§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [30th January] to Question [30th January], "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—
§ Most Gracious Sovereign—
§ We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Captain Pretyman.)
And which Amendment was, "At the end of the Question, to add the words—
'But we humbly express our regret at the want of knowledge, foresight, and judgment displayed by Your Majesty's advisers, alike in their conduct of South African affairs since 1895 and in their preparations for the war now proceeding.'"—(Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice.)
§ Question again proposed,—"That those words be there added."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
Last night when the debate was interrupted under the rules of the House I was 165 endeavouring to lay before it certain propositions which, with permission, I will recapitulate in two or three sentences. The first was that there were certain portions of the subject raised by the Speech which were necessarily excluded from this debate. One of them was the question of tactics, and the other was that of strategy, and to these reference could only be made under certain limitations. For instance, on the question of tactics, the conduct of a particular battle depended to a certain extent on the resources which were at the command of the general—resources in the shape of men and ammunition. Those resources in their turn depended on the organisation at headquarters, and such limitations must therefore be taken into account. Again, in regard to strategy and the conduct of a campaign, certain limitations must also be observed. We have an instance of that in the case of the occupation of Dundee and Glencoe in spite of the fact that the military judgment of Sir George White was against the retention of those two places. That matter has already been slightly touched upon, but I hope that in the course of this debate we shall get a definite answer to the question whether the civil authorities in Natal and Cape Colony had exercised on other generals in command pressure analogous to that which they brought to bear on Sir George White in regard to Dundee and Glencoe. The right hon. Gentleman has certainly given a definite and specific answer in reference to those two places; but does it not naturally occur to him that if it were possible for Sir Hely Hutchinson to exercise pressure in regard to those two particular cases it would also be possible for other civil authorities at the Cape, not themselves military men, to exercise similar pressure with regard to Ladysmith and Kimberley?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (MR. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I have no reason to think so.
§ MR. STEVENSON
It is well known that military opinion was originally in favour of sending an army northwards into the Orange Free State for the purpose of advancing into the Transvaal. Why was that plan of campaign departed from? Whose influence was it that caused the departure? Was 166 the departure made at the direct instigation of the Government of this country, or indirectly through its accredited agents at the Cape? I think we are entitled to know that, for in the view of many the carrying out of such a plan of campaign would indirectly have effected the relief of Ladysmith and Kimberley, while it would also have carried the war into the enemy's country. Still, apart from these limitations regarding tactics and strategy, there are various other subjects which properly come within the purview of the debate. There are the questions of administration and of policy. These are a little difficult to disentangle one from the other. On the Government side during the past few weeks there have undoubtedly appeared to be two distinct tendencies of opinion—one which looked upon the war as inevitable, and the other which considered that it might have been avoided. Those who looked upon the war as having been inevitable were inclined to put the whole blame on the administration of it, and that subject is of course not excluded from the present debate; while those who did not hold that it was inevitable preferred to think that the policy was to blame. A similar difference of opinion presented itself in the course of the debate last night. On the question of policy there are two points to which the attention of the House should be directed, the policy put forward by Sir Alfred Milner and the policy put forward by the Colonial Secretary in 1896, with regard to the separate treatment of the Rand. We should like to know why the proposals put forward by the Colonial Secretary were allowed to be dropped after the small rebuff he received and were not brought forward in another form. I venture to think that the main object the Government should have in view, having regard to the unsettled condition of things in South Africa and apart from the war being inevitable or not, should be to make such an impression on the public opinion of Europe as to render that opinion not hostile, as it is now, but favourable to us. Now the only way to have done that would have been to act in strict accordance with international law, and you would have done that if you had based your case on any distinct or specific violation of the Convention of 1884 or the special rules of international law. But another question that was raised by 167 Sir Alfred Milner was the question of the franchise. That was a perfectly praiseworthy effort, but surely it was one for friendly arrangement and not one which should have been a casus belli in the last resort. If you base your case on international law you must do it within strict limits. Any violation of the Convention of 1884 would have given the Government not only reasonable excuses for, but a just right of intervention, and if there were particular wrongs under which British subjects were labouring they were not only a fair matter for diplomatic representations, but might in the last resort have furnished a valid reason for action of a more serious character. But it seems to me that the Government have injured the British case in the eyes of Europe by not taking the strongest line upon which they can base their claim. As it is they have not done justice to their case, because instead of basing their claim on what was covered by policy No. 2 they attracted the concentrated attention of the public throughout the world on the particular points of policy No. 1, and that is where the British case was weakest from the point of view of international law. We know now why the Secretary of State for the Colonies did not persevere with the policy which he had adopted. He met with some rebuff not only at the hands of the Boer Government, but also at the hands of the Uitlanders who were not satisfied. But although the Secretary of State for the Colonies is a man of great versatility, and in 1899 pressed for the franchise in one form or another, he failed to press for the earlier proposal in different forms and at different stages. Whether the proposal for Home Rule in the Rand was really satisfactory, and why the Colonial Secretary did not bring his prosposals forward in another form, does not much matter now; but I think anyone can see for himself that a proposal for a long lease of the Rand would have afforded a very fair basis for discussion, both in 1896 and in the years that followed; and there would have been a good deal to be said not only from our own point of view, but also from the point of view of the Uitlanders and the Boers. There were the two populations, the mining population and the pastoral population, to be considered. You would have created a more favourable condition of things, and by claiming that status for them you 168 would have put them in a less anomalous position. A man cannot be a consistent citizen of two nationalities. A citizen, of the Transvaal would cease to be a British citizen. If, on the other hand instead of creating that anomalous position you had effected a long lease of the Rand, the Uitlanders would have still retained their status as British citizens, and at the same time many of these difficulties would have been surmounted. Again there is that question of the policy of whitewashing the authors of the raid and the suspicions it aroused in the mind of the Boers. It seems to me, however, that the main fault of the policy lay first of all in 1896, and in the following years, when you did not press home the separate treatment of the Rand; and in the second place that in 1899 you concentrated public attention on the least important point. I pass now for a few moments from the question of policy to the question of administration. With regard to administration, assuming that the war was inevitable, probable, or even possible, it was clearly within the competence, and was part of the duty of the Government to use every means in their power to obtain the most accurate information. Upon this point there was a divergence of opinion between what was said last night by the right hon. Gentleman in this House and what was said by Lord Salisbury. The First Lord of the Treasury asserted that the Intelligence Department was not to blame.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
With regard to guns and men, we have not full information now, and shall not have until the war is concluded. But nothing has occurred which convinces me that the information given by the Intelligence Department on the subject of the guns was erroneous.
§ MR. STEVENSON
Then there must have been a long interval in the dispatch of such information and its reaching the Government, or there must have been some leakage on the way. Lord Salisbury took quite a different line last night. If the Intelligence Department furnished the information, how is it that it was not within the cognizance of the Cabinet, itself? Lord Salisbury did not give that full credit to the Intelligence Department which the right hon. Gentleman gives. He complains of the secret service and 169 apparently threw some blame on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because, apparently, there was not enough money for secret service. He said that if Parliament would grant sufficient money for secret service, that secret service would be efficient. Now, I say, that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had come down to the House and asked for an additional sum for secret service the House would have gladly, aye, enthusiastically voted it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (SIR M. HICKS-BEACH,) Bristol, W.
It would not be for me to make any such proposal except at the instance of the Cabinet.
§ MR. STEVENSON
It seems to me to be a game of battledore and shuttlecock. Lord Salisbury attributed the deficiency to the secret service fund—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member is now discussing a debate in the House of Lords in the present session, and that he cannot do.
§ MR. STEVENSON
Then I will confine myself to the Leader of the House and the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and with reference to the remark made just now by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it seems to me the blame attaches to the Cabinet. If the secret service was insufficiently provided with funds, and if he had to ask the Cabinet for more money to make the secret service efficient, surely the Chancellor of the Exchequer means that it was the Government who ought to deal with the matter. If that be so it becomes a point between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Cabinet as a whole. Perhaps the point in itself, as a personal one, is not of much importance; but from a national point of view it is important that the country should feel that when exigencies of this kind arise there should be no question whether this or that Minister is responsible for the due discharge of what is obviously a national duty, but that the Cabinet as a whole should take upon itself the responsibility of seeing that the safety of the Empire was not impaired. I will not mention Lord Salisbury's utterance again, Sir, under your ruling; but the difference between the two points of view is important. In 170 one case it appears that if the Intelligence Department communicated the information to the Cabinet, in which case it does not appear to have reached them, it was not acted upon In the other case there seems to be something wrong with the machinery, and if that be so it ought to be rectified at once. I think it was said last night by a speaker whom I am not allowed to name that "you cannot see through a brick wall." Yet we can see through a brick wall if there is a chink in it, and in this case there is a chink in it, because there is the secret service and the Intelligence Department. I can imagine the speaker in question saying, in the words of Pyramus,O wicked wall, through whom I see no bliss, Curst be thy stones for thus deceiving me.But I am sure the people of this country will not be satisfied with excuses of that kind; they will desire that a full inquiry should be made either into the lack of efficiency on the part of the Intelligence Department or, what is perhaps more important, as to why it was that the information obtained by that department did not reach the Cabinet, or if it reached the Cabinet why it was not acted upon in proper time. Let me say one or two words more with regard to the question of administration. "Administration during the years that preceded the war" means not only military preparations, but also diplomatic preparations. I have already said a few words with regard to the possible diplomatic preparations, which might have consisted in educating public opinion in Europe upon this question. But there are other questions which must be raised in this connection. For instance, we know there was an agreement with Germany the exact nature of which has not yet been made fully public. We know, however, that in that agreement there were some very important concessions made to Germany by England. Surely the House is entitled to know whether we got in return adequate value for these concessions, and why it is that under the circumstances of that agreement it has still been open for the very unfortunate incidents to occur which have occurred in South Africa. It will certainly occur to the "man in the street"—although it is not a point which I am inclined to labour—to ask why it is that during all these years the question of 171 Delagoa Bay has been allowed to go on without any definite attempt being made to arrive at a proper solution of the question. I feel, therefore, that the question of policy and the question of administration each come within the purview of this Amendment. If ever there were grounds urged in support of an Amendment showing most clearly that there has been a lack of foresight, forethought, and knowledge, it is in this particular case. At the same time the House will echo and re-echo the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that we must see this thing through, and, beyond all, that the Imperial authority must be supreme in South Africa. I must refer to the little duel which took place across the table yesterday, when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House challenged the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition upon this point. The Leader of the Opposition had spoken of the necessity of preserving the integrity of the British dominions in South Africa, and of bringing this war to a successful issue. He had also said that it was necessary that the Imperial authority be supreme in South Africa. Yet in the face of that threefold declaration the Leader of the House resorted to the old and very familiar device of attempting to ascribe to another controversalist opinions which that controversalist has not held, but which had been expressed incidentally in the course of the conversation. The object of the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly clear. His object was to divert attention from his own lack of declaration and from the silence which he had pursued with regard to this very important subject. As far as I can recollect, looking back upon the speeches of the last few weeks, the only really significant declaration that has been made as to the conclusion of the war has been that by the Prime Minister in the speech which gave rise to some correspondence, and in which he said: "We seek no goldfields: we seek no territories." That was a negative and not a positive declaration, and the country as a whole is still absolutely at a loss to know what is the minimum with which the Government will be satisfied at the close of the war.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I would point out to the hon. Member that the question 172 of upon what terms the war should be concluded does not arise on this Amendment; the Amendment does not deal with anything of that kind.
§ MR. STEVENSON
I was referring to the debate which had taken place yesterday before this Amendment was moved—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The speeches of the right hon. Gentlemen the Leaders of the House and of the Opposition were made upon the main question, and before the Amendment had been proposed to the House.
§ MR. STEVENSON
Well, Sir, I will not pursue that subject any further. I will simply point out that during the past few months there has been no definite or adequate declaration of policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and that this House and the country are entitled to have such a declaration. I trust that, if not in the course of the debate on this Amendment, at all events during the next few days, an opportunity will be afforded for a declaration of that character. In the meantime the Government may be assured that, certainly as far as the spirit of the country is concerned, and as far as the spirit of this House as a whole is concerned, there will be no hesitation whatever in giving to the conduct of the campaign that amount of support which may be thought necessary. We are all anxious that this war should be brought to a conclusion, and to a successful conclusion; at the same time we cannot but deeply regret and deplore the errors and vacillation of the last few years, and especially the tone and spirit in which the criticisms have been met, while we most deeply deplore that no adequate guarantee has been given that those errors and that vacillation will not be allowed to continue.
