§ VISCOUNT MILNER
rose to call attention to the situation in South Africa, and to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he could give the House any information as to the form of the proposed Constitutions of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I feel that I stand in special need of that indulgence which your Lordships are always ready to accord to one who addresses you for the first time. I can honestly say that it is only with the greatest reluctance and from a strong sense of public duty that I am bringing up this matter at all to-day.
At first sight the moment may not appear opportune. The noble Earl the Secretary of State may say:—"We have told you that we are giving this matter our most careful consideration, and that we find it a very difficult and complicated one. The Prime Minister stated only last Monday that he was wofully in want of information; the noble Marquess the Leader of this House stated on the same day that we were obliged to make 707 further inquiry on a variety of subjects; under these circumstances, how can you expect us, after only a week, to give you full particulars?" I admit the force of that, and I may say that the last thing I wish to do in this matter is to hurry the noble Earl or the Government. The more complete their knowledge the better. But without going into every detail I think the noble Earl may be glad of an opportunity of making some statement on the general trend of the Government's policy, especially on points which have not attracted so much attention as Chinese labour.
I see it assumed in some quarters friendly to the Government that their guiding principle is simply to reverse everything done by their predecessors. If that is the case, I think that the country, which has certainly never given its approval to such a proceeding, is entitled to know what is contemplated before it is too late. I hardly think myself that that can be their intention. Still, there are certain disquieting symptom?—witness the whoop of triumph with which the Speech from the Throne and the commentaries of Ministers upon it have been received by the whole anti-British Press of South Africa and by the agitators who since the conclusion of peace have never ceased to discredit and obstruct all the efforts of His Majesty's servants in that country, even when they were of the most direct benefit to the mass of the Boer people.
That insidious and absolutely consistent enemy of this country, Ons Land, breaks into a pæan because the Lyttelton-Milner régime is as "dead as a door nail." Ons Land is really almost as happy, and, of course, more demonstrative than on the occasion of our military disasters at the beginning of the war. I say these are disquieting symptoms; I hope the noble Earl will be able to dispel our alarm—the alarm of those who did not sympathise with the enemy during the war, and do not want to see all the hard and costly work accomplished since its conclusion mutilated or undone.
I should like to point out to your Lordships some of the principal points with respect of which we are in suspense, and very anxious suspense. First of all, there was a passage in His Majesty's Speech which seems to me to have re- 708 ceived much less attention than it deserved. I refer to the brief paragraph which announced the immediate grant of full responsible Government to the Orange River Colony. The noble Marquess the Leader of this House seemed to treat that as a matter of course. He even said that he had never been quite able to understand why the late Government did not deal with the Orange River Colony in the same way as with the Transvaal. I cannot say what reasons weighed with the late Government; but to me it seems tolerably obvious that, if you are tempted to make the same risky experiment in two places, you naturally try it first in the place where the risk is less, and not in that where it is immeasurably greater.
I trust the Government are under no illusions as to the extent of the risk in the Orange River Colony. What, after all, do we mean when we talk of giving responsible government to a colony? It means giving it, virtually, complete independence under the Crown. There remains, no doubt, the Governor's veto on legislation, a veto very rarely exercised, very invidious in its exercise, but still, as far as it goes, a certain power; but in executive matters the whole authority rests exclusively with His Majesty's Ministers. I think it was the late Lord Salisbury who once pithily described the situation by saying that the only bond between the Mother Country and a colony with responsible government was the bond of affection. But what if that, the only bond, is lacking? And in this case how can any reasonable man expect it already to exist?
Here is a colony, three-quarters of whose inhabitants have been at war with you up to less than four years ago, a war that was fought with the utmost determination to the bitter end. It is true that they have been treated since then with a generosity which I believe has no parallel in history, that everything has been done, both to restore their material prosperity and to spare their susceptibilities, and that this treatment has not been without its effect. I believe that my friend, the Lieutenant Governor of that colony, is probably to-day one of the most popular men within its borders, with Boers quite as 709 much as with Britons. But though all that is very satisfactory as far as it goes, it does not amount to anything that by the wildest stretch of imagination could be called affection for British institutions, or the British Empire.
The process of reconciling the Boers to the new political conditions has been quite as rapid as any rational being could expect. No doubt, however, it would have been even more rapid, and the prospect to-day would be far brighter, but for one most regrettable circumstance. I refer to the fact that almost every man of influence among them—their leaders in the war, to whom they cling with a loyalty which does them honour, the ministers of their Church, whose influence over them is notorious, and the leading writers in the Dutch Press—have from the very outset devoted themselves to thwarting the policy of reconciliation and to keeping alive by every means in their power the bitterest memories of the war. There have no doubt been some honourable exceptions, but in the great majority of cases this has been the attitude adopted by the leaders of the Boers in both the late Republics. Only last month ex-President Steyn, who was merely taking a line which has been taken over and over again by other leaders, made a speech to a Boer audience at Dewetsdorp and exhorted the mothers who had "suffered so much" in the concentration camps to remember those sufferings, and to see that their children were not unmindful of the story.
That is bad enough; but there are still worse tactics to which the Boer leaders continually resort. I refer to the policy of trying to stir up the more ignorant and illiterate portion of the Boer people, and to excite and maintain their hatred of the British régime by the constant assertion, the mendacious assertion, that Great Britain has not fulfilled the obligations which she undertook under the terms of surrender. How, in the face of the plain letter of that document, out of which that accusation has over and over again been refuted, any human being can still go on reiterating it absolutely passes my comprehension. But any stick is good enough to beat a dog with, and any fiction, however malicious, however ridiculous, 710 is good enough for these gentlemen if it can only thereby foster animosity to Great Britain.
What is going to happen under responsible government? It is more than probable—it is, humanly speaking, certain—that the persons to whom I have referred will form a large majority, if not almost the whole, of that first elected Parliament of the Orange River Colony to which, from the first hour of its existence, the whole legislation and executive power in that Colony is to be entrusted. I do not suggest that they will begin by doing anything sinister. All forms will be duly observed; as why should they not be? It will be perfectly possible for them, with the most complete constitutional propriety, little by little to reverse all that has been done, and gradually to get rid of the British officials, the British teachers, the bulk of the British settlers, and any offensive British taint which may cling to the Statute-book or the administration.
I can quite understand that from the point of view of what are known as the pro-Boers such a result is eminently desirable. They thought the war was a crime, the annexation a blunder, and they think to-day that the sooner you can get back to the old state of things the better. I say I quite understand that view, though I do not suppose that it is shared by His Majesty's Ministers, or, at any rate, by all of them. What I cannot understand is how any human being, not being a pro-Boer, can regard with equanimity the prospect that the very hand which drafted the ultimatum of October, 1899, may within a year be drafting "Ministers' Minutes" for submission to a British Governor who will have virtually no option but to obey them.
What will be the contents of these Minutes, I wonder? As time goes on it may be a proposal for dispensing with English as an official language, or a proposal for the distribution to every country farmer of a military rifle and so many hundred cartridges, in view of threatened danger from the Basutos. I think I can see the Governor just hesitating a little to put his hand to such a document. In that case, I think I can hear the instant low growl 711 of menace from Press and platform and pulpit, the hints of the necessity of his recall, and the answering scream from the pro-Boer Press of Britain against the ruthless satrap, ignorant of constitutional usage and wholly misunderstanding his own position, who dared to trample upon the rights of a free people.
I may be told, I know I shall be told, that such notions are the wild imaginings of a disordered brain, that these are theoretical possibilities having no relation to fact or probability. They are not imaginings. They are just reminiscences. I know what it is to be Governor of a self-governing colony, with the disaffected element in the ascendant. I was bitterly attacked for not being sufficiently submissive under the circumstances. Yet even with the least submissive Governor the position is so weak that strange things happen. It was under responsible government, and in the normal working of responsible government, that 1,000,000 cartridges were passed through Cape Colony on the eve of the war, to arm the people who were just going to attack us, and that some necessary cannon were stopped from being sent to a defenceless border town, which directly afterwards was besieged, and which, from want of these cannon, was nearly taken.
But, quite apart from these questions of very real but more remote interest, I do want most earnestly to ask His Majesty's Government this most immediate, urgent, practical question. What are you going to do in the Orange River Colony about the new British settlers upon the land—those, I mean, who are Government tenants—about the British teachers in Government schools, about the constabulary, about the officials, high or low, but especially the humbler of them, who have served you with such devotion during these last arduous years? Are you just going to hand them over like that without any further concern as to what may happen to them, with their legal rights, no doubt, such as they may be, but with no safeguards against hostile administrative action?
Remember, this is no case of gradual constitutional development. It is the case of a sudden revolution. Loyalty 712 to the old system will be a black mark against a man under the new. The Government must surely feel that, if it is a question between the grant of full responsible government and this country keeping faith, they should choose the latter. In that case they will find that they have, after all, got to qualify their grant of responsible government and to proceed in a more gradual and circumspect manner than the words of His Majesty's Speech seem to imply. It is perfectly possible to do this. I believe it is absolutely more practical than the per saltum method. And, again, if they are wise and if they really, as the Prime Minister says, are looking forward to federation, they would do well to reserve certain powers in both the new colonies affecting matters which are of more than local importance until they are in a position to hand them over to a Federal Government.
And now, returning to the general line of my argument, let me say that, as far as the attitude of the Boer leaders is concerned, there is absolutely no difference between the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal. But, in the case of the Transvaal, the danger arising from that attitude is less considerable. Unless the Transvaal is ruined and depopulated by blows levelled at its principal industry, or unless the distribution of political power in the colony is absolutely unfair, the British element, whether or not it obtains a majority in the Legislature, will in any case command so strong a minority that it should be able to protect itself and should, if it is not hopelessly alienated by our attitude towards it, supply to a great extent that bond of affection which, according to the great statesman I have already quoted, was the only bond which held self-governing colonies to the mother country. Surely, under these circumstances, it is not surprising that in the work of constitutional development the late Government should have given priority to the case of the Transvaal, and should have contemplated the two colonies proceeding in echelon, if I may use the expression, to the goal of ultimate complete self-government, which was the same for both.
