§ Order for Second Reading, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said the Amendment on the Paper was not intended to prevent the Government obtaining the forty millions of money dealt with by the Bill; the object of placing it there was to concentrate the discussion on the question of native labour and native taxation in South Africa. The question was a very wide one, and there might be some advantage to the House to have a debate at the present moment, in which they could put to the Government matters as to which it was very desirable hon. Members should be placed in possession of information as speedily as possible. It was useless to attempt to argue the extent of their responsibility in that matter, for that was admitted on all sides. The Government would admit that, whatever had been their responsibility towards the natives before the war broke out, it was still stronger now. The leading members of the Government, when they spoke of the circumstances which preceded the war, and referred to what they hoped might be the consequences to the natives if the war were successful, put the responsibility very high. It was said that the Boers had not treated the natives as a civilised nation should treat them; we had a higher ideal, and though we might have fallen short of that ideal we had never drawn a colour bar against natives by legislation. He was certainly not one of those who had any admiration for the views of Mr. Rhodes with regard to the native question, but it was only due to him to say that no one ever put the objection to the colour bar more strongly than he did in his policy. On Thursday the Colonial Secretary spoke of the natives as children, and on Monday the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in receiving a deputation on this question, used the same phrase; but the analogy was inapplicable, since the Government were under no undertaking to fit and train the natives for the position 68 of citizens. They were to be permanently kept in a dependent and wholly subordinate situation.
A Question was put to the Colonial Secretary that afternoon as to what had been done by the Conference which had been recently sitting to consider that subject, and he gathered from such knowledge as he had of its proceedings that the Conference dealt with native taxation throughout all colonies and protectorates and the introduction of labour from outside. He did not wish, in dealing with that matter, to show any greater distrust of those who were employed in this work of importing native labour than must necessarily be felt in regard to any uncontrolled employing class, but every one knew that the employing class could not be trusted wholly, without supervision, to make their own arrangements for labour in a country where that labour had no voice in the affairs of the State. In the Rand address to the Secretary of State words were used which somewhat grated on their ears, viz.,The native of South Africa is an excellent and powerful muscular machine.The Conference had dealt with the taxation of natives, and he asked that any proposal for the equalisation of direct taxation should not be agreed to without the consent of the House. Such equalisation might constitute an enormous increase of native taxation. As to the comparison the Colonial Secretary made a few days ago in regard to the amount of the native taxation before the war broke out—a comparison which suggested that it was greater than the £2 a year represented by the new consolidated tax, he would like to point out that no native paid all the taxes the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, and before the war large proportions of the native population paid no taxes at all. In many parts of the country taxation was not enforced. Under our system, of course, it would be enforced everywhere. But that only touched one side of the problem. The new consolidated tax only affected direct taxation. The native, however, paid enormous indirect taxation, as was exemplified by the 20 per cent. ad valorem duty on imported blankets. What he feared was that equalisation of taxation would mean 69 that Cape Colony would be asked to screw up taxation to the new Transvaal level. They ought to ask the Government, before it allowed the taxation to be raised in the colonies under their control to one uniform high level, to lay some information before the House with regard to the recommendations of the Inter-Colonial Conference.
As to the recruiting for native labour, no doubt the ordinance quoted by Lord Lansdowne was useful; but there was reason to think it had not always been acted upon. The Conference, it appeared, had recommended the importation under contract of labour from all British colonies in Africa. As regarded East Africa and Uganda, the objections to the transfer of labour to South Africa were known. They were well aware of the great depopulation which had taken place there; but as regarded the natives of British Central Africa, the slave raiding to which they had been subjected had created a terror at the thought of leaving their own country. Almost all the slaves in Zanzibar had, in fact, been taken from British Central Africa. At the deputation on the previous day Lord Lansdowne gave very satisfactory assurances with regard to the 1,000 natives to be levied in Central Africa, and probably there were other conditions besides those named by Lord Lansdowne. He would not trouble the House with all the conditions, but would deal only with one, which was that each native was to have thoroughly explained to him his work, his wages, and the terms of his employment. But under the Labour Agency ordinance of February, 1902, he understood that that was the law already, and it was a notorious fact that that stipulation had not been acted upon in the past, especially in the case of the labour brought in from the Portuguese dominions by labour touts. He thought that this was made clear by the enormous number of desertions which took place. In the case of the Portuguese native the conditions, he ventured to say, had not been enforced. He was practically kidnapped by his chief, who received a certain sum per head, and he certainly could not be considered to be a free contracting agent. The great majority of the natives were obtained from Portuguese territory, which was 70 the principal source of supply. Indeed; of the 50,000 natives imported last year by one agency, nearly 39,000 came from Portuguese East Africa alone, and were brought in by outside touts. These natives clearly did not know the conditions of the labour, but they were subjected to punishment for breaches of their contract, and thus virtual slavery was enforced. Surely, tinder these circumstances, it was essential that if they gave attention to the natives in their own territory, the House should also give its attention to natives brought into that territory from the outside. He would quote to the House only one statement made some years ago in the House of Lords by a former High Commissioner. Lord Loch said—He had had to check I he system of applying to a chief for the supply of labour because, upon the chief hesitating to do this, action was taken to compel the chief to supply the labour required. This, "he went on, "was as much forced labour as if men were compelled at the bayonet point to work.The Colonial Secretary in 1901 said—If a native contracts to serve in the mines and than deserts for any reason, say for higher wages in another mine or for any other purpose, he must pay damages and be punished.But such a principle could only be enforced where a man knew what he was contracting to do, and that condition did not exist in the case of the natives obtained from Portuguese territory. The right hon. Gentleman had suggested that he disliked the idea of the Government itself acting as a recruiting agent, but it was not at all certain that that would not be better than that the recruiting should be done by persons without any responsibility. He should like to know how far the arrangement went between Johannesburg and Rhodesia with regard to labour. He feared that the agreement entered into for the importation of labour from Barotzeland was as unsatisfactory as that under which natives were obtained from Portuguese territory.
In offering these remarks he did not wish to make any attack on individuals in South Africa, which could only prejudice their case. He had nothing to say against the language used by the Secretary of State, who had shown much sympathy with their ideas in the past; there was only one statement in his speech on 71 Thursday last as to which he did not feel satisfied. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the folly of the mine owners in having suddenly lowered the wages and so killed the supply; he spoke of the wisdom of retracing that step, and he went on to describe the low-grade ore, and said that it could not be worked except at wages at a very low rate indeed. Of course every mining Member of the House was aware of the fact that owing to the progress of mining science ores could now be worked at a profit which formerly could not be so worked. No doubt there was a great reserve in the Transvaal of deposits which would be worked some day through the progress of mining science, but was it necessary to try to develop suddenly and at once all those low-grade mines, and submit to any conditions of labour and any reduction of wages which might be necessary to bring these mines into operation. He had always heard that the principal difficulty in the way of working these low-grade mines came, not from the price of labour, but from mines of another grade. He submitted to the House the view that it was inconsistent with the other portion of the speech of the Secretary of State—the more excellent portion of that speech—that we should have too much in view the condition of these low-grade ores and the purpose of getting labour very cheap. We could not dispossess ourselves of the enormous responsibility that weighed upon us on this question, which had been augmented by the circumstances and promises of the war. If it were true, as the Secretary of State told them, that this was not merely the native labour question, but the labour question as a whole—the fact that white labour would not compete with black labour, and if they were compelled for all time to rely on this servile class—a class which was never to rise, even in the persons of its most chosen citizens, out of its dependent position, and never to obtain anything in the nature of citizenship—they were discussing something which was not the native labour question, but the whole future of South Africa. The prosperity of that country depended on the contentment of the working class. It was a commonplace of all those who had watched governmental questions throughout Africa that no colony in Africa could 72 permanently succeed until the contentment of the blacks was obtained. The prosperity of South Africa must depend on the native, and therefore there was no question which affected so much the future of that country as that of native labour.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'this House calls on His Majesty's Government before acting, in the case of Crown Colonies or Protectorates in South Africa, on any agreement as to Native labour or Native taxation come to by the recent conference, to place the proposals before Parliament.'"—(Sir Charles Dilke.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said that since he asked a Question of his right hon. friend the Secretary for the Colonies a day or two ago on this subject, a speech by Lord Lansdowne to a deputation of missionaries yesterday had thrown a flood of light upon it. He should like to express the pleasure with which he read of the firm determination of Lord Lansdowne to consider and uphold the rights of the natives in Central Africa. He should like to say that he did not attribute either to Lord Lansdowne or to the Secretary for the Colonies any luke-warmness in this matter, and any observations he made to the House would not be made with the intention of attacking them in any way, but rather to strengthen their hands in the extremely difficult task they had before them. He should like to say, in the first place, that it was rather often that men of the world and business people undervalued the testimony of missionaries in regard to the social condition and character of native races. In his earlier days he had rather singular opportunities of testing the value of missionary evidence in the Colony of New Zealand, and that experience had impressed upon him, throughout life, the conviction that there was no class of men on whom they could more safely rely to give evidence as to the character and condition of 73 native races than missionaries. Their testimony was always disinterested. They had no interested motive to follow, and very often from them alone could knowledge be obtained in regard to natives, and the purposes for which they might be employed. He naturally looked to the objections of the missionaries to the transference of negro labour from Central East Africa to the Transvaal. These were objections which Lord Lansdowne said would be very carefully considered. He had no doubt they would be carefully considered, not only by Lord Lansdowne, but by His Majesty's Government generally. These were the main objections. First, the complete severance of family ties. He hoped the House of Commons would not mock at the family ties of a negro. There were some matters in which undoubtedly the white races were superior to the savage, but in regard to family ties, the love of children, attachment to fathers and mothers, and general love of their families, he believed most civilised people differed very little from the black races. Indeed, he was not sure whether the superior cultivation of our intellects might not to some extent make us a little less quick and earnest in the emotional part of our nature than those native races. Undoubtedly, in the case of the negro family, the absence of the head of the house for a year in a foreign country where he was never heard of, and during which time no communication from him ever reached his home, was an evil which was little compensated for at the end of the year, even if the negro made ample wages in the meantime.
