§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
My Lords, I rise to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for his gracious Speech from the Throne, but before doing so I would ask your Lordships to extend to me that consideration which I understand is always most graciously given to those who, like myself, ask for it, and more especially to those who have the honour and the privilege of addressing this House for the first time. I feel confident that I am expressing the feelings of the whole House in tendering 5 to His Majesty our humble and loyal congratulations upon the safe return of their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales from their extended and historic tour. It was a tour which produced a spontaneous outburst of loyalty and affection from all the younger sons of the Imperial mother; and the expression of that loyalty has been deeply and sincerely appreciated by every section of the community throughout the country. I have myself travelled over the districts which have been so recently visited by their Royal Highnesses, and I can bear testimony to the kindly feeling which prevails throughout our Colonies towards all the subjects of His Majesty in this country. Not the least remarkable event of the tour was the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament by His Royal Highness—an event which will never be forgotten by the representative assembly which witnessed the imposing ceremony. The return of their Royal Highnesses to this country was also marked by an event of the utmost importance to the Colonies and to us—namely, the announcement of His Majesty's new title of Royalty as King of the British Dominions beyond the Seas. No more fitting or appropriate time could have been chosen for this announcement, and His Majesty's subjects in all parts of the world must have read at the same time with genuine interest the statesmanlike speech delivered by His Royal Highness the Prince at the Guildhall. With so much loyalty genuinely expressed, and practically shown, there is no need for this country to fear any position of isolation, so long as we cordially respond to the enthusiastic spirit which has marked the attitude of our Colonies, especially during the last few years of the nation's trials.
It is no formal expression that His Majesty's Government is on friendly terms with European Powers. When we consider that this country has been occupied in the South African campaign, I think it is a source of congratulation that foreign Governments have not attempted to embarrass us. I venture to think that our interests in all parts of the world, notwithstanding our being so much tied up in South Africa, have not been neglected, and that the prestige of this country to-day is as high as it ever has been. It would have been a source of satisfaction to the country if, in the 6 gracious Speech from the Throne, His Majesty could have announced the termination of the war. There are, however, not wanting signs that it is steadily drawing to a close, and that it will not be long before the arts of war will give place to the arts of industry and to the development of commerce and trade. It is impossible to mention this subject without referring to the noble Earl, Lord Roberts, to whom the country owes a deep debt of gratitude, not only for his more recent services, but for his services in the frontier wars in India; to Lord Milner, whose administrative abilities have been so tactfully displayed, and to Lord Kitchener for his remarkable military genius in gradually restoring the country to a condition of peace, in which already civil life is beginning to reassert itself above the devastations of war. Our thanks are due, not only to those leaders, but to the officers and to the men serving under them; and it must be a source of pride to us to-day that, in spite of many hardships and privations, never has greater valour been shown upon the field, and never has the country come forward more cheerfully to supply the sinews of war and the resources necessary to carry it through. They have paid cheerfully the taxes which have been imposed upon them, knowing as they do that it is not a Government's, that it is not a party's, but that it is a nation's war.
It is, moreover, a source of satisfaction that His Majesty's Government have been able to accept the patriotic offer of the Colonies of further contingents to relieve the strain which has fallen upon our troops in South Africa, and so enable our own regiments in some instances to return to this country after a long and arduous campaign at the front. My Lords, it is not too much to hope that, in view of such self-sacrifice, the Colonies may at the termination of the war be joined with us in council to settle the future of that country. It is premature to discuss the terms at the present moment, but I think the country will insist upon its being a final settlement, and will not permit a weak or vacillating policy.
I notice with pleasure that an international Conference is announced in the King's Speech to take place at Brussels on the question of the Sugar Bounties. It is to be hoped that the result will be the abandonment of a system which so 7 unfairly handicaps not only our home manufactures, but also our sugar-producing Colonies. This is not a question affecting only this country. It is an Imperial question. Your Lordships may remember that Conference after Conference has taken place in London, and that the First Lord of the Treasury has received many deputations on the subject. To my mind the Colonies have a right, in a time of trouble, to appeal to the Mother country, and I would venture to congratulate the Government upon the active steps they have taken in regard to the furtherance of this Conference.
As to the domestic legislation mentioned in His Majesty's gracious Speech, I would congratulate the Government upon the fulfilment of their pledge of last Session to bring in a measure for the co-ordination and improvement of primary and secondary education in this country. This is a measure of the utmost importance, and one of vital interest to the prosperity of the country. The object which the Government will have in view will, I hope, be the introduction of harmony and completeness into our educational system. It is not possible for me, in the short time at my disposal, to enter fully into this measure, more especially as it is not before the House; but I would venture to express the hope that the subject will be approached in a conciliatory spirit by all schools of thought, and that the Voluntary schools will be protected in view of the religious education that they give. I may be forgiven for recalling the fact that my late uncle took in education, and especially in Voluntary schools, a deep interest; but the position to-day is one that should engage the attention of everyone, especially if there is a desire, as I feel sure there is, to preserve the valuable work of the Voluntary schools from gradually disappearing. I think I am right in saying that it is the earnest wish of the Unionist Party to preserve these Schools; nor do I think that amongst all the advanced thinkers on this subject there is a desire to starve out Church and Roman Catholic schools, which, side by side with the Board Schools, have carried on, and are still carrying on, such excellent work for the benefit of the children of the country. There is also to be considered the right of the parents to have their children educated in the 8 faith which they themselves have adopted, or in which they have been brought up. I hope that ample time will be given for the adequate discussion of this important measure, and that it will be marked by an earnest desire to subordinate party feelings and sectarian rivalries in favour of a satisfactory and comprehensive scheme of education. Whatever the educational authority may be, I can only hope that the secondary education will, in their hands, be a means of enabling the coming generation to acquire useful information, to fit them to be capable citizens, and, having knowledge, to grapple with the growing competition of our rivals in trade and commerce throughout the world. The Water Bill mentioned in the King's Speech is a measure which affects London very acutely, and will in consequence receive the very anxious attention of Parliament. The recommendations of the Royal Commission upon this subject will be a valuable contribution to the settlement of the question, receiving, as I believe they have done, the approval of the President of the Local Government Board. There are other matters mentioned in the gracious Speech which my noble friend who is to second the Address will touch upon. It only now remains for me to give place to him, with a grateful sense of your Lordships kindness in listening so patiently to the few remarks which I have ventured to make. I beg to move the motion standing in my name.
* THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, I rise to second the Address which has been so ably proposed by the noble Earl who has just sat down, and I do so in accordance with the ancient tradition of your Lordships' House, which allows this privilege even to the youngest and least distinguished of your number. My Lords, I am very sensible of the difficulties of my position, but I am encouraged by the knowledge that many noble Lords, whom I am addressing, have themselves undertaken a similar responsibility in the past. They will therefore remember that the post of honour is fenced around with many terrors, and will, I hope, extend to me to-day a double measure of that indulgence which they themselves received on former occasions.
9 My Lords, we are assured by His Majesty that our relations with other Powers continue to be friendly. Noble Lords are doubtless as familiar with this statement in the gracious Speech from the Throne as with the appeals to the indulgence of the House which form the invariable preface to the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Address, but the repetition of these phrases in the past need not be taken as indicating any want of sincerity on the present occasion. We cannot, at any rate, be blind to the fact that, in view of the hostility which our South African policy has aroused in certain countries of Europe, the conduct of foreign affairs at the present moment is by no means free from anxiety; and the fact that our relations with the Governments of those countries continue to be friendly, is a matter for which we cannot be too thankful—a matter, too, for which we are prepared to give the fullest credit to the noble Marquess who is our Foreign Minister.
