HL Deb 15 August 1882 vol 273 cc1803-7

rose to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether Her Majesty's Government have yet arrived at any determination as to whether they will permit Cetewayo to return to Zululand or not, or as to what is to be his future fate; and, if so, whether he will communicate their intentions on the subject to the House? When a question as to Cetewayo's visit to England was mooted in July last, the Colonial Secretary had seemed undecided as to what was to be done with the ex-King. Cetewayo's visit had become a fait accompli, and the deposed Monarch had had an interview with the Prime Minister and the Colonial Secretary, and had had the high honour of an introduction to Her Majesty the Queen at Osborne. In spite of the fact that the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) had said that nothing like an official reception would be given to Cetewayo, people both at home and in South Africa would look upon this as something like an official reception; and it was only right that the Government should give some explanation on that matter. He had no hostility to the ex-King. On the contrary, it was impossible not to regard him with a certain amount of sympathy and compassion. On the other hand, the Government, by their conduct towards him, were placed between the horns of a disagreeable dilemma. If they prevented his return to Zululand, they must dash to the ground the hopes they had excited in his mind. On the other hand, if they decided to restore him, they would fly in the face of almost everyone whose personal knowledge qualified him to give an opinion on the matter, and would be pleasing only Bishop Colenso, Lady Florence Dixie, and the ex-King himself. Should another Zulu war be the result of the restoration of the ex-King, the responsibility which would rest on Her Majesty's Government would be very serious. The noble Earl concluded by asking his Question.


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have determined to consider the possibility of making arrangements for the partial re- storation of Cetewayo to Zululand, with proper safeguards and conditions. Some portion of the country, to be hereafter defined, will be reserved, in order to meet obligations to those of the appointed Chiefs and people who may not be willing to return under Cetewayo's rule. A British Resident will be maintained in Zululand, and Cetewayo will be required to enter into engagements similar to those by which the 13 appointed Chiefs are now bound, which specially include a prohibition to revive in any form the military system formerly prevailing. No portion of Zululand will be annexed to British territory. I have made a communication to this effect to Cetewayo to-day.


My Lords, it is impossible to hear the announcement just made by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies without feeling that Her Majesty's Government have taken upon themselves a considerable responsibility—a responsibility not only towards the Colonists of Natal, whose lives and property may be endangered by the resolution to which they have come, but also a responsibility with respect to the general effect which their announcement will have on the estimation in which the policy, or continuity of policy, of Great Britain is held. This is another step in the process of reversal. It gives confirmation to the opinion of those who believe that England has no settled Foreign or Colonial policy, but that her policy veers about with the variation of political opinion at the hustings. And this, in an Empire where so much depends not on absolute force, but on the belief that is entertained in the stability of English resolutions and in the permanence of English policy and power, is a very grave decision to arrive at. As to the details of this matter, it is impossible, of course, to criticize them until we see them in more fulness than the noble Lord has been able to give them in his present explanation. But I cannot help observing that the prohibition to revive the military system will be a very idle threat unless Her Majesty's Government are prepared to maintain an amount of military strength in Zululand entirely inconsistent with their more recent policy towards the Colonies. With respect to the individual himself, it is, perhaps, impossible to say all that the documents in our possession would suggest to one to say; but the fact is that the man we are about to restore to power over a race whom we have affected to protect, and by the side of a Colony for whose safety we are responsible, has shown himself to be one of the most dangerous and most bloodthirsty of tyrants. Not so long ago the Party which supports Her Majesty's Government, and many of those who now form part of the Government, denounced the policy of this country with respect to Turkey, on the ground of crimes which were imputed to the Turkish Government. Some of those imputations were well-founded, and some were not well-founded; but even if they were well-founded, they would be trivial when compared with the crimes that have characterized the government of Cetewayo in the past. I do not know how far this policy of restitution is to go. The Gaekwar of Baroda is dead, and consequently Her Majesty's Government cannot restore him. Ismail Pasha still remains, and he is an angel of light compared to the candidate whom Her Majesty's Government have replaced on the Throne of Zululand. Of course, this policy must in a great measure be judged by its results. It is an undertaking little consistent, I think, with prudence, with the interests of the Colonies, with the prospective peace of Africa, and, above all, it will tend to create among all the populations whose destinies are affected by the decisions of the British Government a belief that in the policy of that Government there is no stability.


