HL Deb 28 July 1899 vol 75 cc621-64

My Lords, I rise to call attention to the Papers relating to the affairs of the South African Republic. If, during the present session of Parliament, nothing has been said in this House with regard to the existing state of affairs in the Transvaal, I am sure it is not because there has been any want of anxious interest in the subject. Every thinking person in this country has watched the progress of events in the Transvaal with deep interest, and even with great anxiety, and if we in this House had consulted our own inclinations, I am confident that from more than one part of the House questions would have been addressed to the Government, and Debates would have arisen. But I believe there has been in every part of the House a general feeling that we should be consulting the true interests of the country much better by maintaining silence until we were in possession of more accurate information, and until we were in a position to speak with no uncertain sound on these grave events. The reasons for silence now appear to me to have passed away in great measure, and in view of the early prorogation of Parliament, and the Debate on the Colonial Vote in another place, I think there is no longer any reason for the House to prolong the reticence which, up to the present time, it has observed. It is desirable, above all things, that the country should understand from Parliament, and from both Houses of Parliament, what are the opinions entertained with regard to this important matter, and it is perhaps even more important that the opinion of Parliament should be known throughout the whole of the world, and particularly in the South African Republic, the interests of which are more especially at stake. It is not necessary, in calling attention to this matter, that I should go further back than 1881, when Mr. Gladstone's Government restored to the Transvaal its independence, and when my noble friend who now leads the Opposition (the Earl of Kimberley) was Secretary of State for the Colonies. I am not going into the details of this matter, but I would remind your Lordships that when independence was restored to the South African Republic, it was with two conditions attached. One was that the suzerainty of this country should be preserved as the paramount power in South Africa; and the other was that there should be equality of persons in the sight of the law in the country which was restored. I was one of those who supported the course which Her Majesty's Government then took. I appreciated their reason for so acting. I knew that there was very great and very grave differences of opinion on the subject, but it seemed to me that, in the first place, having committed, as I thought, the great mistake of annexing a Republic without the expression of its freewill—a Republic which, if we had only waited a few months or a few weeks longer, would have been begging for our protection, and begging to be saved from financial ruin—it was not expedient to retain the Transvaal as a dependent State. I thought that this country was big enough not to make it necessary that the overwhelming force of this country should destroy a small force of Boers simply to show that we had the power to do so. There was another and still stronger reason—a reason to which I still attach great importance. We appreciated the feelings of the Dutch people, not only in the Transvaal and in the Orange Free State, but in the Cape Colony and throughout the whole of South Africa. We felt that if we had employed force against the Transvaal, and had insisted on retaining it in its dependence, a most painful feeling would have arisen throughout the whole of South Africa, which would have lasted for a number of years, the duration of which is was not possible to calculate. I hope, even at the present time, that this last reason has had some force. I believe the action of the Government of that time has been appreciated by the statesmen of the Orange Free State, and by the Dutchmen in the Cape Colony; and I am not altogether without some hope that some of the beneficent action, as I think, of Dutch statesmen may be owing to the fact that they know, and have realised by experience, that it is not the desire of this country to tyrannise over the Dutch Republics. So far, my Lords, as the South African Republic is concerned, I am sorry to be obliged to admit that Her Majesty's Government were wrong in their action. The principles upon which the Government then acted have been proved by experience to have been too noble and too elevated for human nature as it at present exists. I am afraid that the authorities of the South African Republic attributed the action of Her Majesty's Government to reasons very different from those which in reality actuated them, and I am afraid, looking back on the transaction as a whole, that we have had small encouragement indeed to repeat it if it were to fall to our lot to think of repeating it again. Ever since the Convention of 1881, and the subsequent Convention of 1884, the authorities of the South African Republic have been struggling to defeat both of the conditions which were imposed in those Conventions. They have struggled, and they are still struggling, to destroy the suzerainty of this country, and only the other day the President endeavoured to impress on Sir Alfred Milner the desirability, and even the necessity, of acceding to arbitration in regard to affairs between this country and the South African Republic. On this point, it is very desirable that President Kruger should clearly understand that no Government could exist for any time in this country which could be persuaded to give up the position of Great Britain as the paramount Power in South Africa. In fact, at one time we were on the point of having a disagreement with a great and friendly European Power on the question. With regard to the other condition—that there should be equality of persons in the sight of the law—I am afraid that we must admit that in this matter also the course of action of the Government of the South African Republic has not been what we might, I think, have reasonably expected it to be. At the time these Conventions were made, the great gold discoveries had not taken place in the Republic, and the Uitlanders were by no means so important a factor as they have since become. When the gold discoveries were made, immigration began to assume large proportions, and the Government of the Republic, I think not unnaturally, became suspicious, and began to fear that the greater power in the Government might eventually be seized by the Uitlanders. If, in safeguarding the franchise, and in insisting upon other conditions in regard to civil, and social matters, the Government had exercised something like moderation, I do not think that any fault would have been found with them in this country or elsewhere; but, unfortunately, they have given way to their fears, and have adopted a long course of restrictive legislation, the result of which is to be found in the Papers which have recently been presented to your Lordships' House. What are the present grievances of the Uitlanders? I will not weary your Lordships by reading, Blue Books, but I will very shortly enumerate a few of them. The Uitlanders are practically excluded from the First Volksraad, the assembly which is omnipotent in that country. Public meetings, in the streets are prohibited by law, and. even when a public meeting was convened in a hall, with the consent of the Government, to consider the matters which we are to-day discussing, that meeting was broken up by Dutchmen who, if the papers speak correctly, were, many of them, in the employ of the Republic. With regard to the position of aliens, they can be expelled from the country by the Executive Authority simply at their free-will, so far as Uitlanders are concerned, though the law is different with regard to Dutchmen. If you turn to the law, there is no such thing as a Supreme Court, because the Judicial Assembly, which is called the Supreme Court, has now been obliged to swear that it will accept as law any resolution of the Volksraad. As to trial by jury, it is true that there is a jury, but the jurymen must all be Boers. With regard to the Press, newspapers can be suppressed, and frequently are suppressed, by the Executive Authority acting at its own freewill and discretion. If we consider the state of municipal life in that country, we find that in Johannesburg, the population of which consists of a little more than 1000Boers, and between 23,000 and 24,000 Uitlanders, the Burgomaster is appointed by the Executive Authority, and half of the council must be Boers and must be elected by Boers. For the police, Boers alone are eligible, a state of things which cannot but occasion the gravest discontent. There is only one other matter to which I will allude—namely, the question of education. Although the Uitlanders are a large proportion of the population, and although they pay something approaching five-sixths of the taxes, the teaching of English is practically prohibited, except in some five or six schools which have been established after great pressure. These are some of the grievances of which the Uitlanders complain; and I think your Lordships will admit, and indeed everybody will admit, that the list is a most formidable one. I should like to ask whether any one can pretend that Great Britain has displayed any want of patience in her dealings with the South African Republic. The questions concerning the grievances of the Uitlanders which are now agitating that country have not been raised within the last few days or months—they have been going on for years; but so anxious has the Government of this country been to abstain from interference, that they have limited themselves to remonstrance where they might, with justice, have done more, and I believe they have abstained altogether from complaining in many instances where complaint ought to have been made. I doubt, my Lords, whether it would have been possible for the Government of this country to refrain so long from decided action, as they have done, were it not for one most deplorable circumstance. The circumstance to which I allude, as your Lordships are aware, is that which is known as the Jameson raid, It seems to me that that raid is one of the most unfortunate events in our history. I really hardly know words in which I can describe it. To me it is a question which was the greater—the folly or the criminality—of that insane attempt. How could any sensible man conceive that Great Britain, which possesses more colonies and more foreign establishments than any other country in the world, could consent to derive any advantage from what can only be described as an act of filibustering? It is only fair to say that though we have suffered much from that unfortunate and ill-advised attempt, we should have suffered much more had it not been for the promptness and energy of the Colonial Secretary. If Mr. Chamberlain had paused for only a few hours in dissociating Her Majesty's Government from any responsibility for that affair, the expedition itself would have failed; and who would have believed that this country had not been ready to profit by it, and had not even been cognisant of it? Do you think that anything would have persuaded the Boers, and is it reasonable that anything could have persuaded them, that this country had not been privy to the raid, and that it dissociated itself from the transaction only because of its failure? I shall always think that Mr. Chamberlain deserves the gratitude of this country for the energy and the activity which he then displayed. He preserved our good faith and our good name, and if there was nothing else in his colonial administration which deserved praise, for his action in this matter, at any rate, the thanks of the country are certainly due to him. I must, however, at the same time say that we cannot justly ascribe the present state of affairs in the Transvaal to that ill-starred attempt, because new grievances have been added since, and continual refusals have been made to redress grievances which have been put forward by the Uitlanders, in a fair, open, and constitutional manner. The result is that a petition has been presented to Parliament by the