The second objection was the lack of labour in Central Africa itself. This was a matter which appeared to him to weigh very strongly indeed upon Lord Lansdowne, so much so that he told the deputation that he had hesitated considerably before he agreed to the proposal, and that he had only yielded when he received a telegram from an official agent in South Africa to say that 1,000 men could be spared without interfering with local demands. It appeared to him that the duty of the Government which had undertaken the Protectorate of Central Africa was to make the interests of Central Africa in this matter its first consideration. He 74 doubted whether any consideration ought to allow the interests of Central Africa to be sacrificed to the interests of the Transvaal. The third objection was drawn from the experience of what had taken place in past times. It was the same sort of experience which he thought everybody had had when uncivilised labour was transferred from one place to another. There had been negroes sent to South Africa, and after working there they had generally gone back very much deteriorated in their moral character. They acquired the habit especially of drinking, and were very much less desirable citizens to the country to which they returned than they were before they went away. That was common experience, and the missionaries believed that was very likely to happen in Africa. The last objection was that of health. It was confessed by our medical authorities that the removal of the inhabitants of a torrid region to a temperate region was an extremely dangerous and hazardous experiment. He had this strongly impressed on himself in his earlier days, because the late Bishop Selwyn and Bishop Patteson were in the habit of bringing a number of young Polynesian boys from the tropical islands north of New Zealand to New Zealand. But this was put a stop to because it was found impossible, with all the care and the best medical advice that could be bestowed, to prevent these boys from attacks of dysentery, which decimated those who were brought. It was in consequence of that that the native college in New Zealand was entirely abandoned, and that a college was established in a more suitable climate.
It was impossible to read Lord Lansdowne's speech yesterday without coming to the conclusion that it was not the interest of Central Africa, but that it was overwhelmingly the interest of South Africa which had brought him to consent to the scheme. He spoke of the disastrous effect in South Africa of protracted wars. We here had done our best to remedy the effects of the recent disastrous war, and we were in duty bound to make every sacrifice to redeem the country as far as possible. This House had never objected to vote large sums of money to do away as far as possible with the result of the Transvaal War. But Lord Lansdowne stated to the deputation that the 75 Transvaal was clamouring for labour. He was not at all sure but that in those words Lord Lansdowne had let out the real pressure which was brought to bear on His Majesty's Government, and which this House should refuse to entertain. He also spoke of the only way of teaching these natives to work hard. Why should we teach these natives to work hard? If Providence had placed them in a richly cultivated country where they could live a happy and contented life without any very hard labour, why were we interfering? This was admittedly an experiment. Now, what was to happen after the experiment was made? First of all, suppose the experiment failed. He was supposing that those natives, when they were brought to the Transvaal, either would not learn to work hard, or died off like flies from diseases of a temperate climate, or in some way failed, that the lives of some of these unfortunate men would be sacrificed and their families left desolate, and that nothing further would be done. Lord Lansdowne hinted to the deputation that, if it was found impossible to carry out the proposed transaction under the proposed conditions, it would be rather a good thing. But suppose that the experiment succeeded, and that these men worked well in the mines, that they were orderly when they were there, and that they could stand the climate, what were we going to do? Were we going to depopulate all Central Africa and all Eastern Africa for the purpose of providing natives to work in the gold mines of the Transvaal? According to the Agent in Central Africa, only 1,000 natives could be spared, but what were we going to do if the experiment succeeded? He understood from the speech of the hon. Baronet that the Native Agent was to be the sole agent for recruiting; but from a reply to a Question he put to the representative of the Colonial Office, he thought the Native Labour Association were going to employ their own agent, and take upon themselves the responsibility of procuring the recruits and of looking after them when they came to the Transvaal. He understood that the High Commissioner had nothing to do with the arrangements. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary had promised that the conditions under which these natives were recruited in Central Africa would be laid on the Table of the House. He was 76 specially referring to Central Africa, but what he was saying applied equally to the natives of Uganda or any other native races under British protection. He believed that none of these native races could leave their protectorates without a permit from our Agent or Commissioner, and therefore we were responsible for letting them go and for the conditions under which they were to work, and should see that they were satisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary had promised that these restrictions and the conditions of the permits should be laid on the Table of the House, so that hon. Members could judge for themselves of the efficacy of the measures that were taken, and could strengthen his hands, if necessary, still more.
He would impress on the right hon. Gentleman the great importance of having the nature of the contract explained to the natives before they left their native country, and not when they arrived in the Transvaal; and that for two reasons. In the first place, it was most important to see that the natives went to the Transvaal of their own free will and were not coerced by the chiefs or headmen into a contract, or to go on an expedition of which they did not approve. In the second place, it was probably only in the country from which they came that any one could be found who was fully conversant with their language and could fully explain to the natives the real conditions under which they were going to the Transvaal. He knew that great injury was often inflicted in this respect on native races, who spoke an immense multitude of languages and dialects. It was impossible, very often, for any white man to understand what these men were saying or to explain to them what they had to do. Any one who had had to deal with the Polynesian races would appreciate that. Well, then, he should like to know particularly if this limit of 1,000 would be adhered to at present, and if they would have an opportunity of seeing the result of this experiment communicated to the House and to the people of this country before any further numbers were brought either from Central or Eastern Africa. He observed that Lord Lansdowne had stated that there was a famine in Central Africa, and his Lordship seemed to think that if this 77 experiment were tried it would be better for these natives to go away to South Africa during the famine in order to save the lives of their women and children. He was not quite sure that that was a correct inference. The conditions of famine in Central Africa were very different from those of famine here. There the food of the native was grown by the labour of the man and his family, and if the man were taken away from his home for a whole year he was not sure but that at the end of the year there would be a worse famine than there was before.
Oddly enough, this very statement of Lord Lansdowne was controverted accidentally by a letter which was published in The Times that morning from the Rev. A. Hetherwick, of the Blantyre Mission, Central Africa. Mr. Hetherwick stated in that letter that the projected railway from the Lower to the Upper Shire River in Central Africa was about to be built and that work upon it was to be commenced in April. That, of course, was an extremely important and valuable scheme for Central Africa. It would expedite the transfer of produce from Central Africa to the outside world, and the articles of our trade from the outside world into Central Africa, and it would set at liberty a very large number of persons, who were now engaged in the transport service, as soon as the railway was made. But this railway, said the missionary, would require a larger amount of labour than the Protectorate could supply. Not only was there this dearth of labour in the Protectorate but they wished to import labour from other parts of Africa, and oven from the Transvaal itself. Mr. Hetherwick also informed them that there was a labour bureau in Central Africa, and that on their books there were applications for the services of 5,000 labourers who could not be supplied. Now, if the railway works were begun next month there would be ample employment for the starving people, and that would be a better way of doing away with the danger which might arise from the temporary famine than to transfer the natives to the Transvaal. As his last point, he would ask the House to attend to another statement by Mr. Hetherwick, in the course of which he said that there 78 were hundreds and thousands of square miles of good land in Central Africa capable of growing cotton, tobacco, sugar, chillies, and other tropical crops, and which were only waiting the application of labour to it to enrich the world with its produce. Let the House consider—for the moment he put the question of South Africa altogether out of consideration—whether it were better for the world and mankind at large to employ labour on those thousands of square miles of land now lying derelict in Central Africa and to enrich the world by the produce of that labour in the shape of cotton, sugar, tobacco, chillies, and other valuable products which could be consumed by mankind, which would add to the happiness of those who consumed them, and which, incidentally, would create work in many industries in this country in supplying tools and clothes in exchange for these products, than to enable that labour to be employed for the purpose of extracting a quantity of dirty gold from the reefs of the Transvaal? Taking a wide view of human life and the interests of the world, and forgetting for a moment the interests of the Transvaal capitalists and the interests of the negroes of South Africa—quite apart from philanthropy—he contended that they should do as much as they could, and he was quite sure the Secretary of State for the Colonies would do as much as he could, to divert the labouring propensities of the negro into these fruitful and prolific fields, and keep them, as far as possible, from wasting their labour for the mere purpose of extracting from the earth gold which would not make one human creature one bit the happier.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL (Yorkshire, N.R., Cleveland)
said that the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary in the debate last week had protested with indignation against the idea that it would be possible for compulsory labour in any form to be introduced into South Africa. But it was notorious that compulsory labour had existed in South Africa. It had certainly existed in Rhodesia. Sir Richard Martin, who was sent by the Colonial Office to investigate into the origin of the Matabele War, reported that compulsory labour did exist in Matabeleland. 79 Sir Marshall Clark had reported similarly. Compulsory labour existed in the public works in Natal, and Sir Alfred Milner reported that compulsory labour had existed also in Johannesburg. He fully admitted that the Secretary of State for the Colonies and Lord Milner had resolutely opposed the introduction or perpetuation of any form of direct compulsion. Everyone who had followed this subject would be aware that the Secretary of State had, on several occasions, resolutely suppressed attempts made in Rhodesia and elsewhere in the direction of compulsory labour. But compulsory labour was of two kinds. They might go to a native and say, "If you do not work in the mines, we will fine and imprison you." Or they might say to a native, "You will be heavily taxed, and you will only be able to pay the taxes if you work in the mines; and if you do not pay, you will be fined and imprisoned." It was that kind of compulsion to which it was notorious many of the mine owners in the Transvaal desired to resort. He would ask leave of the House, in order to prove that statement, to make one or two quotations. Mr. George Albu in his evidence before the Industrial Commission was asked—You would make labour compulsory?And his reply was—Yes, I would make labour compulsory, and without using force, a tax could be levied.Mr. Rudd, at the meeting of the Consolidated Gold Fields Company, said—We should try some potent form of inducement, or practically compel the native, through taxation or in some other way, to contribute his quota to the good of the community, and to a certain extent he should then have to work.Mr. Codrington, the Administrator of Northern Rhodesia, and Mr. Lionel Phillips, also advocated the same proposal; and the Report presented to the right hon. Gentleman at Johannesburg on behalf of the Chamber of Mines urged that "more legal and moral pressure to compel a greater number of natives in British possessions to work, and for longer periods," should be adopted. The late Bishop of Pretoria had written—I am disposed to think some compulsion is necessary, or such steadily and regularly enforced taxation, and to such amount, as may compel labour to pay it; which comes very much to compulsion.80 He could give similar quotations from speeches by Lord Grey, from the local Press at Bulawayo, and other sources. What had given rise to much alarm in the country was the fact that the Colonial Secretary had apparently fallen in with this idea of pressure by means of taxation; and in answer to a question which he put to the right hon. Gentleman last week, he said that he considered the present rate of taxation too low in some cases, and he hinted that the rate of taxation should be raised. In such circumstances, he submitted there was very grave cause for concern lest this monstrous proposal of forcing the natives to work in industries and under conditions which they were unwilling to accept should be adopted by the British Government. Very much the same argument applied to the wives of polygamous natives. He was not concerned, naturally, to defend polygamy; but many native customs were not so immoral as was frequently supposed. The practice of paying a sum of money to the father of the lady about to be married was not, as had been suggested, for the purchase of a slave, but was rather in the nature of a marriage settlement; and the cattle which were paid for the wife were maintained for her support in case of the death of her husband, or her separation from him. In order to show the excellence of native customs in certain respects, he would quote a custom in Uganda, the part of Africa with which he was personally best acquainted. There it was the rule that a mother-in-law should never enter the hut of her son-in-law; and if she met him on the road she was obliged to step aside and cover her face with her robe. Such customs, so far from being barbarous, had in some respects, at all events, reached a high point of perfection and refinement. And it seemed a strange coincidence that this attack on polygamy should be limited to South Africa, and should take place at this particular moment. There was polygamy in India, in Malaya, and in Central, East, and West Africa. England, as the greatest Mohammedan Power, had probably the largest number of polygamous subjects; but it was only in South Africa, and only when the natives were needed to work in the 81 mines, that they heard an attack on moral grounds on polygamy, and the necessity of taxation in order to remove it. There was, therefore, reason to suspect some hypocrisy in the proposal, and that it was not merely the moral well-being of the natives that was the object in view.
