My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government their intentions (1) as to their policy in regard to land settlement in the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies; and (2) as to the steps they are to take to safeguard the interests of British farmers and others who have recently taken up land under the Land Settlement Ordinance in those Colonies.
I make no apology for bringing this matter forward at the present time, because in the popular excitement on the subject of another South African problem, namely, that of Chinese labour, the importance of the question of land settlement is apt to be lost sight of. I do not for a moment wish to argue that the number of settlers whom it would be possible to place on the land in South Africa will ever numerically compete with the number of Boers in those Colonies; but I do wish to argue—and it is an argument which has been put forward by all authorities who have studied South African affiairs, from Mr. Cecil Rhodes downwards—that the putting of men on to the land, provided they are of the right kind, as British settlers, will have a tremendous effect in minimising the cleavage of interests urban and rural which exists between the Boers and the British, and which has intensified to such a great degree racial feeling. It is an admitted fact that individual Boers and Britons settled on the land have in times past got on very well together; also the effect during the late war of the Algoa Bay Settlement is well known. But for that settlement in the south eastern portion of Cape Colony, South Africa would probably not be ours at the present day. In 1820 their number was only 5,000, but mainly from that body of settlers 24,000 men took part in the late war on the British side.
I wish to approach this question entirely from a non-political point of view. I bring it forward because I believe that His Majesty's Government have the interests of the loyalists in South Africa at heart, and have made up their minds that, whether the war was right or wrong, what we have got in South Africa we intend to hold, and that we shall not leave that country at the dictates of the Boers or at the wish of the capitalists, 1020 but that, if we do leave, it will only be at the wish of the majority of the loyalists in the country.
As to the question of land settlement, may I just briefly indicate the work that has been done, and the work that still remains to be done? As your Lordships are aware, the sum of £3,000,000 out of the £35,000,000 loan for which this country is responsible was devoted to land settlement. Of this £3,000,000 some £2,500,000 have been allocated, half to the Transvaal and half to the Orange River Colony; and £1,000,000 has been already spent in the Transvaal, and £1,250,000 in the Orange River Colony. There is left a balance of £500,000. I am well aware that many criticisms have been passed on the way in which the money has been administered. I am not going into details at the present moment, but I would like to point out that this money was administered at a time when a war which had lasted nearly three years had only just finished, and the land on which the settlers were put had been devastated, the dams broken, and the houses burnt. The administration had to be formed fresh absolutely from the start, and the work had to be carried out under every difficulty. I think it is fair to say that in the Orange River Colony it has on the whole been very well carried out. One-and-a-quarter million has been expended, of which £1,000,000 has been spent in land, and about £200,000 in permanent improvements, only the sum of from £40,000 to £60,000 having been expended in administration. The land has been well bought, and the settlers appear to be well satisfied.
In the Transvaal undoubtedly the difficulties have been greater, and I believe that the administration was not quite so good, but still excellent results have been attained, and some 600 settlers have been put on the land. There has been much hostility on the part of the Boer newspapers to putting British settlers on the land, but the statements made in those newspapers cannot in any way be accepted. It may be said that the number of settlers placed upon the land as a result of this expenditure of £2,500,000 is not large. That the settler themselves only number 1,200 is true; but many of them have with them eight or ten or twelve Britons on their farm, and therefore the number of persons 1021 affected is nearer 2,000 than 1,200. Again, a large number of men have settled alongside those who have been put on the land under the Land Settlement Ordinance, and therefore it can be argued that this expenditure of £2,500,000 has really resulted in the settlement of between 2,000 and 3,000 men on the land.
That the cost is considerable it will be at once admitted, but it must be remembered that the £1,750,000 which has been, or is being put into the purchase of land is repayable; and, secondly, that the cost of the permanent improvements, which also formed part of this investment, is repayable by the settlers. Those repayments are now being made, and I contend that this money should be reinvested in land. That the majority of the settlers are prosperous and contented, I think, will be admitted, firstly, because when revaluation of the land was proposed the other day in the Orange River Colony it was opposed by a very much larger number than were in favour of revaluation. And secondly, it is a known fact that when land becomes vacant by a settler leaving it is at once taken by new settlers. Undoubtedly some of the settlers have failed, but that is bound to be the case in settling a new country. The settlers had to start afresh, and in addition they suffered from three years of drought.
