HC Deb 29 March 1895 vol 32 cc475-97

On the Report of £4,439,268 for the Vote on Account,

MR. R. W. HANBURY (Preston)

called attention to the very heavy contributions for military purposes which had been imposed on the Straits Settlements, with the result that all the unofficial Members of the Legislative Council had resigned, and the official Members of the Council had to pass the Vote, although they had expressed a strong opinion against the justice of the claim. As to the mode of levying military contributions for military purposes on the various Colonies, he said that those Colonies might be roughly divided into four classes. In the first place there were the self-governing Colonies—colonies which had a Constitutional Government of their own and which were practically, so far as administering their own affairs were concerned, independent states. With regard to them the rule was for them to supply their own local defences, but in the case where there were Imperial coaling stations situated within the limits of the Colonies they contributed nothing whatever annually to the cost of the Imperial stations. In one or two instances he believed that they had contributed a portion of the expense of building fortifications, but beyond that they did nothing whatever. Then there was the second class of what might be called semi-self governing Colonies. They had absolute control of their own expenditure, and, while they did little towards supplying the needs of their own local defences, they also availed themselves of the control of their own finances to refuse to pay anything towards an Imperial contribution to keep up the coaling station or the Imperial garrison. In the next place there were such Colonies as Gibraltar which contributed nothing either to local or Imperial defence; and, therefore, with regard to the third class of Colonies there was this fact to be noted, that in no case whatever did they contribute any annual sum towards the maintenance of Imperial garrisons within their confines. But a certain class of Crown Colonies were in a different position altogether. They not only had to maintain their own local defences, but they had to pay the expenses, in some cases the whole, in other cases a very large portion, of the Imperial garrison. The Colonies under this head were Hong Kong, Mauritius, Ceylon, and the Straits. In all those cases contributions for Imperial military purposes were very heavy indeed. But there was no Colony in this class so hardly treated as the Colony of the Straits Settlements. Ceylon, with 1,650 troops, paid £80,000 a year; Hong Kong, with 3,000 troops, £40,000 a year; Mauritius, with 1,000 troops, £18,000 a year; and the Straits Settlements, with 1,500 troops, £100,000 a year, with the possibility of this amount being increased to £150,000 a year within four years, and it had also to pay largely towards the expenses of building barracks. Let the House compare the Crown Colonies with some of the other Colonies. The West African Colonies, with 1,200 troops, and the West Indian Colonies, with 4,500 troops, contributed nothing towards Imperial expenditure. The case was made worse by the fact that this heavy expenditure was solely upon the defence of an Imperial station which practically was of no value whatever to the local defences. The fortifications at Singapore were concentrated entirely on the local depôt at the New Harbour, and there was no defence at Penang or Malacca. What was the justification for the unusual charge? He was unable to trace any justification for so heavy and exceptional a charge. In 1866 Singapore, Penang, and Malacca were taken over from India, he believed at their own request. The reason of that step was to avoid the very heavy general Indian charges which they had to pay—charges amounting to nearly 25 per cent. of their then small revenue. The charges now imposed upon them came to 25 per cent. of the increased revenue which the exigencies and the trade of the times had enabled them to raise. It was, however, distinctly understood at the time that the Straits Settlements were to bear only the cost of their local defence. Singapore was not an important Imperial station at this time; and what they were to pay for these local defences was put at a maximum of £50,000 a year. The conditions of transfer were clear on that point:— The payment of the Colony for military defence shall be £50,000 if the cost of the troops stationed there shall amount to or exceed that sum. That was to say, in no case were these expenses to exceed £50,000, and if the actual cost of the troops there did not amount to that sum the colony was not to pay so much; £50,000 was to be the maximum. Although these were the terms of the transfer, the Government from that day to this had steadily maintained the opinion that the Imperial Government itself was not to incur any extra expenditure on account of the transfer, and they based that argument, not on any agreement made between the Home Government or the Indian Government and these Settlements, but simply on some correspondence which passed between the War Office and the Colonial Office. On the 28th of March, 1866, the terms of transfer were further confirmed by a letter from the War Office in a despatch to the Colonial Office. On the 25th of May, 1866, the Treasury wrote to the Colonial Office, stating that Mr. Cardwell, who was then Secretary of State for War— does not consider that the Settlements can be called upon to incur any charge that may be required for troops stationed at Singapore for for Imperial purposes. That showed that the sum of £50,000 was to be devoted entirely to local defences. No doubt a change occurred owing to the opening of the Suez Canal, in consequence of which Singapore became a very important port of call for ships which had originally gone round by the Cape. The importance of Cape Town was transferred to Singapore, which became the great emporium of the eastern trade. Although the Colony might have stood by the terms of the Agreement of 1866, it fell in with a Revised Agreement, so anxious was it to do everything fair in the matter. It agreed that, up to 1890, whatever the cost of the Imperial troops stationed at Singapore was—whether it amounted to less than.