§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment [January 30th] to Question [January 30th], "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 452 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."
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY (continuing his speech which was interrupted at midnight the previous evening)
I think the House is to be congratulated upon the higher level of patriotism to which the debate has been raised by the speeches delivered yesterday from the front benches. The right hon. Baronet opposite who last spoke did not dissociate himself from mere party attack as thoroughly as many of his admirers hoped he would have done. His theory that this vote of censure was necessary to enable hon. Members opposite to express all their blame of the Government so that afterwards they might settle down to the assistance of the Government in a national danger was a curious form of special pleading. I suppose that hon. Gentlemen opposite really think that the Government are lacking in knowledge, foresight, and judgment, but before saying so surety they could have waited until after the supplies had been voted, and until all the military necessities which are the main object and purpose of this session had been dealt with. Both sides of this House ought to be ready to join and consider what is really necessary for the Army and for the best interests of the country. The right hon. Baronet opposite said that this Amendment was not intended to bridge over the differences amongst hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. That may not have been the intention, but undoubtedly it is a most skilfully drawn Amendment, intended to reconcile 453 such widely divergent views as those held by the right hon. Baronet himself, those of the hon. Member for Dumfries, and probably those of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin, who still sits on this side of the House. But does it reconcile those views? Is it a patriotic Amendment? What good will it do to the country, whatever may be its effect on the party opposite? If the Amendment were to succeed a General Election must follow, and I ask is this the time when any patriotic man anxious for the welfare of his country would desire to have a General Election? Is this not rather a time to close up all our party ranks, and show a united front in the face of the world and to our enemies in South Africa? Will not the chances of additional complications be enormously increased by the public exhibition of these differences amongst us? The right hon. Baronet stated that his friends and himself would support the prosecution of this war until the British flag should fly at Johannesburg and Pretoria, and until it was impossible to have a repetition of an oligarchy there and no more arsenals. That statement goes far to redeem the vacillating utterances of many of his colleagues. I would ask how many of his colleagues agree with that utterance? I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is not in his place, because I would have humbly emphasised the challenge made by the Leader of the House that the right hon. Gentleman opposite should state what is his view upon this matter, and how far he is prepared to support the Government in carrying on this war to its ultimate and successful end. I would have invited the right hon. Gentleman for once to make up his mind and stick to it. The right hon. Gentleman in his apologia for his Amendment said—It would have been impossible for the Government to begin this session without a large discussion on the general points of the war.I do not agree with that statement. On the contrary, I say it would not only have been possible, but it would have been easy and more patriotic to have begun the session by the announcement from hon. Gentlemen opposite that they held the Government seriously to blame; that they did not intend to withdraw one 454 single iota of the blame; and after taking counsel together, they might have decided to reserve the discussion of this question until after the real business of the session had been dealt with, and until all the possible and necessary provision had been made for the carrying on of the war. Instead of this we have had the national time occupied with a discussion merely for the furtherance of party spirit. The statement that this discussion is not delaying the work of military preparation is one of extreme value, for it will relieve the feeling of anxiety in the country, and it will go far to reassure the country, which is still without the prestige of a united House of Commons. The right hon. Baronet was much exercised in his speech as to the British Constitution, and enlisted this in defence of the Government as explaining their inaction in regard to the war preparations. Supposing the Government had made the serious war preparations which some hon. Gentlemen opposite think ought to have been made in advance, and supposing there had been no war, what would hon. Gentlemen opposite have done then? Why, they would have gone to the country denouncing the Government for its want of foresight, for its extravagance in spending the money, and for unnecessarily burdening the ratepayers with the cost of the war. All these are possibilities under the British Constitution, and are necessarily involved in our system of Government—a fact which is obvious to everybody in this House. My hon. friend the Member for South Shields, whose brilliant speech is within the memory of this House, has stated that he will vote for the Amendment because he believes that this war was inevitable and just, but the Government did not make adequate preparations for it. But if this Amendment goes to a division I shall vote against it on precisely the same grounds as my hon. friend the Member for South Shields will vote for it, namely that the war was unavoidable, and that the Government made all the military preparations which they were advised were necessary, or could have made without the sanction of the House. I believe it would be greatly to the interests of our party and the Government if this Amendment went to a division, because it would show that the Government still possess the confidence of the vast majority of this House, and 455 really reflects the opinion of the great majority of the people of this country upon this most important national question, But, Sir, it is better that this division should not be taken, and that we should be united on this question before the world. I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that in 1878 Mr. Gladstone, as leader of the Liberal party, then in opposition, requested one of his associates to move a vote of censure on the Government of the day. A vote of censure was put down on the Paper, but after news had been received of a strategic movement of Russian troops, which was not accompanied by a single blow, Mr. Gladstone considered that the duty of the Opposition was to avoid embarrassing or appearing to embarrass the Government, and he requested his colleague to withdraw the motion. Is the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition less patriotic than Mr. Gladstone, or is it that he is less influential with his followers? Be that as it may, I would appeal to him on the broadest grounds of patriotism that his duty in this instance is to pursue the course pursued by Mr. Gladstone in 1878. We are still fighting under circumstances of extreme discouragement in South Africa; nay, we are fighting for our very Empire, and I do not class as real patriots those who endeavour to make party capital out of such a state of things. I believe that when the full significance of the present debate is known to the country many who are ordinarily ardent supporters of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will dissociate themselves from the course which has been taken. We are now in a moment of emergency, and what is required is to make provision for our immediate and urgent needs. All this time South Africa waits, and we have no alternative but to fight out this war to the end, and the end was indicated in the speech, to which I desire to pay a tribute of admiration, of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division. The end must be reached, but before it is reached there may be further reverses. Let us be prepared for them. The determination of our people will be the same—a determination that our colonies shall be protected, and our position in South Africa secured for all time, that the federation of our colonies shall be completed, and that the anxieties now pressing upon us shall be removed. 456 Under these circumstances it is the duty of this House to put aside party spirit, and to patriotically think only of what is best for our country in the hour of her need.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, like several others who have spoken on the opposite side of the House, has endeavoured to represent this discussion as one which might have been avoided, and one which was not patriotic. Sir, this discussion was absolutely unavoidable. All the precedents are in its favour. There has never been a similar position in which the Opposition did not at the very first moment arraign the policy of the Government, and require it to account for the position into which it had brought the country. I will not, however, repeat what was said yesterday by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division in his very impressive speech, to which we all listened with so much interest. He showed by irrefutable arguments that a discussion of this kind is necessary and that it hastens instead of delays the real business of the session. Everybody in this country is asking why we are at war. We have had a great many inconsistent and a great many unsatisfactory explanations. The very persons who complain of us raising the question in the House of Commons are the very persons who lose no opportunity of tolling us that the war is just and was inevitable. Even from the judicial bench we hear fulminations most unworthy of the traditions of that bench. I believe the country and this House desires to know what are the causes which have brought us into our present position, and I think those of us who represent the country—as we all hope we do in our several ways—would be entirely unworthy of a seat in this House if we did not take the very first opportunity of bringing this matter to the great inquest of the nation. There is also another reason which requires it. When we come to consider the settlement to be made after the war, it will be necessary to have understood and weighed the causes which have produced the war, and the sooner the country forms its judgment as to those causes the better it will be. The Opposition are accused of endeavouring to make party capital out of this matter. That 457 charge is always made, and will, I hope, always be disregarded. Can anyone think that it is an agreeable task for us to say in this House what we believe it is our duty—certainly a most unwelcome duty—to say? Is it pleasant to have to tell the country that it is engaged in a war and is making enormous sacrifices that might have been avoided? Nothing but a sense of duty would induce us to undertake so painful a task, and I am glad to be able to add, after the frank admission of the Under Secretary of State for War—an admission which I expected from his fairness—that this discussion does not delay the executive action the Government has to take, and therefore it cannot be suggested that it in any way interferes with the interests of the country. Let me ask the House to consider what was the South African problem as it stood immediately after the raid. What should have been in the beginning of 1896 the aim of a wise, far-seeing and statesmanlike policy in South Africa? Surely it should have been to promote concord and the fusion of the races, to keep the peace, to soften down old animosities and to endeavour to get Englishmen and Dutchmen to live together as friends and to co-operate for the good of their common country. Peace would have produced fusion, and in that fusion the English element would ultimately have prevailed. There was a time, no doubt, when it might have been suggested that the Dutch element was likely to prevail. It is deeply rooted in the soil and increases with surprising rapidity. I do not know whether the House is aware that the number of Dutch in South Africa is now ten times greater than it was when we took over the country in 1806. But the tide turned in 1835. That year marked the discovery of the Hand gold fields, which increased to a surprising degree the immigration of British subjects into South Africa. From that time onwards it was plain that the British element would grow more rapidly than the Dutch, and that therefore its preponderance was assured, at any rate for some generations. The fusion of which I have spoken was proceeding up to the raid of December 1895, which interfered with and destroyed the process of conciliation, assimilation, and amalgamation which was going on. It threw matters suddenly back in South Africa, and 458 certainly not least in Cape Colony. It gave the Transvaal a justification for the armaments which immediately followed, the expenditure on which leaped into much higher figures than in previous years, it threw the Orange Free State into the arms of the Transvaal just as did our war with the Transvaal in 1881, and it undid the work of years in Cape Colony. Everyone who knows Cape Colony will tell you that the progress of friendly fusion had been most satisfactory up to the raid. But the raid, deplorable and culpable as it was, did not change what ought to have been the aim and purpose of our policy. It only made the need for pacific methods greater and the necessity for patience greater. As detached extracts from particular passages in a book written by me on the subject have been read in this House, perhaps I may be permitted to quote a few words which I used in 1897 to sum up what British policy in South Africa ought to be. I said it ought to avoid even the least appearance of aggression, and that what was wanted in South Africa was tact, calmness, and patience—above all things, patience. I suppose I shall be told that the Uitlanders suffered grievances in the Transvaal, and that it was necessary to remove them. Sir, there were grievances in the Transvaal—I have never denied it—but they I were grossly exaggerated. They were grievances which might have been removed by steady and quiet pressure instead of by language which brought this country into a position from which it was hard to withdraw without humiliation. There are two observations I would like to make in regard to these grievances. The first is, that they have been immensely exaggerated. I do not at all deny that there was a bad Government in the Transvaal; but it was a Government whose badness did not affect men in their lives or their property. Property was perfectly safe. I say that without the slightest fear of contradiction; and whatever may be alleged to the contrary, the law courts rendered impartial justice between man and man Life was safe, and the best proof of that is that the only case cited of insecurity is the case of Edgar. I do not know whether that case is fresh in the memory of the House, and I will not enter into details further than to say that the man whom Edgar struck down was an Englishman; that the policeman who shot Edgar 459 when the latter was resisting the attempt to arrest him was a man named Jones; and that the man whom Edgar struck ultimately died in the hospital from the effects of the blow. I do not argue this case further than to say that it is one in which it was quite possible, as the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries stated the other day, for a jury to arrive at the conclusion to which that jury arrived, and that there is not the slightest reason to think that any race feeling had anything to do with the matter. At any rate, it was the only case cited as to insecurity of life in the Transvaal. When you consider what a mining city is, and what is the insecurity of life and property, and the difficulty of seizing offenders in the mining cities of America, for instance, the wonder is that there was not more crime in Johannesburg. Let me put another point. The Rand was very prosperous. Do hon. Members realise how the mining industry there was advancing by leaps and bounds? During that period the number of stamp batteries had immensely increased. The dividends paid by the gold mines rose from £794,000 in 1892 to £4,847,000 in 1898. The output of gold, which in 1896 was £7,864,000, increased in two years, that is from 1896 to 1898, to £15,141,000. It cannot, therefore, be said that the gold industry was not thriving. Then, as to the condition of the white workingmen; their average wage increased from £24 per month in 1896 to £26 per month in 1898. The country was one of the best for working men which they could find anywhere in the world. Under these circumstances it is perfectly clear that the grievances, whatever they were, did not seriously interfere with the prosperity of the gold mining industry. I was in Johannesburg the year before the raid, and I must say I never saw a town in which the people seemed to be enjoying themselves more completely to their hearts' content. Therefore, although I do not for a moment deny that there were serious grievances, and that they deserved the attention of the Government, I repeat that they were grossly exaggerated, and not such as obviously required a war to redress them. Furthermore, I hold that they were evils which would have righted themselves. They had nearly done so before the raid. The right hon. the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs himself told us the other 460 night that before the raid the Reform party had very nearly attained victory in the presidential election, and that it was growing in strength every day; and there is no doubt that but for the raid it would have ultimately succeeded. The raid stopped that, but even after the raid confidence would have been restored, had it not been for the campaign against the Transvaal Government carried on in England, and the fear and suspicion created thereby in the Boer mind, which prevented the process of reform being resumed. Immigration was continuing in spite of these terrible grievances. The average number of white workmen at work in 1896 was 7,430, but it had risen in 1898 to 9,476. The condition of the white population was therefore improving, wages were rising, and it was perfectly clear that the proportion of Englishmen to the Dutch would have gone on increasing, and the difficulty of maintaining the Krugerite system would have been constantly greater. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs admitted that when he said that the Krugerite Government, like other defective Governments, carried the seeds of its own dissolution. What conclusions are we to draw from these facts? This conclusion above all, that it would have been far better if our Government had waited a little longer before they began their policy of pressing with urgency and menace for the redress of the Uitlander grievances. I have said that the grievances were bad; but, Sir, war is worse. Everything in politics is comparative, and the redress of these grievances affecting a comparatively small number of persons who had gone into the country with notice that the grievances existed, was a very small matter compared with the disastrous war into which we have been drawn. I venture to believe that if the Government had foreseen that war would follow, and what the war would bring forth, they would never have ventured on that line of policy. Though they could scarcely foresee all the calamities that have followed, they ought to have foreseen that their policy was a dangerous one, likely to end in war. The Transvaal was armed, and the possession of arms acts upon the temper of men who have them, and makes them more likely to have resort to the use of these arms. The Transvaal was suspicious, and attributed everything that was done by the British Government to the influence of the men concerned in 461 the raid. I do not enter into the question whether the Transvaal suspicions were justified or not, but I ask the House to realise what was the cardinal fact of the situation—viz., that the British Government and country were identified in the minds of the Transvaal Boers with the raid. Everybody knows what were the facts on which their suspicions were based; but without stating those facts I am content to point out that these suspicions were known to exist, were known to govern their views, and ought to have shewn Her Majesty's Government what distrust they must expect. Does anyone then think that if a year ago, when the House met in February last, we would have consented to press for the redress of the grievances of the Uitlanders if it had been foreseen that the price of such a policy was the present war, with all its calamities? Let me give an illustration of the state of opinion less than a year ago. A debate on the Transvaal was raised on the 20th March, by the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield. He stated in strong terms the grievances of the Uitlanders, and complained that the Colonial Office had not taken steps to redress these grievances. The Colonial Secretary made what appeared to me to be a very pacific and reassuring speech. I remember that the hon. Member for Poplar, and myself, rose and expressed our satisfaction at the pacific language the Colonial Secretary used, and said that we were very glad the Government realised the danger of rousing the suspicions of the Boers and of intensifying racial antagonisms all over South Africa. What was more significant still was that not a single Member of the House then rose in support of the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield, whose attack was treated with silent contempt. If these grievances were then so terrible, and called for such instant interference, why was there not a little more feeling in the House shown in order to stir up the Colonial Office to action? I maintain that the better course for the Government would have been to exercise a little more patience until the memories of the raid had ceased to be so fresh, and a more favourable moment for intervention arrived. The Government, however, shortly after 20th March, changed their policy, and why they did so I have never been able to discover. But supposing that they felt it necessary to press for a removal of the grievances, how 462 should they have gone about the task? The one essential thing was that they should have carried with them, as far as possible, the sentiment of the Cape Dutch and the Orange Free State. Hon. Members may think that that was a hopeless enterprise; but that was not so, because in the previous disputes which had arisen with the Transvaal Government, we had the sympathy of the Cape Dutch and the Orange Free State. Every one remembers the Drifts question. It was a matter of common knowledge that the Orange Free State and the Cape Dutch complained bitterly of the conduct of the Transvaal at that time, and the Cape Dutch at any rate, as we know from the attitude of the Capo Ministry, would have supported the British Government if war had arisen upon it. It was the bounden duty, therefore, of the Government when they took up this question of the Uitlanders' grievances to avoid anything like aggression, or do anything that might seem to threaten the independence of the Transvaal, for that is a point on which the Dutch in the Orange Free State and in Cape Colony are extremely sensitive. However, the Government went on disregarding these considerations. And here I would like to submit two propositions which I trust we shall agree in holding ought to govern a great country like ours in negotiations. The first is, that small States have the same rights as great States, and that we should observe our treaties with a small State just as scrupulously as we observe them with the great and powerful States.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
And they with us.
§ MR. BRYCE
And they with us. My second proposition is that every State, not only before it goes to war, but before it threatens war, should have a proper case for war. It should be able to make out what is called a casus belli before it begins even to threaten a resort to force. That is agreed; but if that is agreed, that is the proposition which we have disregarded. There are two lines on which the Government might have proceeded. They might have asked for a redress of the grievances. If the Transvaal Government in an arrogant manner refused to redress them, 463 they might have furnished a casus belli. I do not say they would have furnished it, for the negotiations never got that length, but for the sake of argument we may concede that it is possible they might have done so, had the Transvaal refused all redress. But the question never came up, and we never dealt with it. Instead of going upon the grievances, we elected to make our complaint upon the question of the franchise. Now the Government could not use with regard to the franchise question any argument except that of persuasion. They were not entitled to use any threats, because thet question did not contain any casus belli. It has been assumed all through these discussions that we are entitled to go to war to secure franchise rights for British Uitlanders. We had no such rights whatever. This point is of so much importance that I may quote some facts to establish it. First of all there was no provision ever made in either of the Conventions for granting political rights. The first occasion when the Transvaal raised their franchise was in 1882. It had been based on a one year's residence, and they raised the term to three years. In 1884 we made another Convention with them, and if we objected to their raising the franchise, then was the time to object. But by making a new Convention in 1884 we waived any right of objection to their raising the term which we might have possessed. When they raised the franchise still further in 1890 we again made no protest. They then raised it to fourteen or fifteen years. That was the time to protest if we thought they had not the right to do it, but we did not do so.
