§ Order for second reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Colonel SEELY)
I am conscious that I am unworthy of the task which is imposed upon me, but following the precedent of a similar Bill, which was introduced into this House to unify or federate Canada, the task falls to me, and therefore I must claim the indulgence of the House while I explain to them as briefly as I can the provisions of this Bill. I will not go at any length into the growth and history of the feeling in favour of union. It is well set out in a very able Memorandum of Lord Selborne, and I cannot expect to add anything to the very clear and lucid statement of my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, both in another place and in his speeches to the country. But this may be said, that this is no new desire on the part of the people of South Africa. All those who have lived in South Africa, whether they have left this country or not, have dreamed of union as the true solution of South African difficulties. As long ago as 1858, Sir George Grey, whose name will always be remembered with honour in South Africa and in England, proposed a scheme of union, and it was endorsed then, as this scheme is endorsed now, by the Orange Free State. Still it came to nothing. Further efforts were made by Lord Carnarvon, but they also did not succeed, and perhaps in both cases the reason was that, as Lord Selborne said, in neither case were the schemes entirely home-made. In this case the impetus comes from South Africa itself. At any rate, they did not succeed, and strife continued, and ultimately came the great South African war; but even then the ideal of union was not forgotten—union as only rendered possible by the union of the peoples who live in South Africa—union not of Governments, but of sentiment and aspiration. As soon as the war was over that ideal found expression. It found expression in South Africa in eloquent words from the lips of the Dutch, and it found expression from one whose absence from this Debate I am confident all of us, in whatever quarter of the House we sit, equally deplore—I mean the right hon. 952 Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). I cannot forbear to quote—and I will only quote twice in the remarks I have to make—I cannot forbear to quote at length the striking words he used shortly after the declaration of peace. On 29th July, 1902, speaking in this House, he said:—At least we may say that we start with a favouring gale: at least we may say, that those brave and able men, those gallant soldiers who laid down their arms and loyally accepted King Edward VII. as their Sovereign have been showing by everything that they have said since, how true they intend to he to their pledges and promises: and as they have retained, I am glad to say, their old influence with their followers, we may hope that they also recognise that under their new flag they may find prosperity and a condition of things which will in the end lie satisfactory to them. We have no intention, we have no desire, that these Boers, our former foes, should break with all their old traditions. We desire that they should preserve all the best characteristics of their race. We hope they will shake hands with us. that tiny will bury the animosity that has existed, and that they will co-operate with us in securing the prosperity of South Africa under a flag which, whatever may be said of us, has, at all events, protected differences of race, differences of religion, differences of language, and which will secure for all those who are under it, the peaceful enjoyment of their industry and the blessings of even-handed justice.These were eloquent words spoken by one with whom we often have not agreed, but they are peculiarly apposite to the circumstances under which we find ourselves to-day. The very men to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred have been foremost, as he prophesied they would be, in promoting that union of sentiment, that feeling of common nationality which has enabled this Bill to be introduced. With their distinguished colleagues they are in this country now—the leader of their forces in war, General Botha and others who signed the treaty of peace, and others on the English side, some who fought against them—and they have come bringing this Bill. They say, in fact, "We are one people under one King, let us have one Parliament," and if, as we may hope and believe, this House accepts the Bill, for this is the last stage it must go through, this union will assuredly be completed, and following the gracious precedent set by himself, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has decided to go to South Africa and inaugurate the new régime by opening the Parliament for the first time. Who are the delegates? I must say a word about them. I will not name them all because their names are familiar to all, and they will, of course, be remembered here and in South Africa. But one I must name, Sir Henry de Villiers. It is not too much to say that without his unfailing tact, his wide know- 953 ledge of law and South African affairs and his unselfish devotion to a great cause, the difficult path of union might never have been successfully traversed. We here express our gratitude to him for all that he has done, and we only regret that on this, the final stage, he is not in this country, having been obliged to return to South Africa owing to the illness of Lady de Villiers. We gratefully acknowledge all that he has done for this great cause, and we hope heartily that his anxieties may be removed.
The Bill proposes then to set up one Parliament for the whole of South Africa. It proposes to amalgamate South Africa in a Union, closer than the Union of Australia, closer even than the Union of Canada, and, no doubt, this is wise from the nature of the case. There are particular reasons in South Africa why the closest form of Union should be the most desirable. The very fact of there being a vast native population, numbering between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 souls, who have to be governed to the greatest extent by the white races there, makes it essential that one single form of Government, with strength and with power and with sympathy, should pursue one common policy with regard to all native races. The Parliament is to be composed of the King, the Senate, and the House of Assembly. The Senate has 40 representatives, of whom eight are nominated by the Governor-General in Council and eight are elected by the members of each of the provincial councils, together with the representatives of the provinces in the Union Assembly. Of the eight senators who are to be nominated, four are to be chosen for their special knowledge of native affairs and the reasonable wishes of the natives, and I think this is a good provision, and one which may very likely be extended as time goes on. At any rate, in the Senate there is special representation in some form for the native races. The Senate, as a Second Chamber, has a right to reject or to amend all Bills except money Bills. Those it may not amend, but may reject, but arrangements are made following the precedent of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, which, I think, are also derived from a similar precedent in Australia, by which the two Houses sit and vote together. In the case of money Bills they do that at 954 once. In the case of other Bills it is only after a measure has been passed a second time by the House of Assembly. But as the House of Assembly numbers 121 and the Senate only 40, it will appear that the power of the House of Assembly is somewhat greater than in the case of some Assemblies nearer home.
The members of the House of Assembly are selected, broadly speaking, in accordance with the European male adult population to be found in each province, so that, broadly speaking, there shall be a corresponding number of representatives in the Union Assembly to the number of those European male adults in the different provinces, Cape Colony, the Transvaal, the Orange River Colony and Natal. But in the course of the negotiations during the conventions which took place at Durban, at Capetown and at Bloemfontein, a concession was made to the smaller States, so that the Orange River Colony and Natal have rather more members than they would be entitled to, and Cape Colony and the Transvaal have somewhat fewer. The total members are divided as follows: for the Cape there are 21 representatives, for the Orange River Colony 17, for the Transvaal 36, and for Natal again 17. The qualifications of a member to sit in the Union Assembly have formed the subject of some criticism here. They are that he shall qualify to be a voter in the province in which he resides, that he shall be a British subject, that he shall have five yeans' residence, and that he shall be of European descent. The electoral divisions are to be based on the principle of one vote one value, so that approximately there shall be the same number of voters in each constituency. Here again a compromise has been arrived at by which there may be a margin of 15 per cent, one way or the other, in accordance with the physical features of the particular division, the density or sparsity of population, and so forth. Finally there is an arrangement for the automatic redistribution of seats, which seems to be a most excellent proposal, which we might well follow. I will not recount the functions of the Provincial Councils beyond saying that four are to be set up—four smaller Parliaments, as we might call them—for the Cape, the Transvaal, the Orange River Colony, and Natal, but instead of their having fixed powers and the Union having all the rest, all such powers as the Provincial 955 Councils may have are specifically delegated to them, and all the rest belong to the Union Parliament. The importance of that provision cannot be over-estimated, for those of us, and I think nearly all of us are of one mind, who see the great advantage of a centralised form of Government in the peculiar circumstances of South Africa, will realise that this provision makes it certain that all matters of the highest importance affecting all the States, must always come to the central Parliament to decide.
With regard to the franchise, it is the same for the House of Assembly and for Provincial Councils, but it has not been found possible to have a uniform franchise for South Africa. The compromise arrived at is that the franchise shall be the same as it has been up to now. In all the different Colonies which now form the Union, to put it in a phrase, a man who had not got the vote before will not get one under this Bill, and no man who has a vote now will lose it under this Bill. [An Hon. Member: "Are there no exceptional "] My hon. Friend below the Gangway suggests that there may be exceptions. In any country and in any Parliament there may be exceptions. Any body of men can be disfranchised by Parliament, and of course in South Africa at the present time any body of men can be disfranchised by a bare majority. But there is an exception in the case of the coloured vote. In order to disfranchise those voters a majority of two-thirds is required. On this point again I will touch in a moment when I come to deal with the details of the Bill.
With regard to the powers and duties which are imposed on this Parliament, I would state that they take over the debts of the four Colonies. That in itself is a great advantage. They take over the management, of the whole railway system. One point on which all men have insisted is that it is necessary to the welfare of South Africa—all men from the early pioneers of the railways down to Lord Milner, when he started his Intercolonial Council—to avoid a war of railway rates. They take over the whole of the Civil Service, and I may say here that the existing rights of Civil servants are fully safeguarded under one of the later clauses of the Bill. A judiciary is set up for the whole of South Africa, including a Supreme Court. How great will be the advantage of having one common court of law, and how great will be the advantage of having a Supreme 956 Court to which they can all appeal, I think will be admitted.
There is one other matter to which I should refer, for it seemed to be the rock on which the Union was likely to split, namely, the question of the English and Dutch language. There were those who said it was impossible of solution, but a solution has been found entirely in accordance with the whole spirit of the Bill by putting the English and Dutch languages on an absolute equality in all respects. In all official documents, the courts of law, and the Houses of Parliament, the Dutch have been given equal rights and equal privileges. I cannot forbear from making my second quotation from a very striking and eloquent speech which Dr. Jameson delivered, and when we reflect who is the speaker and who is the man of whom he speaks, I think we shall realise how far South Africa has advanced on the road to union. Dr. Jameson, speaking on February 15th this year at Grahamstown, said:—And this one word is that everybody in South Africa owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Steyn, the late President of the Orange Free State, for the high-minded and disinterested attitude which he had taken up all through the Convention. It was a speech of his that cleared up to me the real meaning of the language question. We knew of their love for their mother tongue, but we did not realise the enormous meaning of this language question to a proud people like the Dutch, because it was not merely a love of their mother tongue, but that the fact of their language not getting, in their view, proper treatment was a symbol of inferiority between the races. That I understand. That I can share, and I went the whole hog and the whole length in the matter, and now we have absolute quality between the two languages. I believe what we have passed will be acceptable to the whole country, and that this will do away with the language question.It appears likely that Dr. Jameson's prophecy will be found true, and certainly all of us here who have followed the events of the past will endorse every word he said about Mr. Steyn. Mr. Steyn has been a noble and, indeed, a pathetic figure in the history of the Union. He fought his hardest to the end, and when the struggle was over he devoted his whole energies to the task of union. That is an example to us. Only one other word as to the powers and duties in the Bill. As to Clause 147 [administration of native affairs], my hon. friends both wished to extend that part of the Bill to matters specially affecting natives. The care and treatment of natives are given to this great central power. Again, in the Amendment introduced with the full concurrence of the delegates, for it merely carries out their well-known wishes, all matters specially or differentially affecting Asiatics are also given ex- 957 clusivesly to the Union Parliament to control. There is another provision—that special powers heretofore belonging to the Governors or Governors in Council shall now foe exercised by the Union Parliament—that is, by the Governor-General in Council. All matters affecting native reserves, native locations, all matters affecting native trusts, of which there are two instances in Natal, will be in the care of the central authority. This is what we said we hoped would occur when my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Percy Alden) moved his Resolution an this House a year ago. We hoped the central authority would have control over all these matters, and the House unanimously accepted a Resolution that some such solution as this would be for the good of all.
Now I come to the schedule. I may say at once, in order to clear away misapprehension which still seems to exist, the schedule of the Bill is purely permissive. It does not bring transfer one hour nearer. In fact, in so far as it goes, I think it will be conclusively proved that it makes it somewhat more difficult. What it does is to lay down certain conditions. If and when the Central South African Government wishes to take over one or more Protectorates, as we anticipated in the Resolution that they would, and if and when His Majesty's Government agree, then we say that certain broad principles—and when I say we, I mean this Government and the South African delegates—which this House holds especially dear, shall be observed. The sale of liquor to natives shall be prohibited. Their lands shall be guaranteed to them. They shall not be taken away. Finally, a form of government is proposed to be set up which will prevent that sudden break from one form of government to another, which all of us here who try to understand this difficult matter know would be so disastrous to native interests. If the Bill passes, as His Majesty's Government hope and trust it may, and it comes into full operation, in the long distant years it well may be when these Protectorates are transferred, instead of having a sudden transfer from the control from the High Commissioner's office, as we have at the present, with a staff that has a special knowledge of native wants and reasonable native wishes, in fact a transfer to a Government direct from a Parliament without any antecedent machinery, you will have the transition so gradual that I hope and believe that the natives will never know from anything that 958 occurs to them that the transition has been effected. It may be that the very same men will administer exactly the same kind of law in exactly the same kind of way. If that should come about it would be a fortunate solution. It would be carrying out the wishes of this House, expressed in the Resolution which I may be permitted to quote: "The House trusts that His Majesty's Government will welcome the adoption of the provisions calculated to render possible the ultimate inclusion of the whole of British South Africa." [An HON. MEMBER: "In a Federal Union."] It does not make any difference to the Protectorates whether the Union is federal or unified, except that on all hands it is agreed that the unified form is preferable. It will make that transition, when it comes, as little sudden as it possibly can be, and it may well be hardly perceivable to the natives themselves as far as their own status and rights are concerned.
I have concluded the general outline of the Bill. I have only touched on a few of its more salient features. I know that the House is familiar with most of its provisions, as it has been in the hands of Members for eight or ten days. Let us come for a moment to the criticisms which have been levelled against the Bill. Everyone, in whatever part of the House he sits, I am sure will see that this is a great and statesmanlike measure. They admire the sentiments of those who have inspired it. They know that those who want this Bill mean to do right and justice to all men and all races and creeds in South Africa. Naturally it is not perfect, and criticisms have been levelled against certain points. There are about three points on which criticisms have been directed. The first is with regard to the provisions that in order to be a Member of the Senate or of the House of Assembly it is necessary to be a British subject of European descent. With regard to this disability imposed upon election to the Union Parliament, I may at once, speaking for the Government, say that we regret that those words are in the Bill, but we know that they form part of an essential compromise, and for this reason, that when the House granted self-government to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, it granted them a franchise which excluded the natives from the vote and still more from the Parliament. On the other hand, the Cape has for many a long year, for 55 years if I remember aright, had a franchise of a restricted nature, which some, though not a 959 great proportion, of the natives can enjoy. Therefore, you have these two divergent systems, to both of which we in this House had formerly assented. One says: "We will endeavour to treat the native as an equal in all respects, provided he comes up to a certain, not so much intellectual as monetary standard." That is a system which we have endeavoured to follow ourselves. The other system says: "The native must be treated with every consideration, but you will treat him as you would treat a minor in this country. You will not let him have all the privileges of an adult. Hs will grow up in time. For the present you cannot give him equal rights. You are imposing disabilities upon him now, and you must treat him as a minor with regard to political rights." To that also we have assented. There were at that time a few who did not assent. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles Dilke) pointed out that this was falling away from the principle which we had long adopted; but the House as a whole assented, and assented to it unanimously, or at any rate without dissent. That being the state of affairs, we have established these two systems ourselves in South Africa. How is a compromise to be effected?
4 0 P.M.
The compromise effected is this, that while every native in Cape Colony retains his right to vote, the chance of being deprived of his vote is specifically made more remote than in the case of other classes of persons. On the other hand, the native is debarred from sitting in the Union Parliament because he was debarred from sitting in two of the Parliaments by our own action here. On that a compromise is arrived at, and I can only assure the House, speaking with all seriousness, that we know that if these words were struck out the Union would be smashed, with results most evil for the natives whom we wish to protect. I am told on all hands by those who have best reason to know that if we here were to break up and smash this great Act of Union for the sake of these words the result on the native races of South Africa in breaking down the rapidly growing sympathy between the two races must be disastrous in the extreme. In reference to the criticisms on this question, may I point out that the Government of this country have assented to similar words in a very recent Act; and that in our own official documents here they have not only words as stringent but words more stringent limiting the highest 960 posts in this country to persons of a particular sect. And I ask the House in all seriousness, can we now break up this great measure of conciliation, causing possibly infinite damage to the people whom we set up to protect, for the sake of a principle to which we ourselves have not been faithful? I believe we can do no such thing. I do not think it would be fair. I turn to the other question, to the Cape franchise, which is not a matter so much of striking out or leaving in words as a matter of degree. There are those who say that a two-thirds majority is not sufficiently large. I pass by, of course, the suggestion that a two-thirds majority being taken to be necessary to disfranchise the coloured vote is an invitation to secure that majority, because, of course, as everyone in South Africa knows that a two-thirds majority obviously must be to some extent a safeguard. It cannot be anything else. The question is, Is it enough? First let us ask if it is likely that the attempt will be made to disfranchise the Cape natives, and next, if it is likely to succeed if made? It would seem to me to be the last body to take that course. The South African Parliament will, as I have shown, have matters of vast importance to deal with; they have a great machinery to set up and set going, and are they likely to take a course which must involve such infinite trouble while they are busy with other things, and, above all, are they likely to do it when the system is working so admirably and so well? It seems to me really unlikely, if we are to judge by history. I have endeavoured to find a single instance where s great body of persons like this, a whole race, has been disfranchised in democratic times. If there is such an instance, I cannot find it. Is it likely then that it will be attempted? To leave the realms of speculation, if it were attempted, would it succeed? That such a thing will happen I cannot believe. In order that it should succeed, at least two-thirds of both Houses sitting together would have to vote for it. The total of the two Houses is 161, and two-thirds of that is 108; therefore, unless my arithmetic is wrong, if 54 persons can be found to vote for the colour franchise, it must remain. In that assembly of the two Houses the Cape will be represented by 59 persons, 51 of their own members and eight of the Senate. Are they likely to risk the storm that would be created by interfering with a system which has worked so well? But to these, again, have to be added the four senators specially 961 elected, or rather, nominated, to look after native interests and their reasonable wants and wishes. Can anyone say that the vote for the natives of Cape Colony is not a reasonable wish?
§ Mr. W. P. BYLES
As I understand my hon. Friend's arithmetic, there need be only eight Cape representatives in addition to the three provinces, in order to obtain a two-thirds majority. Is not that so?
§ Colonel SEELY
No, Sir. The figures are these: At least 108 must vote for it, so that 54, if they vote against it, defeat it. But 59 are already Cape representatives, and there are four senators specially sent there to look after native wants and wishes. That makes 63. I think I may reasonably add to them four other senators who are remote from party conflict, well knowing that this system works well, and unlikely to be affected by different passions, and I do not believe it will be possible, short of some great cataclysm, to get the necessary two-thirds majority to take away this vote, even if it were attempted. It may be said that a cataclysm may arise. If so, then nothing would save us from disaster; but union will make that day of cataclysm very much more remote and very much more unlikely. There is one other safeguard. It is specially laid down in the Bill that any such attempt as this, if carried, must be automatically reserved—that is to say, if such a law were passed—and I believe it to be impossible—instead of its coming into operation at once, it would have to come over here, weeks later perhaps, to be considered. But after the law has come into operation under this clause it has no force—no action can be taken under it until the Secretary of State has seen his way on behalf of the Government to advise His Majesty to assent to it. South Africa herself has inserted this added safeguard, and I am sure the House will see that in a matter of this kind and of this gravity the safeguard is not illusory. South Africa has inserted those words herself in the Bill; South Africa herself has inserted the safeguard. I am quite confident that all these safeguards would not have been inserted at all unless South Africa meant to play fair by the natives. Then there is the proposal to omit the Schedule of the Bill, and here I confess I am completely puzzled not by the proposal itself, but by the source, from which it comes, and with great respect I believe it is due to a misapprehension. If those who take the 962 view that our only wise course is that everything with regard to the natives in South Africa should be referred, then one can easily understand, if you refer everything, that the proposed safeguards would be much better left out altogether, but to those who wish to impose safeguards, the argument seems to be quite incomprehensible, and for this reason: As I said in the earlier part of my speech, the insertion of the Schedule does not bring the transfer one hour nearer. On the contrary, so far as it goes, it makes transfer somewhat more difficult and unlikely.
What are the conditions imposed if transfer does take place? They are all provisions in favour of natives. I have endeavoured to make plain to the House the broad aspects of this Schedule, and I think one can safely defy anyone to say that the Schedule is not from first to last designed to protect native rights and native interests. If you were to drop the Schedule, the power of South Africa—such as it is—to take over the Protectorates would remain precisely the same, but you would have lost the safeguards. I have seen it suggested—and this is the only argument with which I will deal—that there is native unrest on account of the Schedule. But I can assure the House that cannot possibly be the case. The natives are anxious as to their future. They have a very touching desire, which is gladly recognised at the Colonial Office, for Downing Street Government. I need hardly say that we appreciate that, because it is not so general as it ought to be. Lord Selborne has been to each Protectorate, and has fully explained to each of these great communities that it is not proposed to hand over the Protectorates at once, or even soon. But he said: "If and when you are handed over under the Schedule, your right to your lands, your right to be protected, your right to your native Assemblies are all granted to you." I will not say that the natives are quite satisfied. Of course, they never can be wholly satisfied so long as they consider that Downing Street Government is better than South Africa Government. At any rate, the Schedule is an advantage, and they know it to be so, and if the proposition to drop the Schedule were accepted—which I am sure it will not be for a moment—it would indeed cause native unrest, for they would say the power of transfer remains, but the safeguards are gone.
§ Colonel SEELY
Even without that clause it would still be possible for a Protectorate to be transferred, and, as my right hon. Friend below the Gangway (Sir C. Dilke) knows, there are other methods by which they can be transferred, but in any case it could be done. Of course, it may be asked, "Will this House be consulted?" That is not provided under the Schedule. We cannot bind our successors, whoever they may be. It is in the last degree unlikely that our career will be prolonged to such an extent as even the most hopeful of us can dream of, that we shall see this question arise while we are in office. It is a most unlikely thing to occur. Whether such a thing occurred or not, however, the House may rest assured—and I have the full authority of the Government and of the Prime Minister for saying so—that it will have the fullest opportunity of considering the matter before the transfer of the Protectorates. I trust I have satisfied the House on the point as to the Schedule, which I am sure rests purely on a misapprehension. Before I conclude I must say this with regard to the first Amendment, and possibly others. I said that such an Amendment would smash the Union. That is not at all because the delegates who have come to this country are people who will not listen to reason; it is because we are dealing not only with persons, but with a Parliament. The instructions to the delegates are pure and precise. Amendments of principle they cannot, they may not, they have not the power to accept. If we make any Amendment of principle then they must go back to their Parliament and ask that they be endorsed, and that whole long business will have to be gone over again. Whether we will be likely to get what we want, after having exacerbated feeling by interfering, is a very doubtful matter. On matters of detail the House has been good enough of course to trust the Government and the Colonial Office to endeavour to make the Bill carry out the intentions of the framers, but on matters of principle the delegates cannot accept Amendments, even if they wish. What is going to be the effect of this great measure on the natives? It cannot but bring them manifold advantages. A central Government, with the best brains in South Africa at its disposal, following one single course that makes for good 964 I government, will tend to make native life happier than it has been. Then again, union means greater prosperity. The natives, who are the largest number in that country, must share that prosperity. The provisions not only in the Schedule, but in the Bill for safeguarding the main native rights, will show the natives of South Africa that they have not been forgotten, and I believe they know that they have not been forgotten. That is one of the reasons that made the House, when appealed to by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. W. Dilke), the life-long friend of those native races, accept the Resolution a year and a half ago; and I am confident the House is of the same mind as to this Bill. All the advantages I have enumerated must tend to better government, common railways, the abolition of hampering tariffs and restrictions, Free Trade within South Africa, as it is styled in the Bill, which will, I am sure, appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite no less than to those on this side. A common judiciary cannot but appeal, and there is the sense of security that only Union can bring. All those things will tend to better government, and, let us hope, to greater happiness. Of course, it is true that troubles may have to be met in South Africa, as elsewhere; but I think we may say, when they come, and if they come, those troubles will be more bravely, firmly, and successfully met if this Union is carried through than if the Union had never been. Now, Sir, I have done.
