§ * MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
I rise with considerable diffidence to move the Amendment standing in my name to the Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. Although this is not the first occasion on which I have had the honour of addressing the House it is the first occasion on which I have spoken in one of the more important debates. There is one thing in which I am sure I shall carry the whole of the House with me, and that is in the observation that what we all desire is that this war, which has been so prolonged, should be ended as speedily as possible. To us this war is no light matter. It moans a constant loss of precious lives and of countless treasure, but we can bear the strain. To the Boers, however, it means not only loss of life and great destruction of property, but also the entire upheaval of the old order of things for them, the upset of their most cherished traditions, and the continuance of a struggle which, in my opinion, is absolutely hopeless, but in which we may all admit they have fought gallantly and well. I feel diffidence also, because my task is a very difficult and delicate one. Even a humble member of the rank and file of the Opposition like myself has a responsibility at a time like the present, and it will be my earnest endeavour to say no word which can possibly encourage the enemies of the Queen or do anything to prolong and embitter the already lengthy struggle. I have never yet expressed in this House my views on the war, and I shall not this afternoon follow the mover and seconder of the Address in discussing the questions of its justice or inevitability. 236 I have explained my views to my constituents, the people most concerned, and I need only say now that as regards the later stages of the negotiations my own opinion, for what it is worth, is that the principal blame of their failure lies with Mr. Kruger. But to argue this point would be to detain the House unnecessarily, and, furthermore, it has no bearing on my Amendment. What is the present condition of hostilities? What has been occurring in these partly conquered States during the last few months? When Kimberley, Ladysmith, and Mafeking were relieved we annexed what is now the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal. By that annexation we displaced the Government they had had in the past, and the fact that there is no Government with which to negotiate adds a little to our present difficulties. Our early treatment of those colonies was of the mildest character. We were told that the burghers were delighted we had come, and that they were rapidly laying down their arms. We had every hope the war would soon be over, but we soon found that was far too rosy a view. The war, I regret to say, is not yet over; those States are annexed, but not conquered; there is no effective occupation apparently at a greater distance than twenty miles from the railway, and often it falls far short of that. Our generals, I think, very naturally altered their tactics somewhat. They issued proclamations more severe in character. We are told now, and I accept the statement, that the struggle has degenerated into a guerilla war. I do not care very much about names—although I am not very fond of hearing myself or my hon. friends on this side called "traitors" and "pro-Boers"—and I do not care whether this is now a guerilla war or not. What I look at are the facts. The facts are that within the last week or two we have heard of 2,500 men under Do Wet, who have unfortunately captured very recently 450 of our own soldiers, besides killing or wounding sixty more. Almost at the same time we heard of another 2,500 men under arms, the commandoes under Viljoen and Erasmus, and of disturbances in other widely-separated parts of these annexed territories; while only yesterday we heard of an attack on a convoy proceeding from Pretoria to Rustenburg, in which fifteen were killed and twenty-two wounded. All I say is that if this 237 is a guerilla war, it is even yet a very serious war. I quite agree that the cause for which the Boers are still fighting is absolutely hopeless, and greatly regret that the bloodshed, though useless, yet remains so great. We are rather short of information from the Government in regard to this matter. I do not suppose they can tell us why the war is continuing, but we are constantly asking ourselves that question. The contest is utterly hopeless; we must win; we have practically endless resources, and I am sure we shall not turn out to be inhuman conquerors. But the Government can apparently tell us nothing. All we do know is the practical matter that we are called together time after time to vote huge sums of money for the continued prolongation of the war. We were told the war was to end three months ago. A member of the Government, the present Secretary of State for War, expressed the belief the Boers would stop fighting as soon as they observed that the Liberals did not win the General Election. He led us to imagine that Botha and De Wet before they planned the day's campaign sat down to read the election returns in The Times newspaper. But the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said last night words to the effect that when the hopelessness of this struggle is brought home to the Boers by their friends the struggle will be stopped. That is a very different story. The noble Lord's chief did not go so far as that, and the First Lord of the Treasury in a speech very sympathetic in tone, but somewhat unsatisfactory in matter, did not give us any hope that he had any plan by which the struggle could be brought to an end. I ask the House, is there anything more that we can do? I venture very respectfully to profess my belief that there are other things we can do; but—and this is very important—they must be done under certain overriding considerations. With very few exceptions practically the whole of the candidates in England and Scotland at the recent General Election stated that they agreed absolutely and entirely to the annexation of these two States. Everything we do must of course be subject to that consideration; secondly, we must continue to prosecute this war with the utmost vigour until the struggle is ended, apart from anything we may do 238 on the political side. But there is another consideration of the utmost importance—namely, that we have to live with these Boers in the annexed States in the future. Lastly, whatever we propose must be, as far as we can make it, just and right and politic in itself. It must not partake of anything in the nature of a bargain or bribe. In other words we must not attempt to give to Botha and De Wet what has been refused to Kruger and Steyn. I want to say one word on the conduct of the war. I cordially re-echo the excellent remarks of the Leader of the Opposition last night. Lord Roberts is generally acknowledged to be one of the most humane generals who has ever filled a great part in the annals of war, and when Lord Roberts says our soldiers have fought like heroes, and out of battle have behaved like gentlemen, I confess that that carries far more weight with me than a very large number of anonymous statements to the opposite effect. At any rate, with regard to our generals, our officers, and our soldiers, we admire the extraordinary courage, skill, and tenacity with which they have fought in this war, and we owe very much to them. The responsibility which lies on a general who is conducting a campaign for his country is enormous; it is greater almost than that which lies on the statesmen of the country. I think we should be very slow to cast any blame on these men who are doing their best for us. The crisis of the war is over, but during the crisis the Prime Minister said that he had abdicated in favour of Lord Roberts, or words to that effect. I have reminded the House that when we first occupied these new territories we accorded them the mildest treatment, but that unfortunately did not lead to an end of the war. There were constant raids on the railways and communications, and a more severe policy has since been tried, under which, I suppose necessarily, a large amount of territory has been laid waste. The question I want to ask is, Can the Government tell us that this more severe policy is proving more successful than the milder treatment did? The present policy is causing serious uneasiness in the minds of a great body of people in this country, and it is causing grave friction and anxiety, I believe, in our colonies in South Africa. I admit to the full the difficulty of the situation. There are obviously two lines of consider- 239 ation. There is, first, the military line. There is the desire of our generals to end the war as speedily as possible by any methods that may usefully and properly be allowed in war. But at the back of all that there must be also the political considerations—the consideration especially that we have to settle this war in a permanent form. We have to try to make the men who are now fighting against us loyal subjects of the Queen in the future. I do not want to say one word which may be taken to mean that I seek to interfere with anything that is necessary in the way of the military campaign, but obviously the comparatively severe policy now being carried out—the confiscation of large numbers of cattle, the burning of a considerable number of farms, and the deporting of women and children—is inducing a deplorable political and economic condition in these colonies. That economic and political condition, I am afraid, may be consistent with a considerable prolongation of this guerilla warfare, and the situation calls for the highest statesmanship that this country can produce. I think it is time that the Government made a statement on broad and generous lines of what they propose for the political and economic settlement after the war. I have put down as an Amendment to the Address the following words—Humbly to represent to Your Majesty that it would conduce to the pacification of the conquered territories, and to the future good relations of the European races in South Africa generally, lif measures for securing the liberty and property of those now in arms who surrender, for the settlement of those territories, and for promoting the reconcilement and well-being of their inhabitants, were announced at the earliest possible date.As I do not wish merely to talk vague generalities, I should like to make one or two suggestions, because I feel that it would be wrong to move a resolution of this sort without them. Let me say a few words upon the question of the; burning of farms. The feeling in regard to this matter both in our colonies and here is very strong, and all of us who are humane men feel that it is repugnant to our feelings to think of the necessity of laying waste these territories of our own and of using measures which are still very hard and very severe. To me war is always hateful and generally unnecessary, and this war is especially hateful in 240 this sense, that we have been forced to fight and crush out the independent national existence of a brave and resolute race. But we did not seek this war as a nation. I do not believe myself that the Government sought this war, but when the war had once begun there could have been no peace in South Africa until we had conquered both States. War being necessary in that sense we cannot make it with rosewater. I fully admit all that, and I am not complaining of this burning of farms, because I have not the facts before me which would enable me to do so. We must leave the generals in the field to judge in a matter of this kind. I do, however, ask the Government to let us know whether this policy is having a good effect or not. If it is not—if they cannot assure us on the authority of the generals that it is—then I do ask the Government, as soon as possible, to put a stop to it. There is another thing that I should like to mention in connection with the farms, and it is that I think it is very desirable that the inhabitants of these colonies should be told that wherever farms are destroyed for military purposes compensation will be given to the owners unless they can be directly proved to be responsible for some act of war which is punishable in that way. And now I wish to say just a word about the political status of the fighters. As regards the Boers in the field we have no responsible Government to negotiate with in these two colonies, and I want to point out what I believe to be correct, and it is that the generals who are leading the armies of the Boers are excluded from any amnesty. I venture to say that it is impossible that a generous nation—and ours is a generous nation—should not admire the skill and courage of the Boers, and the extraordinary ability and resource which has been shown by some of their generals. I do, however, ask, as a practical matter, if they are excluded from amnesty, how can they give in? I make the suggestion with all humility that, instead of demanding an unconditional surrender, we should promise and ensure to all officers and men who will cease fighting against us their personal freedom, their unmolested return to their farms, and the payment of compensation for those farms which have been destroyed for military reasons and not for any treacherous act. There are farms which have been laid 241 waste because they stood within ten miles of the railway. Many of those farms may possibly belong to some persons who are prisoners at St. Helena. I do not want to prolong my remarks unnecessarily upon this subject, but I do not think these farms ought to be given—I do not know that they are being given—to the new settlers who are to be induced to stay in the country, however numerous they may be. I do lay the greatest stress upon the necessity of some efforts being made to inform the Boers what has been promised, namely, that as soon as possible complete self-government will be given to them when the war is over. I come now to the question of the prisoners. Can nothing be done by taking some trouble to convey to the mass of Boers who are now fighting, and by telling the prisoners in Ceylon and St. Helena, that as soon as the war is over they can come back to their farms, and that they will receive, as they ought to receive, compensation where their farms have been destroyed in their absence, through no fault of their own? I come now to the question of the rebels. I do not know sometimes whether I ought to be glad that I am not a lawyer, but I am afraid that this is a very difficult legal matter. Can we make rebels simply by proclamation? There are many different kinds of men fighting against us. Some of them are men who have been fighting against us all along, and have never surrendered. Surely we cannot treat those men as rebels. There are other men who have surrendered, and afterwards broken their oath under the threat of death. We cannot treat those men as rebels. There is another class of men who have deliberately broken their oath without sufficient cause, and they present a much more difficult question, but I do not think that they can form a very large proportion of those who are fighting against us. I do attach the very gravest importance to the economic situation which the prolongation of this unfortunate struggle is making. The whole of the cattle, in many instances, are gone. Farm buildings have been destroyed, the land has gone out of cultivation, and recovery from such a condition of things as that must naturally be very slow. I maintain that we shall have to lend money for the purpose of restoring the agricultural condition of the Transvaal and the Orange River 242 Colony. We cannot imagine that these countries will be able to do these things for themselves. Very soon the gold mines will get to work, and, however heavily they are taxed, the whole of the money will be required for keeping our J army and police to preserve order in those countries. There will be no money for restoring agriculture, or for the purpose of paying the cost of the war to this country. There will be no money for objects of this kind. I have sketched certain lines because I felt that I must say what is in my mind. I may have made mistakes here and there, but I will venture to say in conclusion that this policy, if it is tried, can do no harm, and it may do good; because if it is tried and obtains any measure of success—or if it obtains no measure of success—we should, I think, have done something to conciliate the feeling of our follow colonists in Cape Colony and Natal, many of whom are loyal to us, and who yet must sympathise by blood and tradition with the Boers. I am sorry that I have detained the House at a much greater length that I had intended, but I have now done. I simply make one appeal in conclusion. We stand on the threshold of a new century. Behind us lies a great and glorious past, and before us lie new hopes, new duties, and new activities. And what is the most splendid achievement of the century which is just drawing to its close? It is not the triumphs we have won from time to time on the field of battle; it is not oven the victories we have won in the peaceful paths of commerce. I believe that the noblest achievement of this century will, in the opinion of future historians, be that we have learned for the first time how to bind our colonies to us by bonds of affection, and how to make our colonists loyal, happy, and contented citizens of a great Empire. That result has been achieved in two ways. It has been achieved, in the first place, because they have enjoyed an autonomy more complete than has ever been granted to colonists before; and in the second place, because our statesmen have had the wisdom, in times of crisis, to adopt a wise, a bold, and a generous policy. I believe a crisis exists in South Africa at the present time which calls for such a policy as this, and because I believe that I do most earnestly and respectfully urge upon the House and upon the 243 Government the Amendment which stands in my name.
