§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
said that he wished to make some observations with regard to the policy of the Colonial Office. It had been his intention to speak on the Report of the Colonial Office Vote, but he missed the opportunity owing to the circumstance that when the Resolution was read out at the Table it did not reach his ears. In his opinion, the policy of the Colonial Secretary was a dangerous policy and likely to impair our reputation abroad. In the last 18 months the most interesting topic of public discussion had been the raid into the Transvaal at the beginning of last year. The proceedings of the Committee appointed to inquire into the circumstances of the raid he, like everybody else, had followed with great interest. He had expected that the Committee would report, "We have done that which we ought not to have done and have left undone that which we ought to have done, and there is no health in us." [A laugh.] He was glad to see, however, that their Report did contain something more satisfactory. In the first place, the Committee reported very strongly on the conduct of Mr. Rhodes, saying that there was no justification for a person in Mr. Rhodes' position subsidising and organising an armed insurrection against the Government of the South African Republic. The Committee went on to say that he had deceived the High Commissioner, representing the Imperial Government, that he had concealed his views from his colleagues and from the Board of the British South Africa Company, and that he had led his subordinates to believe that his plans were approved by his superiors. That, he maintained, was one of the heaviest indictments ever brought within his recollection against a public man. His point was this, that such conduct had been endorsed and approved by the Colonial Secretary. The Colonial Secretary having subscribed to the Report which gave such an account of Mr. Rhodes, yet proclaimed that nothing had 338 been proved which affected Mr. Rhodes' personal position as a man of honour. The right hon. Gentleman's definition of a man of honour was the most extraordinary he had ever heard. Everyone had his own standard of honour; but here was a filibuster, a deceiver and a betrayer, and they were called upon to consider that man a man of honour. That was the proud position to which the British Parliament had fallen, and in his belief it had made Great Britain a by-word with other nations. Suppose a French adventurer had made a raid on one of our colonies and a leading man in the French Parliament had got up and extolled that adventurer. Suppose he had travelled about France and been received with honour by the highest people in the country, were there any words of opprobrium and contempt we should not have used against France? But what made it still more pitiable and contemptible in the eyes of every honest man was that while we had conferred all these honours upon and extolled this man, we had inflicted heavy punishment on his unfortunate tools and subordinates. Some months ago he was very pleased to read Mr. Rhodes' definition of English public opinion. He called it "unctuous rectitude." He was not sure that he liked the phrase so well now. There was plenty of unction but no rectitude at all. ["Hear, hear!" and a laugh.] The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he did not care for foreign public opinion, but he thought the right hon. Gentleman would find sooner or later that the opinion of the civilised world could not be flouted, and that loss of character was in the end loss of power. ["Hear, hear!"] If the Colonial Secretary thought that a man could indulge in treason and treachery without losing his honour, what guarantee was there that he would not act so himself? He did not suppose the right hon. Gentleman had two standards of honour. He belonged to the sect of Little Englanders, and he was proud of it, because it meant that England's policy should be a policy of peace and justice instead of one of force and fraud. He was a rather old Member of the House. That was the only honour he possessed, but the position was dear to him and, he believed, dear to every Member of the House, and therefore it 339 was that he made this protest against a policy which had reduced the country to the humiliating position he had described. He regretted he was not able to record his vote against this policy, but he trusted there were other Members who would join him in his protest in order to shew that they had no part nor lot in a policy which was so odious, so dangerous and so degrading. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. C. A. CRIPPS (Gloucestershire, Stroud)
said there was one matter connected with the Report of the Committee to which he desired to draw attention, and that was the restoration of their commissions to the officers who took part in the Jameson Expedition. It was admitted, certainly, by the principals themselves, that they took upon themselves the full responsibility for the action that resulted in the raid. They had also expressed the desire not to cast any of the responsibility on their subordinates. Apart from any special warning that what they were doing was inconsistent with their position as officers, these officers were bound as a matter of ordinary discipline and duty to obey the commands they received. He was of course not dealing with Sir John Willoughby, but only with the other officers. The only thing communicated to them before the raid was Dr. Jameson's, now known as the "women and children," letter. Was there the slightest evidence that these officers knew, as was now known, that that letter had been written at a previous time under different conditions, and was not applicable to the immediate expedition they were called upon to take up? They had no intimation but that letter, and they were asked to follow Dr. Jameson for the purpose of protecting the women and children in Johannesburg. There was no doubt that these officers believed generally that what they were doing was not only not opposed to their duty as Imperial officers, but was being carried out more or less with the cognisance and knowledge of the Imperial authorities. The hardship was that these officers should be judged with reference to the knowledge now possessed in this country. It was no part, of the duty of the South African Committee to pass sentence on any one, but they did find that Mr. Rhodes was the originator of the raid, and they condemned the raid in the most 340 unqualified language. But the Report was eloquent in favour of these officers. There was not a word in it that suggested that they were in default or were doing otherwise than performing their duty. ["Hear, hear!"] After the fullest investigation before the Committee, there was not a single word in the Report which imputed the slightest blame to any one of them.