HC Deb 04 February 1904 vol 129 cc432-68

Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment [4th February] to Main Question [2nd February].

"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:— "Most Gracious Sovereign,

"We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Hardy.)

Which Amendment was— At the end of the Question, to add the words, 'But humbly represent to Your Majesty that the facts now made known in regard to the preparations for and conduct of the recent war in South Africa, and particularly the evidence taken by Your Majesty's Commissioners appointed to inquire into those matters and their Report thereon, disclose grave negligence and mismanagement on the part of Your Majesty's Ministers, whereby the duration, magnitude and cost of the war were greatly increased.'"—(Mr. Robson.)

Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."

* MR. DUKE (Plymouth)

said if it were possible for the Amendment to be a declaration of public necessity for the removal of the Government in order to promote the efficiency of the defensive forces of the Crown, there would be majority sufficiently public spirited to prefer the efficiency of the forces to the continued existence of His Majesty's Government. But the powerful speech of Mr. Wyndham must have satisfied Members on both sides of the House that the efficiency of the Imperial forces did not require the removal of the Government. The objects of the Commission were to discover any inefficiency or defects in the administration of the Army, as disclosed by the war in South Africa, and to indicate their causes where possible. The Commissioners faithfully carried out those objects, and devoted their ability and industry to discovering inefficiency and defects, which they disclosed in an impartial Report. Their work would redound to the benefit of the public service if it was not defeated by partisan interference. They faithfully traced to their origin those mistakes which indicated inefficiency, and by which so much public humiliation was caused in the early stages of the war, but they had also, and to an extent which close study of the Report made quite clear, exonerated the advisers of the Crown and the members of the Government from culpability. In view of the finding of the Commission the speech of the hon. Member opposite was like a reiteration of the case for the prosecution after the verdict of acquittal had been given. It was founded upon isolated passages in the evidence—scraps had been selected, instances of inefficiency had been pieced together, and with an admirable adroitness, of which the House had had one or two instances that day, the blame of the whole matter had been laid at the doors of His Majesty's Administrators. He maintained that no Government in this country within the past century had contributed so much to the strengthening of the forces of the Crown—to the making of them efficient, to the provision of armaments and to the establishment of an intelligent system at headquarters—as this Government had. The business of the Administration in regard to the matters which came into question that day was the business of policy, and he protested against the notion that it was the duty of a Prime Minister or Secretary for War to go round sighting rifles, examining saddles, counting tents, or even to undertake the preparation of plans of campaign, or lines of strategic advance. A Government was to be judged by its conduct of public policy; a War Minister was bound to see that the Government had a force available to support the honour and determination of the country in such emergencies as arose. Upon those broad grounds it was impossible to support the Amendment. If hon. Members brought home to the Government every mistake and folly that was committed they might succeed upon the Amendment, but if the question was one of policy he ventured to say that the policy of the Government with regard to every material stage in the progress of the acts under discussion, was a policy approved by the country and one which not infrequently had been approved by right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite.

A great deal had been said with regard to the conduct of the Government in not providing sufficient forces in South Africa when war was thought to be possible. He challenged any critic to show that the Government did not more than satisfy the demands that were made upon them. The advice given by Sir William Butler was that the war would be a costly and serious matter. The general thought, but apparently did not advise, that it would certainly require 50,000 or 60,000 men, and might require 80,000 or 100,000. And he predicted also that such a war would not be begun by the Boers. How completely that prediction had been falsified ! Yet the Government was blamed because it was satisfied with the advice it had from the general at the Cape, the general in Natal, and its advisers in this country. His Majesty's Government may not have possessed a prophetic foresight. If they failed to send great forces to Africa in the summer of 1899 it was with a very excellent justification, for they were resolved that no act should be done on our part which should render war inevitable. Half the blame cast upon the Government was blame because in the summer of 1899 it did not mobilise an army corps. The justification for the position of this country at the outbreak of the war was that we had done nothing to provoke war. What would have been the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite if His Majesty's Government had in the summer of 1899 proposed to mobilise an army corps, or call out the Militia? On 28th July, 1899, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman said, in regard to preparations for the war, he saw nothing which established a case for armed intervention. What was censured at the time was not any slightness of preparation on the part of the Government, but their ostentation and excess. Before the Government was finally met by the hostility of the two Republics, the Government had been advised with regard to the force required. Various numbers were given; an expert said 40,000 men would be required, another 60,000. Now they were told in this House that the number of men the Government ought to have expected to send off was upwards of 400,000. They knew now, when the war was successfully ended, that the number of troops required for the task to be performed was about 250,000, but there was not a scintilla of evidence placed before the Commission to show that any responsible person before the commencement of the war suggested that anything approaching even 100,000 would be required. I he force decided upon was larger than was advised by the experts. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, when the subject was discussed, was able to express a confident opinion as to the sufficiency of the forces sent to South Africa, and it was an idle thing at this time to say that he spoke without the knowledge of the facts he had now. He had such knowledge of the facts that he could speak with confidence and applaud the decision at which His Majesty's Government had arrived. The House did not know and did not need to know the exact quantity of facts which was required to give the right hon. Gentleman confidence in his opinion. What the right hon. Gentleman said with regard to the matter was contained in volume 75 of "Hansard of 1899."On 17th October, 1899, the right hon. Gentleman said— I am glad that the Government are at least not falling into the error which has not infrequently been made by our countrymen in past times, and they are sending out, after some delay it is true, an ample force for the purpose of effectually prosecuting and concluding this enterprise. That responsible utterance at a time of the most serious crisis should outweigh some of the criticisms now offered in defiance of the findings of the Royal Commission. Not only was that the view of the Opposition, that view was endorsed by Lord Roberts, who said that what the Army was suffering from when he got out to South Africa was not a deficiency in the number of men, but defective strategy. In these days also it was not the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition that the Government had failed in their duty as regarded equipment, for on 20th October, 1899, he said that for us in our particular position to be paying a great deal of money in continually keeping up a great establishment of transports solely for European or home purposes would be preposterous. and that it was shown by the fact that in this particular case we had already had to alter our wagons in order to suit the nature of the country in South Africa where they were to be used. Was it fair or beneficial to the country that what was regarded as reasonable and prudent in the time of crisis should now be condemned?

