§ [SECOND DAY'S DEBATE.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [17th October], "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Captain Sir Alexander Acland-Hood.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ *MR. STANHOPE (Burnley)
In the debate which took place yesterday on the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo, a distinct issue was raised. He had my entire sympathy in the proposal he made for the submission of our difficulties with the Transvaal Republic to arbitration. But there is another aspect of the case which seems to me to require very special treatment, and that is the serious examination of the conduct of the negotiations by the Colonial Office, and the general course of events in connection with those negotiations which have led to our present hostilities with the South African Republic. There is a certain class of politicians who say that this country being at war it is undesirable to raise questions of this character. In the first place I may venture to point out that there are numerous precedents for raising issues of this description after war had actually commenced. The last one I think was in 1878, when upon the outbreak of the Afghan War the Liberal 182 party took the occasion of the Queen's Speech, as we are taking it now, for the purpose of raising a distinct issue upon that war. An Amendment was moved in their name by a very respected Member of this House, Mr. Whitbread, and it received the almost unanimous support of the Liberal Party. It is true there is some distinction between the Afghan War and that in which we are now engaged. It is true that we began the Afghan War, and that in this case hostilities have been commenced by the invasion of British Colonies by the forces of the Transvaal. I am quite willing to admit the difference, but all the same I say that, while we must all be willing, under the circumstances of the case to grant those supplies which are necessary for the defence of our Colonies, our mouths must not be closed upon the negotiations which have led up to this disastrous position, and resulted in a state of warfare between ourselves and the Governments of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Perhaps it may be convenient, in order to trace this matter to its source, that I should refer, first of all, to the year 1886, when the discovery of the goldfields imported an entirely new element into the affairs of the Transvaal and produced that combination of circumstances which have led to our present position. But although a very nondescript and not altogether British community was established at Johannesburg, I, for one, entirely acquiesce in the view that those Uitlanders, particularly those of British extraction, have a claim to our protection and our assistance; they have a claim to be supported in their desire for greater political rights than they at present possess in the Transvaal. The only point, and that is the grave point which I am to raise, is that, admitting, if you like, that those political rights ought to have been gained for them, we have gone the wrong way to work to obtain them, and that in any case we ought never to have found ourselves in the position of warfare in which we find ourselves today. In 1892 this question was first raised by the representatives of Her Majesty's Government, and in 1894 the then Colonial Secretary made a suggestion to Lord Loch with respect to the franchise, which was not received, it is true, with favour by the Government of the Transvaal.
§ *MR. STANHOPE
But the demand was suggested on behalf of the Colonial Office, and there is no question that, at that time, the position of the parties in the Transvaal was extremely favourable to the gradual acceptance of Liberal Ideas in the Republic, for President Kruger did not then enjoy the uncontested supremacy which recent events have given him. His position was attacked by various elements in the Transvaal, and nobody who has studied the history of this question doubted that if only patience, and, above all, if abstention from illegal acts had been maintained, we should have obtained those concessions for the Uitlander population which we desired, and rightly desired, and none of these difficulties would have arisen. In 1895 there was a change of Government, and the Unionist party came into power. They found themselves in a position of very great difficulty, for they had to provide not only for their ordinary friends, but also for the friends of the accommodating gentleman from Birmingham. The gentleman from Birmingham had to be given an office in which his talents—which everybody will recognise—would have full display; but, at the same time, it was hoped that he would not interfere too much with the ordinary course of Conservative legislation. They thought if he had a little preserve of his own in the Colonies he would enjoy himself there, and would not be able to find time to inconvenience the Conservative Party in their general course of legislation. For a time all went well with the Unionist party and with the Minister for the Colonies, who showed enormous activity, and this was not contested by his colleagues, who were glad to feel that the Colonial Secretary had enough to do in his own Department, and consequently could not interfere with theirs. But a moment arrived which disturbed the equanimity of the Unionist party. The news arrived of the Jameson raid—a designedly infamous transaction, which was reprobated, but not sufficiently reprobated, by the House of Commons, and the authors of which never received, as they ought to have received, the punishment which they deserved. The Committee which sat to investigate 184 this matter presented a Report, and some of its conclusions gave satisfaction to the universal sentiment; but still, in my judgment, that Committee did not fulfill entirely either their task or the expectations which had been formed from the position occupied by the members of that Committee. At the end of the Session of 1897 I had thrown upon me the duty of making a motion in this House with regard to the Report of the South African Committee desiring that we should have more light, that they should produce more Papers, and that we should go really into the whole of these transactions, and clear the British name and credit from the motives which had been put upon these acts. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary spoke late in the debate. I had asked him, in the course of my remarks, to be good enough to produce a certain letter—a letter addressed by him to Mr. Hawkesley, and conveying certain telegrams which were never published, but which it was very desirable should be published at the moment, and I asked him whether there was any objection to that letter, and the one to which it was a reply, being produced. I ask him that question again now. All I can say is that he absolutely ignored my former question and passed it by. And why? One knows perfectly well why, for it was because he could not respond. Will the right hon. Gentleman now produce those letters? Not only was there no response, but the right hon. Gentleman seized the opportunity offered by the debate on the Report of the South African Committee—which was charged with the duty of examining into a transaction which the whole public opinion of the world and the British Empire reprobated—the right hon. Gentleman got up at the last moment in that debate, and from his place in Parliament whitewashed the principal instigator of that Raid, and, in a sense, entirely did away with any of the good, or any of the advantage which might have been derived from the Report of the South African Committee. I am not going to enter more fully into the particulars of the exact personal responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the Jameson Raid. But I have received today a book. I have had nothing whatever to do with the drawing up of that book, but I have read it with some interest. It is called, "Are We in the 185 Right? An Appeal to Honest Men," by Mr. W. T. Stead. [Ministerial laughter] I noticed that the Leader of the House laughed when I read the title of the book. I would invite the right hon. Gentleman to read the book, and he will see in it a series of charges made without the smallest circumlocution against the Colonial Secretary. I neither wish to support them nor in any way to deal with them, but I do say that the dissemination of a book like that containing a series of charges against a public man of such a character cannot be, in the eyes of the public, passed by in silence by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, and can only be dealt with in a manner which will clear entirely the right hon. Gentleman of those charges. I desire to pass from that particular subject of the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman to the more immediate question of the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's actions. The effect of the right hon. Gentleman's actions was necessarily to throw all the progressive party in the Transvaal into the arms of the reactionary party. I ask any Englishman who found himself an inhabitant of the Transvaal, and who was a witness of all that occurred with regard to this matter, whether he would not from that moment have said, "Well, I have perhaps some mistrust of British Government, but so long as the British Government is in this matter represented by the present Colonial Secretary that mistrust will be so profound that I shall never be able to come to any reasonable settlement." That was the frame of mind of the people of the Transvaal, as a very natural consequence of the Jameson raid, and of the actions of the right hon. Gentleman. But I am bound to say that at that moment, or immediately subsequent to the Jameson raid, the right hon. Gentleman used language in this House which was satisfactory. I remember that, in answer to a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, he distinctly repudiated any desire to interfere with the internal arrangements of the Transvaal, and he said that the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman would involve the expenditure of £10,000,000, £20,000,000, or £30,000,000 for the sending out of a large army for the commission of a crime which he thought this country ought not to permit. Now what has happened to 186 cause the right hon. Gentleman to so completely change his views? I am afraid that it is because the right hon. Gentleman has fallen under influences of a different kind to those which animated him at that time, because when Mr. Cecil Rhodes, the principal instigator of this Raid, went back to South Africa and found that he no longer received the support of the majority of the people of Cape Colony, when in the general election which ensued his adversaries were returned and Mr. Rhodes himself was displaced from power, what happened then? Why Mr. Rhodes said to himself, "What we cannot get by fair and constitutional means we will get by foul and hidden means. We cannot any longer do any good by constitutional agitation, so we will found an insidious league, and we will supply it with money." Accordingly, the South African League was formed, and Mr. Rhodes and his associates—generally of the German Jew extraction—foundmoney in thousands for its propaganda. By this league in South Africa and here they have poisoned the wells of public knowledge. Money has been lavished in the London world and in the press, and the result has been that little by little public opinion has been wrought up and inflamed, and now, instead of finding the English people dealing with this matter in a truly English spirit, we are dealing with it in a spirit which generations to come will condemn, and which I believe within a few months of this time the electorate of this country will finally and absolutely repudiate. I will now deal with the more particular transactions in which the right hon. Gentleman was engaged shortly after what I may call this change of attitude consequent upon the entry on the scene of Mr. Rhodes and his German Jew associates. When these gentlemen arrived it was felt that a new departure was necessary. Lord Rosmead, who for many years had represented this country with eminent success as Governor of the Cape, came home, and the new departure took the form of sending out a distinguished gentleman, Sir Alfred Milner, who was imbued with very different ideas to those, held by Lord Rosmead. I have had the honour of Sir Alfred Milner's acquaintance, and I may say that he has served the State no doubt in one particular capacity with very great distinction, and I believe that his services 187 could be used and utilised in positions of that sort with great advantage to the community. But nevertheless I believe that Sir Alfred Milner is utterly wanting in those characteristics and qualities which are necessary in a successful diplomat who has to hold the scales and an even balance between two nationalities, and endeavour to compose and smooth away differences instead of creating them. Sir Alfred Milner was sent out to the Cape with a distinct bias in favour of what you might call racial supremacy, and he fomented by his attitude those racial differences which are now so unfortunately acute, and which may yet lead to a general racial war throughout South Africa, and which may place the whole of our possessions there in considerable jeopardy. I only wish to refer to one despatch, and that is the despatch of the 4th of May, 1899. Honourable Members are familiar with the Blue Books presented to the House, and, therefore, I do not propose to read this despatch, which contains the most extravagant suggestions of disloyalty on the part of the Colonists and a large section of the population of the Cape, who happened at that time to be a majority of the population of the Cape, and whose representatives, under