§ COLONEL MILWARD (Warwickshire, Stratford-on-Avon)
I am sure we shall all agree in uttering a word of deep sympathy with those who suffer from this war, and especially with those ladies whose husbands and those fathers whose sons are shut up in Ladysmith. There is no one for whom greater sympathy is felt than the noble and tender-hearted Lady who rules these realms, and no sorrow 173 which is greater than that in which we sympathise with her, that she should have lost so many of her gallant subjects, and that the closing years of her reign should be marred by this war. I will now proceed with the Amendment before the House. I am reminded of the words spoken yesterday by a very well-known and witty Member who sits on the other side of the House; he said that the Amendment was to be so drawn that they could all vote for it, and therefore there would have to be very little in it. I complain of just the contrary—that there is a very great deal in it. It appears to me to be an Amendment by compartments. I do not think any of the Opposition accept the whole of the Amendment. Some accept one part and some accept another. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition whether he is prepared to vote for the Amendment as a whole, whether he is prepared to blame the Government for not having made greater preparations for the war? I can only say that if there was one person more than another who stayed the hand of the Government in preparing for the war, it was the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman repeated yesterday the words he had spoken and which he had reiterated during the most crucial months of the negotiations. On the 19th June the Leader of the Opposition said—I say that I can see nothing in what has occurred to justify either warlike action or military preparation.Not content with that, the right hon. Gentleman in the City on the 30th June said he had been very much misrepresented in the newspapers, that they had published only garbled accounts of what he had said, and he therefore repeated once more and in exactly the same words that there was nothing whatever to justify military preparation.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
That there was "nothing in what had occurred," not that there was "nothing on the face of the earth." I was speaking of the negotiations, of the whole course of the story with which we are dealing. That is what I repeated last night, that there was nothing in the whole story of the controversy about the franchise and the Uitlanders' grievances 174 in which any ingenuity of man could find a sufficient casus belli. That is what I said, and that is what I repeat.
§ COLONEL MILWARD
It was not the casus belli, but the preparation for the war to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. A month later, on the 28th July, he said—As to war itself, a direct preparation for hostilities, I must only repeat here what I have said elsewhere, that from the beginning of this story to the end of it I can see nothing whatever which furnishes a case for armed intervention, and least of all during the recent days or weeks when we are evidently approaching, if circumstances continue favourable, a solution of the question.What I say is that the right hon. Gentleman, who holds a most important and a most influential position in the country—and while I have the greatest respect for the right hon. Gentleman personally, I have an even greater respect for the position which he holds—a position in the House of Commons second only to that of the Leader of the House—by his great influence and the influence of the party behind him, stayed the hands of the Government by saying again and again that there was no case even for preparation for war. There are other Members on that side of the House who have spoken in similar terms. I should like to refer especially to the hon. Member for Leigh, in Lancashire. He is well known to be the editor of one of the most influential newspapers in the North of England, and he is a gentleman who must have the very best information about every subject upon which he speaks. He has spoken here as the exponent—I do not cast any reflection on his patriotism, but I may say he has spoken for the Boers, and he has spoken as one having the most intimate knowledge of the Boers. He says—It makes me blush with shame when I see a great historic party like that opposite capable of the despicable meanness of seeking on such grounds to go to war against a poor little State containing 30,000 farmers. I do not believe that the people of this country, when once this matter has been fairly placed before them, will tolerate the oppression of a little State of this kind, which we hold in the hollow of our hand, for any reason such as has been assigned in the course of this debate.I say that this tended to paralyse the Government in their preparation for the 175 war. Here was a gentleman who perhaps knew more about the matter than any other gentleman in the House, and he speaks of the Transvaal as "a little State containing 30,000 farmers. … which we hold in the hollow of our hand." Events have proved that we did not hold them in the hollow of our hand at all. What were the preparations made? The Under Secretary of State for War on the 21st October said that against the "little State of 30,000 farmers" we had already sent 25,000 regulars from this country, and there was a further despatch of 48,000 men, making 73,000 regulars against 30,000 poor farmers. I think it can scarcely be said after this that an Amendment which states that the Government made no preparation is an Amendment which can hold water. Outside this House the question which has been most debated is the question of the guns, and I should like to say a word upon that subject. There exists in this House a Committee drawn from both sides of the House, called the "Committee of Service Members"; and that Committee has the great advantage of having for its advisers the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean and the hon. Member for West Belfast. I think it will be admitted that nobody knows more of foreign arms than those two Members. The question brought up by the Member for the Forest of Dean has not been that which is now exciting the public mind, but the question of quick-firing guns.
§ COLONEL MILWARD
The right hon. Gentleman said in 1898 that France had had quick-firing guns for eight or nine years; but I pass by this view of the question, as we are only responsible for three of those years. I admit that the subject of quick-firing guns has been raised, and that the War Office may probably have been to blame for not having pushed forward more rapidly this question. With reference to guns there appears to be not more than five advantages which you can derive from artillery. The first is range: the second, mobility; the third, the ammunition used; the fourth, the handling of the guns; and the fifth, quickness of firing. In the whole of the 176 discussion which has taken place with regard to the range it has been contended that the Transvaal have guns of greater range, but I submit that it is only on that point that their guns are better than ours. With reference to mobility it is true the Boers move their guns to the top of kopjes where they remain, but we can move our guns from place to place. Again it has never been disputed that our lyddite ammunition has given us the greatest advantage over the Boers, and we have been told over and over again that our guns have silenced the Boer guns. Admitting that the Boers have the advantage of range, quickness of firing is equal on both sides, and we have the advantage in mobility, in ammunition, and also in the handling of the guns. So that the accusation of want of preparation for war as far as the guns are concerned is not sustained. Quickness of firing depends on the machinery and apparatus to bring the gun back to the original position from which it was fired, and when I went down last year to Woolwich with a party of Members organised by the Member for West Belfast, to see these quick-firing guns, those who saw them admired them very much and returned satisfied. I am perfectly willing to admit that an inquiry should be made and that there are things which require remedying in the War Office. The most serious thing I think is the system of promotion among officers, which is supposed to depend upon seniority tempered with competency, but it is, I am afraid, very often tempered with private influence. I am perfectly certain that men have to retire who are perfectly competent, and that others who are not competent are advanced. That is one of the points upon which I lay stress which should be considered in regard to our Army. May I now turn for a moment to the other part of the Amendment now before the House with reference to the negotiations preceding the war? I wish to say that, as far as I am concerned, my opinion is that this war was inevitable from the first. There has been growing up for the last twenty years antagonism between the Boers and the Uitlanders, and it was inevitable that war must sooner or later take place. The war between France and Germany was the result of antagonism which had been growing up year by year, and the war in South Africa is in exactly the same 177 position. In the debate upon the negotiations on the 28th of July last a vote of censure was moved upon the Colonial Office Estimate, but it was never put, because the House was then satisfied with the explanation given by the Colonial Secretary, who proposed that there should be a joint commission of inquiry as to the franchise. I have carefully read all the despatches, and I ask every other Member of the House to read them very carefully, and if they do they will see that the Boers accepted nothing after that date, and everything we proposed they met by counter propositions which made it perfectly evident that they did not intend to accept anything, and that they had made up their minds that we should have war. If the Boers were going to invade England and they had possession of the Channel Islands, do you think that we should wait until they had landed 70,000 men in those islands before we declared war? It is clear that the Boers had made up their minds that there would be war, and they chose their own time. Then there is the opinion of the Colonials upon this subject. We have to consider not only the feelings of this country, but we must also look to the feelings of those Colonials who are face to face with the Boers. I should like to read to the House an extract from a letter which I received in July last, from Natal. It is as follows—These last few days the whole of British South Africa has been on the verge of rebellion against the British Government on account of a statement in The Times that it had been decided by the British Government to accept Kruger's seven years franchise proposal as a settlement. If the Government shall accept any form of compromise which does not carry into effect the irreducible minimum of Milner's Bloemfontein proposal, they must lose all support in South Africa, and every Britisher in the country would foreswear allegiance to Britain. People at home cannot grasp the depth of feeling in this country. If Britain does not this time obtain for us just rights, equal rights, in the Transvaal, she loses the sympathy of every man here. We would rather a thousand times see war, even those who have much to lose, than any unguaranteed reforms without absolutely equal rights. We want the franchise in the Transvaal. We want redistribution and a certain control over the finances of the country, but above all we want the right to carry arms and to express our opinions with freedom. No settlement which does not include these, and the dismantling of the Johannesburg fort at least, can be considered a true settlement. For my own part I believe that if we do not fight now we 178 are only postponing the inevitable by two or three years, and the inevitable when it comes will be far more serious than it would be now, for it will mean a racial war throughout South Africa. Chamberlain we trust, and Milner we doubly trust, but there are, I fear, other influences and other counsels at work that may outweigh Chamberlain's and Milner's.The House will recognise the fact that these Colonials are men who are bound to us in every tie of race and friendship, and they entertain a very strong feeling with regard to this war. I ask myself what the Opposition hope to gain by the Amendment now before the House? Do they hope to unite themselves and to turn out the Government? We must remember that this is practically a vote of censure, and if it were largely supported on this side of the House it would turn out the Government. I do not think that the Opposition hope to unite themselves upon this Amendment. There are some who will vote for it on one particular ground and some on another ground. The Member for South Shields, who made one of the best defences of the Government I have yet heard, will only vote for this Amendment on one ground. In view of these feelings one can scarcely imagine that the Amendment will be carried, but I fear no appeal from hon. Members on our side would be of any weight with gentlemen opposite. What we wish to have from the Opposition is criticism which will stiffen rather than weaken the Government. We have before us now one of the gravest crises of modern history. It is said that every cloud has a silver lining, and I am sure that everyone, whether he sits on that side of the House or on this, wishes to strengthen the Government, in order that we may put our whole force and strength into this war, so that there will be no drawing back until we have established what after all is our great aim, and that is that peace should reign over the whole of South Africa.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
The accusation against the Government contained in this Amendment is that of want of judgment and foresight, which has not only resulted in war but has placed the country in the military position it unfortunately occupies at the present moment. In my opinion it is rather difficult for the supporters of the Government to resist this Amendment in the form in which 179 it is drawn, because the Leader of the House practically admitted that the Government had had insufficient knowledge of the situation, and had under-estimated the strength of the forces with which the country has now to contend. The right hon. Gentleman admitted also that the Government had shown some lack of foresight, because he himself admitted that it was a surprise to him that the Orange Free State had joined the Boers in warfare. I will endeavour to show that the Government were also wanting in judgment, but first of all I am bound to say that if this vote of censure had not been moved before it would be our duty to move it now after the speeches delivered yesterday in this House and in another place. It has been said that we speak with two voices. That is of little moment where the Opposition is concerned; but it is a very serious matter indeed when the Leader of the House here, and the Prime Minister in another place, speak with two voices on such an important matter as the military preparations of the Boers, and I think those two speeches would in themselves be a perfect justification of the course we have taken in moving the vote of censure. I think the speech of the Prime Minister must have come as a rude shock to Members of this House who had listened to the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman is a member of the Committee of Defence, the Prime Minister is another member, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer a third. We heard in this House yesterday that the Intelligence Department and the War Office knew every single thing with regard to the Boer forces and armaments, except as regards the actual number likely to go into the field, which was naturally uncertain and impossible to estimate. That was the statement made in this House, whereas in another place the Prime Minister practically stated that it was impossible for the Intelligence Department to acquire this knowledge, because the Government had not at their disposal a sufficient amount of secret service money. I do not know who is right, but I think it is an extraordinary position that two members of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet should have given such diametrically opposite accounts of this matter. Further, the Prime Minister went on to say practically in so many 180 words, although he personally exonerated the Chancellor of the Exchequer by name, that the disasters which occurred were due to the action of the Treasury in hampering the military preparations.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
I really must correct the hon. Member. The Prime Minister never made any such statement. He made a general statement of his opinions with regard to the Treasury. After what has been stated in various places, and after the interpretation which might be, most erroneously, placed upon that statement, it is necessary for me to say, I think, that from the very beginning of this matter neither the Treasury nor the Chancellor of the Exchequer have in any way stinted any preparations—any expenditure which was thought necessary by the Cabinet with regard to this war. All these statements with regard to myself are absolutely untrue.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
I am very glad indeed, if he will allow me to say so, that I have drawn that remark from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I, for one, never believed these scandalous assertions and insinuations against which the right hon. Gentleman has protested. What I was pointing out to the House was that the Prime Minister in another place did say, in so many words, that the Treasury had the power of the purse. His words, in describing the position of the Treasury, were—It is the power of the purse; and by exercising the power of the purse it claims a voice in all decisions of administrative authority and policy. I think that much delay and many doubtful resolutions have been the result of the peculiar position which, through many generations, the Treasury has occupied.He was speaking at the moment with regard to our knowledge.
