§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ *SIR ELLIS ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
This may be the last opportunity on which it will be open 601 to private Members of this House in any way to express their views upon the great issues which are now at stake in South Africa. When the House re-assembles in February next the war will probably be over and the terms of peace arranged. Therefore, much as the majority of Members are anxious to end this session as rapidly as possible in order to resume the more congenial occupations in which they were disturbed by the summoning of Parliament, private Members may be excused for saying a few words at this moment. The sad news we have lately heard of the heavy losses sustained by our gallant soldiers and by our gallant enemies in this struggle will be somewhat mitigated by the knowledge that so far, at all events, the conflict has been carried on in a spirit of chivalry on both sides. So long as that spirit continues, as I hope it may continue, no one can fail to see that the horrors of war are considerably alleviated. But this war offers to the House and to the country at least one great lesson which should be taken to heart by all who have an interest in peace and in the greatness of this Empire. There is not the slightest doubt that this war, with all its great losses of life and heavy expenditure of treasure, is due to the reversal of the wise and far-sighted policy of twenty years ago. We hear on many sides that the outcome of this war will probably be a confederation of South Africa under the British flag. I sincerely hope that it may be so, and I believe that that is the feeling of the great majority of gentlemen on this side of the House and of many of the gentlemen on that side. But I wish to remind the House that twenty years ago this confederation was practically accomplished. Under the governorship of Sir Bartle Frere, one of the ablest men who has ever held office in South Africa, and under the far-sighted policy of Lord Beaconsfield, the confederation of South Africa twenty years ago was almost a fait accompli, and we should have been spared great trouble and expense in the interval if that sagacious policy had not been reversed. The House, I think, will share with me the deep regret I feel that that reversal took place. Sir, the ten millions which are embraced in this Appropriation Bill, the sacrifice of human life on the battlefield, the throwing back of the prosperity of South Africa by twenty years, the sufferings and ruin of many of 602 our loyal colonists, the infinitely greater sufferings of thousands and hundreds of thousands of native tribes in South Africa, are due to that grave and most unfortunate reversal of policy. The other day I pointed out that the capitulation of Majuba was not the act of high-toned magnanimity it was represented to be. It was not due to a desire to give peace to the Boers, it was due to a Radical cabal formed in this House at the time; and none of the credit which right hon. Gentlemen opposite have claimed, and have been given, sometimes even by hon. Gentlemen on this side, for supposed magnanimity to the Boers is due to them. It is almost impossible to sum up in moderate language the amount of loss and suffering which would have been avoided had the policy of Lord Beaconsfield between 1877 and 1880 not been reversed in 1881. The same thing, though, perhaps, not so bad, which occurred in South Africa has occurred in the Soudan, where the reversal of policy cost some eleven millions of human lives and an infinite amount of human suffering. The other day I referred to the corruption which has prevailed in the administration of the Transvaal, and hon. Gentlemen opposite took me up rather severely. At this moment, however, when we are engaged in a deadly struggle with the Boers, and when everything has been referred to the arbitrament of arms, I feel it would not be in good taste if I were to advance details in support of such charges. [Opposition cries of "Oh!"] Well, I am sorry to say that my estimate of taste differs from that of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I repeat that it would not be in good taste on my part on the present occasion to bring forward a long list of personal charges against prominent men in South Africa.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)
The hon. Gentleman has made a charge which he has been asked to substantiate. Now he says the present is not the time to make the charge.
§ *SIR ELLIS ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
I repeat that it is not the time to make the charge, but I will prove it when I think a fitting opportunity occurs. Meanwhile I would refer hon. Gentlemen who are anxious, if they really are anxious, to be satisfied on the subject, to a very 603 remarkable work which has just been, published upon the Transvaal by Mr Fitzpatrick. When the proper time comes, and the question of war is settled, I will undertake to prove what I have said, if hon. Gentlemen like, under penalties; but I do not wish to advance a list of personal charges against Mr. Kruger and others on the present occasion. I only hope that the war may be conducted with good feeling on both sides, and that it will be very rapidly ended by satisfactory results. The subject to which I now wish particularly to draw the attention of the House is the way in which the ten millions voted are to be met. I think the great majority of the House will agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he decided the other day to postpone his definite plans with regard to the method of raising the money.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member's remarks on that subject would be more in order under the Finance Bill.
§ *SIR ELLIS ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
I think you will agree with me that it has been the practice to allow on the Appropriation Bill full discussion of all the subjects embraced in the Bill. But, of course, I accept your ruling.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have never heard it said that a Finance Bill could be fully discussed on the Appropriation Bill.
§ *SIR ELLIS ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
Then I will reserve those observations for the Finance Bill. I was only going to emphasise what has been stated by hon. Gentlemen before as to the means of payment; but I will limit myself to the simple expression of the hope that none of the expense of this war will fall on the taxpayers of this country. I do not think it is in the least necessary that it should. With regard to the question which was referred to some time ago, perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite will allow me to remind them that the revenue of the Transvaal has been, for the last two years, over four and a half millions per annum. That is an enormous sum, and offers great opportunities for manipulation in every direction. The salaries of the officials of the Transvaal have multiplied more than twenty-four times in the course of the last twenty years—an in- 604 crease which is hardly explainable on ordinary grounds. With regard to the future settlement of this question, I am quite confident that the majority of the people of this country will not be satisfied with anything short of placing the Transvaal under the British flag. I think that ought to be clearly understood by foreign Powers from the outset. We do not wish to deprive the Dutch population of the Transvaal of any legitimate right that they can claim. Let them have an equal franchise and equal justice; let them be specially protected, if you like, in the possession of their lands, in the cultivation of which they have done so much for the general agriculture of the country; let them be protected in every reasonable right; but let it be clearly understood that after what we have gone through in the past, after the bloodshed and sacrifice of this war, this country will be satisfied with nothing less than the establishment of the British flag over the Transvaal. I am glad to see that Her Majesty's Government are putting the defensive forces of this country generally in an effective—one might say in an overwhelming—position of efficiency. It is well that any movements against our interests abroad should be met in advance and checked in the bud. I am certain that nothing could be more conducive to peace than the knowledge that not only our Army but our Navy also is in a state of complete efficiency. Sir, I sincerely trust, in conclusion, that this war may be brief, that the result of it may be satisfactory to this country, and that in the long run it may even prove beneficial to the Boer population of the two South African Republics.
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
If any man can claim a triumph in connection with this war, it belongs to the hon. Member who has just sat down. He, at any rate, whatever may be said of other hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House, has been consistent. Since the days of Majuba he has pointed out the disaster of that policy; but does the hon. Member forget that the right hon. Gentleman who is primarily responsible for this war was responsible for that policy also? If the hon. Member considers that a mistake was made at the time of the Majuba disaster, the Colonial Secretary 605 was as responsible for it as any Member of the Cabinet at that time. I therefore recommend the hon. Member to ask for a satisfactory explanation from the right hon. Gentleman. As the hon. Member has said, this is the last opportunity which hon. Members will have to express their opinion of the policy in which we are now engaged, namely, the policy of war. For myself, I, at any rate, cannot be accused of having done anything, even if I were capable of it, to embarrass Her Majesty's Government. I have not spoken in the course of the present session. I did not even speak last year on the Colonial Vote, because I recognised that the Secretary for the Colonies had one of the most difficult problems that any statesman could be called upon to deal with; that any step which was taken might be misunderstood, and that even a remark from the most insignificant private Member might be misinterpreted in the Transvaal. I was also of opinion that at the present time it might have been politic even to postpone the criticism we had to offer of the policy of the Colonial Secretary. But the right hon. Gentleman himself has made a challenge. In his great speech the other night he said, "If you have any criticism to offer, offer it now." He differed in some respects from a right hon. colleague of his in making that challenge. But we have to meet that challenge, and those of us who honestly think that there is reasonable criticism to offer on the policy of the Colonial Secretary are bound to do it at the present time, and not when the war is over and the criticism, according to our opponents, is stale and unprofitable. We have at the present time to consider what the difficulties have been in arriving at a settlement. Sir, I am of opinion that one of the greatest difficulties in this matter has been the fact that the Colonial Secretary had charge of the negotiations. I am not saying this from any personal view at all, but because I believe it, and I am going to try and give my grounds for the belief. The great difficulty in these negotiations was that President Kruger, rightly or wrongly, believed that the Colonial Secretary and Mr. Rhodes were practically the same person. The Dutch mind associated the policy of Rhodes with the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, and, in my opinion, there were grounds for the belief. I have never believed that the right hon. Gentleman was a party to the Raid of which we 606 have heard so much, because, holding the position he does in the Government, he would not care to be a party to such a fiasco. He would not be a party to that which could not succeed, and therefore I do not believe he was a party to the Raid. What were the grounds for President Kruger's belief that the two policies were the same? In the first place, he saw, when the inquiry with reference to the Raid took place, that most important telegrams were suppressed.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member will not be in order in discussing upon this occasion what took place at that inquiry. There is no Vote as to the salary of the right hon. Gentleman, but only a Vote with regard to the means of the prosecution of the war.
§ MR. DALZIEL
I bow to your ruling, Sir; but may I ask you whether, in giving evidence as to what I regard as mistakes on the part of the right hon. Gentleman which have brought about the war, I might refer to those matters? I am not going into details, but I do say, in suppressing those telegrams, the right hon. Gentleman, at any rate, gave President Kruger grounds for believing—
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
The hon. Gentleman is under some misapprehension. I did not suppress any telegrams. I did not get them.
§ MR. SPEAKER
This is out of order. The hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying he is entitled to discuss the direct causes which led to the war, but there must be a limit to the discussion, and when the hon. Gentleman goes back and discusses the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary in that Committee, he is going far beyond the limit.
§ MR. DALZIEL
In my view, if the right hon. Gentleman consented in his official capacity to the publication of telegrams—
§ MR. DALZIEL
I take it, Sir, that your ruling precludes me from entering into the matter of the telegrams.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the salary of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary were upon the Appropriation Bill, the hon. Member would be perfectly in order, but there is no such item on the Vote. The Vote is for a sum of money for carrying on the war, and the policy of the war may be discussed. The hon. Gentleman cannot discuss the action of the right hon. Gentleman as if his salary was upon the Vote.
§ MR. DALZIEL
Your ruling, Sir, very much limits the discussion, and I think it is unfortunate that the representatives of the people cannot, by the rules of this House, go into the general question where such a great matter is involved. I must bow to your ruling, though it to a great extent takes away the case I was about to present against the right hon. Gentleman's action. I pass on to the Bloemfontein Conference. It has been said that at that Conference no subject was discussed but the franchise. That is a fact; Sir Alfred Milner would not discuss anything else, and when President Kruger would not go fully into the question, Sir Alfred Milner said the Conference was at an end, and nobody was bound by what had taken place. Since that time the right hon. Gentleman has had two or three opportunities of settling this matter not only with peace, but with honour. On two occasions during the course of the negotiations he has had offered to him all that he asked for. Sir Alfred Milner asked for a five years franchise, and seven seats in the Volksraad for the Uitlanders and a minority representation of one-fifth. President Kruger offered the five years franchise, eight seats in the Volksraad, as against seven asked for, and a minority representation of one-fourth as against the one-fifth asked for. That offer was made by President Kruger in August, and in my opinion that was an opportunity which ought to have been used, and could have been used, by the right hon. Gentleman to settle this matter. He practically had the whole situation in his hands. He may say that certain conditions were put forward.
§ MR. DALZIEL
Then that strengthens the position I take. He had got all 608 that he asked for, and through some mistake the situation was thrown away. The right hon. Gentleman said the other night that he meant to accept the proposal of President Kruger! Now, I say for a Colonial Secretary to write a despatch which has been misunderstood by everyone—because I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to show me any leader-writer of the great daily press, of any important newspaper, who understood that that despatch was meant to accept President Kruger's offer—
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The Daily Chronicle took the trouble to point out when that despatch was published that it was a practical acceptance of President Kruger's terms.
§ MR. DALZIEL
I think if the right hon. Gentleman will refer again he will find that the Daily Chronicle says, not that it is a practical acceptance, but that it might be looked upon as such. President Kruger, however, did not look upon it in that light, and immediately abandoned his offer and withdrew it. I say the right hon. Gentleman had then the opportunity, and the issue being so great, and the situation so critical, no possible misunderstanding ought to have been permitted without some endeavour to clear the way. This war will be known in history by the name of the blundering despatch war. The next opportunity which the right hon. Gentleman had was when the seven years franchise and the joint commission was given by President Kruger. There was one other occasion of which advantage might have been taken. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman take advantage of the offer of Mr. Hofmeyr, who made it known that he was willing unofficially to endeavour to induce President Kruger to accede to our terms? There is no man—and I suppose the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me in this—who has more influence with President Kruger than Mr. Hofmeyr, whose ser- 609 vices ought to have been called in at the later stages of the negotiations. There is another point upon which I complain of the conduct of negotiations, and that is the delay which took place after the last despatch was sent by the right hon. Gentleman. We have been told that it was an influence working for peace; but how can it be regarded as such? Here you had a despatch sent to President Kruger, and it contained an intimation that we were sending another despatch practically in the course of a few days. The obvious interpretation that was put upon that passage in that despatch was that in the course of a few days they would get our despatch. That is how it was read practically by everybody in this country. All this time, although that despatch had been formulated and prepared, it was not sent, and that was the greatest influence in favour of war throughout this unfortunate business. We were waiting for a despatch from President Kruger, and they were waiting for a despatch from us. It was simple enough to have sent the despatch, and then we should have known. But in the meantime we called out an army corps—about three weeks after we had intimated that another despatch was coming. Soon after that President Kruger's ultimatum came, and, although I do not think anyone will defend that ultimatum, let us consider for a moment the position in which he was placed. The army corps were called out, and day after day we were putting more soldiers along the Transvaal frontier. President Kruger knew that every day during which delay took place the sooner would come his annihilation, for they had failed to arrive at a settlement. I say that there was an element of peace in that despatch if the right hon. Gentleman had taken it up, and if there had been a desire to obtain a peaceful settlement it would not have been undignified for this country to have appointed a peace commission to go into the matter. It would have been possible to have got a tribunal to arbitrate upon the points upon which we differed. In regard to the position in which we now find ourselves, I believe that the whole situation would have been saved if the representative of the Transvaal Government in London, Mr. Montagu White, had been seen by the Colonial Secretary. I believe there was a difficult in the way of having such an interview at all, but it does seem curious that 610 throughout these negotiations the right hon. Gentleman refused to see the representative of the Transvaal.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
No, no. The hon. Gentleman is quite mistaken. No application whatever was ever made to see me by Mr. Montagu White. I should certainly have seen him if he had made such an application.
§ MR. DALZIEL
I am glad to hear that admission from the right hon. Gentleman. If Mr. Montagu White had been seen by the Colonial Secretary I am sure a better understanding would have been arrived at. That is quite a new phase of the question, because it has always been understood by the Transvaal Government that the right hon. Gentleman would not allow Mr. Montagu White to take any part in the negotiations with the Transvaal Government.
§ MR. DALZIEL
There is no one more pleased to hear that statement from the right hon. Gentleman than I am, because it is very much in his favour. I have read in the Transvaal papers that the whole situation would have been avoided if the right hon. Gentleman had been able to recognise Mr. Montagu White as the representative of the Transvaal Government. But this admission does not do away with the point I wish to make. My point is that the elements of a settlement were there, for three or four men sitting round the table might have been able to effect a settlement which would have been honourable to this country. That has not been done, and unfortunately we are at war. I maintain that, before we went to war in these circumstances, every possibility of peaceful negotiations should have been exhausted, and I do not think they were exhausted. I think we have brought about this war by our negotiations during a critical situation which ought never to have been brought about, and the right hon. Gentleman ought to have taken 611 advantage of the concessions made and asked for more. In view of the fact that the franchise had been reduced from fourteen years to five, and that we had been promised other important concessions, I think we ought to have pursued our course along that path, and gone on bit by bit accepting more. In my judgment, I believe if we had gone on in that way in the course of a very few years our supremacy would have been much more complete in the Transvaal than it is ever likely to be by the policy which we are now pursuing. This war means a great deal more than some of our people seem to imagine. Has anyone thought of the poverty which this war is going to bring into this country? Imagine 25,000 of our Reserve men called out. I have heard some pitiful tales of the misery and the poverty which that step has brought about. An hon. Member of this House who is a doctor has told me of quite half a dozen cases in London where whole families are broken up now, and they are thrown absolutely upon the charity of the world. If that is so in my hon. friend's own limited experience what must it be throughout the whole of this country? I myself know of cases up in Scotland where workmen have been called out and families have been broken up perhaps never to be made up again. We ought to consider the misery and poverty which will be brought about before we go to war, and we ought to consider the thousands of bread-winners who will never be able to make up their homes again. That is why we ought to consider every possibility of arriving at peace before we go to war. We hear a good deal of things which tell against the character of the Boers, and I am not here to defend them. I do, however, dissociate myself from some of the sentiments which have been delivered by certain hon. Members in this House in regard to the ultimate triumph of this war. I believe this war was a mistake, but I hope nevertheless that the British arms will be successful, and I hope they will be successful very speedily, and that we may have a victory that will be complete and crushing. I desire this because it will limit the sacrifice of life which we shall have to make in the Transvaal. I can see that if this war continues very long it is going to be a much greater sacrifice than we ever contemplated. I suppose there is no man in this House will dispute the statement that 612 the Boers are a brave people. I see that in one of the despatches received the other day our own general referred, on two different occasions, to the courage and bravery displayed by the enemy. There may have been sufficient cause for the war, and President Kruger may have been wrong, but we must respect the old men of eighty-four years of age who have shouldered their rifles and gone to the front. I would mention also the lads of eighteen who have gone forward to risk their lives in the service of their country. We may not like these facts, but they are there, and it is a proof that these people believe that they are fighting in a just cause, and defending a country which has been unjustly attacked. Therefore we must respect the spirit of patriotism which has animated them in the steps they have taken. President Kruger may be as corrupt as he is represented, and as bad a diplomatist as those opposed to him make out; but on this account are thousands of other people in the Transvaal to sacrifice their lives? We ought to have looked beyond President Kruger in this matter, and we ought to have considered that he could not always guide the destinies of the Transvaal. We ought to have known day by day that if our subjects desired the franchise and the political power which their friends desired them to have, they were certain to get it in the end. I think we ought to have had a little more patience, and waited a little longer, and then we should have got peaceably what we are now attempting to get by war. Does anyone deny that with the adoption of a five years franchise the Uitlanders would have outnumbered the burghers, and that the British representatives in the Volksraad would have maintained their position and passed through reforms which would have given the Uitlanders more power? I admit it would have taken longer, but the result would have been better than it ever will be after the war. What will be the position after the war is over? The Uitlanders will come into possession. I do not know what the issue is going to be, for it is too soon to say; but this we can say, that whatever happens, it will take very many years before the two races in the Transvaal will live on the same terms of amity upon which they were living a few years ago. The right hon. Gentleman said it was the feeling of 613 contempt that was the difficulty out in the Transvaal. I am prepared to admit there is some ground for that statement. It has been the belief in the superiority of the Transvaal burgher which has, unfortunately, contributed to this unhappy situation. But we must remember that we have given them cause, to some extent, for that belief, because that feeling was not acute to any extent until the unfortunate Jameson Raid occurred. From that moment, rightly or wrongly, the burghers believed that we had made up our minds to have their country, but notwithstanding that, I believe that the difficulties existing were not insurmountable. I believe that, even after the Raid, a policy of patience, and an acceptance of the proposals which were put forward would have brought about a peaceful and satisfactory settlement. I would recommend hon. Members to read the letter of Mr. Selous which appears in The Times yesterday. Mr. Selous, I suppose, knows as much about South Africa as any hon. Member who has taken part in these debates. He lived for over twenty years in South Africa, and is, in fact, associated with the Imperial party at the Cape. What does he predict? He predicts that the result will be that we will lose our South African colonies. That is the prophecy of a man who is an accepted authority, and it cannot be lightly set aside. He may be wrong—I sincerely hope he is—but we are running risks of which we cannot see the possible end. Therefore I say every possibility of a peaceful settlement ought to have been exhausted before you went to war. I hope there will be a speedy issue, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman's policy will be as successful as I have no doubt he believes it will be; but, believing as I do that this war should have been avoided, I think it my duty to state in this House that I, at any rate, as representing my constituents, accept no responsibility for it.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I have no right whatever to advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as I am only an humble agricultural Member, but I should like to remind my right hon. friend of the statement made by his right hon. colleague in August last, who said that something like£2,900,000 might be raised without extra taxation.
