§ * THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My Lords I would ask your kind indulgence while I endeavour to submit for, I hope, your favourable acceptance, the resolution standing in my name. Let me first repeat what I said a week ago, when I gave this notice—namely, that I have brought it forward entirely on my own initiative as an independent Member of your Lordships' House, and that my belief is that if it is supported by a large majority, it will make for peace. I have brought the Motion forward because nothing definite upon this vital question of the war has come before either House of Parliament. We had a most interesting discussion in your Lordships' House on the first night of the session, when much that was important and interesting was said. I was glad to hear from my noble friend and relative, Earl Spencer, who leads the Opposition, that he did not think we ought to go hat in hand to Dr. Leyds and sue for peace. But I heard with even greater satis- 907 faction the statement of the noble Marquess, the Prime Minister, who summed the whole thing up in the following sentence:If the Boers want peace, let them come and ask for it.I venture to think that this Resolution expresses a very general opinion—the opinion, namely, that we ought to proceed with this war in a vigorous manner, and that it is only by the vigorous prosecution of the war, and through the surrender of the Boer guerilla forces still in the field, that a satisfactory and lasting peace can be assured. Everyone will naturally be influenced in the view they take of the action of the Government by the view they take of the origin and object of the war. It has been suggested that this is a war of aggression on our part to get possession of the gold mines, and to annex the Transvaal and Orange Free State. That is the foreign view, but not the origin of the war; nor was the question of the franchise, nor the question of suzerainty, nor the Jameson raid. It was not a war on behalf of stock-jobbers; it was not the personal work of Lord Milner, or Mr. Chamberlain, or Mr. Rhodes. The cause of the war, put as I have seen it very tersely, whether the Boer or the Briton was to boss South Africa; whether the British were to be driven into the sea and a great Dutch republic established in the place of British power. It was a war of aggression on the part of the Boers, the outcome of a deep laid plot, long carefully prepared. And what are the proofs of this long prepared plot. The large importation of "Agricultural Instruments," and "Mining Machinery"—made by Krupp and at Creusot—plus 25 million cartridges, of which the Orange Free State claimed half—the providing of every Boer with a rifle and ammunition until they were ready for war with 60,000 men and 100 guns, of latest manufacture, and finally Mr. Kruger's ultimatum, and the invasion of Natal, and they very nearly succeeded owing to our unpreparedness at that time, the Government having dreaded that by making preparations they might give the Boers ground for assuming that there was aggression on our part. It is clear that we did not start the war, and if the terms of peace— 908 the absorption of two Republics in the British Empire—are not acceptable to the Boers, it is they who are to blame. That this is the view taken by the great majority in this country, and by our colonists and the loyal subjects in South Africa, no one can deny, and peace, when made, must be such as will render the recurrence of such a state of things for ever impossible. I will read a passage from a speech in 1899 by the Hon. David Mills, of Ottowa, who is the Minister of Justice there and Professor of International Law—It is to be hoped there will be no hesitation, no backing down, and no compromise of the rights of British subjects. The loss of South Africa means the disruption of the Empire altogether beyond the seas, of the Colonies on the Continent, and the undisputed supremacy of British authority in that quarter of the globe is bound up with the unity of the Empire itself.That is a voice from the Colonies in 1899. I will now quote the opinion of one of the most influential and distinguished members of the Established Church of Scotland. (Dr. McGregor (rector of St. Cuthbert's, Edinburgh), who in a pastoral sent out last Christmas from his sick bed to his congregation, said—This weary war is lying on all our hearts, and on many of our homes, with this one silver lining to the cloud, that each additional death each addition to the tremendous cost, only proves more clearly what a frightful danger we escaped by taking up the challenge which was hurled at us. With South Africa gone, it is not improbable that the Colonies would have cut connection with a Power which would not defend the rights and existence of its own Colonists: and with the loss of the Colonie there would have been the loss of an Empirs which is the strongest power working on the earth to-day on the side of justice, and righteouseness, and liberty, and happiness to mankind.A very strong feeling prevails throughout the Empire that the war was not only justified but was necessary for the maintenance of British supremacy in South Africa, and that the terms of peace which, as far as we have reason to believe the Government intend to exact, are just and reasonable. There can be no doubt that in the circumstances the proper course for the Government to adopt is to prosecute the war vigorously until the guerilla bands in the field surrender. Then England, with its usual generosity, being a country that never struck a man when down, will 909 give the Boers generous concessions, and in that way endeavour to enlist their sympathies. We hear it said that it is humilitating to surrender; but have there been no surrenders before in the world's history? Take the American Civil War. There was a great surrender then. General Lee, finding that the game was up and that he could not win, surrendered like a sensible, patriotic, Christian man, recognising that it would not be right, when there was no chance of success, to go on devastating the country by means of guerilla warfare which could have no beneficial effect whatever. We live in a free country, governed by party—formerly there were two parties, but I do not know how many there are now—and naturally there have been grave charges levelled against the Government. In Scotland there is a political body called the Liberal Association. I do not know whether Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman or Lord Rosebery is its patron saint. But a fortnight ago Lord Tweed mouth presided over its meeting—
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
My noble friend will pardon me. I should like to point out that it was not the Liberal Association; it was a dinner of the Liberal Club in Edinburgh.
§ * THE EARL OF WEMYSS
So far as my argument is concerned, all that I have said of the Association applies equally to the Club. The noble Lord said on that occasion:You have a Government that cannot keep peace, cannot make war, and cannot make peace.I think I am correctly quoting my noble friend.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
§ * THE EARL OF WEMYSS
Those words are important, coming from my noble friend, who was once the sjambok of the Liberal party in the House of Commons. But let us take these accusations seriatim. The first is that the Government could not keep peace. Not keep peace, in face of the facts I have stated which prove the determination of the Boers to go to war with a view to driving us out of South Africa! The contention is absurd. And what is the peace they were to keep? The Majuba peace, which was the fons et origo 910 of all the trouble. It was supposed to be magnanimous. Lord Rosebery once described it as "a sublime experiment prompted by Mr. Gladstone's deep Christianity." And he went on to say—Without attempting to judge the policy which concluded peace after the reverse of Majuba Hill, he was bound to state his personal conviction that there is no conceivable Government in this country which could repeat it.But the Boers considered it pusillanimous, and it induced them to believe that if they pressed us again as at Majuba we should surrender again. The second accusation was that the Government did not know how to make war. We are not living in mediæval times, when the great men of state went to battle clothed in armour, and when even the Bishops, though I suppose they did not put off the armour of righteousness, donned lay armour over it, and with maces in their hands, went out to war. No doubt it is true that, under the guidance of Lord James of Hereford, with his Money-lenders Act—a great failure, I am told—we are reverting to mediæval days in social legislation, but our wars now are not carried on in that way. It is to our professional soldiers that the conduct of war is entrusted, and all that the Government is bound to do is to furnish those who are fighting in the field with all the requisites of war and with everything that is necessary for its proper prosecution. Here only can the culpability of the Government come in. I regret I do not see in his place the noble and gallant Earl who carried successfully the British Flag from Cape town to Pretoria, and planted it on those fortifications which had long been in preparation by the Boers. If he had been here, I would have asked him whether he or any of the Generals in South Africa had been stinted in any way by the Government, and whether they had not had to the full everything that they required. Can it be said that the Government have not shown how to make war in face of the fact that they have transported 6,000 miles across the sea 200,000 men, and have kept the field well supplied with all the necessaries of war and all the necessary reserves? I am certain that if Earl Roberts were present he would say that the generals in the field had been stinted in nothing by the Government.
