§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.]
§ [FOURTH NIGHT.]
Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed (13th February) to Question (11th February), ''That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament:
We take this first opportunity of expressing to Your Majesty our deep concern at the sad affliction with which Your Majesty has been visited in the death of His Royal Highness Prince Henry Maurice of Battenberg:
We desire to assure Your Majesty and Her Royal Highness Princess Henry of Battenberg of our sincere participation in the general feeling of sorrow for the heavy bereavement which Your Majesty and Your Majesty's Family have sustained by the loss of a Prince who was regarded with universal affection and esteem by Your Majesty's subjects."—(Mr. George Goschen.)
And which Amendment was, at the end of the Question, to add the words,—
And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that no investigation, into recent events in South Africa will be complete unless it extends to the financial and political action of the Chartered Company of South Africa since Your Majesty granted to certain persons the Royal Charter under which the Company is incorporated."— (Mr. Labouchere.)
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS (Notts,) Rushcliffe
said, no one could listen to the speech of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and especially the concluding words of it, without a sense of grave responsibility of the duty of reserve, and at the same time the necessity of suspending one's judgment in matters which must form the subject of judicial proceedings and of searching Parliamentary investigation. With regard to Dr. Jameson's raid, although the Secretary of State to 362 a certain extent explained the reason why Sir H. Robinson was unable to give him more information, he certainly did not explain why Mr. Newton was unable to supply such information to Sir H. Robinson. Why was Mr. Newton absent for nearly a fortnight previous to the incursion?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to answer his question at once, as it affects the character of a public official. Mr. Newton was absent under perfectly justifiable circumstances in order to arrange for the transfer of the British Bechuanaland police. He came back to Mafeking on the day on which the force started, and he then became aware for the first time of the intention of the persons there. He could not telegraph to Sir H. Robinson because the telegraph office was not open, but he at once warned the officers who were present of the nature of their conduct, telling them it amounted to piracy, and he brought whatever influence he could to bear both upon them and their subordinates, but without success.
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS
regarded the explanation as most satisfactory. Passing, therefore, from that point, he was a little unable to understand the statement of the Secretary of State when he said that the proceedings at, Johannesburg and the incursion were "events totally separated," because in Dispatch No. 25, Sir H. Robinson informed the right hon. Gentleman that "he had seen a copy letter to Jameson, dated December 28, from Messrs. Leonard and others, asking him to come to their aid," and there was corroboration of this in other of the Dispatches. With regard to the Dispatch from the Secretary of State of February 4, he must express a little surprise that the right hon. Gentleman, with the knowledge in his mind that the Uitlanders did not wish our interference, should have put forward with such detail in paragraphs 44, 45 and 46, a scheme of "Home Rule for the Rand," seeing that it was not likely to meet with acceptance by those for whose benefit it was elaborated. In this whole matter it was essential that we should put our own house in order. The Secretary for the Colonies had described in an official Dispatch, Dr. 363 Jameson's incursion as "an act of filibustering," and, therefore, he would not dwell further upon it beyond making the remark that every assistance should be given to the tribunal before which Dr. Jameson was to be tried. But the second point on which he wished most to dwell was the future government of these territories. He always listened to the right hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) with great respect, but he was rather surprised by some of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks on the previous evening. There was no man in the House more entitled than the right hon. Gentleman to speak about South African affairs, because in his Parliamentary youth the right hon. Gentleman had taken part in some curious proceedings on the South African Bill of 1877. In fact, he was not sure whether the credit, which was generally given to Mr. Parnell, for having originated the tactics of Parliamentary obstruction, ought not to be given really to the right hon. Member for Bodmin. And that was an interesting point in view of the position which the right hon. Gentleman had since occupied. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that this matter of the Chartered Company ought not to be judged from the mere incident of the Jameson raid. There was need of some principle on which to found action, and the principle which he applied was that there ought to be no mixing of commercial objects and political duties. That was the rock on which the, existing arrangement had gone to pieces. Commercial objects were praiseworthy or blameworthy according to the manner in which they were pursued and attained. Mr. Rhodes left England rather suddenly, no doubt; but no one would object to his going back to Rhodesia in order to take up his residence there, and to bring prosperity to the country. But to endeavour, by any Royal Charter, or by any ordinances founded upon it, to mix up the political and the commercial could only lead to disaster. The two elements called forth different motives and methods of action. Both the right hon. Member for Bodmin and the Colonial Secretary, though they had spoken in the highest terms of Sir Hercules Robinson, stated that they objected to his appointment when it was proposed because he had been financially 364 interested in some of these companies. But he went further. These relations between Mr. Rhodes and Sir Henry Loch, and, later, between Mr. Rhodes and Sir Hercules Robinson, had been most anomalous, because they varied with the geographical location of those persons. In the Debates on the India Bills of 1858, hon. Members would find most fruitful information on this question of the combination of the political and the commercial. The history of the East India Company would show that, first, it was a mere trading company, their political element predominated; then the commercial, then the political again; until in 1858 the position had become intolerable. The right hon. Member for Bodmin had quoted the career of Sir Bartle Frere as an example of what could happen under the administration of an Imperial Commissioner. But that was 20 years ago, and such a Government was impossible at the present moment. The development of communication by steam and telegraph had entirely altered the conditions. The presumption must then always be against these chartered companies. But he wished to speak with great reserve; and he would not say that he had come to an unalterable resolution on this question. If it were shown that South Africa must be an exception to the general rule, he should not refuse his assent to an arrangement including a Chartered Company. But he was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should lay it down that there must be a Chartered Company, because that was to prejudge the question. The, most important matter, at this moment, however, was the Inquiry; and he wished to acknowledge the promptness with which the Colonial Secretary, in response to the appeal of Mr. Hofmeyr, gave an assurance that there should be a full Inquiry. That assurance had since been repeated in the Queen's Speech by the First Lord, and Secretary for the Colonies, and their declarations taken together left nothing to be desired. But it was absolutely essential that the Inquiry should be Parliamentary. The Journals of the House were strewn with resolutions setting up Committees for the purpose of such Inquiries. As to the object of the Inquiry, what the 365 Colonial Secretary said on the previous evening would be accepted, namely, that it was into a system, rather than persons. From the very nature of the case, the element of Party strife was excluded. The speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Arnold-Forster) itself demonstrated that fact. In this country there had happily been a tendency, for some years, towards a continuity of policy in Foreign Affairs, and he hoped the same tendency would grow up in Colonial affairs. What took place on the India Bill of 1858 was, on a great scale, a complete precedent for the present case, where a much smaller matter was concerned. A Bill introduced by one Government at that time was withdrawn; and the next Government introduced another Bill. This again was withdrawn, and the House passed a series of six Resolutions on which a third Bill was drafted. It was that measure which now formed the great Charter of the people of India. In conclusion, he hoped and expected that with the help of the trial of Dr. Jameson, and a searching Parliamentary Inquiry, the clouds which now seemed to surround the matter might be dissipated, and by the help of the House at large, such a new arrangement be secured as would give to those vast territories a good system of good administration with all the blessings that implied.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I trespassed at such length the other day upon the attention of the House upon questions relating to South Africa, that I should not have interposed to-day were it not that new matter of the greatest possible moment, in my judgment at least, has arisen within the last 24 hours. The first point to which I wish to call attention is the conflict between the statement of the Prime Minister and the speech which is reported in to-day's paper by the Foreign Minister of the German Empire. The other day, when I referred to the speech which Lord Salisbury addressed to the Nonconfomists, the Leader of the House objected to the reference. He said they were things not to be introduced in Debate in the House, and that I was advertising Lord Salisbury. That was a remarkable view, to be taken by the Leader of the House of the position of Lord Salisbury in 366 Europe. [Opposition laughter.] I should have thought it did not need a statement from me to advertise the authority of Lord Salisbury in relation to important public events. Lord Salisbury is of sufficient importance, to attract attention to his own utterances, and anything Lord Salisbury said I should have supposed was certain to be read throughout Europe and to be known in South Africa. The statement made by Lord Salisbury on that occasion—I hope I shall not be again charged with advertising Lord Salisbury, or with calling the attention of the German Government or the Government of the Transvaal to the statement— was this:—It is now admitted that the Transvaal people applied to Foreign Powers for support.That was a most material statement, which must have had the effect of prejudicing the English people against President Kruger. Indeed, it had done so. ["Hear, hear!"] Of course that statement was mixed up with the, Irish question. "This matter," said Lord Salisbury, "throws a lurid light on what might have happened in Ireland if Ireland had Home "Rule." Therefore what President Kruger had done was what those wicked Irishmen would do if they had Home Rule.Ireland," continued Lord Salisbury, "would pursue her own internal and external Government in her own sweet way, and directly anybody in this country presumed to interfere there would be communication with friendly Powers elsewhere—I do not say what Powers.That, I presume, was intended for exportation to the United States. But the main point is Lord Salisbury's statement:—It is now admitted that the Transvaal people applied to Foreign Powers for support.What is the foundation for that statement? I know nothing except the report which came on the 31st of December from the British Agent in the South African Republic, that he had been told on what he, considered good authority, that, in view of an armed force entering the Transvaal, President, Kruger had asked for the intervention of Germany and France, and that the Consuls of those countries had cabled the request to their respective Governments. A 367 rumour of that kind was most likely to have arisen at the moment. If it was true that the British Government, through their armed forces, were invading the Transvaal, nobody could be astonished that the Government of the Transvaal should seek for assistance wherever it could be found. What other authority is there for Lord Salisbury's statement? Speaking a month after this report, when he had ample time to inquire into its truth he says, "It is now admitted." By whom is it admitted? There were only two parties who could have admitted it. One was the Government of Germany, and the other was the Government of the Transvaal. But what is the statement reported to-day as made by the Foreign Minister of the German Empire? He says:—The assertion that President Kruger called for an intervention is an error. I know nothing of such a step.Here then, is a statement made by the Foreign Minister of the German Empire directly contradicting a statement made by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of England, upon, perhaps, the most material matter in this whole controversy. Lord Salisbury did not say "I heard a rumour which I believe to be true." He said, "it is admitted." Lord Salisbury could not know the fact. The German Minister did know. In my opinion the statement of Lord Salisbury, was a most rash and reckless statement. It was a statement greatly calculated to exasperate the present situation; and if it is not well founded, as the German Minister says it is not, what are we to say of the Minister who made himself responsible for it? [Opposition cheers.] The First Lord of the Treasury says that I have advertised Lord Salisbury's statements. Well, I find an advertisement of a different kind to-day in one of the organs of the Government—the Standard newspaper. They say:—We also understand that President Kruger has complained of the language of Lord Salisbury's speech at the Nonconformist banquet.[Opposition cheers.] What are these complaints, and upon what points of the speech are they founded? This is a matter which cannot be left where it is. 368 [Opposition cheers.] We want to know whether the statement of Lord Salisbury or the statement of the Foreign Minister of Germany is well founded, because this matter affects the whole of our relations with South Africa and our relations with Germany; and I venture to say that any man who contributes to the cultivation of ill-feeling between the British nation and the German Empire is no friend of this country. [Opposition cheers.] I have been extremely sorry to see a great deal of rash and foolish language employed in various quarters in relation to Germany—language which is calculated to breed bad blood, not only in Africa, but in Germany; and I say that it is not in this way that we can arrive at that state of peace which we all desire, [Opposition cheers.] I now pass to the question of the Inquiry which is the subject of the Motion before the House. I agree very much with what the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary has said upon this matter. He clearly pointed out that an Inquiry into the conduct and policy of the Chartered Company is a matter which is quite distinct from the criminal charge against Dr. Jameson. Dr. Jameson may have acted upon his own responsibility or he may have not. But as regards the Company there are two things which have to be inquired into. One, which is the more limited subject, is the responsibility of the Chartered Company for Dr. Jameson's conduct. It may be that the Chartered Company had nothing whatever to do with Dr. Jameson's conduct; it may be that they were its prime instigators. That is a proper question for examination; and it, will have to be examined more fully than would be possible at the trial of Dr. Jameson. But there is a much larger question, and that is the conduct of this particular Chartered Company and of chartered companies in general. The right hon. Gentleman hinted at the possibility of the investigation being a judicial inquiry. If it were merely a trial of the relations of the Chartered Company to this particular act, it, is possible that such an inquiry would be sufficient. But what we have to consider is the much larger questions that have arisen, and as to these a judicial inquiry would be totally out of the question. It is a matter of high policy—of the highest possible policy—and such a 369 question cannot be tried by any Court but the High Court of Parliament. [Opposition cheers.] The relation of this country to companies which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, are not able or are not willing to control their agents is one that must be decided by this House, because we are responsible to the nation for the conduct of such companies. The right hon. Gentleman has declared his approval of the system of chartered companies; I reserve my own opinion, for I think there is a great deal to be said on both sides; but everybody is agreed that the conditions of the Mouth Africa Company's Charter must be changed; indeed, the right hon. Gentleman has changed them himself; and, therefore, the conditions under which chartered companies are to be governed in the future obviously form a question to be