§ MAJOR RASCH
I will not pursue the subject, but I personally did not agree with what the President of the Local Government Board said on that occasion. Perhaps I may say that I have sat in this House during every debate in this short session, and that I voted with the Government in every Division. I have listened with appreciation and respect to the frequent speeches of the hon. Member for East Mayo, as I always do, although I do not always agree with him; but I cannot for the life of me understand why he should have given such effusive praise to the conciliatory speech of my hon. and gallant friend the Member for Newport. I say, without offence, that if there is a single hon. Member in this House who has imported venom into these debates, it is the hon. Member for East Mayo himself. Perhaps I may say also that I think it is rather hard that hon. Members on this side of the House and hon. Members above the gangway on the other side should have had to sit here and be lectured by the hon. Member for Caithness as we have been. The hon. Member is not only chairman of the Transvaal Committee—which is rather a strong order—but he was agent for the Transvaal Government up to 1891, and was with the Boer camp at the time of the fight at Majuba, when Scottish soldiers—his own countrymen—were shot down by his clients. I will only add that I will vote with the greatest pleasure with the Government, and in supporting them I am certain 99 out of every 100 of my constituents will support me.
§ MR. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
As this Bill sanctions this war and provides the means of carrying it on, and commits the House to the policy which precipitated it, I feel compelled for the last time on which I can utter a protest to do so. The hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield—who, I regret, is not in his place—is generally, when speaking in this House, a man full of courage in his cause and if he is not always right he believes he is. On Friday night last, in an attempt to justify this war, he brought general charges of corruption against the Trans- 615 vaal Government. Not believing these charges to be truly founded, I challenged him to produce his proofs. Several days have passed and yet the hon. Member has not offered one single word of proof in sustentation of the charges he made in this House. Now, I do not think that is in any way fair fighting. It is the policy which has been pursued by the Jingo press, and it is the policy which has precipitated this miserable and unfortunate war. I must protest against this line of argument. If this war is undertaken to put down corruption, tyranny, and injustice towards native peoples surely, according to every canon of fair play, we are entitled to have the proofs produced. But up to the present there has not been one single word of proof offered by a single hon. Member on the other side to sustain the charge that the Transvaal Government have been guilty of wholesale corruption in the administration of that country, or that the Boers have acted cruelly towards the native races. The hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division is, I believe, in the aristocratic hierarchy of Swaziland. He has been ennobled by the Swazis, and if there were a House of Lords in their country he would be entitled to sit in it. I am not aware that he has been in South Africa, and consequently, without in any way disparaging the sources of his information, he cannot speak with very much authority in this House on this question. I do him the justice to say that he has always been consistent. He did not lament the Raid in 1895, except to the extent of regretting that it was not successful. He has not talked about the necessity of going to war to give the franchise to the Uitlanders. He is in favour of taking away the independence of the Transvaal in order to annex that country and the Orange Free State to the dominions of the British Empire in South Africa. Therefore he has been candid and honest in all he has said. But there are Englishmen who have been in South Africa and who can speak with knowledge on all these questions. Reference has been made to one of them in the interesting speech of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy. He is an Englishman, like the hon. and gallant Member for Newport, who thinks himself none the worse Englishman because he bears testimony to the courage, honesty, and sincerity of the Boers. I would ask 616 the House of Commons to bear patiently with me while I quote the opinion of Mr. Selous. He writes—I still consider that war ought to have been avoided, and would have been avoided had the negotiations between the British and Transvaal Governments been in the hands of a liberal-minded and far-seeing British statesman thoroughly conversant with the divergent interests of the different sections of the South African populations, and aware of the momentous consequences in the future—a distant future perhaps—of a war between the British and Dutch Afrikander races. Knowing the Cape Dutch as I do, I think that the hope of a permanent settlement in South Africa as a result of this war is purely chimerical. For the time being the Dutch Afrikander population of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State will be crushed, no doubt, but the history of Switzerland, of Scotland, and of the United States of America points to the difficulty of permanently crushing a North European, and to the likelihood of our having to face another 'War of Independence' in South Africa in twenty, thirty, or perhaps fifty years' time, which it may be impossible to bring to a successful issue. I should not have sent you this letter for publication, now that war has actually broken out, had I not read with feelings of intense disgust a poem lately published in your columns by Mr. Swinburne, which seems to me to have been written with the sole object of embittering feeling in this country against the South African Dutch.This Englishman is not afraid to speak the truth. I believe his opinions on political questions are in harmony with those of hon. Members opposite and of Her Majesty's Government. He concludes his letter with a prediction which is, at any rate, deserving of attention—a prediction which, no matter how I may displease hon. Members opposite, I sincerely hope will prove true. Mr. Selous says—In that case we shall have entered upon a course which, though it may give us the gold-fields of the Transvaal for the present and the immediate future, will infallibly lose us the whole of South Africa as a British possession within the lifetime of many men who are now living. Through arrogance and ignorance Great Britain lost her American colonies, and if arrogance and ignorance prevail in the present conduct of affairs in South Africa, history will repeat itself in the country.Now, one of the chief reasons advanced by the Colonial Secretary—and particularly by the Leader of the House—as a justification of this war is that one of 617 its objects is to accord better treatment to the native races and to protect these races against Boer oppression. As I have already pointed out, no one single tittle of evidence has been brought before this House to prove the truth of this charge. It is one of a series of baseless assertions, not a single one of which has been proved to be true. It is a part—a cruel part—of the methods by which this miserable war has been promoted. Let me call two witnesses on the other side who will adduce proof which will carry conviction to every fair-minded man in this House that this is an untrue allegation against the Boers. One is General Colley, who died at Majuba, and the other is the late Mr. Froude, the historian. General Colley, writing to his mother—[AN HON. member laughed.] I am not surprised the hon. Member laughs, but surely it is no laughing matter that a brave man should write to his mother. I am not referring to any English Member opposite. General Colley wrote—The Kaffirs say, and with considerable justice, that no one has ever gained by intercourse, not with the Boer Government, but with the English Government.That is one witness. Mr. Froude's opinion is longer, but I am sure the House will not regret hearing it. He writes—The new States did not sink, but prospered. The Boers spread over a territory as large as France. They arranged their disputes with the natives with little fighting. In the Transvaal a million natives lived peaceably in the midst of them, working with them and for them.By far the most thriving native location which I myself saw in South Africa was close to Pretoria. They were rough, but they had rude virtues, which are not the less virtues because in these latter days they are growing scarce. The Boers of South Africa, of all human beings now on the planet, correspond nearest to Horace's description of the Roman peasant soldiers who defeated Pyrrhus and Hannibal. There alone you will find obedience to parents as strict as among the ancient Sabines. The severa mater, whose sons fetch and carry at her bidding, when these sons go to fight for their country, will hand their rifles to them and bid them return with their arms in their hands or else not return at all. They rule after their own pattern; they forbid 618 idleness and indiscriminate vagrancy; there have been no risings of blacks against whites in the Transvaal; authority has been sustained without panics and without severity. Such scenes as the destruction of Tanganabeles in Natal, or the massacre of Koegas, which disgraced the Cape Colony in 1878, have never been paralleled in the Dutch Independent Stat They could not, however, earn the confidence of the English Government. Perhaps their unexpected success was an offence where the methods were not our methods, and were easily misrepresented. These are the people whom your press maligns, who are libelled in this House, against whom you are waging this relentless and wanton war. Against the defamation of a brave race we Irish Members protest from these benches, and denounce it as mean and dishonourable to the last degree. It was hoped that, in face of the exposure of the wholesale lying against these foes which was made here last week, the jingo papers would stop the campaign of calumny by which they forced on the war. Some of them have, but the lowest of them have not. On yesterday at noon, coming down to this House, I noticed that a paper called the Sun, owned, I believe, by a Member opposite, issued a placard in large type, with the words, "Boers firing on the British wounded." At a quarter to four in this House on the same day the Under Secretary for War, who has said no word in this House of this kind, declared that the Boers would, in his judgment, treat the English wounded as humanely as the British would look after their disabled foes. Who was the liar in this instance? And this is called journalism. It is not journalism. It represents the moral tone and spirit of the Stock Exchange offal of journalism, and is a filthy libel upon the reputation of a great profession; but it is papers of the stamp and character of this sheet which have poured out columns of falsehoods for months against the Boers and the Dutch race, and which have led, or rather misled, the public into this, the meanest war this country has ever waged against a civilised race. When will the feeling of shame prevail over the shamelessness of repeated falsehood? Listen to this—ENGLISH LADIES IN A BOER CAMP.—Courteous reception.—Their husbands set free. 619 —Kimberley, Oct. 21.—On Tuesday two ladies visited the Boer camp. They were courteously received, and their intercession on behalf of their husbands was favourably entertained. When the commandant returned to camp the men were released. They have now arrived here, and report that they were well treated. They also state that 600 bags of mealies which had been commandeered, were restored to their owners by the Boers.These are the foes that are maligned and denounced for manufactured brutal qualities day by day by the jingo press. Yes, the cowardly lying is one of the ugliest features of this war for which this Bill is to provide the money out of the taxpayers' pockets. These editors and stockbrokers ought in penance to be compelled to walk past the inquiry room at the War Office every day to witness the scenes which this policy is responsible for. This is what they would witness, as described by a correspondent in one of the London papers—As one stands by the door of the room, with its cold official surroundings, and looks towards the corner where, upon an easel, are displayed the names of those who have given their lives for their country, there is an unconquerable feeling that one is actually in the presence of the dead. The suggestion is heightened by the coming and the going of the mourners. They pass in silently. Ladies in their furs, and their humbler sisters in sorrow from the striving quarters of the city, each is turning a strained white face to the lists, and praying silently that nothing will be revealed. Side by side a daintily gloved hand and a grimy finger move slowly down the roll. The gloved hand stops midway in a list of killed, and the agonised eyes tell the remainder of the story of death.This is one side of the picture. On another page in the same paper this was justified and described in the following manner—PATRIOTISM THAT PAID.—How the investors backed the little British Army.—The 1895 boom in South African shares has come back after a holiday of four years, but its return is not welcomed most by those who expressed the greatest regret at its departure. 'The reason of this is that it gave no indication of its approach, and sprung its arrival upon an unprepared city. The Kaffir houses and the Stock Exchange professionals even throw doubt upon its genuineness, and pretend to think that it is only a little wolf masquerading in the lion's skin. They know all the while that it is the real thing, but if they could get a few sellers to weaken the market for them, it would suit their books much better.And then follows the announcement that— 620Yesterday's Chartereds became a hot favourite, and were bid up to 3⅝,with signs of old-fashioned buying in 5,000 and 10,000 shares lines. With regard to them it is plausibly argued that they will benefit most from the results of the war, and will be soonest able to take advantage of the change in the situation. It is still possible that the Boers may do a great deal of harm to mines on the Rand, but they cannot possibly hurt Rhodesia. After the fighting is over a few weeks will see railway communication with Buluwayo restored and a new influx of immigrants into Rhodesia started.And this is the war for the "franchise," the war against "Boer corruption," the war for "justice, liberty, and humanity." It is not such a war, but a war for the meanest and most mercenary of ends and aims which ever prompted conquest or aggression, and it will rank in history as the greatest crime of the nineteenth century. The hon. Member for King's Lynn poured the vials of his wrath upon our heads on Monday evening because we voiced a sympathy not with England, but with the Transvaal in this struggle; but how is national, or political, or human sympathy won or provoked in conflicts between nations? Can it be said for an instant with truth that freedom, justice, or righteousness inspire your motives in waging this conflict? You say yes; but the whole world says no. Who is the enemy you are going forth to crush? Not one who threatens to invade England, not a Power which menaces your liberties, not an equal or a match for your giant strength, but a foe of your own blood and faith, your equal in courage, your superior in patriotism and in national virtue, and who has more claim upon your protecting arm than upon your oppression and vengeance. Why, then, should we sympathise with your action? You gladly took a king from the Dutch, and obtained thereby a revolution and constitutional government. Why do you now assassinate in the Transvaal the liberty which the ancestors of the Boers enabled your ancestors to win for you? We Irish owe nothing to the Dutch but what the hon. Member for Belfast would call the glorious battle of the Boyne. We were on the wrong side then.
§ MR. DAVITT
Possibly; when force, and not reason or justice, determined the 621 conclusion. We took the wrong side then, anyhow, and deservedly got licked for showing too much loyalty to England's legitimate king. Had the hon. Member for Belfast been present on that interesting occasion he would have been for the king, and I should probably have been among the revolutionists. We are on the right side now, at any rate, though it may also be the losing side; but you stand to lose more by your victory if you gain than the Dutch race will have to pay for its defeat in this war. To say that because England goes to war Irishmen must back her or become traitors is a monstrous proposition. War, like any other transaction, must be judged on its merits, and support or opposition be determined by the right or the wrong involved. I hold that Governments have no divine commission to knock the word "not" out of every one of the Ten Commandments. "Thou shalt not commit murder," "thou shalt not steal," is as obligatory upon Cabinets as upon citizens, and to ask Irish Members to approve of this war and its main purposes would be akin to asking them to sympathise with an act of burglary which would also lead to the wholesale killing of those who would resist the crime. The hon. Member for King's Lynn in his virtuous wrath reminds me in this connection, but in this only, of a saying of the late Colonel Ingersoll, of America—namely, "When England is mentioned in connection with one of her wars against small nations, in which she declares she has only humanity in view, she reminds me of a burglar wearing a white tie on his way to the scene of his philanthropy." Sir, in conclusion, let me say that we Irishmen are compelled to give our sympathies to the Boers because they are absolutely in the right in heroically defending with their lives the independence of their country. Such a defence has always commanded the admiration of un-biassed minds in every struggle for liberty, for there is no nobler cause for which men can fight and die than the freedom of a nation. England in this contest is the enemy of liberty; the Transvaal Republic is its champion and defender; and, win or lose, the world will applaud the Boers and their just cause. We on these benches know what our attitude on this war will mean, for the time being, to Home Rule. Very well, so be it. But let me say this for myself in answer to this contention—Had I been 622 offered not Home Rule only, but an Irish Republic by Her Majesty's Government on yesterday week in return for one word or one vote in favour of this war to destroy the independence of the Republics of the Transvaal, I would speak no such word nor record any such vote. Sir, I would not purchase liberty for Ireland at the base price of voting against liberty in South Africa. Ireland may never win her liberty, but still she may. Yet I pray she never will at the price of dishonour; and to help you in this war against the Transvaal, to wish you success in a fight with a brave foe a thousand times your inferior in strength and resources, but who fearlessly faces you on your own battlefield in defence of their independence and their homes, would be an infamy and a disgrace which no Home Rule, no freedom, depending on your promise or word, could ever obliterate or redeem. And now, Sir, one word more and I have done. This, I hope, will be the last time I shall address this House. As a feeble but final protest against this infamous war, I shall ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-morrow to relieve me of further attendance here. Let me say in conclusion that I owe many personal courtesies to Members on both sides of the House, and that they have treated me with invariable kindness, and have borne with a good deal of good-natured toleration and fairness, even during this stormy session, the strong words which we Irish Members have felt it our duty to use against this war policy, and I shall carry that recollection with me. I make no complaint of what has been said of me personally inside or outside of this House. It is, of course, natural for Englishmen to feel sore at our attitude, but for my part I do not unsay or take back a single syllable I have uttered in Ireland or in this chamber in condemnation of this horrible business. When I go I shall tell my boys, "I have been some five years in this House, and the conclusion with which I leave it is that no cause, however just, will find support, no wrong, however pressing or apparent, will find redress here, unless backed up by force." This is the message which I shall take back from this assembly to my sons.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I understand the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex has stated that I was in the Boer camp during the war of 1881. The hon. and 623 gallant Member has been misinformed as to the facts. As a matter of fact, a few days before Majuba, with my hon. friend the late Civil Lord of the Admiralty and the hon. Baronet the Member for Coekermouth and several other Members, I waited upon Lord Kimberley, then Colonial Secretary, for the purpose of ascertaining the conditions under which peace could be secured. A few days afterwards I took part in a public meeting at Sheffield. As to the Transvaal Committee, I never was the chairman of it. This is simply an example of the system of misrepresentation which now prevails, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman is a victim to it.
§ MAJOR RASCH
I have to express my obligation to the hon. Member for not threatening to assault me, as he did my hon. friend the Member for Truro, who disagreed with him in the Lobby the other night. All I have to say is that I made that statement on the best authority, and that was the authority of the hon. Member himself. If the hon. Member denies the statement, I will, at the first opportunity, repeat it outside the House, and the hon. Member can take what action he likes.
§ MAJOR RASCH
I cannot give the absolute date. It was about six years ago, between Dover and Calais on the steamboat.
