§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
In the present condition of the House of Commons anyone who speaks at length upon questions, however important, will be looked upon as an enemy of the human race. The present predominance of the South African question has a tendency to prevent people from thinking of other questions, however important they may be. But I cannot think that the question of the franchise in the Transvaal and of the privileges of the Uitlanders, however important it may be, and however much we are committed by our past action, ought to prevent people in this country from turning their attention to other matters. There are a few questions which I want to put concerning a subject which, to my mind, is more important than the South African question. I mean our relations with China, and the future of that country. The arrangement with Russia in regard to China, which was criticised in the last Debate which took place on foreign affairs, is one which, as was pointed out, concerns only the Yang-tsze Valley and Manchuria, and takes no account of the enormously important portions of the Chinese Empire which lie between the Yang-tsze Valley and Manchuria Even 61 the northern part of the Yang-tsze Valley is not included in our arrangements for patrol, and, therefore, they do not preserve our interests in the Yang-tsze Valley as a whole. Still less do they guarantee in any way our position in the capital. The first question that I should like to put to the Under Secretary is, what are the present relations of this country with the Chinese Government in regard to the concessions granted in the Province of Shan-si, which is in the intermediate neighbourhood of Pekin? The matter was brought forward by Lord Salisbury in another place last session, and both Lord Salisbury and the then Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in this House spoke of these concessions as most valuable, and of the granting of them as one of the principal privileges to the people of this country that the Government had secured. I want to know whether matters are going on satisfactorily in that direction, and whether the Government believe that we have, under our existing arrangements, any means of protecting those interests against invasion by other interests. This intermediate district between the Yang-tsze Valley and Manchuria also includes the German sphere of influence. The noble Lord the Member for York, in his book and in his speech in this House, brought forward a policy of joint action in China—of a peaceful kind as I understand it—with the United States, Germany and Japan. The Government replied that whatever might be the case with regard to Japan, as regards the United States and Germany they saw great difficulties in the way. The United States were willing enough to act with us in regard to commercial rights and the open door, but they would not, as the noble Lord admitted, entangle themselves in any way by promises that might in the future be inconvenient to them. With regard to Germany, the Government said it was not likely that Germany would entangle herself in China, looking to the importance to her of friendly relations with Russia in Europe, and to the dangers which might menace her frontier if she adopted an anti-Russian policy in China. I think, however, having regard to the fact that the German sphere of influence is in this intermediate district, that the capital is there, and that we have great interests there, that without menacing Russia or anyone else, and without 62 in any way pointing to an armed occupation of the country, there might be common action between Germany and ourselves merely in defence of rights already acknowledged as existing. I believe that Germany has already indicated some willingness to co-operate with us in that direction, and I should be glad to know what the Government have to tell the House as to their policy with regard to this important intermediate district. In this district lies the seat of any future Russian railway to Pekin. I somewhat regret the advice which has been given to the Chinese Government with regard to that railway, and the manner in which it has been referred to in this House. I cannot think that our influence in Pekin is promoted by our giving advice when we are not likely to push it further, and where the whole course of trade and railway construction in China seems to show for a certainty that in the long run it will be disregarded, and the railway made. It seems to me to be a very doubtful policy to embark in. I want to know what has happened on this subject since the last Debate. Statements have been made with some show of authority—they may be true or false; I do not wish to commit myself to them in any way—that the Russian Government have assured our Government that they do not intend to press this scheme; but it is also stated with the same show of authority that on the very day on which this statement was made to our Government pressure was applied by the Russian Government at Pekin, insisting in the most peremptory way on the making of the branch line to the Chinese capital. I do not know whether the Government can give us any information on the subject. I know that it is a delicate one, but I think they will not be astonished that there should be a feeling in the House in favour of asking them, at all events, to state what they can in regard to their policy in the matter.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (York)
I do not quite agree with the right hon. Baronet as to the importance of the affairs of China above those of the Transvaal. I do not think there is any immediate danger of war in China, but I do think there is danger of war in the Transvaal. The right hon. Baronet referred to 63 a proposal I made to take over the Chinese army. I only suggested that that army should be placed on the same footing as the Maritime Customs in China. A British bank is at the head of those customs, and I maintain that with British control over the army it would be easy to get foreign officers for it, and to invite.any countries to invest their capital in China. When that step is taken there will be very little chance of war. I cannot sit down without reminding my right hon. friend—who seems to think that the whole of my remarks were made in after-dinner speeches in China—that I was a teetotaler all the time. I think the issue put before the public in the case of the Transvaal is a wrong one. The issue put before the public is the question of the franchise, and as far as I can see and learn I do not believe it would be possible that we should ever be able to go to war over the franchise. There have been gross exaggerations on both sides. My view is that the whole issue at stake in this country is a question of our being paramount at the Cape. It is a trading and commercial question, and one which also involves our strategical position at the Cape. The subject that is irritating the people is the grievances of the Uitlanders, and we are bound as the suzerain Power to see those grievances redressed. There is no doubt a greal deal of soreness between the white races at the Cape. On the British side there is soreness over the defeat at Majuba, and on the other side there is soreness about the infamous Raid, which both in design and execution was contemptible. The question to be put before the country is the question of the grievances of the Uitlanders. The First Lord of the Treasury very properly said the other day that the present state of affairs could not continue. What are we going to do? The Opposition continually say, "Let us have a firm and friendly policy." Very well. I can understand a friendly policy, but where does the firm part come in? If you have an argument with a man and he says he won't agree with you, how are you to be firm unless you compel him to do so? My view is that the Government are perfectly right in making these preparations, which are necessary in case we unfortunately have hostilities at the Cape. For my part I do not believe that there will be any war at all, and I will give my reasons. 64 One is that there is no foreign State or empire behind the Boers to back them up; another is that the Read are certainly in front of the President in regard to the reforms, notably the dynamite concession; and, thirdly, there has not been a single meeting of Boers which has demanded war with England. They have all said, "Let the President settle it." I do not believe in war myself, but I do believe in taking steps to prevent it, in having troops sent out to South Africa, and in showing the Boers that this country has taken up a firm, strong, and clear attitude. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin said the Colonial Secretary had made threats. He has never made any threat at all, and his speech was most clear and courteous. As a matter of fact, there is no real opposition against what the Government are doing, but, unless this Transvaal question is settled on the lines laid down by the Government, there is very great danger to the Empire. Our Empire is too large. We have not enough soldiers to police it properly, especially if we have disturbances and difficulties with other nations. I hope that the Transvaal question will be settled on peaceful lines, which I believe will be the case if the Government continue the policy they are now pursuing.
§ MR. GEOFFREY DRAGE (Derby)
As the question of the Transvaal has been raised, I desire to express my warm support of the Government. I believe the speeches of the right hon. Gentlemen the Colonial Secretary and the First Lord of the Treasury have given the utmost satisfaction to the country. I may say that no less than sixty meetings have been held, attended by 40,000 people, and at each meeting a resolution of confidence in Sir Alfred Milner has been passed. Sir Alfred Milner is worthy of the warmest support not only of hon. Members on both sides of the House, but also of the country at large. He has filled a most important position during a time of exceptional difficulty, and has shown on more than one occasion how much can be done by a High Commissioner in South Africa merely through force of character. I should like to refer the House to the White Paper recently published on Basutoland. The words are so remarkable, I should like to read them 65 to the House. Mr. Lagden says, speaking of the resolution of Sir Alfred Milner:It was no less a strength to me than a manifestation to the natives, who began to realise, for the first time, perhaps, in recent years, that constitutional orders would be carried out, and that the advice of the Queen's representative was intended to be obeyed.The case of the Uitlanders has been laid before the House more than once. It is not necessary, so late in the session, to go into facts which are common knowledge. But the details should not be forgotten; they should be kept before the country. It is almost incredible that citizens of an empire like our own should be subject to those grievances, and no redress found for them. Another point in regard to this Transvaal trouble is that these grievances, and the spirit of contention and disorder that is engendered, are preventing the realisation of what seems to me to be one of the greatest hopes of Great Britain in South Africa, viz., the federalisation of all the States of South Africa. I am one of those who are sanguine enough to believe that if the Colonial Secretary remains in office it will be given to him, as the crown of his policy in South Africa, to see the realisation of the federation of the different countries making up South Africa, as it has been his good fortune to see the federation of the whole of what will be the Australian Dominion. The question which has been raised by the right hon. Baronet is one of great importance. It is too frequently the case, as Lord Randolph Churchill once said, that public attention is only directed to one great subject at a time. It is almost impossible to focus public attention on more than one great question. It seems to me we should try to concentrate the Imperial activities as far as possible, but there is a danger that what has been going on in China might be forgotten. In South Africa there are two elements of strong foreign policy; first, the material interest, and, secondly, what appeals to democrats more than anything else—the larger ideal of liberty and justice. So, too, with China. We are now finding not only that we have material interests at stake, but that we are able to promote liberty and justice among the people. I particularly rose for the purpose of directing the attention of the House to the new reform party, 66 and to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he could give us any information as to the attitude of the Government with regard to that party. Hitherto the reform party has been little known in this country. But a new reform party has arisen during the present year which is supported all over the provinces; it is, in fact, far stronger in the provinces than in Pekin, and whereas in former times it was opposed by the Dowager Empress, information has reached me today that the Dowager Empress has been converted, and is willing to give her support to the reform movement. This reform movement is also supported by Japan, and it is extremely necessary to know what will be the attitude of Her Majesty's Government on the question. Information has reached me that the Japanese are being solicited by China, through a secret mission which left Shanghai for Tokio on July 8th, to enter into an offensive and defensive alliance on certain conditions. Japan demands the reform of the civil service, including, perhaps, maritime customs, that the administration should be reformed, with Japanese either as head or second in command in the departments, including a new Board of Works—in fact that the Japanese model of administration should be adopted throughout the Chinese Empire. The great difficulty, as the House is aware, in getting reforms promoted by the Japanese in China is that the Dowager Empress, who has hitherto been extremely hostile, has surrounded herself with a number of advisers who are strong supporters of the Russian Power. Now, however, if the information which has reached me is even approximately correct, we shall find ourselves face to face with the rivalry of Japan or China. Therefore the question which arises in my mind is whether, in the sphere of influence which has been marked out for us, we are going to undertake the rôle which Japan propose to play in other portions of the Chinese Empire. First and foremost, it will be necessary to demarcate our sphere, and secondly, now that this country has undertaken to police the waterways of the Yang-tsze Valley, we must organise a system of land police as well. Then again, our commerce will not expand in China unless there is a reorganisation of the law courts and the commercial code, for the present courts 67 are corrupt and there are no general principles of commercial law in the Chinese system. With that, of course, there must also be a reorganisation of the Chinese system of finance. Under the present system it is calculated there is a leakage of something like twenty-five millions sterling a year. It may not be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to make a statement on these subjects. I merely submit these facts for the information of the House, and ask the House to recollect that it is not a question, so far as China is concerned, of anyone desiring to annex any more territory. The right of this country to rule rests not on conquest, but on the moral administration she has been able to produce in the countries under her sway. I think the noble Lord, the Member for York, referred to the crux of the question with regard to China. It is absolutely impossible for us to carry on the Empire we have unless administrators are to be found in sufficient quantity. On the other hand, may I remind the noble Lord that there is another necessity of Empire, and that is bringing the electorate into touch with the Government on all these foreign questions. On all the big foreign questions, at any rate, there must be something like what was once called "a Fashoda atmosphere." I do not mean an atmosphere of excitement; I mean an attitude of determination founded on knowledge. I should like to point out that both from the noble Lord's point of view and from my own there appears good reason for those who are engaged in conducting foreign affairs and for those officers who, like Sir Alfred Milner and Sir Claude Macdonald, are conducting the business of the country abroad, to do their work in the confidence, not only that others will be found to carry it on when they have done, but that the country here at home will go with them in what they do. The two great movements which are so strong at the end of this present century are little understood in foreign countries and little studied here at home. The public school system is giving us the administrators for which the noble Lord asks, and those great organisations of the working-classes are bringing the attention of the country to bear on the great trade and labour problems both on this side and on the other side of the ocean. It is, Sir, because I believe that the country 68 will be able to undertake with full confidence both the task in the Transvaal and the task in China that I have ventured to occupy the time of the House.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Eccleshall)
I think the House will agree that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made an exceedingly interesting speech, and given the House some information which we hope may prove to be well founded I was rather surprised to hear the noble Lord, the Member for York, with most of whose remarks I agree, say that the British Empire was too large, and express some doubt as to whether capable administrators would be found for any fresh demand that might be made upon the English people. I think the noble Lord will admit that there has no occasion yet arisen in which this country has not been able to produce the man and the men—and thoroughly capable men—necessary for administrative work in distant countries. This country is fortunate in possessing what no other country in the world possesses—namely, a highly educated, highly patriotic, and highly intelligent upper middle class; and from that upper middle class there have been drawn, and is being drawn, and will be drawn the administrators of the vast Empire of which this country is the centre, even though that empire by force of circumstances and of commerce be extended. I do not share the fear of the noble Lord upon that point. The question of China, which was raised by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for the Forest of Dean, has not lost its importance because it has less occupied the public eye of late. The Transvaal question has, indeed, occupied the whole of the public attention; but the answer to the right hon. Baronet is that the Transvaal crisis is imminent and must be dealt with. The Chinese danger is great, and more or less acute, but it can and must wait. One of the main reasons for the necessity of settling the Transvaal crisis is that if it is allowed to go on we may next year be confronted with a Chinese crisis at the same time as we are dealing with the Transvaal crisis. For the last two months the Transvaal crisis has filled the air, and there has been little heard of the Chinese peril. This, silence is unfortunately not, as in some cases, a good sign. The danger is still 69 there, and is increasing. The aggressive advance of the Russian Power upon the independence of China still continues, and the resisting power of the Chinese Government does not increase. Russia is augmenting and consolidating her military and political strength in Manchuria, while we look on with folded arms, encouraging ourselves with the fond delusion that the sphere of the Yang-tsze-Kiang valley, undefended and indefensible as it is, will not be affected by the iron grip which Russia is fastening upon the rich provinces and teeming population of Northern China. In the last five years there have been four stages in the advance of the Russian Power, or rather in the surrender of the British Government. First, there was the pitiful abandonment of our gallant friends the Japanese in 1894–5 by the late Radical Government. The sufferance by England of the expulsion of the Japanese from Port Arthur was the source of all our misfortunes since, the fons et origo mali. It was one of the biggest and most costly blunders ever committed by a British Government. It deprived us of a splendid and natural bulwark against the Southern advance of Russia, and left Port Arthur and all Manchuria, and indeed, as we are now discovering, all Chi-li and Pekin itself open to Russian encroachment and conquest. Next came the extraordinary "ice free port" speech of the First Lord of the Treasury at Bristol, in December, 1897, in which, without any apparent cause, he invited the Russians to occupy an "ice free port" in the Yellow Sea, an invitation they responded to with an alacrity and completeness which much astonished the platonic inviter. The "ice free port" first became the