§ EARL CAIRNS,
in rising to call the attention of the House to the arrangements recently made by Her Majesty's Government with the Boers, as appearing in the communications (telegraphic) respecting South Africa, and to ask for explanations, said: My Lords, it is now nearly three months since Parliament met, During that time, owing probably to the pressure of other Business, very little has been said of a subject which has, nevertheless, greatly occupied the public mind—the state of affairs 250 in South Africa, and especially in the Transvaal. We were informed at the beginning of the Session, in the Most Gracious Speech from the Throne, that there had been a rising in the Transvaal, and that military operations were in progress for the purpose of suppressing that rising, and vindicating the authority of the Crown. After that we heard of successive disasters to the British Forces. There had been, before the end of the year, an attack upon the 94th Regiment at Madder's Spruit; then in January the reverse at Lang's Nek; and in February, first the battle at Ingogo, and subsequently the defeat at Majuba. We then heard that reinforcements had been rapidly and energetically prepared and sent forward to retrieve these disasters, and that a General, who had won his laurels in the East, had been sent out to command the reinforcements, and to co-operate with another General, hardly less trusted, who had already arrived on the scene. In these circumstances, the spirit of the country was sustained. They put trust in the exertions which were being made, and they relied upon the assurance they had received from the Government that the authority of the Crown would be vindicated. We then heard that there were arrangements and negotiations in progress. The Government naturally had a right to decline to enter upon any discussion of those negotiations while they still were in progress; and, on the other hand, it would have been wrong to press the Government for any information at that stage of the proceedings. But still the public relied on the assurance they had received, and in this House we had obtained a still further assurance. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Kimberley), when the subject was mentioned on the 21st of February, told us that—Her Majesty's Government have taken such steps as seemed to them best calculated to promote a satisfactory settlement, and to spare the effusion of blood, consistently with the honour of the British Crown."—[3 Hansard, cclviii. 1345–6.]As the Speech from the Throne had announced that the authority of the Crown would be vindicated, so we understood that the Secretary of State for the Colonies desired to assure us that the honour of the Crown was involved in vindicating that authority. Then we re- 251 ceived the information that the arrangements were concluded and that a peace bad been made. The idea of peace and of a cessation of hostilities is always so welcome that we were disposed to hail with satisfaction the news of this arrangement, and of this peace; and we naturally imagined that, although the terms were not known, yet when they came to be known it would be found that they fully redeemed the promises which had been made by the Crown. Her Majesty's Government have now laid upon the Table the telegraphic Papers connected with this arrangement. I do not know how much of the satisfaction which first was felt any longer remains. Some details there are which still are wanting; and with regard to those details my object is to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies to favour us with some information on matters on which we are left in doubt by the Papers before us. But the leading features of the arrangement are clear, and although it may not be the time, until every detail has been supplied, for your Lordships to pronounce any formal opinion upon the peace that has been concluded; still, I think Her Majesty's Government have a right to know, when the Papers have been, as far as they have been, laid before us, what is the opinion which may be entertained by us with regard to this arrangement; and they would be entitled to say they naturally concluded, when so much information was laid before us, that we were satisfied with that which had been done when we expressed no dissatisfaction.
I will ask your Lordships to remember what the state of affairs was at the commencement of the Session. It was on the 20th of December that the affair which some people called, and not incorrectly, a massacre at Madder's Spruit took place. A portion of the 94th Regiment was on its march under the command of Colonel Anstruther. I do not stop, however, to consider at this moment the precise nature of the occurrence which took place; but your Lordships remember that in the result some 70 or 80 out of a force of 157 were killed, and that several, if not all, of the officers were among the number. After this an appeal was made to the Secretary of State for the Colonies from the Colony of Natal. Your Lordships will find in the Blue Book which was presented to 252 Parliament in February a communication which was made to the Secretary of State on the 29th of December through Sir George Strahan. A deputation of the Legislature of Natal and others requested Sir George to send to the Secretary of State a resolution by telegraph. It was in these terms—A deputation, composed of 15 Members of the Legislature and others, Mr. Merriman spokesman, request me to send the following resolution by telegraph:—' That this deputation, in common with the rest of South Africa, deplores the unhappy state of affairs now existing across the Vaal River, and ventures to urge upon Her Majesty's Government that, in order to effect a settlement of the differences which have arisen and to establish tranquillity, it is desirable that some person acquainted with the feelings and opinions of the inhabitants of South Africa should be appointed as a Special Commissioner to the Transvaal territory to inquire into and report upon the exact position of affairs, the feelings and wishes of those interested, and what arrangements would be most advantageous to the country and most likely to reconcile the inhabitants to the Government of the Queen; and the deputation would further respectfully suggest that the Chief Justice of the Cape Colony, Sir John H. De Villiers, possesses in an eminent degree the qualifications required for such an office.'That was a proposal which at that time, I think, was not unnatural. It was one which might well have been entertained; and if this eminent person, who is said to possess the confidence of all the parties there, and who, indeed, is one of the three Commissioners recently selected, had been appointed at that time, it is possible that we might have been spared much of what has occurred. But the view of the Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time was different. He replied, by telegraph, on the 30th of December, to Sir George Strahan as follows:—Inform the deputation that, while fully appreciating their motives, we do not think the present moment will be opportune for sending a Special Commissioner to the Transvaal.That was the opinion of the Secretary of State at that time. I think we shall find the ground of that opinion appearing again in the Most Gracious Speech from the Throne. The same motives which led the noble Earl to conceive that December was not the proper time to meet the proposal which had been made probably influenced Her Majesty's Government in putting into the mouth of Her Majesty the words of the Speech from the Throne. Parlia- 253 ment met on the 6th of January; and I will ask your attention to these words, which were then addressed from the Throne to your Lordships—A rising in the Transvaal has recently imposed upon me the duty of taking military measures with a view to the prompt vindication of my authority; and has of necessity set aside for the time any plan for securing to the European settlers that full control over their own local affairs, without prejudice to the interests of the natives, which I had been desirous to confer.In the Address presented by your Lordships in answer to that Most Gracious Speech you thanked Her Majesty for the information we had received, that the authority of the Crown would be promptly vindicated, and that not until that was done could the time arrive for conferring the boon upon the European settlers that was indicated in the latter part of the sentence which I have just read. "Rising in the Transvaal," of course, means a rebellion or insurrection; and I now wish to ask the Secretary of State whether the authority of the Crown has been promptly vindicated in the Transvaal? Has the action at Lang's Nek promptly vindicated the authority of the Crown? Has the reverse at Ingogo? Has the disaster at the Majuba? I wish to ask the Secretary of State whether he conceives that after these occurrences the authority of the Crown stood in a higher and better position than on the 6th of January last; and if it did not, what has become of your prompt vindication of the authority of the Crown? But I wish to call your Lordships' attention to the second part of the sentence. The duty of vindicating the authority of the Crown has, it is stated—Set aside for the time any plan for securing to the European settlers that full control over their own local affairs, without prejudice to the interests of the natives, which I had been desirous to confer.Do these words, I ask, in the mouth of the Sovereign, point to a cession of territory? Do they point to an abandonment of territory? Do they point to a dismemberment of the Empire? When the Government, through the mouth of the Sovereign upon the Throne, speak of conferring free institutions upon a portion of the British Dominions, it is understood that the Sovereignty of Her Majesty over that portion of the Empire is retained; that while there may be an 254 alteration in the form of government, the Sovereignty remains where it stood before. I challenge Her Majesty's Government to produce any instance in any State Paper in existence where words of this kind in a Speech from the Throne were used to indicate or denote the dismemberment of the Empire—that is to say, abandon the country, and leave it free to establish a Republic or any form of government they pleased. Upon those words in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech I have a few questions to put to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Is the arrangement spoken of in the Speech from the Throne, and which was at that time contemplated by the Government, the same as that which has now actually been made with regard to the Transvaal? If it is not—if it is a different arrangement—will the Secretary of State allow me further to ask him, when did the change in the opinions of the Government take place, and why? If, on the other hand, the Secretary of State says it is the same arrangement which was contemplated by the Government at the time of Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, I wish to know why was that arrangement misdescribed in the words I have read? Why was Parliament, I will not say left in ignorance, but misled as to what was intended by the Government? Why were words put into the mouth of our Most Gracious Sovereign which, according to every interpretation of words coming from such a source, meant that the Sovereignty of the Transvaal was to be retained. But I have a further question to ask. If the arrangement which has actually been made is that contemplated at the time of Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech, and if the authority of the Crown has not been vindicated, I want to know what we have been fighting about in the interval? If this arrangement is what was intended, why did you not give it at once? Why did you spend the treasure of the country, and, still more, why did you shed the blood of the country like water, only to give at the end what you had intended to give at the beginning? We know that there are those who have lost in the Transvaal that which was dearer to them than the light of their eyes. They have been consoled with the reflection that the brave men who died, died fighting for their Queen and their country. Are the 255 mourners now to be told that those men were fighting only for a country which the Government had determined to abandon, and that they were fighting for a Queen who was no longer to be the Sovereign of that country?
But let us go a little further into the history of this matter. I wish to know when it was that the idea in the mind of the Government of vindicating the authority of the Crown was abandoned? There is a very remarkable passage in one of the Orders issued by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to Sir George Colley. On the 5th of February the Secretary of State telegraphed Sir George Colley in these words—I think it right to intimate to you, as you have instructions to assume the functions of Governor when you are able to enter the Transvaal, that whenever you may succeed in reestablishing the Queen's authority there, all questions affecting the future administration and settlement of the country, as well as questions as to dealing with those who have taken part against the Government, should be reserved by you for the consideration of Her Majesty's Government.That is a very instructive telegram. It shows at once the construction put at that time by the Government upon the Most Gracious Speech from the Throne; and that construction is, I think, exactly that which ought to be put upon it. The re-establishment of the Queen's authority in the Transvaal was the task which the Government put before Sir George Colley, and the re-establishment of the Queen's authority was the vindication of that authority. But what becomes of these instructions? The next thing we have is a communication from the President of the Orange Free State—Mr. Brand. How Mr. Brand came to be set in motion I do not know, and it is not my business to conjecture. There are various theories on this subject; but I take what I find in these Papers. On the 5th of February, the day on which the Secretary of State telegraphed to Sir George Colley, a proposal came from Mr. Brand through Sir George Colley that the Boers should not be treated as rebels "if they submitted." How was that received by the Secretary of State? We are here on the first step of a descending scale, which is of an interesting character. The Secretary of State adopts the expression of "submission." He telegraphs to Sir George Colley— 256I have received your telegram of the 5th. Inform Mr. Brand that Her Majesty's Government will be ready to give all reasonable guarantees as to the treatment of the Boers after submission.The question, consequently, now comes to be, What was meant by the submission of the Boers? Well, the submission of rebels means, I apprehend, that they should lay down their arms, and that they should give up the strong places which they occupy in opposition to the Queen. Unless these things are done, there is no submission at all. But to continue the history of the matter, which is very curious. On the same day—that is to say, the 5th of February—took place the battle of the Ingogo, and from that day the word "submission" disappears from the telegrams. It never occurs again. On the 16th of February I find a telegram from the Secretary of State to Sir Evelyn Wood, in these terms—Inform Kruger that if Boers will desist from armed opposition "(there is no reference to submission now) "we shall be quite ready to appoint Commissioners with extensive powers, who may develop the scheme referred to in my telegram to you of the 8th inst. Add that if this proposal is accepted, you are authorized to agree to suspension of hostilities on our part.Submission is now removed out of the question. The proposal now is that the Boers should cease from armed opposition. Now, I want to know, what is the meaning of the Boors ceasing from armed opposition? What were the Boers doing? The Boers were in the Transvaal. Our garrisons were beleaguered there. Our forces were marching up to relieve our garrisons, and to re-establish our authority in the Transvaal. The Boers were opposing the advance of our troops. That was the position of things. We were moving; they were opposing. "If the Boers would desist from armed opposition." The meaning of that is that our troops were no longer to be interfered with, that they were to continue their march, that the garrisons were to be relieved, and that our troops were to establish authority in the Transvaal. But nothing of the kind was intended, and nothing of the kind was done. That was what embarrassed Sir George Colley, and ho said—" I understand what this means if we are to go on and the Boers are to cease; but do you mean that we are to cease, and that that is to be the way in which opposition is 257 to come to an end?" Sir George Colley asks very naturally the question—" Am I to leave our garrisons isolated? Is that what you mean by the Boers ceasing from armed opposition?" These are his words—Latter part of your telegram to Wood not understood. There can be no hostilities if no resistance is made; but am I to leave Lang's Nek, in Natal territory, in Boer occupation, and our garrisons isolated and short of provisions, or occupy former and relieve latter?The Secretary of State answers that the garrisons should be free to provision themselves, and peaceful intercourse with them allowed; but he adds—We do not mean that you should march to the relief of the garrisons, or occupy Lang's Nek, if the arrangement proceeds.What was the consequence? Did opposition cease? Opposition, my Lords, triumphed; it was we who ceased. "Opposition" had nothing to go on for; it got everything it wanted. We now come to the battle of Majuba on the 26th of February. What was the advice of Sir Evelyn Wood under the circumstances? Did he say—" Cease from opposition; let nothing more be done?" Would that be very like Sir Evelyn Wood? He gave some very striking and pointed advice to Her Majesty's Government. That advice your Lordships will find at page 21 of the White Book which I hold in my hand. He says—Reflecting on similar struggles in history, I do not attach much importance to punishing leaders, as did Sir George Colley, though I would not recommend allowing them to remain in Transvaal, nor would I accept them as representatives of people. In discussing settlement of country my constant endeavour shall be to carry out the spirit of your orders; but, considering the disasters we have sustained, I think the happiest result will be that, after accelerating successful action which I hope to fight in about 14 days, the Boers should disperse without any guarantee, and then many now undoubtedly coerced will readily settle down.Sir Evelyn Wood knew that re-inforcements were at hand, the strength of the position he was occupying, and he spoke as anyone, humanly speaking, would have spoken under the circumstances, with the perfect certainty of the success of the exertions which he was ready to make. I think it cannot be doubted by any person that when our re-inforcements came up there would have been no bloodshed, and that the matter would 258 have been settled with, probably, hardly any exchange of hostilities. But, at all events, that was the opinion of Sir Evelyn Wood; but no notice seems to have been taken of it by the Government at home. The phrase about ceasing from armed opposition was repeated and repeated in every telegram from that time from Downing Street, and nothing else. The first variation of the phrase, so far as I can find, came not from Downing Street, but from Mr. Kruger. The Boers are very shrewd men. They are not misled by captivating phrases; and what did Mr. Kruger think of this phrase—" Cease from armed opposition?" He put a construction on it which your Lordships will find at page 28. He said—We are very grateful for the declaration in the name of Her Majesty's Government that, under certain conditions, they are inclined to cease hostilities.It is not the Boers, you will observe, it is the Government who are inclined to cease from hostilities. Mr. Kruger quite understood the telegram; he read between the lines; he is a clever man, and he does not talk about the Boers ceasing opposition, but of the disposition of the English Government to take that course. But what, let me ask, was the final basis on which Mr. Kruger came into this arrangement? There was no repudiation of the construction which he put on the offer of the Government. As your Lordships will find at page 25, he would have nothing whatever to do with the telegram of the Secretary of State of February 8; and the reason he gives is that if he accepted it, it would be like admitting that the Boers were in the wrong. He speaks of holding to Sir George Colley's telegram of the 16th of February, a letter of the 21st of February, another telegram of the 12th of February, and a letter of the 29th of January. These are four documents which Mr. Kruger puts forward, and he says that it is upon the footing of these four documents that he is prepared to enter into negotiations. Here I may say that I have a question to put to the Secretary of State which is of some importance.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
It may be well to inform the noble and learned Earl at once that I have never been put in possession of the telegram of the 16th of February, nor the letter of the 21st. 259 That of the 29th of January I only saw in the newspapers.
