My Lords, in accordance with the Notice in my name on the Paper, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government their intentions—(1) as to their policy in regard to land settlement in the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies; (2) as to the steps they are to take to safeguard the interests of British farmers and others who have recently taken up† See (4) Debates, cxliv., 288 et seq ; cxlvi., 28–30; cxlix., 527–529.1383 land under the Land Settlement Ordinances in these Colonies; and, further, to ask that the Report of the Ridgeway Commission, so far as it relates to land settlement, should be laid on the Table of the House; and to move for Papers.
I regret to say that I have to take up the time of your Lordships' House to ask a simple, but, I think, important question. Are His Majesty's Government to take steps to safeguard the British settlers in the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies, or are they to abandon them to the tender mercies of a probable Boer majority in the Transvaal, and a certain and overwhelming majority in the Orange River Colony? Before considering the case of the settlers in detail I would like to point out to your Lordships two outstanding facts—first, that of the settlers 75 per cent. fought for the Empire in the War and are men of small capital who have invested their all in South African lands; secondly, that they will be totally without representation in the Government of either Colony, there being no prospect of one single settler representative being returned for either place. I trust that His Majesty's Government will see fit to give a direct Answer to the Question that I have put on the Paper.
Six months ago, when this subject was brought before the House, we were told that the matter was still sub judice. The Ridgeway Commission has now gone, seen, and reported, and the time would appear to have arrived when a definite answer should be vouchsafed in view of the very acute anxiety which exists amongst all the two thousand settlers in South Africa about their future existence. I do not believe for one moment that His Majesty's Government are going to desert the settler or the policy of land settlement; and, if that is so, why not say so? His Majesty's Government cannot get away from their responsibility and the responsibility of their predecessors for the placing of settlers on the land, settlers many of whom were placed by the actual British military authorities under a system of practically military land tenure, and who regard the land as actually given and guaranteed to them in return for services rendered. That this view is held by many soldiers 1384 and colonial settlers in the Colony can be proved by the Leeuw and Maroka District Petition, from which I should like to read the following:—Fourthly, we consider we have a strong claim, amounting almost to a demand, on your future consideration. The farms were allotted to your settlers immediately after the cessation of hostilities. A clause in the Land Settlement Ordinance grants certain preferences to those persons who have done most public service. Is it not only reasonable for us to feel we gained our land partly as a reward for our services in time of need to the Empire? If we have any grounds for this belief, we should also be able with full confidence to rely on the support of this same Empire in case our future existence on these farms might be threatened through no fault of our own.On the subject of responsibility I would further urge that this cannot be understood to end with the dumping down of soldier settlers in a colony. In all common fairness it must be accepted that before being left to their own devices such settlers so planted must be given a chance of success. That these settlers in South Africa have had a chance of success I must emphatically deny.
Now, my Lords, it is a curious fact that there appears to be a fatality attaching in initial stages to all planting of a foreign population on a new soil. Even in recent years the facts are still well known to all of us of the difficulties encountered by the Welsh settlers in Patagonia, the Algoa Bay Settlers in 1820, the Posen settlers of the last few decades, and the Scottish settlers in Canada, both recently and after the American War. There appears to be some fate, apart from hostility or the reverse of the indigene, which brings down on new settlers a series of climatic and other hardships beyond the experience of any former dwellers on the soil. In South Africa, not only have the settlers had three consecutive years of drought more severe than the oldest settler can remember, but the natural sequences of a war, increase of locusts (from lack of precautions taken) and cattle fever spread through the country from cut fences, have been more virulent than ever. In addition to these hardships the settlers have had to build their houses, kraals, fences, etc., de novo. Materials after the war have been at famine prices, and the failure 1385 of many successive crops has entirely depleted their resources. It is not exaggeration to say that, unless the friendly landlord in the shape of an Imperial landlord is guaranteed to the settlers for a period, many of the best will be ruined, and through no fault of their own.
It must be clearly understood that the men who are now holding on to the farms are a very different class of individual from those misfits and "sundowners" who were dumped on the land in 1902. Those who are left represent the very pick of our Colony's pioneers, men who have fought against every obstacle and who believe in the undoubtedly great agricultural possibilities of the country, given a fair chance to make their way in it. The question I am asking to-day is, Are you going to give these colonists a fair chance? They will get it if they are given an Imperial Land Board on the lines which His Majesty's Government have twice stated they are favourable to. Under Boer control, as certain as anything can be predicted, these men will fail.
Now, my Lords, on the attitude of the Boors, Boer leaders and Boer farmers, I must take up our time for a very few minutes. As a general fact it may be stated that when the Boer farmer has come into touch with the British settler the relations are most cordial. The English settler, by his methods of agriculture, his keenness for marketing possibilities, and his pushing methods, supplies a want to the Boer; whilst, on the other hand, the Boer, by his knowledge of stock, local advantages and difficulties, and cleverness in pastoral pursuits, is an equal help to the settler. This is not at all the case with the Boer leader. He is prejudiced against the settlement of any Britisher on the land on general and political grounds, and, unfortunately for the peace of the land, it is only the Boer leader in politics who counts. About the attitude of the Boer leaders I do not think it is necessary to quote at any length. Steyn says—Boycott the English and guide your political action by the cries of the women and children done to death in the concentration camps.Louis Botha, in a more suave manner, enunciates the same views. The utter- 1386 ances of General Beyers, a fine out-spoken gentleman in the North of the Transvaal, are too well known to be worth quoting here. The Bloemfontein Friend, the official organ of the Hartzog-Fischer leaders of Orangia, shows in no uncertain way the attitude of the leaders of Orangia to the settlement policy.