This is a real and not a paper Union. It is a deep and lasting Union. It is a Union of kindred people who have been much too long estranged. How has it been achieved and who have helped to do it? They include many of them, those South African leaders to whom I have referred, men of all parties, they have helped. The South African Parliament who unanimously passed the final resolution, they, too, have helped, and, indeed, all parties in this country and in this House have helped in this great Act, for, although they may not have approved of the more general trend of things, and I know that different parties in this House have doubted whether the direction was wise or sure, yet, by generously refraining from criticism at critical moments, they have by their action rendered this Union possible. I have paid a tribute, before to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who is to follow me in this Debate, the late Colonial Secretary (Mr. A. Lyttelton). I also pay a tribute to some of those who have been 965 to South Africa, believing those whom they have regarded as their foes, and still, perhaps, their foes, but who have come back, and by eloquent testimony have shown how real is the Union which we hope to-day to consummate men like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin (Mr. Walter Long), and, I may add, Lord Curzon. These are those who have been opposed to us on general policy, and who have helped. I pay no less a tribute to hon. Members below the Ganway on both sides, who by restrain have made this difficult and delicate Act possible.
But most of all to whom is the credit due, and who is the friend of the Union? If you are going to give credit to one man I think we must give it to one who is no longer here. I think we must give it to the late head of the Government until his death, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. Without him Union might well never have been, for without self-government Union was impossible That much is plain. Union is the will of the people, and without self-government the people's views cannot be heard. The late Prime Minister (Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman) had, as we know, the full support of all his colleagues, of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, of Lord Elgin, who carried out the policy, together with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. But, indeed, self-government was the common property of all parties. It was proclaimed as being the policy of both parties at the Peace of Vereeniging. It was an affair of time and occasion. The question was when it ought to be done. It was given to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman to say that if the policy of trust was to be pursued at all it must be pursued soon, and he took occasion by the hand and carried it through. I believe that this, too, will be carried through. South Africa has not failed us when we have trusted it. We have erred when we have not trusted, and when we have trusted we have been abundantly justified. At the Peace of Vereeniging we trusted the solemn pledged word of a gallant foe, and no one will deny that that word was honourably and nobly kept. On the grant of self-government both races, English and Dutch, said to us: We will work together under free institutions for the common good; and nobly they have kept their word in that too. To-day South Africa comes to us again bringing this Bill as a token of final reconciliation. Shall we not trust them again? I am sure the House will not hesitate, whilst giving the fullest 966 consideration to all those matters in which we have special responsibility to give a favourable consideration to this Bill, which I now beg leave to move.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
Nothing in the statement which we have just heard—a statement clear, eloquent, and persuasive—has in the least deflected the intention which I expressed two or three weeks ago, when I ventured to express upon behalf both of my Friend as well as myself that this Bill should be received by us with welcome and with sympathy. I do not think that anybody can doubt that it is a great achievement for South Africa to have formulated and constructed this measure of Union. A great measure, a measure most remarkable as coming from a country whose population consists, I think, of only a million whites, or less than a fifth of the population of London, this is a measure which has been initiated by the energy and the enthusiasm of young Africa, and which has been matured and constructed by the statesmen of South Africa powerfully impelled by that initial energy. His Majesty's Government have, I think, made not one material change in the Bill, and we therefore have a right to presume that this Bill as it stands now is the will of South Africa. Scarcely one stone has been changed in the fabric designed by her architects and fashioned by her craftsmen. It is useless, however, to disguise that one portion of this Bill has aroused acute controversy, and it would not be respectful for me to ignore for a moment that native aspirations have been in some sense slighted according to their view, and it would not be respectful for me not to notice those aspirations, especially as they have been pleaded here by very able men, very high-minded men, men who have been led in this matter by one of great ability and lofty character—Mr. Schreiner. I think we have to remember the Government assures us the will of South Africa is that this shall be the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill.
Let me, before I examine the three points which have been touched on by the hon. Gentleman (Colonel Seely) with regard to this native controversy, remind the House of three or four considerations of a general character which seem to me to have great weight in this connection. I suppose the extreme expression of both sides with regard to the Government and franchise of natives is to be found in the American Constitution and in the old Transvaal Constitution. In the Grondwet of the 967 Transvaal there was a clause which provides that there should be no equality in Church or in State between the black and the white man. That is the extreme on one side. The American Constitution gives absolute equality of civic rights. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I cannot join in that cheer. I think it is best to be perfectly candid and sincere in this matter and to face the facts, and my own firm conviction is that the citizens of the United States, when they gave absolute equality and civic rights to the black races and negroes within their boundaries, that they were misled by rhetoricians, that they were deceived by the false simplicity of words, that they did not look at the real hard rigour of the facts. What has been the result since? The result has not been that the negroes have been treated as equals, far from it. Socially, of course, I am certain that they have been treated on a lower scale by their supposed political equality than if they had been treated in a way that is more fitting their standing in civilisation. And upon the American people themselves, if I may venture to say so with respect, it has been disastrous; the efforts which they have made by duress, and sometimes by even worse efforts, they have made and successfully made to make this franchise so improvidently granted a thing of no real account. The effect upon the American nation as a whole I am perfectly certain, so far as this is concerned, has been that which no other nation can desire. I therefore, though I do not sympathise and do not agree with the old Grondwet of the Transvaal—far from it—I think of the two it is better to face the real facts and to acknowledge that the black races are not the equals of the white than to give them a franchise which probably, in my opinion at any rate, would lead to little if any good to them, and would, I am certain, lead to some demoralisation among the whites. My second general consideration, and I ask the House and those who have advocated the native franchise here to remember this, is that this is not merely a South African Bill, fashioned, as I have said, by South Africans, but it is a Bill which is fashioned by four states to whom responsible government has been granted. There have been differences of opinion as to the exact moment of time in which from time to time responsible government has been granted, but I am perfectly certain that once responsible government is granted 968 that it is far better, and you may hold this view even if you have been reluctant to grant it, as soon as it has been granted, and once it has been granted, it is far better to give full and perfect and unfettered trust to the persons to whom you have given that responsibility. It would take away the grace and seemliness of this grant of responsible government if any other view were taken; nor do I believe that it is possible with any degree of sound policy to act in any other way than that which I have ventured to outline. If you interfere substantially as between the black races and the future Union Government of South Africa, consider the effect upon the situation. At present not merely have those who in that country propose measures which may affect the black races the responsibility, but upon them the consequences of their action will immediately fall. If one false step is taken, not merely upon our fellow subjects in South Africa, but upon all those who are near and dear to them, will fall the full consequences of their blunder—the frightful loss of life, the utter dislocation of industry, and the ruinous destruction of the fabric of civilisation which has so recently and so painfully been rebuilt. I think it best on general principles that we should leave that responsibility, and that we may leave it without much fear if we consider the consequences of the misuse of the powers which are now entrusted to the United Parliament.
I ought to say, lastly, in regard to the controversy which has arisen upon the native question, that His Majesty's Government, who have had access to all the facts, and have had information which it is impossible for the Members of the Opposition or for myself to have had, have expressed themselves confident that the powers they have given are such, and such only, as would be accepted. These general considerations, wholly apart from the cry of the wreck of the Union—a cry which I think has been rather too freely used—make me approach the criticisms which have been made upon the native portion of the Bill with the greatest possible caution, but, I must say, a bias, which I freely avow to the House, towards conceding that which is now unanimously demanded.
Let me examine for a few moments the three questions in detail. It is said that the Cape Colony native may have his vote taken away by a two-thirds majority in the United Parliament. But so far as that 969 is at all practicable—and I think I shall show in a moment that it is not—at ought to be set off against this, which has not been mentioned by the Under-Secretary, namely, that the Cape Colony natives, though they lose something, gain something under the new constitution; for their vote will have a wider and more general influence than it has had under the old. Formerly the natives were voters merely in the Cape Colony. Now their voice will extend further and in a more penetrating way; they will become voters in a Parliament of greater power and importance. It must be remembered that in the Commonwealth or United Parliament, the natives themselves will be represented by men who have been lifelong champions of their cause. I need not mention names; they are so many; but they must be familiar to all who are acquainted with this subject. There will go forth from Cape Colony into the United Parliament men whose life has been devoted to asserting the claims of the Natives, protecting them, and seeing that their rights are maintained in due course. Under these circumstances it seems to me unless the relation of the races one to another becomes utterly changed—and I do not think we need anticipate that—almost unthinkable that the franchise in the Cape will be taken away from the natives unless some substitute of a more advantageous character and more acceptable to them is given in its place. Therefore, so far as concerns the first point, which I know is regarded by Mr. Schreiner as of great importance, I think the decision of the Government is to be defended.
I regret equally with the hon. Gentleman the provision with regard to European descent. I do not wish to be misunderstood upon that. There is great force in the observation of the Under-Secretary, that in this country minors to this day are treated as not qualified for the franchise. It is not 60 years ago that many workmen in this country were without a vote, and it is only a short time since Jews were without qualification for a seat in Parliament in this country. It is a strong proposition for those who assert, I think, perfectly truly that the natives are as children, to say that they are to be placed in a position in which many of them could occupy a seat in Parliament. My own impression is that it is unwise to put in that provision, because as we all know, there are at any rate a fair number of the native population of South Africa who are very highly educated, and I regret that 970 the South African Parliaments have not seen their way to insert a provision which would meet those exceptional cases But here again, I am impressed by what the Government have said, that they are satisfied on this point that an alteration would break up the compromise which has been arrived at. This, however, is a matter of consolation; it is always to be remembered that this step may be retraced. If opinion in South Africa becomes more favourably disposed towards native claims as I believe is becoming the case now—there is nothing to prevent the United Government in the future retracing that step, and saying—as I think they would be more ready to do from the fact that we do not interfere here—that that bar should in future be removed.
In regard to the Protectorates, I am in very cordial agreement with the Under-Secretary in reference to the Schedule, which I think is a very wise and politic document. I entirely agree with the opinion which Lord Selborne has expressed in public, that what the native looks to is personality and continuity. He dislikes Parliamentary government. He does not understand it. What he looks to are personalities. He looks far more to the King than he does to this Parliament; and if the protectors which are set up in South Africa are allowed to do their work, as I trust they will be, I am perfectly certain that they will be a far greater and more satisfactory protection to the native races—at all events in their eyes—than any Parliament you can imagine. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is a matter of congratulation that the natives are unwilling to sever their connection with the Imperial Government of this country. That is not a criticism of the new Government in South Africa; but it is a just tribute to the Government of the King. I feel particularly strongly that this feeling ought to be respected, because the Basutos and the Swazis both submitted voluntarily not to the arms of South Africa, but to the protection of Her Majesty the Queen. As long as the natives are emphatically of that mind, even if a third party of the most admirable character wished to take the place of the original guardian, I should feel inclined to consult in the first instance the desires and wishes of the wards. It has been justly said, in reference to the Schedule which lays down the conditions—as I think the very wise and just conditions—which are imposed when a transfer is made, that, so far as the 971 actual transfer of the dominion of these Protectorates from His Majesty the King to the South African Parliament is concerned, nothing in this Bill hastens or facilitates it. Therefore, in the event of its being arranged in future, as it well may be, and I anticipate will be, with the consent of the natives, that they should be transferred to the South African Parliament, their rights will be protected and safeguarded in a manner which I am perfectly certain is wise and in conformity with the best traditions of those who understand native customs and native races. These great powers which are being taken over, and the relations which the South African Parliament as a whole will assume towards the native races, will both sober and inspire South African opinion; and we may well leave that part of the subject with the prayer which I think was used in the old Commonwealth Parliament, that those who have zeal may have wisdom, and that those who have wisdom may have zeal.
There are some other points which I can deal with much more briefly, because they have been most lucidly explained by the Under-Secretary, and because they give me, and I think my friends, almost unmixed satisfaction. The idea of Union, of course, is not new. Sir George Grey, Lord Carnarvon, Mr. Froude, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), Lord Milner and Lord Selborne have all been powerful advocates of Union; but, as we know, there have been interruptions to that aspiration. I do not wish to go into the matter, but those who have studied the subject will know that the Unionist policy, the policy of Lord Carnarvon, was annexation; and Sir Bartle Frere with great pertinacity always advocated, as did Lord Carnarvon, that annexation should be followed by the grant of self-government and Union, or Confederation. That was their policy. The unfortunate thing was, as hon. Members who will remember the General Election of 1880 well know, that annexation was denounced by the Liberal Opposition in those days, though when the Liberal party came into power the annexation was not reversed, neither was self-government or confederation granted. And then ensued as the result the war which terminated at Majuba Hill, and 17 years which have been described by a Liberal historian—a late colleague of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, Mr. James Bryce—as having brought great resent- 972 ment among the English races and great contempt amongst the Dutch races. Those mischievous humours have been removed, and if the "sharp surgery of the war," as it has been called, is disliked by some, at any rate all must admit, I think, that no war was ever fought with a more generous spirit on both sides. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] The result of it is that as between the two races there has been a generous feeling arrived at very soon after the termination of the war, which I think myself—it is only my opinion —has led more rapidly to the union of the races at the present time than had that war never been fought. [An HON. MEMBER: "No, no."] I feel compelled to say it, and I am sure that almost everybody in South Africa would admit it that the great work of reconstruction which took place under Lord Milner since the war has been another very great cause and agent in the formation of the Union. As the House is aware, the late Government did not feel themselves justified at that time in going so far as to grant responsible government; that is to say, in the year 1905. But what is called the half-way house stage—representative government was granted to them according to the solemn terms of the Peace of Vereeniging, which promised that form of government and led up to self-government. It was intended, if I may use the words that I myself wrote on the subject:—As a school for self-government, as a means of bringing citizens together in political co-operation; a sphere for the natural selection of men most fitted to lead and ultimately to undertake the responsibilities of administration.Lord Milner, almost at the same moment, I think, expressed words to the effect that his desire was:—To effect what could be effected by the granting of representative government—that the representation of the people must be numerous enough not only to voice popular opinion but to determine the character of the laws, and except where vital Imperial interests were concerned practically to direct the policy of the Administration.That was the policy of the late Government. We did not think that in 1905 the moment was ripe for responsible government. Had responsible government not been granted when it was, undoubtedly some bitterness, some evils would have been avoided. But I am perfectly ready, and always have been, to coufess that His Majesty's Government, in granting that responsible government, did obtain the speedier and more spontaneous good will of the Dutch races than anybody, I think, could have anticipated. I think it is only fair and just to say and to make that 973 frank admission. Be that as it may, do not let us at this moment of happy augury exaggerate any differences that exist between us. There is no real, essential difference between the policy of the late Government with regard to that and the policy of the present Government.
Both were in favour of responsible government. The only difference was—I am not denying a somewhat important, but not an essential difference—the only difference was as to the exact time at which it should be granted. However, both policies depended, and rested upon, one great fact in South Africa—it has been alluded to by the hon. Gentleman—I mean equal rights and automatic redistribution. These are the two great points which we contended for in 1905, and which the Transvaal delegates have firmly and inflexibly adhered to since the beginning of the negotiations for the united government. I confess to a feeling of great admiration for the tenacity with which they held to these two great points. No doubt they were difficult to put through. I also pay my tribute to General Botha for the loyal support he gave to the British representatives in their demand for those equal rights. They have enabled anyone who believes in the race to look with cheerfulness to the future. Our people, at any rate, are placable and exceptionally good-natured; our people are also essentially self-confident. I believe ever since it has been seen that their wish, seconded by our Dutch fellow-subjects in the Transvaal, was that equality of representation, in the true sense of the word, should be granted, that every Briton in South Africa has felt, "It will be my fault if I do not push my way in the future as in the past." I am quite sure that there is now no feeling of resentment against the Dutch, but rather a feeling of generous emulation. Let us most fervently trust that that emulation may continue, and be productive of great fruits in a happy and united South Africa.
§ Sir CHARLES W. DILKE
The measure of Union which has been recommended to the House this afternoon by the Under-Secretary in an admirable, clearly-expressed, and reasoned speech, is a Union of a very close, strict, and rigid kind. In the course of this Debate there have been quoted in favour of that Union Bill the names of a great number of distinguished men who are said to have led the way to the Union. Not one of them would have 974 accepted this Bill. The Union which their speeches recommended was a Federal Union. The reason why this kind of Federal Union was approved of was because it formed the only way of temporarily avoiding or tiding over the enormous immediate difficulties of the situation. The unanimous resolution of this House mentioned Union, but it was Federal Union. At that time the Miniser who closed the Debate said that the difficulties in the way of Union which had led to this preference for Federal Union were those very difficulties with which we are now confronted in the very harshest form. I will make no sort of attack upon the Government, because the difficulties in the way of facing this problem at the moment are obviously enormous, and the temptation to hope for the best is so great that even many of us who have the greatest objection to this Bill establishing a rigid ineligibility of the natives are tempted to hope and believe against ourselves, and against our better reason, that things will go straight. But this is a Bill which ignores entirely, or puts to one side, or trusts to luck, the whole of the labour future of South Africa, and the ultimate fate of 6¼ million people who are to be governed by an absolute and permanent oligarchy of a million people such as has never been established by us before. Precedents were quoted by the hon. Member, but at best they are merely technical precedents for this Bill. In Australia labour is white. Here, in South Africa, everyone admits that labour must for all time be coloured. Everyone who has been fiercest to-day for the Union has been fiercest against the particular form presented by the Bill. At the time to which I refer anything but Federal Union was discouraged. The hon. Gentleman said—as admirably then as he spoke to-day—and his language was not in support of this particular Bill:—Provision for due representation of the native races was recommended to the Government as an essential. It was the settled policy of this country, and also, he believed, of South Africa.We all believed it at that time. I cannot but think that at that time we could have got more than in this Bill.
§ 5 P.M.