§ *MR. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
Holding as I do very strong views that are not shared by many of those with whom I usually act, I do not wish to say anything which might tend to accentuate the differences which now exist. I have not hesitated for one moment in the course I have pursued, but at the same time it is a disagreeable thing to me to find myself in a position of antagonism with my political friends, and I only wish now, when that antagonism has died down, to explain the position I take. It seems to be the fate of events in South Africa to raise passions and prejudices, and those passions and prejudices have been strengthened by divisions of opinion. In this case all difference of opinion has been accentuated by an element of personality, which I, for one, deplore. We have had an illustration 624 in the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs to-day—not that that speech can be regarded as otherwise than comparatively moderate. The charges made against the Government have consisted to a very large extent of personal criticism and personal feeling, and observations of a character which I think we ought to deplore. The real charge against the Government in this matter is that, whether with a set purpose or by blundering diplomacy, they have provoked this war. It is incredible that any reasonable man can really believe that the Government of this country would willingly, willfully, and wantonly plunge this country into a bloody war at an enormous cost of treasure and life. We are told that men like Lord Salisbury, with his weight of years and love of peace, the Duke of Devonshire, with his imperturbable dislike of disturbance, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the First Lord of the Treasury, and others of the Cabinet have looked lightly on the prospect of this war. There is one member of the Cabinet I have not mentioned—the Colonial Secretary. I have never paid the gentleman a compliment yet, and I should not pay him the absurd one to-day of saying that he has the skill and power to drag his colleagues into a war of which they disapprove. I regard this war not as one of aggression, but of defence in the double sense, against invasion of territory, and also in defence of our supremacy in South Africa. In supporting the policy of the Government in this matter I take my stand upon the ground of maintaining our supremacy. Those who deny that our supremacy is in danger do not realise the position in South Africa. No one who knows that country can doubt the prevalence and growth of the feeling which has been described by Sir Alfred Milner. I see below me my right hon. friend the Member for Aberdeen, and I attach great importance to his views and observations on this subject. When I was in South Africa two years after his visit, and read his book in the light of what I myself could judge, I could not help feeling with regard to his remarks that the feeling of the Dutch towards ourselves had undergone a change. In the declaration of the State Secretary the claim of the Transvaal Government was based on inherent right, and not on the Conventions of 1881 and 1884, and I am 625 convinced that the views of Sir Alfred Milner are far more in accordance with the facts than those entertained by persons in this country on the question of supremacy; those who blame the Government in this matter seem to me to overlook entirely the other factor in the case, consisting in the character, the policy, and the intentions of the Transvaal Government. Sir, during the last two years there have been very large importations of arms into the Transvaal. How in the world, for example, are the large importations of arms in the Transvaal to be explained, except on the theory that there might be use for those arms against the Uitlander population? I believe it could be proved, if necessary, that at the very least 75,000 rifles—I believe the number would be more accurately stated at 150,000—have been imported into the Transvaal. What could 30,000 or 40,000 adult males, who would form the fighting population of the Transvaal, want with all these weapons? To my mind it is a very significant factor in the case. In addition, there is the erection of the forts, and the fact—which, I think, the Colonial Secretary called attention so strongly to the other day—that a few weeks ago the Transvaal was the one military power in South Africa which, from that point of view, had absolute control of the situation. That, I say, is one of the many miserable results of the Raid. It furnished the Transvaal Government with an excuse—and I will not quarrel with anybody who says a legitimate excuse—for more strongly pursuing the policy to which the Boers were devoted, but it does not in itself explain that policy. To preserve intact the vicious, and I venture to say, in spite of contradiction, the corrupt system of administration, the Transvaal Government has fostered amongst the burgher population the one fear of the loss of their independence which forms the Boer political creed. I am not one of those who desire to attack the Boers as a people. I have never done so, and nobody who has been amongst them in South Africa will attempt for an instant to do so. But, Sir, there is a distinction between the Boer population and its Government. It is not the burgher, it is not the man depicted by Mr. Selous, who governs the Transvaal; it is President Kruger and the Hollander gang with whom he has been associated. I admire the love of Independence which characterises the 626 Boers; it is a sentiment that appeals to every Englishman. But I also admire the desire of the Uitlander for justice and freedom. Sir, I cannot join with those who hold that patriotism is a virtue in every country but England. Why should patriotism be a virtue in a foreigner and a vice in an Englishman? I am ready to grant, if you like, that the question is a far larger one than that of the grievances of the Uitlander; but the importance of the question of the redress of the grievances felt, and justly felt, by the Uitlander lies in the fact that that question is the pivot around which turns the question of our supremacy in South Africa. It is the outward and visible sign of the contention of the two Governments which shall be supreme. Now, Sir, it is on the treatment of Uitlanders that this question of supremacy is turning, not only in the eyes of South Africa, but of all the colonies and of the world, and I say that it is impossible for the Government to avoid taking up this question without being open to the charge of betraying the liberties and just rights of their fellow countrymen, of ignoring their petitions, and of rejecting their cry for the redress of grievances. I do not for a moment believe that the Government have ever conceived the idea of subverting the independence of the Transvaal. You may search the despatches from beginning to end and you will not only not find a word indicative of such a desire, but you will find the most definite pledges that one Government can give to another that the independence should be respected if only the Transvaal, by just and reasonable concessions, were willing to admit our claims for redress of grievances and, as I have said before, acknowledge our supremacy in South Africa. A great deal has been made of the admission made by the Colonial Secretary in the debate the other night. But does it not strike hon. Gentlemen who differ from the views I have taken, that if President Kruger had desired to effect a settlement he would not have been so blind as not to look to the points of agreement? Is it not his unwillingness to look to points of agreement that is really responsible for the disastrous issue of the negotiations? The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy also referred to Mr. Hofmeyr, and expressed regret that his services were not called in. But, if I am rightly informed, Mr. Hofmeyr's services were called in, 627 and called in by President Kruger; and I venture to say without contradiction that had President Kruger accepted the advice given him by Mr. Hofmeyr—who, I believe, was sincerely desirous of promoting peace—had he followed that advice by passing the Franchise Bill as drafted by Mr. Hofmeyr, then the issue of the negotiations would have been very different. But not only has President Kruger been unwilling to grant any real concessions, but I sadly fear, as has been demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt, that he had at his back an evil influence in the person of President Steyn. That is to my mind one of the most extraordinary and incomprehensible features of the situation, and I do not think anybody can doubt that that influence has been more in favour of war than of peace. Now I do not wish to delay the House, but before I sit down I should like to say one word with regard to the charges which have been made by the hon. Member for East Mayo concerning, not the treatment of the native races, but the danger of their participation in the controversy. I am very glad that the timely publication of certain despatches to-day upon the attitude of the Basutos has rendered it quite unnecessary for me to make any detailed reference to the matter, because Sir Godfrey Lagden has shown most clearly not only that he has done everything in his power to keep the Basuto chiefs quiet and to prevent their participation in the war, but that whatever danger of unrest has existed or does exist is due absolutely and entirely to the incitement on the part of the Boers to stir up the Basutos and shake their allegiance. ["Oh!"] If I am contradicted I must read the concluding words of that despatch, because Sir Godfrey Lagden is a man whose judgment cannot be impugned, and whose knowledge of the country is not exceeded by that of anyone who can be mentioned. What he says is this—What I wish to place on record now is that the Boers have unwisely attempted to shake the allegiance of the Basutos to Her Majesty's Government, and to frustrate our efforts to control and guide the natives on the above lines. The Boers are, therefore, responsible for any commotion and for the alarm as to native invasions which now prevails.That appears to me absolutely to dispose of the charges that have been brought 628 against the Uitlanders. But, Sir, there is another point. Does it not show to demonstration amazing ignorance and misconception of the elementary principles of British government when an hon. Member can stand up in this House and charge British officials with being willing to encourage a war between black and white races?
§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
I rise to order. The hon. Member for East Mayo made no charge whatever. [Ministerial cries of "He did."] He asked a question.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That is not a question of order. It is not a question of order if an hon. Member states the effect of a speech in a sense different from what another Member infers from it.
§ *MR. PAULTON
If I used too strong a word in saying that the hon. Member for East Mayo charged the Government with any act of this kind I withdraw it, but certainly the impression caused by the remark of the hon. Member was that he charged our Government with inciting the blacks against the whites. Such a charge shows absolute ignorance of our South African policy. In conclusion I would only say that whilst I sympathise little, if at all, with the attitude of hon. Members from Ireland in this matter, I can understand their position. I think it is a logical one, I think it is a consistent one. But whether their championship of the Boer cause by incitements to gallant Irish soldiers to shoot down their own officers will bring sympathy to the cause is a matter for themselves to judge. I cannot, however, understand the position of some of my hon. friends, who, by their votes and speeches, have declared that they believed the Government had deliberately and wantonly provoked this war. [Opposition cheers.] That sentiment is cheered. I say that anyone who holds those views ought to be conducting a crusade against the war, and opposing—as the Irish Members with perfect consistency are doing—the granting of one penny of public money to carry on the war.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
My hon. friend the Member for Bishop 629 Auckland, who last addressed the House, seemed to be under the impression that we object to his fairly stating his opinions. The hon. Gentleman was one of the gallant band of fifteen Liberals who voted with the Government against the motion of my hon. friend the Member for Burley, and I honour him more than the other fourteen for having had the courage to explain in this House why he did so. There was a very important gentleman among that fifteen; I allude to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton. He is in the official councils of the Liberal party, but he separated himself from the large majority of Liberals on that occasion, and voted with the Government. I cannot suppose for a moment that the right hon. Gentleman will leave his defence, however ably urged, to the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, and no doubt he himself, before this debate is over, will explain why he voted against his party on this occasion. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland said he had been in South Africa, and he seemed to be under the impression that owing to his visit he had a better opportunity of speaking with knowledge as to what occurred in that part of the world than anyone else in the House. I should like to ask my hon. friend how long was he in South Africa, and under what circumstances was he in South Africa. So far as I understand—I merely gather my information from the public press—he was in South Africa as the guest of Mr. Rhodes and the Chartered Company, on the occasion of the opening of the railway to Bulawayo. Under these circumstances my hon. friend would naturally only come into contact with persons of only one way of thinking, and he is therefore quite unfitted to for man independent opinion, because the gentlemen who were entertaining him would explain to him their views and would exercise an influence over his mind. He would imagine that they were the views of everyone else, whereas they were only the views of a particular party which has always advocated a forward and aggressive policy in South Africa.
§ *MR. PAULTON
I do not think I laid any claim to special knowledge on African matters from the fact that I had been in the country. What I did suggest was that the slight acquaintance which 630 I possess may be better than no acquaintance at all—as in the case of my hon. friend.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I have not been to South Africa, but I know a great deal about countries where I have never been. That, however, is not my contention. My contention is that from the hospitality the hon. Member received, and from the fact that he was thrown among persons of one way of thinking only, he could not have formed an independent judgment however much he might have wished it. My hon. friend told us he was very much influenced by the fact that the Boer Government had accumulated 170,000 rifles, whereas by the highest estimate there were only 44,000 burghers to whom they could be given. Is my hon. friend really under the impression that the number of rifles now stocked by Her Majesty's Government is limited to the men under arms? Invariably a Government, unless it is very foolish, has a far greater number of arms than of men to bear them.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Yes, I hope we have them. Another ground why my hon. friend was impressed was that the Boers had built forts at Johannesburg. I would tell my hon. friend why they raised these forts. They raised them on account of the Raid. Therefore I think I have satisfactorily disposed of the two main reasons urged by my hon. friend. No doubt we shall hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton a still more able defence of this gallant band of fifteen than we have heard from my hon. friend. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will explain how it was that he voted with fourteen other Liberals in favour of the Government. I have an especial interest in looking to the position of the Liberal party in regard to this war. The party by the votes of the vast majority of its members given in favour of the Amendment of my hon. friend the Member for Burnley has declared that in its opinion the war is unjust and impolitic, that everything could have been obtained by peaceful means, and that it is due to the aggressive diplomacy of the 631 Colonial Secretary that we have a warlike instead of a peaceful solution of this unfortunate dispute. I cannot understand how hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House reading carefully through the despatches which have been published have not come to the same opinion. If any confirmation were required we have it in the defence of the right hon. Gentleman, and in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, who declared that the Amendment of my hon. friend had been proved up to the hilt. We know perfectly well that the right hon. Gentleman is one of the ablest speakers in this House, and it was not the fault of his intelligence that his speech proved up to the hilt that we are right, but because of the badness of his case. We may well see that, when the right hon. Gentleman was obliged to say that the despatch of August 28th was to be regarded practically as an acceptance of the terms previously put forward by the Transvaal. But the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth proved out of the words of the Colonial Secretary himself that it had not been regarded as an acceptance. I defy anyone to say in this House that when he read the despatch he honestly and fairly regarded it as an acceptance, or even as a qualified acceptance, of the proposals made by the Transvaal Government. I have only to refer to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Address in reply to the Queen's Speech. He said that the proposed terms contained conditions which no Government could possibly have accepted. How then can the Colonial Secretary tell us that the Boers themselves were to suppose that his despatch was an acceptance of their terms? Then the Duke of Devonshire told us that the despatch of the Colonial Secretary was so fair that he was perfectly certain that if the Transvaal Government only knew what it contained they would be ready to accept it.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
Oh, no! The Duke of Devonshire said that under any other circumstances he should most earnestly hope that it would have been accepted.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
What did the Duke of Devonshire mean by that? That, had the Colonial Secretary not been Colonial Secretary, and had the 632 terms of the despatch not been so hostile and aggressive, things would have been different. They were really under the impression that, even if those terms were granted, more would have been demanded. I was struck by the reply of the Colonial Secretary to the question put by the Member for Plymouth—why, if the terms were of such a character, did the Colonial Secretary not state them when asked so to do by President Steyn? The only reply of the right hon. Gentleman was that he had not stated them—which we perfectly well knew—and that he did not intend ever to state them, even to Parliament. That was no reply at all, and it is a matter of very considerable surprise, if the object was peace, that those terms were not stated at that time to the Boers. There was one point in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which was most unfair. The Boers had submitted their proposals with certain conditions; the right hon. Gentleman said that one of those conditions was that we should under no circumstances be permitted to interfere in the future in behalf of our own subjects. I deny that the Boers ever said anything of the kind. On the contrary, according to the Blue Book, Mr. Reitz wrote a special despatch to say it was distinctly to be understood that all that was asked for was that there should not be interference based on the suzerainty, but he recognised fully that we had a right to interfere if either of the Conventions were violated, or our subjects maltreated. When we are at war, whether rightly or not, it is most desirable that the Colonial Secretary should not special-plead in this manner in order to create a false impression in the country. The right hon. Gentleman possibly forgot what that despatch was, but he undoubtedly did create an entirely false impression of the action of the Boers in this matter. But there really is no use in discussing the diplomacy of the right hon. Gentleman, because it is now admitted that the franchise was only a pretext for the war, and not its real cause. The right hon. Gentleman has told us he had come to the conclusion that there was a great conspiracy simmering in South Africa against the supremacy of the British Empire—a conspiracy in which I understood him to include not only the Transvaalers and the Orange Free Staters, but the majority of the Dutch population 633 in our own colonies. [AN HON. MEMBER No.] The Colonial Secretary can defend himself, but if the hon. Member who says "no" would stand up and say that the conspiracy was limited to the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, I should be very much surprised. If this conspiracy existed, that in itself was a justification of and a cause for war, and the franchise, therefore, a mere pretext. But Lord Salisbury went further than that, and told us that the object of the war was definitely and for ever to show the supremacy of England over the white races. That was an honest statement, but if that is really the object and aim of the war, and if it is really believed to be necessary, to assert that supremacy, it can hardly be said that the war is due to any refusal on the part of the Transvaal to agree to this or that proposal. When Lord Salisbury speaks of the supremacy of England over white races, I understand he rather means the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race over the Dutch population in South Africa. If that is the aim and object of the war it is a complete justification of our protest. Equality of races is one thing, but to claim supremacy over a race that are in a majority in South Africa, over men as loyal and as united to the Empire as they are, and simply because they are born of Dutch instead of Anglo-Saxon parents, is quite another thing. The aim of the whole of the negotiations and actions of the Colonial Secretary was to oblige the Boers to surrender what they deemed, rightly or wrongly, to be their independence, and to alter to our advantage the relations which existed by convention with the Boers. The right hon. Gentleman was especially indignant with the hon. Member for Burnley because that gentleman claimed that the Colonial Secretary played not for peace but for war. The right hon. Gentleman denied the charge, and seemed to regard it as a species of lèse majesté if, after this denial, anybody ventured still to think it. You cannot look into a man's mind; what a man thinks must be judged from his actions. Judged by that standard, there can be no doubt that if peace was the aim of the Colonial Secretary there was the grossest bungling on his part. If there was not that bungling, then his aim was to bring about war. He may have thought it desirable and proper in the interests of the country to bring 634 about such a state of things as would lead to war or to an absolute surrender on the part of the Boers. If there was this conspiracy or this intention on our part to assert our supremacy, it would have been more fair, both to this country and to the Transvaal, frankly to have asserted it from the commencement, instead of putting forward first one proposition and then another, and finally, when the Transvaal practically accepted one or other of the propositions, finding some pretext to say, "No, we will not accept your concession," or "We will use it to gain some further concession." Whatever the motive of the right hon. Gentleman may have been, there is no doubt we are now landed in a war which, as the Colonial Secretary himself has told us, is a civil war, a bloody war, a costly war, and one which will leave embers of strife for generations to come. If it be statesmanship to engage in such a war, I humbly trust that Heaven will preserve us in future from the destinies of the country being in the hands of any such statesman. I did not vote against Supply; I did second a motion in favour of arbitration. I have never understood why there should not have been arbitration. President Kruger asked for it, and we refused, although we had just come from the Hague Conference, where we had recognised the desirability of settling international disputes by arbitration. I have never understood why, because hostilities have already commenced, we should not have recourse to arbitration in order to bring them to an end. When there is a trade dispute we do not say because war is going on between capitalists and workmen there ought to be no arbitration. We say, "Look at the misery already caused; we urge you now, although it is late in the day, to agree to arbitration." But there is undoubtedly a hostile force in British territory, and under the circumstances, while protesting against the war, I did not feel justified in voting against the supplies asked for by the Government. With regard to the debate upon the matter there was this remarkable fact. Parliament was summoned to hear, and presumably to discuss, a demand for £10,000,000. That discussion was burked; it was stopped by the closure. That is hardly the way to obtain the opinion of the House, or to allow that opinion to be frankly stated. I say that this war is undoubtedly due to the tortuous policy 635 of a British Minister, and that it will be one of the most disgraceful episodes in our history. I say a British Minister because I mean it Does anyone on that side of the House believe that if their own Prime Minister, the leader of their party, Lord Salisbury, had had these negotiations in hand, war would have taken place? I think not. They will be convinced that, one way or another, a peaceful solution would have been arrived at. The colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman are to blame in that they allowed themselves to be bustled and fooled by the Colonial Secretary. Little by little he dragged them from point to point until they arrived at a position from which they could not recede without, as they thought, loss of honour. They did not closely follow during last session what was going on. On the last day of the session, in the absence of the Leader of the House and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman seized the opportunity when he could not be answered to make a most belligerent speech. The right hon. Gentleman had previously stated his position. It will be remembered that in the discussion on the Colonial Estimates he came forward with a proposal for a compromise. It was evident to everybody in the House that that compromise was not particularly of the right hon. Gentleman's making because he read it, but it was the outcome of the deliberations of the Cabinet. Very, very different was the tone of the right hon. Gentleman in the speech he made on the last day of the session, and no sooner was the session over than he progressed along the warpath by leaps and bounds. Among other things, when the Transvaal Government absolutely agreed to a compromise, every word of which had been read by the right hon. Gentleman in this House, and which it was hoped would bring this unhappy dispute to an end, the Colonial Secretary specifically refused that offer of the Transvaal Government. Well did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin say that if Parliament had been sitting there would have been no war; and I go so far as to say that if Ministers had not been reposing in the country—although I am not complaining of that, because they were entitled to that repose—but if they had been in London to discuss everything which took place from day to day in the course of the negotia- 636 tions there would have been no war. If the House had been in session the right hon. Gentleman would have been questioned with regard to his despatch; he would have been asked whether it was to be regarded as an acceptance, and if he had stated that it was so to be regarded the Transvaal Government would have seen that the door was still open for further negotiation, and not, as they thought, and legitimately thought, slammed in their face. I think the worst act of this diplomacy was to create a situation which left the Boers awaiting a crushing force, and which told them that unless when that force came up they surrendered at discretion they would be annihilated. To my mind the object of that was to throw upon them the odium of striking the first blow. We know that a certain amount of odium is created against those who strike the first blow, though later on history will record the true facts. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have adopted the trick from Prince Bismarck, who contrived to throw that odium on the French, and who, after the war was over, boasted that he had done so. I do not think such a policy is looked upon by any Member of this House as a creditable one. Any war is sad, even when it is necessary; but what can be more sad than a civil war which is not necessary, and which is forced on poor people such as these who are fighting for their independence? This is not a great war; it partakes more of the nature of a raid or punitive expedition. We are fighting against a Republic who have only 40,000 armed burghers able to defend their independence. We call ourselves a Christian nation, and preach Christianity; but will not the blacks, when, they see the two white races at war, find it somewhat difficult to reconcile that war with the religion of peace which we preach? I recognise the bravery of our soldiers, but that very bravery, and the losses they must inevitably suffer, make it a grief to me that they should be fighting in what I believe to be an unjust and unnecessary war. Though our troops may show that bravery which they always have shown, yet there is no national honour to obtain, and no advantage to the Empire. The Colonial Secretary has himself told us that a war such as this must create a race feeling in South Africa which will endure for generations. The majority of the whites in Cape Colony, 637 as represented by the legislature and the ministers, have protested against this war; that colony is the premier colony, and if we were in any doubt as to the course we ought to take, the views of the colonists at the Cape ought to weigh with us. The war is very popular at this moment; but I have great faith in the good sense of my countrymen—they may be fooled for a short time, but not for long, and I think in the end the Colonial Secretary will find the war has not brought him that popularity he expected, when the evil of the war is brought home to the people, and the immense inequality between the two countries is realised. At present it is popular, and the poets of war—Mr. Swinburne, for instance—write poems upon it, and war songs are sung in the music-halls of London. But I do not think that represents public opinion; and when all the circumstances are realised the public opinion of this country will say the war ought never to have taken place. This war has been brought about by the capitalists of South Africa and Mr. Rhodes—whom a committee of this House has branded as a dishonourable man—and for the good pleasure of the Colonial Secretary. I recognise that a number of Liberals voted for the Amendment of my hon. friend, and in that minority were found all the Liberals who directly represent labour in this House. I wonder the war is not more popular at the present moment, in view of the lies that have been published by the Yellow press. I do not know how long the war will last, but I trust it will be only a short time; but before I sit down I wish to say that I hope the Government will give a pledge that on the termination of the war the settlement of the relations between the different parts of South Africa and the Empire will be reserved to Parliament. I have taken the liberty to say a few words at this late hour because I do from my heart object to this war, and because I believe it could have been avoided. I am glad to see from the division which took place a few days ago that the Liberal party have freed themselves of all responsibility for the war. Hon. Gentlemen opposite must bear that responsibility. They fully accept it, and they understand now at least what is the position of the Liberal party. We were told before the session commenced by the Jingo press of London that it would be hardly decent on our part even to discuss the steps that led up 638 to the war. We are not going to be led by the Jingo press of this country. We represent constituencies in all parts of the country, and I am convinced that everybody who voted on our side voted in strict accordance with the wishes of his constituents.
