§ MR. BYLES (Salford, N.)
said the subject to which he desired to call attention was a kindred subject to that which occupied so much time last week. It was concerned with a population of 5,000,000 of black people distributed over seven of our African Colonies. The Government last week recognised their paramount right to protect a population of 50,000 Chinese in the Transvaal under the suggested constitution of local self government, and if that was the right view to take in regard to the smaller question it must necessarily follow that it was the right view to take with regard to the larger. The Government were now about to give a new Constitution to the Transvaal which no doubt would be followed up by the federation of our South African Colonies. The question was, were we to leave this vast native population to the uncovenanted mercies of the white people who had settled in that country. He was an advocate of self-government, and he wanted freedom in the self-governing Colonies, but while he was in favour of granting self-government to the Colonies he would not grant to the Colonies the freedom to deprive others of their freedom. The whole history of the treatment of backward nations by Europeans was a sad one and contained many pages on which we looked with regret. Under modern civilisation the spirit of adventure had created a class of men who, when they went among uncivilised people, seemed to lose that humane and benevolent relationship 1213 which those at home retained. They had been rightly described as prospectors "who belonged to no country and who owned no moral law." He frankly admitted he could not trust the men who under this new system of government would have power over the native races. The Boer record with regard to their treatment of the natives was not a good one; the British record had been no better. Both contained many stories of harshness, cruelty, and encroachments on the rights of natives and of slaughter. Both Boer and Briton believed in the doctrine of freedom, but it was the freedom of the white man to "wollop his own nigger." This country could not, and ought not to, throw off its direct responsibility towards the large native population of South Africa which was denied political rights. They were told recently that the population of the Transvaal approved of Chinese labour. He did not believe it; but if it were true, they had approved of treating human beings as animated machines, of denying them the rights of citizenship, and of denying them their very manhood, and all for the object of obtaining cheap labour and preventing these men from improving their status and standard of life. How could we trust those people with the destinies of the vast population to which the Resolution applied? The mine owners had been frank enough in the matter. They openly asked for forced labour and a head tax to compel the men to work. In this country we offered higher wages. As Sir William Harcourt once said—Taxing the poor in order to compel them to labour at work they dislike at a rate of wage far below the market price is, I believe, an economic doctrine purely of South African origin.Let them not depart from the tradition of this country whose pride it was to vindicate the freedom of labour without any distinction as to colour or race. He appealed to the House not to surrender the control of these millions of helpless, voiceless, voteless people to the tender mercies of the people of the Transvaal. Our responsibility, as Mr. Gladstone had declared, could not be conveniently confided to native Legislatures. That responsibility had been recognised repeatedly by Parliament in connection 1214 with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and other Colonies. The Resolution he proposed declared that native populations should have the protecting arm of the State to defend them from prospectors and land-grabbers. Let them learn to have reliance on British love of justice. What was immediately wanted was that in the Transvaal Constitution the prerogative of the Crown as supreme guardian of native interests in South Africa should be fully and emphatically asserted. It was a difficult question which would very soon have to be tackled. Why should a white Government destroy the system of communal land owning, which in many ways was a far better system than the system of the private ownership of land that we had in this country? Why should the happy tribal life of natives be broken up, and why should the native races be forced to labour in the bowels of the earth to dig gold which enriched only a mere handful of speculators? He anticipated the assistance of his Labour colleagues in support of the Resolution, as the rights of labourers at home were all involved in the proper consideration of labour abroad. He appealed to a Government, founded as he believed, on the principles of justice and animated by those principles—he appealed to them both on the grounds of Imperial interest and security, and on the higher moral ground of humanity to shield and shelter the unprotected subjects of the King from the dangers to which they were exposed. He moved.
§ SIR BRAMPTON GURDON (Norfolk, N.)
seconded the Resolution. He hoped the Government would always remember that it was their duty to watch over the interests of the nation, and to reserve, as he was very glad to hear they were going to do in granting a Constitution to the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, any questions affecting the natives for the consideration of the Home Government. This was very necessary, for he had observed that residence among natives was apt to blunt conceptions of what was right and wrong in their treatment. When he was sent out to South Africa about twenty years ago by Lord Beaconsfield's Government he was supplied with maps on which the north-east corner of Basutoland was marked "Very wild and wooded country, much infested 1215 by bushmen." It was their home, their country, the place where they ought to be, and that was like saying that this House was much infested with Members of Parliament. There was a great danger that this view might very often be taken, not only by the War Office, but by private residents in those countries. He thought very highly of the natives of Basutoland, who were most intelligent and advanced. When he first knew the country it was very excellently administered. After Commandant Griffith came one of the ablest servants of the Crown and one of the finest fellows he ever met, Sir M. Clarke. He was not acquainted with Bechuanaland, but he believed Sir H. Goold Adams had exercised a great influence over the country, and it was a pleasure to him to know that the officers of the British Army had risen to the occasion and had turned out most excellent administrators. He happened to be present when the independence of Swaziland was granted, and he was very sorry indeed when it was necessary to take it away. He had that morning received a letter from which he was glad to say it appeared that the future looked much brighter than he had hoped for. Large tracts—about a third of the country—were to be assigned to the natives. He trusted that, whatever Government was in, the duty of safeguarding the natives would always be reserved; that in every Constitution that was granted "no slavery, or apprenticeship partaking of slavery," would be tolerated. These were the words he used during the general election. He regretted there was not in this country the same horror of anything partaking of slavery as there was years ago. He did not think there was the same humanitarian view. He did not believe it was the idea of slavery that exercised the most influence upon the votes at the last election. He thought it was the distinct and specific promises that were made to the British working men in 1900. He well remembered that the military governor of Johannesburg just before; the end of the war promised openly that as soon as the war was over the country would be open to British workmen, and that Lord Roberts promised those who fought in the war that they should have the first chance of 1216 employment. The feeling of working men that they had been deceived had most effect at the recent election. He earnestly hoped that we should return to those feelings which animated the Wilberforces and the Clarksons, and the other great workers for freedom, and thus continue to safeguard the honour of the British nation.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That in any settlement of South African affairs, this House desires a recognition of Imperial responsibility for the protection of all races excluded from equal political rights, the safeguarding of all immigrants against servile conditions of labour, and the guarantee to the native populations of at least their existing status, with the unbroken possession of their liberties in Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and other tribal countries and reservations."—(Mr. Byles.)
