§ CAPTAIN PRETYMAN (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
It is a kindly custom of this House to regard with special indulgence the Member to whom is entrusted the duty which I have to discharge to-day, and I feel sure that I shall have given me even double indulgence because the occasion is not an ordinary one, and I cannot and do not pretend to have that special knowledge which alone would enable me to do full justice to it. Ordinarily our discussions here are upon controversial matters. As mover of the Address it is difficult to be non-controversia without being colourless. But to-day there is common ground I shall have 72 to traverse, and there are feelings which we shall all share on whichever side of the House we sit. The first of these feelings is that of deep sympathy, which it is our privilege to express, as representing the nation, with all sufferers by the war which is going on in South Africa. It will hardly be necessary to enumerate the sufferings which are in the minds of everyone of us here, but I think we must first refer to those who are suffering from wounds and from bodily disablement. Then, Sir, our sympathy must go out to those who are bereaved, to the widow and childless, and also to the weary watchers who have their dear ones at the front, and who are daily waiting for news—painful news such as we received this morning, and which carries sorrow and distress into many a home. There is one other expression of sympathy which I am sure will not be wanting, and that is an expression of the deepest sympathy with the sufferings of colony of Natal. Half the colony is in the hands of the enemy, and not only have they put into the field a force far out of proportion to their numbers, but they have suffered grievous loss of property and life. I trust we may be in a position at the end of the war to recompense them for the losses and suffering they have experienced. We have also feelings of the deepest admiration for the gallantry which our soldiers have displayed. Whether it be in the gallant defence of Mafeking, or the no less gallant and protracted defence of Ladysmith, or in the gallant action of Wauchope and the Highland Brigade at Magersfontein, where so many lost their lives, the story is the same, and it is a story of which we are all proud. It is our only regret that so many of those to whom our pride goes out are lost for ever. In addition to that we have another common ground. We have pride not only in the gallantry that this contest has evoked, but also in the national spirit which has been evinced. That national spirit is not confined to the British Islands. It has found expression to the utmost bounds of this Empire. If we look at the present position of the Empire as a whole, we may say with truth we have set a girdle round the globe, and every link rings true and clear at this moment. I believe when this war is over we may look forward to South Africa being peaceful and tranquil and con- 73 tented, and that any rift which may exist can and will be repaired in a way which will cause less offence and less trouble in the future. Although at the end of the war there will, no doubt, remain a certain amount of race antagonism, which is the natural result of a contest of this description, we shall at any rate have purged the contempt with which that race antagonism was previously associated; the races will have learned to respect one another, and will be able to live side by side in amity, the hatreds of the past being merged into a mutual liking. Contempt is the kindling which fans antagonism into flame; and it was that contempt combined with race antagonism which brought about the present conflict. When the struggle is concluded let us hope that the contempt which has arisen from surface causes will have been purged, that Boer and Briton will live side by side in peace, and that both will have a great future before them under the British flag. One other feeling we have in common, and that is the feeling of regret for the reverses which we have suffered in South Africa. Further than that we have the unanimous determination to retrieve those reverses. We wish to examine and to investigate the causes of the reverses and the failures, if they may be so called, which have occurred in our campaign. I am here, perhaps, on delicate ground, but I think I may say this. We may ask ourselves with advantage whether our weakness or our failures, if I may use that word, are due to any deep-seated and inherent national weakness, or to temporary and removable causes. I think the latter can only be the answer. The Empire and the resources of the nation were never stronger than at this moment, but our power does not lie on the surface. It is deep-seated, and the causes which we have to inquire into if they are temporary and removable must be inquired into with a view to their being removed. I feel sure that no obstacle will be thrown in the way, but that the Government will welcome an inquiry in any form which may be agreeable to the House and which will enable us to discover the causes of the difficulty, and to remove them. There is one consideration which occurs to me, and that is that of "inadequate preparation." Is that one of the principal causes for our difficulties? I would rather say it is not so much inadequate preparation as the insufficient 74 estimate of the forces arrayed against us. In the case of the Crimean war the preparations were inadequate for any war, but I doubt if we were ever so well prepared to undertake a campaign on a certain scale as when this war broke out three months ago. If there was a fault it was the under-estimate of the forces arrayed against us, and it will be for us to consider how the under-estimate arose. There are many factors to be considered, some of which are new, but I think that we shall find—or, at any rate, it so appears to me—that those factors in themselves were to a certain extent foreseen, and that there was some knowledge of them. But the result of the combination of all those factors and the strength of the enemy, from a defensive point of view, which we had to engage, was not foreseen or measured, so far as I am aware, by any person. The want of prophetic power was not confined to the Government alone, it was common to the country as a whole. That, at all events, was the impression at which I arrived in this House three months ago: that nobody on this or that side of the House, or in the country, had measured the strength of the enemy arrayed against us or, if so, the expressions of opinion were few and far between. Who could have realised that this campaign would resolve itself into the taking of a series of natural fortresses of enormous strength, ably defended by troops of unexampled mobility, instructed by Continental experts, and armed with the most perfect weapons ever used in warfare? It is perhaps difficult to realise how small a factor will determine success or failure. Such a thing as a barbed wire fence may easily turn a victory into a defeat, and to sum up all these factors is almost impossible after fifty years of peace, which we have passed through, when many of these factors are to a large extent unknown. There has been some criticism in which I as an artilleryman feel particularly interested. Our field guns have been condemned on all sides because they are of less range than the guns of the enemy; but one thing has been forgotten, and that is that our field guns have been compared with guns of the enemy, which are guns of position and not field guns at all, and for an artilleryman to estimate the efficiency of a field gun solely by its range is—I should look on 75 —as very much the same thing as a pressman who would judge the merits of a newspaper solely by its circulation. The situation is a most grave one, but it has its better side: I do not think that the resources of our opponents were immediately realised. The Boer Republic had formed itself into a vast military machine, every part of which was perfect; our military machine was imperfect in the sense that our resources had not been called together. Is it therefore any wonder that the smaller perfect machine should for the moment be successful? But we have resources, and I hope that this House will support the Government in bringing every one of those resources into action to bring about our supremacy. They are only just now coming into play, and although we have now been checked more than once, when once the ring is broken the collapse may be as sudden as our progress, up to the present, has been slow. The last struggle for the relief of Ladysmith, it was hoped, would be the beginning of the end, as it is it is only the end of the beginning. But this House has not only to consider the cause of the difficulty, but the cause and the motive which led up to the war itself. Here I am on very delicate ground, and it would not become me in the duty I have to perform to-day to examine the questions which have been, and which will have to be, discussed here; but I should like to make one observation. Although some may attribute a motive to this or that person or politician, I think we may all agree that the national motive for this war is a pure and just one. The motive which has for centuries animated this country, and which animates it now, is that we shall obtain justice and freedom for all races and all creeds. That is the great stream in which our national sentiment has run in the past and is running now. It will always occur that where there is a great stream of pure water there will be draining into it streams which are not so pure as the river itself, and no doubt uses will be made and motives attributed that do not exist. The motive that animates us here, and the House and country generally, is to restore peace and freedom to all throughout South Africa. So far as I have observed that is the motive animating us all, and although we may have to engage our attention with that legislation which we are more accustomed to consider, our 76 hearts will be with our soldiers in South Africa. But that is no reason why we should not consider other measures. We have submitted to us to-day no measures of heroic legislation or costly legislation. The only costly legislation will be the estimates for the war in South Africa. Last year the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked for a vote of eight millions. He would be a bold man who would say how much we shall be asked for this session. But whatever is asked for I hope will be cheerfully given. We cannot set money against the lives of our fellow subjects now being risked in South Africa. We shall be asked to sanction measures of improving and remodelling the Companies Act, and that a matter we shall gladly do because we know the loss which is suffered by those who are induced to part with their money under false pretences by fraudulent companies. Another measure we shall be asked to consider is what is called an Agricultural Holdings Bill, and anything that this House can do towards the improvement of our agriculture will be greatly welcomed. We have, however, to remember that the conditions of our agricultural industry, vary greatly in different parts of the country. We have also to consider the incoming tenant as well as the outgoing, tenant. Sir, the situation before us is indeed a serious and a difficult one. It is, perhaps, the most serious and, perhaps, the most difficult situation which this country has had to face since the earliest years of the century. This is, indeed, a momentous session. Our, ill-wishers, we know, are looking eagerly for any signs of weakness, of vacillation, or of disunion within these walls. On the other hand, the country, and the Empire in arms, are looking to us to express their unanimous determination to bring this struggle to a successful issue. Now, Sir, I need hardly ask the House to which of these we should afford satisfaction. The question can have but one answer. Therefore, I trust that the touchstone of all criticism will be not party advantage, but the needs and necessities of the Empire.
§ MR. H. P. PEASE (Darlington)
In rising to second the address I claim the indulgence of the House on similar grounds to those enunciated by my hon. friend, and also for what I may consider 77 a weightier reason, that I have never before taken part in a debate. Impressed by the consciousness of my own inexperience, I ask for that consideration which the House so generously extends. My hon. friend has referred to points in the Queen's Speech; but I propose to deal with some of those with which he has not dealt. Sir, it was with feelings of satisfaction that the nation received the news that a treaty had been concluded between this country and the German Emperor. It appeal's to me that this is additional evidence of the friendliness of the great German Empire towards us whose commercial interests are so closely bound up with our own. I observe that there is a Bill to be brought in this session with reference to the Federation of Australia. I believe that there is no announcement in the Queen's Speech that will give greater satisfaction. It is the fulfilment of a dream of far-seeing Imperial statesmen and of many of those who do not take great interest in other political questions. I believe. Sir, that that long-cherished idea being brought to a conclusion is the cause of great satisfaction to our colonists, and it is a satisfaction that is all the deeper because the change has been brought about by the wish and the action of those colonists themselves, It has come to maturity through them. I believe, Sir, that the result of this spontaneous co-operation will be to provide means whereby these colonies will be able to defend themselves in the future, and that they will be able to take such action in making representations to the mother country in reference to trade—which is such an important factor between us—as will lead to our mutual benefit. And I believe that such is the wish of the people of the United Kingdom. Sir, I must make some small reference to the very sad events which are happening in India at the present time with regard to the plague and famine. I congratulate the Government of this country upon having such an administrator at the head of affairs as we have in Lord Curzon. I am sure that the House will feel, as I do, that in him we have a man who grasps the situation, and one who will do all he can to help those unfortunate people who are suffering from plague or from famine. As has been said by my hon. friend, and as mentioned in the Queen's Speech, 78 the time is not propitious for legislation requiring great grants of money: but there are several Bills which will be brought in which are of great importance. There is the law governing limited liability companies, which my hon. friend has dealt with. I think it would not be wise that any legislation should be introduced which would prove of a vexatious character; but at the same time, there is a crying need for legislation by way of amendment of the laws relating to limited liability companies. We have lately seen many prospectuses issued which have been a perfect disgrace to those who sent them. Then there is an important Bill with regard to technical and secondary education which is to come before this House. This is a measure which I think the vast majority of Members are greatly interested in. I presume the objects of the Bill will be to bring within the province of the Government so important a factor as secondary education; and I trust the Government will have the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen, who has done so much for secondary and commercial education, both by his Commission and also by his article in the North American Review, which has been so widely read There is also a measure to be introduced with reference to the Housing of the Working Classes; and I believe the whole of the House will agree with me that this is a very important Bill. It is one that demands our earnest attention. The evil of overcrowding, especially in the North of England, is great in populous areas; and the powers of the local authorities must be so defined as will lead to the diminution of the evil in these areas. It appears to me that the remedy is a very simple one, and it is very desirable that the powers of the local authorities should be increased so that this crying evil shall be reduced to a minimum. Sir, with reference to the other Bills, I will not trouble the House with any remarks. I must ask you, however, to bear with me while I make a few remarks with regard to the war. In the closing year of a century which has been so conspicuous for the march of civilisation, and also for the development of our moral and religious progress, it seems to me sad that we should find ourselves involved in a great war, especially as but twelve months ago we were 79 warmly welcoming the rescript of the Tsar. At the same time, I believe the nation's eyes are open at the present moment to the fact that we are, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite said the other day, "engaged in a just and necessary war." I do not believe it is a war so much for the supremacy of British interests as it is a war for the supremacy of right and the suppression of wrong. I believe, Sir, that this war, which has been so disastrous hitherto, will bear good fruit in the future. It was alleged not very long ago that this was a war of greed for territory and lust for gold. I think recent evidence has shown that this was not the case. I verily believe that the wishes of the Boers have never been to secure a peaceful settlement of the difficulty, but to overthrow the dominion of the Queen. I do not propose on this occasion to deal with any of the criticisms which have been hurled at the Government over this controversy, because I do not consider it within my province to do so. It is not my duty to deal with controversial matters. I do not speak for the Government, but I shall not be indulging in any indiscretion if I state in public that the last thing the Government desire to do is to conceal any knowledge in reference to this campaign, and if a public inquiry is desired it will certainly not be refused. It would not be within my province, nor would it be wise for me to speculate as to the future of South Africa; but as the whole policy of this country has been in the direction of the development of our colonies, close knit by the closest ties, always under the national flag, I trust that the opportunity will arise, when this war has been brought to a conclusion in the only way that the nation will allow, when peace has been restored, that the same blessings and advantages may be assured for all time to all the inhabitants of those unfortunate territories whose only bar to progress has been that they have been denied that equity of administration and stability of rule which have been the crowning glory of every community over which our flag flies. Sir, in seconding the Address I wish to note that Her Gracious Majesty has expressed her great gratification at the spontaneous loyalty of our colonies and the great bravery of our colonial troops in the present struggle. I think that we, as the representatives of this nation, should 80 re-echo that expression. We trust that the link which binds us will be more firmly welded together in the future and never be broken; and we know that the memory of that spontaneous loyalty, self-sacrifice and devotion to Imperial interests will never die.
§ Motion made and Question proposed—
§ "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—
§ Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Captain Pretyman).