§ MR. BRYCE
In 1890 a Conservative Ministry was in power. Both parties in the House have all along taken the same view of the legal operation of the two Conventions in this respect. In 1896 Mr. Chamberlain said—Since the Convention of 1884 Her Majesty's Government have recognised the South African Republic as a free and independent Government as regards all its internal affairs not touched by the Convention.Again in March of the same year the right hon. Gentleman telegraphed—Her Majesty's Government do not claim any right under the Convention to prescribe 464 the particular internal reforms which should be made in the South African Republic.There was no mention made of the so-called suzerainty from 1884 until it was raised by the Colonial Secretary in 1897. With regard to that I must say that the introduction of the word suzerainty has been the most unhappy introduction of an unnecessary and pernicious theme into the negotiations that could well be imagined. It was superfluous so far as we were concerned, because it could not mean anything more than the right of vetoing treaties which we undoubtedly had under the Convention of 1884, but it made the Boer Government believe that under the cover of this vague word suzerainty we were endeavouring to set up a right of interference in their internal affairs. This belief was strengthened by the conduct and words of the South African League agitators at Johannesburg, who were perpetually calling upon Britain to intervene "as the suzerain power." But our suzerainty, if it existed (which it did not), meant nothing more than the right to veto treaties, and gave no title to interfere with the franchise law or any other internal affair. All the demands that were made for the extension of the franchise were based upon no right whatever of this country, and could only be supported by arguments of persuasion and remonstrance, and not by threats of war. The language of the Government was however the language of constant and increasing menace, and it was accompanied by the sending out of troops at a time when negotiations were in progress on a question which furnished no casus belli. Seldom have negotiations which ought to have kept a conciliatory tone been conducted with less prudence or less regard to legal right. It has already been remarked that there were several despatches which were most unfortunate to publish, one of which was that from the High Commissioner of the 5th of May. Another one hardly less unfortunate was that sent by the High Commissioner on the 31st of August last year. It is the one known as the "hurry up" despatch, in which the British Government is urged to press the Transvaal harder and be quicker about it, and may be found at p. 51 of C-9521. The High Commissioner says:British South Africa is prepared for extreme measures, and is ready to suffer much in order to see the vindication of British authority.465 Under what circumstances was that written? That was written when the only matter in dispute was the franchise, and the use of those words "British authority" was totally unjustifiable, because Britain had no authority whatever in the matter of the franchise, a purely internal affair. The High Commissioner had himself admitted previously that the franchise was a purely internal question and his words on August 31st show how completely he had forgotten the legal rights of the case. The First Lord of the Treasury had said the Government ought to conduct these negotiations without any unnecessary menace, but their language has been the language of menace all the way through. The Highbury speech was a speech full of menace, and that speech was made on the 26th of August, after the Boers had sent a despatch on the 19th of August agreeing to the five years franchise; it was made at a time when a far more favourable offer than had ever been made before by the Boers was in the hands of the Government. Mr. Greene at Pretoria on the 30th August used that speech to frighten the Boers. This threatening language was accompanied by the sending out of troops, which there was no justification for, having regard to the facts that the negotiations were confined to the franchise. My right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition was therefore entirely justified when he said that so long as the question under discussion was the question of the franchise there was no justification for threats of war nor for that most serious form of threat which consists in ostentatious preparation for war. After September 8th, and finally after September 22nd, the franchise question was dropped. The Government then said that they must put forward demands which might furnish a casus belli, and perceived also that they were getting within a measurable distance of war, while still imperfectly prepared for it. They said in the telegram of the 8th September that Her Majesty's Government reserved their right to consider their position de novo and to formulate new proposals, obviously of a far-reaching kind; and they said that they would communicate their views in a further despatch. It is worth remembering that the fresh proposals which the Government said they would formulate never went to the Boers before they 466 declared war on October 9th. What was being done in the interval? Her Majesty's Government was preparing for war. [AN HON. MEMBER: So were the Boers.] Certainly they were, and after the language of Mr. Conyngham Greene and of the Highbury speech could they do anything else but prepare for war? The trouble was that the Government prepared for war too late. They did not send out enough troops to put the colonies in a proper state of defence, because, I believe, they thought all along that the Boers would yield. The Government were persuaded that they had only to threaten sufficiently in order to make the Boers give way. The Under Secretary for War, in a speech which was listened to not only with pleasure but with admiration, and on which, if I had been in the House, I should have been glad to offer him my congratulations, has said that the Government were not able to send out troops sooner or to make larger preparations because they did not want to spoil their diplomacy. Then, if they did not want to spoil their diplomacy by their preparations, why did they not reduce their diplomacy to the level of their preparations? These two things ought to go hand in hand, but, so far from this being the case, it would appear as if the diplomacy had been warlike and the preparations peaceful. They steered the ship into the storm while the barometer was falling, and before the ship was made ready to meet it. They have so mismanaged the whole matter as to give our antagonists both a legal and a material advantage, a legal advantage, because we have never shown a casus belli, a material advantage, because we gave them the benefit of those precious first days and weeks of the campaign which have so greatly affected its whole subsequent course. When people asked what was the reason for this war, the most common answer given was that we were fighting for equal rights, to put down an oppressive oligarchy. But we have no right to put it down. We have no rights against the Transvaal except what the Convention of 1884 gave us. Oligarchy or not, that is a matter for its own laws; and we have no more legal justification for complaining of an oligarchy in the Transvaal than we have of a despotism in Russia. When I am told that the Transvaal is an oligarchy, I would remind the House that it is an 467 oligarchy which rests on universal suffrage—the universal suffrage of its own citizens, who are the people who took the country and made the country, and are the permanent inhabitants of the country, as opposed to the Uitlanders who come and go—except the mines—the mines are not the whole of the country. I wish they had given the franchise; but can we call that country an oligarchy in which its citizens, down to the age of thirteen, rally to its support when it is attacked? If so all the democracies of the ancient world were oligarchies. Others assign another cause, and say that we are trying to remove the grievances of the Uitlanders. But this, too, we cannot rightfully allege. We never made the grievances of the Uitlanders a cause for war, because we never formulated our demands for redress, and do not know but what redress would have been granted had we persisted in those demands. These are not merely technical considerations. They have made all the difference to the attitude of the Orange Free State, and a great difference to the Cape Dutch. It is because we deserted legal right and have appeared as aggressors that we have the Free State against us, and have alienated the Cape Dutch. We have also incurred the censure of foreign countries by the same disregard of legal rights. I do not speak merely of the foreign press, which has often shown its jealousy and bitterness. I speak of enlightened and moderate opinion abroad which has often been with England. There are many people in foreign countries to-day who are passing a severe censure upon Great Britain, and who never censured us before. I had a letter the other day from a distinguished German politician, and the editor of a powerful German paper, and he said, "I have always been the friend and defender of England, but now we find your conduct in this matter absolutely indefensible." And I think there has never been a time in which the general condemnation of the country has been so widespread. We have considerable cause for disquiet when we regard the possibly unfriendly action of several of the Continental Powers and couple that with the almost universal disapprobation of the peoples of Europe. I repeat, therefore, that it is a great error to appear before the world with a weak legal case. A third cause for the war is assigned by those who feel the 468 weakness of the reasons already mentioned. We are told that the Boers challenged British supremacy. Their armaments were not a challenge to British supremacy, for the First Lord of the Treasury has admitted that their armaments were justified by the raid. ["No, no."] Yes, for the First Lord has said that the raid prevented Ministers from complaining of those armaments. It might be said that their armaments were in excess of what would be needed to suppress a rising. That is perfectly true, but the next attack they expected was not one from their Uitlander subjects, but from this country, because they believed that the men who had made the raid had got the ear of the Government of this country. It is also said, by those who feel that some sort of humanitarian palliation for the war is needed, that the war was made for the sake of the natives, but those who know how the natives have been treated by the whites in every part of South Africa will feel that our hands are not clean, though it is quite true that the Boers have treated the natives much worse than we have done. In this native question, considering what has been done to the natives in British territories, no just cause for war can be found. Then we have the argument of the conspiracy to drive us out of South Africa, but that is not the cause which brought about the war. It was an afterthought to explain, to excuse the war. If there was the conspiracy, and if it was the cause of the war, why did the Government not know of it? It has not been proved to exist, and indeed all the probabilities are the other way. Now, does the House know what the probabilities are? Was this conspiracy hatched in the Transvaal? It is quite true they wanted to expand. Why? In the north and west it was for the sake of getting more land. As their population increased it was necessary to have that expansion. They wanted it for the sake of their stock and for fresh pasturage. They did not want to expand towards the two colonies, because there the land was already all taken up. There exists much misapprehension, regarding the parties in the Transvaal and their respective aspirations. The party which was led by President Kruger was a party which wanted independence for the Trans- 469 vaal if they could get it, and they wanted expansion over unoccupied lands to the north, but had no plan for absorbing the British colonies. If that plan existed—I believe it was only the dream of a few—it was not the policy of President Kruger; it was the policy of his opponents. It was the Young Afrikander party, some of whom no doubt had the idea that at some time or other there might be a Dutch Republic embracing Cape Colony. But that was not Kruger's policy at all; it was opposed to his policy; it may have been Joubert's policy, it was not Kruger's. So far I have dealt with the Transvaal; now let me come to the Free State. The Free State had lived in perfect peace with us. The Free State was a country in which Englishmen and Dutchmen were on an equal footing. For many years the President of the Volksraad of the Free State was a Scotsman, and when the President of the Free State resigned his office in 1895, this Scotsman became a candidate with Mr. Steyn for the Presidency. I was told when I was there in November 1895, that the chances of the two were about equal, and that it was extremely likely that the Scotsman, who had been a British subject and British in all his feelings, would become President. That he did not do so was due to the raid, which of course roused Dutch feeling. There was not the slightest reason to apprehend any share on the part of the Free State in any Dutch conspiracy against Britain, or any sympathy with such conspiracy. Least of all was there any reason for such apprehension with regard to the Cape Dutch. Surely their loyalty has been sufficiently proved. We all remember the despatch in which Sir Alfred Milner spoke of them in 1897, and the exuberant testimonies he bore to their loyalty. We all remember the grant of £30,000 a year for a contribution to the British Navy, and we all remember the eloquent words in which the First Lord of the Admiralty expressed his sense and the sense of the Government of the conduct of the Cape Dutch on that occasion. There was a Dutch majority in the Cape Parliament, and that Dutch majority passed this vote unanimously. I do not think we want any better proof of Cape loyalty than that. I should like to say one word with regard to Mr. Hofmeyer. If there was anybody in whom the Bond policy was personified it was Mr. Hofmeyer. He enjoyed an unexampled influence over the 470 Dutch people. What has Mr. Hofmeyer done? He was known to many of us fifteen years ago as the author of one of the schemes of Imperial Federation, the United Tariff scheme, under which all the British colonies and the mother country were to unite on a joint tariff, in which there was to be a preference given to each colony and the mother country as members one of another. I do not think you want better proof than that of the loyalty of Mr Hofmeyer to the British Empire. Within the last few months he has done everything a man could to prevent a Dutch insurrection at the Cape in aid of the two Republics. I might add that notwithstanding the terrible temptations and solicitations to which the Cape Dutch have been exposed during the last three or four months, when many of them have brothers or sons-in-law or other near relatives in the hostile armies, very few have risen against us. If there had been this conspiracy surely it would have been shown by a much more general rising. With the conspiracy, which I hope we may take to be disproved, there goes the theory that this war was inevitable. Wars have often been called inevitable which were in fact avoidable and have been avoided. How many times during the last forty years have we been told that a struggle was approaching with some European Power, but wise diplomacy has averted the danger? Nor can it be said that this conflict was inevitable when there were several points in the course of the negotiations when a conciliatory dispatch, or a frank acceptance of the large concessions which the Boers made, would have removed all danger of war. The only thing inevitable about the matter was that such diplomacy as the Government followed was certain to lead to war, unless the Boers were prepared to yield everything. In that sense the war was inevitable. Still, I do not believe that the Government intended war; my opinion is that they went on thinking the Boers would yield. I believe that they went on, even in the month of September, with the idea that their preparations would have the effect of inducing the Boers to yield. Our complaint against them is that this was a dangerous game to play, a game which should not have been played unless your preparations were in such a state that you could take action immediately on the declaration of war. Now we 471 are told that it is destiny which is answerable for these catastrophes—catastrophes which appear to many among us to be the natural results of the total want of knowledge and of foresight which the Government displayed. Destiny is an explanation which seems to be better fitted for the vizier of an Eastern potentate than for the Minister of a civilised country. The First Lord of the Treasury, if I understand him rightly, carries his theory of destiny even further.
§ MR. BRYCE
Very well; that is destiny. The right hon. Gentleman carries this theory still further. He says that not only was the war inevitable, but the ignorance of the Government was inevitable, and if the ignorance of the Government was inevitable the want of preparation was inevitable. I will carry the chain of fate one step further. Not only was the war inevitable, not only was the ignorance of the Government inevitable, and not only was the unpreparedness inevitable, but the indignation of the country is inevitable, and a vote of censure such as this is the only course which can be followed when such diplomacy has been pursued and such deplorable results have followed. The right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister find fate and the British constitution sufficient to explain all our misfortunes. As regards the British constitution I will say just one thing. There was a Roman maxim, worthy of Imperial Rome, and worthy to be remembered by Imperial England, that Empire is preserved by the same arts by which it has been acquired. If the British constitution was good enough to enable us to build up the gigantic Empire over which the Queen reigns, surely it is good enough to maintain that Empire. I have said nothing in these remarks about the morality of this war, nor about its justice. I have not touched upon those topics because I desired to keep the discussion on the ground of British interest 472 alone, to look upon it simply as to what the true interest of this country is, and to show how gravely those interests have suffered. We are very often told that it is a question between Imperialists on the one hand and what are called "Little Englanders" on the other. My complaint against the Government is that they have struck a great and heavy blow at our Imperial interests. So far from complaining from the point of view of the man who does not value the connection of this country with her colonies and the possession of our transmarine dominions, I accuse the Government from the point of view of one who does value that connection. Our hold upon our self-governing colonies has rested for these many years past upon friendship and attachment. It is because we have given them self-government, and because we have endeavoured to keep them cordially attached to ourselves, and to make them value the Imperial connection, that we have been strong in their support. But I fear that at present we have destroyed those feelings—[Cries of dissent.] Hon. Gentlemen should let me finish my sentence—I fear that we have at present destroyed those feelings in the bulk of the population in South Africa. That is a serious matter. It is a serious matter to alienate the majority of the population of a great colony which is important not only from its wealth, its population, but also from its strategic position. In most wars we have at any rate this consolation, that although we may be hard pressed for the moment, we can look forward to and contemplate, after the war is ended, a better state of things for which sacrifices will have been made not in vain. But here, I am sorry to say, I see difficulties at the end of this war quite as great as the difficulties which surrounded us at the beginning. The clouds which hang about us now are dark enough, but the clouds which will hang about South Africa when the war has come to an end will be quite as dark and quite as hard to dispel. But, Sir, we must go on. It is one of the curses of the position into which we have got that we cannot stop. We must not only clear the two colonies of the hostile forces which I now hold them, but we must also restore our military reputation and position; we must make our strength manifest to the world, we must set our military strength 473 upon a proper footing, and we must also see to it, I think, that at the close of this war there is no state of things left out of which similar troubles can again arise. On this subject there is little, if any, difference of opinion in this House, at any rate among English and Scottish Members. I yield to no one either in admiration of the spirit which has been shown all over the country, or in recognition of what has been done by our colonies, and I venture to think that in expressing that sense of the way in which the country has shown its patriotic constancy and energy at the present crisis I am expressing the feelings of all the Liberal Members in this House. The feeling which the country has expressed will be shown in this House by our unanimously voting the supplies which the Government think necessary for the occasion. But when the time comes for a settlement at the end of the war we must show a change of spirit in our policy. In endeavouring to settle the affairs of South Africa in the future we must show more wisdom, more judgment, more foresight than the Government has shown in the past. It is not merely our material strength; it is not merely our wealth and the unrivalled magnitude of our Navy that have given us our great position in the world and have extended our Empire, it has been the respect we have generally inspired for our sense of justice and for our respect for the rights of other nations. I do not say that even Britain has not sometimes been wanting in that feeling, but I venture to claim that on the whole her foreign and colonial policy shows that she has not only a love of freedom, but also a respect for the rights of other communities. It is by showing that respect and by the wise principles of the policy we have followed towards our colonies that we have attained our present strength and greatness. Latterly things have changed. ["No."] I am afraid they have. I am afraid that latterly we have begun to indulge in a haughty, changed spirit, and in a spirit which has sometimes not been regardful of the rights of other States, and of late years we have sometimes given cause to other countries to question regard for international rights and the purity of our motives. I believe that in a return to those better traditions by which the British Empire has been won lies the best hope of recovering, so far as we can, the trust and the confidence of 474 the Dutch in South Africa, and of establishing our dominion there as well as elsewhere upon the best and surest of foundations—the affection of our fellow subjects.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I am sincerely anxious in this debate to be able to draw from all the speeches that are made on the other side of the House, all that support of our policy which we can find in any portions of it. I do not wish to carry party warfare into the debate. I do not wish to indulge in any recriminations, and as I listen to the speeches which are made I ask myself how much do they contain which may possibly support us in our policy in South Africa. We are told that this Amendment is unavoidable—destiny, I suppose, according to the right hon. Gentleman, has forced it upon the Opposition. I do not in any degree wish to wound the right hon. Gentleman's susceptibilities in regard to a portion of his speech, but I cannot help saying as I heard the long historical, technical, and legal portion of his arguments in trying to prove that this country in this matter is in the wrong— — [Cries of "No, no!" and "The Government!"] No. We are at present the servants of the country. We are at present engaged in carrying out that task which he himself says is to be carried on to the end, and I wish to know whether he, and those who sit by him on that bench, think that the country, if they read his speech, and if they believe in his arguments, will be more enthusiastic in support of us than they are now? Does he not think it is calculated to cool the ardour of the people if they are told that this is an unjust war? The right hon. Gentleman said he had not declared this to be an unjust war. When I come to a further portion of the observations which I have to make I shall have to point out that he did contend it is an unjust war. But the people know that it is not an unjust war. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] The country knows it. The right hon. Gentleman towards the end of his speech felt it his bounden duty to say he had not said it was an unjust war. How many hon. Members opposite say that it is?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The right hon. Gentleman forgets; he used the word "unjust." He said it was an immoral and unjust war.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Unfortunately he had entered on the question of the justice and morality of the war. But if he wishes to have an answer to that portion of his speech there are some right hon Gentlemen very close to him, and there are other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have said that this was an inevitable war, and I refer him to them for a reply to some of the arguments which he used. Well, he has utilised this Amendment for the purpose of proving that the country is in the wrong, an effort which I thought it was not worth his while to make. Other right hon. Gentlemen have given us different explanations of the reasons for the moving of this Amendment. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean said that it was moved in order to bring home to the Government their responsibilities. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division of Northumberland, in the extremely able speech he made last night, said the Amendment was moved with three objects, and they were to criticise some of the speeches that had been made, to enunciate opinions upon the matter, and to give the Government an opportunity of redeeming their reputation. The other night it seemed clear that some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were going to utilise this debate in order to do something which they believe it is their duty to do, and that is to hold us up to obloquy and opprobrium, while others wish through it to chastise us for our imprudence. I think it is seldom that a vote of censure has been justified on such extraordinary grounds. I welcome the speech of the hon. Gentlemen the Member for the Berwick Division of Northumberland, not because of the criticisms, which we thought unfair, he made upon individual members of the Government, but because I value the declaration of policy which he made, and which exactly expresses the views of Her Majesty's Government. In the first instance he stated that the primary object of what had happened 476 was not the planting of the British flag at Pretoria; that was not the original conception before the war began, but since the war began he has declared in the strongest manner two principles which he upholds. One principle is the principle that there shall never again be an arsenal which shall be able to threaten that which must be the superior Power in South Africa, and on the other hand he has said there must be perfect equality between all white men. In those objects I entirely concur and to those objects we shall devote every energy in our power and we shall look to the country to continue to support us until those objects are gained. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean said he wished to bring home to the Government their responsibilities. In reference to the responsibility of the Cabinet, I think I might leave the matter where it was left in that admirable speech of the Under Secretary for War, which exhausted the whole subject so completely and so ably that we would be perfectly ready to take a division and to look upon the speech as a vindication of our position. The right hon. Gentleman says he wishes to know where the responsibility lies. The responsibility lies with the Cabinet. I do not understand why he questions it. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that Members of the Government had tried to shelter themselves behind their military advisers. In no sense have they done that. In no case do we wish to do it. How does it happen that it is sometimes said that we shelter ourselves behind our military advisers? Because hon. Members press us over and over again to tell them what the advice has been and who the generals are, and if we tell them the authorities on whom we rest they say we are sheltering ourselves behind them. I think a little common sense can deal with the question of responsibility. The Cabinet, of course, is responsible. I have seen a good deal of administration in the course of my political life, and I warn the House, when the time comes that the War Office and our offices have to be overhauled, not to lose themselves in the quagmire of organisation and responsibility. It is not by fixing the responsibility on paper that you will ever be able to devise a satisfactory solution. There has been too much said on this question as to who is to blame. If the 477 Ministers do wrong you must cashier us. We take the responsibility. Nor can we admit that any individual Ministers should be singled out for opprobrium. We have seen with deep regret the effort which has been made to blame first one Minister and then another. We stand together. It is because they are not able to stand together themselves on the opposite side of the House that they are not able to understand our strong solidarity. So long as the British Constitution is what it is it is necessary that the Cabinet should be treated as a whole. If individual Ministers cannot agree upon a particular point; if they find that insufficient means are given to them by their departments, there is one course for them to pursue—they may resign. If they do not resign they share the responsibility of the Cabinet. On the other hand, if any member of the Cabinet were to refuse to give the necessary sinews of war, if he thought that it was so strong a case that he ought not to support it, he would resign. So long as resignations do not take place, so long the Cabinet must be considered as one whole. If mistakes have been made it is the Cabinet who have made them. We have sought the best advice we could amongst our military advisers. If we have not been able to find the right men it is not the men who are blamable, but it is the Cabinet who are to be blamed for choosing the wrong men, and the Cabinet is responsible. I do not think the right hon. Baronet would wish me to push this doctrine further than I have done. I pass now to the charges which have been brought against the Government. The first broad charge has been elaborated, to a great extent, by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and it is that this is an unnecessary war. In order to prove the charge the right hon. Gentleman went back to 1896; he reviewed and made quotations from a number of Blue-books and went over the whole history leading up to the war. Like the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Berwick Division, I decline to follow him. I believe the House does not desire me to recapitulate the whole of the arguments as regards diplomacy. We are now in the midst of war. To the charges which apply to the conduct of the war it is our duty to reply fully. My hon. friend the Under Secretary for War did his best to meet the charges which in that respect are brought 478 against us. I do not think the House wish for an elaborate debate on the causes which led up to the war, but I may here state some broad propositions in reply to the right hon. Gentleman. He said we had no right to insist upon the franchise. The demand for the admission of our fellow-subjects in the Transvaal to the franchise was made, not because we claimed that a particular franchise should, be given them, but because we wanted a franchise which would be effective and which would enable the Uitlanders to have such a measure of power as would remove the grievances which undoubtedly existed. The franchise was the means to an end; it was the means for our fellow-subjects in the Transvaal to escape from the intolerable position in which they found themselves. The right hon. Gentleman minimised the grievances under which they suffered. He spoke of the greater output of gold and of their making £26 a month in wages. At the same time, on the evidence of those who were there and of the general feeling of the Uitlanders, they were in an intolerable position of inferiority.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I think I ought to receive courtesy from the hon. Member opposite. I say their position was intolerable, and that intolerable position of the Uitlanders operated upon the position of the whole of the British population in South Africa; they came to be regarded as an inferior race. That was the position in which they found themselves in what the right hon. Gentleman called an out-of-the-way corner of the Empire. There must be no out-of-the-way corners in the Empire where British subjects are concerned. We have other colonies, and if we were to act upon such a principle as that, that where there was an out-of-the-way colony, and where our interests are not so concerned, we should abandon our fellow-subjects, then our colonial Empire would soon be gone. [AN HON. MEMBER: The Transvaal is not a colony.] I must ask hon. Members to contain their indignation until I have done and not interrupt me.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
In deference to your request, Sir, I will withdraw the expression; I will not ask him to speak sense.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
This is a very serious debate and a very anxious time, and I am wishing to establish on the broadest possible plan some of the points which ought to be stated shortly in reply to the right hon. gentleman. I do not pursue the point, because I believe the conscience of the country is perfectly clear as to the justice and the inevitable character of this war, and I should be sorry for the Government who in these democratic days endeavoured to make a war of this kind without carrying the country with them. It cannot be supposed that the enthusiasm we have witnessed, that the co-operation of all classes which has been so striking in every direction, would ever have been shown by the common sense of the country if they held the views which are held by the learned professor who preceded me in this debate. The right hon. Gentleman and other speakers, who have passed over the question of the justice or injustice of the war, dealt with the question of the way in which the negotiations were conducted. The right hon. Gentlemen admitted that as far back as the year 1899 the language of the Government was pacifical, but he spoke throughout as if he thought we had been conducting the whole of these negotiations with menaces. [AN HON. MEMBER: And Highbury.] I think that the country generally feels that there was patience, and long-enduring patience. Not only were there the grievances of the Uitlanders, but attempts had been made to break the Conventions in many details, persistently, for many years. I am not sure that we are not more open to the reproach, which some hon. Members bring against us, that we did not show sufficient firmness earlier, than to the charge that we had been too menacing or too aggressive. Now, let me deal with the charge which is made against us, that we did not sufficiently time the sending of the reinforcements which were sent to the Cape and the despatch of the Army Corps with our negotiations. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean said we were entangled in 480 the coils of our negotiations. If it were a fault that during our negotiations we did not send sufficient troops to South Africa, surely the answer to that charge must be that we believed the negotiations, which we hoped would end in peace, would be damaged if they were accompanied by the despatch of troops to the colonies. Ex post facto it may be said we ought to have sent them earlier, and that the information at our disposal was such that regiment after regiment ought to have been despatched to the Cape at an earlier period. But I think there was scarcely a military authority at the time who wished to accompany these negotiations with a military display. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean said it was the common custom now for armies to be massed on the frontier during the process of negotiations. If we had taken that step, war would have been precipitated, and we should not have been in one whit better position than we are now. So soon as it became apparent that there might be a risk of war, we took steps to strengthen the garrisons in Natal and elsewhere, and on that a great discussion has taken place. I am one of those who admit that the information of our Intelligence Department was perfectly sufficient. They put the forces of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State at about 60,000 men, and it is contended now that when we sent 25,000 men to occupy a defensive position, that force was not enough. That is a military question. It is proved, ex post facto, that they were not enough; but I confess, to my own guilt, if the House wishes to insist upon individual guilt, that I could not believe at the time that if we had 15,000 men on the defensive in Natal they would not be able for a month to hold themselves in perfect security against the force which the Boers could put in the field against them. It was possibly a wrong opinion, but that depends, too, upon military operations—it depends upon the Ladysmith entanglement, as it was called—and it is not at all proved that the 25,000 men which we had at that time in Natal were not ample for the purpose for which they were intended. We have been asked over and over again, and I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite also asked, although the question has been answered by the Under Secretary for War, about the advice which was 481 given as regards Ladysmith and the occupation of Glencoe. We did not interfere with the military authorities on the spot on that subject. There, again, I admit, if we ought from here to have arranged the plan of campaign for Natal and for the Cape, you must blame us for not having done so; but I should be very sorry to see the Cabinet undertaking the responsibility of conducting strategical operations in South Africa, at a distance of 7,000 miles, when you had on the spot men who had studied the topography of the country, and advisers on the spot in other directions who were able to solve such questions. I hope that it will not be considered that, if disasters happen, that policy ought to be reversed, and that the Cabinet in this country should undertake the management of a campaign abroad. Fancy giving orders by telegraph to generals 7,000 miles off ordering them to do this or that, and, without even the possibility of a despatch explaining the situation, ordering them by telegraph to occupy such and such a position or to evacuate another position. If we had done that, I do not know whether we should have shown want of foresight, but we should have shown want of judgment, to which the Government do not plead guilty. I plead guilty to the fact that we did not send more than 25,000 men. But, then, there came the declaration of war, and then, and not before, it was arranged that an army corps should be sent out.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
It was before that. The Under Secretary for War said it was on the 29th September.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
It is a question of dates. At all events, it was decided to send out an army corps, and from that time, as will appear by the statement of the Under Secretary for War, every demand that was made on the spot was immediately fulfilled in the way of sending out further troops. Division after division was sent, and the wishes of our generals on the spot were even anticipated. There has been no slackness, there has been no holding back whatever on the part of the Government. What was asked for was given, and, on many occasions, was given in anticipation of what would be asked for. One of the charges brought against the Government 482 is this—that we have failed to realise the position in which we stand. I think that is a strange charge to bring against a Government engaged in the tremendous task which we have before us at the present moment. Can the House not realise that every disaster, every reverse, and every mishap has brought a deeper realisation to the Government of the responsibility of the burden which they are bearing? Many members of the Government have additional cause for anxiety in the news which arrives from day to-day. Then we are told we do not realise the situation. We should scarcely be human if we did not realise the burden placed upon us, and the responsibility which, however imperfectly, we are bearing. We realise the situation. Not only do we look at that situation from the point of view of South Africa, but we have to survey the whole situation of the country at home and in every direction. But I can assure the House that there has been no slackness in that matter. On that point the Admiralty, of course, have their duties and responsibilities, and I can assure the House that since the outbreak of war there has been an unbroken spell of weary, wearing tension and stress. We know the position in which we are. We know the number of transports which are crossing the seas; we know our strong points and our vulnerable points. Some organs of public opinion say the Government have done nothing and are doing nothing to strengthen the defences of the country. How do they know? They cannot know. For my part, so far as our own work at the Admiralty is concerned, I do not intend to do that which, to use a vulgar idiom, has been recommended by some people—to "make a splash." I think it wiser to do what we have to do quietly, conscious of our responsibilities, looking in every direction, and weighing the pros and cons. I can assure the House that in these anxious times there is no decision I take, either administrative or executive, when I do not bear in mind the position in which we are standing. It would be criminal not to do so, and it would be unwise to on every occasion trumpet forth our strength. For my own part, so strongly have I felt the impropriety at a time like this of doing so, that I refrained during the whole of the recess from making any speech, except a few words 483 to the Volunteers in my own constituency, because I was anxious not to reveal in public either the duties, strength, or preparation, or any portion of that which appertains to the Navy. Being on the subject of the Navy, I may perhaps in this House be allowed to pay a tribute to the assistance which happily the Navy has been able to give to the Army. In these times we have been able to provide them to a certain extent with those heavy guns which have arrived so often, several times in the nick of time, and which have been handled by bluejackets in the style in which bluejackets are able to manage their guns. I am glad to be able to say that, if we have been in a position to supply a good many guns, we have done so without in any degree depleting our reserves or weakening the total stock of our Navy. I have seen comments in both directions—that we ought to have done more, and that we ought to have done less. We cannot denude our ships of guns. We cannot make those ships inefficient even for a time; and, though there has been an immense desire on the part of gallant bluejackets and marines to be sent in greater numbers to the front, I have to consider that we must have a sufficient number of sailors and marines at home for any mobilisation, if at any time mobilisation should be determined upon. I have seen such suggestions as this—"Why is not a big squadron sent to the Cape?" Send a squadron to the Cape, where there are no ships belonging to foreigners except a few sloops! We are asked to send a squadron to a place where it would have no raison d'etre and remove it from a place where it has one. We know the country has been denuded of soldiers and militia. We know that our duties point to the necessity of double watchfulness and double vigilance in every respect. I hope the public will rest assured that there is no apathy at the Admiralty with regard to the present position. It is asked, "Do you realise the situation?" Yes, we realise the situation for good and for bad. We know the strain which has been put upon us. We know how the country has been drained of troops. We know that this is a position in which there might be some temptation to others to take advantage of our weakness. We know that, happily, our relations with the Governments of foreign countries are friendly, 484 and we have nothing to complain of as to the way in which they have treated us. The right hon. Member for South Aberdeen speaks of the enmity of foreign countries.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I took the right hon. Gentleman as saying something stronger. At all events it is suggested that foreign, countries are hostile.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
No; but I am afraid his speech to-day will confirm them in that "disapproval," because he has been good enough to give a brief to every foreigner to expose the injustice and immorality of the war.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the suppression of those other "truths." I think he has said quite enough if he calls it the truth to supply a brief in times like these to every foreign stateman—no, I will not say statesmen, because they understand our position far better, but to give a brief to the press of every enemy of England. When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of foreign opinion disapproving of our attitude, I should like to know whether, if any one of the great foreign Powers had been in our position in the Transvaal—Germany, for example—there would have been more patience or fewer menaces? I think within their hearts many of the statesmen of Europe must know that our position in the Transvaal has not been compromised in any degree by any menaces or undue action on our part. The interruption has diverted me from my point. But I was speaking of the general position, and showing that we realised the fact that there were dangers, and that the position is serious and grave, and that we are conscious of that gravity. 485 Then it is said the Government have done nothing and are doing nothing. How can anyone have the face to make that statement, having regard to all the troops we have sent out, and the fact that my hon. friend in this House and Lord Lansdowne in another place have distinctly announced that the Government are elaborating plans which will, in a few days, be brought before the House, and which, we believe, will place the country in a necessary state of defence? We are working at those plans, and, with the Navy as it is and those preparations which will be made, the country need entertain no feelings of insecurity at all. Let us avoid panic. [Opposition cheers.] I suppose I must interpret those cheers to mean that I have exposed the gravity of the situation. There is no panic in my words, and the words I have used will not inspire panic. While the Navy is in its present position, and while the country is showing its resources, while our colonies are pouring troops into South Africa, and while the native princes of India are showing their loyalty, while in all directions the forces of the Empire are arraying themselves to confront a common danger, it would be folly to speak of panic. But what I was anxious to show was that we were aware of the situation in which we stand. We are not blind to the facts, and I confidently hope that nothing I have said will lend itself to the interpretation which I think some hon. Members would put upon it. If I had not said so, it would have been said I was endeavouring to gloss over the present situation and did not realise its gravity. I believe the situation is grave when you send 180,000 troops 7,000 miles across the sea. I realise that we have sent those men away, and that those soldiers are good soldiers. The hon. Member for West Belfast complained that I have spoken with admiration of the "boys" we have sent to the Transvaal. Our definition of "boy" is not a certain definition. Our troops are young, they are still young. If a year ago we had thought of sanding 160,000 men 7,000 miles, we should have been told that we should not be able to find them, or, if we did, that we were sending squeezed-out lemons, or boys unfit to be put into the field. At all events, we know the men we have sent are worthy to be in the field, and worthy the best traditions of the Army. We know we are putting 486 150,000 or 160,000 good sound soldiers in the field, well able to go through the campaign. With the Reservists, again, do you not realise the great success we have had, a success never anticipated by the War Office critics? Then, before I sit down, I must say a word in reference to the colonists. The colonists have been supporting us with unstinted loyalty, with unstinted generosity. There has been shown in the colonies a spirit of affection to the mother country which has been the admiration of the world. May we not suggest that the great loyalty of the colonists is, to some extent, a response, a return for the consideration shown to the colonies for some time past? Is it not right to remember at this time that never before has there been till now a Secretary of State at the Colonial Office who has so endeavoured to win the affections of colonists? You tax us with not having shown judgment and foresight, but at all events the treatment of our colonies at large has encouraged that loyalty which has always existed, and the patriotic impulse of the colonists to come to the assistance of the mother country. I have dealt with the charges brought against the Government; I do not know to what extent I have succeeded in my endeavours, but I feel I ought to add to what has been said by the Under Secretary for War that of course we are every one of us aware how much we have learned for guidance in the future from what has been done. We are perfectly sensible we may have made mistakes, possibly grave mistakes, which it will be our endeavour to avoid in the future. Some of them depend upon principles which I should not wish us to abandon. For instance, there is the principle of not interfering with the military authorities. We are perfectly conscious that we have a great work to do, and we will do it. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite support an Amendment the object of which is to damage us. It may be the object of some to give us the chance of redeeming our reputation, but the object of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I presume, is to damage the Government. We are the instrument, for the moment, the imperfect instrument, of the national will. We have to carry through I this work. I do not know that hon. Members opposite wish to displace us. I do not know whether they are envious for the burden that rests upon our 487 shoulders. I do not know if they are prepared to take up that burden; but if they are not prepared to take up that burden, is it wise and patriotic to endeavour to shake the confidence of the country by every means in their power, and to put difficulties in our way while we are engaged in conducting operations of war and have called together all the forces of the Empire for the purpose of carrying those operations to a successful conclusion? Is it possible to believe that for the purpose of damaging the Government at a time like this, they summon all their supporters from all parts of the kingdom to meet us in the lobbies in order to weaken us? Suppose there should be what is called a bad division for the Government, the cheers with which that bad division would be acclaimed would be cheers at success in an endeavour to damage the Government. It would be your triumph to have a larger vote than you expected in support of your accusation of want of judgment and foresight. If you could persuade the country as you seem to have persuaded yourselves you would have to step into our places. The time may come for this, and if so, when this war is successfully concluded—and successful it must be—let us be swept away, but do not try to lame the arm of an Executive Government which has to carry through the work we have on hand. There is the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division, and his friends, who by speeches in the House and on platforms have contributed so much to strengthen our position in the conduct of the war—are they content to go into the lobby where any vote will be counted as weakening us? ["No."] Someone said "No." Every vote will contribute to support the impression that we ought to be turned out of office. That is what such a division ought to mean; that is the only constitutional justification for it. I can quite understand some of the speeches which have been made. I fully appreciate the patriotic speeches of the hon. Members for the Berwick Division, South Shields, and Plymouth, and others, but I cannot understand, holding the views they do, why they should desire to weaken the Executive Government. During the recess there was a great deal of patriotic co-operation with us on the part of the Liberal party, and we thank them for it 488 and hope it will be repeated. I believe this is but a break—an interlude between that more patriotic attitude which they assumed a few weeks ago and that patriotic attitude to which we look forward in the future. They assure the country they will support us in going forward with this war notwithstanding the Amendment they have moved. What is infinitely more important than any criticism which may be directed against the blunders of the Government is the work we have to do, and I say again that work shall be done. We have the country with us. We are trustees for the nation in this matter, and from all parts of the Empire we are receiving support; and, so long as we receive that support, God willing, we will fulfil our trust.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth)
