§ [THIRD DAY'S DEBATE.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [30th January] to Question [30th January], "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth—
§ Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Captain Pretyman.)
And which Amendment was, "At the end of the Question, to add the words—
'But we humbly express our regret at the want of knowledge, foresight, and judgment displayed by Your Majesty's advisers, alike in their conduct of South African affairs since 1895 and in their preparations for the war now proceeding.'"—(Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."296
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
In one of Shakespeare's plays, the first part of "Henry VI.," a messenger comes in to the council and tells what is the state of things prevailing with regard to the British arms in France. He relates there a state of things which is very similar to that existing as regards our arms in South Africa now. I have no doubt that the messenger was not a popular person at the time he made that speech, and that the leading member of the council had the same view with regard to his statements of fact as the First Lord of the Treasury has with regard to this debate, namely, that the country takes no interest in it at all. But I cannot help thinking there have been, and will be, matters raised in this debate in which the country does take the very deepest interest. I certainly have become aware of such an interest by the ordinary means by which a Member of this House obtains information as to the opinions of his own constituents. We need hardly dwell upon the winter through which we have passed. There is hardly a Member of this House—I doubt if there is one—who has not relatives or dear friends either dead, wounded, prisoners at Pretoria, or dying of typhoid in one of those entrenched camps the history of which, as has been said by the greatest of military writers, is inextricably mixed up with the history of capitulations. The country has gone through an awful winter, and under our constitutional system there are persons responsible, and we have to examine the nature and character of that responsibility. Some Government speakers who during the recess have addressed the country have drawn certain comparisons between the occurrences in this war and those in the Crimean War. There is this great difference, that in the Crimean War the arms of this country met with no single check. We went even in that terrible autumn and winter from the victory of the Alma to the victory of Balaclava and on to that of Inkerman. Throughout the whole of the Crimean War the British arms never met with a check at all. ["Redan."] What occurred in that instance? The town was taken, it was evacuated that night. There was a slight repulse, but the town was evacuated on the night of the great attack, and Sebas- 297 topol fell with losses, even in the final attack, which are small compared with the losses we have suffered in this campaign, and without a single prisoner being taken. I remember—I am sorry to say I am old enough—on the night of the fireworks of the peace illumination at the close of the war—I was a child in the crowd—I passed the residence of a Member of this House who had illuminated his house with a transparency, in which he said, "This is a mourning for a was disgracefully conducted." I confess that I believe the present war has been far more disgracefully conducted than the Crimean War had been, and that the mourning is far more applicable to this case. Now, with regard to the checks or reverses—that is the accepted phrase—we are really afraid in these days to talk about "disasters."—the First Lord of the Treasury at Manchester distinctly stated there had been "no disaster." There has been no single great engagement in which we have met with an absolute disaster, but for the first time in our military history there has been a succession of checks or reverses—unredeemed as they have been by a single great military success in the whole course of the war—in many of which we have left prisoners in the enemy's hands. We began with the abandonment of the entrenched camp at Dundee, and of the great accumulation of stores that had been made there, of the wounded and of the dying general, and we lost the headquarters of a regiment of cavalry that tried a cavalry pursuit. We lost the headquarters of two battalions at Nicholson's Nek; we lost the headquarters of one battalion and a very large portion of another battalion in the repulse at Stormberg; we lost the colonel, most of the field officers, and the whole of one company of the Suffolks on another occasion. These headquarter of cavalry, and the principal portion of the remaining men of five battalions of British infantry, are now prisoners at Pretoria, not to speak of what happened to the Highland Brigade at Magersfontein, or of the loss of the guns in the repulse at the Tugela, or of the fact that thirteen of our field guns, besides a mountain battery, are now in the enemy's hands. The loss of guns in proportion to our small strength of guns is equivalent to the loss of some 300 guns by the German army. None of these events constitutes what the First 298 Lord of the Treasury calls a disaster. Probably he is right. But can any Member of this House deny that the net result of these proceedings has been disastrous to the belief of the world in our ability to conduct a war? Therefore, if there has been, as the right hon. Gentleman says, no one disaster, surely the result of the proceedings has been one disastrous to the credit of this country, There has been one immense redemption of that disaster, which is that all the Powers, however hostile, have very frankly acknowledged on these occasions the heroism of the officers and men. Our military reputation, which undoubtedly never stood lower in the eyes of the world than at the present moment, is redeemed in that respect, and the individual courage of officers and men never stood higher in the estimate of the world than it does now. It seems to me to be a patriotic duty of those who have in the past discussed in this House the question of Cabinet responsibility for military preparations to discuss the question now; to see who is responsible, whom I will not say we will hang, but whom we are to hold blameworthy in the highest degree for what has occurred. I believe that the opinion is attributed to the Prime Minister that the British Constitution is not a fighting machine. I am told he has thrown doubt upon the working of the British Constitution as a Constitution which will allow this country successfully to go to war. That is a very serious matter. The Constitution of this country has been maintained as a fighting machine by the Members of this House who are now responsible for the Administration. No one has ever put the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility for preparation for war higher than it has always been put by the present Leader of the House, and anything more direct than the conflict on that point, as on many others, between his opinion and the opinion of the Prime Minister it is impossible to conceive. Some of us have sometimes been charged with a certain measure of heresy upon this point. The suggestions I have made have never been those which have been made by some of my friends as to the appointment of a soldier invested with all power, in imitation of the Prussian system. I have always recognised the necessities of our constitutional situation, and, though the First Lord has sometimes 299 charged me, or appeared to charge me, with holding these heretical views, as a fact I have always agreed with him on this point. The suggestion which I made was a suggestion that all Army reform should be accomplished in this country by the Prime Minister, that the Prime Minister should take the office of Secretary of State for War, as the only man in the Cabinet who would be strong enough to carry this reform through. No one has put Cabinet responsibility so high as the First Lord of the Treasury undoubtedly has, and he must see that this is the occasion when that doctrine of Cabinet responsibility must be pressed home, and responsibility for what has occurred must be there. The right hon. Gentleman seems to doubt that he has ever put that doctrine so high. We shall see. On Thursday last the right hon. Member who preceded me in this debate—the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—delivered a speech, and made a statement which he did not make again last night, and a similar statement was made in this debate from the benches opposite. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs said that all which had been done in this war had been "solely dictated by military advice," and "military advice alone determined all that had been done." I should like the House to consider what that statement means. The right hon. Gentleman was the member who, on three occasions, brought the question of the ammunition supplies of this country before the House: it was he who moved the amendment which turned out the Rosebery Administration on the cordite debate, and he led the discussion on two subsequent occasions on which we debated the same question. At the opening of the next Parliament the whole question of Ministerial responsibility for war preparation was thoroughly and exhaustively considered by this House. I confess that I did not expect to hear the right hon. Gentleman—who, on those three occasions, so firmly pressed, to the very extinction of the Government itself, the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility—as it were sheltering the Cabinet behind military advice, advice which he rejected, as also did the Leader of the House, with scorn upon that occasion. There was a dispute in the second debate as to what the exact nature of that military advice may have been, and finally we got out the 300 facts in the third debate. When the Government was defeated, the hon. Gentleman opposite and the First Lord of the Treasury absolutely declined to accept that plea of military advice, and maintained the sound constitutional view of absolute Cabinet responsibility for preparation for war. I agreed with that view at the time, and I do so now. I feel it a duty to myself, and to all who hold the same opinion as I do, to press home this doctrine of Cabinet responsibility on this occasion. In that debate the hon. Member who seems likely to follow me in this debate—the present Under Secretary for war—took part. He was then a private Member and warmly occupied his mind upon this question, and he used these words—If they were overwhelmed by disasters the Minister for War would be held responsible.Not only he, but the whole Cabinet are responsible, and the present Leader of the House in following the hon. Member in that debate emphasised that fact, and pointed out the importance of complete Cabinet responsibility. That doctrine was emphatically maintained. There are practical reasons why this question should be pressed home on this occasion. This is obviously the time to press it home if ever it should be done, and it seems to me that such practical reasons are to be found in two considerations. We have been told that at the beginning of every war it is always fated that there should be muddling. We have been told it from both sides of the House that we always begin by muddling our wars. If there is one fact more certain than another it is that, in future wars, not with Boer Republics but with great Powers, there will be no time for muddling at the beginning of war, and it is vital that this muddling should be guarded against. If we are to look forward as a matter of certainty that this country is always to muddle at the beginning of a war, then we may look forward with almost certainty to defeat. The other consideration which I venture to put forward upon this subject is that I believe the Government even now do not fully realise what this war, begun as they began it, still involves. I believe that pressure upon this point, with reflection upon what has passed and their responsibility for what 301 has occurred, may help in bringing home to them the great responsibility which still lies upon them in this respect. I have the strongest possible feeling as to what has happened up to the present, and I regard it as vital for the future that we should guard against any such recurrence. I do not despair even now of the military situation of the present war, and I do not accept those prophecies of evil in regard to the war which some Members have pronounced. I am convinced that it is our duty now to state the facts connected with the present war to the House as they appear to us with regard to the responsibility of the Cabinet in the matter of the deficiency of their knowledge and their military preparations. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs threw out a challenge to us in which he said—They had not heard the definite charge as to military preparations. Let them give us the facts.I will try to answer that challenge, and give facts to the Government and to the House which at all events appear to us to demand an answer from the Government which they have not yet received. I do not wish to press the question of what was known to "the man in the street." I understand that the man in the street knew as much as the Government as to whether at a certain time, when military preparations might have been made, there would or would not have been war. That admission of ignorance at that time is followed by a more definite statement of ignorance as to whether there would or would not have been war with the two Republics, if war came at all. This question has been left in a singular position by the discussion across the Table of the House between the two Leaders the other day. The speech to which reference was made, but which was not quoted, was delivered at Dewsbury on the 28th of November last, and these were the words used by the Leader of the House. He said—If I had been asked two months ago whether it was likely we should be at war with the Orange Free State, I should have said 'You might as well expect us to be at war with Switzerland.' They were loyal friends, from whom we had nothing to fear, and who had nothing to fear from us.That statement seems to me to be an amazing one in face of the facts. The 302 House will note that the papers circulated here this morning bear upon this question, but at all events we know that, as the Leader of the Opposition remarked at the time, there was a public alliance between these two Republics, and that alliance had been strengthened after the raid and the conspiracy at Johannesburg with every element of publicity. There had been meetings and banquets, and speeches made by the two Presidents had been published to the world in which it was openly declared to be their common intention to wage war jointly if war could not be averted. There has been a White-book published this morning, and in it you will find that the Government knew on the 6th of September that "every preparation had been made by the Orange Free State" in the event of war to "attack Natal upon short notice," and that all the Free State farmers who generally stayed in Natal had already "trekked" from that State and sacrificed their sheep. Those facts were before the Government early in September. On the 21st of September there was a speech made by the President of the Orange Free State in the Raad at the opening of the war session, and in that speech President Steyn distinctly declared that in the event of war the Orange Free State would go with the Transvaal. I confess that I can hardly understand the statement of the Government that they were ignorant of the fact that in case of war they would have to meet the forces of the two Republics, and it seems to me almost incredible that in the face of these facts such ignorance could have existed in the minds of the Government.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
Let me explain how the matter stands. In that part of my speech I was referring to the general course of events which had led up to the war, and I stated distinctly and emphatically that it was a priori incredible that the Orange Free State would be so idiotic as to sacrifice their independence in a fight with a nation which had never interfered with them, with whom they had never interfered, and with whom they had lived on terms of perfect amity. I was not discussing our knowledge of their intention or the military situation. We were aware that the Orange Free State had been nominally in alliance with the Transvaal, and we had 303 no doubt that the great mass of the young Free State Boers would join the Transvaal; but we had no grounds for thinking that there were any diplomatic or international reasons why the Orange Free State should take action with the Transvaal.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
Then I understand that the Government wished the Orange Free State to join the Transvaal?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I said from a military point of view it had not the importance which the right hon. Gentleman attributes to it.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
I was trying to find some excuse for the Government under-estimating the extent of the enemy's forces and the number of troops necessary for this war, but I do not find the excuse that I expected on this point.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
I think it will be found that some excuse is necessary. The attitude at all events of the Orange Free State had been stated by themselves in an official communication to their Consuls-General in foreign capitals. It was to the effect that they intended to act on the terms of their alliance if they could not preserve peace, but that they were using all their efforts to preserve peace. Moreover, the Government, had there been any doubt as to the action of the Free State, had by their language made that action certain. The Leader of the House in his Manchester speech said that during the negotiations it was above all things the duty of the Government "to abstain from unnecessary menace," but they not only did not abstain from unnecessary menace, but they had also failed to make sufficient military preparations. I do not rely so much—unexpected as it was at the time—on the publication of Sir Alfred Milner's despatch of May, which caused a shock in the country and made war seem much more likely than anyone had thought before that time. I rely chiefly on some language used by Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords. We have no right constitutionally to draw a distinction between Minister and Minister, but you cannot prevent foreign 304 countries from doing it. They regard a particular Minister as being a stronger friend of peace in any particular negotiations than another Minister. Lord Salisbury undoubtedly enjoyed that reputation in South Africa, and it was thought that his weight as Prime Minister would be exerted on the side of peace. Lord Salisbury, however, at this particular moment most conspicuously violated the duty which the Leader of the House said rested on the Government, and did so without making any preparations for war. On the 28th July, the Prime Minister, speaking in the House of Lords, used these words with regard to the Conventions—"The Conventions are mortal. … They are liable to be destroyed." I confess, looking at the negotiations at that time, if I had been an inhabitant of either of the two Republics I should have treated that statement of the Prime Minister as a threat of annexation, and as holding out the prospect of a war in which the independence of my country would be taken away. Were these words, whether wise or unwise in themselves, wise when used without the smallest preparation for war having been made? Afterwards, more language of a similar kind was used, but it is on these words used at that particular period that I mostly rely. I think it is established that the Government at that time did not expect war, or, at any rate, war with the two Republics. At all events they hoped against war; but the language I have quoted made war more probable. Did the Government have before them ample information as to what this war, which they thought possible though not probable, would be if it came about? On that question absolutely different answers have been given by the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister says, "No, we had not the information." The Leader of the House says, "Yes, we had it." The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in the speech he made on Thursday last, said, "If there were miscalculation the Government were themselves deceived." The Leader of the House said, "We did know of the Boer armaments," and the Prime Minister said, "How on earth were we to know?" This question of information or misinformation of the Government also has a personal aspect. For between two and three months the most cruel attacks were 305 made on Sir William Butler on this very point of the non-information of the Government, and it was said by almost every person and newspaper discussing the question that Sir William Butler was the person who should have given information to the Government, and that he had not given that information. That charge was made against him by a supporter of the Government—Lord Heneage—in terms which constituted, in fact, a charge of treason. The Under Secretary of State for War defended Sir William Butler in general terms.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
Yes, early in October.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
Yes, but two months after the defence a Cabinet Minister used words which, if they had been taken apart from the previous charge, might pass as merely a party statement to a party meeting, but which I say, given the original charge and punctuated by the cheers of an excited meeting, were really as cruel an attack as any. The charge against Sir William Butler was, in fact, the charge of treason. It was the same charge on which I heard Marshal Bazaine condemned to death by a military court, presided over by the Duc d'Aumale at Versailles—the charge of preferring political to military considerations. I hope it may be taken now as admitted in this House that Sir William Butler is too great a general and too good a soldier to be guilty of the military crime of preferring political to military considerations. He was virtually removed from South Africa for political reasons; and using such means of information as I possess regarding the services of our generals, I should imagine that even from a military point of view that was one of the heaviest mistakes which the Government had made. The Prime Minister denied that the Government had the necessary information, and gave reasons—all sorts of reasons—which I do not wish to criticise, because there are circumstances which render it undesirable. The Leader of the House said that the "Intelligence Department was not guilty of under-estimating the military preparations of the Boers." His subsequent words show that he was referring to armaments and numbers. "There was no evidence," he says, "to show 306 that they were wrong in any of their facts. They accurately estimated both number and armaments." The view of the Prime Minister is the exact contrary. He says, "We had no power of search," "We had not enough of secret service money," "Information is a matter of money, and of nothing else." We discussed the question of secret service money in this House a few years ago. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, who made an admirable speech last night, will remember that discussion, in which he took part. We discussed the Intelligence Department from every point of view, and the almost universal opinion was that more money would be given by the House cheerfully if asked for by the Government, and any attack of reformers on the War Office was not aimed in that direction. I am not going to attack the War Office now, and I am glad my noble friend who initiated this debate did not do so. The War Office Vote will come up on a future occasion—this is the occasion for pressing home Cabinet responsibility. The Intelligence Department was always regarded as one of the branches of the War Office not adequately supplied with means, but on this occasion I venture to say—and I challenge the Under Secretary for War to deny it—that the Intelligence Department has admirably done its work. No Government was ever so well informed as to the resources of their opponents as the present Government in entering upon this war. There was every reason why the collection of information should be easy. The Boers had no seaport, nothing could reach them except through our own territory or through Lorenzo Marques, where we have a consular agency. We had an agent at Pretoria. Mr. Conyngham Greene and also his locum tenens, Mr. Fraser, reported on these questions. No capitals are so easy of access as Pretoria and Bloemfontein. Special service officers were employed and sent out to make inquiry and to report. Mr. Phillips has shown that secrets are not well kept in Pretoria, and all the Transvaal military system was known to us in a way that very few military systems have been known. I fancy it is completely admitted that we knew of every gun and every pound of ammunition, but did we know the number of our opponents? 307 Some day the military history of this war will come to be written. It will not be like a Soudanese war; it will be a history in which the name of every man who has fought against us will be known. The field-state from day to day will be given. The commando system requires it. We know that system well, for it is actually in force in our own Cape Colony, where there is universal military service, and we have employed it in the native wars. I venture to say that there never was a war in which one side knew so accurately the numbers of its opponents as this war. The estimate of the number of Boers which could be put into the field, given in all the ordinary books of reference, was 49,000. I will challenge the Government. Did the man at the War Office who put the Boer numbers highest—the man most inclined to exaggerate—say that there are in arms against us, all included, 60,000 men? I do not think that the opinion that there are under 60,000 will be challenged by anyone who knows the facts. It is a matter of public knowledge that the books of reference gave 49,000; but conversations have got out, to which I will not further allude, that the War Office estimate of those who would join from our own colonies was 4,000. But the highest estimate I have heard, from the most competent soldiers, of the numbers which the Boers could place in the field against us was 59,000 men, although I believe that to be an extreme estimate by an extreme man. The Leader of the House takes a different line. He has said twice "We did under-estimate the military efficiency of the Boers." Now who is the "we"? "We" is the Cabinet, and I want to know on whose advice did the Cabinet under-estimate the military efficiency of the Boers? The Cabinet is responsible for the military under-estimate. The Cabinet chooses the generals; the generals do not choose themselves. The Cabinet choose the Commander-in-Chief and the most responsible military advisers of the time. Who were the persons who misled the Cabinet as to the military efficiency of the Boers? "If there were miscalculation," we are told, "the Government themselves were deceived," and that "the number of men" to be sent out to South Africa "was dictated solely by military advice." I want to know whether this was not military advice of military men misled by previous political miscalculation. At 308 any rate, it is military advice for which the Cabinet are responsible, because they selected the men who gave it. I think I have established the reasons for the deficiency in the extent of the Cabinet's preparations for the war. But there is something to be said about the nature of their military preparations. Now, the Leader of the House has over and over again—here twice this session, and four times at Manchester—spoken of the intentions of the Government in a military sense as being the preparation in South Africa of a defensive force. I am not going to fall into the trap, I hope, of stating that a defensive force is a force that does not take the offensive, but the Leader of the House has stated that the Government policy was defensive.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