inquired into by Parliament. Our predecessors took that view. In the great controversy of the end of last century with reference to the East India Company, when the party of Fox on one side and the party of Pitt on the other took different views as to our dealings with the East India Company, everybody was agreed that Parliament should decide what was to be the relation of the Empire to the East India Company. There were most powerful Committees appointed, and the great reports by Dundas and others remain as monumental records on the journals of this House, and upon them was founded the system of that Board of Control which was created for the express purpose of restraining the action of the Chartered Company in Hindustan. Since that time there have been a great many Indian Committees; the matter has been gone into over and over again; and we should entirely fail in the duty imposed upon us, in the situation in which we find ourselves, if we did not claim and insist upon the right of Parliament to decide a great Imperial question. I must say a word upon the question of the position of the South Africa Company. The right hon. Gentleman said last night that what happened at Mafeking and Johannesburg were totally separate things as affecting the South Africa Company. I do not agree in that. It may be—I do not pronounce upon it at the present moment—it may be it was the South Africa Company 370 that was the promoter of what happened at both places. The right hon. Gentleman made a remarkable statement. He said that, in his opinion and in that of the Colonial Office, if it had not been for the action of Dr. Jameson there never would have been a rising in Johannesburg at all. Ah! But who were the promoters of that rising? How were the arms provided? That is a subject for inquiry, and the two things are bound together. Were those who were manœuvring an armed insurrection at Johannesburg acting in concert with those who were promoting a concentration of force at Mafeking? That being an open question I cannot treat these as being two separate affairs. Did the relations of the two parties correspond with those of Lord Chatham and Sir Richard Strahan, when:—Lord Chatham, with his sword drawn,Stood waiting for Sir Richard Strahan;Sir Richard, longing to be at 'em,Stood waiting for the Earl of Chatham?That is a question which must be inquired into, for it has a direct bearing upon the knowledge of those who ought to have known, if they did not know, what was going on at Mafeking. The right hon. Gentleman said last night there was nothing in the concentration of forces at Mafeking which could have excited any suspicion. The right hon. Gentleman said it was natural enough that a certain number of police should have been drawn from Bechuanaland. But the others, where did they come from? We have seen in the papers a number of letters written by the unfortunate rank and file, in which they tell us that they came from Buluwayo; the greater part of the police force came from that quarter. These poor, misguided young policemen write to their parents and friends and say: "We are told we are in for a big fight, we do not know where." The right hon. Gentleman said last night that a concentration took place before. Yes, but under whose authority? Under the authority of the High Commissioner; that is a very different thing. One of the provisions of the, Charter was that nothing should be done without the authority of the High Commissioner. Then we were told it was natural enough that these forces should be 371 brought together for the protection of the railway. We are told that 500 armed men——
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman cannot have followed what I said. I explained that, roughly speaking, we can account for 500 men. Of these, 200, or rather, 198 came from Buluwayo, with the avowed object of watching the railway. That was no unusual or improper thing. When the telegraph was laid a considerable body of troops was brought down for the same purpose, and they were found to be insufficient. Therefore, what was more natural than that a rather larger force should be brought down on this occasion for the purpose? That accounts for 200 men. Then there were 125 men from the "Bechuanaland police, making 325, and that leaves 175 for whom I am unable to account. I cannot say whether they came from Bechuanaland or not, but I am inclined to think that many of the gentlemen whose letters have appeared in the papers were enlisted either in Cape Town or in this country.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I do not intend to pursue this matter. Although I confess having taken great interest in the works going on in South Africa, and, knowing the facility with which you can work the telegraphs which Mr. Rhodes has erected over hundreds and thousands of miles of that country to its great advantage, I do not see that it requires 500 men and Maxim guns to protect the making of a railway. I doubt whether the making of railways in South Africa has been previously protected by Maxim guns. The material question to my mind is not so much what Dr. Jameson did, as under whose authority he did it. I do not ask why Dr. Jameson advanced at the particular moment he did, but whether he had authority, and whether it was known that he was to advance, at an opportune moment when it arrived, to aid an armed insurrection at Johannesburg. That is the serious question. There is one thing in the matter which I think of supreme importance. There was an invitation sent to Dr. Jameson to advance, signed by a certain, number of persons in Johannesburg. That letter was dated, apparently, from the copy of it found on the battlefield, on December 20, ten days before 372 Dr. Jameson advanced. Did the authorities of the South Africa Company know of that letter? Apparently that letter was in the possession of Dr. Jameson for ten days before he started. What is the truth—did the authorities of the Company, with that force collecting at Mafeking, know or not know that that letter had been addressed to him? That letter was published in London ["Hear, hear!"], in The Times newspaper on January 1st. That letter was postdated so as to make it appear that it was written on the 28th December, the day before the advance began, and the names by which it was signed were erased from the copy which was published. These facts make it most material to ask—Did not Dr. Jameson show that letter to anyone connected with the South Africa Company and, if so, what were the instructions he received upon it? That, to my mind, is one of the first subjects of inquiry we have to make in this matter. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman has passed a well-deserved eulogium upon the members of the permanent Civil Service of the Crown. No man who has had the honour of holding office in the Government will fail to acknowledge the justice of that testimony. I have had occasion myself to give it, and I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman only did just credit to the intelligence and capacity of Mr. Fairfield, who conjectured much of what was likely to happen, and suggested communication with the authorities of the South Africa Company. It is unfortunate that, although the dates are given of the receipt of telegrams, the dates at which they were dispatched are not given, and I gather it was not for twenty-four hours, or something like it, after the receipt by Sir H. Robinson of the telegram from the Colonial Secretary, which was on the Sunday, I think, and it was not till the Monday, that any effective action was taken. Passing from this I should like to ask a very serious question—What is to be the intermediate position of the company before this Inquiry is concluded? It is impossible in the present state of circumstances long to put off or protract that Inquiry. The condition of things in South Africa, the relations between the Transvaal and the South Africa Company, are too critical to be allowed to remain in abeyance for many weeks. Some 373 conclusion must be arrived at in this matter as soon as we can. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the situation of Mr. Rhodes. I desire, by the leave of the House, to say something about Mr. Rhodes, and I hope in what I am going to say the hon. Member for Belfast will not think I am under the influences he justly condemned, or affected by "the trail of the serpent" to which he referred. But I have for sometime known Mr. Rhodes. I think most people know I am not at all in agreement with the views of Mr. Rhodes or the objects at which he aims But happily, in the case of Mr. Rhodes, as in the case of many others with whose opinions I do not coincide, I have the honour of his personal acquaintance, and I desire to say, and think I ought to say, this of Mr. Rhodes. The right hon. Gentleman drew a touching picture of the difference of the position in which Mr. Rhodes returns to South Africa from that which he had previously occupied. If that picture be true his experience reminds me of that of Phaeton, who with unequal hands endeavoured to guide the chariot of the sun. At all events, we ought to do justice to Mr. Rhodes; and this, at least, I may say, that whatever errors he may have committed—and we are not yet in a position to judge of them—knowing Mr. Rhodes as I do, I am certain that though he may have been actuated by what the poet has called "the last infirmity of noble minds," he has not been actuated by any mean or sordid motives or by greed of gain. But that, is not inconsistent with the fact—if it is a fact—of which it is premature to judge, that he may have made grave errors which will have momentous results. But I believe that if Mr. Rhodes has committed these errors he is entirely willing to accept the responsibility of his actions, and he is not a man who is disposed to shield himself at the expense of others. ["Hear, hear!"] The question of the position of Mr. Rhodes in South Africa is a very difficult one. In my opinion it must depend to a great degree upon what the feelings of the great majority of the people there are upon this subject. The right hon. Gentleman has said the Dutch population are the majority in South Africa, and so they are. We have to deal with the Dutch population at the Cape; we have to deal with and consider 374 the population of the Orange Free State and of the Transvaal. Well, Sir, I do not pretend to say—nor have I the means of judging in this matter—how far it is possible to leave, for any considerable time, the management of the South Africa Company in the hands of those who unquestionably are regarded as a hostile element by the Government of the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, and possibly by the Dutch population of the Cape. These are difficult matters, which I am quite content to leave in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman for his serious consideration. The last matter to which I think it is necessary to refer is the correspondence between the right hon. Gentleman and President Kruger published this morning, and which has come to a very unexpected termination, and one I am sure the right hon. Gentleman and everyone else will regret.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Let me use a shorter and more Saxon word—I will call it a hitch. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman in his Dispatch spoke of the South African Republic as "a free and independent Government as regards all its internal affairs not touched by the Convention." That is an accurate description of the position of the Government of the South African Republic. Unfortunately, it appears that President Kruger has not been pleased—I use that phrase—by the publication of this Dispatch. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman very frankly—he has dealt with this subject with frankness and ability throughout—expressed his doubts as to the, success of what he called "an attempt to diplomatise by new methods" and apparently he is not consoled by the praise of the hon. Member for Lynn Regis.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The support of the hon. Member for Lynn Regis is a broken reed on which I would not advise the right hon. Gentleman to rely. We owe so much to the right hon. Gentleman for his conduct in this whole matter, that I should be the last to desire in any hostile spirit to criticise his action, though in this particular 375 he may have made a mistake. To the first part of the Dispatch—the historical part—nobody, I think, can take exception. But the last part does not seem to have been agreeable to President Kruger, with its catalogue of grievances set out and the presentation to him of the particular plan which he was recommended to adopt. Well, it is human nature not to like to have your plans made for you by other people, and it will be observed that a free and independent Government would be placed by that allocution in a false position. President Kruger has a public to deal with as well as British Ministers, and he has to face those Conservative burghers who, the right hon. Gentleman tells us, caused so much mischief by opposing reform. Of course, it is extremely difficult for President Kruger to say, "Here is a new Constitution sent over from England," and of course those who were the cause of these grievances not having been redressed may possibly not like those grievances catalogued and placed before them in their naked deformity. All these are matters which may have roused and ruffled their feelings for the moment. I will say nothing of the plan of reform, though the right hon. Gentleman went a little into it last night. He said it was "gas and water Home Rule." But it was, I think, a good deal more than that; because, first, it had independent taxation; then tribute, police, education, and exclusion from the general legislature and the Presidential election. That is a little more than gas and water. I do not desire minutely to criticise these points, because the right hon. Gentleman—I am not very much surprised, seeing the atmosphere in which he lives—withdraws the plan, to which he attaches no importance, so it may be considered as out of the way. It is said frankly that it was merely offered in a friendly spirit, as a piece of advice to the independent Government of the Transvaal. I am glad to see in the papers to-day that it is said that the letter of President Kruger was written for home consumption. So was the Dispatch. [Laughter.] Half the mischief in the world is done by these documents—whether Dispatches or leading articles—which are written for home consumption. What has happened in this case goes to the root of the whole 376 matter, and if we want to solve it we must keep it in view. The truth is, these people in the Transvaal want to settle their own affairs among themselves, and, as is reported, though the right hon. Gentleman has intervened, and with the best possible intentions, in favour of the Uitlanders of Johannesburg, they, as we understand, do not want us to interfere at all. ["Hear, hear!"] I understand the feeling of these people is that, in regard to their own internal affairs, they want to be left alone. They do not want England or Germany, or anybody else, to interfere in this matter, and our interference will not really improve matters at all. If I might I will give an illustration of what I mean. I suppose it has happened to a good many Gentlemen I have the honour to address, to think that they might be of use to their friends in reconciling domestic differences. [Laughter.] That is a delicate operation. You have no right to intervene when husband and wife do not agree or when children may be giving trouble. Still, in a friendly spirit, you do tender your advice. But, then, what you do is not to present a catalogue of the wrong-doings of each side. [Laughter.] You do not draw up a plan for the future government of the establishment [renewed laughter]; and, above all, you do not invite the public to come in to hear the advice that you give and the plan that you propose. ["Hear, hear!"] You keep those as quiet as you can until you find that the parties are willing to listen to what you have got to say, then you may hope to have some success. I think that is the only manner in which you can deal with this matter. You have no right to dictate what shall be done. I said the other night I thought it was most proper that this Government should use its legitimate influence in favour of reforms in Johannesburg. But I also endeavoured to describe what I considered to be legitimate influence, and though, when I saw this Dispatch, some of my friends said, "Don't you think it is rather indiscreet to have published it?" I said, Not at all, for it is inconceivable that, before publication, the Colonial Secretary should not have ascertained that it would be acceptable to President Kruger. I am quite sure that in everything the right hon. Gentleman 377 has said there was not the smallest intent to deal otherwise than in the most courteous and delicate, way with President Kruger in this matter. ["Hear, hear!"] I am quite sure, when it is known that that is the feeling of the Government and everybody else, all the misunderstandings that have arisen upon this matter will be removed, and that President Kruger will come here and be received as he ought to be received, and the, conference to which we look forward will still take place, perhaps under different conditions and on a different plan. That seems to be the way out of this difficulty. With reference to the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend, I understand from him that there is no issue to be taken with the Government on this matter. They are entirely in favour of the Inquiry which has been asked for, and the character of the Inquiry and the time it shall take place may be discussed in the future. ["Hear, hear!'']
