe that in the Agreement were included many strong clauses protecting those rights. He congratulated the Government on having been so considerate and careful of the rights of the natives. He would, however, have thought that the right of appeal which was given to the natives would have been made to the High Commissioner in South Africa rather than to the Secretary of State in London.


said, he might explain that where the Secretary of State was mentioned in the Agreement the correspondence would have to come through the High Commissioner.


said, he was obliged for the explanation, but he wanted to know why, in that case, the High Commissioner was not constituted the appellate authority? He apologized for the time he had occupied, but this Agreement was really a very important matter. This country was acquiring a new field for trade and enterprise which might be the germ of a vast dominion, and hereafter might become a great Empire. Under the circumstances, it was highly satisfactory to note that provision was made for preventing the natives in those territories from obtaining liquor, arms, or ammunition. He congratulated the Government on this humane foresight. It was also very satisfactory to note a clause relating to the acquisition of land by natives in the same way as it could be acquired by persons who were not natives. Among them he would mention the fact that there was a clause relating to the acquisition of land by the natives in the same way as it could be acquired by persons who were not natives which included a certain proportion of spring and arable land. That showed how the rights had been reserved in such territory as that of Matabeleland. He observed that provision was made that everything underground, which he supposed meant all minerals, mines, and the like, should be reserved to the Company. He presumed that this agreement having been ratified by the Company, the Company would be placed in a really strong position, and unlike the unfortunate though equally deserving Company about which a discussion took place last night, it would be placed in a position strong enough and rich enough to enable it to discharge its duties satisfactorily, not only in its own province but in the face of all South Africa, and that any remains of discontent which they used to hear of a few months ago from the mouths of Mr. Rhodes and others would finally vanish. He heartily trusted the arrangement now made might conduce to the further consolidation of the British Empire in South Africa.

MR. WHITELEY (Stockport)

