§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. CHURCHILL, Manchester, N.W.)
in moving "That this House approves the grant of Constitutions conferring responsible government upon the peoples of the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies," said: Letters Patent have been issued during the last week conferring a Constitution upon the Transvaal Colony. These instruments have now been for some days at the disposal of the House, and this afternoon affords an occasion for their discussion. Other Letters Patent conferring a Constitution upon the Orange River Colony are in an advanced state of preparation, and I think it would be for the general convenience of the House if I were to make a general statement as to the character and scope of that Constitution. With that view I have, by the direction of the Prime Minister, placed upon the Paper the Resolution which I now move, and which permits a general discussion upon the constitutional arrangements which we are making both in the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony. Now, 1064 Sir, by the Treaty of Vereeniging, Great Britain promised full self-government to the peoples of the two Boer Republics which had been conquered and annexed as the result of the war. This intention of giving responsible government did not arise out of the terms of peace, although it is, of course, solemnly expressed in them. It has always been the settled and successful colonial policy of this country during the last fifty years to allow great liberties of self-government to distant communities under the Crown, and no responsible statesman and no British Cabinet, so far as I know, ever contemplated any other solution of the South African problem but that of full self-government. The idea which I have seen put forward in some quarters, that in order to get full satisfaction for the expense and the exertions to which we were put in the war we are bound to continue governing those peoples according to our pleasure and against their will, and that that is, as it were, an agreeable exercise which is to be compensation for our labours, is an idea which no doubt finds expression in the columns of newspapers, but to which I do not think any serious person ever gave any countenance. No, Sir, the ultimate object was not lost sight of even in the height of the war, namely, the bestowal of full self-government; and as all parties were agreed that some interval for reconstruction must necessarily intervene, the only questions at issue between us have been questions of manner and questions of time. First as to manner. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, the other day said that the manner in which we had given this Constitution to the Transvaal was a breach of the terms of peace.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I do not press the point if the right hon. Gentleman did not say so. He was certainly reported to that effect.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
Then we are agreed as to the manner, in so far as it is not suggested that there is any breach of the terms of peace in the omission of the representative Government stage. I am very glad to have that admission, because I was about to assert most clearly that so far from being a breach of the spirit of the terms of peace, the step we are taking in the Transvaal to give full responsible government at once is a more precise and punctual fulfiment of those terms. Then, Sir, how much difference is there between Parties in this House as to time? It is now more than three years since Lord Milner, speaking in the Inter-colonial Council, bore emphatic testimony to the faithfulness with which the Boers—those who had been fighting against us—had observed their side of the terms of peace. Lord Milnersaid—It is perfectly true that the Boer population, the men who signed the terms of peace at Vereeniging, have loyally observed those terms and have carried them out faithfully, They profess to-day, and I absolutely believe them, that no idea of an armed rising or unlawful action is in their minds. I may say I am in constant, perhaps I should say frequent, communication with the men who in the war fought us so manfully and then made manful terms. We differ on many points, no doubt, and I do not expect them to rejoice with us in what has happened, or to feel affection for a man who, like myself, has been instrumental in bringing about the great change which has come over the Constitution of the country. But I firmly believe their word when they come forward and meet us, and without professing to agree in all respects with the policy of the Government, declare that they desire to co-operate in all questions affecting the prosperity of the country and the maintenance of public order. I accept the assurance they give in that respect, and I think it is practically impossible to put your hands on anything done by myself or any member of the Government which can be regarded as a manifestation of distrust of the men who have shown themselves, and do show themselves, men of honour. Let me say then, I am perfectly satisfied that so great is the influence of their leaders over the minds of the main section of the Boer population that 1066 so long as those leaders maintain that attitude a general rising is out of the question.Those are the words which Lord Milner used three years ago, and I think they are words which do justice to the subject and to the speaker. But more than two years have passed since the representations were made to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover-square, which, induced him to confer a measure of self-government on the Transvaal. Those representations laid stress on the fact that the desire for self-government was not put forward only by the Boers, but that both sections of the community in the Transvaal desired to take the control of affairs into their own hands. The right hon. Gentleman published a Constitution. That Constitution conferred very great and wide powers. It conferred upon an overwhelming elected majority the absolute power of the purse and control over legislation. But it has always been my submission to the House that that Constitution had about it no element of permanence, that it could not possibly have been maintained as an enduring, or even a workable, settlement; and I am bound to say—I do not wish to be controversial this afternoon if I can avoid it—that, when I read the statement that this representative Government stage would have been a convenient educative stage in the transition to full self-government, the whole experience of British colonial policy does not justify such an assumption. The system of representative Government without responsible Ministers, without responsible powers, has led to endless friction and inconvenience wherever and whenever it has been employed. It has failed in Canada, it has failed in Natal and Cape Colony. It has been condemned by almost every high colonial authority who has studied this question. I do not think I need quote any more conclusive authority upon that subject than that of Lord Durham. Lord Durham, in his celebrated Report, says of this particular system—It is difficult to understand how any English statesmen could have imagined that representative and irresponsible Government could be successfully combined. There seems, indeed, to be an idea that the character of representative institutions ought to be thus modified in Colonies; that it is an incident of colonial dependence that the officers of government should 1067 be nominated by the Crown without any reference to the wishes of the community whose interests are entrusted to their keeping. It has never been very clearly explained what are the Imperial interests which require this complete nullification of representative Government. But if there is such a necessity, it is quite clear that a representative Government in a Colony must be a mockery and a source of confusion, for those who support this system have never yet been able to devise or exhibit in the practical working of colonial Government any means for making so complete an abrogation of political influence palatable to the representative body.I contend that the right hon. Gentleman's Constitution would have broken down in its first session, and that we should have then been forced to concede grudgingly and in a hurry the full measure of responsible Government which, with all due formality and without any precipitancy, the Letters Patent issued last week have now conferred. But even the right hon. Gentleman himself did not intend his Constitution to be a permanent settlement. He intended it to be a transition, and a brief transition; and in the correspondence which passed on this subject two or three years is sometimes named as the period which such a Constitution might conveniently have endured—two or three years, of which, let me point out to the House, nearly two years have already gone. Seeing how little difference there is between us upon that question, I dispense with further argument as to the grant of a Transvaal Constitution, as I see the course we have adopted does commend itself to the good sense of all Parties in this country and is sustained at almost every point by almost every person conversant with South African affairs. It is said, we have heard it often said, "It may be wise to grant responsible Government to the Transvaal, but it is not wise to give it to the Orange River Colony. Why should you give it to the Orange River Colony too?" I say, "Why not?" Let us make it quite clear that the burden of proof always rests with those who deny or restrict the issue of full Parliamentary liberties. They have to make their case good from month to month, and from day to day. What are the reasons which have been advanced against the issue of a constitution to the Orange River Colony? A variety of reasons has been put forward. We have 1068 been told that the Colony is not ripe for self-government When you have very small communities of white men in distant and immense territories, and when those communities are emerging from a wild into a more settled condition, then it is very necessary and very desirable that the growth of self-governing institutions should be gradual. But that is not the situation in the Orange River Colony. The Orange Free State was the model small republic of the world. The honourable traditions of the Free State are not challenged by any who take the trouble to study its history either in the distant past, or in the years just immediately preceding the South African war. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham himself, speaking in this House on 7th December, 1900, used language which, I think, should go far to dissipate the idle fears which we hear expressed in various quarters upon the grant of self-government to the Orange River Colony—We do not propose,said the right hon. Gentleman,that the constitution of the Orange River Colony should necessarily be the same as the Constitution of the Transvaal, Colony, either at starting or in the immediate future. It will be dealt with upon its own merits, dealt with separately, and we think it possible—I ask the House to mark this—from the circumstances with which every one is familiar, that an earlier beginning to greater political liberty may be made in the Orange River Colony than in the Transvaal. That is due to the fact that the Government of the Orange River Colony previous to the war was by common consent a very good Government, and consequently, speaking generally, of course, and not of individuals, we shall find there probably the means to creating a satisfactory administration more quickly than we can do in the case of the Transvaal Colony.Then we have been told that responsible government presupposes party government, and that in the Orange River Colony there are not the elements of political parties, that there is not that diversity of interests which we see in the Transvaal, that there are not the same sharp differences between town and country, or the same astonishing contrasts between wealth and poverty which prevail in the Transvaal. And we are told that, in order that responsible 1069 government should work properly, that party government should be a success, there must be the essential elements of party conflict. I suppose we are all in this House admirers of the party system of government; but I do not think that we should any of us carry our admiration of that system so far as to say that the nation is unfit to enjoy the privilege of managing its own affairs unless it can find some one to quarrel with and plenty of things to quarrel about. Then we are told that—"The country is prospering as it is. Why change now? The land is tranquil, people are regaining the prosperity which was lost in the war. It is a pity to make a change now; now is not the moment." I admit the premise—I shall have something to say before I sit down about the economic conditions of the Orange River Colony—but I draw exactly the opposite conclusion from that premise. It is just for that reason that we should now step forward and, taking occasion by the hand, make an advance in the system of government. How often in the history of nations has the golden opportunity been allowed to slip away! How often have rulers and Governments been forced to make in foul weather the very journey which they have refused to make prosperously in fair weather! Then we are told that Imperial interests would be endangered by this grant. I do not believe that that is so. The Boer mind moves by definite steps from one political conception to another. I believe they have definitely abandoned their old ambition of creating in South Africa a united states independent of the British Crown, and have accepted that other political ideal which is represented by the Dominion of Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia. At any rate, no people have a greater right to claim respect on the ground of their loyal adherence to treaty engagements than the people of the Orange River Colony; for everyone knows that it was with a most faithful adherence to their engagements, with almost Quixotic loyalty, that they followed, many of them knowing where their fortune was going to lead them, knowing full well what would be the result of their action, their sister State into the disastrous struggle of the South African 1070 war. It is quite true that there is in existence at the present time, and I think Lord Milner has pointed it out no bond of love between the men who fought us in that war and this country. I was reading the other day a speech by Mr. Steyn. Mr. Steyn is, of course one of the most clearly avowed opponents of the British power. But Mr. Steyn is quite clear upon this point. He says there is no bond of love, and it would be untruthful and dishonest on their part to say that such a bond existed. But, he says, there is another bond, there is such a thing as a man's word of honour; "we gave our word of honour at Vereeniging, and it is our intention to abide strictly by that." I state my opinion as to the safety of this step we propose to take, but I cannot expect right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to set much store by that, although it is an honest and sincere opinion. But I will quote them an authority which I am sure they will not dismiss without respect. As soon as the right hon. Member for West Birmingham returned from South Africa, while his experiences in that country were fresh in his mind, while he had but newly been conversing with men of all parties there on the spot, the scene of the struggle, he made a speech in this House which really ought not to be overlooked by persons dealing with this question.Great importance,said the right hon. Gentleman,Seems to be attached to the view that in the interests of the two Colonies it is desirable that a certain time, not a long time n the history of a nation, but still a certain time should elapse before full self-government is accorded. Whether a long time will elapse I really cannot say. One thing is clear; if the population of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, both Boer and Briton, by a large majority, desire this self-government, even although it might seem to us to be premature, I should think it unwise to refuse it. I do not myself believe there is any such danger connected with Imperial interests that we should hesitate to accord it on that ground. The ground on which I should desire that it might be delayed is really the interest of the two Colonies themselves, and not any Imperial interest.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