§ MR. TREVELYAN (Yorkshire, W.K., Elland)
I would much sooner not be seconding this Amendment, firstly, because of my consciousness of my own personal inadequacy to do so; and secondly, because I, in common with a very largo number of Members on this side of the House, think that this question of a settlement is a national and not a party one. I am, if I may be allowed to say so, one of the Members on this side of the House who have silently and steadily supported the policy of the nation, and approved, in all the most vital respects, of the action which the Government has taken. Just because of that, I think we, beyond all others, feel a greater obligation upon ourselves to protest against what we believe to be the possible prolongation of the war and the retarding of a settlement, not so much by the ill-action of the Government at the present time, but because of its over-expectation of some happy development in South Africa; and because, as we think, of its unjustifiable reliance upon military methods alone. What is the situation? The Leader of the Opposition yesterday challenged the Government to declare its policy in South Africa openly. We had an eloquent, and what we all recognise to be a well-meaning answer from the First Lord of the Treasury, but it was a vague answer. It was merely a repetition of good intentions, which we all have. He was challenged, in particular, with regard to the destruction of property in South Africa, which, in the opinion of many of us, is more than anything else endangering the prospects of an ultimate peaceful settlement. It is not by the delimitation of the territories or the letter of constitutions that the settlement is going to be made, but success depends much more upon the spirit than the particular forms in which the Government undertakes that settlement. It is for this reason that some of us have, for weeks past, been pressing to get information with regard to the destruction of property in South Africa. Have we not a right to be anxious? We are not painting out of our own imaginations a miserable picture of South Africa. Half the evidence at least which comes from South Africa—I am not going to say whether it is right or wrong—tends to 244 prove that in the Orange Free State and in the Transvaal at least half the farms are already in ashes. I do not say that this is so. There have been letters in Conservative and Liberal papers, letters by pro-Boers and by people who have supported the Government throughout, which definitely say that at least half the farms in South Africa in those two colonies are now level with the ground. Are we not reasonable, then, in discussing what prospect this holds out of a settlement in South Africa if this grim supposition is true,—that not merely a few farms on each side of the railway have been burned, but that whole districts have been desolated? I do not wish to discuss the question in the least this afternoon from the point of view of the international morality of it; I do not wish to discuss it even from the point of view of the efficacy of the military methods which have obtained up to this time. It may be that it is not only correct according to American military handbooks, but also even according to the agreement entered into at the Hague Conference. It may be so, but supposing the burning and destruction of these farms is in accordance with all international understanding in regard to war; supposing, even, it has really been successful in reducing the commandoes under Both a and De Wet, which none of us believe, how can we be blind to the spirit which it is creating in South Africa, and which will breathe after this war is over? Men can fight, and over the bodies of their fallen comrades opponents will be able to shake hands; but we are going to ask thousands of Boors when this war is over unless the Government adopt some other policy—to go back to farms where there is no grain, no cattle, no farm houses—men who will have no capital wherewith to begin the world again, and with nothing but bitter memories of the war', and of what they will think the injustice—I do not say it is injustice—meted out to their wives and children after they had been driven away to St. Helena or Ceylon. How can these men settle down as good citizens? The thing is impossible. I cannot believe it for my part. The most important thing that we require of the Government is that the Government should say what they are going to do, not merely out of pity for I these people—we all have learned to 245 harden our hearts; not out of pity for the women and children—that is not the proposition, but in the interest of the political and economic future of South Africa. Let the Government tell us what their picture is of South Africa, unless they are going in some way or other to replace these people on their farms, except in cases, as my hon. said, where there is some for burning them down, to immediate treacherous during the war. The Government is bound to give us some notion of the policy which they are going to adopt in regard to these people, who cannot otherwise be good citizens of our Empire; for after all they are our fellow-citizens. If it was a question of devastating an enemy's country, we might leave them to mend the thing after the war is over; but the Boers are going to be citizens of South Africa, and you will have to keep them. There is the doleful prospect of their raiding the country in guerilla bands, or you will have to build prisons or workhouses for them, unless you have a definite economic policy of placing them somehow on the land, whether British or Boer. Now I pass from that question, and wish to say a few words about the general attitude of the Government. I think we were able to understand, from the debate of yesterday, that the general policy or attitude of the Government is that until these unreasonable people unconditionally surrender, you will not declare the details of your policy showing them what really you are going to do with South Africa. Now I suppose we are all agreed upon two main facts—that this country has got to pursue adoublepolicy—a policy of strength, and, side by side with it, a policy of conciliation. There are none of us who will consent again to a condition of things under which it would be possible for war between the Dutch and the English to break out in South Africa again if we can help it. As I understand it, we are going to be the police of South Africa, and the British Empire will see to it that Dutch and English will never again fight. But it is not only force that is wanted—none of us can believe it is only force—and this motion I am seconding is directed in the main to this proposition: that in spite of the fact that the Government give lip service to conciliation, our action shows nothing except force. The First Lord of the Treasury spoke last night 246 and said it was the intention of the Government to give free colonial institutions to the Boers as soon as possible, and as soon as ever the war is at an end. We have had this vague and general statement from the very beginning of the war, though it is true that these have ceased to be rather less emphatic recently. If you read the speeches during the General Election of the chief leaders in the Ministry, you will find there is not much allusion to that particular part of the settlement involved in granting free institutions; and it is rather discomforting, in spite of the speech made by the Leader of the House, to find that the Leader of the other House could suggest that it would be generations before free institutions could be granted to the Boers. But even if the declaration of Ministers in England were everything that could be desired, that is not everything. The Boers, as someone has said already, do not read the daily papers every day. What you want to do is to impress this policy, which we firmly believe the Government wish to carry out, on the Boers, and show them that we mean it as well as that we intend finally to annex the Republics to the Empire. I want to consider two indications which the Government have given in regard to this question. The Government have had opportunities of putting their policy before the Boers in a very distinct way. We all of us remember the exchange of telegrams between President Kruger and the Marquess of Salisbury on the 5th and 11th March. We remember the calamitously unconciliatory telegram which President Kruger sent. By the silence of the House of Commons, we all agreed that the answer that Lord Salisbury sent was in the main agreeable to the ideas of the country. But there were many of us who regretted on that occasion, when it did become necessary for this country to say definitely that we were going to adopt a policy of annexation, that we did not couple that declaration with some further enunciation of our policy; that we did not as well hold out a hope of something more being granted them within the Empire. The Government, however, simply sent an abrupt telegram that we were not prepared to assent to independence. The Government might have declared their policy more fully; without bogging or bargain- 247 ing with the Boers they might have offered terms upon which they could have surrendered then. My belief is that if such an offer had been made, at that time or soon after, it is extremely likely the Boers would have accepted your conditions. But there is another feature of the Government action during the summer which, in my opinion, was even more calculated to make the Boers uncertain as to whether they were really to be given full citizenship in the State in which they would have to live. At the end of the summer the question arose as to the punishment of the rebels in Cape Colony. Most of us entirely agreed that it is a reasonable and effective, not too severe punishment which the Cape Parliament adopted of disfranchising the rebels for a period of five years. But the Home Government wrote out to Cape Colony to urge that the rebels in that colony should be disfranchised for the term of their natural life. I do not want to argue the question whether that policy was wrong or right. It seems tome, personally, to be a most unstatesman like suggestion if these people are to be citizens fifty years hence of the continent of South Africa. But what did the Boers think of it? Is it not obvious that the Boers would argue: "If the Government say to the Cape rebels—'You are never again to be citizens of a British State, because you, in your hot youth, were foolishly drawn away by sentiment or by compulsion into rebellion, we are not going to give you back free institutions'—does not that go to make it rather unlikely that we, the Boers, are going to live under free institutions? "However, all that we on this side of the House are asking the Government to do by this motion is to try the effect of a Proclamation setting forth the policy they intend to pursue with regard to the Boers when the war is concluded. On 2nd September the policy was initiated of burning down district sin order that peace might ensue. It is not much to ask that the Government should now initiate a new policy, should at any rate give a chance to a Proclamation which would state the most vital and essential things for the settlement of the country. Surely it is worth toying, even if some of the Government supporters have not confidence in its success. I only appeal on the ground that we may, by our action, be allowing the misapprehension to con- 248 tinue on the part of the Boers that what we are doing in South Africa is merely standing there as distant and irreconcilable conquerors. We here are all conscious of our own justice, but what do the Boers know of that? We must show them what our intentions are, and that our Empire is come to South Africa, not as a conqueror, but as the great and patient arbiter between warring passions and to prevent racial feud in that unhappy country.
Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words—
And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that it would conduce to the pacification of the conquered territories, and to the future good relations of the European races in South Africa generally, if measures for securing the liberty and property of those now in arms who surrender, for the settlement of those territories, and for promoting the reconcilement and well-being of their inhabitants, were announced at the the earliest possible date."—(Mr. Emmott.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. J. Chamberlain,) Birmingham, W.
The subject with which we are now dealing is undoubtedly of the greatest and most urgent importance. I do not think that anything could more worthily occupy the attention of the House, and for my part I congratulate the House, and I congratulate myself, that for a time, at any rate, we have emerged from those strictly party and personal controversies in which we have hitherto been engaged. Therefore, I must say if anything could prove that conclusively to the House it would be the extremely moderate tone which has been taken up by the two hon. Members in the able speeches which they have addressed to the House. I must ask the indulgence of the House in endeavouring to reply, because I have taken upon myself a duty which I am not entirely qualified to fulfil. In dealing with the state of South Africa it must be borne in mind that for many months past the portion of South Africa of which we are speaking has been under I military administration, and that there-| fore all the reports with regard to administration have gone to a different department—the War Office. As the House is aware, my right hon. friend Mr. Brodrick is temporarily absent from our debates, and 249 it is impossible I should adequately fill his place, but still I will do what I can with the information at my disposal, and which I have been able to obtain from other departments. But before I do so I must say one word or two, not at all in an unfriendly spirit, about the resolution which has just been moved. Why is this resolution moved? It must be admitted by anyone who looks at it that it is a colourless resolution. It expresses a platonic desire that certain intentions should be announced which both the hon. Gentlemen have been good enough readily to ascribe to the Government—rightly to ascribe to the Government. There is nothing in the suggestions which are made in this proposal which we are not perfectly prepared to accept in substance. We are to do something that will "conduce to the pacification of the conquered territories and to the future good relations of the European races in South Africa generally"; and in order to do that we are to announce "measures for securing the liberty and property of those now in arms who surrender, for the settlement of those territories, and for promoting the reconcilement and well-being of their inhabitants. "Well, Sir, we have announced all those intentions. We have announced in general terms measures—it may be taken that the Government have announced them in the proclamations which have been issued by Lord Roberts—we have announced them in statements made to the country by responsible Ministers, we announced them last night in the speech of my right hon. friend the First Lord of the Treasury, and I hope I may be able, as especially concerned in this matter, to add somewhat to the fulness of these announcements. But I cannot alter in the slightest degree their spirit, which, as I say, is substantially the spirit of the Amendment now before us. Now, speaking as I do, at the very commencement of the debate, I am obliged to anticipate—I am obliged to ask myself, will the future of this debate be conducted on exactly the same lines as those upon which the two hon. Gentlemen who have just addressed us have proceeded? If so, I would go on at once to reply to the questions which they have addressed to me; but it is within the knowledge of the House that there are still, as there were in the last Parliament, three different sections of opinion in the Opposition. 250 There is the opinion, for instance, of those who hold that the war was unjust, and that now the only remedy for the evils which we all deplore is the restoration of independence to those two colonies. I agree with the hon. Member for Oldham that that party is less numerous in the House now than it was before, and that it is probably still less numerous |in the country in proportion than it is in this House.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
No; I am not quoting the hon. Member, but what I mean to say is that I agree with him that it is only a small fraction, in the country at any rate, who would consider for a moment a proposal to restore independence to those colonies, and under those circumstances I think it would be a waste altogether of words to deal with that side of the question. But then there is another section which certainly takes a somewhat stronger view of the situation than the two hon. Members to whom I am replying. Their view is, as I understand their declaration, that annexation must now take place, must be considered an accomplished fact, and can never be reversed, but that we ought immediately to establish self-government on the lines of the self-governing colonies in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. If they do not go quite as far as that—and I do not want to put it in an exaggerated way—they go as far as the hon. Member who has another Amendment on the Paper, and who says that—The time should be more clearly indicated when there will be extended to these populations the principles of self-government prevailing in the other South African colonies—that is to say that we are to be called upon now, at this moment, to declare at what time, or approximately, we consider that full self-government can be accorded to those colonies. And there was a trace of that in the concluding words of the hon. Member for the Elland Division, because he suggested that it would have a good effect upon the Boers at the present time if we were able now, or if we had earlier been able, to meet President Kruger's demand for independence by offering in return the grant of local self-government. Well, now, of course with these later views the Government do not 251 agree. We really think that it is impossible that reasonable men should ask us to fix any time to-day when full self-government can be granted. But we are prepared to lay down three definite objects as the main and principal objects of the Government, and they must be carried out successively; one stage must be concluded before we can possibly commence the second stage, and so on with the third. Well, in the first place we want to put an end to this guerilla warfare. The guerilla warfare which is going on is of the most unsatisfactory and most unprofitable kind. Nobody can gain by it. Lives are being lost, the country is being ruined, the future of the country is being damaged. I am prepared to admit that we are face to face with the possibility of something like a famine in consequence of the destruction caused—
MR. J. CHAMBEELAIN
