THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
My Lords, in his most gracious Speech from the Throne, His Majesty has reminded us that this is the first occasion on which he has addressed your Lordships' House. Your Lordships have already given expression to your sympathy with His Majesty in the sorrow which has lately befallen him and the whole Empire, and to the hope with which we look forward to His Majesty's reign. Those feelings are still present with us to-day; and I hope it will not be regarded as presumptuous on my part if I give utterance to the satisfaction with which I believe every member of this House has observed the early proof which His Majesty has given of his interest in our affairs by coming here to-day to open Parliament in person. I can scarcely venture to add to the many tributes of devotion and respect which have been already paid to the memory of her late Majesty, but I may perhaps be permitted, as one who is closely connected with Ireland, to say a word as to the affection with which Her Majesty was regarded in that country, and as to the gratitude with which we shall always cherish the memory of her visit there a few months ago. We know well how great must have been the effort which, at Her Majesty's advanced age, it must have cost her to abandon her usual arrangements and face the fatigues and emotions entailed by her stay with us. We can scarcely bear to think that the strain may have had a lasting effect on Her Majesty's health, and may, in some measure, have accelerated its failure; but we may be permitted to hope that it must have been a compensation to Her Majesty to know how deep was the effect her kindness and consideration produced on her Irish subjects. We trust that His Majesty will evince the same interest in our country, and that it will from time to time be graced by his presence and by that of other members of the Royal Family. I feel it unnecessary for me to assure His Majesty that, in the event of his being able to visit that country—and we trust the date may not be distant—he would meet with a reception which would be as gratifying to him as his presence would be to his loyal Irish subjects. I can assure His Majesty that a visit to 32 Ireland would be thoroughly appreciated, for it would give to all classes an ocular demonstration of his interest in the country. It would also go a very-long way to counteract the misrepresentations which are continually poured into the credulous ears of ray fellow countrymen.
That His Majesty and the Royal Family are fully conscious of the great opportunities which lie within their reach in such directions as these is, I venture to think, strikingly shown by the announcement made in the Speech from the Throne that, in spite of the affliction which weighs on the Royal House, His Majesty has decided to permit the Duke of Cornwall and York to carry out his original intention of visiting Australia for the purpose of opening the first Parliament of the new Commonwealth in the name of the Sovereign of the Empire. And it must be a source of satisfaction to your Lordships to learn that not only will the visit to Australia not be abandoned, but that it is to be extended to New Zealand and to the Dominion of Canada, where we may be sure His Royal Highness will meet with an equally cordial reception. No time more appropriate for the Royal progress could have been selected than that in which the great colonies are exhibiting such signal proof of their attachment to the mother country by the contributions they have made to the forces in South Africa—contributions which, we are informed, are now being increased in response to His Majesty's appeal.
His Majesty has expressed to us his satisfaction that his relations with other Powers continue to be friendly; and we can offer no better wish for the reign that is commencing than that it should please Providence to vouchsafe to it the inestimable blessing of peace. Recent events, which have brought so much sorrow to the people of this country, have taught us to appreciate that blessing. The affairs of China, as was to be expected, occupy a prominent place in the gracious Speech. We earnestly trust that the negotiations, which are being conducted in the face of many difficulties, may be the means of bringing about the punishment of the worst offenders, and of affording sufficient security against a repetition of the crimes of last year. We may reasonably hope that the war in South Africa, into which we were unhappily forced, and which has dragged on for a length of time far be- 33 yond what was originally expected, is now within reasonable distance of a satisfactory conclusion. My Lords, that war has taught us much. Had it demonstrated nothing else, it would have shown unmistakably that the bravery and endurance of our soldiers, both of the Regular Army and the Auxiliary forces, and of those contingents from all parts of the world who so readily volunteered to take part in their country's work, is equal to that which animated their forefathers at any period of the Empire's history. For those who answered the first great call to arms we can have nothing but admiration, but perhaps those who have but lately been enrolled command our admiration almost more. They are starting on a mission which may not carry with it the glory or the excitement accruing to those who went out in the first flush of patriotic fervour evoked by the great national call to arms; but their task is not less arduous, and the sacrifice made not less creditable.