§ MR. J. M. ROBERTSON (Northumberland, Tyneside)
supported the Resolution. He felt strongly that in recent discussions on South African matters the very deep interest which the great majority of Members felt in the right treatment of the natives of South Africa, no less than for the right treatment of the Chinese, was not perhaps adequately set forth, and that it was of extreme importance that it should now be fully expressed. The principle of the protection of the natives for which the Resolution contended involved looking after two things—the physical well-being of the natives and their moral well-being. That raised first of all the general question of the principle on which we should supervise the life of the more backward races over which we had control. It was very commonly held as a condition of the well-being of any nation that its political development should be sequent and continuous. We were often taught in this country that we had a great advantage or superiority over other countries in that our political development had this continuity, while that of other countries had been spasmodic. We were told how very much more wholesome was the political progress of this country than that of France, which had moved by more or less sudden steps; and yet the men who applauded this commonplace, when they had any 1217 power over the so-called lower races, were found ready to tear those races up by the roots, to make an end suddenly of the system of tribal law, and to impose upon them all at once the methods of a superior race. That had been done in South Africa as everywhere else where the white race, who called itself superior, had power over the black race, or, as it was called, the lower race. Unhappily there had never been in the whole history of mankind an instance of a civilised race taking anything like a scientific, much less a humane, method of treating the native question, which seemed always to be settled by the passion, pride, and prejudice of race. There was a special danger in South Africa in view of the Constitution about to be given to the Transvaal. In the Transvaal there were political elements which augured worse for the well-being of the native races than could be said perhaps of any elements in the other Colonies. When he was at Cape Town in 1900 he saw many exiles from Johannesburg—"helots" was the word the year before—and he was much and frequently struck by the peculiarly insolent and violent tone taken up by the Johannesburg exiles in regard to the natives. It was a matter of exasperation to them that the natives in Cape Town had some semblance of human rights. If these men had any power in the administration of the new Constitution there was the greatest danger of their using that power for the unjust treatment of the natives, from which it was our duty to protect them. He knew they would be told, as they were always told at such a juncture, that it was our duty to leave these gentlemen, after giving them a Constitution, to manage things for themselves; but it had to be remembered that if these men found themselves in any military difficulty they would once more call for the employment of the whole forces of the Empire to safeguard their interests, and it was the duty i of this country to see that the forces of the Empire should be applied for the preservation of what were considered; to be the principles of civilisation. There could be no question that with regard to the South African War, the promise and the desire to better the condition of the natives was a motive that told 1218 greatly with many people in this country. Lord Lansdowne, amongst others, including many of the clergy—and he believed most conscientiously—spoke at the time of the conditions of native life in the Transvaal as particularly bad, and looked forward to an improvement of those conditions as the great been that was to come from the war. Some of the charges made in that connection he held to be unjust. He agreed that the record of the Boers towards the natives was far from clear. He thought there had been guilt on their part, as on the part of all white races coming into contact with other races. He had heard an admission from the Boers themselves that their own calamities opened their eyes in respect of their treatment of the natives, and that they had become conscious of some guilt on their part towards others. But in so far as the charge was violently pressed on our side against them in the course of the war, he thought that it was grossly exaggerated. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham before the war spoke of the treatment of the natives by the Boers as being brutal and disgraceful; after the right hon. Gentleman came home from South Africa after the war he withdrew the charge. In the meantime, however, the war had been made largely upon that charge, and if the right hon. Gentleman's conscience was clear in the matter after his retraction so much the better for his peace of mind. It was quite clear that, whatever were the errors or delusions of people in this country with regard to our going into the war, we were morally obliged to do something for the native races. We were always, in fact, pledged in that way. The Transvaal Convention set forth what was undoubtedly then the sincere desire of people of this country—that anything approaching slavery should be prohibited under even what was called suzerainty at that time. It was this that had done so much to bring upon this country the repute for hypocrisy which it enjoyed in the eyes of Continental nations. He believed it happened in this country that humane, public-spirited Governments laid down certain provisions which they were anxious to carry out, and these Governments were followed by others who showed no such anxiety; and the total 1219 action of the country was credited to the insincerity of the race. This country was pledged to do something for the natives, and, after all the other pretences on which the war had been made had been cast to the winds or openly trodden under foot, the question was whether this promise was to be trodden under foot also. Were we to have any justification in the eyes of the world for that infamous and disastrous war? He was certain that the Government would never consent to any action which would lead to a breach of this promise. But how was the promise to be kept? The question had to be asked, What kind of life was really best for the natives? In the year 1900 there were many views set forth by the promoters of the war as to what life was best for the natives. One common view of the gentlemen of Johannesburg was that the best thing for the native was to force him to work in the gold mines for nine months and to live in a compound, at the end of which time he would make enough money to go back to his kraal, buy three wives, and do no work ever afterwards. When a little later the cue was to complain of the high wages the natives got, the tendency of the native to do that sort of thing was urged by the same gentlemen against the employment of the native. The gentlemen who ran the interests of Johannesburg had never given the slightest scientific consideration to what was really best for the natives. The assumption was made that we must take such legislative measures as would make the native do more work—that was, for the white man. The House heard a great deal about the dignity of labour in this connection. Some one had remarked concerning a celebrated writer that he had a great hunger and thirst after righteousness in others, and it was so with those who talked so much in Johannesburg about the dignity of labour. But he believed a great deal of misrepresentation was embodied in the account which had been given of the native in South Africa in respect of his disinclination to labour. They were told that the native was indolent, that he lived in perpetual sunshine, and therefore life must be made harder for him in order that he should learn the dignity of 1220 labour. If any such conditions prevailed elsewhere in the world they did not prevail in South Africa. It was not easy to make a living by hand labour in a land scourged by plagues. The native of South Africa was, properly, an agriculturist and was not well fitted for work in the mines; and it was not the business of Parliament either to force the natives of South Africa or of any other land into the mines. If there was a shortage of labour in the mines it was a calamity that ought to be borne by the gentlemen who owned the mines. Mining life for the natives was an extremely bad life in two ways. The death rate which it caused amongst natives was simply appalling, and it was particularly dreadful when natives were brought, as a number of them were, from Central Africa. There was a death rate of over 200 per 1,000 among workers in the mines from Central Africa. The mortality in the mines which were marked "good" particularly I called for the attention and intervention of the authorities. There could be no doubt that the introduction of thousands of natives to work in the mines had been the means of spreading deadly disease throughout the whole native races of South Africa. It was always in the diamond or gold mining industry that the lowest and most degrading conditions of labour prevailed. The assumption made was that there was a kind of irresistible need to develop gold mining ad libitum, and that towards that end almost any measure was necessary. He suggested that the main industry of Johannesburg, or, at any rate, that which most moved the politics of South Africa, was not so much the sinking of gold mines, as the floating of them. It was this eternal purpose of the flotation of unnecessary gold mines that underlay the whole of the perpetual demand for labour, and it was the real cause of the South African War. It was, however, as much an orthodox doctrine of political economy now as it was fifty years ago that gold-mining was not an industry which was important to civilisation at all. Coal mines were of far more value to mankind. The richest country in the world contrived to get along with almost no gold currency. The main consideration as to gold was its æsthetic value. He contended that whatever measure the Legislature adopted t[...] 