fortress and arsenal of Port Arthur with a railway through Manchuria, and then became the practical annexation of Manchuria and Niuchwang, and control over China up to the Great Wall, with infinite capacity for extension. The third blunder was the pusillanimous withdrawal of our squadrom from Port Arthur in April, 1898, when it should rather have been reinforced—one of these inexplicable proceedings which it is impossible to defend, or even to understand. The fourth blunder was the extraordinary railway convention with Russia of June last, by which the Russian railway sphere was wantonly extended by Her Majesty's Government up to the Great Wall, and without any necessity or any apparent 70 quid pro quo. This was immediately followed by the Russian demand for a direct railway to Pekin, a demand which still remains, and which Russia intends to enforce. This railway, if made, will mean the absolute control and absorption by Russia of Pekin and all Northern China. There has, however, quite of late appeared one ray of brightness and comfort in this ever-blackening horizon. This relief comes from the east, and not from the west. The keen and progressive people of Japan are moving for the protection of China, and moving in the right direction. The visit of that able statesman, the Marquis of Ito, to Pekin has borne fruit. The Japanese are doing exactly what we should have been doing for the past four years. Let us hope Her Majesty's Government at last realise that co-operation with Japan is our main lever and hope in the East. With Japan we can do exactly as we please in the Northern Pacific, whereas without Japan our task will be arduous, and even difficult. For five years I have been urging this Anglo-Japanese entente as the best and almost the only means of saving China and of upholding British interests in those regions. I trust that at last Her Majesty's Government have, even with slow and halting feet, realised this vital principle of politics, and that Japan will have all our support in her useful and beneficent efforts. All that is needed is that the British fleet should hold the ring for the Japanese. On land Japan can easily deal with Russian aggression. There is only one policy for this country, and that is the maintenance of the independence of China and the absolute exclusion of Russian military and political control. A question was raised on Friday upon which I wish to say a few words. Some hon. Members, and even, I regret to say, one or two on this side of the House, advocated the barefaced confiscation of the Cyprus tribute in a way which a few years ago would have been scouted by every honest politician. The tribute paid by Cyprus to Turkey is based on a solemn convention and treaty, which we have no more right as a nation to disregard than the hon. Member for Northamptonshire would have to tear up a mortgage deed and repudiate the loan based upon it. I was glad to find that the Secretary of State for the Colonies gave no encouragement to this international freebooting. But I wish to ask a ques- 71 tion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer regarding the proposed conversion of the Cyprus tribute, which was arranged some time back, and which would be advantageous to all parties. Why has not that conversion been completed? Is it because the Foreign Office have been seeking to deduct from the payment that would be due to Turkey under that conversion certain claims against Turkey which arise from wholly different matters, and which have no relation whatever to the Cyprus tribute? If this be so, it must be considered as most unfortunate, and can only cause great irritation without doing any good. The country would be relieved if the Colonial Secretary would make some definite statement regarding the negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and President Kruger, and as to the actual relations between the Suzerain Power and the Transvaal before Parliament rises. The franchise concession has been made by the Colonial Secretary the key of the position, but the difficulties of the Transvaal will be by no means settled, even if the full demands of Sir Alfred Milner are accepted by the Volksraad. Such questions as the independence and honesty of the Transvaal High Court, the impartial and uncorrupt administration of the country, the removal of religious disabilities, the equal benefits of education and language, and the just incidence of taxation are almost, if not quite, as important as that of the franchise—a rather doctrinaire remedy, which, after all, is only a means to an end, and a means that a great number of the Transvaal Uitlanders do not ardently desire. Moreover, the bare gift of the franchise by the Volksraad can be easily neutralised by those restrictive conditions and artifices in which the Boers have proved themselves quite past masters, and which would prevent any effective addition of Uitlanders to the electoral power of the Transvaal. These are details, and very important details. The main thing, however, is that Her Majesty's Government should make it plain to President Kruger and to the Boer Executive and Volksraad—that is, to the thirty-three persons who are absolute masters of the Transvaal, with more than a Venetian absolutism—that no evasion or shuffling will be permitted, and that the settlement made now must be complete, final, and must be honestly observed. There has been too much palaver and too much "soft sawder" in all this Transvaal 72 business. The result has been that for eighteen long years the Boer President has played a successful game of bounce, and England and British interests and the rights of the Uitlanders have been steadily driven down hill. No subject has been the centre of so many myths, of such huge humbug, and of so much pseudo glorification as the Boer government of the Transvaal. The Boers are not even the original proprietors of the country. They are only interlopers of some forty-seven years' standing, who have oppressed the real aborigines in the most barbarous and cruel way. They are not the majority of the white population, nor the best part of it, nor the most industrious. They number less than two-fifths of the white population, they pay less than one-sixth of the taxation, and they have not one-tenth part of the education of their Uitlander neighbours. The Boer Republic is a sham, and a republic only in name. It is in fact a corrupt oligarchy, worked by a handful of clever and designing persons for their own benefit, dependent for its existence upon prejudice and race hatred, and employing all the worst, most venal, and most tyrannical methods of the most unscrupulous autocracy in the world, in order to maintain its power. The Kruger régime is in fact a vast extortion machine. The present Boer resistance to our just demands is not a struggle for liberty or justice, for there is neither liberty nor justice under the Transvaal Government. It is simply a struggle for unjust and monstrous speculation—a last effort of a most corrupt oligarchy to keep its hold over a rich and promising field of exploitation. I have heard a number of persons, even some Conservative Members of Parliament, say, "Oh, but a determined policy means war, and a war about such a question as the Uitlanders' franchise would not be popular." This kind of statement, which has been very common of late, involves three fallacies—gross fallacies. First, a firm attitude would not mean war. It is the only way to preserve the peace and to avoid war. We found this the case in the Fashoda question, where England had to deal with a highly civilised and powerful country. Since Fashoda our relations with France have steadily improved, and I trust may continue to be most friendly. How much more is a firm and strong policy necessary in dealing with an ignorant and prejudiced government 73 like the Kruger oligarchy. I entirely agree with Mr. Rhodes that there is no danger of war if only Her Majesty's Government give up trying to put salt on President Kruger's tail, and avoid sentimental and misleading periphrases, and stand to their guns with unequivocal tenacity. It may be necessary to have a corps d'armée under orders for the Cape; but there will be little risk of war. The second fallacy is that the franchise is the only question at issue. The real question at issue is the future of South Africa, the establishment of British predominance in South Africa on a lasting and unshakeable basis, or the probable loss of our rich and splendid colonies in that vast region. The Afrikander Bond, now so powerful, is not a loyal society. It is an Anti-British combination subsidised by the Kruger oligarchy, and labouring to set up a United States of South Africa, wholly independent of the British Crown and with the Boer element predominant. Now is the critical moment. The real question is whether this free and mighty Empire of England shall allow scores of thousands of her children, who are resident in the Transvaal, who have made its prosperity, and who pay nine-tenths of its taxation, to be denied all civil and political rights, to be treated as helots by an oligarchy inferior in every way, and to be subject to every kind of injustice, abuse, extortion, and even violence. These are the questions which are at issue, and not a paltry dispute about the franchise, as some of my hon. friends have seemed to think. They are the greatest issues for which a nation or an empire can undertake a struggle—dominion and justice. The Colonial Secretary has at last risen to the height of the occasion, and in his speech of Friday, the 28th July, showed a complete grasp of the situation. He then, for the first time, put the issue on its real basis, viz., the maintenance or the loss of British supremacy in South Africa. I may be allowed a little pardonable satisfaction in feeling that the views the right hon. Gentleman now so eloquently advocates are precisely those which I urged in more moderate language upon this House three years ago, and even five years ago, and which he then contemned. But I do not wish to be captious. If the deeds of the Colonial Secretary are as resolute as his words are reassuring, the result must be satisfactory. And I should like also to 74 pay a warm tribute to the declaration the Prime Minister made on the same day, which was of a most admirable and satisfactory nature. But, Sir, the third fallacy involved in this statement, about a war for the franchise being probably unpopular, is the worst of all. It is to base the decision of war upon the phrase "popular." I cannot imagine a more pernicious or more discreditable criterion. A war must be entered upon, not because it is for the moment popular or unpopular, but because it is necessary for great national or imperial interests, or because it is demanded by vital claims of justice. Such a war, undertaken of necessity and carried through with vigour and success, is bound to be popular. The result of foreign policy is judged by its ultimate success or failure, and not by the breezes of the moment; least of all by the outcries of an artful and unscrupulous Opposition, who will be the first to denounce the Government for the disastrous results of that very weakness which the Opposition itself has encouraged. But I will tell those timid gentlemen who have been prating about "unpopularity," what would he really unpopular, what would lose them their seats at the General Election, and what would cause the certain fall of the present Government. It would be a continuance of the present crisis, through the possible weakness of Her Majesty's Ministers. It would be a period of drift and surrender, to be followed with absolute certainty by a worse Transvaal crisis next year, and a crisis most probably synchronous with a far more dangerous crisis in the Far East. That is the alternative to a decisive policy now, and it is an alternative which even the most fainthearted will hardly desire when they realise what it means. Parliament has been most liberal in its subsidies for national defence to the present Government. The country cheerfully accepts the expenditure of£51,000,000 a year in order to accomplish great national and Imperial results. But the English people will never endure such expenditure unless it is accompanied by security, by success, by the effective maintenance of British interests and of British rights wherever they are imperilled. The country expects that the Transvaal crisis will be settled promptly, effectively, permanently, and with honour to the British flag. If that be done the Government will have 75 nothing to fear from the criticisms of the Opposition. A long-standing, dangerous, and aggravating question will be laid at rest, a humiliating stain upon British credit will be effaced, and British predominance in South Africa will be rendered unchallengeable.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
I think the Government are to be congratulated upon the amount of appreciation which they have received from the various speakers with regard to their foreign policy, and I entirely associate myself with those views. With regard to the Transvaal, the question is very simple and may be kept within a very short compass. There should be equality of treatment for all our English subjects in the Transvaal, and the suzerainty and supremacy of this country in South Africa is clearly a policy which must be maintained. While other speakers have dwelt at length upon the propriety of extending our Empire in South Africa and China, I wish to draw attention to certain parts of our old Empire which I think, in the present excitement, have every chance of being overlooked and neglected. The hon. Member for Derby said the democracy were animated by high ideals of justice, but it seems to me that with regard to the West Indies and also with regard to the sugar refining industry at home, the democracy of this country have not been sufficiently educated by Her Majesty's Government. A year ago the Brussels Conference was called together by Her Majesty's Government with a view that their deliberations would relieve the Government of the necessity of having to take any other steps to procure justice towards our colonies, but nothing has been done to carry the propositions made to any definite result. So far back as May, 1898, Lord Salisbury affirmed:That the bounties on sugar were prejudicial to the general interests of the British Empire.But what has his Lordship done since then to do away with those bounties? Only a few months previously the Report of the Royal Commission affirmed:That the rehabilitation of the sugar industry is the only remedy that would completely avert the dangers which now threaten your Majesty's West Indian possessions.76 And yet, after the strong statements on the part of very impartial witnesses with regard to the bounty system and the refining industry at home, Her Majesty's Government have not taken those firm and decided steps which they know in their hearts they should have taken, and which would have been immediately effective. It is quite true that the Secretary of State for the Colonies has done all he could with that energy of which he is the master to reduce this evil by providing palliating remedies which may possibly do a considerable amount of good for the time being, but which are quite inadequate, as the right hon. Gentleman knows full well, to bring about the absolute recuperation of those ancient colonies of the Crown. The only way to do this is to put them in the position which they formerly occupied. Last year our policy was that of paying off debts, and this year we have a policy of granting loans. As everybody knows, when you desire to assist a poor relation it is not merely enough to pay his debts and lend him money, but you want to put him in a position in which he will be able to maintain himself in the future, and not be continually falling back upon you. It seems to me that this policy which the Government have adopted contains an inherent weakness, for there can be no finality about paying debts or lending money, and if the British democracy is animated by those high ideals of justice, they ought not to neglect their duty to their fellow-subjects beyond the seas, and they should see that they have a free entrance to our market here at home. As long as Her Majesty's Government neglect to take the only steps which can be effective to bring about this result, so long will they fail in their duty towards their fellow-subjects in the West Indies and other colonies. For the last few days we have been considering the question of loans to the West Indies, and some hon. Members think they are doing something very handsome when they recommend that the funds of this country should be voted for the development of our colonies. This country is now receiving, through the surtax on rum,£250,000 a year from these colonies, and, according to the Royal Commission, this is an undue tax upon the industries of the West Indies, and, consequently, it is just that Her Majesty's Government now 77 propose to lend money to these islands. With regard to the continuance of the rum tax, this is another instance of the great injustice which the British democracy is inflicting upon the people of the West Indies. The House may or may not know that this rum tax of 4d. per gallon is put upon the rum made in the West Indies distinctly as a countervailing duty to protect British spirits subject to excise here. I am glad to see that the Secretary of State for the Colonies has agreed that there should be a Return issued showing what the local excise regulations are. When this Report is printed I think it will be seen that these colonies have themselves local excise regulations on the manufacture of rum which are quite as bad and as heavy as those imposed in this country on the manufacture of British spirits. From all the information I can get, it seems to me that the British spirit distillers are perfectly alive to all these facts, and do not object to the abolition of the surtax on rum. This matter also is under the direct control of Downing Street. The House will, therefore, see that the whole system of excise in those colonies is entirely under the control of this House inasmuch as it is regulated by the right hon. Gentleman who sits below me. It seems to me that this is one of those crying injustices which are so seldom brought before this House. I appeal to the right hon. Gentlemen who form Her Majesty's Government that they should during the next six or seven months do more than they have done in the past in order to bring about the abolition of these bounties, which press so hardly on the industry of these ancient colonies. I noticed in this morning's Times an interesting article written by a gentleman who knows well what he is writing about, and he says that it is quite certain that all these various schemes of which we have heard to rehabilitate the West India Islands will avail us little unless these sugar bounties are abolished and proper markets established. The Secretary for State for the Colonies has brought about within the last few days some reciprocity treaties, but I should prefer a closer union between the mother country and our colonies rather than reciprocity between the West India Islands and the United States. This latter policy is by no means wholly beneficial to the mother country. It is said that the Islands 78 will gain very considerably by this treaty with the United States, but these Islands possess very important harbours on the route to Panama; and it is, to my thinking, very prejudicial to the interests of the mother country that their sympathies should be alienated from us and handed over to a foreign Power, although that Power may happen to speak the same language as we do. When it is remembered that owing to those bounties the lack of credit to these Islands prevents the development of enormously rich areas, I think that is a reason why, without further delay, Her Majesty's Government should take some steps in the matter, and if they are afraid of the electorate in this country let them go and point out to them how absolutely necessary it is that these bounties should be abolished. If only the present price of sugar is maintained I believe the sugar planter in the West Indies would be content, and, at the same time, by abolishing these bounties, you will rehabilitate the sugar-refining industry of the mother country, and in doing so you will do much to benefit a large mass of the working population of this country.
§ MR. WYLIE (Dumbartonshire)
I wish to draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the present position of the Sugar Bounty question. I supported the Indian Tariff Act not only in the interests of India but also in the interests of Free Trade throughout the world. I was very much surprised at the opposition of my right hon. friend the Member for Wolverhampton, because I believe that it is a continuation of his own policy. In 1893 the Government in which the right hon. Gentleman acted as Secretary of State for India, with much benefit to that country, closed the Mints against the free coinage of silver——
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member's observations will be more in order to-morrow, when the Indian Budget is discussed, than to-day.