In consequence of the destruction caused, not merely by the military operations on our part, but also—and I think myself much more so—by the operations of the Boers themselves. We have seen in a great number of cases that Boers, returning to the country in which men have gone back to their farms, having given their parole not to take arms again against us, have treated their own countrymen with what I cannot call anything less than barbarous cruelty, have beaten them, have insulted them, have forced them back into their own ranks, and have robbed them of their property and destroyed their farms; and although I am not able to give any positive statistics to the House at the present time, it would not surprise me in the least to find when we come to sum up the results of this policy that the Boers have destroyed and burnt more farms than the English. That is a most disastrous and distressing state of affairs. These guerilla bauds are of different kinds. I think the numbers have been very frequently exaggerated, and I would advise the House not to take for granted what is said in casual telegrams that such-and-such a leader has so many thousand troops under him. There is no doubt they differ in their character. There are bands of considerable numbers and led by leaders of 252 such distinction, such known courage and character, as General De Wet, General Both a, General Delarey, and General Viljoen. There may be others, but I name these, for their men may practically be called at the present moment organised bands under considerable leaders. Unfortunately, the warfare which these bands are carrying on may, in a certain sense at any rate, still be called legitimate warfare. But there is warfare of a totally different kind. There are large numbers of mercenaries, chiefly foreigners, and a certain number of Cape rebels, who are in very small bands, going about the country picking off a Britisher whenever they can snipe him in safety, either from behind a farm or behind a stone, or as often as not plundering the people and natives of the country. That is the state of things deplored by the hon. Gentleman who moved the resolution, and which we deplore as much as he does. The question, then, is—How are we going to deal with it? The hon. Member makes some suggestions. He spoke, in the first place, of severe treatment. He was most moderate in his statement of the case. He said the mildest measures had been adopted in the first instance. He admitted that those mild measures had been insufficient—that they had not produced the result expected of them—and then he said severer measures had been adopted. He did not say they were unnecessary, but he asked that we should say whether they, in our opinion, were successful, and whether the time had come when they could be moderated. What were those severer measures? He spoke of the taking of cattle. Let me say that, according to the proclamation of Lord Roberts, whose humanity is proverbial, and who therefore could not under any circumstances be accused of unnecessary cruelty, cattle are always to be paid for by the troops, or a receipt given, which is as good as payment, except in those cases in which the owner of the cattle has been guilty of acts of war or of outrages which are punishable by all civilised nations who are at war. Therefore the taking of cattle does not mean necessarily that the owner of the cattle is placed in a position of impossibility of continuing his occupation. If he has not got the cattle he has got the money for them, except in the cases in which destruction 253 has taken place as a punitive measure. Never in the history of war has war been carried out with so much humanity on the part of the officers and of the soldiers concerned as in the present war. The hon. Member also spoke of the deportation of women. That sounds like something serious, but I believe it will be found that it is only for their own protection, and as such I defend it. If we are unable in this vast country to occupy and garrison every bit of it, when our troops are removed, if women and children are left alone they remain there in some danger—in danger from those marauding bands of which I have spoken, and also from the vast native population.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
And, Sir, this native population is answerable, I believe, for every case of proved outrage either upon women or children. I believe, and the last reports we have received confirm that belief, that in no case has a British soldier been justly accused of such an outrage. But such outrages have taken place, and in many cases the removal of the women has been with a view to protecting them. In some cases they have been deported from towns. [An Hon. Member: From Pretoria.] Undoubtedly they were taken from Pretoria, because at that time, when our hold upon Pretoria was not so strong as it is now, they were avowedly in many cases acting as spies and communicating with the enemy, and it was quite impossible that they should remain in our lines. Then I come to what, after all, has been the principal, I will not say complaint, but the principal point to which the hon. Member has called attention, and that is the burning of farms. I hope the House will remember the proclamation of Lord Roberts with regard to this matter; he has authorised the burning of farms. But before I go into that I should like to recall to the House the observations of the hon. Member for the Elland Division. He quoted from an anonymous statement; and said that whole districts had been devastated, and that half the country had been destroyed.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
I said that if the evidence coming to this country was accepted it suggested that half the 254 country had been devastated, I think it is rather for the government to tell us what has happened.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am not complaining of the hon. Gentleman. His observation, then, was that if the evidence coming to this country, which I regrad as absolutely worthless, is true, it suggests to the hon. Gentleman's mind that half the country has been devastated. I cannot at this moment give to the House exact information as to the number of farmhouses that have been destroyed, but we have telegraphed for it,; and Lord Kitchener informs us that, though very difficult, he thinks it may be possible for him to give some statistical information upon the subject. I cannot contradict this anonymous information. I can only say that I shall be very much surprised if it does not turn out to be most grossly exaggerated. I think I ought to make one other observation on that point, not in mitigation of any judgment passed upon the policy of burning farmhouses, but in order to show the House that the matter is not quite so important from an economic standpoint as hon. Members think. A farmhouse in the Transvaal is little better than, if so good labourer's cottage in this country, and accordingly the pecuniary damage done is really not so very great. Of course that does not justify the burning—the mere fact that the loss is small—but it does render me less pessimistic about the consequences than the hon. Member appears to be. Then I come back, and I say the House will bear in mind that Lord Roberts's proclamation was to the effect that, in the first instance, general officers were authorised to burn down farmhouses as a punishment in cases in which they were used as fortified places, or places for the concealment of arms, or in which the white flag had been improperly used, or where they had been the scenes of gross treachery and of acts contrary to the laws of war. As a matter of right and morality, the Government are prepared to sustain Lord Roberts absolutely. The question of policy is always one that may, in my opinion, be open to consideration—that is to say, a better punishment might be found. The punishments by the laws of war include death, and it may be argued that a personal punishment, even of the most severe character, would be more 255 likely to prevent the acts of which we complain than the burning down of a farmhouse. But as to the moral right to punish men guilty of these offences we have not the slightest doubt. Then, Lord Roberts was placed in the most difficult position which a general could possibly occupy. He had his base 1,500 miles away at least from his front, through a most difficult country, and he was served only by a single line of railway, and any catastrophe to the railway might have meant a catastrophe to the whole Army. Now, Sir, it is all very well to talk of humanity, but humanity must first take into account our own people, and it was of the first importance, it was the clear duty of Lord Roberts, to take any steps in his power to prevent the cutting of the line and the danger which would thereby accrue to his force, and he accordingly issued a proclamation that in the case of the destruction of the line persons in the vicinity would be held responsible, and that farmhouses in the vicinity might be destroyed. We understood this proclamation to mean that he would require evidence of some complicity on the part of the persons whose farmhouses were destroyed.
I am not saying that the words are exactly to that effect. I am saying what we understood, and we inquired the other day, when the matter assumed greater importance, whether the construction we placed upon the proclamation was true, and we have a reply from Lord Kitchener, who has now taken the place of Lord Roberts, that we are perfectly right in that assumption. Now, therefore, we are reduced to the question whether it is necessary in any way to alter the practice of our generals with regard to the burning of farmhouses in these definite cases—cases of people guilty of acts against the usages of war, or guilty of treachery, or involved in the destruction of the line of communication. Let me say that since the proclamation was ordered no doubt the situation has to a certain extent changed, because the position of the British forces is certainly much stronger than it was at that time; that is to say, although there is still all this skirmishing going on, regular warfare has 256 practically ceased. Therefore, it is open to the General now in command to reconsider his position and substitute other punishments, if he thinks it right to do so. The hon. Member who moved the resolution said, I think, that for his part ho was content to leave the matter in the hands of the military authorities, and it is perfectly clear that the Government is bound to leave this large discretion in their hands. But the House may rest assured that both the Government and all the generals in the field, including Lord Kitchener, the Commander-in-Chief, are of opinion that this particular punishment should be used as sparingly as possible. They regret that there should ever have been occasion for employing it, and they hope that to whatever extent it may have been employed in the past—and they believe the extent has been very much exaggerated—in the future it will be employed still less than in the past. The hon. Member complained or suggested—he made suggestions in the most moderate way, and therefore I should like to reply to them—that in the proclamation issued to the Boers in arms the leaders have been excepted from the amnesty. That is only partially true, but it is not a complete statement, because the hon. Member will see that in Lord Roberts's proclamation——
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I may be wrong, because I am dealing with matters which are really War Office matters; but I am doing the best I can for the House. The proclamation I am going to quote is "Government Notice 115, 1900." It is dated the 28th September, and the notice says:—By the Military Secretary's telegram general officers commanding have been empowered to promise that burghers who surrender voluntarily will not be sent out of South Africa provided they have been guilty of no acts other than fighting against us. This concession does not apply to those who have taken a prominent military or political part in the war, nor to those who have broken their 257 oath of neutrality, nor to foreigners. In the event of a military or political leader enquiring as to the terms of surrender, the question is to be referred direct to the Army headquarters.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether that is to be distributed to hon. Members?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I cannot say. I can see no objection. In the meantime if any Member desires to see it, it is at his disposal.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Really, I am endeavouring to explain this matter with great fulness to the House, but right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen delay one by interruptions. What I want to point out is that I do not understand from this that it is right to say that leaders are excluded from amnesty. The only point with regard to political and military leaders is that they must enquire beforehand of the terms to be granted to them. They are not necessarily and automatically included in the terms offered to the other burghers. For that there is evident and sufficient reason, because the cases of important men amongst these leaders are very different, and there may be cases in which it would not be safe or desirable that they should remain in the country; while, on the other hand, there are other cases in which every possible liberty would be gladly extended to them. Then the hon. Member went on to say that he thought it would be well if we gave an intimation to the Boers in which we should promise them compensation for farms destroyed for military purposes, and that we should tell the prisoners who are now abroad that similar compensation would be made to them for any damage which was done to their property during their absence. I do not think the hon. Member can quite have appreciated what would be the result of such a statement as that. To begin with, we should be giving to the Boers who have been in arms against us a great deal more than we are giving to any of our own subjects. Up to the present time the Government has not undertaken, has, indeed, repudiated, any liability whatever for any 258 damage done to property in the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony belonging to British subjects. The view taken is that when a man I goes from his own country to a strange country, and there suffers damage from acts of war, he is not entitled to go to his own country and demand compensation. Well, it is perfectly clear that if we repudiate compensation to British subjects—Englishmen and others—whose property may have been destroyed or damaged during the war, either by the Boers or by our military operations, we cannot offer it to those who have been in arms against us. Then the hon. Gentleman went on to say that we ought to give money for restoring the condition of the country. As I understood, he has in view only one form of spending the money. I do not know whether he suggests that this money is to come out of the pockets of the British taxpayer, but if so the proposal is that we are to vote a very considerable sum of money for setting up again in business everybody who complains that he has been injured in the course of the war, even although the injury is entirely due to his own action, or the action of those I who represent him. I must say I think; that is a very strong proposal, and I venture to think that, no matter what the Colonial Secretary might do, there is no chance whatever that the Chancellor of S the Exchequer would listen to it for a I moment. My answer to the next suggestion of the hon. Member may, perhaps, be more satisfactory to him. He says—"When you come to a full and peaceful possession of the country you will find yourselves face to face with an economic crisis." I do not know—I hope he is pessimistic in that view; but if we do, undoubtedly it must be the duty of the Government of those colonies to deal with it, and they must deal with it out of the funds of the colonies, not out of the pockets of the British taxpayer. Whenever a civil administration is established in South Africa no doubt the financial and fiscal part of its labours will be amongst its most important work.[Opposition cheers.] The hon. Gentleman cheers. What does he mean? He is one of those who have said, and probably truly, that there is great wealth in the Transvaal. But, if there is great wealth in the Transvaal, then there is a great source of taxation, I am 259 entirely with the right hon. Gentleman there.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Then, if there is a great source of taxation, might not the country in a short time be able to pay its way even though it may have to do something to meet the economic crisis which the hon. Gentleman refers to? Now, Sir, I think I have dealt with the suggestions of the lion. Member, and also generally with the military administration so far as it has been in any way called in question. But I now come to what I call the second object of the Government. The hon. Member for the Elland Division has complained that the Government rely too much on military force, and that we show nothing but force to the Boers. I do not think that is the case, but, at all events, I claim him as a supporter when I say that our first object should be to get rid of the military administration. If so, I think he is a little at variance with his leader, because there has long been a point of contention between the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and myself, both in this House and in the country, in regard to a certain statement of his that there should be a military administration and then self-government. I hold that that would be entirely an impossible position, and it is not to that that the Government are going to pledge themselves. We say there must be an intermediate state of things, and for the sake of giving it a name we call it Crown colony government, but everybody knows, who knows anything of the administration of our colonies, that there are the most different kinds of Crown colony government, and, therefore, a little further explanation may properly be required before the House will understand what we mean by Crown colony government. Our view is that there must be three stages—the pacification, I will not say the absolute and complete pacification, but a much greater pacification of the country than has yet taken place; then must come Crown colony government, which really means civil as opposed to military administration; and only after that has been tried can self-government be adopted. As regards the military administration, we are prepared to make all allowances for the 260 difficulties under which these countries have been governed by the officers who have been appointed to these posts, but what we do say is—and it is no criticism, it is no aspersion upon military men, whose business is to make war and not to govern—that they are not by the necessity of their occupation as well qualified for civil government as persons who have devoted their whole lives to it. There are many instances in which you find that military men make most admirable civil servants. Sir Henry Norman, one of the most distinguished of our civil servants, was a military man, and many other's may be in the minds of all present. But as a rule military men are not fitted for this work, and while we are grateful to them for what they have done, we want to substitute for them as quickly as possible a civil administration. Sir, I am afraid almost to say anything about the time at which this can be accomplished, because of the difficulty of the position with which the whole House is familiar. It is not well to prophesy in such circumstances, but perhaps it will be sufficient if I say that I hope—it is not a prophecy—that before the House meets again something in the nature of a civil administration may have been established both in the colony of the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony. As to the general lines of that administration there is no secret, and the Government are prepared to give all the information in their power. The matter, I should say, is still the subject of constant telegram and despatch proceeding between South Africa and this country—between Sir Alfred Milner and the Government—and, of course, there are a great number of details which can only be settled after the framework has been created. But it is our intention to recommend Her Majesty to appoint Sir Alfred Milner as Governor of the two colonies—of the Transvaal and of the Orange River Colony.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
We propose to appoint a Lieutenant-Governor for the Orange River Colony. We propose that both the Governor and the Lieutenant-Governor shall have the assistance of an executive council, which will consist, at all events, of the principal officers of 261 the Government. We do not propose that the constitution of the Orange River Colony should necessarily be the same as the constitution of the Transvaal Colony, either at starting or in the immediate future. It will be dealt with upon its own merits, dealt with separately, and we think it possible, from the circumstance with which everyone is familiar, that an earlier beginning to greater political liberty may be made in the Orange River Colony than in the Transvaal. That is due to the fact that the Government of the Orange River Colony previous to the war was by common consent a very good Government, and, consequently, speaking generally, of course, and not of individuals, we shall find there probably the means to creating a satisfactory administration more quickly than we can do in the case of the Transvaal Colony. To one point we attach the utmost importance, and that is an early, I would almost call it an immediate—although there, again, discretion must be left to those who are on the spot—creation of municipalities. We propose that there should be a municipal government for Pretoria, for Bloemfontein, and for Johannesburg, and probably for some other centre, and to these we hope to be able to delegate all the powers usually delegated to local authorities. Beyond that it is impossible for me to say anything at the present moment so far as detail is concerned.