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said they had been unable to get any information in regard to this important matter owing to the action, of the Government. They postponed this Vote at various times, and then brought it on about half-past ten. All they could say was that if this was going to be a Standing or a Sessional Order the Government might prevent inconvenient discussions, and prevent Votes coming before Parliament for Debate. Here they had one of the most important Votes, and the House of Commons had never been able to discuss it or take a decision with regard to it. He regretted that the Colonial Secretary had done nothing to carry out the pledge which the Government, gave to the South African Republic in the matter. They were promised a full inquiry into the Company, and that then the Government would act. But they now knew that the Committee would never be re-appointed. There was another matter which the South Africa Republic pressed on the right hon. Gentleman. They asked him to see that Messrs. Rhodes, Beit, and Harris were prosecuted. They asked that these conspirators should be brought to trial for their criminal acts. Only a snubbing reply was returned—that the Government could only act in accordance with "English" law—an illegal term, as it should be British law. The action of the Colonial Office was viewed with suspicion in South Africa, in England, and in Europe. There were two or three things said by the Colonial Secretary which seemed to modify this policy. They were informed that Mr. Rhodes had rendered great service to the Empire, and that it was very undesirable that he should be punished. The whole proceedings of Rhodes and the Company were steeped in deceit, and he held that they ought to be placed upon their trial. From the very beginning Mr. Rhodes had 341 pursued a policy of deceit—from deceiving poor old Lobengula down to his deceiving the Colonial Secretary. It was quite clear that he had broken the law. Mr. Rhodes got Lobengula to sign a treaty, in English, and words were put in the reverse of what poor Lobengula understood was there. It must have been known that the concessions were obtained under false pretences. Now they heard that nothing was to be done—that Mr. Rhodes and his friends were to go scot free. In his evidence Mr. Schreiner misrepresented the condition of things in the Transvaal. He was examined as to the alleged interference of the Executive with the Judiciary, and the case he gave was that of Mr. Lippert who had been set free after being sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment. Mr. Lippert got a gunpowder and dynamite concession in South Africa. He formed a company and was sent out as managing director. Like a great many other companies started in London, the South Africa Explosives Company did not get much capital taken up, and Mr. Lippert spent a good deal of his own money in the interest of the Company. A dispute arose between the Company and Mr. Del, the latter being charged with misappropriating money. He, (Dr. Clark) joined the Board of Directors and was sent out with power of attorney to investigate the facts. When he got to South Africa, Mr. Lippert had been tried, and he found that that gentleman had really advanced money.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
said that these South African affairs were only material to the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill in so far as they bore on the conduct of the Colonial Department.
§ DR. CLARK
said that he would confine his remarks to the action of the Colonial Secretary. It was upon his finding that there had been no misappropriation of funds that Mr. Lippert was liberated. There was considerable friction between the Transvaal Government and the Colonial Secretary with reference to the observance of the convention. The Colonial Secretary maintained that the Transvaal Government had been guilty of a breach of the convention. One of the articles of the convention provided that the Transvaal Government should not conclude any treaty with a foreign 342 Power without the consent of Her Majesty's Government, and that they should deliver to this Government a treaty immediately upon its completion. There had been three alleged breaches of the convention. The first was with regard to the Geneva Convention. That was a convention to which this country was a party, and at the time it was concluded Great Britain invited every civilised Power to sign it. The St. John's Ambulance Association pressed the Colonial Secretary to bring before the South African Republic the desirability of joining the Geneva Convention, and the right hon. Gentleman wrote to Sir Jacobus de Wet asking him to unofficially bring the matter before the Transvaal Government. That Government did sign the convention, and he supposed that the first intimation the Colonial Secretary received of the; fact was through the Foreign Office. It was said that in that respect the Transvaal Government had been guilty of a breach of the convention, but they never dreamt that in making a convention with Great Britain they required the sanction of Great Britain. It was alleged there had been breaches of the convention in the arrangements concluded with Holland and with Portugal. The latter arrangement, however, was never signed. The right hon. Gentleman desired that the words "shall deliver immediately upon its completion any treaty" should be interpreted to mean that whenever the Transvaal Government entered into any treaty and before its completion they should send it on. The words, however, were "before its completion." In regard to this and all other matters the Transvaal Government had proposed that any question which might arise under any clause of the Convention should be decided by arbitration. There was nothing novel in the suggestion, because, when a question arose regarding the rights of British subjects under the Convention, the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor agreed that it should be decided by arbitration, and the Chief Justice of the Orange Free State was appointed to act and did act in the matter. The drifts' question nearly led to a war between the two countries, but the action of the Transvaal Government took in no shape or 343 form amounted to a breach of the Convention. All the Boers did was to close a drift between themselves and the Orange Free State, and there was no interference whatever with the passage of British produce. As to the alien question, the Transvaal Government thought they were justified in acting upon the principle adopted by Lord Salisbury in this country, and, certainly, in what they did there was no breach of the Convention. If the delegates of the Transvaal Government had thought that a new Colonial Secretary would come in who would differ from Lord Derby, they would probably have signed the Convention.
