§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
, on rising to move an Address for Copies of petitions addressed to Her Majesty with reference to the proposed introduction of Responsible Government in the Cape Colony, said, that whether it was owing to the temperature, or from some other cause, but from the scanty attendance then present, he was afraid their Lordships felt but little interest in this matter, but he could assure them it excited the deepest interest among our fellow-subjects abroad. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Kimberley) desired to force on the colony of the Cape the peculiar Liberal nostrum which goes by the name of "responsible Government." He (the Marquess of Salisbury) must explain to their Lordships why there was an objection to that system—because responsible government was supposed to be the Palladium of English liberty, and it seemed to us inconceivable why there was so great an objection to it abroad. The objection was two-fold. In the first place, among the population at the Cape there were two Blacks for every White, and more than half of the Whites were Dutch and not English by their extraction. The other was a geograpical objection. The eastern portion of the colony, inhabited mainly by English, was industrious and progressive, but under responsible government it would be placed under the servitude of the Government in the west at Cape Town. The system of responsible government, which it was proposed to introduce into the colony of the Cape, although it had many advantages, yet it had one principal disadvantage in this case—that it placed the minority at the mercy of the majority; and where the majority was of one race or belonged to one district, the fate of the minority was hard indeed. He wished to call the attention of his noble Friend opposite to the manner in which his behests had been obeyed in the colony. His noble Friend said, in the spring of the present year, that he was not inclined to press against the wishes of the colonists the system of responsible government, and that he would be too glad if the responsibility were taken off his own shoulders and put upon theirs; but his noble 25 Friend's acts furnished a different interpretation of his words, for he had directed, in the strongest manner possible, that this system, which had been once rejected by the Parliament of the colony, should be brought before them again, and had refused an appeal to the country. The state of the case was this—Last year the change was passed by the Legislative Assembly, and rejected by the Legislative Council. Probably Her Majesty's Government, who treated their Lordships' House with contempt, would not value very highly the decision of the Upper House of the colony.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I rise to Order. The noble Marquess is not in Order when he states that any of us on this bench have treated your Lordships' House with contempt.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, he was referring to what happened last year on a great military subject, and their Lordships well knew how their wishes were received by the Secretary of State for War. They were aware that by a violent act—by the unworthy use of a technical quibble—the deliberate decision of their Lordships' House was overridden by the action of the Government and by the executive authority of the Crown. He alluded to that matter for the purpose of showing that their Lordships' House did not at the time stand high in the affections and respect of Her Majesty's Government.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I must again call the noble Marquess to Order. I deny that he has any ground whatever on which he can sustain the charge against Her Majesty's Government of want of respect or affection towards your Lordships' House.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, it was a matter not of Order, but of history. He had a right to comment on the conduct of Ministers of the Crown in their dealings with that House, and to say that they had been characterized by anything but sentiments of affection or respect. Such was the interpretation which he put on their conduct during the last 12 months, and he doubted whether the verdict of history would in any degree modify that interpretation. He might appeal, moreover, to the language of the supporters of the Government in the other House, and that of the newspapers which also supported them, to show that his judgment was not 26 wholly unfounded. Returning, after the noble Earl's interruption, to the matter now before the House, he wished to remark that the Legislative Council of the Cape received the same measure as this House, though, as a purely elective body, it ought to commend itself more to the affections of the Government. It represented the colony as much as the House of Assembly did, and there was consequently no pretence, on the principles of noble Lords opposite, for treating its decisions with less respect. The present Governor, Sir Henry Barkly, was sent out with instructions to get passed a system of so-called "responsible government," which was really a system of making the English or Eastern Province subject to the Western. In a despatch to the noble Earl opposite the Governor expressed a sanguine hope of being able to effect this sooner or later, were he able to furnish explanations or give assurances "privately, and as from himself" on points which were sure to be started in different quarters whenever the subject was seriously discussed. Last year the scheme was rejected by the Legislative Council. Before it came on again this year a Member who had been induced to alter his opinion since his election, yet retained sufficient honour to feel that he was bound to consult his constituents before giving effect to that change by his vote, appealed to them for re-election. His constituents, belonging to the Eastern Province, by a large majority rejected him, and returned a man pledged anew against the scheme. That circumstance alone