Now, the importance of the question is this. If the settlers are backed and practically made secure by a Land Board the vapourings of the hostile portion of Boer leaders is of no importance. If the settler is left to stand alone in his present weak financial position, the Boer leaders will see that he can be squeezed from the land, and on the first non-payment of rent, etc., squeezed he will be. That this process is easy one has only to look at British settlers in the Orange River Colony. I am sorry to have taken up so much time in developing these points, but I wish very clearly to bring out that there is a real danger to the settler, as shown by petitions and letters forwarded to the Ridgeway Commission and to private individuals. The solution is a very easy one, and, as I have said already, has been twice accepted by His Majesty's Government as desirable. I think the proposal that has been most often put forward to remove anxiety with regard to the settlers has been the institution of a Land Board, and His Majesty's Government are not disposed to deny that a Land Board may supply the best machinery for administering these Colonies, but they are obliged to attach conditions. It seems to them it would be entirely contrary to the general principle of responsible government that an arrangement of that kind should be carried out except by general consent.
I do not think it will be necessary to read to your Lordships some remarks I have here on Lord Elgin's statement on the subject, but I think that perhaps an extract from a letter by Lord Selborne may not be without interest to your Lordships. Lord Selborne published this letter, we understand, as a feeler for a move that His Majesty's Government proposed to make—In respect of land settlement, His Majesty's Government feel that they have a special obligation to those who have become settlers during 1387 the period when they have been directly responsible for the government of the two Colonies, and it is a matter in which public opinion is the United Kingdom takes a deep interest. They would like, therefore, to see land settlement placed under a board appointed by themselves and altogether divorced from politics, and to that board they would like to see handed over the responsibility for all existing settlers, for the administration of all assets derived from the £2,500,000 of the guaranteed loan which has been devoted to land settlement, and for the expenditure of the further sum of £1,500,000 which His Majesty's Government suggest should be devoted to this purpose from the new loan.If that is carried out everyone will be satisfied. You will then have a board with a sufficient sum to minister to the wants of the colonists on the ground.
What are the arguments against having an Imperial Land Board? There is the argument of interference. Is that a fair argument to put forward? We have interfered in the question of the labour on the Rand. Surely we ought to be able to interfere in the cause of our own people who are settled in the country. Then, on the question of precedence, I do not think that is very much of an argument. If you can show any instance of abandoning 2,000 settlers to their fate then we talk can about the question of precedent. In conclusion, might I venture to submit that if patriotism is still considered one of the civic virtues, we owe something to these settlers in a far off land? They are the people who fought for us for years in the war, who have struggled for years against a series of fortuitous chances outside their control. Is the question of the doubtful privilege of the British status, as pointed out by Lord Elgin in May, 1906, to be their only heritage? My Lords, in South Africa, since the date which Englishmen of all kinds look upon with shame, the status of a British subject is not a very definable asset. I cannot believe that His Majesty's Government are going to desert men for such a flimsy gift. Services have been rendered, help has been given; if help is taken away, is betrayal too strong a term? With the proposed Constitution imminent I have considered it my duty to bring this matter forward. I think the opportunity has arrived when a statement might be made that these settlers are not going to be abandoned, and the answer of the Government will show whether it is 1388 true, as is often said in South Africa, that it depends upon which Party is in power at home whether it is worth while to be a Britisher or not.
§ Moved, "That an humble address be presented to His Majesty for papers relating to land settlement in the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies." — (Lord Lovat.)
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
My Lords, may I be permitted quite briefly to emphasise one or two points which have been brought forward by my noble friend? My noble friend reminded the House that these settlers were some of the picked men who had been placed on the soil in the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies, but he forgot to remind your Lordships of the exact number. They number over 1,300, and they have been settled at a cost of £2,500,000" out of the £3,000,000 which has been allocated for that special purpose. That money was borrowed from the loan guaranteed by this country to the Transvaal on the promise made by leading citizens of the Colony that £30,000,000 would be paid to this country in the way of indemnity for the war. None of that money has yet been paid. Furthermore, I would like to remind your Lordships that the money which this country guaranteed to the Transvaal was lent at the rate of 3 per cent. instead of 4 per cent., and consequently the Transvaal saves in interest an amount equal to £350,000 a year. The interest on the £2,500,000 which has been expended in land settlement amounts to only £80,000 a year. Consequently if we deduct this £80,000 from the amount saved in interest—namely, £350,00 a year—we see that the Transvaal has gained a clear £270,000 a year by the co-operation and financial support which that Colony has received from the Imperial Government. I only mention this to show that the British taxpayer has an undoubted right on financial grounds to ascertain from His Majesty's Government whether these settlers are in future to be under the management of a board in sympathy with their aims and objects.
His Majesty's Government themselves stated during the earlier portion of the session that it would be wise to place these 1389 settlers under the administration of a Land Board supervised and controlled by the High Commissioner. The Undersecretary of State for the Colonies in the other House commented in eloquent terms on the fact that these settlers had been placed on the soil. He said they formed a new and valuable element of the population introduced into the country which tended to mitigate the asperity of race distinction. The Colonial Secretary himself, in introducing the Transvaal Constitution last July, admitted that land settle-meat had proved favourable in the Orange River Colony. The leading men in South Africa—Dr. Jameson, Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams, and the High Commissioner himself, Lord Selborne—have in various speeches in that country intimated that in their opinion the wisest course would be to create a Land Board on the lines suggested by my noble friend. In addition, there is a consideration which certainly will appeal very much to noble Lords on this side of the House. The noble Viscount who sits on the Cross Benches (Viscount Milner) is, I believe, strongly of opinion that a Land Board should be created to administer and control the affairs of these settlers. We have, therefore, a general consensus of opinion among all those who are qualified to judge that the wisest course for His Majesty's Government to pursue would be to create a Land Board and place these settlers under its administration. Roughly, therefore, my argument is this, that financially we have a right to hear from His Majesty's Government that these settlers will be under a board in sympathy with their aims and objects. Since His Majesty's Government have themselves admitted that a Land Board would be the best machinery for ensuring the desired result, we sincerely trust that they intend abiding by that suggestion and will not recede from the position they took up in the summer months.
