§ "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £16,000,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901, for Additional Expenditure, due to the War in South Africa and to Affairs in China, in respect of the following Army Services, namely—
|Vote 6. Transport and Remounts||5,300,000|
|Vote 7. Provisions, Forage, and other Supplies||4,250,000|
|Vote 8. Clothing Establishments and Services||750,000|
|Vote 9. Warlike and other Stores||4,700,000|
|Vote 10. Works, etc.:||£|
|Cost (including Staff for Engineer Services)||1,000,000|
§ * SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
There was in the earlier part of this session a note of satisfaction or at least of acquiescence in the policy which is now being pursued by Her Majesty's Government with which I for one was not able to find myself wholly in agreement. Certainly I think the tone and feeling of the House, especially since the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, has shown that whatever satisfaction might have been originally felt has very considerably waned in view of the very serious condition of affairs which that right hon. Gentleman disclosed. It would not be in order to do so, and I am not about to enter at all into the question of the policy which has led up to this most unhappy conflict. I think myself that the fatal policy of the Colonial Secretary was the original fountain from which all these waters of bitterness have flowed, but it would be quite irrelevant at the present time to enter upon any considerations of that kind. Nor do I intend to say anything upon the policy of annexation which has been announced some time. Every leading statesman, or nearly every one, on both sides of the House, from each extreme of view, from Lord Salisbury to my right hon. friend the Member for Montrose Burghs, has, however reluctantly, acquiesced in that policy, and from that time it was apparent that the fate of the controversy was sealed. I do not pretend that I have shared in that view, but I feel that it would be foolish and worse than foolish—it would be wrong—to attempt in any way to undermine or to undo it, because such a course might be affording encouragement for a further prolongation of this most embittered contest to the brave men who are fighting in the field, and might expose our own soldiers to a continuance, possibly, of the present horrors of war. The question which really arises on this Vote is, given that annexation is the necessary consequence of what has gone before, the necessary sequel to what has passed, what policy should be adopted for the purpose of ending this war, and is the 614 Government wise in the course they have recommended to the House? Both sides in this conflict, British and Boer, have many great inducements to put an end to the struggle. Their inducements are the actual facts and prospects of the day. We had a revelation of this in the speech of the Secretary of State for War last, night. Our loss of men, either killed or disabled or put out of action, according to the summary given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire, is about 70,000. Our outlay has already been £85,000,000, and I believe it will prove to be a great deal more. The cost of what is now going forward is something like £5,000,000 every month—I believe it will prove to be a great deal more than that; and when we ask how long this condition of affairs is to go on the right hon. Gentleman who is primarily responsible has pointed us to very pertinent examples of warfare of a similar character which have lasted not, for months but for years. It was obvious, that in the whole course of his speech he was preparing the mind of the people of this country for a continuance of this warfare, expenditure, and horrible devastation, not merely for a few months, but for years, with consequences incalculable, not only in men and money, but in hampering the industry of the people of this country, in postponing all prospect of reform, and in ruining the country with which we went to war to make more prosperous and contented. I do not wish to use the language of exaggeration, and I do not think that any gentleman who reflects in the light of history upon the probable future of such a struggle as this will think I really have been using the language of exaggeration. Let me confine myself to the net results as disclosed in the speeches from the Treasury Bench. After all this outlay and fourteen months fighting, our soldiers hold the ground practically within the range of their guns. The territory coming close up to the suburbs of Pretoria and Bloem-fontein is almost in a state of anarchy. The railways are constantly being destroyed by the enemy; there are great camps of women and children whom the Colonial Secretary told us it was necessary to remove to places of safety in order that they might be safeguarded against outrage and violence by natives. There is dacoiting in full play, and we have been told that we are to contem- 615 plate a probability of famine. When famine comes it will first attack the natives, the consequence of which may be apprehended in a native rising, the natives numbering four, five, or six times the whites—a rising which must lead to massacres of the whites, accompanied by all the horrors which have been witnessed on similar occasions in all the unprotected regions—that is to say, nearly the whole —of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. The future is still more ominous. The feeling of the Boers is unquestionably being embittered more and more every day. The feeling among the Dutch in the Cape is rising, I am afraid, very rapidly. I trust and believe there is still among the Dutch population of Cape Colony, arising from a recollection of British justice administered for so many years with so much impartiality, a feeling of loyalty and a desire to assist this country in the great difficulties in which we find ourselves. I remember on one occasion, a friend of mine, one of the most distinguished men in the United States, President Harrison, in the course of the discussions we had last year in the Venezuelan Arbitration, saying one thing that struck my mind. He said that the great position of Great Britain throughout the world was not due to her mighty armaments, or even to her uncontrolled sway over the sea; it was due to the purity of her justice. I believe that the recollection of that, the feeling that British justice is pure justice, will do more than anything else to retain in their loyalty the sorely tried Dutch population of the Cape. But there undoubtedly is danger of great disaffection and discontent to which no man can shut his eyes. We have taken upon ourselves the government of huge territories, new territories, which are said by some to be as large as France and Spain together; I think that is an exaggeration, but at any rate they are much larger than France; territories in which there is no chance of our being able to establish permanent government, except sooner or later by the consent of the white people who are living there; and every day this unhappy business goes forward makes the time more distant at which we can hope to win that consent. There has been danger, as was stated by a Cabinet Minister only two or three months ago, and there may again be danger, of the necessity of depriving the Cape of its present constitution, or in 616 some degree of modifying it. If that be so, unless by some method of conciliation we can succeed in attracting the good will and in encouraging forgetfulness and forgiveness on both sides in regard to what has happened in this terrible fight, we may find ourselves in this position—that the whole territory of Cape Colony, Natal, and the two colonies we have annexed, will have to be governed by force, and by force alone. If that duty ever falls upon this country, I will not say it is an impossible duty to discharge, but I will say it is by far the most onerous business that even this country has ever undertaken, and that, notwithstanding the almost limitless resources of this country in treasure and in the bravery of our men, we shall find it a task which will imperil the very existence of the British Empire. Hitherto, there have been very few efforts to put an end to this war except by the use of force. There has been, I think, somewhat of a change of temper not merely in the Government, but visibly on the bench opposite, and still more visibly in the; country at large; there has come a feeling that after all what Mr. Bright once said is true—namely, that force is no remedy; that, at all events, such methods as have been adopted have been failures. In the first place there was an attempt to carry on the military government of these new colonies in a spirit of leniency, for which Lord Roberts cannot be too highly praised. That leniency did not succeed in putting an end to the war. Why? I believe there were two reasons. The first was that unconditional surrender was in all cases insisted upon. Unconditional surrender is very well if you are dealing merely with a military force, but it is not well if you have an eye to forming a government with a possibility of reconciling to the new form of government the people whom you are asking to submit. The second reason seems to have been that while we demanded unconditional surrender we were avowedly unable to extend to those who did unconditionally surrender the protection to which they were absolutely entitled. The position of men was this: They were offered, and most wisely, the right of going back to their farms under an oath of neutrality. If the district to which they returned could have been or was protected by our troops that would have been a merciful course, one worthy of the 617 traditions of this country, and one which would have had a far better chance of success. But every gentleman who studies the facts must know that we were quite unable to extend that protection. After our troops had succeeded in forcing upon these men an unconditional surrender the men found themselves exposed to the visits of their own countrymen who refused to recognise the oaths of neutrality, as in such warfare always occurs, and the men were placed in this position: if they did not join the Boer commandoes they were liable to be shot, while if they did join they were liable to be treated as men who had violated the oath of neutrality and upon whose shoulders and property the consequences of that violation must fall. Then came the usual cry for increased severity. Everyone who looks back at precedents in this matter will acknowledge that this always happens. In the instances quoted by the Secretary of State for War it happened; it happened in Spain, and it has happened in Cuba and elsewhere. When measures of a comparatively conciliatory character fail there is an immediate cry for increased severity. To what extent that increased severity went, and to what extent farmhouses and property have been destroyed I know not; we have not the information entitling us to judge upon that matter. We have newspaper paragraphs, but if there has been one thing more conspicuous than another in the course of this war it has been the entire unreliability of newspaper information. I do not, therefore, for a moment desire to lay undue stress upon the measures of severity that have been taken; I do not know what they are. Of this I am perfectly certain: I for one shall not believe until it is proved by conclusive authority that either our officers or our men have willingly been the instruments of a cruel policy. If there have been proclamations which have entailed cruelty, the gentlemen whom we see opposite are the people responsible for it, and upon them, and not upon the officers must fall the responsibility for anything that has happened—if anything has happened—contrary to the traditions of warfare and the honour of this country. Before Parliament met there appeared in the organs of the press which have inflamed this controversy from beginning to end, and which share in no small degree the responsibility of bringing about the 618 war, a clamour for still further severity. The only result of severity in the past has been to make more enemies and to make those enemies more bitter. If such a course be pursued it will tend only to the prolongation of the war and to the further embitterment of any relations that may subsist after the war is over. I believe that the idea of proceeding by such methods would be as great a miscalculation of human forces as any that has preceded it in the course of this conflict. I say the time has arrived for negotiating. The time has arrived for offering these men terms—["No, no!"]—not terms inconsistent with British dominion, but terms upon the basis that the territories should remain part of the British dominions. I know very well that the people of this country would not listen to any proposal for undoing the annexation, but I say that consistently with the maintenance of the British dominions it is time now to offer terms to these men and to discard the idea of unconditional surrender. Unconditional surrender at all times involves a degree of humiliation, which, after all, is a comparatively small matter considering what we are dealing with. When you are dealing with a number of men who are confessedly very ignorant, and who have been taught no doubt a good deal of the kind of language used in some organs of the British press, you must remember that to ask for unconditional surrender is to give them no assurance whatever of the fate in store for them when peace has been restored. The Government ought to inform the men now in arms against us that they are willing to give an amnesty if the enemy will lay down their arms; in the second place, that they are willing to assist with money to re-stock and rebuild their farms, without which it is impossible to expect any restoration of the industry of that which is our own territory and which none of us desire to see left a desert. In the next place, we should offer them the promise of self-government and free institutions at as early a date as possible—not generations hence, as the Prime Minister suggested—with all the necessary precautions and under the British flag, so that there could not be the least possible chance of any military danger arising again. The difficulties, I do not doubt, are very great indeed. Will hon. Gentlemen opposite 619 try to put aside party feelings and consider what the difficulties and dangers of our present position are if we take any other course? We are really in danger of a continuance of this war for a very long period at an enormous cost, progressively alienating whatever remnant—and I hope it may be a large one—there may be among the Dutch in favour of the maintenance of union with ourselves. Is it not worth while to try and see whether these men now in arms are prepared to accede to terms which do not disturb the annexation? Why should we not at least make an effort in the hope of preventing the ruin which will follow if this war continues much longer? But if we are to have any chance of success we must also recognise the impossibility of carrying out negotiations of this kind through those who have been the instruments of this war, and whose policy has met with so much opposition in South Africa. I am not going to mention any names, or to make any attack, especially upon an absent man. Let us suppose for a moment there has been in South Africa, among those who are charged with the subordinate responsibility of carrying out the duties and the policy imposed upon them from here, as much wisdom and as conciliatory a temper as you can imagine. It still remains that the instruments of the Imperial policy have necessarily provoked a degree of hostility and acrimony on the part of those who are opposed to us which will make the success of any negotiations very difficult. It is the duty of the Government to send out, not as superseding any official at all, but for the purpose of negotiating, if possible, a peace, the ablest man they can find for the purpose in this country. It is a crisis, and, if it is not recognised now, it will be before long—one of the gravest crises in which this country has been for a long time. We ought to use the very ablest talent we possess; we ought to send out a man of great authority and experienced judgment for the purpose of seeing whether by means of negotiation some conclusion of this war may be arrived at. There is only one other thing I have to say. If we are to have any chance of reconciliation at present or in the future we must do justice to our enemies. Throughout the last twelve, fourteen, or eighteen months there has been—I do not say on the part of gentlemen of authority and position, but on the 620 part of a great number of persons who have neither authority nor position—a series of constant attacks upon those who are to be our fellow-subjects in the future. These attacks have now been recognised in public by the Colonial Secretary to be unjust. He has told us that we have brave enemies. No man who is willing to be just can deny that we have brave enemies. He has told us that in the main they have conducted this war honourably according to the rules of warfare, and have shown compassion and kindness towards those who have fallen into their hands.