My Lords, it is not in South Africa alone that His Majesty's forces have been called upon to uphold the honour of our country, for His Majesty's Speech reminds us that his forces have also been engaged in China, where His Majesty's Indian troops have served with distinction, and on the West Coast of Africa, where native troops led by that most intrepid of leaders, Sir James Willcocks, have held their own not only against a warlike enemy, but in the face of not less formidable difficulties of climate and country. We may congratulate ourselves unreservedly on the qualities displayed by our troops in all parts of the globe, and recruited from so many different sources, but inspired all alike by allegiance to the British flag, and led by British officers. Our satisfaction at this thought will not diminish the expectation with which we look forward to those proposals which are to be submitted to Parliament for increasing the efficiency of His Majesty's military forces. With the promise of reorganisation at the War Office, and with the noble and gallant Karl on the cross benches as Commander-in-Chief, we may feel confident that the many lessons to be learnt from the South African war will be taken to heart, and that the many weaknesses in our system which the war has brought to light will be courageously rectified. I trust I may be allowed to offer to the 34 noble Earl your Lordships' congratulations on his newly-won honours, which all Irishmen, and especially those connected with the ancient city from which betakes his title, regard with most cordial satisfaction. Although in His Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne there is no mention of measures relative to the sister service, we may rest confident that His Majesty's Navy, our formidable first line of defence, which has successfully guarded this country at a time when our Army was otherwise occupied, and which has so greatly distinguished itself on shore as well as afloat, will be maintained at the highest level of its efficiency.
The noble Lord who will follow me will probably deal with some of the measures that are promised us in the gracious speech from the Throne; and I will not refer to them except to express my satisfaction that amongst them there is included one for the promotion of education, and that we are also encouraged to hope for a Bill amending the law regulating voluntary sales by landlords to occupying tenants in Ireland. I think I may be justified in saying that the system of voluntary sales has had most beneficial results for landlord and tenant alike, and has not involved the Exchequer of this country in any financial loss. I earnestly hope that the necessity for some alterations in the present system will not escape the attention of His Majesty's Government. I am tempted to add that we in Ireland shall watch with interest any legislation for the prevention of intemperance in licensed houses, of which there are undoubtedly too many in the country.
It now remains for me only to thank your Lordships for the indulgence with which you have listened to me, and to apologise for the imperfect manner in which I have discharged the duty confided to me at this most interesting moment in the history of the nation.
§ * EARL MANVERS
My Lords, in rising to second the Address I must ask your Lordships to grant me a full measure of that indulgence which you have always extended to those who address you for the first time. We meet at the beginning of a new century robbed of the guiding-hand which has presided over the destinies of this Empire during the greater part of the century which has been brought to a close. What that loss is to all of 35 us we do know and feel most deeply; but what the loss is to the Empire over which the Queen ruled I think it very possible that we may not fully know until the history of this time comes to be written. I believe it will always be said of Queen Victoria that the brightest jewel in her crown was the love and affection of her subjects. We must rejoice that our King intends to follow in the footsteps of his Royal Mother, and our truest loyalty and warmest sympathy will be with him to lighten the burden which he now takes upon his shoulders.
The gracious speech from the Throne shows most clearly the strength and the resources of the British Empire as it also reminds us of its vast extent. During the past year we have been carrying on three different wars. It is true that the magnitude attained by the South African campaign has rather eclipsed the others; but the good work done by our soldiers and sailors in China, in conjunction with those of other Powers, in relieving the Legations at Peking can never be for-gotten; whilst the Ashanti Expedition has brought out all the best qualities of bravery and been durance which characterise our native troops when led by British officers.