I know it may be said that the fears I have expressed about the Orange River 713 Colony amount to a plea for perpetual Crown colony government in that country, that they leave no hope of its ever being in a satisfactory condition under responsible government, and that, therefore as we are bound sooner or later to give it responsible government, why not give it now; why irritate them by delay? My Lords, I would like to join issue in the most direct manner with those who take up this position. In the first place, let me say that I am an out-and-out advocate of ultimate complete self-government, even in the Orange River Colony. If I had not been, I could never have put my hand to the terms of surrender in which that prospect was referred to. But I was satisfied that we were not holding out the hope of anything which we were not certain to grant in any case, and that complete self-government on the basis of the political equality of all white men was the only possible, the only desirable, goal of the work of political reconstruction in both colonies.
To that goal every line of our policy, so far as I was responsible for it, has converged. Nor have I ever doubted that, though the road might be long, though the process might be slow, and must, if it was to stand the best chance of success, be gradual, with patience and circumspection we should be able ultimately to arrive at a thoroughly satisfactory result. Every year that passed the bitter memories of the war would grow a little more distant, and the trick of playing upon them less effective. Every year the obvious solicitude of the Government for the welfare of the people, the multiplication of good schools, the improvement of agriculture, the spread of railways, the hundred and one works of material advancement, would win us friends or diminish the hostility of enemies. Every year the new population would become more firmly rooted on the soil, and get on to better terms with the older inhabitants. Let me be quite frank and say that, even in the most favourable circumstances, even if sufficient time had been granted for all these influences to produce their inevitable effect, we might nave found, when we came to granting complete self-government to the Orange River Colony, it was still a source of some solicitude to Imperial statesmen. But I 714 felt that, if things went well elsewhere, it would not be a real source of danger.
And here I come to the kernel of the whole business. Whether responsible government in the Orange River Colony can, or cannot, be introduced with safety depends on the general political situation throughout South Africa. Natal and Rhodesia are all right in any case. But in the Cape Colony, when the rebels are restored to the register, as they soon must be, the Bond will no doubt once more assert its domination; and with the Cape Colony under Bond domination I say that it is a very risky business to give complete self-government to the Orange River Colony, unless we can absolutely rely, to restore the balance, upon a prosperous and loyal Transvaal. That was, and is, the key of the whole South African situation.
If I may digress for a moment, I should like to say that people in England have never fully appreciated—and that is one of the weakest points in the whole position—how great, how decisive, that prosperity and loyalty of the Transvaal in favourable circumstances might be; how important a factor in the peaceful federation of South Africa and the whole future of the Empire. Just now the Transvaal, indeed all South Africa, is under a cloud. It has cost us great sacrifices. The compensations which we expected, and reasonably expected, have not come. The local difficulties of the Transvaal—though this is one fault of our Party system and not of the Colony—are a curse to the political life of this country. Men are sick of the whole affair, and, as is always the case under such circumstances, the croakers are magnifying every trouble and spreading broadcast the most gloomy anticipations.
Well, I am old enough to have lived through all this before. I remember when year after year this same gloom, these same jeremiads were all concentrated on our policy in Egypt. That was before we had had time to make Egypt a magnificent success. All this calumny with which the air is thick, all this raving about mammon and "Randlords," and the war having been a war for gold, and the liberties of a people having been trampled under foot to satisfy the greed of ruthless capitalists—substitute 715 bondholders for "Randlords" and you have an almost literal repetition of the hysterics of the early eighties. To-day the detractors have altered their tune about Egypt, and are even extolling our work there, which, if they had their way, would never have been done, in order to discredit by contrast our work in South Africa, which is still passing through the years of stress and strain. I do not suggest, for a moment, that the circumstances of the two countries are in any way similar. But the moral—the moral of patience, of tenacity, of turning a deaf ear to the consistent vilifiers of the policy of their country, and of the honour of its statesmen—is the same.
My Lords, as I have said, if you aim at political stability in South Africa you need a prosperous and loyal Transvaal. The right plan in my opinion was to go gently until you had built it up. A cautious line in constitutional development, and full steam ahead in the material recuperation of the country—that was the true policy in both the new Colonies—always with a view to ultimate complete self-government. But as you have decided against the gradual method, as you are going not only to plunge into full self-government at once in the Transvaal, but to go at an equally breakneck pace in the Orange River Colony, then it is of vital and urgent importance—it may make the whole difference between our ultimately retaining or losing South Africa—that you do nothing to hamper the growth of the Transvaal or to alienate the affections of its people.
What is the outlook in that respect to-day? My Lords, I say it with the deepest regret, the outlook is far worse, in my humble opinion, than it was three months ago. Six months ago, three months ago, it looked as if we were through our worst troubles in the Transvaal. The economic crisis was over. Trade returns, railway returns, revenue—every index of the general economic condition of the country was showing very satisfactory results. The amount paid by the mines in wages and salaries was £1,871,000 more in 1904–5—the first Chinese year—than in 1903–4. The amount paid by them for stores was £821,000 more. The expenditure of 716 this large sum by its immediate recipients was giving a powerful impetus to every industry in the country and to agriculture. The number of whites in profitable employment had enormously increased. The surplus population was almost absorbed, and there would soon have been a demand for further immigration. The reviving prosperity of industry and of agriculture was raising the spirits of the people—and, believe me, there is nothing like common prosperity to soften the asperities of racial rivalry.
Moreover, the improvement radiating from the Transvaal was beginning to make itself felt, as sooner or later it was bound to make itself felt, in every part of South Africa; and, according to the latest returns, Cape Colony and Natal, which had suffered so deeply in consequence of the depression in the central State, were showing unmistakable signs of revival. As compared with that, what is the position to-day? What is the position of the great industry of the Transvaal, the great industry of South Africa, as it has been left by the acts and the declarations of His Majesty's Government? I venture to say it is a position of the most complete, the most harassing, the most paralysing uncertainty. No business could possibly flourish under such conditions; and we have just got to face the fact that the economic development of the Transvaal is definitely stopped. The best we can hope is that things will not go back. There is no chance of their going forward until the menace at present hanging over the colony is removed.
My Lords, if I were to attempt to enter adequately into the discussion of Chinese labour, either on its economic or on its ethical side, I should keep you here till midnight. Moreover, we have now reached a stage in this controversy, which, sooner or later, is reached in every controversy, when no one can any longer hope to make converts. But, if this is not the time for argument, it is a time for a profession of faith. The tide of prejudice is running strongly against this system. That is the more reason why those who believe in it should speak out boldly. I know that I bear a large share of the responsibility for the introduction of Chinese labour. I am not going to 717 apologise for it. I am firmly convinced I was right.
I did not go into this grave business lightly. When it was first suggested, when the question was first raised, I was as much opposed to it as all the rest of the white population of the Transvaal, except a mere handful of mineowners and mine experts, a small minority even of their own class. By what subtle means, by what insidious and subterranean influences, by what mysterious process does any one suppose that I, together with thousands of our fellow-countrymen out there—men quite as independent, as honest, as moral, as religious, as the average middle class and upper working class of Great Britain, to which they belong—that I and they were converted to take a different view? We were converted by the facts; and if I was converted a little sooner than some of the rest, it was only because I had earlier and fuller access to the facts, and perhaps more time exhaustively to study them.
But let me add that, however great appeared to me its economic necessity, as revealed by the facts, I should never have felt myself justified in recommending the system if I had thought it morally wrong. I disliked the idea of it, because I foresaw that it would give us an enormous amount of trouble, though not precisely the trouble that has arisen, and that it would be difficult to recruit the coolies, to bring them over, to arrange for them on arrival; difficult to house them, difficult on the one hand, to prevent their giving trouble, and, on the other, to protect them against rough usage and against imposition, while the population would have to be protected against outrage. I fully recognised the gravity of all this. These were drawbacks, inconveniences, grave objections, no doubt, but such as with hard work and good organisation and administration could all be overcome, as I believe they have been overcome, although, no doubt, some mistakes were made and some very regrettable things happened in the process. These difficulties could not, in my judgment, be allowed to weigh against the supreme need of the country, not of the mines alone, not of the Trans- 718 vaal alone, but of every industry, of every portion of South Africa—the need of labour. It would have been otherwise if there had been something in the system which appeared to me inherently and incurably wrong. But that I was—and, after reading pages and pages of declaration and of hair-splitting I still am—totally unable to see.
On the ethical side the charge against the system has now been reduced to this, that if you admit the Chinese coolies into the Transvaal at all, you are morally bound to admit them for all time and for all purposes. It seems to me that this is an entirely new moral law invented for the particular occasion. These men are aliens. They have no rights in the country by birth or citizenship. No one disputes that the Transvaal would have a right to exclude them or any other aliens. What is contended is that it has no right to admit aliens for a limited time and a particular object. But it is surely less interference with the freedom of the Chinaman to admit him for a certain time and for a certain purpose than to exclude him altogether. The people of the Transvaal want the Chinese for one purpose only. The Chinese are delighted to come, fully understanding that it is for that purpose only. The purpose itself is a good one. It is labour, arduous and disagreeable labour, no doubt, but still straightforward, honest labour. I say, under these circumstances, it is tyrannous, yes, tyrannous, on the part of the people of this country to prevent the Transvaal people and the Chinese from entering into this arrangement between themselves, and I say that tyranny is immoral.
It has been said, and I sympathise with the remark and with the spirit that animates it, that there is no honest work which British workmen cannot do, and that they could do the work for which the Chinese are brought into the Transvaal at a certain wage. But the point is that the enterprise cannot afford the wage which British workmen would require, and rightly require. The British workmen will not, and ought not, to accept the only wage which for that particular work the mines can afford to pay. It would mean to him degradation. But for the Chinaman, with his different 719 standard of living, this same wage is not degradation, but advancement. And in doing this work which he can do without degradation, though the British workman could not, he is at the same time creating work of a different kind which the British workman can do with advantage. The arrangement is the most reasonable, I might almost say the most providential, which can be imagined; and it seems to me unreasonable, harsh, and tyrannous, both to the Chinaman and to the Briton, to forbid it.
