§ The adjourned debate arising out of a question put by Viscount Milner—namely "Whether the Secretary of State for the Colonies could give the House any information as to the form of the proposed Constitutions of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State"—was resumed by
§ LORD BURGHCLERE,
who said: My Lords, I am sure that none of your Lordships, on whichever side of the House you sit, or whatever your political opinions may be, could have helped listening to the speech of the noble Viscount who initiated this debate last night with respect and admiration. Moreover, whatever our opinions as to the conclusions of the noble Viscount may have been, I am certain we could not help feeling considerable sympathy with so distinguished a public servant, whose first speech in Parliament was made, to a certain extent, in defence of a much attacked policy in which he has played a large part. The noble Viscount told us that he approached this subject in no partisan spirit. That is an attitude we should have expected from one who has occupied the positions which the noble Viscount has filled in the past; and I am sure the noble Viscount could have felt no reason for complaint in the speech of my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who explained the policy of His Majesty's Government in a spirit not unduly hostile towards the noble Viscount.
If I understand the speech of the noble Viscount aright, as far as the establishment, or I would say the ultimate establishment, of constitutions in these two colonies is concerned, there is no difference in particular between my noble friend the Colonial Secretary and the noble Viscount; for the noble Viscount himself told us that the complete self-government of these Colonies, on a basis of political equality of all white men, was the only possible, and, I think, desirable, goal of the policy which he himself initiated in South Africa. Therefore, my Lords, if His Majesty's Government and the noble Viscount are agreed in this ultimate policy, the only point in dispute between them, as I understand it, though 907 I admit it is a very important point, is as to the psychological moment at which responsible government should be given. His Majesty's Government think that that time has arrived, while the noble Viscount takes a somewhat Cassandra-like view of the present situation.
We all listened to the somewhat pessimistic forebodings of the noble Viscount with the attention which remarks from one speaking with his high authority undoubtedly deserve; but I think I am right in saving that there was one somewhat remarkable omission in the speech of the noble Viscount. Whilst he told us what his own opinion on the subject was, he did not indicate to us the opinion of our British fellow-subjects in the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony on the question of the immediate grant of free institutions. After all, if this experiment should be a failure, our British fellow-subjects in South Africa will be the ones who will suffer first.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
Therefore, if they, in conjunction with the Boers, are at the present moment desirous of having free institutions granted to them, the objections of the noble Viscount lose some of their force. I admit that the Orange River Colony presents a problem of considerable difficulty, but surely it does not pass the wit of man to devise some protection in the franchise for the British minority if protection is necessary in the circumstances of the case. The noble Viscount dwelt very much upon the irritated feelings of the Boers. It is no use shutting our eyes to the fact that there is a great deal of irritation, and natural irritation, among the Boers at the present moment; but the question for the Government and for the country is this, whether you are likely to allay that irritation by putting off the granting of free institutions till the Greek Kalends. For my part, I venture to think that; with a strong and capable governor such as I know Lord Selborne to be, with a considerable force at his back, we may, notwithstanding the warnings of the noble Viscount, to which I myself listened with the greatest respect, contemplate the 908 proposal of His Majesty's Government with considerable hope and confidence.
The vital question, and the question which His Majesty's Government are perfectly right in. considering with the closest attention, is the question of the franchise in the Transvaal. That is a subject on which we have not yet received a decisive statement from His Majesty's Ministers, and which they are no doubt considering.
I understand that there are two parties there, and that it may be possible, under the franchise, to bring about a most unfortunate state of ascendancy for one party or the other. But I would express the hope that in giving this franchise there will be no gerrymandering, in order that one party or the other shall have superiority in the Legislature of the Transvaal. I hope that His Majesty's Government will be able to create a franchise which will alleviate, and not accentuate, those unfortunate racial differences which exist in that country. If this was capable of being mathematically accomplished, a very unexpected state of things might take place. Both parties might be returned in equal number, and then a block, an impasse, would be created to public business. I venture to think that if that did happen, the state of things then brought about would lead to a compromise between the two parties and might tend towards alleviating rather than emphasising the racial differences to which I have referred. I am certain that all those who think that the proper moment has arrived will welcome two more self-govering Colonies, for the granting of free institutions is the only method of binding together the Empire.
I had no intention of speaking to-day. I came down to your Lordships' House yesterday expecting the usual debate to take place, and I merely mean, to intrude for a few moments on the subject of Chinese labour. I was rather sorry when I saw that the noble Lord opposite, Lord Harris, was to speak directly after the noble Viscount had initiated the debate. I had rather hoped that the attention of your Lordships would have been concentrated on the most important subject of establishing this Colonial Legislature, and that the 909 question of Chinese labour would be deferred till another day. But when I listened to the speech of the noble Viscount I recognised how impossible it was to keep the subject of Chinese labour out of the discussion. It appears that this burning question, which seems to have usurped in popular opinion the fiscal question, is so far-reaching that, according to the noble Viscount, even the institution of free legislatures in the Colonies depends, and depends absolutely, on the maintenance of Chinese labour in South Africa. The noble Viscount told us that the key of the situation was the prosperity of the Transvaal Colony. He then told us that the prosperity of the Transvaal depended upon cheap labour in the mines; and it therefore follows, I think, by a sort of apostolic succession that you would be unable, according to his idea, to give a free legislature to either the Orange River Colony or the Transvaal without the maintenance of Chinese labour.
I have never in your Lordships' House spoken on the subject of the employment of Chinese coolies in the mines of the Transvaal, but I confess that, like other noble Lords, I have frequently spoken on that subject on platforms in the country; and as we are accused, not for the first time, of being afraid to repeat in Parliament what we have stated on the platforms in the country, I should like in a very few words to be allowed to tell your Lordships what I have said on this subject on the many occasions when it has been my good fortune to speak at political meetings. The Liberal Party has been accused in Parliament, in the Press, and on the platform of having won the late general election by misrepresentation on the Chinese labour question. I hope I shall not offend noble Lords opposite when I say that I view that accusation with considerable calm. I have heard it before. I have had some experience of general elections during the last twenty-five years of political life, and I cannot call to mind a single general election, and perhaps not even a single by-election, when the Party who has lost has not accused the winning Party of having won by misrepresentation. 910 Misrepresentation in political life is a sort of inevitable formula.
So far as I am concerned, I associate myself with my noble friends the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council. I have never used the word "slavery" in connection with Chinese labour, because I did not think it was the right word to describe it. But I do not say this in any Pharisaical spirit, or as putting myself up as better than those who did. Any one who thinks this is slavery has a right to say so. The fact is, the whole of this question of misrepresentation arises from the fact that there are in this country, as in other countries, a certain number of warm-hearted, high-minded people, with a passionate love of the liberty of all people, whether white, black, or yellow, and those people look upon all coloured indentured labour with considerable suspicion; and when that indentured labour is coupled with an Ordinance so loosely drawn and administered that within eighteen months it had to be twice amended; when also it gives rise, as is admitted, to illegal and cruel punishments and other irregularities, how can you wonder that they condemn the conditions of labour under this Ordinance in the strongest possible terms? I heard a noble Lord opposite accusing them, and such as them, of fighting under the flag of slavery. I venture to think, with all submission, that these people were fighting under the flag of liberty. Though it is quite possible that the premises upon which they founded their opinion were mistaken, I think, with all submission, that those who hold such strong opinions on this subject would be far better employed in exposing the flimsy fallacies of this misrepresentation than in indulging in acrimonious censure of those who were actuated by honest, if they were perhaps mistaken, convictions.
In saying that I never applied the term "slavery" to this Ordinance, I admit that I am at once open to the not very courteous retort made by an hon. Member in the other House to my noble friend Lord Crewe that—Lord Crewe must remember that he had not to be elected to Parliament.911 That is perfectly true; but if the noble Lord had not to be elected himself, he was very busy on many platforms in the country getting other people elected. No doubt there has been in the constituencies during the general election a sort of efflorescence of argument on this subject. If so, I regret it; but to my mind it is an inevitable effect of our Party system. For myself, I venture to tell your Lordships that I belong to an old-fashioned Party who think that it is far better to understate your argument than to overstate it, because, in the case of over-emphasis, of exaggeration, of argument, your opponent, when he has got a bad case, naturally diverts attention from his inability in this direction by fixing the attention of the public on the alleged exaggerations you have made. I do not know whether that has occurred lately, but I have known it occur over and over again in political life.
I regret that there has been this overemphasis. The noble Marquess opposite, the Marquess of Salisbury, declared the other night in the debate on the Address that His Majesty's Government had attained their present position only by the obvious misrepresentations about Chinese labour of their followers in the country. I must say, with all due deference to noble Lords opposite, that I never heard such a bad compliment paid to a political party by one of its own leaders. I have had some experience of the situation. I have been on many platforms and in many constituencies, but I have never been in one in which there has not been an able Conservative candidate, with all the sources of information on this subject open to him; and yet the noble Marquess tells the House that these candidates were absolutely unable, with all the knowledge at their back, to refute the flimsy fallacies that were put forward by the Liberal candidates. Never in the course of my life have I heard such a sweeping condemnation of an historical Party and its leaders! As to Chinese labour, your Lordships will admit that when the question was originally introduced no one seemed to desire it. Every one deplored what, not to offend noble Lords opposite I will describe as 912 the necessity for the employment of yellow labour in South Africa. The noble Marquess himself deplored the necessity of its introduction; and, unless my memory serves me badly, the noble Marquess the leader of the Opposition also regretted the necessity of its introduction. Sir Arthur Lawley, in receiving a deputation of Boers in South Africa, declared that he did not want it. There were many, and obvious, reasons why yellow labour was repugnant to the people of this country. It is well known that these large aggregations of Chinese in white Colonies bring about conditions which are, to say the least, undesirable. The most reverend Primate has dealt with this subject in your Lordships' House and out of it, and by letters, and I will not go further into it. There was another objection to the introduction of Chinese labour. Nobody wanted to make South Africa a Chinese province—I do not mean politically, but by population; and therefore it was one of the objections to yellow labour that it was absolutely impossible, under the conditions under which it had to be introduced, for the Chinese to go to South Africa as ordinary settlers. They could not be settlers when they came in, and therefore it is no exaggeration to say that they did not go to South Africa as free men.
What I have said on platforms on this subject is this—that the Liberal Party opposed the introduction of Chinese labour in South Africa, that they washed their hands of it, that they refused responsibility for its introduction, and reserved to themselves the right, if they came into power, to review the whole subject. I ventured to say also that the probable result would be that when they did come into power they would alter the Ordinance so as to bring it into consonance with the best traditions of the British Empire, and then leave the Transvaal to settle what is purely a domestic question. I went further, and said that if His Majesty's late Government took upon themselves the responsibility of introducing yellow labour after the warnings they had received from the other side, they could only properly do so if they could prove three propositions—first, that no other 913 labour was available; secondly, that the prosperity of the Colony demanded the instant working of the mines; and thirdly, that the people of the Transvaal agreed to it. I venture to say, as a man in the street, that these three propositions had not been proved by His Majesty's late Government when they brought in the Chinese Ordinance. I am glad to say that I am not alone in that opinion. I even receive some support, if I put the right interpretation upon his words, from Mr. Chamberlain himself. My noble friend the Secretary of State yesterday gave us some quotations from speeches of Mr. Chamberlain, but he did not bring that history up to date. He omitted to quote what I think is the most important speech of all, the speech which Mr. Chamberlain made on Friday last in the House of Commons, in which he said, speaking of his interview with the mine managers in the Transvaal—I told them that they must exhaust every means in their power to secure labour from other sources, and that even when they had done that, as long as I remained at the Colonial Office I would never consent to the introduction of Chinese labour, unless I were persuaded that it was the desire of the people of the Transvaal.No one, I am sure, would accuse Mr. Chamberlain of having anything but the most ardent desire for the prosperity and welfare of South Africa; and, speaking in the Transvaal, with all the knowledge of his power as Colonial Secretary, he said deliberately that he did not desire the introduction of Chinese labour. If the prosperity of South Africa depended entirley upon Chinese labour, and Mr. Chamberlain, speaking with all the authority and knowledge that he had at that moment, said he did not desire it, then I venture to think it follows that either in Mr. Chamberlain's mind there must have been some other course which His Majesty's Government might have adopted, or the prosperity of the mines did not necessitate instant working. Then Mr. Chamberlain said—Unless I was persuaded it was the desire of the people of the Transvaal.We have not been persuaded that it is the general desire of the Transvaal. His Majesty's Government are now going to give the Transvaal, by free legislature and responsible Government, an opportunity of saying whether or 914 not they desire that Chinese labour shall be employed. I may be told that these remarks by Mr. Chamberlain were made before the Ordinance was brought forward, but I find that this is also his present opinion, for Mr. Chamberlain said, a little later on in the speech—I do not myself thinkthat is now at the present timethat Chinese labour is desirable in the mines of the Transvaal.As I have said, I am glad to find that His Majesty's Government are in accord in this direction with Mr. Chamberlain, because they propose to set up a freely elected and responsible legislature which will be able, as Mr. Chamberlain desired, to decide the domestic question whether Chinese labour should be employed or not. I myself believe that that is the proper course to adopt. But I am bound to say that the constitution of these legislatures must form a most anxious, arduous, and difficult task for His Majesty's Government. At the same time, although I see difficulties, although I understand the difficulties, I have considerable trust and confidence in the wisdom and moderation of my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and in the wisdom and moderation of Lord Selborne, and I think we may look forward with hope, perhaps with confident hope, to the success of this new and critical departure, which His Majesty's Government have agreed to adopt. I am certain that my noble friend the Secretary of State will be guided in the conduct of this difficult question, as all other Secretaries of State, from whatever Party they come, have been guided, not by the exigencies of Party system, but solely by a desire for the closer union of the self-governing Colonies and the prosperity, honour, and peace of the Empire at large.
§ EARL ROBERTS
My Lords, as a soldier sitting on the Cross Benches in your Lordships' House, I do not consider it my business, as a rule, to take any part in debates on political subjects; and I certainly would not do so on the present occasion did I not feel that were I to keep silent I should justly lay myself open to the reproach of having 915 deserted men to whom the success of the late war was in a great measure due, and whose help to me personally during that war was of the greatest value.
The noble Viscount who opened this debate in a remarkably instructive and interesting speech, worthy, if I may say so, of the great cause which he has at heart, spoke in strong terms of the disastrous effect which a change in policy would inevitably have on our position in South Africa. But, strong as those terms were, in my opinion they are justified by the existing state of affairs in that country; and while I deeply regret that the noble Lord should have good cause to fear calamitous results from such a change, I must declare myself as entirely in accord with the views expressed by him.
Moreover, I venture to assert that any such change as the noble Lord so greatly dreads would be at variance with the opinion held by every one intimately acquainted with, and who has recent experience of, South Africa and its people, or who can speak with any authority as to the relative positions of those who are for and those who are against us in that country. You are not now legislating for a Colony composed entirely of men of British blood, nor for one composed of mixed races who have become welded into one loyal whole by the passing of years; but for a Colony the majority of the inhabitants of which were in arms against us quite a short time ago, and of whom a certain number do not even take the trouble to conceal their disloyalty, not to say their animosity toward Great Britain. The demands of these men are stated in the plainest possible terms in the letter addressed by Mr. Steyn to Mr. Stead, which was published in The Times a short while ago; and those demands would be met in full if Chinese labour were dispensed with under the present conditions of the country, and if the basis of representation in the Transvaal were altered to the detriment of the British residents in that Colony.
In the autumn of 1904 I revisited South Africa; and, from the knowledge then gained, I arrived at the conclusion that the acute crisis was over, and that, so far as the white races are concerned, the 916 country was gradually settling down. I came across many farmers, both in the Orange River Colony and in the Transvaal, some of whom had been sent across the seas as prisoners of war. They showed absolutely no bitterness of feeling. On the contrary, they received me in a friendly mannner, and expressed themselves as quite willing to fall in with the new order of things. They invited me into their houses, and told me with evident pride that their children were getting on well with the English language. Their wives were equally friendly in their welcome. The one complaint which the farmers made was the absence of means by which their produce could be taken to the nearest market, and they begged me to do all I could to get the construction of railways pushed forward.
But at the same time in each Colony, except Natal, agitators were busily engaged in endeavouring to create dissatisfaction, and in stirring up mischief through the local Press; and it is these same agitators who are now fomenting a feeling of disloyalty to the British Crown. Surely we do not intend to forsake the men who came forward in the hour of our need? The return which I hold in my hand shows that no less than 46,858 South African Colonials took part in the war. Of these 1,473 were killed or died of wounds; 1,607 died of disease, 3,333 were wounded, 1,230 were captured by the enemy, and 544 were returned as missing, making a total of 8,187—a very heavy casualty roll, my Lords, nearly 18 per cent, of the number engaged. The message from those who fell is inscribed on many a tombstone in South Africa—it runs as follows—Tell England, ye who pass this monument, that we in serving her rest here content.The services of these men, as I have already stated, were of the greatest possible value. They took part in almost every engagement. They saved the day at Wagon Hill, and they were far and away the most useful scouts and guides we had. These men, and many others of our race who have settled in South Africa since the war, have at least as great a claim to be considered as the Boers; and surely it would be an act of injustice to establish such an order of things in the new Colonies as 917 would place the balance of power in the hands, not of those who fought for Great Britain, but of men who fought against us and who it is not in human nature to suppose can in so short a space of time be altogether loyally disposed towards our flag. Unless, therefore, the franchise in the Transvaal is settled on a fair basis as regards the British portion of the population, our late opponents would have an entire and most unfair control over the great industries in which so much British capital has been invested, and on the sympathetic encouragement of which the future prosperity of the whole of South Africa so materially depends.
Sound statesmanship I conceive to be that which establishes, as far as is possible, order and contentment in the land. I fear there will be neither order nor contentment in the new Colonies if we make them over to men many of whom have never disguised the fact that their sole desire is to drive us out of the country—a desire which they will assuredly endeavour to fulfil on the first favourable opportunity. I cannot believe, my Lords, that, after a war which cost us so many valuable lives and an expenditure of 240 millions sterling, the British public would knowingly consent at this juncture to a change in policy; for if they did, it would be an absolutely convincing proof of their forgetfulness of the past, of their complete ignorance of what is best in the interests of their own country, and of what is of infinitely greater importance, their discreditable abandonment of men who fought and bled for us, and who are amongst the most loyal of His Majesty's subjects.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
My Lords, I have only recently returned from South Africa, having spent a considerable portion of the last eighteen months in that country. I have had the opportunity of travelling over most of Cape Colony, through the Orange River Colony And through the Transvaal as far north as the Zambesi. I have also visited Natal and the native territories and Basutoland, and I could not justify to my conscience, after what I have heard and seen in South Africa, and after 918 what I have heard since I came back, being altogether silent on the present occasion. There are three points I should like to impress on your Lordships—the profound divergence of opinion which exists between what we hear in this country and what we hear in South Africa; the evils that arise from Colonial affairs being made the sport of Party politics at home; and the absolute necessity, if South Africa is to prosper, of a consistent and continuous policy with regard to it. I speak in the interests of no Party. I doubt if there is a Member of your Lordship's House who is more detached from Party than I am; but I do wish to bear witness to what I have seen and heard.