Now, my Lords, the question is, are the Government going to abandon the work done, and are they going to desert those settlers who at present are endeavouring to find their feet in the colony? Among the British settlers there is an idea that they are going to be deserted. They have in their memories what took place in 1881, when the loyalists who fought on our side lost their all after Majuba through the land being given back to the Boers. There are many persons who come forward to-day and tell those settlers that what was done in 1881 may be done again at the present day. I do not wish to speak in exaggerated language and to say that the handing over of these men to a Constitutional Government is going to amount to anything like what happened in 1881. But the facts of the situation have to be faced as they exist. In the Orange River Colony it must be remembered out of thirty-six representatives in the assembly to be created six 1022 British representatives are the most that they can expect. I need only ask you to read the statements that are made in the Boer Press with regard to these settlers, if you wish to know the policy which will be carried out towards them should they be handed over to the control of the Boers.
I suggest to His Majesty's Government that the administrative work should be continued, that the Land Settlement Ordinance and the board should be continued in its action for a time, at all events, and until the men who have been settled on the land have enjoyed an opportunity to overcome the troubles under which they have laboured in the past. I would further urge that the £500,000 unexpended in land settlement should also be used to carry on this work, and in the main should be used for settling men in the Orange River Colony, where experience has shown that the land is most suitable for British settlers. I also suggest that a certain portion of the £10,000,000 underwritten or guaranteed by the mining magnates should be asked for. As your Lordships are aware, grave doubts have been expressed as to whether we shall see any of that £10,000,000. I would suggest that at all events a compromise should be made with the mine owners for a portion of this sum to be invested in land settlement and permanent improvement.
Mr. Smutz and Mr. Delaray claimed the other day that this money should be given to the Boers for re-settlement on the land; but, if you examine the facts, you will see that although only £3,000,000 has been expended in the settlement of the British on the land, £9,500,000 has been expended on the Boers and others in South Africa to put them back on the land under the terms of surrender. Would it not be fair that an arrangement should be made to continue, by the aid of a portion of this underwritten money, the policy of land settlement for Britishers? I am aware that this £10,000,000 should come to the British people as a contribution towards the cost of the war, but I think it would be an excellent investment on the part of the people of this country if they devoted it to land settlement. The policy of land settlement is a preventive against future trouble in the Orange River Colony. In 1023 the first place, it would secure the possibility of cutting down military expenditure there. We have at present a garrison of 20,000 men in South Africa, and there seems to be little chance of cutting that garrrison down until things are in a more settled state than they are at present. I think no man who is acquainted with South Africa will deny that settlers who have been trained in war and are properly armed will be a much more valuable fighting asset in the Colony than the ordinary soldier from the barrack yard. The cost of a soldier in South Africa is, roughly, £125 a year; the placing of Britons on the land would be much less costly.
I have found that the feeling between Boer and Briton has been much improved wherever these land settlements exist. The affection, I might almost say, which has in many places grown up between them is most marked as a result of these land settlements. Again, on the score of numbers, out of 10,000 farms in the Orange River Colony over 2,000 are occupied by British settlers, and the addition of a few thousand settlers, which could be brought about, would make, if not absolute equality of power, at least a fair representation of the British element in the Colony. At present throughout South Africa you have the British dominant in the towns and the Boers supreme in the country. The interests of the country are often subordinated to those of the towns, and race hatred is thereby increased, because the interests between Boer and Briton are so divergent.
The whole of South Africa to-day looks to see whether the present Government are going to declare themselves pro-Boer or pro-Briton in their sympathies. I say this in no spirit of partisanship, but in any action taken as yet by the Government there has been no indication that it is on the side of the loyalists. I would cite the action of the other House of Parliament against a great public servant who has been closely identified with South Africa and the appointment of a Commission, with two of the terms of reference hostile to British interests, as facts that will hardly appeal to those in these Colonies as being favourable to the loyalist movement. Some definite action should therefore be taken by His Majesty's Government to show, as I 1024 believe, that they are in favour of the loyalists in South Africa.