So much about the prospect on its economic side. Now, how about the political? Let me say at once that, even from the political point of view, I attach far more importance to the general prosperity of the Transvaal, to the development of its industry and its agriculture, to making it a great country, the home of thousands of working British people carrying on an ever-increasing trade with their fellow-workers over here—I say I attach more importance to that than to this or that franchise, this or that distribution of seats, always provided you do nothing ludicrously unfair. I thought that in both these respects what is known as the Lyttelton Constitution was a very fair one. I am sorry it has been upset. But I do not say that some other arrangement might not be devised which would be equally fair, though I should not so describe any plan which did not give the young unmarried or newly-married residents, who form so large and important an element in the Transvaal population, and bear so large a part of the burden of taxation, their full share of political power. I should not so describe any plan which involved the total swamping of the small towns. And, fortunately, abstract justice in this respect coincides with political expediency. For it is to the country towns and to the average professional and middle-class and working-class voter of the Rand and of Pretoria that you must look to prevent political power in the colony falling too much under plutocratic influence. The bulk of the country voters will do what "Het Volk" tells them, and "Het Volk" is not going to save you from "Mammon." It is quite as willing to-day as the old Transvaal Government was before the war to make 720 its own bargain with "Mammon." It will go for Chinese labour, or for some bad substitute, such as forced Kaffir labour, which really is "tainted with slavery," if thereby it can only get complete control of the country schools.
There never was a question of this kind, a question of the distribution of political power, more complex and of more far-reaching importance than the present I one. But obviously I cannot discuss its details with the noble Earl across the Table to-night. We are in complete ignorance why Mr. Lyttelton's Constitution was rejected, or what the Government are going to put in its place. Probably the Government themselves do not yet know. But what I want particularly to ask is this. Are we never to know until everything is decided? Is this matter to be withdrawn entirely from the cognisance of Parliament and of the country, until we wake up some fine morning and find ourselves in the presence of an accomplished fact, which we may greatly dislike, and there is no room for criticism or even for suggestion? I most sincerely hope that the noble Earl will assure us that that is not going to happen.
The case is entirely different from Mr. Lyttelton's Constitution. That was avowedly temporary and transitional. There would have been plenty of subsequent opportunities to alter and amend it. But this is to be the grant of full responsible government. This country is going to say its last word about the Constitution of the Transvaal and at the same time, perhaps, to give the decisive bent to the whole future of that Colony and of South Africa. That is so grave a step, the issues involved are so momentous, that no Government is justified in taking it without first submitting it to public discussion.
My Lords, I must admit that I look forwards to the future with deep concern. I should have spoken perhaps even more strongly, but I have wished not to seem to make a Party attack. My desire is to save our position in South Africa, and not to do anything to injure, to discredit, or to hamper the Government. I am not much of a Party man any way. I have had too long and bitter an experience 721 of the evil effects of Party spirit on those national interests which it has been my duty and privilege, however imperfectly, to serve.
If I were a Party man I should try to goad the Government into going still further than they have done, into completely crippling the industry of the Transvaal, into recasting the electoral system of that colony to the detriment of the British element, into hurrying on full responsible government in the Orange River Colony without any safeguard or precautions; because I feel certain that, while the people of Great Britain may not realise what all this means while it is being done, they will greatly dislike the consequences when the thing has been done, and they will visit with condign punishment those who have done it. If I were a Party man I should rejoice to see the extremists, who have already dragged it so far, run away with the Government coach altogether. But from my point of view the alienation of South Africa is too high a price to pay for another swing of the pendulum at home. For the pendulum may swing backwards and forwards many times, but South Africa once lost will be lost for ever.
rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether the Prime Minister was correctly reported as having at Liverpool, on January 9th, stated that the Government was making an inquiry as to what steps could be taken to remove the "taint of slavery" from Chinese labour; and, if so, what provisions of the Ordinance, or what administrative arrangements on the mines, justified the expression "taint of slavery."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should explain that I rise now to address your Lordships at the request of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in order that he may have the opportunity of replying to the points raised in my Questions at the same time as he deals with those which have been addressed to your Lordship by the noble Viscount who has just sat down. I feel that it is inevitable that in addressing you upon the particular points contained in my Question the level of 722 the debate must come down somewhat. The subjects with which the noble Viscount has dealt so earnestly and so exhaustively are of the highest Imperial order, whereas those with which I ask leave to trouble your Lordships refer merely to some of the points which serve to build up that portion of the Empire with which the noble Viscount has been dealing. But I hope it needs from me no apology for asking your Lordships to listen to me to-night. You have been on more than one occasion very lenient in allowing me, only a humble director of a company, to address you upon this subject; but I do so because I feel that I am representing the interests of tens of thousands of shareholders, many of them very poor.
It is not my business to protect millionaires and magnates. They can very well protect themselves; but it is legitimate, I think, to ask your Lordships to listen to me on behalf of the shareholders in these companies which I have the privilege of representing. I shall endeavour in the first instance, in elaborating the Questions which I put to the noble Karl, to show that England feels at this moment so strongly, because she has been in a great measure misled and mis-instructed; and, next, I wish to ascertain from the noble Earl what it is, specifically, that the Government object to in what is being done at this moment under the Ordinance in the Transvaal. The first Question I ask is whether the Prime Minister used a particular expression—the "taint of slavery." When I put this Question on the Paper there had not been a debate in the House of Commons, and I was not aware that one was coming on; but I understand that in the course of that debate the Prime Minister did acknowledge that he used the expression "taint of slavery."
When putting down this question I thought it only just to the Prime Minister to look up what "taint" means, and I find that Dr. Johnson defines it as a spot a stain, a soil, a blemish. I rather gathered from the explanation of the Prime Minister that he thought the first word in the sentence was a qualification of the last. I must say I cannot see that to call a system the stain of slavery, 723 the soil of slavery, the blemish of slavery helps him at all; and I am perfectly certain of this, that many of those hundreds who heard the Prime Minister use that expression, and many of the thousands who read the expression, and possibly the hundreds of thousands who have heard that he used it, did not draw any distinction between stain of slavery and slavery. His Majesty's Ministers seem to me now to be searching about in every direction for qualifications of those words and expressions which they used before the General Election. The other night the noble Earl opposite, the Lord President of the Council, told us, I think, that it was an explanatory expression—
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Earl of CREWE)
I think I used the phrase, "a descriptive term."
There is a useful letter in The Times of this morning recalling the expressions which Ministers used before the Elections. I find that Mr. Morley described the Chinamen as chattels. A chattel, I suppose, is something that can be sold; and when the people of this country have seen illustrations of Chinamen in chains and heard them described, by an ex-Minister of the Crown and a Statesman who is now a Minister, as a chattel, it would not be unreasonable if a good many of them inferred that these Chinamen could be sold as African slaves used to be in the United States, before the war. Lord Spencer, whose absence we all deplore, and with whom, in his illness, we deeply sympathise, described the Chinamen as confined in cages; Mr. Lloyd-George spoke of them as chained in compounds, and Mr. Burns referred to the system as slavery naked and unabashed. Mr. Burns, at any rate, is not afraid of the expressions he uses. The noble Marquess the Leader of this House, whose absence I deplore to-night as I particularly wanted to put a Question to him, is reported to have said, on 11th February, 1904—The conditions under which these people would live would really amount to pure slavery.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of ELGIN)
No. That is denied by my noble friend.
Well, I have taken it from The Times. The statement is said to have been made by the noble Marquess on February 11th, 1904. If he did not use it, I apologise to him. He did say the other night that he had never used the expression slavery himself, and I was surprised to see this sentence attributed to him. But what I desire to point out is that all these expressions, which there is no doubt were used before the election, are now being qualified. Perhaps I may be allowed to read two letters which illustrate the anxiety which existed on the part of the Radical Party to get hold of any expression, any description by which they might agitate the minds of the people. These are letters which passed on the eve of the New Forest Election. The first was addressed to the Radical candidate—It is reported that the managers of the South African gold mines, or some of them, in order to lessen the cost of meat, which in South Africa is dear and tough, have caused to be extracted the teeth of the Chinese labourers. Will you, if elected, undertake to briny in a short Bill compelling the mine owners to put false teeth in the place of those wrongfully extracted.Your Lordships laugh. Yes; it would be humorous if not altogether so pathetic that anyone standing for Parliament should display such gullibility and such greed for an opportunity for the dissemination of imaginary horrors. This is the reply which was sent—Sir Robert Hobart presents his compliments to Mr. So-and-so and, in reply to his postcard just received reporting an almost incredible piece of barbarity to Chinese workmen in South Africa, desires to say that if the writer will be good enough to send him some more details or reference to the report he will at once forward the ease to the Secretary of State for the Colonies as the swiftest and most effective manner of dealing with an inhuman action.My Lords, the Radical Party have had the advantage of declamation from church and from chapel. The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Hereford has not hesitated to describe his reverend brethren in the Transvaal, the ministers of religion there, as persons with a lower sense of patriotism, of humanity, of Christianity than the right rev. Prelate himself. Why? They are men of the same blood and the same birth. Why should he, with, I venture to think, little of that 725 spirit of charity which is enjoined on us by St. Paul, find fault with these gentlemen who, far away from the luxury of palaces and cathedrals, are struggling their best to extend Christianity to the black race indigenous to the colony and to the yellow race which has been introduced there? It seems to me that the right rev. Prelate might have taken the trouble to ascertain the truth with regard to the Ordinance, and the system under which it is being worked, before bringing charges of this kind against men as honourable as any in the Church.
I have said that the Chapel had also assisted the Radical Party. There is a red pamphlet being sold on every railway platform in England, entitled, "John Chinaman on the Rand; by an Eyewitness." On the outside of it there is a picture of a Chinaman manacled, with chains on his legs, and tied to a post, and in the distance, at the pit-head, are Chinamen being flogged. I cannot help thinking that that pamphlet was written by a certain Mr. Pless. I do not know whether your Lordships have studied this Blue-book, but at page 21 you will find a very terrible story. On that page is Lord Selborne's despatch dealing with the whole thing, and you will find that he refers to a Mr. Boland who had written some description of the ill-treatment of the Chinese. Lord Selborne says—From the acting manager's letter you will see that there can he no doubt that Mr. Boland's informant is a Mr. H. J. Pless, who was at one time Chinese compound manager on this mine, but who has since left the service of the Company, and has returned to China. I will add nothing to the acting manager's letter and affidavit, and to the affidavit by the hospital attendant at the mine. These documents are a sufficient refutation of Mr. Boland's charges so far as they concern the management of the mine.
§ THE UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Earl of PORTSMOUTH)
Will the noble Lord give us the number of the Blue-book from which he is quoting?