We should regret it if the noble Earl the Colonial Secretary were to try and prevent this House from comprehending what is really at the back of his mind in regard to this question. I have a feeling that he may say that during this month he is going to lay on the Table of your Lord- 1390 ships' House the terms of the Letters Patent, and that it will be time enough then for your Lordships to know what are the views of His Majesty's Government in this matter. But the whole point has been explained by my noble friend. Then it will be too late. We shall have no opportunity then of expressing our opinions in any strong or measured terms. The noble Earl would tell us that everything had been effected and the decision of His Majesty's Government already arrived at. With regard to precedent the noble Earl may claim that it is not altogether in harmony with the principles of self - government to ask that a certain portion of His Majesty's subjects should be placed under the direct control of the Imperial Legislature, and not under the control of the local Legislature. Your Lordships will remember that about a year ago in this House a debate arose on the treatment and management of the aborigines in Western Australia. When Western Australia was granted self-government it was specially decided by the Colonial Secretary of the day that the management and control of the aborigines should not be placed under the local administration but should be retained under the Imperial Parliament. I do not wish to draw an analogy between the aborigines of Western Australia and the settlers now in the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies, but the point is the same. His Majesty's Government have always assured us that in this final settlement which they desired to effect they would approach the solution of it by giving equal opportunities to Boer and Briton alike. If you hand over these settlers to the control of the Colonial Legislature, then there is a certain risk that this land settlement, which, on the admission of the Government themselves, has borne good fruit, is likely to end in premature and melancholy breakdown. I sincerely hope that my noble friend will have no hesitation in dividing the House.
§ THE DUKE OK MARLBOROUGH
I hope he will divide the House should the 1391 reply of the noble Earl the Colonial Secretary prove unsatisfactory, so that we may definitely record our opinion that the Government's treatment of these settlers is not in harmony with the opinions they have themselves expressed.
*THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of ELGIN)
My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships at any length, nor do I think that what has been said makes it necessary for me to do so. But I would like to remind your Lordships shortly of the history of this question. The noble Lord brought forward the subject in March. I gather from the noble Lord that he did not consider then, and does not. consider now, the reply I then gave as very satisfactory, though the noble Viscount on the Cross Bench (Lord Milner) described it as sympathetic.
After that we did not let the matter go to sleep. That was evidenced by the statement I made at the end of July in announcing the principles upon which we desired to frame the Constitution of the Transvaal. On that occasion I said it was the opinion of His Majesty's Government that a Land Board might afford the best machinery for dealing with this subject, but, I added, only on certain conditions. The noble Viscount no doubt challenged the particular qualification that this must depend on consents. But I do not think that otherwise he regarded my statement with any want of appreciation.
The noble Lord opposite referred to a letter which has appeared in the public prints written by Lord Selborne on this subject, and from the nature of the. letter itself it will be obvious that it was written with the approval of His Majesty's Government. There again, surely, we did the best we could to endeavour to arrive at a conclusion as to what was the best thing for us to do in the circumstances of the case. In fact, all through we have been collecting, not only from the Report of the Commission which was sent out, but otherwise, information to enable us to determine the course which we think practicable, and which will meet the undoubted difficulties of the situation. But that is a point which the Government must determine, and it is only when they 1392 have determined, and are in a position to bring it formally before the House and the country, that I can give categorically the answer which the noble Lord asks me to make. This cannot be treated as a matter standing entirely by itself; it is on the face of it a part of the general scheme of the arrangements which have to be introduced into the new Colonies. In confirmation of that opinion I need only refer to two of the subjects which the noble Lord opposite mentioned. He said that he brought forward this question because, in the first place, as he was informed, the settlers would have no representative in the new legislative bodies, unless, indeed, he said, there was a provision for minority representation, which he believed there was not to be. Surely that shows that this question cannot be separated from the other political considerations which are involved in the whole case of the Constitution.
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl. But have you not settled your principle of representation in the Transvaal?
§ *THE EARL OF ELGIN
I have nothing to add at the present moment to the statement I made in July; but I hope the day is not far distant when I shall be able to show the House and the country what it amounts to in concrete form. All I have to say at present is that that announcement will be made very shortly, and that the Government cannot separate this question from the rest of the scheme.
§ *THE EARL OF DURHAM
My Lords, I listened with interest to the speeches of the noble Lords opposite. I also very naturally listened with sympathy to the noble Earl's reply, because I believe he is animated by feelings as to Imperial and Colonial policy which are not very different from my own, and I think we inherited them from the same source. But I cannot understand why the noble Earl, or why His Majesty's Government, should show reluctance to make a plain statement of their intentions about these land settlers. Surely it is very necessary that on the 1393 eve of the granting of a new Constitution to these Colonies we should have a straightforward and consistent statement as to the Government's intentions towards these settlers.
My noble friend Lord Lovat has not asked the noble Earl to anticipate or disclose all the features of the new Constitution, but he has asked him to state plainly the intentions of His Majesty's Government towards these settlers. I can conceive nothing more calculated to remove misapprehension, to discourage unworthy ambitions, and to prepare South Africa for the impending Constitution than a straightforward statement that His Majesty's Government mean to protect and assist these settlers in the two Colonies, with due regard to economic considerations. There is nothing in such a statement which would be antagonistic to the principles of self-government. There is nothing novel in the Government enunciating its determination to promote the prosperity of a Colony; and, above all, there would be nothing in such a statement which could in any way cause legitimate umbrage to any one in South Africa who means loyally to fulfill his obligations to the Sovereign Power.