There is, moreover, one fact connected with foreign affairs to which I venture to call the special attention of your Lordships. I refer to the very satisfactory announcement that a treaty has been concluded with the President of the United States which will facilitate the construction of an Inter-oceanic Canal through the Isthmus of Central America. This announcement is the more welcome when we remember that the negotiations on this matter have been protracted over a period of several years—a period long enough to give rise, with however little justification, to fears that the differences between those two countries were incapable of adjustment. I need not weary your Lordships with a repetition of the intricate details of the controversy, now happily at an end. I will not disinter from the Blue Books, where they lie buried, discussions over the territorial sovereignty of Nicaragua, or the Mosquito coast, over the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, the draft conventions, and the Amendments and counter Amendments which have been proposed by both sides; but I feel sure that your Lordship will rejoice to think that no legal or diplomatic technicality has been allowed any longer to stand in the way of an undertaking which will benefit the commerce of the whole world. According to the terms of the new treaty the United States have 10 undertaken the construction of the canal and the entire responsibility for the maintenance of its neutrality, and when the canal is completed it will be thrown open, on terms of absolute equality, to the ships of commerce and of war of all nations observing the rules which have been laid down. There are no people for whom we in this country have greater respect, and with whom we are more desirous of maintaining the most intimate and cordial relations, than the great enlightened population of America, and we cannot but hope, therefore, that all future discussions on points of difference between the two countries may be discussed in the same friendly spirit, and may be crowned with an equally satisfactory result.
In the South American Continent we have another example of the way in which we hope before very long the differences between the various nations of the world will come to be settled.
In the boundary dispute between the Republic of Brazil and the colony of British Guiana the King of Italy has graciously consented to become arbitrator. We can confidently expect a wise and just decision from a Monarch who, in the short space of time since his accession to the throne, has given frequent proof of his readiness to accept to the fullest extent the responsibilities of his position, and who has devoted himself with genuine zeal to promoting the welfare of the fair land over which he has been called to rule.
Before I leave altogether the subject of our relations with Foreign Powers, I would venture to refer with thankfulness to the attitude which has been adopted by the new Ameer of Afghanistan. Your Lordships will understand the personal interest with which I approach any matter connected with the welfare of our Indian Empire, and I can conceive of no greater disaster than the rupture of those friendly relations which have existed between the Empire of India and the kingdom of Afghanistan ever since the accession of Abdur Rahman to the throne of Cabul. The late Ameer was a great personality and a strong and wise ruler, and his death has long been dreaded as the possible forerunner of renewed disturbance on the North-Western Frontier of India. That event has happily not been followed by the calamitous results which were expected, and we gladly welcome the desire 11 of the new Ameer to remain on good terms with the Government of India.
I now turn, my Lords, to a matter on which I feel sure there can be but one opinion in this House. Every noble Lord present, as well as every person in this country, must share his Majesty's feelings of rejoicing at the return to these shores of their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales. We must not be deterred by the pomp and pageantry of that triumphial procession from appreciating the devotion to the interests of the Empire which inclined the Prince and Princess of Wales to face the inconveniences, not to say dangers, of a long sea-voyage, and the prolong absence from their family circle which it entailed. We, in England, have followed their Royal Highnesses in our sympathies through every stage of their long and prosperous journey. We rejoiced with them at the manifestations of loyal affection with which they were everywhere greeted, and we now welcome them home with the greater enthusaism in that we are convinced of the noble purpose which they have served by their great undertaking. That journey, my Lords, together with the struggle in which we are engaged in South Africa, has done more than anything before, to bring home to the people of this country the loyal sentiments of our kinsfolk across the seas—a loyalty which I believe has always existed, but which has hitherto had little opportunity of finding expression. That journey, too, will in future years be looked back to, as marking our recognition of a turning point in the history of the British Empire.
In the century which is now dawning, great Imperial questions seem destined to occupy the most prominent place. No Government of the future will be able to ignore them, and no policy will be acceptable to the British nation which does not aim at maintaining the unity and vigour of the Empire. But, my Lords, the health and strength of our Empire as a whole depends on the health and strength of every component part, and it is only by concentrating attention on the weaker portions that we shall be able to maintain the high standard of efficiency which such an Empire demands. There is one portion of the Empire, so close to us that we are apt sometimes to overlook its Imperial importance, which, above all others, is in need of such attention. Nobody will pretend that either the people or the soil 12 of Ireland have ever yet reached that maximum development of which they are capable, and the continued discontent of a portion of His Majesty's subjects in that country is a constant source of danger to the Empire, a danger which this war has given us opportunities of recognising. We have seen Irish representatives in Parliament, men who have taken the oath of allegiance to their Sovereign, who yet can exult in public over our defeats and lament over our victories.
But, my Lords, the discontent and animosity which exist in Ireland are the growth of long years, and therefore a disease which cannot be cured by any single remedy; least of all will it be cured by a vindictive attitude on the part of the people of England, and I rejoice to think that the Government will not be deterred by the extremists of either party from maintaining the law with justice in that country and from continuing its efforts to improve the conditions of the Irish people. It would be idle to suppose that the Bill which is announced in the King's Speech will put an end to agrarian agitation or solve the land question. The solution of that question is not in the hands of the Government; it is in the hands of the owners and occupiers of the soil, and all that any Government can do is to facilitate a co-operation between those two classes to settle the question upon the lines which have been proved, by long consideration and actual experience, to be the only possible ones. The sound economic policy which has been inaugurated in Ireland during the past two years, and which aims at uniting all classes on matters which are vital to their country, such as the improvement of their agriculture and industries, will be followed, I believe, by a period of material prosperity such as the country has never hitherto known. But if the Irish people are to reap the benefits of their improved conditions, another important reform will be necessary—namely, a reform in the educational system of the country. Speaking for myself, I hope the Government will see its way to introduce before long a measure which will place the blessings of University education within the reach of the Roman Catholic inhabitants of Ireland.
It may be, my Lords, that questions relating to the material prosperity of the 13 country may also one day prove the determining factor in the settlement of that more distant portion of the Empire which is still the centre of all our hopes and fears. If the reward of our efforts and our patience in South Africa has been slow, that reward has been no less sure. The noble Earl who moved the Address has already referred to the gradual re-settlement of the country, and to the resumption of peaceful pursuits in the area which has been cleared of the enemy. For the last three months our railway communications have been secure; the weekly reduction in the enemy's forces continues unabated; the concentration camps are being gradually broken up; the number of refugees returning to their homes increases every week, and many burghers, who only a few months ago were fighting against us, have now taken service in the British forces. These are facts, my Lords, which shine like gleams of daylight through the dark clouds which have settled for so long over the continent of South Africa, and it may be that, at a date less distant than many of us suppose, the fierce struggles and the hard-fought battles of this melancholy but famous war will be forgotten, or, if they are remembered, will be remembered only to celebrate the military virtues of those two peoples, on whose co-operation the future of South Africa depends.
As Lord Milner remarked the other day, the great cataclysm lies behind us, and we can breathe more freely. May we not hope that the clearing of the atmosphere in South Africa may be accompanied during the coming year by a calmer attitude and a less embittered spirit of controversy in the political discussions of South African topics in this country? In dwelling on the brighter side of the picture, I have laid myself open to the charge of careless optimism, which has been so often raised of late by those who are for ever building dungeons in the air. But if hopefulness is a crime, it is a crime to which I am not ashamed to plead guilty. The people of England at the present moment are filled with the spirit of confidence which is born of determination, and I am happy to think that the Government partakes the spirit of the nation. I thank your Lordships for the patient hearing you have given me, and I now 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 Earl of Harrowby.)