Now, my Lords, take this question of Chinese labour. Here it has been represented as a question between white labour and coloured labour. In South Africa every one knows, and no one disputes that it is a question, not between white labour and coloured labour, but between Chinese labour and native labour. Here it has been represented as a question affecting the interests of the mining community in the Transvaal. In South Africa I venture to say you will not find any one who does not assert and believe that the development of the mining industry is of absolute importance not merely to the Transvaal, but to the whole future of South Africa. Here we have heard a great deal said about the ill-treatment of the Chinese. In South Africa I was not able to find anyone, with but one exception, who believed for a moment that the Chinese were ill-treated, or who saw any of the moral objections to the use of the Chinese which have been brought forward in England. They might not like the employment of Chinese; but they thought it a necessity. They knew that it was impossible to work the mines by white labour for various reasons, which those who are acquainted with South Africa know, and which I need not detain your Lordships by referring to this evening.
I took some trouble to ascertain whether the mines might have been worked by the Kaffirs without recourse to Chinese labour. When I was travelling through the native territories I had an 919 opportunity of meeting the agents employed to recruit the Kaffirs for the mines. Their general and universal opinion was that, though a larger number of Kaffirs might have been recruited, the supply would have been insufficient. The natives had been very much spoiled by the war; they had become rich; they had got all they wanted; they did not wish to work; and owing to the wise provisions of the noble Viscount who introduced this debate yesterday for the development of railway and agricultural work, and for other objects of national benefit, the supply of natives was insufficient to work the mines. Therefore, if the mines were to be worked, you were compelled to have recourse to other sources of labour. I do not think that the noble Earl who is now Secretary of State for the Colonies will altogether dispute this fact.
In regard to the treatment of the Chinese, the Nonconformists in South Africa, such members of Roman Catholic missions as I had occasion to see, and the English bishops, all disapproved of the kind of things that have been said in England. I took the opportunity to visit a Chinese compound myself at a time when visitors were not expected. I conversed with the Chinese through their interpreter; I saw their houses, their food, their baths, and inquired as to their wages. I can only say that many labourers in England would be glad if they were as well off. I do not think, so far as one had an opportunity of ascertaining, that there was anything the Chinese labourers dreaded more than being repatriated to their own country.
One other word with regard to Chinese labour. We have heard something about the outrages consequent on the introduction of that class of labour. I think that most people in South Africa will say that, in view of the number of Chinese now employed, the outrages have been remarkably few. I am satisfied that they would have been much larger in extent had the labourers been of other nationalities. This is not merely an opinion; it is the result of some knowledge of the facts. Some time back a large number of European navvies were employed in railway work at Potchefstroom in the Transvaal. Their conduct 920 was such that no decent woman ventured out of the house on Sundays, and the men had, in point of fact, to be sent back. I do not wish to emphasise that; but in I regard to the question of Chinese labour I am obliged to say that I do think the amount of misrepresentation, I will not use a stronger word, that has taken place in England on that subject passes all that is permissible, even in times of political excitement.
But, my Lords, this question of Chinese labour does not stand alone as showing the divergence that exists between opinion here and opinion in South Africa. We appear to think, and I think there has been evidence of that feeling during this debate, that we understand the affairs of South Africa better than the Colonists themselves; that it is our duty to guide them in the paths of virtue, and that, although they are men of our blood, they are not altogether to be trusted in respect to many matters. It is impossible to conceive an opinion more directly at variance with the opinion entertained by the Colonists themselves. They say, and they say, I think, with a great deal of truth, that Colonial affairs excite very little interest in England except when something particular attracts attention, and when that is the case they are then made the sport of political Parties. They say that at otter times their affairs are treated with neglect and indifference; and, my Lords, is it possible, when we look back at the history of South Africa, to deny that there is truth in this allegation?
No one will accuse me of indifference to the welfare of the native races. We are all agreed that slavery should be put down, but there is no one who knows the history of the suppression of the slave trade in South Africa who will not say that the measures taken to deprive the Boers of their slaves were unjust and ill-considered, and that the method in which it was done laid the seeds of that antagonism between the English and the Dutch races which we have had so much occasion to deplore. No one, I think, will question his ability or his honesty, but no one, I think, can contend that the action taken by a relation of my own, the late Lord Grey, in trying to force convict labour on South Africa, was wise 921 in view of the prejudices of the Colony, What are we to say of the recall of Sir George Gray—possibly the best Governor the Cape ever had—for trying to federalise South Africa, the very thing we are endeavouring to do ourselves? What are we to say of the measures taken by Lord Carnarvon and Mr. Froude to effect that federalisation—measures which were certain to rub up the Colonists to the greatest degree? What can we think of the insistence by the Colonial Office—or was it the Foreign Office?—that the Orange Free State should be separated from the English Crown and given its independence, when it begged to be retained. What can Natal think of the refusal of the British Government to buy Delagoa Bay for a comparatively small sum of money, and at a time when no one in Europe would have objected? What can they think, also, of the refusal of the Colonial Office to take steps to prevent a settlement of Germans in West Africa? What can they think when they remember that it was owing to Mr. Cecil Rhodes that Germany did not acquire a strip of territory right across South Africa which would have prevented the development of that country under British influence, and the completion of that railway from Cairo to the Cape which was the dream of Mr. Rhodes? I do not refer to these things in order to revive extinct controversies, but to show how much reason we I have to be careful in our dealings with I South Africa.
Looking back upon it in the light of past experience, is there anyone who will deny—there is certainly no one in South Africa who will deny—that ever since the surrender after Majuba Hill a war with the Boers was practically inevitable. I have the less hesitation in saying so because at that time I was one of those who was disposed to think Mr. Gladstone's Government was right. We did not know, the public did not know, then how deep was the feeling of resentment in the British colonists, who, after the professions of the British Government, had been handed back to the Boers. We did not know the contempt for our courage and consistency that that surrender excited among the Boers themselves. Still less did we know that one of the chief reasons for surrender was the 922 fact that the Government had received letters from President Brand informing them that the Orange Free State were about to join the Transvaal. I was not able to find anyone in South Africa who did not think that what made the late war inevitable were the transactions of 1881 and 1882, and by no means the policy of Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Milner.
To come to the present, it seems almost an impertinence for anyone to add to the words which fell from Lord Milner, for he has had a greater opportunity of knowing the true facts of the case than one in my position can have; but I do not think anyone can travel through South Africa without seeing that responsible Government for the Orange River Colony means the handing over of I that Colony completely, under existing circumstances, to Dutch influence. It means abandoning all control over the schools and converting them into hotbeds of sedition and propaganda of Dutch as against English ideas. It means the abandonment of any control over the importation of arms, and it means putting the English farmers and settlers in a most precarious and dangerous position.
There is a Member of your Lordship's House—a noble Duke—who, I believe at the suggestion of Lord Milner, has invested a very large sum of money in making it possible for English farmers to settle in the Orange River Colony and to farm the land. Much has been done in the same way by the Land Settlement Commission under the auspices of the South African Government. Do you think those farmers will be grateful for the creation of a state of things which will make their position difficult and precarious? Do you think it will encourage others to settle in the Orange River Colony and in the Transvaal? Yet, my Lords, if there was one thing more true than another in what fell from the noble Viscount last night, it was the statement that the key to the future situation of South Africa is to be found in the creation of a strong English influence in the Orange River Colony and in the Transvaal to counterbalance Dutch sympathies, and, I am sorry to add, the prevailing disloyalty of Cape Colony 923 I do not wish to be accused of bitterness, but the truth must be spoken, Lord Roberts has already alluded to it. There is great disloyalty among the Dutch population, and can we be surprised at it? If I were a Boer I should not be conciliated at the present time. Why should I? You are not going to conciliate Boers by concession; you will conciliate them by continuous good government. They are quite clever enough to know that good government means their own prosperity; but you will not conciliate them now or at once, and you will conciliate them least of all by encouraging them to think that the British Government cannot be of the same mind for more than five years together, and allowing them to suppose that they have only to set one Party against the other to get what they want. At this moment I do not know to what extent, but to some extent at all events, the Boer leaders are making speeches about Chinese labour. Does anyone in this House suppose that the Boer leaders care anything about slavery, or about the condition of the Chinese? They are perfectly indifferent to servile conditions, to slavery pure and simple; but they are slim enough to know that Chinese labour is a convenient instrument to force prematurely the giving of responsible Government, through which they hope they may be enabled to gain by the ballot box what they have not succeeded in obtaining through the war.
What makes the situation more serious—and I do venture very earnestly to impress upon His Majesty's Government the necessity of very carefully-considering the steps they are about to take—is the fact that things in South Africa are improving. There is a better feeling; there is great hostility, but it is diminishing. The noble Viscount who introduced this subject to your Lordships last night has laid the foundations well and wisely, and Lord Selborne is building on those foundations well and wisely. I had occasion a very short time ago to trek from Mafeking to Pretoria, a five days journey, and it happened to be almost immediately after Lord Selborne had been making a tour of that part of the country. It was pleasant to English ears, and it was specially pleasant to the 924 ears of a friend of Lord Selborne's, to hear what was said of him and the admirable work he was doing in that country. No one had any object in saying what they did not think to a simple traveller like myself; but it was the universal opinion that England could have sent out no better representative than Lord Selborne; and it was also the universal conviction that if only things could be left alone, and South Africa could be excluded from these miserable Party quarrels, a brighter day was dawning for South Africa, and there was a hope, at not too distant a future, of the conciliation of the English and Dutch elements throughout the country.
One word in conclusion. Lord Milner has been made the subject of violent attack. The noble Viscount is perfectly able to take care of himself, but as one who has tried to inform his mind and who has recently come back from South Africa I wish, on this occasion, to express my sense of the profound debt of gratitude this country owes to Lord Milner. When he went out to South Africa he had the intelligence to see what was at stake, and he had the courage and the resolution, in the face of much obloquy and much personal attack, to see that what was essential for the security of the Empire was attained. Though Lord Milner and Mr. Chamberlain are more than competent to take care of themselves, there are others whose homes are not in this country, and who are not here, who are also made the subject of violent attack. Only the other day in the other House of Parliament these men were called bloodthirsty moneygrubbers and were accused of having engendered the war. My Lords, let me tell you—Lord Roberts has already alluded to the subject—who some of these men are. They are the inhabitants of Johannesburg, they are those who raised, and many of them formed part of, that gallant regiment, of which the noble and gallant Earl on the Cross Benches has spoken—the Imperial Light Horse. Let me repeat what fell from Lord Roberts. Outside Ladysmith, on Wagon Hill, there is a monument put up by their comrades to those members of that regiment who fell on that memorable 925 6th of January. The words of the inscription are—Tell England, ye who pass this monument, that we who died serving her rest here content.My Lords, they were content to die, and Englishmen in Parliament are content to call them bloodthirsty money-grubbers. I pray that we in England may not be unworthy of those whose graves are to be found far and wide throughout South Africa, but that we may put Party spirit aside, and with one consent think only of that which is for the real welfare of South Africa, for the extension of the British Empire, and for the honour of the British name.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Earl of PORTSMOUTH)
My Lords, it seems to me that throughout the whole of this debate there has been a strange air of unreality. What is the course followed by noble Lords opposite? Questions are asked and then they are going, I suppose, to run away from their Questions. If even half the things said against us on this side by noble Lords opposite were true, they ought, in common decency, to have the courage of their convictions, and take the opinion of the House upon the question. Why do they not do that? They do not do it because they know that it would only emphasise the ineffectual strength of their majority here as compared with their insignificant minority in another place and in the country.
The noble Viscount who has just spoken has in the most categorical way, and I am perfectly certain that he was speaking what he believed to be true, told your lordships that he had made inquiries from various responsible persons and from various responsible sources, and that he could not himself discover that the Chinese coolies had been subjected to any ill-usage at all. In the course of my remarks I am not going to make general charges or general statements, but to prove by the Blue-books, which I do not think my noble friend can have seen, that abuses of a very strong and grave kind have existed under this Ordinance. The noble Duke on the Front Bench opposite informed the House, I understood, that he had in 926 his possession various very disgraceful cartoons on the subject of Chinese labour. I have spoken on many platforms, I have attended a great number of public meetings, but I do not happen to have seen those cartoons myself, and, therefore, I cannot speak about them; but it is really idle to say that this feeling against Chinese labour was created by any extravagant cartoons.
I do not think that your Lordships have sufficiently appreciated the very strong feeling that has existed, and still exists, in the minds of the majority of our fellow-countrymen against this Chinese labour. Reference has been made to Mr. Chamberlain. The Chinese cartoons evidently did not have any effect in Birmingham. Mr. Chamberlain has survived them, and he is, perhaps, the only great and distinguished Minister on the other side of the House who it can be justly said has a great democracy behind him. What is Mr. Chamberlain's feeling as regards this Question of Chinese labour? Mr. Chamberlain said only quite recently in the other House—I for one am inclined to think that a good number of the votes—it is impossible to say what proportion—were undoubtedly given during the election upon this question—were given, not induced by the posters and pamphlets of which we have heard so much, out by sympathy with the view that this was the first step, or at all events a very important step, for introducing cheap competition with British labour.And Mr. Chamberlain himself, in the course of the same speech, went on to say—I do not believe that Chinese labour is desirable in the mines of the Transvaal. I think that it may be necessary—I should certainly hold that that was not disproved—but, on the other hand, I say a perfectly reasonable man, bringing honesty and intelligence to bear on the subject, may very fairly take the other view.We cannot forget that it is imbued in the minds of our fellow-countrymen that this question of Chinese labour is not a mere domestic question confined to the Transvaal, but that if the principle is to be admitted in one portion of His Majesty's dominions it may be applied elsewhere. What did the noble Duke the Duke of Marlborough) say with regard to that? A debate took place in this House on March 18th. 1904, initiated 927 by my noble and learned friend Lord Coleridge. In the course of that debate the noble Duke said—If an employer in this country was anxious to secure the services of foreigners under a system of contract no objection could betaken. Why should the thing be inherently wrong when the employer is in South Africa and the employee is a Chinaman? If the industry had been cotton or wheat growing, no one would have said that the demand for labour was based on morally bad principles, but because the individual concerned is yellow and the industry is gold-mining, a prejudice is created, not against the principle itself, but against the the nationality of the individual and the nature of his work.Now, I think if that extract from the noble Duke's speech had been, and perhaps it was, published in the form of a pamphlet, it is quite sufficient reason for the Conservative Party losing every county seat in the county of Oxfordshire. The noble Duke, speaking on behalf of the late Government, admitted that in their opinion alien labour, labour under the same conditions as exist under this Ordinance, might be and could be perfectly defensibly introduced into this country and applied not only to mining but to agriculture. That follows from the noble Duke's statement, and that is precisely what the people of this country felt in regard to it. They felt that it was not entirely a domestic question, and that if it was to be applicable to one portion of His Majesty's dominions it might be applicable to another.
But, my Lords, there is a further very grave objection to this Ordinance. We find it stated in the Blue-books that these Chinese coolies were defrauded of their proper wages under the Ordinance. I refer to a despatch from Sir Somers Vine to the Governor, from Johannesburg, under date October 28th, 1905. This is very important, because in another place there were long and frequent discussions as to securing that the pay of the coolies should be proper and adequate. Let me quote from this despatch—The Labour Importation Ordinance, 1904, Form I., Contract of Service, Section 6, reads as follows:—'If, however, within six months from the date of the said labourers' arrival in the Witawatersrand district the average pay of the labourers employed by the said employer under the said Ordinance does not equal 50s. for thirty working days, the rate should be increased from 1s. to 1s. 6d. for each working day often hours.' According to the above Contract of Service the wages of the first batch of 601 928 coolies on day pay who arrived at the mine at the end of September last year should have been raised in April, 1905; the wages of the second and third batches of 1,711 coolies on day pay who arrived approximately during the lass week in November, 1904, should have been increased in June, 1905; and, finally, the wages of the last batch of 746 coolies on day pay who arrived at the mine on January 2nd and 3rd ought to have been raised in July, 1905. But no rise in wages was made on any of the above dates, and the average pay of the labourers was far below 1s. 8d. at the end of June, 1905. The first batch of coolies, whose wages were due to be raised during April, advanced reiterated complaints to the effect that the mine was not paying to them the rate of wages as per term of contract. I wrote to this effect to the mine secretary on May 26th, 1905. I received an answer from him on the same day stating with reference 'to the increase of wages he (the Secretary) had arranged with the general manager to go into the matter at once.' Unfortunately, however, this matter, as far as my knowledge goes, was never taken into consideration.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
Yes. Sir Somers Vine goes on in the same despatch to say that the neglect on the part of the management to make good just complaints advanced by the coolies through him made his position as compound manager most undesirable and untenable, and it was owing to this that he felt compelled to resign. Now, my Lords, let us examine what is contained in these Blue-books respecting the ill-usage of the coolies. The first despatch to which I would refer is dated March 5th, 1904, from the Colonial Office to the Foreign Office. A question was arising then between our Government and the Chinese Minister respecting the protection of the Chinese coolies against possible rough usage. The despatch proceeds—Mr. Lyttelton telegraphed to Lord Milner upon the five points especially referred to by the Chinese Minister. As regards the first of these points, Lord Milner replied that the proposal that the Consul or Consular Agent of the country of the immigrant shall have power to visit the mines and make representations to the authorities respecting the well-being of the 929 immigrant, is open to strong objection. He pointed out that the Transvaal Government is appointing a special officer as protector of indentured labourers, in whose hands I heir interests will be safe.The person appointed was a Mr. Evans. I should like to remind your Lordships that while this correspondence was going on between the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office, questions were constantly being asked in another place respecting the ill-usage of the coolies. Mr. Swift MacNeill asked the Secretary of State whether the refractory coolies were flogged and what they were flogged with, and the Secretary of State replied—There are no cat-o'-nine-tails. The maximum of strokes inflicted with the cane, which is the instrument of whipping, would be twenty-four. The whipping would be given in the presence of the Governor or deputy-Governor of the prison, the gaoler, and the visiting medical officer, who certifies to the fitness of the prisoner to undergo the punishment. The sentence being by a magistrate cannot be carried out until the record has been sent to, and confirmed by, a Judge of the High Court.The noble Duke opposite, in perfect good faith of course, made a statement on July 20th, 1905, in reply to a question asked by my noble and learned friend Lord Coleridge, to the effect that the Secretary of State had frequently declared that he would be willing to inquire into any specific case of illegal flogging, but that he had not yet been able to verify any. Questions were being asked in Parliament, and the representatives of His Majesty's Government, I have no doubt in perfect good faith, assured Parliament that no illegal flogging was taking place. Now, what was really going on? A most remarkable telegram appears in the Blue-book from Mr. Lyttelton to Governor the Earl of Selborne, And in this despatch Mr. Lyttelton says—At the end of August"—I would ask your Lordships to note that that is after Parliament had risen—I received from yon a statement as to an arrangement which Mr. Evans, the late superintendent of foreign labour, had made on his own responsibility. There appears to be no record of this arrangement, and I accordingly referred to Mr. Evans for his account of it. He states that, realising as he did the impossibility of personally inquiring into every trivial offence, and the desirability of allowing a compound manager some authority over the men for whose order he was responsible, he informed the mine managers that in cases of breaches of discipline and trivial offences for which it was not con- 930 sidered necessary to prosecute, he would not interfere if slight corporal punishment … was administered.Mr. Evans goes on to say—and this is, I confess, a most astounding statement—He (Mr. Evans) informed Lord Milner of his action, and Lord Milner took no objection.The noble Viscount is in the House, and I hope he will be able to make some statement in regard to this. Mr. Evans, the superintendent who was appointed to look after the Chinese, is stated in this telegram of Mr. Lyttelton's to Lord Selborne, to have instituted an illegal system of flogging, and we are told that he informed Lord Milner of his action, and that Lord Milner took no objection. I should like to ask the noble Viscount whether that is true or not.