should have warned the Government that their policy was inconsistent with the opinion of that portion of the colony, which, if ties of blood and kindred were worth anything, was entitled to special sympathy. The measure, however, passed the Lower House this year by 35 to 25, 24 of the minority being of English, and a considerable majority of its supporters of Dutch extraction. In the Council it would have been thrown out had all the Members adhered to their pledges and to their vote the previous year; but two gentlemen, for reasons with whose nature he was unacquainted, voted against their pledges, the new system thus gaining a majority of 1. Not only was that slender majority for the second reading accepted, but every clause of the Bill was passed through Committee 27 by the casting vote of the Chairman, whose vote in this House would be of no such avail. Moreover, the Standing Orders were suspended, and the Bill was read a third time the same night, thus showing that the Government were not slow in taking advantage of the opportunity thus acquired. Let their Lordships conceive a measure revolutionizing the Constitution of the Cape as thoroughly as our own Government was revolutionized in 1868 being thus passed by two of its pledged opponents being lured over, by the casting vote of the Chairman in Committee, and by the suspension of the Standing Orders, in order that those two men might not be induced to reconsider their policy. As might be imagined would be the case here, so there this proceeding excited the greatest scandal. He would not repeat the imputations made against the two Members, for with that he had nothing to do; but he asked the Government to consider the effect on the future of the colony, of a victory so obtained, and of a distinct refusal to appeal to the colonists before the final decision was taken. A Petition signed by all but two of the Members for the Eastern Province had been forwarded to him, the petitioners representing the most progressive part of the colony, the interests of which were likely to be neglected under the new system; and it was for the purpose of laying the case and prayer of the petitioners fairly before them that he had taken the step he had. They urged that for 18 years representative institutions had been rendered illusory by the majority commanded by the Western Province in both branches of the Legislature; that serious disadvantages and inconveniences had accrued from their distance from the seat of Government; that the Revenue contributed by the Eastern Province was £79,000 in excess of the Western, while its expenditure was £52,000 less; and that the policy of the Government in respect of the Native races bore with undue pressure on the Eastern Province. What might be expected to happen? Schleswig-Holstein was a name of terror to statesmen; but there the state of things was precisely the same as at the Cape. As long as there was Royal rule, the small German and the large Danish element lived peaceably and happily side by side; but responsible government was introduced, 28 the result being that the minority became the slaves of the majority. The Germans were neglected and oppressed by the Danes. Belonging to a race more powerful in other parts of the world, they would not bend meekly to the yoke thrust on them on the plea of Liberal principles. They resisted, and we know how the face of the Continent had been changed by that resistance. That was the case on a smaller area at the Cape, and the results would probably be much less, though not unimportant to the colony. A small and distinct population were to be subjected, in the name of Liberal principles and a theory of responsible government, to another and hostile race and district; but, feeling themselves to belong to a great nation, they would feel it bitterly, and would resist the servitude as far as they were able. What would happen would be that neither roads nor bridges would be made in the Eastern Province, and that all the railways would be made in the Western Province, while all political questions would be determined in accordance with the predilections of the Dutch part of the population, with the result that the Eastern Province would be involved in a Native war which it would be unable to carry on with success. When these things happened the inhabitants of the Eastern Province would ask themselves how they came about, and the reply would be that they had resulted not from their own legislation or with their own consent, but because England had placed them under a Secretary of State and a Governor who were bent upon carrying out a particular theory in reference to the colony regardless of consequences, and who had lured their representatives from the faith which they had pledged; and who, having by that means passed this measure through the Colonial Parliament by a bare majority, had, with an unwarrantable disregard of Constitutional Law, dealt with the fate of the colony at their pleasure. It could, however, scarcely be a matter of much self-denial on the part of the noble Earl to hold his hand in reference to this subject for a short time. The delay occasioned by once more submitting this question to the colony would be but slight, while much good might result from the noble Earl adopting that course before he came to a final determination with respect to this matter 29 by preventing any bitter memories attaching to the proposed change in after years, such as had attached to the Irish Union. The noble Earl would, he felt satisfied, give him credit for desiring that his measures should not actually be just, but that they should be regarded as just by those whose interests were deeply affected by them. Under the circumstances, he could not believe that the noble Earl would persist in what might be regarded by some inhabitants of the colony as a tyrannical proceeding, by which he would force upon the English inhabitants of one of our colonies a form of government which was distasteful to them, and to which the sanction of a bare majority of the Colonial Legislature had only been obtained by the means to which he had referred.Moved that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for, Copies of petitions addressed to Her Majesty with reference to the proposed introduction of Responsible Government in the Cape Colony.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