said, he wished to call attention to the annexation of Pondoland by Cape Colony. He had inquired into the matter, and found that during the last few years the merchants in the North of England had established and developed trading stations and established a commercial activity in Pondoland, and the more he had inquired into the matter the more he had been convinced that the inaction of the Government in respect to the annexation would result in he might almost say, the annihilation of the Lancashire and Cheshire trade with Pondoland. Owing to the supineness of the Colonial Office, Cape Colony, through that shrewd, hard headed man, Mr. Cecil Rhodes, had been able to trample on the rights of a small colony, and leave a sense of injury to rankle in the minds of their people. He did not for a moment deny that in 1886 Cape Colony had the power given to them to annex Pondoland. He might prophesy at the outset what the reply of the Under Secretary for the Colonies would be; it would be the reply contained in Lord Ripon's Dispatch of the 19th of July, 1894, a reply which, in his judgment, read more like an apology for the inaction of the Colonial Office than anything else, an excuse or explanation that he (Lord Ripon) and the Colonial Office were bound to carry out the policy of their predecessors. Lord Ripon was not able to deny in that Dispatch that Natal now had, and at that time possessed, strong claims to the annexation of Pondoland; but, notwithstanding that, Lord Ripon sheltered himself under the wing, if he might so describe it, of his predecessors, and adopted the policy, "As it was in the beginning so it is now, and ever shall be." Lord Ripon refused to recognize the new state of affairs that had sprung up with respect to Pondoland and Natal, of which his predecessors in Office could have had no knowledge. As he had said in 1886, the Cape Colony had power given to annex Pondoland, but that power remained practically a dead letter, as the Cape Authorities declined all responsibility in the matter, and no steps were taken to annex. But since 1886 a perfectly new state of things had arisen. Natal, during the eight years, had been at very great expense in policing the border in order to prevent cattle-stealing raids, which were always rife on the borders of the South African Colonies, and to repress the troubles that had sprung up during the last few years in Pondoland. During this time a large and lucrative trade had grown up and crossed the border dividing Natal from Pondoland, a trade which had been a source of considerable financial gain to the Colony of Natal, therefore for Lord Ripon to shelter himself behind the plea that it was carrying out the policy of his predecessors in Office, in view of the altered state of facts was, in his (Mr. Whiteley's) judgment, not only wrong, but almost wicked, judged from the results that followed. He knew that Pondoland was a far cry from Westminster; it was a small tract of country to the South of Natal, and only separated from Natal by a small fordable river, practically fordable throughout its entire length, and was only about 100 miles from the capital of Natal, whereas it was at least 600 miles to the capital of Cape Colony. It was always expected by the traders and merchants of the North of England that when any division or annexation of Pondoland took place, that at any rate Eastern Pondoland, that part to the North East of the St. John's River, and which bordered Natal, would fall to the lot of Natal. At the end of April or the beginning of May of this year he called attention to the matter by a question in this House when the hon. Member replied to him that he did not consider the subject one of great public importance, and did not propose to present any Papers to Parliament as all information would be contained in the Blue Book. He had some extracts from the Blue Book, and he found the ball opened with a Dispatch from the Prime Minister of Natal to the Governor of Natal, in which he called attention to the disturbed condition of Pondoland, especially of that territory that abutted on the southern portion of Natal, and likewise maintained that it was used for the base of operations, and the natives were being kept in a constant state of ferment. The Prime Minister also called attention to the fact that the loss in trade with Natal by the annexation would amount to £25,000 a year, and requested that some steps be taken, pending the final settlement, for a meeting of the authorities of the Cape and Natal. That communication was sent on by the Governor of Natal to the High Commissioner, and in his letter accompanying it, he endorsed what the Prime Minister of Natal had said. On the 1st of September, 1893, the Prime Minister of Natal wrote again to the Governor a long Memorandum in which he dealt with the whole, position of affairs, and stated he had reason to believe that the Pondos at large would be glad to come under the rule of Natal, with which they were content, and with which they were connected by old times and associations. The Prime Minister further stated that Natal would be glad to accept the responsibility of administering the affairs of Pondoland. The Governor in sending that on to the High Commissioner asked for favorable attention to the views expressed in it. Sir Henry Robinson was unable to agree with Sir H. Bulwer's recommendation, but expressed the belief that Lord Ripon and the High Commissioner would be of opinion the time had come for bringing the Pondoland question to a final settlement. The next extract was a Petition of the Chiefs in Pondoland, a Petition of three-fourths—he believed, of seven-eighths—of the people of Pondoland, represented by their Chiefs, and they concluded with this significant sentence— We are tired of living in a country without rule and order and in a state of barbarism. And they requested the Natal Government to take them over with their people and territories, living as they did on the borders of Natal; that they were quite aware of the laws of the Colony, and earnestly desired to become law abiding subjects of Her Majesty. That was the resolution come to by the Chiefs ruling over seven-eighths of the inhabitants of Pondoland. To that, as he had previously said, Lord Ripon replied that he had examined the question and the claims of Natal, but he must rest his policy on the declaration of his predecessors. At the end of his Dispatch Lord Ripon said that the occupation of Pondoland by the Cape would be in itself a considerable and distinct advantage to Natal, and he would invite their attention to the question whether Natal would not be going out of its way to take the responsibility. To him (Mr. Whiteley) it seemed that Lord Ripon had already made up his mind, and that the question had received only scant treatment at his hands when the claims and arguments of Natal were disposed of in this summary manner. The next of these Reports was from the Prime Minister of Natal to the Governor, in which he referred to this Dispatch of Lord Ripon, and pointed out that Natal was perfectly aware of the responsibility they undertook, and that they still believed the policy that had been suggested might be carried out. A few more extracts followed which illustrated the mind of the Government, and, in his opinion, the wrongful action of the Cape Authorities in the matter. The Prime Minister of Natal claimed that the rights of Natal ought to be considered on the grounds of equity, long associations, and the geographical position of Natal and Pondoland, and pointed out that the settlement about to be made would tend to strain the relations of the two colonies. These extracts showed that not only was Natal anxious to annex that part of Pondoland adjacent to it, but that the annexation by the Cape and the position taken up by the Home Government had created feelings of injury in the minds of the people of Natal and Pondoland. He would now for a moment just draw attention to the question of trade in that country. As he had said, the merchants of Manchester, and Lancashire, and Cheshire generally, had been improving their commerce in Pondoland. The trade had been through what was known as the outward counties, and cotton goods entering Eastern Pondoland had paid a duty to Natal of 6 per cent., but now that the annexation had taken place, and Poudoland was placed under the Cape Colony, the duty levied was 17½ per cent. That alone was a strong reason why the merchants of the North of England should desire Pondoland to be given over to Natal. Further than that, Natal Representatives, speaking in the Natal Legislature, said that the annexation of Pondoland to the Cape would mean a loss to Natal of £25,000 a year, because the trade would be stopped, as no one could afford to pay double duties, nor could they otherwise compete with the Cape traders, therefore, it would be a very serious matter to the outward counties. He had had to hurry over this matter because the time was short; but he believed he had made good his case that it had been the wish of Natal to annex that part of Pondoland running along its borders, and that that wish was shared by the traders who carried on business with Pondoland, both in the North of England and in Natal, and it was the desire of at least seven-eighths of the Pondos themselves. In spite of all this Her Majesty's Government had permitted the annexation by the Cape 600 miles away.