the leadership of Mr. Schreiner, are at the present moment governing the Cape. Naturally those suggestions on the part of Sir Alfred Milner exasperated the feelings of the Dutch throughout Cape Colony, and the action of the Government of the Cape was in entire opposition to the suggestions of Sir Alfred Milner. It was at, Mr. Schreiner's initiation that a very large grant was made in aid of our Imperial Government, and it received the highest encomium on the part of the right hon. Gentleman's colleague the First Lord of the Admiralty, who said that he believed in the complete loyalty of the Dutch population at the Cape, and was immensely gratified to find that they had signalised that loyalty by a large grant in aid of our fleet, and the granting of facilities for Imperial purposes in St. Simon's Bay. Unfortunately the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty was only one member of the Government, and he was not the one particular member of the Government who was charged with the conduct of these negotiations. The conducting of these negotiations was almost entirely in the hands of 188 the Colonial Secretary, Sir Alfred Milner, and Mr. Conyngham Greene at Pretoria. No one can deny who has read these Papers that there was a constant difference of opinion—small if you like—as to what Mr. Conyngham Greene and Sir Alfred Milner thought and the views of the Colonial Secretary. I am not surprised, therefore, at the confusion of ideas existing in the Transvaal and at the declaration made by the Government of the Transvaal at Pretoria that they were unable to grasp what was the real intention of Her Majesty's Government, and that when they made one proposal it was immediately met by another proposal, and that instead of one proposal tending to some form of settlement they were brushed aside by counter proposals, which led them to believe that no settlement was desired. I for one have come to the absolute conviction that while I entirely acquit the Government as a whole of any kind of fixed intention with regard to these transactions—on the contrary, I believe that they were animated by peaceful motives—I say that the right hon. Gentlemen the Colonial Secretary and Sir Alfred Milner, in conjunction with Mr. Rhodes and his associates, have for the last two years made up their minds that war, and war only, could be the termination of this crisis, and they have worked with that conviction for the last twelve or fourteen months. While on the one hand the Colonial Secretary has been so conducting the negotiations that it was almost impossible to arrive at a settlement, on the other hand Mr. Rhodes and his friends have been exciting public opinion all over the world, and now the right hon. Gentleman can turn to his colleagues and say, "You cannot help it; public opinion is all in favour of war, and you must follow it, or you will be swept out of office." That is the position which we have arrived at in consequence of the conduct of negotiations by the right hon. Gentleman, and I am justified in calling attention to them and asking that the Liberal party in this House and outside this House will never in any form or shape give their sanction or approval to transactions which they believe do not redound to the honour of this country, and which possibly may lead to very serious and terrible complications. I desire to make a few remarks upon another question, and that is with respect to the position which we occupy 189 at this moment with regard to the war. Of course, it is true that war is at present in progress. Of course, it is equally true that we can do nothing except give all the money which may be necessary for the purpose of prosecuting this war as long as it may be necessary to prosecute it. But, on the other hand, I for one desire to dissociate myself from those who say that this war must be pursued to the bitter end, and that it must be a war of extermination, and that it must be a war under which the Dutch element must disappear from those regions. I say it will be the duty of this country—and public opinion will demand it—to see that bloodshed is arrested at the earliest possible moment, and that these matters in dispute should be referred at the earliest opportunity which may occur to some form of settlement which, while protecting all the legitimate interests of this country, will at the same time do justice to what, after all, the British people feel, namely, that this war, necessary as it is now in consequence of having been precipitated, can never be a source of credit or pride to them. Here we are, a great Empire, engaged in trying to crush out of existence a few thousand Dutchmen who are fighting for their independence. Independence to them is dearer than life, and I believe that the British House of Commons and the electors outside will agree with me when I say that great as may be—and I trust they will be—our military successes, no credit can attach to a war of this kind, but infinite discredit will attach to us in the pages of history if it is recorded that the British Empire by brute force and the employment of its immense resources crushed out of existence a nation struggling for its independence, for such a crime will make a great blot upon the last days of the nineteenth century. I beg, Sir, to move the Amendment standing on the Paper in my name.
§ *MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)
In seconding this Amendment, I wish to make my position clear. We may have our own opinion as to what has led up to this most unfortunate war, but the fact is that war does exist between us and the two South African Republics, and in view of this fact I will put no difficulties in the way of the Government obtaining the necessary supplies to carry that war to a speedy and successful issue. So far as that is concerned we are all 190 willing to close the ranks on this side of the House, but while we are willing to do that there still remains a duty which devolves upon us which is as sacred and solemn as any duty which is imposed upon a Member of Parliament, and that is to protest against what has led up to the war, which has been properly described by my learned friend behind me as an inglorious war which cannot possibly redound to the credit of the British Empire. My hon. and learned friend has gone over the initial stages of this question, and I do not propose to travel over the same ground again. I propose to call the attention of the House more especially to what has taken place in the conduct of these negotiations since Parliament was prorogued in the month of August last. Since that time we have had no opportunity in the House of Commons of placing our views before the country, and I think it will be acknowledged that the Liberal party have done nothing as a whole in the interval which could prejudice the fair conduct of the negotiations by the Government, or which has hampered them in any desire they might have to bring those negotiations to a peaceful solution. I have waded through the material which we have got in these Blue Books, and without going so far as to say that I agree entirely with the conclusions to which my hon. friend behind me has come, I am bound to say that in the bewilderment created by the somewhat hysterical and shifting despatches I have found it almost impossible to fix definitely the cause of the outbreak of hostilities in South Africa. It is impossible in a debate of this kind to go in detail into the question of the grievances—the alleged grievances—of the Uitlanders, and I am pleased to think that it has become unnecessary to do so, because the Government themselves have acknowledged that whatever those grievances were they were grievances which might and ought to be settled by a certain extension of the franchise. The seven years retrospective franchise has been described by the Colonial Secretary as a fair basis of settlement, and therefore it is necessary for us now to see whether that fair basis was allowed fair play or not by the right hon. Gentleman and by the Government in the negotiations which have taken place since Parliament was prorogued. With regard to the franchise, the state of things when Parlia- 191 ment was sitting was that President Kruger was willing to grant and had taken steps to grant a seven years franchise to the Uitlanders, with an inquiry into the efficacy and operation of that law. That was the state of things when Parliament was prorogued, and at that time the country thought there was nothing existing between the two Governments which would justify war being embarked upon before Parliament was called together. Since that time the state of things really improved so far as the South African Republic was concerned, for the House will remember—and the country will not forget—that by the despatches of the 19th and 21st of August last, President Kruger, in view of certain representations which were believed to have been made to the State Secretary by Mr. Conyngham Greene, offered a five years franchise to operate retrospectively, and a still further extension of representation to the Rand district, and he merely coupled the offer which he then made with certain conditions which I venture to say the Government ought to have accepted. That has really been the turning-point of these negotiations. The conditions were these—first, that this Government should not interfere in the internal affairs of the South African Republic any further. That, baldly stated, might appear to be a condition which many hon. Members might think the Government had no right to concede, but it is perfectly clear from the Blue Book that the interference thereby conditioned by the South African Republic did not take away from our Government in the slightest degree any rights we possess under the Convention of 1884, or any rights vested in us as a Power whose own subjects and citizens were resident in another State, because hon. Members will find on page 53 of the September Blue Book that the South African Republic says—Passing now to the discussion of the observations of Her Majesty's Government on the conditions attached by this Government to the proposal which has now lapsed, in consequence of the non-acceptance by Her Majesty's Government of these stipulations, the Government wishes to observe that with reference to the question of intervention this Government has neither asked nor intended that Her Majesty's Government should abandon any right which it really might have on the ground either of the Convention of London, 1884, or of international law to intervene for the protection of British subjects in this country.192 Again, on the same page in paragraph 7 it is stated—The stipulations attached by this Government to that proposal were most reasonable, and demand on the side of Her Majesty's Government no abandonment of existing rights, but solely the obtaining of the assurance that Her Majesty's Government I would in future as regards this Republic simply abide by the Convention of London, 1884, and the generally recognised rules of international law.Was there any difficulty at all in the way of this Government or any Government, which had the conduct of these negotiations, saying readily to the South African Republic, "We never have claimed any further rights than the rights we have under the Convention of 1884 and by international law"? The second condition was that this Government was not to insist further on the assertion of the existence of suzerainty. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh stated last evening that whatever might be said about the grievances of the Uitlanders the suzerainty question was the foundation of the trouble in South Africa. I am not going into the question of the suzerainty in detail, but I wish to point out that that right, which has been asserted so often and with so much irritation by the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, is said to be based on the preamble of the Convention of 1881. What is the South African Republic to think of negotiations carried on in the spirit in which they have been carried on by the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, who, on various occasions, has said things absolutely inconsistent with and contradictory of each other? When the right hon. Gentleman wanted something from President Kruger there was no reference at all to the Convention of 1881. After that most unfortunate Raid the Colonial Secretary desired—as we all did that the Government of the South African Republic should display magnanimity in the treatment of the prisoners who were in custody as a result of the Raid. Then the position of the right hon. Gentleman was this: In a communication to President Kruger, he said—I myself have always felt confidence in your magnanimity and honour, and you may rest confident that I will strictly uphold all the obligations of the London Convention of 1884.There was no suggestion then of the existence of the Convention of 1881, and 193 no argument was then founded or any right claimed on the dead preamble of that Convention. I cannot understand, after the discussions which have taken place in the country and in the press by those qualified to speak, after the admirable speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire—a speech which in my humble judgment it is impossible to answer—and after the equally cogent speech of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, to which I am pleased to hear he adheres at the present moment, I cannot understand how it can be argued that the Convention of 1881 is not dead. And yet even some Liberals have argued it. The hon. and learned Member for South Leeds and the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire have argued upon tine construction of the two Conventions without reference to external circumstances or documents that the preamble of the Convention of 1881 is still alive, as if Conventions between States on public matters were to be construed by narrow rules of our municipal law, as laid down in musty reports in the Temple or in Lincoln's Inn. It appears to me impossible to argue with any foundation of reason or logic according to the proper principles to be applied to the construction of international agreements that the Convention of 1881 is in any degree or sense alive. But what is the use, after all, of using the term "suzerainty" when it is known that it irritated the South African Republic? Assuming for a moment, for the sake of argument, that we have suzerainty, is it alleged that we have by the right of suzerainty any rights at all other than those under the Convention of 1884? If not, then the South African Republic said, "We are willing to abide, and we ask you to abide by the Convention of 1884." Therefore it appears to me in regard to the second condition which was attached by the South African Republic to its offer of a five years retrospective franchise that there ought not to have been any difficulty at all in the way of the Government meeting the Government of the Republic on that head. It was still more desirable that this should be done in order to quell the suspicion which might exist—and who can blame the South African Republic for entertaining the suspicion?