§ (4.15.) Mr. CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)
In proposing the Amendment with which I am entrusted by my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition, I hope I may claim the indulgence and patience of the House in the, to me, somewhat difficult position in which I am placed. I am sensible that an importance may be attached to my words which my position in this House would not otherwise give. The first part of the Amendment may possibly seem unnecessary in view of the support which the Government have always received from the great bulk of the Liberal Party, when they have asked for supplies to carry on the war. But, Sir, we have been told that all speeches delivered here, and even those delivered in the country, are read by the Boers. It is, therefore, I take it, absolutely necessary that on an occasion of this sort the position of the Liberal Party should be clearly and absolutely defined. This might not have been so necessary, had it not been for speeches by Members opposite, who have done their best to convince the Boers that a large section of the English people are anxious for the British arms to fail. Statements and insinuations of this kind are recognised in England as merely the weapons of party welfare; but the effect on the Boers must be very different. What could possibly encourage them more than to be told that every vote given at the last election to a liberal was a vote given to the Boers, when about two-fifths of the electors voted for Liberals on that occasion? What could give them greater encouragement than to be told by the Colonial Secretary that two-thirds of the liberal Members of this House had wished for the success of Boer diplomacy? It is to remove the ill effect of such declarations by hon. and right hon. Members opposite that the first part of this Amendment is necessary. The war must be ended, and it must be ended by the triumph of British arms. That has been the belief of Liberals from the commencement of the war, and to accomplish that end they have always voted the necessary Supplies and given the Government their support in measures to accomplish this 325 end. It is as to the best method of ending the war and ending it in such a way as to secure the lasting peace and prosperity of South Africa that differences arise.
Now, Sir, some of the methods adopted by the Government have, in my opinion, not only not tended to the speedy termination of the war, but have done something towards assuring the fulfilment of the prophecy of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, when he said:A war in South Africa would leave behind it the embers of strife which I believe generations would hardly be long enough to extinguishAmongst these methods I class the policy of severity, which was at one time so popular with the Press, which included indiscriminate farm burning, and the contemptibly mean policy of putting on half rations the women and children whose husbands and fathers were still in the field; but, above all, I condemn the compelling of neighbours, friends and relations of rebels to go and witness their execution. To me that is a barbarous policy, and although I do not suppose for a moment that the Government ever knew what was being done, I think they would have safeguarded the reputation of this country if they had declared their disapproval of it.
In this connection, I should like to say that, whilst not giving any opinion as to the necessary or otherwise of the executions that have taken place under martial law, I would like to associate myself with the opinion of an eminent writer who said,—A brave race can forget the victims of the battlefield, but never those of the scaffold. The making of political martyrs, is the last insanity of statemanship.Then there was the policy of proclamations, there was the premature proclamation of annexation, the proclamation rendering it criminal for Boers to continue fighting, the proclamation threatening to burn farms within ten miles of where a railway was destroyed. Then there was that last, and, in my opinion, the most foolish of them all—the proclamation ordaining banishment of all Boer leaders who did not surrender before September 15th. This proclamation has been in force since that date, and if it has any effect at all, it can only be, to deter the Boers leaders from surrendering, for they are told that if they surrender they will be permanently banished.
The junior Member for Oldham, who speaks with considerable knowledge on 326 South African affairs, speaking in his own constituency, said:—There were two classes of Boers—those whom they had caught and those whom they had not caught. They might do anything they liked to those they had caught; they might make them Prime Ministers of England, or Knights of the Garter, or cut off their heads, or boil them in oil, but nothing they could do to them would help them to catch those other Boers who had not been caught. The worse they treated those they had caught, the harder it would be to catch the others.I agree with the hon. Member, and I also agree with him when he said—and he said it bitterly—it was "vigour and not rigour" that we wanted. The hon. Member seems to have a way of saying—especially on South African matters—what we on this side of the House think. I think this proclamation should be withdrawn if only to make it easier for individual leaders to surrender. Who are the people who are the most anxious, and always have been the most anxious, for stringent measures in connection with the war? They are the inhabitants of Cape Colony, and Natal, and the refugees from the Transvaal in the Cape and in London. Now, whilst there are undoubtedly a large number of the refugees fighting in the field, there are a still greater number who ought to be fighting, but who are contenting themselves with talking and advocating severity against the Boers. I confess it is with some impatience that I hear of men who made large fortunes under Kruger's corrupt oligarchy crying for greater severity from their secure retreat of Deer Forests and shooting boxes in Scotland and hunting boxes in England. These are the men whose opinions and predictions have been wrong about everything in connection with South Africa, both before and during the war, the principal reason being that to such up-to-date gentlemen the idea never occurred that anyone could be so foolish as to fight to the death for his country. I agree with Dr. Conan Doyle, when he says that—The Boer is not a coward, or a man unworthy of the British steel. Could we have such men as willing fellow-citizens they are worth all the gold mines of their country.I am anxious that a settlement shall be made, by which these people shall become willing fellow-citizens instead of discontented conspirators. I prefer a peace 327 under which men like Botha and Delarey can lay down their arms with honour, and almost immediately take part in some way or other in the Government of the country. I believe if such a settlement could be secured the necessity for a large body of troops in South Africa would soon be over. I also agree with Mr. J. B. Robinson when he says—He sees nothing grotesque in Boers being immediately 'allowed to enter the Councils of the States and sit side by side with the British representatives, for the purpose of bringing about a solution of the past and present difficulties, and with the view of shaping the administration of affairs for the mutual advantage of all parties.'I hope, therefore, that in any further negotiations which may take place a more liberal spirit will be displayed than that which has hitherto resulted in the continuance of the war. The first time when terms of peace were spoken of was on May 13th, 1900, when General Botha asked for the terms of peace from General Buller, who referred the question to Lord Roberts. Lord Roberts, presumably acting as the mouthpiece of the Government, sent back the answer that certain terms would be granted, but that those who had commanded portions of the Republcan forces, or had taken an active part in the policy which brought about the war, were excepted from these terms. The only terms offered to these people were unconditional surrender. Sir, if the rank and file of the Boers ever knew the terms that were offered (which I think is very questionable)it is to their honour that they did not accept them at the price of deserting their leaders. Now it was on this occasion that the policy of humiliation was inaugurated. It is now a year and eight months since, and I cannot think that those who are responsible for these harsh terms can look back with complacency upon their policy. Then, Sir, we had the Kitchener and Botha negotiations, in which the recommendations made by the soldier in the field, who knew all the circumstances of the case, were whittled down and made unacceptable by the Government at home. In my opinion, it was on the question of amnesty that these negotiations failed, and it does seem to me a pity that His Majesty's Government should ask a Boer Commander to do what I do not believe a single member of the Government would be capable of, namely to desert the friends who had come to his assistance in his time 328 of need. There is no authentic account of any negotiations having taken place since that time, but I take this opportunity of asking if any negotiations have taken place or any overtures from any Boer delegates have been conveyed to any member of His Majesty's Government, since that date with reference to the termination of the war in South Africa.
§ THE SECRETARY OFSTATE FOR THE COLONIES (MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
Does the hon. Member wish me to answer him now?
§ MR. CAWLEY assented.
§ MR. CAWLEY
Since the last negotiations, the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman opposite seem to show that they look forward to unconditional surrender, failing that, a process of gradual wearing down without general surrender and without finality of any sort. The latter seemed to be Lord Milner's idea, if we are to judge by his Durban speech. Hon Members opposite seem fond of the idea of unconditional surrender, but, Sir, their desire for it is shared in a strange quarter, and with far other objects in view to those which they profess. Amongst the captured correspondence published the other day was a letter from Mr. Schalk Burger to Mr. Steyn. In that letter Mr. Schalk Burger expressed his preference for unconditional surrender, so that the Boers can, in these words—Keep alive our oppressed national spirit and cause it to come to life again.Mr. Schalk Burger looks forward in the same way of finishing the war as right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and does so because he believes it will render impossible a final settlement under the British flag.
But if a general surrender without conditions is not effected, if there is as Lord Milner said "no formal end of the war," then the prospect is alarming still. No one can look forward with equanimity to a prolonged hunting down of our enemies until armies are replaced by small bands, and the bands finally break up into desperate individuals. Distinction will then be impossible between the fighting burgher and the bushranging robber, and the war will end in a blood-stained series 329 of executions, and reprisals. The victims of the scaffold (whose creation, as I have before said, ought to be avoided) would increase in number and go down in Dutch traditions as martyrs for their country, and act as an incentive to future generations to hate and resist British Rule.
The First Lord said the other night that he hoped the Amendment would make the position clear as to what was that the Liberals desired in connection with the war, and the termination of the war. The right hon. Gentleman said—The Boers say (so far as we know), we are not going to surrender our independence, and we say you are going to surrender your independence, and there the matter stands.I do not think this is quite the real attitude of the Boers, but if the leaders are to keep their followers in the field, it is no doubt the one they are obliged to assume, and we know that so long ago as last March General Botha was willing to treat on the basis of no independence. What we want to know is, providing the Boers are wishful to treat on the basis of no independence, will the Government treat on terms other than unconditional surrender.
The first Lord spoke at Manchester of terms which the Government "have repeatedly and explicitly stated to the world at large." I myself heard the President of the Board of Trade make what purported to be such a statement, in answer to a challenge thrown out by Mr. Asquith; but, I do not see that there was any statement of terms made at all; it seemed to me that they were merely a forecast of what His Majesty's Government would do if the Boers surrendered unconditionally. Moreover, any effect that these statements of intention may have had has since been minimised by the remark—that we shall have to "do whatever the circumstances under our eyes may dictate to us"—which was made by the Prime Minister in another place. In my opinion it is not so much a question of offering the Boers terms, upon which there are various opinions. What is wanted first of all is an abandonment of the present hopeless position, a declaration that overtures if offered will be received, and the cancellation of proclamations like the banishment one, which hinder individual surrenders, and embitter resistance.
330 I notice that the Colonial Secretary, the other day at Birmingham, said: "you are not entitled to make peace unless it is upon terms which will be satisfactory" to the Colonies." That is to say that even if we get a chance of peace likely to be lasting and beneficial to South Africa and satisfactory to this country we are not to grant it if the Colonies disapprove of it. This seems to me an extraordinary proposition. The people of the British Islands, who pay for the War, are not to end it unless the end is satisfactory to the Colonies. Now the Colonies by their help in this war and their fighting qualities have earned our admiration and gratitude, but they have not earned (nor I believe would they claim) a right to interefere in a matter such as this. Colonial opinion is valuable, and the interests of the loyal population of Cape Colony must be consulted, but this affords no ground for allowing them to gratify their desire for vengeance on their neighbours at the expense of the British Empire. We desire conditional, not unconditional surrender. We do not want to have to rule by force of arms as subjugated people. we want to give to South Africa what we said we wished to procure, namely, "equal rights for all white men," and because we think, as far as the policy of the Government can he judged from their utterances, that they are not using the best means to attain these objects that I have ventured to criticise their policy and beg to move the Amendment; to the Address.
§ *(4,40.) Mr. McKENNA (Monmouth, N.)
In rising to second the Amendment, I wish to follow the line which has been so ably taken by my hon. friend. I hope, Sir, that there will be no pretence that the meaning and purpose of the Amendment are not perfectly clear. The other day, when speaking on the main question, the First Lord of the Treasury declared himself wholly unable to understand the position of the Leader of the Opposition, or Lord Rosebery, with regard to their policy in South Africa. I cannot help thinking that, with a little goodwill, he would have understood it perfectly. It will add enormously to the difficulties of discussing the South African question if plain language is to be pronounced unintelligible. The Leader of the Opposition, both in this 331 House and in the St. James's Hall, made his views abundantly clear, and, to my mind, convincing, and I thought the language of Lord Rosebery at Chesterfield was as lucid, and his proposals as precise, as his policy was wise. The policy which is regretted in the Amendment is one which prolongs the war, and the policy which is put forward as an alternative to it is one which we believe will lead to peace. It is the policy of Chesterfield, the policy of the Leader of the Opposition, the policy of the Liberal Party, definite, unmistakable, with every characteristic mark on it of the traditional Liberalism to which the Colonial Secretary still offers occasional sacrifice. It would end the war in a regular way by regular terms of peace. It would concede terms as a condition of peace. It is the antithesis of the policy of unconditional surrender. One of the terms, primarily essential, which admits of no change, is the incorporation of the late Boer Republics in the Empire, but that being established the policy is to admit other terms as subjects for negotiation, and as means of conciliation. There is no ambiguity about this. Does the first Lord really fail to distinguish between such a policy, and a policy of unconditional surrender? Can he not see the difference between a treaty of peace which provides for incorporation in the Empire, but which gives guarantees on other matters, and a proclamation which says, "Lay down your arms without terms, or when we catch you we'll exile you." The difference is very obvious to me. The one is admitted to result in a smouldering fire of animosity, liable to break out again and again; the other, as we hope, will enable us to extinguish the flame.
Sir, I daresay I may be told that I have not accurately described the policy of the Government. I remember a speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in which he stated that the Government had been willing to grant terms as a condition of peace, and I remember the rather remarkable manner in which the Duke of Devonshire testified to the accuracy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a careful man. I frankly admit that the Government have not always pursued a course of hostility to a peace on terms. In the chaos of proclamations and ministerial speeches since the war began, authority can be found for almost any policy. 332 Nothing could give me greater satisfaction than to hear the policy of unconditional surrender disavowed to-day. We must judge of the intentions of the Government by the latest authoritative evidence. First, there is the proclamation which came into force on September 15th; we have in that unconditional surrender pure and simple: it threatens penalties against all who have not surrendered by a specific date. Two speeches by the Colonial Secretary, one in this House last August and the other at Edinburgh, confirm this as the policy of the Government: in both of them he deprecates terms as a condition of peace. Finally, I will refer to the recent speech of the mouthpiece of the Government in South Africa, in which, in apparent direct reply to Lord Rosebery, Lord Milner advises us not to fidget about negotiations. I have not quoted the newspapers in this country which usually support the Government—one can see in them almost any day a naked advocacy of unconditional surrender. Nor have I quoted the speech of the Cape Prime Minister. The Government are not responsible for these utterances. But they are responsible for the September proclamation, and the Colonial Secretary and Lord Milner in Africa are their acknowledged and authoritative representatives. We are entitled, then, to ask if the policy of unconditional surrender is the settled policy of the Government. If it be so, I hope we shall hear no more apologies based on the alleged insistence of the Boers on sovereign independence. If we make it known that we refuse to consider any terms at all, we cannot expect the Boer leaders to do otherwise than encourage their burghers by the extremest demands.
In discussing this question of policy, no one can ignore the difficulty in which the Government is placed by loyalist sentiment in South Africa. But the difficulty is not a new one. Twice before in our history the British Government has had to make the choice between adhesion to the extreme sentiment of the Colonial loyalists and a prudent recognition of the claims of their adversaries. This choice divided Tory from Whig in the American Revolution. It distinguished Liberal from Conservative in the Canadian settlement. Nobody to-day has any doubt as to which was the right choice. The modern Unionist party claim to have inherited all the 333 best traditions of the older Liberalism. Let them justify their claim by their choice of policy in South Africa. The difficulties with the loyalists of the Cape are not greater than those which confronted Lord Durham in Canada. I am not going to quote from his marvellously instructive report. Its application to the present situation is so striking, that if the parallel be once begun it would be difficult to leave off. But I would like to remind the House of the reception that the report received at the hands of the Canadian loyalists. They showed the most intense and unrelenting indignation. I will quote just one passage from a work by Dr. Henry in 1839, expressing himself in the language he was accustomed to hear.It cannot be very satisfactory to Lord Durham to find that his elaborate report has been copied and circulated with avidity by the disloyal in both provinces, and has now become the very manual of treason, lowering the character of the British nation, the British Government and Colonial Government, perverting the weak-minded by its sophistry, and seducing the well-affected, or filling them with doubt or despondency. It has unquestionably re-animated the drooping courage of the traitorous and of the exiles in the States, and kindled anew the almost extinct sympathies of their American friends, who have engraved the name of Lord Durham on the blades of their bowie knives in demonstration of their idea of the certain result of 'Responsible Government.'Lord Durham's report a manual of treason! Sir, the "manual of treason" is to-day the charter of loyalty. We are accustomed to hear echoes of similar language at this time; all honour to those who have had the courage and firmness to withstand the clamour. When the Colonial Secretary challenges the patriotism of the Liberal Party, it is a comfort to know that that party has suffered as much and worse before, in the best of causes and with the approval of history. The policy based on Lord Durham's report secured for Canada the very objects we desire in South Africa. We are all at one as to what we desire. We are all anxious to secure ourselves against the danger of a second war; we all desire to see order, goodwill and prosperity established in South Africa on the firm basis of free and enlightened institutions; we all desire the prospect of some return for our sacrifices in this war. Where we differ is in the means to secure these ends. I wish our experience of the 334 wisdom and foresight of the Government gave us a better security for their being right now.
What steps do we see them taking to secure the objects we have in view? They guard themselves against a second war by never ending the first; free and enlightened institutions in South Africa are sought by the indefinite prolongation of martial law and the suspension of the Cape Constitution; a return for our sacrifices is promised in the privilege of paying for an army of occupation. Nothing is undertaken to prepare for the final and most difficult problems, the return of the prisoners and the settlement of the ultimate form of government. Reopening the mines is not the same as establishing free and enlightened institutions, and handsome dividends to mine-owners are a poor compensation for a military expenditure vastly in excess of the whole of the dividends. When we turn from unconditional surrender to a policy of admitting terms as a condition of peace, our difficulties are immediately lightened. By terms we can bind the Boer leaders to us. They are worth keeping. They deserve the fine tribute the Colonial Secretary paid to their courage and tenacity at Edinburgh. Peace and order will be far more secure if the Boer leaders are pledged to us than if we should eventually be able to force them into a hostile and uncovenanted submission. A treaty of peace would mark a new epoch in the settlement of South Africa; it would be the proper occasion for resuming the Constitution of the Cape and for abolishing martial law. We should save to our taxpayers the greater bulk of £80,000,000 a year. I do not put forward the question of cost as a main principle in guiding our policy, but I would not be deterred from a wise peace because incidentally it would save us £80,000,000 a year. The terms outlined by Lord Rosebery at Chesterfield may not be approved by the ruling class at Cape Town and Johannesburg, but they are the terms of a statesman, and they have the sanction of our former experience. Looking to the future of South Africa, if I could have my choice of seeing the Secretary of State for War rise in his place and tell us that our columns had captured the last Boer commando in the field against us, or of hearing the Colonial Secretary inform the House that peace had been secured on 335 the basis of Lord Rosebery's terms, I would infinitely rather listen to the message of peace.
I have not referred to the action of the Government from the military point of view. I fear that the errors which we have seen on the military side are being repeated on the political. There is the same incurable optimism which fails to grasp the real nature of the problem; the same disregard of the Imperial danger which a permanently unpacified South Africa must be to us; of the cost to the taxpayer; of the danger to our foreign relations. Money, they think, can buy anything, force do everything. These beliefs have led to perpetual illusion and disillusion; and, therefore, while we are prepared, as heretofore, to make every necessary sacrifice to uphold the honour of the country, we wish to be assured that force is being guided by intelligence, and that the most obvious lessons of our history are not being flouted and ignored.
Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words,—
But we humbly represent to Your Majesty that this House, while prepared to support all proper measures for the effective prosecution of the war in South Africa, is of opinion that the course pursued by Your Majesty's Ministers, and their attitude with regard to a settlement, have not conduced to the early termination of the war and the establishment of a durable peace:"—(Mr. Cawley.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ * (5.0.) Major SEELY, (Isle of Wight)
I would not venture to trespass upon the time of this House, but I have thought, as I have been an eye witness of a part of the operations a few words from me might clear up some apprehensions which appear to exist. As I understand this Amendment and the speeches of the mover and seconder, the complaint made against His Majesty's Government is, firstly, the extreme severity that has been practiced in this war, and secondly, that the attitude as regards negotiation at the present time is such that we are less likely to bring the war to a successful conclusion than if another attitude had been adopted. In regard to severity I say, without hesitation that for my own part, during a year and a half I saw no severity which was in any way comparable to what might have been reason- 336 ably expected. The collecting of women and children together in concentration camps and the consequent suffering was referred to by the mover of the Amendment. I may say that, as I saw the concentration camps being formed, and saw the circumstances that led up to their being formed, and what happened to the unfortunate women and children there, possibly I may be able to throw some little light on the subject. It was as long ago as November in the year before last that I myself brought a message from a Boer hamlet, written by the women of the place, imploring the general under whom I had the honour to serve to send them food for their children, who were suffering from the lack of such things as sugar and milk, without which children cannot well live, or else to bring these children into some British camp and there to feed them. It so happened that at that moment we became engaged with a small force of the enemy who, we had reason to believe, were the very relations of those women. Of course, no one would for a moment blame them for attacking us, but it completed the irony of the situation that while these women were appealing to us either to feed them or bring them in, their husbands and brothers and relations were demonstrating the impossibility of bringing the food to them. Further, we had to reflect that in bringing them into the British camp where an epidemic was raging with great severity amongst our own troops it was a certainty that the loss of life would be terrible. I say, however, without the least hesitation, that it was absolutely unavoidable, quite apart from the devastation of the country, to bring these women and children into the camps. It has not often been referred to, but it must be remembered that, apart from the food question, these women and children were living among a black population, to a great extent hostile to them. I myself had frequently to punish natives for acts of aggression against the Dutch population during the brief truce of the year before last. The natural protectors of the women and children had been taken from them, and if they had been left on the farms, although it might have been better for us in a military point of view, their sufferings would have been ten times greater than they were in the British camps, and the loss of life would have been greater. They would have suffered death, and worse than death.
