§ (4.20) SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
This is a regular and proper opportunity for endeavouing to obtain from His Majesty's Government information with regard to the state of affairs in South Africa and the present position of the military operations which are going on there. Now, Sir, in regard to this great subject, the Parliamentary tactics of the Government seem to be twofold. One tiling which they do habitually is to meet inquiry and criticism with personal attacks, and I will even say with personal insults. Anyone who ventures to 566 impugn their wisdom or protest against their methods lays himself open to be called, as I have been in this House by the Leader of the House, a pro-Boer—["Hear, hear" from the Ministerial side]—and the little cheer with which that statement has been met shows that the school of Parliamentary manners opened by the Government contains a number of very apt pupils—he will be called an enemy of his country, or the friend of his country's enemies, and will be accused of prolonging the war. Even the other night the Leader of the House-told us that an examination of certain extraordinary contracts of purchase, which I venture to say are looked upon with doubt by nine out of ten men in the country, would if allowed, be equivalent to a reinforcement of our enemies by 5,000 men. That statement was made about ten minutes to twelve at night. I do not suppose it bore the reflection of the following morning. But that is the sort of thing, and I would point out to those who make these statements that they are not only futile and empty, hardly bearing restatement in cold blood, but they are at the same time malignant slanders used for party purposes; they gain currency and are amplified in the party Press, and they pervert the opinion of many people in the country who have neither the time nor the means to go below the surface in the matter. We are not likely to be daunted by this kind of thing from saying what we think. No such ignoble tactics will avail much, and we are not going to be intimidated by any vulgar abuse. The honour and the interest of our country are just as dear to us as to the most passionate or the most supercilious defender of the policy of the Government, and we will go on protesting where we see grounds to protest, in the name of the righteous and generous traditions of our nation. That this Government, which has gone from blunder to blunder, from miscalculation to miscalculation, both in things political, and, if not in their conduct of things military, at all events in their estimate of them—that they should claim by these unworthy means a right to-immunity from criticism and inquiry, is an extraordinary fact, which sends us back for a precedent to the evil days—
SIR H. CAMPBELL BANNERMAN
Of the American war. I have said that the tactics of the Government are twofold. There are other tactics besides those of vituperation to which I have referred, and which I pass from without further notice. There are the tactics of the curtain, the tactics of the shrugged shoulders. They do not know. The Government have told us all that they do know, and they decline to inquire. I am old enough to remember a phrase, once much in vogue, which was used by a memorable witness in a great trial, "Non mi ricordo." This is a Government, not of "I do not remember," but of "I do not know." This is claimed on all occasions. But they are there for the purpose of knowing; and not only are they bound to know for the information of Parliament and the country, but they are neglecting their duty if they do not inquire for their own information and guidance. I may perhaps quote a small concrete instance, not as of first importance, but merely as an instance of the kind of thing that goes on. The other day our forces met with a misfortune. A large number were taken prisoners, and among them was Lord Methuen, who was said to he wounded. The country was greatly interested in that event, and particularly interested, I venture to say, in the fate of Lord Methuen, because Lord Methuen, by his steadfastness, by his modesty, and by the courage and activity he has shown, has gained the confidence of the country—a confidence which at one time we all recollect he very nearly lost, not, as I believe, through any fault of his own. The country therefore was anxious to know about Lord Methuen. Then the right hon. Gentleman one afternoon casually mentioned that he was expected at a certain place which is in our occupation at two o'clock on that day. I was rather startled, and asked if he had come there as a free man; if this meant that he was released from captivity. The right hon. Gentleman did not know. It had not occurred to him to ask. He had no information on the subject. Twenty-four hours elapsed, and I again asked. Then we were told that he had been released. We said, "Were there 568 any conditions? What were the circumstances of his release?" Again the right hon. Gentleman had not asked, did not know, and did not care to know. If he had cared to know he might have known for the asking. That was a case in which the country was deeply interested. The House was interested, and surely a simple telegram to the Commander-in-Chief would have obtained all the information he required. It was a matter rather of luxury than of necessity. It was not of the first importance, but it was a little concrete example of the attitude the Government had taken up in more important things—that it was no part of their duty to inform themselves. They accepted the information that came to them, and they thought they did a very handsome thing if they imparted it. I do not think that it is at all a justifiable attitude that the Government are taking on these occasions, both political and military. It is not as if you moved a lever or touched a button and set some automatic machinery going. These are great events, every incident in which may have an influence on future affairs. The Government ought to keep a close hold on the facts, and have more information about them than is evident by the answers which we have received. It is the right of the House of Commons to know. I stand upon that. But, apart from that, it is the duty of the Government to ascertain for themselves a great deal more than they have again and again shown signs of doing in the course of these debates. I will not accept the excuse, which I think has been worked to its extreme powers, as to disturbing a hard-worked general. The hard-worked general has a competent staff, and although he ought not to be troubled about trifles, it does not follow that he is never to have any questions addressed to him at all. We have repeatedly heard indirectly, and subsequently which was also indirectly, of events of which we have received no information through official channels. That is the reason I am troubling the House today. I think we are entitled to have a great deal more information than is vouchsafed to us, and this is the opportunity on which we can ask it.
569 In the first place, with regard to the military situation, I shall not say much about that, but I think we ought to know a little as to how it stands. The last definite statement that we received—the last estimate taken of the military situation by the Government—was at the general election. I am not going to rake up the old story for any other purpose than merely to note the fact; but then the war was over, and there was nothing but scattered banditti warfare. That was eighteen months ago. I wonder what the estimate is now. I am asking this seriously, not as a taunt or a reproach. The country is entitled to know. The First Lord of the Treasury expresses himself as unwilling to prophesy, and I do not wonder at that after his past experience; but, at the same time, he said that the war might go on, that we might be only now in the middle of the war; it might go on for three years longer. That is the intelligent view of the First Lord of the Treasury. I wish to know what the Government really do think; whether we are advancing or whether we are standing still in our warlike operations. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State gave us an arithmetical key to the situation. He said we were to take the number of Boers in the field, keep a paper in our pockets, and write down week by week the number who had surrendered, and we should see exactly how the thing went on. That process will not do. His supposed arithmetic has been torn to tatters. Everything depends on the nature of these surrenders, whether they are surrenders of fighting men or not, and on the number of recruits obtained by the enemy. The recruits come, I suppose, from Cape Colony. What makes these recruits come from Gape Colony? When the Boers first invaded our territory in Natal and Cape Colony, and everything seemed to be going their way, and they were in what appeared to be the flush of victory, they did not obtain recruits from the Cape. But now we are told they are obtaining them in as large a quantity as they require. There must be something that has caused this change of feeling in Cape Colony. I do not think we can go far wrong if we say that it is only the way in which 570 the Government, or those who act for them, have administered the affairs of Cape Colony, and the influence which events there have had on the minds and dispositions of our Dutch fellow-citizens. They appear to have succeeded in consolidating Dutch sentiment to a degree that has never been reached before.
If we look for the causes of this change of sentiment—we shall be willing to accept any information as to other causes—there is the administration of martial law, and there is your proclamation of last summer, that banishment of, or sentence of banishment of, because you cannot banish, the military leaders, the non-surrendering leaders, of the Boers. Could the Government imagine that that could have no effect upon the stubbornness of the leaders in the field, and on the sentiment of the Dutch community throughout South Africa? We had a little incident brought before us lately—the sale of farms in the absence of the men who are fighting; the sale of farms, I understand, by auction at a time when there is no market, and when there cannot he a real sale by auction as we know it. Was that likely either to bring the war to an end or to conciliate the feeling of those whom we must conciliate, whether we like it or not, if we are to settle this matter satisfactorily? And the last thing which I name is the question of amnesty. Whilst a hard face is set against the very idea of an amnesty, although every body knows that an Amnesty Bill must be passed as soon as the war is ended, you prolong the war and you exacerbate feeling, which is the point on which I am particularly dwelling just now. The Government, of course, take a very easy line just now. It is better put in the words of Sir Gordon Sprigg than in anything that even the Members of the Government have said. He puts it this way—The war will come to an end when the last man is killed or captured, and the last gun taken, and the last round of ammunition seized.That is the view he takes; and, that being the aspect of affairs presented to the Dutch population of the Cape Colony, how can we wonder that large numbers of recruits are available for the purpose of swelling the forces against us? The condition of the colony must 571 be a very strange one. Be it remembered that in Cape Colony there are twice as many Dutch inhabitants as there were in the two States of which we have heard so much. On the 3rd December last year Sir. W. Hely-Hutchinson said, in a report on the subject, that 156,000 square miles of the colony—that is to say, 156,000 miles out of 277,000—were occupied by the enemy. The enemy were more or less in occupation of the half of Cape Colony. I should like to know whether there has been any further report from Sir. W. Hely-Hutchinson, and whether there has been any improvement in matters since that time; because, as it was then, it was a most melancholy and depressing picture that he drew. When he said that half the colony was more or less in the occupation of the enemy, that meant the parts of the country beyond the range of individual towns or small garrisons and beyond the range of the great lines of railway. Throughout the whole of these districts there is no cultivation, no continuance of the ordinary work of the farming population; and yet here were loyal citizens a couple of years ago.
This is the sort of thing that is referred to. I have a copy here of one of the orders issued among the local regulations in Botha West, a district, I believe, in the centre of Cape Colony, and I find that no cultivation is allowed in the district except within a radius of three miles from the resident magistrate's Court, or within a mile from the line of railway, that all oats and mealies are to be brought in for purchase by the Government, that not more than provisions for seven days shall be allowed for each person. ["Hear, hear."] Yes, no doubt such regulations may be necessary in the circumstances. I read this to give the House an idea of the state of things in the country. No person is allowed to have in his possession supplies of men's and boys' clothing, boots, and so on; every waggon coming in for supplies shall bring a load of forage; horses, mules, and so on to be brought in. ["Hear, hear."] But what becomes of the population who are to get then living? I quite admit there maybe military necessity for such regulations as these. I read them that the House may 572 understand in what condition this prosperous, loyal, constitutionally governed colony now is. All persons are required at once to bring in any stray rounds of ammunition they may pick up. I do not wish to make fun out of the subject, but this last does seem a somewhat sweeping order. They are also to bring in all horses, mules, waggons, etc., they may find, and then, as in so many public documents, a note of absurdity is found, all persons are required to report the presence of the enemy "either before they arrive or while still present." We have all been accustomed to the prognostication concerning the certainty of some absurdity in the King's Speech, but it is now revived even at the other end of the world. The enemy are to be reported before they appear, though, like the Spanish Fleet, they are "not in sight." I do not quite see how parties of Boers are to be reported before they arrive. No, this is the old story. This state of things must have been caused by some treatment, something that has been done. There was no desire evinced to join our enemies in the early months of the war. A change must have occurred somehow, for this is the state of things which exists now.
With regard to the administration of martial law, there are one or two points upon which I think we are entitled to some information. We cannot ignore or repudiate responsibility for what is being done under martial law. The Secretary for the Colonies has said more than once that this is a self-governing colony, and, therefore, we cannot interfere, but it is our military authority that interposes on the self-governing rights of the colony, so that on every ground we surely have a responsibility, and, therefore, we are bound to know. They are our officers who are carrying out martial law on our ultimate responsibility, and the effect on the future is closely bound up with all that is occurring. I, therefore, expect that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some account of the precautions taken, with some account of the supervision over the action taken by the Courts in the application of martial law. There are certain definite questions which I may be allowed to put. In the first place, I should like to ask a question in 573 reference to native evidence. It is a well-known fact that the Treason Courts established under Cape law which have been trying men for treason during the last two years, after a very short experience, deliberately excluded all native evidence, and they have gone on with their proceedings since then on the touting that no native evidence was to be taken as valid against anyone brought before them. Has this example been followed in the Martial Law Courts?
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Then we have a definite piece of information, at any rate, and we have got to the end of our tether on that point. Then I should like to know what can be said in reference to the deportation of persons, some leading men among them, and some as long as a year ago, to Port Alfred and Magersfontein, and other places, where they have been kept without any charge or warrant, and without even knowing why they were deported. I will give an instance. There were nineteen or twenty men sent in March last from Somerset East to Port Alfred. The commandant under whose order they went had been only five days in the place. These men included some of the leading citizens of the locality. Let the House observe how extremely carefully all these strange powers ought to be worked, because any one can see what an opening may be afforded for vindictive or interested proceedings, either against political opponents or trade competitors and rivals. One can easily see the large opportunity there is for that sort of thing, and, therefore. I ask, has there been any authoritative investigation of these cases? These men have been taken away from their homes and kept away from their means of living in practically a strange country for twelve months. Has anyone investigated the charges against them; have they been brought to trial in any way even before a court-martial? It appears that they have not, but I should be glad to hear that they have. The House can realise from these few facts what the condition of the country is and what it 574 will be when the end comes, when Sir Gordon Sprigg has had his way, when the last man of the enemy is killed or captured, and the last round of ammunition fired—what sort of condition this once flourishing province of the British Empire will be left in, what will be the feelings of the citizens towards each other. Where will he the elements of either good government, prosperity, or harmony?
One other individual question I wish to ask, and it takes me away from Cape Colony to Pretoria. The Colonial Secretary, in December, 1900, made a speech which has often been referred to in the House—a speech which made a great impression in the House and in the country, because it showed signs of a most reasonable disposition on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. He said there would be three stages in our dealings with the two States—a stage of pacification, a stage of what he called Crown Colony government—or, as he explained, of civil as opposed to military government and then the stage of self-government. He said that the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor would have the assistance of an executive council; and then he went on to say—I want to assure both sides of the House that the principle on which we shall act in connection with this administration is the necessity—the desirability, of course, but the necessity—for conciliating local opinion, so far as that is possible, of disturbing as little as possible anything in the nature of local custom, local law, or local practice.Well, I never heard wiser words than these. The right hon. Gentleman said that in the Transvaal there must be alterations of some laws which were the original causes of war, and by that I suppose he meant the notable point of the franchise, Well, that remarkable and well considered speech of course went out to South Africa, and it was referred to by Lord Kitchener in the memorable interview he had with the Burgher Peace Committee at Pretoria in December 1900. He referred to that speech, and described the intention of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the future government, and he foreshadowed an enlightened, progressive government, in which the burghers themselves would take a prominent part, ensuring to themselves and, 575 their children all their rights of property, as well as their ancient laws and customs. In order to make this more emphatic, the speech of Lord Kitchener was translated into Dutch and circulated throughout South Africa, so that it constitutes almost a definite pledge to the inhabitants of the country.
The Secretary for the Colonies a short time ago—on 30th January, I think—expressly stated that it was not intended by legislation to interfere more than was necessary for the proper administration of the country. But now it appears that Lord Milner and his assistants have been doing as they liked with the laws and customs and practices of the Transvaal. They have repealed some of the most important laws, altered or cancelled a large number of measures on the Statute Book, and have promulgated new laws, and they have given drafts of others of a permanent character, for early sanction by ordinance. Among the laws thus repealed is the law which is the fundamental law of the State, and various other laws. Docs the House see, when this process is carried out to the extent which is indicated by the information we have received, how completely it alters all the prospect of future settlement which we have been accustomed to hold out on both sides of the House for these two States? Whether it be early or whether it be late, whether it be, as we said, as soon as possible after the restoration of order on the conclusion of hostilities, or whether it be after the lapse of years or even generations—which I believe is the Government interpretation of the words "as early as possible"—we have all declared that we are in favour of giving these people self-government. This is a strange light upon our promise of self-government. What is the value of self-government to the returning; captive, to the returning burgher, when all the familiar ground works and elements of his life are removed, and cut and dried Downing-street law substituted for them? What was the necessity, in such a hurry, of playing fast and loose with those fundamental laws? We have said, by the mouth of Lord Kitchener, that the Boers and their children were to have all their rights of property as well as their ancient Jaws and customs. These are their 576 ancient laws and customs which are now being abrogated, and something else entirely different—I have no doubt a great deal better—substituted for them. But what does it matter whether they are better or worse? What does it matter as regards the promise you have made to these men? The promise is that they should retain their old laws and customs and practices, that they should come back, and that any legislation that was necessary should be undertaken with the advice, perhaps, of a Legislative Council, but, at any rate, under the effect of local opinion. Instead of that, you are rushing and plunging into new legislation, which will surely not make the task of settlement, when it conies, easier—unless your settlement is by force. Of course, if you settle the country and bold it by force, you are quite right to do all these strange things, and no doubt you will introduce a great many improvements; but it will not be what you have promised, it will not be what the people of this country have expected would be given, and it will not be that which would bring about contentment, goodwill, and good fellowship in the country itself. What is the good of eventual self-government, if it is to be somebody else's government after all?
But they go further. Lord Kitchener, in his address to the burghers, speaks of maintaining the rights of property; but what is going on with regard to the gold laws? There are new gold laws passed or prepared, there is a new register of properties prepared while the burghers are away—who perhaps had not very much property to prove—but even while our old friend the Uitlander's back is turned, while every one's back is turned except the capitalist's. The capitalists appear to be thoroughly represented. I find that the Pretoria correspondent of the Cape Times—the name of which surely vouches for the orthodoxy of the opinion that will be found in it—says—The Commission could hardly have been better chosen,—the Commission that was settling the gold law—as the majority of members are, so to say, experts of wide experience and closely associated with the interests the promotion of which is in view. The only objection that can be found to the composition of the Commission 577 is that all the members, at least all the experienced ones, are essentially representatives of the capitalists.Then I come to the question of the new-register of rights which is being made by the new Commissioner of Mines, who was late Secretary of the South African League, and afterwards of the Consolidated Gold Fields Company. He says—It is a most serious matter, which has involved the examination and comparison of documents connected with about 177,000 mining rights, and has formed the principal business of my staff during the suspension of the general business. The result has been the compilation of a new register, the accuracy and completeness of which will, I think, be beyond question.Well, Sir, that may be, I am not particularly interested in that matter I confess it has a significance of its own, that these mining rights have been dealt with in the absence of a large number of persons interested in them; but these questions are not on a level with the others I have been speaking of which involve political rights and a political settlement. It is there that lie the hopes and fears for the future well-being of South Africa. In speaking of well-being, I mean, among other things, principally the maintenance of British supremacy, on which that well-being, in my opinion, so largely depends. These are the ways that lead not to the gradual acceptance of British supremacy, but to the endangerment of British supremacy. Whether through indifference, helplessness, or wrong headedness, the Government appear to be neglecting those wiser measures which are necessary to secure all that the efforts and sacrifices of our countrymen have won for South Africa.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I have listened to many speeches delivered by the right hon. Gentleman, but, I confess, to none more extraordinary than that to which we have just listened. As a rule, when the Leader of the Opposition comes to this House to attack the Government, if the attack is serious he keeps his fireworks either for the end, or, at all events, for the middle, of his speech. Never before have I known a gentleman in his position come down here and begin a speech by coolly reading out from notes carefully and deliberately prepared a vitriolic 578 attack upon those who are oppposed to him—[Opposition cries of "Oh!"]—a vitriolic attack in which the least offensive utterance was that in which the right hon. Gentleman stated that when he and his friends proposed to make inquiry they were met by what he called malignant slanders. [Opposition cheers.] I observe that that may now be accepted as a Parliamentary expression, and under those circumstances I ask where in this House—where, above all else—should we look for malignant slanders, unless it be across this Table and from the right hon. Gentleman, who has never lost any opportunity of slandering his countrymen—[Cheers and Opposition cries of "Oh, oh!"]—of slandering the soldiers in the field, and of slandering the Government opposed to him.