§ THE DUKE OF WESTMINSTER
My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships for the first time, I claim that indulgence which I believe is always extended to one in that position. I am anxious to say a few words on the subject of land settlement in South Africa for several reasons—first, on account of my personal and close connection with South Africa and with the Orange River Colony in particular; secondly, and chiefly, from the Imperial point of view of settling Englishmen in the country; and, thirdly, because of the bright prospects—which anyone who has had the opportunities I have had of closely observing the country cannot fail to have noticed—which exist there for agriculturists. These prospects are going to be of primary importance if given some encouragement.
In addition to schemes of farm colonies, as indicated by Lord Lovat, I would suggest that irrigation schemes should be started to give opportunities of close settlements, or, in other words, of a large number of settlers settling on small plots with common pasturage, which has been tried with success in many parts of the Orange River Colony. I mention irrigation, because one of the chief difficulties the settler has to contend with is the three months dry season during the winter. Irrigation, the building of dams, and the sinking of wells would to a great measure tend to relieve settlers of these difficulties. As regards well-sinking, springs have been found in apparently impossible places. I know of several places where water has been procured at a depth of twenty-five feet, and the amount of water procured has usually been from 40,000 to 50,000 gallons per diem.
Owing to the railway extensions made by the present administration in the Orange River Colony, the value of land in many districts has much appreciated. I trust, therefore, that His Majesty's Government will continue and extend this policy, as it tends above all things to open up markets in the rural districts. From what I have seen recently of the Dutch and English around my farms in the Orange River Colony, where I have settled over twenty families, the relations between the two races appear to be 1025 excellent. I have had many opportunities of witnessing it; for instance, the friendly way in which Dutchmen will give hints to and help the English settler who has just gone out there, and who naturally at that period wants some advice. I may here point out the advantages that the English settler will have over the late Dutch settlers. Dutchmen before the war were merely content with scratching the surface of the land, and, therefore, raising a bare livelihood. The Englishman, with his knowledge of agriculture, his modern implements, and his desire for work, could, without much difficulty, once he is settled there, treble the amount produced by the Dutchman. Taking these facts into account these settlers are, I think, worthy of help.
I would urge upon your Lordships to commence first with the present settlers who have overcome so many difficulties caused by the inconvenience of farming after the country had been denuded by the war, and I suggest that they should not be deserted and left to the tender mercies of a Boer Government. I further suggest, my Lords, that the Board and its present efficient administration should be continued in its excellent work. There are many loyal Englishmen in South Africa who are ready to carry out the wishes of the mother country as long as those wishes are adequate to keep her first in the field of colonising nations. The country in question is one that has been gained by the blood of our kith and kin. Therefore, let us combine to make the South African question a national one. I do hope that the question of land settlement will not be given over to the possible Government of the Orange River Colony, but will be kept for some time in the hands of the Colonial Office.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of ELGIN)
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships have listened with great interest to the speeches which have just been delivered by the two noble Lords. They have both had the courage of their convictions, and have taken a great practical interest in this work in the South African Colonies; and I might be allowed also to express what I am satisfied is the gratification of your Lordships at the appearance once more k our debates of the name of the noble Duke who spoke last. I am in rather an 1026 unusual position this evening. It is generally the case that a Minister is called upon, often at very short notice, to give an amount of information on very complicated matters; but in this case I come rather to hear from the noble Lords an account of the work which they have taken part in and which they have done so well.
The noble Lord who spoke first disclaimed any intention of speaking on Party grounds. That is the way in which I think this question should be looked at. I rather regret that in one part of his speech he used expressions which scarcely carried out the spirit in which he began. I must decline, with all respect to him, to follow him into the problem of deciding whether the Government are or are not a loyalist institution. I prefer myself in this connection simply to refer to the remark of the noble Duke, when he spoke of the good and friendly relations he had found between the two races in South Africa on the farms with which he was connected. I think that is a good augury for the future.
Noble Lords will agree that in this matter of land settlement very much depends on the quality of the settlers themselves. If we have men who by birth, education, or sentiment have an interest in and a capacity for farming, I imagine that in South Africa, as in this country, we are likely to have a successful issue. But even then you require favourable surroundings. I suppose it is necessary for the success of the settlers the noble Lord has in view to have a well-watered farm, of moderate size, and I understand from papers which have I seen that the association with which the noble Lord is connected is able to give further advantages to the settlers he takes out in the way of a certain training before they take up business on their own account. That is of very great advantage to the settlers, and one which we might suppose would lead to good results.
