§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
rose to move to resolve, "That this House desires to place on record its high appreciation of the services rendered by Lord Milner in South Africa to the Crown and the Empire."
The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I do not bring forward the Motion which I desire to submit to your Lordships this afternoon in the interests of any 1411 party in this House. The subject is one which should be outside party considerations. Neither do I bring it forward in the interests of the late High Commissioner in South Africa, though those who have the best means of appreciating Lord Milner's services to England and the Empire have heard many things said about him within the last few days which have been painful to their ears, and have not heard what they might well have expected to hear from the lips of those who, in regard to one single incident in his career, have been so ready to blame him. It would be easy to say much on these points if I were so minded; much that, in my opinion, would be just, much that would be true. But I refrain. The matter is too important for mere personal considerations. What I desire beyond all else is to obtain the unanimous consent of your Lordships' House to this Motion, and I will not say one word which may make that consent more difficult, or put any obstacle in the way of securing it.
My Lords, the Prime Minister has used words on recent occasions to the effect that the furtherance of British interests in South Africa is as much a matter of concern to him as it is to any man. Even the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, speaking the other day of Lord Milner's many devoted friends in South Africa, declared that he desired to send a message of peace and conciliation and encouragement to the Colonies. My Lords, that is the object of this Motion. It is on behalf of British interests in South Africa that I bring it forward. It is in order to soothe the painful feelings which will have been excited in South Africa by recent events that I ask your Lordships to assent to it. My Lords, all over South Africa Lord Milner's name stands as the name of the one man who pre-eminently and more than any other has understood and defended British interests in South Africa.
Throughout the whole of the South African Colonies you will not find a single man who has fought for England, and who, if need were, would fight for England again, who does not look to Lord Milner as the representative of all 1412 he most cares for, as the defender of all. he holds most dear. These men have made great sacrifices for the integrity of the Empire. They have seen their sons and their kinsfolk shot down by their sides and they have made no complaint. They have sacrificed their property—for it is not the loyal English who have been forward to press their claims for compensation—but they have not grudged those sacrifices. They have been consoled by the thought that those sacrifices have not been made in vain, that the man who fought their battles and represented their interests, to whose foresight, determination, courage, and firmness they believe that South Africa forms to-day a part of the British Empire,. had at least won the gratitude and esteem of his country, and that the policy he had so successfully inaugurated, which was indeed succeeding so well and which would, there can be no doubt, succeed so completely if it were given time to develop and take root, was firmly established and was not to be revrsed in deference to party politics; and the exigencies of party warfare.
This, my Lords, till a short time ago, was their hope and their consolation. What do they see now? They see a single point in Lord Milner's career, a point as nothing in the long list of his services, sought out for censure. They see it not obscurely hinted that his work is to be destroyed. They see it stated by one speaker on behalf of the Government that the ideals, the principles, the policies for which he has toiled are entirely discredited, that the schemes which he has pursued with all his energies, into which, as he has himself said, he has thrown his whole soul, are about to be reversed, his work to be undone, that though he once counted for much in the councils of this country, he is now nothing, and has ceased to be a factor in political life, that though he could once direct, he is now powerless. That is what they hear said by a responsible Minister of the Crown, and then, galling beyond all else, galling to themselves, galling because it seems to threaten all that has been won by the late wa, they see the triumph of all those who were beaten in that war, at the slight put upon the man who, more than any 1413 other, stands for British supremacy and Imperial interests in South Africa.
My Lords, I know South Africa fairly well. I know what will be said when the news of recent events in England reaches that country. The men who have fought our battles will be fiercely indignant. Their hearts will turn as one man to Lord Milner, who, they will feel, has been so unjustly treated, and then, which is the more dangerous symptom, they will begin to say as they said in 1881–2: "What is the object of being loyal to England? She will neither stand by her own sons nor by us. She has great servants, greater than any other nation. She is better served than any nation ever was served in the history of the world; she breeds up a race of men above all suspicion of seeking their personal interests, incorruptible, courageous, high-minded, not afraid of responsibility, shrinking from no labour and no toil—such a man as is the late High Commissioner of South Africa—and see how she treats them." One error, one unintentional error—if indeed the error be a fact—an error which he has taken on himself, because he is too loyal to throw over a subordinate, and all else is apparently forgotten. His past services, great and illustrious, are as nothing, they are not even mentioned, and, so far as those who attack him are concerned, his case is dismissed with the contemptuous plea that so powerless is he now to do further mischief, so vanished are all his ideals, so remote all the objects for which he strove, that mercy may be shown him, nay, that those now in power can even afford to be generous and extend to him that measure of contemptuous pity which would not have been accorded him were it not for the fact that he still has many friends in South Africa who would deeply resent a more severe treatment.
My Lords, Lord Milner has still many friends, and they are not confined to South Africa; but of those who were his friends amongst those who now hold the reins of power, some of whom composed the throng who wished him God-speed when he started to take up the government of South Africa, which of them has thought it worth while to 1414 remind the country of all his past services, and of the debt England and the Empire owe him? Is this an exaggerated statement? There is indeed one exception, I recognise it with gladness, and I thank him for it. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies did indeed speak of—those years of stress during which Lord Milner's conduct would not be forgotten by his countrymen,but who else has spoken in the same key?, So little is it the case that the Under-Secretary for the Colonies could find nothing better to say about Lord Milner than to compare him with Mr. Parnell, and to say that in a similar matter Mr. Parnell was innocent and that Lord Milner was guilty.
I wish the task had fallen to worthier hands than mine; but in face of such statements let me at least recall to your recollection Lord Milner's conduct before the war, during the war, and after the war. And having done so, I will ask your Lordships to say whether you do not think that justice and honour alike require some redress of the balance, some acknowledgment of Lord Milner's services to the Empire which may express the real feeling of the country, and may relieve us of the charge of base ingratitude to a great public servant. I will say nothing about Egypt, and the prosperity of Egypt so largely due to Lord Milner's exertions. I will say nothing of his work for the Inland Revenue, but I will confine myself to South Africa.
I will ask your Lordships to carry your thoughts back to the year 1897, the year after the Jameson Raid. Remember the state of South Africa at that time. Affairs in the Transvaal were in a more dangerous state than ever. The grievances of the Uitlanders were further from any redress. The British were insulted and despised. The Transvaal was arming, denying the rights of the paramount Power, and preparing to assert its absolute independence, an independence incompatible with British supremacy in South Africa, at the first opportunity. It has been said again recently that it was owing to the Jameson Raid and Lord Milner's own action that war supervened. Those who so speak 1415 must surely have forgotten that before Lord Milner came to South Africa, prior to and apart from the Raid, the Transvaal had been arming upon a scale entirely unwarranted by any possible legitimate necessities.
In the manifesto of the National Union, published in Johannesburg, on December 27th, 1895, it was openly stated, and the correctness of the statement has never been denied, that £250,000 was to be spent by the Boer Government upon the completing of the fort at Pretoria, and £100,000 upon a fort to overawe the inhabitants of Johannesburg, that large orders were being sent to Krupps for big guns, that maxims had been ordered, and that German officers were to be sent out to drill the burghers. Repeated attempts had previously been made by the Transvaal to get control of affairs in Bechuanaland, Matabeleland, and Zululand. Dr. Leyds had already been in Europe looking for allies, and there is every reason to suppose that in one case at least he had been successful. In a speech made by President Kruger at the German Club in Johannesburg,on January 26th, 1895, there was the following statement—Amongst other places I visited Germany, where I was received by the Kaiser. The Kaiser received me as the representative of a grown-up Republic. I was courteously treated and was able to enter into a treaty with Germany.—this was before the Raid—Our Republic being recognized as an important country. … I know I may count on the Germans in future. I hope the Transvaalers will do their best to strengthen and increase the friendship that exists between them. …We are growing up, and although we are young, we are feeling that if one nation tries to annex us the other will try to stop it.Your Lordships will remember, in this connection, the German Emperor's telegram to President Kruger after the Raid. It is scarcely denied that there had been a previous correspondence between Germany and the Transvaal which could not be avowed. Your Lordships will remember also the determination of the Transvaal to reject any control on the part of England in regard to its foreign relations. Can any one doubt, in view of such facts, that when Lord Milner came to South Africa there was a distinct determination on the part 1416 of the Transvaal to deny any control by the paramount Power, and gradually to substitute the Transvaal as the leading Power in South Africa in the place of England?
In Cape Colony itself the state of affairs was hardly more satisfactory. Lord Milner found himself face to face with a Government which was more than unwilling to take the necessary steps for the defence of the colony, and which, in fact, did connive at the transmission of arms into the Transvaal immediately before the break-out of the war. He had to meet the insidious and mischievous action of the Bond. The hostility of the Afrikander element was growing day by day. The difficulties caused by the internal state of Cape Colony were indeed great. How few there are who realise the task of patience and firmness achieved by Lord Milner, and the triumph of his personal character, in getting through all the time of Mr. Schreiner's Afrikander Government without a, break.
In respect to the Transvaal, let any one read the record of the negotiations at the Bloemfontein Conference, and he must be convinced of the patience and forbearance shown by Lord Milner throughout the whole course of those negotiations. No doubt those negotiations were doomed to failure; war was; inevitable, unless this country was prepared to surrender the principle of equal rights in the Transvaal. But a weaker man would have dallied with the situation in the hope of putting off the evil day in his time; a more selfish man would have thought of his own interests, and that for them it would be well that the War which sooner or later was inevitable should not be connected with his name; a less brave man would have shrunk from the responsibility of a decision. But Lord Milner was neither-selfish nor a coward. He saw what was essential for British interests and he refused to surrender it—for that he stood firm as a rock. It depended upon his attitude and determination whether South Africa should become a Dutch Republic in all but the name. We owe it to him that South Africa remains within the sphere of British influence to-day.
It was not he who broke the peace. In the hope of peace he had permitted 1417 delay even after delay had become a danger. For nearly two years he had patiently studied the situation. Throughout that time there were a hundred possibilities of a quarrel with Pretoria, questions arising out of Uitlander grievances, wrongs of British coloured subjects, veiled breaches of the Convention, and so forth, and he showed a forbearance to which justice has never been done. The first occasion on which he used any plainness to Pretoria was in a despatch of March 10th, 1899, dealing with the maltreatment of Cape coloured people in the Transvaal, a fact which is not without significance at the present moment. But by his action, when the time for action arrived, he saved South Africa to the Empire; and because he saved it he secured the undying enmity of those whose plans he had defeated, whose aspirations he had thwarted, and whose carefully conceived preparations for asserting their entire independence and supremacy, long and skilfully laid, he had brought to naught. My Lords, it is a good thing to be generous to your enemies; to construct a golden bridge over which they may retreat is indeed the secret of all politics; but it is no less a good thing, it is even a greater duty to support your friends. It would seem that we have amongst us some who think that to vilify their friends and to justify and excuse their opponents is the height of political wisdom.
I turn to the late High Commissioner's conduct during the war. Do people in England realise sufficiently how serious the condition of things was in South Africa, and especially in Cape Colony, when the war began? Speaking genera-ally, it would be difficult to exaggerate the extent of the difficulties that confronted Lord Milner in Cape Colony during the war and after. It only required an advance of the Boer forces into Cape Colony for a great part of that colony to have risen in arms. There is no one in South Africa who doubts that if, instead of besieging Ladysmith and Kimberley, the Boer forces had advanced on Durban, and above all on Cape Town, England might have had to fight for a landing at Cape Town itself.
General Smuts has recently been saying that the mistake the Boers made 1418 during the war was not acting on the offensive. The man who drove our wagon from Mafeking to Pretoria had been a Boer farmer. He had fought against us through the whole war; he had been at the siege of Ladysmith. He was one of the last to hold out and one of the few who made his sub mission too late to obtain compensation I like the man, and I do not blame him for his conduct. What he said might not always be reliable, but he did say one thing the truth of which, from the manner and determination with which he said it, I cannot doubt—At the siege of Ladysmith, we younger men," he said, "went to General Botha and entreated him to press forward. We urged an advance into Natal, above all we urged an advance into Cape Colony. When the Boer generals refused to make that advance we knew it was all up; but, by God," he added, "if we had advanced, we should have won.Such was the state of Cape Colony with which Lord Milner had to deal Then cams the news of British reverses We know what those black days were in England. What do you think it must have been to those on the spot? I suppose in the history of the world there has hardly been a greater feat of arms than that a country like this, so many thousand miles away, should have been able to transport across so many thousand miles of sea a force such as England landed in South Africa. It was almost a still greater feat to feed that Army as that Army was fed. But, great as those feats were, legitimate as is the pride that it is this England of ours which performed these feats, have we not also reason to be proud of the Englishman who, in the midst of such difficulties, never flinched, was never turned back from his purpose, never abandoned his courage, was equal to all emergencies, and, in the darkest moments never despaired of his country's success.
I have travelled over most of South Africa. Wherever you go, at every wayside store, wherever you find English settlers, colonists proud of the English name, with hearts bound up in the fortunes of Great Britain, there Lord Milner's name is a household word. "He," they say with one voice,"is the man to whom we owe everything. He it is 1419 who stemmed the movement"—a movement which, if it had been successful and how nearly it succeeded none knew so well as they—" would have separated us from the mother country and left. us settlers in a Dutch land." Think of these men, the loyalists in South Africa. Think how touching, how pathetic their loyalty to this country is—this country which has often treated them so ill. And, remembering that loyalty and remembering their sacrifices, tell them in a way that none can mistake that what has recently been said in Parliament is no proof of a reversal of the past. Tell them that the present Government, no less than the past, are determined to maintain the integrity of the British Empire and the supremacy of Great Britain in South Africa; that Lord Milner's services to the Crown and the Empire are appreciated as they deserve at home, and that England is not again, in the face of the warnings afforded by history, and in the light of the experience of past years, about to repeat the fatal mistake made after Majuba, and sacrifice the real supporters of the Empire for those who care little for England, nothing for the Empire, and who, if they could, would establish an Afrikander Republic throughout the whole of South Africa.
I turn now to the record of Lord Milner's work in South Africa after the war. Have your Lordships ever considered how great, how enormous the work is that has been done for the reconstruction and reorganisation of South Africa since the war? Lord Milner found the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, as the result of war, in ruins. He has left them on the high road to recovery. That they have not recovered sooner is due to financial causes, which neither Lord Milner nor any other man living could control. What he has done in a land denuded of all apparatus of government is to create an admirable machine, efficient for the government of the country, and after the ravages of the war to set the country once more on the path of moral and material prosperity.
The amount of work in regard to reconstruction that has been inaugurated and carried through by the band of workers under Lord Milner's guidance 1420 and under Lord Milner's government is simply colossal. I should doubt whether it had a parallel in history. Let me enumerate a few of the things that have been done. The Statute-book has been reduced to reasonable proportions and put in an orderly form. The steady, incorruptible administration of justice under a Supreme Court which has no superior in any British colony has been organised. A new life has been infused into agriculture. Experimental farms have been started. Stock of a high class has been introduced. The planting of forests has been undertaken —a point of vital importance to the prosperity of the Colonies. Municipal institutions as liberal as any in the world have been created. Free schools containing twice as many children as at any previous period have been started. New provision for higher technical training has been made. A careful scientific study of the great problem of irrigation in all its branches has been set on foot. Two hundred and seventy-five miles of new railway have been completed; 311 miles are in course of construction and 488 miles arranged for. The management of telegraphs and telephones has been greatly improved. Asylums and hospitals have been built. Some 1,300 miles of road have been repaired, and anyone who knows South Africa will realise what a boon that is.
A great work has been done in regard to schemes for land settlement; but on this I need not dwell, for it was touched upon by Lord Milner himself in this House two days ago. I would only desire to emphasise again how important that work is as a link between British and Dutch, and as a reconciler of differences if only time is given it to bear its proper fruit. The economic side of the land settlement is important; the political side is more important still. I turn to what Lord Milner has done for the native population. His administration has conferred on the natives great benefits; he has been their great protector he has stood by them in Swaziland and in Basutoland. His name is associated with the humane treatment of the natives and respect for their rights to the very fullest extent. He has asserted over† See (4) Debates, cliv., 1032–2.1421 and over again his belief in the principle of equal rights for every civilised man. At the same time he has had the wisdom to look for the vindication of that principle to the gradual change of opinion in South Africa itself. It is a South African question, and anyone who knows the feeling of South Africa on the subject will endorse Lord Milner's words in the last speech he made at Johannesburg on the subject when he said that—Nothing could be worse in principle or likely to be more unfortunate in its results than to attempt the solution of it, even in a right direction, by external pressure.I will only refer to one other point, to the fact that it is Lord Milner's policy which has made the eventual federation of South Africa possible. It is bad enough in Europe to have rival States Intriguing one against another, involving perpetual anxiety as to the European equilibrium; but it would be an intolerable state of things in South Africa. Such however was the state of things before the war, and it was largely due to the perpetual menace resulting from the action of the Transvaal—at one time intriguing with Germany, at another time encouraging the jealousy of Natal against the Cape. That with the assertion of British supremacy this has ceased to be the case is due to Lord Milner. I have endeavoured to keep the one issue plain and simple before your Lordships' House. I have hardly entered into the disputed question of Chinese labour, though on that my opinion is clear and decided. I have taken the matter on the broad lines of Lord Milner's services to his country.
The incident for which Lord Milner has been blamed, which has been utilised as an opportunity for attacking him, is, my Lords, a question which very little deserves the importance which has been given to it. The study of the Blue-book reveals that, if Lord Milner sanctioned anything in a conversation of which he has himself no remembrance, it was such slight caning as I should suppose we and our children have all been exposed to at school, no doubt very much to our advantage; and so far as it was abused, that abuse took place after Lord Milner had left South Africa, and it was an abuse of which he was entirely ignorant. Could anyone say that such an incident 1422 as that is to be put into comparison with the long list of Lord Milner's services, and that it is either just or generous, or such treatment as we should expect from our friends and countrymen, that this alone should be mentioned, and no mention made of the many and the devoted services, extending now over many years, which have marked Lord Milner's distinguished career at home, in Egypt, and in South Africa? Suppressio veri, suggestio falsi.