What is the ground for the accusation? The one complaint that the right hon. Gentleman makes is that we call him a pro-Boer. When he once before took exception to this expression, I ventured to ask him how he himself would describe a man who thought that the Boers were right and that his country was wrong, and who supported the Boers in every incident of the campaign—[Opposition cries of "Oh, oh!"] who found no fault with them in anything that they had done, who has never once lifted his voice against any of the crimes that have been brought to their charge, while he has never ceased to take every possible opportunity in order to bring insinuations against his own countrymen. To ray mind, a man who does that is a pro-Boor, and, despite the objection of the right hon. Gentleman, I for one shall continue to call him so. The right hon. Gentleman talked about a school of manners. I do not know whether he attends the school, or whether he pretends to keep it: but if he attends the school he has not paid much attention to his lessons. What does he go on to say? He who, forsooth, is so indignant because we have described his conduct and his action in terms which are not a whit too strong for them, he who is so indignant, begins his inquiries of the Government by saying that we pretend not to know. He compares us to a notorious criminal.
§ * MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am in the recollection of the House. The right hon. Gentleman's insinuation was that we could tell if we would, but that we did not, because we had something to conceal; that we kept from him and his friends information which was in our possession. The right hon. Gentleman can be plain enough if he pleases; and, as most of what he says was written, I have no doubt he deliberately inserted the words he used; and those words contained an insinuation, and I say to him now that the insinuation was a malignant slander.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely mistaken. The accusation I brought against him and his colleagues was that they did not know, and I said they ought to know. I took their own word for it that they did not know.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I think I ought to interfere. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the words "malignant slander" is a Parliamentary expression. I have never assented to that, and it is an unparliamentary expression. It was first used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling, but I was not clear at the time he used it—my attention being at that moment called away—whether he was using it of hon. Members sitting opposite to him or-in regard to statements made outside. But I rather understand, from what has since taken place, that he was using it of hon. Members opposite. In that case it was not a Parliamentary expression. It having been so used, I did not at once check the right hon. Gentleman on the other side when he retorted. But I am bound to say that the expression is one which is not Parliamentary.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
And I withdraw the retort. Now, Sir, the 580 accusation brought against us, whether it be of ignorance wilful or unintentional, was an extremely general one. The right hon. Gentleman declared that from the beginning of this war we had failed to give information relating to most important matters, that continuously we had shown entire ignorance of what was going on, and that their inquiries had been altogether unproductive. Well, but that is a tremendous charge. It applies to hundreds of cases, and, naturally, the right hon. Gentleman did not bring a charge of that kind without offering proof at the same time; and what was his proof? He actually brought this charge against the Government, and the sole ground which he gave for it, the sole piece of evidence which he laid before the House, was his statement that we did not know under what conditions Lord Methuen had been released. Why, we knew that in every case in which prisoners had been made by the Boers in the course of the last twelve months operations, if not more, they had always been released by the Boers for reasons which are sufficiently evident; and when Lord Methuen was released we took it for granted, and it was the fact, that he was released in precisely the same circumstances as all others had been released; and it was only the right hon. Gentleman who introduced a perfectly unnatural interpretation of the circumstances and wanted to know whether special conditions had been imposed, for the first time in the whole war, in the case of Lord Methuen.
It is on that slender, that ridiculous and absurd foundation, that he lays his charge that we have refused information, or kept back information, which was of vital importance. I believe the charge to be absolutely unfounded. The House and the country have known everything that it was essential to know. The only thing that we have refused to do was to take up the time of those who are in the field, or, in my own case, to take up the time of Lord Milner, who has got quite as much as he can do in finding answers to questions totally unimportant except in the opinion of the persons who ask them from time to time. But, as regards everything essential to the knowledge of the House in regard to the progress of the war, nothing has been concealed, 581 nothing that we have known has been concealed from the House, and we have known, in my opinion, all that it was necessary or right that we should know.
Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman, having given us this one single instance of our want of candour in the past, proceeds to say that he will ask us a series of questions to which he hopes he will obtain a full reply. In order to induce us to give a full and Complete answer to his first question he taunts us with the mistakes which he says we have made in previous estimates of the numbers in the field throughout the course of the war, and then he invites us to give a new estimate to the House, which ex hypothesi will be as little reliable as any before. We can give estimates, and I am not certain that we cannot defend the estimates we have already given, but an estimate is nothing but an estimate; it is not a statement of fact. It is a statement made upon the authority of those to whom we naturally look for information, and is the best statement of facts which they are able to give us at the time. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a calculation of Lord Kitchener's some time ago that there were 10,000 odd men among the Boers in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony in arms against us, and I think he said that that statement had been proved to be absolutely incorrect.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Well, he complained of it. He said that subsequent information had shown how baseless it was. "Torn to tatters," I remember, were the words.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
We were told that we had only to take that number and then go on week by week deducting from it the numbers that surrendered, and that that would show us exactly how the machinery was worked. "' Torn to tatters," was, perhaps, not a very apposite expression.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
"Torn to tatters" was, no doubt, a metaphorical expression, but it was an absolutely 582 inaccurate one. Now, is it so unreasonable to ask the right hon. Gentleman and those of his friends who are interested in this matter to make a simple arithmetical subtraction? state that it was an estimate, and I do not say now that I can give him the exact figures, but it was an estimate that there were 10,000 men in the field on a given day. That was for the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. Resides that, there were all who were then in arms in the Cape Colony. Probably we can put them down as between 3,000 and 4,000. That gives us altogether, say, 14,000. Since then we have accounted for 5,800, of whom, I am informed, 800 are boys or men too old to be counted as fighting men if you take 5,000 from 14,000, it leaves 9,000 as being probably about the number who are still in the field. I give the estimate for what it is worth. It is arrived at by that simple process of subtracting the number accounted for from the original number given, and it is as good an estimate as I am able to furnish at the present time.
But the right hon. Gentleman then made a statement, from which he proceeded to deduce a number of conclusions. Again, I have to say that I think his statement is entirely inaccurate and his conclusions not less so. He talked about the growing disloyalty of Cape Colony and the number of recruits continually streaming in from the Cape Colony. That is to say, he assumed that he had torn to tatters this estimate of which I spoke, that there were very much larger numbers than the arithmetical computation could show still in the field, and that the difference must be made up by new recruits coming in from Cape Colony. Nothing of the kind has happened. I do not mean to say that the commandos of Boers moving about in Cape Colony have not got here and there a recruit from this or that farm house, or two or three recruits from this or that village or town; but we have reason to believe that the total number of recruits they have obtained during the second invasion has been only a small proportion, and has not materially altered the figures we have laid before the House. And if that be the case, as it is the case, what becomes of all the structure the 583 right hon. Gentleman has built upon his statement, about our having by our conduct consolidated Dutch discontent, and about our having destroyed the loyal feeling of an entirely loyal colony? The right hon. Gentleman says Cape Colony was entirely loyal two years ago. What does he mean by loyal? If he means that it was not in open rebellion that before this war broke out there was no rebellion, of course we entirely agree with him. But if he means that there was not, two and throe and five years ago, and in the time of the right hon. Gentleman, when he was a member of the Government—that there was not in Cape Colony a large and growing feeling held by a majority of the Dutch population which led them to sympathise with the aspirations for a Dutch Republic for the whole of South Africa—if he denies that, then he is very much mistaken. And just let me say that the right hon. Gentleman is always boasting and talking about the advantages which would be conferred by self-government. He is always pressing us to hurry up self-government for the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. Does it never strike him that in Cape Colony they have had self-government since 1872, and during all that time they have had absolutely no complaint whatever to make of the Imperial Government or the Imperial connexion, and yet even before two or three years ago you had a great portion of the population disloyal in their hearts—[Opposition cries of "No"]—lisloyal in their hearts—disloyal, that is to say, to this extent, that they were prepared at any moment to assist this movement in order to drive the British from South Africa? [Opposition cries of "Oh!" and Ministerial cheers.]
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Really, that is childishness. [Opposition cries of "Oh!" and Ministerial cheers.] Is it to be said that an offer of £30,000 a year as a contribution towards the £30,000,000 a year that we pay for the Navy, enables us to say with certainty that every single constituent of every man who voted for that is loyal to the 584 connexion? The idea is absurd. The great proportion of the Dutch in South Africa from the first have been led, partly from racial sympathies, and partly from other causes, to give their support to this aspiration, and when they thought they saw it was within reasonable possibility of accomplishment, then their opinions were openly expressed. I think we may rejoice that, in spite of that, so large a proportion of the Dutch have remained absolutely loyal. I have been speaking only of the section who have been opposed to us; but a majority of the Cape Colonists, including the whole of the English and a very large section of the Dutch, have never, of course, been influenced by these opinions. I go back to the subject of Cape Colony again to say that when the right hon. Gentleman tells us, quoting a phrase of Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson's, that a great district, extending over thousands of square miles, is more or less in the occupation of the rebels or the Boers, he forgets what occupation means in the circumstances which now exist in South Africa. It means only that a body numbering altogether some 2,000 or 3,000, divided into a great number of scattered commandos, some of them with not more than twenty ill a commando, have been riding backwards and forwards over this expanse of country. No loyal man can be called, absolutely safe so long as that is possible, and these bands have not been absolutely defeated and destroyed; but that does not mean that any one should suppose, as the right hon. Gentleman seems to think, that the country is in the hands of the rebels. It is in the hands of the British Government, though they are not able at the present time to prevent here and there a sudden incursion by a small number of these troops.
The right hon. Gentleman goes on to complain of the operations of martial law. Sir, it is a curious thing that here also he makes himself the spokesman of the Boers. As far as I know, there has been no serious complaint from any loyal man in South Africa about the operations of martial law. I do not mean to say that martial law has not been felt to be a great evil, an immense inconvenience, perhaps even, in some cases, an injustice. I know, at all events, of no case of loyal Dutch or loyal Englishmen who have doubted that it was an unfortunate necessity, and who have been unwilling to bear 585 all that it meant with patience and loyalty to the Crown. Then, again, everything turns on the necessity. Assuming martial law to be necessary, under martial law you will not have precisely the same justice, the same conveniences, the same opportunities that you have under the ordinary law of the country. You have to take it as one of the evils of the war in which you are engaged. But to make an attack upon it in the way in which the right hon. Gentleman does, without giving reasons to show that it is no longer necessary, is not really common sense, and I do not think that it is a patriotic way of treating what undoubtedly is a great cause of self-sacrifice on the part of our loyal fellow-subjects in South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman makes one or two definite complaints; he actually complains that we have not followed an example which he says has been set us, and complains that, no matter what the case, we allow the matives in South Africa to give evidence in a martial law court—the natives who form the great majority of the population, the natives for whom hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House are Continually so anxious and so determined that they shall have equal justice. These natives, according to the right hon. Gentleman, ought to have been silenced by the Government, and ought never to have been allowed to give evidence, even in their own case, on the murders that have been charged. What are the murders that have been charged? There have been few murders of whites; in almost every case they have been murders of blacks, of natives. They are the men who have suffered cruelty and murder and outrage of the most brutal description at the hands of some of the leaders of the Boers; and the right hon. Gentleman actually suggests that in these cases these men, who are the only witnesses because they are the only people present, whose brothers or other relations have been subjected to outrages, are to hold their tongues, and their evidence is not to be taken. If he had only said that the evidence of the natives when it was given should be weighed carefully, and that it should be considered how far there were corroborative circumstances, I should have entirely 586 agreed with him. But to say they ought not to be heard at all, should not be allowed to be witnesses, is to put the civilisation of this country back to the times of slavery.
Then the right hon. Gentleman asks for particulars as to certain people who have been deported. Let me say one word as to these inquiries. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, considering that martial law has been in existence for considerably over a year, and that there have been hundreds, and possibly thousands, of cases, is it reasonable to ask me without the slightest notice for particulars of a particular case? Is it possible that I should know, or that if I knew that I should remember, all the eases that have taken place? On the other hand, if the right hon. Gentleman has any interest, or any hon. Gentleman has any interest, in any particular case, I have always shown myself willing to make the necessary inquiries. I have had, of course, to communicate by telegraph with South Africa, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the bill for telegraphing has been most materially increased by this particular task of answering questions. But I will answer this question generally—it is rot one which requires any particular knowledge. Men and women have been deported, and rightly deported, under martial law from districts in which they were mischievous and in which their presence was injurious to the military operations. Why? Does the right hon. Gentleman not know what is in everybody's mouths, what everybody knows who pays the slighest attention to the matter, that women as well as men have acted as spies for the Boers, have conveyed information, that women have hidden ammunition, and have even conveyed ammunition? To say that in those circumstances the military authority in a case of exigency may not—do what, not hang those people, not confiscate their property, but remove them safely to a distance where they cannot do any mischief, is perfectly absurd.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
They know perfectly well. What, says the right hon. Gentleman, to keep them there for a year? 587 Yes, to keep them there until the exigency has gone, as long as the emergency lasts, and as long as it will be unsafe for them to return. Then I come to what was really the last part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, which fills me absolutely with amazement. I know that he is a Gentleman of high intelligence, but I never should have known it from the portion of his speech to which I am about to allude. He said, very truly, that in a speech which I made in 1900 I said it would be our object to interfere as little as possible with the laws and customs and prejudices of the Dutch in the new colonies, and I thought that would be especially the case in the Orange River Colony, where the laws had been well administered, and were on the whole, I believe, admirable laws. But I went on to say—I do not know whether he forgot this—that in the Transvaal, where the character and quality of the law had been one of the great grievances against the late Government, there would have to be serious alterations. "Oh, yes," says the right hon. Gentleman, "I admit that there may have been things in the laws of the Transvaal which are capable of improvement; but why in such a hurry, why do you make the improvement now, why do you not wait until the end of the war?" You say it will take a generation, so "why do you not wait for a generation, until you can give self-government to the Transvaal, and then, and then only, amend the laws?" Would the right hon. Gentleman have a single supporter-in a policy of that kind? Why, I am questioned night after night by hon. Gentlemen opposite as to why we have not already improved the condition of things in the Transvaal, and why we have not improved the condition of the natives in the Transvaal. My answer is, we are doing it as quickly as we can; those are the laws we have to alter, those are the laws we have repealed. These are the new laws which we are preparing. And the right hon. Gentleman actually suggests to us that we should wait for a generation, and allow all these scandals and abuses to continue, until forsooth, we can have a self-government in the colony which we may consult about what, after all, to most of us would be self-evident propositions.
588 Then the right hon. Gentleman says, "Oh, but you are doing something else," and then there comes in the usual sneer at the capitalists—again an insinuation not a charge. The right hon. Gentleman is always insinuating; he affects that the war itself is all for the benefit of the I capitalists. What is the particular case? The particular case is that a new register has been made of mining property, and in connection with this, and in connection with the laws which are to regulate the industry upon which the whole property of the country absolutely depends, it is our crime that we have consulted-representatives of this industry.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Nobody else? How does the right hon. Gentleman know? It is absolutely untrue. We I have consulted the persons who are acquainted with the gold industry, and have asked them to make a report. It has not at present been presented; but no doubt the House will have an opportunity of seeing what legislation and provisions and regulations are in their opinion necessary and desirable for the proper conduct of that industry. Whether we shall adopt them or not is a different matter; that will depend on what they are, and on how far they accord with our ideas of what is right, and on the other information we acquire on this subject. But all this is part of the pretence that in the Transvaal, where every man of energy and intelligence, or of more than ordinary intelligence and industry, is connected with the gold mining industry, we are absolutely to shut our doors to all such persons and refuse to employ them in any connexion; that we are to deprive ourselves of the only instruments with which we can successfully deal with the work before us. Anything more absurd than this pretence, that because a man once in his life, or at some period in his life, has been a servant of a gold-mining company he is therefore unfit to be a Government official, I never heard. Did right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in office, do we who are in office, adopt that principle? Who was the Chief Constructor of the Navy, the gentleman 589 who has to advise on the contracts in, the Navy for big ships, and so on? Why, he was previously the chief constructor for the greatest firm of shipbuilders in the United Kingdom, Armstrong and Co. And when Sir William White retired, his successor has been found in the same yard. Does anybody doubt that that was wise; does anybody deny that that was the most prudent course that could possibly have been taken! Does anybody pretend that Sir William White, or his successor, would be in any way prejudiced, that they would not be honourable servants of the State, because, forsooth, at one lime they were salaried servants of a company which was contracting with the State? Well, the case is precisely the same in connection with these matters. I am not talking of such questions as the Land Laws, or of matters that may concern the burghers; but on matters that concern the gold industry we must have the best advice we can get. We cannot get it in this country We are not gold miners here, and cannot find here the same sort of experience and knowledge which we can get alone in South Africa. I think it right to make that statement now, and hang it on what the right hon. Gentleman has said, because I see a sort of feeling growing up, an entirely mistaken feeling, I think, in the minds of some hon. Gentlemen opposite that we are bound by some morality, I confess I do not know where they obtain it, by some moral consideration, not to employ the only people who can effectively carry out the work required. The register to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, I will just say in passing, is a register of mining rights. It is not a register, therefore, of burghers' rights, and the absence of the burghers, who are not mine owners, and who have no direct interest in the matter, is not a point of any importance. But the question of registering those rights is a matter of very great importance. It is like a survey in this country. You cannot transfer them, you cannot properly legislate for them until the boundaries have been accurately laid down.