The words the right hon. Gentleman used were—A force sufficient to defend the frontiers. … The defensive force was sent out. … Our hope was that the colonies would be fully defended by the force.The policy, then, was a defensive policy in the first instance. During the recess Lord Salisbury and Lord Lansdowne spoke precisely to the same effect. They talked of "the interval before we were in strength" being "inevitable." I do not like that word "inevitable," but it runs through the Manchester speeches—everything was "inevitable," or due to "the hand of fate." "Inevitable" is the usual word when things go wrong with people by their own fault. I suppose the defensive policy was a policy of watching the frontiers. It was not a policy of falling back on the Tugela and abandoning the half of Natal to the enemy. There was a gross underestimate of the military efficiency of our enemy, and therefore a belief that the frontiers of Natal could be held to the full extent by a force smaller than that which we were able to send there. The policy in Natal was defensive: that known to military writers as "the defensive in a theatre of operations in which no solution is intended." My contention is that every precaution recommended by every authority in such a case was neglected by the Cabinet, and I shall try to make that point clear to the 309 House. Stores were accumulated at Dundee and Glencoe in holes, places easily commanded by artillery from the surrounding hills. Then, at Ladysmith, stores were accumulated on a gigantic scale, accumulated to a fabulous extent, also in another hole under easy artillery fire from hills all round—a position incredibly miscalculated for defence. Nothing was done which in the least contemplated, up to the last moment, the possibility of our having to fall back in the course of these defensive operations. The most ordinary precautions were neglected. Not a single gun of position or siege artillery was sent out to Natal. Garrison artillery were not sent out. Very small parties of engineers were sent out, but not numerous enough to complete entrenchments on a sufficient scale, capable of being defended by artillery. The destruction of the railways was neglected, so that the Boer Republics were able to bring down their heavy guns immediately and use them against us. Culverts and bridges were not blown up. There were special reasons why the tunnel at Laing's Nek was less important than is usual with tunnels, but there was all the greater necessity for blowing up the bridges. Bridges are even much more important in South Africa than here, because the rivers there rise and fall with extraordinary rapidity. The policy of the Government was defensive, but I do not believe that it was made clear to themselves or to the soldiers in the field; and there was overhanging all the extraordinary miscalculation of the fighting powers of the Boers. The Government sent as a defensive force a force of an ineffective offensive nature. The force was sent from India. We know that India is always prepared for war, us we are unprepared; and that Indian force contained its proper proportions of cavalry and artillery. They sent not a defensive force, but a force to fight the Boers in attack. They did not prepare for either a defensive or offensive war, but only a means of offensive war, which did not prove effective. There are some who argued that the war must have come some day and that it was wise to anticipate it. I will not discuss the policy of anticipating war so far as this country is concerned. It may be a wise policy in the case of countries which have but a single danger. France and Germany, as we know, both tried to 310 anticipate war in 1869. But in our own country, with dangers in every portion of the world, if we tried to anticipate war we should never have peace. But if it was necessary to anticipate this war, which might come some day, the policy we should have required, was the rapid concentration of a great force for an advance upon and occupation of the capital of the enemy. Both by those who would have anticipated war and by the Government it has been alleged that the existence of a Parliamentary Opposition was the reason why the military precautions of the Government were inefficacious. But the Government has been in power since July, 1895, and has been supported by overwhelming majorities, and it would have had the cheerful acquiescence of the House of Commons for every measure of military precaution, and all the military expenditure which was asked. The Cabinet are responsible, but if there is to be any difficulty on account of the existence of a constitutional Opposition—even a weak one—I say that by that doctrine we are fated to be beaten on every occasion we go to war. The time for the reform of our military system will come when this war has ended. We cannot reform it in a time of war. We have often addressed the House upon this subject. We preached to deaf ears. We were not listened to before war. Shall we be listened to when war is over? While I admit that in a time of war you cannot reform your military system, what you can do is to press home to the Cabinet the responsibility. The points upon which we have broken down have been those which have been put before the country time after time. We have broken down in staff and command, mounted branches—cavalry, artillery, and transport. In the October sitting a distinguished military Member drew attention to command, but said in this case it did not matter because we were only fighting Boers, but it would very materially affect us if we were fighting a Great Power; and Sir Redvers Buller put the same thing as succinctly as it could be put in the report issued to this House in 1898, in which he spoke of "a heterogeneous mass of units thrown together under commanders strange to them and strange to each other," with "an improvised staff." What Sir Redvers Buller had to use in 1897 he has again had provided for him on 311 this occasion. With regard to the mounted branches, we have constantly brought the matter before the authorities, but in spite of that we have constantly diminished the number of trained horses in this country until, and this will not be denied, two years ago we had fewer trained horses by far than we had twenty-five years ago. With regard to the artillery, we are told in a book by Jomini that to a great enlightened manufacturing Power the perfecting of artillery gives very great advantage. "It is a blessing to an able Government. …. a curse to a mediocre, ignorant or incapable one." A Commander-in-Chief has told us, and we were told yesterday that the Boers are an ignorant population. Well, they may be, but we have not found in this war that the great enlightened manufacturing Power has derived that advantage from "the perfecting of artillery" which Jomini tells us in his book we had every reason to expect. The Government in their defence of themselves have repudiated the idea that position guns, for example, ought to be employed in the field, but the Germans take position guns into the field at manœuvres, and we talk of it now as if it was a new discovery. There are seven German army corps fully provided with field guns and position guns as well. All our artillery officers have told us that direct artillery fire has failed against the Boer entrenchments. We have known for years past that direct artillery fire would be likely to fail against strong entrenchments; yet we sent twenty-one batteries of field artillery to South Africa before the first one of three howitzer batteries was despatched. With regard to the number of guns, it has been one of our strongest charges against the War Office for some years that our Army is more insufficiently supplied with field artillery than any other Army in the world. Ours is not even comparable with the field artillery of Switzerland and Roumania. We have to point to countries who only spend half a million a year on armaments to get a comparison at all. In regard to our guns, the Leader of the House stated in a speech at Manchester that we had guns in South Africa sufficient "for three army corps of regular troops." I should like to know on whose authority the right hon. Gentleman made that statement. The first force sent to South Africa from India was supplied with guns—not on a Continental scale, but still in fairly decent 312 and respectable measure The forces of Lord Methuen and Sir Redvers Buller fall altogether short of even the scale adopted for the Indian contingent. Both these generals have themselves called attention to their deficiency in this respect. We have not even now got artillery on anything like the scale laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, and we could not have it in South Africa, because we have not got it in the world. In these circumstances I can only characterise the statement of the Leader of the House as entirely erroneous and misleading, and altogether a blunder. With regard to the batteries which are even now being sent out, many of them are manned by Reservists drawn from garrison artillery, who have had no experience in the handling of modern field guns. The First Lord of the Treasury at Manchester condescended to make a party attack over the question of our artillery. I hope he will agree with me that in all these matters I have never made a party speech, and I only make one now because I feel strongly on the subject. He said that all increases of efficiency in artillery had been carried out by Conservative Governments. As a matter of fact the present Government was in office for two and a half years before it turned its attention to the artillery. It then proposed an increase of a single battery. A year later it proposed a further increase, which was on a very feeble scale in comparison with any other Power, and even that increase had not been attained when the present war broke out. Does the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord remember what occurred to the artillery at the time when Mr. Stanhope was Secretary of State for War? Mr. Stanhope, as the House knows perfectly well, made a reduction in the Horse Artillery which has never been compensated for by any increase in the Field Artillery. In these circumstances it is bitterly to be regretted that the Leader of the House should have sought to make party capital out of our artillery deficiency. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR expressed dissent.] What complaint was the right hon. Gentleman going to make?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
My only complaint is that I thought at a time when a vote of censure was being proposed on the Government it would not be going beyond the ordinary practices of con- 313 troversy to say that not a few of the difficulties in which we have been placed have arisen through the fault of our predecessors.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
I do not see the precise bearing of that interruption, since Mr. Edward Stanhope was a member of the Conservative party. With regard to cavalry as with regard to artillery, the first force was well supplied, but the forces of Lord Methuen and General Buller are very deficient in that respect. In that connection the First Lord also made an attack on the critics of the War Office. He said they had not seen, or if they had seen had not insisted on, a novel fact in the present war, namely, that for the first time in the history of the world they had an enemy entirely mounted. I have two or three remarks to make upon that statement. One is that it has happened before. One has to read Sir William Butler's book on the life of General Sir George Pomeroy Colley to recall the facts. Apart from that, the First Lord attacks the critics. The critics have failed to see, or if they have not failed they have not insisted, that the War Office should have seen to it. It is not the duty of the responsible Ministry for the moment, says the First Lord. The Defence Committee of the Cabinet, of which the right hon. Gentleman is a member, is a body which we admit has failed. I believe that the correspondence in which my hon. friend the Member for Belfast, Sir George Chesney, Mr. Spenser Wilkinson, and I took part had something to do with the formation of the Committee. The Committee was created by Lord Rosebery's Government, and was like any other Cabinet Committee. Under the present Government, its acts have been proclaimed to the world; but, although I may be looked upon as a critical sort of person, I distinctly state that it has failed, and the failure is due to what we call, in these slang days, a slackness on the part of those who attend to the work which devolves upon them. It has not been worked as an effective instrument might have been worked in the interests of the country. That Committee, or the Cabinet as a whole, ought to have foreseen such a contingency as the need for mounted men, which the 314 critics either did not or could not insist upon. The soldiers, whose opinions one would have thought worth having, did foresee it. I have not the same means of judging as the Cabinet have, nor have I the knowledge of what the best men in the army thought on this occasion; but I should have thought that a paper read by a very distinguished officer might have reached the Government. He is on active service now, so he cannot write to the papers on the subject. I mean Colonel Spence. He is at this moment Deputy Adjutant General at Malta. He was present at the Amberley manœuvres directed by Sir William Butler in 1896; and Colonel Spence was the man who designed those most elaborate and successful manœuvres, which were on a great scale. He was chief of the staff of Sir William Butler, and undoubtedly he possessed Sir William's confidence. Although differences have arisen between Sir Alfred Milner and Sir William Butler, the fact is that Sir William Butler's opinion was known to the Government, and the information we had was not made a matter of concealment when Sir Alfred was in this country some months ago. My information may be defective, but what I have heard is that Sir William Butler had said that 60,000 men would be required in Cape Colony, and 25,000 men in Natal. Those are the numbers which have reached me in private conversation, and which reached me at the time. I may say that Sir William Butler has never opened his mouth so far as I am concerned. The information reached me at the time these statements were made to Sir Alfred Milner, and since this matter has become acute, and since Sir William Butler has been withdrawn he has kept his mouth shut. In that lecture by Colonel Spence, which was delivered in July of last year—it was called "South Africa," and was a military lecture delivered in a military institution—he made use of these words, and it appears to have been common knowledge—The Boers are mounted infantry, well armed with weapons of precision, and are grand shots. They ride up to the point they wish to defend …. then dismount, fight on foot with their horses near and ready for the next movement. … They have the ubiquity of cavalry and the repelling power of infantry.315 He goes on to point out the conditions necessary to meet a military power of that kind. Now what was the attitude of the Cabinet on this point? The Cabinet telegraphed to the Colonies refusing mounted men; and they gave their reasons in that telegram of October 3rd, namely, that "in view of the numbers already available" infantry were the most and "cavalry least serviceable." Now we well know, and it has been justly complained of, that the number of cavalry in South Africa with Lord Methuen and Sir Redvers Buller are clearly inadequate. And this on the top of our declaration that mounted men from the Colonies were not to be sent. Then followed that telegram on the 16th December: "Mounted men preferred." That is to say, after all this loss of life has been incurred, after all these reverses to our arms—call them checks if you will; I say they are reverses—they have discovered what competent soldiers have told them all along, that mounted men were essential for a service of this kind. I confess I cannot but think that if the value of the mounted men is as great as we have been told it is by the Government within the last few days, the arrival of mounted men used to the field and to shooting—the arrival of these men in due time, I say, might have turned the scale in many portions of the field of war. Now, Sir, just one other remark and I have done. For some years past there have been discussions as to Empire expansion which have divided some of us from others on military questions. There are some of us who are strong supporters of the Government in preparing for war in the present situation of the world, who are not in favour of what is called the expansion of the Empire. We have resisted it because we believed the military requirements of the Empire were greater—as it was put by Lord Charles Beresford, whom we see here no longer—than we were prepared to meet. And the Government now come down to the House and quietly tell us that that is so. They have put it in the Queen's Speech. We have it stated that although the money we have to spend in military preparations is more than that of any other Power in the world, we are going to be asked to spend more. I should hope that good may come out of evil, and that a result of this sad war may be the proper utilisation of our 316 resources in preparing, in times of peace, all the military forces of what people call Greater Britain. I repeat that I hope good will come of it. But the fact remains that the money we spend on our land forces is enormous, and the use we have made of that money up to the present time, and in the conduct of this campaign, appears to me deplorable. In 1887 I ventured to assert that we were trained in a school of "luck and pluck." But that system has become more and more out of touch with the march of events. Then, the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has said—If there are faults they are faults of the head, not of the heart. The Government did not go into the war with a light heart.In 1856, when Prussia had a just cause of quarrel with a Swiss canton, Moltke went to Switzerland and saw for himself the preparations that were being made. When he came back the Prussians did not fight. They concluded a Treaty in 1857 instead. I am not drawing a political analogy; but I venture to say that the Government went into this war without the preparation they should have made. Their neglect of that precaution has brought about the reverses we have met with, and the natural consequence is the failure of our arms I have described. As regards the Crimean War, which in some respects has been compared with this, one is reminded of the present Commander-in-Chief, who has written these momentous words: The history of the Crimean War showsNow an army may be destroyed by a Ministry through want of ordinary forethought.I confess that I think there is only one point in which the two cases are exactly parallel—for there are many distinctions between them—and that is in the heroism of officers and men.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The right hon. Baronet began his able speech by assuring us that the country takes an interest in this debate. I differ from him at the very outset. I am not at all certain that the country does take an interest in this debate as a whole. I am not at all sure that the country will take an interest in the whole of the right hon. Baronet's speech. It will take an interest in the latter part; it will read with absorbing interest everything he has said about guns, mounted troops, and the proportion of cavalry—in fact, whenever he 317 touched on questions of military defence he will be read with the attention and interest which his known knowledge of these matters commands and deserves. But I am not so sure that that interest will be commanded by the earlier part of his speech. I am not so sure that the country cares very much for this Amendment, which consists of two halves, the relevancy of which the one to the other is not easy to follow. The point of the first part of the right hon. Baronet's speech was, if I am not mistaken, that he wished to drive home the question of Government responsibility. Was it necessary to detain the House twenty-five or thirty minutes in making that point? We freely accept that responsibility. I have never spoken since the war began without openly stating that the Government, and the Government alone, were responsible for everything connected with the war. I went out of my way early in October, when attacks were made on Sir William Butler and the Intelligence Department, to say that, when once the country was at war, the Government and only the Government could be held responsible. If any other views are insidiously introduced for our acceptance—and there are some who try to introduce them—we shall be dealing a lamentable blow at the constitutional fabric of this country, and I will never be a party to endeavouring to take off one feather-weight of responsibility from the Cabinet of this country in connection with military administration. I stated that as strongly as I could in June, 1895, and I am prepared to repeat the words I used on that occasion. Then, the right hon. Baronet took the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to task for having, in a speech he recently delivered, stated that the Government had acted in every particular upon "military advice." Why did my right hon. friend make that statement?—not in order to shift any responsibility from the Government, which, if a war is successful, gets undue praise, and, if a war is disastrous, gets undue blame, morally and eternally, but constitutionally, gets its deserts—my right hon. friend said that to remove a doubt which was breeding anxiety in the public mind. The public, who wish that our generals should have unfettered discretion in the field, had been misinformed and led to believe that our generals decisions were being over- 318 ridden and guided by the Cabinet, and they were doubtful, therefore, as to what the future development of the war might be. Surely it was the right, almost the duty, of any member of the Government to remove that doubt. After the earlier part of the right hon. Baronet's speech, he said he would proceed to a concentration upon facts, and I then hoped he was going at once to arrive at those arguments which he afterwards put with so much force. But the first fact to which the right hon. Baronet invited our attention was not connected with military defence; it was simply connected more or less with the diplomatic arguments which have been involved. He told us it was a matter of common notoriety that there had been an alliance between the Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republic for many years; indeed, I think he said since within a few months of the Jameson raid.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The right hon. Baronet is generally very accurate as to his facts, but I think he has not distinguished very clearly on this occasion that that alliance was explicitly and in terms a defensive alliance only, and placed no obligation upon a single man in the Orange Free State unless the frontier of one or other of the Dutch Republics had been crossed by a hostile force. But another alliance was made at a later date. On September 27 last year words were used by President Steyn which showed that that alliance had been superseded by another, which would admit of the inhabitants of the Free State taking offensive action with the inhabitants of the Transvaal. Therefore, the First Lord of the Treasury was not so very far out in the limit of time which he made use of in his speech at Dewsbury when he said that two months ago he should not have dreamt that the Orange Free State would have acted as it had. He was naming almost to a day the date when the Orange Free State undertook this additional obligation. The right hon. Baronet next said that this was not an occasion for attacking the War Office, and that hitherto he had not made a party speech when directing his knowledge and ability to questions of military defence. But he went on to say that on this occasion his feelings were so strong that he was bound to make a party 319 speech, and as I understood, and as I infer, he was bound to vote for this party amendment. The feelings of the right hon. Baronet may be strong, but I know they are not stronger than the feelings of almost every inhabitant of this country, and I beg leave to tell him that because of the very strength of those feelings many men in this House and many millions outside believe that that strength of feeling ought to lead to an avoidance of party spirit rather than to a feeding of it. The latter half of the right hon. Baronet's speech was welcome to the majority of men in this House, not, perhaps, entirely for its trend as a criticism of the War Office, but because of the subject-matter which he elected to handle, and with the latter part of that speech I would couple the admirable speeches to which we listened yesterday from the Members for West Somersetshire and the Rye Division of Sussex. A few days ago I could have said with absolute confidence that we had met to hear speeches of that kind. They were the speeches the country was expecting. It is true in this House, as elsewhere, that the unexpected always happens. But eight or ten days ago I never anticipated that such an Amendment as this would be moved. I never for one moment believed that such an attack would be delivered from such a quarter at such a time. What is the time? We are in the midst of the most anxious stage of a war which is filling the breasts of all our countrymen with poignant emotion, and which is taxing even their splendid qualities of stoical endurance. That is the time. What is the quarter? This attack is delivered by right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench, who, next to the Government of the day, are under the most onerous obligations to the whole country to avoid any course which may embarrass our arms—any course which may add to the anxiety only too naturally felt by those who watch the efforts of our brave soldiers upon the field. And, Sir, without exception, all these right hon. Gentlemen, not even excepting the late Leader of the Opposition or the right hon. Member for the Montrose Burghs, have stated that they are in accord with us, at any rate as to the immediate necessity and immediate objects of the war. Now, what is the nature of the attack? The attack is not merely a 320 technical vote of censure put up as a peg upon which you may hang an interesting debate, but an explicit vote of censure drawn in such terms as to mean nothing unless it means that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are prepared now to unite and take over this heavy task from our hands with a greater hope of prosecuting it successfully, because they have now more knowledge and more foresight and more judgment than the members of the Government themselves. I will not insult them by believing that they have been guilty of so futile and, at this moment, so frivolous a course of action as to put forward this Amendment merely to record their opinion that they would have shown more knowledge and judgment and foresight.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
It must mean that they think their superiority in these respects would counterbalance the obvious and admitted disadvantages of a Ministerial crisis and a general election half way through a war which is racking the whole Empire. Then, consider the different points of view of these right hon. Gentlemen who now think they may unite for such a difficult purpose. I am not going to touch on the diplomatic side of the Amendment. It does not interest me. But on the question of military preparation, which does interest me, we have had the same divergence of opinion. The hon. Member for Berwick has urged that our fault was in not sending out troops at a sufficiently early date. On the other hand, the Leader of the Opposition said in this House only the other night and, more explicitly, some months ago, that our fault was that all through last summer we were mixing up diplomacy with military preparations. That is a grave charge, because, if true, it would shatter the basis of the Government's defence of its action in the past. But the Leader of the Opposition has been completely misled. He has twice made this charge without any basis of fact whatever. I do not know how he came to make it. I was questioned last summer by the hon. Member for East Mayo on that very point, and I informed the House most explicitly that not a single man had been added to the establishment of the garrison in South Africa until late in the 321 month of September. The charge ought not to have been made, and I think it should be withdrawn. I regret the line the Opposition have taken, and to which we are invited by the terms of the Amendment. I do not wish to pursue it. I believe that all that can be said about defects in the past is but as dust in the balance in comparison with those things that have to be done, that must be done, to meet the demands of the future. In ordinary times, no doubt, it is the right and duty of the Opposition to oppose, to question, to criticise, to review, to condemn, if you like, a Government or a Government department, and that places on the department a corresponding obligation to defend itself. But this is not an ordinary time, and I hoped and honestly believed that we should have suspended our sham fights in face of the deadly reality; that our animosities would have been hushed in common sorrow for those who have fallen, in sympathy for those who are bereaved, and admiration for our gallant soldiers who daily and nightly are enduring hardships and incurring danger, in order to ensure the general safety of the State. But we have been deceived in that hope. My duty to the House, as I had conceived it, was not so much to defend the War Office as to explain what had been done, and why it had been done, and if such a course, tame in comparison with what has taken place within the last few days, has any interest in any quarter of the House I still propose to follow it. In considering what steps have been taken, the reasons for taking them, and the reasons for not taking some of them sooner, I agree we ought frankly and fearlessly to score up against the War Office or the Army any disappointment and reverse that can be traced to defect in administration in the one or the other; but I do not think it is wise to attribute to defects in the War Office or the Army consequences which have followed from our settled scheme of military defence, or consequences which have followed the diplomatic policy which the Government adopted—rightly adopted, as I think, in view of the peculiar relations between this country, the two Dutch Republics, and our colonies in South Africa. If we set down to the one or the other disappointments that spring from other causes, we shall cloud our judgment, which we 322 need to keep clear in order that we may consider proposals for the reform of our system of defence which are in the air, and some of which at no distant date it will be my duty to lay before the House. Let me take the first point. Let us consider what is the permanent system of military defence in this country. It is no use to say, "You have no troops left in this country," for that is not quite true; and it is no use charging the War Office with the fact that if you send an army to South Africa it no longer remains in England. We must face things as they are. It may be we shall have to make changes in our system of military defence, but let us understand the system. It has been said by some critics that our military defence is at a disadvantage as compared with our naval defence, because the Navy has always an objective to aim at. That is to say, it has been taken as a rule that our naval strength should be equal to the combined strength of any two Powers. We have had an objective in our minds in connection with military defence ever since Mr. Stanhope was Secretary of State for War in 1888. The Army of this country has been organised and maintained with a view to achieving three objects—to give the necessary draft reliefs to our army in India and for the maintenance of our colonial garrisons, to be equal to the embodiment of three army corps for home defence, and, as I have put it a fortiori, to be capable of embodying into two army corps a cavalry division and troops of the Line for communication for the purposes of a foreign expedition. I do not believe that the critics of this or any other Government have contemplated a higher objective than that. I do not think the right hon. Baronet who has spoken this evening does—I have read his book on the subject—though he puts in another point, which I think is covered by what I have said, that we might have, under certain conditions, to considerably augment our garrisons in India.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I shall have something to say about guns later on. But nobody has urged that our military system ought to provide us troops in larger numbers than those which I 323 have named; therefore, if you want to know where it has failed—for I admit I there has been a defect, and I am not here to maintain that the War Office is impeccable—we must know what are the troops necessary for such an expedition. It has been computed at fifty-eight battalions of infantry, ten regiments of cavalry, and that you would need, if you compute the higher proportion of artillery recognised by experts last year, forty-two batteries of artillery. I do not think the right hon. Baronet would wish us to have more with such a force.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