19th March, 1903, three years ago. The peace and order 1071 of the Orange River Colony establishes this case on its merits. It is a State bound to moderation by the circumstance of its geographical position. In all its history in South Africa it has been largely dependent on the goodwill of its neighbours, goodwill and friendly relations maintained with Natal and the Transvaal, on the one hand, and with the Cape Colony on the other. It is inconceivable that a State so situated in regard to its railways and its economical position generally should be a disturbing influence from the point of view of the different States of South Africa. But there is another fact which justifies this grant, and that is the extraordinary crimelessness in a political sense of the whole of that country. Let the House remember that there had been three years war, of which two years were fierec guerilla fighting, and that on all sides there were to be found desperate men who had been for a long period holding their lives in their hands and engaged on every wild and adventurous foray. Peace is agreed on, and what happens? Absolute order exists and prevails throughout the whole country from that moment. There has not been a single case of violent crime except, I believe, one murder committed by a lunatic—hardly a case of sedition—and not a single case of prosecution for treason of any kind. I say without hesitation that in order to find a similar instance of swift transition from violent warfare to law-abiding peace you have got to look back to the days when the army of the Parliament was reviewed and disbanded at the Restoration. I submit to the House that a case for conferring responsible Government on the Orange River Colony is established on its merits. But that is not the whole question before us this afternoon. We have not merely to decide whether we will give a Constitution to the Orange River Colony, but whether having given a Constitution to the Transvaal we will deliberately withhold one from the Orange River Colony; and that is an argument which multiplies the others which I have used. On what ground could we refuse that equal treatment of the Orange River Colony? There is only one ground which we could assign for such a refusal, and that is that in the Orange River Colony there is sure to be a Dutch 1072 majority. I cannot conceive any more fatal assertion that could be made on the part of the Imperial Government than that on this specific racial ground they were forced to refuse liberties which otherwise they would concede. I say such a refusal would be an insult to the hundreds and thousands of loyal Dutch subjects the King has in all parts of South Africa. I say that this invidious treatment of the Orange River Colony would be the greatest blunder, a fitting pendant to all that long concatenation of fatal mistakes which has marked our policy in South Africa for so many years; and I say it would be a breach of the spirit of the terms of peace, because we could not say, "We promised you self-government at the terms of peace, but what we meant by that was that before you were to have self-government enough persons of British origin should have arrived in the country to make quite sure you would be outvoted." If we were to adopt such a course we should be false to that agreement, which is the great foundation of our policy in South Africa. I hope the House will earnestly sustain the importance of that Vereeniging agreement. For the first time in many years the two white races dwelling together in South Africa have found a common foundation on which they can both build, a foundation much better thin Boomplaats, or the Sand River Convention, or the Conventions of 1880 and 1884, far better than Majuba Hill or the Jameson Raid. They have found a foundation which they can both look to without any feeling of shame, on the contrary with feelings of equal honour, and I trust also with feelings of mutual forgiveness. On those grounds, therefore, we have decided to give to the Orange River Colony full responsible government. We eschew altogether the idea, of treating them differently from the Transvaal, or interposing any state of limited self-government between them and the full enjoyment of their right. There is to be a Legislature which will consist of two Chambers, as in the Transvaal. The first Chamber will be elected upon a voters' basis and by manhood suffrage. The residential qualification will be the same is in the Transvaal, six months. The distribution of seats has been settled by general consent. The Committee which 1073 we sent to South Africa, and which was so very successful in arriving at a adjustment between the parties in the Transvaal, have made similar investigations in the Orange River Colony, and think we may accept with confidence their recommendation. They recommend that the number of members should be thirty-eight. The old Volksraad had sixty members, but it was found to be much too large for the needs of the country, and on several occasions efforts were made to reduce the representation. Those efforts were not successful, from the fact which we all can appreciate, that it is very difficult indeed to get a representative body to pass a self-denying ordinance of that character which involves the extinction of its own members. There will be separate representation of towns in the Orange River Colony. In the Volksraad there was such a representation, there were forty-two rural members and eighteen urban members. Out of the thirty-eight we propose that there shall be twenty-seven rural members and eleven urban members; rather less than a third of the representation will be that of the small towns. That is a proportion which is justified by the precedent of the old Constitution, and also by the latest census, of 1904. As in the case of the Volksraad, every magisterial district will be represented. The allocation of members among the constituencies thus delimited will proceed on an arithmetical basis. We take the adult males in the census of 1904, and arrive at our quota for distribution, which is 1,058. Half a quota entitles a town or a district to a member, and an additional whole quota entitles a town or district to a second member. That is an arithmetical device to govern the working of automatic redistribution, and to regularise a distribution otherwise supported by precedent and by general agreement. I will read the schedule of the constituencies. There will be two members each to the districts of Bloemfontein, Kroonstad, Rouxville, and Winburg; one member each to the districts of Bethlehem, Bethulie, Boshof, Edenburg, Ficksburg, Frankfort, Harrismith, Heilbron, Hoopstad, Ladybrand, Lindley, Philippolis, Senekal, Smithfield, Thaba 'Nchu, Vrede, Vredefort, and Wepener; one member to the districts 1074 or Fauresmith and Jacobsdal together The following are the towns: Bloemfontein, five members; Harrismith and Kroonstad, one each; one member for Bethlehem, Fouriesburg, and Ficksburg together; one for Jagersfontein and Koffyfontein together; one for Parys, Vredefort, and Heilbron together; and one for Ladybrand and Thaba 'Nchu together. There will be a Second Chamber, and, as in the Transvaal, it will be nominated, end for the first time only. It will be nominated by the Governor under instructions from the Secretary of State, and vacancies will be filled up by the Governor in Council—that is to say, the Governor on the advice of his responsible Ministers. A Second Chamber is not, perhaps, a very pleasent object for us to contemplate; but, at any rate, it is not an hereditary Chamber; and it may be, therefore, assumed that the distribution of parties in that Chamber will be attended by some measure of impartiality, and that there will be some general attempt to select only those persons who are really fit to exercise the important functions entrusted to them. But even so protected, the Government feel that in the ultimate issue, in a conflict between the two Chambers, the lower and representative Chamber must in the end prevail. The other body may review its proceedings, may delay them, but if measures are sent up in successive sessions from the representative Chamber and no agreement can be reached, we have introduced the machinery which appears in the Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, that both Chambers shall sit together, debate together, vote together, and the majority shall decide. The whole success of that operation depends upon the numerical proportion observed between the two Chambers. In the Australian Commonwealth the proportion is rather more than two to one, but in the Transvaal the proportion will be more than four to one, namely, sixty-five to fifteen; and in the Orange River Colony it will be thirty-eight to eleven. Members of both Chambers will receive payment for their services; £300 year is the maximum that can be paid to any member; £150 is paid to a member with £2 a day extra for every day of attendance in the course of the session. I am sure that such a wise provision will 1075 have the effect of limiting the length of the session very much, and no doubt, if it were included in a measure for the payment of members introduced in this House, it would receive the widest support from all Parties. The other provisions of the Constitution will mainly follow the lines of the Transvaal. There will be the same reservation in regard to legislation which imposes a difference between man and man on account of race. These reservations are common in all colonial Constitutions. I think we could not do more; we could not, I am sure, have done less. There will be a schedule of pensions for retiring officers of the Executive, as in the case of the Transvaal, and that schedule will be calculated strictly upon the Treasury rule which prevails in this country. For every year of service one-sixtieth of the salary is allowed, but on account of the abolition of office, when the service has exceeded five years, five years additional will be allowed, and in the case of professional attendance, following the Treasury rule in this country, ten years extra will be allowed in the case of the Attorney-General, both of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. The sums involved are smaller sums than have attended the grant of self-government in other Colonies. There will be very nearly the same reservation in respect to land settlement. I will remind the House that on 5th July last I had to outline certain proposals which we intended to make to various parties in South Africa. We inquired whether any local support would be given to the plan for continuing the planting of new settlers on the land. We could get none. No effective support of any kind was forthcoming for the continuance or the expansion of that system. Even those gentlemen who undertook to underwrite the loan of £10,000,000 which was to be repaid to this country evinced no special desire to come forward and apply a smaller proportion of that sum for the purpose of land settlement. Therefore the Government have abandoned the matter altogether. But in regard to the existing settlers we feel under a distinct obligation. We feel that a sympathetic administration was one of the essential conditions of their tenancies, and we feel that a Land Board, nominated and formed as outlined in the 1076 Transvaal Letters Patent, is the only effective way of interposing a screen between mortgagor and mortgagee. But in making this arrangement I repudiate altogether any slur upon the humanity or sense of justice of the Boers or any other section which will vote in the election of the new Parliament. The Boers, indeed, are the last people to be uncharitable to the farming people. But we are bound to deal directly with the settlers. We have been informed—and although I do not like the language which has been used, I cannot quarrel with it in substance—that it is an obligation of honour upon the Imperial Government to relieve these settlers from any anxiety which they genuinely feel and which is shared by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Therefore we have decided to elect a Land Board as described—a Land Board which will have no power to put any more new settlers on the land, which will last only five years to enable the existing settlers to take root, and which may be dissolved sooner if it is found satisfactory to all parties. In regard to the contribution which it was proposed to secure to this country as a payment towards the expenses of the war, the Government fully and frankly forgive and obliterate, and let us trust also forget, any obligation which may have been incurred on that head. We put that away. Let the House not overlook the fact that in the expectation of a payment of that character this House was induced to guarantee the interest of the loan of £35,000,000, amounting to £350,000 a year; or, in other words, a permanent endowment of £350,000 a year has been conferred upon the people of the two colonies. That fact must be regarded is establishing an acquittance in full on the part of the Imperial Government for my claims—for any further compensations or for any outstanding obligation—no matter where or by whom they may be in future brought forward. What is the condition of the Orange River Colony to whom we are now going to entrust a Parliament for the management of its own affairs? It has long been noticed low very rapidly a country devastated by war recovers from the effects of war. That is especially true of the Orange River Colony. Not only has the ruin of the country been most swiftly repaired, 1077 but every evidence shows that when the live stock have multiplied, as they must in the course of a few years, the country will have risen to a level of prosperity far above anything it has never known before. The population has increased from 96,000 before the war to 143,000. The railways have doubled, from 400 miles to 800 miles. Telegraphs have more than doubled, from 1,700 to 3,700. In 1898 Customs amounted to £1,190,000, and yielded £160,000 in duty at a cost of £8,500 in collection. In 1904–5 Customs amounted to £4,050,000 yielded £314,000, and cost in collection £8,100. Although there has been no extra taxes, except the 10s. polltax, ear-marked for educational purposes, and no grant-in-aid, and large railway rebates have been made, the revenue of the country which before the war was £391,000, has increased to between £700,000 and £800,000 a year, and after providing improved Government buildings of all kinds, museums, colleges, and hospitals there remains a balance of £150,000, accumulated out of annual savings. Schools have been rebuilt and multiplied. Before the war there were 8,000 children in 200 schools, with 313 teachers. There are now 16,000 children in 262 schools and 515 teachers. Mails have increased from 17,000,000 in 1898, to 43,000,000 last year. The Bloemfontein monthly delivery alone has increased from 1,900 to 50,000. Against all that it must be stated that there is a debt charge on the country. What the amount of the debt is one cannot accurately ascertain; but it is something under £10,000,000, and that is the ghost of the ruin of the war which is now passing away for ever from the land. These figures reflect great credit on Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams and those who have been associated with him in the work of restoring the industry and prosperity of the Orange River Colony. I say that with all the more satisfaction, because when my knowledge of the country was not so full as it has since become I used a phrase which might possibly be considered disparaging of the work which Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams and his assistants have brought in so short a space of time to so marvellous a completion. The Constitution of the Orange River Colony will become effective as soon as possible. It will be necessary to prepare Letters 1078 Patent, as in the case of the Transvaal, and these I should hope will be issued before Parliament meets after the Christmas holiday. Before the Letters Patent come out we shall set to work to form a register of voters and appoint a Boundaries Commission. The work of this Commission will take a considerable time, and I do not expect it will be completed until June of next year. So I should think that the new Parliament might assemble in Bloemfontein some time during the autumn of next year. When that work has been completed, and the new Parliament has assembled, the main direction of South African affairs in these Colonies will have passed from our hands; and I am sure it will be the wish of this democratic House of Commons, which has created these new Parliaments in the first year of its life, to secure to them in the fullest manner the enjoyment of the liberties with which we have endowed them.
§ Motion made and Question proposed—
§ "That this House approves the grant of Constitutions conferring responsible government upon the peoples of the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies."—(Mr.Churchill.)
§ MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover Square)
At the end of July last we discussed at considerable length the Constitution which was then adumbrated by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. That referred only to the Transvaal. We have since had the Letters Patent issued embodying those provisions. We shall no doubt have another opportunity of discussing the Letters Patent relating to the Orange River Colony. Therefore, I shall abstain from dealing in detail with the provisions relating to the Orange Colony at the present moment, feeling certain that it is better to see those proposals in print, and to consider them carefully before criticising them at length. This much, however, I should like to say—namely, that one of the objections which the Opposition have to the granting of full responsible government to the Transvaal, which we all agree must take place at some time, is that we cannot refuse to the Orange Colony that which we grant to the Transvaal. I rejoice to hear 1079 of the regained prosperity of the Orange Colony, and I congratulate Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams and his assistants on the admirable work they have done in promoting that prosperity; and certainly I for one should not for a moment desire to say that that Colony has not within it the seeds of great future development. I acknowledge the obligations we on the Opposition side feel for some matters in the Constitution of the Transvaal that have now been brought to light by the Letters Patent. I am glad there is a Second Chamber which is a reality. Not merely is it warranted to exist for five years, but in the event of agreement not having been come to by the Legislature for the creation of another Second Chamber, then the Governor will nominate a Second Chamber again after the five years have expired. I am bound to say this is a substantial point. I think also the Government have done well in making English the official language of the Transvaal State. And for myself, I am also quite willing to say that I think that the whole of the provisions with respect to the Dutch language being spoken in the Assembly—which was always the intention of the late Government—are more happily dealt with. I express our obligations in some sense for the policy of land settlement and the establishment of the Imperial Board. It is a matter of very great importance to the Orange Colony, where there are so many British settlers, that our interests should be conserved, not merely by a just, but by a sympathetic Government. I do not say that the Boers will desire to act unjustly, but a man may be a just landlord who is not a sympathetic landlord. I am bound to say, however, that the sum of £58,000 seems an uncommonly small one for the effective establishment of the Imperial Board and for the maintenance of its work.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
That money has been advanced to the settlers and moneys are due from them. These moneys in the last year in the Orange River Colony alone amounted to over £22,000. That income is at the disposal of the Board, and a very considerable income it is. All they have to do with it is to shield the existing settlers from unsympathetic administration. The fund available for the 1080 Board will not only be sufficient for carrying on the limited purpose to which we propose to devote it, but will be largely in excess. The extra £58,000 placed at their disposal is only to enable the Board to tide over the fresh period before the rent and instalments to which they are entitled naturally fall due.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