911 Then, my noble friend's third accusation was that the Government could not make peace. If the peace is to be of the kind which his friends made nearly 20 years ago I hope it will be a long time before they can make peace; but I believe the peace they will make will be of a very different character, and a peace that will endure. There is another class of objectors to the Government who are called pro-Boers. It is true that they have not much influence in this country, but they have abroad, and they are responsible for much of the bloodshed caused by the continuation of the war, because they have led the Boers to believe that they have powerful friends in this country. The Boers do not know that all their meetings are by ticket under police protection, and that when they are over they prefer exit by the back door. They probably do not know that at one meeting one of their most oratorical prima donnas did not distrain the guise of a policeman in order to effect his escape. Whether he escaped by the front door or the back I know not, nor do I know what was his number, but at all events we know that he showed a marked affection for No. 1. The influence of the pro-Boers in this country is nil; I do not believe they have as much influence as the well-known fly on the wheel. But on the other hand this nation is under the deepest possible debt to three men—to Lord Rosebery, to Mr. Asquith, and to Sir E. Grey—for the patriotic part they have taken in this war. I am not sure, however, that my noble friend's way to peace is a very practical one. It is that somebody should meet somebody else somewhere, in some country where there is a neutral inn, and that those somebodies should say or do something which would bring about peace. They will have great difficulty in finding this neutral inn. If the idea is that my noble friend and Mr. Kruger should meet, I would suggest that a fitting neutral place would be the lighthouse on the Goodwin Sands. If, however, they should be able thence to flash the terms of a satisfactory peace, and if they could get the Boers to consent to them, accepting what the Government required, trusting to the generosity of the British people for what would come afterwards, then my noble friend and Mr. Kruger 912 would have done the greatest possibel service to the country, and one which would be welcomed in every home throughout the land. My noble friend referred strongly in this House the other day to the state of our foreign relations. He said that we were hated everywhere, and that we lived in a state of complete isolation. In his Chesterfield speech the noble Earl referred to the year 1895 as the Utopia of foreign affairs. That was the year when the noble Earl ruled the Empire. [The EARL OF ROSEBERY dissented]. I believe the noble Earl was Prime Minister then?
§ * THE EARL OF WEMYSS
At any rate' the noble Earl ruled foreign affairs. On reading the statement I referred, out of curiosity, to that most useful non-party record of the events of the day, The Annual Register, and here is the description given of the state of foreign affairs in 1895:—Our relations with foreign Powers, especially with France and Germany, were not precisely cordial, but they were not more perplexing than they often had been without serious results. Lord Rosebery's reputation as a skilful negotiator had not been raised by his attempted dealings with Belgium in Central Africa, but he had managed to retreat without serious loss of dignity.That is not so satisfactory an account of the state of things in 1895 as the noble Earl gave in his Chesterfield speech. Further, the noble Earl declared in this House on the first night of the session that we had not a single friend in Europe. He carefully guarded himself by saying "in Europe." Now I have in my hand the report of an interview which Signor Ogetti, the Paris correspondent of a leading Italian newspaper had with M. Delcassé, the French Foreign Minister. In the course of this interview Signor Ogetti said:But England has become a friend of France?and M. Delcassé replied—Yes, our relations are excellent. They have for basis three very clear and very certain facts. Firstly, England is in Europe our best customer; secondly, wherever her numerous and powerful Colonies are in contact with ours, there no longer exists any cause for misunderstanding, for in recent years all difficulties have been settled; and lastly, England to-day has no other thought except that of respecting with precision all the recent agreements.913 Let us hope, then, that my noble friend is wrong, and that at all events England and France are friends, and I trust we always shall remain friends with our nearest neighbours across the sea. We have heard recently that we have also good friends in our American kinsmen across the Atlantic. No doubt there has been much in the foreign Press that is disagreeable to read, but this country is in a position to smile at anything of the kind. Strong in the consciousness of the right of our cause, strong in the consciousness of our good intentions, strong also in the knowledge of what England can do in War, and stronger still, if possible, in the knowledge that this war, cost what it may, in blood or in money—it is cheap at the price—has been the means of cementing and unifying the Empire, we can smile at the abuse which is poured upon us by the Continental Press. Magna est veritas et prœvalebit. Yet there is something to be said in palliation of the pleasant things printed in the Continental Press. It must not be forgotten where the keynote was struck. It was struck by one of the leaders of the Liberal Party, Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, who has not had as yet the courage—I had almost said the decency—to retract and apologize for the unhappy phrase he used. We are further told by the pro-Boers and others, that the burning of farms has caused a feeling among the Boers which will make it impossible for Boer and Briton to live in peace together after the war. I have already referred to the American Civil War. Were there no "methods of barbarism" there? I happened about this time last year to be at Pau, and there I was playing the game which has done so much of late for the civilization of Englishmen. I refer to the game of golf, which James the First of Scotland introduced to civilize the savages whom he had annexed. I was playing a game with an American, and in the course of it we touched upon the Boer War, and also the burning of farms. He stopped and said—Look here. I am an American; I am a Southerner, and when Sherman devastated and turned into a desert tracts of my country 60 miles broad by 500 miles long we cursed him, but now we bless him; his action put an end to the war, and we are a happy and united people.Again the concentration camps are alleged to be a great act of horror, and I have 914 seen a wretched drawing representing a camp with the spirits of children going up to heaven like rockets, while in a hot corner presided over by the devil there was a portrait of Mr. Chamberlain. Now a lady friend whom I met in Scotland the other day told me that she went out to nurse the sick and her work chiefly consisted in attending to the Boers. This lady made friends with the Boers, and in one of their confidential talks one of the Boer prisoners, a relation of De Wet, ill and wounded, told her that the greatest mistake Great Britain had made was the organization of these concentration camps, and that if our troops had not taken the Boer women and children and cared for them, but had left them on the veldt, the Boers could not have kept up the war.
The question to ask ourselves, however, is this—When peace is proclaimed and when the Boers have been incorporated in the Empire, will they become good and loyal subjects? About a year and a half ago I happened to be sitting at dinner next to a very important official, though not a Government official, at the Cape. I said to him "My conviction is that what the Sikhs are in India the Boers will be in South Africa." His answer was "I have not a doubt of it." The truth of this is proved by the fact that we have at the present moment a number of Boers fighting for us in South Africa, that those in India are anxious to serve, that 1,500 more have been allowed to serve at the Cape and that the prisoners at Bermuda have sent in a petition to be allowed to serve, which says:We are averse to the men still in the field continuing hostilities. They are mostly rebels, or men who have broken parole or the oath of neutrality. We are anxious to be reconciled with the British Government, of whose well-founded constitution, liberality, justice, and leniency towards their subjects we have now sufficient knowledge to take the oath of allegiance without fear of compromising our prospects in the future, and without fear of later repentance.In conclusion I would say that I am no party man; I claim only that I love my country, and that I possess commonsense; and both love of country and common sense point in the direction that the Government are taking with reference to this great war. I thank your Lordships for so kindly listening to me, and 915 though feeble my words, I firmly believe that I have expressed the feeling of 999 out of every 1,000 of the loyal subjects of the King, not only in the United Kingdom but throughout his wide-world dominions beyond the sea.
§ Moved to resolve, "That in the opinion of this House it is only by vigorous prosecution of the war and through the surrender of the Boer guerilla forces still in the field that a satisfactory and lasting peace can be assured, and that this House approves, in these respects, and heartily supports, the action of His Majesty's Government."—(The Earl of Wemyss.)