§ * EARL SPENCER
My Lords, before I take up the thread of argument which the person who occupies my position usually adopts, I wish to be allowed to make a few personal remarks. My Lords, it is with regret that I stand here; I regret it because I stand in the place of one who long held it, I venture to say, with distinction, one who had not only the cordial and complete support of his own followers, but who, by the manner in which he conducted business, gave complete satisfaction to the other side. It has been a matter of the deepest regret that Lord Kimberley last year was struck down by severe illness, and, at the same time, he received one of the greatest blows that can be inflicted on any family—namely, the unexpected death of his son. I regret to say he is still unable to come here. Your Lordships, I am sure, will join with me in hoping that with the amelioration in his condition he once more will be able to take up his duties in this House. Your Lordships last year extended to me your kind indulgence when I had to take up this difficult and responsible post, and I ask you to extend the same indulgence as long as I have to preform this duty.
I have now to refer to the speeches of the noble Lords who moved and seconded the Address. They bear honoured and distinguished names—names which, in the past, are well known in the history of this country. Their predecessors were men who took a leading part in the affairs of the country, and in discussions both in this place and elsewhere; and in other ways they were distinguished members of the State. We all rejoice that these names will again appear in the list of those who take part in your Lordships' debates, and I think I may be allowed to say with what infinite pleasure we, on this side of the House, heard the very able and admirable speeches which they have made to-night. The noble Lord who moved the Address has had the advantage of sitting in another place, but the noble Lord who seconded the Address has not had that advantage; and I am sure your Lordships will think that he has proved himself able to occupy the post of honour 15 to which he referred, and that he will hereafter often contribute to our discussions here. The two noble Lords have touched on many of the topics in the gracious Speech, and I fear I shall not be able to emulate or surpass them, but that I shall rather fall short of the excellence with which they have spoken. The first matter to which I have to refer is one to which the two noble Lords in the most happy manner referred—the first paragraph of the gracious Speech, which deals with the historical and memorable journey of their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales throughout the Colonies. I believe that the work which they did during that journey was one of enormous importance to the Empire, tending to cement and increase those bonds of patriotism and loyalty, evidence of which has been so signally displayed in the War in South Africa. The influence of that visit was increased, not only by the graciousness, by the dignity, and by the earnestness of His Royal Highness on every occasion on which he spoke, but by the graciousness of the illustrious Princess—the Princess of Wales—who joined with him in the interesting though often fatiguing duties which they had to perform. With regard to the next paragraph, concerning relations with foreign Powers, there is only one thing I should like to say. We should have been glad to hear—and perhaps we shall be enlightened on the subject, if not to-night, on another occasion—some account of what has been done in China. We all notice that the war in China and the gigantic difficulties which met the Powers have come to an end, and I should be glad to hear that that has been done with complete satisfaction to His Majesty's Government, and in accordance with the best interests of the Empire. I firmly believe that that is the case, but should be glad of some assurance on the subject.
Now I come to the absorbing topic of the war. I noticed the terms in which the King alluded to this subject, and I deeply regret that His Majesty's Government are not able at the present moment to announce that the war is concluded, or that there is a near prospect of its conclusion. The remark I venture to make upon that—and I feel bound to make it; it has been made frequently in other places—is that I notice the difference between what is said with regard to the 16 end of the war and what was said on a very memorable occasion—the last dissolution of Parliament. It was said by the Ministers of the Crown that if the war was not actually over it was very nearly over. I think that was a disastrous statement to have made; it was a misleading statement, and had a very great effect on the Election. I remember the argument about the knowledge of the "man in the street." I think that a well-instructed and well-conducted Government must know a great deal more than the man in the street. I wish to express my satisfaction at learning that his Majesty's Government consider that the area of war has been reduced. But I should like to ask for a little more information. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for War, not long ago made a very interesting speech on this subject, and he described how we were advancing in the two new Colonies, and said it was satisfactory that the lines of railway were no longer attacked, and that we now held a large area. It occurred to me at the time to inquire how much of the country was protected by the blockhouse system. I do not want to say anything by way of attack—I quite recognise the difficulties of the war—but it is important that we should know what progress has been made, in order that full preparation should be made, and adequate action taken, to cope with the military difficulties which confront us. As far as I can make out, the protected area amounted to rather less than a quarter of the whole area. If that is the case, I am afraid we may not expect any very rapid end of the war, and we shall have to make exertions—the country will, no doubt, do so cheerfully—in order to overcome those difficulties. Therefore I hope we shall have some more specific information. With the next paragraph I am in most cordial agreement. It does not matter that the war is what has been called a guerilla war. It is a war that tries the endurance and patience of the soldiers more, I imagine, if possible, than a war conducted on the principle of the great battles that we are so familiar with in history. I wish most cordially and earnestly to join in what was said by the noble lord, and what is said in His Majesty's gracious Speech, in praise and admiration of our soldiers. I believe I am speaking the unamimous voice of all 17 those with whom I act, when I say that they admire the bravery, endurance, patience, and consummate humanity of our troops under the most trying circumstances.
I notice that in His Majesty's Speech, there is a complete omission of any reference to the methods by which the war may be satisfactorly and honourably ended. That raises a point of great importance. We have often heard the expression "unconditional surrender." In our opinion, unconditional surrender is not the proper policy, but I want to know whether it is the policy of the Government. On some occasions language has been used which might point to certain terms having been stated as possible, though they were not presented to the Boers. I believe that the policy of unconditional surrender is absolutely wrong. Why? One of the greatest difficulties we have to face is the settlement of the country, and if we persist in the demand for unconditional surrender, we shall impede the attainment of a satisfactory settlement and a durable peace. Let me explain why. I hardly know any case of a war where some terms have not been given. I believe the terms are much more likely to be kept, and the two races are more likely to live together in friendship, if you make terms with the Boers by agreement, than if you make them a free gift as conquerors. Let me for a moment, in order to avoid any misunderstanding, say what, in my opinion, ought to be the general terms. I am against suing for peace. I believe that is impossible. I believe that, either in public despatches or in some way or another, information should be given, not as to the exact, but as to the general terms, on which peace should be discussed. I admit that independence is impossible. We on this side of the House, as well as his Majesty's Government, have declared, and I do declare again, that the granting of independence to the Boers after the terrible sacrifices that the country has made is impossible. But there are other points. I do not know that whenever terms have been discussed there has been any very serious difference as to what the future government of the country shall be. I do not for a moment say that constitutional self-government, such as is enjoyed by Australia and Canada, should be granted at once. The country must 18 be settled. There must be an interval before such arrangements can be carried out. Then I come to the matter of amnesty. It would be impossible for the people to live side by side with the Boers unless a very liberal amnesty was conceded. I would venture to cite the words used by Abraham Lincoln, in connexion with the great civil war, as to the duty of the victors to the vanquished—because the situation in South Africa is very much like that in America at the end of the struggle between North and South:—With malice towards none, with charity towards all, with firm determination in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on in the work we are now in—to bind up the open wound, to care for the man who has borne the battle, and for his widow and orphans, and to do everything that may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace between ourselves and all nations.Those are noble sentiments, and they embody the principles on which we should approach the final settlement of this question. There is one thing in addition I should like to call attention to in regard to the war, and that is the want of information as to what is going on in South Africa. I do not say it would be possible for the Government, or any Government, to allow indiscriminate newspaper correspondence. I believe that to be most mischievous, and that a certain censorship of the Press is indispensable; but I cannot help thinking that His Majesty's Government—and I use those words because I imagine they are responsible—might with great advantage have allowed more information to be given to the public, and have supplied more themselves.