§ MR. WYLIE
I bow to your ruling. As to the general aspect of this question, notwithstanding the influence of State subsidies the sugar grown in tropical countries can still be produced cheaper than in European countries. Cane sugar can now be produced at a cost considerably under £9 per ton, whilst in the case of beet sugar the cost 79 is over £10 a ton. The opponents of the bounty system thought that the present would be a very opportune time at which to renew the meetings of the international conference which was adjourned in June last year, and for that purpose they requested an interview with the Prime Minister. For domestic reasons which we all regret, and I am sure the whole House sympathises with the Prime Minister upon this matter, Lord Salisbury was unable to give the deputation the interview which he had intended. I now desire to draw the attention of the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the position of this question. They have behind them the very large Vote which the House gave upon this question in connection with the Indian Tariff Act, and I think they should take steps for having a meeting of the International Conference on the sugar question at a very early date. Hitherto at these International Conferences we have appeared as a peace-at-any-price party, and with as little chance of making our influence felt as we should have had in the Valley of the Nile if we had not had force behind our diplomacy. It is generally believed that if our delegates had been able to state definitely that India would impose countervailing duties, we should have carried our point, and it is almost certain that if this country had stated our intention of taking up the much more powerful weapon lying ready to our hand, the whole system of bounty fed attack on our sugar industries would have disappeared. But at that conference we had only a sword of lath, in the shape of indefinite hints, as to what might be done; but India has now grasped a weapon of steel, wherewith she has rendered herself invulnerable to the attacks of our bounty-fed rivals and made it quite sure that she will now retain within the domain of the British Empire a very large and important industry; and we who are at the centre of the Empire, and hold the reins which guide its colonies, and to whom they have a right to look for light and leading and support, should not hesitate to give the decision which we have arrived at in connection with India a wide-world significance. In doing this we should be holding out our right hand of support to those who have suffered so much and borne up so bravely in the struggle 80 against this most unjust and injurious system of Protection.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
As so many questions have been raised, it would be perhaps convenient that I should rise at this moment, in order to reply to a few of the questions which have been put to me. First of all, I will allude to the subject which was introduced by my hon. friend the Member for the Abercromby Division of Liverpool, and the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire, with regard to the sugar bounties. I think both my hon. friends who have spoken have complained that the question in which they are interested has made comparatively little progress since the Brussels Conference, and my hon. friend the Member for the Abercromby Division was inclined to attribute some supineness to the Government for not having taken more definite steps. It is impossible for me to-night to make any statement in the direction which both these hon. Members desire; but at the same time I think it would be wrong to suppose that although negotiations, as I said this afternoon, are not now proceeding, although the Belgian Government, to whom the negotiations were entrusted through diplomatic channels, have not hitherto been able to report any success in their negotiations with the French Government, at the same time I think it would be wrong to suppose that the question has altogether stood still. In the first place, I think the mere fact that the conference showed an undoubted general feeling, on the part of the nations concerned, that the time had come when bounties should be done away with, was a great step in advance, and I might go further and say that, with regard to the French Government, there are not wanting indications that the events of the last six months have not been thrown away upon them. It is quite possible, having regard to the feeling pervading other nations, and the possible extension of the system of countervailing duties already adopted by the United States, that the French Government may modify its views in the same direction. My hon. friend the Member for Dumbartonshire, when he alluded to the events of last October, did not, of course, mean to suggest that other force should be brought to bear upon a commercial operation like this. I assure my hon. friends. 81 that there has been no want of earnest attention on the part of Her Majesty's Government. A variety of questions have been raised in regard to China, and the right hon. Baronet has brought forward the question of our present position in regard to certain concessions, remarking that, although by a recent agreement with Russia Manchuria is left a Russian sphere of concessions, and the Yang-tsze remains our sphere, there is a large and important strip of territory between as to which no agreement has been come to. Looking at it simply as a question of concessions, and leaving the political side over for a few moments, I do not think there is any reason to complain of concessions in that sphere. A general agreement in regard to that sphere would be extremely difficult, for undoubtedly the Pekin Government will desire to control concessions in the country immediately adjoining the capital. So far as Her Majesty's Government are aware, negotiations are proceeding satisfactorily with the powerful syndicate, which has been much encouraged by surveys made, and has decided to extend its operations along the line of the Yang-tsze, and Her Majesty's Government will be glad if they are able to persuade the Chinese Government to facilitate their operations. Our difficulty in making a report upon the other concessions which have been given up to this time is that the concessionaires have hardly got to work yet. A great deal has been promised on paper, but at present the actual results are comparatively inconsiderable; but I would say, there is no reason whatever why we should regard concessions which happen to be given to some other Powers, in provinces with which we are not particularly concerned, with mistrust. I was asked just now what was our attitude with regard to the reform party in China. A reform of the administration in China will probably commend itself to every man in this country. One thing is quite certain, however, and that is that we cannot expect to remove in a few weeks the encrusted traditions of centuries, with regard to official action in China. I think we are lucky if we find other nations, in provinces with which we are not immediately connected, will bear their share in opening up China, which is not likely to be a work of great ease or one unaccompanied by danger to those who 82 undertake it. A much more important point which has been raised is that of our possible co-operation with Germany in regard to provinces which are not in the special sphere of any Power. The whole question of alliances, as regards China, is one which is always cropping up, and on which those who advocate alliances take different views. My noble friend wished an alliance of four Powers, and he has made eloquent speeches——
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
May I interrupt? I never said anything of the sort. I never wished for an alliance between four Powers, but for an understanding on the same basis as the Maritime Customs are carried out now.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I am bound to say that the general impression caused by my noble friend's representation for several months, until he visited America, was that he was strongly in favour of an alliance of four Powers to keep the open door, and to preserve the integrity of China. My noble friend complained that I have said that his speeches are always made after dinner. That is the last thing I should venture to suggest. What I said was that my noble friend's speeches were as genial before dinner as I should expect them to be after dinner, which I think was hardly an impeachment on any man. The right hon. Baronet opposite prefers an alliance with Germany.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
I have never used such a word as "alliance" at all, and I do not think it represents the policy that I have suggested.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Everybody is now anxious to discard the word alliance, and I agree. I think that very often, with regard to alliances, we may say what the Greeks said of women, that the best are those that are the least talked about. My hon. friend, the Member for the Ecclesall Division, did speak of an alliance with Japan. In all these questions I think we may say, as regards Germany, that we may look forward in many parts of the world, in more than one part anyhow, to good results from the friendly co-operation with Germany. I do not see what is the divergent interest between Germany and 83 ourselves in these matters. No doubt we are both great manufacturing nations, and we are rivals in that respect, but on the other hand we are, or ought to be, partners in the desire to open up and keep open all parts of the globe to our manufacturers. We have a great identity of interests. The point which must divide us with regard to China is that we ourselves have a comparative immunity in any co-operation we may agree upon, because we have no land frontier on which our enemies can co-operate, whereas in the case of any Continental Power, which enters into agreements and arrangements of this character in China, it has to consider that even if it is not intended as a menace to any particular Power it might be taken so. In the case of a Power 99 out of 100 of whose interests lie in Europe, it is almost impossible for that Power to say that for the hundredth interest, which lies in Asia, it will engage in hostilities in any eventuality; therefore I think while we may appear very often to be proceeding alone in these matters we are often voicing the opinion of more Powers than appear on the surface. In that respect, I should like to say one word with regard to the slight censure which the right hon. Gentleman pronounced on the Government, both for the advice which we have tendered to the Chinese Government in respect to the possibility of a railway to Pekin from Manchuria, and also, as he put it, to the way in which it was announced in this House. All that we have said is this: we cannot look without concern upon the predominance of any Power at Pekin, and I think it is not impossible that the right hon. Gentleman will find that other Powers who may not speak in the same tongue, will not be backward in showing that they share our opinion should the occasion arise. There is no doubt that the present position of the Chinese Government is a most phenomenal one. They are protected not merely by the vast bulk of the Empire, some of which are not altogether under their control, but also by tradition, which forbids them hastily taking up many measures of reform, which would probably save the Government very much difficulty. They are also none the less in the position that they are too weak to resist the assault of any great European Power; or, as has been proved, still more of Japan. Under those circumstances, the position of the Chinese 84 Government must remain a matter of doubt and uncertainty, and in some respect of peril, but I would venture, on one of the last days of the session, to call attention to the immensely improved tone and confidence which prevailed both in regard to the position of the Government in China and to the operations of the Government which has been shown by the discussions in this House during the present session. When we parted last year the air was full of alarms and rumours, and there was a general impression that England had lost all along the line either through supineness or want of nerve. I do not think there is any evidence of that feeling in the speeches which have been delivered this evening. I think it has been realised that if progress has been slow it has been sure, and that we have not fallen behind, certainly in the commercial race, and I hope also in the political race, in China. There is no doubt my noble friend thinks that we have not taken sufficiently strong steps to observe the open door, and that our agreement with Russia is useless. I would remind my noble friend that we still, as we ever did, take our stand as regards the open door on the provisions of the Treaty of Tientsin, to which the Chinese Government was a party, and my noble friend cannot point out any case in which up to the present the provisions of that treaty have been disregarded as against us. The open door remains open, and although it is clear to any of those who have watched the course of events that we cannot undertake to protect British commerce if it is pushed into the uttermost provinces of China, to some of which the power of the Chinese Government itself hardly extends, yet we have not allowed any operations to take place which would prejudice the entry of our trade. On the other hand, we have made it clear that if new interests are to be created it is desirable they should be in the Yang-tsze Valley, where our gunboats offer protection as far as it is possible for an external Government to proceed. Under these circumstances I hope the House will recognise that the Government are fully alive to the responsibilities which lie upon them. I know perfectly well that it would he infinitely more agreeable to the country and more effective on the platform, to make vigorous statements of our claims, based on our long commercial predominance. But the 85 position taken up by the Government is far safer and surer. Our policy in China at this moment is one of patience and watchfulness. Patience, which is absolutely necessary in dealing with a country which has so many centuries of lethargy to make up for; and watchfulness, which has already produced good results. I hope that the tone which has characterised this discussion will continue, and that the House will give to the Government in this matter that confidence which it deserves.
§ MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)
I desire to make one last appeal to the Government to suspend, if they can, the proceedings with regard to the prosecution of the Leicester Guardians. There are no more enlightened citizens in the country than the Poor Law Guardians of Leicester. They desire to carry out all reasonable and practicable law, but they object to the appointment of a vaccination officer, on the ground that it will be a useless expense to the ratepayers of the borough, and that it would be entirely unnecessary, and therefore a waste and an extravagant I appointment. I have here the last report of the medical officer of the borough—a man of great eminence in his profession. He says, under the heading of "Small-pox":No cases of this complaint were notified; two suspicious cases were brought to my notice by a medical man in the borough, but the patients were eventually proved to be suffering from other diseases. There are several complaints which have a rash resembling small-pox, but one of the two mentioned above proved to be suffering from rheumatism.There was not a single case of small-pox in the borough during 1898, and I therefore think there is good cause why the Guardians of Leicester should not appoint a public official when there is no work for him to do. Forty-five out of the forty-eight guardians have been specially appointed for the purpose of opposing and combating vaccination. They do not prevent people being vaccinated who desire it, but they oppose as far as they can compulsory vaccination in the case of those who do not wish to be vaccinated. For this step the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board has pro- 86 secuted these guardians, and if he carries his policy to the bitter end he will have forty-five guardians to accommodate in prison, six of them being ladies; and if another election should follow, forty-five other guardians will go to prison also, and before the matter is finished practically the whole of the population of Leicester will have to be accommodated in Her Majesty's prisons. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has seen a report of a case at Derby, in which a legal decision was given that under the Act of last year compulsion was illegal, and that the vaccination officer might not vaccinate except by the consent and order of the guardian. This is a very important decision, and if it is good law, as I have no doubt it is, the proceedings initiated against the Guardians of Leicester are altogether wrong, and the steps which have been taken will have to be retraced. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the proceedings against the Leicester Guardians should not be stayed until a final decision is given in the Derby case. I think that is a reasonable request, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to answer it in the affirmative. If he persists in this he will have a tremendous task before him, because the whole of the borough will prefer to go to prison rather than submit to compulsory vaccination. The First Lord of the Treasury made a speech on the 30th of July last year, which showed that he foresaw the exact position which now obtains in Leicester, and he warned the House against adopting any legislation that would have the effect of putting the whole community at variance with the law. It would be impossible to put the case of the Leicester Guardians in more excellent language, and I am indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for it. You cannot imprison a whole community, and you cannot coerce local authority. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will now adopt the policy enunciated last July, and that he will rescue his Party from its present impossible position, and which will prevent large public demonstrations which may lead to 87 lawlessness. I make this appeal in the hope, and I might also say the assurance, that where common-sense ruled so supreme twelve months ago it will assert itself now, and stay the proceedings which have been brought against the Leicester Guardians.
§ MR. HAZELL (Leicester)
I desire to associate myself with what my hon. friend has just said with reference to the gravity of the situation in Leicester. Among the forty-five ladies and gentlemen to whom my hon. friend has referred, there is one guardian who is eighty years of age, and who is determined to go to prison with his colleagues. I think it is possible that the House does not fully understand how deeply rooted feeling on this matter is in Leicester. Leicester practically suspended the compulsory clauses of the Vaccination Act half a generation ago, and therefore found no relief from the measure of last year. Whether it is wise or unwise, there is no doubt of the earnestness and intensity of feeling of the people on this subject. They do not feel it a matter of joke. They are not anxious to go to prison, but they would do so if they believed it to be their duty. They are the stuff of which martyrs are made. I am not here to defend the guardians, but I warn the President of the Local Government Board that if he persists in his present course he will bring disaster to the cause he has at heart—namely, the extension of vaccination. He told us on Friday that the increase of vaccination for the six months of this year over the corresponding six months of 1898 was 27 per cent. That was not done by coercing guardians and sending them to prison; it was done by the free operation of the Act under which the doctor goes to the parents' houses and uses his legitimate influence to induce them to have their children vaccinated. While the right hon. Gentleman is thus coercing the guardians, he is arousing all over the country a sense of antagonism among the people, and there can be no doubt that that antagonism will beat him, however long he perseveres. The guardians have had hundreds of letters of sympathy. The question is further complicated at the present moment by a vaccination officer being appointed, whom the guardians will have to pay, but over whom they will have no control. This is not only a vaccination question, it is a question of 88 local self-government. We Londoners, who know so little of self-government, can hardly appreciate the intense earnestness and zeal for local government which these men of Leicester have. I believe sincerely that if the right hon. Gentleman pursues his present course there is the very gravest danger of the public peace being broken. I know that the people of Leicester are a very law-abiding people, but no power which the right hon. Gentleman can use in Leicester, not one regiment of soldiers, or two, or more, will force the people against their conscientious convictions to have their children vaccinated. While the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing this course and rousing antagonism all over the country, he is seriously setting back the development of the system of vaccination.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
said he would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board whether he intended to enforce the law as laid down by the Poor Law Amendment Act on the Guardians of South Shields Union. What happened there was this: a Nonconformist service was held, to which all the children in the union were taken. That service was held, as the guardians themselves say, by the Sunday School Union. There was singing of what were known as Sankey's hymns, the reading of a Bible lesson, and a short address, generally on the subject of temperance. He had not the slightest objection to their giving any form of service they pleased which was not a contravention of the regulations of the guardians. But if these services were conducted by a Nonconformist body which professedly represented the Nonconformists of the town, the strong probability was that they would have a very strong Nonconformist flavour. What he maintained was that it was an infraction of religious liberty and of the spirit of the law that the children of Church of England parents, or the children who were visited by a clergyman of the Church of England, should be compelled to attend these services. The vicar who acted as chaplain at South Shields wrote a letter, in which he said, speaking of the clerk to the guardians:He admits that the Church of England children are not placed on the same footing as the 89 Roman Catholic children, nor are they placed on an equal footing with the Nonconformist children, for the latter are studiously withdrawn from all Church services.The Church of England was supposed to be the only body which had no conscience and no rights. The vicar went on to say:The service in question is described by the guardians as quite of a colourless nature. I am quite willing to admit that that is the intention of those who conduct it, but I am equally sure that it is impossible to maintain any regular service colourless, where particular people conduct it from time to time.Even if it were possible to secure absolute undenominational teaching, that could not be regarded as acceptable to Churchmen. He asked for a very moderate amount of justice, and he hoped his right hon. friend would not give a non possumus answer to his petition. He trusted that this matter would receive the attention of the Local Government Board during the recess, and that if necessary the President would take the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown as to whether this case did not come within the provisions of the Act.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. CHAPLIN,) Lincolnshire, Sleaford
In reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University, I am sure he will remember that in an earlier part of the session I gave him an undertaking, when he talked of the Church of England having no conscience and no rights, that I would make it my business to see that the Church of England should not be unfairly treated, and so far as I am aware I have acted up to that statement. My right hon. friend says that the Church of England has no conscience and no rights, but that is a somewhat exaggerated statement when we consider that out of 640 unions 500 employ clergy of the Church of England at the present moment. In regard to this particular case, I stated in answer to a question this afternoon that, so far as we were aware, the services to which my right hon. friend referred were not religious services in which the doctrines of any particular creed were advocated. I am told that there is no question of the children being obliged to attend these services, and that the children like to 90 attend them, but I shall be perfectly ready to make further inquiry if it be necessary. So far as I know, the services consist of singing Sankey's hymns, the reading of a chapter of the Bible, and an address on temperance. If that is all there is to complain of, I frankly admit I do not see that I am called upon to interfere with a practice which has gone on for thirty-five years and of which complaint is now made for the first time. However, I will examine further into the matter and ascertain if there is anything in the services which reflects on the treatment meted out to the children of the Church of England. If there are any grounds for interference in the direction desired by my right hon. friend, I shall know how to act. With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester, I confess that, having listened very carefully to it, I am at some loss as to what was his real object, but at the close I rather gathered that he intended to appeal to me to stay all further proceedings in connection with the Guardians of Leicester. Yes, but those proceedings have passed out of my hands. I understand the Board of Guardians of Leicester have not yet agreed to obey the order of the High Court. That is a matter with which I have nothing to do. It is a matter now between the High Court and the Board of Guardians of Leicester.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
That is a matter between the High Court and the Board of Guardians. The hon. Member's speech does not add much to my knowledge of the subject. I was glad to hear that the hon Member's colleague did not support the guardians, and that he did not approve of the action of the guardians in this instance.
§ MR. HAZELL
I do not profess to be an anti-vaccinationist, but what I urged upon the right hon. Gentleman was the danger of the course he is pursuing at present.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
At all events, the hon. Gentleman said he did not pose as a supporter of the guardians in these proceedings, and I was very glad of it, and for this reason. What is the position which the guardians have taken up in regard to this question? This is not a 91 question of compulsory vaccination, because that question, we know, was decided last session. There is no compulsion at this moment in Leicester in regard to vaccination with any person who chooses to comply with the law. The real question at issue is this—that the Guardians of Leicester, by their refusal to appoint the necessary officers, are doing their best to prevent facilities being given to those people who desire vaccination. The hon. Gentleman says the Board of Guardians have had a great many letters of sympathy. Well, I have had a great many letters, too, from people in Leicester, entreating me to adhere to my position and give them the advantages enjoyed in every other town in England. Leicester is the only town which has refused to comply with the law and appoint the necessary officer. The hon. Member who began this Debate said there was no necessity whatever to appoint the medical officer, as there had been only two cases of small-pox in Leicester.
