HL Deb 02 May 1879 vol 245 cc1572-6

I beg to ask the noble Earl the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether any instructions respecting possible conditions of peace in South Africa have been sent out other than those which have been presented in the last Blue Book? The knowledge that the public have derived from the Parliamentary Papers is that Sir Bartle Frere has stated that no peace is possible until the Queen's supremacy is established from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean; and it has been stated that he is of opinion that his Ultimatum must be adhered to, with certain additions. The Inst despatch of the last Blue Book she wed that the Government had withdrawn from Sir Bartle Frere any discretion in the matter of the conditions of peace. The Secretary of Stale for the Colonies expressed doubt as to some of the provisions of the Ultimatum, and went on to say— When it becomes possible to decide upon the conditions on which peace can be made, the terms dictated to Cetewayo in December last will naturally come under consideration as affording in a greater or less degree a basis for a settlement. But you will understand that the views which I am about to express are necessarily subject to modification by future events, and you will, of course, submit all demands and stipulations for the approval of Her Majesty's Government before peace is concluded. …. Her Majesty's Government, though desirous by every legitimate means in their power to promote the civilization of the Zulus, are not prepared to sanction any further interference with the internal government of the country than may be necessary for securing the peace and safety of the adjacent Colonies, and I will explain to you how far I think the conditions proposed in your messages may become applicable to such a policy. The appointment of duly authorized agents of the Government to reside in the Zulu country would seem desirable in order to protect the rights and interests of British subjects, to keep the High Commissioner informed of any movement on the part of the Natives of a disorderly or warlike character, and to secure the maintenance of a good understanding between the Colonists and the inhabitants of Zululand. It will be essential to insist upon the discontinuance of the present military system, and care should be taken to lay down and provide for the observance of such regulations on this subject as, while leaving to the Zulus the power of protecting themselves against neighbouring Native tribes not under our control, will secure the future peace and safety of our Border. … I trust that this expression of my views on some of the leading questions which may before very long present themselves for consideration may be serviceable for your guidance; but they are questions as to which I should desire to have your further opinion when the time for action has arrived, and it is my wish that, as far as possible, you should avoid taking any decided step or committing yourself to any positive conclusion respecting any of them until you have received instructions from Her Majesty's Government. These instructions, I presume, have long since been sent out. Without them, the position of affairs in South Africa might be seriously damaged. It is reported that Cetewayo has offered to make peace; but these offers have been denounced by the local authorities as of an illusory character. Since that time our gallant soldiers have extricated Colonel Pearson from his perilous position and have successfully defended their intrenched camp. It is, therefore, not impossible that Cetewayo may make serious propositions of pence. He may be ready to give in on such terms as may appear reasonable to Her Majesty's Government. But Sir Bartle Frere's hands are tied. He can only promise an answer in seven weeks. Such an answer would only be considered as a trick by the barbarian King; and even if he were to consent to some sort of armistice—a difficult thing in such circumstances—what would not be the delay and the unnecessary expense which would be incurred, and what might not be the risk to the health of our troops, exposed in a state of inaction to risks of strategic, but unhealthy positions, which it would be necessary for them to maintain? I feel sure that such a state of things must have been anticipated by instructions from home; but it would be satisfactory to the House to know it as a fact. I should also be glad to know whether these instructions could, with propriety, be produced?


The noble Earl, in putting his Question, has referred to the despatch of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated the 20th of March, and he has read a paragraph at the end of it which will form the basis of my answer to the Question, but to which he has attached a significance it will hardly bear. The noble Earl stated that the Government had by this despatch entirely taken away all discretion from Sir Bartle Frere in the matter of the conditions of peace. It is quite true Sir Bartle Frere has been told to avoid, as far as possible, taking any decided step, or committing us to any positive conclusion, in respect of any of these questions, until he has received instructions from Her Majesty's Government; but in the same paragraph it is stated that the Government desires to have a further expression of opinion from Sir Bartle Frere on these matters when the time for action has arrived. The despatch of the 20th of March contains a statement, which the noble Earl read, of the points which had to be considered when the terms of peace came to be arranged; but, as I have said, it concludes with a request that he would send a further opinion on these questions when the time for action had arrived. To this despatch no reply has been received— nor could any have been received; and Her Majesty's Government did not deem it advisable to send any further instructions respecting the possible terms of peace until the reply from Sir Bartle Frere had reached them. I may, however, state that since that date a further despatch has been addressed by the Colonial Secretary to Sir Bartle Frere, dated the 10th of April. It will be laid on the Table in a few days; but I will read a passage from it, which is as follows:— I entertain much hope that the troubles now existing or anticipated may disappear, either independently of, or as a consequence of, that complete settlement of the Zulu difficulty which I join with you in trusting to see speedily effected. But if this expectation should, unfortunately, not be fulfilled, you will be careful to bear in mind that Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to sanction any further extension, without their specific authority, of our responsibilities in South Africa; that their desire is that the military operations now proceeding should be directed to the termination at the earliest moment, consistent with the safety of our Colonies and the honour of our arms, of the Zulu question. My Lords, I will also read telegrams which have been received this day at the Colonial Office, and which are as follows:— From Sir Bartle Frere, Pretoria, to Secretary of State, Colonial Office.—April 11.—Arrived here all w*ell last night after friendly visit to Boer camp. I am to meet committee again to-morrow a few miles out of town. With exception of small, very violent minority, the leaders appear generally open to reason. All arrangements of his Excellency the Administrator and of Colonel Rowland, commanding Her Majesty's Forces here, are excellent. Government House, April 15.—All is perfectly quiet in Caffraria and on the Eastern Border generally. In Basutoland disturbances are confined to the tribe of Morosi, whose stronghold is invested by Colonial Force. News from Northern Border also satisfactory. No special news from Natal. Lord Chelmsford and staff at Durban, leaving shortly for Maritzburg.


said, he hoped it would not be considered that the sentences read from the unpublished despatch constituted any answer to the Question of his noble Friend. He would not discuss how far Sir Bartle Frere's hands had been tied; what they wanted to know was what instructions had been, or would be, given as to the terms on which he might conclude peace? He (the Earl of Kimberley) was reluctant to refer to anything personal to himself; but, in the nearly ana- logous case of the Ashantee War, which was not so serious a matter as this, Her Majesty's Government sketched out the terms of peace that might be concluded. 3f course, it was not possible to determine exactly what they should be, and, as must always be the case, a considerable discretion was left to Sir Garnet Wolseley; but, at the same time, the general lines on which he might negotiate were laid down. If he had been left without such instructions, he must have been at a loss to know how to proceed; and Sir Bartle Frere, or any man in his position, could not know what terms of peace he might offer or entertain. Therefore, his noble Friend was justified in expressing some degree of disquiet at the present situation.


said, he was sorry his answer was unsatisfactory to the noble Earl; but he could only repeat that the sentences the noble Earl (Earl Granville) had read from the despatch showed clearly the bases of the terms on which Her Majesty's Government were prepared to insist as conditions of peace; and it was impossible for Her Majesty's Government to send further instructions at this moment to Sir Bartle Frere as to the terms of peace. But he could not admit that the instructions contained in the despatch of the 20th of March were merely of a negative character; seeing that in that despatch it was clearly stated that Her Majesty's Government were disposed to insist on the establishment of British Residents in Zululand, and on the modification of the present Zulu military system, and these two points were the most important of the conditions of the Ultimatum sent by Sir Bartle Frere with the Boundary Award.