I will take two instances connected with the war, of a political character. We know from the newspapers that two very serious things have been done in Cape Colony. The Cape Constitution has been suspended, and martial law has been proclaimed. I, for one, say at once that I can quite understand that both of these things may be necessary; but we have the right to ask when law is suspended—or I will put it in another way, and say that, if the law is broken, even in the interests of the public, we should know why this precaution is taken, and also when this state of things will be put an end to. As far as I understand it, the law says that once a year the Parliament of the Cape Colony shall be called together. The Parliament 19 of the Cape Colony has not been called together for more than a year. Now it is most desirable that the Governor of a self-governing colony should act according to the advice of his responsible Ministers, but the case is altered when it comes to an actual infringement of the law. It may be argued that the action was necessary, but we ought to know whether the Colonial Government did this with the support of His Majesty's Ministers; and I would go further and ask whether His Majesty's Government intend to bring in a Bill to legalize the action that has been taken. With regard to the second instance, I do not argue that it was wrong to establish martial law; but I think I am right in saying that it has been accepted on the most distinguished authority that martial law is practically no law. Martial law is stated by Lord Hale—To be in truth no law, but sometimes rather indulged than allowed as a law, and it can only be tolerated, because by reason of open rebellion, the enforcing of any other law has become impossible. It cannot be said in strictness to supersede the ordinary tribunals, inasmuch as it only exists by reason of those tribunals having been practically superseded.That is a weighty opinion. I would call attention to a remarkable declaration by Lord Carnarvon in a despatch which he wrote after the Jamaica rebellion in 1867:—You will see that under regulation 3, it is provided that Courts-martial shall consist of at least three members. I think it right to observe on this particular rule, that whenever capital punishment is awarded so small a number as three officers is most undesirable….Nothing short of an unavoidable necessity would justify the infliction of capital punishment on the authority of only three officers.In the present war has that injunction been set aside or has it been carried out? From information which has reached us, I understand there have been a great many cases where the Court-martial has only consisted of three persons, although capital cases have been tried. In 1900 an Act was passed by the Cape Parliament to create a new tribunal to try treason prisoners without a jury. That Act was only in force for a year, but why was not that precedent continued? And with regard to this particular point, I would refer to the important language which was used in a speech made in 1851, by the greatest general we had in the last century, the Duke of Wellington, with reference to 20 proceedings in Ceylon. The Duke said:—He had in another country carried on martial law—that was to say, that he had governed a large proportion of the population of a country by his own will. But then what did he do? He declared that the country should be governed according to its own natural laws, and he carried into execution that will. He governed the country strictly by the laws of the country, and he governed it with such moderation, he must say, that political servants, and Judges, who at first had fled on being expelled, afterwards consented to act under his direction. The Judges sat in the Court of law, conducting their judicial business and administering the law under his direction.That is a remarkable declaration coming from an illustrious person, and it encourages me to press forward the question as to why during recent proceedings, those who appointed Courts-martial did not use civilians or lawyers on those tribunals.
I now turn to other topics. I endorse every word that was said by the noble Earl who seconded the Address with regard to the Nicaraguan inter-oceanic canal scheme. Your Lordships will all agree as to the great importance of the treaty. No doubt it has materially affected a treaty of very old standing, the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty; at the same time a treaty made so long ago could not face the changed circumstances of the present day; and, as we obtain, as I understand it, all the advantages we require in connection with this important inter-oceanic communication, we must rejoice that His Majesty's Government have had the courage to carry through this treaty, and I congratulate them upon it.
That part of the Speech from the Throne which is addressed to both Houses of Parliament, touches upon the different measures which the Government intend to bring forward. The first question is one which, I presume, will be introduced by the noble duke, the Lord President of the Council. I agree with what has been said as to the enormous importance of a large and adequate educational measure, to the whole interests of the country. We cannot stand still at the present moment, in face of the competition we have with our own colonies and with foreign nations, and in face of the enormous advance in their system of education. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that a wide, adequate, and sufficient measure of national education should be brought 21 forward. But there is a curious phrase in this part of the Speech:—Proposals for the co-ordination and improvement of primary and secondary education will be laid before you.What is the meaning of "the co-ordination and improvement of primary and secondary education"? It may be a system in which we all agree; but if it means an enormous change, for instance, in the management of primary education, then I think it will be difficult for the Government, even with their large majority, to carry it through the other House. We should look with grave suspicion and considerable animosity on any measure, if we thought that it would upset the main lines of the settlement arrived at by the Acts of 1870. We shall endeavour to secure that the management of education of all sorts is satisfactory and completely under popular control. We shall not be favourable to any measure to build up and strengthen mere denominational management; and we should vigorously oppose any proposal in our large towns to overthrow and destroy the School Boards which have done so much good to the country.
There are topics of considerable interest and value in other portions of the Speech from the Throne. There is the question of land purchase in Ireland. That will be a question of immense interest, particularly to myself, as I have had, during a long career in Ireland, great experience of the working and even of the framing of measures for the management and sale of land. But in the Speech from the Throne there is no reference to the condition of Ireland. I am afraid that the condition of Ireland has not improved within the last year. We hear that a considerable number of Members, representing constituencies in Ireland, have been tried and convicted, and some of them are in prison. This is an indication that the condition of Ireland is anything but satisfactory; and I should like to hear what the Government have to say on that subject.
There is also a reference to the question of improving the law of valuation. I see the noble Lord, the chairman of an important Commission (Lord Balfour) in his place, and this measure may spring from his Commission, and if it does will open out a gigantic question. I should be glad if it did, because there are recommendations made by that Commission which 22 I should gladly see carried, and which will effect an enormous reform, and will relieve the great pressure, not only in counties but in towns, and will be of the greatest possible value. But the phrase in the Speech is so vague that we hardly know how far that measure will go. With regard to temperance, we have had considerable difficulty with that question in this House in recent years, and the Government have not certainly persisted with measures for improving the temperance of the country, or in helping to carry out the almost unanimous Reports of the great Commission which they appointed on this subject. I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to give some explanation of the points which I consider of great importance.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND LORD PRIVY SEAL (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, my first duty is to thank my two noble friends behind me for the very admirable and remarkable speeches which they have contributed to our deliberations this evening. The noble lord who moved the Address bears a name which is dear to us on this side of the House. I think it was Lord Rosebery who noticed once in this House that there were three members of the house of Harrow by who had occupied a seat in the Cabinet. They are no doubt a very distinguished family which my noble friend represents, and from what we have heard to-night there are grounds for believing that he will adequately bear out the traditions of his family. Of my noble friend Lord Lytton let me say that I have a recollection of having heard in the House of Commons from his grandfather some of the most brilliant speeches I have ever heard; and there could be no greater tribute to what I may call the deterrent power of this House than the fact that the first Lord Lytton could never be induced to open his mouth here. The second Lord Lytton, whose friendship I enjoyed for many years, was a man of very great ability, and in this House he delivered some speeches of great value. But it is more the power he exercised over the native and English subjects of the Queen in India that has consecrated for him in the memory of that country a very unique position; and I feel in welcoming here an inheritor of his name and his talents, who appears to be well worthy 23 of the inheritance that has fallen to him, that we are marking one step in the forward progress of those statesmanlike qualities by which this House has been for so many generations distinguished.
I cannot part from the more personal aspect of that with which I have to deal without expressing the deepest regret felt on every bench in the House that Lord Kimberley's health does not allow him to resume his duties at present. We earnestly join the noble earl in hoping that the disability may be of short continuance. There is no man whose active work in this House I have seen who has left such a general impression of calmness and impartiality as Lord Kimberley did during the long time when he filled a prominent position in this House. I earnestly hope that his absence will not be prolonged, but at the same time I am bound to say that the substitute he has left behind is one who is extremely sympathetic to all who sit on this side. I do not know that it is necessary for me to follow the noble Earl's speech step by step. The difficulty I have had is that there are so many points with which I agree that I cannot always be certain of picking out those with respect to which I differ. But I was very glad to hear the testimony that he bore to the feelings which have been elicited by the voyage of the Prince and Princess of Wales, and how much we, who are deeply interested in the maintenance of the Empire, owe to the exertions of his Royal Highness, and to the influence which the Princess has had on all who came into contact with her. As I have said, I agree with the noble Earl too much to be able to meet him with the clash of swords which is decorous on these occasions. For two years I have been very severely censured for having said that we never could admit that the Boers should retain a shred of independence. I adhere entirely to the language I used, though I am afraid it did not entirely please Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. But I was glad to hear the noble Earl, without unnecessary adornments of phrase, state that the independence of the Boers was impossible. With that I concur.