SIR E. ASHMEAD-BAETLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Who will be the High Commissioner?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Sir Alfred Milner will hold the office of High Commissioner in addition to the office of Governor of these colonies. I am sorry I did not make that clear. That is all that I can say, and I think it is all that the House can fairly expect from the Government in these circumstances. But I want to assure both sides of the House that the principle on which we shall act in connection with this administration is the necessity—the desirability, of course, but the necessity—of consulting local opinion as far as that is possible, of disturbing as little as possible anything in the nature of local custom, local law, or local practice. So far as we can we shall be guided by a desire to leave things, in the Orange River Colony especially, as 262 they were. I am not alluding to the Transvaal without the qualification that there, of course, we shall have to make very great alterations in connection with the complaints which were the original cause of the war. In further pursuance of this policy, we lay it down as our duty, we admit it to be our duty, wherever we can with safety to the States, and with proper consideration to the real interests of the population, to appoint natives to all the posts in the Administration.
MR. J. CHAMBEELAIN
I mean, of course, Afrikanders. I forgot the meaning to be attached to the word. I mean that the existing white population there shall be as far as possible the store on which we shall draw for our local administration. Under these circumstances I believe we can promise that there shall be throughout South Africa equal laws, equal liberty—not, indeed, political independence. In the first instance, that must be more restricted in these two colonies than it is in the colonies of the Cape and Natal, but a liberty and constitution, leading ultimately to self-government, which Ave all desire to see established as soon as possible. Hon. Gentlemen have, I think, recently suggested that these intentions of ours, both with regard to the immediate pacification of the country and the terms that might be offered to those now in the field against us, and also with regard to the future character of the government of the country, should be promulgated amongst the Boers. I entirely agree. I believe that has been done. I might almost say I am afraid it has been done, because, if it has been, it leaves us no opportunity of doing more. The House will remember that Lord Roberts allowed various people to go up to see General Botha and General De Wet and acquaint them with the terms he meant to propose. On one occasion Mrs. Botha, who, I believe, is enjoying British hospitality at Pretoria, and who then enjoyed the hospitality of Lord Roberts, was the channel of communication; and at another time Mme. Joubert and a gentleman of Boer origin who was supposed to have influence with these leaders. If we can do anything more in this direction we are willing to do it; and I confess 263 that, for my part, I am not satisfied not to try. Therefore I may inform the House that I have already communicated with Sir Alfred Milner suggesting a form of proclamation and asking for his opinion about it, and suggesting also that this proclamation should be printed, not only in English and Dutch, as previous proclamations have been, but in Taal, the patois language which is the only one many Boers understand. I have asked also for suggestions as to the people who would be likely to have the most reasonable influence with the Boer leaders. I assure the House, on the part of the Government, that nothing will be wanting on our part. We entertain absolutely no vindictive feelings whatever towards the men who have been in arms against us. We recognise, so far as the great majority of them are concerned, that they have carried on this war with great distinction, so far as personal gallantry is concerned, and also that they have shown the greatest consideration for the wounded and prisoners who have fallen into their hands. There have been exceptions. I do not want to dwell upon them, but, speaking of the great mass, we do not at all complain of the way in which they have carried on this war. They are brave foes, and they should be treated as brave foes; and it is in that spirit that we shall approach them. I hope I have given the fullest explanation in my power of the intentions of the Government. I should myself be sorry to see a division taken on the Amendment before the House. I see no difference between us so far as intention is concerned, and I should be sorry if there should be any appearance of difference of opinion with regard to such an important matter. I do not urge that view with any party object, because it is clear under existing circumstances the division would not be a favourable one for the other side. But on general grounds of policy I hope the suggestion may commend itself to them. They have elicited, if not an entirely satisfactory explanation, at all events a perfectly frank and candid one, and they will be prepared to admit that, so far as our desire goes, we are willing to meet their view of the case.
§ * MR. ASQUITH
The House, I am sure, will share the satisfaction which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed, at the beginning of his speech, at the very moderate tone in which my two hon. 264 friends discharged their duty, and I think it only fair on our part to acknowledge that the level of argument in the non-contentious atmosphere was successfully maintained by the right hon. Gentleman. He has asked why this Amendment was moved. But I think if he will compare the declarations to which we have just listened with the speech, I will not say made in another place, but with the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury, we shall find the most ample justification for the proposal of this Amendment. The House, when it rose last night, was in a state of absolute darkness as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the future of South Africa. Thanks to the Amendment the curtain has been lifted, and the right hon. Gentleman has given us in the latter part of his speech this evening a very lucid sketch of the future settlement, of which I will only at this moment say this, without committing ourselves—as we ought not to do at a moment's notice—to its details, that it does seem to afford a modus vivendi in these conquered territories, which may be the precursor of that fuller, larger, and more complete measure of self-government to which the Government and every party in the State is pledged. The right hon. Gentleman has travelled over a great deal of ground. The point to which I wish mainly to confine myself is rather the immediate situation, than the ultimate future. The right hon. Gentleman has asked what more could we do than we have done to make known our intentions to the Boers? and referred to Lord Roberts's proclamations, I believe that from first to last Lord Roberts has issued six or eight proclamations, but they have never been presented to Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman has read to us an extract from a paper which has apparently been prepared in one of the Departments of the Government. I can only express the hope that the Boers are more familiar with these documents than the British House of Commons. At any rate, surely after what the right hon. Gentleman has told us to-night it is the first duty of the Government to lay those proclamations on the Table in order that we may have—
§ * MR.ASQUITH
I am glad to hear that, because until it is done we are at a 265 great disadvantage in criticising the action taken in the past. But let me point out how, reasonably and indeed inevitably, the Boers may have misconceived some of Lord Roberts's intentions. Take the famous proclamation whereby Lord Roberts ordered that when the railways and lines of communication were injured all farms within a certain distance should be burned. I venture to say that 99 people out of 100 in this country thought that proclamation applied to farms within the prescribed distance whether the occupiers of those farms have shown any complicity in outrage or not. We are told now that that is not the interpretation to be put upon the proclamation. But is not that, the interpretation the Boers have put upon it? If it is, may not that account to some extent for the difficulty with which you are at present embarrassed in arriving at a settlement of the question? The other point to which the right hon. Gentleman referred is a still more important one. I mean the passage in the proclamation of Lord Roberts at the end of September, in which he appears to exempt military and political leaders from the terms he offers to their followers. I have got a summary of that proclamation, and it contains these words—Burghers are informed that as soon as the leaders submit, peace will be declared and prisoners liberated. Exception will be made only in the case of members of the late Government and those directly responsible for the war, and its present disastrous prolongation.Read in the ordinary way, that passage would exempt from the terms offered by Lord Roberts every one of those leaders, Botha, De Wet, and the rest, whom the right hon. Gentleman recognises to be persons of responsibility, exercising command over more or less organised forces, and through whose good offices and mediation alone it is possible to bring home to the minds of the ordinary Boer follower the intentions of the Government and the opportunity the Government has in store if he will surrender his arms. Surely the plainest dictates of policy are that, if we are, as I hope we are from what the right hon. Gentleman has said, going to make a new departure in this matter, terms should be offered to leaders and followers alike, and every inducement offered to the leader to make known those terms to his followers and commend them to them. The right hon. Gentleman has said this is now a guerilla 266 war. So it is; perhaps one of the most extraordinary in history. From a Parliamentary Paper issued this morning we find that we have no less than 210,000 men in the field, and we are said to be spending a million and a half sterling per week. But what is the condition of things which is incident to this guerilla war? Your men are being captured by hundreds and shot by scores. A British convoy cannot move safely for any considerable distance in either of these conquered colonies. British garrisons are being besieged in places which six or seven months ago were taken from the enemy, and, in fact, you have throughout the length and breadth of these two newly-incorporated territories a state of war in the legal, practical, and popular acceptation of the term. Surely the first problem the Government have to solve is this—what are the means by which, at the earliest possible moment, that condition of things can be cured? for I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman, and I think it is in consonance with the teaching and experience of history, that there is no form of war so exacting and demoralising to both sets of combatants as this guerilla warfare. Look at your soldiers. All the pomp and circumstance of war have gone. There is nothing left of it, for them, but hardships and squalor. Their time and strength are taken up, not in fighting pitched battles or doing the ordinary duties of soldiers, but in the uncongenial task of burning farms, capturing stock, and presiding over the removal of non-combatant women and children. Of work of this kind soldiers very soon tire, and I do not believe that there is any officer in command in South Africa who is not anxious, now that it has reached its present stage, that it should close. If that is the effect upon our own soldiers, we may be sure that the present condition of things is equally disastrous to men fighting on the other side. An illustrious general, recently returned from the field, in a speech made the other day, said there is now hardly anybody left in the field against us in South Africa but mercenaries and bandits. With all deference to him, I venture to doubt the accuracy of that description. Certainly there are leaders in command of forces opposed to us who do not fall within either category. But no doubt it is perfectly true that, whether they are burghers or mercenaries, their condition 267 is such that they must live on the country and they will soon be reduced to the necessity of following the role of freebooters and marauders all over the country side. So, then, you have two great machines of devastation carrying on their work side by side in these territories, and it is easy to fore-east the result before many months have passed as the reduction of the whole country to a state of destitution. This justifies the proposal we have made—that Her Majesty's Government, whatever ultimate settlement is meant, should make immediate suggestion to those still in the field and to those who are prisoners of war, such as may tend to put an end to a ghastly and hideous state of things, and accelerate the conclusion of peace which is the necessary preliminary to an ultimate settlement. I do not at all agree—and I do not follow in that respect my hon. friend who moved the resolution—that this is a matter primarily for our generals. In the sphere of military strategy we respect the general, just as an the sphere of technical right we respect it he opinion of the lawyer, but in this, which is, I venture to think, a larger and wider domain—the domain of policy—lawyers may well be silent, and it is the business of the soldier not to give, but to take, orders. I earnestly trust that Her Majesty's Government will look at this matter in a larger and wider point of view, and not confine their consideration to strategical, or supposed strategical, necessities or the strict technicalities of international law. Can anything practical be done to shorten the struggle? One or two suggestions have been made to-night—and I will only refer to them without supplementing them—which might have the effect we desire. First of all, take the case of the prisoners in Ceylon and at St. Helena. I suppose there are there 15,000 burghers of either State—the very backbone of the community. I hope some hon. Members have read, and that those who have not will read, a most interesting account in one of the monthly periodical publications this month, of a visit paid by a most accomplished lady to the prisoners in St. Helena. From that account we find that the prisoners are kept in total ignorance of what is going on in their own country, and I suspect that the only thing that filters through to them from time to time is a vague rumour that this or that farm 268 has been burned. Now surely there is an elementary principle of policy and humanity in the suggestion that they should be informed of what is going on, and that they should know, what many of them do not know, that it is the intention of the Government to restore to them their liberty and property, and that they should have means of communicating with their fellow-citizens who are still in arms, and of exercising such influence as they can to compose and bring to an end this most unhappy state of things. Surely such a step is not beyond the resources of the Government? There is, and I will venture to mention it, as regards these prisoners in St. Helena and Ceylon an economic question of considerable magnitude and difficulty. Most of these prisoners are owners of farms, and a largo proportion of this property is subject to mortgages and charges. The farms are idle, the stocks are to a large I extent destroyed, the owners cannot carry on cultivation, and meantime mortgage interest is accumulating, and to an extent the farmers will be quite unable to pay, and I earnestly submit to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman that unless something effective is done there will be a campaign of foreclosure, mortgagees will take possession of the property, and these men, after suffering temporary expatriation as; prisoners of war, will find themselves permanently banished from their homes. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say I that taxation of the new colonies would be resorted to, though I am not sure that the announcement will be welcome to some sections in the Transvaal; but, whether it be welcome or not, it is undoubtedly a simple principle of justice, and whatever funds are necessary for these or other purposes, I hope it is well understood they will be raised on the security of the revenues of the colonies. As regards those still in the field, surely it might be possible after what has been said to-night—and I cannot but think it would be right and proper—to readjust the terms of the already numerous, confused, and conflicting proclamations, so that Boer leaders and their followers may have placed be fore them, in simple language that each one of them can understand, a definite statement that if they surrender their 269 arms, leaders and followers alike, they will be entitled at the earliest possible opportunity to resume the exercise of the rights of freedom and the cultivation of the property from which they have for the time being been dispossessed. I believe action of this kind, involving no departure from the principles laid down by Her Majesty's Government, could be adopted, and that within a measurable distance of time it would bring the war to a close, opening the door to that intermediate state of things the right hon. Gentleman sketched to us to-night. As I said at the outset, the Amendment has been useful in eliciting the statement we have heard, and I cannot help thinking that the discussion has shown that there is really practical unanimity in the House as to the lines upon which, in the situation in which we find ourselves, we ought to proceed. The right hon. Gentleman has disclaimed, in eloquent and obviously sincere language, any vindictive spirit or temper in arriving at the ultimate settlement. Would it not be possible in that same spirit with which he is animated to send by the authoritative voice of the British House of Commons, combining the judgment and agreement of both parties in the State, a solemn invitation to those still in arms to surrender, with a certain assurance that if they do so they shall not be prejudiced in person or property, and that it is the firm and fixed resolve of this Parliament, without distinction of party, that in the new state of things which we hope will be evolved from the existing chaos we are going to be true to the pledges given in the first instance, and throughout expressed, to make the country now incorporated in the British Empire in the truest and fullest sense self-governing and self-respecting communities.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I said just now that I would lay the Papers to which the right hon. Gentleman referred on the Table to-night. I forgot at the moment that the Papers are not in my keeping; they are at the War Office, but I have communicated with the War Office, and I am sure they will be laid before the House as soon as possible, though I do not know that the will be to-night.