said, the Debate had traveled over various parts of Africa, and he would take the questions raised in their reverse order. He would say a word first upon the speech they had just listened to. So far as he was concerned, his only duty was to defend the action of the Colonial Office in this matter The Colonial Office had no control over the Cape and Natal as to what they did as colonies with responsible Governments. The hon. Gentleman accused the Colonial Office of supineness in this matter, in giving way, as he said, to the Cape Colony. The right hon. Gentleman read numerous long extracts from the Natal Blue Book; but he omitted to read two that were germane to the question as regarded the position of the Colonial Office. When this matter of Pondoland came to an acute stage the other day it was their anxious desire to bring the Cape and Natal into friendly relations, and he could show that they were anxious to meet the views of Natal as far as they could. The hon. Member had omitted to read a Minute of the Governor of Natal to the Prime Minister of Natal, in which he stated that Lord Ripon had expressed a strong opinion that the case was one for a friendly and direct understanding between the two Governments and personal communication between the two Premiers. So far as Her Majesty's Government were concerned, they desired that the two Colonial Governments should be brought together to settle the question in an amicable spirit. But when an amicable arrangement was not come to the present Government were bound by the action of their predecessors to oppose the claim of Natal upon Pondoland. The hon. Gentleman omitted to refer to a Dispatch of February 16th, 1894, which detailed the different Dispatches and pledges that had been given by the predecessors of Lord Ripon at the Colonial Office, dated in 1886–87–88, from which it was clear that the Home Government had stated that the question of Pondoland was one entirely and absolutely for the Cape Government to decide for themselves. Their predecessors having made those declarations, though they were anxious to bring the two Governments together in a friendly way, they were incapacitated by previous pledges, even if they had wished, from acting differently to the way they did. If the Cape had been somewhat grasping, and Natal had suf- fered, it was not the fault of the Home Government, as they had done their best to bring them together. So much for the question of Pondoland As to the question of the Matabeleland Agreement raised by the hon. Member for Kingston (Sir R. Temple), he did not know that he need go into any detail upon that, because, as he understood the hon. Gentleman, he only wanted one item of information, which he supplied the hon. Member with across the Table. In regard to the matter the House was most interested in—namely, the care of the natives, he understood the hon. Member to be complimentary to the Colonial Office for having taken care that the interests of the natives were properly guarded and provided for. As regards the Agreement as a whole, they had done their best to make it a fair arrangement as between the Imperial Government and the Chartered Company, and to safeguard the rights of the natives in the best possible way.


Will the hon. Gentleman remember my question about the position of the High Commissioner?


said, he thought he had explained that across the Table; it was this: that for every action he did the High Commissioner was responsible to the Secretary of State, and all matters affecting South Africa came through the High Commissioner before they reached the Secretary of State. It had been thought advisable that, in regard to certain points, the matter should be put upon a firmer basis, and that it should be specifically stated that they had to be decided by the Secretary of State; but certain subsidiary matters were left to the decision of the High Commissioner, who was responsible to the Secretary of State, so that in effect there was no practical distinction. Then the hon. Member raised the question of Swaziland, which was also alluded to by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett). He did not understand they desired, or that the House would wish him, to go into this question at any length, but he would remind the hon. Member for Kingston (Sir R. Temple) it was not the present Government who reopened, or desired to reopen, the Swaziland question. There, again, they found themselves tied and bound by the action of their predecessors towards the South African Republic and by the good faith of English Governments in maintaining continuity of policy. In regard to the past, they were bound to listen to representations of the South African Republic and to meet them as far as they could with regard to this question of Swaziland, and what they had done was before the House. While they had acquiesced in the control of the Government of Swaziland by the Transvaal, they had stipulated for the native independence of the Swazis themselves, and in the Convention, which he hoped before long would be signed, they had safeguarded the rights of the Europeans there as well as of the natives themselves. In order that the negotiations might be completed, Sir Henry Loch had obtained from the South African Republic an extension for six mouths of the existing Convention, which he hoped would enable the matter to be brought to a satisfactory conclusion to all the parties concerned. The hon. Member for Sheffield had made a very violent and excited speech in reference to the action of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the questions in the Transvaal. The hon. Member's view, as he understood it, was practically that on all the matters mentioned by him, it was the bounden duty of the Government to have at once, and in a most hostile spirit towards the South African Republic, insisted on interfering with their internal legislation, and seeing that certain matters on which we might disagree with them were carried through in the way we desired.


I said nothing of the kind. What I said was that the Government ought to defend the rights of the British subjects, and enter a resolute protest against the monstrous law infringing the right of public meeting.


said, there was a drawback to the hon. Member's policy which he would explain. While he said that Her Majesty's Government, on whatever side of the House they might sit, were always anxious and willing to protect the rights of British subjects in other countries, the policy the hon. Member proposed, in so many words, came to this: that we were to insist on the repeal of the laws affecting British subjects in the Transvaal, and if the Transvaal declined to do this, we should insist upon it by force of arms. He was glad to think that the responsible Members of the late Government—and he desired to thank them for it—had been much more anxious to strengthen the hands of the Colonial Office, being desirous to prevent premature discussion in regard to these matters, and to treat the Transvaal, not as a hostile, but as a friendly country. The hon. Member very much perverted certain words which he (Mr. Buxton) let fall the other day in reply to a question as to this law of public meeting.