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
I do not know whether I shall be in order in replying to the noble Earl now, but the matter has been called attention to in another place, and I think it might be convenient if I were to state exactly my recollection. It is no doubt true that I was informed by the superintendent of foreign labour—an official whose services had been placed at the disposal of the Transvaal Government by the Home Government because of his long experience in a Colony where Chinese coolie labour was the rule—that he had found it necessary to allow the infliction of corporal punishment on the mines in certain cases. I understood from him that the punishment inflicted was of the nature of caning, that it was never inflicted for offences such as desertion or refusal to work, or anything of that kind, but only for acts of violence and disturbance to order which it was thought necessary, even in the interests of the coolies themselves, promptly to repress, and that he was confident that it was within the power of himself and his staff to prevent any abuses. That being the view of the man who was appointed to protect the interests of the coolies, and whom, I may say, I had found on every occaion to be fearlessly zealous and devoted in the defence of their interests, I did not interfere. I fully recognised that I took upon myself the whole responsibility. I think, in the light of subsequent events, that I was wrong, because, whatever the drawbacks might have been of not having 931 prompt repression of such offences, abuses might arise from allowing the. punishment in any case. This was immediately before I left the Transvaal. Shortly after I had left the Lieutenant-Governor heard reports that on one or two mines ill-treatment of coolies had taken place, and he immediately prevented all corporal punishment whatever at any of the mines. If I had been there I should have done the same.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
The noble Viscount has made a long statement in reply to a direct question, but he has admitted that he sanctioned illegal flogging. I should like also to recall this point in connection with that. I would ask your Lordships' attention to a despatch from the Colonial Office to the Foreign Office under date March 5th, 1904. To quote from this despatch—With regard to the second point raised by the Chinese Minister relating to corporal punishment, Lord Milner pointed out that any labourers imported would be amenable to the law of the land, by which everybody, including whites, is liable to corporal punishment for certain offences, but no corporal punishment would be allowed except for such offences, and in these cases would only be inflicted after trial and sentence by a magistrate or judge.I maintain that it is a monstrous thing for the Lord High Commissioner to make a statement of that kind, to deal in that way with the Chinese Minister, and then to sanction illegal flogging. I rejoice that my right hon. friend the late Secretary of State for the Colonies did not for one moment allow his mind to draw a distinction between what is called slight corporal punishment and flogging, for in the telegram from Mr. Lyttelton to Lord Selborne which I have already quoted Mr. Lyttelton goes on to say—I profoundly regret that corporal punishment, however slight, was authorised without the safeguards of the law, and that the matter was not brought to my notice as Secretary of State before it was authorised. Mr. Evans appears to have held that it was possible to draw distinction"—As indeed the noble Viscount has attempted to do—between slight corporal punishment for disciplinary purposes and flogging, for which the Government was bound to prosecute if brought to its notice. Such a distinction cannot be maintained.After all, what is this slight corporal punishment to which the noble Viscount 932 refers? Lord Selborne, in a despatch, to Mr. Lyttelton., dated December 9th, 1905, said—Now it is not denied, and indeed I have already informed you, that prior to June, 1905, illegal corporal punishment after trial by the mine authorities was widely resorted to as a disciplinary measure on the mines of the Witwatersrand; and it cannot be disputed that where administered it was administered, in the manner described in Mr. Boland's letter.Now, my Lords, what is the manner described by Mr. Boland in his letter, of the punishment for which Lord Milner is responsible. I will read it. It describes the method of procedure in laying ort the punishment—A coolie is reported either by a white shift boss or by a headman for an offence. He is called into the compound manager's office, charged, and given a fair trial (except where the compound manager does not know the Chinese language and has to trust to his yellow interpreter). Then the sentence is passed by the compound manager—ten, fifteen, or twenty strokes, according to the crime. The coolie, with a Chinese policeman on either side of him, is taken away about ten paces. Then he stops, and at the word of a policeman, drops his pantaloons, and falls flat on his face and at full length on the floor. One policeman holds his feet together; another, with both hands pressed firmly on the back of his head, looks after that end of his body. Then the flagellator, with a strip of thick leather on the end of a 3 ft. wooden handle, lays on the punishment, severely or lightly, as instructed. Should the prisoner struggle after the first few strokes, another policeman plants a foot in the middle of his back until the full dose has been administered.That is the kind of abuse which went on under the Ordinance, illegal flogging which, we are now told, received the sanction of the High Commissioner. I must apologise to the House for the necessity of reading so many extracts, but in a matter of this kind one cannot be too careful or exact in substantiating as one proceeds each and every step, and it is in the Blue-books themselves, that the strongest condemnation of the Chinese Ordinance is to be found.
These Blue-books justify the feeling in this country and our predictions when in opposition. The conditions under this Ordinance, whether you call them slavery, or, as the Prime Minister did on March 21st, 1904, in another place, so like slavery that they are almost indistinguishable, do differ fundamentally from those in every other Ordinance 933 of indentured labour in their denial to the labourer of all rights of citzenship, of all that is essential to human progress as well as to personal liberty. I cannot congratulate the Opposition on being very valiant. Why do they ask questions and then run away? But be that as it may, we have no occasion to resent this debate. It has enabled us to clear up what the noble Viscount described as the paralysing uncertainty of the financial position in the Transvaal. It has afforded us an opportunity of declaring that we will, neither directly nor indirectly, under any circumstances, acquiesce in the acceptance, for an indefinite time, of this Ordinance, but that, so long as we are responsible for the conduct of affairs, any Colonial legislation corresponding to that of this Ordinance and inconsistent with our best British traditions, would unquestionably be vetoed, not only by the inherent power invested in the Grown, but by express instructions given to the governor.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, before I deal with the matters under discussion, I should like to express my dissent from the view of the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War that there is any air of unreality about the debate. The noble Earl denounced the Members of your Lordships' House on this side for having s[...]arted a debate upon which they were afraid to divide the House. The noble Earl has sat on various sides of your Lordships' House, but this is the first time he has occupied a seat on the Front Government Bench. I venture to think that if he had had a longer Governmental experience he would have known that it is not usual to divide the House on a question as to matters of fact such as that brought forward by the noble Viscount who introduced the debate.
I think there is no one in your Lordships' House who will contradict me when I say that the debate which has taken place has been not only most interesting and instructive, but most important. The questions raised by the noble Viscount are undoubtedly of enormous importance. The noble Viscount speaks not only with a sense of responsibility, but 934 with a practical knowledge of the affairs of South Africa which in my opinion no one else possesses. He ventured with perfect justice to warn your Lordships of the state of affairs that might follow if the policy which he advocated, and which was supported by the Government of which I was a member, is not carried out. He spoke those weighty words of warning to His Majesty's Government because he believed that if they departed from the policy which he had pursued there might be absolute ruin in South Africa. It would be presumptuous on my part to attempt to drive home the arguments which were put forward so ably and eloquently by the noble Viscount; but at least I can express a hope that His Majesty's Government will take to heart the opinions he laid before them and will not enter into any rash or ill-considered policy in regard to South Africa. Any such policy would destroy for ever the results achieved in recent years in South Africa by the blood of those who died in the war, and South Africa would go back to the condition in which it was after Majuba.
My object in rising is not to address myself to the question of the future Constitution of the Transvaal. I leave that to those with more practical knowledge. In regard to the subject of Chinese labour there cannot be the slightest question that both before and during the general election misrepresentation was rampant in the constituencies. The noble Lord who spoke first this evening declared that the Conservative Party must have a very poor case if they were defeated on account of the exaggerated statements made in regard to Chinese labour. May I say that I hope the Conservative Party will always have a poor case rather than deviate from the path of truth? I would rather see the Conservative Party in opposition for the rest of its existence than that we should return to power through misrepresentation. It cannot be denied that there was gross misrepresentation on this subject. Now, when the election is over and it is a little ate to do it, members of the Government show the greatest anxiety, whenever opportunity occurs, to dissociate themselves from the use of the word "slavery."
935 It is curious to note the particular way in which leading members of the Government dissociate themselves from this now somewhat unpopular word. With the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council it is only "a descriptive term"; the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister alludes to it now as "servile conditions," while the Undersecretary for the Colonies uses the most remarkable expression "terminological inexactitude." But the strongest repudiation came from the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he stated yesterday that he deeply regretted that the term had been used. I would like to ask whether Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman concurs with the noble Earl in that expression of regret, and whether the supporters of His Majesty's Government who sit below the gangway in the House of Commons, headed by Dr. Macnamara, also regret the use of the term, or whether they adhere to the word "slavery" or the Prime Minister's phrase of "taint of slavery."
What, I would like to ask, is going to be the future of Chinese labour in South Africa? We have had no definite statement on that question from any member of His Majesty's Government either in this House or in another place, aid I think we are entitled to have a declaration on the subject from a member of the Government before the debate closes. I find it very difficult indeed to reconcile the statements of the Under-Secretary and those of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to what the future of Chinese labour in South Africa is to be; and I am certainly at a loss to reconcile the speeches which were made in opposition by the Under-Secretary with the speech he delivered the other day in the House of Commons. In the extract which I am about to read occurs the name of Sir Edward Grey, and may I say with what respect and affection Lady Grey was held by all who knew her and how deeply we sympathise with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in his great bereavement? Speaking at Manchester, I think in October, the Under Secretary for the Colonies said—He thanked Sir Edward Grey for his outspoken statement on Chinese labour. It was 936 clear from that declaration that should a Liberal majority result from the next election the importation of Chinamen into South Africa would cease, and that meant that within three years the whole of the yellow coolies employed on the Hand would be repatriated to their own country.That, I thought, was a remarkable statement, and it seems to me that it would require a large sum of money to repatriate all these people. It would be well to ask at whose expense they were to be repatriated. To my amazement I read the following statement made by the Under-Secretary in the debate in the House of Commons—He could not doubt that a sudden arbitrary exportation of one-third of the labour supply in South Africa would produce an utter economic collapse.It is impossible to reconcile the two speeches. No doubt the Under-Secretary as an independent Member addressing a vast Lancashire audience said more than he meant. But I hope some noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite will inform us how it is possible to reconcile these two statements. I think myself it would have been fairer if the present Prime Minister had ascertained the position of Chinese labour before leading the country to believe that the Liberal Party were pledged to recall this Ordinance.
The supporters of His Majesty's Government have described Chinese labour as "slavery." If it were so, is not almost every other civilised Power practically open to the same charge? I think the Government are realising that they went a little too far in the statements they made when they were a free people in opposition. Labour is absolutely necessary in South Africa, and no other labour can be found. Are His Majesty's Government going to allow the country to be impoverished simply because they will not permit the employment of a certain class of labour willing to do the work? The resources of South Africa are very great, and it is only by developing those resources that in future we can obtain any return for the vast sums of money that have been expended on the country. The labour question is a difficult one. I am myself a large employer of labour, and I know full well that the easier it is to obtain labour the cheaper is the cost of production and the cheaper the price at which tie articles can be sold. My noble friend Lord Harris 937 dealt with this question last night, and put to the noble Earl the Secretary of State a question which he did not answer, but which I think should be answered tonight. Lord Harris asked whether the Government, in order to be consistent, would interfere with the recruiting of Kaffirs from Portuguese territory. He pointed out that the Portuguese Government had recently stipulated that they would only allow the recruiting of Kaffirs in Portuguese territory on condition that at the end of their engagement the Kaffirs should be returned and should not be allowed to take up other work in the Transvaal. I hope that an Answer will be given to Lord Harris' Question before the debate concludes.
The general impression created in this country by speakers who denounced Chinese labour was that the compounds in the Transvaal were merely wretched palings, that they resembled the village pound in which a strange donkey is occasionally imprisoned. I read in the Saturday Review yesterday—The compound system was started some thirty years ago by the owners of the De Beers Mines, and nobody saw any harm in it until the other day, though the rigour of the De Beers regulations is far worse than anything the Chinese are subjected to. It is impossible to see any distinction in principle between importing coolies from China and in importing natives from Portuguese South Africa.Those statements I believe are perfectly correct. On this question my mind goes back to the speech of the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture, who waxed very warm in his denunciation of the compounds in which the Chinese were to be confined. Why was it, I ask, that the noble Earl, who complained so loudly of the compound system in the Transvaal in 1905, did not complain of the compounds at the De Beers Mines which he himself visited in 1901 and where the regulations are far more stringent? The fact is, these allegations were nothing but a Party cry for the general election. I should like to ask the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture whether, like his noble friend, Lord Elgin, he regrets the allegation, or whether he adheres to what he said last year. I repeat that these allegations were nothing but a Party cry for the general election. 938 Noble Lords opposite will fine out—indeed they are already finding out—that it is a rash thing while in opposition to make promises and raise hopes that cannot possibly be realised. This is not the first time that England has been roused by the cry of cruelty for political purposes before a general election. In 1880 Mr. Gladstone won the general election on the Bulgarian atrocities cry. But the country afterwards realised what a victory of that kind meant, and the Chinese slavery cry will also be found out. These misrepresentations will recoil upon their authors, but in the meantime the Unionist party will not allow them to remain unanswered. I hope that my noble friend Lord Harris will raise this question again and again in your Lordships' House, and however unworthy I may be to do so he will always find me ready to follow him.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord LOREBURN)
My Lords, I understand, so far as I can gather from this debate, that the object of this debate is educational rather than constructive, and the method has been more by way of criticism than by way of suggestion. A noble Lord who sits on a back bench on the Opposition side made a speech in reference to the relations of this country with South Africa a short time ago, and I hope it will not be considered an impertinence on the part of a new comer like myself if I express my admiration of that speech, and also, although I do not concur with all of it, my concurrence with a good deal of it.
No doubt when speaking of history he was right in saying that strange blunders are apparent as we survey the relations between this country and South Africa during the last 100 years. That is a proposition that will have general assent But the noble Viscount left the story half told; and I must say—I think I should be wanting in self-respect if I did not say—that, in my opinion, in this long series of blunders there never was a greater blunder than the policy of the noble Viscount which led to the war. It is not that I speak with any personal feeling whatever in regard either to himself or his motives. The noble Viscount spoke as if those who dissent 939 from his views were men who were enemies of their country-pro-Boers; friends of those who were enemies of their country. For my part, I am wholly indifferent, and I think myself that those of us who most unjustly sustained that imputation coupled with ostracism, five years ago, may look with some satisfaction now to this that the feeling of our countrymen is that, whatever they may think in regard to our wisdom, we acted with no unworthy motive. My own experience, after twenty-five or twenty-six years in the other House and with knowledge of a great many statesmen and leading men who have distinguished themselves in the service of the State is, that although they have made what may he thought mistakes, I have never known one who did not desire to serve his country sincerely. The noble Viscount has not, I think, been much concerned in Parliamentary affairs or he would not so lightly have adopted the shallow creed that men who differ from each other politically are not equally honourable.
Now, this debate has been somewhat desultory and has covered a large field, but I will advert to two subjects only. The first is Chinese labour. I have always thought that Chinese labour was an ill-advised proceeding from the commencement, and from an economic point of view equally so. The people over the West of Europe have by a succession of generations of sacrifice and suffering gained a standard of living commonly called a living wage, and it means that they have succeeded in obtaining for themselves what may justly be called a position consistent with the dignity of labour. Now, when there are all kinds of facilities for the influx of Oriental races, what would happen if there were an invasion of the West by yellow or coloured labour on a large scale? Think for a moment what would happen it there were an attempt to introduce 50,000 or 60,000 Chinese into this country to compete with the standard of living that has been reached after the endeavours of generations of labour. It would not be tolerated in this country for a moment. All this sophistry, if I may say so, would be swept away instantly, and in no part of Europe would cheap Chinese labour be 940 allowed to compete with white labour; it would not be tolerated.
I admit fully that this was a consideration that operated materially in the course of the late election, as I think Mr. Chamberlain said. The number of white men in the Transvaal is, I understand, something like 120,000, and into this is poured something like 60,000 Chinese against the wishes of Australia and against the view, twice expressed by a unanimous vote, of both Houses in Cape Colony, against the wish of New Zealand, against the opinion of Mr. Chamberlain, and against the unanimous protests of Liberals in both Houses of Parliament. Certainly there should be continuity of policy, so far as the policy is a right one and can be continued, and even to some extent, though it may be wrong, it may be desirable to continue it But this postulates that those who are in power in declaring their policy shall not stand to the ultimate edge of their extreme rights, and shall not use, as they did in the last Parliament, the whole weight of their majority to crush even remonstrance. That is not the way to secure continuity of policy, I submit. The way to secure it is to take into consideration fairly, to weigh and to respect, the opinions of your countrymen, even though you dissent from them.
In the circumstances Chinese labour had not a very hopeful commencement. It had necessarily to be introduced, having regard to Transvaal opinion, under terms of restriction contained in the Ordinance of 1904, some of which applied to service in this country would be bad in law, because, contrary to public policy, they are in restraint of industry and legitimate trade. These things necessarily led to difficulties. The coolies escaped from the compounds, and deputations of Dutch and British represented to Sir A. Lawley that a state of absolute terror existed in districts near Johannesburg owing to foul and horrid outrages committed by these escaped coolies. Is it possible to suppose that the people of the country would be favourable to a state of things exposing them to terror by day and night?
Another evil of a worse kind arising from this unnatural condition of labour is the tendency towards abuse and illegality. We heard only to-night an 941 [...]llustration. The noble Viscount was asked whether he had sanctioned illegal flogging or corporal punishment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
And he said he had given his sanction. My recollection of the despatch in the Blue-book is that it was stated that if was impossible to maintain the distinction laid down by Mr. Evans between mild and severe corporal punishment. It was a flagrant illegality. I am quite satisfied of that, though I have no desire in the least to attack the noble Viscount. I have no doubt he had anxious responsibilities, and has no doubt some anxious reflections, but it is the fact that it was illegal, and it must be owned that he knew it. When I had the honour of acting for this country in the Venezuela Arbitration I remember the President of the United States, in answer to some observation, saying—The greatness of England and her high estate in the world does not depend on Waterloo or Trafalgar, but on the administration of English justice all the world over.Is it English justice when illegal punishments are sanctioned by the chief officer of the State? Mr. Lyttelton did, in fact, complain of this; in his despatch he said that during last Session he had been asked Questions, and had answered them as a man of honour and man of spirit, as did also the noble Duke representing the Colonial Office in this House, denying in perfect good faith the existence of illegal punishment. In the despatch of October, 1905, Mr. Lyttelton strongly complained that he was only informed of this illegality at the end of August, 1905.
I come now briefly to remind your Lordships of what happened when that illegal punishment was put an end to, as it was in June, 1905, by Sir Arthur Lawley. A new Ordinance was introduced, giving sanction to trials by new judges-special judges, superintendents, and inspectors—who were appointed in order to protect the interests of the labourers. There may be good in that, I do not wish to offer hostile criticism of them, because they knew the Chinese, and it may be that there was a corresponding advantage; but 942 where were they to try? They were authorised to try in the mines without any publicity. It is quite true their sentences were subject to review, the higher sentences were to be reviewed by the Supreme Court, and the lower, I think, by the Attorney-General. But it was a secret court on private premises; that is a thing unknown in the laws of England, as far as I know. Beyond that there was not only a court, but a prison to be kept in the mine—a lock-up. Then there were the collective fines, and the fine and imprisonment for any fraud or deception in the performance of work, in other words, for scamping. In addition to that—covering all that—is the illegality of the severe punishments described by Mr. Boland, which Lord Selborne stated in his despatch, I think, was "widely resorted to."
