§ LORD COLERIDGE
rose to move to resolve, "That this House disapproves of the importation of Chinese labourers into the Transvaal under the recent Ordinance until the grant to that country of full representative government." He said: My Lords, I do not apologise to the House for bringing on this question, although it has been alluded to and debated, in some measure, already twice this session. On the first occasion on which the matter was mentioned the discussion was limited in its scope, and although the Report of the Transvaal Labour Commission was then in the hands of your Lordships the evidence upon which that Report was founded was not; and on the second occasion on which the matter was raised, the discussion ranged over a still more limited area, and was wholly confined to the questions of the legality or the advisability of the regulations under the Ordinance. As the question of the importation of Chinese into the Transvaal is of so great importance, I do not apologise for introducing the matter again. Of great importance it is, because many people believe—I myself among the number—that upon the decision of this question hangs the ultimate fate of the Transvaal, and not only the Transvaal, but of all the non-self-governing African Colonies—whether or not they will be populated in the future by the white man, by British settlers, or whether they will be the home—the temporary home—of a few people deriving vast revenues from a horde of servile labour.
If the latter is a true picture of the future of South Africa it certainly is in 5 violent contrast to the objects for which we asserted we were fighting in that country. We certainly did not for that object expend the millions that we spent or sacrifice the lives that were lost; and certainly it was not for that object, not with the notion that that would be the result, that the working men of this country on the whole approved of, and voted for, the continuation of the war. Nor, my Lords, was it so very long ago our mode of dealing with the Boers in the Transvaal Republic. We had strong views about slavery, and at the time of the Sand River Convention in 1852, which was the beginning of the independence, or semi-independence, of the Transvaal, we made this stipulation between ourselves and the Boers—It is agreed that no slavery is, or shall be, permitted or practised in the country to the north of the Vaal River by the emigrant farmers.Then came the Pretoria Convention and the London Convention, and in those two Conventions that stipulation was widened. In the London Convention of 1884 we placed this clause—The South African Republic renews the declaration made in the Sand River Convention and in the Convention of Pretoria that no slavery, or apprenticeship partaking of slavery, will be tolerated by the Government of the said Republic.We were told that the outcome of the war would be—and we hoped it would be—to throw open the Transvaal to British settlers, to British industry, to the British race. I think it was in the middle of the last election, or just at the close of that election, that the late Colonial Secretary made an important speech at Lichfield. It was on 8th October, 1900, and in the course of that speech Mr. Chamberlain said—A second reason which, I think, has affected the Vote of the miners in the North is that this war is, in a certain sense, a miners' war; that is to say, it has been undertaken in order that justice may be done to the miners in the Transvaal.and on 29th January, 1902, the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack, in language that I cannot hope to rival, said—What magic charm was it that surrounded the British Islands that from all parts of our dominions men were willing to help us? The 6 fact was realised that where the British flag flies there shall be liberty.Mr. Balfour, at the Guildhall on 13th February, 1902, said—All alike are enamoured of freedom, all alike are pledged to those institutions which have their origin in English freedom.That language would sound strange if repeated in the middle of a Chinese compound. At Johannesburg on 8th January, 1902, Lord Milner used these memorable words—A great Johannesburg—great not only in numbers but in the character of its inhabitants, in intelligence, cultivation, and public spirit—means a British Transvaal. A British Transvaal turns the scale in favour of a British South Africa, and a British South Africa will go a long way to consolidate the British Empire.These were brave words, and I could wish that they were repeated now. I have tried to find out to whose mind it first occurred to introduce Chinese into South Africa. The idea of importing Chinese, under conditions of servitude, seems first to have occurred to the mind of Mr. Rhodes, who desired to introduce them into Rhodesia; but that desire was, happily, at once objected to and frustrated by Mr. Chamberlain, who, in a letter to The Times on 1st October, 1900, wrote these words—Before assenting the Government would have to consider the general welfare of the South African population, both black and white, and the general public opinion in the South African Colonies.Until the holding of the Bloemfontein conference in the month of March, 1903, the matter seems to have been closed by those words, and not to have attracted any public attention. But in that month there was a conference of the official representatives of the various South African Colonies at Bloemfontein, and there a hypothetical resolution was passed that, in the event of its being proved that there was not sufficient black labour forthcoming in South Africa, measures should be taken to obtain some labour—it was not stipulated what—from outside. But at that time the theme of, or the thread which ran through, all the speeches made by the great financiers of the Rand was that they did not want British labour.
I would point out to the House this important fact, that at that time the objection to white labour was not founded 7 on the score of expense. It had not then apparently occurred to the great financiers of the Rand that there was any financial difficulty in employing a great many more white people than had been hitherto employed upon the Rand. The objection to white labour was not on the score of expense, but on political grounds. A memorandum was presented to Mr. Chamberlain at Johannesburg in 1902, which has often been referred to in these discussions, which spoke of—The trail of the serpent, the formation of labour unions.Mr. Percy Tarbutt, a director, I believe, of the Consolidated Goldfields Company and chairman of the Village Main Reef, writing to his manager in July, 1902—his manager was then about to undertake, or was undertaking, the experiment of employing a greater number of white men—said this—I have consulted the Consolidated Goldfields people, and one of the members of the Board; of the Village Main Reef has consulted Wernher, Beit, and Co., and the feeling seems to be one of fear that, if a large number of white men are employed on the Hand in the position of labourers, the same troubles will arise as are now prevalent in the Australian Colonies, i.e., that the combination of the labouring classes will become so strong as to be able to more or less dictate, not only on questions of wages, but also on political questions by the power of votes when a representative Government is established.Mr. Rudd, another magnate, writing to The Times on 10th February, 1903, said—They would simply hold the Government of the country in the hollow of their hand, and, without any disparagement to the British labourer, I prefer to see the more intellectual section of the community at the helm.Therefore, up to that date it had not apparently occurred to any of these great magnates that it was impossible, on the pcore of expense, to supplement any dearth of black labour by the larger employment of white labour. Then came the conference at Bloemfontein, which took no evidence, and whose report was a mere expression of opinion of the official representatives of the colonies there assembled. I do not desire in any way to detract from its weight on that account. That it did not accurately represent public opinion is shown conclusively by the fact that Sir Gordon Sprigg, who took part in that 8 conference and voted for that Resolution, shortly afterwards—in July—was forwarding to the High Commissioner a Resolution passed unanimously by both Houses of the Legislature at the Cape recording their strong opposition to any importation of Chinese labour as prejudicial to the interests of all classes of people in South Africa. Meanwhile, it appears that Lord Milner, who up to a certain time seemed to have had an equally strong desire to resist any importation of the character described, had become a strong advocate for the importation of Chinese labourers. He followed most accurately the financiers of the Rand, and supported Chinese labour on the same grounds. He did not object to the accession of white labour on the ground of expense, for in a speech made to an organisation called the White League, formed for the encouragement of the importation of white labour, he said—We do not want a white proletariat.Therefore, my Lords, up to this time, scarcity or no scarcity, the feeling of the financiers and of Lord Milner was that there was no objection on the score of expense to making good any scarcity by the importation of white labour, but that the political danger from such importation was over-whelming.
By this time men's minds had turned to the solving of the question by the importation of indentured Chinese. A Commission was appointed to inquire into the scarcity of labour in South Africa. I do not quarrel—it would be foolish and unreasonable to do so—with the composition of that Commission. This was a burning question, and if you were to appoint persons out there of commanding importance, of commanding position, it was inevitable that you must appoint persons of strong preconceived ideas. Unless you imported the members from abroad, you could not get a tribunal to consider this question which was free from bias or free from preconceived ideas. The Commission was composed of twelve men. There was a Majority Report signed by ten and a Minority Report signed by two. Of the ten who signed the former Report eight had expressed 9 the very strongest views in favour of I the importation of Chinese labour, and I have no doubt that the other two had similarly expressed themselves, but I have been unable to put my hand on the passages. One would have thought that a Commission formed to discuss this question would have been empowered to inquire into the advisability, or otherwise, of importing Chinese. That was the subject uppermost in everybody's mind; yet it was the one subject eliminated from the purview of the discussion. It was like King Charles' head—it was continually coming up; but they steered round and round it, and whenever the word Chinese was mentioned the chairman ruled it out of order. The evidence which was presented to that Commission was selected and arranged by a preliminary commission of the Chamber of Mines. Five of the members of the Commission wore members of the Chamber of Mines, or of the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association, which the evidence shows is the same thing under another name. Twenty out of twenty-three witnesses representing the mining industry were specially deputed by the Chamber of Mines to appear. We might have had very valuable evidence, if the Commission had been empowered to examine into it, of the effect of the importation of Chinese labour on the farmers, the Kaffirs, and the British. But the House is left in total ignorance with regard to that. They were restricted to examine into the quantity and supply of black labour. In substance the Majority Report was to the effect that there was a shortage of labour, and that the deficiency could not be supplied from South Africa.