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I am confident that the whole House will join with me in congratulating the two hon. Members on the manner in which they have discharged the duty imposed upon them. The ability which they have shown and the tone which they preserved were alike worthy of all praise. The hon. and gallant Member for the Woodbridge Division of Suffolk is one whom we always listen to with admiration and with such a degree of pleasure as the peculiar character of his favourite topic allows us to experience. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is a past master in the law of death duties, not an exhilarating topic at the best, but now that bimetallism is dead and gone the death duties hold the field above all Parliamentary subjects in point of incomprehensibility, and I hope that when the hon. and gallant Gentleman next addresses us he will find a theme of more interest for the general body of Members of the House. As regards the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, he comes to us recommended by the memory of his father, for many years a respected Member of this House, and he has the advantage not only of this inheritance but of the broader and more disengaged view of things which comes from belonging to a family which is not tied by any lazy uniformity of political opinion. The hon. Members may be sure we shall always be pleased to welcome their intervention in our 81 debates. On the gracious Speech itself I will only make this remark, that I have seldom known so little said in such a large number of words. But I make no complaint of it either on the ground of the paucity of its topics or the poverty of its promises for legislation. We are in a state of war, and as the war advances it seems to become more serious, more anxious, and even more critical, and am I not surprised that the Government turned away from the idea of proposing any formidable programme of legislative measures. The affairs of South Africa, political and military, will undoubtedly engage the attention of this Parliament to a very great extent, and the modest tale of legislative work which is promised to us—although I must say there are some very remarkable omissions from it—will, I believe, suffice for the energies of Parliament during this session. As to the measure promised for the federation of certain Australian colonies, it will be received with the greatest satisfaction. We have long followed with interest and with hope the efforts made for this great and beneficial object, and if, after so long delay, this year sees that object accomplished, I am sure there will be sincere rejoicing on all hands. The language of the paragraph relating to India does not at all exaggerate either the gravity of the situation or the regret and sympathy for the people of India which are universally felt in this country. That the calamity of famine should be superadded to the already existing scourge of plague is, indeed, a terrible misfortune; but we must hope that the measures taken by the capable officers of the Indian Government will enable them to cope with this difficulty and with this great evil. The last of those topics to which I would refer is the question of Samoa and Tonga, of which I will only say that we shall require further explanation of it before we can form a judgment upon it. Now I turn to that which is, after all, the subject uppermost in our minds. It is impossible for us to come together to-day without contrasting our position now with the circumstances under which we parted at the end of October. We had then only recently become involved in this war with the two South African Republics. The earliest engagements had been fought during the brief session of Parliament, and, brave as we knew our foemen to be, and formidable 82 as might be the nature of the country, the universal expectation was that we should soon have present in South Africa such a number of our troops as to enable them rapidly to advance into the interior and to clear the Queen's dominions of the invader. Ah! I am afraid that our expectations are greatly sobered since that time. Week after week we have met—I have not the courage of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I hesitate to use the word "reverses"—with checks and disappointments accompanied by deplorable loss of life, and now there is no apparent indication that we have advanced any practical step towards the attainment of the object in view. The enemy is in occupation at this moment of a larger extent of the Queen's territory than he had then overrun, and although some of our forces have in certain quarters made considerable advances, in every instance their further progress is stayed by the resistance of great bodies of men in situations all but impregnable. Our people have been subjected during the last three months to a most severe test and trial, a trial, let me say in passing, which has not been made at all easier for them by the scrappy and imperfect manner, in some cases apparently the reluctant manner, and in others the perplexing manner, with which news has been communicated to them. Now, it is unnecessary, and if we wish to retain the goodwill of anybody in the world it is surely most undesirable, that we should pursue a practice which we have too often been in the habit of pursuing—namely, imputing to ourselves a larger share of manly virtues than our neighbours possess. But there is one thing we can do without offence to anyone—we may compare ourselves with ourselves, and, going back over our long history, as once and again we have come through perils and disaster greater than these, borne with courage and composure, so now I think we may say that our people in this instance and in this severe ordeal have not fallen short of the high traditions of our nation. The courage and fortitude of the British soldier were never more conspicuous than in this war, and when I speak of his courage and fortitude I wish to associate with him his comrades who are sons of the colonies, whether African, American, or Australian, and who have shown not only equal qualities of a 83 military kind, but an extraordinary aptitude for the particular kind of warfare in which they are engaged. And, on the other hand, on their side the British people have sustained their character by the generally calm, equal, and determined mind which they have been able to preserve under heavy trials and anxieties. I think it is but right—and the hon. and gallant Gentleman eloquently discharged his part of this—it is but right that the House of Commons should make a full and grateful recognition of these facts, and we should not do justice to our feelings if we did not also express our deep sorrow for the sufferings endured by our gallant countrymen in the field and by their anxious relatives at home, and also our heartfelt sympathy with all who are mourning the loss of those dear to them. In yet another matter think we shall be all of one mind. We can all appreciate and admire the fine spirit of gallantry and devotion which have led numbers of our countrymen within the last two or three weeks to spontaneously otter their services for the war. I think we shall have to be informed of the reasons which have necessitated this unusual method of reinforcing our Army in South Africa by transforming one kind of force into another kind of force, and by employing for the purposes of active service at the other side of the world members of our domestic Army of defence. We shall also probably be told under what authority, statutory or other, all this has been done. But while these are questions which are natural and proper to be asked, and while they will necessarily be answered, there will be no discord whatever in our note of admiration for the men themselves who have answered to the call. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said he was glad that he was on common ground. Now, Sir, I wish to keep on common ground as long as possible between the two sides of the House, and for a moment more am able to do so. I repeat, on my own part and on behalf of those for whom am entitled to speak, our readiness to support the prosecution of this war with vigour and with unstinted means, in order that as rapidly as possible the integrity of the Queen's dominions may be vindicated and a successful issue attained. For that purpose I imagine there will be no difficulty in obtaining the additional supplies that may prove to 84 be necessary. But when I pass to another part of this great subject, I am sorry to say my agreement with Her Majesty's Government ceases. When I look to the circumstances antecedent to the war, when I consider the conception that Her Majesty's Government appear to have formed from their very first accession to office of the proper spirit in which to approach this great South African problem, when I contemplate the tone and temper with which they conducted their negotiations not only with the Transvaal Republic but with our Dutch fellow-subjects at the Cape, and when, further, see the evidence now before us of the narrowness of their provision of the military requirements arising out of hostilities—hostilities which their policy made possible, and which their mode of furthering their policy made probable—then I am constrained to open condemnation of their administration of affairs. I believe that this feeling is largely shared in the House, and that being so I am glad that my noble friend near me will to-night make a motion which will give us all an opportunity to express and to record our opinion on this momentous subject. Now, let me anticipate one argument which possibly maybe used. We shall be told that this is not the time for criticism. Are we to be told that when we are all patriotically united in supporting the war, criticism is out of place, and that our objections, however serious, ought to be deferred until the war is over? That is a theory which I altogether repudiate and dispute. This is the very time for effective criticism, and those of us who wish to disclaim responsibility for the policy of the Government must and ought to do so now; and need I hardly point out that the convenient season of which we hear so much might never occur, or when it did come the matter would be stale and unprofitable. An ingenious friend of mine, well known to everyone in the House, referring to this subject the other day, described to me the sort of thing that would probably occur. In a homely metaphor he spoke of it as "mustard after dinner." I am bound to say that although this theory is urged strongly in the press and elsewhere on the supporters of the Government, those supporters are in this matter, as I suspect they often are in other matters, more loyal than the King. I must admit that right hon. Gentlemen 85 opposite, so far from deprecating criticism, have openly invited it.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
In this the Colonial Secretary has acted in accordance with opinions which he expressed many years ago. I have found some language of his—and by quoting it I pay the right hon. Gentleman the greatest compliment I can pay him; it is no tu quoque, but, on the contrary, it shows how the right hon. Gentleman preserves an even mind in this matter—in the report of a debate almost exactly analogous to this. It was in 1878. Does the right hon. Gentleman object?
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Does the right hon. Gentleman object to it as being too recent or too far back? I will give him the choice of the evils. These are the words used by him in 1878—Some hon. Members have invented a convenient theory by which opposition is silenced in the presence of foreign complications. If we attempt discussion before war breaks out we are hampering the Government in negotiations and endangering peace. If we wait till the war is upon us, then it is said that in an unpatriotic way we are dividing the country in the presence of the enemy; while if we postpone discussion until the war is over, we are told we are guilty of futile fault-finding and unnecessary retrospection. The thing, in fact, comes to this—that it is not the business of the House of Commons or the people to express an opinion on foreign affairs. This should be left to the responsible advisers of the Crown.That is a complete answer to all those tirades in the newspapers challenging our conduct to which we have been accustomed, and I quote it because it shows how consistent the right hon. Gentleman can be when he chooses. Now, Sir, having disposed of that preliminary objection, and looking back over the 4½ years during which the present Government have had charge of this matter—4½ years which I cannot think they themselves can contemplate with much pride, and which certainly have not yet 86 culminated in a triumph, looking back upon them—I find that the key-note of the whole history is to be found in the phrase used by my right hon. friend the Member for East Fife a few weeks ago, when he said that the negotiations were poisoned by suspicion. I will not go into the circumstances which may have created, if they did not fully justify, the intense suspicion which the Boers entertained of designs against their independence. I merely state the fact that the suspicion existed and exists. Surely that is indisputable. It has become a suspicion, not so much against us, not so much against our Government, not so much even against the Imperial authorities at the Cape, as against certain powerful personages who are supposed to be extremely influential in this matter, and who, either in pursuit of their own personal pecuniary advantage or in following some ambitious scheme, did desire to break in upon the integrity and independence of the South African Republic. The Boers were right if they did not direct their suspicions in a great degree against the people of this country, because the mass of ordinary Englishmen had no desire to take either an inch of their territory or an item of their liberties from them. The ordinary Englishman wished to see the States and colonies of South Africa living in harmony and peace among themselves. But no one can deny that the Boers had ground for suspicion from the quarter to which they mainly directed their attention. Who can doubt, Sir, that the wise course for a Minister to take was to avoid every step that could possibly aggravate or encourage that suspicion, to disclaim not only connivance in or knowledge of any designs against their independence, but to disclaim approbation of or sympathy with the authors of those designs, and thus to pave the way to a better understanding? Why should we take so much trouble, why should we go out of our way, why should we go almost any length in order to establish more confident relations with the Boer Republic? I have often heard them spoken of as a little State on our borders, in some degree, more or less, independent, with which we were unfortunately engaged in controversy, but whose friendship was not, after all, very material to us. But that is a total mistake. This is a community not only with a racial affinity to our own fellow subjects, but almost in solidarity 87 with them by reason of intermarriage and constant intercommunication. Seeing that, as it has been well said, the Dutch and the English must live together at the Cape, surely the first thing to do is to take this root of bitterness away from among them. My complaint against the right hon. Gentleman is that, so far from this evil having been mitigated under his guidance, it has actually been materially increased. I have referred to the dictum—and a very wise dictum—that the Dutch and English must live together at the Cape, and even after your negotiations and after your war, whatever the result may be, they must live together. But there are other grounds on which I cannot give my confidence to the right hon. Gentleman, and again I invoke the ordinary Englishman who may be taken as expressing in a complete form the national conscience and to some extent the national intelligence, and I affirm that, whatever his feelings may be at this moment with the war upon us, in quiet times the ordinary Englishman has no desire whatever that men of British descent should lord it over men of Dutch descent, and he has just as little desire that men of Dutch descent should lord it over men of English descent. That the Imperial authority should be maintained as the supreme authority we are all agreed. But in the individual States the right hon. Gentlemen opposite and their supporters have found a most convenient formula in talking of equal rights for white men. Well, am glad to find the party opposite are so anxious for equal rights among white men. When they have done with it in South Africa perhaps they will kindly transfer that doctrine to this country, where there are many instances in which it could be applied. But the value of equal rights for white men, when you have attained them, depends very much upon the way in which they are used; and I find now that the organs of public opinion in South Africa which have supported and incited the policy of the Government from the first are hinting at the suspension of the Constitution of Cape Colony. Why? Because the Dutch have a majority in it. They claim openly—I have read articles and letters to that effect—that when the arrangements after a successful war are made there should be some re-arrangement of the boundaries, or in some other 88 way a contrivance should be made which would secure them from such a catastrophe in the future as a Dutch majority at the Cape. Do not let it be supposed for a moment that I do right hon. Gentlemen opposite the dishonour of supposing that they have any personal sympathy with any such monstrous proposals as these, but I assert that their policy has been infected by this spirit, and that too little consideration has been shown from first to last with the loyal Dutch in the colony, whose good faith and friendliness have been put to a strain beyond all measure; and also I say that under the régime of the right hon. Gentleman the Ministers of Cape Colony, who are as much Ministers of the Queen as he is, have been treated with a coolness little calculated to allay doubts and fears, and also little calculated to retain that good feeling which is essential, not only for good government generally, but especially for any satisfactory settlement of the future of South Africa. Sir, I have thought it right frankly to give these broad indications of two of the principal grounds upon which I say I am opposed to the general policy of Her Majesty's Government. But I am well aware that this is not the part of the subject which the public cares most about just now. It is the war, the course of the war, and the provision made for the effective prosecution of the war, in which the country is interested at this moment. Now, in regard to these we had no opportunity of obtaining much insight into the Ministerial mind when Parliament was sitting in October, but the recess, with its speeches, has brought us enlightenment, and we have gone on from astonishment to astonishment. It would be interesting to trace, if we could, the phases of feeling and of opinion in the Ministerial mind as disclosed by what we have been told during the recess. To begin with, there is the initial and rudimentary question—Was there to be war at all? It is now said that war was inevitable. That is obviously an ex post facto opinion. Some right hon. Gentlemen object to being saddled with an afterthought, so I will express very much the same thing in a more formal manner. If it was not an ex post facto opinion they would be hopelessly condemned, because if, during last summer, they thought war was inevitable, and yet they went on with their negotiations in the way they did, and pursued 89 them in the manner they did, then I do not hesitate to say, putting aside altogether the disrespectful manner in which they treated this House and the country, that they ought on that hypothesis to be hurled from power. No, they did not know it; they could not have known it. Then did they look upon the war as probable? What I say of that is, that there was nothing whatever in the merits of the question with which they were dealing in their controversy with the Transvaal in which could be found a casus belli, and if there was no reason for war, equally there was no reason for special military preparations. I do not think this will be denied, because there is surely no one who says we ought to have gone to war on the question of seven or five years residence before you could acquire the right of enfranchisement in the South African Republic. I put that aside from the principle altogether. Therefore there was nothing to justify war, and nothing to justify preparations for war. That is a thing which in the course of last summer I repeated two or three times. I hold the opinion still. But if I was careful to say what I did as to preparations for war—that there was nothing to justify it then—the reason was that I wished, if possible, to stop the practice which the Government were pursuing of sending out week after week small detachments of men, small driblets of force, which were certain to spoil their negotiations and lead to irritation, certain to throw doubt and discredit upon their professions of a sincere desire for a peaceful issue, and yet were ludicrously insufficient, absolutely futile, idle, trivial, and trumpery if they were intended to lend any substantial strength to the garrisons of the colony. If the object of the Government in sending out these small forces week after week was to give strength to the colony, then all can say is that they must have known, or if they did not know they ought to have known, for they had the means, and they alone had the means of knowing, that it was a perfectly ludicrous measure to take from that point of view. And, therefore, we are driven to the conclusion that all they did was done with a view to frightening and coercing the Boers into submission. A more ludicrous conception of their antagonists and a more complete miscalculation of the case we have never seen in any history. If, on this point of 90 escaping war, the Government's idea was, and I believe it was, that they could frighten the Boers, and that the Boers did not really wish, and were not really ready, to go to war, then I should like to know who advised them in that matter, and who was it from whom only they could derive that impression. Was it our official representatives in any part of the Cape, or was it again those evil geniuses who have been hanging behind them all along, and to whose influence and advice we believe they were too ready to listen? We find that they were wrong as to the war, because they thought that there would be no war, and there is war. That is quite sufficient. They were wrong in their expectations. Then the next question which arose was this, If it comes to war, with whom shall we have to fight? Early in October there was a day of sad surprise for the First Lord of the Treasury when he opened his morning newspaper—if he ever does open his morning newspaper—and was obliged to exclaim, "What an extraordinary thing. The Orange Free State are joining the Boers. I should have sooner expected a declaration of war from Switzerland!" Sir, what a frame of mind; what an estimate of known facts; and what a depth of false information does this disclose!