It is matter for congratulation my Lords, that the famine in India has been to a great extent relieved, though we must regret that considerable distrees still prevails in the presidency of Bombay. The country liberally responded last year To the calls made upon it in connection with the Indian famine, and I believe that response would has been still more liberal if it had not been for the great demands made upon it by the South African War. The noble Marquess has freely dealt with that campaign, but as it is the subject which is nearest to all our hearts at the present time, I hope I may be allowed for a few moments to refer to it. No doubt there has been a certain amount of disappointment in consequence of the campaign not yet having been brought to a conclusion, but I believe that that disappointment is founded to a great extent on ignorance. I do not think that the nation has ever really appreciated the enormous difficulties involved in a campaign in that country. We have had much criticism of the conduct of some of our generals. My Lords, it is very easy to criticise; it is particularly easy to criticise when you 36 know nothing of strategy or tactics, and when you are thousands of miles away from the scene of action, and are never likely to be any nearer. But if the amateur tacticians who criticise will study the despatches from the noble Earl the Commander-in-Chief they will see that he states most clearly that, large as the force in South Africa appears to be, its numbers were all too small for the duty it has been required to perform. Under present conditions, and with modern fire-arms, a force defending positions such as the Boers have been defending must have enormous advantage over an attacking force, which has very often to advance over an open country. The Royal Speech says —Measures have been taken which will, I trust, enable my troops to deal effectually with the forces by which they are opposed.We know that large reinforcements of mounted troops are being sent out from this country and the colonies, and are being raised locally, and we must trust and confidently hope that an adequate supply of horses will be forthcoming for those troops when they get there, and especially that those horses may be suitable for the country in which they will have to work Determined as we are to bring this campaign to a satisfactory conclusion, I think we must all be looking to the brighter and happier time when the war will be over, and when, in the words of the Royal Speech, we shall have to establish in those colonies institutions which will secure equal rights to all the white inhabitants, and protection and justice to the native population. That will not be an easy task. It may be amongst the most difficult tasks that has ever been presented to the statesmen of this country, but I believe that by firmness and prudence it will be accomplished; and if this can be done I feel sure that no more fitting tribute could be paid, no finer monument could be raised, to the memory of the great Queen for whom we are ail mourning to-day.
The gracious Speech goes on to say-that proposals for increasing the efficiency of the Army will be made. I think it is generally admitted that the war has exposed many defects in the organisation of our Army. I hope that this question of Army reform will not be dealt with hastily, but calmly and deliberately; and that whatever is done nothing will be done which will in any way shake or 37 impair in any way that splendid spirit of discipline which has carried us through so many difficulties, and which has always proved the backbone of the British Army. With regard to that portion of the Army with which I am more intimately connected—the Volunteers—I hope that everything will be done which can increase the efficiency and utility of that force. I have never been quite able to understand the action taken by successive Governments with regard to the Volunteers. It has seemed to me that at one moment they wish to encourage them, and at the next moment they wish to discourage them. The result has been a mixture of the two treatments, which has not proved beneficial. But after the eloquent testimony of the Commander-in-Chief to the admirable way in which the Volunteers not only of the City of London, but also of the country, have behaved in South Africa, I trust that in future they will be treated as a valuable and most necessary part of our Army.
The gracious Speech deals with several Bills which it is hoped there may be time to pass, but as the session promises to be one of a military character, and military measures are those likely principally to be before us, I will not weary you by enumerating those Bills. I thank you for the kind and patient way in which you have listened to my remarks, and beg to second the Address.
§ Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne."—(The Marquess of Waterford.)
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, my first duty, which is always a pleasing one, is to compliment the noble Lords the mover and seconder of the Address. The good taste with which the noble Marquess delivered his speech must have commended itself to your Lordships, and many of us who had a very kindly feeling towards the late Marquess are glad to see his son here and to hoar him addressing us. The noble Lord who seconded the Address has had considerable Parliamentary experience, and we can see from his speech that he is able to speak clearly and plainly upon any subject which may be under debate. I sincerely hope that he will not be content with the speech he has made to-day, but that he will take part in our future debates.