—that this country had designs on 194 its independence. After what happened in connection with the Raid and the circumstances of that Raid, it was still more incumbent on the Government of this country to have readily acknowledged to the South African Republic that they did not claim any rights other than the rights under the Convention of 1884, and those vested in them with regard to our subjects by international law, and to admit that they did not desire otherwise to assert any question of suzerainty. The third condition was as to arbitration. So far as I can see, there was no difficulty in coming to an agreement as to the arbitration clauses. It was suggested by the Colonial Secretary—who apparently was most fruitful in all kinds of suggestions to create all kinds of difficulties which did not appear in the despatches on the other side—that arbitration meant foreign arbitration, and he said "I will not allow foreign arbitration." But the Transvaal Government replied, "No, we do not want foreign arbitrators at all." What should have been the answer of Great Britain, who has had recourse to arbitration when she had to face powerful nations like America? That was the state of things on 21st August. The Colonial Secretary sent his reply to that offer of the South African Republic, which was better than the minimum offer of Sir Alfred Milner at the Bloemfontein Conference. The reply of the Colonial Secretary, translated into plain language, was: "We can have nothing to do with your conditions," and I am not sure that it would not have been more creditable to have put it in that language than in the form in which it appeared in the despatch. If the Government thought that a settlement could be arrived at by acknowledging these conditions of the South African Republic was it not absolutely incumbent on them in the interests of this country and the British Empire to assent to those conditions, and to put an end to the difficulty, more particularly as it appeared—though there may have been a misunderstanding—that the State Secretary understood from Mr. Greene, the British Agent, when he suggested these terms, that there was more than a hope that they would be accepted? They were; not accepted. Then, although it was agreed that the putting forward of these 195 terms should not be regarded as a refusal altogether of the British demand, the Colonial Secretary said, "We cannot allow you to go back at all—not even to the seven years franchise proposal." In the Blue Book which was issued yesterday it is perfectly clear that it was open to the Transvaal Government without a breach of faith, and without doing anything which was not within their rights, to resume the prior negotiations with regard to the seven years franchise and the commission of inquiry. The Blue Book issued yesterday contains a despatch from Sir Alfred Milner, in which, on page 57, it is stated—After communication with you I instructed Mr. Greene on August 17th to inform the Government of the South African Republic as follows:—'If the Government of the South African Republic were to reply to the invitation of Her Majesty's Government to a Joint Inquiry by formally putting forward proposals described in your telegram, Her Majesty's Government would not regard such a course as a refusal of their offer, but would be prepared to consider the reply of the Government of the South African Republic on its merits.That shows that it was absolutely open to the South African Republic, without any charge of unfairness, to go back to the franchise proposal and the commission of inquiry. "No," says the Colonial Secretary, having screwed President Kruger up to the five years franchise, "we will not allow you to go back at all." In this state of affairs on September 22nd the door was absolutely closed, I venture to think, to any further negotiations. No further discussion was invited no further answer apparently was either asked for or expected. The further proposed demands which were promised in the despatch of September 22nd were not sent, they have not been sent to this day, and so far as we know, have not yet been drawn up, and I respectfully suggest to the House that even now we have a right to ask the Government how far they have gone in drawing up these proposals. If they were intended to be bonâ fide how far have they been formulated? So far as we can see from the Blue Books there is not even a suggestion that they have been begun by the right hon. Gentleman, the Colonial Secretary. No, Sir, apparently on September 22nd Her Majesty's Government, through its Colonial Secretary in particular, was determined that war was inevitable. I am loath to say of any Minister that he so conducted 196 negotiations that he intended them to end in a resort to force. I will not say that, but I cannot help saying that the method adopted in the negotiations tended directly to that most deplorable result. Then it was suggested that President Steyn was in a sort of conspiracy with the South African Republic to have a republic all over South Africa, including Cape Colony and Natal Was ever such rubbish spoken of two small States? Can anyone imagine that President Steyn, who had no direct quarrel with us, but merely treaty obligations with President Kruger, was insane enough to desire to rush his country into war with a vast and important Empire like the British Empire? It appears that President Steyn was anxious to bring about a peaceful solution even after the despatch of September 22, and in the Blue Book just issued there is an extraordinarily strong light thrown upon the view of Sir Alfred Milner himself as to what the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary intended towards the end of September. It will be seen that while these negotiations were going on between Sir Alfred Milner and President Steyn, the Colonial Secretary, in a despatch dated September 29th to Sir Alfred Milner, directed him in these terms to send a telegram to President Steyn—You will at the same time inform the President of Orange Free State that what he describes as the enormous and ever-increasing military preparations of Great Britain have been forced upon Her Majesty's Government by the policy of the South African Republic, which has transformed the Transvaal into a permanent armed camp, threatening the peace of the whole of South Africa and the position of Great Britain as the Paramount State.Was not that something like a declaration of war? It was the opinion of Sir Alfred Milner that it was tantamount to that, because the High Commissioner telegraphed to the Colonial Secretary that he had actually undertaken the responsibility of keeping back the telegram. He cabled as follows—I propose to hold over message in your telegram of September 29th. My reason for doing so is that there is still some hesitation on the part of the Government of the Orange Free State, who seem not to have abandoned hope of compromise.Did not that say in plain terms that in Sir Alfred Milner's opinion, at any rate, the despatch he was instructed by the 197 Colonial Secretary to send to President Steyn would bring things to a head, and would leave no further hope of compromise at all? Several days later Sir Alfred Milner sent another despatch to the Colonial Secretary, stating that the President of the Orange Free State complained that he had not received a reply, and adding—I kept back, as you are aware, your telegram of the 29th September. We ought, however, in my opinion, to answer him now.That plainly shows that on the 29th September Her Majesty's Government was determined that there should be war with the South African Republic. Even after that date, the South African Republic apparently awaited some communication from the Government as promised in the despatch of 22nd September. No communication came, and at last the fatal step, which I will not attempt to justify, was taken on the 9th October. I should think that the feeling which hon. Members had when they read the ultimatum despatched by President Kruger eighteen days after the last communication from our Government was a feeling of infinite pity that he had been driven to do anything so mad. To feel pity was more natural than to fix blame under all the circumstances. What the Government said to this small State of 30,000 burghers was," Our negotiations are over, and we will take no further steps to meet you at all. But we will continue to land our forces and to mobilise our army corps; we will call out our reserves, and we hope sincerely that you, a small State, will oblige the great British Government by waiting until we are ready to invade your territory." Nothing that I have said will, I hope, be regarded as justifying—nothing I ever shall say will justify—President Kruger for issuing that ultimatum. One has a strong opinion that probably he was unable to keep the young Boers back, but that ultimatum undoubtedly called this country to go to war. But that does not justify the negotiations which led to the war and which rendered it inevitable. It was all the more important that the negotiations between our Government and the South African Republic should be carried out with the utmost care and caution, and without any irritation, having regard to the position which the Colonial Secretary himself held 198 in the matter. This country has not forgotten, and I am sure the South African Republic has not forgotten, the part which the right hon. Gentleman took in connection with that inglorious raid in 1895. Those telegrams which were suppressed have still to be disclosed. An explanation has yet to be given of the conduct of the Colonial Secretary in voting for the condemnation of Mr. Rhodes, wholesale and complete, upstairs, and on the same day in this House, whitewashing him, and saying that although he was guilty of treason and lying, and of keeping back information from his own Ministers, he had done nothing which was in the slightest degree a reflection on his personal honour. Those letters and telegrams may some day be disclosed, but until they are disclosed how can we blame the South African Republic if they had the suspicion in the course of the negotiations that it was all along intended to destroy their independence, though the attempt in 1895 had failed? Having regard to the position of the right hon. Gentleman, it is deplorable that it should have fallen to his lot—whether rightly or wrongly—to carry on and deal with the negotiations between this country and the South African Republic. Under these circumstances I submit that while we on this side of the House were very careful not to place any difficulties in the way of the Government while the negotiations were still open, and are now willing and ready to give the Government the necessary means to carry on this war which unfortunately has been brought about, we are nevertheless entitled, and bound, at this stage of the proceedings, to protest that war ought never to have taken place. Can any hon. Member—can the Colonial Secretary himself—say now what was the cause of the war? One answer is easy, viz., that the ultimatum was the cause. But that only shifts it back further. What was the cause of the ultimatum? In this House we do not hear much of Majuba, but we hear of it in the country. I should think there is not a genuine Liberal in this House or in the country who did not blush when he read a certain letter from a nobleman who at one time led the Liberal Party, and who, I suppose, aspires to lead it again. He was a member of the Government of 1881, which was responsible for the magnanimous treatment of the Boers after Majuba Hill. Every 199 good Liberal must have blushed when he read that letter—that belated letter—the letter which many of the followers of this nobleman expected every day to come, and which appealed not to reason, but to the lowest instincts of the lowest section of the people of this country in justification of our being at war with a small State. The war will come to an end; our soldiers will fight gallantly in the cause of their country, as they always have done and always will do. We will succeed, but that will not make the war a justifiable one. We have a feeling—indeed I am not sure that we do not confess—that we do not expect any glory from it. The war must inevitably be an inglorious and an ignoble one. Our only hope is that, having been made inevitable by the course of these negotiations, it will be carried to a speedy and merciful conclusion. But we protest against taking any responsibility for this war, which even a great and mighty Empire like ours cannot win with impunity.