The whole question came to this—What was a fair rate of taxation for a native to pay? That the natives ought to pay taxation was admitted, and they themselves were willing to pay taxation to a moderate amount. The right hon. Gentleman said that the taxation imposed on them could easily be paid by a few weeks work. In the first place £2 was a heavy tax, even for a miner. On the Rand, it amounted to one-eighteenth of his total income it he worked the whole year, and was equivalent to an income tax of 1s. 2d. in the £; or in Rhodesia, where the wages were rather lower, it amounted to one-twelfth of his total income, and was equivalent to an income tax of 1s. 8d. in the £. And then there was the indirect taxation to which his right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean had referred. The natives were very heavily taxed on their blankets, rugs, picks, hoes, beads, and other commodities; and in Natal alone the amount of indirect taxation paid by the natives amounted to about £170,000 per annum. But apart from natives who worked in the mines, they would have to ask, what would be the criterion of a just rate of taxation? What would a native who preferred to remain on the land be able to pay? Many of the natives were steady agriculturists. They used the plough; and, therefore, did not depend on the labour of their wives. In South Africa women were not allowed to plough with cattle. Perhaps a native was living remote from a market and was unable easily to sell his produce. He preferred to live his own life in his own way. As was well said by one well-qualified to speak, "To the native, the valley in which his kraal is built holds all that makes his life worth living." It would be a very great responsibility for this House or this country to say to that man, "You shall not remain on the land; we will impose taxation on you so great that you will be compelled to seek employment 82 in the mines." That would open up one of the most momentous I problems of Empire—whether they should force their economic system on the native races. If the natives wished to enter that system of their own free will, their responsibility would be lighter; but if they forced it on the natives, they would become directly responsible for any degradation that might come to many of those who should be regarded as wards of the Empire. Nor could they limit the matter to South Africa. If adopted in South Africa it would be regarded as a precedent elsewhere. It was possible, even probable, that minerals should be discovered in British East Africa; then there would be the same shortage of labour, the same demand for taxation, the same plea for indirect compulsion. In the West Indies the planters were often obliged to import labour, because the negroes would not work; and a similar claim might be made there. If this system were adopted as part of the policy of the Empire, it could not be limited to one part of Africa.
The right hon. Gentleman urged that if there were self-government in South Africa they would not be in any way able to interfere in the question; but even if it were true that colonial native policy would be uncontrolled under self-government, that was no reason why they should commit an injustice as long as the decision of the matter rested in their own hands. They should show an example as to how the natives should be treated. But so far from its being impossible to control the policy of the self-governing colonies, the right hon. Gentleman surely forgot that under the Sand River Convention in 1852 a special reservation was made on behalf of the natives, that slavery should not be permitted or practised in the Transvaal or Orange Free States. A similar clause, mutatis mutandis, might be inserted in the constitution that would later be granted to the new territories, referring not merely to slavery, but to indirect compulsion to secure native labour. In addition, if self-governing institutions were established, the Colonial Secretary would still have the right of veto upon all measures adopted in those territories. The right hon. Gentleman had used that right 83 himself with regard to the Sugar Works Guarantee Act passed in Queensland, on the ground of certain regulations affecting Asiatic labour. He submitted that England had a right to a voice in this matter. The sacrifices this country made in the war, partly on behalf of the natives, gave them a claim to insist that British ideas as well as colonial ideas should be consulted in the settlement of the native question. One of the chief proposals now made was that native labour should be recruited from the North. He himself was at one time inclined to favour that proposal; but, on further consideration, he was convinced that as far as Uganda, at all events, was concerned, no proposal could be more disastrous. He had had an opportunity of speaking on the subject to Sir Henry Stanley, whose opinion was entitled to some weight in the House and the country, and he held the view most emphatically that, to use his own words, it would not be merely a folly, but a crime, to enlist natives in Uganda to work at Johannesburg, as they would not be able to stand the climate, and would be certain to die in large numbers. Sir Henry Stanley's experience was that, if the natives of Uganda moved even a short distance from their own country, they died in great numbers; and Bishop Tucker recently wrote to The Times that in one expedition where natives were engaged as porters, no fewer than 2,000 of them died because they were removed to a different climate and fed on a different diet. It should be remembered that Uganda was on the Equator, and 4,000 feet above the sea, while Johannesburg was twenty-six degrees south of the Equator and 5,500 feet above the sea. It was as if the inhabitants of Morocco were set to work in Scotland, and not only on the plains of Scotland, but on the hill-tops. Sir Henry Stanley also urged that, as this country had now spent £6,000,000 on the Uganda Railway, it would be an act of folly to deplete the country of its most energetic, intelligent, and sturdy labourers.
He attended a deputation to Lord Lansdowne on the subject yesterday, and the statements made by the missionaries, who spoke on behalf of British Central Africa, as to the demoralisation which 84 had resulted to the men who had previously worked in the Transvaal mines were exceedingly striking. What was the right policy that should be adopted? They, both political and from the point of view of public finance, all realised the immense importance of the prosperity of Johannesburg; but, surely, it would not be impossible under slightly different conditions to employ a larger number of white men, with more machinery, and to make that profitable by lowering the cost of living. Mr. Albu had said recently—It was impossible to employ poor whites in great numbers owing to the inflated price of food-stuffs.And that was the real difficulty of the whole matter, and the rings and monopolies which controlled the food supplies of Johannesburg were largely responsible for that difficulty. It ought to be possible, also, to remove the obstacles and deterrents which prevented the natives from going to the mines. It was not necessary to make wholesale accusations of laziness in order to explain the lack of labour. It was the Kaffirs who had built the railways and the towns, had worked the farms and plantations, had developed the coal-, diamond-, and goldmines, had supplied the domestic service of South Africa—the Kaffirs, who it was now said were constitutionally unwilling or unable to work.
The House did not fully realise the extraordinary difficulties, the grave obstacles, which used to exist, and did to some extent now exist, to deter natives from going into the mines. Many of them had to make journeys of from 500 to as many as 1,600 miles in length in order to reach their employment; there was no accommodation on the roads, and many of them arrived in a half-starved condition; the conditions of the contracts were frequently misrepresented to them by the labour agents who were sent to recruit labour, and who were of the lowest and most, unreliable character; the diet given to them was in many cases unsatisfactory; numbers went back suffering from scurvy; badly-prepared food frequently gave them intestinal disease, and in the mines of the Selukwe district in Rhodesia the death rate during the two years ending March, 1900, was no less than seventy-five per 85 thousand per annum. They were compelled to associate with men of other tribes in the compounds; they suffered many petty injustices through the difficulty in making themselves understood; in many cases the wages contracted to be paid to them were not paid; they were exposed to the temptation to drink, which many of them were unable to resist, and the result was that many of them took home little or no savings. In consequence of these things the missionaries were often unwilling to let those under their influence go to the mines. On the whole, it was rather surprising that so many went to the mines rather than that there should be a shortage of labour. Let these obstacles be removed, as Lord Milner was actively endeavouring to remove them, and the question would in large measure solve itself. There was no need to force them into the mines by taxes; to whip them to work with an economic sjambok. Could these blacks make their voices heard in that House, they would say to them: "You have taken away our independence, and to that we submit; you have occupied our land, and we do not protest; you ask us to contribute to the upkeep of your revenue, and we are willing to do so according to our means; but we ask to be allowed to live our own lives in our own way on our own land, without being forced into your economic system." That was not an extravagant demand. It was a demand within their rights. Those people looked to this House as the guardian of their rights. The right hon. Gentleman in a speech at Kimberley, in a glowing description of the future of the Empire, spoke of the Empire as "based on the ideals of humanity, justice and freedom." Those were principles which should not be kept merely for the uses of a peroration, but ought to be maintained as permanent guides of our policy.
§ MR. MARKHAM (Nottinghamshire, Mansfield)
said there were four propositions it was essential for the House to apprehend in order to arrive at a proper understanding of the conditions of South Africa. He was one of those who believed that there never could be, in a country where white and black races had to live together, any question 86 of equality. No white man, so far as he was aware, in South Africa had ever been in competition with black labour. It was futile to refer to Australia and other countries where no black labour existed, because where no black labour existed the colonists had a right to say that the colonies should depend solely on white men, and not upon the introduction of black or coloured races. The prosperity of South Africa depended, not on agriculture, but on the mines of the Transvaal, and hon. Members who denied that must arrive at the same conclusion when they reflected that all the improvements that had taken place in that country had been the result of the mining industry, and no other, and all prosperity could come from no other source. It was only from proper attention being paid to the development of the resources of the Transvaal that prosperity could come both now and in the future to the whole of South Africa. There were two paths which the Government might follow. In the first place the Kaffir in South Africa will not work, and it is idle to suppose sufficient labour could be obtained unless the Kaffir was forced to work. At this time the field from which labour was recruited in South Africa was exhausted, and pressure had been put upon the natives to come from Portuguese East Africa, and the question which the House had to consider now was whether they were going to allow the system of forced labour which was the only method by which the resources of that country could be continued, or would they take the only other possible alternative which could be taken with advantage to the country?
