§ [TWELFTH DAY.]
Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment [16th 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—"And we humbly represent to Your Majesty
that it is highly inexpedient that sanction should be given to any Ordinance permitting the introduction of indentured Chinese labourers into the Transvaal Colony until the approval of the colonists has been formally ascertained,"—(Mr. Herbert Samuel.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ * MR. MALCOLM (Suffolk, Stowmarket)
said there were two features of the preceding day's debate which must be prominent in all their minds. The first was the lucid and masterly speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, whose knowledge and whose judgment on this particularly thorny question not only showed him thoroughly qualified for the important position which he now held, but also in an ordinary case would have rendered further justification of the Government attitude unnecessary. That led him to the second prominent feature, that this debate was differentiated from an ordinary case by the fact that in the very able speeches of the mover and seconder of the Amendment absolutely no consideration at all was given to the voice of the majority of the Legislative Council in the Transvaal, neither was any allowed for the Majority Report of the Labour Commission, or for the overwhelming evidence of experts whose lives had been given up to the study of labour questions such as these. The case of the mine-owners had been dismissed with a shrug of the shoulders, although they occupied the position of trustees of thousands of shareholders in this country—the sole suggestion was that they feared financial loss, and that all they desired was to flog work out of a voteless and subservient race. The official members of the Council were disposed of as placemen and the rest of the majority were discounted—unworthily, as he thought—as being "open to influence" and as "tame Boers"—a rather strange term to apply, for instance, to P. Roux, who was one of the last to surrender in the war. Thus, by a process of what he might call violent elimination, the hon. Member built up the superstructure of his own and succeeding arguments on the evidence of two individuals, the only men he assumed to be of fearless and independent character, and the only experts whom he considered worth consideration. Under these circumstances it seemed 28 almost necessary to preface one's remarks by saying that those who supported the Government in this matter were not necessarily associates, accomplices, and hirelings of those traders in the Transvaal whom hon. Members opposite were never tired of denouncing. The insinuation, at any rate, would lie lightly on him for he never owned stock or share in any gold or other mine. The hon. Member for Cleveland had expressed a hope that they should give a free vote on this occasion. Now, whatever he might have done the night before last, he certainly would be giving a free vote that night; because he proposed to give a vote in favour of the best interests of a colony for which, how-over unwillingly, they had taken the sole responsibility, and whose prosperity therefore it was their bounden duty to try to raise even above the level it enjoyed before the war. A new explanation of the war had lately been discovered. They were now being told that the war of 1899 was waged in order that an unlimited number of white men might find employment in the Transvaal, and it was added that the projected importation of Asiatic labour would mean that all the advantages gained by the expenditure of blood and treasure in the war was to be wasted. That was a new explanation of the war, which had not been discovered at the time when Gentlemen opposite were exercising all their ingenuity to find unworthy reasons for war in the Transvaal. It was ridiculous as a motive, for they held that the war was waged because the South African Republic did not acknowledge the suzerainty of Great Britain, because of the indignities inflicted upon British subjects in the Transvaal, and because of the invasion of a British colony by a Boer army.
§ * MR. MALCOLM
said he was only dealing with the explanation given by hon. Members opposite as to the cause of the war, but, of course, he would not press the matter further. He thought that if, as a result of victory, the Transvaal had become a happier land to live in, that 29 was no reason for urging a procedure on the Transvaal Government of to-day which must logically lead to a monopoly of labour for Europeans in the mines. That was an impossible ideal in the first place, and in the second place it would be fraught with danger to the ultimate prosperity of the colony, and would very likely add much to the friction caused by the black labour problem which was already causing grave anxiety in various countries. Perhaps one might be allowed to protest against the interference of outside opinion in a matter which only concerned the Transvaal Government and the Imperial Government. He thought the remonstrance of Mr. Deakin, and of that impetuous Imperialist, Mr. Seddon—a new friend of hon. Gentlemen opposite—
§ * MR. MALCOLM
said he thought these remonstrances were strangely out of place in the mouths of men who themselves would most violently resent outside interference in the affairs of their own colonics, and they must seem equally strange to the ears of those who held that local self-government was the keystone of our colonial success. Why was it that the Transvaal Government was so anxious to secure foreign labour? The reason was that they were desirous—as we all wished—to restore prosperity to the one industry which could pay the way of the colony—the one industry which caused money to circulate in the country and would allow British citizens to lead a happier life than they were likely to do under present circumstances. Gold was to the Transvaal what the cane fields used to be to the West Indies, what cod fishing was to Newfoundland, and what tea was to Ceylon. The development of that particular industry meant the development of the colony; its stagnation meant ruin to the colony. Could one be surprised that this was an urgent question to be settled, as he thought, without the referendum and without delay; for so long as development was delayed so long would the general welfare of the country be retarded, and so long, incidentally, would its share of the war debt to this country remain unpaid. It was lack of 30 labour alone which prevented progress towards immediate prosperity.
The problem was now to supply that labour. Had they exhausted as yet every other source of supply? They would all admit that the Transvaal Government, since the war, had spent large sums of money in improving and developing recruiting methods, and at the same time they had to regret that its efforts had proved unavailing and unsuccessful. The latest returns showed that in spite of all their expenditure 129,000 men were wanted to bring the mines up to the state of efficiency they were in just before the war. Since 1886 there never had been sufficient Kaffir labour. Before the war they had 100,000 Kaffirs; now there were not more than 50,000, and the rest of these, after allowing for those employed on public works and in agriculture, were little better than wastrels scattered over the land. In this connection he hoped the House would allow him to accentuate what seemed to him likely to prove a great danger—and that was the number of unemployed Kaffirs unwilling to work and unbroken to discipline. As the number of these loafers increased they would become more and more a serious menace to the safety of the white minority. And their number would increase as labour-saving machinery was imported into the Rand, unless serious efforts were made to alter the conditions of native labour as they at present existed, to deal with the taxation and to modify those native habits which led to absolute sloth and worthlessness among the Kaffirs early in life. Their ancestors were only huntsmen and spearmen, but as they learnt the dignity of labour, and as their wants and the wants of their wives increased, they would be attracted to that form of labour the remuneration of which would most quickly satisfy their ambitions. The day had not yet come, but the process was going on slowly, and it would be pessimistic indeed to think it would not come. In Bechuanaland and Basutoland especially the change in the last twenty-five years had been extraordinary. But until that day dawned it would be for the good of all to insist on indirect compulsory labour, under, of course, humane conditions, for races in a backward state 31 of civilisation. It was as necessary morally for black races to be made to work as for white children to be made to go to school. It was their first lesson in discipline, and to argue that there was anything of slavery in such a system was to misread or ignore the history of countries ruled and developed by white minorities and to show ourselves indeed slaves of our own misleading phraseology. In the Transvaal he believed 50,000 more men were immediately wanted. Where in Africa could they be found? Central Africa had been tried, but there were many difficulties and objections in the way, one of which was that natives who lived in the tropical zones of British Central Africa soon succumbed to the severe cold which often reigned in the Transvaal. East Africa, too, had been tried, but here again they tried to recruit from tribes of warriors and spearmen who would not labour for any wage. Some might be procured from British India, but it was difficult to get them at anything like possible prices, as the demand already exceeded the supply. The coolie experiment had already been tried in Natal, with the result that the Indian coolie had overrun the place, and had established himself by superior adaptability and more diligent habits of life as master in all the small trades of that colony, and there was no evidence to show that his importation would satisfy those who now declaimed against Chinese labour. They were left then with two sources from which to draw labour for the mines and so to send the river of prosperity flowing through the Rand. It could be got from white sources or from yellow. Anybody who had had anything to do with black labour knew there were certain forms of labour of an unskilled manual kind which the native expected and was expected to do. There wore other branches of the same industry—higher branches of skilled labour, overseeing and administration, which were the peculiar province of the white man. The natives appreciated it, for nowhere was class or caste feeling developed as it was amongst native races, who were most particular to accept only that employment which their social status would allow them to perform; and it was realised also by the white men, from experience of the influence of the white men over black on the mines. But there was a 32 corresponding obligation on the white class that those in authority should as far as possible be drawn from the best classes of the white race. These men could not descend to work beside the Kaffir in the mines. Not only would it lower them in the estimation of the natives and of their neighbours, but it would be impossible to give them the wages they would ask. White labour had been tried by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick in his Eckstein mines. Before he tried it he was a most ardent supporter of white labour—he was the only one of his partners who advocated it. But he had to give it up, and so indeed did the directors of a mine managed by Mr. Creswell. They only stopped when they found they were losing £3,000 a month by it.
§ * MR. MALCOLM
said the Government also tried it in railway construction; the work done by 1,000 navvies sent out from England cost four times as much as similar labour done by Kaffirs, and they saved £40,000 by giving them a month's wages and shipping them back to England. If then they could not get the best class of whites they were driven to the only other white market—experience had already shown that there was none between—and that was to the low class of Hungarians, Swedes, Norwegians and Italians, whose moral tone imported to the Rand would be deplorable in its effect upon the Kaffirs. It would, he thought, be nothing less than a scandal to any Government, to suggest the importation of low whites. Native races were accustomed to look on the white race as the race of masters and they would not be long in inferring the decay of the white man's power when they found white servants like themselves, with a lack of moral backbone and self-reliance to which they were unaccustomed in a white man. He could only say modestly that his experience of black countries which were ruled by a white minority was that the consensus of reflecting opinion asked for "the best type of pale faces or none at all." Hence the United States, Canada, Ceylon. Singapore and Borneo, Australia, and New Zealand had gone to China to get 33 the unskilled labourers that they wanted. We had at the present day this advantage, which the people of these countries and colonies had not—we had the benefit of their experience, and of knowing that precautions would be taken by our orders which were not taken in these countries in bygone years; and he was glad to say that by the regulations of the Colonial Secretary it would be found possible to take these advantages from them. There was absolutely no idea of supplanting the Kaffir or the white race by the Chinese, it was only to supplement the labour of the former. He ventured to think that that must be the view of the mine-owners, because the recruiting of a Kaffir cost £4 and of a Chinaman in China £8, and the more Kaffirs that would work, the fewer Chinese would be wanted. Therefore it was all to the advantage of the mine-owners that they should be able to recruit as cheaply as possible. His hon. friend the Member for Cleveland said that the Chinaman was hated wherever he went. He did not admit that at all, although he admitted that in many countries it was said that he was hated. That, however, was contrary to fact. He could not forget that the Western States of America would not have been what they were but for Chinamen; and in Singapore and Borneo the Chinese had very good characters as workmen, He believed that most people objected to whites doing unskilled labour with Kaffirs. If increased skilled labour was wanted the one thing that would get it was to increase the amount of unskilled labour. That had been proved beyond all controversy, and if the unskilled labour could be got from China a great deal of labour would be secured for the skilled white man. The Chinaman was an undesirable person if left alone; but he had three characteristics which were very valuable He was very thrifty, he was very diligent. and he lived very peacably with his fellow men. [An HON. MEMBER on the OPPOSITON Benches: And very cheap.] The Chinaman was prepared to go to the Transvaal to earn a good wage; he undetermined to return home if he could, to die in his own country. The statistics given by Sir Robert Hart showed that in the last twenty-five years. 4,750,000 Chinaman had gone abroad to work and that no less than 4,000,000 of them had 34 voluntarily returned home. The China-man was to be protected while at work—if that were necessary—by an organisation for the purpose which had worked extremely well in Singapore and Borneo, and he had no more idea that he was being sold into slavery than we at home chose to put into his head.