At the end of the Question, to add the words: 'But we humbly represent to Your Majesty our strong disapproval of the conduct of the negotiations with the Government of the Transvaal which have involved us in hostilities with the two South African Republics. ' "—(Mr. Stanhope.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ *MR. WANKLYN (Bradford, Central)
In rising to speak on the Amendment to Her Majesty's Address, which has been so brilliantly moved and seconded from the other side of the House, I desire to say that I should not have ventured to intervene in this debate without some special knowledge of the subject. It is my privilege to sit for the Exchange Division of Bradford—a commercial centre to which much if not most of the wool which is grown in South Africa eventually finds its way sooner or later in one form or another. It will, therefore, be obvious to the House that, representing this Exchange Division, I am in touch with merchants who have confidential agents in various parts of South Africa. I desire further to say, in this connection, that I have no interest whatever in any mine in South Africa, and I am, perhaps, one of the few men on either one side of the 200 House or the other who can say he has not and never has had any interests in any South African mine. I claim, therefore, to speak from an independent and unbiassed standpoint. As regards the speeches of the mover and seconder, I may venture to observe there was in them much declamation and much that was very brilliant, but there were not many statements of fact, and very few of those statements of fact were new. The seconder touched upon the two Conventions, and as a learned Member of this House, ventured to cast ridicule on other learned Members for their constitutional attitude towards the Conventions of 1881 and 1884. The view of the hon. Member opposite is, I take it, that the Convention of 1881 does not exist, and that the 1884 Convention is the only one we have to consider. He agrees. But I would put this point to the House. Speaking as a railway director, I will ask how can you have Articles of Association without a Memorandum? How can you have Articles of Partnership without a preamble? The position is not tenable for one moment, and in that view I am supported by one of the brightest intellects in this House—by the hon. and learned Member for South Leeds. I do not propose, personally, to indulge in any declamation today, but I have to present certain statements of fact which I have taken considerable trouble to verify. The mover of the Amendment suggested that Mr. Rhodes was solely and entirely the cause of the unhappy and miserable Jameson Raid, but I would like to remind the House of the evidence given on, this point by Mr. Schreiner, the present Premier of Cape Colony, in which he states that, to the best of his opinion, Mr. Rhodes absolutely disapproved of Dr. Jameson's movement. He was pressed for an explanation of his conduct by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire, and was subjected to a long cross-examination, but the conclusion arrived at was that he had found a sum of £61,000 out of his own pocket, solely in order to checkmate the German Emperor. That may have been a mistaken view, but there is no doubt that Dr. Jameson by his action very nearly ruined his friend Mr. Rhodes. I hold no brief for Mr. Rhodes, but I do regard him as a man of lofty ideals; he is not only a man of action, but, like the German 201 Emperor, he is possessed of a very active mind, and we know that he has spent his money for the expansion of England, and we on this side who do not fear the expansion of England, who are not cursed with "the craven fear of being great," have much sympathy and admiration for Mr. Rhodes. The great object of his life is to found a great colony in the same way as Penn founded Pennsylvania. If to desire honour is to sin, then Cecil Rhodes has erred greatly, but I suggest that he has desired honour, not on his own account, but for the sake of his country, and he is therefore deserving of our sympathy. I am surprised that the mover of the Amendment should have used the language he did in regard to both Mr. Rhodes and the Colonial Secretary. Does the hon. Gentleman really think that these men, and those who act with them, have had a desire to foment war and bring about the destruction of the lives of thousands of their countrymen? If he entertains that view, and if it be shared by other hon. Gentlemen opposite, I am indeed sorry for them. For myself I can only say that, while I do not presume to know anything about the private life of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, I can point to his public record in refutation of the charge. We know, too, that the occupations of his leisure time prove him to be a man of humane instincts, and I therefore decline to believe in the charge made against a fellow-countryman occupying so eminent a position. As to Cecil Rhodes, we know that his whole attitude towards the black populations of South Africa has conclusively proved him to be a humane man. He has, too, always shown the utmost consideration for those of his fellow-countrymen who are less well able to take care of themselves. He stands in loco parentis towards the blacks, and I will not accept the view—indeed, I refute it on behalf of Members on this side—that there has been any desire on the part of either of these two gentlemen to foment war. It has been suggested by the hon. Member for Burnley that the South African League, which has put so much valuable information before the public, is a League subsidised by capitalists for their own ends and for their own purposes. The hon. Member has been misinformed. The books of the League are 202 open, I believe, to the inspection of hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is purely a poor man's league; it was formed after the Raid; and employees of capitalists have been dismissed from their situations for becoming members of it. That is a fact vouched for by Sir Alfred Milner, and I do not think that any hon. Member opposite will contest it. (Cries of "Butler, Butler.")
§ *MR. STANHOPE
It would have been a great advantage if the hon. Gentleman had also stated the view of the League entertained by Sir William Butler while in command at the Cape.
§ *MR. WANKLYN
I am not concerned with Sir William Butler, except that I regret he has been kicked upstairs instead of being kicked downstairs. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] I am sorry I am being interrupted from the Irish benches.
§ *MR. WANKLYN
Until I was rudely interrupted I was simply making a statement of facts, and I am pointing out that capitalist companies have dismissed persons in their employment for joining this League. From that statement hon. Members opposite can draw their own conclusions. How can it be suggested that the capitalists want war? Their mines will be damaged by water—they may, indeed, be damaged by dynamite—and they certainly have lost and will lose much by the stoppage of labour. I saw it stated in the Leeds Mercury that the capitalists wanted war in order that they might buy mining shares cheap. That suggestion was made two or three weeks ago. I have since then taken the trouble to follow the price of shares, and I have noticed that in the case of one large company the values went up at the first sound of war. The suggestion, therefore, does not hold water. If the causes which are assigned by hon. gentlemen opposite are not those which led to the war then we are face to face with the question, what was it that did lead to the war? I can give the causes in a very few sentences. They are grievances coupled with corruption and the want of recognition of those grievances and that corruption. The grievances are taxation without representation, and the subordi- 203 nation of the courts of law to the Executive, a corrupt and brutal police.
§ *MR. WANKLYN
And the restriction of freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. There was a time when the whole Liberal party would have fought for those four issues, and I, sitting on this side of the House as a member of the Liberal Unionist party, am prepared still to fight for them. I am only sorry that the old Liberal party has so degenerated that it is no longer prepared to fight for them. Hon. Members opposite seem to challenge that statement. Let me ask them, what did the Leader of the Liberal Separatist party say in this House on the 28th of July last? I speak of the right hon. Gentleman we all respect as the Leader of the Opposition. He declared that, from beginning to end of the negotiations, he could see nothing whatever which would justify war. Does that not strengthen my observation on this question of grievances? [An HON. MEMBER: Rot!] I am sorry to hear an hon. Member describe as "Rot" grievances which are admitted, and on account of which our forefathers fought. You wish to howl me down, but you will not succeed in doing it. I will now pass to some concrete cases of corruption which I have taken the trouble to verify. President Kruger has been represented to us as a pious, poor, upright person. As regards his piety, it is not for me to question that; God alone is his Judge; but as regards his poverty, let me say he is not a poor man. He is rich beyond the dreams of avarice. As to corruption, have we not proof of it in the very fact that the house in which he lives was presented to him by an individual to whom he gave a concession for the sale of liquor? Even the Staats Secretary admits that the liquor monopolists have brought wealth to President Kruger and his family. I will now pass to the dynamite monopoly. I have with me here a statement signed by a gentleman who was, for two years, Chief Inspector of Mines under President Kruger. He was the only Englishman ever in the service of the Transvaal, and he was simply employed because, in the early days of 204 the mining industry, the Boers were unable to secure expert advice except from this country. I will read what he says.
§ *MR. WANKLYN
It is Mr. Edgar Rathbone, and he is a nephew of the late Mr. William Rathbone, for twenty years. Liberal M. P. for Liverpool. He is in this House today, and he will be here tomorrow, and I am sure he will be delighted to give hon. Members any information in his possession. What is it he says with regard to the dynamite monopoly? He declares—On several occasions I was obliged to receive dynamite which I considered to be in a dangerous condition. Indeed, in some cases accidents were caused. I tried to bring an action against the officials of one company, but—
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the question before the House is the disapproval of the conduct of the negotiations with the Transvaal Government. Although that gives a certain amount of scope to discuss the conduct of the Transvaal Government, the hon. Gentleman is going rather too far.
§ *MR. WANKLYN
Of course, I bow to your ruling, Sir. I was going to point out that hon. Members opposite attribute this war to want of diplomacy on the part of Her Majesty's Government, whereas I claim that it is due to a lack of recognition on the part of Members opposite of the existence of grievance and corruption.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Yes, but that is not the question. No doubt the Amendment raises the point of the diplomacy of the Government, but the hon. Member is going beyond that.
§ *MR. WANKLYN
I repeat, Sir, I bow, of course, to your ruling. No doubt it will be a relief to hon. Gentlemen opposite that I am not allowed to read the affidavit I hold in my hands. Mr. Rathbone tells me that he would not have given this evidence had it not been for the declaration of war, but he now feels it his duty to speak, and in this affidavit he instances cases of corruption—
§ *MR. WANKLYN
I will only tell hon. Members opposite that their relief will last but for a few hours, for I will undertake that the document shall appear tomorrow morning in the columns of the London press, and they will then have the satisfaction of knowing that the country will be made acquainted with the unpalatable contents of this document. I now pass from this question of corruption to the causes which have led to it. I am free to confess that President Kruger is no more desirous of gold than possibly other people, but, as the Manchester Guardian has pointed out, he may not possess such a high sense of honour in acquiring it. Apart from his personal ends, he has the ambition of a lifetime to serve, and that, no doubt, animated his desire to secure the gold. That ambition of his lifetimes has been to found a Republic, with the Transvaal State on the top, from the Zambesi to the sea.