§ MR. BROADHURST
What I said was that in the last report of the medical officer there was not mentioned a single case of small-pox in 1898.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
But that is not a reason why there should not be small-pox in Leicester. The danger is that at any moment there may be an outbreak of small-pox where so many are unvaccinated. In all probability if there was an outbreak it would equal in its disastrous character that which took place in Gloucester. Then, in regard to Leicester itself, he says that nobody desires vaccination.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
The hon. Member, or the hon. Member near him, said so. In the first six months of 1898 the vaccinations in Leicestershire, in which the town is included, were 234, but in the first six months of 1899 the vaccinations were 1,977, although it is supposed to be against vaccination. Moreover, the Board of Guardians have not thought it necessary to appeal against the decision of the High Court of Queen's Bench. The hon. Member said that the English people are 92 difficult to drive, but such a remark is out of date altogether. No one is attempting to drive them now. The plain fact is that the Leicester Guardians have deliberately set themselves in defiance of the law, and in doing this they are doing all that rests within their power, not simply to free people from vaccination who are opposed to it, but to impede and prevent the thousands of people who desire vaccination from availing themselves of it.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Eastbourne)
We have had a very interesting discussion on vaccination, and on foreign and colonial policy. It must be satisfactory to the Government to feel, when the House adjourns, that their hands have been strengthened by this Debate, and that the position of the country has been greatly strengthened as a first-class sea Power. I wish to apologise for interposing on the Appropriation Bill. Nothing but a burning sense of duty would have led me to trespass now on the indulgence of the House. I tried to raise the question I am now about to touch upon in Committee of Supply on the Naval Estimates, but I was ruled out of order by the intervention of an hon. Member on this side of the House. We have had, as all the world knows, a disastrous explosion at Toulon, in France, of a powder magazine. That is a matter of momentous importance, although the country knows very little about it. No information has been published in the Press. I ventured to put a question to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in order that I might get some information through our Ambassador in Paris, but the answer I received was that the information was confidential. On July 7th I put a question in regard to the policy of magazine extension, because the Government have taken a Vote in the Naval Works Bill of nearly half a million for that purpose. I feel most strongly that rash action is being taken in regard to this magazine extension. I have had communications on the subject from the Mayor of Portsmouth, and the local authorities on the other side of the harbour. Some foolish people think that I am taking this action because I live in the locality. People who talk this nonsense do not know me. My life is of no value to anyone. I care not whether my life is lost in an explosion, 93 but I care a very great deal as to whether Portsmouth Dockyard is to be jeopardised. If there was a repetition at Portsmouth of the Toulon explosion it would mean that the Empire would be jeopardised, the total destruction of the Dockyard, and of all the buildings and barracks in the harbour, to say nothing of the dreadful loss of life among the soldiers, marines, and inhabitants generally. As a naval officer, I admit that our first duty is to care for the efficiency of the Fleet, and in order to maintain that efficiency we must have supplies of cordite ammunition at hand. In the old war period the heaviest charge known was 16 Ibis. of powder, but now there is a charge of 167½ lbs. of cordite on board battleships, and cordite is nearly six times as destructive as the old gunpowder. I admit that the conditions of the problem are altered, and the necessity for increasing our magazine accommodation is urgent. But what I do object to is that the Admiralty is extending the magazine accommodation at Priddy's Hard. Now, that ought to be only a receiving magazine, and ought not to be converted into a great store-house, from which a whole mobilised fleet could be supplied. No hasty decision ought to be come to in regard to this matter, but it should be inquired into by a strong committee—not a committee of two naval officers and two colonels of Royal Engineers; that is not strong enough for me. When a question was put to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty upon the subject he did not answer it, but asked the House to have confidence in the Administration of the Navy. Everybody had most unbounded confidence in the Administration of the Navy, but that is not the question. The youngest Member of the House is as competent to judge whether a magazine should be extended in such a manner. I quite admit that the Admiralty ought to have supplies near at hand, but in my opinion they should not be stored at the place proposed. There is a harbour running six miles up, with land on either side, from which sites might be selected; yet the Government prefer to store all their cordite in this small magazine, which they are going to extend. From rough calculations I have made I have arrived at the conclusion that for mobilisation purposes some 1,000 tons of cordite are required, and in my opinion the store-house required 94 for such a quantity should be built five miles up the creek. Neither the Commander-in-Chief nor the Admiral of the Dockyard is in favour of the new policy of the Government; on the contrary, both are opposed to it, and outside the Admiralty there is not a single officer in the country who approves of it. The effect of the explosion of the magazine at Toulon was felt thirteen miles away, and hundreds of houses were levelled to the dust, and we in this country do not want a repetition of such a disaster. No doubt the House will be told that cordite is perfectly stable, but that is no justification for its being stored near the dockyard. I feel that I am justified in urging this question upon the Government. The Admiralty is perhaps the best administered Department of the Government, but on this matter they have gone mad. It is a question which ought to be referred to a large Committee of ten or twelve Members, and not to a Committee, contemptible in point of numbers, of four. I feel certain in that case the verdict would be against the policy of the Government, but at any rate I have delivered my soul, and though I may be called an antiquated officer, an ancient fossil, or a piece of old seaweed flung up upon the beach, I may remind the House that there are also antiquated politicians, and though I may be an ancient fossil, there is some kick left in me yet. I hope that the Government will reconsider their policy and reverse it.
§ THE CIVIL LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,) Worcestershire, E.
said the House could not spare his hon. and gallant friend so long as he criticised the conduct of the Admiralty with so much vigour and humour. Although his hon. and gallant friend was alarmed on account of what the Admiralty was doing at Portsmouth, he thought he could show that they did not merit such strong condemnation. It was, of course, absolutely impossible that he should describe to the House in detail the magazines, or the exact amount of cordite or powder which was to be stored in them. If his hon. and gallant friend really reposed any confidence in the Board of Admiralty, he thought he might 95 well do so in connection with delicate matters of this kind. It was perfectly true that if they did the wrong thing and a disaster ensued, the dockyard and the Navy, for which they were responsible, would be the first to suffer. But was it conceivable that they would do anything which they thought would cause grave risk to the Navy? This was the second time his hon. and gallant friend had tried to extract this information, but the Board of Admiralty in a matter of this kind must take the whole responsibility, and they were absolutely unable to lay before the House documents which of necessity must be of a confidential nature. The main object of the arrangements which were now being carried out at Portsmouth was to abolish the floating hulks which had existed for many years, and which he did not hesitate to say were a source of great danger; for them would be substituted much safer and properly constructed magazine accommodation ashore. The result of the changes they were making at Portsmouth would be to make the dockyard and town very much safer than they had been hitherto. These magazines were constructed in the light of the latest discoveries of science and on the most approved principles; every precaution for security, both in their construction and in the arrangements for the storage of explosives, was being taken. Everything had been done which could be done to prevent accidents. His hon. and gallant friend based his attack on the fact that a certain amount of cordite was to be stored in the neighbourhood of a great naval port like Portsmouth. But they must have an arsenal there, and in that arsenal they must have such stores as were needed for the immediate mobilisation of our ships. Cordite was not considered by the Committee which sat many years ago, and of which his hon. and gallant friend was a member, and therefore his hon. and gallant friend had no confidence in cordite, or in the arrangements that were made for its storage.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
said he had perfect confidence in the arrangements that it was proposed to make; his point was that the storage was in the wrong place, and that it ought to be five miles off.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said his hon. and gallant friend thought there 96 was great risk of an explosion from this cordite; but, as a matter of fact, cordite for all purposes of storage was very much safer than was the old black powder. They had considered the matter most carefully, and taken expert opinion on the subject. His hon. and gallant friend thought a committee of two Naval officers and two Royal Engineers was a contemptible committee——
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
denied that, and maintained that it was a most competent committee. His hon. and gallant friend apparently desired a committee composed mainly of people who knew nothing about the matter, and who had no experience of cordite and its management. He thought there was no reason whatever to anticipate any danger. He would like to say that the Mayor of Portsmouth had written to the First Lord of the Admiralty to ask for information on this subject, in order to allay the excitement and fears which had been created—he believed mainly by his hon. and gallant friend's question in that House—and his right hon. friend the First Lord had sent a reply which the Mayor had said would enable him to remove the apprehensions which prevailed. He hoped his hon. and gallant friend would not be more difficult to satisfy in this matter than was the Mayor of Portsmouth, and that the same answer would relieve his apprehensions.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
The President of the Local Government Board said that the case with regard to the Leicester Guardians had now passed out of his hands. The right hon. Gentleman spoke as if the Queen's Bench were a kind of automatic machine. It is not an automatic machine, and if the Leicester Guardians are committed to prison, they can only be so committed upon a motion made to the Court. That motion will be made at the instance of the right hon. Gentleman. Therefore, if the Leicester Guardians are committed, I hope the people of Leicester, and all whom it may concern, will very clearly understand that the responsibility lies at the door of the right hon. Gentleman. I am 97 very much surprised, after the brave words he has used, he seems to shrink from that responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman also said that the action of the Leicester Guardians impeded people who desired to have their children vaccinated. I cannot for the life of me understand what he meant by that statement. He seems to be confusing the functions of a vaccination officer with those of a medical officer. As a matter of fact, all the Leicester Guardians, at the worst, have done, is to decline to appoint a vaccination officer; but it is perfectly open to the people of Leicester to be vaccinated. Therefore it is a little unfair of the right hon. Gentleman to say that the action of the Leicester Guardians is in any way inimical or unfavourable to those people in Leicester who desire to have their children vaccinated. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to a recent decision of a petty sessions at Derby, and taunted the Member for Leicester with a desire to set up the authority of the Derby magistrates against that of the Queen's Bench. Nothing of the kind. The point raised by the Derby magistrates is quite distinct from the point which the Queen's Bench settled the other day. The point raised by the former is whether or not a vaccination officer can take out a summons to prosecute a parent for neglect without the authority of the Guardians. The Derby magistrates dismissed the summons because that authority had not been given, and if the right hon. Gentleman feels so sure of his ground, I am surprised he has not asked for a case to be stated, so that the decision of the Queen's Bench may be obtained. But I did not rise mainly to deal with the vaccination question, but to call attention to an important matter affecting London. The First Lord of the Treasury announced the other day that it was the intention of the Government to confer upon the new borough of Westminster the title of "City," and he added that that title was originally conferred by Henry VIII. I should strongly demur to the accuracy of that statement. I have grave doubts whether, as a matter of fact, Henry VIII. did confer that title upon anybody or anything, because I have taken the trouble to go through the Record Office, and I can find no trace of these alleged Letters Patent, and I am beginning to think that the whole story, at all events 98 so far as Henry VIII. goes, is either a fiction or a forgery. But if he did confer the title, he certainly did not confer it upon the area of the new borough of Westminster. The so-called City of Westminster has never had a municipal organisation, it has not a rag of municipal tradition, and if there ever was a City of Westminster in the time of Henry VIII., the bounds of its jurisdiction did not exceed the precincts of the Abbey. Therefore, I say that the alleged historical basis for this grant is absolutely gone. But I desire to call attention to what has been said by Ministers, and to what has been determined by this House with reference to this very question. It will be remembered that, whilst the London Government Bill was passing through this House, considerable dissatisfaction was expressed with the position assigned to the new borough of Westminster, and fears were expressed that there was an intention on the part of the Government to confer a special dignity and distinction upon Westminster which the other boroughs would not enjoy. No less a considerable person than the Leader of the Opposition gave expression to those fears, but the First Lord interposed, and said: "I must have expressed myself badly. There is no such intention; they are all on an absolute equality" Nothing could have been more definite than that statement, and having been made by so high an authority, implicit confidence was placed in it. I regard that as a pledge, and I am much surprised, after that pledge, at the action which Her Majesty's Government now propose to take. But the matter does not rest there. The matter came expressly before the Committee of this House. The question was raised by the hon. Member for Westminster, who moved, That the newly constituted area of Westminster should be called "the City of Westminster" How was that met by the Leader of the House? He resented the motion, and in doing so used language quite as strong as anything I should desire to say with reference to this matter. On the 16th May he said:My hon. friend asks me to single out the borough of Westminster and give it a distinctive name, different from that given to all the other borough councils which this Bill proposes to establish. It appears to me that that is asking me to take a course which would be greatly resented by the other boroughs.99 Yet now the right hon. Gentleman informs us that he and his colleagues mean to use the Royal prerogative to do the very thing against which the right hon. Gentleman himself protested in the language I have given to the House. That it may be done by the Royal prerogative, in spite of this House, I, as a constitutional lawyer, do not for a moment deny; but I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman is not present, because I desire to put it to him whether it is wise to bring the Royal prerogative into direct conflict with the deliberate determination of this House. I forgot to say that the hon. Member for Westminster persisted in his motion, and the House rejected it. Is it chivalrous to use the name of the Crown to do this most invidious act, which the right hon. Gentleman himself has said will justly arouse the great resentment of the other metropolitan boroughs—an act which Her Majesty's Ministers did not dare to ask this House to do? I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman is not in the House, because undoubtedly I do charge him with having broken a pledge which he gave to the House, and I should have been glad, therefore, to have made the charge in his presence; but the fault is not mine, because he had distinct notice that I intended to raise the question.
§ THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir R. B. FINLAY,) Inverness Burghs
I confess I listened with very great surprise to the attack which has been made upon the Leader of the House. My hon. friend says there is something in the nature of a breach of a pledge. I venture to think that no one in the House who listened to the hon. Member when he read those extracts could see the slightest foundation for the charge. Every word that he read from the speeches of my right hon. friend related to the framework of the Bill, and in the passage quoted the Leader of the House was dealing with the question whether or not it was right and proper that in the Bill there should be a provision introduced creating the Borough of Westminster a city. The very reading of those passages is enough to demonstrate that; and if the hon. Member thinks the passages are inconsistent with what is proposed to be done, he is probably the only person in the House who entertains that idea. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that it was 100 not right that the prerogative of the Crown should be used to undo what the House had done, or in such a way as to come into conflict with any decision of the House. I really cannot, see that that proposition has the slightest relevancy to the subject which the hon. Gentleman was discussing. The House has never decided that Westminster was not to be a city. What the House determined, as far as it determined anything at all, was that it was not desirable that any such provision should be introduced into the Bill, and, if I mistake not, a similar view was taken in another place. To give the title of "city" to any borough is a matter for the Royal prerogative, and it is much more in accordance with constitutional usage that that prerogative should be exorcised by the Crown, and that Parliament, except under very special and extraordinary circumstances, should not seek to do, by means of an Act of Parliament upon which the Legislature is engaged, that which may be done by the simple exercise of the Royal will. I thought it right, in the absence of my right hon. friend, to make these observations. I feel quite certain that the view that there is any conflict between the Royal prerogative in this matter and the House of Commons is one which is peculiar to the hon. Gentleman who expressed it, and I venture to think that a more unfounded suggestion was never made than that anything is about to take place which in the slightest degree involves a breach of faith.