With those, whether British or Dutch, whose secret object it may be to undermine our authority and to wish to make use of this new self-government as a Party weapon, not as a universal boon, His Majesty's Government should feel little sympathy. With regard to these settlers, I am sure that the majority of Englishmen would rather see His Majesty's Government guilty of too lavish a generosity than of niggardly abandonment. They may not please all sections of the Liberal Party at home, but I think the Government would gain more than they would lose by a straightforward declaration which would remove the impression which undoubtedly exists in our Colonies that a Liberal Government is a danger to Imperial unity. His Majesty's Government have a splendid opportunity now of dispelling that impression, or, I will say, that illusion, by making it clear that a change of Government at home will make no change in our policy or sentiment towards our loyal fellow subjects throughout the world. 1394 The noble Earl has referred to the difficulties of the situation, but I do not think he has told us that there is no precedent. His first plea could be very easily answered by saying that to a strong Government difficulties should occur only to be overcome. As to precedent, I think the noble Earl should be very pleased that he is unhampered by precedent. How could there be a precedent in a situation which is unique in its circumstances? If His Majesty's Government establish a wise precedent they may afford useful guidance for the future in situations of a like character; but to refuse to make such a statement as that asked for, within a few days, it may be, of the issue of the terms of the new Constitution, is to leave us too much in the dark, and to treat us without sufficient consideration. The noble Lord opposite has not asked Lord Elgin to make any definite promise as to the specific allocation of any fixed sum of money; he has not asked him to announce a precise formula for the constitution of the board; but he does ask—and I associate myself with the request—that His Majesty's Government will undertake to safeguard the interests of the British settlers in South Africa, and that they will do so by the appointment of a board under Imperial control to promote, encourage, and financially assist the agricultural development of these Colonies by British settlers.
§ *VISCOUNT MILNER
My Lords, it was with extreme regret that I listened to the remarks of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I do not think that he appreciates, or that the Government at all appreciate, the strength of the feeling which exists on this subject among all those who are interested in British South Africa, or the deep feeling which exists, and the still deeper feeling which, I believe, will exist, throughout the country when the danger to which these settlers are at present exposed becomes a realised fact. On the other hand, I am greatly encouraged by the speech which has been delivered by the noble Earl who has just sat down, who, I think, on this question voices a large amount of opinion on the part of the supporters of the 1395 Government and of the population of the country generally.
I really deeply deplore the total inadequacy of the statement the Secretary for the Colonies has seen fit to make to-night. He referred to former expressions of sympathy of his with these settlers, which he said I had acknowledged. I fully acknowledge them. I have never had any doubt as to the sympathy of the noble Earl, but what we want is to see his sympathy converted into acts, and the last moment is approaching when that can be done. I realise as much as any one the extreme inconvenience to which your Lordships are put by this question having to be brought forward on the present occasion. I apologise for intruding at this time, but what I wish your Lordships to realise is that we are making this intrusion because it is a matter of practical and vital urgency. The provision of special protection for the settlers for which we are appealing must be made while the matter stands as it does at present, or it cannot be made at all. Let the Letters Patent issue without any reference to land settlement and the settlers will pass automatically under the control of the responsible Government which is to be set up. You may say that these Letters Patent are for the Transvaal, and that in the Transvaal, after all, British settlers will have advocates to stand up for them. It is true, I fully admit, that the risks in the Transvaal are less than in the Orange River Colony. But even in the Transvaal there are risks, owing to the fact that there is no provision for the representation of minorities. These settlers will have no direct representation in the Transvaal Parliament at all. But a point which is of far greater importance is this, that the position of the settlers, if it is precarious in the Transvaal, is more than precarious, it is a position of almost certain ruin, unless something is done for them, in the Orange River Colony. If these Letters Patent issue without any provision for their protection in the Transvaal, then I say it is a moral certainty that, when it comes to the Orange River Colony, the fact that nothing has been done for settlers in the Transvaal will be quoted as a precedent for leav- 1396 ing them in the lurch in the sister Colony. And so we are being drawn step by step down the slope which leads to the abyss of another disgraceful desertion of those who have served us in South Africa. This is my excuse for having intruded on your Lordships' time.
I do not think the historical retrospect in which the noble Earl has indulged makes his case any stronger. That retrospect, on the other hand, will show that we have exercised the extremest patience and the greatest possible desire not unduly to press or hurry the Government in this matter. And if I press them at all to-day it is simply because I feel that, having been the agent of the British Government in putting these people on to the land, and having induced them to put themselves in the position in which they are, I should be the basest of deserters if I did not do all that lies in my power to save them, while there is yet time.
Let me follow, as briefly as possible, the retrospect of the noble Earl. He said that on March 27th he expressed his sympathy with these settlers. I quite agree. He did make a very sympathetic speech, which filled me, at any rate, with considerable hope. But what was his reason then for not going more into detail about this matter—because it is to be observed that, although the noble Earl has several times expressed his sympathy, he has always given the vital question the go-by? On that occasion he said it would be premature to discuss the matter before we had the Report of the Commission which was going out to South Africa to study the question of the Constitution. The Commissioners have been home, how many months? Three or four. I should like to know, it is one of the things we want to know, what did the Commissioners tell the noble Earl and His Majesty's Government about the settlers? It would be a great satisfaction to us to near that the Commissioners reported that they thought our anxiety was all moonshine and that the settlers in the Orange River Colony would be perfectly safe if they were handed over to the tender mercies of a Boer majority. Is the noble Earl prepared to tell us that the Report of the Commission has allayed all fears on this 1397 subject? I think we are entitled to know what the Report of the Commission is.
Then the noble Earl went on to refer to the next occasion on which this matter was brought up, in July. At that date he foreshadowed an attempt, which, as a matter of fact, was subsequently made by His Majesty's Government, to do something for the protection of these settlers. He said that his Majesty's Government were in favour generally of the principle of a Land Board, but that they expressed their approval subject to certain reservations, and one of these was that there must be general consent. It seemed to me, and I said so at the time, a most preposterous thing to admit that these people needed the protection of a special Land Board because they were not safe in the hands of the majority of the inhabitants of the Orange River Colony or of the Government responsible to that majority, and yet to appeal to that very majority to say whether they were to be protected or not.