No, not with such a force. I do not like to interrupt, but as the question is put to me, I may say I have advocated keeping up artillery in addition to the artillery for the regular forces; that is to say, to correspond with the strength of Regulars, Militia, and Volunteers.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
That is a question I hope to deal with at a future date; but I do not think the right hon. Baronet, and certainly no German authority, would recommend sending more than forty-two batteries with such a force. Well, we have sent almost the whole of that number out of this country. I draw a distinction between what is sent out from the country and what we have concentrated in South Africa. It would not be fair in this argument to quote all the troops we have in South Africa. Instead of fifty-eight battalions of infantry we have sent sixty. We have failed in cavalry, I admit; instead of ten we have sent nine regiments; but instead of forty-two batteries of artillery we have sent forty-six from this country, and I do not think the failure of one in ten ought to press hardly against the system. There are concentrated in South Africa fifteen regiments of cavalry, and we are going to send three more. There will be seventy-six battalions of regular infantry, and in all fifty-four batteries of artillery. This could not have been done unless this Government, unless my noble friend Lord Lansdowne and the Commander-in-Chief had worked with unceasing energy since they took office in 1895 to make the home establishment rise to the objective which I have named. What is the work that has been done since 1895? We have raised and added six battalions of infantry to 324 the home establishment. We have voted more, and shall now raise them. We have raised and added sixteen batteries of artillery to the establishment. The right hon. Baronet says he has urged us again and again to make a larger addition, but he knows the difficulties we have to encounter, and that what has been easy recently because of the patriotism of the country was not easy last year. The pace at which we sought to raise the batteries was estimated on the best advice we could get and according to our experience of recruiting in the country. We knew that it was impossible in ordinary times to raise more than five batteries of artillery in the year, and we raised them at that pace, and when the war came we had raised two of the five proposed for this year, and then when war came we raised the remaining three without the slightest difficulty. Such is the patriotism of the nation. The difficulty of every Government is that, though an Englishman will fight for his country with greater readiness than any other man, he is not so fond of soldiering as the people of other nations. If I am not wearying the House with details, I will ask Members to consider the increase in the effective strength of the Army since we accepted this mark to aim at in 1888. On October 1 in that year the effective strength—men actually in the Army and serving with the colours—was 210,717. On October 1 last, before we called out the Reserves, there were 235,924, an increase in our peace Army of 25,207. Now, it has been said—and I must call attention to this point—that this has been done by robbing the reserves and the militia, but that is not quite the case. The reserves in 1888 were 51,174, and on October 1 last they stood at 81,133, a further increase of 29,959 men. The militia, I regret to say, has fallen below the establishment, and I hope it may be possible to devise some means to remedy this. It has fallen in that period 10,250 men below the establishment. But even so there is a net gain of 15,000 to the peace establishment of the British Army, and 10,000 men are admittedly more efficient than they would have been in the militia, because after all a regular battalion is better than a militia battalion, largely because its officers have greater opportunities and longer training and service. Then as to arms. We have armed in this period the regulars and militia with the newest rifle—the Lee-Metford— 325 and we so armed the Volunteers—I do not wish to make a party point at all—between the years 1895–97 at a much more rapid rate than was anticipated by the leader of the Opposition, who in the celebrated cordite debate, when he was Secretary for War, anticipated that it would be necessary largely to increase the amount of cordite kept in store if in the course of some years Volunteers were armed with the Lee-Metford rifle. Well, we did it in the course of one year. I say that not to make a party point, but merely to show that this Government has not been, as some think, slack and idle in what is after all one of the first and most vital duties of a Government of this nation. The difficulty in this country is not by merely passing a vote to get men; you have to find the land on which to train them, and barracks in which to house them. All these problems present greater difficulties in this small country, where property is not only expensive, but where it is reluctantly surrendered, where you have to fight lawsuits and put compulsory powers in force, and where you are impeded at every turn by the very men—to whom be all honour and credit—who now in the moment of difficulty will write a cheque for £10,000 or £50,000. We have spent on training—that is to say, on putting barracks in the neighbourhood of places where men can be trained—£1,399,000; we have spent on concentration—that is to say, on building barracks where the different units of brigades and so forth can be placed—altogether £5,555,000; we have spent on increasing the comfort of the troops, by improving the amenities of these barracks, £6,338,000; and because we have done that we have made some progress with the hardest problem of all, namely, the problem of recruiting. The recruits who came into the Army in 1895, the first year of this Government, numbered 29,583, and the recruits last year were 42,700. On works and on guns we have spent, and partly contracted by loans—I put loans and Estimates together—£7,000,000; and if you take all the money which has been contracted for on loans since the days of Lord Palmerston you will find that this Government and its predecessors have contracted £16,000,000, out of £19,500,000. I think it is not fair to say that we were found, by what I admit to be a great Imperial emergency, wanting in having done what 326 was possible in this country at a time when no man's mind was turned towards war or the disastrous events which have fallen to our lot during the last three months. I will not say another word about what is called the permanent military policy of this country; I have shown its limitations, but I have tried also to show that, accepting those limitations, this Government has done its best to extend that military system during a period of profound crisis. It is necessary in order to meet some of the criticisms of the right hon. Baronet, and in order to explain what has taken place, to say one word upon diplomacy, because, although when diplomacy breaks down and war ensues the conduct of affairs can be put into the hands of generals, and their action can be released from all guidance and restriction, so long as diplomacy is in the field warlike preparations must have some relation to that diplomacy. I am not going through the history of the tangled skein of the diplomatic negotiations of last year. I am content to take one thing—the ultimatum. On September 8th we sent a despatch to the Transvaal Government which practically amounted to this, Will you or will you not allow us to examine your seven years franchise law? If you will allow it, and if that law is proved to be unsatisfactory and illusory, how can you recede from your offer of a five years franchise? Well, was that a moment for ostentatiously spending three or four millions of money on preparations which would have been known to the whole world within a few days? Could we honestly have taken such a course? Is it true that there was no chance for diplomacy at that moment? Why, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Montrose Burghs a week after that despatch said that in his judgment the Transvaal Government could not and would not recede from their five years offer.
§ MR. J. MORLEY (Montrose Burghs)
.—I think the hon. Gentleman has not quite accurately reported the despatch of 8th September. The effect of that despatch was to confine the Boers to their five years franchise.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The right hon. Gentleman has left out the invitation at the beginning of that despatch to have an examination of the seven years law to see 327 whether it was satisfactory. I will not go into that. I believe I have given it accurately; but, whether I have or not, it will not, I think, be denied that it would have been a doubtful policy, it would have been the very course of which we have been erroneously accused by the Leader of the Opposition, if we had spent £3,000,000 prior to that date on collecting mules and heaping up munitions and stores in South Africa. I wonder whether any hon. Gentleman who says, Why did not you collect mules in South Africa? can picture what 18,000 or 20,000 mules look like when they are all together. They are not what can be called "common objects of the seashore," they are conspicuous and would be bound to attract attention. I have seen myself the collective transport for a far smaller force than the one we contemplated, and I can assure hon. Members that it is not the kind of thing that anyone is likely to overlook. I believe that a good deal of this criticism of the Government for not collecting a vast amount of stores and a number of transport animals—the only things that could have been done at an earlier date, and which, if they had been done, could only have given us an extra four weeks in hand—is based upon a study of the problem which confronts Continental nations, but which does not confront ourselves. As between two sovereign States on the Continent of Europe, it is perfectly true that no statesmen would conduct a prolonged diplomatic correspondence of the character which took place between this country and the Transvaal last year, or any long and strained diplomatic correspondence, unless they had—as a matter of fact Continental nations always have—their armies on the frontier ready to be mobilised, with huge reserves of stores and transports available within from two to four days call. But that is not the problem which this Government has dealt with successfully for something like a hundred years in South Africa, and successfully for a far longer period in India. This country, which in these vast expanses is sovereign over certain portions of the territory, which holds other tracts in the state of feudatories, and over others, again, exercises a shadowy supremacy, is responsible for the general welfare of the whole of these great expanses and their happiness. How have we fulfilled that responsibility? How have we been 328 able, with a few vicissitudes, some almost as alarming as this one, to do this? Partly by our arms, partly by the prestige of our arms, but, in my judgment, far more largely because we have not pursued methods which may be appropriate to the Continent, but which are not appropriate to such places as South Africa and India. Can anybody believe that the great feudatory rajahs of India would at this moment be offering us their horses and their men if they had not known that we never prepared a blow whilst we maintained a smiling face, if they had not known that we have never made ready to wipe out a State, however difficult it made our path, until we had given it warning after warning, and perhaps in the long run allowed it to find us in the very state, I admit of unpreparedness, in which we were found by this war with the Transvaal? That may provoke dissent, but I invite hon. Members to read the correspondence recently published in the life of Sir Robert Peel in connection with the Sikh War of 1845. They will find there a parallel so close to what has just happened as to be absolutely startling. Lord Ellenborough had been recalled. He wrote in a letter to the Viceroy-designate, Lord Hardinge, that an invasion by the Sikhs was inevitable. Lord Hardinge went out to India, and he wrote home taking an entirely different opinion. Matters became worse, and we made then, as we made now, a defensive preparation. Then, suddenly, came the invasion by the Sikhs with 65,000 men and 150 pieces of artillery. Did Lord Hardinge, whose memory I believe all men respect, and who showed such heroism and such statesmanship on that occasion, say then, "I have been wrong, you have been wrong, and we ought to have made ready a great offensive expedition preparatory to crossing the border?" No, he wrote these words—The Sikh aggression was made when we were prepared with defensive means. That we were not prepared, for want of transport, with offensive means is no fault of this Government; it would have justified hostilities and placed us in the wrong.I need hardly say that I do not intend to ride off upon that argument and to avoid any attacks or criticism which can properly be brought to bear upon the adequacy and, above all, upon the timeliness of our preparations. I hope the House will understand that I do not 329 object to criticism on these points; I welcome it, I do not consider it hostile, I think it helpful to the Government, because unless we search most deeply and curiously into all these military questions we cannot hope to turn to the best account the patriotic feeling which is aroused and our intention to better our defences in the future. What were the preparations which were made? The garrison of South Africa stood at seven battalions of infantry, two regiments of cavalry, and three batteries of artillery. For the defensive state we increased that garrison up to seventeen battalions of infantry, five regiments of cavalry, and nine batteries of artillery, or something approaching 25,000 men in all. I can only say that it was believed—I admit erroneously, and I regret it—that that force was sufficient for defensive action. The facts have proved the contrary—the hard logic of facts. We accept that, but, believing that that force was sufficient for defensive action, the Government prepared an expeditionary force. The Government knew it would take thirteen weeks from the date of the commencement of the preparations which take longest to the day of their completion. Those things were the change of draught to suit mules instead of horses, the purchase of mules in different parts of the world and their concentration in South Africa, and so forth. But there was no doubt about it, if we did wrong, we did it deliberately, from what I believe to have been a right motive—namely, to give diplomacy every chance. And we did not do it recklessly, because we believed the defensive action we took was sufficient to avoid any risk involved in that delay. Once we began to send that force we proceeded with great rapidity. The embarkation began on October 20th, and by the 31st we had embarked 27,000 men, 3,600 horses, and 42 guns. By December 4th we had in South Africa 47,000 men. It has been said that we have sent men out by driblets, but that is not so. In every week a considerable number of men were landed in South Africa without a single pause or intermission. I will not stop to give the numbers now; if any Member wishes for a return I am ready to publish them. I may tell the House that you cannot embark beyond a certain number of men in any week in this country, because there are not the quays beside which you can put more than a 330 certain number of ships, and, even if you could, I invite hon. Members to give their attention to the problem of coaling all those ships at intermediate stations on the way out, and then you will find that the volume of the stream which you can turn upon any part of the world 7,000 miles away is determined by certain physical factors that no amount of goodwill can overcome. The fact that all the stores and all the transport for the whole force originally contemplated, its eight regiments of cavalry and its artillery, could not be ready until, say, December 20th, was no reason for not sending out the infantry at a far earlier date. We have been somewhat inconsistently attacked by some for not sending out the infantry in order to keep the peace in districts which might be suspected of disloyalty, and by others for sending out troops in wrong order—namely, infantry first, and cavalry last; but, as I have said, as the whole force could not be operative, had not its legs, and was not expected to have its legs, until December 20th, it was a very sound thing to send the infantry out as a stationary garrison during a time of so much danger and anxiety. That was the situation and that was the view which, rightly or wrongly, was taken of it by the Government. But on 30th October the whole problem was changed, and on 2nd November Sir R. Buller announced to the Government that he intended to proceed himself at once to the relief of Ladysmith. Now, Sir, that is the second of the two cardinal decisions upon which everything has hinged. The first, as I have already said, was the diplomatic decision not to make ostentatious preparations for aggressive action so long as diplomacy held out any hope; the second was the strategic decision of 2nd November, which consisted in this, that the transport for one organic force which was maturing and which would have matured by the third week of December was broken up and diverted into another country, you may say four days' steaming away, and some of the troops who were concentrated there were diverted in a similar manner. Do not suppose for a moment that I am criticising the decision of Sir R. Buller. Far from it. He was on the spot. He saw the facts as they were, and I have no doubt he will be able to give reasons for that action which will convince military students and the 331 country. I do not criticise his action. I think we have too much of this kind of criticism. People say that, instead of proceeding with a central advance, Sir R. Buller went to relieve Ladysmith, and we know what happened. Quite true. A good many things we will call disastrous if you like; things we shall never forget and shall ever regret to our dying day have happened. But we do not know, and none of us ever can or will know, what would have happened if another course had been pursued. There is a tendency to which we are all subject—I know I am—that when you have two choices and you choose one which turns out to be unfortunate and you are overwhelmed with disappointment, you assume that if you had taken the other decision all would have gone well. But it is very easy to conceive that if Sir R. Buller had not gone to the relief of Ladysmith, and if Sir G. White had not stayed in Ladysmith, we might have had another development of disaster upon another line. We might have had that universal rising of the Cape Dutch of which we have heard for months, but which, thank Heaven! has not occurred. That explanation—I will not call it "that defence"—also, in my opinion, accounts for the fact that Lord Methuen had not sufficient cavalry and artillery with him. Lord Methuen was hurried up after the reverse at Nicholson's Nek to the Orange River, and when we are accused of having been tardy, as far as I remember, if you deduct the time for the sea voyage, Lord Methuen, who left London, arrived on the frontier (that is to say, the Orange River) in fewer days than the Gorman Army reached the French frontier in the Franco-German war. Naturally, the plan of campaign having been changed, he had not with him the cavalry which had been diverted for another purpose. When this happened, my noble friend the Secretary of State at once offered a Fifth Division to Sir R. Buller. It has been said that when somebody was asked for a battalion he always sent a brigade, and that has been the course pursued by Lord Lansdowne. On the morrow of Nicholson's Nek he at once despatched three battalions, although none were asked for. On the morrow of the decision of Sir R. Buller he at once offered him a Fifth Division, and in reply he was told that preparation was desirable, but that there was no immediate 332 need for its despatch. Then later on, it was asked for—on the 11th. On November 30th, and again on December 9th, he offered to send out a Sixth Division, and the reply was that it would be wanted at the end of January. Then again the situation changed, owing to reverses. On the 18th there was a reverse at Stormberg, and on the 11th Lord Methuen's attack at Magersfontein was defeated with heavy loss. On the 13th Sir R. Buller was about to make a frontal attack on the position at Colenso. The next day—the 14th—Lord Lansdowne ordered the Sixth Division to embark without any communication with South Africa, and they began to embark two days afterwards. At the same time he ordered the Seventh Division to be mobilised. Then on 15th December Sir R. Buller met with what I will not call a reverse, but a distinct check, at the battle of Colenso—strategically most critical, but as an affair of arms, glorious for our soldiers. The next day he asked for a Seventh Division, the preparation of which had already been ordered, and also for 8,000 mounted irregulars from this country. Lord Lansdowne replied that the Seventh Division would embark on the 4th of January, and it did begin to embark on the 4th of January. The next day we took the first steps to bring out the Imperial Yeomanry. At the same time the Volunteers were invited to come forward—as I should like to explain—in order to fill up the places in each battalion left vacant by the raising of one company of mounted infantry from each battalion. We also appealed to the patriotism of our Militia regiments. Twenty Militia regiments are now serving, or are about to proceed, out of this country, and fourteen of them are serving in South Africa.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I do not think I should be entitled to make any further demand on the patience of the House. If the point is raised as to the efficiency 333 of our field artillery, I shall be prepared to meet it.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The matter is too technical to be taken up at this moment. But as the right hon. Baronet has pressed me, not upon the efficiency of the guns, but on the numbers of the guns we have despatched, it would perhaps not be out of place to state exactly what guns we have sent out. We have sent and are sending 36 siege train guns, heavy guns, and we have there 38 naval guns, mobile heavy guns—that, is to say, 74 heavy guns of position. In addition we have 36 5in. howitzers which are moved about with the troops, and which throw a very heavy shell, with 50lb. of lyddite. So that, altogether, we have 110 guns capable of throwing a large shell with a high explosive, and some of them with a range of 10,000 yards. Then we have 54 guns of horse artillery and 234 guns of field artillery, or 288 field guns with the troops.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
No doubt; I admitted that that was the case. In all, counting in the howitzers, there can accompany the troops in the field 324 guns. There are also two mountain batteries, or, in all, 410 guns in South Africa, without counting the guns which are to go out with the Volunteers and the guns from our colonies. If the right hon. Baronet likes to make a point of it, 18 of these guns are not there yet.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
A great deal more than that, surely. You are counting all those batteries—those scratch batteries—which sailed on the 21st January.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I do not know what the right hon. baronet means by "scratch" batteries. Four batteries have recently been despatched, and I told him that some of the siege train guns were not yet in South Africa. The right hon. Baronet pressed me for answers upon the question of mounted troops. It is a question which I am very glad to explain, and I propose to explain it quite frankly to the House. It has been said that the 334 Government announced to the world their conviction that unmounted troops were the kind of troops which were most suited to South African warfare. The words "unmounted troops" were not used. The correct phrase was used by the right hon. Baronet this evening; but I do not insist upon that. Those who quote these words should consider when they were used, and to whom they were used. If they will consider that, they will find that they gave no indication that the Government held the opinion to which I have referred. It may be, and I think it is, that the Government did not send out originally a sufficient proportion of mounted troops; but they sent out a larger proportion than is usually contemplated, because they believed that mounted troops were specially suited to South African warfare. They sent out a cavalry division with one army corps, and they ordered one company of mounted infantry to be raised in connection with each battalion sent to South Africa. Therefore the necessity for mounted troops was present to their minds—I do not say sufficiently present to their minds; but when did they use these words, that infantry was most serviceable? On the 3rd of October, before the ultimatum had been sent and before the war had begun, and at a time when the Government and the general officer who was going out to command in South Africa, Sir Redvers Buller, were satisfied that the force of the army corps and the cavalry division and the troops on the lines of communication was an adequate force—that is to say, 50,000 men, in addition to the 25,000 in South Africa. Then came up the question of colonial contingents. Two colonies, and two only, before the 3rd of October, had made a definite offer through their representative Governments—Queensland and New Zealand. Far earlier—in July—they had offered, in the one case 250, and in the other 200, mounted infantry. Directly it was decided that the wish of the colonies should be gratified—a wish for which we thank them—and that their splendid patriotism should not be subjected to what would have been a slight, we at once accepted both these proposals; and the same day we accepted the volunteering of the 108 New South Wales Lancers who were in this country. Therefore the first thing done on the 3rd of October was to accept 558 mounted men 335 from these colonies. From the other colonies we had not received definite offers of specific bodies from the Governments, but we had received an expression of the wish that they might be allowed to take some part in this campaign. Public meetings were held and resolutions passed, but there was nothing definite. Naturally, time pressed at that moment. I went to Aldershot and asked Sir Redvers Buller whether he could give us some indication of the terms which should guide the colonies, so that each of them should be represented more or less in proportion to their population. Sir Redvers Buller said that it would be easier to give the colonies what they desired—that was, an immediate place at the front—if they were invited to contribute manageable units of 125 men each, for we did not wait for definite offers in some cases consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. He felt that a sharp and short answer was the right way to meet the wishes of the colonies. That was our object, and it was achieved. That telegram was received with enthusiasm in every part of our colonial Empire. I want to narrow this thing down, because I should like the House to know the size of the matter about which so much has been made. Tasmania had offered infantry, but no cavalry, and that telegram was sent to South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, and Canada, as a guiding line for them to follow. South Australia sent one infantry contingent of 125 men, and New South Wales, which had already contributed over 100, sent one contingent each of mounted and unmounted men, Victoria one of each, and Canada sent 1,000 infantry. So that the greatest possible number of mounted men accruing from that cable was 1,375, and if the Colonies had exercised the option given them, and had sent all mounted men, we should have had that number of mounted men in South Africa at an earlier date. That cable was sent when no one supposed for a moment that the force contemplated would prove insufficient for its purpose. This is not a defence, but it is an explanation, and as I am on the subject of mounted men, of which the right hon. Baronet made a great deal in his speech, and which, I believe, excites a great deal of attention, I may state that the first offer from the colonies was 1,616 unmounted and 841 mounted men. But these colonies have made further offers. 