§ DR. CLARK
said that the promise made to the delegates of the Transvaal was that of complete self-government, and abolition of all the conditions in the Treaty of Pretoria, except one—that no Treaty should be entered into which was contrary to the interests of this country or its colonies in South Africa. He hoped that during the Recess all these questions which had caused irritation would pass away, and that this Government would carry out the principle laid down by its predecessors—to refer to arbitration any question of dispute as to the interpretation of the London Convention.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
said that the Government had been asked to reconsider the sentences passed upon the Jameson officers with regard to the deprivation of their commissions. There was nothing further from the desire of the Government than to press heavily on those officers—[cheers]—who had, no doubt, been in error, but who had erred honestly, and perhaps in the belief that they were doing a public service. [Cheers.] But when his hon. Friend said that the Report of the Committee was eloquent in these officers' favour, he must remind him that it did not go to the extent of recommending the restoration of their commissions. The hon. Member said that the evidence pointed to the officers having received orders in the ordinary course of their duties. There were 13 officers involved, of whom eight were discharged because they had not been concerned in fitting out the expedition and only obeyed orders given at the last moment. But the remaining five were 344 found guilty of being prominently connected with the preparations for, and fitting out of, the expedition, and with inducing others to join it. It was true that Sir John Willoughby alone had Dr. Jameson's entire confidence; but there was every evidence that the other four knew perfectly well on what business they were engaged weeks before the expedition started. Colonel Grey and Captain Coventry told the men that they were not going by the Queen's order, but to establish the supremacy of the Queen's flag in South Africa; and there was every evidence that the five officers concerned were all aware of the circumstances and under what possible penalties they would engage in this expedition. ["Hear, hear!"] If there were any doubt whatever as to the circumstances in which they started, that doubt was resolved by the fact that messengers from the High Commissioner overtook the expedition, and handed letters, not to one, but to several of the officers, directing them to return immediately, and warning them that the attack upon a friendly State was repudiated by Her Majesty's Government, and that if they continued they were rendering themselves liable to severe penalties. ["Hear, hear!"] The Government could not get away from that. Men who went forward in the face of declarations of that kind went forward at their own risk. Looking at the matter solely from the point of view of military discipline and efficiency, it was impossible for the Government to come to any other conclusion than that at which they had arrived; and nothing had happened to cause them to doubt the justice of that conclusion. ["Hear, hear!"] The extreme penalty had not been inflicted on these officers. They might have been cashiered; but they were permitted to resign, taking with them the retired pay and such other advantages as attached to officers leaving Her Majesty's service. It had been said that these officers had been doubly punished, but every professional man convicted by a court of law must undergo a double punishment—it could not be avoided. As to Sir John Willoughby's letter to the War Office, drafted by his solicitor, and stating that his officers had acted in the genuine belief that the Government did not disapprove of the expedition, Sir John Willoughby explained to the Committee that the letter was 345 written merely with the object of postponing the taking away of their commissions. He had no solid foundation for his statements, and Dr. Jameson repudiated the drafting of the letter. These officers had been engaged for many weeks in preparing the expedition. They had warned the men that they were not going by Queen's orders. Colonel Grey had been warned by Mr. Newton. Messengers handed to them orders to return; and, in face of all this, these officers—believing that they were doing some public service, and acting, no doubt, from honourable but mistaken motives, disobeyed all the orders given to them, and went forward on this unfortunate expedition. ["Hear, hear!"] The position of the Government was this. They did not desire to press hardly on these officers, or to take any step which could be considered vindictive. But so far from these officers being punished for obeying military orders and doing their duty, they were punished for acting in a manlier not in accordance with their military duty; and the Government could not go back on the conclusion at which they had arrived. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER after the usual interval,
§ MR. HENRY BROADHURST (Leicester)
said he thought the nation would approve of the refusal to fully pardon the officers engaged in the Jameson raid. His experience was that there was a strong feeling in favour of more severe measures being dealt out to these gallant officers; they had been guilty of a grave act of illegality, and ought to be made to suffer as a warning to others. He ventured again to press upon the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs the case of Mr. Ben Tillet, He hoped the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs would be able to assure the House that this appeal to the Belgian Government would not be allowed to go by the board, and that he would continue to urge on the Belgian Government the necessity of coming to a settlement because it was urgent, for the time had long passed when full satisfaction should be given for this outrage on a British subject.
THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
said there had been no delay, as the hon. Member seemed to think, with reference to the case of Mr. Tillett. Certainly there had been no delay for which the Government was responsible. At the earliest possible moment, finding that the Belgian Government did not take the same view as the English Foreign Office of the gravity of the case, the British Government pressed upon them the desirability of referring it to arbitration. An agreement for arbitration was drawn up, and a French jurist of the highest eminence was agreed upon, and the only further step before arbitration could take place was the ratification of the agreement by the Belgian Chamber. He saw by the newspapers that the matter was before the Belgian Chamber yesterday, but, for some reason which was not explained, a quorum was not present. He had no doubt however, that the temporary political difficulty with Belgium would soon be overcome. At any rate he could assure the hon. Gentleman that the matter would continue to receive the consideration to which, in the opinion of the Government, it was entitled.
§ * MR. LEONARD COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said he did not rise to continue the discussion on African affairs. He had the privilege of saying what he had to say on the subject last week, and he had nothing to add to or retract from what he then said. But he desired for a few moments to refer to matters of extreme importance which occurred recently—he meant the denunciation by Her Majesty's Government of the commercial treaties between this country and Germany and Belgium. He did not in the least dispute the policy or necessity for the action of the Government in this respect. It could be abundantly shown that the step was one they could not do otherwise than adopt. But this step had been made the subject of much comment in foreign countries, especially Germany and France, who had built up, on a simple and natural action, a conclusion entirely unwarranted by the action itself; and he thought it desirable they should take the opportunity, before the House separated, of discussing exactly what had been done, and expressing 347 a caveat upon the extraordinary deductions which had been founded upon that action. They had been indulged in mainly in Berlin and Paris, but had not been confined to those capitals. He observed that the British Empire Trade League had passed a resolution that the denunciation of these treaties was a step towards the attainment of the object that league had in view. The Canadian Parliament, at the instance of the Canadian Ministry, had approved of legislation under which they proposed to admit goods from this country at a lower rate than similar goods from other countries. They held that this was entirely within their right, and not inconsistent with the treaty engagements into which Her Majesty's Government had entered. The Canadian Government made an elaborate argument to show that these treaties with other countries did not or could not extend to Canada. Her Majesty's Government had been advised that the covenants in the treaties that had been denounced extended to Canada, and the action of the Canadian Government could not be supported consistently with the treaties, and therefore the Canadian Government said, "Either we are free from the obligation of the treaties or we must claim we must be made free by the denunciation of the treaty." The Government had denounced the treaty and had taken steps to give the Canadian Government the freedom they desired. The action of the Government had simply been to enlarge the freedom of the Dominion of Canada to adopt what fiscal policy it pleased. It was simply a stop towards freedom and nothing more. Those who had had this matter under consideration had long recognised that it would be absolutely necessary to yield to the colonies that fiscal freedom which the Canadian Government was the first to demand. The Canadian Government asked for freedom to admit the goods of this country at lower duties than the duties imposed on similar goods from other countries. But a few years ago there was a strong party movement in Canada in favour of promoting almost complete fiscal freedom between the United States and Canada. But that could not be accomplished without differential duties as between goods imported from the United States and goods imported from this and other European 348 countries. This step towards the fiscal freedom of the colonies was a step rather towards disintegration than integration, towards separation rather than combination. Other stops might follow, but the action of the Government in denouncing the treaties with Germany and France was simply a step towards the fiscal liberation of our colonies. As a free trader he was never much in favour of commercial treaties with other countries. The excuse for them was that we bound ourselves to nothing under them which we should not observe without them. Never in any treaty had there been a covenant which did not express the policy of this country quite independently of treaty, and the "most favoured" nation clause was simply an expression of the principles of free trade which we should act upon, and he hoped would continue to act upon, without a treaty as well as with one. His object in rising was mainly if not entirely to enter a caveat against the hypothesis which had been built up on the step Her Majesty's Government had taken. We were not committed to any further action. If it was thought we were entering on a step which would involve a battle of tariffs against free trade, or other startling developments, the impression was due to insufficient knowledge of the working of our Constitution to suppose that such a step could be taken without the country and Parliament being agreeable, and supporting and approving of the step. He did not suppose our Government would recommend preferential treatment of our colonies. It would involve grave questions which could not be settled without considerable struggle and excitement. It would be impossible for a Parliament such as the present to abandon what had been the policy of half a century and enter on a policy of Protection, hostile tariffs, and preferential treatment without an excited controversy in the country. There was another point to which he should like to refer. He did not quite know how matters stood in Canada at this moment. The Canadian Parliament had passed a Customs and Revenue Bill embodying the principle of giving a rebate of duty of 12½ per cent. on goods coming from this country