I quoted the exact words.


said, he objected to the inference the hon. Member drew from them. The hon. Member had asked whether the Government intended at once to enter a strong protest in regard to the law of public meeting, and he (Mr. Buxton) stated what was true, and which was this: Whatever might be the merits or demerits of the law relating to public meetings, the South African Republic appeared to be acting within their rights in passing such a law. That was in strict accordance with the principle laid down in 1890 by Mr. W. H. Smith in regard to the Imperial relations to the Transvaal. Mr. Smith, who at that time was Leader of the House, speaking in regard to the question of the Suzerainty, stated that, though Her Majesty's Government under the Suzerainty retained the power of refusing to sanction Treaties made by the South African Republic with foreign States, the cardinal principle of that settlement was that the internal Government and legislation of the South African Republic should not be interfered with. That was all to which he (Mr. Buxton) referred, and by which he meant that though they might, if they thought well, in this particular matter enter an Imperial protest, they had no locus standi in regard to the matter at all. What was the position in relation to the three matters to which the hon. Member had referred He took first the case of the franchise. He thought himself the franchise in the South African Republic was restricted in a way that he should much regret to see in any other country throughout the length and breadth of the world. But he would remind the House that in regard to the question of the franchise, as, indeed, in regard to the law of public meetings, the Colonial Office had had no protests sent by those resident in the Transvaal asking them to interfere or protest in this matter.


There was a representation signed by 15,000 persons sent to Sir Henry Loch.


said, that was with reference to the commandeering question. When considering the question of negotiating in reference to the question of Swaziland the question of the franchise had come up, the point being whether, when they were negotiating that matter, they should not also endeavor to obtain better terms for the British inhabitants in the Transvaal in order to diminish those disabilities under which they suffered. What was the result? The inhabitants of the Transvaal, as we understood, did not desire that the Colonial Office should interfere in the matter, because they believed they were quite able to obtain a remedy for themselves, and that they were more likely to obtain fair terms if they were left alone. But when it came to the question of commandeering, that was a matter which stood on a very different basis. That was not entirely a matter of internal law, but one in which certain disabilities were specifically placed on British subjects, from which the subjects of certain other countries were exempt by Treaty, and strong protests having been received in regard to that matter, it was the duty of the Colonial Office to interfere and to make representations to the South African Republic. As regarded the legal position in this matter, they had the legal opinion of Sir Hardinge Giffard and Sir John Holker, reinforced by the opinions of their own Law Officers, that as far as concerned the legal question they had no case on which they might approach the South African Republic. But they did believe that they had a moral claim to interfere, because it was not right that in a friendly country British subjects should be under disabilities from which the subjects of certain other Powers were exempt. They placed this matter before the South African Republic in friendly and courteous terms. The representations so made were, he was glad to think, met in the same spirit, and the result was that a Convention was to be negotiated exempting British subjects from military service and contribution. And, in order to show their friendly spirit, the authorities of the Republic brought the arrangement into force at once, and immediately enlisted a fresh burgher force to relieve the British subjects who had been commandeered up to that time. The question of the military contribution on British subjects was in exactly the same position as compulsory military service—namely, it formed part of the Convention; it would be removed, and, in fact, it was removed, at the moment the principle of a Convention was accepted. They had got a telegram from the High Commissioner only a few hours ago, stating that there had been no further British subjects commandeered, nor military contributions placed on them except the ordinary War Tax, which was placed on all residents in the Transvaal of whatever nationality they might be, and whether they were burghers or not. That was not the special military contribution to which the hon. Member referred, but what he might call a War Tax, which was placed on all the inhabitants of the country. British subjects were now to be free from any contribution which was not equally placed on the subjects of other Powers and upon the individual burghers living in the Transvaal. Looking at the circumstances all round, and to the fact that this country had no legal position in the matter, he thought that Her Majesty's Government had obtained, in a friendly way, from the Government of the South African Republic what might be considered as a very satisfactory solution of the commandeering question. While on this point he would like to say that he thought that the country was very much indebted to Sir Henry Loch for the way in which he had carried through the negotiations. He did not go to them, as the hon. Member would have had him do, with a pistol to their heads, but he went in friendly courtesy; but, nevertheless, by firmness, and by his tact, and the high character he held out there, and his great ability, he was able to carry through this very delicate and, as it might have been, dangerous question in a way satisfactory to us, and he thought not unsatisfactory to the South African Republic as well. As regarded other matters in which British subjects might be placed under some special disability, he could say the Government would always be ready to do their best to see that justice was done to British subjects in any part of the world. With reference to the question of public meetings, he did not wish to say at the present moment what, if any, steps could be taken in regard to it. He wished, however, to point out that this was not a question like the commandeering, which was one especially affecting British subjects, and not the general population of the country. He did not for a moment say it would not indirectly chiefly affect the British subjects, because they were those who were most likely to hold these meetings, but it was, as he had said, in a different position from the commandeering question. The latter was a matter directly affecting British subjects, but the question of public meetings was one which applied equally and impartially to all those living in the Transvaal. He did not wish to make any statement on the subject, for the very good reason that Sir Henry Loch would be here in a few days' time, and it was desirable to consult him on this and other matters affecting the Transvaal before making any statement. It must be borne in mind that the Transvaal was, in regard to its internal affairs, practically an independent country; and when they were dealing with a country like that, it was a great misfortune that speeches like that to which they had just listened from the hon. Member for Sheffield should be made in the House of Commons. Such speeches as that of the hon. Member were far more likely to embitter our relations with the Transvaal than lead to a satisfactory conclusion. The Government by friendly and courteous representations to the South African Republic had obtained what they desired without any humiliation to the South African Republic itself, whereas if they had gone on the principle laid down by the hon. Member they should certainly not have obtained what they required, and probably would ultimately have had to go to war. The policy of their predecessors had been the same as that of themselves in regard to the Transvaal, and he was sure that that was the right policy, while it certainly would be much more likely to lead to satisfactory results, and be much more to the interests of the British inhabitants of that part of the country, and very much more to the Imperial interests which were also involved, than the blustering and bombastic policy of the hon. Gentleman. It was to be remembered that while the Transvaal was governed by the Dutch there was also a large Dutch element throughout Cape Colony, which sympathised with the Dutch in the Transvaal. Though our sympathies might naturally go with the British part of those living in South Africa, it should be remembered that two great interests were involved in South Africa. The policy being pursued by Her Majesty's Government in South Africa would tend, he hoped and believed, to friendly relations between the different parts of South Africa and the Imperial Government: and this policy they would continue to pursue.