1221 should not imperil the welfare of large numbers of human beings. But he denied that it could be for a moment the duty of any Legislature or Government to encourage or support the efforts of men who regarded gold-mining as a great industry because it was one that enriched them. It did not add to the wealth of the world, but only to the riches of individuals, and the duty of the Government was surely to see to the development of the real industry of South Africa, which was agriculture. By common consent gold-mining was a transient industry at the best, and the part gold-mining was now playing in South Africa was something like this: it slew tens of thousands of natives, demoralised natives by the hundred thousand, sowed among them the seeds of far-reaching diseases, and left them to begin a new life on a lower scale of civilisation. It was a common phrase in South Africa to hear it said that "a Kaffir civilised is a Kaffir spoiled." It was also remarked that the Kaffir who went into a town lost his own virtues and acquired the vices of the white man without the white man's virtues. What those particular virtues were that were thus missed by the Kaffir he could never clearly ascertain, but it was certain, by the admission of British colonists, that the Kaffir in his kraal was honest, honourable, and industrious, and if by the admission of our own colonists the species of so-called pseudo-industrial civilisation we were putting up made the Kaffir cease to have those virtues it was the duty of this House to take into consideration the means by which they might, even at the risk of arresting the development of the gold mines, save this race for the civilisation of the future. As between Boers and British, he thought the Boer had the better record of the two regarding the treatment of natives, especially if we included in the British record the wholesale demoralisation of natives in the mines. When in Natal in the year 1900 he met a number of Zulus who did not speak English, but whose language was interpreted for him by the Misses Colenso, whose beneficent sway amongst the Zulus was one of the most beautiful things to be witnessed in South Africa. He tried to get from them their own opinion as to the relative merits of life under the Boers and under 1222 the British, and none of them had been at the mines. After a very interesting discussion, in which those Zulus showed as high a capacity for judging their own interests and looking after their own affairs as they would find in the peasantry of any other race, he gathered that they had come to the conclusion that it was better for them to be under a Dutch master, because the Dutch master, though he did not give them high wages or money wages at all, gave them stock, and thus made them small farmers, whilst the British farmer paid fairly high money wages, but got a good deal of the money back in fines. So that from the Zulu point of view the native was really better off under a Dutch master than under an English master. There was no question of physical ill-usage, and this was specially important in this connection. But it was beyond question that there had been flogging and ill-usage of natives as well as Chinese in the mines. It was very difficult to put a stop to that kind of thing. There seemed to be an idea that the white man best showed his superiority over the black by treating the latter as he would treat a dangerous beast. [OPPOSITION cries of "No, no."]
§ MR. FIENNES (Oxfordshire, Banbury)
I have lived in South Africa a considerable number of years and I deny that.
§ MR. J. M. ROBERTSON
said a readiness to kick the native was common among colonists, and if a man demurred to that sort of thing he was constantly told that if he lived there six months he would adopt the views of other people. If he had been told that once, he had been told it fifty times by our own colonists. It was necessary that in the Constitution of the Transvaal measures should be taken to protect the natives from flogging and ill-usage in the mines. The main cause of the native unrest in Natal was the imposition of a poll-tax, the object of which was to force the natives to work either for smaller wages than they would otherwise get or at a kind of labour which they would not otherwise do. It was no part of their business to force native labour into the hands of capitalists. They were told that it was their duty to 1223 give the native higher needs, and that the way to give him higher needs was to tax him and make it more difficult for him to live. The true way was to educate him, but when they proposed to do this in Natal, nine men out of every ten would say it must not be done, and that they dare not do it, because that would turn out the white man. What a confession! It would be quite impossible to enforce anything like a system of proper native education in Natal, but might he suggest that it should be part of the business of the Government to give facilities for the education of natives under the new Transvaal Constitution. If this was not done, they made to the world the confession that this Empire rested upon the degradation of human life, even if they got rid altogether of Chinese labour, which was only one phase of this eternal process of degradation of life wherever capital ruled civilisation. It was a common thing to work gold mines by means of forced or servile labour. Whether they called it slavery or not the result of it was just the same. It was the same in ancient Egypt and in Rome. There was an impression that the working of gold mines by slave labour was the way to enrich a great nation, but it was just this mistaken notion which brought ruin upon Spain. Had it been the misfortune of this country to have acquired the mines in the New World which were obtained by Spain he had no doubt that all the deterioration and the financial and industrial decay which overtook Spain would have overtaken this country in exactly the same way. They had suffered enough by this tendency and this process. They had not noticed this deterioration so much because they had a healthy active industry at home; but he thought that hon. Members would agree with him when he said that they could not carry on such practices even on the fringes of their Empire without a dangerous reaction setting in. They looked to the Government to stand up for the dignity of humanity and the rights of all men. A Johannesburg capitalist, speaking of the danger of an influx of trade unionism and of the acquisition of power in governing the Transvaal by white workmen, said, that he desired that the more intellectual section of the community should govern the country. They 1224 all desired that the more intellectual section of the country should govern, in so far as it could govern in these matters, and that intellectual section was not to be found among the promoters of a ruinous and destructive capitalistic civilisation in the Transvaal.
§ MR. WEDGWOOD (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
said that for two years after the war he was resident magistrate in one of the largest districts of the Transvaal, and he therefore claimed to know something of the people. During those two years he never saw a Kaffir ill-treated in any way whatever. It struck him that this ill-treatment of the Kaffirs was one of those South African tall stories which were so often told. It was impossible to live among the Boers and country people in the Transvaal as he done and not to like and respect them. He resented, as the colonists of the Transvaal themselves would resent, the imputations which the Motion put upon them: Their best men were as good as our best men, and the average level of their civilisation was not lower than ours—it was higher. They were just as capable of humane feelings. But beside this the hon. Member was advancing a very curious doctrine. This native problem was the question of all questions which most interested the people of South Africa. It was with them from the cradle to the grave, and it was the thing that affected them more intimately than anything else. This Motion was unnecessary and irritating because our fellow-countrymen in the Transvaal were humane and reasonable people, and also because we could not possibly know so much here as they did about the question. But there was another reason. He believed it to be an impolitic Motion altogether. These Colonials objected more than anything else to being dictated to and "bossed by" anybody else. The very fact that any measure was being urged forward by the home Government was sufficient to send a great number of South Africans into the opposite camp. Especially was this the case in regard to the question of the treatment of natives. Those who had read Mr. Theale's history of South Africa would remember that it was shown that it was the interference of the missionary Philip and the 1225 fact that he had the ear of the