Mr. POWELL-WILLIAMS (Birmingham, S.)
So have we.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
The right hon. Gentleman says "So have we." Of course we have. I do not doubt it for one moment; I take it for granted; but while we claim that we are a humane and merciful people we ought also to recognise the truth in regard to our enemies, as has always been the custom among brave combatants. These men have, on the whole, conducted the war honourably. That there have been instances to the contrary, I do not for a moment doubt; there always are in war. If they have these qualities they are worthy of being treated with all the consideration that you can extend consistently with the maintenance of the policy which the Government have laid down. I believe that, although it is late in the day, if an attempt is made to treat these men as brave and honourable adversaries, offering to negotiate with them on terms which they must have the greatest possible interest in accepting, because they are most injured by the continuance of the war, we may still have a chance of laying the foundation of a peaceable and harmonious empire in South Africa. But if we adhere to the policy of severity, and refuse even now we are victors and have vanquished our enemy in the field to offer them any terms that brave men and honourable men can accept, I say that although you may have won the General Election, you will have lost South Africa
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
We are asked to vote a large sum of money for the continuance of the war. We are 621 obliged to finish the war, and we are obliged to vote this money, but this opportunity seems to be a proper one for offering a few observations upon the way in which the war has been conducted, and a few suggestions as to the way in which it may be determined. I fear there is a risk, unless a better policy is adopted, that the war may continue for a long time to come. We had last night from the Secretary of State for War, whom I desire to congratulate upon his accession to the high office—never more important than at the present moment—to which he has been appointed by Her Majesty, a statement which I thought not only clear but very creditable to his courage and character. Someone referred to it as a pessimistic speech. It appeared to me to be a perfectly truthful and sincere statement, and it is far better that the House and the country should know the views of the Government with regard to the position at which we have arrived. The right hon. Gentleman gave us some instances in which a scattered and irregular warfare had been long continued. One other was added with great appositeness by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Forest of Dean. I will add two others which are perhaps even more remarkable—namely, the long time it took the French to reduce Algeria, a contest prolonged to fifteen or twenty years, and the equally long time it took the Russians, with all the advantages of an enormous force and superior arms, to reduce the resistance of Schamyl and the mountain tribes of the Caucasus. Therefore I do not think the Secretary of State was pessimistic when he led us to believe that possibly this warfare might last for a considerable time. He also observed with truth that this war had been marked by many miscalaulations. The first was that the Transvaal Government would give way entirely during the negotiations. The second was that the Transvaal Government would wait until we had surrounded their borders with an overwhelming force before they struck at us. The third was that the war would soon be over. The fourth was that the taking of Bloem-fontein and Pretoria would put an end to the war. The fifth was that when we had offered terms to those who came in and took the oath we would be able to protect those who accepted the terms and to segregate a large number of the burghers from further resistance. Every one 622 these calculations has proved to be entirely erroneous. It is not the case that in war the unexpected always happens, and that we could not make provision against what has occurred. In the great war of 1870 between Germany and Franco from beginning to end there was scarcely an event that happened unforeseen to the German Government, and they marched from victory to victory because they had calculated everything beforehand. Want of foresight has been our bane throughout the whole of this business, during the negotiations preceding the war, and during these fifteen months of war. I do not deny for a moment that the war has been conducted under the greatest difficulty. It is a very difficult thing to fight a nation in arms, and that is what we are doing. Every burgher of the Free State and the Transvaal is as much a soldier as every one of us would be if volunteering were made universal by law, in which case it would cease to be volunteering. But although the armies of the two Republics are citizen armies they are not therefore guerillas; they are entitled to be treated as combatants in every respect, and to the same extent and degree as the armies of France or Germany. I do not think they ought to be prejudiced in any way because they are citizen soldiers; least of all should men be so treated when they are fighting for their independence. There is a certain fallacy underlying the expression "guerilla warfare." That expression began to be used when in the great Peninsular War there were, in addition to the regular armies of Spain operating in conjunction with our forces, a number of irregular bands, holding no commission whatever from the Government, but acting each on its own responsibility, and not wearing any uniform. The same thing happened in the French War of 1870, when the Franc-tireurs acted on their own responsibility without any commission from the Government. It is quite true that in that case you were entitled to apply totally different rules to these unlicensed combatants from those which had to be applied to regular forces. But that is not the case here. It may be that there are bands which are not under commission, and that there are plundering bands which are no better than dacoits, but the mere size of the detachments which are operating against you does not make the difference between a regular 623 army and guerillas, and the bands under De Wet or Delarey, or other similar bands, so long as they are under regular officers, commissioned by the Government or the Commander-in-Chief, are entitled to be treated as regular soldiers. It is, therefore, not useless to recall the attention of the House to the fact that if we call these men guerillas we are only describing the scale on which they operate, and we are not denying their title to be treated as regular forces. It is important to dwell upon that, because at the Hague Conference no one contested the view that every possible step might be taken by the population of an invaded territory to defend itself by arms, and those who have read the proceedings will remember that a proposition to that effect was brought forward by Sir John Ardagh, our representative. This leads mo to observe upon some serious mistakes which have been made by our commanders in applying the laws of war. The hon. Member for Durham called attention in July last* to a proclamation of Lord Roberts, of which he asked for an explanation, expressing his opinion that it was entirely unjustified by the laws of war. No explanation has ever been given by the Government of how that proclamation came to be issued. The date was 1st June, and the terms were these—I warn all the inhabitants of the Orange River Colony who after fourteen days are found in arms against Her Majesty in the said colony that they will be liable to be dealt with as rebels and to suffer the destruction of personal property accordingly.I do not believe the slightest justification can be found for that proposition, or that it will be contended seriously by the Government or their law officers that a Power in arms against another Power whose territory is invaded has any right by a stroke of the pen to turn those who are legitimate combatants into rebels. I ask the Government, therefore, whether they will justify that proclamation, and whether they will tell us if Lord Roberts issued it on his own authority, or was it sent to him from home, or had he no competent legal adviser with him who would have prevented him issuing a proclamation so entirely at variance with the recognised* See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxxvi., p. 1178.624 authorities on war. As regards farm-burning, I would say nothing, because I am glad to see by the statement in yesterday's newspapers that a proclamation was issued on the 18th November, directing that no more farms should be burned except under a special order from a General. That is a valuable change for the better, and it is also an admission that there was need for greater caution than appears to have been previously exercised. I think, however, that I ought to call attention to the correspondence which passed upon this subject between Lord Roberts and General Botha, because it was said in the debate of Friday last that Lord Roberts' proclamation was never intended to be a general authority to burn farms. Lord Roberts' letter to General Botha was written in September, and I do not think the Government were acting in consonance with usage or propriety in giving us no information of such an important interchange of communications between our Commander-in-Chief and the Commander-in-Chief of the enemy, and allowing us to learn it after a lapse of more than two months from a Dutch newspaper. I presume, of course, that the correspondence is correct. If I am wrong in that assumption, no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will correct me. Lord Roberts' words were these—In order to put these views into practice, I have issued instructions that the Boer farms near the spot where an effort has been made to destroy the railroad or to wreck a train should be burned.There is nothing in that to indicate that there must be proof that those farmhouses had been used for the purpose of active assistance, and General Botha, in his