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
, who was received with Ministerial cheers:—I do not mean to trespass long upon the attention of the House, but it is necessary that I should make some observations with regard to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He has made some points with regard to the conduct of the Government generally, and some of the Ministers composing that Government in particular, which call for notice at once. It is hardly necessary to inform the House that the one topic which cannot be kept out of the Debate on this Address, whatever the Amendment before the House, is the topic of Lord Salisbury's speech. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman has got up in great agitation to know what degree of evidence Lord Salisbury may have had for his statement at the Nonconformist meeting that an appeal had been made to Germany on behalf of the Transvaal Government.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Lord Salisbury had two broad facts before him which I think were sufficient. There had been no contradiction at that time of the newspaper report. What were the facts on which Lord Salisbury, and others cognisant of 378 what took place, relied? There was, in the first place, the positive assurance of our Agent General in the Transvaal, put in language which admits of only one construction—that an appeal had been; made to Germany and France. The words are these:—Most urgent. I have just been informed un unquestionable authority that, in view of an armed force entering the Transvaal, the President of the South African Republic has asked for the intervention of Germany and France.The right hon. Gentleman is sufficiently well acquainted with diplomatic usage to know that when an agent of a Government telegraphs to that Government in language as strong as that, his words carry conviction which, of course, they would not carry if the agent merely reported what he believed to be a rumour, even although it appeared to be well established. It is impossible that words could be more precise or more conclusive as far as they go than the words I have quoted; and when, in addition to that, it became a notorious fact that the German. Government had proposed to land marines at Delagoa Bay, it appears to me there was a chain of evidence which may well have justified the Foreign Minister in making the assertion he did. I have no information whatever with regard to the newspaper extract to which the right hon. Gentleman has called our attention; but if he will give me notice of any question on the subject, I shall be glad to make the necessary inquiries. The right hon. Gentleman asked me one further question, and that is in connection with the complaint which, it is reported, President Kruger made with regard to that same speech. I understand the point of President Kruger's objection to be that he thought that Lord Salisbury, in making a comparison between the Transvaal and Ireland, was implying a view of our relations to the Transvaal which militated against the position which they take up that they are absolutely independent so far ass their own internal affairs are concerned. Sir, Lord Salisbury, I need hardly say, was not attempting to dispute that, subject to the Treaty of 1884, the Transvaal are absolutely independent so far as their internal administration is concerned. That treaty does give certain rights, which I need not dwell upon at 379 length, even with regard to the internal affairs of the Transvaal; therefore, I suppose, it would not be strictly accurate to say that the Transvaal are an absolutely independent State. But Lord Salisbury certainly did not mean to suggest that it was his wish or intention to upset in any way the arrangement come to in 1884, or to interfere with the action of the Transvaal Government, or that the Transvaal had anything to fear from the action of the British Government in that respect. What Lord Salisbury desired, as I understand, to point out, was that a connection such as that between the Transvaal and this country, by which the Transvaal is guaranteed for the most part perfect independence as regards internal affairs, does not make the country thus connected with the Empire an additional strength to the Empire; and he pointed out that if Ireland were connected with us by precisely similar ties to those which bind the Transvaal to us, we could not look upon Ireland as adding more strength to the Empire than at the present moment the Transvaal does. I do not know that either the Transvaal or Ireland has anything to complain of in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman, having reluctantly left the topic of the Prime Minister [laughter], went on to make certain observations in connection with the kind of Inquiry which it was proposed to set up into the action of the Chartered Company. It is hardly necessary for me, I think, to add anything to what my right hon. Friend said upon that subject last night. The Government have not made up their minds, and they do not think it advisable to make up their minds, as to what form that Inquiry shall take until they see the outcome of the trials in this country and in Pretoria. The right hon. Gentleman appears to suppose that on the trial of Dr. Jameson in London—and I imagine he would extend the argument to the trials in Pretoria—nothing would come up except the guilt or innocence of the prisoners who are brought to trial. That, I fancy, is not quite an accurate view of the case. You cannot have a trial in vacuo. It is impossible that Dr. Jameson's guilt or innocence should be discussed in a Court without collateral circumstances coming out on oath on the examination of 380 witnesses which will greatly enlighten the public on these still obscure transactions, and give valuable guidance to the Government in advising the House as to what course they ought to pursue in dealing with them. The right hon. Gentleman has apparently committed himself beforehand to the policy of dealing with the Chartered Company by an extensive Parliamentary Inquiry, and he bases that conclusion upon the historical precedent of Mr. Fox's India Bill of 1782. Well, I do not know that there are precedents that I should care to fall back upon in defending a Parliamentary Inquiry, for notoriously there never has been in the whole history of I our stormy Parliamentary battles any question brought up in which Party considerations were more brought into play, or in which Party feeling exhibited itself in a more violent form. I admit that is not a conclusive reason against a Parliamentary Inquiry, and it may be that, when we see the results of the criminal prosecutions in London and Pretoria, we shall find that no tribunal with less elastic powers than those which a Parliamentary Committee possess would be adequate to surveying the field of operations in which the Chartered Company have been engaged. If we should ultimately decide that a Parliamentary Inquiry would be the, right one, I do not think the Chartered Company would have any reason to complain. They themselves believe, rightly or wrongly, that they have deserved well of this country by the action they have taken in South Africa. They think that the policy they have pursued shows both their energy and public spirit, and if their protestations are to be believed, as I think they are, they should be the last to object to the inquiry which my right hon. Friend has suggested. The right hon. Gentleman went on to re-express doubts as to the ignorance, of the officials of the Company as to the preparations which had been made on the frontier, and of the ultimate purpose to which Dr. Jameson put them. On that point I have really nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend said. It cannot be denied, I think, that the mere fact of the presence in South Africa, of interest in the affairs of South Africa, of knowledge of the movements in South Africa was not of itself sufficient to arouse suspicion. 381 Whether the officials of the Company knew or did not know, it seems to be quite certain that neither the High Commissioner nor President Kruger knew; and if these two officials, on whose honour no suspicion lies, remained in ignorance of the preparations, it is impossible to say à priori that any other man ought to have known. However, we shall doubtless have fuller information on this point when the inquiries, criminal and otherwise, about to be instituted have reached their termination. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to discuss the relations of this country with the Transvaal, and said it was impossible that these relations could remain unchanged, even in the weeks that must elapse before the conclusion of the legal and Parliamentary Inquiry. We have not allowed weeks or even days to elapse before making the only change which really seems called for until the Inquiry takes place. We have no information before us which leads us to believe it in any way necessary to do more than we have already done—namely, to take away from the Chartered Company every possibility of offence against the Transvaal or any other Powers which lie along its borders. I do not know that the right hon. Gentleman himself suggested any further steps, If these steps are sufficient they have already been taken, and the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends may be satisfied not only with the course of our policy, but the promptitude with which we put that policy into force. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman went on to criticise my Friend's action in making public the Dispatch—the great Dispatch—which surveys the past and present condition of South Africa. I think my right hon. Friend has received somewhat hard treatment. All parties are full of congratulations to my right hon. Friend for having communicated to the public not only all the information he received, but every step he took connected with South African policy. [Cheers.] That may be or may not be a method of procedure applicable to all cases and to all offices. At all events, it has been a method and policy which has received the largest measure of approval on all sides of the House. Therefore, it is rather hard to say: "So far you should have gone, but no further. Everything else you should have told 382 us; why on earth did you tell us this?" You may pursue one line or the other, but I do not think it is possible to do what the right hon. Gentleman suggests—feed the public appetite, not only from week to week and from day to day, and almost from hour to hour, with this luxurious fare, and then suddenly say to the newspapers and others accustomed to it, "We are now going to put you on starvation allowance as to what the Government policy is." [Laughter and cheers.] I do not gather that the right hon. Gentleman himself thinks that my right hon. Friend had any other course open to him than that which he took. Not only did he suggest that my right hon. Friend was in error in making public the Dispatch, but he indicated that any intervention at all on the part of my right hon. Friend in the mutual relation between the British-born population of the Rand and the Boer Government was inexpedient and unfortunate. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: "No."] Well, I thought he was drawing a parallel between my right hon. Friend and that benevolent but mistaken proceeding which induces rash friends to interfere between husband and wife in their domestic relations. [Laughter.]
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I did not say that was mistaken either. [Laughter.] I think that, under certain conditions, it is very useful, only you ought not to admit the public. [Laughter.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The right hon. Gentleman has, no doubt, some experience—[laughter]—and it may be possible to interpose between husband and wife without letting the public in; but when you are dealing with great populations I am afraid that that happy secrecy can hardly be maintained, however careful you are not to publish at too early date the Dispatches you may write. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman seems to suppose that our intervention is resented not merely by the Boer Government, but by the population of the goldfields. I think he relies upon some information which reached him some months ago, before the recent troubles. I do not blame him for falling into that mistake, but I can assure him that the action of my right hon. Friend in doing his best to introduce what is called the Imperial factor into this 383 controversy is now not only approved by the English subjects in the Transvaal, but by the English and the Dutch populations in other parts of South Africa. ["Hear, hear!"] The particular plan which he has proposed, and which he expressed his willingness last night to modify as circumstances might dictate, is in my judgment a plan, or the outline of a plan, which must be adopted if the Boer population really wish to carry on a Boer Government for an indefinite period. ["Hear, hear!"] Perhaps this is not an argument which may commend itself to them, but remember that it was in their interest that the proposal was made. If the English population is to go on increasing at the present rate—and there is no ground for supposing it will not do so—it becomes manifest to everyone, by the mere process of calculation, that the time must come when the Boer population—though the form of Republican government may be retained—will no longer and can no longer have the uncontrolled government of the country as they have at the present time. [Cheers.] If that consummation is to be averted, it seems to me it can only be averted by some such plan as that which my right hon. Friend has suggested. Of course, if the Boers prefer seeing themselves gradually absorbed in a community speaking another language and having another origin, there is no more to be said; but if they wish to retain that species of pastoral independence for which they have made so many sacrifices, I think they will find it passes the wit of man to discover any method of carrying out that policy excepting one which does not fundamentally differ from the suggestion of my right hon. Friend. However, that is a question more for them to consider than anyone else. Provided they do what is universally admitted to be elementary justice to that immense population now within their borders, and for whose good government they are responsible, it is not for us to take objection, although it may be quite obvious to every observer, however careless, that the ultimate result of the absorption of the English-speaking population into their general system of Government must end in that system of Government being profoundly modified, and eventually entirely falling out of Boer hands. I really hope 384 that President Kruger will take advantage of the invitation which has been sent to him to come to this country, and if he does I am convinced that some method may well be found by which these difficult and delicate problems may be solved in a manner satisfactory to the Dutch population of the Cape, to the English population of our great colonies in that part of the world, and to the English subjects who are now living on the Rand. That this happy consummation may be attained I am sure is the desire of every Gentleman in this House, and the general tone of this Debate, as well as the general observations which have come from friendly critics of the Government on the other side, lead me to believe that, whatever difficulties may be in our way, those difficulties will at all events not be of a Parliamentary origin. [Cheers.]
§ MR. W. ALLEN (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
said, he had no personal feelings against the Chartered Company. The Conventions of 1881 and 1884 between this country and the South African Republic contained a stipulation that the Government of the latter should not enter into any treaty with any Foreign Power unless with the consent of the British Government, and he was glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies, that the principle laid down by that clause would be adhered to. By another stipulation in those Conventions it was agreed that no Englishman who immigrated into the Transvaal should be subjected to taxation which was not imposed upon the Boer population. It was clear that the principle of that stipulation had been broken by the Government of the Republic, who had imposed additional taxation upon those parts of the Transvaal which were exclusively inhabited by the Uitlanders, and who were denied any share in the Government of the country. What was the way in which the Volksraad had dealt with the franchise, since 1881? At that time a year's residence was a sufficient qualification for the franchise, but since then the residence required had been raised first to five and then to ten years, and even then the qualification was dependent upon the vote of the Volksraad. It was impossible for that law to be changed until twelve mouths notice had been given, 385 and until the proposed change was agreed to by a two-thirds majority of the Volksraad. The result was that the Uitlanders were practically excluded from all share in the Government of the country, although they paid fifteen-twentieths of the taxation, and owned nineteen-twentieths of its wealth. This was an injustice which he trusted the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies would do his best to induce President Kruger to remedy. In his view, however, the Chartered Company were not the proper persons to bring pressure to bear upon the Transvaal Government in this matter, seeing that they themselves had rendered it impossible for any persons entering their territories to obtain a share in the Government of the country, although they raised a considerable amount of taxation from the immigrants. The hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone (Sir Horace B. Townsend-Farquhar), who had spoken last night, had given two reasons why that House should support the Chartered Company. The first reason was that the Company had built railways in their territories. But the fact was that those railways were built with monies derived not from the Company, but from the outside public. Then he said that the Company had done a great deal in the way of civilising South Africa. He, however, scarcely thought that the acts of the Company in that part of Africa could properly be described as calculated to civilise the district. What a great number of hon. Members asked for was that there should be a very full and searching Inquiry into the action of the Company, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies had very fairly met that demand by promising that after the trial of Dr. Jameson a very full Inquiry into the action of the Company should be made. It was clear from the papers that had been published in the Blue-book yesterday that the Company were unable to control their own officers in South Africa, and that was a strong reason why Parliament should reconsider the conditions under which their charter was granted do them. It was true that the directors of the Company had exonerated themselves personally from having any previous knowledge of Dr. Jameson's raid, and had absolutely repudiated any responsible 386 for his action. That exoneration, however, did not extend to Mr. Rhodes. What they desired to ascertain was whether Mr. Rhodes had any previous knowledge of Dr. Jameson's intention to start for Johannesburg under any circumstances. This point ought to be cleared up, and until this was done Mr. Rhodes should be suspended from his position of managing director of the Company in South Africa. Dr. Jameson himself had said that in making the raid he was merely fulfilling his promise to enter the Transvaal on the petition of the principal inhabitants of the Rand. In that case to whom was the promise given—was it given to Mr. Rhodes? It was known that Mr. Rhodes was in communication with Dr. Jameson until a short time before the latter started upon his raid, and from the papers that appeared in the Blue-book it might be inferred that Mr. Rhodes was cognisant of Dr. Jameson's intention to start upon his raid before the raid was actually made. The action of the Company in their territories had benefited neither shareholders nor Uitlauders—on the contrary it had injured the position of the latter to a considerable extent, while it was likely to have involved this country in the most deplorable consequences. In these circumstances he trusted that the Government would insist upon the fullest inquiry into all the details, not only of Dr. Jameson's raid, but also of the administration by the Company of their territories.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, that it was important in connection with the action of Germany in relation to the Transvaal that they should recall the fact disclosed by the German White Book, as reported by the newspapers, that, on the morning of December 30, the German Consul at Pretoria telegraphed to the German Government that he had taken measures to secure the lives and property of the German inhabitants of that town, and that subsequently, in the afternoon of that same day, he had telegraphed for permission to order German troops to be landed from the German ships which were lying in Delagoa Bay. That was a very remarkable thing. The obvious inference was that what had occurred between those two telegrams was a formal or informal request by President Kruger to the German Consul 387 for German assistance. It must be remembered that President Kruger did not know exactly what would occur, and he should think it extremely likely that he asked the German Consul for assistance, and that accordingly 50 marines were ordered to be sent from Delagoa Bay. In addition to a Jameson's ride they very nearly had a Wilhelm's ride [Laughter] and Jameson's 500 moss troopers, as the Leader of the Opposition called them, narrowly escaped meeting 50 horse marines. He advocated open diplomacy, but he did not regard the portion of the Dispatch which had attracted President Kruger's ire as diplomacy at all; diplomacy dealt with definite issues in regard to questions which were under consideration. The Dispatch, however, first set forth that the Transvaal had been and was considered, as regards its internal affairs, entirely independent by Her Majesty's Government; and then, travelling into those very affairs, the Secretary for the Colonies proceeded to make detailed suggestions for a highly elaborate Constitution. While giving his entire support to the open diplomacy of the right hon. Gentleman, he thought that this was to import an unnecessary Constitution into the Dispatch. He observed, however, that the Dispatch stated that "Her Majesty's Government have, carefully considered the question." Therefore, no doubt what had occurred was this. The right hon. Gentleman, having dealt with the utmost promptitude, courage, and correctness with the incidents of Jameson's ride, then went to the Cabinet, and the Cabinet, having considered the matter, imposed upon him this particular recommendation to the Boer Government of a Constitution. This was what made the matter very much more important, that it was the deliberate suggestion of Her Majesty's Government which had had so unfortunate a result. He hoped the Cabinet would again leave the right hon. Gentleman to himself, that he might resume that masterly handling of the matters in hand and that open diplomacy which had been attended with so much success in the earlier stages of the affair. He was surprised to find a continued hesitation with regard to the Inquiry on the part of the First Lord of the Treasury, who had told them again that this must 388 depend upon a number of circumstances, and in fact had rather seemed to convey the impression that it was not certain that this Inquiry would take place at all. It would be most unfortunate for Her Majesty's Government, and for this country, if the idea got abroad that the Government intended to let the matter drag along and to draw a cloak over it until people had got tired of it and no longer wanted an Inquiry. It should be remembered that the Chartered Company was practically a part of any Administration which held power in this country, and that the Secretary of State had complete control over its doings. Moreover, there was a prima, facie case against the Chartered Company, and the first thing that the Secretary for the Colonies did was to point out that fact and to say that he would probably be met with a demand for the revocation of the Company's Charter, That Inquiry had become more necessary day by day; it was rendered more necessary when Mr. Rhodes left this country, for the Secretary for the Colonies in one of his utterances had almost conveyed that he had left under a cloud. The suspicion that Mr. Rhodes was more or less responsible for Jameson's action rendered the Inquiry still more necessary. More important still was the most ineffectual and unsatisfactory defence of the Chartered Company, made by one of its Directors on the previous night; and all these accumulated circumstances rendered the Inquiry absolutely indispensable. Moreover, an Inquiry had been distinctly promised in the Queen's Speech. It was set forth that there was an incursion into the Transvaal, a collision, and an intervention; and they were told that the origin and circumstances of this affair would form the subject of a searching Inquiry. That was an undertaking on the part of Her Majesty's Government to inquire, not merely into the incursion into the Transvaal itself, but into the origin of that incursion, with the attendant circumstances. As to the kind of Inquiry, the hon. Member for Northampton said it should be a Committee of that House; the hon. Member would probably be a member of that Committee, and would, he had no doubt, enjoy himself very much in going into the whole of the Stock Exchange transactions of 389 the Company, and in all probability he would gain many triumphs over those who did not agree with him. But he thought they had heard too much of the Stock-jobbing element in this matter already, which did not concern the House. They were concerned to make good the reputation of the country. He thought that, inasmuch as all these circumstances took place in South Africa, it was absolutely essential that the Inquiry should be made (as was suggested by Mr. Hofmeyr on page 24 of the Blue-book) by persons able to go to South Africa, and this a Select Committee of the House would not be able to do. He suggested, therefore, that the Inquiry should be made by a Royal Commission, such as that which had considered the Opium Question.
§ MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Cardiff)
thought the House should have further information as to the correspondence between our Foreign Office and that of Germany in reference to this matter. They did not know at present what had taken place between the English Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Foreign Ambassador of Germany. The Leader of the Opposition had gone over a good deal of the old ground, but his speech was more like that of a prosecuting counsel than of a Statesman; and he might say the same with reference to many of the speeches that had been delivered on the other side of the House. The House had the distinct assurance of the Colonial Secretary that a full Inquiry would be held into the whole existence and proceedings of the Chartered Company as soon as any charges were formulated against it. This was not the time to discuss the particular kind of inquiry. It was premature, to do so until the House knew what charges could be brought against the Company. He did not propose to say anything about Dr. Jameson's raid, but he heard with regret his right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin say that when he heard of the defeat of Dr. Jameson his heart was so stirred within him that he could hardly prevent himself from going out into the streets of Cairo and singing the song of Deborah or the psalm of Cromwell's soldiers as they advanced against the enemy at Dunbar. He did not think that feeling was general in the country. The feeling of the 390 British public was, he believed, one of humiliation at the blow which had been struck at British influence in South Africa, a feeling which only found relief in an outburst of righteous indignation when it was known that an attempt at intervention had been made by a Foreign Power. With regard to the position of the Chartered Company, he thought that the hon. Member for Northampton had adopted a very unworthy tone in his attacks on the directors. He did not think they need trouble themselves with Stock Exchange transactions. The hon. Member for Northampton knew a great, deal about financial matters in the City and gambling on the Stock Exchange, and he must be familiar with the fact that there were many people who would make enormous sums of money out of the wreck of the Company. That was a fact which the hon. Member kept from the notice of the House. The Colonial Secretary had made an excellent defence the previous night of the use of chartered companies as instruments of Government in outlying territories of the Empire. It was quite possible that a very good case might be made out for the continuance of the Company in the possession of its full powers, and if he might express a doubt as to the policy the right hon. Gentleman had pursued with regard to the Company, he would ask him how he could possibly expect, if he took away all control of the police and military forces from Mr. Rhodes and entrusted it to officers acting under the High Commissioner, who in turn was responsible to Downing Street, such a plan could succeed? The right hon. Gentleman had said that territory of this kind could not be governed from Downing Street. In that he agreed What would be the state of things? Here was Mr. Rhodes going out as administrator of a territory five or six times as large as the United Kingdom, and he was not to have under his control a single policeman or soldier. An Imperial officer was to be appointed, and if a disturbance broke out Mr. Rhodes would be obliged to write to the Imperial officer, who would have to refer the matter to the High Commissioner, who in his turn would have to apply to Downing Street; and the disturbance would go on while the sanction of the Imperial Government for the employment 391 of force was being obtained. He hoped the Colonial Secretary would give his consideration to those serious practical difficulties. He now came to the case of the Uitlanders, which had assumed such an important and startling change during the last two or three days. If he might find fault with the Colonial Secretary, he would say that he seemed to him sometimes to have too intense a belief in his own powers of persuasion. That seemed to him to have led the right hon. Gentleman into sending the invitation to President Kruger to come to this country and talk matters over. The Leader of the Opposition asked the Colonial Secretary in a tone of banter whether he intended to have another round-table conference. If that was the right hon. Gentleman's intention, he ventured to think he would find President Kruger a tougher customer than the Leader of the Opposition. He thought too much had been made of President Kruger's moderation. He could see a good deal of diplomatic wisdom and statecraft in the President's proceedings, but he had never been able to make out where the moderation came in. He had shown himself more than a match for our generals in the field and for our Statesmen in the Council Chamber; yet his right hon. Friend thought that if he could get him over here he would be able to settle matters with him. He thought the Colonial Secretary had done himself injustice by allowing the Dispatches to be published in a fragmentary way. He had supposed that the Dispatch of February 4 was the first step the right hon. Gentleman had taken to redress the grievances of the Uitlanders, and he was agreeably surprised to find from the Blue-book that that was not the case; for on January 7 the right hon. Gentleman telegraphed to Sir Hercules Robinson to the effect that he might usefully go to Pretoria with a view to a reasonable settlement of the grievances. That was the distinctive tone of the right hon. Gentleman's policy from the first. On January 4 he sent a similar Dispatch to Sir Hercules Robinson, which was the germ of the Dispatch of February 4, but the curious thing was that Sir Hercules Robinson absolutely refused to act upon the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman. Time after time he said that the time was not ripe for him to raise such a question. On 392 January 13 the Colonial Secretary actually addressed to Sir Hercules Robinson two most pressing telegrams, in which he urged him in the strongest terms to go to Pretoria and communicate with President Kruger, and see that the grievances were redressed. What was the reply? Sir Hercules Robinson said:—I could, if you consider it desirable, communicate purport (of your telegram) to President of South African Republic by letter, but I myself think such action would be inopportune at this moment. Nearly all leading Johannesburg men are now in gaol, charged with treason against the State.There was another telegram from Sir Hercules Robinson, in which he said:—If you will leave the matter in my hands I will resume advocacy of Uitlanders' claims at the first moment that I think it ran be done with advantage. The present moment is most inopportune, as the strongest feeling of irritation and indignation against the Uitlanders exists both amongst the burghers and Members of Volksraad of both Republics, Any attempt to dictate in regard to the internal affairs of South African Republic at this moment would be resisted by all parties in South Africa, and would do great harm.When Sir Hercules Robinson was at Pretoria, he communicated to the Colonial Secretary the fact he learned in the first week of January, that President Kruger intended to raise a demand for the alteration of the 4th Clause of the Treaty of 1884, which gave us control over the external affairs of the Transvaal Republic. Although he knew that, and although he was aware of the desire of the Home Government that redress should be obtained for the undoubted grievances of the Uitlanders, Sir Hercules Robinson communicated to the leaders of the reform movement at Johannesburg the ultimatum of President Kruger, calling upon them to lay down their arms unconditionally, or rather upon the condition that Dr. Jameson's life would be saved. He maintained that if Sir Hercules Robinson had advised the leaders to make a strong demand that they should have elementary rights conceded to them, and to all Uitlanders in the Transvaal, he would have been acting properly as a representative of the Imperial Government. Instead of that he said, "Lay down your arms at once, or else the city will be bombarded, and your women and children will be slaughtered," and so forth. By taking that course Sir Hercules Robinson threw 393 away the only opportunity he had of urging the claims of the men upon the Government at Pretoria; he not only disarmed them, but he disarmed himself; he, placed the whole population there entirely at the mercy of President Kruger, and made him complete master of the situation. That policy was entirely in antagonism with the policy which had been urged upon him by the Colonial Secretary. Then, finally, the Colonial Secretary put his case most fully in the long Dispatch of last week. He acted against the advice given him by Sir Hercules Robinson, who begged the right hon. Gentleman not to interfere in the internal affairs at the present moment. The right hon. Gentleman look a much higher view of the duty imposed upon him as an Imperial Statesman, and he wrote his Dispatch. He had a plan of his own for the future government of the country. Perhaps it might have been injudicious for him to take that line. The right hon. Gentleman had very great confidence in his own decisions, and was generally very fearless in stating them. In that Dispatch he said: Now I present you with a completely new constitutional outfit, made in Brummagem after the latest and most approved Home Rule fashion, and if you will only put on this nice livery and come over to England and have a chat with me, we shall all live happily and comfortably afterwards. They did not catch an old bird like President Kruger with chaff like that. President Kruger had refused the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman. ["No."] Well, his reply was equivalent to a refusal. He would be sorry if the President were to come here, because he would only make certain conditions beforehand, and those conditions would be drafted in Berlin. The great aim of President Kruger was to establish a really Free State out there, and he had gone a great way towards securing the object of his ambition. For the last ten years he had been the bitterest and most determined enemy of British interests in South Africa. He had constantly intrigued with foreign Governments against us, and whether it be true or not that he asked for German, intervention the other day, it was certain the Germans look the line that they would be fully justified in interfering if we attempted to do so on the other side. President 394 Kruger's agent was still in Berlin. If he intended to act fairly towards this country, would he not have recalled that agent long ago! Look what a danger this State might become to the peace of the whole of South Africa. Here it was thrust like a wedge, into the very heart of our own territory, and what was President Kruger doing there now? He was making the Transvaal a great entrenched camp, he was ordering out batteries of artillery from Europe, he was confiscating the arms of every man who might possibly rise against him, he was constructing new forts in the country, and he was engaging German mercenaries as military police. Was it not right, under these circumstances, we should take a very serious view of the condition of things in the Transvaal? What was the next step the Government were going to take now that their friendly overtures had been treated in this contemptuous fashion by President Kruger? The truth was the House of Commons did not realise the immense change that had taken place in the state of affairs both in Africa and in Asia, owing to the completion of the Suez Canal. Before the opening of that Canal we were supreme in all these countries. He could remember the time when no flag but the English was seen in the Indian Ocean, when we were actually the lords paramount, if not in title, at least in fact, over nearly the whole of South Africa from Zanzibar to the Cape. Was that so at the present moment? How many rebuffs had our diplomacy received from the Germans in West, South -West, and East Africa, and now again in the Transvaal. Now we saw the political consequences which Lord Palmerston so shrewdly foresaw on the opening of the Suez Canal, which had brought all the European nations into those waters and continents which were formerly looked upon as our own preserves. It was a great mistake to suppose that our trade in the East grew up owing to the want of competition; it grew up after centuries of hard fighting with one rival after another. It was only at the beginning of this century that we obtained the supremacy which we had retained through the whole of the century. Now the rivalry of other European nations was beginning afresh, and, depend upon it, this was not the time when we could afford to treat as of very little consequence 395 what went on in the Transvaal. We ought to take a far more comprehensive view of what was going on there; we ought to take the view which had been taken by men who were the keenest to preserve the English supremacy in that part of the world. The words which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin used last night in disparagement of Sir Bartle Frere were much to be regretted. Of all the public men he had ever known there was no more high-souled or disinterested patient than Sir Bartle Frere. It was his statesmanlike foresight that conceived the idea of a great British South Africa extending from the Cape right up to the Zambesi. He failed through the ignorance and stupidity of Party politicians at home. Mr. Rhodes went far in the way of success with that idea, and now the completion of the task was left to the competent hand of that Imperial-minded Statesman, the Secretary for the Colonies. He hoped and believed the right hon. Gentleman would prove himself worthy of that task, that he would see it was not by the use of gentle advice alone that we could preserve British supremacy in that part of the world, and that he would take care the Transvaal was not made a nursery that, could be used by continental Powers to destroy our interests in Africa.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)
said, most Members on his side of the House would agree it was desirable to maintain the supremacy of British interests in South Africa. Such allusions as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff had just made to President Kruger were to be deprecated as unlikely to promote that supremacy. He, at any rate, desired to dissociate himself from those expressions, especially at a time when an invitation had been extended to President Kruger to come here for the object of giving rights to Englishmen who had settled in the Transvaal. But it was not so much to contest this point that he rose. He desired to dwell upon two or three facts which he thought had not been sufficiently accentuated in the course of the Debate. Some weeks before the raid into the Transvaal took place the shares in the mining companies of South Africa fell to an extraordinary extent. That fact alone ought to have caused some suspicion in the minds of the Colonial Office, ought to 396 have caused them to endeavour to find some reason to justify what was commonly called a slump. There was a second incident which justified the statement that the Government ought to have been aware of what was going on. The Boer troops were in readiness to intercept Dr. Jameson and his troops. A third significant circumstance had been vouched for by the editor of a magazine, viz., that the Boers subsidised the German Press to raise a feeling in favour of intervention by Germany and of hostility towards England. There was the further fact that letters were written by individuals who were employed in the raid. Mr. G. P. Parker, of Oxford, received a letter, dated November 16, from his son. In the letter it was stated that the men left Buluwayo on October 12, all the town turning out to give them a farewell shout and a safe return from their patrol. Young Parker went on to say they had not the slightest idea against whom they were going to fight, but he thought it was the Transvaal. Information had been received in this country by letter from Buluwayo that bodies of 80 men were leaving that place every two days, and that at the end of November or beginning of December armed men were assembling at Mafeking and being regularly drilled. The arrangements for the raid by Dr. Jameson were not made in a corner, and if the Imperial Government were not aware of the whole of the facts it was due to their own officials in South Africa not communicating the information to them. Therefore he held that indirectly the Colonial Office was responsible for the ignorance at headquarters, which made it possible for the raid of Dr. Jameson to take place. He admitted that a full and strict Inquiry into the circumstances was necessary, and that it should be made as soon as possible, though he did not, think the appointment of a Royal Commission—often made a means of shelving questions—was the best course to adopt to secure it.
§ MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)
, said, that during the last few months his presence in South Africa had afforded him many opportunites of judging the events that had recently taken place there. The first observation he desired to make on the matter before the House was that he could state from personal 397 knowledge that the greatest admiration had been expressed in South Africa al the masterly and statesmanlike conduct of affairs in relation to the Transvaal by the present Colonial Secretary. (Cheers.] In all the towns and centres of populalation through which he passed on his way home, though the information at hand on many aspects of the difficulty was then very meagre, the feeling of all classes of the people was one of complete satisfaction with the promptitude, the vigour, and the firmness which the right hon. Gentleman had displayed in dealing with the difficulty that had arisen in the Transvaal. The facts of the raid by Dr. Jameson being, as it were, sub judice, he would not enter into details about it, but it might, at least, be said of the expedition that it had served one very useful purpose—namely, that it had brought, the legitimate grievances of the Uitlanders plainly before the world. For years the Uitlanders had endeavoured to secure their just demands from the Transvaal Government by all peaceful and constitutional means; but they had been flouted and insulted by that Government, and their claims treated with contumely. One fact was patent, that, whatever else might be said of Dr. Jameson's expedition, the daring and bravery which he and his little band displayed had been enthusiastically praised by Englishmen in all parts of the world. The grievances of the Uitlanders had been very ably and temperately stated in the document which appeared in the Blue-book just issued, and which was drawn up by Mr. Leonard, the Chairman of the National Union of Johannesburg. It had been assumed that that document was written and issued as a manifesto calling the people to arms, but he had the direct authority of Mr. Leonard for stating that it was issued with no such intention and could not bear any such construction, and that the purpose simply intended by it was, in anticipation of a meeting of the Uitlanders which had been postponed, to set forth their case fully before the public. Hon. Members generally could have no conception of the tyranny and corruption that prevailed with the existing Government of the Transvaal. Corruption was rampant and flagrant in high places, while all the ordinary rights and privileges of civilised 398 life were denied absolutely to the vast majority of the population—namely, the Uitlanders. In fact, national and municipal administration in the Transvaal was a scandal; and its evils fell almost wholly on those who composed the bulk of the nation and contributed most to its revenue. He differed from the view taken by the hon. Member for Cardiff of the action of Sir Hercules Robinson in advising the people of Johannesburg to disarm. The hon. Member seemed to cast some censure on the High Commissioner for that course of action; but he could say that the course pursued by Sir Hercules, and the manner in which he carried it out in circumstances of great delicacy and difficulty, and at times even of extreme danger, elicited the admiration and praise of the great mass of the people of South Africa. ["Hear, hear!"] He also differed from the hon. Member for Northampton in regard to the strictures he had applied to chartered companies in general, and to the South Africa Company in particular. A chartered company seemed in some way to be to the hon. Member what the red rag was proverbially said to be to the bull. [Laughter.] He condemned them wholly and in all circumstances. He was not concerned to enter into any defence of chartered companies generally, or of the South Africa Company in particular. He had not the least interest or concern in that company, but he might remind the House that it had done great civilising work in Matabeleland, Mashonaland, and elsewhere in South Africa—work which could not have been undertaken or carried out by the Imperial Government. The Chartered Company had brought territories which were previously in a state of barbarism into a condition, at any rate, approaching to civilisation. Having spent some time in Matabeleland and Mashonaland, he had formed the deliberate opinion that all that was now required to make those territories to a considerable extent commercially prosperous was the extension of the railway which Mr. Rhodes, it was understood, had gone to Africa to promote personally. The Chartered Company had established at Salisbury and Buluwayo the foundations of great towns, and they had prepared the way for the establishment of 399 a most valuable health resort at Umtali. Above all, the Chartered Company had served British interests by opening new fields for British capital and British labour and intelligence. He, for one, believed that it was good for uncivilised territories to come under the shelter of the British flag and under the control of Great Britain. He had heard with satisfaction the generous sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Opposition with reference to Mr. Cecil Rhodes. It was too much the fashion to use words of evil import, in innuendo rather than deliberate statement, when speaking of that right hon. Gentleman who in so short a time had achieved so much. Mr. Rhodes's career and reputation were known to the House and the country, and he needed no apologist. Nevertheless, he hailed with satisfaction the tribute paid in that House to Mr. Rhodes's high personal character and honourable motives by the Leader of the Opposition. He rejoiced to think that the great majority of that House would exonerate Mr. Rhodes, against whom such reckless charges had been made.
§ On the return of the SPEAKER after the usual interval,
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said that the position of affairs had changed since Tuesday last, the occasion on which he referred to this question. The reception of the Colonial Secretary's Dispatch of February 4th by President Kruger and his Government could not be described as of a friendly character. In his judgment, the Blue-book which was published on Wednesday gave a complete justification of the policy of the Colonial Secretary with regard to Uitlanders in the Transvaal. The clear language and firm tone of the Dispatch exceeded any expectations he had formed, and its tenour showed that the right hon. Gentleman was fully alive to the interest of defending the rights of British residents in the Transvaal. He wished to join in the tribute which had been paid to the great Englishman to whom we owed the possession of a large portion of the South African continent. It was well-known that but for the formation of the Chartered Company, and, above all, but for the genius and foresight of Mr. Cecil Rhodes, Cape Colony and our other possessions in South 400 Africa would have been completely surrounded and cut off from the centre and north of Africa by the territories of another Power. The hon. Member for Cardiff, whose speech was that of a Statesman and a man who had deeply studied and was fully cognisant of the real causes of movements in South Africa, was the first speaker who had dealt fully and completely with the position and action of President Kruger. It was absolutely necessary that the House and country should understand exactly the position and aims of the eminent and able man they had to deal with. President Kruger has for 15 years played with this country, and played successfully, the game of bluff. He had established a perfect terror over British Ministries for the past 15 years. It was believed in this country that he was not merely an autocratic President, but a man of broad and moderate views. As a matter of fact, President Kruger was not a liberal or broad-minded Statesman; he was simply a Boer patriot. That was what he was, neither more nor less. He had shown no sign of moderation. There was an idea prevalent that President Kruger was a liberal-minded man, who was perpetually hampered by the action of a reactionary Volksraad. What was the fact? Every item of legislation passed in the Volksraad for the past five years had been passed by President Kruger. He was absolute master of that Assembly. Every law was drafted under his eye, introduced by his Ministers; or agents, and passed by the Volksraad, in which 13 votes constituted a majority, and which he held in the hollow of his hand. And every single piece of legislation of the past five years had been legislation of a reactionary character. There had been two Bills restricting the franchise. The qualification used to be two years' residence, then it was made five years, and in 1894 a 14 years' franchise, with an oath of naturalisation which it was almost impossible for any self-respecting Uitlander to take; in addition to that, each individual vote was made subject to a special vote of the Volksraad. A law, too, was passed in 1894, under President Kruger's direction, forbidding any right of public meeting to the Uitlander population. The 1884 Convention had been violated, not only in the spirit, but in the letter, by the 401 Boer legislation of the last ten years, because in that Convention it was laid down that in matters of trade and commerce the Uitlanders should have the same rights as the Boers—a provision which had been flagrantly disregarded. The extra food charges fell heavily, not on the millionaires of the Rand, but on British non-Boer working men, who found the cost of their food and clothes enormously enhanced by the unjust and illegal impositions of the Boer Government. Monopolies had been given by the Boer Government which were most unjust to the whole industry of the Rand—persons intimately connected with the Government sharing largely in these monopolies. Englishmen had been refused the right of tendering for the construction of railways and for electric lighting schemes, which was distinctly illegal. Only to-day news had come that tenders for certain public works were announced, not in Dutch only, but in four European languages, English alone being omitted. All this showed the reactionary policy of the Boer Government. The moment, however, that President Kruger and his Government was satisfied that the power of this country would be exerted to obtain justice for the Uitlanders, that moment they would give way. Turning to another phase of the situation in South Africa, he must confess that in his opinion a perusal of the Blue Book did not lead to a high estimate of Sir H. Robinson's tenacity or judgment. The High Commissioner knew he had a strong Minister behind him, and was directly authorised to use "any argument and force" he desired, for the accomplishment of his purpose; yet, in face of that authorisation, he practically compelled or persuaded the people of Johannesburg into disarmament without obtaining the slightest guarantees for their personal safety, or for the granting of the reforms which he knew the Home Government insisted on. If Sir Hercules Robinson had acted up to his instructions, very good terms might have been obtained for the Uitlanders between January 6th and 9th. The Uitlanders were told by the High Commissioner that, in order to save Dr. Jameson they must disarm. They followed his wishes reluctantly, and were then abandoned, by Sir Hercules, 402 defenceless, to their enemies. If a satisfactory settlement were to be brought about and a state of tension and exasperation were not to be prolonged, Sir Hercules Robinson would have to take quite a different line in dealing with President Kruger. It was believed in this country that President Kruger had shown remarkable moderation in releasing Dr. Jameson's force. He did, indeed, show remarkable wisdom; for, if any violence in cold blood had been shown to those men, British South Africa would have been in a flame in a moment. [Ironical cheers and laughter.] There were in Rhodesia alone men quite capable of dealing with the Boers. Jameson's 500 men were defeated; but it was touch-and-go for a long time, and there never was a defeat which was so near to success. In exchange for these prisoners President Kruger immediately got 80 leading men of Johannesburg, some of them millionaires. These men had suffered greatly from the conditions of their confinement, and it was most unjust that they should be refused bail, especially when the Inquiry had been adjourned sine die. He had a letter which showed what the leaders whom President Kruger had imprisoned were suffering:—The five leaders are confined in one room about 12 feet square. The prison is filthy. They sleep on the floor. They have a yard about 12 feet square, where they take what little exercise they get, and where they have their meals. They are deprived of light at six o'clock, and they have suffered most fearfully from heat and vermin.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Perhaps it would be satisfactory if I were to state at once that, after having carefully considered all the circumstances of the case, I have felt myself justified in asking President Kruger to extend to the British prisoners the same consideration as he had already extended to an American citizen—Mr. Hammond. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
thought that that statement would give satisfaction. Much injustice had been done to the Uitlanders. They had been accused, owing to want of information, of deserting Dr. Jameson, and of cowardice. As a matter of fact, he did not believe that more than four people 403 out of the whole population of Johannesburg had the slightest knowledge that Dr. Jameson was going to start when he did. They were unprepared for the movement; they were not fully organised nor completely armed; and even at the last, when compelled by the High Commissioner to disarm, the one condition they made was that Dr. Jameson should be released. That should be remembered to their credit. Seeing that these gentlemen really did their best to prevent any active violence, and that not a single shot was fired during the whole of the movement, and seeing that it would be perfectly easy to exact from them any amount of bail, it must be admitted that the treatment at the hands of the Boers had not been humane or worthy of a civilised State. Several of the imprisoned men had been seriously ill. The Leader of the, Opposition had passed some criticisms on the Chartered Company, and he asked what was the cause of all this movement. The answer was that it had been the atrociously bad government of the Transvaal. It was intolerably bad, not only in the denial of elementary constitutional rights, but in those smaller points of administration which went far to constitute the happiness and liberty of a people. It was well known that the fount of justice throughout the Transvaal was most uncertain and very largely corrupt. The High Court, presided over by Judge Kotze, a man of high ability, had been the only bulwark of the rights of the Uitlanders for the last ten years. So much had the ruling clique felt this check on their injustice, that early last year a Bill was introduced into the Volksraad to place the High Court under the Executive. That measure was only defeated by the casting vote of the Chairman. Now there was a new press-law proposed, which would enable the Executive to exile or fine heavily any journalist in the Transvaal who offended the Government, And the proposed municipality of Johannesburg was most illusive; the franchise was limited to existing Boer voters, who were about 300 poor labourers in a population of 60,000, and to persons having property worth £200 who might be willing to take the offensive naturalisation oath. The right hon. Member for West Monmouth had deprecated the 404 use of offensive language about Germany. He quite agreed, and believed that the German Emperor's telegram was now as much regretted by its author as by anyone else. He could not blame the German Government for attempting in the past to get certain advantages in the Transvaal; but he did not forget the direct intrigue which had gone on between the Boer Government and foreign Powers. There was not the slightest doubt that Dr. Leyd, President Kruger's right hand man, and the ablest man probably in the Transvaal, was sent to Germany in the middle of last November to undertake and carry through, if possible, negotiations in order to obtain German support for the Transvaal. He made no charge against the German Government. He was glad to see that the German Government had practically repudiated the insinuation that there was any desire on their part to affect British rights in South Africa. But that did not remove the fact that the Boer Government had attempted negotiations with Germany which were intended to be hostile to our interests in the Transvaal. The Boer-German intrigue ought certainly to be inquired into as much as the Uitlander movement, or even as Jameson's invasion. These facts were known to the Uitlanders before they took the steps which they were forced to take, owing to the intolerable wrongs to which they were subjected. But it must not be forgotten that the meeting called by the National Union to formulate their political demands was a Constitutional meeting. The right hon. Gentleman, the Colonial Secretary, spoke of it as revolutionary.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