remarked that the noble Marquess was a master of strong language, and he had used his power in that respect to the utmost in reference to this question, and had bestowed every opprobrious epithet he could think of upon the policy to which he had objected. Of course, if one-tenth of what the noble Marquess had charged against the Government were true, no language could be too strong in which to reprobate their conduct; but if the House would permit him, he (the Earl of Kimberley) should in a few minutes be able to show that the course which had been adopted by the Government in this matter was entirely free from blame. The government of the Cape Colony was, undoubtedly, a very difficult matter, but that difficulty was not to be met merely by unmeasured denunciations of this or that policy. So far from forcing upon the Cape Colony the particular policy to which the noble Marquess objected, the Government had done nothing of the kind, for they had placed the question before the Cape Legislature in the most careful and deliberate manner. The noble Marquess had referred to a despatch, or rather letter, addressed to himself by Sir Henry Barkly, and had quoted extracts from it. Now, in the letter Sir Henry Barkly said— 30It is true that, judging from the tone of the leading colonial journals, and of letters published by the Members of the Cape Parliament in their columns, the desire for responsible government appears to be gaining ground, at any rate in the Western Province; and I should feel sanguine of being able to obtain a majority in its favour through out the colony sooner or later were I only in a position to furnish explanations, or to give assurances privately and as from myself, on points sure to be started in different quarters, whenever the subject was seriously discussed.It was essential to observe what was his answer to the letter, and what were the nature of the assurances which he had been able to give in reference to various matters connected with the question. If the noble Marquess had read the whole of that letter, he would have found that the private assurances asked for related to a broad and distinct line of policy—that of the withdrawal of the British troops from the colony. Nothing could be more natural than that Sir Henry Barkly should have asked the Secretary of State for some assurance in that matter, and he could assure the noble Marquess that the whole proceeding, so far from being underhand, was open and fair. The Government thought that the colonists had a right to know what they had to expect with regard to the withdrawal of the troops, in order that they might have ample time to make their arrangements accordingly. For his own part, he was most anxious that the colonists should know at what he was aiming in the matter. Sir Henry Barkly having expressed some doubt as to whether Her Majesty's Government were decidedly in favour of responsible government, in consequence of his having stated the two sides of the question so impartially, he had in November, 1870, sent him a letter containing the following paragraph:—I do not precisely see the grounds for the doubts which you seem to entertain as to the views of Her Majesty's Government on the question of the form of government best adapted to the Cape Colony. I pointed out to you in my letter the evils which arise from the existing Constitution, and I distinctly stated that while either responsible government or a government resembling that of a Crown Colony would be preferable to the present system, Her Majesty's Government were, on the whole, of opinion that the colonists would act wisely in adopting the principles of responsible government.That was not forcing a policy on the colony. It was merely informing them that at the present moment they had got an unworkable Constitution. Sir Philip Wodehouse, the late Governor of the 31 Colony, who had been as much, opposed to responsible government as anybody, had stated that the existing system of government must be put an end to. The truth was that their present government was the worst possible form of government which could be devised—it being a government by the Crown, checked by a Colonial Legislature not directed by responsible Ministers. The colonists must either go forward or go back—they could not maintain the existing state of things. Either the Crown must assume the whole power of government, or else the colonists must adopt a responsible government. The most confidential despatches relating to the question had been published, and the matter had been laid before the colonists in ample time for them to have made up their minds as to which of the two systems they would prefer. The matter had been before the Colonial Legislature for the last two years. In the House of Assembly the majority in favour of the measure objected to by the noble Marquess was last year 34 to 27, and in the present year 35 to 25, in a House which consisted in all of 66 Members—that was to say, the majority in its favour was proportionately equal to a majority of 100, in the English House of Commons. It was true that the measure had been rejected last year by the other branch of the Legislature by a majority of 2; but in the present year two of its Members having changed their opinion, it was carried by a majority of 1. The noble Marquess had asked that the whole question might be remitted to the people. All he had to say to that appeal was that it must be recollected that the House of Assembly was, to all intents and purposes, a Representative House, while the Legislative Council, although to an extent representative, had an element of permanence and independence about it which the other branch of the