§ EARL CAIRNS
Nothing can be further from my intention than to suggest that the Secretary of State is in possession of those documents. I know his candour too well to doubt that if they were in his possession he would have laid them on the Table. But there is something more important. This telegram was brought to the notice of the Secretary of State, in which Mr. Kruger says—" Now, understand, I am going to enter into negotiations with you on the footing of these four documents." The Secretary of State says he has not got the documents; but without them how could he know how the negotiations were to be conducted, or what Mr. Kruger meant? Why did not the noble Earl say, the moment he got this telegram—" I do not know what you refer to; you speak of documents which ought to be in the possession of the Government, but which are not." But I pass to something still more important. What is the final statement of Mr. Kruger in his telegram? It is this, that the only basis on which he will enter into negotiations is the restoration of the Republic. Short of that he says he will not treat; and with that document before them the Government, if they entered into negotiations, of course did so on the terms of Mr. Kruger, which embraced the restoration of the Republic. That is the common sense of the matter, whether you are dealing with Boers or Englishmen. So much for the history of the transaction. These then, my Lords, are the six stages of the "Surrender's Progress;" they are almost worthy of the pencil of a Hogarth. There is, first, a patriotic and almost passionate determination to vindicate and restore the authority of the Crown. In the second place, comes a lower offer—let there be at least submission on the part of the Boers. Thirdly, we reach, by this ladder of degradation, a still lower platform—no longer vindication of the authority of the Crown, no longer submission, but cessation from armed opposition with a strong intimation that there would be nothing to oppose. What comes next? The advice of your General to settle the country by acting on your military power, and that advice disregarded. Mr. Kruger then comes upon the scene, and his view is—" It is you, and not we, who are to cease from 260 hostilities." And what is the last? Mr. Kruger again says—" Cease from hostilities; go into negotiation, but only on the terms of our having everything we ever asked for, including the restoration of the Republic."
Well, now I come to the terms of this surrender. In the first place, I have a question to ask as to the authority of the persons with whom you are treating. Have you thought who they are who were negotiating with you and with whom you have made your agreement? What are we told about this in the Papers before us? The first intimation we have is the view of Sir Evelyn Wood, who, as I said just now, stated that he would not treat with Mr. Joubert or Mr. Kruger. He did not accept them as the representatives of the people. That was his view. What was the view of the Secretary of State for the Colonies? He did not agree with the view of Sir Evelyn Wood, and answered him in these words—" We should make no exception as to the persons with whom we will negotiate, requiring only that they should be duly authorized representatives of the Boers, with power to act on their behalf." How were they duly authorized? Will the Secretary of State inform us? I am bound to say, on behalf of Messrs. Kruger and Joubert, that they seem to have very great doubt about their own authority. They at every turn tell you that they are shaking in their shoes for fear their acts will be repudiated by the Boers. And what, finally, did they say to Sir Evelyn Wood? Sir Evelyn Wood said—They asked had I the power to recognize him (Kruger) as representing the Boer Government, and did I represent the English? I replied Yes.'Well, it was quite true that Sir Evelyn Wood represented the English; but had he the power to accept Kruger as representing the Boer Government? The Secretary of State required that the persons with whom we should negotiate should be duly authorized. I find no authority whatever. This is not a mere technicality; I should think very little of the point if it were. It is a matter of very considerable importance. Mr. Kruger is undoubtedly very apprehensive as to whether his acts will not be repudiated. We see every day in the ordinary channels of information that the opinion commonly entertained in the neighbourhood is that it is likely there 261 will be a civil war, and that there are two parties, if not more, in the country. Well, if there should be a civil war, which side are we going to take? Are we going to side with the loyal Boers against the Triumvirate, or with the Triumvirate against the loyal Boers? Suppose that everything that Kruger has done should be disavowed, what is to happen? If this were a matter that would be finished and done with when done, I could understand our being ready to run some risk. But this is an arrangement which is to run on for six months. There are all sorts of things to be done under it, and if these things are not done the arrangement will not be of the slightest value to us. If it comes to pass that the acts of those who made this arrangement are repudiated, we shall have no power to insist upon the performance of any of the things to be done under it. Is it consistent with the dignity or with the interest of this country to accept the words of a Triumvirate who have with considerable violence seized upon the government, and to assume that they have authority to bind all the inhabitants of that country?
Now, let me come to the terms. The first is—" The right of the Transvaal people to complete self-government." I want, in the first place, to know how it came to pass that this term, conceding at once complete self-government—as it is called—was made by Sir Evelyn Wood? I think something has dropped out here—some Paper is missing. Of course, I do not mean to say that the Secretary of State has it; but it must be somewhere. But how does the matter stand according to the evidence of the Book before us? The Secretary of State, on March 12, said—" The Commission would be authorized to consider the following points;" and the first is "complete self-government under British suzerainty." The Commission would be authorized to do that—that is to say, that when the Commission was appointed it would take the matter into consideration, and determine whether there should be self-government, and in what form. I suppose that is the meaning of the words. Well, what happened next? Your Lordships will remember Mr. Kruger's communication, in which he says—" I am going into the conference upon the basis of the restoration of the 262 Republic, and upon no other basis." I find on the part of the Secretary of State neither any acceptance of what Mr. Kruger said nor any repudiation of it—nothing about it. The next step is the stipulation by Sir Evelyn Wood that there should be complete self-government. Now, when did the Secretary of State authorize that stipulation to he made? What he did authorize was that the Commission should consider it. What is done is that the stipulation is, without any reference to the Commission, actually made and agreed to. I know Sir Evelyn Wood pretty well, and I am satisfied that he never went an inch beyond the authority given him. What I want to know is the way in which the authority was given him. Will the Secretary of State give us the information? Is the Secretary of State, or is he not, the head of the Colonial Office? Is somebody else conducting these negotiations? I trust we may have an explanation of this matter for the sake of Sir Evelyn Wood, if for no other reason. My next observation is this. We have got here the term "complete self-government to be given to the Boers." Those are not Sir Evelyn Wood's words. He is a soldier who does not use jargon of that kind. He talks plain English, and never called the abandonment of the territory of the Crown and the setting up of a Republic complete self-government. That is not what a soldier would call it. I think it is impossible not to see what these terms were inserted for. Their insertion is an effort—a feeble effort—to square what was done with the words of the Most Gracious Speech from the Throne. If you had said what was true—I mean what was accurate—you would have said—" The Transvaal is ceded to the Boers; the annexation is cancelled; the Republic is restored, and the Queen has no longer anything to say to the territory." That is the English of what is being done. Who can doubt that that is the real effect of these transactions? The Transvaal at this moment is the property of the Crown. When this Treaty is carried out, the Transvaal will cease to be the property of the Crown. Is that not dismemberment of the Empire? Is that not cession of territory? Is that not abandonment of the Dominions of the Queen? And, forsooth, you call this, as if you were giving free 263 institutions to a Colony, local self-government! My Lords, you are giving Ireland a pretty lesson as to what you mean by local self-government. Our fellow-subjects across the Channel are very fond of using that term. Take care that you do not teach them it has a meaning which will make them still fonder of it.
But, now, I have something more to say upon the subject of this cession of territory. I do not desire to raise any legal question at this moment; but I wish to enter my protest against this straining and stretching of the Prerogative of the Crown. We have heard a good deal of late years in the way of charge against straining the Prerogative of the Crown. Take care, lest you strain it as it has never been strained before. I want to know what right the Crown has to abandon territory? It is a very difficult question, about which a good deal could be said. I recollect what was done in the case of the Orange Free State. There was much doubt entertained as to how that State was to be given up, and in great doubt the Secretary of State at the time determined, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, to repeal Letters Patent by an Order in Council and not to ask for an Act of Parliament. But in the case of the Orange Free State there had been no war, and the Imperial Parliament had never legislated upon the subject. In the case of the Transvaal the subjects of the Queen were in rebellion, and the English Parliament had stepped in and had voted money and legislated in a form which embraced the Transvaal. But, my Lords, do you recollect what was done 100 years ago in the case of the American States? Did the Crown cede those States by its Prerogative? Look back at the Statutes. You will find there an Act of Parliament which authorized the Crown to cede those States; and until that Act was passed the Crown was not authorized to treat with the rebels and to cede that territory. My Lords, I do not wish to encumber the case with any further argument upon the point; but I desire to express my grave doubts as to the course which the Government are pursuing. If they are right by the letter—which I doubt—they are certainly grievously straining the spirit of the Prerogative.
264 Well, now I come to the next term—"Protection for the Natives of the Transvaal." Protection for the Natives of the Transvaal! That is indeed something to provide for. The Commission, we are told, at page 7, will have to consider what securities shall be taken as to the future treatment of the Natives. What "securities?" Now, my Lords, let me say a few words upon this question. What are "the Natives of the Transvaal?" There seems to be some doubt about their number. Nobody says they are less than 400,000; some say 500,000.
§ EARL CAIRNS
I believe the number is nearer 700,000; but I wished to be under the mark. These 400,000, or 500,000, or 600,000, or 700,000 are now subjects of the Crown of England, and, beyond all doubt, so far as they are concerned they desire to remain subjects of the Crown. The Commission, you say, is to consider how they are to be protected. But what are they to be protected against? There is one thing they have to be protected from, which we find described in a despatch of the Administrator, Sir Owen Lanyon. The way in which he describes their state is this—your Lordships will find it on page 6 of his Letters—The unfortunate natives have suffered most from this outbreak because of their loyalty to Her Majesty. Numerous instances have been reported in which they have been wantonly shot down. They have been forced to work in the camps, and their property and cattle taken to supply the commissariat of men who had large flocks and herds of their own to draw upon. Were anything needed to show the necessity of Her Majesty's rule over the Transvaal it would be found in the reign of terror which exists and the sufferings which have been imposed upon these unfortunate natives.But that is not by any mean all. What is the history of these Boers? In the years 1833–4–5, after Great Britain had abolished slavery, the Boers fretted against the restraints of our law of freedom, and they left the Cape Colony, in which they had been living, and "trekked," as it is called, over the border and went up beyond the Vaal. In the year 1852 a Treaty was made. We knew what their habits were; that they were slave-owners; that it was agreeable to their notion of right. The Sand River Convention was made in 1852. One of 265 the terms was that there was to be no slavery north of a certain limit. My Lords, you know that that term of the Convention has been continuously and systematically disregarded. The Boers have practised slavery. My Lords, they practise it now in a way which is extremely formidable to deal with, because it is not as if the moral sentiment of the people were against slavery, and only certain wrong-doers were violating the law. But the Boers have not brought the mild and beneficent influence of Christianity to bear upon their understanding of Holy Writ. They go back to the Old Testament, and they find in it—or they think they find in it—a justification for these practices; and they hold that if slavery is not a Divine institution it is at least permitted. What is the practice of these people? I take one authority—I might adduce 50 from the Blue Books, but I select one authority from one of the Blue Books, which is a statement given by an unprejudiced witness—it is from a Colonial newspaper, The Cape Aryus—The whole world may know it, for it is true, and investigation will only bring out the horrible details, that through the whole course of this Republic's existence, it has acted in contravention of the Sand River Convention; and slavery has occurred, not only here and there in isolated cases, but, as an unbroken practice, has been one of the peculiar institutions of the country, mixed up with all its social and political life. It has been at the root of most of its wars; it has been carried on regularly even in the times of peace.That description seems to me to be of great and grave importance. But, my Lords, even in the legislation of this people you will find sanctioned that which is, under a thin disguise, actual slavery. The disguise is the guardianship of orphans. In the Transvaal it would appear, as someone has said, as if all the Black children were orphans. Every child which they can get hold of is subjected to that which, in their views, is perfectly legitimate. We heard in this House only three weeks ago, from the lips of the Secretary of State himself, the story of the Boer Chief who brought home over the border, or from some other quarter, 32 Kaffir girls, whom he sold for 10s. apiece in his own neighbourhood. Now, my Lords, this is the nation you have to deal with. These are the 400,000, 500,000, 600,000, or 700,000 people whom you have to pro- 266 tect. This is the system against which you have to protect them. My Lords, this country has made great sacrifices, great exertions for the purpose of suppressing or extirpating slavery. I shall be surprised, indeed, if this country tolerates the handing back into that which is really a liability to slavery a nation of hundreds of thousands of people who, at this moment, are free British subjects. If this thing is to be done, at all events, it shall not be done in a corner. It shall be done in the light of day; and, as far as my feeble voice can reach, I will endeavour to explain and expose the real character of the act which is to be done. Well, but you say, the Commission is to consider the question of the treatment of the Natives. What can the Commission do? What is the protection which these people require? Recollect what the Transvaal is. It is a country larger than France. Homesteads are scattered over the country 20 or 30 miles, or much more, apart from each other. And what you have to watch over and superintend is what goes on in each of these homesteads. My Lords, how is that to be done? Are you going to occupy the country with an armed occupation? What less are you going to do? There is one protection, and one only, which can avail for the protection of the Coloured people. That is the protection of Courts of Justice, deriving their authority from the British Crown, and supported by the power of the British Crown. Unless every Native of the Transvaal can come before an British Court of Justice and say, "I am a free man, or a free boy, or a free girl, and I demand the protection of the British Crown as a British subject"—until that can be done, day after day, there can be no protection for the Native inhabitants of the country. My Lords, I read just now from the Gracious Speech from the Throne some words which I did not think at the time had the meaning which it now appears they bear. It is the passage which speaks of securing the rights of European settlers "without prejudice to the interests of the Natives." Without prejudice! It ends like a lawyer's letter. My Lords, is it possible that the annihilation of the rights of 700,000 British subjects in the matter of freedom is to be spoken of as an arrangement which is not to prejudice the rights of the 267 Natives? My Lords, I recollect when this country was greatly moved at certain instructions from the Admiralty, which were supposed to imply that a slave who took refuge in an English ship might be surrendered to his owner. Has this country so altered its views with regard to slavery that it will permit hundreds of thousands of British subjects to be handed back to a system which really is slavery as much any slavery that ever prevailed in the world?