rose to move the reduction of the Vote by £100, in order to call attention to the correspondence between the British South Africa Company and the Colonial Office relative to Clause 13 of the Matabeleland and the Mashonaland Agreement in regard to the limitation of Customs Duties. The facts were exceedingly simple and might be briefly stated. On May 8th, 1894, the Colonial Office sent to the British South Africa Company a Draft Agreement between Her Majesty's Government and the Company as to the future administration of Matabeleland and Mashonaland. Clause 13 of this Agreement, which had been duly executed, ran thus:— The power of making Ordinances granted to the Company under Clause 10 of its Charter shall be deemed to include the power of imposing by such Ordinances all such taxes as may be necessary for the order and good government of the said territories, and for the raising of revenue therein; also the right to impose and collect Customs Duties. These last words Mr. Rhodes desired to have qualified by the following proviso:— Provided that if Customs Duties are levied, then, in so far as Customs Dues on British goods are concerned, they shall not exceed the duties thereon according to the tariff at present in force in the South African Customs Union. What was the object of Mr. Rhodes, the Premier of Cape Colony, in wishing for that proviso? His object was to secure that the duties to be imposed on British goods should never exceed the amount required for the purposes of revenue; that there should be a check against the introduction of the principle of extreme protection, and that the colonies should make a commercial return to the Mother Country for the expenditure of life and money she had incurred in establishing them. He thought Englishmen were indebted to Mr. Rhodes for his desire to make it a cardinal condition of the Constitutions of Matabeleland and Mashonaland that these countries, covering enormous areas and likely to become exceedingly prosperous, should never put protective duties on British goods. He believed that this feeling would be reechoed in every industrial constituency in the country, more especially at the present time, because, as Mr. Rhodes clearly and distinctly said, he wished to have this proviso added in the interest of the English people, who were daily perceiving that the only return made to them by the colonies they had founded, and for all the blood and treasure they had spent, was that the present occupants of such colonies placed a prohibitive tariff on British goods, thereby removing the only existing benefit to the British manufacturer. He had no desire then to advocate protectionist doctrines, but he felt bound to say that he thought it a matter of great regret that British colonies should impose such duties on the goods of the Mother Country. For one he was heartily glad that Mr. Rhodes, as the Leader of Colonial statesmen, desired to put an end to this state of affairs. The injury which these tariff duties of foreign countries and the colonies did to our trade was absolutely incontestible, and yet what did they find was the action taken by the Secretary of State for the Colonies? Lord Ripon was the first Secretary of State who had ever had an offer of this kind made to him, and he rejected it. Why did he reject it? Because the proviso did not extend to goods from foreign states. It did not so extend for the best of all reasons. If the United States and other Powers continued their power of excluding British manufactures from their coun- tries by their high tariffs, Mr. Rhodes desired to retain the power for Matabeleland and Mashonaland—although not claiming it at the present time—if it should become necessary in the future, of saying they had the right of imposing differential duties and considering the advisability of meeting these foreign tariffs, which did our own trade so much harm, in the same spirit. What were the terms of the answer of Lord Ripon, as Secretary of State for the Colonies, to this very generous and most patriotic offer of Mr. Rhodes, an offer which showed that he and his supporters desired nothing better than to cement closer and closer the ties which connected the colonies and the Mother Country, and to obtain for the Mother Country the great advantages which their prosperous markets offered to her in the present depressed condition of trade in this country? The Marquess of Ripon, writing to the Company on June 11th, 1894, expressed the opinion that— The proviso was unnecessary because the Company could only impose taxation by Ordinance, and such Ordinances were subject to disallowance by the Secretary of State, and consequently no Customs Duties could be levied which the Secretary of State was not prepared to sanction. There was, therefore, no reason, to fear that the Company would be allowed to impose excessive duties. But he desired to call the attention of the Under Secretary and of the House to the fact that the Crown had now the power of disallowing any Bill proposed or enacted by a Colonial Legislature, including any Bill for the imposing of protective duties against British goods. But this was a right which neither this nor any previous Government had exercised, nor, he ventured to say, would any future Government of this country ever venture to exercise in respect of any Bill regulating the fiscal policy of any self-governing colony. It was quite impossible at this time of day for the Mother Country to interfere with the fiscal policy of any self-governing colony. All duties of this kind, levied by any foreign State or colony, were detrimental to the best interests of our trade. But the Marquess of Ripon based his refusal, not on consideration of the interests of British trade, but on the grounds that the proviso did not extend to foreign countries, and that the adoption of such a policy would involve a departure from the course pursued for many years by the British Government. The long and short of the matter was that the Marquess of Ripon had declined this offer by Mr. Rhodes, not in the interests of British trade, but simply and solely because, sooner or later, it might become necessary in Matabeleland or Mashonaland, for the sake of revenue and other reasons, to put foreign goods in a less favourable position on their entrance into those territories than British goods. What had the British Secretary of State for the Colonies to do with the interests of foreigners? Had foreign nations done anything for the establishment of Matabeleland, Mashonaland, or any British colony? But being so solicitous for the foreigner he might have ascertained that as long as the clauses in the Treaty with Belgium of 1862, and with the Zollverein of 1865, providing that foreign goods should not pay a higher duty than British goods in British colonies remained unrepealed, foreigners could prevent any differential duties being levied upon them by the Company. While, then, Lord Ripon had secured no greater benefit to the foreigner than he enjoyed under existing treaties, he had failed to secure a great advantage offered spontaneously to the British people. Why had he not paid attention to the great need that existed for new markets? Did he not know of the great depression in trade; did he not know of the large number of people unemployed in the country, and how great was the cry in every manufacturing centre amongst manufacturers and workpeople for new markets? All who had any knowledge of the subject agreed that new markets had become an absolute necessity for us. Yet when the Secretary of State for the Colonies had an opportunity of securing that the markets of 800,000 square miles of British territory should never be protectively closed against British goods, he contemptuously rejected it. He was not going to labour the matter further seeing the lateness of the hour (11.13 p.m.). He had raised the question entirely in the interest of his own constituents. It was a matter of vital importance to them that new markets should be secured for their products. He would, in conclusion, draw the attention of the House to a very memorable speech made by the Premier of Cape Colony, a true Imperial statesman. Mr. Rhodes had said— The onus of rejection of this splendid offer lies with Her Majesty's Government. They spend their whole time on small matters. But the big question of the trade of the people they neglect. They forget that England is but a small country, and yet has to support nearly 40,000,000 people, who directly and indirectly are engaged in working up the raw product into the manufactured article, and distributing this article over the world. The world, finding that England is unrivalled in the manufacture from the raw material, has of late years been devising schemes, by protective and prohibitive tariffs, to shut her out—see, for instance, the action of the United States, of France, and of Russia; and yet the most extraordinary thing is that, when the English people are offered the privilege that South of the Zambesi their goods shall be admitted for ever on a fair basis, their rulers absolutely refuse. It will, I hope, be brought home to the English people, for with them rests the final decision. He could not do much to bring this matter home to the English people, but what little he could do he was doing and he should do. It was for that reason that he ventured to move a reduction of the salary of the Secretary for the Colonies by £100.