Legislature did not possess—its Members retaining their seats for 10 years unless it were dissolved. Under these circumstances, it was absurd to say that because the measure had only been carried by a small majority in the Legislative Council, after having been carried by an overwhelming majority in the more popular Assembly, that the minority had a right to insist upon a dissolution in order to see if they could not get their views sanctioned by the colony at 32 the next General Election. Indeed, had he been of opinion that the measure was as undesirable a one as he believed it to be a desirable one, he should not have felt justified, under the circumstances, in advising the Crown to veto it. The noble Marquess had spoken of the Government having carried that Bill; but if he had understood the institutions of the Cape Colony, he would have known that the Government had no power in either House of Parliament. The Members of the Government might appear in either House to propose their measures; but they could not vote, and they had no direct power, and it was, among other reasons, because the Government had no direct power that a change was desired. Under these circumstances, it was very surprising that the Bill should have met with the success it had. The noble Marquess had referred to the division between the East and the West of the colony. He was aware that that was one of the most difficult parts of the whole subject. It was true that though several of the eastern Members voted for the Bill a large majority of them voted against it. In the Council eight eastern Members protested against the measure, and two sent their written opinions to the Government in favour of it. But that could be easily accounted for, for there was nothing more difficult than where there existed an extended territory and two capitals to reconcile the jealousies of the one and the other. That was an old standing grievance at the Cape Colony, and the whole question turned on the jealousy between the East and the West. The noble Marquess had talked of their forcing Liberal nostrums on that colony. The Cape colonists had not that reluctance which the noble Marquess supposed to governing their own affairs; but each section wished to have the predominance in their government; and it was impossible that both could possess that predominance. Sir Henry Barkly thought that there would be a better chance of solving that difficulty after responsible government had been introduced than there was at present. So far from believing that the difference between the East and the West would be increased by that change, it was more likely that some solution might be found for it after its adoption, and the best arrangement might be a 33 division into two or more provinces, with a central government. It had been found that there was a question not between the East and West only, but between the East, the Middle Provinces, and the West, and it was a question how those Middle Provinces should be constituted, for it was exceedingly difficult, when they came to deal with questions of boundary, to determine the various points which arose. He was convinced that the Dutch and the English colonists and the East and the West did not entertain those incurable rancours which the remarks of the noble Marquess might lead them to suppose. Whenever the East had been in danger the West, notwithstanding their jealousies, had always been found ready to assist it; and he believed that that would still continue to be the case. In his opinion, the future prosperity and safety of the colony depended entirely upon the Dutch and the English settlers not cherishing those feelings of mutual aversion which the noble Marquess appeared to think so natural. In conclusion, he would only repeat that there had not been in any degree a forcing of responsible institutions upon the colonists of the Cape, who had had, on the contrary, a perfectly fair opportunity of determining for themselves which form of government they would adopt, and that he did not think it would be right, by adopting the course proposed by the noble Marquess, to throw the whole colony into the turmoil of a dissolution merely to enable the minority to see whether they could not obtain a majority against a measure which had been duly passed. With regard, however, to the Papers moved for, he had not the slightest objection to their production.
§ THE DUKE OF MANCHESTER
said, it was to be regretted that a question on which a Representative House was equally divided should be decided by the casting vote of the Chairman. He had known in such a case of a Speaker or Chairman, without expressing his approval or disapproval of a measure, saying that he would give his vote in a certain way in order that the House might have another opportunity of considering the question. That was the course which he thought should have been followed in this instance in regard to the Colony of the Cape. As the Legislative Council was equally divided in opinion, it would have 34 relieved the Government of responsibility, and probably would have been preferred by the colonists themselves, if the matter had been referred to the constituencies.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
explained that he had said the noble Earl's particular Liberal nostrum failed to apply to that colony, because it was inhabited by diverse races and was so peculiarly placed geographically. That a Representative Assembly had a right to alter the conditions of its existence without appealing to those from whom its authority was derived was a principle which he believed to be fatal to the true working of any representative system. He regretted the conclusion at which the noble Earl opposite had arrived, and felt satisfied that he would himself have cause for regretting it in future.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
remarked that the noble Marquess' objection would apply not merely to the Constitution of the Cape Colony, but to the British Constitution itself.
§ Motion agreed to.