The noble Lord asked me if I approved of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's description. I do, with all my heart. I say it was perfectly justified. There was a state of semi-slavery. In that I agree also with what the noble Marquess said who leads us in this House. I pass from that, and ask what are we to do? The noble Marquess indicated some doubt about our declarations. The first thing we said was there could be no more licences granted. The next thing was that we would cause to be altered the punitive and judicial portions of these Ordinances, which offended against natural equity. We also said that we would be prepared, at the expense of this country, to repatriate those who wished to return, not in breach of any contract, as the noble Lord who spoke second in this debate said, because by the terms of their contract they were entitled, upon the payment of their fares there and back, to return. All we said was that they should not be prevented from going back by want of means. I have answered the questions put to me as far as I can recall them. I have no doubt there will be other opportunities of answering inquiries.
And now I have come to the last part of the subject with which I wish to deal, and that is the Constitution. We were warned in solemn tones by the noble discount of the dangers there were before us. Yes, there are dangers; such has been, 943 as I think, the unfortunate policy of him, and of those who acted with him, that the path is strewn by dangers. There are dangers, and he is one of the main authors of the dangers. All we have to do is to choose the path which offers least danger and the best hope for our country, if he will credit that any one who really differs from him in his opinion really loves his country. You have a country which has been overborne by the consequences of war, in which all the agricultural capital is destroyed—I am speaking from a despatch—in which most of the country is a wilderness, and there are trials and difficulties of all kinds. The country is endeavouring to pull itself together. You have at present Crown colony government. That is one alternative. Does any noble Lord think that they will long be content with Crown colony government in the Transvaal? It was given up by the late Government, on the ground—I am sure noble Lords will think I am putting it tenderly—that they felt that the pressure on the part of the population was so great that it could not with propriety, be perpetuated. Broadly, Crown colony government is hopeless. But I understand it to be suggested that we should continue to act as a kind of Providence to the people of the Transvaal, not letting them govern themselves, but governing them wisely, and so promoting reconciliation and amity in the future.
It comes practically to this, that nobody is an advocate, in spite of the strong feeling there is in this House, of Crown colony government. What is the other thing suggested? Representative government by the Lyttelton Constitution. The difficulty of that, as of all other representative Governments which are not responsible, is that the responsibility falls upon the home Government, and the power of harassing abides with the Colonial Assembly. Let me just put this for one moment, in order that noble Lords may follow what a danger and difficulty there was. You were to have a representative Assembly with five or six nominated members, and thirty to thirty-five elected members. The elected members could do as they pleased; they had an enormous majority. They were not permitted to 944 displace a Minister, or to stop his salary, but they could stop supplies. That was the Constitution of the Lyttelton letters patent. I say that was dangerous in the last degree. It would have created friction far more than anything else; it would have meant three of four years of friction, or disturbance, and then all wise men would have said after there had been an interval in which racial and every kind of feeling would have been exasperated "the thing is hopeless. We must come to a responsible government." Therefore, that remained the only course. Before the war, this country was under some conditions regarding Imperial interference in regard to foreign policy. The right was largely exercised in the year before the war, peace was made, and a promise was given of responsible self-government now, or at some other time soon. That is to say, that after the fight you were to give a greater measure of freedom in the Transvaal than existed before the war itself. That is the net result of what I have always considered and called, and shall always consider and call, one of the greatest blunders of English statesmanship since the time we lost the American colonies.
There is no human being who can suggest an alternative to responsible self-government. It was necessary to postpone for a few months the final cessation of Crown colony government. For the Lyttelton Constitution must not be judged as if it were applicable to responsible self-government. It was not so intended; if was intended for representative government. There is no mention of a second Chamber, either in the Constitution itself, or in the correspondence, so far as I have been able to see, antecedent to the Constitution. That had not been considered. Do your Lordships suppose that that could be considered in the time we have had? We came into office about December 12th; the first Cabinet was held on the 20th, then Christmas came and the general election. How could we in that interval bring forth hot-foot a new Constitution intended to be permanent? It was not possible. One thing to be considered was this question of a second Chamber; and another illustration of the necessity for 945 time, if the critics of the new Ministry would be kind enough to allow us a little time, is found in the question of the inter-colonial councils by which local bodies representing the two colonies are exclusively concerned with the railways, a chief source of revenue, and the police, another enormously important subject in connection with self-government. It is quite obvious that it was necessary to take a little time, in order to consider what should be the permanent form of the constitution we should entrust to the Transvaal.
I do trust your Lordships, unless you are absolutely convinced that we wish to endanger our subjects in British South Africa, will think twice before encouraging in the Transvaal and South Africa generally the idea that we are the enemies of the men there of our own blood. It is not true; we are not likely to do so, but the notion is apt to get through the land if language of that kind is used by men, however sincerely they believe it. I have heard it said that Liberals and the present Ministers are men who are indifferent to the claims of their fellow-countrymen, and that they wish to gerrymander things in favour of the Boers. Nothing of the kind. There is no such feeling in the mind of any person I have ever met in political action during the whole time I have been in public life; there is no such party. This Little England party does not exist except in the imaginations of those who have not studied the facts. We all desire to maintain the greatness of this country. We desire it by different means only because we think the means suggested by our opponents are unwise, and that experience shows them to be unwise. The noble Viscount himself admitted that there was more than one way of dealing fairly with this question; and I can assure your Lordships—I know it of myself and I am sure I can say it for the Government—that there is no desire to be unfair to any section of the community in the Transvaal. We wish to see, and we trust we may live to see, the consolidation of the white races in that country living peacefully and contentedly under the British Crown. We are prepared to do our part, and we are convinced that the only lasting founda- 946 tion, the only corner-stone for a great and enduring structure, is that of absolute justice.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, perhaps I may preface what I have to say by congratulating the House upon the addition which has just been made to its debates by the noble Lord on the Woolsack. I am not surprised at that speech. For many years I have had the honour and pleasure of the noble Lord's friendship, and I can only say that I cannot imagine anyone better suited to sit where he is now sitting than the noble Lord.
My Lords, some complaint was made, I think, by the noble Lord the Earl of Portsmouth that there had been no form of Motion, and it was suggested that we had avoided, because we were afraid to exhibit the divergence between this and the other House, formulating a Motion which would cause a division. I cannot help thinking that it is a very fortunate circumstance that there is no Motion to be put. I can assure the noble Lord who has just spoken that he is quite mistaken in supposing that there is any general belief, or, indeed, any belief, that either he or any of his colleagues are desirous of doing anything to the injury of South Africa or of this country. That is a delusion into which he has fallen by reason of some words which fell from the noble Viscount, but which—I think I can answer for the noble Viscount—were not directed to him or to any of his colleagues. As to whom they were directed I will say a word in a moment. But the reason why I think it is a fortunate circumstance that we have no definite Motion before us upon which your Lordships might be asked to divide is that I regard this debate as a very serious and solemn warning to those who are now charged with the interests of this country that they should—not indeed in a hurry, as the noble Lord seemed to suppose we were anxious that they should—but that they should deliberate well and carefully, and consider seriously such warnings and evidence as we have had in this House, before arriving at any conclusion as to what constitution is to be given to these colonies.
947 No one could have listened, I should have thought, without feeling the very serious responsibility which rests upon your Lordships, to the words which fell from the noble Viscount or to the remarks of the noble Earl Lord Roberts to-night when he pointed out the dangers which would be imminent in the event of the Transvaal's being transformed into what is practically an independent Government, with two-thirds of its population in hostility to this country. If war should again break out—and when one speaks of perils it is well to deal plainly, and that is what one means—if war should again break out, I should like to know with what face would any English Party meet the country, which, after such warnings as we have had from the noble Viscount and from Lord Roberts, had given a constitution to that which would be a hostile country, and which had the means of gradually preparing for such a war as it would not be easy for this country to meet?
Although there has been no form of Motion put forward, there have been discussed two or three subjects of very divergent importance. Considering the grave perils which have been pointed out I do not think that the question of what produced the majority at the last general election is of very great importance. The question which I think urgently requires to be considered is—What is now to be done? It is very difficult indeed to resist the temptation of the argumentum ad homines when we remember what has been represented as the conduct, of affairs in South Africa, and when we rind that, having succeeded to power, the Party opposite are unable or unwilling to put right what, if things were as they represented them to be, it would be their bounden duty at once to bring to an end.
I am told that it has been announced in the House of Commons to-day that there is no intention at present to rescind the regulations in the Chinese Labour Ordinance under which the coolies are kept in the precincts of the mines. That is no doubt wise and prudent, but, of course, it is an almost irresistible temptation to us on this side, to-day, to say, "Then you cannot believe the things 948 which have been said"—I do not say which your Lordships said, but which were said on your behalf, and which must h have greatly influenced the country in the conclusion at which they arrived. If it were true that slavery existed under d the British flag, it was the bounden duty of those who succeeded to power to put an end to it. But they do not believe it; it is not true. And then the noble Earl h Lord Portsmouth spoke about its being a proper thing to consider that the people n who said it was slavery really believed what they said. It is all very well to be so charitable, but did the people who believed it know anything about it? If they did they could not have believed it, because it is untrue. I must say that I recognise the candour and frankness with which the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies spoke of his regret at the statements which have been made in this respect.
But, my Lords, although I admit that the temptation to the argument against our opponents is almost irresistible, I think the great question is, what is now to be done? I am very glad that noble Lords opposite are not to be tempted, now they are in office, to crystallise the view which they had on the subject, as they might be tempted to do if they were; driven to a division. I cannot help feeling that the manner in which this, question was dealt with at the election, the cartoons, and so on, is calculated to make one think too little of the real inportance of the question brought before us by the noble Viscount, and I was much surprised that the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in the just and moderate observations which he made, should have applied himself almost exclusively, if not entirely, to the remarks of Lord Harris. I do not deny that this subject might have been made the subject of another and distinct debate, but the questions which I should have thought most demanded an authoritative statement on the part of the noble Earl were the questions brought forward last night by the noble Viscount Lord Milner, and to-night by my noble friend Lord Halifax. Is it possible to hear those statements, without thinking of the enormous importance of what they have pointed out—and pointed out by reason not of vague statements in the newspapers or by 949 correspondents, but of their own knowledge of the real feeling of the country and of the real necessities of the case.
My noble friend on the Woolsack pointed out more than once that the state of things necessary there would be so intolerable in this country that nobody would submit to it. I quite agree with him. It is quite true. But does that prove that they are not necessary there? He spoke as if the condition of the mines and of the dwellers in the Transvaal was the same now as it was originally. I think he forgets that the feeling of the country is now entirely the other way, and what we are asked to do, or what we should be asked to do—not that I believe that noble Lords opposite will affirm it—would be to go entirely against the feeling of the country. All the evidence goes to show that the whole of this industry, and therein is the material prosperity of South Africa, depends on the supply of labour; and one universal piece of evidence is that except by the application of Asiatic labour, which happens to be Chinese labour, you cannot get a sufficient supply. So that the problem is this—whether or not, with the knowledge that there is a possibility of a completely prosperous and contented people, you are to interfere, because it would be inappropriate to the conditions of this country, with the supply of labour, and prevent the development of that which is the sole source of the prosperity of the Transvaal.
That, my Lords, is one of the questions which arise. I confess that it is hardly worthy of the dignity of the discussion of what I have pointed out as the question of real importance in this matter, but it is a mistake to speak of this as "slavery" or "semi-slavery." One would suppose from what one hears that indentured labour was something perfectly new, and that nobody had ever heard of it before. That is a great mistake. Again I do not want to adopt the argumentum ad homines that other ordinances have been agreed to not very dissimilar from that which is the subject of debate here. But it is one of the ordinary courses of the events of human life that such labour should be required. Different countries in the initial stages 950 of their existence not only have had, but have actually required indentured labour, and would never have risen to the position they afterwards occupied without it. Therefore, when this particular thing is so denounced in the condition in which South Africa was, one looks to see what it is of which complaint is made.
Now, my Lords, if the Chinese had come without any Ordinance at all and had I been hired by the mine-owner, I have a strong suspicion that they would have been under much less restriction, that I they would have had much less opportunity of knowing what their contract was, and much less opportunity of insisting upon their rights. Great care has been taken to prevent their being put into such confinement as has been suggested. Indeed, I believe one noble Lord in a previous debate in this House actually used the phrase that the Chinese coolies were kept in cages. That was a little misapprehension. But what are the circumstances of the case? The Chinese are invited to go; the contract is explained to them. I do not understand what my noble friend means when he refers to "the mode" in which they are taken to South Africa, as if they were not perfectly free agents and perfectly well able to understand what they are doing. When they get there they are certainly under some restrictions, but let me say that there has been some ridiculous exaggeration about the infringement of the principles of liberty. It is always a popular thing to refer to the principles of liberty. In this country it is naturally a popular topic. But did my noble and learned friend never read—indeed I know he has read with great diligence—the Merchant Shipping Act; and is he not aware that under that Act if a sailor makes a contract he may be arrested and sent to prison if he refuses to carry out that contract? I can imagine a person saying, "Look here; here is a man who has broken his contract, and you are sending him to prison for so doing." What is the difference? I suppose any reference to "the nature of slavery" would not be justified, but it might be said, "Oh, in reference to sea-going industries you must have some considerable power over persons who engage; there are questions of the safety of life, 951 and so on." But, unfortunately, besides being liable to imprisonment while he is on a voyage, when absolute obedience may be necessary for the safety of life, a sailor may, as I have pointed out, be sent to prison because he refuses to go to sea. What shocking tyranny! What an abominable infringement of the principles of liberty that when a man has entered into a contract you should actually arrest him, and send him to prison because he will not perform his contract! If the question were raised in the Transvaal by those who wanted labour, and we were to interfere with their having that labour, it is not at all impossible that the Merchant Shipping Act might be quoted against us. The last Merchant Shipping Act was, I think, passed in 1894, so that probably my noble and learned friend had something to do with the construction of it.
I do not want to lower the tone of the debate which the noble Viscount has initiated, but let me say one word about a misapprehension which I think was in the mind of the noble Earl Lord Portsmouth. I have heard a great deal on the subject of cartoons. Surely the noble Earl, and also the Secretary of State for the Colonies, must have been remarkably blind during the somewhat lively times of the recent general election not to have seen some of the cartoons to which reference has been made. It is very odd, but, of course, I entirely accept their statement that they did not see them. Most of us, however, saw a considerable number of them. What is complained of is not, I think, the fact that the people took a strong view of the Ordinance itself. But how many of the electors of this country do you suppose have ever read the Ordinance, seen what is in it, or known what is or is not authorised by it? Undoubtedly a very strong prejudice was caused in the public mind. And when one hears about the public verdict having been given on this, that, or the other question, is it unknown to noble Lords opposite that one particular allegation may run through the whole country, and create a very strong prejudice, although there may be not the slightest foundation of truth for it? I think the history of human delusions would contradict such a view.
952 Now, my Lords, what was it that these placards said? It was not that the Ordinance as it existed was tyranny or slavery, but that the state of things was such that the persons who contrived these cartoons and placards and distributed them broadcast in every part of the Kingdom declared there was actual slavery, that people were actually in chains, and that they were actually being driven by slave-drivers with whips and thus made to perform their work. That was the allegation made, and that allegation undoubtedly, so far as the placards were concerned, was perfectly true. I do not understand, therefore, what the noble Earl means by saying that people may take different views of what the Ordinance said, that it was said to be slavery, and that a great many people believed it to be slavery. Yes, they did, because they had not read the Ordinance, and because there was a persistent desire to misrepresent what the Ordinance said, and a great many ignorant people were misled by those statements—mere statements of fact as they were presumed to be—into doing injustice to their fellow countrymen.
But it is not only a question of the effect upon the voters and the possibility of their having been misled; the question was, and is, what has been the effect of this in South Africa? There are those who are certainly disposed to make mischief between the mother country and the Colonies in South Africa. I do not want to go back as far as my noble friend did into the question of the war and who caused it. It is enough to say that since Majuba everybody has recognised the fact year after year that war was absolutely certain sooner or later, and as war was inevitable sooner or later it has been the intent and object of a large party in South Africa—in the Cape especially, and elsewhere—that the war should take place under such circumstances as that this country should be defeated.
Now let me point out to my noble friend to whom it was that the observations of the noble Viscount were addressed. They were not addressed to him; they were not addressed, I think, to the Liberal Party generally; but they were addressed to those who are agitating in South Africa at this moment, and whose sole object is to put this country in conflict with her 953 own Colonies. These are the persons to whom the noble Viscount referred, and I must say that in my view anybody who aids and assists the idea that this country is not anxious to do all it can for its own Colonies is aiding and assisting a most mischievous nucleus of conspirators against the liberties, the interests, and the prosperity of the Transvaal.
§ LORD STANMORE
My Lords, I do not know that I should have ventured to trouble your Lordships with any remarks this evening had it not been for the fact that I desire strongly, with regard to one part of the subject which has been under discussion, to test the question by a test which has not yet been applied to it, and to show as it has not yet been shown what very large concerns entirely outside the immediate question of South Africa are affected by the subject-matter of the debate.
I cannot but regret that two questions, each of which well deserves the consideration of this House for a whole evening, should have been blended into one, and I think that that blending has led to some slight confusion of thought on the part of certain noble Lords who have addressed the House. The noble Viscount who opened the discussion delivered an elaborate, an eloquent, and a forcible speech, but I cannot say that to my ear it sounded as perfectly dispassionate and impartial as he himself gave it the credit of being. But let that pass. It is not my intention to enter at any length upon the speech of the noble Viscount, but I may make this one remark. It carried me back to the days of my early boyhood. More than sixty years ago I was in the habit of attending the debates in this House, and in those days, in the early forties, I heard the whole of the noble Viscount's speech—every part of it. The doubts and fears with regard to the possible consequences of the step that was to be taken, the passionate appeals not to desert British subjects or put them in a position of inferiority were the same. The encouragement of rebels, the danger which might ensue from the accession to high office of a man who had been in rebellion against the Queen were then as now insisted on—all these things came back to my ear as they had then fallen, not 954 indeed from the noble Viscount, but from Lord Lyndhurst. To be sure, the name of the rebel was then Papineau, and the alien race whose possible injury to the British element in the Colony was deprecated was French, not Dutch, but with those two exceptions the arguments used were almost precisely the same, and the dangers threatened were just those which were indicated last night.
Then, my Lords, there was yet another resemblance between those past debates and that which is now taking place. To-night an illustrious soldier has risen in his place and told us that he should be deserting those who had deserved well of Great Britain if he did not defend their cause, and plead against anything which could diminish British ascendancy in South Africa. So, too, sixty years ago a great soldier—a soldier whose eminence the noble Earl Lord Roberts would be the first to recognise—the Duke of Wellington, treated this House to an exactly similar speech with regard to the loyalists of Canada. Well, my Lords, the Government of that day had the courage to disregard those vaticinations from however illustrious a quarter they came, and I congratulate the present Government on their courage in doing the same now. We all know what happy results have followed that action of a former Government; we all trust, and I for one confidently believe, that similar results will follow the action of the Government of the present day.