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
If it is not the right hon. Gentleman's opinion, he has very much misled everybody who has read his speeches. It is a great part of the case put forward by the Government that they did not expect the Free State would go to war. I say, first of all, there was the fact of the treaty of alliance between the two States, as to which there was no secret; but, putting that formal instrument aside, what is the case? The Government of the Free State had always been anxious to maintain peace, and they had exerted themselves with the greatest energy and ability in endeavouring to assist to a peaceful solution of the difficulty between us and the Transvaal. But if it came to a war in which the independence of the Boer Republic was to be staked, apart altogether from the question of blood affinity and the almost interchangeable character of the two communities, is it not natural that the Govern- 91 ment of the Free State would say, "How shall we be left when this ends in the loss of their independence by the Boer Republic? We shall find ourselves one solitary State in South Africa, to be the next prey to the machinations of the very men to whom the Boers are now falling victims"? So far from being a cause for surprise, that was a most natural conclusion for them to come to. Their decision was one which I for one greatly deplored, but which at least caused me no surprise whatever. On this subject I can quote to the First Lord of the Treasury the opinion expressed by a most shrewd observer a few years ago, who was explaining what he thought it was reasonable to expect in the case of a war between the Boers and ourselves in South Africa. He said—Lord Salisbury no doubt has been consistent. He was in favour of the war in Zululand. He was in favour of the annexation of the Transvaal. He was in favour of maintaining the occupation of that country by force, even after it had become apparent that the annexation itself had been made on false information. If the Orange Free State had, as would most probably have been the case, joined with the Transvaal Boers, no doubt Lord Salisbury would have declared war upon it too, and if then the whole Dutch population of the Cape had risen Lord Salisbury would have, with a light heart, led this country into a war more serious in its consequences, more certain to be fruitless of good results, than any war in which we have been engaged since we tried to compel the allegiance of the American colonies.If the First Lord of the Treasury and the Colonial Secretary wished to form a judgment on what would be the probable action of the Free State they should have read some of the earlier speeches of Mr. Chamberlain. Now, again I say, if the Government did not expect that the Free State would join the Boers against us, who advised them to that effect? Whose opinion was it on which they formed their judgment? Well, Sir, it comes to this, that the Government were mistaken as to the outbreak of war, and they were mistaken as to our antagonists in the war. Let us now see if they were more accurate in their foresight with regard to the requirements for the war. Sir, the outside world, in which I include all persons not in the inner circle of officialdom, were startled beyond measure when they found what the enormous military strength of the Boers was. There are controversies on this subject as to the 92 time during which and the purposes for which those great armaments were required. But at present I put those controversies on one side, because I am dealing with the fact only that those armaments did exist. We see the number of men that they can put into the field; we see the abundance and excellence of the munitions of war, the military weapons, both great and small, which they have accumulated. The point I wish to push is, was the Government aware or not, say in the middle of last summer, of these great military resources of the Boers? Had the Intelligence Department of the War Office information on the subject? Did they know how many combatants the Boers could count upon; did they know of all the modern guns from Essen and Creusot, the Mauser rifles, and so forth? I should be much surprised if the Intelligence Department of the War Office, which is manned by capable officers and is always active and alert, did not know and was not in possession of the whole of this information in great detail. There was nothing of a surreptitious character about the acquirement of these munitions of war. I have been told—I cannot vouch for the correctness of it—that some of these great guns of which we stand so much in awe now were actually landed in Cape Town and passed up through the streets of Cape Town on their way to Pretoria. That was not surreptitious. But at all events we had our agents, military and civil, on the spot, and I should be altogether surprised if I am informed that the Intelligence Department of the War Office did not know every fact about them. It would be a serious matter if they did not. We may almost take it as certain that they did; but I ask the question. Well, then, did the Intelligence Department communicate this information to the Commander-in-Chief? Did he duly convey it to the Secretary of State? Did the Secretary of State dutifully submit it to the Cabinet Committee of Defence—that Aulic Council which the present Government has set up for the purpose of overriding the decisions of the Secretary of State for War and watering down his responsibility? The supreme apex of this hierarchical edifice is the Duke of Devonshire. Did the Duke of Devonshire receive the information and snatch a few moments from his educational functions in order to communicate it to his col- 93 league, the Colonial Secretary, who was busy at that moment putting as many pin pricks as he could into the letters and speeches, with the help of which he was conducting his negotiations with the Transvaal Government? But if the Lord President did not receive the information, where did it stop in that hierarchical chain which I have described? That is a plain question which requires a plain answer, and I hope we shall have one. Again, it is a matter of common report that General Butler, Commander of the Forces in South Africa, sent home a minute, or despatch, or some document in which he set forth his view of the military situation, of the forces required to be employed, and the disposition which should be given to that force. Sir W. Butler is an excellent soldier, and also he is a man who, in previous years, had acquired a familiar acquaintance with South Africa. He was recalled and covered with obloquy, because it was believed he had been running counter to the policy of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Will these papers of his be produced? Sir, we are entitled to demand that they shall be produced, and no excuse of the custom of the service or any excuse of that kind will avail, for it is to the interest of the country that the truth should be known. Now, on this question of the military resources of the Boers and the steps taken by the Government to meet them, the First Lord of the Treasury has been, as we might well expect, most fertile in explanations. The first plea of the First Lord to which I will refer was that the Government knew no more than "the man in the street," on which I would only say—and it is a sufficient reply—that if that were so it means a grave neglect of duty on the part of the Government, a grave neglect of the means and appliances for information with which they are furnished. But he has another plea, which is that they knew of the development of the military strength of the Boers, but that they could not venture to remonstrate with them because of the unfortunate Jameson raid, which furnished the excuse and pretext for them. I leave the House to reconcile 94 these two pleas, which answer each other. The third plea is that the Government hoped that a settlement of the franchise question would tide over the year, and then at the end of the year—he did not tell us what would occur; he left us quite in the dark, but at the end of the year the Boers would be weaker and we should be stronger. But the last plea to which I will refer is the most astounding and the least admissible of all; it is the perfectly baseless plea—and to my astonishment the Secretary for the Colonies joins in it—that if the Government had come to the House of Commons and had proposed an adequate strengthening of the garrison they would not have had the support of the House of Commons. [AN HON. MEMBER: Shame!] I give to that assertion the flattest contradiction. I say that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are not entitled to impute either to us of the Opposition or to their own followers, who were expressly included in the imputation, any such conduct. If they had come to the House of Commons and had given us, who were entirely ignorant of it, an adequate idea of the great disproportion between the military strength of the Boers and the garrisons and defences of the colonies, and had asked for powers, they would have received those powers from this House. If they had not received them it would have been their clear duty, in the interests of the Empire and of the colonists, of those men to whom the hon. and gallant Member opposite very properly referred, the inhabitants of Natal, who have suffered so much from the war—in the interests of all these they were bound, in order to show that when they could not discharge their duty they failed to fulfil their position—they were bound to resign their office. But here, by the use of this plea—habemus confitentem reum—we have them confessing that which we are seeking to know, whether it is true or not—that, for fear of Parliamentary complications and difficulties, they were content to leave the colonies with this great avalanche of Boer power impending over them. But not only so, they chose that particular moment to enter upon and push with great acerbity a controversy with the Boer Government which was almost certain to start the avalanche, just as a pistol shot will start an avalanche in the Alps, and which has, as a matter of fact, 95 brought the avalanche down. I think I have dealt with the leading excuses and pleas, and I think the First Lord of the Treasury will find it necessary to give some explanation more consistent and reasonable than he has yet been able to offer to us. I have only a few more words to say, and they will take the form, as a good deal of what I have been saying has taken the form, of questions, and they have regard to the actual conduct of the war. I was delighted, everyone was delighted, to find that certain members of the Government qualified to speak said, in effect, that the generals were to have a free hand. I never expected that the home Government or any members of it would interfere with any general in the field. They knew better. The First Lord of the Treasury has spoken of the "entanglement" of Ladysmith. Now that is a remarkable and significant word. It is not "accident," not "disappointment," not even "embarrassment," but "entanglement." We are entangled when taken hold of by something which against our will and intention prevents our freedom of movements. What anyone can see is that the position of Sir G. White with a large force at Lady smith has had a most important effect—I will not use any stronger word—upon the campaign; that it has had the effect of altering altogether the original plan of military operations. We are aware from the despatch of Sir G. White that the occupation of Glencoe and Dundee was determined upon under the advice and at the instance of the civil Governor of Natal, and I wish to ask, in the first place, was that so, and was that step taken after consultation in any way with authorities at home? Was it sanctioned by the Government at home, and was the sanction of military authorities at home received before a conclusion was arrived at? Then I wish to ask, secondly, whether the accumulation of stores at Ladysmith and the detention of a large body of troops there were in any degree subject to similar influence? My last question is whether it was of his own accord and on purely military grounds that Sir Redvers Buller himself abandoned his original intention and went to Natal, taking a large force with him? I need hardly say that, while there should be desire in time of war to leave generals free to obey their own judgment, yet if there are extraordinary reasons for inter- 96 fering with that freedom, then the interference had better come from the responsible Government at home than take place on the opinions and views of a colonial Government. Now I have concluded what I have to say, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will pardon my many questions, though I cannot expect universal or general concurrence in the views I have expressed. I have merely stated my own views on certain points, but I believe there are many of these questions I have thought it my duty to raise which the whole country expected would be raised, and the whole country awaits the answers with anxiety.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am far from complaining, Sir, either of the number of questions the right hon. Gentleman has put to me, the character of those questions, or the tone in which he put them, and I propose to deal with those questions, if the House will allow me, at, I hope, not inadequate length. Before, however, I come to the main part of the right hon. Gentleman's attack, for attack it was, I join with him in congratulating my two hon. friends behind me upon the skill and success with which they have carried out the difficult and delicate task entrusted to them. The task is always difficult and always delicate, and when the House meets in so grave a position of public affairs and in an inevitable mood of sadness brought about by the loss of so many valuable lives, a heavier burden is thrown upon the mover and seconder of the Address than on an ordinary occasion. My two hon. friends, while not refusing to touch adequately our programme of legislation, have in the main confined their attention to that single, all-absorbing topic of which each one of us, and certainly not least Her Majesty's Government, think day and night—I mean the war. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, following, and rightly following, their example, was occupied with the same great theme, and to-night I shall be compelled by the turn the debate has taken to dwell upon criticisms upon what has happened before I turn to the more absorbing topic of what still remains to be done. But if I dwell, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, chiefly on the past and say nothing about the future, I hope the House will not think on that account that we, the Government, are not 97 far more concerned with that future than we are with any mere party conflict in this House, or with the task of defending ourselves against a criticism which, I venture to think, is singularly unfair in its character, but which, whether unfair or not, does little harm to those against whom it is directed; and, if it did do harm, that harm would be insignificant, immaterial, negligible in comparison with the great national issue we are called upon to face. The right hon. Gentleman, in a sentence which began with the true patriotic ring, told us that he and those for whom he speaks were determined to support the war by every means in their power, so long—as I understood him—so long as that war was confined to driving invaders from Her Majesty's dominions.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The words I used were that we would support the war, the vigorous prosecution of the war, or something to that effect, in order as rapidly as possible to vindicate the integrity of the Queen's dominions and attain a successful issue.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am glad I gave the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of repeating, and of repeating, so far as my memory goes, with perfect accuracy, that somewhat cryptic but most important announcement of policy. The right hon. Gentleman, as obviously he was bound to do, carefully considered the terms in which that announcement was made, and I think he was right. I interpret it, and I think the country will probably interpret that announcement, as indicating that the right hon. Gentleman promises his support should he be in Opposition, and even more effectually by his policy should he be in power, towards prosecuting the war so long as we are engaged in repelling invasion, but that he declines to commit himself, he declines deliberately to commit himself to any statement indicating that, in so far as he can exercise any control over the destinies of the country, the war shall proceed until we make ourselves absolutely supreme over the whole region of South Africa. Well, the right hon. Gentleman does not contradict my inference.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Now know I how to do it. You take a sentence your opponent has used, you misstate it—["No, no."]—let hon. and 98 right hon. Gentlemen keep their equanimity—you misstate it, and then, when your opponent rises to give the exact words used, you express satisfaction that you have given him the opportunity of doing a thing he was under no necessity to do, and then put an entirely new, and an entirely different construction on what was said, reading into it anything you like, and then when your opponent is tired of getting up and sits still, then you say, "judging by his silence, I am not misrepresenting him." The right hon. Gentleman will not succeed either in reading into my words anything not there, or in driving me to say anything I do not desire to say.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am sorry failed to satisfy the right hon. gentleman. I can assure him he has entirely satisfied me. I want no more than what he has told us. I have given him the opportunity of saying, if he wished to say it, that he intends, in so far as he can, to aid the war, in Opposition or in the Government, until that conclusion is reached to which I have referred, the complete supremacy of Great Britain in South Africa. I have given him the opportunity for saying that, and he has declined to say it.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Perhaps I may remind the right hon. Gentleman of another passage, to the effect that we were all agreed that the Imperial authority must be the supreme authority in South Africa.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not wish to pursue the controversy. I will not say I have every reason to be satisfied, for I confess it comes to me with somewhat a shock of surprise and dismay that there should be this doubt of what is meant by active support of the war. Well, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to make an attack upon the diplomacy pursued by the Government, and in particular by my right hon. friend the Secretary for the Colonies, during the last five years. He called it inflicting pin-pricks, he used a great many hard words in regard to it, and he indicated, not for the first time, that in his opinion 99 it was that diplomacy, the want of dexterity of that diplomacy, the roughness of that diplomacy, which caused, and which alone caused, the outbreak of hostilities between the Boer Republics and ourselves. I have several observations to make upon that matter. In the first place, this diplomacy has been before the country all these years, and the right hon. Gentleman has been in a position not merely to make an occasional Parliamentary criticism, but to call the whole policy in question by a vote of censure. I do not remember that that ever was done. It is to be done tonight—strengthened by the checks which this country has received in the field. The right hon. Gentleman feels himself in a position to do that which, by his own account, he ought to have done any time during the course of the last five years. I doubt whether the move will be more successful to-night than it would have been on any of these previous occasions, but on that matter I may have to say a word directly. But, still limiting myself to this attack on my right hon. friend's diplomacy, I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the Boers themselves, who have given an account—which at all events should commend itself to the right hon. Gentleman—of the causes which have produced these international difficulties. They do not stop at the year 1895, they have nothing to do with drafting the Amendment which is to be moved to-night by the noble Lord on that bench, they go right back through one British Administration after another, including all the Administrations of which the right hon. Gentleman has been an ornament, It has been the continuous course of that diplomacy right back from the beginning, for twenty or thirty years—for twenty years at least—it has been the course of that diplomacy for twenty years, not what my right hon. friend has done or said in the last three or four years, which has at last brought to a culmination the controversy between the two nations or the two races. I think the right hon. Gentleman on reflection will feel that history did not begin in 1895, though amendments have begun in reference to events since 1895, and that if he wants to study the causes which have led to the present state of things, the historic causes, he must of necessity go back into more distant days. Then the right hon. Gentleman, before coming to his criti- 100 cisms of the war, made one further attack on my right hon. friend—well, I do not know whether it was an attack on my right hon. friend, but I presume it was an attack on the Government or some servant of the Government. He said that in certain un-named Cape newspapers articles had been appearing in which it was suggested that when the war was successfully terminated the Constitution of Cape Colony should be suspended and the Dutch population should be put under the heel of the English-speaking population. Well, I have not the least doubt that the right hon. Gentleman has accurately quoted those newspapers, though he did not tell us what they were, but may I ask how we are responsible for these utterances? What have we said to suggest that the object of the war, or one result of the war, is to produce inequality? Where have we said that the triumph of British arms is to be marked by the diminution of civil liberty? Sir, we have said, and we have said continuously and consistently, exactly the reverse. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman may choose to say with regard to South African journalists, I do beg that he will not interpolate his criticism on that body of men into an indictment of her Majesty's Government. We have not very much time before us, but I may incidentally observe that the right hon. Gentleman, who was very angry with me just now for giving the substance of his words before an audience which heard the words, and before the speaker of the words, who could correct me, quoted—no, not quoted, that is not what he has been doing, he has been attacking my right hon. friend for this or that want of tact and discretion in his despatches—he quoted not one single syllable in this House in support of that indictment, nor do I believe that such quotations could be made. The right hon. Gentleman left the question of diplomacy and came to the more absorbing topic, and, as I think, the far more relevant topic, of the conduct of the war, and, if I understood him rightly, he declared it was a monstrous heresy to assert that the war was an inevitable war. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to attack us for having said that, as the upshot and conclusion of all these negotiations, we could not conceal from ourselves now that the war probably was an inevitable war. Well, it is not only the 101 Ministerial mind which has taken this curious twist, but the minds of some of the right hon. Gentleman's nearest friends and most devoted colleagues. I believe Lord Rosebery has taken this view; I believe the Member for Haddingtonshire has committed himself to such a statement; I rather think the Member for East Fife has committed himself to a similar statement; and I almost think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton and the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division have spoken in similar language. All those persons have, as far as I can discover, gone through the same phases of opinion on this subject as the Government have gone through. We believed up to a very late date, not only that war could be avoided, but that probably war would be avoided. But on looking back over the whole history of the transactions, and on comparing subsequent statements made by Boer authorities, we have come to the conclusion that from the very beginning the Boer Government did not mean to make those concessions which, if they were not made, we always knew must lead to hostilities between the two countries.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
It is a strange request I am going to make of him, but would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to repeat his statement?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Oh, no; I assure the right hon. Gentleman it is not. What I said was that he had been criticising us for taking the view towards the end, or after the close of the diplomatic transactions, that war was inevitable, having held before that a different opinion. I went on to say that that was not an eccentricity of the Members sitting on this bench alone, but that the same phases of opinion had been gone through, in the same order as I understood it, by a great many distinguished gentlemen closely connected with the right hon. Gentleman upon that bench.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I, at least, never entertained any doubt that, if the Boers persisted in refusing a reasonable measure of justice to the Uitlanders it would no doubt end in hostilities, and I remember saying so on some public occasion in July—I think it was about the 20th of July—holding, however, the hopeful opinion that those concessions would be made.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