£50,000 or not—it would pay £50,000 by way of military contribution. But, at the same time, the Imperial Government asked the Colony to contribute to certain Imperial works and armaments which were being constructed in the Straits Settlements at that time, and it distinctly refused to contribute a penny to them on the ground that they were Imperial works and not local defences at all. That took place about 1871 or 1872. Time went on, trade increased, and the Colony undoubtedly was further benefited by the increased trade of England to the East. In 1881, the Royal Commission which sat, under the presidency of Lord Carnarvon, to inquire into the general question of coaling stations, arrived at the conclusion that Singapore would form a very important military and coaling station for Imperial purposes. That being so, Singapore was chosen as an Imperial coaling station, and the Straits Settlements agreed, in consideration of defences being constructed there, to contribute £81,000 towards the cost of the actual fortifications. But it was distinctly understood at the time between the Straits Settlements and the Home Government that, if they contributed the £81,000 towards fortifications the ordinary contribution was to go on exactly as before. That went on till the year 1890, arid then it was maintained on the part of the Home Government that not only the temporary arrangement of 1882, but also the agreement under which the Settlements were transferred from the Indian Government to the Home Government came to an end. They at once proceeded to lay an enormous charge—double the previous amount of the military contribution—upon the Settlements. In 1889 the Home Government suddenly informed the Government of the Straits Settlements that instead of a military contribution of £50,000 a year they would for the next four years have to find no less a sum than £100,000 in addition to the actual cost they had incurred in connection with the fortifications. When the announcement was made there was naturally a very strong feeling of resentment in the Colony; not only the unofficial members protested, but actually the Governor of the Colony himself wrote home showing the injustice done to the Colony. The Government at home were relentless: they said the £100,000 a year must be levied, and the official members of the Legislative Council voted the money in spite of their own private convictions. In 1890–91–92, and he thought in 1893, the £100,000 was voted in the same way, simply by the official members of the Council. Owing to certain circumstances the burden was enormously increased. In the first place there was a heavy fall in exchange, which in itself would very largely add to the expenses. Then, again, there was the fact that in previous years, in order to meet the heavy extra expenditure, all the surplus which the Colony had accumulated during years of fairly good trade, and when the military contribution was small, had been exhausted by the extra military contribution. In 1893 the Colony was stranded with no reserve whatever, and they had to pay the heavy contribution out of their annual receipts. They had to cut down their expenditure. Education was largely checked, and even public works were altogether stopped. Fresh taxes were imposed on the Colony, and the result was that while in 1889 the revenue of the Colony had been 4½ millions of dollars, in 1894 it had fallen to something like 3½ million dollars. In 1891, so serious had the circumstances of the Colony become, that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) distinctly promised in the House of Commons that if things went on, and if the Revenue of the Colony was reduced and this heavy military contribution had to be still levied, the Government at home would seriously consider the matter, and see whether some reduction might take place. Lord Ripon had since then been approached, he did not remember whether by the Government or by the unofficial representatives of the Colony, and the result was that his Lordship had promised to make certain concessions. He understood that instead of the sum of £100,000 annually they were to be required to pay £80,000 for 1894, and £90,000 for 1895. That at first sight might seem to be a concession, but practically it was no concession at all. Certainly it was not a carrying out of the promise made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1891. In 1891, at the rate of exchange, £100,000 meant 650,000 dollars, whereas at the present rate of exchange £90,000 meant 900,000 dollars. Therefore, the actual payment of the Colony was a great deal larger and heavier now than it was in 1891. But the case did not rest there. This was only a temporary concession, and it was only on the system of deferred payment. Although in those two years £30,000 less would be paid by the colony than would have been the case if the contribution of £100,000 had gone on, Lord Ripon was not going to retard the concession beyond 1894 and 1895, and the great contention of the Home Office that this colony, unlike all other colonies, was liable to be called up to pay the total cost of this military expenditure. In fact there was no concession whatever; there was only a system of deferred payment. He thought this a mere shuffling of the question. It was most unfair to the Straits Settlements, because it was utterly impossible for the colony to put its finances on a sound foundation or to know the scale on which they should buy taxes if they were always to be in a state of uncertainty as to the military contribution the Home Government was going to force upon them every year. The colony offered to contribute £70,000 a year, which, taking into account the rate of exchange, represented a much larger value in dollars. That, he thought, was a very fair offer indeed, considering all the circumstances. It should be remembered that the complaint of the Straits Settlement was not only that this heavy charge which they were unable to bear—for they had had a deficit in three years—was put upon them; but that it was almost exactly the same amount as they had to pay to India before they were transferred to the Home Government. In 1866, the colony got transferred from the Indian Government to the Imperial Government for the purpose of avoiding those heavy general charges. There had, however, been no improvement in that respect. In fact, the Straits Settlements were now actually loaded with far heavier charges under the Home Government than they ever had to meet under the Indian Government. But he ventured to say that in the manner in which those heavy charges were forced upon them by the great grievance of the Straits Settlements against the Imperial Government. The colony had a charter which enabled them to control their own finances for the purposes of the colony. It also had a Legislative Council, but it seemed to be a mere sham, because undoubtedly this contribution had been forced upon the Legislative Council in a mode the Imperial Government dare not have resorted to, if the Legislative Council had been a true representative body. Everybody in the colony in a truly representative capacity had protested against this charge. The unofficial members of the Legislative Council had carried their protest to the extent of throwing up their positions on the Council. The official members of the Council could not have gone so far as that, but they also had protested, through the voice of the Governor, against this charge. What was the use of a Legislative Council of that kind? It was no protection whatever to the colony. Such a state of things would not be tolerated in any self-governing or even semi-self-governing colony. He thought that on all those grounds the Straits Settlements had got a fair grievance against the Home Government. He believed the Colonial Office was inclined to take a fair view of the case; but they had to fight against the War Office and the Treasury, and their chances of overcoming those departments were small indeed. But, nevertheless, he hoped the Under Secretary for the Colonies would be able to announce that some concession had been made in the exorbitant demand of the Imperial Government on the Straits Settlement.

*SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

said, it was evident the hon. Member for Preston had given very deep attention to this particular matter of the contribution made by the Straits Settlements towards Imperial Defence; but he was wrong in his statement that self-governing colonies did not contribute towards the expenses of Imperial garrisons and the coaling stations of the Empire. He was also surprised to find the hon. Gentleman instituting a comparison in this matter between a rich trading colony like the Straits Settlements and the miserable West African Colonies such as the Crown Colony of Sierra Leone. The port at Sierra Leone had been fortified simply for the protection of Imperial trade in time of war. Sierra Leone did not derive any trade benefit in time of peace from the port, while the immense trade of Singapore rendered its fortifications necessary for its protection. The hon. Member for Preston seemed to think that the dominant factor in the transfer of the Straits Settlement from India to the Home Government was the desire that the Straits Settlement should escape its payment towards the defence of the Empire as part of India. That might have been the intention of the colony, but it certainly was not the intention of the Home Government when they consented to the change. But it was hardly worthy of the rich merchants of a place like Singapore to desire to pay less than was paid by the much poorer population of India towards the defence of the Empire. They should at least be willing to contribute something like the sum which they would contribute had they remained part of the Indian Empire. The hon. Member said that the people of Singapore could not pay this money because they had a deficit. That was a relative matter, and depended upon the taxation they raised. The taxation of the Straits Settlements was less than the taxation of India, and if they had a deficit they must meet it as India had to meet it, in the usual way. He was bound to say there was a larger aspect of this question which appealed to himself. In the present state of unrest in the minds of the inhabitants of large parts of India, it seemed to him unwise that they should do anything to give colour to the view that India was overtaxed in connection with imperial defence. No doubt, as the hon. Member had said, the Colonial Office for the sake of peace would be glad, if they could see their way, to diminish the contributions from the colonies. But he did not think the pressure of this House ought to be exercised in that sense. They ought, on the contrary, to encourage all Governments to insist upon the full adoption of the principle that each crown colony—especially where it was wealthy, as he thought this colony was—should pay its full measure towards the services of imperial defence.

SIR G. BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

was very glad the right hon. Baronet had called attention to the fact that the question introduced by his hon. Friend was one essential part of a great whole, and he hoped that neither the Government nor the House would ever consider or deal with it as if it were not so. This question really resolved itself into two great divisions, and the case of Singapore was a good case in point, but only in point, because the question they were now dealing with applied to every part of their empire. The two divisions were those of territorial defence and contributions to the defence of their communication. In regard to territorial defence it was essential in the case of a self-governing colony to leave that matter in the hands of the local colonial government, and in their self-governing colonies he believed there were now 80,000 armed and trained men concerned in the defence of these portions of the Empire, for which the Empire contributed nothing whilst their self-governing colonies did in a large and increasing ratio contribute to the defence of imperial connection and communication. But to come back to Singapore. They were dealing with the necessary or right contributions of those colonies which were not self-governing, and for which the Imperial Government still retained the responsibility of defence. He was sorry the right hon. Baronet should have termed their West African settlements miserable.