Government at home that produced the Great Trek of 1836. South Africans were in many respects very much like the old French nobility, for they forgot nothing. If we advocated that the British Government should have the right to interfere in regard to this question, then we should unite against the Government not only the Afrikander but the new settler, not only the English but the Dutch. When we had done this, the only thing left for the Government to do would be to climb down, because the colonists would tell them in unmistakable language to go and mind their own business. Hon Gentlemen might think that this Motion would give us some sort of handle with which to expel the Chinamen from South Africa; but he thought the Government might find a better handle. He himself looked to the establishment of a Labour Party on the Rand for a handle, but this was certainly the worst that could be used. His friends in South Africa had a very lukewarm interest indeed in Chinese labour, for they did not come into contact with the Celestial and they neither benefited nor suffered by his presence. But there were questions affecting native government which did affect his friends, and one was the question of Swaziland, and another whether Indian traders and storekeepers should be allowed to compete with white traders. Such questions as those were of the utmost importance to the people of South Africa. He was not present, however, to explain those questions, although he believed that he could make out a fairly good case for colonial opinion. The point was, that the vast mass of colonial opinion was in favour of one certain line of action, and if Parliament put itself to thwart the views of colonials on these questions they were laying up for themselves a very evil future. If we gave responsible government to the Transvaal—and he was thankful that the Government were going to do so—let it be full responsible government, and let them trust their fellow-countrymen. He wanted to see as wide an electorate as possible. Every adult white man should have a vote, and he wished one vote to have one value, so that the men of our own race with their unfortunately small families might have as good a chance as possible. He 1226 did not want to see a mere travesty of responsible government. Every Afrikander, every man of our own race, if we interfered with their wishes and pressed home the views of this country in opposition to their views, would give us only one answer, which it would not be Parliamentary to state, but which began with the words "Go to—." And they would be quite right too, because if we were going to trust them we should trust them altogether.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
said he thought that most moderate men would be grateful for the speech to which they had just listened. Whatever might be thought upon the question generally, the evidence given by a man who knew the country of which he spoke and who had had the practical experience of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme must always command respect and attention. When he first read this Motion he thought that on the whole he could agree with it in most of its terms. There was, however, one phrase in the Motion which was intended to have an effect upon the action of the Government in regard to the question of Chinese labour, but the other terms of the Motion should command their attention, and be the subjects upon which the House decided to-night whether there was a division or not. He wished to say a word in corroboration of what the hon. Member opposite had said in regard to the Boer and British population and the attitude of the people of the Transvaal, the Orange River Colony, and the other Colonies in South Africa. Of course it was an easy thing to say that the colonists would resent any action of the Imperial Legislature. He had had a great deal of experience of the Colonies and he ventured to say that the Colonial Legislatures would listen with respect and deference to the views of the Imperial Legislature if those views were put forward temperately and moderately, and without the acrimony of Party controversy behind them. That was the kind of thing of which the colonists complained, for they did not like questions of this kind being made subjects of Party controversy. He thought that behind the speech of the hon. Member for Tyneside there ran all 1227 through a tone of acrimony against the past Government—[Cries of "No, no!"]—and he based the burden of his charge upon the late war for which he held the late Government responsible. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Hear, hear!"] They accepted the responsibility, but the war was thrust upon them. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes, it was forced upon them by the ultimatum of President-Kruger, ["Oh, oh!"] They accepted full responsibility for the war, and they were ready to defend the action which they took. What they quarrelled with was the statement made by the hon. Member that it was an infamous war. ["It was."] All he could say was that the late Parliament, by a large majority of its Members, did not characterise that war as an infamous one. [An HON. MEMBER: And where are they now?] Hon. Members opposite had been permitted to make violent charges which were uncalled for without a single dissentient voice from the Opposition, but when he made an attempt to defend the position taken by the late Government he was treated by hon. Members opposite as though he were uttering sentiments unworthy of a man who held honest convictions. ["No, no!"] The hon. Member below the gangway had said that gold mining was practically unnecessary in the development of the commerce and industry of the world. He commended that statement to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He commended it also to the people responsible for the finances of this country and to all those who understood what commerce and finance were in this or any other country. The hon. Member said that life in gold mines was always demoralising and degrading, but he would challenge that statement from first to last. He challenged the hon. Member for Tyneside to assert that life in the mines of Australia and the United States was degrading, and contended that, after the first stage of development, the life in mines settled down into the ordinary occupation of making money and providing a product from raw material for the needs of the country and of the world, which was exactly the same as that coming from any other industry. It had been said that it would be dangerous to give to the new Colonies the control of the natives. 1228 It had been suggested that the Commission on Native Affairs which sat from 1903 and reported in 1905 was a packed Commission. Would any hon. Member who looked at the names of the Commissioners and who had read their Report characterise it as a packed Commission? The Commission included Mr. Sloley, the Acting Commissioner for Basutoland, Mr. Marshall Campbell of Natal, who was an expert authority on native affairs, and Colonel Sandford. The statement that it was a packed Commission would not stand the test of any investigation whatever. There were also on the Commission a gentleman from Cape Colony, two gentlemen from Natal, one from the Orange River Colony, one from the Transvaal, and one from Rhodesia. All these gentlemen gave their decision on the evidence presented to them. All of them represented in their separate communities as much uprightness and respect as could be given to any body of men by their fellow-citizens. Their judgment, as stated in a summary of the Report which he would quote, was not in favour of the breaking up of the communal system. Their judgment was that—The time has arrived when locations and reserves should be defined, delimited, and reserved for natives by legislative enactment.What more did the hon. Gentleman, want? Further the Commissioners said—This should be done with a view to finality in the provision of land for the native population, and thereafter no more land should be reserved for native occupation. The purchase and leasing of land by natives should in future be limited to a certain area to be defined by legislative enactment, with view to preventing them from coming into conflict with European landowners. Unrestrained squatting on private farms is deprecated, and it is recommended that no native other than bona-fide servants of the occupier, with their families, should be permitted to live on private lands except under Government sanction and control.Could any conclusions more meet the expressed views of the mover and seconder of the Motion than those arrived at by that Commission? What conclusion did the Commission come to as to labour?—The remedies suggested are the checking of the practice of squatting, the imposition of a tax on locations based on the number of able-bodied natives domiciled therein, the imposition of a rent on natives living on Crown lands, the encouragement of a high standard among 1229 natives by giving support to education as well as to industrial and manual training. It further recommends direct taxation by means of a poll or hut tax of not less than £1 a year in any colony, farm servants in continuous employment being exempted.We were to give the natives protection under new conditions and opportunities for being civilised. Did the hon. Member object to the native being taxed in order to obtain the protection which secured him the benefits of education and gave him opportunities for development he would not otherwise possess?