§ MR SPEAKER
The hon. Member will not be in order if he proceeds to discuss a debate which took place in the other House.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
I was only endeavouring to show, Mr. Speaker, that I think we are entitled to blame the Government, and to move a vote of censure on them, when we find them speaking in different voices on 181 these matters. I think also we are entitled to move this vote of censure—though I am afraid we will not succeed in carrying it—because in this workaday world we must judge a Government by results, and this Government have admitted that every calculation they made has been falsified by results. They cannot deny that their professed peace policy has resulted in war; they cannot deny that the result of their professed policy of working in friendship and accord with our Dutch fellow-citizens is that the Cape Chamber is hostile to us and the Orange Free State is ranged against us and they cannot deny that the inadequate preparation made by them for the war has led to the humiliating position in which this country now finds itself—a position in which, in the history of the world, it has never been before, namely, having its territory occupied for nearly four months by the enemy. The worst of it is that all these evils and dangers were anticipated and foreseen and stated in this House by the right hon. Gentleman primarily responsible for them. He foretold the result and denounced the very policy which the Government finally decided to enter upon. I think we may fairly say that in moving this vote of censure we have no desire to hamper the Government in the prosecution of the war. We have full faith and the utmost confidence in the men at the wheel, but the men at the wheel are not the present holders of office, but Lord Roberts and Sir Redvers Buller. I for one am prepared to give every possible support in order to bring the war to a satisfactory conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House last night endeavoured, I think, to place the Opposition in a false light with regard to this matter. He tried to show that what my right hon. friend intended in his speech was that a satisfactory conclusion would be arrived at when the enemy were driven out of British territory, but speaking for myself, and I believe also for nearly every hon. Member on this side of the House, I go further than that. I am prepared to support the conduct of the war until the Boers shall sue for peace. I do not go so far as to say that it may not be necessary even at this moment to carry our forces further for military reasons. I do not think, however, it is advantageous to discuss terms of settle- 182 ment at the present moment, and I think it was a pity that the right hon. Gentleman should have so emphatically expressed his views as to what the final settlement should be, because it is not as we should have hoped, and it may tend to hamper the conduct of the war by strengthening the backs of the enemy against suing for peace at all. The right hon. Gentleman, in a somewhat ill-advised speech which he delivered at Manchester, said that there was one advantage gained by the Government not having approached Parliament last summer for a vote of credit to resist Boer invasion, and that was that they had obtained unanimous feeling throughout the country in favour of the operations now in progress. I think, however, that the violent terms in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke last night regarding the final settlement will deter some hon. Members on this side of the House from giving that active support to the Government which they otherwise would. It is not fair to the Opposition to ask them to commit themselves at the present moment to any particular settlement of this great question. When the time to make a settlement arrives then we shall be able to discuss the best way to effect it, and I, therefore, regret that part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The Amendment now before the House practically covers the whole ground of the policy of the Government for the last five years. The right hon. Gentleman said last night that if we were going to criticise that policy on the present occasion, we ought to have criticised it before in detail from time to time as matters occurred. We had, however, very good reason for not doing that, because we believed that step by step, until the last ill-omened step, the policy of the Government with reference to South Africa and the Transvaal was practically the same in desire and intention as that which actuated their predecessors. The policy of the Colonial Office up to recently had always been to maintain the supremacy of British rule in South Africa, to maintain the Convention of London, both in spirit and in letter, and as far as possible, by friendly negotiations, to redress the grievances from which the foreign element in the Transvaal suffered. The Colonial Office policy had been, and we believed the policy of the present 183 Government also was, to act in accord with Dutch feeling at the Cape, and as far as possible with the friendly assistance of the progressive Boers in the Transvaal itself. Certainly there was a very large element of progressive Boer feeling in the Transvaal as well as a large element of Afrikander feeling outside it in favour of redressing the grievances of the Uitlanders, and of getting rid of the difficulties between the Transvaal and the British Government. I am not going to deny for a moment that the South African problem had not been very troublesome. If it had been anticipated when the retrocession of the Transvaal were granted that the country would subsequently become of such importance, and that its Government would not give liberty and equality, it is certain that the retrocession would never have taken place. But it is very easy to judge after the event, as the right hon. Gentleman himself said last night. I am bound to say that though the Transvaal is a very troublesome neighbour, and they have endeavoured to extend their borders, and to obtain greater freedom or independence, I do not think that on that account we can blame them. They have their Imperialists and Expansionists in the Transvaal as we have here, and we cannot blame them for endeavouring to secure greater independence than they obtained under the Conventions. But the policy of previous Governments had been to check and restrain this evolution on the part of the Transvaal, and up to the last few years that policy has been successful, while at the same time retaining friendly relations with the Republic. That was the policy of 1895 and of Mr. Rhodes, who up to that date had showed himself a great South African statesman. His policy had been to bind the Dutch and the English element together, and in that he had been most successful. But in 1895 we had a change of Government, and at the Colonial Office a Minister who had great ideas of colonial administration. Mr. Rhodes and those working with him gauged this view pretty accurately, and thought they could force the pace. Almost directly after the Government came into office Mr. Rhodes obtained that strip of territory for the Chartered Company which formed the jumping-off place for the raid. If we had remained in office the raid would not have occurred, for if Mr. Rhodes had approached us as 184 to the cession of Bechuanaland—although it was obvious that at some time or other it might have to be handed over to the Chartered Company—we would have said that the moment was inappropriate for so doing. First of all, only lately a new form of administration had been conferred on the Chartered Company, and we wanted to see it working better. In the second place, the pecuniary position of the Chartered Company was not such at that time as to enable it to take over further territory. I admit that the present Colonial Secretary was entirely entitled to make a different arrangement, but I say, if we had been in office the raid would not have occurred. The most disastrous effect of the raid was not that it induced the Transvaal to arm, but that it placed the Afrikander section in the Cape in a position of antagonism and suspicion to Her Majesty's Government. The first steps taken by the Colonial Secretary after the raid were proper and right, but then we come to what I believe to be, to a large extent, the foundation of all subsequent difficulties—namely, the introduction of the system of what has been called the new diplomacy in dealing with this very delicate and ticklish question. The first mistake of all was the publication by the Colonial Secretary of a Government despatch in the beginning of 1896. Here was a case of interference by the Home Government in internal affairs of the Transvaal, and if that were to be done, it should have been with the greatest possible diplomacy and delicacy. But instead of this despatch being sent out to the High Commissioner as a basis for negotiation, conference, and discussion, it was actually published in England before President Kruger had received it at all, and the Colonial Secretary himself had to telegraph out to President Kruger, asking him to keep an open mind till he had seen the despatch itself. That was very largely the beginning of all the subsequent difficulties, and certainly was the primary cause of the abandonment by President Kruger of his intention to come over to England, and have personal conference with the Colonial Secretary. Then unfortunately came the Cape inquiry into the raid, in which the late Prime Minister of the Cape was personally implicated. Next came the unfortunate inquiry here, in which a large amount of suspicion was involved and 185 the idea created that there had been concealment of something that might have come out. At all events, there was clearly felt, on the part of the Transvaal Government and those interested in the Transvaal, from that moment a suspicion that the Colonial Secretary and the Government were personally implicated in the proceedings of the raid. Then came the most unfortunate whitewashing of the prime mover of the raid. I have never been able to understand how that came about, because, only a few days before, the Colonial Secretary himself had put his signature to the Report which had absolutely condemned the raid. I am one of those who think that Mr. Rhodes has done a great service to the Empire, but it was not the business of the Colonial Secretary to come down to the House and give Mr. Rhodes the glowing character he did. That most unfortunately absolutely confirmed President Kruger and others in the suspicion that the Colonial Secretary was mixed up with Mr. Rhodes in the raid. Now we come to the period of nagging and sneering despatches and speeches, all which tended to confirm suspicion and irritate the Transvaal Government. I am not going to enter into the question of suzerainty; but I believe, and I think every one in this House believes, that it was most unfortunate that the Colonial Secretary should have, for the first time since 1884, raised in a public despatch the question of suzerainty. That it was wrong to do so is confirmed from his own confession in a despatch at the end of the correspondence, in which he said, "Oh, well, I have said my say, and I won't say any more about it." He did all the irritating by raising the point, and yet did not enforce it in the end. Meanwhile, from the moment that the first Drifts question was raised, the Transvaal Government had begun to arm. I am not going to defend the policy the Transvaal carried out in regard to this country; they were very foolish, and very suspicious without any real or proper occasion. I do not say, after all, that in their position they were unnaturally suspicious, but so far as I know they had really no ground for the suspicion that this country intended to interfere with their independence. I think that their policy ever since the time of the raid has been most foolish, because if they had only taken a sensible and liberal line they would by this time 186 have been in a very strong position, and by making certain concessions they would have placed further agitation in the wrong, instead of largely in the right. All this while the Transvaal were arming. I do not know that it may not be perfectly true that being armed for one purpose, they may have got into their minds that they might use their arms for another purpose in the end. But this was known—the Government themselves say that they knew it—first, that the Transvaal were arming, and second that they might turn their arms against us. The First Lord of the Treasury said that although they knew this, the mouth of the Government was closed in consequence of the raid itself. It appears to me if that were so, the Government had two courses open to them. They might have gone to the Transvaal Government and said, "We give you formal guarantees for absolute independence; why, then, are you making armed preparations which are far beyond what you really require for police and defensive purposes, and can only be intended to be directed against us, and we must request you to cease this perpetual arming on your part." That would have been a policy perfectly clear. The other policy which, in my opinion, the Government ought to have carried out was to remove the suspicion of the Transvaal Government that we had any intention of interfering with their independence, and to show a way by which the Transvaal Government might be able to tell their burghers that it was not necessary to arm against the British Government. They adopted neither of these two policies. They carried on the policy of nagging and suspicion, which—I will not say in the minds of other people, but in the minds of the Transvaal Government—justified them in continuing arming. They started a now policy, the policy of franchise. I do not say that that was wrong, because if you are going to deal with the Uitlanders' grievances that is the best way of doing it, but it was a new policy, because when the question first arose in 1890 there was no expostulation by the Government on that matter. It is true that in 1894 the Government of which I was a member suggested presenting a despatch to President Kruger, but the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that that despatch was never presented. It was only to be presented under certain conditions. In 1896 the 187 right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary dealt with this despatch, and upon it based his policy of Home Rule for the Rand, but in 1896 he did not put the franchise first, but only as a subsidiary matter, and even so late as last March he again referred to Local Government for the Rand, and said if that was agreed to nine-tenths of the grievances of the Uitlanders would be met. But he went on to say that it was neither dignified nor convenient to move at that moment. Therefore, I say, the policy of franchise was a new policy. Naturally, President Kruger did not intend or desire to give more than he was obliged to, and he wished to give it as slowly as possible. For a long time the Boer resistance was partly successful, but we must remember that unfortunately the two parties were looking at the matter from entirely different points of view. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the conference at Bloemfontein as a guarantee against foreign intervention, but President Kruger considered that the independence of the Transvaal was in the scale, and that the interests of the oligarchical sect of which he was one of the members were in jeopardy, and no doubt he could not help feeling that although the new policy was not annexation in form, it was annexation in fact; and he felt that if Uitlanders were admitted to the franchise in large numbers at once that would be the result. I do not intend to go into the intricate question of the policy of last year. It seems to me there were great misinterpretations on both sides. Those who have studied the Blue Books carefully cannot fail to feel this. The Colonial Secretary and those with him did not understand one another or the Boer temper, and it is largely due to that fact that the war occurred. I am not going to blame one side and not the other. I think the Boer Government are enormously to blame in the way in which they approached this question, but when the right hon. Gentleman talked of the war as inevitable, I want to know what was in the mind of the Government. The First Lord of the Treasury said it was inevitable in July and others put the date back to the Conference at Bloemfontein. I want the Government to say in their opinion President Stein of the Orange Free State really at that time intended that the Conference should lead 188 to failure and lead to war, and whether President Kruger was also of the opinion, and whether, when it was going on, you could say the war was inevitable, so that you could put it plainly to the Transvaal Government that they did not intend to perform what they promised, and so absolutely convict them of good faith. We have heard of the Afrikander conspiracy, but I think it is difficult to say that such a conspiracy existed, and, as I have studied the Blue Books, Sir Alfred Milner himself does not say there was anything like a conspiracy against British supremacy. I think the whole of this talk of an Afrikander conspiracy has been due to the misunderstandings I have referred to. A certain number of Dutch have joined the Transvaal, no doubt, but that is largely due to the fact that we have been unable to defend our territory, and those who have joined the Transvaal have done so because they were unable to receive British protection. Under those circumstances, it was only to be expected that the Dutch in our colonies should join those of their own race and blood. I have endeavoured to prove, as shortly as possible, that the Government have shown want of judgment in regard to this matter. They have themselves admitted want of knowledge and foresight, and I think, that being so, we are fully justified in moving this vote of censure, and while we do not think there is any chance of carrying it, it will tend to stiffen the Government in their action, and we hope in the settlement that must take place at some future time the Government will take care not to give domination to one side or the other. We want liberty and equality in South Africa, but we must not forget that we must have fraternity as well.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD (Somersetshire, Wellington)