Uitlanders, and more especially by the South African League. It has been said that the South African League is composed of, or is acting in consort with, a number of capitalists, and that the allegations which are contained in their petition are not really supported by public opinion in that country. It seems to me only fair that it should be known what is the real constitution of the South African League, and who the men are who mainly compose it. You will find in the Blue Book a report by Mr. Fraser, who in January of this year was Her Majesty's Acting-Agent at Pretoria. He points out that the leaders of the League are men of position and importance in Johannesburg, and that the president and members of the committee belong to the highly-educated class, and are most of them professional mining engineers, in the employment of the largest financial houses, receiving salaries varying from £600 to £2,000 a year. These statements show that the League is composed of the sort of men who would make, under proper treatment, most valuable citizens of the South African Republic. With regard to the negotiations which have been, and which still may be supposed to be in progress with President Kruger, I do not desire to say very much. I do not wish to enter into details, which are not matters for the consideration of individual Members of the House, but matters to be decided by Her Majesty's Government. It seems to me that the question of a municipal franchise is of much more importance to the Uitlanders than that of the political franchise, and if President Kruger could be induced to concede something like a moderate measure of municipal reform, he would do more to make his State contented and prosperous than by any other measure he could adopt. There has been, as your Lordships know, a meeting quite recently between the President and Sir Alfred Milner at Bloemfontein, and we know from the papers that the detailed plan which the President produced was beset with impossible conditions. Since that time, however, Dutch opinion has forced him to agree to considerable concessions, and I think we are all indebted to Mr. Hofmeyer and Mr. Schreiner for the laudable efforts they have made to induce President Kruger to adopt more reasonable views. We have to thank them in a large measure for whatever concessions have been obtained. They comprehend the situation well. They understand this country, and they understand the power and the will of this country, and it is to be hoped that they will continue their valuable efforts, and that President Kruger will advance much further in the direction of concessions than he has hitherto gone. It is, it seems to me, most important that President Kruger should understand that whatever concessions are made must be real concessions, and not concessions which are given with one hand and taken away with the other by means of impossible conditions. I hope that he will be given to understand further that those concessions must be irrevocable, and that there must be guarantees that they are conceded once and for all, and are not to be taken away by future legislation. Our experience shows clearly that anything we obtain from President Kruger will only be obtained by continual pressure, and by pressure behind which there is a material guarantee of force. It would be a great mistake, I think, for us to conceal from ourselves the fact that it is useless to look to moral pressure alone. I regret that some of the newspapers in this country appear to have for their policy—their sole policy—a desire to attack the present Secretary for the Colonies, and they seem to consider that when they have done that their mission is accomplished, and that the interests of this country are a secondary matter, to be dealt with only in a secondary way. I think, further, that it would be most unfortunate if any Party or any statesman in this country were to give effect to language which would encourage Mr. Kruger in the course which he has thus far pursued. No language of that sort is likely to be heard in your Lordships' House. I wish I were quite as certain with regard to other places. Personally, I enter my protest against the language used by the Leader of the Opposition in another place. Speaking at Ilford, on June 17, he said: There are some newspapers which talk freely of the probability, and even of the necessity, of war, and the public mind has been much disturbed in consequence. I think it right to say plainly that I, for my part, can discern nothing in what has occurred to justify any warlike action or even military preparation. It appears to me that language of that sort is most likely to encourage very false views abroad. If we are to trust, as he says, to the pressure of peaceful negotiation, I am afraid it will have no effect if there is no force behind it to back it up if need be. Her Majesty's Government would, I think, have de served the gravest condemnation if, at a time like the present, they had not taken every measure which was necessary to strengthen our forces so as to prepare for any eventuality that may occur in South Africa, however unfortunate and however unlikely that eventuality might be. Above all things, it is to be desired that very clear and unmistakable language should be used in expressing the opinion of Her Majesty's Government. I am glad to think that up to the present time such has been the case. Firm and clear language is much more likely to avert than to cause war. We have a bitter experience to that effect, for was not the Crimean War caused by the fact that statesmen could not make up their minds, and did not use clear language? And if your Lordships wish for an instance of the contrary effect, you need only look back to last year, when, as we know, it was only because Her Majesty's Government knew their own minds and had determined that the valley of the Nile was Egypt and Egypt was the valley of the Nile that at the present moment we are not at conflict with a friendly and neighbouring State. That clear language is necessary I believe to be beyond all dispute. Those who know Sir Alfred Milner know well that he is not a man who is addicted to violent language or deeds of violence, and that if he speaks clearly it is because, in the interests of the country and of peace, it is necessary to speak clearly. President Kruger must be made clearly to understand that his Government—the Government of the South African Republic—must be a tolerable Government, and one in which a man can enjoy some degree of liberty, some degree of justice, and some degree of representation, that if he perseveres in his present course he will in the end tire out the great and long-suffering patience of this country, and that, if a war ensues, he, and he alone, will be solely responsible for it. I hope, my Lords, that if by any misfortune it should at a later period become necessary to have recourse to action, it will be clearly understood that the war will be one in which the whole power of the British Empire will be engaged. I hope it will be clearly understood that it will not be a war to consist merely of one battle, and after that everything will go on as before. In a grave matter of this kind it cannot be too clearly explained what the results of a war must be; and I firmly believe a war of this kind would either put an end to the prestige of the British Empire, or it would put an end to the independence of the Transvaal State. These words are plain and simple, and may be looked upon as strong speaking; but they are not intended as words of menace. I do not speak in a sense at all unfriendly to the South African Republic. Her Majesty's Government have no designs whatever against the independence or the liberty of the South African Republic. If they had at any time entertained such designs, ample opportunities have been given to them which they might have used. Hitherto they have been most patient, and they are continuing to be patient; but unless there is a change in the system of government in the Republic and in their policy, the Republic itself cannot be prosperous, and it may even ultimately cease to be independent. I rely largely upon the wisdom of the Dutch statesmen of whom I have spoken. They know well what are the relations between their country and Great Britain. The President of the Orange Free State knows well that if the laws in that State were such as they are in the South African Republic at the present time, confusion and anarchy would ensue. Mr. Schreiner, the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, knows well what the result would be if the British minority in the Cape Colony were, by the aid of the Imperial Government, to force on the Dutch majority in the Cape laws similar to those which now prevail in the Transvaal. I hope and believe that those statesmen will give wise advice to President Kruger, and that he himself will be wise in time. If the administration of the South African Republic is not altered, what can be expected except a course of constant agitation and even insurrection, which will be judged throughout the civilised world as being justified by the circumstances which have led to it? Do they expect that this Government can stand by and receive all these petitions and make no response to them? How can we ignore those petitions when the understanding upon which we assented to the giving up of the Transvaal was that our fellow-countrymen should be treated with justice and liberality? It appears to me to be the plain duty of Her Majesty's Government to prepare for any eventuality which can by any possibility arise, and, above all, never to desist from urging and putting forward the just and reasonable claims of the Uitlanders who at the present time live in the South African Republic.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will be glad that this matter has been brought before the House. It would have been scarcely fitting if, before Parliament adjourns, this House had no opportunity of expressing an opinion on a matter of such vast importance to a vast proportion of Her Majesty's subjects, and which deeply affects the supremacy and Imperial position of this country in South Africa. In considering the disabilities and difficulties under which the Uitlander population labour in the Transvaal, it is important to remember that they are suffering from injustices which have grown up during the last few years; they are not in the position of British subjects who have chosen to dwell in a foreign State in which they were aware that they would be deprived practically of all civil rights and religious liberties. The Uitlanders live in a State whose existence as an independent State was granted on, as a primary condition, the possession by its inhabitants of equal rights before the law. Your Lordships will remember that in the protocols of the Convention, in the minutes of the conference between Sir Evelyn Wood and President Kruger the latter stated, among other things, that "everyone would enjoy equal protection," and that there would be no difference made "between anyone in respect of burghers' rights." It must also be borne in mind that the present helpless position of the Uitlander population is due to our own action, for, after the deplorable episode of the raid, at our instance, and on our promise of redress, they laid down their arms. We deprived them of the primary right of individuals and communities, an appeal to physical force as a last resort. The Transvaal Government has deprived them of access to independent Courts and denies them any share in legislative power. They are unable to seek redress either by process of law or by process of legislation or by process of force. I do not think it is necessary to state at any length the long list of grievances under which the Uitlanders suffer. The Uitlanders are three-fourths of the population, they pay practically the whole of the taxation, and yet they have absolutely no representation, and no voice whatever in the fiscal and commercial policy of the country. That three-fourths of a population paying practically the whole taxation of the State should have no representation is utterly repugnant to our political views, and especially, I should imagine, to the views of members of the Liberal Party; it is repugnant to all of us, except, perhaps, to one or