HC Deb 02 June 1902 vol 108 cc1103-8

Mr Speaker, Papers have already been laid upon the Table, and will be in the hands of Members in two or three hours, I hope, at the latest, which will give not only the terms of surrender happily agreed upon last Saturday, but also the correspondence leading up to that auspicious event. But I think that the House will perhaps be anxious to hear the actual outcome of the negotiations, even before hon. Members have an opportunity of reading the Papers and the correspondence which have led up to that consummation. Though the documents are rather long, perhaps I may be allowed to read in the first place the agreement as to the terms; of surrender of the Boer forces in the field approved by His Majesty's Government; and in the second place, a document supplementary to the first, the character of which will be understood directly I have read it. The following are the terms of agreement, signed on Saturday night.

His Excellency General Lord Kitchener and his Excellency Lord Milner, on behalf of the British Government, and Messrs M. T. Steyn, J. Brebner, General C. R. De Wet, General C. Olivier, and Judge J. B. M. Hertzog, acting as the Government of the Orange Free State, and Messrs. S. W. Burger, F. W. Reitz, Generals Lewis Botha, J. H. Delary, Lucas Meyer, Krogh, acting as the Government of the South African Republic, on behalf of their respective burghers desirous to terminate the present hostilities, agree on the following Articles:—

  1. 1. The burgher forces in the field will forthwith lay down their arms, handing over all guns, rifles, and munitions of war in their possession or under their control, and desist from any further resistance to the authority of His Majesty King Edward VII., whom they recognise as their lawful Sovereign. The manner and details of this surrender will he arranged between Lord Kitchener and Commandant-General Botha, Assistant Commandant-General Delarey, and Chief Commandant De Wet.
  2. 2. All burghers in the held outside the limits of the Transvaal or Orange River Colony and all prisoners of war at present outside South Africa who are laughers will, on duly declaring their acceptance of the position of subjects of his Majesty King Edward VII., be gradually brought pack to their homes as soon as transport can be provided and their means of subsistence ensured.
  3. 3. The burghers so surrendering or so returning will not be deprived of their personal liberty or their property.
  4. 4. No proceedings, civil or criminal, will be taken against any of the burghers surrendering or so returning for any acts in connection with the prosecution of the war. The benefit of this clause will not extend to certain acts, contrary to usages of war, which have been notified by Commander in-Chief to the Boer Generals, and which shall be tried by Court martial immediately after the close of hostilities.
  5. 5. The Dutch language will be taught in public schools in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony where the parents of the children desire it, and will be allowed in Courts of law when necessary for the better and more effectual administration of justice.
  6. 6. The possession of rifles will be allowed in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony to persons requiring them for their protection on taking out a licence according to law.
  7. 7. Military administration in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony will, at the earliest possible date, be succeeded by Civil Government, and, as soon as circumstances permit representative institutions, leading up to self-government, will be introduced.
  8. 8. The question of granting franchise to the natives will not be decided until after the introduction of self-government.
  9. 9. No special tax will be imposed on Landed property in the Transvaal and Grange River Colony to defray the expenses of the war.
  10. 10. As soon as conditions permit, a Commission, on which the local inhabitants will be represented, will be appointed in each district 1105 of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, under the presidency of a magistrate or other official, for the purpose of assisting the restoration of the people to their homes, and supplying those who, owing to war losses, are unable to provide themselves with food, shelter, and the necessary amount of seed, stock, implements, etc., indispensable to the resumption of their normal occupations.
His Majesty's Government will place at the disposal of these Commissions a sum of £3,000,000 for the above purposes, and will allow all notes issued under Law 1 of 1900 of the South African Republic, and all receipts given by officers in the field of the late Republics, or under their orders, to be presented to a Judicial Commission, which will be appointed by the Government, and if such notes and receipts are found by tins Commission to have been duly issued in return for valuable considerations, they will be received by the first-named commissions as evidence of war losses suffered by the persons to whom they were originally given. In addition to the above-named free grant of £3,000,000, His Majesty's Government will be prepared to make advances on loan for the same purposes free of interest for two years, and afterwards repayable over a period of years with 3 per cent. interest. No foreigner or rebel will be entitled to the benefit of this clause. There are certain important points which the House will see are not dealt with in the document which I have read, which was the document signed on Saturday night, and on that ground and as supplementary to that it may be convenient that I should proceed to read from a despatch from Lord Milner to my right hon. friend the Colonial Secretary dated May 30th. The despatch reads as follows:— After handing to Boer delegates a copy of draft agreement "— that is exactly the document which I have just read— which his Majesty's Government are prepared to approve, with a view of terminating the present hostilities, I read to them the following statement and gave them a copy. His Majesty's Government must place it on record that the treatment of Cape and Natal Colonists who have been in rebellion, and who now surrender, will if they return to their Colonies, be determined by the Colonial Governments and in accordance with the laws of the Colonies, and any British subjects who have joined the enemy will be liable to trial under the law of that part of the British Empire to which they belong. His Majestys Government are informed by the Cape Government that the following are their views as to the terms which should be granted to British subjects of Cape Colony who are now in the field, or who have surrendered, or have been captured since April 12th, 1901. 'With regard to rank and file, they should all, upon surrender, after giving up their arms, sign a document before the resident magistrate of the district in which the surrender takes place acknowledging themselves guilty of high treason, and the punishment to be awarded to them, providing that they shall not have been guilty of murder or other acts contrary to the usages of civilised warfare, should be that they shall not be entitled for life to be registered as voters or to vote at any Parliament—(cheers)—divisional council, or municipal election. With reference to justices of the peace and field-cornets of Cape Colony, and all other persons holding official positions under the Government of Cape Colony, or who may occupy the position of commandant of the rebel or burgher forces, they shall be tried for high treason before the ordinary court of the country, or such special court as may be hereafter constituted by law, the punishment for their offences to be left to the discretion of the Court, with this proviso, that in no case shall penalty of death be indicted.' The Natal Government are of opinion that rebels should be dealt with according to the law of the Colony. That, Sir, is the whole of the two documents, which, I think, state the arrangements which have been made.