§ * MR. MALCOLM
said that the Chinaman was, after all, a man likely to look after his own interests. He was to have the conditions explained to him by a Chinaman, and it was absurd to suppose that a Chinaman, whose intelligence was respected all over the world, and who was as intelligent as the hon. Member for Woolwich, was to be duped as the hon. Member for Woolwich thought.
As to the Ordinance, he hoped that hon. Members who followed him would say what they really thought of that Ordinance. Some seemed to imagine it too strict, and others that it was too lax. Hon. Gentlemen had said that in consequence of the Ordinance Chinamen would flood the country in unfettered liberty, while in another breath it was stated that by the Ordinance Chinamen in the Transvaal would be reduced to slavery. They could not have it both ways. He had seen it stated that our diplomatic relations with China would be strained to a high point if we endeavoured to recruit Chinese subjects for such employment. He did not believe a word of it. Such difficulties had not hitherto occurred in countries where Chinese coolies were indentured; and he made bold to say that no country or colony had framed better regulations for the protection of the Labourer before, during, and after the fulfiment of his contract than had the Legislative Council of the Transvaal. If the Ordinance were designed otherwise, if the conditions imposed were tyrannical and grievous, as was suggested, it would defeat its own object; the Chinese would not come. And if the yellow peril were so imminent as some hon. Gentlemen believed it could be stepped at a moment's notice. A perusal of the regulations, which he 35 believed might yet be made more stringent, ought to drive any idea of slavery from so wise a head as that of his hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Isle of Wight. And as for "flooding the country" with Chinese there seemed to be no precaution which had not already been thought of to prevent the occurrence of so lamentable a result. In the interests of the Transvaal he thought this Ordinance ought to be ratified by the House, as an experiment, if they would, and with a time limit. But when all was said and done, he did think that the affairs of the Transvaal had reached a crisis neither healthy for the colony nor creditable to our repution as a Colonial Empire. It was rather unfair, surely, that the Transvaal should be dependent, as it was dependent, upon a foreign Government for 88 per cent. of its mining labour. That was, however, the fact. President Kruger concluded treaties with the Government of Portugal; and in return for allowing him to recruit Kaffir boys in Portuguese East Africa for the Transvaal mines he gave Portugal free trade with the Transvaal. He also arranged that if Durban in Natal, and East London in Cape Colony, wanted railways to Pretoria they must always charge 20 per cent. more per mile than was charged on the Delagoa Railway, all of which but 100 miles belonged to President Kruger. The House knew that at the Bloemfontein Conference, when there was a proposal to federate all South Africa in a Customs Union, the Portuguese Minister at once said, "If you give the same privilege in sending merchandise into the Transvaal as we have got, we shall shut off your supply of Kaffir labour recruited from Portuguese territory." The Portuguese Government had Great Britain in the hollow of their hands. He had read all the evidence, and had tried to decide for himself impartially upon this subject, and it seemed to him that there was overwhelming testimony that there was a demand and a necessity for Asiatic labour from the whole British population of the Transvaal, and of Johannesburg in particular. He did not think there would be very much fear of going to a referendum on this subject. Only a month or two ago the municipal council nominated by Lord Milner were re-elected by the people of Johannesburg on a very low franchise, all but one man, 36 and he was the sole opponent of Asiatic labour. He believed that that showed that the British subjects of the Transvaal were in favour of Chinese labour rather than face ruin.
They had, therefore, practically the whole British in the Transvaal friendly to this importation scheme. Who were against it? Not the Boer population, who stood aloof in spite of the active propaganda fostered amongst them by the Dutch party in the Cape Colony. That was a significant fact, but easily explained when it was realised that the Boers, of all people, were acutely conscious of the shortage of labourers for mining or for any other purpose in the Transvaal. No, the real opposition came from Cape Colony—from that section of the Cape Parliament whose sole desire was to get the Transvaal Government into difficulties, to discredit Lore: Milner, to bring about an overwhelming demand for self-government in the new colonies, and to regain for the Boers by the ballot box what they lost by the sword. Every day their chaplain prayed that they might not be "blinded by private interest, prejudice, or partial affections," and he hoped this would not be forgotten in the division lobby. By their votes they would assume the responsibility for making or marring the future of a British colony which was in urgent need at the present moment. "Shareholders can wait for dividends," said Sir P. Fitzpatrick himself, "but white men cannot wait for bread." Let them not be afraid to face their constituents with the whole story of this thing, and prove, as they could prove up to the hilt, that if the white man was to earn a living wage for himself and his family in the Transvaal, without being reduced to Kaffir work, there must be a huge increase in unskilled labour which at the present time was only forthcoming from China. Let them shatter for ever the idle superstition that "the Transvaal exists and is run for the benefit of German capitalists.'" It was a shameful libel upon any British colony to say that. There were hundreds of Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen, as honest as the day, living on the Rand, and he pleaded for them and the country they had so largely helped to develop. Those pioneers of British industry and civilisation found the 37 Transvaal accessible only by bullock tracks, and they had webbed it with railways; they found there a population which could only find fern wood for fuel, and they now supplied the colony with coal; they found there but a few running streams of water, but there now existed there a network of dams and reservoirs supplemented by an outlay of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 for water for the Rand. They had tapped the brains of the world for their industry, the harvest was ready but the labourers were few. Therefore he held it to be the duty of the House to help, and not to binder and harass, the prosecution of this work of development by ratifying the Ordinance without delay.
§ * MR. THOMAS SHAW (Hawick Burghs)
said his hon. friend opposite had addressed the House with his usual clearness. Let it be remembered, however, that all the progress and advancement made in South Africa which the hon. Member had so well described had been accomplished, not by, but without the introduction of foreign labour. He spoke of the dignity of labour, but in the next sentence they discovered what he meant by it. It was consistent in the hon. Member's view, with the dignity of labour that it should be forced. The hon. Member dilated on the morality of the operation of the enforcement of labour, and mentioned that the Directors were the trustees of the shareholders in the mines. He wanted to point out that they in this House of Commons were also trustees—trustees for millions of British subjects and for the cause of liberty. What was the general nature of this Ordinance? It was an Ordinance to facilitate the establishment of a convict settlement mitigated by the chance of a forty-eight hours ticket-of leave. They were to have a Government Inspectorate both in Africa and China, and although this was to be set up in the interests of the mines, he had not yet heard that the mines were to contribute anything towards the expense. This Ordinance appeared to him to be inconsistent with the elementary notions of freedom; and having gone through much of the Blue-books on this subject, he had come to the conclusion that this Ordinance was antagonistic both to white labour in 38 South Africa and also to black labour in South Africa.
His first proposition was that the Government, as such, had in point of fact not inquired into this subject of Chinese labour. Ho would go farther and say that this Government, although apprised of the movement, had deliberately shut the mouths of witnesses who were prepared to give their testimony upon the Chinese labour question. The terms of the reference to the Transvaal Labour Commission were framed carefully and in such a manner that they excluded this question from the Commission. Why was the reference so framed? This was not a new question. Those acquainted with the management of affairs in South Africa were quite familiar with the topic of the importation of Chinese labour. If there was the urgency now claimed and a Commission and machinery ready for inquiry, why was the Chinese question not put under investigation instead of being excluded from the terms of the reference? Why, when there had been a maximum of premeditation in certain quarters outside were they to be left with only a minimum of deliberation in this House? Not only were the terms of reference carefully drawn, but there was also a rigorous suppression of evidence that was ready to hand. He wished to tell the Colonial Secretary frankly that he did not think it made for harmony in the relations of one race to another, to use such language as he employed last night with regard to General Botha, who was spoken of in terms which implied and expressed that he had suppressed evidence. There was a suppression of evidence, but it was not suppression by General Botha, but suppression by the Labour Commission of the evidence of General Botha. General Botha had actually prepared a written statement of the evidence he was willing to lay before the Commission appointed to investigate the shortage of labour; but when he tendered that evidence they declined to receive it. Reference was made by the Colonial Secretary to General Bothadeclhiing to have his views expressed by some other person. What would the right hon. Gentleman have done if a Government Commission had declined to accept his evidence direct? Would he have permitted any man to give it second-hand for him? General Botha was asked if 39 he would tell the Commission what in his opinion, would be the effect of importing labour into Natal, and he replied that the best thing he could say in reply would be to read a paragraph from his "statement." Perhaps it would be said that that statement had reference to Natal, and had nothing to do with Chinese labour. But at a later stage of his evidence the matter was cleared up. One of the Commissioners asked why the statement offered by General Botha had not been accepted. Then the Chairman said that statement had been handed to him that morning, and he had had representations made to him. "It was impossible to ask him to delete certain portions of it," said the Chairman, "as it mainly dealt with the question of Chinese labour, which is not before us." With regard to this, all he would say was that it was not in the mouth of the Government which had sanctioned the institution of a Commission so carefully limited, either to hustle the House of Commons, or to make any reflection or suggestion of suppression of evidence against an honourable and distinguished man like General Botha. It stood confessed accordingly that they were doing this thing without any Government inquiry at all. The present policy was one of "hustle." It followed an agitation promoted mostly by skilful, powerful, clever men interested in the development of the mining industry.