38 One word as to the first paragraph of the Speech from the Throne. In it His Majesty most becomingly and most naturally tells us that he intends to walk in the footsteps of his revered mother, and I do not think we need any further assurance from our Sovereign that he means to tread in those steps. Enough has been said on this subject—a mournful one—and I will only add that all of us hope and believe that he who is now our King will have a career worthy of his august mother. No warmer wish, I think, could be expressed for his welfare and his success.
My Lords, the principal subject of the Speech, naturally enough, is the war in South Africa, and I wish it were possible to say anything satisfactory or agreeable about that war. For my part, I have no pleasure in saying disagreeable things about it; but I think it is a plain duty not to conceal the deep dissatisfaction which exists amongst those who agree with me in politics as to the manner in which the Government have latterly conducted the war. Do not suppose I am about to criticise the military operations of the distinguished officer the noble Earl who has just taken his seat, or to criticise the operations of the noble Lord who is now commanding in South Africa. It is not to that that we should direct our attention; it is to the manner in which the Government have conducted their part of the war. I regret to say that, now that we have had considerable experience of it, we see steps taken too late, efficiency not ensured, a want of appreciation to the magnitude and difficulties of the war, and in consequence a state of things which may be called guerilla warfare, but which means a prolongation of the war under circumstances of great difficulty, and of danger to our position in South Africa. I am by no means given to speak dolefully about public events, but I must say that the present condition of affairs in South Africa fills me with apprehension. We have seen not merely the defence of the former Transvaal Republic and of the former Orange Free State, but we have seen our own colonies invaded at various points. We have seen a warfare which may be called guerilla, but which is evidently a most harassing warfare for our troops to deal with, and one conducted on a scale which takes it out of the category of mere marauding. Our posi- 39 tion is evidently this, that, notwithstanding the large numerical forces which we have in South Africa, we have not an efficient force to cope with the difficulties which we have to encounter. I know that many people are perfectly unaware of the enormous extent of territory with which we have to deal, of the great difficulties of the ground, and of the peculiar impediments to reducing to submission the forces which the Boers have put in the field. What I complain of is that the Government have apparently been living for a considerable time in a fools' paradise, constantly believing that the war was coming to an end, and that when there were great successes under the admirable guidance of the noble Earl, and when, perhaps, if those successes had been pressed strongly the war might have been brought to a successful close, they were not ready with the necessary forces —the necessary men and horses. The Army was practically not in a position to follow up strenuously and decisively its successes. The consequence has been a recrudescence of war, and we are perpetually told that there are going to be reinforcements, but those reinforcements and those preparations come too late. If there is one thing truer than another, it is that it is good economy in money to spare nothing, when you have obtained some advantage, which can press home that advantage, and to give the enemy no opportunity to recover himself and continue the war.
I maintain that our commanders in South Africa were not furnished by the Government at home with sufficient mounted troops and other appliances of war to enable them to crush the opposition by which they were confronted. Whatever may be my opinion as to the mode in which this question should be ultimately settled, there is no difference of opinion between the Government and myself as to the absolute necessity before any further steps are taken of overcoming the opposition offered to us—that is our plain and paramount duty. How long it will take us to do that I know not. I do strongly feel that there never has been a crisis in South African affairs when it was more necessary that the utmost rigour and energy should be, shown by us, and that our Army should be put in a position to bring to a close a war which, you may depend upon it, is not to be? despised merely because it is called guerilla 40 warfare. We are prepared, whatever may be our political opinions, to support the Government in any steps they deem necessary to bring the war to a close. I agree that the early submission of the Boers is much to be desired in their own interest; but it is necessary to look the facts in the face, and I am convinced that, whatever may be our opinions as to what the future settlement may be, it will be impossible to establish any safe condition of affairs in South Africa until we have overcome the resistance now made by our adversaries in the field.