Whilst fully appreciating the hon. Member's explanation, I still think the sum allocated is a beggarly one and insufficient, and it is not a generous response to appeals made even from the Government's own side by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chippenham and the hon. and learned Member for Reading. Although £9,500,000 has been expended by the Imperial Government upon repatriation, and almost entirely devoted to our Dutch fellow subjects, yet the £3,000,000 voted by the Ordinance and by Parliament for the assistance of British settlers has now, notwithstanding the obligations which the Under-Secretary has acknowledged, been cut down by nearly £500,000. It is a matter for congratulation, however, that some pensions have been granted to the Transvaal and have been promised in the case of the Orange Colony to those civil servants who in the past have worked themselves almost to the bone on behalf of the Colonies, and whose services most thoroughly deserve recognition in the form of pension, if any services ever did. But the reservations which the Government have made from the autonomy which they have granted to the two Colonies undoubtedly raise considerations of a controversial character, and involve some consideration of the policy of the late Government. I embark on the consideration of them, I hope the House will believe me, not from any vanity nor from any desire to arouse strife, but in a business of such vast importance as this it is right that the country should appreciate and know what the differences are between parties, and when they come, as they ultimately will, to adjudicate between the two great parties in regard to their policies in South Africa, they should know what the differences at this time have been. Having myself for many months navigated the troublous waters of the South African question, I desire to point out to 1081 the Government from that experience on a somewhat uncharted sea some of the rocks on which by these reservations and other provisions of the Constitution they appear to be drifting. I do not wish to develop them at large, but the House will remember the broad outlines of the policy of the late Government—the policy as expressed at Vereeninging, as expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, as, I think, confirmed by this House on more than one occasion, and as ultimately embodied in the Letters Patent. The policy of the last Government was to draw out gradually to self-government and to take the usual steps which had been taken in the history of every other self-governing colony in the British Empire. No originality was claimed for this. There was nothing new in it. It was always thought by the late Government that that having been the practice it was not desirable to depart from it in this particular case, and the Under-Secretary will forgive my saying that it is really not worth my while to consider his comment that the proposals of those Letters Patent were unworkable. In point of fact proposals of the same sort were worked in Canada, Cape Colony, Natal, and Australia for various periods, and it really is absurd to say that they are not workable. I have stated myself that they led to friction, and so does the British Constitution lead to friction. That was the first item in the policy of the last Government. Then next there was the desire gradually to populate the country by immigrants in order, by peaceful association with the Boers, to gain that good feeling which does subsist between the agricultural communities in both Colonies, which has led to admirable harmony between the two races engaged in those peaceful agricultural pursuits, and which would have energetically promoted what I believe is a most desirable thing—the merging of the sharp dividing line between the country and the towns in South Africa, which was also the dividing line between Briton and Boer. With the object of introducing settlers and promoting prosperity though out the country we desired that the gold-mining industry should be worked to the full extent. The three great sources of revenue in the Transvaal are railway 1082 receipts, customs, and the tax upon profits of the mines. [An Hon. Member: And the poll tax on natives.] That item is a good deal smaller, though the polltax no doubt comes to something. It was the desire of the late Government that the gold-mining industry should be worked to the full, not for the purpose of earning dividends for their shareholders only, for dividends were a matter of comparative unimportance to the late Government. What they had to look to was the 10 per cent. profit tax and the receipts from the railways, which depended very largely on the prosperity of the mines, and the customs, which largely related to the mines also. The fourth desire of the late Government—and I do not hesitate to say it was a right desire—was to postpone the passionate conflicts of Party Government at so early a date after the war. Lastly, they wished to approach the federation of all the States in South Africa by the surest, safest, and smoothest route. They wished that the federation and self-government might be brought about at the same time, and, if possible, before the Transvaal State had attained that degree of individuality, that individual wealth, which is sometimes in the history of a State called capitalism, and which, very often presents obstacles and barriers to the smooth effecting of federation. Those were broadly the objects of the late Government, and I have never heard an argument in the House why the ordinary course of development and devolution might not have been pursued. You have got to contrast the scheme of the late Government with the reservations which the Government have made in what they call their scheme of self-government. The four reservations which the present Government have made are in regard to natives, British Indians, land settlement, and Chinese. You have reserved from the purview of the Colony the four matters in which they have the most vital and permanent interest. I am not saying whether any of these matters should or should not be reserved. That is a matter for the responsible Government, and they, after considering the matter for some, three months, have decided that they must reserve these matters and they indicate with respect to one or two of them that 1083 a conflict between themselves and the self-governing Colony are extremely likely. Would it not have been more straightforward and frank to have admitted that you could not take that position—that you could not grant the Colony absolute self-government on those points? Would it not have been better to have said, "We will not depart from the old procedure?" There were many good reasons for it, and, above all, reasons why they were not prepared to hand over to the Government of the Transvaal the matters in which the colonists themselves took the greatest and most vital interest. No doubt the fact that what is called responsible government has been granted to this Colony will enable a great many Party orators on the platform to make from their point of view very convincing and elaborate perorations upon the final triumph of Liberal opinions in the case of this Colony. That may be very satisfactory to the orators who proclaim what has been done; but I do not think they will be very convincing to the audiences which hear them. Can anything be more factious—can anything bring greater friction than to say with one voice that we are going to grant self-government and with another voice say, "No, there are some topics in which, no doubt, you take a very great and material interest, but on which we cannot admit that you should govern yourselves"? I venture to say from a not inconsiderable experience in this matter that no lover of his country can await without the greatest possible anxiety the conflict between this country, this Parliament and this House of Commons, and the self-governing Colony upon these points. Take, for instance, the question of British Indians. So long as there was merely representative government there that was a totally different matter. That responsibility was known to rest in Downing Street. Now responsible government all over the British Empire is identified with autonomy and practical independence. You are now—and I am not quarrelling with that—wishing to retain control of some of those matters in your own hand. You reserve these matters. You admit that you anticipate a conflict with the Colony on the matter. 1084 I say that that is not only a most dangerous course to pursue, but it is more. The Transvaal is made responsible for independent government, and in a matter that affects them vitally, and on which they have pronounced an opinion by a large majority, you cannot, if you go into a controversy, prevent every other self-governing colony, irrespective of the merits of the question, from saying, "The Transvaal is as independent as we are, and you ought not to interfere." That is a consequence which I am afraid must arise upon some of these points which you have reserved, and upon which you have expressed strong opinions. I wish the House to understand most distinctly that I do not blame the Government or their supporters for holding these strong opinions. They may be right or they may be wrong in holding them and in expressing in despatches these strong opinions in regard to the treatment of British Indians. I have expressed them myself, but I did not hold those views and grant responsible Government, and, having granted responsible Government take it back by cutting out from the grant such important matters. Mr. Deakin, who was Premier of the Australian Commonwealth, in a recent speech with reference to the Imperial veto on colonial legislation, said that in that part of the world the power had only been exercised in minor matters and had never been used to destroy any measure on which the opinion of the people had been clearly expressed. Surely that expression of opinion on the part of an eminent Australian statesman could not have escaped the notice of the Government. I wish to say with great earnestness that if the Government believe that they are in direct conflict with the views of the colony on some important matters which affect the Colony, do not select those matters which will provoke the greatest possible resistance, and at the same time challenge the other Colonies to get into line with that Colony. Again, the Constitution sets forth that—Whereas it is our will and pleasure that all persons within our dominions should be free from any conditions of employment or residence of a servile character, the governor shall reserve any law providing for the introduction under contract indenture or licence of labourers into the Colony from places outside South Africa.1085 That is a very remarkable limitation. What is the position? The Government has been, so to say, seised of this subject of Chinese labour for nearly twelve months, and they have amended the Ordinance by cutting out from it certain provisions which they deemed undesirable and recommended that the Government of the Transvaal should administer other provisions in regard to Chinese labour with the greatest possible caution and regard them as temporary during the next twelve months. But in a year's time they have placed themselves in the position that even the amended Ordinances of Lord Milner shall wholly cease and determine from the date of the first meeting of the Legislature. If the Colonial Parliament desires the Chinese to remain they will have to pass an Ordinance of their own, and then the British Government will be in the position of having to consider whether, after all these declarations, they will veto it. They will be very much in the same position in which the late Government were when it was proposed by a very large majority, as we believed, of all the white population to have the original Ordinance, and the question was, seeing the legislation had been passed for a Crown Colony, could we refuse the Colony the right to have indentured labour on the terms desired? I have never disguised that I had some objections to certain particulars in that Ordinance, but you have to consider whether you are in a position to say to a self-governing Colony, "We refuse you the right to get the labour you require for your leading industry on the terms you now desire." I must ask the House to consider that problem in the light of legislation that exists for other Colonies. In 1894 a Liberal Government, of which Lord Ripon, the present Postmaster-General, and the Chancellor of the Duchy were members, approved of an Ordinance for British Guiana, which provided that labourers from India might be indentured for five years, that they could not absent themselves without leave from the plantation to which they indentured; that anyone who persuaded a labourer to absent himself would be fined twenty dollars or suffer two months' imprisonment; 1086 that the labourer was compellable to do any work to which his employer set him; that he could be transferred from one employer to another for twelve months; that the employer might force him to do piece-work with or without his consent; that the employer was to pay him from a shilling a day; that no passport was to be issued to the labourer to enable him to return home until he had served five years except with the consent of the Governor, and that the labourer had to pay the cost of his return journey. These conditions were imposed in the Consolidating Act in 1894 after long experience, both in this House and outside. It differs from the Transvaal Ordinance in some minor points; but will any hon. Member project his imagination into a situation in which an African negro was engaged under these conditions and say that the negro was in a state of slavery? The hypothesis is that you will have to argue with the inhabitants of a colony which has been the theatre of a devastating war, with economic ruin staring them in the face, who say that their country is being made desolate for want of labour for their principal industry, who wish to recuperate that country and make it fit to live in and thrive. Are you going to say to that great Colony that you will refuse to it those facilities for obtaining labour which other Colonies have had for over fifty years? I would be sorry, if a Minister, to have to propound such an argument, because I should feel that I was on hopelessly weak ground, and I am satisfied that there are hon. Gentlemen opposite who would feel that also. That is the position with regard to the future. Now mark what is the position of the Government with regard to the provision which forbids in terms the renewal of the contracts by the Chinese after the expiry of the first period of three years. The House will remember that provision. It is an absolute breach of contract. I do not mean to say that you cannot by an Act of Parliamentor by Letters Patent, which have the effect of an Act of Parliament, break contracts, but this Government ought to be the last Government in the world to do so. What did they say with regard to the 16,000 coolies, the recruiting of whom was 1087 licensed by Sir Arthur Lawley shortly before we came out of power? Six months ago the Under-Secretary told us it would be unjust and illegal to revoke the recruiting licences, and for that reason these 16,000 coolies have been suffered to be taken to South Africa. Will he now tell the House that it is just and legal to break a contract when it will involve a far greater loss? The proposition is in credible. One of the considerations which induced the employers to incur the great expense of bringing Chinamen to South Africa was that at the end of the first three years, when the labourers were well trained, they should have the right of renewing the contract for the following three years, making altogether a six years period of service. The House knows perfectly well that the loss of that option will bring the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds upon the mineowners. Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not mind that; but those who call it unjust and illegal to revoke licences do mind it, and ought to mind it. If they do not care about inflicting a loss upon the mineowners what do they think about the loss to and the breach of faith with the Chinese? The Chinese were brought to South Africa under a most elaborate system of assurances, under a contract which had the faith of the British Government at the back of it. It is now proposed to tear up that contract. That is a very great loss to a Chinaman who, after six years service, would be able to return to China, being still a young man, with sufficient earnings to enable him to buy land and live immeasurably above his fellows for the rest of his life. He has been promised that opportunity on the faith of the British Government, and they now tell him he shall not have it. Is that just or legal? Six months ago the Under-Secretary himself said they really ought not to revoke these licences and sheltered himself under a plea of injustice and illegality. At that time not a single one of these 10,000 coolies had been recruited or signed a contract, still less left China. Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer compare the revocation of licences upon which no action has been taken, and under which not a single coolie has left the shores of China, with the gravity of breaking a contract in part fulfilled, which involves the loss of hundreds 1088 of thousands of pounds to the mine-owners, loss to the coolies, and breach of faith on the part of the British Government?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. ASQUITH, Fife, E.)
I do not admit that it is breaking a contract at all. I deny altogether that the persons who had imported these coolies had any right to speculate on the indefinite continuance of a law which would entitle them to renew these contracts.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I contend, with great respect to my right hon. and learned friend, that the document which gave one party the right at the end of three years to renew and the other party the right to accept that renewal, was a contractual right. So far as the mineowners are concerned, it is a very valuable right, because it means that instead of employing new labourers and getting them from far away they can continue efficient labourers in their places.
§ MR. ASQUITH
It is a contractual right contingent on the continuance of an Ordinance, and that Ordinance the Legislature has the right to amend, modify, or repeal.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
But it was not amended in such a way as to repeal contractual rights. I agree that if the Government wish to do illegal Acts it is always open to Parliament to say that they will countenance them. It is always competent for Parliament to repeal a statute which gives a person a statutory right, but I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman will make such a proposal with regard to any British citizen. I complain of the secrecy with which the Government have treated these important matters and the absence of open dealing between the Government and those who differ from them upon this point. I do not wish to dwell upon the personal aspect—for which the Prime Minister has handsomely apologised to me—of the unfortunate handling of the Bucknill Report. But I think that when garbled versions of that Report got into the Press, owing to the unfortunate mistake that was made by the Government—I will put it no higher—the people who 1089 were vitally concerned in the Transvaal should not have been left in entire ignorance of the position of matters. I may be mistaken, but I understood the Under-Secretary to say the other day, in answer to a question with reference to the dealings of Mr. J. B. Robinson and his group, that no preference or monopoly has been given to one group of mines. But that is what has occurred. The Witwatersrand Native Association was formed with the approval of all parties. Who is Mr. Robinson that he should be allowed to break out from that Native Association, to which he belonged, and be granted a preference over and above all his neighbours?