two strange survivals who hold that an oligarchy, even the most corrupt oligarchy, is a form of government ideally perfect. Such a condition of things is incompatible with social stability, is certain to create constant and ever-increasing friction; it is a condition which cannot permanently endure, and is provocative of grave danger while it lasts. Practically speaking, the Uitlander population are deprived of all civil rights; their position is almost inconceivable to the people of this country. The nearest analogy here would be found in a condition of things in which a House of Commons elected by a quarter of the population, bitterly hostile to the remaining three-fourths, had power to overrule, alter, and reverse the decisions of the Courts of Law in any civil or criminal case—a condition of things so abnormal, so preposterous, that its real character is disguised by its very enormities from the people. In most civilised countries the police may be relied upon to act, on the whole, with justness and fairness, but the Papers presented to Parliament teem with instances of arbitrary action and brutal interference with British subjects on the part of the police. But it is unnecessary to recapitulate the Uitlander grievances. The High Commissioner was fully justified in saying that they were "genuine and deep-seated." The right of public meeting is denied them; the Press is gagged; their children cannot be educated; the English language—the language of the majority of the inhabitants—is forbidden in Courts of law; decisions of the Courts can be set aside by a mere resolution of the Raad; disabilities attach to religion. It is plain from the published Papers that the majority of the inhabitants of the Transvaal are placed in a position repugnant to the commonest conception of political and social liberty in civilised States. With good reason the High Commissioner said that whilst these grievances remain unredressed "there can be no tranquillity in Her Majesty's South African dominions"; their continuance "steadily undermines the influence and reputation of Great Britain," and that "the case for intervention is overwhelming." I think we are bound to consider not only the disabilities under which the white population in the Transvaal labour, but also the condition of the coloured natives, many of whom are subjects of the Queen. They are treated with less consideration than should be accorded to brute beasts. They are bullied, ill-treated, subjected to violence at the hands of the police without possibility of justice or redress; and worse than all are subjected to the body and soul destroying influence of the accursed illicit trade in liquor. There are about 120,000 natives employed in the mining industry. Some 30 per cent of the native labour is incapacitated—so the Papers presented to Parliament state—from the horrible effects of an abominable illicit liquor trade, connived at and encouraged by the Executive. Thirty per cent, of 120,000 men incapacitated! Conceive the amount of human misery and degradation involved in that shocking statement. Is it right, is it possible, for the British people, who have lavished blood and treasure in suppressing the slave trade, and have striven, not always with success, but on the whole honestly and suc cessfully to mitigate the destructive effects of the vices of civilisation on native races, to sit idly by and see so disgraceful a state of things in a country over which our Queen is suzerain? There is another class of grievances to which I must also allude—namely, the commercial grievances. They are not so important, though undoubtedly they constitute distinct breaches of the Convention. But I have noticed frequently in the Press, and in some public speeches, that an attempt is made to show that matters like the dynamite and railway monopolies are grievances only of a few enormously rich men, who desire, if possible, to become richer. That is not the case. To use the High Commissioner's words, it is "a wilful perversion of the truth." The most patent of this class of grievance is the dynamite monopoly. The monopoly was granted for the manufacture of dynamite out of materials in the Transvaal, ostensibly in order to develop the country and for the benefit of the State. The State does not benefit. It is not one penny the richer, and not one ounce of dynamite has been manufactured out of materials in the country for the simple reason that there are no materials in the Transvaal out of which to make dynamite. The materials are imported manufactured, and so badly manufactured as to cause great and unnecessary loss of life. The explosives are sold at an exorbitant price. The price is not prohibitive, for dynamite is of course a necessity for the mining industry; but it is so high as to most seriously cramp an industry upon which the future growth and prosperity of South Africa largely depends. And this monopoly is kept up solely that the South African Explosives Company and their friends may make enormous profits. So injurious was the effect of this monopoly that the persons interested in the mining industry proposed to President Kruger to advance the money to buy out the monopolists, and undertook to pay a duty of £1 a case on dynamite imported. That would have brought in a revenue to the State of between £300,000 and £400,000 a year at present, and with the certainty of a large prospective increase, whereas, now, the Transvaal does not receive a farthing from the dynamite monopoly. This is not a matter of conjecture; this and other grievances are set forth in the very interesting Report of a Commission appointed by President Kruger to examine into the economic condition of the mining industry. The proof of these industrial grievances rests upon purely Boer evidence. As regards the Liquor Laws, the Commission stated that "the mining industry had a real grievance owing to the illicit sale of strong drink to the natives at the mines;" and as to explosives, the Commission reported that "the price paid by the miners for explosives was unreasonably high." It is an entire mistake to suppose that the objection to the dynamite monopoly is the objection of a few millionaires engaged in the mining industry. The objection is that it hampers to an enormous extent a great industry upon which not only the wealth of the Transvaal but the future prosperity and growth of the whole of South Africa must to a very large extent depend. This monopoly is kept up, not for the benefit of the State, not for the benefit of the country, but solely for the reason set out in the Report of President Kruger's Commission—namely, for the enrichment of a small gang of monopolists. That Commission reported that— The excess charge does not benefit the State, but serves to enrich individuals; the injustice of such a tax on the staple industry becomes more apparent, and demands immediate removal." "The monopoly now in the hands of the South African Explosives Company, whereby they make enormous profits at the expense of the mining industry. The mining industry has thus to bear a burden which does not enrich the State or bring any benefit in return, and this, fact must always prove a source of irritation and annoyance to those who, while willing to contribue to just taxation for the general good, cannot acquiesce in an impost of the nature complained of. The Commission goes on to report that— The Transit Duties are unfair, and ought to be abolished," and "that, if possible, food stuffs ought to be entirely free from taxation. Such is the condition of affairs. The main industry of the country is crippled. The natives are destroyed by the illicit liquor trade; the Uitlanders are denied civil and religious liberty, are subjected to insults, disabilities and injustice of all kinds, and are not allowed the alternative of representation in the State of their adoption. What has been done in the way of remedy? Probably the simplest, the most efficacious, and best remedy would be the concession to the district inhabited by the Uitlander population of liberty to manage their own internal and purely local affairs for themselves, subject, of course, to such taxation as the State required. Unfortunately, however, that method did not at all commend itself to the President at the Bloemfontein Conference, for he utterly declined to consider it. There remained the question of the franchise, and I am sure this House will agree that in concentrating his attention on that point the High Commissioner acted with entire wisdom. Such a representation as is asked for is not intended to be used to swamp the Boer element, but to enable the Uitlanders, with the help of the more intelligent section of the Boers, to gradually ameliorate their condition and relieve themselves from an intolerable state of things. I should like to know, if it is in the power of Her Majesty's Government to give the information, what is the practical difference, as regards representation, between the scheme of the High Commissioner, laid down as the irreducible minimum, and the law which has been passed through the Raad, notwithstanding the request of the Colonial Secretary and the Prime Minister of the Cape for some delay. Nobody wants to naggle about a few months or a year or two, more or less, but the difficulties of the case are exceedingly complicated. It is impossible for me, or any private Member, to know what the real difference, not the theoretical, but the practical difference between the two schemes is, and if any information can be given on that point I, for one, shall be extremely grateful, for it is important that the people of this country should understand what is the real practical difference between the proposal made by the High Commissioner and the law which has been lately passed through the Raad. No one wishes that the independence of the Transvaal should be interfered with, if it can possibly be avoided, but we have certain rights and certain duties under the Convention—rights which have undoubtedly been broken, and duties which we have not yet fulfilled. It is impossible for the people of this country to for ever endure the sight of their white fellow-countrymen being treated with every kind of indignity as a subject and inferior race. They cannot and will not permit natives to be destroyed wholesale for the sake of a nefarious and illicit trade in the vilest liquor: and of one thing I am certain, that the people of this country will never for one moment allow any interference with the Imperial position of this country as the paramount Power in South Africa. If there was the slightest indication of foreign interference, the country would jump to its feet as one man; it is not going to permit its power to be gradually undermined, and the confidence and affection of the loyal population to be alienated. The patience of the people is almost exhausted, and a settlement by one means or another will have to be arrived at speedily. You must accommodate your arguments to the nature of the people you are dealing with. There are individuals to whom you can say, "We have no reason to resort to force: we trust to your sense of justice and equity." We have already tried that in regard to the South African Republic without success. We must remember that the people of the Transvaal and the President are afflicted by two delusions. The people are of opinion that this nation is a pusillanimous nation, and that under no circumstances will it fight. The President is under a different but equally pernicious delusion that the country is divided on the point, and not prepared to insist upon a settlement. A dangerous delusion, for I am very sure the people of this country have made up their minds that the matter must be settled, and settled once and for all; and there is abundant evidence that the whole Empire is in earnest. I hope, as we all hope, for a peaceful solution, but if that is to be achieved we must remove the delusions under which the Boers labour with regard to this country. Whatever steps are necessary to force upon President Kruger's mind the conviction that we are in earnest, and that by diplomatic argument if possible, but if not, then by argument of a more cogent nature we are determined to secure, without much further delay, a satisfactory settlement—those steps will be steps in the way of peace.