§ Sir C. W. DILKE
We had a good deal of reason for thinking we could get more. At all events, I am convinced that this particular provision of ineligibility, which renders the future of the native races, the coloured people, highly-educated coloured 975 people, a small minority, hopeless, which forces the best of the coloured people into the ranks of the native races instead of raising them up to the level of the white people—I cannot but think that that is unnecessary. The earlier recommendation might have avoided that terrible bar—slur. Mr. Rhodes's civilised coloured man should be let in. It must be remembered—we heard from the Front Bench—that this is the will of amalgamated South Africa. But the four Colonies which promoted the Bill are only one-third of South Africa. Two-thirds are outside. It is a union of the four Colonies. A very large native population is outside. There are two clauses making the four Colonics masters, to a certain extent, of two-thirds of South Africa outside those four Colonies. One is Clause 150, for the possible transference of the Chartered territories, and the other is Clause 151, for the possible transference of the three great Protectorates. We have heard for the first time the pledge of the Government, so far as they can pledge their successors, that this House will be consulted as to those three great Protectorates; but we have not heard a word about the possible transference of the Chartered territories, which are vast in area, and which at the present moment are ruled, as are the Protectorates, Cape Colony, and, theoretically, Natal, by the old British principle as against the Boer principle—the principle of equality of rights. We were told that one of the main objects of the war, and one of the dominating factors in any peace that could be made, would be the assertion of the Cape principle as against the Boer principle. In the two Colonies we gave up the Cape principle for the Boer principle. The Treaty was observed not only in the letter, but in the spirit. We have allowed the Boer principle to extend and predominate throughout South Africa. Here are the four Colonies that came together—representing one third of British South Africa and of those four Colonies one—the Cape—is not a very long participant in the principle which we so deeply regret. Sir Henry de Villiers, the Chairman of the Convention, was quoted against the right of this House to touch such a matter. He was the only great Colonial statesman who supported the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in making an important change in the Australian Act, which was 976 made against the will and against the fierce opposition of Mr. Deakin and Mr. Barton, the representatives of Australia. Sir Henry de Villiers whose authority was so great, expressed his regret at this colour bar as strongly as it has been expressed to-day by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. The Cape has yielded, and the Cape has, to some extent, been forced into that yielding. There has been in the speeches today a certain confusion of the very different communities that make up South Africa. The then Secretary of State for the Colonies saw reason after the war to apologise, as many of us have had to apologise, to the Boers for having suggested that their treatment of the natives was brutal and unworthy of a civilised nation. We know, as we ought to have known before, that they are personally very kind, if not kinder, than the English, in their treatment of the natives. But they take a different view. They have got a different ideal to the British ideal. Some of us who opposed the war would have been much more inclined in favour of the war if we had believed in the possibility of carrying through our ideal against that of those brave and stubborn Dutch people. We know that great declaration of Lord Milner adopting the Rhodes policy. We know the declaration of the Member for West Birmingham adopting the same policy, and refusing to purchase peace by leaving the coloured people in the position in which they stood before the war. I confess I speak on this matter with the utmost moderation, and with the utmost respect for South African opinion, but I cannot in honour say we are not worsening the position of the natives in the future. The Under-Secretary referred to the previous attempt by this House at making a Federal Union in South Africa. At that time Mr. W. E. Forster forced into the Bill against the Government the 19th section of the British South Africa Act, which provides for representation by election of the natives in any Union Parliament. Those were the terms of the clause forced into that Bill by the House of Commons, and the very reason which led Mr. Forster to take up the matter at that time is likely to occur in South Africa. The Cape ideal has been, by the admission of the Government, carried out. The same ideal, theoretically, exists in Natal. It still, for example, exists as regards ineligibility. The Cape, where the British ideal exists, and is prevented by the Act, has a vastly larger area and a far larger 977 white population than the three other Colonies. It has the same native population. There are 2¼ millions in the Cape and 2¼ millions in the three Colonies, but in the Cape you have what you have less in the other Colonies, you have a most interesting coloured population producing men of the highest possible attainments. The Cape natives have risen steadily under our Cape ideal, whereas the natives in Natal have not risen under the decline from the ideal there. Labour was entirely unrepresented at the Convention. Labour interests were never mentioned. I do not wish to be an alarmist, but I do not think it can be said that we are strengthening the Imperial fabric, in an Empire where there are 360 millions of coloured people under our rule, by this non-Federal Union in South Africa under such conditions. My hon. Friend mentioned in his speech the position occupied by the ideal King in South Africa. In large portions of South Africa we have encouraged the idea that there was a great paramount chief, especially among the tribal natives, who are not promising as electors. I agree that the part of the King in their affairs has great weight, and we must be careful about shaking that view. The Boer statesmen of South Africa have modified their extreme views as regards the great reservations. I agree that, as regards those reservations, that outside the Protectorates, probably, the Bill slightly improves the existing state of things. That, I think, is possible. In Natal the paramount chief, who was the King and afterwards was the governor, ultimately became the temporary Prime Minister of a Parliament not always sympathetic towards native views; and that warns us of what we should avoid as regards the path we should tread. I hope this Bill may do something to secure better conditions in cases of that kind. On the other hand, we must remember that there may be temptations on the part of Parliament at any moment to adopt a different policy. There may be scares leading to an attempt at disarmament, which are most dangerous in and near Basuto-land. I notice that our troops are still to be left in South Africa in large numbers. I may point out that all the grants of full self-government and full responsible institutions have been followed by the withdrawal of the troops and by the placing of reliance upon the people themselves. In South Africa my hon. Friend has defended the retention of the garrison and 978 the Secretary of State for War only a week or two ago used the phrase:—These troops are regarded as of great value by the statesmen of South Africa.They have allowed the disbanding of the special police which were raised in several of the States, and the Cape Mounted Police, a most admirable force, have been economically got rid of on account of the reliance on British troops. We are bound to Bechuanaland, Swaziland, and Basutoland by peculiar ties, and we cannot regard ourselves as being free from responsibility for their future, although it is quite clear that the circumstances are exceptional in a degree which makes it the duty of this House to scrutinise very closely in Committee the provisions of this Bill. Bechuanaland was saved by this House on the ground of the protection of the natives. Swaziland was saved by the British Government of the right hon. Gentleman in 1898, and Bechuanaland, and Basutoland have never been conquered, and the Basutos came under the Crown when the Cape had failed to manage them. We have learned a great deal of wisdom since. With regard to charter land, there was a statement in "The Times" on 8th July by Sir Lewis Michell containing the conditions on which charter land alone could be surrendered to the Union Parliament should it be desired to do so as the result of negotiations which were then beginning. There is probably no immediate fear of that arrangement, but the second condition, which is the only one affecting labour, was not of a kind satisfactory to those who have the interests of labour at heart. The condition was for cheap labour, and the Chartered Company require a guarantee for the supply of native labour from the Union Parliament I do not think that is a satisfactory condition to put forward, and we should have some assurance with regard to the Chartered territory in the nature of that which has been given with regard to the Protectorates. But if we feel fairly easy about the Protectorates and the Chartered territory, which includes the two-thirds of British South Africa outside this particular one-third now coming into the Union, we have to look plainly in the Bill to the question of the gratuitous assertion of the colour bar. I am not disposed to argue this question on the second reading any more than the details of the treatment of the Protectorates, which can very well be left to the Committee. Views may have changed upon the question of eligibility, out that does not matter, because the 979 statement which has been made on this point will not bear investigation for one moment. It is the temporary closing of the door, and it is a slap in the face for men who are well educated and quite as competent to be Members of Parliament as we are ourselves. There seems to be a certain avoidance in this Debate of the real meaning of this ineligibility. I will mention the case of Dr. Adburahman, who was a supporter of the war, and who was one of those who supported vehemently Mr. Rhodes's view, and who, like many others who are doubtful about this ineligibility, supports the Cape ideal, although he does not want to go into Parliament himself, and never did. In the Transvaal they have been, I know, rather easygoing in this matter, but by this Bill you are taking a man like Dr. Adburahman, who was three times elected chairman of the most important municipal committee of Cape Town, and saying to him, "You shall never be a member of Parliament." Are you going to pass an Act of Parliament containing these ill-chosen words under which you do not know whether you are going to exclude such men as Dr. Adburahman? The case which decided this point was that of the Queen v. Willet, and that was decided by three judges in the Transvaal Court, I think, in the year 1906. There was an article in "The Times" explaining the circumstances, and these words were used:—European descent not likely to be we construed as to bar the son of a mixed marriage.In the Swarts case, quoted by the Under-Secretary, the judges saidthat the claimants were unable to prove that their ancestors were absolutely of European descent.That is not very encouraging. But although it is not encouraging, I do suggest that we ought to know whether we are really passing a law which will have the effect of disfranchising a man like Colonel Warburton. Are you going to disfranchise men like that? I do not think we ought to pass words so vague. I think it is unnecessary to refer to all those who have expressed the most extreme regret at the insertion of this colour bar. It could not have been expressed more strongly than it was expressed to-day by both Front Benches. It has also been expressed by men like Sir Henry de Villiers, who said:—The colour bar is most objectionable.Sir Henry de Villiers also said:—I admit that their status is lowered.980 That, I think, is the correct view. I will not trouble the House with anything further from these decided cases. I will only once more suggest that this is an entirely new departure. The speech of the Under-Secretary shows that the Union Parliament is not only a Union Parliament but a new body which we are calling into being. The Bill abolishes the existing Cape Parliament and merely allows the provinces to be recreated, subject to a possible union or division by the Union Parliament. They can alter boundaries and divide provinces. Is there any suggestion on the part of anyone that Lord Crewe did not go somewhat too far when he declared that we must deal with South Africa and regard it now as a permanent white settlement? If this exclusion is to be insisted upon, we shall be setting up a permanent white oligarchy in a permanent minority among a vastly larger number of persons who supply virtually all the labour of the country. General Smuts is the only Boer leader who has used language pointing to any suggestion that South Africa can ever be a white man's country in the ordinary use of that phrase. Three months ago he said:—South Africa is to be a white man's country, whatever ill-informed people in England might say to the contrary.Those of us who hold strong views on this subject have tried to be moderate and to meet the views, hitherto rejected by this country, which have been put before us lately in place of our own ideal; but, while we have done our best to meet the arrangement with regard to the franchise, some of us do resent the gratuitous throwing into this Bill of the principle of ineligibility employed in language so vague. Sir Joseph Ward, Prime Minister of New Zealand, the moment he saw the terms of the Union, telegraphed to South Africa imploring them not gratuitously to make this distinction. He pointed out the admirable results obtained in New Zealand by the insertion in their constitution of representation of the Maories in both Houses of Parliament, but in this Bill we have a mere mockery of representation by four senators who must be compulsorily of white blood. Supposing Basutoland, Bechuanaland, Swaziland, and the Chartered Territories are to be brought in, and this House is to be consulted, as we have been promised, are we again to stretch a point and to convert a temporary engagement into a permanent one? Are we to stretch it over South Africa? It is clear there must be an insistence upon our view as regards 981 the principle, but we may try to come nearer to our Boer friends and make them see our ideal, as lately we have tried to see their admirable projects, and as many of us have recognised them. We have undoubtedly a great trust on behalf of the native population in South Africa, but that trust is much more plainly obvious to all men in regard to the countries outside the four Colonies than it is in regard to the countries within those Colonies which are subject to the ordinary principles of local self-government. No one can deny our absolute trusteeship and complete responsibility in regard to the countries outside the four Colonies, and in order that we may not be drawn into sacrificing immortal principles over the whole of South Africa, I think it is necessary, as quickly as possible, to make some resistance to this ineligibility and this insertion of a colour bar.
§ Mr. P. A. MOLTENO
I should like to add my hearty congratulations to those already given to His Majesty's Government, and especially to the delegates from South Africa, on this great achievement. There have been occasions in the previous history of South Africa where if we had had a similar joint working, and unanimity enormous trouble, both for this country and for South Africa, would have been avoided. Unfortunately, in the past, when South Africa was ready, we were not, and when we were ready South Africa was not. Now we have this fortunate conjunction when both are ready, and this document is brought forward with unanimous support. I think the Government are greatly to be congratulated on not having seriously attempted to alter the constitution, which was the work of South Africa itself. If we look at what was done in the case of Canada, we find a similar course was adopted. They hammered out their views themselves, and then they came here for the sanction of His Majesty's Government. Australia pursued the same course, and it has been perfectly clear to all who know South Africa that if ever South Africa were to be united it must be on a Union formed by South Africa itself. I know a great many men have gone to South Africa with a different view. Lord Selborne was the last. He supported a different policy, but, after his experience in South Africa, he indited a dispatch which shows the essential need and necessity of self-government and Union in South Africa.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I did not mean to suggest he did, but he laid down in that dispatch how very essential Union was to the future of South Africa. I think the Under-Secretary was perfectly right when he said that the granting of self-government was a condition precedent to Union. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of another period, the period of Lord Carnarvon. He attempted to unite South Africa, but he attempted to do it by a force from outside. He passed a Bill through this House—which South Africa had never asked for, did not want, and absolutely rejected. It proposed to disfranchise and take away from the natives the whole of the franchise which they possessed, and it proposed to substitute the principle of nomination for that of election. It was rejected by South Africa on those and on other grounds. The principle of trusting South Africa in this matter has always been supported by most of the governors who have been in South Africa. It was supported by Sir George Grey, by Sir Henry Barkly, by Sir Henry Robinson, and now by Lord Selborne. I should like to add my tribute to that of the Under-Secretary to the action of the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, to whom we owe the permanent peace in South Africa. He it was who boldly applied the policy of trust which was immediately accepted by the people of South Africa, and on which they have been able to build successfully, and to bring forward this unanimous conclusion of their desire. South Africa has had a very chequered career. It has always been perfectly clear that disaster has always followed retrogression from the policy of responsible Government, and success has always followed advance. If the parties there are allowed to come together on an equal footing, and if there is no question of bringing a long and a strong arm from a distance enabling one or another of the parties to get an advantage over the other, then the men of good sense among them will bring them together on terms which are mutual and satisfactory. Sir George Grey drew attention in a dispatch to the fact that South Africa was always united until we disunited it. All South Africa consisted of the Cape Colony so late as 1852. It was only 57 years ago that South Africa was, cut up, and Sir George Grey has shown that it was divided, not by the wish of the 983 people, but in spite of their wishes, and upon an entirely mistaken view of the circumstances. Writing in 1859, three years after the final separation, Sir George Grey advocated that South Africa should be reunited on one strong Government, and he prophesied that if that were done it would save this country from vast future expense and anxiety. How true that prophecy has been we all know. The South African war cost us the gigantic sum of £250,000,000 and a vast number of lives. South Africa having once been divided, however, the problem as to how to reunite it was not so easy. When efforts were made here they were not seconded there, and when efforts were made there they were not second here. I fully believe the complete concession of absolute freedom to manage its own affairs is the final solution of all our difficulties in South Africa. Things South African must be settled by South Africa in South Africa. That ought to be our formula. There is, however, still trouble left in South Africa, and that is the native question. It has been the bane of South Africa in the past, and it still remains so, and may assume a serious form if we assent to the desire of those who wish once more to interfere between the South African Governments and the natives. I know some wish to upset this delicately balanced arrangement. If you examine the history of South Africa you will see it must be so. South Africa has always claimed that it should have the control of native affairs. I sympathise very strongly with those who regret, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. W. Dilke) has done, the limiting words used' in this Constitution—the narrow, illiberal words "of European descent." I have often testified to the enormous success of the native franchise in Cape Colony. It has brought peace and order out of war and rebellion. It has preserved the rights of the natives and has enabled them to advance and develop. They are apparently now content with the Government, and it is indeed a great matter if it be possible for a race emerging from barbarism to be combined in any constitutional system. In this case, at any rate, they had been enabled to use the franchise to good purpose. I regret the absence for the moment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover-square (Mr. Lyttelton). I observe he is adverse to giving any franchise 984 to the natives; but it has never been suggested that, tribally, they should have a vote. The suggestion is that the man who has risen by his brains and ability into a scale where he qualifies himself, by the same qualification as the white man, should have a vote. In Cape Colony he has had it and no one will suggest that he has misused it. I regret very much that a stigma should be imposed on a vast number of deserving men who have for a very long time exercised this franchise without any question, to the very great advantage of South Africa. I regret especially to find it imposed when the Government are endeavouring to associate in larger measure the Indians in their Government. I regret it also because we have a very large coloured population in other parts of the Empire where these matters are observed; this policy must make our difficulties greater with these populations where they are still without Parliamentary institutions. I also regret it on the ground of liberty, freedom, and self-government. These ideas are spreading beyond the too narrow limits of race and colour. Look at Japan, Turkey, and Persia. They have taken a step forward in this matter, and to ask us at such a moment to put into a document of this kind words of this description is to call upon us to make a very great sacrifice. Be that as it may, I would have infinitely preferred, if it had been found possible, for us to have adopted the Cape franchise, which has proved so successful. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover - square declared that the natives did not care about the system of Parliamentary Government.
My right hon. Friend was talking of those in the reserves when he made that observation.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I was not quite certain on that point. But may I draw attention to the fact that when the Basutos had the opportunity of coming under the control of Natal or the Cape, they deliberately chose the Cape Colony, where Parliamentary Government was in existence. Then as regards the reserves in the Transkei. There, again, the great majority deliberately chose to be annexed to Cape Colony, because Parliamentary Government was there carried on. Petitions have been received from the natives in South Africa and other parts outside Cape Colony, and they have all shown 985 the desire to be brought under the Cape system and to receive the franchise. It is going too far to argue that because of the position in America with regard to the negroes it is undesirable to grant a franchise in Africa. The situation in South Africa is not the same as in America. In America the blacks were an amorphous body just liberated from slavery. In South Africa they have always lived under a tribal form of government, and have maintained their organisations, their social order, and their self-respect. Their position, consequently, is wholly different. I believe the natives do appreciate Parliamentary Government. All the greatest men in South Africa have always advocated it. Mr. Rhodes was so impressed with it that he extended the Cape Colony franchise to Northern Rhodesia. Mr. Escombe, too, always advocated that the natives should have a vote in the Natal Parliament. The opinion of statesmen in South Africa has, in fact, been universally in the direction of admitting the desirability of this franchise. There is another reason why I regret that these words should have been introduced into this Constitution. South Africa is a country which has suffered very greatly from racial troubles, and it is not desirable to perpetuate them or even to renew the struggles between different races by adopting this limitation. At the same time, I do not see how it is possible for us to interfere.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
We are not in a position to do it. If you look at the history of South Africa you will see that this native question has been a dominating factor throughout the whole of its existence. We had control from here of the natives down to 1854. What was the result? We had a series of wars. There were great disturbances on the borders of the Transvaal and Orange Free State, and things were so bad that at one time there was a strong feeling in favour of getting rid of South Africa with the exception of Table Bay. Then followed the dismemberment of South Africa, and when the Orange River and Transvaal separated from us what did they do? They said, "We must have full control of the natives in our district." When Cape Colony received responsible government it said, reluctantly, "We will be responsible for the defence of the Colony, but you must concede us full control of the natives. "A 986 question arose as to whether that control should be confined to natives within the border, but it was decided that it must also apply to natives on the border. Then we had the great war in South Africa, and what was the result? The decision was that native control should not be interfered with. South Africa has always insisted that this question of native control is a vital one. You cannot interfere in the administrative details of a country thousands of miles away; if you do, mistakes are bound to be the result. We deliberately, in the case of Cape Colony, decided that the Colony had arrived at a stage at which it could be entrusted with the management of the natives, and not only that, but that it could be entrusted to deal with them fairly and justly. We have deliberately decided in the same way with regard to the Transvaal and Orange Free State and Natal, and we cannot possibly go back on that. Therefore if South Africa is to be responsible for its own internal order and for its external self-defence, which is the final proof of capacity of self-government, then we cannot deny it the right of full control of the natives, not only within tout beyond its border. There is one other matter I should like to refer to, and that is the question of troops. In all previous cases troops have been withdrawn on the ground of self-government. It was done in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In Cape Colony we did for many years keep a big garrison. The question of retaining a garrison there was very fully considered by both Lord Grey and Lord Carnarvon. At first they agreed as to desirability of retaining the garrison, but Lord Carnarvon eventually gave up that idea, and was instrumental in pressing for the withdrawal of our troops from South Africa. If the control of internal native policy is to be left to the Colony, I cannot see why external native policy should not also be entrusted to it. Mr. Gladstone laid great stress upon this point in his evidence on Colonial Defence, and when the matter of the New Zealand Constitution was before the House he protested strongly against the provision that the colonists should not control native relations. What was the result of the retention of the garrison? It was that almost immediately the country was plunged into war, and the warfare increased to such an extent that at last the colony itself suggested the withdrawal of every soldier, and when that was done war ceased, and the colonists and the I natives came together and made reason- 987 able arrangements. That is a striking illustration of the enormous advantage of not attempting to control native policy. In fact the history of South Africa is full of great warnings against any such attempt. We have had enormous success when we relied upon the proper policy, namely, that in regard to the control of native relations; the time has come when we must feel that our Colonies are capable of acting alone in this matter. Under this Bill you have every prospect that the natives, as a whole, will benefit very largely by the control of native affairs being placed in the hands of the central authority, and not left, as they are now, in the hands of the local authority. For all these reasons, it appears to me that it would be the height of unwisdom to interfere with this Constitution, however much we right some of its provisions. It still has the enormous advantage that it unites the white races, through whose disunion we have had the most terrible evils, and through whose disunion we may have in the future the most terrible evils again, and it is of great advantage that by means of it we should try to unite them. In the Cape Colony no disadvantage came from trusting the Cape Government, and the native relations are more satisfactory than they have ever been, and the arrangements which have been made will, I think, impress us with the conviction that it would be unwise to tamper with the solution which is brought before us, and which has brought about such good results in that part of the world. In conclusion, it appears to me that some of our proudest traditions are those of liberty, freedom, and self-government, which ensures their security and permanency. Never were those principles put to a severer test than in South Africa, and never has their success been more Immediate, more striking, and more triumphant.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
No one can speak in this Debate without feeling a sense of very great responsibility, because when this Bill has passed through this House, unlike others, it will be beyond recall or possibility of either repeal or amendment, and coming, as it does, with the full authority of the four Parliaments now existing in South Africa, it would be rashness carried to an extreme for the House of Commons, or any Member of the House of Commons, to seek to interfere with the 988 matters affecting those representatives of the four Parliaments in South Africa. I want to preface my remarks by saying that any criticism which we on these benches have to offer to the Bill, or any proposals or suggestions we have to make, as Amendments, do not affect the white population of South Africa, but only those whom we are bound, as has been freely admitted both in another place and here, to regard as our wards, the coloured or native population, for whom we are more or less directly responsible. It was all to the credit of the Under-Secretary for Colonial Affairs (Colonel Seely) that he was laboured in his apology for certain portions of the Bill. It shows, as he frankly admitted, that those particular clauses were not there by his will, or even in accordance with his own feelings. A similar remark applies to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover-sqaure (Mr. Lyttelton). No speech made yet has endeavoured to justify the appearance of certain clauses in this Bill. We have had those clauses apologised for; we have had attempts made to explain the reasons for their being there, but so far as the discussion has gone not one single speaker has sought to justify the presence of certain clauses, which I will deal with in a moment. The whole scheme of the Bill—and this will not, I think, be denied in any quarter—the whole scheme of the Bill is that of a white European South Africa, and that, under the circumstances, seems to some of us to be an impossibility. The method by which, for example, those who are to elect the representatives from the different provinces is to be ascertained is, after all, to consist of adult male Europeans.
For the purpose of the operation of this Act, there are two classes of people in South Africa who do not exist. First of all, the women of all races. They are ruled out, as are also the natives, who are in a proportion of six to one. The Kaffir man and the white woman of European descent are classed together in The Bill as not being fit to be counted, even in ascertaining what proportion of representation is to go to each of the provinces. May I say that none of us here are pressing that natives should get the franchise; neither are we seeking to enforce native representation or to remove the disqualification concerning natives in the Transvaal and Orange Free State. So far as we are concerned on these benches, what we seek to obtain—and in Committee stage we shall do our best to obtain—is that the status 989 quo shall be continued, both in Cape Colony and Natal. At the present time in Cape Colony, out of 181,000 voters, 22,000 of these are coloured and native. There is no special native franchise in Cape Colony, but the law has been fr6m the beginning that any person, no matter of what race, who is able to show the necessary qualifications shall ipso facto be admitted to the franchise, and the result has been that, out of a total electorate of 181,000, no fewer than 22,000 of those have been coloured or natives, who have raised themselves to the position of the necessary qualification. It may be said, it has been said, that this Bill does not interfere with the franchise in the Cape Colony. It has been said by the Under-Secretary that the framers of the Bill have taken special words to safeguard the continuance of the existing franchise in the Cape Colony. That may be so I confess, in regard to the franchise itself, but what about the disqualification of natives from being elected by the Cape Colony to a seat in the Union Parliament. What is the footing which the native or coloured people are put upon in Cape Colony itself, and what does it foreshadow? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover-square (Mr. Lyttelton) said that in future the status would be enlarged, because they would have to elect a member not of the Provincial Parliament but of the South African Parliament, and therein rests an additional reason for attempting to get rid of this Cape Colony voting, for if the coloured man is so very objectionable that those who are to form this Parliament will not even run the risk of one of them being elected to sit by their side—if so, surely they will be unwilling to have the influence of the coloured men brought to bear upon them through their voting power in Cape Colony.
Besides that, the fact is that the existence of the franchise in the Cape Colony will be regarded as a reflection upon those other portions of the Union where no similar right and privilege has been secured, and for all these reasons there will be a strong inducement on the part of the statesmen and legislators outside the Cape Colony itself to endeavour to have the franchise equalised all over South Africa, not by bringing in the natives or coloured persons in the Transvaal or Orange Free State, but by excluding the native or coloured person where he now possesses the franchise, and this danger is not so very remote as may appear. As a matter of fact, we have several recent de- 990 clarations on the subject from those who, in the future, will exert the determining influence in South Africa, which show that the apprehensions in the main of the natives are not without substantial foundation. On 24th February this year, for example, General Botha, speaking on this very subject, said:—The difficulty which we encountered was the native franchise. There is not a matter on which I have a stronger feeling than this of the native franchise, but do not let as blame our brothers of the Cape Colony. The native franchise was given to them at the time when they received responsible government. We know that it would be impossible for the Imperial Government to take back that which they have once given in the Cape Colony. We had a two-fold difficulty. How can you expect the Cape Parliament to pass this draft Constitution if it were to take away the native franchise? The only possible course for us to follow was followed in the draft Constitution and that was to create machinery which would enable the people of South Africa to settle this question.The interpretation of that is that General Botha generously exonerated the white people of the Cape from all blame for having given the franchise to the natives, since that franchise was forced upon them by the Imperial Parliament at the time the Constitution was given. A phrase of that kind gives a fair indication as to the mind of General Botha on this subject. Speaking on the same day—and this dots the "i's" and crosses the "t's" of General Botha's statement—General Smuts says:—There was a vast majority of people in South Africa opposed to the native franchise. The Transvaal was very largely opposed to it and so were the Free States and Natal, and for that matter he supposed a large part of the Cape. As Mr. Merriman had said in his speech, the majority of the people of the Cape were opposed to it and on the first occasion that Parliament met it would be swept away. It was found necessary that there should be some check on such arbitrary action but it was not a powerful check. Perhaps it was not a check at all. It had been put in there but he did not think it meant much. At any rate it was a compromise which they had to accept or jeopardise the Union.Speaking a month later, Dr. Kraus, also a member of the Transvaal Parliament, declared frankly that the white people in South Africa would be traitors to their colour if they did not take away the franchise from the coloured people so soon as the new Parliament met. These things constitute an element of fear in the mind of the native and the coloured people in Cape Colony and in Natal, and the Amendments which we shall ask the House to agree to will be that the European descent qualification shall only apply to the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, and that in Natal and Cape Colony the rights guaranteed to the coloured people by the Constitution granted to them by the late Queen and the Imperial Parliament shall be preserved and maintained, and their 991 right to elect coloured people continued, as it is at the present -moment. Then, in regard to the franchise, we shall ask the House to say that just as in the case of the liquor traffic and the supply to natives, so, too, in regard to the franchise, whatever Amendments will be made in the future shall not have the effect of worsening the position so far as the native is concerned, but shall reserve to him those, rights he at present enjoys, and thereby give a lead to South Africa to a further development along the line of progress. It is most interesting in this connection to remember that the heads of nearly all the religious organisations in South Africa support this contention, that the native franchise and native eligibility to be elected should not be interfered with or in any way restricted. But, in addition to religious organisations and bodies, practically the whole of the labour organisations take the same view, but the declared intention of a very large section of opinion in South Africa is to prevent the natives coming into serious competition with the white man, either in the learned professions or as property owners, or in any other sphere except that of a low-paid worker in connection with industry. It is a common-place to have it alleged of a large section of opinion in South Africa that the one interest it has in the coloured peoples there is to reduce them to the position of a landless proletariat, where they will be compelled to accept wages at anything that is offered to them in order to maintain body and soul together. Already that policy has advanced a considerable way in more than one of the States. In the Orange River Colony the restrictions are numerous and vexatious. No coloured man may engage in trade without a permit, for which he has to pay 5s. a month. The permit may confine his work to jobs within the location. He is prohibited from making bricks for sale within the town, and in a variety of ways restraints and restrictions are placed upon the educated skilled native artisan. If he desires to become a contractor, as some were during, and since the war, he is prohibited from taking contracts and so on, a clear indication being given that the object of the rulers of the Orange Free State is to prevent the natives rising into the ranks of skilled workers or into those of the educated classes. Children must leave school when they are 16, and parents will be fined £2 for each child over 16 who is not found at work.