What comes next? "The control of foreign relations is to be reserved." What, my Lords, is the meaning of that term? I know what this term means in the Congress Halls of Vienna, or Berlin, or Paris, or London. What I want to know is the meaning of the term as applied to a half-civilized race like the Boers. What are the foreign relations of the Boers? Do you mean their relations with Portugal? We do not want them reserved, because Portugal is our ally. What are the foreign relations of the Boers? I will tell your Lordships what they are. The foreign relations of the Boers are with the Zulus, the Swazis, the Pondos, and, if there be any, other Native border tribes—and the foreign relations of the Boers consist of stealing cattle across the border of the Zulus, and the Zulus stealing cattle across the border of the Boers, and Zulus and Boers grazing cattle by trespass on each other's grounds, and the Boers ill-treating the Zulus when they come into the Transvaal, and the Zulus ill-treating the Boers when they come into Zululand. These are the relations which are grandiloquently termed the foreign relations of the Boers, and which we have reserved. Are we really going to reserve this treasure? Are we really going to reserve squabbles about cattle stealing and grazing over limits, and complaints of ill-treatment on one side of the border or the other? I want to know from the Secretary of State, is that his view of the foreign relations which he is so anxious to keep for us? But, if so, how are we to deal with them? Suppose that a Boer is ill-treated by the Zulus in their country, and the Boers want redress, must they ask our leave before they seek it? Or suppose the Boers are attacked by the Swazis, are we going to defend the Boers, or to forbid them defending themselves? Are you going to make military pro- 268 vision for maintaining these foreign relations; or, on the other hand, are you going to say to the Boers that they shall do this, or that, or the other, and yet refuse to defend them for following your advice, which brings them into trouble? That brings me to another question. Are we going to be protectors of the Boers or are we not? Now, I will deal frankly with your Lordships on this subject. When I read over this Book, I did not find in it one word implying that we were to protect the Boer Republic, and I said to myself—" A very foolish thing to reserve the foreign relations of the Boers; but, at all events, we are not saddled with the duty of protecting this people in their foreign relations." But my illusion was broken by a document, which I find, not in this Book, but in other channels of information. It is in a communication from Sir Evelyn Wood. It is dated Durban, March 24, and is published in the newspapers—The Colonial Secretary to-night issued the following communication from Sir Evelyn Wood:—' Terms of peace have been signed. The Boers have gone away. Free trade intercourse permitted throughout the Transvaal. A Royal Commission is to assemble at once to consider all points left in abeyance and recommend to the Imperial Government what, speaking generally, shall be the Eastern boundaries of a self-governing republic, which is to have a British Resident and to be under a British protectorate.'Is that an authentic document or not? The Secretary of State shakes his head.
§ EARL CAIRNS
The noble Earl does not know whether the Boer Republic is to be protected by us or not.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I beg the noble Earl's pardon. I did not say that. I said I did not know whether the document quoted is or is not authentic.
§ EARL CAIRNS
Then, I suppose, the noble Earl can tell us whether this statement in the document is correct or not. It is issued by Sir Evelyn Wood. It is a very serious thing, and I should be very glad to hear that there is some mistake about it. I have no wish to press the document if it is unauthorized. Bad as other things are here, I shall be glad to hear that there is not to be a protectorate. But the document is issued on the spot. You may not know of it; but it has been issued in the country, 269 and the people of the country will believe it.
Well, now I come to the next point. The Transvaal will be under the suzerainty of the Queen. I hope your Lordships will not suppose that I am going to give a learned or antiquarian explanation of what the word suzerainty means. I have no intention of doing anything of the kind. I am content to take the word upon the negative and affirmative meanings which we have received from the Government. The negative meaning we have received from the Prime Minister. He says that suzerainty does not mean sovereignty. Well, I know very well that it does not; and, what is more, if it did the Boers would not have accepted it. It is just because it does not mean sovereignty that they have submitted to it. What does it mean? What it means is described by Sir Evelyn Wood, and his glossary—his interpretation—may be found at page 29 of the Papers. He defines suzerainty to mean this—That the country is to have entire self-government as regards its own interior affairs; but that it cannot take action against or with an outside Power without permission of the Suzerain.That is to say, the foreign relations of the Boers are reserved. Now, my objection to that is this. I object to your taking a word and coupling it with the name of the Sovereign of this country, and putting a meaning on the word which is not the real meaning—which is a conventional meaning—because it is perfectly clear that whatever may be the real meaning of the word, what it does not mean is that foreign relations are reserved. It is quite clear that it does not mean that.
§ EARL CAIRNS
Why? Will the noble Earl produce any book, any State Paper—any instance in history—in which a Power which had no connection with another Power except through the one circumstance of foreign relations being reserved was called the Suzerain of that other Power? If this is the meaning of suzerainty, that wherever the foreign relations are reserved you have a case of suzerainty, the consequence is that the Sovereign of this country is the Suzerain of Afghanistan. Because the Sovereign of this country, according to your Treaty, has control of the foreign relations of Afghanistan.
§ EARL CAIRNS
I am willing to be corrected; but we have understood that the arrangement with Abdurrahman is that the foreign relations are reserved. But that is of very little importance. What I do care about is this. I object to your coining a meaning for a word—a word which has another meaning. I object to your taking possession of a word and giving it a special meaning for a particular purpose, and then connecting it with the Sovereign of this country. Why, you might as well take the word Archimandrite, and say that by that term you mean that foreign relations are reserved, and then say that the Queen is the Archimandrite of the Transvaal. You have no right to take a word and give it a meaning which is your meaning, and not the meaning of the word. And I object to your coining by the Prerogative a style for the British Sovereign hitherto unknown. But I will tell you why the word is taken. It is quite palpable what the reason is. The word is selected for this reason. It is selected in order that you may go on the one hand to the Boers and tell them—and tell them truly—" Suzerain does not mean Sovereign; suzerainty does not mean sovereignty; you may be quite satisfied," and then that you may come home here and jingle in the ears of the unthinking people of the country the word suzerainty, and leave them to think that it has the sound and semblance of, and some connection with, sovereignty.
Now I comp to the Commission, and I want to know what is the authority that this Commission is to have and how is it to be supported? I know what has happened with regard to the Boers. The Boers, when the Commission was talked of, proposed, not unnaturally, that they should be represented upon that Commission. They asked that they should have two members, and they would have agreed to be bound by its decision, perhaps, had they been represented. But that was declined. It was decided that there must be no Boers on the Commission at all. I do not find one word in these Papers showing that the Boors have consented to be bound by what this Commission will do. I cannot find a word binding even the Triumvirate. We hear from various quarters that there is very great indignation as to what this 271 Commission is to do, and we hear mutterings both loud and deep that the Boers will not be bound by anything the Commission does. What we may naturally ask is—Suppose the Boers refuse to be bound, how are you going to support the authority of the Commission? What authority have you at this moment in the Transvaal to support it? You have the same authority that you have in Abyssinia. You may invade Abyssinia, and you may invade the Transvaal; but until you invade the Transvaal you have no authority there. Your garrisons are cooped up, and you can exercise no authority by compulsion. Suppose you mean to enforce it by invasion, what is your position with regard to invasion? Your re-inforcements, where are they? Three or four regiments have been ordered home. Your General is coming home in the packet ship—that is to say, if he can find room among the numbers who are doubtless hurrying away from a land which you are making uninhabitable for Englishmen. The spirit of your troops is lowered, the authority of the Crown is discredited; and what about the loyal Boers? I do not know how many of them there are. I know that various opinions are entertained on that subject. Some say they are the majority; a great many people think so. It is quite clear that Mr. Kruger and Mr. Joubert think they are in great numbers, for they are much afraid of them. Well, but if you had entered the Transvaal in the present state of affairs, these loyal Boers would have been your friends and supporters. Will they be so hereafter? You have betrayed them once; do you suppose they will ever let you betray them again? They will know much too well for that. Those loyal men will for the future be arrayed against you along with the rest of the nation. That is the way in which you are going to support your Commission.
But, my Lords, I find as regards this Commission a very remarkable statement, as to which we must have some information from the Secretary of State. It appears, among other things, that the Commission is to consider whether there shall not be taken off the Transvaal a portion of territory to the east of the 30th parallel of longitude. There is about as much land there, by the look of it, as England and Scotland together. Therefore, the portion in question may be a tolerably large slice. I see that it 272 is said in the Papers that the Boers will not consent to have anything taken off the Transvaal; but I know not how that may be. But for what purpose do the Government wish to separate the piece of land to the east of the 30th parallel from the rest of the Transvaal? The idea appears to be that it is to be some "buffer," as it is called, between the land of the Boers of the Transvaal and the countries to the east of that territory. I do not suppose that you want a "buffer" between the Boers and the Portuguese. Remember that to the east of the 30th parallel you have first the Portuguese, then Amatonga, and then the Zulus. You want to separate the Boers from the Natives of Amatonga and of Zululand. The intervening piece of land I take it for granted you do not mean to leave as "no man's land," without any owner. If you do, either the Boers will take it again, or the Swazis or the Zulus will do so. Are we, then, to keep that land and to interpose between the Boers, the Swazis, and the Zulus? We have some right to know what the Government intend to do. We are not to be hood-winked as to a matter which is all-important in regard to the policy to be pursued in South Africa. You know very well that that intervening piece of land will be of no use to you as an interval between the Transvaal and the Native tribes unless you garrison it with British troops. Are you going to garrison it with British troops? Is that the policy of the Government? Let us know it if it is, because nothing more disastrous could occur to us than that, after giving up the Transvaal and exciting all the loyal Natives and the loyal Boers against us, we are to end by having a chain of garrisons along the eastern part of the Transvaal, which is most isolated from support.
I come next to the provision that until the completion of the arrangements with the Boers our garrisons are to remain, are to have food, but are to have no ammunition. No ammunition is to be brought by us into the country of the Transvaal. What does this mean? I own that I am ashamed to be the person to explain it. Do your Lordships remember what has happened? What were our Transvaal garrisons at the commencement of the war? Our soldiers were cooped up in them; they were surrounded; our troops were marching from Natal to relieve them. 273 In substance, though not in form, the garrisons were prisoners; they could not move out. Our troops were marching to relieve them. You are going to leave these garrisons there. What will their position be? I see calculations made as to whether they have ammunition for a week, for two weeks, or for three. It does not matter in the least whether they have ammunition for one week, for two, or for three weeks; if you have not the right to supply fresh ammunition their ammunition is limited, and they are at the mercy of the Boers around them. And while you, in form, leave this country to imagine that you are doing something in their favour by arranging that these garrisons are to remain in the Transvaal, the truth and the English of it is that these garrisons are hostages in the hands of the Boers. That is where the Government leaves them—those English troops are hostages in the hands of the Boers. This reminds us of the painful occurrences at Potchefstroom. There was a time when this country would have expressed a stronger opinion about what has happened at Potchefstroom than it has yet done. What has happened? There was an armistice agreed upon between Sir Evelyn Wood and the leaders of the Boers. What were the terms of that armistice? I will read it to your Lordships. At page 22, it is said that the third term of the armistice is that "Mr. Joubert undertakes to send notice of the armistice and its conditions to the respective garrisons." Remember, it was for the Boer Commander, Mr. Joubert, to do this, and not for us. The armistice was made on the 7th, and the garrison had to surrender 14 days after. I hear that there was a convoy of mules going on from Sir Evelyn Wood with provisions for this garrison, and that this convoy of mules did not, could not, make the distance of 200 miles in 14 days. Very possibly; but that has nothing to do with the matter. Mr. Joubert was not to send his notice by a convoy of our mules. He personally undertook to send notice to the garrison; and does anybody say that messengers could not traverse in the Transvaal a space of 200 miles in less than 14 days? I heard with surprise the noble Earl say that he and the Secretary of State for War were conferring on this matter, and that they had not received sufficient information.
274 My Lords, I should have thought that 10 minutes, or even 10 seconds, would have been sufficient for any English Minister to know what ought to be done under the circumstances, and that in 10 seconds after the receipt of the news there would have been flashed from Downing Street, with the lightning speed of the electric wire, a message to the Boer Triumvirate, not that any life that had been lost should be restored—that, alas! could not be done—but that every arm that had been taken must be restored, the ammunition must be given back, full indemnity must be made for every loss, and that every word written with regard to the surrender of Potchefstroom must be absolutely and completely cancelled and obliterated. And, my Lords, if that has not been done, I do maintain that never before in the history of England has such an act occurred and such an act been allowed to be so long unredressed.
And now I come to the stipulation as to Lang's Nek. What is the provision with regard to it? As the Boers, we read, have agreed to withdraw from Lang's Nek and to disperse to their homes, Sir Evelyn Wood promises not to take possession of that position, nor to follow them up with troops, nor to send ammunition into the Transvaal. Lang's Nek is in the Colony of Natal. The Transvaal is our country, too, but Lang's Nek is in Natal. The Boers retire from Lang's Nek, and we in Natal are bound hand-and-foot; our troops are not to occupy Lang's Nek. My Lords, can we speak patiently of this? Not to occupy Lang's Nek! What is the explanation of the Prime Minister about this? He says these words only mean that the Boers were dispersing, and there was not to be a pursuit of the Boers. Well, if that was what was intended, a very few words would have been sufficient—not to occupy Lang's Nek for 24 hours, or for a day, or for a week. But an absolute provision not to occupy Lang's Nek! My Lords, was ever such an insult offered as this, even according to the explanation of the Prime Minister? I can hardly trust myself to state it. Are we, are this great and spirited nation, gentlemen and men of honour I trust, making peace with the Boers, telling them that we do make peace with them, that they are to disperse—as one of its terms—to their own homes, and are they to turn 275 round and tell us—" That is all very well for you, but we do not trust you; we believe that at the moment of our dispersing, notwithstanding the peace, you would turn round and follow us, and pursue us; and we, therefore, bind you not merely to make peace with us, but not to occupy positions in your own country from which you could pursue us?" Was ever such an insult offered in private life, and is our nation so lost to all sense of honour that it can sit down under such an insult as that which the Prime Minister offers by way of explanation?