When did I make the statement? It is a matter of opinion on which we need not enter now. Then the right hon. Gentleman having taken this view, having passed this criticism upon our changes of opinion as regards the inevitability of war, went on to attack the military preparations which we made during the months, I suppose, of July, August, and September, and he described us as through those months—he did not mention the months, but I imagine it was those he had in view—sending driblets of men week by week into the colonies. We did nothing of the kind; the right hon. Gentleman is entirely mistaken in his facts. I am quite sure the War Office would not have the slightest objection to laying a return on the table of the House showing the dates on which troops arrived in South Africa, or were sent from here, and, if my hon. friend will lay such a return, and hon. Gentlemen will take the trouble to study it, they will see that no accusation ever was less founded than this accusation of sending driblets of men week by week into our colonies for the purpose of defending them. And let me remind him, when he denounces us for having sent 10,000 men into Natal, in September I think it was, and says that you cannot expect to carry on negotiations successfully if you take military steps of that kind, that the colony of Natal itself sent an earnest request to us that we should do so, and, in my opinion, we should have been committing a gross dereliction of duty if we had not responded to that call. Then the right hon. Gentleman asks us how we came to be ignorant of the intentions of the Orange Free State, and he misinterprets, quite unintentionally, some observations I made in a speech delivered on, I think, November 28, in which I expressed my surprise that the Orange Free State should have done a 103 thing so risky for its own future as to join with the Transvaal against us. I was not thinking at that moment of diplomatic negotiations of such and such a week, or such and such a month. I was thinking of the broad fact that the Orange Free State had lived at peace with us, flourished side by side with us, not interfered with or threatened by us, year after year, and generation after generation; and I say is it not astonishing, ought not we to feel surprise, that a State like that, absolutely secure in our midst, should threaten its own existence, and its own future, by thus throwing in its lot with our enemy? That was the gist of my argument. On the diplomacy of the Orange Free State, with which I was not concerned at the moment I was speaking, the right hon. Gentleman has referred to a statement made by the President of the Orange Free State on August 28th to the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony with reference to the discussion about the importation of arms and ammunition—With reference to the discussion about the importation of arms and ammunition into the Orange Free State, I trust that no assurance is necessary upon my part to contradict the ridiculous, lying, and malicious rumours that there exists with this Government any desire or intention to take up arms in any aggressive or offensive manner against the British Government or any British colony or territory.So much for the diplomacy of the Orange Free State. Then the right hon. Gentleman comes to a very important question, namely the forces of the Boers, our knowledge of those forces, and the inference that we ought to have drawn from them. He speaks with innocent surprise, as if the first time we ever heard that the Boers were arming was subsequent to the display of military efficiency which they have shown since the war broke out; but the Government never concealed, not from themselves only, but from the House, that armaments on the most formidable scale had been and were being introduced into the Transvaal. My right hon. friend, I believe, in answer to questions in this House, has stated it more than once, and it has formed, I know, one of the links in the arguments which we have from time to time addressed to the House and the country in connection with the relations between this country and the Orange Free State. The general fact was perfectly 104 notorious; but a much more interesting and important question is raised when we come to the estimate, or, as I have already admitted in public, the under-estimate, which the Government made of the military power of the Boers. I do not think, sir, that that under-estimate should be laid to the charge of the Intelligence Department. As regards armaments, I may say that it is impossible now—we have not the information now at our disposal—to correct the estimates made at the beginning of the war. We cannot do it yet. We shall be able to do it no doubt at the end of the war. But at present I really have seen no evidence to show that the Intelligence Department were wrong in any of the facts which it was within their power to authoritatively investigate. By that I mean the number of Boers between the ages of military service, whether in the Orange Free State or in the Transvaal. I believe they had material for forming that estimate, and as far as I know it was correctly formed and was communicated by the military authorities at the War Office to the Government. I am sure my right hon. friend, if he did not communicate it to the House, would have been quite willing to do so if he had been asked. But of course there was a margin which it was impossible for any Intelligence Department exactly to gauge. It has been suggested to me—I do not know on what evidence—that to avoid commandeering for native wars and other things there were some Boers who did not give their names in for the official return. I do not know whether it is true or not. If true there is, of course, an element very difficult to gauge. Another element which it was impossible to gauge was the number of Uitlanders who would take service with the Boers. We do not know now whether that number is large or small; but evidently it could not be accurately estimated by the Intelligence Department, however well equipped; and there is another doubtful element—the number of our own colonists who would, under certain circumstances, throw in their lot with the Boer Republic. Therefore some uncertainty existed, and could not but exist; but I think the Intelligence Department ought to be free from attacks, which, as far as I am able to judge, have no basis in fact. But, it will be asked, how comes it that this great under- 105 estimate of the strength of the Boers came to be made, if we knew approximately what the number of the Boer army was and what numbers were likely to take the field? I do not know that I have any very satisfactory answer to give to that question. It is purely and strictly a military problem, and a problem which, as history shows, it is very difficult to answer satisfactorily. You can gauge the military strength of a European nation with a fixed army, with all the modern military apparatus and military statistics at your disposal. You can say how many men Germany could mass in a given time on the French frontier, or how many France could mass on the German frontier, and so on with regard to Austria and Russia, I suppose. But when you come to the problem of States whose military position is not of that elaborate kind, you will find that great mistakes have been made in the past, and I doubt not that great mistakes will be made in the future. They certainly have been made by almost every military nation of which we have any record. But if this is an attack on the military experts at the War Office, it is surely an unfair one. Experts not given generally to agree with one another were absolutely unanimous on this point. I do not think you can quote the opinion of a single soldier, of any position, or no position, delivered, say, before 31st July or 31st August last, indicating that the force sent out to South Africa in the first instance would not be amply sufficient, or more than amply sufficient—["What about Butler?"]—for all purposes. ["Butler! Butler!"] I think that hon. Gentlemen might let me finish the sentence, especially as I have nothing but disappointment in store for them. The right hon. Gentleman put a question about Sir William Butler—a question reiterated with a fervour of expectation by hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, and which unfortunately we are unable to meet. We have not the slightest trace at the War Office of any communication, public or semi-public or private, no communication of any sort, kind or description which indicated in Sir William Butler's opinion that the force we sent out was not sufficient—I was going to say not doubly sufficient—for any work it might be called upon to do. I know 106 not where the opposite view found its origin; but you will not find it in any document in the possession of the War Office.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Let me say that Sir William Butler does not communicate with the Colonial Office.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Hon. Gentlemen may take it from me that I am not trying to play with them or evade the question. I say that in no shape or form, to anybody or through anybody who had access to the Government, or who was a member of the Government, or who had to advise the Government, had we the slightest reason to believe that Sir William Butler's opinion on the military question was what the right hon. Gentleman apparently thinks it is, and what certainly hon. Gentlemen below the gangway think it is. He held the opinion common to every military authority in the country—namely, that the force we had sent to South Africa was in point of number and equipment quite sufficient and more than sufficient to deal with the military difficulties of the case. Sir, one other point I must mention in connection with this controversy about the war. The right hon. Gentleman, who is so easily perturbed at the smallest appearance of misquoting his words, has occupied a great deal of the latter part of his speech in attributing to me a series of opinions which I never held and never expressed. I believe that certain of those opinions were attributed to me in leading articles in certain eminent journals; but I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not go to that source. If he will take the trouble of reading my speeches—a penalty which I would not willingly inflict on my worst enemy—he will find that I am not guilty of the statement which he has quite unintentionally extracted by some strange and violent process from the words which I actually used.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The "violent process" was a red pencil 107 and a copy of The Times newspaper with the report of the speech.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I should have been glad if the right hon. Gentleman had quoted the words. I do not take much interest in speeches myself; but I will give a specimen of the right hon. Gentleman's accuracy of interpretation. He led the House to believe that I had said that with regard to this whole question of the war, and the forces of the Boers, the Government had no more knowledge than the man in the street. I never said anything of the kind. What I did say was that in dealing with the intentions of Boer statesmen, with the intentions of President Kruger, and of those who work with President Kruger, the public were peculiarly well circumstanced by the fact that there was so much communication between this country and the Transvaal; and that we had no special means of information as to their intentions which any well informed man in the street had not equally at his disposal. That seems to me a perfectly true and honest statement, and disposes of our supposed ignorance with regard to armaments and all the rest of it, of which so much has been made. But, Sir, there is a much more important misinterpretation put upon my views by the right hon. Gentleman than any careless utterance which may, perhaps through my fault, lend itself to misinterpretation and misquotation. The right hon. Gentleman has, on the strength of something he supposes that I have said, attributed to the Government the view that they believed in August that war was inevitable; but because they were afraid of Parliamentary difficulties and complications, they deliberately left undefended the colonies they were bound to defend. Sir, I deny that I ever said anything which would lead any fair interpreter to any such conclusion as that. I should think it a disgrace for ever if I belonged to a Government that, for the sake of avoiding a little Parliamentary inconvenience, betrayed the great interests of the Empire. I deny that I ever said anything of the kind. What was the general plan of the Government with regard to this war? We believed, as we have said here and elsewhere, that war was improbable. We also believed that war was possible, and that possibility was a contingency against which it was our business to provide; but 108 we held that there were great diplomatic advantages in not, in August, coming down to the House, and asking for a great Vote in view of the possibilities of immediate hostilities in the Transvaal. We thought that that would have been bad diplomacy—in fact, that it would have been diplomacy doubly bad, because I think we should not have been able to persuade the House that the necessity for the Vote was pressing and urgent. If any hon. Member will honestly put himself back into the frame of mind in which he was on the 10th August last, when this House broke up, he will, I think, agree with that statement. But, Sir, we recognised that we had a duty to perform, and our view was that the improbable contingency of war could be provided against by sending to Cape Colony and Natal a force sufficient to defend the frontiers of those colonies, until the large field force we were preparing to send out had arrived and aggressive action was possible. You will say the force sent out was insufficient. Well, it has proved insufficient in the sense that at this moment, we grieve to think, there are portions of both Cape Colony and Natal in the occupation of the enemy, and undoubtedly, therefore, it was insufficient. But let me remind the House that just as our field force was much more than adequate to meet any necessity which military men thought would come upon us, so the defensive force we sent out to Cape Colony and Natal was largely in excess of what we were told was necessary to carry out our policy. Our hope was that the colonies would be fully defended by this force, and we believed, and hoped that before the 25th September a field force, complete in all its parts, transport and everything else, would be accumulated at the Cape, and that the forward movement would go on through the Orange Free State, and would, as we hoped, have the effect of bringing the war to a no very distant conclusion. Well, Sir, as the House knows, that plan of campaign was not the one which was carried out. The forces we sent to South Africa have been on the one hand diverted to Natal, and on the other hand diverted to Kimberley, and that forward movement has not yet taken place. No doubt it will do so. Well, Sir, I have been perfectly open with the House. I have told you exactly what we intended to do; and I think it will be admitted by candid critics—if candid 109 critics remain—that the general scheme of operations was not one which in itself was either foolish or reckless, or of a kind likely to sacrifice grave Imperial interests. But the right hon. Gentleman will say: "Your plan of campaign has not been carried out. Has anybody been interfering with the generals either in Natal or elsewhere?" Sir, the generals and the commanding officers we sent to South Africa have not been interfered with at home; they have had absolute discretion as to the military steps they would take to carry out the general intentions of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman pressed me upon the subject of a communication made by the Governor of Natal, at the instance of his own Ministers, and not at our instance, to the commanding officer in that Colony. My right hon. friend the Colonial Secretary is going to lay Papers on the table giving the whole account of that transaction. We had nothing to do with it. We did not prompt it. The communication was made by the Governor at the instance of his Ministers—we do not see how it could be otherwise—but it was not mandatory, and the whole power and responsibility, from the beginning to the end, rested upon the military officer commanding.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes, with regard to everything; with regard to every step, and with regard to the whole plan of campaign. Every move in that plan rested, and has rested, on the generals, and we have not thought it right or desirable to interfere, directly or indirectly, with their responsibility.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will excuse me for interposing again, but I wish to make sure. My object is to inform and satisfy the public mind, which has been greatly exercised upon this point. I asked the right hon. Gentleman three questions. I asked him with regard to Glencoe and Dundee. That was one point. I asked him with regard to Ladysmith itself. The third point was with regard to the transference of a considerable force from a central point in South Africa to Natal. I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that in all 110 these three cases it was purely the discretion of the military authorities that determined the issue?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes, the right hon. Gentleman has perfectly correctly interpreted my words. I think I have now finished with the right hon. Gentleman's attack on our military policy. But I noticed an expected omission. I noticed the right hon. Gentleman said nothing about the adequacy of our armaments and the excellence of our guns to carry out the work of the Army. I think the omission was intelligible, because the right hon. Gentleman himself with great tact, but with no very reforming spirit, was responsible for Army matters for two, three, or four years—I will not say eventful years, because they were eminently uneventful so far as the War Office was concerned, for none of the great increases in our forces, none of the great improvements in the accommodation for our men, none of the increases in our armaments, none of the improvements in our Army, can be dated from the right hon. Gentleman's tenure of office. If hon. Gentlemen will look back on the many debates which occurred on this topic, if they will look back over the history of the War Office for any period of years they like, so long as they go back before 1895, to make a comparison with sacred '95—which was the beginning of the date of wisdom—they will find that all increases in efficiency, in numbers, all improvements in organisation, have emanated from this side of the House without exception; and it is within the last three years that the greatest improvements have been made as regards barrack accommodation, the number of our troops, and in artillery and guns. I therefore think the right hon. Gentleman was well advised in not carrying on his criticism of the Government into our military policy, so far as to call in question the action of the War Office in connection with our forces. The right hon. Gentleman asked us whether we held that criticism at this stage of our proceedings was out of place. No, Sir, I think the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in criticising us. I could have wished that the criticism were based on a more accurate study of documents, and were fairer in spirit, but to criticism itself I make no objection whatever. But I 111 understand the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are going further in criticism to-night. I understand they propose doing their best to take upon their own shoulders and their superior intelligence and knowledge of affairs the further conduct of the affairs of this Empire in general and of the war in particular. The noble Lord the Member for the Cricklade Division, who, I presume, will follow me, has got this task in hand. I can assure him I wish him well through it. He has on his side some advantages, for he speaks to the House, and through the House to the country, which is justly disappointed with the result of the war up to the present date, and which feels, and must feel acutely, how its hopes, its natural hopes—I was going to say its legitimate hopes—have been disappointed. That is a good audience to appeal to when you are attacking those in power; and I am sure the noble Lord is not less endowed with that wisdom so plentifully distributed amongst the sons of men, but which is not more precious than rubies—I mean wisdom after the event. But while the noble Lord has some advantages in preaching from that text, surely he has some disadvantages. The whole object of the Amendment, rumour assures me, the speech of the leader of the Opposition assures me, is to urge the complaint made against us as to our want of foresight—that foresight with which hon. Gentlemen opposed to us, who wish to take our places, consider themselves liberally endowed. There are many kinds of foresight. The foresight with which men are endowed is not always of the same kind. For instance there is the foresight of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division. The foresight of the hon. Baronet tells him that we ought to have made greater preparations at an earlier date, but the foresight of the right hon. Gentleman himself tells him that the mistake we made was in making any preparations at all, and the quality of foresight of the right hon. Gentleman is shared by another eminent Member on that bench, who wrote an article in one of the reviews, in which he quoted with approval the famous sentence of the right hon. Gentleman:—"Not only was war not necessary, but warlike preparations were not necessary."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am pointing out, not that the foresight of the Opposition is bad, but that there are so many kinds of foresight. In the right hon. gentleman's indictment the whole scope of the negotiations since 1895 down to the outbreak of war is included. Very good. But the foresight of one-half of the Opposition leads them to believe after that survey that the war is an unjust one and a war that could have been avoided. The foresight of not less distinguished members of the same Opposition leads them to exactly the opposite conclusion—namely, that the war is a just war and could not have been avoided. I suppose in defence of the Opposition foresight hon. Gentleman from Ireland will go into the lobby in support of the vote of censure. They think to a man that the war was unjust in its inception, and ought to be put an end to as quickly as possible. That is their foresight. The right hon. Gentleman apparently thinks, though probably he will be very angry with me for saying so, that the war ought to be put an end to immediately we have driven, or soon after we have driven, the enemy from our own territory. But, on the other hand, there are Members sitting near him, and colleagues of his own in the other House, whose foresight is of an altogether different kind, and they agree with us in being absolutely determined that this war shall be driven to a successful issue, and that by a successful issue is not meant any suzerainty, any shadowy supremacy in South Africa, but the real, substantial supremacy of Great Britain over all these regions. There are two kinds of foresight upon that important subject; and to make the whole thing as absurd as it can be—who is going to be the Gentleman to put into one fold these sheep and these goats? Who is it who is going to do his best to put the Government into a minority, and to transfer the future administration of the country to Gentlemen on the other side? A very distinguished Member of this House only a few days ago told the country that the last thing that was desirable in the present crisis was a change of Government.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I thought you would probably wish what was desirable. 113 But while the Opposition have in their discretion taken this course, they have announced—though none of their sections agree as to the justice of this war or as to the mode in which it should be pursued—that they mean to do their best to turn us out. Sir, they are quite at liberty to take that course. All I ask for is this, that if, on their part, they find that this Government has the confidence of the House, that confidence will not in future during this great national crisis be disturbed by unnecessary or petty criticism or unnecessary or petty questioning. I, on my part, engage that if the right hon. Gentleman succeeds, and if the country endorses his action, I, if still a member of this House, will do my best to support the Ministry of the day in any steps they may take to pursue the war to the conclusion I have already described. I refrain from alluding further to the noble Lord's Amendment, on which I shall probably have to speak once again before these debates come to an end. Let me conclude by saying that the Government do not minimise the magnitude of the task which is before us, and we have no desire to conceal what shortcomings may be detected in the past. We are anxious to learn every lesson which that past can teach. We know that the future is, and must be for some time, full of anxiety and full of difficulty for those who are responsible for the management of public affairs. That responsibility, great as it is, we shall endeavour to fulfil as long as we have the confidence of this House. And, as we shall never advise peace until the war has brought forth its legitimate fruits, so we believe that, in spite of any ambiguity of utterance from any quarter of the other side of the House, the country will insist that the Ministers who serve it, be they drawn from one side of the House or from the other, will see not only that the military honour of this country is amply vindicated, but that we leave in South Africa no root from which again may spring forth any of the bitter and poisonous fruits from which for so many years we have been suffering.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE (Wilts, Cricklade)