§ *MR SYDNEY GEDGE (Walsall)
I have listened with great attention to the larger part of the hon. Member's speech. I think, however, we have heard all of it before, or very nearly all of it. It reminded me of what we used to call in our school days "resurrection pie," when everything that had been eaten during the week was put in a pie for Sunday night's supper. The hon. Member draws on his imagination for his facts, and seems to think that weakness of argument is made up for by violence of invective. The only thing new was that the House of Commons ought to make the treaty with the Boers, and its own relations with the Orange Free State, when we have finished the war, instead of this being done by Her Majesty, acting on the advice of her Cabinet, the members of which have been elected by the constituencies for, amongst others, the express purpose of doing such things as carrying on wars and making treaties with foreign Powers. It will, of course, rest with the House of Commons to express their approval or disapproval of what the Government have done, but I hope the time will never come when the Queen, through her Ministers, will be deprived of the prerogative to settle matters of this description, which could certainly never be settled in a popular assembly. In speaking of this war I would venture to point out to the House what seems to have been forgotten, or to have not been sufficiently brought before the mind of the House, viz., that it is not one war but two that we are carrying on. We are engaged in wars with two nations independent of each other, and when the Government is charged with making war on these nations we ought first, perhaps, to consider the way in which the wars began. Let us take the Orange Free State first. When did we quarrel with the Orange Free State? What demand did the Orange Free State make upon us of any kind whatever? There were no diplomatic negotiations between the Imperial Government and the Free State Republic, except with re- 639 gard to one thing, and that was in respect of the demand we had made on the Transvaal Republic. And what do I find with regard to that? As late as the 29th of September last Sir Alfred Milner was informing the President of the Orange Free State that he hoped to communicate very shortly to the South African Republic the demands which Her Majesty's Government had to make for a settlement of the question. President Steyn offered his friendly intervention, and, writing on the 2nd of October, said he hoped he should be told what the demands were. As late as the 4th of October he was told by Sir Alfred Milner that while he intended shortly on behalf of the Government to put forward new proposals, the Government were quite prepared to listen attentively to any suggestions that President Steyn could make. One would have expected if President Steyn was friendly either to this Government or the Transvaal that he would forthwith have made these friendly suggestions. What is the next thing we hear from him? That his army has invaded Her Majesty's territory without any declaration of war. I maintain that it was an uncivilised and barbarous act, such as is scarcely known in the history of civilised nations, that a friendly State, in friendly communication with another Power, should, without any warning whatever, send troops to attack an innocent country with which up to that moment it had had no diplomatic quarrel, and I do hope that one result will be that when at the end of the war we have given the Orange Free State that chastisement she so richly deserves, we shall take care that she bears a very considerable proportion of the expense of the war which we have not made against her, but she against us. When we turn to the Transvaal, the case is rather different. To suit their purposes at one moment some hon. Gentlemen opposite spoke of the war as a civil war, and at another moment as a war with an independent sovereign State. If it is a civil war, then those with whom the war is made must be subjects of Her Majesty, and under her dominion. For my part I will accept the theory of the civil war, because I maintain that the inhabitants of the South African Republic are subject most distinctly to the suzerainty of the Queen. The hon. and learned Member for 640 Plymouth stated that no British Minister could, after 1884, honestly declare that Her Majesty was suzerain in the Transvaal, and he based that statement on one or two things which he called facts. Now, if he looks back to the history of the time, he will find that in 1883 President Kruger and two other gentlemen of the Transvaal came here for the express purpose of getting rid entirely of the suzerainty, and of making a treaty with this country as one independent State does with another. Lord Derby distinctly refused both these propositions. He declined to listen to anything that would get rid of the suzerainty, and he declared also that he would not have a treaty between two sovereign independent States. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth told us that the Pretoria Convention of 1881 contained a recital of certain facts. I do not think the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth could have read it, because it does not recite anything at all. It starts with the preamble, but that, though so called, is really the operative part of the document. This is the preamble—Her Majesty's Commissioners for the settlement of the Transvaal territory, duly appointed as such by a Commission passed under the Royal Sign Manual and Signet, bearing date the 5th of April, 1881, do hereby undertake and guarantee, on behalf of Her Majesty, that, from and after the 8th of August, 1881, complete self-government, subject to the suzerainty of Her Majesty, will be accorded to the inhabitants of the Transvaal territory, upon the following terms and conditions and subject to the following reservations and limitations.That is a grant from the Queen to her own subjects, the inhabitants of that country of self-government, subject to her suzerainty, on certain conditions which were then set forth in Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, &c.; and there is no other grant of self-government in existence at the present time except the one grant contained in this clause. Now, what happened in the London Convention of 1884? These three leaders had come to us with a determination to get rid of the suzerainty if they could. The London Convention does contain a long recital—Whereas the Government of the Transvaal State, through its delegates, have represented that the Convention signed at Pretoria on the 3rd of August, 1881, and ratified by the Volksraad of the said State on the 25th October, 1881, contains certain provisions which are inconvenient, and imposes 641 burdens and obligations from which the said State is desirous to be relieved, and whereas Her Majesty the Queen has been pleased to take the said representations into consideration, now, therefore, Her Majesty has been pleased to direct, and it is hereby declared, that the following articles of a new Convention … shall … be substituted for the articles embodied in the Convention of the 3rd of August, 1881.The Pretoria Convention gave autonomy, subject to the suzerainty, on the conditions contained in Articles 1, 2, 3, etc. The London Convention does not repeat the grant of the suzerainty; that was very properly struck out by Lord Derby as being no longer necessary. It assumes the existence of self-government subject to the suzerainty, but changes the conditions or articles to which it is subject. This is no treaty between two independent Powers; it is a concession on the part of the suzerain in right of her suzerainty (which is not touched by it) and agrees that the self-government subject to the suzerainty shall be upon different conditions from what had hitherto been imposed. The very form of the document shows that the suzerainty exists, and so do its contents. I will take one instance only. An article in the first convention defined the limits of the Transvaal. The second convention does the same, giving different limits; but all the surrounding country did not belong to England; part of it was native land. Except as suzerain the Queen could not alter the boundaries of that land. No independent State would allow its boundaries to be prescribed by another State? But the hon. and learned Gentleman argued that because Lord Kimberley (who was Leader of the Government in the House of Lords in 1884) when challenged for allowing this second convention to be subject to ratification by the Volksraad to which the hon. Gentleman alleged the first convention had not been subject, replied that the Volksraad was the sovereign Power in the Transvaal, and therefore it was right that the convention should be submitted to it for ratification; therefore, Lord Kimberley had declared the South African Republic to be a sovereign State. But I must point out that the hon. Member was mistaken in his facts, for the first convention is distinctly made subject to ratification by the Volksraad within three months. At that time undoubtedly the suzerainty existed, and therefore ratification by the Volksraad 642 was then consistent with the suzerainty If so, how can there be any inconsistency in 1884 between a similar ratification and he existence of the suzerainty? But, again, there is surely a wide difference between saying that some body is the sovereign body within a State, and saying that the State is a sovereign State. In every one of the United States of America a Governor and two Houses of Legislature are the sovereign power in that State, but not one of them is a sovereign State; or, to come nearer home, in the Isle of Man, the Tynwald—that is he Governor, Council, and House of Keys—constitute the sovereign power in the island, but will anyone pretend that the Isle of Man is a sovereign? State Indeed, it might be said that in a club the committee is the sovereign or supreme power—does that make the club a sovereign State? I do not believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument would impose even upon a common jury, and am amazed that he should have thought it worthy to be submitted to this House. The Convention gives self-government to the inhabitants of the Transvaal. It does not simply give it to those few who happened to be there at the time it was conceded, but to all the inhabitants. For the first few thousands who got possession of a country, two-thirds the size of France, to exclude from all civil and political rights all those who came after seems to me to be a distinct violation of the terms on which alone they have that autonomy, and to perfectly justify us as the nation from which most of those new inhabitants come in saying that there shall be equal civil and commercial rights. I am not going into the long story of how the period with which the franchise could be obtained was raised. I only wish to point out that the Boers have violated almost everything that we desired of them when the Conventions were made, and we, not only as the paramount Power answerable for the peace of South Africa, but as the suzerain Power, having the right to interfere, are amply justified in what we are doing. To go further, it must be remembered that the Orange Free State have made war upon us, not we upon them, and the Transvaal have done the same. Why? Negotiations had been going on for months in the hope of inducing Mr. Kruger to concede to our fellow-countrymen in the Transvaal those equal civic 643 and commercial rights which are enjoyed throughout our colonies in South Africa by Dutch and English alike. On September 22, the Colonial Secretary wrote that it was useless to continue the negotiations on their then footing, and that the time had come when our Government must formulate different proposals for acceptance or rejection by the Transvaal. Within the next fortnight two or three times Mr. Kruger was assured by Sir Alfred Milner that these proposals were being drawn up, and he would deliver them shortly. If they had been hurriedly delivered the Government would have been attacked for having so hastily presented an ultimatum bringing war upon us. Yet now the delay in delivering them is made the subject of bitter complaint. But meanwhile Mr. Kruger was assured by the Duke of Devonshire's speech that the proposals would be of a moderate nature, and if he had really desired peace he would have waited and even prolonged the time in the hope that when the proposals were made to him he might either be able to assent or might perhaps get them modified. But this man, who is represented to us as being so eager for peace, would not wait a few days for our proposals, and suddenly, on October 9, launched against this country his insolent manifesto. The Government is blamed for going to war. What would those who blame it have done? Mr. Kruger's demand would have been grossly impertinent if addressed by a State the size of England to one the size of the Transvaal. What should the Government have done? Should they have complied with it; ought they to have withdrawn their troops from the borders of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State—troops placed there to defend our own countrymen? Ought we to have promised to withdraw from South Africa all our troops who had arrived there after the 1st of June? Ought we to have sent back to England without permitting them to land at the Cape all the troops who were then at sea? Will any hon. Member venture to say that the Government ought to have done these things? But without even waiting for the reply President Kruger invaded Her Majesty's dominions, and this wanton act was perpetrated against the suzerain, in defiance of both conventions. Autonomy and the suzerainty were created by the same clause in the first conven- 644 tion. That clause is indivisible. If the suzerainty is gone the autonomy is gone. The Boers revert to their old position of subjects, and this invasion is not a revolt but a rebellion. Whichever it be, will any hon. Member dare to say that this invasion ought not to be resisted? Yet this is the making war for which the Government is censured. By their action the Government have secured the approval of all our colonies and dependencies. But if the Government of this great Empire thus challenged had acted in the same way some hon. Members seem to desire, they would have exposed themselves to the condemnation of the country and the scorn of the civilised world.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I only rise before the Colonial Secretary speaks, to call his attention to one particular point. He will remember that at the close of his speech, the other night, he asked me to mention to him what were the circumstances which I considered provocative in the course of these negotiations. I answered that there were two circumstances—first of all, the publication of Sir Alfred Milner's despatch, and the other was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman made on August 26 at Highbury. The first of these he dealt with. I will not go back upon that. I have said what I have to say upon it, and he has said what he has to say upon it. But the second question he never touched upon at all. Now the speech which he delivered at Highbury becomes a very material matter in view of what he afterwards stated, that he intended—it was his expectation—that his answer to the five years proposal of August 19 should be an acceptance, a qualified acceptance, of it. That despatch, the answer to the proposal of President Kruger which the right hon. Gentleman said he intended substantially to accept, was on August 28. That was on a Monday. But on August 26th—the Saturday before—he made an attack on President Kruger, and ridiculed and condemned his successive concessions as being like the outcome of a squeezed sponge. That was extraordinary language for a man who had in his hand an offer which he thought so good that he was intending to accept it. The despatch of August 28th, which he said he fully expected President Kruger to accept and close with, was preceded by 645 this provocative speech two days before it was delivered, and, therefore, as we are aware, the speech must have been known to President Kruger before he received that despatch. That is a point which I think ought to be cleared up. It was provocative at the very moment that a most conciliatory offer was made by the Boers, an offer so conciliatory that the right hon. Gentleman, I must confess to my astonishment quite as much as that of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, said he intended to accept it. Yet he preceded his despatch by this provocative speech, made at a garden party, in which he ridiculed the consecutive concessions of President Kruger, and used the menacing phrase that "the sands had well-nigh run out." This was the preface to the despatch which he intended to be, practically speaking, a qualified acceptance of that conciliatory offer. At the most critical moment of the negotiations, at the very time there was a conciliatory offer and conciliatory reply, he interposes this speech. I think it right to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this particular speech in order that he may give us a fuller explanation of the objects and results of that speech at that particular moment.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I welcome the brief intervention of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, because he has done what I think has hardly been done by any previous speaker: he has introduced a question which has not, hitherto, been completely discussed. I owe him, in fact, an apology. I did, as he says, ask him to state what were the particular points in the negotiations in which I had erred, and although I replied fully to one of them I omitted altogether to reply to the other. I will explain at once that I had a note on that subject, but somehow or other, in the great pressure of matter and in the course of a very lengthy speech, I did not observe the note, and I omitted to pay any attention to the question. Now I do not quite admit the description of that speech—it was a very brief one—which has been given by the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think myself that it was a provocative speech. In no sense, in no proper sense of the word, was it intended to be a provocative speech. It was intended to be a plain speech. It was intended to be a speech which nobody could misunderstand. A great deal 646 has been said in the course of these proceedings about the "new diplomacy." I have never accepted the description of my proceedings as constituting any change whatever from the diplomacy of other statesmen in recent years. If I had to defend myself on what is purely a personal point, I think I could give chapter and verse for everything I have done in these negotiations to show that I have strictly followed the principles observed by my predecessors and all British statesmen in the course of, at all events, the last ten or twenty years in dealing with foreign and colonial affairs. But no doubt there was a time when diplomacy proceeded on the principle of the maxim that language should be used to enable statesmen to conceal their thoughts, and if that maybe fairly described as the old diplomacy, I absolutely and entirely repudiate it. It appears to me, however wise such a diplomacy may have been when diplomacy simply meant a game of skill between individual kings and statesmen, it is altogether out of place in dealing with peoples. We speak now as representatives of peoples on all sides, and peoples have the right to demand from us that our views, whether right or wrong, shall be made clearly apparent to them so that there shall be no reasonable ground for any misunderstanding. If I can claim anything for a diplomacy which has been called mine, but which is really the diplomacy of the Cabinet—if I can claim anything for it, it is that from first to last there has not been the slightest justification for the statement made that President Kruger was in any doubt as to the object we had in view, the methods we were pursuing, and our determination to carry out those objects. It was in accordance with that principle of diplomacy, call it old or call it new, it was in pursuance of our objects that I thought the time had come when an accidental opportunity was given me—I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman, who has spoken in many places in his time, takes any exception to this particular pulpit from which the sermon was preached—at all events, it did appear to me, an accidental opportunity being afforded, that it was wise—knowing what we did at the time and what everyone knows now, it was a most critical stage in the negotiations—that I should once more endeavour to impress President Kruger with the 647 seriousness of the step he was called upon to take and the consequences that would follow any mistake on his part. It very often happens that it is undesirable to put into an official despatch collateral suggestions and indications of opinion, but a semi-official warning has not infrequently been conveyed under a similar method. I remember, for instance, a speech, which was very much applauded by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, of my noble friend the Prime Minister at a Guildhall banquet, in which he warned the Sultan of the consequences of proceeding in a course he had adopted. I am afraid his warning had not much more effect than mine, in this case, but it was equally justified, and, in my opinion, both were in the interests of peace. If hon. Gentlemen opposite really believe there was any period in the negotiations in which President Kruger honestly desired a permanent settlement of these questions and a satisfactory peace, then I cannot understand how they can blame me, when we were, as I have said, almost at the end of our tether, when the sands had nearly run out—how they can blame me for having given an unofficial warning that no further dilatory proceedings of the kind which we had had to encounter during the whole period of three months' negotiations would be permitted. That is my defence, and I leave hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to say what they would have done in my place. I believe I have frankly answered the question of the right hon. Gentleman, and though he may think me wrong I am still, looking back at the whole facts and circumstances, absolutely unrepentant. I have said that I welcome the intervention of the right hon. Gentleman, because I cannot but think that the debate of this afternoon has been other than that of a perfunctory character. I have little to say upon the speeches made, and I cannot help hoping that it is the general sense of the House that, considering we have other important business to transact this afternoon, the time has come when this debate might be brought to a close. Speeches have been made which it would be impossible for me to follow at any length without repeating over again the speech I made on Thursday night. It seems tome that some of those speeches, which were probably prepared before my speech was delivered, are rather belated; they take no notice of my reply, 648 they lay before the House no further fact or argument, they go over again all that was fully stated before I rose to offer my defence of Her Majesty's Government. Other speeches may be described, if not as absolutely repetition, as a réchauffé of arguments with which we are all familiar, and which have already been dealt with. I observe in the character of the speeches two sections of opposition, from Irish Nationalist Members in the first place, from hon. gentlemen whose boast it is that they are the enemies of England; and from a very small, and, I think I may say, a very extreme section of the Liberal party, who have shown themselves not only on this but on all occasions to be opposed on principle to all wars, without reference to the question of the justice of any particular war or negotiations preceding it. Let me say at once very briefly what is my general answer to the Irish Members. I recognise in the hon. Member for South Mayo, who has to-day announced his retirement from the House, a Member who at all events ever since he has been here has conducted discussion with moderation and personal courtesy to his opponents, and whom all of us—even the most bitter of his opponents—believe to be absolutely sincere in what he puts forward as his belief. To such an argument as he has addressed to us to-day, and other Members have used on previous occasions, I should pay the greatest attention if I did not know he would use precisely the same argument in any case where this country was engaged in war with a small or with a great power, civilised or savage. The basis of that argument, the principle animating it, the whole course of his mind is directed by what he himself describes as enmity to England. To the hon. Member who takes that view England is always in the wrong and her enemy always in the right. In such circumstances it is absolutely useless to deal with the argument in detail. I wonder what would have been the argument of the hon. Member in the case, for instance, of the Spanish-American war. Was he then indignant because the United States Government were attacking a Power which was infinitely less able to defend itself than the Transvaal has shown itself to be?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
At all events, the great contest—the almost determining contest—of the Spanish-American war was fought with hardly any loss of men to the United States. We have never denied that, although the Transvaal is less powerful than ourselves with all the force we can direct upon the Transvaal, yet the Transvaal Government have shown themselves foemen worthy of our steel. I do not know on what side were the hon. Member's sympathies during the Spanish-American war. I believe they were with the United States; at all events, I never heard from him a single word during the course of the war deprecating the proceedings of the United States. But not only was the disparity of the forces engaged at least as great as between the forces now engaged, but the contention of the United States Government—their right of interference—arose from the fact that at some distance from their own territory oppression, not of American citizens, but those of another race and people, was going on, and that justified, in the minds at all events of most Englishmen and Irishmen, the intervention of the United States. But look at our case. We are intervening in a country which is surrounded by our own possessions—interfering on behalf of our own people. Is it not perfectly certain, granting that nothing else was changed in the hon. Member for South Mayo except his enmity to this country—if he were a friend and not an enemy—can anybody doubt for a moment that his sympathy would be with us now as it was with the United States in the late war? Then I come to the argument used by a small section of the Liberal party, who do not, I think, contribute to its strength—that extreme section which I may describe, without any intention of offence, as the peace - at - any - price party. I know hon. Members who hold those views, like my late friend Mr. John Bright, deny that that term can be properly applied to them; but if they are not the party of peace at any price, at any rate they are never in favour of war, and 650 where the difference is, for my part, I confess I have never been able to see. To my mind, they put forward arguments entirely irrelevant to the present case. We are all agreed as to the evils and horrors of war. I do not suppose there is a man in the House who would not agree that war should if possible be avoided; the only difference between us is that whereas they think there is nothing worse than war, we think there are things worse than war. No nation can exist, neither its interests nor its honour will be secure, unless it is willing if need be to go to war and make the sacrifices war requires. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy went over again his reasons for thinking war might have been averted at different stages. With two exceptions, to which I will refer, every one of those reasons was answered by me completely on Thursday, and I have nothing to add. It would be almost an insult to the House to repeat what I then said with so much fulness. But the hon. Member says we ought to have invited the assistance of Mr. Hofmeyr. I certainly have nothing to say against Mr. Hofmeyr. I recognise, as the hon. Gentleman does, that he was animated by a real desire to secure a satisfactory settlement. But I cannot forget that when this perfectly and absolutely, as I have shown, illusory settlement was proposed successively by President Kruger and President Steyn, Mr. Hofmeyr was perfectly ready to accept it, urged it upon us, and declared it satisfactory. From that I conclude, not that he was not desirous of peace, but that he had an inadequate conception of the terms on which a satisfactory peace could be concluded. I go on to say that Mr. Hofmeyr was grossly deceived by President Kruger in reference to the merits of the proposal. It is stated on what I believe to be good authority—although I have not it on the best authority, namely, that of Mr. Hofmeyr himself—it is stated on what appears to be good authority, that Mr. Hofmeyr came away from Pretoria with promises from President Kruger which he communicated to the Prime Minister of Cape Colony, Mr. Schreiner, which led Mr. Schreiner to say, as he did say a little too hastily, that the proposal of President Kruger was one that ought to be satisfactory, while, as a matter of fact, the real proposal differed in the most essential points from the proposal sub- 651 mitted by Mr. Hofmeyr. Throughout the whole of this business there has been on the part of the Transvaal diplomatists an amount of crookedness that is altogether incomprehensible if one is to believe that at any time they were sincerely desirous of peace. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that I had refused to communicate with Mr. Montagu White. Well, I took the liberty to inform him that there was not the shadow of a shade of truth in that statement, whatever may have led to its being made. On the contrary, I should, of course, have been pleased to see Mr. Montagu White at any time as long as he remained the Consul-General of the Transvaal or was in any way connected with Transvaal matters. But I have never heard, it has never entered my mind—I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is better informed—that Mr. Montagu White was ever commissioned, instructed, or authorised by President Kruger or by the Government of the Transvaal to enter into any negotiations whatever with Her Majesty's Government. I have always understood that Mr. Montagu White's duties in this country were rather of a commercial than of a political kind, and it never entered into my mind to seek an interview with him in order to communicate, through him, with President Kruger on matters which could be much better communicated by Sir Alfred Milner at the Cape. Although I say that, yet if President Kruger had instructed Mr. Montagu White to ask for an interview, I should certainly not have refused to see him, and I should have gladly considered anything he might have had to put before me. There is only one other remark of the hon. Gentleman's that I need refer to, and that is his opinion that the great difficulty in this matter has been the distrust which, he says, President Kruger has felt of the Colonial Secretary. Well, I do not know what authority he has for that statement. I think President Kruger may possibly have a distrust of this country, of all British statesmen, and of the Colonial Secretary among others; but, at all events so far as his official communications are concerned—and it is only with those that I have any right to deal—there is no evidence of a special distrust of the Colonial Secretary. I go further and say that I cannot help thinking that there are many incidents in the Colonial Secretary's career which should have pre- 652 vented, at all events in the earlier stages, any such distrust. The hon. Gentleman taunted me with having been a member of the Cabinet which agreed to the Convention after Majuba Hill.