How did this scheme arise? Was the scheme launched from humane and patriotic motives—a scheme having for its main object the benefit of the natives, the colonists, or the country, or the unification of South Africa? No; it was a scheme to reduce on cost, and to increase profits in the mines. Reflections had been made upon General Botha. On the other hand, Sir George Farrar had been defended by the Colonial Secretary. But when evidence came from that quarter he was entitled to ask who Sir George Farrar was? There was a "G. Farrar" who signed the famous forged telegram about the women and children in Johannesburg? Was this the man upon whom this upright Government relied? Was this the man who was sentenced to death for high treason? This would not do. They must examine these testimonies, and bring things home to the people of this country, and inform them that they were again 40 being deluded and misled. He would as soon ground a national policy upon the Report of that Labour Commission as he would ground a policy of Imperial finance upon the Report of the Birmingham Tariff Commission. The direction and scheme of the movement had been the same all through, and had been premeditated. How did he prove premeditation before the war? The first proposition in this debate was that there was a shortage of labour, against which all economic efforts were unavailing. They had heard about that before. South Africa got the better of it so far back as 1891. He would quote the opinion of the mining community from the Chamber of Mines report of that year—The mining community has made strong endeavours to relieve itself of this unreasonable burden, hut, standing alone, little can he done, and it is feared the efforts of the mines cannot he much longer sustained if the Volksraad and the Government will do nothing to assist them.How alarmist it all read ! Yet in subsequent years the production of those very mines, which could not "be much longer sustained," reached the most fabulous proportions. If all that was a delusion then, why should they now for the first time give way to the cry which had arisen from similar quarters, in a similar interest? What was the essence of the oft attempted scheme? It was an uneconomic proposal to combine a full supply of labour with a reduction of wages. Year after year they found the same attempt being made to force up the supply and at the same time keep down the wages. Take now Report for the year 1892. There it was stated—There appear to your committee but two methods by which the rate of native wages can be reduced. One by combination among employers, the other by the introduction of an adequate supply of labour.Coming to the Report for the year 1894, it states—Two main objects have been kept in view. The principal one the maintenance of supply, the second the reduction of the rate of wages.Unhappily for these schemes there was at the time a Boer Government in power which would not assent to those proposals in so far as they involved the forcing of labour. In 1895 the President was called upon at Pretoria with that 41 object, "wlio would not, however, consent to the employment of coercion." This apparently occurred in the Spring of 1895, and in the end of 1895 they had the Jameson Raid. It failed; and, after order was restored, the same scheme, culminating in this Ordinance, was resumed. Yet in 1897 and 1898 they found a marvellous change. Order had been restored, and to the surprise of the mine-owners themselves, the supply of labour began to exceed the demand, and down went wages for a time. Were they content? Not at all. Instead of making the supply equate with the demand, and the demand of the mine-owners equate with the supply, the mining industry was worked to its utmost limit, and in the end of 1898 a new shortage, on account of the great development of the industry again appeared. The coercion of labour could not be hoped for, and then in 1899 they had war. Such was the sequence of events, and what a story it was ! This was a project from beginning to end to lower wages and raise profits, and a scheme to do that regardless of the ordinary economic conditions of South Africa.
He thought he had proved his point as to the reduction of wages, but his second point was settled in a somewhat curious way by the party which was now agitating for this Ordinance. It was settled shortly after the war, on 25th October. 1900, when the Chamber of Mines reported that the schedule of wages in existence prior to the war had been abandoned and instead of about £4 per month a scale with a minimum of 30s. and a maximum of 35s. per month had been adopted. If that reduction of wages had not taken place one large element of the very difficulties which had been the excuse for this Ordinance would, in his opinion, have disappeared. The natives had had every inducement to go elsewhere. There was unsettlement over half the continent and an enormous demand for military assistance. The drafting of men from the mines was in part because they got better pay during military operations. Could this Government not wait for anything? Here they were only at the beginning of 1904, and after the war in South Africa, was nothing to be allowed to the recuperative powers of nature or the healing influences of time? 42 General Botha's view as to these was accepted by the large majority of the white people of South Africa, both Dutch and British. In the period he referred to, British money was being spilled like water, first over a system of military operations, and secondly in restoring the havoc and devastation caused by the war. Why should they, during a period of transition such as he had described, be hustled into adopting an Ordinance which was repugnant to the feelings of the British people? General Botha had stated that the Kaffirs wore returning and, "while six months ago I could not obtain a single Kaffir I have now from thirty to thirty-five." General Botha agreed that the present state of things with regard to shortage of labour was exceptional and was brought about by the abnormal condition of things after the war. Patience was what was required: above all things, patience. Now the efforts made to carry this Ordinance were characterised in the first place by threats: in the second place by a determined suppression and distortion of public and; private opinion: thirdly, by a complete regard for the gold industry; and fourthly, by a lack of due regard for British interests and for human freedom. Some curious things occurred in regard to these threats. They were expressed as follows in the Majority Report—A certain development in the main industry of the country beyond the point reached in 1899 must take place or they must adopt the logical alternative of revising the position of the whole country.What did that mean? If a Boer Assembly had used that language they would have all been up for sedition or high treason. The Report went on to state—An industry of this magnitude must advance or fall back; the advance is impossible without the solution of the labour difficulty, and a set back would upset the equilibrium, not only of the Transvaal but of the whole of the South African Colonies.What equilibrium? Finanical equilibrium or political equilibrium? He did not like to hear language of that kind; and he viewed with considerable disfavour any body of men who would venture to put that before the British Crown. There had been a suppression and distortion of private and public opinion. They had 43 heard of a letter from Mr. Tarbutt, but what happened to the man who produced Mr. Tarbutt's letter? The letter which appeared in the Star of Johannesburg on 19th November, 1903, showed the unscrupulous tactics adopted by the mine-owners; and Mr. Creswell was told that at a meeting of his directors great surprise was expressed at the tenor of his evidence ! Then came the whole sordid and dishonouring story which culminated in the dismissal of this man who had told the truth and who had produced a most damning piece of evidence against the gold mining speculators. They were asked to trust the Chamber of Mines; but if any of the members of that Chamber had so dealt with Mr. Creswell with reference to the evidence given before a Committee of this House, the Chamber of Mines might have been condemned to a convict settlement though without a forty-eight hours ticket-of-leave. One of Mr. Creswell's complaints was that in giving his evidence he was not permitted to go into the general state of the mines in the neighbourhood. Take next the case of Mr. Monypenny. With regard to Mr. Monypenny he confessed he heard with great surprise what the Colonial Secretary said about him. He admitted the right of the mine-owners to dismiss Mr. Monypenny; but he asked the House to consider his position. Here was a man who wrote what he knew was unpopular with his employers, and he thought that was a man the House of Commons would willingly rely upon. He said—For twelve or fifteen months the Star has consistently opposed the policy to which the Chamber of Mines has now committed itself. We have opposed it because, on general principles, we have no faith in shore cuts to prosperity or in mechanical solutions of organic problems. We have opposed it because we are convinced that no real trial has been given to the alternatives, and that this policy is a policy of despair only to be tolerated when every other expedient has failed. It is a deliberate attempt to arrest, and, in the interests of impatience, artificially to reverse a process of evolution whose results are already beginning to be visible, and which promises in the course of time to emancipate South Africa from that complete dependence on inferior coloured labour which has hitherto limited its development.Further on he said—The financial houses, in whom in the present instance, those rights are vested, have chosen one side of the question, the Editor of the 44 'Star' has chosen the other; and as from either point of view the question is of the first importance the position has now become impossible. To the policy of Chinese immigration, to which the Chamber of Mines has decided to vote its energy, the present Editor of the Star remains absolutely opposed and declines in any way to identity himself with such an experiment. To the ideal of a white South Africa, which, to whatever qualifications it may necessarily be subject, is something very different from the ideal of a Chinese South Africa, he resolutely (dings with perfect faith that, whatever its enemies may do to-day that, ideal will inevitably prevail. But as the financial houses which control the mining industry of the Transvaal have for the present enrolled themselves among its enemies the present Editor of the Star withdraws.Was he not right in saying that those Gentlemen were adepts in the art of suppressing and distorting both private and public opinions?
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. LYTTELTON,) Warwick and Leamington
My hon. friend says that I threw discredit upon Mr. Monypenny. I certainly did not do so and I did not say a word to that effect.
§ * MR. THOMAS SHAW
said he had accepted to the full the statement of his right hon. friend. What he meant was that when they had a man in Mr. Monypenny's position willing to sacrifice his position for his testimony his opinions deserved far higher credit than they had received. They had reached a state of things when the evidence of the Commission was deprived of all weight whatever. The Commission had packed and unpacked the witness box: and as for public opinion, he would as soon take the verdict of Park Lane on democracy or set himself to study some new pamphlet on "Liberty from a financial point of view." Those cases—Creswell and Monypenny—were instances of how this poison was working. Upon the force of attraction (after all, a plain and peaceful economic force) the Report said—There are nevertheless, many other elements in the problem. Viewed, for example, from the standpoint of what may be called the attractive forces, the supply is affected by such elements as rate of wages, working condition, nature of treatment by employers, "cheap and rapid means of communication and so forth.This conclusion appears to be well founded, but as the effect of wages is merely attractive and not coercive the probable result of the reduction of wages by the mines was merely to 45 cause the majority to seek employment in other industries where the wages were higher."Attractive and not coercive" this would never do. Yet it was the key to their attitude towards black labour. But what was their position with regard to white labour? He remembered a speech of the ex-Colonial Secretary at Cannock Chase in 1900, and he wanted to know if under this Ordinance they were realising the magnificent ideal that "the war was a miners' war," and had been undertaken in order that justice might be done to the British miners in the Transvaal.
The critical nature of the circumstances had been spoken of. But where did the urgency alleged by the Colonial Secretary come in? He found that in January, 1903, there was produced in the Transvaal an output of 199,000 oz. of fine gold, and in January, 1904, this same hard-up, poorly-equipped Colony produced 288,000 oz., equal to £1,226,000 in one month, or at the rate of £14,750,000 sterling in one year. What more did any one want? Lord Milner said there was complete stagnation, that people were out of work, and that there was an emigration of white people going on, that a crisis was impending. This was very dreadful; but we had grown rather sceptical of and callous to such appeals, for the simple reason that they were familiar with the very same language with reference to Great Britain. They knew it all already. There was a strange family likeness in this language on the part of men in this country and in Africa, whose end and aim seemed to be high-priced food at home and low-priced labour in the Colony. If a Colony, after such a war, was not content with the steady rise in its output of gold which he had described it was hard to please. What did Imperalists think now about the "march of Empire," about the "pegging out of claims," about "equal rights?" Was the language too strong which in earlier days had denounced the lust of gold and the machinations of a gang of capitalists? He spoke not without book. Mr. Tarbutt, in his letter to Mr. Creswell, said that he—Had consulted the Consolidated Gold Fields people and one of the members of the board of the Village Main Reef had consulted Messrs. Wernher, Beit, and Co.," and "the feeling seems to be one of fear that, having a large 46 number of white men employed on the Hand in the position of labourers, the same troubles will arise as are now Pervalent in Australia—viz., that the combination of the labouring classes will become so strong as to be able to dictate, not only on the question of wages, but also on political questions," etc.These magnates were the enemies of white labour; and this Ordinance gave effective shape to their designs. The hon. Member for Bermondsey referred to "whites of foreign origin," and poured contempt upon them when they were "poor." For his part, if he were asked whether South Africa had suffered more from poor whites of foreign origin than from rich whites of foreign origin, he should have his doubts.