said he must apologise for being so dense as not to understand what was meant by the speeches of the party opposite. The leaders affected to be anxious to bring this war to successful issue. There was one element of success, and that was to show a united front to the enemy; but hon. Members opposite appeared to be animated by a desire to initiate a party discussion, to be followed by a party division. He could only imagine that a long and close intimacy with the Irish party had produced that paradox. What was the object of 189 turning out the present Government? If they did turn it out and put in their own party, how could such a Government prosecute the war to any issue but a most disastrous one? It was idle at the present moment to debate whether the war was or was not inevitable. Hon. Members seemed to forget that the country was at this moment at war, and had been at war for three months. A great portion of the Queen's dominions had been overrun and was held by foreign troops, and large portions of our dominions had been annexed. It seemed a strange thing for the House of Commons, then, to debate what happened five years ago. What we had to consider was the best means of bringing the war to a successful issue, and to proceed with the defences of our country. It must not be forgotten that a large portion of our Army was 6,000 miles away, and it was of vital importance that the home defences should be made secure as soon as possible. He thought it was, on the whole, fortunate for the Government that the two questions of whether the war was inevitable and whether we were prepared or not had been incorporated into one Amendment. For the reasons he had stated, hon. Members on his side of the House were agreed as to the utter uselessness of raking up the past policy of the Government. But as regarded the preparations for the war there were on that side of the House certain differences of opinion, and he would not be doing his duty to his constituents or to the service if he did not say a few words of criticism on the present position of affairs in South Africa. He was as strong a supporter of the Government as any man in that House or in the country. He wanted to see the Government strong both in the House and throughout the country, and he believed it would be much stronger in both places if it would take them into its confidence and tell them frankly where the mistakes had been in the past. He could not acquiesce in the doctrine that the failures had been unavoidable, or that the hereditary disposition of the British Army was to suffer reverses at the opening of a campaign. Would the Government announce what they meant to do in the future? It was admitted that we were not prepared for a war—at any rate on the scale of the one in which we had embarked. But why was that so? And who was responsible? In his humble 190 judgment there were two principal causes for our failures. The first was our military system, and the second was the want of information both at home and in South Africa. As regarded our military system the responsibility rested not with the Government or with the War Office, but solely with the House of Commons. For years the Service Members had prophesied to empty benches what would happen in the event of a big war. Only twice could he remember any interest being taken by the House in Army questions—once when Lord Rosebery's Government was turned out of office by a very skilful move, and again when the strongest Government of modern times was nearly defeated on the question of sewage-farm milk. He knew that Service Members were considered to be bores of the largest calibre, but they had this advantage: they knew what they were talking about, and they were aware that when they were discussing an expenditure of 40 or 50 millions year after year they were dealing with a subject vital not only to the interests of this country, but to the interests of our Empire all over the world. Therefore he regarded the House of Commons as alone to blame. When he came to the question of the want of information he confessed that they were landed in somewhat of a difficulty. He did not quite understand how far the Government and the Intelligence Department had been in touch with one another. He could not help being reminded of a picture which appeared in Punch ten days previously, in which the Prime Minister was represented as saying to the Cabinet, "Well, gentlemen, never mind what we think; let us all say the same thing." Yet on the first day of the session that gun had missed fire. The First Lord had certainly told them the Intelligence Department had very accurate information as regarded the Transvaal preparations, excepting so far as the number of men was concerned. But if only the armaments of the Boers were known, how could it be supposed that the force originally despatched would be sufficient? Although it had since been multiplied threefold we were still unable to drive the enemy out of our territory and to invade the Transvaal. Then, as to the guns. Did the Intelligence Department know as long ago as last June that the Boers had large numbers of quick 191 firing guns and Creusots; that they had double the number of rifles necessary to arm every man in the Transvaal and the Free State; and that there were 25 millions of cartridges in Pretoria; mid lots more coming over the sea? If the Department knew all these things, they must have told the Government; and if they did not know, they were grossly wanting in their duty. Again, if these facts were known in June, what could have been the objection to our sending out a number of heavy siege guns? It was not possible perhaps to send infantry and cavalry, but they might have sent heavy siege guns, for that would have been a defensive rather than an offensive measure. Would the Government give the House some information on that point? He would like further to know when did the Government receive the first intimation that Ladysmith was to be held with a large force? If that had been known only a few days before the retreat from Dundee there would have been ample time to fortify the heights round and to mount a large number of naval guns. They had been told that everything was left to the general in the field; but it was well known that when the Army applied to the Navy for guns there was always, and properly, difficulty in getting them. Naval officers did not like to strip their ships of the most valuable part of their armament. But surely the Government had supreme authority, and could have directed that the guns should have been sent up from the fleet. Had they done so, the Lady-smith garrison would have been in a much better position than at present. Then as to absence of proper maps of Natal. It might be said that it was the duty of a self-governing colony to make its own ordnance surveys. But for years it had been known that there was a probability of our having in the immediate future to fight in Natal; and if only proper maps had been available for our generals much loss of life would have been avoided. As to Kimberley and Mafeking, some information was wanted, both by the House and by the country, as to why the Cape Government refused to send arms and munitions to those towns, while all the time armaments were allowed to pass into the Transvaal. The responsibility for that should be brought home to the proper persons. Then he came to the question of the colonial troops and auxiliaries. He 192 would like to ask, when it was stated that our generals had had a free hand, was it meant that they had been unrestricted as be the raising of colonial auxiliaries? He asked these questions not to embarrass the Government, but because the country demanded an answer to them. Unless they were answered, the country would lose confidence in the Government. He should not vote for the Amendment, because he considered it was wholly mischievous. It could do no possible good, and its adoption might cause incalculable harm. He should support the Government through thick and thin. The supporters of the Government were determined to see them through this business. They would give them any supply and make any sacrifices, whether of money or life, which might be necessary. Whatever opposition they might meet in the House or out of it, they were determined that the sword should not be bid down until the principle of equal rights for all men throughout South Africa had been established.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. and gallant Member who preceded me, and with others who have said that there probably has never been a moment of more, grave national peril than that we are face to face with at this juncture. Our country is denuded of almost all our defensive forces, who are engaged in a very serious, and hitherto not successful, war at the other side of the world. Our great dependency, India, is passing through a period of distress, and, as we know, the various Powers of Europe are not at all too favourably disposed towards us. I do think that we may surely draw another conclusion from the crisis than that of the hon. and gallant Member—namely, that it is our duty, as an assembly representative of the people, to censure the Ministry which has led us into these grave disasters. I put it to those who heard the hon. and gallant Member oppose this Amendment, whether, in regard to half of that Amendment, he did not make a most effective speech in support of it. Because, what is it the Amendment proposes? It expresses regret at two things: (1) at the want of foresight and judgment displayed by Her Majesty's Government in the conduct of South African affairs since 1895, and (2) as to the lack of foresight 193 and judgment exhibited by Her Majesty's Government in the preparations made by them for the war now proceeding. We want some further explanation from the Government as to what information was in the possession of the Intelligence Department before the war, whether they communicated it to the Government, and whether that information was acted upon. The Government have confessed, by many mouths, that they hopelessly under-estimated the numbers of the Boers, their fighting, powers, and their armaments. The House is entitled to know whether this gross and culpable mistake was founded on material supplied by the Intelligence Department or not. If it were so founded then the only conclusion to come to is that the Intelligence Department sadly needs reorganisation and overhauling, and putting upon a new foundation. If that is not the fact, then I think the Intelligence Department is laid under an unmerited stigma, which, in all fairness, ought to be speedily removed. The country at large is entitled to know who is responsible for this Mistake, and what was the information that was given to the Government on which they acted, or failed to act. To my mind the responsibility rests with the gentlemen who sit upon that bench; and it is their duty as English gentlemen, whether it be their own individual or collective faults, to acknowledge their error, and not to try directly or indirectly, or by collusion, to cast it upon any department of the State. Another point brought up by the hon. and gallant Member was that of the want of maps of the territory which was now the scene of the conflict. Surely it was one of the most elementary duties of the Government—especially a Government which placed so high an estimate in its programme on the importance of national defence—to have provided for a thorough military survey of the country that for years has been looked upon as a probable theatre of war. I do not need to be told, for a single moment, that a responsible Minister of the Crown who came down to the House and asked for money for Cape Colony or Natal for such a purpose would not have got it. He would have got it at once. Then I should like a little further explanation on the question put to the First Lord of the Treasury 194 yesterday as to Sir William Butler's reports. I am at a loss to reconcile the statement made by the First Lord of the Treasury with that of the Under Secretary of State for War. On October 20th last the Under Secretary of State for War stated in the House that representations urging the necessity of increasing the garrison in South Africa had been received previous to June 27th from the High Commissioner, the Governor of Natal, and the officer commanding the troops in South Africa, who at that time was Sir William Butler. It is perfectly clear from the statement of the Under Secretary last October that there were official dispatches from Sir W. Butler advocating the sending out of increased forces for the defence of our South African Colonies. Now, the First Lord of the Treasury undoubtedly stated last night—I have not yet been able to verify it in The Times—that no report had been received by any public department in this country, either by the Colonial Office or the War Office, from Sir William Butler, advocating the increase of the garrison.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
Then the Attorney General knows more about it. This just shows the ambiguity in which the House is on this question, and how desirable it is for the House and for the country to have fuller and more complete information on this point. Surely we have a right to expect it, and that the position of two such persons in high places as the High Commissioner and the Governor of Natal should be made plain. I also think that more information should be vouchsafed as to the steps the Government are taking for retrieving the disastrous position into which they have brought us in South Africa. We have not heard in this House, nor in the other House, nor in the Queen's Speech—which is barren to a degree—what measures the Government propose to take; and there is not a 195 single one among the half-dozen Bills of which notice has been given on behalf of the Government which deals with the question of naval or military defence. There is a very natural anxiety prevailing that some statement should be made by some responsible authority, on behalf of the Government, of the steps they propose to take and whether it involves large expenditure or not, I can honestly affirm that it will be cordially supported by hon. Members on both sides of this House. The hon. and gallant Member who preceded me objected to this Amendment on several grounds. I do not know that it is necessary for me to go into the points he makes, as there are many other speakers who desire to join in this debate. I would rather proceed to the reasons why I am fully prepared to support the Amendment. The Amendment contains two distinct parts. It expresses want of confidence in the Government for the lack of preparation for this serious war, and it expresses want of confidence in the Government also for the way in which they have conducted South African affairs from the time they came into office down to the present moment. With regard to the want of preparation the facts speak for themselves. The Government have themselves confessed it over and over and over again. There is not an individual who sits upon the front bench opposite who has made a public speech within the last two months who has not been obliged to stand in a white sheet and confess that the Government entirely misapprehended the strength of the Transvaal, and that through their own culpable ignorance we have been involved in these very serious disasters. I do not say that all these distinguished gentlemen give the same reasons for the mistakes. Far from it. We get a great variety of reasons. We had the reasons given by the First Lord of the Treasury, and they were examined into by my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition. We had other reasons given by the Prime Minister. We had a reason, by the way, given by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who was formerly Under Secretary of State for War. His reason, I am bound to state, is the most extraordinary of all, for he told us only a few days ago that at any rate, if the Government had committed any errors, they were 196 errors of the head but not of the heart. Surely it is preposterous for the right hon. Gentleman to get up and trifle with an audience by saying, when the nation has had to suffer military and political humiliations such as it has not endured during the century, that after all the hearts of Her Majesty's Ministers are in the right place. The country does not pay them for that. The country pays them for exercising a little of the ordinary intelligence that it would expect to get from any dozen or two dozen Members selected from among Members of this House. Then there is the excuse given by the Secretary of State for War, which is rather a novel one. He told us that our war preparations were in an admirable state, but they were not preparations for war on the spot. Apparently they were preparations for war in general, but not for war in the Transvaal or South Africa. He might be justified in saying that the way in which the War Office were enabled to despatch an army corps to South Africa was worthy of credit, but it is no excuse for the failure of the Government to anticipate the greatness of the struggle in which we are being engaged for the noble Lord to say that our war preparations were in excellent order, but they were not in excellent order in the one place where war was likely to occur. Then we have had the excuses of the Prime Minister with regard to secret service money. "Information was merely a question of money," he said; "you do not give me enough secret service money." The Prime Minister has often shown that his ideas of government in this country are not those held by the bulk of the people of the country or by the bulk of hon. Gentlemen sitting on the other side of the House, but he has been long enough in public affairs to know that he must work with the machine he has got. He knows perfectly well that if the responsible Minister had asked for more money for that purpose he would have got it without a word of comment or a moment of delay. The noble Marquess, also, like the First Lord of the Treasury, blamed the poor unfortunate British Constitution, because, forsooth, there were impediments in the way of a single individual Minister spending what he likes and doing as he likes without calling Parliament together or without the con- 197 trol of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the other officials of the Treasury. He complains of that, and says that if it had not been for that everything would have been well. This is, of course, preposterous. The Treasury, as far as all these matters are concerned, is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a colleague of the Prime Minister, and the responsibility for any action that might be taken by the Treasury rests with the Chancellor of the Exchequer first and with the Cabinet if they agree with him. It is mean and paltry for a man in the position of the Prime Minister to endeavour to shift the blame on to a public department which has no opportunity of replying. One word more on the second part of the Amendment. A sentence which fell from the First Lord of the Treasury last night really has amply justified all the charges that have been brought against the Government in this matter, and also the moving of this Amendment. In the course of his speech, in speaking of the negotiations which had been instituted for the doing away of the Uitlanders' grievances, the right hon. Gentleman said that if the Boer Government did not make these concessions "we"—that is, the Government—"always knew it must lead to hostilities between the two countries." Just think what that means. It means that the Government embarked in a series of negotiations with a Power which they knew was difficult to deal with—intricate negotiations with a gentleman like Mr. Kruger, who was obstinate and well skilled in all the devices of diplomacy—they embarked upon these negotiations, and they knew, and they themselves say they knew, that if the negotiations failed there would be war, and yet for that war they made no preparations, or no sufficient preparations. Just see how this interpretation of their conduct can be justified out of the mouth of the First Lord himself. It will be in the recollection of many Members here that in last October the right hon. Gentleman found fault with a speech of the Leader of the Opposition and then very graciously pointed out the sort of speech the Leader of the Opposition ought to have made. This is the speech which the First Lord of the Treasury put into the 198 mouth of the Leader of the Opposition as a fit and proper speech—The Government might have hoped and were right to hope that peace might be maintained, but