337 The speeches of the proposer and seconder of the Amendment seemed to me to proceed on an assumption absolutely unfounded; in fact, listening to them one would have supposed that the attitude of the Government, as opposed to that of the Opposition, was that the Government was to govern these people by force, while the attitude of the other side was that they intended to give them representative self-government. Now, the Government has never said that it is intended to govern the Boers without a constitution. But as long as the enemy is determined not to submit to us until they are unable to fight further, we must continue to conduct our warlike operations. I presume the idea is that as we have now been engaged for over two years in this war the Government must change its policy. That, it is said, is essential, because as the war has lasted for two years it may otherwise go on for six or ten years. But that is a view which does not take into consideration one elementary fact. The leaders of the Boers—and I have spoken to hundreds of Boers and have a knowledge of their language—have viewed this matter from a military stand-point, and have determined that as long as they have the remotest chance of success they would not surrender. It must be borne in mind that they had a very good chance of success—although that may be a surprise to some hon. Members. About a year ago it is probable that the forces of the enemy in the field who were mounted and able to strike were greater than the similar forces at the disposal of Lord Kitchener. (Hon. Members: Oh! Oh!) I believe that to be the case, and on investigation it will be found to be true. But the situation has now been entirely changed owing to the strategy of Lord Kitchener and the unfailing devotion of the British troops; and it should be apparent to the Boers now that their chance of succeeding is small indeed. The time is critical for us, but I am certain that if we resolutely press on, fighting as hard as we can, the Boer leaders will see the futility of their resistance as the next winter draws on in South Africa. On the other hand, I believe that if we go to them, hat in hand, and say, "Will you accept those terms," and if they said, "No," and we asked, "Will you accept something less," then possibly that would make them change their minds, and induce them to 338 think that there is still a chance for them Hon. Members opposite have not a monopoly of admiration for the many good qualities, and especially the bravery of our enemy. But if it is true, as I conceive it to be true, that we cannot finish this war by threats, it is as true that we cannot cajole the Boers into submission; and to go now and ask them under what terms they will be kind enough to rid us of this terrible war, would be in the last degree unwise. I am convinced of the extreme unwisdom of the course proposed on the other side in regard to opening up further negotiations at the present time.
§ *(5.10.) SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
The hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down has performed brilliant services in South Africa which are the envy of his military colleagues, and which have won the respect of us all. But I cannot say that his speech struck me as being in any sense an answer to the case as presented to the House by my hon. friend the Member for the Prestwich Division. My hon. friend who seconded the Amendment in the speech which I think was the most capable I ever heard him deliver, made no such suggestion as the hon. and gallant Member appeared to ascribe to him. And therefore his speech stands without reply from the hon. and gallant Member—especially to the notable and magnificent passage in regard to the parallel of the case of Canada. All in this House, on both sides, are agreed as to the disastrous effect produced both in South Africa and on our national interests at home by the prolongation of the war. It is almost impossible to exaggerate or over-estimate the harm which is being done in South Africa, and naturally we all recognise that it is unwise to prolong the war, in our own interest. The question is, "What has made the prolongation of the war necessary."It has had this effect in Europe at all events, that it has led to our isolation in the world. That isolation is even admitted by the Colonial Secretary, who only three years ago suggested our alliance with a great Continental power. Again, only three years ago, the First Lord of the Admiralty came down to the House and told us that the relations between Italy and ourselves were such that we should not be alone in the event 339 of a war in the basin of the Mediterranean. Why has that state of things come to an end? Why has the understanding with Italy been replaced by an understanding between Italy and another Power; why are we isolated, and why is the prolongation of the war a horror in regard to the future of South Africa? We all desire to bring this war to a close and to blame the causes which have led to its prolongation. There is some further agreement between us. There is agreement that peace would be desirable if it could be attained without humiliation. But the difficulty is that hon. Members opposite have tied themselves up. They cannot obtain peace without humiliation on account of their declarations. It is they that have created the difficutly. Now the difficulty first arose when we saw them stating that however desirable peace might be, there could be no peace because there was no power, no persons with authority to speak, with whom they could treat. It was understood that they were forcing themselves at all hazards to go on to the end of absolute destruction. It was impossible for them to treat on any terms at all without humiliation. From their own point of view what should they have done? When Lord North had failed, and had been turned out at the later stage of the American War, he made a speech to his successor, in which he said that the alternative was either to make an honourable peace, or to wage vigorous war. But the Government have put themselves in the position that they cannot make an honourable peace, because there is no one with whom to treat, without humiliation. That is the gravest of all their grave mistakes, and I confess that I cannot concede that they have carried on the war with vigour. We are in this difficulty, that we are dependent for our news, for our knowledge of what is occurring in South Africa, on the War Office and the Military Censor. The Leader of the House has told us that the Government have placed all the information they have at our disposal. I doubt the accuracy of the statement. I should be much astonished if the private letters and telegrams of Lord Kitchener to the Secretary of State for War, and the private telegrams and letters from the Chief of the Staff to Lord Roberts, are not even more important. At all events, God help them if that is all the information they have. It is impossible 340 to read the telegrams and despatches of Lord Kitchener, without seeing that the country is kept in a fool's paradise, and has been kept throughout in a fool's paradise with reference to this war. Hon. Member shear, of course, a great deal that they cannot quote in this House. Many hon. Members see letters from leading generals in the field which cannot be quoted, but we know the opinion of these generals, and what they feel in regard to what is called the vigorous conduct of the war. Last session we were again led to think that, in the opinion of the Government, the war was virtually over. They had published the famous proclamation of which the hon. Member who moved this Amendment made, and rightly made, so much in his excellent speech. That proclamation is now almost universally regretted as a grave mistake, and that regret is not confined to hon. Members on this side of the House, or to the hon. Member for Oldham. It is a feeling very generally expressed in South Africa, and it has been expressed almost universally by the supporters of the Government in South Africa. It was justified on the ground that the war was almost at an end. Since that time there has been a fresh series of the regrettable incidents we have had to deplore throughout this war. Some of those regrettable incidents have not been reported to this House, and others have been reported and minimised.
I should not dream of wearying the attention of the House on this occasion, and in a debate in which many hon. Members desire to speak, by going into the the details of military operations, and will confine myself, therefore, to a very brief point, and will try to take up the charge which Lord Salisbury has made against those who make criticisms, namely, that these criticisms are vague. I will try to make them definite. In my opinion the cause of the prolongation of the war has been the failure of the Government throughout the war—having laid down a policy which forbade them to make peace—to make beforehand the preparations which any wise man would have made. The preparations have always been made too late, and the prolongation of the war can be traced, in my conviction, with mathematical certainty to that lateness. It has been admitted that the later levies were 341 inferior to the earlier ones. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, who has just spoken, has a great knowledge of the Imperial Yeomanry. The earlier levies of the Imperial Yeomanry were in South Africa a considerable time, when Col. Lucas, the Deputy Adjutant-General, officially reported that many of the first batch of the Yeomanry were unable to mount or dismount, and were useless for mobility, but that they became good, in the course of a long training on the field. Whose fault was it that the later levies were so inferior? That inferiority was not confined to the Imperial Yeomanry: it extended also to the Colonial forces. The surrender of the Victorian Contingent has been the cause of a great deal of ill-feeling in the Colonies, but putting aside altogether the complaints of the men against the officers, and the complaints of the Imperial officers against the men, this fact is admitted—that the fifth contingent consisted of untrained officers and men, who were sent straight to the front. The Secretary of State for War, on whom the Government seem to throw all the responsibility for the conduct of the war, says that Lord Kitchener got all he asked for. That is a statement into which I wish for a moment to inquire. Of course Lord Kitchener got all he asked for, but his requests were probably limited by what he thought he could obtain. I do not know that the House has sufficiently considered, or the country sufficiently dwelt upon, the case of many of the reservists of the regular army. I know a man—we all know similar cases—who had only three years service with the colours, and who, almost at the end of nine years in the reserve, having a business and a large family, and naturally never dreaming of such a state of things, was sent, almost at the very conclusion of his twelve years of nominal service to South Africa. His business went to pieces; and his wife and family, though they did not perish from want, had to be kept by the State, by their friends, and by charity. We know the state of mind of such a man, and although he did his duty nobly, yet Lord Kitchener would prefer to have a different class of man. Lord Wellesley was once the subject of the same remark that is made in reference to Lord Kitchener. Some one said of him that he had all he asked for. 342 Lord Wellesley made this reply:He does not complain, because it is the sacred duty of a soldier not to complain. But he does not say that with greater means he could not do greater things, and his country will not be satisfiied if these means are withheld by men… who have only incapacity to plead in extenuation of their failure.That, no doubt, is the partiality of a brother for a brother. The Cabinet are responsible, although they throw the whole blame and the whole praise on the Secretary of State for War. His spirit is keen, his power of work is great, and the Cabinet naturally throw everything on so desirable a colleague. Lord Salisbury says that the charges of negligence are vague, and that is a statement I should like to ask the House for one moment to consider. This is, I think, a definite charge—that the Government placed themselves in a position of not being able to make peace without humiliating the country, and that they failed to show vigour in carrying on the war, which failure has led to a very great prolongation of the war.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman made a most amazing statement just now, which I would ask the House to consider. He said that just a year ago the Boers had a very good chance of winning. He referred, no doubt, to the period which immediately followed the second Boer invasion of the Cape. What did the Government tell us about that? They said that a few straggling and marauding bands had crossed into Cape Colony, that they were being actually pursued and that they must be caught within a few days. For ten months the whole of them remained in that old British Colony, some of them are there still, in the north-east corner, and in the south-west by the sea. [An Hon. MEMBER: "And in the north-west]." In the north-west we get into a district which was not part of the old Colony, but which was annexed later. I was speaking of the old Colony, which has been British for a century. The state of things was almost desperate according to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He said that at the time to which he referred the Boer cavalry and mounted infantry were more numerous than our mounted forces. Consider that state of things, in a war which was 343 begun by the declaration that mounted men were to be discouraged as compared with infantry, and proceeded with a declaration of similar importance which I will read in a minute. This invasion occurred on December 15th. On February 7th, just before Parliament met, an announcement was made in reference to the sending out of fresh mounted men. Parliament was just about to meet, and something had leaked out that the situation in South Africa was very different from what the Government led us to suppose. On February 7th the Government issued a statement that they were sending out 30,000 fresh mounted troops, and they arrived at that enormous figure by adding together 4,000 regulars and the whole of the South African Police, commonly called the Baden-Powell Police, who were already counted a large force of Yeomanry, and the new Colonial levies of untrained men. To count these new levies of raw recruits as fresh mounted men, was like counting a volunteer recruit as an infantry private. These were not fresh mounted troops in the sense that the country was led to believe. They were raw recruits unable to ride. Col. Lucas has told us that many of them had never seen a horse until the day they passed the riding test. [An HON. MEMBER laughed]. I beg pardon. I was abbreviating the quotation. I think Col. Lucas's words were that one would have thought that they had never seen a horse until the day they passed the riding test. These men were sent out at the desperate period of which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has just spoken. The country expected the war to end at latest in July, and last year we were told that the Boer difficulties with their horses were so great that the war would most likely end in July or September, and the September proclamation was based on that fact. What did Lord Kitchener say of the quality of these troops after six months experience? His report was concealed from Parliament last session. It was received before Parliament broke up, but was not published until 21st August. The Old Yeomanry had been withdrawn, and had been replaced by the new Im- 344 perial Yeomanry, and in that report Lord Kitchener had saidIt was not to be expected that these untrained men would be able to fill up the gaps in the mobile columns, many of them being unable to ride or shoot."…. "They were gradually gaining experience in the field.Now just put those facts together. Here you have the hon. and gallant Member who tells us that in December the Boers were more numerous in their trained and mounted men remarkable, as he admits, for their gallantry and for their training in the midst of such surroundings as they were; whilst during all this period there was this delay. I trace to that delay the prolongation of the war. Some of the most distinguished officers who have had to deal with these men in the field before they were trained have told us exactly how the war in this stage broke down. One general, whose letters are always written with great moderation and reserve, close upon July—the same period as that in which Lord Kitchener was writing of these untrained men—said that the men had actually to be "nursed" into condition. What does nursing mean? It means that you could not trust these men to be sent out in the field against the Boers without employing your regular forces to support them in the field, and so using many men and much transport, and hampering your mobile columns, and making night marches impossible. Another officer, who had a mounted column under his command, and who has still a column under his charge, said "we want more men and we want good men," and he quotes a conversation he had with a Boer commandant, whom he asked how long the war would last, who said "as long as you send out men whom we can take whenever we like, and from whom we can get arms and ammunition."
Now the second Boer invasion began on the 15th of December. Before that date Lord Kitchener asked for fresh mounted men. I imagine the men he asked for before that date were the 4,000 trained regulars, and I also imagine that at that time it had not been broken to Lord Kitchener that the first Yeomanry were to be brought home. I do not know when Lord Kitchener 345 became aware of that fact; but these contradictory statements have been made. Colonel Lucas has made a most exhaustive report, in which there is the important dispatch dated the 19th of December, in which he puts all this distinctly before the Government. At that time, just at the time when the hon. and gallant Gentleman says the position was still so dangerous, Colonel Lucas said he had been advocating for the last six months that fresh Yeomanry should be trained. In answer to that, the Secretary of State said: "It is not desirable to recommence recruiting for the Imperial Yeomanry." The delay in not sending out the Yeomanry until March, April, and May was therefore directly due to the action of the Secretary of State for War which gave this discouragement to recruiting. There is some discrepancy as to these figures. The first report in the newspapers was that 30,000 men were to be sent. The Financial Secretary made a statement on this subject on the 24th of October, and the Secretary of State for War also made a statement on the 13th of November. I will take his statement first. On the 13th of November the Secretary of State for War said that Lord Kitchener had asked for 4,000 fresh mounted men and that 4,000 were sent out of trained men, and in addition 17,000 more were sent out, only 350 of whom had been sent home as inefficient. On the 24th of October the noble Lord, the Financial Secretary, said that Lord Kitchener had asked for 10,000; that 16,500 had been sent out; that 1,800 had been sent back, of whom only 350 were said by the authorities in South Africa to be "incompetent and inefficient." Of the number sent home as inefficient a great number were officers; the men who were sent out there, not having been trained, were kept there and trained, but at the expense of our military efficiency.
What I have tried to show is that the Government have tied ropes round the hands of themselves and the country, making it impossible for them to conclude an honorable peace, and on the other hand, by their incredible optimism, they have continually underestimated the necessity of training the fresh levies that had to be sent out, and that the whole of the prolongation 346 of the war is directly due to that delay, and more particularly to the delay I have just instanced to the House. If there is any enemy against whom such tactics could not be carried out, it is the enemy in South Africa, who are gallant men, who have improved since the earlier stages of the war where they were supposed to fail, as their charges into our ranks show. My belief, founded on the teaching of all the great soldiers who have ever lived, is that an enemy of this kind can only be put down by extreme mobility. They are mounted men, and their servants too are mounted, and they have very few wagons. Everybody who writes say they still "have the legs of us," and can get through the country more quickly than we can.
I have only one word more to add. The prolongation of the war is, I believe, the cause of our isolation in Europe, but it is even more terrible when we consider it from a South African point of view than when we consider it from a European point of view, because the dangers are more obvious and more sure to come home. No one can deny the extent to which at present you are jeopardising the existence of the two white races that have to live together in South Africa, and if, as I think, that jeopardy has been considerably increased by the Government, I shall have no hesitation when the time comes as to which way I shall record my vote.
§ (5.50.) SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
I listened most attentively to the speeches of the mover and seconder of this Amendment, in which occur these words:While prepared to support all proper measures for the effective prosecution of the war in South Africa, is of opinion that the course pursued by Your Majesty's Ministers, and their attitude with regard to a settlement, have not conduced to the early termination of the war and the establishment of a durable peace.Now, I have had the advantage of having lately visited many of the Colonies of South Africa, and of being in communication with many generals in command of military districts, and I think I may say it is the opinion of every one in South Africa that the only way the war can be brought to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion is 347 to make every preparation in this country to carry it on in a vigorous and effective manner. The army in South Africa is in wonderfully good health and spirits, and determined to do all it can to perform the task which is expected of it. I submit that the Secretary of State for War and the Commander in the field command our grateful congratulations. The Secretary of State has done everything he could to keep us constantly posted as to the condition of affairs, and, as he says in letters, has endeavoured to meet all military requirements. Lord Kitchener has nominally 200,000 troops under his command, but the House will see that a very large number has to be deducted from those serving in the combatant forces. The total force which Lord Kitchener has at his disposal in the field of operations hardly exceeds 140,000. The method of conducting the war in South Africa at the present time is twofold, first, the block house system, and second, mobile columns. The system of block houses is wonderfully effective, and likely, when completed, to be more effective still in confining the operations to particular areas, and in also safeguarding the lines of communication. But the House will see that a large proportion of men have to be deducted for garrisoning the block houses. There are at present 4,000 block houses, and when the system is completed there will be 5,000. Now, the average garrison of a block house is 10 men; therefore that demands a force of 50,000 for garrisoning the block houses. Of mobile columns there are 60 or 70, and these columns consist, for the most part, of young and active forces, and comprise as a rule 1,200 or1,700 men, thus absorbing some 80,000 or 90,000 of the forces which Lord Kitchener has available for operations in the field. There is a great deal in the speech of the right hon. Baronet with which I cordially agree. I most heartily indorse his first observation with regard to the Reservists. The way in which they came up to the colours in 1899, to the number of 94,000, commanded the admiration of the entire country, and if some means could be found of relieving those Reservists, most of whom are married, and whose prospects at home are, I am sorry to 348 say, considerably diminishing, it would be very desirable, and would contribute to the efficiency of the Army. It is true that my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War would have some difficulty in making a distinction between different classes of the Army, and that in itself is attended with a certain amount of risk, but if it could be done it would be greatly to the advantage of the Army, and of recruiting. There are also some battalions of cavalry, such as the 9th Lancers, who have seen an enormous amount of fighting, and if fresh battalions, either from home or from India, or any other Colonial station, could be sent out to relieve them, it would materially increase the efficiency of the field army. In the same category I would include the battalions of Guards now in South Africa, who also have done splendid work.
Now, why is the war continuing? The other day I saw a gentleman, very well known in South Africa, who paid a visit to the camp of Commandant De Wet in order to press upon him the enormous injury the prolongation of the war was causing. But De Wet said he would persevere in the struggle—and why? Because he was absolutely convinced that this country was at the end of its resources, both in money and in men. Everything that passes in this House—I have proof of this—is known to the Boers in the field. We cannot contribute better to the rapid conclusion of the war than by the unanimity of our debate and the largeness of our majority upon this occasion. A very large number of Boers, including such prominent leaders as Commandant De Wet, have the extraordinary idea that if the small minority of people in this country, who speak in favour of conditions of peace to which this Empire could never agree, persevere, they will come out victorious. Therefore we have, not alone in this House but throughout the country, to do all we possibly can to show that we are unanimous in regard to the prosecution of the war to a satisfactory conclusion.
In The Times of Nov. 8th, 1901, there is a very long letter, headed "Guerilla War," written by the right hon. Gentleman the member for West Monmouthshire. I 349 will not read the whole letter, but one passage is:—The temper and the tongue of Mr. Chamberlain are an admirable instrument of the promotion and exasperation of war.The Colonial Secretary does not require any defence from me or anyone else beyond "the energy, industry, ability, and above all, sympathy," which Lord Rosebery has said, "he has brought to so great a Department." But the right hon. Gentleman unfortunately did not confine himself to pricking pins into the body of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Words were used in that letter which could not fail to tend to the prolongation of the struggle. The right hon. Gentleman quoted these words from a despatch of the Duke of Wellington dated August 9th, 1809.The guerillas should be employed on the enemy's communications. The plan of operation I should recommend for the Spanish nation is one generally of defence. They should avoid general actions, but should take advantage of the strong posts in their country to defend themselves and harass the enemy.If the word "Boer" had been substituted for "Spanish," it would have been a direct incitement to the Boer soldiers to continue the struggle on the present lines. The right Hon. Gentleman has honoured me with his friendship for many years, and he knows that I would not bring this matter forward against him unless I felt it to be an absolute public duty to do so.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
When that letter arrived in South Africa I happened to be in the centre of activities, and I can only say that the feeling among all in authority on reading it was one of real consternation. It is not desirable to mention names, but the opinion of one in high authority was, I know, that the effect of the letter would be to prolong the struggle by not less than three weeks, and to its effect must be ascribed much of the loss of life and treasure incurred by operations during that period.
In addition to the desirability of bringing home certain regiments, I would press upon the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War the importance of relieving, as quickly as possible, some of those fourteen battalions of militia who 350 volunteered for the front, and who have been in the field for nearly two years. I am sure other battalions would be willing to take their places, and, whatever may have been the exact text of the agreement they signed, it is quite clear that none of them expected to remain in South Africa for more than twelve months. Their relief, therefore, is most desirable. Moreover, the effect of keeping battalions abroad for a long time will be very serious indeed upon the prospects of many of the officers, who, naturally, are engaged in professional duties. I would also urge that the right hon. Gentleman should relieve without delay the volunteers who have for twelve months been in the field, as it is quite impossible for employers to keep situations open for more than twelve months.
Upon this matter of the Volunteers, I would say that between 23,000 and 24,000 men have been contributed to the field army by the volunteer forces, and I think the moment is singularly inopportune to stiffen the conditions of service as regards the Volunteers. Therefore, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his attitude in that respect.
With regard to the second contingent of Yeomanry, to which the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean referred, the Secretary of State for War in a letter addressed to me in October last said he would make careful inquiries in order to fix the responsibility for the testing of some of these men. We know that when the right hon. Gentleman gives an undertaking of that kind he will fulfil it. Some of the testing, both in riding and in shooting, seems to have been of a most superficial character. A great deal of the experience gained in connection with the first contingent, and the desirability of encouraging and developing local feeling, was lost sight of. These Yeomen were recruited in the streets of London. Volunteers had no privileges or advantages, and many who stood for a long time en queue in Duke Street and elsewhere, when they found the kind of people they were likely to be associated with, left, and refused to give in their names. But while there is a great deal of truth with the right hon. Baronet's remarks concerning the second contingent of Imperial Yeomanry, I have it on the high authority, not only of that officer who has rendered 351 such distinguished service in connection with the Yeomanry, Lord Chesham, but also of Lord Kitchener, that the companies of Imperial Yeomanry now serving with the field force are a very valuable addition indeed to the army. I have a large number of official reports which I could read if I thought it desirable or necessary, but I will quote only two officers. Colonel Hickie, of the Royal Fusiliers, an officer who has rendered distinguished service in the Western Transvaal, says:—I have been intimately acquainted with eighteen regiments of Regulars and Irregulars, and would not change my companies of Yeomanry for an equal number of men from any corps in South Africa.Col. de Rougemont, of the Royal Artillery, who has commanded another battalion of Yeomen with great distinction, says:—The men are extremely good, and brave as lions.I do not think we ought to disparage the services of the second contingent of the Imperial Yeomanry, although in the first place they were not all that they ought to have been, when, from official returns, we learn that during the last nine months over 30 Yeomanry officers and 300 men have been killed in action, and 63officers and over 600 men wounded. Those figures give an idea of the severity of the fighting which has been taking place.