My Lords, the noble Marquess can hardly expect me to enter on the present occasion into a detailed defence of the policy which Her Majesty's Government have thought it best to pursue towards Zululand; but there are one or two of the observations of the noble Marquess which I ought not to pass by without notice. In the first place, the noble Marquess says that this is a reversal of policy. No doubt it is; and though, my Lords, I quite agree that it is a misfortune when policies have to be reversed, it is a much greater misfortune to maintain obstinately a policy which we believe to be wrong. I need not repeat what I have often said before, that I believe the entire policy which dictated the late Zulu War was wrong from beginning to end. Further, I am of opinion that it has been abundantly shown, and those who have studied the despatches already presented must, I think, come to the conclusion that, whatever may be their opinion of the best policy to be pursued with regard to Zululand, the settlement which was made after the dethronement of Cetewayo has failed. Therefore, I think almost everyone—I am sure everyone in South Africa who is acquainted with the subject—is distinctly of opinion that a fresh policy might be adopted with advantage. Of course, I am perfectly free to admit that the question as to whether we have taken a right decision or not is a question quite fit to be canvassed, and one on which, no doubt, people will hold different opinions. At the same time, I have watched with very great care and attention all the indications of opinion in South Africa, and I am absolutely convinced that a considerable change of opinion has come about on this subject. As to the argument that we ought not to put Cetewayo over any part of this territory because he is a bloodthirsty tyrant beyond all experience, I simply deny the fact. I am quite aware that a number of stories were collected together for the purpose of justifying what I believe to have been a most unjust aggression on Cetewayo. It was erroneously thought that an attack was made on the British Colony by Cetewayo, whereas, in point of fact, we attacked him. I am aware that Cetewayo, in common, I believe, with every Chief in South Africa, committed many of what we justly call cruelties; but it is well to consider precisely what those cruelties were. In the first place, a considerable proportion of them took the form of what is called "smelling out witches." My Lords, I am not a believer in witchcraft, still less am I one who approves of the punishment of supposed witchcraft; but I cannot forget that it is not so very long ago that persons in Europe and this country—persons under far more enlightened Rulers than Cetewayo—imagined that there were witches, and punished them in a most cruel and barbarous manner. Although Cetewayo was, therefore, far behind his age, however we may disapprove his cruelties in this direction, it must be remembered that he was acting according to the customs which prevailed in the country. I admit that there is something behind of very much more importance. Cetewayo, no doubt, inflicted severe and sometimes wanton punishments on his people in order to maintain his sovereignty. But, against these facts, you must put this on the other side. If he was so cruel a Ruler, how was it that his people adhered to him as they did? Sir Bartle Frere thought his people would desert him; but, so far from that being the case, with the exception of one of his Chiefs, who came over to our side for special reasons of personal ambition, so completely were his people attached to him that, after he was defeated by our troops, and was a solitary fugitive through the country, not one of his people would betray him to our agents. Therefore, I come to the conclusion that he was not a specially bloodthirsty tyrant, as compared with men who have occupied similar positions. I agree with the noble Marquess that the step we have determined to take must be judged by the results. The whole question of dealing with South Africa is one of extreme difficulty. We have waited with great patience to allow an opportunity thoroughly to consider the position of affairs in that country, and we have deliberately come to the conclusion that the time has arrived when it is no longer safe, looking to the condition of Zululand and to the future, not to arrive at some decision for a new settlement, and the main provisions of that settlement I have announced tonight to your Lordships.

6.20 P.M. House adjourned during pleasure.

12.25 A.M. House resumed by the Lord MONSON.