You ask the people against whom they are to be protected, "Will you approve of our making special provision for their protection? "The thing is a perfect farce. And the truly farcical nature of it came out in the proceedings initiated by Lord Selborne, as the noble Earl said, on the instructions of His Majesty's Government, with regard to this matter. I should like to refer once more to the terms of Lord Selborne's letter, which was issued with the approval of the Government. It contains a remarkable admission—His Majesty's Government,it says,feel that they have a special obligation to those who have become settlers during the period when they have been directly responsible for the Government of the two Colonies, and it is a matter in which public opinion in the United Kingdom takes a deep interest. They would like, therefore, to see land settlement placed under a Board appointed by themselves and altogether divorced from politics, and to that Board they would like to see handed over the responsibility for all existing settlers.That was the proposal which Lord Selborne was authorised to make to various representative people in these Colonies. But then this suggestion 1398 was coupled with a proposal to raise an additional £4,000,000, partly for the relief of the settlers, but partly for further compensation to the Boers and partly for some other objects, and in that form it seems to have met with no particular favour anywhere. I never expected that it would. I cannot conceive how the Government could have supposed, that, with elections just impending, with these Colonies about to be endowed with the supreme blessing of party government—that is to say, with the population marshalled into two brigades, each looking out with hawk-like keenness for some reproach to throw in the face of the other—I say I cannot conceive how anyone could have supposed that under these circumstances any party in the Transvaal or the Orange River Colony would make themselves responsible for an additional burden of £4,000,000 being placed on the shoulders of the Colonies in order to get His Majesty's Government out of a difficulty. It was, in my judgment, quite unreasonable to expect that any result would follow from that proposal. I do not comment on the absurdity of going cap in hand to the Boers and asking them whether they would like to pay another million and a half for British land settlement. Of course they would not like it. But then it was anticipated that the sop which was to be offered to them of another million and a quarter for compensation to themselves would induce them to swallow the pill. Really it is difficult not to smile at the simplicity of those who were seized with that idea. The Boers expect that they are going shortly to be in power. They know they will be in power in the Orange River Colony. Whether they will be in power in the Transvaal Colony or not, they are aware that any Government there will be more or less at their mercy. They look forward, as a matter of fact, to the time when they will be able to provide themselves with this million and a quarter, or any other sum which they may feel desirous of devoting to compensation to themselves, without the accompaniment of any disagreeable concession to the British settlers. The whole plan of saving these settlers by means of this 1399 appeal to the various parties in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony was doomed to failure from the very first.
I wish briefly to sum up the position as it strikes me. Is it, or is it not, a right thing to continue to offer opportunities for British colonists whether coming from this country or from the other colonies, who, remember, are interested in this matter, too—is it, or is it not a right thing to keep the door open for them to settle in the new colonies which have come under the British flag by the exertions of this country and of those colonies also? If it is right to keep that door open, ought not His Majesty's Government to keep it open without asking anyone whether they are to be allowed to do so or not? But there is a stronger point even than that. Granted that the policy of land settlement was a mistake, that the policy ought to be abandoned, as I hope it will not be abandoned. Even so you cannot abandon the obligations you have already incurred under it, and surely it is strange for a British Government to go to any body of men anywhere and ask their consent to its fulfilling its own obligations of honour.
I have felt bound to speak strongly on this subject because I feel it is a vital and urgent matter. Let me say that I still have hope, a strong hope, and especially after the words we have heard from the Ministerial Benches, that His Majesty's Government may see fit to convert the sympathy which I have no doubt they, or some of them, feel, into action, and not only to do that, but to do it promptly, and let us know where we stand.
I plead, in the first instance, for a continuance of the policy of land settlement as a policy. Remember, it was not lightly adopted. It was adopted on the recommendation of a Royal Commission sent out expressly to study this question at the time of the war, who reported as follows—Dealing with the question as a whole, we desire to express our firm conviction that a well-considered scheme of settlement in South Africa by men of British origin is of the most vital importance to the future prosperity of British South Africa. We find among those who wish to to see British rule in South Africa maintained 1400 and its influence for good extended but one opinion upon this subject. There even seems reason to fear lest the vast expenditure of blood and treasure which has marked the war should be absolutely wasted, unless some strenuous effort be made to establish in the country, at the close of the war, a thoroughly British population large enough to make a recurrence of division and disorder impossible.It was that policy which was initiated, not by me as one noble Lord, I think, said—I was only the. agent—but on the Report of the Royal Commission by the British Government, with, I believe, the full concurrence of the nation, for, whatever differences of opinion there may be on other questions, I have not yet heard that a policy of land settlement is disapproved of except by a few extremists.
Here then is this policy, adopted on the recommendation of a Royal Commission, instituted for the maintenance of our future power in South Africa, a policy the progress of which has been steadily satisfactory, and which has been continued to a stage at which we have gained experience and have learned, by such experience, how it may be carried on with greater advantage than it could be in the first necessary stage of experiment. Here, I say, is this policy in absolute jeopardy, and its future depends entirely on its being taken out of the hands of the new Government of the two colonies, and placed under independent management. The whole of our past efforts in that direction appear to my mind to be imperilled. But there is a higher obligation even than the maintenance of policy, and that is the obligation of honour. You may abandon that policy—though I should deeply regret it, and I know the nation would ultimately regret it—but you cannot abandon honour. After all the melancholy instances in South African history of vacillation on the part of this country and the desertion of those who have staked their lives and fortunes on the continuance of a particular course, you cannot, surely, add another and one of the most disgraceful pages to the dark annals of our chopping and changing in South African policy.