What I said was that there had been rumours which pointed to a revolution. But instead of that there was a manifesto of the leaders which pointed only to a resolution.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said he was sure the House would not do the injustice of attributing to the leaders of the Uitlanders the blame that might be attached to the rumours of a revolution, because they had stated from the first that their movement was peaceable and constitutional, and animated by that sentiment they called the meeting for December 27th. President Kruger at 405 once said that he would break up the peaceable and constitutional meeting by force of arms; and he made use of the famous simile about "cutting off the Tortoise's head." These were most alarming threats, and with the undoubted grievances under which the Uitlanders suffered went far to justify the call that had been made on Dr. Jameson. President Kruger invited the Uitlander leaders to visit him at Pretoria on December 31st, after he knew of Jameson's invasion. He promised them great concessions, and concluded an armistice. But soon as the Uitlanders disarmed, under the High Commissioner's influence, President Kruger dropped the concessions, and arrested 80 of the Uitlander leaders. Moreover, there was a good deal of evidence to show that the Boer Government expected Jameson's advance, and General Joubert was hastily recalled to the, Transvaal on December 24th, five days before Jameson started. The reason that led Dr. Jameson to move at the moment he did move were still absolutely in the dark. That movement had turned out to be the greatest injury to the men Dr. Jameson had intended to serve; it had thrown back their cause for several years; but it was impossible that Dr. Jameson could have moved for mere sordid or unworthy motives. He was a most honourable and single-minded man, perhaps the only man of prominence in the affairs of South Africa who had not taken advantage of his opportunities to enrich himself, and no one could imagine that he would be influenced by unworthy motives or by a sordid conspiracy. The statement that this was a conspiracy on the part of the Chartered Company to seize the Transvaal was absurd on the face of it. Such an attempt would be resisted not only by the whole power of the Transvaal and of the Orange Free State, but by most of the Uitlanders themselves. Before the recent events, Mr. Rhodes and the Chartered Company were not too popular with the Uitlanders of the Transvaal. The view commonly entertained by them was that their interests had been ignored in order that Mr. Rhodes might retain his Dutch majority at the Cape. The Dispatch of the Colonial Secretary, dated February 4th, and the Blue-book issued subsequently, showed that the right hon. Gentleman, 406 the Colonial Secretary, was thoroughly alive to the real and undoubted rights of this country in the Transvaal and in South Africa generally. It would be assuming that the right hon. Gentleman was unworthy of the confidence which a large portion of the House held in him, were the shadow of a suspicion to be entertained that he did not intend to translate into action the view and the policy which he had so clearly outlined in those documents. He was confident that if as firm a front was continued to be shown to the Boer Government, as had been shown to them so far by the right hon. Gentleman, coupled with a perfectly just consideration of the rights of that Government, and a determination to enforce British responsibilities in South Africa, the crisis would soon be brought to an end. Then the whole of the population of the Transvaal would begin to enjoy that prosperity and progress which, owing to the badness of the Boer Government in the past, had hitherto been denied to a large portion of its inhabitants.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I stated that I had only moved the Amendment for the purposes of Debate, and I ask leave now to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words,—And we humbly represent to your Majesty that the time has come when the cases of all prisoners convicted under the Treason Felony Act who are, and have been for many years, undergoing punishment for offences arising out insurrectionary movements connected with Ireland, may be advantageously reconsidered.He said that the facts connected with the subject of the Amendment were so generally known to the House that he did not think that it would be necessary for him to occupy its attention at any great length. It would be in the recollection of the House that when Parliament assembled after the General Election last August a similar Amendment was moved to the Address, and that the present Home Secretary, in tones of courtesy and conciliation, asked 407 that he should get proper time to consider the subject. They, therefore, availed themselves of that early opportunity of bringing forward again this important question—important because to a great extent it affected the peace of Ireland, and the happy relation which it ought to be the ambition of Ministers to establish between the people of Great Britain and the people of Ireland. There were circumstances connected with the cases of the prisoners referred to in the Amendment, apart from the justice of their claim for a termination of the periods of imprisonment which they were suffering that demanded special attention. There were also, in regard to some of them, circumstances of failing health, which Home Secretaries were always accustomed, in the cases of such men, to take into consideration. The claim for the release of these prisoners was based on the circumstances of their conviction, and on the fact that the punishment they had received was ample for any purpose of good government and of social order. From the tone adopted by some hostile speakers, it might be inferred that this was a question of enormous magnitude, upon which the fate of the Empire depended. But there wore only nine or ten prisoners, some of them broken down by disease and others at the last stage of infirmity. One man, who appeared to have been the dupe of others, was now 70 years of age. According to the Home Secretary, the cases of prisoners came up for reconsideration at stated intervals, and it was probable the cases of these men would soon be dealt with. Their immediate release was now pleaded for as a concession, to natural feeling, and as a means of assisting a movement which endeavoured to turn the eyes of Irishmen to the redress of their grievances by constitutional means. In the course of ordinary revision these prisoners would probably be released in about two years, and the remission of that residue of their term would remove a cause of irritation which the Home Secretary admitted to exist in Ireland and also in America. To release the prisoners might be an act of magnanimity, but, at all events, it would be one of clemency and wise statesmanship. President Kruger was credited with magnanimity for giving up the raiders; and what an object-lesson was 408 furnished by him, releasing invaders, when the State was threatened, to the British Government keeping in prison these nine or ten miserable men, who had suffered the rigours of penal servitude for 12 or 13 years, when the release of them now could involve no danger whatever to the public peace. The Home Secretary repudiated the idea of there being any feeling of vengeance or of nationality in the further detention of these men; but let him try to convert the people of Ireland to that view. It was impossible for Irishmen to adopt that view after reading the indictment, the evidence, and the speeches of counsel, and comparing them with what occurred on the trial of other men found guilty of a similar offence. He made no imputation against counsel or prosecution; the vindictiveness was in prolonging the sentences when the necessity had passed away. Every time the subject had been brought forward it had been said—We will pay no regard to national sentiment or to amnesty resolutions; cases of this kind must be dealt with as those of ordinary criminals.If that had been the policy of the Government from the beginning, there would have been no ground for this appeal. It was not the Irish Members who introduced the political element into this matter by calling the men "political prisoners;" it was the Government who prosecuted them who did this. They might have been tried for the possession of dynamite under a special Act which had just come into force; but public indignation was so much aroused that the Government indicted these men for treason-felony in order that they might receive a heavier sentence. In charging the grand jury at Warwick, Mr. Justice Hawkins quoted the indictment, which charged the prisoners with seeking to overthrow the Government in the usual terms applicable to treason-felony:—Under that Act the three persons whose names he had mentioned would be charged before the Grand Jury on a Bill that would be presented.The then Attorney General, Sir Henry James, conducted the prosecution, and in opening the case said, "The duty of the jury in trying the case was a heavy and responsible one." He was not 409 quoting the words to make unfair comment, on the conduct of the learned Attorney General. He admitted that his address was perfectly fair, and that nothing could have been fairer as far as the form of the trial of these men was concerned, and although the circumstances of the time and newspaper comments were not calculated to ensure them a fair trial. What he wished to show was that these men were dealt with entirely as political offenders, and the evidence offered, and the remarks of the Attorney General and the learned Judge, all pointed to the fact that the men were tried for political conspiracy under the Treason-Felony Act, and the case was thus taken out of the category of persons dealt with under the Explosives Act, and these extraordinarily severe sentencs passed. The Attorney General said, the jury, in trying the case, had a serious duty—because the prisoners wore charged with the crime of treason, and if they were guilty it was for the public, interest that punishment should be awarded. If they were innocent, it was most important for the public interest that they should be acquitted. He would state to them the evidence that would be given in support of the charge as moderately and temperately as he could, without desiring in any way to press the case unduly against the prisoners. They were indicted under a Statute passed in 1848, and the charge was known in legal language as treason-felony. It differed in some respects slightly from the charge of high treason, and the prisoners substantially were charged that they conspired together to levy war and raise an insurrection and rebellion against the Sovereign of this realm.To treat this as a political crime, and to visit it with severe and exemplary punishment might have been right at the time, but the continuance of these men in prison was manifestly unjust when the excitement had passed away. "For the facts in support of the charge they had," continued the Attorney General, "to go hack as far as 1868." The men who took part in the Fenian movement of 1868, and who appeared in open rebellion against Ireland and England then, had been sentenced and released. Some were now Members of that House (Nationalist cheers), and after all this the Government insisted on Daly and his fellow prisoners being kept in prison for crimes committed as far back as 1868. If Daly had been punished alone for his connection with the dynamite conspiracy 410 his sentence would have been the same as that of the Walsall men—10 years—for the same Judge tried him who tried the Walsall men, and no one who read the Judge's observations could escape the conclusion that if he had been dealing with Daly under the same Act he would have regarded his crime as less heinous than that of the Walsall prisoners. But he was constrained under the Act specially passed at the time. He (Mr. Harrington) did not dispute that the Government were right in passing such an Act. Public panic was so extraordinary, and attempts on public property in this country at the time had been so frequent and of so dangerous a character that the Government was fully justified in having recourse to the most extraordinary measures to repress those attempts. What was cruelly unjust and excited the irritation of Irish people was that the men were tried as political offenders, and now that a considerable period had passed, they were detained in gaol when, if they belonged to any other nationality, they would have been set a large. It was quite true that their connection with the, dynamite, conspiracy was proved, but had that stood alone their sentences would have expired. Those in favour of amnesty for these men did not say that political motives excused crime, but what had been maintained by every lawyer in every country in the world was that political motive, if it did not lessen, did not increase the heinousness of crime. But the Government seemed to regard political motive, because connected with Ireland and the Fenian organisation, as an aggravation of the offence. He was not going to say that the Judge could have done anything else at the time than impose a severe and exemplary sentence. His hands were tied. These men were engaged in a treasonable conspiracy, and he was obliged to give them a much more severe sentence than that prescribed under the Explosives Act. He (Mr. Harrington) wanted Englishmen to realise that these men were not sympathised with in Ireland because they were connected with the dynamite conspiracy. But the people of Ireland were shrewd, intelligent people. They read the proceedings at the trial, and contrasted the treatment of these nine men with the treatment of the Walsall prisoners, and 411 had come to no other conclusion but that the severity of the sentences, compared with those on the Walsall prisoners, was due to the fact that they were Irishmen fighting for the freedom of their country. He invited the Government, for the sake at all events, of setting the Irish people an example of a generous spirit in these matters, to give the matter weighty consideration. It could not serve the purpose of the Government in the least degree to keep these men in prison longer. These men had no influence, if they ever possessed much. They were broken in health and spirit, and could never be a danger to the Empire if set at large. They were only nine men, some on the verge of the grave, others broken by disease, and the greater part without very much means to enable them to live in the world. The fact that the Colonial Secretary had pleaded for men who invaded the rights of another country, and recent events connected with the Empire, had gone deep into the minds of Irishmen. He knew nothing more calculated to cause racial hatred than to point out to the Irish people that these men, because they were Irishmen, were dealt with more severely than they would be dealt with if they belonged to any other country in the world. He begged to move his Amendment.
§ MR. W. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
, who rose amidst cries for "Davitt," said, he should not detain the House at any length, but he wished to point out that the Irish political prisoners, ever since they entered prison, had complained of the exceptional severity of their treatment. During the winter months they had insufficient clothing, the draughts in Portland prison were very bad, and the banging of the doors at night by the gaolers produced insomnia. He had forwarded to the Home Secretary a detailed statement of the facts, but he had not got an explanation although they were taken from the Blue-book. He sent him letters from the relatives of those prisoners, but the Home Secretary could only say that the cases were under consideration. Subsequently, the Home Secretary refused to supply copies of the doctors' reports. This meant that no inquiry was to be made as to the treatment of the political prisoners. At every meeting in Ireland 412 resolutions in favour of amnesty were carried. Amnesty associations existed in England; lectures were given in France; and in New York, delegates of the greatest influence attended amnesty meetings. He believed the time had come when, for the benefit of both nations, these political prisoners should be released. They were tried at a time of excitement, when there was ill-feeling between the two countries, but all that had passed away. He hoped the Home Secretary would be able to send a message to Ireland that the Conservative Government was not going to continue the imprisonment of men who had suffered a martyrdom.
§ Mr. MICHAEL DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
said, this Amendment had his heartiest sympathy. They urged the liberation of these prisoners on three broad grounds: (1) that the trials were unfair to the accused; (2) that the sentences were brutally excessive; and (3) that the prolonged detention of the political prisoners and the character of their treatment in the prisons of this country was without parallel in the history of modern nations. How were these men tried? His hon. Friend had given the fullest information on that point. They were not indicted under the Explosives Act, as the Walsall dynamiters were, though the main charge against them was the possession of explosives. They were arraigned under the Treason Felony Act, in order that the highest possible sentence might be inflicted upon them; whereas, if they had been tried like the English prisoners referred to, they might now all be at liberty. The sentences inflicted, he contended, were far beyond what the merits of the case demanded. He went further, and said that, as a rule, the sentences inflicted upon all prisoners in this country were brutally excessive. He had met hundreds of men in his long weary journey of nine years through penal servitude who were sentenced to five, seven, ten, and fifteen years penal servitude for invading the rights of property to the extent of £5, £10, or £20. Whereas, if those men had been born under luckier stars, and had invested something in chartered companies, they might have stolen countries and continents and gold mines, and be praised for their patriotism in that House by 413 Members opposite. Irish political prisoners had always been brutally treated. He did not claim that men who broke the law, even in a political cause, should be allowed to do so with impunity, or that the prisons in which they were confined should be turned into annexes of hotels and clubs, as hon. Gentlemen opposite appeared to wish should be done when the prisoners were Englishmen and the law offended against was that of the Transvaal, But he hoped it was permissible to ask of the Government of the "leading nation of the civilised world," the most "enlightened and humane of nations," to beat least as considerate and humane in their treatment of political offenders as other nations on the Continent of Europe. They often read in magazines and newspapers of the horrible barbarities of the Siberian prisons, and of the inhumanities inflicted upon those, sent there by the Russian Government. He had met many Nihilists and had heard their stories of their experiences even in the mines of Siberia—and, by the way, he might remark that these mines were, he believed, under a more careful system of inspection than the coal mines of this country, in which English and Scotch working men worked for their daily bread. Even in the mines of Siberia the political prisoners were allowed the poor human privilege of associating with each other. They were permitted to read books and papers sent to them by their friends, and they were granted the privilege of talking among themselves. None of these favours or privileges were allowed to the Irish political prisoners. He was once suspected of the high crime and misdemeanour of having a small piece of black-lead pencil in his possession in Dartmoor. Me was stripped naked and searched, flung into a dark cell, dragged the following day before the governor, and given a bread and water diet for this breach of the rules. He was once accused of giving a piece of bread to an unfortunate creature who had undergone three days 414 bread and water punishment, and for that offence he was denied the privilege for six months of writing to a poor mother, who had taught her children, that it was no crime to feed the hungry. He was once again punished during a week on bread and water and a darkened cell because he had been accused of not saying "sir" to a warder whose duty it was to search his body four times every day to assure himself that he had no lead pencils or scraps of newspaper in his possession. Where, might he ask, on the face of God's earth to-day was there a Government claiming to be civilised that treated its political foes in that way? Yet this was the way in which the Government of England was treating these nine political opponents of theirs. This was the manner in which they had treated them for the past 13 years, and he would wait with anxiety and hope for the answer of the Home Secretary to the appeal addressed to him by his hon. and learned Friend; and he hoped, though he was not much concerned for the character or honour of this country, that after the appeal addressed to the President of the Transvaal, after the influence brought to bear on him, to deal magnanimously with the Englishmen who had broken the law of that country, the right hon. Gentleman would show President Kruger that England could be magnanimous also towards the unfortunate men who had broken her laws. They heard that Dr. Jameson was coming to England to be tried. He condemned his raid and did not sympathise with the object he had in view, but he sincerely hoped there would not be found in jury in this country to convict him; and he would tell the House why. He had a good deal of sympathy with those who broke the law when the law was a barrier between a people and their rights, and they had already seen that a violent breach of the law in the Transvaal in search of constitutional change, a breach of the law in the most unconstitutional manner, had 415 converted the Colonial Secretary from a Unionist into an ardent Home Ruler. He would not wish to see his deadliest political enemy in this country sentenced to one week's experience of the frightful punishment penal servitude. Finally, he asked for the release of these men on the ground that every nation in Europe, with the single exception of England, had liberated political offenders since this Question was before the House last—Spain, and Germany, and Italy, and France; in fact it was well known that whenever there was a royal marriage or a royal christening, or any festivity of that kind in any Continental nation, some of the political enemies of the country were liberated. Was it not time for England to follow an example of that kind, especially bearing in mind that there were only nine of these unfortunate men in prison, men who could no longer do any act that could endanger any interest which that House was concerned in upholding? In conclusion, he begged to press upon the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that he should take advantage of the present opportunity of doing a gracious act in a gracious way, which he could assure him would be fully and gratefully appreciated by Irishmen. ["Hear, hear!'']