I should like to say one word on the conduct of the men who are now in South Africa, and I will quote from a source which will commend itself to hon. Gentlemen who sit below the gangway on the other side of the House. These are the words to me of Father Matthew, the gallant Roman Catholic chaplain who cheered the retreat from Dundee, and who, footsore and ailing, went of his own accord to comfort the dying upon that awful death-trap of Nicholson's Nek, and whose merry yet pious services for over two years with the Irish brigade have been invaluable. These are Father Matthew's words to me, and I ask the attention to them of hon. Members opposite, and particularly of the hon. Member for Carnarvon and others, who so readily credit and spread abroad every allegation against their own countrymen, and attribute every virtue to the enemy:I have been with the Army since October, 1899, mainly associated both in Natal and the 352 Transvaal with the Irish Fusiliers, the Dublin Fusiliers, the Connaught Rangers, the Innis-killings, and the Border Regiment. Although I have taken the greatest pains to ferret out and trace to its source any allegation of misconduct against the soldier, I have never come across a single authenticated case of outrage of any sort. I have frequently seen the soldier deprive himself for the benefit of a prisoner, and frequently he has been ridiculously kind to the enemy. I do not believe there has ever been an army in the field so well conducted and so humane. I have always admired the British soldier, and during this war I have learnt to love him. I say more, that the denunciations of him are scandalous, and arouse among Irishmen and in Irish regiments the resentment and disgust they deserve.I do hope that the hon. Gentlemen who sit below the gangway opposite will take note of that statement. I have read it to the House from my pocket-book, as I took it down from the lips of Father Matthew. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is not in his place. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is here."] Then I hope that he will take note of this statement of Father Matthew's, and believe in the humanity of the British army, and also believe that our army does everything it can do to discharge its duties properly.
There is one word which I must say as regards the expense of the war. Occasionally the House of Commons is very much interested in expenditure, and I believe that in Lord Kitchener we have an officer who is determined to have money's worth for every single farthing of expenditure. The cost of the war in South Africa is now about £2,500,000 a month—£750,000 for pay, £750,000 for transport, and £1,000,000 for food. But that is not the whole cost of the war. There is a great deal of expenditure here for transport, and for providing stores, and horses, and so on, but I cannot understand how it is that the expenditure is so high as stated in this country. I cannot help thinking that if Lord Kitchener had a representative over here in this country to control expenditure for the war, a very considerable saving might be effected upon the present cost. With regard to transports, they seem to have been sent to South Africa without the slightest system. The commercial community have done everything they can, and they have incurred enormous losses which entitle them to compensation at the hands of the Government. The war is still going on, but it is possible that the actual 353 fighting may end by the time the next South African winter comes round in June and July. But that does not mean at all that the army will be able to return to England. I am afraid that what I am about to say will not be very acceptable to the House, but I say it with all honesty and sincerity, and it is my own candid opinion. I say that it will not be safe to have less than 100,000 men in South Africa for four or five years after the war is over. I very much hope that I am wrong, and I will only be too delighted if I am. When the fighting is over you will have to bring back 40,000 prisoners to a country which has been devastated. The farmhouses and out-buildings will have to be rebuilt, and there are very few sheep, cattle, and horses left in the country; very substantial assistance will be needed, and I have heard it stated that £5,000,000 will not cover it. No doubt £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 will be wanted at the very least. I say frankly, having made every possible inquiry upon the subject, that it will not be safe to leave South Africa with a less garrison than 100,000 for four years to come. I urge my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War as a supporter and an admirer of him, to make provision for this. He is now sending out reinforcements. If those troops had been trained a year ago they could have been pushed up to the front a long time before now. We shall want large relieving forces, and I do urge him, as I have urged a number of times before, to make every preparation to relieve the men in South Africa as time and occasion require. If the Government do this—and I can answer for my constituents—they will never be reproached with having made too much preparation. By doing this the Secretary for War would be doing a great deal to end the war. In Lord Milner the country has a statesman who has the confidence of the whole of the loyalists in South Africa. I warn hon. Members that they must not expect for many years much contribution to the expenses of the war from the Transvaal or the Orange River Colony. The industrial camel is down on its knees, and if the Government and the House are going to overweight the industrial camel with more than it can bear it will never get up again. The best solution, in all 354 probability, would be to assign a portion of the revenue to this country for indemnification of the expenses of the war; but neither from the mines or any other source in South Africa can you possibly hope for any considerable contribution to the expenses.
I recognise that the burdens of this country are very great, but there undoubtedly will be a great demand for the goods of this country. The development of trade in South Africa at the present time is very large indeed, and property has already doubled in value. You can hardly get freights upon any steamers for goods, and if the Government will give facilities for the commercial community to discharge their cargoes, there is no saying to what extent trade may develop.
I have only one last word, and that is as to peace. Lord Kitchener has done everything, and even more than would be thought desirable on the part of many a commander in the field, to bring about an honourable peace. His interviews with Commandant General Botha were of the most friendly character. We cannot possibly make any overtures on this question, but I see that the Secretary of State for the Colonies is in the House, and it might be advantageous if he were to state categorically what are the conditions of peace. I have no doubt myself what they are. They are the conditions set forth in the correspondence between Lord Kitchener and General Botha, and published last March, and I have no doubt that those conditions still obtain. In regard to amnesty of the Cape rebels, no doubt this grates very much on all loyalists, but I recognise the difficulty. I may state that there is hardly a man in South Africa who does not either rightly or wrongly, assume by all our history that political parties here will be tumbling over each other in order to give amnesty. There is a ceremony in connection with the Coronation which is to take place this year, and most of them believe that they will be amnested. I have no information as to whether that is true or not. Therefore do not let us have too much quibbling about terms. We cannot make overtures, but I cannot see any objection to the Secretary of State to the Colonies stating categorically what are the terms which the Boers can have. It will not be a proposal to the Boers, but he may be sure they will know just as quickly as anybody else in South Africa 355 what he says. If this does not bring about peace, do not let us relax our preparations for conducting the war. It is no use the Government telegraphing to South Africa that the war will be over next week, or this or that particular week. [Opposition cries of "Hear, hear!"] I do not say that such a telegram has been sent, and I am only putting a hypothetical case. There are many people in this country who can tell you what is going to be done next Wednesday or Saturday, and they appear to have the most extraordinary amount of information, although I do not know from what source. I urge the Government and the Secretary of State for War to pay no attention to any peace rumours or to any peace negotiations, but to make every preparation for conducting the war in the most active and most vigorous mariner, and then before very long we shall have, I believe, an honourable and enduring peace.
§ *(6.15.) MR. TREVELYAN (Yorkshire, W.R., Elland)
As far as England is concerned the leaders of both parties and every man like the hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs, who has any perceptible political following are definitely and openly agreed upon the ideal of the country in two respects—that the Republics have got to be incorporated so as to prevent the recurrence of the conditions from which this unhappy war has come, and secondly upon the necessity of free government in South Africa, and, if possible, of the federation of the South African States, and upon, as the hon. Member who spoke last asserted, a lavish and liberal treatment of both British and Boers, in order to restore the ruined country economically. But, that being the ideal of the country, there are many of us who fear that the steps which the Government are taking are not such as to lead us to that end, and the more we feel that this is a fine ideal the more indignant many of us are because we believe it is not being reached by the action the Government are taking. This Amendment enables us to express the opinion that both in spirit and in action the Government are contributing at the present time to the prolongation of the war. I do not think it is out of place to enquire into the spirit with which the Government are approaching it, for it is a serious thing that for three long years. 356 at every stage, the Government have been falsely sanguine, mistakenly hopeful, and unreasonably optimistic about the war. The Colonial Secretary, speaking in August in the House of Commons, asked us to take Lord Kitchener's weekly list of Boer losses and deduct them from the Boers in the field. Speaking in the country in November the Secretary of State for War again asked us to go through this process. He said at that time that there were 10,000 men in the field. The Times newspaper, a month afterwards, and when we ought to have made weekly deductions, announced that the Boers had still 10,000 men in the field. The other day the Standard declared that there were still 13,000 men in the field. It is by such calculations as those that we are asked to conclude that the war is over. The Colonial Secretary in the last speech he made adopted different methods. He said, "Look at the way the railways are now running, as in normal times." The railways are running, but why? Lord Milner in his despatch says that for two months the railways have not been disturbed. He says this satisfactory state of things is largely due to the blockhouses. Then the Colonial Secretary goes on to say that the industries of Johannesburg are starting again. Why? Because there is a fence of British soldiery around them. The real subject is not the starting of the Johannesburg industries but the bringing back of the inimical and hostile Boer population. In the despatches which have been placed before us, we read that camps are being started for the Boer prisoners who are ready to accept the new conditions, and who are ready to try to make their friends accept the peace conditions. You have not begun to bring home even those men whom you can presumably trust, and how absurd, therefore, it is to say that the war is approaching a conclusion under these circumstances.
I would like to point out some of the results which have followed this policy of optimism on the part of the Government. I pass over the discredit which necessarily attaches to the country, when we find Ministers with all the official information at their command making worse calculations than the ordinary man in the street. It affects in various ways their administrative action. I have written and spoken, as many others have, about the concentration 357 camps in South Africa. I am one of those who do not think that the condition of those camps is owing to any deliberate or wicked carelessness on the part of the Government. These camps were started in a hurry and with inadequate preparation, and no doubt the best was done with the resources immediately available, but no improvement was made with any vigour or alacrity in the condition of the camps for months, while the mortality was known to be increasing, and when anyone who knew the nature of the work the Government had before it, knew what an effect that mortality must have on the settlement. Nothing was done by the Government, until at last, in October, the Colonial Secretary took it out of the hands of the War Office and proceeded to take measures which I hope have been sufficiently vigorous, and strenuous to have done everything that can be done to stop the terrible mortality. There is no question of deliberate neglect or carelessness. I suggest as the real reason that the Government did not intervene soon enough, that they hoped that these camps were merely temporary things, and that the war would be over in a month or two, and that it was not worth while making elaborate preparations in order to improve their condition. That is the best and most charitable account that can be given of the Government action on the question. I come to the question of the military preparations, and ask whether in regard to those the Government attitude of optimism has not been very serious. Every few months Lord Kitchener writes home asking for reinforcements. In the intervals between those demands the Government go on with their various paraphrases that the war is over, and make no special preparation of any kind for troops to be sent to South Africa. They go on enlisting 5s. a day men who have no training, no military capacity—no special training for the special services wanted in South Africa. By this attitude of determined opposition to the idea that the war may possibly be prolonged, the Government do not make that necessary military preparation they ought to make at every stage of the war. They neglect recruiting in another way. By holding out to the country that the war will be over, they do not excite in men's minds that patriotism which would drive many, even at this juncture, to join the 358 army. They lead the patriotic man who does not wish to leave his work or profession to understand that the country does not want his services very much, and that he really may stay at home unless he wants 5s. a day. For these reasons it seems to me that the optimistic attitude of the Government is injuring the prosecution of the war.
I think undue optimism is as bad as undue pessimism. We are all sick of being told that in this year, 1902, the British empire is giving up its ideas of freedom, and that it is on the downhill course of other vanished empires. I think it is just as foolish to stay at the other extreme of remaining unchangeably optimistic during three long years of calamity and disappointment. I think it is the avowed policy of the Government that there is no other method of ending the war, and that we can expect nothing better, than the killing or capturing of all the Boers now in the field, that when we have done that, we may hope to bring back the rest of the Boers and treat them well, and having done that, we may regard ourselves as having successfully ended the war. That is the policy expressed by Lord Milner when he said that the war may never be formally over. It is distinctly and openly the policy of Sir Gordon Sprigg, who said in the speech reported in the despatches we have recently received,The only way to bring this war to an end is to wipe those bodies out one by one. The war will come to end when the last man is killed or captured, and the last gun taken, the last round of ammunition seized.There are various objections to this policy. In the first place there is the objection of the length of time. I do not know how sanguine the great mass of our people are as to the rapid conclusion of the war under these conditions. The hon. Member for the Central Division of Sheffield thought we should be lucky if we saw it over next winter, and that it really would not be over then. Who is confident that the war will not go on under these conditions for years longer? We cannot afford even the speculative chance of another three years absence of the army from England, of increasing taxation, of ruining the loyalists of South Africa, of ruining the Boers, and of losing the prestige which the continuance of the war entails upon England. But a much more serious consideration is whether this policy really 359 offers a prospect of finality in South Africa. Take the Rebellion in England. For ten years the Commonwealth Government was carried on. It was possible to be carried on because a large part of the people consented to live under the government of Cromwell, but the government became and continued a military government from beginning to end just because a large part of the Royalists never consented to come under the new Government. And the unexampled effect of the consent of the Southern States in America, after the Civil War, in settling down under the new conditions, is a proof of what can be done if the consent of a white people is obtained. Our complaint is that the Government have closed the door to such a termination. It is not only their professions, but their actions, that have done so.
Consider a little further the proclamation of 7th August, which was to take effect in punishing the Boer leaders with permanent exile if they did not surrender before 15th September, when the war was to be at an end. In the first place, it was pretty obvious to everybody that that was a useless threat, and everybody quite expected the answer which President Steyn gave to it. It was—Respecting the Proclamation itself, I can assure your Excellency that, as far as I am concerned, it will make no difference in the faithful fulfilment of my duty to the end, as my conscience and not as my enemy dictates.But I should like to suggest that there are other effects of this proclamation. The analogy of the settlement in America, after the Civil War, I have alluded to already, and I think it is the favourite analogy of at least one member of the Government—the Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. Now, one of the leading things that brought about that settlement and made it possible for the South to settle down under the new conditions, having fought as the Boers are fighting, for their independence, and at last having consented to give up their independence—was that their great national leader and hero, General Lee, advised his people after the war was over to settle down and accept the new conditions. The words which he used in asking them to do so were—We have fought this fight as long and as 360 well as we knew how. We have been defeated. For us, as a Christian people, there is now but one course to pursue. We must accept the situation. These men must go home and plant and crop, and we must proceed to build up our country on a new basis.General Lee was allowed to go home, and he lived in the country. It was his inspiration to his soldiers that saved the North from the terrible and continued process of putting down bands of Southern rebels after the war was over. Now we in South Africa, before the war is over, have taken a step which bars the possibility of any one of those leaders who have been in the field since 15th September—their chief heroes, the men with the greatest influence over the Boer people, even if these latter agreed to the new conditions which we impose—being allowed to stay in the country. They have the ban of permanent exile against them. That seems to me very curious statesmanship. But beyond that, by this proclamation you not only banish all the leaders like President Steyn, the head of every commando, and every minor officer in every commando, but you have made it the paramount interest of everyman who is in authority among the Boers to hold out. He will say, what is the use of a happy settlement in South Africa to him if he is not to share it. You have also made it the sacred duty of the men serving under them to stick to them to the very last. I do not know why we should have taken this step, or why we should assume that the opposition of the Boers to the sort of conditions we have laid down is to be permanent. It is true that in February, 1901, the Boers said they would not accept your conditions; but is it necessarily true that in February or August, 1902, they would not have changed their minds? Are we judges of the inscrutable ways in which men's minds are changed? I think this proclamation shows that the Government are approaching peace in altogether a wrong spirit, and in a wrong manner. The Boers, as we know, are already beginning to despair of foreign intervention, and I do not think it is statesmanship to slam the door, to lock and even to screw it against the possibility of peace.
§ (6.37.) Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN
During the time since I sat in this House it has been my fortune to witness and some- 361 times to take part in a great number of votes of censure on the Government of the day; and I must say that I do not think in our whole Parliamentary history a precedent can be found for what has occurred this evening. A vote of censure is, after all, a solemn performance. It may be said that the Government are perfectly safe, and that the vote will not injure them; but it has always been customary to treat the vote seriously and as though it might lead to a change of Government. Well, to-night a Motion brought forward at the instigation of the Leader of the Opposition in this House, and approved of by him, has been entrusted to a private member of his party—as to whose abilities I certainly shall not say a word in depreciation, but who will not be offended if I say that he has not hitherto taken a prominent or important part in our debates. And although the discussion has gone on since the Motion was moved until now, nearly approaching the adjournment for dinner, not a single Member has risen from the Front Bench opposite in order to defend the Amendment which they had promoted. Meanwhile, I venture to think that I shall be able to show—and they will not deny—that some of the language by which this Amendment has been supported by their uninstructed and uninformed supporters, is not the language likely to be satisfactory to them, and that we have before us reasons for adopting this Amendment which are not the reasons which at some period they will be prepared to favour us with.
Before I go into details—and I shall occupy the time of the House for some while—I ask the House to bear in mind what is the object of this Amendment. We know what the object is, from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, who on the first night of the session declared his intention to have this Amendment proposed in behalf of the Liberal party, and he said "Its main object will be to make clear how the Government propose to end the war." Well, if that is the object—and I accept it—I must say that the drafting, to which a great deal of trouble has been given, is, I think, singularly unfortunate, because the Amendment, as it stands, is so drawn that it can let in a great deal the right hon. Gentleman does not intend, and it may exclude altogether much that he does intend. It would be perfectly 362 possible for a Member to support this Amendment without saying a single word about the main object which the right hon. Gentleman stated that he had in view. It would have been easy, although I am not a draftsman myself, to draw an Amendment which would have been perfectly clear and definite, and for the right hon. Gentleman to put on paper the views of the Liberal party—the united Liberal party—nothing would have been easier—as to the way this war should be ended. And having stated those views, nothing would have been easier than to challenge the Government as to their acceptance or rejection. In that case it would have been easy to discuss solely and entirely the main object of the Amendment, as to how the Government propose to end the war. I think I am justified in assuming that there must have been, besides the main object, a secondary object; and shall I be wrong when I say that the secondary object is to bring to-morrow night into the same lobby the Members who disbelieve in the justice of the war, who disapprove of the conduct of the war, who talk of "methods of barbarism," and "loathsome cruelty" as having accompanied the war, who wish us to sue for peace from the Boers, who desire that we should recall Lord Milner, or at all events that we should put the insult upon him of submitting the negotiations to some other person—to bring all these Gentlemen into the same lobby with other Gentlemen, who have told us in the most distinct terms in their speeches—like the right hon. Gentleman the member for East Fife—that they hold that "we are fighting with clean hands and a clear conscience in a just cause"—and Gentlemen who, with Lord Rosebury, repudiate making any approach to the Boers, and who repudiate also the idea that we should state what our terms are, and the Gentlemen who reject the very idea of slighting Lord Milner. Now, if that is the object of this Amendment, I say it is a dishonest Amendment. I say it does not deserve the support of this House. The right hon. the Leader of the Opposition, has tried his hand before at what I believe one of his right hon. friends has called a tessellated Amendment. I should call this a double-barrelled Amendment. That was tried when, on the motion of the noble Lord the Member for Cricklade, in January two years ago, a similar Amendment was pro- 363 duced before the House of Commons, and intended to secure a similar unity. All I can say is that the success of that attempt hardly justified its repetition.
Now, Sir, what are the exact words of this Amendment? What is the preamble? The preamble of the Amendment is,While prepared to support all proper measures for the effective prosecution of the war in South Africa.An admirable preamble, to which, I am sure, nobody on this side will for a moment object. But I thought that at a meeting of a considerable section of the Liberal party which was held some time ago in Queen's Hall there were a number of Members of Parliament present. Now I will recall to those Members of Parliament the vote which they passed on that occasion unanimously, having taken care that it should be unanimous by means to which I will not further refer. The resolution was this:That this meeting of citizens of London" some of them came from Wales, I think—"assembled in the Queen's Hall, condemns the South African policy of the Government as contrary to the highest interests and noblest traditions of the British people; protests against the continuance of an unjust and desolating war; and demands the immediate offer of such terms of peace to the burghers of the two Republics as a brave and freedom-loving people can honourably accept.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Then there was, also unanimously, added to that resolution:—That such terms are to include the complete independence of the two Republics.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Whoever drew that resolution was certainly much more capable of expressing his thoughts clearly than the draughtsman of the right hon. Gentleman. There was no ambiguity about that. What I want to know is, are the Members of Parliament who were present to join in that unanimous vote, who protested against the continuance of the war, who demanded the immediate offer of terms of peace, including independence—are they going to vote for a Resolution which pledges them to "support all proper measures for the effective prosecution of the war"? Then there was 364 another meeting. This was held at the Westminster Palace Hotel, and there were present some more Members of Parliament who sit on the other side. I do not quite know, but I think they were a little less extreme than the gentlemen who attended the meeting at the Queen's Hall; but at all events they also moved a resolution, they also passed it unanimously, and every one of them, therefore, who agreed to it, is committed by it. What did their resolution say?:That in view of the prolonged loss of life and treasure and the intense misery caused by the adherance by the Government to their demand for unconditional surrender by the Boers, this Committee urges the immediate opening of negotiations with the Boer leaders, and the offer to them of such liberal terms as will be acceptable to a brave and high spirited race.That was moved by the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire, who in moving the resolution said that he had little faith in any settlement which did not virtually restore the independence of the Dutch. I make no complaint; there is no ambiguity about that resolution. The right hon. Gentleman has in his united Liberal party, evidently, two draughtsmen perfectly capable of expressing his thoughts. Why did he not employ them? Again I ask, are the Gentlemen who voted for that resolution going now to vote for the vigorous prosecution of the war? The hon. Member for Northampton has put down an Amendment. I cannot help feeling that it has the appearance of a sham Amendment; not that the Amendment itself is at all indefinite, quite the contrary Again, there is a third draughtsman who is able to make his intention clear, and he does it by culling from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman opposite a number of his most popular utterances. Why is not the united Liberal party, led by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, asked to support the views expressed in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton, which views are taken almost verbatim et literatim from the right hon. Gentleman's speeches? It appears to me, I say, to be a sham, because, if the hon. Member for Northampton intended it seriously, he would have moved it as an Amendment to this Amendment, and then he would have got a vote upon it. But by putting it down as a separate Amend- 365 ment at the end of the Address I take it for granted that after the present Amendment is disposed of Mr. Speaker would hardly consider the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman to be in order. And, therefore, to put down an Amendment, and neither to speak for it nor to vote for it—
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Well, if I were the hon. Member I would have a try. I venture to say this—that it would be perfectly absurd for those who agree with the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman to vote both for that Amendment, or even to agree with it, and then to vote for the Amendment now before us.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
So much for those who go, I think, a good deal further than this Amendment. Of course, it is entirely a matter for them what they will do in such a case, or how far they are prepared to preserve any rag of consistency in the matter.