Amendment proposed, to leave out "£3,583,150," in order to insert £3,583,050."—(Colonel Howard Vincent.)

Question proposed, "That £3,583,150 stand part of the Resolution."

ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

said, he desired to follow the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, though not, perhaps, on the same lines. It was not necessary, he imagined, for the hon. Member's Motion to be seconded, or he (Admiral Field) would second it, for he had a grievance against the Colonial Office and against the hon. Gentleman who so ably represented that Office in this House. The grievance was one he wished to ventilate in the interest of the important shipping industry of the country. He wished to call attention to the mischievous system which prevailed to a limited extent of subsidising foreign mail steamers under foreign flags. He alluded in particular to the case of the subsidy paid with the partial approval of the Colonial Office to the Messageries Maritimes de France for carrying English mails to the Island of Mauritius. He had put a question to the Government on the subject more than once, but without eliciting a satisfactory answer. He had been supported by hon. Gentlemen who who had put further questions—


pointed out that this was a new subject, and that the question raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Sheffield ought to be disposed of first.


said, he would not detain the House more than a few moments in replying to the hon. Member for Sheffield, who had moved a reduction in the Vote because the Secretary of State was unable to accept Mr. Rhodes's offer in regard to the Matabeleland and Mashonaland settlement. Mr. Rhodes's proposal was that no higher duties than those at present in force under the Customs Union should be placed on British goods in Matabeleland and Mashonaland. That was a proposal which the Government could not accept, because it was based on the ground that it might become necessary at a future time to place differential duties on foreign goods. By this arrangement, therefore, it was intended practically to put a lower duty on British goods than on foreign goods imported into the country. That, of course, raised the question that was known as Fair Trade. He was not going to discuss that question this evening, but they did feel that when they had to decide the matter or alter their policy they should look at the whole fiscal principles upon which this country had acted for 50 years. Would it have been compatible with their duty to accept a proposal affecting one small colony only, but aimed practically at the fiscal principles accepted by this country for so long a period? The Secretary of State thought that if any alteration was to be made in our fiscal policy it ought to be done deliberately after due consideration and after taking into counsel all those who were interested in the change. The Secretary of State held that it would not be right to do anything by a side wind which might affect the general fiscal principles in which this country had hitherto acted. That was the ground on which the proposal was rejected, and he would point out further that as regarded the situation in Matabeleland and Mashonaland the rejection of the proposal in no way prejudiced British interests. On the contrary, he believed that it was more likely that there would be lower duties on British goods in that part of the country than if Mr. Rhodes's proposal had been accepted. In the Bechuanaland Railway agreement the Secretary of State retained full power of refusing to pass any Ordinance introduced by the Chartered Company in that territory. The principle had been introduced that with regard to the whole of that territory the duties should not exceed the duties in force in the Customs Union, and in regard to Swaziland the identically same principle had been carried out. The hon. Member opposite was labouring under a serious mistake if he thought that, apart from the question of Fair Trade, the Government had in any way injured or damnified British interests. He would only say that, while the Government were very anxious to meet Mr. Rhodes's proposal in this matter, they did not think that in dealing with a small part of the great British Empire it would have been right or proper to raise a great fiscal question, and they thought that was a sufficient ground for the rejection of the proposal. As far as they could they had endeavoured to protect the interests of the British producer and the British exporter, and he believed they would be better rather than worse off by the proposals the Government had laid before the House.

Question put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