There was nobody in this House or in South Africa who advocated forced labour. That idea was repudiated in South Africa and by all sections of this House. He had met Kaffirs coming down from Central Africa itself. The great majority of them, except those who came from Portuguese East Africa, came voluntarily. He admitted that the majority came from Portuguese East Africa, and they came because they were forced by the Portuguese officials, who got a bonus for those they sent, but there was no proved 87 system of slavery under the old Government, The only proved system of slavery was that introduced by the Chartered Company. The point he desired to call to the attention of the Government was the choice of two alternatives: they must either rely on what labour could be got in South Africa, or introduce labour from outside. A very strong feeling existed on that side of the House that labour should not be introduced into South Africa from outside, but he was unable to see any argument which could reasonably be urged against such introduction. Was it not just as reasonable to bring men from India as Kaffirs from Uganda? If coolies were brought under indenture to Cape Colony, it was no more wrong to go farther and bring in any class of labour that was willing to work at a reasonable wage. To work the mines by white labour the whole rate of wages would have to be reduced to a nominal sum. The present rate was nearer £20 than £30 per month. Of the cost of production per ton of ore crushed, 30 per cent. was for white labour, 28 per cent. for native labour, 9 per cent. for coal, 10 per cent. for dynamite, and the balance for stores, so that for every £1 spent on Kaffir labour more than £1 was paid for white labour. It was impossible to work low grade ores with white labour. The average production of gold amounted to only about ten and a half dwts. per ton of ore, except in the Central Rand, where the richness of the ore was exceedingly high. With the exception of about ten, the whole of the mines were low-grade ore, and unless labour was secured by which the low-grade ores could be worked successfully they could not look forward to any future development of the mining industry in South Africa. To have a prosperous industry in South Africa coloured labour was necessary, unless the wages for white labour were reduced from £20 to £5 per month. It was not for the benefit of the Transvaal alone that the gold industry should be kept up. The whole prosperity of South Africa depended on the gold mines and the mineral industries. He was strongly against slave labour, but the only way in which it could be avoided was by bringing in outside labour.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
said the last speaker seemed to use a series of syllogisms; they must have mines in order to get dividends; they must cultivate such ore as was there to get dividends; and if it was poor ore the only way was by cheap labour; the only cheap labour was coloured labour, therefore, coloured labour they must have, and so let them introduce natives from other parts who were more or less willing to work. He would go almost any length in supporting the Colonial Secretary in the great work he had taken in hand. No statesman in his time had undertaken so great a work and carried it through with greater resolution, perseverance, and courage; but he did entertain great doubt as to the result of the system of bringing down Central African labour to work in the Transvaal. Any sort or form of compulsion he was quite sure the House would be very impatient of; it could not be sustained. If the result of this experiment was a great mortality among imported labourers, he thought the feeling of the country would be terribly strong, and would not only bring the experiment to an end, but would have a very painful effect. Therefore he did not think it was an experiment to which they could look forward with any very great confidence. He wanted to know why were we to interfere and fall in with the prejudices of those who would not have the sort of labour which was willing to come and was fitted for the purpose? He did not think East Indians would do in the Transvaal; they would do exceedingly well in tropical climates. But the Chinese could stand the cold climate perfectly well, because large parts of China were much colder than the Transvaal in winter. He knew there was amongst a certain class of colonists great prejudice against the Chinese, but if we were going to get suitable labour for the mines, he did not think we should go to the least suitable field when a perfectly suitable field was open, if suitably tapped. Coloured labour must be got by paying the market price. Very few would view with favour any system by which any form of compulsion was applied. The rate of taxation indicated by the Secretary of State the other day seemed a very high rate, but he was quite sure that both he and the Foreign Secretary would take 89 great care that this experiment was made with every possible precaution against abuse. He did not think it was one they could hope to carry far without mischief, but he did think that much better means could easily be found of providing labour without corresponding dangers, and that we ought not to lend ourselves to the prejudices of those who said they would not have Asiatic labour.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary will not consider that in this debate anyone has cast imputations upon him of not being desirous to protect the natives in South Africa. I have observed before that in my opinion he has exercised the great influence he possesses already in favour of the natives. He has successfully pressed upon the British Administration in South Africa the removal of those atrocious provisions in the old Pass Laws authorising floggings in order to enforce civil contracts. It was with great reluctance on the part of the British Administration in South Africa that the right hon. Gentleman succeeded in absolutely excluding flogging from the Pass Laws, and in amending those laws in the manner in which they have been amended. But what is the urgency of the present occasion when we have to consider what is to be done in regard to the natives? There is a deficiency of labour now, but there was no deficiency before the war.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
It was stated by the Industrial Commission in 1897 that they could get all the labour they wanted.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The statement was that the supply was double what it is now. Why has it failed? Therein is the whole case.
§ SIR. WILLIAM HARCOURT
The hon. Member will allow me to proceed; he has had his opportunity. We have had different views expressed by the hon. Gentleman on those subjects at different times. I repeat my question: Why is there a deficiency of labour to the extent of 50 per cent. since the war as compared with the period before the war? The answer to that is extremely simple. It is found in this fact, that at that time, when they had 80,000 or 100,000 natives to work in the mines, mine owners were determined to diminish wages compulsorily, and they applied through the Industrial Commission to the Boer Government to support them by what they called indirect compulsion. Their desire was clearly expressed in their evidence. But the Boer Government refused to support them, and consequently they did not succeed in their endeavour at that time in cutting down the wages of native labour. That is the true cause of the present dearth of labour, and the Colonial Secretary has alluded to that as a mistake. The mine-owners made more than a mistake; they committed a blunder amounting almost to a crime, because it is that which has paralysed and almost ruined the gold-mining interest in South Africa. With the establishment of British supremacy the mine-owners thought the time was opportune, adopting Mr. Rhodes's dictum that "the British flag is a commercial asset," and their Executive Committee in October, 1900, resolved that "the schedule of native wages in existence prior to the war should be abandoned, and that the minimum rate of wages for adult native labour should be 30s. per month of thirty working days, or 1s. per diem, and the maximum 35s. per month of thirty-one days, or 1s. 2d. per diem." There were provisions for payment of higher wages in specific cases; but throughout 1901, when the mines began to work again, there were 18,000 natives employed, and the average of wages paid was 31s. a month, and therefore the whole of the wages were practically upon the lowest scale during the whole of that period. That is the cause, in my opinion, of the deficiency in native labour at the present time in South Africa, and nothing else.
91 Of course the knowledge of this spread through all the sources from which native labour is obtained; the supply of labour ceased naturally, and the difficulty in working the mines followed. In 1902 the mine owners began to discover what their insensate policy had produced, and to some extent they raised their scale of payment; but it will take a long time to undo the effects which their policy had brought about. I was very glad to hear that at the Guildhall the other day the Colonial Secretary rehabilitated the Boer character and did justice to Boer treatment of the natives. There has been a good deal of very discreditable vilification of the Boers, not only in their own personal character but also in respect of their treatment of the natives. We were accustomed to hear that as one result of the war the native would be redeemed from the brutal oppression of the Boers. We now learn that there was no foundation for the allegations indulged in, and many people have cause to be heartily ashamed of the language used as to the treatment by the Boers of the natives. The native of South Africa, too, was described as a brute only fit to be used as a beast of burden; but, in fact, when properly treated and properly paid he is an industrious labourer, and nearly the whole manual industry of South Africa is accomplished by the Kaffirs. Practically speaking the manual labour has been theirs, and it is time that the truth should be told as to the character of the Boers and the nature of the Kaffirs. I have read within the last fortnight a speech made upon this subject by a very high authority in South Africa, Sir Percy FitzPatrick, and he says—The rate of progress was determined by the supply of native labour. Prior to this war the maximum supply was to the mines 96,704; to the towns 25,000. They were still short of the previous complement of the mines by 50,736.That was just about half the number they had got previous to the war. The hon. Member for Mansfield corrected me just now, but perhaps he will accept the authority of Sir Percy FitzPatrick upon that subject. Sir Percy proceeds to say—Every man now seemed to be a kind of Pontifical authority on this labour question. The claims of this town naturally came first, and it had procured its complement because private individuals were able to pay much higher wages than public companies.92 What an astounding statement! Private individuals able to pay higher wages than the gold-mining companies of which we hear so much as the means of making fortunes, and as the chief source of their wealth. The gold-mining industry comes forward and claims forced labour, suing in formá pauperis and representing that they are so poor that they cannot pay the wages paid by other employers in other industries in South Africa. That is the whole history of the deficiency of labour in South Africa. With a blindness which somehow seems to attend the lust for gold they have destroyed their own interests by their own conduct. What an extraordinary statement it is that these great companies in South Africa are so poor that they cannot pay wages according to the rates other industries can pay. It may seem strange to some who have not considered this subject, but take it all round gold-mining in South Africa is not a profitable industry. There are mines that are easily worked, but they have been over capitalised by people who think only of flotation, and their margin for earning dividends is not great. But there are a much greater number of mines worth nothing at all and never intended to be worth anything; they are like the razors which were made not to shave but to sell. These low-grade mines were not made to work, they were made to sell, and they have been sold, and the people who invested in them have been sold also. That is the history of gold mining in South Africa, and it is this which is now being discovered by the public of British gamblers. That is the reason of that singular statement by Sir Percy Fitz-patrick—that they cannot afford to pay what other people can pay. And why? Nobody will buy to-day what everybody wishes to sell—mining investments in South Africa. That is the paralysis that has come over the gold industry both in the Stock Exchange and Africa itself, and that is why in my opinion the first thing to be observed is that neither in the interest of South Africa nor in the interest of the investors in gold mines themselves are the counsels or the advice of the mine-owners to be attended to by this House. They have ruined their own interests, and if their counsels are followed they will ruin the 93 future of South Africa. That is a thing which I would ask this House to consider, why it is, now the future of South Africa has passed into British hands, that the mining interest, which was to be so much richer after the war, is now in a state of destitution. We all remember one of the highest authorities—the authority of one of those American engineers whom the right hon. Gentleman referred to the other day—estimated first of all that the gain, "the commercial asset" of the British flag, would be worth, figuring it out at so much per ton, £4,000,000 a year to the gold interest. That was found to be a dangerously sanguine estimate, which was afterwards cut down to £2,000,000, and at all events they were to be better off to the extent of that sum from the British flag. Now all these expectations which had "boomed" the mining shares in the market have disappeared, and that is why people are beginning to understand the real state of things, and why they are so unwilling to deal in these shares. Therefore this is a thing we have to bear in mind, because as my right hon. friend the Member for Forest of Dean said—What is to be your test which you are going to apply to labour? Are you resolved to lower the wages of labour until you make those worthless mines worth something in the future?Because that is the sort of plea that is put forward when you are told that you are bound in any event and by any means to make the low-grade ores pay. Well, what is the rate of wages at which these low-grade mines, which have paid no dividends, and in my opinion never can pay any dividend at all—what is the figure at which you are to place native labour, by some means, it matters not what, in order to make these mines pay? Why is it that all those great companies with their enormous capital are pleading in formá pauperis for cheap native labour? It is because their nominal capital is such that with the ordinary market price of labour they cannot show the profits which they desire, because when you go to the deep low-grade ores the thing becomes still more impossible.