The noble Lord then spoke of future arrangements. He spoke of them as being in harmony with the general practice of our colonial Empire—the liberal and successful practice—but he was very careful to avoid pledging him- 24 self as to the matter of time; and he is wise enough to know that it does not depend entirely upon us, how much time there should be between our final victory and the constitution of the new state of affairs. Again I am very much pleased to shelter myself under the broad defence of the noble Lord's wisdom and reputation, because I have also been blamed for saying that it was utterly uncertain when it would be possible for us to return to the normal relations which have been so long established between our colonies and the Mother-country. These things must be left to work themselves out, as the current of events shall determine. I do not think that it is possible for us to deal with these matters, except in a purely hypothetical spirit. There is nothing that is more difficult, and nothing that is less profitable, than to try and determine beforehand what course you will take in the event of contingencies, whose arrival, whose bent, and whose general character, it is impossible for you to foresee. And that is my answer to many questions of the noble Earl's, which really resolve themselves into this—What would you do on this occasion or that? I reply that we, or whoever is in our position, will do whatever the circumstances, under our eyes, may dictate to us. It is impossible for us to foresee this circumstance, or to foretell what course it will be necessary to take in that circumstance. The noble Earl spoke of terms. His view of the natural order of things appeared to be this. That when one nation has, absolutely without any international provocation whatever, invaded the territory of another nation, it is then the duty of that other nation, after it has defeated the first, to go and ask on what terms they will consent to be forgiven. It is impossible for us to ask them on what terms they will be forgiven.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
.—Yes, but the noble Earl contradicted it afterwards. It is easy to lay down a wise generality and then to strip it of all its application. We cannot tell what the contingencies may be, and therefore we are unable to answer the questions of the noble Earl. But I entirely repudiate the idea that it is our business, having been gratuitously and unreason- 25 ably attacked, to come forward and say on what terms we will forgive our assailants, when our assailants have not even got so far as this—as to wish to be forgiven. When they do, it will be quite time for those who have the disposal of events to say on what terms peace will be accorded; but it is not our business to come forward to people who, in every word they utter, repudiate the very notion that they should sue for peace; nor is it our business to make promises in order to induce them to depart from the line which they have drawn for themselves, or to throw out future amnesties, Constitutions, and the rest, as so many baits to persuade them to abate that vigorous attitude with which they have broken the peace, despised the rights of this country, and covered the dominions of the King with misery and desolation. If they wish for peace, let them come and tell us so; and until they do so, I think we had better say as little about it as possible.
The noble Earl then passed to other controversies, the first of which, perhaps, was the question how many special correspondents you are bound to allow at the front; and, if you have special correspondents, I suppose you will have to settle the terms on which they are appointed. I should like a list of the qualifications which the noble Earl thinks necessary for the special correspondents who are to be imposed upon the Generals working at the front, and to whom, no doubt, they will communicate, for such discussion as they choose, all the plans which they have in view. There are many new things in these days; but this is the newest method of conducting warfare that I have ever heard of. I shall not be surprised to hear next that the noble Earl has proposed to conduct war by contract, and to derive much of the expenses of it by the circulation of news supplied by special correspondents.
Of a number of points on which the noble Earl touched, that which he spoke on with the greatest insistence was the question of martial law. One difficulty which I have in dealing with that matter is that I am informed through the usual channels of information that a noble Lord intends to challenge in the Courts the application of martiallaw—I refer to Lord Hobhouse—and as long as this question may be a matter of discussion before tribunals I have some doubts 26 whether it is entirely expedient to discuss it in detail before this House. In the first place, we have several distinguished lawyers, like the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who would feel themselves bound not to give an opinion in a legislative capacity if they may be called upon to give an opinion in a judicial capacity. I do not think we can discuss the matter with advantage if we enter upon it now before this litigious question has been disposed of. But if I can express my own opinion, which is of little value, but which for the sake of candour I should like to express, it is that if the local Government or the military authorities, in the middle of a long and anxious war, are not able to use the authority of martial law, I think it is high time that Parliament gave them that authority. It is perfectly impossible that the military authorities should conduct their difficult operations with any prospect of success if their hands are tied behind them by litigious difficulties which a thorough knowledge of the Statute-book might enable their critics to place in their way. If martial law does not exist, it ought to be established. I will give you only one reason for adopting it—a reason which has been brought home to us very clearly. How are you to conduct, for instance, such a war as we have been conducting, if you have not the legal power to stop those treacherous members of the community who are introducing ammunition for the support of the enemy? That has been a real and practical question; and unless you allow the exercise of an authority somewhat in excess of that given by the common law you cannot prevent that secret assistance of our enemies, which only prolongs the war, and increases the bloodshed and misery. It is absolutely necessary that our Generals should have the power to supersede the ordinary powers that they possess under the civil law in order to ensure, not only that the enemy in the field, but also that the silent enemy behind him, is not using his liberty to impede the progress of the Generals and to diminish the chance of an early arrest of the war.
This question of martial law goes to the root of the matter. If you will not grant martial law in the countries where war is raging, you had better give up the idea of waging war altogether. But I admit that it is a matter which 27 requires to be watched with the utmost care. There ought to be a thorough review at the hands of competent authorities of all great acts of martial law. I do not say that they ought to be judged under the common law; but they must be judged by common sense—by that great referee which in these international struggles must obviously be dominant. But you must be content that your ordinary doctrines shall not be always regarded. The noble Earl said something about acts of indemnity. I agree that that is a matter on which the Parliament of this country will have to be satisfied that the law has only been set aside on grounds of real necessity. I do not say while the war is going on. But in disposing of the matter Parliament must determine on those indemnities which are necessary in order to clear the position, not only of the soldier, not only of those who act under the direct warrant of His Majesty, but also of the authorities and instruments of the Cape Government, who are themselves very largly implicated in all the irregular proceedings to which the war may make it necessary to resort. But I do not in the least discourage the noble Earl from bringing it on, or the idea of the necessity for the two Houses of Parliament to watch with the most careful jealousy the exercise of powers which, no doubt, if unrestrained, might be very dangerous to the liberty of the subject. I do not know that I have anything else to say in respect of the noble Earl's speech.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY.
