§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [30th January] to Question [30th January], "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—
§ Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the 591 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 WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I shall not waste much of the time of the House in offering a justification for those who brought forward this Amendment. Those who object to an Amendment of this character, I think, must be persons who are absolutely ignorant of the history of their country and of the history of the Parliament of this country. The Prime Minister told us the other day that the situation in which the nation finds itself was one of humiliation not devoid of danger. Lord Rosebery, in a speech made not long ago, said that the prestige of this country had been shattered, and would require to be repaired. I should like to know, from any man who has read the history of his country, when in such a situation as that the House of Commons has failed to perform its duty as representative of the nation, in calling upon the Executive Government to give an account of their conduct which has brought the country into such a situation as that, performing that which is not only its right and its duty, but which is also in the interest of the nation. Have the people who object to this Amendment ever heard the names of Chatham, Fox, or Burke, whose fame depends on the eloquence and the determination with which, in the great war against the American colonies, they persisted in opposing the policy of the Government? Have they ever heard of the man whose name has descended to my hon. friend the Member for the Berwick Division—have they ever heard of the course that Lord 592 Grey and the Liberal party took in the great war with France? To come to more recent times, have they ever heard—I am sorry to say I am old enough to have heard it myself—of the course taken in respect of the Crimean War? There is one authority to which gentlemen opposite at least will pay some respect—that of Lord Beaconsfield. At that period, in the darkest moment of depression in that Crimean contest, what was it Lord Beaconsfield said when he was supporting an inquiry which was regarded as a vote of want of confidence in the Government? The words are practically those of the Amendment now before the House. He said—The designs of the Government have been, hastily conceived, and have been attempted to be carried out by inadequate means; they have shown throughout the whole conception and the management of their scheme a want of foresight, of firmness, of depth, and of all those resources which it became a Government to exhibit that had entered upon an enterprise of such moment. If an inquiry were not held now it never would be held.That has been the invariable tradition of Parliament, which has not been suspended for 200 years, and I hope that while Parliament exists, and while the British Constitution is not suspended, it still will remain the tradition of the House of Commons. But what a preposterous doctrine is this. It amounts to this—that the greater the disasters in which a Government involves the country the more certain ought they to be of impunity, and that true patriotism requires that they shall not be called to account. This Amendment challenges the Government to give to the nation and to Parliament an account; it challenges their policy in entering upon the war, and their capacity in its conduct. That is our right, and that is our duty. The object of the Amendment is to extract, if we can extract, from the Government more adequate explanation of the causes which have led to what Lord Salisbury calls "a state of humiliation." I hope that the Leader of this House, the First Lord of the Treasury, will not think I am guilty of any disrespect to him if I do not enter upon a minute examination of the explanations which he has offered in this House and elsewhere.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I am sure he will not. He does not accurately recollect his own speeches. He tells us he has not the least interest in them. It is true that the Prime Minister said that if he had had notice he would have laid a bound copy of those speeches on the Table of the House of Lords. I do not know that that is a publication for which the right hon. Gentleman is particularly anxious, or whether he claims copyright in those speeches. But I think the right hon. Gentleman, if I may say so without disrespect, must be satisfied by this time that that is not an explanation which the nation expects, or which Parliament ought to accept. But this Government, which is united in its action, has taken the advantage which we know in criminal courts is frequently resorted to by accused persons—they have thought fit to sever in their defence. The Prime Minister has given his account of what led to the condition of humiliation of this country, and he says that this Government has been the "victim of the British Constitution." The British Constitution may be very defective, but it has served the purpose for two centuries. It was sufficient for the Duke of Marlborough; it was sufficient, I may say, for the two centuries in which the British Empire has been created. It was sufficient for Lord Chatham, and even the Duke of Wellington got along with it. I never heard Lord Palmerston whining about the British Constitution, and I never heard that Lord Beaconsfield contemplated a constitutional revolution. But then the noble Marquess tells us it is not only the British Constitution, it is the financial system of this country which is the cause of the present condition of humiliation. It is Chancellors of the Exchequer—I mean the genus, not the species—it is the Treasury system which has brought us into the position in which we now find ourselves. That originally was to be put an end to. But then happened an explanation—I suppose I ought to call it an apology—and we were assured that it was not this Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it was not this Treasury which had embarrassed the Government; on the contrary, they had done everything that could be desired. Then what is the relevance of this attack upon the Treasury if they have done all that you wish? What trivialities! We are to have an 594 attack upon Treasury control. That is a matter of which I have had some experience, and this I will tell the House of Commons, that if you are going to abolish Treasury control, if you are going to allow Departments—the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office—to make war when they please without the control of Parliament, and to spend what money they please without the supervision of the Treasury, besides the many millions which this war will cost, the result of such a policy as that will be to reduce this country into a state of finance such as exists in other nations where Treasury control is not permitted. There is another cause given for this humiliation, and that is that the Government had not secret service money enough. What, Sir—with their majority they could not got what secret service money they wanted for the purpose of the defence of the Empire! Such a plea shows that they have very little confidence in their own supporters. They did not know anything, they could not know anything, because they had not secret service money enough; and then from his place the First Lord of the Treasury tells us that they did know everything. Is it possible that they can expect that the country will be satisfied with explanations of this character? No, Sir; they know very well that those justifications that have been offered have been received with blank astonishment, with disappointment, and I do not think it would be too much to say, they have been received with dismay. Those are the explanations which have been offered by the two principal members of the Cabinet. There is a third member of the Cabinet who has also offered his explanation, and I do not know that that contributed a great deal to our enlightenment. The First Lord of the Admiralty the other day explained the policy of the Government, stating—Then came the declaration of war by the Transvaal Government, and then, and not before, it was arranged that an Army Corps should be sent out.The "man in the street" knows better than that. How can a member of the Cabinet be so ignorant of what has occurred, so ignorant of their own policy and their own action? The Royal Proclamation for calling out the Reserves took place upon 7th October, and the ultimatum of the Boers took place upon 9th October. 595 He said, too, it was never arranged that an Army Corps should be sent out until after the ultimatum of the Boers had been delivered. Then, when the right hon. Gentleman is informed of this, I suppose for the first time, he says, "Oh, it is a question of dates." Of course it is a I question of dates. The relation of cause and effect is always a question of date. Of course, the ultimatum of the Boers was a reply to the proclamation for calling out the Reserves. What were the Reserves and the Army Corps called out for? It was to invade the territory of the Transvaal and to march upon Pretoria, and the ultimatum does not seem to me to be an unnatural reply to a measure of that character. These are the explanations which have been offered to the country by members of the Cabinet; but there was an explanation of a different character offered, not by a Cabinet Minister. I think a brighter light than any offered by the Cabinet was that contained in the remarkably brilliant speech of the Member for Dover, the Under Secretary for War. Old Members of this House always look with admiration and hope to such performances as that of the hon. Gentleman. A more remarkable exhibition of brilliant talent I have never heard, and I look forward with confidence in the House of Commons, when many of us will have passed away, to know that its great reputation will be sustained by such brilliant politicians. I was not very much consoled by the assurance that what has happened to us was the inexorable law of fate—that we must always be defeated in the first instance, and that we must muddle through afterwards. In these days when wars are short, when they last weeks rather than months, that is not a very satisfactory assurance, and for my part I think that the moral of the lesson is that the less you go to war the better. This Amendment challenges the conduct of the Government in reference to South Africa since the year 1895. The Prime Minister said—Why do you begin in 1895? The situation began much earlier; you must go further back. You must go to 1881 and 1884.[Ministerial cheers.] I am glad to receive the assent of hon. Gentlemen opposite, because that is entirely my opinion. It is the fact that the policy of 1881 and 1884 lies at the root of the whole matter, that it was the situation with which this 596 Government had to deal in 1895 when they came into office. What was that situation, and what was the policy of 1881 and 1884? A good many gentlemen, some of whom were responsible for that policy, have tried their hands and their memories by giving an account of that transaction. I confess I do not think it is a very commendable thing for members of Cabinets, whether, like the Duke of Argyll, they stand in a white sheet or not, to attempt to give their own individual opinions on the policy of a Cabinet. The policy of a Cabinet ought to be known by the authentic account of it given to Parliament by that Cabinet. We know what the policy of the Cabinet of 1881 was. It was very definitely declared. The Duke of Devonshire's memory is not so retentive as I should have expected, because he said there were only three of his colleagues still extant. He forgot three who are still alive. I happen accidentally to be one of them; in 1881 I was, with him, a principal Secretary of State. But it is not my authority I am going to quote, nor my memory. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary will remember that I was a colleague of his at that time, because I think I was perhaps his most earnest and constant supporter in the policy which was then pursued. I remember very well that a great honour was conferred upon the Colonial Secretary at that time, only lately a Cabinet Minister; he was selected to declare to Parliament what was the policy and what were the motives of the policy of the Cabinet of 1881. That is the authentic account, and the only authentic account that can be given, of that policy. I will read one extract, because it shows what lies at the root of the whole question of South Africa and the relations of Great Britain to that part of the world. I do not bring this forward as against the Colonial Secretary as an individual; I object altogether to attacks upon individual Ministers as distinguished from the Cabinet; the Cabinet is responsible; and, therefore, in reading this extract I am reading the declared policy of the Cabinet as stated by its authentic instrument, who is now the Colonial Secretary. This is what the right hon. Gentleman said—He did not doubt that with the large force placed at our disposal, we could have, if so minded, overrun the Transvaal and reconquered the country. Our difficulties, however, would 597 not have ended there. We should have had to face probably the opposition of the Free State, and the Government would have been confronted with the agitation among the Dutch colonists of the Cape. They would have had permanently to maintain a large army on a European scale. They would have had to risk the best interests of South Africa and face an insurrection at any moment when any considerable portion of our troops were removed.The right hon. Gentleman must have forgotten that when he questioned the statement by Lord Kimberley that that had been one of the motives which had governed the Cabinet of 1881. Those were prudential considerations. They have been stigmatised as cowardly. They are considerations that ought not to be left out of sight by any statesman, and they were in full view of the Cabinet of 1881. But that was not the only nor the principal ground of that policy, and here I hope I may be allowed to state in words characterised by all the force and lucidity which always distinguish the statements of the right hon. Gentleman what was the policy of 1881. The right hon. Gentleman said—But these were not the main reasons why, as he submitted, it was impossible for them to maintain the annexation of the Transvaal. He thought that course was impossible for any Government caring for the honour as well as for the interests of this country. It was contrary to their treaty engagements; it was contrary to the best traditions of a free country. When they found out that the wishes and sentiments of the Boers were entirely misunderstood—that they had gained the Transvaal on false pretences—they were bound in honour to withdraw from the position which they had unwittingly and wrongly taken up. He could not understand how those who talked so glibly of the honour of this country should fail to see that the greatest shame and humiliation would be in maintaining a high-handed breach of faith and destroying the independence of a people which they had solemnly engaged to respect. … They had the power in their hands, but they had not the will to use it. The strength of the giant was there, but it would have been tyrannous to employ it. If they had not so employed it, it was because they were not satisfied with the justice of their cause, because they did not think there was any end to be served commensurate with the sacrifice they would impose upon themselves and others, and because they had learned to recognise in their opponents qualities which were worthy of a free people. … As soon as it became manifest that to conciliate the Boers with any offer short of absolute independence was impossible, that the restoration of their independence was absolutely called for with regard to our treaty engagements and the honour of our country, to have continued to maintain the annexation would have been an act which he could only 598 describe in terms which had been applied by a high authority to a different subject—as an act of 'fraud, force, and folly.' … For his part he was not afraid or ashamed to appeal to the House of Commons, to appeal, if necessary, to the English people, to justify the course which the Government had taken, and above all to approve their action in preferring justice to revenge, and in restoring to a brave people the independence of which they ought never to have been deprived.That was the policy of 1881 as declared by the Colonial Secretary. I do not know if he has altered his opinion on that subject. I adhere to mine, and I am as proud of that policy to-day as I was then. Remembering that, and remembering how we laboured together in that cause, and that the right hon. Gentleman had been chosen because he was the protagonist and the champion of the restoration of independence to the Transvaal—[Mr. CHAMBERLAIN dissented.] My recollection is that he was expressing his sentiments when he made that declaration, and my recollection is that he was selected specially to state the policy of the Government because he had been and was an earnest and eager supporter of that policy. Therefore I was a little surprised when, in the last session of Parliament, he spoke of that policy as one for which he had only a corporate responsibility. I do not know whether, when he remembers that speech, he will call it a little more than a corporate responsibility. I think he must have been an earnest believer in the policy, or he would not have addressed the House in language such as that. That was the policy of 1881, and the same Government with the same corporate responsibility, so far from restricting, expanded that independence in 1884. There have been several Governments since that time. There was the Government of Lord Salisbury, and it, through the mouth of Mr. W. H. Smith, declared that by the Conventions they were bound, and that they could not pretend, therefore, to interfere with the internal government of the Transvaal outside of the Conventions. The same thing was said by the mouth of my hon. friend the late Under Secretary for the Colonies in the Government of Lord Rosebery, and that was the situation in 1895, the period at which this Government undertook the management of things in South Africa. It may be said that a great deal happened between 1881 and 599 1895; that there had grown up the population of Johannesburg, that the grievances of the Uitlanders had become acute, and that the Conventions were no longer applicable to the situation. That is a view which some people may have taken, but was that the view taken by this Government in 1895? All the grievances of the Uitlanders were well known. The raid was just about to take place. Had they in any sense altered their view of the rights and obligations created by the Conventions, and did they attempt to say that they had been in any respect varied? In 1896, by a singular coincidence, the policy of the Government—and here again I do not speak of the action of an individual—was declared by the same voice that declared the policy of the Government in 1881. The Colonial Secretary was then again the organ of the party he had joined. He had been before the organ of the party he had left. But his view was precisely the same. What did he say when he addressed the House in 1896? I will give the important sentence in that declaration. He pointed out the infinite dangers and perils which would arise from a war to enforce internal reforms in the Transvaal, and he said that to go to war with President Kruger to force upon him reforms in the internal affairs of a State with which successive Secretaries of State had repudiated all right of interference would be a course of action as immoral as it would be unwise. The circumstances which had occurred had not changed the view of the Government up to 1896 in any respect from the policy of 1881 and 1884. And then he proceeded elaborately to explain to us what were exactly the relations between the British Government and the Transvaal created by these Conventions. He said that "the right, and the only right, is one of friendly representation," and in a formal manner he also declared—In the next place it is necessary that I should state clearly and unequivocally what is the position which Her Majesty's Government claim to hold towards the Government of the South African Republic since the Convention of 1884. Her Majesty's Government have recognised the South African Republic—as what?—as a free and independent Government as regards all its internal affairs not touched by that Convention.600 Thus it is quite plain that in 1895 and 1896 the present Administration regarded the situation in respect to the independence of the Transvaal, and, therefore, in the absence of any right on our part by force to interfere in their internal affairs, in exactly the same position as it was placed fifteen years before. The right hon. Gentleman, as we know, made proposals to President Kruger, and he stated at the time that if President Kruger found them not acceptable, of course, he was at liberty to refuse them. That is the policy of Her Majesty's Government up to the year 1896. Nothing could be more clear or more definite. But that policy was radically altered subsequently, and it is to the reversal of that policy, in my opinion, that this war is due. When Her Majesty's Government arrived at the conclusion that it was moral and wise to force by war upon the Government of the Transvaal reforms which they chose to prescribe, and which had been declared in 1896 to be immoral and unwise, it is difficult exactly to fix. But that determination has been the cause of this war. The matter was opened at the Bloemfontein Conference. President Kruger was invited to go to that Conference. It has been said that there was a conspiracy throughout South Africa on the part of the Dutch race to expel the British from South Africa. [An HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!] I should like the hon. Gentleman who says "Hear, hear" to reconcile that statement with the initiation of the Bloemfontein Conference. At whose instance was that Conference brought about? It was brought about by the President of the Free State; it was strongly supported by the representatives of the Dutch party in Cape Colony, and President Kruger, who was not bound at all in reference to his internal policy to go to Bloemfontein, went to that Conference. When he went there he was not told, "You have come here to receive our orders, to receive conditions which are to be a minimum"; he was told, on the contrary, that, although the Government disclaimed any right to enforce by war internal reforms in the Transvaal, they were within their right when they attempted by negotiations to improve the condition of the Uitlanders in Johannesburg. That everybody admits. What happened next? The first thing that President Kruger did was to pass a Bill for a seven 601 years franchise. Well, that was declared to offer a most favourable basis of settlement, subject to examination. But subsequently, in the beginning of August, he went further than that, and he offered the very terms which had been laid down by Sir Alfred Milner at Bloemfontein. This was the offer of a five years franchise, subject to a condition. [Opposition cheers.] Yes, Sir, the whole thing turned upon that condition. And what was that condition? President Kruger said, "I have given you now what you have asked for. Will you give me an assurance that that is not to be a precedent for constant interference; will you give me an assurance that in future you will leave to me that independence in the control of my own internal affairs which you have guaranteed to me in the Conventions of 1881 and 1884?" That was the condition, and it was declared to be impossible. Of course, that revealed the attitude taken up by us, that under the name of suzerainty, or supremacy, or paramountcy, or what you please, the British Government claimed the right to dictate and prescribe, and to what extent they pleased, the internal policy of the Government of the Transvaal. I will not argue whether that was a right policy or a wrong policy, but it was a policy of war. It was a policy absolutely to wipeout the independence of the Transvaal. What is the meaning of "independence"? When you have the power to set it aside at any moment and prescribe what shall be done, there is no room for independence. Supremacy and independence are self-contradictory terms. The negotiations went on for a time until at last you abandoned all idea of negotiations, and you broke off negotiations. You said, "We will not discuss any more with you; we will inform you what our terms are," and you made it plain by the course you took in London that you intended to enforce those terms by war. Whether that was a right policy or a wrong policy, it was a reversal of the policy which preceding Governments had pursued for fifteen years. Then it has been said that you thought that peace was possible, and even probable, under those circumstances. How came you to think that peace was possible or probable under those circumstances? What could ever have induced you to believe that President Kruger or the Government of the Transvaal would ever consent without a struggle of 602 life and death to surrender their whole independence? A phrase was used, "We will respect your independence," but that phrase was misleading if you meant to thrust reforms on the Transvaal by force of arms. Well, you said you expected President Kruger to yield, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said he held that opinion in common with all the best opinion in South Africa. Where did you collect the best opinion on that subject in South Africa? Who told you that President Kruger was a man who, if you only menaced him enough, would yield the independence which he and his people valued so highly? We have been told that we are to place implicit confidence in the man on the spot. The man on the spot was not the best South African opinion. He was a newcomer in South Africa; he had had little experience, or perhaps he might have taken the course that Lord Rosmead had taken before him, and have pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman the infinite danger of the course which he was contemplating to pursue. No, Sir, the man in the street—many men in the street—knew a great deal more about the situation than the man on the spot. The great misfortune was, and it was one of the causes of this war, that the only men who were consulted were men on one side of the street—yes, Sir, that side of the street which was inhabited by the authors of the raid. Then, Sir, there was another source of the best African opinion at home—the helots, I suppose, who inhabit Park Lane. In my opinion, Sir, it was not the best South African opinion which misled you.