My Lords, I promise your Lordships that I shall not occupy much time in making a few general remarks in this Debate. This is a question upon which I feel very deeply. I am desirous, as a humble supporter of Her Majesty's Government, to give the Government that support which I venture to think they deserve from those sitting on the back benches. It is difficult, feeling strongly upon this subject, to avoid using words and phrases which are construed into meanings very different from what one intends. If one talks about firmness, in some quarters it is called bluster; and if one asks for a clear statement of policy, one is told that one is crying out for war. At the outset, I repudiate this misinterpretation of language. I thoroughly agree with the noble Earl who opened the Debate that it is only when we act firmly, and put our foot down, that the South African Republic have given way. I do not desire to go one step further than I feel warranted in going by the language of the High Commissioner in his telegram of the 4th of May, and in the Despatches which have just recently been laid on your Lordships' table, which to my mind show that he is absolutely and fully aware of the difficulties of the case, and is equally determined to lay before the President, in a concise form and in temperate language, the views of Her Majesty' Government, and their just demands for an alteration in the state of affairs as regards the Uitlanders in the South African Republic. The opinion and attitude of the High Commissioner have been clearly set forth in his Despatches, but now something more is necessary. It is indispensable that not only should Sir Alfred Milner be satisfied that he has the full confidence of Her Majesty's Government, but that the country should know that the High Commissioner's policy has their support. If any doubt existed on that point, I feel certain that it has been swept away by the speech of the Colonial Secretary at Birmingham, and that of the First Lord of the Treasury yesterday. It is on those grounds, and because I am confident that this is the policy of Her Majesty's Government, that I venture to say a few words to give them my unqualified and strenuous support. The telegram of the High Commissioner of the 4th of May has been called unfortunate in its language, and the publication of it by the Colonial Secretary has been described as ill-timed; but I cannot imagine anything better calculated to brush away the cobwebs of misconception and misunderstanding than the temperate, the firm, and the concise language of that telegraphic Despatch. The grievances of the Uitlanders, which have been referred to, are generally admitted; I believe in this House no one would for a moment dispute the fact of their existence. I certainly shall not trouble your Lordships with any reference to them, but it has been asked by certain persons who sit in comfortable arm-chairs in this country, "What really do these Uitlanders complain of? They are making plenty of money, and their condition, after all, is not so very bad. They ought to be satisfied, and not bother us with their grievances." It appears to me to be forming a very poor estimate of human nature to imagine that making money is a consolation, or a sufficient compensation, for suffering under intolerable political grievances. This is not the view, I am glad to say, which the Uitlanders in the Transvaal themselves take. They are determined not to rest till they have done their utmost to remove the grievances under which they are living, and to restore to the population, which is mainly a population of Her Majesty's subjects, those rights which they receive in every other part of the South African Colonies, and the Orange Free State. But, my Lords, the larger question which underlies the grievances of the Uitlanders, and the relations of this country and the South African Republic, is that of the paramountcy or the suzerainty of Great Britain in South Africa,. Call it by what name you will, it means that we have made a claim before the world, that we have accepted responsibilities which cannot now be evaded, and we must bear in mind that in maintaining that claim and those responsibilities we are being keenly and closely watched by the eyes of all our Colonies and of the native population of South Africa. I will not detain the House further. I only wish to say that it is because I believe Her Majesty's Government are fully alive to the great Imperial interests which this question involves; it is because I believe that they have determined not to recede in the slightest degree from the position which they have now publicly taken up; it is because I believe that any departure from this firm policy would be of the greatest danger to this country, not only as regards its position in South Africa, but that it would actually shake to the foundation the very Imperial existence of Great Britain—it is for those reasons that I have ventured to address your Lordships, and to give my most hearty and strenuous support to the Government in dealing firmly with this most difficult problem.


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have no complaint to make of the noble Lords who have brought forward this question. On the contrary, I think it would have been curious if Parliament had adjourned without any men tion in either House of a subject of such widespread interest. The relations between Her Majesty and the dwellers across the Vaal River have always been regulated by instruments known as Conventions—there have never been between Her Majesty and those dwellers any Treaties of the form common between equal States or equal sovereign powers. Of these Conventions there are three principal ones, which I may describe as the important landmarks in the course of the relations between the two countries. First, there was the Sand River Convention of 1852, which Lord Derby stated, in his letter to the Transvaal deputation of November 20th, 1883, was, like the Convention of Pretoria, not a Treaty between two contracting Powers, but was a declaration made by the Queen, and accepted by certain persons, at that time her subjects, of the conditions under which, and the extent to which, Her Majesty could permit them to manage their own affairs without interference. It did not create a South African Republic with a political organisation and defined boundaries. The Sand River Convention of1852 was superseded by the annexation of the Transvaal. Annexation in its turn was superseded by the Convention of Pretoria in 1881, and the form of the Convention, as your Lordships know well, was that of a grant from Her Majesty to the inhabitants of the Transvaal. The articles of that Convention in turn were superseded by the articles of the Convention of London of 1884, in which the same form was followed. I do not propose to discuss to-night the question of the reddition of the Transvaal in 1881. I do not think I shall be corrected by anyone in this House when I say that the object which those responsible for that reddition had in view was a noble object. They hoped by the admission of an unintentional injustice to win the affections of the Dutch in South Africa. How far, my Lords, has the result been achieved? I do not think, again, that I shall be liable to correction when I say that on no single occasion since the Convention of Pretoria could the relations of Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Transvaal be properly described by the word satisfactory. On the contrary, those relations have been strained over and over again, almost to the verge of war. And how is it that the object aimed at has so signally failed in its effect? I think that to find the proper answer we must consider the difference in the point of view between the Boers and ourselves. They do not regard the reddition in the same light in which we regard it, nor have they ever admitted that the relations established in 1881 and 1884 between this country and themselves are of the nature which we regard them to be. Our opinion as to the nature of those relations is drawn from the statements of the men who were responsible for those two Conventions. In 1881 the noble Earl, the present Leader of the Opposition in this House, writing to Sir Hercules Robinson, giving him instructions with regard to the Royal Commission which was to consider and advise upon the final agreements for the settlement of the affairs in the Transvaal, stated that Entire freedom of action will be accorded to the Transvaal Government so far as is not inconsistent with the rights expressly reserved to the Suzerain Power. The term suzerainty has been chosen as most conveniently describing superiority over a State possessing independent rights of Government subject to reservations with reference to certain specified matters. And in 1884 the late Lord Derby, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, made use of the following words in this House on March 17— Then the noble Earl (Earl Cadogan) said that the object of the Convention had been to abolish the suzerainty of the British Crown. The word 'suzerainty' is a very vague word, and I do not think it is capable of any precise legal definition. Whatever we may understand by it, I think it is not very easy to define. But I apprehend, whether you call it a protectorate, or a suzerainty, or the recognition of England as a paramount Power, the fact is that a certain controlling power is retained when the State which exercises the suzerainty has a right to veto any negotiations into which the dependent State may enter with Foreign Powers. Whatever suzerainty meant in the Convention of Pretoria, the condition of things which it implied still remains; although the word is not actually employed we have kept the substance. We have abstained from using the word because it was not capable of legal definition, and because it seemed to be a word which was likely to lead to misconception and misunderstanding. Our conception of our mutual relations is based on those two statements. How far removed from our conception is that of the Government of the South African Republic your Lordships can imagine when I tell the House that in a recent despatch they have, in describing themselves, used the words "A Sovereign International State" with regard to the articles of the Convention of 1884, there has never apparently been a general similarity of interpretation on our part and on their part. At the present moment we have on record protests by this country against various infringements of the Convention by the South African Republic, and these serious differences between the two countries are only the successors of the differences of past years. I do not think it will be out of place to remind your Lordships what the late Lord Rosmead, then Sir Hercules Robinson, said on the subject in 1883. So long ago as the 23rd of November, 1883, Sir Hercules Robinson made the following observations as to the spirit in which the Boers were prepared to observe their engagements under the Convention of Pretoria:— The Transvaal burghers obviously do not intend to observe any conditions in it distasteful to themselves which Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to insist on, if necessary by the employment of force. Her Majesty's Government, I understand, do not feel justified in proceeding to this extremity, and no provision, therefore, of the Convention which is not agreeable to the Transvaal will be carried out, whilst what is agreeable will be observed without reference to the Convention. And, on the top of a state of affairs so difficult and so inharmonious as this, comes the treatment of the Uitlander population in the Transvaal. It is often said, in an airy way, "What is this Uitlander population? They are millionaires who want to make money, or they are German Jews." I am not aware that even millionaires or German Jews have not the right to just treatment. But while there may be a score of millionaires and a few hundred German Jews, the Uitlander population consists of thousands of merchants, traders, professional men, artisans, and labourers—all the elements, in fact, that form the industrial community in any industrial centre in this country. And why are they in the Transvaal? They are there for the sole and only reason why an industrial community is to be found anywhere—because they sought employment, and because that was the place where employment sought them. I would ask you particularly to remember that they have an absolute right to be there—a right which Her Majesty's Government reserved for them most expressly in the