I do not desire to offer to the House a controversial speech upon the motion which is now before us, but there are some things that I should very much like to say if the House will give me its patience. They are not at all from a party view, but from my strong feelings in regard to the position in which the country at this moment stands. I do not agree with the complaint that has been made from the Treasury bench of the debate which is now going on. I do not at all believe that the country is taking no interest in this debate. On the contrary, I think the strongest interest is being taken in it from the many aspects of the question which are being dealt with, and I think from day to day the interest that has been felt has been well rewarded. I never knew of a vote of censure moved as an Amendment to the Address that was not complained of by the Government. If the Ministers are sure of a majority they say the debate is a waste of time; if they think they may be defeated they say the motion is factious. I am quite sure that the time which this debate has already taken has not been wasted. I will not speak of other speeches, but the speeches that were made yesterday by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, by my hon. friend the Member for Belfast, and by the Under Secretary of State for War, were speeches of great value to the country and which the country is studying to-day with interest. In regard to those speeches they may not be of so much value taken separately, but 489 the group of them illustrated the military position of the country at the present time, and require to be studied together in order that the people may be instructed as to what is the present position. Therefore I do not agree that this debate is being wasted, and I make the strongest protest against the attack which the right hon. Gentleman has just made upon the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen, whom he has denounced as being a friend of the enemies of this country, because he has spoken what he believes to be the truth with regard to the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. That is not a charge which a Minister has a right to make, and I do enter my strongest protest against it. I should like to say that while I think this debate was inevitable, and is, on the whole, doing good, I am very anxious that, if possible, there should be no division when this question comes to be put, and I think the words which the right hon. Gentleman has just addressed to the other side may well be considered by them when they are determining whether they will have a division upon this question. I for one will gladly vote for the Government, because now while the war is raging, when it is impossible for us to stop the war without doing more mischief to our Empire, and producing more misery in the world, we must carry the war to its ultimate conclusion, that is the successful issue of our arms and the establishment of a satisfactory state of things in South Africa. I will gladly vote with the Government, and I do wish that when we come to the end of this debate there will be no recorded division, which, though it will be perfectly understood in this country after the debate, will undoubtedly be misunderstood and misconstrued abroad. An argument has been put forward against which we have a right to protest, and that is the suggestion that the Government cannot be fairly held responsible for those defects which are charged against them with regard to the preparations of armaments, because they would not have been able to get from the House of Commons the supplies which they thought were needed. Now, this is the last Government by whom such a complaint should be made. Since this Parliament began the Government has had an almost unparalleled authority in this House. It has had the support of 490 a very large majority, and there have been domestic circumstances on the other side which have crippled for a time the strength of the Opposition. Indeed, Ministers have actually gone about lamenting that they have not had a sufficiently strong Opposition for the regular and comfortable conduct of Parliamentary affairs. While they have had an overwhelming authority in this House and only a divided Opposition, there is such a completeness of party spirit and party discipline throughout the country that if an old supporter of the Government differs conscientiously from the policy of the day, he is punished by exclusion from Parliamentary life. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!] Oh, yes; and I am prepared to pay the penalty for having expressed opinions unpalatable to those who have supported me. I do not think it is fair to suggest that it is any excuse for a Government, in such a position and with such a majority, that it cannot be held responsible for the defects charged against them with regard to the preparation of our armaments, because it would not have been able to get the support and the supplies from the House of Commons which they thought were needed. [HON. MEMBERS: No, no!] It has been suggested over and over again.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
I am very happy to be assured that the right hon. Gentleman did not say so; but it is perfectly well known that it has been alleged. Let me pause for a moment to say a word regarding the negotiations. The Ministry speak very strongly against those who now discuss the conduct of the negotiations, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty has said that the country has made up its mind on this matter. But, Sir, I think, if the Government do not wish these negotiations to be discussed, they had better leave off publishing Blue-books, because the Blue-books published during the present week contain a most remarkable illustration of the course the Government took on a most critical occasion. The position of this question is greatly changed from that which it had when we were discussing it in October last. Then we were not aware of what we now know, that the Government had complete and 491 accurate information in regard to the strength of the armaments and the number of the Boer forces. When, in the light of these Blue-books, we consider the situation as it existed in the middle of September, the course which was taken in sending the despatch of September 8th becomes more and more amazing. On the 6th September a telegram was received by the Colonial Secretary from the Governor of Natal. We are told now that until September 27th nobody thought, and nobody was entitled to think, that the Orange Free State would join the Transvaal. Yet on the 6th September this telegram was read by the Colonial Secretary, who received it from Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson—My Ministers know that every preparation has been made, both in the Transvaal and in the Orange Free State, which would enable an attack to be made on Natal at short notice. My Ministers believe that the Boers have made up their minds that war will take place almost certainly, and that their best chance will be—then comes the remarkable phrase—when it seems unavoidable, to deliver a blow before reinforcements have time to arrive.That telegram came on 6th September. But there is something more than that. Sir Alfred Milner had a few days before that spoken of "the colossal armaments" of the Transvaal, and yet it was on the 8th September that the despatch was written which was said to be an acceptance of nine-tenths of the proposals of the Transvaal Government. And when I read the passage from that despatch that Her Majesty's Government were compelled to regard the proposal of the Transvaal Republic as unacceptable in the form in which it had been presented, I asked the Colonial Secretary "Is it a matter of form?" and the Colonial Secretary in the face of this House said "Yes." That was on 8th September.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
No, Sir, I cannot believe that I could have said that, although it appears to have been only a hasty interjection. Most certainly the difference was not merely a difference of form. What I think I said was that nine-tenths of the Transvaal Government's proposals would be acceptable, but that the 492 one-tenth that remained was something more than a matter of form.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
I do not wish to dwell on the point; but I believe the exact words are to be found in Hansard. * At any rate we know that on the 8th September both the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were arming, and that that warning came to the Government with full information as to the number of the Boer forces and the state of their armaments and ammunition. I will not, however, dwell on that point, but pass to another; and that is whether we do realise now the necessity of not only making a great effort to succeed in this war, but of making that success as speedily as possible. Time is of enormous importance. Ministers are no doubt bound to be reticent, but it is permissible for a private Member to think and to say, when the country is drained of troops, that there are dangers ahead, week by week, arising out of the multiplicity of the difficulties between this country and foreign states, which make it of supreme importance that every effort should be immediately made to put this country in a state of defence. There has been a splendid exhibition of loyalty, courage, and devotion on the part of the country; but national defence cannot be maintained by voluntary subscription. I would hope that within a very short time there will be some very strong movement to organise in this country a force which may be useful to us, if unhappily we are called upon to meet dangers at home, while our army is locked up in South Africa. There is one thing I should like to say in regard to the matter of the future. I am very glad indeed that the Leader of the Opposition did limit his definition of the purpose and object of this war in the way he did. Before the beginning of the debate, a great many people were anxious that the Government should say that this war should never stop until the British flag is planted at Bloemfontein and Pretoria. I can quite understand Englishmen wishing that that may be the ultimate consequence of the war; but it would be a terrible mistake if the Government declared that that was an essential consequence. We do not know what our difficulties may be in the future. Suppose* See The Parliamentary Debates, Fourth Series, Vol. LXXVII., p. 311 (19th Oct. 1899).493 we take it on the footing that this war is absolutely just, and that we cannot escape from it, and were compelled to enter into it from the best of motives. Even then, it would be most unwise for the Government to define the result which was to follow the war, because we might find ourselves in difficulties so great as to compel us to expend, on an object unnecessary and hardly worth the realisation, a force which we have no business to use except for the highest purpose, and for the greatest interests of the nation. I am bound to say from my point of view, and of a great many others in this country, that this war is an absolutely unnecessary war, caused by our diplomatic blundering, and does not represent that which can be truly called the cause of justice. Those of us who think thus look with horror at what is going on in South Africa We are sending our best and our bravest sons to slay and be slain by men who are as brave and as truehearted as themselves. This is a thought which, I believe, comes day after day and morning after morning into the minds of many men amongst us, and we pray that something may be done to stay this war. I want to leave it to the Government, when we have succeeded in the first requisite of having cleared our foreign foes from off the territories of the Queen, to make some settlement, honourable alike to ourselves and to the brave people whose conduct in this war has vindicated for them the right to maintain their independence. I plead only for this, that we shall leave open to ourselves the right and the opportunity of making such an honourable settlement at the first moment when we can stay this bloodshed and agony. I do not believe that the annexation of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State would be of the slightest advantage to this country. I believe it would compel us to a great increase in the enormous military expenditure which now presses upon our people, and will press upon them more heavily for some years to come. I do not desire to press my own views on the House, because I realise that they are not popular at the present moment; but I only plead that the Ministry should not pledge them-selves to a course of action which may involve tremendous sacrifices in the future. There is one other point I wish to dwell upon. I know the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility. It is a very valuable doctrine in many aspects. It obliges 494 Ministers to take an active and careful interest in everything that comes before the Cabinet; and when something happens on which the Government is arraigned by a hostile party, it is well that the Ministers should feel that there is a solidarity amongst them. But that doctrine may be carried too far. In this case the real responsibility for this war, be it right or wrong, is with the Colonial Secretary. It is impossible not to see, not to note, from the speeches that have been made of late, that the Prime Minister, who, I believe, is the man in whom all England puts the greatest confidence at this moment—having many other things to deal with, and being distressed by domestic anxieties—may not have been able to attend so closely as he otherwise would have to this matter. But at all events, we cannot get away from this fact, that there are two men—one in this country and one in South Africa—who are the persons looked upon, it may not be by all in this country, but certainly by all in South Africa, as being the persons who have been most closely associated with the beginning of this war. I wish that the highest sentiments of patriotism would induce these two men to leave to others the positions which they now occupy. I must say I myself believe that the greatest difficulty in South Africa in dealing with the solution of many questions that have arisen in this war is the fact that the lines of communication and action in South Africa are with the Colonial Secretary and Sir Alfred Milner. I am not saying a word against their honesty in this matter; but I do say that I believe their presence—one here, and the other in South Africa—would be a difficulty and a hindrance to a settlement. If others were to take their places for a short time— — [HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!] Oh, yes. This is a great national crisis. It is a time of great and deep anxiety. If others were to take their places for a few weeks, or a few months, if the Prime Minister himself were to take under his own control the communications of the Colonial Office to South Africa, if Lord Rosebery would give his services to the country, and go out to South Africa himself to deal with the solution of these difficulties it would be a sacrifice not too great to ask even from the greatest men amongst us, at the time of national danger, and one for which I believe the country would 495 be very grateful. I have said I was not going to make a controversial speech—[HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!] I do not think I have. If I have, it has been with no intention of personal attack, but simply under the conviction that we are now at a time of great national danger, and that we have to consider the things, not only of to-day, but of the future.
§ SIR H. MEYSEY-THOMPSON (Stafford, Handsworth)
It is very difficult to know the exact position which the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth has taken up. But as this vote of censure has been brought against the present Government, it is necessary to examine for a moment some of the grounds on which it has been brought. The noble Lord who moved the vote of censure left off more than once at the very moments when his speech was becoming interesting. He told us that the general objects which the Government suddenly thrust upon the War Office by embarking them in a great war in South Africa were objects for which the War Office was not organised, and for which Parliament had not voted supplies. Now I suppose that the ordinary Member of Parliament has the idea that the War Office exists to carry on war, or to prepare for war. If these are not the objects of the War Office, I would like to ask the noble Lord what he imagines the organisation of the War Office is for. We hoped to hear this from him, but were disappointed. Then he went on to blame the Government for not having made adequate preparations for the war, for not having troops ready to send to South Africa at the critical moment when they were wanted. He again disappointed us by not pointing out when, in his opinion, the mobilisation of the Army ought to have taken place, and when the troops ought to have left our shores. It is very easy to tell a man that he has taken a wrong road, but the point of the accusation is rather blunted unless you can show that a better road exists which he might have taken. The difficulty, of course, is that in these matters you cannot have a rehearsal. There are 670 Members of this House, and every single one of us will be, in regard to the war, wiser in many respects when it is over than any single person in the world was before it began. But that does not prove the superlative cleverness of every 496 Member of the House of Commons. I cannot understand why, in one respect, our opponents say our Government were wrong. They try to prove that because the difficulties and the losses in this campaign are greater than were anticipated, therefore the Government were wrong to undertake the war; but common sense would lead us to an opposite conclusion. We have in Cape Colony a great many Dutch-British subjects, who have been treated by the Empire with greater kindness and consideration, I suppose, than any other alien race has been treated in the history of the world. If when this war broke out they had said, "We recognise the kindness and consideration with which we have been treated, and we will remain loyal to the British Crown," then we should have said that, so far as they were concerned, there was no occasion to undertake war. Very much the same thing might have been said regarding the Orange Free State. If the Transvaal Republic had proved to be extremely weak, and had put fewer men into the field than anticipated, and if the war had proved to be an easier matter than it has, then our opponents would have said, the Government were wrong in pressing the matter so strongly. But the exact opposite has happened. The Dutch inhabitants of the Cape have proved themselves as disloyal as they dare to be [HON. MEMBERS: No, no!] Well, that is my opinion. The Orange Free State is in open war against the British Empire, and the Transvaal has proved itself so strong as a military power that it is absolutely certain that if we had been engaged in war with any foreign country at the time when we had only a normal garrison at the Cape, then the Dutch population in South Africa would have swept the English troops easily into the sea. The result would have been fatal to the British Empire. The Cape is the very keystone of the British Empire. If we acknowledge, as I think we must, that the Boers had it in their power to engage in war at the moment which suited them, then the British Empire would exist only at the grace of President Kruger. That is a condition of affairs that could not be tolerated by any Government possible in this country. The late Attorney-General made a very effective speech the other night, which combined enthusiasm, tempered by moderation, and the skill of a great advocate. He said that the war 497 was due to the present Government, and one of the reasons given was that suzerainty had been put forward in an unnecessarily irritating manner by the Colonial Secretary. Now, more than two and a half years ago, the Chief Justice of the Orange Free State told me that the suzerainty over the Transvaal had been the one and only barrier to the fusion of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. If the suzerainty was the only bar to the fusion of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, I do not think it can be said that the suzerainty did not exist. Another statement was made by the late Solicitor-General and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, which was that if the independence of the two South African Republics were not given back to them we should have to keep a large army in South Africa. That would be the case, no doubt, if these States remained in possession of arms and ammunition, and the money and organisation which enables them to make use of them. But if they have no longer the power of taking the hard-won money of our fellow-countrymen at the gold fields and no longer have the power to organise for war or to purchase arms and ammunition—as they will not have under any system of franchise, or any measure of Home Rule likely to be granted them—then I do not see that any great army in South Africa will be necessary. The whole wealth and intelligence of South Africa is centred in the towns, and with the exception of Pretoria and Bloemfontein all those towns are extremely loyal to the British Empire, therefore, if these two States have no longer their independence, a small army will only be needed there. The late Solicitor-General wants us to undertake to preserve their independence, but what sort of independence? We have been told that true liberty has its limitations, that "my rights end where my neighbour's rights begin," but the Boer's idea of liberty is, "My rights never end, for my neighbour has none." After 1881 the Boers were the spoiled children of fortune. They had everything a nation could wish for—a small population, a land as large as Austria, and a climate that was all to be desired. They were free from the dangers of pioneer states; we had conquered the Zulus and the Matabele, who had harassed them, and gave them protection. What did they do? 498 They had independence, and nobody would have interfered with it if they had behaved properly, but they set to work day by day and year by year to take away all the rights of our fellow-subjects and built up the Government upon the most corrupt system it is possible to conceive. The right hon. Gentleman tried to make out that property was respected in the Transvaal. I cannot agree with him when we know that the taxation per head in the Transvaal is three times as much as in any of the other three States in South Africa, and that at least half a million was taken out of the pockets of the people by the dynamite monopoly alone, the benefit of which went entirely into the pockets of private individuals, and that this and the other most extortionate exactions on account of monopolies, railway rates, and duties were levied not only on the income, but came also out of the capital of those who were sinking and equipping the mines which constituted the source of revenue of the country. Why is it that the Boers were not satisfied? Why run the risk of war by not granting reasonable concessions? That is due to two causes. There are some people so constituted that they cannot help intriguing—it is the breath of their life; and President Kruger is one of them. Before the Transvaal was annexed he intrigued; he intrigued for its independence, and when that was restored he still intrigued. The other reason is, that they were afraid the present state of things in the Transvaal could not last. The gold industry of the Transvaal is exceedingly scientific, and it is difficult to work a poor reef without a great deal of skilled labour. The authorities saw it was impossible for ever to keep these people from their political rights, but they hoped by joining with the Orange Free State and Cape Colony they might be strong enough to sweep out the English, annex their property, and set up a Dutch Republic in South Africa which would be strong enough to resist any force which we could bring against them, and be able to make alliances with foreign Powers. I believe that the reason why they were so extremely stubborn and would not yield in any particular was that they had a dream that they would have in their hands the whole of South Africa with the gold mines, and the diamond mines at Kimberley; and that by making the British, who were the 499 heads of the industry, and the blacks, who were the hands, subservient to the Dutch they could appropriate a large portion of the profits of these industries and live independent and idle lives out of the proceeds of other people's labour. They never meant to give any reforms, and from the moment we insisted war became inevitable. I think quite contrary to the right hon. Member for Plymouth. Lord Rosebery said the affairs of the Empire ought to be carried on in a businesslike manner, and I think it is very lucky that we had a business man like the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary at the Colonial office. Nothing could be more unbusinesslike than the Conventions of 1881 and 1884; but since then the Colonial Secretary has learned something, and having seen the result of those conventions he determined that whatever in future had to be done should be done in a thoroughly businesslike manner. The Government is blamed for not having seen that war was inevitable; but when I was in Johannesburg the view of all sorts and conditions of men there was that if their Government granted this measure of franchise there would be no war. It is not fair to blame the Government because they were not prophets, and because they held a belief which was held by everybody who could be considered to know most of South African affairs. With regard to the number of men it was necessary to send out, the universal opinion in South Africa was that 40,000 or 50,000 would be ample to carry on and win the campaign, and had we not tried to hold Northern Natal and relieve Kimberley, I believe the men sent out were sufficient to keep the Boers in check until reinforcements arrived. The Government cannot be held responsible for the military arrangements that were made, and I think they have been unfairly attacked on that subject. I hold as strongly as I ever held any opinion in my life that the Government were right to raise this question, and were right to press it home, even at the risk of war. They are doing their best to bring the war to a successful conclusion, and I shall give my vote for them.