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said he wondered whether there ever had been a development from barbarism to civilisation and the higher forms of life without giving to the individual who was developed some sort of civic responsibility. It was that sort of civic responsibility which every Government in South Africa proposed in connection with the development of the natives. The mover of the Motion suggested that the natives should be on an exact equality with other races. The natives were in such a position morally, and they should be put in such a position legally, but not until they had placed themselves in a position to be so regarded. In a pamphlet published by Theophilus Schreiner in 1901 in regard to the question of what should be the future of the natives of the Transvaal, Natal, and other colonies, the writer quoted the following statement made in the name of the Home Government by Sir Alfred Milner and Lord Kitchener to Commandant Botha in connection with the peace negotiations—As regards the extension of the franchise to Kaffirs in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, it is not the intention of His Majesty's Government to give such franchise before representative government is granted to these colonies, and if then given, it will be so limited as to secure the just predominance of the white races. The legal position of coloured persons will, however, be similar to that which they hold in the Cape Colony.In the same pamphlet Mr. Schreiner also quoted the following words used by 1230 the Secretary of State for the Colonies in the communication which fixed these terms—We cannot consent to purchase peace by leaving the coloured population in the position in which they stood before the war, with not even the ordinary civil rights which the Government of the Cape Colony has long conceded to them.Commenting on these declarations Mr. Schreiner said—These are noble words, worthy of the highest, moral prestige of England, at any time in her history, and they give one the assurance that England will not fail to do the right with regard to the important question under discussion.If the hon. Gentleman opposite accepted Mr. Schreiner as an authority on one side of the question would he accept him on the other also? It had been stated here to-night that we were all brothers. He approved of the definition of the Australian who, on being challenged by a certain Free Church minister as to his willingness to accept a native as a brother said, "Yes, I will accept him as a brother, but I will not accept him as a brother-in-law." Beneath that answer lay the secret of the whole question. If the native was to be civilised some degree of civic responsibility was essential; and his moral equality with the white could not be admitted until he was able to take his part in the development of the country in which he was protected. He did not say that the Kaffir could not be educated; but, if he were placed in a position in which he would have absolute responsibility for the development of national or civic life along lines we believed to be civilised, the Government must break down. The education of the native must be a matter of great patience, great care, and great solicitude. What he required more than anything else was training in artisan labour. Therein lay the secret of the development of these races if they were to be developed along the lines which we believed would make them civilised citizens, and that would require a very long period of instruction. He believed that most Members of the House would be willing that the existing system in South Africa should remain, under which the High Commissioner had absolute control of the final application to the natives of all laws passed by the Legislature. 1231 This much-abused packed Commission had been so democratic as to suggest that the natives should have representatives in the Parliaments of the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal, and that these natives should be, as it were, an electorate by themselves to choose representatives for the discussion of their own affairs in those Legislatures. If that Commission could give a judgment so democratic as that, would not the House treat their conclusions with respect and deference? He defied the House to read the judgments of this Commission without being impressed by the anxiety on the part of right-minded men to find a solution of a problem which lay so close to the hearts of South Africans. This Ethiopian movement in South Africa did not spring from the hut tax, but was an attempt to teach the 6,000,000 of Africans as against the. 1,000,000 odd of whites, that South Africa was theirs. Did any sensible man contend that South Africa, its industries and its resources, all belonged to the native races? It belonged to civilisation, and it was the duty of civilisation to show the native of the land that he had never used its illimitable resources. In Canada, the United States, Australia, and elsewhere, the natives were being taught that the land in which they lived should be improved and developed exactly as they themselves were being taught and developed. That development could only take place through the wise and non-tyrannous dominance of a white race like our own. He appealed to hon. Members to take a temperate view of this matter and not to associate this movement with the question of the development of the mines. He did not believe that the present Government would do otherwise than take a sane view of this matter, and give to the Legislatures of the colonies independence on the question of the natives, reserving for the Imperial authority power to supervise.
§ THE UNDER - SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. CHURCHILL,) Manchester, N.W.
The hon. Member who has just sat down has urged us to discuss this matter in a temperate spirit, and, having listened to the whole of this debate, I am bound to say that I have rarely heard a 1232 debate conducted with more harmony and moderation. Certainly I shall not be the first to introduce any element of disagreement. His Majesty's Government will not resist the Motion of my hon. friend, but, on the contrary, we shall gladly further his wish to inscribe it in the journals of the House. We accept fully the proposition that there is an Imperial responsibility for the protection of native races not represented in legislative assemblies, and I have in former times, not so long ago, joined with my hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Abercromby Division of Liverpool to assert, as I hope it may always be in my power to assert, the right of any British subject of any race, or any colour, however humble may be his position and however distant the land in which he dwells, to the sympathy and respect of the House of Commons. Taking the second proposition in the Resolution, we have said more than once in both Houses of Parliament that while in regard to the labour conditions in South Africa we are prepared to leave in the hands of the local legislatures all the social, political, and financial considerations, the Imperial Parliament must be consulted in regard to anything which raises moral consideration; and it has been asserted that we shall use the veto of the Crown without hesitation in respect to any legislation which we consider infringes the fundamental principles of British liberty. The third proposition of the Resolution is that to the natives of South Africa should be secured at least their existing status and the maintenance of those reservations in which they are permitted to dwell under their own tribal regulations. That shall be the unceasing care of His Majesty's Government so long as it is represented by its present members.
Let me look for a moment at some of the colonies in South Africa. In Cape Colony the natives are enfranchised, and although I do not pretend that there are no questions at issue between black and white, yet broadly, it may be said that the natives in Cape Colony have machinery at their disposal for making their voices heard. As to Natal, I will say something a little more in detail before I sit down. Bechuanaland and Basutoland are practically and virtually independent provinces under the special protection of 1233 the British Crown, administered by the High Commissioner; and let the House be quite assured that there is no intention of derogating in the slightest degree from the position that they at present occupy. Lord Selborne has in the last few days visited Basutoland—which I think is a rare thing, though not an unprecedented thing, for the High Commissioner to do—and I think that his sympathy and interest in the natives of Basutoland cannot but be advanced by the close personal contact into which he has come with their headmen and the paramount chief. In regard to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, to some extent our hands are tied because, as the House well knows, by the terms of the surrender at Vereeniging we agreed with the Boers that no franchise should be extended to the natives of the country until self-government had been granted. At question time my hon. friend the Member for Preston asked whether "natives" included the natives of India. According to the strict interpretations of language the agreement would not include the natives of India; but, according to the general acceptance of the term, "natives" have been taken in many regulations, ordinances, and statutes to include all men of colour belonging to Africa, Asia, or America.
§ MR. HAROLD COX (Preston)
May I ask whether that is the definition of the word "native" which is given in the report of the South African Natives Commission?
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I will not quarrel with my hon. friend on a matter of definition or interpretation. I think we are all agreed that we must avoid anything that would be regarded as a breach of faith by those men who fought in the war with such great pertinacity and courage, and nothing would more embitter our relations or embarrass our prospects in future if they had it in their power to say that we had availed ourselves of any strictly legal interpretation to avoid carrying out the conditions of the treaty. We have said that we will reserve and give instructions that there should be reserved and set up special machinery for reserving all questions in which the treatment of the native is to be differentiated from the treatment of Europeans 1234 living in the country. The Government are furthermore considering the question of reserving an annual sum of money for the administration of native affairs. The principle of making these reservations in the formation of a constitution is a very clearly established principle in our Colonial system. In the constitution of Western Australia, alluded to by my hon. friend, there is reserved a grant of £5,000 a year, but the Government of West Australia spends a great deal more than that on the education of the natives. There is a reservation in Natal of £10,000 concerning the administration of which I shall have something to say presently. The Commonwealth Parliament of Australia has imitated us by making a similar reservation in the case of New Guinea. I do not wish to anticipate the general statement that will be made, I hope, during the course of the session on the constitutions which will be given to the Transvaal and Orange River Colony; but I say, with every desire to attach significance to my words, that the principle of reserving a definite sum for the special interests of natives and for the maintenance of a native department is one which is receiving earnest attention, and will, I have every reason to believe, issue in accomplished fact. There only remains the question of Swaziland. That is a case in which independence did not produce the good results one might have hoped would have followed from the gift. The King of Swaziland, like other persons prominently connected with South Africa, showed himself profligate with the resources of his people; and in the course of a few years he managed to hand over to concession hunters almost every available source of revenue. The conditions we have found in Swaziland were such as promised no stability whatever. The natives obtained the bare right of living on the land, but concessionnaires everywhere had superior rights of grazing and mining over the same land. A Commission has been at work with the object of terminating this dual and conflicting ownership of the land, and ascertaining once for all what belongs to the natives, and giving them that absolutely for their exclusive use, and ascertaining what in law as recognised by the late Government, of the Transvaal, and consequently by us, belongs 1235 to the concessionaires. An area of 154,000 acres has been mentioned as the quantity of land which will be allocated to the native. I am informed, however, that certainly not less than 1,000,000 out of a total of 3,000,000 acres in the country will be so allocated Any opportunity of justly increasing the proportion in favour of the native which may present itself will be eagerly seized upon.