Now, Sir, I have dealt with the inquiries which the right hon. Gentleman has made, and I ask the House whether they are not really, when boiled down, paltry in the extreme. If that is all the information he wants, I admit it is most 590 moderate, and that he is fully entitled to it, and I hare afforded it with the greatest of pleasure. But how is it possible if that is all that he has been craving for, if that is the only thing on which he has based his complaint—how is it possible for him to say that we have been keeping back important, valuable, and essential information? We have been doing nothing of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman wants us to give sonic estimate of the progress of the war. The progress of the war is to be read in the daily papers and in the telegrams which are continually coming in. But if he wants to go beyond that, and to know whether we are looking forward to the future beyond the war, whether we are considering the question of pacification, which, no doubt, is always in his mind, then I say. Yes, it is never out of our thoughts, and I am able, I am glad to say, to take a very optimistic view of it. The right hon. Gentleman says that by our action we have been endangering British supremacy. We are establishing British supremacy; and when we have established British supremacy I, for one do not anticipate those terrible consequences from the racial feeling which no doubt prevails at the present time. And my reason for hoping that that racial feeling will disappear is proved, I think, by the fact that very large numbers even of those who were recently in the field against us, have now freely accepted the situation. They say, in effect, "We have been fairly defeated—defeated, indeed, by a force which is in an overwhelming majority. We have not lost our honour, we accept our defeat, and we are prepared to accept all that follows on our defeat, relying on the promises that have been made to us of just and equal treatment." That is not mere talk, that is not hypocrisy, that is not said in order to gain anything; for what are the facts? At this moment we have between 3,000 and 4,000 of these men, Boers, burghers, fighting with us against the burghers in the field. You may read the accounts of what they are doing in almost every telegram. There is not one recent engagement in which these men have not played an important part, and it is they who have captured some of the most important generals and commandants who have recently fallen into 591 our hands. And you may read it in the very interesting communication which General Vilonel has addressed, I think, to General de Wet or to General Louis Botha, in which he says that the enemies of the country are those who are continuing a hopeless struggle.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member himself interrupted the right hon. Gentleman by crying out that soldiers who were serving under the British Crown were traitors. I deprecate the interruption; I deprecate the retort. If the
§ hon. Gentleman will not interrupt he will not be subjected to retorts.
§ (5.48.) Motion made, and Question put, "That Mr. Dillon be suspended from the service of the House."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 248; Noes 48. (Division List No. 82)593
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r||Firbank, Joseph Thomas|
|Allen, Charles P. (Glone, Stroud||Chamberlayne, T. (S'thampton||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose-|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Chapman Edward||Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Churchill, Winston Spencer||Flannery, Sir Fortescue|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Clive, Captain Percy A.||Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Forster, Henry William|
|Asher, Alexander||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Foster, PhiliphS. (W'rwi'k,S. W.|
|Asquith, Ht. Hn. Herbert H'nry||Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Fowler-, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Austin, Sir John||Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Garfit, William|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Compton, Lord Alwyne||Gibbs, Hn A. G. H. (City of Lond.|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Gladstone, Rt Hn Herbert John|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Goddard, Daniel Ford|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r||Craig, Robert Hunter||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W. (Leeds||Cranborne, Viscount||Gordon, Hn J. E. (Elgin & Nairn|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Cripps, Charles Alfred||Gore, Hn. S. F. Ormsby-(Line.)|
|Banes, Major George Edward||Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Goulding, Edward Alfred|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Green, Walford D. (Wednesb'ry|
|Bignold, Arthur||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Gretton, John|
|Bill, Charles||Denny, Colonel||Groves, James Grimble|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||Guthrie, Walter Murray|
|Bond, Edward||Dickson, Charles Scott||Haldane, Richard Burdon|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.|
|Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex||Doughty, George||Hamilton, Rt Hn Ld G. (Midd'x|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashf'd|
|Brookfield, Colonel Montagu||Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Hare, Thomas Leigh|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Dunn, Sir William||Haslam, Sir Alfred S.|
|Bull, William James||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Edwards, Frank||Hay, Hon. Claude Geo.|
|Butcher, John George||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-|
|Caldwell, James||Elliott Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.)||Heath, James (Staffords, N. W.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Helder, Augustus|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Fellowes, Hon. Ail wyn Edward||Helme, Norval Watson|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Hoare, Sir Samuel|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshre||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Horner, Frederick William|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Finch, George H.||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry|
|Hoult, Joseph||Myers, William Henry||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham||Nicholson, William Graham||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Spear, John Ward|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Spencer, Rt Hn C. B. (Northants|
|Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich)|
|Johnston, William (Belfast)||Parkes, Ebenezer||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M. Taggart|
|Jones, David Brynmor (Sw'nsea||Partington, Oswald||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Kennaway, Kt. Hn. Sir John H.||Paulton, James Mellor||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop.||Peel, Hn. Wm Robert Wellesley||Stroyan, John|
|Kinloch, Sir John Geo. Smyth||Percy, Earl||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Lawrence, Joseph (Monmouth||Plummer, Walter R.||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.|
|Lawson, John Grant||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Tennant, Harold John|
|Lecky, Rt. Hn. William Edw. H.||Price, Robert John||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Priestley, Arthur||Thomas, E. Freeman-(Hastings|
|Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Purvis, Robert||Thorborn, Sir Walter|
|Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.||Randles, John S.||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Rankin, Sir James||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Ratcliff, R. F.||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S.||Renshaw, Charles Bine||Valentia, Viscount|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Renwick, George||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Lowther, lit. Un. James (Kent)||Rickett, J. Compton||Wallace, Robert|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge||Walton, John Lawson (Leeds, S.|
|Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Ridley, S. Forde (Bethnal Green||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Bigg, Richard||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Macdona, John Cumming||Bitchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson||Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts)|
|M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)||Whitely, H. (Ashton und. Lyne|
|M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Majendie, James A. H.||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Malcolm, Ian||Ropner, Colonel Robert||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Markham, Arthur Basil||Round, James||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth|
|Maxwell, Rt. Hn Sir H. E (Wigt'n||Royds, Clement Molyneux||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Melville, Beresford Valentine||Runciman, Walter||Wilson, A Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Middlemore, Jhn Throgmorton||Russell, T. W.||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Milvain, Thomas||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)|
|Mitchell, William||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)||Wood, James|
|Montagu, Hn. J. Scott (Hants.)||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson|
|More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Morrell, George Herbert||Seeley, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of W'gt||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Moulton, John Fletcher||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew|
|Mount, William Arthur||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford East)||TELLES FOR THE AYES—Mr. Anstruther and Mr. Hayes Fisher.|
|Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Smith, H C (North'mb. Tyneside|
|Murray, Rt. Hn A. Graham (Bute||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.||Jordan, Jeremiah||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Joyce, Michael||O'Kelly, James (Rossc'mon,N.)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Labouchere, Henry||O'Malley, William|
|Blake, Edward||Levy, Maurice||O'Shaugbnessy, P. J.|
|Boland, John||Lloyd-George, David||Reddy, M.|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S)||Logan, John William||Redmond, John E. (Waterford|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Lundon, W.||Roche, John|
|Clancy, John Joseph||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Crean, Eugene||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Sullivan, Donal|
|Cremer, William Randal||M'Govern, T.||Tully, Jasper|
|Delany, William||M-Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||White, Patrick (Meath, North|
|Dillon, John||Murphy, John||Wilson, Henry, J. (York, W. R.)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Ffrench, Peter||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES— Captain Donelan and Mr. Haviland-Burke.|
|Gilhooly, James||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipper'ry Mid|
|Grant, Corrie||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.|
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I was commenting when I was interrupted on the auspicious circumstance that a man like General Vilonel should be found ready to write to one of the Boer generals in 595 the field that they were continuing a hopeless struggle; and I was going on to say that I had reports from the prisoners' camps in Ceylon and India and elsewhere, and that, in all cases, although there are men who are at present irreconcilable, yet there are a very large proportion of the prisoners who are only eager to go back to their farms and resume their peaceful occupations. I say that those are circumstances of good augury, and I have reason to believe that when the war is over, we may look forward to a period of great prosperity.
§ (6.3.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
My right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition addressed two classes of inquiry to His Majesty's Government. The first relates to the present military condition in South Africa. I cannot say that we have received much information on that score. That is by no means a new departure, but at the same time I think we might have been told more than we have been. I confess that I myself did not expect that we should learn a great deal. All the information which we have hitherto received on this subject has been perfectly futile, and has been always contradicted by the event. The Colonial Secretary complained that the instance to which my right hon. friend referred was a small and immaterial example of failure. I will refer to a thing which is neither small nor immaterial. In the year 1900, on December 10th, we had a solemn official announcement by the Commander-in-Chief that the war was over. Less than two months from that time we have this official announcement in a despatch from Lord Milner—It is no use denying that the last year has been one of retrogression.That covers four months of the time after Lord Roberts had said the war was over.Seven months ago (he says) the colony was perfectly quiet, at least so far as the Orange River Colony was concerned. The Orange River Colony was rapidly settling down, and also a considerable part of the Transvaal. … Today the scene is completely altered, and what is more serious to my mind than the material deterioration is the moral effect of the recrudescence of the war.Thus we have gone on with contradictory statements coming from the highest 596 authorities. I will not say that the Government have intentionally deceived the public; but they have a knack of deceiving themselves never equalled by any set of men in the world, and, having succeeded in deceiving themselves, have deceived the country. I ask in fear and trembling for information in this respect, because I know that as soon as we have an optimistic declaration from the Government to the effect that everything is for the best, and that we are arriving at a rapid end to the war, the declaration will be followed by some great disaster. The declaration of Lord Roberts was followed by the invasion of the Cape; and the prophecies of a few months ago were followed by the disaster which we have so recently had to deplore.
But I would call attention to a far more serious thing than the military situation—I mean the situation in the Cape Colony—the old self-governing Cape Colony, which to my mind is the most serious feature with regard to South Africa today. I was astonished at the statement of the Colonial Secretary that before the war began the Colony was in a state of disloyalty. It is contrary to the fact. The Blue books are full of statements as to the abounding loyalty of the Cape Colony from Lord Milner himself. By whom was this grant to the Navy made? By a Parliament representing to a large extent Dutch voters. The Afrikander Bond were cordially a party to the gift. The repudiation of Dutch loyalty at that time is a most extraordinary statement, and the Colonial Secretary ought to have known better. What ground is there for saying that when Mr. Schreiner was Prime Minister there was any trace of general disloyalty? Exactly the opposite is the fact. In a very recent speech of Sir Gordon Sprigg's, there is the statement that the number of people in anus from the Cape has been about 10,000 men. What is the state of the government at this time in Cape Colony? The right hon. Gentleman takes from time to time two different attitudes with regard to the relations of the Cape Colony with the Imperial Government. When we ask what is being done under martial law, the right hon. Gentleman says, "This is a self-governing Colony 597 and I have nothing to do with it. There is a responsible Government, and the Governor of the Cape is bound to take the opinion of his Ministers and to act upon it." At other times, if the Government at the Cape is disposed to do anything which does not please the right hon. Gentleman, he has no scruple in addressing remonstrances to them and preventing those things from being done.
There is no self-government today at the Cape. There is no responsible Government at the Cape. What is a self-governing Colony? What is a responsible Government? A self-governing colony is a colony which has representative institutions and a Parliament. A responsible Government is a Government which is controlled by that Parliament. There is no Parliament today at the Cape. It has been suspended. By whom? By no one who has authority to suspend it. There is a statutory obligation that the Parliament shall meet within twelve months of its last meeting; and to prologue it beyond that period is a breach of the law. Who has committed that breach of the law? Of course the person is the Governor. I asked the right hon. Gentleman about that, and he said that the Governor did it on the advice of his responsible Ministers. But who are the Ministers responsible to him? The Parliament is illegally done away with by the very men who are responsible to that Parliament. It is a condition of things intolerable to anyone who has any respect for constitutional liberty. At this moment the lives, the liberties, the rights, and the property of every British subject within the Cape are at the mercy of a Government responsible to nobody. The right hon. Gentleman says that they are not responsible to him. Whom are they responsible to? To no one but themselves. They are in the situation of a self-constituted Committee of Public Safety. They go on proroguing the Parliament, and there has been no legal existence of Parliament since October last. This prorogation may go en for an indefinite period.
I say, Sir, that this condition of things is intolerable to any community that has any respect for the principles 598 which belong to English liberty. The right hon. Gentleman says that the persons whom he calls the only loyal people do not object; but the rights and the liberties of every man at the Cape ought to be under some legitimate and constitutional protection. I do not say that there are not circumstances which may hinder you from calling that Parliament together; I do not deny that for a moment; but it is not for the Executive Government of the moment to get rid of the Parliament for any length of time that it chooses. That is not the way in which the Constitutions of colonies have been suspended. In the case of Canada it was determined to send out Lord Durham, but was he sent out without any authority to which he could refer? The first act done was by the Imperial Parliament, to suspend the Constitution of Canada, and so with the ease of the various colonies where Constitutions have been suspended. In Jamaica it was suspended by the consent of the existing local Government, which surrendered its powers to the Crown. But the notion that a temporary Executive can abolish the Constitution of a self-governing colony at his own will and pleasure and for any length of time is one which strikes at the root of the whole fabric of the Empire, and destroys the whole principle of self-government in the colonies concerned. The proper method to have adopted, where it is necessary, in suspending or destroying a self-governing colony is that it shall be done under the authority of the imperial Parliament which granted that Constitution and created that self-government. These are vital questions at this moment, when we are dealing with that most important matter of the relation of the Imperial Parliament to the self-governing colonies. The principle now being acted upon is absolutely destructive of all the hopes which we have entertained of the closer truer relations between the Central Government of the Empire and the self-governing colonies.
Therefore I say that this condition of things at the Cape ought not to be continued. My opinion is that it is a matter which ought to be taken in hand by the Imperial Parliament. If it be the case—and I do not deny it—that the Parliament cannot be 599 called together in existing circumstances, then you ought, as in the case of Canada, to make a temporary provision which would give some security for the liberty of the subject, and you should not leave it to the discretion of a self-appointed Government—for that is what it is. The Executive Government has no vitality. How do you know that the Government of the day retains the confidence of the country, when it has destroyed and continues to keep in suspense that authority from which alone it derives its vitality? I am hound to say that a much more constitutional view of this subject has been taken in another place than has been presented to us here. Speaking of martial law, Lord Salisbury said—I admit that it is a matter which requires to he watched with the utmost care.What materials have been given to us to watch it and the manner in which it is administered?There ought to he (he said) a thorough review at the hands of competent anthorities of the Acts of martial law. Something has been said of Acts of indemnity, but it is a matter upon which the Parliament of this country will have to be satisfied that the law has only been set aside on grounds if real necessity.It is we, the Parliament of England, that will have to be satisfied, and not the local Parliament which does not exist.Parliament must determine on those indemnities which are necessary to protect the position not only of the soldiers, nut only of those who act under the direct authority of his Majesty's Government, but also the authorities and instruments of Cape Colony.That is a sound and true doctrine. It is the Imperial Parliament which is to judge of these things. It is not for the Executive Government at the Capo to assume to itself the whole of the authority which can he derived only from a Parliament which it has abolished or suspended. Then he says—It is necessary for both Houses of Parliament to watch with the most careful jealousy the exercise of powers which, no doubt, unrestrained might be very dangerous to the liberty of the subject.They have been dangerous to the liberty of the subject. My information as to the satisfaction with which martial law is regarded at the Cape is the opposite of that received by the Colonial Secretary. Then Lord Salisbury says—The superseding of a Constitution is not the ordinary business of a Government either 600 here or there, and only under the greatest exigencies should such a thing be done; but the power of doing it must necessarily be joined with the duty of giving afterwards the reason "why it was done, and coming to-the Supreme Parliament of Great Britain for the indemnity which must follow.Therefore for the suspension or violation of the Constitution the Imperial Parliament has to give an indemnity to the Government. But it has to do more, as in the case of Canada. While the Constitution is suspended—it may be necessarily suspended—it has to make a statutory provision under the authority of the Parliament of this country for the conduct of affairs in the Cape. The Imperial Parliament is to be the ultimate judge, according to Lord Salisbury, in the matter. I am happy to say that in consequence of the perseverance of my noble friend Lord Spencer, the Government have conceded that information on this subject should be given and that a Return shall be made. What has been the case with martial law? I believe that every lawyer and every statesman recognises that when there arises some sudden necessity, then by the executive authority, or indeed by every subject of the realm, measures may be taken in excess of the law to preserve the peace, but if it be found necessary to have a chronic condition of superseding the law, then the authority of Parliament is necessary for that purpose, and it has always been given. We have had a succession of Acts of martial law in order to regulate and restrain excesses of the law. There is the case of the Coercion Act in 1833 and other Acts for that purpose—to make provision for the manner in which justice is to be administered; and if martial law is to prevail at the Cape or elsewhere in a chronic form, it ought to be, and always has been, regulated by statutes which, give proper protection.
Now, Sir, the information which I have received differs from that of the right hon. Gentleman. I believe there is great dissatisfaction at the Cape with the existing condition of things, although the military censorship prevents us knowing all that is going on and its exact bearings. That is a most serious thing. In my belief it is owing to the manner in which things have been 601 conducted at the Cape since the commencement of the war that the great disaffection that exists at the Cape at the present time is mainly due. The right hon. Gentleman, it seems to me, has very much minimised the true state of things. In the last Papers we have a most alarming statement by the Prime Minister at the Cape, Sir Gordon Sprigg, in which he says that the white population of the Cape is 517,000, and out of that population more than one-half is either in rebellion or in sympathy with rebellion. What measures are you taking to deal with that? Is your administration one which will reconcile to you, under British rule, half of the white population of the Cape? These are matters on which we ought to have some, information. Therefore, I do say that the Condition of things at the Cape, where, according to Sir Gordon Spriggs, in the month of December last, more than one-half of the population was either in rebellion or hostile to you, is a very serious matter. I think this state of things requires very different treatment to that which you have been giving this question, and I should like to know what measures you are going to take. You may stamp out or exterminate the population of the late Republics, but you cannot exterminate the white population. You cannot get rid of the greater half of the population who are either against you or sympathising with the rebellion, and we ought to have a very definite statement as to the condition of things.