992 In Cape Colony matters are considerably better in these respects than they are in the Orange Free State or the Transvaal, and the reason is the different policy they pursued towards the coloured races, but even there there are indications of a change for the worse. The higher grade schools, I am informed, are closed against native children, even in Cape Colony, and now a well-to-do native desiring his child to receive higher grade or University education must perforce send him to this-country or to America before the education can be received. So, too, in regard to the owning of land. The land laws of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State are well known. Their object has been to prevent natives from holding land even for cultivation, and even in Cape Colony—and this shows a tendency which I am advised exists all through South Africa—a law has been passed to prevent natives owning land near to the white townships. At present the law confines them in locations-where the area which the natives may acquire for the building of houses is 40 feet square, and recently some of the more well-to-do and better educated natives-have desired to obtain sites for building outside the locations. There was a ease in which a gentleman had agreed to sell some 500 sites for building purposes to natives, 186 of these sites were sold, and the Government stepped in and prevented the sale of the others on the plea that, being so near to the white townships, sanitation and police management would be difficult. The interesting fact is that the laws and restrictions and limitations are new.
A further indication of the same spirit is to be found in the fact that the Bar Association of Cape Town made an attempt to pass a regulation to prevent people other than those of European descent from qualifying to practice in the law courts. These things indicate a change coming over South African opinion, even in Cape Colony, in regard to native rights and native opportunities. In the old days, when the missionaries were practically the dominant factor, they undoubtedly stood for giving natives the chance of occupying the best positions for which their talent and education fitted them. Nowadays, under the competition that exists, and with the growth of education and of ability, the competition between white and coloured is becoming more keen, and, as a consequence, there is a very natural feeling on the part of the white that he may prevent the native from rising, lest he compete him out of 993 existence, and for that reason, as much as for any other, the provisions of this Bill should be carefuly safeguarded, so as to prevent the coloured people and the natives of South Africa from being subjected to injustice at the hands of this House after the measure has become law. Both in Cape Colony and Natal equal rights were guaranteed under the charters and the Constitution granted to those places by the House, and quite recently the Under-Secretary himself made the proud boast that if anyone is admitted under the British flag he must be a potential citizen and must sooner or later be given equal rights with all men. That is the claim we make from these benches, and seek to enforce.
I will not deal with the question of native reservations, except to say that I am one of those who entirely agree that the Schedule is both wise and desirable. At the same time it will require amendments in several important particulars if it is to prove satisfactory for the natives of the different reservations and territories. We shall ask the franchise rights to be preserved where they exist against the possibility of being tampered with except in this House; that the qualification with respect to European descent shall be removed from the Cape Colony and from Natal; that the native territories and reservations shall not be under the control of the South African Parliament save with the consent of the peoples affected. We have no right, I submit, to compel these peoples who have voluntarily come under our protection to sever themselves from the Crown and put themselves under the protection of a Parliament which has yet to justify its existence and prove to those peoples that they may safely trust themselves to its care and to its guidance.
I regard this Bill as being a vital step in connection with the policy for which this country has hitherto stood. I venture to say that there is no Member of the House of Commons, no matter where he sits or to which party he belongs, who will rise in his place and justify the provisions of this measure. No one has done so yet, and I do not think that anyone will do so, and if it be said that to alter the measure will be to wreck the prospects of union, I do not believe it. I refuse to believe that the Dutch people in South Africa value union so little that they would wreck the whole scheme because the House of Commons insists upon protecting the franchise for the natives in Cape Colony and removing the colour disquali- 994 fication which the Bill contains. To say that the Bill would be wrecked because of these Amendments is almost an insult to the zeal with which these men have worked to bring about Union in that vast territory. But the point is that, for the first time we are asked to write over the portals of the British Empire: "Abandon hope all ye who enter here." So far as colour is concerned, this Bill lays it down that no native or person of other than European descent can ever hope to aspire to membership in the Parliament of South Africa, and if a native or a person of colour cannot hope to aspire to membership in that Parliament, to rob them of the franchise is a very short and very small step. I hope, therefore, that if only for the sake of the traditions of our dealings with natives in the past, this Bill—before it leaves the House of Commons—will be so amended as to make it a real unifying Bill in South Africa. At present it is a Bill to unify the white races, to disfranchise the coloured races, and not to promote union between the races in South Africa, but rather to still further embitter the relationships. If only from that point of view, it ought to be amended before it leaves the House.
§ Mr. ELLIS J. GRIFFITH
If Members of the House will refer to the preamble of the Bill, they will see that it is to secure "the welfare and the future progress of South Africa." There are 36 million natives and coloured people in South Africa, and I shall address the House from that point of view. It is, I think, a little illuminating to know how this draft Bill was prepared. The South African Convention sat from October last year until February this year. It sat with closed doors. There was no native representative at it; there was no representative of the Imperial Government present, and, although I have no doubt they would know from time to time what was going on, it was not until 9th February this year that the first draft was published, and that the native and coloured population of South Africa knew anything of this draft Constitution I take that as an important aspect of the ease, because directly the draft Constitution was published the native and coloured population met in congress after congress, to which hundreds of delegates were sent from throughout South Africa. At each conference they unanimously passed resolutions directed against the objectionable clauses of this Bill. Therefore, so far as 995 the voice of the native and coloured peoples of South Africa is concerned, we have it practically unanimous against the objectionable proposals in this Bill. The native and coloured population are now united as they have never been united before. They have hitherto been divided into hostile camps, but now, whatever their political differences in the past, they meet together to protest against the Bill, which, in their opinion, inflicts a common insult upon them all. I quite admit that we ought in discussing a matter of this kind to speak with restraint and moderation, and I hope I shall not depart from that canon which ought to guide us. The hon. Member who spoke above the Gangway, after denouncing those clauses in unmeasured terms, lifted up his hands and said, "We cannot do anything. We must not do anything in any matter that concerns the native relations." I trust the House of Commons does not take that view. If it does it is a waste of time for it to discuss the Bill at all. I do not know whether we have become in regard to Colonial affairs merely a registering Committee or whether we are still a Legislative Assembly.
In this matter, at any rate, it seems to me that we are specially concerned to express our views; first of all because there are millions of people outside of the draft Constitution who have never been consulted, and who have protested against it; secondly, because the Colonies themselves ask that it should be considered; and, thirdly, because of the position of the protected states to which, as the ex-Colonial Secretary (Mr. Lyttelton) said, we are under special and solemn obligations in this matter. At any rate, whatever the position, I think we may be allowed to express our opinion on this matter. Let it be remembered that the native and coloured peoples of South Africa are not asking anything new. They might very well do that, and I think there are few in the House who would deny that if they remember the negotiations which have taken place in the past. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), whose absence I am sure we all regret very deeply, would, I am sure, if he had been here, have championed the native and coloured population in this matter, for a long time before the Peace of Vereeniging he said he could not purchase peace at the price of the native and coloured population if they were to 996 be deprived of their civil rights. The native and coloured population have a Press of their own, and they are following these mings carefully. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles W. Dilke) has stated that a great many of them are men of intelligence, learning, and education, and that before the peace of Vereeniging they thought, and rightly thought, that their interests were being safeguarded. They thought that we went to war in order to emancipate them, and that when peace came about they believed that their question was to be decided later on. They thought, and still think, that it would be decided in the sense of the promise which was given before the peace of Vereeniging. The time of the peace came, and they were abandoned to their fate. They were not allowed to have the same voice in the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal as they formerly possessed in Cape Colony. Now under this Bill it seems to me that their last chance has come. My hon. Friend said that this is a permanent settlement, and that it will take a long time to change what the Imperial Parliament has done in this respect. What are we doing? We are making them permanently ineligible for a seat in the Union Parliament as long as this Constitution is in force. Of course, we are not legislating for ever. Even a Colonial Government cannot do that. Nobody can do that, but in so far as in us lies we are putting in the Bill words that have never been put into a Bill before limiting the franchise to persons of European descent in that country. In regard to that I agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. Keir Hardie) that there has not been a speaker in the Upper or Lower House who has endeavoured to justify this exclusion. The Colonial Secretary was clear about this, and Lord Lansdowne and Lord Curzon were equally clear. All said that at was a pitiful thing that this exclusion from Parliament should be made part of the Bill. With regard to the franchise, how does the matter stand? It is quite true that the franchise is not taken away from the native and coloured voters in the Cape. General Botha said it was really too much to expect that. The ex-Colonial Secretary has said that if they lose, they also gain. That is not the point, if I may say so. At present in the Parliament to which they elect members, they elect every representative in that Parliament as long as they have votes, but in the new Parliament they will only be able to elect 997 51 out of 121. With regard to these coloured voters it must also be remembered, in considering the quota which Cape Colony sends to the Union Parliament, that the 22,000 native and coloured voters were not added in the Cape at all. It may be said that is a small matter for Cape Colony, but it is really a stigma on these men. That is to say, they are good enough to be voters in Cape Colony, but not good enough to be citizens of South Africa. That is what it really comes to, and I think that is a matter which might receive the attenion of the Imperial Parliament. It has been said that the franchise cannot be taken away by a bare majority, and that there must be a two-thirds majority. I believe I am voicing native opinion when I say that they would rather do without this protection in the Bill. The reason is obvious. You only require ten defections to get the two-thirds majority. Reference has been made to the Imperial veto in this matter. It is said that the Imperial veto will be exercised. Of course, you cannot give a guarantee for ever. I say that the Imperial veto ought not to be exercised, because in this very Bill we have compelled them to get a two-thirds majority to deprive these men of their vote. How could the Imperial Parliament afterwards impose a veto if that two-thirds majority were obtained? In fact, the insertion of this exception in the Bill is practically a declaration to the Union Parliament of South Africa, "if you can get the two-thirds' majority we shall not exercise the veto." I have an authority, I think, on that point which entirely removes any advantage you may get from the veto. I think it was Mr. Merriman, the Premier of Cape Colony, who received a deputation of the Evangelical Church Council last March, which protested against the exclusion of the native from the franchise under the Draft Constitution. This is a report of the "Cape Times" of 8th March last, which is in conversational form:—The Premier t Even in Cape Colony the franchise could be swept away by a majority of one.Rev. A. Robson: What about the Imperial veto?The Premier: You, a Liberal, talk about the Imperial veto; in a free country too.They do not think much of the Imperial veto in South Africa.Rev. Mr. Robson: I do not believe that this Cape Parliament, by a majority of one vote, can rob these people of their rights.The Premier: I am not talking of what you believe, but of what is a fact.Father Bull: But could not a Bill be reserved?The Premier: It might be reserved, but if Great Britain put on a veto you would have a row.998 If they once decide by a two-thirds majority to do away with this vote, I very much doubt whether the veto would be exercised by the Imperial Parliament. At any rate, whether it would or not, the words of this Bill are so clear as to the two-thirds majority that here and now is our only real opportunity of protecting this franchise. What are the reasonable Amendments that may reasonably be expected in this Bill? The most important, of course, is in reference to the words "of European descent." I do not know, of course, what efforts the Government have made in this direction. Every Member of the Government who has spoken, both in the Upper House and in this House, have all condemned the insertion of these words. I do not know whether they have used their last efforts in endeavouring to eliminate them. There is one Amendment that seems to me reasonable. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Colonel Seely) has said that in this matter of the franchise there is a divergence of views. The Transvaal and the Orange River Colony do not believe in this franchise. They do not believe in its eligibility. Cape Colony does. Why should not this Bill allow a coloured or native member of the Union Parliament if he were elected by Cape Colony alone? Would not that be really an Amendment that may commend itself to the delegates in England? A great deal of the alarm and unrest of which we have heard do not lie in the provisions of this Bill, but in the attitude of the men who have really to put this Bill into operation. We have heard a great deal of the Governor-General in Council. That is simply another name for the Prime Minister. When they say that you can appeal from the Prime Minister to the Prime Minister in Council you merely appeal from the Prime Minister in one name to the Prime Minister in another; when they say that an appeal from him to Parliament can be refused by the Prime Minister, it simply means that the Prime Minister is given extraordinary powers under this Bill. As I understand it there are very few men in this House who would not wish to see these matters eliminated from the Bill if it could be done. We are told it is impossible, that the last words have been spoken, and that the Bill comes before us as an agreed compromise. I do not know whether that may be so, but I do think that a little pressure, especially if it came from both sides of the House, would have a good effect. If the Leader of the 999 Opposition had taken the same view, and the delegates saw that there was practically unanimity in the House of Commons that these questions should be dealt with I should have great hope.
They have already consented to several Amendments in the Bill, that is to say, after the second draft left the Convention in May of this year, and after it left the Parliament in South Africa for the last time, several Amendments, I will not say of a very substantial character, but from my point of view, in the right direction, and for the protection of the natives, were introduced. Under these circumstances it is felt that if there was a strong expression of opinion in this House in favour of the elimination of these words, we might hope that the delegates from the four Colonies would see their way to agree to it, because really, what does it mean? They say they love union; yet they say they would sacrifice union if these words were left in. What does this come to? It means this: that they would sacrifice the Union on the remote chance of a black or a coloured man being elected by a Cape Colony constituency. The facts of the situation are that there are in all 22,000 native and coloured voters and 190,000 white voters. Out of every 100 natives one is a voter; out of every three white men one is a voter. You have one to three on one side and one to a hundred on the other. In no single constituency in Cape Colony have they got more than one-third of the electorate, and the utmost they can ever hope to do, and the utmost they have ever attempted to do in the past, has been to hold the balance between two contending white candidates. That is the reason why the native coloured voters have taken opposite parts in politics. I do think that it is a mistake to sacrifice the real part of union for a shadowy or possible contingency that is very unlikely to happen, as they know themselves. I do hope, if it were put to them, not as the view of one party but as the views of both parties, that we are most anxious that this colour bar should not be introduced for the first time, that we think it is contrary to all the proceedings and all the traditions of our country, that the hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Front Benches below me, who are the custodians of liberty and justice, will be only too glad to use all their influence in this direction. The security of South Africa, the security of white rule in South Africa, the security of Imperial supremacy in South Africa, depends to a large extent 1000 upon the willing and active loyalty of the subject races, and we must be careful not to strain that loyalty too far. On the other hand, we ought to pursue a bolder and, in my view, a wider policy. We ought to open to them the doors of citizenship; we ought to invite their esteem, and we ought to employ their co-operation, and we ought to give them some reward and some reparation for all the wrongs and sufferings they have met in the past, some voice and some share in shaping the future destiny of South Africa.
The House is a thin one and a weary one, yet I think there is not a single Member present, or indeed absent from this Chamber, who does not recognise that this afternoon we are discussing one of the most important events in the history of the Empire, one of the great landmarks of Imperial policy, whose consequences I believe, and, as I believe, whose excellent consequences, on the whole will be felt long after the generation which assents to this Bill has passed away and been forgotten. We have inevitably strayed from the discussion of the broad aspects of this Bill as it affects the Union of the four great Colonies of South Africa to certain aspects of the Bill which deal exclusively with the native question. I am the last person to underrate the importance of the native question. I shall have a word to say upon it directly. But do not let any Member of this House, or any member of the public, forget that the native question is but a fraction of the big question we are deciding to-day, and that what we have got to consider is whether we shall or shall not feel the broad, concrete accomplishment of the dream of successive statesmen belonging to all parties, and belonging to the different white races in South Africa, a dream which has been indulged an for more than a generation, and which now, I hope, is going to receive its final consummation. I wish in a few words to recall to the House the obvious fact that in our natural doubts and misgivings in regard to the native question we must not forget even the broad aspects of it as relating to the future policy of South Africa. Let me say one word about the most difficult and pressing trouble which has formed the main subject of our discussion this afternoon. It is quite true—it is painfully true —that the relations between the races of European descent and the dark races of Africa, whether the members of that race are to be found in their original home or 1001 whether they are to be found in the islands of the West Indies or in the Southern States of America, it is only too painfully true that the problem at present is one of the most extraordinary difficulty and complexity, that it is entirely novel in history, that there is no parallel to it in the memory and experience of mankind, and that, so far.as my knowledge goes, none of those who have studied in any detached spirit the particular shapes which that problem takes in the United States or in South Africa, or, indeed, in Africa generally, have arrived at any solution which we can look at as thoroughly conclusive and satisfactory or as likely to dominate the future development of this problem as time goes on.
Of course, it is perfectly true that white races—races of European descent—have been brought into contact with races of a far lower stage of culture at other times, with the Red Indians of North America, with the natives of Australia, and with the Maoris of New Zealand. The Maoris of New Zealand have now associated themselves most loyally with their European brethren, but they are, after all, numerically, only a very.small number. The Red Indians are gradually dying out. The Australian Aborigines are even more clearly predestined to early extinction. But with the black races of Africa and those same races transported to America, for the first time we have the problem of races as vigorous in constitution, as capable of increasing in number, in contact with white civilisation. For the first time that problem has to be dealt with by peoples determinedly attached to all the constitutional traditions of liberty and freedom. That problem is new. It is coming before our brethren in the United States in a form which they, no doubt, for solid reasons made unnecessarily embarrassing, since the American Constitution started with a very crude a priori statement of the equality of mankind and a brutal application of the most rigid principles of slavery. From that unhappy contradiction it has not so far been possible for the United States to extricate themselves. As soon as they abolished one-half of the contradiction, as soon as they got rid of slavery, they were face to face with the immutable principles of their Constitution, which laid down, in true eighteenth-century language, that all men were equal. I do not believe that any man can approach this question wisely who really thinks that all men are equal in that sense. All men are, 1002 from some points of view, equal; but, to suppose that the races of Africa are in any sense the equals of men of European descent, so far as government, as society, as the higher interests of civilisation are concerned, is really, I think, an absurdity which every man who seriously looks at this most difficult problem must put out of his mind if he is to solve the problem at all.
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Ellis Griffith) talked of the wrongs which the natives of South Africa have suffered at our hands. I am the last person to defend the injuries, and, in some cases, I fear, the atrocities, which in many parts of the world the stronger race has inflicted upon the weaker. But do not let us forget that everything which the weaker race has got in the nature of civilisation, it has got from the stronger. The injuries, indeed, have been great; but have the benefits been small? If the hon. Gentleman thinks—and I am sure he does—that the civilisation of the West carries with it great benefits, even to those who are incapable of rising to the full heights that we might desire, do not let him suppose all the benefits are on one side and all the wrongs on the other. That is not so. If the races of Europe have really conquered, by centuries of difficulty and travail, great rights and privileges for themselves, they have given some of those rights and some of those privileges to men quite incapable, by themselves, of fighting for them at all, or obtaining them at all. That is the plain historic truth of the situation, which it is perfect folly for us to attempt to forget. It is that very fact of the inequality of the races which makes the difficulty. If the races were equal the matter would be simple. Give them all the same rights, put them on precise political equality, but if you think, as I am forced to think, that this is an inequality, not necessarily affecting every individual, but really affecting the two races, I will not say for historic reasons—they go far back beyond the dawn of history, into the very arcana of nature, in which these different races were gradually differentiated—if anyone believes that difference is fundamental, you cannot give them equal rights without threatening the whole fabric of your civilisation. If that is true, the problem comes up before us in this extraordinarily embarrassing shape: how is a race, determined to have for itself equal rights and Constitutional freedom, who thinks that it ought to extend to every race justice, equity, 1003 kindness, forbearance, everything that education and equality of opportunity can give, to carry out that idea, if that is their idea, as I hope it is, within the framework of any Constitution? The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and others who have spoken to-night, all seemed to take the view that this difficulty has been solved in the Cape Constitution, and that it was a monstrous thing of this Parliament even to contemplate the possibility that the Cape Constitution might require to be remodelled. Can we be so confident that the Cape Constitution is going to be the right way of dealing with in this problem? I have considerable doubt about it. He would be a very bold man who would say that this problem, which has puzzled every thinker and statesman who has tried to solve it, has really been adequately solved by the particular expedient adopted at a particular moment by the Imperial Government, when it gave a self-governing Constitution to one very small, as it then was, fraction of our Colonial Dependencies. You cannot maintain that. The next question is, if you cannot lay down—and I am sure you cannot lay down—that the Cape solution is the solution for all time, how ought you to deal with this question?