§ MR. DALZIEL
The right hon. Gentleman says I taunted him. I did not taunt him; I stated it as a fact. I think he was right then.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Well, I am not certain that I was right then; but if I make that admission now I have never made it before—I have carefully avoided doing so. At all events, I fully admit, I recognise that at that time I had my share in the responsibility of the Government. No one, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite knows very well, has any right whatever to say anything or indicate anything as to the opinions of separate members of the Cabinet to which he has had the honour to belong. I will say nothing of that kind, and I wish sometimes that other right hon. Gentlemen would not imply anything. I will say nothing about that, however. I accept fully my corporate responsibility as a member of the Cabinet which decided on the Convention which followed Majuba Hill. But was that an incident to cause distrust in the mind of President Kruger? And even coming later, coming down to 1896, I have been very strongly attacked in this House by my hon. friend the Member for Sheffield and other hon. Members, and I know that many of my hon. friends have thought me wrong in speaking from my place in this House in too conciliatory tones when expressing the views of the Government and the policy of the Government and their earnest desire to keep on good terms and not to interfere more than was necessary; in saying again and again at particular stages of these transactions that we had no right to interfere; in defending President Kruger whenever it was possible to defend him; in expressing belief in the meaning of his words and in his good intentions, and in concealing anything to the contrary effect which at times may have crossed our minds. Sir, I am not ashamed to say that I have again and again concealed my own suspicion; I have felt that you had no right to approach a man with whom you desired to come into agreement with an open and avowed expression of your distrust, and therefore I say that, at all 653 events until a very recent time—when the conduct of President Kruger in my opinion fully justified expressions of this sort—until this very recent time I do not think that I have said anything which could have justified this special distrust on the part of President Kruger to which the hon. Member referred.
§ MR. DALZIEL
I am very sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman; but by the ruling of the Chair I was not permitted to give the grounds on which that distrust was based. I was not permitted to prove my case, and I therefore think it is hardly fair for the right hon. Gentleman to assume that I was unable to prove it.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Oh, yes, we know all about that. I cannot pursue it, for the same reason as the hon. Gentleman, but I do not believe that there is the slightest foundation for any statement by anybody that President Kruger's alleged distrust was due to any cause of that kind. That is all I can say. But there is a sense in which I believe that President Kruger did distrust me. I think that in the course of this correspondence President Kruger came to the conclusion that, speaking as I did, not for myself alone, but for the Government, at last he had come across a Government which was in earnest. It was not our fault if he did not come to that conclusion; and if, as I believe, there has been between us from first to last a great gulf that could not be bridged over, then indeed, although we did not always know it, war was from the first inevitable.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Yes; I believe from first to last President Kruger never intended to give anything approaching equal rights to the white races in South Africa. I believe that from first to last President Kruger never intended to give any kind of acknowledgment of any sort of supremacy on the part of this country.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I really cannot give way. I do not doubt that 654 there were times, perhaps up to a very late period, when President Kruger—I speak of President Kruger, but, of course, I mean those who advised him as well as the President himself; it is not for me to divide the responsibility, I speak of President Kruger as the head of the State—I do not believe that at any time he was prepared to yield upon these essential objects, and we were not prepared at any time to abandon them. Therefore, as I have said, if that is true, as I now believe it to be, war, conflict, was inevitable. I think it likely that President Kruger desired to delay that war; I think it is perfectly evident to anyone that it might have been a great advantage to him to have postponed this inevitable conflict to some time when we might have been engaged in other difficult and complicated questions. Possessing the advantage which he already enjoyed from knowing, as I think he knew, what the eventual result of these negotiations would be before we knew it, how much greater would have been his advantage in the case I have suggested? Do not let hon. Members forget for a moment the facts of the case as they have been altered by the military preparations of the Transvaal. The hon. Member for the Bishop Auckland Division of Durham, who spoke earlier in the afternoon, said very truly that he had never complimented me, and I am sure he would deprecate a compliment from me, but, at the same time, I am sure I may say in the presence of the whole House, and with their consent, that he made a very weighty and a very moderate contribution to the debate. He pointed out that during the whole of this period, and for a much longer period—do not for a moment suppose that these transactions to which I allude date from the Raid, they date from long before the Raid—for a long period before the Raid the Transvaal was making preparations for enormously increasing its armament. And what is the result? In 1884 the same Government which granted the Convention of Pretoria, after Majuba, a Government which certainly could not be accused of any want of sympathy with the Transvaal, any lack of desire to keep on good terms with it, a Government presided over by Mr. Gladstone, a Government of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth was a most distinguished and influential member, that Government was forced in 655 1884, three years after the Convention had been signed, to send a military force to prevent the invasion and the breach of the Convention by the Boers. Yes, but then what was the force which was adequate, the force which effected our purpose, which turned back the Boers and prevented them from continuing the proceedings to which we objected? It was a force of 3,000 men, sent at an expenditure of something less than a million, under the command of Sir Charles Warren. And now, before war had actually broken out, if we desired to secure the slightest reform from the Transvaal—I do not care what it was—and the Transvaal refused it, we had either to give way or we had to send 50,000 men across the seas for thousands of miles in order to give effect to our wishes. That change is gigantic. You talk of this as being a small matter, and of 30,000 Boers more or less. Any way the duty upon us is enormous, the tax, the strain upon us is enormous. We are called upon now, in order to bring this war to a quick conclusion, which all desire, to send across the sea a force which no nation in the history of the world has ever sent before. Why is that? That is entirely due to the preparations which have turned the Transvaal into an armed camp, which have not only secured for it a grand defensive position, but enabled it to take up the offensive attitude even against the very large force which we are now retaining at the Cape. Sir, does any hon. Member think that that condition of strain and tension is a state of affairs which could have gone on for ever? Suppose that we had been fortunate enough in making a settlement, but that that still left a great deal of friction behind it and a number of questions—of differences which had not been entirely removed—what would have been our position? We should have had to keep in the Transvaal permanently, in order to defend our colonies against a possible invasion, 25,000 British troops; and to do that would require us to alter the whole of our military system, which is based upon the maintenance of a small permanent standing Army. If we had to keep this enormous force in a distant province it would be necessary to alter altogether the system upon which our Army is organised. And, therefore, the question is not merely a local, not merely 656 a South African question, but a question which really involves to a considerable degree the security of the Empire. Well, Sir, the hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs referred to a letter which had been printed in The Times newspaper from Mr. Selous. I have a great respect for Mr. Selous, who, I am told, is a killer of big game. I have never killed any big game myself, and therefore that increases my respect for those who have been able to do it. But, Sir, when any man predicts the downfall of the British Empire I admit I am not alarmed. Our foreign critics tell us that we shall lose all our colonies, and yet they are not happy. Some Englishmen even join in these pessimistic vatic nations. My right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin is concerned apparently lest we should fall from our high position. I remember that the same predictions were made one hundred, two hundred, three hundred years ago; they were current in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and yet we are still alive. It may be that this great Empire of ours is destined in the course of time to perish as other great empires have perished, and, as I believe, that the millennium will come; but, still, I see no reason to alter the course of my ordinary action to accelerate that period owing to the fear of these events. But,. Sir, when I come to deal with the particular predictions or supports upon which the arguments of hon. Members rest, I find that in Mr. Seoul's prediction there was an "if." I will not read his words, but I do not think that I misrepresent him when I say that he wrote, in effect: If you go forward with any view of crushing out what he calls a Northern people, you will be raising for yourself the same difficulties as beset you at the time and resulted in the loss of the American colonies, and the same consequences will follow in South Africa. I do not differ from Mr. Selous. That is a hypothetical argument. I also think that history shows conclusively that one great Teutonic people cannot hold in subjection another Teutonic people. But who talks of it? Certainly not we. Have we not learned the lesson taught us by the case of the American colonies? Has that been our course in recent years? Has it been our course in regard to any people? Is that the way in which we are endeavoring to hold Canada: is that the way in which we 657 are now holding Cape Colony? Does anyone contend that the Dutch in Cape Colony are "crushed" by our rule? "Crushed" when they have every right which Englishmen have in the colony; "crushed" when they are able under our system to return a Government of their own complexion; "crushed" when they are allowed, under our system, without interference in individual cases—and I am glad to think that this remark does not apply, at any rate, to the majority—when they are permitted in individual cases both to talk and write treason! Is that crushing out a people? No, Sir. And what reason is there to think that in the case of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, whatever may be the result of the war—in my opinion it is absolutely premature to talk about the results of a war in which we are still engaged—but, Sir, does anybody imagine, whatever may be the result of the war, that we shall fail to do to others in this matter what we have claimed for ourselves—thatwe shall refuse as an ultimate settlement that equality of rights to the Dutch in the Transvaal which the Dutch in the Transvaal have denied to us? As I have said, I believe that war had become inevitable, because, after all, there had been this great struggle between two great principles; and, Sir, the importance of these principles is not to be measured merely by their relation to our position in South Africa, but they are to be considered in connection with the fact that it is upon the assertion of those principles that our Empire is what it is, and can only remain as it is.
§ *MR. COURTNEY
I do not intend to intrude myself upon the House upon this occasion for many minutes, but the speech which my right hon. friend has just delivered appears to me to require two or three observations, which I venture to ask leave to submit to the House. My right hon. friend the Secretary for the Colonies began—in answer to the criticism of his Highbury speech by my right hon. friend the Member for West Monmouth, who had characterised the speech as provocative—by denying that it was provocative and terming it a "plain" speech. I will not attempt to define what a "plain" speech is; but the point which my right hon friend opposite made was this—that the "plain" speech was spoken on Saturday; a letter which was not "plain" was 658 written on Monday. The "plain" speech anticipated the "unplain" letter by two days and prevented that letter from being understood. That "plain" speech went out to South Africa, and two days after my right hon. friend, having spoken of the sands running out, having spoken of President Kruger as making his concessions like a squeezed sponge giving out water, writes that despatch in answer to the offers of the South African Republic, which he intended to be received as an acceptance, which nobody understood as an acceptance, which he individually prevented from being so understood. I do not dislike plain speech, but it is equally important that we should have plain writing, and there was no plain writing in this despatch between my right hon. friend and the South African Republic. My right hon. friend spoke of crookedness in connection with Mr. Kruger. I wish you could avoid such words. Even now, when we are at war with the Transvaal, I hope we shall speak of our opponents with fairness and courtesy. I observe with great satisfaction that our soldiers, having met these foemen in the field, having tried their worth and bravery, and having suffered at their hands, have repudiated the miserable charges of bad conduct, inhuman conduct,, uncivilised conduct, which the people who pander to a Yellow press had brought against the Boers. I say I do not like these words, but surely my right hon. friend, when he spoke of Mr. Kruger as being crooked in his diplomacy, ought to have reflected what would have been thought by a citizen of the South African Republic of the letter which he wrote, and which nobody understood—[Ministerial dissent]—two days after his speech at Highbury. I observe that several hon. Members dissent from that. I ask them one and all if they understood that despatch when they read it as a despatch intended to be received as an acceptance of President Kruger's offer? I ask leave to recall the words of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne. Hon. Gentlemen who occupy that position are generally instructed and "coached" as to what they should say. Whether that was the case in the present instance of course I do not know; but, of course, they speak habitually and regularly in harmony with the opinions and policy of the Government of the day; and the hon. and gallant Member who moved 659 the Address on this occasion denounced the conditions of President Kruger's offer, and described the action of the Transvaal Government as such as could not be tolerated. That was received from end to end of these benches with cheers, and these were the conditions to which my right hon. friend sent a reply which he intended to be received as an acceptance. I pass from these things. The question which this nation and which history will have to consider will be whether the reasons which lie at the bottom of this controversy, of this war, have been sufficiently justified. It is not a question of the ultimatum; it is not a question of the first shot, or of who began hostilities—the question is whether the demands which my right hon. friend recognises as lying at the foundation of all, whether they were of such a nature, of such importance and urgency as to require to be enforced by war. Upon that issue I do not wish at the present moment to expand at length. Upon that issue we shall be judged, although I do not wish at the present moment to judge. But I feel quite certain that the opinion expressed by Mr. Selous yesterday is right, as to the inadequacy of the occasion and as to the belief that, had these negotiations been in the hands of a person acquainted with the conditions of life in South Africa, an experienced, considerate diplomatist, we should have had not war but peace. My right hon. friend divides his opponents upon this and other occasions into two bands. He spoke first of all of what we may call the Irish party, and for some reason, I know not what, he entered into an examination of what would be their attitude if they had to judge again the war between the United States and Spain. I do not know what their opinion may be. The hon. Member for East Mayo may be able to give his opinion. I know myself—I have no hesitation in saying it—being a firm friend and lover of the United States, and desiring to see them progress as they have progressed, I thought that war on Spain was entirely unjustified, and it has brought upon them retribution, if not in Cuba, at all events in the Philippines. I pass on to the second band. My right hon. friend thought he could dispose of all the other opponents to his policy by saying they belong to the "peace at any price" party. I for one, utterly repudiate the suggestion that I belong to the "peace at any price" 660 party. I have advocated war on more than one occasion; I have no kind of fellowship with those who desire peace at any sacrifice. I want on this and on all occasions to compare what you are aiming at with the cost which you are going to pay. Now, my right hon. friend has discovered somewhat late that there never was a chance of peace.
§ *MR. COURTNEY
That there was a gulf between him and President Kruger such as could never have been bridged over. They would not yield the supremacy he demanded, and they would not confer the rights on the Uitlanders which he sought. This was the chasm which he discovered rather late, which it was quite impossible to bridge over and which justified war. As to the first point, do hon. Members remember that the solution of this question of suzerainty was one of those conditions of the despatch to which my hon. friend sent an answer intended to be received as an acceptance—namely, that the thing should be dropped on both sides; that nobody should say anything about it? This thing which my right hon. friend now tells us he told the South African Republic might be dropped on both sides constitutes one part of the great gulf that made war inevitable. At what time did he discover the existence of that gulf? I wonder; I cannot tell it. At some point or other he and others have been persuaded that there was terrible danger in South Africa, that there must be war sooner or later, and that it was better to have war now than later, when it might be an impossible task. My right hon. friend contrasted what is necessary now with what was necessary when Sir Charles Warren was sent out. I admit that in the interval, owing to circumstances we can scarcely examine, there has grown up an immense jealousy on the part of the South African Republic that their independence was to be taken away, and they have fortified themselves accordingly. Does my right hon. friend wish to draw any parallelism between the two cases? You sent out Sir Charles Warren, not to coerce the South African Republic, but to bring back some filibustering Boers who went over the border. The 661 Republic itself was not against you; you did not wage war against them. They might have been slow to bring back their vagrant Boers, their filibusters, but it was not against the Republic that you then equipped an army. If you had sent out a force in those days to put down the South African Republic it would have been something quite different from what you sent then; something more analogous to what you are sending now. The next point is the rights of the Uitlanders, and here we have got a five years franchise promised; at first seven years, and then five years, subject to conditions to which my right hon. friend sent an answer intended to be received as an acceptance. My right hon. friend is quite equal to denying my statement if it is wrong.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Oh, well, then, I do deny it. I did not think it worth while to interrupt my right hon. friend, because he knows I have said over and over again a "qualified" acceptance, and he always omits the adjective.