Turning to the more general subject of debate I would venture to draw a distinction between harsh customs which we dislike and positive cruelty. Positive cruelty requires on all occasions the severe and stern condemnation of this House, and I do not think we should be deterred from speaking our minds by any fear of Colonial susceptibilities. All forms of cruelty to natives are to be reprobated, but there is one form of cruelty which is especially odious; it is when it lakes the form of the exploitation of natives for the purpose of gain. In any such cases it should be clearly understood that His Majesty's Government will do all in their power perhaps will run the risk of attempting something beyond their power—to bring the opinion of the House to bear upon those concerned. For my part regarding as I do all taxation as an evil, I am certainly not prepared to support any system of taxation which, apart from the general purpose of raising revenue for the service of the country, has for its object the intention of forcing natives to do work which, under ordinary economic conditions, they would not have chosen to do, and which no machinery exists to force them to do. The late High Commissioner in South Africa, Lord Milner, was a statesman of fine professions. I do not think anybody could have expressed more clearly and more cogently what I think would be the view of the House to-night upon this subject than Lord Milner. He says—The essence of wisdom with regard to the coloured question is discrimination—not to throw all people of colour, the highest as well as the lowest, into one indistinguishable heap, but to follow closely the differences of race, of circumstances, and of degress of civilisation, and to adapt your policy intelligently to the several requirements of each.There is very often a great deal of difference between profession and performance. I make no charges against 1236 Lord Milner's humanity. It is quite true that within the past few days he has come forward into the political arena as a Party politician. [OPPOSITION cries of "No!"], and he cannot be said to be any longer under the ægis of the great Department which he served for so long. I should not myself be anxious to be forward in attacking him; but I tell the House most frankly that certainly, as far as I am concerned—and I think I speak for others who sit here—I should not put myself to any undue or excessive exertion to defend Lord Milner from any attacks which might be made upon him. Lord Milner's position in regard to the native question in South Africa is necessarily a very weak one. Being regarded after the war as the inveterate enemy of the Dutch, as the prime author of all their miseries, he had to fall back for his support upon the British section of the population, and upon that particular British section of the population which is called the mine-owning group. In order to placate the mine-owning group, he had somewhat to ignore the interests of the British population. In order to propitiate the British population he had to sacrifice the interests of the Dutch, and in order to compensate the mine-owners, British and Dutch, for these disadvantages he had to sacrifice the interests of the natives. His fine proclamation, which was to have enabled all respectable men of colour to be relieved from the objectionable regulations and provisions of the law, and which was to have established the principle of equal rights for all civilised men, irrespective of colour or creed, from the Cape to the Zambesi, under his administration, resulted in the fact that in the Transvaal only fifteen gentlemen of colour were exempted from the provisions of the ordinary law; and it was left to my noble friend Lord Elgin to apply the provisions of this proclamation to the Orange River Colony. That has been done within the course of the present year. In addition, under Lord Milner, largely increased taxation was levied on the natives of the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies, and although it is quite true to say that the use of the lash was largely diminished, it is necessary to observe that the diminution in 1237 the use of the lash was mainly due to the exertions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and not by any means to the exertions of the distinguished representative of the King's authority in that part of the world.
I will not speak at any length of the motives and principles which have led my hon. friend to bring forward this Resolution. They are motives and principles which are perfectly appropriate when expressed by the representative of a district not altogether unconnected with Manchester. He has that wide sympathy with all native races which has always been one of the noblest characteristics of the old Manchester school. I was reading an entertaining essay by an American author the other day, which I think expresses in the fullest and most complete form the motives which have influenced my hon. friend. If the House will pardon me I will read an extract from it—The Deity that suffers us, we may be sure, can suffer many another queer and wondrous and only half delightful tiling. … The inner significance of other lives exceeds till our powers of sympathy and insight. If we feel a significance in our own life which would lead us spontaneously to claim its perpetuity, let us be at least tolerant of like claims made by other lives, however numerous, however unideal they may seem to us to be.I would remind the House that this philosophical observation is sustained by an extract from the report of the Committee on Native Labour in South Africa, which was quoted some years ago in letters, widely published, by the late Sir William Harcourt, whose active and vigilant humanity led him to champion the cause of those whom he thought had no other protector than an eminent Member of Parliament.Not alone,he said—does the native labour assiduously at cultivating his wives' fields, but the young men migrate ill their thousands to the mines. Statistics prove these natives, and more especially the Fingoes, to be by far the most industrious people in South Africa. In fact, the native supports the whole economic fabric on his depised and dusky back. It is he that has built our railways; without him the working of our mines would be impossible.Now, sir, I have endeavoured to state the general principles which have influenced the action of my hon. friend. 1238 But let me also ask the attention of the House while I remark that there are several limitations which must in practice be observed. I hope the House will not think me disrespectful or sneering when I say that we must not forget that, in regard to this native question our principles and sympathies entail no positive sacrifice upon us. Whatever standard we may set up, however lofty it is, it costs us no inconvenience. We may set up the most lofty standard; it is other people who have to live up to it. I do not suggest that for that reason we should lower the standard of our professions. But that fact emphasizes the necessity for caution in applying our principles to the existing circumstances of the case, in the Colonies with which we have to deal. I now ask the House to face other considerations. There are many things in the laws of the colonial Governments which frankly we do not like. We do not approve of them, and we wish they were not there. There are, for instance, provisions which exclude the natives from walking on the footpath in a town, which offend against our sense of democratic equality. But harsh laws are sometimes better than no laws at all, and unless we carry public opinion with us in procuring the removal of any of these objectionable provisions the result would only be their lawless assertion, which, I believe, would impose more injustice and tyranny on the natives than the regulated assertion which is contained in a statute of law. The second limitation on our action, is of course, the great principle of self-government. Self-government is not a moral principle, and when it comes into collision with moral principles I think upon occasion it should be over-borne. But self-government is a fundamental maxim of Liberal colonial policy. It is the master-key of many of the problems which embarrass and perplex us. The responsible government of a Colony is a great gift: it is, I think, the greatest and best gift that we can bestow—the bestowal of Home Rule upon a distant community, to live their own life in their own way, to develop their own civilisation according to their own ideals, through the agency of a representative Legislative Assembly and an Executive responsible thereto. It sounds familiar, does it not? 1239 It is one of the most precious gifts we can bestow; but it is a gift that can only be bestowed once. Once it has been given, it is not good to grudge it, and it is impossible to limit or restrict it. It is with these two limitations in mind that I would ask the House to survey the more general considerations which we have to entertain to-night. We