Sir, there have been many sessions within the knowledge and recollection of Members here to-night when the speeches upon the Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious 114 Speech have been of a formal character, and I hope Members opposite will believe that I speak from the bottom of my heart when I express the wish that the proceedings on the present occasion could have partaken of that nature. It is no pleasure to rise to impugn the policy of the Government in regard to foreign affairs. My own past conduct in this House enables me to say that I have never offered a factious opposition to any Government with regard to foreign affairs. Last year I gained some ill-will from hon. Gentlemen on my own side of the House because I considered it my duty to support Her Majesty's Government in the lobby upon the critical questions which had for the time overclouded our relations with France. I had previously considered it to be my duty at public meetings in my own constituency and elsewhere, at the risk of offending those with whom I generally agree, to record the opinion that in the controversy with France, the country with which of all others we ought to be on good terms, right and justice lay with Her Majesty's Government. If I thought for one moment that such was the position of affairs to-day, I would not hesitate again to do what I should consider to be my duty, even at the risk of again separating myself from hon. Members of my own party, in supporting the Government. I honestly regret that that is not the case. I am glad, however, that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, although he has severely condemned by anticipation the Amendment I am going to move, has not contended that we on this side of the House have no right to move such an Amendment. I have been astonished to read the criticisms which, in certain influential newspapers, have been levelled against the Opposition. Not only is it common sense, but all historical precedent and every constitutional doctrine points to this, that the first and legitimate duty of the Opposition, whether in regard to foreign or home affairs, is to indulge in criticism of the proper kind and at the right moment. On the other hand it is not their right to go one inch outside their proper position, and allow that criticism to degenerate into faction, and I earnestly trust that not one word of mine to-night will appear so to degenerate. If we were not to indulge in criticism upon occasions of this kind we should perhaps be obliged to have recourse to some such course as 115 that adopted by Mr. Fox and his followers, when they thought fit to abandon their duty in Parliament, and he retired to St. Ann's Hill. But the verdict of the historian and the biographer has been adverse to the course they then adopted, and has endorsed the action of Mr. Tierney, who at the head of a small and diminished section, remained here, and attended this House. It has been said that I have against me the great precedent of the conduct of the elder Pitt, but I am afraid that those who say that if we follow the example of the elder Pitt we should abandon opposition and criticism in this House must be very insufficiently acquainted with that statesman's character, conduct, and career. The elder Pitt was not only a successful war minister, but a leader of opposition, and nobody denies that one of the greatest chapters in his life is his persistent opposition (when Lord Chatham) against what he considered to be the unwise and impolitic war with our American colonies. I think above all of that famous speech in which he spoke of the "spring hopes and verdant promises" of Her Majesty's Government, and I cannot help fearing that in regard to some passages of our South African affairs we have been till recently in danger of realising the force of that sarcastic description in which Lord Chatham warned the House of Lords in 1776 against listening to "spring hopes and verdant promises" in regard to military affairs. That was the moment when a large British army was in America in a difficult and isolated position, and was described by the elder Pitt as being too many to make peace and too few to make war. It is not my wish to turn this debate into a criticism of War Office details, or to impugn the position of any particular person or office. I venture to remind the House that attacks on particular Ministers and particular departments have not proceeded from this side of the House, nor have they been made at public meetings addressed by members of the party to which I belong. All those criticisms have emanated from the Ministerial side of the House and from newspapers representing Ministerial views. I altogether repudiate them. About six weeks ago the grim silence of a London Sunday morning was enlivened by an article in a Ministerial journal which said that the country was in danger, and that 116 the only way to save it was to call for the immediate resignation of the Lord Privy Seal and the President of the Local Government Board. I have very great respect for the President of the Local Government Board, but I have yet to learn that Pretoria is subject to the Orders of the Local Government Board, while, as to the Lord Privy Seal, some years ago I attempted to ascertain what his duties were, but I do not recollect that it was ever said that he had any special responsibility for South Africa or that South Africa was was under his particular control. The House must recollect that the Daily Mail is not the organ of the Front Opposition Bench, nor are we very influential with regard to the policy of the Spectator newspaper, but those are the quarters from which the attacks upon particular departments have emanated. In their columns it is stated that the only thing which can save the country is the immediate expulsion of the Secretary of State for War, and the substitution for him of the hon. Member for West Belfast. According to the Spectator the hon. Member should go to Pall Mall, clad, I suppose, in complete armour like the ghost of Hamlet's father, and immediately do some great or striking action which will deliver this unfortunate country and so alarm President Kruger that he will at once sue for peace upon bended knees. I will only mention one other of these ridiculous proposals, which, remember, emanate from organs representing the Ministerial side of the House. I am told that in a Yorkshire newspaper the weakness of the Government has been stated to consist in the fact that the Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield is not a member of the Government, and that he ought to be at once called in to advise Her Majesty's Ministers. Unfortunately, he is not here at present; he has gone to the seat of war, as he went to Greece and Turkey two years ago. He was then taken prisoner by the Greeks at sea, and is now probably undergoing a second period of captivity. I am sure when he returns we shall listen to him with great interest. But, Sir, I do not believe that the presence or absence of any of the hon. Members to whom reference has been made is at all the question before the House. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that during the last five years very great alterations and improvements have been made at the War Office. But it is 117 also perfectly possible at the same time to believe that the preparations made necessary by this sudden war in South Africa cast a burden upon the War Office which it was not ready to undertake, and therefore the blame is not upon the War Office or any departmental Minister who represents the military or the civil side of the War Office, but it is upon the Cabinet and upon the Government. Being a civilian, I would hesitate to offer even the most modest opinion of my own upon any military question whatever, but I have been very much struck by the opinion of a writer of great knowledge and authority, whose name I believe is known, but which I am not at liberty to mention—the writer of a very able article in the January number of the Edinburgh, Review, in which the whole of this military question is discussed with great knowledge and admirable impartiality. The writer points out that the responsibility for this war, and therefore for the preparations necessitated by the war, is not a matter which you can trace to the War Office as a separate department of the State, and that therefore it is not possible to make any particular Minister responsible, excepting in so far as he is a member of the Cabinet, and jointly responsible with his colleagues for whatever mistakes have been made. The war, he says, is not due to the War Office. Their business has solely been to organise the strength of the nation with the means placed at their disposal and to render to the Government an account of the British readiness to take the field. It has been the duty of successive Governments and Parliaments to decide upon the scale of our armaments on land and on sea, and the duty of the Military and Naval Departments is to give the very best army and navy procurable under those conditions in order to carry out the general objects which those Governments and Cabinets have had in view. That is a true and legitimate description of the constitutional relations of the War Office and the Government. My case against the Government is not a departmental case against the War Office, but it is, following the words of the writer in the Edinburgh Review, that the general objects which you suddenly thrust upon the War Office by embarking them in a great war in South Africa, were objects for which your War Office was not organised, is not organised, 118 and never has been organised, and for which you had not voted estimates. We all value our civil rights and political liberties, and it is an alarming thing to see the light way in which plans are being now put forward to introduce military conscription into this country, and in which we are called as a matter of course, almost without discussion, to vote enormous sums in order to send 120,000 men to South Africa. Your War Office and existing military organisation was never intended for such a purpose. The policy of this country was never fixed upon lines meant to make this country a great military Power. I want to know under what conception, not only of military policy, but also of law and government, is it that friends and supporters of the Government come forward with a light heart and say that at every cost, never mind what, never mind the number of men who may be swallowed up in South Africa, we are to be ready in future to hurl masses of men across the ocean regardless of the consequences to our own institutions and liberties which entering upon a gigantic policy of this kind must entail. An army or a navy is a sufficient and efficient force, not in the abstract, but according to the burdens which the Government of the time calls upon it to bear; and my case against the Government is that the burden which they have placed upon the War Office is one which no War Office could possibly have supported without greater notice and fuller time than that which was allowed. In the article already referred to the author, speaking evidently with an inside knowledge of affairs, says that, in his opinion, the War Office has placed the defences of the United Kingdom upon a sound basis, and that about a year ago that work was well forward and was fast approaching completion. But the very fact that so much energy and skill had been put into it had fully occupied the time of the officials of the War Office, and prevented them giving the time which they intended to Imperial defence, which they desired to take up at the proper time. Those facts must have been within the knowledge of the Government, and yet, notwithstanding this, the War Office is suddenly called upon by what I venture to call an irritating and reckless policy, to perform duties for the performance of which you have not given them the 119 proper means, and in regard to which you have not allowed adequate time for preparation. I must protest, at the same time, against what fell from the right hon. Gentleman when he said that nothing had been done for the defences of this country by previous Administrations. It is almost impossible to separate naval and military administration. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to tell this House that he thinks Lord Spencer did nothing for the administration of the Navy? The two things largely hang together, and I venture, in the first place, to ask him that question. I venture to deny the statement that nothing was done for military reform during the Administration of Mr. Gladstone and Lord Rosebery. I would remind him that on the very day when this Government came into power a great personal change took place which undoubtedly enabled a new era of military affairs to be opened. It is beyond dispute that the Duke of Wellington was the greatest soldier of his day, and yet when he died everybody felt that military reforms which had before been looked upon as impossible afterwards became more possible than they otherwise would have become. I apply that analogy now, and I venture to say that although no man was more devoted to his profession, or threw himself with greater zeal into the discharge of his duties than the Duke of Cambridge, nevertheless, when the change in the command in chief took place at the time the present Government came into power, and the Duke of Cambridge gave way to Lord Wolseley, certain reforms became more easy. I say this notwithstanding all my admiration for the services and great career of the Duke of Cambridge. It was ungenerous for the right hon. Gentleman to stand up in this House and say that nothing whatever had been done for military reform by the Government of Lord Rosebery when we recollect that there were certain advantages entirely unconnected with the personality of Her Majesty's present Ministers which undoubtedly facilitated the reforms which all Governments desired to carry out. The Government have thrown on the back of an already overburdened War Office the gigantic task of transporting a large army across the sea. I think I may say, so far as the War Office is concerned, that the transport of these men has been well carried out, and if anybody had told us a few 120 years ago that it would be possible at such very short notice to send, not across the Channel, but to the uttermost ends of the earth, across the ocean, a large and, on the whole, a well equipped army, even allowing for some inevitable failures in small details, it would have been said that was a matter of which we might well be proud. But it is perfectly possible to hold, as I do, this view, and to hold the view at the same time that the War Office ought never to have been called upon to perform this duty owing to the circumstances which I have explained. The War Office were engaged upon reforms which would have enabled them, when completed, a few years hence, to have performed their duties in an effectual manner, because then the whole question of the military defences of the Empire would have been taken into consideration. Who can doubt when the Bill mentioned in Her Majesty's gracious Speech for the federation of the Australian colonies is carried through it will be a measure which will very greatly facilitate the solution of the problem of Imperial defence, and will enable them to co-operate with us in a manner which they cannot do now. That is one reason why the War Office should not have been called upon to send this army across the sea now. It is further the undoubted fact—and nothing that fell from the right hon. Gentleman enables me, much as I should wish, to alter the opinion that everybody has formed, even his own followers and supporters, from the perusal of his speeches—that the belief of the Government was that the Transvaal would never, of its own accord, declare war against England. That is not a question of War Office administration, but a question of the belief of the Government. They believed that the Orange Free State, which had shown very great independence of the Transvaal in many ways in regard to commercial matters, never was likely to turn round and enter into an alliance, offensive as well as defensive, with the Transvaal Government. They believed that under no circumstances would the Transvaal or the Free State armies invade British territory, and they did not believe that the forces of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State combined represented anything like the number of men who are now gathered under their standards. The right hon. Gentleman 121 has answered, no doubt, many of the queries of my right hon. friend in regard to Sir William Butler's despatches, and the answers he has given us, as far as I am able to form an opinion, are of a satisfactory kind. But as I have already pointed out neither my right hon. friend nor myself base our case upon the existence or non-existence of some particular despatch or paper in the War Office or the Colonial Office. We base our case upon far larger grounds. We do not impugn any particular minister. If we are to impugn anybody it would be that extraordinary body the Committee of National Defence. What is this Committee of National Defence, and what are its duties? Of whom does it really consist? Where does it meet? When the Government was formed, I recollect there was a great flourish of trumpets about the Committee of National Defence. I was always of opinion that the true Committee of National Defence consisted of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War, and what I want to know is what is the advantage of calling into council men who, as far as I can make out, are none of them military men, but are certain civilian members of the Cabinet, presided over by the Lord President. The very name of the Committee of National Defence has to me an ominous ring. We have all heard of the Government of National Defence in France, which only lives in history because it failed to drive out the invader and to prevent the capitulation of Paris. My right hon. friend has happily compared the Committee of National Defence to the Aulic Council of Vienna, which historians have said is responsible for all the great military disasters which have befallen the Austrian Empire. I cannot help noticing in this connection another unfortunate circumstance which originated with the present Government, and that is that the great office of Prime Minister has been associated with that of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I am quite willing to acknowledge that if I was to look at this matter from the point of view of the inside of the Foreign Office, I might see some advantages in it, because the combination saves time in the passing backwards and forwards of despatches before final signature. But that is only a small part of the question. The office 122 of the Prime Minister, so far as it is capable of definition, is to control the general policy of the Cabinet. Now if ever there was a case where the general control of the Prime Minister was desirable, and where unfortunately it was found wanting, that was the case of our negotiations with the South African Republic. I can hardly imagine that any minister having to deal with South African affairs would not have desired to obtain what might be called a good second opinion upon nearly every important step of the negotiations. Without wishing to suggest anything disrespectful of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies, I would remind the House that Lord Russell, who had been Foreign Minister, stated in his place in the House of Lords in 1871 that he had himself—more particularly on two famous occasions—found an enormous advantage through not being Prime Minister as well as Foreign Secretary, because he was able to submit his despatches for criticism to the superior knowledge and judgment of Lord Palmerston. If a man who had himself been Prime Minister, like Lord Russell, was able, in his old age, publicly and willingly to make an admission of that kind, you may be perfectly certain that when great negotiations of this kind are going on, that what is true of the Foreign Minister is equally true of the Colonial Minister, and it would have been a great advantage if the despatches of the Colonial Secretary, so many of them unfortunate in their tone and irritating in their manner, had been first submitted to the riper wisdom of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who, we all admit, is a statesman of the greatest experience, and who has, on the whole, been singularly successful as Foreign Minister. In regard to the military aspect of this expedition, the real indictment against the Government is that they have plunged into it like the administration of Lord Aberdeen plunged into the Crimean war. The main fact of the present situation is that which my right hon. friend put forward at the commencement of his remarks—the main, broad, and terrible fact that we are at war. As he very truly said, that fact by itself may be said to shift the burden of proof from me, or anybody else on this side of the House, on to the Government, to show why war has become necessary. Lord Clarendon, one 123 of the greatest Foreign Ministers we ever had, passed, perhaps, unintentionally, the severest condemnation on the Crimean War, by acknowledging that we had drifted into it. I believe the honour of that phrase has been divided between him and Lord Aberdeen, the Prime Minister at the time, but in any case it was used; and I think it very accurately describes the circumstances under which this country has been involved in this most unfortunate war. I hope I shall not be charged with this imputation of faction, by again quoting the First Lord of the Treasury, in the first of the series of speeches he delivered in East Manchester—so often alluded to, and to be alluded to again. He used language about the Opposition which, I confess, I read with regret. He said that the Opposition "merely exist—politically exist—to take some argumentative or controversial advantage of the Government which happens to be in power." Such language coming from the First Lord of the Treasury was very unfortunate. Some day or another, under the stress of party warfare, the right hon. Gentleman may again find himself on this side of the House, and I hope that the Government of that day may not be exposed, as a matter of course, to an Opposition of that kind. I can recollect myself, when I held office with my right hon. friend beside me, some forms of opposition which might come within the description of the First Lord of the Treasury, and I would suggest to him that he should not indulge in language which might revive recollections we are all quite willing to forget, and prefer if we can to involve in an atmosphere of philosophic doubt. The broad question is, and we have a right to ask it, How is it that we are at war? I venture to say that we cannot answer that question satisfactorily without examining the history of those negotiations which preceded the war. I assure the House that it is not my intention to weary it by going over in any detail the ground that was trod in our long debates in October last. But if I wanted to do so I might find a justification for it, and for a great deal more, on account of what fell from the First Lord of the Treasury. He attempted to pour ridicule upon the fact that the history of these negotiations, as touched upon in this Amendment, only began in 1895. Well, 124 does he want to go still further back? If I were to do so I would have to prolong my observations to a greater extent than I desire to trespass on the attention of the House. But if I were to accept the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman to extend my inquiries behind the year 1895, I should only strengthen my own case. Because my case is this—and I desire to put it in perfectly clear and unambiguous language—that Her Majesty's Government have been all along far too ready to forget the events before 1895, and to forget that although in comparatively recent years we have had considerable grievances against the Transvaal Republic, there are behind these years, memories of facts and transactions which have sown, and not unnaturally sown, in the breast of the Boers of the Transvaal feelings of suspicion, and in some cases of hatred, which it is the duty of every Colonial Minister to bear in mind if he desires to have a reputation for wise and prudent statesmanship. My regret is that the papers presented to us, and discussed in October, showed that the Colonial Minister had not taken these feelings into consideration, and had pursued an irritating course of diplomacy, very largely on his own responsibility, and without that wise control which the Prime Minister might have given to it if he had not been also Foreign Secretary. The Colonial Secretary thus embittered the relations between this country and the South African Republics. The proposals of the Colonial Secretary were in themselves not open to objection, but when they considered the manner in which they were made, they became the object of suspicion, because they were associated in the minds of the Boers of the Transvaal Republic with events and embittered memories of their youth. I do not want to go beyond 1895. The last days of that year and the earliest days of 1896 marked a point of departure. The events happened which are associated with the raid and its immediate results and consequences. Now, the raid was not the work of one or two entirely independent people, as was at first thought. It was part of a conspiracy, long and deeply planned by the Prime Minister of Cape Colony; and when that fact, first denied and long artfully concealed, came out, can it be wondered at that people naturally prone to suspicion were 125 plunged into an atmosphere of still deeper suspicion—an atmosphere which in any case it would have been difficult to remove. But that difficulty was made an impossibility, not only by the course of the diplomacy of the right hon. the Colonial Secretary, but by various events in this country which I do not hesitate to allude to in this debate. This country is not merely judged abroad by the language, courteous or discourteous, of its representatives abroad or at home. There is a large world even more important than any world of officialdom; and I venture to say that the worst thing about the Raid was that, not only was the punishment meted out by the courts of law, so far as the offenders came within reach of English justice, certainly not excessive—and I do not advocate excessive punishment—but that much of it was remitted at a very early date, so far as one can judge, after a course of agitation in this country which made the heroes of this raid—which, had it been on sea, would have been called an act of piracy—for the moment some of the most popular people in this country, so far as outward manifestations could point. The leaders were the darlings of London drawing-rooms, and