I do not like much to enter into the question of how a settlement can be achieved. I cannot help remembering the confident statement made by the Colonial Secretary so recently as December last, in which he said—I hope that before this House meets again something in the nature of a civil administration may have been established both in the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony."*That was only last December; and I would ask the House whether the state of things which has occurred since then justifies any such hope. What I fear is that these premature hopes entertained of a speedy termination of the war have led the Government to relax their efforts at the moment when they ought to have been most strenuous. The moment for the most strenuous effort was the moment when the noble Earl had entered Pretoria and Sir R. Buller had advanced beyond the colony of Natal. If you had then been in a position to press home upon your adversaries with full vigour and force the advantages which you had obtained, you might then have brought the war to a close. I do not profess to see further than other people; but I do say that if you do not make energetic and speedy efforts to have a thoroughly efficient force in the colony able to cope with what you term a guerilla war you may have a prolongation of the war of the most dangerous kind, and you may find yourselves face to face with a situation even worse than at present. I will say no more on that subject. I do not like to be a prophet of evil. It gives me no satisfaction. I do not want to make capital for the Opposition out of the difficulties of the country, but I do want to press earnestly on the* See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxxviii., page 260.41 Government to spare no money, but to at once reinforce the troops in South Africa so as to enable our commanders to conduct really successful operations; and remember it is not raw troops you want, but thoroughly efficient mounted troops, for it is obvious that this war has become a war of mounted men, and that without such a force it never will succeed. With regard to the paragraph dealing with the Ashanti expedition, I do not underrate your success there—I think it was a most creditable expedition, highly creditable to the officer who commanded it, and highly satisfactory in its results—but the magniloquent language of the paragraph, after what we have seen happen in South Africa, rather savours of bathos.
With regard to domestic legislation, we are not promised much. The promises, indeed, are so vague that one can collect no kind of instruction from them, or they refer to matters so trivial that it is scarcely worth while to notice them here. In the first place, there is a paragraph which says that "proposals will be submitted to your judgment for increasing the efficiency of my military forces." That may mean anything or nothing. It is, perhaps, rather late in the day now-this is the second year of the war—to come forward with proposals to increase the efficiency of our military forces. It might have been better if that had been done sooner. At all events, if there is to be a complete and thorough overhauling of our military system, I trust it will not be a mere picking at matters of detail, but that our whole military system will be thoroughly reviewed by those who are most competent to review it, and that it will be placed on a more satisfactory footing. If that is done I feel certain that on this side His Majesty's Government will receive very cordial support. The prospect, however, is not very encouraging to those who like myself are old enough to remember the Crimean war and the promises then held out for the improvement of the Army. It is not very satisfactory to reflect that, as far as I can judge, since the time when my lamented friend Lord Cardwell made great and important changes, nothing appears to have been really successfully done to place the Army on a thoroughly satisfactory footing. We always had gallant men—we have them still. We have always found in time of need men who could lead our Army with courage 42 and success; and we certainly have no reason to complain at the present time when we have had the inestimable advantage of the services of the noble Earl whom we have the pleasure to see here to night. But somehow or other we have never succeeded in forming a system which could be adapted to a now state of things. I am not a soldier, nor do I profess to have any particular means of judging, but I must fairly say that the whole experience of my life, having paid some attention to these questions, is that in our Army system there is a peculiar want of flexible adaptation to new circumstances. It seems to me we are continually going on upon the old system, patching it here and patching it there, but never placing it upon a satisfactory footing. I trust the paragraph really means that the Government are at last determined to help the able officers who can advise them in this matter.