As to the wrong sighting of certain rifles, Lord Roberts in his evidence said it was discovered at a time when it made no practical difference. Being asked (Question 10,575) whether it practically made any difference, Lord Roberts replied, "No, I do not think it did." The Government record with regard to Army administration was one showing that they had done something and risked something, and he commended it to the consideration of hon. Gentlemen opposite who were now such severe critics after, in office, setting a bad example. The Government had taken account of the main recommendations of the Commission, and had dealt even with the internal economy of the War Office in the manner called for by its Report. The Government provoked this Report. They appointed a Commission to investigate the errors which had been made, and he was heartily thankful that they had investigated them. He therefore ventured to suggest that the Government deserved encouragement in the prosecution of the task of military reform to which they had committed themselves, and to which he hoped they would be enabled to devote their energies for years to come.


said the hon. and learned Gentleman concluded his speech by declaring that the Government had condemned the War Office. If that was true it was some justification for the Motion now before the House. If it was true that the War Office had not yet been replaced, it was a curious commentary on the Prime Minister's speeches in which he stated that he had made the War Office perfect, while according to the hon. and learned Gentleman we were at present provided with no War Office at all. The hon. and learned Gentleman stated that previous speakers did not stick to the Report of the Commission, and complained that they had gone outside of it and referred to the evidence. The doctrine that the evidence should not be referred to was one which they could not recognise on this side of the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked if judgment was going to be passed on the Government by the House, with regard to events which occurred years ago. Judgment had been passed on the Government by a Commission of which they themselves chose every member, and of which they prepared the reference, which was a matter of importance in the case of a Commission. It was a Commission so composed which had passed on the Government a verdict the hon. and learned Gentleman and the Chief Secretary for Ireland called a verdict of acquittal. He would endeavour to put before the House the reasons which made him think that the Report was such that it would be impossible for the House of Commons to pass it over in silence, and not to point the moral which the Report contained, for the sake of the Empire as a whole. He could not help feeling that the fact that there had been three Secretaries for War in so short a time in what the Prime Minister called the same Government was an eloquent comment on the disclosures which had been made. With regard to the claim that the Report of the Commission was an acquittal of the Government he did not think that was the opinion of the Prime Minister. Immediately after the Report was issued the right hon. Gentleman, addressing his constituents, said it had left a painful impression upon the public mind, and that in the opinion of what he called "my friend the man in the street," the Government had been tried and found utterly inefficient. Surely that was hardly a way to meet a verdict of acquittal. The Chief Secretary had waved the Party flag, and attempted to substitute for the real question before the country a purely Party issue. Upon this military question some of them had really tried to keep free from Party spirit and some of them had shown that. He felt from a perusal of the Report and of the evidence, from his knowledge of the circumstances which led up to it, from his recollection of the debates which took place after the unfortunate speeches of the Prime Minister, that it was incumbent upon all of them, for the sake of the nation, to support the judgment of the Royal Commission. If they passed over lightly such a Report as that dealing with facts, they should only deserve their fate if similar facts were to recur. It was a little ominous that some hon. Gentlemen were inclined to give a Party turn to the discussion. Perhaps that was natural and inevitable though unfortunate, and it seemed to him singularly unfair. It was a subject on which they had a collection of evidence by competent men admirably put before them, and it contained an enormous number of facts which it was essential to bear in mind for the future welfare of the country.

The Chief Secretary for Ireland began the Party portion of his speech by an allusion to the most considerable and most grave of all the findings of the Commission. It was on the subject of what he called the preparation for the war; and he asked—the question had already been asked in Party newspapers, and in the unfortunate speech of the Prime Minister in which he tried to defend the Cabinet on Party lines—would hon. Members opposite have supported war preparations? If the question meant would hon. Members who had consistently opposed the policy of Lord Milner have supported war measures to back up that policy of Lord Milner, of course they would not. That went without saying. But, was that Party taunt any answer whatever to the charges that had been made on the findings of the Royal Commission? Did it clear the Cabinet in any way? In protesting against the view that the Government ought to have sent larger reinforcements to South Africa, the right hon. Gentleman said that the civilised world would have condemned such a provocation. He doubted that. He thought the civilised world would have been more likely to condemn the making of inflammatory speeches which had been delivered when reinforcements were not sent. The provocation sending reinforcements and adequate transport would have been small indeed beside the provocation offered by the speeches to which he had referred. Another Party taunt which the Chief Secretary used was that in 1895 the right hon. Gentlemen who sat on these Benches had prepared a despatch on the franchise question which they had not sent to the Boer Government, and that at that time they had made no preparations for war, and that the garrison in South Africa was small. But he might point out that the Boer armaments had not been gathered at that time, and that their preparation for war, which had been so accurately described by the Intelligence Department, was caused by the Jameson Raid.

The Chief Secretary said that the Report of the Commission was a. verdict of acquittal, and he should like therefore to ask the House to consider what exactly it was that the Commission had reported in regard, in the first place, to the main question of preparation and reinforcements. He was glad to see the right hon. Member for West Birmingham in his place, because it enabled him to quote a letter written by the then Secretary of State for War, Lord Lansdowne, in which he referred to a communication from the right hon. Gentleman which had not been published. On 20th August, Lord Lansdowne wrote from Ireland that the Colonial Secretary had written to him on 18th August, stating that "he saw no occasion for reinforcements." Now, it was on 22nd August that the Transvaal presented their five years franchise proposal, and the Secretary of State for War continued to sec no necessity for reinforcements, because to that proposal the Government had "sent a reasoned reply" and "the negotiation was going on." But it was on the 26th August that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was made about "the sands running down" and that "we shall have to find other ways;" and, according to the evidence of the Secretary of State for War on the very same day, the Cabinet—or at least the majority of the Cabinet—had come to a decision that they "ought not to send further reinforcements." On 5th September the Secretary of State for War, Lord Lansdowne, came to the view that war was certain, and the Commander-in-Chief, knowing the state of our unpreparedness, wrote that he wished the Government to stave off war by diplomatic measures as the enemy was "in a position to take the offensive, and by striking the first blow to ensure the great advantage of winning the first round." That prophecy came exactly true, and it was the ground on which the Commission reported that the earlier sending of reinforcements would have changed the whole future course of the war, would have prevented the prolongation of the war, and would have saved an enormous sacrifice of life and treasure. The Commander-in-Chief in that prophecy did not stand by any means alone. The Intelligence Department's advice was exactly the same, and so was that of Sir William Butler about "temporising," in which he used, without previous communication, almost exactly the same words as the Commander-in-Chief. Let the House consider for a moment what would have been the effect of earlier action at that time. During the fatal week of December the troops were arriving largely too late to take any part in the operations, and the delay was caused by the Government holding their hand from 5th September. when even the peace members of the Cabinet came to the conclusion that war was certain, up to the 22nd and even 27th, 28th, and 29th September. Now, what were the words of the Report on that subject? What was this verdict of acquittal of which they had heard that night? The Commission found in those words— With a greater amount of forethought…and with the addition of perhaps another brigade, the situation might have been so strengthened that the whole course of the war must have been altered. That statement seemed to him not to be a verdict of acquittal, but a. verdict of guilty on the main point.