as compared with those from other countries. He also understood that the Law Officers of the Crown were 349 of opinion that this provision was in conflict with the covenants and treaties with France, Germany, and Belgium. That being so, had the Act which had passed the Canadian Legislature received the assent of the Crown, or if it had not, what was being done by Canada? Germany had protested against German goods being placed in a less advantageous position than British goods. Germany might take action of some sort or another against the proceedings which would be adopted under the Act that had just been passed by Canada. What was proposed to be done in respect of the complaint that German goods were to be exposed, under the Dominion Act, on their introduction to Canada, to a higher rate of duty than that to which British goods would be exposed? Should we undertake to make good the loss which would have been so porter, and thus uphold treaties to which we were pledged, or were we to call upon the Canadian Government to provide funds for doing so, or what would be done during the twelve months that the treaties would yet remain in force with the view to providing that the importers of the countries that were parties to the treaties should have their goods received in Canada on the same terms as British goods? He did not raise this matter in any controversial spirit, but there were certain obscure points in connection with it, and this would be the last opportunity they should have of raising the question again for several months. It was obvious that the subject might give rise to very considerable matters of interest and importance between this country and Belgium and Germany. If Germany insisted upon her rights under treaty, which we acknowledged, how were those rights to be observed concurrently with the action the Canadian Government had taken in imposing preferential duties?
§ LORD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
, prompted by the sense of duty which Members of the House owed to cases of individual justice and injustice, ventured to intervene for a very few moments to support what had been said by his hon. and learned Friend on the subject of the officers who were concerned in the raid. It was, indeed, a most significant fact, 350 which he was sure would not be lost upon the Government, that a prominent member of the Committee which had been inquiring into South African affairs should hold the opinion which the hon. and learned Gentleman had expressed. That was a matter of very grave importance, and ought to weigh with the Government in a way not dissimilar to that in which the opinion of a Judge on a criminal trial had influence with the Home Secretary. ["Hear, hear!"] He need not say that he did not in the least degree sympathise with some of the speeches which had been delivered in regard to this matter. His point of view was as opposite as possible to that of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, in none of whose apprehensions he shared. He approached the subject as a most hearty supporter of the policy of the Government as disclosed in the Colonial Secretary's great speech of a few nights ago. That speech appeared to him a most statesmanlike and most eloquent vindication of the position of the Government, and it was because he thought that the decision—he hoped the temporary decision—of the Government in regard to the commissions of these officers seemed to be out of symmetry with that policy and discordant with it that he ventured to press upon the Government the desirability of acting up to the very righteous and proper line they took on that occasion and pressing it home to its logical consequences. ["Hear, hear!"] What was the position in which the officers stood? The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War said he had no doubt they had been animated by zeal for the public service. ["Hear, hear!"] He should have thought that conceded the whole point. Were they going for ever to banish from the service of the Queen officers whose only fault was having been animated by an exaggerated and perhaps ill-directed zeal for the public service? [Cheers.] Let them examine a little more in detail the kind of case set up for withholding the commission from these officers. Among the criticisms of Mr. Rhodes which were made in the Report of the Committee was that he led the subordinates to believe that his plans were approved by their superiors. ["Hear, hear!"] Thus these officers engaged as they thought properly, but as hon. Members considered improperly, in the carrying out of these plans by the 351 raid. He thought they had no information whatever before they started that the Government did not approve of their proceedings—["hear, hear!"]—and it was in these circumstances that they found themselves actually engaged in the undertaking. Was it suggested that any person who was not beneath contempt would have retired at such a moment? [Cheers.] What would have been said of them, had they done so, on their return to Cape Town or Great Britain? The man who had so retired would have been told that he was a coward who left his friends in a critical moment of extreme difficulty. [Cheers.] Could he have urged that he received orders and came home because there was going to be a battle in a few hours? [Cheers.] He was quite sure that not all the approbation the War Office could have given him could have compensated him for the shame that would have overtaken him in that case. [Cheers.] He was convinced that the War Office would have expressed no approbation whatever, and that they would never encourage and promote an officer who would have been guilty of such an act. [Cheers.] Was it not, then, better to face the situation and say that these officers had acted over-zealously, that they rushed in where they ought to have refrained, but that the error was one of a generous nature—the error of those who in the day of real struggle would be among the most valuable servants of the Queen and country? [Cheers.] The principal offenders, whose offences were infinitely greater, were pardoned and an act of oblivion was being passed on the whole transaction. Were we to leave out of account the courage and admirable qualities of these men in the position they held and whose only fault was that, animated by patriotic motives and misled as to the attitude of the Imperial Government, they acted hastily in what they regarded as the interest of the public service? ["Hear, hear!"] They had been convicted under the Foreign Enlistment Act, but it was very doubtful indeed