But I think the noble Lord will also agree that all the settlers have not been of the class to which I have referred. I rather gather from the papers that at the beginning of this enterprise the Government found themselves with a considerable number of applicants who had served during the war, and, therefore, naturally came up for consideration, 1027 and who yet were not men of the class of whom I have spoken, connected in their former history with the tillage of the land, and in some of these cases there has not always been a success. I understand the noble Lord advocated a scheme for the future in which we should again look to the Army for settlers. I can only say that unless these men coming from the Army really have capacity for agriculture I am rather inclined to think they will hamper the success of your operations.
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but I did not at all advocate that men should be taken from the Army. What I wished to bring out was the fact that something like 75 per cent. of the men now settled on the land actually fought during the war. I have no statistics to prove this, but the people mostly interested and therefore most likely to know have given me this information. I am also aware that there are a very large number of people with war service ready to take up land who have had experience of farming.
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
I am glad to hear that so many of the settlers capable of doing the land justice are soldiers who served in the war. The difficulties of the land settlement as a whole are not inconsiderable. It appears that although the Government were nominally in the possession of as many as 20,000,000 acres, the greater part of the land lay on the eastern and northern boundaries of the Colonies, remote both from markets and railways. There is also a distinction between wet and dry land, and, though much can be done, as the noble Duke pointed out, by irritation, it involves a large amount of expenditure. The consequence has been that large purchases of land suitable for settlement had to be made. Land has been purchased in the Orange River Colony to the value of £850,000 and in the Transvaal to the value of £500,000. All that has affected considerably the prospects that were entertained when the scheme of land settlement was first propounded.
The noble Viscount on the cross benches, Lord Milner, in his despatch of 1902, made the proposal that £3,000,000 should be taken from the guaranteed loan and devoted to this purpose, and he estimated that for that amount of money 1028 3,000 settlers were to be put on the land, which meant an expenditure by the State of £1,000 per settler. The amount actually allocated was not so much. In the Transvaal the amount was £1,200,000 and in the Orange River Colony the amount was £1,100,000. But I find that of these sums no less than £1,350,000 has been spent in the purchase of land. In the Orange River Colony to June 30th last year 1,108,521 acres had been purchased for an outlay of £845,000. Practically every acre of that land available for allotments to settlers has been taken up and remains occupied, and there are a large number of other persons desirous of becoming settlers who cannot be accommodated, as there are no funds available for further purchases.
The actual settlers number 700 heads of families, of which 598 are British and 102 Dutch. These figures do not include a certain number of oversea and other men of British birth who are settled on the land without proprietary rights. I cannot say that the results have been quite comparable with the anticipations with which the scheme was started. The expenses have been greater. Besides the purchase money, the direct monetary loss to the Government must be calculated on the basis of 50 per cent. of the purchase price of the land, this being the amount spent on free improvements.
May I ask whether that 50 per cent. does not refer to the Imperial South African Association Settlement? It does not refer to the whole bulk of the settlers, but to the South African Association settlers, who are only a very small percentage of the whole.
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
Possibly that is so. But the settlers are fewer in number than was anticipated, while the expenses have been greater. The noble Lord asked me to consider how the repayments from the settlers were to be dealt with, and whether there could not be some scheme for continuing the fund by means of these repayments. I am not prepared at this moment to give a definite answer to that question. There are various difficulties in connection with the interpretation of the Ordinance and other matters. Besides, I venture to 1029 think that the subject cannot be fairly dealt with in anticipation of the future Government of the colony.
I hope the noble Lords will not think I have taken up a wholly unsympathetic attitude in regard to this matter. I think that land settlements, when they are successfully carried out, are of great advantage. I think so the more because I find that the Government in South Africa is not confining its attention altogether to the promotion of land settlement, but has set up a very large Agricultural Department, which is engaged, in many different directions, in promoting the improvement of agriculture in that country. The Report of the Director of the Agricultural Department is a book of some dimensions. I have had the advantage also of an interview with the present director, Mr. Smith, and have learnt from him how much there was done and how much prospect there is of doing further good work.