336 The colonial Legislatures have not changed their tone in consequence of the disappointments and disasters which have occurred to our arms. They were all ready to aid us with men in October last, before we had suffered any check or reverse, and were ready to go on doing so. In fact, they have set an example which might be followed nearer home. The second offer was 759 unmounted and 3,857 mounted men, so that in all we have accepted from our colonies 2,375 unmounted and 4,698 mounted men. I should now like to give the proportion of mounted and unmounted men at four important periods for the whole force in South Africa. In the original garrison in South Africa there were 7,600 unmounted and 2,000 mounted men—rather more than one in four were mounted. The totals on October 9, the day of the ultimatum, were 12,600 unmounted and 3,400 mounted—again rather more than one to four. The totals on January I were 83,600 unmounted and 19,800 mounted—a little less than one to four, but at that date we had just sent out a large infantry contingent; and the total complement that will shortly be there, not including the 8th Division or the 4th Cavalry Brigade, is 142,800 unmounted and 37,800 mounted men in South Africa, bringing the proportion again to something like one in four. The total of our troops in that country in the next fortnight or three weeks will be 180,600 men. I ought to suggest to the House that the Boers have the advantage of having no lines of communication, and if you deduct from the figures which I have given the troops necessary for our long lines of communications—which are necessarily infantry—the proportion of mounted to unmounted men in the field is a very much higher one than I have mentioned. I would also like to remind the House that I have counted all the artillery as being unmounted, so that I have not "cooked" the figures in order to present a fairer case. I do not know whether I ought to say a word about the Intelligence Department. I see that it excites some interest on the front bench opposite. For my part I see no reason for not giving a good deal of the information to the House which we have received from the Intelligence Department, and also giving the dates upon which it was received. The Intelligence Department printed for private and restricted circulation a book in 1898 on the 337 numbers in the Transvaal, and another edition of that book was printed in June, 1899; and the figures which they gave were these:—In the Transvaal, liable for service, there were 29,279; add to that 800 for artillery and 1,500 for police; total 31,579. In the Orange Free State, between the ages of 16 and 60, there were 22,314. They deducted a little there, because 16 is a very young age for war, and put 20,000; or together, in round figures, 51,000. Then they estimated the number of men likely to join the enemy from the colonies at 4,000, making a total of 55,000, and they estimated the number of foreigners likely to come into the country, or who, being in the country, were likely to join them, at 4,000, making a total of 59,000 as the maximum force with which it was possible for these two Republics to take the field. We were informed in 1898 that the Transvaal Republic had sixteen Creusot 15c. guns. That fact was well known to us and to our officers in the field. One of the officers, when he heard that "Long Tom" had appeared on the scene, said, "One of our old friends has already made his appearance." We believed that they had in June last twenty-one 37-millimètre automatic guns, and we believed they had nine 75-millimètre guns—these all rank as field guns—and four howitzer 4.7in. guns. We believed that in September about eleven more 75-millimètre guns were introduced, that the Orange Free State had two batteries, or twelve 75-millimetre guns, making in all seventy-three guns. They had about eighteen old guns of various descriptions in 1891, and since then they have captured nineteen British guns, and their artillery stands now at 110 guns. It may be that since June last, and probably it is so, a certain number of guns, perhaps not a very great number, have been introduced into that country. As to maps, I think the Intelligence Department has served us well. Again, I would invite the House to consider the size of the task which they hold ought to have been efficiently grappled with. It ought to have been done when it could, but the possible theatre of war in South Africa is seven times the size of England and Wales. It is mountainous, waterless in parts, and many tracts are uninhabited, and the cost and labour of making an accurate ordnance survey, so to speak, of so vast a tract of the earth's surface render it not a feasible 338 project. We should have needed a staff of officers travelling with large camps and supplies of necessaries over the Transvaal, which was not an operation that would have been tolerated by them, and could not have been undertaken by any staff, however numerous. But we had the Cape Survey, we had the colonial map of Natal, and in 1896 two officers were sent out to Natal to make a map one inch to the mile of the northern triangle of Natal. Our information was to the effect that the garrison of Natal, augmented to the degree contemplated and the degree absolutely adopted when the time came, would be able to hold an invasion back at some point further north than Ladysmith, and therefore, unfortunately, this map is of the country north of Ladysmith and omits the little part which has been of such absorbing interest for the last six months between Ladysmith and the Tugela. Another officer was sent out to make sketches and maps of all bridges and approaches, and these were printed a year and a half ago; also maps of possible lines of communication, and officers were sent out to make maps of all places of military interest. These maps had been liberally distributed to the troops to the number of 14,150 maps and 170,005 sheets. There is one other matter upon which there have been misconceptions which I should like to remove. It is the question of local forces in South Africa. I must ask hon. Members to carry two things in their minds which I think are fair provisos on which I may stipulate. The first is that the Ministers of Natal deprecated, and that the Ministers of Cape Colony absolutely declined to authorise, the raising of any Volunteers before the outbreak of war. In the case of self-governing colonies nothing would have been more imprudent, disastrous, or inconceivable than that the Government of this country should have exercised any pressure upon them. On 7th September Sir Alfred Milner recommended that the Imperial Light Horse should be raised. Authority for raising it was given the next day. On 28th September Sir Alfred Milner advised that the general officer commanding there—not the Ministers—should be authorised to raise Imperially 2,000 infantry for local defence, and in his despatches he has informed us that it was necessary until the large field force came out. They were not at that time 339 regarded, any more than the contingents from other colonies, as necessary helps to our arms. Similarly, a request was made for 1,000 infantry in Natal, and that was granted; but the question of mounted men did not arise until October 17th, when Sir George White asked that he might raise 1,000 mounted men. I will not deny that some delay ensued, and I will frankly tell the House what was the cause. In addition to the constitutional difficulties there was this difficulty—that the troops we had accepted from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the other colonies, were being paid at the Imperial rate of 1s. 3d. a day, and those troops which were suggested in South Africa were asking for 5s. a day. Now, that was a matter in which the Colonial Office naturally had to be consulted. It was not a matter which could be decided off-hand. The Treasury had to be consulted, but the total delay involved was one week, because Sir George White telegraphed on October 25th that he had begun to raise the 1,000 men. I do not think that a question of that kind, raising many curious precedents, should have been rushed through. This is the first time in which our colonies have come forward and helped us, and even if we had waited a week or two for men, who are now sorely needed, we were justified in not doing hastily, and perhaps in a bungling fashion, a piece of work which would be remembered long after these dark shadows have passed away and our reverses are forgotten. Subsequently to that Sir Redvers Buller informed us that he was raising as many mounted men as he could, and we have more than once telegraphed to South Africa enquiring whether we could assist in the rapidity of raising such a force by sending out more saddlery or other necessaries that may be wanted. I do not think, therefore, that the case against the Government as to local troops is a very strong one. I have tried, as I promised, to give a full and true account of the steps—
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has given us the total number of the local South African force.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
No; 180,000 was the total figure. An hon. Member has reminded me to say something about the sighting of the Lee-Enfield rifle. Hon. Members who take an interest in such matters know that the bullet of every rifle has a drift to the right or left in accordance with the rifling of the barrel. That being the case, no rifle is even theoretically accurate except at one range. You have to correct the sighting of every rifle to do away with this drift along a curve. The Lee-Enfield rifle is theoretically correct at 500 yards; but it has been discovered that the correction made in order to do away with the effect of the drift was overdone, that the sight was shifted a very little way—three-hundredths of an inch—too much in order to correct this error in theoretical accuracy at 500 yards. The result is that the rifle does throw a little to the right, and at any shorter range than 500 yards that divergence is increased. But a theoretical error of that kind is absolutely swallowed up, if I may say so, in the idiosyncracy of every rifle, of every man, and the atmosphere of any day. So true is that that nobody discovered this error until the other day, though many of the best targets were made with that rifle so sighted at Bisley. The fact being known, two courses were open to us—to say nothing about it, or openly to aim at theoretical accuracy. As the operation of shifting the sight could be performed by any armourer in the course of a few hours, we have recalled the Lee-Enfield rifle from the Yeomanry, refitted it, and given it back; and we have sent out the necessary back sights to make the correction, in South Africa. I have endeavoured to give a full and fair account of the steps we have taken. I have done that not so much in order to exonerate the War Office as to place, as far as I could, this House in a better position to judge the further steps which we must make. Nothing stands between us and those further steps but this Amendment. The sooner it is disposed of the sooner we shall get to practical proposals. At the opening of my speech I spoke somewhat bitterly of this Amendment: and I now confess that it had been in my mind to conclude perhaps in a bitter spirit. Sir, 341 I do regret this Amendment. I regret it for the delay which it has brought into our proceedings. I regret it, although we may understand it here. I do not wish to press the matter too hotly; an amendment must be cleverly drawn to bring into one lobby a number of hon. Members who hold views diametrically opposed to each other on a question of life-and-death importance to many. We who are initiated in these manœuvres, which though, perhaps, in ordinary times pardonable, are at this moment inopportune, may understand them. But no one else will. The taxpayer who is prepared to foot this Bill, whatever it may be, and who is perhaps even now thinking of taking his children back from school and of foregoing his autumn holiday, he will not understand it. Our critics abroad, who are not too indulgent, they will not understand it. Our fellow-subjects in Natal, who have perhaps seen their sons die on the battlefield, and their homesteads destroyed, they will not understand this Amendment and this debate. Our kinsmen in America, who are watching the vicissitudes of this war, they will not understand it. The Legislatures of every single colony in our Empire, which have shown such a wholehearted and single-minded concentration upon the Imperial aspects, and upon none other, of our present difficulties will not understand it. Let us, let this honoured and ancient assembly, of which they are all offshoots and children, bear that in mind. It is usual, Sir, to conclude such a speech in defence, or, as I would prefer to say, in explanation of the conduct of the Government with an appeal to the House to reject the vote of censure which is proposed; but I am sure that in this case such an appeal is unnecessary. I shall have to make an appeal upon questions of practical importance and living moment. I shall have to ask this House for large financial facilities in order that this war may be prosecuted to the only conclusion which the country would tolerate. I shall have to ask the House for still further financial facilities in order that our system of military defence may be placed upon a sound and lasting basis. I do not ask the House to reject this vote of censure. No, Sir; this House, which is the fountain of our Imperial resources, and which is the ultimate guardian of the 342 nation's honour, will not commit itself to an action which, if perpetrated, would make the mother of Parliaments a laughing-stock to the world.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, West)
Everyone must have been fascinated as much by the manner as by the matter of the speech of my hon. friend, the Under Secretary for War; but I wish that he had been more consistently encouraging, and had omitted that one note of pessimism with which his speech commenced, and which I must say I regret. The First Lord of the Treasury has, I think, also, perhaps, taken too un-encouraging a tone in addressing us at this dark time. I cannot myself accept the view that there is any essential reason why these troubles should have overtaken us. I cannot accept the view that there is anything in our Constitution, or in the nature of our people, which makes it inevitable that we should have to submit to these humiliations, now or at any other time. I do not admit the relevancy of those references to the Sikh War and the events of many years ago. The times have changed, and we are now face to face with a state of scientific preparation such as the world has never seen, and unless we adapt our methods to the changed circumstances, we shall have to pay a penalty of humiliation and disaster which is terrible to contemplate. I wish the First Lord could have taken a more cheerful tone in the addresses he has given to the country, and abandoned the suggestion that we should accept as necessary and inevitable the circumstances which we deplore. I entirely agree with my hon. friend the Under Secretary for War, that up to the present period of the debate we might just as well have discussed the reason why Julius Cæsar invaded Britain, as this vote of censure. I do not believe the country cares one single jot for the matters discussed yesterday and to-day. The country does not care about how these difficulties have come upon us, but how they are to be dealt with. We are in a dangerous and difficult position, which any day may become a very serious position. What we want to know is, how we are going to emerge with honour and success from it. I do not agree that it was necessary or desirable to discuss the question which my right hon. friend, the Member for the Forest of Dean, illuminated with his usual 343 perspicuity. I do not see that anything is to be gained for the public welfare by discussing War Office responsibility, or by asking us to enter into a discussion of questions of that kind at the present moment. I prefer to devote myself to another phase of this subject. We are face to face with realities; what the country is troubling itself about is what we are going to do now. The First Lord of the Treasury told us some time ago that he had come to the general conclusion that no one was actually responsible for the present state of affairs.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I am sorry if I have misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman, but it was said by some person, a member of the Government, and I thought it was the right hon. Gentleman. I myself feel very strongly that it is absolutely true—and the greater the truth the greater the libel—that at the present moment no one is really responsible for what has happened. The complaint is that we have so organised our system that we are now face to face with a condition of things for which no one is really responsible. There is an academic phrase that every Member is responsible for what is done by the Cabinet as a whole. But we cannot now lay our finger upon the person or persons to whom we ought to go for an explanation. Whoever is responsible, we have now to contemplate the fact that the system has worked itself in such a way that at this moment we are without any organised army at all within the limits of the United Kingdom. I do not know whether the House realises to what extent that is true. I think there is no harm, and there may be some public advantage, in repeating what the exact facts are. The Under Secretary for War said that at the present moment the barracks of the country were full to overflowing. I think I shall be able to show that that is a misleading statement. It is, of course, true in fact, or it would not have been made; but it is misleading, and the impression the hon. Gentleman made was misleading. It is not fair to state to the country that we are so well provided with troops, that the barracks are at this moment full to overflowing. As soon as the troops under orders to go 344 have departed we shall have only left six battalions of Infantry of the Line and three battalions of Guards, all under strength, and as far as the Line battalions are concerned, largely composed of men who are not fit to take part in active operations. We shall have nine cavalry regiments, some without horses, and all under strength. Beyond these we shall have nothing at all, nothing. I shall be told, of course, that we have the Volunteers and the Militia, and that already the Militia have been embodied, and that we can make use of the embodied Militia infantry and artillery. But that is a delusion, and I challenge the opinion of anyone acquainted with modern armies to contend for a moment that this mob of untrained or semi-trained men bears any resemblance whatever to an army. These troops are without training, without guns, without cavalry, without equipment, and without proper reserves of ammunition and stores. We are told that the Militia may be regarded as an effective contribution to the defensive force, but I would remind the House that these Militia battalions are being treated in a way most detrimental to their efficiency. A very considerable number, probably the most efficient, have already been sent out of the country, and with regard to the others let me give an example of what is happening. One Militia battalion now doing duty in the United Kingdom arrived at its destination 540 strong, but immediately on their arrival at the garrison 120 of the best men were drafted away to do duty as Militia Reserve with the Line battalion. Now that Militia battalion has added to it two companies of the Line regiment who were unfit for active service, and so great is the lack of officers that not a single officer of the Line battalion could be spared to take charge of these two companies, and they are left to the temporary superintendence of an officer who happens to be home on leave from India, and to the officers of the unembodied Militia battalions. I intend to avoid the glittering lure which has been trailed before me by the Under Secretary for War. I am not likely to abandon opinions formed after long study, but I shall certainly not give way to any criticism not absolutely necessary in illustration of what I want to bring before the House. My hon. friend says that we cannot have an army in South Africa and 345 an army in the United Kingdom at the same time. That sounds like a platitude or a truism; but I say that until we can have an army both in South Africa and in the United Kingdom we can have no absolute guarantee for the safety of this country, except in the supremacy of our Navy. I believe that when the people of this country realise, as they must in the days immediately to come realise, that they have given up the whole of their defence, and jeopardised it across the sea, they will ask for very effective action to put themselves in a position of defence. I have been contending for years past that the system we have adopted has this fatal fault: that the very moment it comes into operation, and is called upon to do the thing for which it was created, it must instantly and necessarily fail. I have said, and I have never wearied of saying, that the first result of mobilisation would be that our whole available resources would be taken up in the first line. Well, the whole of our first line is in the field, and we have nothing behind it. We had a few months ago, before the war began, 183,000 of the Regular Army in this country, 106,000 on the active list, and 77,000 in the First Class Army Reserve. We have sent out between 70,000 and 80,000 to South Africa, and in order to produce that contingent we have all but swallowed up the First Class Reserve; we have drawn on the Militia Reserve, and now we are without a single available organised unit in the United Kingdom. To show how difficult it is to make people understand the true meaning of our position—and that is not made more easy by the speeches made even by the best-intentioned members of our Government—I noticed the other day that the First Lord of the Admiralty, who I believe to be one of the best administrators of our Navy, the most fighting member of the Cabinet, and of whom I speak with profound respect, has so far misunderstood our position in this matter that he gave an explanation of our system greatly calculated to mislead. He asked a question how far those who criticised the Army system were justified; that is, those who criticised the young soldiers, and he exclaimed: "Where are these young soldiers now? See how magnificently they are fighting the battles of this country on the hills of Natal." Well, the only thing to be said is, that not 346 one of these young soldiers has been within 7,000 miles of South Africa. It would have been inconsistent with the system that they should have gone. It was because 30,000 young soldiers had been left behind that we have had to call out the First Class Reserve, to embody the Militia, and to call out the Militia Reserve, and to resort to what I have before now called the illicit process of taking from the Volunteers, who ought to be retained for home defence, to fill up the gaps in the mounted infantry at the front. We have got the whole organised army out of the country, and now the War Office is face to face with the problem of how to make an army to take its place. My hon. friend the Under Secretary for War did not say anything about the question of the absence of field guns. He spoke, although I did not quite follow him, as to the number of guns that have gone to South Africa; but he did not dwell on the fact that by despatching these guns we had absolutely denuded this country of guns. We are now face to face with a situation which has been foreseen with absolute certainty any time during the last ten years. I want the House to realise that this is merely emergency action which is being taken now. I do not know whether the House realises that we have at the present moment in this country 56,000 artillery, all more or less accustomed to handling projectiles, who know what the sound of guns is like, and who are receiving capitation grant or pay as artillerymen. But from that enormous force we have not been able to constitute one single effective field battery. The Government should immediately commence to organise the Volunteer and Militia artillery as effective field artillery. It does not require any text book to prove that a mob of men unprovided with artillery are negligeable participants in modern war. We are told that we are to have an announcement before long as to the intentions of the Government in regard to reorganisation at home. I only hope that the reorganisation will be very thorough indeed. I would make this observation in regard to it, that the country ought not to be too ready to accept the proposals which are made without some scrutiny, because these proposed changes will be merely a performance, under stress, and in the face of a great national danger, of a duty 347 which, in the opinion of many persons, ought to have been performed long ago, but which we were told was unnecessary and superfluous. We were told that these preparations were superfluous, and never would be required, and when we review the situation now, we have a right to scrutinise with some care the proposals made, and see that they are not only sufficient, but that they correspond to some real vital principle of the nation's needs, something necessary not only for the present but for the time to come. Now, I hope my hon. friend will admit that I have not spoken an unfair word on the subjects which are very near to my heart, in regard to the Department over which he presides. I trust he will also accept my statement when I say I do not abate one jot of my views as to the methods by which that Department has thought fit to conduct the operations of this war, and has thought fit to organise the resources of this country for this or any other war. I know he will not think the worse of me if I reserve to myself the privilege at a later date of trying to establish, as I believe I can—having studied stage by stage the facts of this war—that the shortcomings of the War Office in the direction of this war have been grave, and are apparent. I should not like to sit down in this debate, or in any debate at such a time, without adding my word of protest in regard to the fact that we are discussing this Amendment at all. I am utterly unable to understand by any train of argument which commends itself to my mind as an intelligent Englishman, how hon. Members on the other side of the House can reconcile it with their idea of duty to take the course which has been adopted. I entirely concur with the hon. Member when he said that though we who know the tricks of the House of Commons may find temporary amusement and some solace in the idea that this Amendment is in conformity with precedent, and with very evil precedent; the choosing of this opportunity to force a Vote will be universally misunderstood outside the limits of this House. I can see no contra to the evil which must attend the prosecution of this Amendment to its legitimate conclusion. I can see nothing but disappointment of the hopes of our people outside our own islands and the just expectations of our people at home. The people of this country are making 348 tremendous sacrifices, and, what is perhaps greater than all others, showing a forbearance, a reserve, and a resolution in the face of difficulties which is hard to display, but which is beyond all praise when it is displayed. The chief feature of the attack made within the last two days has been the repetition of the contemptible personalities which, masquerading under the guise of a matter of principle, end in accusations against one member of the Government, the Colonial Secretary. I may, in my time, have had the rough side of the Colonial Secretary's tongue, and I certainly have no right to champion him; but I do feel this—it is a matter of common knowledge—that if you go all over the British world you will find but one view, that there is a man in that great office who has at last succeeded in winning the confidence and securing the esteem of our only friends, the people of our great Colonies. And yet that is the one man who has been picked out as the object of these perpetual scurrilities and exhibitions of petty personal spite. It is a matter of report that during this debate a right hon. Member of the Party opposite proposes to make an attack in form upon the Colonial Secretary. I do not know whether that report is true or not, but I want to ask the House, and through the House the country, to look at the picture presented. On the one hand, we have throughout the length and breadth of the land wives giving their husbands, mothers giving their children, brothers giving their brothers, and fathers giving their sons, men and women giving up everything they care about, everything they love, everything they cherish most, for the service of their country. They are perfectly prepared that these relatives of theirs should die, if need be, rather than we should fail; and this feeling, admirable as it is, is explained not merely by the fact that we have met with checks and reverses in South Africa—that is a thing of the time only—but because our people have the sense to see that behind these temporary difficulties there are the great Powers of Europe, our jealous enemies, ready to take advantage of any failure, of any slip, indeed of anything which may precipitate that fall which they desire to see, and which they are so anxious and willing to hasten. It is at the time when we are laying on the altar everything that is 349 most precious to us, that this high priest shuffles out of his retreat swinging his miserable dead cat, and depositing on the national altar the offering of his little bit of carrion. I am speaking of the Member for West Monmouth, who we are told is about to seize this situation to renew the series of miserable attacks upon a particular member of the Government. Well, if I am addressing a few, I speak for many when I express the weariness and disgust felt by millions of people in this country for these reiterated attacks and trivialities which nobody cares about. I hope the House will be addressed, before the debate ends, by the First Lord himself, and by those who are responsible for administering the great power of this country, and addressed in words which will blow away that feeling of discontent which undoubtedly exists, and that feeling of despondency which, perhaps, to some extent he and other members of his Government have had some small part in creating, and will substitute for it a feeling of vigorous hopefulness which they will be only too ready to assume when the time comes.