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to assert that the persons to whom he refers were consulted by the Colonial Office, and that no others were consulted?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I have asked, what was the best South African opinion? and I say that was not the best South African opinion, that there was another South African opinion that was a great deal better. I will refer to that remarkable correspondence that the Prime Minister of Natal had begun in the month of May. He then talked about the alarm that was felt at the prospects of war and 603 the injury it would impose upon his own State, and entreated you, if you could, to avoid it. But did he think that President Kruger was going to give up his independence when he was menaced? No, Sir; he knew a great deal better than that. Then there are the still more remarkable protests of President Steyn, of the Free State. The First Lord of the Treasury had only to read these protests to see that the course you were pursuing was going straight to war. When you said you would negotiate no longer, but would prescribe your own terms, President Steyn said, "For God's sake, tell us what your terms are, and do not menace us by placing troops upon the frontiers of the Free State and of the colonies." You would not state your terms, and you did place troops on the frontiers of the colonies. The right hon. Gentleman asks me what people were consulted. Did Mr. Schreiner or Mr. Hofmeyr, who were the representatives of the Dutch in the colony, inform the High Commissioner that President Kruger would probably yield? The right hon. Gentleman said he thought, and, as I understood, the First Lord of the Treasury believed, it was possible and even probable. But the First Lord of the Treasury said he always knew that if President Kruger did not yield the consequence would necessarily be war. Well, the "man in the street" knew that as well as Her Majesty's Government. The whole spirit in which this thing was conducted—your military preparations and everything else—was one of contempt of the character and resources of the Boers. I believe these negotiations would never have been so conducted if you had appreciated the real situation with which you had to deal. You dealt with the Boers as if they were an inferior Power whom you had only to intimidate. Your experts told you of their military forces, and your experts could count their men and their guns. There seems to me to have been an element which British Ministers ought, above all, to have taken into account, and that is the indomitable energy of a free people fighting for their independence. That is a lack of imagination which ought not to have been wanting in the conduct of your negotiations. And so you broke off negotiations on September 22nd. The sands had run out, and you would deliver your own ultimatum. You prepared your military policy. You had a defensive 604 force. You prepared an aggressive force that was to be sent out, and the Boers replied by their ultimatum. That was the finale of the stage of negotiations. If you had been properly informed of the people you had to deal with and the situation that was created, it was from the first a policy of war, and I agree, therefore, with the Colonial Secretary when he said that, looking at the whole thing, war was from the first inevitable. From the moment you determined that you would impose when you pleased your will in the internal administration of the Transvaal, war was a necessity and a certainty. But it was a direct reversal of all the policy you had pursued, and all the pledges you had given, and all the guarantees in the Convention by which, up to then, you had been bound. I will say extremely little on the second part of the Amendment and your conduct in preparing for war. I take the authority of the First Lord of the Treasury against that of the Prime Minister, and assume that you knew everything. What were you told by your Intelligence Department? You were told that there were 60,000 Boers, who had about 100 cannon, and you were told, you say, that 25,000 men were a good deal more than were enough to deal with these 60,000 Boers and their 100 cannon in defending the frontiers of Cape Colony and Natal. Well, Sir, great is human credulity. I am not a judge of these professional matters. I am not even that ordinary person, an amateur strategist. But this I will say, that if all the field-marshals in the world had told me that 25,000 men were sufficient to cope with 60,000 Boers and 100 cannon I think I should have reserved my opinion. I think that even if the Astronomer Royal had told me that the sun went round the earth instead of the earth round the sun I should not have immediately acquiesced. You left 25,000 men to cope with 60,000 Boers. You did not know that there were mounted infantry, and, what is more, that if they were that was a matter of any consequence. That was the preparation you made. You had announced before October that you meant to send out a corps d'armée to invade the Transvaal. You told us that that could not be there for thirteen weeks. What did you expect would happen between the breaking off of negotiations on September 22nd and December 20th, which was the earliest moment your 605 corps d'armée could arrive? That was a significant condition of preparation, Why were these vast preparations made by the Transvaal? The First Lord of the Treasury said you were not able to remonstrate against them or to make preparations against them—why? Because of the raid. Yes, Sir, the curse of the raid hangs round us still. It has been one of the principal causes of this war. The raid and its authors have ever since been the evil genius of South Africa. My right hon. friend the late Home Secretary said that the cause of the failure of the negotiations was that the whole atmosphere was poisoned with suspicion. Yes; but what introduced the poisonous suspicion? It was the raid. It was the conduct of the raid itself, and the manner in which the raiders were dealt with. In my opinion, one of the most serious questions raised by the Amendment which challenges the conduct of the Government in dealing with the affairs of South Africa since 1895 is their treatment of the raid. In my opinion it, in the end, made peace impossible. I am not going to enter into details upon this matter. But it is necessary I should make an observation on the attack my hon. and learned friend the Member for Dumfries made on the South African Committee. He charged the members of the Committee, of whom I was one, with a breach of their duty in not pursuing certain investigations. It has been suggested that members of that Committee had some object in not pursuing those investigations, that they deliberately hushed them up. Well, I speak for myself, but I believe no member of that committee ever had such an idea in his head or ever acted upon it. You will find the reason why they did not pursue those investigations stated fully on page 15 of the Report. It was impossible to pursue the investigations without adjourning the Committee to the next session of Parliament. That is the whole story, the sole and only reason. Witnesses could not be got whom it was necessary to examine. You might have sent Mr. Hawksley to prison. But it was the end of the session, and in ten days he would have been released. You might have adjourned the Committee. I know very well that the whole object of the suggestions which were industriously made by the authors of the raid, endeavouring to im- 606 plicate the Colonial Office, was to prevent a verdict being given by that Committee on the authors of the raid, and if the Committee had failed to report then and there, they would have accomplished their object. The authors of the raid had influence enough in this House and out of this House to have prevented the reappointment of that Committee eight months later. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh!] There is nothing else in it. It would have been impossible to have delayed for eight months the Report of that Committee. I leave that question for the present; but what I have to ask is—was the manner in which the raid was dealt with one likely to remove suspicion from the people of the Transvaal, or, indeed, from anyone else? Almost all the persons who took part in the raid have been restored to their former positions. The principal author of the raid still retains all the former influence which belongs to the Chartered Company at the Cape. I do not speak of the inferior people who have been restored. There has been no compensation made. Was there not by this treatment of the raid cause for suspicion that the condemnation of the raid was not so strong as it might have been? There is one circumstance to which I must refer, and in the reference there is something personal to the Colonial Secretary. The Report of the Committee said as to the principal author of the raid, that he deceived the High Commissioner, the representative of the Imperial Government, that he concealed his views from his colleagues in the Colonial Ministry, and from the Board of the British South Africa Company, and led his supporters to believe that his policy was approved by his superiors, and that no doubt persons had been induced to join in the raid under the belief that it had the countenance and support of the Imperial Government. The consequences of that conduct are stated in the Report. The result for the time being caused grave injury to British interests in South Africa. Public confidence was shaken, race feeling was embittered, and serious difficulties were created in neighbouring States, and it might have had serious consequences in one or two other directions. Such was the statement, and it was unfortunate and surprising that, while the Report was under consideration, the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary thought it right to state that 607 in his opinion conduct of that character was not inconsistent with the personal honour of the man who was guilty of it. Why that statement was made at that time I do not know. No explanation has ever been given. I am sure it was an unfortunate statement; I am snre it has given rise to many evils, and to suspicions before we went into negotiations as to what our intentions really were. That standard of personal honour applied to such matters was one which only infused suspicion in the breasts of all concerned. It has done us great harm in the Transvaal; it has done us great harm, in my opinion, throughout the world. What, then, are we to infer from all these rumours, which I believe, myself, are slanders, by which the authors of the raid have throughout endeavoured, sometimes by actual statement, and constantly by innuendo and rumour, to persuade the world that the British Government connived at the raid? Sir, I believe, knowing what I do of the constant tissue of fraud and falsehood by which the authors of the raid carried out their criminal purpose—I believe that when that matter is probed to the bottom, it will be proved to be based on falsehood and fraud. Of this I am convinced, that until that is done we will never get rid of the suspicion and the mischief. The great and growing mischief will not be brought to an end by silence simply; it would be in the public interest, it would be wise and prudent that these slanders and these falsehoods should be rebutted and dispelled for ever. Sir, I cannot but believe that the right hon. Gentleman, not only in his own interest, of which he himself is the judge, but in the public interest, will agree that everything that can be done to refute these slanders should be done. Well, I have said what I have to say upon the policy of the Government which preceded the war, and the firmness, courage, and spirit displayed by all sections of the community have been such as might have been expected from the nation in the situation in which we find ourselves. The unequalled bravery of our troops, the unexampled loyalty and devotion of our kinsmen beyond the seas, are topics on which we can dwell with pride and satisfaction. Of the future what can be said? We feel that our military forces will triumph. Who can doubt it? Who can wish it otherwise? You will have 200,000 men in the field. Why, of course, as the right 608 hon. Gentleman said in 1881, "the victory is in your hands; you can subjugate the Dutch race in South Africa." No one can desire that this terrible struggle should be prolonged. In these preliminary combats of a few months you have already had a loss of 10,000 men. But when you have conquered, what is to follow? I do not venture to predict; but the Colonial Secretary will not have forgotten the dangers which in 1881 he pointed out would ensue after victory. We are embarked on this unhappy war. We must fight it out to the bitter end, and secure victory for the British arms. It seems to me, Sir, very much like the situation of two men of equal courage and of equal honour who have been committed to a duel which they never desired by the imbecility of the manner in which their interests were conducted by their seconds. They found themselves in a position in which they must endeavour to take each other's lives. There is one other topic, and the last upon which I shall touch, and touch with a cautious hand. Much has been said of the hostility felt towards us by foreign nations. That is not an agreeable topic, but it is one which in our heart of hearts we shall do well to ponder upon. I know the tendency, the natural tendency of human nature, to believe that all the hostility felt towards ourselves is due entirely to our own superior virtue; but this hostility of foreign nations is a theme upon which you might well pause when you remember that you have drained your country of all its natural laud defences. I know the wild talk of mobilising the fleet, and I was very glad to hear that wild talk repudiated. I was going to offer to the House the observations I desire to make in language much more authoritative than mine. Lord Salisbury is a man who puzzles and perplexes us all sometimes by an inexplicable cynicism, and at other times by sentiments which seem to belong to the highest plane of statesmanship. Not long ago he delivered a solemn warning against the vainglorious, boastful, noisy, bullying spirit which is too often cultivated as the only true patriotism. I saw the other day that the German Emperor had been quoting a saying of Prince Bismarck, to the effect that "the panes of glass which the press have broken we have to pay for." Yes, and the British people will have to pay for them in the same way. But, Sir, 609 the words of Lord Salisbury, delivered in the House of Lords in February, 1898, I wish to quote are these—I have a strong belief that there is danger of the public opinion of this country undergoing a reaction from the Cobdenite doctrines of thirty or forty years ago, and believing that it is our duty to take everything we can, to fight everybody, and to make a quarrel of every dispute. That seems to me a very dangerous doctrine, not merely because it might incite other nations against us—though that is not a consideration to be neglected, for the kind of reputation we are at present enjoying on the Continent of Europe, is by no means pleasant and by no means advantageous; but there is a much more serious danger, and that is lest we should overtax our strength. However strong you may be, whether you are a man or a nation, there is a point beyond which your strength will not go. It is madness; it ends in ruin if you allow yourselves to pass beyond it. And my Lords, I am sure that the noble Earl and his friends feel as we do the extreme gravity of the crisis in our country's history through which we are passing, and the extreme importance that we should not allow any party feelings to bias us in discovering and following the difficult, the narrow line that separates an undue concession from that rashness which has, in more than one case in history, been the ruin of nations as great and powerful as ourselves.That is a lesson which we would all do well to learn. We have been told that we shall derive many lessons from this war, lessons in the art of naval and military preparations; but there is another lesson to learn which far more concerns the safety of this country, and that is—not to exasperate by an arrogant and insolent demeanour those whom we desire to make our friends, not to abuse and insult those with whom we have influence, and to carry ourselves with that moderation, prudence, and self-control which truly befits the dignity of an Empire which is conscious of its own greatness and of its own strength.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Every man who addresses the House in this debate must form his own judgment of what it is fitting and useful and patriotic to say on such an occasion, at such a time, and in such an assembly. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has, no doubt, formed his own standard. I can only say that I think to-morrow the country will differ from that standard. What is the situation? We have reached a critical stage of the war. The situation is undoubtedly serious, although I hesitate to adopt the extreme language of 610 some speakers. I do not believe that the country is in danger. I think such a phrase is excessive, and I think it is unwise to give to others the opportunity of quoting us when we depreciate ourselves. But undoubtedly there is sorrow in many homes. [Cheers from IRISH MEMBERS.] Do you suppose that all of us are not sensible of it? There is anxiety in all our hearts, and there is, above all, in the mind of the people an overwhelming desire that every nerve shall be strained to bring this war to a triumphant conclusion. The country is in need of guidance and of encouragement from this House, not from one party alone. The country asks from all of us a recognition of past mistakes and a reassurance as to the future. The attitude of the country has been admirable. It has extorted the approval even of the most hostile critics. Throughout it has shown no desire to find scapegoats, whether among generals or among Ministers. It has shown that it expects all of us to work together, with a single mind, to discover the causes of our mistakes, to find out the remedy, to profit by those mistakes, and to co-operate heartily, without regard to persons or to parties, in securing the end which we all have in view. That is the situation, and what is the message that the right hon. Gentleman brings to his countrymen? Whom is he addressing to-night? This House? Yes; but what beside? He is addressing all those who have suffered in this war, all who have suffered in this country, all who have suffered in our colonies in Africa, in the Cape and in Natal, where the greatest sufferings have been loyally and readily endured in the confidence that this country will see the matter to the end. And he is also addressing those spectators abroad to whom he referred in his closing passages. And to them what does he say? He enters upon a critical examination—characteristic in this, that it omits almost everything that we think of importance, of all that preceded this war—and with what object? In order to indicate to all these people that the war is an immoral war, an unjust war, that all the sacrifices have been thrown away, that the splendid offers and assistance given to us by our colonies have been futile and wasted, even if they have not been absolutely injurious; and he finds arguments for those who gloat over the misfortunes of the 611 country. That is not all. He has embarked on a personal and historical retrospect of the situation, and of the events which led up to and accompanied the Majuba Convention. Unlike those of his colleagues at that time who still remain alive, he not only offers justification, which perhaps may well be offered, for the course which was then taken, but in the light of all that has happened since he gives us to understand that if he had influence and power he would do the same thing again, and in the middle of this war, while its fortunes are still hanging in the balance, that is the future which he offers to the people of this country and to our colonial fellow-citizens. One more remark I wish to make about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, because he thought it appropriate to this debate and to this particular occasion to refer back to the Committee of inquiry into the raid, which was closed by his suggestion about three years ago, and to a speech which I made at that time, which also is now three years old, in order to base upon that a suggestion that that Committee should be reopened. All I say with regard to that to-night is that the matter is down for consideration on the motion of the hon. Member for Merthyr, and when that comes forward I will say whatever I may think it necessary to say upon the subject. The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if, to-night at any rate, I fail to follow him, because I think I have a higher and a more important duty. How shall I deal with these criticisms against the policy of the Government previous to the commencement of the war? I might leave hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite to answer one another. I might leave the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Shields to answer the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dumfries. I might leave the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division to answer the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I might refer to the fact that those hon. Gentlemen who have taken this critical view of the proceedings of the Government have not added one atom, one iota, one new fact, or one new argument or suggestion to what they said at great length, and to which we replied at equal length, in the short session of October last. And why are we now, after this House has decided, after the country has decided, again to be 612 dragged into that issue when we have still more important and urgent matters to consider? But, although I am not inclined to any repetition, although I refuse absolutely to be drawn into a discussion of petty details, yet I do feel that those who are the losers by this war, those especially who have lost in person or friends or relatives, are entitled to have it insisted upon again and again, whenever the question is raised, that this war is just and necessary. I want the House for a few minutes to look at the matter broadly—not to stop to consider the shreds and patches of the subject, but the general drift of events and the general current of policy. We have to watch the river as it flows to the sea and not to waste time in paddling in the eddies which seem to, but do not, delay its course. Speaking from that point of view, I say that the issues between Boer and Briton, between this country and the South African Republics, are great issues, are real issues, are not technical issues—that they do not stand upon the trivialities of debate, and the matter is not to be considered as if it were a civil case in a civil Court. The right hon. Gentleman, I will do him the justice to say, said that these issues cannot be discussed, as they are sought to be discussed by the terms of this Amendment, by confining yourselves strictly to the year 1895, when this Government became responsible for South African affairs. No, Sir, these issues existed—the root causes of this disagreement were there long before 1895, even before 1881. The raid, the Bloemfontein Conference, the franchise question—all these are not, as the right hon. Gentleman appears to think they are, causes. They are only incidents and consequences of the disagreement. This difference, this vital difference, did not begin with Majuba, but it was intensified by the policy of Majuba. That, I think, most of us believe who, as the right hon. Gentleman says I was, were personally and particularly responsible for that policy—even we are unable to resist the evidence of history, the evidence of all that has passed since. We cannot fail to see that, as a policy, the policy of magnanimity was a mistake. What happened? The right hon. Gentleman jumped from Majuba to the raid, and he omitted all the intervening time. Why, before the ink of the Majuba Convention was dry the Boers began to try and break that Convention. 