Now, my Lords, I think there is very grave reason to question the soundness of those conclusions. I do not dispute for a moment that there was a shortage of labour. But why? I submit that the evidence is very strong to show that it was partly because of the conditions imposed, and largely on account of the awful mortality in the compounds, and the treatment which the natives received there, and there is evidence to show that it was also largely to be accounted for by the absence of activity in recruiting. There was not always a 10 shortage of Kaffir labour in the mines. In 1895 and 1897 there was a surplus supply over the demand, and in 1892 and 1897 so strong was the position of the mine-owners in respect to labour that wages were reduced. The Commission opened with some very significant evidence. Several missionaries were called, and they stated that the confidence of the Kaffir had been largely shaken by the reduction of wages, which is now lamented by the mine-owners as well as by everyone else—the reduction which took place immediately after the war, when there was a scarcity rather than an abundance of labour. It also appeared from the evidence of these missionaries that the labourers are kicked about, and are compelled to go to mines not chosen by them, but by their employers, and mines against which they are prejudiced. The Rev. R. H. Dyke says—A man comes up and loses a limb, and goes away maimed for life, and no compensation is given him.He describes the great difference between the treatment of the Kaffirs on the Rand and their treatment in the Kimberley compounds, and shows that there has never been a scarcity of black labour at Kimberley, owing, as he describes, to the very different treatment which the blacks receive in the Kimberley mines. The Rev. E. Creux, another missionary, spoke of the fearful corruption and contamination in the compounds, and said that:If the general conditions were improved you could get a largely increased supply. The best touts and the best labour commissioners are the natives themselves.And I should think that was common sense. The Rev. F. Suter, who came from Zululand, stated that he had seen them sick and neglected; and right rev. Prelates will be interested to hear that when he was asked why he had not complained he said he feared that if he complained he would be prevented from going into the compounds, and that great difficulties were placed in the way of missionaries going into the compounds.
Sir Godfrey Lagden, whose evidence was largely relied upon by the Majority Report, spoke of the conditions in the compounds as being 11 very bad. He said that it was necessary that there should be better food, and that one doctor paying an occasional visit to each mine—one visit a day—was wholly insufficient. And then he gave a most remarkable piece of evidence, which is quite enough to account for any shortage of labour. He stated that there is a mortality in the mines of seventy per thousand, and it is also quite clear that some mines are better looked after than others, and that in a great many of them the mortality is not so large. But if it is less than seventy per thousand in some mines, and the average is seventy in all, what a picture is presented of the state of things in those compounds where the average rate of mortality is largely exceeded! Under the process of recruiting instituted by the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association, the native is unable to choose which mine he goes to, and he knows that he has the chance of being drafted off against his will to a compound where the mortality may largely exceed seventy per thousand. It is said that the Kaffir in South Africa is idle and indolent, and disinclined for work. In the face of that mortality it seems to me that the eagerness of the Kaffir to work, considering the numbers that come, is beyond all praise. I should like to know how many British workmen would go into a compound or into any mine where the mortality approached anything like the figure which obtains in the mines of the Transvaal. Therefore I say, from pure humanitarian reasons as well as from sound common sense, the mine-owners have no right to ask this House or the country to give them greater facilities for the introduction of labour until they have remedied this awful mortality, which must minimise the attraction of mines to the Kaffir in the Transvaal. Then there was evidence as to the meal supplied. Mr. Douglas H. Eraser described the meal as entirely unfit for food; and Mr. William Grant, Native Commissioner of Witwatersrand, spoke of the outcome to-day—that is, the scarcity to-day—as the result of ignorance or design; and he added—I go as far as that,That leads me to investigate, shortly, what reason there is to suppose that 12 the shortage of labour is due to inactivity of recruiting. Before I pass to that I may state that on 22nd October, 1900, the whole system of recruiting was altered, As far as I can gather, up to that time, there had been private recruiters who conveyed Kaffirs to the mines and got a commission on the numbers brought; but in the year 1900 the Chamber of Mines determined to have a monopoly of recruiting. They formed an association called the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association, and said they would have no labourers except those recruited by their Association. The result was that they held in their hand the whole of the recruiting, and it depended upon their activity as to the number of labourers recruited. I desire, my Lords, to call your attention to the evidence of a witness named Cabral. He had been a private recruiter in Portuguese East Africa, the part of South Africa from which it is admitted that something like 80 per cent, of the labourers are recruited. He said—When the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association began to recruit for themselves they sent down compound managers accompanied by natives.Compound managers to hire the natives; and the natives, presumably, to show their gold and to tell their friends how advisable it was that they should go to the mines—I received a circular asking me, encouraging me, to put all facilities in the way of the agents of the company; and, on the other hand, I also received a letter from the Association in which I was told to lay every obstacle in the way, and not to give them any facilities.The letter which he produced was written from the agency of the Witwatersrand Labour Association at Lorenço Marques. It was signed by J. M. Murray, who is still the secretary of the company, and was written by the authority of a Mr. Pickard, who was the manager of the agency at Lorenço Marques. The letter ran as follows—Dear Sir,—With reference to the compound managers who proceed to the country to-day, you will understand that it is important that these managers should get only those natives recruited by native collectors, and must not get natives recruited by your own runners. It is to your interest that I point this out, because if these men go back to Johannesburg with a large haul of natives, they will make the most of the fact and create an impression 13 that the recruiters have not done their best in the past, and that these compound managers make more successful recruiters than the present staff'. These men have the idea that they have only to present themselves in the country when the natives will immediately flock round them, and so, I think, it rests with you to see that they leave your camp with a different opinion. I do not wish you to put obstacles in their wayOf course not—But it is not to your interest to make them presents of natives recruited by your self.He was then asked whether the circular which he received was sent to the other men down there, and his anwer was—All over the country.He said—I did not understand at first their instructions, one telling me to encourage the compound managers and the other to discourage them, so I asked them verbally and I received additional instructions verbal instructions—to hinder them in every way I could.He was then asked—You say that having got two sets of instructions, one to help and the other to hinder them, you did not know what to do, so you asked?His reply was in the affirmative. He was next asked—And then you were told to hinder them all all you could?And he replied—Yes.He was asked—Did the compound managers return to Johannesburg with a good haul of boys?No.So you did your work all right?Yes, according to instructions.If that is the way in which recruiting is carried on in that part of Africa, which it is admitted produced 80 per cent, of the labourers in the Rand, it is not very wonderful that there is a scarcity of labour. I do not at all wish to place the thing in a worse light than it appears. Mr. Perry, who was the manager in Johannesburg of the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association, was then called and asked to explain this letter. This is his explanation—It may be convenient if I explain what the position was with regard to the native collectors and compound managers. As regards this letter, I may say this first, that neither I, nor anyone connected with the Association here, saw it till 14 to-day, and I may say at once that I do not approve of it. It is not that there is anything in the letter itself to object to, when the circumstances are understood, but I think that the tone of it is wrong.That is Mr. Perry's explanation. Then Mr. Perry was asked whether Mr. Cabral had not been dismissed from the Association, and he said he had, and I have no doubt Mr. Cabral was prejudiced against the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association and was trying to do that Association all the harm he could. But there was the letter he produced and the explanation given by Mr. Perry.
Recalled, Mr. Cabral stated that he went to Coguno, on receipt of these double instructions, and received from the agent there, a man named Neerguard, instructions to make one of the compound managers miss his boat to Delagoa Bay. He was going to start on 20th April—Do your best," (Neerguard said) "to pursuade him to leave on 28th April, it will be one less.On that day there was no boat. He complied with those instructions. He said—Well, on the 28th there was no steamer, and this the agent knew very well. What he wanted was to get rid of one of them. As he said, 'there will always be one less.' I complied with those instructions, and pursuaded Munyer to leave, and the result was that lie came back to Imhabane in time to take the boat on the 28th which never existed in the Machiavellian plans of the agent.He continued—You have already had the opportunity of seeing that the Association has, like certain merchants with invoices, two sorts of correspondents—the one 'private and confidential,' containing the instructions to its stall, and the other one to show in case of complications.Mr. Cabral later oil said—If you are willing to call the said manager, Mr. Pickard, now in Johannesburg, I have no doubt he will confirm what I declare.I think the matter is left in a very unsatisfactory state, because Pickard, who, at the time the Commission sat, was in Johannesburg, and was challenged to be produced by Mr. Cabral, was not called. Moreover, Mr. Murray, the man who wrote that letter, is still secretary of the Association, and he, too, was not called. Neerguard, the man who gave the verbal instructions when Cabral went to him in his difficulty, was not called. 15 I make no accusation against the head people of the Witwatersrand Association. I daresay they were not cognisant of what was going on, but that something in the way of hindering recruiting was taking place is absolutely certain; and in the absence of those witnesses who were challenged to be produced, I do not think I am saying more than I am justified in saying when I state that the matter is left in an exceedingly unsatisfactory condition.