I do not desire to enlarge any more upon this, except to call attention to the extreme gravity of that condition of things. I do not know whether I am to be called a pro-Boer or not, but I have never altered the opinion I entertained of this war. I believe that by different diplomacy it might and ought to have been avoided, I have always held that view, and I hold it now. But since the war began I have never opposed the military operations of the country. I have never done anything—willingly, certainly, or knowingly—in any way to hamper those operations. But I believe this war was brought about, as the Crimean War was brought about, by faulty negotiations and want of proper temper on both sides. I desire to see the early termination of the war. When you are engaged in war 602 your principal reliance is upon force. Peace depends upon moral force, and I believe the people of this country earnestly desire to see peace restored upon terms. I agree that those terms must include the condition of the supremacy of British rule. I have never denied that. But what I think every reasonable and every Christian man ought to desire is to bring the minds of our opponents into a condition in which they should desire themselves to end what they must regard or ought to regard as a futile and hopeless struggle.
Now, are you doing that? That is a question we ought ail to ask ourselves, irrespective of Party. I fear very much we have been doing a good many things that, so far from bringing them to that frame of mind, have made it extremely difficult for them to entertain such a feeling. Why is it that amnesty was rejected? In 1900 Mr Schriener, the then Prime Minister at the Cape, implored the British Government, with allusions to the Canadian precedent, to apply the principle of amnesty to the then comparatively few rebels at the Cape. When you know that that Ministry was dismissed because of differences of opinion, in the first place, among the Cabinet there, and because the Government would not entertain the question of amnesty; when you know that in March last, in the Kitchener-Botha correspondence, Lord Kitchener recommended amnesty, and that amnesty was repudiated by Lord Milner and by the Colonial Secretary—there, in my opinion, is a cause of the continuance of the war which it is in your power to remove, and which you ought to remove. I believe there are many on the other side of the House, as well as on this, who believe that amnesty is a question of statesmanship as well as of justice. Then there was that unfortunate proclamation of August last. I am happy to think that the Member for East Fife and I are entirely agreed today upon that point. We were not at that time entirely of the same opinion. I rejoice that today he and I are entirely agreed as to the impolicy of saying to men like De Wet and Botha that they are under sentence of banishment. These are matters, I believe, which go to the root of the whole continuance of the war. 603 These are considerations which we ought to have in our minds. We ought to try and persuade these men that we mean to deal with them liberally and fairly, in order to end this unhappy conflict. I wish I could think that everything that had been done has had that tendency.
I read today with the deepest regret a speech by one of the most distinguished Members of the Cabinet, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Selborne. I find in that speech a sentence which I am afraid will have a disastrous effect. We are told that the Boers are principally occupied in reading British speeches. Lord Selborne sums up the policy of the Government in one menacing sentence—There was one way, and one way only, of reconciling the Dutch in South Africa—do not try to do it.Do you think that speech will be forgotten? How are you going to reconcile the Dutch in Gape Colony? Remember, it is not the Dutch Republics whom you have under your foot—it is the whole Dutch race that is in arms against you. And yet we are told that the only way to conciliate them is not to try it. I admit that there have been occasionally what I call "lucid intervals" in the language of the Colonial Secretary, that the right hon. Gentleman has spoken in a moderate and liberal spirit; but we have heard too often, I am sorry to say, accents of a different kind. What is the meaning of the policy conveyed in the language of the First Lord of the Admiralty? It means war to the knife. If the Dutch race are to be told that the policy of this country is not to try to conciliate them, then it is a challenge to them to fight to the last gasp. That, I say, is a policy as cruel as it is unstatesmanlike. It is a proclamation Vœ victis—of race hatred and of ruthless and unscrupulous ascendancy. This policy has already cost you thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of money. It may be said that this was an accidental and unfortunate phrase. I wish I could think it was. If I did think so I would not have (noted it tonight, but it is not an accidental phrase. It is the representation of a policy which has inspired those inflammatory speeches, which the Government delight in laying on the Table, of Parliament by the Prime Minister of 604 the Cape which my right hon. friend has already quoted. It is the true secret of the declaration by Lord Milner that the war may never cease in a formal sense, a policy which has been truly described by Lord Rosebery as equivalent to extermination. That is the spirit which does make and must make the Boers and the Dutch race irreconcilable. We know what that spirit is. We have also read the declaration of Sir Gordon Sprigg that he was entirely opposed to acceptance of the Boer surrender on conditions, thatThe enemy must come hat in hand, and on their fences, if necessary, to submit to the terms imposed by the British Government.That is not language which is likely to bring men to surrender. It is, on the contrary, calculated to drive them away. I must quote also, and I quote it with sorrow and regret, the recent language of the High Commissioner as it appears in a verbatim report of his speech in the Cape Times. He said—We make the figure of the Boer loom too large in the British imagination. It is asked whether this form of settlement will conciliate the Boer, or whether that form of settlement will conciliate him better. Morning, noon, and night it is Boer, Boer, Boer."Laughter and cheers" says the newspaper report. Is that the spirit, is that the policy, which will induce the Boers to come forward to surrender? I do not think so. It is, in other words, the policy declared by Lord Selborne—Don't try to reconcile them.Is that language which will convince the Dutch race that you really mean to place them on equal terms with yourselves in South Africa? Is it not rather the language of ascendancy? These are serious matters. They lie at the root of the ending or continuation of this disastrous war. I ask the Government to consider the situation in a different spirit. Why should they not do everything in their power, consistently with the interests of the Empire, to conciliate the Boers and induce them to surrender? In saying that, I am speaking the sentiments of every man on this side of the House, whatever may be his views as to the origin or the conduct of the war. We desire that the Dutch race shall be convinced that what lies at the bottom of our hearts is a policy of conciliation. 605 We should endeavour to "agree with our adversary quickly." We should agree with them on terms which shall appear to them to be friendly, and appear to us to be safe. If they were to be the last words I had to speak in this House, I would say to the Government, "Try to the utmost of your ability to conciliate your opponents."
§ (6.53.) MR. MILDMAY (Devonshire, Totnes)
I am anxious to say just a very few words in connection with the "war with regard to an answer which has since been given to a Question in the House by the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. No doubt the Boer forces still in the field derive much encouragement from the pro-Boer agitation in Europe engineered by Dr. Leyds. But how comes it that Dr. Leyds is still able to figure as the official representative of the Transvaal in Europe? In answer to a Question by the Member for West Wicklow on the 24th January last [(4) Debates, ci., 780], the noble Lord said that it was not the practice of this country to notify annexations to foreign Powers; and, that method of putting an end to Dr. Leyds' posturing as the official representative of the Transvaal being denied us, it may be thought that we are powerless to prevent it. But, unless I am wrong, we have in another way indirectly, or rather negatively, acquiesced in his continuance as such. To elucidate my meaning, I would quote the answer of the noble Lord to another Question which I put to him on the 4th February last. I asked whether foreign consuls now in Pretoria were accredited to His Majesty's Government. He answered [(4) Debates, cii., 361]—Foreign consuls have no official position in the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies, but the British authorities attend to any representations they desire to make on behalf of their nationals,which I take to mean that, though they are not officially and formally recognised, they are acting to all intents and purposes as if they were. Now, is it not an anomaly that the authorities at Pretoria should even to this extent recognise foreign consuls, accredited not to His Majesty's Government, but to Mr. Kruger's Government; while Leyds and his crew masquerade at 606 the Courts of Brussels, Berlin, and the Hague as representatives of the Transvaal, which we have annexed? If the authorities at Pretoria insisted on all persons officiating in a consular capacity receiving their exequaturs from the British Government, foreign Governments would be obliged to apply to us for these exequaturs, and, in so doing, would recognise the fact of the annexation of the two colonies. The position of Leyds and Co. would thus at the same time be rendered impossible, and this would be a heavy blow to the pro-Boer agitation carried on by them all over Europe. I am not well versed in the amenities of diplomatic intercourse, but it seems to me that rather a difficult situation may arise through this continued recognition of Dr. Leyds by foreign Powers as the official representative of the Transvaal. Take, for instance, the occasion when the whole diplomatic corps in Berlin pay their respects at headquarters. If, on such an occasion, our ambassador were temporarily indisposed, and the duty of representing Great Britain devolved on the first Secretary, the representative of Great Britain would presumably occupy an inferior position to Dr. Leyds. Not a very pleasant predicament, but I suppose that under the circumstances he would have silently to acquiesce in this position of inferiority.
Take another point—are not the payments recently agreed to by our Commission—presided over by the hon. Member for Hampstead—as compensation to foreign subjects for losses sustained in the Transvaal, entirely inconsistent with the attitude taken up by foreign Governments in continuing to officially recognise Dr. Leyds as representing the Transvaal Government, while they are prepared to recognise ours as the de facto Government only when it suits them and they want to squeeze money out of us? Surely our policy in this matter, dictated no doubt by a wish to conciliate foreign Governments and to avoid troublesome questions, must be regarded abroad as a sign of weakness, resulting in such contemptuous treatment as was meted out to us in Berlin the other day. I have no wish to speak in any aggressive spirit. The attitude of European Governments towards us throughout 607 the war has been so scrupulously correct that there is no reason to think that they would resent so legitimate a claim as that their consuls at Pretoria should be accredited to us if they wish to do business with us. It must be plain to them that they cannot ask to have it both ways. The other day the German people expressed a wish to send supplies and stores to the concentration camps. I am glad that we were willing that they should do this. But in the despatch expressing this willingness we suggested that the German consul would be given opportunity to certify that these stores had reached their destination. In the face of that, is it not playing with words to say, as the noble Lord said the other day, that we do not recognise officially the existence of this consul? I do not know whether I have made myself clear. I have no wish to embarrass the Government in any way by unpleasant questions, for I count myself one of the strongest supporters of their war policy, but I have been sincerely desirous of understanding the position which the Government takes up in the matter.
(7.3.) SIR CHARLES DILKK (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Totnes Division of Devonshire, who has just sat down, and who tells us that he is one of the strongest supporters of the war policy of the Government, seems to think that we can help the war policy best by some fussing inquiries in regard to the status of Dr. Leyds. My own impression is that the status of Dr. Leyds will do no more to prolong the war than speeches by Gentlemen on this side of the House. The war has to be brought to an end by military operations, and one of the subjects which can most usefully be discussed on this occasion is that which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in his speech this evening, as to the concealment of facts with regard to the military operations.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies said that the charge of my right hon. friend was a general charge, and he did not give proper instances in supporting it. I have very carefully watched, with natural interest, the military progress of this war, if it can 608 be called progress, and what has amazed me throughout has been the extraordinary character of the concealment which has been practised with regard to these military operations. Of course the charge is a general charge; it must be a general charge in the House of Commons. It is impossible to get this House to listen to long catalogues of cases. Put those who have watched these events which have retarded the progress of the war, well know that there has been a policy of concealment of a double kind—a minimising of unfortunate events which were not entirely concealed, and a complete concealment of the facts with regard to a large number of other events. The Government have themselves admitted that they have not given us—that Lord Kitchener has not thought it his duty to give us—the facts with regard to surrenders involving the loss of arms and horses, and therefore most useful to our opponents in the field; surrenders of Town Guards and so on, in Cape Colony. They not only do not figure in the telegrams, but they do not figure in the monthly reports of Lord Kitchener which are laid before the House.
The importance of this is seen by remembering what the Secretary for the Colonies said with regard to the condition of Cape Colony at this moment. He said it was impossible for the military orces in Cape Colony to prevent "a udden incursion." There is no question of a sudden incursion in Cape Colony, There are enormous portions of Cape Colony which have not been free for months, almost for years past, from the constant presence of the enemy. There is not the difficulty in this war of finding your enemy which sometimes occurs in guerilla warfare; we are in constant touch with the enemy, and there is no question of sudden incursion because there are very large districts of Cape Colony which the enemy has never left, and where he practically exercises the authority of civil government. I am prepared to state that there are distinct occasions where facts which were necessary to our knowledge of the progress of the war have been withheld—I do not know whether by the Government or by the military authorities at the Cape, but withheld from Parliament 609 and the country there is no manner of doubt. I know that we shall be asked for cases, and I have taken out some particulars. There was a surrender in July last in Cape Colony, north of Beaufort West, which was described by letter five or six weeks afterwards in the utmost detail by the correspondents of three or four of the leading newspapers of this country, and not the slightest reference was ever made to it in the telegrams, and there is no reference to it in Lord Kitchener's monthly reports. There is the case as to which questions were asked in this House, the Ermelo case of the 14th December, in which a very large number of rifles were lost by the surrender of a body of men. That was entirely concealed from the House and it was not the first or the second instance of concealment of important details. This has an essential bearing on the progress of the war; it has an essential bearing on the probable continuance of the war; it has a bearing on the money that this House has voted, on the due expenditure of that money, and on the demands for money in the future. It affects the whole policy of the country.
Let us see how, for example, it affects what are called "cleared areas" in South Africa. We have had descriptions issued to us as to large tracts of country supposed to have been cleared by the blockhouse system. If that is not so, if small engagements have happened resulting in the capture of some of our forces, that is a fact which the House ought to know, because it affects the whole probability of this blockhouse system and slow enveloping drives ever bringing the war to a close. If it is the fact that, although these methods may be valuable for certain purposes, in helping you to bring the war to an end, for securing your communications, for clearing certain important areas for a time, nevertheless you cannot hope to bring the war finally to an end by those means unless you have also a high degree of mobility and run your enemy down, then it is essential that the House should be in possession of the whole of the facts.
Take the figures that have been given to the House tonight as to the numbers of our opponents. The one fact on our side in this war, against all difficulties 610 which tell against us, is the extraordinary fewness of our opponents. That is the one material fact which leads us to entertain any hope of bringing the war to a successful termination. The Secretary for the Colonies has told us that there are only 9,000 men in the field against us; he has told us that there are 4,000 of the same race and apparently of equal quality who are in the field on our side. Therefore it comes to this, that having 4,000 on your side and 9,000 in the field against you, yet with 250,000 men in South Africa you are not able to make rapid progress. [An HON. MEMBER: The blockhouse system.] I am in dined to believe that it is impossible to bring the war to an end by means of the blockhouse system.
Now, I hope that so far as we may discuss military operations and the military situation and the progress of the war—if it be progress—we shall all try and speak with some object other than mere disagreeable criticism. Personally I do not want to make myself disagreeable to the Secretary of State for War or to the Government. It is our duty to try to contribute something towards the solution of these problems if we can. It is not possible to discuss the situation—it never has been—without referring to disagreeable incidents. I was taken to task in this House the other day for having used—I did not use it by itself—the word "disaster." What I said was that there had been a succession of convoy disasters. There has been a succession of convoy disasters that have attracted great attention recently on account of the disaster to the Methuen convoy: but it was only one of a series. It attracted, of course, marked attention because of the capture of a distinguished General, with whom everybody in this House has sympathy, but it was a convoy disaster of the ordinary kind. What causes the sending about of these great slow convoys I it is this occupation of a number of stations, and trying to hold the country by a number of blockhouses and detached stations, all of which have to be fed and supplied with ammunition; while you have a number of sympathisers there who have relied on your strength to protect them; you do not like to abandon them, and you have to send out these convoys. I noticed that the 611 Commander-in-Chief the other day said, in reference to the Methuen convoy disaster and others, that recent events in his opinion would not prolong the war. I wish I shared that view. I confess it seems to me incredible that the spirit of our enemies should not be raised by a succession of these convoy disasters. They take a large amount of ammunition, they take a number of horses, they see our troops driven back in confusion; it seems to me impossible that these occurrences can have any other result than that of prolonging the war. And what is the direct effect upon the Generals in the field? If they find that through the difficulty of handling such long convoys in a country where none but the very best cavalry are of any use for such operations, if they find that the local levies and Yeomanry and many of the Colonial mounted forces (not all) are not good enough, they must be driven again to that sort of timidity which is involved in the "nursing" of their worst by their best forces. All those who have followed the operations described in private letters from officers at the front know that they have complained throughout this war of having to nurse large portions of their forces. These convoy disasters must lead to a continuance of that policy. Therefore it is that I do not think the Secretary for the Colonies contributed much to the military side of this question in his attack tonight on my right hon. friend, because I think that the demand for information and; the complaints of concealments were thoroughly justified. It is not a general charge, except in the sense that every charge of this kind in an assembly like this, must be a general charge; it cannot be launched in detail; but it is a well justified charge and one that I think ought to be met.
Now, I want to ask the Government to tell us, if they know—and I cannot conceive that they do not know—what are the grounds which they have for believing that the present military system which they are following in Cape Colony can bring the operations there to a close. Over and over again, last year and this year, we were told that the difficulties in Cape Colony were virtually over, that although there was necessity for care, nevertheless we were able to hand over 612 Capo Colony to the local Government and local forces, and that the enemy had been reduced to the very smallest possible numbers, and that there was no fear for the future. I confess that what we have recently seen, the little that we have been allowed to learn in the last few weeks and even today, goes to show, to my mind, that operations in Cape Colony are nothing like so advanced as we have been told. We see phrases used which, if they really meant exactly what they say, would be most satisfactory, but which contain the heaviest elements of doubt. Take for example the situation, so far as we know it, in the north-cast of the Colony, between Aliwal North and Lady Grey on the north and Dordrecht on the south. The other day we saw that Fouché had at last been driven out of that country and had fled towards Cradock. But Cradock is not exactly the direction in which Fouché would fly, because it is on our lines of communication right in the heart of the Colony. A statement of that kind—confirmed as it is in further telegrams in the papers of today—leads me to suppose that there are fresh difficulties in Cape Colony, and that we shall never be able to master those difficulties merely by the means of blockhouses on the north part of the line, and the employment of local levies. These difficulties will continue, with all their dangers to the future settlement of the territories involved, unless an entirely different system of military operations is adopted. We know that this present system of blockhouses and slow drives, garrisons, and relief columns, is against all the teaching of military history, which shows that guerilla warfare should be met by counter-guerilla operations by highly-mobile columns. We are drawing horses from the whole world, but where are the Boers drawing their horses from? I imagine that the Boers are drawing their supply of horses from us, because we know that they have an ample supply of horses at the present time. Every statement we receive from almost every part of South Africa shows that the best Boer columns are supplied with two horses to each man, and consequently they can move with great rapidity. We hear of this every day, and they seem able to take our wretched weak horses and bring them round.