In my opinion the cause of the present deficiency of labour in the Transvaal is the attempt to cut down the price of native labour at which, 94 before the war, they were doing pretty well. Now they have scared and driven away the natural sources of supply, and though I believe things are improving since they have raised wages in the Transvaal, that process will necessarily be a slow one, because of the foolish and insane policy of cutting down wages wholesale immediately the British flag was hoisted. That policy, as unwise as it was unjust, has done infinite mischief, which it will take a long time to repair. Now it is said that nobody is in favour of forced labour. Is that true? I see that in the Conference at Bloemfontein, one of the Resolutions expressed surprise. They say—The Conference deplores the misconception in certain quarters in the Mother Country regarding South African native policy, and affirms that forced labour is not countenanced by any South African Government, and is repugnant to the civilised opinion throughout the country.Well, I am extremely glad to hear it, because we shall now know what is civilised opinion in South Africa. As to forced labour, I wish to refer to the Industrial Commission, because Mr. Hay and Mr Albu accepted the proposition regarding forced labour. A question was put to Mr. James Hay, President of the Chamber of Mines—Do you think it would be desirable to get forced labour?—Yes.Then Mr. George Albu was asked by Mr. Smith—Suppose the Kaffirs were to turn back to their kraal. In case that happened, would you be in favour of asking the Government to enforce labour?The answer of Mr. Albu was—Certainly; a Kaffir cannot live on nothing.You would make it compulsory?—Yes, I would make it compulsory; and, without using force, a tax could be levied.Do you think you would get a majority of the people on the Rand with you in trying to make the Kaffirs work for a certain payment?—Yes, I think so.That at all events shows that in 1897 there was an opinion in favour of forced labour. The Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Schalk Burgher, said this, as against the proposal of the mine owners then for forced labour.One way to encourage them to come to the mines would be to give them facilities for coming here, to make their lives as pleasant as possible, and to pay them as much as possible 95 even more than at present, and that you don't want to do; whilst to compel them every body acknowledges to be impossible.The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary said the other day that the Boers had been entirely misrepresented when it was said that they were oppressors of the natives. That is the simple truth. They were the protectors of the natives before the war, and of that there cannot be a doubt. Well, this advice given by the President of the Industrial Commission was rejected, by the mine-owners, and they insisted upon not paying more, but paving less, and instead of making things more pleasant for the natives, as Mr. Schalk Burgher suggested, they menaced them with increased taxation. That was the course taken before the war. But Sir, when it is said by the Conference that there is no civilised opinion in South Africa in favour of forced labour, there is a matter of importance to which I shall refer. It was the doctrine presented to the Colonial Secretary in South Africa within the last two months, setting forth the demands of the mine-owners by their representatives officially appointed for that purpose as to the deficiency of labour, and the remedies to be provided for it. These are the words in the official document presented to the right hon. Gentleman. It was called an "Industrial Manifesto." What they said they suffered from was "insufficient pressure on the native to make him labour proportionately to the white man." Insufficient pressure! Then that is defined as "more legal and moral pressure to compel a greater number of natives in British possessions to work, and for longer periods." Is that forced labour, or is it not? It would be impossible to describe forced labour in more definite terms than these. [Mr. Chamberlain shook his head.] The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but we shall hear from him what interpretation he puts upon the words "insufficient pressure," and "more legal and moral pressure to compel a greater number of natives in British possessions to work, and for longer periods" If that is not forced labour I do not know what is. I think it could not be described in more definite terms. They 96 took credit in that document for being the only persons in South Africa who had reduced the pre-war rate of wages. That was the claim they made before the Colonial Secretary in regard to the deficiency of labour in South Africa. They wanted more legal and moral pressure in order to give them cheaper labour, and it was in order to carry out their desire, which was to reduce the rate of wages from what it was before the war. Now, Sir we have never had any official account of what was the answer of the right hon. Gentleman to those demands, and I do not think they are on record anywhere; I have attended closely to this matter, and I have never seen the answer which the right hon. Gentleman has made to the formal demands made in that formal document. Now is this the opinion of civilised people in South Africa? Who were these people who made these demands in that language. They were a body of engineers appointed to represent the great gold mining interests of South Africa. Their names are given in that document, and are these:—Eckstein & Co., Consolidated Gold Fields, Faison Brothers, Albut, (Goery & Co., Barnato Brothers, Neuman & Co., Lewis & Marks, Rand Mines, J. B. Robinson, Bertinck & Deltelbach, and others.Is that civilised opinion? We are told that it is repugnant to civilised opinion throughout the country. I suppose we must take it for granted that the opinions of these gentlemen do not represent the civilised opinion of South Africa. This is a serious matter; because these persons, with their great influence and great wealth, must have a very preponderant influence in the future over those colonies and in the counsels of the present Government. Where is the material that is to be found for determining these questions in South Africa if the opinion of persons in the situation of those whose names I have read are to be treated as not representing the civilised opinion of South Africa? Where is the British Administration to receive its advice, and what is to be the opinion that is to prevail in these matters? These are serious questions which the House of Commons with its responsibility will have to consider.
97 Then there is the question of increased taxation. I understood from the right hon. Gentleman's statement that the taxation in the Transvaal has been diminished to what it was before the war; but he gave some figures which I have not been able well to understand, because the figures of the taxation before the war do not correspond with those which have been recently given. Before the Industrial Commission it was stated that the taxation in the Transvaal amounted to 50s.; that is to say, there was a hut tax of 10s., a poll tax of £2, which was a new introduction in 1895—I imagine at the instance of the mineowners—and there was a road tax. But, curiously enough, that is the figure also given in the year 1901 by Sir David Barbour in his report on the mining taxation. He says that there was a hut tax of 10s., and, if there was more than one wife it was 10s. a head—not £2 additional, as I understand it now is. Then there is this remarkable statement. He says—Neither the hut tax nor the poll tax is paid by the natives working in the mines.I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether under the present arrangement men working in the mines are to be free from that taxation.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Very well, then there is not a reduction. Sir David Barbour says in his report that taxation at that time was nominally 50s., as against 40s.; that when a man was working in the mines and was absent from his home he was relieved from this taxation. But if you are going to levy it on 100,000 of these natives when they are working in the mines, or 200,000, as we are told there are to be in the future, you are enormously increasing the weight of taxation, and upon the very people who ought to be relieved from it. Therefore, this representation that there has been a reduction of taxation is a complete mistake. The real truth is, if you are going to put on this taxation—this capitation tax of £2 a head upon the men working in the mines—you are doing that which they have never been accustomed to before. They were always told when they worked in the mines for 98 three or four months that they would be relieved from that tax. If you are going to tax them in that way it is not a diminution of taxation; it is an increase of taxation.
Then there is the tax on polygamy. It is a very curious tax. There used to be at one time, I believe, in England a tax upon bachelors. That was to do away with celibacy. This is an opposite system of taxation; it is a tax upon the number of wives, and the right hon. Gentleman said the other day, in this House, that it was a tax against polygamy. But polygamy is one of the customs of the natives; and you do not propose to put it down, because you know what the consequences would be if you were to determine to do so. There, again, there has been a gross misrepresentation of the state of things. I have seen in the newspapers speeches of gentlemen who ought to know better, who say that these Kaffirs buy these women as slaves. They do nothing of the kind. They deposit a certain number of cattle with the father of the wife. It is a custom among these people which is as elaborate as any British marriage settlement. The cattle are deposited with the father, who takes them as compensation for his daughter who is taken away. But he remains responsible for the cattle under the marriage settlement, and the woman, if she is ill treated and leaves her husband, has a right to come upon these cattle, in whosesoever hands they are. It is a very curious, very elaborate, and highly civilised proceeding. That is what is called buying a slave. But the custom among these people is that the male Kaffir has charge of the cattle. Whatever is done by the cattle falls to him, and the women work in the fields, as I very well remember their working in the fields in England. This polygamy argument, of which we heard nothing as long as the mines were doing well, but which has been invented now as an excuse for insisting upon forced labour, is repudiated by the recent Conference. The Conference says—Except in Rhodesia the influence of polygamy on the labour supply is greatly exaggerated. Polygamy is decreasing from natural causes, the advance of civilisation, and the ameliorated condition of the women. Ploughs have relieved them largely from field labour.99 The moment the plough is used the women disappear from the fields altogether, because they are not allowed to intervene in the cattle business at all, and the moment cattle appear on the ground the women are relieved altogether from the work. To my mind this grievance has been invented really for the purpose of bolstering up a tax on the Kaffirs. We desire that female labour in the fields should be removed as, in our own recollection, it has been removed in this country. But I do not think it is a very prudent thing to interfere violently in this form of taxation with the customs of these people. You are extremely likely to irritate the people and lead them to imagine that you are making war upon customs which we have always professed to respect in South Africa.