§ *MR. COURTNEY
Because he did not understand the despatch; it was never explained to him. Are we going to fight for the tenth point? As to that, Mr. Speaker, history I think will judge. I am too confident, unfortunately, of what the result will be. My right hon. friend spoke of the future and said quite rightly that it was premature now to talk of the result of the war. But I could not help thinking, when he spoke of the military strain which has been put upon our resources by the war in which we are engaged, of the military strain which will be put upon them for the maintenance of the peace which will follow. Some hon. Members look upon the Boers as schoolboys—once give them a licking and they will be your best friends ever after. That has not been their history in the 662 past; it will not be their history in the future. The sad fact is that on all sides we have a terrible lack of imagination of the type and character of these men, of their intentions, of their zeal, and of their passion for liberty and independence. You thought that by showing a little force the game would be won and there would be no war. You have been entirely deceived in that anticipation, and we have got war. That anticipation has been falsified, and you will again be at fault if you think the future of South Africa will give you such an easy peace as you contemplate. The point to be insisted upon again—the point the nation will have to be led to ponder over and investigate more deeply day by day—is why we are engaged in a war which on one hypothesis is being waged to extract something more liberal than a five years franchise reform, and on another is being waged to extract one-tenth of a demand nine-tenths of which was conceded.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
The right hon. Gentleman commenced his speech by an appeal to hon. Members on this side of the House to abstain from further debate on the subject, inasmuch as it was premature to discuss it now. That is a contention which I decline to accept. Recognising that we are engaged in a struggle in South Africa, I was prepared to support the Government in the difficult duty they have to discharge, but when I heard the speech of the hon. Members on this side of the House, who sympathised with the Government, and the provocation which fell from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman, I felt it was necessary for a Liberal Member who had endeavoured to arrive at a conscientious and unbiassed opinion upon the merits of the controversy to inform the House of the conclusions to which he came. I repudiate the statement that those who oppose the Government are a "peace at any price" party. Not long ago a great many of my hon. friends who voted with me on a certain Amendment to the Address were against the policy of the Government on the Chinese question, and were prepared to take up a very much more vigorous and uncompromising position than that taken up by the Government. Under similar conditions where any question of the honour and reputation of this country is involved, I do not 663 think any of those hon. Members would be less energetic or any less prepared to support the policy of the Government. I am certain that in that view I am voicing the opinions of my own constituents, and I do not think North-West Durham is singular in that respect. The same sentiments which you find existing in North-West Durham you will find existing in almost every constituency outside the metropolis throughout the length and breadth of the country. Now, let me dissociate myself from those hon. Members who have suggested that the Colonial Secretary intended that there should be war. I do not believe this. I have read the correspondence most carefully in the various Blue Books which have been presented to Parliament, and I must say that I am satisfied—though it does not in the smallest degree affect the value of the arguments which I shall adduce—that the right hon. Gentleman honestly intended to obtain a peaceful solution of this question. I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman took a view which was appropriate to the condition of things. I honestly decline to believe in the substantiality of the grievances. I do not mean to say that there are not grievances. I do not mean to say that there are not crying grievances, to secure the redress of which was the duty of Her Majesty's Ministers. But I deny that there were grievances amongst the Uitlander population which justify the extravagant language used. Sir, I cannot believe that some 70,000 or—if the Colonial Secretary's statement is to be accepted—some 150,000 British subjects would, even if they were unarmed, if they were absolutely defenceless, have quietly submitted to an oppression of that character which invaded domestic sanctities, and which placed not merely their persons but also their property at the mercy of an anarchical form of government. That is not my language; that is the language of the South African League, which, I submit, has been the promoter of the unfortunate conflict which has arisen. It is rather late in the day to present anything like a review or criticism of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. But I cannot help pointing out—it is my duty to do so—one or two points in these negotiations which have, I think, escaped observation in this House. The charge I make I make with reluctance, because, however humble a Member of Parliament 664 may be, the last step he should take is to cast animadversions upon an eminent public servant. But the flourish of trumpets—I cannot help thinking the somewhat immodest flourish of trumpets—with which Sir Alfred Milner left these shores, a flourish of trumpets which ought to have been reserved for his return when he had done well for his country, was not justified by events. I cannot help thinking that Sir Alfred Milner was the most unfit person to send out upon so arduous and so important a mission. This is not a mere empty assertion; I believe it. In briefly, and very briefly, touching upon this point, I ask the House to bear in mind that it was on the 19th of July last that President Kruger, with the unanimous assent of his own people, proposed a seven years franchise, and through Sir Alfred Milner that communication was made to the Colonial Secretary. It is to the credit of the Colonial Secretary that he at once responded to that invitation by stating that he had read Sir Alfred Milner's telegram to the House of Commons, and that he expressed approval of the proposal, coupled with the hope that the new law might be a basis of settlement. That telegram was sent off on the 20th July, and I see on the same date there appeared what was considered an inspired statement in The Times, that inspired statement—if it were an inspired statement—alleging that these proposals of President Kruger were acceptable to Her Majesty's Government and that the diplomatic difficulty was at an end. What was the attitude of Sir Alfred Milner on the receipt of that telegram? Let me make this general observation. I say it is the duty of a diplomatist who represents this country not to spare any exertion, personal or otherwise, that may secure the consummation of the purpose for which he was sent. Sir Alfred Milner, as soon as the Bloemfontein Conference was over, and even before, was in close touch and communication with the South African League, and with the Uitlander Council at Johannesburg and Newcastle. I do not blame him for this in the first instance. I admit that from the people on the spot it was the duty of Sir Alfred Milner to ascertain what their grievances were, and to investigate what redress would satisfy them in the event of an arrangement between the Government and the Transvaal. It was not only his right, but his 665 duty. But it was not a difficult task; it was an easy task. The Uitlanders' grievances had been stated and re-stated over and over again, and it was the duty of Sir Alfred Milner to take upon himself, at any rate jointly with the Colonial Secretary, the duty of deciding whether those grievances were sufficiently met by the proposals of the Transvaal Government. I submit that it was not the duty of Sir Alfred Milner to continue, upon every shuffle of the cards in this diplomatic game, to take the evidence and advice put forward by that body of irreconcilables in South Africa, the South African League. But what did Sir Alfred Milner do? So soon as he received this most proper telegram from the Colonial Secretary he apparently receives communications from the Uitlander Council, and on the 22nd July—only two days afterwards—sends to the Colonial Secretary a memorandum of the Uitlander Council criticising the scheme of the Transvaal Government, and stating that he thinks that the Uitlander memorandum is deserving of careful perusal, as it shows that the details of the measure are such that the apparent concessions made by it could easily be rendered nugatory in practice. That, Sir, is the reply of Sir Alfred Milner. Now, if that conclusion had been the result of his own examination of the draft Bill which was laid in his hands, there would be nothing to complain of in his conveying that opinion. But instead of communicating with President Kruger and asking him to modify any objectionable features in his scheme, he sends a communication to President Kruger that he regrets that they have passed the Bill, and that they have not given opportunities to the British Government to criticise it. Now, what were the fruits of Sir Alfred Milner's intervention? There were no communications with the Transvaal Government except through Mr. Conyngham Greene, and I am sure there is no fair-minded man on the other side of the House who will not agree with me when I say that throughout the whole of these negotiations Mr. Conyngham Greene has displayed the most marked bias against the Transvaal Government, and used language which was discourteous and insulting [Ministerial cries of "No."] It is all very well for hon. Members to say "No." If hon. Members were to read the despatches I am perfectly sure that they would agree 666 with me that the language used by him is not the language which happily usually characterises despatches. On 15th August, solicitous of meeting Her Majesty's Government, President Kruger formulates a proposal for a five years franchise. That is on the 15th. On the 19th the Colonial Secretary receives from Sir. Alfred Milner a new proposal, which we are told was accepted—that of five years franchise and eight seats. It is true it was a qualified acceptance, the qualification being the adjustment of differences of detail, but we know perfectly well that no opportunity was given for that adjustment. When Sir Alfred Milner received that acceptance it would be supposed that he would at once place himself in touch with President Kruger, show him the difficulties, and refer to the points which required explanation. Instead of that he telegraphs to the Colonial Secretary on 23rd August a despatch condemnatory of the proposals of President Kruger. He also sends, only three days after the right hon. Gentleman's acceptance, a despatch in which he says, "This period of suspense must be put an end to." What suspense? The Government had the proposal only on the 19th; the answer of the right hon. Gentleman accepting the proposal was sent on by him on the 20th; but on the 31st Sir Alfred Milner says that South Africa is prepared to go to war—
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
What Sir Alfred Milner said was that South Africa was prepared for extreme measures.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES
I said, what is also contained in the despatch, that he stated the period of suspense mast be put an end to. Inasmuch as the acceptance of the proposal was not received until the 28th or 29th, what justification was there for Sir Alfred Milner, in obedience to the inflammatory appeals of the South African League, to telegraph to the Colonial Secretary, "We cannot wait any 667 longer; we must have a change, "because if the telegram meant anything it was that. What were the fruits? The Colonial Secretary made no further effort, but, influenced—I say unduly influenced—by Sir Alfred Milner, sent that despatch in which he said that negotiations were at an end. I have not approached the consideration of this question with any preconceived opinion against Her Majesty's Government. My sympathies, in the first instance, were strongly with the Uitlanders. I believe I was the only English Liberal Member who ventured to offer a public apology for the Jameson raid. But after reading these despatches, studying the course of the negotiations with the Transvaal, and observing the total lack of effort on the part of Sir Alfred Milner to bring about a rapprochement between the two Governments, I have been forced to the conclusion that this war has been wantonly and without sufficient cause entered upon. I have constantly been in conversation not only with Conservatives, but with that insignificant fraction of Liberals who vote contrary to the traditions of English Liberal policy, and I never heard from any single Member that the war is on account of the refusal of the Boer Government to grant the franchise or the demands of Mr. Chamberlain; the general observation is that it is a war for our supremacy in South Africa, for the paramountcy of the British Crown, for the maintenance of the suzerainty. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin has pointed out, far better than I can hope to do, that the Colonial Secretary has himself repudiated that doctrine, and the same course has been pursued by Lord Salisbury in another place. What I say is that the issue of peace or war which was placed before President Kruger was not that of paramountcy or supremacy or suzerainty; the issue was, "If you give us reasonable satisfaction in regard to the franchise proposals, we will come to terms, and in the ordinary course of development the Uitlander population under their new political rights will be able to solve the difficulties which exist." I wish there had been a little more backbone displayed upon these benches with regard to these discussions. The Liberal party can never expect to come back to power as representing the opinions of the democracy of this country unless they are more loyal to those principles to which they owe 668 their existence. There is not one of us on this side of the House who is not deeply touched by the suffering endured and the heroism displayed by our soldiers. We English Liberals must wish for victory, and we believe that victory will rest upon our arms; but at the same time, when this conflict is over, when the cold fit comes, then the day of reckoning will arrive, and we—"peace at any price." though we are tainted with being—who are not ashamed to serve under the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for West Mon-mouth and Montrose, will meet, at no distant date, without fear and without dismay, the sober and deliberate judgment of the people of this country.
§ *SIR. JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
After the speech of my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin, with whom I agree on almost every other political question, I should like to say a few words. He observed that although the speech of the Colonial Secretary was very clear, the despatch he wrote immediately afterwards was quite the reverse, while the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth appeared to have been very much astonished that the Colonial Secretary should have described his despatch as being a qualified acceptance of the proposals of the Transvaal. I have read the despatch very carefully, and what puzzles and surprises me is how my right hon. friend finds that despatch so difficult to understand. It seems to me to be exactly what the Colonial Secretary has stated it to be—a qualified acceptance of the terms suggested by the Transvaal. The Colonial Secretary has been taunted over and over again with having by the despatch closed the door. Will the House allow me to read just a few words? After expressing approval of some of the suggestions, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say:—Her Majesty's Government agree to a discussion of the form and scope of a tribunal of arbitration. … Such a discussion … will be of the highest importance to the future relations of the two countries.It passes my comprehension how either the Member for Plymouth or the Transvaal Government could have considered that that closed the door to all further negotiations, or justified the Transvaal in what was practically a declaration of war. The Colonial Secretary has never stated 669 that this was an absolute acceptance, but only that it was a qualified acceptance. Some of the conditions insisted on by President Kruger were such as no English Government could have agreed to. I thought it was only fair to the Colonial Secretary that someone on these benches should rise after what has been said. The hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House somewhat severely criticised the action of Mr. Conyngham Greene, and went so far as to say that he thought every Member on this side of the House must agree that Mr. Conyngham Greene had shown a very unfriendly disposition towards the Transvaal Government. He has quite misunderstood the opinion on this side of the House. I have read Mr. Conyngham Greene's despatches from one end to the other, but I cannot see anything to justify the attack of the hon. Member. Earlier in this debate we had a long speech from the hon. Member for Northampton, to which I listened very carefully. He appears to me to misrepresent entirely what has taken place in the course of these negotiations. He attempted to draw a line of distinction before the diplomacy of the Prime Minister and that of the Colonial Secretary. I yield to no man in my admiration for the diplomatic abilities of the Prime Minister, but these negotiations are the negotiations of the Government as a whole; the Government are responsible for these despatches, and no doubt the Colonial Secretary had the very able assistance of the Prime Minister in framing all important despatches contained in this Blue Book. I listened with considerable indignation to the accusation against the Government of having been anxious to bring on this war—an accusation for which not the slightest justification can be found, and which ought never to have been made. The hon. Member for Northampton several times described this war as being "popular" in the country. I think the hon. Gentleman has entirely misrepresented the feeling of the people. This is not a popular war. We all deplore the war; but the feeling of the country is that it is a war for which we are not responsible; that it is a war which has been forced upon us, and I firmly believe that the verdict of history will be that in this matter England has done her duty.
§ SIR T. GIBSON-CARMICHAEL (Edinburgh, Midlothian)
The hon. Member for Northampton has said that the position of the Liberal party was clearly shown by the division which took place the other night, in which he voted with the minority. I am not ashamed of being one of the fifteen who voted the other day, nor do I consider that by so voting I forfeited my right to call myself a Liberal. What is the position at this present moment of the Liberal party as a party I do not know. The last speaker upon this side foreshadowed a campaign in which he was going to serve under the leadership of the Members for Montrose and Monmouth. I listened to the speeches of those two right hon. Gentlemen, but I did not gather that their policy was at all likely to be the policy which must and ought to be the policy of the Liberal party if they really believe this war is as criminal and unnecessary as the Member for Northampton supposes. Until I hear the view of the other Members I shall not believe that the Liberal party is likely to take an entirely different one from the one I take myself. The hon. Member for Northampton poured contempt on the views expressed by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, stating that those views were not worth trusting, because the hon. Member had been in South Africa and had been the guest of Mr. Rhodes. I have not been in South Africa and I have never been the guest of Mr. Rhodes. My information, such as it is, comes from the Blue Books, books such as that by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen, and the newspapers, including the one with which the Member for Northampton is said to be connected. I think this war is, perhaps, more popular at this moment than it deserves to be, and the time will come when it will not be so popular, when the people will feel what the reality of the war is. There will then be a temptation for men on my side to dwell upon the sins of the Government and not in any way to commit ourselves to any justification for the war. I am therefore, for one, anxious now to express my belief that there is justification. If I am wrong my constituents must judge. We have heard a great deal about the negotiations, and I am not convinced that the negotiations have been carried on as skilfully as they might have been. We hear of ill-feeling having been raised among the 671 Boer population. I should not wonder if that is so. But surely that ill-feeling was caused much more by the Jameson raid, for which the Government were not liable or responsible, than by the actions of any present member of the Government. The Raid was a result and not a cause—a result of a state of affairs which had gone on for many years, and we cannot but be convinced that President Kruger and his advisers, however high their aims may have been, were aiming at an end which this country could not ignore. I believe there are many Liberals who cannot wish to see the continuation of a state of affairs which seems to me to be opposed to every principle which Liberals uphold. A settlement of the difficulty must come some day. A reference has been made to the settlement that followed Majuba. The First Lord of the Treasury gave us the other night a definition of that policy which may please Members on the other side, but which I hope I was right in believing was not perhaps quite a complete definition from his view. At any rate, it is not a complete definition from our view. Whether that policy was a mistake or not I do not intend to argue. It may not have been wise, but, at any rate, we feel that it is not a settlement of which we need be ashamed. We believe it was an honest attempt made by a high-minded man to settle a difficult question once for all in a high-minded way. But it has not been the success which we anticipated. Why? Because the Boer rulers did not welcome that high-minded and magnanimous proposal in the spirit in which it was made to them. If there is any shame in it it should be on the side of the Boers. I merely wished to make my protest, and to say that I am not one of those Liberals who believe that we ought to go about the country denouncing this war. We regret and deplore the war, but we do not believe it is a war which is entirely criminal, and it is quite arguable whether it could have been avoided.
§ MR. HENRY BROADHURST (Leicester)
I cannot help seizing this opportunity of saying that I am not of the "peace at any price" party and never was. It is no fault of mine that I am constituted in exactly the opposite direction. But with regard to this war I have in various parts of the country expressed my great regret 672 as the result of the negotiations and my equally strong belief that if peace had been honestly desired there would have been no difficulty in bringing the negotiations to a successful issue without spilling a single drop of blood. The Member for London University said that this war was not sought by the Government, but was forced upon them, and popular opinion endorses the view of the right hon. Baronet. Exactly, but we differ as to the source from which the force came. We believe the force came from the South African League, the Chartered Company, and their rich friends. I should be very sorry to say that the Colonial Secretary intended to end these proceedings with bloodshed. But anyone with common-sense will say with me that he drifted into positions worse and worse, from which it became difficult to extricate himself, until ultimately the influence of wealth and of South Africa were too strong for him, and we are landed in a war which, in spite of the opinion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Midlothian, I solemnly believe to be a great sin and crime against humanity. The great mass of the working people of the country are against the war. The recent great gathering at Plymouth, representing nearly 2,000,000 workers, passed a resolution against war. Go where you will, if you submit an unbiassed statement to a sober, serious public meeting, you will have a vote against the policy that has ended in war. These are my opinions. I am not, as I have said, a "peace at any price "man, but the consequences and the responsibilities of this war will be on the heads of the present Government, and the day of reckoning—it may be near or it may be far—will come when England will be again sober, and when stockbrokers' clerks with flimsy bannerettes will not be taken as interpreting the feeling of this nation. I believe that the day will come when those who, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin and the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, and those who on this side of the House have braved the difficulties that surround them, have declared for truth and justice, and have done their best to restrain your enthusiasm and your wild delight when you obtain a victory over untrained and undisciplined forces, will be justified. We are now in a state of war, and we all wish a speedy success to our arms. Our country may be right or wrong but our 673 country before all when in danger. I wish for a speedy success because I believe that it is the surest way of husbanding the resources of the Transvaal and of preventing a greater shedding of blood. I hope victory will crown the arms of England, as it is bound to do, because of England's superior discipline and arms, because of the trained condition of her men and the science and skill of her officers. I hope that in that day some sense of British generosity will be remembered by the Government who may have to bring to a conclusion the settlement after the war, and that impossible, unjust, or unreasonable terms will not be imposed upon a gallant and brave foe. I utter these words because it is just possible that all this bloodshed will be brought to a conclusion many months before the House meets again, and it is on these grounds that I venture to say here what I said before, and what I will continue to say, that I believe this war is an unnecessary, and therefore an unjust war. If hon. Members listened attentively to the speech of the Colonial Secretary this afternoon they would have heard him disclose a foregone conclusion in favour of war. He said that there was a gulf—the breadth and depth of which he did not describe—existing between this country and the Transvaal which the franchise or any other conditions could not bridge over. This seems to justify the opinion of those of us who feared from the beginning that nothing but war would finish up the negotiations, because war was fully determined upon when the negotiations were commenced by those who control the Government. If the Government were controlled by its own Cabinet, instead of being influenced by the South African League and the Chartered Company, I believe that the Prime Minister would have been able to prevent bloodshed. May I put a question to the First Lord of the Treasury? There is scarcely, I suppose, an hon. Member in this House who has not relatives or friends in the ranks of our Army in South Africa. They come from every village and small town, and may I appeal to him to see that the information which is so readily supplied by the War Office, and which is within reach of the residents of London, may be telegraphed to the other great centres in the country and publicly exhibited? I think that would be a great advantage, and 674 that it would remove much anxiety on the part of the relatives and friends of those in the field. I think it would not be a great strain on the resources of the Treasury, and that it would not cause very great trouble at the War Office, whereas it would be universally appreciated by all who are interested in the welfare of our gallant men now in the field in South Africa.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
As to the diffusion of news—and especially news as to the safety of our soldiers—I should, of course, be glad to do anything I can to further an object with which all must sympathise. But I should have thought that the existing machinery of the newspaper press is far more effectual than anything which the Government could do. But it is a matter about which I will make inquiry, and if anything can be done to make the distribution of information more rapid, we shall be glad to do it. May I now make an appeal to the House with regard to the conclusion of this debate? I recognise that this is the last opportunity in the present session on which the policy of the Government can be discussed; and if there are gentlemen who have not already expressed their opinions, and who think it their duty to their constituents to express them by speech as well as by vote, I have no right to interfere with their discretion. But I press the great advisability of bringing this debate to a conclusion as soon as possible, because there are other matters which must be dealt with to-night, and it would be a universal convenience to reach the Finance Bill as soon as possible.