The second most important point referred to by the Commission concerned the deficiency of stores. The Chief Secretary for Ireland did not make, at the same length as the Prime Minister, but he did make that night the old pot-and-kettle charge, a Party charge on this question of stores and equipment. In the unfortunate speech which the Prime Minister made to his constituents in Manchester in defending the Government after the Report came out, he attacked the Party on this side for deliberately starving the Army. He used these words— When they (the Liberal Government) went out in 1895 and this Government came in, we set to work at once to bring up the Army to the standard which had been laid down by our Conservatives predecessors. and which had been abandoned…and which we were resolved to restore. And then he quoted Mr. Stanhope. The Chief Secretary again quoted Mr. Stanhope. Well, he (Sir Charles Dilke) had already deprecated Party recrimination on this question. He had claimed for himself detachment from Party, but he confessed that he was sickened by these Party charges in regard to this question which was specially referred to in the Commission, and on which they had plain evidence in the Report itself, and the verdict given was as complete a verdict of guilty as was the verdict on the other point. The Prime Minister said that— The professors of efficiency left the Army in the deplorable position in which it was in 1895. But they knew that when Mr. Gladstone was in office in 1893, Mr. Stanhope said that the Army was in a very fine condition of efficiency; there was no falling off at all, and that— The Army had never been more efficient or more thoroughly sui able for war than it then was. Our Army was better equipped than at any previous period. In 1895 a similar statement was made by the Prime Minister, though the right hon. Gentleman now explained that his remarks applied to the Navy, which was not at that time mentioned at all; and the Chief Secretary did not refer to the Navy in that connection. At all events, the Prime Minister was in the same condition of delusion on this subject, and in regard to the evidence and Report of the Commission, as he was in regard to the Orange Free State. The Prime Minister at Manchester put first in his list of "Unionist Army reforms" these stores which had returned to the standard set up by Mr. Stanhope, and which had been destroyed by the harm done by the wretched Liberal Party from 1892 to 1895; and then the right hon. Gentleman said— We brought up the whole reserves of ammunition and equipment. And the Chief Secretary brought cheers from the other side when he spoke of "our record" on this subject. What were the words of the Report of the Royal Commission? The Commission reported— A serious deficiency of stores and material required on the mobilisation of an army corps. And yet they had been told that the equipment of two, and later of three, army corps was complete in every respect. Now the Chief Secretary for Ireland asked the House to very carefully read on that subject the most valuable evidence of Lord Lansdowne. They had read it. Lord Lansdowne admitted the charge to the full. He spoke of the "melancholy extent of our deficiencies," which he said was "full of peril to the Empire." And that was after they had returned to the Conservative standard, and made up all the deficiencies and raised the Army to a state in which it had never been before ! Lord Lansdowne was specifically asked— And do yon think that deficiency of stores has been of long standing? And he said— Yes, I think so. Well, the Commission were not content with the complete judgment which they passed on this point in the words I have read. The Chief Secretary wanted hon. Members to stick to the Report of the Commission. Well, the Commission went on to mention specially Mr. Stanhope, and they printed for the first time Mr. Stanhope's Memorandum. And they say— The state of things in no way corresponded to…Mr. Stanhope's Memorandum. They found that there had not been that completeness of preparation under Mr. Stanhope for which the Chief Secretary vouched, and that instead of there being an improvement, there must have been very serious deterioration. The Commission went on to say that— Some branches were barely strong enough for the equipment of two army corps. And they specifically mentioned several points as to which the Government complained most unjustly that the House of Commons were responsible, the House of Commons had never done anything but good on these points. The Commission specifically pointed out many matters which his hon. friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire had brought before the House. The medical equipment was, they said, never anything like the equipment even for a single army corps. Well, that was complete proof, surely, without going into any evidence at all, and without raising any of those questions which the Chief Secretary said ought not to be raised—that the Report showed that the verdict of the Commission on the Government was not one of acquittal upon the main points, but was a condemnation on the two chief points which it was the bounden duty of the House to take notice of on this occasion in order to prevent a similar misfortune happening in the future.

There were other matters of deep interest, but not of first-class importance, on which their opinion was as unfavourable and as clear. For years past the Army reformers in the House, on both sides, had perpetually urged upon the Government, in season and out of season, down to the conclusion of the war itself, the defective state of the Intelligence Department. On that point, too, the finding of the Commission was dead against the Government. They found that the Intelligence Department was undermanned, and was not sufficient to grapple with a great war. The present Secretary for India made a speech to his constituents in October last, defending the War Office, when he said that their attacks on the Government were most unfair, because, he contended, everyone "ignored that large additions have been made" to the Department, and he said how wrong it was to make these attacks when Sir William Nicholson "was satisfied." What were the facts? Sir William was rewarded by being driven from the War Office. At all events Lord Lansdowne was not satisfied; he was apparently impressed by the war having shown the importance of the Intelligence Department; and he used these singular words— One of the good results of the war will be that the importance of the Intelligence branch will receive greater recognition. It certainly was the result of the war that the Commission had condemned the undermanning of the Department, and that that which they had been urging for years had been complied with. The hon. Member for Plymouth complained that they had waited till after these events to make their criticism: but they had brought the question before the House as soon as it was reported upon by the Commission. The Secretary of State for India, defending the War Office, said that the Government ought not to be blamed, because they had given Sir William Nicholson all he wanted. They had the evidence of Sir William Nicholson quoted in the Report, and it was the basis of a judgment against the Government in which it was stated that the Department was "undermanned." Sir William Nicholson said that his moderate proposal of 1901 was negatived by the Government on the ground of expense; and when he was asked what the expense was he said £3,000 a year. So that this country, which spent infinitely more on its Army than any other country, had refused the moderate proposal of Sir William Nicholson while waste was going on in other Departments. Up to March, 1903, Sir William Nicholson had totally failed to obtain the augmentations for which he had asked for his Department, and he succeeded only by the evldence he gave before the Commission. The Secretary of State for India said that it was most unfair to blame the Government on this point—most unfair, he supposed, of the Royal Commission—Sir William Nicholson won only on his evidence; and now he was probably to be sent away from the War Office.