It is said that, if you were to place the land settlement fund, the lands which have been bought with it, and the tenants on those lands, under the control of a 1401 special board appointed by the Imperial Government, it would be an interference with responsible government. I think that is an absolute misapprehension. We do not propose to interfere with the freedom of the Legislatures of the new colonies or to put any restriction upon the action of their executive governments. I should be the last to suggest such a thing. I say you cannot both grant responsible government and not grant it. You cannot say to these colonies, "Now you are free to manage your own affairs, but in this or that particular you must manage them in accordance with our wishes." But what is there inconsistent with responsible government in retaining certain lands in the new colonies under a British board responsible to the British Government? There would he no interference with the law of the colonies. These lands would be administered under the ordinary law. There would be no interference with the executive power. The executive power could do, as regards these settlers, exactly whatever it could do with regard to any other occupiers of land. But it seems to me that an immense protection would nevertheless be afforded to these settlers, and it is the only protection they ask for— the protection of a sympathetic landlord. That is their point. It is not that they want any privilege. They are at present the tenants of a body which is doing all it can to help them and to give reasonable consideration to their difficulties, and they want to continue the tenants of a sympathetic landlord.
Does anybody say it is an interference with responsible government for the British Government to own land in a British Colony '? The Cape Colony has been under responsible government for thirty-four years, yet the British Admiralty is the owner of enormously valuable land in the Cape Colony, and the British War Office is the owner of valuable land in all the colonies of South Africa. Has it ever occurred to anybody to say that the ownership of land in a British Colony by the British Government, or by a board dependent on the British Government, is an interference with 1402 responsible government It is a misunderstanding of our proposal to suppose that we desire any interference with responsible government at all.
I hope the House will pardon me if I refer to one more point, because I am certain that it will be brought up. It may be said, "That is all very well. But this particular land is land which has been bought with money which the colonies have borrowed, and on which the colonies are paying interest; and that makes all the difference." I fully admit that this is the case, but I say that it does not in the least alter the fact that the Imperial Government would be perfectly justified in keeping that money and land under its own control. After all, these £3,000,000 are the only money out of all the millions that we have spent upon South Africa in which the people of this country, and the people of the British Colonies who have helped us, have any direct interest whatever.
We gave a free grant of £3,000,000 under the Treaty of Vereeniging. Directly afterwards there was a further grant of £2,000,000 to the so-called "protected" burghers, and there was another grant of £2,000,000 for compensation to British and neutral subjects who had suffered during he an That was a clear £7,000,000 out of the Imperial Exchequer. In addition to that, the whole of the £35,000,000 loan, out of which this £3,000,000 would, according to our proposal, be taken, has been guaranteed by the British Government. If it had not been for that guarantee, the two colonies could not have raised a penny of it. Whatever money they did raise would have cost them at least 4 per cent. The mere fact of our giving that guarantee has saved the colonies £350,000 a year in interest on that loan. Therefore, apart from the three grants, apart from our claim for many millions of war contribution from the Transvaal and our contingent claim on the Orange River Colony, if there had been no financial transaction at all except this guranteed loan of £35,000,000, we should still have afforded the colonies ample compensation for taking £3,000,000 out of that loan for Imperial purposes> which, moreover, are not purposes in which the colonies have no interest at 1403 all. If we took £3,000,000 to expend it in Great Britain, it would be a different matter; but we propose to take this £3,000,000, not to spend out of the colonies, but to spend in the colonies, and all we ask is that it should be kept under Imperial control. Indeed we are almost bound so to keep it owing to the fact that these £3,000,000 were allocated for land settlement in the new colonies in the Act of this Parliament confirming the guarantee of the loan, and it was one of the great inducements offered to this Parliament to give that guarantee at all. It would be a breach of that understanding, if we allowed any part of this money to be diverted from the purposes for which jt was ear-marked in the Guaranteed Loan Act, and how can we ensure its not being diverted, if it passes under the control of the two new colonial Governments, one of which at any rate is bound to be hostile to the policy of settlement? For these reasons I hold that, although there are no doubt difficulties standing in the way of any arrangement which would give the settlers protection by placing them under the control of an Imperial board, those difficulties are by no means insuperable. In the interests of the great policy of land settlement, or, even if you reject that entirely, then at least in the interests of British honour, I beg to make this last fervent appeal to His Majesty's Government to save us from a discreditable solution of this question.
§ *LORD COURTNEY
My Lords, I had not understood that this subject would interrupt the continuance of the debate in Committee on the Education Bill, and I have not refreshed my memory with any re-perusal of letters and documents relative to the question, but I might perhaps be misjudged if I followed my own desire and remained silent in this discussion. Therefore I hope your Lordships will excuse me if for a few minutes I trespass upon your attention.
No one can be surprised that the noble Viscount has spoken with much feeling in this matter and has earnestly impressed on your Lordships what he desires. But I think it is well that we should distinguish between the two parts of the noble Viscount's appeal. There is one question relating to the few hundreds who are now 1404 in the Colonies, and there is another and very distinct question with reference to the maintenance of the policy of the continued introduction of new settlers into the new colonies. Much has been said as to what we should do with regard to the 1,300 settlers, and much might be allowed to the claims advanced on their part. But there is the strongest testimony that there is no wisdom, and no good policy, in maintaining the land policy which the noble Viscount was the agent in introducing, if he was not its inspirer.
I think the noble Viscount will find that in the judgment of the majority of this country—a majority which increases from day to day—his policy was an absolutely erroneous one, because it was based on the necessary division between the Boers and the British. And the policy which he is now advancing and earnestly recommending to His Majesty's Government is based on the same supposition that there is this racial hostility between the two races, and that it must be the part of this country to continue the introduction of a stream of settlers in order to counteract the preponderating influence of the Boers.
The noble Lord who initiated this discussion frankly said that no complaint was made as to the attitude of the mass of the Boers towards these settlers, and that there was perfect friendship between them.