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY,) Lancashire, Blackpool
, who on rising was received with cheers, said: I am not surprised at this question being again brought before the House, and I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman who has brought the matter to the attention of the House to-night that, in fulfilment of the promise I gave in August last, I have given the closest attention to the subject for the purpose of seeing whether I could conscientiously advise that the clemency of the Crown should be exercised in the case of these prisoners. Neither do I complain of the spirit or of the manner in which their case has been brought 416 before the House, nor of the eloquent speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I should, however, be inclined to say that this account of our system of prison discipline is a rather exaggerated one. [Nationalist cries of ''No."] I should greatly regret if at the present day there were in force in our prisons Regulations of the character which the hon. Gentleman has described, and I might appeal to the right hon. Gentleman my predecessor in office, who has taken so much pains to improve our prison discipline and management, and in whose footsteps I have endeavoured to follow, to support my view that the Regulations referred to by the hon. Gentleman do not, at all events now, exist. At all events, I can say that there is no difference in the treatment of these men, whom the hon. and learned Gentleman calls political prisoners, and other prisoners on the ground that they are Irishmen. [Cheers.] I admit that there exists in Ireland a strong feeling in favour of amnesty, and I need hardly say that this or any other Government would be most desirous if they could legitimately do so, to meet that feeling, and that it is a very ungracious task to have to refuse to open the prison doors to any men, however heinous or atrocious their offences may have been. I wish, however, to assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that there is no racial feeling in the case of these men, and that they are kept in prison, not because they are Irishmen, but because they have been guilty of offences against society and against the country which would have caused those guilty of them to have been equally punished if they had been Englishmen or Scotchmen instead of Irishmen. ["Hear, hear!"] I must repeat what I have said over and over again from the bottom of my heart, that there has been no different treatment of these men or greater severity in their sentences because they are Irish men. ["Hear, hear!"] I was glad to hear from the hon. and learned Gentleman 417 that a great deal of the ill-feeling that formerly existed between Englishmen and Irishmen had largely passed away, and I can only say that if the remainder of that ill-feeling could be removed by the exercise of the clemency of the Crown in the case of these men I should be only too glad to advise that that clemency should be exercised if I could do so consistently with my duty. ["Hear, hear !"] But this amnesty is asked for, not in mere individual cases or upon the ground that these men were wrongly convicted. It is admitted that the convictions were right. [Cries of "No."] The hon. Gentleman opposite shakes his head, but the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment admitted that the men were rightly convicted. It has been repeatedly stated in this House, almost without contradiction, that the evidence against them was overwhelming, and I do not think that the sentences passed upon them were wrongly imposed. The ground upon which hon. Members have asked for this amnesty is because it is said that these men are political prisoners. I am willing to admit that a distinction may properly be drawn between political and other prisoners, and I am willing to admit that these men may be properly regarded in the light of being political prisoners because they were tried under the Treason Felony Act. But I confidently lay down this proposition—that when you are dealing with these offences, committed, not against a particular Government, but against society, you must not look altogether to the motives by which, the offenders are actuated, but you must also look to the methods which they have adopted. I do not desire to exaggerate the crimes of these unfortunate men, but I must say that they were of a heinous and an atrocious character. ["Hear, hear !"] Those who have held my present office before me have stated over and over again in this House that if the intentions of 418 these men had been fully carried out they would have resulted in the destruction of the lives of numbers of innocent people. ["Hear, hear!"] They were in possession of explosives which, if they had not been arrested in time, would have destroyed human life to a frightful extent. Can such offences as theirs, therefore, be called mere political crimes, and is it fair to attempt to draw a comparison between their acts and that of the ill judged raid into the Transvaal which took place the other day? ["Hear, hear !"]
SIR MATTHEW,WHITE RIDLEY
No, because if lives had been lost through their action they would have been tried, not for treason felony, but for murder. ["Hear!"]
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
They would have been tried and found guilty and punished for murder; but if the hon. Member will withdraw his statement I will withdraw mine. I admit that hon. Members from Ireland, and the people of Ireland generally, I hope, have no sympathy with the methods of these men. That is admitted. But what I would say is that when you come to regard the amount of the criminality involved in these proceedings, we must look chiefly at the methods, and ought to a great extent to ignore motives. I do not blame hon. Gentlemen opposite for attaching the greatest importance to the political motives which, as they say, animated a great number at all events of these men, but my position is that they are a little too apt to ignore their methods, which, I trust, they deprecate in their hearts, and they are also apt to forget the natural horror which the adoption of such methods must excite in a civilised community.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON
I did not attempt to minimise in the least the offence of the men charged with the possession of explosives; all I did was to make a comparison between these men and the Walsall prisoners. So far as the possession of explosives was concerned their crime was precisely the same; the additional punishment was inflicted altogether on account of their political motive.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
I am not prepared to admit that. The using of dynamite in this way is a most dangerous and heinous crime against society. How is any one to advise special clemency in these cases? [Mr. DAVITT: "After 13 years."] My predecessor and Mr. Gladstone laid it down most emphatically that there ought not and could not be exceptional treatment in the case of these prisoners; they stated that the same rules which guided them in considering when it is desirable to advise clemency to the Crown in long sentences of penal servitude ought to apply just as much and no more in the case of these men as in the case of men to whom crime but no political motive could be attributed. That is a policy which I think is sound, and one which I am bound to follow. I recognise that any special reasons which may from time to time arise should be considered, but in this case no new facts have been brought to my attention since my predecessor arrived at his decision. There is no doubt about the guilt of these men. [An HON. MEMBER: "Of some of them."] I cannot go into the argument as to a political motive. The hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendment said the sentences were too severe on account of the special circumstances at the time.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON
I said exemplary sentences were inflicted because of the state of panic existing, but it might be necessary to remit them afterwards.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
As to the treatment these prisoners have received, I can assure the hon. Member that there is no exceptional treatment, and I believe nothing like what he described takes place. I have not been satisfied with the ordinary medical report, but I sent down two medical men specially, Dr. Maudesley and Dr. Nicholson, and instructed them to make a most careful examination, and they state that the imprisonment has not materially affected the mental or bodily health of these men. If they require exceptional treatment on medical grounds they will receive it. Long sentences of penal servitude invariably come up for consideration at intervals of 10, 15, and 20 years; that time is not far distant, and when it comes the cases of these men will be dealt with in the same spirit as every other case in which long sentences have been inflicted. In regard to the Walsall Anarchists I need only refer to what Mr. Justice Hawkins said, that the difference he made between the sentences fairly corresponded to the difference of criminality of the persons concerned, and my predecessor, when he last dealt with this case before the House, said, I think, that he could not understand any Judge regarding the same measure of punishment as adequate in these as compared with other cases. If any analogy were made at all, the case of the Irish prisoners bore more resemblance to that of Farnara and Polti than to that of the Walsall Anarchists. I think the sentences which were inflicted may fairly be reconsidered at the proper time. That, I think is a perfectly fair proposition. At the present moment, considering the gravity of the crime of these men, I cannot, without more adequate reason is advanced, admit that they have any claim to be treated with any more indulgence than would be meted out to men who might have committed similar crimes, but not have been actuated by political motives. All I can say is, these men are being treated not as political prisoners, 421 but as men who have been guilty of these serious crimes. Their case will be treated in the same way as those of other prisoners undergoing long sentences and which are subject to periodical revision, and if when that time comes—and it will come shortly now—it is possible, following the ordinary Home Office Rule, for me to find there are considerations which will enable me to mitigate the sentences, no one will be more glad than I. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
observed, that the speech of the Home Secretary would be received in Ireland with a considerable amount of disappointment, because, although no pledge was given by the right hon. Gentleman or the present Government, that a change of policy would be entered upon in this matter, it was felt that, owing to the general tone prevailing in the utterances of Members of the Government with regard to Irish affairs, they would desire to commence their period of office by granting to the Irish people some concession which they would value. He heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with the greatest regret, as it would create an extremely bad feeling among the masses of the Irish people, and might result in discontent and agitation upon this and other questions which could have been avoided if the Government had seen its way to adopt a different course. He, for one, did not attach to the present Government anything like the same blame which he attached to the last. The Members of the late Administration aroused and stimulated a feeling in favour of amnesty to Irish political prisoners, by actually going to Ireland, and, in the capital of that country, practically promising the Irish people that there should be amnesty. Mr. John Morley, who was then Member for Newcastle, and the Marquess of Ripon, attended one of the largest gatherings ever held in the City of Dublin, when the former spoke in the plainest possible manner of granting 422 amnesty when the Liberal Party came into office. Recently, Mr. Morley had endeavoured to explain away that speech by saying he did not mean that the prisoners should be released, but his words were distinctly understood at the time, by the Irish people, to mean that the men who were in prison for what they considered were political offences, would be immediately released on the accession to power of the Liberal Party. While the present Government was to be condemned for its attitude on this question, it was absolutely innocent as compared with the false and hypocritical conduct of the late Government. Mr. Morley, the late Irish Chief Secretary, promised amnesty and then falsified that promise, thus encouraging the present Government to continue the imprisonment of the men for whom clemency was now asked. The right hon. Gentleman had said that two medical gentlemen had specially reported on the health of these prisoners, but he should like to know whether their report would be made public, as there was a feeling in Ireland that the political prisoners had suffered severely in health, and some of them were upon the borders of madness. The right hon. Gentleman had said that there was no special reason why clemency should be extended to them, but in the case of John Daly there were good grounds for special treatment, as on two occasions he had suffered most extreme torture through having, by mistake, had doses of poison administered to him when he had been ordered medicine. The refusal to release the men would not surprise the Irish people very much after the conduct of the late Government, a Government that remained in power for three years by Irish votes. But what would be clear to the people after what the Home Secretary had said, was, that the men were made to suffer in an exceptional way simply because they were Irishmen, and because their crime was an endeavour, a wild and criminal endeavour if they liked to call it, to 423 do something to change the system of Government in Ireland, which was ruining the people. The Home Secretary had made the important admission that in cases of crime where the motive was admitted to be political, special and particular consideration should be given. The right hon. Gentleman had not attempted to combat the statement that the men were political prisoners. A point which had always struck him as most unfair and unjust in the case of these men was that if they had not been tried under an Act of Parliament passed specially to meet the case of political offences—the Treason Felony Act—they could not have received the sentences they were now undergoing. If they had been convicted under the Explosives Act, they could not have received a sentence of more than 14 or 15 years' penal servitude. [Sir MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY: "20 years."] Then, in that event, their cases would have come up for reconsideration about now, and they would have been entitled to release. How could they expect the masses of the Irish people to look upon these men except as political prisoners, when the undisputed fact was that the men were sent to gaol under an Act of Parliament which was never put in force against any criminal in England or Scotland, which was not put in force against the Walsall prisoners? Would the right hon. Gentleman treat these men as though they had been tried under the Explosives Act, and not under the Treason Felony Act? Even that would go some way to make the people of Ireland believe these men were being treated as other prisoners would be treated. In the case of John Daly there was even the greatest doubt. Alderman Manton of Birmingham and the police Superintendent of that city, two gentlemen wholly disinterested in the matter, had expressed the belief that there was great doubt in Daly's case. Alderman Manton believed that the explosives found upon Daly were placed 424 upon him as the result of a police conspiracy. There was no one acquainted with Ireland who would see anything extravagant in the suggestion of a police conspiracy. Again, was there anyone who would say 13 years' penal servitude was not sufficient punishment for the offence committed, especially in view of the fact that no life was lost, that no injury was done? Certainly some explosions were caused, but most fortunately and happily, they were unattended by any loss of life and human suffering. The Walsall Anarchists openly boasted in the dock that they had used dynamite, and that they would use it. They were proved to have been connected with a most infamous explosion in a theatre on the Continent, and yet they were sentenced to only ten years penal servitude; some of them received only five years imprisonment. The Irish prisoners were induced to commit their offence by the extraordinary state of affairs in their own country. What was the state of affairs there? The Constitution was absolutely suspended, representatives of the people were imprisoned without trial, nearly 1,000 others were imprisoned without trial, public meetings were suppressed, newspapers were suppressed, and their editors imprisoned. That should be borne in mind in considering their cases, for in the Walsall case there was no such provocation, and there was no doubt of their absolute guilt. Yet those men were sentenced to only ten and five years, while the Irish prisoners were sentenced to penal servitude for life. It was an extraordinary and unaccountable thing that such a policy of vengeance should be pursued—a policy which would strengthen disaffection and discontent at a time when England was surrounded by complications in every part of the world. Of course it was the fashion in that House to sneer at any influence which the Irish nation might have upon the fortunes of this country, and it was also the fashion to think that England 425 could stand alone against all her enemies and hold Ireland down at the same time, but would it not be better in the time of her danger and stress for England to conciliate Ireland by the adoption of a policy which would make the people recognise that justice and mercy were at last to be meted out? But it appeared that that policy was not to be entered upon, and as a representative of the Irish people, he regretted the decision of the Government as an indication that the old struggle between the two countries had not come to a termination, and the feelings with which he should leave the house that night would he those of intensified bitterness, because the Government of this mighty Empire, with all its strength and power, were not magnanimous enough to recognise that these unfortunate Irishmen had already suffered long enough in gaol. He, however, could promise the Chief Secretary that he would do all in his power to strengthen the demand that had been made for amnesty, and that the next time the right hon. Gentleman travelled through Ireland he would not be able to boast of bonfires in his honour as he had in connection with his visit last year. The Home Secretary had only followed in the footsteps of his predecessors, and he could not condemn him as much as he did the men who went before him, though he condemned the present Government because it had not acted in a wise manner. But he could find no words to express the absolute contempt he felt, and which he was sure nine-tenths of the Irish people felt, for those gentlemen who had climbed into office by trifling with the feelings of Irishmen on this subject—gentlemen who went over to Ireland and made speeches on amnesty, and when asked to fulfil their promises replied that when they spoke of amnesty they did not mean it in the sense in which the Irish people regarded the amnesty of the treason felony prisoners. Those gentlemen were the real gaolers of these prisoners, and 426 while he should oppose every Government which did not accede to Irish sentiment and desire in this direction, yet he was obliged to admit that the blame of the present Government was not in proportion to the blame that rested on their predecessors in office. There was no division of opinion or feeling between Irishmen, neither inside nor outside the House, on this subject, whatever differences they might have about other matters, and he hoped that every Irish Member who represented a constituency interested in the release of these men would voice the opinion of their electorate in such a manner that full expression would be given to the disappointment, the bitter feeling, and the discontent which would be aroused in Ireland by the continual refusal of England to do this simple act of justice.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said, that there were two sets of circumstances in which it was desirable to inquire what weight should be attached to the alleged political character of a crime. The one set of circumstances arose when an appeal for clemency was made; the other when a foreign country sought the extradition of a prisoner who claimed that his crime was a political one. In connection with these latter circumstances the political nature of a crime had received scientific definition, and that definition explained very clearly the degree to which a political motive might be admitted as an extenuation of a crime. In 1878, at a time when there was no special excitement or panic concerning our relations either with Ireland or foreign countries, a Royal Commission addressed itself to this very subject, and when he had read the names of the Commissioners the House would recognise that the weight of their authority was almost Olympian in character. The Commissioners were:—Sir A. Cockburn, Lord Selborne, Lord Blackburn, Mr. Russell Gurney (Recorder of London), Sir R. Baggallay, the present Master of the Rolls, the Hon. Alfred Thesiger 427 (afterwards a Lord of Appeal), Sir John Rose, Sir J. F. Stephen, Sir W. Harcourt, and Mr. W. M. Torrens. Having discussed whether a political motive could be assigned as an extenuation of a crime, and having replied to the question in the affirmative in regard to a number of cases, they added this reservation:—It becomes a very different thing when in furtherance of some political or pretended political purpose some foul crime, such as assassination or incendiarism, is committed. Thus attempts by conspirators to assassinate a reigning sovereign, regardless, perhaps, that in doing so other lives may be sacrificed, or the setting fire to a prison at the risk of burning all those within it, or the murder of the police for the purpose of rescuing prisoners in custody for political offences, are crimes in respect of which, though the motive was a political one, we cannot think that any immunity should be afforded. Civil war and insurrection take place openly in the face of day, and may or may not be justified or excused by circumstances. But assassination or other forms of revolting crime lose none of their atrocity from their connection with political motive. Generally speaking, we should, therefore, decline to recognise the suggestion of a political motive as a ground on which a magistrate or judge should refuse a demand for the surrender of a person accused of what, in the absence of such a motive, would be an ordinary crime, unless the act to which the political character was sought to be ascribed, occurred during a time of civil war or open insurrection.They had all listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for South Mayo, but it was right to remember that the prison officers to whose conduct he had referred were not present in that House to defend themselves, and that the hon. Member was perhaps not the most dispassionate judge of his own prison treatment. Few of them, however, would refuse to admit that in that House the hon. Member must always be a more or less pathetic figure, and whatever the hon. Member had done in the past he, at any rate, risked his own life and did what he did in the open day, and that marked the difference between genuine political prisoners and prisoners such as those whose cases were being discussed that night. The hon. Member, at any rate, did not place upon the window sill of a house that which 428 would probably kill the housemaid when she attempted to open the window in the morning; he did not place in the cloak room of a railway station a machine which was likely to kill the devoted officers who managed the business of our great railways; he did not place an explosive in the immediate vicinity of a gasometer in the hope of plunging a whole town in darkness. [An HON. MEMBER: "And yet he was treated as a common felon."] Yes; but that weakened the case for treating Daly and his fellow-prisoners as it was asked that they should be treated by hon. Members below the gangway opposite. As to the question of prison treatment, it was right to remember that whatever were Daly's misadventures owing to the misuse of a particular drug, a Commission was appointed to inquire into the matter by the present Lord Llandaff, when he was Home Secretary, that the Commissioners were laymen having no connection with prison organisation, and that they reported that the prisoners were not subjected to exceptional treatment, and that they were treated rather better, if anything, than others were. He was sorry to say that the widespread opinion of Ireland did not carry such weight with him as he had no doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite wished it should. It was nobody's business to put the opposite case in Ireland. It was nobody's business, except the politicians, to go before the Irish people with these cases at all, and ask how they would like their gasworks at Limerick blown up by Unionists because they objected to the Government of Ireland by an Irish Parliament, or how they would have liked their railway stations to have been blown up for the same totally inadequate reason. The thing did not bear looking into. There might exist those grounds in their case that would justify the release of other prisoners convicted of ordinary crime as, after all, they were. He knew not whether there were such grounds. Time had reduced, 429 by causes other than death, the number of these prisoners. They might let out prisoners on various grounds. First of all there were the medical grounds. They might let them out—and some of these prisoners had been let out—because the state of their health would render further imprisonment dangerous to their lives. They might find, on looking into the case, that some of the prisoners, at the time of their conviction, were very young, and, perhaps, the distinction might be made in their case that some one or other of them was completely the tool of other and worse and older men. They might, perhaps, find, in other circumstances of a like character, a ground for clemency, and everyone who knew the present Home Secretary would feel sure that, could he discover any such facts, he would be only too glad to give proper and due weight to them. It seemed to him the real and the greatest difficulty was to be found in the way in which the case had been presented that night, because if the Home Secretary let out these men he would be giving, not only in Ireland, but all over the Kingdom, an undeserved weight to the claim that, because it was made on political motives, therefore they ought to be treated better than other men guilty of crimes not less atrocious.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON,
intervening, said, he did not think the hon. Gentleman had heard his argument. His argument was that the sentence should not be more severe because of political motives.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY
said, the hon. Member could not escape the consequences of the indiscretions of his friends, and it was with those indiscretions he was dealing, and it was those indiscretions which had done much to prejudice the case both that night and on previous occasions.