There occurred during the debate a little passage of arms between the Chief Secretary and the seconder of this Motion. The Chief Secretary quoted the evidence of Lord Roberts about quick-firing guns and some words from the Report, and seemed to suggest to the House that the Commissioners understood the question better than Lord Roberts. He ventured to interrupt the Chief Secretary and asked him if he agreed with Lord Roberts' statement that in quick-firing guns this country was altogether inferior to other Powers. The Chief Secretary did not answer; but he should like to press the question, because it was one of the points on which the Prime Minister had been as consistently misinformed as he was with regard to the attitude of the Orange State. The Prime Minister, defending the Government in January, 1900, went out of his way to deny that our Artillery had a worse gun than the French, for example. That matter was put to the test, because the French took their quick-firing gun to China at that very time, and some demonstrations of its value were given. The Prime Minister spoke at the Manchester Conservative Club on the 10th of January. On that occasion he was advised by someone to say that our guns compared favourably with any guns then used by any great State, and he went on to attack the critics and said no one had ever stated before that our guns were bad. The Chief Secretary knew at that time all the latest information on the subject, he knew very well that the statement of the Prime Minister was not the case, and he knew very well that Lord Roberts' statement was true, and that our guns failed deplorably in South Africa in quickness of fire. The Prussian "Military Considerations of the War in South Africa," a most valuable view of the war and a most important Supplement to the Report of the Royal Commission, described these guns "as old and old-fashioned. The |English had only one battery which was quick-firing and the Boer artillery had 126 quick-firing guns." One gun which the Army still possessed was the Liberal gun of 1885. It was converted in 1892 merely from an action on one side to an action on the other, and the spade attachment was added in 1899. The Member for South Birmingham defended that gun in debate, but it was admitted by the Government in 1899 that it was hopelessly out of date. He was able to state without doubt that the German gun of commerce—the Krupp gun of 1901—which anyone could buy, was seven times as good as our gun, as it could fire seven rounds for every one fired by the British gun, yet he had quoted the amazing statement of the Prime Minister which was supplied to him, he did not know by whom. It was not a fact that when the present Secretary of State for War came to this House next month for money he would propose the very first Vote that had ever been proposed for quick-firing guns? Such statements of the Prime Minister were surely worthy of the attention of the House. It was universally admitted that the position of the Prime Minister in co-ordinating and deciding what share of increased taxation was to be allotted to each Department gave him a great say in such matters, but surely the House of Commons, which had to trust the Prime Minister, had a right to expect from him that he should keep himself aware of what his own military advisers were thinking on these questions, and that he should at least read the documents sent to him. His hon. and learned friend had made a weighty attack on the Prime Minister, but it was a very deserved and necessary attack, one painful, he knew, for his friend to make in the Prime Minister's absence. His hon. and learned friend devoted a considerable portion of his speech to the case of the Orange Free State, and it was necessary to bring it forward because soldier after soldier had pointed out what would happen. His hon. friend quoted one passage, but it was the whole burthen of the speech of the Prime Minister, who also used the following passage, which was perhaps more appropriate to this occasion because it contained one of those needless reflections on the military advisers of the Crown which had produced such a painful impression on the country. He spoke of— What we did not know at the time, that the Orange Free State would throw all their forces into line with the Transvaal Republic Now the Chief Secretary said that everyone the Prime Minister did not know it, and finally, when the matter was brought before knew that. Why did not the Prime Minister know it? The Intelligence Department reported it month after month in the critical period before the war, before the House, he made the lamest of lame explanations. It was suggested that the Government only thought that young men of the Orange Free State would leave the State and take part in the war, and that the Orange State would not throw in its lot with the Transvaal. But it had been proved conclusively that the War Office was aware that the Orange State was being armed at the cost of the Transvaal, and that they were actually interchanging small bodies of regular troops. Those facts were brought to the attention of the Government in June and July, and was it not amazing that the Prime Minister should go out of his way to make these statements with regard to the action of the Orange Free State?

There was a secondary matter which was reported on by the Committee, and that was the question of mounted men. The Committee reported on this subject on three points, in two of which the Government were condemned. The Prime Minister at Manchester stated as one of the reasons why the Government could not have been adequately prepared for war, and why they were bound to make the failures they did in the early stages of the war, that for the first time in military warfare, they had an enemy wholly mounted and that that fact had not been adequately realised. The Prime Minister went on again to attack the military authorities, and he said that they "might ask much of their officers and Ministers, but they could not ask omniscience." But the officers had reported this very fact, the Intelligence Department had reported that the Boers would put 54,000 mounted infantry into the field, and the Prime Minister must have been ignorant of the facts which were brought before the House during the war when the accuracy of the statement was already suspected, a suspicion which was now confirmed by the Report. The Committee reported that it was necessary to increase the number of mounted men, and he could not help remembering in this connection that it was Mr. Stanhope who reduced the number of horses at the time he reduced the artillery and that that reduction was not made up for an immense period. The Committee specifically censured the Government upon the subject of the Remount Department, although that could not have been gathered by what the Chief Secretary said that evening. The Commission whitewashed the Remount, Department and General Truman, but reported regarding the Government that no one had ever foreseen the simple necessity for the expansion of the Department in time of war. On the question of mounted men the Commission also censured the Government. Some of the Yeomanry officers opposite would remember the report of Colonel Lucas in which he said that drafts ought to have been sent out, but it was established by the Royal Commission that the Government failed to keep up the Yeomanry to its full strength, and that the war was prolonged because the report of Colonel Lucas was not acted on and drafts were not sent out. The Chief Secretary asked them to stick to the Report of the Commission, and. with one divergence, in order to support the seconder of the Amendment. he had stuck closely to the actual findings of the Report. The Government thought that they had been acquitted by the Royal Commission, but the Prime Minister himself admitted the miscalculations of the Government, and threw the whole blame on their military advisers. The Commission condemned the Government not the military advisers. The attack on the soldiers was a mean attack. Certainly the soldiers were not responsible for the condition of the stores which they had frequently reported to the Government; they were not responsible for the state of the Intelligence Department, or for the miscalculation of the Prime Minister as to the Orange Free State. So far as he knew the sole justification which the Government had for trying to throw the blame off their own shoulders and on the shoulders of the soldiers related to the question of numbers and to that alone. and on that point what the soldiers said was that they did not understand that they were entering on a war of conquest, which was a very different thing from an ordinar war. When the Government proclaimed a policy of destroying a nationality they provoked an amount of resistance of a character and continuity which needed different forces to cope with it. The soldiers with one accord declared that they were never told a war of conquest was intended. That was an important answer, and one of which notice ought to be taken by the House. The soldier who made the clearest statement to the Commission was Sir T. Kelly Kenny, who in 16,923 put that view forward, and the Commission appeared to have accepted it as there was no attempt to rebut it. And yet Sir T. Kelly Kenny was taken by the Government themselves as the best man they could find for a "thinking department" of the War Office. In the face of that they could hardly deny the authority of such a witness on such a subject. The country and the House might congratulate themselves that, in all the circumstances disclosed by the Report, we got through the war as well as we did. The evidence which had been placed before the Commission by men of the greatest weight as to what occurred at the time of the investment of Ladysmith, and as to what would have happened if the Boers had then reached that measure of efficiency which they undoubtedly did attain in the later stages of the war, showed what a danger we had escaped in spite of the admitted miscalculation and neglected preparation of the Government. The Government had appealed from the evidence to the Report; he had endeavoured to keep to the Report and to show from it that the Commission appointed by the Government themselves had confirmed the charge which had been made.

MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)

Mr. Speaker, I was going to apologise to the House for intervening at all in this debate, but I gather that the House considers, as I do, that the course which it has taken necessitates, at all events, a few words from me. I came down to the House under the impression that I was not personally—not exceptionally—concerned in the subject under discussion. But, nevertheless, I was induced to come down by certain prefatory, preliminary announcements which I had seen in the newspapers, rumours which I had heard, that the hon. Member for South Shields was intending a great deliverance, was going to bring to bear all his forensic eloquence, and, in a Motion to condemn the Government for military inefficiency, was going to demolish for ever the reputation of the ex-Colonial Secretary. And really I think there was some foundation for that, because although I do not think the observations of the hon. and learned Member were always relevant, yet I noticed throughout his lengthened speech a perpetual endeavour, an earnest desire, in all circumstances, at all times to lug in, somehow or other, King Charles's head, or the ex-Secretary of State's head, and to present it on a charger for the repudiation | and derision of the House. That is a I very bad precedent, and I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to reconsider his action. Here for eight years the whole object of him and a great number of his colleagues has been to get rid of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Now I they have got rid of him. Really, is it not rather hard that when, not forced by them. but voluntarily, I have yielded the office I once held with such pride and satisfaction, I should now be deprived of the immunities of a private Member? The whole object of the speech delivered by the hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to me, from first to last, in the most unnecessary, most unreasonable and illogical way, to lug me into matters in which, at all events, I was not principally concerned. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh!"] Oh, that was not the object. Well, what was it? I ask those who listened to the lengthened speech of an hour and a half which the hon. and learned Gentleman delivered, and in which he dealt with facts in an imaginative manner,; from which he omitted, as it appeared to me, almost everything of importance—I ask hon. Gentlemen who listened to him, What was his object? Can it have been that the hon. and learned Gentle- man was moved by strong patriotic feelings, and, recognising that a great war had come to an end and that it ought to convey lessons, had resolved to devote himself to the study of all the incidents of the campaign, and to try to point out for the benefit of his descendants, of his country, and of the Empire, what mistakes had been made and in what way we might on future occasions improve on past experience? Was that his patriotic intention? Will anybody believe for a a moment who listened to him that he had that object in view? Does anybody believe that he cares one braes button [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh!"] about the lessons derived from (he war? Not a bit of it!

Well, there was another object I though he might have had. I can hardly believe it should have come from those Benche but the whole course of his speech went to show that this war, which during the whole of the last five years the whole of the opposition have been declaring was unnecessary, and might have been avoided, was an absolutely inevitable conflict. For my part I recognise most gratefully the result of his speech, but I do not believe that was his object. As I have said, the object appears to me to be to trump up a ridiculous indictment against my right hon. friend the Prime Minister, who is absent, fortunately for the hon. and learned Gentleman who attacked him, and against myself, who fortunately for myself am present. It is difficult to defend an absent man when he is attacked on the score of petty quotations picked out of I do not know how many speeches without their context—it is very difficult even for his nearest friend to defend him. Although I do not claim for myself that proud position, I claim that he has no truer friend. But in the course of the remark of the hon. and learned Gen leman what was important was not what my right hon. friend has said, but the into pretation the hon. and learned Gentlemen choose; to put on it; and it is only my right hon. friend who could himself give the true and correct interpretation, although perhaps I might suggest something different from that which commended itself to his assailants.

For myself, so far as I was attacked in the matter, I do not shrink in the least from that corporate responsibility which belongs to every member of a Government; but I absolutely refuse to accept any special or exceptional responsibility beyond that general position. I was a member of the Government which prepared, or failed to prepare, for this war and the conduct of the war. [An HON. MEMBER: Misconduct.] Well, at all events, we won the war, and no thanks to the hon. Gentlemen opposite. But, as I say, all those who were members of that Government accept that corporate responsibility, and some of us undoubtedly had a more special responsibility. Now what was my special responsibility other than that of any of my colleagues? In a sense, I was, on behalf of the Government, conducting negotiations, and it was my duty to keep my colleagues in full know- ledge of all the negotiations that went on. I did so. The hon. and learned Gentleman invented Cabinet meetings, communications between colleagues, and declarations of colleagues, which did the greatest credit to his humorous imagination, but which had not the slightest foundation in fact. The communications between the members of the Government were complete, and the Government knew all that I knew in regard to these negotiations, and I will go a great deal further and say that there was nothing of substantial importance in connection with those negotiations which was not known also to the whole of this House and to the whole of the public. There were no secrets, the necessity did not arise, and, from day to day almost, in this House I was questioned and I was glad enough to answer the questions addressed to me, as to the progress of the negotiations.

Now the Cabinet was aware of the progress of the negotiations, and it was the duty of the Cabinet to prepare for possibilities. There were two questions: What was the preparation to be and when was the preparation to be made, the amount of preparation and the time of preparation. Those are two very important things, and I am prepared to justify, to take the fullest responsibility both for the time and for the amount. What is the charge of the hon. and learned Gentleman '? It is that we failed, that was how he began his speech, to provide for the defence of those of our colonies and possessions which we knew to be threatened. I could not help smiling when he came at last to his peroration. What was the conclusion, the moral, the thing he wished to impress on this House as the result of the crimes and iniquities he described as having been committed by the Government? I forget the exact words, the eloquent words, but the effect was that the Government which could have failed to provide for the defence of Natal and the Cape was unfitted to consider commercial questions. King Charles's head, Mr. Speaker! What a bathos! There was the object; it was to that conclusion that the whole of this great and eloquent oration tended. The Government were to be abused, and every possible fault was to be implied to them, in order that it might be proved to the satisfaction of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and the other hon. Gentlemen who cheered him, that we were unfit to deal with commercial questions!

The question; were—Did we make preparation in time, did we make preparation sufficient, in all human calculation, in amount? Perhaps it will surprise the hon. and learned Gentleman, though it cannot surprise any of those who were present at the debates at the time of the Bloemfontein Conference, both before and subsequently", that we earnestly strove, and that we actually believed almost to the end in the possibility of a peaceful solution. By that you must judge our policy. If the hon. and learned Gentleman is going to tell us that he saw better than we did, that he knew the Boer was not to be trusted, that there was no possibility of coming to terms with him. that the issue was inevitable, and that we ought from the first to have taken up an active, violent, and hostile position—very we I will say perhaps he was right. But that was not our view; honestly we believed that peace was possible, honestly we strove for it, and to a certain extent, undoubtedly, I admit it, that hampered our action, that hampered our preparations—hampered them both in regard to time and to amount. We had to keep two things in view. We had to keep in view in the first place the desirability and the importance of maintaining peace if peace were possible; we had at the same time to consider that we might fail, and that we ought to be prepared against the worst suits of such a failure—that if war did come, against our wish, against our hope, almost against our belief, at any rate we should have as considerable a preparation as was consistent with our desire for peace.

I should have been glad to treat this matter absolutely in connection with the facts, or, at all events, with our separate view of the facts, and without any recrimination; but I cannot do that in the presence of a bitter, I might say almost malignant, speech such as that we have listened to. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh !"] Oh, yes; I am perfectly in the recollection of the House; that speech was not a mere ordinary political speech, it was a bitter speech, and an unnecessarily bitter speech [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh!"] and in face of a speech of that kind I cannot refrain from the natural and necessary recrimination.