There is one other question on which I must touch—that is the question of Asiatic labour. It is said that Asiatic labour is only to be introduced in the last resort as the ultima ratio. But nobody can follow this matter carefully, as I have endeavoured to do, without knowing that that is the thing upon which the mine owners really rely. They are going to America to see what they can make out there about Chinese labour. I had thought the opinion of this country had been made up on that question, that the notion of founding a new British colony, of which the basis should be Chinese labour, would be a thing which would be repugnant to the opinion of every man in this country, as we know it is repugnant to the opinion of the colonies who have had experience of it. An endeavour is made to reconcile us to it by an assurance that it is to be done under the Government, and that every precaution is to be taken to prevent the consequences that are feared from it. I have read the opinions that have been collected in Rhodesia upon that subject, and I would just like to read an extract from the opinion of a gentleman who is very well known in South Africa, Major Maurice Heany. He is a great advocate of Chinese labour, and he says—There can be no harm in Chinese labour, because we will take care to fence it round.And this is his description of how a Chinaman should be treated when he 100 comes to South Africa. He is to be kept out of mischief in this way.The Chinaman, if he comes, must come as a hewer of wood and drawer of water—as nearly a beast of burden as it is possible to make a human animal into.That is the prospect of staple model labour in a new British colony—And when his task is done, he must go. He may not become a miner; neither may he own a prospector's licence, nor a licence to trade. No white man may enter into partnership with him for the performance of mine or other contracts; nor may he enter into contracts on his own account. Above all he may not acquire, by purchase or otherwise, any house, lands, or claims, nor in his own right enter upon the occupation of rented premises. He will come simply as a labourer, and a labourer he must remain.It is proposed to have 100,000 or 200,000 of these men, who are to be the basis of the whole industry of the new colonies, and they are to be kept under the control of a British Government on these conditions.
What is the House of Commons going to do in this matter? Is it going to accept the gold-mine owners of South Africa as its advisers in dealing with native labour? I think not. I hope not. We are sometimes told that it is for South Africa to deal with—that it must be dealt with according to the civilised opinion of South Africa. We have had some inkling of what that civilised opinion is. I believe that this question will be determined, as it ought to be determined, according to the ancient traditions of the English people, and in accordance with those principles and the freedom of labour, of whatever colour, that have been among the chief boasts of the English people both here and abroad. There has been in the world a good deal of criticism upon the war in which we have conquered. There has been a good deal of just approval of the spirit of conciliation in which we have dealt, by the assistance of the Colonial Secretary, with the injuries inflicted by that war. But I believe that the judgment of the world upon us in this new territory which we have thus acquired will be greatly and mainly determined by the manner in which we deal with the native races and with this question of the native labour. We cannot discharge ourselves of this responsibility. We cannot leave it to the interested 101 parties to determine the policy of the British Empire in this matter. I hope the Colonial Secretary will treat it in the enlightened spirit of conciliation in which he has sought to heal the wounds that have been inflicted in the war; and in taking that course I am certain he will receive the unanimous support of the House of Commons, and that he will enforce the principles which are worthy of the name and the fame of the British people.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
I do not think I need detain the House at any length in answer to the speeches which have been made, for the second time, upon this very interesting subject. We had a very considerable discussion on the matter a few days ago, and I then gave to the House all the information in my power and a frank exposition of my views as far as they were relevant. I do not think the second discussion this afternoon has added much to our knowledge or produced any new argument to which I can be expected to reply. I do not in the least complain of the discussion, which has been conducted in a spirit entirely free from any party feeling; and I acknowledge the kindly way in which the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has spoken of me. He has truly said that I may justly consider myself as a friend of the natives, for I have, from the earliest days of my political life, taken a great interest in their future, and endeavoured, as far as I could, to promote their welfare. But, although the discussion has been interesting, I am totally unable to discover what is the practical issue that is placed before the House. What is the House asked to do; what is the Government asked to do; what is it our colonists in South Africa are asked to do? One thing I do glean from every speech that has been delivered from the other side of the House, and that is that there exists in the minds of those speakers a perfectly irrepressible distrust, almost a detestation, of the mine-owners. I would almost say that I should judge that their real object was, by hook or by crook, one way or another, to ruin the gold industry. Take the right hon. Gentleman opposite. How did he begin his speech? He began by talking about the lust of gold 102 of the mine-owners, and about their wretched greed—language which is really, I would say, unnecessarily offensive. This is, after all, only another way of saying that the mine-owners, like other capitalists—for I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that it is not confined to mine-owners—seek their own interests, and endeavour to make the largest possible profit for their expenditure. We need not treat them as philanthropists; we need not praise them for doing their best to get the largest dividends. But, on the other hand, we need not treat them and speak of them as though they were the lowest of human kind. That is a great mistake, because, as I have tried to point out, you cannot separate these mine-owners, whatever you may think of them, from the rest of the British and Dutch population of the colony with which you are dealing. Anybody who goes to South Africa will find that the whole of that country at the present time is more or less dependent for its future prosperity upon the Transvaal gold mines. He will find that, in the course of a few years, there has been a gigantic development of that great industry; and that, as a result, thousands, and tens of thousands, of British workmen of the very I best class have left their own country and established themselves—in many cases, I believe, permanently—in the new colonies. He will see great towns rising almost out of the veldt; he will see large industries contingent on that main industry; everywhere he will see development, all due to this one industry. The men who, by their skill, their capital, and their energy, no doubt not from philanthropic motives, but with the idea of filling their own pockets, have done all this are spoken of, and treated,; as though they were pariahs, and as if their ruin would be a desirable thing and an advantage to the country. That is an absurd position to take. In future, do let us either leave the mine-owners alone or treat them with the same kind of respect with which you treat your coal-owners, your cotton merchants, your bankers, your financiers, or any other person who is engaged in using his brains in order to make his living.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. My condemnation was that the mine-owners cut down wages, even against their own interests.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
That may be a very foolish thing; but, good heavens, it everybody is to be spoken of in such terms of violent contempt, and to be denounced, as from a pulpit, for their lust of gold and their abominable greed, because they try to get their wages lowered, what would become, I should like to know, of the whole manufacturing industry of this country? I thought it was one of the great doctrines and principles of the Cobden school that you should buy in the lowest market and sell in the highest; and for the life of me I do not see, under these circumstances, why the unfortunate mine-owner is supposed to be out of the ordinary run of humanity, or in any way different from them. My argument is, that as the future of the country depends, in the first instance at any rate, upon the progress of this great industry, it is our interest as a British Government and a British people not to discourage it, but to do everything in our power to encourage it. As a mere matter of politics, we want to see this great colony, in which large numbers of our own countrymen gain their subsistence, prosper. Their prosperity, and the prosperity of the Boers as well, depends on the success of this greatest industry; and without the capital which this industry and the contingent industries provide, you will not be able to develop the other mineral resources of the country, which are also important, and, above all, you will not do what I believe may prove to be in the long run (I do not speak of this year or of next, but of cycles) a source of great prosperity—you will not develop the agricultural resources of the country.
Any one who knows South Africa knows perfectly well that there are vast areas of country which only want expenditure on irrigation to make them as fertile as Egypt itself. It means, in the first place, a demand for the produce of the land, and it means, in the second place, capital in large quantities in order to develop it. I say let us treat this 104 question of native labour, not with any prejudice, but simply in connection with the general prosperity of the country, and let hon. Members opposite remember this—that the violence of the language they have used on this question is as repulsive and as offensive to the Boer population as it could possibly be to the British population. Though it is perfectly true, as I said the other day, that I think the Boers were absolved from some of the charges that were made against them, chiefly, by the way, by missionaries and on missionary authority, in connection with their treatment of the natives, I also say that they take a different view of the native from what may be called the extreme philanthropic view. They do not consider that the native is capable of being placed upon anything like the same level as the white population. In my recent journey, one of the principal complaints made to me by the great Boer deputation at Pretoria, and repeated to me by almost every deputation I received, was that the Government ought to interfere to secure a proper supply of labour for the farms. The right hon. Gentleman opposite and others speak as if the labour question affected the mines solely. It affects every branch of industry, and it affects agriculture no less than the mining industry. What the Boers said to me was, that since the war, from various causes, the native has grown insolent, and squats on the land, and will not do any work. If there is any definite, strong opinion on the subject of what is called forced labour, it is to be found among the Boers, and not among the British population. "But," says the right hon. Gentleman, quoting a document written by persons not as literary as himself, who do not perhaps understand the weight to be attached to distinctions of language, "These mine-owners say that the native must be compelled to work." Yes, but when they say compelled it merely means by legal and moral means. When you talk of forcing labour what you mean is labour enforced by physical compulsion. [Some OPPOSITION cries of "Oh."] You do not? Well, by slavery and forced labour I have certainly always understood a state that is produced ultimately by 105 physical force. If that is not so, I do not understand the difference between your forced labour and my inducement, I am utterly and entirely opposed to anything in the nature of forced labour. I am quite certain that the resolution, it was not given to me officially, but I saw it reported in the papers, of the Conference says that no sanction will be given by any civilised opinion in South Africa to forced labour. But while I believe that is absolutely true, on the other hand there is a very general belief throughout South Africa that the natives should be in their own interest, as well as in the interest of the country, induced to work. Accordingly that is the only practical question to be considered. These names and charges, which are extremely offensive to the people against whom they are brought, ought not to be used, and we should consider on the merits the proposed inducements. Possibly it may be considered that they in themselves are objectionable; if so, it is quite right and natural that some opinion should be pronounced by this House on the subject; but do not call forced labour what is after all at the worst only labour which has been induced by legislation which indirectly effects that result.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Quite so. There are, as far as I know, two forms of inducement. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had not seen the notice of any reply I had made to the memorial which was addressed to me. I made no reply to that memorial; but I had many conferences with the mine-owners, and I expressed my own opinion very fully, and very much to the same effect as I have expressed it to this House. I urged upon them, in the first place, to induce the labourer to work by the ordinary means which people take—that is to say, by tempting them by greater opportunities of securing the satisfaction of their wants and necessities as a result of their wages. If you can increase the wants of a native you at once give him the desire to work in order to supply those wants. Take, for instance, the native in East Africa—the 106 Masai; he is a savage with very little clothing, and very few wants; if you can induce in him or in his wife or wives a love of finery, a desire for better food, or a desire for clothing, you at the same time induce in him a readiness to work. That is one thing which I said, undoubtedly; in my opinion they have not up to the present done all that could be done in that respect, and I ventured to put before them various suggestions in regard to that matter. My right hon. friend the Member for Cambridge University says in effect: "Why should you induce this happy man to work? Here he is lying naked in the sun for the greater part of the day; he does not want to do any work, and it is not necessary; his wife, although not a slave, probably from affection, is willing to do what work is necessary in order to provide him with subsistence. Why should you interfere with this happy being, why induce or teach him to work?" If that really is the last word of civilisation, if we are to proceed on the assumption that the nearer the native, or any human being, comes to a pig the more desirable is his condition, of course I have nothing to say. But that is not the argument either of the missionary or of the civilised world in general, to which appeal is so often made. Although some ridicule has been cast upon the phrase—it is not mine, but that of a very distinguished missionary—I must continue to believe that, at all events, the progress of the native in civilisation will not be secured until he has been convinced of the necessity and the dignity of labour. Therefore, I think that anything we reasonably can do to induce the native to labour is a desirable thing.