§ *MR. WANKLYN
I am asked who told me that. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen tells me that on page 205 of his book. He says that the moment President Kruger came into power—
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I object very much to quotations which are not verified by reading the passage.
§ *MR. WANKLYN
Then I will invite hon. Members to read page 205 of the book. If they do not like that evidence they can have that given by the hon. baronet the Member for the Hands worth Division of Staffordshire, who spoke yesterday of his interview with Chief Justice de Villiers, by whom he was told that if President Steyn could only get rid of the suzerainty question he would join hands with President Kruger with a view to the formation of one great Republic. Then, again, we have the evidence of Mr. J. R. Robinson, published in the Daily News on the 3rd of this month. I do not think that even the right hon. gentleman the Member for Bodmin will pretend to have a closer knowledge of the real state of affairs internally in the Transvaal than 206 MR. Robinson. He is a born Afrikander. He fought in the Basuto War, and he was once spoken of as a possible successor to President Kruger himself. He testifies that the dream of President Kruger's lifetime is a great Republic from the Zambesi to the sea—a Republic independent of any suzerainty whatever; and he added that it was amazing to him that the people in England were so blind and would not realise the position of affairs which everybody in South Africa understood. There are many hon. Gentlemen who will not see facts—I do not say the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, because I have too much respect for his amiability of character, but there are many Members with him who are blinded by jealousy of the Colonial Secretary, and they will not see facts. My illustrious, predecessor, the late Mr. W. E. Forster, speaking fifteen years ago, said the Convention had not only been broken by the Boers, but had been treated with contempt. As he reminded the House then, it is not a question only of interference with the internal affairs of the South African Republic; South Africa is, and always will be, the high road to India. And he reminded the House of the great and glorious work we had done there with the black population of Hindustan, and he said that in South Africa we had, as no other nation ever did have, such an opportunity of doing a great and glorious work. I am here to testify to the truth of that statement, which is as true today as when he uttered it fifteen years ago, and that is why I rise to refute and move the rejection of the Amendment.
§ MR. ELLIOT (Durham)
said he was bound to assume, from the action that had been taken by the representatives of this country and of the Transvaal, that we were now in a state of war; he was unable to say how strongly he feared the terrible consequences that were about to ensue in consequence. He could not say he felt any great interest in the question of the rivalry of Robinson and Rhodes, or whether President Kruger was or was not to be blamed for certain practices. He could not forget that, whatever might be the original causes of the dispute, we were at war now because of the receipt of an ultimatum sent by the Government of the South African Republic to the Government of this country. That ultimatum was 207 couched in terms of the greatest insolence. It informed the Government that trouble might be avoided by Her Majesty sending out orders to withdraw troops from her own possessions, and recall troops on the high seas, and no Government which had ever held office in this country could have done otherwise than accept the challenge which was thrown down by the Boers. But that was not the whole case. He had been for some time anxious that Her Majesty's Government should act with extreme caution and care, not merely for the sake of the Boers, for whom he thought it was not unworthy to have some regard, but for the sake of our own interests and of the terrible consequences which must ensue to the British power in South Africa from the course adopted. It had been said that the Government had put their hand to the plough, and they would not cease until they had done their work. But what was their work? It was surely to unite under a system of free institutions the European races in South Africa. He dissociated himself entirely from the line taken by his hon. friend the Member for Burnley. The hon. Member seemed to accuse the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary and Sir Alfred Milner of having practically conspired together for two years or more to bring about war. That was a most preposterous accusation. But while Her Majesty's Government had been clear and honest in their desire to repudiate annexation, there had been a party, and there was now a powerful party, in South Africa which had made no concealment of its aim, and that aim was the virtual subjection of the South African Republic. He referred to the South African League. The lines adopted by Sir Alfred Milner at the Bloemfontein Conference were wise and right lines, and he could not help feeling last night, when the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean somewhat warmly attacked the policy of Sir Alfred Milner, that the right hon. Gentleman did not suggest any alternative. It was generally admitted that the state of things existing in the Transvaal was such that it was not right, desirable, or even possible that Her Majesty's Government should allow it to continue indefinitely. But while Sir Alfred Milner was putting forward his policy at the Conference, and ever since, there had been another policy in South Africa, that of the South African League 208 —a policy inconsistent with the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The supporters of the League and the Uitlanders were mainly responsible for the line taken by Sir Alfred Milner not being accepted. He regretted that a policy such as that of the South African League, so opposed to the policy of the Government, was not promptly repudiated by Ministers. It was that policy which was responsible for the present state of affairs and for the fact that the line taken by Sir Alfred Milner had not been accepted. He was aware that the Duke of Devonshire set forth that it was the desire of the Cabinet to respect the independence of the South African Republic. He believed Her Majesty's Government were sincere in supporting that independence, but part of our great diplomatic object was to force that view down the throats of the Boers in spite of suspicious acts.
§ *Mr. WANKLYN
The hon. Member, I fear, is under the misapprehension that the South African League and the South African Association are one body. They are two distinct bodies. The South African Association is supported by Peers and Members of this House, while the South African League is a purely working man's body.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
said the distinction was immaterial to him: he had no interest one way or the other. His point was that an important body in South Africa put forward terms opposed to the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and he for his part regretted that, as a matter of diplomacy, it had not been found possible to thoroughly reprobate and repudiate terms which were not only inconsistent with the policy of Her Majesty's Government, but with pledges we had given. Another matter which distressed him in connection with the war was the appearance of almost entire agreement a few weeks ago. It was, comparatively speaking, only a few days since that they were buoyed up with the hope that terms were being offered by which our subjects in the South African Republic would have the franchise. This would have given them enormous power, and in five or six years they could have constitutionally won substantially everything desired. Let no one suppose he was a 209 pro-Boer, but he had hoped that, by patience on both sides, the matters in dispute might have been brought to an amicable issue. Surely it was worth while exercising patience to avoid the terrible arbitrament of war. He knew that the Boer Government was a bad Government, unfit to govern an advancing and growing community such as that which had gathered in the Transvaal. But what, after all, was the question before them? To his mind it was nothing less than the destinies of South Africa. Whether or not the whole of South Africa would become a permanent part of the British Empire it was not for statesmen to decide. Facts would determine the point, but he had hoped that this would have been done without war. Of course our arms would be successful. His confidence was so great in the British troops that he could leave it almost completely to those who were there for the moment to defeat "hip and thigh" every Dutch farmer in the colony. But this war was a detestable and hateful war. Nevertheless it was upon us, and the Government had done what almost every Government would have done—accepted the challenge cast down. Those who now talked about arbitration talked nonsense. We must assert ourselves. Moreover, if the Government asked for twenty millions instead of ten millions to carry on the war he would vote for it. But what he had deprecated all through was a tone of excessive heat and temper. Let us carry through the war effectively, but not, as some ill-advised friends of the Government wished, by trying to blacken the character of our foes. The matter was now out of the hands of the Colonial Secretary; it was in those of the War Office, and he felt quite comfortable in their hands. But the time would come for statesmen to exercise their highest talent in building up a great self-governing community in South Africa.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I am sure the House will have listened with the attention it deserves to the thoughtful and statesmanlike speech just made by the hon. Member for Durham. I do not propose to occupy the time of the House this afternoon with matters which have been sufficiently dealt with, and, above all, I need not repeat what has been said in such admirable and eloquent terms by 210 my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition as to the immediate duty of both sides of the House with respect to the war which is at present going on in South Africa. The duty, of course, of this House is to support the Executive Government in maintaining the integrity of the dominions of the Queen. It is a plain and clear duty, and will be discharged equally by this side as by that, and, therefore, I need say no more on that subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, with gentle humour, bantered my right hon. friend upon speaking with two voices. But it is inevitable on this subject that men must speak with two voices, because they are dealing with two separate and distinct matters. In one voice we speak in support of the Executive Government and in defence of the Empire and dominions of the Queen; but when we come to speak of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, which I will not say for a moment has been the cause of this war, but which, at all events, has resulted in war, we have a right to speak, and must speak, in a different voice altogether; that is involved in the very nature of the case. I know it is a vulgar notion stated outside this House that, war having once broken out, we have nothing to do but to hold our peace and give sanction to the policy that led to war. That, I am sure, is not a doctrine that will be held by a responsible Minister of the Crown. The right hon. Gentleman opposite did not take that objection the other night, and I am sure will not do so now. It is hardly necessary, perhaps, to refer to the authority of precedents upon that point, but, as the language is most explicit and most sound, I may be allowed to quote a sentence or two from a speech delivered by Lord Hartington in 1878, when, in the midst of the Afghan War, he supported—in fact, authorised—a vote of censure on the policy of the Government which led to that war. I know the just authority attributed in this country to the opinions of the Duke of Devonshire, and I may be excused if I read a few sentences from what he said on that occasion. I do not address these to Members in the House, who know what are the rights and duties of the House of Commons in a matter of this kind, but it is right that it should be known throughout the country that the conduct of an Opposition in criticising 211 and, if necessary, condemning the policy of a Government which resulted in war is not unpatriotic. This is what the Duke of Devonshire said on the occasion I have referred to—I trust we shall not be told that, now war has broken out, it is mere waste of time to go back to the origin of the war, and that a patriotic Parliament has but one duty to perform, viz., to ignore the past and simply to support the Government which has undertaken the war. If it was necessary to refer to precedents I could point to the conduct pursued by the Opposition at the close of the last and beginning of the present century in reference to the war with the American colonies and the Revolutionary wars with France. In respect to the first case I think, at all events, there is no doubt the Opposition took a wise and patriotic course in opposing and continuing to oppose the Government throughout that war.Then he refers to other cases, to the case of 1857, when Lord Derby, as head of the Conservative party, carried a vote of censure against Lord Palmerston in the midst of the China war, and then he adds—It is important, I think, in the situation in which we at present stand. If this policy had culminated in war without the knowledge of Parliament it would be strange if that fact should absolve the House from the duty of criticising the conduct of the Government. I think, indeed, the very fact of war having broken out would only make the conduct of the Government more open to criticism.These are the sound constitutional principles which have governed and ought to govern the conduct of an Opposition. Supporting the Government in the carrying out of a war to which the country is committed, an Opposition should not abnegate its duty and its functions of inquiring into the circumstances which have led to war. Therefore, Sir, if I also speak with a two voices in this matter, I must ask the Leader of the House to excuse it. I do not propose to go into a very minute examination of all the complications of these negotiations, which are puzzling enough. The Leader of the House has claimed, and no doubt he was entitled to do so, and it is natural he should claim, that the course of the Government throughout the whole of the negotiations was that which naturally and properly tended to a peaceful solution. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to take that position, but we do not accept that view of the subject; on the contrary, we believe that there are circumstances, 212 salient circumstances—not in small details, but in the character of the whole transactions—which, in our opinion at least, have not tended to a peaceable solution, though I am not charging it against the Government—I desire to say I make no such charge—that their object was to avoid a peaceable solution. I make no charge of that kind at all. Meeting here in October, we, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, are entitled to take, up the case as it was left in July before Parliament was prorogued. Then, as the Leader of the House has said, expectations were entertained by the Government, and hopes were held out to the House and the country, that we were on the eve of a satisfactory and peaceable solution. Since that time a few short months have elapsed, and we find ourselves embarked upon war, and we have a right to ask what are the circumstances which have so changed the situation since last July that all the hopes of peace you held forth have been disappointed, and we find ourselves actually embarked upon this disastrous, calamitous war. Let me take another point upon which we are all agreed. We are agreed that it was right, on the part of the Government to press for reforms in the administration of affairs in the South African Republic; that is a matter common to us all. I know no one who denies that. You did press, and you rightly pressed, for reforms, but the Leader of the House last night used a phrase—he is not in the habit of using unnecessarily violent phrases, we all acknowledge—but he astonished me when he said that the present situation was due to the "criminal obstinacy" of the Transvaal Government. Criminal obstinacy! Why, in one of his despatches the Colonial Secretary says—One proposal after another has been an advance and concession upon what has been made before.Where is the "criminal obstinacy"? In last July what was the statement made by the Colonial Secretary? It was about a month after the Bloemfontein Conference had separated without arriving at any conclusion when the right hon. Gentleman said proposals had been made which offered the hope of a satisfactory settlement. Is that criminal obstinacy? In my opinion, there is no justification for saying there has been obstinate resistance to reform. ["Oh, oh!"] It is my opinion; allow 213 me to state the grounds of that opinion. In the first place, there is this fact. Within a month or so of the Bloemfontein Conference the South African Republic actually passed a law which is described in the despatch of the Colonial Secretary of, I think, July 27th, in these words: "that it differs only by two years from the proposals of Sir Alfred Milner." Those are his actual words in the despatch.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I am not quite certain—I speak only from memory—but I am under the impression that the words were, "Differs only by two years as regards the franchise."
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
At that time the only demand was the franchise. [Mr. Chamberlain was understood to dissent.] Very well, I will take it as regards the franchise. Nobody will deny that the main demand made at Bloemfontein was the franchise, and that was the question before the public mind. Sir Alfred Milner said he considered the franchise as a method of redressing the grievances of the Uitlanders.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I hope the right hon. Gentleman does not object to my interrupting him; if he does, I will not do so again. He is not quite correct. What Sir Alfred Milner asked for then, and what we have continuously asked for since up to the last moment when the negotiations were broken off by the Boer ultimatum, was such substantial and immediate representation of the Uitlander population as would enable them to work out their own salvation.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I entirely accept that, and I was going to proceed to say that a proposal was made—in fact, a law was passed by the Volksraad—which law in regard to the franchise only differed by two years from the proposal of Sir Alfred Milner, and subject to inquiry as to its efficiency. It is perfectly true that at the time the Government of the Transvaal objected to that inquiry—not, as I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Address said, because they were afraid inquiry would show the franchise to be insufficient; the objection to a joint 214 inquiry was because it was thought it committed the Transvaal Government too much to the idea that another Power had a right, with themselves, to determine what the franchise should be. However, when we are on "criminal obstinacy," let me observe that this objection made by the Transvaal Government was afterwards withdrawn and a joint inquiry was agreed to. That is not criminal obstinacy. Step by step on all these points it will be found, not perhaps always proprio motu by President Kruger, but due to the wise advice of the Government of the Free State and of Cape Colony, there was, up to the very last moment before you shut the door upon these discussions, yielding to pressure. I am going to state my reasons for that opinion, and I maintain that it is an absolutely incorrect and unjust statement to say that the Government of the Transvaal have with criminal obstinacy refused all reforms in regard to the administration of the South African Republic. Now, Sir, the first proposal—or I should not call it a proposal—the first act, on the part of the Transvaal Government was the passing of this franchise law. That was accepted as primâ facie satisfactory by the Colonial Secretary, subject to inquiry; and he thereupon proceeded in August to propose that a joint inquiry should be appointed. Before the negotiations with reference to that settlement had been concluded there occurred what I will call the interlude of the proposal of August—the proposal of a five years franchise. The Government of the Transvaal were indisposed to the joint inquiry for the reasons which I have stated, and they consulted with the British Agent, Mr. Conyngham Greene, as to whether or not it was practicable to interject another alternative; and they took the precaution of inquiring whether the British Government would consider this alternative proposal as a refusal of the proposal for a joint inquiry. I do not enter into the question of the unfortunate misunderstanding upon that subject; but I confess that my view of it is that the Transvaal Government were under the full impression that they were making an offer which would be readily accepted. I believe, that is unquestionably the fact. This offer is admitted to have been a fully satisfactory offer, because it was proposed afterwards by the Government themselves, as being a solution of the franchise ques- 215 tion; but it was accompanied by certain conditions. What were those conditions, because that is very material? They were, first, that the British Government should agree "that the present intervention shall not form a precedent for future similar action." Is that a very unreasonable condition? [Ministerial cries of "Yes"] You think so, but I do not, and I will tell you my reason for not thinking so. Secondly, "that Her Majesty's Government will not further insist upon the assertion of the suzerainty, the controversy on this subject being allowed tacitly to drop." I call attention to this, and I wish the right hon. Gentleman particularly to observe this, because in one despatch it is stated that this offer was made conditional upon the British Government's acceptance of the allegation by the Transvaal Government that they were an independent international sovereign State. That is not so. They never made that condition to their offer of August, and it is an inaccurate statement to say that they made that one of the conditions. The third condition laid down was "that arbitration, from which foreign element other than the Orange Free State is to be excluded, will be conceded as soon as the franchise scheme has become law." That is hardly a matter of controversy; there was really very little difference on that subject; I do not know whether it is considered that that was altered by the subsequent telegram in which the Transvaal Government state that in future we are "not to interfere in the internal affairs of the South African Republic and not to insist further on the existence of the suzerainty." Gentlemen opposite say that it was a monstrous thing on the part of the Transvaal Government to demand that they should have some assurance that this intervention in the matter of the franchise should not be made a precedent for future normal intervention in their affairs. It is perfectly true, as has been said in this controversy, that President Kruger and his Government entertained the opinion that they were entitled to absolute autonomy in the administration of their own affairs; that that was guaranteed to them; and that that was what we meant in speaking of their independence. Then I ask, Where did President Kruger learn that opinion? Who were his teachers, and from whom did he derive that impression? I suppose 216 that he had access to the statements of the Colonial Secretary, and that he had read, marked, and inwardly digested them. This is what the Colonial Secretary said in this House three years ago—In some quarters the idea is put forward that the Government ought to have issued an ultimatum to President Kruger—an ultimatum which would certainly have been rejected and which must have led to war. Sir, I do not propose to discuss such a contingency as that. A war in South Africa would be one of the most serious wars that could possibly be waged. It would be in the nature of a civil war. It would be a long war, a bitter war, and a costly war.[Ministerial interruptions] Yes, I know that this passage is familiar to the House, but you must remember it is familiar also to President Kruger.It would leave behind it the embers of strife which I believe generations would hardly be long enough to extinguish.… To go to war with President Kruger, in order to force upon him reforms in the internal affairs of his State, with which successive Secretaries of State standing in this place have repudiated all right of interference—that would have been a course of action as immoral as it would have been unwise.… In the last communication I sent to the President, I defined what I conceived to be our rights in the matter. I said we did not claim, and never had claimed, the right to interfere in the internal affairs of the Transvaal; but we did claim, both as representing the interests of our fellow-subjects in the Transvaal, and as the paramount Power in South Africa, responsibility for the security of the whole country, to make friendly representations to him and to give him friendly advice, as much in his interest as in our own.That is the view, no doubt, that President Kruger and the Government of the Transvaal took of their position—that we had never claimed the right by force to dictate to them in regard to their internal affairs. We did claim the right to give them friendly advice in the interests of South Africa, and in the interests of our fellow-subjects there. But that is not all. This doctrine of the Colonial Secretary did not commend itself to the ardent soul of the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield, who spoke last night, and who attacked most violently the Colonial Secretary for the principles which he had laid down. The Colonial Secretary then said—What is the alternative? What is the policy which the hon. Gentleman would put forward if he were standing here in my place? What would be the policy of the hon. Member for Sheffield as Colonial Secretary?" Well, the hon. Member for Sheffield claimed last night the 217 character of consistency, and I grant it to him readily. "We know what it would be. He would send, in the first place, an ultimatum to President Kruger that unless the reforms which he specified were granted by a particular date the British Government would interfere by force. Then, I suppose, he would come here and ask this House for a vote of £10,000,000 or £20,000,000—it does not matter particularly which—and would send an army of 10,000 men, at the very least, to force President Kruger to grant reforms in a State in regard to which not only this Government, but successive Secretaries of State have pledged themselves repeatedly that they would have nothing to do with its internal affairs.Do you