the privates were the cheap heroes of every music-hall. Do you think these facts were not known abroad, and in the Transvaal? Can you wonder, then, that these suspicious people in the Transvaal, seeing people of great social position and influence taking so incorrect a view, believed that, although the War Office had properly punished these men, and did its duty in the matter, there was an opinion in England stronger than the War Office; stronger than the Courts of Justice—the opinion of the "man in the street," if I may use that current expression, which would force the hands of justice in this country, and would eventually enable a larger, and stronger, and if possible more successful raid to be made against the Transvaal. Now, what was the conduct of the Government, as represented by the Colonial Office? In the first place it was most injudicious. If you turn to the Blue Book you will find that hardly had the embers of the raid died down than the Colonial Minister began telegraphing to Sir Hercules Robinson—whose death and disappearance from office and responsibility this country cannot too 126 much deplore—regarding the desirability of beginning negotiations about the grievances which existed in the Transvaal. Sir Hercules Robinson, a man of the soundest judgment in South African affairs, both telegraphed and wrote back to say that nothing, in his opinion, would be more unwise than to commence these negotiations, and to appear at that moment, almost red handed from the raid, to be cramming reforms down the throats of the Transvaal Republic. But the Colonial Secretary was not to be denied, and telegraphed positive instructions to Sir H. Robinson to proceed with these negotiations. These despatches were the beginning of the long and unfortunate negotiations, the end of which is that we are involved in war in South Africa. I wish that I could terminate my observations on that chapter of history here, but I shall not hesitate to say in this House—where, after all, freedom of speech has existed for centuries, and where no power in the press, or anywhere else, is great enough to put it down—that in my opinion the punishment, or rather the escape from punishment and blame of the prime organiser of the raid, was one of the most fatal things that ever happened. It is time that this should be said from these benches. Sir, I have said, and I do not retire by one jot from the statement, that if the raid had been an expedition at sea, it would have been an act of common piracy, and the man who stays at home and organises an act of piracy is an accessory before the fact, and is as criminal as the men who carry it out. The prime organiser was Mr. Cecil Rhodes, and he is still on the roll of Her Majesty's Privy Council. It was universally believed that one of the first acts of the Government would have been to have struck off Mr. Rhodes from the roll of that Council. Suppose this raid had been organised against some powerful Continental State like France or Germany, do you imagine for a single moment that we would have kept the prime mover in it on the roll of the Privy Council, the roll of everything most honourable and distinguished in this country? But because the offence was against a small and weak State, miles away in the interior of Africa, we folded our hands and nothing was done. Then came the years 1897–98, when we had the inquiry into the raid at the Cape—a very 127 valuable and useful inquiry—followed by the inquiry here. I was not then a Member of this House, and am not conversant with some of the details, but I venture to say that nobody who is a student of constitutional history or a lover of that great heritage of political privilege and right which belongs to the House of Commons can doubt that the manner in which that inquiry ended struck a very heavy blow at the right of the House to what is justly regarded as important a privilege as any it possesses—the privilege of inquiry—quite as important as our legislative privilege or the general control exercised over administration. I recollect perfectly well that at the time of the Crimean war, when Lord John Russell was Leader of this House and Lord Aberdeen was Prime Minister, he wrote a letter which is contained in his Life by Mr. Spencer Walpole. He there placed on record, as against some of the objections of his colleagues, that he considered this right of inquiry on the part of the House of Commons to be one of its most precious privileges. There was no higher constitutional authority than Lord Russell, and his name will always be mentioned on this side of the House, and I believe on the other side also, with great honour. As I have said the inquiry ended, but like a river which is lost in the sands. Can you doubt that when the Government of the Transvaal found that the main result of the inquiry so far as they were concerned was that the Colonial Minister rose and explained in this House that in spite of what was contained in the report of the Committee, in his opinion, the late Prime Minister of Cape Colony was an entirely honourable person, and that he had done nothing that clashed with the rules of honour—can you doubt that in the Transvaal that declaration produced a most unfavourable effect? That being so, was it not the bounden duty of the Colonial Secretary, in the course of his negotiations, to avoid every cause of offence he possibly could? But what happened? The Colonial Secretary published and presented to Parliament an irritating despatch by Sir Alfred Milner—a most brilliant piece of writing, I admit, but a despatch of a most unusual kind, considered as a public document. It was a fresh cause of suspicion. Then the Colonial Secretary went down to 128 Highbury and made the famous speech so often alluded to in the debates of last October. But not only was that speech made; but the Prime Minister selected that time, the 28th July, to make a speech in another place, which, if it had been made in relation to any foreign Power in Europe would have been an adequate reason for the Ambassador of that Power to immediately ask for his passports. These grave and important facts are the reasons why we say that this war in which we are engaged could have been avoided. We are not here, as we are sometimes told in language most unfair, to appear as apologists of President Kruger, and to say that he has been always right and Her Majesty's Government always wrong. On the contrary, we have always said that President Kruger was an obstinate and unreasonable old man, who is animated by a bitter hatred of this country. Our whole case is that that being so it was the duty of the Colonial Secretary to do everything he could to avoid bringing matters to a crisis. And for this reason. It may sound an ungracious thing to calculate on the age of President Kruger. But one must look at all the facts. We know that he is 76 years of age; and we know that at the last election General Joubert nearly beat him for the Presidency. Did not common sense dictate that every conceivable effort should be made to stave off anything like a crisis until this obstinate and unreasonable old man had been removed to the House of Lords or elsewhere? Sir, exactly the opposite course was pursued, and the result was that a condition of things where war was possible and where I might even admit war was under certain circumstances probable, was converted into a state of things where war became practically a certainty. But at this point we are met by a new departure. Up to the end of October the Government was content to rest its case upon the fact that it had pursued the negotiations in a regular and orthodox way, and that owing to the circumstances of the moment—laid within a tolerably limited compass—war had unfortunately resulted. But since October—although I admit there is one indication of it in Sir Alfred Milner's despatch of the 5th May—a perfectly new explanation of the policy and conduct of the Government, and a new apology for the war, has suddenly 129 been launched on the country. We are told that the war could not have been avoided, and was absolutely inevitable, because of the gigantic preparations of the Transvaal for many years, and also because of a huge conspiracy not merely to maintain the independence of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, but actually to drive the English out of Cape Colony and out of Natal. I can only say that if the Government were in possession last October of information which really convinced them of the truth of these allegations, they ought to have put it fully before the House; they ought to have taken the House into their confidence; they ought to have seen that I the military preparations that they could make were, owing to the circumstances I pointed out in the earlier part of my speech, altogether beyond what was possible, notwithstanding the good organisation of the War Office—for the ordinary purposes of war; they ought, in that case, to have redoubled their energies to have avoided saying one single word which was likely to precipitate a conflict, because they knew that it would not be only a promenade across the Drakensberg, and so on to Pretoria, but that they were in danger of a movement of the Afrikander population in the whole of South Africa against us. As a matter of fact, these ideas were an afterthought, and even at this moment, although the First Lord of the Treasury has put them forward in public speeches at Manchester and elsewhere, and other members of the Government have followed suit—I venture to say that I am not satisfied, and that Members on this side of the House are not satisfied that there is anywhere any evidence of gigantic military preparations in the Transvaal before the raid. I have the evidence of the Blue Book to show that Sir Hercules Robinson wrote after the raid, and pointed out to the Colonial Secretary that the preparations of the Boers were, no doubt, very great, but that they were defensive preparations, and that they were the result of the suspicions caused by the raid. That is not my opinion, but that of the High Commissioner, Sir Hercules Robinson, afterwards Lord Rosmead. The opinion of a man like Sir Hercules Robinson—Lord Eosmead—who had lived the best part of his life in South Africa, and who knew the ropes as no other man did, 130 was of infinitely greater importance than that of Sir Alfred Milner. Then there is the great Afrikander conspiracy, of which I have great difficulty in speaking patiently. I do not believe in it. Where is the evidence of it? If you have any evidence give it to us, as it is to your interest to do so. The great Afrikander conspiracy is chiefly supported by the wild allegations of some society of which Mr. Cecil Rhodes is or was the president, and I think I am right in saying that in the course of the debate in October last it was stated by the Colonial Secretary that it would be unsafe to attach too great a reliance on their evidence. I cannot find where the evidence of this gigantic conspiracy is. I should have thought persons, and documents, and facts would be produced, but there is nothing of the kind. There is nothing in the world which drives the intellect into such unreasonable errors as the idea of a conspiracy. It is something upon which you cannot put your hand; everybody knows it, or says he does; it is here, there, and everywhere; at the door; under the table somebody has seen it, or if he has not seen it himself he knows of somebody who has; until in the end many believe that they have actually seen and heard things who would have to acknowledge, if pressed, that they had never seen or heard anything of the kind. We have seen how last year a neighbouring and friendly nation, which ought to have been superior to any such ideas, was driven almost mad by the idea of a great Jewish conspiracy. It was said that a large body of people in this country were in sympathy and alliance with it, and we know how absurd that was. But people in France believed it. We know from our own history how such a belief lays hold of people. Our own records show how in the reign of Charles II. wild imagination ascribed whatever murder was committed and whatever crime took place to a supposed popish plot, and large numbers of persons of all ranks of life were sent to the scaffold in consequence. I say the Government of the day ought to have been most careful before it based its policy on the belief of a great Afrikander conspiracy. How can you believe in the report of this great conspiracy in the face of the loyalty of the Dutch colonists in South Africa some years ago at the time of the Jubilee and the Colonial conference for federation and defence? 131 The Government are under the obligation now to make up their minds and say which of the two horses they intend to ride. Was the war inevitable or not? I do not believe that even the First Lord of the Treasury could make out that the two arguments work together. There are many aspects of this unfortunate war, and I wish that even when I have traced the origins as I have that I could leave it there. But I must say that the Government in my opinion have not acted wisely since the war began, or rather since it became certain it must take place, I am not going to indulge in military criticism, because, as I have said, I am not a military authority; but there was a time when I represented the Foreign Office in this House, and I may therefore perhaps be entitled to say a word on this aspect of the question. It appears to me that there has been a most lamentable fiasco in connection with the search and seizure of German ships, and I am anxious to have an opportunity of saying—and I think the hon. Gentleman representing the Foreign Office will support me—that no greater courtesy in diplomacy, no better example of the comity of nations could be found than the speech of Count von Bülow on the subject. It is necessary that something should be said in this House in view of the attacks that have been made by the newspapers on the language of Count von Bülow. It must be remembered that he was speaking to the German Parliament, to the German people, and when you bear in mind the position of extreme difficulty in which the Foreign Minister of Germany was in having to say nothing that would affront the Foreign Office of this country and still to satisfy the German people, the speech he made was one that redounds highly to his honour. There is another matter bearing on the relation of the Foreign Office to this question which seems to me to be open to criticism. There is one thing which I think the Foreign Office might have done to help the operations of war, and that was with regard to the issue of the proclamation to British subjects as to trading with the enemy. That was not issued as soon as it might have been. When, in 1861, there was a danger of a war with the United States, Lord Palmerston, took time by the forelock. I have a letter in my hand written by Lord Palmerston to 132 Lord Granville, on the 29th November, 1861, in which he said—Would it not be possible to have a Council to-morrow afternoon, if the Cabinet should on full consideration agree to a proclamation forbidding the export of arms, gunpowder, and saltpeter? I shall try to persuade them, for it is plain that war with the Northern Americans is possible, and if that is so, would it not be an act of folly, amounting to absolute imbecility, to let those who soon may be our enemies, and whom we believe intending to be so, go on extracting from our own warehouses and workshops the means of war against us? The right thing would be to prohibit the export altogether. Some of our merchants and manufacturers might suffer and complain; but the interest of the few must yield to the welfare of the many.They did not wait till the war had begun. If the proclamation had been issued it would have prevented large consignments of arms and munitions of war to the Transvaal which went from Birmingham and elsewhere shortly before war was declared. I am only speaking of facts.
§ LORD E. FITZMAURICE
I am saying that ammunition and stores found their way over to the Transvaal not merely from Germany and France but England as well. I am speaking of before the war, otherwise Lord Palmerston's letter would not be relevant. What I am accusing the Foreign Office of is negligence in not preventing before the war began the importation of arms into the Transvaal from this country. Of course if I am wrong in my dates and the right hon. Gentleman can show me that this proclamation was issued earlier, then my accusation falls to the ground, but if I am right in my dates there has been a lamentable waste of time. Only one other word: the right hon. Gentleman challenges us as to our views about this war. He tried, as he has done all along, to fasten upon us the imputation of want of patriotism, because we do not go the length of the Ministerial journals in saying that we shall never be satisfied, and will offer no terms whatever, until we have stamped out the Republics. I speak plainly when I say I distinctly refuse to give any such pledge. Diplomacy always must and always should go almost even handed with the progress of an army. It was so with the great 133 French Revolution. Mr. Pitt more than once sent Lord Malmesbury to France to negotiate during the war. During the Crimean War we had a conference at Vienna; that was while the war was going on; and it is the height of madness to lay down a hard and fast proposition that nothing will satisfy us until Bloemfontein and Pretoria are reduced. That is what the right hon. Gentleman says, but that is a matter which, I think, public opinion will have to consider. I venture to tell hon. Gentlemen opposite that there is a public opinion outside the Metropolis, and even if it be a fact that those who hold these opinions are a small minority, I find consolation in the reflection that in the long wars at the beginning of the century the cause of peace was advocated, though it was but by a small minority. They believed their cause just, and they stood by it, though their numbers fell low. I am convinced that these hot-headed doctrines are not the doctrines of Ministers, but of the London press and persons who do not propose to go to the front themselves. I believe at the right time the Government will not be afraid to let diplomacy find its place in our camps. Let the Government say, first of all, that all British territory must be cleared of the invaders, and the superiority of our arms asserted; but it is not necessary to say that the superiority of our arms can only be asserted by a great invasion and the final conquest of the two Republics. I implore the House to bear in mind the noble words of Lord Salisbury at the Mansion House when he declared that the war was not being waged by this country for the purpose of obtaining gold mines or for annexation of territory, as I understood him, and I hope correctly. Let the Government beware of doing anything by which it could be proclaimed that England, this free country, is the deadly enemy of the liberties of two small free States, and will only be satisfied with their destruction. Otherwise the gulf between the two sides of the House may grow wider than I believe it is now, and we might have to hurl back at you after many years the fierce quotation which Lord Cairns launched at us from his place in Parliament:In all the troubles which we ever bore,We grieved, we sighed, we wept; we never blushed before.134 I beg to move the Amendment of which I have given notice.
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 proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. DRAGE (Derby)
said it was not his intention to follow the noble Lord into all the topics of his speech. The question was whether the war was just. With regard to the so-called Dutch conspiracy, he desired to lay before the House information that had been sent over to him during the last few days from Cape Colony. With regard to the question of whether the war is just, the House was aware that there were four signatories to the London Convention, one of whom was Mr. Du Toit, and his view was entirely in favour of the view taken by the Government. It would be remembered that after the retrocession in 1881, when the whole of South Africa was practically in favour of annexation, Mr. Du Toit started alone the agitation which eventually led to the Government giving way. Not only so, but he afterwards came to Pretoria, and in 1889 was the close adviser of President Kruger and the organiser of the Afrikander Bond. Therefore both sides of the House would probably agree that the opinions of such a man were worthy of something more than passing attention. The hon. Member proceeded to say that it was in consequence of the manifesto of which extracts had been supplied to him that he became convinced that England was in the right and the Transvaal Government in the wrong. He referred to the utterances of Mr. Du Toit, and particularly to his remarkable statement that what the Transvaal fought for was not for independence, but the maintenance of injustice. That view was fully borne out by clergymen and Nonconformist ministers in South Africa. England, then, fought for the violated rights of Uitlanders, to whom she was responsible 135 under the Convention. She fought for the maintenance of her position as the paramount power in South Africa, against the Transvaal, which promised to respect that supremacy by Article 4 of the Convention, but now openly defied it. The Transvaal fought not for independence, for England had repeatedly offered to guaranthat, but for the maintenance of injustice and for the vindication of an oligarchy which had enriched itself at the expense of the country. Quotations could be given from speeches by ministers of the Church of England, and by Nonconformists resident in Johannesburg and in Cape Town, in support of this view. He did not know whether the House was prepared to listen to more than one or two extracts from the utterances of these gentlemen, but they went to the root of the whole controversy. The Rev. Mr. Fisher, for ten years a minister at the Cape, said—He believed from the bottom of his heart that the conflict was inevitable, unless we were prepared to abandon the colonists to the most ruthless oppression the world had ever seen.Again, the Natal Congregational Union, writing to the central body in England, said—Humanly speaking, the war was inevitable. The war now raging has long been pressed and prepared for by the Boers with a view to military and political dominion over the whole of South Africa, and the plea of fighting for independence has been but a blind to hide the real aim of the enormous military preparations of the Republics which begun years before the Jameson raid.The Rev. Charles Philip, Congregational minister at Johannesburg, said—All the ministers of the Free Churches believe the war was mere talk. A united Dutch Republic from the Zambesi to the Cape was the object, and the exclusion of the British from South Africa. The Boers have not only been preparing for the inevitable since the raid. The raid was largely the consequence of the preparations which preceded it. If any possibility of peace existed it lay in a united front being shown in the country. Unfortunately local writers were able to declare that England was divided in this matter, and that if the worst came to the worst the Liberal party or some foreign Government would prevent their independence being destroyed.This seemed to show what the leaders of religious thought in the Church of 136 England and among the Nonconformist body believed as to the attitude adopted by Her Majesty's Government. Another point in the speech of the noble Lord who moved the Amendment was the question of this so-called "conspiracy," which he (Mr. Drage) ventured to call an aspiration, or ambition, to oust the British from South Africa. There could be no doubt that there were a very large number of the Cape Dutch as loyal to the Throne as anyone; but from the time of Sir Bartle Frerc and onwards the despatches sent home spoke of a great national Dutch movement which was hostile to the Crown. Cape Colonists traced the beginning of this movement, oddly enough, to an Englishman sent out by the Colonial Office—to Mr. Froude. It was not to ancient history that one needed to go to find the cause of this Dutch aspiration for a great national want. There were some hon. Members who had studied the Nihilist movement in Russia, and the Socialist movement in Germany, the Mafia in Sicily, or the Carbonari in Italy, and they would know that a great national movement must have an economic basis; it must also have a religious sentiment connected with it, a political organisation to carry it forward, and lastly, a great military organisation with a military leader to take command. These conditions, with the exception of the last, had existed in South Africa. The hon. Member enumerated the economic grounds which played their part in leading up to the present conflict. He cited President Kruger himself as to the origin of the trouble; while there was also in this connection the emancipation of the blacks. He had it on the authority of the Rev. W. Fisher that, "in the Transvaal, whatever injury a black man sustained, he had no chance of redress. In Johannesburg the Kaffirs were whipped without any trial for walking on the pavement; and a black man is also prevented from owning land "The hon. Gentleman also referred to the labour question and the administration of the liquor laws which prevailed at the present moment in the Transvaal, and in conclusion emphasised his belief that, in the opinion of men who were best able to judge, the war in which we are engaged was one of which the national conscience approved, and that the result of it would be the re-organisation of our I military forces; military, as well 137 as colonial and foreign, questions would be raised above the purview of party politics; and, lastly, he could not help thinking that Her Majesty's Government in considering the nature of the sacrifices of the colonies, would see the need of consulting statesmen in Canada, Australia, and South Africa with regard to the future organisation of the forces of the Crown. He declared that the honour of England was at stake and that we could not withdraw now from the contest in which we are involved. There might be divisions on both sides of the House; but he ventured to hope that the discussion would be conducted free from party spirit and with the sole aim in view of the welfare of the country at large.