Convention of 1881. Not only have they a right to be there, but they have been welcomed there, and no wonder, for what have they not done for the country? They have made the country. They found it poor, and they made it rich. They found it weak, and they made it strong. They found it insignificant, and they made it of almost world-wide importance. Most of that community come from the United Kingdom. They find themselves living in the Transvaal under a code of laws and under an administration which hampers them at every turn, and the object of which apparently is to render the cost of production as high as possible, and which leaves every requirement of their domestic life unsatisfied, whether it is in respect of police protection, sanitation, or the education of their children, and at the same time imposes on them taxation on a higher scale and to a greater amount—to use the words of an eminent Frenchman, the President of the Chamber of Mines—"than in any other civilised country." If you can picture the feelings of a man coming from the United Kingdom, try and enter into the feelings of the man coming from Cape Colony or from Natal—a man who is himself an Afrikander, and who is very likely tied to many families in the Transvaal by blood relationship. He has seen Dutchman after Dutchman come from the Transvaal and settle down near him in the Cape Colony. Whenever they have come they are allowed to enjoy equal privileges, equal rights, and equal liberties. The Dutchman in Cape Colony could say, think, speak, write as he liked; and if he wished to become a naturalised British subject everything was made easy for him. When this Afrikander of English extraction is led, in his turn, to go to the Transvaal, what does he find? He finds that under no circumstances can he become naturalised. Of course, I am speaking of the law as it was two months ago. If he wants to ventilate his grievances or his views in the Press, he is liable, as a journalist, to ruin by the suppression of his paper at the mere ipse dixit of the Executive Government. If he wishes to go to a public meeting and speak his mind, he cannot do so without permission; and, generally, if he has a stake in the country, there is hanging over him the risk that at the whim of the Executive, and without any appeal to a court of law, he may be expelled from the country. The courts of justice are practically closed to him in any question between himself and the Executive, because the courts are completely subservient to the Executive. He cannot even tell the laws under which he is living, for so complete is the instability of the Constitution of the Republic, and its code of laws, that a single resolution of a single Chamber of the Volksraad, passed in one afternoon, can override a law of years' standing. The result, therefore, is that this is a question of the first magnitude. It is a question which is rending South Africa from end to end, which is paralysing business, and which is separating those who ought to be bound by the greatest ties of affection and confidence. What is really at stake? This question is not only of immense importance to South Africa, but it has been watched in every capital in the civilised world, and echoes of the question come back to us from all our colonies and the confines of the Empire. The question really is, whether British influence in South Africa is really, in fact, predominant, and not only so in theory. No other influence can secure a remedy for a division of sentiment so disastrous to South Africa. If it was unable to secure this remedy it would forfeit its right to claim predominance; if it were able to do so, but neglected to do so, it would fail in its duty. What is our title to interfere? We have, as has been stated in the Despatches, that general right which is inalienable in a civilised State to protect its subjects when it thinks they are hardly treated; and the Conventions, instead of being, as some misguided people seem to think, a bar to, and a diminution of, our general rights and position, are only an emphasis and an addition to them. I claim that the whole spirit of the Convention is one not only of internal autonomy, but of equality between man and man, and that that was in the minds of the framers of the Convention is certain when the history of the case is considered. The Convention was not sprung upon them in a moment; it was the result of long deliberations and consultations between representatives of Her Majesty and chosen delegates of the Boers, and in these pourparlers, which are embodied in the Blue Books, will be found most categorical promises and assurances from President Kruger that in the Transvaal, to which internal independence was restored, there should be equality of treatment between white and white, between Englishmen and Dutchmen. Those assurances have not been kept. Every one of the laws which have caused the grievances of the Uitlander, every diminution of his individual liberty, and every restriction on his opportunities have been passed since the Conventions of 1881 and 1884, and in contravention of the assurances of President Kruger. In 1896 this withdrawal from the Uitlander of the privileges to which he had a right to consider himself entitled led him, as has already been stated in to-night's debate, to an armed rebellion. It was on the request of the late Lord Rosmead, Her Majesty's High Commissioner, that the men in arms laid down their weapons, and he only made that request to them to do so when President Kruger had made a promise that he would take into his best consideration, at an early date, the removal of their grievances. Therefore, I say our title to interfere is as strong as it can possibly be. It is said, "That may be, but we have been put out of court by the raid." The raid has been properly characterised by previous speakers. The only effect of the raid, so far as this question is concerned, has been, as Sir Alfred Milner has so admirably pointed out, to give the present condition of affairs a longer lease of life, and to give President Kruger longer time in which to grant redress on his own voluntary action. If you asked me to explain why it should be necessary so to misgovern the Uitlander population, I should be quite unable to furnish a satisfactory answer. It is obviously totally contrary to the true interests of the South African Republic. The only theory I can suggest is that those who are responsible for the government of the Republic do not appreciate, and have never had the opportunity to learn, what are the requirements of a modern industrial free community, and, for some reason which I cannot explain, they have not manifested any great desire to learn. President Kruger has always met the demand for a remedy for these grievances by saying it would sap the independence of his State, and he is saying the same thing in regard to the dynamite monopoly. I should be very sorry to think that the internal autonomy of the Republic rested on no better basis than the misgovernment of the Uitlanders and the dynamite monopoly. I know it is firmly fixed in the Boer mind that it is the one eternal object of every party in the State in England to undo what was done in 1881, and nothing I can say on the subject can affect their opinion. But facts are facts, and I will defy anybody who considers this subject to point to a word, written or spoken, by any responsible Minister on either side since 1881 which showed a desire to take away the autonomy which was granted in that year. Once that question of independence is set at rest, what is there inconsistent with the Dutch ideal of a pastoral life in governing reasonably and well a great industrial community? The municipal government of Capetown, of Durban, and of Pietermaritzburg is most admirable, and does not prevent the Boer in those colonies from enjoying his peculiar ideas of life in the far Veldt. What would there be to disturb him, or to change his habits of life, if good government was substituted for bad in Johannesburg and the gold fields? The right for which the Boers are contending is not the right to preserve their own habits in domestic life, but the right to misgovern the Uitlanders at Johannesburg. We have lately, my Lords, been through what has been called a crisis. That crisis, which came upon us with extraordinary rapidity, undoubtedly had its origin in the murder of the late Mr. Edgar, and in the breaking up of the meeting of protest at Johannesburg, because then, for the first time, those who are British subjects in the Transvaal sent a petition to Her Majesty imploring her interference. When that petition came, the Government had only two choices—one was to pass it by and say it was no concern of theirs, and the other was to admit that it was their concern, and to accept the consequent responsibility. The latter course was the one which was taken, and I believe I am accurate in saying that that course received the unanimous approbation of the country. Almost immediately came the invitation to the Bloemfontein Conference. We have lived so rapidly in the last few weeks that I do not apologise for reminding your Lordships that the Bloemfontein Conference only commenced on the 31st of May last. Before that date, although this question had been a burning question for years, and although the noble Earl opposite, when Secretary of State for the Colonies, had, on behalf of the late Government, drawn President Kruger's attention most forcibly to the state of affairs, and put forth friendly suggestions for reform, not one step had been taken towards remedying the grievances, while much, had been done towards making the position worse. Since the Bloemfontein Conference we have moved a long way. Successive, proposals have been made to secure reforms, each of them, I am happy to say, an improvement on its predecessor. Although it is the misfortune of Her Majesty's Government by no means always to see eye to eye with their distinguished fellow-countrymen, Mr. Schreiner and Mr. Hofmeyr, or with Mr. Fischer, of the Orange Free State, yet I should be wrong if I did not acknowledge the assistance they have rendered in bringing the present proposals of the South African Republic to the point at which they are. I should be doing these eminent men an injustice if I did not suppose that they would have been willing to have done the same thing at any time within the last seven years. If you turn to the evidence of Mr. Schreiner before the South Africa Committee, you will see that there is very little difference of opinion as to the generally unfortunate situation between himself and Her Majesty's Government. Why is it, my Lords, that these gentlemen, in their patriotic endeavours, have been able to exercise effective influence now, whereas previously they have thought it useless to attempt to intervene? It is because of the new elements in the situation—the action of the High Commissioner, backed up by the public opinion of all the British in South Africa, and a large section of the Dutch, and by the attitude and intervention of Her Majesty's Government. I was able to say the other night that we hoped the last proposals put forward would form a basis of settlement. It is very unfortunate that President Kruger declined to take Her Majesty's Government into his confidence, and to discuss with them the details of his scheme before the last Franchise Law was passed by the Volksraad. I must express the most earnest hope that President Kruger will yet accept the proposals which will be made to him for mutual consultation on this subject, because, as is evident, the position is still full of anxiety. Granted that the last proposals might form a basis for settlement, I cannot too strongly emphasise the absolute necessity for precision as to detail and precision as to the possibilities of the future. I will give one very short instance, and a very recent one, of how necessary it is to be precise. On a very important point in his communication with Sir Alfred Milner at Bloemfontein, President Kruger himself was misinformed. Sir Alfred Milner telegraphed to Mr. Chamberlain on July 1— In his memorandum June 3 president South African Republic slated naturalised citizens have right to select local officials such as field cornets, commandant, and landdrost, whereby they obtain very important influence on local government. He did not mention that on all goldfields throughout country appointment of landdrosts has been entirely taken away, even from full burghers, and placed in the hands of Government. See Gold Law 1898, chapter 2, section 9, which on this point re-enacts