The old regime in these Colonies was full of antiquated methods, if, indeed, they could be called methods at all. Farming was chiefly pastoral, and except for some small portion of land around the homesteads, there was very little cultivation, and that was not because there was no land worthy of cultivation, as the operations of the noble Lords have shown. Besides that, there was very little attention paid by the farmers of former days even to the pastoral side of farming. They knew very little as to the best means of improving their stock. Therefore the action which the Government has taken in establishing an Agricultural Department has led, I believe, to considerable improvement. If I may just quote some of the heads which are already undertaken, the House will see that the agricultural side of the matter is not being neglected by the Government. The object of the Agricultural Department is to instruct public opinion with regard to agriculture, the conduct of experiments, experimental farming, forestry, the combating of pests and disease, the improvement of the breed of cattle and horses, and to educate the farming classes generally. One of the great difficulties we find in the Transvaal is the high cost of living; and consequently this improvement in the production of agricultural products will ultimately be of great benefit to the community.
1030 I am afraid I cannot give specific answers to the two Questions which the noble Lord put on the Paper. As to the position of the settlers, they have a definite legal status, and I cannot suppose that that legal status will be affected by any arrangements which may be made, or by any Government which we desire to see established in the Transvaal. But if the noble Lord asks me to go further than that and tell him whether under the new Constitution there could be reservations on behalf of the settlers under the land settlement scheme, I can only say that a question of that kind is premature until we have obtained the information we desire in order to frame the Constitution itself. The noble Lord also makes a suggestion in regard to the possibility of obtaining assistance for the scheme of land settlement from the loan, which has been variously named, but the proper name of which I think is the war contribution. It was intended to be a contribution towards war expenses incurred by this country. I do not know whether the particular method which the noble Lord suggests would exactly meet that end; but I do not say that it would not be a very excellent opportunity for those who have been able to make fortunes out of South Africa to show that they have an interest in the future of that country.
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
My Lords, in venturing to address the House after the sympathetic speech of the noble Earl, I do most earnestly beg that I may not be regarded as desiring to cause any trouble to the Government or to impart any bitterness or any unnecessary alarm into the discussion of the South African situation. I should like most sincerely to thank the noble Earl for the tribute which he has paid to the Agricultural Department of the Transvaal. To those of my countrymen who have worked desperately hard during the last few years to introduce better methods of farming into the Transvaal, and that mainly in the interest of the Dutch who form the majority of the population, it has been a subject of legitimate distress that in all the discussions that have taken place about South Africa their useful efforts have been very largely ignored. In fact, I do not remember any reference to the subject in any discussion that has taken place in this country, until the sympathetic 1031 words that have just fallen from the noble Earl.
I hold in my hand the Agricultural Journal of the Transvaal, which gives some account of the vast amount of work—both official and unofficial—which is being done. I have sometimes asked gentlemen more acquainted with agriculture than I am myself to give me their opinion of that publication and the work to which it refers. I am glad to say that I have been told by high authorities that it is as good as, if not better than, any work of the kind produced in any of our Colonies, although this is a Colony which has been only three or four years in the British Empire. In all the discussions that have taken place on this subject in this country, I do not think the vast amount of earnest effort which has been directed to this particular matter of improving this industry, which is the life of the majority of the dwellers on the land—this industry by which the Colonies will have mainly to live after the mines have been exhausted—has been at all sufficiently appreciated.
The noble Earl was sympathetic with regard to the work done for the promotion of agriculture generally, but he was barely sympathetic with regard to the question of land settlement. He will forgive me for saying that in the statistics he gave to the House, he, I am sure accidentally, did not give land settlement quite as fair treatment as it deserved. I think he said there was a loss of something like 50 per cent. He will be glad I am sure if I am able to point out that the real loss on an expenditure of something like £2,200,000 which took place up to June 30th last, was only £200,000, and that only in one colony, the Transvaal. In the Orange River there has been an expenditure of £1,200,000, and there is good reason for supposing that every penny of that will come back. Speaking in round figures, I find that in addition to the £850,000, which has been invested in the purchase of land at a rate so reasonable that the settlers on it have lately decided not to apply for a revaluation, there has been something like £150,000 invested in live-stock and improvements to the land, including expenditure on water boring, which has had successful results, and which is added to what the settlers have to repay, something like £100,000 has been given in cash advances 1032 to settlers, while the rest is largely accounted for by other improvements, such as the commencement of certain expenditure on irrigation.