Now I come to the other section of the party, and with very different feelings. As regards the other section of the party, those gentlemen who are called, or call themselves, Liberal Imperialists, it is evident that the preamble to which I have referred can be no obstacle to them. Not only do they agree with the vigorous prosecution of the war, but their chief complaint hitherto against the Government has been that we have not displayed sufficient vigour—it is on that account that they have mainly found fault. And as regards that, if they can point out, either in this debate or at any other time, any practical way in which we can be more vigorous, more efficient in the prosecution of the war, the Government will be very much obliged to them, and will, if practicable, adopt their suggestion. There has been an attempt made to show that on the other part of the Amendment, the part which talks about the settlement which is to be carried out at the end of the war, there is an important divergence between the Liberal Imperialists and the Government. Well, I am going to state, directly, the exact 366 position of the Government. [Opposition cries of "Hear, hear."] Oh, I do not think I shall say much that is new, but I will restate it, and I confess that I am absolutely unable to see any substantial difference between our views and the views of those Gentlemen. In any case, I venture to represent to them that what difference there may be after we have exhausted our controversy is not of sufficient importance to justify them in taking action which will inevitably be interpreted as showing their sympathy for the views of the other section of the party to which I have already alluded. It is useless for hon. Members to attempt, in a case of this gravity, to dissociate the mere letter of an Amendment from the speeches by which it is supported, and from the motives of its promoters. How it is no secret—it is notorious—what are the motives, at any rate of the majority of those that are going to support this Amendment; and I say that those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who hold with what has been called the Chesterfield policy will, I think, be doing some disservice to themselves and the country, if they do not take account of the company they will keep if they go into the lobby for this Amendment.
Before I deal with the question of future policy, I must say one word in answer to what has fallen from the hon. Gentleman who last spoke in regard to the concentration camps. I think that the Blue-book which I have had the honour to lay upon the Table must have come almost as a revelation to many Gentlemen opposite, and I cannot help thinking that it must have disabused their minds of many prejudices in regard to the matter. At all events, I call their attention to one or two simple facts. In the first place, I ask them to remember how concentration camps arose. They will find that they arose because General Botha declared his intention of burning and destroying the farms, and of compelling the inhabitants of the farms to take action, if they refused to join his forces. Lord Kitchener offered to General Botha to allow these people, women and children, to remain in their own homes, and even, as far as possible, to supply them with food, if General Betha would permit their neutrality. He did not ask them to take up arms on our behalf, but that they should give an assurance of 367 neutrality, and they would remain absolutely unmolested. General Botha's reply was clear and categorical. He said—I have a right to impress all these people, and they will suffer if they do not come to me.And therefore, when asked, "What is the alternative?" he said—You had better remove them out of the country, or otherwise I shall punish them.That is the first stage. Later on we have an intercepted letter of General Smuts's addressed to General Botha, and in the course of this letter to General Botha, General Smuts says—You know that with regard to the transport of women you instructed me to load them into the British lines.And then, for a humanity absolutely unprecedented in the history of war, we, upon whom these women and children have been forced, we, who have executed the duty and responsibility in the name of humanity, are accused of "loathsome cruelty." I go on; that is not all the evidence. Later on, again, we hear that on a rumour that Lord Kitchener was seriously thinking of breaking up these camps and sending the women and children back on to the veldt, General De Wet published an instruction, a circular to all his commandants, and he orderd them not to receive these women back into their camps. And, lastly, only the other day, Lord Kitchener made a further offer to Mr. Schalk Burger, telling him if he thinks he can take care of the women and children he, Lord Kitchener, will be perfectly prepared to hand them over to him at any place he may appoint. Now, I ask those who with me deplore the terrible mortality which has taken place in these camps, I ask them always in everything they say hereafter to bear in mind these important facts—to remember that most undoubtedly the responsibility for such misery as has been caused rests upon the shoulders of the Boer Commandant.
According to all the usages of civilized warfare—I can give many instances from the practice of foreign nations, but I will pass that, but perhaps the House will take that for granted; I say that by the constant practice of civilized nations in has been customary to refuse to remit the pressure which can be put up on a beseiged for tress or upon a beseiged army through the presence of women 368 and children, by allowing either the exit of those women and children or by taking them under the care of the beseiging army. That has been done again and again; and I do not hesitate to say that if we had taken that course—although it is possible that the suffering inflicted might have been terrible—if we had taken that course the war would long ago have been brought to a termination. I can conceive that it may be argued that we ought to have done so—that it would have been a higher humanity—but it is that intense feeling which affects the mind of every Briton in regard to the care of women and children, which has prevented us from taking that course and has thrown upon us this great responsibility. Well, we decided otherwise. The amount of loss has been deplorable, but there has been gross exaggeration with regard to this. I have seen pamphlets and papers so scurrilous that really it surprised me that Englishmen should put their names to them. There was one, I believe, published by the authority of the Liberal Association, all of whose publications are edited by Mr Birrell, a distinguished literary man, and in this capital was made and a protest was founded on what was called "a hecatomb of babes." In my opinion, that is an abuse of language, and I am surprised that Mr Birrell could give any countenance to such a statement. Then it is said that we have the murders of 11,000 children upon us. I do not take up the disgraceful accusation. I deal only with the statement of fact. I do not know exactly what the number of children who have died in the camps is; but this is perfectly clear, that from that number, before you attempt to speak of mortality due to the war, you must deduct the number who would have died in ordinary circumstances. The abnormal number is only the surplus of the amount that would have died in the ordinary course. There, again, although I have tried, as the House will see by the Bluebook, to get information, it is impossible to get trustworthy information, because the census statistics of the late Government are so imperfect that there is no authority for any definite pronouncement on the subject. But this perfectly certain, that, although the Boers are naturally a very prolific race, their numbers have increased very slightly, 369 and the population has made very slow progress, and that can only be due to an enormous children's mortality. Exactly what it is it is impossible for me to say, but it is perfectly certain that if there had been no war and no camps, at all events a vast number more children would have died in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony than would have died in a proportionate population in this or some other civilised European country. Therefore, I think, there is gross exaggeration in the figures. But I admit to the full that whatever the true figures be they are to be deplored, and it is our duty, as far as we possibly can, to find a remedy for that state of things. To what is it due? It is due chiefly to an epidemic of measles and the consequences of measles. The House knows, or if it does not know it can easily satisfy itself, that an epidemic of measles, breaking out among people that are not inured to the disease, is one of the most fatal of all diseases. Some time ago an epidemic broke out in Fiji. The loss of life in one of the Islands, taken not on a weekly return but through four months, amounted to 837 per 1,000 per annum. There was no accusation of cruelty or neglect, or anything of the kind. It was merely the terrible effect of a scourge affecting people who were not hardened to diseases of that kind. Of course we know also that it is partly due to the habits and customs of a considerable number of the Boers. Many of the Boers are perfectly civilized people, but there are many also who are entirely (Nationalist cries of "Oh!")—I do not know whether hon. Members think they are not—but many of them, undoubtedly, are entirely ignorant. They are accustomed to all sorts of the rudest kind of remedies. They do not understand the proper treatment of children, and no doubt the mortality has increased from that cause. Now, I say, every effort has since been made to diminish this mortality, and to the detriment of our own people—of our own soldiers and of the civilians in South Africa. Again and again the supplies brought up for the benefit of the concentration camps have interfered with the military supplies and the supplies for civilians. I was reading only the other day the letter of a Wesleyan minister, who said that he and his family went for a considerable 370 time on half rations, the whole civilian population being at the same time under that condition, which neither he nor they regretted, because it was done in order to provide sufficient supplies for the concentration camps. I say every visitor to these camps, whether Dutchman, Afrikander, Boer, or Englishman, with the exception—so far as I know, the sole exception—of Miss Hobhouse, has recognised the efforts of all concerned to do their best for the poor people in their charge, and the kindness and humanity with which they were treated; and when some of the charges which were made against us got back to South Africa—for they did not begin there—and when General Viljoen, hearing of them, asked leave to inspect the camps and was permitted to do so by the general in charge—I think General Lyttelton—he examined the camps for himself, and sent back the highest possible testimonial to the care that was being given. The hon. Member for the Elland Division, I think, tried to make a distinction between myself or my own Department and the Department of my right hon. friend. There is no justification whatever for any such distinction. I am merely continuing the policy which he began. That from time to time, when our minds are being devoted as they are to this subject, we should have poured in a series of suggestions, that we should have been willing to try any experiment—that of course is true, and I have been able to suggest experiments which were not suggested by my right hon. friend, although many of the suggestions he made have been adopted. But the same spirit prevails in the administration now, as prevailed all through. Neither he nor I, nor our respective Departments, have been wanting in anything to improve the condition of these people, or lessen the loss of life; and I am very glad to say—I sincerely trust the change is permanent—there is in the latest Return a very considerable improvement, and I hope that improvement may continue until we can assure the House that the mortality is not more than normal.
Now, Sir, I come back to what has been described as the main object of this Amendment, which is the consideration of the steps already taken by the Government to bring about peace, and above all, of future steps in regard to the settlement. I shall say very little 371 about the past. I do not think that, in view of the statements which we have published in the Blue-book, any Member on either side who is in the least degree inclined to bring an impartial mind to this matter will say that there was the slightest possibility of any terms short of independence being accepted by the Boers down to the time of, and even much later than, Lord Kitchener's negotiations. It is most interesting to see that in the letters which have since come in—some of them intercepted letters, taken, that is to say, in camps and captured laagers, others communications addressed by different Boer generals to Lord Kitchener—it is curious to see that in these they hardly ever allude to any of the points which have been mentioned as causing their rejection by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They always lay stress upon their determination to fight until they have obtained their independence, and occasionally, as it were casually, they have referred to a general amnesty, to the treatment of the native population, and to the smallness of the sum which we proposed to allot for restocking and repairing the farms. Therefore we have no reason whatever to believe that any alteration that we could have agreed to with regard to these terms would, at that time at any rate, have brought about conditions of peace. But coming to the future, I ask the House to compare the views of right hon. Gentlemen opposite upon this subject, and here I am obliged to make a number of quotations. I take first, Lord Rosebery, He says:—Although I would not offer terms to the Boers, I should not be deaf to any overtures from them.And in another place he says:—from any responsible authority.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife says:—While keeping our eyes open to all reasonable overtures, we should in the meantime pursue our military operations with unflagging vigour and alertness.He goes on to say, and I regard this as of essential importance,A peace which was founded, or plausibly represented to be founded, on our inability to continue or end the struggle would be neither honourable nor lasting.The hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick agrees with the views of Lord Rosebery. Now I ask these right hon. 372 Gentlemen, if they speak in this debate, to tell me where is the difference between us. To my mind, if it exists at all, it must be so fine as to be imperceptible. I have read the opinions of these right hon. Gentlemen, with which I have no doubt many other hon. Members on that side of the House agree; but what does Lord Salisbury say? He says:—If they—the Boers—wish for peace, let them come and tell us so.That is not being deaf to their overtures. Surely that is keeping an eye on their overtures. It is true that Lord Salisbury goes on to say that:—Until they do so I think we had better say as little as possible about it.Surely there is no substantial difference.
I am perfectly frank as regards the views of the Government. I agree with the statements made on this point by the right hon. Gentlemen I have quoted and by Lord Rosebery. In order to to be perfectly clear, I may say that there is one statement made by Lord Rosebery with which I do not agree, and which I think it was rather unfortunate that he should have made. He said that the Boers were shrewd enough to know that they could have at any time the terms which were offered to them by Lord Kitchener. If the Boers do think that they are mistaken. Sir, that has been the view of the Boers all along. It is evident from the correspondence that we have published, and from the statements made by some of the Boer generals, that one reason why the Boers refused Lord Kitchener's terms was because they thought they were the minimum which they could have at any time—that they could go on fighting, and at any period during the struggle take up the offer as if it had never been withdrawn. Surely it would be a most dangerous precedent to set up if we were to confirm that opinion. We offered at that time terms which, if not now so admitted by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, were at the time considered by even some of our most violent foreign critics to be terms of unprecedented liberality. That was the general opinion of the Continental Press. But they were flatly refused—no negotiation, no pretence of asking that they should be modified in this detail or in that; they were flatly refused. Since then we have been put to heavy loss in life and in treasure, and to say after all 373 we should take up matters exactly as they were at the time we made the offer, seems to me to be extremely bad policy and very bad diplomacy, calculated to encourage the Boers to continue the struggle. Surely, if we announced that as our determination, the Boers would say, "What matters it how long we go on? Let us go on to the last, because even at the last we are quite safe, and shall still have the terms offered to General Botha." As regards the terms offered by Lord Kitchener I want, if I can, to make the position of the Government clear. So far as they represent the spirit in which we approached the conclusion of peace they still stand; but in their details and as a matter of condition as between, as it were, two equal Powers, or two Powers in an equal position—in that way they cannot again be reconsidered. I am not going into them now, but I believe that, if I did, I could point out to right hon. Gentlemen opposite some of those conditions which on the face of them would be productive of grave friction and serious embarassment in the future, and I think they must be modified in our favour.
Now I must go a step further. I have pointed out that Lord Rosebery and his friends do not want us to make overtures to the Boers. They hope the Boers will make overtures to us. Well, Sir, if they do, there are two points on which I think we have a right to demand assurances. In the first place, we have a right to say to whomever comes to us, "What are your credentials?" In other words, we have to ask, in Lord Rosebery's own terms, "Are you a responsible authority?" I do not mean to say that we are going to allow any punctilio to stand in the way of a favourable and righteous settlement. Certainly not; but we are not going to waste our time or to give any encouragement to the combatants in the field until we know that those who are talking to us have the right to speak for those combatants. And can they do it? Is there any authority who has this right? Well, I am going to consider the possible authorities, because the House ought to understand the difficulties which face the Government in this matter. Is it likely that Mr. Kruger and his entourage in Holland would have such an authority? All our information points to the fact that they have lost the confidence of their fellow-citizens in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, and that they 374 no longer possess any authority to speak for them; and, on the face of it, I must say that it seems probable that that would be the case. Here are these men out on the open veldt suffering the most tremendous hardships, and there are gentlemen who came over to Holland at a very early period, bringing with them large sums of money. Is it very likely that those who are fighting in the field will yield to the views of those sitting in armchairs at home?
Then there are two other Governments. There is the Government of the Orange Free State, represented by Mr. Steyn, and there is the Government of the Transvaal, represented by Mr. Schalk Burger. Have they authority? These Governments are perambulating Governments; they are hardly ever in one place for two nights together, and they are not in communication with the different commandos. Again and again they have fied for their lives. I will say that, in my opinion, they deserve the confidence of those who have been fighting with them and by whom they stood, but I do not think it would be possible for them to speak in the name of all those separate commandos. Neither would it be possible for any one general in the field to speak for all. How could Botha speak for De Wet, Delarey, or Viljoen? I do not nay that these difficulties are entirely insuperable, but I say there is great reason to consider them exceedingly serious. What did ex-President Steyn himself say in a letter to Mr. Reitz, the ex-Secretary of the Transvaal, who had urged him to surrender? "If we, the leaders, surrendered, the rank and file would refuse to follow." If that is the case, it is perfectly evident that the only alternative is to accept individual surrenders when they are offered to us. But, then, as to the second assurance, supposing we get over the first difficulty, and find a body of men or a man entitled to speak for all our opponents in the field, then before we proceed to negotiations we must ask him to put his terms on the table. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife very properly said that the terms offered us must be reasonable; that they must be terms which would not lead to a recurrence of the strife. We hold the same view. We have a right, before we deal with any communication of this kind, to have brought to us the terms they would 375 accept, so that we might see whether they were in themselves reasonable, and offered the prospect of a peace which would not be followed by a recurrence of the war.
Now, Sir, I have gone through the views of the party which I suppose I may take Lord Rosebery to have represented in his speech at Chesterfield; and I say, assuming they adhere to these views, I cannot see in what way the statement I have made can be unsatisfactory to them, and I cannot understand on what ground they should risk giving a false impression to the Boers in the field, and, to foreign countries, and to this country of their position in this matter. I now come to the position occupied by the Leader of the Opposition and his friends. Here I admit there is a vital difference between him and us. We do not pretend to accept his views, and we do not agree with him. The right hon. Gentleman in his numerous speeches during the recess has been endeavouring to fix on the Government a policy which we have never expressed. He has said that our policy is a policy of extermination, of crushing a brave race into the dust. It is all very well to make those accusations. Idefy any one to find in any passage in any speech of any responsible Minister any statement which justifies that charge against us. He says that we have demanded unconditional surrender. So far as I know—I am not going to contradict him, but I do not recollect having seen in print any statement by any member of the Government that we demanded unconditional surrender. [An HON. MEMBER: "Lord Roberts did,"] Let it be produced. It would not affect my argument if we had done so. It is perfectly absurd and ridiculous to confuse a policy of unconditional surrender with a policy of extermination. The right hon. Gentleman might think we were in the Middle Ages, when a policy of unconditional surrender did probably mean that a town was to be given up to sack, that outrages on women and the confiscation of property were to be allowed, and the population decimated. If we ever did use the term "unconditional surrender" we meant nothing of that kind.
376 I am to-day challenged to adopt the policy of Lord Durham in Canada. It is to me a very extraordinary thing that Gentlemen who talk about the precedent of Canada have evidently not taken the trouble to read the history of those times. They speak as if there were some similarity between the two cases. The hon. Member for Elland discriminated—and laid great stress upon the discrimination—between the judgment and wisdom of Lord Durham and the conduct of His Majesty's present Government, but he forgot to tell you—because, perhaps, he did not know—that the policy of Lord Durham was a policy of unconditional surrender. When the rebellion was put down nothing but unconditional surrender was accepted. Just let me for a moment in two or three words remind the House what took place in Canada. The Canadians had great grievances, which the Cape rebels had not. The Cape rebels had every liberty, every right, every privilege which the Canadians desired or which they have since acquired. There was justification—or an excuse—for the conduct of the Canadian rebels. There was no justification of any kind lf or the conduct of the Cape rebels. In the case of Canada there was justification which was admitted by subsequent legislation. The wrongs of the Canadians were subsequently redressed, but they were redressed on the initiation of this country, and not as terms or conditions of surrender. Mark the difference. What we are going to do is in the future, and we urge that it should not be made a term or condition of surrender. That was exactly the case in Canada. But, sir, the rebellion in Canada was a trifling matter. It did not put this country or Canada itself to any considerable loss. The first rebellion lasted twenty-two days, Lord Durham, after that rebellion was put down, refused amnesty to the leaders. What penalty have we put upon any man who has taken a leading part in the rebellion? None. [A voice from the Nationalist Benches: "You shot them."] Nobody has been shot for treason; people have been shot for murder and for other military offences, and people have been condemned to long terms of penal servitude for similar offences; but I believe the sentences upon those who have been 377 guilty of treason, pure and simple, have in almost every case been extremely light and lenient. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not a bit."] Then, Lord Durham not only refused amnesty to the ringleaders, but he banished some of them to the Bermudas. It is rather curious how he anticipated the present state of things.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
We also have banished some of the leaders to the Bermudas. But the Government of the day rejected Lord Durham's proposal, and Lord Durham resigned in dudgeon because his proposal to banish the Canadian leaders of the rebellion to the Bermudas was not accepted by the Government of the time. Immediately after his departure, or nearly so, a renewal of the insurrection followed. A gentleman—Sir John Colborne—who, I believe was universally recognised as a sober-minded man, in writing about the matter, said to Lord Glenelg that it was excited by the recollection of past impunity and the hope of future amnesty. After all, in proportion to the number engaged, it seems to me that the severity which was carried out on that occasion has exceeded anything which up to the present time has taken place in South Africa. For on the whole I find that 25 persons were executed, and 158 leaders were either banished or transported to New South Wales. I doubt whether we have reached those numbers at present, and certainly we are dealing with a very much larger population. That is the historical parallel to which hon. Gentlemen opposite appeal. I accept the parallel, and certainly I can justify anything that we have done from that.
Another parallel has been brought forward, again with the least possible acquaintance with the facts. Why, Sir, the surrender of the Confederacy is alleged as a case in point—as an example which we are to follow. No one has ever contested the magnanimity of the United States in dealing with the rebels at the time of Lee's surrender; but what were the terms? The terms were unconditional surrender—so far as politics were concerned. We can read 378 the whole account in a most interesting pamphlet which has been published recently by Charles Francis Adams, a representative of a distinguished line of American statesmen. But I wish the House to consider the terms and the circumstances under which the surrender of the Confederacy was made. In the first place, as I have said, whilst the lives of the soldiers were spared, no political conditions whatsoever were laid down. The United States Government were free to deal with them as they pleased, and afterwards it is perfectly well known that they considered themselves free to deal with the ex-President of the Confederacy on a criminal charge. They thought it more magnanimous, more politic, to allow him to remain untouched, but they had the power at the time of the surrender—that is all I wish to emphasize. What was the result? The lives of the rebels were spared, but their property was not spared; their property was confiscated on a tremendous scale. Up to the present time there has been no confiscation whatever in South Africa. On the other hand, in the case of the Southerners there was universal confiscation affecting every owner of property. Then, again, politically, representation was withheld from them for a number of years—I think it was ten years. When it was granted to them it was granted to their former slaves at the same time, so that they were placed under the political supremacy of their former slaves. I beg the House to contrast that with what we are doing. We certainly shall be less hard than the United States of America. As I say, we do not propose—we shall not propose—any general confiscation. But we decline to be bound at the time of surrender to any special conditions which may embarrass us in the future. We have, however, expressed our hope, our intention, our expectation, as soon as possible to grant to the people whom we have conquered full political rights, and meanwhile, we have promised them that from the first they shall have equal justice and equal privileges with the other white races.