former legislation. President's statement is true only with regard to districts where old burghers reside, and not as regards districts in which nearly all Uitlanders are resident, and was therefore misleading on a point of importance. Anyone who has at all studied the government of the Transvaal knows the immense importance to the Uitlander of having an effective voice in the selection of the local officials, whose appointment might make the whole difference in the spirit of the administration. Therefore it will be seen that the President, in what may be described as a State document, urged the fact that his proposals would give this privilege to the Uitlander as a strong argument; whereas this statement was true only with regard to districts where burghers reside, and not as regards districts in which nearly all Uitlanders resident, and was therefore misleading on a point of importance. I only bring this point forward to show the absolute necessity for precision. Nor is the necessity for precision against the possibility of a future misunderstanding less urgent when you consider that by a single Resolution, passed almost without notice, any law of the State may be contravened. I will give you a further instance. After the raid of 1895, and early in 1896, the franchise was, as a special privilege, conferred by an Act of the Volksraad on several thousand Uitlanders who had taken up arms in the defence of the Republic. Not many of these were British subjects; they were mainly Germans, and others. Will it be believed that, by a single Resolution, passed by the Volksraad at one sitting in April last, all those special grants of the franchise of 1896 were annulled? If that is what those are liable to who have received the franchise as a special reward for devotion to the Republic, what may not the Volksraad do in future in regard to those who receive it as the result of the intervention of Her Majesty's Government, if provision is not made against it? I am asked what, under those circumstances, is the policy of Her Majesty's Government? At Bloemfontein Sir Alfred Milner, in his suggestions to President Kruger, laid down the minimum of reform which in his opinion could be expected to produce an eventual remedy for the present disquietude and discontent. That minimum was, and is, the minimum of Her Majesty's Government. I use that word in no pedantic sense; I mean that the substance for which Sir Alfred Milner contended is the substance which Her Majesty's Government have set themselves the task to secure in the interests of South Africa and of the Empire. The Uitlander population resident in the Transvaal must receive such an immediate, genuine, and effective share of representation in the First Volksraad as, when taken in conjunction with the other privileges of a full burgher of the Republic, will enable them to influence, without controlling, the government of the country. Our experience since 1881 has shown that I nothing could be more dangerous, or more fraught with future mischief, than any vagueness or indefiniteness in the terms of any arrangement which may be come to on this subject between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the South African Republic. A clear understanding, definitely recorded, is the only method of allaying any suspicion or fear that in the future another Volksraad, by fresh legislation, or another Executive, by acts of administration, might neutralize or impair the value of the concessions now made to the Uitlanders. The object, therefore, which Her Majesty's Government have in view, is to secure the concession of the reforms necessary, and to secure it in such a form as to render future doubts about its real intention impossible. This being the object of Her Majesty's Government, by what means do they propose to attain it? On the one hand, they are subjected to a constant pressure to provide an immediate and drastic solution for a difficulty of old standing and much complexity; on the other hand, they are being pressed to pledge themselves in advance to confine their action within definite diplomatic limits. Her Majesty's Government will yield to such pressure neither on the one hand nor on the other. As the responsibility is theirs alone, so must they alone be judges of time and pace. They refuse emphatically to be hurried or bustled by any body of opinion, either in the United Kingdom or in South Africa. They have shown, and they mean to continue to show, great patience and consideration for the difficulties of others in dealing with this question; but they have set their hand to the plough, and will not turn back till the solitary, permanent cause of disturbance in South Africa, the inequality of treatment between the two white races in the South African Republic, is removed; and, with this task before them, they decline altogether to give any pledge which would limit the means at their disposal to secure the result which must be achieved.


The noble Earl has, if I may be allowed to say so, spoken with his usual clearness and moderation, and I am sure that none of us have a word of complaint for the manner in which he has laid his statement before the House. In the first place, I desire to say, what I hope will be believed by those who hear me, that the last thing I mean to do is to say anything which in this most difficult and serious matter will cause any embarrassment to Her Majesty's Government. At the same time, I wish to make this caveat, as I may call it, that probably, if affairs were in a different position—that is to say, if the negotiations, and everything connected with them, were concluded, I should feel myself free to criticise any portion of the action of the Government in the matter far more freely than I could at the present time. It is obvious that criticisms, which may be perfectly justifiable and right when the negotiations are concluded, might be extremely injurious if they were brought forward at a moment like the present, and I reserve to myself entire liberty hereafter, if the occasion occurs, to notice points which I shall not allude to to-day. Now, my Lords, I observed that several of the speakers, including the noble Earl who has just spoken, perfectly naturally commenced by a reference to the treaty of 1881, and they did so because the present condition of affairs may be said to date from the conclusion of that treaty. As I was with Mr. Gladstone, who was most responsible for the conclusion of that treaty, I might, if it was a proper moment, say something concerning the circumstances which led to our conclusion of that treaty. But I wish now simply to make this declaration—I do not desire to raise any controversy, and I do not ask anyone to accept what I say, except as my own personal statement—that in the mind of Mr. Gladstone and of myself two motives alone influenced us in concluding that Convention. The one was the feeling that, in the annexation of the Transvaal, the full consent of the burghers themselves never having been obtained, there had been a certain amount of injustice; and the second, and very powerful motive indeed, was that we believed that if we had persevered with the war we should have run very serious danger of raising throughout South Africa a war of races—a war of a most extended kind, and one, whatever might have been the result—though I do not doubt the power of this country to carry such a war to a successful conclusion—which would have been in the last degree disastrous to South Africa. We thought that the condition in which such a war would have left the country would have rendered its government a task of enormous difficulty. Those were the two motives which actuated us at the time. To a certain extent—but by no means, I am happy to say, in so acute a form—the problem now presents itself again, because, in the whole consideration of this matter, you have to consider the feelings and the situation of the different populations in South Africa which are included in the Colonies and in the States which compose the whole of South Africa as it is generally known. And possibly the most important consideration of all—though I am far from neglecting the importance of considering the feelings and the interests of the British population—is to consider how far it is possible so to frame your policy as to carry with you the sympathy of our Dutch fellow-subjects at the Cape. That is to a great extent the key of the position; neither do I think that it is by any means impossible to attain that end. Now, after the cession of the Transvaal, and for a considerable time, although there were very serious differences, no doubt, nothing very acute occurred, and there were decided symptoms that there was a settlement of passion and of feeling in South Africa gradually going on which, I think, might reasonably have been hoped to have led to a far more settled state of things. But then occurred two very remarkable incidents: first of all the enormous discovery of gold, which altered the whole condition of affairs in the Transvaal, and secondly, that most unfortunate and disastrous incident, the raid. My Lords, it is in vain to conceal from one-self that the raid, to use a familiar term, "put back the clock" a long way in South Africa, and in everything we do we must bear that in mind; and if some of our friends there were not too eager to take up the grievances of the Uitlanders—I mean some of our Dutch friends—I think they may be pardoned after such an occurrence as the raid, unjustifiable and disastrous as it was. But I in no way deny what the noble Earl and others have pointed out, that the condition of affairs, as regards the Uitlanders, is in the last degree unsatisfactory. It is not only unsatisfactory because we naturally feel that British subjects looking to the original Convention, looking to our natural feelings on the subject, ought to be treated with fairness by the Government of the South African Republic; but we also feel, and I think that is a deeper and a more important feeling, that the condition of affairs in the South African Republic is a standing danger to the whole of South Africa, and that until you arrive at some more favourable condition of things in that particular portion of South Africa you cannot look forward to that state of rest and contentment and of safety which we desire throughout the whole of our possessions there, and in those States which are connected with us. But, my Lords, after I have said that, I still must say another word—shall I say in excuse, for I can hardly use the word defence—of President Kruger and those who are responsible for the Government of the Transvaal. Consider for a moment the position in which they found themselves. They, a small community of Dutch farmers, and living a purely rural life, suddenly found themselves invaded by a large and rather motley industrial population. Can we be surprised that such men felt alarmed and felt distaste at the idea that this new population should swamp them entirely, and destroy, as they imagined it would destroy, the condition of things which they had cherished and to which they were accustomed? I think if we put ourselves in their place we shall see that their action is not so surprising as some people imagine it to be. I do not say that it is justifiable, but I say that we must take into account their natural feelings in the matter, and we must also take into account the natural sympathy of the Dutch throughout South Africa with the Dutch of the South African Republic—a sympathy which, I believe, has not prevented them from giving to us loyal assistance in endeavouring to settle the questions which have arisen, but which at the same time is an element which always is one of difficulty, because, as the old saying is, "Blood is thicker than water," and there is a natural feeling, of course, on the part of the Dutch of the whole of South Africa of sympathy with those of them who live in the South African Republic. My Lords, I have alluded to the action of the Dutch in assisting us, and I was very glad indeed to hear the remarks made by the noble Earl concerning the assistance which Mr. Schreiner, the head of the Cape Government, had given in these various negotiations. I think it is satisfactory to observe that not only did Mr. Schreiner go to the Conference at Bloemfontein, but that Mr. Hofmeyr also went there with a view to giving his assistance, and I cannot doubt that the pressure which Mr. Schreiner exercised upon the Government of the South African Republic and Mr. Kruger has been a most valuable and important element in the whole of these negotiations. I