613 Why, Sir, the whole history of our relations is a history of this continual effort to get out of the obligations which they had accepted, and which were the conditions of the magnanimity to which I have referred. How otherwise could it be when you think of the facts? Mr. Gladstone was not unfriendly to the Boers. Mr. Gladstone was the head of the Government which made the Majuba Convention; and yet, within three years of the signing of that Convention, Mr. Gladstone was obliged to take all those terrible risks upon which the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down dwelt—the risk of civil war, the risk of Dutch opposition, the risk of serious armament and cost to this country—and to send a military expedition to force and compel the Boers to observe the conditions of the Majuba Convention. That is only one illustration. What happened in the time of the late Government? What happened when Lord Loch went to Pretoria? The history of those proceedings has never been written, and perhaps never will be. Bat this, at least, is well known, that affairs at that time were in a most critical position, and that military movements were taking place in consequence. I come down to a later period. Only just before the raid, and after we had been only a few months in office, there arose the question of the drifts, and what happened then? We were advised and urged to send an ultimatum which must have led to war and all its consequences, if President Kruger had not given way. We were urged and advised and pressed to send it—by whom? By the Cape Government, in which Mr. Schreiner, the present Prime Minister, was then Attorney General, and not merely a consenting party, but an advising party.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Gentleman opposite will excuse me on this occasion if I think the subject is too grave to give him the notice which no doubt he expects. I have referred to the drifts. I want to refer to another incident which also occurred in the time of the late Government, to which I myself attach very considerable importance. I refer to that admirable dispatch of Lord Ripon's, a portion of which has already 614 been published in the Blue-book with his consent. I may be told that that dispatch was not sent. No; and if I wanted to make a controversial point I should ask why it was sent to Lord Loch, the High Commissioner, and why he was afterwards told to withhold it? But that is not necessary for my purpose. What I want to point out is that the late Government, just before we came into office, had found that it was necessary and right, in spite of the limitations of the Convention, to interest themselves in the internal affairs of the Transvaal. And I want to point out that their remedy for the difficulties which then existed and which I found confronting me the moment I came into office was a five years franchise. That was the remedy which we borrowed from our predecessors in office, and which I suppose was good enough in their hands, although it is condemned in ours. I think I have stated enough to show that the difficulties between ourselves and the Transvaal were not the work of one Government. Indeed, I should not myself say they are the work of any Government. They are inherent in the circumstances; in the great difference which exists between Boer character and British character; between Boer civilisation and British civilisation; and between Boer education and British education. There you will find the root cause of all that has happened. What has been the Boer policy? I am not talking of any conspiracy; but what has been the Boer aspiration from first to last? It has been to get rid of every shred and vestige of British supremacy, and to substitute for it a Boer supremacy. I do not say that at all times, or from the first, the Boers contemplated that this was to be obtained by force of arms, although they have never shrunk, in my opinion, from indicating that they were ready when the proper time came to resort to arms. But what the Boers hoped for was that what they could not get from the Government they would get from the Opposition. I am not speaking now of the present Opposition. But if any Government had the courage to meet their assaults on the Convention, the Boers trusted to the working of our party politics to give them the victory in the end. And this must also be marked. It was a contest for supremacy; but for what kind of supremacy? The supremacy of the Boers means, as we know, 615 the inferiority of every other race. Our supremacy, so far as we have been able to use it, has been used and will be used in order to secure the equality of the white races and justice for the black. Well, Sir, there was the issue. It was a contest for supremacy, dating back I know not for how many years, and for a different kind of civilisation. That issue had got to be tried; that battle had got to be fought; one or other party had to give way if peace was to be preserved. Does not the House think now that in this matter we may perhaps have drifted too long? It is easy to be wise after the event. But our hesitation—again I am speaking of no particular Government and of no particular period—has had the effect, year by year, of strengthening the determination and the power of the Boers to resistance. When we came into office we felt very quickly that a solution must be found. Things could not go on with a rapid and daily increase in the hostility between the two races. That was the worst feature of the situation—the growing feeling of dissatisfaction and irritation between peoples who ought to have lived amicably together, and who had, as a rule, previously done so. The time had come when in some way or other this longstanding difference must be settled. We believed then and we hoped to the last that a peaceful settlement could be attained. We hoped that when President Kruger saw how little it was we asked, and how determined we were to have it, he would give way. I take all the blame that the House considers is due for such a belief. If you say that our preparations were not sufficient, that we had not enough troops there when war broke out, that we had not a sufficiently large force there for defensive action, that no doubt is due to the fact that we hoped for peace, that we were determined to exhaust every means for securing peace and to do nothing that we thought would seriously endanger it. You may blame us, and perhaps rightly, that throughout this business we have been too anxious for peace. But no impartial man, no man who knows the facts, can truly and properly blame us for having been too eager for war. Our efforts were fruitless. Our objects were reasonable. They were the same objects that the late Government had. Our demands were moderate even to inefficiency. They were the same demands that right hon. Gentlemen opposite were prepared to 616 make. The possibility of a settlement was open up to the last moment before the ultimatum was delivered, and the outbreak of hostilities; and the breach did not come from us. What more would you have had us do? What more would any friend of peace have had us do? There is only one alternative course to the one we pursued, and that is suggested in the speeches of some at least of the hon. Gentlemen opposite. What they say is this—"When you prayed, when you begged, when you supplicated, we were with you; we even looked on without opposition when you pressed, when you urged, when you insisted. But there we stopped. You may do all this, but you must not compel by force. The moment it appeared that President Kruger was not to be moved by your supplications, was not frightened by your insistence, at that moment you should have retired from the scene, you should have scuttled, you should have surrendered the interests for which you are the trustees—the interests, not of the nation alone, but of the Empire." A good deal has been said in this debate about Dutch opinion. I think the Leader of the Opposition said something—I do not know whether he referred to the Colonial Office, or Sir Alfred Milner, or the Government—but he said something about the coolness between ourselves and the representatives of Dutch opinion. I know of no coolness except so far as that arises necessarily from differences of opinion. But I will say this about the Dutch. I appreciate, as every one must do, most heartily and sincerely the difficulties in which our loyal Dutch fellow-subjects have found themselves placed in this situation. Their loyalty is more precious than ordinary loyalty, because of the strain upon them, because of the ties of race, and in some cases the ties of blood, which unite them with those who are now the enemies of the British Crown. I feel all that—I make all allowance for them. But I wish in return that right hon. Gentlemen opposite—and the Leader of the Opposition is a great offender in this respect—would not ignore the loyal British. If their opinion is taken we are told we are consulting the authors of the raid, and that the millionaires come home to reside in Park Lane. No, Sir, those whom we have consulted, whose opinion we value, are those who are now giving of their property, giving 617 of their children, giving their persons, in order to aid Her Majesty in this conflict. The strain and stress of war has been upon these men in Natal and Cape Colony, and they are bitterly injured and hurt by the neglect which is shown towards their views and by the sneers with which they are occasionally treated. Now, Sir, I say this is my proposition. The war is a just, a righteous, and a necessary war. The opinion of the Irish Nationalist members in this matter is nothing. Their situation is exceptional, and, therefore, I do not appeal to them. I appeal to the party opposite, and I ask them do they say that this war is just, is necessary, is righteous? [AN HON. MEMBER.: They are divided.] We know they are divided. I venture on the opinion that those among them—I am speaking now entirely of what I may call the British members—who take the view that the war is unjust, unrighteous, are in a majority on that side of the House. [AN HON. MEMBER: You mean a minority.] No, I mean a majority; and it is a thing to which I think we should not shut our eyes; and which I regard as a matter of great gravity. Sir, it is only because the majority of the Liberal party hold that opinion that they put before the House such an Amendment as this. When, you deplore the want of judgment, the want of foresight, and the want of knowledge, you imply, if you do not say it in so many words, that the war might have been prevented if those qualities had been possessed by Her Majesty's Government in the same degree in which they are possessed by the Opposition. Yes, but a war that could be prevented is an unnecessary war, and I am not here to argue that an unnecessary war can ever be a just war. But, Sir, that being the case, I proceed to ask a question. Why have not these gentlemen who entertain these views the courage of their convictions? Why do not they vote against the war? They have no business to vote for this Amendment, any one of them. They should vote for the Amendment of the hon. Gentlemen from Ireland, which is to follow the present one; they should vote for the immediate commencement of negotiations with a view to peace. That is the only consistent and logical course. Instead of which, what they are doing is to vote that this war is unjust, unrighteous, and unnecessary, and then to vote for its vigorous prosecution. Well, but what about the minority—those whom I fear 618 are a minority—on the other side, those who agree with us that the war is just and was inevitable? I do not suppose that, any more than we, they thought always that the war was inevitable. I take it that, like us, having regard to what has happened, having regard to the proof, the evidence that we have been daily increasing as to the enormous preparations of the Boers, the evidence of a carefully prepared plan for the invasion of British colonies, the propaganda which we know has been going on among the Dutch subjects of Her Majesty, having regard to the conduct of the negotiations, having regard to the delivery of the ultimatum, and the invasion and annexation of British territory, having regard to the terms of the manifestoes that have been issued by the two Presidents—I take it that they feel, as we feel now, that the war could not have been avoided, except by an absolute surrender on the part of Great Britain of all those things to which we attach importance. Then, believing as you do that the war was inevitable, how can you vote for an amendment which says that the war ought to have been avoided? What an inconsistent position; how unworthy of those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who appear to me to be in the position of accepting something to which they are utterly opposed, because they are allowed to vote for something else with which they happen to agree! A policy of that kind is said to unite the party; well, it may unite the party, but it serves in the face of Europe to throw doubt upon the union of the kingdom. I do not suppose that the country is at all interested in the logical position of statesmen on the other side. I believe, as I have already said, that the one thing which is in their minds is their desire to be assured that the war shall be vigorously prosecuted, and that the results shall be commensurate with the sacrifices which have been made. We have suffered checks, we have made mistakes; I am not anxious to dispute the blame. Let the Government bear the brunt of it until, at all events, the time is come, under happier auspices, when we can see how far that blame is to be apportioned between the system and those who have to administer it. In the meantime blame us by all means. What is urgent is to retrieve those checks, and to repair those mistakes. As to what we are doing in that respect I must refer 619 again to that admirable speech by my hon. friend the Under Secretary of State for War, which, I am glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, excited as much admiration for its manner and ability on the other side of the House as it gave pleasure to his personal and political friends on this side. How do we meet this charge of mistakes? Not by denying the mistakes, but by saying what we have done since, and what we are doing. You say we sent too few troops; we are pouring troops into South Africa—you have been told that in a few weeks you will have an Army thereof about 200,000 men. You said we were forgetful of the need for mounted men; we have been increasing the number of horse infantry until in a very short time the number of mounted men in the British forces will be almost as great, if not quite as great as the total of mounted men in the Boer army. You say our artillery was insufficient, and that it was not heavy enough; we have sent battery after battery until now you have an unexampled force of that arm, and we have at the same time added a number of the heavier form of guns. When the war began no doubt the needs of the war were under-estimated, and at that time—it is part of the same mistake—we failed to respond as we ought to have done to the splendid offers which came to us from our colonies. We accepted enough to show how much we valued their assistance, but we hesitated to put upon them any greater strain than we thought was necessary. What is happening now? They are multiplying their offers, and every one is gratefully, promptly appreciated and accepted. Sir, we shall have in this war before it is over an army of colonials called to the aid of Her Majesty which will outnumber the British Army at Waterloo, and which will be nearly equal to the total British force in the Crimea. It is said, I hope not correctly, that in the first instance the services and special knowledge of these colonial troops were not properly appreciated by the authorities. I hope that was not true; but, at all events, Lord Roberts, with that kindly instinct which makes him so beloved by all who serve him, has selected from the colonial force a guard of honour which he takes as his personal bodyguard. Then we are told that a strategical mistake was made when a 620 large portion of the Army was diverted to Ladysmith. I will not argue a question which is outside my competence; but if that be a mistake it is rapidly being corrected, and Lord Roberts will shortly have, if he has not already, under his command an army larger than that with which we intended to carry out the original plan of campaign, and upon which we based all our calculations, all our estimates, all our hopes, and which we still trust and believe will fulfil them. Meanwhile the spirit of the nation is absolutely unbroken. There is no sacrifice which they are not willing to make, there is no sacrifice which we will not ask of them if we think it necessary to success. We must go further than this, we admit it. Here is a war under new conditions, in a new country, with new arms, and with a people whose tenacity and courage are as admirable as those of our own soldiers. It has proved to require larger forces than anything that ever was estimated in any scheme that was ever framed by any previous Government in any previous war. That shows us, that convinces us, that the scheme which involves territorial defence as well as offensive action must be reconsidered in the light of recent events. A statement has been promised to the House on this subject, and with regard to it I will only say two things; I will say, in the first place, that one of the lessons of this war is the enormous defensive power possessed by irregular or volunteer troops when fighting in defence of their own country. To that lesson we are widely awake, and it must not be lost sight of in any review of the situation; and I hope that steps will be taken to take advantage of that splendid material which is always at our disposal in this country, and which, with proper assistance, with liberal support and consideration, and perhaps with a great deal of money, may be made the most effective defensive force that the world has ever known. The second point is this: When we propound this scheme we shall do so, not as a party, but as humbly endeavouring to represent the wishes of the nation. We invite suggestions, we invite criticism, we invite assistance to make that scheme perfect; we shall welcome co-operation, and shall not be satisfied unless the whole House joins in what is so important in the interests of the nation. I think that I have been frank with the 621 House. I have not spared the Government; I have admitted mistakes; but do not let us make perhaps a greater mistake than any, do not let us exaggerate. We have not told the whole case with regard to these matters. I think that those hostile critics who keep sharp eyes upon our performances might be led by what has been said in some quarters to justify their statement that this Empire is bleeding to death, that our prestige is all gone, and that we lie a helpless wreck at the mercy of our enemies. No, Sir. The situation is really very different from that. What other nation in the world could have put 180,000 men into the field 7,000 miles from its shores—a volunteer army—in so short a time? Where else could the transport have been found for such a huge force, working with such precision, such speed, and such safety? When we talk of defects in the administration, defects on the part of those on the spot and defects on the part of the Office here—I speak in the presence of military men—it appears to me that never before has so large a force been manœuvred, and at the same time the commissariat and the medical service worked so smoothly. There is something, then, to put on the other side Has any other nation a better right to be proud of her soldiers? Englishmen, Irishmen, and Scotchmen have vied with each other in heroic efforts, and have performed what have been admitted to be almost impossible feats—impossible to any other infantry. May we not for one moment, forgetting all personal and political differences, stand on common ground in admiration of those who have added to the renown which already belonged to the historic regiments in which they served? I speak of the troops from this country, but, of course, I speak with equal praise of the colonial soldiers, who have been shoulder to shoulder in every conflict in which they have been engaged, and who have shown, besides, a special knowledge and aptitude which have made them almost invaluable. All alike are worthy; and I think that whatever we may feel—humiliation if you please—at the defects which have been disclosed, that humiliation must be accompanied by the deepest pride. I have dealt rather by way of summary than by way of argument with the measures by which we are trying to correct 622 our deficiencies, and by which we hope before long to secure complete success. But when we have secured success, what then? It would be presumptuous, it would be premature, to talk now of the details of settlement. But the nation upon whom we are calling has a right to know, when a vote of censure like this is moved—which, if successful, would change the Government—what the Government think and what their would-be successors think upon the subject—what is, not the details, as I have said, but the genera-principles upon which we have proceeded. We have had utterances from several right hon. Gentlemen on the front bench opposite. They have been divided. As to such a declaration as that which was made by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division, I do not wish to quibble about words, but I say it appears to me that we are in substantial agreement with him. The utterances of other right hon. Gentlemen—the Leader of the Opposition in especial, I single him out only because of his representative character—the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries, the noble Lord the Member for Cricklade were cryptic, but as far as I understood them, profoundly unsatisfactory. I say, speaking for the Government, that in so far as in us lies there shall be no second Majuba. Never again, with our consent, while we have the power, shall the Boers be able to erect in the heart of South Africa a citadel from whence proceed disaffection and race animosities. Never again shall they be able to endanger the paramountcy of Great Britain. Never again shall they be able to treat an Englishman as if he belonged to an inferior race. I have said I do not come forward as an apologist for the Government. If the House thinks that our mistakes are unpardonable, we submit ourselves to their judgment. But, although I will not apologise for the Government, I should like to say one or two words on behalf of this nation. We were asked the other day to dispel the gloom which it was said had settled upon the nation. I do not accept the phrase. I know of no such feeling. I know, as I have said, of anxiety, of regret, and even of a certain perfectly natural irritation, but I know of no hesitation, no vacillation; I know of nothing which approaches to fear or to gloom. Reverses try the temper of a nation, and our people have 623 borne the test; and every reverse has only been the signal for new offers of patriotic assistance from this country and new offers from our fellow-subjects across the seas. That, indeed, is a fact of the situation which I hope we can never forget. Never before in the history of our Empire has it so realised its strength and its unity. The splendid and, above all, the spontaneous rally of the colonies to the mother country affords no slight compensation even for the sufferings of war. What has brought them to your side? What has brought these younger nations of Greater Britain, induced them to spring to arms even before you called upon them?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
It is that Imperial instinct which you deride and scorn. Our colonies, repelled in the past by indifference and apathy, have responded to the sympathy which has recently been shown to them. A sense of common interest, of common duty, an assurance of mutual support and pride in the great edifice in which they are all members, have combined to consolidate and establish the unity of the Empire; and these peoples, shortly—very shortly as time is measured in history—about to become great and populous nations, now for the first time claim their share in the duties and responsibilities as well as in the privileges of Empire. Accordingly you have to remember now that you are the trustees, not merely of a kingdom, but of a federation, which may not, indeed, be distinctly outlined, but which exists already in spirit, if not in form. You are the trustees: they look to you as holding the headship of the race; and we owe to them an infinite debt of gratitude for the moral as well as material support that they have given us. This is a question in which their interest is indirect. They see with a clearer vision than we do. Their eyes are not distorted by party politics. Sir, I will never believe that these free communities would have given their support and approval to any cause which was not just and righteous and which was not based on the principles on which their own institutions have been founded. Whatever may be the future, I say we have to congratulate ourselves on the compensations as well as upon the evils of this war. In Africa, these two races, 624 so interesting, so admirable each of them in their own way, so different in some things, will now, at any rate, have learned to respect one another. I hear a great deal about the animosities which will remain after the war. I hope I am not too sanguine when I say I do not believe in them. When matters have settled down, when equal rights are assured to both the white races, I believe tha both will enjoy the land together and settle in peace and prosperity. Meanwhile, we are finding out the weak spots in our armour and trying to remedy them; we are finding out the infinite potential resources of the Empire; and we are advancing steadily, if slowly, to the realisation of that great federation of our race which will inevitably make for peace and liberty and justice.