§ MR HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)
I wish before the close of the session to draw attention to a condition of affairs in the Hinterland of Sierra Leone, which may well occasion serious misgivings as to the prudence of the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government. It may be that the Colonial Secretary may be able to make a satisfactory statement on the subject in that case he can scarcely regret this opportunity of reassuring the country. It will be within the recollection of the House that early last summer there was a rising of the natives in the Protectorate of Sierra Leone, followed by a hideous massacre of British subjects. The news of these events created a profound and painful impression at the I time, and that impression was not rendered less painful by an un- 101 easy suspicion in the public mind that the policy pursued by the Colonial Office had been a contributing, if not the exciting cause both of the insurrection and of its deplorable incidents. It was under these circumstances that the Colonial Secretary resolved to appoint a Commission to inquire into the whole of the circumstances. That was a step, the wisdom of which must have approved itself generally. It was, however, hardly less important than the Commission itself, that the person selected to conduct the inquiry should be so qualified by experience and knowledge as to command the confidence of the country. No one could have been appointed more likely to satisfy that condition than Sir David Chalmers, upon whom the choice of the right hon. Gentleman fell. Sir David Chalmers had had a long and profound acquaintance with affairs in that part of Africa. In 1867 he was a magistrate of Gambia with judicial powers; in 1872 he became Queen's Advocate of Sierra Leone, and in 1876 he was appointed first Chief Justice of the Gold Coast. I suppose there is no man living who has spent so many years in the service of the Queen in that part of the Empire, and survived to claim one of those pensions which are the illusory inducements to Colonial service on those fever-stricken shores. Nor can it be said that the right hon. Gentleman failed with regard to the instructions which he drew up for the guidance of his Commissioner. The terms of reference were of the most comprehensive character. Sir David Chalmers was instructed to inquire into the cause of the insurrection and massacre; and his attention was specifically directed, not only to the imposition and effect of the hut-tax, but also to the operations of secret societies in the colony and in the Protectorate; and further to alleged incitements by the Press and by traders. It was perhaps natural that those who were responsible for the tax should look elsewhere for the cause of the catastrophe. The Commission issued in June, 1898, and upon the 21st of January, 1899, Sir David Chalmers made his Report. It is somewhat remarkable that that Report should have been in the hands of the Colonial Secretary for five months before it was presented to this House. But the right hon. Gentleman was not idle in the interval. 102 He re-transmitted the Report to the Governor-General of Sierra Leone for his observations upon it, and finally he penned a despatch upon the situation. The delay in any case ceases to be a matter for wonder when one considers the tenour of the Report. What does the Report amount to? It is an absolute condemnation, root and branch, of the policy pursued by the Government. Sir David Chalmers paid the most careful attention to every article of his instructions, and the conclusion he comes to is that the whole and the sole cause of the insurrection and massacre was the imposition of the but tax. These are his words:The but tax, together with the measures used for its enforcement, were the moving causes of the insurrection. The tax was obnoxious to the customs and feelings of the people. A peremptory and regularly recurring impost is unknown to their own practices and traditions. The English Government has not as yet conferred any such benefits as to lead to a burden of a strange and portentous species being accepted willingly.That conclusion was not hastily or rashly come to; it was arrived at with the greatest reluctance, a reluctance which is not surprising; but I shall quote Sir David Chalmers' own words, because they show how unwillingly he finds himself driven by the evidence to his conclusion. He says:It has been my duty to point out many grave errors—errors which by their joint operation have been the cause of this deplorable insurrection. I have done so with much regret. If I could have found that the insurrection was the result of an inevitable conflict between ancient barbarism and an advancing civilisation, I would willingly have taken this view; but to have done this would not have been consistent with the faithful discharge of the Commission with which I have been entrusted.That conclusion may be said to be more or less confirmed by the views which have been expressed both by the Governor-General, Sir Frederick Cardew, and by the Colonial Secretary himself, for although neither of those two gentlemen admits that the but tax was the sole cause of the insurrection, Sir Frederick Cardew acknowledges that it was "the exciting cause," and the Colonial Secretary, in his despatch, says the but tax "clearly was the immediate and exciting cause" of the rising. It may not, perhaps, be irrelevant to the matter at issue to inquire into the 103 origin of this tax. It dates from an ordinance which was passed in 1896, but it was postponed in its operation until January, 1898, in order, I presume, to give an opportunity to the authorities to familiarise the minds of the chiefs in the Protectorate with the terms of the proposal, and to ascertain their feelings towards it. At all events, in October, 1896, copies of the Ordinance were scattered far and wide throughout the Protectorate, and found their way into the hands of the chiefs. What was the nature of the reception accorded to the Ordinance? It was wholly unfavourable. The but tax was specifically objected to. Many petitions against it were presented. The chiefs of the Mendis actually sent a representative to the Governor-General to protest against it in person. Meetings were held to denounce it. Petitions, protests, and appeals continued to flow in month after month until the end of 1897—that is, up to the time when it came into operation. It is much to be regretted that to all those appeals a deaf ear was turned by the Governor-General. The grounds of objection were of a nature that ought to commend them to his consideration. The chiefs stated again and again that they objected to the tax on account of the poverty of the people. They were unable to pay. But there was another ground. They had never been used to direct taxation. Most unfortunately, too, the manner in which the tax was promulgated inspired the chiefs with the idea that payment involved the question of the ownership, not only of their huts, but of their lands as well. Now, it is not without some bearing on the consideration of the case to remember that the Governor-General did not stumble blindly upon this tax. He was quite aware that it would be most obnoxious to the natives. On page 25 of the Commissioner's Report this is expressly stated. Writing to the Secretary of State on the 21st November, 1896, Sir Frederick Cardew said:The West African has a traditional dislike to direct taxation, such as a but tax. This dislike is probably owing to the harsh manner in which such tax has been levied in this colony in former days; and ever since it was swept away by a former governor, the people have always evinced great impatience at the idea of its being reinforced.104 Yet, notwithstanding this knowledge, with a confidence soon to be dreadfully belied, he goes on to say:I do not apprehend much trouble when the time comes in 1898 to impose this tax, but the sure way to prevent such trouble is to have the necessary show of force.Such was his view in 1896. How shortsighted, how misleading it was destined to prove, and that before long, let Sir Frederick Cardew himself bear witness. "I do not apprehend much trouble," he writes in 1896; in 1899 this is what he has to say:The thought of the many valuable lives which have been lost, of the gallant officers and men who have fallen, and the devoted missionaries who have been sacrificed, of the Sierra Leonians who had been massacred, and of the many natives who have been killed, must ever remain a sad regret, the recollection of which will never pass away.The tax was known to be most obnoxious before it was imposed, and one cannot help feeling tempted to inquire what was the reason for imposing it at all. I believe its origin is to be traced to the financial condition of the colony of Sierra Leone. The colony is in what may be called a state of insolvency. For some years there have been annual deficits in its balance sheet, and I cannot help thinking that this but tax was imposed upon the Protectorate to enable the colony to pay its way and to keep up its expensive establishment. It was a blunder, even if it had been found necessary to impose the tax at all, that it should have been imposed upon the Protectorate alone, and not also upon the colony. The blunder seems the more extraordinary when it is remembered that the greater part of the revenue of Sierra Leone is derived from the Protectorate. I believe that, out of £87, 000, roughly speaking, £49, 000 is derived from the Protectorate, as against some £15, 000 from the colony. Well, but the tax has been imposed, and it is pertinent to ask, with what profit? Apart altogether from the lamentable loss of life that has ensued, confidence has been destroyed, and the trade of the country, for the time being, has been ruined. There has been, we are told, a falling off in the value of exports, owing to these disturbances, of over £47,000. That is, more than half the total revenue of the colony has been lost 105 —a sum almost exactly equal to the contribution from the trade of the Protectorate. But, however ill-advised, impolitic, and obnoxious the tax may have been in itself, the mode in which it was sought to be enforced rendered it a thousand times worse—made it, in fact, more than the flesh and blood of even the much-enduring negro could endure. The Report of the Royal Commission is full of instances. Take the cases of Bai Kompah and Pa Nembana, two of the chiefs of Kwaia. They were summoned before Dr. Hood. "Not presenting themselves immediately," so runs the Report, "an assistant officer of police (Captain Warren), with about twenty policemen, were sent to bring them. Pa Nembana was first apprehended, and brought in handcuffs to where Bai Kompah was. Bai Kompah, who was an old man, and then in bed with a cough, was dragged out of bed and from his room by the officer and two or three of his men, in spite of his struggles. He is said by a native witness, and by himself, to have been kicked, and a revolver held to his head. Captain Warren admits giving him a shove with his knee, and Chief Smart, who was an unwilling witness in this matter, said that Bai Kompah, when brought out of the room, complained of having been kicked, and afterwards he repeated this complaint. Bai Kompah objected very much to being taken to Kwalu, and, after a long contention, Captain Warren allowed him to go to Freetown to represent matters to the Governor; but virtually, as a prisoner, putting him in charge of two Frontier policemen. He went to Freetown, saw Sir Frederick Cardew, made his complaint, asked that the stipend which the Government had been used to pay to him should be retained as against the but tax claimed from him. He was referred to the District Commissioner at Kwalu, and threatened with arrest if he remained in Freetown. He wrote to Sir Samuel Lewis, passionately representing his grievances, and asking him to intercede with the Governor on behalf of himself and his people. A charge of resisting with arms the authority of the Government was made against him by the District Commissioner of the Ronietta district, and the Governor informed him (10th March, 1898) that he would hold no communication with him, and that he must surrender himself to the District Commissioner at 106 Kwalu; otherwise he would be arrested. Bai Kompah, after a time, returned to his country, and shortly afterwards died. Bai Kompah had been a very loyal chief, and all the Kwaia country (which abuts upon the colony of Sierra Leone) had been very loyal. Amongst his countrymen he was considered a special friend of the English. Pa Nembana, who was next in rank to Bai Kompah in the Kwaia, was taken as a prisoner to Kwalu, and put upon his trial on the information of Chief Smart. The charge was (1) Intimidating Chief Smart, in that he unlawfully conspired with other chiefs to prevent Chief Smart in paying his lawful dues, 'the House Tax,' and using his influence with other chiefs to do the same. (2) Not obeying the orders of the Acting District Commissioner, contained in a letter of 31st December, 1898. The sentence awarded by Captain Moore, Acting District Commissioner, was (1) deprivation of his chieftainship—an order the District Commissioner had no jurisdiction to make; (2), twelve months' imprisonment with hard labour—the hard labour being also outside of the District Commissioner's jurisdiction; and (3) thirty-six lashes. Fortunately, the Governor remitted the lashes. It will be seen, on looking at the evidence, which is printed in the Appendix, that there is no evidence of conspiracy or of intimidation, what was said by Pa. Nembana not being a threat but a warning of danger. The second count in the charge expresses no offence; the duty of paying the but tax is under the Protectorate Ordinance a civil liability (Section 43–49). No order or warning to pay could convert the non-payment into a crime. The District Commissioner's, letter is simply in the position of a tax-gatherer's notice." It only remains, to complete the comment upon these outrages in the name of law, that Chief Smart, upon whose information they were perpetrated, was a chief "who much desired to stand well with the Government," and who was subsequently convicted of suborning false evidence. It is needless to multiply cases; all through the Report it is the same story of arrests, handcuffing, penal imprisonment, sentences of the lash, acts of violence, culminating sometimes in death or murder, and robbery. Even the less shocking incidents of the treatment are aggravated by the fact that the indignities heaped upon 107 the Chiefs were inflicted often by Frontier policemen who had been the slaves of the chiefs whom they maltreated. Now, let us hear what the High Commissioner and late Chief Justice has to say upon this part of the matter. This is what he says on page 34 of his Report:Apart altogether from the law of the matter, the broad fact that these chiefs were arrested, sentenced, and afterwards dealt with in gaol as malefactors in connection with the attempt to collect this but tax, was of the gravest significance. It aroused wonder and bitter indignation. I am tempted to quote a few of the very expressive words used by Bokari Bamp himself in reference to his position: 'Since the time of our ancestors up to the present time there has never been such disgrace to one of our chiefs as this prison dress which I wear. You can find our character in the records. No chief crowned by the Queen has been put into prison without disobeying the law except this year.… We have had to break stones. As I am telling you now, my heart is bleeding with tears. …We have been brought to prison through the but tax, and our country is being destroyed.' As matter of construction of the Ordinance [adds the Commissioner], and as matter of inference from the manner in which the Government is wont to deal with aboriginal races, I am satisfied that it never was intended that those who neglected or delayed, or even refused, to pay the but tax should be treated as felons. Yet this is what was done.I remember during the Debate, a week ago, upon the Colonial Vote, the right hon. Gentleman opposite spoke of outrages committed upon British coloured subjects by the burghers of the Transvaal, and declared with an indignation which, I thought, did him credit, that no other country in the world would tolerate such outrages. I could not help wondering at the time whether the right hon. Gentleman could have in his mind this Report, which had been in his hands for months when he made that statement. Have any outrages been committed on British subjects in the Transvaal which exceed in cruelty those to which I have referred, and which are to be found scattered all over this Report of the High Commissioner? And it is to be remembered that all these things took place before the rising of the Mendis which culminated in the massacre of so many British subjects, white and coloured, men and women. In answer to a question this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman shortly described Bai Bureh as a turbulent chief, but at least it ought to be recalled to his credit that he had been our ally, and had fought side by 108 side with us in former years. But, suppose the accusation well founded, what has Bai Bureh's turbulence of character to do with the question? The point is, Was he legally or illegally treated in connection with this tax? Upon this question the opinion of Sir David Chalmers leaves no doubt whatever. He says, page 38:It ought to emphasised that the arrest of Bai Bureh which was intended, and the attempt to effect which led to the collision, was aggression pure and simple on the part of the authorities. Even if it were thought that refusal to pay the tax would justify arrest, the evidence clearly shows that when Captain Sharpe marched against Bai. Bureh no demand had reached him, and that he had not refused to pay. In Sir F. Cardew's minute of 15th February there are allusions to charges against Bai Bureh, of which he is expected to be convicted, whilst as yet he had committed no offence.The story of the "Timinis" is of a piece with all the rest. It is a tale of expeditions, attacks, destruction of villages, sinking of boats, and shooting and slaying of natives, while, so far as our Frontier Force was concerned, not a soul seems to have received a scratch—a fact which throws a world of light upon the alleged hostility of the tribe. Such, in short, is the lamentable history of this farce of civilisation and benignant rule that has been carried on in the name of the Queen in the hinterland of Sierra Leone. It is a story which must make every man who takes a just pride in the name of England, and the traditions of his race, sick at heart to ponder over. It may be said that all this belongs now to the past—what of the future? So far as I can see from the right hon. Gentleman's despatch, we have learned little or nothing by so terrible and costly an experience. The High Commissioner, in his Report, recommends an amnesty, in order to give pause and peace to the distracted Protectorate, and he urgently counsels the repeal of this odious but tax. But the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary throws the High Commissioner over, approves of the tax, and sanctions its continuance. He does this on the recommendation of Sir Frederick Cardew, who calmly sets aside the Report on the ground that the Commissioner has been misled by the evidence, and has been imposed upon; that is to say, the man who has spent many years of his life 109 on the Gold Coast, daily hearing and trying native cases and in the sifting of native evidence—this man's Report and his conclusions are calmly waived aside by Sir Frederick Cardew, a man whose career has been mainly spent in military service in India. Sir Frederick Cardew says, as if in triumph, that the tax is now being paid; and no doubt the Colonial Secretary, upon this statement, founds his sanction for its continuance. But the Commissioner points out in his Report that the tax in many cases was paid by means of borrowed money, and he also states that no doubt the tax might continue to be paid for some time with money borrowed at ruinous rates. The right hon. Gentleman finds a further defence for the policy he is pursuing, in the fact that the French are imposing a similar tax in the interior. We know little or nothing of the conditions of life in the interior, but I should have thought that the last person in the world to hold up to this country as a model for our colonial enterprise the methods adopted by France would have been the right hon. Gentleman opposite. We have little to learn from the French in the art of successful colonisation. Their ideas differ very widely from ours. So far as I can gather from the despatch of the right hon. Gentleman, these are his only reasons for continuing this obnoxious tax. In my opinion they are wholly inadequate. I have endeavoured to present this case to the House with studious moderation. It is a case which would readily lend itself to the use of strong language and picturesque adjectives. I have preferred to let the facts speak for themselves. I think they do so with an eloquence to which rhetorical art could add little or nothing. From.the evidence in this Report, I think it is proved that the but tax was the main and sole cause of the insurrection. In my opinion it is a cruel tax, because it equals, if it does not exceed, the value of the property upon which it is levied, and it has been illegally and barbarously enforced. It is an impolitic tax, for it has destroyed the trade of the Protectorate for the time being.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I have quoted a statement of Sir Frederic Cardew's to the effect that, owing to these disturbances, the value of exports decreased by £47,000, which is almost the total amount of the revenue derived from the trade in the Protectorate of Sierra Leone. I say it is an impolitic tax, because it has destroyed the trade of the Protectorate for the time being, estranged the confidence of a loyal people, and driven some of them, at all events, into insurrection and savage acts of revenge. I acknowledge the great value of the right hon. Gentleman's conduct of colonial affairs in the main. I admit frankly that he has exhibited a firmness of mind which is in strange contrast with the infirmity of purpose exhibited by the Government in other directions which it might be invidious to mention. He has made a great office of what has too often been a perfunctory post. But every virtue has the defect of its own quality, and I cannot help thinking that in this instance the right hon. Gentleman's firmness has degenerated into opinionative ness. Upon the evidence of the right hon. Gentleman's own Commissioner's Report, the imposition upon the Protectorate of this tax was an error. It is sometimes wise, though it may always be disagreeable, to confess an error and to make reparation where reparation is possible. In this case reparation is impossible; yet if the right hon. Gentleman cannot repair the mischief of the past, he may at least, by declining to continue this tax, avoid a recurrence of calamity and certainly relieve the people of the Protectorate from a burthen they can hardly bear.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
I should like to make a few observations upon the Second Reading of this Bill. After all the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill is an occasion which we are entitled to take advantage of, because we shall not be able to speak in Parliament upon these subjects probably for another six months. It seems to me that the enormous sums of money which we are asked to appropriate to-day arise in consequence of the policy which the Government have adopted. The large sums voted for military purposes show by their very nature that the policy adopted is not a sound one. Any policy which requires 111 £50,000,000 to be expended on armaments to keep it going is, in my opinion, by that very fact, proved to be a bad policy. This does not seem to do us any good, for the more money you spend the more scares you have. Since the Government came into office we have had the American scare, the Russian scare, the French scare, and now we have the Transvaal scare. I think we ought to have a parting word about the latter scare, although some hon. Members think enough has been said already. I remember on one occasion, when there was some trouble with Russia, we were told before we departed that no change of policy would be made, but a fortnight after that the Indian troops were sent to attack the Russians. Therefore we ought to be very cautious in giving the Government an entirely free hand, and we ought to get all the information we can out of them as to their intentions before we break up. We have been told that the honour and integrity of the Empire depends upon what we do in the Transvaal, and I agree with that. I do think that the honour and integrity of the Empire is very much at stake in matters of this kind, and I will just take this opportunity to read to the House a few sentences from the Spectator, newspaper, which says:Let our leaders never forget to tell the people that an Empire can only continue when it has a moral basis. Once try to base an Empire on greed or self-interest and it must perish.That is different to the idea of the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield. I quote it because that is the position of the "Little Englander," who believes that morals ought to influence politics and not simply greed. I consider that our Boer policy is based upon a most immoral basis. The proposal is that we should break a solemn Convention which we made with the Boers, under which they were to have perfect independence to manage their own affairs, with the exception that we were to have a veto upon their Treaties with Foreign States. That was the whole thing as far as I understand it. The First Lord of the Treasury in a speech the other day said that he thought the whole of this trouble arose on account of what Mr. Gladstone did in the matter.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E
I never said that.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
Well, the right hon. Gentleman said something very like that, at any rate. When the late Lord Randolph Churchill went out to that country he recanted all he had ever said about it, and declared that he was convinced that if Mr. Gladstone had not adopted the policy he did the Cape would have been lost. It seems to me that the question of the franchise is a question which an independent country has entirely in its own hands. And yet for this we have the honour of England trailed in the mud, furious despatches written, troops moved, and cowardly threats of war. Never before has this country been so humiliated by any policy as by that of the right hon. Gentleman. Putting aside all question of abstract right, what justification have we at all for interfering? It appears to me the grounds put forward are absolutely ridiculous. First of all, it is said that the registration is badly attended to, that people do not get registered at a sufficiently early period. That is exactly what is done here. The whole object of our registration laws is to prevent people getting on the register—to keep them off as long as possible. Then we are told that the Boer Government is an oligarchy. Fancy this country complaining of an oligarchy when we have the House of Lords! I see the hon. Member for South Tyrone sitting opposite, and when he speaks one may suppose he speaks for the Government. He said not many years ago that nobody outside a lunatic asylum defends the House of Lords. Yet there is a great outcry against the Boers because their Government is an oligarchy! Then we are told they will not let people hold public meetings. You will not let people have public meetings in Ireland.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
It may be right or it may be wrong, but why cry out against the Boers for doing the something? Then there is the liquor traffic. We are told that President Kruger does not put down the liquor traffic as he ought to do. Put down the liquor traffic? Why do you not put it down 113 here if you really object to it? Here the country is getting £30,000,000, nearly one-third of its revenue, from selling drink, and although you cannot keep even this House free from drink, you say you are going to war upon Oom Paul because he will not put down the liquor traffic! I never heard anything more absurd. Then it is said that the Government is corrupt. The Government corrupt? What have we been doing for the last four years? Pouring out the people's money like water for the benefit of private individuals—English landowners, Irish landowners, Church schools and churches. And then we say we will go to war with Oom Paul because he is corrupt! Then it is said the people are very much oppressed. I should like to know why they go there. Nobody told them to go. They went there to make money, and they are making it fast enough. Because of these grievances, the same as we endure in this country, the war-drum is beat, and the right hon. Gentleman makes speeches full of sound and fury, but, I hope, signifying nothing. For this the colonies send offers of assistance—what for? To crush 30,000 Boers. I really do not know which country appears the more ridiculous—the country which offers or the country which is ready to receive the assistance. These people think it a fine thing to offer to send troops to help us, knowing that we are so strong that in a war there could be no question of what the result would be. The right hon. Gentleman often reminds me of a French statesman who when he died had this epitaph written upon him—"He spent his life in going to the rescue of the strongest." All I can say is that I do not believe public opinion will endorse the policy of that trinity ofmischief—The Colonial Secretary, Sir Alfred Milner, and Mr. Rhodes, and I hope that during the recess there will be such a demonstration of feeling as to prevent this shameful and cowardly policy having any chance of success.