But there is another point. What happened in the United States of America? Although the terms were so harsh, there was no permanent alienation. I hear Gentlemen opposite making 379 pessimistic prophecies, sometimes almost as if they wished they would come about, that our action will result in permanently alienating the Boers. I see no reason whatever to believe that. I say that the course or the principles which were adopted by the United States of America, although they did not immediately lead to harmony, did lead to harmony in the end, and, after a period which was a mere trifle in the life of a nation, brought about a complete reunion. I say we have every indication that the same result will follow in the case of the Boers. It is no slight thing that at the present moment we have 2,000 men, who are native burghers of the Transvaal, fighting on our side against the men who are still in the field—fighting because they believe the latter are enemies of their country. Only the other day we received a communication from the prisoners in the Bermudas expressing their entire disapproval of the continuance of the war. [Nationalist members.—"How many?" "Who authorised it?"] I do not think it is very courteous to interrupt in this way, but I am quite willing to furnish the information. I find I have not got it here. Perhaps it will be better if I lay it on the Table; I will do so. At all events, it was a large body of the Boers who, in this petition said, that 200 or 300 men were at once ready to take the oath of allegiance, and all the others were willing at once to take the oath of neutrality. Therefore, the number must be very considerably above 200. I speak of these as indications. Take the case of Ceylon. In Ceylon, it was suggested that the Boers should join the British forces in India and take part in our wars, or in any conflict that might occur in India. At once something under 200 men gave in their names to fight in our pay and under our flag, and we were shown that if we had been willing to go on with the proposal, which we rejected on various grounds, we could easily have had 800 men who would have been willing to follow the British flag. If that is going on among the prisoners, if it is going on in the Transvaal, why should we assume that after peace has been made the great majority will not, recognising their 380 defeat, be willing to settle down as peaceful citizens?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I say very seriously that, in my opinion, we all desire a solid peace—a peace which shall not again be broken. I am taking the most extreme of those who are opposed to the policy of the Government. I think they would feel that no greater ill could befall humanity than that this struggle should at any future time recommence. I say, then, that the first ground for a solid peace is that the beaten nation should recognise its defeat. There is no humiliation in that—none whatever. The Boers have made a good fight; no one disparages their courage or resolution. There is no humiliation in laying down their arms to so greatly superior a force. There appear to be a few people in this country whose idea of the Boers is similar to that which they have of the Chinese. The Chinese, that slim and subtle nation, are always anxious to "save their face." I do not believe the Boers in the field care at all about it. If I may judge from the communications I have seen from them, they say, as Schalk Burger himself said, in a letter:—We will fight as long as we can, and then we will surrender unconditionally.But though the Boers do not care about saving their face, the pro-Boers seem to care very much about it. I have said that, in my opinion, at any rate, it is absolutely necessary, if we are not to have a recurrence of the war, that the defeated party should admit their defeat. I say there is no humiliation in that, under the circumstances; no more humiliation, less humiliation, in fact, considering the terms likely to be imposed, than there was in the case of the South in the American Civil War.
I have endeavoured to state as clearly as I could, as frankly as I could, the views of the Government. The House will see that we are not animated by any vindictive feelings. The House will see—and I should have thought it would have been self-evident to any man—that we are not deaf to overtures of peace, to reasonable offers of peace, 381 which may come to us from a responsible authority. But we are not willing to take any action at the present time which would show weakness or doubt or vacillation. We are not willing, therefore, to withdraw the proclamation of August 7th, the conditions of which became effective on September 15th. For the sake of argument, suppose that that proclamation was wrong. Do not right hon. Gentlemen see that to withdraw it in the face of the enemy would be treated as a sign of weakness and vacillation? Sir, we have had too much experience of that kind of thing and the Boers are the worst people to whom we could show such weakness and vacillation. To come to the merits of the proclamation, let me remind the House that when I referred to it last session of Parliament I said it had two objects—that it might bring surrenders, but if it did not bring surrenders, which I contemplated as possible, though not probable (for I did not myself have much confidence that it would secure surrenders), but that if it did not do that, at any rate it would secure the permanent absence from South Africa of men who had shown themselves to be irreconcilable, and who, as irreconcilables, might do irremediable mischief. I am afraid I have mislaid my papers containing a quotation which I had intended to read to the House; and I must give the House the purport of it. In one of the letters from Mr. Schalk Burger he used words to this effect:—If we are not exiled we shall be able of our own strength, and with the loving aid of friends in Europe, to form committees to advance once more our nation, our religion, our education, and to restore our oppressed national spiritThat is patriotic and reasonable from a Boer leader, but consider what it means to us. [Nationalist cheers and cries of "Another Ireland."] I am not surprised at anything that comes from the benches below the gangway opposite—[Nationalist cheers.]—but hon. Gentlemen above the gangway cheered that statement as if they were delighted to hear it. [Opposition cries of "No."] Then they should be delighted to think that under our system Mr. Schalk Burger will not have the oppurtunity of again fomenting disturbances, 382 of again attempting to recreate the independence of his country. I cannot conceive how any common sense person can pretend that we should be wise to allow gentlemen holding those views to come back to be a centre around which committees would be formed to upset the Government which we should establish. No nation in its senses would agree to such a thing; and on this ground alone, if on no other, it is right and proper that the proclamation of September 15th should be maintained. One other word. There is the question of amnesty. It is said that we ought to grant a general amnesty. Lord Rosebery did not say so. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife did not say so. No one belonging to that party at all events has said so. They have always added some qualification, such as "the largest possible amnesty," or words to that effect. With that qualification I should be perfectly ready to adopt such a policy. When peace is restored, it is wise to offer the largest possible amnesty that can be offered in view of justice to those who have suffered, in view of our own future security, and in view of the general policy of nations in such circumstances. And it will be a very large amnesty. There will be no "extermination"of the people. The utmost that will be done will be to deal with those who have committed military offences or ordinary crimes, and to deal in a more lenient way, probably by reference to the franchise, with those who have shown themselves unworthy to use it.
These are our views as to the settlement that can be made, and as to the spirit in which we shall approach it. I believe these views are the views of the vast majority of the people of the country. I believe we have them at our back, and I hope the verdict of this House will be consistent with the views of the vast majority of the country. But we have more than that. We have behind us the Empire—the British race throughout the Empire. We have their confidence, their affection and support, as we never have had before in our lives. We mean to keep them. I am grieved when I hear hon. Members, like the mover of the Amendment and the hon. Member for Elland, talk almost with contempt of the claim of the Colonies to be heard in any 383 settlement we may make. Sir, they have earned that claim. Then the mover of the Amendment talked of refugees in London who have not been at the war, and who, he says, have pressed on the Government measures of severity. I know of no such persons. I say from my place here that no refugee, whether he has been at the war or not, has come to me, or any other Minister, to press measures of severity on us, or to in any other way interfere with the policy which we have declared. Such statements are nonsense. Why talk of those who have come home, when we have in South Africa 50,000 men who have fought for us, for themselves, for their homes and families, and for the British flag and the unity of the Empire? Are you going to say to them "Now that you have fought for us you shall be allowed to pay for it"? At the present moment the Cape Colony is paying in proportion to its income a very large sum on behalf of the war. I am afraid to speak from memory, because I may be afterwards accused of misleading the House, but I believe the amount is something like £200,000 per month. That is an enormous contribution for a Colony like the Cape. Natal has sent some of its bravest to fight by our side. Are they and the Cape to have no say at all in a matter in which they are so closely concerned? Are the other great Colonies, who without any direct interest have come, to our assistance so nobly, to be told that they are not entitled to claim at our hands at least that their sacrifices shall not be in vain, that nothing shall be done to prejudice the security, the interests, and the honour of the Empire which they have done so much to maintain and defend? (8.5.)
§ (8.35.) MR. LABOUCHERE
I am free to admit that the tone of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, which we have just listened to with so much interest, was better than that of many speeches we have heard from him before, but I think there is little hope of auseful peace being discovered in his policy. The right hon. Gentleman said he could not understand how those who agreed to the resolutions passed at the Queen's Hall meeting could vote in favour of the Amendment, I entirely agree with him. It would be impossible for me to go into 384 the lobby to vote for such an Amendment. I am still a believer in the doctrine of nationality, of which Mr. Gladstone was such a distinguished advocate. For my part, I believe, when you go to war and wage a successful war on a country, you have a right to alter to an extent the existing frontiers of that country, and to exact an indemnity and conditions which would render subsequent war practically impossible. But there your right stops, and, no matter whether you or the other nation were in the right in going to war, you are not in any way justified in doing away with and sweeping out that nationality. And this doctrine applies to the smallest nationality in the world. But in this war one has to look at facts. I recognise that this doctrine of nationality no longer seems to be a doctrine in this country, and I therefore consider that anyone who is opposed to this war should not attempt to base his opinion on what is not accepted by the majority of the Members on his own side in this House, but should base his opinion on what he reasonably thinks might secure peace. I believe myself that if negotiations were entered into, fair and unfettered negotiations, with the Boers, in all probability they would tend far more to peace than the present action of the Government. I am convinced that even if the policy of the Government is pursued to a successful issue, it will produce more evils in South Africa and more harm to the Empire than anything it is possible to imagine. I regard the methods we are adopting in this war as barbarous and contrary to the usages of civilised nations, and I honour and respect the leader of the Liberal party, for having so distinctly said that in many of the excellent speeches he has made during the recess.
Now, what are the words that make it impossible for me to vote for this Amendment? They are in the declaratory part of it. "While prepared to support all proper measures for the effective prosecution of the war in South Africa." What are the "proper measures?" If those words mean anything, they mean that those who vote for this Amendment are in favour of voting for the Supplies. Some Gentlemen have said 385 to me "What! not going to vote for the Amendment. Do you not see the word 'proper?'" Yes, I do perceive the word "proper," but I do not perceive that it changes the effect of the Amendment; and if I voted for it I should have to vote for the Supplies. What are the measures that the House of Commons could pursue, and the only measures for the effective prosecution of the war? We are not asked to gird the sword to our sides and draw it for ourselves; we are to vote other people's money in order that other people should go and fight our battles. That is to say we should vote in favour of the Supplies. I do not intend to stultify myself, and therefore I do not intend, with the intention of voting against the Supplies, to vote in favour of the Amendment. When the war was commenced, and Ladysmith was beseiged, and a large portion of the country overrun by the enemy, I did not consider it was my duty to vote against the Supplies, but now the case is entirely different. It is now a war of conquest and extermination, and we have the refusal of the Government to accept any terms but subjection or extermination. The right hon. Gentleman demands surrender at discretion, and if these people do not surrender at discretion, they are to be shot at and hunted down. There you have the fact that they are either to be subjected or incur the risk of extermination. I have no idea of binding anyone to vote against the Supplies, and why should any attempts be made in order to induce me to vote for them? It is perfectly obvious—every one can see—that these words are dragged in for no reason. I ask myself why they are dragged in. I ask the reason of this serpent in our Liberal Eden, and for my part I want to know the views of this serpent before I vote for him. I do not intend to vote for this Amendment until I have an answer to that question.
Lord Rosebery has been alluded to in this debate. I perfectly understand his position, and I honour and respect him for the manly way in which he has stated it. He is in favour of negotiations, and I am glad he is, but he is not, I gather from his speech, in general accord with the Liberal party. He considers 386 that the only assets the Liberal party possesses are fly-blown philactaries and a dirty slate, and so far as I understand he proposes to establish a new party. Two very eminent Gentlemen have stated their views of the party, two Gentlemen as far apart with regard to their political opinions as the poles. The First Lord of the Treasury should have welcomed these statements from Lord Rosebery, because although they were called Liberal, they were the views of the Unionist party which the right hon. Gentleman leads. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose alluded to this new party, and said, so far as I can understand, that the new Liberal is an old Conservative. I do not complain that the Colonial Secretary takes the same view. The right hon. Gentleman warned the new party that the fold of which he is the distinguished shepherd would not accept them. The old virgins will not divide their oil with the new virgins. I do not know why he will not accept them, because I dare say that these new virgins are just as good in their political opinions as the oldest old virgin who sits on the Treasury Bench. Lord Rosebery, in a manly way, calls on us to come and take a spade and dig in his furrow, or trench, or party, or whatever he calls it, but when the Leader of the House, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose on this side of the House, tell me that the views that we are to aid in establishing by our digging are those of the Liberal Unionists, my respect for them does not lead me to take a spade. I speak as a Radical, and a. Radical is said to be a Liberal in earnest, and I, as a Radical, can hardly be expected to assist Lord Rosebery in digging the grave of Radicalism. I understand perfectly the position of Lord Rosebery, but I cannot understand that of the so-called "Liberal Imperialists.'' What took place last session? The Liberal Imperials claimed a sort of chartered liberty on the Front Opposition Bench. It is understood that when the Leader of the Bench rises, he speaks for all. But nearly always, as soon as the Leader had expressed an opinion, up would jump one of these Imperialists and contest it, and instead of voting in the division, would walk out of the House, followed by others. During the recess, what happened? They were in 387 open revolt against the leader of the party. They went about making speeches and forming leagues. I tried to follow the names of their leagues, but was utterly unable to do it. Nearly every week their leagues appeared under a fresh alias. Their efforts in that direction failed, and now they are engaged in angling for Liberal Unionists to desert the Unionist Party and to come over to them. They have not been very successful yet, but one very eminent Gentleman has announced that he is at any rate going to leave the Liberal Unionist Party. But possibly Lord Heneage now finds himself in a difficulty, because, since he announced his intention, it has been declared that the fundamental platform of the Liberal Party is Home Rule for Ireland, and his Lordship's main reason for leaving his friends was that the Liberal Imperialists had declared against Home Rule. Personally, I have not heard any definite pronouncement on that point from the Liberal Imperialists; I wish they would distinctly state whether or not they have given up Home Rule.
Now, in studying the opinions of the Liberal Imperialists, I have especially noticed those of the Members for East Wolverhampton and Berwick. The Member for East Wolverhampton—amost eminent Liberal he is!—stated directly after Lord Rosebery's speech that he agreed with every syllable, word and line. If that is so, by the admission of Lord Rosebery himself, he is no longer a member of the Liberal party. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick, speaking at Newcastle, told the world in general that he had such an intense conviction and belief in the sentiments expressed by Lord Rosebery, that he was bound to say that unity between him and his friends and the other members of the Liberal party could be secured only on condition that we were prepared to accept those views. That is an ultimatum, and one very like that which the Government are submitting to the Boers—subjection or extermination. I have not the slightest intention of accepting that subjection, and I and my friends will certainly do our best to prevent our being exterminated, and with us, all sound Radical principles, by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.
388 I think I have shown pretty clearly why I do not intend to vote for this Amendment. I would only point out, when it is assorted that any man who refuses to vote money for the soldiers and leaves them to starve must be the most base and unpatriotic of Englishmen, that if Supplies were refused the soldiers would not get one biscuit or one penny the less. Supplies are voted in advance; and if our present opposition was successful the policy of the Government would be changed, and the immediate consequence would be that we should decline to vote further Supplies for the continuance of the war.
To the other part of the Amendment I have no objection, except that it is too vague. I should have liked an Amendment specifying distinctly what we think ought to be done, and the things we object to in what is being done and is intended to be done by the Government. But as far as the Amendment goes, if there is no great good in it, there is no particular harm, and had it not been for the preliminary declaration, I certainly should have voted for it, simply regretting that a stronger Amendment had not been moved. The war has lasted for more than two years; the end is not within measurable distance. We have had many prognostications of the Government, and now they throw out the idea that the struggle will soon end, as we have been very successful of late. But they have said that every month since the commencement of the war, and we can hardly now be expected to take the statement seriously. But when the war is over, what will happen? We have been told by no less an authority than Lord Milner that there will still be an informal war. In the Transvaal there will be no self-government, possibly, as Lord Salisbury said, for generations. In Cape Colony men will be deprived of their votes, there will be every species of gerrymandering in order to convert the British minority into the majority and the Dutch majority into the minority. There will be a sullen hostility on the part of the whole Dutch population in South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary said he doubted this. He seemed to be under the impression that there would be a happy family at once created, and that in 389 a very short time Boer and Briton would be united in love and affection. Where does the right hon. Gentleman get his history from? Look at Poland. The Poles hate the Russians at present. Look at our own case of the Norman conquest. It was years and years before the Saxons ceased to be a separate race, a subject race of the Normans. Then look at Ireland. Is Ireland grateful to us? Does Ireland love us? I wish she did, but I do not wonder that she does not after the way in which she has been treated.
There have lately been some very valuable communications in The Times from Sir Robert Giffen, who has estimated that, assuming the war should end almost immediately, and the informal war then go on as we are told it would., there will be added to our normal expenditure the enormous sum of £30,000,000 per annum. It is sad to think of £30,000,000 being squandered in this fashion, when our own people might have benefited so much by it. But there is something worse than that, and it is this Dependency you are bringing into existence in South Africa. There is no place in the Empire for such a Dependency. It will be a permanent danger and sore to us. We are told by the Liberal Imperialists that the great idea of the present day is to knit together in bonds of affection the whole of the English-speaking people within the area of the Empire. This seems to me to be an odd way of carrying out the view, because instead of knitting us together, so that we might hold our own against the world, you spend,£30,000,000 per annum, and use almost all your army to crush out men and deprive them of their liberty within the British Empire itself. The Empire is simply a union of sister States, absolutely equal and independent. Sir Wilfrid Laurier has said that Canada is a sovereign independent State, and that the tie is not a tie of the sword, but of affection, and is due to the assent of each of the sister States. How then can you continue a policy which has for its object the placing within the Empire itself of a Dependency which can be maintained in the Empire only by the sword? We are bound, at least, to consider whether there is not some other or better method of bringing this trouble to an end. 390 What we have suggested is—and I am sorry it is not in the Amendment—that there should be a conference between the Boers and the British representatives, to see if some arrangement could be come to which would satisfy our desire that the Boer States should enter the area of the Empire, and at the same time satisfy the Boers' desire that they should remain independent. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laugh. I admit there is a difficulty in it, but I do not think it is an insuperable difficulty. The words may be understood in various ways, and it is the greatest mistake to pin yourself to particular words in a quarrel. You very often find that it turns out to be a war of words. The words "annexation" and "independence" have become the battle cries of the two people. What is "annexation" If you put it in this way, that you propose to see whether you can effect a union between independent countries for their mutual advantage, it loses all the odium. What is independence understood to be by Sir Wilfred Laurier when he says that Canada is a sovereign independent State? I think you might go so far as to admit the Boer Republics into the British Empire in this way. Everybody admits that Germany is strong against the world and closely united, and yet you have not only sovereign States in the German Empire but also a Republic, which is part and parcel of the Empire, recognising the paramountcy of the German Empire.
When everybody is anxious that this war should come to an end, some remedy should be discovered. Lord Salisbury has said that the Boers are not to be granted one shred of independence, and if he meant that, he meant that they are not to have that independence which is granted to all our self-governing Colonies. When Lord Kitchener and General Botha were discussing terms together, General Botha began by saying, "It must be fully recognised that I am in favour of the sovereign independence of my country," and Lord Kitchener said "It must be fully recognised that I insist upon you giving up that sovereign independence." Having made these declarations, neither of them receded from their point, and yet the discussion took place. The dis- 391 cussion was broken off, as a matter of fact, because the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary himself interfered with the arrangement proposed by General Kitchener, and said that it was preposterous, and that he would never allow it. We have had a despatch recently in a Blue-book, and that despatch I read with the greatest care. In it Mr. Schalk Burger takes care not to speak of an independent State, although he talks of independence, and it appears that that was done with some object. He asked that there should be a meeting between General Kitchener and himself in order to see whether some mode could not be discovered satisfactory to both parties to bring this unfortunate war to an end. What was the reply? The reply from Lord Kitchener was that he could not agree to it, and it is perfectly true that he could not agree. His reply was most courteous, and he was inclined to put to us that it would be desirable that we should agree to it. Mr. Schalk Burger pointed out that those engaged at present in the war were those previously opposed to the war, and the inference was that they would have been ready to agree to a settlement more readily than Mr. Kruger. At present both Boer and Briton are heartily sick of this war, but at the same time the soldiers on both sides have acquired a mutual respect for each other owing to the bravery shown on both sides. Lord Palmerston used to say that when two nations were quarrelling, the best thing to do was to get the representatives of both sides to put their legs under the same piece of mahogany. I want this country to put its legs under the same mahogany as the representatives of the Boers. The right hon. Gentleman said that many of the Boer leaders had left the country, and at present had no interest in negotiations. He went on to say "Am I to discuss the matter with Mr. Schalk Burger, Mr Steyn, or General Botha," and he might have added General De Wet. The right hon. Gentleman asked "How are we to know that they represent the people?" I think if you got the four Boer leaders I have mentioned to fix their names to an agreement, you might be sure that it would be accepted by the Boer nation. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentle- 392 man state that he did not adopt an absolute non possumus, for although he said that it would be difficult to negotiate with the Boer leaders, he admitted that the difficulties were not insuperable. The present is the psychological moment, I think, in order to have this discussion, but I was very sorry to hear the restrictions which were put upon the proposal by the Colonial Secretary. I think that the first essential is that both sides should go into the discussion absolutely unfettered by any preliminary conditions. The Colonial Secretary says that he would only discuss the matter provided the Boers first admitted that they were ready to be incorporated within the Empire. That is the question which should be submitted to the conference. You cannot expect the Boers to give up everything. They say "Let us hear your terms, and let us see if we can find terms which will satisfy us and enable us to enjoy a large measure of independence." You say to the Boers "You must declare that you will enter the Empire before you discuss the terms upon which you will enter." It really seems to me to be a sort of absurdity. Take as an example this alliance which is hanging about between Liberal Imperialists and Liberial Unionists at the present moment. Let us suppose that there is a chance of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton joining the present Cabinet. Of course the Member for East Wolverhampton would first submit his views to the Cabinet. Really, a suggestion that the Boers must first agree to enter the Empire is as absurd as if the Government, anxious to get the Member for East Wolverhampton, were to say to him, "You must first agree to enter the Cabinet and then we will discuss what your views are." The thing is really perfectly absurd, and I wonder that so astute a right hon. Gentleman as the Colonial Secretary does not perceive it. I want to know why proposals should come from the Boers. If it is a good idea, why should it not come from us? The right hon. Gentleman says there is no humiliation in the Boers coming into the British Empire and recognising that they are defeated. Is there any humiliation in our trying to open peace negotiations? Generally 393 speaking, a conference between two nations at war is brought about by the intervention of some third Power. Prince Bismarck brought about a conference between two quarrelling nations, and he said that he only took the part of an honest broker in bringing them together. We now decline this honest broker, and we say that we will not allow any foreign nation to interfere.