§ * LORD WELBY
; My Lords, the terms of the Amendment standing in my name are limited, and refer only to that portion of the noble Lord's Motion which involves a vote of confidence in His Majesty's Government. It is not, therefore, necessary that I should follow the noble Earl through the very interesting account which he has given of the origin of the war. I do not think he would have much difficulty in obtaining a unanimous vote in this House in support of the first part of his Motion, advocating a vigorous prosecution of the war until a lasting and satisfactory peace has been established; and I do not think noble Lords opposite would differ from noble Lords on this side of the House in admitting that peace to be satisfactory, must be just to a brave foe, and that any settlement, to be lasting, must bear in mind the fact, that hereafter the Dutch and the British have to live together. But the noble Earl has added to the Resolution a vote of approval of the measures which the Government have taken in carrying on the war. I think the noble Earl has been studying the Parliamentary history of two centuries ago. It will be in the recollection of your Lordships that at the beginning of the eighteenth century it was a common practice of the House of Commons, when it apprehended that a measure it had passed would not meet with the approbation of the House of Lords at that time, to tack it on to a Supply Bill. On the whole, the verdict of history has condemned that method of proceeding, but I fear it finds favour with the noble Earl, for he has tacked on to a Resolution in which we all agree a vote of confidence in the Government, although he 916 must be aware that on that point many of your Lordships will differ from him. That may be successful as a Party move, for it will be in the power of supporters of the Government to urge that those noble Lords who did not agree to this vote of confidence voted against the vigorous prosecution of the war. That would be somewhat on the lines of the statement at the time of the General Election, that every seat lost to the Government was a seat given to the Boers. But if the noble Earl may be justified, as a Party man, in—
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
I distinctly stated, when I gave notice of the Motion, and in moving it to-day, that I brought it forward entirely on my own initiation, as an independent member of your Lordship's House.
§ * LORD WELBY
I accept the noble Earl's correction, but I think noble Lords will recognise in him on this occasion a warm supporter of the Government.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
On this occasion, yes.
§ * LORD WELBY
Has the noble Earl considered whether his action is altogether patriotic? Those who were present on the first day of the session will remember the earnestness with which the Prime Minister appealed to noble Lords on the Opposition side of the House to be cautious in their criticism of the war. If I remember right, he described belabouring the Government as an estimable pursuit.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
A perfectly innocent pursuit, I think I said.
§ * LORD WELBY
The noble Marquess warned us that, innocent as that pursuit might be, it could not be separated from graver issues. I think we must all have been impressed with the gravity of the tone in which the noble Marquess urged us, in any endeavour to improve Party position, to remember the great question at stake, and what the effect of such action on our part may be. But on such a point as that there may be some 917 difference of opinion in your Lordship's House. Those of us who are old enough to remember the Crimean war may recollect that there was very free and active criticism of the Government throughout that war, so much so, indeed, that one Government fell in consequence of that criticism. There were also very free communications allowed from correspondents at the front, and from that, also, the public subsequently thought great good proceeded. But apart from the differences of opinion, we must all attach great importance to the words used by the Prime Minister, whose warning has been paid due attention to by noble Lords on this side of the House. Since that day no Motion or Question has been moved or put contrary to the Prime Minster's warning, nor is any such Motion a Question on the books. The only person who has disregarded the Prime Minister's appeal is the noble Earl, who has forced upon the House a discussion of the conduct of the Government. If the noble Earl desires an unanimous and not a Party vote, let him not press that part of the Resolution which is in effect a vote of confidence in the Government. I did hope that the noble Earl would have consented to that course, but I gather from his speech that he lays equal stress upon the vote of confidence as upon the first part of his Motion.
The question before us is. Has the Government shown the foresight, statesmanship, and energy which justifies a vote of confidence? I am aware that in many cases the criticisms which have been made are not generally accepted. I am also aware that they have not been proved. But criticisms of great weight have been made by high authorities, and while they are unanswered, and until they are removed, is it right that a vote of confidence in the past action of the Government should be adopted? There can be no doubt that there has been throughout the country since the beginning of the war, considerable uneasiness, which has on more than one occasion taken the form of disapproval. I do not for a moment say that that disapproval was justified. That is a question which every man must resolve for himself, paying due regard to the difficulties which beset a Government when they are 918 carrying on the operations of war. But these criticisms have not been confined to opponents of His Majesty's Government, they have found voice even among the friends of the Government, and in the journals which usually support the noble Marquess's Administration. In these circumstances, there is some justification for hesitation in expressing approval of the past action of the Government.
I am no authority on war, and shall not presume to offer any opinion of my own on the subject. But I will quote those who are authorities, and endeavour to place before your Lordships some of the defects upon which criticisms of the Government have been founded. In the first place, one high authority has declared that the Government are, in some degree, responsible for the present state of public feeling abroad. Again, it will be in the recollection of your Lordships that Mr. Balfour, when challenged on the subject of want of preparation, alleged that their hands were tied by the Raid. But the high authority I have quoted has replied that if His Majesty's Government had dealt fairly with the Government against whom the Raid was directed, they would have been free to take active steps to prevent the preparations for war to which the Raid gave rise, and which enabled the Boers to begin hostilities so well armed. It has further been alleged that the Government entered upon the war without any due knowledge of its character and extent, and Mr. Balfour declared that he had no reason to believe that the Orange Free State would throw in its lot with the Transvaal, and that we were as likely to be at war with Switzerland as the Free State. But months before Mr. Balfour's statement a book was published by the Intelligence Department which, amongst other things, distinctly pointed out that one of the first effects of war would be that the Orange Free State would certainly join the Transvaal. There are many other instances which might be cited in proof of the Government's singular want of knowledge of the work they were undertaking. There was the reply to the offer of mounted men, "unmounted men preferred." That is, I admit, an old story, but it is only right that it should be recalled when we are asked to pass a vote of confidence in the Government.
919 When the negotiations at Bloemfontein failed, the Government made no sufficient preparations for the war that was then impending. It cannot be said that they were not warned, for I believe I am right in saying that Lord Wolseley distinctly warned the Government at the time of the seriousness of the war, and the large force that would be required in order to cope successfully with the enemy. But the Government did not prepare for eventualities, with the unfortunate result that the initiation was left to the Boers, our loyal colonies were invaded, and disaster ensued, whieh were redeemed not by the Government, but by the gallantry of the troops and the brilliant march of the present Commander-in-Chief to Pretoria. But even when Pretoria had been reached, the Government did not seem to be aware of the difficulty of the task which still confronted them, for shortly afterwards came Lord Roberts' unfortunate declaration that the war was over coincident with the General Election. The declaration was followed by the withdrawal of troops from the Cape at the very moment when reinforcements ought to have been sent. I might here quote from the leading periodical which supports the Government and which, in a carfully written article, on the conduct of the war since the taking of Pretoria, freely criticises the action of the Government. The failure of the Government to send out sufficient reinforcements led to the second invasion of Cape Colony, with serious results to the loyal population, and that was followed by the futile proclamations which, I fear, have made us ridiculous in the eyes of Europe. Such is the record on which the noble Lord asks us to vote approval and confidence. A celebrated saying on the slow growth of confidence occurs to one's mind. I congratulate the noble Lord on its more rapid growth in his country—want of information, want of preparation, all writ large in every page of the record. The charges which have been made against His Majesty's Government are grave, but they may not be just. The difficulties of war are tremendous and should not be overlooked. The best statesman in war is like the best general, he who commits fewest blunders. But still, the question of the conduct of the Government is in suspense, and while it is in suspense a vote of confidence is 920 premature, inopportune. Is it worth while in these conditions to force on the House a vote of confidence in the Government? Would it not be better to obtain a unanimous vote in favour of the vigorous prosecution of the war?
§ Amendment moved, to leave out the words "and that this House approves, in these respects, and heartily supports, the action of His Majesty's Government." (Lord Welby).