I am quoting from the last Blue-book—the one in continuation of [Cd. 2788] January, 1906. On page 30 Your Lordships will find an affidavit of Alexander James McCarthy, hospital attendant at the Nourse Deep, 726 Ltd., Chinese Hospital, to the following effect—(1.) I joined the service of the Nourse Deep, Limited, as hospital attendant, on 27th April, 1905, and have worked at the hospital since that date.(2.) I have never admitted a coolie who was suffering from the effects of flogging.(3.) I have never admitted a coolie who was suffering from the effects of torture, such as being strung up by the wrists.(4.) On or about the 10th June, 1905, at which time I was boarding with Mr. H. J. Pless, the Company's Chinese Controller, at his house on the Nourse Deep, Limited, he took a photograph of a Chinese coolie in the following circumstances: I do not know whether the coolie had committed any offence, but Pless said, 'I will make an example of this fellow, and I will photograph him tied up, for fun,' or words to this effect. He then first gave the coolie a cold water bath, followed by a hot water bath. I objected to this from a medical point of view as liable to give the man pneumonia. He then tied the coolie, stripped naked, by his wrists to two large nails on the door in his dining-room, tied his pigtail up to his hands, and then tied his feet. Whilst he was tied up Pless brought food at meal hours and placed it on a chair in front of the coolie where it was impossible for him to get it. Pless kept the coolie tied up from 7 o'clock at night until 11.15 a.m. the following morning, and then released him and allowed him to return into the compound. The same coolie was admitted by me into the hospital, some three days afterwards, suffering from influenza, which I consider was brought on by the cold and hot baths.I remonstrated with Pless on his action on this occasion, but did not report same to the manager.To the best of my knowledge and belief no one else saw the coolie tied up in Pless's dining room.Pless sent the photograph he took to some place in town to be developed; I tried to find out where, but he evidently did not wish me to know.(5.) Pless remarked to me on one occasion that the photographs he had taken would be useful to him on his return to China, and that he would make something out of them; further, that he intended writing a book—with the photographs for illustrations—on 'Slave driving on the Rand.'Now this book, which, as I have described to your Lordships, is to be found on every railway platform in England, contains prints of a Chinaman hanging by his wrists from a nail in a door; and I do not think it is a very extravagant assumption on my part to believe that this book was produced by Mr. Pless.
Now, the reason why I say that the Radical Party have had the support of 727 chapel as well as church is that this book is godfathered by Dr. Clifford. He has written a preface to it, without apparently taking any trouble whatever to ascertain whether the statements contained in the book were correct or not. There are, in the book, quotations from Mr. Boland, whom Lord Selborne has described in the words I have read. Am I not entitled, then, to say that the Radical Party have had the support both of church and of chapel? This is not the first time that slavery in the Transvaal has been discussed in your Lordships' House. I remember twenty-five years ago a very remarkable and memorable speech delivered by Lord Cairns after Majuba, in the course of which he pointed out that serious allegations against the Boer people as regards slavery had been made by the Press in South Africa. He quoted this from the Cape Argus—The Republic has acted in contravention of the Sand River Convention.I fancy His Majesty's Government are going to place a great deal of dependence on the Sand River Convention and the Conventions that follow it—And slavery has occurred as an unbroken practice. It has been at the root of most of its wars: it has been carried on regularly, even in times of peace.Lord Cairns pointed out that there were from 500,000 to 600,000 Kaffirs in the Transvaal, and he charged the Ministry of the day—the Liberal Ministry of the day—with handing back to a people against whom this accusation was brought, these 500,000 or 600,000 Kaffirs, with the risk of their being subjected to slavery. Where was the virtuous indignation of the Liberal Party then? Not a word; and if we had then agitated the country on that particular point, do not you think that the Liberal Party would have been very indignant? Are we not justified in being indignant that you have brought these charges against us?
As I said just now, the ministers of religion in the Transvaal are of the same race and blood as yourselves. They take just as great a pride as you do in the great part that England has played in the abolition of the slave trade and in the suppression of slavery; yet before 728 the election some of you were not reluctant to use expressions which brought the gravest charges against them as regards their humanity and their pride in what England had done in this respect. There are a good many people not very significant who may use expressions without our taking much notice of them, but when the Prime Minister of England uses an expression one assumes that he has done so deliberately; and when he used the expression "taint of slavery," it seemed to me that it could not be denied that the Radical Party had brought a most odious charge against a number of people who were absolutely innocent of the slightest idea of favouring, encouraging, or patronising any system of slavery, of serfdom, or of servile conditions. If it could be disproved that any of those conditions existed, we were justified in expecting either an explanation why the term was used or an expression of regret that it ever had been used.
I pass on to the next point. I trust the noble Earl will be able to give your Lordships to-night a specific and clear explanation of what it is in this Ordinance that the Government take exception to. I will take the liberty of going through one or two points. One descriptive word has been used constantly—"compound." Are your Lordships aware that the word "compound" does not come into the Ordinance at all? The word is "estate" or "property," and the compound is only a walled-in portion of the estate of the mining companies partly for purposes of protection against the violent winds of the Transvaal and partly as protection from attack from some other estate. The Kaffirs, who entirely manned the mines before the Chinese came, were very fond, on a holiday or on a Sunday, of raiding a neighbouring compound if they could, and the compound fence, a very substantial fence, was an excellent protection against these raids. The necessity for a compound at the Kimberley mines was absolutely different from the necessity on the Gold Mines in the Transvaal. The compound at the Kimberley mines is required because diamonds are very small, easily concealed, and very valuable objects, and it was necessary to have an 729 opportunity of examining the Kaffirs before they left the compound to prevent illicit diamond trading. But the Kaffir has no opportunity of stealing gold on the Rand, and the compound there is not for the purpose of confinement so much as for the purpose of protection. Anyhow, the term is not used at all in the Ordinance and the Chinaman has perfect liberty, under the Ordinance, to wander about the estate of the particular company. Therefore, I cannot conceive that that is the objection taken to the Ordinance.
Now, as regards compulsory repatriation, one must consider the whole of the circumstances. The Chinaman is recruited in China on the condition that at the end of his term of service, or after his term of re-engagement has expired, he shall return to China. Do you say that he is not a free man, that he is not entitled to make an engagement of that kind? Do you say that he does not understand what he is doing? All I can say is that if the British official—not the official of the mine-owners, but the Consul at the port—does not satisfy himself that the man understands the contract into which he enters, then he is not doing his duty. It is the business of the Government to see that each man who is recruited does know the contract into which he enters. It seems to me an astounding proposition to advance that these men, members of a race who wander all over the world, and who are shrewd enough in many of their commercial dealings to look after themselves, are not to be free to make an engagement of that kind. If that is the objection, I am very much afraid the Government are going to find themselves in a very serious dilemma, because the Portuguese Government have already stipulated, or are about to stipulate, that the very same thing should be done with Portuguese Kaffirs. As your Lordships probably know, of the Kaffirs employed on the Rand something like 67 to 70 per cent. are from Portuguese territory. They are not British subjects, and the Portuguese Government have recently stipulated—it may have been carried out by now for all I know—that they will only allow recruiting in Portuguese territory on condition that at the end of the third year, or, if he re- 730 engages, at the end of the fifth year, the Kaffir should be returned to Portuguese territory, and not be allowed to take up other work in the Transvaal. Are we to understand that not only are you going to interfere so seriously with Chinese labour that the Transvaal will not be able to get it, but that you are also, out of consistency, going to interfere with the recruiting of Kaffir labour from Portuguese territory? This is a doubly serious question for those who have invested their money, their small fortunes, in these properties.
Is the objection to the Ordinance that the Chinese cannot own property? There are plenty of instances where aliens may not own property. Such is the case in certain States in the United States of America, and the Indian civilian who goes to India for the best part of his life is not allowed to own landed property there. There are several cases in other countries where aliens may not own property. What is the suggestion? That you are going to force the Chinaman, in order to own property, to become a British subject when he goes to the Transvaal! You will be landing yourselves in curious complications in taking objections of this kind to the Ordinance. It seems to me that the real reason which has animated such a large number of the people of this country is an extreme dislike of the industry because it is gold that is being abstracted. I am certain that if it were steam-coal we should not hear one-half of the objections now raised. You take objection because these men are not allowed to engage in other occupations. Why, it is a common form of agreement in the case of the highest employees that they should not enter into any other business but that of their employers. Is the objection that they have to reside on a particular property? There is the same provision on the British Guiana Ordinance. Is it that they have to carry passes? Why, every Kaffir has to carry passes. How would you identify him if found dead on the veldt otherwise? They are treated exactly the same as the Kaffir in that respect. I hope the noble Earl will be able to tell us plainly what are the points in the Ordinance to which he objects, in view 731 of the remarkable difference in the tone adopted by the Government on Friday from that of the night before.
Now, my Lords, what are you going to do? You are not going to have an inquiry, I understand. I am very sorry to hear it. When I saw that the Prime Minister had said that they were going to make inquiry how to remove this taint of slavery I was extremely hopeful that it meant that there would be a Royal Commission. You do make inquiries, apparently, of some people—anonymous magnates, and faddists. As I have said, it is not my business to defend the magnates. Those whom I do represent desire inquiries, but not of those of whom the Under - Secretary appears to make inquiries. What we want is a public inquiry upon oath, conducted by an impartial body, who shall go into the whole economic questions in South Africa, ascertain whether or not there is coloured labour enough, whether or not European labour will work alongside black labour, whether or not if they would not many of the mines could afford white labour, and whether or not this alien labour is necessary and as to the conditions under which it has been carried out.
I do implore His Majesty's Ministers not to discard this humble prayer of mine. I advance it most earnestly for this reason. I complain that the people of this country have been entirely misled as to the nature of the system under the Ordinance, and as to the provisions of the Ordinance. It is no use those who are concerned in the mines saying a word. It is no use noble Lords and their colleagues on the Front Opposition Bench saying a word. They are not believed. But an impartial inquiry by a Royal Commission would, I am perfectly convinced, show the people of this country how very much they have been misled, and how very unnecessarily their indignation has been aroused. I do most earnestly beg the noble Earl to consider this prayer of mine, and, if possible, to convince I his colleagues that it will be to the benefit of South Africa and of England that an inquiry of that kind should be held.