§ * MR. T. M. HEALY
This war has been described as a just war, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife stated here to-night that there was practical unanimity in all quarters of this 270 House as to the manner and the lines of the settlement. He also added that this Amendment would have been justified and done its work if only by eliciting the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies. It, therefore, come to this, so far as I can understand it, that the two sections of the British parties in this House are practically agreed that the Amendment is only a sham Amendment, and that there is no reality in the debate so far as the Liberal Opposition is concerned, and that practically the Liberal Opposition have divested themselves of all right of criticism. I cannot see what is the position of an English Member who starts with the proposition that this is a just war. If it be a just war what right has he to criticise the mode in which it is being conducted by his own country? If it be a just war, and if hon. Members opposite are animated by prudent and patriotic motives, what right is thereto demand on their part statements from the Government which seem to imply that though it be a just war it is being conducted by most unjust methods and under most vindictive-circumstances? I do not admit that this is a just war. I do not take the view that the policy laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary has the remotest hope of success, and I state, for my own country and for myself, that you are only plunging: your country and South Africa into further difficulties, and you are only involving us in taxation you have no right to impose. The right hon. Gentleman has made two wholly inconsistent statements. In the first place, he has laid down that the forces of those who are waging war against you in South Africa are small and insignificant, and that he hopes in a few months to be able to start some form of civil government in the country. If that statement be true how comes it that you have still 200,000 soldiers there to combat these men? Has it come to this: that the one result of this war' is to prove that twenty Englishmen are equal to one Dutchman? That is really what it comes to. When you ask us to swallow the statements about the generous conduct of the soldiers, of their great valour, and their great bravery, we cannot forget that you have more armed men in South Africa than the whole male population of 271 these States together. I cannot help seeing in all this business the same policy of falsehood which has been manifested throughout. The Colonial Secretary hopes soon to establish civil government, but Lord Salisbury says it may take generations, and I am inclined to put my money on Lord Salisbury in the pessimistic view that he expressed in another place—I was going to say the hereditary chamber, but I think, after recent events, the House of Commons rather than the House of Lords, ought really to be called the hereditary chamber. What is the position of the Colonial Secretary? A year and a half ago le started out with the pretence that the difference between him and Kruger was that between a five and a seven years franchise. After the fourteen months war the Outlanders and Transvaalers are told that neither can get the franchise for which so much blood has been spilt, and that it may be generations before even effective local self-government can be established. That is an appalling verdict on the policy of the right hon. Gentleman. Let the negotiations with President Kruger be right or wrong, we now have this avowal after the expenditure of £100,000,000 and the sacrifice of the lives of the bravest and best of the men. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife asked for the issue of a proclamation—as if there had not already been enough of them—to cajole the Boers still under arms to surrender. What is the temptation held out to them? They found their country as one of your generals wrote of our country in the days of Queen Elizabeth—"Your Majesty, "said he, "has nothing now to reign over in Ireland except carcases and ashes, so that the lowing of a cow or the sound of aploughboy's whistle cannot be heard from one end of the country to the other. "That might well be said of South Africa at the present moment. The Colonial Secretary said that only poor huts, such as labourers inhabited in England, had been destroyed, and therefore it would not greatly matter, so far as the question of compensation was concerned. But I read in an English newspaper that De Wet's house, which was destroyed, was erected at a cost of £2,000; grand pianos were given to the flames, and the soldiers cheered as they watched the rosewood furniture burn, while they poured paraffin on his household gods. What 272 inducement do you offer De Wet to come in from the veldt when he has a rifle and a horse, and can stop convoys and capture men 400 at a time whenever he pleases? He is to find Sir Alfred Milner installed as Lord Lieutenant of the Transvaal, with a Deputy Lieutenant—probably one of the dismissed members of the late Government. Does anyone who has studied the methods of the British Government in any country in which it has established its supremacy over a subject race suppose that such a prospect will tempt such a man? First of all, the Boers would not believe your words. They would say that you had broken the terms of every proclamation you have issued; that at the Sand River Convention you promised absolute independence; that when you took the Transvaal in 1877 you promised not merely a Crown colony, but a local Parliament; that after Majuba you I promised independence with a suzerainty, and in 1884 by the London Convention gave absolute independence; but that all these Treaties were broken. I wish to give the Boers in the field some slight sketch of what will happen if they surrender. In the first place, every man put over them, from Sir A. Milner down to the humblest magistrate, will be a bitter enemy of the Boer cause, the Dutch régime and the Boer race. In every dispute between the Boers and their neighbours, the English settlers or the Colonials, they will be judged by judges inimical to their interests, and the jury franchise will naturally be so arranged as to exclude every Dutchman from the jury box; and if the jury franchise is not sufficiently artistic for that, there will be a system of "stand by," and challenge to achieve the same result. With regard to education, will not Sir A. Milner establish schools from which is excluded all teaching of the Dutch language—a point upon which the Dutch have the strongest possible feeling—and in which every incident connected with the late war will be given in the school books in the form the most discreditable to the Boers? There will also be laws against newspapers; and, of course, freedom of speech cannot be tolerated. You will not allow public meetings in Ireland. Is it likely they will be permitted in the neighbourhood of battlefields? The Dutch have tenacious memories, and will they not be anxious to celebrate the anniversaries of 273 the splendid valour and courage, and stubborn resistance of their race t Can Sir Alfred tolerate a state of things of that kind? What will become of the Transvaal flag? The Transvaal flag will become a treasonable emblem and you must make laws against seditious emblems. These people have watered their flag with their heart's blood, and that is the reason why they must not be allowed to exhibit that flag in public. Any Dutchman in the future who flies the Transvaal flag upon the anniversary of the Battle of Colenso will get at least six months hard labour, for such an act would be regarded as an outrage against his Queen and country. No man is better acquainted with how to conduct these matters than Sir A. Milner, for he has been a Unionist candidate in this country, and he understands the patois of oppression and the jargon of misgovernment as it is spoken in Ireland. He doubtless will not use any of the coarser expressions of Irish government, such as "Do not hesitate to shoot, "and he may not even take away the clothes of his prisoners when they are in gaol, but no doubt he will act entirely according to precedent. It is to that state of things that you invite the co-operation of De Wet, Botha, Delarey and all the other fighting Boer generals. One of the great attractions brought out in the speech of the Colonial Secretary for these gentlemen to surrender is that there are to be three great administrative municipalities established in the Transvaal—on the Birmingham model of course. Can anyone suppose that these municipalities are intended to be set up except to help the British garrison in the Transvaal? Barracks will be wanted for your troops, and forts will be required; the garrisons must have regimental bands in order that certain loyal and patriotic airs may be played on the anniversaries, such as the Annexation of the Transvaal, or the capture of Cronje. Just fancy what festering sources of disaffection and disloyalty such a system will set up. I do not think I have ever heard, as the outcome of the British mind, a more complete scheme for keeping the Boers and the Boer generals in the field than that proposed to-night by the Colonial Secretary. The First Lord of the Treasury did pay these brave men a tribute for their gallantry and the kindness with which they treated the wounded prisoners. A few phrases of that kind 274 are much more effective to fighting men than all the talk about municipalities and Crown colonies, and other things of that description. And if these statements be true what becomes of the pretences on which you started out upon this war? If you confess that prisoners are well treated, what about the "grievances" of the Uitlanders who provoked this war? They were not prisoners, but free men. These prisoners had no press or right of public meeting, and now you are obliged to confess that they were treated well by the Boers. What a light that throws upon the petition to the Queen, at 5s. per head, from the 100,000 Uitlanders in the Transvaal! It is only part of the abominable system of hypocrisy that has run through this business from beginning to end. I do not think there would have been so much to say against this war had you started boldly and openly on a buccaneering and piratical policy. If you had put on your signboard, "John Bull and Co, thieves," that would have represented an intelligible policy. But you said the Dutchmen were treating the Uitlanders with injustice, and that they were oppressing the mine owners. Now, when you have got the country into your own hands your position is that for generations you will not be able to establish the system which you went to war to create. As to the mines, I think the tax on dynamite fades into insignificance before the suggestive statement of the right hon. Gentleman to-night. I think the tax on dynamite was 6d. per hundredweight. If that is so, I want to know what will be the royalty on gold. I understand that wherever the Government of the Queen is established the laws of Great Britain are carried. If that be so, then every ounce of gold that has been mined in the Transvaal from the date of Lord Roberts's proclamation annexing the Transvaal will have to pay the Queen's mining royalty. In addition to that, we have the Colonial Secretary's opinion that these places will have to bear an enormous proportion of the cost of the war. That is very satisfactory to me in one sense, but it must be very unsatisfactory to the Chartered Company. The war up to the present, has cost something like £100,000,000, and of that sum Ireland will have to pay from £12,000,000 to £15,000,000. The £16,000,000 which you propose to raise this session involves nearly two 275 years of the total revenue of Ireland. I want to ask the House has British statesmanshipcometothis—that there was no other means of bringing about a settlement in South Africa except by the wasting of £100,000,000 of money, by the sacrifice of between 20,000 and 30,000 lives, and by the sending out of this enormous army, 220,000 strong? Have the resources of civilisation been brought to this pass, that you allow your Minister to hail this as a feather in his cap, when that feather has cost you £100,000,000, and to enable the Minister to put it in his cap has cost 30,000 lives? That feather will long be remembered in English history. It is now bedraggled and stained with blood. It is a remarkable fact that those who gained I most by this war, whether in reputation or in dividends, have sacrificed themselves least. We have heard of the Dublin Fusiliers, the City Imperial Volunteers, and the Inniskilling Fusiliers, but who has heard of the Birmingham Blazers? The Prime Minister had two sons at the front—one at Mafeking, and the other who is now on the Treasury Bench. How many had the Colonial Secretary? How many of the shareholders in Tubes, Limited, have taken the field? Has it not come to this: that while the peasantry and the gentry of this country and of Ireland have suffered and died on behalf of your flag, those who have gained most by the war have remained around their cosy firesides at Highbury? Can any of you deny it? In walking through the streets of Dublin I have seen numbers of poor men who have come home from the war, having lost an arm or a leg; I see the reports of the guardians' meetings, at which men and women have been admitted to the workhouse in consequence of the war, and I want to know where the gain or glory or glamour for Ireland comes in? I absolutely deny that there is unanimity on both sides of the House with regard to any part of this policy. From one end of Ireland to the other is nothing but horror and detestation felt towards it. And let me say this is not simply because we are anti-English. I believe that the conduct of the Americans in the Philippines was less excusable than your conduct in the Transvaal. Unlike the Americans in the Philippines, England has some rag of justification for her action. I do not believe the conduct of the English 276 army in the Transvaal or, the English generals has been any worse than the conduct of the American generals in the Philippines, where I have read of Catholic churches being tabernacles rifled, and the chalices of the natives pawned in the of San Francisco. There as those from the in unhappy omen, when the right hon. Gentleman wants to justify his policy, that it is to America in the miserable squabble with the Philippines he has to go. It is not because the sentiment of Ireland is anti-English that I condemn this war, but because the war is an outrage on free institutions, because it has been got up at the instance of greedy capitalists, who, I am glad to say, will see their shares go down in the morning when they read the announcement which has been made from the Front Bench; and, above all, we believe so far from fusing the two races together, so far from leading to a good understanding between the two countries, the effect will be to lay up for yourselves the same store of hatred and ill-will and dislike which, in other parts of the world, has been the fate of England whenever she has come into collision with white races. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to say that you would offer these Boers self-government, and that they must be content with whatever form of self-government you offer them. What is more easy to give the outward forms of liberty and to deny the reality? Have the Irish not got the outward form of liberty? The Irish come to this House and are outvoted in every division. In the same way I could have constructed a Constitution for the Boers which would have looked the most perfect thing on paper, but which would cause the Boer to go down on his knees and curse the British Government from the day an Englishman landed in his colony. In their hatred of Englishmen the Boers almost outrivalled the Irish. Now the problem seems, from the Boer point of view, to be an extremely simple one. They can lose nothing by fighting. You have bereft them of their liberty and independence. You have stolen their country and burned down their farms. What has the remaining Boer to expect—call him guerilla, bandit, freebooter, what you like? Absolutely nothing. He is a free man, with a gun on his 277 shoulder, and a horse under him, and I should like to know if any man with any ordinary independence, with any touch of spirit in his blood, would surrender that position and exchange it for the position of a British slave. I think these men seem to consider that it is better to be a Boer corpse than a British subject. That seems to me to be the opinion entertained by those holding out. When the war had broken out not much more than a month—when Mafeking and Ladysmith and Kimberley were being besieged—we were told that the Boers were utterly sick of the war, and that they were constrained to join their commandoes by Joubert, De Wet, Botha, Delarey, Cronje, and other generals, and that they were absolutely sjamboked into the trenches. But now that the sjamboks have been burned, you find it still takes 200,000 men to govern the country. If that is correct, and if the pretences which started the war are false, what more reliance can be placed now upon the pretences that you carry it on in hopes for the future which were wrong a year ago? Will not these hopes be just as wrong two years or twenty years hence as now, and may we not in twenty years hence, those of us who survive or those who come after us, be still debating what is called the South African Question, and the condition of the South African colonies? At the present moment your great possessions in China and elsewhere are absolutely imperilled by this absolute locking up of 200,000 troops in South Africa. Does any man imagine that your settled and stable trade in China is not a thousand times more valuable than all the trade in South Africa? And yet in order that a Birmingham leader may have a feather in his cap, 200,000 men are locked up in South Africa, while Russia is matching off with Manchuria, and Germany with Kiou Chiou, and Italy is