Most of the critics of the Constitution, when dealing with the larger aspect of the problem, of which alone I am speaking at this moment, appear to think that the best way in which this problem can be solved is by a rigid control, or at all events a strong control, kept by this Parliament upon the great Union Parliament which we are in the act of creating. I think that is quite an impossibility. Observe the inevitable result of a policy like that. You would have a Union Parliament in South Africa, possibly animated, possibly insufficiently animated, by a zealous desire to do what they legitimately could for the great mass—what is, and I am afraid will be, the great majority—of the inhabitants of South Africa. They might be reluctant to do what the people desire You have a Parliament sitting in this country with no immediate responsibilities in South Africa themselves, subject to no possible dangers in their own persons, their families or their property, from any mistake which might be made with regard to the native population; and actually to think that this most difficult and delicate problem can really be solved by a fight between these two great representative Assemblies, one sitting many thou- 1004 sands of miles from the other, with different views, with all that difference of perspective, perhaps truer in some respects, certainly less true in others, which would make everybody in South Africa feel that their most vital interests were being decided by people who were not on the spot, and who knew nothing about the question except what they could get from emotional speeches—I believe that to be an impossible solution. It has been difficult enough when we had to carry it out, as we have in the early days of our Colonial Empire, when our Colonies across the seas were few and feeble, absolutely dependent upon us for existence, so to speak, and for protection, and when there was no question of their being what they are now happily growing to be, namely, great self-governing communities. You had to do it then, but did you do it always with great success? I think even that comparatively easy task, though very creditably performed from some points of view, I think creditably to our morality, public spirit, aspirations, objects, and desires, nobody can say has in all respects proved a success on the spot. If that has been relatively speaking the case, I do ask every man who understands the working of free institutions, the sort of collision that must inevitably occur when this kind of question comes up, whether he really thinks the most difficult problem now confronting civilisation in the whole of the world, is going to be solved by so clumsy machinery as that of two equally strong coachmen sitting on the box, each pulling a rein. It cannot be done. I do not doubt that there will be mistakes made by the Union Parliament. I do not doubt that they may err in the direction of illiberality towards that great mass of the native population whom we are now entrusting to their charge. I think that it is quits possible—it may even be probable. But if I had to choose in what direction I should look for the best hope of finding a solution of this problem, surely it would be to confide to the great representative institutions you are now creating all the duties, all the responsibilities of action, all the rewards if that action is to be successful, and all the penalties if that action is to fail. Though I must associate myself with every speaker who has spoken with regret that in some respects the Bill is drafted as it is, I do not believe these errors—if errors they be, as I think they are—will be put right by either of the two possible courses which have been suggested. One is the course of having a dual Government, 1005 partly in Downing Street and in this Chamber, and partly in South Africa, dealing with this question. The other solution is that of putting in Amendments which, as we are told by the Government, would threaten the very existence of the Bill. On that last question I am quite aware that the last speaker, and I think the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie), expressed absolute scepticism as to whether any change we could introduce into this Bill would threaten its existence. Their argument, as I understand it, might be summarised thus. They said, after all, these great South African statesmen come to you saying, "Our great desire is to see a Union between the four Colonies in South Africa. Is it credible that these men, who have spent months over arranging a new Constitution, should sacrifice all their labours, all their hopes, all their aspirations and ideals because you make some trifling change in one or two of the clauses?" I am not sure that argument is a sound argument. I have not got what the Government have, namely, personal access to those who have been responsible for dealing with this question. I have not got the information at their disposal, and I am not able to make with the same confidence any forecasts as to the results of a change in the Bill. I am reduced necessarily, as all unofficial Members are reduced, to merely considering the broad probabilities of the case. Now do let the House remember the amazing difficulties which invariably surround all these efforts of consolidation. The affairs that apply for particularity of division and separation are strong, are almost overwhelming. Local jealousies, local traditions, all the small difficulties, which seem so little when they are stated in speech or committed to writing, how large they loom when people meet round a table in order to discuss the problem. I do not believe, I should not have expected, that those particular terms were so certain and so secure as those who desire to change them seem to suppose—I should not have expected the equilibrium was so absolutely stable that one might shake the whole fabric of it without the least fear of its going to pieces before our eyes. On that point I only express my doubts and misgivings; I offer no certain opinion in the absence of certain information which the Government have.
If they tell us, as they do tell us, that they have this direct information, I do not see how any man who is ardently desirous, 1006 as I am, of seeing the South African Union accomplished in his day can hesitate on the responsibility of their utterance to give them his best support. Because remember the difficulties in the way of the South African Union which I have enumerated are those common to all the facts of the Union and of the efforts that were made in Australia for the Australian Commonwealth scheme; but in South Africa there is, in addition to all those difficulties which are universal, the difficulties which are local and peculiar, the difficulty of feelings between the men of Dutch descent and the men of British descent, the difficulties of language and the difficulties of the recent war, difficulties which I declare any statesman, looking at the thing beforehand and prophesying the result, would have said would have made it absolutely impossible to carry through the thing at all. Race, language, local constitution, local jealousies, local difficulties, are these not difficulties so great we ought to risk nothing if the result of what we risk would be to bring about our ears a fabric so carefully constructed with such difficulty on a site so hard, and with engineering problems so almost insoluble, which the architects have contrived to overcome, and which we apparently or some of us are going to threaten in the very moment of its completion?
In this matter I personally am going to support the Government with regard to anything which they tell me is essential for the passing of the Bill. I am not going to make myself responsible, directly or indirectly, for wrecking a measure on which the future of South Africa so obviously depends. It would be a melancholy thing if any untoward climax should come at the end of the long South African drama which we had all thought was going to have a happy ending. We are in this Chamber, just as the Ministers who have come to us from South Africa, divided in opinion, and sharply on such questions as the war and other vital issues in which this country and South Africa have been concerned in the last 10, 15, or 20 years. But whatever opinions we hold as to the past, everybody looking back at that past will, I am confident, agree with me that this Bill, which soon, I hope, will become an Act, is the most wonderful issue out of all those divisions, controversies, battles, bloodshed, devastation, and horrors of war, and of the difficulties of peace. I do not believe the world shows anything like it in its whole history. How has it come 1007 about? No such great issue comes from one or two causes alone; it is always a complex of causes produces great re-sults. I think that one of the causes was that we in this House, however violently we may have differed about the war itself, all agreed with the idea of having in South Africa one European race dominating. The idea that anything should ensue from the war, however successful it may be, which did not give equal rights and privileges to every man of European descent in that country was impossible. No matter what our views and our differences, on that we all agreed. That was one great factor. The other was the admirable statesmanship shown by the leaders of opinion in South Africa. They have never allowed the bitterness incident to such a strife as that which ended in 1902—they have never allowed, on whichever side they fought, that bitterness to interfere with their clear vision of what was absolutely necessary for the good of all the white population in that country, and you have men of the most widely divergent past, and possibly widely divergent opinions as to the present, men who have fought in battle, meeting in amity round the council board, and agreeing as to what was best for the men of their own race, and coming to the conclusion, which has been common property here from time immemorial, that the only possible way by which South Africa was to play its part in the world, as it most assuredly shall, was by a system of equal rights and freedom which we have given now in full measure to every Colony in which the European race is predominant.
It has been an extraordinary result. I do not believe even now the magnitude of that result is adequately appreciated by students of history or by contemporary critics. It stands, I think, absolutely alone, and I believe that this unique historic phenomenon, embodied and given substance in this Bill, is going to produce most admirable fruits for the future, whatever misgivings we may have about the solution of the problem of race, and I have great misgivings, whatever difficulties we foresee in the future, from the fact that the black population is about five or six times as large as the white, and is likely to remain, so far as I know, far in excess of the European race. In this connection I do not call the Dutch and English a race question. My right hon. Friend (Mr. A. Lyttelton) reminds me it is mentioned, but it 1008 is not a race problem at all, or in the true sense of the word. It does not come in. I am speaking of the real race problem. I was looking forward to that race problem, the problem of the European against the overwhelming majority of men of a wholly different potentiality of culture. Darkness hangs over that problem. I do not look forward to it with any assurance, and I doubt whether anybody has a right to look forward to it with any assurance. All that we can do now is to make the best machinery we can for dealing with that problem, and I am convinced that, speaking broadly, and not in respect of this or that particular Amendment suggested in the Bill, that the only possible way, the only glimmer of hope of dealing successfully with the real race problem in South Africa, is not to attempt to meddle with it ourselves, but, having made this Union Parliament, to trust the men of a like way of thinking as ourselves to rise to the occasion which will most undoubtedly corns forward, and to the best of their ability to meet this new problem, with which they are face to face, with all the courage, and, above all, with all the humanity and all the sympathy which is possible, unhampered by interference from this island, which, however well meant, may perhaps be ignorant, and whether it be ignorant or whether it be not, will undoubtedly be resented by those who may endeavour to control it.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) has referred in eloquent and generous terms to the arrangement embodied in this Bill as the fulfilment of an agreement, a long-cherished agreement, a dream, the accomplishment of which, or at any rate, the full accomplishment in this year, 1909, would have seemed 10 or even five years ago, to the most practical judges of affairs as one of the most idle and fantastic possible. After listening carefully to all the criticisms which have been made in the course of the Debate, I cannot bring myself to think that there is a single hon. Member sitting in any quarter of the House who, when you come to put the question from the Chair, "That this Bill be now read a second time," will take the responsibility of casting his voice against the obtaining of this most beneficent measure. As the right hon. Gentleman said, the discussion has concentrated itself, and has indeed been confined to a single problem, namely, to those provisions in the Bill 1009 which deal with what is called the native or race question. I shall follow his example by making, first of all, one or two general observations on that subject without going more into detail on the special provisions which have been the subject of criticism. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this problem of how you are to adapt and to evolve free institutions in a community where two different races in totally different stages of civilisation find themselves sitting side by side and intermixed, is essentially a modern problem, and at the present moment remains unsolved; and, acute and baffling as the problem is wherever it confronts you, it is nowhere more acute or more baffling than where, as is the case in South Africa—and I think in South Africa almost alone—the less advanced, or what we are accustomed to call the inferior race, vastly outnumbers in population the more advanced and superior race by the side of whom it has been placed. It is a matter upon which I should be loath to dogmatise, but I am not sure that I take so strong a view as the Leader of the Opposition of what I may call the inherent and indelible differences which exist between races of this character. On the contrary, I think that the experience we have gained in Cape Colony itself shows that differences which are certainly implanted by nature, and sometimes seem as if they were intended by nature to be permanent, may yield in a greater or less degree to judicious treatment and to wise and humane arrangements. There is, in fact, in many of these races, I do not say in all, but certainly in some of those who inhabit South Africa, a capacity for or potentiality of progress which it ought to be the object of every wise Government and representative free institution to encourage and stimulate. I do not think there is any real difference of opinion between us on that point. I have thought it necessary to enter this caveat, but where I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman is in thinking that both common sense and experience show that where that state of things exists, however hopeful you may be of improvement in the future, you ought to allow the community itself, with whom the responsibility lies, which will benefit by improvement, which will suffer by deterioration, to determine how from time to time, assuming that this progressive process is going on, its representative and Parliamentary institutions shall be adjusted to the existing state of 1010 circumstances. Any control or interference from outside, particularly any interference from a distance, spasmodic interference—because we have so many things to do and so many interests to concern ourselves in here that, at the best, our interference is capricious and spasmodic—interference often ill-informed and sometimes sentimental—interference of that kind is the very worst in the interests of the natives themselves. On the one hand, it wrecks or threatens to wreck the happy progress of free institutions, and leaves a constant sense of smart and resentment in the minds and hearts of those to whom you have granted a full measure of self-government; and, on the other hand, it inevitably must be the case, as everybody must admit who knows what human nature is and what human differences are, that with the best intentions in the world you will often be doing more harm than good to the clients of your mistaken action. May I add this, which I think is germane to the problem immediately before us? In my judgment, you are much more likely to have a satisfactory solution—"solution" may be too strong a word to use—a satisfactory development of the native question, and of the various problems which arise from it in South Africa, when the problem is taken in hand, not by the several States individually and independently, but by a common body representing South Africa as a whole. You will there gather together a much greater body of knowledge and of experience; you will have a larger representation of the different interests and points of view, and I venture to think you may very likely have a somewhat wider outlook and a more statesmanlike view of the manner in which these questions ought to be dealt with. Therefore, I anticipate that, as one of the many incidental advantages which the Union of South Africa is going to bring about, it will prove to be a harbinger of a native policy more consistent, and, as some of us may think, more enlightened than that which has been pursued by some communities in the past.
I pass from these general considerations, in which I find myself in the main in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition, to deal briefly with the specific points which have been raised in the course of the discussion. There are three main matters in regard to which this Bill and the state of things it is going to bring into existence may affect the native question. In the first place, there is the question of the franchise; in the next place, there is the 1011 question of the Protectorates; and in the third place, there is the question which has been so much discussed—almost exclusively this afternoon—namely, the so-called colour bar to eligibility for the Union Parliament. As regards the first two, I venture to think the provisions contained in the Bill are not open to serious criticism at all. The franchise remains as it is. As we know, Cape Colony is the only part of South Africa in which natives have a vote. The native suffrage in Natal is practically a nugatory thing. Cape Colony is substantially the only part of South Africa in which the natives have a vote. That native suffrage is retained as far as Cape Colony is concerned, and any attempt to whittle it down or get rid of it altogether is hedged round by two most formidable obstacles. In the first place, any such measure must receive the assent of two-thirds of the two Houses sitting together; and in the next place, it is bound to be reserved for the assent of the Crown at home. I do not think, therefore, that anyone looking at the existing condition of things in South Africa can say that the persons responsible for this arrangement have adopted an illiberal policy in regard to the franchise as it affects the natives.
With regard to the Protectorates, the matter, of course, stands on a very different footing. The natives of the Protectorates are not at present subject to the jurisdiction of the Union Government or the Union Parliament. We, on the other hand—I assert this most strongly—stand in the position, in many important respects, of trustees with regard to these natives. We have given them promises and pledges, and we are bound to see that those promises are fulfilled, and that those pledges are not violated. If I thought there was anything in the Bill or in the Schedule which was inconsistent with or would hamper the performance of that solemn Imperial obligation, I should be the first to agree that this was not a detail but a principle upon which it was impossible for us to make concessions. But I do not think that. I think it has been conceded that the Schedule is intended as a safeguard to the transfer of a Protectorate or territory. Obviously it would in many important respects operate as a safeguard against anything in the way of precipitate action or ill-treatment; but the important point is that you cannot bring any one of these Protectorates or Territories into a state of subordination to the Union Government or 1012 the Union Parliament, as Clause 151 shows, unless the King, wish the advice of the Privy Council—that is, the Cabinet here—agrees. That is a most proper recognition on the part of the South African communities that the Imperial Government has a voice, and the ultimate voice, in relation to this matter. They do not deny our right in the least; on the contrary, on the very face of the Act, they admit it, and invite us to exercise it. Therefore, as regards the Protectorates, again I do not think the Bill is open to any serious criticism.
Now I come to the point which has been the main object of attack, namely, the colour bar, or the non-eligibility of those who are not of European descent to sit in the Union Parliament. I am bound to associate myself with what has been said by every speaker in every quarter of the House in the course of this Debate in expressing regret that this provision should have been inserted. I quite agree that the opinion of this country is almost unanimous, if not entirely in agreement, that in starting a new Free Parliament such as this, it appears on the face of it, to say the least, invidious that a man who ex hypothesi has obtained the suffrages of a majority in a constituency in a country where, as we know, the natives are always in a minority, and except in the Cape have no suffrage at all, should not be allowed to sit in the Parliament to which he has been so elected because of the blood which flows through his veins. There is no difference of opinion amongst us in regard to that. I do not in any way dissent from that opinion; but the only question this House has to consider is what our action ought to be in regard to a provision which finds itself incorporated, and, as I shall show presently, incorporated under conditions of very great importance, in an arrangement of this kind. May I point out that while in the case of the native franchise the elaborate precautions which I described a moment ago are taken to prevent its being cut down, here in the case of the non-eligibility of a man who is not of European descent to sit in the Union Parliament, that Parliament can at any moment by a bare majority get rid of the bar. That is the effect of the Bill as it stands. I am sanguine enough to believe—and I do not know that the strong expressions of opinion from all quarters of the House and in the country may not in itself have some effect—that as time goes on the Union Parliament may see its way, by its own gracious and spontaneous act, 1013 proceeding of its own free will to remove this bar which for the time being, at any rate, it has seen fit to impose. Surely it would be far better, in the interests of South Africa and in the interests of all of us, to leave it to the generosity and the experience of this freely elected representative and responsible body to take that step than that under any circumstances we should attempt to force it upon them from this Parliament.
I must go further than that. I must repeat what has been stated so deliberately by the Under-Secretary, that if this provision of the Bill were to be struck out here for the time being at any rate, the prospects of Union in South Africa would be wrecked. I make that statement most deliberately. Just consider what the situation is. This Bill is a most delicately and elaborately constructed compromise; its parts are inter-related and inter-dependent one with another. This provision in itself is the result of a great deal of bargaining. The compromise in its various forms, as seen in the clauses, was carefully constructed by a Convention fairly representing the whole of the self-governing communities in South Africa; it was then submitted severally and separately to the independent Parliaments of each of these four Colonies; and the delegates who have come here have come, as I understand, with instructions from those Parliaments that they are not to accept any Amendment on any matter of principle—and this they regard as a matter of principle—without referring the matter back to their Parliaments, and therefore running the risk of the whole of this long, difficult, laborious, and delicate process having to be gone through again, with the infinite possibilities of the arrangement being wrecked. I ask, Are you going to take that responsibility, however strongly you may feel, however much you may wish that this provision had not been inserted in the Bill, however ardently you may hope—as I hope, none more ardently—that before very long it will be removed—can you at this moment of South African Union, a thing which a few yeans ago seemed absolutely beyond the regions of hope, and which had passed into the darkness of despair—will you, I say, take upon yourselves this responsibility on the eve of the consummation of that Union? I appeal to you not to do so. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that when you are dealing with an almost unprecedented feat, such as this is, that you ought to be very careful to 1014 walk very warily, lest you run the greatest of risks. The right hon. Gentleman has not exaggerated the difficulties which have been surmounted by the framers of this Constitution. Secular animosities are buried in this Bill. Not merely so, but the memories of events, recent as those memories are. Racial, religious, and political differences, which seemed to go down to the very core of every man's being in South Africa—all these things have disappeared as if by the wave of a magic wand. The men who a few years ago were engaged in fratricidal strife sat down side by side around the same council table, and, in co-operation one with the other, framed this Constitution, which, like all other constitutions, may be open to criticism as to this or that detail, but which is a magnificent monument of freedom and conciliation. Though I am not seeking to apportion the credit to the various causes which have contributed, I agree entirely with what has been said of the magnificent spirit of patriotism, citizenship, and disinterestedness which were shown by South African statesmen. I acknowledge, and am glad to acknowledge, on the part of the Government of which I am a Member, the help and devotion of Lord Selborne in his very difficult and very responsible position. Last of all, but not least, I feel bound to point out to this House that this great act of reconciliation and peace would have been absolutely impossible if the Government had not had that generosity which is the truest form of political wisdom, to give full and free self-government to the communities which were so lately the country's enemies in the field.
§ Mr. JOHN O'CONNOR
On behalf of those who usually sit on these benches, I desire to make a few observations in the course of this great Imperial Debate. The House has not been weary in the course of this afternoon. It has been stated by the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench, and I for myself declare it, that I have rarely seen the House more interested in any Debate than the House has shown itself in this. The friends of South Africa, and I am sure they are many, must desire this Bill to pass. We have outside the Empire, and within it, examples of the great benefits to be derived from consolidation and unity. The United States is perhaps the greatest example. But we do not need to go outside the scope of the Empire, because we have Canada and Australia as examples of the great success of consolidation and union. 1015 The abounding prosperity of these countries must make every sincere lover of South Africa desire the success of the Union. I am aware that there are in this Bill matters of keen controversy, such as the status of the native races, of whom we have heard so much this afternoon. I am not prepared to enter into any close criticism of the status of these races as proposed in the Bill. But I join with those who have expressed their regret that any limitations can be found within the provisions of the Bill in respect to these races. I listened to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie), who related the disabilities of men of colour in South Africa. I thought of the racial disabilities that at one time existed under penal laws in the country not far removed from this. As I listened to the Debate, I recognised at once the great complexity of the question as it presented itself to those who have taken part in this Debate. I must say for myself that, while I regret the existence of those words within the provisions of the Bill, I am not prepared to risk the defeat of the Bill by opposing it on the ground that it does not recognise these racial qualifications.
There are two reasons that present themselves to my mind why that should not take place. It would be a mistake, I submit, to force any measure of the kind against those who framed this Bill, and it would be a great mistake to risk the loss of it. But I have other reasons for wishing well to this measure. It is natural that the country I represent should support such a consolidation of states and of powers as are consistent with the principles of self-government, taking care that such union as is proposed does not trench upon the rights and liberties of the several States that compose that union. I was glad to hear, not only from the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, but from the Prime Minister, who has just made a very eloquent contribution to this Debate, that self-government was the basis of Union. There is ample reason to justify that statement. The success of self-government is amply demonstrated in the Colonies that compose the outside part of this Empire, and if there is an example of failure of Union it is not necessary to go very far to find it. It was not based, and it is not based upon self-government. I trust that this example will be borne in upon the House, and that the Debate of this evening will be fruitful with regard to the extension of self- 1016 government to the country that I represent. I have other reasons for wishing well to this measure. Ireland has always extended her moral support to those nations and to those communities that strove for the rights of free men. I can recall that the Irish Parliament at the end of the 18th century gave their sympathy and support to the American farmers, who resisted the principle of taxation without representation. And I can also recall the historical fact that within these walls the eloquent voices of Burke and Sheridan were raised in resisting the injustice and the wrong done to the Princesses of Oude. The tablets inscribed on the floor of Westminster Hall testify to the eloquent denunciation of wrong done to those subjects of England in the days gone by. This Bill gives a peculiar satisfaction to myself and those who sit with me on these Benches, because it includes in its provisions and scope those who compose those South African Republics, against the destruction of which the representatives of Ireland protested within these very walls when the wrong was being done. So we, in like measure, rejoice at and support a Bill which attempts to repair that wrong. This is an Act which does credit to Great Britain. Let me for once associate Ireland in this great act. Ireland does not often associate herself with Imperial efforts. Its function seems for the most part to be to protest against these acts, although, I think, I may claim fairly that the Empire is an Irish as well as a British asset. There never was a time when Irish treasure has not been expended, or Irish valour and genius exercised in the extension of the broad domains of this Empire. Yet we have not taken any enthusiastic or keen interest in the affairs of the Empire. Here, however, we see a great and courageous act, one that consolidates a country, that includes within the commonwealth people who a short time ago were open enemies in the field, and who now, it seems evident, will be the friends of the Empire of which they of their own free choice are an integral part. This Bill before the House to-day—soon I hope to become an Act—is a great object lesson to the whole world. It is a courageous act, and will have two most important results. The first result will be to secure additional defenders of the Empire. The next result will be to give to South Africans a country of their own, to protect by their laws and by their arms, whether those South Africans be of Anglo-Saxon or of Dutch descent. They will have this country of 1017 their own to hold together by the greatest of all bonds—mutual interest. It is therefore with profound satisfaction that I wish prosperity to this new development of the principle of federation, applied to people who are free because they were strong, and who are strong because they are free.