—I put that under martial law. It is the same thing. [EARL SPENCER indicated dissent.] No doubt the superseding of a Constitution is not the ordinary business of a Governor here or there; and it is only under the greatest exigencies that such a thing could be done. But the power of doing it must necessarily lie somewhere, with the duty of giving afterwards the reason why it was done, and of coming to the supreme Parliament of Great Britain for the indemnity which must follow. All that I wish to say is, consider the position you are in. If your desire is only to make a good case against His Majesty's Government, I should not 28 wish to impede that very harmless and estimable pursuit. I would rather say that if we could induce noble Lords to satisfy themselves with belabouring His Majesty's Government, and not to say or do things which interfere with the progress of the war, I should think that I had made a very satisfactory bargain. But what I wish clearly to press upon the noble Lord is that we are not dealing merely with the question whether a good case can be made out against His Majesty's Government. I quite agree that if there is a case against His Majesty's Government it should be made; but the noble Lord must remember that the constitutional fiction is that you cannot include in your condemnation only His Majesty's Government, you must include also the great military and civil officers on whom the strength of our Empire out there wholly depends. They also are responsible, and you must deal with them. You must not allow yourselves to imagine for a moment that you can belabour His Majesty's Government and can spare the great authorities to whom the execution of these powers is entrusted. And therefore I would plead for very considerable care in the apportionment of your praise or blame to those great officers. If it were possible by any ingenious contrivance that you could store up a kind of compensating vituperation for his Majesty's Government in regard to each matter in respect to which you were more generous to the great officers of State, again I say that would be, from our point of view, a very happy determination. But again I say this cannot be done, at least I fear it cannot be done, Therefore I ask noble Lords to consider that very serious national and Imperial interests are now dependant on the course which Parliament in its two Houses may take. Let us consider two things, merely as theories, merely as hypotheses. Supposing you were induced by any agitation at home, or by any of those strange disturbances which occur in the working of the constitutional machine, to allow this war on which you have entered to terminate in a manner not very honourable to your arms, or at all events not corresponding to the language with which you entered into it, do you imagine that you would not feel that result in every quarter of the globe? Do you think people would look on your allowing this wretched little 29 population to beat you down—do you think that in other parts of the world, and there is hardly a part of the world where your flag does not fly, malcontent minorities would not also take advantage of every chance in order to exact from you the kind of semi-submission which you are exhorted to pay to the Boers and rebels who are in arms against you? That would be one fatal result; there would be worse. Still supposing—suppose you were induced to concede some of those arrangements which are concealed under the denunciation of unconditional surrender, suppose you were to allow to be fixed in a corner of your dominions a people with the power of making arrangements with foreign nations, a people with the power of accumulating arms and of raising again the authorities which we have with difficulty cast down. Suppose that this province, though it may be called a suzerain province, though every kind of verbal subtlety may be brought into practice, as was brought into practice in 1884 to conceal the reality of the submission, suppose all these things were done, would you have gained? For a long time forward you would there have a population hating you, and, according to human nature, after what has passed, with every cause to hate you. You would have an invitation to foreign Powers to undertake intrigues which might be rich with territorial aggrandisement to them, and this people would have an opportunity of wresting from you the independence which you deny them now, and which you could only at the cost of great exertion take away.
My Lords, these things may come if you allow the pressure of certain interested or certain fanatical elements in this country to drive you from that which is your clear duty—to make the King supreme in these two colonies of Africa. If you shrink from that, if you try to remember any old-world traditions or imaginary duties, if you do not bear in mind that in these colonies you must have the supreme power of keeping foreigners at a distance, and of preventing the accumulation of magazines under which we have so terribly suffered, if you do not do that, you will be merely preparing for yourself at a very short distance of time a renewal of this struggle with all its sorrows, with all its losses, and it may be under circumstances less favourable than you enjoy at present. I entreat 30 you, my Lords—attack, condemn, vituperate His Majesty's Government as much as you will, but for Heaven's sake do not allow your eagerness in pursuit of this laudable aim, do not allow your eagerness to maintain and improve your party position, to make you forget that we are dealing at this moment with an issue which shall determine whether you are victors in this South African conflict or not, and whether you have for many years to come to bear all the dangers, all the embarrassments, all the difficulties which are imposed upon you by any failure, however slight, in the task which before all the world you have undertaken.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I hope you will excuse me if, before this debate closes, I offer a few remarks, I hope in a less polemical and controversial spirit than usual. It is, perhaps, hardly fitting that in this House, on which the noble Marquess has uttered so glowing a eulogy, the debate on the Address to the Crown should terminate simply with the speeches of the mover and seconder and of the two leaders in this House. It is, I acknowledge, no part of my business to enter into the personal questions which have been so ably dealt with by the two noble Lords. But I should be wanting to myself if I did not say I share the regret which they have so well expressed for the unavoidable absence of—I was going to say our noble friend—Lord Kimberley, who has attracted in so singular a degree the confidence and affection of this House. I welcome my noble friend's action on his behalf, and I only hope on behalf of my noble friend that he may equal the esteem with which this House rewarded Lord Kimberley, for I am quite sure he cannot surpass it. And, again, let me go beyond my measure in congratulating the mover and the seconder of the Address. I hope the mover, whose name represents so long an historical tradition of political eminence, will forgive me if I dwell more on the speech of the seconder, for it is my deliberate judgment, having heard too many movers and seconders in this House, though not I confess, all since I have been a member of it, that his speech stands out as by far the best that has ever been delivered in my hearing on such an occasion. The noble Marquess on a remarkable occasion last year spoke of the extreme difficulty 31 —I do not know why—of procuring junior members for his Government. I think the mover and seconder to-night will remove part of that difficulty, and his embarrassment will rather be one of riches than of poverty in the future.
I said I hoped not to address you in a polemical spirit to-night, or very slightly so; and that is partly due to the speech of the noble Marquess, who, I think, gracefully evaded the points which were laboured by my noble friend behind me, and set up a bolster or dummy of his own, which he pummelled with most refreshing vigour. But it is also due to the character of the Speech from the Throne, of which, if it is not disrespectful to say it, one may remark that a more jejune speech was never placed on the lips of any Monarch. That occurred to me on reading it, and it occurred to me also on hearing the speeches which referred to it. The noble Lords have had to soar far beyond the limits of the Speech in order to find topics on which they could dilate, As regards the domestic part of the Speech, it can be dismissed in a very few words. We see it can be dismissed in a very few words if only for the reason that the First Lord of the Treasury in a recent speech told us that, after the House of Commons had dealt with finance and with procedure, there would be very little time left for any considerable measures. And, therefore, when I read the ingenious paragraph which ends the King's Speech, and which refers to measures as to the existence of which I am sceptical, but as to the production of which I am wholly an unbeliever, I confess I feel a sense of vacuity, which, I think, has not been absent from the other noble Lords who have discussed the subject. I observe, by-the-by, that an old friend on which we, in this House, spent so much time last year, and on which, I believe, somewhat less time was taken in preparation—I mean the Bill with regard to the King's declaration—does not appear in any form.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I do not know what that mystic allusion portends. I remember that we were cheered towards the end of last Session by an interruption 32 of the noble Marquess which gave such hope to the supporters of the Bill that an eloquent Bishop delivered an enthusiastic speech founded on that interruption alone. It is with an approach to disappointment, if anything can disappoint a politician after many years of public life, that I feel convinced that we shall not see our old and controversial friend once more. As to the Education Bill, the mover of the Address, I believe, expressed a hope that it would be discussed in an uncontroversial spirit. If so, it is unlike any other Education Bill of which we have any record, and singularly unlike previous Bills on this subject produced by His Majesty's Government. But the Bill rests on the laps of the gods, which may be taken for the present purpose to be the lap of the Lord President of the Council. As to the Bill for amending the law relating to the sale of intoxicating liquors, I look to the Bishop of Winchester, and I cannot help wondering if any wild hope of temperance reforms really fills his bosom after his experience of last year. In the Episcopal bosom a more sanguine spirit may lurk than that which inspires mere secular individuals. He must, indeed, have it in an abundant measure if he has any hope now after his experience of last year.