§ MR. C. P. SCOTT (Lancashire, Leigh)
I desire to express my admiration of the speech of the hon. Member for Plymouth, which, to my mind, was one of those notable speeches that, by their courage 500 and sincerity, lift the debate far above the range of party, and appeal to every honest man in the country. This is an occasion on which speaking of that kind is needed, for those who have the courage and sincerity to say the truth are the true friends of their country. I think the House will agree that the attack made by the First Lord of the Admiralty on the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen was not called for. The right hon. Member for South Aberdeen's speech was a masterly exposition of the facts of the case, given with great moderation and with complete knowledge. We have heard from the First Lord of the Admiralty a very important statement indeed in regard to the policy of the war. The difficulty some of us are in is to know what we are fighting about, and therefore the terms that should constitute a just and honourable peace. We listened to a remarkable speech made by the hon. Member for the Berwick Division, which is most of all to be admired for the effort to probe some of the root facts of the controversy, and to state for himself and to elicit from the Government what are the objects for which this war is being waged. What did the hon. Baronet say were the two great objects aimed at by the war, the attainment of which would justify the making of peace? They were equal rights between whites in South Africa, and the adoption of measures to make it impossible that hereafter any arsenal should be erected or any accumulation of materials of war should take place except under the authority of the British Government; and the important fact is that the First Lord of the Admiralty, after twenty-four hours reflection, said these terms would satisfy him, and presumably would satisfy the Government also. This throws a light into a very dark place, and the House will do well to examine a little more closely these vital points. I could wish that the right hon. Baronet had explained more precisely what he meant by equal rights between whites in South Africa. It might mean one of two very different things, and as the phrase has been taken up by the Government the House is entitled to seek further explanation as to what was meant by it. If by equal rights to the whites is meant such equal rights as for two generations have existed in the Orange Free State for all immigrants and residents, the solution opens out hopes for peace brighter than 501 any we could hitherto have entertained. The Orange Free State has been a peaceful and independent community, existing without offence in the midst of our South African possessions, and, so far as I am aware, no one has ever complained of any lack of equal rights for white men. If it be the fact that one object of the war is to secure that in the Transvaal also such a state of things should exist, then the object of the war is nearer than, perhaps, many have ventured to hope or believe. The other condition is that no arsenal should be erected or accumulation of arms take place except under the authority of the British Government. This I think a reasonable condition. It is not desirable that there should be great accumulations of arms of this kind, which would obviously threaten a renewal of strife. It is not desirable and is not necessary if this country once for all pledges itself to respect the independence for the defence of which these accumulations and these arsenals were provided. These gigantic military preparations took place, as the evidence seems clearly to show, for no offensive purpose, but from the fear—a well-grounded fear—that the liberties of the Transvaal were endangered. If those liberties are respected on the morrow of victory, not merely as a matter of convenience, but as part of the settled policy of this country, there will be no need for such arsenals and accumulations of arms, and there will be no objection, I believe, on the part of the Orange Free State or of the Transvaal to pledge themselves that they should not take place in the future. The terms upon which this war may be brought to an end is, I venture to think, vital not only for the future but for the immediate present. We are told nothing as to what our policy is to be, and in the circumstances I admit that at the present moment it seems, perhaps, irrelevant, because we are not in a position to impose our policy, whether good or bad. Sir, we must believe—and I believe—that the power of this country will prevail before very long. I think it is certain to prevail ultimately, if our forces are not, as they unfortunately might be, distracted by dangers in other quarters We must make up our minds as to what we are seeking by this war before we can justify to our own hearts and consciences the spilling of all this blood. It is idle to conceal the fact that there is a deep difference of opinion in this country as to 502 the merits of this war. It is not confined to this side of the House. It is shared by some of the ablest and most conscientious men on the opposite side of the House. How are you going to get unity and common action, unless these two great parties of the State are brought into line? I admit that up to a certain point we should act in common, even though the ultimate objects of the war are not stated. We all agree that the invasion must be repelled. We are all agreed that the power of this country must be asserted to that extent, and to such an extent as may be necessary in order to secure honourable terms of peace. But we do not believe that the war must be carried on at all costs and to all extremities—for what? For the purpose of imposing terms which, as the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth has just stated, so far from being again to this country, would be a positive loss—that is, if they mean the suppression of these two States and the annexation of their territory. Let us for one moment consider what are the alternatives. Suppose that we are entirely successful—
§ MR. SPEAKER
I would remind the hon. Member that the terms of peace are not involved in this Amendment. It is specifically confined to the policy and conduct of the Government in the past. Although I have allowed considerable freedom in the discussion from that point of view, the terms of peace cannot be deliberately discussed upon this Amendment. That question is raised by another Amendment.
§ MR. C. P. SCOTT
I will endeavour to conform to your ruling, Sir, and pass over as speedily as possible the remainder of my arguments. I would merely point out that the want of knowledge, foresight, and judgment which have been so conspicuously displayed in the blind way in which we have stumbled into a terrible position, may be equally marked in the future. We cannot carry on I this war merely for the sake of a barren supremacy. We must look to what must come after, and consider how the country which we are endeavouring to conquer is to be governed; and I think, 503 Sir, when we realise what that means—what it means to govern those colonies by military rule, or as Crown colonies permanently, what it involves in the expenditure on military force and in the violation of our best traditions—then I think we might come to the conclusion that it is better to be moderate as well as just, and to respect the independence of these brave people, who have shown themselves to be worthy foes in time of war, and who, if treated rightly now, may in time—a long time it may be—become reconciled to this country. Then instead of being our enemies as we regard them now, they would become one of the most potent factors in a great and united South Africa.
§ COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
The reason I rise, Sir, is to say a word with regard to the military question. I wish to say something with regard to the conduct of the campaign which is now being prosecuted in South Africa, because I fear it may be misjudged owing to reverses our arms have met with hitherto. The Government has sent out a very large body of troops in a very admirable way; they are nearly double the number that Lord Cardwell ever expected to send abroad. We have been obliged to split them into fractions in order to relieve Ladysmith and Kimberley and other garrisons. Now, these fractions have met with serious reverses and loss; and I think that people do not understand how that can be, because I maintain, and have no doubt whatever, that the 100,000 men we have sent to Africa is, as an army, put together in a proper manner, with its proper complement of guns and cavalry, as fine a one, for its numbers, as either Germany, France, or Russia could send anywhere. I am afraid people are apt to think that our army is not what it really is. It is a splendid fighting machine; but our forces in South Africa have been confronted by an enemy possessed of small arms of an immensely improved type, and of Maxims and machine guns, which, together with smokeless powder, make them very formidable indeed. The effect of it all has been to give extremely increased value to the Boer mounted marksmen when acting on the defensive against our forces. They take up a very extended 504 position, and their mobility is extraordinary. Now, I contend that any other force sent to meet this new condition of warfare, which requires new and corresponding tactical conditions to meet it, would have met with just the same difficulties as we have done. I recollect going to Austria in 1867. After the great war of 1866, in which Austria had a very fine army indeed, the world witnessed a new mechanical invention, which paralysed Austria's action in that campaign. It was the introduction of the needle gun. I remember the chagrin that was felt by the Austrian officers, who know that their army would be misjudged because it had not been able to cope with the latest weapon. What was the result of it? The very next year every Continental Power in Europe adopted the breechloader; and they also adopted Prussia's system of general service, which Lord Clyde characterised as militia. Just as it was then with the innovation of the breechloader, so it is now with mounted infantry. The result of the present conflict has so far demonstrated the wonderful effectiveness of mounted infantry; and every Continental army in Europe will develop that system henceforward. If not it will suffer greatly in future wars. This war has also raised the question of whether our reserves were sent out soon enough, or not. That is a matter which affects diplomacy; and I would point out that there is a great defect in our reserve system. In our reserve system we cannot send a body of troops abroad to meet a military foe unless we call out our reserves; and we cannot call out our reserves except in the case of a great national, emergency. Well, that must put our Government into a very difficult position; and I contend that that is a system which requires amendment — reservists should have the option at a higher rate of pay to belong to a "furlough reserve," liable to be recalled for any special service with their regiments. My own impression is that at the end of this war we shall emerge more powerful than ever and more chastened. I trust that the tendency to gasconade which everyone must have noticed of late years will cease. There has been an absence of scouting and of taking cover as there was at the beginning of the Crimean War; but that sort of thing arises from not having been in action against a European foe. That is now past; and I venture to hope and 505 believe that the termination of the war will show the Army in its true light. There has been a lot of talk about the word "supremacy" at sea. It is a word which I think ought to be dropped. Of course, we want a great preponderance of sea power; but in my opinion there is no such thing as supremacy at sea. It is the use of abominable phrases like these which makes us unpopular abroad. It is a comparison which is as offensive in the eyes of our neighbours as it is useless. There is one other remark I would like to make in reference to what fell from the First Lord of the Admiralty to-day. He talked of Cabinet responsibility. Well, if there is one defect in our system which the Cabinet should set themselves to remedy it is that the Commander-in-Chief and the First Naval Lord should be retired on a higher allowance than is given under the present system. They are often poor men who have two or three moves to make in the last few years of their service, and who have to take a house in this expensive capital. These officers cannot resign, though they may differ seriously from the Cabinet, but the country should feel sure that the experts do not differ seriously from the Cabinet.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfar)
I do not intend to follow the hon. and gallant Member who last addressed the House in his criticism of the purely military points to which he alluded; I propose to look rather at the political aspect of the matter, not especially as regards the War Office, but as to the responsibility of the Government as a whole. One complaint which has already been noticed from these benches, but which has been repeated again and again by those who have spoken on behalf of the Government, is to me nothing short of astounding. The Liberal party during the whole of this controversy have behaved with the greatest restraint. No Government has ever had a freer hand, a fairer opportunity, less criticism while they were developing their policy, less cause to say they have been hindered by the utterances or the actions of the Opposition leaders either in this House or in the country, than the present Administration. Yet we have had the extraordinary claim made, unsupported 506 by any precedent, unsupported by common sense, and against all experience, that when this House meets no criticism is to be offered, no examination is to take place of the actions of the Government which have occupied the attention of the country for the past few mouths. This claim would have been unreasonable enough if the policy of the Government had led to a successful issue, but when we remember that this year has been signalised by disasters such as have not been experienced by this country for more than one or two generations, I think such a claim coming from the Government must show that they have either a bad conscience or a very bad case and a very bad defence to offer to the country. What is the House of Commons for if it is not to demand an explanation on the part of the country from those who are trustees for the power of the country, who are responsible for its policy, and who have been placed in the position they hold by the opinion of the country itself? One speech we have listened to with a great deal of satisfaction and interest, and that is the speech of the Under Secretary of State for War. But has not that another aspect from that which has been already noticed? How is it that with our perfect system, with the admirable working of the War Office—to which I am ready myself to give all praise, because the War Office, taken as a whole, has been asked to do greater work than has ever been contemplated by the administrators of the country—I speak broadly, of course—but does not that add to rather than detract from the responsibility of the Government as a whole when we find that, in spite of the working of this system, in spite of the generous and loyal support which they have had from every part of the country and of the Empire, with all their efforts, there has still been, as the Amendment states, so great a lack of foresight, skill and knowledge, as to place us in the deplorable position in which we now stand? It is said that as an Opposition we are not entitled to make this complaint because the Leader of the Opposition during the past summer expressed it as his opinion that there was no reason for war or for military preparations. I do not think that that position is at all inconsistent, as it has been said to be, with the charge made by the right hon. Gentleman only a night or two ago that the Government had done more harm 507 than good in sending out their driblets of support and reinforcement to the Cape Colony and Natal. The difference between his view, which is shared by others on this side of the House, and the view adopted by the Government is that the policy pursued was a war policy from the beginning, and we protested against it as a war policy—as a policy which might lead to war. The Government denied that that would be its consequence, though I must say I am puzzled to account for the ignorance that led to this result, and that is the difference between us. The Government did not face the fact that by the policy in which they were engaged, the policy of pressing upon the South African Republic reforms which, as the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen said to-night, were outside the Convention, which were matters reserved for the internal control of the Republic—they did not face the fact that by taking up that line and pressing those reforms upon the South African Republic in the way they did they risked the ultimate collision which has come upon us. The policy which was preferred from these benches was a policy not of force at all, but of persuasion, of pressure of diplomacy, rather than of military preparations and of military pressure. I am puzzled beyond measure to understand why the Government have acted in the manner they have. The despatches which we read this morning, to which allusion has already been made, show how the defenceless condition of Natal might have been foreseen, and indeed was foreseen, but not provided for by the Government. If we recollect that Sir Alfred Milner during the greater portion of last winter was at home, and that shortly after his return to South Africa he began the proceedings which terminated as they have, can we dismiss altogether from our minds the idea that he had some prevision that the policy he was going to adopt and enforce might lead to these dangers? Whether that policy was a good one or not I do not intend to enter into at present, but it seems impossible to believe that Sir Alfred Milner, the man responsible on the spot, and the Colonial Secretary, the man in the Cabinet responsible here, did not contemplate the ultimate possibilities of the policy which they were then deciding to adopt. The truth is, the Government have been afraid of the man 508 of whom we have heard so much, the "man in the street;" they were not courageous enough. Perhaps they did not think the country would approve, but they did not come boldly to Parliament or to the country and say, "Here are our responsibilities as Ministers: we have no other alternative but to adopt a policy which may lead to the most extreme conclusion." On the contrary, until as late as March 20th last, there was not the slightest symptom in the speech delivered in this House by the Colonial Secretary that the mind of the Government had changed, that the position in South Africa had changed, or that there was any intention on the part of the Government to depart from the policy which had hitherto been the common policy of both parties. There is a great deal of talk as if on this side of the House there was no recognition of the difficulties in South Africa. What is the fact? Take whatever cause or whatever contributory cause you like as having brought on this war, take the question of the grievances which has been argued at such length before this House; as a matter of fact the opinion expressed by the Colonial Secretary on March 20th last in regard to those grievances is precisely the opinion held on this side of the House. If the House will pardon me I should like to read one passage. In reply to the hon. Member for the Eccles-hall Division of Sheffield, the Colonial Secretary said (the hon. Member having urged the grievances of the Uitlanders)—My hon. friend comes here as if he had authority to speak in their name, but I am very much inclined to think that if we were to adopt his advice the Uitlanders themselves would be the first to quarrel with us on that subject, and they might ask why we had interfered when we were not asked.Then the Secretary of State for the Colonies goes on to repudiate the idea that there had been any breach of the Convention with regard to these grievances. He says—In the first place we may intervene if there is any breach of the Convention, but it is not contended so far as I know that any of these things to which my hon. friend refers are breaches of the Convention.And he wound up by saying—Sir Alfred Milner is on the spot, but I do not feel at the moment that any cause has arisen which would justify me in taking the very strong action which seems at all events to have been suggested by my hon. friend.509 That was the opinion of the Colonial Secretary so recently as March 20th last; that was the policy of the Government so recently as that date, and that being the case I think the First Lord of the Admiralty has very little cause to charge us on this side of the House as he did to-night with minimising the grievances which are suffered by the Uitlanders residing in the Transvaal. Then we come to the theory of the armed conspiracy. I always listen with great attention to the remarks of the hon. Member for the Handsworth Division of Stafford. He has been in South Africa; he has given great attention to the question; he has studied it apparently very deeply. But I entirely disagree with some of his facts, and I should like to have controverted them if he had been in the House, both as to the history of South Africa and as to the present situation. One remark I cannot help noticing, and that is the assertion that he made with regard to the Dutch in Cape Colony. The hon. Member took upon himself the responsibility of saying that the conduct of the Dutch in Cape Colony had been most disloyal. I cannot believe that that opinion is shared by many members on the other side of the House. That that opinion should even be expressed in this House is, I think, much to be deprecated on the present occasion. No one knows without having been to South Africa the tidal and strain and tension that have been put upon our Dutch fellow-subjects in Cape Colony, and I think, considering how their feelings have been harrowed and their property destroyed, and their responsible Government practically entirely suppressed during this crisis, it is in the highest degree necessary that we here, feeling for them just as we do for the others in the colony, should do our best to support them in their trials and to assure them of our confidence, and show that we recognise their loyalty and devotion under circumstances of supreme anxiety and difficulty. What is at the bottom of this theory of an armed conspiracy throughout South Africa? Could anything be more baseless? Think of the position of our Army now in the north of the colony. Think of that, and couple it with an armed conspiracy, not in theory but in reality, and you will have some idea of the loyalty of the Dutch and of the value of their loyalty to us at the present time. Perhaps I may be allowed to remind the House of the statement of the Colonial 510 Secretary yesterday, bearing out what I say about the constitutional Government of the Cape having been practically superseded at this time of crisis. It will have been noticed that the right hon. Gentleman said that the Volunteer forces now being raised in the Cape Colony are being raised by the general officer commanding there under the authority, not of the responsible Minister, but of the Governor himself. There is only one other point to which I should like to allude, simply to endeavour to convey the impression that everyone on this side of the House is not, as some seem to think, blind to the difficulties and the circumstances which have brought about this present crisis, though we may not approve the methods adopted by the Government for remedying those difficulties. No one who has followed the controversy during the last few years will deny that in regard to Article II. of the Convention of 1884, which binds the South African Republic to keep within its own strict boundaries, the Boers have, in regard to Bechuanaland, in regard to the efforts to obtain a seaport, in regard to some of the native districts, in regard to the northern parts of Africa, just as in regard to Stellaland and Goshenland, gone outside the limits not only of their own territory, but of the Convention of 1884. Undoubtedly that can be charged against them; undoubtedly that, supported as it has been by the intrigues and negotiations carried on with Germany and other Powers, lends colour to the idea that the South African Republic is not contented with its present status, and has ambitions, and that its young men do "dream dreams," and have ideals of a South Africa different from the South Africa which we should like to see. That is all quite true, and I think it may be perfectly well admitted. That is common ground, and as a matter of fact has been recognised by both parties in this House. These grievances, the aspirations of some of the Dutch in South Africa, the difficulties that have ensued in getting the South African Republic to keep strictly within its boundaries—these, I say, are common ground to, and have been recognised by, both parties. In support of that I will only quote the fact—it does not cover all these points, but it covers some—that a despatch prepared under the direction of Lord Ripon in 1894, but not sent to the Transvaal at 511 that time, was included and sent by the present Colonial Secretary in the year 1896 as a complete, careful, proper, and suitable statement of the case of the grievances we wished to see remedied. It is only when we come to the remedies that we differ, and there we do differ. We are asked what we should have done. We should have followed the policy which had been followed hitherto of endeavouring to establish friendly terms with the Transvaal, of endeavouring to increase the confidence which, by the testimony of all competent observers in South Africa, had sprung up between the people, and which had not been interrupted even by the question which arose at the end of 1895, the question of the closing of the Vaal Drifts. That state of things unfortunately was upset by the raid. The raid was bad enough; the South African Committee was bad enough; but worse than all has been the complete identification of Her Majesty's Government with the policy of the gentlemen most distasteful in South Africa. I have not had the privilege of going to South Africa, but I have done my best so far as papers, books, and conversation go to become acquainted with it, and the impression which remains indelibly fixed upon my mind is this: in South Africa for all these difficulties what was preached was patience. The people there are the main sufferers by the unsettled and troubled state of their country, and you can go to Ministers of both parties in the Cape and to Ministers in Natal; you can go to the most responsible and respected people in the country, and one and all will advocate the policy expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, the policy of patience, the policy which has been so much spurned and contemned in the debates in this House.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