I am sure it is better than going to the people whom the Under-Secretary goes 732 to. He has been to Mr. Creswell. I can tell your Lordships something about the Association which has been formed, and which is called the Chinese Ordinance Repeal League. The Members include Mr. Creswell, Mr. Wybergh, and Mr. Edwards. Mr. Creswell was a very capable engineer, but, unfortunately, he had a bee in his bonnet. He was allowed to run one of the mines after the war, when there was a large number of indigent whites in South Africa, entirely with white labour, and at the end of six months or more—I forget how long, but it was after a fair trial—the chief engineer of the company, a very much more experienced engineer, said to him, in effect—Well, I am very sorry I cannot allow you to go on; the mine is not paying, and this experiment must cease.It was accordingly put a stop to, and ever since then Mr. Creswell has had a grievance. It is his mission, he thinks, in this world to convince the general public, which is perhaps not very difficult, and to convince men of his own profession, which is absolutely impossible, that his attempt on this particular mine was a success, when the best engineers on the Rand can prove quite easily that it was an entire failure. Mr. Creswell is one of the people whom the Under-Secretary consults. He told us so the other night.
Then there is Mr. Wybergh. He was also an engineer under a company of which I am chairman. He is, I believe, a fair engineer. He also has a fad, and his fad is politics. Just before the war he was taking an active part in agitating against President Kruger's Government. When I joined this company, of which I am now Chairman, having had nothing whatever to do with anything that had preceded the Raid, I gave my promise to President Kruger that the company should take no part whatever in politics, and I cabled out to Mr. Wybergh that he must make his choice between the company and politics. He chose politics. He was justified, of course, in doing so; and he was subsequently made Commissioner of Mines in the Transvaal. After being in that office for about a year he retired—and I believe it was a matter of pretty general knowledge that he retired because otherwise his 733 services would have been dispensed with—and he has now got a grievance against the company and the Government. The third name I mentioned was that of Mr. Edwards, and he, unless I am entirely misinformed, is a renegade Britisher, who fought against us during the war. This is the association which the Under-Secretary has been consulting.
I venture to suggest to the noble Earl, who, I am certain, has not implicated himself with insignificant people of this kind, that a very much safer course is to obtain information in the Transvaal itself on oath by an impartial body whom the people of this country will entirely trust. What is it that you are going to do? The Government are going to interfere, I understand, with the disciplinary regulations of the mines. I hope it will turn out all right. You must quite understand that the managers of these mines are persons who have had great experience in discipline and in the control of large bodies of men. I can quite understand the Government feeling it necessary to make these changes. I only warn them that if the changes are made, and if agitation results among the men, the managers will be far more free from responsibility than they are now It is just a question whether it is not better to throw the whole responsibility on the managers.
The other thing you are going to do, I understand, is to offer to repatriate the Chinese. You are going to offer them the cost of their passage home; that is to say, you are coming between master and servant, and offering the servant an inducement to break his contract with his master. That would be called by another name, legal or commercial, in this country. But I am very hopeful, for the sake of the mines, that there are not many Chinese who are going to accept this offer. I see on page 107 that Mr. Jameson, the protector of the Chinese—he is not an official of the mining companies—has expressed a certain opinion on this matter. Lord Selborne says, in his despatch—The Superintendent of Foreign Labour expresses the opinion that the high sense of the binding nature of a written contract entertained by the Chinese would deter many coolies from expressing a desire to break their contracts.734 In the speech to which I have already referred, Lord Cairns concluded with these lines—In all the ills we ever boreWe grieved, we sighed, we wept,We never blushed before.Which is the more calculated to raise a blush—that England should desert those whom she had promised to help, or that a British Ministry should have to be taught what is the honourable character of a contract by some poor Chinese coolies?
I have not gone into the economic part of the question to-night. I shall venture to ask your Lordships to allow me to do so on another occasion. I wish to show your Lordships how justifiable has been the action of those who have insisted that alien labour was necessary, not merely for the mines, but for the progress of the country, and it is necessary, in order to bring that home to conviction, to deal at considerable length with the economic side of the question. All I do now is to ask the Questions standing in my name, and I put it to your Lordships whether I have not fairly shown that expressions were used by persons of the highest authority which must have had a very great effect on the minds of many voters in this country—the effect of raising an excited animosity against the Ordinance and the system of labour brought into operation under it. I ask the noble Earl to toll us what it is in the system which is really objected to. Noble Lords opposite have the power now; they have the opportunity, and can make or break South Africa; but I am certain of this, that England does not easily forgive one or two things. She does not easily forgive if she has been misled, and she does not easily forgive if she finds that she is being done injustice; and I think you will find that there are hundreds of thousands of poor people who have invested their small savings in these mines who will think that your offer to our servants to leave our service without any compensation is inflicting upon them a very grave injustice.
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will admit that it is no easy task to follow the noble 735 Viscount who introduced this subject. He is not only responsible for much of the policy which His Majesty's Government have not been able to accept, but he is, also, master of all the details which have been impressed upon his memory during a time of stress and anxiety, in which he showed a courage and devotion which his country will not forget. My noble friend also who spoke from the other side has made himself a master of the details of the mining industry, and I thank him for the moderation with which, on the whole, he has spoken. I can assure him that I appreciate entirely the anxiety which he feels; and I think he will believe me when I say that I do not think any one holding the office which I now have the honour to hold could overlook the fact that the prosperity of the Transvaal is indissolubly connected with the mining industry, nor do I think that any reasonable man could deny that the small investors of whom the noble Lord has spoken have a claim for consideration, and have always received consideration, from the British Government.
The noble Lord has challenged me with regard to the use of terms connected with slavery. I can only follow my noble friends who spoke on this subject on the occasion of the Address and decline to take any responsibility for the use of that term. I have always declined, as far as I could, to take any responsibility for the creation of these general terms. I never had much to do with election placards, but it always seemed to me that, in the endeavour to get a single word which was capable of being represented in large letters on a single sheet of paper, those who drew up those placards ran a risk of doing a grave injustice. It is not the first time on which these sort of terms have been used. There are many in our recollection; and I confess I rather regretted to hear the noble Viscount bring into this discussion to-day a term which has had the same sort of misleading interpretation attached to it—I mean the term pro-Boer.
But I must call your Lordships' attention to one instance of how easily these things are misrepresented. The noble Lord opposite quoted some words which he said had been used by Lord Ripon, who is not able, through illness, to be 736 in his place this evening. May I tell him how that speech reads in the pages of Hansard?—The system which it is proposed to establish is one of semi-slavery. There is no other term to be applied to it. I am afraid I shall incur the censure of Lord Milner for having made that statement. … It is not pure slavery, because it is preceded by what is supposed to be consent on the part of the parties who are to be emigrated, but, once they are in South Africa, if they are not slaves, at least they are prisoners, for they are not to be allowed out except uuder stringent regulations and with a possibility of being arrested at every turn.As to pictorial representations, the art of political caricature, in the hand of a master, fascinates the victim even while it attacks him. In other hands it becomes a bludgeon which is as likely to injure friend as foe. I wish to express my deep regret—I have no hesitation in using that word—that this term has been used, for two particular reasons. In the first place, I regret exceedingly to find that men who have fought for us and suffered for us in the colony should think that their personal honour is impugned. I cannot believe that any reasonable man, even in the heat of an election contest, ever meant anything of the kind. But if he did, it only shows how important it is in these matters to observe the rule that, while we may challenge any system, we are not entitled to condemn an individual except on clear and specific proof. In the second place, I especially regret this incident, because it might possibly seem to raise a suspicion that there was a difference of opinion between the two sides of the House and the two Parties of the country on the great question of slavery itself. I do not believe that for a moment. I believe that all Parties adhere to the proud boast that slavery cannot exist under the British flag.
If we are agreed so far, it comes to a question, which surely may be discussed with calmness, whether under this Ordinance there is anything which interferes with the liberty of a free man. I may be wrong, but I cannot conceive that anybody could say that all the provisions of this Ordinance were consistent with that right. I think the noble Lord used the argument that the Chinamen had consented to go. I do not think that the voluntary consent of Chinamen to come under the Ordinance 737 is a sufficient answer. I do not know whether it has ever happened, but I car conceive a man's becoming a slave voluntarily for certain reasons of his own. It is significant that the differences from the ordinary law are exactly the points at which the difficulties make themselves most manifest.
I wish to call your Lordships' attention from the Blue-book last published, to the returns of offences for October last. The return is given under several heads, and the figures are given for each head. But they are not summed up, so I may mention that the total number of offences recorded in October, 1905, is 940. Of these no less than 755 come under two sections of the Ordinance, and as this matter is of importance I should like, with your Lordships' permission, to read those sections. Subsection 11 of Section 31 provides that—Any labourer who shall desert from the service of his importer, or shall refuse to work for him when required to do so, or who shall unlawfully absent himself from work, or who shall perform any work or carry on any business other than that of unskilled labour in the exploitation of minerals, or who shall enter the service of any person other than that of the person importing him, or of the person to whom his contract has been lawfully transferred under this Ordinance, shall be liable to a fine not exceeding £25, and in default of payment to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two months.
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
Section 19 provides that—No labourer introduced under this Ordinance shall leave the premises on which he is employed without a permit in the form and containing the particulars prescribed by regulation signed by some person authorised thereto by the importer, provided that no such permit shall authorise the absence of such labourer from such premises for more than 48 hours from the time when it was issued.I am informed that those sections cannot be found in the ordinary law. They create crimes which are not crimes under the ordinary law, and, in my opinion, 738 that does constitute a difference from the point of true liberty which every free man ought to possess under the British flag.
The noble Lord also challenged me in regard to the section relating to repatriation. He seemed to think it was ridiculous to call that section an infringement of the ordinary law, because all that was provided was that the man should go home. But there is a good deal more than that in the section. It imposes a penalty if the labourer refuses to return to his country of origin—a fine of £10, or three months' imprisonment. If he pays the fine or serves the term of imprisonment and still refuses, he is to be forcibly sent back. Surely that is not within the ordinary description of the rights and liberties of a free man. I have said I do not wish to support any of the allegations or attacks upon individuals. But where there is a question of limiting liberty—which liberty is the right of every man who lands on British soil who is not a criminal—there we object, and we must continue to object.