they had also to contemplate the possibility of peace not being maintained. It was their duty without menace to provide for the defence of the Empire. That duty they had failed to undertake, and we, the Opposition, express our unanimous condemnation of the failure to carry out the primary duty of the Government, viz., that of seeing to the safety of the Empire.No words of mine could express more clearly or more strongly the case we have against the Government. I would rest the whole of my case as regards the second part of the Amendment upon that statement. The First Lord committed himself definitely to the knowledge that the failure of the negotiations would mean war, and he has over and over again admitted personally and through his colleagues that for that war they did not make adequate preparations. The early part of the Amendment deals with the past and with the conduct of colonial affairs—for that is what it comes to—in South Africa from 1895 to the present time. I support that part of the Amendment because I believe that the conduct of colonial affairs in South Africa from the time the present Government came into office has been clearly and directly the cause of this war and the disasters which have befallen the country. The right hon. Gentleman who has charge of colonial affairs certainly cannot plead ignorance of the affairs of South Africa. He objected last night to an opinion of his own in the year 1878 being quoted; I could quote opinions of his, both of earlier and later dates than that, from which it is clear that he had a thoroughly intimate and complete knowledge of the condition of affairs in South Africa. He has told us in former days more than once that he was one of the few who opposed the original annexation of the Transvaal; he was a member of the Cabinet that gave back the independence of the Transvaal, and he was the one member of the Cabinet who most strenuously defended both in and out of this House that course of action. There is no speech which puts more clearly the awful consequences of a war in South Africa between British and Dutch than the speech of the right hon. Gentleman at Birmingham in the summer of 1881. He knew well, and he stated 199 it in the vigorous and clear language of which he is a master, that in case of war the Free State burghers would immediately join with the Transvaal; he was under no such delusions as were other Members sitting on that Bench; he knew the dangers and the consequences which would ensue, and yet from 1895 down to the outbreak of war he has taken hardly a single step that has not brought war nearer our doors; he has shown a recklessness and a culpableness in the conduct of affairs such as I believe is not paralleled in our time. His position was made exceedingly difficult in the earlier stages of his Ministry by the most wicked and nefarious filibustering raid of Dr. Jameson. He took immediate steps to disown that action during the early months of 1896, but what steps has he taken from the summer of 1896 onwards to do away with the evil consequences of the raid? We have had it proved over and over again by all sorts of witnesses—by witnesses who take different views from those held by myself and my friends—that the deep suspicion caused thereby not merely of the Chartered Company, but of the Imperial Government and of everything British in South Africa, was one of the rankling causes in President Kruger's mind that has led to the Transvaal armaments and the war. I could quote correspondence from The Times correspondent, Captain Younghusband, who stated in 1897 that the first and chief and only effort to be made by the British Government should be to do away as speedily as possible with the atmosphere of suspicion through which, owing to the raid, every action of the Home Government was viewed by the Transvaal and by the population of South Africa. I do not say that the Colonial Secretary has been alone in his failure in this respect; undoubtedly there are others who must bear the blame with him. The leaders of the raid—Mr. Rhodes and others—have been white washed by the Colonial Secretary in extravagant terms, but they have also been petted and pampered and favoured by many of the highest in the land, and by all classes of the community. It is only natural that this attitude of suspicion on the part of President Kruger should have continued towards the action of any associated in any degree with those who were to blame for the raid. The first duty of the right hon. Gentleman should have been to disabuse Presi- 200 dent Kruger of all such ideas, to clear up absolutely the remotest vestige of suspicion that there could be in any conceivable degree any complicity between the authors of the raid and the Colonial Office; and he should have proceeded by a cautious, patient, and conciliatory policy to do away with all the differences which existed. Moreover, there is no doubt that Sir Alfred Milner's direction of affairs in South Africa has not tended towards peace. I say this with the deepest regret, but it is palpable to all who read what has been and is being published, that the policy which Sir Alfred Milner has pursued has not been a policy which has tended to bring the two vast populations in South Africa together, but rather one which has tended towards racial antipathy and the stirring up of one section of the community against the other. [Cries of "No."] However, that is my opinion, and it is an opinion which is very generally felt. I will go further. So strongly is that opinion held that when the victorious issue of the war takes place I believe you will never have a permanent and satisfactory peace concluded in South Africa if Sir Alfred Milner continues to be High Commissioner and if the right hon. Gentleman continues to be Colonial Secretary. [Ministerial laughter.] It will be no laughing matter. There are difficulties of war, but there are difficulties still greater in making and concluding peace after war is over, and I believe most firmly that the retention of their present positions by those two right hon. Gentlemen will be a permanent obstacle which must be removed before such a peace can be concluded. I most cordially support both parts of the Amendment before the House. I consider that the Government have culpably failed in their duty in not making adequate preparations for this very serious war, and that they have also grossly failed in their duty by the way in which the affairs in South Africa have been conducted from 1895 onwards. Although it is improbable—impossible—that this Amendment should be carried, still I am perfectly confident that if it were carried it would be the best thing for this country and the best thing for South Africa—not because those who share my political opinions might come into power, but because I firmly believe that no disasters have ever come upon this country to parallel those which 201 have been brought upon it by the present Government, and that you could not get a body of men, wherever selected from, who could bring greater disgrace or greater disaster upon the State.
§ COLONEL BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
Most of the latter part of the speech of the hon. Member who has just spoken dealt with what are now rather old subjects of controversy. The people of the country at the present moment are chiefly interested in the events of the war, and not the causes which brought the war about. They go further, and are mainly interested in bringing the war to an honourable and satisfactory conclusion. I cannot agree with the hon. Member in thinking that the public or any body of people except the enemies of this country would hail with satisfaction a change of Government at the present time. On the other hand, it is quite possible to admit that someone should be held responsible for a considerable amount of mismanagement, and I frankly admit that the difficulty of most orators on this side of the House has hitherto been to fix this particular responsibility. The fact that we have had to strain every nerve and go to the very last of our military resources to face a struggle with a second or third rate Power is in itself a proof that we are not prepared to face any more formidable opponent, and that is a very serious national question. The Leader of the House has rather narrowed the issue lately by telling us frankly that the War Office and the Government were in possession of information from the Intelligence Department. I am one of the right hon. Gentleman's friends who were considerably disappointed with the speeches he made at Manchester a short time ago. In those speeches he appeared to be endeavouring to fasten some of the responsibility for the bad information he possessed on his friends in this House who were in the habit of criticising the War Office, and on the press. We may not have performed a very useful part; but one thing is quite certain, that in season and out of season ever since we have been in existence we have urged that our military system was thoroughly bad and needed radical reform. The right hon. Gentleman asked, when had 202 any of us said that we possessed bad field artillery? In a certain sense no one who knew anything about the army could say we had bad field artillery; it is the one arm of which we have always had most right to be proud, both as regards the officers and men, and, for that matter, the horses. But as regards its organisation, its armament, and its numbers, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean has often called attention to the subject, while the hon. Member for West Belfast has done the same; while in a formal document which we all addressed to the Prime Minister in September, 1898, we used this expression—The horse and field artillery also have been reduced to a condition even worse than that of the line.I might quote extensively from this letter, which was certainly acknowledged, but never, as far as I know, acted upon. We said that the position of the military forces was very unsatisfactory, and we concluded by saying that we were convinced there was no matter of greater importance to the Empire at the present moment, With regard to the abstinence of the press from criticism in this matter, it must have been news to the readers of The Times, the Morning Post, and the Pall, Mall Gazette that they had not constantly urged a complete reform of our whole military system. I am therefore glad the right hon. Gentleman has helped us to get on to the right scent as to where the responsibility rests. With regard to the guns, I cannot help thinking the right hon. Gentleman was somewhat confusing field guns and guns of position. All we desired to have were guns not unequal to cope with the guns to be brought against them. I have no doubt that our guns would cope with similar guns if brought against them, but the curious position that the Intelligence Department, or rather our generals abroad, had to deal with was in having to bring field guns to fight guns of position. With regard to the matter of preparation, I confess it would have taken a very astute Intelligence Officer to know that guns of position would be found to possess so much mobility and be brought into action in the way they have been. It was no doubt an error on their part, but I think a pardonable error. There is another factor which must not be forgotten in 203 talking about want of preparation, and that is that this is the most novel kind of warfare that history can record—I mean that magazine rifles, smokeless powder, and things of that sort are so entirely novel that it would have required absolute prescience to know what their precise effects would be. But the right hon. Gentleman has said that Sir John Ardagh and the officers under him had practically warned the Government or the War Office of all that they knew on these subjects. We come back to the question of who is responsible for the various avoidable mistakes which have been made, and not the mistakes which everybody else would have made. Here I find myself once more in the old difficulty when criticising the War Office, that there never is anyone to attack. There is a deeply rooted, chivalrous tradition in official life in this country that we should never criticise subordinate executive officials, but surely the due maintenance of this tradition must depend upon one primary condition, namely that there should be somebody else to take the responsibility in place of the subordinate official. It is the War Office alone which, of late years, has tried to maintain this tradition, and at the same time extend it to everyone within its walls. The result is that, no matter how badly matters fare with the British Army, or what scandals take place, no one is to blame and no one is held to be responsible. It is considered to be a species of blasphemy to hint that some personages connected with the War Office can make any mistakes. There is an old maxim of our constitution that the King can do no wrong, but the War Office have extended that dictum to a very inconvenient extent. Of course when we have a reformed War Office charged with the duty of administering a great Imperial Army, it will be fairer to apportion the blame when blame is called for, but under the present condition of things, when both the Army and the War Office are maintained on principles that have been exploded in every other part of the world, I agree with my hon. and gallant friend who spoke earlier in the afternoon, that we should really take a wider survey of the matter, and, to a great extent, blame ourselves. The system that has to be administered at the War Office is so hopelessly antiquated—and in many respects corrupt and thoroughly bad—that it must be almost impossible 204 for the most gifted Minister to make anything of it; and I believe that until the people at large make the discovery that they have a personal interest in the active efficiency of the War Office as a subject that concerns them, we are not likely to have any very vigorous reforms. For much of our unpreparedness at the present time both parties in the State must be equally blamed, and in one respect in particular, and that is in regard to the training of officers in high positions. I am not sure that Indian campaigns and the experience of savage warfare is not more of a snare than an advantage to general officers finding themselves for the first time confronted with civilised opponents aimed with the most modern weapons. It is quite certain there is no peace training equal to the holding of manœuvres on a large scale; and when I remember the very grudging way in which the Manœuvres Bill was introduced at all, how we had to beg Ministers to proceed with it, how it was maimed and mutilated in its passage through the House, and how after it was passed it was only put in force once, and then in a most timid and tentative manner, I say that the Government of the country and Parliament, and especially those who obstructed the Manœuvres Act, are morally to blame for much of the loss of life that has taken place in South Africa. I could prove this point by very close argument if I were to transgress a rule we should all observe, namely, not to presume to criticise the generals now in the field. I think I can prove the converse proposition, that where manœuvres have been possible the greatest advantage has accrued. The country has for some years past had cavalry manœuvres, not on a very large scale, but larger than usual. Anyone acquainted with the facts will admit that it was in these exercises that Colonel French—now General French—learned those lessons which he has put into such brilliant practice in the field. There are many other items of un-preparedness to which I might have referred, but I should like before resuming my seat to say a word on the subject of the Imperial Yeomanry. Part of our want of preparation has been in regard to mounted infantry, a new arm about which in the public mind considerable misapprehension exists. I think the decision to form this mounted infantry out of any rough-and-ready material that first 205 presented itself, and to form a nucleus out of the rank and file of the Yeomanry was a wise one; but I consider the subsequent proceedings in raising this force of mounted infantry showed either carelessness or unacquaintance with the subject on the part of someone. I note especially the fact that nearly all the organisation and all the duties connected with the enrolment have been entrusted entirely to Yeomanry officers. The true cavalry spirit which distinguishes men like Lord Chesham, Viscount Valentia, Lord Harris, and no doubt his Grace the Duke of Marlborough is just the spirit that is not wanted for mounted infantry, and I ask my military friends who are well acquainted with this subject whether it is not true that mounted infantry is in many respects as unlike cavalry as it can possibly be? The horse in this case simply means locomotion, and the man is to become an infantry soldier when he gets to the place where he is wanted. Therefore it is a matter for serious criticism that this enrolment—by no means unconnected with a certain amount of jobbery—has been entirely entrusted to amateur cavalry officers. There have been many incidents connected with it which are not calculated to improve the spirit and increase the respect of those who have been enrolled for our military system to start with—I allude more particularly to the qualifications that have been exacted for shooting. I think it will hardly be believed that in selecting this mounted infantry for work in the war volunteers who come with certificates of marksmanship with the long rifle, which is what they will have to use against the enemy, are rejected because they fail to qualify with the short cavalry carbine. This is only one instance of the sort of blundering which takes place every day under our existing system. I know the House is anxious to hear far more important speakers, but I should like to say before sitting down that it is possible to hold the rather strong views which I have partly expressed and at the same time not agree with the Opposition in their desire to defeat the present Government. I agree with many of the premisses that gentlemen opposite have brought forward, but I disagree with their main conclusion. I do not know who the particular Minister is whom they think the Queen and the country and millions of our loyal colonists 206 would look to with any confidence at the present moment to take up the present chaotic position of affairs. There is an old proverb about swapping horses while crossing the stream, which has great application at the present time. When the war is over it will be bur duty to raise a very serious discussion upon the whole of our military system. I do not know whether it is too sanguine to express the hope that, out of all this material we have seen for the first time in the Colonial troops and the Imperial Yeomanry, who have come forward with such splendid spirit, it will be possible to weld some sort of homogeneous reserve for the future. At any rate, the Secretary of State will have an unrivalled opportunity of doing something of the kind if he is a man of common sense and reasonable ambition. I believe that whatever Government are in power they will find not only that vital changes are necessary, but that the people are quite ready to take their personal share in them; and I believe that this want of preparation, which cannot be altogether denied at the present time, may prove in the end the means of our being prepared for far more serious struggles that may still be before us.