As to other matters, there is a reference to an amendment of the law relating to education. That may mean much or nothing. If it means that we are to have any considerable development of secondary education I welcome it as a very great advantage to the country. I trust it may be so. Then we are promised some legislation dealing with drunkenness in licensed houses or public places. That is a very useful thing indeed, but considering the attention which has been paid by the public to the improvement of the licensing laws generally, I must say this is the most curiously small and unimportant paragraph in a Speech I ever saw. There are some very useful laws now on the Statute-book on that subject, and I dare say it may be possible to make them a little more stringent, but there is not the least indication that there is going to be any reform in the direction of promoting temperance. We have had Commissions-and inquiries and even Bills, but nothing appears to come from them whatever, and apparently His Majesty's Government have finally determined to shelve the whole question. I regret this. I am not one of those who share the extreme views of what is called the tenrperance party, but I think there are many things in our licensing laws which might be improved with advantage. When there have been so many useful inquiries, and when so many men—amongst others the 43 right rev. Prelate on the bench above — have shown a deep interest in the matter and put forward proposals containing much that is valuable, I think that it is to be regretted that the Government have not seen their way to take some steps to promote legislation on the subject. I deprecate the Government's always endeavouring to extricate themselves from a difficulty by appointing a Commission and contriving to make its inquiry last for the period of the Government's own life. That device has failed in the present instance; and now the Government apparently intend to fall back upon the very convenient policy of doing nothing whatever upon this question. It is no doubt a very unfavourable moment to press forward domestic questions.
The country cares for little but the South African War, but, at the same time, there are several matters of domestic interest which ought to be pressed forward, amongst them being some moderate legislation to promote temperance. I also sincerely trust that this promise of a measure concerning education does mean some really considerable measure to promote education, for I am certain I have the concurrence of a great many of your Lordships in saying that in domestic matters there are few things so important as an improvement in our education. One other thing I must say, I am surprised to find that there is no mention of a measure for the better housing of the working classes. I am surprised for this reason, that the present Home Secretary, if I am not mistaken, did shadow forth something of that kind, stating that he regarded this as a most urgent question. I suppose, however, that the Government are absorbed in this South African War, though, in my opinion, they have made a very considerable failure in the management of it. I do not wish that this failure should be continued. I wish that more power should continue in their hands, but confess, after experience of the manner in which the home Government have conducted our military affairs in South Africa, my hopes are not great; and I only trust that there will be some improvement. If there is not, I fear that we may suffer some more serious disaster than at present is foreseen by many.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND LORD PRIVY SEAL (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, I am glad to be able 44 to concur with the noble Earl in the satisfaction which he has expressed at the quality of the speeches by which this debate was introduced. It is very satisfactory to hear so often specimens of such effective eloquence in this House, and that its merit should be recognised in all parts of the House; and I concur in the desire expressed by the noble Earl that the hopes entertained from a speech made at the beginning of a session should be more often fulfilled by a subsequent and intelligent share in the debates of this House. I was glad also to hear the noble Lord (Lord Waterford) begin in a style which promises so well. Like the noble Karl opposite, I had the honour of the friendship of his father; and he was a man who, though his opinions were strong—you might say extreme—yet, on subjects with which he was well acquainted, enjoyed the confidence and esteem of a wide circle of his countrymen, here and in Ireland. I hope that my noble friend will succeed to that position among the landlords of Ireland which was occupied by the late Lord Waterford. I am sure it would be greatly for the benefit of the country which he loves and which I hope he will brilliantly represent.
The opening part of His Majesty's gracious Speech leads us to reflect on a subject about which we have mourned and on difficulties that we have to face. So-much has been said of it that it is hardly fitting to renew the topic. Yet, my Lords, you must have noticed that since our lamentable loss the manner in which it had been received and commented upon in every corner of the world shows how deep was the mark which the great virtues and qualities of our lost Sovereign had made upon the thought of her time, and how great was the influence which they had exorcised, not only upon our political needs and tendencies, but upon the moral standard which she did so much to raise. All we can do now is to hope, with every confidence that our hope will be justified, that the promise given by His Majesty in his gracious Speech, that he will follow in her footsteps, will be fully and abundantly fulfilled; and we cannot but feel that it will be a very great triumph for the principle of Monarchy and for the lustre and name of this nation if during a second reign, as in the first, it can be said of the Monarchy of England that its principal distinction has been that it has made it easier, more popular, more honourable to 45 follow in the paths of progress and of peace. That influence I feel certain His Majesty intends to exercise; and I have no doubt that the support of his people will be so determined that when the time comes that his character shall be road similar eulogies will be universally pronounced.