if the whole facts as now known had been before the Court any conviction would have taken place. It would be a good thing if the Government made inquiry of the Lord Chief Justice on the point, for it had the greatest possible weight on the matter. After all, it should be remembered we 352 were not to judge this as a strict matter of law or even of justice, but from the point of view of wise and statesmanlike mercy. Were these men to be shut out for ever from their professional prospects, the charge against them being no more than that he had stated? He hoped even now the Government would think that these officers had been sufficiently punished. ["Hear, hear!"] They had endured imprisonment and had been; deprived of a long term of service. The Government might not think that the punishment had been sufficient, but he hoped as the months went by the Government would not lose sight of the question with a view to extending to these, the humbler offenders, the mercy extended to others. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
In reference to what has just fallen from the noble Lord, I must point out that the matter concerns the discipline of the Army, with which the Colonial Office, therefore, has nothing to do, and I am unable to add anything to that which had been said by my right hon. Friend, the Under Secretary for War. I am sure we have listened with pleasure, as we always do, to the exposition of political economy and declaration of the true doctrines of free trade from my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin; but even with the advantage of his exposition I am not quite sure of the object of his lengthy statement. I gather, however, that he had two things in view—hodesired to make an answer to comments in foreign and other newspaper correspondence and to the resolution passed by the Enquire League, and to give a warning to the Government. Now, as regards the resolution of the Empire League, it was simply congratulatory to the Government, and in the congratulation my right hon. Friend shares, and, if so, I think it was unnecessary to deliver a long speech on the subject. As to the newspaper correspondence, I think my right hon. Friend would be well advised to allow it to rest where it is. My right hon. Friend introduced some remarks to which I am inclined to take exception. He laid it down that if Canada had proceeded to make arrangements with a foreign Government by which differential duties would be imposed on the mother country 353 then, as a matter of course, the mother country would have had to submit. Now, I do not think that the most enthusiastic freetrader ever laid that down as the policy of this country, and I repudiate it altogether. I am happy to say it never has been the policy of the representative Government of any colony, though it may have been advocated by some politicians; but there are, as we know, politicians who will advocate anything. [Laughter.] We must not judge the policy of a country by the views of individual politicians. But it is, I think, a most undesirable thing that a politician in the position of my right hon. Friend should, as it were, hold out an invitation to a colony to take a step which would be certainly most unpatriotic, coupling it with an assurance that there would be no objection on the part of this country. A step of that kind would be a step that must lead to further and very important results—results I am convinced not desired by the colonies of this country. ["Hear, hear!"] My right hon. Friend referred to the denunciation of treaties, as it is termed—that is to say, our withdrawal from them. At the conference which took place between the colonial Premiers and myself various resolutions were passed. I regret it has not been possible to obtain printed copies of the report of the proceedings of the conference in time for this discussion, but I may say that one of the resolutions passed unanimously by the Premiers was as follows: "The Premiers of the self-governing colonies unanimously and earnestly recommend the denunciation at the earliest convenient time of any treaty now hampering the commercial relations between Great Britain and her colonies." [Cheers.] This was the unanimous wish of all the self-governing colonies, and it was accompanied by a most important and significant resolution, which was this:—"That, in the hope of improving the trade relations between the mother country and her colonies, the Premiers present undertake to confer with their colleagues with a view to seeing whether such a result would be properly secured by preference given by the colonies to the products of Great Britain." [Cheers.] On receipt of these resolutions the Government decided to withdraw their adherence to the treaties, 354 but this was not done upon any representation of the Law Officers. It is true that the Law Officers of the Canadian Government considered that they were entitled to give preference to the mother country without infringing these treaties, and this was referred to our Law Officers. The Canadian Government asked that they should be represented before the Law Officers gave a decision, and that demand, though an exceptional and unprecedented one, was acceded to, the Law Officers thinking that the situation was unprecedented and exceptional. Accordingly, up to the present time no decision has been given on that point, and until a decision is given whether the resolution of the Parliament of Canada does infringe these treaties it will be premature to discuss the possible difficulties that might arise from this situation, and which no doubt, we shall meet when they do arise.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