said, he would not detain the House more than a few moments; but as regarded what had been said earlier as to the relations existing between ourselves, our fellow-countrymen in the Transvaal, and the Transvaal Government, it was desirable that a word or two should be said in reply by Members who had had the privilege of mixing with the Boers and their leaders, and who were acquainted with the President of the Republic. Random utterances by gentlemen who were unacquainted with the Transvaal as to the treatment of our fellow-countrymen in that country were to be deprecated. The hon. Member for Sheffield had used expressions which were certainly not warranted, and which were calculated to do a great deal of harm by straining the relations between their own people and the inhabitants of the Transvaal. Unfortunately, words uttered by however humble and insignificant Members of the House were reported, and had an importance attached to them far beyond their merits by the people of the Transvaal, and other countries of the kind. He remembered observing, a few years ago, when he happened to be travelling in the Transvaal at the same time that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington was making an excursion there, that that noble Lord had inspired very strong resentment, and incurred considerable odium from the people, to the injury of the interests of this country, by the unwarrantable language he had used against that people. That being the case, he thought it only fair to say a single word from personal knowledge of the people of the Transvaal and their leaders, in support of the generous sentiments of the hon. Member for Poplar, and the credit he had given Sir Henry Loch, our Representative in South Africa, for the manner in which he had brought about an adjustment of the difficult, and delicate, and thorny questions which had arisen between this country and the Transvaal. The particular point made against the people of the Transvaal was on the commandeering and franchise questions. On that he would only say that it was too commonly the idea of Englishmen that they could go and exploit foreign countries without being liable to pay taxes in support of law and order. The position taken up by our countrymen in the Transvaal was that which, unfortunately, foreigners thought they were always entitled to take up in countries which they considered half-civilised. The same thing had taken place in Egypt in times past. There were, no doubt, some Englishmen in the Transvaal who thought they were justified in refusing to submit to taxation for the purpose of maintaining the Government of the Republic. He did not think that their view was general. No doubt the system of compelling Englishmen to to take part in military operations, and to join expeditions against the unfortunate natives, ought to be put down. But to suppose that, therefore, they should be exempt from the payment of all taxation which was necessary for the carrying on of the government of the country, was a proposal to which he, for one, could not assent. People who went to the Transvaal to make their fortunes must expect to have to contribute something towards the cost of the maintenance of law and order. But if they did so contribute it was only right that they should have some share in the representation. The hon. Member for Sheffield, who talked so glibly against the Government of the Transvaal on these matters, probably was not aware of what had already been done in respect of giving a certain share of representation to our people in that country. He was not aware, perhaps, that a second Folksraad had been established for the representation of the European population. This was not all that was to be desired, but it was worthy of note that that concession had been obtained through the exertions of an hon. Member of the House whose name was honourably associated with all that was best in the progress of South Africa. The representation in the Transvaal was not so far behind our own. He had heard it said that a man could not be represented until he had lived 15 years in the country; but that was not correct. The necessary period of residence was either two or five years—he believed the former—though a man was not eligible for office until he had had 15 years' residence. Well, in this country two years' residence, and very often two and a-half years' residence, was necessary in order to give a man a vote. The President of the Transvaal Republic had a good answer to make to anyone who complained. He had said to him (Mr. Conybeare) that if they were to give a vote to everybody in the country in the present condition of things, with a large floating population consisting of people of all nationalities, most of whom went there to make fortunes and cleared out with as much money as they could collect, the Republic would soon be brought to ruin. It was, therefore, necessary for the well-being of the country that a reasonable period of residence should be required to confer the franchise upon the foreigner. He commended the President of the Republic and his Ministers for insisting upon a measure of this kind as a measure of safety. Although they might feel, as Englishmen, that many of the arrangements in the Transvaal did not conduce as much as might be desired to the full development of the industry of the country in which so many millions of British capital had already been invested, he did not think there was the slightest desire on the part of any of the leading men in the Republic to treat Englishmen in a different manner to that in which they would treat their own people or the people of other States. Speeches were sometimes made on the floor of this House by gentlemen who knew nothing about the Transvaal or the rights and wrongs of the question, which tended to strain the relations between ourselves and the Boers. For that reason he was glad to have heard the speech delivered by the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies. He congratulated the hon. Member on the line of policy that Lord Ripon and he had laid down and carried out.