By comparison with Singapore.


thought when the right hon. Gentleman got hold of the most recent statistics he would find at the present day not only were they of more importance than he imagined, but that they were rapidly increasing in that importance by a ratio of growth quite unprecedented in any other colony. He might say that the West African settlements were now doing a trade of £10,000,000 sterling, which was a far larger trade than was done by all the West Indian Islands or Ceylon, and far larger than the local trade of Singapore. These contributions from crown colonies were matters of the highest importance in the great question of Imperial defence, and when they were dealing with Singapore they were dealing with the ratio which a crown colony ought to bear to that imperial defence, because they had to place Imperial troops in those Colonies for the sake of defending that portion of the territory of the Empire without any regard to Imperial communication. And the advantage that these Colonies not only enjoyed but acknowledged was that a great deal of the expenditure due to the presence of an Imperial Garrison in a Colony was made within the Colony itself and largely promoted its prosperity. He knew that the West Indian Colonies competed with each other for the honour and advantage of obtaining an Imperial Garrison. It was not a one-sided imposition by the imperial authorities to place an imperial garrison in a Colony. He only wished to point out that the case of Singapore was an instance in one great whole, and must be dealt with in that spirit. He would also add that any conditions they imposed must be liable to variation, because all these Colonies were in process of growth and were continually altering not only in their actual position at the moment, but in their position in the near future, and he hoped the Government might have some proposal to make which should bring these considerations into the estimates of what the Colonies ought to pay. He had himself gone carefully into the subject of Singapore, and the general conclusion he had arrived at was that at the present moment perhaps in comparison with other places Singapore paid too much. He should be glad if these Colonial contributions could be arranged on some general scale which would take into consideration the benefits of the defence of the Empire as a whole, which would satisfy the different Colonies that what was done was in their best interest, and show them that the home Government was not levying unfair contributions from them for the purposes of Imperial defence.


protested against the milk-and-water speeches which they had heard. What were the facts? The contributions levied on Singapore dare not be levied on any Colony enjoying responsible Government. These contributions were levied against the wishes of the Governor appointed by the Colonial Office, against the wishes of the officials there, and of every inhabitant. He appealed to the House to allow some investigation to be made in this matter so that Singapore and Hong Kong might only be charged that which in justice they ought to be called upon to pay. The levy now made on Singapore was so great, that in order to meet it expenditure in directions which would tend to the material improvement of the Colony had to be curtailed. If a Committee were appointed to consider the whole question the people of Singapore and Hong Kong would agree to pay what such Committee decided was their fair contribution, but it was monstrous that they should be called upon to bear a burden which was too heavy for their resources.


said, there was only one word he desired to say with reference to the historical part of the hon. Member for Preston's speech, and that was that if the Straits Settlements had remained part of India the military contribution which they would have to pay at the present moment would be probably a far larger proportion as part of the Indian than it was as part of the British Empire. He had to explain to the House that, though officially representing the Colonial Office in regard to this matter, this question was one which affected three Departments—namely, the War Office, the Treasury, and the Colonial Office, and therefore anything he could say was rather restricted, inasmuch as he could not speak the opinion of the three Departments, but only that of one of them. If this question was to be discussed in a broad view it must be discussed as affecting the Colonies as a whole. He did not propose, however, to discuss it from that broad view, as the hon. Member for Preston had dealt with it from the point of view of the Straits Settlement alone. He agreed with the hon. Member that it would be very invidious if there was to be any discussion between the Colonial Office and a Colony as to the fair share which the latter ought to bear of local Imperial charges. It was not likely under present circumstances, and when the sums were fixed that the two parties would ever agree as to what was a fair share to pay. As regarded the Home Government, they had recognised to the full that the circumstances not only of the Straits Settlements, but of other Colonies, had materially changed for the worse during the last few years because of the falling off in trade, and more especially because of the fall in exchange. The same sterling contribution at the present time threw a much heavier charge on the Colonies in silver dollars than was the case a few years ago. As regarded the contribution of the Straits Settlements, the Home Government had endeavoured to do something to alleviate their position. The Government agreed that, instead of the contribution of £100,000 a year, which was exacted from them during the last few years, and which it was intended to renew, it should only be £80,000 for 1894, and also a reduced sum for1895. The hon. Member had misunderstood the position of the Colony and of the Home Government in regard to future years. If he would refer to the Dispatch written by the Colonial Office, which represented the three Departments, he would see that it had been specifically promised to the Colony that, if their material position altered for the worse during the next three years, that circumstance would be taken into favourable account by the Home Government as regarded the contribution.