§ MR. MOULTON (Cornwall, Launceston)
Mr. Speaker, I desire to make my position with regard to the war and to this Amendment clearly understood. I regret that in this case I differ from the views held by many of the most respected members of my party. I find I have to go down in the estimation of one I respect and esteem so much as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth, but I consider that this vote of censure, under existing circumstances, should never have been moved. I do not wish it to be supposed for one moment that I am speaking as an apologist of the Government. My own personal view is that the war is a calamity, and that it is due to the many grave errors that have been committed. I hold the view entertained very largely in the country that the Government deserves blame. This blame the Government have received wherever men have met together apart from party polities to discuss the war. It is blame based not on an elaborate review of the history of England since 1895, but on the broad and simple ground that the country has been allowed to drift into a most serious war with full knowledge that troops to the number of 60,000 were ready to operate against us, and without having an adequate force to protect the colonies that were threatened; and, further, that the Government permitted the general of a slop-gap army to take a course of action which has changed the whole campaign. But what has the country done under these circumstances? Instead of agitating against the Govern- 625 ment, or showing every sign of disapprobation and restlessness, the country has remained silent—it has maintained what I must term a magnificent silence. In spite of this, now that we are met here in Parliament we are told by all the authorities on our side of the House that it is the duty of Parliament to commence its deliberations not by discussing what is necessary to be done in regard to the war, but by a vote of censure on the Government for the events which have led to the war. When one inquires why this is necessary, one is told that it is due to precedents established by our forerunners in Parliament. I have a great respect for the great God Precedent; it is sometimes cited with great power, but I do not think we all worship at its shrine nowadays as we did of old. But unfortunately for the argument from precedent, but fortunately for our country, the position in which we stand has no precedent. If I look back into the history of England I know of no case in which England ever stood in its present position. And therefore before we are bound to act on these so called precedents, we ought to inquire what is the position of England, what is its gravity, and what is the duty thereby rendered incumbent upon us now? The gravity of the situation no one can deny. We see a small nation, half the size of Glasgow, holding the whole of our armies in a state of immobility. And we see that with all the disasters that we have already suffered, it is quite possible that more serious disasters may come; and before the end of this session, which has begun in so illomened a way by dissensions, it may be that we shall see fifteen or twenty thousand of our fellow countrymen prisoners at Pretoria. It has been shown also to those who do not love us amongst the other nations of the world how a large portion of our army has been pent up in a distant portion of the world, and how this country has been left almost depleted of troops. Therefore, it becomes necessary that action and action alone should be our watchword. In such a moment we, as a consultative body, can do little. Action is so absolutely in the hands of the Executive that a consultative body is almost powerless. It can stimulate or it can paralyse action, but it cannot direct it. If we believe that action is all important to England at the present moment, that on the events of the next 626 two or three months depend largely the position of England among the nations of the world, it follows that we, as a deliberative Assembly, should realise that what we can best do as an Assembly is to strengthen and help that portion of the Government which has in hand the action of the nation. Now, that portion of the Government, the Executive, is not of the choosing of those who hold the politics that I hold. It is a Government neither of our choosing nor of our liking, but it is the Government of the day, and every practical man must realise that it is the Government which will wield the whole forces of England for the purposes of this war. Hence we have no way of assisting the nation in this war excepting through the Government. The Executive is the personal part of the Government, which has to act with rapidity in all those things in which a deliberative assembly is wanting. Therefore I myself see that the only possible way for us to assist England at the present moment is by making the existing Government more capable of calling up and using the resources of England. If that be so, it is not enough for us to say that the Government shall have all the sums of money and all the forces it demands; we are bound to assist the Government in all matters that relate to the continuance of the war just as fully and in the same way as if this Government were a Government holding our opinions. Now I am perfectly aware that many people are afraid of such a doctrine as that, because it appears to them that it is an abdication of the position of a deliberative assembly. It is quite true that it is a recognition by a deliberative assembly of the limits of its power. But in olden days, in the time of the Romans, when action became imperative, a dictator was appointed, and the whole of the constitutional government deliberately abandoned its position in order that the dictator should be able to act with decision. Of course, these times have passed away with the forms and expedients which they adopted, but the need still remains, of which those forms and those expedients were the expressions. In a moment like this, we must do for the Government just the same as they had to do—namely, we must render the Executive influential, powerful, and capable of rapid and certain action. Now, my friends beside me will say, if we give to the 627 Government the same assistance, support, and consideration in matters relating to the carrying out of the war that we would give to men of our own persuasion, does not that amount to an approval of the war, and will it not be so understood? Sir, the nation is not so stupid as not to be able to distinguish between approval of the war and a right sense of its gravity. The gravity of this war is the justification for our united action; but the question of our approval or disapproval of the war is quite immaterial at the present moment, because we all recognise that the war exists and that if England is to hold her place amongst the nations it must be prosecuted to a successful termination. But it may be said if we follow this course is it not granting an amnesty to those whom we think guilty of so many grievous errors in the past? This appears to me to be a consideration of far inferior importance. I would let all the guilty ones escape if by so doing we should preserve England. The question of punishing the guilty is a trifling one compared with the saving of our country from further disasters. But it is idle to talk in this way at the present moment when you cannot get a hearing, and ought not to get a hearing, in regard to the past. The nation is thinking of the present and of the future; and it is giving a very slight hearing to diatribes as to the causes of the present lamentable state of things. If you want to make a nation realise that it has been badly handled, wait until a calmer time comes, and then your arguments will be fairly heard; but to think that you can get a hearing now is to shut your eyes to the obvious facts. But there is a further matter which I cannot pass by without a word. There are many who would say that before accepting the view of supporting the Government in all things so far as relates to the carrying on of the war, we ought to consider what will happen after victory is achieved. Let us wait till that victory has been attained. We are a long way from that yet. But as soon as that victory comes the imperative necessity of supporting the Executive will have ceased, and then the duty of acting as advisers in this House will have come back again. All that we have got to do now, when the country is casting longing eyes upon us to see how we can be helpful in this time of trouble, is that we should assist those who have 628 command of the resources of the nation, in order that these resources may be used to the best advantage. But it must not be thought that I hold that we cannot assist otherwise than by a blind support of the Government in a crisis like this. I think that a watchful House of Commons, devoted to saving this country, may be of the greatest possible strength and the greatest possible value in guiding the Government. Let me give an example. Although the country may be willing to spend money, the Government may shrink from making the people feel the expense. Now, if there be such a tendency—if the Government is going to play the part of the merchant who waits till his bills are protested before he collects the money to pay them—nothing would prevent so disastrous a policy so much as a watchful House of Commons. We can stimulate the Government to make its appeals to the nation with due promptitude if we give to it the sanction of our authority. But that is not the only advantage of united action. One of the worst consequences of a motion of this kind is that as long as it is before the House it reduces to silence the only effective criticism of a Government—that of their own followers. So long as we are in a hostile attitude towards the Government, their supporters must be silent out of loyalty to their leaders, but if there is an amnesty with regard to the measures for carrying on the war this will cease. And remember, that if we on this side abstain from party attacks on the Government, the Members opposite ought to abstain from party support of it. It has been rightly said that we ought to have no sham fights, but we ought also to have no sham friendships. If we realise the need of our country, and that the country is looking to us to help it, we should see that while we on this side of the House abstain from embarrassing or worrying the Government we ought to receive from those on the opposite benches all possible help in guiding them so far as it is possible to do so. We ought all to aid the Executive through which we alone can work for England at this moment of national trial, and by this I do not merely mean that we ought to vote supplies, but that we should save it from all annoyance that would hinder its efficiency in the conduct of the war. If reverses come I do not want to add to the labour and 629 anxiety of combatting them the feeling, "Oh, now we shall have new worries in the House of Commons." It appears to me that we ought to realise that our relations with the Government are much the same as the relations of the Government with the generals at the front—we have to give them a free hand and bear patiently the reverses which we have suffered or may suffer. There are people abroad who are keenly watching to find the first signs of weariness in this war on the part of England, that they may raise the cry "England is beaten." If you want to make the hearts of these enemies of England sick, you cannot do it better than by letting them see that so far from our reverses producing weariness or dissension, their only effect has been to make the Government step from the position of commanding this House, by a strong party majority, into the far higher position of an Executive which has behind it the willing, resolute, and hearty support of a united House of Commons.
§ GENERAL RUSSELL (Cheltenham)
said he would not attempt to follow the noble Lord who moved this Amendment, or some of the hon. Members who had supported it into the academic discussion regarding the negotiations which preceded this deplorable war. He would not attempt to discuss the grievances of the Uitlanders, the Jameson raid, the Edgar case, or whether it would have been better if this or that despatch had not been written or published, or such a speech had not been delivered. He did not believe that at the present moment the British nation cared one penny piece for their threadbare topics. He would, however, say that, although he could not agree with the measures of these gentleman he was at one with many of them as to their conclusion. He believed with them that war might have been avoided, or if not avoided at least postponed. But how could it have been avoided? It would have been avoided had we consented to hand over our South African possessions to the domination and paramount influences of President Kruger and his followers. It would have been avoided had we agreed to abandon our loyal fellow-subjects to the tyranny and oppression of the lowest and worst type of corrupt Dutch Afrikander. It would have been avoided had the people of this country been so mean and so untrue to their plighted 630 word as to hand over the native races whom they had pledged themselves to protect to a rule and a tyranny which had been opposed to the traditions of the British people for many generations. He could not but regret the unpatriotic tone of some of the speeches delivered on this Amendment. He referred more especially to Sir R. T. Reid, Mr. Bryce, and Sir E. Clarke. No doubt these gentlemen believed that they were only attacking the policy of the Government, but in doing so they had in this instance been injuring the nation. These gentlemen had placed a weapon in the hands of the enemies of their country which they had not been slow to use. This was specially the case with the utterances of the Member for South Aberdeen, whose writings had given his opinions an influence, more especially in America, which they did not possess in this country. He believed nothing had done more to prejudice foreign press opinion against this country than the utterances and writings of the right hon. Gentleman as they were continually being quoted. The same was the case with the hon. Member for Plymouth. It was well known that his silvery eloquence had beguiled many a jury and persuaded many a judge, and that he was a supporter of the Government. Why, therefore, in this instance should he have turned against them unless they were in the wrong? The hon. and learned Member had informed them that his constituents did not approve of his action. He (General Russell) was glad to hear that this was also the case with a large number of the former supporters of the Member for South Aberdeen. He only trusted that at the next election it might be proved by a large majority. He believed that when the majority of the House and of the country had considered the whole case they would come to the conclusion that the mistakes that had been made were the fault, not of the Government or of the Executive, but of the system. He could not believe that the First Lord of the Treasury had been correctly reported as having said at Manchester on 11th January that in debates on the Army Estimates he had never heard the statement made that our artillery was not equal to that of other powers. He (General Russell) did not think there ever had been a debate in which the inadequacy of our artillery had 631 not been brought forward. Moreover, a committee of Service Members considered this very point only last session. The proper proportion of guns was five to every 1,000 men. We had 180,000 men in South Africa, and therefore, instead of 410 guns, we ought to have 900 guns in the field. The proportion at present was only two and a-half guns per 1,000 men. The Government had been asked why they did not send out troops earlier. That again was the fault of the system. If in September the Government had sent out all the troops they could lay hands on, it would have upset our whole plans of mobilisation. Service Members had urged repeatedly that it was absolutely necessary as a matter of precaution that the Government should have in its hands an army corps of at least 30,000 men, which they could send anywhere at any time without calling out the reserves. He hoped when we came to set our military house in order that this would not be forgotten. It had been complained that colonial troops were not employed early enough. It was well known that this had caused heartburnings among our Colonial subjects in South Africa. They could not tell where the fault lay, but he trusted that in the course of the inquiry which the Government had promised, this matter would not be overlooked. With regard to the lack of a map, it was the fault of the military authorities in Natal and not of the Government that no military survey had been made. No explanation had yet been given with regard to the accumulation of stores at Ladysmith, for he could not imagine any place less suited for defence. It was in 1881 his duty to draw out a scheme for the defence of Ladysmith, and he had never had in all his military experience a harder task. The whole essence of the mistakes that had been made lay, not in ignorance of the numbers of the Boers or of their armaments, but in a disbelief in their fighting powers. Sir George White had been blamed for holding Ladysmith. But he thought that every impartial person would admit that if Sir George White—seeing that he had an enormous accumulation of stores to guard, and had no means of ascertaining accurately the strength of the Boers—had retired to the Tugela he would have been condemned for not making a stand. General White had, at all events, prevented the 632 Boers from over-running Natal. No doubt our Generals had made mistakes, but he had never heard a complaint against the commissariat or the hospital arrangements. He might say, in conclusion, and he felt certain that in speaking for himself he echoed the feeling of a large number of the Members of this House, that he heard the brilliant speech of the Under Secretary for War with feelings of intense relief. Then, for the first time, he felt assured that the Government realised the extreme gravity of the present situation—a crisis caused by reverses and defeats such as we had not suffered since we lost our North American colonies. He now knew that the Government, whatever might have been the shortcomings and the failings of the past, were determined that so far as human foresight could provide and so far at least as they were concerned, our gallant troops would be furnished with every means to bring this horrible war to a speedy and triumphant conclusion. He was now convinced that they appreciated those feelings of earnest resolve, calmness, determination, and confidence in the righteousness of our cause which had moved the nation to its depth in a manner almost without parallel in history.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
We have listened to very remarkable speeches to-night which have greatly appealed to our patriotism, but which have not answered the questions which have been raised against the Government by this Amendment. In the speech which the First Lord of the Treasury made at Manchester a few days ago he stated that the Government had nothing to apologise for, but the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary to-day has been a speech ad misericordiam. Over and over again he said, "We have made mistakes; we failed to send enough troops; now we putting 200,000 men in the field; we failed to send out enough guns," and so forth, admitting to this House that mistakes had been made and faults had been committed. Now the right hon. Gentleman thinks fit to express amazement that men like myself who contend that the policy of the Government in creating this war was wrong are going to vote for this Amendment. He speaks in terms of derision, and says, "You, who say this war ought 633 never to have been entered into, how can you have the audacity to come forward and say, Prosecute this war to a successful issue? What I should do would be to say, "Stop the war," which I do not believe to be just. Now I have no conscientious feeling on the point. We entered into the war because the right hon. Gentleman put the quarrel on us, and we are bound to prosecute the war until a point is attained when we can properly enter into negotiations for peace. The thing at which I am amazed is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who, at the commencement of this war, when they had reason to believe, and did believe it would be a triumphal procession from Cape Town to Pretoria, were the aiders and abettors of this policy of the Government, through the baleful influence of whom the war was brought about, should, in the hour of disaster to the Government and the country, ask the House to join in a resolution which condemns that policy. If it is a just and necessary war, it does not matter whether the Colonial Secretary has learned or not to be a polite letter writer, or whether he has made speeches here which are more worthy of Bingley Hall than this House. I am conscious of what fell from the hon. and gallant Member for Torquay; when he said that the country is looking to this House of Commons to devote its energies to bring this war to a speedy and successful conclusion. I agree with him that the first part of the Amendment is ill-conceived, and serves no useful purpose. I go further, and say, as an humble Member of this House, who feels acutely the position in which the country is placed, it is painful to me to listen to the recriminations from one side of the Table to the other as to speeches made four or five years ago, which were never read by four-fifths of the people, and only read by the other fifth to forget. It is not worthy of the House. With regard to the second part of the Amendment, which deals with our military preparedness, it has been urged against the Government that in the year 1895, or, at the latest, 1896, they knew that these armaments were proceeding on a scale which was totally incompatible with the necessities of frontier protection from savage tribes, but they neither moved hand nor foot to prevent them. It is the humiliation of the House of 634 Commons that the responsible Ministers of the Crown should offer such an excuse as that they knew the Boers were arming after the Jameson raid, but they did not then dare to say to the Boer Government, stop the armament. Now that that armament has taken place and hostilities are proceeding, it is costing us the expenditure of millions of money and thousands of troops. That being so, I say that the Minister who shrunk from stepping in and coercing the Boers from obtaining further armaments because a band of buccaneers had invaded the Transvaal is unworthy of the confidence of this House, and as a Minister has betrayed his trust. That is a count in the indictment which the Colonial Secretary has not answered, and that is what the man in the street demands an answer to. It is not too late now for the Government to give some explanation which could be construed as a legitimate answer if they so desire. Turning to another point, Why did not the Government send out more than 20,000 troops to the Transvaal when they knew that war was inevitable? Did they know war was impending? If they thought it was not, why were the troops sent at all. They must have known it would only aggravate the Boers. These men were sent out because Sir Walter Hely Hutchinson contemplated the inevitable necessity of war, and represented to the Government that it was necessary to put 20,000 men in the field. The Government acted on his suggestion because they thought war was inevitable. With regard to the Ultimatum, I consider the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary's despatch was the real Ultimatum, and having sent these 20,000 troops, the Government say they did not send more because the Governor-General told them they were enough; and the First Lord of the Treasury said they did not accurately estimate the number of men required, because they did not know how many Uitlanders would fight for the Transvaal Republic and how many for the British, and they did not accurately estimate the Boers because they did not know how many would go to Swaziland and other places to escape commandeering. If there was a doubt, why not give the benefit to the British public. What a disparity of numbers. A few months ago 20,000 men were enough, now the right hon. Gentleman put it at 200,000. When it comes to be written 635 there will be no more deplorable chapter in our military history than the action of the War Office on this occasion, and the unpreparedness of the Government. The matter does not commence in 1895. Since 1852—forty years—we have been in continual friction with the Boers; we have had little wars with them and threatened little wars; we have had to send out troops, or threaten to, owing to the aggression of the Boers, and yet the Government never took the trouble. [Laughter.] Sir, it is no laughing matter when 20,000 men have fallen victims to the insensate folly of the Government, or to the widows who have lost their husbands, and mothers who have lost their children. Yet would it be believed, those men went into the field of battle to take most difficult positions unprovided with a single effective plan of the country. General Buller, as he tells us, sends his troops under General Warren to take Spion Kop, and he takes Spion Kop, and what does he tell us? That the perimeter of that mountain was larger than he had reason to anticipate, which meant that while he occupied one position on the top of the mountain the Boers occupied another; and because Warren had not a proper map of the character of this mountain, 300 odd graves are on that hill whose rude stones are the standing records of the insensate folly of the Government. The position now is that Great Britain is depleted of its soldiers. How many effective battalions have we in the country? You have had to call on the Volunteers, and send them to serve 7,000 miles away from home, and those that are at home at the present moment have no ammunition with which to practise. It has been called in. We are no doubt safe so far as our shores are concerned, but if we are threatened by a Great Power in the North West of India where are our troops to send out. Then in the Sudan there is the danger from an army of 120,000 semi-civilised well armed men on its borders. I sincerely hope that if overtures for peace are made the Colonial Secretary will not slam the door in the face of President Kruger.