I appeal to your Lordships to redress the balance, to hold the scales of justice true and level. It is not Lord Milner's character which is at stake. It is the character of his countrymen for justice, generosity, and for fair and equal dealing. These are at stake; and there is something more at stake also. Let me quote some words in the speech made by Lord Milner in this House a short time ago. Those words sum up the whole matter—My Lords," he said, "from my point of view the alienation of South Africa is too high a price to pay for another swing of the pendulum at home; for the pendulum may swing hack-wards and forwards many times, but South Africa once lost will be lost forever.Before I sit down, I will once again ask your Lordships to accept unanimously the Motion I have had the honour to place before your Lordships' House. I have said that I do not bring this Motion forward so much in the interests of Lord Milner as in those of South Africa. Speaking on 26th July, at a dinner given him at Birmingham, not quite six years ago, the present Under-Secretary for the Colonies said—I am quoting from The Times report of 27th July, 1900—The removal of Sir Alfred Milner from the control of South African affairs at the present time would be a greater blow to Imperial interests than the defeats of Magersfontein, Stormberg, Colenso, and Spion Kop put together.May I not appeal from "Philip drunk to Philip sober," and suggest to the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies that he need not concern himself too seriously with the recent utterances for which his Under-Secretary has been responsible? I believe he who made them must wish nothing so much as that they should be consigned to the oblivion which they deserve. Certainly the circumstances are as dissimilar as the men; 1423 but in this respect, at least, the circumstances which attended the discussion in the House of Commons on Lord Olive's conduct are not unlike those of to-day. By a vote the House of Commons implied that Lord Clive had been guilty of an illegality; by another they declared that he had rendered great and meritorious services to his country. The House of Commons has done the former, it is for your Lordships' House to complete its action and supply the latter.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I rise to second the Resolution which has been moved by the noble Viscount on my right; and if I venture to intervene in this debate it is because there are several reasons which seem to me to impose that duty upon me. When I returned to England three weeks ago I had no intention of taking any further part in the business of your Lordships' House than that of a dutiful listener, unless, indeed, the affairs with which I had been actually concerned for the past five years were to come up for discussion. I did not anticipate such a discussion as this, which concerns in a general way all those who have had the honour, or who have at present the honour, of serving His Majesty in different parts of the Empire.
As one who has held a post in some respects similar to that which Lord Milner held, I think I can speak—and I feel that I ought to speak—from the standpoint of the servants of the Crown in India and the Colonies; as one who has been living for some time past far removed from the noise, the smoke, and the confusion of the conflict of political Parties in this country, I trust that I can speak without the prejudice or the bias of a Party politician; and as one who has seen the effects of the action of Parliament on our fellow citizens, whether they be Englishmen or whether they belong to other races, in a distant part of the Empire, I hope that I can give your Lordships a correct impression of how such action is likely to be regarded by those fellow citizens of ours who are as much concerned in it as the voters in the United Kingdom, although they care but little for 1424 the struggles of political Parties in this country.
But before I endeavour to explain this standpoint any further, let me plainly state once more the object of this debate as it appears to me. A vote in Parliament has condemned a single act in the long and brilliant public service of one who is admitted by all fair-minded and reasonable men to be-one of the most capable, single-minded, and devoted public servants that the Empire has seen for several generations. That vote stands alone as the only formal reference to Lord Milner on the journals of Parliament; for, although Lord Milner's name is not mentioned in the Resolution, no doubt whatever will exist in the minds of future generations as to the responsibility for the act which has thus been condemned. I shall refrain, for the reason I have already indicated, from questioning the discretion of the. House of Commons; but I desire to express my strong conviction—a conviction which I know is shared by many, not only in this House but also outside of it—that the opinion of the nation will not be fully recorded on the journals, of Parliament unless there be entered on them some further and more definite reference to Lord Milner's services in South Africa. The object of the Resolution which has been so eloquently proposed by the noble Viscount is to remedy the omission which has taken place and to make the formal records of Parliament in accord with the feelings of the nation.
I take it that one of the functions of this House is to do that which the House of Commons has left, undone, whether the omission be due: to accident or to the exigencies of Parliamentary procedure; and particularly if the omission be not in accordance with the real feeling of Parliament and,, above all, with the real feeling of the nation. It is part of the larger function of this House, which is to see that the final verdict of Parliament is that of which the nation really approves. For this purpose, I take it, both Houses of Parliament are as one, and unless-there be a direct conflict of opinion, the.-vote of one House is equivalent to the vote of the other. The House of Lords, 1425 is, in one particular sense, as truly representative of the nation as the House of Commons. The House of Commons is, in another sense, less representative of the people than the House of Lords. It would be irrelevant if I were on this occasion to endeavour to explain my meaning at length, but I feel convinced that your Lordships will recognise the truth of the principle of which I venture to remind you if I merely point to the constant changes in the political complexion of the House of Commons, and the extraordinary and anomalous results of the present system of representation, whichever Party may be in power.
My Lords, the British nation is not a political weathercock. Whatever be the changes on the surface, there are certain settled convictions and unalterable principles deep down in the hearts of the people. The sea may be rough or smooth, it may be blue or grey, but it remains salt; and so it is with the British nation. The House of Lords represents, or ought to represent, the permanent principles and settled convictions of the people of this country It stands for the depths which remain undisturbed by the commotion, however terrible, which may for a while take place on. the surface of the sea. Whatever may be before us, let us remember our true function and let us endeavour to speak, not for ourselves, but for the nation. Those noble Lords who were here two nights ago cannot fail to retain a vivid remembrance of the impressive exhortation—I might even say warning —which was addressed to us by the noble Lord who supported the Lord Chancellor's Criminal Appeal Bill from the Front Opposition Bench. The nation as a whole, has no Party, and you have only to mix with Englishmen in the distant parts of the Empire and watch Party conflict far away from the din and dust and confusion to realise how small a thing it is, and how little it affects the true progress of our race.
And now, my Lords, what are the predominant characteristics of the British race? I think that nine men out of ten would answer that they are generosity and a love of fair play. If this be so, it is on these grounds that I exhort you to 1426 make the voice of Parliament in accord with the real heart of the nation. The Britisher admires pluck, perseverance, and devotion to duty, and in circumstances of ordinary life he is always ready to accord his tribute of admiration to any man who displays those qualities, whatever may be his personal feelings towards him, and however much he may be out of sympathy with the objects of that man's endeavours. It is on. that principle that I ask your Lordships to accord to Lord Milner that which the whole nation must regard as his due. Was: Lord Nelson censured because, on one occasion, he turned his blind eye to the signal and disobeyed orders? Have any of the great leaders of our Armies, of not one of whom can it be said that he never made a mistake—have they gone without thanks or without reward? Yet those who most strongly condemn Lord; Milner's action or inaction, whichever it was, do not attribute to him anything more than an error of judgment, nor do they deny the greatness of his public services.
This is no Party question, nor is it a matter of antagonism between this House and the House of Commons. It is merely a matter of making the verdict of Parliament complete and correct. Noble Lords opposite can vote for this Resolution with perfect consistency and perfect loyalty to the leaders of the Party which is now in power. I understand, from conversation which I have had the advantage of having with more than one noble Lord opposite, that they imagine that the terms of this Resolution commit them to approval of each and every one of Lord Milner's acts. I venture to say that that is a most extraordinary misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the ordinary meaning of the English language. Although there are many belonging to the Party of which I am a member who disapproved of many of the acts of Mr. Gladstone, was there, or is there, one of them who would deny his claim to greatness on account of his. valuable services to this country? Do we refuse to accord the tribute of admiration and appreciation to great soldiers, to great sailors, to painters, to poets, to literary men, because we cannot admire, or because we disapprove of 1427 one or other of their works? I feel sure that at any rate those outside this House will not consider that noble Lords opposite are committing themselves to approval of every one of Lord Milner's acts if they vote for this Resolution. I trust that nothing will be said on this side of the House which will deter them from doing so, and I for one shall be disappointed if, during the course of our debate, this question in any way becomes a Party one. But, at the same time, I am bound to say that the action of my friends on this side of the House must depend upon the course which is taken by His Majesty's Ministers on the other side.
The noble Viscount and I have come -as messengers of peace, and if the olive branch which we have tendered is rejected, there will be no alternative for those who follow us but to accept the gauge of battle. My Lords, let us show the nation that the House of Lords can treat a question from the national point of view, and let us thus give an earnest of our intention to treat future questions with which we have to deal—and there will be many of great importance—in a similar manner. No moment could be more?opportune than the present one to make a beginning in that way. There is in this House a majority as overwhelming and disproportionate to the minority as is the majority, with Parties reversed, in the other House. I can only speak for myself, but I assure noble Lords opposite that I consider it my first duty as a Peer to see that the will of the nation is carried out when it is known, and when it is not known to see that it is rightly ascertained. And in this matter there can be no doubt whatever that the nation would not tolerate a single condemnation of an eminent public servant for a single act to override and cancel all his claims to gratitude and appreciation.
I now return to the point from which I began, and I ask, How can we expect that the servants of the Crown in the Colonies and dependencies of the Empire should act with courage and with confidence, and act on their own responsibility if they feel that the slightest mistake 1428 is liable to expose them to the severest punishment? I venture to claim that I know something of the anxieties of such men. Although, as Governor of Madras, I experienced no difficulties or anxieties which can compare with those of Lord Milner in South Africa, the position was one in which I could fairly estimate what they were; and at any rate for eight months I held a position of the greatest anxiety and responsibility as Viceroy of India. I therefore know something of the feelings of men in such positions, and I tell your Lordships that the recent vote of the other House is likely to chill the courage and diminish the confidence of the men who administer the Colonies and dependencies of the Crown and thus impair the two qualities which they most need, and which have, more than any others, gone to build up our great Empire. And what of our fellow-subjects abroad who are watching the political game in this country, and who as spectators see most? I know from what I have heard among them that, rightly or wrongly, they attribute much that is done in Parliament to the exigencies of Party politics. I know that they are beginning to lose their pride and confidence in the British Parliament. They hate the unreasoning prejudice and the blind passion which mark the conflict of political parties in this country, and which seem to them, rightly or wrongly, to hamper the work of the Imperial Parliament. Shall we give them further cause to persist in that opinion? And what of those who are not loyal, who desire to hamper and embarrass the British Government? Will they not eagerly avail themselves of the new weapon which we are putting in their hands, and seize every opportunity of alleging illegality against the King's deputies? What could be easier, with hundreds of sharp critics on the lookout for such opportunities, for who is there who has never made a mistake or who can claim that he has never transgressed the law?
Again, the viceroys, governors, and administrators of the dependencies of the Crown represent, each in their respective sphere, the dignity and authority of the Sovereign. Is it not well, in these circumstances, that any verdict on 1429 their conduct which has the high authority of Parliament should not be liable in any way to misunderstanding, and should be in itself complete and comprehensive? Lord Milner filled for eight years the post which was universally admitted to be for the time the most arduous and responsible one in the Empire. Nobody who has not seen them with his own eyes—and I may, perhaps, tell your Lordships that I had the advantage of doing so from the Colonial Office during the first part of Lord Milner's administration—'Can realise in any way the enormity of the labours and the incessancy of anxiety which he had to endure. That he endured them with unexampled courage, patience, and devotion to duty is pretty well known; but the personal sacrifices which he made, the sacrifices of health, of leisure, and of fortune, have never been publicly advertised; and yet these sacrifices form part of the debt of gratitude and appreciation which the nation owes to him.
It would take a long time to detail all the acts of Lord Milner's administration, and if I attempted to do so I would to a great extent be repeating that which the noble Viscount who moved the Resolution has already said. But I think that in any circumstances it is unnecessary. The Papers which have been laid before Parliament contain all the requisite information, and have no doubt during the past eight years been attentively studied by your Lordships. Again, there have been numerous debates in both Houses of Parliament in which appreciative references have been made to Lord Milner's work, and not least of them was the eloquent and generous testimony made to him by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It will suffice if I remind your Lordships, in general terms, that Lord Milner mitigated the bitterness which naturally results from a great war by his just, tactful, and conciliatory methods, and we can none of us estimate what far greater difficulties and troubles those personal characteristics and methods of his have saved us from. He evolved order out of chaos so far as the Government of South Africa was concerned, and he averted ruin from agriculture, commerce, and industry by methods in 1430 which his courageous optimism is generally admitted to have been the principal. factor.
My Lords, those are no small deeds and I venture to think that they merit the gratitude of the nation no less than the triumphs which have been won by the commanders of our fleets and the leaders of our armies. Is it too late for us to voice, on behalf of the nation, that debt of gratitude and appreciation which we owe to Lord Milner? Surely not! It would have been more graceful to have done so before, but it would be worse than graceless not to do so now. It rests with your Lordships to prove to the Empire that the British Parliament represents the British nation, and that that nation is not ungrateful, ungenerous, or unjust.
Moved to Resolve, "That this House desires to place on record its high appreciation of the services rendered by Lord Milner in South Africa to the Crown: and the Empire."—(Viscount Halifax.)
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
My Lords, my noble friend who moved this Resolution has spoken with all the eloquence for which he is noted, and with that fervent conviction which is characteristic of him. The noble Lord who has just sat down was not less emphatic. I am afraid it is my fate to approach this subject from a somewhat different point of view. But I would ask your Lordships to believe that I approach it with no less sincerity and earnestness, though it may be with less gifts of Oratory. The Resolution which the noble Lords have put before the House is one which lends itself to warm and effusive language that is grateful alike to speaker and listener. I am afraid that my arguments may, in comparison, appear somewhat cold and formal. But, at any rate, it shall be my endeavour to say nothing that may grate on the ear or leave behind it any sense of injustice, however unintentional.
A Resolution of this kind, proposing to record once and for all upon our journals our appreciation of services done, is not one to be undertaken lightly. I have not thought it necessary to examine the pages of history to seek out precedents in this matter, because I cannot 1431 help thinking that it would be impossible to find an exact precedent for the present Motion under similar circumstances. It is the fact that the thanks of Parliament have been voted to military and naval commanders on the occasion of some great action, or the completion of a brilliant campaign. But in all these cases Parliament had to deal with an incident that had closed, with a story that had come to an end. It had not to deal with a matter from which future consequences might arise. I can well imagine in such a case as that, supposing there was a dissentient or doubting minority, that it would seem ungenerous on their part not to give way to the evident judgment of the majority.
As I have used the word "ungenerous," I should like to say that in this case I should be sorry, indeed, to be supposed to be advocating anything that is ungenerous. I have always held that it was instinctive of the British nation to be generous to those who have upheld its interests in difficult circumstances, or in distant lands. If I may venture to make a personal remark, I have myself, although unworthily, profited by that instinct. For that very reason I should be the last to deny the same to other persons. Words which I have used in this House in regard to Lord Milner have been referred to. I do not wish to speak of them as generous. I thought then, and I think now, that my words were just. I do not think it will be denied in any part of this House that Lord Milner has done his work strenuously, faithfully, and disinterestedly; and has played a part which must leave its imprint for good or for ill on the pages of history. I am glad your Lordships acknowledge that declaration, because it was a declaration that was made in another place on behalf of the Government by the representative of the Government.
I would like to go a step further. I would point out that, if we were really dealing, as I think the noble Lord who last spoke seemed to imagine, with the recognition of personal characteristics, and if it were the case that all we had to consider was what he called a condemnation on a single point, I daresay 1432 it would not be difficult to get a larger amount of unanimity in the case of such a Resolution. But that is not the whole case. I have already referred to Resolutions of this character which have been passed by this House in reference to feats of arms. I would only repeat again that a victory which may have, perhaps, even far - reaching consequences, so far as the general himself is concerned who receives the thanks of this House, is a solitary act or deed standing by itself. No one can say the same of Lord Milner's career in South Africa. Certainly the noble Lords who have spoken cannot say so. My noble friend who began the debate took us through many pages of history dealing with negotiations, and with alarms of various kinds, not only in South Africa but even in Europe. Both the noble Lords who have spoken must admit that it is the policy of Lord Milner which the House is asked to consider in the Motion.
On behalf of His Majesty's Government, I have to say that we are neither to deny nor to affirm a judgment on this point here and to-day. The Government would be quite willing to discuss a question of this kind on a fitting occasion, and when they do discuss it they will be quite prepared to express their opinion frankly. But in spite of some provocation, they are resisting the giving of any judgment now. They did so also in the case of the vote of censure in another place. The only reason is that they consider that they have to deal with more important interests than the interest of any individual. The Government, not from any choice of their own, but owing to the course of events and the accidents of political warfare, have become responsible for the solution of great problems, full of complexity and full of difficulties, constitutional, economical, and social. In these problems the future of South Africa and its relation to this country are gravely involved. It is the honest and fervent desire of His Majesty's Government to deal with these problems with the utmost fairness and impartiality to all parties concerned.
It is the deliberate judgment of His Majesty's Government that it is impossible to discuss the Motion without 1433 entering into questions of policy and the consequences which result from that policy. I am not sure, after the speeches of the noble Lords, that we can stop at the policy of the late High Commissioner, and whether we ought not to enter also into the policy of the late Government. We consider that it is impossible for us to make an examination of these policies without the use of language which might aggravate difficulties or create new ones, and I confess I am confirmed in that belief by the speeches made to-day. At any rate, the Government must decline to be parties to any matter of the kind.
I am well aware that no words of mine can influence the course which noble Lords opposite are determined to take in regard to this Resolution. But I would appeal unto Caesar. I would appeal to the noble Viscount himself, who two days ago spake in this House upon a matter which is part of the larger subject now before us, and spoke with evident earnestness and sincerity, using words for which I desire to take this opportunity of returning him my best thanks. He said—'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 he has to perform.Of course, Lord Milner could not be present on this occasion. If he had been here and heard the announcement which I have had the honour to make for the Government that we regard the discussion of this Motion as likely to raise up fresh obstacles to the progress of peace and good will in South Africa, I can scarcely believe he would not have been the first to have proposed the postponement of this Resolution to a more fitting occasion. At any rate, I maintain that this course is the one which patriotism would dictate. It is well known that the Government in this House cannot command its adoption, but they can, at any rate, follow it. It was for that reason I gave notice of the Motion which stands in my name on the paper and which I now move.