Has the Dispatch been published?


was not sure that it had been actually laid before the House, but it had been published in the papers out there In the sentence in which Lord Ripon stated the position of the Home Government, he said that— should unexpected circumstances arise, such as a very material fall in silver…Her Majesty's Government would not fail to take note of the altered situation, and to consider any representation which the Colony might make with regard to the situation generally. He thought the hon. Member had forgotten too much that there was another side to this question, and that was the side of the British taxpayer, because, while it was certainly understood, when the Straits Settlements were taken over from India, that they should bear the local costs of their defence, if hon. Members would look at the figures they would see that, assuming the contribution of £100,000 during the current five years, the cost to the Colony would be half-a-million, but to the English taxpayer it would not be less than £275,000. Therefore, the English taxpayer was bearing a very material portion of the local defence of the Straits Settlements. That was a matter which ought to be taken into account in considering the amount of the contribution. He would only say in conclusion that all desired, if possible, and it was to our interest to come to, an amicable arrangement with these Colonies. The friction between the Home Government and the Colonies was a great source of discomfort to the Colonial Office and to the Colonies; and if they could arrive at some conclusion, on some basis fair alike to the Colony and the Home Government, whereby the contribution should form some proportionate part of their material position year by year, it would, he thought, be much better than the arrangement of these fixed sums, over which there were these perpetual wrangles. The Departmental Committee was now sitting, and they had practically already made their Report, and he trusted it would only be a short time before whatever conclusions they arrived at would be put into force, and that they might not on any future occasion have these questions raised in the House, which caused considerable friction between the Colonies and the Home Government. He believed the result of the inquiry would be an arrangement satisfactory to the Home Government and the Eastern Colonies alike.

SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

asked the Under Secretary for the Colonies for further information as to the actual state of affairs in Swaziland. The House would remember that the Debate which was initiated by the hon. Member for North Ayrshire the other day was brought to an abrupt conclusion by the action of the Government, who pleaded, as an excuse for stopping the Debate, the public interest. He confessed he was not able to recognise at the moment, nor had he been able to understand since, the validity of the plea. In his opinion the plea of public interest should never be used by a Government, except in the most extreme cases, and inasmuch as no information could possibly reach Swaziland except through the Boer telegraphs, and the Boers exercised a strict censorship over all telegrams, the alleged danger of the Swazis being incited to incite the wrath of the Boers by resistance was a chimerical danger. They knew well that, as far as Her Majesty's Government were concerned, the Swazis had been abandoned. They had, in his opinion, been betrayed. Our old allies, to whom we were bound, by honour and gratitude, as well as by Treaty, as far as Her Majesty's Government were concerned, had been given up to their bitter enemies. What had happened since, the Convention of December 1894, by which the Government had entirely abandoned the Swazis? It was agreed by that Convention that Her Majesty's Government should press on the Swazi Queen Regent and the Council to issue the Organic Proclamation. That Organic Proclamation amounted to a formal statement by the Swazis that they had resigned their independence, and accepted the Government and Administration of the Boers. For 15 months, since November 1893, Her Majesty's Government had used every endeavour to get the Swazis to issue that Proclamation. They had steadily refused. The Queen Mother and the Queen Regent both emphatically refused to sign. They said: "We will never sign it." The young King said: "We will never sign the Proclamation." And an old chieftain, one of the envoys who came over here, made an interesting and remarkable statement. He said— We will never sign. We will never accept Boer rule until Her Majesty, the great Queen, our Mother, also puts herself under the Boers, and if the great Queen puts herself under the Boers, then we, the dogs of the great Queen, will follow her, and put ourselves also under the Boers. That was the answer of the whole Swazi people. Now he would call attention to the action of the Boers. On January 12 President Kruger mobilised his artillery at a place on the north-eastern border. That fact aroused some interest in this country, and a telegram was sent over here to state that the artillery was not mobilised against the Swazis but against the Basutos. On the 13th of February came the final and emphatic refusal of the Swazis to accept Boer domination. Generals Joubert and Schmidt went down to the borders of Swazis and summoned a commando and assembled a little over a thousand rifles. The artillery was brought up and every menace was made for the occupation of Swazi in force. This occurred at the end of February. But the Boers received some alarming information—and, no doubt, their Govment also received the same information privately—to the effect that a very formidable combination of the natives had been organised to assist the Boer attacks. And, in addition, he had no doubt the hon. Gentleman had information that there was a considerable movement among the non-Boer population of the Transvaal who were ready to give practical help to the Swazis in case they were attacked. In consequence of that, the Boers hesitated, and he thought, very wisely hesitated, to go in. Now came a part of the narrative which he did not speak of with confidence, because they had not yet received any written accounts; and no private telegrams were allowed to go over the Boer wires. He understood the hon. Gentleman the other day to state that there was no truth in the report that communications to Her Majesty s Government were under the control of the Boers.