MR. PHILIPPS (Pembroke)
In one respect the House has been treated by the hon. Member who has just sat down to a defence of an alleged envenomed attack upon the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, which has not yet been delivered. The hon. Member said you are going to hear, either to-night or to-morrow, a most envenomed attack made from the other side of the House. No one knew what he was alluding to, and it was only just previous to his sitting down that he alluded to the attack on the right hon. Member for West Birmingham by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth. It must indeed be a dreadful attack if he has to defend it in advance, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth can take care of himself and does not want to be defended by me or anybody else. It seems to me the most interesting part of the Amendment is that relating to the war rather than that which preceded it. With regard to that part of the Amendment the Leader of the House has said that the unanimity of the people is worth more to this country than an army corps. That is true, but there are many in the 350 country who think, I hope wrongly, that something is being concealed by the Colonial Office. It was alluded to by the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries the other night, and if the Government can, by putting the telegrams on the Table of the House, reassure the people that we have nothing to conceal, they will do more to make the country unanimous than in any other way, and so end this topic once and for all. It rests with the Government to end this discussion, and not this side of the House. With regard to the war, I do not want to criticise the generals. Only one bitter personal attack has been made on one of our generals, and that was a most scandalous one. We all know the difficulty of getting supplies to the front, and that the men who are fighting have only the bare necessaries of life. We know that the transport must be under a great strain, and yet there are many people of social and political influence who seem to have gone out to South Africa to be mere spectators of the war. I hope the Government once and for all will say they do not want any persons sent to the front save their own soldiers and press correspondents. There are many who have gone to the front to look at the war as a mere spectacle. Something of the same kind occurred at the beginning of the fight at Ladysmith, and I hope the Government will put a stop to it. Now the Government say this Amendment is unreasonable, as it embodies two conflicting propositions, but in my opinion that is not so. We are not bound to go into the question of the justification of the war; what we press on the Government is, it was their duty to preserve peace or prepare for war. We think the Government have not made sufficient preparation, and it is because that is my opinion that I shall support this Amendment. It has been a matter of frequent comment that our preparations for the dispatch of troops to South Africa were not commenced as soon as they might have been. When the war broke out the Government assured us that no useful purpose would be served by dispatching troops earlier, because had we done so the Boers would have moved earlier. But it is now admitted that the Boers could not move before the grass had grown, and had we despatched troops earlier we should have had a great military advantage. Then it was said that the Government did 351 not want to go to war until there was unanimity of opinion. That is all very well, but the people of this country look for a lead, and they do not want a Government to look for the opinion of "the man in the street." It is then said that the Government did not like to use warlike threats during peace negotiations. That is a good reason for not sending an army out sooner, but then the Government might have made preparations of a different kind. They might have got ships ready; our first contingents were sent out in slow ships because we had not got the fast ones, which we might have had, and when the Government did secure the ships they were not fitted for the carriage of horses. All these matters might have been arranged before without anybody being the wiser. But I am afraid that in all these matters the Government is influenced by the Treasury, and is afraid to spend public money; it is a case of economy which has proved to be false economy indeed. There is also a feeling in the country that our generals have been interfered with by political advice. In a recent speech we were told that was not so, that the generals were given a free hand to do as they liked. We know, however, from the despatch of Sir George White that that was not so. He was not, it is true, interfered with by the Government at home, but he was interfered with by Sir Walter Hely Hutchinson, the Civil Governor of Natal, who is a servant of the Colonial Office. The First Lord of the Treasury told us that the plan of campaign was to mass a large body of troops in Cape Colony and invade the Orange Free State; but a great mass of those troops were withdrawn from Cape Colony to Natal through the advice of the Civil Governor of Natal. I therefore ask whether there has not indeed been interference with the generals at the seat of war. Part of the army was drafted off to Natal for the relief of Ladysmith, and a considerable number were sent to the relief of Kimberley. Was that done by direct interference of the Colonial Office? We know the position of Kimberley. Mr. Cecil Rhodes is there. I am not going to say a word against him, because he is a man who has redeemed his faults by his bravery, not only in the Matabele War but at Kimberley. No doubt the relief of Kimberley is desirable, but it is not the ultimate aim of our operations. We know Mr. Rhodes has great influence 352 at the Colonial Office, and we know from that unfortunate correspondence that there is something which Mr. Rhodes knew which the Colonial Office did not desire to be disclosed. Has pressure been put by Mr. Rhodes on Sir Alfred Milner? I should like to know what passed between Mr. Rhodes and the Colonial Office before Kimberley was invested. We have been told that our system is a failure, and we have been told that at some time, when the war is over, the Government is to review and revise our system, and give us a perfect one. That does not seem to be practical. This Government has been in office nearly five years, and the Conservative party nearly eleven years, and whatever the system is this Government is responsible for it. The Under Secretary for War made a brilliant and eloquent defence, and a very good defence of his system, as good a defence as could have been made, but it did not cover the whole of the points. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean called attention to the fact that the First Lord of the Treasury had said a short time ago that the Government had sent to South Africa artillery for three army corps. It is now admitted that, even with the batteries sent out since, they are nothing like what they ought to be. They are newly-formed batteries, with untrained horses. Everybody knows it is hard enough to train a horse for harness work, but much more so to train him for the battlefield. Horses which are untrained can in no way be so useful as an old-established battery ought to be. It is the Tory party which is responsible for the reduction in the number of artillery batteries, and that party must bear the responsibility. I think everybody admits that if ever there was a time when it was necessary for the Volunteers to practise shooting it is at present, and this is the very time at which their reserve of ammunition is withdrawn. In the training of the Yeomanry it is admitted that it has been difficult to get even a sufficient supply of ammunition to enable them to practise shooting. The Under Secretary of State for War has made a most optimistic defence of the position of the Government, and anybody listening to him would almost believe that all our operations had been crowned with brilliant success, and that if they had not been successful it was owing in no way to the fault of the Government. But the hon. Member's 353 noble Leader is not such an optimist. Lord Salisbury did not take that view, for he said our misfortunes were due to three causes. One of them was the British Constitution, which we have always with us. In my opinion it would be just as practical to blame the weather. Another cause was promotion by seniority. That may be a bad thing, but why did the Government not alter it years ago? Lastly, the noble Marquess attached the blame to the absence of secret service money, and said we did not have the advantage of secret service money which the leading Powers of Europe possessed, and which was even possessed by the Boers. He also said that he did not wish in any way to blame the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he used these words—The Chancellor of the Exchequer has acted with great judgment and consideration, but I say this—that our Treasury has gradually acquired the power of governing every part of the administration, and by means of the exercise of the power of the purse claims a voice in all the decisions of all the administrative authority.This is what Lord Salisbury said about the smallness of the secret service money. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not tell the same tale, for he said—After what has been said in various places, and in view of the interpretation that might be placed upon that statement, it is necessary for me to say that, from the very beginning of this matter, neither the Treasury nor the Chancellor of the Exchequer has, in any way, stinted either the preparations or expenditure which was thought necessary by the Cabinet with regard to this war.Lord Salisbury says the Treasury did stint the secret service money, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer says he did not. I take it that he could not. If a member of the Cabinet refused any demand made by the Cabinet, he would have to resign. Therefore, it goes without saying that he cannot have refused the demand of the Cabinet. Probably the real explanation of the situation is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer all the while was using his influence to prevent the expenditure of secret service money, and succeeded in over-persuading his colleagues. There must be some foundation for these contradictory statements. Lord Salisbury took no optimistic view of this matter upon other points, but 354 I do not wish to go into them now. I only want to say that as regards secret service money this House has never refused the Government anything, and if the Government came now and stated that they wanted more secret service money the House would vote them any sum they might require.
It would be most useful to do it now, for our generals are hampered by having long lines of communication to keep open and railways to defend in countries where the people are not favourable to us, and that is where a great part of our army is locked up. Would it not be possible by freely expending secret service money to put the Boers in the same position? The Government have stated what they believe the forces of the Boers to be, and what they estimate the Boer forces must be which are locked up in defending the frontiers of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. I am going to make this suggestion—would it not be possible by offering rewards in Cape Town to get men who would take the risk?—even one individual might strike a blow at the Boer communications by making an attack upon the enemy's lines. The Transvaal must be full of men who are not Boers and who like money, and in Natal there must be thousands of men who know the Transvaal and the Orange Free State quite as well as the Boers. Is it not possible that if the Government offered £50,000 they might find someone to destroy a bridge behind the Boer armies? Even to have a culvert on a railway destroyed for two days might be of vital assistance to our generals at the front. I wish the Government would ask for more secret service money, for I am sure the House of Commons would gladly vote it. [AN HON. MEMBER: I am not so sure about it.] The hon. Member says he is not so sure about it, but if the majority of this House refused it, the responsibility would be with them. I think it is time something was done to deal with this question, for Lord Salisbury, speaking in the House of Lords—
I will only say that other members of the Government have not all taken the same optimistic view of our foreign relations as has been taken by the right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Government benches in this House. And last of all I will say that, for myself, I am not going to vote on this Amendment in any party spirit. When this House met last autumn I made up my mind that, as far as I could, while this war lasted I would either vote with the Government or abstain from voting altogether. That is what I intended to do this session, but I have now changed my mind, and I am going to vote against the Government on this Amendment, and whenever I have a chance. I am not doing this in any party spirit, because it is perfectly obvious from the position of this House that no Liberal Government could be formed to take office with any consensus of opinion in this House behind it. Any Government formed now would have to be formed simply to carry on the war. If the Government were beaten on this Amendment what would happen? There are three possible alternatives. There might be a Liberal Government; there might be a coalition Government; or there might be another Conservative Government. I believe that either on this or the other side of the House you could form a much stronger Government than the one we have in power to-day, and it is because I believe that you cannot do a better service to our soldiers at the front than to give them a strong Cabinet at home, that I am going to vote against a Government which has been guilty of weakness and vacillation such as has rarely been seen before. That is why I am going to vote for this Amendment—because I believe it is the best and the most patriotic course to adopt.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
I think the country has been looking forward with the greatest anxiety to the meeting of Parliament, not so much because they wanted to hear what we had to say, but because they were very much afraid that our indiscretions might be injurious to the public service and the welfare of the country. I cannot help thinking, after listening to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, that in some respects those fears are well founded. I am sure the hon. Gentleman is inspired 356 by patriotic motives, but he takes a very strange road to carry out those convictions. Let us consider for a moment what advantage could possibly accrue to this country from raising at this juncture all those unpleasant discussions about the Hawksley letters and telegrams. Does he suppose that would do any good? Does he suppose that the making of a grave and most injurious insinuation, founded on what really seems to me no basis at all, will do any good? I refer to his suggestion that the military operations on the western frontier of the Orange Free State and in the north of Cape Colony have been arranged to suit the personal safety of Mr. Rhodes.
I did not say it was to suit Mr. Rhodes's personal safety, for he is one of the bravest men alive.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
That certainly appeared to be the meaning, if there was any meaning at all, contained in the insinuation of the hon. Member. He said he wished to have an answer to that question, but the only member of the Government who honours him or me by his presence does not seem to take any notice of it. The hon. Member wanted to know what telegrams had passed between Kimberley and the Colonial Office concerning the military operations for the relief of Kimberley, and he hinted that the importance of relieving Kimberley was increased because Mr. Rhodes happened to be there.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
I will not dwell upon that point further, although I do not think the statement of the hon. Member was a wise one. I will leave that question altogether and turn to what really does concern the country. I think the country and the House as a whole is disgusted with this continuous pot and kettle business which is going on between the two front benches. That is not what the country wants to hear, and the people are rather inclined to say, "A plague o' both your houses!" It is no satisfaction to hear that we had a worse Government in 1881 if we have a bad Government now. For any Member sitting on this side of the House to vote in favour of this Amendment it would be necessary to believe not only that the 357 Government had committed certain errors and blunders, but he would have to go much further, for he would have to believe that there were men sitting on the beaches opposite more capable of carrying on the Government of the country and pulling the cart out of the rut, and helping England when England needs help sorely. He would have to believe that such men existed, that they were united, if not on general principles at least as to the conduct of this war, as to its propriety, its necessity, and as to its continuance. But what are the facts? Why, we have the character of Mr. Facing Both Ways in "The Pilgrim's Progress." We have the Leader of the Opposition, and I pity him, and he is a subject for pity, for he has had to try and shepherd into the same fold the hon. Member for Northampton and the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton; and a more difficult and impossible task could not exist. This clever Amendment has been so prepared and designed that it is considered capable of drawing into the same net men who have precisely the same feelings about this war as we have, only they sit on the other side of the House. They are men who differ absolutely as to the justice and propriety of the war. We saw the noble Lord who moved this Amendment get up and support it, because he considered the war was unjust and unnecessary. A few minutes after we heard the hon. and learned Member for South Shields, and he supported the same Amendment because the war was just and inevitable. Are those the people that we are to hand over the government of this country to? I daresay hon. Members on the other side say it is quite sufficient because I sit on this side of the House that I should support the Government. We have heard a great many people giving an account of their own patriotism—and very interesting accounts they are. I will give an account of mine. I came down to this House with no great tenderness for individuals, and with no great tenderness for my party or the members of the Government, and what will astonish hon. Members much more, I came down with a great indifference to my own political career. And yet I was perfectly prepared to vote and speak with one simple object—that of benefitting my country. How can I benefit the country best? By 358 simply showing the mischief which this debate does. What do we see in the French papers to-day? They say that, as enemies of England, they rejoice at this debate, and one cynical Frenchman says: "It is just what we should do ourselves." I understand and recognise the propriety of Members such as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose or the right hon. Member for Bodmin, who look upon this war as rotten in its inception, foolish in its execution, and equally discreditable and dangerous to the country. They would fight tooth and nail to stop this war and to turn out the Government who are responsible for it. I recognise their position, although I do not agree with them, and I can sympathise with the Leader of the Opposition, who has to try and ride two horses at once. I cannot, however, understand the patriotism of such men as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, who have upheld the justice of the war in the country, and yet support this Amendment here. What do they hope to get by success or failure? Do they hope to turn the Government out? They have said outside that that is the last thing they desire to do, and they are very wise. If they fail, what else are they doing but simply washing, dirty linen in public and helping to embarrass and hinder the Government? We think it would be somewhat difficult to find the same amount of credit, ability, and reputation as that which is possessed by the gentlemen who are good enough to lead us at this moment. Leaving for a moment that part of the subject I should like to say, if the House will bear with me, a few words about the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean. Is it not somewhat unworthy of Parliamentary practice to take up some little florid rhetorical utterance made under exceptional circumstances, and to read into it a solemn statement of Government knowledge or Government policy? And yet that is what we have heard done in this House. The First Lord of the Treasury spoke of there being no more chance of the Orange Free State joining in a war against us than there was of Switzerland. To treat such a phrase as proof that the Government was totally ignorant of the actual condition in South Africa is absurd; but the First Lord of the Treasury says he does not think about his speeches. I only 359 wish that his modesty did not lead him to underrate the importance of every word he utters so long as he occupies the administrative position which he does. When he sees his words distorted and misrepresented in the way we have seen them, he must feel how vitally important it is that he should choose his words in such a way as it is not necessary for humbler persons to do. Of course the question of Cabinet responsibility is very rightly urged by the right hon. Baronet opposite, but is it not carrying it to the point of becoming ludicrous to blame them because this or that bridge has not been destroyed in the north of Natal? The Cabinet are responsible for the generals who have been appointed, but to discredit them to the country because a culvert was not blown up is ridiculous and unreasonable. Let me take another point. Although the right hon. Baronet expressed his determination not to criticise the generals in the field, he went to a considerable length in that direction, and he went on to say that it was monstrous folly to occupy a position like Ladysmith, which had hills all round it, which he called an absolutely indefensible hole. On these matters the right hon. Baronet is a very clever man, but I would remind him that Lady smith is still being defended and has proved to be defensible, though it may not have been the best position from a military point of view. He has also blamed the Government for putting vast amounts of stores there. All I have to say is, thank God they did. As far as I can see the only danger of Ladysmith falling is that their ammunition or rations will not hold out. When General White had a check he was severely criticised, but since then I think he has satisfied us all that he is an extremely able man, and we congratulate him upon the skill with which he has held that position. If it was true that Ladysmith was indefensible we should certainly have had another Yorktown there before this. I should like to say a word or two about the speech of the Under Secretary for War. I call it a fine speech, and I consider that it elevated the debate. I consider that when his speech is read in the country it will do something to restore confidence to "the man in the street," about whom we have heard so much. What has "the man in the street" been doing? While one has been giving his money another has torn 360 himself away from those who are so dear to him and gone to the front. While this has been going on certain politicians have been considering whether they could score off their political opponents on account of this war. Over and over again I have seen this in places where I never expected to see it, and where I blushed to see it. There is an old Greek proverb which sets forth that even a fool can give you useful advice, and perhaps some much more distinguished men than myself may listen to me in this matter. I am sure it will do more credit to this House, and to themselves, and their country, if those Members will unite at such a juncture as this and consider how we can improve our position in the future, and set right our false system, instead of going about saying that the Tory party is to be blamed for this and the Radical party for something else. I think we might drop all this until we are out of danger. Common-sense and reason dictates that we should do this, however quarrelsome we may be, whenever we find ourselves in absolute danger of disgrace and humiliation to our Empire; because everyone must know that there is a great responsibility in letting loose the dogs of war, for God alone knows where they will stop, and if England once gets on her back you will always find there is someone ready to jump on her. We know perfectly well that England has not got too many friends abroad, and her power and position has led to intense jealousy. In the face of all these considerations let us show a united front. I was very grateful to my hon. friend, the Under Secretary for War, for doing something to raise the tone of the debate. There was one point, however, in which he started a perfectly new defence of the Government, and he almost seemed to raise the point so high as to say that there was a sort of moral duty upon this country to be unprepared for the quarrels in which she engages. A more startling moral proposition I never heard enunciated. He quoted in support of this a speech of Lord Hardinge, and he said that if we had taken the necessary steps we should have justified our enemies and placed ourselves in the wrong. How about our faithful colonies, and those friends of ours in Natal whom everybody prizes? Was it our moral duty to leave them in a condition of un-preparedness to resist invasion? The hon. Member opposite referred to the 361 secret service, and said that even now more money might be profitably employed in the secret service of the Government. If it is required, for goodness' sake let them come and ask for it, and I am perfectly certain they will get it with very little opposition. They may be desirous of coming to us with such a proposition, but so long as this debate is continued no practical advantage can come to this country, and no practical proposals can be considered for remedying the defects in our system. When I think of the patience which the House has already shown me, I have come to the conclusion that the sooner I bring my own share in the debate to an end the better.