No objection has been taken on this side. The matter comes to us in the shape of a resolution, and I hardly suppose that it will be followed by legislation. I do not speak with certainty, but, in any case, the resolution comes immediately into force, and British goods are receiving the advantage of 12½ per cent. My right hon. Friend observed that this was a step towards freedom, and, he went on to say, towards separation.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I will venture to say it is not a step towards separation. In all legislative action the intention must be looked to, and the intention of the colonies is distinctly against separation; the intention is expressed by the Prime Minister, who has the chief honour in this new legislation; the intention is to show gratitude to the mother country and to give proof of the loyalty of the colonies. [Cheers.] In this sense it is intended, and I can see no reason for the anticipations of my right hon. Friend that this might be a step in the direction of disintegration. I think it is quite unnecessary for me to follow my right hon. Friend's argument as to the principles of free trade. I agree with him that this is not the time to defend or attack them. Our intention is that the colonies should be enabled to 355 deal with us on preferential terms if so disposed, and to enable the resolution passed by Canada to be carried into effect. Then I turn to other subjects connected with the Colonial Department which have been raised during this Debate, and to two speeches which have some points of resemblance—the speeches from the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth and the hon. Member for Caithness. The latter has complained that time was not given for the discussion of the Colonial Office Vote, and in his characteristic way of putting simple facts into rather offensive language the hon. Gentleman said the Government, had postponed the Vote under various pretences, insinuating that the Government had desired the postponement of the Vote, and on various pretences secured their object. The hon. Member knows perfectly well that was not so. He knows that under the new plan in regard to the business of Supply—a plan which has worked with satisfaction to the vast majority of the House—the Government place themselves in the hands of the Opposition as to the order in which Votes shall be taken, and practically we express no opinion on the matter. We ascertain as far as possible what is the general desire of the House, and if it has happened that the Colonial Vote has been postponed that is only because other hon. Gentlemen do not share the intense desire of the hon. Member for Caithness to defend the Transvaal Government and to prove that they are always in the right and Great Britain always in the wrong. [Laughter.] Really the two speeches have one point in common, that they are belated. It is perfectly evident that they were prepared and intended to be delivered in the debate on the Report of the South Africa Committee. I sympathise with both hon. Gentlemen, and especially with the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth. It is said there is no question more unpleasant than to be suffering from what the French call discours manquê. [Laughter. He prepared a speech he was unable to deliver on the occasion for which it was prepared, and I rejoice that he has found opportunity for relief on the present occasion. But I will not be drawn into a re-discussion of matters finally settled in the Debate on the Report of the South Africa Committee. 356 On that occasion the Leaders of the Opposition expressed their opinion and I expressed mine, and I have nothing to add. The hon. Member for Caithness is more Boer than the Boers. Session after Session he comes down and makes speeches in favour of the Transvaal Government. According to him a more perfect and a more virtuous Government never existed, and it is infamously treated by the British Government, no matter whether it be a Liberal or a Unionist Government. It is the victim of oppression, and is deserving of the sympathy of this House. Generally and broadly, I differ from every word the hon. Gentleman said. I differ from his facts, I dispute his conclusions, and I do not agree with his arguments. [Cheers find laughter.] There is one point to which he referred on which I must say a few words. He went at length into a discussion of the two Dispatches sent to the Transvaal Government in May last, which complained of the Transvaal Government for certain breaches of the Convention and also for certain other proceedings which appeared to be intended to whittle away that Convention. The hon. Gentleman declared his unbiased opinion that none of these things constitute a breach of the Convention. I know the hon. Gentleman belongs to a learned profession, but I do not think it is the profession of the law, and, under these circumstances, I prefer the opinion of the Law Officers of the Cape Colony, supported by the Law Officers of the Crown to any ex parte opinion which he may give in favour of the Transvaal. The opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown was the opinion upon which we acted in sending these Dispatches. I am not going to argue the matter now, because fortunately all necessity for it has been removed. The Transvaal Government, yielding, as I think, very wisely to argument and persuasion, have already repealed the Aliens' Immigration Act, which was declared to be a breach of the Convention, and have agreed to reconsider the Aliens' Expulsion Law, which was not declared to be a breach of the Convention, but the administration of which, it was pointed out, might easily become a breach of the Convention. As regards the notification of treaties, we are in negotiation with them on the subject, and I have very little doubt that 357 a satisfactory arrangement will be come to. There I should have sat down but for one observation of the hon. Gentleman, to which I think it is necessary to reply in order that there should be no misunderstanding. The hon. Member invites me to say that if any difficulty arises in regard to the Convention, Her Majesty's Government will, as their predecessors did, submit the difference to arbitration, and to the arbitration of a foreign Power. It would be a marvellous thing, if it were a true statement of the case, that the late Government had submitted the terms of a Convention between the suzerain and the subordinate Power to the arbitration of a foreign Power. That would have been a most extraordinary thing if the late Government had done it, but they never did it. What was submitted to arbitration was not the interpretation of the Convention, but some of the details by which effect should be given to it. That was submitted to the decision of the Chief Justice of the Free State, and his decision was perfectly satisfactory to this country. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman can find a precedent anywhere for any such proposal as he has put forward on behalf of the Transvaal, and which the Transvaal Government have put forward on their own behalf without the slightest hope of its being accepted by Her Majesty's Government. I do not think he can find the slightest precedent for suggesting that in a matter of this kind a breach of a Convention made when Her Majesty's Government surrendered their rights and granted upon conditions the independence of the Transvaal should be submitted to any foreign State. [Cheers.]