putting in a demand for a slice, and all the rest of Europe is looking on with satisfaction, and while the total British force in China seems to amount to something less than 8,000 men. That may be a spirited foreign policy, but I do not believe it is either successful or statesmanlike. But while the Irish people have to pay this large sum, they alone, of all the three Kingdoms, get nothing from this war except wooden legs. Occasionally you have bought a horse in Ireland, but taking the 278 fifteen millions which we will have to pay for the war, I do not suppose that you will have expended in that country more than, roughly speaking, £50,000 to £100,000. Well, I suppose that ultimately you hope to hunt these Boers down like rats. I do not know how that may be, nor do I see how the great Liberal party can fairly object to that policy once they proclaim this war to be a just one. How can they object to deportation of these men to St. Helena or Ceylon, when Cromwell sent Irishmen to the Barbados, and Liberals put up a statue to the man who did it, and broke his promise of quarter to Irish garrisons 'I Very well, you have hunted these men down like rats, and you have exterminated the last of them in the field, but you have not, so far as I can make out—at all events, you do not admit that you have—destroyed the women and children there. Well, we know that in the time of Queen Elizabeth, James, and William, millions of Irishmen were so exterminated or exiled. But we also know that such of these Boers as return from St. Helena, or survive the climate of Ceylon, will not have the kindest memories of British rule. So far as I can make out, in order to hold the country you must have policemen and blacks and negroes to do the work. Lord Salisbury hinted that greater kindness would be shown to the natives, and that greater kindness will be to enrol a kind of a Dutch Royal Irish Constabulary. So, therefore, you have arranged for yourselves in South Africa and you have planted there a new combustible which will only wait the torch of some opportunity to break out in flames on some future occasion. You admit that you are not loved in Europe. Even Lord Salisbury boasts of your splendid isolation. I fancy you cannot deprive the Boers entirely of arms, but must, in consequence of the wild state of the country, allow them something in the nature of arms to keep down the game and protect themselves from the natives. What the Boers will do is to wait the first opportunity when you are in difficulties, and then they will return to their commandoes. It is all very well to indulge in platform platitudes, but you should recollect that you are dealing with a stubborn race. The Dutch fought the Spaniards for centuries, and were willing to break down their dykes and swamp their country in order to drive out their enemies. The 279 Spaniards were, I imagine, at that time as great an empire as you are to-day; hut we have seen the Spanish Empire go down until it has lost its last colonial possession, and the same may befall the British Empire. My sympathies are with the Boers. My hopes are for their freedom and their independence, as settled by your own solemn conventions with them. In repelling unprovoked aggression I wish them success in battle; I wish them success as an army in the field either as guerillas or as a standing army. These are my wishes for them, and I think I am as much entitled to offer up these wishes and aspirations on their behalf as Mr. Fox did in this House for the independence of the revolted American colonies. That was the language they held when they believed that aggressions of an intolerable character were being practised in your colonies. If those were the sympathies of your bygone statesmen in regard to a mere imposition of a tax on imports, how much more, would it be the case here of men with whom you have made three solemn Conventions at different times; whose liberties and independence you guaranteed and whose country, on the colour and pretence of a miserable franchise, you have deluged with blood; whose population you have deported, and over whom, as a Governor, you propose to place a man who went out there determined to have this war, and who has now made the Transvaal a country of carcases and ashes, and whom you now propose to allow to wield the sceptre of power over the ruin he has made. At times there have been heard appeals made to common sense, and there used to be a voice in this House raised on behalf of right—the voice of Mr. Gladstone—that organ-voice which was raised in indignation against every wrong, whether it was in Armenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, or the Transvaal itself. Where is there such a voice to-day? We have the Liberal party, like petty Pontius P dates, washing their hands of the guilt of innocent blood. If the Opposition were genuine, or really worthy of their dead Leader, they would have raised their voices to-night, not in the manner in which this debate has been conducted, against a war which was made in order that the Member for West Birmingham should have a feather in his cap, and in order that Sir Alfred Milner might be made the Governor over what 280 is called a united South Africa. If the common voice of mankind has any effect on English opinion, it is a remarkable fact that there is not a civilised nation in the world which is in sympathy with the action taken by the English in the Transvaal; that, of course, gives no pause or stay to the policy that you have adopted. But some day, sooner or later, this nice question that you have raised about burning farms may come home to yourselves. We know, of course, that your fleet is very great and your army very powerful, but we have read of late of projects for the invasion of England. No doubt they are as old as William the Conqueror, but one day they may succeed—more improbable events have happened—and then the burning down of your beautiful mansions within ten miles of any of your south-coast railways will bring it home to your mind. Many people, I among others, yet entertain a superstitious opinion that there is a judgment of the Almighty for the deeds of nations as well as the deeds of individuals, and we may be content to wait God's own good time for the vengeance which is His.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
We have reached a time of the night when a debate assumes a particular phase, and when many hon. Members have unfortunately engagements or distractions elsewhere to which they wish to do full justice. Therefore I think it is right that I should at once express the view I take of this Amendment. It is an Amendment for which I may say that I am doubly responsible, because I quite agree with the action of my hon. friends who moved and seconded it in such an admirable way, while it also bears out the policy which I endeavoured yesterday to impress upon the House, and which I thought the Government ought to pursue. But we have had from the Secretary for the Colonies a speech which I at once frankly say is very much more favourable to our object than we anticipated. We had yesterday a most kindly and benevolent view of the question put before us by the First Lord of the Treasury, and he not only refrained from giving any definiteness to the excellent intentions he professed, but he refused to give that definiteness; and, therefore, I cannot say that he left the question from our point of view in a very 281 satisfactory position. We had another speech, which we read this morning, delivered in another place, which certainly appeared to go in a diametrically opposite direction, because the Prime Minister said from his place in the House of Lords that in his estimation self-government would not be given to the inhabitants of these I two countries for many years, and even for generations. If that was the best prospect held out by the Government of course it would be no inducement to us. But the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies has practically accepted this Amendment—in fact, I would ask the Leader of the House whether it is not possible for the Government without derogation of its dignity to accept the words as they stand. The Government cannot, of course, accept a hostile Amendment enforced upon them by a vote of the House, but they can accept any Amendment which is to their own taste and according to their policy. If, however the right hon. Gentleman does not incline towards the words, and if he has some objection I of detail, I do not force the Amendment upon him; but we are left in the position that there is apparently unanimity on the main question in the House. We all think, as has been said again and again. I that statesmen should have more to do in this matter in its present stage than the mere soldier. I do not wish to speak with any disrespect of the soldier or of the generals, but the political view ought to come into full play as well as the mere military view, and certain promises or expectations ought to be held out in the most public way to the men now in the field, to the population generally, and to the prisoners who are exiled, in order that they may know exactly what are the intentions, the benevolent intentions, of the people of this country and of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman went further, and sketched a future scheme of government for these two colonies. For the most part that scheme of government appeared to be very much what we should desire to see adopted, but I cannot accept it until we see its full details. We are not expected to do so; but, putting that aside, there was in the right hon. Gentleman's speech an acceptance of the general principle which we wish to enforce for the approval of the House and for adoption by the Government. I do not think that 282 this ought to be left where it is. I think we have done good service in bringing, forward this Amendment, because it puts in an explicit form that which is the general sentiment throughout the thinking and feeling men in this country. We have put it in that form, and the Government have accepted it; for I understand that that was a little more than a, conversation across the floor of the House; it was rather a solemn acceptance by the Government. If we could read the feeling of the House of Commons, there was a unanimous acceptance of the principle embodied in the Amendment. In these circumstances I think it would be well that we should; have no division, because we do not wish that we should appear to be divided on the subject. Although in some cases it is necessary to take a division in order to enforce some particular doctrine or theory, in this case what we ask has been conceded substantially by the Government, and therefore we should probably gain nothing, by taking further steps in the matter. If my hon. friends are willing to withdraw the Amendment, I should be very glad if the House would give them leave to do so.
§ * MR. JOHN BURNS (Battarsea)
said, fourteen months ago this country entered into war with the two Boer Republics. He believed then, and his belief was the same now, that the war was due to a misunderstanding, that the misunderstanding was not worth war, and that the war might have been avoided by tact, temper, and arbitration. The House was told fourteen months previously that the war was levied neither for goldfields nor for territory, but for the purpose of enforcing equal rights for all white men. Those declarations appeared to have been forgotten by the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary in some of the proposals he had just laid before the House. In to that war the British people had entered, against his advice and his strongest utterances in the district in which he had been born and bred, in a confident, light-hearted, and optimistic spirit. They were told that they would have their Christmas dinner in Pretoria; that the war was to cost£10,000,000, and that one army corps would suffice to teach the recalcitrant Boers that British rule was better than local self-government. The Government had been a year out in 283 their calculations with regard to the time, £90,000,000 in cash; they had required six army corps more than it was expected would be necessary; and each successive general who had returned home had said, as previous generals had I been saying months before, that the war was over. Yet the war still went on, and it was because he opposed this war in its initiation that he stood in his place in the House upon the first opportunity to protest against its continuing, and to tell hon. Gentlemen, inside the House and outside the House, who expected fourteen months ago that the Boer Republics would succumb in so short a time, that they were just as much out in their calculations with regard to the suggested scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, which had just been placed before the House, bringing peace and contentment to the Boers a year hence, as they were in their other calculations fourteen months ago. On the General Election he had emerged from the stormiest campaign which he had ever fought. He had fought the campaign, into the petty personalities of which it was not necessary to go, and won his election upon one issue and one alone. That issue was, "is this war necessary," and 6,000 London workmen, by returning him to Parliament, said "No." The one important question before the House at the present moment was the settlement of South Africa. That question he also put to his constituency, and 6,000 London working men, after fifty meetings, the like of which he had never held before, returned him to his seat for the purpose of demanding that the war should be brought to a termination upon the basis of giving these two Republics that independence which they formerly possessed; the self-government for which they fought and died; and the right to do as they liked with their own, and in which ho wished them all success. He held that view when it was condemned and unpopular, and he held it now when the instinctive justice of the British people was beginning to prevail, and their inherent love of fair play was gaining ground now that the Rhodesian press had prostituted itself so far as to disgust even those who earned their livelihood by writing the lies which it contained. He believed that the people, now that they were sober and clothed in their right mind, if they were 284 asked upon a perfect register to express, their opinion, would support the views he put to the House of Commons. He disagreed with the Amendment. It was neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring. It was, in a word, but a note of interrogation to the Colonial Secretary. And he disagreed with the Colonial Secretary's response, which, as the facts would prove, was nothing more or less than a counsel of despair. It was a stopgap expedient that he had put before the House to tide over some temporary difficulties, and instead of bringing peace to South Africa and conciliating the Boer Republics, it would only retard and confuse a permanent settlement. It whispered settlement to the ear, but brought no hope to the heart of the men who had been so sturdily fighting. The right hon. Gentleman said, at the end of fourteen months, that he was prepared to do certain things in the future, as if there was no past to wipe out; but it took two to make a bargain. We had to hear what the Boers had to say to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, and unless he was very much mistaken—and he hoped he might be—he was perfectly convinced that the settlement would provoke instead of conciliate and would cause confusion where a more generous suggestion would have met with acceptance by the Boers. The proposal did nothing for the personnel, for those who had been governing Africa, or those who had taken a prominent part in the negotiations with the Boers. It left the personnel untouched and unchanged, and so long as that was the case, and the personnel which involved this country in the war was still stationed in South. Africa, the war would go on. It was because he disagreed with the personnel in South Africa that he disagreed with the proposals of the Colonial Secretary, and he predicted them being an utter failure. There was one good feature in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and one only, and that was its manly and conciliatory tone. And had the negotiations fourteen months ago been carried on by speeches couched in that spirit, and expressed in that mode, and the country educated before the event, it would have averted a calamity which had involved two nations in ruin, and we should not have had 12,000 of our brave lads' bones bleaching; in South Africa, and should have saved the expenditure of £100,000,000. This war had damaged our prestige, and almost 285 ruined our reputation as a just people. He welcomed the change in the tone and temper of the right hon. Gentleman. Apart from that there was another thing which might create a misunderstanding. The right hon. Gentleman, in his scheme, quite overlooked the fact that the Boers would never sacrifice that freedom for which they were fighting and dying like men. No one would suppose from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that we had 250,000 men at death-grips with 20,000 of the bravest guerilla troops that ever took the field against us or any other country. The right hon. Gentleman ignored that in his proposals How long was the military rule to last for the pacification of the country? For five or six years at least. After that there was to be an intermediate stage. How long was that to last? For another twenty years, after which was to come Crown colony government, and then the gradual devolution of municipal government in selected areas in which the Boers were not to have delegated right or personal right, but these delegates were to be nominated by somebody in Pretoria. He did not think that would suit the loyal Dutch, who had always been on our side, because it would mean not only martial law for the Transvaal and Orange Colony, but Cape Colony as well, as it was impossible to prescribe orders for any particular geographical