§ MR. MENDL (Plymouth)
The hon. Member who has just sat down has dwelt during a great portion of his remarks upon the necessity of bringing this debate to a conclusion on the grounds of patriotism. In that he has followed one or two of his own leaders—the Under Secretary for War to-night and the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs last night—who appear to think that any discussion or criticism of the conduct or of the preparations for the war or the South African policy of the Government is something of the nature of the crime of high treason on the part of the Opposition. I venture to protest against that doctrine with all my heart. It seems to me a most dangerous doctrine, and it is a very peculiar kind of patriotism which leads hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to ask us to make sacrifices while they propose to make no similar sacrifices themselves. I have not noticed in this House or in the country that the party opposite have failed to take credit for this war in their appeal to the patriotism of the people of this country. They have appealed to the people to support the present Government on party issues and have invited them to oppose the party on this side of the House. That seems to me to be a very peculiar and dangerous kind of doctrine. It was in the first place repudiated by the Leader of the House on Tuesday when he replied to my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition on the Address, and was also expressly 362 repudiated both by the Colonial Secretary and the Leader of the House during the late autumn session of Parliament. I remember a very striking passage in which it was said that the issues were no longer political but military, and that the Government invited criticism. If that is so it seems strange that they should protest and assert that the motives of the Opposition are unpatriotic in raising a debate on these questions. My object in rising is very much the same as that of the hon. Member for South Shields, who made a very brilliant speech the other night in this House. I am going to vote for this Amendment upon somewhat special grounds, and I prefer to do so not by a silent vote, and to explain my grounds for doing so. I entertain no shadow of a doubt as to the justice of the cause in which we are engaged with the Boer Republics. I need scarcely say that my belief is in no way affected by the success or reverses of the military operations which are necessary in order to carry that cause to a successful conclusion. As regards the declared policy of Her Majesty's Government during the spring and summer of last year, I supported that policy, and I still support it. That policy professed to secure proper treatment for the British subjects in the Transvaal, and I assert that it would have been a grave dereliction of duty if the Government had not pressed for that proper treatment to be secured. In the opinion of those best qualified to know, who have lived in that country and who have friends there, it is an almost unanimous opinion that the Transvaal was the only country where it was found to be a disadvantage to be an Englishman, and wherever British subjects receive treatment such as they received in the Transvaal, it is the duty of the Government of this country to interfere on their behalf, and this more especially in a country like the Transvaal, which is a comparatively new and recent state surrounded by a large number of British colonies. I say it was the duty of the Government to interfere both in the interests of these British colonies and in the general interests of the British Empire. I was glad the other day to hear my hon. and learned friend the Member for South Shields refer to the capitalists argument in regard to this war. The argument that this is a capitalists' war, and that it is their cause we are fighting for, and therefore a sordid and mean cause, 363 is an argument which I believe to be absolutely untrue. It is quite true of this war, as of every other war, that you cannot disentangle the interests of financiers from it. It was the case in the French, the Crimean, and the Egyptian wars, and I have no doubt that it is to that extent the case in this as well. Possibly some capitalists may have profited by this war. But there are many others who have suffered great losses, and the shrinkage in property must already have amounted to a very great sum indeed. The extent to which the capitalists have supported the Government policy, and preferred to risk the loss or depreciation of their property rather than submit to a continuance of the Government of the Transvaal, is one of the strongest indictments against the Transvaal Government that it is possible to find. What do these men risk? They risk the loss of their property and the stoppage of their businesses. And why have they done this? I do not suppose it is so much for their own interests and safety, because very few of these capitalists live in the Transvaal at all. But they employ English, Scotch, and Welsh miners who have gone out from this country for the purpose of seeking their fortunes in the Transvaal. These men have had to live there under conditions which they have found to be intolerable to any spirited or proud race, and therefore the capitalists were bound to come into line with the Uitlanders in the Transvaal. We have been told that a desire to grab the gold is at the bottom of this war. I should like to know in what way this war will give gold to this country. The large majority of the gold mines in the Transvaal are already owned by English companies, and they will be owned by the same people after the war is over. Those who say that this country is seeking territory for the purpose of acquiring goldfields show a great ignorance of the way in which we govern our colonies. What do we get out of other colonies in this respect? We should get just as much under the old system as we shall get under the British flag. Since the month of March, 1899, when the Government received and acted on the Uitlanders' petition, in broad principle their policy has been a right one, and it deserved and received the support both of this House and of the country. I might have 364 found some difficulty in voting for this Amendment if it had been confined to impugning the justice of that policy since March, but it is not so confined, and simply indicts the Government for the want of foresight, knowledge, and judgment displayed since 1895, and I think since that time until March, 1899 they have displayed a want of judgment, foresight, and knowledge. It is this negligence between 1895 and 1899 which justifies me in voting for this Amendment. I think the Government have displayed a great deal too much of the quality of patience, which my right hon. friend the Member for Montrose advocates in dealing with this great evil. The plea as to this urged by the Leader of the House was the Jameson raid of 1895. Of course, everybody condemns that raid as a criminal blunder and a piece of mad and fatuous folly. It is, however, necessary to remember that the misgovernment of the Transvaal was not the result of that raid, but was anterior to it, and was going on during the administration of the late Government. The reform movement in the Transvaal was going on long before it was guided into the wrong and injudicious channel which culminated in the Jameson raid. The First Lord of the Treasury says that raid tied the hands of the Government, but why? If the Government were neither individually nor collectively guilty of complicity in that raid, and I believe that to be the case; if they were innocent why should the complicity of the Chartered Company—which had no connection with the Government except so far as it received powers of government for certain parts of South Africa—have prevented the Government from insisting upon the rights of this country and the rights of our subjects in the Transvaal? Immediately after the raid the Colonial Secretary had President Kruger in the hollow of his hand, for he was asked to exercise his influence to get Johannesburg to disarm. But why were no conditions imposed? Why did the Colonial Secretary not express his willingness to do that upon conditions properly guaranteed to the effect that the misgovernment of the Transvaal should be remedied, and that the reforms which were necessary should be carried out? The right hon. Gentleman framed a moderate and reason able scheme, but President Kruger refused 365 it, and thereupon the matter was dropped. Then the Government entered upon a long course of that panacea which has been recommended by the right hon. Member for Montrose, that is the policy of patience. They tried it so far as we were concerned, but simultaneously with it there was a constant arming of the Boers which has led to most of the present trouble, and the result of which we are experiencing to-day. Hon. Members on the other side say that this began before the raid and others say it began after, but whichever is true it is quite obvious that between January, 1896, and the ultimatum by the Transvaal and the Orange Free State last October there was an enormous accession to the military strength of the Boers, and, consequently, we now have to face one of the most formidable military operations ever undertaken by this country. We have already sent over 160,000 men, and we have not yet reached the object we have in view, and the Government have looked on and allowed all this to continue on account of the Chartered Company's complicity in the raid. That is no justification for it, and it is one reason why I shall vote for this Amendment, because it seems to me that the ordinary British citizen and "the man in the street" would say that we have to look to the Government of this country to protect us and our Empire, and the fact that they have not done so is not in the least justified because a trading company was guilty of a conspiracy at the time of the Jameson raid. So far as the preparations for war are concerned, I cannot imagine anybody asserting the converse of this proposition, and declaring that the Government have acted with knowledge, foresight, and judgment. We have heard of the military preparations and of the under-estimating of the number of troops required, the numbers and nature of our enemy, and their means of carrying on warfare. I believe that if it were not for the fact that the Amendment which is before the House involves the question of confidence in the Ministry, and if we could have the division by ballot a very large majority of the Members of this House would vote for it upon the grounds I have stated. In answer to this case, the Government put up two contentions, both of which seem to be absolutely self-contradictory. In the first place, they say that 366 they thought war was unlikely, because the probability was that the Transvaal would give way at last. If this were the view generally taken, surely the business of a wise and prudent Government is to run no risks at all, and to provide even against the possibility of war, and the contingency that hostilities would result from the negotiations as they went on. But the fact remains that what the Government have done in this case has been that they allowed their diplomacy to outstrip their military preparations, and the excuse which the Under Secretary for War has given is extraordinary. He said that the reason the Government did not make more military preparations during the negotiations was because they did not want to hamper the diplomacy and, possibly, thereby precipitate hostilities. I do not think there is much justification for that hypothesis, because it is well known that the Boers were only waiting for the grass to grow in order that they might be able to operate with their mounted infantry on the plains of Natal. If Her Majesty's Government had sent out the troops in July there would have been much less risk of a declaration of war at all. The alternative contention put forward by the Government has now practically been given up—I allude to the suggestion that the Government did not know the Boer strength and the consequent reflection involved upon the War Office and the Intelligence Department, and Mr. Conyngham Greene. I do not think that was a contention which could possibly have held water for a moment in view of the facts. So far as regards the question of the administration of the War Office I am bound to say that I think the Government have a great deal to explain which they have not attempted to deal with, and which it is highly desirable not in the interests of party but in the interests of the people of this country that they should satisfactorily answer. After all, in these matters the man in the street represents very much the average opinion; most of us are ignoramuses on questions of military administration. [AN HON. MEMBER: No, no.] I speak with the assurance of ignorance myself, but I have not been above sitting at the feet of authority. I have sat out the Army Estimates every session since I have been a Member of this House, and I am bound to say that the impression produced on 367 my mind by what I have heard on previous occasions from military experts in this House has not been removed by the admirable speech of the hon. Member the Under Secretary of State for War, But I attach a great deal more importance to the future than to the past. I attach more importance to the results which may follow this war than I do to recriminations as to what has gone before. I hope that we shall have a silver lining to the dark cloud which has been hanging over us, if as the result of this war we get the people of this country and this House to recognise the deficiencies under which we are apparently labouring, and see that the proper remedy is applied to them. I have only to say that I am certain that the overwhelming majority of this House, and indeed of this country, are ready to support this war to the only conclusion to which, in my judgment, it ought to be pushed, the only one consistent with the national character of the British people. There will be nothing begrudged in the expenditure of money, and those fighting for us will not grudge the expenditure of blood for the purpose of carrying out the calls which their country makes upon them. But I think it is all important that we should see when this lamentable war has been carried to a conclusion that there shall be no possibility of the same mischief arising again and the same remedy having to be applied a second time.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I should like to say a few words on this subject before the debate is brought to a close, inasmuch as I happen to have been, during September, October, and November last, in the particular part of the world in which the events have happened which we are now discussing. In passing during those critical months through the districts of Cape Colony and the Orange Free State it was my pleasure to see a great number of persons. Although I should be very sorry to claim any expert knowledge of South Africa, I think, after having spent that very critical period amongst those persons, and having heard an immense variety of opinion there, I perhaps may be allowed to say a few words on this particular occasion. I candidly acknowledge that there is much that one might criticise concerning what has taken place if this was an occasion for a party 368 battle, but I cannot help thinking that not only this country but all the colonies of South Africa—I will go further and say all the colonies of this great Empire—are looking for something much higher than the question of party battle. There is one thing we all want, and that is, to bring this war to a satisfactory termination. We want to bring it to such a satisfactory termination as will add dignity and power to this country and do justice to all parties in South Africa. That, in my opinion, can only be done by placing the whole of the country from the Zambesi to Cape Town under the British flag. What we should do here, and what the country is demanding is that we should consider how we can help to carry this out, and I am sorry to see that recriminations have been raked up and that various questions have been raised as to the merits of one side and the other, when all we ought to consider and think about is how to strengthen the Government in power to enable them to carry out this work to a successful conclusion. When the proper time comes there are many things that most of us will wish to inquire into. I fully agree that there are many things—possibly some unpleasant things—which we shall have to inquire about. I think it will be acknowledged that I have never been a very subservient member of this particular party, but I have always said most emphatically what I think and what I feel. I know this has not always been considered fashionable, and certainly it has not been very profitable. But there is a time for all things, and the present time and the present purpose demand something much higher than these party recriminations. I think we should all combine with the Government with one end in view, and be alive to the enormous importance of the present position, because, as I have said, this is not merely a contest with regard to South Africa or the Transvaal; it is a contest fraught with issues that affect the whole position of our great Empire. The view I took in August and the view I take now judging by the experiences of my visit to the Cape and what has happened since, is that these reverses or checks to our progress in the campaign will leave no permanent impression on the minds of the colonists unless the Government fails in its task and its duty to the nation. Now, we all know that our Army is an army capable 369 of everything that a man can reasonably expect it to do; and it is to this House that the Army looks for sympathy and support. They are looking to us from all parts of South Africa in the expectation and hope that we will do our utmost to safeguard their interests. They desire that nothing should be left undone to strengthen their position, and nothing forgotten which will tend to save life. I would ask, Sir—and it is a fair question to ask at this critical period—are we quite certain that the Government are wholly alive to the gravity of the present position? I am bound to say that until I heard the speech of the Under Secretary of State for War I saw no indications that they were; but I must frankly say now, after the speech of this young member of the Government, that my fears have been dispelled. I should like to say a few words on one or two points raised in the speeches of several Members. One point that has been referred to more than once is as to the advance that was made on Dundee and Glencoe, and why Ladysmith has been made the Aldershot of Natal. Now, Sir, this is a very important question. I happened to be in Natal during the dreadful fortnight which preceded the landing of our troops from India. I do not want to exaggerate, but hon. Members sitting comfortably here can have no idea of the anxious feeling and tension that prevailed up to the Sunday; and after the troops came in people said to me: "To-day we can breathe again. Last Sunday we hardly dared to do so." I had come down from Johannesburg, and I had seen the Boer forces accumulating in thousands on the border, and there was nothing to stop them from raiding right down to Durban save the handful of troops we had up to that anxious fortnight. I think nobody will dispute that although the defence of Northern Natal may have been a military mistake, Sir George White, who accepted the responsibility of it, must be regarded as the hero of the campaign. While in Natal I saw a good deal of the Governor and of the Prime Minister, as well as of General Penn Symons, and I can easily understand why Sir George White surrendered his military judgment in order to place himself in the position in which he now finds himself in Ladysmith. He has 10,000 men there, and I still believe he will be relieved. He has exhibited a policy and behaved in a way which is a credit to the 370 long line of honourable and gallant men whom he has followed; and I do sincerely trust that in criticising that military mistake we shall weigh well all the circumstances, and these cannot be adequately realised by any but those actually on the spot. Of course, it all comes back to the question—that very serious question which will have to be considered later—why Natal was not put into a state of preparedness when we knew that the Transvaal was arming to the teeth, and when we knew that their whole object was to take Natal. Yesterday I heard the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, in which he said he considered that the grievances of the Uitlanders were practically nothing. It is very easy to consider persons' grievances as unimportant if you do not happen to suffer from them yourself. In this country it is a common spectacle to see Members of Parliament airing the grivances of some clerk or other who is not receiving the salary he ought to have; every little difficulty of his position is loudly proclaimed in this House. We consider it a monstrous injustice if the man's labour is not properly remunerated. I say that it is strange that we should sit here and calmly belittle the grievances of our fellow subjects in a far-distant country. I was in Johannesburg for four weeks, and I have no hesitation in agreeing with the hon. Member for South Shields as to the grievances under which the Uitlanders are labouring. I would like the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, and the right hon. Member for Bodmin who sits here—I don't know why—to live in Johannesburg for twelve months; they would come back holding very different views, and would then know how to vote. The question of the war being one waged on behalf of the capitalists is, in my judgment, too absurd to be gone into. I cannot understand it. I am not a capitalist myself; but I think even a capitalist ought to be treated fairly and rightly. I took a great deal of trouble when in Johannesburg to find out some of the conditions and difficulties under which the capitalist lives. As the hon. Member has just stated, the capitalist is losing enormously by this war. There is no doubt about it; and when we hear that the men who have gone out to work in the mines are only "the scum of the earth," I say, emphatically, it is not true. 371 I went down the mines myself, and I can safely assert that the great bulk of the miners are as creditable a set of workmen as you will find anywhere. They are men of intelligence, their labour is strictly technical, and they have as much right to be protected as anyone. Moreover, it is said that these men are money-grubbers. How does that declaration agree with the fact that many of these men now form the best of our colonial troops? The work done by the Imperial Light Horse and Thorneycroft's Horse has been most excellent. They are soldiers of whom we need never be ashamed. Well, I have also heard of the difficulties raised by the Jameson raid. I do not wish for a moment to defend the Jameson raid and the part played in it by Mr. Rhodes. That is undoubtedly the weak spot in the whole South African case. But it must not be forgotten what led to this raid. I remember that when the Greeks talked about raiding Crete it was not considered a very great crime. And I also remember a certain telegram that was sent which did not show that raiding was always an iniquity. As to the raid being put forward as an excuse for the arming of the Transvaal, I may say that I was much interested in what I heard on the subject when I was there. I must candidly say that there was no concealment about the arming. It was common talk. I saw some of the men come in and walk off again armed with their guns; and although many thought then that war might be averted, the natural feeling was that war had been talked of for a long time. The point has been raised and referred to many times, whether the war was inevitable. Of course this also is quite an academic question. It does not matter much whether it was inevitable or not so far as getting done with it as soon as possible is concerned. But the subject should be carefully considered when the war is practically over—what were the circumstances which led up to it? First of all, there is the great question of race hatred and the corruption of the Boer Government. In this connection I think it is really remarkable, as instancing the state of affairs that has existed in the Transvaal, that a large number of the wives and families of Boers resident there, as well as in the Orange Free State, have absolutely been sent down to Capetown in order to be in 372 safe keeping during the war. Now we can see the abominable condition of things the country is in when the Boers have to send their own wives and families down to British territory to be protected from their own kindred, whose character is to kill and destroy. One other question to consider is as to the future of these nations. It is too early to talk of the future; but we must be careful to protect the colonists, and to make it clear that we are determined that this state of things shall never happen again. In dealing with South Africa we have never permanently known our own mind. We have been continually changing our policy, first holding the country and then giving it back, and the loyal inhabitants have suffered in consequence. We must be absolutely supreme over the whole of these Republics, as we shall have no abiding peace until the Boer rule is absolutely gone. To refer for one moment to the Amendment proper. I think there are many of us who will agree with me that successive Governments have neglected their duty in regard to the preparations we should have made in South Africa. The present Government will agree now that not enough has been done to prepare for this serious war—not only by themselves, but by their predecessors. We have not done what we might have done since 1881. But that is no reason for adopting this Amendment, for that would certainly mean a change of Government. And whom should we put in instead? We should have to put those in position and power who have been worse than this Government have been, and that would be a leap from the frying-pan into the fire. Some of our opponents seem to think that we are fond of war; but there is not an hon. Member on either side of the House who does not hope that this war should be brought to an end. There are some of us who have our sons engaged in it, whose lives are in imminent danger; and we all feel, with the hon. and learned Member for South Shields, that this is a just war, despite its pains and penalties. We must not shrink from our duties, any more than our ancestors sharnk from the duties that were placed upon them, and we must not falter in our determination to bring the struggle to a successful issue. Having done that, the future of South Africa will be a great one. By temporising now, we 373 are only putting off the evil day, and I trust, therefore, that, in the interests of the country, as well as in the interests of the soldiers whose lives are at stake, the Government will do their utmost, in every way, to strengthen their hands, and not be wrapped up in the carping criticisms that we hear in certain quarters. Patriotism, I believe, will rise supreme over party feeling, and although I am sorry that we have not taken the advice proffered of ending the debate at once—I candidly say I should have been only too glad not to have spoken at all—the time has come when the only criticism on the Government, while the war lasts, should be such criticism as will tend to rouse them to prosecute it with their whole energy.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