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I have seen the documents in this case, and I can say without fear of contradiction that Mr. Robinson has been granted this preference. I fail to see any sort of justification for the grant to him of any preference. At least the Government should have had the decency to wait until after the inquiry with regard to this matter before pressing the Portuguese Government on behalf of an individual who it seems to me has no title whatever to be preferred over his competitors. I think we have a right in these highly controversial matters to complain that the Ridgeway Report has, in no portion of it, been shown either to the public or to the House. Sir West Ridgeway made a speech the other day in which he seemed to indicate that he did not know why in the world it should not be printed. He also used language which gave me the impression that the Report contains things, especially with regard to the Progressive Party in South Africa, who have been consistently defamed in many quarters of the House, which the country has a right to know. The observations of the chairman of the Commission showed that he regarded the Progressive Party as a body of most patriotic men; indeed, I think Sir West Ridgeway said their patriotism was almost excessive, and he also spoke very strongly of the necessity of preserving the industries of the Rand. That one Report should be 1090 withheld from the House we might perhaps be able to understand, but it certainly does seem to me a subject I will not say more than of regret in so many matters in which the future of South Africa is concerned—matters of profound moment, which involve a right judgment in dealing with most momentous questions—the Government should say they will not produce the documents, that they will not give any information as to their contents, and that they will not answer questions in regard to them in this House, and I do not think I should do my duty if I sat down without making this protest. I have put forward the difficulties which I think the Government will have to meet, but I hope the prognostication I have felt compelled to make will not be fulfilled, and that the prosperity which we all desire for the future of these Colonies may, however improbable it seems, be granted to them.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said there had been no allusion to circumstances which made this occasion the most momentous, in connection with our Colonial Empire and our Empire generally, that this country had ever known. It might be inevitable, it might be impossible to resist it, but we were for the first time establishing a colour bar in the British Empire by the action of the Imperial Parliament. The results of that establishment must be so momentous, might be so disastrous, that it seemed an amazing fact that no allusion whatever should have been made to it by either the Under-Secretary or the right hon. Gentleman opposite. There were many omissions from the speech of his hon. friend which might be generally described in those few words, but there were some passages in it which, he confessed, amazed him coming from the Under-Secretary. They all agreed, he supposed, that it was safe to give the freest institutions to the Orange River Colony; but the ground on which the Under-Secretary based that safety struck him as amazing coming from that side of the House. If he understood his hon. friend rightly, he said the Dutch had now laid aside the ideal of a Dutch South Africa under a Dutch flag, excluding the British Crown. Did any one except his 1091 hon. friend believe that that idea was ever entertained by the people of the two Republics? Dr. Leyds, indeed, entertained that idea and planted it on President Kruger, but the whole course of the history of the Republics and of the war contradicted emphatically the suggestion that any such idea prevailed in the two Republics. There was another amazing statement from his hon. friend. He told the House he might safely appeal to Lord Durham's condemnation of all possibility of working representative institutions without fully responsible institutions. The whole history of the Empire contradicted that very rash assertion of Lord Durham. There had been Colonies that had enjoyed that institution without a break since the Elizabethan times, and there were Colonies where it had been modified since those days. It was the only possible plan, admitted by every statesman from every party, of dealing with countries where there was an overwhelming black or native majority. There were not the same dangers, there were not the same fears in the case of the Orange River Colony as existed elsewhere, but in South Africa as a whole there was the consideration of the future, and the one argument used by the right hon. Gentleman opposite which weighed with him on this occasion, as it had weighed with him before, was that they could not shut their eyes to the future of South Africa under federation in the arrangement which they now set up. He could not agree with either of the preceding speakers as to the reservations. His hon. friend would no doubt have an easy task to-night in his reply, because he would be able to assume a safe position, and he would, in popular parlance, be able to knock the heads of himself (Sir Charles Dilke) and the late Colonial Secretary together. But there were occasions when the House must consider something more than the ordinary debate, and this was one of them. His hon. friend only really mentioned one reservation. He said it was an obligation of honour and we must redeem it. It was the obligation in connection with land settlement. But was there no obligation of honour on this country with regard to the natives, the overwhelming majority of the people 1092 of the Transvaal? Why should we be so tender of the one special case of the settlers and not equally tender with regard to our obligation in honour towards the natives? The Under-Secretary had said nothing about the reservations as to the natives except these ominous words, "We could not do more; we could not do less." No, he thought they could not do less after all the promises that were made, after all the boasts that were made, after all those contracts that were drawn between ourselves and the Boers and past Governments. The right hon. Gentleman opposite held up these reservations as provisions which could not be enforced, but he and his friends put them all in the case of Natal. These two documents were precisely the same as those granted on all previous occasions, and the right hon. Gentleman said they were inconsistent with responsible government. Lord Kimberley refused to grant complete self-government to Natal, because there were only 1,000 white people there. The Government then granted the same reservations as there were in this case in the teeth of the arguments used to-night. The right hon. Gentleman suggested there were special and exceptional reservations in this instance as regarded natives, British Indians, and Chinese. But there was no reservation with regard to natives, and he could not find a reservation with regard to British Indians, other than those which had been invariable and had become matters of mere form. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that to put such a reservation in this document would incite the Colonies to remonstrate with us. The only subject of the kind that had ever incited the Colonies against us was Chinese labour. When it was suggested that the present Government had come into conflict with the Government of Natal by desiring to interfere with the self-government of the Colony, on that occasion, one of the last acts of Mr. Seddon was to repudiate, in the most indignant terms, that suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman had specially referred to the repeal of the Labour Importation Ordinance. He for one had always believed that the permanent native question was more deserving of our real attention than the Chinese 1093 question, which was temporary in its nature. He would rather have doubted, as a matter of constitutional practice, the power of the Crown to repeal this Ordinance by Letters Patent. They could repeal by statute of the Imperial Parliament. But he did not believe in the popularity of Chinese labour in South Africa, or that anybody was going to make a struggle for it. There was that in the document which did not in the least correspond with this impression of what was likely to be the action of the Government. "Every white male" was taken as the foundation of the future Constitution. That was a grave and new departure for Parliament to take. There was any amount of precedent for our allowing Colonies to do things we would not do ourselves. But this Constitution contained an absolute colour bar in the sharpest form in which it had ever appeared in the English language, and one which obviously would lead to odious inquiries—for instance, such as those which led to a great law case in the Cape not long ago—in the case of coloured British subjects, many of them electors in other parts of the Empire, who might settle in South Africa. It was contrary to the usage of great self-governing Colonies within the Empire; there was no such colour bar against the Maoris in New Zealand, or the Red Indians in Canada, the descendants of whom were among the most valued members of society, and occupied a distinguished position in the aristocracy of the Dominion, if that phrase were permissible in a democracy. In the Cape, of course, there was a native franchise, and Dr. Jameson had declared that the Cape would never cousent to come into the federation on the surrender of her native franchise. By setting up this special and limited franchise the Government were putting a bar to federation in the future. The form of words on page 7 of the document that "the Governor shall reserve" was, he believed, taken from the Rhodesia Order in Council of 1891. There was a certain vagueness and ambiguity about the powers reserved to the Governor. There was a case the other day in Natal in which a letter was written from Government House stating that a law had not been reserved although it was ap- 1094 parently one which ought to have been reserved under the terms of instructions. It had not been reserved, however, because the Government had received the advice of the law officers of the Crown that it need not be reserved. On that he asked the Under-Secretary whether the Governor in interpreting these instructions was guided by the advice of the local government and the local law officers. He found that generally—and it appeared to be provided here in the latter part of the instructions—that the Governor in a very grave or exceptional case was expected to act on his own judgment, although the contrary was stated in the letter referred to from Government House in Natal. He applied to those who well knew the practice whether it was not as stated in the letter, and therefore it was a question whether we were reserving anything at all, because we were trusting to the local Governor to say what should or should not be reserved. He was much inclined to agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to the narrow limitation of the word "servile." At page 39 of the document there was a certain conflict with the words used at page 7. It was stated at page 7—It is Our will and pleasure that all persons within Our Dominions shall be free from any conditions of employment or residence of a servile character.That had no enactive force at all, but was merely a platonic declaration of goodwill. At page 39 the words were much stronger—No law sanctioning any condition of service or residence of a servile character will be assented to.There the words were not limited to introduction from outside so far as he understood, but in the other place they were. In the passage read by the right hon. Gentleman opposite—The Governor shall reserve any law providing for the introduction under contract of labourers into the Colony from places outside South Africa.He agreed entirely in his criticism on this point. But in the instructions the words—No law sanctioning any condition of service or residence of a servile characterwere not limited to the introduction of labour from outside. These were very difficult matters to construe. Lord 1095 Carnarvon used the word "servile" of the very practice which was now going on in South Africa, of consigning the prisoners to work as slaves in mines in other Colonies. He held that that was "servile," and that the words in the document should cover it. But it was not so held to-day, because there was a similar instruction to the Government of Natal, which had not been held to cover action of that kind. All the country south of Zambesi was South Africa. Therefore places outside South Africa did not include the countries from which the Kaffir labour came, and it made it the more necessary that these words should be carefully scrutinised by the House, and explained by the Government. Why from outside South Africa?Why should not the words, if meant to have any meaning at all, cover the people from Natal, Swaziland, and Basutoland, and especially convicts leased to mine-owners? On page 10 there were two or three paragraphs to which he wished to call the attention of the House. They were headed "Native Administration." The first paragraph had no importance and meant nothing at all. It provided—The Governor shall continue to exercise over all chiefs and natives in the Colony all power and authority now vested in him as paramount chief.That was what he did in Natal and all other Colonies where there were natives. The second paragraph was a feeble and partial acceptance of the principal recommendation of the Native Affairs Commission of 1905. One of their chief recommendations was that there should be assemblies of chiefs to which considerable powers should be granted. Some attempt had been made to give effect to this recommendation, but it was very partial and feeble indeed. Would that assembly of chiefs be able to approach the Crown otherwise than through the Governor on the advice of the Colonial Minister? Was this a form quite different from that adopted in the case of Basutoland, where they approached the Crown direct? Would the chiefs really be allowed to approach the Crown? If they were only to be allowed to do so through the Governor on the advice of his Ministers, that would be no real approach at all. There had been a tendency to seize the 1096 Crown lands of the natives in the past. He feared it would increase in the future, and lead to considerable difficulties. There could be no doubt that the recent trouble in Natal was largely caused by interference with the natives on Crown lands. The trouble which might come upon them through disregarding this danger might be gathered from what occurred in Basutoland, where this practice of seizing Crown lands led to horrible wars and practically to the bankruptcy of the colony of Natal. That practice had been spreading into the other colonies, and must be guarded against. It should not be forgotten that the white population of the Transvaal was confined to half the colony, the other half being still native land; and he thought the way to avoid trouble in the future was to constitute large native reserves. The Native Affairs Commission reported in the strongest terms on this subject; they found that the natives had distinct rights, that there was no justification for the assumption that they were mere tenants at will of the Crown, and that it was a gross breach of faith to allow them to be turned out of those lands. Hon. Members only needed to look at paragraph 3 dealing with native administration to see that the security given was illusory. Again, there was no special protection for British Asiatic subjects in the Transvaal. That was a most dangerous form in which to leave matters. The prestige of this country must suffer in India if it could not enforce protection for its own subjects even within the Empire. The labour in the country must always be coloured. It was also labour of a nature that could not be protected by labour associations. Therefore, they were setting up a condition of things in which the labour of the country would have no voice. The native labour question was of far greater importance than the question of Chinese labour, for, while the latter was only temporary, the former was permanent. It had been said that they could never make peace by leaving the coloured population in the position they were in before the war, but, as a matter of fact, they were going to leave them in a much worse position. There were great dangers to be apprehended in the future from this state of things. The increase of native taxation had been 1097 glanced at in the speech of the Under-Secretary, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite had mentioned the poll tax. In Natal they knew that the poll tax, which was nominally the same for white and black, in practice was very different, because in the case of the blacks it was collected by methods which were not applied in the case of the whites. One or two fresh dangers were crossing the Natal border, and compulsory labour had invaded the Transvaal. He was aware that this was denied, but it had come in to some extent. The Native Affairs Commission were of opinion that compulsory labour was economically unjust, unsound, and intensely distasteful to the natives. That system of compulsory labour was spreading to the Transvaal, and it had been allowed under the late Government. Another dangerous feature was the hostility of the whites of the Government officials to what was called the Ethiopian Church. Its buildings were pulled down where they were found on Crown lands. The only objection urged against the Church was that it was self-governing, and lay outside European direction and control. If they weakly yielded to a small number of people who wished to have their own way in the Colony, then dangers which would only have been avoided for a time would have to be faced later on. The House must remember that it was not those people who would have to fight; we would have to fight. [An Hon. Member: What about Natal?]He was not speaking of Natal whose case was exceptional, though even there we had been asked to send troops. There could be no doubt that over the enormous distances in the Transvaal, if fighting had ever to be done, this country would have to go into it. We should have to undertake the federation of South Africa and to be responsible for the treatment of South Africa as a whole. It was impossible, therefore, merely to take the line of least resistance in the Transvaal, and shut our eyes to the enormous problems which the federation of the whole of South Africa must present. Of course, the Band would grumble at everything we did, but the Rand would do what they found they had got to do. This House must impress on the Rand that it had something larger than the Rand to look 1098 to—not only the future of South Africa as a whole, but also the position of the Empire as a whole—a great Empire, which was largely dependent on the affections of the people of India, and which could not be permanently based on the principle of giving all power to the white man. The view of the great self-governing colonies had been referred to, but those great colonies knew very well that Natal, for example, with an overwhelming native population, was in a wholly different position from Canada, or the Commonwealth, or New Zealand. Here they were dealing with a country in which the black nations always must be predominant, and it was impossible to think that the problems which were bound up in the question of future federation were solved hay settling this question on an absolutely white basis.
§ *MR. WALKER (Leicestershire, Melton)
said it was representative government which led to the rebellion in Upper Canada to which Lord Durham referred, and we had always considered that a representative constitution was something that would not work. It had no power for the appointment of Ministers or for initiating expenditure of public money or proposals for taxation. He believed there would be friction, not so much between English and Dutch as between the Legislature representing English and Dutch on the one side and the Ministers of the Crown on the other. He therefore thanked the Government for having gone straight for responsible government. He would like to point out that responsible government was given in Canada even sooner after the rebellion than it was being given to South Africa after the war. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, had spoken of Chinese labour being among the reservations. One thing struck him as very strange in that right hon. Gentleman's speech, and that was that he went on the assumption that the people of the Transvaal were in favour of Chinese labour, and that therefore they were quite certain to try to keep it in the future. There was no reason for believing that the Transvaal was in favour of Chinese labour. He maintained that the cause of the whole trouble about 1099 Chinese labour was that the Government had interfered in the past in introducing it without taking the vote of the people of the Colony. Lord Milner had said that he wished he had consulted the other Colonies in regard to the introduction, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had said that he intended to consult them about the settlement. He wished he had consulted those other Colonies. It was very doubtful if then there would have been Chinese labour at all. Although they were not consulted, the Colonies had made it quite clear by resolutions they had passed, not only in Australia and New Zealand, but also in the neighbouring Colony of the Cape of Good Hope, that they desired to keep the Chinese out of South Africa. He was grateful to the Government for having included the Orange River Colony in the grant of self-government. He believed the loyalty and honour of the Dutch had been proved. He believed they would stick to the terms they had made and would think it a dreadful thing to transgress the treaty. In the treaty of peace no distinction was made between the two Colonies. He believed our Dutch fellow subjects in South Africa would think it a breach of faith if the Government excluded the Orange River Colony solely on the ground of Dutch predominance in the matter of population. They had heard in the debate a good deal about British ascendancy. It was Lord Elgin, the father of the present Secretary of State for the Colonies, who dealt a blow at the idea of a British ascendancy in Canada. In 1849 the Canadian Legislature passed a Rebellion Losses Bill, and an extreme section asked Lord Elgin to veto the Bill. He stood firm and refused to veto the measure, and from that day they might date the real commencement of self-government in Canada, which had led to the happiest results between the French and English people in Canada. That Lord Elgin was the real originator of self-government in Canada, and he thought the Liberal Party could congratulate themselves that it had fallen to the lot of the present Lord Elgin to start what he hoped would be an era of prosperity and happiness in another part of the British Empire.
§ *MR. EVELYN CECIL (Aston Manor)
said he regretted that on such an important occasion they had not the benefit of the experience of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. He of all others would have been able to assist them in coming to a wise conclusion. His objection to this proposed constitution was not so much to its details, but as regarded the whole policy of the Government. The details followed in most respects the Constitutions granted to the other self-governing Colonies, but what he complained of was that it was too soon to grant a Constitution to the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies. It was only four years since the population of these Colonies were waging war against this country, and time had not been given to them to settle down. In the Canadian insurrection, to which the hon. Member who had just sat down had referred, the rebels were scattered unorganised over a large extent of territory, but in South Africa the Boers had powerful organisations which were determined, judiciously, to undermine British sovereignty. To introduce this Constitution when things were so unsettled was a very rash and unwise proceeding. It must be remembered that matters were improving during the last four years. That had been admitted by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies; and he thought that that was a good argument indeed for allowing things to remain for some time as they were, rather than introduce self-government, which would lead to Party government, and excite racial feeling. Instead of bringing the races together the action of the Government would separate them. He could not pretend to know whether the Government were acting on their own responsibility, or whether they had taken the advice of the Ridgeway Commission. He would like to know whether the Report of the Ridgeway Commission recommended the immediate granting of a Constitution. He had the strongest suspicion that that Report advised the Government to delay granting self-government to the Transvaal, and that this was why they persistently refused to publish it. In the next place, the whole policy of the 1101 Government had been to give a premium to disloyalty, They frequently telegraphed for their official information to man who were pro-Boers, and there was no inducement on the part of those who wished to remain loyal to the British connection to do so. He had been told by a friend who had been lately travelling through the Transvaal, of a Boer, well-disposed to the British, who had pointed out the uselessness of being loyal and taking the British side when the Home Government were always seeking the advice of pro-Boers. The practical advantage, the Boer argued, was always on the side of disloyalty.