The substance of this Ordinance was the importation and detention of human beings under a condition of non-citizenship. He desired to state emphatically that he declined to recognise in a free country or free Empire a condition of non-citizenship. Look at the Colonial Secretary's description of the country for which we had spent and suffered so much and where they were told that the condition of things was so rotten that even a navvy got bored with it and had to leave. The fabric of society in the Transvaal was so ramshackle that, according to the Colonial Secretary, it required to be underpinned with Chinese labour. But there were to be oases in the desert, the establishment of little Arcadias, euphemistically described as Chinese villages. How consolatory to the lover of freedom ! Think of the privileges of the inhabitants of those villages? short hours? high pay? advancement to every high grade of employment and life easy for these blessed inhabitants? In every line of the Ordinance was there respect and reverence for that ideal of the British people, which happened to be the cause of liberty? Well, perhaps not all this, perhaps not any of it. But by special reminder of the Chinese Government, the lash was to be forbidden. What a mockery it all was ! If the Boers had imposed such conditions upon any human being every Jingo in this country would have fanned the flames of war in the names of civilisation, liberty, and humanity. His hon. friend the Member for Bermondsey said, in one of those topsy-turvy sentences of 47 his, that Downing Street had been the curse of that land. The hon. Member need not be afraid. The headquarters of the Government were being removed to Park Lane.The strongest castle, tower, or town,The golden bullet beats it down.This Government, whatever its many virtues, could not be described as a strong Government. How long, however, were the British people going to stand this? He wished his right hon. friend—he said it from his heart, and with all respect for him—had had the courage to put his foot down to Lord Milner. Let him assure his right hon. friend, if it was not too late—to do it, that if he would only resist the malign influences which were behind this measure—influences which were inimical to the working classes and to every class in this country—and if he would only refuse this Ordinance, he would have behind him the voice of a liberty-loving and absolutely undivided people.
§ * SIR JOHN ROLLESTON (Leicester)
said that although he must admit that in his constituency the only public expression of opinion that he had heard on this matter was favourable to this Amendment, he thought that the issues were somewhat confused and capable perhaps of explanation. In the first place, a rather unreasoning prejudice against the shareholders in the gold mines, of whom, however, he was not one, induced many people to object to any support at all being given to the gold industry. Secondly, a prejudice, equally unreasoning he thought, against any form of time-bargain with foreign labourers, inclined many others, perhaps unthinkingly, to regard such a proposal as the indication of a system of slavery. It seemed to be considered by many people that gold got out of the earth was won solely for the profit of the proprietors of the mines. This could not be the case. The Transvaal people, the Transvaal land, and the commerce of South Africa wanted this gold primarily, and subsequently all the gold-using countries wanted it. This country itself had, in the past, experienced periods of both prosperity and adversity owing to the fertility or sterility of the gold mines and deposits. Agricultural 48 and commercial depression experienced a marvellous rebound some fifty or sixty years ago from the gold discoveries of California and Australia. Then these deposits becoming again exhausted, a period of comparative depression set in, until at last renewed prosperity appeared to be in sight owing to the recent discoveries in South Africa and Western Australia. The annual yield of gold went up some five years ago to an aggregate of, he believed, £60,000,000, the largest known in the history of the world and it seemed as though prosperity was about to be experienced from this vitalising and fertilising flow. Then came the war, and the stoppage of mining operations. The yield went down again. The gold crop, though in sight, could not be gathered in, and that, it seemed, was somewhat the situation to-day.
He submitted that more gold was wanted for every trade purpose to-day not only in South Africa but in this country, and that any check to its being obtained was a check to the prosperity of this country. We wanted gold to pay for our food supplies in time of war, when the course of trade and the ordinary exchange of commodities was disturbed or stopped, but there was no supply in sight. The City of London certainly wanted more gold. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking there recently, asked the great municipalities to bank the fires of their progress, to suspend their operations, and not to make further demands upon the supply of gold which was in an attenuated condition, even in this the great financial centre of the world. Coming from the Finance Minister that was indeed a significant admission.
§ * SIR JOHN ROLLESTON
said he could not speak for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he could only quote what the right hon. Gentleman said. He was well aware that the trade of this country was conducted upon a huge system of credit, and that the metal gold was seldom seen in business transactions; but though unseen it exercised a vast influence on those transactions. Gold was the base 49 of that superstructure of credit, and the base must bear a proportion to the superstructure. Gold was the only money in this country—the only metal which the public could pass through the Mint at will, and it was the only legal tender when coined. In proportion as this money abounded was prosperity felt in the occupations and enterprises of men. The amount of gold it would exchange for was the measure of value of all property. Money was as necessary as bread, while it was the law of the land that bread must be purchased with money. And so, in a gold country like this, when the mines of the world were not fertile, the want of gold was generally felt. The owner of Consols felt it, as the amount of gold for which he could exchange his property got less; the owners of all other securities felt it; the banker felt it; he could not lend so freely as before and so enterprise was chocked. The alteration or enlargement was not carried out, expenses were cut down, and so the discouraging effect of gold scarcity was felt throughout the whole community, until it might result in scarcity of employment, and perhaps want of food amongst the people. The war might have had some effect as well on the scarcity of gold, as large sums had had to be sent to foreign centres for supplies, but that did not affect his argument that an increased supply of gold could remedy the situation. A gold yield again of £60,000,000 annually, or more, would alter it, and he desired that again, or a larger yield. In view of the greater number of countries which were now using gold a much larger yield was required. It was not always that gold was in sight when it was scarce, but it was in sight in South Africa, and he hoped that nothing might be done, in this country, to prevent this harvest from being reaped by difficulties being placed in the way of our colonies obtaining harvesters.
With regard to the importation of Chinese it really seemed as if some people imagined that under the suzerainty of the British Crown the cruelties practised by the followers of Cortez and Pizarro in Mexico and Peru were to be expected in South Africa. But the African native was free, and if he did not want to sell his labour no one could compel him; but if he had a distaste for work, and could live 50 without it, why should other labourers be prevented from taking his place? Labourers who, although Asiatics, were willing to come, wanted to come for a period of service, for the sake of the wage at the end of it. He would undertake to say that their life in South Africa would be happier and more prosperous than in China. Mining, especially in deep levels, was, he believed, not an agreeable form of labour, and if Chinese coolies were willing to do this dirty work, which even the African native turned up his nose at, it seemed to him insulting to white workmen to contend that it should be kept for them. While, of course, not defending the compulsory importation of African slaves into the cotton and sugar plantations of North America, yet it was clear that these crops could not have been planted or harvested without this, and that were it not for this huge imported negro population, now free, that harvest even now could not be gathered in. The prosperity of the United States had been largely contributed to by these black labourers, who did work which white men could not and did not want to do. History, therefore, showed that there had been occasions when the importation of labour, even from another hemisphere, had been economically useful to mankind, and although the cruelties of the earlier methods were to be much deplored, yet a voluntary bargain of mutual benefit might well be defended to-day. There were objections to many great industries even in this country—some sanctimonious and some practical—the demoralised condition of some they saw written about in the public Press. Some people objected to the establishment of collieries, as the smoke and dust fouled the country side, and the advent of a mining population was stated to demoralise the peasantry. But these great works must go on: the treasures of the earth must be won; and while the laws of civilised nations were that before a man could eat or drink, or clothe himself, he must have gold, it followed that the winning of gold was probably the most important industrial operation on this planet, and should not be discouraged, in deference even to the exaggerated fears and nervous qualms either of the Episcopal or the Nonconformist conscience. He had always understood that in the search for and 51 getting of gold more money and lives were lost than in any other industry. But the gambler's spirit kept the game up, and, although the motive of the searcher and getter might be base and sordid, yet his efforts might go to the ultimate benefit of mankind. In any case, in South Africa, the harvest was ripe and the labourers were ready; and in view of the great benefit which an increased production of gold might confer on this and other countries he, for one, hoped that no action of this House might defer, interrupt, or check that output, and in this view he was afraid that he was unable to support the Amendment.
§ * CAPTAIN ELLICE (St. Andrews Burghs)
said he very much regretted that the first two Motions on which he had been called upon to vote in the House concerned protection and slavery. The hon. Member who last spoke gave the House a very pleasant idea of the country in which he wished to live, stating that gold was more necessary than food. He had no desire to live in a country of that sort. The hon. Member had also told them that gold had been sent out of this country to pay for the war. As a matter of fact, there was more gold in the country now than there was three or four years ago. He wished to support the Amendment on three grounds. In the first place, he objected to the manner in which this agitation for the importation of Chinese labour had been raised. He himself had absolutely no faith in the Labour Commission. He had heard a description of Sir George Farrar given by the hon. Member for the Hawick Burghs, he did not know whether that description was correct or not, but he knew that at least five members of the Labour Commission were members of the Chamber of Mines in Johannesburg, and if the Government had wished to have a proper Commission to examine into the question of the scarcity of labour in the Transvaal, they should have taken the trouble to appoint men absolutely above suspicion. In the second place, he had no reason to believe that, with time, a sufficient amount of labour would not be forthcoming. The Report of the Labour Commission pointed to several causes which might have influenced the supply of labour. One particular cause of shortage not mentioned in the debate 52 was the untrustworthiness of the recruiting agents employed. In his evidence before the Commission, Mr. Samuelson, Under-Secretary for Native Affairs in Natal stated that "he felt that if the flow of native labour could be directed to Johannesburg or towards any other part of South Africa without the use of these recruiting agents, it would be a good thing for the natives themselves." Mr. Samuelson added that there was no reason to believe there was a shortage of native labour, and that there was Kaffir labour in Natal capable of going to the support of the Transvaal. The same witness was questioned by the Chairman as to the statement in the Blue-book that in the South African states there were 201,640 natives employed but that the total of able-bodied men available was only 164,000, so that there were actually 40,000 more employed than the total of able-bodied men ! Mr. Samuelson replied that he disapproved at the time that statement was made; he did not agree with that statement personally. This was evidence that the House would not accept the Report of the Labour Commission. The statements were in several instances not true. His third ground of objection was that the principle was wrong. In a letter in that morning's Times it was objected that the Opposition view of the case was the "Exeter Hall view." He was quite ready to accept the "Exeter Hall view." The hon. Member for Leicester had described the Opposition as supporting the exaggerated opinion of the Episcopal and Nonconformist conscience. It was high time that that opinion should be heard in the House of Commons. The Colonial Secretary had said he regretted the necessity for the Ordinance and had described it as a last resort in face of the terrible state of the Transvaal. If it were a last resort, it was an extremely bad one. They had heard a good deal about the investors in the mines. In common with many hon. Members he himself had invested in the mines, and he had it on the authority of bankers that there was hardly a cottager a shopkeeper, or a householder in the United Kingdom who was not at present interested in these properties. But he believed there was not a man in this country who would not be ready to wait until the Transvaal were developed and be 53 prepared for a time to forego his dividends rather than give his consent to this abominable scheme for the introduction of indentured Chinese labour into the Transvaal.