Some hon. Members and some organs of public opinion outside have sought to produce the impression that it would have been impossible for this debate to be initiated or to be continued if those who took part in it appreciated the seriousness of the situation in which the country is placed. I do not follow that reasoning. It is the seriousness of the situation which has produced this debate. I certainly—and I doubt whether any hon. Members of longer experience than mine can do so—cannot remember any time at which anyone who took part in debate in the House took part in it under a sense of such strict obligation to open his whole thought on the matter of the war. One of the advantages of the Amendment is that it makes that easy. But it is not easy to speak with the perfect freedom with which we ought to speak in such a serious matter without running the risks of alienating some friends and of offending more than usual the susceptibilities of some opponents. The first thing I wish to say to the House is one which I think will meet with general acceptance. I recognise that the speech of the Under Secretary for War is one which has given great support to the Government. I recognise that he made some points against this Amendment with great force, though I think his skill contributed greater force to those points than they were entitled to if considered only by the impartial mind; but I wish to express my gratitude to him, because he has perceptibly raised my own spirits. 374 It is true that it was mainly a departmental speech; it dealt in detail with important matters, but they were mainly departmental matters. It could not range over some of the wider issues of this question; it could not take the place of the responsible statement made by a Cabinet Minister on the whole situation; but it has done something to lift the gloom. It is the first thing that has happened since the Leader of the House spoke at Manchester in any way to dispel the gloom which has fallen on the country ever since. For that we are grateful. I will not enter into detail on the hon. Member's speech. I said that I was conscious of the seriousness of the situation. Let me clear one matter out of the way at the beginning. There is one thing, and one thing only, in this situation on which I look with a thoroughly light heart, and that is the differences of opinion which may exist among the Opposition. There are differences of opinion. We are all agreed that there has been great mismanagement on the part of the Government. But we recognise that we have differences of opinion with regard to the merits of the war; and this Amendment was not intended to cover all those differences of opinion or to conceal them. I freely admit that I am unable to bestride the chasm that separates my hon. and learned friend the Member for South Shields and my hon. and learned friend the Member for the Dumfries Burghs. I do not know whether to rejoice most that I am most closely associated with the sentiments of the hon. and learned Member for South Shields, or to regret that I am so far separated from the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries. But the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries rendered one very valuable service by his speech. I have said that this Amendment was not brought forward for purely party purposes. I think that everyone who listened to the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries and heard his emphatic denunciation of the committee appointed to inquire into the raid and all its proceedings, and who remembered how that committee was composed, will be the first to realise that it was not for party purposes that this debate was initiated. The Amendment is undoubtedly a vote of want of confidence. Does anyone, examining his own mind strictly on 375 this matter, deny that the reputation of the Government for foresight, grasp, and efficiency, has been greatly impaired by the events of the last few months? It has been impaired; and it has to be redeemed. This Amendment is the expression of our sense of the tremendous extent to which our confidence has been impaired; but it leaves to us the earnest and sincere hope that that reputation may yet be redeemed. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh!] I hear the First Lord of the Admiralty throw some doubt on the sincerity of that hope.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I said that the Amendment would not leave you with the hope you express if you were to carry it.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
Yes, Sir, but a Government whose reputation has once been impaired must be prepared to stand criticism, and its first opportunity of doing something to redeem its reputation is to meet that criticism in a better spirit than has yet been shown. That opportunity, at any rate, this Amendment provides. But first let me say to the House that I wish to justify myself for having expressed an earnest hope that that reputation would be redeemed. We cannot withhold our censure for what has passed, but we are prepared to give the Government our help in the future. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh!] I wish to be honest with the House, and to let the House and the Government know exactly for what we blame them, and exactly what the value of our support in the future is likely to be. This Amendment, though it is a vote of want of confidence, does not mean any desire to reverse the policy of the Government, or to weaken the prosecution of the war. We are prepared to help to prosecute the war to the end. The First Lord of the Treasury has sought to depreciate the value of the help which we might give by insinuating—for that is the proper word to use—that that help would be very limited; that it would stop at a certain point; that it would stop when the Boers were expelled from British territory. There is no warrant for that assumption. It was a construction of his own upon 376 the words used. [HON. MEMBERS: No, no.] I am willing to refer him to other words, if he pleases, not uttered from this bench, but by a most important Member of the party on this side of the House. The hon. and learned Member for West Fife, speaking on no light and trivial occasion from a party point of view—at a meeting of the National Liberal Federation—described in glowing language his sense of the issue that was at stake. He said that in this war the fate of the whole Empire was at stake; and that we must press on until the British flag was flying at Johannesburg and Pretoria. Well, Sir, I think that is a statement as far-reaching as the right hon. Gentleman could wish for.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I entirely agree. If that statement represents the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition I have no criticism whatever to offer upon it.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
I have given the right hon. Gentleman some instances of the value of the support likely to come from this side of the House. I have not yet given my own definition of the objects to be attained by the war. The primary object of this war—or of the policy which has ended in this war—was not to drive the Boers from British territory, because they were not on British territory at that time. The primary object was not to plant the British flag at Johannesburg or Pretoria. There are those who think these two things must be the results of the war; but they were not the primary objects of the war. Then what were the objects of the war? The objects which I wish to see attained, and in attaining which I pledge myself to give my utmost support to the Government, are mainly two. Others may arise afterwards, but there are only two which it is necessary for us to bear in mind at the present moment. The first is equal rights between white men in South Africa. By that I mean that never again, as far as it is humanly possible to prevent it, shall a situation arise in any part of the British sphere in South Africa in which a modern industrial community shall be placed by any possibility under the heel of an antiquated minority domi- 377 nated by prejudice and governed by corruption. Let us make that impossible; let us ensure that into whatever districts South Africa may be divided, whatever arbitrary divisions there may be, in no circumstances whatever shall the government be out of sympathy with the majority of the white inhabitants. The second object is this—that never again in South Africa shall it be possible for an arsenal to be formed, and an accumulation of military material to be made, under any control except British control. Those are the objects in view; that is the end to be attained. To that end the Government will have our support.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
I have quoted instances of the support likely to be given to the Government, but if the right hon. Gentleman chooses to challenge me, of course I speak only for myself. I am perfectly certain, however, that on this side of the House the large amount of support given to those objects is such that it justifies us in saying to the world at large that, in prosecuting those two objects, the support of the House and the support of the country will be given to the Government. Well, Sir, one thing more about the Amendment. The question of the merits of the war has been discussed on this Amendment. Of course that question comes well within the four corners of the Amendment, but it is not a necessary part of the Amendment. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries made a speech yesterday so clear, so earnest, and so emphatic that he has laid upon others the necessity of being equally clear, earnest, and emphatic. I do not wish to extend the scope of the debate by arguing this question; and therefore I will ask the House to allow me simply to state my own view, and to leave argument on this point to another time. I have argued it elsewhere, and I am prepared to do so again; but there are more important matters now before us than the merits of the origin of the war. I have stated 378 elsewhere, but I will state again, that in my opinion we are in the right in this war. It is a just war. It is a war which has been forced upon this country. I never will subscribe for one moment to what is so freely stated out of doors that in this contest the Boer Government, that oligarchy with its picturesque but antiquated prejudices, but whose agents of Government were corrupt—that that Government still stands for freedom and liberty in South Africa. That is intolerable, and I shall never subscribe to that, and I am willing to say I throw no odium on the Government for having provoked an unjust war—I do not believe that they have provoked the war—and I am willing to cheer them in their task. The arguments which I have used elsewhere I need not repeat. I pass now to the heart of the Amendment. Well, it is said that this Amendment, proposed at this early period of the session, will open the floodgates of public criticism; and it is remarkable that those who are most given to criticise the Government are those who are most given to indulging in this reproach; it is they who tell us that this Amendment opens the floodgates of criticism. Well, the organs to which I refer are not entitled to a monopoly of criticism of the Government, and it hardly rests with them to say that this Amendment opens the floodgates. I must appeal to the whole House at large whether in this matter, supposing no Amendment had been moved from the front bench at all, it would have been possible for the Government to begin the session without a large discussion. I hope that this Amendment will serve the purpose of clearing the air, and that it will at least supply ample opportunity to all sides of the House for expressing their views so that the House may, after, as I have said, the air has been cleared, go on to business. But consider the position those of us who are anxious to support the Government in the way I have stated in the future would have been in—consider the position we should have been in, having supported the Government, if we had withheld our criticism, if we had kept it in reserve with the intention of bringing it out at the most inconvenient time we could find afterwards. I think it is better, much better, that the criticism which we have to make should be made now. We can, therefore, having made our criticism now, give our support to the 379 Government in carrying on this war with less apprehension of being misunderstood than if we withheld it until the period I have suggested. Will this discussion do any harm, any real harm—is it doing any real harm—to the interests of the country? The Under Secretary for War told us in the course of his speech that it would delay the statement which he was prepared to make to the House as regards the future. I was delighted to hear him allude to the future. The Under Secretary told us that he is to make this important statement, and I am glad, and I am sure the House is glad, that that statement is to be left in such skilful hands—in hands so congenial to the House. Is the Under Secretary prepared to make that statement now? When the Secretary of State was asked in another place whether he was prepared to make a statement of the kind referred to by the Under Secretary he replied that he was not in a position to name a day for the debate.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
The Secretary of State did not say that. But there is a more important question than that. The question is, Is this discussion delaying any work that is to be done?
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
If that be so, then I think that does clear us from the most serious charge. Our action is not delaying the work, and the Leader of the House assures us of that. The public interest, therefore, will not suffer, though the interest of the debate may suffer. As to the debate, that is a matter which rests in the hands of the House itself as a whole. Having cleared up that point, let me tell the Under Secretary for War, who expressed suprise in regard to this Amendment, that in my opinion those who are responsible for the very large amount of support which the Amendment has received are his own colleagues. Had the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of 380 the Treasury, or any Minister of that rank, dealt with the situation before the session began in the spirit in which it has been dealt with to-night by the Under Secretary it would have taken away from many of us the impulse and the necessity to say some of the things which we have had to say in the course of this debate. But the speech which the First Lord of the Treasury made at Manchester was one which caused, not, I think, to me alone, the greatest pain that any public utterance has caused for some considerable time. What was the situation?
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
Yes, and the impression that speech made, general as the impression was, still remains, because we have had nothing better than that speech from any Cabinet Minister since. What was the situation? The situation in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke was this. The country had been disappointed, perhaps dismayed—well, perhaps dismayed is too strong a word—but the country was deeply pained by the misfortunes which had taken place. It had been disappointed beyond all measure by the course of events in South Africa. The country was anxious about the course of events and about the fate of certain positions then in danger. The country in this critical time was looking to the first speech of a responsible Minister—it was looking with anxiety for a serious review of the war and the position in which the country was placed. It was looking for a serious statement as to what the means that were to be taken for the future were likely to be. If a statement had been made, if there had been an acknowledgment that mistakes had been committed, that the members of the Government, who are more conscious of these mistakes, and understand them better than anybody else, were prepared to draw from the past the lessons of experience necessary to redeem the future, anxiety would have been somewhat relieved. But instead of that the right hon. Gentleman in his speech did not deal with the situation from that point of view—he did not review it as a whole. He made a speech 381 which had an air of pleasantry and fatalism about it, and inspired general distrust. It is not an unfair summary of that speech to say that it amounted to this—that nothing that happened could have been foreseen, or else the Government would have foreseen it. The Government took refuge behind all sorts of defences—behind public opinion, behind "the man in the street," behind the Opposition. They have now taken refuge behind the Treasury and behind the British Constitution. Sir, we do not want a shower of excuses of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by saying that the Government had nothing to apologise for—that was the last thing the country expected—and this was followed by one reason after another for not having foreseen events. The facts could not be denied, and these reasons were simply excuses. I remember one passage in the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he dwelt with great emphasis upon the difficulty of sending out troops earlier to South Africa, and he said this was not done because it was feared they would not have the support of public opinion.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No. If I remember that speech rightly—and I won't repeat the whole argument—what I said was this. I had believed that war was improbable, and that, under these circumstances, it would have been most unreasonable to destroy the chances of diplomacy by sending troops prematurely to South Africa. I hope the hon. Gentleman, who says he has read my speech so many times, will in that case quote it accurately.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
The impression I gained from the speech was certainly that. If I can find the quotation afterwards I will give it to the right hon. Gentleman, but I am sure I am in the recollection of the whole country that statements have been made on behalf of the Government that they were unable to go in advance of public opinion.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
Here is the quotation—Supposing"—said the right hon. Gentleman—"we had come to Parliament in the middle of August and said, 'We want you to vote us immense supplementary estimates for the provision of immediate transport to South Africa, we want you to call out the Reserves, and we want you to embody the Militia,' what would have been the reply—not of t e Opposition alone, not of the men who merely exist—politically exist, I mean—to take advantage, some argumentative or controversial advantage, of the Government that happens to be in power—what would have been said by the great mass of moderate opinion, both on the other side and on our own side of the House, if we had made such a proposition as that? I think I have enough knowledge of the House of Commons to tell you what would have been said. They would have said, in the first place, 'The proposals you make to us are inconvenient and very costly.'Surely, Sir, that is public opinion.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman has missed out the important passage. If he will read the preceding part he will see that that is hypothetical. I have not got the speech here, nor have I looked at it since it was delivered, but I feel sure that he will find that that is hypothetical. What I said was that we did not believe that war was likely or probable, but that if we had held a different opinion from the one we did hold, we should have been met with those statements.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
The right hon. Gentleman has excited my sympathy; he has not read the report of his own speeches. I maintain that the hypothesis is exactly what I had put. It is that if you had taken a certain course, public opinion would have said to you that it is inconvenient—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I hope the hon. Gentleman will not think I am unduly interrupting him. I certainly do not mean to do so. But he is repeating a criticism—I will not say a foolish criticism, but one which I think has been illegitimately passed upon me—namely, the assumption that I stated as a fact what I stated as a hypothesis. It was a hypothesis.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then do not state it as a fact. Do not say that we 383 were influenced by fear of public opinion, or of the House of Commons, when, as a matter of fact, we were not influenced by it.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
Well, all I can say is that it is a great pity that the right hon. Gentleman did not take the course which he says was a hypothetical course. The right hon. Gentleman certainly did shelter himself behind the man in the street. He said he had no more opportunity of knowing the intentions of the Transvaal than the man in the street.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
Yes. It used to be, I think, one of the great merits of the old diplomacy that it prided itself on knowing, or on an intelligent anticipation of, the intentions of those with whom it was dealing. Now, in this matter the Government were the trustees for the nation, and it is not for them as trustees to say that those whose interests they held in trust knew no better than themselves. I will not labour those two points, but I do resent the British Constitution being brought into the matter. The British Constitution would lend itself to excusing anything which could be desired. It is easy to prove on paper that the British Constitution makes anything impossible and is absolutely unworkable. But the British Constitution is the most pliable and the most efficient institution in the hands of a powerful Government. With the British Constitution a powerful Government, with such a majority as the right hon. Gentleman has had, could have done anything, and our complaint against them—a complaint I have brought, not merely in respect to this matter, but others also—is that they have not ventured to use their large majority as they might have done. They have hoarded it; they have endeavoured to preserve it rather than to make the use of it which circumstances demanded. And that has brought us to this point. If we are in the right in this war, how does it come about that the country is in such trouble? [HON. MEMBERS: Oh!] Holding as I do that we are in the right, I am entitled to ask, Why are we in such trouble? There was not foresight in the 384 negotiations. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to explain how it was that he came in his speech at Manchester to say that there was in his mind a probability that the negotiations in which they were engaged might tide over war for a year. Supporting the Government with regard to these negotiations, I never for a moment imagined that all last summer, when we were discussing this question, any one in the Cabinet, in their minds, thought perhaps that a year stood between them and war. That, Sir, is the greatest condemnation which could have been made by any Minister of his own policy. If the nature of them was so delicate and narrow as that the negotiations would only stave off war for a year, why were the negotiations entered upon with so little preparation? The right hon. Gentleman does not dispute that construction of his speech. I have the quotation here.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
This is it—I do not say that you might not find here and there some prophet of evil who told us that, as soon as the grass grew, the Boers and their horses would be in the field. But if you considered, as we had to consider, the balance of competent opinion upon South African questions, while few men were rash enough to hazard the prophecy that South African questions would ultimately culminate in war, for the present, at all events, the probability was that we should obtain such rights for the Uitlanders in the Transvaal as should tide over the present year, the present difficulty, till perhaps a period arrived when, either by accident or design, it might suit the Boer leaders to precipitate the struggle from which they hoped, but vainly hoped, to reap so much for their national advantage.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
What I said was that the right hon. Gentleman had stated that there was a probability that it might be tided over for the present year.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman has given my quotation. I have nothing more to say. I accept it.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
It is the only conclusion, I think, to draw from that quotation, that possibly the negotiations might stave off war for a year. [HON. MEMBERS: No.] If there is any meaning in words at all it must mean that some preparation should have been made. [HON. MEMBERS: No.] The one thing that could excuse want of preparation is want of knowledge of the Boer army. I was delighted to hear from the Under Secretary for War this evening his complete exoneration of the Intelligence Department. Too long that department has lain under an unjust suspicion, for it now appears that the information it gave as regards the men and the guns of the Boers was accurate and complete. The question we have to ask is, Why did not the Government profit more by that intelligence? And again, How is it that the Government are so divided as to the intelligence which was given? Hon. Members seem surprised that we on this side of the House should be united on this Amendment. It is far more strange that the Cabinet cannot be united as to what they were really told by the Intelligence Department as to the armaments of the Boers. To come now to the military question. We have been told that the generals have been given a free hand. I accept that statement as true. But I should like to know from what time it dates. When were the generals given a free hand? What, for instance, diverted General Buller from the original plan? We have been told "the unhappy entanglement of Ladysmith." Ladysmith, indeed, has been more than an unhappy entanglement—it has been the pivot of disaster. Speaking as a layman, it seems obvious to me that the great ally to have on your side in war is time; and the most formidable opponent to have against you is time. We assumed that in this war time would have been on our side. But the unhappy entanglement of Ladysmith has put time against us, and has brought us disaster. Where, then, is the responsibility to lie for that unhappy entanglement? The military criticism, made by a great military authority—else I would not quote it—is that—The disposition of the frontier garrisons had been carelessly made in South Africa. This disposition should have facilitated the 386 concentration and distribution of the Army Corps at whatever basis and upon whatever line of advance the general in chief might choose—in other words, that the disposition of the frontier garrisons should have conformed to the needs of the Army Corps, but what actually happened is that the Army Corps had to conform to the needs of the frontier garrisons.What I should like to know is, was that disposition of the frontier garrisons in accord with the instructions of the military authorities at home? Was there any difference between the colonial authorities and the military authorities at home on that question? The responsibility in this matter is most serious, and what I ask is, was this disposition of the frontier garrisons made with the entire consent of the military authorities at home?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Baronet, but I think he is inferring from our assent more than should be properly inferred from it with regard to the military authorities at home. I ought to tell him and the House that the defence of Glencoe and Dundee was done on the initiative and under the control of the late General Symons. I only wish to correct the hon. Baronet if he draws the inference that that was done on the direction of the military authorities at home.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
That is important. In the case of a great campaign the most natural supposition would be that the disposition of the frontier garrisons would not have been made by those on the spot without the sanction of those at home, upon whom rests the responsibility for the arrangements. Yes, that is not unnatural in these days of the telegraph. I gather that the military authorities at home were not consulted with regard to Glencoe and Dundee.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
They were not consulted. We first learned of the defence of Glencoe and Dundee from the newspaper accounts.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
I will leave the matter to be discussed by expert military authorities. But it seems to me that in the organising of a great campaign the people on whom rests the responsibility for carrying out the campaign should have exercised the closest scrutiny on the disposition of the frontier garrisons.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