suppose that that language is not known to the Government of the Transvaal? Do you suppose that from that language they may not have derived the impression of their immunity from intervention and the completeness of their autonomy? Having described the Colonial policy of the Member for the Ecclesall Division, the Colonial Secretary finally added, "That is the policy of the hon. Gentleman. That is not my policy." In regard to consistency, I must give credit to the hon. Member, which I can hardly accord to the present Colonial Secretary. There were remarkable statements in that speech. The right hon. Gentleman stated that not only this Government, but successive Secretaries of State had repeatedly pledged themselves not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Transvaal. There is nothing said here about suzerainty, or even paramountcy. This is very important, because it describes a traditional and consecutive policy, not one arising simply out of the Raid. It has been the definite declaration of policy on the part of the Government of the Queen. It was in the year 1890, I think, that those changes in the franchise were made in the South African Republic to which such great attention has been paid, and I believe I am correct in saying that the Government of Lord Salisbury, then in office, made no protest against those changes. But at all events, on February 25th, 1890, this question was put in the House of Commons—MR. E. HARDCASTLE: I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether the suzerainty of the Transvaal was retained by the British Crown when the troops were withdrawn from that country; what is the nature and value of that suzerainty; and whether, under it, British subjects, who are said already to outnumber the Boers, are entitled to the franchise.218 There could not be a more searching question than that put to a responsible Government. This is the answer which Mr. W. H. Smith made. It is marked with a star in Hansard, indicating that it was a carefully considered answer, and to those who, like myself, have some experience of the manner in which answers of this kind are made, I venture to say that it was founded on the advice of the law officers of the Crown. Mr. Smith said in reply—The Convention of London made in 1884 between Her Majesty and the South African Republic contains no express reservation of the Queen's right of suzerainty,—they did not know, apparently, that the preamble was in it—and although Her Majesty retains under the Convention the power of refusing to sanction treaties made by the South African Republic with foreign States and nations, and with certain native tribes, it is a cardinal principle of that settlement that the internal government and legislation of the South African Republic shall not be interfered with.This is the "language of successive Secretaries of State" upon which the Colonial Secretary founded himself in 1896. Then he applies himself to the question of the franchise, which was a burning question at that time—No persons, whether British subjects or otherwise, can at present obtain the franchise within the South African Republic unless they make a declaration of allegiance to it, which involves to a considerable extent the renunciation within the Republic of their national rights and obligations as subjects of the Queen.That is one of the successive Government statements upon this subject. Now I come to one in which I am more particularly interested, because it was in the Government of which I was a member in 1895, and when I stood in the place of the present Leader of the House. It was a statement made on behalf of the Government of Lord Rosebery; it was a statement, carefully considered, on the Address, by my hon. Friend who was then Undersecretary for the Colonies; it was the statement of the Colonial Office and the Government of 1895. It was this—A principle had been laid down very clearly and definitely by the late Government in a sentence with which the present Government feel themselves in accord.He then read the answer of Mr. W. H. Smith, which I need not trouble the House with again.That was the interpretation of the existing relations between England and the Transvaal, 219 which he thought very clearly laid down the principles to guide our conduct in the matter. Though"—mark this—"they might differ from the way in which the Transvaal carried out their principles of administration, he did not see that in existing circumstances the Government had the right to forcibly interfere in regard to these questions.There we have again the tradition, the statement of the relations under the Convention of 1884 of the British Government to the Government of the Transvaal. Can you wonder, then, after reading those statements, that the Government of the Transvaal and President Kruger were firmly convinced that beyond friendly representations there was no right forcibly to interfere and impose upon them the will of the British Government in respect to their internal administration? That is my answer to the objections that were taken, apparently by Gentlemen opposite, to my statement that it was not unreasonable that, when the Government of the Transvaal did agree practically to all you had asked for at Bloemfontein in regard to the franchise, you should give them an assurance that you did not intend that to be a regular course of proceeding, that you did not claim a general right of intervention—I do not care whether under the name of suzerainty, or paramountcy, or anything else—that you were not going to deprive them of that autonomy which they possess, and that you should give them an assurance that it was not to be made a precedent. That is why I say that in my opinion, if you objected to the particular form in which those conditions were stated, you might have modified their form, but that it was absolutely unnecessary to have rejected the conditions summarily. That is the view I have always taken on the matter, and I have deeply regretted that the proposals of August 19th were rejected. Though I desire to say nothing which would be personally disagreeable or offensive to the right hon. Gentleman, I must permit myself to say that, having this offer before him—the best offer that had been made, an offer far in advance of any of those that had been previously made—I regret that he should have thought it right and necessary, in a speech just after that offer had been made, before it had been discussed or an official answer had been sent to it, to denounce it to the public. I confess I do not think language of that 220 kind was likely to conduce to a favourable and peaceful settlement. These were negotiations which had then reached a most promising point, and the consequence was that this offer of five years franchise was rejected, that is to say, it was rejected because the conditions attached to it were sneered at and rejected. That is the reason why it came to an end. The right hon. Gentleman will say that he did not reject them, but when you make a man an offer subject to conditions, and you refuse the conditions, it is practically a rejection. So perished, unhappily, the offer of August 19. Then, what is the position of things? I have already mentioned that the Government of the Transvaal reserved their right to return upon the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman himself—that is, to accept the franchise law primâ facie as a basis of settlement subject to inquiry. In point of fact, they said, "We reserve our right to revert to our former conditions, which you accepted, and now we are ready to go on with an examination into the condition of things under the existing law." I have never understood why the Government so much objected to that. They say they convinced themselves without this inquiry that it was insufficient. But if they had gone into this inquiry, and it had been found that they were right and that the provisions were insufficient, they would have convinced all the world that they were right in rejecting them. No harm could come from that. They would have proved to the world what they have not yet proved—the insufficient nature of those proposals. Why they should at the very last have refused to go into the inquiry I have never been able to understand. I want now to say, without going more into detail, that I think it was a great misfortune that you did not carry to an issue the negotiations upon the five years franchise with its conditions, because you might have modified those conditions, or might have shown to Mr. Kruger or, if not to him, to the world that they were unreasonable. You might have done the same with reference to the seven years franchise. But I want to come to the material point—to what led to the final breach. On September 16 the Government of the Transvaal sent a despatch to the British Government, in which they pressed again that the Joint Commission of Inquiry should be appointed in order to investigate whether 221 or not the franchise proposed was or was not sufficient. They said that their condition was the dropping of the suzerainty. Well, Sir, I believe that everybody is pretty well convinced now that the suzerainty was dropped in 1884. ["No, no!"] Well," successive Secretaries of State" have, at all events, been under that impression.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not know what they are, but I will produce if you like the opinion of your own Secretary of State for the Colonies.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I know what his opinion is; but, Sir, the suzerainty was, I venture to say, never put forward as a basis of action. I may be mistaken in that; if I am the right hon. Gentleman will correct me, but my belief is that the suzerainty was never put forward in an official document addressed to Mr. Kruger until it was put forward by the right hon. Gentleman in the despatch of October, 1897. I may be wrong in that, but at all events that is my impression. However that may be, Her Majesty's Government dropped on suzerainty, and said that their offer of the five years' franchise had not put out of court the original joint inquiry, and it is also important to note that they said they would agree to a conference upon other matters that had been proposed. Very well; then comes the really critical point which led immediately to the breach—namely, the despatch of September 22, in which Her Majesty's Government declined to go on with any discussion upon the franchise at all. They said it is "useless to further pursue a discussion on the lines hitherto followed." That meant that they would not discuss in a Joint Commission the sufficiency of the franchise already granted. They said they would "formulate their own proposals for a final settlement," and that they would communicate the result of their deliberations in a later despatch. Mark, that was on September 22. Now my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition put this point very definitely to the Leader of the House, 222 and I confess I could not understand that he gave any answer to the question why those proposals were never made and why they have never been put before the Government of the Transvaal or before the House of Commons. A very remarkable point in connection with this discussion and the breach that has taken place is the application on the part of the President of the Free State pressing to have these proposals of Her Majesty's Government communicated. President Steyn said if they were so communicated there was a good chance of peace. The right hon. Gentleman looks incredulous. He knows what the proposals are, and I do not. But what we were told by the Duke of Devonshire was that they were most moderate proposals, and that if they were known they would remove any suspicion on the part of the Transvaal Government that there was any intention to invade their independence. If that is a true account of them, it was most important that they should be known. You shut one door; the least you could do would have been to have opened another—another door for peace; another door for moderate proposals; proposals which, according to the Duke of Devonshire, were so moderate that they would have reassured President Kruger and the Government of the Transvaal that their independence would not be impaired. Where are these proposals? This was on September 28 when we are coming to the very point of the breach. Your great object ought to have been to have kept the Free State with you, and here you have the President of the Free State entreating you to communicate your proposals. This is what the President says—His Government are still prepared to tender their services to further the interests of peace, and to continue in their endeavour to procure a satisfactory solution of existing difficulties on fair and reasonable lines. The Free State, however," the President added, "feel themselves hampered now as in the past by a want of knowledge as to the definite objects and extent of the desires and demands of the British Government, compliance with which that Government consider themselves entitled to insist on, and as to the grounds on which that insistence is based.Then the President ended by saying that—There is a great deal of irritation caused by the accumulation of troops on the frontier of the Free State and of the Transvaal Republic, and by these demands which are threatened but which are not known, and that 223 they would be glad to be favoured with the views of Her Majesty's Government on the points raised herein, and more particularly as to the precise nature and scope of the concessions or measures the adoption whereof Her Majesty's Government consider themselves entitled to claim, or which they suggest as being necessary or sufficient to insure a