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, I think we are indebted to the noble Earl on the Cross Benches for having given the House the opportunity, at this critical moment, of expressing our opinion that the war must be vigourously prosecuted, and that the Boer guerilla forces must surrender. I have heard my noble friend on the Cross Benches called many things in this House, but I have never before heard him called a strong Party man. Among the noble Earl's many good qualities there is none more pronounced than his veracity, and when he tells the House that he has proposed this resolution without consultation with anybody, and simply with a desire to express an opinion that he believes is shared by many other Members of this House, I am sure every noble Lord will believe that he is perfectly sincere. I do not apprehend that Lord Welby meant to say anything different from that; but, unfortunately, the inference he left your Lordships to draw was that in some way or another the noble Earl had been "got at," and that this was a sort of "put up" Motion.
§ * LORD WELBY
Nothing was further from my mind.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I readily accept that assurance. The Motion before the House is one which might very properly have been made at a much earlier stage of the war. I believe that all, or nearly all of us in this House desire to support the Government in any vigorous action for the prosecution of the war. The reason, I apprehend, why no such Motion has hitherto been made is that it is not the usual practice in your Lordships' House to bring forward general Resolutions. Moreover, there was this objection to any course of that kind, that it might appear to be an attempt to pass a vote 921 of confidence in the Government in the guise of a Resolution in favour of a vigorous prosecution of the war. But this, it seems to me, is an appropriate moment for a Resolution of this character, because, we wish to disabuse the minds of the Boers of the idea, which undoubtedly they entertain, that there are parties in this country favourable to them, that the nation is tired of the war, and that with very little inducement we should withdraw our troops. It is also appropriate that this Resolution should be carried in Parliament, because of the character of a large number of the speeches which have been made during the last few months by members of the Opposition.
I hope this House, by passing the Resolution by a large and emphatic majority, will declare its determination that the two late Republics shall be for all time incorporated in the British dominions, and that your Lordships' House will support any Government which prosecutes the war with that energy and determination which the nation desires to see exhibited. The speech of the noble Lord who moved the Amendment, and the remarks he made about the Government, whether deserved or not, have no reference to the Resolution. I do not think he can have read the Resolution. I was glad to hear the noble Lord say there would be a unanimous vote in favour of the first part of the Resolution. It shows that the noble Lord's political friends in this House are separated by an enormous distance from many of the other sections of his political friends elsewhere. The Colonial Secretary and the noble Marquess have been attacked elsewhere because the words "unconditional surrender" have been used. It has been said that unconditional surrender amounts to the same thing as extermination. Your Lordships know what stuff and nonsense that is. But the surrender must be complete, and there must be no fighting hereafter. The Amendment means that the House approves of the action of His Majesty's Government so long as they prosecute the war vigorously and insist on forcing the Boers to surrender. The past actions of the Government have no relevance to the question before the House, but the noble Lord and many of his friends seem 922 never to be able to think of anything else. Their attitude is—We oppose you now because you did some wrong things some time ago.
What the House is asked to do to-night is to say "We are prepared to support the Government so long as they continue the vigorous measures they are now taking." If the noble Lord could be pictured once more revising the Estimates he might perhaps be imagined praying to be delivered from such a spendthrift Government, but not accusing them of a want of sufficient energy and vigour. The noble Lord says the Government did not make sufficient preparations for the war. What does he mean by that? Does he mean that the Government ought to have sent out 20,000 or 30,000 troops to South Africa during the negotiations? The charge that the Government did not make sufficient preparation is hardly just from the noble Lord, whose friends would have blamed the Colonial Secretary for forcing a war by warlike preparations as well as by threats; and the charge of want of foresight, even if it can be proved, is no reason for refusing to approve the Government in doing everything that they can now to bring the war to an end. I object that many of the Opposition speeches purporting to deal with the war are really, as regards about five sixths of their substance, devoted to attacking the the Government, and only as regards one-sixth to the war. There are three sections among these critics of the Government—those who desire to see the country unsuccessful and to whom every British misfortune is a delight—I mean some Irish Members; those extreme Radicals who will not vote supplies for the war, and will not even support their leaders when called upon to do so; and those who like my noble friend, are absorbed in the past omissions and transgressions of the Government. At such moments as these all patriotic people join in supporting the Government in any vigorous measures which they think necessary. If your Lordships were to accept the Amendment you would not only be doing everything in your power to weaken the influence of the Government in the prosecution of the war but everything you could to defer the lasting peace which the country intends to secure when the war is over.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
My Lords, I regard the speech we have just heard from the noble Earl as one strongly in favour of the Amendment. The noble Earl asked what had the past action of His Majesty's Government to do with the matter: but that is the point raised, although he said the past action of the Government did not matter.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
What I said was that the past action of His Majesty's Government had nothing to do with this Resolution.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
That may be the interpretation which the noble Earl places upon the words in the Motion, but I appeal to any fair minded person as to whether the words proposed to be omitted by the Amendment are not distinctly directed to the past action of the Government and nothing else. Those words are:—And that this House approves, in these respects, and heartily supports, the action of His Majesty's Government.What is it that the House approves in these respects?
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
The vigorous prosecution of the war.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
The vigorous prosecution of the war must certainly refer to the past action of the Government. Certainly; how can you approve a thing that is in the future? What we shall approve of if we pass the Resolution as it stands will be the past action of the Government, and the encouragement of them to go on in exactly the same way in the future. Whilst we entirely agree that, without a vigorous prosecution of the war and without the surrender of the Boer forces still in the field, there can be no peace, yet we do not agree that the action of the Government in the past has been such as to use the great resources of this country and the ready help of all portions of the Empire to the best possible effect, in a vigorous prosecution of the war. The speech of the noble Earl who moved this Resolution—we all congratulate him on the vigour and variety of his speech—has wandered from golf to the concentration camps, and from the origin of the war to little dinners. I do not propose to follow the noble Earl into the many subjects on which he touched, and I do 924 not think the question of the origin of the war concerns us very much now. We have been at war for something like two and a quarter years and what concerns us now is the bringing of the war to a rapid and satisfactory conclusion, and the attainment of sound and lasting conditions of peace. The Government throughout these proceedings have not, it seems to me, followed that good old adage, "Once bit, twice shy." They have been bitten on many occasions, but have never profited by experience. They have been wrapped in a cloak of self-confident optimism from first to last, which has prevented them from seeing anything but the best side of things, and whilst looking at the best side of things, and always expecting the best to happen, they have failed to make provision for the worst. Again and again this has occurred. I will briefly run through the chief features of the war, and show how time after time the Government have had periods of illusion and disillusion, and how, time after time, the hopes that have been raised have been falsified and have not borne fruit.
The four periods into which these proceedings may well be divided are: (1) the period prior to the war; (2) the period from October, 1899, to October, 1900; (3) the period from October, 1900, when the war was declared to be over, to the time when the proclamation of August 7th came into force—namely, September 15th; and (4) the period after September 15th of last year. With regard to the first period—and here my noble friend will see to what I referred when I said that the Government failed to keep peace—the Government knew that during the years 1896, 1897, and 1898, the Boer Republics were continually arming. The Intelligence Department reported that to the Government. They also knew from the estimate of those Republics that they were spending large sums in armaments, and yet during all that time never a remonstrance was addressed to them, much less was any attempt made to stop the process which was going on. These Republics were isolated entirely except in regard to a small portion of Portuguees territory; and it could never have been assumed that the armaments were being accumulated for any other purpose than to be used against the British Empire. 925 The proper policy to have adopted would have been, not only to have remonstrated but to have taken stronger steps and to have prevented the acquisition of arms by the Republics. The Government lulled themselves into security by bringing themselves to think that in no circumstances would the Boers fight.