§ * LORD ALWYNE COMPTON (Bedfordshire, Biggleswade)
said that the question before the House was perhaps of the very greatest importance that had ever been brought before it in this generation. From whatever standpoint they looked at it the consequences might be fraught with the very gravest results. The ground of discussion had been so care fully travelled over by previous speakers, and the able and exhaustive speech of the Colonial Secretary, the previous night, had disposed so effectually of all the arguments with which the Amendment had been supported, that he should not have intervened in the debate had it not been that he himself had a peculiar interest in this great question—an interest derived from the fact that at the time of the South African War, for several months, it was his duty to be at Johannesburg; and at that time it was also his duty to take a part under Martial Law in the administration of justice. He was made a Justice of the Peace at Johannesburg, and therefore was brought in contact with the conditions of native life in that city. The questions which so many Members had asked, and which no doubt the country would ask, were as to the shortage of labour, whether every effort had really been made to obtain Kaffir labour on the East Coast, and whether any genuine effort had been made to test the employment of British workmen. He would answer these questions very shortly. It was quite self-evident that the enormous initial expense which it would cost the mine-owners to obtain Chinese labour, was a sufficient answer to the question as to whether every effort had not been exhausted in order to find native black labour, which there was no doubt they would have infinitely preferred if they could obtain it. Then, with regard to the question of the employment of British workmen, might he say—for it came within his own experience—and the House of Commons was always most ready to listen to the personal experience of any Member on any matter—that 54 a brother officer and a friend of his was in command of 1,000 men during the war. At the conclusion of the war, by the law of the survival of the fittest, there were 130 of these men who desired to remain in South Africa, and his friend took the ordinary methods of endeavouring to find places for them. He went to Lord Milner, who referred him to Mr. Creswell. That gentleman made an offer to employ these 130 men and pay them 5s. a day with free food and lodging, and 10s. a day if they found for themselves. His friend went back to the men with that proposition; and the one answer they gave was that they did not think that labour in the mines would suit them. His friend said that it would give them occupation for a time, and that when things settled down they might be able to get other and better work. Yet only one man out of the 130 accepted the offer, and he only remained in Mr. Creswell's employment for one month, then giving it up. Hon. Gentlemen would read a letter in that day's Times from Lord Lovat, giving a similar experience. That showed that as far as these men were concerned they could not be tempted, under the conditions, to work in the mines.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
said there were hundreds of white men employed in unskilled labour on the Rand at present.
§ * LORD ALWYNE COMPTON
said that Mr. Creswell's experiment was made with a view to ascertaining whether white labour was practicable in the mines at all; and in order, at the same time, to give employment to soldiers who desired to remain in the country. Mr. Creswell's effort was a failure. It seemed to him that the arguments brought forward in support of the Amendment showed very great weakness, because they depended entirely on accusations of mala fides against all interested in the matter. The arguments were also characterised by great exaggeration of language, indeed he might say by a hopelessly ridiculous exaggeration of language. He thought that every speaker in support of the Amendment used, for motives into which he would not inquire, the word "slavery." He wished to analyse that word. What did slavery mean? As far as his limited intelligence went slavery 55 meant a state in which one person was bound to another for life in servitude or bondage, from which he could not escape. Any ordinary intelligent man would take that view. But how did that compare with the proposition under the Ordinance? The Chinaman was to be asked whether he wished to go to the Transvaal or not; he was not to be compelled to go unless he wished; and he would be told the conditions under which he was to go. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said that the Chinaman would not be told, but of course he would. Further, he would be allowed to take his wife and children with him; and on arrival in South Africa he was to be an inhabitant of a village planned by experts and in that village he would live in the same conditions as the Kaffir now lived in the Transvaal. He would earn higher wages than he would be able to obtain in his own country, and eventually he would be enabled to return to China, at the expiration of his service, a richer man than he left it. Was it not, therefore, an exaggeration of language to call that slavery? Could it be compared to the conditions under which the Kaffirs lived in compounds before the war? Was that slavery? If it was slavery, why did not the great Liberal Party, which hung like a load on all who went to the war, pat the soldiers on the back and tell them they were fighting for the emancipation of slaves. No doubt hon. Gentlemen would not only use the word "slavery" in the House but on every platform in the country; and he only wished his voice could spread throughout the country in order to combat such an exaggerated view. Another question was. What did the soldiers who fought in the war think? The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Camberwell asked that question last night. He thought hon. Gentlemen opposite would be wise in not repeating it. He had served in the British Army for seventeen years, and he knew that soldiers had oftentimes very inconvenient memories. The soldiers who fought in South Africa remembered 1881. The hon. Gentleman last evening said that the soldiers were fighting under the emblem of freedom; but the emblem of freedom in 1881 was not allowed to remain unsullied. Many of the soldiers who fought in the late war were more intelligent than hon. Gentlemen opposite imagined; and they fully 56 recognised that it was the great mistake of 1881 that was the direct result of war in 1899. If the soldiers were asked what was the cause of the war in South Africa, they would answer simply and justly that it was the insulting ultimatum which directed the late Queen to remove Her own troops from her own colony.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
said it would be convenient to know whether hon. Gentlemen in this debate were entitled to discuss the cause and the reasons for the late war. If they were the debate would take some time.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I did not interrupt the noble Lord because I understood that he was replying briefly to a casual observation of the hon. Member for Camberwell; but I should have stopped him if he proceeded further.
§ * LORD ALWYNE COMPTON
said he wished to apologise for the digression, but he felt very warmly on the subject. Another argument used in the debate was that the mine-owners wished to get rid of British workmen. An hon. Gentleman stated last evening that the output of gold on the Rand at present was equal to the output before the war. He challenged that statement. The output was nothing like what it was before the war. The number of stamps working before the war was 7,345, now there were only 4,310 working. That was the true test as to the relative output. He had not any prejudice against mine-owners. He knew a great many of them, and he knew that they were very honourable men, carrying on a perfectly legitimate and honourable industry. It appeared, however, to be assumed that the accusation of mala fides against the mine-owners was true: but even that did not alter the facts of the case as regarded gold in South Africa.
What was the position? It was almost a truism to say that it was to the advantage of South Africa that its stores of gold should be distributed throughout the world as quickly as possible. If gold for the use of the world did not come from South Africa it must come from somewhere else. He also thought it was beyond doubt that there were undeveloped parts of 57 South Africa which showed immense stores of gold which could only be developed by the use of money, and that money could not be made in South Africa without the development of the mines in South Africa already in existence. He thought the debate on the fiscal policy would have taught the dullest that we must pay for our imports by our exports, and nobody would deny that gold was one of the best exports we could have. We had gold in South Africa which the present stagnation prevented from being extracted from the mines. The greater the stream of gold from South Africa the greater would be our exports into that country in the shape of machinery and all other commodities. Cape Colony was an object lesson in this respect. Everybody knew the rapidity with which that country developed on the discovery of diamonds. The same argument applied all over the world—New South Wales, Australia, and California. New countries progressed slowly and surely, and it was only when there was a great discovery of precious metals or precious stones that they developed by leaps and bounds. Hon. Members opposite might think it better that South Africa should develop slowly, but he did not hold that view. He agreed with those who had said the great fault of our administration in South Africa had been that we had never been able to accept the opinion and advice, of our councillors there. He hoped we were not going to repeat that mistake now. Hon. Members opposite were content to rely on the belated manifestoes of the Boer leaders, and such inferences as they drew, but he was not. He based his opinion and was content to rely on the opinion of Lord Milner and Sir Arthur Lawley. He was content to rely on the fact that the great men of the Transvaal desired the importation of Chinese labour, and he believed, if this Amendment was carried, it would result, not only in further stagnation, but in all probability in the future ruin of the country.
§ MR. WILLIAM McARTHUR (Cornwall, St. Austell)
said that having lived a great part of his life in Australia, he and had opportunities of observing the conditions under which Chinese lived in large towns there, and the effect which 58 they had on the white population. Australia, as much as any part of the Empire, shared in the great development of the Imperial idea. With that idea he did not quarrel in the least. But on what did they base their conception of the Imperial idea, They in that House had always studiously maintained that, wherever England acquired territory or authority over native races, she owed a duty to those races, and it had been the constant effort of English statesmen, even at the risk of not leaving her colonies quite free, in her dealings with native races to see that native labour in native territories under the dominion of the King, should be conducted under decent conditions. To go further than that, the House had repeatedly interfered with self-governing colonies with regard to those conditions. Whatever, therefore, might be said as to the justice of the Colonies managing their own affairs, the House could not divest itself of its inherent authority or responsibility in regard to the treatment of native races in territories under the British Crown. Australia made stringent regulations of her own, and submitted to the Imperial Government that these regulations should be made still more stringent, and within the last year or so we had seen a still greater development of the inherent dislike in Australia to the importation of alien races. One of the first actions of the Federal Parliament of Australia was to decree that imported labour should cease. So that, from the general point of view, Australian sentiment would be absolutely opposed to the importation of Chinese into the Transvaal, and he considered that the people in Australia had a peculiar claim upon us in this instance. If we were to estimate the value of attachment by the sacrifices made by our colonies in the recent war, surely no opinion had a better claim to be tried than the unanimous opinion of Australia and New Zealand in this matter. Although he had no title to say he represented Australia, he was perfectly certain that he spoke the practically unanimous opinion of every man and woman in Australia when he said he looked upon the proposal of the Government with horror and detestation; because Australians knew from experience what it meant. They had had Chinese coolies among them for years and years, 59 but happily the evil was greatly diminished now, and he hoped it was within still further process of diminution. The result of Australian experience had been that they regarded the importation of Chinese in a large white community as a moral plague spot which ought to be stopped if possible. The Colonial Secretary the previous night, unintentionally he was sure, was somewhat unfair to the Australian view of this question. The right hon. Gentleman treated it as if it were a question of wages. It was by no means a question of wages or the competition of labour. The Chinaman in Australia did not compete very largely in the general labour market. The Australian objection to the importation of Chinamen was that it constituted a moral plague spot which the citizens were anxious and determined to get rid of. We were constantly boasting, and with truth, that whenever we took into our charge the affairs of a native colony we had done our best to raise the moral tone and the whole standard of life of those communities, and it was one of the proudest boasts of this country that in the main we had been successful. But how could anybody say we were doing nothing to lower the moral tone of the community in carrying out such a proposal as was now before the House? In his judgment it was not an Imperial idea to import into South Africa an alien race bringing almost every possible Eastern vice into a Western community. He declined to discuss the question from the point of view whether the mines could make money with Chinese labour and not with white labour. If we were to follow up the Imperial idea we ought to take account of the almost universal sentiment of white colonists against such a measure, and it was because he had seen the infinite evil which might occur from an aggregation of Chinese amongst a Western population that he urgently pressed upon every Member of the House that he had a direct responsibility in this matter. Speaking for himself, he would as soon be responsible for introducing the plague into the City of London as have any part or lot in assenting to the introduction of what would be a moral plague-spot into the community of South Africa.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said he never remembered in the twenty-one years of his Membership of this House a matter of such serious importance, such widespread influence, being considered in debate in so light and airy a manner. In spite of what had been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite, this question resolved itself into the question of whether, after all these years, slavery was to be reintroduced into the British Empire. What was the attitude of the Government upon the matter. It was perfectly scandalous that the Government Bench should be in the condition it was. The Government were conspicuous by absence. It was the same on the previous day. Hardly a Minister deigned to put in an appearance at all, and during the course of the discussion which was at present taking place there had never been more than three or four Members on the Treasury Bench, and they were gentlemen who had never been men of first-rat-importance, or men who had occupied great positions. Whatever view might be taken, the matter was one of sufficient importance to command the attention and appearance of the Government, which it did not appear to have done. He had listened with great pleasure to the speech of the hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench (Mr. McArthur), and could agree in the fullest manner with what the hon. Gentleman said as to the attitude of the Commonwealth of Australia in this matter. He had been permitted to judge of the colonial sentiment in the many visits he had made to that country, and could bear out what had been said with such effect by his hon. friend. The attitude of official Australia was strongly against the introduction of Chinese labour in South Africa. We had had experience of gold mining all over the world, and there was not a gold mine in the world which white men could not be found to undertake the working of. He could quite understand the proposal to introduce Chinese labour, if it could be shown that it was the last resource to keep the mines open, receiving the emphatic support of hon. Gentlemen like the noble Lord the Member for Biggleswade, who might be somewhat biassed by the fact that he owned so many shares in South African securities, and who said Chinese labour was a necessity. It was said that 61 Chinese labour was a necessity, but he believed that if the facts were laid clearly before the House, it would be seen that the mines could pay enormous profits, even though they employed white labour at reasonable wages. That being so, why were not white men obtained? As to the alleged impossibility of replacing by white men the Kaffirs who left the mines through the war, the country wanted to know what honest attempts had been made in that direction with the offer of reasonable terms. The fact was that no real attempt had been made. There were thousands of Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen who would be glad to go to South Africa if proper wages were given. He did not say that they could be supplied wholesale so rapidly as the Chinese, but it was capable of proof that, if a sincere attempt were made, tens of thousands of honest white labouring men would be prepared to undertake the work on terms which would still leave the mine-owners an enormous profit.