satisfactory and permanent solution of existing differences between them and the South African Republic, while at the same time providing a means of settlement of others that may arise in the future.Now, there you have a demand on the part of the Free State, against whom you had no complaint to make, to be informed of your demands, and tendering their good offices, and asking that in the meantime you would not press on with your forces on their frontier. What is the answer to that? The answer is this—that the very next day the Colonial Secretary telegraphed to Sir A. Milner to say that—Her Majesty's Government have been compelled to formulate their own proposals for a final settlement which will shortly be communicated to the Government of the South African Republic.That is a very good answer. Then the State Secretary—that is to say, the Transvaal Government, likewise asked that they might be informed as to the decision the British Cabinet had taken. On October 1, five days after the Cabinet had announced that they were going to formulate proposals, this is the answer sent by the Colonial Secretary to Sir A. Milner:—The despatch of Her Majesty's Government is being prepared; it will be some days before it is ready.What a most extraordinary thing! ["Oh! Oh."] Yes, when you are telling the people that the sands are running out! You shut one door of negotiation and say that you have not made up your minds as to what demands you should make on the other side, and that it would take some days before you could consider them. They had five days. How many days, when the sands were running out, did Her Majesty's Government require to make up their minds as to what were the demands they were going to make? It is nearly a month since you announced you would draw up these proposals. What are they? When the Duke of Devonshire comes forward and says that they were such reasonable proposals that they would satisfy the Government of the Transvaal that they did not impair their autonomy, we have a right to know them. You have no right to involve the British nation in 224 war and keep it in the dark as to the proposals which you were prepared to make. Now what is the situation? You had shut one door and refused to open the other. Well, the Orange Free State was naturally anxious, and on October 5, ten days after your announcement was made, President Steyn wrote—I see no reason why such proposals should, not be forthcoming, and I myself am prepared actively to assist in bringing about the indicated and desirable result. I must, however, point out that it seems to me that it would be most difficult to attempt to make friendly proposals or to continue to negotiate while the armed forces on both sides remain in menacing positions.At the end of his despatch, President Steyn says—I would be further prepared to aid, if possible, in formulating, and heartily to assist in dealing with and supporting, all reasonable proposals which shall possess the elements of finality, and give the assurance of a lasting peace. A reply to my request made in the last paragraph of the telegraphic despatch of September 27 would enable me to judge how far it would be possible for me to continue the negotiations.Then on October 5, President Steyn again telegraphed, demanding that he should be informed whether he could find it possible to support the proposals to be made, and to press them upon the Transvaal Government.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Yes; but as a preliminary, he said that the British troops must be withdrawn before it was possible for him to give assistance. I think the right hon. Gentleman will find, if he looks at the Blue Book, that President Steyn said it would not be a possible thing for him to interfere unless we withdrew our troops.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of correcting me. But, Sir, what was the answer to President Steyn's request? There was no communication of a proposal, but—I think two days after that final appeal of the President of the Free State to be informed of what the demands of the British Government were—the Reserves were called out. That was the only answer to the offer of the Free State to act the part of a friendly mediator if we would only inform them what terms we were prepared to accept. Can you wonder that under these circumstances you have alienated the Free State? Why should you have refused to tell them the reasonable terms upon which you were 225 prepared to take your stand? In my opinion I see in these circumstances the immediate cause of the breach that took place. I can see no reason myself why you should not have gone on with the inquiry by Joint Commission. I can see no reason why these fair and reasonable proposals which would have commended themselves to all mankind should not have been made known. I cannot conceive why you should have rejected the good offices of the Free State. It is quite true that Sir A. Milner said that's the Free State would be glad to receive any proposals from you, but was it rational that they should make proposals when you had shut the door on their proposals, and when you had said that you were prepared to make your own proposals backed up by calling out the Reserves? That made the situation almost impossible. The Duke of Devonshire says that we were always desirous of respecting the independence of the Transvaal? I should like to know what is meant by respecting the independence of the Transvaal. Does it or does it not moan a claim—and this is the real question—in respect of paramountcy, that you have a right, in spite of the Convention of 1884, to interfere when you please, and to whatever extent you please, and in what manner you please with the Government and administration of the whole of South Africa? Paramountcy is alleged not merely with reference to the Transvaal; it includes, of course, the Free State. The general paramountcy of South Africa means the paramountcy over everyone in South Africa, and I suppose over Portugal too. How do you use general words of this kind? If you tell the Free State that you are so paramount that you can do what you like in any part of South Africa, what becomes of the independence of their Republic? You must see that, employed in the sense in which you use it, paramountcy is a contradiction of independence; the two terms are opposed one to the other. We are, therefore, bound to ask the Government what is the character of the independence in South Africa which the Duke of Devonshire says that they have always respected. These are matters upon which we have a right to ask explanations of the Government. There is another point which has been agreed upon by both sides. We are agreed that there ought to have been pressure for reforms. There has been pressure, and there has been made a great 226 advance in that direction. I believe more could have been done if only we had persevered. We are all agreed that this is a deplorable war which everyone would wish to avoid; but we have a right to ask the Government why, when their pressure had succeeded to a considerable extent, they did not continue in the path which led to peace, where they might have hoped for further concessions; and why it was that having concluded they would not pursue those lines they did not state what the alternative was that they proposed in place of it. These are questions we are entitled to ask. This right of interference is sometimes stated as if it was an international law right which every State has to protect its subjects in another country. That is not what is meant by paramountcy. The two ideas are totally distinct. Paramountcy is a right to interfere as a superior over a subordinate State; the other is a right of interference which every State has in regard to its own subjects; but no one has ever pretended that the international law right of intervention in favour of subjects gives you a right to demand particular laws of a political character, of naturalisation, of franchise, or anything of the kind. I observe that the Prime Minister has undertaken, I think in rather a half-hearted way, a defence of what is sometimes called the new diplomacy. I think as a past master whose skill in that respect we all recognise and admire that Lord Salisbury himself is rather in favour of that which he says is certainly more favourable to diplomatic success. What is diplomatic success? Diplomatic success is the removing of friction, the smoothing of prejudices, and the pursuing peace by methods which are likely to bring about that end. That is the art of the old diplomacy. In fencing matches we all admit that Lord Salisbury is a master of the rapier; that he prefers the use of the rapier to the bludgeon. But the Prime Minister made this defence of the new diplomacy; he said it might sometimes be desirable, even at the expense of diplomatic success, to secure for yourself popular support. That is a valuable thing, but how is it likely to be gained? You may gain it, of course, by appealing to the passions and the prejudices of the people, of the South African League, of the Rhodes party, of the press who are the admirers of the Raid. But then you must remember that you obtain 227 popular support at the expense of any chance of conciliating or settling with your adversary, which is the real object of diplomacy. You cannot have the two things; and if you are appealing in that way for popular support by publications of this kind, by the publication of exasperating notes and irritating speeches, what chance have you of arriving at a settlement? In my opinion, if you purchase popular support in the way which the Prime Minister seems to think is a democratic virtue—I do not know that he shares the view largely himself—but if democratic diplomacy means the cultivation of popular arts at the expense of seeking to soothe the asperities and to remove the hostilities of nations, it is a bad look out for the cause of peace now and hereafter. What happens by publications of this kind? You sot at work all sorts of influences which make it difficult for you to do what you yourselves desire. When a proposal is made, and there is not much difference between you, you let loose all the men who do not desire peace to embarrass the settlement of that question and the removal of difficulties, and you bring about exactly what you do not desire—a lamentable and most shameful war. I am not here pretending to justify the conduct of the Boer Government. I think it is to be condemned. I think that the ultimatum they sent forth no words can be too strong to condemn. But that is their affair. We have to look to what concerns us, to scrutinize carefully the conduct of on own Government, and to satisfy ourselves that in every respect it has been that which was most conducive to the cause of peace. On that subject I confess, having examined this matter as carefully as I can, I am not satisfied. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary will have the opportunity, as we know he has the ability, to state the case of the Government and to state the case for himself with reference to the conduct of these transactions. I have imperfectly endeavoured to lay before the House reasons why I think there are points in these transactions which might have been differently conducted, and if they had boon so conducted would have led to a different issue. At all events, until I have heard the explanations to be given by the right hon. Gentleman, I must remain of the opinion that we are not, in the phrase of Sir A. Milner—an unfortunate phrase, I think, at 228 the moment and in the manner in which it was used—in the position of having a "clean slate." For my part, at least, I must dissociate myself altogether from responsibility of any kind for the measures which have led up to this war; and while I am prepared, as I am sure every Member is prepared, to support the Government of the Queen in the unhappy conflict in which we are engaged, I must decline to bear any share of responsibility in the course of transactions which have led to it.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I rise only for the purpose of asking a question and of making a motion. The question I wish to ask is of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I desire very fully to reply to the serious argument which he has brought forward, in regard to the tone and substance of which I have no possible complaint to make; but in order that I may answer it fully I would ask him now to be good enough to say what are the despatches and what are the speeches which he considers have been delivered or sent in the course of these negotiations which are of a provocative character. He has referred to one speech—the speech in which I spoke of the sands running down, and I assume that I may take that as one of those which in his opinion come within this category. But what other speech and what despatch is there to which he desires to call my attention? Having asked this question, I beg to move that the Debate be now adjourned.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I will answer the right hon. Gentleman at once. The speech I referred to is, I think, known to every one as the Highbury speech. The other speech has been so fully referred to by my hon. friend the Member for Mid Glamorgan that I did not think it necessary to go into it in more detail. Then, of course, I meant the publication of Sir Alfred Milner's despatch, which I confess occurred to me, and did present itself to my mind as unnecessarily introducing irritating topics into the discussion.
§ Debate adjourned till to-morrow.
§ In pursuance of the Order of the House of this day, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.
§ Adjourned at twenty minutes after Five of the clock.