I cannot conceive any reason why we should not have an unfettered conference with the Boer representatives, and I think that, if there was the will, the way would very soon be found. I should like to ask the Government, supposing the Boers were to assent and ask for such a conference, would the Government accept the offer? As I understand it from the Colonial Secretary, they would not unless these preliminary conditions were observed. I think these conditions will destroy all hope of peace negotiations, because the Boers will not agree to them. The Colonial Secretary complained bitterly of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition having expressed his disapproval of the negotiator being Lord Milner, and I think my right hon. friend expressed an objection also to the Colonial Secretary himself being a negotiator. I do not want to attack Lord Milner, but I think he has shown himself a partisan. Only the other day there was an incident in connection with the Johannesburg Star. This newspaper used to excite the passions of the people in Johannesburg, and stir up rebellion in the Transvaal against the then actual government of the country. Lord Milner recently went and started the machinery of the Star newspaper on the first day that it made its reappearance in Johannesburg. Can we conceive of anybody wishing to hold an impartial position between the two races doing anything so foolish as that? It is, of course, a matter of perfect indifference to us what Lord Milner says about us, but it does strike me as very indiscreet when the Civil Governor of the Colony, being a civil servant, goes out of his way to attack and revile us on account of our political opinions. I admit that there are a great many merits in the Colonial Secretary, but a conciliatory 394 spirit can hardly be reckoned among them. No doubt he does not know the meaning of his own words, but he appears to have a very curious idea of the meaning of the words if he considers that the language he has addressed, even to friendly Powers, is such as to promote, good friendship between them and us. Both Lord Milner and the right hon. Gentleman have declared themselves against negotiations, and it would be perfectly absurd to ask them to be the negotiators. They would go there without any desire to bring the negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion. If the Colonial Secretary were here I would put to him this question: Assuming that there is to be this sort of conference, would you be the right man in the right place to bring about a friendly settlement? No, Sir, and I do not ask that my hon. friend behind me should be the negotiator for a moment. It is undesirable that he should, for he has certainly taken sides. I want a man who has kept himself clear if possible of the political difficulties that have divided us. I instance Lord Kitchener himself. He appears to be a thoroughly sensible man. He has done his best to bring about peace, but we are told that his views are preposterous. If you do not take Lord Kitchener, take a man like Lord Cromer. I do not know what his politics are, but I know that he is a very good man, and that he has done well in every part of Africa. He is an able, impartial, independent and all-round man, precisely the sort of man you should send to negotiations such as these. I think it would be undesirable to have a man off that Bench (the Ministerial Bench). I believe that Lord Salisbury himself, if he were not so old, and if he were able to go, would come back with a very sound and satisfactory arrangement—if not satisfactory to all his supporters, satisfactory to us and to the Boers. If he could not go, why not take Lord Curzon? When we say that Lord Milner is not a fit person to put into the place of negotiator, we have not the slightest desire to get a man in favour of our political views. There are a great many delusions on the Opposition side of the House. I hear periodically that we are going to turn the Government out in two or three weeks 395 or thereabouts, but I know better. The Government goes on like the war, another baneful thing. I never get into those fool's paradises myself. Never! I know what a majority of 130 means, and although Lord Heneage says he has deserted the Unionists, I know that their 130 will still save them, and that my views can only be acted upon if we can induce the Government to take them into favourable consideration. I therefore appeal to the intelligence and to the patriotism of the Front Bench. Their plan if successful would cost a great deal, and would create in the Empire a festering sore. They almost admit that this is so, but they say it is a necessity. Our system will put an end to all these troubles. If the conference fails, I cannot see that it will do any real harm to this country. There is no humiliation in it. It has been done before. It was done in the Crimean War. There you had a conference which took place at Vienna. Lord John Russell went there, and if he had been left to himself, he would have brought back peace.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
My hon. friend opposite thinks he knows everything, but there are one or two things that he does not know, and it appears to me that one of them is the position of Lord John Russell at that conference. Lord Russell came back having assented to the terms proposed by Austria and accepted by Russia. His colleagues would not agree to the terms. Lord John Russell did not make that known, and when it came out he had to retire from the Cabinet.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Then this is one of the things that the hon. Gentleman does know. But that is the case in all these matters. This is not a question whether anything or nothing can be urged against a particular course. It is a question of weighing pros and cons, and it is because we think our 396 course is the better course, and presents better chances than that proposed by the Government, that we urge it respectfully upon the Government. I appeal even to the patriotism of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I think it is most unfair for one party to accuse another of want of patriotism because they do not happen to agree with them. Hon. Gentlemen opposite frequently accuse us of want of patriotism, and their newspapers tell us that we are traitors, and that we ought to be put in prison, because we venture to disagree with His Majesty's Government. Patriotism is the monopoly of no party. If you look into history you will find that whenever a war takes place, those who are in favour of it are termed patriots, and that, after the war is over, those who were in favour of peace are termed patriots. Hon. friends will remember the Spanish War in the time of Walpole. Walpole was forced into it against his own wishes, and at that time the Jingoes denounced those who were opposed to it. They were called patriots, and they were applauded when they went to make speeches. I believe the meetings of those against the war were sometimes broken up, and the remarks of the speakers were received with groans and indignation. I think it is patriotism that is said to be the last refuge of a soundrel. God forbid that I should say that hon. Gentlemen opposite are scoundrels, but I ask them to remember that definition of patriotism when they accuse us of the want of it. I can most truly say that I am not influenced in any sort of way in the action I take in this House by any party consideration. If I desired the full triumph of Radicalism I should ask for nothing better than that this war should go on for two or three years, and be succeeded by that informal war which we are told is to be the necessary consequence of its success. I believe honestly the course the Government are pursuing is fraught with danger to the entire Empire. I know that wars are necessary sometimes, but I object to war going on one moment longer than is necessary. Unless the Liberal party are reunited in the way I want to see it united, that is, in agreement with myself, do you think I do not prefer the present Government? Do you think I want to see an alternative 397 Government which would only be a sort of understudy to the present Government? What good would that do to Radicalism? It would give away the whole thing. The Liberal party and the Unionist party would provide alternative Governments united by one bond to crush advanced Radicalism. I want the war to be brought to a finish, and it is because of that view that I express myself strongly on the matter.
§ (9.25.) Mr. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I desire to move to omit the words from the Amendment—While prepared to support all proper measures for the effective prosecution of the war in South Africa.And also to add at the end of the Amendment—And we humbly represent to your Majesty that the systematic devastation of the two South African Republics, and the wholesale capture of the women and children of the burghers, and their imprisonment in insanitary camps, where insufficient and unsuitable food is supplied, is contrary to the recognised usages of civilised war, and has already caused the death of many thousands of women and children; that such methods of carrying on war are barbarous, and have aroused the indignation of the whole civilised world outside of Great Britain.I think it must be evident that the members of the Irish party would not vote for the Amendment so long as the words I propose to omit are incorporated in it. How could we, the members of the Nationalist party, or any of the Members on the Radical Benches, who have resisted this war from the outset and fought against granting the Supplies asked for carrying on the war, because they looked upon it as an unjust war of aggression waged by a great Empire against two weak States—how I ask could we or they vote for an Amendment of that kind? It would be impossible; to do so would stultify all that we have said and done in the course of the discussion upon this war. For my part, I think a more extraordinary Amendment was never submitted to this House, and for once in the course of fifteen years I find myself in full agreement with the Colonial Secretary in what he said about it. It is so drafted that if it were not put forward in the shape of a vote of censure on the Government it could be supported by most Members on the Unionist Benches. There is hardly one of them who has not got something to complain of with regard to the conduct of the 398 war. Some of them say that it has been too humane. In fact, I see nothing in it to prevent the editors of the Standard and St. James's Gazette from voting for it, for the Standard complained that the Government erred in declining to shoot all their prisoners, and the Gazette complained because they did not deport or dispose of the women or children they took as prisoners. I must say that in another respect I find myself in hearty agreement with the Colonial Secretary. I have studied the speech at Chesterfield and the utterances of those members of the Liberal party who have spoken in the country, and for the life of me I cannot understand how those Members find it their duty to oppose the Government. They say that the war is a just war, and that we are fighting with clean hands; while the only complaint Lord Rosebery has to make is that martial law was not proclaimed on an earlier occasion. Is that a sufficient ground for moving a vote of censure on the Government, and challenging a division in this House? The Colonial Secretary carried me with him when he said that he had not sufficient intelligence to discover such a difference between the policy of the present Government, and that of the Chesterfield speech, or the utterances of the right hon. Member for East Fife, as would justify for an instant the moving of such an Amendment.
Now I do not intend, on this occasion, to occupy the time of the House by going into the question of the merits of the war, or the attitude of the Irish party towards the war. That attitude has, from first to last, never been in doubt. We have opposed it squarely from the outset. We regard it as a war got up by the Park Lane South African millionaires for the purpose of grabbing the land and doubling their dividends on the gold mines; and we consider this Government, in so far as their policy on the war is concerned, as being the bond-slaves and instruments of these gentlemen in Park Lane. When I listened to the laboured speech of the Secretary for the Colonies, I confess that I agreed with the view expressed in a celebrated letter, that the time when this country could have made honourable terms of peace with the Boer nation was the time when the two Presidents, after the occupation of 399 Bloemfontein, admitting their defeat, applied to Lord Salisbury to know what the terms of peace were. They were under the delusion that they were dealing with honourable men. I remember the speech at the Guildhall, when Lord Salisbury proclaimed these words, which will live in history—"We seek no territory, we seek no gold field." The two Presidents, having in their minds these words, applied to you for your terms of peace; and what was the answer? "No terms; not a shred of independence will be left you. All your territory, and all the gold mines must be the spoils of the victors." Never was there a more shameless breach of public faith and of words pledged in the face of Europe. Do you wonder that the Boer leaders in the field are still offering armed resistance? I venture to prophesy to-night that, in spite of all the glories of the Empire, and the victories of your arms, the day will come, be it near or be it far, when your statesmen will bitterly regret the action and condemn the men who threw away the last chance of a contented and peaceful South Africa. What do we hear from the optimistic gentleman, the hon. Member for Central Sheffield? What is his forecast? Fresh from the fields of battle he says that at the best you may end this war in six months; that after the war is over a hundred thousand men of your army must be locked up in South Africa for five years; and that after that perhaps you may reduce them to a permanent garrison of 50,000 troops. Is there a man, who can free himself from the madness of this war fever, who can suppose that such a condition of things as the hon. Member for Central Sheffield prophesies to the House will be a source of strength to the Empire? If I were in a position of being in the counsels of the Boers, my advice would be what Schalk Burger said he would do—"fight as long as you could, and when you can fight no longer, surrender unconditionally." There would be no humiliation in that. Their names would down go with honour to future generations, if they surrendered unconditionally and unbound. I still have faith in the principles of liberty, and I believe that the time will come when these men, whom you 400 have shamefully robbed of their liberty, will regain it. It is all very easy for the Secretary for the Colonies to talk as he does. He belongs to what you are pleased to call an Imperial and a conquering race. He cannot understand how the iron has entered into the soul of the people of Ireland. He talks about the amalgamation of the races in South Africa, because he has bought up a few miserable traitors to serve in the British army, of whom even the officers in your army speak with contempt. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of the day when the Boers will regard Britons with feelings of affection; but I venture to tell him—because I belong to a conquered nation—[Nationalist cries of "No"]—conquered in a sense. We are held down in the same way as you propose to conquer the Boers. We are disarmed, and governed from London. I venture to say, and I give my opinion for what it is worth, that neither the Colonial Secretary, nor his children's children for many a generation, will live to see the day when the Boers are reconciled to the Britons, so long as you keep 50,000 troops as a permanent garrison in South Africa. That part of the Empire will never be safe until their liberty is restored to the Boers.
There are two particular aspects of the war on which I should like to touch. The first is the concentration camps. After listening to the speech of the Colonial Secretary, and reading the letter which the hon. Member for Central Sheffield wrote to The Times the other day, we were all driven to the conclusion that the women and children in these camps had been for the first time in their lives taught to use soap; that they were better washed, clad and fed than ever before; and that these people were so lost to all sense of decency, that 12,000 of them deliberately died to defame the name of England! Let me in approaching the consideration of this question, recall the attention of the House to the fact that the matter of the concentration camps cannot be considered apart from the question of farm burning. The only shred or shadow of a justification of the policy of the concentration camps and of the horrible mortality therein, hangs on the statement that 401 these families would have perished on the open veldt without a roof over their heads. But how came that about? From the policy of farm burning. You deliberately set about, the policy of reducing the whole of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State to a howling wilderness, and therefore you had thrown on your hand vast multitudes of women and children. Farm burning was instituted in August, 1900, and on 7th December in the same year the Colonial Secretary was challenged on the matter by the hon. Member for the Elland Division. The right hon. Gentleman said that he "regarded as utterly worthless" the evidence coining to this country as to farm burning. What I complain of is that the House of Commons is continually deceived and kept in the dark as to what is going on in South Africa. We must assume that the Colonial Secretary is himself deceived by false information furnished to him from South Africa for communication to the House of Commons. The Colonial Secretary said on 7th December,I cannot at this moment give to the House exact information as to the number of farmhouses that had been destroyed, but we had telegraphed for it and Lord Kitchener informs us that, though very difficult, he thinks it may be possible for him to give some statistical information on the subject. I cannot contradict this anonymous information. I can only say that I shall be very much surprised if it does not turn out to be grossly exaggerated.Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say thatLord Roberts' proclamation was to the effect that, in the first instance, general officers were authorised to burn down farmhouses as a punishment in cases in which they were used as fortified places, or places for the concealment of arms, or in which the white flag had been improperly used, or where they had been the scenes of gross treachery and of acts contrary to the laws of war. As a matter of right and moralty the Government are prepared to sustain Lord Roberts absolutely.Again, the right hon. Gentleman went on at a later stage of his speech to say thatIt is therefore for the General now in Command (Lord Kitchener) to reconsider his position and substitute other punishments if he thinks it right to do so.Every Member of the House was under the impression after that speech that farm burning as a policy had been abandoned. But was it so? The House of Commons was informed 402 from the best possible source that the burning of farms was confined to those cases specified by the Colonial Secretary, and upon that we witnessed a scene to which the House of Commons is not unaccustomed, namely, that a certain member of the Front Opposition Bench fell upon the neck of the Colonial Secretary and wept tears of joy upon his conversion to the paths of reconciliation and of peace. The country for a time believed that farm burning was confined to places where such acts as the Colonial Secretary had described took place. Finally, after a long delay, came the famous Return of the burning of 600 farms, and I venture to say that out of that 600, 500 were burned without one of those acts being proved against them, and it was admitted that they were burned in pursuance of the policy of devastation. Therefore, on the face of the Government Return, if it is accepted as true, the lie was given to the statement of the Colonial Secretary upon a wholesale scale on a vitally important matter. But was that Return complete? Nothing of the sort. Evidence reached my hand immediately that only a very small proportion of the farms burned were included in the Return, and that that Return in itself was amply sufficient to overthrow and destroy the whole statement of the Colonial Secretary to the House of Commons. I had placed in my hands a statement to the effect that the whole village of Durham, in the Orange Free State, a prosperous village of 34 houses, was destroyed, but that was only one instance, and we are informed by the remonstrance written on the field on the 25th of November, and published in the last Blue-book, by Schalk Burger and Mr. Reitz, that up to 30,000 houses were burned. That maybe an exaggeration, but it is the authoritative statement of Mr. Burger and Mr. Reitz, and it is, at least, entitled to consideration, because it means that you have devastated and destroyed the whole of this country as a matter of deliberate policy. Have this country and the House of Commons been informed of this policy? On the contrary, I believe they have been deceived, and I believe that even this country, saturated and overrun with war fever though it be, would be raised against this policy had 403 any real and true statement of it been communicated to the country. Every man in the House of Commons was under the impression on the 17th of December, 1900, that the policy of farm burning was abandoned. That was the universal impression of the House and of the country. Is it abandoned? I believe nothing of the sort. I believe the policy of farm burning has been going on, and is going on up to the present moment. I read a letter the other day from a Yeoman, who is correspondent for the Westminster Gazette. This Yeoman was with Lord Methuen, and they were operating in the Western Transvaal in November, 1901, and he says:—"We burn every farm we find, and such farms," and then he describes the beautiful fruit trees, every one of which, he says, "are cut down." "The soldiers," he says, "were living on the plunder of those farms for weeks." It used to be described as one of the greatest reproaches against the great Napoleon—the plunderer of the enemy's country. I believe the reproach was unjustly made against him. These soldiers lived for weeks on the fowls, pigs, and other property of the people. That occurred in November last, and so it is that, in my opinion, and from all the evidence I have been able to collect, this policy of farm burning, so far from having been abandoned, is going on vigorously up to the present moment.
I have an extract from a most interesting and remarkable book published on the war recently by a certain Capt. Mark Phillips, who is a man pretty well qualified to write upon the war, becaues he was an Outlander in Johannesburg before he joined Rimington's Scouts.
He says:Farm burning goes merrily on, and our course over the country is marked as in pre-historic ages by a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night. We usually burn from six to a dozen farms every day—that is about all we meet in this sparsely-inhabited country. I don't gather that any special cause or reason is alleged or given against the farms burned.This is the evidence of a perfectly loyal officer, and it is rather interesting to compare this with the statement given to the House of Commons:If Boers have used the farms, if the owner is on commando, if within a certain distance the line has been blown up, or even if the Boers 404 in the neighbourhood should persist in fighting.Those are some of the reasons.Of course, the people living on the farms have no say in the matter, and are quite powerless to interfere with the plans of the fighting Boers. Anyway, we find one reason or another covers pretty nearly every farm we come to, and to save trouble, we burn the lot without inquiry, unless, indeed, which sometimes happens, some names are given in before marching in the morning of farms to be spared. To save tronble we burn without inquiry.That is what has been going on for fifteen months, and I do not think there is anything unreasonable in assuming that the account of Mr. Burger and Mr. Reitz is true, and that, substantially speaking, you have devastated as completely—nay, more completely—the whole of the two Republics as the Palatinate was devasted by Louis XIV. Now, here is the statement by a Yeoman publish in the Westminster Gazette—A more rotten time I don't think I ever had!This is the description of the first half of the operations which contains the revelatious concerning the continuation of methods of barbarism which Parliament and the country were led to believe had been abandoned. The writer says—The first month we were out we had very little fighting, as Methuen was on a visit of destruction to a very fertile district. Every farm we came to was utterly destroyed. Crops were destroyed, cattle captured, fruit groves cut down, and when the houses were cleared they were burned down. In nearly every case we found the Boers had cleared out just before we arrived, and very often they were on over-looking kopjes and sniped at us as we came up. It seems rather hard, perhaps, to people at home, but it is Kitchener's orders, and really if you were out here you would soon find that it is the only way of stopping this business at all.That is an important point—it is done not as a pretence to punish any acts of cruelty or of treachery, but as a means of "stopping this business." An hon. Member opposite, when I was speaking on this subject on a former occasion, said devastation of the country was according to the rules of war, and lawful. I say it is unlawful according to the usages of war. That is a clear issue, and I should like to hear some responsible member of the Government stand up and say they accept the statement that the devastation of the country is in accordance with the usages of war. Is devastation and burning and destroying 405 the food of non-combatants according to the rules and usages of war? The members of the Government have never said so in the course of these debates. I have seen a great deal of sound and fury raging from Edinburgh to Birmingham against the Germans because they found fault with something said by the Colonial Secretary, in which he stated that in the whole course of these operations England never approached the severity of foreign armies. Is it any wonder the Germans are full of anger when you say they did worse in the French war? The fury of the Germans was perfectly justifiable when it was charged that they did worse against the French Republic. [Cries of "No, No."] Yes, you did make that charge. What would have been said by civilised mankind if Germany on her march on Paris had turned the whole country into a howling wilderness, and concentrated the French women and children into camps, where they died in thousands? All civilised Europe would have rushed in to the rescue.