§ 8.0 p.m.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
I think everyone who has listened to the Debate this afternoon must have been impressed by the fact that the House of Commons on great occasions rises to greatness. The impressive speeches delivered by the Prime Minister and by the Leader of the Opposition had an echo in this House, and they will have a wider echo outside it. It is natural, even in a practically empty House, that I should say a very few words upon an occasion like this. There are one or two other Members of this House who, like myself, have seen the beginning of at least two Confederations. The agitation leading to the Federation of Canada I did not see, but I did see the working of that Federation. In a very humble, perhaps obscure, way I did take part in the agitation in Australia, which went on for over 20 years and proceeded by laborious methods to a conclusion reached at last at the beginning of this decade. This House retains, and this country retains, its right to intervene in Colonial affairs by the vetoes which the King, on the advice of his Ministers, may put upon Colonial proposals embodied in Colonial Bills, such as this which has been presented to the House. It is, however, a very unusual thing for the House of Commons to make any vital alterations in a Bill embodying a draft Constitution. I should be very greatly surprised if this House ventured to make any Amendment to this Bill which would touch its vital principles, for the reason, which in the past has always held good, and in the present instance abundantly holds good, that it is the duty of a Government to which is presented a Bill such as this to see that that Bill shall be so considered in the light of public opinion in this country, and in the light of the consequences of the Bill upon the whole Imperial life, that when it is presented it shall be a monument of an understanding between the Government of this country and the Governments from which the Bill has come. I congratulate the Government heartily and sincerely on a Bill upon which criticism may be made, and with which fault may be found, but which, I venture to say, is the clearest in 1018 construction and the most singularly clear in terminology that has ever been presented to this Chamber. There is no chance of misunderstanding, except in one particular, and upon that particular point much has been said this afternoon. I refer to the words, "European dissent." I fancy that that was so intended, and not unfairly and perhaps not unjustly or unwisely intended, for this reason: that the Governments of South Africa have now got to face the greatest difficulty that perhaps any Government, granted a Constitution, has ever been faced with, namely, what the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition referred to as the solving of the great native problem. We do not know the reason. The Government probably know, but I fancy that those leaders of political thought in South Africa had before them the difficulties, and said: "This Constitution is of such a kind that changes may be made hereafter and may be more easily made than possibly in the American Constitution." It is quite possible those leaders of thought have said: "We will have to face this question. Let us face it with our hands free. Let us evolve a policy and make it a policy to the understanding of which now will come the experience of every Government in South Africa. Because it is easier to arrange for ourselves, after our experience, such a development of our constitution, we prefer to have this matter left vague now." I have listened this afternoon with intense pride to the words concerning this new development of our Imperial life. Praise has been given where praise was due—to the Boer leaders, to the progressive leaders, to the political leaders in every Colony of South Africa, to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the late Prime Minister, and to Lord Selborne. Let me say one word for a man whom the leaders of thought amongst the Dutch population in South Africa to-day now agree has done much to further the cause of confederation. I refer to Lord Milner. The Under-Secretary this afternoon referred to the great advantages which this Ball offered and the great principles embodied, the great conveniences for development existing in the Customs Union and the Railway Union, and in the establishing of the Supreme Court. The Customs Union was not the outcome of the Convention at Durban or at Bloemfontein. The Customs Union and the Railway Union and the attempt to have 1019 the Supreme Court successfully carried out were up to a certain point laid by Lord Milner. One of the greatest difficulties in Canada was the question of the Colonial railway affecting Nova Scotia. In Canada none of those things were established, and therefore the difficulties were immensely greater. There was no Supreme Court, and little national spirit. In Canada they had a religious difficulty which does not exist in South Africa. To the religious difficulty was added a great educational difficulty. The problem facing Canada was immensely greater than the problem facing South Africa. This problem in South Africa was diminished immensely by the provision and the judgment of Lord Milner, who, whatever may be said of him, laid the foundation for this Union of which we now speak. I would add, further, that there are no Members on the Ministerial side of the House, whatever strong views they take of the native question, who can accuse Lord Milner of not being sympathetic to the development of the natives in South Africa any more than he was not unsympathetic to equal rights and redistribution. As to all of those things the foundation was laid successfully immediately after the war. I do not say that with any fear whatever. I believe justice will be given where justice is due. I speak of the difficulties in Canada and the difficulties in Australia which made confederation difficult. Victoria is as distant from Ottawa as London is from Pekin to-day and Sydney is as distant from Perth, Western Australia, as Winnipeg is from London. All the machinery for quick communication has assisted in a great and wonderful result.
I imagine that the chief difficulties that existed in the Convention were two. The first was equal rights, and here we have at least a wonderful experience. You will have every member represented. There are a certain fixed number of voters. How wisely this Bill has been laid in that particular. How wisely the foundation has been made so that in the future with expansion and development and with the new spirit of confidence in a United South Africa, you will have invitation to immigration This immigration will come, and I believe develop with simplified and cheaper administration, and I hope a common policy for agriculture and education. You will have a wonderful extension. I am glad to say that the reproach which was 1020 levelled after the war that opportunities were not given British workmen to work in the mines will utterly vanish under the new conditions, because the population which will make South Africa great will be a population proceeding from these Islands. Therefore in that area your automatic redistribution and your equal rights for all will represent a tremendous asset for the race which was built after great difficulties to take over those two new territories. And that taking over made this Union possible. Let me pay a tribute to these men who have accomplished this great work. I believe their vision has been widened by the intensity of the passions raised during the time of the late war. Desperate as were the issues, it was much easier afterwards, when both races had retired upon the Treaty of Peace with equal honour, and much more from the larger view was likely to come. This enabled the two races—the Dutch and the British—to unite and accomplish great things. I cannot say hove deeply I regret that there is not embodied in this Constitution some representation of the natives. I suppose it could not be done, and this Bill would never have been drafted and reached this House if any body of men or any Colony had stood up for the native franchise in South Africa. I regret, however, that the principle was not embodied in another way. The natives might have had, and should have had, an opportunity of electing natives adequately qualified from each Colony—white men, if you like—to represent them definitely in Parliament. I have no faith in the selected senators. Of course, I would not support the franchise for the natives throughout South Africa. I will not enter into the reasons for that view now, but I see no danger in embodying a representation which would have satisfied the mind of the native communities on certain fixed principles represented by white men sympathetic with them, desirous for their development, and eager that they should not be kept on the lower plane amongst skilled labour, giving them no chance of developing industry. There is a danger which America experienced; she started with a body of negroes, most of whom had had an industrial and technical education. Every plantation in the South was an industrial school, and if any native race was fit for the franchise that native race was.
I admit it had had no tribal government, for it had been under the domination of a master, but the industrial development was nevertheless very great, and one 1021 would have thought it would have worked out successfully. It is hardly necessary for me to quote the testimonial of Mr. Booker Washington, who said the franchise there was a. mistake with a race better educated to accept the responsibilities of the franchise than the races of South Africa. Whatever may be said of the natives a certain number have succeeded in obtaining something like a standard of civilisation, but still on the whole, broadly speaking, it is only the merest handful of the native races of South Africa who are in any way fitted to have the most elementary form of franchise granted to them. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies said one or two things to which I should like to refer. He said, and it was repeated by the Prime Minister, that under this Bill nothing is taken from the Cape natives, but, on the contrary, something more is given to them because their hope would pierce into the circle of political influence, and that hope was worth more because it applied to the whole of South Africa and touched all important affairs in South Africa instead of being limited to any particular Colony. If the native is really anxious for his vote to be useful he would find it more useful in his own Colony than in this larger sphere in which it is now projected it should operate. Does anyone really think, as the Under-Secretary said, that preserving this vote for the native advances in the least the position of the native races from which the Cape natives come? Personally, I do not think so. I do not value it very much because it is accompanied by one thing, and it is that if it proves successful it would be a pity to take it away. The danger of taking it away again is very great. I do not say that it ought to be taken away, but the danger of doing that will be very great. If the Union Government of South Africa affirms a native policy it will enlarge the opportunities of the natives, and unless the same power is given elsewhere we may be quite certain that instead of peace coming from that you will only rouse, as natives in other Colonies come to understand, their envy, agitation, and unrest. If the Cape natives have power to vote for members of the Union Parliament, and other natives have not that power, it will have exactly the opposite effect to that which is anticipated. I am only trying to point out that I believe the logic of the Under-Secretary was wrong, and his understanding of the position was equally inaccurate. I was rather surprised to hear the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir 1022 Hardie), who made a very moderate speech, as indeed all the speeches have been, inveigh so strongly against the regulations regarding the native population of South Africa, when I remembered that the Labour party in the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony not only approve of such regulations but would go to the extent of excluding the natives absolutely from working in the mines. Either the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil does not believe in the democracy of the Transvaal as represented by the British workman there, or else the British workman in the Transvaal is no democrat. He must settle that problem for himself.
The Under-Secretary made a statement which, I am bound to say, puzzled and worried me. I think the reasons for the worry plain. He said this Schedule—which represents those safeguards which the Government thought it proper to require from those who presented the Bill to us—would mean the delay of handing over these territories to the Union Parliament. Is that what he or the Members of this House desire? The problem, it seems to me, will be that either we should give these territories over now, trusting as we do in the faith of those who bring this Bill to us and in the bona fides and the promises of those who will constitute the Union Government, or else, as soon as possible, and when their native policy justifies it, to use our efforts to make the natives under our protection understand the situation and hand them over, for, believe me, if we are going to have two Governments for any length of time controlling the natives of South Africa, only trouble will ensue, because the native under British protection can always say, wherever he goes, that the real native is an Englishman and that the native under the Union Government is not. That is the danger and the difficulty. If the Union Government produces, as I hope and believe it will, an enlightened native policy, giving the native his opportunity to develop, then the sooner these territories go under their control the better, because the instant the Union Government is set up and they begin to administer native affairs over all the Colonies and over all except those territories over which we have control, you begin to have a disputed sovereignty, not a sovereignty which is disputed by active agitation and opposition, but a sovereignty which the Union Government itself will 1023 question, because it will say: "If we have a good policy the sooner all the natives in the continent below the Zambesi come under one control the better for those natives." I believe that to be true. If they do evolve a good native policy the sooner these territories are handed over under proper conditions the better it will be for the development of the native position in South Africa.
We have a new empire. We have Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia. What were previously 19 Governments are now reduced to four. We have now four Governments with which this Government has to deal. The administration of the Empire will be a simpler thing henceforth, and I believe out of this last Union will come a greater spirit of understanding of our own responsibilities than has ever existed before. Canada proved it the other day, when there were difficulties regarding the emigration of Japanese to British Columbia. If that had occurred 20 years ago there would have been a nasty splash. England would have been bitter, and resentment would have been great on the part of Canada, and our relations with Japan might have been very seriously affected when it is to our interest—and, indeed, it is our duty—to keep those relations amicable and unstrained. Canada's action in sending a representative to Japan to settle the matter is just an evidence which ought to cheer us who legislate for the whole Empire that the Colonies are rapidly understanding the difficulties of our position and the anxieties that trouble us, that they will lend us their aid in solving the problems which face us, and that they will not increase our international difficulties. This is probably the greatest day this Empire has known. It sees the last possible federation within the British Empire unless it be the further federation of the West Indies. I hope anything I may have said which seems like criticism may not be taken seriously as animadverting upon the value of this Bill and the great boon it is in the development and growth of administration within this Empire.
§ Mr. A. C. BECK
I wish first of all to thank the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister for once more elevating this Debate to the great height on which it ought to take place. Whatever our views may be as to the details and even as to certain very important provisions in 1024 this Bill, there is no doubt that we are seeing a miracle take place. To one who knows South Africa and who has been closely connected with it, but who has not been out there quite recently, it seems hardly credible to be standing here debating a Bill to unify that great country, with all its conflicting interests, with all its racial animosities, and with its difficulties and dangers of every sort; but, thanks to that excellent statesmanship which has never failed the British nation, and thanks to the great courage of our late Leader, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, we are to-day making this an actual fact. I would like to say one word on the question of the colour bar. I think the Prime Minister dealt absolutely and entirely with the objections which were taken to the native franchise and the question of the native protectorates, but there is no doubt that the colour bar does make one uneasy. It is difficult to listen to a speech like that of the hon. Member (Mr. Ellis Griffith) without feeling any misgivings, but we have to remember that nothing we can do in this House can do good to the cause we all wish to see prosper. We can do nothing but harm. As a South African myself, as one who was brought up during my early years in that country, as one who spent many of my most impressionable years there, I know the feeling in South Africa on this question. It is forgotten that just as our Constituents greatly influence our course here, just as we often have to sink our own views, or, if we do not, we suffer for it, just in the same way South African statesmen can and do lead, but they cannot advance materially faster than the public opinion behind them allows them to do. As anyone who has any intimate knowledge of South Africa knows, if you insist upon trying to force the pace in this matter—the most difficult problem that the civilised world has to deal with, and one which will be with us for probably hundreds of years to come—you will inevitably wreck this great and promising project.
My own views on these matters have considerably altered since I was closely connected with South Africa. I wish to see the greatest liberty possible given to all these subject races, but I know this is a question on which you cannot drive a man who lives among six millions of natives mostly armed. On the whole, the fighting power of the South African native has never been broken. I believe recently 40,000 armed mounted men paraded in Basutoland. Those of us who know the Basutos 1025 like them. They are a fine mountain race. Every white man in South Africa and his wife and children live, to a certain extent, in peril. I do not say there is a great imminent peril, but there is always that underlying feeling in the heart of the white man. Also one cannot get away from the fact, which ought to appeal to Members opposite, that if you allow the natives in South Africa too great liberty in their present stage of development you compete to the extent of driving out of the market the white labourer who uses his hands. The remedy may be to so raise the conditions under which the native works that he no longer acts as an unfair competitor with the white man, but under present conditions there is no question that the native does, and must act, as an extraordinarily strong competitor with the white race. I do not say that it is an evil in itself, but in these great countries you are maintaining a high civilisation with some difficulty, and if you were to allow your civilisation to be swamped you do not know to what abysses you might descend. I would advance one more point, and it is difficult for me to argue in this way because my sympathies in some ways are so much with Members below the Gangway. The question of interference by this House in native affairs in South Africa has been seared as by a hot iron on the mind of every man in South Africa. If you read South African history you will find that the Boer population were first driven out into the wilderness to found the Orange Free State, the Transvaal, and Natal, through the Home Government interfering on the native question. It was not a question of oppressing the natives, but of a native war and the settlement of a frontier boundary. All these things have been branded on the minds of South Africa, and I do not care how high your motives may be—and I have never heard it denied in South Africa that they are high—you cannot do anything but harm by unduly forcing the pace in this matter of the natives.
I am no political prophet, but I am certain the force of events will cause the united South African Government to deal in a statesmanlike manner with this native question. After all, it is forgotten sometimes what stock these men of South Africa are. You will not find a finer stock in the world—men and women from these islands, men and women from Holland, and added to that a strong tincture of the Huguenot 1026 man and woman driven from France by religious persecution. Freedom is in the very blood of these men. It used to be a joke when I was in South Africa that no ten Boer families could trek into the wilderness in the way they did without starting electing a President and a Parliament, and there is a great deal of truth in that, as may be seen from the tragic history of these Boer trekkers. Little Republic after little Republic has been set up fighting for its existence against hostile natives and suffering great hardships. You have brought to the native extraordinary benefits by your civilisation. You talk about want of freedom for the native. Do Members below the Gangway really realise under what condition the natives in South Africa lived before the white man got there? First of all, it must be remembered that the native races of South Africa are themselves a conquering race. Take the Free State, which I used to know very well. When the Boers first burst into that part of the country, when they went out to found their own Government, it had almost been swept bare; there was hardly living there a man or woman; it had been devastated time after time by the great Zulu chiefs. The natives of South Africa did not live in a state of idle happiness, surrounded by their flocks and herds. Native history long before the intervention of the white man is one long record of internecine fighting. The native population increased when the white man's peace had brought justice and security, whereas before his advent there used to be almost continuous fighting, and I do beg of hon. Members—and I speak with sincerity, and with no special wish to plead the cause of South African white people—I do beg of them to remember all these things when considering this question. As has been said, this problem is only beginning. We have had no bitterness, or not much bitterness, with the natives in South Africa, but I am not sure that that bitterness will not come as the native rises in the social scale and as his children become educated and compete with the whites. That is the difficulty which may arise, and there is nothing to be compared with that difficulty in other parts of the world. I also ask hon. Members to remember that we in this country are deciding this matter with perfect security, but out in that country it is a matter literally of life and death. If this great white nation—but I will not say a great white nation, because it is only a 1027 million of people—if these young people, whose majority we are, so to speak, celebrating to-night, make mistakes in dealing with the natives, the retribution will fall on their heads, and a terrible retribution it will be; but if we force them into making mistakes, then, in the same way, will retribution fall upon their heads and not upon ours. There was one argument used by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Ellis Griffith) which I thought was quite a bad argument. He said, if we are not going to touch this Bill, and are not going to amend it, what are we here for? Is the Mother of Parliaments come to this incompetent condition, that she may not touch these Bills that are sent to her? But hon. Members forget that the Mother of Parliaments initiated the whole policy Where does the origin of this Bill come from? Certainly we, by our grant of self-government to these Colonies, by the fostering care which we have given to these Colonies, we have certainly established their policy.
§ Mr. BECK
If you go back to the fact that this Parliament made war, or allowed war to be made, against them, it is really very special pleading to say that this Parliament—I do not mean to say this particular House, but this Parliament—has not had an enormous effect in shaping the future of South Africa, and really all we now have to do is to approve or disapprove of this structure which has been brought to us. I have been speaking lately to men who have been engaged in making this structure, and I can assure hon. Members, speaking with all sincerity, that they say that it is fragile at present. If it is established it will grow stronger, but at the present moment it is fragile. Look at Natal at the present moment. There are many local jealousies in South Africa—one town wishes to be the capital, one province thinks it will lose something by the Customs, and so forth; and I do assure hon. Members that this structure is a delicate one, and beg them to trust the people of South Africa. After all, we on these benches, and you on those benches, have trusted the people of South Africa to the fullest extent of our power, and I do say that if we do anything to withdraw that trust we shall strike a great blow at a policy which is now successful almost beyond our fondest hopes.
§ Mr. W. P. BYLES
The House is always indebted to a Member who brings to it knowledge and experience, as my hon. Friend in the interesting speech which he has just delivered to the House has done, and I am afraid that hon. Members will listen with some impatience to one who can claim no experience nor firsthand knowledge on these questions. The laudatory and eloquent phrases of the Leader of the House, and the Leader of the Opposition about this act of reconciliation, which is signalised by the Bill before us, are undoubtedly true and proper enough, but they leave me unpersuaded, for I cannot but feel, as I have always felt, that there is in this Bill a poisonous principle which vitally affects the honour, character and reputation which England has built up for herself before the world. Our policy has always been that the civil rights of the King's subjects shall not be denied to them on the sole ground of race or colour; but this Bill puts forward instead the principle of civil rights for white men only. That is lowering the flag of freedom. I could never consent to it, and I am sure that there must be hundreds and thousands of men who have sent us here to represent them who can never consent thus to tarnish the traditions of their country. After what has passed in Debate, I do not know that it is necessary to refer to the Bill, but there are clauses which may especially be called disfranchising clauses. There are clauses which disqualify with regard to the franchise, and Clause 35 obviously takes away the franchise from those who have it by reason of their race and colour. Clause 35 has a special provision by which that franchise may be taken away from them by a two-thirds majority in this new Parliament.
§ Colonel SEELY
Will my hon. Friend permit me to say that, as I pointed out before, that is an extraordinary perversion of the meaning of the words of the Bill, because where other people can be disfranchised by a bare majority these people cannot be disfranchised except by a two-thirds majority. It is a provision preventing disfranchisement and making it more difficult than in other cases.
§ Mr. BYLES
I regard the hon. Gentleman's interruption as a perversion of the real meaning of the Bill. I am satisfied that this clause has been introduced into this Bill to make it more easy for the franchise that now exists at the Cape to be taken away from the natives. Three out of four Colonies have no franchise, and 1029 will not have it, but they say, "Give us the power that we may be able to take it away from the Cape." There were certain speeches made after Convention. One was made by Dr. Krause, M.L.A., at Burghensdorp, on 9th March last, and he said:—As long us they did not turn traitor to their own skin they would never allow the coloured man to have a vote in this country. The Constitution would give them power to deal with the question, and he declared that when once we can diddle the British Government to give us that power, by Jove we shall use it.That shows there is something to be said in support of the view I am putting forward. It is the immemorial custom of this House to disfranchise nobody, but now we are making it possible to disfranchise 22,000 coloured voters at the Cape. They have enjoyed the franchise for 50 years. They have never abused it. Every friend of the native knows that it has worked well. It has improved, pacified, and elevated the people, and, if you take it away from them you will inflict hardship and insult, and, I fear, you will court great disaster. As the House knows, there is an important delegation of coloured men from South Africa in this country just now. The natives of South Africa have put together their money in order to send over this delegation, and one of them, Mr. J. Tengo Jabavu, the editor of a newspaper at the Cape, is as cultivated a man and as capable a citizen as any white man there is, but his skin is as black as a hat, and that is the only thing against him. He has written an article which I regard as of some importance, as bringing before the country rather emphatically the views of the natives themselves—the opinions they hold with regard to the proposals under our consideration. He says the proposals have occasioned deep and widespread alarm and anxiety among the natives from one end of South Africa to the other. He continues:—Civilised and uncivilised, black and coloured (half-castes); partisans of opposing parties in politics; men women and children—in a word, elements that have never worked together—have been united in a manner they have never been before by a common grievance; the attack on their colour, qua colour.Mr. Tengo Jabavu leaves that point, and goes on to another, in which he argues that to take away the native franchise and to deprave the Cape native of it would be a flagrant breach of faith. He adds:—Many of those represented by the native delegation came voluntarily under British rule, and not by conquest. They were assured by governors, governors' agents, officials, and missionaries of the absolute justice, freedom, and liberty, without discrimination of colour, they would enjoy under the British Government. Treaties exist which promised them just and even-handed treatment if they did not rebel. These engagements have been observed by them in letter and spirit.1030 Then he goes on to quote the famous dispatch of the Duke of Newcastle, at that time Secretary of State for the Colonies in Lord Aberdeen's Government. I do not think it necessary to quote the terms of that dispatch; they are perfectly well-known. The Duke of Newcastle pointed out that "without distinction of race and colour His Majesty's Government desires," etc.