That is all I will say with regard to the speech of the noble Viscount Lord Milner, and I will only add a word on the topic to which his speech was chiefly devoted. Another noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, in a very eloquent and interesting speech has given us an account of the state of things which he saw in South Africa. I do not question the accuracy of his eyesight; that it is not the point with which I wish to deal. It is with the noble Viscount's account of the Constitution of the Colony that I wish to deal, and I thank my noble friend Lord Halifax for the, I believe, entirely unintentional support which he gave to the action he was opposing. He gave us a long list of the errors and blunders that had been committed, and he told us how it was that those errors 955 and blunders had been committed. Because we had not taken into account the views of the people of South Africa themselves. That is precisely what the Government now propose to do, and in that long record of blunders made because the Colony was unable to speak its own free will the noble Viscount has put forward the strongest argument that can be adduced in favour of the grant of responsible government to the Transvaal.
But, my Lords, though I think these observations are such as I am entitled to make, I do not think I should have risen merely for the purpose of making them. That which leads me to address your Lordships to-night is the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I do not wish to enter into any controversy with him or with any other noble Lord about the details of the Ordinances which have been passed in the Transvaal, whether this or that particular provision is a good or a bad provision, or whether it is one which has been enacted before or not; I am not inclined to enter into those details, at any rate, on this occasion, although my disinclination is not due to any lack of power to do so or any inability to show how entirely inaccurate the noble Lord's view of the matter is.
What I propose to do is this. There are a certain number of fixed general principles which underlie and govern all the older Immigration Ordinances—I believe I may say every Ordinance prior to the Transvaal Immigration Ordinance of 1904. Those principles are laid down in a series of Despatches from successive Secretaries of State, ranging over a period of some fifty or sixty years. The series begins with despatches from the late Lord Grey, some of them addressed to the father of my noble friend Lord Harris, who was one of my predecessors in the Governorship of Trinidad, some addressed to the Governors of Jamaica, of Mauritius, and of other Colonies; they were followed up by despatches of a similar character from the Duke of Newcastle, Lord Kimberley, and the late Lord Derby, and were supplemented by most valuable Reports of the Immigration Commissioners. All those documents laid down certain principles, and by those 956 principles every Ordinance during that long period of years was governed and regulated. All the provisions of those Ordinances are in consonance with those principles.
Now, my Lords, let me enunciate those principles one by one, and see in each case whether the Transvaal Ordinance does or does not comply with them. The first principle laid down by Lord Grey and the Immigration Commissioners I was that under no circumstances was immigration of foreign labour to take place unless it was clearly shown to be imperative and rendered necessary by the impossibility of obtaining other labour in the Colony. It was expressly ruled that it was not to be introduced for the purpose of bringing in cheap labour. It was to be brought in only if other labour was not procurable; otherwise supply and demand were to be left to I regulate themselves. It is a matter of; discussion and opinion whether that principle has been observed as regards the Transvaal. I will not say, for I really do not know, whether in the case of the Transvaal that condition has been complied with. I am inclined to believe that it has; that is to say, that the necessity has arisen for the employment of foreign labour. But whether I think so or not is not the point. Has the condition laid down by the Secretary of State and adhered to for half a century been complied with or not? On that point I am willing to give the Transvaal the benefit of the doubt. At all events, I say that the Transvaal itself, and the Legislature of the Transvaal, when constituted, are the proper authority to decide that question. Let them decide whether or not it is necessary to employ foreign indentured labour, and if they decide that such employment is necessary, then my first condition is complied with.
The second principle enunciated in the documents to which I have referred is that the recruiting of the labour is to be carried on by the Colonial Government or its agents, and that the transhipment of the immigrants to the Colony is equally to be under the control and direction of the Government. On these points, though they are not the same, I do not think there is sufficient difference between the Ordinances of other Colonies and that 957 of the Transvaal to justify the raising of any serious opposition.
Then what is the next principle? This is a very important point, and one to which I would ask your Lordships' special attention. One essential condition of allowing immigrants to be brought on shipboard from any foreign country to a Colony was this—that every shipload of immigrants must—not might, but must—be accompanied by a proportionate though not an equal number of women. Has that principle been carried out in the Transvaal Ordinance? We know perfectly well that it has not, and yet those who know perfectly well that it has not been observed declare that there is an identity between the Transvaal Ordinance and the Immigration Ordinances of other Colonies.
So much for the voyage. Then comes the landing and what follows after it. The principle laid down is that no restrictions are to be imposed upon the immigrants arriving except such as are absolutely essential to ensure the performance of the contract. Does the Transvaal Ordinance agree with the other Colonial Ordinances in that respect? No, my Lords, it does not; it essentially differs from them. The restrictions imposed by the Transvaal Ordinance are avowedly and openly imposed not only for the purpose of securing the execution of the contract but for quite another purpose, namely, the segregation of the new arrivals from the people of the country. There is another great breach of established principle. I feel, however, bound in honour to admit that, from all I hear from those who have come back from the Cape after having examined the condition of things there, I believe that law is not carried out as it might in strictness be; I believe it has been found to be unworkable, and that it has consequently been practically abandoned. The Chinese are not confined to their compounds as it was expected they would be and as by law they might be. [A NOBLE LOED: Hear, hear.] But that does not at all diminish the iniquity of the law. Its non-observance is not its non-existence and so long as it exists and may at any time be enforced it is in 958 flagrant opposition to previous usage. Let the noble Lord who cheers that statement remember the Answer given in the House of Commons by the late Secretary of State for the Colonies—one of the most appalling Answers ever given by a Minister of the Crown. When asked about the dangers that might arise from a half-caste population, the Minister replied that there would be no half-caste population, that there could be none, because these men were all to be locked up in their compounds. Therefore I say that it is no mitigation to say that the law is not observed; the fact remains that the law was passed and still exists. That, then, is another principle I which has been violated.
But there is another point. The principle laid clown was, as I have said, that no restrictions were to be imposed except such as were absolutely essential to secure the observance of the contract; that otherwise these men were to have the rights of free men, and when their contracts expired they were to be at liberty to reside in the country and to take up any pursuit they pleased. The Transvaal Ordinance not only repatriates the coolies, but it ' prohibits them from undertaking any trade or business, and absolutely prevents them from rising in the least degree even in the servile position which they occupy. There is a long list of names of employments at the end of the Ordinance, of the meaning of many of which I have not the slightest idea, but they evidently mean the lowest kinds of employment above absolutely unskilled labour in the mines, and for none of these employments is the immigrant eligible. There, again, I believe the law has been broken. I am told that the Chinese do occupy some of these positions, and I am very glad to hear it. But if they do so, it is not in consequence of that law, but in despite and in breach of the law. That does not make the law any better. As for taking up any trade or pursuit that is absolutely forbidden and the prohibition strictly enforced. He must not hawk a basket of fruit, much less do a job of carpenter's work, under the severest penalties.
I have wished, first of all, to point out the principles which, as I have said, have for 959 fifty years been applied to this kind of legislation; secondly, to point out that in almost every respect those principles have been violated by the Transvaal Ordinance; and, finally, to ask how, in these circumstances, it can be maintained that the Ordinances of the West Indies and of the Transvaal are practically identical? I am sure that those who have maintained that view have done so in perfect good faith. Mr. Balfour, the late Prime Minister, has asserted more than once in his speeches that the Ordinances were absolutely the same. No one can doubt that Mr. Balfour is absolutely incapable of saying anything which he does not firmly believe. But Mr. Balfour has had a great deal of business to attend to, and I have no doubt he takes his opinions from reports which have been made by others without going very minutely into the subject. Otherwise I should say that when noble Lords on that side of the House twit His Majesty's Ministers with inaccuracy in regard to the appellation of slavery, they might just as well be twitted themselves with the monstrous inaccuracy of saying that two things which are absolutely different are identical. From the calm retreat of the Cross Benches—the retreat of age and neutrality.—I at least am not open to any of the imputations which have been cast upon His Majesty's Government with regard to the use of the term "slavery." I have never said that coolie labour was slavery; on the contrary, I have always maintained that, properly managed, coolie labour is an advantage both to the employer and to the employed. But—and I do not stand alone in this view, as I shall show presently—it has dangers which render it necessary that it should be always carefully safeguarded and watched, and those dangers lie in the insidious approach to slavery to which any system of indenture must, if not rigidly controlled, be liable. His Majesty's Government are reproached for saying it has a taint of slavery. That reproach lies equally upon almost every Secretary of State who has administered the Colonial Office during the last half-century. What did Lord Grey say in his original despatches when he first sanctioned the immigration system? He said that in many respects the system of indentured 960 labour is marked by "the incidents of slavery." The "incidents of slavery"—not that it is slavery. What did Lord Kimberley say? He said that it had "a flavour of slavery." Now, my Lords, for the life of me I cannot see the difference between the "flavour of slavery" and the "taint of slavery." A taint is a flavour, and when you say that a thing is tainted with something else it is quite clear that the thing which is tainted is not the thing with which it is tainted; therefore if it is tainted with slavery it is not slavery itself.
That, my Lords, would be my own feeling about the matter. I have had a good deal of experience, as some of your Lordships are aware, in dealing with coolie labour, and I must say that there was always in one's mind the dangers which arise from this—I must not call it "taint of slavery," but from this approach to the confines of slavery. It was that and that alone which rendered necessary such constant watching of the system. In so many ways things which appeared perfectly harmless to begin with degenerated into abuses, which were on the high road to slavery, if they did not reach that point. I do not wish to weary your Lordships, but let me give one illustration of what I mean. There was a provision in many Ordinances—as I believe is the case in the Transvaal Ordinance—allowing immigrants to re-indenture before the expiry of the original indenture. That seemed a very harmless provision, because the re-indenture had to be entered into before a magistrate at the free will of the immigrant. The immigrant could no doubt decline to reengage, and the magistrate would, of course, refuse to make the re-engagement. But what would be the condition of such an immigrant for the remainder of the period of his indenture? I do not think his position between the time of his refusal and the termination of his original indenture would be a very happy one. That was the weapon by which re-indentures were so conveniently obtained, and the Secretary of State subsequently found it necessary—and Lord Kimberley was justified in so doing—to prohibit any re-indenturing until the expiry of the then existing indenture and the coolie was a free man. The coolie could then go 961 before a magistrate as a free man, and say of his own free will whether or not he would be re-indentured. That is an example of a harmless provision which may easily be abused unless a constant watch is exercised.
Now, my Lords, having gone through the principles which have been laid down, and having shown how they apply to the Transvaal Ordinance, I would like to assure your Lordships that I have spoken, not from any love of Chinese immigrants, and especially not from any Party feeling, because on these Cross Benches I am independent of Party, but from a feeling that this question affects not only South Africa, but all Colonies in which indentured immigrant labour is employed. Perhaps all your Lordships do not know as well as those who have been governors of such Colonies know how great a pressure is always brought to bear for further restraints to be imposed upon immigrants and further licence to be granted to employers. That pressure is very strong, and when it is seen that, in the Transvaal, Ordinances have been allowed to pass which are so different from those in force elsewhere, the people concerned in other Colonies will say, and with a force which it will be difficult to resist, Why is this? If these things are permitted in the Transvaal, why should they not be permitted in the West Indies, or Mauritius, or Ceylon? I confess I do not see what satisfactory answer can be given. If they are allowed in one place, why not in another? But if any weakness is shown you will find that the whole of the legislation which has been in force for the last half-century for the protection of immigrant labour in these different Colonies will be gradually whittled away until little of it is left, and there will be displayed that taint of slavery which is alleged to exist in the mines of the Transvaal.
But I go further still. It is not only for the coolies of the West Indies, of Mauritius, and of Ceylon that I would speak. I wish to speak also for the white population of those Colonies. I believe there is nothing more degrading, more debasing, or more deteriorating to a population than to have in its midst a servile labour system tainted with "the incidents of slavery." The present Secre- 962 tary of State for the Colonies will doubt? less re-echo that sentiment, for I am sure he has not forgotten the language used by his distinguished father, who wrote these words—words which gained the more force from the knowledge of what he was, it being known that he was no sentimentalist—It is a terrible thing, this living among inferior races; it makes one fool as if Christianity had never come into the world.For these reasons, unwilling as I am to trespass on your Lordships' time, I have ventured to point out what are the principles laid down in hundreds of despatches written by successive Secretaries of State during the last fifty years, and I have shown in how small a degree they have been complied with in the case of the Transvaal Ordinance, and how great may be the mischief to other Colonies, and to our own race in those Colonies from resulting evils.
There is but one thing more. I feel that I owe this remark to the noble Viscount Lord Milner. I am sure we all felt sorry for Lord Milner when he avowed that he had sanctioned an illegal act. But, my Lords, having heard that avowal from Lord Milner, I, as an old Colonial Governor, feel bound to say that I have more than once committed acts that were illegal; and I believe that there is no Governor who, in wild districts and under exceptional circumstances, has not violated the strict letter of the law. I, therefore, have great sympathy with Lord Milner, feeling that most of us, if we had been in his position, might probably, had we dared to do so, have done the same.
THE MARQUESS OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, I venture to address your Lordships on this subject because I am one of those who have had the advantage, which many of your Lordships do not possess, of a considerable residence in South Africa. I have lived in the Transvaal under the régime of President Kruger, and I have also spent some time in the northern parts and in Rhodesia I rise because I feel that those of my friends who are working for the advancement of the Empire in those territories would imagine that the charges which have been levelled against them had 963 been received with a degree of apathy by their friends in this country if I, as one of those friends, did not say a few words on the subject under discussion.
The noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War stated that he had never seen any of the cartoons which depict the condition of the Chinese as that of slavery. I should like to refer the noble Earl to a speech which he made on 3rd January last; I was not present at the meeting so that I cannot say whether there were any cartoons present, but the noble Earl said—The Government there was now in the hands of a trust obtaining wealth by servile labour.Although the cartoons may have been absent, I think the intention of the noble Earl was that those who heard him should believe that a state of slavery existed. I am rather nervous of trespassing on this question after the eloquent remarks of the noble Lord on the Woolsack; he will correct me if I am wrong, but I think he said in the course of his able speeeh that certain conditions which he mentioned were those of slavery. Although the noble Lord asked us to Relieve that everybody in this country was animated with the same objects and the same sympathies, I am afraid that those words of his will carry to many people in South Africa, who have as deep a sense of honour as any Member of your Lordships' House, the suggestion that they have been engaged in real slavery.
But I will pass from so unsavoury a topic to the question of whether or not this indentured labour is necessary. I am not one of those who believe that indentured labour is the highest class of labour. I do not think that it is. I know from experience that the mines in the Transvaal are incapable of being carried on as commercial undertakings where the majesty of labour is commensurate with the pay of the individual. The figures placed so ably before your Lordships by the noble Lord who spoke second in this debate render it unnecessary for me to deal with anything except broad principles. If every native labourer in the Transvaal, both yellow and black, was to be done away with, and the labour could possibly be supplied by whites at the reduced pay of 5s. a day, it is an economic fact 964 that the mines of the Transvaal could not be carried on. People in this country are apt to think that gold-mining is one of those pursuits that an individual can enter with his sack empty and come away with it full. The days of the Californian and Australian gold fields have given people a glorified idea of the value of gold-mining. Relieve me, gold-mining in the Transvaal has to be worked down to the very finest point, and unless that point can be reached it is impossible for the immense trade which this country derives from the supply of mining machinery which is exported annually to the Transvaal to be carried on.
Then there is another point in the speech of the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War to which I would like to refer. He said—Then as regards the economic side. The wealth extracted from these mines was sent right out of the colony, while nothing was spent for the improvement of the colony.Surely, my Lords, he could hardly say that if he had given this question much consideration, because the wages spent in the Transvaal and the expenses of the management represent 75 per cent, of the output of the mines.
Another point which the noble Earl raised was the moral point, and I am certain there must be a misprint in the report from which I am quoting, for he is reported as having said that—The white population of the Transvaal was under 100,000 and that according to the last Return given to the House of Commons on January 10th, 1905, there were then 300,000 Chinese in the Transvaal.The noble Earl must have meant 30,000. But I presume that he now subscribes to the terms used by the noble Marquess who leads the Liberal Party in this House, or perhaps he did not intend to use so strong a term in reference to—
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I entirely affirm what I said then. I used the words "semi-slavery" or "servile conditions." Perhaps they are stronger.
THE MABQUESS OF WINCHESTER
Quite so. A question has been raised by the noble Earl with reference to the repatriation of the Chinese, and I should like to refer to a passage on the subject which appears in the Blue-book. Sir Richard Solomon, who, I believe everybody will agree, has never been in favour of Chinese labour, said—I do not believe the Government would, by the policy proposed, be involved in any large expenditure, if only those coolies were repatriated who really desired to return to China and remain there; but I do fear the expenditure might be large for a very different reason which I shall presently proceed to state. I must also point out that it would be contrary to human nature if, after the Government had undertaken this liability, any coolie who desired to be repatriated admitted that he possessed any savings for the purpose.I think Sir Richard Solomon has correctly summed up the character of the Chinese coolie. I do not think it is in the "human nature" of the "Heathen Chinee" to disclose the amount of money which he has about his person when it comes to a question of his return to China. I am afraid this provision will be freely taken advantage of by the Chinese. I have had some experience of the Chinese; I have known them in California, and I know that you need never look out for them: they are perfectly certain to be able to look out for themselves. The Chinee, who is not unintelligent by any manner of means, will probably say to himself: "I came here on the undertaking of the gentleman with whom I have contracted to return me to China. The British Government step in and say that they will send me back. I would sooner take the guarantee of the British Government than wait until the end of my contract and then be returned or not, as the case may be." In that event, is it not possible that a very large number of Chinese coolies may desire to go back at the expense of the British Exchequer? Under the Ordinance, when the term of their contract is expired, they will be returned at the expense of the individual for whose benefit, as it is said, they have been imported. I do think that noble Lords opposite should give us some definite information upon this point, because it is a matter which much exercises the minds of people both in Johannesburg and in this country.
966 I do not wish to weary noble Lords by going into speeches delivered in the past, but the noble Lord on the Woolsack referred to the deputation to the Lieutenant-Governor of the Transvaal headed by General Botha. Every one of the Dutch was eloquent on the subject of the immediate repatriation of the Chinese, but I notice that since then—on 23rd February—General Botha has made a speech, in which he said—A little clique will no longer be allowed to dominate South Africa; the mincowners and the Chinese will be kicked out if the outrages continue, but every industry must be supported and receive as much labour as possible.He then went on—Whoever imported labour must probably control it.If responsible government is given to the Transvaal is it not quite possible that the Transvaal itself will under certain circumstances approve of indentured labour? I think it is most probable that they will. My experience of the Dutchman is that he is quite as capable of appreciating the opportunities of making money as the Englishman. The young Dutchman likes to live not only near, but in, a town, and he is not singular in that respect, for we find the same thing in this country. There was a Deputation to the Lieutenant-Governor which brought forth appeals from all the Boers present that the immediate repatriation of the Chinese should be carried out owing to the outrages which had been perpetrated by the Chinese. I believe that the number of those outrages is eight. The Lord Chancellor has told us in most eloquent language that he felt for these people who lived in such abject terror. I can remember the time when in Johannesburg the white people existed in a similar state; when they went out to dinner they did not dare return alone, because of the drunken Kaffirs in all directions. Many white men and white women suffered from the outrages of those drunken Kaffirs, but Parliament looked on very quietly; and nothing was said. But that has all disappeared into the history of the past, and it is not worth reviving, but while the noble Lord was speaking I could not help thinking of the feelings which animated numbers of the white 967 residents in Johannesburg at the time when certain outrages occurred then.