§ SIR R. T. REID (Dumfries Burghs)
It is not my intention to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his criticism of the military aspect of the present situation, although I think any man who loves his country must feel very grave misgivings in regard to our military position, and considerable regret that there does not appear to be any adequate sense in the Government of the gravity of the situation with which we are confronted. I wish to speak upon the causes of this war and its political surroundings. I believe that the Government is responsible, because of its recklessness, want of judgment, and I must also add its want of straightforwardness, for one of the most difficult positions in which this country has found itself in the course of the last hundred years. It is perfectly true that, in a military sense, this war has been brought about by the invasion of Her Majesty's dominions, and I for one do not think it 207 possible to ask that the war should be stopped so long as enemies occupy Her Majesty's dominions. But I think we ought to recognise other causes of the war beside the proximate and immediate causes. Strategically I suppose the Boers were justified in what they did. I believe, however, that history will condemn them for taking the initiative, because so weak and absurd is the case for war between two civilised nations that if Parliament had had an opportunity of considering these grievances I do not believe that Parliament would have sanctioned the commencement of hostilities. I feel myself that it is necessary for us to speak upon these subjects. I know perfectly well that the newspaper press—part of which, I think, is very likely corrupt—after spending about three months in attacking and vilifying everyone opposed to the war, immediately before the opening of Parliament endeavoured to make out that it would be a most unpatriotic act to hold the Government responsible. If it is merely a question of submitting to the charge of want of patriotism I agree with the hon. Member for Plymouth in what he said some little time ago when The Times newspaper attacked him for being unpatriotic and cowardly. But we shall have to consider—and very soon, I trust—the question of the settlement of this terrible war with the Transvaal, and if we think that this war is an absolutely wanton, unprovoked, and vicious attempt on the part of the two Boer Republics to break down the authority of Great Britain, we should take a different view of what ought to be the settlement in that case from the view we should take if we believed, as I believe, that Her Majesty's Government are, in the ultimate sense, responsible for this war. I should be a coward if I did not state openly what I believe is the real cause of this war. The real cause of the war is a misunderstanding between two nations, fostered by the wickedness and folly of two men, and supported and made possible by the violence of the press and by the lies which the press has been circulating. So far as the inhabitants of the two South African Republics are concerned they have been for years possessed by the gravest suspicion of the intentions of Her Majesty's Government towards them. If we could penetrate what are the real innermost counsels of those who are our enemies, what do we suppose 208 they think and believe they are fighting for to-day? The First Lord of the Treasury in one of his speeches stated that the Boers were making a bold bid for empire, and that there has been existing a conspiracy in South Africa among the Dutch of Cape Colony and the two Republics for I do not know how many years to drive the British into the sea, and thus gratify their own ambition. I should like to examine that statement if I may, and if the House will allow me I will endeavour to do so. What is the character of this ambitious scheme? The Boers are not a type of people likely to be fascinated by the glitter of military enterprise. They are not soldiers, and they number in the Transvaal about 30,000 men, mostly peasants and farmers. They consist of persons between sixteen and sixty years of age. That is not the kind of people you would expect to find possessing a great army and anxious to found an empire we have had evidences of their friendliness even since the Jameson raid, for when we were in difficulties in Rhodesia they offered to send a commando for the purpose of assisting Her Majesty's forces. After the Jameson raid they endeavoured to prevail upon Her Majesty's Government to cancel the Charter, and place under the stronger and firmer Imperial authority the whole of the territory called Rhodesia. After the Hague Conference we ought not to forget that the Blue-books are full of the most persistent and passionate appeals for arbitration upon points of difference, appeals which cannot but have been sincere, as they were constantly repeated; and I say it is idle after that to suggest, without a fragment of evidence, that these men have been animated by an ambition to drive us out of South Africa. The Free Staters were also supposed to be parties to this newly-discovered conspiracy. They have been our friends for years, and no one has made more strenuous efforts for peace than President Steyn. Not only this, but when Mr. Reitz, who is now the State Secretary of the Transvaal, was President of the Orange Free State not many years ago, he refused to accept the presidency until he had ascertained that an Englishman—Sir George Grey—was unwilling to accept the position which would have been willingly given to him by those who are now supposed to be a conspiring State. I grant that there is 209 considerable danger of the Colonial Dutch being driven into a conspiracy. But was there any conspiracy among them before this war broke out? In 1895 they were willing to pay one-half the cost of the war waged by this country against the Transvaal. In 1897 Sir Alfred Milner wrote a despatch upon the occasion of Her Majesty's Jubilee, in which he dwelt with emphasis upon the loyalty of the Dutch in Cape Colony as well as those of British descent, and in May, 1899, the right hon. Gentleman who is now First Lord of the Admiralty made an excellent speech, in which he pointed with legitimate pride and enthusiasm to the loyalty of the Dutch in Cape Colony, who were then in a majority, as they now are, in the Cape Parliament. I will only remind the House of the reasons which justified the First Lord of the Admiralty in making this statement seven months ago. This disloyal State made a grant of £30,000 a year in 1898 to support the Imperial Navy, and handed over Simons Bay for the benefit of Her Majesty's forces. That sounds rather an improbable preface to a tale of conspiracy. There have been many Blue-books published in reference to South Africa, and there have been many occasions on which we have had differences about South Africa. The Colonial Secretary has told us that we have been on the verge of war four times within a small number of years, but you will not find in all the Blue-books a single trace of evidence or the expression of opinion on the part of any person conversant with South Africa contending for the existence of any such design, with the solitary exception of a most unfortunate and ill-advised passage in Sir Alfred Milner's despatch of the 4th May, 1899. More than that, there has been debate after debate in this House, and speech after speech made on critical occasions relating to South Africa during the last ten or twelve years, and there has never been, that I know of, a single public speaker, responsible or irresponsible, who ever dreamt of the existence of this conspiracy until this war broke out; and even those who support the Government feel that they are not able to justify the policy which led to this war by taking refuge in this pitiable fable. It is said sometimes that the armaments of the Boers are evidence of this conspiracy. I am not going to inflict upon the House any careful calculation, and I will only tell 210 them what the figures were for the years 1893 to 1898, in thousands, of the expenditure by the Transvaal upon their Army.
§ SIR R. T. REID
Yes. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman knows the private figures. But what is the evidence of the private figures? Are we to be left to conjecture upon this private expenditure? I have not myself the other figures, but I will take care that they are put before the House before the debate is finished; but allow me now to put these figures before the House: In 1893 the expenditure was £17,000; in 1894, £28,000; in 1895, £87,000, and that was the year of the Drifts Question, the year of the Johannesburg revolution, and the year at the end of which was the Jameson raid. In 1896, the expenditure was £494,000; in 1897, £396,000, and in the first nine months of 1898 it was £163,000. The supposed policy of driving the British into the sea is a myth, an invention fabricated for the purpose of excusing the consequences of the fatal policy which Her Majesty's Government have pursued for the last four or five years. The Boers are fighting under the influence of one of the most powerful feelings which can animate human nature; they are fighting, as they believe, to save their country from foreign domination, and if any man wonders at their military success and their military prowess he has only to look back upon the history of Scotland, or Switzerland, or Holland, or the United States, and there he will find what is the true value of the stimulus of patriotism. My charge against the Government is, that by their policy since their advent to office they have stimulated and inflamed the alarm and suspicion of the Boers. Let me try and examine the facts in connection with that The House well knows that the Boers have always been almost fanatically jealous of 211 their independence. Their independence was bestowed upon them in 1852, and twenty-five years afterwards their country was invaded and annexation took place in defiance of the Sand River Convention, in 1877. It was then discovered that that annexation had taken place, as I believe it did take place, under a misapprehension of the true desires of the inhabitants of the Transvaal. Then, in 1881 and 1884 their independence was restored; they were subject to the provisions of the Convention of 1884, but their internal independence was restored. It is not to lie wondered at that after the violation of the Sand River Convention in 1877 they should be jealous and suspicious in the highest degree of the intentions of the Government of a country which after all was 6,000 miles away, and comparatively little known to an ignorant population. It was upon this soil that the policy of Her Majesty's Government since 1895 fell. What was the first thing that happened? Within six months of the advent to office of Her Majesty's present advisers the Jameson raid occurred. Now, there is no man in this House—I do not think there is a man out of it—who does not now admit that the Jameson raid was a wicked and contemptible act. It was an act, the wickedness of which we appreciate the less—singularly enough—because of the supposed weakness of the State which was invaded. If we could conceive 400 or 500 British subjects actually making a raid upon German or French territory, and that Her Majesty's Government should expect that they should escape punishment at the hands of the Government whose territory was invaded, we may be able to imagine the effect of the outrage on the people of the Transvaal. The raid certainly contributed very largely in itself to increase the suspicious temperament of the Boer population. I believe every Dutchman in South Africa, and a very large number of persons on the continent of Europe, whether rightly or wrongly, believe that the raid was organised with the complicity of the Colonial Secretary. We are not entitled to accept suspicion for proof, nor are we entitled to accuse where our duty really is to inquire; but it cannot be forgotten that this disgraceful raid was followed by a Committee of Inquiry, which I say, in the face of the House, was a scandal to the House of Commons, dishonouring to the 212 House, and dishonouring to the country. What were the circumstances? It was a Committee appointed after a promise given in Her Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne in 1896 that there should be a full inquiry. When the question came before the Committee we all know that there were telegrams which were not produced, nor was Mr. Hawkesley compelled to produce them. What was still more important, Mr. Hawkesley's cross-examination was stopped. Lord Grey was not called, and Mr. Rutherfoord Harris was not called back. I forbear from further comment upon this Committee, because I believe if you speak privately to any gentleman, and if he will candidly tell you his thoughts, he will say there is a cloud over that transaction which ought to be cleared away. The inquiry was followed by the Colonial Secretary actually making a speech in this House at the close of the debate which took place on the Report of the Committee, in which he said that Mr. Rhodes had done nothing inconsistent with the conduct of a man of honour. This was said of Mr. Rhodes who had deceived his colleagues in the Ministry at the Cape, who had not communicated to the Governor the intelligence which it was his duty to communicate, and who had used information and telegrams from England for the purpose of misleading a number of young men into believing that they were acting with the Queen's authority. I am dealing with this as a matter that created suspicion in the minds of the people and the Government of the Transvaal. It is within everybody's knowledge that nothing contributed so much to shake confidence on the part of the Transvaal Government in its dealings with Her Majesty's Government as these most unfortunate episodes, and for my part I wish to say that I believe it is the duty of this House now to take up the broken thread of that inquiry, and, having regard to the general discredit which I am sorry to say has been created by those incidents upon the continent of Europe, as well as in this country, to pursue that inquiry to its final and ultimate conclusion. What was the next incident which contributed to the suspicion in the minds of the Transvaal Government? It was when the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, for the first time since the Convention of 1884, claimed in 1897 suzerainty over the 213 Transvaal. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Plymouth—whose conduct and courage in this business will not soon be forgotten—has stated that after the communications that took place in 1884 it was against the national good faith to claim that suzerainty. I agree with him. I do not think anyone can read those Papers with an impartial mind without seeing that it was the intention not to maintain the suzerainty, and that internal self-government subject to Article 4, and it may be to Article 14, of the Convention of 1884 was to be bestowed on the Transvaal. I think Sir Alfred Milner was perfectly right in saying that suzerainty was a mere etymological question, and that the real importance lay in the adherence of both sides to the articles of the Convention itself. That is true. What is claimed under the suzerainty? I will not say under the suzerainty itself, because if you pursue it through the Blue-books you will had sometimes the word "suzerainty," sometimes the phrase "position of paramount power," then an appeal to "the letter of the Convention," elsewhere a statement that this, that, or the other provision is outside the "spirit of the Convention." It is a general, vague, intangible claim, and if we want to measure the degree of alarm that was created under it, we will have to follow the different claims put forward by the Colonial Secretary in regard to various acts of legislation by the Transvaal Government during the period generally from 1896 down to 1899. I do not state the Acts in order, but I will take them one by one, as it does not matter in what year they were passed. The Transvaal Government passed an Act against the immigration of aliens; it was an Act very similar to Acts existing in the United States and other countries. Her Majesty's Government complained of it as being contrary to the rights of Great Britain. Another Act was the Aliens Expulsion Act. Her Majesty's Government protested against that Act also, which was one to enable the Government of the Transvaal to expel persons whose presence was against the interests of peace and order. Then there was an Act passed to enable the Government of the Transvaal to suppress newspapers. Her Majesty's Government protested against that. Her Majesty's Government next claimed that the dynamite monopoly—which, after all, merely determined the question whether dynamite 214 should be sold in Johannesburg at 85s. or 42s.