The right hon. Gentleman gave us a great deal of information which is not new to me, although it may be to the House; but I could not really see in what way he hung the different parts of his speech together. For instance, he began by asking why there was any urgency in dealing with this question, and why there was any scarcity of labour. He proved to his own satisfaction that the scarcity was entirely due to the mistaken policy of the mine-owners in trying to get the natives to work at lower wages, and said that, if that were the case, of course the remedy was perfectly simple— 107 all you have to do is to raise the wages. I am sorry to say that that shows an insufficient acquaintance with the facts. At present the total number of labourers is probably as great as it ever was; but they are taken off from the mines to other labour. There has arisen since the war, in connection with the great development that is taking place a very largely increased demand for labour; the extensions of the railways have taken thousands and, I believe, tens of thousands of natives; then there is a great activity in the retail trade, the demand for ordinary service has become very large, and the demand for agriculture is also very considerable. It is calculated that on the whole there are at the present time probably from 30,000 to 40,000 more Kaffir labourers employed in other occupations than mining than there were before the war, and that accounts for most of those who were at work at the mines before the war. But there are other reasons also working rather to reduce the number of labourers. In the first place, we are carrying out that excellent drink law which was passed by the Transvaal Government, but never carried out by them, with the result that at the present moment a native cannot get drink. I do not say that a native can never escape supervision, but the penalty for supplying the native is so high that I believe the law is very seldom violated. No doubt the greatest of all temptations that can be offered to an ignorant native is strong drink. That temptation has been taken away; and those others which, I think, will ultimately take its place have not been supplied. The mine-owners, and this is to be said to their credit, have always been among the strongest in favour of the strictest possible law against supplying natives with drink. They have said that while, on the one hand, it reduces the temptation of the native to work, on the other hand, when he does work, his work is better and he himself enjoys better health, so that it is not entirely a loss. In addition to that, the natives during the war obtained very considerable sums from both sides for labourers' work and scouting and other work; and until they have spent that money they are not coming back to earn more. Whether 108 they are to be blamed or not, at all events, they are taking a holiday, and as long as it lasts that is another cause which has militated against a very large supply of labour. But the point is this, that when you have got as a labourer every available man south of the Zambesi, there seems to be very little doubt that you will not have enough labour for the whole of the development that is taking place in the country.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite asked, "Why should you work the low-grade ore?" Well, why not? Of course, it is a matter of common sense that the lower the grade of ore the lower must be the cost of extraction if it is to pay; and you cannot get capitalists to put money into the business if it does not pay. If it can be made to pay, surely that is a very good thing; for a low-grade mine requires for the crushing of a certain number of tons exactly as much labour as the higher-grade mine, and therefore, so far as the finding of employment for British workmen is concerned, the working of low-grade mines is just as important to us as the working of the richest mine on the Rand; and it is undoubtedly the policy of the Government, if it wants to secure the early prosperity of the country, to get as many of these mines to work as possible. The question of what wages are to be paid surely is entirely a question of supply and demand. In the first place, as regards the white man, he is able to say what wages he will take and what is the minimum. Probably the very high wages now given on the Band to the European workmen will come down very much, especially when the cost of living is reduced, as no doubt it will be before very long. That, in itself, may make a great difference, and may displace some of the black labourers who otherwise would be required. When you come to the black, he also, if he is a free agent, is able to make his own terms. Hon. Gentlemen have been pointing out that terrible things will happen if the native leaves Central Africa; but are there not terrible things there? Cannot the conditions be put before them by the missionaries? Unless the native, after considering the whole 109 circumstances, is convinced that it is to his advantage to go, he will not go, and if he goes to the mines and dislikes the work he can find employment in other occupations.
The real fact is this—that if you give only 1s. a day or less in Central Africa for work on coffee estates and offer 4s. a day for work in the mines there will be a great number of natives who will be tempted by the higher price; and my argument with regard to Central Africa is that in the interests of the native you have no right to take the choice from him. You have a perfect right to make whatever provisions are necessary to prevent scandals such as have arisen in connection with mining and other work, especially in connection with coolie labour. In regard to those provisions, I am, of course, in favour of giving the Kaffir who has removed from Central Africa, or other parts of Africa, to South Africa precisely the same protection as is given to the coolie who leaves India for the West Indies. When the deputation represented the other day to Lord Lansdowne that the migration of natives was open to great objection in that it led to the severance of a man from his family, and that there was a chance of his deteriorating among the populations of the towns, and so on, we say that every one of these objections attaches equally to the coolie from India as well as to all other classes of labourers who leave their wives and families in order to earn a larger wage than they could by remaining where they were born. To say in this parental way that we are to stand between the native and what I believe is to his advantage is perfectly monstrous; while if the statement is accompanied by the idea that somehow or other the mining industry is one to be discouraged and deprecated—well, I do not believe any sensible man would think of taking up such a position. The question of the obtaining of extra labour is the only practical question before the House on which there can be the slightest use in expressing an opinion. There is no question of forced labour or Asiatic labour before the House; and I cannot understand why Gentlemen opposite who feel strongly on this subject should not have reserved themselves 110 to a later period, until there is really some danger of a question of that kind arising. Remember this, the vast majority of the people in South Africa are opposed both to forced and Asia tie labour; and, so long as that condition obtains, the Government are not going to force either compulsory or Asiatic labour upon them. The danger will come, if it ever comes, when the whole of South Africa, or the large majority, is in favour of the legislation of which the right hon. Gentleman disapproves, or is in favour of the importation of Asiatic labour; and if that time comes I would venture to say that neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the House at large could possibly prevent it. It is of no use mincing matters. This is not a question in which we can compel our Colonies against their will. It is said that though we could not interfere in the case of self-governing Colonies, we could interfere in the case of the Transvaal or the Orange River Colony, as they are Crown Colonies. I say no; I say to the House, as I said to the Transvaal." It is true that for certain purposes you are a Crown Colony, and that the influence of the Government will be used for a time in order to modify any feelings of hostility which may still exist, and to bring you together and to make preparations for the introduction of the self-government you will ultimately obtain. Meanwhile it is in the interest and policy of the Government to treat you, in regard to legislative action, as if you were a self-governing Colony. We have to try to find out, if we can, what would be your action if you were a self-governing Colony, and to treat the matter upon that basis." That is, at any rate, the principle of the policy of His Majesty's Government, and if the right hon. Gentleman likes to question that policy, by all means let him do so; but there is no idea on our part of using our theoretical supremacy, in a Crown Colony government with a great white population like that in South Africa, against the feeling of the vast majority of the people.
Then, Sir, as regards this question of the supply of labour, as I have said, there is another form of inducement, and that is taxation. The right hon. Gentleman gave us a long account of his views on polygamy amongst native races. I do not want to dispute with him on the 111 subject; but I will say that, if he is right in thinking that the purchase of wives is not to some extent a commercial transaction, and that polygamy is dying out, he must see that it is a matter of very little importance whether we put a tax on extra wives or not, because, then, if there are no extra wives we shall not collect any taxes from that source. But, on the other hand, if there are extra wives, let me say at once that, although the discouragement of polygamy may very fairly be an object, I do not think it could be put forward as the sole, or even the principal, ground for the tax. On the contrary, what has been said is that polygamy is an evidence of wealth. If a man has one wife and a dower he can afford to pay £2for his wife, but if he has two wives and two dowers it might rightly be assumed that he is proportionately a wealthier person and can afford to pay. Whether it is because he has an extra wife or whether it is under the complicated marriage settlement to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, he has a dower on which he can depend. In either case he is a richer man and can afford to pay another £2. If he has three wives the tax is increased.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Yes, the Government of the Transvaal have flattered the right hon. Gentleman by copying his graduated taxation, and in proportion to the wealth is the amount of the charge. Therefore I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will withdraw all his criticisms on that score. The present proposal is for a tax of £2; and I maintain, in spite of all the figures that have been presented, that it is on the average a reduction of the burden borne by the natives. As I have said the thing is very complicated. You may pick out a native here who pays more, and there one who pays less; but on the average this consolidated tax is a less tax than the burden put on the native by the late Government. But, after all, that is not the point, and we need not enter into any controversy on the matter.