I do not wish to say anything to arouse feeling, but remarks were made by the noble Lord with regard to the system of government instituted by the noble Viscount who initiated this debate. I have seen Lord Milner at work previous to the Bloemfontein Conference; I saw him also in the dark and stormy days of January, 1900, and I can only say this—that if England always has men to come forward and defend her honour and to rule her possessions with the firmness which Lord Milner exhibited during his long period of service in South Africa there is no fear of England's falling in the race of nations.
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
said there was very little fresh or new to be said upon the subject. It had been discussed very fully in the Press and in another place, and more especially had it been discussed the last two nights in their Lordships' House. They had heard most excellent and weighty speeches from Lord Milner and Lord Harris, which he hoped would be read with care throughout the length and breadth of the country. He ventured, however, that night to appeal to their Lordships on both sides of the House, and he found himself in rather a difficult position, because he proposed to strike out an entirely new line, and to speak more technically. He would speak, if he might, as a banker and a business man. He would venture to speak on behalf of British shareholders and British trade and labour. He might say at once that he held no brief for, nor was he concerned with the so-called millionaires or the South African magnates. He had no sympathy with their procedure in carrying on their operations. They deserved, or some of them, deserved, to his mind, all the hostile criticisms which had been levelled against them. He knew that this agitation, as Lord Harris had said, was not only against the gold-mining industry, but he realised that it was an agitation against the gold gods of South Africa. He thought that some of their Lordships, some of the Members of another place, and the country generally were under a serious mis- 968 apprehension. They talked of the mine-owners, but there was no individual ownership of the mines. The mines belonged purely and simply to the shareholders. The question of Chinese labour did not affect the millionaires half as much as it affected the numerous body of English shareholders. Mr. Burns had fallen into that trap. He would repeat a few lines of the speech which that right hon. Gentleman made at Battersea after Mr. Balfour's defeat, and in reference to His Majesty's late Cabinet Ministers. He said—The cause is that the country is wearied of being governed by the tricksters of the sporting world, by the riff-raff of the Stock Exchange, and by the general body of wastrels returned to office and power in 1895.He had yet to learn that the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Marquess Lord Londonderry, two of His Majesty's late Ministers, were riff-raff of the Stock Exchange and wastrels. There was not a Labour Member in another place who would have used the language which one of His Majesty's Cabinet used the other day. He would not insult the Leaders of the Government opposite for one moment by supposing that they would wish to be associated with that language, used by one of their colleagues. They were told by those outside that the owners of the mines were millionaires, Jews, and rich men, but, if they took the trouble to inspect the share rolls of the South African mines, they would find 10,000 owners of shares in South Africa and 55,000 foreign shareholders, but they would find that there were 200,000 English shareholders, consisting of an over-whelming majority of small holders, and those were the people on whose behalf he ventured to address their Lordships. It was perfectly true that before the war nobody invested in the South African mines except as a speculation, but after the Colony came under the British flag people bought as an investment, and he could assure their Lordships that when the country was conquered a large number of investors bought shares in the various South Africa companies, because they were told—and could they wonder at it—that there were hundreds of millions in the bowels of the earth to be got out, and that it only depended 969 upon the introduction of alien labour, the only labour available, to enable them to get that gold within their reach. Might he venture to call their Lordships' attention to the effect of the return of the Radical Government on what he would venture to call one of the greatest industries in His Majesty's colonies? What did they find? They found that forty leading South African mines since January 22nd had fallen to the amount of £18,000,000. That was a return that was given him a few days ago, and their Lordships would be conscious that ever since, day by day, there had been a steady fall. He could go further and look to this time last year. Forty-four of the gold-mining companies, representing a value of £145,000,000 then, had now fallen to £88,000,000. Surely that must be the cause of the greatest, anxiety to all thoughtful men. He took out the other day casually the value of a few of the leading South African shares, and he found that they had fallen by at least 50 per cent. He knew what it was from experience to find customers asking their bankers to renew their loans and to have to refuse them. He knew what it was when new loans were required and had to be refused. He knew the effect of diminishing balances and the effect of forced sales of stock. He knew the hardships of reductions of household expenditure, and he asked their Lordships to remember that he was not referring to those who could afford to lose, not to those who lived in the West end, but to masses of men and women with small incomes, clerks, governesses, etc., who had not speculated, but who had put their savings into an investment which they thought was safe. They might say that it was a speculation, but he denied it. A large number of the investors had invested on a 6 or 7 per cent, basis in the legitimate desire and expectation of getting a slightly higher rate of interest than they would expect from a so-called second-class investment. His point was that this serious fall was a danger. What was coming next? Would the noble Lord the Colonial Secretary look with equanimity on a further fall of other securities. This was the time for 970 the millionaires, who no doubt, now that I prices had fallen from 50 to 75 per cent., would come in and buy large blocks of mining securities. He would leave the question of the small investor, and if he was not wearying their Lordships, he would turn to a point which was perhaps of equal importance, namely, the question of the trade and the labour market of this country. He must apologise if he had to give a few statistics. He knew they were hardly permissible in debate, but they were of a striking nature and would go far to prove his arguments. His great difficulty had been to pick out a few figures which would not weary their Lordships, and which to his mind were very telling and very concise. He knew that he was probably addressing a large number of men who were interested in, and who understood, trading questions. The export and internal trade between this country and South Africa amounted to no less a sum than £50,000,000, and in machinery alone orders were given to the extent of £3,000,000. Already owing to the action of His Majesty's Government orders which had been given for machinery were now cancelled, and he would like to ask those constituencies who manufactured those goods what they thought now about the question of Chinese labour. What must appeal to them was that no less a sum than £5,000,000 was paid in wages to white men in one year, 17,000 I being employed, and that, owing to the production of Chinese labour, 5,000 additional white men were employed. That was the present state of affairs, but what were the possibilities of the future with sixty mines undeveloped, and with an output to-day of £20,000,000? They were promised by the experts—Lord Harris would correct him if he was wrong—that there might be an output of £40,000,000 a year. Did not that make them pause and consider the enormous possibilities of the future? He would not touch on the question of slavery. They had had it from noble Lords opposite that they did not think it was slavery; they had had it from the Prime Minister in another place that he did not consider it slavery, and they had had it 971 also from an ex-Radical Mayor of Northampton, who went out himself, who was a Radical candidate, and who was not in the House of Commons to-day, because he had the courage of his opinions. Then why, he would ask His Majesty's Government, this uncertainty, and why this penalising of a great industry? Probably some of their Lordships had visited San Francisco, and like himself had been conducted round that city within a city by detectives and had heard how the Chinese had made it one of the most prosperous cities of America. Why should not the Chinese make for this country the Transvaal, which had endless wealth and endless possibilities, which must redound to the prosperity of the working classes of this country? Might he turn for a brief moment and ask their Lordships to consider the financial effect of the restriction or of the abolition of Chinese labour? Their Lordships had only to read, and they would find that vast sums had been spent on the development of this great industry. If the Chinese were taken away, those hundreds of thousands of pounds which had been spent would be lost. Did His Majesty's Government intend or not intend to give the mine-owners, the shareholders, compensation for the enormous loss which would ensue? Let them consider also for a moment the loss of revenue to the Transvaal. The profit tax to-day produced £150,000, and the internal trade owing to the mines produced no less a sum than £4,250,000. Was the loss of that what His Majesty's Government could contemplate without some feeling of hesitation? They were told that immediately the Chinese were sent out of the country 6,000 men would be placed out of work. Lord Selborne, of whom the Colonial Secretary spoke in such kindly terms the previous night, said—I do know that the amount of human suffering would be terrible.Surely that alone should make His Majesty's Government hesitate. Then as regarded the vexed question of labour, if their Lordships would refer to the Blue-book, they would find that the demand in excess of supply was no less than 129,000 labourers, and that a further number of 196,000 would be required in five years. The only genuine 972 opposition to his mind came from the Labour Members. He, for one, wished they would appoint a Committee to go out and investigate the question for themselves. Failing that, he wished they would discuss the question quietly with those best able to give them expert information. He could assure them that they on that side of the House approached the question with a sincere desire for the honour of their country, and with a sincere desire to promote the trade of the country, and to employ the surplus population which they were told existed in certain districts to-day. They might feel assured that they on that side of the House sympathised with them in their desires and aspirations, and time would show, and not a very long time, that they, the Members of the Conservative and Unionist Party, were, after all, as in the past, their truest and best friends. In conclusion, he would only ask the noble Lord the Colonial Secretary to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his financial advisers in the city said upon the question, and he would urge, as Lord Harris had done, that if he could see his way to appoint an impartial Commission, they would be perfectly prepared to stand or fall by its decisions.
LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
said he could not very closely follow the remarks of the noble Lord. Although he had set up a strong plea on behalf of bankers who had to accommodate their customers and on behalf of shareholders who had invested in a security which had proved disappointing, he did not think those issues bore very directly upon the question before the House, whether the character of the labour under indenture in South Africa partook of the nature of slavery, or whether it did not, and how far individual members of the Liberal Party were responsible not for what they might have said, but for what other people on the same side might have said. One of the remarks of the noble Lord at the conclusion of his speech seemed to him to be not very conducive to the support of the champions of the South African ordinance. He told them how under the protection of detectives he went round San Francisco and had seen how the prosperity of that city and of California had been built up by Chinese immigration; 973 but in order to have made the case parallel to that of the Transvaal the Chinaman ought to have been shut in and restricted to servile work and not to have gone freely about San Francisco, following any trade. He therefore did not think the San Francisco experience was any encouragement for the South African Ordinance. There had been many questions put to Members on that side of the House, calling upon them under threat o penalties to disavow what other people had said on their side; and it seemed to him that the latest modification of the South African Ordinance had affected the minds of the noble Lords opposite. One of the later Amendments proposed to introduce something of the old Saxon system of Frank-pledge by collecting fines from all the miners if some committed iniquities and the others did not denounce them. He could not think that was a reasonable principle to apply here. Any person who had spoken on the matter was clearly responsible for what he had said, but he could not suppose that at the close of a heated election every per son was to be answerable for whatever anybody had said on his side. Intemperate, calumnious, unfair imputations had been made against the Liberal Party in the past, but that did not defend them in making intemperate, calumnious, unfair accusations on the other side; whilst he was quite prepared to defend himself, he did not think, having recollections of the way in which Liberals had been calumniated and blackened in the past, that it came well from those, who as a Party had used that intemperate language, to turn upon them. He would like to ask the noble Lords opposite if they did not remember a little more than twenty years ago how Mr. Gladstone was habitually spoken of in polite society not as the G. O. M., but as the M. O. G. He was sure noble Lords would remember what those letters were intended to indicate. Advocates of Home Rul3 had also been called traitors. His withers were unwrung, for he had ploughed a lonely furrow for twenty years because he did not join in advocating a policy of Home Rule, but he did think it was rather severe when a policy, however mistaken, was treated as treason. It was quite common for Mr. Gladstone and his followers to be talked of as traitors. He remembered 974 perfectly well the sort of cartoon which represented Mr. Gladstone and his friends as house-breakers and burglars because they disestablished the Irish Church. These things might be part of the humour of politics, and, if somebody had come forward and said it was an outrage to have described Mr. Gladstone as a burglar, the noble Lords opposite would have thought they were wanting in a sense of humour. Talking of this very accusation of slavery, they might, of course, describe a thing as slavery when they could not indict a man for it under the law; but, if the character of the institutions he supported partook of the nature of slavery, then he thought that in rhetoric a man might fairly use that compendious expression. To suppose that people did not understand the difference between a picturesque and rhetorical expression and a legal indictment seemed to him quite absurd. For his part he had not the slightest hesitation in saying that, although he had not stumped the country on the cry of "slavery"—he did not know that he had used the word—he agreed entirely with what had been quoted from Sir Henry Campbell-Banner-man, that there was a taint of slavery, and with the Lord Chancellor that it was a kind of half slavery. The moment hey stepped aside from absolute freedom of contract between employer and employed, they took a stop towards slavery. They might have a serfdom which was not complete slavery but which they described as slavery, and they might have indentured labour which came very near to slavery, Whether, however, it was a mere rhetorical expression or whether the character of the indenture was so severe s almost to amount to slavery, he took that the question they ought to consider was, had the indentures and the law as worked in South Africa been inconsistent with the due rights of any free man, whether white or yellow? He was afraid the ordinary person they spoke to, and certainly the ordinary colonist they spoke to had a very different measure of the rights of white and yellow men. He was sometimes hocked when he heard people talk as though the people who originally inhabited South Africa had no right in that country 975 or to its soil except on the sufferance of white men. The noble Marquess who introduced the debate referred to the danger that they might forget the rights of the native Kaffir in being too zealous for the rights of the Chinese coolie. He thought it was in the dispatches from Lord Milner to Mr. Lyttelton, or from Mr. Lyttelton to Lord Milner, that mention was made of the terrible danger of passing into the greater inequity of compulsory laws which would force the natives of South Africa to work for wages for the white men. He quite agreed, and he should be sorry if they forgot that the rights of the natives while they ware busy thinking of the possible hardships imposed upon the Chinese immigrant. He was sorry to say that he had not been in South Africa, but he had taken some interest in the native question, and people familiar with the work of the Colonial Office would tell them that in the history of South Africa there had not only been no consideration shown by the Boers for the native races in the course of their conquest of the country, but that there had not been a sympathetic policy towards the native races on the part of the British whites of South Africa. He remembered that about 1880 or 1881, when the Government made over Basutoland to the Cape there was a campaign which lasted for two years, and he was happy to say Basutoland defeated the Cape Colonists and vindicated their independence. They were then warned to disarm Basutoland but when the Boer War came they were very glad that their policy had failed. He was sorry to say of the English race that when then was an attractive piece, of land for colonisation, the rights of Indians, of Kaffirs or of any other people were very little considered. He hoped the House, regard less of the rise or fall of shares in the market, regardless of the anxieties of the clients of City bankers, who sought relief in vain, would consider that the rapid development of the resources of South Africa ought not to take priority of a due regard for the rights and interests of the inhabitants of the country. He would like to mention one of the facts which came into the Blue-book and which to his mind showed that, with the best intentions, people, as the noble Lord on the 976 Cross Benches had said, who had to do with a community in which there were inferior races, gradually had their susceptibilities blunted, and were more solicitous for the rights of white people than for those of coloured people. They thus saw British officials, who ought to stand for justice, become a little warped and slide away from that standard of right which we in this country, not troubled with coloured races, were able to maintain. Lord Harris, in a speech the previous night, threw great discredit upon some persons mentioned in the Blue-book. He very justly stigmatised Mr. Pless as a person of infamous character and said he ought not be considered; but, when they read the Blue-book carefully, they would see that the more they stigmatised Mr. Pless the more they stigmatised the type of management which made him possible. It was Mr. Pless, who was guilty of this atr[...]city, who had been for upwards of three months, not in full management, but a sort of Chinese manager of one of the most important mines, and the witnesses who told them of his bad character, told them that his mismanagement, his cruelty, and his incapacity had brought the Chinamen of that mine into a state of rebellion, and that it took a very great deal of trouble to bring them back to reason. Surely the worse they made Mr. Pless out the more discredit attached to the mine-owners who kept him in his position for some months when they knew that he was doing badly, and that to some extent the supervision provided by the organisation of the Government failed to detect this. Lord Harris also tried to throw discredit upon Mr. Boland, because he thought he had got his information from Mr. Pless, but he took it that the telegrams and dispatches from South Africa confirmed in substance Boland's charges. Boland said, not of his own knowledge, that he was informed by the person in the mine whose duty it was to record the punishments, that the floggings went on at the rate of forty-two a day, including Sundays. There was a direct denial to Mr. Boland, but, when it was watered down, it was reduced to a mere exaggeration. First they had to take the Sundays out; and secondly the floggings were exaggerated by 75 per cent. If noble Lords would make a calculation, they would see that the floggings admitted 977 by mine managers were twenty-four a day. What did they think of discipline which was maintained by floggings twenty-four a day? That in itself seemed to him to be a work of condemnation. He would like to know what the Home Office would think if the governor of a prison was unable to keep discipline without say ten floggings a day. Why, the governor would be sent to the right-about. In order to discredit Mr. Boland, they said that as a matter of fact there was no record. What were they to think of such a state of things going on for a twelvemonth? These punishments were taking place at the rate of twenty-four a day at one mine. No record was kept, and there were no means of knowing the exact amount. He thought this indicated far more seriously than the charge of Mr. Boland what was the atmosphere in which the mineowners were living, and how they were carrying out the discipline of their mines. Apart altogether from Mr. Boland, however, there was another witness whom nobody had attacked, and that was Mr. Bianchini. For more than a year he was Chinese superintendent in charge, responsible for seeing after the Chinese and reporting complaints. He was quoted on the side of the mineowners in an earlier part of the Blue-book in order to refute cither Mr. Pless or Mr. Boland, but a letter of his of October, 1905, was some indication of the atmosphere in the Transvaal. Mr. Bianchini, being an alien, would not come forward until he had a guarantee of fair treatment, because, if he said anything against the mineowners he feared that he might find himself deported from the colony. In October, 1904, he animadverted upon the way the Chinese were harassed, and writing again in October, 1905, he said that things had not improved. He gave a very long series of complaints, and what struck him was the reply of Mr. D. O. Malcolm, the Governor's private secretary, on page 56. The things seemed trivial in themselves, but he thought they were evidence of the disregard for the rights of the coolie which characterised the management of the mines. There was a man who had lost a limb early in the year, and he had not had an artificial limb, or his compensation, amounting to £5. The reply was 978 that the wound had not healed sufficiently till the latter part of August for the fitting of the limb, but that was no excuse for the fact that the coolie was kept out of his £5 till this trouble was made and Mr. Bianchini demanded it. Mr. Bianchini made another complaint that the coolies who were entitled after certain months' service to an increase of their wages to 1s. 6d. per day had not got it, and that, although he had raised the complaint repeatedly, no attention was paid to it. The answer was that somewhere in the month of October the mineowners admitted their liability and that payment would be credited. His Lordship wished to call attention to a point with reference to the 1s. 6d. a day, which seemed to him to be serious. In the older Blue-books they would find many urgent telegrams between Lord Milner and Mr. Lyttelton with reference to the limited rate of wage to the coolie. There had been a promise made of 2s. a day. He thought Lord Grey in that House said he hoped it would be 2s. a day, and 2s. was named. Representations were made—he called attention to it as long ago as 1904—and in all the discussions Mr. Lyttelton seemed to be pressing for fairer play to the coolies. He got no encouragement from the Colony, but was over-ruled, and from time to time he gave way. On this question of wage, however, Mr. Lyttleton said distinctly in one telegram, April 19th, 1904, that unless 1s. 6d. a day was guaranteed, there would certainly be discontent. The mineowners said that if it was absolutely necessary they would consent to 1s. 6d., and Lord Milner telegraphed to Mr. Lyttelton on April 1st to that effect. Afterwards, however, he telegraphed that it was not convenient and not desirable. More messages passed and at last Lord Milner telegraphed on May 4th—The mineowners will guarantee 1s. 6d. to all not on piece-work within three months of arrival at mines.What scandalised him was that that undertaking was not carried out as they would see if they read Mr. Bianchini's letter. Nothing like 1s. 6d. was paid, and the time was raised from three to six months. Of course all the cosmopolitan capitalists and small investors were very keen about their 979 dividends, and the agents out in the Transvaal were trying to do their best for their employers. They knew quite well that white employers dealing with white labour would try to drive them as hard as possible, and that it needed the vigilance of the State to protect the labourer, and certainly in the Transvaal their only protection was the local government. No doubt Lord Milner was convinced that the financial and economic prosperity of the gold-mining industry was vital for the success, the stability, and the loyalty of the Transvaal, and consequently vital for the whole of South Africa, and that, therefore, he was bound to promote the interest of the mineowners as being the