—was an infringement of the rights existing between the Transvaal and Her Majesty's Government. The Colonial Secretary further criticised and complained of the methods and incidence of taxation in the Transvaal, and finally he complained that the law as regards judges—which was altered, I think, in 1898—was contrary to justice, and contended that that was a matter which Her Majesty's Government had a right to complain of. I am not going to enter upon a discussion of that law now, because I want to spare the time of the House. I will assume that the law of 1898 simply repealed decisions given by the judges in the previous year and restored the condition of the law which had existed from the very commencement of the Transvaal Republic and which had been supported by the authority of all the courts there until the previous twelve months. I am not going to enter upon the merits of these laws; I believe that in some instances they were illiberal and narrow-minded, and not such as a thoroughly enlightened Government would be likely to pass. But that is not the point. In the case of hardly one of these laws was it even suggested that there was any oppressive use made of them in fact as against British subjects. They were not liberal, but still they were within the right of the Transvaal Government to pass, and the position which the Transvaal Government took up in respect of them was that they were perfectly prepared to receive hints or friendly suggestions, but that they disputed the constitutional authority of Her Majesty's Government to insist upon the repeal of these laws. Now I want to ask what was the effect of these constant interpositions upon men who were already perhaps legitimately suspicious of the intentions of Her Majesty's Government in regard to their independence? When we claimed that we were at liberty to complain of laws relating to people coming into the country, of laws relating to their being, expelled for violating peace and order; that we had the right to interfere with, their press laws; that we might complain of such things as a dynamite monopoly, and that we were at liberty to criticise taxation, and have our criticism attended to, how much of local independence was left? Try and compare the position put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies with regard to 215 the Transvaal Government, with claims that he would make in regard to any self-governing colony of our own. I might add that he also claimed to interfere in the matter of education. Would he interfere with Canada with reference to a dynamite monopoly, or education, or laws relating to judges? If Canada passed any law relating to any of these matters it would come before the Colonial Office, and the right hon. Gentleman would not object to it. The constitutional claims of the Colonial Secretary were so extensive that he lifted suzerainty to something more powerful than sovereignty itself. After that, in the year 1898, practically for the first time, the claim of personal grievances on the part of the Uitlanders was put forward. They were never heard of until a comparatively late stage in this unhappy controversy. I am perfectly agreed that if there is oppression of British subjects in any foreign State there is unquestionably a right of remonstrance and interference on the part of the Government. The constitutional ground of that claim is indisputable. I do not wish to enter upon those grievances, but I would ask the House to allow me to state my own impressions and conclusions, after a very careful study of the Blue-books. I think there has been gross exaggeration in the statement of those grievances and in the nature of the ill-usage of British subjects. The police, or some of them, were quite possibly corrupt; they were rough in their usage and treatment of coloured British subjects, but as regards white British subjects there are, I think, only two cases mentioned in the Bluebooks. One was the case of Mrs. Applebee, who was brutally murdered. It was not suggested that she was murdered by the police; the only fault of the police was that they could not discover the culprit. The other was the notorious case of Mr. Edgar. I know that this subject has been already discussed in the House, and I can only say after having studied the evidence, that so far as a man can judge of evidence who has not heard it given, the choice of the jury in that case was between a verdict of manslaughter and a verdict of acquittal. If a verdict of manslaughter had been given, and three months imprisonment had been inflicted, it would have been a finding warranted by the evidence, but I must say also that the finding arrived at by the jury was warranted by the 216 evidence. There was one meeting broken up; it was a disgraceful case, and as far as one can judge it was connived at by some of the minor officials of the Transvaal Government and by the police. No one was seriously injured, however, and it must be observed that scores of meetings were held after that without the slightest interference. That case, there fore, must be regarded as an isolated one. A matter in which decided and strong representations would naturally be made I was the case of the employment of agents provocateurs in the prosecution of two or three men in Johannesburg, against whom, however, the charge, was not proceeded with, although I think the proceedings were very bad, and the practice was, of course, scandalous. I must leave hon. Gentlemen who have read the Papers to form their own opinions upon these cases, but I must say that the violence of the denunciations that were indulged in by the press in the autumn of last year for the purpose of inflaming the people of this country into sympathy with the supposed oppression of their fellow-subjects in Johannesburg, to my mind redounded to the dishonour of the journals which stooped to it. Now let me say a few words with regard to the last stage of the proceedings. There was a Conference at Bloemfontein at which President Kruger earnestly pressed that all subjects of difference between Her Majesty's Government and his Government should be entered upon. That was refused. It was refused, rightly or wrongly, as a matter of policy; I do not wish to express an opinion on the matter, but it was considered that until the franchise question was settled it was unnecessary or useless to enter upon these other considerations. It is unnecessary for me to enter upon that now. It has been discussed by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, and also by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin, and the House is in full possession of all that can be said on the subject. In the month of August, 1899, the Colonial Secretary and the Transvaal Government were very close together. Indeed, it was only a misunderstanding apparently on the part of the Transvaal Government of the terms and intentions of a dispatch of the right hon. Gentleman which prevented an accommodation being: arrived at. But all this time Her Majesty's Government proceeded to pour 217 troops into the country; and while I do not at all think myself that there was any moral justification for the conduct of the Boer Government in commencing the war—for I believe that if Parliament had been allowed to meet there would have been no war—still, what can you say of the wisdom and the statesmanship of those who on the one hand were carrying on negotiations for a franchise settlement, and who knew well that they were within arm's length of one another, and who at the same time were arousing the natural suspicions under the circumstances of the Transvaal Government by pouring troops into South Africa? I know that blame had been laid by some speakers upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer for not supplying enough money to send sufficient troops to South Africa. All I can say is that I most heartily wish that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been able, by withholding the money, to prevent the sending out of a single soldier, because I am convinced that had it not been for the sending of these troops into South Africa peace would have been preserved. It was the fatal persuasion of the Government that the policy of menace and brag would succeed, that was the real cause which led to the deplorable position in which we now find ourselves. And what are the consequences? Some of the consequences which are apparent are, the enormous expenditure of money, the serious danger of complications abroad, and the loss of thousands of lives of brave men on both sides, all of whom have perished needlessly and uselessly, for their death will heal no feud nor advance any cause of humanity. And what is to be the further prospect? The First Lord of the Treasury told us yesterday, in perfectly explicit language, that it was the intention of the Government to carry on this war until the complete supremacy of Her Majesty was established all over South Africa; that is, until you have effected the complete subjugation of the Boers, and deprived them of their independence. Well, there has been a good deal of miscalculation already. There has been miscalculation in regard to military preparations. There has been still graver miscalculation in regard to political negotiations. I wonder whether that policy, to begin with, is practicable. Of course I suppose that with the enormous resources of this country it may be possible at some cost to do it 218 just as, in the same way, if you throw a guinea into water twenty fathoms deep it may be possible to recover it by applying all the resources of civilisation. But what is the cost? The cost in men would be enormous in a country like that, at a vast distance from your base. I cannot help thinking that some little reflection may well be indulged in before endorsing a policy of that kind from a practical point of view. We are not the only country in Europe, and we have not got too many friends on the continent of Europe. I do not suppose that there are many nations who would look with sympathy or favour upon the endeavour to annihilate the independence of these two numerically small States. And what would follow? The war must necessarily mean, if it has been successful, the destruction of about one-half of the male adult population. Does anybody suppose that that is calculated to draw nearer the bonds of affection between ourselves and the survivors of the population, or between us and the subjects of the State? It would require an enormous standing army for an indefinite number of years. Lastly, I should oppose such a policy upon the old-fashioned view that it would be an unjust policy. This situation in which we find ourselves is the first fruits of the new Imperialism. If Imperialism means sober pride in the great Empire we control, a most earnest desire to knit together in the bonds of friendship the various populations that belong to it, a firm determination to preserve the integrity of our Empire at all costs, and the using of the means of advancing civilisation among all kinds and conditions of men—then there is no one more of an Imperialist than I am. But if it means departing from the old and honoured tradition of this country to respect the freedom of other nations, even if they be small nations, and to advance rather than to retard liberty—which from the most recent developments I am afraid is its true and significant meaning—then it is the duty of every honest citizen of this country to destroy that spirit, because, otherwise that spirit is certain to destroy us.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
The hon. and learned 219 Member, the conclusion of whose speech has been received with loud cheers on the opposite side of the House, commenced with a statement that there was no adequate sense on the part of the Government of the gravity of the situation in which we now stand. But as the hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded with his speech it became apparent to every member of the House of Commons not blinded by partisanship that that speech showed an absolute divergence from the Amendment he was about to vote for, and that he, at any rate, had no sense whatever of the gravity of the situation, or of the duty which he owes to his own conscience as a Member of this House. What could be more illogical, more immoral than for a Member to make a speech from which you gather that every step that has led to this war has been an unjust step, that the operations of the war are unjust operations, and then for him to go into the lobby and vote for this Amendment, which complains that the Government have been too backward in their preparations for the war? The hon. and learned Member had shown us over and over again that his objection to the Government was not that they had been wanting in foresight in their preparations against the South African Republic, but that they had gone to war at all. When we came here yesterday the whole country was looking to the Opposition for a statesmanlike exposition of their policy and of the policy which they wished the Government to pursue. The hon. and learned Member has told the Government what their policy should be, but he is now going to vote against us because our policy has not been the opposite. He has indicted the Government on one side, but what was the speech of the noble Lord who introduced the Amendment? That speech was a long apology for the War Office and a declaration, in behalf of the preparations for the war, that the War Office had not been backward. What was his indictment? It was that had there been a little less suspicion on 220 the part of the Transvaal authorities, we might have been able to produce some result, although he did not go so far as to say that it would have been such as to prevent the war. Important as is this debate, it has not risen to the level which the country desires, because hon. Gentlemen opposite have simply devised a formula of opinion which enables them to vote together, though they held absolutely divergent opinions upon every point of policy. The noble Lord, who comes of a stock which has produced a good many politicians and some statesmen, spent a considerable time last night in justifying his position as a member of the Opposition which indicted the Government by digging from past records to prove from the attitude of other statesmen that it was correct to indict the Government. It may be statesmanlike to indict the Government when you have a policy to substitute, but to indict the Government on a long review of past events, on tags of speeches, and tale-ends of quotations from Blue Books when you have no alternative policy to propose, and never have had any, is not a course that rises at the present crisis to the expectations of the country. It is a course that is neither statesman-like nor politic. The resolution before the House, if it means anything, means the fall of the Government. I do not complain in the slightest degree that the Opposition for party reasons think it desirable to bring forward such a motion, but when you look at it from the point of view of the country we come to a rather different conclusion. The noble Lord, in the absence of the First Lord of the Treasury, objected to some remarks which fell from him about the conduct of the Opposition, and said it would be necessary to remind him of the events in this House from 1882 to 1885. If my right hon. friend the First Lord will not take up the challenge of the noble Lord opposite, I will. It is quite true that the Opposition in those years harassed the Government of that day, and put the 221 House to the trouble of continual divisions on votes of censure until they had accomplished the fall of the Government. But we did so in pursuance of a definite policy. We knew that the Government was divided as to the policy which had been pursued; we knew that our interests in Egypt and in Europe were suffering in consequence. We knew that the operations of one section of the Government and then of another were losing us confidence and success, and so we determined to bring about the fall of that Government, and we succeeded. That was a true policy, and the Opposition of that day only did what was expected of them as an Opposition. If the present Opposition succeed in overthrowing the Government what policy are they going to adopt? They can only by that measure effect either of two objects—they may weaken the Government, or they may overthrow it. But is the Government divided, or is the Opposition at one? The country cares nothing for who sits on these benches, or on those benches, What the country cares for is, that we should pursue this war vigorously to a conclusion. Now the question is, who can do it best, the Government or the Opposition? The Government are at one. All the speeches which have been made have not shown any divergence of view between members of the Government. But where are the Opposition? Have they got a majority? or how are they going to get it? They must drag into the lobby all the gentlemen who have made speeches throughout the country saying they disapproved of the war; all those gentlemen who object that the preparations for the war have not been sufficient; all those who openly say they sympathise with the Boers. They must drag in gentlemen like the right hon. Member for Montrose, who told the country not long ago that the whole differences between the Transvaal Government and the Uitlanders were not worth the bones of one Scotsman; they must drag in also the Leader of the Opposition himself, who 222 indulged last night in studied ambiguities, and who in this matter sat upon the fence until he was tumbled over, by force majeure, upon the right side. They must drag in also all those Members like the hon. Member for Berwick Division, the right hon. Member for East Fife, the hon. Member for Haddington, who have all made it perfectly clear in their speeches in the country that there is no fault with the Government or in the negotiations, so much as in the fact that under no circumstances whatever did President Kruger intend to give to the Uitlanders that which any British Government would be forced to demand for them. These are going to be the parties who will find themselves in the lobby together. On what principle do they suppose that they will be supported by the people of this country, who want a more vigorous policy if it can be obtained, and a more consistent diplomacy if it can be found? I hope before I have done I shall succeed in proving to the House that the Government have some higher grounds for expecting a vote of confidence than was stated in Opposition. But if I had not, I could afford to quote the argument attributed to Charles II. in relation to James II., who said "they would never get rid of me in order to exalt you." I should like to say that in the whole of this controversy the point which I deprecate most is that this great question should be made solely the subject of party attack. The real question which lies before us is not a question of party recrimination at all. The real question is, was the Government justified in espousing the grievances of the Uitlanders, and, if so, was there any means, by diplomacy or otherwise, by which we could have obtained substantial redress without going to war? The Opposition complain of our want of foresight in this matter, but the speeches they have made show a curious want of backsight on their part. This Amendment has been carefully drawn by a skilful Parliamentary hand on a question of time, but it has not been equally sedulously drawn in regard to questions of 223 policy. If you look back you find that the grievances of the Uitlanders began before we came into office, and that the suspicions of the Transvaal Government were roused long before the present Government came into power. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dumfries Burghs told us that the grievances were immensely exaggerated. I do not think it is possible to treat these grievances as the hon. and learned Gentleman treated them. What were these grievances? These Uitlanders had no municipal government, no police protection, no organised maintenance of order; they had no even-handed administration, no Parliamentary representation. It is quite true that though they were a majority of the population in number, they had no power or voice in the State; they paid nine-tenths of the taxation, and they had nothing to do with the governing body. But that was not all. If that had occurred to British subjects in other parts of the world, it may be that the hon. and learned Member and those who think with him might be justified in hinting that their case might have been met by Convention. Well, we had Conventions with the Transvaal. We had agreements. I will not go so far as to say how many of the grievances could be put down to breaches, and how many to evasions, of the agreements. There were the granting of monopolies, the war tax, the discrimination in other taxation, etc. The whole spirit of the agreements was violated, a spirit of oppression was shown, and a spirit of opposition was roused, and it was almost impossible for any Government to avoid being drawn into the controversy. Very much has been said as to the opinion which Europe holds in regard to this matter. But I venture to remind the House that that was not the opinion before the war; that was not the verdict of the European press, when, before the war, the question was not merely one of the success of the British arms, but of justice to members of other nationalities who were under oppression. A quotation has 224 been made in this House from an Austrian newspaper, the Pester Lloyd. In July last it said, "No Great Power can tolerate such treatment of its subjects as British subjects endure in the Transvaal," and that "if England does so her predominance in South Africa would be destroyed."