I say we strove for peace. I believed, I repeat, that peace was possible, and I believe peace was rendered impossible by two things. In the first place, I believed—and let me say that this belief of mine was confirmed by all I heard when I visited those countries and had conversations with Boer and Briton alike—I believed that President Kruger was influenced by his hope and belief that he would receive assistance from foreign countries. I do not think he ever had any real reason for that belief, although I do know as a fact that persons whom he thought to be influential gave him encouragement in that belief. And, in the second place, he believed that, as he said himself in public, he could rely on the Opposition. From first to last in our negotiations we were hampered by the fact that President Kruger did not believe that this country was in earnest, and he believed that this Government, which represented the country, was bluffing, that when it came to the point it would retire, and that the people would not support it. How could he believe otherwise? How could he believe we were in earnest, when even in June, 1899—a favourite date with the hon. and learned Member—and in July, 1899—another favourite and critical date, when the hon. and learned Member says we ought to have known that war was inevitable—when, even at that time, the Leader of the Opposition was saying——


Hear, hear!


Wait a minute—was saying that there was nothing to justify "either warlike action or even military preparation."


In what was there nothing to justify either war, or the prospect of war, or even military preparation? Let the right hon. Gentleman read the words. If his memory has failed him and he has not got the words, which probably he has not, because they would not suit his purpose [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh!"], I will remind him that I said that in the whole story of the Government, in the whole of the case which they put before the country, so far as we knew it, there was nothing to justify war or even military preparation.


Yes, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman said all he now says. He has had a good deal to say with regard to this unfortunate expression of his. But he did not say what he says now in his first statement. His first statement was made at Ilford in June, 1899. He did not then say what he has now told us. He said it afterwards in explanation. I do not think the explanation made much difference; but in any case it came too late. I do not care, I do not know, what the right hon. Gentleman meant when he said that. It is not my business to interpret his mind. But I know what the effect of that was upon everybody who heard it, upon everybody who read it; what its effect was upon us, and what its effect was upon the Boers. When you say, two or three months before war is declared by the Boers, that there is no reason for military preparation—I do not care how you may explain it—the effect upon the Boers is that they think they may safely continue. I would like to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he regretted that his words should have been misinterpreted by the Boers [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh!"], but, whether he says it or not, the fact remains the same, and I here say it to his face, as I have said it over and over again in the country. How, I say, do you expect that at this time, when we are told by the hon. and learned Member that war was inevitable, the Boers would meet our desire for a reasonable arrangement—and it was a reasonable arrangement, as the Opposition admitted at the time—how do you expect that, when they thought that, if they refused it, we should not make military preparations, or, if we did, we should be condemned by the Opposition, to the power and influence and importance of which they attached a great deal more importance than was necessary?


I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I did not say that war was inevitable. What I said was that it was inevitable that, if you fought the Transvaal, you would also have to fight the Orange Free State. It was the inevitability of war with the Orange Free State that I referred to.


As a matter of courtesy I will answer the hon. and learned Gentleman, though I see no relevancy whatever in the interruption. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh !"] The hon. and learned Gentleman says that war-was inevitable if you fought the Orange River Colony as well as the Transvaal. [OPPOSITION cries of "No."] What has that to do with it? [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh!"] Have I not rightly understood the hon. Gentleman?


What I said was that it was inevitable that if you fought the Transvaal you would also have to fight the Orange Free State. When I was reproaching the Government for want of preparation I was reproaching them for want of preparation in reference to that contingency.


I will only say in answer to that explanation that I will deal with the question of the two States directly. It does not come in at this moment.

Now, Sir, what I last said was that the views expressed by the Opposition seriously interfered, in my opinion, with the success of our diplomatic efforts. We never had any success, and I will ask you to find a single South African who will deny this statement—we never had or could have any success with the Boers so long as they did not believe that we were in earnest. Now I appeal to the fairness of hon. Gentlemen opposite to admit that during the whole course of the Bloemfontein discussion, and even for some time afterwards, the despatches that I addressed to President Kruger met with their entire approbation. There was not, so far as I know, an adverse criticism of those despatches either in the House—certainly not by any person of representative authority—or in any of the organs of the Press. They were admitted to be moderate despatches; no complaint whatever was made of them. Then came the speech —it is very ancient history—to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred again to-night—the speech which he described as a minatory speech, a provocative speech, and adjectives of that kind. Well, I never dispute adjectives. That is a matter of taste. What I wish to say is that I take the fullest responsibility for that speech; I made it deliberately, and, knowing all that I know now, if I had to go through exactly the same situation I should make a similar speech again. And I will say why. Owing to the circumstances to which I have referred, it became evident to me—I had sufficient evidence—that President Kruger did not believe we were in earnest, and I desired in the fewest words, with the least offence but at the same time with the utmost firmness, to point out to President Kruger that, as I believed, the British Government and the British nation were in earnest. Sir, I said the sands were running out. That was the expression which I used. Really if one's literature is to be examined with such careful criticism as has been applied to some of mine, who is there who can escape? But I took, I admit on the spur of the moment, an illustration which I did not mean to be offensive. What I did mean to say was that President Kruger was letting out drop by drop—that is to say, insignificant portions—reforms which were quite insufficient to meet the demands that were made upon him. I will not go back on, nor do I think it worth while to defend, that term. But the point that was of importance, that may be considered to have constituted a threat, was contained in the words "the sands are running out." Sir, they were running out. I do not care—it is not my expression—I am perfectly willing to accept the statement that I am the author of the new diplomacy. If so, the new diplomacy consists only in this, in endeavouring to make your opponents know and to make your friends know what you mean. I have never believed in the low cunning, as I think it to be, which characterised the diplomacy of centuries ago, in which the object was to deceive your opponent as to what it was you intended; and, above all, in our democratic times I for one will never be a party to deceiving our own people. When you come into power go back to the old diplomacy, the real Conservative diplomacy, if you please. But, whether you blame me for it or not, my idea of diplomacy is, as it is of every bargain of every kind in every sort of condition, that you should make perfectly clear what it is that you want, and try to get the clearest idea of what it is that your opponent wants, and then endeavour to come to an arrangement.

Now, Sir, it is only these few words—I attach some importance to them myself, I did at the time, and I do now—it is only these few words as to which you can possibly assert that the diplomacy of this country at that time was in the slightest degree minatory or calculated to interfere with the cause of peace. Our object was that President Kruger should not enter upon the course which he ultimately adopted without full knowledge of what our object was. Well, all during this time we hoped for peace. Under these circumstances we are told that we ought to have moved the forces of the Crown, and that is what we are told by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They seem to think that we could deal with this question in an autocratic and dictatorial way. No, Sir. We cannot do anything in secret. Everything, even the smallest movement, under such circumstances is known to all the world. Of course, we had to consider when the time came what was to be done when we would no longer have any choice. Of course, Lord Wolseley, who is not a politician, suggested—I forget what he called them—"discreet movements" or something of that kind. The thing is impossible. We who are politicians know that it is absolutely impossible. Hardly a regiment could be moved without everybody knowing it; therefore we could not take any really substantial or important step without thereby giving a warning to the Transvaal, which it might have been wise to give, but which might have been followed by a declaration of war which would have been supposed to be due to our action. It was a very difficult and delicate case. I do not, let me say, defend myself against those who think we acted wrongly. Undoubtedly there were preparations which otherwise we might have made, but which if made, would have become known, and perhaps hindered the object we had in view.