How did the Report of the majority deal with this matter? As showing the manner in which it struck their minds I will read what they say—The inquiry into the administrative methods of, and results obtained by, the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association was of a more searching character, as accusations against the sincerity of its officers had been freely made. No evidence whatever was brought in support of these accusations.This is an amazing statement, which seems to me to qualify a good deal the importance we attach to the conclusions of the Majority Report. Only one miner was called before that Commission, and he was summoned by the Chamber of Mines. He came up in such terror, apparently, that he desired his name might not be disclosed. Of course, that request was not granted. It was observed that he seemed very nervous. That was the attitude of the only miner called before this Commission. Two Kaffirs were called, and two only, and they, to use a vulgar phrase, entirely "gave the show away," because they said they received low wages and were kicked and bullied. They complained of their treatment, and one of them—Umhalla—said that since the war it was very bad, and much more so than when the Boers ruled. To show how deplorable an effect the lowering of wages had upon the recruiting power of the Association, I may mention that this Kaffir, Umhalla, was not aware that the wages had been raised, although they had been raised for some two years. That shows how patient we must be in the matter. We must not assume that everything we do immediately becomes known to the Kaffirs. There are 13,597,691 black people in South and Central Africa and Uganda, and it is obvious that there are plenty of people to come, if they can be got to come. The 16 Report of the Majority says that they want to run 7,145 stamps, at twenty per stamp. That is the basis of their claim. Why their own witnesses admitted that they were running throughout at from ten to twelve per stamp, and that in the old days before the war they never ran at more than fifteen per stamp. But now they are claiming to want twenty per stamp. Therefore I say that 142,000, which they say they want, is a gross over-estimate.
I ask, why not employ white men more largely? There were two important witnesses, not called by the Chamber of Mines, who gave absolutely independent evidence before the Commission. One was a Mr. Creswell, who was manager of the Village Main Reef, and he said that from January, 1902, to March, 1903, he tried the experiment successfully, but was then stopped from further trying it. He said he was not ordered to desist until after he gave utterance to views to Mr. Chamberlain which were regarded by the managers as heretical. He said that if China and Asia had been sunk into the sea, the mines would be working very well to-day by white unskilled labour. The other witness was Mr. Wybergh, Commissioner of Mines, who stated that where there was a will there was a way. He gave reasons for the employment of white labour, and his views were also regarded as heretical. He was dismissed from the Consolidated Goldfields on political grounds, and ho stated in evidence before the Commission that he had been personally subjected to political pressure. I think I have given reasons for showing that there is grave reason to doubt the soundness of the judgment displayed upon the facts by the majority of the Commission. I am making no attack upon them. I say that they are only acting as everybody would act in their place. The mine-owners see before them the alluring prospect of cheap Chinese imported labour. They have the sole monopoly of recruiting black labour. If that recruiting were successful it would be the main thing to weaken the argument for the necessity of Chinese labour. In these circumstances I do not think it is unreasonable that their efforts at recruiting have not been crowned with conspicuous success. Mr. Chamberlain, when 17 in South Africa, gave to the country what was tantamount to a pledge on the part of the Government, that Chinese labour would not be introduced without the assent of the Empire. These were his words, spoken on 16th January last year at Johannesburg—It is clear to me, and no doubt to you, that an overwhelming popular opinion in this very Colony is opposed to any solution of that kind. You have first to convert them. Then you will have seen that the other great Colonies of the Empire and the opinions of the mother-country herself regard a step of the kind as retrograde and dangerous.I do not always agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but I cordially echo the sentiments he uttered in Johannesburg. In July, 1903, in answer to that, came, as I have told the House, the unanimous Re-solution of both Houses of the Cape Parliament—Ministers are convinced that sufficient labour is available and can be secured, not only for working the mines in the Transvaal, but for all other requirements, if a fair wage be offered and considerate treatment in the way of housing and food be secured.That was followed on 30th July by the African Labour League, who sent this telegram to the Governor—African Labour League appreciates endeavours to prevent deplorable Chinese invasion. People in the Transvaal being rushed by forced depression. Commercial representation upon Labour Commission quite inadequate. Mining and Stock Exchange element predominate. Decision of question should be postponed until representative institutions established. Otherwise public opinion could not be honestly gauged.On 17th August, the Cape Ministers, through the Governor, transmitted a further strongly-worded despatch. On 15th August the Pretoria Trades and Labour Council joined in the cry, and as late as 9th December last, Sir W. Hely-Hutchinson telegraphed to the present Colonial Secretary stating that—The feeling against this does not decrease.More than that, at Kimberley on 15th December there was a meeting—the largest ever held at Kimberley—against the importation of Chinese labour; and on 17th December, a similar meeting was held in Cape Town. Lord Milner then set to work to deny that this was a genuine opposition. In spite of all this, 18 he telegraphed, on 3rd January this year, to the Colonial Secretary—Great change in public opinion in Transvaal. Quite a minority against it at the Cape. Opposition quite clearly due to electioneering. Both parties competing against one another in protesting against Asiatic labour.A stronger proof of the general feeling I can hardly conceive. Dr. Jameson, the new Prime Minister, telegraphed on 4th January last confirming and insisting upon the Resolution passed by both Houses on 17th August, 1903. And on 20th Febuary there was this Minute from the Cape Ministers—No sincere effort has been made to secure labour.The language is not mine, but that of His Majesty's Ministers at the Cape. What does Lord Milner say to this? On 11th January he sent the most remarkable despatch that I think has ever been forwarded to the home country by a Governor occupying a position which should be above and independent of all parties. It was as follows—The Bond working the anti-Chinese cry for all that it is worth and the anti-British newspapers from Cape Town to the Zambesi fulminating in chorus against Asiatic importation at the Cape. The majority of the Boers are anti-Asiatic, not from any interest, but in order to "dish" Progressives. The Progressives have been forced to try and compete with the Bond in anti-Asiatic fervour. But it is quite evident that many of them are doing this without conviction.It appears, my Lords, that there is no honest politician on either side at the Cape, and that honesty, integrity, and independence lie solely with Lord Milner. That is followed hot-foot by telegrams from New Zealand and the Commonwealth of Australia, protesting that they would never have helped us in the war if they had known that it was going to lead to the importation of Chinese into the Transvaal. And what does Lord Milner say on 29th January? He goes from strength to strength and says—Local opposition to Labour Ordinance apparently extinct.That is followed by something which proves to demonstration that his conclusion is erroneous. I refer to the impressive protest on 10th February from the leading Boers of the Colony—General de la Rey, General Botha, Smutz, and 19 others whose names are familiar as having been leaders in the war against us, and who speak of this as—A public calamity of the first magnitude.Had that protest any impression upon the mind of Lord Milner? Not at all. The next day he telegraphed home to say—Opinion not the least affected.I should be surprised to hear what would impress him. He continued—Boers not unfavourable; many are strongly in favour of it. If they saw a chance of making political capital out of the opposition to imported labour the temptation would be too strong.There is a very easy way out of that, which is to take the opinion of the Transvaal itself. In six months you could get a ballot. It is stated that it would take six months to prepare the list of voters. But Lord Milner would rather not wait. That ballot would show—and, perhaps, it is the only thing that could show definitely—whether all these demonstrations of popular opinion are ignorant or dishonest, or whether Lord Milner is mistaken in the view he holds. Meanwhile, protests come from all parts of Cape Colony, and the only way in which Lord Milner alludes to them is, on 25th January, that—They are of interest—and why?—Because they betray ignorance.The High Commissioner in South Africa is quite entitled to his own opinion, however obstinate or wrong—that only effects our estimate of the accuracy of his statements and the value of his judgment—but what I venture to submit to the House is, that he is not entitled to bring groundless and ungenerous accusations of ignorance or craft against all who differ from him, merely because they differ.
I do not propose to discuss the question of the position of the Chinaman when once imprisoned in the compound. That was referred to the other day, and no doubt other speakers will discuss it in the course of this debate. But you cannot stop at the Rand. I understand that His Majesty's Government are proposing to introduce the same thing into Rhodesia. If you introduce it into 20 Rhodesia, can you stop there? Can you prevent the coal mines and the railways from demanding similar cheap labour? And I want to put this question to those who know South Africa far better than I do. Have they considered whether or not they are running the risk of a great Kaffir uprising—an uprising which will be different from all others in that country, inasmuch as it will have the secret or open sympathy of many, if not of most, of the white men, Boer and British, in the Colony? But besides and beyond this there is a moral aspect to the question. You are incarcerating together in a compound, for three years, men in the prime of life. It is said that they are to bring their wives with them. The most rev. Primate the other day, however, said he was assured they would not. H' said that a captain whom he had consulted, and whose judgment he relied upon, had stated that they would not bring them. I doubt whether a single woman will leave China, because, of course, the object of every recruiter will be to recruit only men who have no domestic encumbrances. They frankly admit that their object is to make as much money as they can. They will not sacrifice dividends for the sake of these domestic encumbrances. Money, not morality, is the chief factor in the minds of these financiers.