The Previous Question. "—(The Earl of Elgin).
§ EARL CAWDOR
I do not know whether one is the more surprised at the Amendment that has been moved by the noble Earl or at the speech which has accompanied it. No one for a moment doubts the noble Earl's sincerity and straightforwardness. We all recognise that to the full, but I am bound to say that I think, not alone the Amendment, but the speech must have caused many of us much surprise. We have before us a plain and distinct issue, simple enough for anyone, and capable of being answered in one of two ways with the ulmost simplicity. We are asked by the noble Viscount who has brought on this Resolution to record our appreciation of the services rendered by Lord Milner to the Empire and the Crown. That is a simple question, and one would think that anyone in this House could give it an answer "Aye" or "No." One would think that anyone would shrink, when such a Motion is put before them, from passing it by on the other side, from saying, in effect, it is not worth consideration, and that the great services which are recognised by everyone, and by the noble Earl himself, are matters which are of no concern to this House or to this country.
The noble Earl told us in the closing words of his speech, that the raising of this question is likely to cause difficulties in South Africa; but the noble Earl has not told us what difficulties. He has not given us an iota of reason why it should create difficulties, and he talks lightly of the policy of Lord Milner and of the policy of the late Government as if they were two different things. Where is the difference? The noble Earl shakes his head, but he did refer to the policy of Lord Milner and he said they were not prepared to discuss the policy of Lord Milner, but that they were prepared to discuss the policy of the late Government.
§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
What I meant was that we could not tell whether the 1435 policy adopted was absolutely the policy of Lord Milner or the policy of His Majesty's late Government.
§ EARL CAWDOR
I do not admit for a moment that there is any shadow of suggestion as to the High Commissioner having a policy of his own opposed to the Government by which he was employed. The policy of the High Commissioner was supported by the Government at home, and is, and must be, the policy of that Government. I do not know how the noble Earl has got so puzzled, but I do suggest that this question is one that should have and is bound to have, a definite and distinct answer. The noble Earl himself answered the question a few days ago. He admitted the great value of the services of Lord Milner. He stated in this House, and he has stated again to-day, that the words he then used were just. They certainly were.
The noble Earl stated that during a time of stress and anxiety Lord Milner had served his country in a way that his country will not forget. That, my Lords, is true; but how about the memory of the noble Earl. The country will not forget it, but what about the Government? Are the Government going to-night to vote against the record of Lord Milner's services? They wish not to vote upon it at all. I can understand it. But I do not gather that the Government are likely to carry the previous question to-night, and when the previous question has been defeated what are the Government going to do? Are they going to walk out of the House? Are they going to say that this is a matter of which they have no cognisance? Are they going to vote against it or are they going to vote for it? Up to the present we have had no light on that subject. I for one cannot believe that the noble Earl, if left to himself, and if he could form his own conclusions and act absolutely by himself, would be a party, because of one slight error in a great career, to the marring and besmirching of that career as a whole.
What is the object of the noble Earl's Amendment? It is an Amendment for the purpose of giving the go-by to the Resolution and putting it aside. Its 1436 object can but be to conceal the differences that exist in the Government at the present time. [The Earl of ELGIN dissented.] The noble Earl may laugh. Is he not aware of those differences yet? There are a good many people who are, and I think the noble Earl, if he has not yet found out that there are differences, will probably find them out before he is very much older. But is it not perfectly clear? If the Government have strong views on this subject, if they are absolutely certain that there has been a grave dereliction of duty on the part of Lord Milner, why do they not say so? If that is the opinion, why do not noble Lords have the courage of their opinion? Why do they not come down to this House and explain to us what those grave derelictions-of duty are, and try, if they can, to prove them to the House. Of all things I would suggest that it is not a high position to take up to try and slide off a question of this great magnitude and say they will have nothing to do with it and do not wish to express any opinion upon it at all. They will have to express: an opinion upon it to-night unless they are prepared to take that most undignified position of walking out of the House-when the division is taken. I hope that later on we may find out what the-position of noble Lords is going to be. I thought the noble Earl the Colonial Secretary would have told us what course they were going to take on the Motion, but we have had no such light on the matter.
We have heard a great deal of the mandates which the Government have received from the country. We have-one coming up one day and another coming up the next. I wonder whether anyone suggests that they are acting now upon a mandate from the country. Is there anyone on the other side of the House who will venture to say for a moment that this Amendment put before us to-day represents the deliberate view of the country at large. No, my Lords. Everyone knows that the feeling of the country is absolutely opposed to what noble Lords opposite are doing to-night. The country is always generous, always has been generous, and always will be generous to those who do its work faithfully 1437 and well. What you ask of an official, be he High Commissioner or who he may, is that he should give the best of his powers, the best of his strength, to carry out the policy of the Government he represents. That is what it is admitted Lord Milner has done. The noble Earl says there is no precedent for such a record being placed on the journals of the House. He said that it was only when matters were concluded, when the incidents were closed, that votes recording the good services of public officials were placed upon the journals of your Lordships' House. Is not Lord Milner's career as far as South Africa is concerned a closed incident? Is it doubted that Lord Milner gave the best of his life and the best of his energies to his country for his country's good? It may be that hereafter developments may come out of that policy. Noble Lords opposite may not, perchance, follow it up. They may, perchance, not maintain what Lord Milner has won for this country; but, so far as Lord Milner himself is concerned, is it doubted that the incident, to use the noble Earl's word, of his High Commissionership is at an end. It is as much at an end as is the service of the general who has conducted a successful campaign, or the naval officer who has won a great victory at sea. The noble Earl says we must have the incident closed. I do not understand the difference.
I do not admit that this is a matter of precedent. What we are asking to-night is that exactly what the noble Earl has himself admitted—the value of the services of Lord Milner— should be recorded on the journals of "the House. The noble Earl says that such a course might lead to difficulties in South Africa. Perhaps some other noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite will tell us before the debate closes what those difficulties are likely to be. I think if the noble Earl would inquire in the Colonies, in South Africa itself, he would find there as strong testimony to the value of Lord Milner's services as he could find in any part of this great Empire. It was said some days ago that Lord Milner had resigned his post amidst the plaudits of the Party on this side of the House. Lord Milner resigned his position, not alone amidst the plaudits 1438 of the Party that sits on this side of the House here and in another place; he resigned his position amidst the plaudits of the British Empire. I would ask anyone who doubts it to read back the story of Lord Milner's leaving South Africa, and I would then defy him to come down to this House and tell us that Lord Milner left his office and resigned his place only, as is suggested, amidst the plaudits of his own Party. No one who wishes to testify to facts can possibly be unaware that Lord Milner's great work in South Africa is lauded and applauded, not only in this country, but in every part of our great Colonial Empire.
There is, I venture to say, one person who need not disturb himself at all with regard to the course which the Government have thought fit to take. I refer to Lord Milner himself. The Government propose, while admitting the value of his services, to decline to place them on record on the journals of your Lordships' House. It does not much matter. The value of those services, the greatness of them, is recorded already. It may be or it may not be recorded in the journals of your Lordships' House or in the records of another place, but it is recorded, and recorded for ever, in the hearts of a grateful and a thankful people. I would venture to say one thing more before I sit down, and I do trust His Majesty's Government will bear in mind this point. It is easy to hit one official, it is easy to pick out one small bit of a man's career and try and injure the whole of his career in consequence of that one act; but we have to look at something more important— important though this is so far as Lord Milner is concerned—because we have to consider it as affecting the whole of the officials of this great country abroad. I do not know that we always appreciate to the full what we owe to those who deal with our interests in foreign countries. The tact, the temper, the patience, the hard work necessary and the responsibility that they have to take are enormous. If we once let it be understood that good work, carrying out Government policy faithfully and truly for years, is to receive not even the recognition of a record, we shall, to my mind, injure 1439 seriously the future activity and responsibility of those who represent this country in other lands.
I would beg His Majesty's Government to bear this in mind, and I would, if it is not too late, again appeal to the noble Earl. I would ask him to look at the effect that this action on the part of the Government must have generally upon officials employed by us in the Colonies and other parts of the Empire. I would beg the noble Earl to follow his own good commonsense. I would beg of him to set aside the Party issues that in another place have shown pretty clearly why this matter was raised there. I would beg him to remember his own statement of the value of the services of that great Englishman whose case we are discussing to-night, and I would beg him, even at the last moment, not to cast his vote at all events against a Resolution that has been moved to place upon record a statement of services, recognised not alone on this side of the House, not alone on the opposite side, where I know they are recognised by many noble Lords, but recognised also throughout the far limits of this country and through every acre of His Majesty's Empire abroad.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I think, speaking generally, it is undesirable for the occupants of the Episcopal Bench to take part in the clash of arms which necessarily accompanies the ordinary conflict of partisan political controversy. But it is just because this matter seems to me to be one which ought to lie altogether outside such controversy that I ask to be allowed to say a few words from a totally independent standpoint. Although I agree in the conclusion of the speech of the noble Earl who has just spoken, I cannot altogether follow him in or agree with some of the arguments with which he supported it. To me the infrequency of votes of commendation or of thanks by Parliament to great public servants is a matter for which I think we ought to be very thankful. Were such votes to be frequently introduced and carried it seems to me that we should be on the verge of very grave difficulties indeed, because large conclu- 1440 sions might very rightly be drawn either from the passing or the non-passing of Resolutions of the sort. Therefore, had this Resolution been proposed a year ago I for one would have felt sorry that it was proposed, and would not have been prepared to vote in its support unless some strangely special reason could have been shown for it.
It is a common-place to say that in the British Empire we ought to secure the best men possible to take the great positions of pro-Consuls and Viceroys in different parts of the world, and that they should be able to rely, in the work they are doing, upon the support of those who sent them forth. Ask the statesmen now in this House; the noble Marquess who leads the House, or the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition, or the noble Earl, the Colonial Secretary, and you will find that in the fulfilment of their vast responsibility for the Government of our Indian Empire, the last thought which occurred to them was that their work should be stimulated or helped by the prospect of Parliamentary votes of thanks. On the spur of a conscientious impulse to duty, and on the assurance that those at home would support and trust them, they did their great work. It is on that support and confidence they have a right to rely, not, I think, on votes of thanks. Therefore, in the abstract I would deprecate in the strongest manner any multiplication of votes such as this.
But, my Lords, the circumstances are not so simple as that. There is a record upon the journals of Parliament in the last week which makes just all the difference. It is because of what happened in the House of Commons a week ago, not because I think that in ordinary circumstances such votes ought to be given, that I for one desire to vote cordially for the Resolution of the noble Viscount opposite.
What happened in the other House a week ago is fresh in the memories of all your Lordships. Had the Government on that occasion said what has been said to-night, that votes of this kind were on large grounds undesirable; had they, with what I should have thought would have been 1441 in the circumstances a natural courage, opposed the Resolution of censure that was proposed, accompanying that opposition with any criticism they liked of particular acts of Lord Milner during his tenure of office; or had they even gone less far, and met the Resolution by such a Motion as has now been made in this House, I should have felt that the position would then have been entirely I different from that which now faces your Lordships. They did otherwise; they virtually adopted the Resolution, though they struck out the name of the man censured, and since that is the sole reference now standing on our Parliamentary Minutes to Lord Milner and his work, it seems to me that it devolves on your Lordships' House to amend the record. When a great public servant has been thus used I for one feel bound to vote for what is now proposed, greatly as I should have prefered that the proposal should never have been rendered necessary.
Looking on the work of Lord Milner as a whole, I can most readily join in voting this Resolution conveying our thanks to one who holds, as it seems to me, a splendid record even among the great men who have held high office in our dependencies and Colonies, a splendid record for the devotion, the courage, the resource, and the perseverance with which, during the long-drawn stress and strain of those anxious years, he upheld the cause that he was sent out to uphold. That is the point on which the whole thing turns. We might or might not in the abstract agree with the policy that a particular Viceroy, Governor or administrator had carried through; but if it was the policy that he was sent out to carry through, a policy, too, which he believed to be the right policy, and if, further, the people of England when appealed to at the polls supported it by overwhelming majorities, then that man ought to be supported through thick and thin, because, though he was the trusted executive officer, the ultimate responsibility rested not with him.
Lord Milner upheld the policy he was sent out to carry through with a manliness, a devotion, and a self-sacrifice that few men even in the greatest positions have shown. As to criticism of 1442 particular mistakes, which may have been made by this great Governor, and especially mistakes which he may have made with regard to the question of Chinese labour, those who are bent on misrepresenting everything may very probably misrepresent what happens to-night, if this Resolution is carried, by saying that those who voted for it were supporting every item and detail in the administration of Lord Milner, or of the Government who sent him out. I propose to vote for the noble Viscount's Resolution, but I am not one of those who would give whole-hearted support to all that has been done. That, it seems to me, is, so to speak, beside the mark. With regard to Chinese labour, I do not want to discuss that point afresh to-night, but I am one of those who from the first profoundly disliked and sharply criticised it.
Separating, if I may for the moment, the acts of the present Government from some of the speeches delivered at the election time, I have no fault to find with respect to their acts in regard to Chinese labour. I strongly desire to say, however, that that does not in the least prevent me from recording my vote with enthusiasm in favour of the Resolution expressing thanks to Lord Milner. If one is cautious and critical about the policy which one dislikes with regard to Chinese labour, very much stronger terms may be used with regard to anything like illegal flogging or illegal wrong done to labourers, be they Chinese or other labourers, in the Transvaal or elsewhere. Nothing, I think, would be less likely to meet with general condonation in England than illegal wrong done to men in that position and under such circumstances as have been described. The strength and the amazing success of England's rule over uncivilised peoples has lain in the assurance, contrasted with what is sometimes felt with regard to other nations, that the lowest in the scale of civilisation —and the Chinese are not low in that scale—might absolutely count upon re-spectfor his rights, and upon absolute freedom from assault and cruelty.
I am one of those, then, who actively dislike the Chinese labour system as a whole, and who abhor any illegal cruelty 1443 to coloured folk of any sort. But because in the closing weeks of a great administration of tight years in South Africa, under all the most difficult circumstances by which such an administration could be surrounded—because in those closing weeks an error had been committed which has been frankly and generously admitted by the noble Viscount him self in this House, an error which was no part of his policy, but was an incidental thing which ought to be forgotten now that it has been long ago brought an end to, is it to be argued that that cancels the claim of a great man upon our gratitude for his devotion and services to the country during long and inexpressibly trying years? I do not believe for a moment that your Lordships will say anything of the sort. Yet that would be what you would do were you to leave untouched on the records of Parliament as the sole account there given of what Lord Milner had done the Resolution passed in the other House which left out his name indeed, but which stood next on record to a Resolution proposed in which his name was given.
That is a position which I feel could not stand, and, therefore, I shall vote for the noble Viscount's Resolution. I feel that this is an occasion on which one who occupies a responsible position, and holds aloof from Party politics, might appropriately say a word in the largest interests of our public servants, and in defence of a man who, whether we agree with him to the full or not, has at least proved himself to be one of the most illustrious of an illustrious line,
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
My Lords, if I were inclined to make a Party speech to-night, which I shall endeavour as much as possible to avoid doing, I would venture to remark that neither the most rev. Primate nor the noble Earl opposite have appreciated the point which was made by my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies. My noble friend sought to point out that in moving the Resolution which he has submitted to your Lordships to-night he did so in no sense depreciative of the services of Lord Milner in South Africa, but rather because the inevitable con- 1444 sequences of such a debate on the present occasion would be once more to stir up strife in these Colonies at a particular juncture when it was most imperative that strife should not be stirred up. I trust that in the few words which I shall venture to address to your Lordships this afternoon I shall say nothing calculated to inflame Party differences or revive Party disputes. I had hoped, as I believe the nation itself had hoped, after the late general election, that the angry feelings aroused by the late war in South Africa, whether with regard to its origin, its conduct, or its policy, had been laid aside for a time, and that we were as a nation united with regard to that question on one sovereign point—namely, in promoting the welfare, the pacification and the advancement of our two new Colonies in South Africa.
With regard to the Resolution moved by the noble Viscount opposite, I venture at once to say that had it been brought forward by the responsible Government of the day, after the late High Commissioner's return from South Africa, I for one would most gladly have voted for it. Nor do I believe that there is any noble Lord, to whatever Party he may belong, or to whatever section of any Party he may belong, who would have refused that recognition to a distinguished servant of the State who, at a time of great public danger, had carried out to the best of his ability the policy of the Government of the day—a policy, moreover, which had the entire confidence of both Houses of Parliament. Surely, if we quarrel with that policy, if we arraign the wisdom of the war, the conduct of the war, or its settlement, we must admit that it was the Government of the day who were responsible for Lord Milner's administration. It was the Government of the day alone who, if we disagreed with this policy, we were bound to attack. But the Government whose policy Lord Milner carried out has passed away. The Colonial Secretary who was responsible for Lord Milner's appointment and administration is no longer in power. The whole of that subject is matter of history, and we should leave it to history to a ward either its praise or its blame to the actors in that momentous period of our times.
1445 If the noble Viscount's Resolution could have been dissociated from its inevitable but accidental consequences, I for my part would have certainly voted for it; but at the same time I venture to think, with all submission, that such a Resolution is not a great compliment to Lord Milner himself at this time of day. The noble Earl opposite, Earl Cawdor, thought it was absolutely necessary that a record of Lord Milner's services should be placed on the Journals of Parliament. I venture to think that that was a reflecttion upon the Government which the noble Earl himself adorned, because, if it is absolutely necessary that a record of Lord Milner's services should be placed on the Journals of Parliament, surely it was for the Government who were responsible for his appointment and for his administration to recognise his services in that direction. I think, moreover, that Lord Milner requires no whitewashing even from the most ardent of his friends. I venture also to think that a belated vote of confidence is almost as bad— I will not say quite as bad—as a belated vote of censure.
My noble friend opposite, Lord Halifax, who I am certain brought forward this Resolution from the highest motives, and without an atom of Party feeling, forgot that it was impossible to discuss these matters, as has been proved by the speeches to which we have listened to-night, without exciting in the Press and on the platform throughout the country, and, what I venture to think is worse still, in the Press and on the platform throughout the two Colonies concerned, those bitter controversies which are associated so lamentably with the late war. And, my Lords, at what a moment are these controversies about to be raised? At the very moment when my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in a position of unexampled difficulty and delicacy, is endeavouring to institute free Government in the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony, to which we were all pledged by the Treaty of peace made after the war. If ever there was a time when we ought to hush these controversies it is surely at such a moment as this.