Then throughout the whole of the time that the negotiations were proceeding between the Colonial Secretary and Mr. Kruger about the franchise and other matters, little was done to make our position secure in South Africa and to make our Colonies—Cape Colony and Natal—safe from attack by the Boers, although it must have been perfectly well-known that, if Mr. Kruger did not accept the conditions put before him by this country, war would ensue. I believe that if our forces in South Africa had been made sufficiently strong at that time it would have been impossible for the Boers to have invaded our territory, and in all probability the war would never have broken out. I know the Government say that was impossible because of what the Opposition would have done. I cannot imagine so thin a pretext put forward as that the Opposition in 1898 and 1899 could have materially damaged the Government with regard to such a question as that And even if they could, surely it was the bounden duty of the Government to take the steps which they thought right, in spite of the Opposition. But what was at that time the condition of the Opposition—of this terrible body which struck fear into the mind of the Government. So far as this House is concerned, the benches on this side are more eloquent than anything I could say; but how did matters stand with regard to the House of Commons? I think the Opposition in that House numbered 266 votes, of which 82 belonged to the Irish Nationalist Party, who had openly repudiated all alliance with the Opposition and acted by themselves. That left 184 votes of the Liberal Party, which, without mentioning any internal differences, it was well known was powerless for any practical purpose. And yet that is the body which is held up as responsible for the failure of the Government during the years preceding the war. I pass now to the period after the ultimatum had 926 been received, and after the Boers had invaded British territory. Even then the Government said that war was a small affair and would be easily got over.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Who said so?
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
The Government voted £10,000,000 and said 50,000 men would finish it in a very short time; but after we had gone through some of those terrible experiences of the early stages of the war, we were told that it was a great war and would require £60,000,000. That sum was asked for in the votes, and 200,000 men were sent out. When the noble Lord, Earl Roberts, went out to South Africa a change came over the scene, and our disasters were succeeded by a series of brilliant successes. Then in October, 1900, we were suddenly told that the war was over. I do not wish for a moment to drag in any suggestion as to the reason for declaring the war over at that time, but the effect of that declaration was very serious, because it involved the reduction of the forces in South Africa from 250,000 men to about 205,000. A renewal of the fighting in South Africa followed the General Election; and we were told the other day in the House of Commons by a gallant Member who was out there at the time, that that was the most critical period in the campaign.
You then had the second invasion of Cape Colony, followed by that most serious and depressing despatch from Lord Milner, dated February 6th, last year, in which he stated that the last half year had been one of retrogression, and described the last month of 1900 and January, 1901, as being distinctly worse in every respect than the months which preceded them. For a long time the Government took no steps at all, and there is no greater proof of the optimism with which they were afflicted than the reply they gave to Colonel A. G. Lucas on December 28th, 1900, which may be found on page 143 of the Report of the Imperial Yeomanry Committee. Colonel Lucas wrote on December 19th, 1900, pointing out the losses which had taken place in the strength of the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa, and stating that he was prepared to arrange for the 927 enlistment of drafts to the extent of from 3,000 to 5,000 with the least possible delay. He strongly pressed on the War Office the desirability of his being allowed to do so, but this was the answer which he received—I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 19th instant, and to express the thanks of the Secretary of State for War for the suggestion you put forward with regard to the re-opening of recruiting for the Imperial Yeomanry and the despatch of drafts to South Africa.As, however, steps are being taken to enrol a large number of men for service in the South African Constabulary, Mr. Brodrick is of opinion that it is not desirable to re-commence recruiting for the Imperial Yeomanry.That is a repetition of what took place at the beginning of the war, when it was proposed to raise a composite Yeomanry Regiment. On November 26th, 1899, the War Office wrote to Colonel Lucas—Your proposal to form a composite Yeomanry Regiment for active service has been laid before the Military Secretary, but there is no intention at present of utilising the services of the Yeomanry in South Africa.Shortly afterwards a very different tale was told, and the Government were glad to get the assistance of the Yeomanry. Even then, the number of men raised was limited to a total of 10,500, and the Report of the Yeomanry Committee states that—There can be no doubt that a larger number of men could have been enlisted had this limit not been fixed. The men of the Yeomanry Cavalry formed the backbone of the force, but amongst all classes the service rapidly became popular. Many of the men were of very good social position, and the majority belonged to the middle classes.Surely it was unwise to forego the chance of getting all the men of that stamp which it was possible to obtain. About the same time as the War Office declined Colonel Lucas's offer to raise 5,000 more Imperial Yeomanry, came a demand from Lord Kitchener for more mounted men. The Government took no steps for several weeks, and then hurriedly raised the new Yeomanry and sent them out to South Africa. I wish to dissociate myself entirely from the charges that have been made as to the conduct of the new Yeomanry in the field. Though the men were sent out without any training, some of them were put in the field within a fortnight from the time they landed, and from what I 928 can learn, their conduct has been such as to give the greatest satisfaction to all who desire to recognise in the present race men as good, and as fit, and as eager for war, as were our forefathers. But what was the condition of this force when it went out? This is what Lord Kitchener said in a despatch of July last—It was impossible at first to put into the field a large number of new Yeomanry recruits, many of whom were unable either to ride or to shoot, and the necessity for their retention at drills and musketry upon the lines of communication unavoidably curtailed for a time the work of the mobile columns. Some few of the men have proved quite unsuitable for the work expected of them, but satisfactory progress has been and is being made and they are gradually gaining experiences in the field.It is said that the blame for the hurried despatch of this force to South Africa rests with Lord Kitchener, who said he would rather train the men himself in South Africa. But this does not exonerate the Government from responsibility, for they ought to have had these men long before, and ready to be sent out to South Africa when called for. Lord Kitchener naturally wanted the men as soon as he could get them, think-thinking that though they might not be fit to take active work in the mobile columns, yet while they were being taught to ride and shoot they could be used on the lines of communication, thereby relieving other men for active service in the field.
By March of last year the belief was again re-established that the war was over, or would be over by the end of the South African winter. That is most clearly proved by the War Office Memorandum attached to the Army Estimates issued on March 1st of last year. The sum required was £58,230,000. The Memorandum stated—The provision under this head is based on the assumption that for the first four months of the new financial year the field force in South Africa will be maintained at full strength, and that a gradual diminution will subsequently take place. Provision is made for the transport home of the troops and the gratuties payable on demobilisation, as well as the special war gratuity which, though voted in the present financial year (i.e. 1900–01) will not, owing to the prolongation of the war, be paid to any large extent until 1901–02.It is perfectly clear from that Memorandum that at the beginning of March last year the Government still looked forward to an 929 early close of the war, and were making preparations for the withdrawal of troops, instead of doing all it was in their power to do to keep the Army in the field up to the highest possible strength. The belief that the war was over or nearly over no doubt explains the September 15thProclamation, the refusal to listen to overtures by the Boers, and the neglect of further measures of reinforcements. In fact, throughout the war there has been illusion on the part of the Goverment and their disillusion.
Then I come to the last period—the period when the campaign was described by the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack as a "sort of warfare." It is a sor of warfare that has brought death and grief to many a home in the kingdom. Whether it was the result of the proclamation, or whether it was a judgment falling upon the optimistic views of the Government, the 15th of September saw a severe recrudescence of the war. For the third time Cape Colony was invaded, and attacks were made in many parts of South Africa, showing that the Boers were following a combined plan of action, and that the war was then still in full force. Natal also was threatened; and the Natal Volunteers, who has been disbanded, had to be called out again. The Government still insist that the war is all but over, but they have began the new year by asking for more Volunteers. I applaud that demand. The fault I find is that throughout the war the Government have not continuously called out men and held them in readiness to be sent to South Africa when wanted, instead of waiting for demands from South Africa before attempting to raise the men. The various estimates that have been made of the number of Boers in the field, show the miscalculation which goes on in Government circles. Twelve months ago, according to Mr. Brodwick, the enemy's strength was about 20,000, and the Boer losses, from the returns, have been 18,320 since then. Yet, two months ago the Secretary of State for War calculated that there were still 10,000 men in the field. Personally I think that is an optimistic calculation, for the number of Boers in the field is probably nearer 20,000 than 10,000.