pivot on which the building up of South Africa depended. Habitually, all through the transactions between the Government and the Colony, whenever the Home Government tried and secured an advantage for the coolie, telegrams came back from the Transvaal appealing; and he saw that the Regulations distinctly and absolutely receded from the undertaking given on behalf of the mineowners in the matter of the 1s. 6d. He did not want to take up any more time of the House, but he thought he had given one or two points. In the case of Pless, his appointment reflected no credit upon the people who employed him in the mines; in the case of Boland, though there was an attempt to minimise and explain away his charges, yet substantially they were admitted; and in the case of Bianchin he thought the charges were strongly proved. There was one case mentioned by Mr. Bianchini to which he would like to call attention, because it showed the singular way in which in replies from South Africa the real point of a serious charge was utterly disregarded. There was a case in which five Chinese coolies were marched down from the mines and put in prison in a small corrugated iron building, six feet by five feet and eight feet high, and kept there for twenty-four hours. This was sent to South Africa for an explanation and the explanation was that the men were taken there to protect them from the violence of other coolies. That comparatively was an unimportant thing; the real question was why the people were confined in a space so disgracefully inadequate. It was quite possible to 980 measure the room, but there was no notice taken of the serious charge of confining people in a very improper place. Yet they were told that there was no case at all. The reply was—Allegation, five coolies were confined with unnecessary severity: Lord Sclborne learns from the superintendent of foreign labour there is no foundation for this statement. They were removed from compound for their safety.That was not the question; the question was, what were the dimensions of the place in which they were confined. These were some of the points that could be picked up out of the Blue-books. Liberals said that the Ordinance was bad when it was under discussion in the House of Commons, but he also said that it appeared I to him to have been administered in a way unfriendly and unjust to the proper claims of the imported coolie. Lord Harris the previous day said that the coolie could not have been badly treated because out of 1,700 who had gone away, 1,500 had tried to go back again to South Africa. But if they looked at the Blue-book, who were they? One hundred and ninety-eight repatriated themselves at their own cost or by the subscriptions of their fellow workmen, and he did not gather that these tried to go back. The others were sent back to China long before their indentures were up, evidently because they were found unsatisfactory and unfit to work. That was evident from the fact that 1,400 of them tried to smuggle themselves back and were rejected at the Chinese port of shipment. They were useless people, probably unable to earn their living either in China or South Africa, and they no doubt thought they would be better off in South Africa than dying of starvation in China. As to the remainder, they were told that some hundreds had either died or had become incapacitated from sickness and could not go back. He did not, there, fore, think that the evidence with regard to those 1,600 or 1,800 showed much as to what the able-bodied Chinaman would do at the end of his time. But, as far as he could make out—and the testimony of Lord Halifax was to the same effect—Lord Selborne determined as soon as he got out to reform these things in every way he could. He could not see all the things 981 himself and must be subject to in formation he obtained from others; but as the noble Lord himself had said the Colonial Secretary relied upon him to help him in securing as good administration as possible. He had no doubt that, like the withholding of compensation, many things were being stopped and that whatever could be done under discipline and coercion would be done He was afraid that all through South Africa they could not find much sympathy with coloured and native labour but that the white population considered the coloured population was there to administer to their requirements, and were lucky if they were allowed to get a bare living while doing it; and he die not think that the fact that the Ordinance was now being administered with far greater humanity and care at all did away with its vices. He agreed with the noble Lord on the Cross Benches, and quite recognised that in a colony whew they could not get, white labour to do all the work, and where the bulk of it was done before by native, races, with proper safeguards and so long as they kept the door open to develop it as an English place, they might import some indentured labour; but, if they allowed indentures at all, they must allow them with the maximum, and not the minimum, of liberty compatible with the conditions of employment. There had been many times in the history of the world, when severe misfortune had driven people to barter their liberty for the sake of preserving their lives; but it was bad to allow such a thing to go on, and it was the duty of the English Parliament to say that such a state of things should not be allowed to continue.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
said he rose with some diffidence on this the first occasion on which he addressed their Lordships' House, and he should not have intruded had it not been that in two ways he might claim to have certain expedience of the subject being discussed. During the very troubled time just after the Jameson Raid, he had the advantage of studying the politics of South Africa, and on a former occasion he was also in the Western States of America, in British Columbia, shortly after the passage of 982 the Chinese Exclusion Act. He was a witness at that time of the feeling between the races, and of the consequences which ensued from the employment of Chinese labour. The whole development of British Columbia had been worked by Chinese labour, and he could look back and say without prejudice that he did not believe America would be so advanced to-day in the Western States, or that the Canadian Pacific Railway would have been built in so reasonable a time, if it had not been for that labour. He could honestly say that the agitation here over Chinese labour was comparatively a small thing to the agitation in America. He did not know whether any of the noble Lords had had any experience of that agitation, but he could tell them that the Chinamen were robbed and murdered in the principal streets of the towns of, America, and that practically a social revolution took place. They could draw conclusions and have some idea from that fact as to what would happen if a large country, peopled entirely by white people, came into collision with a yellow race. There were, of course, two distinct features of the debate. One was the question of the franchise in South Africa, and that was to his mind, though not the more immediate, the more important question eventually; and secondly there was the question of cheap labour for the mines. He had always noticed in other places besides America, in Queensland for instance, that the early development of an undeveloped country had to be achieved by some form of cheap labour. It was really a stage in the economical development of a country. They had first of all to get their pioneer into a country. Then came the labour problem, and really the best kind of labour was the native labour of the country, but, if they could not get that, they must get the next best. They might take it, though he would not lay it down as a law against their noble Lordships, that it was an economic law that they could not develop a country without cheap labour first, and that they must go on with some kind of imported labour until they got cheap food, and until they got railways built, and facilities for reducing the cost of living. He realised that in the 983 Transvaal, as in the Western States of America, they could not proceed with railway or agricultural development, or with any kind of development at the first stage, until they had this cheap labour. He did not suppose any noble Lord hoped or wished that Chinese labour would endure for a long time. They were all agreed that in itself it was undesirable, but the question was, whether the Government we[...]e going to cut off this necessary supply before they could employ white or other labour economically—he did not mean low-wages—for the, development of the country. Until they could do that they must put up with the disadvantage of cheap labour. He remembered that in British Columbia that certainly the most peaceable part of the mining population were the Chinese. He had the fortune or misfortune to stay for some time in a mine entirely worked by Chinese labour, and, whilst he had a good many things stolen by so-called Britishers or Americans, John Chinaman never stole anything of his. He could to that extent speak of the comparative honesty of the yellow races when so employed. The time came when living became cheaper, and the Americans thought they could work without the Chinese, and they were quite right in turning them out. After that, however, a period of depression set in for five or six years, and the value of everything depreciated. The mines ceased to pay, and there were various economic difficulties which were only got over after a time of great patience. In South Africa they were face to face with this problem at the present time. They could not live in Johannesburg under £1 a day, and that was too high a wage if the low grade mines were to be developed and made to pay. They would have to remain undeveloped, because they could only work high grade mines without cheap labour. They could not get sufficient Kaffir labour to fill up the difference. Some objection had been taken to Chinese labour on account of the fact that they did not take their wives to the Transvaal. They all knew that that was a disadvantage, and that if it were possible it would be an excellent thing to provide accommodation for their wives. If, however, they were going into that question, noble Lords should re- 984 member that the Kaffirs were polygamists, and he should be sorry to say that a man who lived in polygamy was more moral than a man who lived without a wife at all. The Kaffir worked mainly to buy oxen, and when he was in South Africa oxen were generally exchanged for a wife and he got back to his native village. He could quite understand that at the present moment it would be seriously against the interests of the mines and the development of South Africa to do away with Chinese labour. Some noble Lords had expressed surprise at the agitation which swept over the country at the general election on this question, but personally he did not think it mattered very much, at least not to any great degree, whether the electorate thought it was slavery or not. He was inclined to agree with the Lord Chancellor that they were looking further than the present day. There were two causes which operated against Chinese labour amongst the electorate. One was the trade union feeling, that if it was possible to have cheap labour in one colony it was possible in another, and that it might even extend to this country; and then there was the standard of comfort to which, the Lord Chancellor had referred. No one could be surprised at that sentiment, and, if it was ever imagined that Chinese labour could be introduced into this country, he had no doubt that noble Lords on that side of the House would be as much against the continuance of it in South Africa as noble Lords on the other side of the House. There was no suggestion except that Chinese labour was only a temporary way out of the difficulty in South Africa. Noble Lords had referred to the fact that the position in South Africa was unique, because Chinese labour was employed there. But in the Straits Settlements and in Queensland they had been employed; they had been employed by the Governments in building works, and they had in British Guiana and in other places been employed until it became possible to employ white labour. The really serious question seemed to him to be as to what His Majesty's Government was going to do with reference to the franchise. That seemed to him to be the really important question, because Chinese labour in three or four 985 years might be done away with without any extended disadvantage to the mines. If they were going to have a franchise which would put the British permanently in a minority, it would be an important matter. It seemed to him that the Government would be more than well advised to send out an impartial Commission to deal with the question of the franchise, including, if they liked, the question of Chinese labour. It was the most important question for the settlement of South Africa. If they put the franchise on the basis of population, it was obvious that the British interest must be in a minority, but if they put it on the electorate it was obvious, as far as they could see, that there would be a fair balance between the two races. He implicitly believed in the work of the noble Lord who opened the debate and thought that time would heal the difficulties in South Africa. He, therefore, appealed to His Majesty's Government to consider the question of the franchise even more carefully than the question of Chinese labour, and to see that the basis was one that would be fair to both races in South Africa. He should not have intervened in the debate had he not had experience in South Africa, but he did not think he was far wrong when he said he ought to warn their Lordships that unless His Majesty's Government treated the British settlers and British interests out there with the greatest possible consideration they might be face to face with a coalition between the mining interest and the Dutch, in which both sides would give something away and expect to gain something, and in that coalition they would agree—it might be an infamous or a just bargain, but he preferred to call it an infamous bargain—that they would ignore the influence of this country and practically cut themselves adrift. He was not saying this in an alarmist spirit, because he was the last person to take an alarmist view, but there was this serious danger. He knew for a fact that it was rising to-day, and he thought it could only be averted by sending out an impartial Commission which would settle the franchise on a fair basis.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I think the House is indebted 986 to the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches for having provoked a debate which has been one of the most interesting and instructive to which we have lately listened. His speech produced a deep impression on all who had the good fortune to listen to him. It has produced a deep impression out of doors, and I am tempted to say that it has not been without its effect upon His Majesty's Government. After listening to the speeches of the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, I cannot help hoping that, after all, the difference between us upon certain points is not so profound as might be supposed; and I certainly always in this House prefer to dwell on the points on which the two sides are at one rather than on those in regard to which they differ. I refer especially to what has been said with regard to the question of a new constitution for these two Colonies. There is complete agreement between us as to the goal at which we desire ultimately to arrive. We are at one in thinking that that goal is to be found in responsible government; and, if we differ, it is not so much as to the ultimate object in view as with regard to the pace at which we are to move and the means by which the goal is to be reached.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack dealt with great force upon the objections to the particular form of constitution which the late Secretary for the Colonies had intended to confer upon the Transvaal. He pointed out that the kind of. constitution which we speak of as "representative" as distinguished from "responsible" government is illogical in its character and calculated to produce a great deal of friction. Those statements may be perfectly true. But, my Lords, there are worse evils than friction and the absence of logic. And I would ask your Lordships whether it has not been the case with most of our great Colonies that, before being given full responsible government, they have had to pass through a kind of probationary stage of representative, but not responsible, government in the full sense of the word?
987 I am under the impression that in the Cape Colony for eighteen years representative as distinguished from responsible government prevailed; and I believe that in Natal representative government prevailed for no less than forty years; and, although there may have been friction and inconvenience, I have not been told that the condition of things produced by a constitution of that kind was in any sense intolerable. I must say that it seems to me quite conceivable that, in a young community, especially when that community has been distracted by racial or Party divisions, there may be a great advantage in introducing at first a government in which the administration shall be, for a time, under the guidance of an independent executive. I believe that, in the history of our colonies, such guidance has proved to be valuable; and, therefore, I should not be so much inclined as the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack to brush on one side as unworthy of approval a constitution founded provisionally upon representative and not responsible government.
As to the character of the new constitution, and as to the safeguards which might be introduced in it in order to protect the loyalist population from unfair treatment, it is quite clear that His Majesty's Government have not said their last word. The Prime Minister, unless I am mistaken, stated a few days ago that he desired to preserve an open mind upon some of these points, and that we were wofully in need of fuller information. The noble Earl opposite, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, speaking yesterday evening, told us that in his opinion time and inquiry were necessary; and, unless I misunderstood the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, he, too, fully admitted the necessity of full time for the consideration of these difficult questions; and he gave us, with an earnestness which must have produced an effect upon those who heard him, an assurance that His Majesty's Government were fully determined that fair play should be given to all sections of the community in the two colonies. With those assurances I, for one, am contented, and I reserve my judgment until His Majesty's Government are able to 988 give us fuller information upon this all-important question.
I could have wished that the Secretary of State for the Colonies had been able to give a rather more reassuring answer to the noble Viscount when he expressed a hope that we should be afforded an opportunity of criticising and discussing the new constitution before it was finally decided upon, The noble Earl did not absolutely refuse that request, I think he told us that he desired to obtain further advice upon the subject. That was, perhaps, a reasonable stipulation. He mentioned that no such opportunity had been given for the discussion of the Lyttelton Constitution; but then I would venture to remind him, in the first place, that the Lyttelton Constitution had reference to one colony only, and, in the next place, what is infinitely more important, that the Lyttelton Constitution was a provisional constitution, designed to cover a period of transition, whereas the constitution which His Majesty's Government are now elaborating for the two colonies is, unless we are misinformed, intended to bestow upon them full self-government and a measure of independence from which it, would be impossible for us ever to take anything back. I venture to express the hope that we may have an opportunity of offering our comments upon the proposals of His Majesty's Government before We are confronted with accomplished facts.
Upon the question of Chinese labour I will not detain your Lordships more than a few moments, for it is a part of the subject which has been very adequately discussed. I think the noble Viscount must have been pleased to observe, as the debate proceeded, that one after another several of the positions formerly occupied by our opponents were gracefully evacuated. The full-blown charge of slavery, which we were told we had connived at in the interest of the millionaires, has been frankly dropped, although it has been repeated in a milder and more qualified form.
We have, of course, never contended that the system of Chinese labour might not be attended by abuses. To my mind, when you introduce 50,000 Asiatics into South Africa you are not unlikely 989 to include a good many individuals who "left their country for their country's good," and there will be irregular and regrettable incidents occurring among them. It is probable at the very outset there were insufficient means for sifting the great mass of individuals who came forward as candidates for this employment; and, again, it would surely be a great deal to expect that among the persons employed in the supervision of the coolies, persons who were mostly themselves Chinamen, there should not have been some entirely unfitted for the duties which were thrown upon them. But, admitting all these things, it has been abundantly proved that the condition of things among these Chinese coolies in no way corresponds with that described last year in speeches delivered in this House by my noble friend the President of the Board of Agriculture and others who frequently took part in the recurring debates on the subject. The charges of confinement in cages, of crowded stockades, of barbarous and inhuman punishments, all these things, I am happy to say, have now dropped out of sight.
Another charge, one difficult to refer to except in general terms, has also dropped out of sight. In the speech delivered by the most rev. Prelate and in those by other right rev. Prelates one point was repeatedly dwelt upon, and that was that these Chinese were likely to introduce into British colonies vices and habits calculated to bring permanent, and dangerous demoralisation to the whole community. I can find in the Blue- book no trace of evidence that these apprehensions have been realised, nor has this count lately figured in the indictment.
As to the treatment of the coolies, there is ample evidence to show that on the whole it has been all that could be desired. Visitor after visitor has gone to the Transvaal and judged for himself, like Lord Halifax, who addressed the House with excellent effect earlier in the evening, and from one and all we hear that the grounds of former attack cannot be substantiated. The statement of the Secretary for the Colonies that there is no longer occasion for that inquiry into 990 the facts which many of us desired seems to me also to be conclusive upon this point.
The noble Earl quarelled with my use of the wed "experiment," and he seemed to be under the impression that when I said that the importation of these coolies was an experiment I thereby committed myself to the view that the arrangement was necessarily a terminable one. My interpretation of the word "experiment" differs entirely from that of the noble Earl's. I used the word "experiment" as the equivalent of a shorter word, I mean the word "trial." You adopt a certain measure provisionally If it succeeds you continue it; if it does not succeed you withdraw it. Our case is that upon the whole, in spite of the difficulties which have been detected—most of them have been by this time remedied—the importation of these coolies has proved a success, and that, with proper safeguards, it may be allowed to prevail in the future. I think I may appeal in support of this contention to the fact that His Majesty's Government regard the system as not only tolerable, but as so tolerable that they are prepared to keep it in force for an indefinite time pending the grant of full self-government to the Transvaal.
Now, I quite understood, at least I thought so, the policy of His Majesty's Government in regard to Chinese, labour as they originally explained it. They desired to amend the system; they desired to keep it provisionally in force, and finally to refer the whole question to the judgment of the colonial government. That was a perfectly intelligible policy. That was the policy proclaimed by several of his Majesty's Ministers, amongst others by Mr. Haldane, who, I remember, said that in his view, and in the view of his colleagues, the question was one of which they might "wash their hands," and which was to be handed over for final disposal to the Government of the Colony. But it now appears, after all, that the question is not going to be left to the final disposal of the Colony; and I must say that the utterances of His Majesty's Ministers upon that point seem to me to require some elucidation. It was explained by the Under-Secretary that when the Colony has become seized 991 of the question and has prepared its own proposals, if those proposals should prove to be unsatisfactory the co-operation of His Majesty's Government will be denied.
The refusal of His Majesty's Government to co-operate would of course mean that the whole scheme of introducing Chinese labour would break down, because it depends for its success upon the good offices of the Foreign Office with the Chinese Government. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer went a great deal further, and intimated that not only would there be no co-operation, but that, if the arrangements proposed by the Colonial Government were not entirely to the mind of His Majesty's Government, they would be disallowed by the Colonial Office. So this is what it comes to. The matter is to be referred to the Colonial Government, but if the action of the Colonial Government is unsatisfactory to His Majesty's Ministers, its proposals are to be negatived. The slate is to be washed dean, and the existing regulations are, we understand, to be got rid of before the question is turned over to the Colony, but if the Colony chooses to write on the slate the exercise is to be sent up to the noble Earl for correction and may even be thrown back into the face of the Colonial Government. I must say that a more singular way of introducing the Transvaal to the advantages of complete self-government could scarcely be invented.