112 The question is, on its merits is the tax too high a tax? I say it is not. I say it is a very reasonable tax. I will not say it ought to be more; I have no proposal to raise it, consequently I will not commit myself to any opinion on the subject. I say at the present time £2 is a very reasonable tax. If so, as in the Orange River Colony the tax is 10s., it might be considered there to be too low, and I have already informed the Government of the colony that if they are inclined to propose a higher tax I shall have no objection. In the same way I have no objection to the tax being raised in Rhodesia, provided that we can be assured that such a tax shall not be too heavy a burden on the natives and is not likely to produce disturbance. On its merits of whether or not it is a tax that the native can fairly be asked to pay towards the cost of the Administration by which he benefits, I pronounce emphatically in favour of the tax as it is at present. Of course I cannot deny that the existence of the tax is an inducement to labour; for it is quite true that if the native sits still and does no work he will not have the £2 to pay for his wife, unless, indeed, he has an agricultural business from which he can hope to derive the necessary sum, but in other cases they cannot do it. Why should the right hon Gentleman say that is an inducement to him to go to the mines? No, it is not. It is an inducement to him to work, but whether or not he goes to the mines is a matter entirely for his own choice. There is nothing to force him into the mines if he chooses to work on the railways, or on the farms of the Boers, or in the towns, or, as the Bechuanas do, in Kimberley. He has the choice entirely in his own hands. He is not forced or directed in any way to any particular form of work; but he is undoubtedly induced to work, and that is an indirect result of the tax. But I am prepared to defend the tax on its own merits without the least reference to the question whether it makes the native work or not.
I think I have touched on everything except the question of Asiatic labour. Well, why should this House undertake to instruct our colonies upon this matter? As I have said, the vast majority of the colonies have, unassisted by the wisdom of gentlemen in this country, come to the conclusion that they do not desire the 113 presence of Asiatics except in Natal, where they work on the sugar estates; and I can conceive nothing really more calculated to provoke discussion which might lead to a change of that opinion in the colonies, than any idea on their part that we were taking upon ourselves to be their guides and philosophers in matters on which they are themselves quite as capable of judging as we are. They know perfectly well, and we know or ought to know, that they are just as humane, just as Christian, and just as virtuous as we are ourselves, and they resent this pretence of superior philanthropy which leads men on this side of the water to give them advice which they do not want. If we were a debating society I agree that all these questions are questions of very great interest and might very properly be discussed; but until this House can intervene effectually for a specified purpose I strongly urge on all friends of the Colonies and all friends of this country that they should not discuss matters in a spirit of what I must call carping criticism on our fellow-subjects abroad.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
said that although the right hon. Gentleman had drawn a wide distinction between inducement and compulsion, his officials in South Africa did not conceal the fact that their intention was to compel the niggers to work. There was a despatch by Lord Milner of the 4th October, 1901, dealing with this very question of using taxation as a means of securing labour for the mines. In that despatch his Lordship said that he did not see that it was any particular hardship that the black population should find themselves compelled to work by the necessity of having to pay taxes. That was at least an open expression of Lord Milner's opinion, and indicated that the object of imposing this tax upon the wives of the Transvaal natives was to compel them to work. It was said that these poor natives were living a more comfortable home life than the bulk of the working class population in Europe, and that they must be compelled to work in order to learn the dignity of labour. The dignity of labour in Europe consisted in living in 114 slums and labouring incessantly, and they could well understand the native objecting to recognise that form of dignity. He wondered how far the Colonial Office was prepared to carry this compulsion. The Colonial Secretary said that the question really was whether this tax of £2 per wife was too high. That, said the right hon. Gentleman, was the real subject under discussion. The House might not be aware what this sum amounted to. He understood from those who had studied the question on the spot that it was the ambition of the Transvaal native to be a husband of eight wives, and this would mean a tax of £16 a year which each native would be called upon to pay. He ventured to say that at the rate of wages now being offered, even if the native worked the whole year round, he would not be able to save £16 to pay this tax. If the native went to work the proposal was that he should be exempted from paying the tax, and how did that square with the argument that this tax was necessary to put him on an equality with Europeans? In regard to the lower grade ore he wished to point out that the work in which the natives were chiefly engaged was drilling or boring the holes for charges of dynamite. In other mines this work was not performed by hand labour, but by pneumatic drills, and therefore the alternative was either to obtain a supply of cheap native labour or introduce mechanical drills. Of course the mine-owners found that native labour was cheaper. Notwithstanding what had been said he ventured to say that this lower grade ore would continue to be worked even if native labour was prohibited.
It was only in the Transvaal territory that he understood this exceptionally high tax was going to be imposed. For the rest of South Africa, including Cape Colony, Rhodesia and Natal, the hut tax ran from 10s. to 20s. The highest native tax outside the Transvaal was 20s. per hut, but the tax now in operation within the Transvaal where a man had his full complement of wives was £16 per annum, and upon that basis could such an increase be justified apart from the necessities of the mine owners to obtain cheap labour? Disguise this 115 question as they might, the question at issue was, would this House sanction forced labour in the interests of the mine-owners of South Africa? He trusted that the House of Commons, as the guardian of the rights of those who had no means of protecting themselves, and who were practically at the mercy of the millionaires of the Rand—who had shown their feelings in the matter by reducing wages by 50 per cent. since the war concluded—would stand between those natives who had now been committed to their charge, and prevent them being reduced to a form of slavery even if it be thinly disguised. Lord Salisbury said in October. 1899—With regard to the future, there must be no doubt that due precautions will be taken for the philanthropic and kindly and improving treatment of those countless indigenous millions of whose destiny I fear we have been too forgetful.The war was now over, but the Government proposed to increase the taxation of the natives eight-fold, and to reduce them practically to a form of servitude. In the interests of the natives, and to prevent the inevitable result if this form of compulsion continued, and in order to carry out the pledge given to this House, he hoped the House of Commons would stand between the rapacious greed of the mine-owners of the Rand and the helpless condition of the native races.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
asked leave to withdraw his Motion. Perhaps he might express, on the one hand, his satisfaction with the promise made by the Government to apply a system of enquiry as to the bonâ fides of contracts in all cases, and on the other hand he deeply regretted the expression of the intention to increase the taxation on natives in South Africa.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ MR. ALFRED DAVIES (Carmarthen Boroughs)
expressed his dissatisfaction at the meagre statement the House had received from the Colonial Secretary 116 with respect to his recent tour. He was no hostile critic, inasmuch as he had sent his good wishes to the right hon. Gentleman on his departure, and had welcomed him on his return to the House. The Colonial Secretary told the House last week that £15,000,000 were to be given to South Africa, including free grants to the Boers, and to those British subjects who had suffered, loans, satisfaction for stock requisitioned by the military authorities, and other objects. And as he had received £30,000,000 from the Transvaal towards the cost of the war, he practically returned with £15,000,000 in his pocket. The war had cost £250,000,000, and he would like to have known whether they were to have anything more than the £30,000,000 from the Transvaal. He remembered that at one time it was said they were going to get £100,000,000 from the mines. The late Government of the Transvaal owned a great deal of property. They largely owned the railways, and were possessed of extensive tracts of land. These were assets of immense and increasing wealth, but the House had not heard one word as to whether the railway interests had been given to the present Transvaal administration, or whether the lands hitherto held by the Boer Government had been parted with. He should not feel at all satisfied if the British Government received only £30,000,000 towards the heavy war costs from the Transvaal. Was the Orange River Territory going to contribute nothing to the war costs? And were they going to get nothing from Natal and the Cape, with its large surplus revenue? If after spending £250,000,000 on the war, they were only going to get back £30,000,000 from all sources, he, as a British taxpayer, protested, and he felt sure there would be millions of others who would do likewise. He would like to hear from the Colonial Secretary what had been done for the benefit of British Trade. The railway rates in the Transvaal and the Orange River Territory, as well as in other parts of South Africa, were very high. Had he obtained lower railway rates from the ports to the Transvaal and the Orange River Territory? Further, the docks at the ports which belonged to the various South African Governments charged excessively 117 for the landing of goods. Besides this, the Customs Tariff in the two new colonies was especially high. Had the right hon. Gentleman done anything for merchants and traders in the way of getting these railway rates reduced, and also the excessive charges made at the docks? The Colonial Secretary's tour had been a triumphant one on the surface, but he could not say whether it would turn to good account in the future. They could only judge one, two, or more years hence, whether the right hon. Gentleman had been successful. The House would realise that the scattering of large sums of money to the tune of £15,000,000 would naturally give popularity to the scatterer. He truly hoped that the right hon. Gentleman's visit to South Africa would bear good fruit. They all wanted to see the South African question settled satisfactorily, and they would not object to the expenditure of the £15,000,000 if that expenditure produced prosperity. But they must have what they were entitled to get from the colonies towards the war costs.
The Colonial Secretary, when in South Africa, had referred on two or three occasions to the money sent from the Transvaal before and during the war. He stated that certain persons would not be allowed to return until this money had been traced and handed over for the benefit of the widows and orphans. He would remind the Colonial Secretary that in 1901 he endeavoured to enlighten him on this matter. It had been and was in the power of the Colonial Secretary to trace this money. In June of that year he had told the Colonial Secretary in the House that £2,000,000 of Kruger's money had been shipped from Delagoa Bay. It was through the carelessness of the British representative there that it was not seized. He even stated to the right hon. Gentleman in the House that he knew the name of the ship the money went by, and that the person was in London who had discovered the two millions at Delagoa Bay. He mentioned that if the Colonial Secretary would appoint a time for an interview he would give him the fullest particulars. In this event the Colonial 118 Secretary could have tracked the money. But no appointment was made, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman's present action was incomprehensible.
Reverting to the earlier part of his speech, he hoped that they had not heard the last of the question as to whether they would not receive a bigger contribution towards the war costs from the sources he had named.
§ SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee)
said that twenty or thirty years ago a similar condition existed in Nevada, America, to that which existed now in the gold mining region in Africa. The difficulties were solved easily, naturally, and legitimately in the United States by the mine-owners simply giving fair living wages to those who worked the mines. He believed that would be the proper solution in this case. He hoped we should not relapse in our policy in South Africa from the honourable course we had followed in our ad ministration of Egypt. Whoever had travelled in Egypt was aware that the glory of our administration there, the most conspicuous and the most honourable fact, was our abolition of that system of forced labour which had existed there from the time of the Pharaohs. He felt that any proposal to introduce that system in South Africa would be abhorrent to the moral feelings of the most enlightened people of this country. The right hon. Gentleman had vindicated what he spoke of as the pecuniary inducement, because it would enable the mine-owners in South Africa to work the low-grade mines. But was there any necessity for this? There were low-grade mines even in this country, but no one would ever think of proposing that they should bring those mines into operation and make them productive by adopting any system, either direct or indirect, of forced labour. He hoped that for the honour of our country there would be no proposals, either to import workers from Asia or to put even indirect compulsion upon the poor negroes in South Africa.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.