In view of the present situation in the Far East, it was somewhat surprising that Tory Members should indulge in such language as had been used in the course of the debate with reference to the populations of other European countries. Italian workmen had been spoken of as "white trash," whose character and habits were so low that Chinese were preferable to them. That was hardly the way in which the white subjects of a friendly Power should be referred to. There was really no necessity to import members of different European races. If only the mine-owners were half as earnest in getting white men as they were in bringing about the recent war, it would be quite possible to secure the necessary supply. It was cruel and heart-breaking to be told that in order to work the mines in a British possession, the acquisition of which had cost the country millions of money and tens of thousands of lives, men were to be imported from China under conditions which amounted to semi-slavery. In London itself could be found numbers of able-bodied men willing and anxious to work to keep their wives and families from starvation, and yet the Government and the millionaires of Park Lane, instead of attempting to draft such men to South Africa, were to 62 import at £8 a head Chinamen to do work which could be better done by white men if only they were given the opportunity of doing it. A balance-sheet, showing the difference between employing white men at standard wages and Chinese labour would afford interesting reading, and he believed it would show that the mine-owners, not satisfied with owning the mines and making enormous profits, actually grudged the wages of the workmen. That was really an infamous state of affairs. Whatever might be the opinion of the soldiers who fought in the war, there would be but one opinion among the vast majority of the working people who paid the £250,000,000 which the war cost—viz., that it was a disgrace that the first, and apparently the only, result of the struggle was the introduction, under the British flag, of a system of forced labour. Even those in favour of the proposal might agree that there was no immediate hurry in the matter. The members of the Transvaal Labour Commission might have been eminently qualified for the task they had to perform, but certainly their findings had not satisfied people generally that the whole of the facts had been brought to light, and before a final decision was arrived at there should be a fresh, thorough, and impartial inquiry into the whole question. The Government, however, would not accept that proposal, because the essence of the matter was that it should be hustled through without further inquiry. From every point of view the proposal was an innovation of a startling character; it was the introduction of slavery in almost its worst form. The noble Lord opposite objected to the term "slavery."
§ LORD ALWYNE COMPTON
said his argument was that the conditions under which the Kaffirs lived before the war would obtain.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
reminded the House that the alleged object of the war was to give equality and freedom to all men under the British flag in South Africa, and now the noble Lord justified this proposal by saying that before the war slavery of a similar kind existed under the reign of Mr. Kruger. He declined to follow a bad example, whether 63 set by Mr. Kruger or anybody else, and, in any case, it was no justification for setting up slavery in the British Empire. To-day hon. Members were to be asked by their votes to say that slavery would be allowed in a large portion of the British Empire. At elections in this country a favourite episode was the singing of "Britons never shall be slaves." That cry had floated hon. Gentlemen opposite into this House. After the vote which they would give to-night they should change their song—Rule Britannia, Britannia money saves,By kicking Britons out of work for Chinese slaves.He thought they would find that version of the song would not be so popular at election meetings. His hands were clean in this matter. He had no reason to love the British Empire. The Nationalists of Ireland had not been so very kindly dealt with by the British Government, and they were not in the slightest degree interested for the reputation of the Empire and for the Flag being unstained and unsullied. What they were interested in, and what their countrymen throughout the world were interested in, was the cause of human freedom and liberty. In the division tonight he and his hon. friends would vote for freedom and liberty. From the point of view of men who had no great love for the British Empire, he thought they should be rather pleased at the trend of events. As far as one could see, things were going badly for the British Empire at present. Lord Roberts had been dismissed from the War Office, and his place had been taken by one of the Gentlemen opposite. Now they were to have slavery in one of the newly acquired British colonies. He believed that the effect of this measure would be disastrous in the extreme, and that before many years passed it would cause a disruption in South Africa far greater than that caused by the late war. He hoped it would stand on record that the representatives of Ireland voted unanimously against the proposal.
§ LORD ALWYNE COMPTON
With the permission of the House I should like to make a personal explanation. I understand that during my absence from the House the hon. Member who has just sat down referred to the speech I had lately 64 made, and said that I was biassed because I held so many mining shares. I desire to say that I hold no shares of any sort or kind in South African mines.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
The noble Lord, I am sure, does not wish to misrepresent what I said. I never said that he had any mining shares in South Africa. What I said was that the noble Lord had shares in South African concerns. Unless I am misinformed—and if I am I withdraw the statement and express my regret for having made it—the noble Lord formerly possessed, if he does not now possess. 5,000 shares in the Chartered Company.
§ LORD ALWYNE COMPTON
I never held 5,000 shares in the Chartered Company, and I have no shares now. [An HON. MEMBER: Or any shares.] I have no shares.
§ * SIR H. MEYSEY-THOMPSON (Staffordshire, Handsworth)
said he had paid considerable attention to the question of Chinese labour in California, which he visited in 1873. Chinese labourers had just finished the Pacific Railway, and they were engaged in other forms of unskilled work. Everyone at that time said it would have been impossible for the railway to have been made, and for California to have made the progress it had, but for Chinese labour. If the accusations made against the Chinese had been true British Columbia would not have admitted them in the numbers they had done. If they were such a dreadful people as they were said to be objection would be taken to them there. The fact was that they had raised the standard of labour and efficiency wherever they had been. There was no question in South Africa of ousting white men from the occupations in which they were now engaged. The proposals under consideration only affected unskilled labour in mines, which could not and, he said boldly, ought not to be done by white men. When he visited Johannesburg the first thing he learned was that there was an enormous amount of gold to be dug out of the earth. It was no exaggeration to say that there were 65 hundreds of millions waiting to be dug out. When a friend gave him this information and showed him figures, he asked "Well, what is England to get out of this?" His friend asked what part of England he was interested in. He suggested the case of his constituents in South Staffordshire. He was then shown mines where excellent machinery made by Messrs. Tangye in his own constituency was working successfully. He was told that the demand for machinery of that description was capable of enormous expansion, and that in the case of a great development of mining in South Africa millions of money would be spent on other Staffordshire productions, such as iron and brass work, saddlery, silver and electro-plate, jewellery, etc. But this development depended almost entirely on the supply of labour. He had asked his friend why there was a difficulty about labour, and he was informed that mines producing a small proportion of gold to the quantity of material treated could not pay a very large amount in wages, and it was absolutely necessary that those white men who were employed should be paid good wages. To live in comfort a white man ought to earn at least £20 a month. To do away with the prosperity of the gold mines was to injure the employment of white men in other industries, such as coal-mining and agriculture. They were told that there was a considerable output from the mines at the present time. He admitted that; but they were working the rich surface reefs, which were not expensive to develop, and not difficult to work. It would not be long before these surface reefs would be worked out; and if unskilled labour was not to be employed, who was to develop the deep-level mines? It cos £500,000 sterling to bring a deep level mine to the producing stage, and if capital was discouraged from investing in these deep-level mines, the whole prosperity of South Africa would come to an end. From the common-sense and economic point of view, the employment of Chinese labour was the best thing that could happen. It should be remembered that the Chinaman, if not treated fairly, would not work, because there was no mule in the world more obstinate than the Chinaman when he thought he was not 66 getting his rights. The regulations provided that the Chinese labourers were not to be treated harshly. The experiment was to be carried out, not in a remote portion of the world, but by our own compatriots in the full light of day, with a vigilant Press looking on.
Now what reason was there to think that the responsible managers of the mines were not going to treat the Chinese labourers fairly? He knew that there were some people like hon. Gentlemen opposite, who thought that when a man went to the Colonies he became a combination of knave and fool. His experience in the Colonies was that a colonial, or an Englishman who had gone there, was just as capable of managing his own business as anyone in this country. The managers were most anxious to make the experiment a success, and to do this they must treat the Chinamen well. There were collected at Johannesburg perhaps the most capable mining engineers and mining managers in the whole world. Some of them were Americans, some French and German, and a great many English. Between them they knew all about the working of all the gold mines in the world, and even before the war their attention was turned very closely to the question of supply of labour. If in all those years they had been unable to find any other solution of the problem than the employment of Chinese labour, the extreme probability was that no better solution was to be found. We had spent enormous sums of money in South Africa; we had now the opportunity to get some of it back, and that could be done by securing well-paid employment for our young men; the more coloured labour there was employed the more openings there would be for these young men, and South Africa was capable of providing a magnificent market for articles manufactured in this country. These were legitimate ways of getting back some of the money expended in the war. He believed that the employment of Chinese labour would be good for this country, for the Transvaal, and for the Chinaman, and therefore he would have no hesitation in voting against the Amendment.