§ MR. C. P. SCOTT (Lancashire, Leigh)
I think it would be useful to hear from the Government on what grounds we propose to settle this controversy with the Transvaal. Do we intend to settle it on the ground of right, or on the ground of force, and what is called national interest? The hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division was very frank with us. He told us 114 that, so far as he was concerned, he put the question of interest first and duty second. Will he dispute that it is our duty to observe the principles of justice? He frankly confessed he would place the interest of this country before any considerations of justice or right, and we should be glad to know whether or not that view is shared by the Government. Until we are told that this question is to be settled simply by right and might, we are entitled to assume that the Government will endeavour to settle it upon grounds of justice and policy.
§ MR. C. P. SCOTT
I would remind the hon. Member that no policy can be sound which is not based upon justice, and no policy with any other foundation can in the end redound to the credit or honour of the country. It must be admitted, even by the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division, that as far as the treaty is concerned we have absolutely no right whatever to insist upon settling this question of the franchise or any other domestic question in the Transvaal according to our pleasure. But we are told there is something beyond the treaty, there is something called a suzerainty—some great and wide power which is over and above any expressed considerations in the treaty. In that connection I would quote the instructions which were given by Lord Kimberley before the Convention of 1881. That was the treaty in the preamble of which the suzerainty was expressly established. Lord Kimberley explained the suzerainty with perfect fairness in the despatch of the 31st March to Sir Hercules Robinson, and again in his negotiation with regard to this treaty. He said:Entire freedom of action will be accorded to the Transvaal Government, so far as is not inconsistent to the rights expressly reserved to the suzerain power.Then he goes on to say:The term 'suzerainty' has been chosen as most conveniently describing superiority over a State possessing independent rights of Government, subject to reservation with reference to certain specified points.You cannot have the matter more clearly or precisely explained than is done in 115 those instructions of Lord Kimberley to Sir Hercules Robinson. He says that the only reservation which is to be made in respect to the suzerainty is as to matters which are specified in the treaty. Even in the Convention of 1881, although many matters were specified as reserved, there was no mention whatever of the franchise or any other domestic question. Therefore, even supposing that the Convention had remained intact, and the suzerainty had remained intact, which is a disputed point, it only entitles us to interfere in regard to certain specified matters, among which the franchise is not one. That Convention, however, has been abrogated, and in place of it another Convention was substituted which also specified certain matters reserved to the authority of the Queen; and, even if the suzerainty survives, it gives us no right to interfere in the domestic affairs of the Transvaal, but only the right of interference in certain specified matters. Nothing can be plainer than that the contention that over and above the matters which are reserved to you by the first or the second Convention, you have certain general powers of interference as suzerain, is absolutely incapable of proof. It is disproved by this despatch of Lord Kimberley's. We have been told that we have certain rights, not in respect of the treaty, but of the protocol. I think the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury a short time ago, in which great stress was laid upon it, was the first time the protocol had been disinterred. But is it not a mis-description to speak of these shorthand writer's notes as a protocol of the treaty? By referring to the Blue Book, I find that there were meetings between the Commissioners of this country and Mr. Kruger, extending over twenty-two days. They discussed all manner of matters, and these discussions were taken down by the shorthand writer, and are embodied in this Book [exhibiting Blue Book]. In the whole course of those discussions there was only one brief reference to this 116 question of the franchise, and that reference was quoted by the Colonial Secretary the other night. Sir Hercules Robinson had been contending for freedom of trade, and Mr. Kruger said there was not the slightest intention of interfering with the freedom of trade, and that there would be equal freedom for everybody. Then Sir Evelyn Wood said, "And equal privileges?" To which Mr. Kruger replied, "We make no difference so far as burgher rights are concerned. There may, perhaps, be some slight difference in the case of a young person who has just come into the country." It was afterwards explained that "young person" is mistranslated from the Dutch; it should really be "new comer." Sir Hercules Robinson, who was the responsible person, did not take the question up; on the contrary, he immediately changed the conversation. There was no reference to the question in the treaty or convention, and simply because of that casual statement of Mr. Kruger's this allegation of bad faith is brought forward. An accusation on more flimsy grounds was never made. Moreover, circumstances changed. So long as the Boers remained in a passive state, and those who came in were comparatively few, and presented no danger to the State, the old franchise law remained. It remained for several years; but then came this great influx of new comers, and it was absolutely necessary that there should be some more stringent provision with regard to aliens and the naturalisation of aliens. The period was raised from one to five years, and, while I think the Boers went too far, no protest whatever was made by this country. Even when the period was raised to fourteen years no protest was made, and twelve or more years have elapsed without the slightest protest or objection. Now the Colonial Secretary comes forward and is prepared to make it a ground for war. Anything more preposterous cannot be imagined, in point of right, equity, or international decency, than this allegation of bad faith in regard 117 to the franchise. A great deal of importance has been attached to the despatch of Lord Ripon in 1894. It has been alleged that in some way Lord Ripon has supplied a pretext or parallel for the present procedure of the Colonial Secretary. I say without the slightest fear of contradiction that that statement is absolutely without foundation. What did Lord Ripon do? In 1894 he wrote two dispatches—one was about the Swazis, and the other was the despatch which is quoted in the appendix to this Blue Book and dated October 19, 1894, with regard to certain grievances. Lord Ripon wrote:I now proceed to deal with certain questions which stand in need of solution if the relations of this country with the South African Republic are to be placed on a satisfactory footing.Quite right. There were certain constitutional changes desired, and Lord Ripon begged Sir Hercules Robinson to urge on the Transvaal Government the need of these changes—but he did it in connection with the Swazi question. He did not put forward a threat; what he proposed was a bargain. He said:President Kruger wants something from us with regard to Swaziland; we want something from President Kruger in connection with the franchise. I beg you to bring this matter under his attention, point out what we want and why we want it.There was not the slightest suggestion of the use of force or threats of any kind. We wish to deal with this matter on the broad grounds of equity, and, above all, we wish treaty rights to be respected, and just as we insist on the treaty obligations of other countries towards us being carried out, we have a right to ask that the executive of this country should not themselves infringe the treaty which they have made, and that the honour of this nation should not be soiled by the infliction of a gross injustice upon a free State by the use of the overwhelming forces of this country in a cause which the Government have not been able to and cannot defend.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
After listening to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down and of the hon. 118 Baronet who preceded him, I confess I cannot honestly congratulate President Kruger on his advocates in this House. It is not that they are not wanting in enthusiasm. There is plenty of enthusiasm for the cause which they have undertaken—or rather for any cause which is not the cause of their own country or their own countrymen. But I venture to think that their enthusiasm is not accompanied with much discretion. The speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down appeared to me to be really an argument between the Manchester Guardian and the Daily News, with which I really have no concern. I do not think that either of the two hon. Gentlemen or the House will expect that at this time of the session I should enter into a belated sequel of the Debate of Friday week last, when there was a full discussion of everything that concerned all our differences with the Transvaal. On that occasion Her Majesty's Government explained as clearly as possible what was their policy and what were the grounds of that policy. Nothing has happened since to change our view. Nothing has changed in the situation, and, therefore, I have nothing to add to and nothing to withdraw from the statement which was then made on behalf of the Government. I cannot account for the action of the hon. Members in thus seeking to re-open a Debate which came to a satisfactory conclusion.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
On Friday week neither of these hon. Members had the courage to divide the House and challenge that policy which the hon. Member who has just sat down described as involving injuriously the honour of this country.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Yes, "soiled the honour of the country." The hon. Member was here on Friday week. Why did he not then divide the House and test the feeling of the House with regard to the soiling of the honour of the country? He did not divide the House, because he 119 knew he could not have taken twenty Members of the House into the lobby with him.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
After that, it is ridiculous, at this time of the session, for the hon. Member to get up and now challenge what he then refused to divide upon. I come now to a much more important, a much more serious question, and that is the question raised with great moderation by the hon. Member for Wick. I do not blame him in the least for raising a matter of very great importance, on which there may very well be two opinions in the House. It is a question which involves policy in respect to the future as well as in the past. I can take no exception to the language in which he introduced the subject, except for the complaint he has made that it was a very remarkable fact that the Report of Sir David Chalmers should have been in the hands of the Colonial Secretary for five months before it was presented to the House. I do not suppose that the hon. Member intended it, but that remark conveyed the imputation that the Report was withheld. That would be unfair, and I do not think the hon. Member intended to convey that. I will tell the House exactly what the facts were. The Report was delivered in the first instance in an unofficial form. I desired to communicate with Sir David Chalmers on the subject, and I asked him to give me an interview. Unfortunately, owing to illness, which was very much due to his labours in this matter, Sir David Chalmers was unable to see me, and I had, therefore, to put in the Report without the opportunity of first discussing it with him. That caused a delay of, perhaps, a fortnight. The Report contained accusations against officials. Now, as Colonial Secretary, I have a serious responsibility with reference to all officials in the colonial service. They are not able to speak for themselves; they speak through me. They are bound to keep quiet, to keep silent, and, of course, I am responsible for their action if I endorse it. But when their conduct is in any way impugned it is my first duty to 120 give them an opportunity to reply. Accordingly, before presenting this Report of Sir David Chalmers, I thought it necessary to inquire of Sir Frederick Cardew. He necessarily took some time to consider so important a document, and the moment his reply came into my hands it was investigated by the Department and by myself. Not a moment was lost, and as soon as possible after anything like an impartial judgment was come to the whole of the Papers were presented to the House. Now, Sir David Chalmers was selected by me to make an inquiry into the difficult situation which had arisen in Sierra Leone. I have not one word to say against him. He was recommended to me by his long experience of his work and his most valuable public services. He had been Chief Justice, and he was therefore naturally supposed to have, and rightly supposed to have, a judicial and impartial mind, and he most patriotically agreed to go out to a country of whose climate he had had some experience. It was there, I am afraid, that he contracted the seeds of new disease, and he has suffered very severely in consequence. Sir David Chalmers was selected as the most impartial and judicious man I could find, and I am most thankful, most grateful, to him for the very valuable inquiries he made. I think he has placed a most valuable number of facts before us; and although I have not found myself able to agree with all the conclusions at which he arrived, I am none the less sensible of the obligations I am under to him for the inquiry and for the services he has done. The hon. Member seems to have made a mistake at the outset. He seems to think that in appointing Sir David Chalmers to make this inquiry, I was bound to accept the result of his inquiry. No, Sir; that is not my position at all. My position is that of a judge. I employ a Commissioner to ascertain as far as possible the facts, and I have to compare those facts with other statements in my possession, and eventually, to the best of my knowledge and ability, to do justice as between all concerned. To take the opinion of a Commissioner appointed to make inquiry, without making a separate inquiry of my own, would be to devolve upon this Commissioner the responsibility of the Secretary of State. I cannot get rid of that responsibility even if I wished it; but let 121 me point out that if I had accepted every word of the Report of the Commissioner I should have been properly open to blame from those who would say that I had not myself investigated the subject-matter of this Report. Now, in doing justice to Sir David Chalmers, who was appointed an independent and impartial judge, and whose character is not in the slightest degree called in question in regard to this business, let us at the same time not forget to do justice to Sir Frederick Cardew. He is a gentleman who has spent a large portion of his life in the public service, with great credit to himself, in many different parts of the world. He was appointed to his present position by my predecessor. I am not responsible for that appointment, although I readily endorse it. But I think Sir Frederick Cardew has done more than any other Governor of Sierra Leone has done in investigating and going to the bottom of the circumstances without any regard to the trouble or risk to himself. At great inconvenience he has travelled in every part of what is after all a wild, savage, and almost an untrodden country. In the course of his investigations, which were more thorough than ever made before, this is what he found. The colony of Sierra Leone is practically little more than a coast strip, which, of course, has been under British law for a long period. Behind that there is a huge Hinterland with a very considerable though scattered population, and in that district for centuries there has been going on what is usual in wild tropical parts of Africa—that is, the brutal customs of slavery of the worst kind, and, what is worse than slavery, slave raiding. In the latter, in slave raiding, a husband is torn from his wife and from his family to be carried to another part of the country, to be brutally treated until a master has been assigned to him. That is the state of things in the Hinterland of Sierra Leone, as in all parts of our West African possessions. Was that to continue? I do not say that anybody was to blame. After all, we cannot do more than is in our power. The progress of civilisation must be gradual. When the boundaries of Sierra Leone were settled for us by the treaty with the French within definite limits, then at the moment when we undertook responsibilities with regard to our European neighbours, and when with an increase of our resources it became within 122 our means to deal with such a state of things as I have described, it became our duty to take the steps I have stated. Lord Ripon, writing in 1894, said that "slave raiding has been the root of the disturbances in the Hinterland of Sierra Leone, and the obligations of the Brussels Act bound us to take all possible steps to put this practice down." It was certainly the duty of the British Government to take all possible steps to secure a moderate amount of peace and order in the Hinterland, and, above all, to put down the abominable practice of slave raiding and the endless tribal wars. With that object the frontier police was established. It is a native force, and let me say at once a native police has always the same virtues and weaknesses. Its virtues are loyalty to its officers or leaders, hardiness and endurance, and ability to perform their work under most difficult circumstances with very little grumbling. Probably a cheaper or braver force never existed than some of these African forces under British officers. But its weakness is that you cannot trust the West African negro by himself. He is a most excellent servant, but when he becomes a master, even among his own people, he is tyrannical, arbitrary, and cannot be depended upon. So it is with these people of Sierra Leone. It is a fact that bodies of district police were sent out without white officers to control them, and they were guilty occasionally of offences, and, without pressing any accusation against them, at all events, their presence alone without white men was most irritating to the chiefs and to the natives; and that was to a certain extent the cause of the troubles we have had to deal with. I have said it is absolutely necessary, if this country is to deal with the question of slave raiding in the Hinterland, that we should have this frontier police and some sort of district jurisdiction. Stepping aside for one moment, I may say that I am continually appealed to from both sides of the House, as my predecessors have been, to put down slavery in Africa. My own sympathies are entirely with those who make this appeal, but do let them recollect that if this policy is insisted upon, as I think it ought to be, it cannot be carried out without bloodshed. You cannot have it both ways. In my opinion the evil caused by slave raiding is so great that the few lives lost in putting it down are well shed in 123 comparison with the numberless lives which are lost in keeping it up. Only, do not let us be accused of making wars at the same time as we are appealed to to put down slavery. You cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs; you cannot put down slavery without having occasional wars and bloodshed in West Africa. There was, therefore, a necessity for a frontier force. That costs money—a great deal of money—and district jurisdiction, even of an imperfect kind, and the spread of civilisation, also costs money, and we had to raise funds. We raised these funds by a but tax. We are told it was wrong, but nobody has suggested an alternative. Neither by the hon. Member opposite nor by anybody else can an alternative be suggested. I defy anyone to suggest any alternative to this direct taxation, if the money is to be found which is required in order to put down slavery.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I did not hear the hon. Gentleman in his interruption, because I confess I have been shocked by the information conveyed to me since I sat down that Sir David Chalmers died on Saturday. I confess I am glad that in the earlier portion of my remarks I said nothing derogatory to the deceased gentleman's character. Going back to the argument of the hon. Gentleman, the only other taxes that have been suggested are those suggested to me by the Liverpool and Manchester Chambers of Commerce, but the income from these sources would be totally insufficient to pay the cost of the frontier police. I should be very glad to be assisted in carrying out any schemes for developing the colony, but they will be totally inadequate to provide the money which is necessary for the frontier force. That, I hope, the hon. Member will take from me, and I am certain that without increasing the taxes upon imports—which are already, if anything, too high, and which, if it were done, would very materially lesson the amount of trade—we cannot rely upon securing a sufficient revenue without adopting some direct taxation. There is this advantage in a but tax—it has nothing 124 to do with the value of the hut; it is like a poll tax, which has nothing to do with the value of the men; it is a plan of direct taxation very cheap in its collection; it is not excessive in amount; it only amounts really to one shilling per head of the population. It is impossible to conceive of any direct taxation more moderate in extent than that. And, further, it is a tax with which the natives are fully acquainted, and which has been hitherto universally successful. It has been said by Miss Kingsley, a traveller in the country, that the but tax is particularly objectionable to the people of the Hinterland, inasmuch as they hold that any periodic tax in the shape of a but tax constitutes an infringement of their right of property. I have the greatest respect for Miss Kingsley and her investigations, but when I find that her views are not shared by other travellers in the Hinterland, then I come back to the pure light of reason, and I wonder whether really the natives are such fools as Miss Kingsley thinks. As a matter of fact they are very shrewd people where their own direct interests are concerned, and I am quite clear they will never believe that their proprietorship of their houses is in any way infringed by a tax of this kind, when experience shows them it does not carry with it any other direct or indirect interference with their property. In Liberia, which is a neighbouring country similar in many of its circumstances, there is a poll-tax of 6s. 3d. per head, six times at least the tax which we are levying now in the Sierra Leone Hinterland. In the French Soudan there is a tax of 2f. per head, nearly twice as much as we are levying; in French Guinea, which is next door to ourselves, there is actually a but tax, which has been levied without the slightest difficulty, of 10f. per hut, whereas our tax is only 5s. per hut. The hon. Member for Wick referred to a case of a certain chief; I think he represented him as a murdered chief. The only thing I know about this chief is that he levied a but tax of 10s. It is true he levied 10s. per head to make war against us, but I do not think that shows that the principle of a but tax is, at all events, unfamiliar or altogether unwelcome to the natives of the Hinterland.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