reply, did not take it in that sense, and I do not think any general would have. It is a general direction issued by Lord Roberts to burn farmhouses near a spot where an effort has been made to wreck a train, whether or not the occupants or owners of the farmhouses have been in any way connected with the attempt. Surely this is going far beyond what either military necessities or usages justify. But I think the greatest of all mistakes made is the demand for unconditional surrender. I associate myself entirely with what my hon. and learned friend said upon this subject. I go back to the 20th March of this year, when 625 proposals for negotiation were made by the Presidents of the two Republics. Her Majesty's Government refused those proposals in the most uncompromising terms. I do not suggest that the proposals could have been accepted, but I say that the opportunity which was given by the offer should have been used to initiate negotiations and to indicate that there were terms which would be offered upon which the war might be brought to an end. At that time Her Majesty's Government were under the impression that the war would be ended by the capture of Bloem-fontein and Pretoria. That has been proved to be a mistake. They did not foresee the enormous difficulties which arise when you endeavour to destroy the regular Governments of the States with which you are fighting. It is a great advantage to have a regular Government with which to treat. The Germans found that in 1870; they were obliged to get a regular Government in order to treat with France. It would have been far better for us to have endeavoured to keep the regular Governments as bodies and powers with whom we could treat. If we had treated with them and obtained a surrender from them, we should then have been entitled to turn round and call the inhabitants of the States rebels if they did not accept the terms to which their Governments had acceded. But the Government in a somewhat haughty spirit absolutely refused to consider anything but unconditional surrender. What has been the result? If terms had been offered—I do not for a moment say if the Republics had been offered the restoration of their independence—but if terms had been offered it would have had two results. In the first place, if the terms had been at all reasonable you would have drawn off from the Boer armies a large number of the burghers who are now composing those armies. Reasonable terms would have been more effective in depleting the Boer forces than any of the steps you have taken since. In all probability their armies would have begun to dwindle away, and you would have had far fewer difficulties to confront. In the next place, you would have put yourselves in a much stronger position in the face of the world. You would have had much more to show that you were animated by a reasonable and conciliatory spirit than by insisting upon a demand for unconditional surrender. 626 I believe one of the reasons we are exposed so much to the hostility and dislike of the people of Europe is that we have manifested this uncompromising haughty spirit. This has been an error, and I am sorry to say a very costly error. It is an error for which we are paying every week during the continuance of the war. I do not say for a moment that you would not have been entitled to the annexation. Annexation has been proclaimed, and there can be no doubt the people of this country have made up their minds to it. But I still think there was a great deal of force in the words which were used by the Prime Minister in November of last year, when he said, "We seek no territory; we seek no goldfields." I think also there was a great deal of force in the words of the right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary when he said he could not perceive a greater misfortune than that this country should be answerable for the government of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. I am sorry to say that I think there is some danger that our experience in years to come may prove that it would be easier to deal with two States disarmed and made incapable of opposing us than it will be to deal with two disaffected colonies. As to that the future will show, and what we have to consider now is how to make the best of the position in which we stand. I shall not attempt to discuss the arrangements to be made for the future government of these new territories, but I think it would be in order to make some observations as to the terms which may be offered with a view to bringing this war to a close. The question was dealt with on Friday last by the Colonial Secretary, and his speech was certainly an improvement upon any we have previously heard from the Government upon this question. It was much better than the uncompromising tone taken up by the Prime Minister. It showed us that this Government had begun to realise the extraordinary difficulty of the position in which we stand, and I do not desire to minimise the importance of that speech. That speech, however, did not relieve us from the difficulties and the apprehensions we feel, and the Government should go much further. What are the steps which ought to be taken in order to accelerate the termination of the war? In the first place, we ought to stop farm-burning as far as possible, 627 for nothing but absolute military necessity can justify it, and we have much more than military necessity to look to in this matter. We are ruining what is going to be our own; we are exasperating our own future British colonists, and it is doubtful whether any military gain which will compensate for certain political loss will ensue from the policy of farm-burning. We should not be content with merely issuing fresh proclamations, but we ought to address communications to the Governments of these States—so far as they have any Governments. I said before that it was a mistake to destroy those Governments, but I believe that there is still a part of the Transvaal in which they continue to maintain a government, and General Botha continues to obey the orders which he receives from that Government. You ought to open negotiations upon proper terms, and they ought to include a general amnesty. I wish to again call attention to a proclamation, in which it was stated—All burghers who have not taken a prominent part in the proceedings which led to the war, or commanded any forces against Her Majesty, will not be made prisoners of war, nor will their property be taken from them.Surely it is a great mistake to go back to what happened in the internal affairs of these Republics before the war broke out. I think it is a mistake to except these people from amnesty, and I think it is the greatest folly when offering amnesty to make any exceptions of that kind. I think that it is a great folly also to except the officers and generals from the amnesty. These are all brave men fighting for their country, and if we were there we should do the same thing. Why should these men, because they have shown courage and persistency before the world, be excepted from the terms of surrender which are offered to their comrades? There is one factor in the constitution of the Boer army which makes it particularly important that the generals should not be excepted from amnesty. In the Boer army the generals and officers are elected by their own men. The field-cornets elect the commandants, and they are all the choice of their own men. Therefore it is by the votes of their own men that they are put into these positions of responsibility. The men feel that they ought to stand by their generals. Which 628 of us, after we had put a man into that position of responsibility and danger, in which position he bad discharged his duty with courage, would be willing to desert him? I believe it has been an ungenerous act, and an error in policy, to except the Boer generals from the amnesty. I do not mean to deny that circumstances may arise, when peace has been restored, and the States reduced, in which it is possible that the presence of some particular persons may be found to be a menace to tranquillity. I agree that, in a case of that kind, it may be found necessary to exile a person because greater good is to be secured by the pacification of the country, but it does not follow that those persons will be generals in the army. Whatever the future may have in store for us, I believe it was a great mistake to single out these men as exceptions. There is one respect more in which terms must be offered, and that is by making some provision for re-establishing the persons who have been taken prisoners, or who have surrendered, and whose property has been destroyed. We shall have on our hands an impoverished population. Men will come back to farms where there are neither oxen nor horses, and the price of livestock will be so high that it will practically be impossible for them to replace their stock without some assistance. You will have a large impoverished and discontented population on your hands, and if you are to restore prosperity to the country it will be absolutely necessary to make some provision to assist them.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I think the right hon. Gentleman is going beyond the terms of the question before the House. He is now going into the question of establishing a government in the country after the restoration of peace.
§ MR. BRYCE
I only intended to indicate that some arrangement should be held out to the people who are fighting against us which would give them the prospect of being able to settle in the country as an inducement to them to discontinue hostilities. I intended to confine myself to the terms that should be offered, and I hope I shall be in order in saying that some hopes of this kind should be held out to induce those in arms against us to come in and surrender. If you 629 think, Mr. Speaker, that I am out of order in suggesting the sources from which the funds for that purpose should come, I will not touch further upon that subject.
§ * Mr. SPEAKER
I think that would be going too far. The right hon. Gentleman has made the only suggestion he would be in order in making upon that point.