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE (Wiltshire, Cricklade)
The right hon. Gentleman quotes from the Pester Lloyd. Does he mean to say that that is an Austrian paper? It is an Hungarian paper.
§ MR. BRODRICK
This country is Great Britain and Ireland, but I do not take the trouble every time I speak of Great Britain to mention Ireland.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
The relations between Great Britain and Ireland are very different to those between Austria and Hungary.
§ MR. BRODRICK
As the noble Lord is a purist, I would study to follow him in future, but I think his interruption on this trifling question is a measure of the breadth of view he takes on the whole South African subject.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
I only wished to point out that it is not fair to quote the Pester Lloyd as illustrating Austrian opinion, because Austrian and Hungarian opinion on this matter has shown the widest divergence.
§ MR. BRODRICK
So it may; but what I want to say is, that hon. Members opposite should not judge by the tone now shown in the press of Europe what was the opinion of the Governments of Europe, and the opinion of the press of Europe, before the war was declared, with regard to the grievances of the Uitlanders. On that point we have obtained no guidance whatever. It is quite true that the hon. and learned Member, like the hon. Member for Poplar who spoke before him, illustrated his arguments by a good many suggestions, some of which I do 225 not think the Government will accept. The hon. and learned Member quoted figures showing that £1,186,000 was the expenditure of the Transvaal on their military services. That, no doubt, was intended to prove how innocent President Kruger was of any idea of offence against this country, how absolutely the Transvaal was set on home defence, and how unjustified we should have been in undertaking these preparations for war upon which he is going into the lobby to vote. There would have been some point in the observation before the war began, but every one who has any knowledge of figures knows now that the sum quoted would not produce a half, a third, or a quarter of the munitions of war which the Transvaal Government had put into the field. The true sum which the Transvaal has been spending has not been stated, because the Boers knew that if it had been stated correctly their designs would have been unmasked, and the Transvaal has been smuggling in munitions of war so as to gull this country into fancied security. That being so, I wonder the hon. and learned Member has thought it worth his while to put these figures before the House. Has he been altogether blind to our casualties? Has not he read of the positions held against British troops? When he tells us that all the statements about Kruger are a myth, then I am bound to retort that these figures taken alone are an imposture. In the same way I cannot help referring to certain aguments addressed to us by the hon. Member for Poplar. The hon. Member for Poplar told us that the raid would never have occurred if it had not been for the advent of this Government into power, and their having remained in office. The hon. Gentleman's argument was that there was a strip of Bechuanaland which we had granted to the Chartered Company, and that that strip the Chartered Company made their jumping-off point. It was a subtle but inconclusive argument. If there was an obligation to hand this strip of territory over to the Chartered Company, it had to be handed over according to the obligation incurred.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Then I join the hon. Gentleman in the same category as the noble Lord who tries to carry out his duty in a great national crisis by using similar arguments. No one on this side of the House defends the raid. No one has lost more by the raid than the Government, and no one feels more than the Government how much it has handicapped us in our negotiations. It has handicapped us not because the suspicions engendered made it impossible for the Transvaal Government to believe in the integrity of British statesmen, but because it occurred at a moment when President Kruger had almost reached the end of the endurance of his own burghers in the unreasonableness of the treatment of the Uitlanders. If for a few months more the system of terrorising by means of an oligarchical Government over a great body of men paying nearly the whole of the expenses of government of the country had been allowed to continue, there were many evidences to show that even the burghers were ready to go further in concession than their President has lately been. If that system had endured for a short time longer, and if the catastrophe had not been precipitated by these misguided men, that which happened in all civilised States sooner or later must have come about, where one man insisted upon pursuing an unreasonable policy against the wishes of those around him. You are ready enough to attribute it to the blunders of the Colonial Secretary, but not one of you will stand bail that the President of the Transvaal would ever have acted reasonably of his own free will towards the Uitlander. So long as that man is there, nothing will be done, and it is idle for hon. Gentlemen opposite to get up and tell us there was no objection to giving freedom to the Uitlanders. I deeply regretted to hear the reference of the hon. and learned Member to the proceedings of a Committee of the House. Though I have been a Member of the House for twenty years, I have never heard an hon. Member before dare to tell the House that the proceedings of its own Committee were dishonouring to it.
§ MR. BRODRICK
It was a Committee which included the Leader of the Opposition, who voted for a practically unanimous Report, the late Leader of the Opposition, the hon. Member for Poplar, the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division of Nottingham, and other Members of the Liberal party, and yet the hon. Member is going into the lobby in common cause with those hon. Gentlemen against the Government with the declaration that the proceedings of that Committee were dishonouring to the House of Commons. I think that the speech of the hon. Member was not only an illogical speech, but a highly immoral speech. It is said that there were ulterior motives behind, that Members on the Government side had something to conceal. That suggestion has often been disproved in this House before. If the suggestion is to be made it would be much better if it were openly made. Hon. Members have preserved an amusing silence with regard to their indictment of the Government for their want of military preparations. That will be dealt with at more length by the representative of the War Office. Up to this moment we have not heard what it is they accuse the Government of. The reference has been dragged into the end of the resolution to catch the votes of a few stray Members on their own side, like the hon. Member for South Shields, but if a suggestion of this kind is to be made, it should be supported by facts. The only suggestion which we have had is that the Council for National Defence has been established for the purpose of overruling the decision of the Secretary of State. I never heard before that the establishment of a Cabinet Committee was for the purpose of overruling the particular office which might be engaged in certain work. I look upon the establishment of a body which will connect all the numerous departments which must be welded together on questions of national defence—the War Office, the Admiralty, the Treasury, the Colonial and Foreign Offices—as a most important step in our military organisation. It lies with the right hon. Gentleman to show how that council could have interfered with the furtherance of the military operations.
§ MR. BRODRICK
It would have been better, then, if, like other fishing suggestions of the light hon. Gentleman, the remark had not been thrown out. If the right hon. Gentleman is so anxious to water down the responsibility of the Secretary of State, it may be necessary some day to show the House how far the right hon. Gentleman, when in power, appreciated that responsibility. If the right hon. Gentleman challenges me, I will take up the challenge. My respect for the right hon. Gentleman as a man is very great, but it will not prevent me from dwelling somewhat on his acts as a Minister. The case of the Government with regard to the whole question is this; we are accused of errors and of vacillation. The errors have to some extent been pointed out, but no one has even suggested where the vacillation has occurred. The case of the Government is that, having recognised the grievances of the Uitlanders, we have striven to obtain redress for those grievances in whatever form might be most acceptable to the authorities of the Transvaal. If the Transvaal were willing to make concessions, well and good. If they were willing to give any form of franchise which would give effective representation to the Uitlanders, her Majesty's Government were ready to accept that. No man on the Opposition side of the House can complain that the Government have been unduly rapid in their operations. From the time of the raid to the time of the declaration of the war is a period of nearly four years. During that period every effort has been made to induce the Transvaal Government to meet the grievances, but all efforts failed. Would hon. Members opposite then have shut up the book, have admitted their failure, and gone no further? Would they, knowing the enormous preparations of the Transvaal, have taken no steps to defend the colonies? The noble Lord complained of the Foreign Office not issuing an edict to forbid the export of arms in June of last year. Such an edict would have been as direct a provocation to the Transvaal as the sending of troops, and would have been quite ineffective for its purpose, because they could have imported arms from elsewhere. The 229 right hon. Gentleman opposite said that this was the very time for effective criticism. The criticism might be effective from a party standpoint; but it is doubtful whether this frontal attack is the wisest strategy for right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is difficult to see how this criticism can be effective from a patriotic standpoint. Not one word has been said to assist the Government in regard to the problems which they have to decide in the future. There is only one direction in which this Amendment can be effective—it will be a direct solace and encouragement to the Boers. The essence of the Amendment is that the Government has blundered into war. Those who hold that opinion must hold the Government guilty of the war; and that gives the clearest evidence to those arrayed against us in the field that they it is who are to be regarded as the injured persons. That is the evidence for which the Boers have been waiting and praying for months. They look for evidence of the cleavage of parties in this country—of a cleavage of opinion which may result in our abandonment of the war, or, if it is still pursued, which will result in their obtaining terms such as the Government have now no intention of granting. I do not believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite represent the feeling of the country in establishing this cleavage in the House of Commons, and I believe that the country will resent the immense difficulty which has been created by this action for our soldiers in the field. I know that there are men opposite who are not thinking of party considerations; and I know that there are behind the Treasury bench a large body of men determined that the Government shall not fail in any duty which a patriotic Englishman would wish to be fulfilled. Although some of my hon. friends may have misgivings as to a part of the military operations of the past, and are determined that by every means at their disposal the Government shall be kept up to the mark, they will not accept an Amendment which must condemn the efforts made by the Government on behalf of British subjects in the Transvaal, which must stultify the previous decisions of the House, and which must also bitterly hamper the Government in the vigorous prosecution of the campaign.
§ Motion made, and question "That the debate be adjourned till to-morrow" (Sir Charles Dilke) put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and question proposed—"That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ SIR J. KENNAWAY (Devonshire, Honiton)
A vote of censure on the Government has been moved under unprecedented circumstances; but the object, I take it, of this House ought to be to show ourselves united before the world. Every speech that has been made, and every hour the debate goes on, prevents us being united. We want some hearty words to cheer up our countrymen and soldiers at the front, and that is not possible while the debate continues. I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he will not, after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, endeavour to bring this debate to a close, on Friday night at all events, so that the House may go on to the questions of the defence of the country and the Government may state the course they intend to take.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
Allow me to call the attention of the House to the fact that this Amendment raises a question which has not been adequately debated on any previous occasion. When the justification for the war was last discussed the First Lord of the Treasury moved the closure within four hours after the defence of the Government had been stated by the Colonial Secretary. With regard to the division in this House, there is a division in the House and country, and no appeal the right hon. Gentleman may make to close that discussion will keep me silent. All shall be made known to the world, and I protest against any attempt being made to stifle the debate. How does it touch military operations? Do you think the Boers fight simply because we talk here? It will not affect them in the slightest degree, or the courage of 231 our soldiers, and the military operations will go on whether we talk or not.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I concur with my hon. friend that probably in the crisis or condition of affairs in which the country finds itself it takes very little interest in the threshing out of old controversies and in the telling again of twice-told tales. But when he asks me to bring this debate to a close, I must point out that a vote of censure has been moved with all the formalities which could attend such an operation. It has been moved by a Member who sits on the Front Opposition Bench, with the full concurrence and in harmony with the Leader of the Opposition. On the result of the motion must depend the fate of the Government; and it would be quite contrary to all the traditions of this House if we were to stifle so important a Parliamentary interest, or to interfere with the privileges which the Opposition undoubtedly possess in this matter. It is for them to consider how far this debate ought to be prolonged, and how far the advantage of the House and of the country will be served by a prolongation of the debate. From every point of view I am desirous that the debate on the Address should conclude, because the House has been brought together, at an inconveniently early date, in order to deal with important financial business. The sooner we get to that business and the sooner the Government are able to make the statement for which the country is looking as regards our general military position, the better the Government will be pleased. But it is impossible for me to suggest to the 232 Opposition that they should curtail discussion on a formal vote of censure on which, after all, the existence of the Government depends. That by all party tradition must rest, and ought to rest, with the House itself, and not with the Leader of the House.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Perhaps I ought to say a few words in following up what the right hon. Gentleman has said, whose perfect correctness or correctitude of tone in the matter has been recognised on all sides of the House. I can quite understand my hon. friend opposite desiring that the debate should come to a speedy conclusion. He would not have raised the debate himself, and he does not agree with the opinions of those who have raised it. But I can assure him that this is a matter which large bodies of men in the country desire to see fully threshed out in debate. That is also the desire of a large number of Members on this side of the House; and with every desire to make reasonable progress with the effective business of the session, I am afraid it is quite impossible to look forward to the early cessation of the debate. I know as a fact that there are a large number of gentlemen behind me who desire to take part in the debate and who have been looking forward to it for some time, and I cannot give any hope of satisfaction to the ardent expression of the desire of the hon. Gentleman.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ House adjourned at half-past Five of the clock.