have in the British Empire numbers of native States and Dependencies where there are native questions and racial questions of great complexity. All are governed by peculiar conditions. Every one differs markedly from the other. Having regard to all these conditions, our power of intervention varies greatly. In some cases we have great and overwhelming power of intervention, in other cases we have hardly any power of intervention at all. I submit respectfully to the House as a general principle that our responsibility in this matter is directly proportionate to our power. Where there is great power there is great responsibility, where there is less power there is less responsibility, and where there is no power there can, I think, be no responsibility. It is on that general foundation that I approach the questions connected with South Africa. Let me remark that Parliamentary interest in the native question ought not to be confined to South Africa. There are many other countries where things are done which require vigilant attention. But we know more about South Africa than about any other Colony for three reasons—because we have had great wars there, because we have paid more for it, and because a large military force is maintained there, and has been maintained there in the past partly with the avowed intention of redressing the disproportion between the numbers of natives and of European settlers. Therefore in South Africa, above all other Colonies, we are provided with a most sure foothold for intervention in behalf of the natives. We have greater power and therefore greater responsibility. A self-governing Colony is not entitled to say one day, "Hands off; no dictation in our internal affairs," and the next day to telegraph for the protection of a brigade of British infantry. But if we have special duties in South Africa, the circumstances of the time impose upon us an extra degree of caution. Although it is 1240 the Colony in which we have the greatest power to intervene, it is also a Colony the most unhappy, the most vexed and torn, and in a highly sensitive condition. The ordeal through which South Africa has passed must not be forgotten. We talk of the heavy cost of the war, of £240,000,000 paid by us, to which South Africa has contributed nothing. But, Sir, the sufferings of South Africa have been such as no Treasury account could equate. Disaster and ruined homes, wrecked railways and three years cut from the free life of every South African under the harsh infliction of martial law, a dislocated social organisation, a devastated countryside—that is the contribution South Africa has made to the tragedy of the last few years.
The native question, everywhere deserving attention, has in Natal assumed certain features which give ground for legitimate anxiety. That the Colony is acutely apprehensive may be judged from the fact that because two policemen have been killed the whole Colony has been placed under martial law, all the local forces are mobilised, and a censorship has been established over the cable. But the danger is now lessened. Prompt action has, I think, prevented a native rising. And let us not once forget that all native risings begin with the massacre of a few lonely whites and end in a butchery of many blacks. The Natal Government are anxious that a battalion of troops should be sent to Pietermaritzburg to meet any emergency, and they offer to contribute £6,000 a year towards the cost. The House will consider whether that is altogether unreasonable. I confess that, personally, having marched and wandered over a considerable part of the beautiful grassy undulations of Natal, and having mingled a little with Natalians, I have considerable respect and affection for them. Perhaps the Natal Government has not shown as much liberality towards the natives as they might have done. I do not think £8,650 a year for educating the natives is very lavish. But I hope we may be able in future years by any leverage which may be open to us to secure a greater proportion of money to be devoted to native education and to the general amelioration of the condition of the natives in Natal. On the whole, 1241 however, the natives in Natal have been a very happy people. They have increased greatly in numbers by immigration as well as by births. The positive occasion of the manifestation of discontent just witnessed has been the collection of the poll-tax. That has been the provocation, but the real causes lie deeper, than the immediate cause of discontent. The poll-tax is a tax to which every one, I think, would have objections in principle. It seems absurd, on the face of it, to tax the poor native at the same rate as the rich planter; but the answer of the Natal Government would be that it is desired as a matter of policy to impose increased taxation on the native, and that the native will even so be more lightly taxed than in any other part of South Africa. Wishing to impose increased taxation upon the natives, they looked out for a method. The increase of the hut-tax as an alternative was greatly to be deprecated. It would mean over-crowding of huts, with serious consequences affecting at once morality and health. Wishing therefore to adopt the poll-tax, Natal has deprived it of racial significance by making it applicable to all classes and races within the Colony. I cannot believe that the opposition to the poll-tax is more than a symptom of discontent far more general in its character and far more remote in its original cause. I submit to the House that native feeling has been profoundly disturbed by the progress of the war. During a war extending over three years they have witnessed scenes of bloodshed. They have seen the dead Boer farmer amongst the rocks and the wounded British soldier creeping for succoar to the kraal, and have heard the distant firing of artillery. They have seen the spectacle prolonged month after month of two white races, whose authority they have always recognised, engaged in fratricidal strife. Such spectacles have produced impressions upon the native mind and aroused excitements in the native breast which it will take many years of calm, prudent, and tactful administration to allay. Upon this, or perhaps beneath it, at any rate simultaneously with it, comes the strange and rather sinister Ethiopian movement, 1242 partly religious and wholly and specifically a coloured movement. It is stimulated by coloured missionaries belonging to the African Methodist Episcopalian Church, a branch of the Methodist Episcopalian Church in the United States, one of the oldest, certainly the most powerful and the most remarkable organisation to which negroid civilisation has yet given rise. Missionaries of this Church wander to and fro among the native tribes and villages of South Africa. They repeat the story of Esau and Jacob, of Esau the stronger and the elder who was robbed of his birthright by the craft and fortune of a favoured younger brother. They represent the white men as intruders and robbers who have deprived the native of his inheritance, and they say "Africa for the Africans" and other disconcerting propositions of that character. If to all this be add id the indecisive warfare in German East Africa, the prolonged and not altogether unsuccessful resistance which has been maintained season after season by a few poor tribes against German regular troops; if there be added the perceptible hardening against the native which was characteristic of the Milner regime, while I say there is no reason for immediate apprehension, I am bound to add that this aspect of South African affairs contains elements which require stern and patient attention. In the presence of such an issue all the harsh discordances which divide the European population in South Africa vanish. Farmer and capitalist, Randlord and miner, and Boer, Briton, and Africander forget their bitter feuds and are all united in the presence of what they regard as the greatest peril which they will ever have to face. Even during the worst stresses of the war it was regarded as a nameless crime on either side to set the black man on his fellow foe. I would ask the House to remember for one moment the figures of the South African census. There were 630,000 whites in 1891 to 3,000,000 natives; in fourteen years time in 1904, 1,135,000 whites, to 5,200,000 natives. In the United States the proportion of white men to natives is eight to one, and even there I believe there is sometimes something approaching to racial difficulties, but in South 1243 Africa the proportion is one white man to five natives. I ask the House to remember the gulf which separates the African negro from the immemorial civilisations of India and China. The House must remember these things in order to appreciate how the colonists feel towards that ever-swelling sea of dark humanity upon which they with all they hate and all they love float somewhat une[...]sily. In this land of bewildering paradox good produces evil and evil produces good. The gold mines, so