To come to particulars, he desired to comment especially on two of the reservations for the decision of the Imperial Government made in those Constitutions—first, as regarded Chinese labour, and secondly, as regarded land settlement. As to Chinese labour, he supposed it would be generally admitted that the supply of unskilled labour in South Africa was all important, but he feared that the whole question had been largely sacrificed to reckless electioneering pledges—what the Under-Secretary had called "terminological inexactitudes"—or, to paraphrase the expression, statements by enthusiasts who had an impediment in their veracity. The Government had been, therefore, bound to deal with this Chinese labour question, but the matter was really worse than appeared at first sight, for the Government had advanced a great deal beyond their election pledges in this Constitution. On 21st December last year, just before the general election, Lord Elgin telegraphed a despatch to Lord Selborne, that His Majesty's Government considered that the experiment of the introduction of Chinese labourers into the Transvaal should not be extended further until they could learn the opinion of the Colony through an elected and really representative Legislature. The intention of the Government was evidently to stop all action in regard to Chinese labour until the representative elected Legislature should be established, and had expressed an opinion on the question. But inch by inch, owing to the pressure of their extreme supporters like the hon. Member for North Salford and the hon. 1102 Member for the Newbury Division of Berkshire, the Government had changed their position, and the House now learned that no contracts for Chinese labour were to be entered into or renewed from the 6th of December, 1906, and that the Ordinance of 1904 was to be cancelled one year from the date when the new Legislature assembled, though many Chinese were under contract to remain till 1909. The result would be complete chaos, unless the new Legislature at once took in hand this most contentious question, aggravated by the Home Government's muddling, and subject to their interference at the end of it, for fear of servile conditions. He thought that that was an insult to the Colony, and surely the Government did not show that trust in the Colony of which they had spoken so much? It could do nothing but produce confusion. One remark more, in this connection. The Government had been encouraging Kaffir labour rather than Chinese labour; but he asked what was the difference? Kaffir labour was African, but this was immaterial for the present purpose. The Chinese were really more healthy on the Rand than the Kaffirs, who were now necessarily recruited from the tropics, because few others were obtainable, and died, it was stated, to the extent of 40 per cent. There had been a very unsavoury debate in the House on the immorality of the Chinese, but he believed, from what he had been reliably informed, that the immorality of the Chinese was not a bit worse than that of the Kaffirs. It would have been far better for the Government if they had left the decision of this question to those on the spot who were familiar with the circumstances and conditions. As to land settlement, he was thankful to the Government that, they had dealt with it to some extent. He, however, could not help suspecting that, but for the pressure of public opinion outside, the Land. Settlement Board would not have been established. But the inadequacy of the provision was great. The Land Settlement Board should have been established for more than five years, and he thought that more money than that provided in the Constitution should have been granted to the Board. After all, the amount, such as it was, and it was comparatively very 1103 little, would only come in from the repayments of loans by settlers, and nearly all the money available now was already invested inland or advanced to the settlers. He gathered from the text of the Letters Patent that the £500,000, which was the unexpended balance of the sum devoted to land settlement, was not to be allocated to the Land Settlement Board. He regretted that the Government were not going to encourage new settlers to come upon the land. He would have thought that one of the greatest advantages for the future of the country would have been that settlers from Great Britain should be encouraged to come, but apparently the Government had withdrawn any encouragement of the kind. They left it to the Land Settlement Board during a short term of years to do what they could, but who was likely to go and settle on the land which in five years time might come under the control of an unfriendly Government? So far from encouraging British settlers, His Majesty's Government seemed to be discouraging such settlement, although it would be a great safeguard to the peace and prosperity of the country. There was no doubt about the Afrikander attitude in regard to new settlers, and their inclination would be to discourage them. He did not want, however, to be entirely critical in his remarks, and he would like to mention one of the rare and few advantages which could be gleaned from the proposals of the Government to limit the period of land settlement to five years. After all, five years would be something which would enable the mere handful of settlers to establish themselves against a possible hostile State Government, and to secure themselves on their holdings. Settlers in South Africa became owners in fee simple if they paid regular instalments for thirty years, and although it might be difficult for them at the outset to pay regular instalments, in five years he would imagine they would be in a position to pay their instalments regularly from year to year so that they should become owners in fee simple at the end of thirty years, whatever the conduct of the Government might be towards others. He could 1104 only deplore that the system of land settlement which had been working so well was now to be stopped, because under it the British and the Dutch had got to understand each other better and to have mutual interests. The Dutch had become friendly and had come cordially to receive new British ideas. From community of interest sprang mutual co-operation, and the general tendency of British settlement in new Colonies had been to create greater friendliness between the races there. Take the examples of 1820 and, in quite recent years, of the British fruit farms in the western provinces of Cape Colony. On this ground greater settlement was desirable in South Africa, and increase of the farming population was necessary to decrease the cost of living. He could only repeat his apprehensions as to the future which he had expressed when this matter was discussed on 31st July. He deeply regretted that the Government had gone beyond the terms of the despatch which Lord Elgin had sent to Lord Selborne, and that they had done so in consequence of pressure from their extreme supporters. Had it not been for that pressure he believed they would have reserved this Constitution till a later date. He thought he had shown the weakness of the Government policy in regard to the future of South Africa, but, as a Party, they on that side disclaimed all responsibility for this early grant to the Transvaal of a Constitution, and he could only trust this premature concession would not prejudice the final goal to which they must all look, viz., the truly British federation of South Africa.
§ *MR. BOULTON (Huntingdonshire, Ramsey)
congratulated the Government on having so early in their history given full responsible Government to the Transvaal and was not in the least surprised that the comments they had had so far from the Opposition side of the House were mainly couched in the vein of hostile criticism. To his mind it was a remarkable fact in the history of the British Empire that, with the solitary exception of Western Australia, the grant of responsible self-government had in every case been the gift of the Liberal Party, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest 1105 of Dean was mistaken in thinking that it was a Conservative Government which gave responsible government to Natal. It was not, therefore, surprising to find hon. Members opposite pursuing the same old course of the Tory Party in order to prevent Colonies from getting responsible government. The right hon. Gentleman the Ex-Secretary for the Colonies had criticised the Constitution on two grounds: First, because representative government did not procede responsible government, and, secondly, because of the reservations in the Constitution. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman was correct in saying that in every other case representative government had preceded responsible government, but he did not think it followed that because representative government had been tried and failed both in Upper and Lower Canada and in one or two other places that therefore it should be applied to the Transvaal. In Upper and Lower Canada representative government was a complete failure. Under it the Government was in no way responsible to the House of Representatives and the latter had practically no control over the Government. The Government levied such taxes as they thought fit and the House of Representatives could only criticise; they could not prevent the taxes being imposed. The Government appointed such officials and such Judges as they chose and the House of Representatives had no control over them. Representative government in the Colonies might be illustrated in this way. Assume that the Government had appealed to the country, instead of resigning, and that the present House of Commons had been the result of that appeal. Then if we were living under representative and not responsible Government, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, having gone to the country and having been defeated by a huge majority, could still continue to administer the affairs of the country, to levy such taxes and pass such laws as he pleased, and this House would not be able to turn him or his friends out of office. That was the case of representative government. It had been tried once upon a time in England, ond it had failed. It had been tried in the Colonies, and it 1106 had resulted in failure and civil war. Had it been persisted in in the case of the Australian Colonies the result would have been equally disastrous. The Liberal Party developed the system of responsible government in the Colonies, and if a Liberal Government had not come into power in 1841, and been enabled to give effect to that policy, it was doubtful whether the British Empire as it now existed would ever have been built up. The principal reservation in this Constitution was with regard to Chinese labour. With regard to that a most extraordinary theory had been put forward for the first time by the Party opposite. That theory was that the Imperial Government should no longer have any control over the legislation of self-governing Colonies. If such a theory were accepted there would be no British Empire. It was because this country had a veto which could be, and was, used on important occasions, that the British Empire had a constitutional existence to-day. It was now suggested by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that we should have no veto over the legislation in these Colonies. What struck one as being curious about the suggestion was that the Liberal Party had been told that they had given independence to the Boers by the Convention of 1881, yet in that Convention there was exactly the same veto as that which was proposed in this Constitution with regard to the limitation of servile labour, and now they were told that what in the case of the Boers was independence was in this case subjection. He submitted that the Imperial Government had a right of veto over the Transvaal Colony in the same way as we had over the South African Republic on the question of servile labour, and the Government would be guilty of a breach of duty if they did not insert this provision. If they looked at this subject from a constitutional point of view the House would see that if the veto over colonial legislation was abandoned our Colonies would become independent States. When the Australian Commonwealth Bill was being discussed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham took a very strong view upon this question in opposition to the Australian Premiers. 1107 He took the view that we must exercise a right of veto, if not through Parliament, at any rate, through the Privy Council. This Empire depended for its constitutional existence upon two principles, first, that the Colonial Office should have a right, in the interest of the whole Empire, to veto the legislation of a particular Colony when it adversely affected the interests of the Empire outside that Colony, and, secondly, that the Privy Council should have a right to reverse the legal decisions of the Colonies when those decisions were ultra vires or were inimicable to the Empire as a whole. The Liberal Party as the authors of responsible Government were the exponents of their own policy. They were the Party who had enabled through their actions in the past the Empire to come into being, and if a Colony transgressed by passing laws which injuriously affected the interest of the Empire outside the Colony we were bound to veto such legislation. If the Transvaal did pass a law by which servile labour was introduced again into the Colony it would be the duty of this country to prevent such legislation being effective. He also believed we ought to retain the right of veto in the Privy Council. That was the second of those safeguards by which this Empire was carried on and which enabled the Imperial Government to reconcile the varied systems and nationalities and weld them into one harmonious whole.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
joined in congratulating the Government upon the action they had taken in granting self-government to the Orange River Colony as well as the Transvaal. He thought it would have been a mistake if they had done anything else. From some of the speeches to which he had listened one would assume that it was a crime to have consulted the Boers who had been loyal to their country and had fought for it, but he thought in so doing the Government had taken a wise and proper course. He was glad that the introduction of more Chinese labourers had been vetoed by the new Constitution. The assumption, however, that white men would be profitably employed in the gold mines of the Transvaal was about 1108 the most erroneous that could be put forward. The argument seemed to be that because there was black labour in the Transvaal therefore there could not be white labour. He contended, however, that there was no need for black labour. By means of pneumatic drills the employment of white men at decent wages could be assured. There was no necessity for the importation of another race, or for oppressive conditions being put upon the black man to drive him off the land, where it was natural for him to work, into the mines where it was not. The Under-Secretary of State had spoken of Mr. Steyn, the late President of the Orange Free State, as being one of the most avowed enemies of this country.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
said he did not think he used those words, but what he meant was that Mr. Steyn had been one of the most contentious asserters of the rights of the Boers against this country.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE
said President Steyn was the one man before the war who had done his best to prevent its breaking out, and if afterwards he threw in his lot with the Boers tint was to his credit. He wished to know whether the Constitution to be given to the Orange River Colony was to follow in the main that already provided for the Transvaal. Was a white male vote to be inserted in the Orange River Colony Constitution? It had been stated that to enfranchise women in the Transvaal would have necessarily given the preponderance of weight of votes to the Boer population, but there was no necessity for such niceties of adjustment in the Orange River Colony. That being so, he asked why it was that when the Boer had demanded the vote, and the male population had backed up that demand, women should be excluded from the franchise in the Orange River Colony. The Constitution now being granted to the Transvaal, and which was presumably to be given to the Orange River Colony, could not be altered by the Parliaments of these two Colonies, and it was therefore all the more important that there should be no barriers put in the way of women exercising the franchise. Further, in the Constitution now 1109 granted to the Transvaal provision was made for a Second Chamber, and they had been told this afternoon that the same model was to be followed when the Orange River Colony Constitution was granted. It appeared to him to be an exceedingly bad beginning for a campaign against the House of Lords in this country to set up a House of Lords in each of our new Colonies. It mattered nothing whether it was hereditary or not provided it was based upon a property qualification. Would the Colonial Office insist that the franchise for the Second Chamber should be as broad and free and democratic as that for the First Chamber? If it was to be elected on a property qualification then he hoped it would not receive the assent of the Liberal Party, because it would be a violation of the conditions of free government. He regretted that the method by which agreement was to be come to between the two Chambers was to be by a joint meeting. In the case of the Transvaal, assuming for a moment that the Second Chamber was elected on the basis of a property qualification, the anticipation was that the Chamber when elected would be fairly evenly divided, the mine-owners on the one side and the Boer farmers on the other. If a sharp division took place between the Upper and Lower Chambers on some question, and finally a joint conference was agreed upon to settle the matter in dispute, it would follow almost inevitably that the members of the Upper Chamber elected on a property vote would side with the property owners of the Rand and against the farming population and the rest of the Transvaal. It seemed a thousand pities that the method adopted was not that suggested by the Radical Party for this country, namely, that when a Bill was rejected by the Second House and was passed a second time by the Lower House it should ipso facto become law. He next came to an important point—the native question. The land set aside for native occupation could not be alienated since no law could be passed in respect of the natives which did not equally apply to white men. Let them test that by what was now transpiring in Natal. One of the principal reasons for the rising in Natal was a fear of 1110 this very alienation of land set aside for native reservations. How was it proposed to be done? A special tax was imposed upon land that was not occupied. Occupation meant occupation by white settlers. If there was one European settler upon an extent of land to which he had any title the tax did not fall. If there was no European settler the land might be the property of the natives, but unless the natives were to settle upon it the land could be taken from them, and so the question became one of very serious gravity. The position in Natal illustrated this very clearly. The coloured population of Natal was being gradually but surely reduced to a condition in which it would be difficult to occupy properly even land set apart for their use. To take one illustration of how the equal laws theory worked in practice, the law of poaching, as to which there had been a strong memorial from a member of the Legislature to the Colonial Office protesting against it because of its effect on the natives. As no native could obtain a licence the consequence was that native prosecutions for poaching were numerous. According to official returns 4,000 natives were prosecuted every month for offences against the law. One-twentieth part of the native population of Natal were being made criminal and demoralised by prison for the most trivial offences. It was not sufficient to say that laws must be equal for black and white. As the right hon. Baronet had shown, a poll tax proved a severe burden upon the coloured community. He maintained that all laws which were likely to interfere directly or indirectly with the natives should be reserved. This country in the final resort was reponsible for the welfare of the natives, and we could not divert ourselves of that responsibility. Experience had shown that where there was a small white population and a large native population, and where the lands of the native population were rich either in minerals or pasture, there was a natural tendency on the part of the whites to obtain possession of those lands. He was casting no reflection upon them, but that being so, the whites, being able to exercise power without restraint, were likely to use that power for their own advancement. 1111 For that reason all questions affecting the natives should be reserved, and he hoped even yet it was not too late to ensure that the serious danger which was being created in South Africa by reason of the treatment of the natives might be obviated. The natives should be allowed to live under the tribal laws within the lands set apart for their use, and nothing should be permitted to be imposed upon them from outside, in the interest either of the mine-owners of the Rand or of the settlers desiring possession of the land, and if that were done what was called the black peril of South Africa might never be heard of, and much anxiety spared to those responsible for the Government.