I will not only name him but read out his opinion, if the House will allow me. The first one I will take is a gentleman to whom the hon. Member for Derby made allusion the other night, Mr. Du Toit, who was at the time President of the Afrikander Bond. He moved a resolution in the 512 Cape House of Assembly, and it was carried by a large majority—this was in April, 1897—deprecating war between European peoples, and expressing an earnest desire for peace and the conviction that these objects would best be attained by the faithful and reciprocal observance of all obligations under treaties, conventions, and agreements; that means should be devised to obtain a settlement of any difficulties which might arise in the interpretation of such obligations; and by the adoption of a policy of moderation, mutual consideration, and fairness, the tranquillity of South Africa would be further assured.An amendment was moved, different in words, but the same in sense, urging strict observance of the Convention, and a policy of moderation by Her Majesty's Government. Then I will quote the Premier of Natal, who was here in 1897, and who, if my memory serves me rightly, has since died—Mr. Escombe. He said this at a public dinner given in his honour in London—As for the South African Republic, at present it was not fully understood, and people in England would, on close inquiry, be astonished to find how much good there was in the Dutch population in that part of the world.Lastly, I will quote Sir Gordon Sprigg, who cannot be suspected of any Afrikander leanings. At Cape Town, as Premier of the colony, he said that—If he went to England as Prime Minister, representing the colony, he would, in his speeches and conversations, on every opportunity presented, explain to the people of England the real condition of affairs in the country, showing how in South Africa there was not a homogeneous population as in Europe, and that the majority of the colonies were differently circumstanced.That is the point I want to bring out.He would point out how necessary it was in all matters to pursue a very cautious policy, and that they, above all things, wanted moderation and patience—everlasting patience—in this country. In fact, patience seemed to him to solve almost every question in South Africa. Without patience they could solve no question satisfactorily, and that was what they should endeavour to impress upon the people of England and Her Majesty's Ministers. … If the Cape Government were allowed to pursue their policy peace would be maintained in Africa. The Transvaal, he believed, would shortly recognise the desires of the inhabitants, and friendly relations and prosperity would be maintained.There are many other utterances of public men who have held the highest positions 513 in those colonies in exactly the same sense as those I have quoted, and I say therefore that it is not wisely said or wisely thought that the policy of patience is not a proper and possible alternative to the policy of force which has been adopted by Her Majesty's Government. In my humble opinion the raid, the South African Committee, and the policy of the Secretary of State for the Colonies have had the effect of inducing a large number of people in this country to share the views so eloquently expressed to-night by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, and have contributed to form the conviction that we cannot possibly have that basis of confidence between us and those who are unfortunately our enemies at present on which reconciliation may begin, unless the negotiations fall into other hands than those of the present Colonial Secretary. The policy of the Government is responsible for this. I am not blaming those gentlemen personally, but I say that they have by their public acts so thoroughly identified themselves with all the interests most opposed, most disliked, and most detested by the inhabitants of the South African Republic and those who sympathise with them in South Africa, that their continuance in charge of these matters is a most powerful barrier to peace and reconciliation. During those dreary days in September and October last, when we were waiting to know what would be the result of the Colonial Secretary's last despatch, day after day inquiries came from South Africa as to when the Republic was to be informed of the further demands which he had announced he was going to make upon them. There was a Cabinet Council held during that time, and it was very remarkable that after that Cabinet Council no less than four Cabinet Ministers spoke during the week—Lord James of Hereford, the First Lord of the Treasury, and two others (I had the advantage of listening to the words of the First Lord myself)—and in the most solemn terms they all affirmed that they did not wish to threaten the independence of the Transvaal, but all these four Cabinet Ministers, having, I am perfectly certain, the confidence of the country in the sincerity and truth of their words, with all their authority and influence both here and in South Africa, were not able to allay the suspicions of the South African Republic. The end of that dreary time 514 of waiting was that the step was taken, the ultimatum was issued, and we have been plunged into this war. I say that, apart from the present situation altogether, apart from the particular difficulties we are in, apart from the particular objections which I have urged, apart from the evidence which I have quoted from South Africa against this policy, we are fighting against all experience of colonial administration in this matter. The normal course of colonial government is self-government. Perpetually in the history of self-government in this country, when the desire of the central authority here, of the Imperial Government, call it whatever you like, has been asserted over the colonies under one set of circumstances or another, every time it has led to disaster. The interference from Downing Street, the overruling of colonial interests and colonial opinion, has never been attended with success in any part of the world. That experience is another thing against which we are fighting at the present time. We are fighting also against the goodwill of the Dutch, against the goodwill of men who have been contented, happy, and prosperous under our Government, whose loyalty has been unquestioned until this time, men who have readily rendered a loyal devotion to the Queen and Government under which they have had this happiness and prosperity. Another thing against which we are fighting—and it is a powerful thing — is our own solemn promise and convention. ["No!"] There are two opinions possible, I admit. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may hold their view, but in my humble judgment it counts for something in this controversy that we are fighting practically against our own solemn promise and convention. I do not deny—and I have given reasons—that some readjustment in South Africa was necessary. Anyone who has followed the extension and development of our dominions in South Africa, who remembers that in less than thirty years we have practically multiplied by six the extent of our territory in South Africa—we have now about 1,500,000 square miles to be responsible for instead of about a quarter of a million—anyone who remembers that will admit that some readjustment was inevitable and necessary. I say that it does count for something in this deplorable business that, in the opinion of a great many 515 people, we are fighting and using the whole forces of the Empire against what, after all, has been a solemn promise and convention undertaken in the name of this country. And what have you to look forward to? The English have got to live with the Dutch. This is the third contest we have had with the Dutch. Some 40 or 50 years ago the Governor, who afterwards was very popular, Sir Harry Smith, had to take forcible measures against the Boer population north of the Orange River. The dispute was settled by one battle, and British authority had its way. Twenty years later we had another contest with the Dutch north of the Vaal River. You know how that terminated, and you know that in the opinion of the highest military authorities not a couple of thousand men, as on the former occasion, but 15,000 men at least would have been needed to assert our authority or sway on that occasion. Now, twenty years later, you have got a much larger difficulty on your hands. You have got a difficulty which I do not believe the people of this country would have had to face had they known— — [The remainder of the sentence was rendered inaudible by cries of dissent from the Ministerial Benches.] Yes; that is exactly a point on which I should like to say something. People say that the shibboleth has to be repeated with regard to this war as to whether it was just or unjust. That does not exhaust the considerations which have to be taken into account. You have got to look at this matter from a practical point of view, from the point of view of the practical interests of the country and of the Empire as a whole. I say that it requires more reasons than have ever been urged against the policy of moderation to outweigh the enormous present and future disadvantages which have been disclosed by the expedition and the results of the expedition so far which we have sent to South Africa. We shall have to add another 100,000 men to the Army in the interest of South Africa, owing to the difficulty of reconciling the Dutch to our rule. I do not think that even then you will get rid of all those difficulties. I thank the House for allowing me to give the few reasons which induee me to vote with great heartiness for the Amendment of my noble friend. I recognise the patriotic endeavours the Government are making 516 to the full, but I deplore and lament the policy, and the consequences of that policy, which has led us into the present difficulties. I shall at present do my utmost to give my support to the Government wherever it is possible, but I do not hesitate to say that I shall work against them if I think it is necessary, and in the councils which are to determine this war I hope there will be moderation, firmness, and patience.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I only desire to say a few words to the House on the subjects of departmental interests, which we feel very strongly about. I listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen with a certain amount of mild surprise, when he said he regretted that feelings of hostility were apparent in foreign countries with regard to this nation, because there is no man who has done so much to raise hostility as himself. I listened to the speech of the Under Secretary for War last night, a speech which, I venture to say, raised the level of the debate, but I do not agree with him. He said we had increased the artillery by sixteen batteries, and we had strengthened regiments in that direction, but he forgot to say that the Estimates had increased from £16,000,000 to £21,000,000, and he forgot to say that our Army had so far been held in check by a population which was hardly so large as the number of men we ourselves usually keep under arms. What has surprised me is the light-hearted character of some of the speeches delivered, and also the consensus of opinion that it was necessary to defend the War Office, which was shown in half the speeches made. The mover of the Address, the Leader of the House, the Leader of the Opposition, Lord Salisbury, all did so. Even the mover of this Amendment, after he had searched the world from China to Peru to endeavour to find a stick with which to beat the Government, turned round and took the War Office under the ægis of his protection. I should just like to say half-a-dozen words with reference to the speech at Manchester by the Leader of the House, following in that regard the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. The right hon. Gentleman found fault with the stay-at-home politicians and War Office critics, but it is not their fault that 517 they are stay-at-homes, they would be elsewhere now if they knew how to get there. With regard to the critics, the right hon. Gentleman said the War Office had been efficient, and referred to the Reserves. Now, the Service Members of the House of Commons never did criticise the Reserves. The man who did criticise the Reserves was Lord Wolseley. He said the Reserve was simply a sham, and he showed an intuitive perception of the opinion of the House of Commons by saying that they desired to have it so. We do not believe in the three Army Corps. An Army Corps as one understands it is an entity, but in South Africa you simply have an aggregation of regiments pitchforked together, as you had in the Crimean War. In the speech that was made last night, it was said that the Government were right and the War Office had done nothing wrong, and that it was impossible to supply transports at a moment's notice. The hon. Gentleman asked how you could put 18,000 mules in line in South Africa. That is not what we meant. What we meant was that until President Kruger marched his troops to the borders of the Transvaal the War Office made no effort to provide transport. With reference to the guns the hon. Gentleman took up the cudgels and said there was a force of something like 180,000 men at the front, with 240 field guns and several guns of position. That is all very well as far as it goes, but it is not the proper allowance. In European armies the proportion of guns to infantry is 5 per 1,000, but, on the hon. Gentleman's own showing, in South Africa there are only 2½ per 1,000. There are only a few quick-firing guns there at the present moment, and they are the old-fashioned ones with the breech-firing attachment of Sir George Clarke. Then with regard to proper maps, the hon. Gentleman said the reason why proper maps were not prepared was because in the first place the colonial authorities ought to have prepared them, but did not, and secondly, because of the expense. I believe that the loss at Spion Kop was due entirely to the fact that the topographical character of the country had not been found out. Then again, with regard to transport, the man in the street does not understand why, when it is necessary to send troops out quickly, we should have slow ships instead of fast ones. And with regard to troops, the hon. Gentle- 518 man said this country was bursting with troops, but he could not have visited our garrison towns lately or he would have seen that our troops here consist of immature youths, not old enough to be sent abroad, dismounted cavalry, artillery without guns, and a few troops that are going to be sent off during the next few weeks. These are some of the questions which the Service Members have called the attention of this House to, and some of the matters we have endeavoured to bring before it; and the country will find that the Service Members have told them the truth rather than the apologists of the establishment in Pall Mall. So far as I am concerned my opinion is clear, and I shall support the Government here and outside. And when the crisis is over I shall be able to criticise more, as I please, the operations of the War Office.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS
I think the right hon. Members opposite who are so disposed to denounce the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen would do their own cause far greater good if, instead of denouncing him, they took to answering his arguments and displacing the irresistible case which he has made against this Government. This debate has branched out in two directions. One branch, of course, is the justification of the war and the other the question of the conduct of the war. With reference to the conduct of the war, we have had very full answers from the Government benches, but with reference to the question of the justice and right of this war not one word has been said, for the simple reason, in my belief, that they have adopted the only possible mode of answering the question by avoiding it. I hope hon. Members on this side of the House will not permit that to be done, but that they will urge the point in question until a full answer is given. Even in the last debate of the last session it was the same. No defence was given until the Colonial Secretary rose on the last night of that debate, and we have had no defence beyond that. We have had various reasons assigned for this war, as various and contradictory as the reasons assigned for the war in the Soudan, but when I find people in business, or in social or political life, give various and contradictory reasons, I generally find that the real one is one 519 which they dare not avow. My belief in this case is that the real reason of this war is to get hold of the Transvaal, or at least the political control of it. With regard to the alleged Dutch conspiracy, that matter has already been fully dealt with, and I shall only draw attention to one or two matters. It is based entirely on the fact of the large armaments in the Transvaal. But before you can establish a case of this kind you must prove that the armaments are too numerous, not from our point of view, but that they are excessive in the view of the Transvaalers themselves; that they exceed the amount which they can possibly consider necessary for the defence of their country. The attempt is now practically abandoned. We set up the point that these armaments were laid up before the raid. That was practically given up or destroyed at any rate by the right hon. Gentleman by his speech at Manchester. He said the raid fettered the Government, that it was impossible for them to remonstrate with the Transvaal on account of the armaments because of the raid. That must prove that the excessive armaments were laid up after the raid because that remark would not be relevant if they were laid up before the raid. It is now admitted that the Intelligence Department has fulfilled its functions fully, but it is an irrefutable fact that the raid caused the armaments. As far back as March, 1886, Sir Hercules Robinson telegraphed that the arming movement was defensive and not offensive, that the Boers believed that the raid was connived at if not instigated by the Government, and that it would be renewed on the first favourable opportunity. President Kruger himself said to Captain Younghusband, the special correspondent to The Times, "So long as you never attack us we shall not attack you." [AN HON. MEMBER: But he did attack us.] Yes, because we were going to invade the Transvaal. We pride ourselves on the enthusiasm that has been shown by volunteers coming in, but the Boers have commandeered all men between the ages of sixteen and sixty, and if we made similar sacrifices for this war 6,000,000 men would be at the front. It is impossible to believe that any democratic nation would send all its male inhabitants to wage an aggressive war. Such a sacrifice would only be made for 520 one of the two strongest motives that can impel human nature—one the defence of religion, the other the defence of our nationality. Would we do it? I hope we would for the defence of our religion. I know we should for the defence of our nationality. This is done by the Boers, who make no boast of it whatever. They go readily to the front ready to give up their lives in defence of their country. But it is said they are compelled by President Kruger, who is really an autocrat. He is an autocrat who rests entirely on the goodwill of his burghers, the same as Mr. Gladstone rested on the conviction of his supporters. There was this extraordinary phenomenon, that although this dispute had been going on for years, yet there was not a single suggestion in all the despatches in the Blue-books of any complaint that the Boors wished to drive the British people out of the country. There was a distant allusion in a letter sent by Sir Alfred Milner on 4th May last to the Colonial Secretary, in which he said that some newspapers had made some reference to that. But we know that there are wild papers in the Transvaal, just as there are in Fleet Street. It is impossible to get away from the fact that there is no ostensible cause for this war in the Bluebooks except the alleged grievances of Uitlanders. I think that hon. Members who are against the war have been a great deal too free and liberal with their concession as to the existence of those grievances. I do not admit the grievances, except to a very slight extent. Hon. Members who talk about them always do so in vague and general terms. You never see a reference to a single detail, but only to the "intolerable oppression of the Uitlanders," and vague statements of that kind. What are these alleged grievances? Why, one is that a public meeting in the Transvaal was disturbed, whereas the opponents of this war in this country have had their meetings broken up on scores and hundreds of occasions by Jingo roughs. You know what took place in Trafalgar Square, but does anyone suggest on that account the English people should be deprived of their Government? There is no restriction whatever in the Transvaal on the right of public meeting, provided these are held in halls. The only restriction is as to open-air meeting, and that restriction is the same as regards meetings 521 in Trafalgar Square. Permission has to be got from the police because of the danger of the public meeting creating riot and disturbance, and that permission is never refused. It is said that the press have been restrained, but there has not been a single case of a newspaper being suppressed under the law complained of, except that of the Critic, which was edited by the notorious Henry Hess, who had to leave the country on account of fraud and perjury. We know that this Mr. Hess brought an action against Mr. Henry Labouchere on account of an article which appeared in Truth, but he abandoned it and paid the costs rather than appear in court to answer the interrogatories. President Kruger went beyond his rights in suppressing the Johannesburg Star, but an appeal was made, to the Transvaal courts, and from that time forward the Star was allowed to be published. That illustrates the falsity of the charge against the justiciary, for here the Courts quashed the order of President Kruger. Then we come to the question of the franchise, which, after all, is the really important question. My hon. and learned friend the Member for South Shields denied that the Uitlanders were aliens, and attempted to maintain that denial by the most extraordinary arguments. He said that the Uitlanders have the right to enter the Transvaal, to reside and trade there, and that aliens have not that right. Why, that right exists in this country as well as in the Transvaal. There is no power in this country, not even in the Crown, to prevent the entry of aliens here and engage in trade. We have the fact that the Member for the Central Division of Sheffield has introduced time and again, but has been unable to pass, a Bill to prevent aliens coming to this country. But there is this difference, that most of the Uitlanders who come into this country do so with the intention of remaining here, whereas four-fifths of the Uitlanders who go to the Transvaal do so with the intention of returning to their native country when they have made their fortune. Under these circumstances it is not to be expected that these should be granted the franchise to the same extent as in England, because they would use it not in the interests of the Transvaal, but of the country to which they intend to return. I utterly deny that the Uitlanders' griev- 522 ances were great down even to the initiation of the negotiations, and are we to make war on any government which falls away in the slightest degree from perfection? If so, what are we to do with our own Government? I venture to say that the grievances of the Uitlanders, when examined and divested of exaggeration, were of the flimsiest description, and of the same character as exist in every country under the sun, and will exist until the millennium. Suppose that President Kruger had passed a law, as had been done in this country by the present Government, that all agriculturists and landowners should be exempt from one-half the taxation, and that the Imperial funds should be applied to pay the exempted half for them, and that all shopkeepers and dwellers in town should pay in full, there might have been a cause for remonstrance Or suppose that President Kruger had passed a law that the old Dopper Church, being in a minority of the whole population, should have the control of religious education in schools which were maintained almost entirely by the Imperial taxation of the country, then the Uitlanders might have claimed that they suffered from serious grievances. Why, the whole of the Uitlanders' grievances put together were not to be compared with a single one of these from which we suffer in this country; and yet, we who feel these grievances keenly have not the remotest idea that they would justify us in seeking to stir up rebellion. We rely for their redress on ordinary methods of political evolution. And so all those trifling grievances would have been remedied in time by the ordinary evolution of political change. We are told that the case was urgent, but the only reason for urgency that I know was the risk that in the meantime the Rand mines would be exhausted and all these Uitlanders would then be coming home. But I hold that even if the grievances did exist to an intolerable extent there was the unanswerable argument that we had no right to interfere. It has been admitted over and over again that the Transvaal was an independent Government so far as regards internal affairs. Lord Salisbury has said so, the First Lord of the Treasury admitted it, and so did the late Right Hon. W. H. Smith. I should like to call the attention of the 523 House to the fact that at the time when the Colonial Secretary was endeavouring to prevail on President Kruger to come over to this country, to discuss matters, President Kruger objected, on the ground that the discussion of these grievances would be a tacit admission on his part of the right of this country to interfere in the internal affairs of the Transvaal. And what was the answer of the Colonial Secretary to that objection? He said—Her Majesty's Government do not claim any right under the Convention to prescribe the particular reforms which should be made in the South African Republic. … They consider that they are entitled to make such friendly representations on behalf of British subjects.And he goes on to say—Such a discussion as they contemplate would not involve any acknowledgment on the part of the President of a right of interference in the internal concerns of the Republic, but would only, at the most, amount to a recognition of the friendly interest of Her Majesty's Government in its security, and in the general welfare of South Africa.And then there is this further important admission—The President would be, of course, at liberty to accept or reject any advice that might be tendered to him by Her Majesty's Government.What did the right hon. the Colonial Secretary say in this House in answer to