§ Mr. BRYCE
Then I will reserve that question for some future occasion, for it is very doubtful whether the colonies will be able to find funds for that purpose. What I do suggest is that, in the long run, it may be found cheaper to hold out some hopes of this kind to the burghers than find ourselves burdened at the end of the war with an impoverished population. I will not say anything as regards the future government of the country, because I understand that it would be travelling beyond this Vote. I must, however, say one word with regard to the persons by whom the settlement is to be conducted. What has been said by my hon. and learned friend upon this point is perfectly true. I shall not enter into any criticism of Her Majesty's principal representative in South Africa, whose personal character stands as high as that of any man, and I think that he is animated with good intentions. But I will, however, ask the House whether, after making all allowances for good intentions, it is the best policy to entrust the settlement of these territories and negotiations to one who, whether rightly or wrongly, has become an object of universal distrust—[Ministerial cries of "No, no"]—to one-half at least of Her Majesty's subjects in Cape Colony. I hope I am wrong, but I am sorry to say the information which I receive from South Africa shows that what has been said by my hon. and learned friend does not go beyond the facts. I have dwelt upon these points because I believe the situation to be an exceedingly grave one. I do not believe that there has ever been a graver situation in Cape Colony. There are some eminent persons who tell us that this war is a blessing in disguise after all, and that things were worse before, and that it was necessary to have this war. There are many persistent optimists who believe that 630 everything is happening for the best. No doubt there were people in Ireland in 1798 who said that the rebellion of that year happened for the best, and that it was a good thing that Lord Fitzwilliam was recalled. Those people in Ireland believed that after the English and the Irish had had a fail fight they would shake hands with each other and live in peace ever afterwards. Well, if the Irish Rebellion of 1798 was a blessing in disguise, it was well disguised at the time, and the disguise has been well sustained ever since. I am sorry to say that I think the feeling in Cape Colony is now more intense, more exasperated, than it has ever been at any time since first the British flag was planted in that country. I have not said anything as to the acts attributed to our troops which appear to have raised so much indignation among the Dutch in Cape Colony. Personally I do not believe the British soldiers have been guilty of the outrages which have been attributed to them. I have too much confidence in the humanity and kindliness and good-nature of our soldiers to believe that those stories can be true; but I do not think anyone could read the reports from Cape Colony without admitting that there exists there a state of exasperation and irritation which is without parallel. There is only one thing which has survived, and that is the affection and reverence which is still felt by the Dutch in Cape Colony for the person of the Queen. There is no part where one sees more portraits of the Queen than in that inhabited by the Cape Dutch. Only the other day I read of an old Dutch farmer who, pointing to a portrait of Her Majesty which was hanging in his room, said, "I suppose my son may like it down, but it shall hang there as long as I live." I do not know whether the House realises that this feeling is so intense. The Dutch in South Africa are all related to one another. Hon. Members must have been struck by the fact that a comparatively few proper names are continually recurring. As a matter of fact there is hardly a person in the Transvaal or the Orange Free State who has not some relative in Cape Colony, and therefore when farms are burnt it is felt by people in Cape Colony as a personal injury to themselves. I earnestly hope that the language used by the Colonial Secretary on Friday night, in a speech which we admit to 631 have been an advance upon what had previously been said, may be taken as an indication that the Government recognise now more than they have done hitherto the extreme importance of endeavouring in these dark hours to adopt a policy which will give some hopes of peace and reconciliation, and which will open up an era in which we shall be better able to resume the work which had been going on happily up to the year 1895.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
Until the concluding words of the right hon. Gentleman I think there must have been some doubt in the minds of the House as to the precise object of the two speeches which have just been delivered. Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the hon. and learned Gentleman have in any way contravened, or attempted to traverse, the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies on Friday night. So far as I can judge, the intention of both members of the Front Bench opposite has been not only to fortify the Government in their resolution, but also to point out that a different standpoint is now adopted from that which has prevailed during the previous conduct of the negotiations. Well, I believe I am justified in saying that not a word was said on Friday night that was not said last May, and that the difference in the point of view which has taken place is not a difference in the policy of the Government, or in the advantages which they have held out, or been willing to hold out, to the burghers to make submission, but it is a difference in the point of view of the Opposition, who are willing to accept now that against which they loudly declaimed in May last, and I know of no hon. Member in this House who is more justly placed in that category than the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, who has made more speeches, not intentionally mischievous, but which have been mischievous in the conduct of these negotiations, than any other Member of his calibre on his side of the House. The speech that he made just now was, if not mischievous, unwise and unpractical. He began by telling the House that he would not vote against the sum required for carrying on the war because he saw plainly that any opposition, or any slackening of our operations, would tend 632 to a continuance of the war. But with that feeling how did he assist our generals in the field by the lurid light which he seemed to be pleased to throw over every operation which was likely to take place in South Africa? What was the object of dotting every of saying that famine was staring us in the face, that a native rising would follow, and that there was a likelihood of a Dutch rising in Capo Colony?
§ SIR ROBERT REID
I did not say it would happen, but that there was a danger of it. As to famine, I only said exactly what the Colonial Secretary said on Friday night.
§ MR. BRODRICK
If the hon. and learned Gentleman, instead of desiring to advance the prospects of peace as he protested, desired, from the point of view of the worst of the Queen's enemies, to point out what were the difficulties in which this country would shortly be placed, he could not possibly have selected language which was more likely to give satisfaction to those who are opposing the British troops. I think I am not going beyond the mark in saying that the line of argument he adopted is an unwise line at the moment when we have to complete the destruction of the Boer forces in the field. I confess I thought his unwisdom was accompanied by a want of practical common-sense when he came to discuss what practically amounted to the deposition of Sir Alfred Milner. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that it was the duty of the Government to send out a commission, or a commissioner, who was not to supersede Sir Alfred Milner but who should have the sole conduct of the negotiations with the Boer authorities. What would be the position of the High Commissioner?—a man to whom, I believe, the country owes a great debt of gratitude. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen told us that Sir Alfred Milner has excited universal distrust amongst those he was engaged in governing.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Well, I challenge that statement. Sir Alfred Milner may 633 be the cause of distrust amongst some of the Dutch in Cape Colony, but amongst none of the Dutch who are not the enemies of the Queen. I think he is not merely trusted and revered and honoured, but regarded as the greatest standby of the British connection by the loyal Dutch in Cape Colony. If he has excited distrust amongst those who have been guilty of disloyalty during this great crisis, it is because of his firmness, his sagacity, his unflinching and tactful performance of duty. I should like to make it perfectly clearthat, whatever course the Government have to take in regard to these negotiations, it will not be a course which can be interpreted by any man, loyal or disloyal, in South Africa, as seeming in any degree or particular to take power or counsel or responsibility out of the hands of Sir Alfred Milner. We heard from the hon. and learned Gentleman his views as to the future settlement which the Government should now endeavour to promote, and he, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen, said the time had arrived for negotiation. Both hon. Members spoke of the time having ceased to demand unconditional surrender.
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that he would have been willing to accept the surrender of the Boer troops without making any provise as to their surrendering their rifles and cannon and ammunition?
§ MR. BRODRICK
Then the right hon. Gentleman is ready to make conditions in that respect. I think I am right in saying that in war conditional surrender might leave the men in possession of their arms.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Then the right hon. Gentleman objects to unconditional surrender, but he desires that the conditions which accompany unconditional surrender 634 should be imposed. I will venture to read to the House, as proving that Lord Roberts has been specially careful in this respect, two proclamations. These proclamations are now in print, and I think they will be in the hands of hon. Members in a few hours. On 22nd September Lord Roberts issued a proclamation to this effect—All burghers now captured or surrendering are prisoners of war, but burghers are to be informed that if they surrender voluntarily they will not be sent out of South Africa, provided they have been guilty of no acts, other than fighting against us, which, in the opinion of the general officer commanding, debar them, from this privilege.That is a slackening of the demand off unconditional surrender which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to impose. And, further provision was made with regard to stock. On the 28th September Lord: Roberts issued another proclamation—Burghers are to be informed that as soon: as their leaders submit and when every cannon has been surrendered, peace will be declared, and all the prisoners of war will then be sent back to their homes—that meets, to a large extent, the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman—Exceptions only will be made in the cases of members of the late Governments of the South African Republic and the Orange Free State who are responsible for the war and its present disastrous prolongation, and of those who may be proved to have been guilty of acts contrary to the customs of war.I consider that Lord Roberts has gone a long way to meet the point raised on the Front Bench opposite, and I should like at once to say, as I stated at the commencement of my remarks, that the Government have changed in no respect their own policy. We were asked with regard to a change of policy in respect to farm-burning. There has been no change of policy. Lord Roberts laid down at the outset that farm-burning would take place in certain specified cases of treachery and outrage, and he subsequently issued fresh orders recently explaining most clearly to general officers commanding in what limited circumstances farm-burning should be carried out. These orders have the entire approval of the Government. I spoke last night upon this 635 subject, and I need not labour it now. On the general question of the terms to be offered I should like to say that we are anxious, as everybody must be, to bring the guerilla warfare as rapidly as possible to an end. If there are any arrangements in the nature of following on in the spirit of these proclamations which can give more confidence to those who are asked to surrender, we are willing to make such provisions as may be necessary, provided that they are not provisions which are to be interpreted, and will be interpreted, as a proof of weakness and will so cause a prolongation of the struggle, for there is a danger of that. Even the speech made by my right hon. friend the other night has been already distorted in the Dutch papers in Cape Colony as a confession of weakness and of weariness of the war and willingness to make any terms on our part in order to get rid of it. Strong men, Sir, are not afraid to be generous for fear of being termed weak, so long as their generosity may lead to confidence, but if generosity is to be distorted to the disadvantage of our own troops and for the prolongation of the struggle, we, at all events, will not be parties to it. I doubt whether either of the two speeches to which we have listened will have the advantage which those who made them would no doubt claim for them. I think they are both eminently calculated to show that there is a great division of opinion among us as to the methods by which to bring on the conclusion of the war, and as to the terms upon which it is possible to allow the burghers to return to their homes. I believe that in the past such speeches have gone further than those who made them ever intended to fortify the resistance to our troops, and I believe the hon. and learned Gentleman has gone a long step in his gloomy vaticinations this afternoon to increase the spirit of resistance among those who are the Queen's enemies. I make no suggestion that this is intentionally done; but, whatever the intention, the result, is the same, and I say further that, whilst the Government adhere to the action they have been forced to take throughout the war, nothing which it is possible on our part to do, consistently with the considerations I have put before the House, will be wanting to show that spirit of consideration which is always valuable when shown to a conquered enemy, and on which we hope 636 to found that spirit of confidence which alone can make for peace and prosperity in South Africa.
§ MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
I much regret that the moderate tone of the first two speeches made upon this Vote has not been followed by the speech which the House has just listened to. I can only say that there is a large body of opinion in this country which will regret even in this House the practice of attributing to men who consider it the first duty of patriotic men to speak the truth, however unpalatable it may be, that they are traitors or in collusion with the Queen's enemies. That is the continuation of a policy which has been most disastrous in the past. The policy of attributing the word "traitor" to everybody who differs from the Government was carried out at the General Election. We have had enough of that policy in the country without the right hon. Gentleman introducing it in the House of Commons. The cry of "wolf" has been overdone, and I do not think that the country will stand much more of it. I consider that this is a most grave crisis in the country's history, and it is the duty of everyone recognising that we are in a minority, to make the voice of the minority more and more heard until the voice of the minority will become the voice of the majority. The prospect we have to face is too serious for one not to incur the risk of repetition, and the taking up of the time of the House. I think it is to be regretted that the Leader of the House thought fit to closure a debate or shirk from giving full time to the House for the ventilation of the question.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
What is the meaning of that?