What did we hear here the other day when the First Lord of the Treasury was challenged on this point? He said, "I am asked is farm-burning given up yet? As we understand the matter, farm-burning is not given up in those places where it is a military necessity." That truck me as the most interesting passage in the right hon. Gentleman's speech; but I hold that this plea of military necessity, unqualified, as it is, would cover every crime. This plea of military necessity was urged by Louis XIV. when he destroyed the Palatinate, and it might cover the destruction of a fortified town by an army forced to abandon that town. What would be said by you had the Boers burned Johannesburg and Pretoria to the ground when driven out by Lord Roberts? Yet their conduct would be more defensible than yours, for, after all, Johannesburg and Pretoria were the property of the Boers themselves; they were in their own country, and if they destroyed those two cities your position to-day would be very different from what it is, and you would have filled the whole world with your howls of indignation and rage, though the plea of military necessity would apply in such a case with ten-fold greater force than in yours. Yes, the plea of military necessity 406 without any qualification would cover every conceivable atrocity practised in war. I say that one of the things prohibited by the laws of war is the devastation of an enemy's country for the purpose of rendering that country uninhabitable to women and children and other non-combatants. Therefore, I say that the whole of this policy of the concentration camps has sprung up, as far as it was a necessity at all, from your wholesale violation of one of the best recognised usages of modern war, which forbids you to desolate or devastate the country of the enemy and destroy the food supply on such a scale as to reduce non-combatants to starvation in the open country. I noticed one or two sophistic and absurd arguments were used by the Colonial Secretary, when he endeavoured to defend your action in desolating the two Republics by referring to the case of a besieged city. But there is no analogy between the two cases—they are not on all fours at all, for in the case of a besieged city it is a recognised thing under the rules of war to refuse to allow the non-combatants to leave and so relieve the garrison from the pressure of starvation. That is an entirely different matter from the policy of destruction and devastation of an open country peopled by non-combatants.
On this question of the concentration camps, there is a gross misrepresentation of facts both in Lord Kitchener's despatch and in the speech of the Colonial Secretary. They say that these camps are mostly occupied by women and children who have come in voluntarily for the sake of finding refuge. Now, in my judgment, after a careful examination of all the evidence, the vast majority of the people in these camps have been brought in as prisoners of war, and kept there against their will. What did the Colonial Secretary say? I knew he would try to ride off on the high horse by quoting, as he did, the despatch containing the alleged conversation between Lord Kitchener and Louis Botha, in which is found the astonishing statement that the whole of the concentration camp policy was due to a statement alleged to have been made by Louis Botha in his conversation with Lord Kitchener. That statement seemed 407 to impress some hon. Members considerably. Let me examine it for a moment. Lord Kitchener, on the 21st November, received a letter of remonstrance from Mr. Schalk Burger against the treatment of the women and children. In forwarding that letter to Lord Salisbury and the Government, Lord Kitchener enclosed it in a covering letter of his own, in which two statements are made, which appear to me to be without any justification. Lord Kitchener stated, first, that the majority of the women and children in the camps were those of surrendered burghers, and that those who visited the camps had no serious complaints to make as regards the accommodation afforded either for comfort, recreation, or instruction, I say I do not believe these statements are true. I say that the vast majority of the people in those camps did not surrender voluntarily. But the main point in Lord Kitchener's letter is that he says that on the occasion of his interview with Louis Botha he told the latter that if he continued trying to compel the surrendered burghers to take up arms the British would be forced to bring in the women and children for the sake of protecting them. That could only have occurred in the case of burghers willing to surrender, and not in the case of those still on commando. Lord Kitchener's statement was that he would be compelled to bring in the families of those threatened by Botha if they did not go on commando. Supposing that version of the interview is accurate, which I believe it is not, can anyone complain of Botha's action? The Colonial Secretary triumphantly stated that Louis Botha was solely responsible for the concentration camp policy, and based that extraordinary suggestion on Lord Kitchener's version of the interview. A more monstrous and grotesque statement was never made to the House of Commons. This alleged conversation between Lord Kitchener and Louis Botha was laid on the Table of the House, and when we pressed for full details on this important point, which at the moment was the subject of angry debate, there was no reference whatever to this statement. Why did the Secretary of State for War, who was questioned on the point until he almost begged for mercy, withhold this information from the 408 House if he had it in his possession? It looks strange and suspicious now, after nine months have elapsed, that we should be supplied with this version of the interview.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
I told the hon. Member over and over again that Lord Roberts had taken over these people in the first instance only, when Botha refused to house and keep them.
§ MR. DILLON
That is no answer to the point I have raised. I was talking about the alleged conversation between Botha and Lord Kitchener, which took place in February last, and when the Papers dealing with the matter were laid before the House there was not the smallest reference to it. Why is it trotted out now? Why was it withdrawn from us last session while this subject was being discussed? And that is not all. I have secured, and have here in my hand, a copy of Botha's official report to his own Government of this conversation. In that report there is not a single word about what the Colonial Secretary alluded to, and on which he based his defence of the Government policy. Evidently Lord Kitchener's recollection of what occurred is at fault. Louis Botha says in his report—I also spoke to him (Kitchener) about the removal and ill-treatment of our families after the discussion. He declared that our families were properly taken care of. He had given orders that in their behalf proper conveyances should be provided, and if these should not be at hand the families were not to be removed, and he would look into the complaint about the ill-treatment when they had been removed. He said he was obliged to remove the families because, as he pretended, every farmstead was a commissariat for the burghers, and because this was the only way he could think to put an end to the war.There is no reference in that report to the statement alleged by Lord Kitchener. In listening to the speech of the Colonial Secretary I thought he would go on to say that Botha burned the farms, but he did not. He said Botha declared that under the laws of his country he had a right to burn the farms of the burghers who would not take up arms. And so he had. That was the law of the Transvaal. To-day, in similar circum- 409 stances, I believe it would be the law in France and Germany. If the men of these countries refused to join the colours their property could be confiscated. But this has no reference whatever to the vast number of women and children dragged into the camps against their will and against their entreaties and protests by British troops.
The Colonial Secretary went on to refer to the deaths of children. In speaking on the subject of farm-burning in December, 1900, he used an expression often used in respect of Ireland, when he referred to the houses of the Boers as miserable hovels, and that it did not matter much whether they were burned or not. His language in regard to the death of the children in the camps was couched in much the same spirit. He endeavoured to make out that the number is grossly exaggerated. What are the facts? How many children have died? Over 13,000 in a period of eight months. These statistics refer to children in the Free State up to the age of 15, and in the Transvaal up to the age of 12. There were 60,000 or 70,000 in the camps, so that if we put the mortality of children in the Transvaal under ordinary circumstances at 100 per thousand perannum.—["Oh"]—Iplace it at that enormous figure in order to show the utmost limit. I know it is more than double. But take it at 50 per thousand per annum. Supposing the camps had not been formed there would then have died in the eight months 40 children per thousand. Indeed, that is a great exaggeration. The death-rate of London is about 17 per thousand of all ages. But as to the death-rate of children, there is a great deal of mystification about this, and an attempt has been made to palm off on the people of this country that this high death-rate occurs amongst children of under one year. The death rate of infants is of course, enormously great compared with the mortality after the first year, but the mortality amongst children of 12 years of age is not high, and I am convinced that the figure I gave is far beyond the average mortality in the Transvaal. If you calculate upon that basis you find at the utmost about 2,500 children who would have died. 410 You have the number 13,000, so that in these camps by the operation of your policy you have killed 10,000 children, and that is what the Colonial Secretary called the "surplus" within the last eight months. I say that is an awful thing, and if it can be shown—as I say it can be—that it might easily have been avoided, then a burden of blame lies upon the shoulders of the Government which no humane man would like to share.
I want here to lay down two or three general propositions. In the first place, what has happened has been due to two or three main and simple causes which a little forethought would have avoided. There was, first, the overcrowding. All military and medical opinion agrees that when a camp has been occupied for weeks—still more, for months—by a crowded population suffering from sickness, the soil becomes poisoned, and to keep the people in such a place is to confine them in a death-trap from which there is no escape. Then, it has been due to insufficient shelter and unsuitable food, particularly in the case of children. Overcrowding could easily have been avoided. In March, April, and May, before serious overcrowding arose, the Government were warned by a lady who, although her name was jeered at in this House to-day, will be honoured for the work she has done, and but for whom—although she was insulted when in this country she tried to speak of these women and children—the camps would have been left to fester in all their misery. I refer to Miss Hobhouse. When I hear men talk now about what the Colonial Secretary is doing, I remember that it was because public opinion had been stirred up by her. In the spring she warned the Government of the evils that were approaching, and she was laughed at. No excessive mortality occurred until about June, so that the Government had ample warning. One of the principal points with which she dealt was overcrowding, and I remember her making agonising appeals against it. What did the Government do? They continued in spite of these warnings to pour in, not voluntary refugees, but enormous masses of captured people who did not desire your protection, who were run down by your columns 411 like wild beasts, and were brought in as captives and lodged in bell tents with six or seven in a space not fit for two people to live in. As the doctor in one of these reports said, three or four persons, some suffering from malignant measles, would be huddled together for protection from the cold—those who had measles and those who had not. That was the condition of things which produced the frightful mortality which has been raging for so many months. The country and the House should give some attention to the actual figures, which show that in the case of the camps at Kroonstadt, Bethany, Brandtford, and Heilbron the rate of mortality during the month of September was at rates ranging from 419 to 590 per thousand per anuum, so that two years would have sufficed to sweep away the whole population of the camps. It is said, and this is a most interesting and striking fact, that it was connected with the nature of the Boer people. There is not a word of truth in that. Take the camp at Harrismith. The population was 1,304. The number of deaths during September—to which the figures in the case of camps just mentioned refer—was 2, or 18.41 per thousand per annum. It was about as normal as the City of London. At Port Elizabeth, with a population of 390, there was not a single death during the month. That, I say, shows that the mortality was due entirely to the in sanitary condition of the camps and the bad management, The Colonial Secretary referred to the great improvement in the numbers during the last month. He telegraphed for them in order to have them for the meeting of Parliament. Now what are they? In Natal the total population of the camps for December was 11,000. The total death was 147—that is to say, a moderate proportion. In the Cape Colony the total population was 280, including 198 children, and not a single death; in the Orange Free State 23,000 children and 911 deaths, or nearly 50 per cent. per annum. In other words, the rate of death still exists which would clear off the entire population of children in the camps there in two or two and a half years. In the Transvaal 27,000 population, and 736 deaths, or a rate of rather over 300 per thousand per 412 annum. So although there is a slight improvement in the condition of things, it is still absolutely horrible. Any one who goes through these reports will see that they are so atrocious that I cannot understand how any one could fail to be affected by them. The camps at Mafeking and Vryheid are simply death traps. I say that this shows a state of things, the cruellest and most savage that was ever brought about by any modern nation in carrying on war. You talk about America. I say it is an outrage to speak of America or Germany, or France, and to compare their conduct with yours. It is idle and most absurd to endeavour to make cheap capital by saying that by making these attacks upon the system of the camps we are making attacks upon the soldiers of the British Empire. I would not hesitate to attack them if I thought they deserved it, but I do not say, and I never have said, that the soldiers in charge of these camps have not done their best in impossible conditions. It is the system which is barbarous and intolerable, and I believe it was instituted to bring pressure upon the men on commando to surrender—that you found it impossible to overcome them by fair force of arms, and that you resorted to this barbarous method of endeavouring to bring the war to an end.
I ventured to say eighteen months ago that farm-burning would not be successful as a military measure. Everyone admits it now, and I say, with confidence, that this present barbarous system of destroying the women and children of these Republics will not, even from the point of view solely of military results, be found to be a successful measure. Whether sooner or later you succeed in wearing down the resistance of generals and commandoes in the field, no one can doubt that the ultimate settlement of the country will be rendered a thousand times more difficult by what has been done in the concentration camps. I think the prospect before you is not an agreeable one. I expect the Secretary of State for War, if he intends to take part in the debate, to say whether he has yet made up his mind on the point I have so often raised, whether the women and children are free to go away 413 from the camps. If they are, why are they fenced round with barbed wire? One medical inspector said—I found the camp in a dreadful condition. The camp was located in a hollow fenced round with double wire fences and guarded by native scouts.And yet we are told in the face of this condition of things that these are free camps, and that the women are free to come and go as they like. The placing of native scouts to guard them is an outrage of the most scandalous character. I have here in my hand an official letter of the 17th June, 1901, in reply to an application by a Mrs. L. L. Nel to have a certain Mrs. Moolmon released from one of the camps. It is as follows:—Pietermaritzburg, 17th June, 1901. Madam—I have the honour to inform you, with reference to your application, that as Mrs. R. Moolmon's husband and two sons are still on commando, the military authorities consider it better that she should remain at Volksrust for the present.That was a very bad camp, full of disease and overcrowded. Her two sons and her husband were with the Boers in the field, and I say is it not a monstrous hypocrisy to tell us that these camps are instituted in the cause of humanity, against the inhumanity of Louis Botha, in face of statements of this kind. This is the only matter connected with the war that I care to say anything about to-night, but I did desire to give an opportunity to the Irish Nationalist party and some of the Radicals to register their votes upon a square issue, and to maintain to-night the protest which we have continued now for two years against an unjust war and the barbarous methods of carrying it on. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
§ *(10.40). MR. JORDAN (Fermanagh, S.)
said he wished to second this Amendment to what was understood as the official Amendment. After listening to the exhaustive and eloquent speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo, he had come to the conclusion that it would not be necessary for him to occupy much of the time of the House. He sympathised with the Leader of the Opposition. He was between the devil and the deep sea by supporting an Amendment intended to catch the votes of the Liberal Imperialists—whatever that is He was not prepared to support, any 414 measures "proper" or otherwise, for the further prosecution of the war. He was opposed to all war, but this war he loathed and detested in his soul, because he considered the present war was conceived and brought forth in ust for gold and in lust for territory. The richness of the gold-mines was discovered, the Outlanders saw their opportunity to obtain the gold. And the Government thought that the proper time had come to lay hold of the lion's share of the continent of Africa, and they took such steps as they thought best, rrespective of justice or God or righeousnes, to carry out their nefarious ends upon these two small independent states. The Colonial Secretary and Jingo England sneered at Kruger's trust in God. They appealed alone to the force of men in arms. How do matters now stand? Had they succeeded against these sturdy Puritan burghers? Were they sure that they would succeed? No matter how it ended, never since the declaration of American Independence had the British nation been so humiliated as now, by the armies of two small States. Their military prestige was gone; and their treasure spent; the country was taxed unduly; their soldiers, men and officers, had been slaughtered in this unjust and unholy war. This House sneered at the Boers as a feeble force. The Boers were maligned and belied in the Press. The tone was somewhat changed now, but they still refused honourable terms to the Boers and insisted upon unconditional surrender. That being so he refused to support any further prosecution of the war. He begged to second the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, to leave out from the word "House," in line 1, to the word "is," in line 3:—(Mr. Dillon).
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ (10.50.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
The Amendment of the hon. Gentleman raises a question which has been raised in this House often before. That Amendment has been moved to an 415 Amendment, and the Government object both to the Amendment and the Amendment to which it is moved. Whether the original proposition which has been brought forward under the ægis of the Front Bench opposite—though they do not seem anxious to acknowledge what I understand is their offspring—remains in the shape in which it has been introduced, and whether we are called upon to deal with it in the form to which the hon. Member for East Mayo desires to reduce it, is a matter in which the
§ Government are not concerned one way or the other. But I think we had better stick to the square issue originally suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, and therefore I, individually, shall vote against the Amendment to the Amendment.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 283; Noes, 64. (Division List No. 4).417
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Crombie, John William||Hall, Edward Marshall|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Cust, Henry John C.||Hambro, Charles Eric|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord G. (Mi'x|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Davies, Sir Horatio D. (Chath'm)||Hamilton, Marq. of (Lon'derry|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan)||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert W.|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Denny, Colonel||Harcourt, Rt. Hn. Sir William|
|Asher, Alexander||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||Harmsworth, R. Leicester|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Hen.||Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Harris, Frederick Leverton|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Dickson, Charles Scott||Harwood, George|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Hay, Hon. Claude George|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Dimsdale, Sir Joseph Cockfield||Haytor, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur D.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Man'h'r)||Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon||Heath, James (Staffords. N. W.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. Ger. W. (Leeds)||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Helder Augustus|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Henderson, Alexander|
|Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor)||Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Hoare, Sir Samuel|
|Bignold, Arthur||Duke, Henry Edward||Holland, William Henry|
|Bigwood, James||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Br'htside|
|Black, Alexander William||Edwards, Frank||Horniman, Frederick John|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Hoult, Joseph|
|Bond, Edward||Ellis, John Edward||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Brigg, John||Emmott, Alfred||Howard, John (Kent, F'sham|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.)||Hozier, Hon. Jas. Henry Cecil|
|Brookfield, Colonel Montagu||Fardell, Sir T. George||Hudson, Goorge Bickersteth|
|Brown, George M. (Edinburgh||Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.)|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edwd.||Jackson, Rt. Hn. Wm. Lawies|
|Bryce, Right Hon. James||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Man.)||Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton|
|Bull, William James||Finch, George H.||Johnston, William (Belfast)|
|Butcher, John George||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Kearley, Hudson, E.|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Fisher, William Hayes||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir. John H.|
|Caldwell, James||Fison, Frederick William||Keswick, William|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Fitzray, Hon. Edwd. Algernon||Lambert, George|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Flower, Ernest||Lambton, Hon. Frederick W.|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Forster, Henry William||Laurie, Lieut-General|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Foster, Phil.S.(Warwick, S. W.||Law, Andrew Bonar|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Lawrence, Joseph (Monmouth)|
|Cawley, Frederick||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Fuller, J. M. F.||Lawson, Jonn Grant|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Galloway, William Johnson||Layland-Barratt, Francis|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (City of Lon.||Lee, Arthur H.(Hants., F'ham)|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Wor.||Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans||Lees, Sir Elliot (Birkenhead)|
|Chapman, Edward||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accr'ton)|
|Charrington, Spencer||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nn.||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Churchhill, Winston Spencer||Gordon, Maj. Evans-(T'rH'lts.||Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N.S.|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon||Levy, Maurice|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Grant, Corrie||Llewellyn, Evan Henry|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Green, Walford D. (Wedn'bury||Long,Col. Chas. W. (Evesham|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.)|
|Colomb, Sir John. Chas. Ready||Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs.||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Colston, Chas. Ed. H. Athole||Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)||Lowe, Francis William|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow||Groves, James Grimble||Lloyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Craig, Robert Hunter||Guthrie, Walter Murray||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Haldane, Richard Burdon||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsm'th)|
|Lyttleton, Hon. Alfred||Pretyman, Ernest George||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Macartney, Rt. Hn. W. G. E.||Purvis, Robert||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Macdona, John Cumming||Pym, C. Guy||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'dUniv.|
|MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Randles, John S.||Tennant, Harold John|
|Maconochie, A. W.||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Thomas, Alf. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|M'Calmont, Col. H. L. B. (Cams.||Ratcliff, R. F.||Thomas, David Alf. (Merthyr)|
|M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim,E.)||Rattigan, Sir William Henry||Thomas, F. Freeman- (Hast'gs)|
|M'Crae, George||Rea, Russell||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)|
|M'Kenna, Reginald||Reid, James (Greenock)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|M'Laren, Charles Benjamin||Reid, Sir R. Threshie(Dumfries)||Tomkinson, James|
|Manners, Lord Cecil||Renwick, George||Tomlinson, Wm. Ed. Murray|
|Markham, Arthur Basil||Rickett, J. Compton||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalyb'dge||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfries-sh||Ridley, S. Forde (Bethnal Green||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Milner, Rt. Hon. Sir Fred. G.||Rigg, Richard||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Milton, Viscount||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson||Ure, Alexander|
|Mitchell, William||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Robson, William Snowdon||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H. (Sh'f'ld|
|Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Ropner, Colonel Robert||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. H.|
|Moore, Wm. (Antrim, N.)||Rothschild, Hn. Lionel Walter||Walton, J. Lawson (Leeds, S.)|
|More, R. Jasper (Shropshire)||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Morgan, Dav. J. (Walthamstow||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Morrison, James Archibald||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan|
|Morton, Arth'r. H. A. Deptford||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. Thos. Myles||Wason, J. Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Morton, Ed. J. C. (Devonport)||Saunderson, Rt. Hn. Col. Edw. J.||Wharton, Rt. Hn. John Lloyd|
|Moulton, John Fletcher||Seeley, Cpt. J. E. B. (IsleofWight||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Seton-Karr, Henry||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.|
|Muntz, Philip A.||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Myers, William Henry||Shipman, Dr. John G.||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Nicol, Donald Ninian||Simeon, Sir Barrington||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Norman, Henry||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|Paulton, James Mellor||Skewes-Cox, Thomas||Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Hud'field|
|Pease, J. A. (Saffron-Walden)||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.||Wylie, Alexander|
|Peel, Hn. W. Robert Wellesley||Soares, Ernest J.||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Penn, John||Spear, John Ward||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Percy, Earl||Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R. (North'ts.|
|Perks, Robert William||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.||Mr. Herbert Gladstone|
|Plummer, Walter R.||Strachey, Sir Edward||Mr. M'Arthur.|
|Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Abraham, William (Cork,N. E.||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Jordan, Jeremiah||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)|
|Blake, Edward||Joyce, Michael||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)|
|Boland, John||Kennedy, Patrick James||O'Dowd, John|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Labouchere, Henry||O'Kelly, Jas. (Roscommon, N.|
|Carvill, Patrick G. Hamilton||Lloyd-George, David||O'Malley, William|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Lough, Thomas||O'Mara, James|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Lundon, W.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Cogan, Denis J.||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||O'Shee, James John|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Cremer, William Randal||M'Cann, James||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Cullinan, J.||M'Govern, T.||Reddy, M.|
|Delany, William||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Dillon, John||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Murphy, John||Roche, John|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Ffrench, Peter||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Field, William||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Hammond, John||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Sir Thomas Esmonde and Captain Donelan.|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)|
|Healy, Timothy Michael||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.|
§ Question again proposed "That those words be then added."
§ (11.6.) Mr. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
The Colonial Secretary began his speech 418 this evening by some remark upon the Amendment before the House with which I do not think any fault can be found, because I never knew of any Amendment which took the form of a vote of 419 want of confidence that was altogether acceptable to the Government, or which was not open to some criticism. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to-night in a new character as the champion of political consistency, but I think there is much more consistency in this Amendment than in a great many examples for which the right hon. Gentleman has been responsible.