No, certainly it was not a fixed tax. That is the beauty of it. In the case of any tax levied by British authorities, whether in the Hinterland of Sierra Leone or in Egypt, it is a fixed tax. Every man knows what he has got to pay, and when he has paid he is not asked to pay more. When he has paid he knows that he is free. But in the case of these chiefs, as in the case of the old Pashas of the Soudan, the moment the tax is levied the people who collect it double or treble it, and there is no end to the extortion. A but tax levied by a chief in the Hinterland of Sierra Leone is in the nature of an irregular extortion; a but tax levied by us is in the nature of a local rate. Everybody knows exactly what he has to pay, why he has to pay it, what he gets in return for it, and that he is perfectly safe as soon as he has paid it. Under these circumstances, in my opinion, Sir Frederick Cardew was perfectly justified, when he had to find a fund to establish a frontier police force and enforce the jurisdiction we instituted in the Hinterland, to look to a but tax in order to give him the money. We are told that the but tax was the cause of the war, and that was no doubt the view of Sir David Chalmers. After all, I do not think the difference between us is very great, and in one sense I agree with Sir David Chalmers and those who take this view. The but tax was the spark that fired the mine, no doubt; but what I want to represent to the House is, I am absolutely convinced that the mine was there, and that it must have exploded with or without the but tax some day or another. I find that one of the chiefs, in speaking to Dr. Bartley, the medical officer, used some rather characteristic expressions. He said the pot of soup already contained vegetables and meat, by which he meant slavery and the interference of the traders with the natives, but the pepper, by which he meant the but tax, gave the seasoning to set the pot on the fire. That native view I believe to be absolutely true. In the same way, there was another chief who said it was not the but tax that started the war, but the belief of the chiefs that if they were united they would be able to expel the British and return to the native customs—not so much the barbarous customs, the fetish customs, to which, no doubt, many of the savages are attached, but principally to the 126 custom of slavery In respect to the question of slavery, one of the chiefs, when he was brought up for trial in connection with one of the murders that took place, declared that what he complained of was interference with his domestic slaves—that the slaves ran away, and that they had no means of recovering them. That was to destroy, of course, a great property, the privileges of the chiefs, and naturally they were all rendered very uneasy by the progress of civilisation in this respect. As far as the chiefs are concerned, it seems to me certain that when they came before Judge Bonner, who was appointed to try them—and who was specially sent out for that purpose as absolutely impartial and well qualified—not one of them alleged the hut-tax as the cause for the insurrection. That is a very remarkable fact which I think may be set against the opinion expressed by Sir David Chalmers. I also in this matter attach considerable importance to the opinion of the missionaries. The missionaries in Sierra Leone especially have done most admirable work. I have never heard a word said against them; they are largely Americans, and the American missionaries are always very practical people. They try to civilise the people by conferring direct benefits upon them; they are doctors, and they cure them in their illnesses; they are carpenters and mechanics of various kinds, and they teach them trades, and in that way they endeavour to gain their confidence, and then they teach them religion. I do attach importance to the views the missionaries expressed on this subject, and, as far as I know, without exception, the missionaries declare that the but tax was not the sole cause—was not really anything more than I have said, a spark that lit the mine. Mr. Evans said that what caused the war was the interference of civilisation with savage customs. This view, I think, is confirmed by the fact that when the insurrection broke out the districts where no tax whatever had been imposed, and where there had been no attempt to collect a tax, rose simultaneously with the others, in accordance, evidently, with a general understanding. The belief which often prevails among a savage people that they can throw off the power which has obtained control over their affairs, and the belief that they could defeat the Eng 127 lish and expel them from the country, was widespread, and was only corrected by the results of the insurrection. I think, then, I have shown that some tax was necessary, that the but tax was a tax which naturally suggested itself, and that the but tax was certainly not the cause of the war, although it may have been the immediate provocative. The hon. Member appealed to me to withdraw this tax. That was Sir David Chalmers' view, although I think he put it forward rather diffidently, and suggested some alternative. But since Sir David Chalmers' report was written we have had a good deal of fresh experience. The tax has been collected with the greatest ease, it has come in perfectly well, the natives are becoming accustomed to it, and there does not seem the slightest probability of any further objection being taken. If we withdraw it now it will be interpreted as a confession of weakness, and as a justification of rebellion, and will seriously impair the influence for good of the Government of Sierra Leone. I find that the chambers of commerce, who were opposed to the tax in the first instance, without necessarily altering in any way their view as to its inception, are now of opinion that it would not be desirable or necessary to remove it. The hon. Member quoted some figures of Sir Frederick Cardew's. I think he must have misunderstood them, because the facts of the case are quite different from the inference he has drawn. Sierra Leone appears to be entering upon another period of great prosperity. The revenue for the year 1897 was £106,000,in 1898 it was £117,000,and in 1899, speaking from the experience of the first half of the year, it is at the rate of £191,000. That is to say, it is almost double what it was two years ago. The imports, which were £451,000in 1897, were £561,000 in 1898—imports chiefly of British produce—and are at the rate of £685,000for the present year. I think in these circumstance we may be pretty confident that the effects of this disastrous insurrection have now almost passed away, and that the country is not only recovering its old prosperity, but is very much improving its position. I have spoken of points—all of them are very important points—on which I most reluctantly had to differ from Sir David Chalmers and to support Sir Frederick Cardew. But there are 128 many points in the report of Sir David Chalmers with which I entirely agree, and I have taken action in consequence. I believe, for instance, if this tax is to be collected in the future, that the chiefs should be interested in its collection, and an increased commission will accordingly be given to those who are engaged in the collection of the tax. I believe it is very desirable that the frontier police should be under more strict European control, and I have given instructions that the police shall be concentrated in districts according to the suggestion of the Special Commissioner, and that they are not to undertake any executive duty without being accompanied by a white officer. I have also agreed, where a dispute arises about titles of land between natives, that it should be settled by the chiefs, because I agree with the Special Commissioner that the authority of the chiefs should as far as possible be maintained, and that we should endeavour to rule the country through the chiefs, and to increase and not diminish their influence, provided that influence is used for good. I have ordered that the Ordinance should be altered in a particular to which reference has been made, which seemed to authorise the flogging of chiefs for not collecting the tax. That was never intended, but by a distortion of the Ordinance it might have been possible. I have given instructions that nothing of the kind should in any circumstances be allowed. We also propose to remove a great injustice of which the chiefs have complained, which is that the but tax has been collected in the Hinterland and not in the colony. I quite agree with Sir David Chalmers in that matter, and an Ordinance will be passed extending the but tax to the colony as well as to the Hinterland. I assure the hon. Gentleman opposite that I appreciate his motives, and I hope he will appreciate mine. I have a very difficult position between the Special Commissioner, in whose impartiality and high sense of justice I have the utmost confidence, and, on the other hand, an old public servant, who had deserved the confidence of all his former chiefs. No doubt it was an extremely difficult task to estimate exactly the rights of the case when these two unfortunately differed upon important points of policy. I have not given a judgment on one side or the other, but having given to the whole subject many hours of most careful con- 129 sideration, and having consulted everybody who had any experience of the colony, I have come to the conclusion that, while on some points of very important policy I am bound to support Six Frederick Cardew, and while I feel no blame attaches to him for his conduct in this matter, on the other hand, I am greatly indebted to Sir David Chalmers for the recommendations he has made, and I have been very glad to adopt many of those recommendations.
§ MR. WILLIAM JONES (Carnarvonshire, N.)
called attention to the condition and the administration of mines and quarries in Wales, and wished to know whether the recommendations of Dr. Foster were to be translated into special rules, and whether they had been brought under the notice of the inspectors. He pointed out that some of them would require special legislation to carry them into effect. Although there had been some improvement in the condition of the mines, many of them still showed a shameful state of affairs in respect of the ventilation, defective gear, roofing, and other points, which tended to make the life and health of workmen insecure. The ventilation, or rather the absence of it, was scandalous, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would be able to give some satisfactory reply.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir M. W. RIDLEY,) Lancashire, Blackpool
was glad to say that some progress had been made since this question was brought to the attention of the House on a former occasion, and agreed that the non-fatal accidents in metalliferous mines were far too numerous. The Home Office were aware of this, and had done their best with the powers at their disposal. Every credit, too, was due to Dr. Foster, who had greatly exerted himself, and whose life had been endangered by descending a number of mines. He held in his hand a copy of special rules which had 130 been accepted by all the large proprietors of mines in Wales, and they were negotiating with others, and it was the intention of the Home Office, pending further legislation, to try and get some rules of the sort as far as possible accepted. A Bill had been prepared for some time, which contained a provision analogous to that contained in the Coal Mines Acts, that there should be proper certification of managers in metalliferous mines. The Home Office were fully alive to the importance of the matter.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
rose to call attention to the suppression of Mr. W. O'Brien's telegram to Mr. Kilbride in reference to the Mulrany forgery case. He said he would endeavour to be very brief, but he was compelled to refer to one or two antecedent events in order to explain the circumstances of the case. There was a very powerful and important organisation in the West of Ireland, which was, he was glad to say, now spreading over the other provinces, the object of which was to form a combination of the tenants for the improvement of their position. The organisation, which was not only beneficent, but also thoroughly legal, had been the subject of a good deal of quiet police persecution. One incident that occurred in connection with this organisation was this. A certain Sergeant Sullivan, who was a very able and energetic opponent of the League, was accused of forging a letter in the name of a man named McHale, who was president of a branch of the United Irish League. This letter, which was an incitement to commit a moonlighting outrage on a man who was boycotted, was sent to a member of the League and purported to be signed by McHale, who was president. The charge was made that Sullivan had written that letter, and he was prosecuted by the Crown authorities at Sligo Assizes, and acquitted. Immediately afterwards, McHale sought another means of vindicating his character, and brought an action 131 for libel against this man Sullivan. Now, it was in connection with this action that the question occurred to which he (Mr. O'Connor) desired to call the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury. Mr. William O'Brien, who is the parent of the United Irish League, was in communication with Mr. Valentine Kilbride, the solicitor for McHale, the plaintiff in the case against Sullivan. In connection with the preparation of the trial Mr. O'Brien sent a telegram, of which he himself has given the fullest description, and which was certainly of a most important character. Mr. McHale was fighting for his whole character, and practically for his life, and this telegram was practically intended to decide whether the action was to go on or not. He (Mr. O'Connor) dwelt upon the importance of the telegram. He held he was entitled to the request he was going to make in connection with the matter, even if the telegram was of the most trivial character. His interpretation of the duty of the Telegraph Department was that every message given in by a member of the public became a sacred charge and trust in the hands of the Department—as sacred, to his mind, as the confessional. Simultaneously with handing in this telegram Mr. O'Brien wrote to the solicitor in Dublin, and in the course of the day he handed in at the same post office other telegrams which were acknowledged to have duly arrived; but for some mysterious reason this particular telegram did not arrive in Dublin. With regard to the main facts of the case there was no dispute. The matter was brought before the Secretary to the Treasury, who gave a perfectly candid answer, and in some respects a satisfactory answer. He said that very careful inquiries had been made; that no explanation could be given of the circumstance, that although the telegram had been duly despatched from Westport it did not arrive in Dublin. There was another important matter in connection with this telegram to which attention should be directed. 132 Everybody knew that it was a wise and proper rule of the Telegraph Department that when a telegram was sent, and when, for some reason or other, the Department found it impossible to deliver it, whether from insufficiency of address or the absence of an individual from a particular address, the department promptly and immediately supplied the sender with notice that the telegram could not be delivered. That was a most satisfactory rule, and one that, so far as his experience went, had been invariably followed, except in connection with the case to which he now called attention. This extraordinary thing occurred, that not only was the telegram not delivered, but no notice whatever was sent to Mr. O'Brien about the non-delivery of it. If it had not been for the fact that Mr. O'Brien wrote to Mr. Kilbride almost simultaneously with the despatch of the telegram, Mr. O'Brien would have remained to this day, so far as the Department is concerned, without any knowledge of the fact that this most important telegram was never delivered. He (Mr. O'Connor) said that his case for a most rigid inquiry had been made out, and the Postmaster-General was bound to pursue this inquiry until he had probed the matter to the bottom. There could be only two or three individuals involved. Here was a small country post office with a very small staff, and yet the right hon. Gentleman came down and told the House that although careful inquiries had been made this simple transaction remained unexplained. Now he had to deal with another point. Mr. Dillon asked the right hon. Gentleman had the Post Office authorities inquired whether Sergeant Sullivan was in Westport at the time the message was handed in, and the right hon. Gentleman said the postmaster of Westport believed Sergeant Sullivan was not in Westport at the time the message was handed in. His (Mr. O'Connor's) information was that Sergeant Sullivan and Mr. Robertson, the clerk to whom the message was handed in, were in com 133 pany in Westport the night before the telegram was handed in.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. HANBURY,) Preston
Is it the fact that Robertson was the clerk to whom it was handed?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said that was the information which he had received—"Were seen drinking in Westport late on the night before the despatch of the telegram, and that they lodged in the same house in Westport that same night." Was it the fact that Robertson was the name of the clerk, the right hon. Gentleman asked. Well, it seemed to show that there had not been much inquiry, when that fact came to him as a surprise. It was a matter that should be probed to the bottom. There was distrust in Ireland with regard to public Departments, and the feeling there was, that in the case of the United League forgery had been employed against it, and that in the case of a great public Department the trust which lay upon it had not been fulfilled. On the contrary, it had grossly neglected its duty, which was to penetrate to the heart of this mystery and punish the people who were responsible for so gross a breach of public duty. Englishmen were scandalised at the revelations in the Dreyfus case, but the value of their declarations on that subject was greatly discounted when forgery and unfair dealing were allowed to go unquestioned so long as they were committed for political purposes in Ireland. Under these circumstances the country had a right to demand that the right hon. Gentleman would go a great deal further than he had already done, so that the public confidence in the Department might be restored.