§ MR. ROBSON (South Shields)
I wish to make it perfectly clear, in supporting this Amendment, that I desire only to mark my sense of the inadequacy of the military preparations both before and since the war. I do not desire to cast the slightest reflection on the justice of our cause in South Africa or on the way in which, all things considered, that cause has been handled by Her Majesty's Government. There may be differences of opinion in regard to the skill with which the Government conducted the negotiations which preceded the war; but that question is a very minor question indeed compared with the supreme question of whether or not we are fighting a just cause. Some of my hon. friends have treated the war as unjust, or at all events they have created the impression that the cause for which we are fighting is in their view an inadequate and trivial cause. That is a very serious view to put before the country at a crisis like this. I do not believe for one moment that it is too late to discuss a question of this kind. I think it is important that the education of the people with regard to the issues of this war should be continued day by day. I do not believe that this country can ever carry on a great war with a bad conscience, and, as the country is now to be called upon to make a great and prolonged effort in regard to the war, that call can only be made successfully if we are able to put our claim on the ground of right. I have noticed with alarm the action taken by my right hon. friend the Member for Montrose, for there is no statesman whose moral judgment I more 138 profoundly respect. By ignoring the real issues of this war; by magnifying to an extraordinary degree the mischief which may have been done by financiers who have always mixed themselves up in every great struggle since the world began; by dint of these things, the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in casting around the origin of this war a vain suspicion or suggestion which has made many people believe that the war is unjust. If these are facts, then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose and hon. Members who agree with him are justified in their action; but if they are not facts, and they are wrong, as I contend they are, then it would be impossible for any body of men to do this country a graver disservice. The attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose is the most singular of all. I do not gather that he denies the justice of this war, but he tells us that the questions at issue between the Boer Government and Uitlanders are not worth the bones of one of his constituents. That is rather a striking utterance to come from a statesman who recommended us not long ago to insist upon a five years franchise. That scarcely seems a consistent attitude to adopt for something which is not worth the bones of a single Scotsman. The right hon. Gentleman might also have thought of what must have been the feelings in what he himself has so eloquently described as "the stricken homes of England" when they are told that the cause for which their sons and brothers are fighting is a trivial cause, and that their blood has been wasted. If the right hon. Gentleman is right in his facts there is nothing more to be said, for I for one detest the jingoism which puts patriotism above the moral law. But what is the case which the right hon. Gentleman thinks inadequate? It is admitted to be the cause of political liberty for the majority of the inhabitants of the Transvaal. It is the cause of political liberty in a new country as big as France, which is open not only as a moral right but by solemn treaties to all new comers. It is the cause of racial equality, of education, of municipal government, of a free press, of public meeting, and of every right which makes men free—and that is the cause which we are told is not worth the bones of a single Scotsman. I do not wonder 139 at the opinion he expresses when one goes further on in his speech and sees the supposed fact on which he bases his view. He says that whatever the grievances of the Uitlanders may have been nine-tenths of them would have been redressed by the franchise offered by the Boer Government. In regard to this, I hope my right hon. friend will forgive me if I use plain language, for his contention is not merely wrong, but it is absolutely and hopelessly ridiculous. Now what is the right hon. Gentleman's ground for this contention? I hope that in this House he will attempt to establish the statement which he has put before the country, for I challenge him to show a single concession, great or small, put forward by the Transvaal Government during these negotiations that was either worthy of unconditional acceptance or capable of unconditional acceptance. I suppose he referred to the so-called concessions with regard to the franchise. On this subject a most singular misapprehension has arisen which I had hoped might by this time have been removed, namely, that there was only a difference between us and the Transvaal Government merely of two years in the franchise. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin has himself frequently laid stress upon this point. Now, from what is it that this misconception arises? Before the Transvaal Franchise Act was passed at all, the Colonial Secretary was informed—some weeks before that there was to be a seven years retrospective franchise. At that time the Act was undergoing daily many changes, and it appears that in his anxiety to come to some agreement with Mr. Kruger, the Colonial Secretary hastened to rejoice that on the basis of this promise there was merely two years between himself and Mr. Kruger. But when he made that statement the Act had not passed, and he had not seen it, and the right hon. Gentleman's statement was made not in reference to a performance, but in regard to a promise. Ever since that time that phrase of his has been bandied about on platforms, it has been echoed and re-echoed in the press, and it is stated that the only difference about which we are fighting is a difference of two years in the franchise. I think it is quite time that this statement ceased circulation. Now what is the fact about the franchise? Of course, 140 what we were demanding was a general franchise for the Uitlanders, and that was what the Colonial Secretary hoped he was going to get. But the Act passed was in no sense what was expected, and was not intended to be a general franchise Act for the Uitlanders, for it was simply an Act enabling the Boer officials, with the consent of their superiors, in certain rather remarkable and almost impossible cases, to give the franchise to such Uitlanders as they might happen to be personally satisfied with. The Act is one long series of complicated provisions, all of which show two distinct and real objects on the part of the draftsman—the first is to make it impossible for any Uitlander to have a direct right to the franchise, and the second object is to make it possible for any official to exercise his discretion in giving the franchise to a Uitlander It may be supposed that I have given a picturesque view of the Act, but the criticism which I give has been confirmed by two men who, of all men in the world, are the most competent to judge—I allude to Mr. Kruger and Mr. Reitz. Since I ventured to express my view as to the provisions of this Act, I have had forwarded to me a copy of a Transvaal paper dated the 13th of May, 1899, and that was the very time at which Mr. Kruger was framing his proposals for the Bloemfontein Conference. In that paper Mr. Kruger assures his burghers that they are quite wrong in supposing that he proposed to give the Uitlanders a general franchise, for he says, "No threats will induce me to give a general franchise to the Uitlanders." Mr. Reitz has also made a statement to a similar effect, for he has referred to the practical impossibility of giving a general franchise to the Uitlanders. That disposes of the argument that the Transvaal Government had given us a substantial concession by the Franchise Act. As long as they conferred on their officials the right to give the franchise where they thought fit, that was not a concession to the Uitlanders in the Transvaal. I do not want to take up the time of the House by going into the various diplomatic stages of the negotiations, but let me ask the House to consider these statements in the light of the subsequent offer of a five years franchise, about which we hear so much. The five years franchise was offered as an alternative to any inquiry into the seven years 141 franchise. The five years franchise was offered, but when it was put forward the Colonial Secretary, who is accused of having accepted it in ambiguous terms, at once met it with a qualified acceptance, and suggested that England and the Transvaal should sit down together and join in an inquiry, and endeavour to arrange the terms or conditions which should attach to the franchise, because the conditions were everything and the period named was unimportant. If you make certain conditions it matters not whether the qualifying period is one year or ten. Mr. Kruger had no great objection to offer to the five years franchise, but when the conditions which would attach to the acquisition of the franchise were stated in the next despatch the five years franchise was dropped. Can it ever have been intended to be accepted, and is there any reason to believe that the five years franchise would have been different to the seven years franchise, which Mr. Kruger himself admitted was not a general Franchise Act at all? I venture to say that the five years franchise was a delusive offer never intended to be accepted in any substantial sense, and we can pretty well guess now what was intended, for it gave the Boers time to complete their military preparations. While my right hon. friend the Member for Montrose was talking about his eight-day clock, and the Colonial Secretary about his hour-glass, Mr. Kruger had his eye on the barometer, and he was waiting for the proper season to begin his operations. So much for the statement that any substantial concessions have been offered to us by the Transvaal. There is another difficulty, and I hope the House will bear with me while I deal with it, because it seems to me to be at the root of this trouble. The question is asked why we have any right to insist upon any franchise at all for the Uitlanders. It seems to be assumed that these unfortunate Uitlanders are a sort of aliens with no right to share in the Government under which they live, and with no claim to protection. I have heard them continually compared to aliens, but there could not be a more patent misconception of the facts. An alien has no right of entry or residence in the country to which he goes; he may live there and trade there, but he does so only on precarious administrative promises, which may be revoked at any 142 moment. What is the position of the Uitlander? He is in the Transvaal by a right as valid, both from the legal and the moral point of view, as any Boer in the place.
§ MR. ROBSON
That is exactly what I am dealing with. An alien has no right in respect of commerce and trade, but the Uitlander has, for he is a lawful inhabitant of the Transvaal, and that is by no means the same state as that of the alien. Let it be remembered that, so far as regards the settlement of the Transvaal and the development of the trade and commerce of the Transvaal, Boers and Britons have absolutely equal rights. Now we have the Uitlander there in the position of an unenfranchised inhabitant. What is the position of Boer and Briton there? The Boors claim to be there by right of conquest, and the Uitlanders claim to be there by right of Convention, and that is a title not worse than conquest from a legal point of view, and if anything rather better than conquest from a moral point of view. I am quite content to put my argument as to the rights of the Uitlanders under the Convention of 1881 on one side, and put my case on the broadest possible basis under the Convention of 1884. That Convention at all events puts the Uitlander, as I have stated before, in the position of an unenfranchised inhabitant of a new country. Let me ask the House to consider the Boers as being the original settlers and conquerors of a new country. It is very misleading indeed to draw parallels between newer countries. What would be said if in any other of the new countries of the world the original settlers and conquerors pursued the same policy as that which has been pursued by the Boers? What would happen, for instance, in America? Suppose that in America they decided that all emigrants into their country or only the Germans should go there as a subject race, that they should not have the franchise, that the German Government should not interfere, and that the Germans should have no claim to interference on their behalf, and that the right of public meet- 143 ing, free press, and many other matters were to be under the guardianship of the original inhabitants of the country. What would be said of that state of things? Suppose my right hon. friend the Member for Montrose recommended patience to these outraged people. That is not the view which the Germans would take. Obviously the true principle is that if settlers choose to go into a new country and appropriate as much of the area as they like, allowing for the expansion of their own race, they have a right to choose whatever government they like; bat if they go into a new tract of the earth's surface and take a portion as big as France which they know they can never develop themselves, but which they allow to be developed by other races, then I say they have no right to keep that country, and they cannot claim to keep it as a right except upon the terms that they should govern it in ways consistent with modern civilisation. It seems to me ludicrous that the Boers should claim the right to invite other races there and treat them as subject races. Of course due allowance should be made for the rapidity of development and growth of population, especially in the Transvaal. That is an allowance which everybody acknowledges ought to be made. I ask again for fair consideration of this question. Could any proposal be more moderate or any suggestion more reasonable than the proposal of the Colonial Secretary that we should take only eight Members out of a Parliament of thirty-two, although in proportion we were entitled to equality? In our adjacent colonies we gave all the inhabitants equality, and yet in the Transvaal we have never asked for it. All we have asked for is a locus standi for the majority of the lawful inhabitants of the Transvaal. I venture to say that the demand put forward by this country was a reasonable demand based on just principles. There has never been from the beginning of the time named in this Amendment down to now a single demand put forward to the Transvaal which could be said in any way to menace its independence. The Boers may have suspicions, but we cannot prevent that. We were careful in 1896 to put forward demands which should not interfere even with their franchise. The Colonial Secretary then appeared as the champion of a new Home Rule. That was refused. If all 144 the Boers had wanted was liberty for themselves they would have welcomed that Home Rule solution offered by the Colonial Secretary. By refusing it they showed clearly that what they wanted was not liberty for themselves, but dominion over us. The history of the last thirty years has been marked by all sorts of aggressive movements beyond their boundaries by the Boers, all of which were breaches of the Convention. In 1891 there was organised a raid on a warlike basis with far more men than Dr. Jameson had, the object being to appropriate the country of the Chartered Company to the north. Who can doubt that President Kruger know of that raid? We have heard a great deal of the alleged complicity of the Colonial Secretary in the Jameson raid, but does anybody doubt the complicity of President Kruger in the raid of 1891, when the Boers went to the borders of the territory of the Chartered Company, and were met—by whom? By Dr. Jameson. It was not until they were told that they would be opposed by forces not merely of the Chartered Company—which they were prepared to resist and overcome—but by the forces of Her Majesty the Queen, that they want back. It is well to remember that episode when we hear so much righteous indignation expressed as to the Jameson raid. If there was one person who at all events had no right to complain of the Jameson raid it was Mr. Kruger, because so far as he and his Government were concerned the raid was an act of not unnatural retaliation. We are told that the Transvaal is armed merely because of the Jameson raid. Can it be believed that, raid or no raid, if the Transvaal Government had made up its mind not to enfranchise the majority of its population, that sooner or later there would not have been either revolution or war? The arming of the Transvaal would not have been a gun loss if there had been no raid, always provided that they had made up their mind not to alter the existing political situation, which depended on great inequality between the two races. The moment the Transvaal Government came to the conclusion that they would support the system they must have known there would be war—raid or no raid. But the Boers knew more than that. In addition to knowing that support of the existing system involved rebellion or war, 145 they also knew that they could not treat the English as a disfranchised and subject race in one part of South Africa without destroying the power of England over the whole of South Africa. Therefore, they knew that if they were to maintain their system of race government they must strike for a wider supremacy, and they got ready for it. We did not, and that is why I am going to vote for this Amendment. Instead of getting ready for the war we preferred the policy of the right hon. Member for Montrose, and wasted year after year in a policy of unwise and futile Conventions. The Boers, however, knew better. There is no occasion to imagine the kind of dramatic underground conspiracy which has been described by the noble Lord; there is not the slightest occasion to suppose, a necessity for any such conspiracy. The necessities of the situation were too palpable, they needed no secret propaganda. Every Dutchman in South Africa must have known those necessities as I have ventured to state them to-night—viz., that as they were determined not to extend political equality to the English in the Transvaal, there must be war; and it must be a war which would settle not merely the Transvaal question, but also the question of the supremacy in South Africa. "Independence" is the formula of the Afrikander Bond for the exclusion of England from all internal affairs in South Africa. "Independence" is the formula of President Kruger for the exclusion of the English from political liberty in the Transvaal. There is no occasion for conspiracy; each understands the other perfectly well. This policy, so far from being a conspiracy, is the avowed object and the inevitable preliminary of the war. When every other argument has failed, we have references to the "trail of finance" over the whole business. I would ask my hon. friends to try to get the true measure of the financial aspect of this question. What political revolution has there ever been in which finance in one form or another has not played an important and predominant part? Men do not make revolutions for academical or philosophical reasons; they make revolutions for material reasons, they make revolutions for £ s. d. But behind every one of those financial questions stands the great principle of human liberty and 146 human freedom. What are the financial grievances in the Transvaal? I myself care nothing for mere financial reasons—as far as I am concerned I have not and have never had the remotest interest in the world with them—and they are only important according to my view as indicating the absence of political equality. In every revolution, although principles of liberty are at stake, it is ultimately some small question of finance which occasions the outbreak. Do not let it be supposed that because there is in this, as in every other revolution, a financial element, therefore there is not present in it also that element which we all respect and regard, viz., the great question of human liberty and human freedom. The importance of the present conflict lies in the fact that the future of the Great South African nation is at stake. There is no sort of gain possible to England from the conflict. We may lose much, while at best we can but establish another Free State in the Transvaal. But what does it mean to South Africa? The question for South Africa is whether the millions of men who will one day inhabit that great territory should work together in harmony and co-operate as members of equal races, or whether there should be a new nation unlike all the other now nations of the world—a new nation with a great part of its population disfranchised, and without political liberty, in which the majority are subject to the tyranny of race. I desire, at all events, to make it clear that I support this Amendment on the ground that there has been undoubtedly a lack of care and an insufficient degree of preparation, both before the war and in the conduct, of military preparations since the war began. At all events, as far as I am concerned, I will not have it supposed that I charge the Government with having plunged this country into a war which is either unjust or which could reasonably have been avoided.