Now the noble Earl told us the other evening what was to be the test of the admissibility of the colonial proposals. He said that they would be disallowed if they were found to infringe the right of freedom. There is a splendid vagueness about that sentence. We have had the vague use of the word "slavery"; we have here an equally vague use of the word freedom. I should like to ask whoever follows me in this discussion whether by freedom we are to understand the right of the coolie to roam unrestricted wherever he pleases, his right to settle permanently in the Colony, and his right to take up any trade or profession; and whether the word freedom also includes full political rights. These are very important points, because it is perfectly clear that if that is what is meant by "freedom" or even part of that, the Colony 992 will not take the Chinese coolies at the price. And, indeed, the noble Marquess the Leader of the House told us in his speech the other night, when speaking of the restrictions and disabilities imposed upon Chinamen, that if you were to have Chinese labour at all you were obliged to make these arrangements.
Does it not come to this—that you are I going to confront the Colonial Government with this dilemma? They will have to choose between complete paralysis of the only great industry of the Colony—a paralysis the effects of which have been fully described by Lord Selborne in his despatch—or the admission of these Asiatics on terms on which we know perfectly well the Colonies are not prepared to accept them. That offer seems to me, if I may say so without disrespect, a somewhat disingenuous one. And. my Lords, is there not surely some inconsistency in this extraordinary hurry to confer fully developed self-government on the Colony, when we are at the same time denying to it the right of dealing as they please with a question which interests them more than any other, and with which other Colonies have been allowed to deal from time to time in the manner which they thought most appropriate?
I will not at this late hour of the night attempt to examine the amendments which the Government are about to introduce, or have introduced, into the Ordinance. But I should like to say one word as to one of these amendments—I mean the new Regulation with regard to repatriation. We understand that you are going to I allow any coolie who sincerely desires to be repatriated to return home at the expense of the taxpayers of this country. What will happen when it becomes known among these 50,000 Chinamen that any man who is restless or dissatisfied, or home-sick can go to the authorities and ask for £17 10s. with which to pay his expenses back to China? I have always been led to believe that the Chinaman is a somewhat astute individual; and I anticipate that, when he finds that he can obtain at the expense of the country a sort of glorified week-end ticket to China, he is likely to avail himself extensively of the privilege. 993 These are all matters which might very well have been examined by a Commission if His Majesty's Government had appointed one, and I regret sincerely that such a Commission is not going to be appointed.
To my mind the most hopeful feature of this discussion is the frank admission made by His Majesty's Ministers that more time is needed for the examination of these questions. I accept that statement with gratitude, and I accept with equal gratitude the assurance of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, that no pains will be spared to secure fair play to all classes of the community in these colonies. My only fear is that His Majesty's Government having, during the course of the election, and during the course of the debates in Parliament, as I conceive, committed themselves imprudently on this question, may find it difficult to avoid making good their words by action of a precipitate and undesirable character. Of this, I am sure, my Lords, that while the country will readily forgive them and their friends for any thoughtless and rash words which may have been spoken during the course of this controversy, the country will not forgive them if, in order to redeem these pledges, they inflict irremediable injury upon our South African Colonies or do a cruel injustice to the men who, as Lord Roberts told us earlier this evening, stood by us in our hour of need and were our gallant comrades in arms during the long struggle from which we are but now emerging.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Earl of CREWE)
My Lords, I greatly regret that my noble friend who leads this House is still not well enough to take his place, and that in his absence one of his lieutenants again has to act for him. I hope it may not be very long before the noble Marquess is among us again. This debate has been in some respects of a rather singular character. In reply to my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State for War, the noble and learned Lord opposite explained how it came about that this notice on the Paper took the form of a Question rather than a Motion. I cannot say that I entirely appreciated the reasons he gave, and it certainly does seem 994 to me that, though in this House we are not very particular as to order, two questions of this kind form a rather small peg to hang a two days debate on.
But this debate, as the noble Marquess has said, has had many features of interest. In the first place, we have had the pleasure of hearing some of those speak who have never addressed the House before, and others who do not address it often. Apart from my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, whose speech I know was heard with pleasure even by those who did not agree with all of it, many interesting speeches have been made. It was a rather singular fact that when noble Lords opposite were on this side of the House it scarcely ever happened, with their vast majority, that any independent Member addressed the House on any subject whatever. Now, apparently, we are in for a change in that respect, and I distinctly welcome the fact, even though I suppose we may, in the course of debate, be the sufferers by it.
This debate has run on two perfectly distinct lines which have sometimes intersected, but vet have remained on the whole separate. There has been the question of the future form of government in South Africa and the question of Chinese labour. The noble Marquess who spoke last said a few words on the determination of His Majesty's Government not to proceed with Mr. Lyttelton's proposals. My noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, I think, sufficiently explained the reasons why we considered that particular form of government unsuitable to the present state of affairs. It may be true that there have been cases where, without very serious friction, representative government has formed a preliminary to responsible government. I do not know that any of those cases which the noble Marquess has quoted could be mentioned as thoroughly satisfactory; but, however that may be, in all those cases there was this marked difference from the present state of affairs, that those were communities in a more or less early state of development, while here we have to deal with communities which, though existing under changed conditions, had self-government 995 before. We consider that beyond any system that could be devised, the system desired by Mr. Lyttelton depends on the absolute goodwill of all parties concerned in it, if it is to work at all. If, therefore, the noble Viscount who opened this debate, and others are correct—and I hope they are not entirely correct—in describing the state of feeling which exists in the two provinces, there would be, I think, considerably greater danger of real friction arising under the more modified scheme than under the full grant of responsible government.
The noble Viscount who opened the debate made ii speech of great interest. I cannot help, however, regretting the note—the excessive note, as it seemed to us on this side of the House—of mistrust of the Dutch, not merely of a few Dutch, but of the Dutch as a race, which seemed to pervade the whole of the noble Viscount's speech. I very much doubt if the noble Viscount, himself, realised to what an extent that note in his speech impressed itself upon us on this side of the House. I cannot affect to be altogether surprised. The noble Viscount spoke of his reminiscences of South Africa. Many hard things have been said of him; I have no doubt many unjust things have been said of the noble Viscount; and perhaps it might be too much to expect him to regard this matter with a perfect absence of bias. But it certainly does not tend to diminish the difficulty of His Majesty's Government in dealing with this question when such a very warlike note, if I may use the phrase, is struck, as was struck by the noble Viscount in reference to the Dutch in the course of this debate.
I cannot help wishing that, amongst the high offices that the noble Viscount has occupied, he had at one time or other filled the post of Chief Secretary or Viceroy of Ireland. If he had held either of those posts he would have found—as many Chief Secretaries and Viceroys on both sides of politics have found—that their efforts to improve the condition of the people and to advance the material progress of Ireland have been continually hampered and thwarted—by what? By the existence of a state of feeling which had become ingrained in the people of Ireland, and had arisen 996 out of attempts in the past to establish in a community of mixed blood, an absolute and unreasonable ascendancy for one race, even though that race be our own. The noble Viscount was good enough to say that he did not regard us on this Bench as pro-Boers. I am sorry he used the term; but, my Lords, we are not going to declare ourselves anti-Boers. What we desire is to do our best to weld the whole of that mixed community together as far as it can be done, proceeding on the lines of fairness and justice to all parties there.
As to the further question of the franchise, at this late hour I will not say more than that the noble Marquess was quite correct in the construction which he placed upon our intentions; we do require more time to consider this matter. We hope we have made it clear that we preserve an open mind as to what may prove to be the fairest and best method of dealing with what we admit to be a difficult question.
On the question of Chinese labour, Lord Harris spoke with some warmth, but with a conviction which I am sure impressed the House. He gave us an interesting account of the manner in which the word "compound" was used in relation to the diamond mines at Kimberley, and the gold mines at Johannesburg. At this hour, however, I will not go into that matter. But as the noble Marquess who has just spoken stated that we had shifted our position—I do not think that was actually the phrase he used—on the general question of Chinese labour and on the point of its servile tinge or flavour, or whatever word you may prefer to use, I think it right to say that I am not aware that we have in the slightest degree shifted our position in that respect. I personally have nothing to withdraw from what I said on platforms in the country on the subject, or what I said in this House.
What is the position of the Chinaman when he goes to South Africa? He is recruited in China and shipped off, having been told that he has engaged himself for mining in South Africa; but, as Lord Selborne has pointed out, although he is aware of that fact, it is undoubtedly equally true that as to what is meant by mining in South Africa, or what the 997 actual conditions of mining there in many cases are, he has been found to be in thedark. That difficulty, the possible ignorance of the coolie as to what he was undertaking when he engaged himself, is met by the carefully-guarded scheme of repatriation which my noble friend behind me proposes. The noble Marquess opposite said that surely we would not allow any coolie to walk into an office, ask for £17 10s., and immediately demand to be taken back to China. It may not have occurred to the noble Marquess that it is by no means impossible to impose some exceedingly simple test, with which I need not trouble the House, of the bona fides of the coolie who declares himself desirous of returning home. As to the expense, the noble Marquess seems to assume that there will be an enormous number of Chinamen returning to China under this provision; but I thought that half the argument of noble Lords opposite was that the coolie was so well treated, and in altogether such a fortunate position, that he would be more likely to re-engage than to want to return to China. Noble Lords opposite cannot have it both ways. I quite admit that if there was a continual flow of coolies backwards and forwards there might be some risk of a coolie who had made a little more money than another desiring to go to China for a holiday and return again; but, as matters stand, no coolies are coming from China. Consequently any coolie who goes back must remain in a state of uncertainty as to whether he will return again, as that must depend upon the action of the Transvaal Government after it has received its grant of responsible government.
Then the coolie, having got to South Africa, is taken more or less as a prisoner through the Colony and placed on the Rand. When he is there he has no civil rights whatever. He is not a citizen of the country; he is a human automaton, with no more distinct rights than a beast of burden. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack pointed out that, in addition to this, he is one of the comparatively few people in the world with whom a refusal to work is not regarded as a breach of contract, but as a criminal offence. He is restricted to a very low grade of labour, whatever may be his 998 skill and intelligence; he is unable to trade or settle in the country, and is liable to be forcibly deported at the end of his time. In addition to that, he is subjected to all those practical difficulties which have been so ably brought out by previous speakers—practical difficulties, in connection with the enforcement of discipline, of avoiding real cruelty, which has undoubtedly occurred in not a few instances.
I would remind noble Lords that you must have regard to the accumulative effect of these provisions in looking to the condition of the coolie. It is not an answer to say that one disability is shared by an Oxford undergraduate, a second by an Indian civil servant, or a third by a sailor under the Merchant Shipping Act. It is the effect of them all together which gives the servile tinge to the status of the man, and it is to that which we object. I ask noble Lords opposite, Would they be content to know that large numbers of British subjects, of any race or any blood under the British Crown, were going in thousands to serve in exactly this manner in a French, German, or Portuguese Colony? I do not for a moment believe that noble Lords would consider such a state of things otherwise than as a slight to the Empire. Then the noble Marquess found fault with my noble friend behind me for his use of the word "experiment." The noble Lord who spoke before the noble Marquess—Lord Montagu of Beaulieu—whom we were all glad to hear for the first time in this House, dwelt with considerable force upon what he believed to be the temporary character of this Chinese importation. I wish I could believe that this was merely a temporary expedient. But on the use of the word "experiment" I would simply say this, that it was only three or four months ago that Mr. Lyttelton suggested that the mine-owners would do very well to suspend, for six months or so, the importation of Chinese, on the ground, I suppose, that the experiment might be regarded as completed—that was how we took his suggestion—and that a sufficient number of Chinese had arrived. However, this belief in the servile tinge was half the cause of that agitation before and during 999 the election which roused so much indignation in noble Lords opposite—the belief that this labour is not labour to which any tree man ought to be put; and the other half was undoubtedly the feeling of disappointment on the part of the working classes of this country.
During the progress of the war I am perfectly certain that the working classes believed that we were acquiring a new white man's country. I never heard that any ruble Lords opposite, or any members of the Conservative Party, with all their desire that on every occassion nothing should be spoken but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, ever took the trouble to warn the working man of this country that what they were acquiring was, not a white man's country, but a country which, for labour purposes, might be regarded as tropical. I do not see how the working classes could be expected to know that of themselves. There is no climatic difficulty in the way of white men working in any industry in Johannesburg. How were the working classes to know that the labour conditions there would not be those of Canada or Australia, but would be those of the Straits Settlements or British Guiana? Just compare the conditions for a moment. In the Straits Settlement you have a population of about 5,000 Europeans to 580,000 Asiatics—one to 100. In British Guiana you have a European population of 17,000 and a mixed Asiatic and African population of 280,000—one to seventeen. In the Transvaal you have got a white population of some 300,000 and a native population of something under 1,000,000—rather more than one to three. Just think of the difference in those proportions of white men to coloured men, when you are told that the labour conditions of all three are precisely identical; and to that proportion of one to three you are going to add 50,000, 60,000, or, as some people hope and believe, as many as 150,000 Chinese, thus further diminishing the proportion between white and coloured in your newly acquired Colony.
I have always been one of those who have based their principal objection to this importation of Chinese labour even more on its effect upon the Colony and 1000 employers than on the position of labourers themselves. It is a disastrous thing for a large community of whites to depend, if it can possibly be helped on coloured labour. It would be a still more disastrous thing if the Colony came to consist of an enormous number of coloured labourers with a small luxurious managing class of whites. That, is a misfortune which might be avoided by a little more patience and willingness not to go quite so fast. This last observation brings me to the grave reflection suggested in the latter part of the speech of the noble Marquess, as to some interference with the choice of the Transvaal, when it receives responsible government; in this matter of Chinese labour. The Colony will have to make its own choice—the choice of Hercules—a choice between the easier, pleasanter path of importing Asiatics by the 100,000, or the, I venture to think, saner, nobler path of slower development through the resources of the country itself.
Is it so absolutely certain that this feverishly rapid development of Johannesburg is an unmixed advantage to the Transvaal? In Johannesburg there are two distinct classes of inhabitants, just as there are two distinct classes of mine-owners. There is an industrial class and a purely gambling class. One of the soundest, certainly one of the most shrewd and best-informed, opinions that we have had has been to the effect that it is a great misfortune at Johannesburg that so many men think so very much less of the output of gold on a particular mine, than of whether the shares of that mine are going up or down. That surely is not a healthy state of things. Lord Harris and a subsequent speaker complained that the mine owners had been spoken of unjustly because they dug out gold and not coal. There is no foundation for that statement. The hard things that have been said about Johannesburg mine-owners have been said of the gambling element connected with the mines. The noble Earl opposite, who made a very interesting speech from the banking point of view, forgot to state that the interest which was put forward as being pathetically demanded by poor investors was interest, not on what can properly be called the real capital of the mines, but on a 1001 capital six, seven, or eight times the amount of their real capital, floated on the market very often by unscrupulous people, and bought by these poor investors. I am sorry for the investors, but to say that in order to protect them you must employ a new class of labour in a manner which you think improper seems to me a very large order indeed. I think you could find many mines in this country, thin-seam coal mines and others, which paid their share-holders very little return. They were poor men also and received very little interest, or none at all; but it has never been suggested that on that account you must necessarily engage cheap foreign labour in order to secure these people from loss over their investments.
THE MARQUESS OF WINCHESTER
If the noble Earl is referring to me, I should like to say that the remark which I made was that the mines only produced 25 per cent, of the cost of their capitalisation, not the capitalisation which the Stock Exchange put on them, but the capitalisation of equipment.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I was not alluding to what the noble Marquess said, but to the speech of Lord Harrowby, who stated the case of the poor investor. I repeat, is it a certainty that it is for the best permanent interest of such a Colony as the Transvaal that this industry should be forced on by artificial means rather than be kept steadily going with such labour as the country can produce? Noble Lords opposite talk as if there was no native labour and nothing but Chinese. There is as much native labour now as there was before the war, and it is not by any means certain, setting aside the question of white labour, which I do not want to argue now, that a better supply of native labour could not be obtained at Johannesburg. Not long ago I had a conversation with a gentleman who knows the natives well. He told me that many of the Kaffir chiefs had informed him that if the conditions at Johannesburg were like those at the De Beers Mines, where the natives no doubt are treated exceedingly well, and, as I believe, are perfectly contented, a great deal more Kaffir labour might be obtained than was obtained at the present moment.
1002 The choice between the two roads must lie with the Colony when it gets responsible Government. But there is a point when Imperial considerations must, in our view, over-ride even the express wishes of any responsibly governed Colony. The noble Marquess asked me whether objection would be taken to this or that provision in the Ordinance, if we had to consider it, in giving a grant of responsible government. I am not prepared to say that any provision of an Ordinance ought necessarily to be struck out because we did not happen to like it; but if there was a provision in the proposed Ordinance which we considered, taking the evidence as a whole, to be inconsistent with that due amount of personal freedom which in our opinion every subject of His Majesty ought to enjoy, we should disallow that provision. Let me give an instance. When the first Ordinance came to England there was no provision for the transfer of the labourer from one mine to another without his consent, but in its revised condition that provision appeared. Mr. Lyttelton in reply to a Question in the House of Commons—I am speaking from memory—did not, I think, state that the provision would be struck out, but implied that he saw strong objections to it. However, that provision for the transfer of the coolie, without his consent, was submitted with others to the Chinese Minister for his views. The Chinese Minister said that in his opinion the effect of the provision would be to treat the Chinaman like a chattel or article of commerce, and consequently it was struck out of the Ordinance. I have always thought it a rather lamentable thing that a provision which, I think the noble Viscount will not correct me in saying, was somewhat strongly pressed from the Transvaal, should have had to be withdrawn owing to the fact that the standard of human liberty insisted on by the Chinese Minister was higher than that upon which those who framed the Ordinance were prepared to recognise. If such a provision reappeared in the Ordinance to be approved under the grant of responsible government, I have no doubt His Majesty's present Ministers would insist on its being withdrawn.
That statement as to the general Imperial standard of freedom is not in any 1003 way specially aimed at the Transvaal or at the Johannesburg millionaires, or at any class of people. It would be equally applicable to any self-governing colony under the Crown. What we do say is that although one colony may like to employ one form of labour, and another colony another form, yet there is a general minimum standard of liberty which must be maintained for all His Majesty's subjects all over the world, and which the Home Government will not allow to be compromised. We do not disguise from ourselves the great difficulties which surround the task we have to undertake in South Africa. Nobody, I am perfectly certain, is more aware of those difficulties than my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies. People who have never had anything to do with politics or with administration are sometimes apt to talk as though there was a choice between a right course and a wrong one, and it was merely a question whether you took the right path in one direction, or the wrong path in another. Noble Lords opposite who have had to do with affairs know that that is not the case. You are more often confronted with situations in which every alternative offers difficulties of considerable substance; and we do not for a moment deny that there are many difficulties surrounding any solution of this question. But we do hope that by adherence to the principles which have been impressed on the House in the course of this debate by my noble friend behind me and by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, we shall be able to achieve such a measure of success as may in the end justify us in what I fully admit to be a bold course of action.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes past Twelve o'clock a.m., to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.