long needed to repair the annual deficits, have proved to be the greatest of curses, overwhelming the land from end to end with blood and fire, leaving an evil legacy of debt and animosity behind This black peril, as it is called in the current discussions of the day, is surely as grim a problem as any mind could be forced to face. Yet it is the one bond of union between the European races who live in the country, the one possibility of making them forget the bitter and senseless feuds that have so long prevailed: and which may have led the people of South Africa to look with a real feeling of self-interest and comfort to the armed forces of the British Crown. Let us hope that the presence of a common danger will draw together the two Europeans races and make them forget their long enduring feuds: and let us hope too that the new charity which may come from that feeling of union may lead them to unite, not for the purpose of crushing the native by force, but in the nobler and wiser policy of raising the native to his proper position as an inheritor in what is after all a great estate. At any rate, Mr. Speaker, the course of the Imperial Government is clear. The Government believe that in those wide lands there is enough for all. As far as we have any right or power to intervene, whenever our intervention will be useful, or will not be positively harmful, we will labour to compose the racial differences and animosities by which South Africa has been distracted. We will endeavour as far as we can to advance the principle of equal rights of civilised men irrespective of colour. We will encourage as far as may be in our power a careful, patient discrimination 1244 between different classes of coloured men. We will not—at least I will pledge myself—hesitate to speak out when necessary if any plain case of cruelty or exploitation of the native for the sordid profit of the white man can be proved. Above all, we will labour to secure as far as we can a proper status for our Indian fellow-subjects, and to preserve those large reservations of good, well-watered land where the African abor ginal, for whom civilisation has no charms, may dwell secluded and at peace. The Government will not oppose the Motion of the hon. Member. I recognise the friendly terms in which it is couched and welcome the moderate and sympathetic expressions which have been used in this debate; and believing, Mr. Speaker, that Parliamentary attention is rarely directed to any particular object without good results ultimately ensuing, I am very glad that the House of Commons has chosen to-night to survey from another and too often neglected stand point, the sombre panorama of South African affairs.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
I have listened to the opening speeches of the debate with an ominous sense that history may repeat itself in South Africa, and repeat itself disastrously. That apprehension is only partially dispelled by the speech of the Under-Secretary. The assertion in the House of Commons of principles without qualification is a method easily misunderstood in South Africa, and it is with a sense of relief that I watched the hon. Gentleman, not for the first time within a week, climb down from those airy regions of philosophy and general admonition of the whole world to walk on the plane of the earth like another man and see the difficulties that confront other men. It appears, then, that this philanthropy, as far as it costs anything, is going to cost something to our fellow-subjects in South Africa and nothing to us here. The Under-Secretary insisted on the danger of a breach of faith—that the Government are bound by the Vereeniging peace. If the Government is going to give liberty to the South African Colonies and at the same time 1245 to insist on absolute equality, not only between Boer and Briton, but between white and native, they will make a worse mess of the application of principles to hard facts than the authors of the French Revolution. The Under-Secretary says that there are grave symptoms of native unrest in South Africa. Ought not Members of Parliament, then, to weigh somewhat carefully the words of such a Motion as this and be very cautious in their speeches on such a Motion? The value of all the limitations in one part of the hon. Member's speech—marred only by the unjust and unfounded attack on Lord Milncr—is discounted by the other part of the speech. The Under-Secretary accepts this Motion, and yet one of his own supporters finds much to quarrel with in its terms, because it will not be understood either by Boer or by Briton in South Africa. For years there has been a feeling of soreness in the minds not only of the British but still more in the minds of the Boers, because they thought we dealt in these airy generalisations and imputed to them unjustly a lack of humanity which cannot justly be imputed to either Boer or Briton in South Africa. Our fellow subjects cannot be expected to acquiesce in all these moral reservations if with them statements are volunteered which are wholly impracticable, which show an absence of all knowledge of the conditions under which South African colonists live, and which are injurious to them as men and brothers. What will newspaper readers of South Africa think to-morrow when they see that the mother of Parliaments has been gravely discussing the economic theory that gold mines are of no use to civilisation? What will they think when they find that the hon. Member for the Tyneside Division of Northumberland has committed himself to this statement—What these white men's virtues were I never could ascertain"?In South Africa that will be understood to mean that in the opinion of the hon. Member the boast of the white that he belongs to a higher civilisation is only a boast and not a fact. The hon. Member cannot offer a greater affront to South African sentiment and cherished convictions than to tell the white inhabitants 1246 that they have nothing to teach the natives, for whose good and well-being, in my opinion, they have shown very great regard.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I regret that the hon. Member in a speech, the ability of which we all recognise, should have gone on to draw a distinction between the white races in South Africa, and one not in favour of his own countrymen, at a time when all whites ought to be united in face of native unrest. The hon. Member even went so far as to say that our Empire in South Africa would be charged with the degradation of life. Why, our Empire in South Africa has made any life there possible. The present native races now inhabiting South Africa are new races in that country. In the days of our grandfathers over 1,000,000 men were put to death. The present races exist in South Africa because of British rule. It is only thirty years ago that the Fingoes were almost exterminated; now there are 250,000 of them under the British flag. I have but a few more moments of time at my command. As I have said, I welcome the latter part of the Under-Secretary's speech. I trust that that part, with the omission of his injurious attack on Lord Milner, will be cabled to South Africa, and that much else which has been said to-night will not be cabled to South Africa. May I remind the House, and especially right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, that this is not the first time that the question of the relations of white men with the natives in South Africa has been mishandled? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who knows history well, need scarcely be reminded of the experiences of Lord Glenelg. Let him turn to the index of Dr. Teale's "History of South Africa," which gives an epitome of the history of Lord Glenelg's connection with South Africa. I will read it—Lord Glenelg becomes Secretary of State for the Colonies, 1835—is in full sympathy with the Party represented in South Africa by the Rev. Dr. Phillip—reverses all that Sir Benjamin D'Urban has done, and finally, after causing unbounded discontent and inflicting severe losses on the Cape Colony, is forced in 1247 1839 by his colleagues to resign his Secretary-ship of State.It was his mischievous interference between the Boer and the native races, his failure to show some intelligent sympathy with the difficulties which the Boers had to meet living there with those races, that caused the first great calamity of South Africa—namely, the Great Trek northwards. From that came all the woes of South Africa. It was precipitated by a lack of sympathy in this House with the great difficulties which faced Boer and Briton at every turn in practical life in South Africa, and I beg the Under-Secretary, when next he attempts to soar over their heads and illuminate them with so many copybook maxims [Cries of "Oh"] to recollect the disaster which dogged the adventure of Lord Glenelg, and to devote an even greater portion of his speech than he has to-night to the grave difficulties which face white men under our flag in South Africa.