I do ask—Have right rev. Prelates nothing to say to this? I understood the right rev. Primate the other night to refrain from outspoken condemnation on the plea of necessity. Necessity is a very old plea, and if the most rev. Primate will look in his "Paradise Lost" he will see who first raised it. I think we ought to consider whether it is right or wrong, and not the necessity or supposed necessity of it. I appeal, even at this last hour, to the most rev. Primate, in his great official position, and with the great personal respect which he commands in this House and elsewhere, to speak in bold, clear, unqualified condemnation of this traffic. If he does, I believe that even now he might stop it But if he does not, then I am afraid we must sorrowfully admit that the people outside have come to a clear conclusion on the moral aspect of the question unaided by any spiritual guidance whatever from the bishops. It is not only true to say that the people disapprove of this policy 21 They have a positive detestation of it. There has never been put forward so unpopular a policy in my lifetime. I know of no other policy of which it could be said, with truth, that you cannot hold a meeting in its favour in any place in the United Kingdom. It is abhorrent to the people at homo, it will bring the fame of this country into discredit with the Empire beyond the seas, and not only with the Empire, but with the rest of the civilised world.
§ Moved to resolve, "That this House disapproves of the importation of Chinese labourers into the Transvaal under the recent Ordinance until the grant to that country of full representative government."—(The Lord Coleridge.)
§ LORD STANMORE,
who had given notice "To call the attention of the House to a communication recently addressed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Society of Friends," said, My Lords, I had intended to have called your attention last night to a remarkable document which has been issued by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, but it was suggested to me that it would be better to bring the matter on to-night so that this question and the Motion of my noble friend behind me might be discussed together. A short time ago my noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said, what, if I may venture to say so without impertinence, appeared to me to be one of the truest and most sensible things that have been said on this question in this House. The noble Marquess cast aside the pretence which has been put forward that the Ordinance by which, in this case, Chinese labour is to be regulated is essentially similar to those Ordinances which regulate immigration in other colonies. He said, and said with truth, that the circumstances of the Transvaal are very different from those of other coolie-importing colonies, and that the circumstances under which labour was to be introduced being different, it was only natural that the Ordinance which provided for its introduction should be different also. I heard that with much satisfaction, and I have no doubt that my noble friends who share the same opinions as myself heard it with equal 22 satisfaction. We felt that by that admission all unnecessary wrangling as to whether this Ordinance was like some other Ordinance, or whether such and such a provision was better than, or worse than, some other provision in another land, might be set aside and disregarded, and that the only question we had really to consider was whether the provisions of this Ordinance were in themselves just and equitable.
But our satisfaction was of very short duration. Two or three days after the words were out of the mouth of the noble Marquess, the Secretary of State for the Colonies wrote a letter to the Society of Friends, in which he absolutely threw over the doctrine the noble Marquess laid down, and insisted on the almost exact similarity of the Ordinance which is to introduce Labourers into South Africa to those that introduced them into other colonies. The letter is a remarkable one for another reason. It consists mainly of what may be called two sneers—the first is a sneer, and a very undeserved one, upon that most respectable body the Society of Friends. It chooses to assume what the writer of the letter must, I think, know he had no sufficient ground to assume, that the members of the Society of Friends oppose coloured immigration under all circumstances and in all places; and on the strength of that covert sneer, he proceeds to an open sneer at my noble friend sitting near me (the Marquess of Ripon), and at noble Lords on the other side of the House also, to the effect that those who had approved of Immigration Ordinances in other colonies had no right to object to this Ordinance. I will leave the two Secretaries of State to arrange their difference of opinion between themselves—an occupation, by the way, in which by this time His Majesty's Ministers must have become tolerably proficient—and will merely notice that the interpretation of the Secretary of State for the Colonies has been reinforced by the interpretation of Lord Milner. He has taken up the same view of similarity, and, in answering a deputation which waited upon him with regard to this subject, he not only repeated that view, but, as my noble and learned friend Lord Coleridge said, charged all those who took an opposite view with ignorance, including, I suppose, the noble 23 Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
Now, my Lords, I do not pretend to be less ignorant than my betters, still less do I profess to be wiser than my neighbours; but, after all, experience derived from eighteen years close personal observation of the practical working of Immigration Laws in the West Indies, in Mauritius, in the Pacific, in Ceylon, counts for something; and it is because of that experience that I feel myself compelled, not without reluctance, to warn your Lordships as solemnly as I can that this Ordinance involves a new departure, and, I fear, a departure on a dangerous and downward road. This, my Lords, is the essential difference—it is one which has not been alluded to in the course of these debates, but it is far-reaching and most important—that all the restrictions, whether they be mild or whether they be severe, which have been imposed in former Immigration Ordinances in other parts of the world, have had one object, and one object only, namely, that of securing that the work which the labourer has contracted to do shall be done. All the restrictions have been for that purpose and that purpose alone. But in this unfortunate Ordinance the restrictions are not confined to effecting that purpose; they are directed to a totally different object. They are restrictions, imposed not to make certain that the work shall be performed, but imposed because the labourers are Asiatics. You enter there on a course of restrictions, not to enforce a contract, but to gratify the prejudices, the fears, and the pride of race and colour. That makes an essential difference in the whole spirit of the legislation in the one and the other case.
I have pointed out that the spirit and the object of these Ordinances are wholly different, and yet Lord Milner tells us they are precisely similar. Now, of the 150 Ordinances which the Secretary of State for the Colonies has quoted, can ho produce one in which the labourers are brought over by a private importer and then—not sold, indeed—but "transferred" by him, at his own pleasure, in batches of such number as he shall choose, to private proprietors of mines? No, he cannot. Can he find one in 24 which the condition of those labourers, when they have been imported, is one of close imprisonment, ending, at the conclusion of their indenture, with their being returned to their own country by compulsion? No, my Lords. Among all those 150 Ordinances he will not find one with those provisions. Nor, again, will he find among them one in which there is not some provision with regard to the minimum of wages and the maximum of work. Nor will he find one in which the labourers are not entitled to holidays as of right. He will not find one in which their holidays are limited to such days only as the employer may choose. There is no compulsion upon the employer in this Ordinance, and he may not choose to give a holiday from one end of the year to the other. I maintain that there is no such provision to be found in any of the other Ordinances. Is there any Ordinance among them all in which there is a prohibition on the labourer to own property? Is there any one in which there is a prohibition to rise in the world by employment at other labour Is there one in which a man is prohibited from rising even in the work in which he is engaged? Is there one in which there is a list of minor and subordinate posts, actually connected with manual labour, to which it is provided that these unfortunate people shall not under any circumstances rise? No this list of occupations and this minute care that immigrants shall not be employed in any kind of position of superiority are totally absent from any Immigration Ordinance. But, as I have said, it is not a matter of detail, not a matter of whether this or that provision is more or less desirable. There is an essential difference between the enactment of provisions to enforce the performance of a labour contract, and the enforcement of restrictions which are made to seclude and segregate these people from the rest of the population, and which are imposed on them from the fact that they are alien labourers and not because it is necessary to compel them to do the work they have stipulated to do.
I shall very likely be charged with rhetorical exaggeration in having said 25 that the period of the indentured labourer's stay in the Colony would be one of perpetual imprisonment. There is no one who more dislikes rhetorical exaggeration than I do. But that is no rhetorical exaggeration. At least, I think not. Let me quote, in proof of that, what the Secretary of State for the Colonies recently said in the House of Commons. An hon. Member asked some questions with regard to what would be done with the children of mixed parentage. The answer was that there would be no children of mixed parentage. Now, what does that mean? How can the Secretary of State for the Colonies, or anyone else, say that there shall be no children of mixed parentage in the Transvaal, unless it is meant that the Chinese population introduced is to be so closely imprisoned, so closely watched, that there shall be no opportunities for any intercourse whatever between them and the general population of the country. If that is not close imprisonment I do not know what is. I think that the cool statement of the Secretary of State for the Colonies that there will be no children of mixed parentage is a very remarkable and a very formidable one, and, in view of that statement, which means, if it means anything, that from 10,000 to 100,000 Chinese imported labourers will be kept under close supervision and imprisoned in these compounds, I would venture to say that the moral state of things that will arise can hardly be called altogether satisfactory. I would ask the most rev. Primate most earnestly to consider what the full meaning of that statement of the Colonial Secretary's is; what the full consequences of such a segregation as is there implied means; and whether he can feel that, as far as the moral question is concerned, the arrangements of the Government can be considered satisfactory.