I say that in the Orange River Colony the whole of the £1,200,000 expended is likely to come back. In the Transvaal I read in the latest Report of the Commissioner of Lands that he estimates there is value to the extent of £600,000 in land purchased, £200,000 in capital advanced to the settlers, and other assets, and that the loss in the Transvaal on this experiment amounts to only £200,000. That, too, was a loss incurred almost entirely in respect of a class known as squatter settlers—exirregulars, whom pressure of public opinion both here and in the colony compelled us to settle on the land immediately after the war, although the conditions were not favourable to such settlement, and although these men were not the sort of settlers we should have selected if we had had a free hand, and not the sort who are being selected under the careful methods of to-day.
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
I was wrong in regard to the 50 per cent. loss. I see that the noble Lord is correct in his version.
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
I am glad the noble Earl recognises that. I felt sure it was merely an accidental mistake on his part. I would close this part of the discussion by simply saying that, as one of the first and one of the most ardent believers in the policy of land settlement, I thank the noble Earl for his sympathetic attitude. Now, I am sorry if I have to introduce into this discussion what may be regarded as a discordant note, and expose myself once more to the charge of speaking not merely in a Cassandra like spirit, but in a somewhat bitter spirit. There is nothing I am more anxious to do than to avoid this. I recognise the good will of the noble Earl, and I do not want to create difficulties for him in the great and arduous task which he has before him. But if I am to help him I must tell the House quite frankly what I know. And what I know is this—that the policy of land settlement, the position of the settlers at present on the land, and the future of the experiment is in great and imminent danger, and that if special provisions are 1033 not made in the constitutional arrangements which are before us, not only will this great and beneficial work of land settlement be absolutely stopped, but the majority of those men at present on the land, I am speaking of the Orange River Colony, will be squeezed out. I wish to support that statement by one or two authorities. The noble Earl says these men have got their legal rights, and it is not to be supposed that, whatever constitutional arrangements are made, they will be in any danger. It is true they have their legal rights; but it is also true that, if these new settlers, who have to contend with all the difficulties he has pointed out, have not in the first years of their struggle a sympathetic and helpful administration that will give them time and not press for instalments in years when they have met with serious and exceptional misfortunes, their position is an absolutely unsafe one.
Now, what is the feeling of the settlers themselves about this matter? Not so very long before I left South Africa the Administration, which, of course, at that time was thoroughly sympathetic to the settlers, was making certain advances to the settlers in the Orange River Colony for the purpose of purchasing sheep, which they were to repay in five years, an experiment which I am glad to say has proved so far a very successful one. The deputation of settlers which interviewed the Government on the subject was headed by one of the most energetic and capable of the settlers, chosen by themselves, and in the course of the discussion he made the following remarks, which I am quoting from the official shorthand note which was taken at the time. He said—There is one other matter which appears to the settlers as one of the gravest importance to their interests. Suppose Government makes this grant and another Government comes into power at home and the Orange River Colony is given responsible government, what will be the position of the settlers? The land settlement scheme will meet with very great opposition. The settlers would like to see this Government place land settlement on a sound basis, so that it will be beyond the power of any representative Government to oust them from their holdings. They are all of opinion that if self government is granted to the Orange River Colony in the near future it will be a lamentable mistake. If I can go back to the settlers and tell them that there is going to be no change, that any change of Government cannot affect their interests in any way, if I can say that they must just go 1034 on as best they can, being assured of the sympathy of the Government and that grace will be given to them until good times come, then I know that the men will be satisfied to go on and do their level best. But these men are sensible enough to know that they will receive not the slightest consideration when responsible government comes.That was the feeling of a representative man among the settlers little more than a year ago. What is their feeling to-day? I have here a letter—one of the many painful and distressing letters which reached me by my last South African mail—in which the writer says—After all, England has sacrificed and suffered for the Orange River Colony. It is, indeed, hard if the Dutch are to be put in power; for, however much Ministers in England may hope and expect, it will bring about bitter feeling between the two nations. It will mean that the English will have to trek. It spells ruin to the very people who in time would be the greatest factor in making the colony both loyal and prosperous. Would there be any use in the English people appealing to the King? If there was any idea of treating the Boers in the way it is contemplated to treat the British, most of whom fought for their country, the whole world would be flooded with their abuse and recriminations. It is already