HC Deb 04 May 1896 vol 40 cc443-6

had the following Question on the Paper: To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether his attention has been called to telegrams produced at the late trial of members of the Reform Committee at Johannesburg, which passed between certain persons connected officially with the Chartered Company of South Africa and members of the Reform Committee; what action is proposed to be taken in view of the complicity disclosed in these telegrams of Mr. Cecil Rhodes, managing director, Mr. Beit, director, and Dr. Rutherford Harris, secretary of the Company in South Africa, in preparations for an armed inroad into the Transvaal Republic; and whether, in view of the fact that the Company is in possession of a Royal Charter, he will agree to the appointment of a Committee of this House to investigate the complicity of the Company, or of any of its directors, or of its secretary, with the proceedings which terminated in the raid of Dr. Jameson into the Transvaal? The hon. Member said:—I beg to postpone this Question, as I gather that the right hon. Gentleman wishes, until Thursday.


I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether there are any Papers in the Colonial Office in regard to the communications which took place in 1894 between Lord Loch, then High Commissioner in South Africa and Governor of the Cape Colony, and certain Uitlanders in Johannesburg, with respect to the armaments procured by the Uitlanders; and between him and President Kruger as to any possible action of the Imperial Government with a view to protect the Uitlanders in case of danger to their lives or property; and whether, if so, he will lay them upon the Table of the House?


I beg to thank the hon. Gentleman for postponing the Question; and, with regard to his second Question, there is a record in the Colonial Office of the conversations between Lord Loch and certain gentlemen from Johannesburg in June, 1894, but this record makes no mention of armaments. I will lay on the Table such Papers as I have relating to these occurrences, and including the report of the conversations referred to. Lord Loch has stated in the Press that no such communications as are referred to in the Question ever actually took place between him and President Kruger.


I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, (1) whether his attention has been called to the telegram from S. W. Jameson, Johannesburg, 26th December, to Jameson, Pitsani, stating that it is absolutely necessary to postpone "flotation" until they had C. J. Rhodes' absolute pledge that authority of Imperial Government will not be insisted on; (2) whether Her Majesty's Government have any information showing whether Mr. Cecil J. Rhodes did actually give such a pledge (3) whether Her Majesty's Government received at any time previous to Dr Jameson's raid into the Transvaal any communication, either from Mr. Cecil J. Rhodes or from any other person, relative to the exercise, or the forbearance of exercise, of the authority of the Imperial Government in the event of such a raid being made; (4) whether Mr. Cecil J. Rhodes had himself any power to give any pledge as to the exercise of the authority of the Imperial Government; (5) and, whether he can give any further explanation in regard to this telegram?


The answer to the first paragraph of the Question is in the affirmative. The answer to the second, third, and fourth paragraphs is in the negative. In answer to the fifth paragraph, I would refer the hon. Member to the letter which appears in The Times this morning from Dr. Wolff, a member of the Reform Committee, who explains that when Dr. Jameson was asked to come to Johannesburg it was suggested in some quarters that the giving of this assistance might be made a pretext for proclaiming direct Imperial supremacy in the Transvaal; but that the platform of the Reform Committee was to maintain the independence of the Republic, while obtaining the redress of grievances.

MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)

had given notice of the following Question: To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether he has received any information from Sir Hercules Robinson with respect to the telegrams put in evidence, on 27th April, at the trial of the Reform Committee at Pretoria, and will lay it before the House; and, whether, having regard to the grave position in relation to the armed incursion into the Transvaal which those telegrams apparently place the then Prime Minister of Cape Colony, he can with prudence now state what action the Government propose to take in the matter? The hon. Member stated that, at the request of the right hon. Gentleman, he would postpone the latter part of the Question.


I am obliged to the hon. Member for postponing the second Question. I have received a telegram from Sir Hercules Robinson in which he states that, amongst the telegrams published, he finds one from Colonel Rhodes to Charter of December 21, and a reply from Harris of December 23, in both of which the "Chairman" and a letter of invitation are mentioned. Sir Hercules Robinson proceeds to state as follows:— I understand Chairman to mean Jameson and invitation to mean letter addressed to him by the five members of Reform Committee. I cannot state too explicitly with regard to this matter that I never received from anyone in any shape a hint even of what was about to take place. I was so completely kept in the dark that I never had the slightest suspicion of what was going on or intended, and the discovery on Monday, December 30, that Jameson had entered the Transvaal on the previous evening came on me like a bolt from the blue. If there should be any insinuation to the contrary, I rely upon you to protect my character in my absence. [Cheers.] I have only to add that I place the most implicit confidence in this statement from Sir Hercules Robinson, and I never for a moment attached the slightest importance to the rumour. ["Hear, hear!"]


I wish to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has received from Sir Hercules Robinson any Dispatch or communication with respect to these telegrams?


No, nothing but very general telegrams stating that they were published, and that they contained incriminating matter.