Now. Sir, what are we told now? The hon. and learned Gentleman for half-an-hour, at any rate, repeated to the House the reports, or the substance of the reports, of the Intelligence Department. We knew everything that is contained in those reports. It is quite true that the hon. and learned Member says we ought to have known. I repeat, in order to give him satisfaction, that we knew all about those reports [Cries of "Balfour did not know"]; but the hon. and learned Member does not make a distinction, which he ought to make, between those things stated by the Intelligence Department as facts and those things stated as opinions; and that is a very important distinction. In the case of facts we can accept them without the slightest doubt; but in the case of opinions they are submitted for criticism and comment. But what became of those reports? They went to the War office. That was the first place. They were intended for the War Office. Does the hon. and learned Member suppose that the Intelligence Department is for the private information of the Colonial Secretary? If he or any of his friends think that they are mistaken. It is primarily for the information of the War Office, and the War Office, perceiving the reports concerned matters in which the Colonial Office was much interested, sent copies to the Colonial Office which is entitled to them, and did comment upon them from time to time. I ought to have; said what I say now, that I do not yield to the hon. and learned Gentleman in my admiration of the work of the Intelligence Department. It was said that at the outbreak of war we knew nothing, and that the Intelligence Department must have been very inefficient. On the contrary we knew everything that I think we could fairly have expected to know. We did know the number of men likely to be opposed to us. We did know—I believe almost exactly—the number of the great guns opposed to us and their calibre, and we knew practically the number of rifles possessed by the Boers and the amount of the ammunition which they had. The whole Cabinet knew. [Cries of dissent from the OPPOSITION.] No one has ever denied it. [Cries of "Yes."] Who? [Several HON. MEMBERS: "Balfour."] Certainly he knew, and in his absence I deny that for him. He knew it; we all did, and we discussed it. ["Oh!"] We knew all that, I am not dealing for the moment with the political situation in the two States, but we knew all this about the military preparations of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Well, all that went to the War Office.

It is all very fine to say now that the Government have tried to throw the blame off their own shoulders on to those of anybody else. So far as I know they have not blamed anyone. It is a perfect imposture for hon. Gentlemen to pretend that laymen can have the same valuable opinion or assert the same opinion as military men are entitled to have and assert. When the next war comes, and when the hon. and learned Gentleman attains to that high position to which I hope, in justice to his talents, he will attain, I suppose it will be the office of the Attorney-General which will have to deal with that war. That was not our view. We do not think it is the business of any office but the Military Office or the Naval Office, as the case may be. But as to policy and principles—that is the business of the Cabinet, But far the details of war, it is perfect nonsense to pretend to be in any sense personally responsible. I may have all kinds of opinions about strategy, but I am not conceited enough to put them forward as worth attention for a moment against those of the most subordinate officer in the Army. No, Sir, these facts relating to the military situation came to the War Office in the first instance, and afterwards they were at the disposal of the Government, What, then, was the duty of the Government? They went to their military advisers, they asked their advice, and they had their advice, and I have no reason to believe the advice they received was wrong; therefore I am not blaming the military authorities. What would the hon. and learned Gentleman have had us do? When I came to the Colonial Office how many men were in South Africa? Three thousand men, left there by my predecessor. [Cries of "Hear, hear," "Before the Raid," and "Order."] Was that because there was no danger of war? ["Yes."] Nonsense, there was danger of war, there was real danger of war during the time the right hon. Gentleman was in office. Why, we were very near serious trouble at the time Lord Loch was at Johannesburg. It is very convenient to forget that now, but the situation was one of danger, and was so recognised at the time. Is it pretended that 3,000 men was a sufficient protection against possibilities long before the Raid was ever thought of? It is perfectly absurd. Well, what did we do? We did not want to do anything unnecessary, we did not wish to draw too much attention to it, but in four years we increased that 3,000 to 12,000. But these 12,000 men were not even then properly co-ordinated; there was not enough artillery, not enough cavalry. The right hon. Gentleman knew that perfectly well: he knew—he must have known, having had experience of military administration—that the military arrangements of the 12,000 troops in South Africa were not sufficient, that they were not a complete body, that the arrangements required additions, alterations, changes, and modifications, in order to make them complete even for that force.


What year is the right hon. Gentleman referring to?




I was not in office then.


Certainly not; but surely the right hon. Gentleman does not mean to say that, although he was not in office, he, having the experience he has had, and knowing all about the organisation of the Army, he did not know, not merely from his own knowledge and experience, but from other information, that the condition of the force was unsatisfactory in the sense that it was incomplete? That is all I say.


Does the right hon. Gentleman refer to a conversation I had with him at that period, and the correspondence that followed it?




Will he absolve me from any condition of confidence in regard to it?


Yes, I am delighted to do so. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I am leaving this country very quickly; he knows that probably or, if not, I may tell him, that I am leaving very shortly for a holiday I have not taken for a great many years; therefore it is not possible for me to supply the whole correspondence, but I shall be perfectly content if he will undertake to do so. I shall be glad if he will do so.


In answer to that particular point I must explain that part of the correspondence is locked up in my house in Scotland. It is one of the inconveniences of having two houses that the particular thing you want is in the other house.