I have said that it was with reluctance that I ventured to address to the House a warning as to the new departure it is taking. It is with reluctance, because I have no sympathy whatever with those who would try to confound slavery with the system of indentured labour. There is no comparison between them. Indentured labour 26 is a totally different thing from slavery. I have no sympathy with those who indulge in that exaggeration, and I am reluctant, therefore, to say anything that may seem to tell against indentured labour. I have as little sympathy, I confess, with those who wish altogether to prevent the introduction of Chinese labour, supposing it to be necessary, out of any idea that white labour can ever replace coloured labour in the Transvaal. That I believe to be utterly chimerical. I believe that the introduction of coloured labour of some sort is necessary; but, if you introduce it, for heaven's sake introduce it under fair and proper conditions as regards the persons imported! Do not go out of your way to depart from old usage. Give them as much liberty as possible, and do not impose restrictions on them because of the race to which they belong. It seems to mo that a strange change has come over public feeling in this country. Fifty years ago this Chinese Ordinance would have been looked upon from a different light from that in which it is now viewed. On 22nd March, 1858, I happened to be occupying a place on the steps of the Throne, and heard Lord Brougham raise a question with regard to an Immigration Ordinance which had then just been passed in Jamaica. That Ordinance, as Immigration Ordinances went, was a very good one on the whole; but Lord Brougham objected to certain details in it which, ho said, pressed with undue severity on the immigrant. The place now occupied by my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies was then filled by the late Lord Carnarvon. He took a little time to consider the matter, and then informed Lord Brougham that, having looked into it, the Jamaica Ordinance certainly contained some very good provisions, but was open to some of the objections that had been raised, and consequently the Queen would be advised to disallow it. And yet that Ordinance was as whips are to scorpions compared to this Transvaal Ordinance.
I do not know whether it is the case now, but for the thirty years that I myself happened to be a Colonial Governor the Governors received, on obtaining their appointment, a Commission under the Great Seal which conferred on them certain powers, and also Instructions under 27 the Royal Sign Manual which limited and defined the exercise of those powers. Now, in those Instructions the Governors were told not to assent to certain classes of Ordinance. They were not to assent to any Ordinance, for instance, which debased the coinage, which was contrary to treaty obligations, and then, among others, came this Royal Order—You are not to assent in our name to any Ordinance whereby persons not being of European descent or parentage are subjected to restrictions or disqualifications to which persons of European descent and parentage are not equally subject.I should like very much to know whether those are the instructions of the Governor of the Transvaal. If they are, they are at singular variance with the Ordinance we have been discussing; and if they are not, it would be curious to know when and why they ceased to form a part of those instructions. We of late years have heard a great deal—possibly too much—about Imperialism, but about that Instruction which I have quoted there is a ring of true and noble Imperialism—the fiat that in no part of the dominions of the Crown shall there be established that most odious of aristocracies, an aristocracy of colour. For, depend upon it, that is what is at the bottom in this case. These restrictions are imposed because, at the time when you go to these Chinamen, praying them to come and help you, you are determined that they shall not occupy in the Colony which they are begged to help the position which, as men, they are entitled to occupy. I say as men, because one of the rights which it is supposed a man cannot abnegate is the right to hold property. If you must have Chinese or Indians have them by all means, but have them upon a sound law. By agreeing to restrictions which are not to enforce the compact but to seclude one race from access to another, you are entering upon a step which leads, if not to slavery, to those practices analogous to slavery, which Lord Grey, when Minister for the Colonies and all through his long life, so vehemently denounced.
As to the Motion before the House, I confess I cannot give my vote in its favour. The whole question is, Is it necessary or is it not that Asiatic labour 28 should be introduced into the Transvaal? If it is necessary, I should say that the sooner it is done the better, and that the existing Legislature of the time is the one to pass it. On the question of necessity I have not been able honestly to form an opinion. I cannot say whether it is necessary or not. I am prepared, so far as the abstract necessity for importing Eastern labour goes, to accept the decision of the Government of the Transvaal and the Government of this country; but not unless that importation is fairly conducted, and conducted without the influence of race prejudice and colour hatred, which certainly lie at the bottom of this Ordinance.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The DUKE of MARLBOROUGH)
My Lords, I am indeed gratified to hear that the noble Lord who has just sat down does not agree with the terms of the Motion which has been proposed by the noble and learned Lord opposite. I confess that in the speech of the noble and learned Lord there appeared to me to be an undercurrent that it was His Majesty's Government themselves who had initiated this Ordinance and forced it upon the unwilling Dutch and English population of the Transvaal. That is not the case. The question that we have been called upon to solve is this: whether we are to allow, or to disallow, others in the Crown Colony to import Chinese for work of a specific and definite character. We are aware that this measure has lent itself to a considerable amount of misconstruction and misrepresentation in the country. In making that observation, I do not refer to noble Lords opposite; indeed, the arguments and views they have expressed have been couched in very reasonable and proper terms; but in the country and elsewhere it has been very different. We thoroughly realise the prejudice, and, indeed, the passion, that this Ordinance has created. The noble and learned Lord has said that no meeting can be held in this country in favour of the importation of Chinese labour. The noble a ad learned Lord's experience is dissimilar to my own. I know of meetings which 29 have been held which have expressed contrary views to those which the noble and learned Lord has stated, and I thoroughly believe that no meeting where the matter was put forward simply and plainly would receive the proposition with that disapproval which the noble and learned Lord seems to imagine.
It is true that the Government themselves have little to look forward to in I his matter. We know that we have enabled those who are opposed to the Government to stir up resentment and ill-feeling in the minds of many of those whose sympathies we desire not to lose or to alienate. We have nothing to comfort us in this matter except the knowledge that we have approached the subject with the sole object of doing our best conscientiously for the interests of the Colony. We believe, rightly or wrongly, that the importation of Chinese, and this Ordinance which authorises it, will be for the benefit of those who reside in the Transvaal. We shall not shirk from the duty which we believe we have to perform, in spite of the prejudice, the partisanship, and the passion which unfortunately the subject has created in this country. I think our duty in this matter is pretty clear. In the first place we have to decide whether this demand on the part of the Transvaal for the importation of Chinese is a reasonable one, whether the conditions necessitating the importation of these labourers really do exist. We regard this point as clearly proved by the Report of the Labour Commission, that there is a lack of labour in South Africa. It was pointed out in the Majority Report that those districts in South Africa from which you might expect to obtain labour required the labour for themselves, and it was established beyond all doubt that it was impossible to get a large number of natives from that part of Central Africa to which the noble and learned Lord referred. The noble and learned Lord said he did not quarrel with the composition of the Labour Commission.
§ LORD COLERIDGE
I did not say that. I said that in the circumstances it was impossible to get a Commission of persons without preconceived ideas.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
I will not labour that point. The noble and learned Lord said that the mine-owners had not done their best to get sufficient labour for their requirements. Indeed, he went further and said there had been a desire on their part to show that it was impossible to get labour in South Africa in order that they might obtain cheaper labour from Asia. Only half the stamps in existence in Johannesburg are working to-day, and if they were all at work it would mean an addition to the wealth of the Transvaal of £10,000,000 a year and the employment of something like 5,000 skilled white artisans, earning over £2,000,000 a year in wages; notwithstanding these facts, the noble and learned Lord is prepared to state that our fellow-kinsmen in South Africa are deliberately trying to prevent an adequate supply of labour being introduced in order that they may go abroad and obtain cheaper labour. Then the noble and learned Lord stated that one of the reasons why labour had not been forthcoming, was that the Kaffirs had been badly treated in the mines. I think he said the wages were low and the Kaffirs were not properly attended to. I would remind him that the wages which the Kaffirs receive to-day are between 50s. and 60s. a month, a considerably higher wage than that which they received under the Dutch Government before the war. As to their ill-treatment, I read a document only recently setting forth the manner in which they were taken care of, and I absolutely deny the statement of the noble and learned Lord that the Kaffirs in Johannesburg are not properly: and adequately provided for.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
The noble and learned Lord was quite accurate in stating that the deaths among the Kaffirs on the mines amounted to 70 per thousand, but the reason of that is perfectly easy to explain. There was a great epidemic of influenza at the time, which carried off an abnormal number of Kaffirs, and when that epidemic passed away the percentage of deaths was considerably reduced. The noble and learned Lord 31 quoted instances in which the Transvaal Labour Bureau had disagreed with others with whom they came in contact. I need not enter into that matter. The noble and learned Lord read many paragraphs in connection with it, and I think it is quite clear that there was a certain amount of dispute and ill-feeling between the two parties concerned which was not very pertinent to the question of recruiting. Our next duty in this matter is, I think, to be sure that this measure is in conformity with the wishes of the people themselves. Your Lordships will remember that the Legislative Council had this Ordinance before them for many weeks. They discussed it thoroughly, and it was eventually passed without a division. I understood from the noble and learned Lord that he did not think that Lord Milner's opinion, nor, indeed, the opinion of the Legislative Council, reflected the wishes and desires, in their entirety, of the people of the Transvaal. When last year the War Contribution Loan Bill was before Parliament, no one suggested that a referendum ought to be taken in the Transvaal in order to discover whether the people who promised the contribution really represented the wishes of the population. But while the noble Lord will accept these persons as representative when it is a question of receiving something, he declines to trust them at all when they ask for the means of developing their industry.