suggested that the new constitution must safeguard the black population; but hundreds, nay thousands, of English men, women and children may be complacently abandoned to starvation. Hope to the contrary will be as much use as if a man pushed another who could not swim, into deep water and calmly trusted he would not drown.I make every allowance for the state of alarm in which these people are, and I make every allowance for a certain amount of exaggeration; but another letter which reached me by the same mail, and which comes also from the Orange River Colony and from a Government official familiar with the conditions of many of the settlers, says—The prospect before the settlers is dark. If the Government were to foreclose the great majority of them could not weather the storm.I press this upon the Government now that there is time, in order that they may avoid steps which would lead to disaster. The position is this. I entirely agree with the noble Duke that there is a good feeling between the individual Dutch farmer and the English farmer settled side by side with him upon the land. There is very often good feeling; there is a growing tendency towards good feeling. That is the reason why some of us are so intensely keen to see the settlement of British people on the land. We know that they will never be more than a small 1035 proportion, that the majority must be Dutch; but we feel that the introduction of a British element to the land brings British people into closer relations and closer touch with the Dutch people than is possible in the towns, and forms a valuable link between the two. Not only do they come to regard the Dutch with greater sympathy, but they create in the Dutch greater sympathy with Englishmen than they would otherwise feel.
Even to-day, when the difficulties are great and when memories of the war have not yet died out, and when for many reasons the experiment is being tried under unfavourable conditions, there is a growing good feeling between the British settlers and their Dutch neighbours. But I say with deep regret, yet again with absolute conviction, that that good fooling between individuals, on which we are justified in resting so much hope, is not going to save the British settlers from hostile executive action in a country in which they may have few representatives or no representatives in the Legislature. It will not save them, because the policy of the dominant party, or rather the policy of the men whom for the next ten or twenty years the Dutch Afrikanders will follow and return to power and support in power, is a policy directly hostile to the settlers and is so openly declared.
The language used by the leading Dutch newspapers is language of bitter hostility to the plan of land settlement, which they wrongly regard as an attempt to swamp the Dutch, whereas it is an attempt to introduce a new and valuable element on the land which shall form a link with the Dutch. It is an absolute certainty that these settlers have got to face in the Orange River Colony—I am not speaking of the Transvaal, where their position is a safer one—hostile executive action in future. Therefore, although I could not expect the noble Earl to say more than he has said to-night on the subject, I would most earnestly submit the consideration of this question to him and to the Government in order that they may make some provision to protect these men, liable as they are to be ousted by a hostile executive. I beg them to take that to heart.
And let me assure them that there is no single act which could be done by this Government, especially if they are going to give complete responsible government at once to the Orange Biver Colony— 1036 there is no single act which would be more calculated to reassure the British minority, who may possibly not have a single representative in the new Legislature, than if the Government took steps for the protection of this population on the land. Surely it is not a difficult thing to do. What is to prevent the Government, while giving if they please—and the Government know that I think it a rash proceeding—full and responsible government to the Orange River Colony, from maintaining the Land Settlement Board for a certain number of years as a branch of the British administration and under the Colonial Office? What objection is there to their cutting out, as it were, this little corner of the administration and keeping it under their own control, and so ensuring that these settlers shall continue to receive that sympathetic and considerate treatment without which it is certain that many of them will go to the wall?
Nothing can possibly be calculated to start responsible government under more favourable circumstances than any act on the part of the Government at home which would show its recognition of the difficulties of these people and its desire to protect them. Even if their fears were groundless—and I am convinced that they are not—the fact of the Government here extending its protecting hand to them at a time like the present would be one not only reassuring to them but most reassuring to the whole British minority in the colony. That minority is at the present moment in a state of the greatest anxiety and alarm. There can be no doubt of it whatever; and, if that anxiety and alarm continue, they will prove of the greatest difficulty to the Government in any scheme it may submit to Parliament. Proper consideration of this land settlement and proper protection of the settlers on the land would be more than anything else conducive to the good reception of fresh constitutional arrangements in the Orange River Colony. I hope I may be acquitted, for once, of having imported anything like bitterness into the discussion in trying to impress on the Government the great seriousness of the question and the magnitude of the issue involved.
§ House adjourned at twenty-minutes before Eight o'clock, to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.