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said he did not care one button for the Transvaal Republic or for any other foreign nation. [Ministerial cheers.] He was one of those who believed that there was no country in the world which would not be better off for being brought under the rule of the British House of Commons. [Ministerial laughter.] There was one sentence in the speech which the Colonial Secretary delivered on Monday as to which he should want some explanation, not from the right hon. Gentleman himself, but from some other Member of the Government. The most important statement in that Debate was that which 358 the right hon. Gentleman made at the conclusion of his speech, and which there had been no opportunity of discussing until now. He might say, before developing that point, that he entirely sympathised with the conclusions of the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich, with reference to the punishment inflicted on the officers. He thought these comparatively humble instruments of this policy had been punished, not in excess of their demerits, but out of proportion to the treatment awarded to those who were their principals. It was odious, and disgusting to every man with a sense of justice that these officers should be twice punished by the State—first by a sentence of a Court of law, and secondly by the administrative act of the War Department which deprived them of their commissions. He thought that the Colonial Secretary's relations with the South Africa Committee had, in many respects, been unfortunate. He thought it was a pity that he sat as a member of the Committee. No doubt he was forced to do it, but knowing what they knew now he thought it was a pity the right hon. Gentleman yielded to the pressure put upon him. They knew now, by his own admission, that on that Committee the right hon. Gentleman held a three-fold capacity. He was a member of the Committee—in that respect he was a judge; he was head of the Colonial Department—in that respect he was a necessary witness; and he was accused, because charges were made against him by Mr. Rhodes and his friends.
§ MR. G. WYNDHAM (Dover)
asked the hon. Member to quote any public document or any evidence to that effect?
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said there were Mr. Rhodes's organs in the Press; Mr. Rhodes's agents undoubtedly, and the Committee itself, had found that certain documents had been used for creating the impression that the right hon. Gentleman was concerned in this undertaking. A year or more ago, when the House appointed this Committee, the Colonial Secretary knew that he was in this position, but the House of Commons and the country did not know.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, objected to my appointment on that ground.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said the country was not aware of the charges which were the basis of the accusations against him; but whether that was so or not, knowing the capacity in which he would have to come before that Committee, he thought it was a matter of deep regret that he consented to accept a seat upon it. What was the right hon. Gentleman's deliberate statement to the House on the Committee's Report? He stated in his speech on Monday night that "there has been nothing-proved, and, in my opinion, there exists nothing"—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member will not be entitled to take this opportunity of replying to a speech made in a previous Debate in this House. He is entitled to discuss the policy of the right hon. Gentleman as head of the Colonial Department, but not his conduct in the Committee, nor is he entitled to reply to the speech made by him on Monday evening.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said he was going to ask for an explanation from other members of the Government as to the declaration made by the right hon. Gentleman at the close of the Debate on Monday evening, in which he said that nothing had been proved, and that there existed nothing which in any way affected the position of Mr. Rhodes as a man of honour. Now, what was it that the right hon. Gentleman himself and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had declared They declared that Mr. Rhodes had deceived the High Commissioner, his colleagues in the Cape Government—
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
rising to order, submitted that if the hon. Member was going at length into the Report of the Committee, and to found charges upon it more or less affecting Her Majesty's Government, it would be necessary in fairness for him to ask to contravene the ruling Mr. Speaker had just laid down.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to discuss the action or findings of the Committee; he must confine himself to discussing matters that could be raised on the Votes.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
said he was not attempting to discuss the Report of 360 the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman declared that nothing found by the Committee was inconsistent with Mr. Rhodes's position as a man of honour. He wished to know whether that statement expressed the policy of Her Majesty's Government, or was it made with the assent, previously obtained, of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman had also said he was not going to attempt in any way to punish Mr. Rhodes—a declaration which he I thought would produce a painful impression on the public mind. He deeply regretted that the end of this discussion should be so unsatisfactory, because it was calculated to perpetuate, both at home and abroad, the painful and deleterious impressions which at present prevailed.