We do not propose, and I do not think we can be called upon—there are plenty of precedents for our not doing so—to sweep away all that we object to at one moment. We recognise that that would be grievously injurious to the industries, and we are not called upon to do it. It is admitted that there have been irregularities in the past, especially with regard to flogging. That certainly did not come within the Ordinance; it was specially debarred at the request of the Chinese Ambassador, and it ought not to have occurred. I do not mean to say that there has not been exaggeration in the accounts given of this matter—and in regard to the gentleman of the name of Pless, to whom the noble Lord referred, very likely he is culpable for misrepresentation at least. We desired that he should be prosecuted, but he had left the country and gone back to China, and it is not very clear that we can get hold of him.
We are now in this position, that I have the personal assurance of Lord Selborne that he has gone into the whole of this matter, and he is satisfied that he has 739 secured humane treatment for the workmen in the mines. I have not the honour of personal acquaintance with Lord Selborne, but Lord Selborne's character is known in this House and the country. I think we should always say that any work which he has done is thorough and conscientious; and during his time in South Africa all accounts show that he has made himself personally accessible and popular to men of every race and class. I feel that I am perfectly justified in accepting the assurance of Lord Selborne in the spirit in which it is offered.
The noble Lord asked me whether it would not be well to appoint a Commission to inquire into this subject. My Lords, if it is true, as I think it is that under the action of the High Commissioner irregularities have been removed and things are working in a satisfactory manner, I rather doubt the expediency of raking up the scandals of the past. Well, I am talking of the action of the Government. But in the meantime, I do not think the noble Lord quite gathered what it is that we propose to do with regard to amendments of procedure.
In the amending Ordinance of October last it was arranged that the coolies should be tried by the inspectors with a knowledge of Chinese instead of by the ordinary magistrate, and that they should have a right to hold these trials within the precincts of the mines. It was also enacted that certain penalties should be enforced that were new. We think that while it maybe an advantage, and very likely is an advantage, that the coolie should be tried by a man who knows his language, and therefore can both understand the coolie and makes himself intelligible to him, still, these trials should not be held in any private place but should be held with all the publicity of a Court. From the last information we have received from the High Commissioner I believe that these inspectors, though they were inexperienced at first, have now gathered a sufficient amount of experience to make, them capable of conducting a fair trial. If that is so, I do not see why that system should not be continued. 740 With regard to the penalties, I will not go into them in detail, but they were taken exception to by my predecessor and we always objected to them. As a matter of fact, only one of them has been imposed four times. In these circumstances I do not think it will cause any grievous injury to the mines management if they are discontinued.
The noble Lord spoke of the question of repatriation. I am inclined—I do not know whether to say "to expect" or "to hope" with him that the number of coolies who may accept this assistance will not be large. At any rate I may say that, if the view of the mines management is correct, if the coolies are really treated in the humane and almost fatherly manner which they tell us, I cannot see why they should wish to go. At the same time, it must be remembered that the coolie can go at present at any time if he pays the cost of his journey, which amounts to £17 10s. All we propose is that, if a case should occur, and if after full inquiry and due notice it is found that, owing to any particular cause, a man has not the money to defray the whole of the cost of his passage and he has a genuine wish to go, he should not be prevented from doing so. I venture to think, without taking any responsibility on my shoulders for using the expression, a provision of that kind removes so far from the system the taint of slavery.
There are some further points I must touch upon. I have been speaking of what we consider necessary for the present, and you will remember that I prefaced my remarks by saying that we did object, and shall object, to infringement of the principles we consider should be incorporated in the Ordinance. As to the future, my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has explained in a lucid manner in the other House what it is we consider ought to be done, and I may summarise it in this way. We have every hope and expectation that before long the Transvaal will, with a freely elected Legislature and with responsible government, be able to express an opinion as to this labour. We do not think they ought to be asked to vote on 741 such a question under any misunderstanding. The conditions of the Ordinance have received the sanction of the Imperial Government, and the Transvaal has a right to know before they vote whether they can continue the system. If, with the knowledge before them that we must object to the conditions as they mow stand, they still vote for the introduction of Asiatic labour, I conceive it would be the bounden duty of His Majesty's Government to endeavour to adjust conditions satisfactory to both parties; but it will also undoubtedly equally be their duty not to shrink from advising His Majesty to exercise his right of veto if that effort failed, or if in their judgment the right of freedom in any part of the Empire was infringed.
I would say a word or two on the position in which His Majesty's Government found themselves when assuming office. The noble Marquess the other day reproached us with want of continuity. I do not know whether he meant upon this particular branch or in relations with the Transvaal as a whole. I am rather prepared to argue that in this matter there is no want of continuity. In the history of Chinese labour the changes of opinion have been rapid and pronounced. Only eight years ago, in 1898, the Transvaal expressed a distinct opinion adverse to Chinese labour; but I will not dwell upon that; the war has intervened, and we then had a different state of matters. But only three years ago the right hon. Gentleman, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, paid a visit to South Africa, and, in the course of a speech he made at Johannesburg, he said—It is not until you have exhausted these solutions which are the nearest to you that it would be reasonable that you should turn to that other more drastic remedy of introducing Asiatic labour. I know that at present the suggestion has not gone beyond ordinary conversation; it has not been developed or fully considered; but just think of the difficulties you will have to overcome. In the first place, 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 opinion of the Mother Country herself regard a step of the kind as retrograde and dangerous; and, lastly, if these difficulties were removed, there are serious practical obstacles in the way which will meet you at the outset, and which, I think, will justify my opinion that it would be very long indeed 742 before—even if all other difficulties were removed—you would obtain any reliable supply from the sources which have been suggested.On 31st March, 1903, Sir G. Farrar, on his return from the Bloemfontein Conference, addressed a meeting of miners and residents of the East Rand and advocated the introduction of Asiatic labour under restrictions; but on the following day there was a mass meeting organised by what was known as the White League, and by the extraordinary majority of 5,000 to 2 the following resolution was passed—We pledge ourselves to prevent by every means in our power the carrying into effect of the proposal for the introduction of Asiatics to work in the mines and other industries of the Transvaal.Now, I think it is interesting to note, in passing, that Mr. Chamberlain seems still to adhere to the declaration he promulgated on the occasion I have referred to, for, on December 30, he referred to the statement and said—I have not swerved an atom from that policy.In 1904 very different counsels prevailed. I need not go into detail, the noble Viscount has stated it in a nutshell. He said both to-night and also in the telegram which he sent at the time, that he found that the evidence given before the Labour Commission showed that in no other way could the required labour be provided, and I admit that there followed thereupon a very remarkable change of opinion in the Transvaal. But I do not admit that the other conditions laid down by Mr. Chamberlain have in any way been met; there are still the opinions of the great colonies, New Zealand, Australia, and the Cape, in objection; and as to public opinion in this country, well, of course, it was obscured for a time, but I think that the result of the General Election can leave no doubt of what that opinion is. I do not wish to press the point, but I do wish to express a doubt if the late Government embarked on the policy with any clear idea of the ultimate result. One thing seems clear, that they professed to be trying an experiment. The noble Marquess who then led this House said, on February 12, 1904—We do not propose to resort to that expedient lightheartedly or because we desire what has been called an indiscriminate influx 743 of Asiatics. But we are prepared to try the experiment on a limited scale and fenced in by every precaution which experience can suggest.A few days afterwards his colleague, Mr. Lyttelton, in the other House, said—In British Columbia, as in this case, I believe the necessity was temporary, and needed to give a basis to an industry which, when formed, the outside labour could be dispensed with. In Africa you want to underpin a temporary structure and afterwards to fill in the foundations from the ordinary source of supply.On March 21, Lord Selborne, speaking in this House, said—I do realise how the working population of the colony feel that they cannot, in the long run, compete with the Chinaman as a labourer. But for that reason, is it, therefore, wrong to use the Chinaman temporarily for a definite limited purpose?It is interesting to ask, what is the meaning of experiment? I should imagine there would be some limit of time or money, and these references may be said to contain some vague suggestions, and confine the experiment to modest proportions. I gather from the dictionary that experiment is—A method or course of action adopted in uncertainty whether it will answer the purpose,and I find that definition followed by the illustration from Bacon—It is good not to try experiments in States.But passing on to 1905, I find that on February 15th Mr. Balfour, answering in debate a Question from the present Prime Minister, whether a limit of numbers had been fixed, or when the experiment would end, said—No limit has been placed upon it, but the experiment of using Chinese labour is being most carefully watched by the responsible authorities on the spot, and if it should be found that the immigration of these labourers from any point of view was, on the whole, producing a balance of ill, the right hon. Gentleman may rest assured that we without hesitation should prevent any augmentation of their numbers.A little later Mr. Lyttelton said—I am not prepared to set a limit as suggested, but I understand that the present requirements of the mines are for no more than 55,000 Chinese, and that after that number has been introduced the rates of increase, if increase there be, will be very moderate. The experiment and all its consequences have received and are receiving the closest attention of the Transvaal Government and His Majesty's Government.744 The number 55,000 is important. It is evidently taken from the report of Mr. Evans, the Superintendent of Mines, and represents what Mr. Lyttelton understood to be required in order to fill up the gap "in underpinning the structure."
If this experiment was a reality, if Mr. Lyttelton's understanding of it was real, it appears to me there were two alternatives open to the Government at that time. In the first place they might have defined the limits distinctly and instructed the Lieutenant-Governor to regulate the licences accordingly; or, if they did not choose to do that, they should themselves have assumed some control over the issue of licences and secured reports from South Africa to enable them to do so. They did neither of these things. The only thing that was done at that time was that at the end of a telegram on other matters, a pious opinion was expressed to the effect that it would be good policy for the mineowners voluntarily to suspend the importation for six months. But it unfortunately happened that at that precise moment a large number of licences were issued, as many as 16,000. I maintain that, although it might have been more prudent for the authorities in South Africa to have communicated with His Majesty's Government when they found this large number of licences wanted, still the real responsibility of this matter rested with the Government at home, because they did not adopt one of the alternatives of which I have-spoken. It does not seem to me to be fair treatment of your representatives at a distance if, when you come to a point at which an experiment you have been making reaches its limit, you should not distinctly instruct those agents how they are to act.