1446 May I venture to put the position, as I see it, before your Lordships? Whatever my opinions might be as to the policy which led up to the war, I would do everything in my power, in view of the immediate situation in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, to prevent a discussion of these matters at the present moment. But I have not risen, as I said, to make a Party speech; I rose chiefly to make a humble suggestion to His Majesty's Government, and it is this, that they should consent, either to insert some words in their Resolution as a preamble, or that—and this is a course which I, for my part, would infinitely prefer—they should substitute for the Resolution they have submitted to the House, a Resolution in these words—That this House, taking into consideration that the high services of Lord Milner have already been recognised on the proper occasion, refrains from entering, at the present juncture of South African affairs, on a debate provoca tive of Party strife in the two Colonies concerned.If His Majesty's Government would accept such a Resolution, or even if they would put before their Resolution some such words as—Taking into consideration the high services of Lord Milner, which have been already fully recognised on a fitting occasion.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
I venture to think that such a Resolution would be more acceptable to some of their supporters than the Resolution which the noble Earl has moved to-night. If His Majesty's Government could accept such a Resolution as that, and if my noble friend opposite could also accept it, we should then avoid a division in your Lordships' House, which I am confident no one wishes to see except the extremest of extreme partisans. The issue, I venture to say, is not Lord Milner's reputation. It is an issue that he himself would, I am confident, put far beyond any personal feeling of his own. It is the issue of a good settlement and the peace of South Africa; and that end, I venture to think, will not be attained by uselessly reviving bitter controversies 1447 in the two Colonies at the very moment when peace and goodwill are most necessary and desired. But whether I agree with the exact terms of the Motion moved on behalf of His Majesty's Government, whether I approve even of the course which His Majesty's Government are about to adopt, I say at once that I will not, by voice or vote, do anything to embarrass my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies in his work—his all-important work, fraught with difficulties as great as any Minister has yet had to encounter—in his effort to bring about the pacification and the prosperity, not only of the two Colonies, but, perhaps, of the Empire itself. It is for that reason that, if the House goes to a division, which I for one should deeply regret, I shall follow the Secretary of State for the Colonies into the Lobby.
§ VISCOUNT GOSCHEN
My Lords, I was almost tempted to regret, while I was listening to the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down, that he had left the House of Commons and entered this House, because I should have liked his speech which he has just addressed to us to have been delivered in the House of Commons on a recent occasion.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
I can assure my noble friend that it would have been delivered if I had been there.
§ VISCOUNT GOSCHEN
I should have liked also to see some Member of the Radical Party, or some Member of the Government in the other House, use the same kind of language, or something approaching to the language used by the Colonial Secretary to-night. But how was it that no Member of the Government in the lower House adopted this attitude? Why did not the Prime Minister, with his authority over his great majority, appeal to them and put before them the consequences of the Resolution moved by Mr. Byles? Is the Government so devoid of authority in the House of Commons that they are unable to produce such an effect as the noble Lord the Colonial Secretary wishes to produce upon us? Would it not have had weight with the Party there if they had been told that 1448 the debate would arouse these passions in South Africa? The argument of the noble Earl strikes me almost as if a man who had struck another a blow were to say "Peace, peace; if you strike me back it will embitter our relations."
A blow has been struck at Lord Milner in the eyes of this country, and I believe to the indignation of the country. Still more serious, it has been struck in the eyes of those amid whom Lord Milner stands as the great representative of British influence and predominance in South Africa. The noble Lord asked whether, if Lord Milner himself had been in the House, he would not have listened to his appeal and would have said that the Resolution should be withdrawn. I know the mind of Lord Milner well enough to believe that a question of personal appreciation, of putting upon the records of this House an expression of gratitude to him, would influence him but little if he thought for a moment that a Motion put forward for that object would produce ill effects in South Africa, and that not for a moment would he have encouraged or listened to any one who wished to put down such a Motion on his behalf.
Lord Milner requires no eulogist. It is not for the purposes of eulogy that my noble friend has put down the Motion, and no one listening to his speech could believe that it was merely intended to do justice to Lord Milner and to express an opinion of his services. Why is the Motion desirable? It is on account of the effect which has already been produced in South Africa by the proceedings which have taken place in the House of Commons. It is with reference to that alone, though I for my part think there is much to be said on other grounds—for instance, the blow struck at the civil service and at those who undertake responsibilities. But for my part the predominant idea is the effect it will have in South Africa—the effect on the loyalists, on the men who have stood by us, and who will still stand by us providing that this country stands by them.
I will not say more about the services of Lord Milner. That is not the point. We know how he stood at the helm during the dangerous times; and if 1449 there had been a weak man at the helm, I ask your Lordships where would now be the position of South Africa? What would have been the position to-day in South Africa if there had not been a man prepared to take upon himself responsibility, a man whom difficulties could not conquer, whom disasters could not cow, and whom obloquy could never move? Strong men, men who can stand obloquy, men who can face difficulties, are wanted in these days; and, therefore, I do not think that we can accept what was put forward in the other House, that Lord Milner will cease to have any influence upon the policy of the country. It was said that he will not be able to deflect for one moment the policy of the day. I am not sure that Lord Milner has not already deflected to a considerable extent the policy of His Majesty's Government. I ask, too, whether the speeches he has made look like the speeches of a played out man, an extinct volcano. I think it will be found that Lord Milner will be able to take his part well enough in the future destinies of this country.
It is not for the sake of Lord Milner that it is wise that your Lordships should pass this Motion. I want it to be a message of encouragement to the loyalists of South Africa. The "racial feeling and animosities" to which the Under-Secretary referred have already been produced by the proceedings in another place. The Government have allowed the "central figure" in South Africa to be struck at by the Resolution on the journals of the House of Commons. When that has been done, are we to be told we ought not to take any notice in this House of such a proceeding? This Motion is the sequel, the unhappy sequel, of the feelings which have been aroused in South Africa. No one can read the letters which come from South Africa, or the notices which appear in the Press of South Africa on both sides, without seeing that the whole situation has been profoundly modified, and that a feeling of intense indignation has been raised on the part of the loyalists of South Africa.
Lord Milner is a personage not merely to the Transvaal, but his influence extends, of course, to the Cape and Orange River. The Cape itself is not in such 1450 a satisfactory position that any blow struck at the man who was the chief representative of British supremacy will not react on the feelings of the loyalists. There is a feeling that much that Lord Milner has done is to be reversed. Of course that has caused profound consternation among the British party in South Africa. The Government may reverse much of what Lord Milner has done, but is that not a reason why the loyalists should have a message from the House of Lords that the primary points of Lord Milner's policy will not be reversed, but will be fought to the last in the country—the policy which Lord Elgin did not wish to discuss to-night?
Was the noble Lord aware that his own subordinate in the House of Commons, Mr. Winston Churchill, has said that Lord Milner's policy was "utterly discredited." Discredited by whom? It is not discredited in this House; therefore, we were anxious to put a Motion on the Order Paper to show that it is not discredited by your Lordships. It is not discredited in South Africa, at the Cape, and the policy still holds the field with every loyalist in South Africa. They are afraid that they may lose by the policy of His Majesty's Government, that they may lose in the ballot box that which they won on the field. Look at the language which is being held now by the Boer leaders.
I do not know whether any of your Lordships have read the speech of Mr. Smuts in which he shadows forth the kind of policy which will be followed. I ask, have the loyalists in the Orange River Colony and the Cape, too, not reason to be frightened? With many of the Boers still smarting from the defeat of the war, are they not rightly anxious lest a Boer general still smarting from defeat may be installed Governor of a community in which the British are a minority? Do you not see if you have executive government entirely in the hands of the Boers what havoc they may be able to make of all the institutions which have been carefully fostered under the ré gime of Lord Milner? It is for the sake of our fellow-countrymen, and because of the 1451 blow struck at Lord Milner, that I put these matters before your Lordships.
Rightly or wrongly, the loyalists believe that British supremacy is threatened now in South Africa. That feeling is increased by the belief that a blow has been struck at the man who represents the policy of British supremacy, and they further believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Government have abandoned the man, have not stood up for the man, and are unwilling to-night to stand up for the man who represents to them that supremacy. In that abandonment I trust your Lordships' House will have no part nor lot. Your Lordships can show that the country, whom you believe you represent in this matter, is equally strongly opposed to that abandonment, and I trust that your Lordships, by a decisive majority, will send words of encouragement to those loyalists in South Africa who have stood by you, and who are deeply concerned in the proceedings of your Lordships' House to-night.
§ EARL ROBERTS
My Lords, I most thoroughly agree with all that the noble Viscount who initiated this debate has said as to the desirability of the Members of this House recording their high appreciation of the services rendered by Lord Milner in South Africa to the Crown and to the Empire. I know better, perhaps, than any one else how valuable those services were, and how much the success of the war was due to Lord Milner's wise counsel and able assistance; and I confess I am filled with amazement, not to say indignation, that a body of British gentlemen should have agreed together to pass a vote of censure on the noble Lord for an error of judgment, committed quite at the close of his eventful term of office, and after he had served his country with such conspicuous devotion and such signal success during eight most anxious years. That such a thing should be possible makes me doubt whether any of the 355 Members of the House of Commons who voted in favour of the Government Amendment to Mr. Byles's Motion—practically the same thing as if they had voted for the original Motion so far as Lord Milner is concerned— such a thing, I say, makes me doubt 1452 whether any of them could ever have been in a position of national responsibility. For if they had, I cannot believe that thre would have been a party to such an ungenerous action.
It was said, if I remember rightly, by one of the hon. Gentlemen who joined in the debate, that it was necessary to censure Lord Milner because the national honour was at stake. If that hon. Gentleman had been in South Africa as I was in 1900, he would have seen how nobly, how patriotically, Lord Milner toiled to preserve the national honour, and he would have understood how impossible it would be for such a man to do anything unworthy of his country. Few people who watched the course of events from a distance have, I think ever realised the burden of anxiety which was borne by Lord Milner in South Africa. For many months he had foreseen that the Boer Republics were not arming themselves for nothing, and that the war, which was the inevitable result of our disasters and the mistaken peace in 1881, was bound to come in his time. To this anxiety was added the knowledge that the great majority of the people in this country did not recognise the severity of the struggle that was before them. When that struggle began it was upon the High Commissioner that the burden fell most heavily, and no one saw more clearly than he did what danger threatened the whole of our South African possessions, or worked more strenuously to ensure their safety.
Lord Milner had a task which would have weighed down most men. Not only had he enemies in the field to deal with, but—what was infinitely more trying— he had disloyalty amongst his councillors to contend against. The truth of this statement cannot be gainsaid, for facts came to my knowledge at Bloemfontein which proved beyond a doubt that this was the case. Lord Milner was in a position which required an unusual amount of tact, firmness, and discretion to bring matters to a successful conclusion. I was greatly struck throughout the time I was in South Africa by Lord Milner's unusual possession of those qualities and the quiet resolution with which he grappled with the numerous difficulties with which he was surrounded.
1453 As I have said, these difficulties would have weighed down most men. All this is apparently forgotten, and now Lord Milner is held up to his fellow-countrymen as a person deserving to be severely censured by His Majesty's Government for an error of judgment. Is an error of judgment to be weighed in the balance against the magnificent services rendered by Lord Milner? Such a censure as was passed last week in another place is a poor and a most un-English return for such services. I venture to assert, and this assertion I make in no Party spirit, that the great majority of our fellow-countrymen in no way endorse a censure which is as severe as it is unmerited.
There is another aspect of this affair about which I must say a few words, and that is the South African aspect. It is impossible to describe the feelings of consternation, indeed of positive alarm, which exists amongst the loyal people in that country at what has been happening lately here. They fear, as some of us fear, that the many valuable lives that have been sacrificed, and the many millions of money that have been spent, will have been sacrificed and spent in vain unless Great Britain wakes up to the fact that, as matters are now trending, the balance of power will be placed in the hands of men who, as I said in this House a few weeks ago, have never concealed their feeling of disloyalty, and their determination, on the first possible opportunity, to make themselves masters of the whole of South Africa.
THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
My Lords, I do not intend to detain your Lordships with more than one or two remarks, but I desire to give a reason or two why I shall feel bound to support what seems to me the very reasonable proposition of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies, viz., the previous question. I hold that the Motion of the noble Viscount, besides being in my judgment ill-advised, is very inopportune. I think it may be taken for granted that, whatever be our views as to the policy which underlies this proposal, we all recognise the great qualities of Lord Milner. Some of us recognised them before he became famous. It ought to be understood that we give him every credit as a high-minded 1454 public-spirited man with a very high sense of public duty.
But if I may venture to bring back the House to the business brought before us by the noble Viscount to-night, it is that a very special eulogium should be bestowed on Lord Milner for his work in South Africa. We cannot get away from the fact that the Motion if passed will be interpreted and understood as a very special and exceptional eulogium on the policy which Lord Milner represented. It is not merely that his friends and people generally recognise his personal merits. It is as if a proposal were made as to whether a very special person deserved to be buried in Westminster Abbey. This Motion as a matter of fact picks out Lord Milner from the great band of highly-distinguished Members of this House and of equally distinguished men outside who have served the Empire in great positions. I, for one, am not prepared to give that very exceptional eulogium, because I feel that it must of necessity carry with it a declaration that we consider that his services have been successful. Whatever may be felt in this House, there are a great many persons outside and some of us inside who, with every admiration of Lord Milner on personal grounds, are bound to say that we consider that the policy which he adopted in South Africa has been an unfortunate policy, and, in fact, a failure. That I venture to think, whatever we may say here, is the verdict of the great mass of the English people, and whatever Resolutions we may pass in this House I do not suppose that anyone is under the hallucination that our votes will alter the verdict of the English people or of the world at large. That being my feeling, I deplore that the noble Viscount should have been moved to bring forward this very inopportune Resolution, which in fact challenges criticism of the policy which Lord Milner represented. You cannot interpret it in any other way than as a challenge to criticism of that policy.
I am not going to follow some of the speakers who have preceded me in any detailed criticism, in the way either of praise or of blame; but Lord Milner himself has made one or two speeches in 1455 this House, and, as I read those speeches, they amount in effect to a confession that his policy has to no small extent failed. In the speech which he made some time ago he seemed to me, unless I misunderstood the speech, to represent the present state of South Africa as a very dangerous state, as being honeycombed with disloyalty. I do not know whether the noble Viscount who moved this Motion has that feeling, but he seemed to speak very emphatically of loyalty and disloyalty among our fellow subjects in South Africa. I wonder if that represents the feeling of Lord Milner and his friends about the result of the policy of the last eight or ten years in South Africa. All plain people will say that it amounts to a confession of failure. If so, is the moment opportune to put on the records of this House a very special eulogium of the man who represented that policy? We might indeed ask, is this the happy country which in 1900 or thereabouts we were promised to have in South Africa? If this kind of feeling about the prevalence of disloyalty in South Africa represents the fact, we are to suppose that the country is really honeycombed with dissatisfaction and disloyalty. Anyhow, we are asked to believe that our Dutch and African fellow subjects are moved by a spirit of disloyalty. Now, my Lords, I beg to dispute that. But if it is so, what a damnosa hereditas has been left to his Majesty's Government. Is that a reason for placing a special eulogium on the records of this House? No, my Lords. But we hope and believe that it is not really a new Ireland that has been established in South Africa.
I think it is important that we should distinguish a great deal more than we sometimes do before we use these terms of loyalty and disloyalty. No doubt there must be a great deal of bitterness in South Africa. Any child could tell you that if you sow such a crop of dragons' teeth as has been sown in South Africa, you must expect a crop after its kind. It is impossible that after such a war as the Boer War there should not be much bitterness in the country. Desolated households, and all the graves, and all the misery, to say nothing of 1456 the National Scouts and the rest— what can they produce but bitterness? And that is the result of your policy. But let us distinguish in regard to this bitterness. These men, as I understand it—and I have some information—are bitter, but it is against the authors of the policy that they are bitter and not against the English people or His Majesty's Government or the Crown, and all this bitterness involves no disloyalty to the Empire and the Crown. My belief is that many of these Dutchmen who are being branded as disloyal are as loyal as any Members of this House, and it is in that belief that I hold to the hope that His Majesty's Government, if allowed a fair field in a policy of conciliation and goodwill, will, in no long period, turn this so-called Ireland in South Africa into? new Canada—a Canada as prosperous, as happy, and as loyal as the Canada of to-day. Personally I have a good hope that I shall live to see that happy consummation.
In conclusion I would say only this: To all those who rise above the atmosphere of Party prejudice and consider the matter in an impartial way, and who really desire patriotically to serve the present needs and interests of the Empire, the Motion that we should pass "the previous question" should appeal, because to-day, as hitherto, the great need of South Africa is peace. It is seven or eight years ago that a famous soldier was reported to have said in memorable words that what the country needed—and he knew South Africa— was peace and not a surgical operation. My Lords, South Africa has had its surgical operation, and its need of peace to-day is greater than ever. I sincerely hope, though against hope, that all those who desire to have a personal share in bringing about that happy consummation which we describe as turning distracted South Africa into a new Canada will take their part in this good work of conciliation by voting for the previous question to-night, because they may be well assured that if they send that decision under present circumstances to South Africa it will be a message of peace.