a speech of the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield? In March last that hon. Member made an attack on the Government because they did not make the grievances of the Uitlanders a casus belli, and the Colonial Secretary said—Does the hon. Member wish this Government to send an ultimatum to the Transvaal Government on these matters? Does he wish us to insist upon the reforms which my hon. friend brings before us, and, failing satisfaction, does he expect us to go to war with the Transvaal?At that time it was regarded as ridiculous that this question should lead to war. Further on the Colonial Secretary said—There are certain clear cases where we can intervene, and rightly intervene, in the Transvaal. In the first place, we may intervene if there is any breach of the Convention; but it is not contended, so far as I know, that any of these things to which my hon. friend refers are breaches. Then, no doubt, we should have the usual right of interference if the 524 comity of nations is not observed—that is to say, that the treatment of British subjects in the Transvaal was of such a nature as would give us the right to interfere as to the treatment of British subjects in France or Germany. When we have been asked to interfere, and when we have not interfered, it has been because we have been advised that no such case has arisen for interference.Every one of the Uitlander grievances, with one exception, were in existence long before these words were uttered. The only exception was the failure to discover the murderer of Mrs. Appleby. It does not rest with the Government of a country in which Jack the Ripper ran riot, and where there was a total failure to discover that terrible murderer, to complain of a failure to discover one murderer in the Transvaal. It should be remembered that the Transvaal Government issued a reward of £500 for the apprehension of Mrs. Appleby's murderer, and that the police of Johannesburg were increased. There has been absolutely no change in the situation since then. It has been argued that although there was no Convention right to exact amelioration of these grievances, yet President Kruger made promises during the negotiations for the Convention which he has failed to perform. That is not true. Certainly most unfortunate misrepresentations have been made in the press and in this House in regard to that matter. During the conversations which led up to the Convention of 1881 the President of the Conference asked Mr. Kruger, "Before annexation had British subjects complete freedom of trade throughout the Transvaal; were they on the same footing as the citizens of the Transvaal?" To which Mr. Kruger replied, "They were on the same footing as the burghers; there was not the slightest difference in accordance with the Sand River Convention." The President said, "I presume you will not object to that continuing;" to which Mr. Kruger replied, "No, there will be equal protection for everybody." Sir Evelyn Wood interpolated, "And equal privileges?" When Mr. Kruger replied, "We make no difference so far as burgher rights are concerned. There may, perhaps, be some slight difference in the case of a young person who has just come into the country." Later on it was explained that the proper translation and proper meaning of "young person" had reference to the age of the person, not to the length of his residence in the country. [HON. 525 MEMBERS: Oh, oh!] Well, I quote Question 1037. Dr. Jorissen said in answer: "At No. 244 the question was, 'Is there any distinction in regard to the privileges or rights of Englishmen in the Transvaal?'" and Mr. Kruger answered, "No, there is no difference," and then he fielded, "There may be some slight difference in the case of a young person just coming into the country." I wish to say that that might give rise to a wrong impression. What Mr. Kruger intended to convey was this: According to our law, a new comer has not his burgher rights immediately. The words "young person" do not refer to age, but to the time of residence in the Republic." I want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that my hon. and learned friend the Member for Haddingtonshire in the last session of Parliament quoted this answer, but omitted the latter part of it referring to the exception as to new-comers. I shouted at the time for him to read on, I am afraid rather violently, because at the moment I thought the omission was designed. I do not say that now, but at any rate it seems that it was an important omission. The whole case depends on that qualification. Before a single word of complaint was uttered as to the franchise question, all the persons who had come into the Transvaal at the time this conversation took place would have received the franchise under the then existing law. The question does not rest there. Hon. Members will observe that in this connection two matters were discussed, namely, trading rights and burgher rights. Sir Hercules Robinson made reference to trading rights, and the assurance was given him on that behalf. Then Sir Evelyn Wood went on to ask about political rights. My point is that the question of "trading rights" was dealt with in the Convention, and these rights were given and accepted, but that the "political rights" were rejected. The mere fact that political rights were not introduced into the Convention shows that the omission of political rights was intended. There have been broken promises, but the pledge breaker does not reside in Pretoria, but nearer home. We all know that Dr. Jameson and his confederates were taken prisoners in accordance with the fortunes of war. The Colonial Secretary interceded for their lives on hearing a rumour that they were 526 going to be shot. He telegraphed to President Kruger on January 3rd, 1896—It is rumoured here that you have ordered prisoners to be shot. I do not believe it, and rely on your generosity in the hour of victory.President Kruger replied that they were not going to be shot, but would be dealt with according to law. Thereupon the Colonial Secretary directed this telegram to be sent. (He had five or six days before written to the Chartered Company to tell them that one of their obligations to this country under the London Convention was to respect the internal independence of the Transvaal Government.) This was the Colonial Secretary's reply to President Kruger on 5th January—I thank your Honour for your message, which I will publish as you desire. The press have not given credence to the rumours about cruelty to the prisoners; and for myself I have always felt confidence in your magnanimity. I have sent an Imperial officer to Buluwayo to see that my orders are obeyed, and to prevent the possibility of any further raid; and your Honour may rest confident that I will strictly uphold all the obligations of the London Convention of 1884.Six days before that promise was made he publicly acknowledged that one of the obligations was the internal independence of the Transvaal. He secured the lives of the prisoners on the assurances given; but the history told by the different books shows that, in dispatch after dispatch, the promise made by the Colonial Secretary has been broken; and still the supporters of the Government retain a Minister in office who has departed from his pledged word, and who goes about the country denouncing the men whose clemency he has acknowledged, and urging the country to go to war with them. I will only deal with another matter in connection with the cause of the war. I will tell the House what was the real cause of it. It may be summed up in one word, "Bluff, bluff!" I am perfectly certain that the country never intended to go to war on account of these grievances. We were assured by the Cape press that we had only to be firm in our attitude and point our cannon at President Kruger and he would climb down. I am afraid I cannot acquit the Liberal party from some share of blame in the action we took. My conscience, at any rate, is entirely free from the stain of a single drop of the blood that is being shed 527 in South Africa. I protested last year and the year before last, in season and out of season; but I am afraid some of our Liberal friends did not do as much as they might. They wanted to give the game of "bluff" a chance of succeeding. We were denounced as encouraging the Transvaal in its resistance; but I am glad to say that the Leader of the Opposition put our party completely right on the question of principle, although I should have been glad if it had been followed up more vigorously. Had we done so, I am sure there would never have been war. Not only were we told that President Kruger would give way, but that these Boers were ignorant farmers, who would never be able to hold together against a disciplined army. We were told that after a month in the field they would be wanting to go back to their farms and crops. Moreover, we were told that they had lost all their skill in shooting since game had disappeared; that they could not maintain themselves in the field because they had no commissariat and no transport arrangements. What is the result? They have a transport service which has surprised the world, for instance, in their use of siege guns as field guns that nobody ever dreamt of before. It is one of the complaints made against the Government by their own supporters that the artillery of the Transvaal has outranged our guns. But all these facts were unknown or ignored, in order to egg the country on to war. The war party knew perfectly well that if the people of England and the Members of this House were acquainted with the real state of things, the course of action entered upon by the Colonial Secretary would not have been persisted in. The facts were kept hidden. Sir, my opinion is that the war fever in this country has simply been worked up. Reference has been made to the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury at Manchester, where he said, dealing with the question of inadequate preparations and the charge of his own supporters, that it would have been impossible to get this House, if it had been asked to do so in June or July last, to sanction a vote for the purposes of the war. He omitted to state the real reason. I entirely agree with the First Lord of the Treasury. What he said was perfectly true. He also said that it was most diffi- 528 cult to project themselves back six months, and to the state of feeling that existed then. That is also true; but the real reason for the attitude taken up by the Government in not getting the House to vote for war in July was because the House would at that time have recoiled with horror from the idea of waging war on account of the dynamite monopoly, or on account of this question of franchise. Nobody would have dreamt of it. Therefore, to secure the vote it was necessary to work up the war feeling. That is the secret of the new diplomacy as against the old diplomacy. The difference between the two is that under the old diplomacy the object was to avert war. The object of the new diplomacy is to ensure war, and in order to do that it was necessary to excite popular feeling. That is the reason why Sir Alfred Milnor's despatch was instantly published. And so the angry feeling spread on the instant. That underlies the explanation given by the First Lord of the Treasury at Manchester; and Lord Salisbury said practically the same thing in the House of Lords, when attempting to justify this new diplomacy. He said it was necessary in order to carry the country with them. As long as the country remained cool and calm, the disproportion between issues in dispute, and sacrifices, and horrors of war could be kept steadily in view. But once let popular resentment loose, and calm reason and argument vanished. I have only one other question to deal with in the points raised by this debate. There was a taunting laugh when I referred to President Kruger's statement that he would never invade our territory unless we invaded his. I say that he has not broken his promise. It is idle to say that the ultimatum was the cause of the war. As it is put in the excellent words of Lord Crewe: "If the ultimatum made war inevitable, who made the ultimatum inevitable?" What was the actual fact? The members of the Government did not apparently know, for the First Lord of the Admiralty misstated the dates. The actual fact was to be found here: The normal garrison in South Africa was 10,000. Between June and October the normal garrison sprang from 10,000 to 24,700 men; and it was increased with a view of enforcing our demands upon the Transvaal. Nevertheless, President Kruger did not make war. It was on the 29th September last, accord- 529 ing to the speech of the Under Secretary of State for War, that the Government came to the decision to send an armed force to South Africa. That decision was immediately announced in the Government organs. The newspapers all stated that a field force was going to be sent to South Africa, and that Parliament was going to be called together in order to vote Supplies. Nevertheless, even then President Kruger did not send an ultimatum. He was asked to take the assurances of certain newspapers. He said—I do not care what the newspapers say. I look to the actions of Her Majesty's Government.Then on the 7th October came the Royal Proclamation calling this House together to vote those ten millions in order to send out that field force. On the 9th October, two days later, we sent the ultimatum. Now, if the ultimatum caused the war, then the Government must be impaled on the horns of a dilemma. The Government undertook to send out 48,000 troops in addition to those sent out already, to march through our colonies to the frontier of the Transvaal, then, having done that, our ultimatum was to be sent to President Kruger formulating our demands. Then, if President Kruger declined the ultimatum, would we order that army of 75,000 men to the right about and ship them back to England without fighting. It was either that or we meant war. I venture to say that there is not a statesman or military man in the world who would not say that after the decision to send out the Army Corps the Boers had only two alternatives before them—either complete submission or war. No, Sir, this is what I have all along regarded as an unjust and iniquitous war. It is a war waged on behalf of captitalists, and the most unscrupulous set of capitalists that the world has ever seen. That charge has not been met. It has been evaded in the most puerile fashion by Lord Salisbury. He said that "it was suggested they (the Ministers) wanted to put money into their pockets." We do not suggest that. What we do suggest is that they were the willing dupes of the people in South Africa who wanted to put money into their own pockets. Not only did the capitalists make war, but the press made war, and we are face to face with the consequences, the terrible consequences, in 530 the slaughter of hundreds of lives. Two Anglesey gentlemen, living within a few miles of my house, were among the officers killed in the disaster of Spion Kop. I say, Sir, that it is maddening to think of gallant lives being thus sacrificed, and this horrible war being waged, to play the game of an unscrupulous and greedy gang of capitalists.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I listened to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and I fail to discover any indication in his speech of any sound argument against the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government. He has found fault with the Government for increasing our armaments, and yet I find that he himself finds fault with Her Majesty's Government for not taking proper precautions before the outbreak of war in South Africa. There is this peculiarity in the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and in the speeches of other Members on that side of the House. They have devoted nearly all their speeches to vilifying their own country. I cannot conceive any accusation brought against a country more unpatriotic than that of accusing one's country of engaging in an utterly unjust war. The difference between the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen, whom we listened to to-night, is that the former did not tell us how he is going to vote, or whether he is going to vote at all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen gave us a long dissertation to prove that this country is absolutely unjust in the war now proceeding in South Africa, and yet he concluded by saying that he intended to give his support to the Government in carrying the war on. The right hon. Gentleman led us to believe that as he declared this to be an unjust war he would not support the Government in carrying it on; but the contrary is the fact. Sir, the speeches to-night struck me as showing that hon. Gentlemen opposite are utterly out of touch with the country. The country does not care a jot for these academic utterances. I could understand these speeches and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen if they had been made last session, but I cannot conceive a man, who calls 531 himself a Briton, making such speeches while the war is going on.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I will attend to you before I am done. I feel, sir, that a great responsibility lies upon this House in regard to the present stage of the history of this country. I do not for a moment believe that the country is in danger; I do not think the country was ever stronger. But it is a grave crisis—a turning point in the history of the country, and, therefore, a serious one. I should have imagined that before putting down what amounts to a vote of want of confidence in the Government—a serious step, and one which is unprecedented in the history of the country—hon. Gentlemen opposite would have considered well their conduct; for I can find no analogous case, when a great war is going on, where Parliament has endeavoured to bring about a vote of want of confidence in the Government.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
They must have thought of the seriousness of the step when they put that vote on the Paper. What does it mean? It means that, if adopted, the Amendment will turn out Her Majesty's Government who are conducting this war, and those gentlemen opposite will step into their places. I have been a Member of this House for the last thirty-five years.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
That was before the Liberals proposed to sell their country. During the course of these years I have heard many votes of want of confidence raised in this House, 532 but I never remember a vote of want of confidence being proposed against any Government, and supported in the way pursued by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Now, Sir, the issue before the House is of the simplest possible description. There is a great task before the country and before the Government. The Government are carrying out that task to the best of their ability. And the Opposition have put a vote on the Paper which, if carried, will turn the Government out. The House of Commons is invited to cast its eye upon the roll of gentlemen who sit on that side of the table, and those who sit on this side; and it is asked to decide which party is most likely to carry out the task successfully. The peculiarity of the situation is to be found in hon. Gentlemen getting up on that side of the House and saying that they intend to support the Government, while at the same time they seem to desire to turn them out. So when I listened to the very able speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Berwick Division, who spoke last night, I was astonished. I never heard more patriotic sentiments uttered than those of the hon. Baronet. He said it was a perfectly just war, and he was apparently satisfied with the speech made by my hon. friend the Under Secretary of State for War. He said it had relieved him of a great weight, and had satisfied his mind, and that he intended to give the Government all the support in his power, and yet he said that he was going to vote against them. All I can make out is that the hon. Baronet and those with him look upon this Amendment as a sort of tonic administered to Her Majesty's Government, not with a view of turning them out, but by way of stimulating them to further efforts in the discharge of their task. The House is asked to judge between the Front Opposition bench and Her Majesty's Government; and I imagine that the House will take a businesslike view of the situation, and see which set of Gentlemen is likely to see the thing most successfully through. Well, observe what the Government have done. They have succeeded in doing what no other Government in this or any other country have ever done before. In an incredibly short space of time they have landed 160,000 men in South Africa. More than that, the Government intend to carry on the war to a 533 triumphant conclusion. The question is, would the opposite party, if they came into power, carry out that policy? Some of them look upon this as an unjust war; but I ask you to support the Government who are most likely to terminate the struggle with success. If the Amendment is carried the present Government will leave the Treasury Bench; and they will be replaced by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Then these right hon. Gentlemen who formed the Government would be absolutely dependent for the position they occupied on the Treasury Bench on the votes of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They would be dependent on the votes of eighty Irish Nationalists who sit below the gangway, and I ask you how you could trust a Government so supported to carry out the task? I think, Sir, it is absolutely necessary, before this House, by displacing the present Government, brings about the appointment of such a set of gentlemen to carry on the business of the country, to bear well in mind the results that would follow the administration of such a Government. Now, a very distinguished Member opposite—the hon. Member for Waterford—who I am glad to see to-day—made a speech at a meeting of the Irish Nationalist Members on Tuesday last, which I ask you to consider, because it directly bears on the position of the party supported by the hon. Member. He said, "It was no exaggeration to say that now, for the first time since the Union, the power of England was seriously menaced. Her prestige, which had protected her so long, was at this moment almost shattered—[An HON. MEMBER: Lord Rosebery said so.]—and no man could tell what might arise out of such a situation." If the Government were changed and if right hon. Gentlemen opposite took the places of the present occupants of the Treasury bench, they would practically be at the mercy of eighty Nationalist votes. I think the House ought to consider whether a Government supported in that manner would be likely to be a Government that would carry out the will of the nation—for it is the will of the nation—to bring this war to its proper conclusion. Distinguished Irishmen on the other side of the channel have also been making remarks in the same direction. A distinguished man in Ireland made the following statement. [An 534 HON. MEMBER: Who is he?] The Mayor of Limerick. He said—The British soldiers are falling before the Boers, and when the Boers have taken the 'stuffing' out of them, then the men of Cork and the rest of Ireland will lend a hand.When the "stuffing" was taken out of the British soldiers, then the courage of the Irish nation would rise to the proper point. If this motion were carried not only would the British soldiers be attacked in front by the Boers, but also they would be liable to be attacked in the rear, for the Nationalists never attacked in the front. [Several HON. MEMBERS: Withdraw, withdraw!]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
What about the Tugela? Why are you not at the front with the Cavan Militia?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
May I ask you, Sir, on a point of order, whether the speeches of the Mayor of Limerick are relevant to this Vote?
§ MR. SPEAKER
As I understand, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is showing what would be the consequences of carrying a vote of censure.
§ MR. DILLON
May I be permitted to point out that the right hon. Gentleman made a grossly insulting observation to Irishmen?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman did not, in my opinion, exceed the limits of Parliamentary language in what he said.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I beg to say that we are in no humour to stand insults from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
How many Orangeman had Buller with him? You go and insult Butler. Where is the Cavan Militia?
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
You, Sir, ought to protect us from being insulted. Why should we be insulted here? If I had said anything of the kind I would not have been permitted.
§ MR. DILLON
Go out and fight the Boers. You are always bragging here of what you will do against us.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
May I ask you, Sir, on a point of order, whether an expression does not exceed the limits of Parliamentary usage when it is to the effect of the one used by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that Nationalists never attack in front?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member asks me a question on a point of order, and his supporters raise a clamour which prevents me from answering. I think it is hardly courteous to the Chair. The hon. Member asks me whether such an expression is out of order.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That is the same thing. I say that in my opinion it is not out of order, and I will tell the House why. If the observation had been made in a sense in which it was a personal reflection upon Members of this House or upon their courage, then it would be out of order. But a line must be drawn in considering whether a matter is disorderly or is within the freedom of debate, and I am quite sure that, if hon. Members will reflect, they will admit that they have often used, without being interrupted, language with reference to the English people which is as offensive to the feelings of Englishmen. In so doing, provided they did not make a personal attack upon 536 Members of this House, they were in order. It may be a question of taste on one side or the other whether such language should be used. I have no control over that. I can only speak on questions of order, and to the best of my ability I decide them with perfect impartiality from whichever side of the House they may come. I am doing so in the present instance, and I hope hon. Members will give me credit for doing so, and will pay some attention to my ruling.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I will withdraw. When the expression escaped my lips I did not mean to insult hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am an Irishman myself, and I am as proud as they are of Irish valour, and when I used the expression I was simply thinking of historical records in Ireland, which I thought justified me in saying what I did. I wish to withdraw it.