area when the population was discontented and intermixed. The result would be a crisis in the political, social, and economic situation, with a fall in employment wages. There would be an increase of destitute white men from all over the world, who, sympathising with the Boers, would bring about a condition of things in which the last stage would be worse than the first. He objected to the scheme of the Colonial Secretary, because it appeared to him that the Boers, in order to get back to their peaceful occupations, would have to sacrifice everything they had been fighting for. That would not make for peace, or permanent settlement. The scheme was irreconcilable with the statement made by Lord Salisbury on the previous evening in another place, in which he had said that it would probably take a generation or two, perhaps several, to bring about a settlement in South Africa. He preferred in this matter to follow the judgment of Lord Salisbury rather than that of the Colonial Secretary, and he thought it was a calamity for this country that for the past five 286 years the Colonial Office could not have been filled concurrently with the Foreign Office by Lord Salisbury, for then, in all probability, the war would not have occurred. This scheme not only conflicted with Lord Salisbury's statement; it was not in harmony with the statement made by the First Lord of the Treasury when he, with that considerate kindness which, during this war, he had conspicuously shown, put forward his views. But when the House was told that the war was to be prosecuted with vigour and unremittingly, and when they were told that it might take a generation or two before popular government would be secured, such statements precluded the possibility of any such settlement as that proposed by the scheme put forward by the Colonial Secretary. It was one of the main proposals of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme to govern the people of one country in their own country by another people who knew nothing about it. He wished to remind the House how it had been misled in all the Estimates brought forward with regard to the war, and to briefly mention what it was that we were engaged in. What were the facts with regard to this war? In November last our casualties were 3,739 men hors de combat in the month, or more than in many of the preceding months, not including 10,000 men suffering from enteric in our Cape hospitals. Two hundred and fifty thousand troops in South Africa, and more wanted. Those soldiers who had a right to be relieved of their military duties months ago were war sodden and wasted, horses were dying by the thousand, and moreover our soldiers were face to face with the state of things which was not such as they expected. The Boer was to be dirty, ignorant, and, above all, corrupt, the whole of which story had been done away with by the speech of the Colonial Secretary, who, after fourteen months, had said that the Boers were gallant soldiers and treated our wounded excellently well. He did not require to have £100,000,000 spent and 30,000 of his fellow-subjects to die to emphasise that fact. He might be taking a pessimistic view, but he did not think so. First of all, the whole thing was to be settled when we took Pretoria. Pretoria was taken in June, and there had been 25,000 casualties since we had taken the Boers' chief cities; we had lost more guns than we had ever surrendered to any 287 former enemy, including those which we lost to America through a very similar blunder committed by a foolish king and a foolish Parliament 100 years ago. The whole of this had been done to give votes to men who did not want them, to confer a franchise on Uitlanders, who whenever they had no chance of fighting against us were trying to assassinate Lord Roberts. Those were the men for whom we had gone to war. Eleven of them had been recently arrested, and there was not a Dutchman among them. This was an interesting side - light on what occurred, and he ventured to predict that the casualities, many though they were when Pretoria was taken, would be nothing to what they would be three years hence, unless the war was settled upon lines which granted independence to the Boer Republics. What were the elements which ought to make for generous concessions in this matter? In the first place the European world was against us, as was also America, for the reason that 120 years ago York Town taught a lesson to a foolish king and a still more foolish Parliament who thought they could impose upon America what the Colonial Secretary's scheme sought to impose on Africa. They fought us and beat us, and Lord Chatham then, and he now was happy to say that we deserved defeat, and as a result there had been 120 years of hatred against this country, because the sense of injustice still rankled in their breasts. America was against us, and for the independence of the Boer Republics. Little Switzerland, which had always looked upon this country as a sanctuary where a man could speak the thing he thought, regretted the new diplomacy which had effected so wonderful a change in this country during the last few years. Belgium was also against us, Prance and Germany. With the exception of the Kaiser, there could not be found a German in the country who would accept the Colonial Secretary's scheme. The colonies were not with us; that is to say, they did not come because they thought the war was just, they came to save us from an Imperial disaster. We had tested them once with the Soudan, and then with this crime, and though the Government might attempt to summon the patriotic spirit from the vasty deep, a third time it would not respond. He believed that had the late election been fought on manhood suffrage and a new register the verdict would have been 288 reversed. The Government had only obtained four seats as a result of the poll, though how those seats were obtained he did not intend to enquire. We could not afford to have the desolation of a country, the destruction of farms, and the deportation of population much longer. The hon. Member for the Ecclesall division of Sheffield said that it was all right. If the hon. Baronet had had a gun in his hand and been one of Rundle's half-starved troopers, and had seen farms destroyed of men he was beginning to respect, in order that Rhodes might be enriched—
§ * Mr. JOHN BURNS
He knew what the hon. Member would have to do in such circumstances. He would be ordered to make a strategical, movement to the rear in order that he should see nothing except what suited those in command. All this was going, on, and what for? Because we were too proud to admit that we were wrong in this war. Whom were they going to allow to be the medium of conveying even the Colonial Secretary's scheme to the Boers? Sir Alfred Milner. He had great sympathy for a bold man struggling with adversity. He wished Sir Alfred Milner success in whatever the Government, might ask him to do, if it made for permanent peace, but he did not believe they could achieve it through the man who had declared the policy of "Never again." He could not be liked, by the Dutch, who knew that he found fun in shooting at a dummy of President Kruger at a shooting gallery. Until they minimised the political difficulty by having some one personally more acceptable to the Boers than Sir Alfred Milner they could not get any settlement, and they would have to fight right out to the bitter end. They might kill all the Boer men in South Africa, but so long as there was a pregnant Boer woman or mother left the struggle would go on even with women for many years. The 16,000 or 17,000 Boer prisoners some day must be released, and they would go back to where their hearthstones had been, where their desolated farms now were, and they would fight for them as our forebears fought for their liberties in Scotland nearly two hundred years-ago, and as Irishmen fought for their 289 homes in more recent times. If they thought that Sir Alfred Milner was going to destroy this spirit in the Boers they were mistaken. If the Colonial Secretary thought that exhausting and wasting war would make these men tractable he was greatly mistaken. He did not believe there would be any surrender for years. There would be no settlement short of independence, and until that was granted this war would go on. But whilst the soldier was doing his portion of the work the statesman should do his. He believed that a soldier should only be asked to do soldier's work. Officers and men had done their work, and they had earned their respite. The time had come when the soldier should have a rest, and when the statesman should begin, and when politicians should accept responsibility for the mischief which had been done, and extricate South Africa from the turmoil in which it was placed. It was most refreshing now to see how wisdom came after the event. We were going to give no compensation to the British colonists. If the right hon. Gentleman had only said that with regard to the franchise two years ago we should have had no war at all. We were to have a Crown colony, with Sir Alfred Milner as Governor. That was mo suggestion at all. It was proposed that beyond being High Commissioner for a country larger than England, Scotland, and Ireland, he was to be Governor of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. Why it was impossible. They were asking too much when they imposed this duty upon him. He was to have Lieutenant-Governors, and then there were to be executive councils. Who was to nominate these councils—Cecil Rhodes or Messrs. Beit, Eckstein, and Co.? The Government was under a delusion if they thought they could differentiate the treatment of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. They could not give them differential treatment. If they attempted it it would fail, because blood was thicker than water. They were to consult local opinion. Why consult local opinion now? Why did not they do it before this war broke out? Having burned their fingers they were now trying to save their arms. His answer to all that was, "It won't do." It would only illuminate the folly of the negotiations between this country and the Boers for the last five years. It indicated that we 290 should have a complete change in our system of treating with them. If he had his way that change would be to have the Colonial Secretary out of his office at once, Sir Alfred Milner home from the Cape, and a cooler, wiser, more patient, and more tactful man sent to succeed him; and he should have a captain's guard put round Mr. Cecil Rhodes tomorrow morning, because so long as he and his rascals were at large in South Africa there could be no peace there. When he was on his trial here the South Africa Committee whitewashed him. The Colonial Secretary described him as a man of honour; and even to-day he was strong with the Government, as was proved by an extraordinary contract for guns with a German firm. They had heard that twenty-seven batteries of guns had been made for this Government. Who signed the order? Cecil Rhodes. How was it that the only criminal in South Africa was allowed to escape? The Colonial Secretary said he was going to consult legal opinion. Were Sir Alfred Milner's councillors to be the nominees of Cecil Rhodes, as they were? If so, there was an end to the prospect of peace in South Africa. Some would say, "The hon. Member for Battersea is not a politician or a diplomatist." If to act in the way certain people did he hoped he never would be. If to involve free countries in all the horror they had witnessed was statesmanship, he never wished to be a statesman. He wanted to see a settlement of this war. He wanted a better scheme than that suggested by the Colonial Secretary. He wanted the British people to recognise this fact: that anything short of independence would dissatisfy the Boers, would be unacceptable to the Orange Free State, and would lead to permanent chaos and ruin, and the ultimate loss to Great Britain of South Africa. The wisest, permanently safest, most generous, the boldest, and the proper thing to do was for this great country to say that the time had arrived when they should make some measure of reparation to these two small Republics. What was more, he believed that now was our opportunity. The Colonial Secretary said they were brave men and the world testified that they were in a military sense better soldiers than ourselves. Everyone recognised the superiority of Mr. Kruger as a writer of despatches to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. We 291 were beginning the century mosity and jealousy and suspicion upon this country because of its spread-eagleism during the past six years. We could not afford to keep locked up in South Africa 250,000 of our soldiers for a cause that was not worth the death of a single grenadier, for an object which twenty years hence every Briton would be ashamed of having subscribed to. The present situation had arisen from a succession of blunders that any politician of ordinary ability might have avoided, and which posterity would curse us for having allowed this country to drift into against the sober judgment of the common people, and against the wish of our friends in all parts of the globe. He came straight from an election where he preached the independence of the Boer people and condemned this country for the action it had taken. For two months his wife and himself were subjected to treatment such as no Uitlander was ever subjected to in South Africa. He had for nine consecutive days to stand in the passage of his own door with one of Killick's best cricket-bats in his hand, resolved that he would fill his area with Rhodesian rascals and blackguards if they ventured to attack. Jew salesmen from Covent Garden and Billingsgate had engaged roughs to smash his windows and morally and physically intimidate him, but the better class of Conservative workmen were now endorsing the attitude he had taken up. He condemned the policy which was being pursued because he wished to see Greater Britain greater in the best sense of the word. He did not want South Africa to be a second America. He opposed their policy because he believed it to be fraught with danger and disaster to the British race, probably in the near future, and with threatenings of our pre-eminence as a great political people. He asked for the independence of the Boers to be restored to them, with equal rights for every white man. Until this was done this war would go on. The war was conceived in selfishness, begot in money, and pursued with ignorance and blundering of the worst possible kind. He wished to see all that swept on one side and freedom granted to the people for its own sake, instead of a scheme of government founded on the fraudulent Throgmorton Street and Exchange rascals for whose war had been fought.
* Sir E. ASHMEAD-BABTLETT
said he would not have spoken at the present time, but for the remarkable and fantastic speech to which they had just listened. Although the hon. Member for Battersea received the support of nearly 6,000 working men at the recent election, there were over 5,800 votes cast in the opposite direction. He wished to call the attention of the House to what the hon. Member had said with regard to the Uitlanders. The hon. Member seemed to be labouring under some extraordinary misapprehension as to the meaning of the word "Uitlander." He seemed to think that the Uitlanders in the Transvaal were what they would call "foreigners"—Italians, Germans, and Frenchmen—men of the nationalities to which the eleven men belonged who were deported for plotting against the life of Lord Roberts. The majority of the Uitlanders in the Transvaal were Britons, and the hon. Member had been guilty of a gross injustice to them when he said that they did not fight in the war.
§ * MR. JOHN BURNS
The only honest Uitlanders were the Northumberland, Durham, and Cornish miners who came home and would not fight.
§ * SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
There were 30,000 British Uitlanders in Johannesburg, and they were driven from the Transvaal by gross injustice before the war began, and from among these some of the most gallant fighting men were recruited. It was monstrous that they should be misrepresented in that House. The Imperial Light Horse, consisting of Uitlanders, had sacrificed their lives on the battlefield. They were the men who showed such splendid courage in the defence of Ladysmith—e.g., British Uitlanders from Johannesburg. Many other corps, and especially mounted corps, made up of the same class, had shown great courage and skill in warfare, and had been of much service to our arms. He protested against the way in which the hon. Member for Battersea had thought fit to stigmatise these gallant men. He did not think it necessary to defend Mr. Rhodes in any detail.
§ * SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
No, I it is not my business to quote the South Africa Committee's opinion of Mr. Rhodes.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the House that the question of Mr. Rhodes and the South Africa Committee is not before the House.
§ * SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said he had had an opportunity, of which he was very proud, of accompanying Lord Roberts and the forces under his command, and he shared to the full the privations of the troops. He did not think the hon. Member for Battersea would have enjoyed the positions in which he frequently found himself. From his own personal experience he was able to say that Mr. Rhodes had been the life and soul of the defence of Kimberley, and had devoted much of his time to the relief of the starving population of that place and of the wounded, both British and Boer. When, owing to the loss of a convoy, the army before Paardeberg was almost starving, Mr. Rhodes collected every cart and wagon he could find and sent them out laden with provisions for the service of our Army. He protested against the language that had been employed that night against a man who was one of the greatest living Englishmen, and who had saved South Africa for this country.