The question of the medical arrangement is an old one, but it is one to which 930 it is necessary to allude when giving reasons for lack of confidence in the preparations made by the Government. At the very beginning of the war the Government were warned of the likelihood that the medical service would prove inadequate. They were warned by Sir Walter Foster to take special steps, but they disregarded the warning. I wonder what would have happened if the Government had not had the assistance of the Volunteer Hospital Corps. No doubt a terrible state of things would have followed. In spite of all the protests that were made as to the sufficiency of the medical arrangements, the Government were forced to appoint a Commission. I will read the criticism of a friendly critic of the Government on that Report—The Report needs no criticism, though it may be none the worse of a little elucidation by men who, like Mr. Burdett-Coutts and Mr. Murray Guthrie, were on the spot, and saw for themselves what was going on. Remembering the limited powers of the Commission, its composition, and the general considerations by which it was no doubt governed, no one can regard the Report as other than a severe condemnation of the medical arrangements hitherto thought adequate.Again, take the question of the supply of horses. I do not believe that there is any one single thing which has so tended to the prolongation of the war as the failure of the Government to keep an adequate supply of horses in the field. I do not mean that sufficient horses have not been sent out, but they have not been delivered to the troops in the field in such a condition as to be of real service. They have been sent out, just as the troops have, spasmodically, and by fits and starts, with the result that they have been obliged to be put in the field in an unfit state. The care of the horses in South Africa is a sad blot on our arrangements. I believe that from the hunting stables, racing stables, and private stables of even the Members of your Lordships' House, a body of men might have been got together and sent out to South Africa as non-combatants to take charge of the horses, and to see that they were properly looked after, and put into the field in a serviceable condition. But what happened was that when a man was not much good for the field he was considered quite capable of looking after the remount department. 931 Exactly the same blundering took place in the management of the three lines of railway which conveyed supplies to the men at the front. It has always seemed to me that the practical thing to have done would have been, instead of placing these lines under the control of soldiers who were not competent for the work, to have sent out men collected from the various railways of the country, and thereby released a large number of soldiers for fighting purposes.
I hope that in what I have said I have not used unfair or unpatriotic language. I attribute to His Majesty's Government no malice prepense, no mala fide, but I maintain that throughout this war they have not realised the greatness of the problem with which they have had to deal, and in every instance have under-estimated what they were required to carry out. For that reason, while I am perfectly willing to support the resolution that it is only by the vigorous prosecution of the war and through the surrender of Boers forces still in the field that a satisfactory and lasting peace can be assured, I cannot feel that the action of His Majesty's Government in the past justifies me in the supposition that the vigorous measures they will take in the future will be satisfactory. I hope the lesson of the last few years has been learned, and that the Government will prosecute the war vigorously, and spare no effort to conclude it in a manner likely to bring peace to South Africa and promote good fellowship between Boer and Briton.
§ * LORD STANMORE
My Lords, I have not the smallest idea of following the noble Lord who has just spoken through the long catalogue of errors which he imputes to His Majesty's Government; still less have I any intention of repeating what has been better said by noble Lords who have already taken part in this debate. But I wish to bring under the notice of the House one consideration which has not yet been mentioned, and which I think should induce it to pass the Resolution without omission, or alteration. The adoption of the Amendment could hardly be looked upon as other than a censure on the Government, and would produce in some quarters the erroneous impression that the official Opposition to the Motion indicates a real hearty dissent from the course pursued 932 by His Majesty's Government. Of course, the main function of an Opposition is to oppose. That is its duty. That is what it exists for, and in that way it makes itself useful. But the public do not always make the necessary deductions from the action of an official Opposition. I am not speaking of those extremely violent persons who have been repudiated by almost all the leaders of the Liberal Party, and eminently repudiated to night by Lord Welby in adopting, as he has done, the first part of the Resolution. Nor do I refer anything to those sentimentalists, many of whom I greatly respect, though I do not agree with them, who, curiously enough, always display sympathy for those with whom all about them are at enmity. A century ago a Minister, who was a wit as well as an orator and a statesman—George Canning—denounced those who wereThe steady patriots of the world alone,The friend of every country—save their own.They have always existed, and will continue to exist.
The noble Lord who moved the Amendment told us that he remembered the Crimean war. Well, I also remember the Crimean war. I occupied at that time a position which, though obscure, brought under my notice all that went on in the Government Departments at home and abroad at that time. Exactly the same reproaches were brought against the Government then that are uttered now. There were the same charges of miscalculating the money necessary, the too small vote that was made in the first instance, the inadequate force first sent out, and neglect as to recruiting; and the same thing will be found if you go back to the wars of 50 years before that. It is right that such criticism should be brought forward, because that is what the Opposition is for. It keeps the Government up to the mark. Every Government, whether it contain noble Lords on this side, or noble Lords on the other side of the House, will make blunders. No Government can pretend that it is infallible, and its mistakes and errors should be pointed out; but we must discount to a great extent the earnestness of that Opposition which is to a certain extent official and perfunctory. The leaders of political life on both sides are so bound and fettered by 933 the ties of Party that they do not, I think altogether realize how Party controversies are viewed by those who are not so bound—by that great public which more now than at any time previously takes an interest in national and Imperial affairs. There are a large number of Englishmen, and especially those in the Colonies, who take the deepest interest in Imperial affairs, who are utterly independent of Party, They know the English noblemen and right hon. Gentlemen who constitute the Government, from whatever Party taken, will guard the honour and interests of the country to their best ability, and despite the vendal blunders they are sure to make. whichever side they sit on. Fifty years ago the rank and file of a Party honestly believed that by some special interposition of providence those of their Party were always right, and those of the other Party always wrong. There are some who apparently still hold that sort of belief. But it is waning away, and if you look to that great public which is confined by no ties of Party, and which is outside the influences that away an official Opposition, you will find that the conduct of His Majesty's Government as a whole has received approval. They feel that, admitting that many of the complaints which are made against the Government have some foundation in fact, they are mere matters of detail beside the great principle which is involved. The Amendment appears to me almost meaningless.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
§ * LORD STANMORE
Because if you agree to the first part of the Resolution you can hardly resist the latter. If you agree that the war is to be pursued in such a manner as there laid down, and that the only way to peace is through the surrender of the Boer guerilla forces, you get rid of all that has been said with regard to negotiations for peace. The moral I wish to draw is this, that when we have made the necessary discount from speeches of the official Opposition, there is much real agreement between the two sides—a much greater agreement than either side, perhaps, chooses to admit. We are told by Euclid that "things which are equal to the same 934 thing are equal to one another." Now, we are told by the leaders of the Liberal Party that their views are represented by the speech of Lord Rosebery at Chesterfield. A distinguished member of His Majesty's Government has also said that the views of the Government are represented by that speech. If both are represented by that speech, then they must substantially agree with one another. Though that is putting the matter in a light form, there is a real substance of truth at the bottom of it. Whatever may be said of the past, I do not know that there is any intelligble difference between the Opposition and His Majesty's Government with regard to the future conduct of the war. I am not speaking of the future administration of the country. That is a great question to be dealt with afterwards. I speak only of the present situation. Lord Welby spoke of the Crimean war. At the time of the Crimean war the Government were blamed for having too long carried on negotiations, and it was contended that if they had at the first shown a firm front and put their foot down there would have been no war. That may or may not be true. On the present occasion the Goverment spoke firmly, and it is now said that if they had not spoken so firmly, but had prolonged the negotiations, there would have been no war. That to may or may not be true, but what I assert is that had the cases been reversed, the opposition would equally have condemned the Government. If the Crimean War had been entered on at an earlier date it would have been said to have been caused by the peremptory language of the Government. Had negotiations in South Africa been prolonged and war yet ensued, it would have been said to be due to the Government not having acted before the Boers had made all the preparations they neeeded. No matter what was done it would always be urged that the exact opposite ought to have been done. The point I wish to make is this, that when we abandon hypothetical discussions on the past for practical considerations of the the present, there is really no reason why the Opposition should not vote with those on the Ministerial side of the House in favour of the Resolution.
* THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Lord RAGLAN)
My Lords, the noble Lord who spoke from the front Opposition Bench, Lord Tweedmouth, gave your Lordships a great many reasons why he, and those who think with him, intend to vote for the Amendment; and the noble Lord who proposed the Amendment carried his remarks back to the negotiations which preceded the war. I do not propose to follow the noble Lords through the whole of those matters, but will confine my observations to the specific points on which the conduct of the War Office has, in our opinion, been wrongly aspersed. The Department has been blamed for waiting with their hands folded for demands from South Africa. The first demand made from South Africa for mounted men by Lord Kitchener was on December 13th, 1900. Lord Kitchener asked for men to replace the wastage which had occurred in the old Yeomanry by the operation of many months of war. The noble Lord said that the Government had no men ready to send out, and that they had to arrange for an untried force with which to replace these losses. On the contrary, the War Office had men ready to send out.
Within eight days of the receipt of the request from Lord Kitchener 4,000 men were placed under orders for South Africa. These men were neither untrained nor untried. They consisted of two regular cavalry regiments, a large number of cavalry drafts, and 800 mounted infantry. On December 21st the arrangements for the despatch of troops were completed; and the first cavalry regiment, the King's Dragoon Guards, sailed on January 8th following. Between January 8th and April 27th, when practically the force of 30,000 mounted men promised on February 7th was completed, a very large body of troops were landed in South Africa. On February 7th the Secretary for War stated that large reinforcements would be sent to South Africa, and would include 30,000 mounted men. A month previous to the making of that statement the Department had already begun to form the force, and the number of mounted men actually landed in South Africa between January 1st and the end of May amounted 936 to upwards of 37,000 men. They consisted of two regular cavalry regiments, large drafts to all cavalry regiments out there, 3,600 mounted infantry, most of whom consisted of regulars, and some of them Militia who had been embodied for many months, 6,000 men were recruited for the South African Constabulary, 8,000 men from the colonies, and 16,500 other troops of the new Yeomanry.
The noble Lord said that drafts had not been prepared previously for the old Yeomanry in South Africa and he quoted the letter of Colonel Lucas. The position was this. The recruiting was beginning at the end of 1900 for the South African Constabulary. The old Yeomanry were serving on cavalry rates of pay; the South African Constabulary were being raised as a special force on a special rate of pay—5s. a day. It was a new force, and when the recruiting was first started for the constabulary recruits did not come in readily. It was, therefore, thought more advisable not to begin recruiting for another force on similar lines until the South African Constabulary had got a good start in recruiting. As soon as that happened recruiting was opened for the new Yeomanry, and within a short space of time 16,500 men—not 15,000 as was originally promised—were enlisted. These men were untrained, but they were supposed to be able to ride and shoot. A very large bulk of the men were able to ride and shoot remarkably well, as was shown by their performances in South Africa. It is possible that in the raising of such a large force within a comparatively short space of time mistakes were made; possibly there was personation, and that one man did the riding and shooting tests in another man's name and, so forth. Had those men been trained as the old and later Yeomanry have been trained they would have been discovered and eliminated.
When Lord Kitchener asked that these men should be sent out to South Africa it was not the business of the War Office to keep them at home. They were accordingly sent out and trained there, and during the process of training a certain proportion of the men were discovered to be inefficient and 937 were returned to this country. The percentage, however, was exceedingly small; it did not reach 5 per cent. of the total enlistments. I think we may congratulate ourselves that out of such a large force, raised so speedily and sent out so rapidly on active service, the percentage of men returned was so small. The new Yeomanry have behaved most gallantly in the field and have done their duty as British soldiers always do, in spite of the fact that many of them were put in positions of great difficulty before they had received very adequate training.
I now come to the question that has been raised as to the calculations of the number of Boers in the field. No doubt there have been great discrepancies in the estimates of the Boer numbers in the field. I do not think that the people who jeer at these discrepancies have sufficiently considered the extraordinary difficulty of a war conducted in a country so sparsely inhabited and against an army which does not wear a uniform. In the case of an army wearing a uniform we could have counted the men, but where men are not wearing a uniform and do not differ in appearance from the ordinary inhabitants of the country discrepancies in estimating numbers may easily occur. It was owing to that fact, of which so little is thought, that the discrepancies arose. The noble Lord also referred to the deficiencies of the medical and remount services. If noble Lords will carry their minds back to our military position and policy before the war they will remember that successive Governments and Parliaments decided, and the country was satisfied, that the effective number of men we should send abroad for a war out of this country was about 70,000 men. The Army medical service, arranged to minister to the wants of an army of 70,000 men, was suddenly called on to minister to the wants of more than 200,000 men, and had to do a vast amount of work which usually falls to the civilian doctor of the country which is the seat of war. I think your Lordships will see, therefore, that its labours could not well have been surpassed. The same remark applies to the remount department. Arrangements were made before the war to provide enough remounts for an expeditionary force of 70,000 men. The 938 war became a war in which not only were more than 200,000 men engaged, but the number of mounted men was out of all proportion as compared with any other army which has taken the field within modern recollection. The question of remounts was always difficult; but the efforts of the War Office have been not inconsiderable. In 1901 no less than 129,000 horses were sent to South Africa, and at the present time are being landed in South Africa at the rate of 13,000 or 14,000 a month.
As to the question of railways, when the war broke out it was necessary to take over the working of the railways in South Africa, and Sir Percy Girouard, the builder of the wonderful railway to Khartoum, was sent to organise the system. The railways were badly laid and short of rolling stock, but they have been extremely well worked throughout the war, and there has been practically no hitch except such as has been caused by the enemy. Whatever may be the shortcomings of the War Office, it has at least kept up on active serviee an army greater than any one could have supposed this country capable of sending abroad; it has supplied that army with more remounts than have ever been required before, and with ample food and ammunition, and there has never been any cessation of the drafts requisite to keep the army up to full strength.
* THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
My Lords, I ask the indulgence of the House for two or three minutes while I make a few observations on this subject. I confess that I rise as one of those opposed to this Resolution. I am well aware that to oppose it is not to be on the winning side at present, but I am perfectly convinced that it is the right side. I have the strongest objection to the Resolution as it stands. I cannot understand what possible good it can do. In this House it is surely a work of supererogation to pass a resolution of this kind. The noble Marquess and his colleagues know that they have a large majority. Then, again, if it were intended to stir up the Government to a more vigorous prosecution of the war, it ought to have been brought forward two years ago. At the present moment, as we hope and believe, his Majesty's 939 Government are prosecuting the war with all possible vigour. But my chief objection to the Resolution—and it is one which will be widely felt in the country—lies in the one word "only" before the words "by the vigorous prosecution of the war." What does it mean? Is this Resolution an attempt to revive in his Majesty's Government the spirit of the policy which we had hoped was discarded—the policy of unconditional surrender? Since the Chesterfield speech we have seen many indications on the part of his Majesty's Government that they were ready to bury this term of "unconditional surrender"; and I cannot believe that this Resolution is really acceptable to the noble Marques, being a sort of resurrection of the phrase, I deplore the Resolution on that account. Only a week ago the noble Marques seemed clearly to drop the phrase.
* THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
His explanation showed that his meaning was something very different from what people ordinarily understood by unconditional surrender. The other day the First Lord of the Treasury said, "Personally I object to this phrase," and the Colonial Secretary said in effect, if I remember right, that every member of the Cabinet disowned it. Now the noble Earl comes to press it on the acceptance of the Government again. I appeal to the noble Marquess and his colleagues to go forward in a better and nobler policy than this of unconditional surrender. Let us press the war with all possible vigour, but surely there are many other things to be considered if we are to have any hope of any early and enduring peace. This is the sort of thing which will compel the Dutchmen, if they are at all like Englishmen, to go on fighting, so that, in the words of the High Commissioner:The war may never be at an end in a formal way.Could anything more fatuous be imagined than to face a grave crisis in this spirit of unconditional surrender when the men whom we are facing are before long, as we hope, to be among the most useful and loyal, as they will be among the bravest, of the King's subjects? I therefore appeal to the noble Marquess to have 940 no regard to this Resolution if it means unconditional surrender, but to go on in the way of readiness to receive any reasonable proposals. There are many things which will have to be done to secure peace and prosperity besides prosecuting the war with vigour. I will say nothing of the great question of amnesty, but I can hardly imagine that these fighting men will surrender their arms without knowing something of this question of amnesty for the men who have been fighting by their side.
The points on which I desire at this late hour to say a word are only three. I recognise the devotion, self-sacrifice, and humanity of those who have been working in the concentration camps, but what I complain of is the disastrous slowness on the part of the High Commissioner, and those who have had charge of these things in South Africa in introducing the necessary reforms for the improvement of the camps, and in stopping that dismal tale of death which has mounted to11,000 or 12,000 children, to say nothing of others. It is twelve months since Miss Hobhouse formulated out of her personal experience suggestions which she put at the disposal of the High Comissioner, and I desire to pay my tribute of admiration and respect for that lady for her self-denying compassionate and patriotic work. All through the long South African winter, what was done? Either the High Commissoner knew the state of things which we have learned later on from the statistics or he did not know. If he did not know, he ought to have known. If he did know and sat still, where were his bowels of mercy? He was amongst us for some weeks last summer; he must have given some information. What was done at that time? During those dismal weeks of the South African winter how slow was the action of the Government, if it was action at all. It was only in November, after the statistics had shocked the conscience of the English people, that energetic words were spoken. Then we had to thank the Colonial Secretary for his energetic injunctions as to what was to be done. I am sorry the facts did not come before the notice of the Colonial Secretary long before. 941 All who know him know that he has a warm heart, though it is sometimes difficult to reach it through the œs triplex of his political fighting armour. I hardly know anything in the whole history of the war which has so brought it home to my mind that the High Commissioner is a distinguished man in the wrong place as this inertia, or slowness, to take any energetic and effective measures for saving the lives of these children, and so saving us from what, I fear, however much it may be undeserved, will remain as one of the greatest blots on the English name in connection with this war. I most earnestly hope that before the coming South African winter begins to do its worst, the authorities in South Africa will act far more vigorously than they have done, so that some great change may take place in the administration and conditions of the camps.
Again, with regard to the political executions which are taking place in South Africa, we hope we shall have no more spectacular executions; but besides this political executions have been proved again and again in history to be a most stupendous blunder. If you wish to strengthen a cause then make heroes and martyrs by political executions. I hope His Majesty's Government will do their best to have care that political executions shall cease in South Africa, because as long as they go on you are sowing dragon's teeth which may very well make a permanent peace impossible. Lastly, it is my hope, my request, my appeal, that the noble Marquess will, at some early day, let us know—plainly, clearly, categorically decisively, so that all may read and understand—what His Majesty's Government are prepared to offer when the Boers desire to negotiate. We do not know it; but we have a right to know, because we have to bear the burden of the tremendous expenditure of the war, and because we send our sons to fight and to carry their lives in their hands. We do not know at this moment what sort
§ of terms the noble Marquess and his colleagues would be willing to give. We were told not long ago that there was to be a new diplomacy, that the people were to know the minds of the Government on questions concerning their interests, that the man in the street, in fact, was to be as well informed as the First Lord of the Treasury. Before I had the honour of being a member of you Lordships' House I read a speech of the noble Marquess's which was an eulogium of this new method of diplomacy.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY dissented.
* THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
My memory may have deceived me, but that was my impression. But I do appeal to the noble Marquess to let us know what it is that he is prepared to do besides prosecuting the war with all possible vigour. I appeal to the noble Marquess because of my estimate of his high aims and his great power. I fear and there are multitudes of quiet, influential men who fear, that if the policy, of only unconditional surrender is to be the policy of the Government and the country, you will make an Ireland in South Africa that it will tax the wit of man to reconcile. The noble Marquess might acquire one of the greatest distinctions in his distinguished career by making there, not an Ireland, but a Canda. I hope it may be said of the Government, as it was said of the late Lord Durham, that by their wise and peaceful spirit in negotiating with a brave enemy they had added a new element to the vast dominions of our Empire, or, at all events, had sown the seeds of future prosperity, and growing loyalty, as Lord Durham did when he secured us our Canadian dominions.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Motion, their Lordships divided:—Contents, 60; Not-Contents, 16.943
|Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Lansdowne, M.||Lindsey, E.|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President.)||Camperdown, E.||Morley, E.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Carnwath, E.||Northbrook, E.|
|Norfolk, D. (E Marshal.)||Dudley, E.||Onslow, E.|
|Argyll, D.||Grey, E.||Roberts, E.|
|Bedford, D.||Hardwicke, E.||Selborne, E.|
|Wellington, D.||Lichfield, E.||Stanhope, E.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Churchill, L. [Teller.]||Newton, L.|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Colville of Culross, L.||North, L.|
|Dunboyne, L.||Pirbright, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Dunleath, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Knutsford, V.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Rathmore, L.|
|Llandaff, V.||Glenesk, L.||Robertson, L.|
|Harris, L.||Shand, L.|
|Ely, L. Bp.||Hothfield, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Southwell, L. Bp.||James, L.||Sinelair, L.|
|Alverstone, L.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)||Stanmare, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Lawrence, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Balfour, L.||Lindley, L.|
|Barnard, L.||Macnaghten, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Mount Stephen, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Northampton, M.||Spencer, E.||Farrer, L.|
|Ripon, M.||Headley, L.|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)||Monkswell, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Hereford, L. Bp.||Sanhhurst, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Chesterfield, E. [Teller.]||Burghclere, L.||Welby, L. [Teller].|
§ EARL SPENCER
Before the noble and learned Lord puts the question, I should like to say two words upon it. I am not going to make a speech of any length, but by way of explanation I should like to say that even as it stands I do not like the words my noble friend has chosen. I am quite aware that there are many noble Lords on this side of the House who do not put the interpretation upon them that the right rev. prelate put upon them, and that they do not consider that the word "only" and the other terms of it include what is called unconditional surrender. I confess myself that I think there may be some doubt in many minds about it. Undoubtedly, if I thought that those words included the idea of unconditional surrender I should, if not divide the House (that would be absurd) say "not content" to the proposal as it will now be put. But I take it that we on this side of the House are desirous, as strongly as hon. Members opposite, to say that so long as the war is carried on it must be carried on as vigorously as possible, in order to bring it to a speedy end, and in that way to ensure a lasting peace.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not like to allow the noble Earl to sit down without a word of notice. I would only remind him that this Motion, which I in no way criticise, is not ours. We are not at all responsible for the words it contains. The noble Lord on the Cross Benches, who made so eloquent a speech early in the even- 944 ing, has his own interpretation to put upon the words, and I do not think there is any other authority in the House who can compete with him for the right to interpret the Motion he has framed.
§ The Motion was agreed to.