I come now to the next point. There is to be a Resident at the capital of the Boers, but there is to be no interference in the internal affairs of the country. Now, how is the Resident to be supported—I do not mean by money, but by force? The Boers are a rough sort of people, and even in our short intercourse with them during the last two months some rough things have been done. I do not suppose that this Resident will be very popular; and I wish to know, without anticipating the use of any extreme violence, how he is to be supported in the event of his being insulted? Or are you going to send him into the country without any support? If so, I need only remind the Members of Her Majesty's Government that that was precisely what they denounced when it was done in Afghanistan. I trust we shall have an explanation on this point.
Then I come to the amnesty, the terms of which are very remarkable. The amnesty extends to all, including the leaders, and excepts only persons directly responsible for acts contrary to the rules of civilized warfare. And in Sir Evelyn Wood's final agreement, we find that the Boer leaders said they would gladly co-operate with Her Majesty's Government in bringing to justice those who were directly responsible for acts contrary to the rules of civilized warfare. Now, who are these men? We know very well to whom these words ought to apply—namely, to the murderers of Captain Eliot, and to the authors of the massacre at Madder's Spruit. The Boers are to co-operate with us in bringing them to justice; but what does this mean? The murderers of Captain Eliot are Boers in the Transvaal; they are nine in number, and are perfectly well known to everyone there. The murder was committed in broad 276 daylight, and in the midst of the homesteads, so that everyone knew what had happened. The leaders of the Boers are able to hand them over to us; and to toll us that they will co-operate with us is to invert the real position of affairs, for they are in possession of the Transvaal, and we can do nothing. It is for us to require them to hand over to us those persons who are outside the pale of civilized warfare, instead of promising to co-operate with us. But who are the others? You remember the affair of Madder's Spruit, and the account of it that had been communicated to us by the Government. The circumstances of the attack I will read to your Lordships from the Official Report of Sir Owen Lanyon. He says—The circumstances of the attack upon Colonel Anstruther's men—a force consisting of 268 men, women, and children—are told in a few words. Having selected their spot for the attack, the mounted force of the rebels surrounded the straggling wagon-train while on the line of march, and sent in a flag of truce to the officer commanding, and while he was reading the letter from the Triumvirate, and replying verbally that his instructions were to proceed to Pretoria, and that he must obey those instructions, the attacking force of rebels was, under cover of the flag of truce, advancing upon and surrounding the soldiers; and immediately the answer was given the rebels opened a deadly fire, picked off the officers, and killed and wounded 157 of the small English force. The number of the dead now amounts to 70.And, further on, he adds—The surrounding and gradual hemming in under a flag of truce of a force, and the selection of spots from which to direct their fire, as in the case of the unprovoked attack by the rebels upon Colonel Anstruther's force, is a proceeding of which very few like incidents can be mentioned in the annals of civilized warfare.My Lords, did I hear aright the other night a reply given that the Government had received no information to lead them to think that this massacre was not inside the rules of civilized warfare? Did your Lordships hear that in this House? I trust there is some mistake, and that the noble Earl will rise and tell us that that is not what he meant to convey, and that the idea will not go forth that a transaction such as I have described is, according to the view of an English Government, within the pale of civilized warfare.
And now as to the position of the English and the loyal Boers. I see in this Paper some suggestion that somebody or other is to look after their 277 interests. These loyal Boers number many thousands, of whom many are refugees in neighbouring countries, but many still remain in the Transvaal. I do not know whether it is true, as we read the other day, that Mr. Kruger said he would rather kill 20 of them than one English soldier; but if there is any truth in these words, they show the temper in which the loyal Boers will be regarded by those who are now in the ascendant. And what have they to rely upon? I remember that Sir Garnet Wolseley told them—I trust to my memory for the words—that the rivers might run back to their sources, or the sun rise in the West, before the Transvaal ceased to form part of the British Dominion. They relied on that assurance; but was the word of Sir Garnet Wolseley of less avail than that of Sir Evelyn Wood? And if Sir Evelyn Wood's word is now to be relied on, was Sir Garnet Wolseley's word not to be taken before. Can you suppose that anything that this Commission can recommend, any promise that can be extracted, will prevent these Boers, when they return home, from regretting bitterly the day that they believed the word of an English General?
I cannot weary your Lordships by going into a further examination of the details of this arrangement, though there is still much that might be said. I have risen, my Lords, from the perusal of these Papers with feelings which I find it difficult to describe. It is not easy, in the midst of the events which pass around us, to realize the character of the history we are creating for future ages; but we can understand and look back upon the history of past times, and infer from this the manner in which we shall be regarded by those who come after us. It is just 100 years since a page was written in the annals of England, darkened by the surrenders of Burgoyne and Cornwallis. Those were surrenders made by Generals at a distance from, and without communication with, home—on their own responsibility—in great emergency—and without the possibility of any alternative. They were events, however, which both at the time, and long afterwards, deeply touched our national pride. But it will be recorded hereafter that it was reserved for the 19th century, and for the days of telegrams, to find a surrender, with reinforcements at hand, and every means 278 for restoring the power and vindicating the authority of the Crown, dictated, word for word, by the Government at home. I observe that this arrangement is somewhere styled the Peace of Mount Prospect. My Lords, I much doubt whether it will not go down to posterity as the Capitulation of Downing Street. You have given a bitter cup to drink to Englishmen abroad and Englishmen at home, and you have made the draught unduly and unnecessarily bitter. Surely some of the ingredients might have been spared. I wish you could have chosen for the conclusion of such a capitulation some other agent than one of the bravest, the most intrepid, the most promising Generals in the service of the Queen. I wish you could have spared our troops the intense mortification of being paraded to see a half-civilized enemy marching off in triumph with arms and accoutrements captured from British soldiers. I wish that while still the Transvaal remains, as you say it does, under our control, the British Flag had not been first reversed and then trailed in insult through the mud. I wish that the moment when you are weakening our Empire in the East had not been selected for dismembering our Empire in South Africa. These are the aggravations of the transaction. You have used no pains to conceal what was humbling, and a shame that was real, you have also made burning. But the transaction, without the aggravations, is bad enough. It has already touched, and will every day touch more deeply, the heart of the nation. Other reverses we have had; other disasters. But a reverse is not dishonour, and a disaster does not necessarily imply disgrace. To Her Majesty's Government we owe a sensation which to this country of ours is new, and which certainly is not agreeable.In all the ills we ever boreWe grieved, we sighed, we wept; we never blushed before.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, while I listened to the confident and unsparing denunciations of the noble and learned Earl, I confess I was somewhat surprised. I thought that his memory was somewhat better, and that he might chance to have recollected that the embarrassments and difficulties connected with the question concerning which he has addressed the House for over two hours, were due, 279 and due entirely, in their origin, to the action of the Government of which the noble and learned Earl was a distinguished Member. ["No!"] Those noble Lords who say "No! "must be very ignorant indeed of the history of these transactions. I have never attributed to the late Government any motives which were wrong in reference to the action they took; but I said that if they had correctly judged the circumstances of the case, and that if they were right in their opinion that the people of the Transvaal would willingly acquiesce in being placed under the British dominion, there was much to be urged in favour of the measures that were taken. But, in reality, they erred in judgment, and the event has proved that a greater blunder was hardly ever committed; and yet they now blame the Government which, with painful steps, I admit, is endeavouring to extricate the country from the difficulties in which it is placed. I think the noble and learned Earl might have displayed a little more modesty in his statement and a little less legal ingenuity, and have taken a more statesmanlike view of the subject. It is always disagreeable to be connected with a failure. To be connected with a failure is now the unfortunate lot of this country, and noble Lords opposite are connected with the failure as well as we. The whole origin of this difficulty was the annexation of the Transvaal. The noble and learned Earl began, I think, from last December; but I hope I shall be allowed to carry the subject a little further back. When we came into Office we found that we had this question to deal with. It might, perhaps, have been better to reverse at once the whole policy of the late Government. If our information at that time had not led us to believe that it might be possible to avoid that reversal, we should have adopted that measure. But in South Africa there has been, unfortunately, more than one change of policy; and changes of policy, even when they are inevitable, are always attended with considerable evils, and we thought it our duty to endeavour to carry on the government of the Transvaal, and to see whether we could not bring the people of that country to such a state of contentment that they might acquiesce in our rule and be willing to enjoy the blessings of self-government under the sovereignty of the Queen. The first 280 position we took was that they might have this self-government within the Confederation. The question was brought before the Cape Parliament; but they declined to take the first step, and the proposal for a Conference fell to the ground. I confess that I had not sufficient insight to see behind all the information I received. I could show your Lordships, step by step, how Sir Owen Lanyon, who governed the country, and Sir George Colley, who went through the whole of the country in August, informed me up to the last moment before the rebellion broke out that things were quieting down, and that all our difficulties would disappear. Then came the news of the outbreak of the insurrection on the 19th of December. The only previous information I had received that looked at all alarming was contained in a telegram of the 5th of December, which said it had been thought desirable to send back a few companies of a regiment to the Transvaal, as there had been some difficulty with the Boers. But considering that the authorities in the Transvaal were of opinion that the forces might even have been further reduced shortly before that time, I could not suppose such a complete change had come over the whole circumstances of the case, or that there was any real ground for serious apprehension. I now come to the period with which the noble and learned Earl deals. The first document to which the noble and learned Earl referred was Her Majesty's Gracious Speech from the Throne. In order to explain clearly the point of view the Government then held, I will refer to the instructions to Sir Hercules Robinson, issued a few days before the assembling of Parliament. Those instructions stated that Her Majesty's Government anxiously looked forward to the time when it might be possible to confer institutions for local government on the Transvaal; but that the recent attempt to overthrow the authority of the Queen by armed force rendered that impracticable until the authority of the Queen had been vindicated. As I understand it, the accusation against us is this—" If you had formed the scheme of relinquishing the sovereignty of the Crown, why did you not act upon it, and why did you speak of vindicating the authority of the Crown, and why did you spend unnecessary blood and treasure?" That is, I 281 think, a very fair statement of the argument; but you must consider what was the precise situation when my despatch to Sir Hercules Robinson was written. The insurrection had then broken out about 10 days, the garrisons in the Transvaal were beleaguered, and our force was a very small one. Was that a moment, even if we had formed the intention, to announce that we were to leave the Transvaal, without making any effort, without sending any re-inforcements, without having any military power, and simply to say that, an insurrection having broken out, we would withdraw our garrisons, and leave the Boers their independence? Under no circumstances, I undertake to say, would any Government have taken a course other than we did. The noble and learned Earl wrongly assumes that all the concessions have been on our side. He quite overlooks one important stipulation—namely, that the armed Boors should disperse. It seems to me that if the armed Boers are to disperse, if tranquillity is to be restored, if the British garrisons in the Transvaal are to be relieved, and British administration carried on until other arrangements are made by Commissioners appointed by the Queen, there is a vindication of the Queen's authority in the Transvaal. The noble and learned Earl proceeded to a minute criticism of the various telegrams contained in the published Papers, treating them, if I may say so, as if they were documents in a Chancery suit, and, by dint of great legal ingenuity, placing upon them interpretations which, I freely admit, are exceedingly new to me. Let me briefly refer to one or two of the points referred to by the noble and learned Earl, which appear to me the most important. He made a great deal of the word "submission" employed in the telegram of the 8th of February, and left your Lordships to infer that it afterwards disappeared from the Papers on account of the unsuccessful engagement on the Ingogo. Unfortunately for that argument, the communications with President Brand were commenced a considerable time before the date of the telegram referred to, the first being made so long ago as January 10. On that date I wrote to President Brand's Representative in this country—I request that you will inform President Brand that, provided the Boers desist from 282 their armed opposition to the Queen's authority, Her Majesty's Government do not despair of making a satisfactory arrangement.The word "submission" was used subsequently in a reply to a communication from Mr. Brand, in which he asked what would be done on a certain point if the Boers "submitted;" and the word "submission" was merely a re-echo of the word used by him. Therefore, the whole of the noble and learned Earl's ingenious argument as to the omission of the word from the telegrams after our defeat on the Ingogo falls to the ground. Again, the noble and learned Earl overlooked altogether this important point—that the arrangements made after the unfortunate engagement on the Majuba Hill had their origin in communications made some days before that engagement. The original source, if I may say so, of those communications, putting aside my telegram to Mr. Brand, which may have suggested, though this I do not know, to Mr. Kruger the communication he addressed to Sir George Colley, was the telegram of the 13th of February. The absence of the document to which the noble and learned Earl referred can only be explained by the death of Sir George Colley, in whose possession they were. I have never received them. But by inference I am aware what they must have been. The letter of the 21st of February was, no doubt, written by Sir George Colley to Kruger in pursuance of my telegram, and repeating its terms. That to Mr. Brand of the same date could not have been of vital importance, inasmuch as it was addressed to a third party. The letter of the Triumvirate of the 29th of January, strangely enough, does not seem to have reached the British authorities at all; but, from what I have seen respecting it in the newspaper telegrams, I do not think it could have much affected the situation. To return to Mr. Kruger. The position of matters was this. We received from Mr. Kruger a communication which we thought afforded an opportunity of entering into further negotiations with the Boers which might have a satisfactory result. If the noble and learned Earl will turn to that document, he will find that Mr. Kruger refers to the possibility of a Royal Commission being issued. In answer to Mr. Kruger's communication I sent a telegram to Sir George Colley, informing him that if the Boers desisted from 283 armed opposition we should be quite ready to appoint Commissioners. The question of dates in these matters is one of importance; and the noble and learned Earl will observe that Sir George Colley's answer to Mr. Kruger was sent on the 21st of February, and that not till the 26th of February did the affair of the Majuba Hill occur. Now, could we, because we had been unfortunate in that engagement, draw back from the undertaking we had previously entered into with Mr. Kruger? Such a proceeding would have been most undefensible—I had almost said an act of bad faith. We did not consider that it was possible for us as honourable men to change our plans because of the unsuccessful result of an engagement in which we, and not the Boers, had been the aggressors; and the consequence was that the negotiations went on. Here it may be well I should go back upon the cause of those negotiations, and explain the reasons which induced Her Majesty's Government to engage in them. They did not originate with Her Majesty's Government at all, but were started by President Brand, who was very anxious—which did him credit—to put an end to the war. Now, what was the course which it was my duty in these circumstances to take? Was I to tell President Brand that we could not listen to any terms of peace, or to any suggestion of peace from him? The circumstances were such that I could not conceive a greater breach of duty or a more imprudent course than that would have been. We knew that the action of the Free State trembled in the balance—that at any moment it might enrol itself among the number of our enemies; and, considering the comparative weakness of our forces in the field, an attack upon their flank by the Free State might have proved most disastrous. It was my duty to intimate to President Brand that we were not prepared to push matters to extremities if an honourable settlement of the difficulty could be arrived at. Up to that point the noble and learned Earl, I take it, would not complain of the action of Her Majesty's Government. After those communications with President Brand had been carried on for