§ MR. MALCOLM (Suffolk, Stowmarket)
said: As the Leader of the Opposition seems to have decreed that this debate shall continue till to-morrow night, I may be permitted to say a few words to dispel the illusion that the 636 country thinks the present Government incapable of carrying on the present war, or that it imagines the hands of the Executive Committee would be strengthened by a reconstitution of the Government. I agree with what has been said by the Under Secretary for War that the one thing which the people can't understand is that this debate should continue from day to day whilst much graver matters are waiting to be disposed of. They cannot understand how a party like the party opposite, whose one distinction in African affairs has been regularly and egregiously to mismanage them in every quarter of that continent, should advertise itself in this way to be ready to take the reins of Government, and to compose difficulties in a quarter where hitherto they have only made them. I think the House is being blinded and the country is being misled by a false issue. By the present Amendment we are discussing and are asked to condemn the policy of the present Government in South Africa since 1895; and at the same time we are invited to recollect the sacred doctrine of Cabinet responsibility. By all means blame the Cabinet which was responsible in '84 for the edifice of wrong which was then erected. Blame if you like successive Cabinets and successive Colonial Ministers who have been indifferent and slack in the administration of South African affairs since that date, but do not blame the one Cabinet of the last twenty years which has unmasked the true state of affairs in the Transvaal, which has exposed the growing humiliations of the Uitlanders, and has revealed the corruption of the Transvaal Government in all its nakedness. Of course, the new diplomacy is the thing blamed as the fons et origo of all these difficulties—a scarcely veiled attack upon the Colonial Secretary. I make bold to say that we are indebted to the new diplomacy. For twenty years the old diplomacy has failed; for twenty years this country has indulged in a sleek contemplation of its own magnanimity, referred to by Lord Rosebery as the "sublime experiment of Majuba," whilst all the time the Boers have been silently and cunningly arming to the teeth within the four corners of that hateful Convention; for twenty years this country has been content to wear the velvet glove, but now that it has been cast away and the iron hand of the 637 Empire has been revealed to all, it appears to you a fitting opportunity to blame the new diplomacy—to blame Her Majesty's Government for achieving that which you yourselves were unable to accomplish. Further, complaint is made that the power of our Empire has been exercised in all its might against two little States. But it is not denied that the corruption and the wrongdoing of these States have been great. We have yet to learn that wrong can be measured by the size of the wrongdoer, or that punishment should be meted out according to the stature of the prisoner. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen said in the course of his remarks that our Conventions should be strictly observed with small States, and I could not help interjecting at the time that "such obligation should be reciprocal," an observation with which he was good enough to agree. Then I asked myself whether we should have stood from France or from Russia for one moment such infringement of Conventions as we have endured in the Transvaal. I am convinced we should never have stood them, and I make bold to say that what we could not endure from Paris or St. Petersburg we should not tolerate from Pretoria. And at the same time that we are informed that we are bullying little States by the Member for South Aberdeen, the honourable and learned Member for Dumfries suggests that whilst negotiations were going on we should have been piling up arms in Natal against the day of battle. That is a bullying suggestion, if you please! I asked myself again—would any great State have tolerated it from us? When we were engaged in arranging treaties with France upon the Niger or in the Soudan, with Germany regarding Samoa, or elsewhere, would offensive exhibitions of the massing of forces have facilitated the passing of such conventions? Would they not have been regarded as intolerable by the other contracting parties? Undoubtedly they would, and we have no right to resort to these demonstrations of force against a small country which no great country would have tolerated from us for a moment. I agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division, who said that the Under Secretary for War had, by his speech, lifted a gloom from the heart of the country. It is true he told us much that was relieving, but he 638 intimated that he would tell us more, and we are only waiting until the close of this futile debate to learn what steps are to be taken by the War Office for the further defence of the Empire. That this statement which is promised to us is in a condition of suspended animation is due entirely to the Leader of the Opposition, who might have stopped this debate four nights ago if he had so chosen. But he preferred, sadly to his discredit, to invoke the Parliamentary traditions of battledore and shuttlecock instead of considering the interests of the country in this present crisis. I have said that this Amendment is a clever Amendment; it will surely enough scoop into the lobby all those who have forgotten their life-long motto of "Grievance before Supply." Those who have shelved the old Liberal watchword of "no taxation without representation"; those legal gentlemen who seem to think that we in England have a monopoly of that clause in Magna Charta which declares "that justice shall not be sold, denied or delayed to any man," as well as by those who consider us too aggressive in our present policy or not aggressive enough. But the Amendment is not too clever to prevent Members on this side of the House joining together upon this occasion, whatever their feelings may be upon one detail or upon another of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. We recognise it as being a vote of censure upon the Government, and therefore I believe we shall stand together because we disagree in toto with the letter and the spirit of the Amendment. We at least will record to-morrow our trust in the governing capacity of the Executive of the day in this time of stress and of battle, and we shall thank heaven that we have a Government which has at least disclosed to the world the true inwardness of this Transvaal rebellion.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
It seemed to me somewhat painful to hear the right hon. Gentleman boasting in eager and almost extravagant terms of the enthusiasm of the country in sending out an Army of 200,000 men. I am one of those who do not share the hysterical disbelief in the capacity of the British race to deal with any problem that is placed before them. But I do think that, if the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had invited the House of Com- 639 mons and the country last June to consider this enormous scheme of sending a force of 200,000 men 7,000 miles away and incurring a liability of perhaps hundreds of millions sterling; if they had gravely proposed such a policy as that in order simply to enforce the granting of a five years retrospective franchise to the Uitlanders, I venture to think that this House and the country would have refused absolutely to consider proposals so enormously disproportioned to the end to be attained, and would have promptly rejected them with scorn. The right hon. Gentleman added strength to my contention, because he said "our objects are reasonable, our demands are moderate," and that the proposals of the Government were the same as those made in the well-known despatch of Lord Ripon, when Colonial Secretary in 1894, which was not actually sent to the Transvaal Government. The right hon. Gentleman says to us, "Your proposals have been the same as our proposals are, and yet you say, 'We must compel acceptance of these proposals by force.'" That came strangely from the right hon. Gentleman, because four years ago, in August, 1896, he ridiculed the idea of sending an army "to force President Kruger to grant reforms," and said: "That is not my policy, and it never will be my policy." It seems to me that there is a fundamental inconsistency here, as elsewhere, in the statements of the right hon. Gentleman. But I rejoice that the right hon. Gentleman has again defined the limits and the objects of his policy in the definite terms he did in his speech to-night. I think that relieves us from some difficulties in dealing with this question. The right hon. Gentleman takes the footing that this war is a just and a necessary war, and he seemed to regard as a reproach to the Opposition that some of them held that this war was an unjust and a needless war. But we do take that view, and I pin the right hon. Gentleman to his contention that his objects are reasonable, that his policy was the same as the despatch of Lord Ripon, and with that contention in his mouth the right hon. Gentleman has no right to say that we are not justified in arguing, on the facts and on the merits, that this war is a needless and an iniquitous war. We have had recently put in our hands a new Blue-book on this question. I will only refer to one passage in that Blue-book which seems to me to add force 640 to the unanswerable contention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin and the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth in the debate of October 19th. The passage I wish to refer to is in a despatch from Mr. Conyngham Greene, in which he dwells upon the second telegram sent by the Transvaal Government on August 21st in connection with their proposals for a five years franchise. He says that he is compelled to regard this second telegram—in which the Transvaal Government reminded the British Government that the conditions which they had merely alluded to in the first telegram were conditions which were absolutely essential to the acceptance of the five years franchise—as making the transaction a bargain pure and simple, and Mr. Conyngham Greene remarks that this additional telegram made it clear that the negotiations "were meant to be off" and therefore he had come to the conclusion, and advised the High Commissioner that it was not worth while to pursue the negotiations further. But what the Boers thus stipulated, most reasonably, was only to have an assurance that the Convention should be maintained, and to insist on the freedom and independence we had again and again promised them—as a consideration for granting the franchise to the Uitlanders. This despatch must have reached the Colonial Office, and how can we reconcile those words with the statement of the Colonial Secretary last October in reply to the hon. Member for Plymouth—that he fully intended to accept these very conditions and limitations which are in this despatch said to have closed the negotiations. The Colonial Secretary has said that this is a great natural issue which ought to be dealt with without regard to party. That is exactly the feeling with which I wish myself to approach this subject I must say that I have been deeply pained at the ignoble and unfair taunts which have been levelled at us not only in this House but in the country—that because we criticise the policy of the Government, and because we say that policy has landed us in an unjust and unnecessary war, that, consequently, we are lacking in patriotism, that we do not appreciate the grave peril in which this country now stands, and that we are not showing proper sympathy for the Army. The man hardly exists who does not feel from the bottom of his 641 heart the fullest sympathy with our troops who are struggling so magnificently, and who does not feel the most passionate sympathy with those who have suffered of high and low degree the loss of friends and relatives in this war. If we are sincere in our belief that this war is unjust—and I am speaking my own honest conviction—that fact merely deepens our indignation against those whose folly or misconduct has involved this country in the war. The Colonial Secretary has referred to the magnificent display—I won't call it loyalty, but of the devoted, eager spirit to help to the utmost—by our colonies, and nothing could be more splendid and more praiseworthy. But what was the real reason for that? When Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Canadian Premier, was over here in the year 1897, he said: "We are loyal because we are free." The real principle which underlies this colonial support is that they have been granted freedom and the power to manage their own affairs. They are acting not in obedience to the orders of martinets in Downing Street, but of their own goodwill they have resolved of their own choice to send their own troops in their own way. That is the secret of this Colonial loyalty. That is the natural reward which this country receives for granting freedom and for showing our confidence and goodwill to these people who are allied with us all over the world. Nothing could condemn the Government policy more than this. Had we treated the Boers as we have done our Colonies—if we had shown the same confidence and goodwill—such a policy would have gained for us the sympathy and perhaps, at some time, even the active support, instead of the hostility of the South African Republic. I should just like to refer to one other passage in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He said that this war is likely to lead to the two races respecting each other when it is over. But what did he say three years ago? He said that such a war "would leave behind it the embers of a strife which he believed generations would hardly be long enough to extinguish." The one speech, as usual, contradicts the other, and the whole case of the Colonial Secretary from beginning to end could be answered from his own multifarious and not very satisfactory speeches. We have had the official apology in the 642 speech of the First Lord of the Treasury at Manchester—an apology not improved upon in either House. That defence has been the worst impeachment of the Ministry. I do not want to dwell upon the militant side of this question, for that has been dealt with by many speakers, notably by the Member for the Berwick Division of Northumberland in a speech of critical analysis and pulverising power. That speech is one which, in my opinion, shows that the Ministry have been really playing with the country. I would turn to the more serious side—what the Ministry have done to secure peace. What is the essential test whether this is a just or unnecessary war? This war has sprung out of the negotiations since last spring. We are therefore entitled to ask what is the interpretation which the First Lord of the Treasury and Her Majesty's Government put upon that chapter of our diplomacy. We know very well in what way those negotiations commenced. Sir Alfred Milner, at the Bloemfontein Conference, described the franchise as a policy which would place in the hands of the Outlanders themselves the power of enabling them, by becoming citizens of the Transvaal, to remove gradually by their own efforts the grievances which they suffered. That is a policy with which many of us on this side of the House have heartily sympathised. We know how that policy was pressed home again and again. We have heard the statement of the Colonial Secretary that what he demanded was the immediate and substantial representation of the Outlanders in the Volksraad of the South African Republic. Was this proposal ever honestly and sincerely made by Her Majesty's Government? The First Lord of the Treasury, at Manchester, says—The probability was that we should obtain such rights for the Uitlanders in the Transvaal as should at least tide over the present year, and the present difficulty until, perhaps, some period arrived when, either by accident or design, it might suit the Boer leaders to precipitate a struggle.It seems to me that one can put no interpretation on those words other than this—that the First Lord of the Treasury was compelled to anticipate a terrible war such as we have upon us now, at some time or other, and that the franchise proposals were merely of the nature of a 643 stop-gap, an expedient to gain time, and not a solution of the question at all. Well, then, I will just put this question to the House; Suppose that through the principle laid down by the Colonial Secretary we should have had immediate and substantial representation of the Outlanders; suppose that had been sincerely meant and accepted by President Kruger; suppose they really wanted the franchise and that it had been effectively carried out. Why, that representation would have added from 20,000 to 40,000 citizens to the South African Republic who would have been bound in honour, if there is honour in any of these transactions, to fight against us in the event of the war which the First Lord of the Treasury expected. Could anything be more fatuous than that? If it was not meant seriously how can we be surprised that an acute and vigilant people like the Boers should have their suspicions intensified and became convinced that the whole of this policy was tainted with duplicity, and that they were being marked out as the victims of the ambitious policy of Mr. Rhodes and the Colonial Secretary from the beginning, and that there was no honesty or straightforwardness in the whole business from beginning to end? When we thus left the Boers to choose whether our policy was one of imbecility or duplicity, I ask if either of those policies is worthy of a great nation? What can be less creditable to a great, intelligent, and supreme people like the English, dealing with a humble, simple people like the Boers, who are less enlightened and less progressive, and whom we ought to have taken by the hand and shown the right way to develop their future? Instead of this we had convinced them that they could see nothing ahead but a policy of war, and was it any wonder then that they could only regard this country with suspicion and dislike? We have often heard in this House and elsewhere that the Outlanders are unanimously in favour of these proposals, but I could occupy the time of the House far longer than I should be justified in doing if I attempted to quote in full from the many statements I have here mainly from miners from Northumberland, Lancashire, and South Wales, who have returned to England from the Transvaal. They are men who all state that they went out there because they could get good wages, and after spending a few years there, 644 return to England with considerable sums of money. These miners state that there was no agitation for these reforms, that there was no demand for the franchise, and that the greater part of the working men believe that the result of the transference of the Government of the Transvaal from the Boers to the English will be a rapid and decisive diminution of their wages. They are statements not from capitalists and speculators, but from men who have gone out there to work in the mines, whose statements are absolutely trustworthy. They say the Outlander petitions were got up by deliberate threats, that if they did not sign they would have to leave the mine. They were got up by endless floods of beer which had to be resorted to in order to obtain signatures. I could quote passages to show that the names of hundreds of those appearing on the petitions knew absolutely nothing about them. The real secret of this war is the absolute sense of distrust and lack of confidence which English policy has created in the Transvaal. I notice that Her Majesty's Government have now adopted the raid as a legitimate and complete excuse for the position in which they stand. They have adopted apparently the wise and weighty words of a man who is, I regret to say, no longer in this House, and whom I always looked upon as one of the most straightforward men I have seen in Parliament—I allude to Lord Charles Beresford. Speaking upon this subject he said—Blame should be attached almost entirely, if not entirely, to that lamentable and contemptible raid. Many of his friends were in that raid—but the question of the honour of one's country was very much bigger than the question of personal friendship. No one who had anything to do with that affair, directly or indirectly, ought to have anything to do with the administration of the Transvaal in the future.As I have said before, the Government have adopted the first part of that statement made by Lord Charles Beresford as an excuse for their position, while the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, in a most eloquent and statesmanlike passage in his speech, urged Her Majesty's Government to adopt Lord Charles Beresford's second point, namely, that those who by implication or suspicion had been associated with the raid and its policy should be withdrawn from dealing further with these problems. The right hon. 645 Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a most important admission in his speech, and that admission practically establishes our case out of his own mouth. He said that the raid had practically destroyed the reform movement in the Transvaal, and that if the raid had not occurred the progressive movement in the Transvaal would have put an end to the domination of President Kruger in a very few years. What more could we wish to have than that statement in order to establish our case, for it admits that a policy of fair play would have stamped out all these conspiracies, would have secured peace, and would have maintained peace throughout the country. The House, no doubt, remembers the well-known words of Mr. Froude in regard to the transfer of the Kimberley diamond mines from the Orange Free State to British control. He described it as "the most discreditable transaction in English Colonial history," and stated that "from that day no Boer in South Africa has been able to trust to English promises." But what was the very first step taken by the Colonial Secretary in dealing with the Transvaal after the raid? Instead of conciliation, instead of meeting President Kruger's magnanimity to the prisoners by concessions, he made a proposal to detach the Rand from the rest of the Transvaal, to give it self government, and to make it a separate community. Could the Transvaal Dutch put any other interpretation upon that proposal than that it was intended to rob the Transvaal of the Rand goldfields as the Orange Free State had been robbed of the Kimberley Diamond Mines?
§ MR. CHANNING
The proposal was quite clear; it gave Home Rule to the Rand with the prospect of gradual detachment from the Transvaal, and it deepened and intensified feeling in that country against the policy of Her Majesty's Government. If the Government were in earnest in pledging themselves to maintain the independence of the Transvaal, why did they not deprive the South Africa Company, which entered into this piratical enterprise, of its charter? I believe the position of the company is exceedingly unsatisfactory, but some 646 of its directors are men of enormous wealth. Why did not the Government instead of shuffling with the question of indemnity, and helping the company to wriggle out of its liability, force it to pay adequate compensation for the outrage it had committed on a country with which we were at peace? Why was the inquiry into the raid shirked and burked, and why was Mr. Rhodes allowed to escape the natural penalty which his participation in the raid justly brought upon him? His resignation of the position of Prime Minister of Cape Colony was wholly insufficient; his name ought to have been struck off the roll of the Privy Council, and he ought to have been put on his trial like Dr. Jameson and his other subordinates, when, on his own admission, he would have to suffer a similar penalty to them. What natural effect had all this on the minds of the people of the Transvaal? A few days ago there was published in the Daily News a striking and interesting interview with Mr. J. B. Robinson, who has special knowledge on these questions. He described in detail a succession of conversations which he had with President Kruger in reference to the raid. I will not quote all the interview, but I will refer to that part of it which is germane to the argument I am advancing. The last occasion on which Mr. Robinson saw President Kruger was after the notorious speech of the Colonial Secretary, in which, with an audacity which I have never seen in any other Member in this House, ventured to state after the Committee had declared Mr. Rhodes guilty of conduct which every honourable man considered dishonourable, that he was free from any suspicion that could affect his personal honour. At that interview President Kruger said—Do you mean to tell me as an intelligent man that you accept these statements, and that you believe in them? Do you think we are fools? Do you think for a moment that we do not know the true working of this raid? Do you mean to tell me that you do not know that the men who organised and engineered this raid, organised it for their own benefit, and that they had decided how they would divide the Transvaal, how each of the parties was to have certain interest in this country, and that many of the reformers who were put in gaol were perfectly innocent and ignorant of the schemes of the men who were in the inner circle? There are only twelve men in that inner circle, and they were to share the spoils and divide the Transvaal amongst themselves. They and their companies found the money for the raid. Do you think that we are so innocent as not 647 to know that Mr. Rhodes, metaphorically speaking, held a pistol at the heads of certain men in England and said to them, 'If you do not support me I will denounce you and your complicity in the raid'?That showed that President Kruger and his friends firmly believed in the complicity of the Government with the raid. I will not enter into that topic now; it is a topic which hon. Members opposite are obviously extremely reluctant to discuss, but if they had paid close attention to the evidence given before the South Africa Committee they would be able to say, as I say without hesitation, that that evidence has produced an impression upon my own mind which nothing but an absolutely full and adequate inquiry, with convincing disproof of these presumptions, can remove, of the probable complicity of the Colonial Office in the raid. No one can say that the gravest suspicion does not rest upon the Colonial Office, and it is, in my opinion, the moral duty of the Colonial Office, if in its power, to remove that suspicion by further inquiry and absolutely convincing proof. The argument which I am advancing is that the whole of these proceedings after the raid intensified and deepened suspicion in the Transvaal. I am one of those old fashioned people who think that if the raid was illegal and infamous and discreditable for an individual, or a group of individuals, it would be not less infamous and discreditable if carried out by a nation. I believe that a nation and an individual are alike subject to the moral law, and it seems to me it is not an extravagant conception of the present war to hold that it is an official reproduction of the policy of the raid. We have heard a great deal about the Transvaal armaments, but I should like to know, has not a nation the same right as an individual to self-defence? If we are threatened by burglars we have a right to defend ourselves, and if a nation is threatened with extinction, it also has the right to organise its defences. A very striking letter, written by General Joubert to a foreign correspondent, and published in December in one of the foreign papers, refers to this question of armaments, and as, perhaps, it is the most authoritative statement on the subject, I should ask to be permitted to quote it. He writes—Since the Jameson invasion, which we happily repulsed in January, 1896, our Government has been convinced that England, under the pressure of not very creditable influences, would sooner or later declare against the Boers 648 a war of extermination. We were likewise persuaded that we could parry this danger only by considerable armaments, and while well aware that the war in question would be severely condemned by all the European peoples, we anticipated that none of them would intervene effectively because they would be so strongly impressed by the loud threats of England and by the armaments of her formidable fleet, that the Great European Powers would not venture to protest against the insatiable thirst of the English for aggrandisement, even if their own interests were thereby to suffer. In these circumstances we had mainly to rely on our own strength. To arm ourselves unremittingly, and to hide these armaments from the English; such was our object.I think in dealing with these momentous issues of peace and war, and life and death, we ought sometimes to place ourselves in the position occupied by our antagonists. That letter was only to be expected when the Boers had witnessed a long series of events pointing distinctly to a conspiracy to crush their independence. I regret my hon. and learned friend the Member for South Shields is not just now in his place. I have great admiration for his brilliant ability and we all delight in his eloquent expression of the opinions he holds, but I regret to observe in him a disposition to enter into that limited and singular competition of some distinguished lawyers on this side of the House, for the questionable honour of acting as leading counsel for the Colonial Secretary. I envy him neither his case nor his defendant. I was somewhat surprised to hear him develop in this House a number of fallacies which I had the pleasure of exposing to my own satisfaction and to the satisfaction of others in letters to The Times last November. I will not deal with that correspondence, but would illustrate, by one or two points, the unfairness of his contentions. In the first place my hon. and learned friend quoted a speech of President Kruger for the purpose of showing that he had no intention whatever of giving the franchise. The date of that speech was the 30th May, and the final consideration of the seven years Franchise Act was in the last fortnight in July; and—as Mr. Conyngham Greene stated, and as the Blue Books ought to have made known to my hon. and learned friend what were the amendments introduced into that Act, it would have been more reasonable to have quoted what Mr. Greene reported of President Kruger's and General Joubert's speeches 649 during those debates, which showed that President Kruger had the firm intention of giving full and complete action to it. My hon. and learned friend ignored all this, and treated franchise and naturalisation as being at the pleasure of the field cornet; but that again is an error, because the law as finally passed made it compulsory to give the franchise and naturalisation when two responsible citizens had shown by affidavit that the residence was sufficient and that the person concerned had not broken the laws of the Transvaal. In other words, the conditions of naturalisation were pretty much the same as in this country. Another extraordinary theory of my hon. and learned friend was that there was a joint right of occupancy on the part of the Outlanders with the original Dutch—they were not aliens at all. It is obvious that they are aliens exactly as aliens anywhere else, except that rights to reside and trade, and rights to equal taxation were secured to them. But my hon. and learned friend holds that the Convention of 1884 contemplated handing over the Transvaal, not to the Dutch population, with whom Mr. Gladstone was in treaty, but to the whole total population. That I considered an insult to Mr. Gladstone's memory. It is as great an insult as the comparison of the financial motives of the Beits and Ecksteins with the resistance of Hampden and Pym to Ship Money, or the American Colonists to the stamp duty. I do not know whether my hon. and learned friend remembers the history of the annexation of Texas to the United States. That transaction was carried out in a manner somewhat similar to what he suggests, and it was condemned by all men of honour and character in the United States at the time, and remains one of the blackest pages in the history of the aggression of the slave-owning interest in America. My noble friend the Member for the Cricklade Division has been well justified in moving this Amendment. I do not myself wish to treat this question from a party point of view, and I have not so treated it. My remarks have not been party remarks, and I have tried to argue the question on its merits. With regard to this Amendment, however, I think it is not altogether satisfactory, and I agree with much that has fallen from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the illogical and un- 650 satisfactory support it has received from certain sections of the Liberal party. I do not wish to challenge or condemn the views which other men doubtless hold with sincerity, but it seems to me difficult to understand the position taken up by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division and my hon. and learned friend the Member for South Shields. We all know that these hon. Gentlemen and others take their opinions from Lord Rosebery—perhaps that may be an offensive phrase—I will say they are in general agreement with the policy and actions of Lord Rosebery. I think that Lord Rosebery's conception of what he calls Liberal Imperialism—the doctrine of unlimited expansion and that England had a certain moral duty to take the whole world under its control—is a dangerous and disastrous policy for this country. I think that the sober and wise policy which prevailed throughout the century in the times of Sir Robert Peel and of Mr. Gladstone, and until Lord Beaconsfield came forward as an eloquent and almost poetic exponent of this gospel of annexation, was more worthy of support. What is the attitude of Lord Rosebery and his friends with reference to this Amendment? No one has used stronger arguments to hound on the Government into this war than Lord Rosebery, and I cannot understand how that attitude is reconcilable with the support of this Amendment. The hon. Member for the Berwick Division said that he did not wish to reverse the policy of the Government. But if this Amendment means anything it means the condemnation of the whole policy of the Government since 1895, as having led up to and brought about the present disastrous and unsatisfactory war. I care little about the failure, conspicuous enough, of the Government to make proper military preparations and to conduct the war effectively—that is a matter which could be remedied. But the question of policy is the essential issue raised. What I wish to do with the deepest sense of responsibility is to touch what seems to me the real kernel and core of this question. The charge which I have to make is that the policy of the Government in dealing with the grave and serious problem of mixed races in South Africa—a problem tenfold more grave and serious where jealousy, suspicion, and hatred have crept in—has 651 failed. Where I quarrel with the Government is that they have totally failed to grasp and deal with the conditions of that tremendous problem. We know very well the forces that are at work in South Africa. We know what happened with regard to the Kimberley Diamond Mines; they were turned into a strict monopoly, and enormous power was concentrated in the hands of a small syndicate of millionaires. They stretched their power over the goldfields in the Transvaal as soon as they were discovered, and year by year the gold mining interest is more and more concentrated in a few hands. It seems to me a scandalous misuse of the term to refer to the poor unfortunate Government of the Transvaal as an oligarchy. Is a Government an oligarchy which is supported by every man, woman, and child under it with the last drop of their blood? No, Sir; the real oligarchies are these dominating financial syndicates who have far too much power not only in South Africa but in this country. They are a great and terrible danger, and the gravest charge which I bring against the Government is that they have thrown the weight of their influence on the side of this financial oligarchy who are not content with an economic control but now wish to grasp also the whole political machinery of South Africa. We can see the political results in the demand for the suppression of self-government in Cape Colony, a demand which deliberately plays into the hands of the conspirators who desire to dominate; South Africa in the interests of capital and not in the interests of the races concerned.
CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS (Devon, Torquay)
I cannot congratulate the Opposition either on their policy or their patriotism. As to their policy there can be no doubt that the country is heartily sick of the wrangle which is going on in this House, and is anxiously looking forward to the time when the House will proceed to more important business. As to their patriotism, the official Opposition know very well that they cannot turn out the present Government even if they had the will, and the only result of this Amendment will be to make the enemies of the country think that it is divided on the question of the war. In some parts of the country it is the practice to set up a calf's skin stuffed with straw in order 652 to make refractory cows give their milk. The noble Lord who has moved this Amendment occupies that position; he has been set up to attract votes into the lobby, and it would seem from some of the speeches that that operation will be successful. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division taunted the Government with having brought forward the excuse that they were wise after the event. Here is an extract from a speech made by one who was wise before the event, the Leader of the Opposition, on the 17th of October, in this House—Now, Sir, I am glad that the Government are at least not falling into an error that has not infrequently been made by our countrymen in the past times, and that they are sending out—after some delay, it is true, an ample force for the purpose of effectually prosecuting and concluding this enterprise. The difficulties there are such that they will try to the utmost both the courage and endurance of the soldier and the skilled general. We have the most complete confidence in our men and our officers, and we know that these difficulties will be successfully encountered.Having delivered that speech, the Leader of the Opposition will now, I suppose, deliver a speech in support of this Amendment and vote for it. On former occasions the right hon. Gentleman has spoken in one way and voted in another. The Opposition are taunting Her Majesty's Government and their supporters with having made insufficient preparation for the war. A taunt of that kind can only be compared with Satan reproving sin. What has been the policy of the Liberal party for generations past but to cut down the defensive armaments of the country, and to the sacrifice of efficiency to expediency whenever they had an opportunity of doing so? The Government undoubtedly made mistakes, but the greatest mistake they were ever guilty of was that they did not, when they came into power, come down to the House and tell the country the lamentable state in which they found the defensive forces of the Empire, and the defective condition of the artillery. It has been said that if you allow weeds to grow one year it takes seven years to eradicate them, and I say that for one year that the last Government was in office it would take several years to correct the mischief they have done. Certain members of the Government have 653 been accused of making rash speeches. Well, the members of Her Majesty's Government are not the only people who make rash speeches. Many of the supporters of the Government have done so, and I for one plead guilty to making a rash statement, in addressing my constituents. I praised up certain members of the Opposition for their patriotism and statesmanlike support of the Government in their difficulties; and I was rash enough to name the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division amongst others. I know better now. I do not think that all those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in favour of supporting the Government will stultify themselves by going into the Opposition lobby. I hope they will not prove that if you scratch a patriotic Liberal Imperialist you will only find an unpatriotic partisan. Some Members opposite have offered to Her Majesty's Government conditional promises of support. No doubt Her Majesty's Government will be properly grateful for that support, but I hope at the same time that the Government and the Whips will not rely too much on it, for if they do they may find that though the political flag of truce has been hoisted, that they are exposed to a galling fire. I trust they will look out, and not be caught napping in that respect. It has been said that the result of the war will be to accentuate the differences that exist between the Dutch and the British races in South Africa. I do not believe in that for one moment. The Dutch have been opposed to the British mainly because they held them in contempt, although there were other reasons also; but after this war, whatever else may happen, they will have learned to respect Englishmen. If the Government of this country had not come forward to support the undoubted rights of the English in South Africa we should have lost the support of our colonies, and led to the breaking up of the British Empire. The effect of this Amendment can only have a bad influence on the country, and lead our enemies to believe that we are disunited. They will look at what has occurred in the House, and at the result of the division if a division takes place. But the heart of the country is sound, and I think that hon. Members opposite will find in the time to come when they go before their constituents that in making these 654 Little Englander speeches they have made a political mistake. The hon. Gentleman opposite who spoke last seemed to find some difficulty in pronouncing the word "loyalty." I am not surprised; I would be very much surprised if I thought he had any experience of that sentiment, judging from his speech.
§ MR. CHANNING
What I said was that the colonies did not render their help merely from the sentiment of loyalty, but spontaneously and of goodwill.
That is my case. Loyalty was the mainspring of their action. I think the hon. Gentleman gave the whole of his case away when he showed the vast preparations that had been made by the Transvaal Government for the present war. I think it is necessary for everyone of us who has the welfare of the country at heart to support the Government in the arduous task that they have undertaken.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
The Amendment which this House has been engaged in discussing since Tuesday last is a somewhat peculiar one, and I have been requested by the Irish Nationalist Members to explain why it is that they find themselves unable to vote for it. It consists of two portions. The first part proposes to censure the Government for the want of knowledge, foresight, prudence, and judgment in the conduct of the negotiations in South African affairs since 1895. Although I should have wished to have seen that portion of the Amendment so drafted as to raise a clearer issue as to the justice and necessity of the war, still, as far as I am concerned, and as far as most of my colleagues are concerned, had the Amendment been confined to that portion we would have gladly supported it. But when we turn to the second portion of the Amendment, we see that while it is proposed to censure the Government for their want of knowledge, foresight, and judgment in their preparation for the war now proceeding, we are constrained to interpret the second portion of the Amendment into practically a declaration that the Government ought to have made better preparation, and that the war ought to be prosecuted to victory. Believing as we do that the war is unjust—one of the cruellest and 655 most unjust ever undertaken in history—believing, as we do, that it is an unprovoked war, and a war of aggression, we find it impossible to support the Amendment. I think the overwhelming majority of our Irish people regard this war as unjust, and entirely unnecessary, and we are convinced on the evidence, and on the merits, that this war has been the work of a ring of unscrupulous capitalists, that the reasons and pretexts which have been put forward to justify it have in truth nothing whatever to do with the cause of it, and that the inmost purpose of this narrow ring of capitalists is to rob a people against whom this country has no just right of complaint, and to rob them because in their territory, unhappily for them, there has been discovered the richest goldfield in the world. Holding that belief firmly it would be impossible for the representatives of Ireland with any show of honesty to vote for an Amendment which seems to blame the Government for not making greater preparations to carry on the war to its iniquitous and cruel termination. I might almost conclude without further explanation, but there are two points which have not been much alluded to in the course of the debate to which I desire briefly to refer. Last autumn and spring the chief explanation put forward as a justification of the war were the grievances of the Uitlanders. But we hear very little now of these grievances. They have vanished into the background. I remember hearing the Colonial Secretary declaring that this country was fighting to set free from their grievances not only the British Uitlanders, but the Uitlanders of every nationality of Europe. I challenge the Government to say to-day whether it is not the fact that in the army of the Transvaal and Free State Republics, there are not twice as many Uitlanders fighting as on the British side. [An HON. MEMBER: Four times as many.] Yes, perhaps, four times as many. It is no wonder that the grievances of the Uitlanders have disappeared from the case of the Government when they find that there are Scandinavians, French, and German Uitlanders spilling their blood in defence of the country, to which the British Government, we were told, was going to give freedom. I have not the least intention of going into details on these matters, but I emphasise the fact that, up to this hour, no honest, straight- 656 forward answer has been given to the question often propounded in this House and the country—"What are we fighting for? Different answers have been given. I will only quote one, because it appears to me one of the true causes, as well as a sinister statement. Speaking in London on the 18th December the First Lord of the Admiralty used this language—The appeal comes to us from the Cape, sweep back the invader; let it be known throughout South Africa that it is the British race which is the predominant race, and intends to remain the predominant race.[HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!] I am glad the First Lord of the Admiralty stated that in an unguarded moment. Yes, that sentiment is cheered, and that is what you call liberty and equal rights for all. We know from long and bitter experience what that means. Predominant race! that is what you are fighting, for—to put the Dutch under your feet in South Africa; but allow me to tell you you will never succeed. It is an infamous object; the conscience of humanity will be against you in this struggle, and although for a time you may beat down these people by overwhelming numbers, you are but creating for yourselves, as a result of this war, far away in the Southern Seas, 7,000 miles from your shores, another Ireland, which will be infinitely more difficult to hold down than the Ireland which is so close. Now, I desire to say a few words on a subject on which I feel very keenly, namely, the attacks that have been made on Sir W. Butler. This subject is closely concerned with the principles on which the Amendment is based, and I shall honestly endeavour to approach the consideration of it from the point of view, not of an Irishman, but of a member of the House of Commons, who desires to see fair play done to everybody. Now what is the exact state of the case in regard to Sir W. Butler? He, a distinguished soldier of the Queen, was in military command in South Africa when war became imminent. His resignation from that command was accepted by the Government, and it is idle to tell me that the acceptance of the resignation of a commanding officer in a distant country, on the eve of war, is not a very serious matter for that officer, all the more especially if there be truth, as I believe there is truth, in the statement that his resigna- 657 tion was in consequence of communications, more or less in the nature of a censure, which reached him from the Colonial Office or from the War Office—but from the Colonial Office, I think. When a question was put the other day to the Secretary of State for War why it was, when Sir W. Butler had been made the object of an unheard-of torrent of abuse and vituperation, that he had not defended his subordinate—we should all remember, and British officers opposite should remember, that the position of a soldier is particularly cruel, because his mouth is shut by the rules of the Service; and it is the bounden duty of his political superiors to defend his character when attacked, or, if they cannot defend it, to retire him—what was the answer of the Secretary of State for War?—All I can say is that if the head of a department which, as the noble Lord knows himself, is somewhat hard-worked, even in ordinary times, were to take upon himself in a time like that through which we have been passing, to reply to every attack in the press on himself, or on his subordinates, he would not have much leisure left for the legitimate work of his office.I say that was a mean and evasive answer. His Lordship levelled the case down to an ordinary criticism of subordinates who are not resigning their position—to the ordinary kind of criticism to which we are all subject in the press of the country. Is that a fair answer in regard to a soldier placed in the peculiar circumstances in which Sir W. Butler was situated, and who, when he resigned, was subjected to a tempest of outrage absolutely unparalleled in my memory? What were the charges made against him? He was said to be superseded because he had betrayed his duty as a soldier, and allowed his political opinions to overcome his sense of duty to the Queen and to the Army; that he had not sent to the Government proper information as to the condition of affairs in South Africa and the resources of the enemy; and furthermore, that he had used his position in South Africa to block and obstruct the defences of the frontier of the colony. Now we have had a statement from the Under Secretary for War in this House that there is not a shadow of a shade, not a shred of justification for all this storm of vituperation and insult, for we are told that the Government had all the information they desired to guide them, that they 658 believed it to be quite true, and that not a single word had been uttered by the Government that they had any cause to complain of Sir W. Butler in regard to the defences of the colony. Is it the way in which a soldier should be treated by his superiors, to be left unsheltered against the outrages hurled against him for three or four months, and no justification given by his superiors, until that justification is dragged out unwillingly in the House of Lords? And then we see the noble Lord the Secretary of State for War comparing the case of the resignation of Sir W. Butler to that of any subordinate, or even to the Marquess of Lansdowne, who if he had resigned would not have had his mouth shut, though a Member of the Cabinet, but would have been released from his oath of secresy, when he could come down to the House of Lords to give his explanation. Further, there is a matter which requires very careful consideration and investigation. We were told by the First Lord of the Treasury that the sole cause of the acceptance of Sir W. Butler's resignation was a difference of opinion with Sir Alfred Milner in regard to politics. It may be said, "What business had Sir W. Butler, who is a soldier, to interfere in politics? He ought to have left politics alone." But we know perfectly well that owing to the peculiarity of his position in the Cape, he was transferred from the position of a simple soldier to that of High Commissioner, and it became his duty then to send home political despatches. What was done with these despatches? The history of the treatment of these despatches is one of the most infamous things connected with the whole of these transactions. While voluminous quotations from the Cape Times, occupying whole pages of the Blue-books, were sent home by Sir A. Milner in support of the alleged conspiracy against England, Sir W. Butler was denied a hearing for his despatches, which are still suppressed, with the exception of one, giving his opinion of the operations of the South African League. That is to say, the hell-hounds of the South African League were set against Sir W. Butler, while his arguments were completely suppressed, and his mouth shut. There are one or two questions which ought to be asked, which have not been pressed by Irish Members, but by certain of the newspaper press, al- 659 though I notice these have become pretty silent since Parliament met. I think, however, that we are justified in pressing for some further details as to the plans of defence which Sir W. Butler laid before the Government before he gave up military employment in South Africa. The Secretary of State for War said in the House of Lords—There were despatches, no doubt, containing plans of defence for the Colonies—plans of considerable minuteness—and for that very reason I object to presenting to Parliament Papers containing very confidential matter, and which, moreover, it is not usual to present to Parliament.If that is so, the whole press of the country ought not to have been allowed unchecked and unreproved by the Government to charge this soldier with betraying his country by his arrangements for the defence of the Colonies. It has been asserted, and it is believed by many people, that one of the recommendations of Sir W. Butler was that, in the case of war, no attempt should be made to garrison the colony of Natal north of the Tugela river. We are entitled to know whether that is true or not.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
No such thing. It is not true.