613 This suspicion of mine as to the source of the Boer supply of horses is confirmed by a very curious fact that has come to my knowledge. Why did the Boers make those remarkable rapid marches across Cape Colony, a distance of 500 miles, in two different directions right down to the coast? One of those marches brought them under the fire of a British man-of-war which prevented them capturing two cargoes of our remounts. It seems to me as plain as anything can be that the Boers know all our telegraphic communications which pass along the wires in South Africa, and they were aware of the arrival of these remounts. They think at any rate that our horses are worth taking a good deal of trouble to capture, and they are relying on our horses at the present time. The Government say they are content to leave these things in the hands of Lord Kitchener, and any of us who mention these matters are open to the retort that we are interfering in matters which we do not understand. No one can have a higher opinion than I have of the abilities of Lord Kitchener, but he has not had great experience of warfare of this kind. He was employed under Lieutenant Conder in the Palestine Exploration Fund: then, because he had learnt Arabic, among the tribes in the Soudan, and he went straight into the Egyptian Army, where he performed considerable service. The whole of his time since he has been in Pretoria has been occupied by studying the details of a most complicated and gigantic organisation. That great administrative organisation he has carried out, I believe, with marvellous skill, but he is not in a position to devote, it seems to me, his whole time and energy to the actual details of guerilla warfare. I hoped last autumn that we should have seen some change in the operations, and some attempt to run down the highly mobile forces against us by organising a highly mobile force of our own. But the same slow drives continue, and I am convinced that you will never succeed in bringing the war to an end by operations of that kind.
If we are to go from a mere statement of a personal conviction to an argument to support that view, I would ask the House to look at the position of the 614 highly-mobile Boer force in the district just beyond Lord Methuen's district in the north-west of Cape Colony. It is impossible by the blockhouse system to drive out the highly mobile force of Boers who occupy the north-west of the Cape Colony—Griqualand West and Bushman's Land. How can you ever hope to drive out the Boer force from that part of Gape Colony, which continues to hold its own and strengthen itself, by a mere blockhouse system? It is impossible, and if the Government do not leave the troops free to deal with such movements as those in the northwest by giving up this blockhouse system and slow drives, I may say we may look forward to the continuation of this war for an almost incalculable period of time, and the country is being entirely deceived in thinking that the war will be speedily brought to a close.
§ MR. BRODRICK
There are a large number of columns in operation quite apart from the "drives" or the blockhouse system.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
The word "column" is somewhat misleading. It is used in regard to those very slow columns, and it is also used in speaking of those short operations by a mobile force from a base. That is, no doubt, the true mode of operation, but that is only conducted on a smaller scale up to the present time. It seems to me that you will have to enormously extend that system of operation. You will have to get the best mounted troops you can command, who must be as mobile as the Boers themselves, or else you must fail in the long run by this mere blockhouse and slow drive system to bring your operations to a close.
*(7.22.) MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said they had just had a very interesting speech on strategy from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean. They had also heard a great constitutional lawyer upon martial law in Cape Colony, and they had had the usual exchanges of amenities between the two front Benches, accompanied by an amount of heat which to him seemed to have been altogether out of place and ill-calculated to add to the dignity of debate. They had not, however, had the 615 common view of the man outside of the conduct of the Government in regard to this war. The man outside wanted to know why, after the proclamation of August 6th, which proclaimed that the Boers were devoid of any regular military organisation and were unable to carry on regular warfare or to offer organised resistance to His Majesty's forces, we were losing prisoners to them, and even generals among those prisoners. He wanted to know why the Government's most successful efforts had consisted in annexing countries before they were conquered and banishing Boer generals before they were captured. He also wanted to know why alterations were made in Lord Kitchener's letter to General Botha, without consultation with the Cabinet Council, rendering Lord Kitchener's efforts for peace abortive; why, after two and a half years from the commencement of the war, and a year and a half after they were officially told the war was over, the Government were still unable to make either peace or war; and how long the Government were to be allowed to continue their abortive efforts at both without drawing nearer to either? It was fatuous and foolish to ignore the fact that outside the conduct of the war caused great and growing anxiety, great distrust, some anger, and much apprehension for the future.
He was able to speak of the feeling outside because he had just come back from what amounted to a reelection for King's Lynn. He had come back with a renewed warrant to say in this House what everybody was saying outside—and he might mention parenthetically that he had received that warrant in spite of a most treacherous anonymous leaflet circulated against him. That leaflet professed to have been written by an elector of King's Lynn, but in reality it was written and printed in London and circulated in Lynn by a canvasser in the employ of the Liberal Unionist Association—[Cries of "Order."]—a man of humble and indigent condition, who nevertheless developed a literary style which would do no discredit to the ablest Liberal Unionist pen that ever wrote an affidavit, and who, though poor, disposed of ample means to pay for the printing 616 and distribution of large numbers of this Lynn leaflet. [Ministerial cries of "Order, Order."] He wished his Liberal Unionist friends would give him a little more patient attention. Me had heard of treachery before that night; he could tell a tale of treachery. These were the questions which were being asked outside the House, and he trusted they were questions which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would be able to give some answer to.
He admitted that some allowances must be made for the Government, because they had had much to do that was altogether unexpected. The War Office had been called upon to conduct a war. The great generals of Aldershot had had to meet a real enemy, and they had discovered that the enemy possessed both horses and guns and brains, and that they had the advantage of not being hamper d and muddled by a Staff College. Some allowance must be made for the Government. Although they were very able, yet they were in some respects finite beings, not wholly exempt from the weaknesses of human nature. But they had done their best. They had proposed six Army Corps, given new caps to the Guards, new rules to the Volunteers, disgraced Colvile, dismissed Buller, and tried to dismiss Truman. It was quite certain that in time they would do much better than they had done in the past. By the end of the war they would have learned how to buy a horse or a truss of hay, perhaps even how to choose a general or to conduct a campaign, with a certain amount of success. No inquiry such as was asked for the other day was required to bring out the naked facts of the case. We knew that in the campaign, on the whole, there had not been many successes, and that there had been a series of failures accumulating one upon another. And we knew too, from a remarkable revelation, the true causes of these things. As late as October and November last a member of the Cabinet, the President of the Board of Agriculture, whose honesty and candour not even office could affect, had said—Our Departments must be overhauled. No Government can be trusted by the people 617 which does not put War Office reform in the very forefront of its programme.He added—We must see that we have a real Army, and that, in promotion, favouritism has no voice.He then saidThere is not enough responsibility in our Departments. We need, whenever any thing goes wrong, to be able to trace home the responsibility, and to secure that the man who failed shall not he trusted again.This was on October 17th, and on November 4th he said—There is a good deal too much of a tendency on both sides to hush up things that are going wrong, and not to trace the responsibility home, as it ought to be traced, and to make every man, if he made a blunder, give an account for it.So it must be assumed that War Office reform was not then in the forefront of the Government programme; that in promotion there was even then favouritism; that There was not enough responsibility in our Departments; and that we still needed when anything went wrong to be able to trace the responsibility and to secure that the man who failed should not be trusted again. But this was the whole indictment. The President of the Board of Agriculture had, in his opinion, stated the whole ease; all that had been said by honest and candid critics of the Government might be summed up in the words used by the right hon. Gentleman.
Of course, if we had not a real Army we could not gain a real victory over the Boers; if we had favouritism in our Army we could not expect the best officers to come to the top; and if we had no War Office reform it would still go on in the same old stupid and slipshod way. It seemed to hint that it was a time not for inquiry but for action, but what the Opposition could do was not clear. Did they propose to set up the block on Tower Hill, and the gibbet at Tyburn? Were they going to prepare the genteel axe for the Colonial Secretary and the vulgar hemp for the Secretary of State for War? Not at all. They knew they could not take the heads of the Government. All they could look forward to was taking their places, and even before they divided those there would have to be desperate struggles between right 618 hon. Gentlemen there and noble Lords in another place. The real grievance against the Government was far broader, deeper, and wider than anything that could be touched by inquiring Committees or anything said in this House. It was not a question of contracts for horses or forage or hay, it was a question of the original fundamental contract with the electors, made when the Government applied to them for its confirmation in power, that the Government would end the war and bring about a settlement. Not without doubt, yet with great generosity, did the country respond and confirm the Government in its position, and now, at the end of seventeen months, the end of the war was still as far off as ever, and the only settlement was the settlement of the Hotel Cecil on broader and wider foundations. The failure of the Government in that great contract was not denied, nor could be. It was only palliated and excused, and demands made for more patience. The patience of the country had indeed been marvellous and admirable. But patience had its limits, and if the Government presumed much longer on what Lord Roberts called the admirable patience of the country, the day might come when they would meet a sudden and serious awakening.
The Secretary of, State for War did not seriously deny the grievous mistakes and failures of the past, but said he was ready to reform, and even to inquire, but not yet. He was like St. Augustine, who, in his Confessions, avowed that in his youth he was a sad sinner, who robbed orchards, whose conduct with regard to the ladies was far from exemplary, and who was always praying "O Lord, convert me—but not yet." So said the right hon. Gentleman. He would amend everything, but not yet. We must wait till the end of the war. But the country had a right to complain of present failures, and the complaints in the country were bitter. There was not an omnibus top or a third class railway carriage but it rang with them. [Cries of dissent.] But it was so; if hon. Gentlemen did not think so, let them go to their own constituents and hear what they had to say. 619 These complaints were very general, and the reason was that it was felt that there had been no means denied to the Government to bring the war to an end in a less time than had occurred. The country had lavished untold millions such as had never been heard of before, and armies in numbers never before dreamt of. The whole of that had been placed in the hands of the strongest Government of the time. The First Lord of the Treasury had said no abler men could be found. That was true, because if they took the right hon. Gentleman himself and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the two great pillars of the Administration, they could only be described in the language of the connoisseur in porcelain, one as pâte tendre and the other as pâte dure, which might be translated to mean that the one was the soft ware and the other the hard ware of the Government. Had there ever been seen such a, faithful majority as that which it commanded? The Government had only been defeated twice this session, and that scarcely counted, because on both occasions this was due to the particular qualities of the President of the Board of Trade, who on both occasions was the nephew in charge. There was no Opposition now, nor was there likely to he in the future, either in the House or elsewhere. The Government had suppressed the Capo Parliament, and this Parliament would soon be rendered innocuous by the new rules. There was no Opposition, there was scarcely a critic, and if there was one, he ran the risk of being stabbed in the back by a Lynn leaflet. The past was gone from our hand. Nothing could restore the millions spent and the precious lives wasted. But he said now, as he had said throughout, that the war must be seen through, though the horses cost much or even though it were necessary to change the Government and replace the incapable by abler men. He trusted it would not come to that. The effect of this debate perhaps, possibly of this very speech, might lead the Government to see the error of its ways, and before it was too late to gird itself up for its great task in a way it had not done heretofore. It seemed to him the country had come almost to 620 a crisis of its fate. He had always been sensible of the sinister analogy between this war, and that with the American colonies which ended so disastrously. In this war as in that, in two and a half years almost to the day we had seen a British General captured by the enemy, and if the analogy should continue to hold good in another four years this war might end in the same way as that by the capture of another British General with a larger force, and our final expulsion for ever from South Africa. He did not think it, he would not believe it; but, unless the war were conducted with more ability and vigour than in the past, other disasters and reverses more grave than those yet experienced would come upon us, and our hold of South Africa would be seriously imperilled.
§ *(7.42.) MR. TREVELYAN (Yorkshire, W. E., Elland)
There is only one subject in connection with South Africa to which I shall draw attention this evening, and that is the execution of a number of so-called rebels at the Cape. There is in my opinion great doubt and danger in the course that is being pursued in this respect. In the first place we have a right to complain of the serious want of information on this subject. We have nothing but meagre censored telegrams; nothing authentic as to the composition of the Courts which try these cases; nothing authentic as to the course of the trials and the defences set up. We only have the pure record of sentences. The course which has been pursued by the Government hitherto—up to about a month or so ago—was apparently not to trouble themselves on the subject. It is perfectly true that there is now a large amount of information available which apparently is going to he placed before us. There was a debate in the House of Lords the other night in which the Lord Chancellor, in answer to Lord Spencer said—I may say at once that if he had confined his interrogatories to the questions arising under sentences of death or penal servitude, the Government would have been glad to assist him by making a Return on the subject. I may say that in a very recent period indeed a large number of documents, many of them, no doubt, of the nature the noble Earl asked for, has been received at the War Office. The weight of them is, I think 621 half a hundredweight, and they certainly have not, as yet, been either perused or formulated." [Debates, present volume, page 137.]I say that it is an extraordinary thing that for months this policy of the execution of individuals should have been permitted to go on in the Cape "without this Government taking the trouble to have documents sent over here, and thoroughly perused and studied, at any rate, by themselves. They seem to be no more interested than if the cases were of military drunkenness or of soldiers sleeping at their posts. Whatever may be the point of view of Members of this House, this question of the execution of men is a matter of high and important policy. I wish to speak of these matters—as far as it is possible to do so from what we know—with scrupulous care, reserving the right to alter opinions when the present almost impenetrable veil is lifted, and the Government condescend to tell a democratic nation what is being done in its name.
Is this policy a good policy? And, if it is a good policy, is it being carried out in a manner calculated to have the effect it is believed to be desirable it should have? We know something—just something—of the counts on which these trials take place. They are treason, arson, train-wrecking, and generally murder. In practically every case treason is one of the counts, even if it is not that on which the execution takes place. Now, if the execution is for murder, as it is said generally to be, it seems to me that the same law ought to be dealt out to Free Staters and Transvaalers as to rebels but apparently, although there is some obscurity in regard to it, almost the only people who are tried and executed for murder are rebels. You are executing these men for murder; the Colonial Secretary has said to-day it is almost invariably for the murder of blacks. I am afraid from the things we hoar that it is the case that blacks who fall into the hands of the Boers are generally shot, and the argument is that by executing a certain number of those engaged on the side of the Boers you may stop what is alleged to be the universal practice of killing blacks by the Boers. It is done as an example and a threat. Now I would ask the House, if you mix up the 622 charge of murder with other charges, such as treason, does not that take away a good deal of the impression you desire to create? Is it not likely to give rise to a suspicion in the minds of the men against whom we are fighting, that, after all, what we are doing is to put some of our enemies out of the way? They are tried by Military Courts, by the men against whom they have been fighting. It is as we know an unjust suspicion, but I say, by mixing the charge up with other charges of arson, train-wrecking, and, above all, treason, you create an entirely different impression from that which you desire.
I want to put a wider aspect of the Question before the House. Some of these men are men of notorious gallantry and of exceptional prominence among the Dutch—men who are known over continents as having offered a brave and valiant defence of the principle for which they are fighting—men like Scheepers and Lotter. These men are heroes, at least to the Dutch.
§ * MR. TREVELYAN
The point at issue for the moment is that these men are heroes, at least to the Dutch. Before you begin killing national heroes you ought to be very certain indeed that you have convinced practically the whole of the people to which they belong that they are scoundrels and criminals. If you do not, you create national martyrs. Unfortunately it is true of human nature that in killing an enemy in cold blood, whatever the reason may be, there is a strangely indelible effect produced liable to be produced upon the minds of the nation to which that person belongs. Take two or three historical examples. Take that of Marshal Ney. Marshal Ney was a brave man, but he was one of the meanest and most unprincipled political shufflers and traitors. But those shots which were permitted by us in the garden of the Luxembourg made the French people forget all that; it is now only the historian who remembers it.
§ * MR. TREVELYAN
That only makes it worse. Marshal Ney is now remembered simply as the brave and gallant man that he was, and all his faults are forgotten. Scotchmen will remember Wallace, and they will remember him through all the centuries We killed Wallace, and it was remembered with curses for centuries, and it is a sad memory still. Robert Bruce committed a murder in a church. The great part of the people then living, even in that rough and rude age, thought that Bruce had committed a hideous and sacrilegious crime. If we had caught Bruce, the jingoes—and the jingoes in England in those days were worse than those of the present time—["No"]—in their indignation, and perhaps it would not have been unrighteous indignation—might have said. "We must kill Robert Bruce for that murder." But it would not have been policy. It might have led to a very different history for Scotland. When you are dealing with men in this national position, men who are heroes, you have to consider other things than the standards—the very likely right standards—you may have of crime.
I want to say only one word more. I hope the Government are not going to permit the execution of Kritzinger. I ask the House to listen, and the Government to pause if there yet lurks in their mind the intention to permit the execution. Here is a letter which has been printed in the Yorkshire paper, from a young man whom I know, who is not a pro-Boer, but a vigorous patriot who has twice taken up arms to serve his country, and is now fighting in South Africa. He is not an undue sentimentalist; he is a man who was muddied weekly at the goals before he went to fight on the veldt. He saw Kritzinger after his capture, and here are a few lines from what he writes:He is a charming man to talk to; he is a very brave one into the bargain. He was engaged when captured in rescuing three of his men from a block-house. He says he docs not think there will be any ill-feeling after the war, as the Boers recognise our free system of government. The Boers are tired and sick of the war, but, as he said himself, will fight on to the end. He said he did not believe in throwing up the sponge, and he says the British have behaved splendidly to their families.This is what I want the House to note—And his great ambition is to come to England some day.624 I do not say that the Government have not all along had the intention of seeing that Kritzinger was not executed, but I ask them to consider this, and to see that it is not done. I ask them to make allowances for faults, if faults there are, even if the Boers have a lower standard about the treatment of blacks than we have, and to consider whether it may not be policy in almost every case to let men of that sort live. (8.0)
§ (8.35.) MR. MARKHAM (Nottinghamshire, Mansfield)
I think the attack which has been made this evening on the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, by the Colonial Secretary, is one of the most uncalled-for attacks made in this House for many years. We who sit on this side of the House have during the last two years—
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and, forty Members being found present—
§ MR. MARKHAM
These disgraceful attacks on hon. Members on this side of the House, which culminated tonight in an unfortunate scene, are part of a series of attacks in which hon. Members on this side, not only in the House but in the country, have been called traitors and pro-Boers. We, who have ventured to differ from the policy of the Government with reference to the war, have been branded as traitors. When we are told across the Table of the House by a responsible Minister that the Leader of the Opposition has been guilty of conniving at calumnies on the troops, without a shred of evidence being offered for the assertion, I think it is time that a protest should be made against such language being used in this House. It is a fact that if such language had not been employed by hon. Members opposite at the hustings, the result of the general election would have been different. Having, eighteen months ago, stated that the war was over, and misled the country by repeated assertions to that effect, they are still continuing to use the same disgraceful weapons against their political opponents as they did at the General Election, and I, for one, protest against calling hon. Members who do not agree with the policy of the Government 625 traitors and pro-Boers. I claim to be as good a citizen of this Empire as any hon. Member opposite, and I protest against the language used by bon. Members not only in this House, but also in the country.