A breach of faith is a very serious matter to charge against the British Parliament, and I hope that hon. Members on Thursday, when they come to consider the Amendments to this Bill, will not forget the pledges which have been given by the Imperial Parliament in the past. I will deal next with another argument which has been several times advanced in this Debate, to the effect that if this Bill should be amended, so far as the franchise provisions are concerned, it will wreck the Union. It would be presumptuous in me to say I do not believe it would, but I have the opinion of distinguished statesmen from Africa, who say they do not believe anything of the kind would occur. Why should it? It is not a Bill which, as the last speaker seemed to imply, would extend the rights of the natives; it simply proposes to maintain their status quo. We have been told in this Debate that there is no peril in these clauses; that there never has been a native representative in the Cape Parliament, and that the necessary two-thirds majority could never be secured. If that be the case why should any Amendment wreck the Union? How could Amendments to proposals which are never likely to have any effect do that? The opinion of leading statesmen in South Africa is clearly that the British Parliament would never sanction such clauses as we are debating to-night. Shall we not prove worthy of their good opinion? What do they say I General Botha, who is not generally regarded as being the most enlightened friend of the natives in regard to enfranchising them—he does not belong to the Cape—said:—That the native franchise had been forced on the Cape (by the Imperial Government). He knew it was impossible for Britain to take back what it had given. The Cape Parliament would not have agreed to it, and neither would the British Government, and who was prepared to enter into a conflict with the latter on the subject?Again ex-President Steyn was equally explicit on the point of maintaining the existing rights at the Cape. At Winburg, Orange River Colony, he said:—The Convention had resolved to let the existing laws remain as they were, so that the coloured people 1031 would retain the franchise at the Cape, but would not be allowed to vote elsewhere nor exercise any influence on the politics of South Africa beyond their vote at the Cape. That was the way out of the difficulty proposed by the Convention, in drawing up which they also had to consider the views of the British Government. The Act had to pass through the British Parliament as well as through the local ones, and in these there were men who made it their special duty to guard the interests of the natives.Sir George Farrar, the leader of the Opposition in the Transvaal, said:—Everyone would agree with him that rights once given under any Constitution, whether to whites or blacks, could not be taken away unless something was given in their place. The Cape Franchise was given by His Majesty's Government, and if they expect His Majesty's Government to accept the Constitution they could not ask it—nor could anyone in the Cape—to take away rights which had been once bestowed.Yes, but this Bill proposes to make it possible to take away the franchise by a two-thirds majority, and to refuse them the right of voting for representatives in the Union Parliament. What these statesmen say, and I concur in the opinion, is that the British Parliament will not allow it. That opinion is shared by other statesmen in South Africa. I have had from the very lips of the Prime Minister (Mr. Merriman) and Mr. Sauer, well-known statesmen in the Cape Parliament, that they fought all they could against these very clauses in the Convention, and that the Convention had come to a conclusion as a matter of expediency. That can be the only reason for which all who disagree with the views embodied in the Bill can have consented to this compromise. It is said to be a delicate compromise, and that men have surrendered principle for expediency. I want to know whether this House is going to vote for principle or expediency. For myself, I cannot deliberately give away the rights of the natives. I cannot surrender the principle of equal rights for white and black. The Under-Secretary told us in his opening speech that we must either pass this or refuse it. He said that the Cape Parliaments would not submit to any Amendments. Therefore he brings us the Bill and says, "You must take it or leave it. It is a chose jugée. You must not touch it unless you throw it out." That being so, we might be the House of Lords considering the Budget. This Bill is brought to us for Amendment or not. I know very well that Colonial opinion is very sensitive about the interference of the Imperial Parliament, and I hope I will not say anything whatever to offend them or to hurt their feelings. I am as strong a Home Ruler as anyone in this House, and I am anxious that they should be allowed to rule themselves, but it is another thing 1032 when it is proposed that that rule should be extended over a vast number of black people, and I am not prepared to agree that the white Colonists should have the power to set aside the pledge of the monarch and the solemn promise of the British Parliament.
Now I come to the Schedule. There is no question here of our interfering with the Colonies. The boot is entirely on the other leg. It is our turn to be sensitive now. Shall we submit to their interfering with us? The great Protectorates with their vast populations are at present under the direct control of the Imperial Parliament. They were called by the late Colonial Secretary (Mr. Lyttelton) our wards. They were spoken of by the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition as peoples for whom we were guardians or trustees, and so I regard them. Clause 151 provides for these Protectorates being transferred to the new Union Parliament, and the Schedule is entirely based and brought into operation by that clause. Let us see what the Schedule says and what sort of position the natives will be in when these Protectorates are transferred. The second paragraph says: "The Prime Minister shall be charged with the administration of any territory thus transferred, and he shall be advised in the general conduct of such administration by a commission consisting of not fewer than three members with a secretary, to be appointed by the Governor-General in Council, who shall take the instructions of the Prime Minister in conducting all correspondence relating to the territories, and shall also under the like control have custody of all official papers relating to the territories." The Prime Minister, therefore, is to be an autocrat—not this Prime Minister—I would not be so much afraid of him, but any Prime Minister who may succeed him. The Governor-General is nothing. I have been told so by the Under-Secretary over and over again in other cases. The Governor-General's business is to take the advice of his Ministers, and, therefore, he is nothing so far as our side is concerned. He ceases to be the servant of the King, and becomes the servant of the Prime Minister. The Commissioners, I maintain, are nothing. They only advise the Prime Minister, and, therefore, we are to have these great populations of black people coming under the autocratic rule of any Prime Minister who happens to be in power at the Cape. Are we really going to throw off our solemn 1033 responsibilities in that way? Is this House going to hand over these millions of people to such securities as they will then have in exchange for the securities they now have in the Imperial Parliament? I think it is impossible. The committee of the South African natives have issued a circular, in which they express their desire that the Protectorate should remain under the direct control of the Imperial Parliament. I claim to be entitled to say that the good faith of the Imperial Parliament is at stake in this matter. The peoples of these countries believe that England will not go back on her word. We want all nations to believe that.
I am told that the leaders of Basuto opinion are greatly disturbed at the prospect of the Bill being passed. Everyone of them would have prefererd to retain the rule of the Imperial Parliament. The men and women for whom I plead are black, no doubt. They are ignorant—ignorant of many things which we know, although perhaps wise in many things which we do not know. A large majority of them are what we call uncivilised, but they are men. They are far more like us than unlike us, and we are intruders in their land. How long will they submit to this? How long will they submit to be left without any guidance? As has been pointed out, in the whole of the neighbouring Colonies they have no word whatever in their administration. They are six times as numerous as we are. None of us want another racial war. What we do is instead of encouraging them to qualify by their behaviour and education for political, social, and civilised society and life among white men, we are setting them against us. We are driving them; we are telling them to take their own methods. Every effort they make to advance in civilisation they knock up against this colour bar. And this discrimination, as I think has been pointed out by a previous speaker, may creep into other legislation. There is a Bill now before the Cape Parliament to take away the right of black men in the courts, and I believe there is a danger in other professions. A gulf, a widening and dangerous gulf, is being fixed between black and white. Some day they will hear the call of their blood. Recent occurrences in Natal should show that. We have warnings of that in a State where they have no constitutional outlet. What happened? A small rebellion, what we call military operations, 20 executions for one murder, 3,000 killed, houses burned, crops 1034 destroyed, lands devastated, a depleted exchequer, political prisoners, martial law. Unhampered by vested interests or by feudal traditions, here is a brand-new twentieth-century constitution written on a clean white sheet of paper. It has come, so to speak, fresh from the mint of the most democratic Government which has ever been elected, and the first line of boundary demarcation in it is the colour line. Its first article is, "This is a white man's Bill. True, you were here before us for many generations. You till the soil, you snare the game, but you are black, and you shall therefore have no power in the government of your country." That is what we are saying. "You are four times as many as we are, but we have the power and we come here to rule you." You say to every black man there, "Your character, your capacity, your conduct, your position, your education, your wealth, shall count for nothing—only to be of black blood." I hope that a Christian Parliament will take this poisonous principle out of the Bill.
I wish I had eloquence to picture to the House what sometimes come to me in thought, what must be the feelings of black men themselves towards white men who treat them in that way. Are we always to look upon it from the white point of view only? When you have got this new Constitution a British Indian comes to you and says, "I am a merchant; I pay my debts; I have paid all my rents and taxes; I am a settled resident. I bear an honoured part in the commercial and social life of this country or of this town. May I not hope? Am I to be registered? Am I to be reported to the police? Am I to be thumb-marked like a ticket-of-leave man?" And do you answer him, "You have not got a white man's skin?" He goes away, and then a half-caste comes up and says, "I am the deacon of a church, the superintendent of a Sunday School, an entirely well-conducted citizen. I speak your language perfectly. My father was a white man. I had a parent of European descent. Why am I denied the franchise? Why am I thrown out of the municipal car?" And the answer we give him is, "Your mother had black blood in her." Then comes the aborigine native. He says, "It is true I am a black. My people and my ancestors were savage; but I have come out. I have educated myself in your mission schools; I have embraced your religion and been baptised into your church, and am using all my influence to 1035 Christianise and civilise my fellow black man. May not I, by my vote, speak my mind and explain the aspirations of 10,000 of my people, who surround me, and whose wants I understand?" The answer is, "It is impossible to give you equal rights with white citizens." How must a black man feel towards white men who preach such nonsense as that? I know that the case of the black population in Africa and the black population in America are not exactly parallel; but I will venture to refer, in conclusion, to a sentence from a remarkable book published by the Principal of a University in the Southern States of America, who is himself a black. I refer to it because I think it expresses what many thoughtful educated black men in Africa must feel as they do in America. He speaks of the longing of the American negro to obtain self-conscious manhood. He says he would not Africanise America because America has too much to teach the world, but he would not bleach his negro soul in the flood of white Americanism, for he knows that negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellow citizens, without having the door of opportunity closed roughly in his face.
These racial distinctions and disabilities come as a shock to some of us who believe that God made of one blood all nations of the earth. There is a reversal of that, and there is a departure from humanitarianism. There is a denial of freedom, and I am disappointed at the disappearance of that old anti-slavery spirit of two generations ago, which animated many Members of this House. I have been thinking of such names as Livingstone, Moffat, and Colenso. What would they have said about our treatment of the South African natives were they alive? I was reminded by my right hon. Friend this afternoon of my old friend, formerly a distinguished Member of this House, Mr. Forster, who if he had been alive and had sat on that bench, would certainly have opposed this Bill, which, I think, contains a departure from the old Liberal principles.
§ Mr. G. H. ROBERTS
After listening to the Debate I am compelled to agree that there is a marked difference between this occasion and that of some 10 years since. It is remarkable that after the short period of 10 years we should have been brought 1036 to consider a United South Africa, and in so far as the Bill at present under consideration accomplishes that object, we are prepared to give the present Government and all who have associated themselves with the idea a high meed of praise for having brought us to the present stage. But, on the other hand, I feel that there are imperfections in the Bill of an indelible character, and which go a long way to mar what I conceive to be a very grand work. As I thought, or as we all felt that 10 years since, we could never have contemplated that we would to-day be considering the idea of a United South Africa, so. I am sure, in this Parliament so elected, nobody would ever have thought that a great Radical party would have set up a colour bar, which is undoubtedly done in the Bill. It is a most unfortunate tiling that the Bill cannot be amended, and that its purpose, as explained by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who is in charge of it, cannot be expressed in less offensive terms than appear to be the case, certainly in my opinion and in the opinion of a considerable number of Members of this House. Why persons of non-European descent should be excluded from sitting in the Assembly passes my comprehension. We are here depriving the white people themselves of the power of selection, if they agreed to select a non-white person to represent them why should they not be at perfect liberty to do so? Certainly we have evidence that there are non-white people in South Africa quite competent to fill the highest places in the Assembly, which is just about to be set up, and I am perfectly of opinion that we are here creating a worse trouble than we have previously encountered in South Africa. The non-white people are there. They multiply much more rapidly than the white people.
In the minds of some hon. Gentlemen there seems to be an apprehension that if the coloured people are allowed to be enfranchised the powrer of the white people to keep them in subjection will be very much minimised. But we are forcing the intellectual and cultured people of the dark races in South Africa to express themselves in an unconstitutional fashion, because we are depriving them of the elementary right to citizenship. I feel that if we would maintain peace and order in South Africa, at the very least we should maintain the status quo, and not throw this undoubted insult in the face of a number of intellectual people. It is said by the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill that there is no intention to deprive the 1037 coloured people of Cape Colony of the franchise that they at present enjoy, but it seems to me that the very provision for its being done—or, if you care to put it in another way, against its being accomplished—seems to show that those who have been interested in promoting this Bill have had the matter under consideration. Certainly our experience of some of those who are closely associated with this project, and our knowledge of their public utterances, give us cause for alarm and apprehension, just as fully as in the minds of the native population of South Africa. It is stated that the two-thirds majority could not possibly be secured, but I am afraid that it is not beyond the pale of probability that that majority might be secured. Then you say that the British Government has a right to veto, and we are told that we must not seek to amend the- Bill, because that would wreck the Union. If the time arrives when the two-thirds majority in the unified Parliament declares in favour of the removal of the franchise in Cape Colony, I apprehend that we should once again be told that we must not fly in the face of a self-governing-Colony, because if we did the probability is that we would be inciting to something worse even than we are contemplating here to-day. Again, we are told that we must understand that the native population, who have not the privilege now enjoyed by those in Cape Colony, will very naturally feel themselves aggrieved, because the privilege exercised by the same class in one Colony is denied to the same class in another. That undoubtedly will create a problem for the new Parliament, and I fear that there is great probability that those who are able to control that Parliament will seek to solve the problem by taking away the limited Franchise that the natives already hold in Cape Colony. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil and hon. Gentlemen opposite who have spoken in support of the same view as he enunciated, have never advocated as some seem to think, the universal extension of the franchise to the natives of South Africa. We go so far as to recognise, with even the most Imperial-minded Members of the House of Commons, that at a certain stage of evolution it would be impossible and unwise to admit certain races of the world into broad citizenship; but we do say this much: that if any race in the world has become so highly developed as to conform to a certain educational or property standard you might say to them that they ought to have 1038 equal rights of citizenship, irrespective of colour or race.
I fear we are now taking a most backward step. Whilst we are still doing all we can to promote peace and harmony in South Africa, we recognise that there are some principles that we may be called upon to violate which are so fundamental that we cannot do it willingly and of our own accord. It seems to me that after this Bill becomes an Act we may be confronted with a very similar state of circumstances to those which we encountered in South Africa prior to the war. Then the plea for the war and its main justification was that the Boers illtreated the natives, and that it was the duty of this progressive nation to safeguard the natives, and to remove them from the power of the tyranny that was being then exercised over them. We are contemplating to-day a reversal of the pre-1899 traditions, because the same people against whom we made allegations in those days will undoubtedly become the dominant section in the new unified Parliament. I think we might well ask ourselves to-day whether it will be ever possible for this nation to pay off that war? We paid inordinately the price in the loss of treasure and life, and it seems to me we are paying a further instalment in the reversal of the noble traditions that have previously characterised the nation of which we are so justly proud. We know that the natives have ever since thought that they could rely on the British Government to protect them. In fact, as has already been pointed out, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) declared when we were negotiating peace that we could not purchase peace at the price of depriving the natives of their rights and denying them the ordinary civil rights that prevailed in the Government of Cape Colony. When the Peace of Vereeniging was finally arranged it was stipulated that the question of the native franchise was to be left open until a Constitution was appointed.
There seems to be a universal agreement here to-day that it is most undesirable that those insulting words should appear in the Bill. All profess to regret the necessity of of our being asked to acquiesce in them, and it seems to me when the subsequent negotiations had been proceeding if that unanimous wish and desire had been made manifest to the South African representatives they would have recognised the force and the power of the people of this country, and would have yielded on that 1039 point. We might thereby have been able to conform to the agreement, I almost believe, at any rate to the expressions we have conveyed to the natives of our desire to see their interests properly safeguarded. I am very much afraid that we will find that the work that we are doing to-day will provide no solution of the problem, but will rather accentuate the difficulties in South Africa, because I take it that it will always be our purpose to encourage the work of educating and elevating the native people. We have already accomplished a great deal in that direction. Philanthropically-disposed people in this country devote money to the purposes of sending missionaries out to South Africa. They preach to them a Gospel which I regard as one of the finest democratic doctrines that could be taught to mankind. They are taught by the missionaries, they have the principles of Christianity imparted to them; there they are told that they are brothers, of one common Father, and naturally they very soon will be asking themselves why this unbrotherly treatment should be meted out to them. We have evidence, and it has been my privilege of late to meet some of those representative men from South Africa, and I know that irrespective of what may be their colour, that some of them are most highly cultured and educated persons, and I cannot conceive that it will be possible ever to keep them in that state of subjection to which it seems to me the provisions of this Bill are likely to doom them. They must break out in some way or other. Constitutional methods are denied to them, and we have evidence in all parts of the world that where people are denied constitutional methods of expression that they will resort to the less desirable means of making their desire and their will known. It does seem to me a most lamentable thing when we are profiting by our experience in India, and when we are this very year seeking to associate the Indian people more closely with the government of that great Empire, that we should here to-day be found supporting a measure which, in my opinion, marks the very antithesis of the policy that we are seeking to pursue in India, and which, certainly from the standpoint of the present position in Cape Colony, is in my opinion a most retrograde and backward step.
§ Mr. G. H. ROBERTS
What my hon. Friend means by having anything in common I do not know. I claim they are all men. They are all under the same British rule, they have the same human rights, and, I maintain, if they are able to satisfy the requirements of education, then they all ought to be able to share in the work of governing themselves. In Cape Colony it seems to me a most paradoxical thing that we should professedly be retaining the power of some 22,000 natives to vote at elections and at the same time deny them the right to be voted for. Despite what has been stated here to-day, and, of course, we all recognise the force and power of the speech that the Prime Minister made to us, yet on the other hand I believe that if his great ability and his power of speech had been devoted to the other side it would have been much more in conformity with the traditions of the great party which he so capably leads to-day. I am proud, on the other hand, that the party of which I am a Member is associating itself with those who represent what I interpret to be true Radical principles. I used to proclaim, when I was a Member of that party that now sits on the other side, that all the principles of human rights and justice were always supported, and had been so consistently fought for as to become traditions of that party. We feel on this side of the House that in respect to all that is best in the traditions of that party that we are prepared to co-operate in any endeavour to uphold and serve them. It is with a measure of apprehension and alarm that we find a Liberal Government sanctioning such proposals as are contained in this measure. We feel that if they had utilised their opportunities to the full that they might have made the desire of the British people so emphatically known as to have exercised sufficient power on the South African representatives so as to have secured, at any rate, that the most objectionable features to which brief reference has been made would not have been forced upon us. It is because the party with which I am associated is pleased to co-operate with other Members in lodging a protest against what we still believe to be a colour bar set up amongst the people under British rule that I have sought to enter my protest against portions of the Bill, at the same time assuring the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill that there are other portions which we regard to be most desirable, in so far as 1041 they make for a unified South Africa. We are prepared to support that part of the Bill, and we at the same time say that the ideal of the unified South Africa ought to include some of the African people themselves.
§ Mr. W. PEEL
The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies seemed almost unduly grateful at the compliment paid to the administration of Downing-street by the natives in being exceedingly anxious to remain under that beneficent rule. No doubt that was very gratifying; but, after all, Downing-street has made a great many mistakes in the management of South Africa in the last 50 or 60 years—in fact, it has made mistakes of such an order that one really thinks that the smoothness with which affairs are now running in South Africa is almost too much a piece of luck for Downing-street itself. Yet I think we must remember that any mistakes or blunders that have been made through Downing-street in South Africa have been largely due to a great deal of uninformed and uninstructed criticism in the House of Commons itself. The last two speakers complained about their want of freedom in dealing with or criticising the measure now before us, and asked, "What is the use of bringing us here to discuss a measure of this kind when you tell us it is very dangerous to alter or amend it?" Of course, we have a perfect right to alter and amend a measure of this kind; but the whole point is, is it a wise thing to do? It is curious how history repeats itself. It was exactly the same point in the case of the American Colonies. The Grenvilles and all their collaborateurs and colleagues were arguing that they had a perfect right to tax the American Colonies. It is true that they had a perfect right, but the answer of Burke and Chatham and their friends was, "Yes, you have the right, but is it wise?" That is the question one is inclined to ask on this occasion. I do not think that much light is cast upon these problems by the abstract treatment of the last two speakers. They have spoken about the great principles of right and justice, but when one gets into South Africa—and I have been there more than once—the application of those principles strikes one in a very different light from what it does when one is comfortably reposing at home. The hon. Members spoke of the "natives." One has heard many Members of this House speak of the "people" of India, thereby covering an enormous number of different races. I do 1042 not apply that criticism to the same extent in regard to the peoples of South Africa. But anyone who has been to that country and met the Hottentot, the Bechuanalese, the Basuto, and the Zulu, and studied their customs, will be aware of the enormous differences that prevail between the native races there. To speak of them all as "the natives" in one general phrase—
§ Mr. PEEL
I should like to say one word about the general position of the Union itself, because, although one is aware of the many great causes driving the different States in South Africa to Union, particularly the question of dealing with the natives, the question of finance, and the question of substituting one Government for many Governments where only about a million white people are concerned, yet, at the same time, one is greatly impressed by the fact that in the course of the discussions which led up to this Bill, the federal idea gave way to the idea of total unification. Speaking with some familiarity, both with the principal men in that country and with the particularists in the different States, it is wonderful to me that they should have agreed on giving such transcendent power as they have done to the central authority, and giving hardly any power to the local authorities. One is inclined to ask who will be ready to serve on these local provincial assemblies. Their powers of passing ordinances or laws are tremendously restricted; they are subject to the approval of the Governor-General in Council, and at the same time the Central Parliament has concurrent powers of legislation. Even the borrowing of money is subject to the consent of the Governor-General in Council, according to regulations framed by Parliament. All through their powers are exceedingly limited, and one is inclined to wonder whether this 1043 extreme limitation of the powers of the local authorities has been fully brought home to the voters in the different States, and whether when they feel the working of this Act, some people will not be inclined to think that they have sacrificed too much of their local individualism to the necessities of the Central Parliament. I do not deny that the whole of this was done by their leading men with their eyes open; nor do I deny that the leading men acted with the greatest wisdom in this matter. I have no doubt that they were familiar with the precedents in Canada and Australia, and that they had observed the extent to which a weak federal power has allowed action to be taken by subordinate States which sometimes act contrary to the general interest. The very conditions of South Africa, the extent to which you have the gold mines in one State, the diamond mines in another, the position of the ports, the necessities of internal communication, and so on, point to the necessity of close unification in the government of the country. But with all these matters before us, I am still surprised at the extent to which the different States in South Africa have been able to put aside their separate interests and particularisms, and to combine to make a very strong State. They have shown great wisdom also in the arrangement about the railways, in trying to remove such a fertile source both of discussion and of difficulty between the States as far as possible from the direct purview and influence of Parliament.
Turning for a moment to the native question, there are two chief principles which might be followed in dealing with it. You can follow the system of absolute equality, which has worked so badly in the United States; or you may treat the natives entirely as minors, taking all the powers yourself, and treating the natives with kindness but without giving them any power in the Government. Between those courses there is another course, which has been already suggested in this House; that while the mass of the natives might be quite incapable of exercising the powers themselves, there might be among them exceptional men, capable by education of earning themselves positions in the professions or in business, who might therefore have different treatment. That is possible. But then you are met with the feeling of the white population in South Africa. I think you must always remember this, though there may have 1044 been criticisms on those leading men, delegates, for not assenting or agreeing to assent to extending the vote, or maintaining the position of the possibility of the natives being elected to a separate Parliament. Surely those who say this are not in full touch with the white settlements and feeling in South Africa. Rightly or wrongly, that is the feeling. Those who advocate separate treatment are really saying to the white people in South Africa, both races, Dutch and English: You must deal with the question in the way we think is right to deal with it in England, not in the way you think it right to deal with them there. As action regarding the natives must be of a spasmodic kind, and cannot be continuous, I think it is in the interests of the natives to leave the settlement of this question to the Parliaments there, who are far more likely to deal with the matter if they are left alone, than if disturbed by spasmodic interference here. In other countries where this country has tried occasionally to interfere with the Government on behalf of certain sections of the population the results have generally been exceedingly unfortunate for that section of the population in whose favour we tried to interfere. Of course, if you are going to preserve to the natives in Cape Colony the right to sit in the Cape Parliament, it is quite obvious that you will have to grant those powers to the other States as well. After all, the matter does not come much into practical account, because it is well known that no natives have sat in the Cape Colony or Natal Parliaments. There was one occasion where a native wished to stand for a constituency in Cape Colony, but Mr. Sauer dissuaded him, because he said if he was elected he would do more harm to the cause for which he was fighting than if he refrained from putting himself up for this particular constituency. I do not want to go into the calculations that have been made as to the possibility that this vote might be taken away by the vote of the Central Parliament. That has been dealt with. But surely it is not right when a Member, the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Byles), actually suggests that this two-thirds majority has been put into this document in order to incite this Parliament to take away the franchise! Anyone who will argue in that way must, I think, be left alone to deal with his own argument. I think there are a good many reasons why they are not likely to make this attempt.