This Amendment is directed to a very plain and direct issue. It is intended to do two things—to condemn the policy which the Government have followed as having been the cause of the prolongation of the war, and to condemn the attitude which they have adopted in the last six months in preventing a settlement. I should begin by observing what I am sure the House will agree with, that the prolongation of the war is one of the most extraordinary things in modern times. I suppose that there has never been a case of a war prolonged so much where the disparity of strength was so great and where the results were so unpredictable. To what is this prolongation due? In this Amendment we bring no charge against the Army; it is not meant in any way to touch the conduct of the troops, nor does it even mean to challenge primarily the military policy of the Government. It is rather directed against their civil policy, against that part of the policy which must be all their own and not dependent on the advice of their generals. Now, this war has had some peculiar features. These features were apparent from the very beginning. I will select three which seem to be specially characteristic of it when we compare it with wars seen in our own times in Continental Europe. In the first place, it is a war against the whole of a people in arms; between ourselves with a great professional army, and a people whose army is not professional. It is a war against a democracy in arms. What difference does that make? A professional army fights under the orders of its leaders; it is accustomed to obey the Government; it is not accustomed to think for itself; but when we are dealing with a people in arms, an armed democracy, a totally different set of phenomena has to be considered. We are there dealing with soldiers who are, themselves, the governing power in the State and upon whose will the whole war depends, who are, themselves, the sovereigns of the 420 state for which they are fighting. As the House knows, so democratic is this army that in both Republics all the officers, except the Commandant General, are elected by their commandoes, the Commandant General being elected by the people. We ought to have remembered that an armed democracy fights no longer than it wishes, and that the zeal with which it fights depends on the extent to which it feels animated and spurred by the feelings and passions which burn within its own bosom. Therefore the extent to which these men continue to resist depends upon the extent to which they are embittered against us and the value they set upon their independence. It follows that if we diminish their spirit and zeal, and make them think it is no longer worth their while to fight so hard, we would reduce the efficiency of their force and reduce the ardour with which they threw themselves into the contest. That is the first point in which I ask the House to see the difference between this war and an ordinary war. My second point is—what was the special danger that beset us? It was not a war merely against the two Republics. If it had been, it would, I believe, have been over long ago. It was a war which was always in danger of spreading to Cape Colony, where the Dutch population, hitherto loyal, is greater than that of the two Republics, united to them by the ties of history, by language and blood. I am reminded constantly that the same names occur in the accounts for Cape Colony, the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal. These people are practically one large family. Therefore you in the Cape Colony—a population which, although it began by being loyal to the British connection, eminently, oyal to the Crown, as the facts of 1897 proved, was so tied to the people of the two Republics that it was perfectly clear that a severe strain would be put upon the loyalty of the Cape Dutch, and that it would be very hard for them, even if they did not actually support their brothers in arms at any rate not to give them their tacit support and sympathy, and information. Therefore it became an object of primary importance to secure the good feeling of those people, and to prevent the spread of the war to the Cape Colony. It was of immense importance to avoid anything which would exasperate the 421 feelings of the colonists, or would intensify their race sympathy with their brethren in the Republics. My third point is that whereas originally it was not a question of the incorporation of the two Republics, it soon became one. Lord Salisbury said "we seek no goldfields or territory," and the Home Secretary said he could conceive nothing more embarrassing than to have the Transvaal and the Free State on our hands. These wise declarations were soon forgotten, and within a few months the decision was for annexation. I am not going to discuss the policy of annexation at the present moment. What I want to point out is the new character given to the war as soon as annexation was announced. When it became clear that the Republics were to be part of your territory in the future and that they were to be annexed to your Empire, it became of the utmost importance to try to avoid any unnecessary devastation and destruction of the territories, so that when the war ended there should be property in them as well as a peaceful population capable of resuming that prosperity which the war had interrupted. If that were true about the territories, was it not much more true about the subjects who inhabited them? If these men were to become British subjects and were to be called on to share in the duties and privileges of British citizens, surely it was important to prevent them from becoming exasperated and embittered against this country, to keep them from becoming bitter enemies, and to bring them into that state, in which, when the war ended, they would be willing to take up the position of subjects, trusting to your honour, good will, and consideration for them.
What is it that these three features of the war should have suggested? What course of policy ought they to have prescribed to a Government which desired to bring the war to a speedy and honourable conclusion? Surely it was that the success of the war would depend not merely on military policy, but on what I might call political policy; not merely on the skill with which your troops were organised and deposed by your generals, but even more on the extent to which 422 you could reach the minds of these people, and keep the war from spreading and extending, and on the extent to which you could prevent military hostility from passing into political bitterness. It would depend on how it would affect the minds of the fighting men and how it would prevent Cape Colonists from joining in the war. When you come to a settlement,—and I am sure everybody must feel, who thinks on South Africa, that the war is only half the difficulty, and that perhaps a still greater difficulty will begin with the settlement—surely it was of the utmost importance that we should have endeavoured to have in Cape Colony, and in these two Republics, the minds of men disposed to acquiesce in it, in the faith and hope that ultimately it would turn out to their own benefit. Therefore, it appears to me, that the political aspect of the war is, after all, of even more importance than the military aspect, and that it was the primary duty of the Government, from the beginning of this struggle, to have kept this aspect in mind, and to have played every move in the game with regard to the feelings and temper of the people, as well as to the military successes which could be achieved.
I am sorry to say, if we follow the course which the Government has pursued from the beginning to the end, we simply will find that there has hardly been a single instance in which they regarded political considerations; I might almost say hardly an instance in which they did not neglect and ignore them. They began in March, 1900, by a blank and curt rejection of the proposal for negotiations which came from the two Republics. They asked then for negotiations, and the Government answered in a peremptory manner, which cut off all hope of negotiations. That was followed up shortly afterwards by Lord Roberts's refusal, when the unhappy words "unconditional surrender" were for the first time prenounced. The Colonial Secretary to-night appeared to disclaim these words; but I think I have a recollection that that has been practically the policy of the Government all through, and that, with the solitary exception of their lapse into moderation when they 423 allowed the negotiations between Lord Kitchener and Botha, "unconditional surrender" has been their watchword. That was a capital error and the error which has governed the subsequent course of the war. It was a capital error for this reason. The moment when the Boer Republics proposed negotiation, and when Botha addressed communications to General Buller, was the moment when the Boer leaders were discouraged and depressed. Cronje had been defeated at Paardeberg, the Boer forces were in retreat, Bloemfontein had been abandoned and Pretoria was at the point of falling. That was the moment for any Government to have endeavoured, by reasonable and moderate offers, to divert the allegiance of the more moderate members of the Boer forces, and to have endeavoured to appeal to the temperate and timid part of the Boer Army. If that had been done, it is quite possible that the Boer forces would have suffered a large diminution, and the whole subsequent course of the war might have been different.
The next error—and I think it is one which the Government will now admit was an error—was the issue of that series of unwise proclamations, beginning with the proclamation of annexation by Lord Roberts on the 1st of June, 1900, which has been openly impeached in this House and has never been defended, although the law officers and the Secretary of State for War have been repeatedly challenged to defend it. It was a monstrous proclamation, a proclamation absolutely opposed to the first principles of international law, a proclamation based upon a paper annexation made seven days before, which purported to treat the inhabitants of the two Republics as rebels—rebels, forsooth, on the basis of this paper annexation. Why, Lord Milner in a speech the other day admitted that in May last the whole country outside the railway lines and a few of the towns was in the hands of the burghers, a full year after this paper annexation, which, according to Lord Roberts's proclamation made all burghers in the field rebels against Her Majesty. The effect of the proclamation was most unfortunate. It was indefensible in the eyes of the world, and exposed us to the charge of being either ignorant or dis- 424 regardful of international law. It came to the Boers as a declaration that we were determined to treat them in an arrogant and illegal spirit, and must have done and did do a great deal to embitter them in their resistance. That series of worthless proclamations has been carried on down to the proclamation of August last. The right hon. Gentleman to-night made a feeble attempt to defend the proclamation. I confess I thought he himself felt that it was a mistake, but I must call his attention to a statement he made about it in the debate of last August. In that debate the right hon. Gentleman claimed, in support of the action of the Government, a declaration made, as he said, by an American General—General McArthur. A correspondent in America called my attention to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as being incorrect. I have made inquiries, and I find that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman is completely baseless. The right hon. Gentleman said that General McArthur had recommended that Filipinos who shot American soldiers should be treated as murderers. He said that General McArthur was Commander-in-Chief, and that his recommendation was acted upon. He was corrected by the hon. Member for Carnarvon Burghs, but the right hon. Gentleman replied, "Yes, General McArthur was Commander-in-Chief." That was not the case. General McArthur was under General Ottis, who was Commander-in-Chief, and the suggestion was disapproved by General Ottis and was, in fact, never acted upon. General McArthur himself became Commander-in-Chief several months afterwards, and then he did not venture to put into force his former recommendation, which was never acted upon. I would like to cite another instance to the House, to show the worthlessness and danger of this system of trying to make war by paper. When Maximilian, with the help of the French, was endeavouring to establish himself as Emperor of Mexico, and when he had possession of all the cities and the lines of communication in that country, he, on the advice of the French, issued a proclamation treating all Republicans in arms against him as rebels. He carried out the proclamation, or rather his officers did.
§ MR. BRYCE
I am glad to say we have not done that, but it is a great mistake io issue a proclamation so palpably opposed to international law. Maximilian did, and the consequence was that he himself, when ultimately captured, was shot. That is a warning against the idea of making war by paper. He appeared to be in complete control of the country, but two years afterwards he was himself captured and shot. If Ministers had reflected upon the uncertainty in which they then stood they would have refrained from an act which has prejudiced their whole subsequent position, and which has detracted from any valuelater proclamations might have had.
The next folly was farm burning. I will not dwell upon that, because it has been dwelt upon already, and will probably be dealt with again, but I think everyone will admit that it was a capital error. The Government have admitted that themselves by having abandoned it. I will read to the House a few words written by a British officer about farm burning. They are from a book written by Captain Philips describing operations which went on last summer. He speaks of the result of the farm burning which he saw carried on during the winter of 1900 and, I believe. the spring of 1901. He says:It is most important that the situation should be realised at home for if it were the conduct of the war would be changed, You cannot torture or terrorise men like this into submission. Farm burning hardens these men's resolution to iron and so tends to prolong the war, embitters Dutch hatred of the British, and so perpetuates the evil effect of the war. In fact, I am convinced that it is the 426 worst policy we could adopt, and the sooner we change it the better.These are not the words of a fractious member of the Opposition. They are the words of a British officer who has fought with gallantry in this very war, and he describes what he saw with his own eyes and its effect. The right hon. Gentleman is very fond of American references and illustrations; I will give him an American illustration. There was a moment in the War of Independance when the resistence of the insurgents in America against the British arms seemed to have almost disappeared, and when there was every prospect that the British arms would prevail. At that moment the British generals made marauding and devastating incursions into several States, especially Virginia, carrying fire and sword. What was the result? The spirit of revolt and antagonism which was apparently almost extinguished burst out afresh, and the devastation of Virginia proved to be the turning point of the war. That was what became of so-called stern policies.
Then I come to the concentration camps. The concentration camps were the natural result of the devastation of the farms. That was the aspect in which the Government had always defended them, before the right hon. Gentleman sprang these new discoveries upon us to-night, discoveries which, if they are correct, should have been given to us long ago.
§ MR. BRYCE
Not in the least. I make no such accusation. I do not dis- 427 pute any fact vouched for by the Colonial Secretary, but I say that these are facts that ought to have been given to us long ago, facts of which we ought not to have been kept in ignorance, and which we now ought to have an opportunity of investigating, with all their accompany circumstance,s before we are called upon to pronounce an opinion on them.
§ MR. BRYCE
One of the impressions produced on my mind in reading this last Blue-book was an impression of the infinite harm done to the minds of the Boers by the concentration camps, and the deaths of the women and children in them. Nothing could have done more to prolong bitter feeling in the Republic and Cape Colony than the reports which have reached them about the concentration camps. [An HON. MEMBER: Who spread them?] They do not require to hear them from this side. They are in the country, and they know far more than we know. It is not merely that this policy has prolonged the war; it extended the war. It is owing to this mistaken policy, and this neglect of the political considerations which ought to have governed Ministers, that the war has spread into Cape Colony, and has become infinitely more dangerous. What did Lord Milner say the other day? In one of his despatches he said that the Boers had received the reinforcement from the South which all along had been of such immense assistance to them. He is perfectly right. It is this re-inforcement from Cape Colony that has enabled the Boers to carry on the war. 428 Bear in mind the history of the war in Cape Colony. This rebellion did not break out on the first invasion. On their first invasion the Boers received comparatively little support and sympathy, and nothing at all approaching the recruits and sympathy they received on their second invasion. Why? Because in the interim we had farm burning and this talk of "no shred of independence" and so forth.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Might I very respectfully ask the right hon. Gentleman if he wanted us, having determined not to give the Boers independence, not to let them know that?
§ MR. BRYCE
What I object to is the phrase in which that policy was conveyed, a phrase which implied in the clearest manner to the Boers that they were to be absolutely subjugated and deprived of all autonomy whatever. I cannot conceive a phrase more calculated to exasperate and inflame their minds than that which Lord Salisbusy used. What was the result in Cape Colony? There was some complaint in this House a year ago when I suggested that a very large part of Cape Colony was disaffected. I was told that that was a calumny on the population, but in a speech made by Sir Gordon Sprigg, who has been thought worthy of a place in the Blue-book—
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
As a matter of constitutional practice, in what other way does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the views of the Prime Minister should be communicated to this country? They were communicated to us by the Governor of Cape Colony, no doubt with the full knowledge and approval of the Prime Minister.
§ MR. BRYCE
The right hon. Gentleman has changed our old methods so much that we scarcely know where we are. But I should have conceived that the old and better method would have been that if the Prime Minister wished to convey his views, he would address a moderate and carefully termed Memorandum to the Governor. That was what was done in the days of previous Colonial Secretaries.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that in his day he would have addressed communications to the Prime Minister of a self-governing Colony asking him to put his views in moderate and carefully termed language?
§ MR. BRYCE
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I was not suggesting that a communication should be addressed to the Prime Minister of Cape Colony. What I suggest is that it would have been in better taste and more consonant with our traditions had the Prime Minister submitted his views in a Memorandum, through the Governor, to the Colonial Office, rather than have sent us the report of his speech delivered 430 at a public dinner to an excited and popular audience. I venture to say with some confidence that that is a new method, and one which had been highly disapproved by every Colonial Secretary, prior to the right hon. Gentleman now in office. The right hon. Gentleman has drawn me aside from the point I want to make. Sir Gordon Sprigg in that speech said that at least half the white population, not half the Dutch population, are either in arms against us or in sympathy with the enemy. That is a pretty pass to have brought Cape Colony to. It is the result of the policy of the Government. I will not dwell on the mischief done in Cape Colony by martial law or by what may be going on without our knowledge under martial law, such as compelling persons to be present at the execution of their own fellow-townspeople. I hope to hear from the Secretary of State for War that the officer who suggested that has been censured. I will not discuss martial law, because the Colonial Secretary has told my right hon. friend that he does not care a rap for legal authority. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman, if he will allow me, that he has been born too late. He ought to have been a Minister of James II., and I venture to say he would not have remained long behind his Sovereign. If we take all these faults and blunders of policy together, the policy of unconditional surrender, of the proclamations, of the farm burnings, of the concentration camps, and the way in which martial law is used—I do not deny that martial law may not sometimes be necessary—if we take these altogether I say that they have not only prolonged the war, but that they have made a durable settlement in South Africa most difficult.
Now I come to the settlement. I 431 listened with great attention to what the Colonial Secretary said to-night, hoping to find something that would encourage us to believe that the Government are in a more reasonable frame of mind, and that they are willing to recognise the enormous difficulties and evils which they are piling up for us by every additional month of the war. I do not speak merely of the expense, although if we had made peace a year ago we should have been eighty millions sterling better off. I think far more of the loss of life, and hardly less than that of the aggravation of the state of feeling in South Africa, which must add to all our future difficulties. The question is what can we do to obtain a settlement? In some respects the language of the Chief Secretary to-night was an improvement on the language he has sometimes used. He expressed less decided views at any rate as regards amnesty, but I confess I find it rather hard to follow his meaning about amnesty. He mixes up two different things, the position of the Cape rebels, and the position of the enemy in the two Republics. There is no question of amnesty as regards the Boers in the two Republics. They were never British subjects, and the right hon. Gentleman has no right to talk of amnesty as regards them. He said he was prepared to concede every reasonable amnesty to those who have revolted in Cape Colony. I am very glad to hear that; but he very much diminished the effect of his somewhat reduced asperity of tone, to my mind, by the way in which he spoke of these proclamations. I cannot conceive anything more unfortunate than the proclamation of August last. The Colonial Secretary seems to assume that the men now in arms against us 432 will necessarily be the most dangerous men afterwards. There is no evidence of that at all. Schalk Burger is not one of the leaders of the army, and the leaders of the army are just the men who, if they had reasonable terms, would be mostly likely to settle down and observe faithfully and honourably any conditions they might accept.
In another respect, also, I am sorry the Colonial Secretary disappointed us. He said it must not be supposed that the Government would now give such terms as were offered in the Kitchener-Botha negotiations. Many of us thought that Lord Kitchener's terms might have been accepted, but were none too favourable, that when these terms were cut down on the suggestion of the Colonial Secretary and the High Commissioner they lost much of their value, and that it was not unnatural that Botha, who might have been willing to accept the original terms, should not accept the reduced terms. But if the Government are going back even on those reduced terms, I fear the prospect of an arrangement being arrived at is much darker, and I greatly regret the words of the right hon. Gentleman, if that is the correct construction, and I am afraid it is the one most of us will be obliged to place upon the statement.
The Colonial Secretary spoke of the great difficulty of negotiating. Quite true; there is great difficulty. But whose fault is it? It is the fault of those who destroyed the two Governments. Those who remember 1870 will recollect the pains that Prince Bismarck took ot have a French Government with which he could negotiate. Our Government has improved upon that, and have made negotiation difficult by destroying those who could have negotiated. When the 433 right hon. Gentleman says that terms must first come from the Boers, and at the same time that there must be some person who is qualified to deal on their behalf, he, throws a very great difficulty in the way of negotiating at all, because the difficulty which he foresees—and I do not deny its existence—in getting the civil Governments of the two Republics and the Commandants of the armies in the field to agree on terms which must be proposed by us to them becomes far greater when it is proposed that they should suggest terms to us. You put off very seriously the possibility of negotiating if you insist that these men, some of them moving from place to place, and others finding it difficult to communicate with each other, must meet and agree on terms to be remitted to this Government. I, therefore, should have thought, if the Government were really in earnest and wished to negotiate, that the course was simple. The Government, on grounds of punctilio, object to be the first to speak. They think it unworthy of this country to propose negotiations. It seems to me that they take a very unworthy view of the prestige of this country if they think that that prestige could be affected by offering terms to some 10,000 Boers in arms. But suppose they persist in that view, at any rate they may do this: they may let it be known that if negotiations are proposed they will not refuse to negotiate, and, when negotiations are begun, they may state their terms. If the Government really desire any terms of peace to be arranged, it is in that way they must proceed, rather than by requiring the two Republics to ofler terms to them. I cannot see how, under existing circumstances, 434 it would be possible for the Republics to agree on terms which would carry the whole of the Republican forces with them, but I can very easily see that if, having proposed to negotiate, they receive terms from the Government, they may consider those terms and accept them. I believe, from what one hears in many quarters, it is quite possible that, in spite of their continual demand for independence, terms far short of that would be accepted. No man could stir up his people to fight by arguing that they ought to have money for re-strocking their farms as a gift instead of on loan, or that there ought to be a larger or smaller measure of autonomy. If the leaders want to keep up the spirit of their fighting men, they will naturally use the inspiration of the idea of independence. But I believe they realise to what a position their cause has come, and that they will be perfectly willing to accept terms far short of what their present language implies. My opinion, therefore, is that if there is a willingness on the part of the Government to allow negotiations to be started, and if they intimate that they will receive a proposal to negotiate, any terms that they may offer would have a very fair chance of bringing about peace.
I have only one word to say on the policy of unconditional surrender. It seems to have been assumed all through by the Government that it is an advantage to us to impose our own terms absolutely, and it was assumed by the Colonial Secretary to-night that because Lord Kitchener's terms were not accepted a year ago it was a matter of course that we should demand higher terms now. That view 435 would be quite natural if two great European Powers were contending, and if the stake at issue were a piece of territory, or a sum of money, or a trade privilege. If, then, the vanquished party refused reasonable terms, and continued to fight on, putting the conqueror to greater expense and loss of life, it would be natural that heavier compensation, either in territory or in privileges, should be exacted. But that is not the position with which we are dealing. It does not in the least follow, as the right hon. Gentleman assumed, and as, I think, the Government and their supporters have assumed all through, that it is to our advantage to impose as harsh terms as we can. On the contrary, I believe that lenient terms are better for our own interest, and that it is against our policy to require unconditional surrender. I think the words of Mr. Schalk Burger are of the deepest import in which he implied that the greatest danger to the future tranquility of South Africa and the maintenance of British rule would be found in unconditional surrender. It is the past conduct of the Government, coupled with the harsh and menacing attitude they still assume, which fills us with anxiety and has prevented the prospect of peace; and although from time to time, as to-night, the Government have spoken in slightly more conciliatory tones, from which they have receded afterwards, they are still far from understanding the men they have to deal with or the gravity of the 436 crisis to which they have brought us. I believe that if the Government did realize how tremendous are the difficulties which will succeed the termination of the war—difficulties which were foreseen by the right hon. Gentleman opposite when he was in a less optimistic mood than to-night and said that it would take generations to extinguish the embers of hate which this war would light—they would make far stronger efforts to secure peace. The right hon. Gentleman says he will do nothing inconsistent with the security, honour, and interests of the Empire. We do not ask him to. We are as anxious as he is for the security, honour, and interests of the Empire, and it is because we think that they have been endangered by his policy that we have condemned that policy from the first. We believe that the security and honour and interests of the Empire will be best secured by the offer of large and generous terms, which may in some degree soften the bitterness that had grown up between the two races, which may in some degree staunch the wounds from which South Africa is bleeding, and give some prospect of that peace and future reconcilement which must come if South Africa is to remain a happy country, or even a part of the British Empire.
§ Debate adjoined till To-morrow.
§ Adjourned at five minutes before Twelve o'clock.