* MR. FENWIOK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
said he had no doubt that the 67 hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was persuaded that the introduction of Chinese labour in the Transvaal would be advantageous to that part of our possessions. The hon. Member who commenced the debate that afternoon complained that the mover and the seconder of the Amendment had not given due consideration to the views held by the majority of the Legislative Council. He had listened very carefully to the able and interesting speeches of the mover and seconder, and it had struck him that they had paid all the respect that was due to the majority of the Legislative Council, having regard to the way in which the Council had been constituted. It was not a representative authority in any way, as the hon. Gentleman well knew, and the verdict of the majority of that Council on this question could not be taken as representing the views of the white population of the Transvaal. Until the Government took some steps to ascertain clearly and indisputably the views of the white population of the Transvaal on this question, he and his friends, at all events, could not be satisfied with the conclusion at which they had arrived. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that he intended to speak and to vote for what he considered the best interests of the colony, the responsibility of the Government of which we had taken upon ourselves. He had listened very carefully to the hon. Member's speech, and it struck him that the hon. Gentleman regarded the best interests of the colony as based upon the introduction of slavery, or what he would prefer to call a low standard of civilisation. He was aware that the noble Lord the Member for Bedfordshire took exception to the use of the term "slavery," as applied to the introduction of Chinese into South Africa, and he asked the question, "What is slavery?" The noble Lord went on to define slavery as "the condition of a man who is bound to another man for life." Well, he should like to put forward a better definition of slavery than that of the noble Lord. He defined it as "the suppression of individual liberty and freedom of action," and it mattered nothing to him whether the suppression of individual freedom and liberty of action was merely for a limited period 68 or for the whole course of the man's natural existence, it was still slavery.
There could be no doubt that the Amendment brought them face to face with what was, after all, a very serious problem. The Government undoubtedly had made up their minds, so far as they were concerned, to sanction this Ordinance, and practically to give to the authorities in the Transvaal the power to introduce Chinese labour into that colony. Now, they had been told, again and again during the war in South Africa that the Government were powerless, however much they might desire it, to offer terms of surrender to the Boers without the consent of our colonial fellow-subjects, who had made such sacrifices with us in the interests of the Empire. They were told also, again and again, that the Government could not disclose the terms of settlement after the war without having regard to colonial opinion. Now, if the opinion of out-colonial fellow subjects was of such weighty importance as the Government held it to be at that time, why did they now ignore colonial sentiment and feeling in a matter of this kind, which vitally affected the interests of the whole Empire. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Wight, emphasised the fact that the opinions of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Cape Colony were dead against the action which the Government were likely to take in reference in the Ordinance. With the permission of the House he should like to read the terms of a cablegram sent in December last by the Prime Minister of the Australian Commonwealth, Mr. Deakin, to the Secretary of the Anti-Asiatic League in Cape Town. Mr. Deakin cabled—Unofficially replying your cable am now able to assure you that the Australian policy of exclusion of coloured aliens re-endorsed yesterday by great majority at the general election.That cable was read to a mass meeting in Cape Town of between 3,000 and 4,000 inhabitants. A cable was also read from the First Commissioner of Customs in the Commonwealth, dated Adelaide, which stated,Red hot sympathy with the movement.viz., the movement to prevent the introduction of Asiatic labour into 69 the Transvaal. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Clare referred to the communication from the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Its text had not yet been communicated to the House and he should like to read it. It was as follows—From the right hon. Richard Seddon. I earnestly hope, in the true interests of South Africa, that the movement for the introduction of Asiatic labour will not succeed. If this were to be the result of the great sacrifices made, it would cause heart-burnings and feelings of wide-spread disappointment. No Asiatic can enter this Colony without paying £100. Speaking as one knowing the Chinese on the gold fields of Australia and New Zealand, X assert they are no use in underground work, and prove undesirable colonists in every sense of the word.Then there was a telegram from the Trades Council of Johannesburg which stated—Labour union in the Transvaal unanimously oppose introduction of Asiatics.An attempt was made on behalf of the Trades Council to hold a meeting at Johannesburg to protest against the introduction of the Chinese, but the capitalists organised a strong band of roughs at 15s. per head to break it up. As a result they appealed to their fellow citizens at the Cape to assist them in their endeavour to prevent the introduction of Asiatic labour. Why was the House of Commons asked to sanction this slavery Ordinance? Having regard to the restrictions which it was proposed to impose on the freedom of action of the Chinese, he thought they were justly entitled to regard the Ordinance a; a slavery Ordinance. They were told by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Plymouth that the reason they were asked to sanction the Ordinance was that the gold mines could not be worked without the introduction of cheap labour. He denied that. But even if it were so, he wished to ask how far the Government intended to carry that principle. There were industries in this country that were suffering seriously, some of them only barely making ends meet, others temporarily working at a loss. If those industries could have the assistance of the Government in obtaining cheap labour they would regard it as a godsend. Were the Government about to extend their policy to this country? They 70 would not dare to do it. He denied that there was a shortage of white unskilled labour in the Transvaal. If the mine-owners were prepared to pay fair wages that labour would be forthcoming at once.
The war in South Africa was a miners' war in some respects, but he was in a position to say that the miners in the Transvaal were not opposing the employment of white unskilled labour. Their opposition was devoted entirely to the introduction of unskilled Chinese labour. He could assure the Colonial Secretary that letters had been regularly received at the offices of the Miners' Union In Newcastle, from friends who went to South Africa, and on whose words they could rely just as implicitly as the right hon. Gentleman relied on the word of his advisers in the Transvaal. Those letters stated that the hostility of the miners was not to the employment of unskilled white labour, but to the employment of Asiatic labour.
§ MR. SEYMOUR ORMSBY-GORE (Lincolnshire, Gainsborough)
asked what about the hostility to white labour in the Ferreira Mine.
* MR. FENWICK
said that the hon. Gentleman might possess some special information about that particular mine, but his information from the miners who went to South Africa and on whose word he could rely was as he had stated. At a mass meeting at Cape Town a distinguished citizen who had been in South Africa for twenty years gave same examples to show that there was a good supply of white unskilled labour in South Africa. He said that the De Beers mine wanted over 15,000 extra natives and they had not the slightest difficulty in getting them. The reason being that the conditions of employment were favourable. Only the other day he himself was told that there was one mine in Matabeleland which was never short of labour, because the manager dealt fairly and honestly with the natives and discharged any of his white employees who illtreated them. Again, at Cape Town there was no difficulty in getting native labour for the Docks, but in East London there was the greatest difficulty, the reason being that the wages offered in East London was only 2s. 6d. per day, whereas in Cape Town 71 it was 4s. That clearly showed that where reasonable remuneration was given there was very little difficulty indeed in getting this native labour. Towards the close of the late unhappy war supporters of the Government pointed out to the working classes in this country what a happy hunting ground South Africa would be r the British labourer, and what a splendid outlet it would be for the surplus population of this country. Now it turned out that this country had shed the blood of tens of thousands of its subjects not in the interests of British labour but in the interests of Chinese labour. [An HON. MEMBER: And the Millionaires.] Yes, both of those classes. Ships were chartered to send troops to South Africe and it- seemed to him they would have to charter more ships to bring back the British unemployed from South Africa. The views of those who might be taken to represent the minds of the millionaires of Park Lane indicated that this was really a question of wages and fair conditions of employment. Mr. Lionel Phillips, in a letter to The Times about twelve months ago, said—The refuse and wastrels of this country we will not have at any price, because at sixpence a day they would be dear. Your good honest workmen we cannot afford.What an idea ! He would have thought that if anybody could afford to pay fair wages for good honest British labour it was the millionaires who were interested in the mines of South Africa. But underlying this agitation there was also the fear that. if white labour were employed to any considerable extent. trades unions or organisations would be formed to the annoyance of the mine-owners. The "trail of the serpent" referred to in the memorandum presented by the mining industry to the ex-Colonial Secretary in January of last year at Johannesburg was the formation of labour unions. The mine-owners were afraid their profits would be interfered with; hence this agitation. It was for this that we had spent millions of treasure and sacrificed thousands of lives, that wives had been made widows, and children left fatherless—that we might further increase the huge dividends of the men of Park Lane who held this Government in the hollow of their hand. Throughout this agitation the Government had been in the hands of the financiers of London and the Transvaal, 72 and they appeared to be utterly incapable of extricating themselves from the mercenary spell which these men had woven around them. From his knowledge of the working classes of the country he was convinced that if this issue alone was placed before them there would be a speedy clearing out of the Party opposite. He heartily supported the Amendment, believing the Government were about to take a step which would introduce a moral cancer into the social life of the Transvaal, a step fraught with grave danger to the best interests of the Colony, and a step which Members would probably live to regret.
§ MR. SEELY (Lincoln)
said he did not wish to make any appeal to sentiment or to opposition to Chinese labour in itself. He appreciated the gravity of the situation in South Africa, and the fact that we had evidence tending to show there was a shortage of labour, and that Lord Milner and others believed it was necessary for the country that fresh sources of supply should be found. One of the gravest elements in the question was the objection to the introduction of Chinese which undoubtedly existed in our Colonies, and the fact that in taking the action proposed we should be acting contrary to the sentiments of all the Colonies which had had any experience of Chinese labour. His principal reason for rising was to ask the Government to delay taking action and to give the country time to consider the question from the point of view, not particularly of the labour being Asiatic, but mainly of the actual regulations to be imposed. Everybody who read those regulations would agree that, although the Colonial Secretary was doubtless perfectly satisfied that anything in the nature of slavery would be prevented, it did not quite appear on the face of the Ordinance that that end would be secured. On the contrary there were grave reasons for fearing that something of the kind would result. There had been an unfortunate incident in the debate. Would anybody have expected that in the twentieth century an hon Member would have stood up to defend and praise the old slave trade in the Southern States of America? Yet that had happened in the debate, for the hon. Member for Leicester had stated that the slave trade in the Southern States of America had been a 73 great economical advantage to that country and to the world.
§ SIR JOHN ROLLESTON
explained that what he said was that the old and earlier methods were much to be deplored. He did not in any way praise them, although the economical results were advantageous.
§ MR. SEELY
said he was in the recollection of the House. No doubt the hon. Member did not intend to praise or defend the slave trade, but that only showed what happened when Members got talking on the subject. What the hon. Member said was that the slave trade had been an advantage to those countries, and that the Southern States of America and the cotton trade could not have been properly developed had it not been for the slave trade. That a Member of the House should have made such a statement was an incident which could not have given much pleasure to the Colonial Secretary in whose defence the speech was made.
§ SIR JOHN ROLLESTON
May I say that I am not afraid even in this House to state a fact which is historically true?