Surely the campaign ought to have been more carefully planned. Ought the disposition of the troops at the opening of the campaign to have been in such a way that the authorities at home could not anticipate an important move? But it is impossible to clear up the matter this evening.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I dislike very much interrupting the hon. Baronet, but I think he will see that the military authorities at home may have their own idea as to what the disposition of the troops should be, and may see that that disposition is made. But if the officer in command on the spot, on his own authority, alters that disposition, I think they would be held to be right in being chary in interfering with his subsequent movements.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
Certainly, when the war has begun, but not before the war has broken out. That is the point in the disposition of the frontier garrisons. Now, I want to pass from the military point to a criticism which I think is very relevant and which I think justifies the position we take. What is the great mistake which has been made? It is a cheap reproach to bring against the Opposition that they are wise after the event. Really, what we want to be sure about is that the Government themselves are wise after the event. It seems to me that even if it comes after the event it is still worth some attention. What is the great mistake which has been made throughout this South African question? It has been this. There were two factors of great importance in the situation in South Africa during the last few years. One was 388 the grievances of the Uitlanders, and the second was the growth of the military power of the Transvaal. Of those two factors the growth of the military power of the Transvaal was the more important, but the Government concentrated their landers. They ought to have taken up the question of the growth of the military power. They began their negotiations about the Uitlanders. It would have been serious to have such military force accumulating in any hands but our own, or in the hands of others, however friendly they were. But to have them in the hands of people who were known to be ill-disposed to us, who had given us evidence of their ill-will on many occasions, was a great mistake. Why was no protest entered against the armaments? The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has told us that the hands of the Government were tied by the raid. We never realised till the last few weeks the full misery of the raid. We never realised how much the hands of the Government were tied till we had speeches made telling us what a large share the ill-reputation incurred by the raid has had in preventing necessary action in South Africa. But the question which lies with all of us is this: If the consequences of the raid were so evil, why did not the Government do more at the time to clear us from those evils? Why the delay in the inquiry? Why the repression and the keeping back of certain things when the inquiry was completed? I admit entirely the argument which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth used at the time which weighed with the Committee, but I see now the pity that the thing was not cleared up at the time it was brought before the Committee. What we fixed on were mere dregs, but they have made it possible for everyone of suspicion, for everyone inside this country or outside of it who is ill-disposed to the Government or those connected with the raid, to stir up those dregs and excite suspicion. And when the Committee was over we felt the pity of the speech which was made in debate, the speech of the Colonial Secretary, with too strict and narrow a definition of the rules of honour—too narrow a definition unfortunately at any time, but doubly unfortunate at that time—because every word which was used to lighten, to miti- 389 gate the censure which was being passed on the authors of the raid, every word which was used to rehabilitate the authors of the raid, only made heavier the load which the Government was carrying and which was paralysing their action. Well, if they could not for shame of the raid enter a protest against the arming of the Transvaal, I ask why did they not put the British possessions in South Africa in a state of defence? If they could not for shame say to the Transvaal Government, "You must cease your armaments," why did they net put the British possessions in a state of defence? That brings me back to the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury as to the difficulty there would be in sending troops earlier. I admit that difficulty after negotiations, but why was it not done before negotiations began? Would there have been a difficulty about public opinion? ["Yes."] No, not if the Government had stated the facts of the case. Yes, Sir, public opinion in so many of these matters is waiting for the Government to lead, but it now turns out that the Government have been waiting to be led. When the negotiations were once commenced it was difficult to send troops, and the hon. Member the Under-Secretary for War himself told us how they felt hampered at the War Office when negotiations were proceeding in sending out troops. I remember him telling the House in October, in excellent language, that the Government forbore to threaten while they were committed to persuade. If the Government had come down to the House in July and announced that they were going to send out troops at once, I admit that there would have been a charge against them that they were imperilling a peaceful issue, that the issue between a five and a seven years franchise was not worth fighting about. That was a false issue, but the Government had started the negotiations, and though I admit to the full the difficulty the negotiations made in putting our possessions in a state of defence, the difficulty was one of the Government's own making. The mistake was that they took up the grievances of the Uitlanders, knowing that there was risk in the negotiations, when they ought before they entered on those negotiations to have put our possessions in a state of defence. Now, Sir, in conclusion, I have made my criticisms. I regret very much that the 390 right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury should have thought that I have placed an unfair construction on his words, but I cannot understand his language in any other sense than that I have endeavoured to convey. Whether this criticism of the action of the Government will do harm or good, and I think it will do more good than harm, it was impossible to pass over what has happened without survey. For the future, what is before us? The prosecution of the war with vigour, power, and success? Yes, but more than that, the taking of such measures as may protect the country against complications that may arise, and which, if they do arise, shall find this country in a stronger position. In all that I will give my help to the Government, in spite of the criticisms I have passed upon them, and which I was bound in honour to pass. In spite of that, I should like for the future to give to the Government in this question not only my help but my confidence. I should be delighted to reserve all differences of opinion in the future for home affairs; but we can have no confidence in the Government while the spirit of their speeches is such as that I have criticized this evening. The right hon. Gentleman's own comments on the criticism passed upon him was that it was party criticism. It is not party criticism. Read the organs of public opinion.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
The criticism was not purely party criticism. I am quite willing to accept the right hon. Gentleman's own construction of what his meaning was. It was not party criticism. It was something much more serious. It was a cry of distress from the whole nation. There is no disquiet to be found in the spirit of the nation at this moment. It is full of power, it is energetic. The whole nation is moved, but the question which makes the country anxious is what power there is in the Government. Individual ability in the Cabinet is not denied, but there must be some mind which co-ordinates, which guides and controls the individual ability and subordinates it to the policy of the whole. We have not seen the work of that mind 391 in the action of the Cabinet. We have not felt the confidence which the country would feel in a Cabinet controlled by one guiding mind inspiring the whole. I cannot control the past. I look to the future. I express my sense of obligation for the speech of the Under Secretary for War to-night, and I do implore members of the Government like the First Lord of the Treasury and others who may speak in this debate to give us something better than we have yet had, something to show that they are more worthy trustees of the interests of the country. If they will appeal to the House in that spirit I believe they will meet with ample support, because I believe that in the House, as a whole, that patriotism with which the whole country is stirred is shared to the full.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
This is rather unusual. We have had a most interesting and important debate. It was an open secret, if it is to be described as a secret at all, that the Government have desired throughout that this debate should be curtailed to the narrowest limits. That has been the desire of the Government; I gave notice of it last night and I gave notice of it to-night in answer to a question. As the House is aware, the authorised ambassadors of the two front benches could not come to an agreement that the division should take place before Tuesday, and I think that it is very deplorable and unfortunate. I should have thought, under the circumstances, that that fact carried with it the obligation that some course should be taken with regard to the progress of the debate by the party which desires this postponement. In any case, I think some gentleman ought to get up and continue the debate.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
According to the invariable conduct and 392 courtesy of debate, when, in a debate of this kind, an hon. Member has spoken on one side, we look to the other side to follow. There is no lack of hon. Members on the other side who have shown a desire to take part in the debate, and the only conclusion I can come to is that those hon. Members who were going to make such long speeches thought that thirty minutes before the adjournment would not be sufficient to enable them to develop their theories on this subject. I venture to say that the desire of the Government that this debate should be closed as soon as possible is very natural, because the debate is directed against the Government. At the same time it is usual in a debate of this kind that the supporters of the Government should take their fair share in it, if, indeed, they have anything to say in support of the Government.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY (Yorkshire, Shipley)
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is, in my opinion—
§ MR. STUART
Mr. Speaker, we are perfectly justified in pressing this motion for the adjournment on this ground. After the speech of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Berwick, a most remarkable speech which has been listened to with great interest and followed closely by all Members of the House, we sat still. A remarkable indictment has been brought against the Government, and we have waited in the full expectation that some member of the Cabinet was about to rise and explain the position they held in answer to that speech. I hope my hon. friend will press for the adjournment of the House so that we can get an answer to that speech.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided—Ayes, 135; Noes, 155. (Division List No. 2.)395
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.)||Hammond, John (Carlow)||Oldroyd, Mark|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Harrington, Timothy||O'Malley, William|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Hen.||Harwood, George||Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Hayden, John Patrick||Palmer, George W. (Reading)|
|Bainbridge, Emerson||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Hazell, Walter||Pease, Alfred E. (Cleveland)|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Healy, Thomas J. (Wexford)||Perks, Robert William|
|Billson, Alfred||Hedderwick, Thomas Chas. H.||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Birrell, Augustine||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Blake, Edward||Holland, William Henry||Pilkington, Sir Geo A (Lancs S W|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Horniman, Frederick John||Pinkerton, John|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Burns, John||Johnson-Ferguson, Jabez Edw.||Richardson, J. (Durham, S. E.)|
|Burt, Thomas||Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Caldwell, James||Jordan, Jeremiah||Runciman, Walter|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Kay-Shuttleworth, Rt. Hn. Sir U.||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Carmichael, Sir T. D. Gibson-||Kearley, Hudson E.||Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Kinloch, Sir John Geo. Smyth||Shee, James John|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Kitson, Sir James||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)|
|Colville, John||Labouchere, Henry||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Commins, Andrew||Langley, Batty||Spicer, Albert|
|Crean, Eugene||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'land||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Daly, James||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||Strachey, Edward|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Leng, Sir John||Stuart, James (Shoreditch)|
|Dilke, Right Hon. Sir Charles||Lewis, John Herbert||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Dillon, John||Lloyd-George, David||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Lough, Thomas||Tennant, Harold John|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Lyell, Sir Leonard||Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan||MacAleese, Daniel||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||MacDonnell Dr. M.A. (Queens C.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Fenwick, Charles||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Tully, Jasper|
|Fergusson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||M'Crae, George||Walton, John L. (Leeds, S.)|
|Ffrench, Peter||M'Ghee, Richard||Wason, Eugene|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmund||M'Kenna, Reginald||Whiteley, George (Stockport)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Mandeville, J. Francis||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Wilson, Frederick W. (Norfolk)|
|Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Gibney, James||Morton, E. J. C. (Devonport)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Murnaghan, George||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Herbert Gladstone and Mr. M'Arthur.|
|Gurdon, Sir Wm. Brampton||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary)|
|Haldane, Richard Burdon||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Butcher, John George||Dickinson, Robert Edmond|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph|
|Arrol, Sir William||Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbysh.)||Doxford, Sir William Theodore|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph D.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E.|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Clarke, Sir Edward (Plym'th)||Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)|
|Bathurst, Hn. Allen Benjamin||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Finch, George H.|
|Bethell, Commander||Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Cooke, C. W. Radcliffe (Heref'd)||Fisher, William Hayes|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Fison, Frederick William|
|Bond, Edward||Cripps, Charles Alfred||FitzWygram, General Sir F.|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn)||Curzon, Viscount||Flannery, Sir Fortescue|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Dalkeith, Earl of||Flower, Ernest|
|Brookfield, A. Montagu||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Forster, Henry William|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Denny, Colonel||Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)|
|Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Rutherford, John|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Ryder, John Herbert Dudley|
|Gedge, Sydney||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Saunderson, Rt. Hon. Col. E. J.|
|Gibbons, J. Lloyd||Maclean, James Mackenzie||Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard|
|Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (City of Lon.)||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans)||M'Killop, James||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Malcolm, Ian||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Smith, A. H. (Christchurch)|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Middlemore, J. Throgmorton||Smith, J. Parker (Lanarksh.)|
|Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir J. Eldon||Milbank, Sir Powlett Chas. J.||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart|
|Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. Geo.'s||Milward, Colonel Victor||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir J. M.|
|Goulding, Edw. Alfred||Monckton, Edward Philip||Strauss, Arthur|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Montagu, Hon. J. S. (Hants.)||Strutt, Hon. Chas. Hedley|
|Gretton, John||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Ox. Univ.|
|Greville, Hon. Ronald||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)||Tomlinson, Wm. E. Murray|
|Hardy, Laurence||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Heath, James||Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Helder, Augustus||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Henderson, Alexander||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Webster, Sir Richard E.|
|Hermon-Hodge, R. Trotter||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Hoare, Edw. Brodie (Hampstd.)||Parkes, Ebenezer||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Hobhouse, Henry||Penn, John||Wharton, Rt. Hon. J. Lloyd|
|Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L.)|
|Johnston, William (Belfast)||Pierpoint, Robert||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Pilkington, R. (Lancs. Newton)||Wilson, John Falkirk|
|Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H.||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|Kenyon, James||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Wylie, Alexander|
|Kimber, Henry||Pretyman, Ernest George||Wyndham, George|
|Lawrence, Sir E. Durning- (Corn||Purvis, Robert||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Lea, Sir T. (Londonderry)||Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Lecky, Rt. Hn. William Edw. H.||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Round James|
|Lowles, John||Russell, Gen. F. S. (Cheltenham|
|Lucas-Shadwell, William||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
I am very glad that this debate has now been raised beyond the level of a mere party discussion. During last session the silence which was observed on these benches was due to the self-denial and self-repression of private Members. We desired that the purpose for which the House was called together should be accomplished in the shortest possible time, and that supplies of men and material should be voted as quickly as possible. There were no doubt exceptions to that rule. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin had not then been disavowed as he has been since by his constituents in this matter. He had not then been acting as chairman of a meeting in London at which cheers were given for President Kruger, as he was last night. There were other exceptions also in the ranks of the supporters of the Ministry, but in the main private Members desired to do what 396 was necessary in silence, in order to avoid wasting valuable time. In the present session valuable time has been wasted during the last two days. The question has been debated from the standpoint of party recrimination, and has not been raised to the level which under the circumstances it should attain. What is the position of the country at the present time? Ten thousand of our countrymen are beleaguered in Ladysmith, being possibly on the verge of starvation and surrender; the valour of 30,000 of the flower of our troops has not succeeded in rescuing them, and their fate—and they deserve well of the country—is trembling in the balance. Our troops are not only checked at Colenso but also at a place about fifteen miles from Kimberley. Parliament has been summoned earlier than usual in order to meet that situation; and what has Parliament been doing, until by the speeches of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, and the Under Secretary of State for War, the matter has been lifted to the level it fairly deserves? Has Parliament taken 397 patriotic counsel, has it sought to do something towards the avoidance of national disaster, has it been considering the immediate strengthening of our Army in the field, or the supply of further guns and transport for the quick termination of the war? No, Sir, Parliament has been engaged, on the initiative of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in miserable party animosity and party disputation as to who was to blame for the war, and who should have sent out larger reinforcements at an earlier date. I should not be surprised if that impartial personage described by the Leader of the Opposition as "the ordinary Englishman," and by the Leader of the House as "the man in the street," were disgusted with the conduct of Parliamentarians at the present time, and was to say with Shakespeare: "A plague on both your Houses!" The motion of the noble Lord the Member for the Cricklade division was blessed with the preliminary benediction of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, but he did not give any promise of moral or material support in the prosecution of the war, his speech being a mere bid for popular favour—resting, as I allege, upon a reversal of his own words in this House and of words which he addressed to the country. Not one word of advice fell from the ex-Minister for War in his opening speech, nor a promise of assistance—nothing but an attempt to make political capital out of a situation full of national danger, and possibly of national disaster. Nero fiddled while Rome burned, and somehow one is reminded of it by the attitude of the Opposition in face of this national crisis. But Nero at least knew his own mind, and I am not so sure that I can say as much for the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. On 21st April last he protested in this House against the increase of our troops in Natal.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
On the contrary. The only time I made a speech about troops in Natal was on a question which involved the permanent retention of a large body of troops in that colony, and on that occasion I said that I was not one to put difficulties in the way of the removal of troops by responsible Ministers, who were the sole masters of the disposal of Her Majesty's forces.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that when the Colonial Secretary stated that the troops in Natal for defensive purposes were to be increased from 3,000 to 9,000 he protested against that increase. In July last the right hon. Gentleman used these words—From the beginning of this story to the end of it I can see nothing whatever which furnishes a cause for armed intervention.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I have several times within the last two days stated that the words I used were in connection with the whole of the negotiations with reference the Uitlanders' grievances, the franchise, and so forth, and I stated that there was nothing that could constitute a casus belli in them. There may have been other reasons of which I was ignorant.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
And yet the right hon. Gentleman complains of greater preparations not having been made. That appears to the mind of the ordinary Member to be an inconsistency. I quote further. At Maidstone on October 6th the right hon. Gentleman used these words—I can discern nothing to justify either warlike action or even military preparations.Was that part of the foresight in which hon. Gentlemen opposite accuse the Government of having been deficient? Four days before war broke out and the Queen's dominions were invaded, the right hon. Gentleman said that he then saw no reason why there should be military preparations.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The whole burden of our complaint is that the Government had knowledge on the subject which was not open to us. We did not know of the Boer preparations or the danger of the position.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
I do not deny that the right hon. Gentleman was not in a position to obtain information possessed by the Government, but even so late as last Tuesday the right hon. 399 Gentleman said he saw no reason for military preparations at the time.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
I honestly and sincerely think that the right hon. Gentleman, when he stated four days before war broke out that he then saw no reason for military preparations was showing the same want of foresight—even allowing for the difference of knowledge between a man in office and a man out of office—as that of which he is now accusing the Government. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech last Tuesday accused the Government of having sent driblets of troops into Natal. I presume by that, that he thinks the troops should have been sent in large numbers; but if they were sent in large numbers it is a truism to say that that would have destroyed the very last chance of a peaceful settlement. But if these troops had not been sent what would have happened? Why, Sir, the Boer plan of campaign, which was to sweep over the whole colony of Natal and to take possession of Durban, would undoubtedly have succeeded, and then we should have been faced with an almost impossible task, because anyone who knows Durban knows that it is full of impregnable positions commanding the entrance to the harbour, and that it would have been almost impossible even for the British Navy to capture it if it fell into the hands of the enemy. That was prevented by sending to Natal the driblets of troops of which the right hon. Gentleman complains. I hold no brief for the War Office. It is a tradition—a wise and chivalrous tradition, no doubt—that Ministers should protect Government officials in the departments for which they are responsible. I am under no such obligation. Speaking, however, in the absence of 400 those responsible for the War Office—although the First Lord of the Treasury by gesture assumes the responsibility for the moment—I have some delicacy in apportioning blame for some of the details in which the military preparations were lacking. I desire to do justice to the War Office, as I am sure every hon. Member of the House does. I think there is infinite credit to be given to the War Office for having despatched over 100,000 troops a distance of over 6,000 miles with such remarkable smoothness and almost unbroken success. The mobilisation of the Reserve and the embodiment of the Militia seem to me to indicate the most careful preparation and forethought, and notwithstanding allegations emanating from hon. Gentlemen opposite, the supplies of ammunition and clothing are in marked contrast to the state of things during the Crimean War. But the root of all our disappointment has been, I venture to say, lack of complete intelligence. We were told in the excellent speech delivered by the Under Secretary of State for War that the number of the Boers had been estimated at something like 59,000. I ask where is the proof that that estimate is correct? There was published not many weeks ago a letter which purported to have been written by General Joubert to a correspondent on the Continent. In that letter General Joubert stated that he recognised at least two British Agents, and that he showed them only that part of the armament possessed by his Government which was old and obsolete, and that he hid carefully from them the new guns.
§ It being midnight the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow.
§ Adjourned at one minute after Twelve of the clock.