His Majesty's Government believe, and I think many noble Lords in this House will agree, that the members of the Legislative Council do represent and reflect the wishes of the people of the Transvaal in this matter. They have passed this Ordinance, and they believe that it is the wish of the majority of the people that it should be put into operation. I am reminded that only as recently as the other day the views of the Legislative Council were justified by a representative deputation which was received by Lord Milner. The deputation comprised some 300 delegates from thirty-seven meetings held at the mines, and twenty-eight representative bodies, including the Johannesburg and other municipalities, the Chambers of Trade and Commerce, 32 and mining, scientific, and technical associations. That deputation expressed I their anxiety at the delay in the ratification of the Labour Ordinance, and their; concern lest it should not pass. There is also the testimony of the Bishop of Pretoria in support of the view of the Legislative Council. One might suppose that the view of the Bishop of Pretoria I might be opposed to the acceptance of this measure, but, on the contrary, he telegraphed expressing his regret at his inability to be present, but declaring his belief that the introduction of Asiatic labour, under Government regulations, was the only solution of the difficulty. There is the still more remarkable expression of opinion of the members of the Free Church in South Africa, who have I sent a communication to their brethren in this country imploring them not to take a hostile view of this matter. They further stated that they did not think their brethren in this country thoroughly understood the question. The sequel was, that their brethren here passed a resolution in which they expressed the opinion that their brethren in South Africa ought to be removed from the membership of the Free Church.
I pass to another point raised by the noble and learned Lord in connection with the question of white labour. The noble and learned Lord reminded us again of Mr. Tarbutt's letter. I confess I thought we had finished with Mr. Tarbutt's letter. We had it read to us at the commencement of these debates, but the noble and learned Lord has again brought it forward, and I do not think there is anything to add to what has been said with regard to that letter. I understood the noble and learned Lord to say that the mine-owners were, in the first instance, favourable to the employment of white labour; that no question was at that time raised as to its cost, but that subsequently they determined, for political reasons, that it would be unwise to try the experiment. The noble and learned Lord forgets that the very first person in South Africa who attempted to use white labour was Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. At the conclusion of the war ho wrote to Lord Kitchener and asked that he might be allowed to have any soldiers who wore not required to 33 work in the mines. What has been the experience of the mine-owners as to the employment of white labour? They have found that the cost is too great. It has been conclusively proved by the experts, by the engineers, by everybody who understands this particular question, that white labour is too expensive to be employed in largo quantities. If the noble and learned Lord will look through this bulky Blue-book he will see telegrams and expressions of opinion on behalf of the Transvaal Government showing that we ourselves tried to use white labour on the railways. We sent men from these shores to South Africa and they worked there for several months, but our experience conclusively proved that we could get the work carried out much better and considerably cheaper by local labour.
His Majesty's Government are satisfied that this Ordinance is not opposed to the wishes of the people of the Transvaal, that, on the contrary, if it had been disallowed it would have created a widespread feeling of apprehension in the Transvaal, and of irritation on the part of the population that Parliament and the public in general did not thoroughly appreciate and understand the extraordinary labour difficulties that of late have been created in South Africa. I confess that nothing in these debates, and nothing which has fallen from the noble and learned Lord this evening, has in any way shaken our confidence in our original contention, which we believe is thoroughly supported by facts, and we do not think that those facts have in any way been disproved by the noble and learned Lord. All the facts connected with this problem have been fully debated in both Houses of Parliament. A majority in the other House accorded its support to the Government, and I believe that when this question was first discussed in this House a similar result would have taken place if we had been pressed to a division. Our opinion in this matter has not been in the least shaken. We believe that the demand for labour is real and genuine, and that the conditions of the Ordinance are humane and not demoralising. We believe, also, that the experiment has behind it the goodwill of the Colony 34 itself, and that it encounters no serious opposition from other parts of South Africa less closely connected.
We admit that our responsibility in this matter does not rest here. Let us for a moment examine the situation. On the one hand you have in South Africa a number of employers who are anxious to obtain a greater supply of labour; and, on the other hand, you have in China a number of Chinamen who are anxious to lend out their services for a remunerative and a better wage than they are able to get in their own country. Judging from the observations of the noble and learned Lord it would seem to be wrong to have any dealings with Chinese at all. If an employer in this country was anxious to secure the services of foreigners, under a system of contract, no objection could be taken. Why should the thing be inherently wrong when the employer is in South Africa and the employee is a Chinaman? If the industry had been cotton or wheat-growing no one would have; said that the demand for labour was based on morally bad principles. But because the individual concerned is yellow, and the industry is gold mining, the principle as to whether the immigration is legitimate or illegitimate is entirely lost sight of, and a prejudice is created, not against the principle itself, but against the nationality of the individual and the nature of his work. I confess that in these debates we have heard most interesting speeches from many noble Lords, but we have heard hardly any expression of opinion from noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite. There is not a single noble Lord on the front Opposition Bench who; has spoken on this subject except the noble Marquess (The Marquess of Ripon). There was, of course, Lord Carrington, but he, if I may use a naval analogy, commands the torpedo boat of the political fleet of noble Lords opposite, and his action, although, no doubt, very brave indeed, does not necessarily conform to the general movements of the political fleet. We want to know what the views are of those on the political flagship opposite. I have a profound respect for the views of the noble Earl the Leader 35 of the Opposition, although I do not always agree with them. The noble Earl occupies an extremely important position in the Party to which noble Lords opposite belong. He is not primus inter pares; his position may be described as facile princeps. I should like to know whether he thinks there is anything inherently wrong in principle in the desire of employers of labour in South Africa to import, under a system of contract, Chinamen from China. I hope the noble Earl will let us know whether he endorses and supports the somewhat wild and mischievous statements which have been spread throughout the country on many a platform in connection with this subject. I repeat that there is nothing inherently wrong in principle in the immigration of Chinese labourers into South Africa.
I now come to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Stanmore. The noble Lord complained of the letter that the Society of Friends received from the Secretary of State, and he further claimed that there was a total difference of principle between the Chinese Ordinance and the Ordinances passed for the West Indies. It is perfectly true that there are certain differences, but the differences are due chiefly to the nature of the case—that is to say, whereas a coolie is employed in agriculture or in sugar planting in the West Indies, a Chinaman is to be employed in South Africa in the gold-mines. Except for that consideration, the two Ordinances are similar in principle; and I cannot agree with the view that the difference is more than a difference of degree. In each case the labourer is indentured for a period of years—in the Trinidad Ordinance it is for five years, and in the South African Ordinance for three years, and possibly three more. In each case his residence is circumscribed, whether it be the plantation in the West Indies or the location or Chinese village in South Africa. I do not know whether my noble friend would complain of the difference in size between a Chinese village and a plantation, but I notice in the Trinidad Ordinance that the plantation may be as small as five acres in extent, whereas the Chinese 36 village in South Africa may be as large as two miles in extent. In each case, leave of absence is fixed by regulation. The labourer in the West Indies may have twenty-five days leave of absence in a year; in South Africa the Chinaman may have forty-eight hours leave, which may be renewed at the discretion of the employer.
§ LORD STANMORE
The number of days granted in the Trinidad Ordinance are as of right, but the forty-eight hours in the Chinese Ordinance is an indulgence at the will of the employer.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
In each case the transfer of the indentured labourer is supervised. In the West Indies he cannot be transferred without the consent of the Governor of the Colony; in South Africa, not only can he not be transferred without the consent of the Governor but the consent of the labourer himself is also required. In the West Indies there is a clause in the Ordinance to this effect, that the owner is entitled to sell his plantation and also the labour of the labourers upon it co any one he chooses. That is a stringent regulation, and one which has been in operation for thirty or forty years past and during the time noble Lords opposite were in office, and so far as I am aware they never complained of that regulation. In the Transvaal Ordinance, as well as in the West Indian Ordinances, provision is made for the health and well-being of the indentured labourer, and in each case the labourer has to conform to the regulations laid down. The similarity in principle between the provisions in the South African Ordinance and those in the Ordinances in the West Indies certainly did not justify the description contained in the letter of the Society of Friends that they are nearly allied to slavery. The Government are bound to exercise control in order to see that the contract is based on proper terms and on terms which are humane. The Chinese are, in a sense, the weaker party to the contract, and it is our duty to see that they are not misled by offers of work not being properly stated. It is our duty to see that they are properly transported, that their wives and families are also properly 37 transported to their new homes, and that they are properly housed and cared for when they take up their new quarters.