My Lords, I do not think we need dilate at any length on the domestic promises of the Government, though I hope it will not be disrespectful to say that I do not found any extravagant hopes on them. No, the questions which occupy our minds are, in their essence, external. There is, of course, the war. My noble friend behind me expressed disappointment that there was no intimation in the Speech from the Throne as to the date at which the war might reasonably be expected to terminate. I do not share that disappointment. I am, indeed, a little surprised that he expressed it. He should have known that the war was officially over sixteen months ago, and, as to the duration of the unofficial warfare which still rages in South Africa, I am quite sure, after a uniform failure of every prediction which the Government has hazarded with respect to those operations, that he cannot very much wish that the Prime Minister should add to their number. The Prime Minister, however, passing by the laborious argu- 33 ments of my noble friend with regard to martial law, which he dismissed, I think, as a matter before the Courts, dealt with a bogey, if I may so express myself, which he set up for the purpose of displaying his oratorical vigour. It consisted in saying that if in any Government there was a tendency found to give the States now annexed to the Crown the power of treaty-making, of importing arms, and of entertaining foreign relations with other countries, that Government would deserve all that his peroration awarded to it. That was an otiose remark. I do not think that any Government in this country is in the least likely to repeat the magnanimity, or the mistake, whichever you like to call it, which was committed in 1881; and, therefore, I confess I should have been glad if the noble Marquess had kept more strictly to the point, and had given us definite and Ministerial assurances on the question which my noble friend put to him, instead of soaring into these oratorical platitudes.
As to martial law, there are two points to be raised. One of them which certainly was not raised by my noble friend was why it was not declared before. I quite agree with the Prime Minister that it is a necessary operation of war. I entirely support the declaration of martial law; but, if my information is correct with regard to martial law, you shut the stable door after the horses were stolen or imported into the enemy's country, and it was not until the enemy had been deriving for nearly two years supplies, owing to the absence of martial law, that His Majesty's Government thought fit to declare it. That is a point on which we should like some information. The other point is with regard to its administration. I quite admit that in one sense martial law is no law at all; and I was pleased at my noble friend, who said he was not at all conversant with law, but was able to quote with so much fluency and readiness from Lord Hale. But it does deserve a little consideration as to who should administer it. I hear stories—I do not quote them, because I could not give chapter and verse for them—of the harsh and unfeeling administration of martial law by some of the subaltern officers to whom it has been entrusted; and I hope that in this, as in so many other cases with regard to the South 34 African War, we shall recollect that we are dealing not altogether with an enemy's country, but with a country which is to remain for ever part of the dominions of the British Crown.
I have heard of one case which I can quote, but it is a triviality. One of my friends—who does not sit on that side of the House, but who is charged with unduly supporting the policy of the Government—delivered a speech in which he made some very slight criticisms of His Majesty's Administration, and he received it back from his correspondent with a passage scratched out and the signature of the subaltern officer who had scratched it out in the margin. I quite admit that it is injudicious that rash statements, which might be likely to encourage the Boers, should be allowed to reach them, but I do not think that innocent criticisms of this kind should be liable to excision at the hands of a subaltern officer in South Africa. That is nearly all I have to say on the question of the war. We cannot tell whether it is being prosecuted efficiently, but we believe that it is. We have faith in the generals, in the officers, and in the soldiers whom you employ; and therefore I do not think it is necessary, in a debate of this kind, to enter at any length into the questions relating to the war. There is, however, one other important question relating to the war, as to which I should like to ask a question of the Government. I said the other day in a long speech which I had the misfortune to make that I was in favour of a passive policy of peace—that is, of receiving overtures when they should be made, even if they were made by the exiled Boer Government in Europe. The Times, I think it was, commenting on that said that no such overtures had been received. Some time has elapsed since then. I do not know whether The Times information is correct or not, but I should like to know whether there have been any overtures.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
Ah! as usual, the newspapers are misinformed on matters of this kind. I see that the Dutch Prime Minister was over here recently. I do not suppose he came over to see the old masters. He remained two or three days in this country, and we 35 were specially and officially told that he saw no Cabinet Minister and was over here only on private business. I suppose that is just the sort of announcement which makes one believe that he came here with business in his eye.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
The noble Marquess evidently did not see him. But there are other external questions which interest us. The Colonial Secretary the other day made a speech in which he boasted at some length of the diplomatic achievements of the Government. I did not know that the Government were very proud of their diplomatic achievements. I think we have always been accustomed to pass them sub silentio in the House from a tactful feeling that such was the case, but when Mr. Chamberlain trails his diplomatic coat and invites anybody to tread on it, it is going almost beyond human nature to suppose that we shall pass over entirely in silence the remarks he has made. He contrasted, I think very favourably, the diplomacy of the Government with that of the late Government, and he said that the late Government lived under a very strange delusion if they thought that they were universally beloved in Europe. I can assure you my lords that the late Government cherished no delusion of the kind. When a British Government is universally beloved in Europe the period of the millennium will be on us. I cherish no illusion of the kind. But the late Government were not universally detested. That is the difference between the position in which we find the country now and the position as we left it. I challenge the Government to mention any country in Europe where, rightly or wrongly, the British name is not held in hostility compared with which all previous records pale into insignificance. Now, I say that that is a very dangerous state of things. It is a matter which I regret has not been touched on earlier this evening. It is one that we cannot separate from our discussion. The 36 Colonial Secretary told us, as an example or instance of the imbecility of the late Government in foreign affairs, that the present Government succeeded to no less than six unsettled questions with which they had been able to deal. I can only tell the Colonial Secretary that if the present Government only succeeded to six unsettled questions they were much more fortunate than any Government of which I have any cognizance. If he had said 16 or even 60 I should not have been greatly surprised. This does not cast any reflection on the Ministers going out, for the simple reason that the settlement of foreign questions requires the assent of two parties, and no foreign Minister, however eminent or capable he is, can secure the assent of those parties without exceptional skill and opportunity. What were these questions? I do not pretend to enumerate them all from memory. There was Venezuela. The Venezuelan question arose out of a matter which was very nearly a century old, and therefore if the late Government transmitted it to the present Government it is not an alarming example of laxity on their part. I rejoice that the Venezuelan question was settled by the Government, but I honestly confess that the whole history of that negotiation is not one upon which we can look back with special pride and complacency, and I do not think it is one that I should wish to bring forward if I were boasting of the foreign policy of the Government. Then there were the question of Siam and the question of Samoa. They were settled by the present Government. That of Samoa was settled by the simplest of all processes—the handing over of Samoa to the party who wanted it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
There were three parties in the matter—England, Germany, and America. How was it possible for any responsible Government to go on under that system? We agreed that we would surrender our part to Germany, receiving corresponding privileges from her in exchange.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
That is exactly what I said; and I do not know that it was not a perfectly desirable and businesslike operation in all the circumstances of the case. But on those principles you can settle any question whatever. Then you settled the question of Siam very nearly on the same principle. You very nearly settled Siam itself. All that we had contended for, or nearly all, you handed over to the other side. As to the fortress of Chantabun, the evacuation of which had formerly been promised, you made a large angle in the line of demarcation in order that it should be permanently alienated from Siam.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It is perfectly true that the noble Lord had left proposals for erecting a buffer State of Chinese between Siam and China, but we gave no kind of encouragement to that proposal, which we thought was exceedingly unwise. We really had nothing whatever to do with it.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
You made a line of demarcation by agreement with the French. At the same time the noble Marquess has reminded me of another point, and I am obliged to him. It is that we got rid of the buffer State and surrendered British territory, which was a thing of which we should have heard a good deal if it had been done by a Liberal Government. I will not go further into these matters. I do not think the noble Marquess's controversial contribution adds much to the interest of the argument. But I want to point out that before boasting of foreign policy it is necessary to go more into detail and discuss these questions on the facts of the case. The noble Earl behind me asked for some information as to China. That was not one of the diplomatic achievements of the Colonial Secretary. The net result of the policy of the Government with regard to China appears to be that we have an agreement with Germany which Germany authoritatively contrues one way and we another. If there is any other net result the Government can point to I shall be glad to hear it at a later period of the debate.