observe also with satisfaction that in a telegram which is to be found in this second Blue Book—which, by the way, was never distributed to Members of this House, and of which I obtained a copy only from the House of Commons—in a telegram of the 16th June, Mr. Chamberlain said: Her Majesty's Government are most anxious to avoid interference with the internal affairs of the South African Republic. They trust that the Cape Ministers will use all the influence they can to induce the South African Republic Government to take such action as will relieve Her Majesty's Government from the necessity of considering the question of being obliged to have recourse to interference of such a nature. I say I regard that with satisfaction, because it showed, I think, on the part of Mr. Chamberlain, representing Her Majesty's Government, a true and sound view of the matter—namely, that he welcomed the assistance of the Dutch Ministers, and welcomed that as one important element in the case. I sincerely trust that that will never be lost sight of. I do not believe in the disloyalty in any way of the Dutch subjects of Her Majesty at the Cape; I believe, on the contrary, that of late years they have given various remarkable and signal marks of their good feeling towards this country, and I cannot doubt that, if the subject is judiciously and carefully handled, it will be found that the assistance that they can give us in settling this most difficult matter will not be wanting. Now, I observed upon the embarrassing position in which the Transvaal Burghers no doubt found themselves. In 1890 they passed a law which took away from the Uitlanders the privilege of obtaining burghership, which they had previously enjoyed. As far as I know—I merely mention it in passing—I do not remember to have heard that any protest was made at the time by the Government of this country (we were not then in office) against that action. From that dates, of course, the disability which the Uitlanders have laboured under. You will observe that the change of the law of 1890 was avowedly made to prevent Uitlanders from being admitted in such numbers to burghership as would swamp the Dutch burghers, and upon that point Sir. Alfred Milner is, in point of fact, in accord with the object, though he would not, no doubt, approve of all the means that have been taken. In his despatch of June 14th, which is at page 51 of the Bloemfontein Blue Book, you will find the precise statement of the terms of the proposals which Sir Alfred Milner made at the Conference, and there he expressly states that he recognises that you must not "swamp," as he terms it, the Transvaal burghers. That is the principle upon which President Kruger and his Government have gone, only they have carried it to an extravagant and unfair length; but Sir Alfred Milner himself recognises that, looking to the whole state of circumstances, you cannot at once insist upon complete equality of all the Uitlanders with the burghers. In the closing part of the noble Earl's speech, I think he went rather further than he, perhaps, himself would have intended, when he said that Her Majesty's Government must insist upon complete equality between the Uitlanders and the burghers. No doubt that is an end to be aimed at eventually, at some distant time; but I cannot conceive it to be the policy of Her Majesty's Government to insist immediately upon that, nor do I think that there are any indications that that is the policy that is intended to be followed.


The words I used were, "influence without controlling the government."


If it is that, I have nothing to say; but I will only just repeat that, of course, it is impossible at the present time to secure, and I know Her Majesty's Government have not contended that it is possible to secure, complete equality, because Sir Alfred Milner's proposal itself did not at once introduce complete equality. Now, my Lords, I shall not trouble the House with general considerations any farther, but let us look closely at what is really the point—the present position of affairs practically. The present position of affairs is this—I am speaking now of the I negotiation—that a Conference having been assembled, at which Mr. Kruger and Sir Alfred Milner met, Mr. Kruger and Sir Alfred Milner were unable to come to any agreement; Mr. Kruger made certain proposals which Sir Alfred Milner considered quite unacceptable; Sir Alfred Milner made proposals on his part which Mr. Kruger equally rejected. That was the position with which the Bloemfontein Conference concluded. Now, what has occurred since? What has occurred since is that one concession after another has been made, going further than President Kruger's original proposals, and some of those concessions are substantive and im portant. Those who have read the Blue Books will remember a conversation which Sir Alfred Milner had with Mr. Schreiner. Mr. Schreiner mentioned two points which he thought "were not of such first-rate importance"; one was the getting rid of the intermediate term where a man was to be, naturalised without attaining burghership; and there was another point; but upon his mentioning them, Sir Alfred Milner at once said, "Those points are points of great importance." Now, those points have been conceded by Mr. Kruger, and they are points of very great importance. He has conceded that the intermediate time—a most objectionable provision—when a man would neither be a complete naturalised burgher nor would have remained with his rights as a foreigner—he has conceded that that intermediate time shall be abolished; and he has further conceded that seven years shall be the term of residence which will qualify a man for obtaining burghership, and the effect of that is to admit, at all events, all those Uitlanders who were resident in the Transvaal in 1890. To that extent they will obtain the franchise. Now, those are two very important concessions. I believe there is a third concession, but I do not find it in the Blue Book. It seems to be, at all events, not plainly stated there; but I have read in the various sources of intelligence from the Cape (not always, I am afraid, quite trustworthy) that a considerable addition has been promised, or is likely to be promised, to the number of seats which are to be added to the Raad. The original proposal was four, and I have since seen the statement that it is to be raised to seven, or, according to some accounts, people go so far as to say that it is to be raised to ten. I think, at all events, that I may conclude that there are decided indications of an intention to add to the number of seats. These three concessions are very important concessions, and seem to me to be of such a nature as to give reasonable hope that we may arrive at a satisfactory settlement. No doubt, Sir Alfred Milner pointed out that they fall short of those proposals that he made, and that they will not do all that is desired; but at present, at all events—Her Majesty's Government may have correct information, but I think they would probably indicate it to us if they had—I imagine there is very considerable doubt as to the actual number of Uitlanders who, under the new law, will be admitted, and it seems quite obvious that, as a practical question, it is almost impossible to form a just opinion as to the value of the concession, unless you can really obtain some reasonable calculation of the number of Uitlanders who would be at once admitted, and the number of Uitlanders who would be admitted within a certain time. I apprehend that, putting aside questions of this or that number of years, what Her Majesty Government has been very properly aiming at is that such a number of Uitlanders shall be admitted, and such a number of seats shall be given to them, as to give them at once some real sensible participation in the government of the country. That is what seems to be aimed at; but until you know what number of Uitlanders are really likely to be admitted, one is rather beating the air when one criticises the proposals. I should not myself venture to criticise them beyond what I have said—that I think they are substantive concessions, and that I do not think there is any reason to despair ("despair," I think, was the word used by the noble Earl) of there being means to obtain a satisfactory settlement. My Lords, of course there are in the air all kinds of rumours of wars and armaments, and I know not what. My noble friend, Lord Camperdown, who introduced this subject to the House, referred—not in terms of approval—to a statement made some weeks ago by my right hon. friend Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the Leader of the Opposition in the other House, in which he declared, as far as I remember the words, that he did not know that anything had occurred which would justify war or preparation for war; I think that that is a correct repetition of his words. My noble friend, Lord Camperdown, thought that that was an unwise and mischievous declaration. I can only say that I associate myself with that declaration of my right hon. friend, and I associate myself with it in this way: I suppose that, in all matters of diplomacy and negotiation, everyone knows that, however you may sometimes keep it in the background, a most important element in that diplomacy is the knowledge of the strength of the nations who are engaged in the discussion. The existence of a powerful force in the hands of one nation always is—always must be—it cannot be otherwise—a very important element, indeed, in all negotiations of a very serious nature. But the question which we have to consider, or the question which I at least feel that I have to consider here, when I allude to this declaration of Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman's, is this: Have matters arrived at the point where you can say that war or great preparations for war are necessary? When I say preparations for war I do not mean to include in that such preparations as may put into proper order, if it is required, a force which you may have on the spot, because it is obviously the duty at all times of the Government to see that the force they have available in any part of the world is really available for any contingency which may occur. Putting that out of the question, I say myself, as far as I am able to judge from the Papers that have been laid before us, and the intelligence we have received from other sources, nothing has yet occurred which would justify war or lead us to anticipate that war is imminent, or, in point of fact, to justify us in considering that a case has arisen for war. I say no more than that, and I associate myself, therefore, with that declaration of my old colleague, which, I believe—and, in fact, I know—has no greater signification than that. My reason for making such a declaration is this, that it is impossible to conceal from oneself that there is a party, not only in South Africa, but, to a certain extent, there are those among us, who rather seem to wish to make it appear that we have arrived at such a crisis that threats of war are really necessary. Now, that is what I altogether deprecate. I believe myself that the proper course is that which is well described by Sir Alfred Milner in his recent speech—"a line of firm but friendly pressure." That seems to me to be the line which at the present juncture is, if I may venture to say so, the duty of Her Majesty's Government. More than that, I am quite willing to believe that that is the course which Her Majesty's Government are pursuing—"a firm but friendly pressure." Of course, none of us can absolutely pretend to foresee all the contingencies which may occur, and none of us, I suppose, would be prepared to bind ourselves absolutely as to what should be done in this or that contingency. But our duty at the present time—at least, my duty is to give my opinion upon the question, Has a case now arisen where war is, in point of fact, a necessity? In my opinion no such case has arisen, and I do not believe that anyone does either this country or South Africa good service by declaring that it has. Let us have "firm but friendly pressure"—firm pressure, by all means—such a pressure as will make it plainly and clearly understood by all concerned that this country is in earnest. I in no way wish to diminish from that. No difficult matter can be carried through unless the country is in earnest; but I believe and hope that that earnestness will result in a peaceful settlement, and that it may lay the foundation for what we all desire—a lasting peace and tranquillity in our South African dominions.