some time, during which we pursued a perfectly consistent course, uninfluenced 284 by the misfortunes which occurred from time to time to our arms, we received a direct overture from the Boers. They asked for terms we could not accept. They called upon us to withdraw our garrisons from the Transvaal, and to acknowledge the independence of the Republic. The noble and learned Earl says that we agreed at once to all that the Boers demanded. We, however, did nothing of the kind. We, on the contrary, did not assent to any of the terms proposed except the suggestion of a Royal Commission, which we thought might afford a means of settlement. Then came the unfortunate affair at Majuba Hill; and before I come to the conditions of peace which were subsequently agreed upon, I would point out that your Lordships' attention ought not to be concentrated on a certain number of telegrams or upon each successive step which the Government may have taken. You ought, I think, to look from a somewhat broader point of view on the whole subject. You should regard it from the point of view of the interests of South Africa generally and of those of the Empire itself. The origin of these difficulties should not be lost sight of, nor the temper in which the question at issue was looked upon at home, abroad, and in our Colonies. In referring to the origin of the war, I am not going to say anything about the policy which led to the annexation of the Transvaal. That is a fait accompli. But when the noble and learned Earl talks of the dismemberment of the Empire, one would suppose that he was speaking of the surrender of a limb which had been united to the Empire for at least the last 100 years. He would almost seem to have forgotten that the people of the Transvaal are only subjects of the Queen of three years' date, and that a large number of them—the majority, as it now turns out—have protested against being considered in that light. I am ashamed, therefore, to find this matter dealt with as if we were giving up an integral part of the United Kingdom, and in a way that shows there is no consideration with the great questions of general policy involved. There is no desire to look at them in a broad spirit, but rather to snatch a Party triumph. When the Transvaal was taken over we on this side believed, and I am sure noble Lords opposite, who 285 were at the time in Office, honestly believed also, that the people acquiesced in the annexation of their country; and, indeed, it was that only which led us to regard it as a justifiable measure. But, as matters have turned out, it appears that, so far from acquiescing in the annexation, they were so violently opposed to it as to break out into a most dangerous rebellion. Were we then, I would ask, to treat these men as if they had been united to this country for generations? That would, in my opinion, have been a wrong spirit in which to approach the subject. But the position in which we found ourselves was not one in which we could say to the Boers, "We will retire because you attack us." That would be impossible. It was absolutely necessary to take steps to relieve our garrisons. More than that. Before we could be in a position to negotiate with the Boer leaders it was necessary to have a force on the spot, so that we might be able to enforce our demands. What chance, I would ask, would there have been otherwise of a successful arrangement? Here I may observe that when the noble and learned Earl speaks of the conditions of peace, and what he calls our humiliating position, as reminding him of the capitulations of Burgoyne and Cornwallis, who, he says, yielded to superior numbers, I was somewhat astonished. The argument of the noble and learned Earl, I think, has much more force the other way. When a person is able to insist on his own terms he is, I maintain, in a far better position to make concessions than those who have no alternative but to capitulate and give up their arms. Such, then, as I have stated, was our position with regard to the Transvaal. But was the Transvaal the only settlement we had to take into account? There are other settlements in South Africa, and those who have studied the subject know that their interests are so closely connected that nothing occurs in one part of that wide territory by which the rest is not more or less affected. There is not a shot fired throughout South Africa in anger which does not re-echo throughout every portion of that dominion. But there is still something further to be considered. Who are those rebels of the Transvaal? With whom are they connected? They are men of Dutch origin. They are connected by the closest ties with 286 the inhabitants of the Orange Free State and with the subjects of the Queen at the Cape. So intimate is their connection by marriage and every possible tie that a war carried on in South Africa brings into play forces and rouses passions which might well make a bold man hesitate before he rejected any mode of preserving peace which would be likely to succeed. The connection between the Orange Free State and the Transvaal is such that it is scarcely possible, had the war continued long, that the former would have been able to refrain from joining our enemies. The state of feeling throughout the Colony was also becoming of a very alarming character. The sympathy felt by the Dutch population with the people of the Transvaal was such as could not be overlooked by the Government. Such being the state of things in South Africa, what, I would ask, was the temper of the people at home? The noble and learned Earl spoke of the late war, as if it was one which enlisted all the patriotic feelings of the country, as one in which every man of honour would desire not to sheathe his sword until it had become dyed with the blood of the greatest possible number of Boers. We have been treated to a kind of declamation which might well be resorted to if some enemy were invading our shores; but the feeling of the English nation on the subject is, I am convinced, somewhat different from that which the speech of the noble and learned Earl would lead one to suppose. The conscience of the people of England was not easy as to the war in the Transvaal. It told them that it was a war which had been undertaken to subdue men who were never willing to be our subjects—a war from which no glory was to be obtained, and which, if it could be done consistently with sound policy, it was an absolute duty to bring to an early conclusion. These were the inducements which weighed with the Government; they were, it seems to me, strong inducements; and the policy which we have pursued is one which I do not think the country will condemn. It is a most disagreeable task to a Minister to have to recommend, especially when our arms happen not to have attained success, a course which has been represented in the light in which that which we deemed it our duty to adopt has been represented 287 to-night. Speaking for myself, however, I may say I believe there is no higher or more imperative duty in the case of a Minister charged with the responsibility of an Empire such as ours than to resist the vain desire of mere military glory when he can obtain a settlement which he regards as conducive to the real interests of the country. I remember having heard an anecdote of a man who, I think, noble Lords opposite will allow was not disposed to take a low view of military honour. Someone speaking in the presence of the Duke of Wellington said something about the point of honour, and his answer was—"I used to hear a good deal when in Spain about the point of honour, but in my opinion the true point of honour is to do your duty." I would now make a few remarks as to what the noble and learned Earl said about the conditions of peace. The noble and learned Earl said he supposed the terms "complete local self-government" were used in order to square what we have done with the words of the Gracious Speech from the Throne. If the noble and learned Earl will believe me, these words were chosen simply because they expressed more clearly than others could the kind of position which we intended the Transvaal State should occupy. The whole matter is for the consideration of the Commissioners, who will take this general statement as a guide to their deliberations and communications with the Boer leaders——
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
Then the noble and learned Earl may take it from me that I say so, and when he sees the instructions I have sent to the Commission he will see that it is so. The noble and learned Earl will find, perhaps, in the course of his career, that every point cannot be as clearly explained by telegraph as it can in a legal case. Well, the Commissioners will consider the whole subject, and it will undoubtedly 288 be open to them to consider whether this agreement may not be varied, and whether the final settlement should take some other form. We shall adhere with perfect honesty to what we have agreed to; but if the Commissioners think that there are arrangements which would more suitably carry out our intentions, it will will be open to them to report those arrangements to us with a view, if we should see fit, to their adoption. It is suggested that we have been very perversely ingenious in discovering the word Suzerain, and that we have given it some special meaning evolved out of our own consciousness; but, in the opinion of many persons well qualified to understand the meaning of words, it is the most appropriate term that could be used. I believe the word expresses very correctly the relation which we intend shall exist between this country and the Transvaal. Our intention is that the Transvaal shall have independent power as regards its internal government, and we shall only reserve certain powers to be exorcised by the Queen. Let us consider what the limitations are to be. The noble and learned Earl assumes that there is only the limitation of control over foreign relations. But there are other limitations. For instance, there is one dealing with arrangements for the protection of the Natives in the interior of the Transvaal. Now, with regard to our control over the relations of the Transvaal with foreign Powers. The noble and learned Earl thought it curious that we should have reserved a control of that kind, thinking, no doubt, that the relations of the Transvaal with foreign countries were very limited. But before the Transvaal was annexed the Republic had concluded Treaties with a large number of European Powers, and those Treaties existed at the time of the annexation. Therefore, the control which we propose to assume is not an altogether unimportant matter. It is quite clear that there ought to be, as regards foreign relations, only one Government in South Africa; that there ought to be no communication with foreign Powers upon any subject except through the Representative of the Queen. I come next to Frontier affairs, and I admit at once that the dealing with these Frontier affairs is, perhaps, the greatest difficulty of the whole subject. The late 289 Government were actuated by their apprehensions of Native disputes on the Transvaal Frontier to take the step of annexation. It was because of the embarrassment caused by the relations of the Transvaal to the Natives upon the Frontier that the Earl of Carnarvon advised the annexation of the territory. There may be some force in the argument that it is a dangerous thing to entangle ourselves with these Frontier difficulties. My answer is, that at no time have we been able to disentangle ourselves in South Africa from these Frontier questions. Long before the annexation we were continually remonstrating with the Transvaal Republic, and interfering between it and the Natives; and, in short, doing the very thing without authority which it is now proposed we should have the right to do. It is of vital importance that Frontier wars should not be undertaken in South Africa without our having an opportunity of expressing our views and using our influence for the purpose of preventing them. I do not see any insuperable difficulty in the way of a Resident in the capital of the new Transvaal State exercising a very salutary influence over the Government of the State; and, under the agreement which we may make with it, we may expect to be in a position to mediate between it and the Frontier Natives with far greater effect than if the matter were left untouched. The object of this settlement is to preserve all that was valuable in our position when we annexed the country. There would be no advantage to England in her having to manage the ordinary local affairs of the Transvaal. We have, in fact, been trying to carry out the spirit of the arrangement which the late Government made when the Transvaal was annexed. The next subject to which I shall advert is one of very great importance; I refer to the position of the Natives within the Transvaal itself. Upon this the noble and learned Earl will, I hope, forgive me for saying that he fell into a very natural mistake. He gave us a tremendous denunciation of slavery. I think, for my part, I have never been backward in expressing my hatred of slavery; and I thought I had shown, by the way in which I have spoken upon that subject, that I had paid some attention to the subject of slavery in the Transvaal. Anyone who took the 290 trouble to listen to mo when I last spoke on the subject will remember that I said that in earlier days there was slavery in the Transvaal; but that of late years slavery no longer existed. I am fully persuaded that during the last few years, though it may be possible there may have been cases of slavery in some homesteads, there has been no general system of slavery. It existed far longer in the two smaller Republics than in the South African Republic in which they were finally absorbed. The whole, therefore, of the terrific denunciation of slavery which the noble and learned Earl addressed to us was simply a creation of his own imagination. It may be some satisfaction to the noble and learned Earl to know that the stipulation which was made at the Sand River Convention will be renewed.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I beg to differ from the noble and learned Earl. I am absolutely convinced that for some years past there has practically been no slavery in the Transvaal. To say, as the noble and learned Earl said, that we are handing over hundreds of thousands of Natives to a condition of slavery is purely, utterly, and entirely a figment. There are, I think, three other points referred to by the noble and learned Earl. First, there are the Royal Commissioners and the instructions to be given to them. The noble and learned Earl used extremely strong language when he was speaking of the position of our troops in the Transvaal. But the noble and learned Earl is mistaken in what he says upon this subject. The absolute condition of the whole of these arrangements—the condition on which we have insisted throughout, is that the armed force of the Boers was to disperse. I would just ask the noble and learned Earl what he understands the position of the troops in South Africa to be at this moment. He spoke of the recall of all the troops.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
Then the noble and learned Earl is misinformed. No troops have been recalled. No doubt, the noble and learned. Earl refers to the four regiments which were ordered not to proceed, and to the fact 291 that General Roberts is to return home. That is so far true. But I hope it will be some satisfaction to the noble and learned Earl to know that there is still a very strong force in the country, amounting to 12,000 men, including those actually in the Transvaal. I would ask the noble and learned Earl to reflect in what position the Boers will be. They are now relying on our good faith. They have dispersed to their own homes. Is that a position on our part of utter weakness; is it altogether disgraceful to us that the enemy has dispersed? I should be sorry to intimate that we mean to take advantage of this to depart from the arrangements which we have entered into. Nothing could be further from our intention. But that is the position in which the Boers are left. The Commissioners are to visit the Transvaal. Sir Evelyn Wood himself is about to proceed to the capital of the Transvaal to make such arrangements as may be necessary to carry on the administration. Is that a humiliating position? It appears to me to be a considerable surrender to us, and leaves us in a position where we can deal with the matter. So much for the position of the troops. Then with respect to the surrender of Potchefstroom. In this matter there is no doubt that it may be necessary to take steps to assert our rights. But the noble and learned Earl is far more fiery. He wonders why 10 seconds were allowed to elapse without our revenging this insult. I am glad the noble and learned Earl did not occupy my situation or command our troops. I cannot imagine anything more calamitous than to flash forth orders to revenge what might turn out hereafter to have been only imaginary bad faith. Sir Evelyn Wood has not taken the same views as those of the noble and learned Earl. He has written, saying—" Pray suspend judgment until I send you all the facts." Sir Evelyn Wood is a prudent and responsible man—too prudent to give the advice which the noble and learned Earl has tendered to us to-night. I have explained, to a certain extent, the course which will be followed. It will be my duty to address instructions to the Commissioners, in which a far fuller explanation will be given than has been possible in telegrams, and in which the whole course of our policy will be dealt with. I have, I believe, dealt with every point of the noble and learned Earl's 292 speech. My Lords, I am far from saying that there is much to boast of. I am not one of those who fall into ecstacies at the peace as if a great success had been obtained. But when we come to talk of humiliation, I think that the real humiliation would have been if for a mere point of honour, when we know that we cannot hold this country, that it is impossible to hold it with any proper regard for the interests of our Colonies in South Africa or of the whole Empire, that even if we had conquered the country we could not hold it, and when practical terms could be made which would, in our opinion, secure all that is valuable to retain, we had stood in the way of the acceptance of such terms. That would have been a humiliation to which I, for one, would never have been a party.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
The noble Earl who has just spoken has invited attention to topics which were left out of consideration by my noble and learned Friend. The noble Earl has gone back to the question of annexation, and upon that point I am perfectly willing to meet him. The fact is that there is a great deal which might be said upon that subject, and which has been said, not by the late Government alone, but by those who supported the late Government in the House of Commons, who vindicated the annexation of the Transvaal. Among these I might recall to the noble Earl's attention a distinguished Member of the present Cabinet, Mr. Forster. I might call attention to a speech by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Brabourne), who went fully into this question, and showed that the country was not annexed from any greed of power. I suppose the noble Earl would consider himself responsible for what has been said upon the subject by Members of his Government since it came into Office. I will, therefore, refer to a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, on the 31st of August last. Subsequent to the failure of the Confederation there was a debate in the House of Commons, in which Mr. Chamberlain spoke—Mr. Chamberlain, who is a Colleague of the noble Earl, and he thoroughly repudiated the notion that it was taken over hastily by the present Government. He said—" When the present Government came into Office it considered this question most carefully."