I am not surprised that the mineowners are under a little misunderstanding. I quite appreciate the position of these mining managers. Any one who has seen anything of mineral operations, will know that no mine manager can open out new seams, or can sink deep fittings, without some knowledge that when the opening-out operations are complete he will have a sufficient labour supply to carry on the business. I am not surprised, therefore, that the mine 745 managers should look ahead; but the telegram which was sent on December 30th, came as somewhat of a surprise. It showed quite clearly that the mine-owners had been estimating ahead, and I need only adduce one sentence—All arrangements have been made with a view to a continuous flow of immigration from China being established on permanent basis.Well, my Lords, what becomes of the "experiment"? It was exactly at this moment that His Majesty's present Government came in; and when I said that I thought in this particular there was not that lack of continuity of which the noble Marquess complained, I think I was justified, and the Government were justified, in what they did. We honoured all the Bills of the late Government. We disliked this importation. We could have wished to have seen no more coolies landed; yet we interfered with no licences which had been issued before. But, surely, we were entitled to take the whole question of the "experiment" into consideration before it crystallised and became permanent.
The position of the labour market may, perhaps, have some bearing on- this subject. In January, 1904, at the time of the Resolution to introduce Chinese labour, there were employed in the mines 12,814 whites and 75,027 coloured; no Chinese; and the output was £1,231,000. In November last there were 18,125 whites, 96,283 coloured—that was, 20,000 more—45,856 Chinese; while the output was £1,729,742. It has been put to me that if the white basis was not possible and the black basis was inadequate, why should there not be a black and a yellow basis? I do not accept the premises. I am not sure that a white basis is impossible; but I wish to say that our objection is not to the yellow, but rather to the conditions under which the yellow was introduced. As to the objection to the yellow itself, I think it very difficult to find anybody who does like it.
I have to apologise to the noble Viscount for finding myself unable to follow him in all the details upon which he argues in regard to the constitution to be adopted for the new colonies. I can assure him we most carefully considered the adaptation of what is called the 746 Lyttelton Constitution. We spared no time or labour to adjust it if that was possible. We consider that it is our duty in framing what he has justly called the final form of constitution for these colonies to make it as perfect as is possible. For that time and inquiry are required. We have thought it desirable to remove the letters patent because that would avoid complications; but I wish it to be distinctly understood that this is entirely without prejudice to the consideration of the basis upon which that constitution was framed, to every particular of which we shall give our attention.
The noble Viscount asked whether I could not at least indicate the trend of our proposal. I think that is asking too much at the present time. We ask to have time to make inquiries; and I think the noble Viscount will admit that, if we give some information upon which we had not had time to form definite conclusions, and before we had examined every possible alternative, we might really be doing prejudice to the constitution as it finally comes before us. The noble Viscount asks whether we will undertake to announce—publish to this House, I suppose he means—the constitution when it is framed. That is a point on which I have not had an opportunity of getting any advice, and on which he will not, therefore, press me at this moment; but I believe there was no announcement made in the case of the Lyttelton Constitution, and I am not sure whether there is any precedent for such announcement in the case of the formation of responsible government.
The noble Viscount spoke on this matter with much earnestness; but I could have wished that it had been with rather less bitterness, if he will pardon my using that phrase. After all, the proposals of the late Government, although going by steps, did propose to achieve self-government, and all that they said when issuing the constitution which has now been annulled, was that they had not found it practicable to proceed to full self-government at that time. I am not convinced by the arguments used in that despatch. I am afraid I am not convinced by the arguments the noble Lord has brought before us this evening. 747 People sometimes speak of these colonies with which we have now to deal as if they had never had the opportunity of governing themselves before. The form of representative government is a natural form to be given to colonies which have come into existence in the way, so common throughout the world, of com mercial settlements, which have gradually increased, and for which local government is therefore required. But that is not the case of the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies. They have both governed themselves, and in the case of the Orange River Colony I should be prepared to say with no small measure of success.
The noble Viscount has spoken with great earnestness as to the danger of giving the Orange River Colony self-government. But I think we have also got to look to its past history and not take what I think is rather a prejudiced view of the position at the present time. There was this element in our situation. We found a practically unanimous demand in the Transvaal for the grant of responsible and not representative government. One expression used was that it was indeed a question of months, not of years. And although the Governor did not himself concur in that expression, he did himself propose that the number of seats which had been suggested in the representative government should be doubled in order that the change to responsible government should be thereby facilitated.
My Lords, I think a great deal of what the noble Viscount has said in regard to the dangers of introducing this form of government into the Orange River Colony turns on the comparative safety of the two institutions. On that point I should like, with the permission of your Lordships, to quote a few words from a more authoritative source than any of my own—It is difficult to understand how any English statesman could have imagined that representative and irresponsible government could be successfully combined. There seems, indeed, to be an idea that the character of representative institutions ought to be thus modified in colonies; that it is an incident of colonial dependence, that the officers of Government should be nominated by the Crown, without any reference to the wishes of the community, whose interests are entrusted to 748 their keeping. It has never been clearly explained what are the Imperial interests which require the complete nullification of representative government. But if there be such a necessity, it is quite clear that a representative government in a colony must be a mockery and a source of confusion. For those who support this system have never yet been able to devise or to exhibit in the practical working of colonial government any means for making so complete an abrogation of political influence palatable to the representative body. … It was an unhappy consequence of this system that it relieved the popular leader of all the responsibilities of opposition. … The colonial demagogue bids high for popularity without the fear of future exposure. Hopelessly excluded from power, he expresses the wildest opinions, and appeals to the most mischievous passions of the people, without any apprehension of having his sincerity or prudence tested by being placed in a position to carry his views into effect.
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
I am quoting from Lord Durham's Report on Canada. The Government had no hesitation in choosing, as between responsible and representative government, in favour of responsible government. From the words I have quoted your Lordships will see that I have a personal interest in that decision which I need not be ashamed to avow in this House. Many years ago a similar question arose in another great colony, where the principles of responsible government were advocated and were put in force by my grandfather and my father. It is, I confess, an encouragement to me, in the views I have ventured to express to your Lordships, that I am following the principles they thus professed and which resulted in the prosperous, and great, and loyal Dominion of Canada.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
My Lords, noble Lords on the Front Opposition Bench felt, during the speech of the noble Viscount who brought forward this question, that we should not be able to get very much information from the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies with regard to the intentions of His Majesty's Government and the basis of the new constitution which it is proposed to grant to the Transvaal. As far as we were able to ascertain from the speech of the noble 749 Earl, the reason why the Transvaal is to be granted the full rights of responsible government is that the inhabitants of that Colony desire it. That was the contention of the noble Earl. But I might point out that, naturally, the moment a Liberal Government comes into power, the whole population who are dissatisfied with the present regime immediately agitate as much as possible in order that they may get responsible institutions. All I can say is that when we were in office the Party in favour of representative government largely outweighed those who were in favour of responsible institutions.
But, in spite of the warnings which the noble Earl has received to-night from the noble Viscount who sits on the Cross Benches, we know that the Government are determined to grant responsible institutions to both the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal. We must bow to that decision, but we do sincerely hope that the noble Earl will give us some Papers at a future date, and inform us on what basis the Transvaal Constitution is going to be granted. Is it to be granted more or less on the basis of the Lyttelton Constitution? That constitution was very carefully framed with regard to the views and the wishes of, we believe, the majority of the people of the Colony, and we believe that it met with their approval. I cannot help feeling that the noble Earl the Colonial Secretary is in the position very much of a great potentate who is about to grant a constitution to his subjects, but with this difference, that whereas the Czar of Russia cannot quite foretell the result of the constitutional measures he is going to grant to his subjects, the noble Earl is in the position of being able to say absolutely what kind of Ministry he desires to predominate in the legislative affairs of the Transvaal. The noble Earl, in dealing with this matter of Chinese labour in South Africa, was conciliatory enough to say that he felt sure that neither Party in the State would tolerate slavery in the British Empire. To that statement of the noble Earl we gladly subscribe. But I must say that when we heard that statement we did indeed regret that the noble Earl had reserved it for your Lordships' House, and had not made it 750 on a public political platform during the first week of the General Election.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
Then during the week previous to the General Election. My Lords, you will have observed the remarkable political play which the Liberal Party have placed upon the stage. Before, the election they fought under the banner of slavery. ["No."]
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
I do not say noble Lords themselves so fought, but the Party to which they belong. Many were the statements and addresses in which the word "slavery" occurred. No words were bad enough for the Tory Party because they had allowed Chinese labour to be employed in South Africa. I have here cartoons, pamphlets, pictures, and violent statements, all put forward by members of the Liberal Party, some of whom are Ministers of the Crown today, pointing out what a vile practice this was, and it was nothing less than slavery. What happens then? Parliament assembles, and the Prime Minister, amidst the applause of his followers, proceeds to inform the House of Commons that it is not slavery; it is only "servile conditions." It is perfectly apparent that a certain section of the Liberal Party—Members who are somewhat enthusiastic upon this subject, and who moreover sincely and genuinely believe in their assertions that Chinese labour is slavery—would not subscribe to the statement of the Prime Minister. One of the most prominent of those Members of the House of Commons is, I think, the Member for the Abercromby division of Liverpool, and he told the Prime Minister on the first night that Chinese labour was wrong, and that it was impossible in the same breath to say that they would leave it to the responsible Government of the Colony to decide whether they would have Chinese labour or not. A day passes, and what is the next act in the play? The Government again speak upon this subject in the House of Commons. This time it is the 751 Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies who replies on behalf of the Government. This, indeed, I might term a day of abjuration for the Government. The electioneering arguments of the Party to which noble Lords opposite belong had to be thrown over, for the welfare of the Transvaal is at stake and havoc would otherwise ensue. The Under-Secretary of State, with, I think, perfect propriety and due regard for the welfare of the colony, said to the House of Commons "The electioneering extravagance of our Party must be repudiated; they were only" (I am not quoting his words)—"Chinese pills for Radical consumption; they may all be dismissed by the phrase 'terminological inexactitudes.'" We are told that the colony must decide this matter for itself; that they will have the right to decide whether or not they will have Chinese labour when responsible government is granted, and that until that time arrives the taint of slavery is to be entirely removed from the Ordinance by the fact that a few fines are remitted, and the Chinese are allowed to take free voyages at the expense of the British public—voyages, which, by the way, the noble. Earl the Colonial Secretary must be pretty certain they are not likely to undertake, since this Blue-book shows that those who were forcibly repatriated immediately tried to get back to the Transvaal. Furthermore, the representative of the Colonial Office informed the House, of Commons that the Colonial Secretary was in dead earnest in this matter, that from the first he had exerted himself, and that his gun was loaded, not with blank, but with ball cartridge. By the way, it is rather curious that neither the noble Marquess the Leader of the Party opposite nor the Colonial Secretary himself thought it necessary to fire that gun on the first day they met Parliament in your Lordships' House. Not a single reference was then made to the fact that these Chinese were going to be repatriated at the expense of the British public, and I think that, from that circumstance, we may assume that the members of the Cabinet did not attach very great importance to the decision.