MR. H. S. FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)

said he wished, in the interests of his constituents, to refer to a grievance they suffered through the way in which the Education Act was being administered towards voluntary schools, and the friction which existed between Her Majesty's Inspector and the managers of the voluntary school—


said, that he had asked the Chief Inspector to go to Lowestoft and to look into the whole question, because he recognised that the matter had not been well managed.


said, that in view of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, the fulness and frankness of which he acknowledged, he would refrain from saying anything further.

MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)

said, he wished to call attention to the Merchandise Marks Protection Act recently passed, and to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture if he would do his best to see it was enforced, as it was competent for his Department to institute proceedings under it. The Act provided for the prosecution of those who sold foreign or colonial meat as English meat. Much harm had been done to British agriculture by this practice, which was carried on to an enormous extent. A Committee of the House of Lords took evidence on this question, and one of the witnesses before it stated that close to Westminster there was a house which professed to sell Welsh mutton, whereas the meat in the shop came from New Zealand, and not a single joint of Welsh mutton could be found there. That was a case surely in which the owner or salesman ought to be prosecuted, and he hoped consequently the President of the Board of Trade would take action. A former Member of the Government, Lord Playfair, had pointed out that this was a matter which more concerned agriculture than the Board of Trade, and the Government had shown its willingness that a Bill should be introduced giving the Board of Agriculture those powers which the Board of Trade possessed under the Merchandise Marks Act with a view to the prevention of the sale of foreign and colonial meat under the name of English meat. If the right hon. Gentleman would assure him that he intended to use these powers he would be willing to withdraw the Bill standing in his own name, and he was confident that such an assurance would give lively satisfaction to the agriculturists of the United Kingdom.


said, that while admitting that agriculturists not unnaturally had shown some little impatience on this subject, he was glad to be able to point to the fact that the Bill promised by Lord Playfair had passed the House of Commons without dissent, and that it transferred to the Board of Agriculture powers conferred on the Board of Trade. Hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that misrepresentation in a matter such as that was much to be deplored, and he could assure them that in enforcing the Act he would interpret the powers it gave to the Board of Agriculture in the most liberal sense, and apply them whenever any case was brought before him which seemed to justify that course.


said, he wished to call the attention of the Under Secretary for the Colonies to the appointment of Dr. Grigsby as Chief Justice of Cyprus, and had to ask what his qualifications were for the position? He was aware that Dr. Grigsby was a barrister and a member of the London County Council. But the one qualification which seemed to have secured him the berth was that he contested a Division of Mid Essex in the Radical interest at the General Election of 1892; and it really seemed that nowadays the shortest way of obtaining preferment was to contest a constituency in the Radical interest. This Chief Justice had joined a certain Company as a Director—a Company known as the Solicitors' Investment Government Trust—a name which would have frightened any sensible man. The Company was born in the year 1890, and after a variegated and chequered existence a petition was filed against it in the year 1892, and so disreputable were the circumstances attending its demise that the Board of Trade ordered an official inquiry, and Dr. Grigsby was ordered home from Cyprus to give evidence on the subject. A report of the investigation would be found in The Times of February 20th last, and without going into details he would point out that Dr. Grigsby appeared to have been concerned in three transactions of a questionable character—namely, lending money to someone who stuck to it, borrowing money himself from the Company, and also lending the Company's funds to a friend. He wished to know from the Under Secretary to the Colonies why this Judge was ever allowed to return to Cyprus as Chief Justice after his examination in relation to the liquidation of the Company with which he was connected. He had not the slightest grudge personally against this legal luminary, but he did think the House were entitled to an explanation of the action of the Government.


said, the hon. and gallant Member was, of course, entitled to raise this question, but it would have been more convenient if he had given notice of his intention to do so. So far as his recollection went, however, he would deal with the matter. In the first place, Dr. Grigsby was not Chief Justice of Cyprus, but a minor Judge corresponding in position to a Magistrate here. He had had a distinguished career at his University and as a barrister, and he was recommended very strongly for the post. The hon. Member had commented on the fact that Dr. Grigsby stood against him in an election, and was defeated.


Not against me.


said, that his career was such that he seemed to be a fitting person for the appointment. The Colonial Office had no knowledge at the time of any connection of Dr. Grigsby with the Company in question, or that such a Company was in existence or had come to grief. But undoubtedly the Secretary of State felt the question was one of great gravity, and it was only after careful consideration of all the circumstances of the case that they came to the decision to allow him to go back to Cyprus. Although questions of gross carelessness were involved, they came to the conclusion that the accusations of fraud had failed, and whether they had been right or wrong in allowing Dr. Grigsby to return to Cyprus he was prepared to defend the decision at which they arrived.

Question put, and agreed to.