What I said was, that the communications that were received came from the High Commissioner, who received them direct from our representative in Swaziland, and that, of course, there was no possibility of tampering with them.


said, he had no doubt that Her Majesty's Government received their communications, especially those in cypher, without being tampered with, but what he understood was that all the public and private telegrams were under the control of the Boers, and he still asserted that. The rest of the story was, he admitted, more or less conjecture, and it was with regard to that he wished for information from the hon. Gentleman. What he believed to have happened was this. The Boers, alarmed by this native combination and the effervescence, if not more, among the non-Boer population in the Transvaal, and also the movement in this country, decided upon a compromise. The hon. Gentleman had informed the House that the Organic Proclamation, which the Government had been urging in every way, fair and unfair, upon this unfortunate people for 11 months no longer existed, and had been abandoned. That admission pointed to a compromise. The hon. Gentleman also told the House that an interview had been arranged between the young Swazi King and the Boer generals. He did not know where the interview took place, but believed it was outside the borders of Swaziland. They were told that, at that interview, General Joubert appointed the young King as Paramount Chief of Swaziland, and that then the young King went back to his country, and matters remained in statuquo. The Undersecretary had said it was assumed that the Swazis peacefully accepted the Boer Administration. Why? Because Mr. Crowe, a Boer gentleman, who had been a member of the triumvirate who had looked after the affairs of the whites in Swaziland for the past, three years, still remained in Swaziland. He should like to know whether Mr. Crowe, or any other Boer, had any right of administration over Swaziland. He would like to know if the Swazis had admitted the Boer right to administer Swaziland, and if there was any evidence of it. He sincerely trusted the Swazis still practically preserved their independence, but he would ask the hon. Gentleman whether the Government had any evidence that the Boers had a practical administration over Swaziland at the present, or that the Swazis had gone back from the solemn declarations of the Swazi Queens and King, and the whole of the Chiefs, not to accept, Boer domination. Had Mr. Crowe any practical power in Swaziland, and, if so, how did he propose to enforce it; and would Her Majesty's Government in any case permit an armed Boer military invasion and occupation of Swaziland, if the Swazis persisted in their resistance? These were matters on which, he thought, the House was entitled to some information.

*MR. H. O. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)

said, they really wanted information as to what has happened in Swaziland. The Under Secretary had persistently, and no doubt from the best, motives, withheld the information from the House of Commons. But surely there must come a limit to the period when no information could be given, and when there must be circumstances which could be communicated to the House of Commons. Unless they could get information from the British Government, they would get no information of an authentic character, for they knew that efforts were made to pollute the supply and the source of news in the Transvaal. The news which had reached this country from the Transvaal was misleading, and unless they received some assistance from the Government, they were left unjustifiably in the dark. The Under Secretary seemed to approach this matter from the standpoint of giving the Boers security of tenure in Swaziland, and to think they had got a right to dominate the South African people. He regarded it entirely from a different point of view. He had no sympathy whatever with the Boer intervention in Swaziland. During the last three years the Boer Government had been deliberately legislating against our country and our countrymen. They had been passing Act after Act specifically directed against our people, and instead of desiring to give them one inch of territory or one farthing of money, he would withhold from them everything, under all circumstances, until they behaved to this country with that courtesy and friendship they were entitled to demand from a friendly State. The Boer law, to which he called attention the other day, as to the possession of English silver money was a deliberate insult to this country. It was said that it was not enforced. He could very well believe that if an attempt were made to enforce it, it would precipitate the catastrophe which some people believed to be pending, and the long-suffering Englishmen in the Transvaal would make very short work of those who attempted to enforce it. They were told the other day that the access to the franchise in the Transvaal was similar to that of the United States and other great civilised countries. That was promptly contradicted, for indeed there was no similarity whatever. In the last three years effort after effort had been made, not secretly but openly, against their countrymen to contract the franchise in order to maintain the Boer dominion over them. The House had been misled. Up to the last moment they were denied access to information in regard to one of the most painful incidents in the history of this South African question—namely, what actually took place when Sir Evelyn Wood's declaration was made. It was said over and over again that a declaration was made guaranteeing the Swazis their independence. They were told, however, that that was an error. It was said that the contracting parties were the British Government on the one side and the Boers on the other; and that what was done between them did not affect the Swazis, and had not been communicated to them, save in the way of mere information. But at last the Blue Book was published, and the first thing that appeared on the face of the despatch was, that Her Majesty's Representative went to the Swazis, and in a way that they could and did understand, stated that their independence was guaranteed to them. He defied the Under Secretary to convince any Member of the House that an expression of that kind could, under any circumstances, have any other meaning than the plain meaning on the face of it. It might have been expedient for reasons of policy to disavow that declaration; it was apparently considered very important that it should not become known, for it was not until the eleventh hour that it was published. These seemed to be strong reasons why the House should sympathise with what was certainly the weaker party in this matter. He had never expected to hear a Member of the House claim as a matter of indulgence the fact that he had been the representative of an alien and a hostile power.