§ MR. DILLON
One of the causes of the "entanglement" at Ladysmith, which the First Lord of the Treasury says was the source and root of all the disasters to the British, was the reckless promise given on the 25th May, 1899, by Sir Alfred Milner to the Government of Natal. When the Governor of Natal spoke to the Prime Minister, and asked him to pledge himself to a policy of war, the Prime Minister said he was afraid to do so, because it would militate against the interests of Natal if the British Government withdrew after all. Then Sir A. Milner wired—You can tell Minister that it is out of the question that any invasion of Natal should be tolerated by Her Majesty's Government. Such an event is highly improbable, I think, but Natal would be defended with the whole force of the Empire.And that promise was endorsed by a special telegram from the Colonial Secretary. That most reckless promise was given for the purpose of conciliating the military authorities after- 660 wards. Is it not time for Ministers to cease saying that there has been no interference between the military and political authorities? That promise was given for the purpose of obtaining from Natal the support of the war policy, which up to that time the Government of Natal had refused to give. They were in favour of peace. On that reckless promise the Government of Natal declared for the war policy. That promise has not been kept, and could not be kept. It was given for an evil purpose, but in the attempt to keep it all the disasters which have overtaken the British Army have been brought about. That was the first of these movements which appear to me to have been been made in pursuit of the same evil policy. The second of the movements was made on 22nd September last. To the astonishment of all South Africa a large body of troops moved out to Glencoe, in the teeth of the advice of the most skilled military advisers of the Ministry, and with this result, that on the day after these troops were moved commandeering was commenced in the Transvaal. On the 22nd September the Governor of Natal, Sir W. Hely - Hutchinson, telegraphed to Sir Alfred Milner that according to the best information he had received the Boers would not invade Natal or declare war unless the troops were moved to Glencoe; but if troops were moved to Glencoe the Boers would accept the challenge. On the evening of the 23rd a message came from the Colonial Secretary giving the text of the dispatch of September 22nd, and in the teeth of his own opinion given on that very day, and on the advice of our representative in Natal, on that very day they accepted the despatch of September 22nd as a declaration on the part of the Home Government that war was certain. And The Times correspondent on that day declared that "the movement of troops to Glencoe gave to the war party in Pretoria the excuse they were looking for and decided the balance in favour of war." Well, there may have been a war party in Pretoria; but from all my reading of this transaction I am convinced that neither President Kruger nor his advisers belonged to the war party. I am certain that there was a war party nearer home. That movement of troops was intended by those who pulled the strings to force the hands of the Boers. If there were any doubt as to 661 the existence of this war party in Pretoria I would just quote from a private conversation between Mr. Smutz and Mr. Conyngham Greene—When we parted he (Mr. Greene) entertained a strong hope that a settlement would be arrived at on the proposed basis, and strict secrecy was alone necessary, as the party would be against a settlement if they came to hear of it.And they did come to hear of it. That conversation took place a fortnight before the troops were moved to Glencoe, and they immediately took steps to frustrate a possible settlement. If it had not been for the position of Sir William Butler I would not enter into this question at such length. This is a shameful war and the conscience of all civilised mankind is against it; and although it is considered on that Bench to be fashionable to speak with contempt of the opinion of Europe, they will find in the long run that it is an expensive position to occupy. They will find when the opinion of Europe is unanimous in a matter of this kind the issue may be serious. Already England has suffered defeats and disasters greater than any in her history since the revolt of the American colonies. The military prestige of England is irretrievably ruined. [Laughter.] You laugh at that sentiment. You laugh at the opinion of military experts; but I say it will take you two generations to recover your military prestige. When I heard the Colonial Secretary describe the military preparations, and that you were putting 200,000 men into the field to conquer what you put at the outside as 50,000 farmers, I think it is a pretty condition of things that you have brought England to, for you are publishing to the world that it takes four Englishmen to meet one Boer. The international position of England is worse and lower than it has been at any time throughout the century. You watch now without a word of protest while Russia calmly absorbs Persia, a state of things which last year would have been regarded as a national crisis. Suppose after enormous sacrifices you bring this war to a successful issue—and I have no doubt it will be possible for you to do so—suppose you break down the resistance of this small people, where will you be then? You will have to maintain an enormous army in that country for a long period. The Colonial Secretary says this war will produce peace, 662 and love, and mutual respect; but in the meantime we are realising, by the many desolate homes in England, that it is going to be a very expensive luxury. You are trying to trample these people down and to deprive them of that liberty which they have won through two generations of blood and tears, and which they prize more highly than life itself. I would remind you of examples in the history of the world where small peoples have brought great empires into difficulties which have influenced the whole tide of their future, and animated by some lofty impulse, it has served to inspire them, and the generations which have come after them; and I tell you now, as I believe it firmly, that it is beyond the power of this great and mighty Empire to deprive these people of their liberty, because by the splendid stand they have made they have asserted a claim to liberty and freedom which no amount of brute strength will ever crush. You may trample them down by your innumerable hosts; but the conscience of mankind will be against you. These people will rise and rise again, and my conviction is that even if you conquer the Transvaal the ultimate result will be the loss of South Africa to England.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
No one who heard the speech of the Colonial Secretary this evening could have helped admiring its force, its ability, and its effectiveness. Never, I think, has he addressed this House with such energy; never has he displayed such debating power. And it is no wonder, Mr. Speaker, that he should be moved to a great effort on this occasion. He had to vindicate the nation; he had to vindicate the Government; and, above all, he had to vindicate himself. He expressed in eloquent terms the sense of responsibility that is upon him, and no one who has any human sympathy can deny some fellow-feeling in reflecting what a burden now lies upon the Colonial Secretary. Be it for glory or for condemnation this is his war. It may be, as he says, that it was inevitable. I shall deal with that presently. I do not believe it. Putting aside the statement and looking upon this as a matter of statesmanship, which might be dealt with as any other question arising in the course of our history, I ask hon. Members to consider candidly for themselves whether, in their own minds, 663 they do not confess that if any other member of the Cabinet than the right hon. Gentleman had been at the Colonial Office, there would have been no war. We had a Conservative Ministry in power from 1885 to 1892, with the exception of a few months in 1886, and the Colonial Minister of those years maintained peace in South Africa. There was no peril of war pending then. It may have been a mistake on the then Colonial Secretary's part not to accept the inevitable; but he at all events staved off the evil hour which the present occupier of the Colonial Office has chosen to accept. I am not saying it is his fault, or that history will record it to his condemnation. But the responsibility for good or evil—for the present war, rests upon himself. The right hon. Gentleman takes comfort in the reflection that at the present time he is supported by the mass of the nation. I do not question the accuracy of that statement. Most sorrowfully I admit it to be true. But is that any final criterion of judgment? Lord North was supported by the mass of the nation, but what do we think of Lord North now? To come down to our own time the Crimean War was also supported by the mass of the nation. Prominent members of Parliament who opposed that war lost their seats in consequence, and were exposed not infrequently to personal insult. I believe Mr. Bright's effigy was burned in Lancashire for his opposition to the national will, and yet the present Prime Minister has told us that the nation then put its money on the wrong horse. That the nation supports the Government at this moment may be a great comfort to the Colonial Secretary, but the fact offers no abiding security. That glory may pass away as many similar glories have passed away, and the statesman who is idolised by his generation may be regarded by subsequent generations as a man who made a colossal mistake and exposed his country to a colossal misfortune. The right hon. Gentleman said that the war was an inevitable war, and he seemed to hint that some of his predecessors had been weak in attempting to postpone the calamity. Boer and Briton exist side by side in South Africa. In no other way than by war could the difficulty be solved which should be uppermost. Other suggestions have been tried, no doubt, from time to time; other policies have been adopted 664 by other Ministers. The Colonial Secretary said they had failed, as they were sure to fail. This necessity of a contest, of a bloody contest of war, arose as the only way of solving the question which should be supreme. I do not recognise the necessity of either being supreme. Then, it is said, the policy of magnanimity failed. Magnanimity! The very word betrays an underlying fault. The Boer, I am told by those who know him best, teaches us this lesson. Treat him as a friend and an equal, and he will be staunch and true to you in all the relations of life. But let him suspect that you are endeavouring to be his superior, let the knowledge of your intended mastery be made manifest in your action and you will find him not the friend you might have made him, nor the servant or inferior you wished him to be. That is the case here. But as to this policy of magnanimity, Mr. Speaker. Let us clear our minds of cant. Hon. Members think it is our noble action after Majuba. ["Gladstone!"] Oh, I am not going to let Mr. Gladstone, any more than the Colonial Secretary, alonee We took away self government from the Transvaal in 1877. The Transvaal remonstrated, and their wrongs were taken up in England by the Liberal party. Mr. Gladstone went down to Midlothian and denounced the occupation of the Transvaal. He said in words which must be weighed to be realised and understood, that "if the Transvaal was as valuable as it was valueless he would have nothing to do with it." I could not, if I would, search all the speeches of the Colonial Secretary, but I suspect that those who take the trouble will find that in the speeches, before 1880, he denounced in the same way the seizure of the Transvaal. What happened? The Liberal party came into office in the spring of 1880, and the Boers looked for the redress of this wrong they had suffered. They got no redress, and in December the Boers rose in arms. Then it was that this policy of magnanimity prevailed and the Transvaal was restored. What is the magnanimity of restoring that which has been stolen, which was not restored on grounds of justice, but only after we get a knock on the head? There is no magnanimity in it. The Colonial Secretary said that the policy of magnanimity had failed. If there was no magnanimity in it the policy of magnanimity could not have 665 failed. But even in the end when the Government did make restitution they did not restore exactly what they took away. They put qualifications in the restitution which the Boers at the time protested against, and said they would never sit down quietly under; and they attempted from that time downwards to recover the position they held before the seizure of the Transvaal, and to be put back in the same position as the Orange Free State. Incomplete and tardy, as it was, the policy which was carried out in the restitution of the Transvaal had not failed. On the one side there had been resentment, and on the other side presumption. These feelings survived amongst some in South Africa, but they were never shared by responsible men in authority. One of the last declarations made by Mr. Kruger last summer with reference to this act of Mr. Gladstone in restoring the Transvaal was a recognition of the admirable, statesmanlike, Christian spirit [ironical laughter] which was shown in restoring the Transvaal, when the English Government had it in its power to withhold it by force of arms. I noticed that an hon. Member laughed when I suggested that Paul Kruger had spoken of this restitution as an illustration of Christian spirit. Is it the feeling that Paul Kruger is nothing but a canting hypocrite. ["No, No!"]
I laughed because I thought it was very ridiculous to suppose that Mr. Kruger ever imagined that the Transvaal was given back from any Christian motive.
§ MR. COURTNEY
It is not worth while pursuing the discussion on that point; but what can be ridiculous in supposing that an act of Mr. Gladstone was animated by Christian spirit? Well, I was saying when this diversion took place that the restitution of the Transvaal did not fail; because for years the Transvaal went on without causing us any real disturbance; and as far as these vital elements of conflict upon which the Colonial Secretary dwelt are concerned, be it observed they are not confined to the inhabitants of the Transvaal State. They are between the Boers and the British, and not the Boers of the South African Republic alone. They extend to the Boers in the Free State, Cape 666 Colony, and Natal, as well as to the Boers in the Transvaal. I say that the whole history of the movement is foreign to the suggestion that there was any diversity of races such as to make it inevitable that a war between the two peoples should ensue. Look at the facts upon which he relies to prove his theory. The Colonial Secretary has cited the incursion of the Boers from the north which had to be repelled by Sir Charles Warren. But did the action on the part of the British Government excite any resentment on the part of the Dutch in Cape Colony and Natal or on the part of the Free State?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
As the right hon. Gentleman appeals to me, I am obliged to inform him as to the historical fact. It is the fact that there was a serious agitation in the colony, and Sir John Brand, who was at that time President of the Orange Free State, informed Her Majesty's Government that, if the operations proceeded, there would be the greatest difficulty in restraining the Orange Free State.
§ MR. COURTNEY
Sir John Brand was President of the Free State, and that is why he acted in the way he did, and showed that there was no irreconcilable feud. Well, now, I pass to the next point. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted the question of the drifts as another evidence of that irreconcilable feud. But in that question the Dutch Ministry at the Cape was on the English side; and so was the Free State. They were both on our side, and the influence of both brought about a peaceful settlement of that dispute. I do not want to go through the painful history in detail, but who can deny that at all events the recent negotiations presented again and again opportunities of peace incompatible with the notion of a war, which might be postponed, but could not be averted. Throughout the summer the Cape Ministry, Mr. Steyn, Mr. Fischer, and Mr. Hofmeyr did their best to maintain peace, and I will go further and assert that Paul Kruger himself did his best to maintain 667 peace. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields, in that ingenious speech the other day, argued that President Kruger could not have meant to make any concession, because he had told his provincial burghers that he would not give up the control of the State to foreigners. If the effect of the changes which statesmen inaugurated were to be judged by their statements to some of their supporters before the changes were made, what was to be said of Mr. Disraeli and the Franchise Act of 1867? Before his Bill had made any progress Mr. Disraeli and the late last Lord Derby made declarations exactly similar in spirit to that quoted by the hon. and learned Member for South Shields. But Mr. Disraeli and Lord Derby were statesmen whose action was shaped and moulded in relation to the forces with which they had to deal, and, before they had gone far, they had so far departed from their original statements that Lord Salisbury seceded from the Government and moved entirely away. Paul Kruger is a statesman, and whatever he may have said beforehand, he found himself constrained to agree to a seven years franchise, and the Act was passed and is now the Law. And when we are told that this war was inevitable, I ask how the Colonial Secretary can reconcile it with the Act that was passed in which he himself saw a basis for further action, and in reference to which he proposed a commission of inquiry. The failure of that Act as a settlement cannot be charged against Paul Kruger, and cannot be charged against the Transvaal Government, but is due to the abrupt termination of the negotiations by the Colonial Secretary. And again, in respect to the five years, what is the mystery of the acceptance which was no acceptance? The hon. Member for East Mayo has spoken of a sinister influence being at work to prevent the negotiations begun being successfully carried through. However that may be, I do remember that when the negotiations broke down, and the opportunity for peace was lost, The Times newspaper rejoiced that the peril of peace had passed away. That was the view of the organ which on this subject represents public opinion. I do not deny it. That was the avowed opinion of The Times. ("No.") There is no use denying it; the file of the paper is in the library. So far from accepting the theory of the Colonial Secretary that there is a feud which 668 cannot be reconciled, that there is a struggle between the two races which was bound to end in war, I say that war has been precipitated through the miscarriage of diplomacy in the Colonial Office. It is upon that that the fatal issue of war has arisen. Those who have come to that conclusion are bound to proclaim this truth. Though they may be in a minority in the House and in the country, this proves nothing as to what the opinion of the future will be. And whether in a minority large or small, those who have this conviction deep within their hearts as to the origin of the war—who recognise the awful destruction of life and property, international peace, and the terrible future that is before them in South Africa—cannot remain silent under that conviction. It is our bounden duty to endeavour to convert the country to our view of the war. In one thing I do agree with the Colonial Secretary, who said—and I think that it was very significant—that he believed the majority of the Liberal Members opposite hold this war to be unnecessary and, therefore, unjust. I agree with the Colonial Secretary in thinking that that is the view of the majority of the Liberal Members; and I believe, when the time comes for testing the question, it will be found that the majority of the electors also hold that view. Holding this opinion I am not enamoured of the present Amendment. I think the Liberal party have not done themselves any good in the course which they have taken in adopting it. They have weakened their own position in order to co-operate with a minority holding views absolutely opposed to their own. We have the hon. Member for the Berwick Division holding that the war was most necessary, when the majority of the Liberal party held the view that the war was unnecessary and unjust. Yet they have joined together, with the result that the majority are really held back by a minority. But it may be said that this is a domestic matter, and I admit that it might be said that these criticisms of mine should be resented as impertinent. But it is the view which I hold, and it touches upon the vital question to which I have devoted myself—the cardinal proposition that the war is unnecessary. By speeches in the House and out of it, and by writings, we should try to bring home to the people the conviction, which I am sure 669 in the long run will prevail, that this war is an unnecessary calamity. It is bad enough to have to realise the evil as it is, but what is that which is going to follow? We are in a dreadful position—a position which the Prime Minister spoke of as one of humiliation. We have the spectacle of Britain's military arm being used not only for an unnecessary and therefore also, as the Colonial Secretary would say, an unjust war, but being used to such little effect that the reputation, force, and value of the military arm is, for a time at least, diminished. "Then," the Colonial Secretary said. "you are in favour of stopping the war at once." I am in favour of seizing the first opportunity of stopping the war upon a secure basis, but I recognise what the Colonial Secretary apparently refused to recognise, that there are many elements in the bringing about of war. Although I think this war is unnecessary, although I think the responsibility is upon my right hon. friend, and that it is to be attributed to his diplomacy, not even that diplomacy could have brought it about without some contributory elements on the other side. The position of the enemy in our colony is, of course, one which must be repelled; but let this be done and then the first care of those who are convinced that the war is unnecessary must be directed in action, as it is now in thought to the methods by which peace could be reestablished. I do not accuse the Government or the Colonial Secretary of having brought about this war for the love of war. Far from it The great reason for the military mess into which we have got is that they never expected war. They thought a mere show of force would be sufficient. They were betrayed into the mistake because the Colonial Secretary especially had taken as his authority—Sir Alfred Milner had helped to confirm him—the opinions of Mr. Rhodes as the man best acquainted with the conditions of life in South Africa. Mr. Rhodes's want of knowledge of South Africa is strange after so many years of residence there.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The statement which my right hon. friend makes has been made again and again and has been again and again contradicted. Since the time of the raid I have had no communication with Mr. Rhodes in reference 670 to political affairs in South Africa, either directly or indirectly.
§ MR. COURTNEY
I have not the least hesitation in accepting that statement. It does not affect what I say. I do not say that he had an interview with Mr. Rhodes and got his instructions from him. I never dreamt that. I was saying that Mr. Rhodes, with all his knowledge of South Africa, showed his intense ignorance of the character and the tenacity of the Boer in that raid which he started. Mr. Rhodes has again, in the course of this year, shown his intense ignorance of the character of the people amongst whom he had dwelt by saying in the Cape Parliament that Mr. Kruger would climb down, that he would not fight, and that the Republic would be soon a thing of the past. And, if I am not misinformed, Mr. Rhodes showed his ignorance of Boer character and action by being at Kimberley at this moment; for he did not go there to show how a millionaire could stand the siege, but on his way to Bulawayo, which he thought he would reach without interruption. Now what I am suggesting is that my right hon. friend, studying as he must, with the assistance of Sir Alfred Milner, the probabilities of the war in South Africa which has broken out, was misled by such public utterances. He is misled in the same way now. He believes, fortified by the same authority, that if the Boers are once beaten they will live afterwards in the most quiet and friendly fashion with those who have beaten them. Mr. Rhodes has made another public utterance that the Boers would sit down quietly after defeat. This last opinion is, however, not what may be called the opinion of the English party in South Africa. They have shown by their articles in the newspapers and in the letters and telegrams sent home, and by correspondence in the papers that they do not believe in the idea of working out the redemption of South Africa, at all events for a long time to come, by the theory of equal rights. You can do either one thing or another. You may govern the Republics as Crown Colonies, or you may disfranchise the majority of the Dutch, or you may try to jerrymander the electoral divisions, somehow or other the end must be secured so that the British section shall have political predominance over the Boers. They tell you that unless that is done there can be 671 no peace. It is idle to think the problem can be solved on the simple theory of equal political rights, because, as the Natal newspaper says, short of extermination you will never be able to alter the fact—for a long time to come, if ever—that the Dutch are more numerous than the English inhabitants of South Africa. Then you are landed in this proposition, and this is the threatened future which may well stimulate those who hold the belief that I do as to the unnecessary character of this war. If you attain military success, which you may doubtless do if you are not interrupted, and spend all your labour in the effort, the end of it all will be the government of South Africa by an English garrison. We know by bitter experience what that means. We know what it has been in Ireland.
§ MR. COURTNEY
For nearly a century we have been trying to undo the evil system of governing Ireland through an English garrison. We know what it was in Canada. In Canada it has been given up, entirely abandoned, and peace is established. The attempt to govern South Africa through an English garrison will mean endless trouble and endless evil, and the consummation of the wrong of the war will be complete if it precipitates the establishment of such a system, from which I, at all events, recoil.