§ MR. PIRIE
I refer to the closuring of the debate on the Address. We have had three speeches on this subject—one from the Prime Minister, one from the Leader of the House, and one from the Colonial Secretary, and if we could only reconcile these three speeches we might have some hope. If we could reconcile the speech of the Colonial Secretary with the action which he proposes then we might also have some hope, but I find a great difficulty in doing so. The Colonial Secretary 637 emphasises the necessity of consulting local opinion in South Africa. He emphasises particularly the necessity for doing this, and yet I regret that he proposes to appoint Sir Alfred Milner as Governor of the new colonies. In this respect I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen said in criticising this appointment. I do not desire to make any attack upon Sir Alfred Milner, but I do not shirk from stating what I believe to be the truth when there is any necessity for it. In a policy of reconciliation, whose are the feelings which ought to be the most consulted— the feelings of those who are already with us, or the feelings of those who are estranged? There is no doubt about it that the most important thing is to consult the feelings of those whom we have estranged, and who are not with us. Rightly or wrongly—and I do not say which, but I will leave the House to judge—Sir Alfred Milner is distrusted by an enormous number, and the vast majority of those whose feelings have to be won over. I do say that this is a policy which will be looked upon in South Africa as a continuation of the policy of appointing advocates of, and men thoroughly identified with, the faction of which Mr. Rhodes is the head. That policy will still further estrange the feelings which we are anxious to draw to our side. It is a continuation of the same policy which was so marked when we occupied Johannesburg and Pretoria. Then it was found necessary to appoint local commissions to investigate certain things which had taken place in those towns during the war, and what was the great charge which was then made? It was that the appointments upon those commissions were given to men who were already on one side—namely, the side of the great capitalists. The same thing is seen in the appointment of the District Commissioners. Men entirely out of sympathy with the feelings of the people in the district have been selected—so much so that the Uitlanders themselves had to petition against some of the appointments. They also petitioned that the interests of the small holders should be represented on the commissions, and in many cases appointments were altered on account of the representation so made. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] Well, I can mention instances in which men were replaced by 638 others. I would ask whether the House and the country are going to ignore the significance of the Afrikander Congress recently held at Worcester, in Cape Colony. I venture to say that it is without precedent in the history of our colonies up to now that a congress of our colonists has had to assemble with quick-firing guns planted on the hills around the meeting-place. It is the first time in the history of our great Empire that such a thing has taken place, and I trust it will be the last. I would not have the House ignorant of these facts, or shirk the discussion of them and applying remedies. I say that as long as Sir A. Milner remains in South Africa the hope of peace and tranquillity in that country is but an idle dream. I would try and glean a ray of hope from the prospect of his leaving Cape Colony; and possibly his appointment to the newly-occupied territories may simply be a way for the Government to escape from the position in which they found themselves. I trust that his stay in these two colonies may be of the briefest duration. Why should not the Government boldly face the situation, and make a new appointment? Why not follow the precedent of Canada?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that the question of the appointment of Sir A. Milner to the Governor-Generalship of South Africa does not come under the motion before the House. The general question of South Africa is not material to the Vote.
§ MR. PIRIE
I merely wished to bring the point into view that Sir A. Milner is scarcely the man to carry on the negotiations for peace. But meantime I have made my point sufficiently clear, and will pass on now to the regrettable loss of opportunities of arresting the progress of the war. Until we change our methods we shall run the risk of needless and endless prolongation of the war. I hold that the situation has vastly changed since last supplies were asked for. I exceedingly regret that when we occupied Bloemfontein, and again when we occupied Pretoria, we did not make greater efforts to secure peace. We might have seized these opportunities to secure terms of peace without the least loss of the respect or dignity of this country. The courage and humanity of our enemies are 639 now generally recognised. At last the country has come to realise the truth; and I should like to see practical effect given to these considerations by even more generous terms being offered them than have already been made. I should like to see their bravery recognised by the Boers being told that when a settlement comes they at least will be allowed to retain their flag. Others of our colonies retain their flag, and why not the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony? Then we should endeavour to secure better intermediaries than those mentioned in the speech of the Secretary for the Colonies. Madame Joubert and Madame Botha, however estimable ladies they may be, are scarcely the intermediaries which a great nation like ours ought to choose as the bearers of terms and conditions of peace. Why not appoint, for instance, Sir H. De Villiers, or men of his stamp, who would deservedly have the confidence of both parties? Or why should not military men be sent with a flag of truce to inquire of the leaders of the Boer armies what terms they would accept? The sooner the discussion of peace is started the better. The question of compensation is of vital importance to the Boers. It has already been stated in the House that no compensation will be given, and I will not dwell on that point. But I would propose that we should advance loans to these men, when they return to their farms, at a moderate rate of interest, in order to free them from the danger of their farms falling into the hands of the mortgagees. The ignorance in this country about the state of affairs in South Africa has been and is colossal. We are more indifferent to South Africa at the present day than we were eighteen months ago. If our arms had been as invincible as our ignorance we would have conquered the world long ago. I think that the worst factor in the situation has been the influence of the press during the last eighteen months, more especially the press in South Africa, which is completely under the control of one man.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The question of the action of the press does not arise upon this Vote.
§ MR. PIRIE
Before concluding I would just refer to an example of the ignorance 640 which prevails in this country. A distinguished gentleman, whose words naturally carry a great deal of weight in this country, classified the Boer armies in the field at the present moment as mercenaries and bandits. Not many weeks ago we were told that President Kruger had come to Europe leaving millions in their hands; but if they were mercenaries and bandits how could these moneys be safe? I regret much that such a statement should have been made. We must face the situation. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries that we are in great danger, if we do not change our policy, of losing completely South Africa, not perhaps in the immediate future, but in the course of history. Our proud boast has been, and is, that we never know when we are beaten. We at least can give credit to, and ought to make allowances; for our enemies, that, like we ourselves, they do not know and will not recognise that they are conquered.
§ MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)
I only rise for the purpose of calling attention to the extraordinary statement made a few minutes ago by the Secretary of State for War. There are a number of hon. Members in this House, as well as many people outside, who have no personal animus whatever to the present High Commissioner in South Africa; but we believe he has become so entangled with the authors and the causes of the war that his name is not as efficient as it otherwise would be far peace purposes in South Africa. And I cannot imagine a more unfortunate person to send to the two conquered colonies for the purpose of making peace arrangements than the present representative of the Crown in. South Africa. Now what did the right hon. the Secretary of State for War say, if I heard him correctly? He said that Sir A. Milner was only mistrusted by those who were enemies of the Queen. These were his words. [Mr. BRODRICK: Hear, hear.] Well, then, a more disastrous, a more ludicrous expression to come from a Secretary of State for War and a Cabinet Minister I cannot conceive. All the speeches made by hon. Members in this House and outside it put together could not possibly be calculated to cause more injury to our future in these colonies 641 than the declaration of the Secretary of State for War.
§ MR. BRODRICK
What I said was that those in South Africa who mistrusted Sir A. Milner were enemies of the Queen.
§ MR. BROADHURST
As I understand the right hon. Gentleman, he now limits his expression. I accept that limitation, and I suppose that was his original intention. But suppose he limits it, he limits it to the place where it will do the greatest amount of harm. Then after making that remarkable statement—a statement calculated to cause greater mischief than existed before the pacific speech of the Colonial Secretary on Friday night—he went on to severely lecture the Secretary for the Colonies for his pacific speech. Next he lectured the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen and the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, two of the most distinguished men in the country, as though he had only schoolboys to deal with. [Laughter.] This is not a laughing matter. The Secretary for the Colonies made a speech which caused hope to revive in the breast of many in this House and, outside it who were despairing, but now the Secretary for War destroys that by getting up in his place and in a torrent of passionate words, which we seldom listen to in this House, and in his most severe manner—and that is saying a good deal for the Secretary for War—he told the Secretary for the Colonies that the speech made by that right hon. Gentleman on Friday night—a speech which was cheered from every part of House and to which the papers the next day almost unanimously gave their approval as an olive-branch held out to the colonies—had really done injury in South Africa, inasmuch as it had been interpreted as a sign of weakness and as a sign of surrender. If you are going to pursue this deadly and disastrous conflict on these lines no one can fortell the end. This present Parliament will not live to see the end of the Votes and Supplementary Estimates. I am sure the whole country and all well-wishers of peace, and all who desire to see the end of this war, will be alarmed to-morrow when they read that extraordinary statement of the Secretary of State for War. I do not suppose that there are many men 642 in this country who can claim greater authority to speak on international usages and law, and not one man who harbours in his breast less passion and less excitement, who is more generous to a degree to friend and foe alike, ever since I have known him, and that is now thirty years, than the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen; and I say that his speech should have been welcomed by the Secretary for War and not severely lectured in the manner it was. My right hon. friend and the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries were engaged this morning in warning the country they love that it is pursuing a blind policy of passion which may lead to disaster after disaster, and even to the overthrow of the Empire which they admire, and which they have done as much to build up as the Secretary of State for War. They have been warning the nation of the approach of a great Imperial danger, that we are strong enough to be generous to a pastoral people, a portion of whom are still in arms against us, and yet the Secretary for War thinks it would be unbecoming, undignified, and a sign of weakness for one of the most powerful Empires that has existed ever since the world began, to show mercy and conciliation to an army of farmers, backed up as they are by the passionate patriotism and the devotion of the womankind of their country. What we are saying is that when the women of a nation take up the cause of that nation that cause will never die as long as the women live, and as long as they give birth to men children in the future. It is all very well to smile and to laugh; but we who have to pay the piper, we who have to bear the heat and burden of the day in these fights, we and our friends and our relatives who have spent their blood, and we the workers at home who have to suffer in consequence of this wild policy of Her Majesty's Government, do not laugh. Some of us are old enough to remember the disasters following on other wars. I am old enough to remember the tremendous depression that followed on the Crimean War, when we, the workers, were in a state of semi-starvation for a year or two, when employment was impossible. That war, it is now admitted, even by the Prime Minister of the present Government, was a crime, but in comparison with it the present war is a greater 643 crime. It is a war of unholy lust for gain.