§ DR. KENNY (Dublin, College Green)
said, he regretted that the hon. Member who had just sat down had imported 430 into the Debate an element of acerbity, and that he had not followed the example set by the Home Secretary. The hon. Member, if he understood rightly, was one of the Counsel in the case, and he thought it would have been better if he had kept out of the discussion. The hon. Member had quoted some very high authority as to what constituted a political crime, and he had sought to prove, as well as he could, that the crime of which Daly and his companions were guilty was not a political offence. But as against that Commission, whose decision he was not aware had ever been received by other nations than England, and which, he was not aware had even been received generally in England, he would venture to quote one who was universally acknowledged to be as high an authority as any Commission that could possibly be conceived. He referred to Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, who was quoted by Sir Charles, now Lord Russell, in a case bearing exactly on the question before them—namely, the political aspect of a crime which was a horrible and condemnable crime under any circumstances. Sir Charles Russell, in arguing the case of Castioni, who had murdered, in cold blood, Rossi, a gentleman of high authority in Switzerland, said that the crime was a political one and could not be considered as otherwise, and that Sir James Fitzjames Stephen and John Stuart Mill had laid down that—Political offences should be defined as any offences committed in the course of, or in furtherance of, civil war, insurrection or political commotion,There was no civil war in Switzerland at the time, but it was because it was in furtherance of political motives that Castioni's extradition by this country was refused, and that he was never given up to the Swiss authorities for punishment. The hon Member for North Dublin, in an able speech on this subject 431 last year, quoted another and a very remarkable case. He referred to the case of Dr. Bernard, who had composed and given to Orsini the bomb that so very nearly took the life of a sovereign who was in amity with Her Majesty at the time—the late Emperor Napoleon. Dr. Bernard was acquitted by the jury who tried him. Although the facts were proved against him—nay, they were admitted by him—they could not consider him other than a political offender, and they acquitted him. The jury were banquetted, and The Times wrote an article approving of the banquetting of the jury who had refused to convict a man who was as cold-blooded a murderer as ever lived. He hoped that hon. Members of independent views would express their opinions in the course of this Debate. The Irish Members invited the participation of such hon. Members on a point upon which they were united and as to which there was no division in their ranks. The Home Secretary had quoted from some pronouncement of Mr. Justice Hawkins, who tried Daly and his companions and the Walsall prisoners. When did Mr. Justice Hawkins make this pronouncement? Was it in a communication to the Home Office, or was it a public pronouncement on some other case? The Irish Members had not heard of it before.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
It has been stated in the House twice before, but I cannot at the present moment remember where it came from.
§ DR. KENNY
said, he had listened to the Debates from beginning to end and he had never heard of the pronouncement before. His colleagues were precisely in the same position. He argued that there was a distinction between the case of Daly and his companions and that of the Walsall prisoners, because the last-named proclaimed that they intended to use dynamite not to further the liberation of people but for the destruction of society in general. The 432 Walsall criminals belonged indeed to the class described by Max Nordau as "Degenerates," a class which should be treated as lunatics and not as criminals. It would be difficult to convince the Irish people that there was not racial hatred at the bottom of the heavy sentences passed on the prisoners for whom they were pleading, especially when it was seen that one set of men who happened to be Irishmen, animated only by excessive love of country, received imprisonment for life, and the other class of prisoners received not even the maximum period of sentence on conviction. If there were no other reasons, that of mere effluxion of time since the case first came under consideration was a ground on which the Home Secretary could reasonably act. Another special fact was the instance that Daly had been poisoned, and his life had been jeopardised. He would have been entitled, had he not lost his citizenship, to pecuniary consideration, and that fact alone entitled his case to be favourably reported. He had lost his teeth although not yet 50 years of age—a strange commentary on the allegation that he was in excellent health. Then, with regard to the prisoner O' Callaghan, a special fact affecting his case was his age. He was 70 years of age. Why could they not apply to his case the rule that applied in the Civil Service, of retiring a man at 65, and set him free. Coming back to general considerations, he was perfectly certain that not alone Irish Nationalists but many of the Government's own friends and supporters in Ireland would view with consternation and alarm the decision of the Home Secretary. There were many gentlemen who supported this Government who were sincerely desirous of making the wheels of administration run smoothly. If the Government wished to give a fair trial to its policy—and he for one was quite willing to welcome its efforts, because, while he would never lower the national flag, he was always ready to 433 lend a hand to anyone who could offer something good to Ireland—they should avoid a course of conduct which would make their task exceedingly difficult. If he were Chief Secretary he would press on his colleagues in the Government the policy of liberating all these men. He wished to call the attention of the Chief Secretary to a special case in Ireland—that of Michael Kinsella. This man was in 1883 a well-known member of the Fenian Brotherhood. The facts of his case he knew intimately, both from his own official position in Dublin and from the statements of the police, but unfortunately, Kinsella's counsel set up another defence. Kinsella and some companions went out to the mountains to practice revolver shooting, and came back the worse for drink, to Kinsella's rooms. There, while sitting round a table, Kinsella fingered his revolver and it went off and shot one of his companions through the head. Seeing blood coming from the man, Kinsella tried to carry him to the hospital——
§ MR. SPEAKER
Then as this Amendment only relates to cases of treason felony the hon. Member is out of order.
§ DR. KENNY
said, that as to the analogy between these men and Dr. Jameson, the latter was certainly guilty of constructive murder. Yet the Government applauded President Kruger for his magnanimity and wisdom in releasing Dr. Jameson. Why could not the British Government itself be either wise or magnanimous? Could they not see that there was no use, whatever their views might be as to the criminality of these political prisoners, in keeping open a sore which caused bad blood between the two countries which they wished to see in amity? Why could not they listen to the demands which came from every Nationalist in Ireland?
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON (Devonport)
, said, that the Home Secretary had admitted that there was some analogy between the case of these Irish prisoners and the case of the two Italian anarchists Polti and Farnara. Those two men were guilty of an offence which did not differ in heinousness from that of the 434 Irish prisoners, at least in the direction of being less. Yet the longest sentence on these two men was 20 years' penal servitude, which in practice would mean about 16 years. The Irishmen received life sentences; and the right hon. Gentleman said that in the ordinary course he would have to revise those sentences, and he would consider the advisability of reducing the life sentences to 20 years. The case of Polti was that of a man aged 20, who received a sentence of 10 years on the ground, as stated by the Judge, that owing to his youth he must have been the dupe of Farnara. The right hon. Gentleman would find from the report of the Commission into the sentences on these prisoners that two out of the men still in gaol were both under 22 years of age, and therefore the same argument should, induce him to reconsider those sentences. Moreover, both of the men in question had already endured sentences of 13 years. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary should not wait until the regular time came round for a review of those sentences, but should consider them at once. There was one prisoner, named Delaney, who ought to be immediately released. He was an old man, but what was more important, he was described on his admission to the gaol, and again in the Report of the Visitors, as a man of weak intellect, and such a man must surely have been the dupe of men of greater ability than himself. Delaney had received sufficient punishment in the 13 years he had been in prison, and might therefore now be set free.
§ MR. W. ABRAHAM (Cork County, N.E.)
said, that as one who had the pleasure of being an old friend of Mr. John Daly, he felt it incumbent on him to take part in the Debate. During the week that had passed away, he visited Limerick, the birthplace of Mr. Daly. He met there the prisoner's aged mother, now close on 84 years, and when, with bitter grief, she asked him what he thought her chance was of seeing her beloved son again, he said he had reason to believe that she might have the inestimable pleasure of seeing him once more before she parted from this world. But that hope had been dashed to the ground by the speech of the Home 435 Secretary. He had laboured as much, perhaps, as any man to bring about a sympathetic feeling between the people of Ireland and the people of Great Britain, and he should say that the action of the Tory Party that night, in rejecting the appeals for a generous treatment of these prisoners, had made him feel that it was impossible for him to contemplate in the future any efforts in that direction. It was not for him to enter ito a defence of the late Administration. He would only say that the Party with which he had the honour of being connected spared no effort to induce that Government to exercise that clemency towards those prisoners which they now asked from a Tory Administration. The House must recognise that this question of amnesty was with the Irish people second only to Home Rule—that after their desire for the restoration of their national rights came their wish for the release of those men whom they regarded as political prisoners. They could not shut their eyes to the fact that had those men not been political prisoners, had they not committed political offences, they would have received only the short sentences that had been imposed on other men guilty of similar crimes. The Tory Party had apparently started a new line in their treatment of Ireland. They did not hear now of "20 years of resolute Government." The Chief Secretary declared that his object was to kill Home Rule with kindness. Well, here was an opportunity for the Government to show that they intended to pay some attention to the demands of the Irish people. And he told them that if they rejected the demand for the release of the political prisoners, it would be next to impossible for the Chief Secretary to carry out the policy he proposed for Ireland. Ireland would probably obtain some boons from the Tory Administration; but those boons would not be regarded by the people of Ireland in the light the Government desired them to be regarded, if the demand for amnesty, which lay deep in their hearts, was rejected. The Government were making the task of their Chief Secretary for Ireland more difficult and arduous than it would otherwise be. The reading of the Home Secretary's speech by Irishmen all over the world, in the United States and in 436 the colonies, would produce the impression that these political prisoners were being kept in prison not because of their offences, but because they were Irishmen. Of John Daly he would assert that there was no man on either side of the House who was actuated by higher, nobler, and more generous impulses; and he did not care to argue the question how it was that Daly was led into the commission of this crime. He visited Daly at Chatham, when, by prison treatment, he had been brought to the verge of the grave, and when Daly was compassionated on his sufferings, he said: "I would suffer ten times more if I could thereby give one hour's liberty to my country." These were considerations the Government knew nothing of, but people in Ireland did not and would not separate act from motive. Whilst he reprobated the means that were resorted to in an attempt to obtain the liberty of Ireland, he said some regard must be had to the feelings of the people of Ireland, who could sympathise with the man without sympathising with his crime.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
said, he should be glad to avoid adjournment if silence were compatible with the discharge of his duty. For many years he had taken a deep interest in the matter; he had had special opportunities for investigating the circumstances of the case; he had been in communication with Home Secretaries; and he should feel hardly treated personally if he could not take part in the Debate.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, after the appeal from the hon. Member, of course he could not object to adjournment.
§ Motion made, and question proposed; "That this House do now adjourn."—(Sir William Walrond.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House Adjourned at Five Minutes before Twelve till Monday next.