If the noble Earl felt, in dealing with this question, that he was hampered by the present state of the transactions which are going on, he will not be surprised if I confess that I am of a similar impression, but to a much greater degree, in view of the events that are actually passing, and the unfortunate effect which any ill-judged words might have. I, therefore, shall accept the suggestion which is made to me by the clock, that I should not be very lengthy in my remarks. The point that struck me most was the gallant attempt of the noble Earl to defend the action of President Kruger. It was very amiable on his part, and showed a great willingness to undertake the conduct of forlorn hopes. To my mind, the protocol which has been so often referred to, and which recorded a conversation between Sir Evelyn Wood and President Kruger when the Convention of 1881 was under negotiation, is really the great condemnation of the action of President Kruger. It was stated as clearly as possible in that protocol, and was evidently the object of the action of the two Powers at the time, that an era of friendly co-operation should be introduced, in which both races should have, under the conduct of both Governments, the utmost equality it was possible to confer on them. That was the guiding principle of the Government in 1881. I do not affect to sympathise with the view they took. I was in a different position from Lord Camper-down, who opened this Debate; I did not support it at the time; on the contrary, I resisted it to the utmost of my power. I thought it was a policy tainted with the fault, which is a virtue in many men's eyes, but in my eyes is almost the most dangerous fault a policy can have—it was an optimistic policy. It was an undue belief in the effect of amiable acts not supported by requisite strength. The noble Earl shakes his head; he disclaims the possession of any feelings of amiability at the time; but, at all events, it was a belief that, in acting on the feelings of the Dutch population, and invoking their gratitude by setting up this Transvaal Republic, you would avoid any danger of further friction or difficulty with them. The fallacy of that calculation was that you were acting on the morrow of a very conspicuous, if not a very great, defeat, and that your motives were, in the general apprehension, much more largely tinged with prudence than amiability. Attempts to obtain gratitude of persons are very seldom successful if those persons have the impression that you are very much afraid of them at the same time. However, that was, no doubt, the view of our policy to which President Kruger assented in that well-known protocol, and it was the view to which he was bound throughout the rest of his political career in connection with the Transvaal State to devote himself. But he took the exactly opposite line. Throughout the whole of the period that has elapsed since 1881, his one effort has been to separate the English and the Republican Government—to draw the two nations into two camps, to give the Dutch a superiority to which their numbers gave them no title over the English, and to reduce the English to the condition almost of a conquered, certainly of a subjugated, race. I do not entirely blame him for the kind of panic which appeared to have seized on him and his advisers at the irruption of the gold diggers in 1886. It was not a very attractive population at first sight, and it is quite conceivable that they might have felt some anxiety lest those gold diggers should be able to so completely dominate the government that the Dutch might suffer precisely the disadvantages which the British Uitlanders are suffering now. I can understand and I can, to some extent, make allowance for that apprehension; but where I blame him was that, when this difficulty came upon him, instead of remembering the engagements which he had entered into with the English Queen—instead of remembering the recognition of the position of England which in those two Conventions is, at all events, to a very great extent manifestly and unquestionably recognised—he placed himself in an attitude of sheer opposition, and never came to the English Government to consult them as to how this great and marvellous phenomenon of the irruption could be dealt with. I do not think any one could have said to him, "You are bound to allow your Dutch population to be overwhelmed and swept away"; but it is obvious that, with goodwill and consideration, institutions might have been arranged which would have given sufficient protection to the Uitlanders and the Digger population, without entirely annihilating the Dutch. That, I think, is the great blame which is to be attached to him, but I refer to it specially for another purpose. There is an attempt to put the Conventions of 1881 and 1884 in the position of "the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not." I entirely concur with my noble friend, Lord Selborne, that from the moment the Conventions were passed, no English authority desired that any step should be taken to recall them or to cancel them. So long as they were observed, so long as they were given their due vitality, I believe that every party in England was willing to recognise and sustain them. But these Conventions are mortal. They are liable to be destroyed; they can be destroyed by the act of the parties for whose benefit they were concluded, and I wish to protest against the idea that they constitute an immovable landmark to which, whatever may happen, we must infallibly recur. I believe the reverse is the case. Little as we are disposed to disturb these Conventions while they are allowed fair and honourable life, very few of us now, I think, if we could retrace the history of the last twenty years, would ask that the seal of England should be applied to Conventions in that form. If ever it happens that the validity of these Conventions is impeached, I believe they belong from that time entirely to history. What would take their place I do not know, but it will not be Conventions in the same style. If this country has to make exertions in order to secure the most elementary justice for British subjects, I am quite sure we will not reinstate a state of things which will bring back the old difficulties in all their formidable character at the next turn of the road. That seems to me a very material consideration; and, if I may intrude upon his thoughts, I do not think President Kruger has sufficiently considered it. But with respect to our present policy, it has been so very well and clearly stated by my noble friend, Lord Selborne, that it would be idle for me to repeat it. His words are exactly those I should have chosen. We have to rescue British subjects from treatment which we should not think it right to endure in any country, even if there were no conventional engagements between us, but which it is doubly wrongful that we should permit when the very terms of the protocols and Conventions of 1881 and 1884 obviously protect them from any such disgraceful a fate. How we are going to do this, how we intend to apply a remedy to dissipate this great evil, that naturally I cannot examine in detail. I agree with the noble Earl opposite that the advances which have been made are to a certain extent hopeful: and if they are genuinely carried out, and if they show a real desire to eliminate this racial inequality and put the two races fairly and honestly on the same footing, I think that we may look forward to a peaceful solution of a crisis which is undoubtedly complicated and anxious. How long we are to consider this solution, what patience we are bound to show—these things I will not discuss, for a reason the noble Earl suggested to me. We have to consider, not only the feelings of the inhabitants of the Transvaal, but what is much more important to us, the feelings of our fellow-subjects at the Cape. That is a consideration we must bear carefully in mind. We should be deeply responsible if any undue impatience or irritation on our part should cause an angry termination of a controversy that otherwise might have been the subject of a peaceful solution. But I can only say what, in one form or another, has been said by many members of Her Majesty's Government—I prefer to use the words of my noble friend, Lord Selborne—we have put our hands to the plough, and we do not intend to withdraw them from it.