I did not intend to address your Lordships to-night, 1457 but I really cannot allow the speech which the right rev. Prelate has just addressed to your Lordships to pass without some comment. I can hardly believe that it is a speech made by one who claims to have a pride in our Empire, in our system of justice to the people whom we govern, and in our system of sympathetic administration of the native races who are under our control. The right rev. Prelate deems it inadvisable that there should be placed upon the records of Parliament an appreciation of Lord Milner's services. I assume that the right rev. Prelate would like to be left upon the records of Parliament the Resolution passed in the other House—a Resolution amended, it is true, from what was moved by the private Member, but which bears upon the face of it the opinion of the Government that they are not prepared to express any appreciation of the services of Lord Milner. Then the right rev. Prelate says that he thinks the Motion is inopportune—inopportune that a Resolution such as that proposed by the noble Viscount should be placed upon the records of Parliament. Inopportune? Does the right rev. Prelate claim to speak for South Africa? Does he claim to represent the opinions of the loyalists of South Africa, or of whom? Does he ignore what Lord Milner did there? Does he not recognise what Lord Milner had to do—that apart from any question of such duties as he had to discharge in connection with the war, he had to create a just Government—a Government that should administer justice between Boer and British alike; that he should do more than that—that he should lay down and encourage those feelings of sympathy without which South Africa indeed is likely to be seriously distraught? I venture to say that there is no man who is serving in South Africa or who has served there for many years past who has done more to instil into the minds and the comprehension of the Boers the necessity for justice and sympathy to the native races, or who has done more to bring into harmony the somewhat conflicting views of British and Boer, than has Lord Milner himself. It is upon these grounds that I consider the noble Viscount was 1458 perfectly justified, having regard to what took place in another place, in endeavouring to persuade your Lordships to express your opinion upon what Lord Milner has done.
I must confess that I am surprised that my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies has not been able to influence his colleagues on this point. The noble Earl has filled the most responsible post in the officialdom of the British Empire. Upon what grounds do the Government refuse this meed of gratitude to a man who perhaps has passed through a more serious and anxious time than anyone in the list of our greatest Pro-Consuls since the days of Lord Canning? By what are they actuated? Is it that they are unable to recognise the great services that Lord Milner has performed? That I cannot believe. Judging from the speeches that were made three or four weeks ago, and from what was said in another place the other day, I think I am justified in believing that the ground-work of their refusal to recognise Lord Milner's great services is the one slip which he made towards the end of his administration. I want to ask the noble Earl this Question. Can he say that Lord Milner did not do justice? He may have acted illegally; he has accepted the responsibility in the most honourable and courageous way. Can the noble Earl say that he did injustice? That, after all, is the thing which should guide us most. The noble Earl knows as well as I do that Viceroys and Governors in India have to do things which are not regulated by law, and what they have to consider very anxiously and with great study is: Am I doing justice in this matter? The noble Earl, in his experience in India, must oftentimes have been anxious on questions of this kind, and on every occasion when he has risen from his task I am perfectly certain that he has been able to say conscientiously, "If I have acted without lawful right, it is only after the most careful study of the question; but I believe I have done justice." Can he not now feel with regard to Lord Milner that if he did make one false step at the end of a most trying time, at any rate he did not do an injustice? I believe that Lord Milner's 1459 career in South Africa, apart altogether from the fact of his consolidating our rule there, is distinguished and will be marked in the pages of history by this which the right rev. Prelate is unable to recognise—that during those latter years at the end of the war, when he was forming a Government, he did by his personal influence, by his sense of justice, and by his anxiety to strengthen South Africa commercially, very successfully ameliorate the feelings which had been aroused between Boer and British by the war, and that he did very largely succeed in bringing the two races together. It is upon this ground more than upon any other that I shall with the greatest cordiality support the Motion of the noble Viscount.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, I cannot help remarking a peculiarity which has characterised this debate. Setting aside all technical phrases, this is a debate intended by those who promoted it to be a testimonial to Lord Milner's reputation, and I feel very great doubt as to what is the sort of feeling which prevails on the other side of the House with reference to the mode in which the Motion ought to be met. Beyond the small technicality—I am afraid I must so describe it—that there is no precedent for moving a vote of confidence or a testimonial for high services until the "incident"—whatever that may mean—is concluded, I have noticed a very remarkable state of things. Whereas it is supposed that something that Lord Milner has done—what it was we will see presently— has deprived him of the confidence of his fellow-countrymen and ought to prevent either this or the other House of Parliament from testifying their gratitude for the services which it is not denied he has rendered to the State, nobody has discussed what that "something" is. There has been a remarkable abstinence from discussing the thing itself in order to see the extent, degree, and nature of the act which it is supposed has deprived Lord Milner of the just reward of some of the great services he has rendered. It is a remarkable condition of things. Might I, as a retort, ask what precedent there is for censuring a man, unless he has been guilty of a grave 1460 dereliction of public duty, when he has undoubtedly, and by the confession of some of those who bring the accusation against him, rendered great services to the country and been one of the most remarkable Pro-Consuls the Empire has ever had? What is this thing which has prevented the just appreciation of Lord Milner's services by the public recognition of the State? Nobody has discussed it, and the reticence of noble Lords opposite on the subject is very remarkable.
I notice also a somewhat remarkable reluctance on the other side of the House to express their views. We have had an abundance of speakers ready and willing to bear their testimony to the reputation and the great services rendered to the State by Lord Milner, but on the other side there has been the greatest reticence on the subject. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, as everyone who knows him would expect, has, like a frank and honourable gentleman, recognised those services in a manner we all appreciate. But what then? Why are we not to thank Lord Milner for those services? The right rev. Prelate has given the reason that we ought not to make such a tribute too common, that if it were made too common it might occasionally be abused. I recognise the value, greater or less, of that observation. But consider what, in fact, has happened. We are not arguing on the artificial hypothesis of people getting up a testimoniel or what not apropos of nothing. As the most rev. Primate truly said, the situation is absolutely changed by what was done in another place. That is what has rendered it necessary and proper for us to bring forward our view. We could not be prevented by small observation of precedents, or their absence, from doing justice to a great man who has been grievously injured by calumny as well as by other modes of attack during his period of office. I am bound to say that I am very much surprised—I will not say disappointed—by the speech of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Hereford. The right rev. Prelate, I remember, expressed his great regret in a speech in June, 1904, that Lord Milner was not then present. He gave two reasons. 1461 One reason was that if Lord Milner were here he could not do so much mischief as he was then doing in South Africa. That is a matter of opinion, and the right rev. Prelate is entitled to his view. But he went on to say that the other reason he wished Lord Milner was here was that he did not like attacking a public man in his absence. A noble sentiment! Whether the right rev. Prelate adhered to it is another matter. But he said that if Lord Milner had been here he would have spoken out his mind. Here was the opportunity to-night. Lord Milner's character and conduct are in debate, and Lord Milner is here in this country and is able to answer for himself.
THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
The noble Earl will excuse me, but I never attacked Lord Milner's character.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I think that one of the things that the right rev. Prelate attributed to Lord Milner was impetuosity and inconsiderateness of language.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I think the right rev. Prelate has forgotten what he said. I have the report here. I notice in particular that he has made himself a party to one of the common cries against Lord Milner and his policy— namely, that he was doing the will of the gold speculators. The great question, he said, was whether or not human lives or gold would be the more valuable, and I am afraid that the right rev. Prelate suggested that in Lord Milner's view gold was the more valuable article of the two. The right rev. Prelate said in this House on March 21, 1904—Before we examine the Ordinance, may I take the liberty, as a good many of your Lordships seem to support that view, of pausing for a moment to look at Lord Milner's own language? I do it with reluctance because Lord Milner is not here, and I do not much like speaking even of a public man in his position in his absence. I very much wish he were here, and for two reasons. In the first place, I could have spoken my mind more freely in his presence; and in the second place, he would be comparatively harmless on these benches. He would be out of South Africa. I am only expressing the sentiments of a vast numher of thoughtful Englishmen when I say that it 1462 would be a great boon to South Africa if Lord Milner was no longer there.May I ask the right rev. Prelate why he has not spoken out to-night? He had the opportunity, it was relevant to the subject; why, then, has he not spoken out? I do not pause for a reply, but I have my own views.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I will quote the right rev. Prelate again. He said—This (the South African Ordinance) is prepared on the principle that the value of the lives of these men is less than that of a better dividend for some of the low grade mines. That is the way in which it presents itself to a plain mind looking at the moral aspect of the question.Is that or is that not an insinuation against Lord Milner?
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
Certainly, as part of Lord Milner's policy, and as applicable to Lord Milner's conduct. Then again—The mine-owners and the dividends are the things to be considered.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
Does the right rev. Prelate mean, or does he not mean, that Lord Milner in the course of his policy was actuated by the influence of the mineowners? I ask for a reply.
THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
I mean exactly what my speech said, and I am prepared to repudiate any unjustifiable inferences which the noble and learned Earl may draw from it.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
That depends on what the right rev. Prelate says is an unjustifiable inference. I admit that the question of Lord Milner's fitness or otherwise for his office may be a matter of personal feeling, as to 1463 which the right rev. Prelate may have his opinion; he may think Lord Milner was perfectly unfit for his office, and, indeed, he says so, but I have not referred to that question at all. That is a matter on which we also have our opinion, and I am content to leave it to your Lordships. But what I want to ask the right rev. Prelate is what he meant when he spoke of greater dividends being of more value than men's lives and of the influence of the people who owned the mines, and associated these things with Lord Milner's government, if he did not mean the insinuation that Lord Milner was influenced by persons who were interested in the mines, and not by the interests of his country? I am indisposed to treat this personal question any longer, but I cannot forbear saying that after that speech, and after the expression of the desire that Lord Milner should be here to answer what he said, we have had to-night from the right rev. Prelate a speech as mild as any sucking dove, declaring that it is a question of the degree to which Lord Milner's policy should be approved.
THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
The noble Earl forgets how changed are the circumstances now. Lord Milner no longer holds his former position, and his policy is a thing of the past.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
Certain words have reached me, but how they are a reply to what I have said I am wholly unable to understand.
With regard to the general question, it appears to me that one of the most serious things that can be done in this country is to discredit a great public servant after his great public services in the way it has been sought to do it in this case. The method by which the attempt was met seems to me to make the matter worse. Nothing could have been easier than for the Government to say "We resist this Motion. This incident—(I use the noble Earl's word)—is closed." Here is a man who has rendered great public services; he has done what we all admit to have been greatly for the benefit of the State. ["No."] Yes—in various parts of the world. I am not speaking of this particular incident at all; I am speaking 1464 of the man who has been a great public servant, and, by the admission of all, has rendered services of great benefit in various parts of the world. You say that in one particular instance he has been guilty of an irregularity. Whether he has or has not is one of the grotesque parts of the story that we are discussing. Nobody knows whether he did or did not commit the irregularity. It is said that Mr. Evans had a conversation with Lord Milner, in the course of which he suggested that he should give some slight corporal punishment in order to avoid bringing before the courts of justice cases of a trifling character. Lord Milner, with a chivalry peculiar, I think, to himself, says—and no one will doubt his word— that he does not remember any such conversation — it is not unimportant to notice this point, because it shows the trifling nature of the matter—but, knowing that the gentleman was a gentleman of high honour and greatly to be respected he says the conversation must have taken place, and he takes full responsibility for it. That is the whole story, and out of that has grown this tremendous indictment of Lord Milner.
We cannot help feeling that there is an air of unreality about the whole business. That is not the real reason why the Govment refuse to recognise Lord Milner's merits. Indeed, I think the observations of the right rev. Prelate to which I have referred took place before that incident could have occurred. The real accusation—and why should we not deal with it?—is that Lord Milner is supposed to have made himself the mere instrument and tool of the persons engaged in the gold-mining industry. That is the accusation against him, but no one has dared to bring forward one atom of evidence in support of such a suggestion. The Party opposite have tried as far as they can to discredit a great and noble and most useful public servant, and we, at all events, will do as much as we can to prevent the effect of that being in South Africa what it certainly will be if it is not in some way or another counteracted.
And what is the answer of the Government? "We would rather not vote upon it at all." That is not the conduct of a Government, I should have thought. 1465 If Lord Milner is guilty of the charges which have been suggested against him, impeach him; if he is not guilty, recognise his public services. But this half-hearted method of evading responsibility, of saying they will not condemn him and they will not agree with us in putting him where he ought to have been before without this— well, one does not like to use strong language, and I will not follow the episcopal example, but one does feel very angry that when a man has been devoting the best years of his life, through periods of strain and difficulty and danger which it is easy enough for us to speak lightly of here, but which nobody can appreciate who has not been through them themselves, he should then be treated as Lord Milner has been. Therefore it is that I am delighted, so far as I am concerned, and to the extent to which any words of mine can carry weight, to have an opportunity of expressing my admiration and respect for the noble and distinguished man whom the House of Commons has sought to degrade.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
My Lords, I think that in listening to the speeches which have been delivered in support of this Motion it must have occurred to many of your Lordships that those speeches would perhaps have been better delivered in another place and on another occasion. They were speeches which might more appropriately have been addressed to the House of Commons in answer to the vote of censure moved by an independent Member of that House upon Lord Milner. The speeches from the other side have seemed to be directed towards an imaginary Motion. They sound as if the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies had himself moved a vote of censure upon Lord Milner, and that noble Lords opposite were concerned to answer that vote of censure. But nothing of the kind has taken place. I quite agree that the vote of censure in the House of Commons by an irresponsible Member of that House was an unfortunate Motion; I think it would have been better met in the other House by moving the "previous question" as the present Motion is now being met here, and I also think it 1466 would have been better answered by the representative of the Government if it had been answered in the same spirit and in the same language as has been employed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to-night. Nobody can for a moment contend—I do not think that any noble Lord opposite has contended —that the Secretary of State for the Colonies has done any injustice to Lord Milner in anything he has said; I am sure there was not one word in his speech to justify the contention of the late Lord Chancellor that he wished to discredit a distinguished public servant.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I never suggested it of the noble Earl; I do not think he will suggest it himself.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
I am quite sure he will not; he never dreamt of suggesting such a thing. But the late Lord Chancellor attacked the Government because in his opinion it was their desire to discredit a distinguished public servant. If he thinks it was not their desire to discredit a distinguished public servant, then this Motion is to a great extent answered. We are delighted to have that tribute from the late Lord Chancellor that the Government has no wish to discredit a distinguished public servant; it is a valuable admission on his part.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
The noble Lord is inverting what I said. I said that their desire was to evade responsibility.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
I took down these words—" to discredit a distinguished public servant." I think the Colonial Secretary took up a sound position when he deprecated the course now being taken by this House. He said that it was an unprecedented course. But the late Lord Chancellor threw ridicule upon that, and suggested that whether the Motion was according to precedent or not was a small technicality. It is somewhat remarkable to hear from a Tory Lord Chancellor that when the House of Lords disregards precedent it is a small technicality; it shows that on his part he is consumed by a desire 1467 to protect Lord Milner from the slightest breath of public disapproval, and in comparison with that anything else is a comparatively trifling matter.
But what is the position that this House is really taking up? Behind the Motion on the Paper there is another Motion. It is not only a Motion of confidence in Lord Milner, it is a Motion of censure upon the House of Commons. That is the real wish and intention of those who have moved and supported this Motion on the other side—to pass a vote of censure upon the House of Commons, because an irresponsible Member of that House wished to pass a vote of censure upon Lord Milner. I cannot think that that is a sound constitutional position for the House of Lords to take up. It is true that that hon. Member took a totally unusual course, and perhaps it was not met by the Government in the happiest possible way; but the fact that an unusual course was taken in another place is no reason at all why this House also should take an unusual course and follow suit. That is certainly what they have done by bringing in this Motion to-night. Have noble Lords really considered the language of the Motion moved by Mr. Byles in the House of Commons? That Motion was devoted to the censure of a particular act on the part of Lord Milner. Is it your wish to uphold that particular act? Personally speaking, it seems to me that this question of flogging has been dealt with with a considerable amount of unnecessary unction. It has been argued as if flogging was a thing unknown in this country, which is rather remarkable when we remember that up to a comparatively recent period flogging was permitted in the Army and in the Navy. Moreover, if noble Lords have been to China or know anything about the Chinese they will understand that the Chinese regard flogging with much the same levity and indifference as Members of your Lordships' House used to regard flogging when they were undergoing a course of instruction at Eton. Therefore, it seems to me that when a bitter and envenomed opponent of Lord Milner casts his eye over his career as Pro-Consul in South Africa, and singles out the flogging of a Chinaman as the one act 1468 to which he can take exception throughout that career, he is really posing as an extreme admirer and eulogist of Lord Milner, and he can hardly pay a higher tribute to his administration.
Consequently, I say it is absurd to make so much of the Resolution which was moved in the House of Commons. It is absurd that because a Gentleman in the House of Commons proposed a Motion of that kind, this House should neglect all precedent and take this matter as seriously as it has done, and go out of its way to pass a Resolution commending the services of Lord Milner as a public servant. The Colonial Secretary said that Lord Milner perhaps would wish that this debate should not take place. In some respects no doubt he would, but I think that any man would be proud to receive such a tribute as Lord Milner has received from Viscount Goschen and Earl Roberts —a tribute which everybody will agree was thoroughly deserved. But this tribute having been paid to Lord Milner in the most emphatic way by his friends and admirers, I think the House would much better consult its dignity to leave the matter there.
If, however, you are not content to leave it there, we must ask what it is you wish to express your high appreciation of in the character and career of Lord Milner. The late Lord Chancellor said that Lord Milner's character and conduct were in question. I do not think that his character and conduct are in question at all in this Motion. The words are—That this House desires to place on record its high appreciation of the services rendered by Lord Milner in South Africa to the Crown and the Empire.That means the political services rendered by Lord Milner to the Crown and the Empire. It can have no other meaning. Services rendered to the Crown and the Empire are political services. It is perfectly obvious from all the speeches which have been delivered in support of Lord Milner that it is not his character and conduct that are in question. Every noble Lord opposite knows perfectly well that no noble Lord on this side wishes to question Lord Milner's character or conduct for one moment. It is his political services to the Crown and Empire that 1469 noble Lords opposite wish to endorse, uphold, and commend. [Several noble LORDS: Hear, hear.] Exactly; but how can you expect noble Lords on this side to join in voting for a Motion commending the political services of Lord Milner—services which he rendered in his capacity as a servant of the late Government, under the instructions of the late Colonial Secretary? It is a political Motion. Noble Lords opposite do not wish to rehabilitate the character of Lord Milner as a man; they wish to pass a vote of confidence in the late Government and in the administration of the late Government in South Africa. That is what is at the bottom of the matter, and it shows that there is a double motive in this Motion. Noble Lords wish to pass a vote of censure on the House of Commons on the one hand, and, on the other, a vote of confidence in the late- Government for its policy in South Africa. [A noble LORD: Not at all.] That is the noble Lord's opinion; I am afraid I cannot agree with him. Then, my Lord, Lord Goschen said that until this Motion was passed the loyalists of South Africa would be discouraged and angered; but, it seems to me that this Motion will not make much difference in the feeling of the loyalists of South Africa. Will this Motion make them less loyal? It will certainly stir up the embers of political controversy. It is perfectly well known that noble Lords on the other side, with very good reason from their point of view, uphold Lord Milner, agree with his policy, would like to see that policy continued, and when they are in a position to carry it out, they would probably wish to see Lord Milner in the same position, carrying out the same policy. That is well known by the loyalists of South Africa, they do not require to be told so by a Motion in this House; therefore, I say, with all due deference, that no good purpose can really be served by a Motion of this kind, and, if I may be allowed to say so, I think the House of Lords would have more considered its dignity if it had treated the Motion proposed in the House of Commons with the contempt that noble Lords opposite say it?deserved rather than have gone out of its way to create a new precedent by passing a vote of appreciation of Lord Milner's services in South Africa.