1045 10.0 P.M.
It would cause an immense amount of friction, and they would have, anyhow, a very solid and distinguished body of Cape representatives solid against them. Besides, why, when they are dealing with so many questions, should they set up another difficulty by trying to fight Cape Colony representatives in this matter? After all, one must not forget that the fact of the natives voting in the Cape does not make any matter to those who go to the Central Parliament. There can be no motive whatever for this Central Parliament trying to take away from voters the privilege they now enjoy. Moreover, though the powers are very small to be given to the provincial councils, it must not be forgotten that in Cape Colony the native members are not only able to vote, but to sit on the provincial councils; so that they will have an opportunity of showing their administrative powers and the way they can deal with business. I believe myself that the new Parliament will have every reason and every motive for dealing fairly with the natives. First of all, they live among them, and have to face in a way we do not face here the various problems. They have got to take the risks of any difficulties which may arise among the natives. Then, though there is 6,000 miles between us and South Africa, the South Africans—the leading men certainly—are sensitive to public opinion in the way they certainly were not 20 or 30 years ago. There is, so to speak, a general world opinion, and the leaders of opinion, of action, in South Africa cannot afford to disregard it any more than it can be disregarded by the leaders of opinion and action here. Moreover, it is obvious that the Parliament there will desire sooner or later control of the Protectorates; that sooner or later it will be anxious that the Protectorates will be handed over, and it is not likely, therefore, that it will deal unwisely or harshly with the natives under its control. The hon. Member below the Gangway said: "Oh, yes, but the ill-treatment of the natives was the cause, or one of the causes, of the Boer war." He does not, surely, draw a comparison between the state of affairs then and the present condition of things? There is no comparison between the two Governments. It is obvious that the whole of South Africa in their views, as expressed through the Parliament, would take a far broader outlook on the native question than if it were any small particular State—certainly than 1046 the Transvaal and its unreformed system. Whatever the hon. Members may think of the war there is no doubt that without the war and the settlement of the war this particular scheme of unity was utterly impossible. I think the Under-Secretary for the Colonies in measuring out the praise for the results at which we have arrived paid insufficient tribute to the work of Lord Milner. No one can deny the valuable work he did, and I am bound to say also that amongst the names which have been mentioned as contributing towards this great result the name of Cecil Rhodes ought never to be forgotten, because for many years he aimed at the unification of South Africa and the harmony of both races in South Africa. Although, it is quite true, that until his will was promulgated there were a great many people who had not realised what a distinguished man he was. Three great sets of Colonies at least are now enjoying federal or unified systems, and the next step will be some other unification. Until South Africa settled its internal difficulties, and occupied a place on the same basis as Australia and Canada, it would have been impossible to look for further unification of those three great countries unless they were on an equality as regards status and government. One has the utmost goodwill towards the measure before us. Although the population in South Africa is a comparatively small one it has produced such a very large number of distinguished men that, we may believe they will deal safely and wisely with the tremendous problems which are undoubtedly before them.
§ Mr. A. LUPTON
It has been said, in reference to the clause which requires a two-third majority of the South African Union of Parliaments to modify the arrangement for the native vote in Cape Colony that that is a clause which specially protects the native voter. It is said that with regard to any other voter he can be disenfranchised by a bare majority. We have one Colony which, under pressure from England, gives the native the vote. This Colony is said to be penalised because the white voter there will have one tenth less representation than he would have in any other Colony. There is to be extra pressure put upon the representatives of the Cape Colony to agree with, the members representing other Colonies. There cannot be the slightest doubt that those who are putting forward this measure will use their utmost endeavour, as soon as 1047 the Union is established, to put pressure upon Cape Colony. When first I read the clause I thought this is a bar in the way of depriving natives of their vote; but on reconsideration, I came to the conclusion it was not the intention. It is said that this country must not interfere with South Africa. Are we to withdraw all our troops, and is our Navy never to be called upon to defend that Colony? Are they to defend themselves against all foes? If so, then they are entitled to say, "Do not interfere." I should be very glad if South Africa were entirely independent and we had no responsibility, but as long as we are responsible for it, and as long as our troops and our Navy are liable to be very heavily engaged in internal dissensions there, it is very necessary that we should interfere before it is too late. There is every reason to suppose that there is a strong agitation in South Africa to do entirely away with the native representation. It is funny that there has been no case whatever made for this Bill. If you bring an action in a court of law you must make out a case, but in this House the case is often assumed. The Under-Secretary ought to have made out a case, and shown us why he wanted this Bill; but instead the Rill was brought in, and we were told we must take it and not criticise it. We must not amend it, but just take it or leave it. I think it is a most insulting proposition to make to us that we must accept it, no matter how much it controverts all our principles and is contrary to the whole history of the country for the last 80 years. We are called upon to accept this Bill at the bidding of certain people who have succeeded in inducing their various Parliaments to agree to it. There is little reason to suppose that they by any means unanimously accepted it—
§ Mr. LUPTON
Unanimous after long and very strong discussions, as I understand. It is such a nicely balanced thing; the equilibrium, I understand, is so unstable that if you touch it over it will go. It is said that if we amend the thing in the slightest degree the whole of it will go. It is a dangerous thing to send the Bill to a country where the people are so very uncertain whether they want it or not. This Parliament has to find the money and has to keep an army in South Africa, but the feelings there are such that they 1048 cannot bear to have any Amendment of the Bill made by us. There ought to be some reasons shown why this Bill is necessary. Hon. Members from Ireland are not here in great force to-night, but we have been taught by them that there is nothing like Home Rule. We have a great deal of Home Rule in South Africa, because Cape Colony, the Transvaal, and the Orange River Colony all govern themselves. Now you are going to upset all this, and instead of referring matters to the Colonial Secretary, who is very much adverse to interfering with them, they are going to be settled by the Union Parliament. I think this measure is a great deal too premature, and it is much more likely to lead to trouble than if we left things alone. At present things are going on very nicely, and I cannot see where the motive power comes to force this change upon South Africa. A witty Frenchman said, "Cherchez la femme," when there is any trouble. I say who is going to get the money? This change may be to suit the Chartered Company, and we do not know what is going to happen. There may be somebody there who wants some money who is pushing this thing forward. Each Colony in South Africa has its distinct characteristics: one is tropical and the other temperate; and why they should all be lumped together into one Government in this hotchpotch way I do not know. As to this colour bar, what is European descent? Can anybody answer me that question? Is a Jew of European descent? I believe the Jews came originally from North Africa. At any rate, Moses let them out of North Africa. Then they came round by Eng land, and in this way they are of European descent. If, however, they went South up the Nile and through the Equator, then they are of African or Asiatic descent. If they go round by the sea they are of European descent, and it is very difficult to know where to draw the line. I have always thought the Caucasian race was one of the finest in the world. Would Caucasians coming round by South Africa be regarded as of European descent? I for one, would like to have a definition of "European descent." If St. Paul were alive now and came to South Africa, would he be considered to be of European descent? I think that would be a very knotty point. He was a Jew, and, when I first heard of him, was in Asia. I very much doubt whether the High Court of the Union would find that he was of European descent. Perhaps I was wrong 1049 in suggesting that the Union was for the sake of the Chartered Company; but there is no doubt, if these four States are united, that they will be able to attack a territory of any native race much easier than they would singly. If any one of these States wanted to make war on the Basutos, they would perhaps find the task heavier than they would like; but, if they were united, they could make such an attack with a fair amount of success, and it would be much more difficult for the Imperial Government to intervene. We can now intervene if any villainy is proposed; but, when they are united, we shall not be able to do so. They will say the whole of South Africa is united, and we shall not be able to interfere. It is said we have already agreed to a colour bar in' South Africa. We did not exactly agree to it. It was a treaty right of Vereeniging, and we had to keep to it. That does not, however, oblige us to go forward. If the Transvaal were to ask us to go forward, we should say: "Very well, on condition that right is done to the King's subjects," and the natives are by far the most important part of the King's subjects in South Africa. I shall therefore think the King ill-advised if he passes any Bill which will treat them with any slight or place them under any new disability. I am not suggesting that they should all be given the franchise. I believe in going slowly and surely in the path of progress. This is a backward measure, and I was almost going to say I was sorry I had lived to see the day when a Liberal Government could bring in such a Bill. I was particularly sorry for the Under-Secretary when he was trying to justify this clause. I felt pity from the bottom of my heart. I know what his views are, and I know his honourable mind and sympathetic intelligence. I appeal to him, and I hope when the Bill tomes to Committee he will strike, and will say these clauses must be amended. If he cannot get his own way I hope he will resign. He is a young man politically, with, I think, a great career ahead of him. Now is his time. Let him show the grit he is made of. Let him show he is a man of principle. Let him stand out for his principles, and his descendants will say of him, "He showed himself a man of principle. He lost his place in the Government, but he came in ten years after, and was Prime Minister of this country."
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I am aware that there is a very limited amount of time for 1050 this Debate, but it is happily long enough for our purpose, because the Debate has followed a course upon which I think everybody in the House must congratulate himself. It has been, on the whole, friendly and satisfactory, even although there may have been as much criticism as any Under-Secretary could desire. But there has been a general expresson of opinion in favour of the principle of the Bill, and I hope that we shall pass its second reading to-night unanimously. I had the advantage of being in South Africa for a very few weeks during the interesting period of the proceedings which led up to the adoption of the draft Act. I was there between the meeting of the Convention in Cape Town and of that at Bloemfontein. I think everybody will realise that that was, on the whole, not only the most interesting, but probably the most important period of these very important negotiations, and anybody who was able to take note of what was passing, with a reasonable amount of intelligence, must have been struck by the attitude of the men who were responsible for the conduct of the operations. It is because I believe that this testimony will be of some use to this House at this moment that I venture to intrude upon its attention. What happened? Up to the separation of the Cape Town Convention the questions which had engaged the attention of the delegates had been of comparatively minor importance, and it was not until the draft Act was first published, after the separation of the Convention at Cape Town, that those questions which we are now considering bulked very largely in the public mind. How were they approached by the delegates? What were the difficulties they had to face? How did they approach the solution of those difficulties? I believe anybody who was there at the time was able to realise better even than would be possible for people on this side of the water, how remarkable was the statesmanship, and how great was the self-denial with which the representatives of the different Colonies approached questions which threatened to divide the Colonies and to make the Union impossible. For my part, and I have no doubt if hon. Members had had fuller time to debate this second reading they would have agreed with me, there are other questions besides those affecting the natives which well deserve the attention of this House, and in regard to which it might well express opinions more critical possibly even than I those we have heard to-night. But 1051 we have not time to do that, and I do not propose to raise that question tonight, but, having regard to this particular question, which has bulked so largely, namely, the treatment of natives, I was only in South Africa long enough to learn how little we know at home about these matters. We talk about them with knowledge, some of it acquired on the spot, some of it acquired from the history of this country and its dependencies, but largely from a knowledge which has never gone through the test of practical experience.
The Prime Minister to-night warned us that if we sought to press upon South Africa any change, especially in regard to this native question, the consequences would probably be serious as regards this particular Bill. I may be entirely wrong, I do not want the House for a moment to accept my impression and conclusion as absolutely reliable, but I believe on the whole they would have the support of men, many of whom are over here now and who know the feeling of the different Colonies, and my belief is that not only would you lose this Bill for the union of four Colonies, which we all desire to see accomplished, but I believe you would do much more even than that—I believe that up to the present the Amendments which have been suggested would not only lose union for the time, but would do an enormous injury to the cause, which everybody has at heart, namely, the reasonably just advancement of the position of the natives in South Africa. It is only necessary for anybody to be there even for the short time that I was to see that if, is inevitable that there are a good many men who are fully competent to sit in Parliament, and to be entrusted with the responsible work of Government—some of them as competent as any white man that you can find, but that is not the question we are now discussing, that is not the problem we have to deal with. The question is a very different one, and I think an hon. Member was right and wise, a few minutes ago. when he warned the House that it is one thing to approach the consideration of this problem from a distance and with South African ideas, and another to do so from the comparative ease and comfort of a seat in this House.
In South Africa everyone knows the practical bearing it has upon life in that country. They know what the problem really is, and I believe that you would not 1052 really bring about the result, with regard to the native population, which you desire, but you would do something exactly the reverse, and put back this question, I believe, for 25 years; and, in addition, would produce a feeling of irritation and annoyance which would do far more harm to the native cause than anything which is likely to be done by passing this Bill. The four Colonies have agreed upon this draft Act of Union; they sent their representatives over here, and they have, on the other side, considered in a spirit of broad and generous statesmanship the difficulties, which appeared great at the time and which threatened to divide the Colonies. Is it unreasonable to hope and believe that many of us in the same spirit of broad and generous statesmanship, with which they have dealt with the question will also deal with it? While I was in South Africa His Excellency the Governor-General delivered an address at Cape Town upon this very question, an address which attracted a very large amount of attention, and in regard to which there were many people who felt that it would arouse great opposition. It aroused nothing of the kind. I do not care whether it was in ordinary conversation, whether through the medium of the newspapers, whether in places where ordinarily you would expect, as I was assured, to find keen opposition in every quarter, this difficult question of the settlement of the native difficulty was approached in a spirit of statesmanship and goodwill, and I am sure Lord Selborne himself would be the first to say that his proposals, which might very easily have aroused great animosity, were received with great friendliness.
The right hon. Baronet (Sir C. W. Dilke) warned us of the past incidents of South Africa, and reminded us of the dangers which had threatened the native races of South Africa in the past. I may be wrong. I may be too optimistic, but I firmly believe, that in regard to this question the statesmen who have proved themselves capable of dealing with very difficult questions in South Africa up to this moment are just as much alive as we are to the necessity of carrying the natives with them in the progress and advancement which they hope to secure. I know there have been difficulties. I know there has been much said from time to time which justifies fear and apprehension on the part of people in this country in regard to certain aspects of the native question; but I believe what has been said to-night has been no exaggeration. I believe the fusion of these 1053 four Colonies into one has commenced a new era for South Africa; that they are determined to look at this question from a broader point of view, and that they realise as fully as men can realise the importance of their wise and generous treatment. For my part, I should be very sorry to take part in this Debate at all if I thought any word I was likely to utter would be calculated to throw any obstacle in the way of the passing of this Bill, or of the assurance of our fellow-citizens in South Africa that we have not only sympathy with them in the difficulties which they have to face, but confidence in the statesmanship and courage with which they will face them and deal with them. I hope, as I believe, that we shall pass this Bill without a Division to-night. I have intervened, not because I have any special right, certainly not because I have any special knowledge, but because I was there during a very interesting time, because I witnessed work which was done by men who were faced with very great difficulties, and because I believe, not only that this is one of the greatest incidents in the life of our country, but because I believe never did men approach the solution of a difficult question with a more genuine spirit of patriotism and a more genuine desire to allow no personal consideration affecting their own individual Colony or their own party or themselves to prevent them from doing what they conceive to be their duty by South Africa and by the Empire. I believe there have never been greater incidents of patriotism and public spirit than there were in South Africa during the events which led up to the final meeting and the adoption of the draft Act of Bloemfontein, and I hope, as I believe, that we shall to-night set the final seal upon this Bill, and that the ultimate proceedings will occupy but a limited time, and that we shall do nothing to prejudice the passing of this Bill, so full, as I believe it to be, of importance to South Africa and to the Empire as a whole.
§ Mr. J. A. SIMON
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) confined himself very largely to an aspect of the subject which has been debated almost exclusively in the course of the discussion, although, as he said, there are many other matters which rise to the mind of any thoughtful Englishman at this moment in connection with this great measure. On the wider issues he expressed, I am sure, the view of all of us, and I do not desire to add anything on that question. On the native question I desire to refer to what was said toy those 1054 of my hon. Friends who spoke with sincerity and with a real feeling of public spirit which we are always prepared to recognise. It is, of course, a lamentable thing that we should find ourselves asked to accept a measure which contains, as many of us think, provisions which are inadequate and unsatisfactory as regards the natives. Various hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway say that they are quite satisfied in their own inner consciousness that if only the British House of Commons refuse to pass those provisions those who represent South Africa will give way. In a matter of that sort I know of only one test. What is the opinion formed by those who have a right to speak with knowledge on that matter? When I find that we are assured that a change in that regard would mean the breaking up of this settlement, whatever might come in future, I cannot hesitate as to what is the line any man must take who attaches importance to the matters which this settlement is designed to secure. I notice that the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Byles) and others made a curious omission as to what has been the course of our Debates in this matter. True, it is that the Treaty of Vereeniging contained a bargain between this country and the population of the Transvaal that there should be no attempt to confer the franchise on the natives until self-government was granted to the Transvaal. So far we are all agreed. It was better to have peace at that price than a continuation of the war. Let me fill up the gap. In 1906, four years after the war, there was the granting of self-government to the Transvaal. By whom? By us in this House, and on that occasion the then Under-Secretary for the Colonies explained the plan of what was to be offered to the Transvaal. That plan was the granting of a Constitution to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, which did not contain any native representation whatever.
§ Mr. SIMON
The right hon. Gentleman has a right to cheer and to recall to the memory of the House the course he took on that occasion. But where was the hon. Member for Salford and the Leader of the Labour party?. The Leader of the Labour party made a speech on that occasion, on 17th December, 1906. There is this distinction between the Constitution with which we were then dealing and the Constitution with which we are now dealing. 1055 The Constitution with which we were then dealing was one in which we had the right of control. It was we in this country who were granting a Constitution to the Transvaal, and in December, 1906, we, sitting in this House, passed unanimously and without challenge, a Resolution that the House approved of this Constitution to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. The hon. Gentleman who leads the Labour party in the House made a speech on that occasion, and I cannot find from beginning to end of it, though he spoke after the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Dilke) a single reference to his indignation at this omission of the rights of the natives. I am very far from saying that Gentlemen may not change their opinion. It may very well be that since Mr. Schreiner visited this country some of these matters which were not plain then have become so—
§ Mr. SIMON
It is impossible to explain things more than once at this hour of the Debate. To the hon. Gentlemen who have done me the honour of listening to me the distinction is perfectly plain. If ever there was a time when we were entitled to say that we had responsibility in our own hands that was the time, yet nobody was found to vote against this proposal. By our own act we have given to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony Constitutions which contain these provisions. On the other hand the Cape has got a Constitution which does contain provisions for native representation. And now the alternative is before you of considering, aye or no, is the objection now raised, an objection which should stand in the way of the accomplishment of this effort for union I Now this matter comes to us from four communities on the other side of the world on whom we conferred different forms of Constitution, and who now enjoy those different forms of Constitution, have arrived at the compromise which they invite this House to ratify. After all, is there not some force in this further consideration? It is not true to say that there is anything in the Constitution now proposed to reduce the rights of the natives. What is true is that there is the exclusion from a new Legislature of those not of 1056 European descent. That is, a new Constitution framed by those on the other side of the world. That is the single provision in it which can be regarded as affecting this question positively; and I should hope that in the course of this Debate, without undue bitterness and with real inspiration of public spirit in so far as we in this country may fairly indicate our view, we have indicated it, and that is is not to be regarded as one which will not have its effect in South Africa. What is the alternative? Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have spoken more than once, and said, "Oh, if only there was more courage shown in resisting this form of Constitution, unquestionably the delegates from South Africa would be prepared to revise their instructions." Those delegates come here themselves with instructions from the other side of the world, and that is a matter which delegates may regard as one of first principle, which they are not at liberty to withdraw or alter. The real question, then, is, if it be true that this scheme is jeopardised by insisting upon such an alteration as that, are hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway prepared to insist upon it? [Some HON. Members: "Certainly."] If so, all I say is that there are many who call themselves good Liberals who do not agree with it. And in a matter of this sort I, at any rate, am not prepared to take upon myself the self-inspired responsibility which we hear of constantly at home, where we have got no native question, of dissenting from these people on the other side of the world as to what are the conditions at this moment in which they are to unite among themselves.
It is not so easy a thing as it appears to produce a union between separate communities such as this Bill proposes to do. It has been attempted, it is true, in South Africa before, and it failed, and it always will fail, until you get these three conditions: First, that the demand for union should come from South Africa itself. That was the reason why in 1877 an Act went through the Legislature of this country providing for a federation. It became a dead letter. The second condition is that not only must the impulse for union come from South Africa, but the methods by which that principle is to be applied must be methods which have been devised in South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman, in the speech he has just made to the House, told us how the matter struck him when he visited that country. The essential condition on 1057 which successful union in South Africa must always be based is the free, generous, and prompt granting of self-government to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. I think it is our duty not to let this Debate pass without pointing out that the spirit of reasonableness has not always guided the point of view which has been acted upon. I am not making any miserable party point. It is necessary that it should be borne in mind now that it is the spirit of ascendancy which the right hon. Gentleman has just as generously repudiated, as we could wish to do, that in times of stress is only too apt to claim for itself a monopoly of patriotism. It is a more courageous policy which has produced this glorious result, and we should be ungrateful indeed, in remembering the dead as well as many of the living, if we did not recognise that what was the true history of Canada in 1840, and what I believe will some day be the history of Ireland, is true of South Africa to-day, namely, that the only one and true solvent and cure of discontent is liberty.
§ Mr. F. C. MACKARNESS
I entirely endorse what has fallen from my learned Friend (Mr. Simon) when he laid stress upon the tremendous triumph which has been achieved in bringing about this union between the white races of South Africa, though it does not settle the greater problem that lies between the white race and the black race. I am one of those who thought, and I believe everybody in this House thinks, whatever his attitude towards the war, that it was a great tragedy, and that there could be no greater tragedy than a repetition of such a war. Any measure which makes impossible a repetition of war between the two white races is a measure which if it had only that one feature ought to be passed by this House. As long as the Colonies were separated, and were not unified in the way proposed in this measure, however improbable, it was not impossible that some quarrel between the two white races might arise. As soon as that Union is accomplished this becomes impossible. With regard to the undoubted blot upon the measure as to the colour bar, as to which there is no difference of opinion in any quarter of the House, I think that has been exaggerated by some of my hon. Friends, and that they have not attached sufficient importance to the benefits in the other direction to which I allude. I do not myself think that the 1058 natives will be, even if the Bill is never altered, which I think it will be, as my right hon. Friend (Sir C. W. Dilke) says, worsened in condition. On the contrary, I believe the rights which they have already in Cape Colony will be maintained, and that that example will in time extend to the other Colonies, and that they will enjoy greater security under a stronger Government. I also have great faith that before long those objectionable words "of European descent" will be removed from the Act by the South African Parliament itself. I believe that the Appeal which has been made here to-night to the South African leaders comes from those whom they know perfectly well to have been their strongest friends through all their most trying and dark days, I believe that that appeal will not fail, and that the defect of the measure which has been so much deplored to-night will only be a temporary defect. I believe the measure will stand out as one of great importance and of everlasting credit to the Government that carried it, and I venture to tender my hearty congratulations to my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Seely) as the spokesman of the Government.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, "That the Bill be referred to a Committee of the whole House for Thursday next."—[Colonel Seely.]