293 Therefore, there can be no doubt on this point. What said the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, who was put up to answer Mr. Courtney on that occasion? Speaking in August last year, he said—I firmly believe that if Sir Theophilus Shepstone had held his hand, and had not annexed the Transvaal, before very long the South African Republic would have fallen like a ripe fruit; and however much any of us—and, certainly, I have been one of them—dislike the idea of having to take charge of the South African Republic, I do believe that within a few mouths the cry for protection from the people of the Transvaal would have become so strong that it could not have been resisted by a civilized Government…… If ever there was an occasion on which it was right to complete the legal maxim and say Fieri non debuit (that is as to time) factum valet, this is the occasion. Not only has the annexation of the Transvaal been accepted by three different Secretaries of State, of very different characters and political tendencies, but it has been accepted and ratified by two Cabinets, which are so diverse that they may be said to represent almost every element which exists in British political life.…. In the existing state of affairs, no one who wishes well to that country—the Transvaal—as a portion of Her Majesty's Dominions will desire any Constitutional changes to be made."—[3 Hansard, cclvi. 874–5–6–9.]Therefore, the Government of the day—the present Government—when it came in gave careful consideration to the question of annexation, and in spite of the speeches which the chief of that Government made in Mid Lothian, and to which I attribute mainly the rising which has taken place—I do not hesitate to say of those speeches, the language used, and the application made of it by the leaders of the Boers, that it might be shown that through those speeches, and not through annexation, has the rising taken place—in spite of those speeches, and notwithstanding the way in which the chief of the Government pledged himself, yet when the Government came carefully to consider the whole subject, they came to the conclusion that the Transvaal was to be maintained as part of Her Majesty's Dominions—that she was to retain her sovereignty over it. The noble Earl has read one portion of the extract with regard to the instructions given to Sir Hercules Robinson. He read the portion which declared that when the authority of the Crown had been vindicated, and the maintenance of tranquillity was firmly assured, terms would be discussed; and then the despatch goes on— 294When this has been effected, consider the best means of assuring the Dutch settlers such full control of their local affairs as may be consistent with the general interests of Her Majesty's dominions in South Africa, and with the obligations which have been incurred by this country to the very large Native population in the Transvaal.The noble Earl cannot deny that the Dutch Boers of the Transvaal treated the Natives, whether by slavery or not, in a manner wholly alien to British rule, and which has not taken place since the annexation of the Transvaal in 1877. Since that time the Natives have been under British dominion and under British justice, and they have had means of appealing to British Courts and defending themselves against wrong. The noble Earl gives no answer to the passage from Sir Owen Lanyon's despatch to show what is the spirit in which the Boers deal with the Natives. Is it or is it not true that they are wantonly shot down? At the beginning of this rising their property was taken from them, and they were made to supply the commissariat of the Boers, who abound in flocks and herds. The interests of 700,000 Natives had been set aside, and the Boers had been allowed to bear down the scale against them in the most disgraceful manner. I say you are lowering the British name, you are lowering the British standard of right and wrong, you are taking away the protection you are bound to give to these people. And do not tell me that, by having a Resident at Pretoria, and by controlling the foreign relations of the Transvaal, you will protect the Natives when you withdraw your garrisons from the country. There is no law that can be exercised unless it is backed by force in the ultimate result, and when you withdraw force you withdraw British law. When the noble Earl told us the position in which we stand in consequence of the arrangements made, he did not say that we occupy a very proud position, he says our position is not a very humiliating one. It is not a pleasant position—it is a disagreeable position; but it is not one which may affect the honour of the British nation. Now, what is it? The Boers were encamped at Laing's Nek—not in the Transvaal, but in the Colony of Natal. They have thrice, indeed, if we count the massacre which took place of Colonel Anstruther's troops, they have four times inflicted defeats on British forces, and 295 they were in possession of Laing's Nek, not part of the Transvaal. You say they have dispersed. You know they have left Laing's Nek; but you do not know that they have dispersed.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
Is that "a real dispersion," to quote the words used in one of the telegrams? What is a real dispersion? You have no means of knowing. You have no force in the Transvaal. The Boors have retired from Laing's Nek. They may be within five miles of it, and they may be called together at the sound of a trumpet at any moment. You, on the other hand, have agreed that even in Natal your forces are not to move in the direction of Laing's Nek. That being so, you are tied and they are free. You have never entered the Transvaal; you have never tested its loyalty, and I say one of the greatest wrongs you are doing is that you are surrendering your friends to your enemies without making the slightest pretence to defend those who have been loyal to you. You do not know what the real feelings of the people of the Transvaal are, because they have not had an opportunity of asserting them. Your garrisons are small, and they are hemmed in by superior forces; and, therefore, it is perfectly clear that there are at the present moment in the Transvaal many persons attached to British rule whom you are going to leave behind you; I will not say leave behind you, for you have left there; but there are many persons in the country who look to you for protection. They are shut up in the towns with the garrisons. We find one of the garrisons has been called upon to surrender, even during the Armistice, and that at a time when provisions were near at hand. It is a remarkable fact that Sir Evelyn Wood appears to be by no means sanguine of peace. At present there is a shadowy outline drawn, and this has to be filled in by the Commission, and then sent home for the assent of the Government here. And all this was done with regard to three gentlemen who had taken upon themselves to represent the Transvaal. Sir Evelyn Wood objected to their being representatives; but the noble Earl said they were to be accepted. Sir Evelyn Wood would have compelled certain 296 persons not to reside within the Transvaal; but the noble Earl said—" You must give an amnesty to everybody, unless it is something contrary to the laws of civilized warfare." Therefore, you are dealing with the matter in a way contrary to that recommended by the officer on the spot. A telegram dated the 17th of March states what was passing through his mind as to the negotiations. It is stated in a subsequent telegram that the Commissioners are to consider the question of Native affairs. But what is the use of considering the question of Native affairs when the people whom you admit to be at the head of the Boer conspiracy mean to have the entire control of their interior affairs, including Native affairs? When you have nothing but a Resident in Pretoria, with a country as large as France, do you suppose that he can protect the Natives or exercise any effective control on behalf of the Natives? With regard to the term suzerainty, no doubt, as it has been explained by the noble Earl, it is sovereignty a good deal watered down, and probably it will gradually fade away in a dissolving mist. What is the length of the duration of the Transvaal Republic of which the noble Earl spoke? Why, 19 years of miserable government, or, as Sir Garnet Wolseley called it, of mischievous and indolent government. The Transvaal Republic dragged on until it was unable to raise taxes, punish crime, or perform any other function of government; it ultimately had only 12s. 6d. in its Treasury, and it had become a nuisance to all its neighbours. This country, under these circumstances, saved it from a Zulu invasion, and also from Secocoeni, who had defeated it before; and the men who had been protected by us in every way have turned against the British, not having been ashamed to take British money and become servants under Her Majesty. I am puzzled, my Lords, to know when and how it was that Her Majesty's Government arrived at a conclusion so totally different from that to which they came when they wrote to Sir Hercules Robinson, and when the Speech from the Throne declared that the Queen's authority over the Transvaal would be vindicated. It is impossible for anyone not to connect in his mind what has taken place on this subject with opinions of certain Members of the Government. 297 We know that at least one Member of the Government has generally been considered to belong to the school which advocates peace at any price, or, at all events, advocates peace so strongly that there is hardly any humiliation to which he would not subject his country rather than break it. We have seen letters which show what the tone of mind of certain Members of the Government was. I should be glad, therefore, to know what were the reasons which induced the noble Earl opposite to depart from the policy worthy of this country which was put forth in the Queen's Speech? And I must say that of all the extraordinary charges ever made by a statesman the charge made by the noble Earl to-night was the most extraordinary—namely, that we on this side are, from Party spirit, taking the course we now pursue. Why is it to be said that we are guilty of Party spirit in urging the policy which was declared in the Queen's Speech, but which Her Majesty's Government now appear to have repudiated without any reason, except that the arms of this country have sustained humiliating defeats? At all events, it cannot be doubted that the change of policy came after those defeats. One of the most remarkable things connected with the negotiations is that the word "submission" was suggested by President Brand; because he, being a statesman of some note, and a patriot of even greater note than a statesman, felt that no country placed in the position in which England was could consent to give everything to the Boers unless they tendered their submission first. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies was afraid of those Colonists of the Cape who are of Dutch blood taking the side of the Boers of the Transvaal. Now, it is a curious fact that, while the negotiations were going on, and after almost the worst thing which had happened to us had occurred, a Member of the Legislative Council of the Cape, Mr. Hofmeyer, telegraphed to Mr. Joubert, hearing of the peace that was likely to ensue, and then telling the Boer leaders what they ought to do. Mr. Hofmeyer said that—In any case, before the Commission could be appointed, either the British arms must have conquered, or the Boers must have given a tangible proof of submission in the eyes of the world.298 What does that show? That two patriotic men of the Dutch race are in favour of the policy expressed in the Queen's Speech, and which, I think, has been abandoned—I will not say so disgracefully, but in so humiliating a manner. Those men feel that a great country cannot afford to be dealt with in the way in which the Boers have dealt with us. I say that the course which you have pursued in South Africa, viewed as it must be in relation to the events which have taken place, will be attributed throughout the world not to your magnanimity, but to your fear of disaster and defeat. The noble Earl opposite has himself urged that our force, instead of being overwhelming, was wholly inadequate, because, if the struggle had gone on, the whole Dutch race in South Africa might have turned against us. After arguing in that way the noble Earl can hardly claim credit for a great display of magnanimity.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
I am glad, at all events, that the noble Earl gives up the claim to magnanimity; but I have seen that character assigned to the transaction. The noble Earl dwelt on the importance of having one foreign policy for all the White population in South Africa. I think, however, that the course which Her Majesty's Government have adopted is calculated to frustrate a union of the White race in that part of the world. English supremacy has been admitted for a good many years in South Africa, and any bad feeling in regard to it on the part of the Dutch Settlers may, however numerically large, be supposed to have long vanished. But it will be a very different thing if the Dutch flag is now to take the place of the English flag in the Transvaal. The humiliation attending these transactions will not be confined to the particular spot, but will extend to all the British Dominions throughout the globe. And when the noble Earl tells us that this policy will be for the benefit of the South African Colonies, let him look at the Colonial papers and see how the matter is viewed by all the Colonies. The people of Natal, many of whom went to the Transvaal, complain that you have betrayed the confidence which they placed in you when the annexation was 299 effected, To be British subjects was a pride to many persons in the Transvaal, who, if they are to be abandoned, will have a right to complain; and much the same thing may be said of the Natives. I am very anxious not to repeat points on which my noble and learned Friend has spoken; and, indeed, it seems to me that the question is a very simple one. It is this—Is it for the advantage of the country and the Colonies that we should, at a time when, according to Sir Evelyn Wood, the Boers admitted the certainty of our victory, withdraw from a dominion we have undertaken, not for our own aggrandisement, but for the benefit of the people of South Africa? I say most distinctly that we have no right—no moral right—to withdraw, and to recede from the engagements to which we are pledged. I will give an instance of what happened in former times. We were defeated by Pretorius in Natal; but he saw that we were in a superior position and gave up. Now, why are we to assume that, when a General like Sir Evelyn Wood could have taken positions that would have dominated Laing's Nek, bloodshed must have ensued? It might be that the Boers would have retreated, and that the English might have marched into the Transvaal without further bloodshed. But how have you treated your noble Army? You have made it stand by while its enemies retired from it in derision, and in possession of trophies snatched from us by treachery. As for these trophies, it is the fact that on two occasions, by means of the white flag, the Boers have got within shooting distance of our forces. The truth is that you have caused the most unfortunate feelings among those whom you sent out to fight the battles of the Queen, and having given them the idea that their first duty was to vindicate her authority, you have withdrawn them, and have betrayed the people under your charge. Probably this peace will not be durable, as, according to the noble Earl himself, it is no more than an outline that ought to be filled up. It would have been better to have advanced and to have shown your strength first, and then to have displayed your mercy and kindness and liberality to the people, who would acknowledge your domination; but you have adopted a policy which will destroy the belief in the strength of England, 300 and cause it to be imagined that we are afraid to meet the Boers in actual conflict. You have spread that illusion throughout South Africa, and the consequence may be bloodshed hereafter—oceans of bloodshed, far greater than would have been caused now by the vindication of the authority of the Queen, and upon your heads that bloodshed will rest when it comes.
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
The noble Viscount complained that Her Majesty's Government did not, immediately after their assumption of Office, revoke the annexation of the Transvaal, and reverse the policy of their Predecessors.