I most thoroughly sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman, for I am in exactly the same position. I am afraid I really could not get at the correspondence in the time that remains to me. But I have absolute confidence in the right hon. Gentleman, and I shall be perfectly satisfied if he will produce the whole of the correspondence at such a time as may be convenient to him. For the moment I dismiss the correspondence, and I will rely on this—that it is obvious, with the experience the right hon. Gentleman has had of War Office matters, that he must have known that the 12,000 men in South Africa at the time were not satisfactorily provided for, that they were not properly co-ordinated, and that certain alterations were required. My point is this, although he knew that—and I think he must have known it—he nevertheless declared there was—to use his words—no need for military preparations. That was the state of the case in 1899. About that time—I do not give the exact time, for they were very close together—it became almost certain that war would ensue. There must be some personal difference of opinion in matters of that kind. From Lord Lansdowne's evidence it would seem that I was more sanguine than he was. About the 5th September he thought war was inevitable. I certainly did not. I had hopes for some time after that date—but at all events the matter had got to the point that it was dangerous; and, as we considered that the time had come when we must deal with the necessary reinforcements, we did deal with the necessary reinforcements. We asked the military authorities, "What is the amount of troops you require in South Africa in order that we may substantially defend our colonies?" The answer was 20,000 men. We had within a day or two of the breaking out of war 22,000 men. You may say we ran it very close. So we did. We put it off to the last moment for the reason that I have frankly stated; but we were in time. We did even more than we were required. We had in fact rather more men on the spot before any substantial operation had taken place. They were sufficient to prevent the substantial invasion of Natal. The hon. and learned Gentleman talked of days and weeks wasted in moving the Indian troops to Ladysmith. They were taken from the ship, put on the train, and were at Ladysmith almost as soon as they landed. To those men who fought there during that glorious siege we owe it that Ladysmith remained a virgin city, and that anything like a really dangerous, substantial overthrow of Natal was entirely prevented. That is the preparation we made, and who is going to blame us? You may say we might have sent these reinforcements before. All I can say is you would have had war so much earlier and you would have been the first to blame us and to declare that it was entirely our fault. We asked more. We asked of the military authorities again, "What do you want to carry on the war?" Now what is this ridiculous quibbling about whether the war was to end in annexation or not? No question of the kind was ever raised. The object was to beat the enemy. When we had beaten the enemy we could do what we liked with them; and whether we annexed, or did not annex, had nothing to do with the military authorities. We asked what do you want, and the answer was 50,000 men roughly and generally. The hon. and learned Member produced a statement which amazed me, that Sir William Butler had said that 80,000 to 100,000 men would be required. When did Sir William Butler say that?


Sir William Butler, in his evidence, described a conversation he had with his staff as to that number. He was never asked to advise the Government. He was only asked, so far as the Government was concerned, to prepare a defence scheme on the basis of the existing forces, but he described in his evidence what was the view he had given to the men about him.


Really, the hon. and learned Gentleman would be wiser to wait before he makes interruptions of that kind. I do not know quite how to describe them, but I entirely differ from their tone. The hon. and learned Gentleman, amid the loud cheers of that side of the House, cited Sir William Butler as saying that 80,000 to 100,000 men were required for this work. If he had done so it was his first duty, whether he was asked or not, to say so to us. The Government were employing him. He was one of the representatives of the country. I would not do General Butler, whom I believe to be a soldier of the highest reputation, the dishonour that was done to him by the hon. and learned Gentleman. He did not say anything of the kind. He said something quite different. He said the reverse. In the evidence before the Commission it was stated that all General Butler's letters had been read and the only one that referred to the number of troops required in the event of war in South Africa was in a letter of 10th May, 1899. His words were— All things considered, I put the total of troops required in the event of war between the English and Dutch races (He does not say between us and these two colonies.) For that is the real meaning of a war in the Transvaal. At what did he put it? At 100,000 men? 80,000 men? No. "40,000 men." And yet the hon. and learned Gentleman, who has evidently given hours of time to the study of the Blue-books, and read every word of them, and picked out every syllable which could possibly tell against the Government, comes down here and delivers a philippic, and produces an impression so erroneous! I do not refer more to General Butler. It was thought, not that 40,000 men on the whole, but 50,000 in addition to the 20,000 that were required for the purpose of defending the colony should be sent. We adopted that advice to the letter—No! not to the letter, because we sent more than 20,000 to hold the forts and more than 50,000 men to carry out the operations. The hon. and learned Member, who knows all about military affairs, asks why it was we did not succeed at first. I am not going to say whose fault it was that we did not succeed at first. But I thoroughly agree with him that, if we had succeeded at first, our military advisers would have been found to be correct in the opinion that 70,000 men would have been sufficient to complete the work. But who said at the time that we had not sent a sufficient force? I say that no one of the slightest importance or authority at horn:; or abroad—for, of course, we paid attention to military critics abroad—suggested that we required to send out more than 50,000 in the first instance to carry on the war.

I now come to a smaller issue to which I must refer. The hon. and learned Gentleman said we were advised by the Intelligence Department that the Orange River Colony would go to war with us. Yes, we were. It is said that my right hon. friend the Prime Minister declared that we were not. My right hon. friend can defend himself, and I do not know how far the extract read from his speech may have been qualified. But if it was not qualified, I can only say that my right hon. friend went a little too far. We both knew, and did not know. We knew in the sense that there was a treaty between the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal. But who could say in the light of the past history of South Africa, or of any part of the world, that at the exact moment that treaty would he fulfilled? Mr. Sehreiner—a gentleman who is quoted by hon. Members on the other side if by any chance he says anything that lends itself to their view, but whom I am content to take as a very honourable man, and a man of keen judgment, thoroughly conversant with the local situation—had assurances from the President of the Orange River Colony, Mr. Steyn himself, that the country would not take sides against us. Mr. Schreiner subsequently stated how disappointed he was that these assurances which had been given to him had not been fulfilled. At all events, there was a possibility that Mr. Schreiner was right.

The hon. and learned Member says that we ought to have given the route to General Buller. That is perfectly ridiculous. General Buller had to prepare the plan of campaign, he had to prepare it on two hypotheses. There were two and we gave them. The probable hypothesis was that they would stand by the Transvaal and the other was that it was possible at the last moment that they would fall off. He himself said that we ought to go through the Orange River Colony to attack the Transvaal, but that in case the Orange River Colony remained neutral we could not, of course, attack a friendly State, and would have to go round the other way. What is there in all that on which to base a serious charge against the Government I say we all knew. The words quoted from the Prime Minister went only to this, that he himself believed it was inconceivable that a friendly State like the Orange River Colony—with whom we had no quarrel, and which was absolutely certain to retain its independence if it did not go to war—would join the Transvaal. But it was quite possible for us to have differences of opinion on a matter of that kind-At all events we asked our military advisers to be prepared for both alternatives; and then when it was decided to go through the Orange River Colony to the Transvaal—which I humbly think would have been the better strategy—a change was made by the Commander-in-Chief in the field, and he went to Ladysmith instead. But where is the blame for the Government? What ground is there for the action of the Opposition except the trumpery excuse that any stick is good enough to beat a dog with, or any Amendment fair where, by hook or by crook, you can lug in the ox-Colonial Secretary and say disagreeable things about his late colleagues. The hon. Gentlemen the seconder of the Amendment wound up in a peroration expressing sympathy with those who died in the war and those who suffered by reason of it. Yes, Sir, so far as that sentiment is sincere ["Oh!"]—Do you want me to dispute it?—so far as that sentiment is sincere, and I do not dispute it in the case of hon. Gentlemen, it finds an echo in every heart. Sir, I should value the sympathy more, and think it of greater value, if it were not accompanied by a partisan Amendment and partisan bitterness of speech.

Motion made, and Question, "That the debate be now adjourned"—(Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman)—put, and agreed to.

Debate to be resumed To-morrow.

Adjourned at five minutes before Twelve o'clock.