The noble Earl was very superficial, if I may dare to say so, in his treatment of the subjects of the Speech. There was nothing very unfavourable. Until battles are won you cannot expect public opinion to praise the conduct of a campaign; but it is unreasonable to think that there is anything unusual in the lengthening of this campaign or of any campaign against guerilla warfare, which often succeeds organised resistance. Will the noble Lord look back on the Mutiny in India? A longer period elapsed between the outbreak and the final disappearance of resistance than has yet taken place in the South African War. Or take the case, which I think is more analogous—namely, the Secession War in America. There was a great deal of resemblance between that war and the one in which we are engaged; but it was three or four years before the whole efforts of that very intelligent and most efficient community were able to bring their war to a successful and final issue. I think that in Bosnia it took four years before the whole power of the Austrian Empire was able to conquer the peasants who were fighting in the mountains of that State. Where you have great enthusiasm, as in this case you undoubtedly have, where you have to cover a country that is difficult to fight in and gives opportunities for lengthened and varied resistance, however great the power you may have at your back, however wealthy the country that is attacking may be, many, many months must elapse if the resistance is persistently and obstinately continued before complete tranquillity can be restored. And therefore, though I think the impatience of the noble Earl is perfectly natural, I do not believe that the calmer students of the history of this or any other country will believe that there is any real ground for discontent, still less for the apprehensions which the noble Earl has expressed.
Of course, it is another matter if the noble Earl had used his views as the basis for the opinion that we should alter our conduct with reference to our enemy. I was glad to hear the energy with which 46 he repudiated any such idea. He recognises that, whatever we may think or wish as to the future, for the moment it is our business to win, and to give our whole hearts and strength to the task that lies before us. But I regret to see on this and on other occasions the noble Earl does not control the opinions or actions of all who claim the name of Liberal. I wish he did; and in this matter it is evident that there are many people, who may not be numerous, but are certainly noisy, who try to persuade us that a substantial portion of the English people are not hearty supporters of this war, and try to urge us to some step, some action short of that which is implied in carrying the war to a successful issue. Their contention in this House does not need to be repelled. Anybody here must see that if we were to relinquish or relent from our demand that the independence of these territories shall be given up—if we did that—we should in respect of the colony of South Africa involve it in incessant and continuous warfare, waged in circumstances where we should be at the greatest disadvantage, and on occasions when we should be forced to fight with little prospect of success for many a year to come.
It is evident, as passions have been developed, as feelings now stand in those territories, that unless we are masters and conquer them there is no hope for any abiding peace. What we shall do with that power when we have it is quite another matter. But we must be masters; otherwise if they retain any portion of their independence it is perfectly obvious that the first purpose to which they would put the power granted them would be to accumulate new forces, new armaments, and prepare on a fitting occasion for the same attack which we had to meet eighteen months ago. It is also a matter upon which you can entertain no doubt that if you now allow your efforts to fall short of complete triumph you would practically avow to the world that your frontiers may be invaded in the most lawless and insulting manner, and yet that you are powerless effectively to resist. When once you proclaim that impotence to the world, I need not ask how long you think your proud colonial Empire would be protected from the assaults of every discontented people who might desire to take advantage of your position. Therefore I hold that we have 47 now to conduct the war to a successful issue.
But the noble Earl says, "If you had only done this and that, you would have conducted it to success much sooner." Is it possible for us to fight that issue out across this Table? Is not that a matter which experts and statesmen must examine in order that they may be able to tell Parliament whether there has been any great failure of intelligence and duty on the part of His Majesty's Government by which those operations have been carried on? It is evident that you cannot, by a formula or by a confident opinion, determine with whom the fault lies of any shortcoming—if shortcoming there be—of any failure in point of time in attaining the result on which you counted. These things must be examined carefully, and examined by the light of the evidence of men who know the facts; and many, if not most, of the men who know the facts are not within the four shores of this country. You cannot until you have had your inquiry pass judgment. I do not deprecate that judgment at all; I rather wish for it in one sense—that it may point out to us, even at the expense of the public men involved, defects in our system which may be corrected. But you must have your inquiry before you pass judgment. Therefore I will not say that I deprecate, but I cannot say that it would be desirable for us to enter into a regular debate as to the mariner in which the war has been conducted, as to the fault of this or of that Department (if there be a fault), of this or that statesman, or of this or that general officer. You can only judge these things if you view what has been done as a whole, and obtain from those who have seen the facts on the spot the evidence by which alone you can be safely guided.