1470 If you pass this Motion in the case of Lord Milner, where are you going to stop? I would like to ask noble Lords opposite this question. Suppose noble Lords on this side were to move a vote of appreciation of the services of Lord Curzon in India, basing that Motion particularly on his political services, and saying that they wished to pass that vote of appreciation of the services of Lord Curzon in India because he resisted the attempt to exalt the military at the expense of the civil side of the administration of India. Many noble Lords opposite, while greatly admiring Lord Curzon's conduct and character, would not feel themselves at liberty to vote for such a Motion. In the same way, noble Lords on this side, while appreciating Lord Milner's character and conduct to the same extent as noble Lords opposite would appreciate the character and conduct of Lord Curzon, do not feel themselves at liberty to support the Motion of the noble Viscount but would rather vote for the previous question.
THE MARQUESS OF LONDON-DERBY
My Lords, I confess that after hearing the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down, I am utterly at a loss to understand what line he is going to take in the division shortly to be taken. He seems to have censured his friends and not supported his opponents. He apparently desires to maintain Lord Milner in the position which I venture to say he holds in the opinion of the world at large, and, at the same time, to censure him. When I saw on the Paper the Motion of my noble friend Viscount Halifax, I thought it would be an opportunity for Members of your Lordships' House, no matter how much they might differ on one or two subjects concerning the career of Lord Milner, to pass unanimously a vote of appreciation of the manner in which he discharged the responsible duties of High Commissioner in South Africa. When I saw the Amendment of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies, I could not conceive why such an Amendment was necessary. I deprecate on various grounds the course the noble Ear] has taken. It would have been more graceful to a great 1471 official to have voted him in your Lordships' House this Motion of confidence which I think he deserves. I deprecate it still more because I am anxious to interrogate the noble Earl on matters connected with the Colonial Office, and he is now precluded from answering any questions which may be put.
The attack—for I can call it nothing else—upon Lord Milner in the House of Commons by the representative of the noble Earl opposite must mean one of two things. Either the Under-Secretary spoke for himself only or he spoke for the noble Earl the Secretary of State. If he spoke for himself, then to my mind the Under-Secretary repudiated the words used by the noble Earl which have been quoted to-night —generous words as they have been called—to the effect that during a time of special anxiety Lord Milner showed a courage and devotion which this country will not forget. How were those words endorsed by the mouthpiece of the noble Earl opposite? To my mind, the words of the Under-Secretary conveyed to your Lordships' and to the country at large a totally different idea from that conveyed by the words of the noble Earl himself. It is a remarkable fact that in the course of the debate on the Amendment moved by the Under-Secretary not a single Cabinet Minister got up either to repudiate or to affirm the attack made on Lord Milner. Consequently I cannot help thinking that the noble Earl opposite to a certain extent has repudiated his own views as expressed in your Lordships' House. I believe I am correct in saying that that speech of the Under-Secretary was made under the instructions of the Prime Minister.
What was the statement made by the Under-Secretary of State? The Under-Secretary has had considerable experience of South Africa; he has written books and made speeches on the subject; and I find some difficulty in reconciling his attack upon Lord Milner, if he spoke the mind of the noble Earl and of the Cabinet, with his statement made in 1901 that—During the past eighteen months there had been calumny directed against Sir A. Milner. Every variety of falsehood, slander, and misrepresentation which the disturbed im- 1472 agination of rebels, traitors, and pro-Boers could invent had been directed against this able man. What had Sir A. Milner's work been? He said without limitation that on no-public servant for many years had the British Empire devolved a heavier or harder task than, on Sir A. Milner.How can the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies reconcile that statement with the impeachment—for it is nothing else—that he made on behalf of the Government of this able and efficient civil servant? Let us go back to the career of Lord Milner in South Africa. Your Lordships know full well that for the first two years of his career in South Africa Lord Milner devoted himself in silence to studying and diagnosing the condition of things in that country. He was not idle. If your Lordships will study the Blue-books you will find that he was constantly sending to the Colonial Office Reports on the condition of affairs in South Africa. It will also be remembered that after a period of hard work he came home for a short holiday, and during the period of his stay in this country there took place what is known as the Edgar incident. I need not recapitulate the details of the Edgar incident; it is sufficient to say that after that time the entire situation in South Africa was changed. Matters were, if I may use the expression, brought to a head. On his return to South Africa Lord Milner realised the change which had occurred in the political situation of the country, and in May he sent home the famous despatch in which he declared that it was urgently necessary that some change should take place in the arrangements of that country. Shortly after that there was held the Bloemfontein Conference of which Lord Milner sent home full details. It has been said that after that Lord Milner could have prevented war in South Africa. I agree—but how? It would have been possible for Lord Milner to have prevented war by surrendering every British right, by going back to the policy of 1881, which, in my opinion, was wholly responsible for the late war. If he had surrendered those rights, as no Englishman anxious to maintain the honour and prestige of his country would have done, we should have been in exactly the same position as in 1881. I say nothing in regard to 1473 the surrender of 1881; in all probability it is fully in the mind of your Lordships. Lord Milner would have been unworthy of the position he occupied if he had permitted the country to be placed in the ignominious position which it occupied in 1881. Undoubtedly, from that time Lord Milner had an exceedingly trying experience, such an experience as would have caused any man without ability, without nerve, and without tact, to lose his head. As Viscount Goschen has said, if a weak man had been in Lord Milner's position, the situation in South Africa at the present moment would not be what it is. That view is endorsed not only by myself as an admirer of Lord Milner, but by no less a person than the man who habitually attacks Lord Milner in the House of Commons, acting as the mouthpiece of the Colonial Secretary. What was the opinion of the Under-Secretary when he was—well, I will not say what he was at that time; I do not know what he is now. But what was the opinion of the present Under-Secretary when in South Africa, guaging the difficulties of the position, and realising that Lord Milner was the one man who never lost his head? This is recorded in Mr. Churchill's book, and relates to the year 1900—Only at Government House did I find a man without illusions—that is Lord Milner, the man he now denounces—the cautious and unwearied Pro-Consul—",that is Lord Milner—understanding the faults and virtues of both sides, measuring the balance of rights and wrongs, and determined—more determined than ever, for it is the only hope for the future of South Africa—to use his knowledge and his power to strengthen the Imperial ties.This, my Lords, is the man whom the noble Earl refuses to defend, and concerning whom, as far as I can gather, he endorses the remarks of his subordinate in the House of Commons. I am not one of those who defend the consistency of the Under-Secretary. I do not think that consistency can be found in a man who, after a very short experience of the House of Commons, changes from one side to the other. He may be right or he may be wrong, but he cannot be considered a consistent politician. What I 1474 want to ask is this. Do the Government or do they not endorse the statement of the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies? I do not accuse the Under-Secretary of inconsistency—it is so apparent; but there is one statement in his speech of March 21st which I should like to ask whether the Government endorse. Those are the words—… the ideals, the principles, the policies for which he has toiled utterly discredited by the people of Great Britain.What were those ideals, and what was that policy? The policy was the restoration of the British flag and British peace in South Africa; the ideal a British South Africa. Is Lord Milner to be discredited because those are his ideals and his principles? I demand an answer from whoever may speak on behalf of the Government. Is Lord Milner, on account of holding these great, and, to my mind,, glorious ideals and principles, to be told that he is discredited by the English people? I venture to say that he is not discredited. Noble Lords opposite may say that he is discredited by the result of the recent general election. I deny it entirely. The last general election was not fought on Lord Milner's ideals and principles. It is quite possible that a certain section of the community, who cried loudest for the war, now that the war is over regret having to pay the cost, but the election has not discredited Lord Milner's attitude in South Africa. The election of 1900 was undoubtedly fought on the question of the South African War. There are a certain small minority, including the noble learned Lord on the Woolsack, who have always deprecated that war, but I do not think that even the noble and learned Lord will say that the people of England who denounced the war were not comparatively few.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
With all respect, I venture to differ entirely. If the recent general election had been fought on the question of South Africa, pure and simple, I believe the same people would have come to the front as came to the front in 1900. The result of the recent election was due to misrepresentation regarding South 1475 Africa. I will not lower the tone of the debate by dealing with the cartoons and misrepresentations that were put forward; I will merely say that, but for those cartoons and misrepresentations, the truth in regard to which is slowly finding its way into the minds of the English people, noble Lords opposite would probably have been sitting on this side of the House and we on that. But I will not sink to that question; the misrepresentations will recoil on the heads of those who made them.
Let me deal with the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards Lord Milner. In moving his Amendment, the Under-Secretary declared himself to be acting under the instructions of the Prime Minister. A more extraordinary Amendment was never introduced to the House of Commons by a responsible member of the Government. It was, if I may use the expression, a subterfuge. It would have been far more straightforward for the Government to have supported Mr. Byles' Motion than to have attacked a great public servant anonymously. What were the objects of the Amendment? It appeared to attack the whole political policy of a great public servant on one single point—the question of flogging. That policy was declared to be an exceptional policy, but I venture to say it is the policy of the country at the present time. The question of flogging was made the peg on which to hang an attack upon his whole policy. If there is one man in this country who would have objected to any brutal or cruel course it is Lord Milner. His character was well known in South Africa; he was regarded as one of the most humane and kind hearted men who ever entered the country; in fact, I believe I am correct in saying that his humanity, his dislike of cruelty of any sort to the native races, did not secure unanimous approval from some of the people in that country. But Lord Milner never flinched from the humane course he had always set before him. I was reading only the other day a speech delivered by Lord Milner shortly before he left that country in which he said—With regard to the native question, or rather I should say the colour question, you know I am in the opinion of the vast majority of men in this room a heretic, and I am an impenitent heretic.1476 Is it likely that such a man would be guilty of cruelty? All I can say is that when it is known in South Africa, by people who have followed Lord Milner's career and know his humanity, that the House of Commons has passed a Resolution denouncing him for inhumanity, the opinion of the House of Commons will be considered as nothing. Therefore, I hope your Lordships on this occasion will ratify the opinion of Lord Milner's humanity which is held in South Africa, by agreeing to this Resolution, if not unanimously, at any rate by an overwhelming majority. Is the censure justified or merited? I say it is not. In the recent debate in the House of Commons, Mr. Chamberlain said—Lord Milner says, and no doubt everyone will believe his statement, that he has absolutely no recollection of this conversation, but he has no reason whatever to doubt Mr. Evans' integrity or his memory, and therefore he has taken it on himself to accept his statement as accurate.What is Lord Milner's position in this matter? No Member of your Lordships' House will deny the chivalry and loyalty of Lord Milner. He has occupied a groat place in public opinion. What have the groat leading officials to depend upon, but the support of their civil servants? I have myself the highest opinion of the Civil Service. I have been privileged to occupy the post of Viceroy of Ireland, and I have filled other positions in which a great number of people have looked to me for support, as they look to the head of every department for support, and they have never looked in vain. I have never spoken to Lord Milner since he returned to this country; I have had no communication with him direct or indirect. But is it entirely beyond the bounds of probability that Lord Milner has taken upon himself something for which he had no moral responsibility whatever? If that is the case, I say that to attack Lord Milner for one detail of his policy for which he was not morally responsible, and to condemn him as the House of Commons has done, is to act absolutely unwarrantably according to the notions of any Englishman.
What do our civil servants depend upon? They depend upon the assurance that the chief is loyal to them and they are loyal to their chief, and I cannot help thinking that if you pass this vote 1477 of censure on a great civil servant you will be striking a blow at a Civil Service which is without equal in any part of the world, and attacking them in a manner to which they cannot respond. Under these circumstances I gladly endorse the Motion of my noble friend Viscount Halifax, because I think it does simple justice to a great public servant; I endorse it also because it will show the people of South Africa that we realise what Lord Milner has done for them; and I further endorse it on behalf of the Civil Service to which this country owes so much and without whose loyalty, devotion, and energy we should not enjoy our present position of happiness and prosperity.
§ LORD COLERIDGE
My Lords, by bringing in this Motion the noble Viscount throws down the gauntlet to the Party to which he is opposed, and he asks us on these benches practically to approve of all that Lord Milner has said and done in South Africa. If the Motion were to the effect that this House recognised that Lord Milner had scorned delights and lived laborious days in the service of his country, or if it emphasised the opinion that Lord Milner throughout was actuated by patriotic motives, I do not suppose there is a single Member of this House on either side who would withhold assent from such a Resolution. Or if it went on to asseverate that Lord Milner was a humane man, as the noble Marquess suggests, who in the world would be found to assert the contrary? But the seconder of the Motion and the noble Earl who was lately at the head of the Admiralty have told us perfectly plainly what the object of this Motion is. It is no doubt partly to pass a vote of confidence in the integrity, the labour, the energy, and the patriotism of Lord Milner. But it goes beyond that. It asks this House to assert that it agrees with Lord Milner's policy, and if we are asked to agree with the policy of Lord Milner we are asked to agree with the policy of the Government of which Lord Milner was the representative. The noble Lord who seconded the Motion spoke at large about its being necessary for this House to express the settled opinion of the country upon Lord Milner. This is not the tribunal to express such an opinion. There is a tribunal capable 1478 of expressing such an opinion; it is the great representative assembly of this country. Nor can it be said at the present moment that that representative assembly is stale, or that it does not represent the present settled opinion of the country. There has recently been a general election; the elected Members are there sitting; they and they only can adequately express the settled opinion of the people of this country, and, without any disparagement of your Lordships' House, they can do so in a manner more authoritative than we. The House of Commons has not expressed its view upon the Motion of the noble Viscount. It has expressed its views upon another and a different Motion—a Motion which, no doubt, bears with it certain condemnation of the action of Lord Milner. But if the noble Lord wants the settled opinion of this country, let those who agree with him introduce a Motion in these terms into the Lower House of Parliament. Will anyone suggest that if such a Motion was propounded, it would have the remotest chance of being carried in that House? Therefore, in the absence of such an expression of opinion in that House, I think that the general sentiment expressed that the country is indignant at the action of the House of Commons fails in weight when the test to which that opinion could be applied is shirked by those who assert that such a state of things exist.
The passing of the Motion in this House will not in any way affect the settled opinion of the country. But the Motion is a provocative one, and it calls from those who desire to support the Government in not voting for it for some answer as to why they do not approve of the Motion in the terms on the Paper. We are said to have a political prejudice against Lord Milner. It did not exist some years ago. When Lord Milner first went out to South Africa, he went out with the hearty good wishes and the high hopes of every person of every Party in the State. I do not think that any Colonial Governor ever left the shores of this country with such a chance as Lord Milner had of establishing a permanent and an enduring fame. The position was critical. The Jameson Raid, which we now all admit to have been an act of human folly, was just over, and Lord Milner went out 1479 to a country which was inhabited by two white races, presenting therefore the difficulties that Canada originally presented, and also an extra difficulty which Canada never did present, namely, that those two white races were faced by an overwhelming native population. He found when he went out there a rooted suspicion on the part of the Dutch, undoubtedly inflamed by the Raid, that the great mineowners who were deeply inplicated in that business were only waiting for another and a more favourable opportunity of repeating it.
What was needed? What was needed was breadth of mind, sympathy of disposition, and a complete severance from Party or race. They ought to exist in any man who represents the Crown, which is above and beyond all Parties in the State. Above all things, time was needed to enable the passions which were then excited to calm down. And time had done wonders even in that short time. People are apt to forget that as soon as the Raid was over the two representative assemblies of the Transvaal and of the Orange Free State both passed Resolutions urging Her Majesty's Government to assume control of the country then under the control of the Chartered Company. That disposes of the fable that from the beginning there was a deeply rooted and widespread conspiracy on the part of the Dutch to get rid of British supremacy in South Africa. Noble Lords seem to believe in that fable still. If so, the answer is that those two representative chambers were only too anxious that the dominions of the Crown should be extended in South Africa, and not diminished. Moreover, one of the first despatches written by Lord Milner was to testify to the united fervour and loyalty that distinguished both Dutch and British in Cape Colony. He said that he drew no distinction between the races, and that these expressions of opinion were not mere expressions of opinion, but were fortified by the fact that the two peoples were joining together to do what no Colony had ever yet done—to present a battleship to the British Fleet and to give in their own land, in Simons Bay, facilities for hospitality to the British Fleet itself. Moreover, that was done by a Government not of the British Party, but by a Government dominated by the Bond, a member of 1480 which who looked to the Bond for favour and support was Prime Minister of Cape Colony.
That was the state of South Africa when Lord Milner first took up the reins of office. Within two short years the whole of that state of things disappeared. I may be wrong, and I know your Lordships will differ from me, but the reason I give for that is that Lord Milner ceased to be the representative of the Crown in so far as he held aloof from and was above all Parties in the State, and that he adopted the policy for which your Lordships now wish to commend him and of which you desire to express your admiration; he sided with one party called the British Party against the other party called the Dutch Party. I do not doubt and never have doubted that the Uitlanders in Johannesburg had grievances which they rightly sought to have redressed, but, as the Uitlanders were said actually to outnumber the white Dutch of the Transvaal, it is only fair to the Dutch to say that they had some ground for their suspicion that if the franchise was given in full measure to the Uitlanders they would outnumber the Dutch and would destroy the nationality of the Transvaal for which they were so anxious and which they had fought to preserve. But there were hopes that time would cure these evils. President Kruger was a very old man, and there was a large and progressive Dutch party against the Kruger policy in the Transvaal. Mr. Chamberlain at home had taken means by his speech to pacify the people and to meet all suggestion that there was any connivance at any interruption of the independence of the Transvaal.