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
If that was not what was meant, he was at a loss to understand the criticisms of the noble Viscount. The annexation of the Transvaal was approved by many eminent men, but disapproved by many others, amongst the latter being several Members of the present Government; and when the present Government succeeded to power, they had to consider, not whether the Transvaal should or should not be annexed, but whether, under the circumstances of the time, it would be wise to cancel the annexation. They had before them information from Sir Garnet Wolseley and Sir Owen Lanyon, who were believed to be best qualified to form an opinion on the subject, and who considered that matters were settling down, and that the rule of Her Majesty over the Transvaal would be accepted by the Boers. In this condition of things he contended that they were right in not at once reversing the policy of their Predecessors, but endeavouring, if possible, to reconcile the Boers to the rule of the Queen, by the grant to them of local self-government, in connection with the proposed federation of the South African territories. Even so late as a few days before the outbreak, Sir Owen Lanyon thought the agitation would cease with the grant of representative institutions; and Sir George Colley termed the movements of the Boers "spasmodic efforts of disaffection." The noble Viscount had not endeavoured to reply to the answers given by his noble Friend (the Earl of Kimberley) to the speech of the noble and learned Earl; but before he (the 301 Earl of Northbrook) addressed himself to the main question before the House, he would allude to some incidental remarks of the noble Viscount. He had asked if the Boers had dispersed to their homes. Her Majesty's Government had not sufficient information to enable them to answer the question fully. They knew that the Boers had withdrawn from Laing's Nek; but they were unable to say positively that they had dispersed to their homes. He trusted they would carry out their engagements loyally and properly; otherwise, it would be for the Government to consider what course they would take, and they had an ample force at their disposal. The noble Viscount had, to some extent, miscalculated the number of the troops in Natal and the Transvaal. They originally numbered 3,500, and the reinforcements amounted to about 9,000 more, besides the regiments that had been countermanded. Considering that we were dealing with so small a population as the Boers in the Transvaal, the force in Natal under the command of Sir Evelyn Wood was likely to be sufficient to give a good account of any opposition that would probably be brought against him. The noble Viscount had tried to make it appear that the word "suzerainty" had no value whatever. As the noble Viscount had been for some time Secretary of State for India, he ought to be aware that the word had a very well-known meaning, and that the subordinate State could not enter into relations with foreign Powers excepting through the Suzerain, or, to use the Indian phrase, the Paramount Power. This was precisely the position which the State of the Transvaal would occupy with respect to the British Empire. The noble and learned Earl (Earl Cairns) had, on the authority of a newspaper extract, the date of which he had not given, but which he (the Earl of Northbrook) believed was written four years ago, hung some eloquent periods on the evils of slavery; and although the statement might have been correct at the time it was written it did not show the state of affairs now. The noble Viscount who had just spoken had asserted that in the arrangements for peace the interests of the loyal inhabitants of the Transvaal would be neglected. As far as he knew, there was not the slightest evidence for this assertion. One of the main objects of his 302 noble Friend in the negotiations would be that on both sides there should be a complete amnesty for what had passed, and to secure the entire protection of the loyal inhabitants from any injury in consequence of their not having favoured the insurgents. The noble Viscount implied that he thought it was necessary that the war should be continued for the honour of the British arms. But was it really the fact that the small actions which had taken place—none of which, with the exception of Laing's Nek, could be called serious, and in which our soldiers fought against large odds—could so affect the honour of the British Army that it was necessary to continue a war in order to wipe out the disgrace? Was that really the noble Viscount's opinion? If it was, he might tell him, at any rate, that his opinion did not coincide with that of Sir Evelyn Wood, who, he should think, had the honour of the British Army as much at heart as the noble Viscount. Sir Evelyn Wood, in a telegram now before the House, said that none of the actions could be regarded as so important as to affect our prestige. To his (the Earl of Northbrook's) view, to say they must continue this war against the Boers to uphold the honour of the British Army was a most unfortunate and humiliating admission to be made by anyone in that House, and most of all by a noble Lord who at one time filled the Office of Secretary of State for War. He would now say a few words upon the main question before the House. It had been clearly proved by his noble Friend behind him that the negotiations which led to the conclusion of peace were not opened by Her Majesty's Government after a defeat, as was contended by the noble and learned Earl (Earl Cairns); but that almost immediately after the outbreak of hostilities, and before the first battle—that at Laing's Nek—was fought, Her Majesty's Government had informed President Brand of their desire to make a settlement, "provided only the Boers would desist from their armed opposition." That was the real point of the whole question which was now before their Lordships. He held that the Government were right to express a desire to settle this question; and, so far from it being a humiliation to this country, he maintained that it would have been disgraceful to any Ministry if they had, 303 in consequence of the reverses of our troops, withdrawn from their previous assurances, and determined to subdue by force of arms a free people who did not desire to be under our rule. The noble and learned Earl had asked how it was that President Brand was mixed up in the matter. President Brand felt that the hostilities were a serious calamity to South Africa; and, as the President of a friendly State, he considered it his duty to prevent, if possible, the further shedding of blood. He (the Earl of Northbrook) wished that he could have noticed in the speeches of noble Lords opposite some concern for the condition of South Africa, or the slightest desire to prevent the shedding of blood. Would it have been right for the Government, after the assurances they had given President Brand, to have receded from their engagement merely because of reverses to a handful of their troops? That was the question which their Lordships had to consider. The Boers had unreservedly accepted the condition of desisting from armed opposition; and the rest of the conditions, he believed, would be such as their Lordships would approve. What, in fact, did Her Majesty's Government fail to secure? Did noble Lords opposite desire that the Queen's authority should be imposed upon the Transvaal by force? Were they not satisfied with the control this country was to exercise over the foreign relations of the Transvaal, and with the powers proposed to be conferred upon the Royal Commissioners? After all, the difference could only be on questions of detail; and he had not heard from noble Lords opposite a single substantial objection to the terms of peace. All he had heard was a protest against making peace on any terms, in consequence of the misfortunes which had happened to our arms. The noble Viscount had alluded to the speeches made by the Prime Minister in Mid Lothian. He (the Earl of Northbrook) did not understand why noble Lords opposite were so fond of referring to speeches which had done so much to procure the defeat of the Conservative Party at the late General Election. The particular speech was one in which the Prime Minister referred to the disastrous policy of "pride and passion" pursued by the late Government; and his attack could not have found a better illustration than in the speeches of the noble 304 and learned Earl and the noble Viscount opposite—speeches which breathed the same spirit which led to our war with the American Colonies. From first to last there was not in those speeches a single word indicative of a desire to settle the unfortunate troubles in the Transvaal by any other means than force, or a single suggestion as to how a condition of affairs, due entirely to their own policy as Members of the late Government, could be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, that the whole arrangement entered into by Her Majesty's Government was one which inflicted deep humiliation upon the country; and it was astonishing that so manly and straightforward an Englishman as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should have lent his countenance to it. The noble Earl who had last spoken appeared not to realize the full force of the accusation brought against Her Majesty's Government, which was that between the date of the delivery of the Queen's Speech and the conclusion of peace with the Boers a total change of opinion on their part had occurred, of which no explanation had been given. Why was it that at the date of the delivery of the Queen's Speech submission of the Boers to the Queen's authority was a condition precedent to any negotiations, while now, without any such condition, the Boers were to have all they wished for? Peace had been obtained, not by a vindication of the Queen's authority in the Transvaal, but by the surrender of everything claimed by the Boers at the beginning of the insurrection. The Boers had not submitted. They had, it was true, retired to their homes; but they had not consented to lay down their arms until they had obtained every one of the terms on which they had from the outset of the war insisted. As to the question of slavery, to which the noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook) had alluded, the whole course of Boer history was shaped by the belief that they bad a right to subjugate the Native races. They trekked first of all to the Orange Free State, then to Natal, and then across the Drakensberg into the Transvaal; but wherever they settled they had kept up that institution of slavery which they had carried with them from the beginning, and for which they were now fighting. If, then, we removed from them the pres- 305 sure of British laws, we should only be enabling them to continue a state of things which they had, until the annexation, contrived to maintain, and the trade in black ivory, as it was called, would still go on. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies, he might add, spoke of the relationship in blood and religion between the inhabitants of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State as being such that the latter, in all probability, would have been drawn into the war. That possibility might be so; but would not the feelings, he would ask, to which Mr. Kruger referred when he spoke of Africa for the Africander, and to which the noble Earl alluded, have been better met by imposing terms on the Boers after we had driven them back to their own country than by making concessions to them which to many appeared to carry with them the stigma of disgrace? For his own part, he could not help thinking that the former would have been the more prudent policy. Sir Garnet Wolseley, in a speech which he made in 1877, speaking in his official capacity as Lord High Commissioner, said there was no Government, Whig or Tory, Liberal or Radical, which would, under any circumstances, dare to give back the Transvaal. That was the declaration of your own Administrator in South Africa, and he would ask the House to compare it with the words of Sir Evelyn Wood, under the orders of the present Government. The loyal Boers had been mentioned in the course of the debate; but not a word had been said as to the loyal English population in the Transvaal. He, however, knew many persons who, after the annexation, invested all their savings in the purchase of land in that country, and he wished to know what was to become of them; for the terms which had been made with the Boers did not contain a single stipulation in their favour. They were numerous; some said they formed even a majority of the White population, and it was a scandal that they should be ruined in purse and person as well as in honour by the capitulation of the Government. Coming to the question of the meaning of the term suzerainty, he pointed out that no analogy could be drawn from India, as the state of affairs there was wholly different from that which existed, or could be expected to exist, in Natal, where homage, 306 fealty, and investiture were impossible. As to the Military Service, he could hardly suppose that the Government were going to ask the Boers to fight England's battles. They were told that it was important that Suzerainty should be preserved in connection with the foreign relations of the Transvaal. But what would those foreign relations be? They could only be concerned with questions of peace and war; and what would be the use of declaring that the Boers should not make war, except with our sanction, after they had waged successful war upon ourselves? Unless very strong garrisons were to be kept in the Transvaal, stipulations of that kind must be utterly vain, idle, and futile. Nothing remained but a bare understanding, which the Boers might throw over at any time. He held that our position in connection with the Boers would be much the same as the present position of the Sultan of Turkey in connection with Cyprus—that is, we should possess the husk of a nut whose kernel had been extracted. Referring to the Commissioners, he said they would not be backed by any force, and that, consequently, their award would possibly not be respected, unless it met with the entire approval of the Boers. But he understood that no agreement had been made as to the manner in which the award was to be enforced. At any rate, they had received no information about it. Alluding to the attack upon the 94th Regiment, he expressed a hope that his noble Friend opposite would give the House an assurance that the question of the massacre of that regiment would be referred to the Commission for adjudication and report. We had taken over the Transvaal out of pure charity when it was in an altogether bankrupt condition; and he desired to know whether one of the questions to be referred to the Commission was to be that of the repayment of the £200,000 which they had obtained from the Imperial Treasury? He thought the position of the loyal Colonists ought to be considered, and that they ought to have the expenditure incurred by them, on the faith of Imperial Proclamations and High Commissioners' speeches, secured to them, or be indemnified in one way or other.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, whatever may be said in favour of the views put before your Lordships 307 to-night by my noble and learned Friend (Earl Cairns), and those who succeeded him on his side of the House, at all events the time has been somewhat unfortunately chosen. There might have been some justification if all the arrangements between this country and the Boers had been brought to a conclusion, whether successfully or unsuccessfully; if either a lasting peace had been secured, or negotiations had failed, then my noble and learned Friend might have been justified in proposing a Vote of Censure against the Government, or in expressing his own personal censure of what had been done. But to do so at this moment, just after the basis of peace has been agreed upon, and just before the Commission is to meet to settle arrangements by which this basis is to be carried into effect, to choose this particular moment to prophesy the possible bad faith of the Boers, and the possible want of power in the British Government to enforce those arrangements—to prophesy that what has been stipulated in our favour may never be carried into effect, to magnify and enhance the difficulties attendant on those stipulations which are most in our favour, and to depreciate their value, and, on the other hand, to exaggerate all that is favourable to the Boers, even to the extent of giving to the future State a name which has not yet been agreed upon, may, perhaps, appear to my noble and learned Friend a wise and a patriotic course; but I am persuaded it will not commend itself to the country as calculated to facilitate the performance of the duty of the Commissioners. There is no better master of minute, destructive criticism than my noble and learned Friend. He has criticized the terms of peace word by word, and has tried to discover inconsistencies, retractations of purpose, changes of opinion. But the country will not look upon the matter with such minute criticism. The country will simply ask whether what has been done is wise in policy, just in principle, and honourable to this country. I am persuaded that the country will approve our policy as wise, just, and honourable, in the circumstances of the case. First, was it wise? We have to consider what has been so powerfully urged by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the evils which would have 308 arisen in South Africa by a prolongation of the war. It is not that the power of this country would be insufficient to meet the dangers of war with the Boers, or, for that matter, with all the forces which might have been combined against us, in any conceivable development of the war. But the Government had to consider the welfare of the populations of South Africa. Nothing could be more miserable for this country than to be driven into a general contest of race, a contest with the whole White population of South Africa, of kindred race to the Boers. Such a contest would be at variance with the whole spirit of our Government. We should have to establish a dominion of conquest totally different in character from any which we could ever have intended or desired. The Government which preceded us supposed that they had the consent of the great body of the people of the Transvaal to the annexation. It is a most difficult matter to judge whether they were, in this respect, misled by false information, or whether, under the difficulties and embarrassments of that time, a majority of the people of the Transvaal were really indifferent, or for the moment favourable to the change. If the late Government had not believed this, I am quite persuaded that nothing would have induced them to seek to annex that country. And I am further persuaded that if they could have foreseen how utterly false and hollow the state of opinion was on which they had been led to rely, and that in so short a time an insurrection would take place, which could hold its ground, and beleaguer our garrisons, without so much even as a counter movement or demonstration in our favour from those who were supposed to be well affected to British rule, they never would have been willing to place the British Crown in so false a position. It is a position which it would not have been wise to assume, and which it cannot be wise forcibly to retain. If, therefore, an opportunity has occurred of getting out of this miserable war by a righteous peace instead of by conquest, it was right and wise to avail ourselves of that opportunity. And, my Lords, by the terms which have been so much abused we have relinquished nothing which it was desirable to obtain. The terms were ours; the Boers made 309 overtures to us. We did not make any overtures. These terms were accepted by the Boers, being essentially different from anything which they had ever proposed. They are such as sufficiently to realize our own views as to what was desirable to be done for the future of the country. My noble and learned Friend has referred to the passage in the Queen's Speech in which an intention was expressed to give full control over their own local affairs to the European inhabitants of the Transvaal. My noble and learned Friend said that that passage necessarily meant something different from the arrangements which have now been made. I totally deny that. I say, with perfect confidence, that arrangements such as those which have now been agreed upon were among the various alternatives which would have been at that time open to us for the purpose in view; we had formed no resolutions with which they would have been inconsistent. They were perfectly open to us, and were at that time quite as likely as any others. Then as to suzerainty. It was said that this does not mean sovereignty. No doubt, the word "suzerainty" rather than "sovereignty" has been intentionally used, to mark a difference. It involves, however, the ultimate principle of sovereignty. My noble Friend (the Earl of Kimberley) has happily expressed it, as an 'over-lordship.' Suzerainty means nothing if it does not mean that the Suzerain is lord paramount of the people who are subject to it. When it is said that these are the terms which the Boers themselves asked for, I should like to ask when the Boers proposed anything about subjection to us, or proposed to acknowledge the British