§ MR. DILLON
Three times as many of our men have been killed at the front as of Englishmen. It is an insulting observation. It is a most cowardly and insulting observation.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is hardly going the right way, it seems to me, to obtain anything like an expression of regret from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite when he charges him with being cowardly.
§ MR. DILLON
Mr. Speaker, we are Irish Nationalists, and when the right hon. Gentleman used the expression he used, we were justified in applying it to ourselves, and we did apply it to ourselves, and we regard it as a gross reflec- 537 tion upon every Member who sits upon these benches. And when the right hon. Gentleman stood up to make some sort of apology or withdrawal, what is the explanation he offered us? Why, that he had in mind the records of our race and that he based his reflections upon those records. I say nothing could be more insulting.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
May I venture, very respectfully, if I am not out of order, Mr. Speaker, to appeal to both sides of the House, to my right hon. and gallant friend as well as to Gentlemen opposite, to allow a controversy to drop as to an observation which really was not intended to be offensive.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
And I am glad to think it has not interfered with our good relations. My right hon. and gallant friend has explained that he did not intend anything offensive to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and, therefore, not in the interests of my right hon. and gallant friend or of any section of the House, but in the general interest, I appeal to hon. Members to allow the incident to end.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am sure that when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is told that what he said is understood by hon. Gentlemen on the other side to apply to them personally he will withdraw it.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I would only point out to the House that a Government supported by hon. Gentlemen opposite would not be likely to carry on the war at present being waged or any other affair connected with the welfare of the Empire in a satisfactory manner, and therefore I say that when the House of Commons decides what set of men shall administer the affairs of the country they will decide by an overwhelming majority upon the present Government as preferable to a Government which would have to depend for support on hon. Gentlemen opposite. Now I ask myself the question what object right hon. Gentlemen opposite have in putting this motion on the Paper? They say they do not want to weaken the Government; then why was the motion put on the Paper? The speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division could have been made on the main question, and I cannot conceive how a man like the hon. Baronet can bring himself to vote for this Amendment after having made the speech he did last night. That is beyond my comprehension. Now we come to the question of the justice of this war. I believe the British people desire to be perfectly clear in their conscience as to its justice. I am not misinterpreting the opinion of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House when I say that never in the history of this country has a more just and honourable war been engaged in. What is it that has brought on this war? And now I may say that I do not hold Her Majesty's Government as altogether blameless. What I blame the Government and the preceding Government for is that they allowed the Transvaal to increase its armaments without any sufficient protest. We know on high authority that the responsibility has been cast on the framers of the treaties of 1881 and 1884, but you 539 cannot shuffle off responsibility in that way. That is exactly the way we were treated—perhaps that is why I dislike it so much—when we tried to effect some alteration in the Land Bill. We were told that it was our duty to carry it to its logical conclusion, but that was not an argument that went home to the minds of the Irish landlords. Now we are told that the responsibility rests with the framers of the treaties of 1881 and 1884, because in those treaties no mention was made of armaments in the Transvaal. I do not think that that is an argument which justifies the action of this Government or the Government which preceded it. I believe the duty of a Government, if they find that a mistake had been made by their predecessors, is to remedy it. Everybody knew that these armaments were being collected. The First Lord of the Treasury tells us that the Government were hampered in their action by the raid, but a really big man is never interfered with in doing what he thinks is right by considerations of that kind. The raid was universally condemned in this House and in the country, and I never heard or read of one word having been said or written which would lead to the idea that the raid was not absolutely condemned. It was condemned by the British people, but President Kruger, who is an extremely wise man, made use of it to multiply the armaments of the Transvaal. How did he do it? It is a favourite statement on the other side of the House that this war was caused by the gold interest in South Africa. It is perfectly true that gold brought the war about—and in this way. Had gold not been discovered in South Africa the Boers would not have been able to arm themselves; but when this immense gold field was discovered, to what use did the Boers put it? Two uses. First of all they feathered their own nests, and in the second place they turned the Transvaal into the greatest military power in South Africa. Anyone who has carefully followed the history of our dealings with the Transvaal during the last few years must deeply regret that when millions were being spent on Creusot guns and ammunition of all kinds we had not a Government with the courage to say: "These armaments must cease." That is really the cause of the present war. It has not been brought about by the malice or 540 ingenuity of the British Government. I do not believe any man in Great Britain or in the Empire covets an acre of the Transvaal. It is said we want the gold fields, but what use would the gold fields be to the British people? How would any particle of the gold find its way into the pocket of the British taxpayer? Hon. Gentlemen opposite are quite shrewd enough to know that a great deal of the gold interest in South Africa belongs to foreign countries. I believe that there are thirty millions of French money and forty millions of German money invested in the Rand, and I cannot imagine how hon. Gentlemen can use an argument of such a clap-trap description when they state that we are eager to get the goldfields. That certainly is not an argument that will appeal to the British people. I only wish the Government had followed the example of President Kruger. It will be in the recollection of the House, because it happened only a very few years ago, that President Kruger asked for an explanation from the British Government regarding some small increase in our armaments in South Africa, and the Government responded. I deeply regret that the Government did not follow the wise example of President Kruger, and demand an explanation as to why the Transvaal armaments were being increased, and use all the power of the British Empire to put a stop to them, because they could only end in war. When I visited the Transvaal I made all the inquiries I could regarding its armaments, and it appears that our Government were perfectly well aware of them. What were these armaments for? Were they for the purpose of repelling another raid by three or four hundred Rhodesian policemen? Why, Sir, it was patent to the world that these armaments, paid for by the gold of the Uitlanders, were directed against the British Empire. When I was in South Africa I did not take very long to find out that war was inevitable. I found the Transvaal armed to the teeth, and its armaments could only have been collected in contemplation of war with this country. I found further that there was an organisation—though it may not be called a conspiracy—with its headquarters in Pretoria, and its agents all over Cape Colony paid by the Transvaal. That was the Afrikander Bond, which had for its object the establishment of a Dutch nation throughout South Africa. 541 That cannot be denied. The Bond obtained money from the Transvaal and that money was used to return members to the Cape Legislature. Every British man in South Africa, in common with many Nationalist Irishmen in that country, who are as loyal to the Empire as myself, and who I am glad to see have condemned the action of hon. Gentlemen opposite, knew that these efforts on the part of the Transvaal and the arming of the Free State and the Dutch in our own colony could have only one object—to drive the British out of South Africa. We had only two alternatives—either to force the supremacy of the Crown to be admitted or to scuttle out of the country. It is said that we have gone to war on behalf of the Uitlanders. I do not believe it. The treatment of the Uitlanders was unbearable. We created the Dutch Republic, and the Uitlanders had as much right to be in the country as the Boers themselves, and to be treated on an equality with other white men, but when they were treated as helots, subject to taxation without representation, then the Government, if the supremacy of the Crown meant anything had a right to interfere. The Uitlanders' grievances were the pivot round which the supremacy of the Crown in South Africa turned, and accordingly the Government determined to enforce the supremacy of the Crown, and in doing that they are backed by the British people. It appears to me that some hon. Gentlemen in this House are out of touch with the British people in this matter. Two nights ago after having listened to speeches from the opposite side of the House which tried to show that the British people were engaged in an unjust war, I went to a London railway station and there I saw a train full of young Yeomen who had left their occupations, and were going to Liverpool to embark for South Africa. There was a crowd on the platform cheering them, and I compared what I witnessed with what I had heard in this House.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
The hon. Gentleman asks me why I do not go out myself. Unfortunately I am suffering from an incurable disease—Anno Domini—and I am afraid that after a man has 542 passed the age of sixty he is not allowed to volunteer.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Oh! if Her Majesty would make me a field-marshal, possibly I might go; but I am afraid that as a Volunteer my age is a barrier. The hon. Member for East Clare professes great admiration for the Boers as well as a considerable dislike for the British Empire. He is at present in the flower of his age. Why does he not go out to the Transvaal?
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
I would go to the Transvaal with pleasure, only I feel that I can serve the cause of the Boers and liberty a great deal better here in this House.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
After that remark, I think the House will see it would not be very safe to have a Government dependent on hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I think I can promise the hon. Gentleman and any hon. Member opposite not debarred by age, that if they have any inclination to go to the Transvaal, the Government will not offer any opposition whatever to their going. They will get every facility for going, however it may be as regards their coming back. We are about to decide whether Her Majesty's Government are more likely to carry this war to a successful termination than a Government dependent on the assistance of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I should not like to insult the House of Commons by imagining that it would decide in any other way than by rejecting the Amendment. It is said that this war, even if carried to a successful termination, will be disastrous to South Africa, and will leave in the minds of the Dutch a feeling of racial hatred which time will not obliterate. I do not believe it. I believe the Dutch in South Africa made two mistakes. They adopted two false standards: they measured the pluck and endurance of the British soldier by the Majuba standard, and they measured the determination of the Government of this country and of the British people by the Gladstone standard. They have found that both these standards were fallacious. However this war may end, the Boer soldier and the British soldier — whether he be 543 Irish, English, or Scotch—have learned to respect each other's valour. Neither side will be able to pour contempt on the other. No man admires the courage and war genius of the Boers more than I do, and the Boers themselves will admit that they never met a more courageous antagonist than the British soldier. I look with confidence to the time when, after the war is over, Briton and Boer, thus respecting each other, will live in peace together in South Africa, and when the Boers will realise, as other nationalities have realised, that under the British flag they are sure to enjoy what other people living under that flag enjoy—both freedom and liberty.
§ MR. BIRRELL (Fife, W.)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just concluded the most repulsive speech which I, at all events, have ever heard in this House began by calling down the vials of his wrath upon my right hon. friend the Member for South Aberdeen for vilifying his country, but he had not been speaking many minutes before a scene arose painful to witness, and at a time like this disgraceful to contemplate. Whose fault was that? What are we to say of the good feeling and patriotism of the man who, at a time like this, knowing well the inflammable material of which he himself is composed, and with which he has to deal, deliberately goes out of his way to pour insults upon his countrymen? For my part I rise with considerable reluctance to take part in this debate, which in my judgment is already too protracted. But I ask myself why it has been so protracted. I do not think that the rank and file of the House ought to bear the blame for that. It is due to the vanity and conceit of the members of the front benches, who cannot make up their minds when they are to speak, who nourish the delusion that Her Majesty called this House together to hear them talk, and who positively regard every Parliamentary day as epicures look upon a joint which has only two or three prime cuts, and unless they can have one of these they will not speak at all. The other hours of the day they treat as offal, on which the rank and file may please themselves by spending their time until the moment arrives for another prime cut off the joint. This course is making our debates both uninteresting und depressing. I can see no reason why 544 the Colonial Secretary should not have spoken to-night or last night, and I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth conceals himself in this debate until the hour has arrived for the delivery of some marvellous oration. I should like to see the loaders listening to the debates, and actively contributing to bring them to a proper conclusion. Then debate would be conducted as it ought to be conducted in the interests of the House and the country. However, these great men have not yet polished their tu quoque, and we must be content to occupy time until they are ready, and I do not know that I have not as much right to occupy this time—to feed upon this offal—as anyone else. I must say, however, that to a private Member like myself, guiltless of my country's blood, and anxious only for the well-being and well-doing of my country, in whose future fortunes some at all events of the best hopes of humanity are, in my opinion, involved and bound up, the course of this debate has been somewhat depressing. I know, of course, we have no right to expect—certainly we have no power to insist—that the best interests of the country shall at all times be served in the Council Chamber by statesmen of wisdom and foresight, and richly endowed with that political imagination without which there can be no wisdom or foresight. Nor can we expect that our generals shall always exhibit military skill in the field. The only working definition of a statesman that I have been able to devise is a politician with a salary. And, as for our soldiers, unfortunately there seems to be nothing in our military experience and training to enable even an expert like Lord Wolseley to select those generals likely to exhibit in the field the highest qualities of military skill. We must take what we can get, and if our generals do not run away, and if our salaried politicians do not take bribes, that is all we can expect. Nevertheless, it was somewhat depressing to be told by the Under Secretary for War in his speech—on which I would gladly lavish praise if praise of mine were worth having, or if he cared to be praised in a crisis like this, for mere oratorical skill—of what he honestly called the disastrous events in South Africa. Our great army, which was to advance in triumph to Pretoria, is now cut up into 545 three hopeless and helpless sections; a large body of men are shut up in a place which, from a military point of view, is not worth the life of a single mule; and thousands of our soldiers are now living in the capital of the foe, fed by the bounty—the generous bounty—of the enemy. I should like to be told that these disastrous events were due to some attributable cause. But they were not. There was no lack of anything. The Intelligence Department told the Government everything; there was no lack of money—the Treasury gave all it was asked for; there was no lack of men, aye, there was no lack of anything—except brains. That is in itself somewhat depressing, and we naturally cannot but criticise those whose hard luck it is to accept the whole responsibility for this matter—and a grave and serious matter it is. I am not blaming Her Majesty's Ministers, but the whole history of our connection with South Africa is one long commentary, often written in blood, upon the melancholy saying, "With how little wisdom the world is governed." I quite agree with one criticism passed by the First Lord of the Treasury on the wording of this Amendment. He asked why only from 1895. If you want evenhanded justice you must devise a resolution which will condemn the lack of political imagination of every Colonial Secretary who has held the seals of office during the present century. But what is it we find fault with to-day? Why the man and even the boy in the street know it. What is the offence urged against the Government? It is twofold. There was the delusion that President Kruger would not fight, and the neglect to give proper protection to our Colony of Natal. Why were Ministers persuaded that President Kruger would not fight? Who told them that lie? Who disseminated that dishonouring suspicion? I have no doubt—though I cannot prove it—that it could be traced to the fans et origo mali in this case—Mr. Rhodes. He has said over and over again that the bravery of the Boers was an unpricked bubble, and that they would not fight. Mr. Rhodes is the very last man whose opinion I would take on any subject involving the nobler aspects of humanity. He has so long worshipped the power of money—I will not say money for personal purposes—that he firmly believes every man has his price, and that he can have a cash deal with any man. He thinks no more of buying a news- 546 paper—editor, staff, and all—than a schoolboy thinks of buying an orange. This was not the man whose opinion was worth listening to for a moment, as to whether these burghers would or would not fight. Why should they not fight? We are told that their Government was oligarchy. Great heavens! men do not fight for governments. Do you suppose that the brave men who have fallen in the service of the Crown in South Africa died with the name of "Chamberlain" on their lips? The very thought is impious. Do you suppose the Boers who have died laid down their lives for the dynamite monopoly? As for the Boer Government being an oligarchy, I wonder when did an oligarchy become so distasteful to the great Tory party. When was our great Empire founded? It was founded in the eighteenth century, and the Government of that time was an oligarchy, and when I add that it was a Whig oligarchy there is no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that it was as corrupt as Satan. Nevertheless, our soldiers died and cemented with their blood that Empire which they founded and we talk about. There was no reason why the Boers should not fight for what they believed to be their independence. I do not believe there is a man in this House—and all men are willing to be fair to an enemy—who does not believe that President Kruger and his burghers had grave grounds for the suspicion—if not for the belief—that there were in South Africa powerful, influential, wealthy and unscrupulous men, who were aided, supported and sympathised with by powerful and wealthy men in this country, who would never be content until these two Republics which stood between them and their dreams—I do not say disgraceful dreams at all—were swept away. President Kruger and his burghers had grounds for that suspicion, and therefore it cannot be denied that in their own opinion they are fighting for their independence. Whether these men are heroes or not is a question I will not discuss, but history is full of examples in which such men were always supposed to be heroes. It was therefore as natural and reasonable a thing for any rational man to imagine that the Boers would fight as anything else that was likely to happen in the area of political conflict. I think it is a wise and patriotic thing to put ourselves as far as we can in our enemy's place and give him as much 547 credit as we can for generosity. We should hold the balance evenly, even when our own country is in the scale. But I confess that if I thought—as some hon. Members not confined to one side of the House think—that Her Majesty's Ministers had goaded and provoked President Kruger into this war and had made themselves the puppets of Mr. Rhodes and his bulls and bears, I should not be content myself with voting for this insignificant Amendment. I should think it my duty to use every energy I could command, every force I possessed, to stop this war at once. I would do my utmost to have a proper message sent to the presidents of the two Republics saying that if they withdrew their troops from the Queen's dominions we would pay the whole expenses of such an unjust war. But thank God I do not believe anything of the kind. I am persuaded that, whatever the faults, shortcomings, and lack of political imagination, and of all the other great qualities—with which, of course, everyone else is endowed — of Lord Salisbury's Cabinet, it was a Cabinet of peace. I believe it wanted to keep the peace, and although I do not blame President Kruger for entertaining a contrary opinion, I cannot give over my country because another man had some justification for making a mistake. President Kruger could if he liked have had peace with that independence guaranteed to him under the Convention. If he were a genuine lover of peace, if he were studiously anxious to do as much justice to persons carrying on industries within his dominions as he ought to have been, whether we had a right to interfere or not, he could have appealed over the head of Mr. Rhodes, over the head of the Colonial Secretary, even over the head of Lord Salisbury, if it were necessary, which it was not, to the British people, who, whatever their faults—and they have great and even hideous faults if you like—are a generous people, who had no desire to make war on a small republic which they believed at that time was not so well equipped to meet them as it has since proved itself to be. Had he done this, war by us upon him would have been impossible, and war by him upon us unnecessary. I do not believe that anyone has any other feeling than one of horror when they read of the deaths of the Boers; after we have shed our tears over 548 our own killed and wounded, I do not think anyone can read of the sacrifice of life among these brave men without shedding tears of bitter vexation. This war was not, however, desired by the Government or the people of this country, and I think also that the House of Commons is free from any such imputation. We on this side are justified in maintaining two things: one, that we did not begin this war, the necessity for which President Kruger might have prevented, and the other that the war must be carried to its legitimate conclusion. If we can do it, we must; if we cannot, we must submit. The legitimate conclusion of this war is to render a repetition of such a conflict an impossibility. Secure that by any means you like, and I at all events shall be satisfied. When I made use of certain language in Manchester, which has been referred to, and to which I adhere, I was not speaking of any permanent Government or anything of that kind. I meant that the war should be proceeded with until a repetition of it became an impossibility, and it is for Statesmen to consider how best that can be done. If it is not done every life lost in war and every pound spent on war is a life squandered and a pound thrown away. I do not intend to occupy the time of the House longer, and I only wish that the division on this Amendment had been taken at an hour which would have prevented me from making any observations at all.
§ It being midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed on Monday next.