In 1898 Lord Milner came back to this country. He had long conferences with the then Colonial Secretary. I cannot tell what passed at those conferences, but it is impossible to resist the conclusion that he had formed the opinion that the diplomatic representations which had been made to the Transvaal were to be turned into something stronger than mere representations, because when Lord Milner went back he seemed really to be in a position of a man who was seeking rather than avoiding a dispute with the Transvaal. His attitude towards the Dutch of the Cape became critical and unfriendly. From that day he adopted 1481 without reserve the policy and aims of the British Party in Gape Colony, which British Party, be it observed, was in a minority, and therefore was not the Government over which he was the representative of the Crown. You cannot read the Blue-books of that time without seeing that they are filled with quotations, both heated and rhetorical, in favour of this view; they even repeat all the gossip that came to his ears. When the Dutch, seeing that things were becoming more and more critical, approached him in a great representative gathering to express their loyalty to him, he dismissed them with something approaching a sneer; and when Sir William Butler expressed the 'Opinion that it was rest and not a surgical operation that South Africa wanted, Sir William Butler was recalled from the office which he held.
Then there came a conference, and I sincerely believe that the Government in this country and the Colonial Minister of this country hoped, trusted, and believed that that conference would end in an amicable result. A man who goes into a 'Conference which is to be a diplomatic conference, if he is a wise man, refrains from anything like exaggerated or unguarded language. But just on the eve of this Conference we had that historical and rhetorical Despatch sent by Lord Milner, and read by every Dutchman in Cape Colony and the Transvaal, in which he described the Uitlanders as "helots" and demanded from the Queen's Government—what? "A striking proof of their paramount power in South Africa." That was hardly a conciliatory preface to a conference which was destined to be futile unless it was entered upon in a conciliatory spirit. We search in vain in the records of the conference for the 'exhibition of such a concilitory spirit. Fresh demands were continually brought forth as each demand was acceded to, and we have it now as an historical and an admitted fact that in the end nine-tenths of the demands made were granted by the opponent Party. When you remember that by law we had no right under any convention to interfere in the internal affairs of the Transvaal—indeed,;to force internal reference upon the Transvaal had been described by Mr. Chamberlain as immoral as well as unwise—I think we ought in fairness to admit that President Kruger, in con- 1482 senting to confer, must be regarded as having given expression to a conciliatory spirit. The conference was futile. After that, of course, war ensued. One of the essential elements of statesmanship is surely foresight. The man who has not foresight is not fitted to play a great part in public affairs. What foresight did Lord Milner exhibit? Who told Mr. Chamberlain that the Boers would not fight? Who told him that a policy of "bluff" would succeed? Who told Mr. Balfour that it was idle to suppose that the Free State would throw in their lot with the Transvaal? If Lord Milner told these statesmen any of these things, all I can say is he lacked the foresight which is one of the essential qualities of of a great ruler.
Time went on. On August 31st, 1899, Lord Milner issued a Despatch which was calculated not to appease, but to inflame animosity. The Despatch is well known in which he says that "British South Africa was prepared for extreme measures," and that what he dreaded— what do you think it was? It was not war that he dreaded, but what he described as a "prolongation of the negotiations." After the war was over, Lord Milner described what I believe to be his policy, because he said that —The British people had gone straight upon the way in which they set out from the first, to make an end of the business once and for all, to make South Africa one country under one flag, with one system of law and government.I have no doubt that the majority of your Lordships will think that to have been an admirable pursuit. But that is not a ground for our supporting this Motion, because we on this side of the House, I hope, never will support a policy of a war of aggression. To justify such a policy, if that was the policy of Lord Milner from the first, would be to justify aggressive wars whenever entered upon on the final grounds that the end justified the means.
I am well aware, my Lords, that the war was begun by the Boers, and that the ultimatum was followed by an invasion of British territory—an action which is as great a monument of human folly as the Jameson Raid. I cannot help coming to the opinion that the Boers, who after all were sensible people, would never have indulged in that act of folly unless 1483 they had been irresistibly driven to the conclusion from their point of view that Lord Milner intended to attack them and had determined for themselves to strike the first blow.
With regard to the war, Lord Milner may be proporly acquitted. There came in the Military and the Executive. With regard to the conduct of the war and the incidents of the war no one seeks to lay any blame upon Lord Milner; he was merely the agent of the Government who supported him. But he was responsible for another act, a sinister act, and that was the attempt, after the war, to suppress the Constitution in Cape Colony. In that attempt he was again playing the part, not of an independent High Commissioner representing the Crown above and beyond all Parties in the State, but of the advocate of one Party only. He was thwarted, but how? Let noble Lords who are so desirous of promoting the spread of Imperial views note that the agency which thwarted the action of Lord Milner in attempting to suppress the Constitution in Cape Colony was not the British Government at home, but the Colonial Prime Ministers who were in this country at the time, who remonstrated with the Home Government upon the reputed act of Lord Milner, and it was their sound Imperial ideas that put an end to what I cannot help thinking were the unsound Imperial ideas of Lord Milner himself. It is not a pleasant thing to reflect what might have happened had Lord Milner had his way. We might then indeed have lost to the Empire not only the Transvaal but Capo Colony itself. What I ask, in all reason, would a wise, prudent, and far- seeing Governor do? Would not his first aim, under the new conditions, be to make all fellow-citizens of the Empire forget for ever that they were either Briton on the one side or Boer on the other? But Lord Milner was again, as he has been all through, a slave to his bureaucratic ideas. He has formed the idea that all the Dutch must be disloyal, all the British loyal, and that as the British were in a minority on the land the only way to redress the balance was to expropriate the Boer and plant the Britisher on the land. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes. I will quote Lord Milner's own words about it. He wanted practically to plant another Ulster in the new Colonies which had been added to the Empire. His ideal seemed 1484 to be more the ideal of Germany and the Poles, because on January 25th, 1902—I will read his own words—he said this—A selected British population will do much to consolidate South African sentiment in the general interests of the Empire.[Several NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear!] Yes, "the general interests of the Empire." That means the supremacy of Briton over Boer. That is not my idea of the interest of the Empire.
A NOBLE LORD
Will the noble Lord be good enough to say when and where Lord Milner said he was going to expropriate the Boers?
§ LORD COLERIDGE
I will give the noble Lord the reference. It was on January 25th, 1902, Paper Cd. 1163, page 88. Lord Milner said—Land settlement must be undertaken on a large scale, otherwise, however useful, it will be politically unimportant. I do not see how any large schemes can be carried out unless the Government is armed with the general power of expropriation. Without it we shall never be able to get land enough. We want two things — power of expropriation and money.Can it be suggested that I am incorrect in stating that Lord Milner's policy was to expropriate the Boers and to plant Britishers in their place?
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
I defy the noble Lord to cite a single instance in which a Boer has been expropriated by Lord Milner's action.
§ LORD COLERIDGE
I thought that the noble Lord who seconded the Resolution asked us to approve of his policy, and as this is part of his policy, I am disapproving of it.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
The noble Lord must not misquote me. I said that noble Lords opposite could vote for the Resolution with perfect consistency, because it did not necessarily imply that they approved all Lord Milner's policy and actions;it merely meant that they approved of his public services to the Crown.
§ LORD COLERIDGE
Then why not in that case distinguish it in the Motion instead of using ambiguous language which is open to the interpretation which almost every noble Lord opposite has given to it, that it is to redress the balance between the House of Lords and the House of Commons and to approve the policy of a great public servant?
From this time onwards we come to the question of Chinese labour. ["Oh, oh!"] I am not going to enter upon that question; we have had many debates, and I am not going to repeat what has taken place. I will only point out to noble Lords opposite that, so far as I can gather, on no occasion did the policy of Lord Milner differ in any respect from the policy of the Chamber of Mines, which, after all, is not the embodiment of absolute colonial wisdom. I am not going to deal with the question of the slight irregularity, as some noble Lords describe it, of the permission of illegal flogging in the compounds. I cannot conceive how any man who has read history, who cares for the liberty of the subject, or who has any regard for our Imperial rule, can look upon illegal flogging of persons in compounds as a light matter.
Finally, Lord Milner comes to this House and makes a speech full of the bitterest political diatribes—["No, no"]— against all those who differ from his policy in South Africa. He applied to his political opponents—and I suppose we are among them—all those old question-begging epithets which had their day in the general election of 1900, and which I should think sensible and charitable men had long disregarded and perhaps now regretted having ever used. A Resolution of this House if passed, and I doubt not it will be, will not alter the facts. Noble Lords are perfectly well aware that the country is against the policy of Lord Milner. [Cries of dissent.] Then why not put it to the test? They are well aware that the House of Commons is against the policy of Lord Milner, and certainly in many respects the Colonies are also against that policy. I suppose it is a consciousness of these facts which is the explanation of the overflowing bitterness which characterised the speech of Lord Milner. The noble Viscount who brought this Motion forward cannot expect us, with these Party attacks from 1486 Lord Milner himself ringing still in our ears, to support this Motion.
I quite understand that the position is critical. I quite understand that the Government, having now sent out an impartial Commission of Inquiry—[" Oh, oh!] Is it not an impartial Commission? [Cries of "No."] Noble Lords no doubt in the debate will give their reasons for that assertion, but I repeat that this is an impartial Commission. Whether partial or impartial does not affect my argument. The Government is sending out a Commission of Inquiry, and I can quite understand that under those circumstances to oppose this Motion by a direct negative might bring difficulties in the way of the work of that Commission, The noble Viscount thinks that everything will be remedied by inscribing this Motion on the journals of the House. The facts with regard to the policy of Lord Milner are known. We have all in this country made up our minds one way or the other about those facts. The recording of this Motion, whether it be wise or discreet, is another matter, but the recording of it will detract nothing from that opinion and will add nothing, to it.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I shall take care not to detain the House many minutes at this late hour of the night, but I think your Lordships will agree with me when I say that one or two of the speeches which we have heard from the other side of the House lately have in no small degree changed the issue upon which we shall vote to-night. I venture to say that, whatever they may do, whether or not they have changed the issue, those speeches will not get any increased support for the proposition moved from the front Government Bench. The two speeches that we have listened to—that of the noble Lord below the gangway and that of the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down —are in no sense appropriate to the Motion for the previous question. If they had been carried to their logical and honest conclusion they would have been appropriate to a Motion, to meet that moved by the noble Viscount, by a direct and unqualified negative.
The noble Lord below the gangway said, in perfectly plain terms, that they were going to oppose the Motion because 1487 they did not agree with Lord Milner's policy. He said that the Motion was intended to serve a double purpose, and the noble and learned Lord who has just spoken tried to prove that the reason why this House should reject the Motion submitted by the noble Viscount was that he and others who thought with him did not agree with Lord Milner's policy, and that this was, as he described it, a provocative Motion. Do not let us mistake the issue. It is of importance to Lord Milner that a majority of the House in which he sits should express their appreciation of his services. It is of importance to us who agree with that policy in its main outlines, to us who are responsible for it in its main outlines, that we should record our appreciation of his services. But it is not of so much importance that we should vote in favour of the Motion on those grounds as to prevent misconceptions arising elsewhere. Lord Milner's record is known. We have our own opinions, and, whatever noble Lords opposite may say, I believe the opinions held on this side of the House are those of the great majority of our fellow-countrymen.
Their minds are made up on this matter, whatever the late general election may be said to have turned upon. Some say it was the swing of the pendulum, others that it turned upon what is called Chinese slavery, or the fiscal question, or that the result was due to the uprising of labour representation, or to the general record of the late Government, and some even claim it as a victory for Home Rule. But, my Lords, I venture to say, as one who watched? what took place during the month of January, there is not a tittle of proof to show that in any respect whatever this country has changed its mind with regard to the South African policy of the late Government. I believe that His Majesty's Government know that, and I believe it is because they know it that they have chosen to meet this Motion with one for the previous question, and not with a direct negative, which, as I have said, is the only logical conclusion after the speeches we have heard from noble Lords? opposite. If any one doubts the proposal in this Motion then let him move a direct negative. That is the honest, fair, and straightforward course to take; but, if noble Lords do not believe that this Motion is wrong, then I say it is a mere 1488 and simple act of justice, after what has occurred elsewhere, to pass it by as large a majority as we can.
Has Lord Milner proved himself a good public servant? Then why should we not say so? The noble Lord who spoke last said that this Motion is a provocative Motion. I say that is absolutely untrue. This Motion would never have been heard of if it had not been for action taken in the other House, and the mere question of whether Lord Milner was right or wrong in a particular matter which was made the point of the Motion proposed elsewhere was not the real point at issue. That was a cloak for a vote in another place, which might be taken, and I venture to say was taken, as a vindictive Motion, in the hope of discrediting a great public servant on a comparatively small side issue which, in respect to his great career, ought to have been passed over almost in silence. For that reason I say it was a vindictive Motion. The point I want to make is this, that we are not to-night speaking or going to vote upon this question only as a thing personal to Lord Milner or as a matter of our own domestic policy. I think we ought to pass this Resolution by a large majority to prevent misconceptions elsewhere, to prevent misconceptions in South Africa, to prevent the very view gaining currency in South Africa which has been expressed by the noble Lord who spoke last, that this country has in any way changed its mind upon the South African policy of Lord Milner and the late Government.
I am sure those of your Lordships who were here on Tuesday were gratified to hear first hand evidence from Lord Lovat and the Duke of Westminster that there was not that race hatred between Briton and Boer when they were living side by side on the veldt, and I believe that almost all testimony shows that many of the leaders of the Boer race are accepting the present position and reconciling themselves to it. But, on the other hand, there are some who are not accepting the present position, and what I am afraid of is that some of the speeches which have been recently made in Parliament, if they are reproduced in South Africa, will tend to increase that feeling, and will hinder the process of fraternisation, and re-awaken the racial animosities which we should desire to see buried altogether. There is another 1489 fear. No matter how good the law may be, in matters of land and things of that kind a great deal depends upon the administration of the law, and if those who may, under the new Constitution, have to administer the law think that in any act of injustice they will find friends here, there will be more temptation to attempt to reverse the past settlement than if they could be got to appreciate, as I believe to be the case, that the feeling of this country is unanimous that South Africa must always remain British.
I wish also to say that I value this Motion because it will furnish strength to those who go abroad in high places to serve the country. Their position is difficult under any circumstances. Their responsibility is great. You hear in this country of the fierce light that beats upon a Throne, but the Throne here has responsible advisers—advisers who are in touch with the prevailing opinion of the people, and who take a great responsibility off the Throne. But the representatives of the Throne in these great dependencies are in a position, comparatively speaking, of isolation. They have in such Crown Colonies as some of those of South Africa no responsible advisers. They have to act upon their own responsibility, and in that they have a very difficult task. I venture to say that no man in the recollection of any of your Lordships ever had a more difficult task from firist to last than that which was laid on the shoulders of Lord Milner. He sustained that burden through a long period, a period of continuous work, when day after day he had to take decisions of the greatest importance. Even in the darkest and most difficult times his courage never failed him, and by the testimony of friend and foe alike he steered a straight course, which has gained for him the undying respect of all his fellow-countrymen.
Do not let us allow domestic issues and domestic differences to taint justice to a great public servant. Do not let us allow domestic difficulties to avail against doing what I believe to be a real act of justice to one who has served us well. I think it will be a very bad lesson to those who may have to go out in the future to great positions if, not only during their period of office, but after that period is over, points comparatively small are raked up against them, and votes of censure moved 1490 when there is no possibility of their defending themselves, and when those who would naturally defend them are out of power. If Lord Milner had been actually High Commissioner, if the Government that sent him there and was supporting him had been in power, then I would have nothing to say against a vote of censure on the part of either House of Parliament. But I venture to say that there is hardly a precedent to be found for the particular proposal in the other House, and that it is absurd to call this Motion a provocative Motion, when those who support Lord Milner were not the first to take action.
I venture to say that His Majesty's Government would have come before us tonight with a better grace if they had moved the previous question in the other House of Parliament. In that House there was a question of censure: here there is a question of praise. It might have been better if neither had been moved, and I venture to say that I would not have been found supporting this Motion against a Motion for the previous question if His Majesty's Government had given a clear lead and equal justice in both Houses of Parliament. If in the other House they had moved the previous question, they could have come before us with a fair case to ask us not to do the thing which they had asked the other House of Parliament not to do. A Motion of censure on Lord Milner stands on the public records of the other House, and therefore I do not think the Government come before us with a good grace when they seek to meet a Motion of this kind with a Motion for the previous question, especially when we know that that is not what is in the minds of many of their supporters, whatever may be in their own minds. Many of them would have desired, and have made speeches pointing to, a Motion of censure and not to the previous question. After the speech to which we have just listened, we know what is in the minds of those who are anxious to discredit Lord Milner, and I wish to record my vote, and I hope the majority of your Lordships will record your votes, in emphatic praise of one who has served his country well and faithfully.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
My Lords, as hour by hour I have listened to this 1491 debate I have become more and more convinced of the wisdom of the Amendment which my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies has brought forward, but which does not appear to have been even understood by many noble Lords opposite. My noble friend's object was to tell your Lordships that he was engaged in difficult duties, in endeavouring to prepare, after the most careful consideration and the freest communication with the Government in South Africa, a Constitution or Constitutions for the two new Colonies by which he hopes to bring increased peace and unity to the people of that country. My noble friend told your Lordships, but you do not seem to have taken note of it, on his authority as Secretary of State for the Colonies, that he felt that a debate of this kind could not be conducted in this House without raising questions which would be calculated inevitably once more to stir up the angry and embittered feelings generated by the late war, and thereby to render the task which he had in hand, arduous as it is, more difficult still.