§ MR. SEELY
said they might differ as to the statement and still more as to its historical truth. According to the proposed regulations, if one of these men thought he would like to live outside the "Chinese village" and bought a house for his wife and family to live in, he would be liable to heavy punishment, and the person selling the house would be fined £500 or imprisoned for two years. Then there was the following clause—Any person who shall harbour or conceal any labourer who has deserted from the service of his importer, or who has committed any breach of this Ordinance, or who should aid and abet any labourer to desert as aforesaid, will be liable to a line not exceeding £50, and, in default of payment, to imprisonment not ex-eeeding three months.The old theory for which we had fought in the past, had been that British soil was free, and that every Englishman was free to protect any slave who ran to him. He asked whether it would not be well to give the House a little more time to consider how this evil might be avoided. Only yesterday had there been published the correspondence of the Chinese Minister with regard to 74 these regulations. The Chinese Minister had made certain suggestions or alterations, one of which was—That the person styled 'the importer' shall be a bonâ fide employer of labour, and not a mere dealer or speculator in labour; and that the transfer or assignment of the labourer to another employer shall only be made with the consent of the immigrant and the approval of the Consul or Consular Agent of his country.The Chinese Minister was a heathen and they were Christians and this was a Christian country, and yet he went on to say—This is necessary in order to prevent the immigrant from being made a mere chattel or article of commerce.He was aware that the right hon Gentleman the Colonial Secretary was prepared to put something of that kind into this regulation, but at any rate there was this justification for the Chinese Minister's suggestion, that in the first Ordinance the consent of the Chinese labourer was struck out. Did not the right hon. Gentleman think that, under the circumstances, it would be far wiser for him to allow the House to see the whole of these regulations and the correspondence before he asked it to pledge itself in any way to this Ordinance. As it stood without the regulations the Ordinance was slavery, and nothing more nor less. [Mr. LYTTRLTON dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman did not acknowledge that; all he could say was the Chinese Minister thought it so, and we certainly ought to go one better than the Chinese Minister; he therefore begged the Colonial Secretary and the Government to give an assurance to the House that this matter should not be considered finally at an end when the vote was given that evening, but would say that the Chinese should not be brought into the Transvaal until sufficient time had been given to enable the people to thoroughly understand the conditions under which they were to be employed. The correspondence with the Chinese Ministers was a very important element in this matter. It was a very serious thing for a Minister to write about making his people "chattels and articles of commerce," he therefore hoped sufficient time would be allowed to consider all the aspects of the case.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND,
as a matter of personal explanation and in 75 justification of the statement which he made in the course of his speech, said: In the library I find in the share register of the British South Africa Company of 6th July, 1895, under the number on the register 10,056, the following statement—5,000 shares—Lord A. F. Compton and Edmund Venables.I think, in view of that, the noble Lord has placed me in a wrong light in saying he did not possess any shares.
§ LORD ALWYNE COMPTON
I apologise for trespassing on the House, but as the hon. Member for Clare has challenged me, I think I have a right of reply. It now appears that the hon. Member has referred to shares which he says were held in my name nine years ago. The hon. Member really should investigate these things before he makes statements of this kind. Nine years ago I was a member of a firm which I do not belong to now, and I believe it is quite possible that 5,000 or 10,000 Chartered shares may have stood at that time in the name of my partner and myself. They wore not my shares, I did not possess them, and neither I nor my partner had any power over them.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
With great respect I submit that the noble Lord does not accurately describe the situation. I made the statement that he possessed shares, and his name for a number of shares is now on the register of the Chartered Company. I think, in the mind of every fair-minded man in the House, that would justify me in making the statement.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
said that it was not the duty of the Government to consider the interests of the mine-owners or the immediate economic problem, but the interests of what it was hoped would be a great English Colony. All the greatest authorities who had written on South Africa had agreed that it was to the mineral wealth of South Africa that they must look for the development of a colonial free-governed State, and that agriculture, despite the richness and fertility of the soil, could not operate as a magnetic influence in drawing an English population to that point of the world. In establishing Chinese labour, therefore, they would be striking a blow at colonial development by British people. Was it not possible 76 to work these mines with British labour? If there were no Chinese and no blacks would there not be reef prospecting with as much energy as that which characterised Australian mining? If that were so, the Colonial Secretary would be abrogating his responsibility as a Colonial Minister if he allowed Chinese labour to intercept the natural flow of British labour, merely for the purpose of precipitating the development of the mines. Why not employ Indian labour? No doubt the real reason was to be found in the fact that the Indian Legislative Council would not for a moment tolerate further development of the coolie legislation which was enacted with great reluctance some years ago. Another reason, no doubt, was the objection of the Indian people to an Ordinance framed under such conditions. Looking at the nature of the contract the Chinese would have to sign, there was no doubt it amounted to a reinstitution of the system of slavery. He knew of no parallel to this Ordinance in any legislation. It was a singular fact that under the Ordinance it was competent for the mine-owner to inflict corporal punishment upon these unhappy Chinese. That was the opinion of the Chinese Minister. He himself did not wish to take up an attitude of bigoted hostility to the mine-owners of South Africa. Many of them were liberal minded men, but he recollected that before the war broke out, and while it was being waged, this country was told that the colony would be a magnificent field for Britsh labour. There was a large number of unemployed in this country, but this Ordinance would shut the door against them, and put in their place the most debased form of labour which could possibly be instituted in any country under the sun. He hoped, therefore, the Government would reconsider their position, and see whether they could not solve the problem with not so much regard for the immediate interests of the mine owners but in the permanent and lasting interests of both this country and South Africa.
§ MR. WILLIAM WATSON RUTHERFORD (Liverpool, West Derby)
said he wished to say a few words on this subject from an entirely English point of view. At Liverpool they had 25,000 casual labourers, and there was only work for 77 13,000. The result was that each casual labourer got on the average two and a half to three days work every week. This was a cause of very great demoralisation. When a man left his house in the morning to seek work his wife and children did not know whether there would be a crust of bread to eat during the day. This caused such evils as overcrowding, intemperance, disease, and vice of all kinds. At least 2,500 of these casual labourers could be easily spared from Liverpool, and he believed they would go to South Africa if they had terms such as 4s. per day and regular work. He did not believe the work in the mines was any more difficult or objectionable than the work these men had to do in Liverpool. If they had facilities for getting] to South Africa they would, he thought, be willing to go there. A scheme of this kind would be of incalculable advantage to every large city and town in this country. It would benefit the men and it would benefit their families, and they could look forward to improvement in years to come. He was very grieved to hear that there were suggestions that any man who went out to this employment would have to abandon any hope of social improvement, and entirely confine himself to work of this particular kind. Workmen going out from this country to take up this work would look forward to improving their social position. He did not think the illustration of the 1,000 navvies sent out from this country was a fair one. They were sent out to emergency work on railways, and they expected emergency terms. He simply wanted to know whether any efforts had been made to recruit labour in this country for that portion of His Majesty's dominions which appeared to be crying out for labour. He would like to know what attempts in that direction had been made, if any; and, if no efforts had been made, why some attempt should not be made before importing Chinese labour. He believed that the great working centres of this country would want to know why something was not being done for them before we imported Chinese labour into the Transvaal, and that the general sense of this country would object to the importation of that labour, and would only assent to it in the last resort when they were sati fied that 78 reasonable and practical solutions had been fairly tried and failed.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
said the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had pointed to the weak point in connection with the labour inquiry. The reference to the Commission which inquired into the subject was exceedingly restricted. It restricted the inquiry to the point—of how many blacks could be obtained in a certain region in Africa? But there were three colours that could be employed in the mines—white, black, and yellow. The white and yellow were both excluded from the inquiry, and many hon. Members who sympathised with the difficulties which the Government were confronted with in South Africa at the conclusion of the war, were determined that they would do nothing to hamper, as they believed, the employment of white labour until the question of the employment of that labour had been thoroughly gone into. The right hon. Gentleman made an appeal to some of them on this side of the House in the earlier portion of the debate on the King's Speech to give support to the Government. But the Imperial thinking of the Government led it in very various directions. We had been invited to reverse our fiscal policy in order that certain advantages might be conferred on South Africa and our other Colonies. We were now asked to reverse the labour policy of this country in order to make South Africa properous. What he could not understand was why, at the very time we were asked to exorcise the demon of cheapness in this country, we should be at the same time invited to introduce it into the Transvaal in the shape of Chinese labour.
The House had heard about the opinion of the Tranvaal, and the right hon. Gentleman in his speech, in which he endeavoured to make a great many obscure parts of the question plain, objected to any doubt being cast upon the independence of the votes of the officials of the Transvaal upon the Legislative Council. If the right hon. Gentleman's contention held good they might as well abolish the House of Commons, because that assumed that a civil servant being placed on a legislative body was able to do the whole work not merely of administration but of legislation. 79 Admirable as might be the character of the great Civil Service in the Transvaal, he would never accept the view that they could give as independent and as free a vote as the representatives of the people. He could not accept the view, thorefore, that there was not great need for the real opinion of the Transvaal being taken upon the question. If they could not get that by representative institutions the only other way of getting it was by a plebiscite. He could not accept the view that there would not have been plenty of time to have taken a plebiscite if it were still impossible to provide representative institutions in South Africa. He believed it was impossible without adequate inquiry—and that they had not yet had—to support any scheme for pouring unlimited Chinese, married or otherwise, into the mines of the Rand. It was urged that Chinese cheap labour was to encourage the growth of the white population in South Africa, but that was not the view of those parts of the Empire which had tried it. The whole Empire had been united against the proposal to employ Chinese labour. As the right hon. Gentleman had appealed to them to vote Imperially, he would appeal to him in turn to think well before he went against the whole sense of the Empire in importing this cheap labour into South Africa. It was said by a distinguished Member of this House who sat on the other side, and who was no longer with them, that the trail of finance was over the Raid. At any rate, let them make sure that the trail of finance was not over the settlement after the war. It was inevitable, if they took no means of satisfying themselves of what the real opinion of the Transvaal was, that, without representative institutions, and without a plebiscite, the opinion of the mine-owners would bear undue weight with the Government of the country. It was inevitable that the mine-owners and their dependents must exercise undue weight and influence in the consideration of Transvaal policy. He, at any rate, had not sought to shirk any responsibility in supporting what he believed to be British rights in South Africa, and he for one deplored this policy, which he did not think could be justified, and which he thought they were asked to approve on very insufficient data.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said he had listened to the debate with very great interest, and the first thing he would remark was that it was sometimes hard to say where private interests ended and the public interest began. He would, to the best of his ability, protest against this Ordinance, because he believed it to be the slave policy of a slavish and mammonised Government. Would the Colonial Secretary state whether he was the official inferior of Lord Milner, or whether Lord Milner was the official inferior of him? Who was the master and who was the man? Was the master away in the Transvaal and was the man here? It was a very curious thing that when the late Colonial Secretary was in office no slave policy was instituted although Lord Milner was as anxious to institute it then as now. The present Colonial Secretary was carrying out Lord Milner's policy.
§ And, it being half-past Seven of the Clock, the debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.