But, my Lords, observe what happens then. The extreme members of the 752 Radical Party in the other House decline to swallow this soothing syrup administered to them by the representative of the Colonial Office. In their opinion, Chinese labour is still slavery, and the Government cannot divest themselves of the responsibility by shifting it on to the colony itself. We see, therefore, what I may call the policy of the washing of hands, of free trips for the Chinese, and of the hope of the interference of the Empress of China. Then we realise that this policy, enunciated by the Government in the House of Commons, does not receive the desired mead of approval from the whole of their supporters, and what happens? Once again the Government speaks, this time through the President of the Board of Education. We notice at once that the Government have shifted their ground; they have evidently been subjected to severe cross-examination by the more extreme of their supporters. What does the President of the Board of Education say?—Chinese labour is objectionable to the English people, and it could not and would not be approved of in time to come under any circumstances whatsoever.But even this dose is not sufficiently strong, and another change comes over the scene. On Friday the Chancellor of the Exchequer speaks, and, in a somewhat saturnine pronouncement, tells the House of Commons that this employment of Chinese coolies in South Africa, is slavery, and that the Government are going to resume their right of veto. As far as I understood the Colonial Secretary to-day, the noble Earl stated with perfect distinctness that if they thought it necessary or wise the Government would undoubtedly exercise the veto of the Crown in regard to any legislative Act passed by the new Transvaal Legislature.
My Lords, I ask this question: How is it that on Monday last the Government of His Majesty said that Chinese labour was not slavery; that on Wednesday what I have described as the policy of the washing of hands, of cheap trips for the Chinese, and of female interference was put forward as their definite and accepted policy, that on Thursday the policy was changed for something 753 rather more stringent, and that finally on Friday the whole policy is reversed, and we are informed that slavery has been re-instated under the British flag and the Transvaal is to fall under the veto of the Crown? We on this side of the House, and, I venture to think, the people of the country—aye, and everybody in South Africa from Cape Town to the Zambesi—will wish to know why on Monday last, in the opinion of the Government, Chinese labour was not slavery and the Colony were to be left to decide this matter for themselves when responsible institutions were granted, while on the following Friday indentured labour is declared to be slavery and the Transvaal is not to be allowed to decide the matter for itself, but the veto of the Crown is to be invoked.
It was often our misfortune when we were in power to be criticised by noble Lords opposite for our policy as a Government. Searching comments were invariably made; our policy was declared not to be based on any principle, but to be a policy of expediency. I venture to think, however, that the annals of Parliament may be searched in vain to find a single parallel to the peripatetic utterances, contradictory statements, and versatile declamations which have marked the progress of His Majesty's Government during the first week of their official career in the two Houses of Parliament.
Now with regard to the position of the noble Lords opposite. We know that the noble Earl the President of the Council supports the policy of Monday last, or, of Wednesday—the policy of "not slavery, but servile conditions," the policy of the washing of hands, and of allowing the Colony to do as it likes. There are other members of the Cabinet with the same view, including, as far as I could gather, the Colonial Secretary himself. But we know that certainly one member of the Cabinet supports what I may call the policy of Friday. We know from his former utterances in this House the, I will not say extreme, but strong view which the Minister for Agriculture holds upon this matter. There is not the slightest doubt as to what he thought, and I must congratulate the noble Earl and those who support him on having been able to triumph in the 754 Cabinet during the last few days, although I confess it seems remarkable that the Colonial Secretary should have been defeated on the very policy of his Department as announced by his subordinate in the House of Commons. The policy of conviction is evidently stronger than the policy of convenience. The noble Earl and those who think with him can go home with feelings of satisfaction that the principles they have upheld—I admit consistently upheld—have been adopted and endorsed by the whole Cabinet.
Now, my Lords, let us consider for one moment the position of His Majesty's Government as we understand it to-day. They are going to grant self-government to the Transvaal with one hand, while, with the other, they take it away by the reservation of the veto. And what for? You are going to knock the bottom out of the greatest principle which has been conceded to our colonies during the last fifty years—the right of self-government—in order to say that you have a right to control the native races in a new colony, and you are specially going to mark out the people of the Transvaal as incompetent to deal with this problem of alien labour. The noble Earl the Colonial Secretary referred to the fact that Australia and, I think, New Zealand, had protested against the importation of Chinese labour, but he forgot to add—perhaps he has not studied that particular despatch—that the Australians added "until responsible Government is granted." What they objected to was the Chinese going there under representative institutions or Crown colony government. I am sure they would not have said a word if the Transvaal had possessed responsible government. If the noble Earl grants the Transvaal responsible government and at the same time tries to dictate to the people of the colony the manner in which they should deal with the alien immigrants who come to the country, I venture to say that he will get a much stronger protest than the one he quoted, not only from Australia, but also from New Zealand and the other self-governing Colonies, telling him that his policy is reactionary, and that he is casting a 755 slur upon the good citizenship of those who belong to the British Empire.
I presume that His Majesty's Government will be logical in this matter. Surely that is not too much to expect. If you intend to prohibit the indentured labour of Chinese coolies in the Transvaal, you ought in all logic and in all propriety to interfere in the management of all native races alike. What difference is there between the Chinese coolie and the Portuguese Kaffir? There is very little difference indeed. The system of indenture is very similar. The Portuguese Kaffir has to go back 150 miles. Has he any means of returning if he wishes to do so? I suggest that point for the consideration of noble Lords opposite. And what about the natives of Swaziland and Basutoland? Are you going to leave the administration affecting those races to the people in authority there? And what about the kanakas in Queensland? Are you going to assert the principle in the Transvaal of interfering with alien immigrants, and leave it alone in Australia? That seems to me to be an absolutely inconsistent position. By saying that you are going to interfere with the alien immigrants in the Transvaal you have committed yourselves to the principle of interfering with all these native races throughout our Colonies. The noble Earl will be asked to resume his right of control over the kanakas in Queensland, the aborigines of Western Australia, and the natives who go to the West Indies under the system of indentured labour, and I think that, when he contemplates the problem, he will feel the overwhelming nature of the work which is being cast upon him as Colonial Secretary. And what is it all for? It is all owing to the determined enthusiasm of noble Lords like the noble Earl opposite who insist upon pushing the Government as far as they possibly can.
In conclusion, I have only to point out how different is the position of His Majesty's Opposition in this matter of Chinese labour from the position of His Majesty's Ministers. We, indeed, were consistent all the way through; you have been thoroughly inconsistent, or, at any rate, your policy has been marked by great inconsistencies. We have 756 always said that we placed implicit confidence in Pro-consuls like Lord Milner and Lord Selborne, and to-night we thoroughly endorse the words which have fallen from Lord Milner. We have always supported their views, and we have never found reason to differ from them. We have always said that Chinese labour is not slavery, and we adhere to that position. What we said and what we still say is that it was a necessary expedient to supplement the shortage of native labour. What has been its effect? Its effect has been well described by the noble Viscount who moved this Motion. It has maintained the position of the mining industry at the level which existed before the war; it has given employment to thousands of skilled white artisans who otherwise would not have got employment; and it has preserved the financial solvency of the Colony, which, after all, has to meet the interest on the Imperial debt which it has contracted. Moreover, we believe that this Chinese labour is, on the whole, in conformity with the wishes of the people of the Transvaal. As the noble Earl knows, 47,000 people in the Transvaal signed a petition in favour of it; the whole Legislative Council—which doubtless noble Lords opposite will despise to-day, but which has not changed its opinion in the least from the first day this problem was brought before it—voted in its favour, and I believe I am right in saying that all the Free Churches in South Africa are in favour of the maintenance of the policy of Chinese labour. The Majority Report of the Labour Commission, the Johannesburg Town Council, and many other bodies might be cited, but these are sufficient to prove our contention that we had with us—and this is the point upon which noble Lords opposite and we always quarrel—the support of the vast majority of the people of the Transvaal.
Then, my Lords, consider what has been the effect of the importation of the Chinese with regard to this country. We have been able to keep up a constant flow of gold into this country from South Africa during the last two or three years. One-third of the gold output of the world has come 757 from South Africa to England. Noble Lords know perfectly well that increase of gold means increase of credit, and increase of credit means increase of trade, for gold is, after all, the ultimate reserve on which bankers base their credit. His Majesty's Ministers, speaking through the gracious Speech from the Throne, talk about the improvement in exports and imports, and it is mentioned as if it were due in some degree or entirely to the spirited speeches they have made on behalf of free trade. I venture to say that the satisfactory position of exports and imports is largely due to the fact that there has been a sufficient supply of gold, which has come from South Africa, and which could have been brought into this country only by the help of indentured Oriental labour.
These are only a few of the considerations I might bring forward as showing the grounds on which our policy was based. We well knew that it would lead to misrepresentation, though I admit that we never thought that that misrepresentation could possibly sink to the level of calumny that it has; but between our duty to our Colony and the possibility of being misrepresented in the constituencies during the General Election we did not hesitate for one single moment. It is true we have suffered; we have been badly defeated; we have suffered not because our policy was wrong, but because it was a policy which lent itself to misrepresentation; and I venture to say that when the people of Great Britain realise that His Majesty's Ministers have made themselves responsible certainly for the financial dislocation, and possibly for the financial ruin, of the Transvaal, that they have seriously impaired the prospects of trade in the United Kingdom, and that they have wantonly offered an affront to the people of the Transvaal, the Tory Party, although it is only one week since the session began, will be already on the high road to regain, and I hope to retain, the confidence and support of the British public of which they have been so vilely robbed.
§ Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned till to-morrow.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes before Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Tea o'clock.