§ *MR. ASHLEY (Lancashire. Blackpool)
said that in his opinion this road was open to be travelled by the House of Commons ever since the last general election, because then use was made of the Chinese labour question in such an unscrupulous way by so many hon. Members on the Ministerial side that a feeling was aroused amongst men and women of English extraction in South Africa, and the only possible way out of the difficulty to avoid the friction set up was that responsible government should be given as soon as possible. He would have infinitely preferred that the Lyttelton Constitution should have been in operation a few more years in order that the Colony might have felt its feet, and then in three or four years time he would have been only too glad to grant the fullest measure of responsible government to the Transvaal. Therefore, as far as this Constitution affected the Transvaal, he was entirely with granting responsible government as soon as possible. But what were they asked to do by passing these Letters Patent. They were asked to reserve the introduction of labour into the Colony from places outside South Africa, they were asked to reserve any law affecting persons not of European descent, and they were also asked for a short time to reserve the question of land settlement for the Home Government. He would like to know why they had not reserved power in regard to the native questions as well. The natives were our fellow-subjects and the Chinese were not, and he could not 1112 see why if we were going to protect the we Chinamen should not also protect the native African. The only reason he could imagine was that the Chinaman had so many powerful advocates on the Government side, who were anxious to redeem their election pledges. The native Indian also had a very strong body of public opinion behind him, and land settlement had found many powerful advocates for reservation, not only on the Opposition side, but also on the Ministerial side of the House. He supposed the reason why the African was left out of consideration was because he had nobody to speak for him. Personally, he did not think it very much mattered what they reserved or what they did not reserve, because, with the exception of matters affecting our foreign relations, in practice it would be found that the home Government would not interfere with a self-governing Colony when once they had granted it self-government. He presumed the Government thought these reservations were of some value or they would not have put them into the Letters Patent. He protested against the native question not being mentioned at all in these reservations. If they looked back at the treatment of the natives by the Dutch before the late war they would see that there was considerable danger of the natives not being treated as they would like to see them treated if the Dutch got a majority. In 1899 there was a Pass Law adopted by the Transvaal Legislature under President Kruger, under which any native found without pass could be detained in the guard room until his master came for him, and if after six days his master did not claim him he was forced to select another employer. If that native failed to select a master, he might be imprisoned for eight months and receive twenty-five lashes. He did not suggest that such a law as that was likely to pass under the Government which was now proposed, but it showed at any rate that in 1899 the Dutch idea of the treatment of natives in South Africa was not such as would commend itself to the majority of this House. He was absolutely opposed to the reservation which had been adopted by the home Government in regard to Chinese labour, because that was a matter which ought 1113 to be left entirely to the Transvaal. Let the Government consider for a moment what troubles they were laying up for themselves by reserving this question. Supposing the Transvaal Government decided to continue Chinese labour, the present Government would either have to flout the opinion of the self-governing Colony or else face the music of honourable Gentlemen below the gangway. In either case they would be in a very awkward and unpleasant position, and he did not see how they would be able to get out of it with any dignity to themselves. Had the Government considered what would happen to the Transvaal if the Chinamen were sent away? They knew that the Transvaal just about paid its way, but if they hampered the gold mining industry they would seriously diminish the revenue of the Transvaal Government, and they would have to supplement the labour in the mines by some labour other than Chinese. The only labour they could have was Kaffir abour, and how were they going to get it? They could only get it by increasing the hut tax and poll tax upon the natives, and in either case they would be forcing those men to work against their will. Why were they not making the representation of the Transvaal fair to all parties? It was j said that the arrangement of the constituencies and the number of members was a compromise, but he had always thought that a compromise meant that they took away some of the demands of both sides and tried to be fair all round. Was the representation they were now proposing to give to the Transvaal fair to the British? As far as he could ascertain it was not. There would be 92,000 voters and of those at least 51,000 would be non-Boers. They were arranging that neither side should have much of a majority, and that things should be evenly balanced. Was that being fair to the Outlanders? The Government were asking the House to accept this as a fair distribution of electoral power. With reference to the question of federation, there would be an overwhelming majority of Dutch representatives in the Orange River Colony and very likely a Dutch majority in the Transvaal and in the Cape Colony, Therefore they would 1114 have the backbone of Africa covered by the Dutch, and the only British influence would be in Natal and Rhodesia. He could understand why they must give responsible Government at once to the Transvaal, but he did not see why it should be given to the Orange River Colony as well. There was in the Transvaal a solid British element to hold the balance, but he did not believe it would be possible for the British element to return one single member to the new Parliament for the Orange River Colony, because the Dutch there preponderated in the proportion of six or seven to one in the towns and fifteen to one in the country. Within four years of the end of a long and bitter war they were going to hand over the government of a Colony to the people who fought against us so bitterly, although he must admit bravely. He did not think they were behaving fairly to the British settlers, who fought for this country during the war, who had every right to claim protection, and who had settled in those Colonies under the belief that they would be protected by the British flag. Now the Government were going to throw them over as Mr. Gladstone threw them over in 1880. What guarantee had they that the promises in the treaty of Vereeniging would be better kept than the promises of President Kruger when he promised equal treatment to all white men in the Transvaal? In the year before the war he (Mr. Ashley) happened to be travelling from Kimberley to Bloemfontein. He halted for a night at a Dutch farm where he was hospitably treated, and although the house arrangements were not so tidy in some respects as they might have been, he found that the Mauser rifles belonging to the farmer and his son were well looked after. The Boers fought bravely and with fatal effect against us with Mauser rifles, and low, four years after the end of the war, after having taken away the rifles, the Government proposed to give to the Boers in the ballot box a much more efficacious weapon against British supremacy than the Mauser rifle could ever be. He regarded the grant of responsible government to the Orange River Colony, where there would be an overwhelming, if not an entirely Boer representation in the Legislature, four years after the 1115 close of the war, as an act of political insanity.
§ *MR. MOLTENO (Dumfriesshire)
congratulated the Government on the course they had taken, as he held it would have been serious evidence of mistrust had they made a distinction between the two Colonies. He thought the reservation in regard to the land settlers was unnecessary. The introduction of those settlers was one of the greatest injustices perpetrated by us after the war. It was unjust because at a time when everything had been destroyed and property was non-existent, we, at the expense of the population, introduced new settlers in the country. What was the condition of the country on which we imposed a liability of £3,000,000 to bring in fresh settlers? Lord Milner stated to the correspondent of the Standard—The people have lost everything except the land.In the despatch in the Blue-book (Cd. 903–135) he said—I need not repeat that we began working with the country absolutely denuded of everything.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, in a speech at Bloemfontein, stated—The destruction of property has been greater than I anticipated, greater, I believe, than has been known at home.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, the then Colonial Secretary, stated—The Transvaal had been left a wilderness, that all buildings, farm produce, and stock had been destroyed.The Report of the Central Judicial Commission contained the following:—Speaking generally, the producing and commercial industries both of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony had been destroyed by the prolonged war. It was not merely the suspension of industry and the interruption of the routine of commerce, but the capital upon which both industry and commerce depended was largely lost.That was the condition of the population which was to be burdened with the cost of bringing in fresh settlers, but not to assist the population. It might be said that we were assisting them under the repatriation commission. To some 1116 extent we were, but when it was found that of the £16,000,000 due to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colonies, only £2,900,000 had been paid, and when it was found also that the burghers who were protected by the proclamation of Lord Roberts had received dividends of only 10s. in the pound, he thought it was particularly hard that these people should be called upon to supply funds to bring in new settlers. There was another reason why the condition of the people was more unfortunate than in almost any country where war had been waged. The British Army paid for everything it took up to a certain period of the war, but an order was issued that no more payments were to be made in cash. The result was that the property of non-combatants was taken and not paid for, and this left the people in extreme destitution. The military receipts were not discharged for some years afterwards. We had failed to pay our own debts, and yet we had put tins burden of £3,000,000 on the new Colonies under the circumstances which he had described. The Government admitted that something tad to be done. They proposed to raise £1,200,000 to meet hard cases. He thought it was quite clear that this matter of compensation could not be dismissed so lightly. The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies had stated that £350,000 per annum, representing the interest on the £35,000,000 loan, might be used in the discharge of claims for compensation. That did not mean the discharge of our obligations. The Cape Colony had time after time to take up the question of compensation. Only in the last session of the Cape Parliament there was a reopening of the question and a final discharge made of the claims left unpaid by His Majesty's Government. As to the question of the natives in the two new colonies, he thought serious injustice might be done. The new Constitution appeared to afford no adequate protection be the natives against injustice such as the expropriation of the Crown lands by the act of the Executive. In answering a question to-day the Under-Secretary had given the House an excellent illustration of what might happen. There were 180,000 natives, or one-fifth of the whole native population, located on the Crown 1117 lands. Regulations had been issued by the Executive which, in his opinion, infringed the rights of the natives. He would ask the Under Secretary whether the obligations which had been imposed on the native of rendering compulsory labour could be imposed on any white man. The Crown lands occupied by natives were declared liable to be allotted to settlers under lease or licence. Another injustice was that natives who had rights of water, pasture and gardening might be deprived of those rights by the executive act of the Government. That seemed to him in the highest degree unjust and impolitic. This question was dealt with by the Commission that reported on South African Native Affairs. It pointed out the serious injustice of displacement of the natives from the Crown lands, and reported that—As these lands are disposed of, the natives in occupation are left to make the best terms they can with the owners, and are generally permitted to remain upon condition of paying rent, furnishing labour, or both as the case may be. No doubt it has been made profitable by land speculators to purchase Crown or other land and let it to native tenants at high rates. Such occupation is pernicious to both races, encouraging the far-reaching evil of absentee landlordism on the one side, and on the other barring the progress of the natives by insecurity of tenure.He would ask the Under-Secretary whether there were any means for preventing the continuance of that system of imposing disabilities by executive acts even under the new Constitution? The clause of the Constitution referring to native lands said—No lands which had been, or may hereafter be, set aside for the occupation of natives shall be alienated, or in any way diverted from the purposes for which they are set apart, otherwise than in accordance with a law passed by the Legislature.He believed that there were now unalienated areas of Crown lands, and he asked whether they should not be delimited before that clause of the Constitution came into operation. The necessity of protecting the natives was shewn by what had happened to them in the Transvaal since we went into that country. The natives were subjected to very severe pass laws, and these had been modified so far as flogging was concerned by the right hon. Member 1118 for West Birmingham, who had declared after his return from South Africa that the treatment of the natives had not been very bad. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, in a speech in the House of Commons on 19th March, 1903, said—There is one thing I am bound to say in justice to our late opponents. I was led to believe that the treatment of the natives by the Boers was very bad. Now the war itself is evidence that this charge against the Boer was exaggerated. I freely make that admission.…The Boers did in hundreds and thousands of cased leave their wives and children and property to the care of the few natives they had previously on their farms.…Of real brutality, violent misconduct, or ill-treatment, they must be absolved. They have not been regarded, on the whole, as hard or severe masters by the natives.They had been subjected to extremely complicated and harsh laws since our occupation of the Transvaal. On an average eighty-nine natives in the Transvaal were convicted every day under the pass laws, many of them having broken these laws without intention. Those pass laws the Attorney-General of the Transvaal said needed revision, and the fact that we had disarmed the natives gave them an additional claim to protection. Complaints were made by some of the chiefs that the treatment of the natives was worse now than under the Boer Republic. Then again, there was class legislation, and the limiting of the natives as to how and where and fat what wage they should work. Further, the natives were subjected to enormous taxation. He had been surprised to find that the natives were paying more in direct taxation than the whole taxation levied on the profits of the gold mines of the Transvaal. In 1904–5 the poll tax amounted to £407,680, and other taxes, including passes, certificates, and dog tax amounted to £245,898—a total of £653,678 or 50 per cent. more than the taxes of £414,000 on the whole of these great gold mines. And what did the natives get out of taxation? Only £5,000 a year was spent upon them. In the Cape Colony the total taxation of the natives amounted in 1904 to £124,446 although they numbered 1,500,000; and the amount spent upon them in that colony reached £66,000 as compared with £5,000 in the Transvaal. That 1119 showed clearly that the natives were being exploited for the sake of other sections in the country. Sir Arthur Lawley had said that in his opinion if the present burthen of taxation of the natives was increased as it had been by the regulations above referred to it would mean serious unrest and trouble, and would result in a large number of the natives leaving the Transvaal and going elsewhere. The condition of the natives in the Transvaal was really becoming intolerable and deserved the serious consideration of His Majesty's Government. In regard to the want of labour, the alternative was that more inducements should be held out to the natives, and that they should be paid fairly for their labour. After the war their wages had been reduced to half what they were before the war, and though again increased they had never yet been raised to the level of 1897. The Commissioner of Native Affairs had stated that the conditions of labour imposed on the natives had last year driven 19,932 natives out of the Transvaal. Then, the death rate after the war was appalling. He would suggest that the native system in Cape Colony should be adopted in the Transvaal. There was no difficulty in inducing the natives to come forward in the former Colony to work on railways and other public works, and diamond mines, because the wages paid were fair, and the death rate was low. Under the exiting régime all interests were dissatisfied. The British Indians had complained that they were worse of than before the war, as had also the natives, and the Boers who had had their property destroyed and had not had their receipts honoured were certainly worse off. The whites as a whole were worse off, because although there was more gold there was less work. Crown Colony rule had brought about, again the same evils that it had entailed in the past. The relations of the Transvaal with the other Colonies were becoming increasingly strained under the existing regime, and had already resulted in Natal and the Cape being robbed through Delagoa Bay. Questions had arisen which were pressing for a solution, and which could only be settled by the concession of a large measure of self-government to the Transvaal and 1120 Orange River Colony.