Now as to the prolongation of the war in South Africa, I wish to say a few words, more especially as to the causes which are likely to cause the war to drag on and on for an indefinite period. It is within the knowledge of the House that the Government have suppressed all Press agencies and all news not favourably disposed to themselves, and the only source of information which the people of South Africa have is that portion of the Press sanctioned by the Government. The Government have, at the same time, prohibited all political meetings, except those which are favourable to their policy. That is, indeed, a strange proceeding, and it is strange also that the Government should imagine that it is likely to cause contentment among the Dutch. The South African League is today writing against the Dutch in South Africa, and I should like to give a few extracts in order to show the character of these writings, and to ask the House whether it is right that this kind of language should be used. If the Government are going to fight for unconditional surrender to the bitter end, they must realise that to give such a license to the South African League is only calculated to prolong the war. Before giving any extracts, I should like to quote the well-known saying of the South African League that the present state of affairs in South Africa is almost entirely due to its efforts. The paid secretary of the League is today in South Africa exercising the right of committing his political opponents to prison without any authority from the military authorities. The following are a few extracts from the writings of the South African League, and I would ask the House whether they are the kind of writings which is likely to bring about peace and goodwill in South Africa which are so essential for the future of that country. I will take first the writings of Mr. John Stewart, who was correspondent for the Morning Post at one time, and was on the executive of the South African League, and in the employ of one of the largest 626 financial firms in South Africa. [The hon. Member read an extract from a speech by Mr. Stewart.]
The present state of South Africa is almost entirely due to the South African League. But, Sir, there is a very serious question connected with this issue, and that is that inside this House and out of it and again tonight, we have heard time after time, from these benches more especially, that the information at our disposal and at the disposal of the country is so meagre and so scant that we are unable to form a proper opinion of what the state of affairs is. I know I should not be in order in going at any length into the manner in which information from South Africa has been suppressed, but I am entitled to say that the whole source of information which has been supplied to this House and the country by The Times, The Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Morning Post. Daily Mail and Daily Chronicle of today, but not the Daily News of today and other papers, has come from members of the South African League and from the employees of capitalists in South Africa. If I am in order, but I am afraid I should not be, I could give the names of all the men who are employed by each of these papers in South Africa.
But there is a matter more important than that. The Press of this country to a great extent is responsible to the public of this country for the news they supply to the people of this country and to the Members of this House, because we are dependent for the news we receive on the Press. It is a fact that the whole of the Press of this country get their news through the agents, servants and employees of the Chartered gang and of the members of the South African League of which Rhodes is president. I think that is a matter of reflection for the people of this country. The facts cannot be denied, but I make no charge against the honour of the Press. There is not a shadow of suspicion that they have put this information before the country knowing it was not true. They have taken every means to see that the information they supplied was true.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I would remind the hon. Member that he must connect this in some way with the Estimates.
§ MR. MARKHAM
I was only dealing briefly, not at any length, with the position of this country and the opportunity we have to form an opinion as to the prolongation of this war, and of the information upon which the House is forming its opinion. And I ask your ruling upon this, am I in order in dealing with this?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The horn Member is in order in discussing the war, as the war is in the hands of the Government, but he cannot discuss the information supplied by the newspapers or the sources from which they derive their information.
§ MR. MARKHAM
Without in any way quarrelling with your ruling, Sir, I would say the censorship which prevents this news coming to this country is such that this House is absolutely in ignorance of the state of affairs in respect to which we in this House have to vote.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member would be in order in discussing the censorship, but not the source of information of the newspapers.
§ MR. MARKHAM
I am sorry I could not deal with that, because the facts which I should like to bring to the attention of the House do not come under that bead. I am sorry I am not able to give on this occasion the information which it is necessary the country should have. It may be asked why is it necessary to make a statement in this House? Why not make it outside? It is not possible that a Member of Parliament, in the exercise of his duty, could, on a highly debatable question affecting great interests, go and make statements outside and make himself liable to a shower of bricks, whether his statements be true or not. As to the employment of Kaffirs in South Africa, I asked the Secretary of State for War a Question on this matter some fortnight ago, and he gave me a fairly straight answer to my question, but he confused the issues by mixing up with it the words "camp followers." I believe the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that in this war in South Africa we are employing Kaffirs not only in the blockhouses 628 but as armed scouts, and that either the Government or the Chartered Company have employed a large body of these men. We have invaded the Transvaal in the north with a body of 400 Kaffirs and a limited number of white men. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but the information is supplied to me—and I am quite willing to place it before the right hon. Gentleman—by a gentleman who was an officer in the Royal Artillery. I ask the House to remember that when you talk of making Kaffirs equal, of giving equal rights to Kaffirs and white men, there is no equality between savages and white men. You have employed those men in South Africa against your foes, though you may deny it.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Will the hon. Gentlemen give me the name of the artillery officer? [An HON. MEMBER: In order that you may break him.]
§ MR. MARKHAM
As the right hon. Gentleman has challenged me, I will toll him: the name is Lieutenant Montmorency. Now I am told by an officer—I cannot in this case give the name of my informant—that not only are the Kaffirs employed on the blockhouse lines, but that when they have come into conflict with the Boers they have given no quarter. That is a very serious statement, but I am making it on the word of a British officer, and I have no doubt that that officer, who has now returned from the front—if the right hon. Gentleman asks him to supply that information—will give that information in writing. Yet we were told that this was to be a war between white man and white man, and that no Kaffirs would be employed. If you found you could not carry on this war without employing savages, you should have employed your trained Army from India. This Empire stands or falls as an Empire together, and yon cannot—
§ MR. MARKHAM
I never called the Indian troops savages. I have been on the north-west frontier of India, and I know what the Indian soldiers are.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I am sure the hon. Member does not remember what he says. What he said was, "If we were to employ savages, why not employ the Indian Army?"
§ MR. MARKHAM
If I did so, Sir, and I believe the right hon. Gentleman is correct, I had not the slightest intention of drawing any comparison whatsoever between the two bodies of troops. I have had some experience myself on the north-west frontier of India, and I say our troops there are fit to fight not only with British troops, but against any troops in the world. I honour those men, and if I did in any way compare them with savages I can only regret that I did so. I think I must say further I should have hardly made the comparison: if I had meant to say that, I should have said face savages with savages.
What do we find on this subject in our early Parliamentary history? In the middle of the eighteenth century, Lord Chatham said, referring to the employment of savages in the American War, "Was this Honourable warfare?" He next animadverted on the mode of carrying on the war, which he said was the most bloody, barbarous and ferocious recorded in the annals of mankind, "how we had sullied and tarnished the arms of Britain for ever by employing savages in our service. The horror he felt was so great that had it fallen to his lot to serve in an army where such cruelty was permitted, he would sooner mutiny than serve with such barbarians. Such a mode of warfare, was, in his opinion, a contamination, a pollution of our national character." In 1781, the younger Pitt described the methods of the Government in carrying on the war as barbarous. He said—This war was conceived in injustice, it was nurtured and brought forth in folly, its foot-steps were marked with blood, slaughter, persecution and devastation. The mischief, however, recoiled on the unhappy people of this country, who were made the instruments to effect the wicked purposes of its author.Those were the statements of two great statesmen who could hardly have been called pro-Americans, or, if they lived to-day, pro-Boers. They 630 used stronger language than has been used by the Leader of tire Opposition, and yet across the floor of the House we are told tonight that the Leader of the Opposition has been guilty of the most disgraceful calumnies against the troops, our soldiers in, South Africa, and against the honour of this country. Would you say that of Lord Chatham or the younger Pitt?
Now as to the policy of unconditional surrender. I protest against that policy, and have protested against it for the last eighteen months, and I have been called a traitor in consequence. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth has called attention tonight to the recent statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty that we must conciliate these people, and that the only way to conciliate them was not to try. 1s that our policy, or is it not? I do not think that is the policy of the Secretary of State for War, and I do not think he would rise in his place and say that that was the policy of the Government. It would he indeed a strange method of welding and wedding the two parts together. It would a new departure in British Colonial policy. This Empire is welded together by the affection and esteem of the people living in its various parts. It is not to be welded by the sword. If you intend to weld South Africa by the sword, and if you are going to hold South Africa or any other portion of the Colonial Empire by that process, I shall be very surprised if yon succeed. In Punch of yesterday we saw a very reasonable cartoon in which the Chief Secretary for Ireland was riding a horse and John Bull was saying "Ride him on the snaffle.'" The right hon. Gentleman when he rides on Empire would do better if he rode him in that way instead of on the curb as he is at present doing.
To crown all the follies of this Government, not content with keeping alive the racial strife and taking no steps to keep it under control, you have issued this proclamation of banishment, against which, in August last, we protested as being likely to prolong the war. These men, whether you believe they will be a benefit or an evil to South Africa, have the confidence and respect 631 of their fellow-countrymen, and by this policy you will keep alive the strife at present going on. You could not go a better way to work, not only not to end the war, but to fan the flame, than by this stupid and crass policy of banishing the leaders of the people. What should we say if this country had been invaded by a continental Power, and the leaders of the Government sitting on the Front Bench opposite were banished by the invader? The policy is so ridiculous, shortsighted, and contemptible, that it is indeed incredible that it should be put forward by men representing His Majesty in this House as being likely to tend to bring the war to a conclusion. The policy of Lord Milner is the policy the Government have adopted. They place the responsibility on Lord Milner; Lord Milner takes it, and he must accept the responsibility behind which His Majesty's Ministers shelter themselves. But I do protest against the representative of His Majesty the King, when he makes partisan speeches at Johannesburg, calling any section of Members of this House or of the people outside pro-Boers, and using language of that description. We leave such language in this House to the Colonial Secretary. It is not for His Majesty's representative, who is carrying out and giving this policy to the Government, to make partisan speeches at Johannesburg. Whatever his own opinions may be, we, who see that his policy is likely to cause not only the prolongation of the war, but also misery in the future government of South Africa, are referred to by the Colonial Secretary as "ill-bred curs, barking at his heels.' That was a responsible Minister of His Majesty's Government!
Then I should like to ask the Secretary of State for War whether the sum here concerned includes charges in connection with the Beira Boating Company. The right hon. Gentleman has had some correspondence with the Chartered Company in reference to charges made by the Beira Boating Company for the discharge of horses. It is incredible, but a fact, that the Government have sanctioned the payment during the past year of charges by the Beira Boating Company of no less than £2 for every horse landed at Beira. The right hon. Gentleman protested 632 against these charges to the Chartered Company, but whether or not the Chartered Company gave way to his protests I am not aware. But I do know I that the Beira Boating Company have refused to give way. How many thousands or tens of thousands of pounds these worthy patriots have taken out of His Majesty's Treasury for landing horses I do not know. A few years ago I took Some horses up from Delagoa Bay to Beira for the purposes of a shooting expedition, but in these days there were no boating charges whatever; the horses were swum ashore. The Government, however, have thought fit to pay these enormous sums to the Beira Boating Company, and I would like to ask the Secretary of State how much has been paid to these worthy patriots, the shareholders in which company have been the chief supporters of the Government in their policy concerning the war.
I desire to refer next to the old Meat Contract. The Secretary of State for War and other Ministers have time after time got up and taken credit to themselves for the great work they have done in transporting warlike stores and material to South Africa. It is quite clear that it could have been much more cheaply and better done by Messrs. Cook, or any like trading association. The right hon. Gentleman has always said that the responsibility of his Department in London ceased when the stores arrived at Cape Town. It is a fact, however, that to another of the worthy patriots who have been shouting and crying for the rights of the Uitlanders, Mr. Weil, or the Brothers Weil, who enjoyed in 1885 the hospitality of one of the Free State prisons, you have given the right to commandeer wagons, and they have commandeered them right and left throughout South Africa, at 30s. per day for a wagon, a span of oxen, and the gear, and then His Majesty's Government have taken these wagons at a profit of from 15s. to £1 each per day. Is that true or is it not? The right hon. Gentleman must be aware whether or not it is a fact.
§ MR. MARKHAM
Messrs. Weil had the right to commandeer, and they did commandeer with the sanction and approval of the military authorities in South Africa, oxen, wagons, and gear, from Dutch farmers.
§ MR. MARKHAM
At the payment, as I have said, of 30s. per span of oxen, wagon, and gear, per day. What commonsense is there in giving to an outsider the right to commandeer? Is it likely that men of the type of Mr. Weil, of Weil Brothers, one of the agitators against the Dutch, will have that conciliation which is necessary when going into Dutch farms and commandeering oxen and wagons? I say it is monstrous that the Government should sanction such a proceeding. Then we have another prominent member of the loyalist gang, and that is Mr. Logan. He has a contract—I do not know whether it is with His Majesty's Government, I do not know whom it is with—in South Africa which allows him to charge rates for provisions to the troops which, I am told by a friend of mine who has recently returned, an officer in His Majesty's Army, are 200 or 300 per cent. above market prices. I asked a Question on this matter recently, but the Government did not know anything about it. Is that the type of gentleman who is feeding and fattening on this war? I could give any number of these scandals, but I will mention only one or two more. We have Mr. Charles Leonard, of "liberty-loving manifesto" fame, who is no doubt will known to Members of this House as the man who wrote the manifesto of the rights and liberties and freedom of the British subjects and of the downtrodden and oppressed Uitlanders. With the exception of the Messrs. Farrar, all this gang who were agitating and doing their best to sow discord in South Africa and bring about this war, cleared out of the country as soon as the war commenced. I am talking of the leaders of the gang. Mr. Charles Leonard has made a vast fortune out of cold storage. I should have thought the leaders of this worthy movement, if it was a movement worthy of note, would have remained at home and fought for the cause of justice 634 and freedom. Then we are told by prominent members of this same gang—I use the word "gang" because it is the word always used by The Times and other journals which are opposed to the Boers and to the cause, whatever that cause may be, which we on this side of the House represent. [Ministerial cheers.] I did not say that we represent the Boer cause; we do not represent it: we represent the cause of justice and freedom, which you do and have done your best under the guise of patriotism to exploit, and which you have exploited for all it is worth, and to which many of you owe your seats in Parliament.
It is not surprising to find that individuals among our old friends the Chartered gang have actually been jobbing in horses in South Africa—not on behalf of the British South Africa Company, but on their own behalf, in connection with Messrs. Weil, selling horses to the Imperial Yeomanry, and those that they could not sell to the Imperial Yeomanry, selling to the British South Africa Company, for which, of course, His Majesty's Government had to pay. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to say whether between February 12th and March 1st large payments have not been made to financial firms in South Africa, on account of horses which they had bought and resold to His Majesty's Government. I also challenge him to disclose the names of the people to whom that money has been paid. I will give him all the correspondence if he likes; it is not for me to give the information, it is for him to supply it to the House.
Then the Colonial Secretary said tonight that His Majesty's Government were entitled to appoint any capitalist that they thought fit, when such capitalist or his representative was connected with or had a knowledge of the state of affairs in South Africa. I assent to that, but what I say is this, that His Majesty's Government have no right to give any appointments, be they on Gold Commissions or not, to any individuals in South Africa who have in His Majesty's Courts there been found guilty of fraud. I say you have given appointments to firms in South Africa and on Commissions, who—the firms themselves, not the individuals—have been found guilty of fraud in the courts of South Africa. I am quite 635 aware that neither the Colonial Secretary nor hon. Members on that side of the House know what the past history of South Africa has been. I refer to the inner working during the last fifteen years. But I protest against the policy of the Colonial Secretary in making these appointments when any member of any firm has been found guilty of fraud in a court of justice.
The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary said that a register of mining claims had been carried through by Mr.—or, I think that was said by the Leader of the Opposition. [Ministerial laughter.] But what the Leader of the Opposition said is perfectly correct, while what the Colonial Secretary said is incorrect. It is a fact that the Gold Commission now at Johannesburg had nothing to do with the making up of this register in any shape or form. It is most extraordinary. Tithes of mining properties have been challenged to have been in many cases fraudulently obtained. There is a book published only a few weeks ago by the gentleman who introduced and passed the first mining law in South Africa, Mr. Wilson, in which he makes the public statement that many of these titles have been acquired by fraud and have been registered by fraud. Yet, in the middle of the war, you allow gentlemen in the employment of certain interested firms, to turn all those registers over, and to reconstruct these registers, while ail the Uitlanders are away, except the people that they, the capitalists, like to send out to Johannesburg. Nothing more monstrous can be conceived than proceedings of this kind.
In conclusion, I can only repeat that if His Majesty's Government persist in this policy of unconditional surrender, and carry that policy to its logical conclusion, you will lose South Africa. Indeed, I am nut at all certain whether today you have not lost South Africa. It is very easy to say when the war is over we are all going to settle down. I am perfectly confident that if His Majesty's Government persist in this policy, not only will I result in the prolongation of the war, but it will end in disaster to South Africa. You have carried on this war, according to what Lord Chatham laid down, with methods of barbarism, and I am content to rely upon that authority. You have carried 636 on this war not for the benefit of South Africa, but in the interests of a stock-jobbing crowd of German Jew financiers at Johannesburg.
§ *(9.30.) MR. LLEWELLYN (Somersetshire, N.)