That claim was never made. The statement is absolutely inaccurate.


said, the hon. Member who had just interrupted him stated that it was true that he had been a representative of the Boer Government, and he was not ashamed of the fact, because he said it was a poor country, and it was at war with this country at the time.


said, he had a dozen times explained his position as Consul General for several years of the South African Republic. The facts were these. He was Secretary of the Transvaal Independence Committee when the war began. After the independence of the Transvaal was secured by the Treaty of 1881, he was Consul General for several years. It was an honorary office, because there was very little work to do, and it was a very poor country. When gold was discovered, there was a good deal of commercial work, and three or four years ago he asked the Boer Government to appoint a paid official. They did so, and a paid official had been here as Consul General for three or four years. When he acted as Secretary of the Independence Committee, the father of the present Secretary for Scotland and some 60 Members of Parliament were members of that Committee. He occupied that position during the war; and for several years afterwards he continued the work in the capacity of Consul Geueral. At the time of the war the Transvaal was a British Colony, so that it could have no representative here.


doubted whether the statement just made would alter the opinion held on the subject by any Member of the House. He could remember only too well the reports which reached this country of how our two field guns were whitend by the bullets of those whose independence the hon. Member was endeavouring to secure, and how our soldiers were shot down by men whom the hon. Member, a subject of the Queen, was doing his best to assist. He believed the hon. Member was the only man in the House who could fail to feel sympathy with the Swazis in this matter, or who could have the least desire, unless it was proved to be a political necessity of the highest importance, that the Transvaal should succeed in dominating Swaziland. We had had fair warning. It was reported, and could hardly be denied, that the President of the Transvaal had declared that if he did not get all he wanted from us, the Suzerainty of the Transvaal, he would appeal to the German Emperor. The House ought to be informed whether such a declaration was made. But whether it was made or not those who were in correspondence with the Transvaal knew that there was a very strong feeling that that course was open to the Boer, and that it was made much more easy by the action of the Government. He wished the Under Secretary to be more frank, and to tell the House clearly what was going on in the Transvaal; and especially whether the Government was, in any event, going to use force, to allow any of Her Majesty's subjects to use force in order to compel the Swazi people to submit to the worst white Government in the whole of Africa.

*DR. MACGREGOR (Inverness-shire)

said, he also wished to make a protest against the handing over of this brave but defenceless people to the rapacity of the Boers. He considered it nothing short of a disgrace that this country, which pretended to champion the freedom and liberty of oppressed nationalities in every part of the world, should betray and desert these people who trusted us in their hour of need. He called upon the Government to say that they would keep a sharp eye on this transaction, and see that the Swazis are not unduly oppressed.