The new Constitution substantially placed the affairs of the Colony in the hands of the people, and so would enable them to redress these grievances. It had been said there was grave danger in giving this Constitution now, but it had been the consistent policy of the British Government to give self-government to those who were able to govern themselves. Even if it had not been so the main lines of this Constitution were settled at Vereeniging. If it were only a question of the time when it should be given he would point out that such evils as these were only accentuated by delay. We must trust all in all or not at all. The concession of abundant freedom had always been successful, the limitations had not. He had been unable to follow the arguments of the right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, with regard to federation, because if there was one thing more clear than another it was that federation could not possibly take place until these two Colonies had self-government, and had had it for some time. There could not be federation between self-governing Colonies and Colonies under Crown Colony rule. Our great hope in the future lay in federation. In that lay the solution of the difficulties in dealing with the native population. Those difficulties would not then be treated with the frantic esprit de corps with which they would be treated by those who lived just on the border. They would become only one of the many questions dealt with under federation in which other influences would be brought to bear. And the success of the native policy of Cape Colony was sufficient to demonstrate that native affairs would then be conducted with liberality and success. Those who depended on the introduction of Chinese labour for success fought against the principles of human nature itself which render it impossible to erect a permanent fabric of prosperity on a foundation of injustice and cruelty. They forgot that industry herself is the common offspring of knowledge and liberty. This liberty would be conferred by the Constitution just granted to the white inhabitants of the new Colonies. He trusted it might be the unceasing care of His Majesty's Government that it might be soon so extended as to transcend the bounds of 1121 colour and embrace all His Majesty's subjects in the new Colonies.
§ *MR. HILLS (Durham)
said the natives of the Colonies had received a very powerful support from the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, and all who had recently addressed the House had laid great stress on this part of the problem that confronted us. It was a very important question, and one of great difficulty, and he had listened with great interest to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean. who had put it more clearly than anybody, from the point of view of contact with the Dutch population of South Africa. It must be admitted that the Dutch view of the native treatment was not the same as ours. General Botha before the Labour Commission said that his view was that the natives should be made to work and the native reservations should be broken up. If we gave these Colonies self-government, he could not see how we could reserve the native question to the British Parliament. So far as we were pledged to the natives, and in so far as land had been set apart for their use with the sanction of the Imperial Government, we must keep our pledges. But the native question was one that must be settled locally, and though we in this country might differ widely from the views held in South Africa we must recognise that those were the views of the people who had to live with the natives, and it was for them to say what action should be taken on all native questions. In this view he was fortified by the fact that we here could not enforce a native policy which was against the wishes of a self-governing colony. The real control of these questions was bound to rest with the people of the country. If they had self-government all our checks were useless. It was indeed not to our advantage that we should have to settle these questions, which involved us in all sorts of responsibilities, otherwise we should be involved in all the dangers of a policy when we could not in the nature of things have any control over its administration. If we said that all laws affecting natives were to be reserved for this House; that the question of Swaziland, and all the native reservations, was to be 1122 removed from South Africa and settled here, we should become absolutely responsible in the case of a native war, and derive none of the advantages of such a policy. This question was mixed up with the question of labour. The gold industry was the mainspring of South Africa. The hope of the whole of that country had been based on the expansion of the prosperity of the Transvaal. All the Colonies since the war had largely increased their debts, and that increase of debts had not been for war expenditure but essentially peaceable interests. We saw in South Africa a large expenditure of capital on the faith of that single industry, and we in this country must not prevent, but on the countrary, must, so far as we could, develop that industry and leave it to the people of the country who were spending their money upon it to see that it was carried on. It would be quite unfair for us to say "We have different views of indentured labour, and we will not allow you to work out a solution of the question." It was a matter for the people there, and it was for them to say that that labour should be either Chinese or African or whatever they liked. Nobody liked the idea of Chinese labour, but the fact remained that Chinese labour was there and that the Transvaal had to live. He hoped therefore that nothing would be done in the settlement of that question unless it was in accordance with the judgment of the people of the Transvaal. He had no objection to self-government in itself, but he thought we had given it in this case at the wrong time. Everyone would admit that the Party division in South Africa would be one of race. The rural population in the country would be against the manufacturing population of the town. It was on the result of a contest upon those lines that the whole future of South Africa depended. A time had been chosen to provoke this contest when, in spite of the gold output, the English element in the Transvaal was at its lowest, and the country in the most depressed condition. Since the 1st of January thousands had left the country and come home. Unfortunately, the time chosen for this great experiment was when the supporters of the British deal were at their worst. The contest 1123 was bound to come, but in his opinion it should not have been provoked until the conditions were more equal. A few years of a modified form of representative government, during which they could look forward to responsible government, was a very small thing in the life of a nation, but the Government had thought it wise to hurry this matter, and upon the Government must rest the responsibility. He thought the grant of self-government at this time was a great evil. Federation was the great aim of everybody, but how was it to be effected? Would it come as the result of British ideals or would South Africa be driven into it by reason of a feeling of hostility towards England? He feared very much that that was what we were doing. It seemed to him that all through we had slighted the people who were in favour of the British ideal. The Government had listened to those whose ideal of a United South Africa was not the same as ours, and had refused to listen to those who spoke for the British race. He feared therefore that the force which was to bind the two races together in South Africa would not be such as we should wish; and that, in his opinion, was the danger we should have to face in the future.
§ *MR. HEMMERDE (Denbighshire)
said that, although he was impressed for a moment by the arguments of his right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean with regard to the exclusion of the natives from the franchise, that impression was considerably lessened when he considered the wording of the treaty of Vereeniging. He failed to see how the Government who based their action on the faith of the treaty could now tear the treaty up. We had to stick to the words of the treaty, which excluded the black races from the voting lists. The hon. Member for Dumfriesshire, than whom few in this House spoke with more authority, had alluded to the part that federation must bear in the affairs of South Africa, and the hon. Gentleman's father had taken a great part in bringing forward schemes of federation many years ago before the blunders of statesmen in this country made those schemes futile. Time after time we had acted hastily in connection 1124 with South Africa, but that was not entirely the fault of local statesmen. The blunders which undermined all Mr. Molteno's schemes for federation years ago were the blunders of the Home Government. Those schemes might be successful now, but he did not think they would come if the Government paid much attention to the advice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St George's, Hanover Square. The right hon. Gentleman would not have given the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony the Constitution we were bound to give them until he gave them federation. Would that be fair dealing? If we were going to give federation we ought not to give it until we built it on the solid foundation of trust in the people of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. The Government had now started in a different way. They were not going too fast. Many believed they were not going fast enough, but he would not like to see them going faster. Hon. Members opposite must have unpleasant visions before them of cases in which the predecessors of the Government went too fast. When he said that this Government was going slowly he also said he wished the Government of 1874 had gone slowly, and then we should not have had to face this difficulty. The Government had set out up that intermediate way which was often the path of wisdom. What they had done was not so much to direct as to suggest a way. And by doing what they were doing by this Constitution they were at any rate suggesting a way to the Transvaal. Many of these Chinese labourers would have to go home before the Transvaal Government would obtain a seisin of this question. He believed that under this Constitution 20,000 would have to go home next year, and in that case the Transvaal Government would have time to decide whether they could find native labour. He had always thought the case with regard to the shortage of active labour in South Africa had been exaggerated. There was no more bitter opponent of Chinese labour in this House than himself, but he had never urged with any appreciation from a public audience that Chinese labour in South Africa was slavery. What the British people resented was that after we were said to have 1125 gone to war in South Africa to find work for white miners the places were taken by miners of another colour and that under circumstances which struck at the root of all the best principles of labour. That was what the people of this country objected to and tight hold should be kept by the Home Government of this question, because everybody knew there were method which would be used to influence the Transvaal Government to keep the Chinese labourers in South Africa. He had often heard, during the few weeks he had been in this House, suggestions from the other side that the Government should carry out their election pledges and deal with the matter entirely themselves. Now they heard the complaint that they were dealing with it at all. That was not consistent, but perhaps he ought not to look for consistency. He did not at any-rate expect to find it. But on that subject at least he contended there was a good case for reservation, and anyone who followed the history of our Colonial Government would recognise that it was wiser to suggest than to order. He was sure that by going slowly in this matter, progress would be a great deal faster. He suspected the Progressive Party out there to whose tender mercies we were to trust the fate of South Africa. He suspected them when he found their representatives over here standing in the way of every progressive reform. He viewed with grave suspicion the advocates of the Progressive Party in the Transvaal when they declared that they represented Transvaal opinion. Their voices and those of their representatives in the House of Commons were dumb on so many questions on which one would have expected them to speak. Hardly an objection had been raised to a nominated and probably an elected Second Chamber in the near future. We in this country would be glad to get what was given in that Constitution, and he had hopes that the time would come when free institutions might be extended to Great Britain and even Ireland. South Africa had been spoken of as a bankrupt country, or, at any rate, as a country on the verge of a financial crisis, but no word had been raised against its paying its members, which this rich 1126 country, we were told, had not money to do. There was another question—that of manhood suffrage. The suggestion had been made before this debate arose that in this country the Liberal Party wished to bring the franchise lower than it was, but not a word had been raised here against the extension of the franchise, and for the reason that manhood suffrage would never bring the franchise lower than it was at present, but would bring into the line of citizenship every man of full age in the country. He supported the constitution of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony for one reason, because it contained the germs of reforms which we should welcome at home, and, for another, because it embraced those principles which had been of such importance to the development of this Empire. Lord Milner, speaking last Friday night, said—I have come to break a lance in favour of that school of thought which holds that the maintenance and consolidation of what we call the British Empire should be the first and highest of all the objects of every subject of the realm.He made so bold as to say that if that principle had been the under lying principle of our forefathers the British Empire to-day would be confined practically to these Islands. It was not the maintenance of the British Empire that they had always first in mind, but the prosperity of the particular country that they were dealing with, and it was by looking primarily to that that we built up the organisation called the British Empire. It was not by consciously looking to empire-building, so much as by governing in the spirit of empire. That was where they differed from Lord Milner and his friends in the government of empire. That was the spirit by which alone we could bring these two states within the bounds of the British Empire. They had heard to-night from the Under-Secretary how the old feelings were largely dead that separated the two races. How could we possibly banish still further those feelings except by mutually trusting the people? They cheered that now in the case of South Africa, but would they cheer it next year if similar proposals were made in regard to Ireland? They had heard low intermediate stages of government were generally a failure, but would they 1127 hear it next year? This principle of trust was one upon which alone our colonial and domestic politics could be based. He was aware that under it we had to run a certain amount of risk, but it was the same risk that had built the Empire. They always ran a risk in appealing to men's better feelings, and in appealing to their larger and not their local patriotism. He did not, however, think we ran a very serious risk in the Transvaal or the Orange River Colony by trusting the people. The Constitutions they were now conferring upon South Africa were quite in harmony with the best traditions of English empire-building and colonial government, and for those two reasons in particular he heartily supported them. He had heard before such prophesies of ill as had been made in this debate. Those people who prophesied ill to-day, and who said the Government were going forward in a hurry had been indulging in such prophesies for years past. He noticed that an excellent cleric recently culled for his own purposes from the newspapers a number of cases relating to the prophets in sporting papers, and he showed how they had misled the people whom they were really trying to lead. He wondered whether, if somebody took the trouble to collect the number of cases in which they had been told they were going to ruin the Empire by trusting the people, the result would be any less ridiculous than in the case he had mentioned. They had got through those troublous times, and at the end of one of the most active sessions of Parliament, the Government had now put the crown upon their endeavours. They had gone the first step towards pacifying and consolidating South Africa, and as one who opposed the war from the beginning to the end, and thought that the policy now represented by such small numbers on the Opposition Benches was disastrous to the country and to the Empire, he welcomed this step which the Government had taken. It was a great step in empire-building on the old principle of trusting in the people, and not always suspecting that they were going to repay kindness with ingratitude. He welcomed this new development of the old principles of Colonial government, and he felt sure that good would come of it. 1128 Only one point in this discussion had been made against the Governments in regard to the natives, and that point was based upon a misapprehension of the terms of the Treaty of Vereeniging. He thought they were doing a wise thing in giving full trust and confidence to the people of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, because they could not be treated as if they had never known what self-government was. Surely the best course to take was to give them a system of government as much like what they had had before as possible. There were many things in the old Transvaal Government not only excellent for that country but which this country would gladly welcome into our system of government. Round the old constitutions of the Transvaal and the Orange Rivet Colony were gathered all the traditions which were dearest to the Boers in those two countries. The people of this country should not forget, now that those two Colonies were our territory, that it would be wise to revive the sweet and not the bitter memories which had gathered round those institutions. He hoped that everything we did would be for the good of those countries, and that it would lead to the burying of all the hatreds and embitterments which the war had caused.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
did not think the debate ought to close without the intervention of at least one Irishman. He did not expect to hear a better speech than the Under-Secretary's until he heard a Minister of the Crown proposing responsible government for Ireland. He had heard congratulations on both sides of the House in regard to the establishment of what was hoped would be free institutions for South Africa. In those congratulations the Irish Members readily joined. When the South African cause was dark they advocated it with no uncertain sound, and hon. Members from Ireland frequently crossed the sea to vote against every farthing which was spent upon that iniquitous war. He had an Amendment on the Paper dealing with what was a small personal matter as compared with the great issues raised in this debate. Upon that Amendment he would not speak, because 1129 he preferred to confine his remarks to the more general aspects of the question. Under the Letters Patent establishing responsible government in South Africa there had been a deviation from the established course of colonial procedure. It would be found, however, from searching history that the course now proposed was justified. He congratulated the Government on coming forward and giving responsible government at once. Ireland had not responsible government at the time of Grittan's Parliament. If there had been responsible government in Ireland, then the Union could never have been carried. When the Union was first proposed in Ireland, at a time when there was responsible government, the proposal was defeated. In Canada they French and English communities were at daggers drawn so long as there was not responsible government. It was proposed to confer responsible government in South Africa on people who only three years ago were fighting against the British, and it was known that they did not bear this country any great love. Could a democratic Parliament which was doing that refuse to the Irish people exactly the same rights which were given to South Africa? The hon. Member for Durham had objected to the reservation of the questions of Chinese labour, Indian labour, and other things. During the debates in Committee on the Home Rule Bill in 1893 the Amendments moved from the Tory benches related to nothing but reservations with respect to the proposed Irish Parliament, but now hon. Members who spoke from the same benches thought that the House must give South Africa everything, and that there should be no reservations at all. They pretended to trust the people. We remembered a great man saying that if they trusted the people at all they should trust them completely. He had listened with great interest to the debate. He thought it had been conducted with great moderation on both sides; and he hoped that they would have the same fair field when the Irish Bill came on next year, and that what was being given to South Africa would not be denied to the Irish people. But whether that should be so or not, it was with satisfaction he remembered that for generations through 106 years, Irish Members 1130 had been foremost in upholding the principles of liberty and free government here. It was the Irish members who mainly relieved the West Indies from slavery; who gave to the English working classes the franchise; who endowed Canada, Australia, and South Africa with self-government; and he appealed to the British democracy not to give one law to South Africa, and another law to Ireland, which had done so much for the Empire. He thought he had given a very delightful lesson in constitutional law, and he hoped that in the good time coming next year his friends opposite would apply to Ireland that which they were doing now to the Transvaal, and aid the cause of liberty by the restoration to Ireland of responsible self-government.