I should like to say a few words with regard to the question of martial law in South Africa. I think, the right hon. Gentleman opposite said that the feeling in South Africa with regard to martial law was very strong. It so happens that at the latter end of the year 1900 it was my duty to put in force the provisions of martial law in a large district in Cape Colony. I had to put in force the proclamation and carry out the orders I had received, and I may say from my own experience and responsibility, that the carrying out of martial law in my district inflicted no hardship whatever upon any loyal subject. Martial law came into force in the Colony at three different times. It was enforced in the north, northeast, in the central districts, and later on in Cape Town, at Port Elizabeth and East London, but in no case have I heard of any loyal subject complaining of any inconvenience. It is absurd to say that there was no inconvenience, because the orders had to be carried out, and of necessity a certain, amount of inconvenience was incurred. This martial law which was put in force in the district where I was stationed was not applied until continuous applications had been made to the authorities at Cape Town that it might be put into-operation. Loyal subjects petitioned repeatedly, stating that they were being denied advantages which were granted in other parts of the country the application of martial haw. Undoubtedly martial law could have been altogether dispensed with had it not been for the action of those who now so much resented being called rebels. These men have all along received the advantages attaching to subjects of the Crown and they not only received I those advantages, but during that time they were in communication with the-enemy, assisting them to prolong the war. Hon. Gentlemen opposite repeatedly state that their object is to bring this war to a conclusion as soon as possible, but when the necessary steps are taken to-accomplish this they at once cry out 637 that they are cruel and unnecessary. The light hon. Gentleman referred to martial law in Cape Colony, and he was cheered for mentioning some of the subjects which formed part of the proclamation. Under the administration of martial law, clothing, saddlery, hay, and other things were not stolen, but paid for, and it was necessary to take these things in order to prevent them being taken by the enemy. There was no hardship in that.
The removal of suspicious persons was also necessary. You cannot carry on war in the same way as you can carry on operations at Aldershot. The reporting of suspicious persons and keeping them under careful watch was an absolute necessity. The right hon. Gentleman says they were taken to Bloemfontein and other places without being told what their crime was. It was not necessary to tell them because they knew perfectly well. With regard to the suppression of the mischievous Press, certain newspapers were suppressed and their publications seized and burned, and this was absolutely necessary. Many of those newspapers—some of them published in England contained very little else except a reproduction of those very speeches made in England, and which I know have caused the greatest trouble in South Africa. The speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition filled column after column in those newspapers. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Has the hon. Member who interrupts with that remark ever been out there to see the consequences of those speeches. They and their families have not sustained losses ill South Africa, but they are the men who cheer and jeer at these things. Then there is the rendering illegal the wearing of uniforms by persons not serving with Colonial or Imperial troops, which was also an absolute necessity. The taking of all horses was necessary, but even these were not taken from loyal subjects. With regard to martial law, although I cannot say what has been the practice in other parts of the country, I know that in some parts of Cape Colony the sentences under martial law were inflicted by the Civil Commissioners, who were accustomed to all sorts of courts and the administration' of law, and the fines were imposed by them throughout the Colony. Possibly 638 the House might be told that the compulsory purchase of the horses was a hardship, but it was nevertheless an absolute necessity. Those proclamations contained orders simply to meet cases that were proved to be a necessity, and the taking in of horses in some places did at times create a hardship. In the large district which I was responsible for, the horses were taken in no case from those who were loyal subjects. I have read in some papers that the loyal subjects were deprived of their horses and were consequently deprived of the means of tilling their farms, and in consequence were turned into rebels; but that is absolutely untrue.
I rose to speak upon a subject of which I have had some personal experience, and I should like to refer to what was said by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. He spoke jeeringly of the large number of men we have along the lines of communication as compared with the few men which the enemy have in the field. Does he really intend to so misinform the public as to say that a number of men is all that is necessary to meet these few brave men in battles? It is not so. I believe hon. Members do not realise what the work of the bulk of our soldiers is. Nearly every atom of the provisions for our army is brought from home, a distance of 5,000 miles by sea. It is afterwards conveyed over a railway only 2 ft. 6 in. broad in gauge, and it is a railway vulnerable throughout on account of culverts and bridges, and the mileage is as great as from London to Constantinople and nearly all the way back again. It is on these lines of communication that our soldiers are serving, and I am sure they would all willingly exchange this for more active duty. I can speak for my own regiment, who have honestly and fearlessly carried out their arduous duties. I will not further stand between the House and the conclusion of this debate, and I only intervened because I thought it was hard that many hon. Members should use such reckless statements which are liable to mislead the people outside the House.
§ (9.40.) MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down, in his vindication of martial law which he 639 has been administering in Cape Colony, has uttered one sentence which to my mind is the most complete condemnation of the system which I have ever heard of. He said it was unnecessary to tell the accused persons what the charge was because they knew already.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
The principle of English law is that every man is assumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty. Martial law says that not only is a suspected person assumed to be guilty, but he is so guilty that he is sentenced before he has heard the charge.
§ * MR. LLEWELLYN
This matter was spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who stated that men were deported to Magersfontein and other places, and were not even told the reason for their deportation. I do not say that they were not informed, but, if they were not, they knew perfectly well.
§ * MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I do not think the hon. Member has mended matters. Here are people deported and exiled and sent away hundreds of miles and practically transported, without knowing what the charge against them is, and it is assumed, without any charge being made, that they are guilty. That is a proceeding absolutely unheard of, and it shows what is going on when the Gentleman who was administrating martial law administers it upon principles of that kind. The hon. and gallant Member in the course of his experiences in South Africa came across columns of speeches of my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition, and he has come to the conclusion that they were exceedingly mischievous and that they encouraged the Boers in the field.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I ask the hon. Member whether in the course of his examination he has seen a speech by the Prime Minister which stated that 640 for generations the Boers would be deprived of self-government, and that they would not obtain a shred of independence. Has the hon. Member made an estimate of the number of lives lost in consequence of that speech, which is calculated to encourage the Boers to resistance, an insane declaration which no Member of the front bench has endorsed, and which they could not repudiate because it was made by the Prime Minister. In the course of this debate, complaints have been made of the absence of information upon military matters, and we have had challenges by the Colonial Secretary to produce any instances in which information has been withheld. My right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean gave two or three instances, and I gave several about a fortnight ago, but I will give two or three more now. Take for instance the capture of the convoy at a place called Melmoth. That was at the end of September last or the beginning of October. It was reported in the papers, and not a word was said in the despatches about it. Take the instance of the capture of two convoys recently in Cape Colony, of which one was reported and the other was not; and yet one of the leading Unionist papers said that the result of the capture of these two convoys has been the disarrangement of the plan of campaign on the western frontier of Cape Colony.
Take the great fight at Brakenlaagte. In this instance it was some time before we knew that the guns had been captured, and the first news of this came through Renter's agency. Although it was known that two companies of the East Kent regiment surrendered, it is not reported in any telegram which came from Lord Kitchener and it is not in his despatch. Why has that been suppressed? Let me give another case—and it is a rather more typical one. About a month ago Lord Kitchener reported the capture of three waggons, thirty horses, and 200 oxen from one district, and in the same district a fortnight later a huge convoy was captured by the enemy, but we have heard nothing of the number of waggons, horses and rifles captured by the enemy upon that occasion, to say nothing of the huge quantities of ammunition which must have been in the convoy. Is that not 641 withholding information from the House? There are cases of captures and surrenders of burghers, a large proportion of whom we now know are boys and decrepit old men. Captures of twelve and fifteen are reported regularly by Lord Kitchener. The other day the commandant of the Boer forces in the north of the Transvaal, by some ruse, managed to secure 150 burghers from the camp at Pietersburg. As we are depending upon a policy of attrition, surely it is important that an accession of 150 men to the Boers should be reported. It never came from Lord Kitchener that this had happened, although it was published by all the news agencies, and weeks and weeks afterwards the right hon. Gentleman, in answer to a Question, admitted that 150 prisoners were released on that occasion; therefore Lord Kitchener announced a capture of fifteen, but withhold the information of the loss of 150 prisoners.
The Colonial Secretary's speech was itself a condemnation of the policy of suppression. What did he say tonight? The first thing he admitted was the very thing which was denied by the right hon. Gentleman in the Question I put to him a week ago. I asked the Secretary of State for War if the men captured on that occasion were fighting burghers, and he said they were. The Colonial Secretary said tonight that they were not, and that some 800 of those burghers were boys and decrepit old men. I do not mean to say that the right hon. Gentleman was telling me something which he knew to be untrue. I know he was on the horns of a dilemma, but I say that he was either withholding information from the House or else he was not aware of the fact which it was necessary to know in order to arrive at the strength of the enemy. Let me refer to another item of information which was given by the Colonial Secretary. He said there were 3,000 or 4,000 rebels in Cape Colony. Some time ago when the Secretary of State for War was asked how many rebels there were in the Cape he at once put on his official and defiant manner, and said the War Office were not going to give that kind of information because it was mischievous. Tonight the Colonial Secretary has given the information which the Secretary 642 for War denied to us. Is not that withholding information from the House? The words of the Colonial Secretary were that there were 3,000 or 4,000. Did he confine himself to the number of rebels known to have come from the Cape?
§ MR. BRODRICK
The Colonial Secretary's observation is right. He said that the figures 10,000 referred to the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal, and that the 3,000 or 4,000, which was a rough figure, referred to the number of persons fighting against us in Capo Colony.
§ MR. BRODRICK
The hon. Gentleman is making a variety of charges against us which he cannot substantiate. He asked specifically the number of rebels on some occasion he mentioned, and I said I was not prepared to give the number of rebels. The Colonial Secretary mentioned the number of persons in arms in Cape Colony.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I accept the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, but let me point out another inconsistency. General French said in the last report which we have that there were only 1,800, and since then they have discovered that there are 3,000 or 4,000. Is it the case that the number of rebels has increased? Has there been an increase of rebels as the result of the executions which have taken place? Has no information reached the Government of fresh raids from the Orange River Colony? These facts are withheld from us. We have got a little more information tonight, and gradually we will get to know a little more. I submit to the House that it is of the greatest possible importance that the public should know the real state of things in South Africa. It is impossible to judge as to the question of settlement and the question of peace until we know the facts.
The right hon. Gentleman said the other day that whatever the expense and what-ever the difficulties the public will see it through. Let him tell the public the facts. It all depends upon what "seeing it through" means. According to Lord Rosebery, he also is prepared to see it through, but his idea of seeing it 643 through is that it should be by a peaceable compact between the parties. Surely the military situation and the position of things at the Cape and in the two Republics is very relevant to the consideration of the kind of compact into which you are prepared to enter. The Colonial Secretary tonight had some remarkable figures. He said he was prepared to defend all the estimates of the past. Well he would defend anything. He is prepared to defend the fact that we have annihilated the Boers three times over, and still he has proved tonight that there are 9,000 still left. According to Lord Milner, in November last there were 8,000 in the field, and although we have since been wiping them out by the thousand, there are still 9,000. Really these estimates are extraordinary. The numbers grow the more you deduct from them, Encourage the Boers! There are no Boers to encourage, and it makes no difference what speeches you deliver. It is simply a phantom army. But the figures of the Colonial Secretary are just like the rest of his speech. He said that since the speech of the Secretary of State for War there were 5,800 captured, of whom 800 were boys or old men, and that if you deducted that number from the original 14,000 there were 9,000 loft. But surely the men who were killed cannot be still in the field. What about the killed who ought to be deducted? But amid so many inaccuracies, that is a mere trifle to the Colonial Secretary.
Sir, I say that the military situation is very relevant when considering terms. In our case we are fighting for an interest very largely. When you settle a dispute which involves interests, you must take expenditure and difficulties into account. It would be a different thing if you were fighting for freedom and independence; you have, then, no right to take into account cost and difficulty. It was really the case of a lord of the manor evicting a squatter on the fringe of his estate. For the lord of the manor it was simply a question of that particular croft. He was entitled to take the Squatter into Court, and he could carry the case on appeal to the House of Lords. But even then he was not done with the squatter. He was difficult to deal with. There was no question of sentiment involved except that the 644 pride of the lord of the manor was such that he did not like to be beaten. That was not the case with the squatter. He and his ancestors had been there from time immemorial, and he was fighting for his home, and mere expense was a perfectly secondary consideration to him. Well, that is really the position here. We see here a squatter on the fringe of our Empire. He is very troublesome, he poaches and destroys our game, and is a great nuisance, and we have determined to evict him. You are bound in a ease of that kind to take one thing, and one thing only, into consideration, and that is the question of expense—the question whether it is worth while from the business point of view of interest. There is no real substantial point of sentiment which ought to enter into it at all, and that is why I say that the military position is essential to the consideration of terms. Take the negotiations which took place twelve months ago. What did they go upon partly? Lord Kitchener said, "We will give you money to rebuild; we will give you money to pay your debts, and we will give you an advisory council, which you yourselves shall elect." The Colonial Secretary said, "No, preposterous! The gift may amount to £2,000,000. No, we will not give it, but we will take into consideration whether we will lend you certain sums of money." On the question of the advisory council he would have nothing to do with it. The negotiations broke down. These are the elements that came into account. Remember that you are dealing with farmers. What did the Spectator say? I am simply quoting the Spectator because it is a fair embodiment of the intelligence of the war party in this country. To have it on your Table is almost as good as a decree. After the negotiations broke down the Spectator said it was—
Better that we should go on for another two or three months and spend even another £20,000,000 in order to force unconditional surrender.Eleven months have elapsed since then, and we have now got estimates for another nine months. Instead of £20,000,000 we are contemplating an expenditure of £120,000,000 from the time the Spectator published that article. Now, I ask whether the intelligent gentleman who wrote that article would not have modified his views as to the 645 terms to be given if he had known as much as the Government knows at the present moment of the military situation. What is the military situation.
We are really not getting the facts. I have culled attention to all those estimates as to the duration of the war. I do not pretend to any military knowledge at all. I simply criticise from the facts which appear in the newspapers, and it always seems to me that the Government will not take into account the real difficulties. I recollect the Colonial Secretary getting up in July last and saying that after consultation with his military advisers in the Transvaal he had come to the conclusion that a considerable number of troops would return to this country in September last. By the way, that was the Second estimate for that financial year. Some of us got up and pointed out and gave reasons why we thought that estimate was too sanguine, and we were laughed at. One of the most amusing things, if I could talk of amusement in connection with so painful a controversy, is the scorn which the men whose forecasts of the situation have ludicrously failed hear the opinions which are expressed by those whose prognostications have been verified by the event. Then we come to the estimate of this year. A fortnight ago we had a discussion, and the right hon. Gentleman met all our suggestions with scorn. He said—In a very few months we think we can reduce the number of troops.[An HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear.] There is an hon. Member of that opinion still. I think the fact worth recording, for it will be so interesting when the few months are up. I wonder whether the Secretary of State for War thinks so, because immediately after that statement came the news of a great disaster. What was his answer to our criticism of the estimates? He drew a contrast between our Generals and Napoleon, greatly to the disadvantage of the latter. That was the answer he gave to our criticism of the estimates. The estimates of the Government have failed times without number, and unless I am mistaken—and nobody abhors this horrible bloodshed more than I do—they will break down again. There is one notable fact in connection with these forecasts of the 646 Government, and I ask the attention of the House to this. Up to the present year we have had no estimate from the Government which contemplated the duration of the war beyond four months from the time the estimate was made, but this year—the third year of the war—the estimate is for a period of nine months, which runs into the fourth year of the war. The truth of the situation is at last dawning upon the Government. I wonder whether they have followed the prophecies of the correspondents at the front. Until recently we never had a single forecast that the war would last beyond a few weeks. Then it became a few months, and now there is not a single correspondent who contemplates the conclusion of the war within two years. [Laughter.] I do not know that that is a matter of laughter.
Why this change in the attitude of the correspondents at the front and of His Majesty's Government? I will give one or two reasons. I ask the House for a moment to consider that we are now at the end of the summer's campaign in Africa. Let the Government contrast the present summer's campaign with that of last summer, and say whether we are really making progress. Let the House not forget that last summer's campaign was the one to which the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight referred when he said he thought that at the beginning of last year the Boers had a chance of winning. In the campaign of 1901, Prinsloo surrendered with 4,000 or 5,000 men, De Wet's artillery were captured, Delarey's whole artillery were captured by Babbington almost this day twelve mouths. Reitz said that the Boers had no ammunition, and that they were contemplating some last final throw. That was at the end of the summer of last year. The Cape had sent very few recruits, the invasion was failing, and so confident was Lord Kitchener with regard to the situation, that he wrote almost twelve months ago that the troops should be commencing to return home in July. Even in July, although that estimate had failed, you were still sanguine, and you said that a very considerable number would be restored to their homes in September. What is the position now? The Boers I who were then short of ammunition 647 have captured enormous quantities. I have asked military men who know, and they say that they cannot have captured less than 3,000,000 rounds of ammunition, There were then 204,000 troops in Africa, there were now 240,000 white troops and there are 30,000 natives armed. There are 10,000 admitted to be armed in the district of Sir Gordon Sprigg. They are scouts. That is the one thing that needs intelligence and courage, and you transfer that department of fighting to niggers in South Africa. In the summer campaign of last year we had two considerable reverses. What is the position, in this summer's campaign, eighteen months after the "termination" of the war? Months and months after Lord Kitchener said it would be over we have had six reverses of considerable magnitude in the course of this summer's campaign. What a fuss was made about Majuba. It made such an impression upon the military mind that Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener think it adds to the glory of a drive or a defeat of the enemy the mere fact that it happens on Majuba Day—over twenty years after that little affair. But during this war we have been defeated in eighteen battles in which we have sustained greater damage than we suffered at Majuba.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether I am in order, but I say that is a perfectly insolent remark.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
It was an interruption that seemed to be aimed at the hon. Member himself, and in that case it was a disorderly one. [Cries of "Withdraw."]
§ SIR CHARLES CAYZER
I did not mean the interruption to be a personal one. I made it against the pro-Boers, who, I consider, are traitors to their country. [Opposition cries of "Withdraw" and Ministerial cheers.]
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member says he did not make the observation against any Member of this House. That is sufficient.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
I rise to order, Sir. You have ruled that, if the hon. Gentleman withdraws the re-mark as applied to any Member of this House, that is sufficient. I beg to call your attention to the fact that the hon. Member has not done so.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member states that he did not make the remark with reference to any Member of the House.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I very much regret that the hon. Member should have thought it necessary to bring so horrible a charge against any person in the country. I cannot conceive a more horrible charge than that a number of Britishers rejoiced in the maiming and mutilation of a number of their countrymen.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
Mr. Speaker, the charge to which the hon. Member has referred was a charge that Members of this House had gloried in the destruction of life and mutilation of Englishmen in South Africa, and the hon. Member opposite has said that the Irish Members in this House had expressed pleasure at such things. I want to ask you, Sir, whether, that is in order.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member said that the Irish Members cheered the maiming and mutilation of men in South Africa, that is not in order; but that the Irish Members did cheer when a defeat was announced in this House is notorious. I did not understand that the hon. Member's observation had reference to maiming and mutilation. If he meant that, he must withdraw his remark.