§ MR. DILLON
I should imagine that the Finance Bill, judging by our experience the other night, will not take much time to-night. I think it was discussed, practically speaking, only by the Irish Members. The right hon. Gentleman has shown a spirit of fair play in declining to make any effort to curtail forcibly the last opportunity which we will have of discussing these questions.
§ MR. DILLON
I would certainly feel myself rather hardly treated, although I have spoken frequently during these debates, if I had not been allowed an opportunity of speaking to-night, partly because of certain observations made by the Colonial Secretary, who devoted a considerable portion of his speech to the Irish Members, and partly because of a ferocious personal attack delivered against me by an hon. Member of which I have only been able to get particulars from friends who were present. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies devoted a considerable portion of his speech to a criticism of the attitude of the Irish Members during these debates, and he repeated the statement that he himself had previously made, and which was also made in a very humorous and amusing way by the First Lord of the Treasury, but which I am obliged to characterise as untrue, as far as I am myself concerned. The statement that we are always, apart from the merits of the case, and without any reference to race or creed or religion or circumstances, opposed to this country in any war in which it may be engaged—I speak entirely for myself—is not accurate. I have always endeavoured to judge any war or controversy in which this country is engaged according to its merits. I take two recent instances. When England was engaged in forcibly setting free the people of Crete my sympathies were with the gallant English officer who outran the orders of his Government on that occasion. And if England had had the courage, as she ought to have, and had shown the same zeal as she now displays on such a gigantic scale for the removal of the largely—I will not say entirely—bogus grievances of the Uitlanders, to control the gigantic iniquities of the Sultan when he committed atrocities unparalleled in the whole history of the world, my sympathies would have been heartily with her. On what ground did the Colonial Secretary base that charge—a charge which, so far as I am personally concerned, I absolutely repudiate and denounce as an unfounded and grossly offensive charge? He based it on the ground that on this occasion, and on certain other occasions, the Irish Members and the Irish people have expressed sympathy with the enemies of 676 this country. My attention has been called to the fact that in what I would call the happier days of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who was then plain Mr. Chamberlain, Member for Birmingham, used to work shoulder to shoulder most heartily with the Irish Members, whose assistance he was always very glad and grateful to get in the various assaults he was accustomed to make on the Tory Government and on his own Leader, whom he described as Rip van Winkle, and who is now the Duke of Devonshire. During the Zulu war, and when the disaster at Isandula had occurred, only a few days before, the right hon. Gentleman used this language:—He had listened with great sympathy and admiration to the eloquent language of the hon. Member for Louth. He (Mr. Chamberlain) had studied the papers which had been presented to the House with reference to the unfortunate war which they now found themselves engaged in, and he must say that as far as those papers went, as far as the information went which had at present been afforded to Members of the House, he believed that nothing had been produced which justified war. It appeared to be a war as iniquitous and as unjust as any in which this country had ever been engaged.I should like to hear the Colonial Secretary on the Mr. Chamberlain of those days, who, on the very eve of a terrible disaster to the forces of the country, took the side of this savage Chief, and denounced the Government as being engaged in a most iniquitous and unjust war. What right has the right hon. Gentleman to denounce me and the Irish Members as always sympathising, without reference to the merits of the case, with the enemies of this country, when he sympathised with Cetewayo and the Zulus? Am I not, therefore, justified in describing the right hon. Gentleman as a man who sympathises with savage chieftains when they are at war with England? Then he went on to palm off on the House a comparison which he has already made in a letter published in America, and which I think the American people will accept as one of the cruellest insults which has ever been levelled against them by a responsible man. When the Colonial Secretary attempts to justify the war upon the Transvaal by saying that it is analogous to that which arose when the United States of America attempted to 677 intervene in Cuba, in order to put an end to the condition of things there, he is making a tax upon the ignorance of some Members of the House and pandering to the prejudices of others. Nothing could be more preposterous than to make such a comparison. What was the condition of things in Cuba when the United States decided to intervene? In Cuba a rebellion had raged for upwards of three years, which the people of Spain were quite unable to put down, and there had been an almost unparalleled destruction of life and of property, a great deal of which belonged to the United States. Upwards of 20,000 people, according to most accounts, had died of starvation, in addition to which there were the terrible ravages of war. Is it alleged for a single moment that on the Rand a condition of things existed which could be compared with the condition of things in Cuba? The case has only to be stated in order to show what a monstrous and cruel libel it is on the United States of America to compare their action in the matter of Cuba with the action of this country in the matter of the speculators and Uitlanders on the Rand. No, Sir, the people on the Rand had very little to complain of, and there is this remarkable fact which has characterised the whole of this debate, viz., that in the abundant crop of reckless statements not an atom of evidence from beginning to end has been forthcoming as to any real grievances of the people. What did I read in The Times the other day? I quote The Times because it is the chief Rhodesian organ of London, and one of the main instruments in bringing about this war. A correspondent of The Times went down to Plymouth and interviewed a large body of 300 Cornish miners who were returning from the Rand in consequence of the threatened outbreak of war. And what did these miners say? The correspondent of The Times sums up his impressions. He said their statement was that they had no grievances which troubled them; that they were making good wages—better indeed than they could make in any other part of the world; that they did not want the franchise; and that they did not believe one-tenth of the whole of the British citizens on the Rand would take the franchise it it were offered then. I might quote from the Manchester Guardian and other papers to the same effect. The Uitlander petition was signed, said the 678 miners, because it was brought round by the "bosses," and they had to sign or clear out. But they had no substantial grievances, and they were quite content, with the vast majority of their fellows, to make money and return home to their families. If, as I believe, that is the true state of the case, then the pretexts on which this war has been declared are false from beginning to end. We have been told lately by the Prime Minister himself and the Colonial Secretary that one of the main reasons for this war was that England had been somewhat neglectful in her duty towards the native population of South Africa, and that now she felt it to be her duty to insist upon the better treatment of the natives. That is a reason which was thought of at the last moment, in order to bring within the war party large sections of philanthropic but ignorant people in this country who knew nothing at all about it. I consider that to be a peculiarly cruel statement, trotted out not in the earlier days of the controversy, when the representatives of the Boer Government had the newspapers of the world open to them and could have replied to these charges, but at the last moment, when the Boers could not reply, and war had broken out. Not one word was said at Bloemfontein on the subject, nor was it made a previous subject of any demands in the course of the negotiations. I assert without fear of contradiction that the whole of this statement with regard to the treatment of the natives is false from beginning to end, and I assert positively that the Boers of the Transvaal and of the Orange Free State have treated the natives very much better than the British Government. When the earlier settlers, says Mr. Ting, who speaks with great authority on the subject, came to Natal, they found from 5,000 to 6,000 natives in the country. From 1836 to 1843—that is the date when you commenced to drive the Boers out of Natal and to destroy the independence of the Natal Republic—this population increased from 6,000 to 100,000, through the natives coming out and placing themselves under the protection of the Republic. If they were badly treated by the Republic, why were so many thousands placing themselves under the protection of the Republic?
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member is now going back a very 679 long way—to the first occupation of Natal.
§ MR. DILLON
I shall not elaborate the point at all. I have only quoted these figures to prove that the natives have, by the most overwhelming proof that could be given, shown that they had been well treated by the Boers, because wherever the Boers settled the natives flocked in and the population of the natives increased. If they were so badly treated by the Boer farmers, as we have been told, and if, under British Bechuanaland, under the Chartered Company, and under all the surrounding territories, they got getter treatment, how can you reconcile the fact that they have settled in these enormous numbers under the Boers? I say that the facts which I have quoted are to my mind abundant proof that the treatment of the natives under the Boer farmers and in the independent Republics has been good on the whole, and at all events better than in other parts of the country under British government. I turn for a moment to another proof of the statement—to the report of Sir Richard Martin in reference to the administration of the South Africa Company, issued so recently as 1897. It was found by Sir Richard that compulsory labour did undoubtedly exist in Matabeleland, if not in Mashonaland also—thatin fact there was slavery. In the face of this fact can any hon. Gentleman get up and claim that the treatment of the natives by the Imperial Government—as represented by the Chartered Company—was better than the treatment of them by the Boer farmers? I could give further testimony on this point. We have the statement of a Minister whose word has not been impugned, that it was the practice of Englishmen under the Chartered Company to raid native villages and carry off women for their own use. That, indeed, was one of the causes of the rebellion. And yet you are using these calumnies against the Boers in order to drive them from the land which they took over as a wilderness and have made to prosper! Natal was discovered by the Boers long before the British set foot there. The whole of this campaign of alleged atrocities and ill-treatment by the Boers of the natives is unjust and untrue. I come now to the speech of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland. He charged me, in very violent language, 680 with having made certain scandalous and disgraceful charges against the Government, and with saying that they were inciting the Basutos to attack the Orange Free State. I did not say that. What I did say was that certain newspapers in this country had incited the Basutos, and I stand by that statement. The telegrams published to-day make the situation very much more serious. I am challenged to name any paper which has given this incitement. I find in the Standard of September 28—long before Kruger delivered his ultimatum—a statement to the effect that the news from native territories was well calculated to give pause to even the most adventurous spirits at Bloemfontein, for it was clear the natives near the Orange Free State were not likely to remain inactive spectators. The language of the article throughout was such as to convey to the Basuto chiefs the impression that we looked to have their assistance in case of war. Hon. Members opposite may doubt it, but the Basutos are an intelligent people, and read extracts from these newspapers which are telegraphed from England. Then again we have the remarkable telegram from Sir Godfrey Lagden, which was published in this morning's papers. It has an important bearing upon this question of the natives. It is a despatch evidently intended to be used in the future, and it forms, to my mind, most unpleasant reading. It conveys to my mind the impression that Sir Godfrey Lagden believes and expects that the Basutos will invade the Orange Free State, and that he is preparing his defence for that action. Sir Godfrey Lagden does not give the slightest proof of his statement that "the Boers have unwisely attempted to shake the allegiance of the Basutos to Her Majesty's Government," and the whole of the telegram indicates a distinct anticipation that the Basutos may possibly get the hint and be let loose on the white people, and that the ground is being laid for saying it is all the fault of the Boers. If the Basutos are encouraged, or incited, or allowed—for they are under the control of Her Majesty's Government—to invade the Free State, it will be one of the blackest and most infamous acts in the history of this country. Let me say this in conclusion: I notice in a long review Mr. Fitzpatrick admits that one of the chief grievances of the Uitlanders 681 was that President Kruger's Government refused to cheapen production, and that on the contrary the official rate of wages in the Transvaal was increased from £2 18s. 10d. in 1893 to £ 3s. 6d. in 1895. In 1895 in the Transvaal the wages averaged £3 3s. 6d. a month, and in the other South African States from 15s. to 30s. Does that look as if the natives on the Rand and in the Transvaal were treated worse than the natives in the other States? I very much doubt, if Rhodes and the Colonial Secretary triumph in this war, and there should be a reduction of wages in consequence, whether the natives will prefer it.
§ MR. DILLON
If the hon. Member for Sheffield goes to the Rand and asks the natives if they prefer that state of things or the state as it was under the South African Republic, I wonder whether he will be satisfied with the answer. I turn to another point. For many weeks a campaign has been carried on against the Boers in the newspapers under the heading of "Boer atrocities," and every form of libel has been urged against these unfortunate people. I will draw attention to three or four of these statements in order to prove that they are deliberate falsehoods disseminated for the purpose of inflaming the war passion.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is wandering from the subject. While the hon. Gentleman is entitled to discuss the policy of the Government in reference to the war, he is out of order in including in the discussion statements in newspapers for which the Government are not responsible.
§ MR. DILLON
I shall not go further than a particular page of this newspaper, and I think, Sir, you will admit that I am in order here, because these things were referred to and dwelt upon and made much of by the Colonial Secretary. Am I not therefore entitled to show that the statements from beginning to end are false?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am not aware of any debate having taken place on those 682 statements. Possibly there have been statements made in which the Boers have been charged with being cruel, but I am not aware that there has been any debate upon them.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY (Yorkshire, Shipley)
On a point of order, Sir, how can the hon. Gentleman prove that they are false?
§ MR. DILLON
I have selected a series of these statements, and I am prepared to prove that they are false. I take one case of alleged ill-treatment of the Uitlanders. What really happened was that a party of Uitlanders coming down from the Transvaal indecently assaulted a coloured girl, and the police were obliged to interfere—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is now doing exactly the thing which I desired him not to do. The hon. Member will not be in order in dealing with these statements. They will give rise to counter statements, and we shall thus wander altogether from the only question before us—the question of the policy of the Government.
§ MR. DILLON
I will not say anything further now, but on another occasion I shall prove that these statements are untrue and unfounded. Now, let me turn for a moment to the historical aspect of the case. What appears to me to have been overlooked to a very large extent is the historical claim of this people to be a free and independent nation. Many hon. Gentlemen appear to be of opinion that the Colonial Secretary and the Government are morally justified in assuming towards this people a tone of superiority. I am convinced that a great deal of the mischief which has arisen and culminated in this disastrous war is due to the fact that that aspect of the case was forced to the front by the despatches of the Colonial Secretary. During the whole period of their history this people have had only too much ground to, suspect the British Government. They went into the Transvaal and the Orange Free State from Natal because they were refused by the British Government any share in the government of the country, and they founded these two Republics, which had no more to do with the suzerainty or over lordship of this country than if they had been founded on 683 the other side of the globe. The Orange Free State was then annexed, but on a subsequent occasion the Government solemnly cut off the Orange Free State and declared it a free and independent country. From 1842, when the British troops first came to Natal, which by the fathers of these people who are now fighting had been redeemed from a howling wilderness, they have constantly been molested. On that occasion the Volksraad protested against your action, and the eloquent words used then are just as applicable now. You drove the Boers out of Natal in 1843, and from that time you have never ceased to plot against those unhappy men, and to incite the natives against them. It is all very well to criticise Mr. Kruger's policy. Mr. Kruger would have been more than human if he had approached these negotiations in any other way than that of a man steeped in suspicion, remembering the persistent, unjustifiable, and cruel way in which you have continually helped—directly sometimes, sometimes indirectly—to rob that people of their liberty. I say that to keep the question of the suzerainty and the over-lordship of this country to the front in these negotiations was to make war inevitable, as the Colonial Secretary says it all along was, and to justify to the fullest possible extent the action taken by the Transvaal Government in their extremity. We have seen the beginning of this war. An enormous quantity of blood will be shed and a great deal of suffering will be caused in this country. I am sorry that this should be the case. The soldiers and officers have nothing to do with the cause of the war, and they are bound to do their duty when they are called upon, even when the war is unjust. But what, after all, is the amount of suffering in this country compared with the suffering which you are inflicting upon the South African people? Here one man in a thousand, perhaps one man in ten thousand, goes to the war, and your life goes on as we see it in this great city, practically unaffected, or but slightly affected. But in the Transvaal the result of this most terrible war will be carried home to every homestead. I read in yesterday's newspaper a letter from an Englishwoman living still in Johannesburg, who, like most people who have been to Johannesburg, condemned the war as unnecessary. She described the 684 trains passing from Johannesburg on their way to the front crowded with burghers, and mentioned the fact that, amongst those going to the front, were numerous boys as young as fourteen who had been armed, by the side of men of seventy. When you have slaughtered a third of the whole population of the Transvaal, do you think the time will come to knit the two races together in harmony? We must have many thousands slaughtered before that happy event can be arrived at, and for my part, having read, and read with sympathy and enthusiasm, the past history of this race, I do not believe that even the terrible slaughter and punishment which you now propose to inflict upon them will bring them under the harrow or crush their spirit. You may garrison their country, you may carry to every home in the Transvaal the sad tidings of death, you may make every woman in the Transvaal a mourner through this war; but you will not break the spirit of these people. This war is to them an inspiration. They have never turned their backs upon a foe, and they will never for a single moment be false to that love of liberty and noble spirit which is prepared to sacrifice everything rather than bow the neck under the yoke of the oppressor.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
I, who have already spoken several times upon this question, would not have ventured to trespass upon the time of the House again had I not been present when the Colonial Secretary delivered his second speech this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman made certain references to the action of the Irish Members in these debates, and he also referred to their attitude in the American and Spanish war. Certainly I, as one who sympathised extremely with the United States in that war, and did not hesitate to express that sympathy on every occasion, cannot allow the right hon. Gentleman's speech to pass without endeavouring to show why I, at least, consider the greatest possible difference exists between the causes which led to that war and the causes which have most unfortunately led to the present war in the Transvaal. Before proceeding to show what I consider the difference to be, I may say, in passing, that I was somewhat amused to hear the Colonial Secretary pay a handsome compliment to the chivalry and 685 fairplay always shown in this House by the hon. Member for South Mayo, who declared this afternoon his determination to resign to-morrow. That only bears out what my observation has taught me since I entered public life. An Irish Nationalist, in order to have a eulogium passed upon him, must do one of two things to secure a eulogy from statesmen: he must either die and be buried, or resign and be expected to give no further trouble to the House of Commons. As compliments can only be purchased in this way, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I personally am no candidate for compliments. The right hon. Gentleman said that because we sympathised with the United States, therefore we should sympathise with England in the attack on the Transvaal. He said that the United States went to war with Spain in order to put down intolerable oppression, and that England has gone to war in order to put down intolerable oppression in the Transvaal. Why, Sir, the case is exactly the reverse. The United States went to war with Spain in order to liberate from intolerable oppression the Cuban people, who had been struggling year after year, generation after generation, against the tyranny of Spain. This war with the Transvaal has been waged not to deliver the Uitlanders from intolerable oppression or anything like that which the Cubans underwent, but rather to put upon the original owners of the Transvaal a government which is foreign to them, and a rule which cannot prove anything but detestable to them. However, there might be some analogy between the cases of Spain and the Transvaal if you could show me that the Uitlanders, whose alleged wrongs are to be redressed, behaved in anything like the same way that the Cubans behaved. The Cubans fought for years. Did the Transvaal men ever strike one blow to assert what they considered to be their rights and privileges? If you could show that the Uitlanders of the Transvaal, like the inhabitants of Cuba, had been in arms struggling for three or four years against tyranny, then yon might make some case for going to help them; or if you could show, as was the immediate cause of the outbreak of this war between Spain and the United States, that the Transvaal burghers had blown up one of your first-rate ironclads, and had killed some three or four 686 hundred of your brave sailors, then you could, with some justice, say that there was some slight parallel between the case of Spain and the United States. No, Sir, the United States went to war with Spain to free Cuba, and Cuba is free to-day, practically speaking. You are going to war with the Transvaal, and you are going to place a majority of the inhabitants of the Transvaal under a Government which will be foreign to them. I listened in vain to the speech of the Colonial Secretary, and to every speech on the Opposition side, to get some tangible proof that the average Uitlander of the Transvaal has been subjected to oppression or to outrage. With regard to the question of franchise, no doubt after a certain number of years people in a foreign country ought to receive the franchise. That, I believe, was one of the grievances of the Uitlanders. The difference over the franchise is one of two years. President Kruger offered seven years; the Government insisted upon five. If that is your only reason for war, you are going to bring about all this terrible, carriage, misery, and desolation simply on a question as to whether the Colonial Secretary with five years or President Kruger with seven was right. Another grievance is that the Uitlanders are taxed beyond all proportion. The Uitlanders, no doubt, pay heavier taxes than the ordinary natives. But is that such a great injustice? What do the Uitlanders get in return? Why, they have made fortunes there; many of them have become millionaires because of the gold and the precious metals they have been allowed to take from the soil of the Transvaal. And not only have the millionaires cause to bless the day they were allowed to mine in the land, but the ordinary workers have received better wages in the Transvaal than miners in any other part of the wide world. Leaving aside the questions of the franchise and taxation, where is the slightest proof of any other disability under which the Uitlanders suffer? We have had the case of Edgar trotted out now and again, where a policeman killed a Uitlander in the course of a drunken brawl—a thing which happens in any part of the world, and which may naturally be expected to occur in mining centres, where such rough and ready characters congregate. Not a single proof has been adduced nor a single instance given to show that the Uitlanders 687 were not allowed to live as peaceably and with as much freedom from molestation of any kind as foreigners resident in any country on the face of the earth. Yet we are told that British subjects were perpetually insulted. At the time of the Jameson raid we were told by the Poet Laureate that Dr. Jameson went as a gentleman to the rescue of British women and children in Johannesburg who were in danger of their lives and honour. I challenge anyone here to instance one case where a British woman or child in any part of the Transvaal has been subjected to outrage, intrigue, ill-treatment, or insult. This Poet Laureate, and these other gentlemen who play on the passions of the people of this country by telling these outrageous falsehoods about the burghers, instead of being given positions of honour, ought to be punished as being calculated to lead to crime and misunderstanding between the people of the two countries.