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL (Hertfordshire, Hertford)
I must express considerable surprise at the form in which the Amendment has been moved, and I do not see much practical force in most of the charges which the noble Lord has brought against the Government. Virtually he endeavours to crucify the Government upon the 147 horns of this dilemma: either it is true the war was inevitable, or it is true the war was not inevitable. The noble Lord, if I may say so, is too logical. You can very well argue now that it is true that war was inevitable or that it was not, but you could not before war was declared expect the Government to say that war was or was not inevitable. The most the Government could say was that they hoped war would be avoided. If they had taken up the position that war could be avoided I suppose they would not have made the proper preparations. The noble Lord also seemed to take it for granted that if anything happened to President Kruger, who is 76 years of age, most of these troubles would be avoided and the Government be able to tide over negotiations until they completely disappeared. That is not at all a position which can be taken up. There are other President Krugers to follow; especially there is Mr. Reitz, who is an accurate representative in every respect of President Kruger's intentions and wishes. Those intentions are easily judged now by the light of events, but they have been fairly obvious since the year 1881. President Kruger has never intended that the Uitlanders should be in the same position as regards the franchise as his own burghers. On the contrary, he was determined to preserve special privileges to his burghers which were not to be enjoyed by Uitlanders. He went so far as to tell me that he did not see why people who came into the country at a time subsequent to its original start should be allowed to swamp the original burghers who were there. I humbly suggested that it was perfectly reasonable that educated men when they had resided a sufficient time in the country should have the franchise, and that they should be treated as they would be treated by every civilised Government. But that was not the view of the President, and I am convinced that under no circumstances would he have given the franchise in the way the British Government justly demanded it. Equally I think it was his intention to undermine by degrees the supremacy of Great Britain. For many years past he has been striving to work in such a way as gradually to sap the power and influence of England throughout South Africa. There is no doubt now what was his intention. It was unmasked by Mr. Reitz when he stated in the despatch of 148 last May that the Transvaal claimed to be a sovereign international State. That was the issue he evidently had in his mind, but it was one which from his point of view he put forward rather sooner than perhaps was wise. But when he had put it forward he saw his mistake, and endeavoured to brush it aside by suggesting that if the discussion of the Transvaal's position was likely to prevent a peaceful issue of the negotiations it had better be put aside altogether. That was not a position which this country could have tolerated for one moment, and it cannot be too often remembered that at that time this country was supported by the whole of Europe in its contention, because when the Transvaal desired to be represented at the Peace Conference at Brussels as an independent State this country protested, and the Powers of Europe said that the Transvaal could not be admitted. But President Kruger has for years past been endeavouring to encroach upon the territory of England. We all know the Zulu War was largely undertaken to save the Transvaal from disturbances; but nevertheless, directly the war was at an end and there was a question of the resettlement of territory, we found President Kruger and his adherents laying the foundations of a new Republic in a corner of Zululand which they had succeeded in annexing. The same was the case in regard to the Stellaland raids. The Convention of 1884 laid down specific boundaries of the Transvaal; these boundaries did not include the districts in Stellaland. That Convention was signed on February 27th, 1884, and in the spring of that year a British Commissioner was sent to Stella-land, and a British Protectorate was proclaimed. In the summer of that year disturbances occurred n connection with the native chiefs, and on the 10th December President Kruger—as he explained, in the interests of humanity—proclaimed that those territories were part of the Transvaal. This was practically, if not actually, a breach of the Convention which had just been signed, and it shows the spirit which has animated President Kruger throughout these negotiations. We can trace the same spirit in the perpetual and systematic way in which the President has been arming of recent years. It is idle to say that the importations of arms were merely for defensive purposes, and that 149 there was no hostile intention as far as this country was concerned. It is now pretty common knowledge, whatever it may have been previously, that the Portuguese Customs in Delagoa Bay will certify that at least 200,000 rifles were imported through that port to the Transvaal during the last three years. That figure is the more remarkable when we remember that just before the war President Kruger himself stated that the whole number of his fighting burghers amounted to about 30,000. Even allowing for over 15,000 from the Orange Free State there was an enormous margin left out of these 200,000. What were they for? Allow two rifles to each man, and there is still a gigantic margin. I do not believe it is unfair to suggest that that margin was intended for providing with rifles the Dutchmen of Cape Colony, whom President Kruger hoped he would have to support him. That goes far to show that, however the negotiations were conducted, war would not have been avoided. Various fallacies have been put forward in this debate and on other occasions by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I think an early opportunity should be taken to comment upon them and expose the mistakes. One of the chief fallacies we have heard on recent occasions has been that of the right hon. Member for Montrose—that this is merely a capitalists' struggle. I can assure him that this is by no means a capitalists' struggle. It is a mistake to suppose that all the Jewish capitalists are on one side and all the people oppressed by capitalists on the other. There are Jewish and other capitalists who are strongly concerned with the opposite side. There are Jewish capitalists who are holders of many concessions from the Transvaal Government, and whose personal interest it is to maintain the corrupt system of that Government. We are also told by the Leader of the Opposition that the Government ought to have known last summer that the Free State would join with, the Transvaal if a war broke out. I demur to that very much. The reason the Free State joined the Transvaal is a very simple one. It is simply the race feeling. I remember perfectly well hearing the right hon. Gentleman the Loader of the Opposition denying altogether in this House that any race feeling existed in South Africa. That being so, he certainly was not at the time in 150 possession of the real reason why the Free State has joined the Transvaal, and I do not think he then could have been brought to the conclusion which he now says should have been arrived at. Then much is said by hon. Gentlemen opposite about the loyalty of the Afrikanders. Some members of the Afrikander Bond certainly were loyal to the Government of the Queen, and felt strongly that although they were British South Africans they were also British citizens, but, nevertheless, the Afrikander Bond was the link which connected the loyal Cape Dutch with disloyal conspirators, and I am sorry to say that the loyal Cape Dutch have not been able to see their way to resist the influence brought to bear on them. We have discussed this Amendment mainly with regard to the past negotiations and past policy of the Government. We have still to discuss subjects which are intimately connected with our troops. When the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that the number of our troops was ludicrously insufficient it crossed my mind that he had been speaking a great deal about ex post facto opinion, and I wondered whether that was not an ex post facto opinion of his own. It certainly has that appearance, because he used no expression last summer to suggest that he thought the number of troops was hopelessly insufficient. He certainly gave no indication then that would enable me to praise his opinion now as one of foresight. Then we have to remember that this war is being carried on at a distance of 6,000 miles from the base, and is in that respect unprecedented in the history of the world. It is not an easy matter to send troops to fight 6,000 miles away and to keep up an adequate commissariat supply. That is a question which ought to be strongly borne in mind when the action of the Government is so glibly condemned. In the great national crisis in which we stand it is important to know what is the approximate strength of the Boers, and I have it from a Boer source, which I think I can reasonably trust, that the number of their troops in the field at the present moment ranges between 70,000 and 80,000, of whom 30,000 are surrounding Ladysmith. That is a considerable force for us to cope with, and I think, whoever may have underestimated the real strength of the Boers, 151 we should lose no time now. I believe that the country is ready and willing to vote an adequate number of men to bring this war to a successful conclusion. If 50,000 or 100,000 more men are required, I am sure the country will gladly provide them without the smallest demur, and I believe the Government would be acting in the most popular way if it promptly determined to send out a large additional number of troops to reinforce our army in Natal and Cape Colony. The country does not wish to spare either men or money, and it will gladly support in the magnificent manner it has hitherto shown any proposition put forward in this sense. I should like to say a few words as to the immense value of the colonial troops from all parts of the Empire. Colonial troops are, I believe, very well fitted for the special kind of warfare required in South Africa. But most of all I should like to pay a tribute to the troops who have volunteered in South Africa itself, such as the Imperial Light Horse, the South African Light Horse, and similar bodies, for the great services they have rendered and are rendering. The knowledge of the country which they possess and the keenness they show are most valuable, and the number of men still ready to enlist to tight the battles of the Empire reflects very great credit on the colony and shows the unity of our Empire. I trust that whatever is done in the prosecution of the war will be done with the object of bringing it to no other termination than the annexation of the two Republics. I believe that is the only solution which is likely in any degree to soothe the unfortunate state of the disaffected countries. Certainly they will not be soothed by the re-establishment of the corrupt system of administration which existed in the Transvaal. If that system is re-instituted you will find in another generation even greater bitterness aroused by the unequal treatment of the Uitlanders. Nothing short of an administration which will institute equal rights all round with a fair measure of self government is likely to soothe South Africa. That will do credit to our administration and maintain the dignity of the Empire and the cause of freedom.
§ MR. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
It is impossible, during the few minutes that remain before the adjournment, to 152 enter fully into the questions which the Amendment raises. I, therefore, merely desire to express the concurrence which I feel with the remarks which have fallen from speakers on both sides of the House with, regard to the sympathy felt with the troops fighting the battles of the country in South Africa. There are some matters, no doubt, in connection with this campaign on which we all are at one. We are at one with regard to the feeling of sympathy with our troops; we are at one also with the view that the ultimatum of President Kruger made war inevitable, whatever was the case before. But, apart from one or two questions of that kind in which we all concur there is ample room for difference with regard to details, and the Amendment which has been moved concentrates and focusses as far as possible those differences of opinion which the House of Commons is not only entitled but bound to inquire into. If the object of the House to-night were to investigate the whole of the questions alike of tactics, strategy, and politics arising during the course of the last five years there would be very little time left to investigate them. In my opinion some of these matters ought clearly to be excluded from an inquiry of this kind. For instance, on the subject of tactics this House is bound to be silent. In the first place, tactics can only be judged after full knowledge obtained on the spot. To criticise generals on the field with regard to one particular battle is not only a very invidious task, and one in which it is easy to be misled, but in addition it is one which it is only possible for experts after full investigation of maps, which are not obtainable here, to deal with at all fully. Therefore, if tactics were to come before the purview of an inquiry in this House, the inquiry should be strictly limited. Then again with regard to strategy, there is a strong prima facie case for inquiry, but the matter is so much one for experts that it is almost impossible to deal with it in connection with this 153 Amendment. And yet in regard to it there is considerable difficulty in separating questions of strategy from questions of policy. For instance, it was on a question of policy rather than of strategy that Sir George White's plan was altered to a very considerable extent. He was not in favour of holding Dundee and Glencoe, but he was induced by the Governor of Natal to hold these advanced posts in spite of the danger to which it might give rise. In connection with that matter, it will be desirable to press the right hon. Gentleman further than he has been pressed to-night. He told us that the Government in this country had not brought any influence, direct or indirect, to bear on any general in the field with regard to the conduct of the campaign, and he pointed out with reference to Dundee and Glencoe, that the Governor of Natal gave the advice he did on the advice of his own Ministers, and without consultation with Ministers in this country. The Governor of Natal is, after all, a representative of the Crown, and is directly responsible to the Colonial Secretary. Therefore, it is impossible to throw the blame on Ministers in Natal, because the Governor was not bound to act on their advice until authorised or counselled to do so by the Colonial Secretary, and manifestly it was his duty to have communicated on a point of such great importance with the Colonial Secretary, If that applied to Dundee and Glencoe, surely the same set of considerations applied also to the holding of Ladysmith, and to the diversion of troops from Cape Colony into Natal for the purpose of rescuing that town. We are given to understand that the Government of this country brought no pressure to bear on the generals. I quite accept that, but what we wish to know is whether some advice was not given by Sir Alfred Milner to the effect that very serious moral results would be produced if Kimberley and Ladysmith were not rescued, and unless we are satisfied that persons holding positions of civil authority in South Africa did not give advice of that kind we shall still be of opinion, after what has transpired in the despatches of Sir George White and also from information derived from other quarters that a certain amount of pressure was brought to bear on the generals which induced them to alter the original plan of campaign, which was to press forward 154 due north from Cape Colony into the Orange Free State, and in that way to indirectly relieve the garrisons of Ladysmith and Kimberley without dividing their forces into subordinate expeditions. Those are matters with regard to which it seems to me some further explanation will have to be given. They are to some extent questions of strategy, but they are also in part questions of policy, and it seems to me impossible that we should altogether ignore them in view of the valuable lives which are at stake, and which have been lost owing to the errors which are now almost universally admitted to have been committed. Passing from questions of tactics and strategy, and also from questions on the border line between strategy and policy and coming to questions of policy itself, it seems to me that there have been a great many points dealt with in the course of this debate which will have to be dealt with more fully. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields supported this Amendment, though on somewhat curious grounds. He drew a very elaborate and fine distinction between an alien and an unenfranchised inhabitant. I am bound to say, as far as I have been able to follow his argument, that its logical conclusion appears to be that the Uitlander in the Transvaal who had not the franchise was like Mahomet's coffin—between heaven and earth. He was not a citizen of the Transvaal, and he had lost the citizenship of his own country. That would be the logical consequence of the very anomalous condition of an unenfranchised inhabitant of the Transvaal. In that connection one must recognise that in the stops which were taken to secure the just claims of the Uitlanders the ground taken was not simply that they were without the franchise, but that on account of the Convention of 1884 and also by virtue of certain principles of international law they were entitled to certain rights of which they were unjustly deprived. That ground having been taken, it was surely impossible to suppose that the Uitlanders occupied the very anomalous position attributed to them by the hon. and learned Member. With regard to the questions of policy which were embodied in what is known as Sir Alfred Milner's Policy No. 1, it seems to me we cannot justly find fault with steps having been taken by the Government to secure that the Uitlanders should 155 obtain the franchise, and for two reasons. First of all because when Lord Ripon was at the Colonial Office he took steps by amicable, friendly, and diplomatic means to secure that the franchise should be extended, and in the next place on general grounds it is obviously in accordance with the principles of freedom that every effort should be made to secure equality. But what we object to is the particular methods by which those steps were taken, the particular methods of diplomacy by which it was attempted to carry these principles into practice. If the Government had acted in regard to Policy No. 1 on the lines laid down by previous Governments—on the principle on which Lord Ripon tried to carry it into effect—no serious objection could be offered, but what was objectionable was that the refusal of the conditions involved in Policy No. 1 should practically have been made the subject of a casus belli. Where a casus belli might arise would be any disregard on the part of the Government of the Transvaal of the Convention of 1884, or else any injury done to British rights in defiance of the principles of international law. But Policy No. 1, as put forward by Sir Alfred Milner, did not involve any direct violation of the Convention of 1884, but it attempted to secure for the Uitlanders something over and above what was recognised by that Convention, and it was not an attempt to redress some particular injury or wrong suffered by British subjects in defiance of the principles of international law. If it had been one or other then its rejection might have constituted a casus belli. As regards Policy No. 2 put forward by the Government at a later date, as a matter of fact it was never formulated, and never had any form or shape. It meant that particular wrongs or injuries suffered by British subjects in defiance of known principles of international law should be tabulated in a form intelligible to the people of this country and to the people of Europe. If the Government had taken that line at an earlier date it would not only have the effect of enlightening to a great extent public opinion in this country as to the exact state of 156 things, but would also have the effect of removing many misunderstandings which prevail in Europe, and which have emphasised the very artful manner in which the representatives of the Boer Republic in Europe have manipulated the opinions of the European press. If that policy had been put forward as a definite form misunderstanding would have been removed and we should not have arrayed against us the weight of moral opinion which though it may not have any particular effect on the progress of the struggle now being carried on in South Africa nevertheless acts as a moral help to the Boers, and also as a possible reserve of strength to them in view of possible complications that might ensue from the war. If Policy No. 2 had been put forward at an earlier stage in a clear and definite form it would not only have the effect of setting the Government right in the opinion of many in this country who were not able to consider Policy No. 1 as right in accordance with the principles of international law and the Convention of 1884, but it would also have the effect of making opinion in Europe less hostile to us than it actually has been during the course of this campaign. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House in his speech referred to the conditions, and the only conditions, on which it would be possible for peace to be concluded, and on that point he tried to elicit the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition, and while endeavouring to elicit that opinion he appeared to be very careful not to give any opinion himself as to when those conditions would arise. The Leader of the Opposition laid down firstly that it would be necessary to bring to an end the invasion of British territory; secondly, that the war should be crowned for the British arms; and thirdly, that the paramountcy of the Crown in South Africa must be maintained unimpaired.
§ It being midnight, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow.
§ Adjourned at one minute after Twelve o'clock.