§ MR. HANBURY
I do not think I need go into the earlier history of this case; I may start with the day on which the telegram was handed in at the 134 Westport post office, and not delivered in Dublin. With regard to the facts there is no dispute between the hon. Gentleman opposite and myself. It is admitted that this telegram was handed in at Westport, and it is also beyond dispute that there is no record of its having been received at Dublin. The hon. Gentleman has given a fair version of my answer to the question put to me by the hon. Member for East Mayo with reference to this case, and he has rather criticised that reply as if I had tried in some way to shirk answering the question in principle, but merely followed its exact wording. Let me assure him that that certainly was not my intention.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
May I inter pose? That was not so. If I gave that impression it was not what I meant to convey. When I referred to the question whether Sergeant Sullivan was in Westport when the message was handed in, the point I laid stress upon was that the right hon. Gentleman said Sullivan was not in Westport on the day the telegram was handed in—which was quite true—but he did not take notice of the fact that he was in Westport the night before.
§ MR. HANBURY
Then, again, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, in my opinion, and I may venture to say also in the opinion of the Postmaster-General, the suppression of a telegram is a very serious Post Office offence. I do not care who may have sent the message, or what the politics of the sender may have been, he had a perfect right to have that message respected and treated with confidence, and delivered in Dublin. Therefore, I hope the hon. Member will not believe for a single moment that there is any idea of party feeling on the part of anybody connected with the Post Office, or that the politics or feelings of the sender of the message had anything to do with its non-delivery. The man who 135 neglects to forward a telegraphic message which has been put into his hands is a great offender against the Post Office laws and regulations, no matter who may be the sender of the message, and I am quite sure the Post Office are most anxious to find out where the fault lies in this case. I was asked a question as to whether Sergeant Sullivan was known to have been in Westport at the time the message was handed in. The postmaster at Westport had no information regarding him, and stated most positively that it would be quite impossible for anybody to have entered the post office and prevented in any way the transmission of the message. I was asked whether it was possible to have a sworn inquiry in regard to this. That is entirely outside the power of the Postmaster-General. He has no power to order a sworn inquiry. But I fully agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite that the most rigid investigation ought to be made into the facts of this case, and when I replied to the hon. Member for East Mayo I went so far as to ask him to give the Post Office and myself any information in his possession which would throw light on the true facts of the case. No information has been forthcoming until to-day, and I am bound to say that if what the hon. Member says in his speech is correct there is, for the first time, brought forward some evidence which I think is of considerable importance. He has not only named the Post Office official to whom this telegram was handed in, but he has told us that this particular Post Office official was not only seen in the company of Sergeant Sullivan on the preceding evening, but that he was also, as I understood the hon. Member, lodging in the same house. That is very important evidence, and I can promise, on the part of the Post Office, that there shall be, and there ought to be, the fullest investigation with regard to it. It is perfectly monstrous that such a thing should happen. The Post Office is a public Department, bound to do its duty irrespective of politics, and when any message is handed in to it, it is bound to see that the message is duly delivered. If any of its servants fail to carry out their duty in that respect, or if telegrams are suppressed, the Post Office is bound to find cut where the fault lies, and punish the officials who so grossly neglect their duty. The Post Office ought to be 136 obliged to anybody who, when a case of the kind happens, will give information which will enable the persons at fault to be detected. As I have said, up to today, no such information has been forthcoming. The Postmaster-General is not in a position to order a sworn inquiry; he is practically only able to get such information as may be placed at his disposal by those possessing the information. It is very difficult without a sworn inquiry to get any such information, and I am obliged to the hon. Member for that which he has given us to-night. I will undertake for myself and promise for the Post Office that, having this clue afforded by the hon. Gentleman, every inquiry shall be made, and if the offence can be traced home to anybody, the Post Office will do its duty to the public, and punish that servant for what I consider to be a gross breach of duty.
§ Mr. PIRIE (Aberdeen, North)
I desire to allude to a topic connected with the Army to which I have always attached a great deal of importance, viz., the extreme youth at which we obtain most of our soldiers. I think if the House will look into this matter of enlistment they cannot but admit that on the classes who give their sons to our Army a great fraud and a great cruelty are very often inflicted. The present system lays down the age at which recruits can join the Army as eighteen years, which is already two or three years younger than in any other foreign army. Instances have been repeatedly brought out by Members of this House proving conclusively that this age is nothing more nor less than a merely nominal age. There was a recent experiment to verify the ages of 18,000 men in the British Army, and 45 per cent. were unable to be verified, 15 per cent. were doubtful, so that practically out of those 18,000, 9,000 were unable to stand verification. This proves conclusively that these men had some reason to represent themselves as older than they really were. If it were really desired to obtain satisfactory proof of age you ought at least to hold out some threat of punishment to a recruit for giving a wrong age; but the very reverse is the case in the Army. The new 137 system which has come into force with regard to the age of recruits, instead of providing a punishment for the falsification of age offers an additional incentive to the recruit to make himself out older than he really is, for the simple reason that at nineteen years of age if he proves himself to the satisfaction of the medical officer he gets an increase of 3d. per day. Therefore the system is becoming worse rather than better, and that is why I am so anxious to induce the authorities to seriously consider the matter, and if possible put a stop to it. I do not approach this matter as a purist. I have had a good deal of experience, and no one can expect boys who become soldiers to be able to withstand the temptations and keep clear of the vices and evils which present themselves in all garrison towns. It is quite soon enough for a soldier to become acquainted with those things when he is a man, and he should not be exposed to them while he is yet a boy. That is why I say the present system inflicts a cruel wrong. There are two courses open, either of which would meet my views. I say you should verify all ages and make the nominal age of eighteen a reality. The Under Secretary of State for War has often said it is impossible to obtain the correct ages of recruits. I cannot see the difficulty. The age of every workman in the Government arsenals and dockyards is ascertained without difficulty, and when an old age pension scheme comes into force, ages will have to be very accurately determined. A stop should be put to the practice of bringing undue influence to bear on school boys of fifteen or sixteen, and inducing them to enter the Army against their parents' wish; while the close alliance which is so prevalent between the public-house and recruiting should be brought to an end. The next course is to take the boys as you have been doing, verify their ages, but treat them as boys, and remember that you make yourselves responsible for these lads' lives when you enlist them in the Army. I believe the great secret of the difference between the Navy and the Army, of the better reputation of the Navy, and the hold it has upon the confidence of the working classes, is found in the fact that you take the boys for the Navy as boys, and treat them as such. They have different hours from the able-bodied seamen; they are not allowed to 138 smoke or drink or go on shore at night until they reach an age at which they may be called able-bodied seamen. Every boy has to have the written consent of his parent, and to satisfy the authorities that he has a decent moral character. If a similar system were followed in the Army I should be perfectly content, and I feel quite confident you would very soon have a very different state of affairs in the Army. Barrack-room life is bad enough for men, but when boys are exposed to it, it means the demoralisation and ruin of a great many lives. There is also this point. You send these boys out to India at the nominal age of twenty, but the false age continues all through the service. The Under Secretary of State told me that the boys, before they go to India, undergo a very strict medical examination. What is the value of this medical examination when 9,000 out of 18,000 are wrong as to age? The system is telling on the Army in the most injurious way, and is going from bad to worse. In 1898 there were 2,000 discharged out of the Army for bad conduct—anumber which has only twice been exceeded in the last twenty years. In 1898 there were 482 more courts-martial than in 1897; the number of minor punishments was higher than in any of the previous ten years, and there were over 4,100 desertions. Can that be said to be satisfactory? Can we rest content with a system which yields such results as those? We ought to strain every nerve until we get a system which gives more satisfactory results. If our Army system was a sound one, the greatest punishment should be to dismiss a man, just as in the Irish Constabulary the highest punishment a man can suffer is dismissal; but in the Army a great many men are only too anxious to get dismissed. The Government may say that the adoption of my principle would mean shortness of numbers, and therefore they are deterred from following my advice. I think that is a misconception. You will never improve the Army until you do something to induce competition to get into the Army. If you restrict the entrance to the Army you will increase its popularity. The impression prevails amongst the classes who provide our recruits that a large proportion of our permanent casuals are ex-soldiers. I do not say the impression is well founded, but until you eradicate that idea you will never get the 139 parents as anxious as they should be that their sons should go into the Army. I am only pleading for truth and straightforwardness on this question, and I do not believe that by doing wrong, as you are at present, you can ever get a satisfactory or right result. Another excuse put forward to prevent my suggestion being adopted is that of expense. On that I would merely ask the House to remember that if my advice were followed, the expenditure on both hospitals and prisons must be greatly reduced. The Inspector-General of Prisons, and the Chaplain of the Forces, bear out that view. I trust that during the recess the War Office will really give this matter serious attention, or public opinion will force them in the long run to bring about a change. There is one other matter I wish to refer to, and that is the Return which was printed the other day regarding commissions from the ranks. I do not think any greater inducement to enlist could be held out than the prospect of a commission, but according to this Return the percentage of commissions from the ranks has shown a steady diminution, having fallen in ten years from 6.5 to 1.9 last year. In other words, had the percentage of ten years ago been kept up, instead of fifteen commissions from the ranks, as was the case last year, no less than fifty would have been given. I think when we are reduced to talking of conscription, we ought at least to increase instead of lessen the inducements offered to men to join the Army.
§ SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
We must all agree as to the necessity of maintaining the efficiency of the Army, and if the necessary number of soldiers in the ranks is to be obtained something very much more serious in the way of expenditure on the Army will have to be incurred. But before we talk of conscription we have got to be very sure that in some department of the War Office you are not wasting money. By this Bill we are going to appropriate £87,000,000,of which sum £48,500,000are for Army and Navy effective purposes. That is quite exclusive of the £1,000,000 given the other day offhand for defence works to be put up we know not where, 140 and of the large loans of naval works of which everybody must approve. In 1871 the amount appropriated for Imperial defence was altogether only £26,250,000,so that in twenty-eight years since the inauguration of a new defence policy your annual expenditure has jumped up by £22,250,000, or an increase of 90 per cent. The most striking fact, when you look below the surface, of these figures is that, as far as the Navy goes, you have been forced by your geographical position and by the action of other nations to keep up a certain standard. That accounts for the increase in the Fleet, and you can count exactly whether you have your money's worth for that increase. But when you turn to the War Office you can do no such thing. In spite of all the wordy explanations of the representatives of the War Office, you are still in utter confusion as to how it is that while the War Office expenditure has increased, there are less, rather than more, men to put into the field. I think the cause of that is that the War Office have got the idea that the more the power of the Fleet is increased the more military defence works are necessary; that means that in the War Office view the greater the power of the Fleet the more liable are your ports to attack. There is no other construction to be placed upon it, and certainly some examination is required when it is remembered that the country has to pay for it, and that the expenditure is so much taken from the money that would otherwise be available for increasing the attractions to recruits. Whenever this has been mentioned to the Under Secretary of State the reply has been that the expenditure on works and garrisons is forced upon the War Office by the Navy. That is their excuse, but I want to know why if that contention be true they cannot say to the Navy, "Very well, if you want these things you must pay for them"? I contend that it is not accurate to say that this policy of ever-increasing armaments has been forced upon you by the naval authority. This policy did not originate at the Admiralty, but in plans proposed in 1888 by the Engineers' Department of the War Office, and, those plans having been prepared, a confidential committee was appointed to approve and ratify those plans so as to induce the House of Commons to vote the money. The report of that Committee is a very re- 141 markable document and was not laid down by the Admiralty at all. If my hon. friend will look at that Report he will see that the whole proposal as regards this expenditure rested upon an assumption, the assumption being that certain forts were liable to be attacked by great squadrons—that Malta was liable to be attacked by a squadron and a large expeditionary force, and that your commercial ports would be liable to the attack of two cruisers and so many small craft. When the matter was under discussion, I asked Mr. Stanhope a question which elicited a very remarkable answer. These were all naval assumptions; and I asked him whether the Committee inquired into the strength and composition of the war fleets and the distribution of the military ports of Continental Powers, and into the sufficiency of our war fleet to carry out in the event of war the traditional naval policy of England, that the prompt assertion of naval superiority over the enemy's ports is the most effectual means of securing the safety of our own. The answer was that this Committee had nothing whatever to do with questions affecting the Fleet! The whole policy of this expenditure on armaments rests on a naval assumption, and yet we have the authority of the Secretary of State for War himself that that naval assumption was not founded on any inquiry with regard to fleets! When we look at the ever-increasing expenditure on this head I think it is time to make, and to keep making, a protest against it. But the cost of works and armaments is not the only expense. Does the Under Secretary of State realise what this policy means as regards the increase of the salaries? In 1889, under the head of "Salaries and Allowances to Royal Engineers for Works and Buildings," the expenditure was £90,000,this year it has grown to £126,000.That increase represents what might have been sixpence a day for 4,000 men. I cannot imagine that it is justifiable in the face of all the known facts to go on piling up this expenditure on works, armaments and garrisons, and reducing the mobility of your Army to a fixed force cowering behind works. But the War Office are so determined that the officers who design these works should have a free hand, that they have now commenced an entirely new policy. The two new naval 142 stations that have been established are now under the command of Royal Engineers, and I see it stated that the Gibraltar command is to go to a Royal Engineer. Could anything be more unsound than the policy of putting those who have the recommendation of expenditure without any check at those very places? It is a false policy, and ought to be stopped. I have shown that the increase of military and naval expenditure since 1871 has been 90 per cent. In the same period your trade has increased by only 34 percent. and your revenue by only 38 per cent. That policy cannot possibly continue. You must proceed with the naval and military necessities of the Empire, but you cannot go on piling up naval and military expenditure when your trade and your revenue are not keeping pace with it. We all want to preserve our Empire, but what are we going to do with regard to organising that Empire to bear this ever-increasing burden? Have we advanced in that matter in any appreciable degree since 1871? Has the United Kingdom got any substantial relief from the growing wealth and resources of the Empire outside? Can any Minister get up and show me that there is a real attempt being made to grapple with this question? I do not think he can; but it is time he could, because while we have been increasing our expenditure for the military and naval necessities of the Empire by 90 per cent., the revenue of the self-governing colonies has increased by 185 per cent., and their trade also has enormously increased by 116 per cent. The aggregate revenue of your outlying Empire is now close upon £50,000,000,and yet you are bearing the whole of this ever increasing Imperial burden. It is no good talking about the greatness of our Empire. Recollect the responsibilities of the Empire, and that those responsibilities cannot be for ever borne by that portion of the Empire the population of which is increasing beyond the increase of trade and beyond the ratio of increase of revenue. As the Appropriation Bill is the only occasion when one can deal with the whole matter in its Imperial aspect, the House will forgive me for trespassing upon its time.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
said that on those wider questions which governed the whole policy of the War Office in its relations with the Admiralty he had had his say during the session, and he could not at that eleventh hour either adduce more facts or find fresh arguments which would convince the hon. and gallant Member. He had spoken of troops "cowering behind works," but the House should recollect that out of 153 battalions only seventeen and a half were at present stationed at garrisons as distinct from forces in occupation. To take one example, there were in South Africa in respect of naval stations two battalions, and everything else was on the same scale. Could the hon. and gallant Member convince the country that there should be less than two battalions there?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
contended that that was another question altogether. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen had raised the question of recruiting, but the standard on which the hon. Member insisted was so rigid that he (the speaker) would under it be ineligible to be a recruit for the British Army, because he really could not say in which church he was baptized, and the only documentary evidence of his age that he could produce at a moment's notice would be the paragraph in "Dodd's Parliamentary Companion." As to verifying the attestation papers, in the recent examination of 18,000 soldiers, it was found there were a very large number of men of the same name born in the same town in the same year. The hon. Member also ridiculed the idea of the medical examination with a view to the verification of age; but he (the speaker) defied him to arrive at a better result under the circumstances. With regard to the number of commissions given to men from the ranks, the Return was asked for in such a shape as to be 144 bound to support the conclusion at which the hon. Member had arrived. To give the percentage of commissions given to men raised from the ranks as compared with all the commissions given in one year was most fallacious. The number of men raised from the ranks was very small, and therefore more variable than a large number. It depended greatly on the number of non-commissioned officers who were eligible for that distinction. If all the tables in the Return were studied and analysed, it would be seen that the explanation of the decreased percentage was that many more commissions were given now, because of the colonial forces, the army in Egypt, and the addition of nine battalions to the Army, and therefore, naturally, when 700 or 800 commissions were given instead of 550, the proportion of rankers to those from Sandhurst or the universities was very much smaller. It was true that in 1885 a great number of commissions were given to men from the ranks, but the reason of that was that in that year the country was engaged in two campaigns in which solely British forces were employed. The War Office were most anxious to give commissions to all non-commissioned officers who, in the opinion of their advisers, were likely to emulate such great public servants as Sir Hector MacDonald, or even to fulfil their avocations on a lowlier but no less useful level.
§ In pursuance of the Order of the House of the 17th day of July last, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.
§ Adjourned accordingly at half-past Twelve of the clock