§ MR. BECKETT (Yorkshire N.R., Whitby)
I wonder, Sir, if the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is quite satisfied with the cheers which greeted him on rising. He said perfectly truly that popular opinion in England was on the side of the Ministry, and from historical precedents he seemed to imply that the opinion of posterity would be on his side. I venture to doubt whether the opinion of posterity is more accurately reflected in the voices of those who cheered his speech than it is in view of the mass of the people of England. The right hon. Gentleman is the champion of lost causes and unpopular policies, but though his advocacy of President Kruger is able, eloquent, and courageous, I doubt very much whether it is an omen of the ultimate success of the cause he supports. He has compared this conflict with that 672 which we undertook against our American Colonies. But the two wars were totally different. At that time, England went to war to compel the American Colonies to submit to a state which, in the words of Lord Chatham, would have been a state of servitude. We are now engaged in a war to release our fellow-subjects from a state of servitude. He further said that the policy of restitution had not failed, but in an earlier part of his speech he said with perfect truth that since that policy of restitution—he did not use the words, but since 1884—we had never ceased to have trouble in South Africa. These troubles were undoubtedly due to the policy of restitution which we adopted in 1881. Everybody who has followed the course of this debate will see that all that has been said resolves itself into two charges against the Government. One charge is that they made a war which might have been avoided, and the other is that they did not sufficiently prepare against the chance and possibility of war. As to the first of those charges, I think the discussion absolutely barren and fruitless, because no matter how much we may debate it it will always remain a matter which cannot be settled by argument. It is purely a matter of opinion, and by this time each man has formed his opinion, and is not likely to change it. We have to recognise that it is now our duty to deal with things as they are and not with things as they might or might not have been. As to the war being inevitable, I do not suppose that anyone would say that either President Kruger or the Colonial Secretary, in his most bellicose mood, would look upon war except as a means to an end, and would not if he could gladly secure that end without resorting to the force of arms. Two facts arise unmistakeably out of the mass of argument and assertion which has this matter for its subject-ground, the first being that the Bloemfontein Conference was hailed with acclaim by all parties, and the second that at that Conference the negotiations were set on foot which ultimately resulted in war. From those two facts we draw three conclusions. The first is that the differences between the British and the Boer Governments had arrived at so critical a stage that it was the general opinion that some extraordinary means of dealing with them should be devised. The second is that everybody hoped and many expected 673 that by this means a peaceful settlement would be arrived at. The third is that as a peaceful settlement was not arrived at it is reasonable to conclude that there was, underlying the differences of opinion, a principle which both sides believed they could not concede with either honour or safety. These negotiations failed. They failed, and we are at war because we demanded equal rights and fair treatment and just government for British subjects in the Transvaal. The Boers are at war because they believed they could not grant these things without forfeiting their independence. If they are justified we are justified, because each of us believed we had in view an end that was righteous and just in itself, and of supreme and vital importance to our continued existence in the positions we respectively occupied, the one as an independent State and the other as a paramount Power. The more pressing question is this. Is it true that the Government did not make sufficient preparations against a war which seemed the possible if not the probable outcome of the negotiations upon which they were engaged? What is the duty of a Government engaged in negotions which are not unlikely to end in war? They call for their military advisers; they ask them to prepare a plan of campaign; they ask them to decide the number, equipment and disposition of the forces, so that if war should break out it would not find them unprepared. A further duty of the Government is to place all the resources of the country at the disposal of the generals, and to take every means in their power to assist the operations in the field. In these important, essential, and vital matters can anyone say that the Government have been guilty of any delinquency? It is true that when things went wrong they began with one accord to make excuses, and that was the time when they made their mistakes, because it was their excuses that made a vote of censure possible and provided their enemies with the means for an effective attack. Until the eloquent and notable speech of the Under Secretary of State for War the country was not aware of the strong case that could be presented on behalf of the Government. What is more, some Ministers treated this question, of the greatest possible importance, with a calm indifference that shocked and offended the country. If the First Lord of 674 the Treasury were present I would earnestly entreat him to remember that if, as he told us the other night, he takes no interest in his speeches himself, the country does, and at such a crisis as the present it looks to him for light and guidance and counsel and encouragement. Whatever the Government may have said, they undoubtedly did the right thing. They scrupulously followed the advice of their military advisers, and left their generals an absolutely free hand in the field. Even as regards this "unhappy entanglement" at Ladysmith, from which all our difficulties and troubles have sprung, what is the position of the Government? A most able and competent general said that to hold Laing's Nek, not Ladysmith alone, and the whole of the country safe from invasion, we should require an addition to the present strength of troops of a total of about 5,600 men. The Government sent not only 5,600, but double that number, and therefore they might reasonably conclude that the country was safe from invasion. Neither the Government of Natal nor the Prime Minister of Natal ever expressed the opinion that Sir William Symons's estimate was below the mark. As it turned out the estimate was ludicrously wrong, but surely the Government are not to blame for that. What more could they do than take the opinion and advice of the most competent men they could find—the men actually on the spot? If we leave the question of Ladysmith and refer to the total number of forces in South Africa, the Government are not on such firm ground. We know that the Intelligence Department advised that the two Republics could put into the field a total force of 59,000 men. We had therefore to deal with an army of 59,000 men, and there was always the chance, which I am afraid the Government did not sufficiently take into account, of a Dutch rising in Cape Colony. Here I cannot help asking hon. Members to contrast the attitude of Mr. Rhodes, he Imperialist, with that of Mr. Schreiner, the Afrikander, who strove to preserve peace by correcting misrepresentation, and who, since the outbreak of war, has used all his influence to mitigate the hostility of the Cape Dutch and to prevent their joining their forces to those of their brethren in the Transvaal. That conduct on the part of Mr. Schreiner seems to me to be the true 675 Imperialism, and worthy of the gratitude of this country. I am afraid that sometimes the English people are too apt to be guided by the opinion of Mr. Rhodes on South African affairs. That gentleman has, more than once, shown himself to be profoundly wrong. I do not wish to say much about the raid now. I will simply say that had it not been for Mr. Rhodes there would have been no raid. I will not say that but for the raid there would have been no war, but I do say that that stupendous folly has certainly been one of the chief subsidiary causes that contributed to the war, and has been the element which has told most against us. The British public would be well advised to pay less attention to Mr. Rhodes and not to be led captive by the tinkling phrases of his empirical Imperialism. An army of 59,000 men, equipped and acting in co-operation in their own country, with every advantage such as the Boers possess on their side, ought to have been met by a larger number of troops than a single army corps, unless, indeed, the Government were under the delusion, shared by the War Office and the generals, and, indeed, by the whole country, that one Englishman was able to fight successfully against three of any other nation. That delusion has not been borne out; it has soon been knocked on the head. Warfare is not like politics; armies cannot exist under banners of their own self-glorification. The banners are soon threatened when we come face to face with stern realities. The delusion on this occasion has not been evident since the war began. Since the beginning of October the Government has never ceased to pour reinforcements into South Africa, until we are told that at the end of this month we shall have 180,000 men there. It is said that these forces were sent in driblets. How else could they be sent? You cannot march an army across the ocean. The men have to be sent in ships, and since the outbreak of war a huge fleet of transports have been engaged in steaming between South Africa and England. It may be that this is good as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. Why was not an army corps sent to South Africa at the time of the conference? The Government have sufficiently answered that. They have said that had we behaved as if war was inevitable it would certainly have vitiated the negotiations. I accept that, but I ask this 676 question, Why were not troops sent out long before the conference? Because, say the Government, our hands were tied by the raid. That is true as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. The Government could not object to any reasonable increase in Mr. Kruger's armaments, but there was a time when the Government could have said to Mr. Kruger, "You are now sufficiently armed to secure yourself against any repetition of the raid. If you continue to arm we shall look upon it as a menace to ourselves, and we on our side shall strengthen our forces in South Africa, so as to secure ourselves against any act of aggression on your part." If they had done that I think the present war would have been avoided. That is a legitimate method of action. What do we do when any other nation increases its fleet? We do the same. What does France or Germany do when the other increases its army? It does the same. We ought to have acted on that principle with President Kruger when we saw that he was turning the Transvaal into an armed camp. I also think that the Government have gone too far in pretending ignorance of what was going on. I do not believe they were ignorant; if they were they certainly ought not to have been. As a matter of fact they could not have been ignorant, because it is a fact that the most formidable item of armament consists in Maxim guns, and Maxim's firm informed the Government of every single Maxim gun despatched by them to South Africa. I am afraid the Government ignored that information, and I should like to see eradicated that tendency to ignore anything that is at all disagreeable or unpleasant. For instance, I do not think it is wise to ignore the present unfriendly attitude of Europe. I do not mean that we should throw ourselves into a state of frantic alarm on that account, but at the same time it is not a thing to be dismissed with a mere shrug of the shoulders, Wise statesmen at such a moment would endeavour to conciliate European opinion by every means in their power; at any rate, they would carefully avoid anything that could embitter it. I should like to see—perhaps we shall see on Monday—some more indication that the Government are aware of the considerable loss of prestige we have suffered in this war. It is absurd to say, as did the 677 hon. Member for Mayo, that that prestige is irretrievable. It will be retrieved, and before long, but it will have to be retrieved by the proper means, and certainly it will be courting aggression, if not the destruction of oar Empire, to imagine that we can afford to run our Empire with the same small army that has hitherto sufficed. You may say what you like, you may skrink from the word and from the thing, but I firmly believe that sooner or later you will have to adopt some form of conscription, or else you will have to diminish your possessions and responsibilities, and play a smaller part in the world. These are lessons I should like the Government to take to heart. The last attitude they should adopt at a time like the present is an attitude of complacency. Whether the Government are to blame or not, there is no question as to the fact that the nation bewails the loss of a number of its bravest soldiers and most promising officers. Much blood has been spilt, and money has been poured out like water. We have had to endure reverses which have touched our pride. We shall have to endure sacrifices which will touch our pocket. But the nation does not falter or hold back; it begrudges neither men nor money. Never was it more eager to do anything required of it, never more determined to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. But it expects one thing in return. It says to the Government, "Give us a strong lead; let us know your mind; speak out boldly; do not shrink or hesitate or hold back: say what you want, you shall have whatever you ask." But the nation is not in a mood for trifling. When an officer was asked how many troops he required, he replied "5,000." The answer he got to his request was, "Take 12,000, and fail at your peril." That, I feel sure, would be the answer of the nation to the Government, no matter what the request might be. One tremendous fact that we cannot get over is that we are at present at war, and it is our business to bring this war to a speedy and successful conclusion. I cannot see how that business, on which we all agree, is to be promoted by the Amendment before the House. I am a student of the paper associated with the hon. Member for Northampton, and I sometimes find in it most excellent advice. The other week I read in it that no sensible man in his vote in this House should consider the mere 678 wording of a motion; he should also look at the consequences which would follow the carrying of the motion. Those consequences with regard to this Amendment have been dwelt upon ad nauseam, and I am not going to repeat them. We are told that the Opposition are practically divided, and would be utterly unable to take up the task of government if it devolved upon them. But I should like the Government to take higher ground than that. I should like them to say, "You may cavil against us as much as you will, but you have no monopoly of patriotic feeling. Our one object is to secure a speedy, honourable and permanent peace, and compared to that object office is nothing to us. It does not matter in the least whether we or you sit on these benches, but it does matter a great deal that we should bring this war to such a finish as will consolidate and strengthen the Empire, restore peace and prosperity to South Africa, and reestablish our position in the eyes of the world. If you will show that you have men or measures that can secure such a result, we will be glad to accept the one or make room for the other, but if you can produce neither it is your bounden duty to assist us in carrying out the task to which you have confessed yourselves to be unequal." Such an answer would satisfy the country and would be somewhat difficult for the Opposition to meet. Finally, when we have to decide which way to vote, we must think not only of the war but of the peace which is to follow. When the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs asked the Opposition the other day what was their policy, the reply was, "To make peace." There are gentlemen opposite ready to make peace even now, at this particular moment. [An HON. MEMBER: Why not?] We have tried that once before, but the teaching of events has made no impression upon the minds of some hon. Members; they would repeat the same old blunders in the same old way. We have tried the peace which these gentlemen would make, and the taste of it is exceedingly bitter in our mouths. This war, amongst a great many evils, has at least this good, that it will enable this nation to purge its system of peace of that quality for ever. We do want peace, speedy peace, but we do not want such a peace as brings forth war. We want a peace from which spring the fruits of peace— 679 good government, order, liberty, and justice. There is no doubt that at this present crisis our interests and our duty are perfectly clear. They both run on the same lines, and can best be expressed in the words of Longfellow:—Look not mournfully to the past;Cast not back again;Go forward; meet the futureWithout fear, and with a manly heart.
§ SERJEANT HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
As an Irish Member I feel it a duty to my countrymen on the other side of the channel to state the grounds on which I differ from some of my colleagues below the gangway, and why I mean to vote for this Amendment. I read this Amendment as bearing a totally different construction from that put upon it by my hon. friend the Member for East Mayo. I look upon it as embodying a censure upon the Government for the want of knowledge, foresight, and judgment displayed in bringing about this war, and after they had betrayed the country into embarking upon this war not being fully prepared for it. I do not look upon this Amendment as necessarily involving any necessity on the part of those who support it to carry on the war to the bitter end. That I regard as a matter for future discussion and consideration, but I think it is the bounden duty of every Member of this House—who must individually partake of the responsibility, more or less, for the course taken in this, the most momentous crisis of the country that has ever occurred—to put on record his protest against the war. I agree with those who have said that this war was unnecessary and unjust, for it is unworthy of the greatest Empire that ever existed to embark upon an expedition for which there is no parallel in ancient or modern history, that of sending out an army of nearly 200,000 men with all its equipments, 7,000 miles from the centre of the Empire in order to cope with two small insignificant republics, the population of which is not as large, I believe, as that of some of our considerable provincial towns in this kingdom. It requires some very strong reasons and some very cogent arguments to justify such a course as that, and a war involving such a loss of life as has already occurred in every rank from the highest to the humblest, and an expenditure which I should be sorry to put at less than £100,000,000 at a time when there is 680 such a great necessity for the expenditure of money in order to relieve the poverty and destitution of the masses of this country. Such a war as this cannot be lightly undertaken, and I will venture to consider what excuses have been afforded by that eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies, whose war this has been justly stated to be. The Transvaal, by the solemn treaty of 1884, was made an independent State, as independent as any other State in the world, with one simple qualification, namely, that it could not enter into foreign treaties without the consent of the Sovereign. That treaty involved necessarily that the Transvaal was, in all other respects, independent and free. By the Convention of 1884, on every principle of international law and justice, we are bound—and the burden also lies upon the present Government and upon those in their service—to justify the violation of so solemn a compact as that. Now what is the excuse or the pretext offered for such a violation? The object of the Conference at Bloemfontein, and of all those negotiations which occupied so many pages of the Blue-book, was mainly to give a franchise, not merely to the citizens of the Transvaal, but to the Uitlanders, whether Irish, English, German, or people of any other nationality who had gone out there in order to work the mines. This House should never forget the fact that Johannesburg did not come into existence, and the mines were not discovered and put into working order, until after the Convention of 1884. The putting forward of that pretext of the extension of I the franchise was a sham and a pretence. Assuming that there was any grievance in the Transvaal; according to international law, a State has no right to interfere with the domestic policy of another country. What would this country say if there was a great agitation for manhood suffrage or any other popular measure of that kind here at home? Would that justify France or Germany in going to war with England for not extending manhood suffrage to all the inhabitants, including the natives of France and Germany who might be living in England? Would it be considered an excusable pretext for a foreign war if, when this Parliament withheld Home Rule from Ireland, any of the European States were to make this a casus belli with England because it was an act of injustice to deny 681 this to the Irish people? It is obvious that no grievance such as the extension of the franchise or the existence of the dynamite monopoly, or, any of those complaints made by the English Government, could constitute a legitimate casus belli. If there had been a proper and temperate remonstrance made with President Kruger, and if the course of diplomacy had, instead of being of an exasperating character, as anybody who reads the Blue-book must see it was from the very first inception—if those remonstrances had been couched in the ordinary language of courteous diplomacy I have not the least doubt that President Kruger would have conceded every single point that was put before him in a reasonable manner. He did concede the franchise in a reasonable way, and he declared to the end that he was willing to concede the five years franchise. I do not think gentlemen opposite, who take the opposite view of the conduct of the Transvaal Government in regard to the Uitlanders, exactly understand the question. Of course the franchise could not be given to the Uitlanders unless they became subjects of the Transvaal. There is no such instance in any country of aliens having a right to vote, no matter how long they reside in a place. President Kruger was willing to give a vote after five years residence and good conduct, and that period would have enabled the Uitlanders to obtain letters of naturalisation and also the franchise. Exactly the same law prevails in this country and in Ireland, for aliens here cannot obtain letters of naturalisation until they have been resident for five years in the country. That is the very case of the Uitlanders. Hon. Members opposite talk of equal rights for all whites, and they seem to think that the moment a white man appears in the Transvaal he should have the franchise, and at the same time remain a subject of the British Empire. They claim for the Uitlanders all these advantages in a country in which they have no permanent interest, and from which they will probably emigrate the moment they get sufficient money out of the mines to enable them to return home. Therefore, the idea of the franchise, in my mind, has always been a most unfortunate pretext to put forward, as the ground for picking a quarrel with so quiet and simple-minded a people as the residents of the South African Republic and the Orange Free State. But President 682 Kruger was willing to give the franchise, and submit to arbitration any legitimate differences that existed between him and this country, and that state of things continued up to the end of September. Consequently the responsibility of this war rests upon the Government. It does not rest upon their generals or upon the Commander-in-chief, but it rests upon the Cabinet, who are the trustees for the public, and the trustees for the safety of the Empire. The Cabinet never formulated, up to what is called Kruger's ultimatum, what were the various demands they were making, and what they required in order to be satisfied. Up to-the very last moment, nay, up to this hour in this protracted Debate, we have not yet heard what demands would have satisfied the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for the Colonies. There has been absolutely no statement formulated of the various demands which would have satisfied the Cabinet, and which would have averted this war. The truth of the matter is they were determined to overwhelm President Kruger and to outwit him in diplomacy, and having failed in that they put him in such a position as to leave him no other alternative but to issue an ultimatum. It is absurd to say that the South African Republic were the aggressors in this war, for the negotiations put the Transvaal Government in such a position that they had only two courses to pursue—either they must remain quietly and submissively until the 180,000 British troops were sent out, or else take the course which they did, and that was to invade the colony of Natal. It is exactly as if a burglar had entered your house and was about to shoot you; are you to wait until the burglar shoots, or are you justified in taking such steps as will prevent him getting the better of you? I say it is a mere playing with words to say that the South African Republic were the aggressors in this case. It reminds me of the report of a case which I read in the newspapers where a man had treated his wife in such a manner that she could not live with him, and had to leave the house. The man, when charged with desertion, said he did not desert her, but she deserted him. The judge, however, was too wise to accede to such a suggestion as that, and as the wife had been put in a position which was intolerable to her, the judge ruled that it was not the wife who had deserted the husband, but the husband who had really 683 deserted the wife. I have looked over and over again into this question, and I cannot discover what would have satisfied the Government short of complete submission. Paramountcy has been introduced, but it is clear that there was no paramountcy recognised by the Convention of 1884. It is clear that the Convention of 1884 made the Transvaal an independent state subject to the qualification that they could not enter into foreign treaties without the sanction of our sovereign. I say that was the only difference between the status of this country and the South African Republic, and in every other respect the Transvaal was a separate and independent state. The least that could have been done would have been to have put upon paper in plain and simple language what it was that the Government complained of. The franchise was put plain enough, but there were five or six other things which even up to the 9th of October were not formulated, and what immediately led to the ultimatum was the statement in the previous despatch from the British Government announcing that they were not just yet in a position to put on paper what the other demands were which they made against the South African Republic. Therefore it is, I say there was a want of knowledge, foresight, and judgment, if there was not something worse, in the whole conduct of the Government in their preliminary negotiations with the South African Republic. I am quite satisfied of this, and although I do not expect any words of mine, or of the ablest and most eloquent orators on this or the other side of the House, to alter the preconceived determination of Gentlemen opposite, I have not the slightest doubt that if some Cabinet Minister had gone out from this country to the Cape, or if we had sent out some Commissioner or Ambassador with plenipotentiary powers, they would have settled in a very short time this war, and this terrible waste of life and treasure would never have sullied the last expiring year of the nineteenth century. My hon. friends below the gangway state that they do not agree with the latter part of the Amendment, but I wish they would reconsider their position. The meaning of the words is that if the Government had made up their minds that war was inevitable, as the Secretary for the Colonies now admits, if the Government knew 684 that then they ought to have taken proper steps, not after the declaration of war but before it, to make sure that it should be brought to a hasty conclusion, and that there should not have been this dreadful waste of life, of happiness, of everything that is dearest and most valued, and this treasure, the loss of which will for ages to come rest upon the people of Great Britain and impede the progress of Liberal legislation, the Government could have avoided this war. The late Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury went themselves to the Berlin Conference. They did not consider it above them to go to Berlin, and they came back with what they described as "Peace with honour." Why could not the right hon. Gentleman or some of his colleagues have gone out to Pretoria to negotiate with President Kruger such terms as would secure to the Uitlanders every right and privilege to which they were entitled, and then come back and announce to this Parliament that they had settled once and for all the South African trouble? There was no such effort as that made, and the correspondence of the Government was couched in the most insulting terms, and this correspondence was backed up by the insulting speech of the Colonial Secretary at Highbury. Such a tone as that was not calculated to reconcile the Government of the Transvaal, who were naturally suspicious and afraid of being overpowered, as it were, by the big brother of the British Empire. That was not the course to pursue if peace had been the object, but I believe war was the object. We ought never to have had this war at all, for it will leave a stain upon our name. It has already carried mourning into many homes, from the noblest and highest to the poorest peasant in the remotest districts of Ireland. It is a war which will be written in blood upon the pages of English history in the present generation, a stain which will never be effaced for generations and generations to come.
§ Debate further adjourned till Tomorrow.