I did not notice that the noble Earl went very far into the questions with which the Speech has dealt. If I might express an opinion, I would say that while the King's Speech was one of the longest we have had, the noble Earl's comments upon it formed one of the shortest speeches we have had. Of course, it does not follow that what is long is always full of matter; but I hardly think that the noble Earl has done full justice to the questions with which we have dealt. The noble Earl complains that there is nothing satisfactory in our 48 dealings with the Army. Well, will he put down with some definiteness what he thinks would be a satisfactory dealing with the Army? Semper dolus latet in generalibus. The noble Earl has only given us the most superficial and general descriptions of the objects which he wishes us to pursue. It is the same with the licensing laws—one of the most difficult subjects of the day. If the noble Earl has a set of opinions which he will put into detail we shall be very glad to examine them with him. But we say that it is in detail those things fail; and even when we put a number of very distinguished men to discuss these questions, on all the most important points of them they come to a hopeless disagreement. In these circumstances, it is not likely that we should attempt to change the law when we cannot clearly see what the effect of the change would be. It may be matter for regret that our licensing system has reached its present condition; but how, without injustice to the individual, without injury to the public weal, and without exaggerating the interference of Parliament this state of things can adequately be remedied we do not at present see. But if the noble Earl has a mode of settling the question, let him, instead of simply saying that we have no general and satisfactory remedy, toll us the broad points of his scheme. It is the same, of course, with the Army. Let us know where he thinks the shoe pinches, and where the remedy ought to be applied. Otherwise, I think that his general criticisms are criticisms of a kind which could be applied to any institution or establishment in the world.
As far as domestic legislation goes, I admit that our bill of fare is not a very extensive one. But that is because we can very clearly see that there are other things, much more interesting, with which the time of Parliament will be occupied. In any case, the remedy is obvious. Legislation is not the monopoly of the Government; and if noble Lords opposite will introduce Bills on these or other subjects we shall consider them with an enthusiastic in terest, and we shall be glad to find a way out of the labyrinth which has puzzled marry generations. The noble Earl apologised for having spoken so long about a Speech in which he thought there was nothing. In replying to the noble Earl, I think that perhaps a similar apology ought to be demanded from me, 49 who must feel in a somewhat similar position. But I can only say that as to the mode in which the noble Earl has approached the question of the war I can offer nothing but praise; and I do not feel very much disturbed by the other criticisms which he has offered. But there is one thing for which, if he would do it, we should be very grateful. If he would, as I have already hinted, impose his own opinions upon his political co-religionists it would be of great advantage not only to himself, but also to the Empire. These fanatics, we know, are not nearly so numerous as they are noisy, and we do not mind their criticism. As far as we are concerned, it is hollow and empty. But it does impress a certain number of people at the other end of the world with the idea that the English people are not whole-hearted in the object which they are pursuing. As long as that impression continues, and they are induced to believe that there is an important party moving for them in this country, I fear that they will have a very powerful motive to continue that insane resistance which promises no hope to them and nothing but desolation and misery to their country. For the blood that has been shed and for the destruction which has been caused, some of the responsibility lies with the people who have so acted as to raise hopes which those who know anything about the subject know to be absolutely baseless.
§ On Question, agreed to. Address agreed to, nemine dissemtiente, and ordered to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.
§ The Earl of Morley appointed, nemine dissentiente, to take the Chair in all Committees of this House for this Session.
§ Committee for Privileges appointed.
§ Committee for the Journals appointed.
§ Stoppages in the Streets—Order to prevent, renewed.
§ Appeal Committee appointed.