§ MR. BROADHURST
I thank you, Mr. Speaker. You have been most lenient with me, and I am sensible that I have done a great wrong; but my feelings and my experience of the time I am referring to led me to commit this breach of order. I want to appeal to the right hon. the Secretary of State for War to undo, if ho can, the enormous injury that he has done. Better a thousand times that we should have paid him £50,000 to remain out of office than that he should have come here to-day and said that everyone who differs from the High Commissioner in South Africa is an enemy of the Queen.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I wish to correct the hon. Gentleman, who misrepresents me on a material point. The statement was that there was universal distrust of Sir A. Milner in South Africa. [An HON. MEMBER: One half the population.] Well, one half the population. I said that those who distrusted Sir A. Milner in South Africa were enemies of the Queen.
§ MR. BROADHURST
That is a statement more disastrous than the former. We might have excused the other as a slip of the tongue in the course of an impassioned address against the Colonial Secretary and my two hon. friends. That might have been overlooked in a young Minister of the Cabinet, but now, in cold blood, he gets up and reiterates it in a much worse form. I do hope that before this discussion is closed someone will send for the Leader of the House. Let him come to take charge of this important difficulty into which we have been landed by the Secretary for War. I solemnly believe that we are in a position in South Africa into which we have been led by causes it would be clearly out of order to refer to in this debate—I solemnly and sincerely believe that this Empire has not been in such a position of danger during this century as it has 644 been led into at this moment through the events in South Africa; and if those of us who honestly and conscientiously believe this and raise our voices to warn our countrymen of the abyss towards which they are drifting—if we do that in a spirit of friendship and as a warning of a danger to come, surely we should not be charged with being traitors and enemies of our Queen. We should not be railed at by the Secretary of State for War. We should be welcomed at any rate as men who are desirous of befriending our country. They who warn of danger are not the creators of danger. They see the danger and warn their friends against approaching nearer to it. I certainly would not have interposed in the debate to-day had I not felt keenly the enormous injury that has been done to the country and to the prospects of a peaceful settlement in South Africa, and desired the avoidance of a revolution in that country by the unwise, and as I thought at the time, hasty, perhaps ill-considered and unintentional remarks of the Secretary of State for War, which have now been repeated in even a worse form in his cooler moments at the Table of the House. I think the House will have cause to regret the evil day on which these words were uttered and the manner and form in which they were persisted in when an opportunity came to withdraw them by the Secretary of State for War.
§ * SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
It will be a consolation to those on the other side of the House to know that the terrible crime which the hon. Member has so denounced, namely, the Crimean war, was a crime committed by their own party. The point of the discussion is against Sir A. Milner as Governor of the two new colonies, and that is based upon the statement that he is regarded with special aversion by a certain section of the Dutch population. What does this charge against Sir A. Milner, put by the hon. Member who has just sat down in such aggravated form, amount to? What I say is that those who are opposed to Sir A. Milner at this moment are not a minority of the whole population, but a minority even of the Dutch population. I 645 venture to say that there is not a British subject, not a man of British blood in the whole of South Africa, who has not the most absolute confidence in Sir A. Milner, with the exception of a very few gentlemen in a certain small coterie of ardent and extreme politicians, and who could be counted on the fingers of both hands. The whole of the British element in South Africa believe in Sir A. Milner to a degree which no other representative of the Crown has ever succeeded in winning for himself in that country. And they have good reason for believing in him, for no High Commissioner has ever appeared in South Africa more moderate, more statesmanlike, and more truly devoted to the interests of the whole country—Boers as well as British. Everyone who knows Sir A. Milner is aware of his moderation and his anxiety to be just to the Boers, and that he will strain a point in favour of the Boers and not in favour of the British. Who are those Dutch who are opposed to Sir A. Milner? They have a right to their views; that I do not dispute; but I say they are a minority, oven a small minority, of the Dutch people. Does the hon. Gentleman think that the Afrikander Bond represent the Dutch population in South Africa? He might exactly as well tell us that this new United Irish League, which has just expelled the hon. Member for North Louth, represents the opinion of the people of the United Kingdom. The thing is absurd. The Afrikander Bond is an anti-British conspiracy, which has been working for years to drive the British people from South Africa. They have just been foiled, and foiled for ever; and naturally its members are bitter and meet to pass bitter resolutions. One of these resolutions asks that this country should give up the whole results of the war, and abandon all that our troops have been fighting for, and our taxpayers have been paying dearly for, and hand back the independence of these Republics. I think the Secretary for War is perfectly right in describing these gentlemen as enemies of the British Government. They undoubtedly are; it is their pride, and they boast of it; therefore my right hon. friend merely made a statement of fact. Who are the Boers opposed to Sir A. Milner? A comparatively small minority in the Cape Colony of the more ardent spirits of the Afrikander Bond—numbering at the most 8,000 to 10,000. We hear much 646 of the number of Dutch women opposed to us. More ludicrous statements I never heard than those in connection with these Dutch women. There are a few, no doubt, in both the colonies who advise their male relatives to continue the war, and who in newspapers, placards, and telegrams are described as more bitter against us than the men. But at most there are only a few hundred of such women. Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the large number of Dutch women in the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal who long for the end of this war, and who advise their fathers and brothers, their husbands and sons, to give up the struggle? I firmly believe that if you could get the whole Dutch women of the two colonies together, where they could be polled, you would find the fighting Dutch women outnumbered by the peace-loving by ten to one. The whole thing was a gross exaggeration. I say that not only is Sir A. Milner a good man for the post to which he has been appointed, he is the only man. He alone thoroughly knows South Africa, both the races and their wants. He has the confidence of the whole of the British element, which is a good deal more that half the population of South Africa; he has the confidence of quite one half of the Dutch population. A quarter of the whole are neutral and would come in at once on peace being declared, leaving only a quarter of the Dutch population as opposed to Sir A. Milner. The extreme bitterness of which opposite Gentlemen make so much exists largely in their own imagination. Of course there is bitterness and ill-feeling after the struggle which has been going on; but the remarkable thing is that when these two fighting armies, these two bands of opposed soldiery are brought into close contact they immediately fraternise. Our people treat the Boers excellently well. I have seen hundreds of Boers under our control, and all spoke well of their treatment. On the other hand a large number of our soldiers have been treated well by the Boers. There is nothing of that furious and eternal animosity which hon. Gentlemen seem to think exists in South Africa. What feeling there is will disappear sooner than is imagined. Once let the guerilla warfare end and the guerilla bands be scattered, and it will be found that under the just rule Sir A. Milner will establish in South Africa the two races will very soon harmonise. 647 I am confident of that from what I have myself seen.
§ * MR. BLACK (Banffshire)
Mr. Speaker, it seems to ho generally recognised that one of the mistakes committed in the policy of the present war has been what might be termed premature annexation by proclamation. The Government seems to have forgotten that annexation involves not only rights but also responsibilities and duties. It involves the responsibility of affording protection to the inhabitants of the annexed territories, and this is the origin of not a few of the difficulties that have been experienced by this country owing to the impossibility of fulfilling its responsibilities adequately in this respect. The matter which is now before the House is, how we can shorten the present war? One method suggested is that the Government should, instead of confining themselves to hunting down what they themselves term guerilla bands, erect a system of government over certain areas sufficient to give protection to Boers willing to surrender, so that they may know when they come within those areas they will receive that protection which they are entitled to under the British flag, and that they can there begin life again with the full assurance that they will not be harassed by their fellow-countrymen who manage to evade our arms. That is one suggestion, but there is a second matter to which I should like to direct the attention of the Government which seems likely to militate against a peaceful solution in South Africa. I refer to the placing of arms in the hands of the ordinary inhabitants of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colonies who are of British origin and descent as against those who are of Dutch descent. Is that a policy which is calculated to bring the war to an end? The only method according to which one can form a judgment in such matters is to ask oneself what he would do under similar circumstances. This war has been described, and rightly described, as a racial war. Let right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen on the Government side of the House suppose that a foreign army had landed on these shores; that the foreign nation had amongst ourselves a large number of residents; that our arms in the field had been vanquished; and that the 648 foreign nation before the final cessation of hostilities placed arms in the hands of those of our residents who were of that nation in origin and descent, and asked us to lay down our arms. Should we do so? In the language of an orator of the last century, we who are members of this British nation "never would lay down our arms—never, never, never." According to the statement of members of the Government, the policy enunciated by the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary the other day is the same policy that he has always enunciated. The Colonial Secretary in his place on the 7th of August last enunciated the policy of the Government, and it was this: that after the cessation of hostilities, after the war had been brought to a conclusion, there should be established a government by military force. That is how the right hon Gentleman defined Crown colony government. If that is a correct definition, is that a method which is calculated to lead to an early, permanent and prosperous settlement of South Africa? We in Scotland, Sir, have had some experience of the attempt to govern by military force; not in this century, nor the last, but the century before, and we still remember it. The iron has entered into the soul of the Scots. The reason why Graham of Claverhouse and Grierson of Tay have always been held in such detestation in every Scottish household is not because they were beyond other men of a bloodthirsty character, but because in the exercise of their duty, in imposing a government by military force upon a high-spirited and unwilling people, they were compelled to do acts which rankle in the mind of the Scottish people to this day. Yet this is the policy which both the Colonial Secretary and the Secretary for War have ventured to propound for the settlement of the present war. The Prime Minister the other day in another place said it might be two or three generations before peace came to South Africa. I venture to say if this policy is adopted it will be not two or three but twenty or thirty generations before we shall wipe out the heritage of hate which we shall have thus incurred.