§ MR. SPEAKER
A discussion on what the Poet Laureate may or may not have said is scarcely in order on the Appropriation Bill.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
I will not refer to the precious Poet Laureate again. But I was endeavouring to show that the war had been brought about by misrepresentations, and that such allegations as I have referred to are utterly false, and that it cannot be said with truth that any serious outrage has been committed upon. British subjects in the Transvaal.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The general statement of the hon. Member is not out of order, but it would be altogether out of order to discuss the question as to whether certain words were used by certain persons, whether Poet Laureate or any other person. It would be quite impossible to carry on the debate on those lines.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
I was endeavouring to show—[Ministerial 688 laughter.] Really I think when the newspapers are full, morning and evening, of harrowing details of the carnage of war, and of the spilling of the blood of our friends and relatives, Members should not be so very hilarious upon a subject of this kind.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
I was endeavouring to show that the Jameson raid was brought about by statements of this kind, and the policy of Her Majesty's Government in declaring war is defended on the ground of the existence of such grievances and outrages. What other reason is there for the war? There is the question of suzerainty. Nobody has been able to define what suzerainty in the Transvaal exactly means. Paramountcy, suzerainty—different words have been used, but the meaning of neither has been definitely explained. It is generally supposed to have meant that the Transvaal had no right to enter into an alliance or engagement with any foreign country without the cognisance of the Government of this country. If that is suzerainty, when have the Boers attempted to evade it? Nothing of the kind has been done. Surely, when dealing with a term so vague, and so little understood, it would have been time enough to go to war when the Transvaal had in defiance of the suzerainty entered into relations with some foreign Power which they were not entitled to. What, then, are the reasons for the war? Because of seven years instead of five for the franchise? Because there is some vague idea that at some future date the Transvaal may object to what you call the suzerainty? Are these the reasons why a bloody and horrible war has been entered upon? Ah! Mr. Speaker, we are told that the negotiations broke down, that the Colonial Secretary exhausted every possible degree of patience with the Transvaal. I am not surprised that the negotiations broke down when I hear the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman himself. These people are brave, and they are fighting for what they think is right. And yet how does the chivalrous Gentleman on the Government Bench speak of them? He said that what brought about most of the trouble was that the Transvaal burghers wanted to 689 have a free hand with the natives, or, to use what he called a "vulgar expression," they wanted to be allowed to wallop their own niggers. A truly nice phrase to use with regard to a brave people that are fighting against you like men! That phrase perhaps indicates the fine spirit of contempt and intolerance which underlay most of the negotiations of the right hon. Gentleman. No one can be surprised that with that spirit and temper exemplified the negotiations did not come to a successful issue. Then we are told that Mr. Kruger was "crooked" with his negotiations. What does "crooked" mean in diplomacy or in polities? I hold that, in order not to deserve that epithet, a diplomatist or politician should stand consistently by his party, by his friends, and by his early declarations: then nobody would call him "crooked." But to be called "crooked" a man should desert his leader, desert his policy, swallow all his early declarations, and go in for things which in his youth he objected to and fought against as strongly as anybody could do. That is what I should call being "crooked." But I am only a mere Irish Member, and, as such, I will not use such a phrase in describing anybody, whether President Kruger or the Colonial Secretary. I will conclude by referring to what in my opinion is the most sad and miserable thing in connection with the whole of this horrible trouble, and that is, that arbitration, as a means of settlement, has been completely ignored. One may say that for a great Power to arbitrate in the case of a dispute with a small Power is to "come down," and is undignified. Nothing of the kind Nothing of the kind. I see the whole world protesting against war and believing in peace, and arbitration secures that justice shall be done without resorting to war. I say that a great Power like England, which adopts a course of this kind against a Power like the Transvaal, adopts a course which justice and liberty loving men in all parts of the world would respect. The Transvaal repeatedly offered to have this matter left to arbitration. What had you to fear? If the Boers had treated the Uitlanders as you allege the arbitrator would consider it. Adopting the usual course, the arbitrator would not be a citizen of the Transvaal or of this country, but he would be some man in whose strict impartiality both parties would have confidence, and if it is true 690 that the Boers have treated us outrageously, as you say they have, then why not arbitrate? What reason have you to believe that an arbitrator would not hold the scales of justice equally between you, and do full justice to your subjects in the Transvaal, if these outrages of which you complain are true? There is no reason why there should not have been arbitration, and it is a miserable thing to see despatches showing appeal after appeal for submitting the whole case to arbitration which were refused on the part of this country. I can only say that I for one feel sincerely glad that, whatever the outcome of this war may be, I at least have not in any way the slightest responsibility for it. We are told by the Colonial Secretary and by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that Irishmen, under every conceivable circumstance, are against this country. There is something that Irishmen are more consistently opposed to than English men are, and that is tyranny. Show us any country, any race, or any people in any portion of the world who we believe are having their just national rights taken from them, and we will support them, whether they are attacked by England or by any other Power. The right hon. Gentleman said it was inevitable that Irishmen should upon occasions like this always be against England. If the Irish people are liable to come to a conclusion against war and the policy of this country, it is because they consider that they have been badly treated by England in Ireland. If you only granted to Ireland what you profess you are willing to grant to the Boers I should not be surprised to see Irishmen following the example of your colonies in any just cause. It is exactly because those colonies which are helping you have received from you what you have denied to us that they are with you, and that is the reason why we are against you in this war. I know that people are divided on matters of this kind, and I have as much reason as most Members of this House to regret the horrible loss of blood and the carnage which is taking place in South Africa. I regret it, because I believe it is unjust and cruel to the Boers, because I believe these little Republics, if they had been left alone, would have given your subjects all that they desire. I regret this bloodshed because it is caused by the invasion of the rights of these small Republics. 691 Although I may not be believed in this House, I say I object to this war because it is cruel and unjust to the Boers. I object to this war also because, in my heart, I believe it is cruel and unjust to your own people as well. I believe that nobody can read the list that is published of the deaths and the merciless wounds inflicted upon officers and men in English and Irish regiments with anything but feelings of pain and regret. As far as we are concerned, at least, Irishmen can say that with regard to this terrible policy they had no share in it. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary referred in a very sneering manner to the letter written by Mr. Selous, who is an Englishman who hopes for a speedy success of the British arms. Mr. Selous has lived for thirty years in South Africa, and any man who has read his letter and has listened to the speech in reply made by the Colonial Secretary must admit that Mr. Selous has made out an unanswerable case, and certainly the right hon. Gentleman, with his cheap sneers about never killing big game, has not answered Mr. Seoul's indictment. The Colonial Secretary, unlike Mr. Selous, has not set himself at any time of his life to the pursuit of big game in South Africa, but he has set himself deliberately to the propagation of this disastrous war policy, which has resulted, not in the slaughter of big game in South Africa, but in the slaughter of people of your own race, and a great many of my own race as well, I am sorry to say.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
I will not keep the House very long. The first thing I would say is that, with an overwhelming majority in this House against our views, you have given us a fair and patient hearing. I have to express my acknowledgments to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury for this consideration, and I feel grateful to him for permitting me now to enter my protest against this War. I will simply say that this war is, in my judgment, one of the basest and blackest transactions in our history. It is simply a war of extinction against a small people, undertaken with the meanest and most sordid motives, and undertaken in the interest of a Stock Exchange lust for the gold mines. I was sorry to hear the attack made by the Colonial Secretary upon the Irish Members. I think that, at such a time as this, 692 the right hon. Gentleman should abstain from attacks upon Irish Members. The attack he has made reflects very gravely upon himself, for, during the first ten years of his career he was very proud to associate with the Irish Members. I remember that we kept up, many years ago what were called obstructive tactics in regard to the annexation of the Transvaal, and the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary fought side by side with us. This war is a mean and contemptible one, and if anyone will look at the initiatory stages of it they will find that it has been brought about largely by demonstrations of delight, first of all on the Stock Exchange of London, and afterwards on the Stock Exchanges of Liverpool and Manchester. And why? Because they knew the war would be good for trade, and because they were lusting for the gold mines in the Transvaal which are the real cause of this war. I say that even Members of this House will gain great advantages from the war, and perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer will bear this in mind. If I am spared until next session I intend to ask for a return of the various firms who have entered into contracts with the Government for the transport of troops, in order that I may find out how many transports have been chartered by the Government from firms, members of which are also Members of this House, for I desire to know how much they will gain by this war. There are also some Birmingham firms engaged in the manufacture of ammunition. I remember that when Sir Hercules Robinson was appointed Governor of the Cape, the Colonial Secretary made a tremendous attack on him because he was connected with African companies.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
I am not, Sir, in the slightest degree appealing from your ruling, but I should have imagined that the pecuniary interests of persons largely engaged in directing the war had some reference to the questions we are discussing.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member was dealing with something which passed between the Colonial Secretary and Sir Hercules Robinson, when Sir Hercules 693 Robinson was appointed Governor of the Cape.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
With great respect, Sir, I was doing nothing of the kind. I only made a passing reference to Sir Hercules Robinson. Is the right hon. Gentleman himself, who is largely responsible for this war, the owner of shares in African concerns? The Civil Lord of the Admiralty has not only shares in, but is a director of the East African Bank. I say there ought to be no suspicion in this war of pecuniary interests if it is for liberty and not for money. I have spoken to the House from the unpopular point of view, but there is one thing about which no difference of opinion exists, and that is sympathy with the sufferings and misery of the wounded, and as we have not heard any news except the summarised reports of the Commander-in-Chief for the last two days, I am sure I will be gratifying the wishes of the House if I ask some Minister of the Crown to tell us whether the reports that have just come through—one that the two squadrons of Hussars are missing, and the other that at the battle near Ladysmith twenty men were killed and eighty-eight wounded—are true. I hope these reports are not true, but I think it is due to the House, and also with a view to relieving the unutterable anxiety and suspense of those who have relatives on the field, that a statement should be made. I can only say for myself that I am deeply sorry for this bloodshed. Anything that I could have done to prevent it, even at the risk of my own life, I would willingly have undertaken. I am not at all a man who is for peace at any price, but when a war such as this is unjustifiable and is waged for mere money purposes every instinct of humanity must revolt against it. I am no enemy of the British Army. I have always been able to distinguish between political and personal feeling. Some of my nearest relatives and dearest friends are British soldiers, and some of my immediate predecessors have been soldiers. I cannot forget those who have gone before me, and I cannot forget also the sorrow of the parting for the war, and the sorrow and despair into which individuals and families have been cast. These things I can assure you have brought me from Ireland. I knew I could not alter the position by my vote, but I 694 have discharged my duty conscientiously in protesting against this war, which is being waged for nothing but filthy lucre.
§ MR. FLAVIN (Kerry N.)
I rise to join the members of the Irish party in protesting against this war. It is the first opportunity I have had of making a protest, but having already sent a letter of regret at not being able to attend a meeting in Ireland called to protest against the war, I feel it is my bounden duty to state in this House the expression of my sympathy with the Boers, who are, in my opinion, fighting in a just and righteous cause for freedom. This is not a war of the masses or for the masses; it is a war of the classes, a war for greed and gold, a war to suppress and exterminate a people who are fighting for their liberty as we in Ireland have fought and will continue to fight for our liberty. I noticed the other night when it was announced that the Dublin Fusiliers—who I ambled to say, as an Irishman, did not turn their backs on an enemy—showed pluck and courage, there was general applause on the other side of the House. I ask those gentlemen when the case of an Irish pensioner comes before them what interest do they show in it? What interest will you show in the wounded and maimed in ten or fifteen years' time? How will you treat them? You will tell them that they can be entertained in an Irish workhouse at the expense of the ratepayers. A few months ago I brought the case of an Irish pensioner before the House—
§ MR. FLAVIN
I bow to your ruling, Sir. I only wished to illustrate how Irishmen have been treated in this House, and how the Dublin Fusiliers will be treated after winning your battles. We have heard during these discussions that the point at issue was purely and simply one of franchise. If the franchise were given what would the ultimate result be? The Uitlander population, which exceeds by at least fifty per cent. the Boer population, would completely disorganise and smash up the Boer Government, and the Uitlanders would capture the Transvaal. I would ask hon. Gentlemen who are in favour of the franchise what their opinion on the franchise would be if it 695 were possible that 50,000,000 of French, Germans, and Russians came into England to-morrow. Would you give them the franchise? No, you would refuse it and keep your own Government. I say that President Kruger is justified in keeping hold of the country he has made, and not giving it to gentlemen who love it, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the gold it contains. This afternoon we were charged by the Colonial Secretary with being rebels, and I feel justified in dealing with that word, because it was thrown across the floor of the House at us.
§ MR. FLAVIN
I beg, Sir, to draw your attention to the fact that the Colonial Secretary spoke of treason and of the Irish Members being rebels. I have never gone to the hillside or boasted of being an Irish rebel. I have always believed in constitutional agitation; and if the word "rebel" is applied to us it is not our fault, but the fault of the British Government, who have made Irishmen rebels because they have been refused justice. We have every right to protest against this war. We believe it is unjust and inhuman. We believe, with the great majority of people all over the world, that the question of the franchise is merely an
§ excuse, and that the alleged ill-treatment of the Outlanders is not true. How is it if there had been ill-treatment that people who went into the country under poor circumstances are now millionaires? I am of opinion that the war is a war for them. Further, one hon. Member led us to believe that to a certain extent it was a war of revenge. Personally I do not approve of the policy of revenge in any man. I have had my own fights with landlords and agents in Ireland, but I never have shown any revenge. On the other hand, I can claim to be on the most friendly feeling with all the landlords in Kerry. It would be a very wrong thing for us not to protest by every means in our power against this unjust war when we will have to pay our proportion of the expense. I should like to know from hon. Members from Ireland who sit on the other side of the House what is Ireland going to gain. She will lose, unfortunately, some of her best blood—the blood of those who through necessity and bad laws were compelled to join the British Army. Their mothers and sisters to-day in Ireland are weeping for their lost relatives who have won a glorious victory for you, but many of these mothers and sisters may have to be supported in the Irish workhouses.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 224; Noes, 28. (Division List No. 18.)697
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Caldwell, James||Emmott, Alfred|
|Aird, John||Carlile, William Walter||Fardell, Sir T. George|
|Arnold, Alfred||Carson, Rt. Hon. Edward||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward|
|Arrol, Sir William||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Fergusson, Rt Hn Sir J. (Manc'r|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh)||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Cawley, Frederick||Firbank, Joseph Thomas|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Fisher, William Hayes|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Flannery, Sir Fortescue|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Flower, Ernest|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds)||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Forster, Henry William|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)|
|Barry, Rt. Hon. A. S. (Hunts)||Colville, John||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Compton, Lord Alwyne||Galloway, William Johnson|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol)||Cripps, Charles Alfred||Garfit, William|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Gedge, Sydney|
|Begg, Ferdinand Faithfull||Currie, Sir Donald||Gibbs, Hn A. G. H. (City of Lond.|
|Bethell, Commander||Curzon, Viscount||Giles, Charles Tyrrell|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Goddard, Daniel Ford|
|Bigwood, James||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Goldsworthy, Major-General|
|Billson, Alfred||Davies, Sir H. D. (Chatham)||Gordon, Hon. John Edward|
|Blakiston-Houston, John||Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardig'n)||Goulding, Edward Alfred|
|Bonsor, Henry Cosmo Orme||Denny, Colonel||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)|
|Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)|
|Brown, Alexander H.||Doxford, William Theodore||Greene, H. D. (Shrewsbury)|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Gretton, John|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Dunn, Sir William||Greville, Hon. Ronald|
|Butcher, John George||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Gull, Sir Cameron|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Maclure, Sir John William||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Halsey, Thomas Frederick||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Rutherford, John|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.||M'Arthur, Wm. (Cornwall)||Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse)|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert W.||M'Calmont, H. L. B. (Cambs.)||Saunderson, Rt. Hn. Col. E. J.|
|Hanson, Sir Reginald||M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)||Savory, Sir Joseph|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm.||M'Crae, George||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Hardy, Laurence||M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W.||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Harwood, George||M'Killop, James||Shaw, Charles E. (Stafford)|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon Chas. Seale-||Malcolm, Ian||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)|
|Helder, Augustus||Manners, Lord Edward W. J.||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)|
|Hickman, Sir Alfred||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. A. S. (Staffs.)||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Stanley, Hon. A. (Ormskirk)|
|Hill, Sir EdwardStock (Bristol)||Maxwell, Rt. Hon. Sir H. E.||Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)|
|Hoare, Edw. B. (Hampstead)||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)||Stanley, Sir H. M. (Lambeth)|
|Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich)||Melville, Beresford Valentine||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Hobhouse, Henry||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Holland, William Henry||Middlemore, J. Throgmorton||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Milbank, Sir Powlett Chas. J.||Strauss, Arthur|
|Howard, Joseph||Milward, Colonel Victor||Tennant, Harold John|
|Hozier, Hon. James Henry C.||Monckton, Edward Philip||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn||Monk, Charles James||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Jackson, Rt. Hon. Wm. Lawies||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Jenkins, Sir John Jones||More, R. Jasper (Shropshire)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Jessel, Captain Herbert M.||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Johnston, William (Belfast)||Moulton, John Fletcher||Vincent, Col. Sir. C. E. H.|
|Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)||Wallace, Robert|
|Jolliffe, Hon. H. George||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Walton, J. Lawson (Leeds, S.)|
|Kay-Shuttleworth, Rt Hn Sir U||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Ward, Hon. Robert A. (Crewe)|
|Kemp, George||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Webster, Sir Richard E.|
|Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.||Northcote, Hon. Sir H. S.||Welby, Lient.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Kenyon, James||Nussey, Thomas Williams||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Kimber, Henry||Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|King, Sir Henry Seymour||Parkes, Ebenezer||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Knowles, Lees||Pease, Herbert P. (Darlington)||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Lambert, George||Penn, John||Williams, Jos. Powell-(Birm.)|
|Lawrence, Sir E Durning-(Corn||Pierpoint, Robert||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Pirie, Duncan V.||Wilson, Frederick W. (Norfolk)|
|Lea, Sir Thos. (Londonderry)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Wilson, John (Falkirk|
|Lecky, Rt. Hon. W. E. H.||Plunkett, Rt. Hon. H. Curzon||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks)|
|Leighton, Stanley||Priestley, Sir W. O. (Edin.)||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Sw'ns'a||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh||Woodhouse, Sir J T (Huddersf'd|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Purvis, Robert||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Staurt-|
|Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Liverpool)||Rankin, Sir James||Wylie, Alexander|
|Lorne, Marquess of||Renshaw, Charles Bine||Wylie, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Lowe, Francis William||Ridley, Rt Hon Sir Matthew W.||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Lubbock, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Charles. T.|
|Lucas-Shadwell, William||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir|
|Macdona, John Cumming||Round, James||William Walrond and Mr.|
|MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Royds, Clement Molyneux||Anstruther.|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.||Gilhooly, James||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Kilbride, Denis||O'Connor, J. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Blake, Edward||Lloyd-George, David||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Crilly, Daniel||Macaleese, Daniel||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||MacDonnell, Dr. M. A. (Qn'sC.)||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift|
|Davitt, Michael||M'Cartan, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Donelan, Captain A.||M'Ghee, Richard||Mr. Dillon and Mr. William|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Hugh, Patrick A. (Leitrim)||Redmond.|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Minch, Matthew|
Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.