All these considerations have been raised in your Lordships' House, and perhaps I may remind the noble Lords of the pledges in connection with this matter which were given by the Colonial Secretary. All the regulations made under the Ordinances are not yet available, but the first pledge of the Secretary of State was that all reasonable facilities will be given for the introduction, reception, and accommodation of the families of labourers. It has been decided that the labourer may bring his wife and children with him, but if he chooses to leave his wife at home he can send for her subsequently, and the cost of transport will be provided by the mine managers. All that we ask the labourer to do is to notify in South Africa that he is a married man, so that they can make adequate provision for him in case he wishes his wife to join him. The next pledge which the Secretary of State gave was that the transfer of the labourer from one employer to another should not take place without the labourer's consent. The regulations, as I have already ventured to remind your Lordships, require not only the consent of the Governor-General, but also that of the labourer himself before his labour can be transferred from one employer to another, I and, furthermore, friends and associates will be kept together in each group of mines as far as it is possible compatible with the requirements of the mine managers. The next pledge given by the Secretary of State was that every precaution would be used to secure the proper treatment of labourers on the voyage. Their proper treatment will be provided for by a surgeon accompanying every ship, and the captain must obtain a certificate proving that the accommodation of his ship is in all respects satisfactory. Perhaps the most important pledge of all which was given by the Secretary of State was that an officer would be appointed by the Transvaal Government to go to China to see that every labourer fully understands the nature of his engagement. I may say that an officer selected by the Transvaal Government will go to China and explain the provisions 38 of the contract to each labourer before it is signed, and the labourer is obliged to possess a copy of the contract signed by himself in his own language.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
It will depend at which port embarkation will take place. Furthermore, the Secretary of State has promised that the compound will be suitable for Asiatic labourers. It will be carefully prepared for them by those who are familiar with Asiatic customs. The labourer and his wife and family will be provided with medical attendance, and get his housing, water, fuel, and daily rations free of charge. My noble friend Lord Carrington is interested in this question, and perhaps would like to know the daily fare which the Chinaman is to receive. It will consist of one and a half pounds of rice, with half a pound of dried fish, half a pound of vegetables, and several ounces of tea. I have referred to the pledge which the Secretary of State has given and the methods in which it is proposed to carry them out, and I submit that all these facts are sufficient to dispose of noble Lords' objections to this Ordinance.
The debates in your Lordships' House have been frequent and protracted. Many speeches on this subject have been delivered, and I am not prepared to say that the discussion has been unprofitable or useless. Nor can the Government in any way resent the attention which has been paid to this subject. But I trust noble Lords will see that the Secretary of State has endeavoured to recognise every practical suggestion, no matter from what quarter it has emanated. I am willing to admit that the draft Ordinance and the regulations, so far as they have been drawn up, have gained in more ways than one by the labours that noble Lords in this House have expended upon the subject. Those who will be called upon to administer the Ordinance will realise the seriousness of their task by the fact that a strong and vigilant public opinion in this country will watch their discharge of them. That alone is a great security. 39 Speaking for those who sit on the Government Bench, I can say that we willingly and readily recognise the effort that has been made by noble Lords opposite in so far as they have been inspired by lofty considerations of humanity and morality. But elsewhere, where those efforts have been directed for the purpose of creating prejudice and passion, and, furthermore, where there has been a desire to seize upon a difficult and complex question of Colonial Office administration and to use it as a counter for furthering the cause of a political Party in the State, it is impossible for noble Lords on this side of the House to accord to the authors a similar measure of congratulation.
§ EARL SPENCER
My Lords, I desire at the outset to congratulate the noble Duke on the spirited and able speech which he has just delivered. The noble Duke was certainly under a disadvantage in this respect, that, although practice makes perfect, it is rather difficult when one subject is repeatedly brought on, to find new arguments. My noble friend has, I think, acquitted himself most admirably, and the House has derived much pleasure in listening to his speech. The noble Duke very generously referred to his principal critics in this House and admitted that their action has been of considerable benefit to the Ordinance and the regulations under it. I thank him for so generously making that allusion. The noble Duke was, however, I think, mistaken as to the undercurrent which he said he found in the speech of the noble and learned Lord behind me, who was accused of having suggested that His Majesty's Government had initiated this policy. I did not understand my noble and learned friend to differ in any way from the noble Duke as to the actual position of His Majesty's Government in this matter. The matter was not initiated here but in the Transvaal, and it was only on the representation of Lord Milner and others in the Transvaal that His Majesty's Government's responsibility began at all. The noble Duke made a somewhat playful allusion to Lord Carrington and myself. He said that I represented the political flagship, and he rather complained that I had not spoken before on this subject. I do not consider that it is my business to intervene in 40 every debate, especially when other members of my Party who have held high office and know probably more, from official experience, than I do of the subject take part. But the noble Duke was not correct in saying that I had not expressed my view on this question, because in my speech on the Address, I where it is often necessary to touch on a variety of subjects, I did allude to this Ordinance. The main point of my argument then was that, whatever opinion we might ourselves hold on a question of this sort, it made all the difference in the world whether the Colony was a self-governing colony or a Crown colony, and I denied the possibility of arriving at the real opinion of the Colony until they had representative government.
I quite admit that any individual or company is entitled to employ Chinamen if they like, but what I do maintain is that it entirely depends on the conditions under which they are employed. My noble friend said there was a great deal of prejudice about this, and that if it had not been for the fact that yellow labour was involved and that this industry was connected with gold mining, there would not have been half the tumult that has arisen, f entirely deny that. I maintain that the opposition to it depends on the conditions under which this labour is to be employed. I at once admit that the regulations will probably improve the Ordinance; at the same time considerable doubt is entertained by noble Lords on this side of the House arid by my noble friend Lord Stanmore, who has had un-rivalled experience in this matter, whether regulations hold the same legal position as the Ordinance. What docs the Ordinance do even with the amending regulations? Are the conditions exactly what a liberty-loving people would approve of? Is there any parallel to these regulations in any part of the world? When asked that very Question in the House of Commons, the Secretary of State for the Colonies answered very shortly "No." Let us look at one or two of the regulations. There is a clause in the Ordinance which enacts that if a labourer goes out of the compound and is living in another house he may be arrested and prosecuted, and any person who harbours him may also be prosecuted and convicted. It may be an 41 exaggeration to call that slavery, but I venture to say there are conditions about it which are of a servile or semi-servile nature. The noble Duke has said that he has found meetings—I do not know where they are, certainly not in Dorsetshire—where resolutions could be carried in favour of the Government's policy. The feeling of the people in this country is very strong in regard to liberty and freedom. They consider that every part of the territory of His Majesty is sacred to freedom, and anybody who puts his foot on British territory has a right to be defended, and cannot, unless he is proved to be guilty of some great crime, be given up to the State to which he belongs.
There is, I admit, force in the argument that the importation of Chinese labour is not a movement against white labour. But I cannot help thinking, after a perusal of the Blue-book, that there is something political in the movement. The mine-owners seem to be afraid of the increase of white labour in the Transvaal on account of its probable political results. No doubt there is a shortage of labour for the mines, but the Minority Report of the Labour Commission makes out a strong case that there is much more Kaffir labour available in South Africa than people in this country generally suppose. Even the answers to Questions on the subject in the House of Commons show that Kaffir labour in the mines is increasing. The De Beers mine has no difficulty whatever in obtaining all the Kaffir labour it requires, because the natives receive high wages and are very well looked after there. I believe that the laws which have been passed by the Transvaal Government imposing a capitation tax on the Kaffir and another tax for the plurality of wives, though passed with the object of inducing the natives to work in the mines, has had the contrary effect of keeping them away from the mines. In June of last year Lord Milner said—To listen to some of the extreme advocates of Asiatic labour one would think that this place was on the verge of total ruin. The production of gold now is greater than in 1895 or 1896, when the Transvaal was already, and had been for some time, the marvel of the world in the matter of gold production. The world progresses, no doubt, but what was fabulous 42 wealth seven years ago is not abject poverty to-day. Not only that, the rate of production is increasing.Why, then, is it necessary to force an extra production by the importation of Chinese labour? Is it because it is desired that great fortunes should be made in a short time? Cannot the mine-owners wait until the market has become more settled? I protest against a course of action so fraught with evil being taken merely for the sake of increasing the output of gold so that a few men may make their fortunes rapidly.