§ MAJOR SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said that there was little difference between the two sides of the House that day, and perhaps there would be as little difference on the occasion to which the hon. Member had just referred. Such differenceas there had been related to the time and the reservations. He saw an enormous advantage in granting the Constitution as soon as possible after the war. They were all agreed that self-government must be granted sooner or later, and the only question was whether it was to be given now or three or four years hence. No shot had been fired after the conclusion of peace, and the leaders of the Boers, including General Botha and Mr. Smutz, who fought against us so bravely for three years were now our steadfast coadjutors, determined to run this Constitution for the good of South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham knew something of the nature of the problem, and in one of his speeches argued for granting self-government first to the Orange River Colony, and at least there there was no reason for delay. In the reservation in regard to natives the Constitution differed from others in being less than could be found in previous Colonial Constitutions. It was the duty of an Imperial Government to have consideration for the rights of British Indians. In land settlement a compromise had been arrived at, and, having in mind bitter memories of Majuba, it was well to 1131 establish the Land Board. For his own part he absolutely trusted the Boers after knowing them well and believed that they would be entirely friendly to us. Of Chinese labour he could say they could see the end. It was well it should be so. Few Members had realised the strong feeling in the Transvaal on the subject. This Constitution showed what we meant. It stated that it was His Majesty's "will and pleasure that all persons within our dominions" should be free from any conditions of employment or residence of a servile character, and that they should not be segregated from their kind. He fully admitted that his friends opposite did not know when they sanctioned the Chinese Ordinance the full consequences which would follow from it. The right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square and his friends must remember that within twenty miles of the Rand there had been outrage, murder, and rapine by the Chinese, and that fathers had to sleep with arms at their side, in order to protect their wives and children from the invasion of these Chinese, who had escaped from the compounds. Therefore, they might well say, "Thank God there is an end to this hateful and evil experiment, and we fully think that these words in the Constitution will prevent its ever reviving again." They felt, as he had said, that men should not be segregated from their kind, and that all who came into British dominions should come free, or not at all. It would not have been necessary to have placed this clause in the Constitution but for the fact that the great principles for which he and his friends stood had for the first time for 100 years been violated. Nothing now remained except for them unanimously to vote that they approved of this Constitution, and to hope that brighter days would dawn for South Africa.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
Other important business awaits the attention of the House, and therefore I venture to suggest we may as speedily as possible bring this debate to a close. The debate has roamed over a wide area, and covered the whole expanse of South African affairs. The debate has clearly shown that after long and perilous voyages 1132 through very rough weather South African affairs, so far as the House of Commons is concerned, are returning to calmer waters. That is shown by the attitude of the House during the course of the discussion, by the temperate and reasonable speeches which have been made from so many diverse and contrasted points of view, by the fair, dispassionate, and conciliatory attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, and by the discursive and comprehensive, though not too stringently localised, criticisms of my right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean. There are only a few outstanding points on which it is my duty to give to the House information which has been asked for. But let me first point out to my right hon. friend that he awakened almost terror in my heart when he said it was not possible by Letters Patent to annul or to override an Ordinance which had been passed under Crown Colony Government in the Transvaal. If that were so, the whole key stone of our anti-Chinese policy would be loosened, if not entirely detached; and I am sure no one will be better pleased than my right hon. friend to learn that in regard to any legislation which was passed by Ordinance, Letters Patent are effective for the purpose of nullifying or over-riding. I find that we take special precautions in the Letters Patent to reserve to ourselves the power of dealing with legislation by further direct authority of the Crown whenever its pleasure might be made known. I now pass to the points upon which I was questioned by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The right hon. Gentleman spoke first of the Ridgeway Report. The Cabinet have decided that that Report should not be published, not because it runs counter to the decisions we have announced, not because as it is suggested, and, I think, scandalously suggested, that it would not sustain the full measure of self-government which we decide to confer on both States. That is not the case. The Report was in its character, from beginning to end written as a confidential document for the information of the Cabinet.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I am dealing with the Report, not with anything which Sir West Ridgeway may have imparted to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I did not understand that it was made in a public speech. But, in any case, His Majesty's Government were the persons who appointed the Commission, and we are the judges of the confidential character of their work. The Report deals in a very capable manner with all sorts of intricate party matters among the parties or groups of South Africa, and although I do not consider that, now that our decision is known, any serious public injury would result from the publication of the Report, I do undoubtedly think that, on the whole, it is better that the confidential character of a confidential document should be preserved in perpetuity. The second point on which the right hon. Gentleman's criticism rested is the reservations contained in the Constitution. The right hon. Baronet with his political acumen has already foreseen the ease with which it would be possible to play him off against the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is quite true that the Government has in this matter taken a middle course, and I venture to think it is the middle course which would be forced upon anyone who occupied the position of Executive responsibility in these most grave and complicated questions of the relations of black men and white men in South Africa. We are not responsible for introducing the principle of a colour bar. We are responsible for fulfilling our treaty obligations, and nothing was more clearly stipulated in the Treaty of Vereeniging than that an extension of the franchise to the native population was not to take place before the grant of responsible government. But I do not at all regard that stipulation as closing the matter permanently. I believe we shall see in the next few years a distinct and powerful forward movement in South Africa in the direction of the admirable system which prevails in the Cape Colony. But the case of the British Indian is the one on which I feel more strongly than on the native, because 1134 our Indian fellow subjects are raised an immense step in civilisation above the African savage, and, after all, we cannot forget what use was made of the claims of the British Indian in the days before the war. What will be our policy in regard to any such movement? We shall encourage it and stimulate it by every means in our power. There is no difference between the Government and their supporters on three sides of the House upon the principles which they desire to see prevail in these matters. But in the end South Africa is going to settle this question for herself. We shall endeavour to influence and guide her opinion, and to modify and restrain anything which is considered of a harsh or intolerant character. We shall foster and develop a humane, broad-minded, and liberal native policy, but the people in South Africa are the persons who will be increasingly charged with the effective decision in all these matters. The day will come, perhaps a not very distant day, when South Africa will be confederate, and then there will be a much more stable platform for the transaction of native affairs than exists at present. Then I think the good sense of one part may redress anything in the nature of hasty or excited emotion in another part of the country; and then, increasingly, influence, interference, or suggestion in these matters on the part of the Imperial Government will become weakened, and increasingly the main decision of these affairs will pass to the white inhabitants of South Africa. I pass to the question of the Chinese and the Chinese reservation. The right hon. Gentleman has raised, I hope for the last time, the old question of the employment of Chinese labour on its merits. Our old friend the Guiana Ordinance has been brought forth from its stable and again cantered over the course with much gallantry and energy. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well the great and fundamental differences which separate the employment of Chinese labour under existing conditions in South Africa from the conditions of labour importation under the Guiana Ordinance, where the labourer comes in with his wife and family if he wishes—and a high percentage did bring their women folk—where he lives in his villages 1135 just as he would in his own country, and Where at the expiration of his contract he remains to dwell in the land. I will not this evening attempt to re-open such a controversy as that, except to say that I believe all the apprehensions and prejudices which have been felt in this country, and felt intensely among the poorer people whose lot it is to labour with their hands, have been fully justified by everything that has happened in regard to Chinese labour. When I read in the newspapers of proposals that are being made to import Chinese into European countries for the purpose of reaping a harvest, or in other ways of competing with white people who live in these countries, I think the attitude of the working classes of this country was only another instance of the shrewdness of the instincts of persons when the very sources of their livelihood are assailed. In regard to Chinese labour we have scrupulously kept our promises to the House of Commons, but I do not think we have been guilty of breaking contracts or pursuing a course which must lead to breach of contracts. The conditions under which the Chinamen came into Africa were very peculiar; any man may make a contract with another man, but the contract which the Chinese labourers made with their employers required a special Ordinance to make it wholly effective. The contract and the Ordinance must be taken together. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out, the Ordinance is entirely within the discretion of this Government while we are responsible for South African affairs. It will hereafter be entirely in the discretion of the local government. It is obvious that the Ordinance can be amended and altered, and it is also evident that the fulfilment of the contract depends on the existence of the Ordinance; and therefore, in making alterations of the Ordinance, or in annulling or suspending it, we are not, I hold, breaking the contracts between the Chinamen and the employers, but merely refusing to enforce contracts which, no doubt, exist by methods which we do not consider in accordance with public interests and policy. The other question of importance that had been raised was the question of the Robinson group. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the special preference which the Govern- 1136 ment have given to M. J. B. Robinson. It was not our desire to give any preference to Mr. Robinson or to any other gentleman connected with South African goldmining industries; but we could not view without anxiety the concentration of the whole black labour supply in the hands of the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association—that powerful body which exerts such immense influence on local politics, and which in a hundred ways has woven itself into all the apparatus of economic and social life in Johannesburg. This body, which has a tremendous and sinister control over the local Press, and whose influence may sometimes be traced by the perspicacious student even in the columns of some of our leading newspapers—this body was given by the Chamber of Mines the power of turning off or on, as a tap, the supply of native labour. It is very curious that when it was necessary to establish a case for Chinese importation the supply of native labour shrank, and now that competition is threatened the supply of native labour collected by the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association has marvellously expanded. All we have said is that the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association is a voluntary body, mad that when a respectable and responsible firm or body of mineowners desire to secede from it we are not prepared to refuse their request provided they give proof of their substance and responsibility. In order to procure that, we have embarked on negotiations with the Portuguese Government which are now reaching, if they have not already reached, a satisfactory conclusion; and I have every reason to believe that the special agreement which has been made between the Portuguese Government and the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association will shortly be denounced in the usual manner.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
We should be quite prepared to consider the application of any other firm of equal status and responsibility. But these inquiries take time, and persons who desire 1137 facilities should pause before they break with the Native Labour Association until they have satisfied the Government of their status and responsibility, for otherwise they might find themselves in the awkward position in which they have endeavoured to place Mr. Robinson of being unable to get natives themselves or to draw from the supplies of the Native Labour Association. I hope I have not imported any unnecessary controversy into the debate on the Transvaal Constitution. It is the earnest desire of the Government to steer colonial affairs out of English party politics, not only in the interest of the proper conduct of those affairs, but in order to clear the arena at home for the introduction of measures which affect the masses of the people. We have tried in South Africa to deal fairly between man and man, to adjust conflicting interests and overlapping claims. We have tried so far as possible to effect a broad-bottomed settlement of the question which should command the assent of people even beyond the great party groupings which support us. We do not ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to share our responsibility. All we ask of the Opposition is not to add to our difficulties, but to give the policy which has been determined on as good a chance as possible of success. The responsibilities of the Government are heavy. They now pass in a large measure to the members of the new Parliaments. Other liberties besides their own will be enshrined in those Parliaments. The people of these Colonies, and, in a special measure, the Boers, will become the trustees of freedom all over the world. We have tried to act with fairness and good feeling. If by any chance our counsels of reconciliation should come to nothing, if our policy should end in mocking disaster, then the resulting evil would not be confined to South Africa. Our unfortunate experience would be trumpeted forth all over the world 1138 wherever despotism wanted a good argument for bayonets, whenever an arbitrary Government wished to deny or curtail the liberties of imprisoned nationalities. But if, on the other hand, as we hope and profoundly believe, better days are in store for South Africa, if the long lane which it has been travelling has reached its turning at last, if the words of President Brand, "All shall come right," are at length to be fulfilled, and if the near future should unfold to our eyes a tranquil, prosperous, consolidated Afrikander nation under the protecting ægis of the British crown, then, I say, the good as well as the evil will not be confined to South Africa; then, I say, the cause of the poor and the weak all over the world will have been sustained; and everywhere small peoples will get more room to breathe, and everywhere great empires will be encouraged by our example to step forward—and it only needs a step—into the sunshine of a more gentle and a more generous age.
§ *MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
asked if the Under-Secretary for the Colonies would enlighten the House on one of two points which, notwithstanding his able and lucid speech, had not been made, at least to him, quite clear. He understood that of the two bodies set up in South Africa one was to be elected and one nominated, and they were to exist for five years. But he did not quite understand what was to happen at the end of five years; was it quite certain the nominated body would from that time cease to exist as a nominated body and forthwith become an elected body, if so by whom was it to be elected, and who was to decide these questions? In Norway he thought the solution of a second chamber had been found. In that country there was one simple suffrage and one vote, and as soon as a new Parliament was elected the first thing done by the members was to select one 1139 fourth of their number to constitute a Chamber of Revision or Upper House. The same provision was made for avoiding a deadlock as that contained in the projected Transvaal constitution which they were now discussing; but was the same method to be adopted in the election of the two bodies in the Transvaal? If the two chambers disagree and there is a deadlock the two bodies meet and the majority decided the question at issue. On these two points he could not quite follow the hon. Gentleman, and he thought it would be well that they should not be left in the dark.
§ Resolved, That this House approves the Grant of Constitutions conferring responsible Government upon the peoples of the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies.—(Mr. Churchill.)