suzerainty? Then, as to the control of their foreign and Frontier relations, when did the Boers propose that? The control of foreign and Frontier relations essentially distinguishes a paramount Power. No war can be made upon adjoining Native tribes, no Treaty can be made with Portugal or any European Power, except by the authority of this country. With regard, also, to the Native inhabitants of the Transvaal, towards whom, undoubtedly, in the Queen's Speech we had expressed our sense of obligation, we have made a stipulation, which at no time formed part of any Boer terms. The conditions we have laid down, therefore, 310 touch the foreign relations of the Boers, the Frontier relations of the Boers, and the Native relations of the Boers. My noble and learned Friend referred, also, to the mention of a possible separation of the territory to the eastward of the principal part of the Boer State. The great mass of the Native population reside in that territory, and the European population in it is very small; and it may be, that in such a separation the most convenient means may be found of giving to the Native population that protection which they are entitled to expect from us. On that point, no resolution could, as yet, be taken; but it is certainly not from the Boers, that the suggestion of such a separation of territory has proceeded. I shall not stop to deal with the noble and learned Earl's criticisms on the powers of the Resident and the Commission. The Resident will be there to represent the suzerainty Power, and to give effect to all the reservations in which the Suzerain Power is interested. With regard to the loyal population, it is stipulated that no person shall be molested who has taken part in the war, or on account of his political opinions. This is the engagement entered into, and we have no reason to suppose that the Boers will act in bad faith. As to the affair at Potchefstroom, details have not arrived; but I know nothing in the conduct of the Boer leaders which should lead me to suppose that they have been parties to an act of treachery, or will refuse proper reparation for it, if it has been committed by others, or that, in other respects, they will not act honourably upon the engagements they have made. Reference has been made to a great many loyal Dutch and British subjects who are supposed to be in the Transvaal. I do not know upon what authority that statement is made; but what I do know is, that these numerous and loyal subjects were either not numerous enough, or not energetic enough, or not loyal enough, to rise on our behalf, or to prevent our garrisons from being beleaguered. My noble and learned Friend asks, what proof we have that the persons with whom we negotiated had the authority or the power to bind the Boers generally, or to carry through the arrangement which they have agreed to? My answer is, that the only persons with whom, in a case of insurrec- 311 tion, it is ever possible to negotiate, are those who are the actual leaders in arms, who are the commanders of the forces in the field, and at the head of the whole organization of government which represents the insurrection. To say that we are never to negotiate terms of peace with such persons, under such circumstances, without some formal and technical proof of their authority, is equivalent to saying that no terms of peace can ever be negotiated in a war of this kind. I think that argument only shows that as much fault is being found with the arrangement as legal ingenuity could suggest. I think, for these reasons, that we have made a wise arrangement, and that on the ground of policy it is perfectly justifiable. I hold, also, that it is as just in principle as it is wise in policy. There are certain considerations to which few of us will be found insensible. If ever there was a war of an unhappy character it was this war. In the first place, these Boers were not men whose pursuits or habits would naturally lead them to go to war. They are most closely connected with the inhabitants in the Orange Free State, and there is a large Dutch population in the Cape Colony with whom they are also connected by family ties; so that it was something like being at war with our own flesh and blood, not in the general, but in a closer sense. If we regard the question as we ought to regard it, the Dutch population of the Transvaal is entitled to much consideration. What were the prior circumstances? Can we honestly impute rebellion to people who never assented to the annexation? Their leaders have always protested against it; and, no doubt, had the Government then in power been informed of the real state of the facts that annexation would never have taken place. To refuse to arrive at a peaceful settlement, when we had a fair opportunity of doing so, would have been, in these circumstances, and on all points of morality as well as policy, utterly unjustifiable. But it is said, if this is our present view, why did we speak of vindicating the Queen's authority, and send troops into the field for that purpose, at the beginning of the Session? The answer is obvious. The Boers were then in active insurrection, had given no sign of any disposition to lay down their arms on such terms as might 312 appear to us consistent with the dignity of the Crown, had made no overtures for peace. We did, at the time, the only thing which it was possible for any Government to do. But when the insurgents began to evince a desire for peace, the situation was altered. It was not only by conquests in the field that such a vindication of the Queen's authority as we thought necessary might be accomplished. And this brings me to the last question—Whether we have done what was honourable, under the circumstances? I utterly repudiate the idea that we have suffered what is called humiliation. If, when overtures were made to us, we had summarily rejected them, we should have been most justly censurable, and I think none would have been more prominent in censuring us than my noble and learned Friend (Earl Cairns). Overtures came to us, first, through the President of the Orange Free State, and afterwards from the Boer leaders themselves. They were actually made before the first of those three unfortunate engagements which took place, beginning with Lang's Nek. I feel as much as any of your Lordships can do for every disaster which may befall British troops; but we must not forget, when considering the character of a disaster, in what circumstances it took place. These were attacks made by our own troops on a strong position occupied by the Boers, made most gallantly in a manner to which no fault can be imputed, unless it be too much boldness in venturing on a very difficult undertaking with an exceedingly small and inadequate force. There is no dishonour to British troops in the repulse of an attack under such circumstances. Were we on that account, when we had received overtures direct from the Boer leaders, to repel those overtures? We had sent word, before the third of those unfortunate actions, that we were willing to entertain them; but the answer was delayed from circumstances which we did not understand. Sir George Colley waited for some days beyond the time appointed, and then, with an inadequate force, the operation at Majuba Hill was undertaken. When the answer of the Boer leaders came, it was favourable to the progress of negotiations. Were we, then, because those three attacks made by our gallant troops under circumstances so disadvantageous 313 had resulted in disaster, to depart from our previous intention of, at least, ascertaining whether peace could be made upon terms which we thought satisfactory? The British nation is too powerful, and its power is too well understood, to require to be vindicated in any such manner. Was there in the terms no assertion of the Queen's sovereignty—no vindication of her authority? The Boers agreed to disperse and to lay down their arms.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The words were not used; but the substance of the thing was there. They carried their arms; but they were no longer to be used for purposes of hostility against us. I state it as I understand it, and I believe I understand it aright. They were to disperse; they were no longer to be in the field in arms against us; they acknowledged the Queen's supremacy; they were to receive an amnesty, which could only be granted by a superior Power; and our Commissioners were to negotiate the particular arrangements by which the terms agreed upon were to be carried out. We dictated those terms; we thought the terms sufficient, and the Boer leaders accepted them. It appears to me, in those circumstances, that if we had continued the war we should have done excessively wrong. My noble and learned Friend said that we put our garrisons in the position of hostages to the Boers. A more ingenious argumentative perversion of the facts of the case I cannot conceive. The Boers would have preferred that the garrisons should go; we thought they ought to remain, and remain as in time of peace; but we did not bind ourselves that they should remain. To say, then, that they were hostages is an assertion purely rhetorical—I might almost say preposterous. If the circumstances, both political and moral, made it, as I contend they did in the highest degree, desirable to lose no fair opportunity of putting an end to the war, was not the course we took honourable? Different people may have different notions of honour, and of shame; for my own part, I hope I may never have more cause to blush than in this instance. I say that to do right, not when you are pressed by a superior force, but when 314 you have already a superior force in the field, able, if necessary, to carry all things before it, and a still greater force coming up every day to back it, to adhere then to your previous purposes, formed under other circumstances, and to forego the continuance of bloodshed for the sake of mere revenge, is an honourable course—a course very far more consistent with true dignity and honour than the reverse would have been.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, at this period of the evening it will not be desirable that I should go much further into a question which has been so fully discussed. So far from thinking with the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down that this discussion is in any degree inopportune, I think the country, when it reads tomorrow the luminous and exhaustive statement made by my noble and learned Friend behind me, will have a knowledge of this case which it has not had before, and will be surprised at the disgrace into which we have been led. We have had many accounts of the motives which actuated the Government; and in the forefront of them we have, of course, had an appeal to the Ministerial conscience. Now, I have the greatest possible respect for the Ministerial conscience, and I will say nothing in the least irreverent concerning it.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I made no appeal to the Ministerial conscience; but I did appeal to something far more important—the conscience of the nation.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Appeals to conscience are brought up on many occasions; but we know that whenever that important phrase passes Ministerial lips some great enterprize of "scuttling out" is under discussion. I venture to take exception to the appeal to conscience in the present instance. It is very doubtful to me whether it is true that originally the Boers were unwilling that the annexation should take place, or that up to a recent period the majority of them felt any such unwillingness. I believe the true history of the conduct of the Boers to have been this—that they found the conduct of their Government wholly impossible, and they were threatened by very serious danger from the neighbouring powers of Secocoeni and the Zulus; and they took shelter under the wing of a stronger Power which could defend them. The Zulu War took 315 place; Secocoeni retired; the danger passed away; and the Boers turned against the Power which had protected them. That, I believe, is the history of that change of Boer opinion. But I entirely demur to the doctrine which finds favour with noble Lords opposite, that the question whether we ought to be in the Transvaal or not depends on the voice of the majority of the Boors. The Boers are an insignificant fraction in that vast territory, in which there are 500,000 or 600,000 men, of whom there is no danger in asserting that they earnestly welcomed our presence, and earnestly regret our withdrawal; and I suppose I shall not hear from noble Lords opposite that the small fraction have white skins and the vast majority have black skins and that this circumstance makes any difference in the equity of this matter. If we have been turned out of the Transvaal, it has been by the successful armed rebellion of an insignificant minority. We have had a good deal of discussion upon the various phases of Ministerial opinion; but I have not been able, though I have carefully listened, to get an exact account of the state of mind of the Government on the 6th January, when the Queen's Speech was delivered. We are told it would have been a great mistake in policy to have retained the Transvaal by force; and we hear, not only from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, but also from the noble Earl who sits opposite, who appeals to the conscience of the nation, that considerations of morality are involved in our not maintaining our supremacy in that country. We are also told that the majority of our White subjects of Dutch extraction would probably have joined the insurgents against us. These are grave considerations; but they were just as forcible on January 6 as they are now. If it is immoral to assert our authority now, it was immoral then. The question is no now one; and the Government have had ample time to consider it. In fact, their attention was called to it by a most potent voice. It had been one of the subjects upon which Mr. Gladstone most loved to dwell; and we know, in the words of Mr. Joubert himself, that it was on the authority of Mr. Gladstone that he appealed to the English people to cancel the settlement. Therefore, whatever reasons exist for 316 abandoning the Queen's sovereignty over the Boers existed also on January 6, when the Government used these memorable words in the Queen's Speech—A rising in the Transvaal has recently imposed upon me the duty of taking Military measures with a view to the prompt vindication of my authority; and has of necessity set aside for the time any plan for securing to the European settlers that full control over their own local ailltirs, without prejudice to the interests of the natives, which I had been desirous to confer.The Colonial Secretary said it would have been impossible to offer the terms which the Government have ultimately accepted until they had there a sufficiently large force to prevent our offer being attributed to fear. I can hardly imagine the noble Earl really meaning to offer such an explanation as that.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Then it involves this—that for the sake of saving appearances there was a vast unnecessary treasure expended, and many valuable lives sacrificed, which the country could ill afford to lose. You must always remember that in blaming these terms of peace we do not necessarily blame the policy which the Government itself have adopted. We do not approve of it; but the one argument does not involve the other. Even if we had approved of your reversal of our policy, we should still have blamed in the strongest manner your delaying to make the Boers acquainted with that determination until so many English lives had been lost, and so much English honour had been tarnished. It is said, and I think with perfect truth, that the defeats we suffered at Laing's Nek and other places were not really disgraceful, because our forces were overmatched. In that I entirely concur; and if we had only continued the war until we could have made terms which were suitable for the dignity and interests of the country, no one would have said that those reverses had cast any permanent reflection on our arms. But then I understand the noble Earl to say that there is no disgrace in consenting to terms of peace which are an entire surrender of the position which we previously occupied, because we were a large force standing against a small one; and it could not be imagined that we gave way to any considerations but honour and duty. So that we are in the 317 happy position that when we are a small force we are not disgraced by defeat, and that when we are a large force there is no disgrace in making terms because our overwhelming force proves our magnanimity. The noble and learned Lord made a great deal of the fact that we had stipulated successfully that the Queen should be Suzerain of the Transvaal; and he exerted his ingenuity and his learning to show that that title covered a great deal. The noble Earl the late Viceroy of India compared it to the suzerainty of the Queen in India; but nobody knows better than he that that suzerainty does not preclude interference with internal affairs. The peculiarity of this suzerainty in the Transvaal is that interference in internal affairs is absolutely excluded. The only comparison you can make is with the Empire of Turkey, in which suzerainty has sometimes been employed to cover the loss of power by the Sultan. The most remarkable case of suzerainty at present is the relation of the Sultan to the Prince of Bulgaria. That I imagine to be an excellent illustration of the relation of Her Majesty to the Transvaal—only a suzerainty over a Republic is, I believe, merely a diplomatic invention. The suzerainty contains no atom of sovereignty whatever. The truth is that this is merely a device to cover surrender. A Commission is to be appointed whose decrees will not be enforced by any force of troops whatever. If the Commission should confine themselves to the utterance of a certain number of platitudes, or if they should make conditions which are entirely acceptable to the Boers, no doubt their mission will be successful; but if, on the subject of territory or the subject of the treatment of the Blacks, it should be their misfortune to make any decision adverse to the interests, or the prejudices, or the passions of the Boers, you will find that you have set up a mere nominis umbra, concealing from the English people the nature of the sacrifice and the abandonment to which you have consented, but possessing no reality of power. My Lords, it is not for military glory that we regret the nature of this step or the circumstances by which it has been preceded. Military glory has been spoken of lightly enough to-night, and one noble Lord had evidently read the pregnant observations of Falstaff on 318 that subject. But military glory contains in it something more solid than the gratification of a sentiment. As long as it is maintained untarnished it is the security for the peace and prosperity of the Empire. You have hinted in very dark terms at the position of our South African Colonies, and you gave us no ground to believe that our English Dominion rests upon that foundation of attachment, entirely free from force, which the noble and learned Lord told us was the kind of dominion that England loved to exercise. On the contrary, when the words of the Colonial Secretary are read at the Cape of Good Hope, will they not encourage the Colonists to believe that it was fear of the Boers that led us to this peace?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Regard for their opinions is expressed in a material sense. If matters are really so critical in those Colonies, if there is this division of opinion, and if the British Dominion does not rest on the sure basis of allegiance, you can have made no worse provision for the future than to lower and depreciate our military power, and to diminish the belief which is entertained of its overwhelming force. You induced Dutchmen and Englishmen in the Transvaal to take your side. You informed them in the strongest language that your protection would never pass away from the country. You induced them to stand by you and expose themselves to the vengeance of their enemies, and you now abandon them with nothing to secure them except a paper guarantee. It is the same wretched story as that which we have had recently about Candahar. Well, if there should be any material outbreak of this difference of opinion to which Ministerial speakers have so pointedly alluded, and if the races of the Cape should be ranged against each other, and the authority of the Crown should be in any degree called in question, will it be a light thing that you have discouraged those who otherwise would have done much on your part? Will it be a light thing that the Government have told them, by the strong teaching of example, that when they trust to the English Government the probability is that they will be betrayed? And will the impression you have given to 319 the other side be more favourable? I fear that the course you have now taken at the price of abandoning a great Native population, while it may extricate you from your difficult complications, will leave behind a distrust in your power and a distrust in your fidelity to your engagements which will be fatal to our future Dominion in South Africa.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Eleven o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.