§ *LORD COURTNEY
But the noble Lord said there was a distinction between the Boer leaders and the mass of the Boers, and we would find that the policy of the predominant partner in the new legislature would be expressed in the language of the leaders and not in the conduct of the majority of the Boers themselves. It would be a strange thing that you should find the mass of the people well contented and those who were elected by the mass of the people to represent them distinctly hostile. There is something that requires explanation in that apparent contradiction. It is a paradox on the face of it. The noble Lord did not quote what he considered to be the evidence in favour of the hostility of the 1405 Boer leaders. He referred to a sentence of ex-President Steyn, which involved no kind of hostility towards the settlers or the English people. He said—The people of the Orange River Colony could not forget, and must not forget, the sufferings which their mothers and, sisters had undergone in the camps in which they were placed.Is it conceivable that any man who has sympathies with other men, irrespective of difference of race, can quarrel with the retention of a memory of that kind and fasten upon it hostility towards the other race with which they are linked? If that is all that can be quoted from President Steyn's language it seems to me that it is insufficient for the conclusion which the noble Lord founded upon it; and I challenge him to quote anything which President Steyn has uttered since the establishment of peace which is inconsistent with the desire to promote the utmost goodwill between the British and the Boers in South Africa. Louis Botha was also mentioned by the noble Lord, but he did not quote anything from what Louis Botha said, and I think it would be difficult to make any quotations from General Botha reflecting on his friendliness towards the British. If Louis Botha has any fault it is that of having too much amiability.
Would you like me to read the words of Louis Botha? I have them here. At a meeting on 7th April, 1906, he said—We have already in many ways pointed out that we are against the land settlement policy of Lord Milner in this country.
§ *LORD COURTNEY
Where is there a word of hostility towards the British in that statement? I have in a few words indicated what I consider to be the error of the settlement policy of the noble Viscount, in that it maintains and continues a source of irritation, and the language of General Botha is a natural expression of that feeling. Botha, in effect, said, "You are not treating us fairly if you propose to continue to spend the money of this country in bringing in people to counteract the condition of things that may arise naturally." The other general referred to by the noble Lord who raised this question I 1406 give up at once. He is one of those individuals with swollen heads who occur in all communities, and he is a terror, I understand, to his friends. He is perfectly insignificant, and what he says is not paid any attention to by the mass of the Boers in the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies.
I do beg your Lordships to conceive what natural effect the maintenance of the policy for which the noble Viscount pleaded might produce in the two colonies. You have in the two colonies an enormous preponderance of Boers; and a section of your Lordships are proposing deliberately a policy which, instead of breeding goodwill, instead of leading the Boers and the British to forget their differences, actually brings one element against the other. The feeling in South Africa is, "Let us forget these contending elements and differences altogether." The desire is to forget the war and all that lay behind it. Boers and British say that they ought to live together and try to develop the community in peace together; but you cannot achieve that end if it is insisted that this policy of the noble Viscount, based on the conception that there is an enemy to guard against instead of friends to conciliate, is given effect to. By it your Lordships may produce what the noble Viscount produced, something which we may look back upon with mixed feelings, with feelings more terrible, perhaps, than in the case of that other retrospect to which the noble Viscount referred. The more that any Government adopts that as their policy in South Africa the more they are likely, almost certain, to produce another war; for the policy itself is founded on the principle that dissention must exist and must be maintained.
It is a totally different question about these 1,300 settlers. I am not much concerned about them. I do not mean that I am indifferent to their welfare. I am not much concerned about these things, because I regard the question as une chose négliqeable. You cannot solve the South African question by a little infusion of settlers. The lessons of history have already shown that the task is not likely to be attended with success; and already your Lordships 1407 have been told that the body of settlers has dwindled from 2,000 to 1,300 through bad years.
I think the noble Lord is mistaken when he says that the 2,000 have dwindled to 1,300. The 1,300 actually hold land directly under the Ordinance, but there are many more who have settled down in the neighbourhood. There are probably altogether over 2,000.
§ *LORD COURTNEY
I am not much concerned with a few numbers up or down. I take it from the memorial of these 1,300 settlers that they admit that a certain number of their fellow settlers could not go on, and it is expressly acknowledged that the number of settlers has diminished. It is pleaded that they have had very bad years. My Lords, they will always have bad years. South Africa is not a good country for agriculture as far as my knowledge of it serves, and the reports of experts and skilled examiners show that it is net a good country in this aspect at all, and for the British settler it is a most unsatisfactory country. The Boer, on the other hand, by long generations, even centuries, of experience is now accustomed to the natural conditions and can live in a way in which the British settler cannot live, and in which, we are glad to think, he will not live. The British settler, therefore, disappears in the natural economic struggle before the Boer settler; and you may pour in your money to keep up this small band of settlers but the thing is perfectly negligeable.
I would be inclined to tell the Boers, supposing that I were consulted, "I hope that you will not concern yourselves very much to oppose any protection which the Home Government, on the recommendations of expert Commissions, have thought it desirable to interpose on behalf of those settlers that have been sent out." I am satisfied that they will gradually disappear, and that these men and women will probably sink into the population around them just as the settlers at different times in the history of the country have become more Boer than the Boers themselves. That has been the past history of the effect of colonisation in the Cape, where the children of the earlier settlers have 1408 been absorbed in the Dutch population and have become, perhaps, more Dutch than the Dutch themselves. The experiment is not a new one, and like many other experiments in many of our Colonies it is, I believe, foredoomed to failure. Its history has already shown how it has failed. You may, out of tenderness and consideration, help those who are there; you may even create a separate board to look after and protect their interest; but that board must be subject to the law of the Colony, leading to an agglomeration into one institution of the rights which the individuals will have themselves, and which they can exercise in order to protect themselves. I do not think they will get very much by it, but I do not reckon it to be of any great account one way or another. I leave it to His Majesty's Government, who are considering the problem, to pronounce upon it later. But with respect to the policy of the noble Viscount, reinforced by his speech, I am confident that, though I may be expressing the opinion of a small minority in this House—and I am not much concerned whether that is so or not—I am representing the growing opinion of the majority of my countrymen who, after all, govern this kingdom, in condemning it as being absolutely fatal to the establishment of good feeling among the community of South Africa.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I imagine that your Lordships do not desire that this refreshing interlude in the discussion of the. Education Bill should be too much prolonged, and I rise, therefore, to say a few words. I think many of us must be surprised that, after the eloquent speech of the noble Viscount, no noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite rose to respond to his challenge. We greatly regret that this discussion should have proceeded so far as it has done, and that those half dozen words which we desired so much to hear spoken should have been left unsaid. My noble friends did not seek to press the Government for a premature revelation of the Letters Patent. What they desire is to elicit from the Government in the simplest possible terms an assurance that this little Imperial outpost will not be left to its fate.