The right bon. Gentleman has given the House a plain and businesslike narrative of the most recent of these all-important events. He has refrained from making any comment, or expressing any feeling on the subject, but I cannot but think that the House will allow a certain expression, at all events, to be given to what I believe to be the universal feeling of the country. Sir, this intelligence which the right hon. Gentleman has, happily, been able to give us—intelligence long looked for and long hoped for—will, I feel certain, cause the most profound and universal satisfaction, not only at home, but within the whole wide bounds of the Empire. It will bring ease and comfort to many an anxious, aching heart; it will give rest to many who have served the King in all ranks, and whose energies have been through long months overwrought. It will relieve the power and the resources of this country of a strain which they have been proved to be well able to bear, but a strain great beyond any previous example. It will put an end, let us hope, to suffering and disastrous losses and confusion, which during the continuance of the war necessarily blighted the fair South African dominions of the Crown. I believe that the harmony of feeling on this subject with which we greet this announcement is complete. We are all at one in our recognition of those who have fought for us, of the courage and endurance, the patience and discipline, which they have displayed, and by which they have maintained the traditions of the British Army. I am sure that I can go further, and say that we are unanimous in our admiration of those who up to now have been our enemies, and who now are our friends and fellow-citizens, whose military qualities, whose tenacity of purpose and self-sacrificing devotion to liberty and country, have won for them the respect of the whole world, and foremost of all the respect of us who have been their opponents. We shall also be alike in our hope and expectation that from the date of this peace there shall dawn a happier era, an era of concord and prosperity upon South Africa. As to the terms of settlement, we must await the perusal of the Papers before saying anything, and this would not be a fitting occasion in any case. All that we can do, I think, as Members of this House, is to offer our humble congratulations to the King and to the country on the thrice-blessed establishment of peace.


May I ask the First Lord of the Treasury if he would consent to the adjournment of the House until the morning sitting to-morrow, if it will not dislocate business too much.


As my hon. friend will probably have anticipated, it is quite impossible to entertain the proposal, which I am sure in a most excellent spirit he has set before us. I do not think it would be a very judicious way of celebrating the happy event which I have announced to the House that we should suspend the carrying on during the whole of the present sitting the business of the country. I may, perhaps, be allowed to say, as I know there must be a good deal of natural and strong feeling upon the subject, of which I have given but a bald outline, that there will be a legitimate opportunity for explaining all that we think about the services to the country which have been performed by our forces in South Africa, and their distinguished general, because I shall at an early date move that a vote of thanks be presented to them by this House.

SIR MARK STEWART (Kircudbrightshire)

Is there any intention on the part of the Government to have a Thanksgiving Day for the termination of the war?


The time for questions has expired. Notice should be given.