§ MR. PLUMMER
All I said, Sir, and all I meant to say, was—and it is an admitted fact—that the Irish Members in this House did cheer the announcement of a British defeat.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I must suggest to hon. Members on both sides of the House, more particularly at the present moment to those on my right, because they are listening to a speech from the other side, that these interruptions are of an irritating nature, and are contrary to order, and may lead to disorder.
I will take no further notice of the interruption. I think we are entitled to know what are the facts of the situation. Surely a great nation like this has got sufficient courage to face the truth. Delarey ended his campaign in 1901 without a single gun; he ended his recent campaign with more guns than he has had at any time. Again, ten thousand natives are employed at the Cape, the blockhouses are garrisoned very largely by natives, and native scouts are also employed. There is at the present moment not far short of 280,000 men, white and coloured, under arms on the British side in South Africa. How does that compare with a year ago? When all these epithets have been hurled at us, I think we are justified in saying we have not got the facts from the Ministry. There must be some reason for all this. The country cannot realise how it is, with all these reductions in the number of men, all these captures of munitions of war, that this thing is not at an end. 650 The country ought to know the whole truth, and it would then be in a position to judge what the situation is. The Government has given us another estimate which is more than twice as long as any estimate previously given us. What assurance have we that this latest estimate is more likely to represent the real facts of the case than previous estimates?
South Africa has been a land of surprises. War is never a question of mathematical certainty, but South Africa especially has been a land of surprises. Let me give two or three illustrations of the surprises we have had in this war; and I would ask if the right hon. Gentleman is certain that we are at the end of them. Take the Reitz letter of the 10th of May. There was then no ammunition and no guns. Eleven months later there is abundance of ammunition, and instead of the war being over, as everybody predicted it would be when that letter was published, in two or three months, we have had to increase our troops by 50,000 or 60,000 men, and eleven months afterwards an estimate is placed on the Table of the House which contemplates the duration of the war for another nine months; that is twenty months after the Reitz letter.
Let me give another illustration. The Dutch did not rise when their own relatives and kinsmen were victorious, when they practically had South Africa at their feet, because our troops were not out: and this country came to the conclusion that if they did not rise then, they surely would not rise when the fortunes of their friends was at a low ebb. What has been the result? It is all very well for the Colonial Secretary to say that there are only a few recruits from Cape Colony. I prefer the statement of the Governor of the Cape himself upon this point. According to Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson, 11,000 have joined the Boers, leaving out of account seven districts from which he could not get returns, because they were in the hands of the enemy. There were several districts in which the Boers got no recruits at all on their first invasion. Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson has put down 1,500 recruits from these districts at the present moment. Is not that a surprise? Again, after two and a 651 half years fighting, the Boers are now in occupation of more territory in South Africa than they were at the beginning of the war. [An Hon. Member laughed.] The noble Lord may laugh, I do not complain. Laughter is a perfectly fair: interruption, if it excites the risibilities of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Let me give my reasons for that statement. A map has recently been published in The Times—I would not rely entirely on The Times, but I will take that map. There It is admitted that the whole of the north of the Transvaal is in the hands of the Boers and not penetrated; portions of the Orange River Colony are regarded as being in their hands also, as well as the whole of the West of Cape Colony. What does Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson say? He says that 156,000 Square miles are more or less in the occupation of the enemy. That is more than half the Colony. If we put 350,000 square miles for the north of the Transvaal, add on the portions of the Orange River Colony and Cape Colony in the occupation of the Boers, it will be found that the Boers have more territory today in South Africa than when the war began. [An HON. MEMBER: What is the population?] If it was a question of population, the thing would have been settled long ago. The total Boer population was only 150,000 according to Mr Fitzpatrick, the gentleman who wrote the brief for the war. That is the position of things now. Is the right hon. Gentleman sure that surprises are at an end? Sir Gordon Sprigg made a very remarkable statement in a speech which he thought as good as a despatch and which embodied his views. When he was invited to give his views he said "Read my speech," and it is embodied in the Blue Book. Sir Gordon Sprigg said that there are 114,000 Boers in Cape Colony between the ages of 18 and 50, and that more than half of them are rebellious. Is the right hon. Gentleman certain that he is not going to drive them into actual rebellion by his martial law?
Let me put another possibility to him. A question was put to me by an hon. Member opposite as to the population of these huge districts. The population, according to the Governor's report, of the 156,000 square miles is 56,000 white men outside the towns. He did not give the 652 population of the towns because perhaps they are largely British. On Sir Cordon Sprigg's basis that means that there are 14,000 men between the ages of 18 and 50, practically and entirely under the control of the Boers, and The Times correspondent says that they have started a new republic, that they are practically governing that part of the country, that they have harvested it, and have carried the stores to the mountains. That is the position now after three years of war. Let me put another possibility in this land of surprises. We have employed and have armed about 30,000 or 40,000 natives. Sir Gordon Sprigg admitted that he had armed 10,000 natives in Cape Colony. [Mr. BRODRICK dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman cannot have read the Blue-book issued by the Colonial Office. It is clear that the information of the Colonial Office did not quite tally with that of the War Office. There are, however, 3,000 armed natives employed as town guards, and 7,000 armed natives in the field, and even in War Office arithmetic, the total must be 10,000. Is he perfectly certain that the Boers will not play the same game? Let me put this to the right hon. Gentleman. We have cleared the country, the women and children are out of the way, and the Boers have nothing to fear from arming the natives. It is said that the natives in a dispute of this kind will side with the British against the Boers. Have they done so in Swaziland? Did not the natives join with the Boers there in driving us out? There is another point. The Boers cannot pay 2s. 6d. a day to the natives, but a prospect of loot is on their side at the present moment. Looting of Boer cattle is at an end. A native joining the Boers will now have a better chance of loot than on the other side, and loot is a much greater inducement to human nature than regular pay. If any hon. Member doubts that, let him consider the working of the Stock Exchange. Is not that a possibility which hon. Members are forgetting?
Let me just sum up what I consider the main features of the present military situation. The summer campaign has ended worse than last year's summer campaign. It has left the Boers strong in ammunition and in the 653 fighting qualities of their men. That is admitted by Lord Milner. They have done things that, from the military point of view, they would not have dared to do three years ago, and they have a prospect of an unlimited number of recruits from the Cape. All these things are bound to be taken into consideration when we come to consider the question of settlement and the terms we are to give. We may wear the Boers down, but there is one thing which the campaign in Cape Colony has proved, and that is that a very small body of the enemy can employ a very large body of our troops. Take this troublesome gentleman Touché. We have been told he has only a few hundred men, and we have the best General in the British Army attending to him, the one invariable successful British general in the war. For months and months. General Trench has been utterly unable to dislodged Touché. He has been driven out of the Midlands, but back he comes. When The Times map was published the Midlands were shown as completely cleared; a day or two afterwards. Touché came down and captured a supply train in that very district. He has only a few hundred men, and yet for fourteen months 30,000 or 40,000 British troops has been attending to him, and nothing has come of it. When considering the duration of the war, these are things we must take into account. What is the use of giving a four, five, or nine months estimate? The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that these are only tentative estimates. He has got to take into account the words of Sir Gordon Sprigg—The war will not be ended till the last man is killed or captured, and the last cartridge fired.When we consider what has been done, we ought to take all these matters into consideration. What are we fighting for? We are told, for equal rights for all white men in the Transvaal. Lord Salisbury, who stated he had some information in November which showed the whole thing was coming to an end, said we were fighting for security. How is he going to get the security without a Government with whom to make the settlement? It needs 270,000 men to keep under 20,000, or 9,000 according to 654 the Colonial Secretary. When the 40,000 prisoners come back, how many shall we want to keep them under? You cannot keep arms out of the country now. The Times correspondent mentioned the capture of a Cape cart carrying ammunition to Delarey which had clearly been imported into the country, and if we cannot keep arms out of the land how are we going to control it? How many rifles have been surrendered? Less than half of the number of men accounted for. Where then is your security? The moment we are in difficulties, the moment we are embarrassed with a foreign nation, and there is a serious war, these men will take their opportunity. Can we then send out 250,000 men to reconquer the country? There will be an end of that security then. It is a new form of terminable security. Is there no greater security in dealing with a settled and responsible Government than in dealing with 40,000 irresponsible individuals? You will want hundreds of officials to govern this country, and I doubt whether the Empire can produce 500 discreet officials. You are bound to get a few ill-informed, tactless, and hostile—I am not sure we have not got them now in high positions—with a faculty for treading on every corn the Dutchmen have, and then there is a scrimmage, a quarrel, if not bloodshed, and the whole thing is precipitated. That is the security. It depends on the wisdom of every officer you send out for years to come. But if you had a responsible Government you would then have a responsible administration who would know; and those who blundered would be held responsible for the horrors of war. The war will have taught wisdom to both sides. We shall have no more ultimatums on the Boer side, and I do not believe we shall have any more Highbury picnic speeches on our side.
We are told that the terms we favour are absolute surrender to the Boers; that is nonsense. Taking the very outside, we have gone to war to establish equal rights. Does anybody doubt that we could get them at the present moment? Is it an absolute surrender to get what you went to war for? It is evident we could have control of the foreign relations. The Boers are willing to give us the control of 655 foreign relations, an equal franchise, and an indemnity. The terms imposed on France by Germany were considered humiliating; what if they had proposed these terms? The terms we propose to the Boers are unconditional surrender, and the terms they offer us are unparalleled in their generosity. What are the terms we offer to the Boers? A British Government, a British Executive, and the British language to be the official language, the Boer language to be tolerated. Suppose we got to a war with Germany; that there was an invasion of this country; that the country was annexed. [An HON. MEMBER: Who declared the war?] What a stupidly irrelevant question. Let me put the case. A German Government is appointed; German judges, the German language become official. [An HON. MEMBER: Is the Gorman Emperor sovereign of this country?] Really, Mr. Speaker, I sometimes think he is, from the way the Government behaves. Where is the suzerainty of the Orange Free State? That State was as independent as Great Britain is at the present moment. The only difference is that we are a great Power and they are a small one. Does that make any difference at all in the inherent justice of the war? Have you the right to be unjust to a man because he is poor and weak and insignificant? Every honest man would say you should treat him with more generosity. There is an unpleasant favour of Panama about this. The shareholders have been gulled by false statements from time to time as to the wealth that will await them, and as to the cost of the enterprise. We were told the whole thing would be finished, the whole job through, and the directors were re-elected on that statement. Who is guilty of the falsehood I know not, but one thing I do know, and that is that the men who profit by it sit on the Government Bench.
§ (10.45.) MR. BRODRICK
The House has listened to the speech of the hon. Gentleman with a consideration, and I will say with a generosity, under much provocation, which would not, I venture to say, be extended to him by any other assembly in the country.
§ MR. BRODRICK
That speech has-been of so provocative a character that I believe only respect for the Chair enabled Members to sit through it. But the picture which the hon. Member drew of the difficulties of our forces in South Africa, and the contrast with the Boers, was so grotesque that I cannot allow it to go to the Press tomorrow without entering my protest against it. I protest also against the insinuation, which went through the whole of his speech, that the Government were deliberately concealing disasters in order to hoodwink the people of the country. [An HON. MEMBER: It is true, though.] The hon. Member for Carnarvon seems to be disappointed that he has not got more disasters to gloat over.
§ MR. BRODRICK
That spirit ran throughout the whole of his argument. Allow me to say that the hon. Member for his own purposes endeavoured to magnify every potty skirmish into a disaster to the British forces.
§ MR. BRODRICK
My point is that the hon. Member exaggerated every case of the capture of a few wagons by the enemy into a defeat, and that he charged the Government, when they did not publish such matters, with deliberately concealing information. Then, Sir, I was saying that the hon. Gentleman from the first to the last was magnifying every incident of the kind, in order to prove that the whole of the summer campaign had resulted in favour of the Boers and against his own country" He mentioned with satisfaction the increased number of the enemy in Cape Colony; he stated with intense emphasis the large area which is not yet cleared of the enemy, he gloated over the recital as he mentioned one after another the successes which have been achieved against our troops, entirely forgetting that during the course of the summer operations 657 between 5,000 and 6,000 Boers have been placed hors de combat. We have seen tonight the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Leader of the Opposition, standing in a white sheet and protesting that, in spite of all evidences to the contrary in his previous speeches, he had the honour and the interests of the country at heart as well as those who spoke most loudly.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Because it was obviously drawn out by the fact that what earlier in the week was intended as a vote of censure on the Government resolved itself into a vote of censure on the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman does not understand what it is besides his own speeches which gives rise to such false interpretations of his motives. Let him refer to such speeches, then, as that of his friend and supporter the hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. Then he will understand why the country regards him as the right hon. Gentleman of a party whose actions are actively helping the enemy in the field. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to know how his action is viewed by a large number of people in this country, I would refer him to the description given by Southey of the Opposition at the time of the Peninsular War. He will find these words, which I think are applicable to the present situation—The Opposition consisted of heterogeneous and discordant materials. From the beginning of the war, through all its stages, they had uniformly taken part against their country. Consistent in this and nothing else, they had always sided with the enemy, pleading his cause, palliating his crimes—["Oh!"]—extolling his wisdom, magnifying his power, wilifying and accusing their own Government, and depreciating its resources.And Southey adds—In future ages it will be thought a strange and almost incredible anomaly in politics that there should have existed in the Legislature of any country a regular party, organised and acknowledged as such, whose systematic course of conduct, if it had been intended to bring; about the fulfilment of their own prophecies, could not have been more exactly adapted to the object.It is necessary for me at this hour of the evening to touch on only two of the points, which have been raised in the 658 debate, and the first is the employment of Kaffirs. I am not going to apologise for the employment of Kaffirs in the operations to the extent which I have already told the House they are employed. The hon. Member who spoke last desires that our forces should be impeded in their operations by the non-employment of Kaffirs, either as camp followers—
§ MR. BRODRICK
Then may I ask the hon. Member this question—How is it that he devoted so large a portion of his speech, as also did the hon. Member for the Mansfield division, to vilifying the Government, and incidentally, of course, our generals in the field? [Opposition cries of "No."] It is very convenient for hon. Gentlemen to assume that the Government have forced upon the generals the employment of Kaffir camp followers and attendants and horse drivers and wagon leaders, whom the generals would rather not have used. But we cannot profess that it is done against the wish of those who are conducting our operations. It is done because they think it absolutely necessary for the enormous transport that they should have the use of natives in order to supply our troops. But the question is, do the Boers not employ natives to drive cattle? Do the Boers not have horses driven by natives? Have the Boers no armed natives; and, still more, have not the Boers undertaken to shoot every native that they find, armed or unarmed? Are we, under these circumstances, to let these men, who are absolutely necessary for the purpose I have named, stand there in cold blood to be shot, as they have been shot, not in ones and twos, but in numbers that come to scores in the course of the war, by the Boers? The hon. Member mentioned 30,000 as the number of armed Kaffirs employed by us. I cannot accept that number. If he had given me notice that he was going to raise the question, I would have given any figures that I could.
§ MR. BRODRICK
But, as far as my information goes, he has enormously over-stated the number of Kaffirs whom it has been necessary to provide with arms.
The hon. Member spoke also of muzzling the Press in this country. I repudiate the suggestion. We are bound to take care that words transmitted from South Africa are not sent to the detriment of our own forces. I am not going, for the sake of being interesting to the hon. Member and his associates, to be the means of making a present to the Boers of every incident in the war which might give them encouragement and satisfaction. ["Oh."] Every engagement which has not been a mere skirmish has been reported by Lord Kitchener, and every report from Lord Kitchener of an engagement has been published in this country. We have concealed nothing, because we have nothing to conceal. There have been, and there must be in a war ranging over so immense a territory, occasional reverses and mistakes. The wonder is that in the course of this summer, when so many columns have been operating, there have not been more of them. But I repudiate the suggestion, which is made as if it were an attack on the Government, whereas it is really a sneer at our own troops. It is nothing else, because it is not the Government which sends out a convoy guarded by 600 men and finds it attacked by 1,600 Boers. That is an action which must be taken by the men on the spot. It is because hon. Members wish to vilify the acts of their own compatriots—[Opposition cries of "No" and "Withdraw"] that they continually quote the number of 240,000 men on the one side and ask why they have not been good enough for 8,000 or 10,000 Boers on the other side.
After the speech of my right hon. friend I do not think it would have been necessary for any one on this Bench to rise except for one reason. I think it is highly desirable that before we part it should be understood that the course of the war as represented from those Benches tonight is not accurate, and that the country will not gain a proper impression if they are guided by it. It is true that the war has been prolonged. 660 [An HON. MEMBER: You cannot deny that.] I was severely taken to task in December, 1900, because I warned the House of Commons that the war, under the circumstances of guerilla warfare, would be probably prolonged and would probably cause an enormous strain on our resources. The result of the conduct of the war during the last few months has been this. The main resistance in the Orange River Colony has been broken down; the forces of Do Wet have been scattered in every direction. ["How often?"] In Cape Colony, although these areas have not been altogether cleared of the Boers, we have arrived at a system which is rather in the nature of police than military operations. Considerable advantage has been gained over General Louis Botha's commandos by General Bruce Hamilton. There has been a great improvement both in the Orange River Colony and in the Eastern Transvaal. It is quite true that in the last few weeks we have had great activity on the part of the best of the Boer leaders, but the general course of events has been to denude the enemy of their organisation, of their numbers, and of their supplies out of all proportion to what could have been expected, considering the reduction that had already been made, and the far smaller numbers with which we consequently have to deal. I think that so far from showing ourselves to be impatient, and attacking what is going on in South Africa, and, there fore, incidentally reflecting on those who are serving us in the field with a devotion which I do not think can be exaggerated—making those long treks—many of the columns having scarcely had any rest during the whole of the summer—instead of doing that, I think this House will not do badly tonight, before it separates, to realise that great progress has been made. There is as full a determination in South Africa to make the best of the resources given to our generals as there is in the Government that nothing we can give to the generals shall be wanting. I think that instead of talking about endless trouble in the future, as hon. Members have done, we shall do well to look at other countries where the force of our arms has first extended our Empire, at the success and peaceful character of that Empire, which 661 it is the belief of his Majesty's Government will, when the present troubles are over, be reproduced throughout South Africa.