1409 The reticence of His Majesty's Ministers has created profound uneasiness, and that, too, not only in this House. The Colonial Secretary has assured us, not for the first time, of his sympathy with these settlers. We do not for a moment question the sincerity of his feeling, but we should like to have something more substantial than sympathy. The noble Earl is not hostile to the cause represented by the settlers. I am not sure that I can say quite the same thing of the noble Lord who has just addressed us, for he has condemned the whole policy of land settlement as an erroneous policy. That policy was adopted deliberately, and on the recommendation of a Royal Commission. I believe it was adopted with the approval of the great majority of the people of this country, and it was adopted under financial arrangements which were of the most extraordinarily advantageous kind to the two Colonies.
I am one of those who had always hoped that in these great Colonial questions we should observe a continuity of policy which would survive in spite of changes of Government. I greatly regret that in this instance we are apparently—and that is the only inference we can draw—going to be confronted with a volte face on the part of our successors in office. The noble Lord who spoke last seems to think that this attempt to establish British settlers in these Colonies is inspired by a feeling of hostility to the Boer population. I deny it altogether. We have always desired that there should be found in these Colonies a mixed population, and we believe that there is room for a mixed population in South Africa. But how are you going to have a mixed population if you allow the British element to be eliminated, to be squeezed out?
The noble Lord referred to the disappointment of the expectations with which this great experiment was undertaken. There have, no doubt, been failures, but there is also no doubt about one thing, which is that these people have had to contend with extraordinary difficulties. They have had to establish themselves, to build up their homesteads, and to encounter no fewer than four consecutive years of drought. I must say 1410 that I heard with regret what I can only describe as the sneer with which the noble Lord opposite referred to the exceptional nature of their sufferings. He seemed to dispose of it in this way. You will always have bad seasons in South Africa if the existence of a bad season is to justify you in coming to the rescue of the farmers.
I do not think this experiment is one which should be lightly dropped because of initial difficulties. What these settlers ask for is that they should be treated considerately. I recall an analogy to their case—I mean the efforts made by Parliament to come to the assistance of those Irish tenants who at a particular moment were overburdened with arrears. In that case the most liberal terms were made to extricate them from their difficulties. Why not in this case also give the same assistance in the same practical form? There is only one way in which these people can be saved from the fate which is apparently impending over them, and that is that some special precautions should be taken, in the new arrangements made for the government of these Colonies, to safeguard the settlers from the ruin which may overtake them. That. is the policy which, as we know, finds favour with Lord Selborne. It was put forward by Lord Selborne, as we had reason to believe, with the full concurrence of His Majesty's Government; and it is most regrettable that the Government have not had the courage of their opinions and have not insisted on making an arrangement of this kind a fundamental part of the new departure which we are approaching. It would be far easier and far less offensive to the two Colonies to deal with it in this way, to deal with it ab initio, than to find yourselves compelled later on to interfere on behalf of the sertlers.
If the language which has been referred to to-night does indeed represent the views of the Boer leaders, then there will be fulfilled the anticipations which were made in a letter quoted last summer in this House by a British resident in the country, when he said the time would come when the British would have to "trek." If that should ever happen, if it should ever come to pass 1411 that owing to our desertion these men are driven from the homes they have occupied under our guidance and with our approval, then it seems to me that lasting discredit will be cast on the Government of the Empire.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
My Lords, it is not my intention to prolong this interlude unnecessarily, for I am well aware, as my noble friend has said, that the House must be anxious to get to the important Bill which stands behind. Although I may regret that this question should have been raised at this moment, I am not in the least inclined to make any complaint of the noble Lord or the noble Viscount on the cross benches for having brought the subject forward. I admit its importance and its interest, and I also acknowledge the sincere feeling which animates the noble Lords I have referred to with respect to this question. And I am not inclined to say that the discussion has been altogether without advantage to the Government. It is an advantage to the Government that they should have heard the views of noble Lords well qualified to speak upon this matter. But I must take exception to the right of the noble Marquess opposite to draw any conclusion as to our views from the speech made by my noble friend behind me (Lord Elgin).
The Government hold that this matter is closely mixed up with the question of the Letters Patent. Those Letters Patent will probably be issued very shortly. If when they are issued your Lordships think fit to object to the course we may take, your Lordships will know very well how to deal with his Majesty's Government on the subject. We have not much doubt about your willingness to make an attack, but we do not think that it would be for the public interest, or in accordance with our duty, that we should make any statement in regard to a matter which must be dealt with by the Letters Patent until we are prepared to lay them as a whole on the Table of the House. That is the reason why we abstain from going beyond what we have said to-night. But what has fallen from noble Lords will be carefully considered by the Government. Something 1412 was said in a rather fiery passage by the noble Duke about dividing. I do not know what it is proposed to divide upon. With regard to Papers, I believe my noble friend is inclined to lay Papers on the Table, but with reference to the Report of the Ridgeway Commission, that is a strictly confidential document, and we do not consider that it would be consistent with our duty to lay that Report on the Table.
Before my Motion for Papers is put I should like to quote the Report on Land Settlement in reply to the statement of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Countney) that land settlement had been a failure in South Africa. The Report contains this passage—The main fact remains that the majority of the men who were allotted land three years ago still occupy it and mean to remain; and when land does become vacant there are a number of suitable applicants for it.With regard to Papers. I only desire to move for the portion of the Report of the Ridgeway Commission which appertains to land settlement.
§ On Question, Motion negatived