Then I had occasion to say that we were extremely unpopular at this moment in Europe, and I confess I see in that a certain danger which seems almost to gratify some members of His Majesty's 38 Government, but which must cause anxiety to all who wish well to their country. For the spirit and the words of the Colonial Secretary's speech the other day in the controversy upon which he has entered I have nothing but commendation. I think it was a proper answer to give, but I confess I am a little anxious about these controversies with Germany or with other Powers, to which the dialectics of the Colonial Secretary have so singularly contributed. I dread, and I think the reader of every newspaper dreads, his excursions from the legitimate colonial sphere into that of our foreign relations. When is this system going to stop? You may have a spirited repartee from some other country, and then we must rejoin to that. All this time the fever of national animosity is growing, not on one side of the Channel, but, I am sorry to say, on both; and you must, if my opinion is worth anything, prepare yourselves, providing you go on as you are proceeding now, to maintain by efficient measures that position of splendid isolation which for some strange reason you consider the most desirable one for this country.
This leads me to ask what it is you are doing with regard to preparation to maintain our military position. You cannot dissociate foreign policy from the question of your military strength. I do not wish to use any rash or incautious words, but I do feel from the bottom of my heart that the Government which prides itself on being divorced from all common sentiment with any other European country cannot be too strong. It is well to have an overpowering Fleet. Other nations have fleets too. What is the condition of your Army? You have an enormous force (for us) locked up in South Africa. You are now sending out reinforcements to fill up the necessary gaps in that Army. What are the measures you have taken with that intention? So far as we know you have summoned 2,000 Yeomanry at 5s. a day to your standard, and 10,000 Volunteers at a shilling a day simultaneously to your assistance. That may be an efficient measure. It may be a great result of the elaborate Army scheme of the past year, but I confess it inspires me with no confidence at all. I do not know what military authorities like my noble friend the Duke of Bedford opposite, who made so able a contribution to the 39 military question the other day, may think of such preparations as these, but I confess they fill me with grave disquietude. In ordinary times and with an ordinary Government which conducted its foreign relations in an ordinary way, this matter would, perhaps, be less formidable. But at the present time our condition of preparation is cause for some disquietude, I think, among reasonable men. Where are the six corps ďarmée? I thought the opportunity would be taken now to forward some divisions from those hosts to South Africa, but, as far as I can make out, they are non-existent. I say this is a matter which does deserve the attention of your Lordships, and which, I hope, will not escape attention in your future debates. I hope I have not broken my pledge, except in this instance of foreign affairs, of speaking non-polemically to-night, and I thank you heartedly for the attention with which you have listened to me.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE)
My Lords, I do not think your Lordships will desire me at this hour of the evening to make a long speech. The custom of this House offers many facilities for discussion, and I think we may look forward to debates on some of the important points which have been raised by the different speakers to-night. But I do not wish to appear wanting in respect to the two noble Lords on the other side. I wish to take notice at once, very briefly, of a question which was put to me by the noble Earl opposite in regard to China. I shall, of course, be glad, following the precedent of last session, to be interrogated by him on the subject of China whenever it may suit him to do so. Perhaps it will suffice this evening if I tell him that since we last met, although progress in China is, as we well know, very slow, it is possible to say that events have moved, upon the whole, in the direction which we should desire. The Court has gone back to Peking. That event is very variously regarded by different people; but to me it seems that we are much more likely to be able to come to a satisfactory arrangement with China if we have at the capital a recognised and established Government with whom it is possible to deal in the usual form. Since last year we have diminished our military forces in China. 40 A year ago we had no less than 16,000 troops in that country; six months ago, 11,000; and to-day we have only 6,000. I hope we may be able before long to make still further reductions. That, of course, must depend largely upon the condition of the country and also upon the action of foreign Powers with regard to the withdrawal of their troops. I am sure it will not be your Lordships' desire that this country should be inadequately represented in the matter of military strength in comparison with the other Powers who maintain forces in those regions. We have resumed negotiations at Shanghai for the purpose of dealing with many questions concerning the commercial interests of this country. These negotiations have just commenced. We have appointed as our principal representative Sir James Mackay, a gentleman who has earned a very considerable reputation as a conspicuous member of the mercantile community in India, and who has held office as a member of the Council both of the Viceroy of India and of the Secretary of State in London. I should be inclined to say that if ever there was a person typical of that kind of business man whom the noble Earl below the gangway desires so much to see in official employment, Sir James Mackay merits that description. I will say a very few words only with regard to the speech of the noble Earl below the gangway, and I must express the deep regret with which I heard him proclaim to this House and to the country that we are universally detested in every country of the world.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
In Europe. My Lords, I will go so far as to say that, even if that statement had some foundation of truth, it is not a statement that should have been proclaimed by a person of the noble Earl's weight in the councils of the nation. Nor, indeed, am I, for one, prepared to admit that this is a true statement. I believe it is perfectly true that we enjoy a very great and a very inconvenient amount of unpopularity upon the Continent in consequence of the war now proceeding in South Africa. The spectacle of a great Power belabouring a weak Power always provokes a natural sympathy for the weak Power, and that 41 sympathy not infrequently takes a somewhat hysterical shape. I think if we were to look back to our own annals we should find cases in which there have been outbursts, of popular indignation upon similar occasions a good deal exceeding the real requirements of the occasion. But, my Lords, because we are unpopular in Europe on account of the war in South Africa, I for one certainly do not admit that our position in regard to the great Powers of Europe is an unsatisfactory or an undignified position. I believe, on the contrary, that the manner in which this country has demeaned itself during the South African war, the manner in which the war has brought out the solidarity of the Empire and the amount of support which is forthcoming for us from our great colonies—I believe all that has gone to increase immensely the respect and I will say the esteem, with which we are regarded in other countries. Then, my Lords, the noble Earl took exception to the statement of the Colonial Secretary that the present Government had been successful in a large number of cases in dealing with outstanding difficulties which had not been surmounted by the late Government. The noble Marquess behind me (Lord Salisbury), whose familiarity with these cases, as they were dealt with by him and not by me, must obviously be greater than mine, was able in each case to question the correctness of the noble Earl's criticisms. But, after all, his criticism so far as I have been able to follow only comes to this, that if the present Government had been successful in dealing with those cases, they were cases for the existence of which the noble Earl's Government was not responsible, because they existed long before his time. The fact remains that these cases have been settled, and for the life of me I cannot see why the Colonial Secretary was not justified in referring to the fact.
The noble Earl concluded his remarks by dwelling on the gravity of the military situation in South Africa, and asking His Majesty's Government what we were doing in order to deal with it. I cannot help thinking that, if the noble Earl desires information upon military questions of this kind, he would do well to put a notice upon the Paper and to challenge us to provide the information for which he seeks. If it is his contention that we are sitting 42 with folded hands and doing nothing or nothing sufficient to cope with the emergency in South Africa, I would venture to remind him that we have constantly maintained in that country a force of over 200,000 men, that that force has been constantly replenished, and that we have at this moment hardly an empty barrack in the United Kingdom. That seems to me to show that we are dealing adequately with this great military problem. As for reforms, a scheme of reforms of a very thorough nature was announced last year by the Secretary of State for War, and I am almost tempted to remind the noble Earl that on more than one occasion he has intimated his own belief that what he once called organic changes ought not to be undertaken until the war was over. We do not go quite so far as that. We think that as far as possible we should make a beginning with organic changes whenever we can detect that such changes are clearly desirable, and those changes are being made, and we are fully prepared to defend them. But our main object, the object at which it will be universally admitted we should aim, is to finish this war and to spare no efforts to do so. That we are doing with all our might; and in doing that I believe we shall have the approval of the people of this country.
On Question, agreed to, nemine dissentiente; Address 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.