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said that, as one who had always given a silent support to the South African policy of the Government, he now desired to make a few observations. He 649 would always be content to support the policy of the Government unless some very grave reason occurred for his differing from it. But he hoped it was not inconsistent with that support to say—as he felt bound to say—that there were expressions in the speech of the Secretary for War which he regretted, and also that exception might be taken to its tone, which was hardly a reciprocation of the spirit of the speech made by the hon. Member for Dumfries. To him the speech of the hon. Member for Dumfries seemed couched in a temperate tone, and he thought he observed in it a degree of restraint in not dwelling on the continuance or otherwise of the appointment of Sir Alfred Milner, for the Government must both determine its own policy and choose its own instruments for carrying it out, and he should have thought that the Government, in the interest of peace, would have received with welcome instead of with reproach this change of attitude in the Opposition, in dealing with these and other controversial matters. In his opinion the speech of the hon. Member for Dumfries was in some measure helpful to the Government; it contained what some hon. Members were pleased to hear, a candid acceptance of the results of the war, so far as annexation was concerned. Upon that question there was no real difference in the House and very little in the country; the sacrifice of life and treasure had been too great to ever allow even the possibility of a repetition of what had taken place, and it was the almost universal opinion of the country that these two Republics must in future be part of Her Majesty's dominions, in the interest not only of our South African colonies, but also in the interest of the Empire and of our own trade. United feeling in the House and united feeling in the country were the best security against the continuance of the war. Owing to the war, capital was not being used, and labour had ceased to exist. After the war ceased there, no doubt, would have to be an interval of military rule, but he hoped, and the Colonial Secretary had, he was glad to observe, recently expressed similar views, that that interval would be of short duration. He thought we were entitled now to hold out some hopes of this and of local self-government to the Boers in order that they might lay down their arms. The alternative to 650 hope in an enemy was that despair which gave him strength to die fighting. It was foolish to repress hopeful anticipations of an honourable and reasonable settlement which might end the war and bring a desirable and lasting peace; and the promise of municipal institutions would not only tend to this, as in so many other colonies, but facilitate that taxation of the Transvaal and Free State for the war and for future police purposes which was so just and necessary in relief of the burdens of British taxation.
* MR, CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
said the wise and weighty and conciliatory words of the hon. Member for South Islington might well be accepted by every unbiassed man in the House. The speech which had been delivered by the Colonial Secretary in the House on Friday last had been interpreted by many Members as deliberately conceived in language calculated to conciliate the Boers, and give them some hope that a change of policy might be initiated, in short, as an effort to allay the passions that were raging in South Africa. He had carefully considered the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and he did not attach that meaning to it. That speech had added not one jot or tittle to what the Government had repeatedly said in regard to their policy. The only novelty in it was its conciliatory tone—a tone welcome to the House as it opened out a chance of peace for the two conflicting races in South Africa. But the speech of the Secretary for War delivered that day, talking of the complete destruction of the Boer forces, and amounting to a virtual incitement to civil war, showed a lamentable change in tone and spirit. If the temper of that speech was to be accepted as the temper of the Ministry—if the Ministry had adopted a policy of brute force and extermination—the attitude of many members of the Opposition who had hitherto been reluctant to refuse supplies to the War Office would be changed. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the debt due to Sir Alfred Milner. He (Mr. Channing) believed that they owed the change of tone that day to the sudden pressure of Sir Alfred Milner. He believed that from the first Sir Alfred Milner had been a curse to South Africa. [Ministerial cries of "Oh!"] In his 651 speech to the deputation from the congress of Dutchmen, Sir Alfred Milner had exhibited that exasperating spirit which again and again had shown itself, last year, in sudden despatches just when the terms of settlement were within reach, and this prevented the negotiations from coming to a peaceful issue. He had been elected by a largely increased majority as an avowed opponent of the whole policy of annexation, and his personal conviction was that we should never have peace in South Africa until the independence of the Republics was restored. That might be challenged, but he would put it thus: If the Government were sincere in their professions that they were going at any near date to give these colonies self-government — self-government in the same sense as Australia and Canada—independence would then be the inevitable result, after such a war as this, so that it would have to be given ultimately under the Government's own scheme, if they did not have independence now in some form or other as the result of a wise and generous recognition of the forces at work in South Africa. They would never be able to end the war in settled peace by the policy now being pursued. The evidence of cruelty, of the burning of farms, and of women and children being driven out and exposed to terrible danger largely rested on letters from the front from soldiers and officers, who stated these facts clearly and unmistakably by the dozen. Those who had read the letters between Lord Roberts and General Botha knew that the sufferings of women and children were being used to coerce men to unconditional surrender. But the effect was exactly the opposite. Every farm burnt meant a recruit for De Wet. The policy of annexation by proclamation had resulted in changing the legal status of those who were in arms against us, who were now placed in the position of rebels in a country governed by military law; and if it was intended to apply anything like the American rules quoted by the First Lord of the Treasury to those against us in this war, he should protest against it in the most energetic manner, and he should continue to do so as long as he remained a Member of the House. They should remember the noble protest of Lord Chatham against the infamous doctrine of another noble Lord that in the Ameri- 652 can War they had a right "to use all the means God and Nature put into our hands." Such a doctrine was unconstitutional, it was inhuman, it was unchristian. The First Lord of the Treasury had denied the right of the Boers to participate in the benefit of the rules of war laid down by the Hague Conference, on the ground that they were not signatories to the Conference; but Despatch No. 75 showed that Lord Salisbury had on behalf of England assented to the application of all the rules laid down by the Geneva Convention as revised at the Hague to non-signatory Powers, and that the only reservation made by England had reference to the arbitration procedure. Therefore the people of this country had a right to demand that the rules of war as laid down at those Conferences should be extended to those poor wretched struggling people. He was weary of mealy-mouthed apologists who talked as if afraid of laying responsibility on the soldiers. The responsibility rested with Her Majesty's Government. The soldiers were but the instruments. He had talked to soldiers who had been engaged in previous wars on behalf of this country, and they had expressed their detestation and disgust at the cruelties and horrors in which they had had to take their part. It was part of their duty, but it was a duty they discharged reluctantly. They did not blame the soldiers for any of the atrocious or cruel results arising in the course of these proceedings. There was no doubt that the proclamations in the first place were violations of the rules of war, and that in their application, whether from the recklessness of the soldiers or the expansion of the instructions from Lord Roberts, the wrecking and looting, and the hardships imposed on women and children constituted an atrocious crime which would stain the history of this country for many a year. He had many friends who had spent some time among the Boers, who had lived in their houses and enjoyed their hospitality. They were very much like the men who were to be found in the Highlands of Scotland. He remembered years ago going to a Highland cottage to make some inquiry, and being politely told that the family were at their devotions. As he went away he heard the simple psalm which was being sung inside the cottage. That was the life of the Boer as well as the 653 Highlander. Mr. Selous, who knew them, had told the country again and again of the simple, generous, and kindly life of the people. It was that sort of home life that we were stamping out by these atrocious proceedings in South Africa. He ventured to say that no more ill-advised course could be taken towards a simple pastoral people like that. Yes, and it was in direct contradiction to the most recent statement of English policy in just this event. What was the course the English representative took at the Hague Conference last year? Sir John Ardagh demanded in the most explicit form that every legitimate and rightful means should be left for the defence of their liberties and independence to a weak people in a country overrun and in the occupation of military forces from outside. Suppose this country were invaded, and a desperate remnant of our own men were driven to defend themselves on the tors of Dartmoor and Exmoor in Devonshire, or among the hills of Derbyshire and Cumberland, who would say that we should not encourage them to fight to the last? Should we speak then of men fighting for liberty as brigands and murderers? Yes, they had more problems to solve than the mere success of Ministers in enforcing what they called unconditional submission. The destruction of the freedom of a man, or of a nation, was a terrible crime. It was an act which went to the very root of human nature, and stirred the very inmost fibres of the heart of any human being who had true manhood in him. They adopted a policy like that instead of a policy of conciliation, and they expected to build upon that in future in South Africa a system of self-government and of willing acquiescence in British rule and willing participation in the duties of the Empire. He hoped that hon. Members had read the striking book of Dr. Conan Doyle on the war. He said, of the friendship of these people in the work of the British Empire, "Could we have such men as willing fellow-citizens, they would be worth more to us than all the gold mines in the country." We were adopting a policy by which we were stamping out the very instincts and the very life-blood of these men. It was an accursed policy, and a policy which every right-minded man in that House should condemn and reject with indignation. Very likely, in spite of all the efforts of those who wished to 654 see peace in South Africa, this war would be prolonged for a further period. He hoped at any rate that these considerations of broad statesmanship—considerations which searched out the real motives of human action, and tried to make out a future for men based on human nature — would have their share, and that before the sittings of the House closed they would have a more enlightened and generous statement of policy than the statement they had had that day.
§ * SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee)
I desire to make a few observations from the point of view of one who from the outbreak of this unhappy conflict in South Africa has endeavoured to preserve a fair, calm, and cool temper. I have to deplore the extreme one-sidedness and the extreme heat of extreme men on both sides of this question. Happily we have, during the past few months, seen out of doors a considerable abatement of the temper of the people on both sides of this question, and that has been reflected in the discussions in this House during this short session. Until an hour or two ago we have had the gratification of hearing men on both sides speak in a judicious and judicial temper. The debate this morning was opened by what was really a remarkable speech by the hon. Member for Dumfries. It was characterised, as all his speeches are, by a thoughtful and temperate spirit. He presented to the House the great and admitted difficulties in which the country now stands with regard to the Transvaal and the Free State. He enumerated, and he was justified in enumerating, the very grave and numerous miscalculations which had been made by the Government since the beginning of the war. That speech was followed by another by the Member for South Aberdeen, which was also characterised by admirable restraint and moderation. Therefore I cannot understand how any provocation was given to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War for importing into this discussion a gust of passion and a sudden rise of temperature. It appears to me that there was not the slightest provocation. He expressed himself with a fire and indignation which seemed to me altogether unnecessary and uncalled for. We were told at the recent 655 election that every seat lost to the Government was a seat gained to the Boers, and it might have been inferred from the continual reiteration and sending out of telegrams in all directions wherever a contest was going on to that effect that Boers in South Africa were at the end of one of those tape machines reporting the results of the elections, that they had the morning papers, and the successive editions of our evening papers all over the veldt, that what occurred here was instantly telegraphed to every farm steading, every hut, and every cottage, and that nothing was done in this country but it was at once known in every part of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. If that had been so, how was it that the Government, as they thought, swept the country, carried their elections in so many places, defeated so many Liberal candidates, aye, and many Imperialist Liberal candidates? One would have thought that they would have had some regard for Imperialist Liberals.
§ * SIR JOHN LENG
I had no intention of speaking when I entered the House to-day, but I will leave that line of remark and pass on to the observations made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State with regard to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Dumfries that, without in any way superseding the very able and distinguished men, and especially Sir Alfred Milner, who represent the Colonial Office, men of great ability, great authority, and great moderation of judgment should be sent to South Africa as peacemakers. This will cause no degradation to Sir Alfred Milner. I am one of those who admire Sir Alfred Milner. His book on Egypt is one of the finest books of the kind that ever was written or published. I was out in Egypt some years ago, and am prepared to testify to the excellence of his administration there. I have great respect for Sir Alfred Milner, but along with that respect I have the feeling, as many must have the feeling, that a man cannot have been connected so long as he has been with this disastrous conflict without exciting in the minds of 656 those with whom unfortunately we are at war feelings adverse to an easy settlement. They must be prejudiced by things that have occurred, and for which he may be in no way responsible. What happens every day in commercial affairs? Two merchants are led into a dispute about some commercial transaction, on which much may be said on both sides. If they could meet for five minutes they could settle it easily, but their tempers rise and they become excited in the matter, and each thinks that his personal honour is involved and will not give way. Litigation is proposed, and then someone comes in and suggests that both should refer the matter to a judicious mutual friend. That is the way to get themselves relieved of the temper introduced. Every day in transactions of that kind, formal or informal, arrangements are made satisfactory to both parties. In my humble opinion there is no man, however high his position may be, however great his ability, and however great his authority, too high to be sent out on this mission of peace. "Blessed are the peacemakers," and it will be far better for the Government to suppress for the moment any feelings they may have in the matter. I say it would be a noble thing for Sir Alfred Milner, and a still nobler thing for the Colonial Secretary, if they would for a time stand aside and permit some men of the character I have described to intervene, to hear in South Africa what is said there, and to give confidentially their suggestions to the Government as to how peace may be most speedily and effectually accomplished. I have no wish that this country should appear in the face of our opponents, or in the face of the world, to climb down, but it is not climbing down to act with a peace-loving feeling, with a desire for justice, and with a desire to terminate those disasters which have occurred, and which may still continue to occur in South Africa. I would implore the Government to adopt this peace-loving attitude.
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
said they were asked to vote this money for the continuance of the war. He thought that they might ask themselves as a natural corollary why the war was continued. The war was continued because large numbers in these territories would not accept the terms offered. The House of 657 Commons and the country should ask themselves whether they were asking such terms as could fairly be accepted. In this matter a large proportion of the people of this country did not belong to either of the two parties. A large proportion were neither pro-Boer nor anti-Boer. He believed that the majority of the people of the country regarded with a feeling of infinite pity the continuance of the war, and were disposed to consider whether we were offering terms such as our foes could accept. The war was inevitable from the first; it was the clashing of two noble ideals, and history presented many such struggles. He thought the people of this country could not help sympathising with the ideal of the Boers. Those who knew and sympathised with the great services done by the Dutch nation in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and who remembered that the Dutch nation stood alone alongside the English nation fighting for the freedom of the world and for the great causes which we ail thought so noble now, felt that it was a sort of historical tragedy that these two brothers should now find themselves in such bitter conflict. He asked what could be done to stop this fratricidal war. The first thing we could do was to put ourselves in a right temper of mind towards our opponents, and that right temper of mind required us to understand their ideal. Was it not a noble dream of those Dutchmen to revive in that part of the world the glories of the past? Think of the Dutch nation now and what it was. Was it not natural that men of that race finding themselves in that country should dream of the recrudescence of the mighty history which made them so proud as a nation? Was it not natural that they should have the Afrikander ideal? He believed the Secretary for the Colonies was perfectly right in saying that there was a desire on the part of the Afrikanders to establish Afrikander rule through the whole of that part of Africa.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not in order in this discussion in discussing the origin of the war.
§ MR. HARWOOD
said he only wanted the House to feel what was in the minds of their opponents, so that they might 658 save themselves from spending more money and the blood of their fellows, and stirring up all sorts of ill-feeling. We said that we could not allow that ideal, and he was as strong as anyone on that point, but when we came to offer terms of peace we must remember the nature of our foes and the nature of the contest we had waged with them. These were noble foes, deserving of noble terms of peace. They must not be treated as ordinary combatants. They must be treated as brothers, and as the noblest foes we had ever seen in the whole of our political history. He was not advocating this or that particular kind of settlement, but what he believed to be much, more important—the whole temper in which these two nations were to come together. Let us remember that we had to live together as brothers, and therefore we must find a settlement that would make it possible. The Colonial Secretary had scouted the idea of giving compensation for the burned farms, and stated that we were not compensating the loyalists for their farms. We should treat all the farms on the same footing except where there was distinct evidence in certain cases of treachery. What that footing might be it was not for him to discuss. What were we to do to bring about a condition of self-government? The Colonial Secretary said the other night that we must finish one stage before we passed to another. The hon. Member ventured to say that the stages, wore not divided into compartments in that way. One stage grew out of another. The stage of satisfactory self-government must grow out of the other. Why were those men fighting as they were now? It was because they had no hope. We must give them hope and make them feel definitely that self-government would come, and not in some vague way that it might be possible in some distant generation. We must make them feel that the time was coming soon. It was ridiculous to say that you could not offer people independence until they had shown themselves fit for it. After they had self-government in Canada they had a rebellion. He begged the Government, with all the emphasis possible, to make it quite clear that we would give to these two new colonies the same self-government that we had given to the other South African colonies as soon as possible. There was one other 659 reason why we should be definite. We had heard of our "splendid isolation," and we ought to dispel the feeling which prevailed in foreign countries, and make it clear to the world that we were going to be honest in giving these colonies self-government. Let us treat with generosity and frankness the foes whom we had beaten. He asked the Government to look at this matter in a broad spirit.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
I rise not for the purpose of continuing this debate, but for a distinctly limited and definite purpose. It would be unfortunate, and possibly even disastrous, if this debate were to close without further reference to words used by the Secretary for War, which perhaps did not bear the meaning which has been attached to them. The right hon. Gentleman said those who distrusted Sir A. Milner were enemies of the Queen.
§ MR. BRODRICK
The whole question was limited simply to those who distrusted Sir Alfred Milner in South Africa.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
That is an utterance which I venture to call unfortunate, and, if it really expresses the meaning of the Government, disastrous. He now says that those in South Africa who expressed distrust of Sir Alfred Milner were enemies of the Queen. That is an observation which I venture to call unfortunate, and which, if it were intended to express the meaning of the Government, I would venture to term exasperating. I hope that, as a result of this debate, we may have some modification of it. The statement is perfectly true as regards certain people. They are enemies of the Queen whom we have been fighting for the last fourteen months, and they certainly do distrust Sir Alfred Milner. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that he meant to confine his statements to them. If that is not what it meant, what did the statement mean? In such a case it would appear to my mind to mean that a large proportion of our fellow-subjects in the Cape Colony who, in the exercise of what I hold to be a constitutional right, have, in a constitutional manner, only yesterday, expressed distrust of Sir Alfred Milner, are to be outlawed by the Government, and are to be 660 declared enemies of the Queen. If that be so, then I say the situation is serious indeed. I will not enter on the question whether or not the description is correct, if that be the meaning of it. Four years ago the men of whom this statement is now made were, I venture to say, the most loyal of all the colonists of the British Empire—they were the most Imperially minded of all. I will not touch upon the personal bond of Empire, which I believe to be stronger than any other, I prefer rather to refer to the physical bond. All the other self-governing colonies of this Empire have been content to accept, without offering any compensation, the free naval defence provided by the Government, even for the wealthiest of them. But there was one exception, and that was the case of the Dutch majority of the Cape Colony, who, of their own mind, and without solicitation or suggestion, came forward and offered to bear some share of the burden from which they, in common with the other colonies, benefit. If Her Majesty's Government, as represented by the Secretary for War, mean to tell us that these men, who again and again have expressed distrust of Sir Alfred Milner, if the Government mean to tell us that they as well as the Boers are enemies of the Queen, then, I say, this is a paltry, miserable Vote, utterly inadequate to the situation. In such a case you want, not sixteen millions for the continuation of the war, but double the amount. I should have been glad if some other member of the Government who had heard the statement and had witnessed the excitement which it not unnaturally produced on this side of the House has been here to modify it. Unfortunately there is no one, and I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman himself, before the debate closes, will take the opportunity of saying that the serious meaning which most of us attach to his words is not the meaning which he intended them to convey.
§ Resolution agreed to.