§ * MR. C. P. SCOTT (Lancashire, Leigh)
I do not think that the House is greatly concerned to-night either with the character of Mr. Rhodes or the conduct of the Uitlanders. My own opinion of Mr. Rhodes is that we owe this war to him, because if it had not been for the Raid we should not have had the war, and, therefore, on him rests as great a responsibility as ever rested on any human being. As for the Uitlanders, no doubt, like other people, they have good and bad among them, and I agree with the hon. Member for Battersea that the best of them came home and refused to fight. We are face to face to-day not with questions of this kind, which are largely historical and personal, but with as great a political problem as ever any people were called upon to solve. What is it that we have got to do? I put aside the military question. Let us imagine—and it requires some stretch of imagination—that this war is at an end. What have we to do then? We have got to govern a people upon whom, for a good or a bad reason, you have inflicted the direst calamities, and from whom you have taken those things they value most in the world. We propose to do this at a distance of 6,000 miles from our 294 shores, and not only that, but after you have travelled that distance by sea you have to travel 1,500 miles by land. How is it proposed that this country, great and resourceful as it is, shall permanently hold in subjection a people as brave, as stubborn in their love of freedom, and as true in their patriotism as ourselves? How is it proposed that we shall govern these people—I do not say to-day or to-morrow, but how are we going to do it permanently? That is the problem we have before us, and that is the problem which should have been present to the minds of our statesmen at every stage of the war. I rejoice at the marked and auspicious, change of tone in the Colonial Secretary to-day. The right hon. Gentleman is necessarily a potent influence in the councils of the Government, and I hope we may look upon this change of tone,, although we saw little to correspond with it in the utterances of his nominal chief, as pointing to what is to be the tone and temper of the Cabinet, and I hope also it is a reflection of a change of tone which has come over the councils of an even more potent influence in South Africa. We cannot expect a man after he has inflicted an infinite calamity on his country to turn round and say he has been wrong, but I do think it is a first sign of grace to see him speaking with decency and temper in this House of our opponents in this war. The right hon. Gentleman has accompanied that change of tone with the announcement of certain changes of policy, but I do not think those changes are very important. There was a gap in the course of development which he sketched out. He did not tell us how we were to start these changes. He told us he wished to grant, as soon as possible, municipal self-government—an excellent thing; that he wished to repatriate the exiled Boers—also an excellent thing; that he wished those whose farms had been burned, and whose means of livelihood had been destroyed, to be treated with generosity—another excellent thing; but he did not tell us how these things were to be brought about. The first thing these men want to know is, what is going to happen to them if they lay down their arms. Is there to be a complete amnesty? They want to know, secondly, how they are going to live in their own country. We are given no information upon either of these points. The right 295 hon. Gentleman did not tell us that the leaders of the Boers now in arms could claim amnesty; on the contrary, he told us there were some of them to whom it would be unwise and impolitic to extend an amnesty. That is absolutely insufficient. Nothing short of a generous and complete amnesty to the whole of those in the field, provided only they will lay down their arms, will have any effect whatever. As to the repatriation of these poor people, how is it to be done? Obviously, it will be a very costly matter. It is all very well to speak of these farms as being but poor establishments. I dare say they are, but there are a great many of them, and there are not only the farms, but also the stock. The whole of South I Africa is held in stock-farms; without the stock the farms are useless. You have swept the country nearly bare of cattle and provisions, and it will be no small matter to restore not only the houses but also the stock of these people to enable them to live. The very first thing a statesman has to do in approaching this problem is to decide who is to pay, and what is to be the machinery for re-stocking these farms and for putting the people back on the land. The right hon. Gentleman indicated that that was not a matter for which we were responsible, but that the colonies would be responsible. What does he mean by that? The colonies cannot pay until they have money. The Free State is a poor State; it will be years and years before it has enough to pay its way; it has no gold mines, and we robbed it of its diamond mines; it is a purely agricultural people, and what prosperity it had was obtained almost entirely by trade with the Transvaal, and the Transvaal is now ruined. Take the Transvaal. The Transvaal is a poor State if you regard it simply as an agricultural community; the only wealth it has—and what a curse it has been to it—is the gold. Gold can only be got at when the country is settled, and even then how long will it be before the mines begin to pay? Everybody will tell you that it will be some years before the gold in dustry can be got properly to work again, so that you will not get any money out of the Transvaal. That pre-supposes that the' country is settled and that you have something like stable order, but before you can get that you must get rid of these bands of armed men. It is, therefore, a circle in which we are walking. It is perfectly idle to tell us that the 296 colonies must pay. This country has got to pay, and it will get the greatest value for any money it has ever spent if the sending back of these people produces any degree of contentment in that devastated land. I am not very sanguine as to the future of these States. We have to deal with a people of indomitable spirit. When they do lay down their arms I think they will say to us, "Well, you have conquered us; govern us." They will have nothing to do with us or our Government, but will stand and bide their time; they will nurse the grievances, and the griefs, and the awful memories which we are burning into the national conscience and mind of that people. But we are bound to do what we can. The task may not be a very hopeful one, but we are bound to approach it, and so far from approaching it in the spirit of conferring some great favour because we are restoring some little portion of that which we have destroyed or taken away, we ought to be grateful for anything we can do to restore any approach to prosperity and any degree of contentment in that country. So far from taking a lofty attitude and thinking we are treating the people with generosity we ought to feel that we owe them an infinite reparation. [Ministerial laughter.] I am quite aware that that is not the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is not to be supposed they would take that view, and I do not expect them to. If they believed, as I believe, that by this war they had inflicted the direst blow upon the Empire of which they profess to be so proud, that they had struck at every principle of freedom and of the rights of nationalities for which this country through history has been famous as the champion, that by the expenditure of £100,000,000 and the loss of thousands of lives they have only created a political problem infinitely harder than that which they had to solve before the war began, why, of course, it would be more than human nature could bear. That is why they dare not face the facts. That is why they shut their eyes to truths which are as palpable as the daylight. That is why they will go on groping in the dark. If they did but dare to face what is the truth there would be a little possibility that they might evolve some degree of order out of the chaos they have created. The problem, I admit, is a cruel and hard one. It is possibly insoluble; I think it-may be insoluble; but at least we have 297 got to try to solve it. For that task we must have a little courage. It is all very well to talk about courage in the field. That has never been lacking on the part of Englishmen. We now need something more than that, something more rare; we need political courage. I know there is real and grave danger in extending any large measure of political rights to a people just emerging from a cruel and devastating war. But there is danger in every course, and the only question we have to consider is which is the course with least danger and most honour. I say without hesitation that the only course consonant with honour, and at the same time the safest—though it is not free from danger—is to grant to these people at once a large measure of self-government, to run the risk, to give them at least a foretaste of what you say you have in store for them. What are these people to think when the Prime Minister states in the House of Lords that it may be generations before they receive this self-government? If we wait for generations, if we wait for one generation, what prospect is there that we shall ever be able to grant it? This thing will not grow easier, and unless we are prepared now and here to make a beginning I believe the time will never come when we shall feel it to be safe to extend to these people the liberties of which we talk so much, but are prepared to concede so little. We have reached one of the turning points in this long business, and am glad there is at least some sign that the Government are prepared—and I trust the administration in South Africa -are also prepared—to look at matters in a different light. But it is useless to indulge in mere generalities and the expression of good intentions. [Ironical Ministerial cheers.] Well, if hon. Gentlemen think I have been too general I shall be only too delighted if they will give me the opportunity of being more particular. You have got to approach this matter in a broad and courageous spirit. It is not for me—the House would not listen to me I did—to draw up an elaborate scheme of self-government. I would say this, if you begin with a Grown colony you will end with a Crown colony. You will never get any further. But I suppose the matter is past praying for. We shall doubtless muddle along as we have muddled along before, but I do not think we shall get from our political muddling much more advantage than 298 from our military muddling. Unless we are prepared to offer something more than mere vague assurances, and to offer definite terms and conditions to the individual who will surrender, and to the whole of these armed bands, including the leaders, and also to give them some immediate instalment of self-government, so that they may see we are in earnest, we may as well give up the whole business, and simply rely upon force. The powers of this country are almost unlimited, and the spirit of our people is so great that we are prepared to go through any calamities rather than surrender in a cause which we believe to be just and necessary. [Ministerial cheers.] I am quite prepared to credit hon. Gentlemen opposite with holding that conviction. All I appeal for is that they will endeavour to look at the facts fairly and squarely. Every day disproves some prophecy to which they have given credence, and shows that they have miscalculated every military, moral, and political force with which they had to deal. It is now time that they should try to realise things as they are in order that they may not plunge the country further into an abyss of disaster and disgrace.
§ * MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
I am one of those who have been saying things outside the House about the war because I happen to hold strong opinions concerning it. I am opposed to all war in the abstract. The civilisation and the Christianity of the nineteenth century should have produced some other method of settling disputes than an appeal to brute force. But apart from that general predilection, I am opposed to this war in particular on two main grounds; first, because I convinced myself, by as careful a study as time and circumstances would permit, of the literature relating to the history of South Africa, and of the conduct of the negotiations which preceded the war, that the war was unnecessary and unjust; and, secondly, because I also convinced myself that the war would have an effect the exact opposite of that intended—that so far from extending the Empire the inevitable result must be the curtailing of the Empire. You cannot build up an Empire of free peoples by force. You may hold coloured races and undeveloped peoples in subjection by force, but you cannot hold Europeans, with all the strength, which an agricultural life gives, under the conditions existing in South Africa. It is 299 not a question of the Transvaal which is now at stake. We are face to face with not only the possibility but the probability of the loss of South Africa. The Dutch of the Cape, it will not be denied, were loyal subjects of the Queen previous to the outbreak of the present war. Today, as one old Dutch clergyman expressed it, they are loyal because they are compelled to be. There is all the difference in the world between a loyalty held by compulsion and a loyalty the outcome of respect, esteem, and affection. If the war in the Transvaal cost nothing else than the loss of the loyalty of the Cape Dutch, that would have been a price far too great to have paid for any advantages the Transvaal is likely to bring. I have special pleasure in having the opportunity of being in the House on the evening which marks the beginning of a new departure in our South African policy. Like preceding speakers, I could have wished, since a change had been agreed upon, as it evidently had, that it might have been a more generous change. Much has been said as to the encouragement which those holding my own opinions concerning the war have given to the Boers to continue fighting by expressing their sympathy with them, but I venture to submit to the House that even if all that has been said in that respect be true it has not given one tithe of the encouragement to continue fighting which the speech of the light hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary to-night will give. When the news filters through that at length the Cabinet has condescended to abandon its rigid attitude of unbending determination to insist upon unconditional surrender on the part of men in the field, the predominant feeling in the minds of those men will be the old military maxim, "Keep the enemy on the run." They will feel that they have gained half their battle, and that they only require to continue fighting long enough to achieve the end they have in view. But apart altogether from this view of the matter, I regret exceedingly the method which is to be adopted to have the new proposals brought under the notice of the men who are still fighting. It seems that the old policy is to be continued of sending out semi-authorised messengers, male and female, to beg and appeal to the leaders of the Boers to surrender their arms. Failure has attached itself to that policy in the past as it has to every other 300 undertaken by the Government in connection with the war, and failure must again dog the footsteps of any like attempt. The tributes paid to the Boers to-night and last evening convinced the House, if it required convincing, that the men who are in the field against us are not merely men of courage but men of honour and self-respect. They are fighting probably as much for the principle of being treated as men as from any other cause. These men are patriots in the fullest sense of the word. You ought to ask for an armistice between the contending forces to enable the terms of peace to be discussed. If the House desires, and if the Government desire, that the Boers shall cease fighting; if they desire to give the new terms an opportunity of being considered on their merits, the Government should go the length of declaring to those men now in the field an armistice for one month to give the terms an opportunity of being considered. If it is said that that would compromise the dignity of this nation, my reply is that, with regard to this war, the nation has no longer any dignity to compromise. In the end the war must come to this, and the sooner this advice is accepted and acted upon the better it will be for ourselves and for them. Some things have been said to-night concerning the conduct of the war, especially in relation to the burning of farms. But before I pass on to that question I should like to call the attention of the occupants of the front Government Bench to two questions in connection with the administration of affairs in South Africa, to which I shall ask for an explanation. There is first of all the statement repeated over and over again—and, so far as I am aware, it has not yet been officially contradicted—that conscription is being enforced at Johannesburg. I desire to know upon what authority Sir Alfred Milner is enforcing conscription upon British subjects as a condition to being allowed to return to what is nominally British territory. Is he acting according to law, and, if so, what law? If Sir Alfred Milner is not acting under law, I wish to know will he be prevented from taking one more downward step in his mad career? A great conference of the Dutch people has recently been held at Worcester, and we have been told that a great number of troops have gathered in the locality to preserve the peace. Those who, like myself, take part occasionally 301 in labour disputes know exactly what that means. In this case not only have the troops been called in to preserve the peace, but cannon have been mounted on all the surrounding hills commanding the open space in which the meetings are being held. And why? These people are British subjects. They are meeting together unarmed, as they have a constitutional right to do, to discuss matters of grave public importance affecting them and affecting us, and why do we permit this insult, this incitation to rebellion, to be held out to these men as is done by the mounting of guns in the manner I have stated? I will now pass to the other part of my remarks, chiefly with regard to the burning of the farms. I want to submit to the House that, in this regard, as in some others, the proclamations of Lord Roberts and our other generals, if not illegal, at least are contrary to the provisions of the Hague Convention for the carrying on of war between civilised countries. Article 4 of that Convention provides in regard to prisoners of war—All their personal belongings except arms, horses, and military papers, remain their property.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member looks at the Amendment he will see that a discussion as to whether the war has been carried on according the provisions of the Hague Convention does not come within the terms of the question before the House, and is not relevant.
§ * MR. KEIR HARDIE
I thought that, as several other speakers had been allowed to go rather wide of the subject, the same licence would have been granted to me. I do not know that I have any more to say in regard to the terms of settlement. I feel very strongly with regard to the opinion expressed by some of the previous speakers that this war will not end short of the restoration of independence to the two Republics. There is one feature of the proposed settlement to which I should like to call attention for a few minutes. We are told that there is to be a distinction between the form of Government offered to the Transvaal Republic and that which will be offered to the Orange Free State. We have not been told why this distinction is to be made. In the Orange Free State there are no gold mines, and no mine speculators to dictate the terms of peace and the form which the Government of the country shall assume. In the Transvaal, 302 the men who forced the war upon the nation will see to it that when the settlement comes, in so far as they can affect that settlement, it will be in their interest, and thus we have a fresh incentive to the Boers to continue fighting to the bitter end. One further statement made appertaining to the settlement was that of giving compensation to the Boers whose farms have been destroyed. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary has stated that he believes the numbers in regard to farms destroyed have been very much exaggerated, and that the farms are not of much value. So far as my information goes—and I have tried to find out the truth—the number of farms burned in the two States number between 1,200 and 1,500. The hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield has told us that most of these farms would cost very little to rebuild. If that be so, then the cost of compensating the Boers would not be so great as has been stated. But there is another side to this question. The war is now costing us £1,500,000 per week, and it may drag on for months. Now one month's cost of the war would more than compensate all the losses sustained by the destruction of property. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer desires to study economy he should support this proposition to pay compensation, if by that means the war might be brought to an end. I do not think I have any more to say in regard to the settlement, although I shall, later on, have more to say on other aspects of the war, for I have no intention whatever of modifying the views which I have given expression to outside of this House simply to meet the convenience of hon. Gentlemen inside the House. I believe that the nation was lied into the war, bluffed through the war, and tricked into endorsing the policy of the war before it had time to recover its sanity. We have been told that the war was undertaken in order to "wipe something off a slate," but unless a better settlement is proposed we shall have to put something else on to the slate. All that has been wiped out up to the present has been the finest act of moral courage that was ever shown by a British statesman in settling a question of international politics. If those who support the Boers on both sides of the House had but the moral courage and the insight of the late Mr. Gladstone, who knew the right and had the courage to do the light in the face of public clamour, 303 our troubles in South Africa would grow less, and the outlook there would not be so gloomy. I will conclude by saying that I am delighted to find that the party opposite, with its big majority, is beginning to see a glimmer of the fact that the Boers cannot be defeated, and the British Empire, with all its power, has pitted itself in vain against the people of those two Republics. What you are dealing with are men, and not machines, which have been demoralised, debilitated, and degraded by a bad system of commercialism. They were free men, and they are people who love freedom. I shall therefore endeavour inside the House, as I have endeavoured outside, to educate the nation to my views that even the strongest Government of modern times—which is already weak at the knee—will be compelled to concede to these two Republics the only form of settlement which can be accepted by them, and that is the complete restoration of their independence.
§ * MR. EMMOTT
I think it is generally agreed that the reply of the Colonial Secretary has been so sympathetic in tone and so generally satisfactory that it would be a pity to divide the House on the Amendment which I have moved. I have therefore pleasure in accepting the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, and I ask the leave of the House to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.