said, he would not enter on the question of the relations of the Swazis to the Boers. He had come to the conclusion that, between the British authorities and the Boers, the unfortunate Swazis would be made short work of sooner or later. He desired to make a brief reply to the statements made last night by the hon. Member for West Belfast in reference to the appointment of Sir Hercules Robinson as High Commissioner of the Cape. Sir Hercules Robinson, in a letter in to-day's Times, had made a complete answer to the hon. Member's charge—that he was unable to fulfil the position of High Commissioner because he had financial connections in the Colony. The real ground of the hon. Gentleman's attack, however, was, that Sir Hercules Robinson had shown by his past career, not only at the Cape but in other portions of the Empire, that he was anxious to conduct the affairs of any Colony with which he might be connected in unison with the feeling of the people there. The Member for West Belfast said that the appointment was not in the interests of the Empire, but the fact was the appointment was almost unanimously approved of by the colonists, English and Dutch. He thought the hon. Member for West Belfast, who professed to speak in the name of Irishmen, might have left it to someone else to make an attack on Sir Hercules Robinson, who was a distinguished Irishman. Colonists looked with great interest and attention to the character and antecedents and actions of those sent out to govern them, and how could the colonists be expected to receive with general consideration a Governor who was attacked before he sailed by a Member of that House holding the position held by the Member for West Birmingham? The Member for West Belfast might perhaps be excused, for it was well known that somehow or other he was always haunted with the idea since he came into that House that he was the one man living whose duty it was to look after the British Empire in every part of the world. The hon. Member admitted that he had never been to the Cape and he knew nothing of those distant regions of which he spoke so glibly. He could assure the hon. Member for West Belfast that the interests of the colonies, if not of the Empire at large, got on tolerably well before he came into that House.


said, with regard to the points raised by the hon. Gentleman opposite as to the appointment of Sir Hercules Robinson, they had discussed it last night at considerable length, and he would only add that, as regarded the remarks of the Member for West Belfast as to Sir Hercules Robinson's financial operations in South Africa, he had given, in addition to the letter in The Times that morning, a categorical denial of the insinuations and accusations of the hon. Member. That denial was given in a personal interview that morning. With regard to the question of Swaziland, he did not want to go into its history. Therefore he passed by the question of the independence of Swaziland, which had recently been discussed on more than one occasion. He also declined to go into the question of the action of the Transvaal Government with regard to British subjects. He had always thought that some of the laws of the South African Republic were very inexpedient indeed. The position of the Government was this—that unless exceptional and adverse treatment had been shown to British subjects they were not entitled to interfere, nor would it be expedient. With regard to the foreign relations of the Transvaal and the speech of President Kruger, he was not sorry to have that opportunity of referring to the matter, and, as he had said before with regard to that speech, it was perfectly immaterial to the British Government what President Kruger may or may not have said on the occasion. The telegraphic summary was not exactly ii accordance with what he did say. They adhered, as previous Governments had adhered, to the clause of the London Convention of 1884, in which it was asserted that the South African Republic in its foreign relations was within the sphere of British influence, and would not be allowed to make any new treaty or arrangement with any foreign State except subject to the consent of Her Majesty's Government. This Government would take care always to control the foreign relations of the Transvaal.

SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

Did you communicate that statement formally to the Transvaal Government?


said, they had not done so. It was not for them to do so unless the question arose, whether the Transvaal had committed any breach of the convention. Of course the Transvaal Government knew what was said in Parliament with regard to them, and they had received warning, if warning were required, in the most emphatic terms. Finally, he was asked for information as to the present position in Swaziland, which he should deal with without touching the history of the matter. He did not understand what the hon. Member meant by the reference to the organic proclamation. The position was this:—It was created under the Convention of 1893. It was a document which it was open to the Swazis to sign or not. They had declined to sign, and the proclammation disappeared of its own accord. The administration of Swaziland came under the fresh Convention of 1894, with the distinct reservation of tribal independence which he had more than once pointed out. Then with regard to the action of the Transvaal Government as to the mobilisation of the forces on the borders when their Commissioners were going in to meet the Chiefs, they were justified in doing so. The question was whether there might not have been a rising, as there was a considerable amount of distrust at the time. The Transvaal Government would not be justified in sending an armed force into Swaziland when the Commission was sitting. He was thankful the Swazis had not been led away by ill advised counsellors, but had come to the conclusion that they would be able to meet the Boers in a peaceful way. The information of the Government was that they had come to a meeting in a peaceful way, and that the administration of Swaziland was practically now in the hands of the Boers under peaceful conditions and with the assent of the Swazis. He hoped that position would be maintained, because whatever opinions hon. Members might hold, they could not wish that there should be actual fighting between the Boers and the Swazis. That could only have one result, and it was for the interests of all parties that there should be no hostile movement. He hoped the Swazis would be ready to submit to the administration of the law with the reservations the Government had made for them and to the guarantees which the Government fully intended to carry out. This was a logical conclusion to the action taken for many years past in regard to the three countries (Swaziland, the Transvaal, and England), and it had come to this that Swaziland would now practically be administered by the Boers, but they had reserved for the Swazis all the rights that they had not parted with.


Is there any official statement or evidence to show that the Swazis have admitted, or put themselves under, the actual administration of the Boers?

[There was no answer.]