We have had from the commencement of this debate down to the present time signal proof in speech after speech of the justice of the judgment of my noble friend. I cannot conceive anything more likely than that the various speeches which have been made to-night should stir up again the embers of those angry feelings which the war generated, and render the pacification of South Africa not easier but more difficult. The noble Viscount who opened this debate went through the whole history of the South African War—indeed he went beyond it. He started at a very early period and went down through that history point after point, and in doing so he inevitably raised many questions calculated to promote angry and hostile feelings among the people who were concerned in the South African War. We all know there is nothing which stirs up hostile feeling between two races more than war. Surely, then, it is the object of all wise men, when war is over, to endeavour to allay the bitter and angry memories which that war created. My Lords, if that is true of all wars, it is particularly true of a war of conquest. There you have the most potent and overpowering reasons for trying, as soon as possible, to put aside those passions, and endeavour to 1492 deal in a fair, equal, and considerate spirit with those who have become your subjects. That, my Lords, is the object of my noble friend, that is the duty in which my noble friend is now engaged, and that is the duty which he told you, with all the authority of his position, that you would by this debate render infinitely more difficult. If that had been your object—I do not think for one moment that it was—you could not have done more in the space of a few hours than you have done to-night to promote it.
This debate has been in some respects a singular one. The question before us has from time to time changed its aspect. My noble friend Lord Halifax, whose generous and honest nature prompted him to speak on behalf of one for whom he has unbounded admiration, confined himself, I admit, to what I must consider the dangerous proceeding of alluding to past history both before the war and during the war. But the noble Lord opposite, Lord Cawdor, adopted a different tone. He laid down the broad principle that it is the duty of the Houses of Parliament to pass votes of approval on behalf of all our public servants who had done good service abroad.
I beg the noble Marquess's pardon. I never stated that both Houses of Parliament should be perpetually passing votes in favour of officials. I said nothing of the kind.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
If I have fallen into an error I have done so in common with the most rev. Primate, because it was against that suggestion that the most rev. Primate protested in the commencement of his speech. If the noble Lord did not intend to say that there is an end of it. If you pass Resolutions of this kind in regard to those who have done good service abroad you should do it when that service ends. We have heard language used to-night as if Lord Milner had received no recognition of his services. That cannot be said, for Lord Milner sits in this House in recognition of his services. His services were recognised at the time in a way supposed to be appropriate and sufficient by the Government that he had served. I say, my Lords, that I think it is a bad precedent 1493 to propose in this House, or in the other House of Parliament, votes of this description as a recognition for services rendered some time ago and which were rewarded as the Government of the Crown considered proper at the time they ended.
I pass from the noble Earl opposite and his view of the subject and come to what was said by my noble friend, Lord Goschen. What did Lord Goschen say? Lord Goschen, who, as we all know, is a personal friend of the noble Viscount, told us that Lord Milner did not want any vote of this House or any special recognition of his services, and that the real object of this Motion was to send a message of support to one particular Party in South Africa. My Lords, it is exactly against that that we desire to protest. It is just because we know that that will be the sense in which that particular Party will take these proceedings, and because we fear that it will tend to raise again differences in South Africa, that we have determined not to discuss this question, but to take the course which seems best to mark our conviction of the mischief and danger of the policy which you are pursuing and to leave upon you the full responsibility for the results of that policy.
But, my Lords, there is another aspect of these proceedings which ought to be considered by noble Lords opposite, and that is the position you are about to create between the two Houses of Parliament. The noble and learned Earl opposite, in a sort of by sentence as he sat down, seemed to recognise, as he most fully does, I am sure, the irregularity of a great deal of what has gone on to-night. I do not say on which side; on both sides, if you like; but you have been the greater sinners because you have been the assailants. I have been fifty years in this House, and I have never seen such an attack, in language and in form, upon the other House as I have had the misfortune to witness to-night. I do not know what may follow on these proceedings. I hope that nothing will follow from them, but I do say that it is highly undesirable that you should do anything to promote a needless quarrel between the House of Lords and the House of Commons, that you should do anything which is calculated to create what is 1494 vulgarly called a "wrangle" between the two Houses.
I believe that the language which has been used to-night is fraught with grave danger. I hope that the wisdom of the other House will avert that danger; but I do most earnestly press upon your Lordships that you should not allow these proceedings to be a precedent, and that you will lay aside the use of language which is calculated to affect the wholesome practice of mutual respect which is generally observed between this and the other House. The noble and learned Earl, I think, described this proceeding under another name. He called it a testimonial to Lord Milner. Well, my Lords, that might be a very proper thing for your Lordships to promote if you could do it without danger to the public service; but I believe, as Lord Goschen has told us, that nothing is further from Lord Milner's desire than that you should render the task of my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies more difficult than it naturally is. I heard the speech which the noble Viscount Lord Milner made the other night. Noble Lords opposite have not taken a lesson from him whom they are here to-night, they tell us, to defend. They have not taken his advice; they have, on the contrary, pursued a course, and are pursuing a course at the present time, which will have effects, in all human probability, that they will all regret.
It seems that nothing can be done in reference to the affairs in South Africa without its being met by some disparaging incident in this House at the present time. My noble friend behind me has sent out four very distinguished gentlemen to examine into certain questions of fact upon which he requires some information. The Government would gladly have settled the pending questions at once, had they been able to do so. They know the inconvenience of, and the objections to, delay, but they had not before them that sort of detailed information which would have enabled them to form a judgment on the various matters connected with the duties they are called upon to perform. The words "men of honour and impartiality" were challenged just now. I know my right hon. friend Sir West Ridgeway. He served under me in India. I have known him long, and I know him to be an honest and impartial 1495 man. Noble Lords on both sides of the House know my noble friend Lord Sandhurst, aye, and they know the sacrifice with which at the present moment he has undertaken this duty. Those who know anything of the Board of Trade know that there is no more distinguished public servant than Sir Francis Hopwood, and the other member of the Committee is Colonel Johnston, a gentleman I know nothing of, who belongs to the service in South Africa. If passion in this House runs so high that the character of these men can be challenged, then I only say it is further proof of the evil which must inevitably result from discussions of this kind. I will not enter into the merits of this question, because it would be inconsistent with the view that I take if I were to do so. I regret sincerely and deeply the tone, and the language, and the results of this debate, and I am quite certain that we meet it in the right and in a becoming manner in moving the previous question.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I shall follow the example of the noble Marquess and compress within the smallest limits the observations I desire to make. Enough, indeed, has been said already on this side, to establish the case which we desire to submit. We have been discussing two distinct questions. In the first place, is Lord Milner or is he not entitled to that recognition which will be afforded to him by the Resolution placed on the Paper by Lord Halifax; and in the second place, supposing that he is entitled to such recognition, is it or is it not proper and convenient that our admiration of him should be expressed in this particular form?
With regard to the first of those questions, I venture to think that the testimony that has been offered in Lord Milner's favour during the course of this discussion may fairly be described as overwhelming. It has probably fallen to the lot of few public servants to have such encomiums passed upon them as those which have been passed this evening by the noble mover, by Lord Goschen, by Lord Roberts, by the most rev. Prelate, and others; and I rejoice to think that we may claim amongst those who share our high opinion of Lord Milner the noble Earl who fills the high office of Secretary of State 1496 for the Colonies, for in the course of his speech this evening he adhered, and if anything emphasised, the generous words which he spoke in regard to Lord Milner the other day, words which he described to us this evening as being not so much a generous as a just appreciation of his services.
Almost the solitary note of discord was struck by the speech of the noble and learned Lord on the back benches opposite. He passed in review Lord Milner's career, and I gather from him that in his opinion Lord Milner, instead of being the high-minded and faithful public servant we have always supposed him to be, is an unscrupulous and dangerous partisan who approached his task with the set purpose, not of holding the balance between the different sections of the community entrusted to his charge, but of doing deliberate injustice to the Dutch portion of the South African community. That is very far from being our opinion of Lord Milner, and I must say that when I heard the noble and learned Lord's account of Lord Milner's policy of land settlement, I asked myself whether it was the same policy of land settlement which was described to your Lordships in such temperate and interesting terms by Lord Milner himself in this House the other evening, in a speech in which he made it abundantly clear to us that the object of his land policy was not to get rid of the Boer population, but to establish side by side with the Boer population a British element which might in the future be a link between Boer and Briton in South Africa.
It seems to me, however, that the strongest argument in favour of the Resolution of my noble friend is one which has been supplied by the action of the Government. What are the Government going to do? They are going at once, skipping the intermediate stages through which so many British colonies have had to pass, to confer upon the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies full responsible government. My Lords, if those two colonies are already fitted to receive the boon of responsible government, to whom is that satisfactory condition of things due? If it were not for the manner in which Lord Milner had discharged the great duties of his position, do you believe, my Lords, that there could be any question 1497 of conferring responsible government upon these two colonies?
Lord Milner found the country at the end of the war wrecked, desolated, without administrative machinery, its finances in disorder. He has left it with a fully developed administration, with proper courts of justice, with a system of railways fully developed, with roads, bridges, and all the equipment necessary to ensure its prosperity, and it is because Lord Milner has been able to do all this, and to do it successfully, that you are now able to confer upon the two colonies responsible government instead of requiring them to pass through an intermediate stage. No services, it seems to me, could be more brilliant than these.
And what is there that you desire to set on the other side of the account? We are told that, if we vote for this Resolution, we vote confidence in the South African policy of the late Government. We do nothing of the kind. The policy carried out by Lord Milner was, no doubt, the policy enjoined upon him by the Government of the day, but the manner in which Lord Milner interpreted that policy, the manner in which he dealt with the many great problems which he had to solve—these were matters for which he, and he alone, deserves the credit which we desire he should receive at the hands of this House.
Does it not then come to this, that there is really one thing, and one only, that you can allege as a reason why this Resolution ought not to be carried? We come back to the incident of the illegal flogging. That is the single incident in a career of eight years onerous and honourable work to which you are able to take exception. It is an incident which has been explained by Lodr Milner himself, not only frankly, but in the most chivalrous manner; for remember that even on the admission of those who have judged him most harshly there is a grave doubt as to the extent of Lord Milner's own responsibility for that irregularity. And surely when your Lordships pass judgment on that particular episode you must remember what you have been told more than once of Lord Milner's notorious kindness and consideration towards native races, toward coloured men, no matter of what race.
How unfortunate it is that all these questions could not be thoroughly sifted 1498 and examined by a Commission of Inquiry such as that we have again and again pressed for. Is it not clear that such an inquiry would have placed all these facts in their true relation and true proportion one to the other? I say, at any rate, of this episode of irregular flogging that there never was a question less deserving either of direct censure or of that more insidious but, to my mind, even more objectionable censure by innuendo of which we have seen a specimen in the Resolution carried in the other House.
One word as to what is called the opportuneness of this Resolution. We have been told again and again, and by no one more emphatically than by the noble Marquess who has just sat down that by carrying this Resolution we are likely to create a dangerous exasperation of feeling in South Africa. Does the noble Marquess suppose that there is not already a very considerable exasperation of feeling in South Africa? My Lords, there is. You have only to read the South African telegrams coming in day by day and published in the newspapers to feel that exasperation has been created, not by this Resolution, but by the manner in which this question has been dealt with in another place. It has been created by the-manner in which a private Member was, I will not say encouraged, but at any rate allowed, to put on the Paper a Motion directly censuring Lord Milner. For remember that this question of irregular flogging had been fully dealt with, and dealt with in a manner which ought to have satisfied even those who most disapproved of what had taken place. The objectionable order had been cancelled, and the Secretary for the Colonies had formally placed on record his disapproval of what had occurred. What, then, was the object of the Resolution of censure, and what action could be more unsatisfactory than the manner in which that Resolution of censure was dealt with by his Majesty's Government? The noble Lord who spoke below the gangway, Lord Grimthorpe, told us that we were, in effect, censuring the House of Commons for what they have done, and the noble Marquess warned us that we were committing what seemed to him to be a grave irregularity when we opposed our opinion to the opinion of the other House. I do not yield to the noble Marquess in deprecating, 1499 any action which might have the effect of needlessly placing the two Houses of Parliament in conflict. The relations of the two Houses are of a very delicate character, and nothing could be more unfortunate than any action which might have the effect of creating embarrassment between the two Houses. But, in the first place, I ask your Lordships to observe that this Resolution may be fairly interpreted rather as a complement to the Resolution of the House of Commons than as one which traverses the judgment of of the other House. The matter has been put on one side by the other House and has been left, as it were, in a position of suspense. That is a condition in which we do not desire that it should remain.
This is not a case where our action is at all likely to bring about that which would be the most unfortunate of all things—a deadlock between the two Houses. The noble Marquess spoke of a wrangle. Why should there be a wrangle 2 The other House has expressed a strong opinion; we claim a corresponding right to express a strong opinion which we feel, and to have that opinion recorded on the journals of the House. Are we really to be told in a matter of high Imperial importance to the public of this country, touching very nearly indeed the sympathies and feelings of our colonial possessions, touching besides the honour and reputation of a most brilliant and distinguished Member of this House, that we are to be condemned to silence merely because the other House of Parliament happens to have treated the question, and to have treated it in a perfunctory and inconclusive manner? That really seems to me to be a doctrine which this House could not possibly accept. We claim to have the right of pronouncing for historical purposes a judgment which will remain on record alongside the judgment which has been pronounced elsewhere.
If I may sum up, I would suggest to your Lordships that that it is absolutely impossible, having the feelings we entertain, that we can allow this matter to remain where it has been left by the House of Commons. It is not, as we have been
told, that we desire to pay a mere compliment to Lord Milner. Lord Milner has established for himself a position in which he stands in no need of such compliments. He stands no more in need of such compliments than he does of the merciful treatment which, forsooth, he was told by the representative of the Colonial Office in the House of Commons he might expect at the hands of His Majesty's Government. No, my Lords, it is not for the sake of Lord Milner's feelings that we are going to pass this Resolution. We are thinking of the manner in which this question is regarded in the first place by the people of our own country and in the next place by our great Colonies, and more especially by the loyal population of South Africa. In their eyes Lord Milner has for years past stood conspicuous as the champion of that British supremacy which they desire to be maintained and which I trust your Lordships will never allow to be tampered with. I think that to the lips of many of Lord Milner's admirers, in this country and the Colonies, there must lately have risen a saying, old indeed, but one of the most pathetic known to our language—
A prophet is not without honour save in his own country and in his own house.
§ My Lords, this is Lord Milner's House, and we are determined that in this House he shall not be without the honour which is due to him. And when we offer him as we do, that honour, in full measure and with open hands, we believe we are correctly interpreting the feeling of the great majority of the people of this country.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD LOREBURN)
My Lords, the original Motion was, "That this House desires to place on record its high appreciation of the services rendered by Lord Milner in South Africa to the Crown and the Empire," since which it has been moved "That the previous question be put." The question, therefore, which I have to put is, whether the said original question be now put.
§ On Question, their Lordships divided: Contents, 170; Not Contents, 35.1503
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Devonshire, D.||Newcastle, D.|
|Fife, D.||Northumberland, D.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Grafton, D.||Sutherland, D.|
|Wellington, D.||Halifax, V.||Herries, L.|
|Westminster, D.||Hill, V.||Heytesbury, L.|
|Hood, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Hutchinson, V (E. Donoughmore)||Kelvin, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Knutsford, V.||Kenyon, L.|
|Bath, M.||Llandaff, V.||Killanin, L.|
|Bute, M.||Peel, V.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)|
|Camden, M.||Ridley, V.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Lansdowne, M.||Bangor, L. Bp.||Lawrence, L.|
|Winchester, M.||London, L. Bp.||Lovat, L.|
|Oxford, L. Bp.||Ludlow, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||St. Albans, L. Bp.||Macnaghten, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Manners, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Abinger, L.||Manners of Haddon, L.|
|Carnwath, E.||Addington, L.||(M. Granby.)|
|Cathcart, E.||Allerton, L.||Methuen, L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Alverstone, L.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Coventry, E.||Ampthill, L.||Monson, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Annaly, L.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Darnley, E.||Atkinson, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Dartrey, K||Avebury, L.||Mostyn, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Balfour, L.||Mount Stephen, L.|
|Devon, E.||Barnard, L.||Muncaster, L.|
|Ducie, E.||Barrymore, L.||Muskerry, L.|
|Ellesmere, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Napier, L.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Belper, L.||Newlands, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Borthwick, L.||North, L.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Burton, L.||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Carew, L.||Playfair, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)||Ponsonby, L. (E Bessborough.)|
|Howe, E.||Chesham, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Ilchester, E.||Cheylesmore, L.||Rathmore, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Colchester, L.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Kilmorey, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Lathom, E.||Crawshaw, L.||Revelstoke, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Robertson, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||De Mauley, L.||Rossmore, L.|
|Lichfield, E.||de Ros, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Deramore, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Desborough, L.||Seaton, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Digby, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Northesk, E.||Douglas, L. (E. Home.)||Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)|
|Onslow, E.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Southampton, L.|
|Radnor, E.||Ellenborough, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L.|
|Saint Germans, E.||Erskine, L.||(E. Galloway.)|
|Shrewsbury, E.||Estcourt, L.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Faber, L.||Stuart of Castle Stuart, L.|
|Verulam, E.||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)||(E. Moray.)|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Forester, L.||Tennyson, L.|
|Wicklow, E.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.)|
|Harlech, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Bangor, V.||Harris, L.||Wenlock, L.|
|Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Hastings, L.||Worlingham, L. (E Gosford.)|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)||Wynford, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Heneage, L.|
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Russell, E.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)|
|Crewe, E. (L. President.)|
|Ripon, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Althorpe, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Emly, L.|
|Northampton, M.||Fitzmaurice. L.|
|Hereford, L. Bp.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)|
|Beauchamp, E.||Grimthorpe, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Burghclere, L.||Lyveden, L.|
|Chichester, E.||Coleridge, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Davey, L.||Northbourne, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Denman, L. [Teller.]||O'Hagan, L.|
|Reay, L.||Stanmore, L.||Wandsworth, L.|
|Ribblesdale, L. [Teller.]||Tenterden, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Stanley of Alderley L.||Tweedmouth, L.||Wimborne, L.|
§ Original Motion put accordingly and agreed to.