The noble Duke has said that the conditions imposed in the Ordinance are humane. But are they consistent with full liberty? It is also said by the noble Duke that there is no serious opposition to the importation of the Chinese into South Africa. What is meant by that? In Cape Colony, which surely is the most important part of South Africa, both political Parties are strongly opposed to it. There is little doubt that the financial position of the Transvaal is very critical, and it is feared that unless something is done at once there will be severe suffering in the Colony. I admit that; but I think that those who cry out for the remedy of Chinese labour do not sufficiently look to the future nor consider what may be the consequences of that action. In my opinion, the consequences will be disastrous. I cannot help thinking that there is an intense feeling in many parts of that country against the introduction of Chinese labour. There is in one of the Blue-books a very strong statement from a number of Boer leaders. It may be said that these men have been, and still are, our enemies; but we must consider that they still have enormous influence in the country, and if they are opposed to this, as I believe it must be admitted they are, will not that be a profound and terrible difficulty to be met in the future? To pass an Ordinance of this kind, which is opposed by all the Dutch population and the leaders of the Dutch in the Transvaal, seems to me a very serious matter. We know that the lower stratum of the Chinese belong to a civilisation not as high as our own, and we know from experience in the Colonies and elsewhere that they are very often extremely immoral. If 43 it is impossible to confine them in their cages, will not this immoral influence be very serious for the people of the country? These and other considerations seem to be so grave that I would not myself like to agree to an Ordinance of this sort, though it might for the moment relieve financial tension.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of LANSDOWNE)
Do I understand that the noble Earl used the word "cage"?
§ EARL SPENCER
I used the expression in a figurative sense. I think I am justified in using the word. The Chinese are to be restricted to particular districts. The cage may be a large one in some cases, but the Chinese must remain within certain limits and are deprived of that liberty of movement which is enjoyed by all people belonging to this country. I look with very grave apprehension to the passing of this Ordinance, even though amended by the regulations. I most earnestly wish that the Government could make up their minds, even now, to withhold this Ordinance, and to allow things to remain as they are, trusting to time and the development of Kaffir labour to do what is necessary for the mines. I do not for a moment say that we ought to neglect the mines. The mining industry is undoubtedly very important to the prosperity of the Colony, but it should not be developed in such a way as to be prejudicial to the true interests of the people.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Duke, not only on his admirable speech, but also on having elicited from the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition the statement that he is not opposed to the free importation of Chinamen into South Africa, but only to the conditions under which they come.
§ EARL SPENCER
I do not think I quite said that. I said that, however 44 much one might dislike it, as I do, it made it much worse when the conditions are such as obtain in this case.
§ EARL GREY
Now, what are the conditions to which the noble Earl objects so strongly? He resents the idea that the Chinaman, or anybody else, should be confined to what he calls a "cage," but what would be much more correctly described as a garden city. I know some companies who are arranging that every Chinaman who is admitted to the compound shall have a garden plot of his own on which he can grow his vegetables. It is going rather far to say that the result will be demoralising if we do not prevent the Chinaman who earns a penny a day in China from earning 45s. a month in South Africa under conditions in which every care will be taken of his interests. The noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition referred in terms of enthusiasm to the arrangements made for the natives at Kimberley.
§ EARL SPENCER
I said that at Kimberley they could attract the natives. I did not say it was an ideal place to go to.
§ EARL GREY
The noble Earl did quote it as a place where the natives were very well treated. I would point out that the native who goes into a compound on the De Beers mine is never allowed to leave it. There he is in a cage. But the Chinaman on the Rand, when he obtains a pass, is allowed to 45 go where he pleases. The noble Earl appealed to the feeling of the House, and said it would be monstrous if a Chinaman who violated the conditions of his employment, and left his compound without a permit, should be imprisoned. Is not the man in His Majesty's Navy and in the Army in very much the same position? If he is under orders not to leave his ship or his barracks, and he leaves without a pass, is he not liable to imprisonment? I think we are really losing our sense of proportion when we say that to allow a Chinaman the opportunity of obtaining highly-paid employment which he cannot obtain at home, and under conditions, as I have said, where every care will be taken of his interest—it is going rather far to say that that approaches slavery, or is demoralising in any way. I do not think the noble Earl has quite realised the fact that the whole organisation of Government, society, and railways has been based on the expectation of the expanding industry of the Transvaal. It is true that in 1898, before the war, they were raising gold at the rate of £20,000,000 a year, and that now the rate is £14,000,000 a year. It is also true that the expenditure, which, in 1898, was only £4,000,000, is now over £6,000,000 a year, and the debt of the Transvaal in the same period, if you take into consideration £6,000,000 wanted for municipal loans at Johannesburg, and the £30,000,000 pledged to this country, has risen from £14,000,000 to £71,000,000. How is the interest on that debt to be paid? There is already a very heavy deficit in the Transvaal.
If the Imperial Parliament stands in the way of the industrial development of the Transvaal, I should like to know whether those who support such a policy are prepared to incur the obligation which will devolve upon us if the Transvaal cannot pay the interest on the debt? I entirely agreed with the noble and learned Lord when he said that the ultimate fate of South Africa would depend upon the present action of the Imperial Parliament. I approach this question from the standpoint of one who believes that every consideration except that of honour should be subordinated to the adoption of a policy which will 46 bring about an increase in the number of British settlers in the Transvaal. I believe it to be true that by means of the temporary employment of Asiatics we will secure highly profitable employment for a large number of British artisans for whom no employment can be found at present. We will also secureincreased trade, and a large increase of employment at home. It is because I believe this that I so strongly urge on the House the importance of helping the Transvaal to settle its own difficulties in the way it thinks best. The noble and learned Lord, in his modesty, thinks that he alone must be right and that Lord Milner and everyone else in the Transvaal who is in favour of the temporary employment of Asiatics must be wrong. Reference has been made to the two gentlemen who signed the Minority Report of the Labour Commission, and especially to one of them, Mr. Whiteside. I would point out that out of nineteen gentlemen nominated by Lord Milner Mr. Whiteside was the only one who was rejected at Johannesburg at a popular election. Does not that convince the noble and learned Lord that there has not been the crafty and unholy conspiracy to get cheap labour to which he referred.
§ LORD COLERIDGE
I did not use the word "craft" in that connection. I used it in connection with Lord Milner's accusations against those who differed from him in politics.
§ EARL GREY
I pass from that. The noble and learned Lord said there had been an absence of recruiting activity. He has made a diligent examination of the voluminous Blue-books and has picked out every point which tells against the British representatives in South Africa. He has not mentioned the fact, which is stated in the Blue-book, that since 1901 the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association has spent £445,000 in endeavouring to obtain labour. Does not that large expenditure prove that they were in earnest? I say that the expenditure of that sum in an organised attempt to ransack the whole continent of Africa to obtain coloured unskilled labour shows that they have done their utmost to meet the demand 47 at the mines. Some 68,000 natives were employed by the members of this association on the last day of last year, and they want 172,000 to-day in order to bring the mines into full working order. The natives are receiving 54s. a month and getting better food than they ever obtained outside Johannesburg in their own kraals. The noble and learned Lord made a point of the fact that no compensation was given for injury, but he will see in the Blue-book that Sir George Farrar definitely states that the natives do receive compensation on the same lines as working men in Great Britain, and that the compensation goes to their relatives in the event of death.
I will compare the case of the Kaffir labourer with that of the English labourer. The Kaffir labourer receives from 54s. to 60s. a month with food and lodging. If he chooses to put in two years employment, at the end of that period, even allowing himself during the two years £20 for extra luxuries to improve the dietary, he can return home with between £50 and £60 in his pocket. What does he do with that? I have been in the country and I speak of what I know. He buys four or five wives, and these wives work for him. He can sit in idleness for the rest of his life getting fat on the money he receives from the grain grown for him by his wives. Is there any British workman who has got an opportunity of obtaining such great advantages in return for two years work? The Kaffir is practically a millionaire for the rest of his life, with nothing to do and five wives to wait upon him. The noble and learned Lord appealed, in a tragic voice, to His Majesty's Government not to extend the operation of this Act to Rhodesia. Parliament has the right, if it wishes, to ruin the Transvaal—as it will do if it does not allow the people in the Colony to do as they wish in the matter of the importation of labour—but what right has it to interfere with Rhodesia, towards which the British taxpayers have not paid a penny? Rhodesia has been obtained for the British Empire by the enterprise of private individuals, and has contributed certainly over £1,000,000 in stamp and transfer fees to the National Exchequer. Why should Parliament say that Rhodesia must not 48 have the help of Chinese labour? Chinese labour may be just as necessary for the Rhodesian mines as it is for the Transvaal, and, if it is, Rhodesia ought to have it. Rhodesia depends for its prosperity on the mining industry just in the same way as the Transvaal does. I therefore hope that Rhodesia will be treated in the same way as the Transvaal, and that the importation of labour will be allowed as it is required. The action of the Imperial Parliament is being watched with great anxiety in South Africa; and the leaders of the Opposition are simply playing the game of the disloyal faction throughout South Africa by trying to prevent a step which is absolutely necessary for a rapid increase in the number of settlers.
§ Moved, "That the debate stand adjourned until Monday next."—(The Lord Bishop of Hereford.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.