§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF CREWE)
My Lords, I rise to ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading to the South Africa Bill, a Bill which closes one chapter in the history of South Africa and begins a new one. It closes a chapter which has been varied and sometimes agitated, but on the whole not inglorious or unfruitful. It opens one in turning the first pages of which we feel hopes for the future which we believe that the circumstances fully justify. My Lords, this is not the time or the place for anything like a long historical disquisition on the causes which have led up to this proposal for the Union of South Africa; but I think it is not unsuitable that I should endeavour to trace very briefly some points in that history and some of those causes.
Of all the Dominions of His Majesty the King, South Africa is the one which least of any represents a long, conscious attempt towards a White settlement and the development of a great White community. During the 400 years and more that South Africa has been known to Europe—during the greater part of those 400 years it has been treated as a stopping-place on the great highway to the East, rather as a wayside inn than as a place of permanent sojourn. Both the Portuguese and the Dutch, and finally the British, who have in turn occupied different parts of the country, have, in the main, so regarded it; and it is from this fact that we can trace many of the vicissitudes of government through which South Africa has passed, and what may be almost 754 called the fortuitous birth of the colonies which compose it.
Some of the colonies started simply as ports of call on the coast, and filled up from time to time by refugees and others from Europe they gradually pushed their way inland, often, as we know, with serious opposition and difficulty caused by the native tribes. Other colonies represent the work of pioneers who pushed their way far into the wilderness, for the most part escaping what they conceived to be an unsympathetic form of government. From the time when the Cape became British, in the year 1814, history tells us that there has been from time to time more than one movement to escape from the somewhat uninformed control exercised from this country. The most famous of those movements was what is known as the Great Trek of 1836. I am afraid, my Lords, it must be admitted that the domestic virtues of Downing-street have sometimes been Imperial vices. The whole tone and trend of policy of a great part of the nineteenth century certainly did not tend towards the union or amalgamation of the different races which by that time had found in considerable numbers their homes in South Africa. To abolish slavery was a good thing in itself, but even slavery may be abolished in a sympathetic spirit and with due regard to the losses which those who owned the slaves might sustain. But, my Lords, for many years past there have been gropings in the direction of union of which I may venture briefly to remind your Lordships.
The man who, I think, might be described as the father of the idea of South African union was that very distinguished Colonial Governor, Sir George Grey. When Sir George Grey was there in 1858 the Orange Free State made advances towards some system of federation or union—advances which he, the man on the spot, of whom we have heard so much since, was in favour of meeting. But in those days, as I have said, the idea of such union was not very palatable at home. The Colonial Secretary of that day was Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whom I have heard Mr. Gladstone describe as in many respects one of the best of Colonial Secretaries, and the Under-Secretary was Lord Carnarvon. Neither of these men was prepared to take this particular responsibility. Lord Carnarvon, if I remember rightly, described Sir George Grey as a very 755 dangerous man, and the result was that nothing was done.
But later on the mind of Lord Carnarvon became affected by different influences. In 1867 he was responsible to a great extent for the British North America Bill, by which the Dominion of Canada was created, and the success of that measure undoubtedly induced him to make some further attempt towards uniting the Colonies of South Africa. Accordingly, in 1876 and 1877, that movement towards union took place, which unfortunately came to nothing, inspired, as it was, by high motives, but not, perhaps, carried out with complete understanding. It failed in one respect, if I may adopt a phrase used by my noble friend Lord Selborne—it failed because it was not home-made. It was suggested and was almost attempted to be forced on the colonies from here, and consequently it was abortive.
Then, as your Lordships know, in 1877 the Transvaal was annexed and in 1881 it was restored, and I need not remind your Lordships of the chequered series of events which finally led up to the war between this country and the Dutch Republics. I will only remind your Lordships that in 1872 Cape Colony received full responsible government and that Natal received it in 1893. My Lords, after the war, when peace was declared in 1902, a new section of history naturally began, and from that time the movement for union which culminates in this Bill has been progressing.
If I may diverge for one moment, I have remarked with some amusement, but also, I confess, with some regret, the fear which has been publicly expressed by some of those who do not agree with us in politics that His Majesty's Government are likely to claim an undue share of credit for this Act of Union. I do not know exactly what we have done to excite those fears. But the result has been that, both freely in the Press and also, I think, freely on the platform, attempts have been made to show that a great part of the credit for this Act belongs to our predecessors, in particular to Mr. Chamberlain and to the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches, Lord Milner. I have no intention of entering into any discussion of questions of this kind on the present occasion. Neither the right hon. gentleman nor the 756 noble Viscount has, so far as I know, put forward any such claim on his own account. They would prefer, I have no doubt, just as I greatly prefer, to leave questions of that kind to the verdict of history. The Macaulays and the Froudes of the future in writing the history of this time will have their heroes and their malefactors, as their predecessors have had. Indeed, I am not sure that some gentlemen, perhaps not exactly Macaulays or Froudes, have not already started the process. But the historian of the future, whoever he may be, and without raising any question of credit, will undoubtedly point out that this particular Act of Union has been made possible by the action of the Government of the late Prime Minister, Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, in sending the Commission to South Africa in 1906, with the result that the two Colonies—the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, as it was then called—obtained responsible government. And when dealing with questions of credit the historian will, I think, point out that that action was undoubtedly due to the general political creed held by the Government, to their more robust faith in the virtues of self-government as such than their predecessors probably held. I do not think I should be greatly wronging the Party of noble Lords opposite if I were to say that they would prefer in the main to adopt the eighteenth century maxim,For forms of government let fools contest, Whate'er is best administered is best.and to hold that outside this island self-government is a remedy which should be administered with the greatest possible caution. The historian of the future may perhaps point out—perhaps he will—that in these matters to do the thing at the right moment counts for much, and that if that act had been much longer postponed it was at any rate possible that there might have arisen on the one side a hard temper of ascendancy and on the other side a sullen spirit of dissatisfaction which might have rendered it difficult to perform the act at all. If that be so, then I do think that credit is especially due to two men—to the late Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and my predecessor, Lord Elgin—for the part they took in that matter.
My Lords, when we pass from how this Union was made possible to how it was carried out, we can then abolish the figure of the historian and can distribute the necessary 757 credit without any fear of being in error. First and foremost, credit belongs to the remarkable band of statesmen in South Africa, representing all parties and both races, who have set to work and carried through this business. We are glad to know that almost all of them have been able to come to this country and see their work through. They have been welcomed here, and will be welcomed as long as they stay with us, by persons of every class and every party. Their names are, most of them, household words to us all. I will only mention one, because he presided over the delegation, my friend Sir Henry de Villiers, to whose skill and experience so much of the success of this measure is due. The others I will dispose of in a single line—Ductoresque alii quos Africa terra triumphis Dives alit.Then, my Lords, I must not forget to acknowledge the help that was given by the different Governors representing His Majesty in South Africa, and in particular I must mention my noble friend Lord Selborne, who for the time being is out of the main rushing current of politics and seated in a placid back water on the Cross Benches of your Lordships' House. We have all been grateful for the industry and the skill which Lord Selborne has shown in the part which he has played.
Now, there were two great motive forces which propelled South Africa towards union. In the first place, there were the Imperial considerations which made South African statesmen desire to form a union which could take a place in the Empire beside the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Dominion of New Zealand, and that was undoubtedly a strong motive. But in addition to this, there were, of course, local and practical considerations of the first importance. In the first place, there was an obvious and desirable economy in working the four colonies as one. In the second place—and this, I think, perhaps more than anything, was the immediate cause which brought practical men to see how necessary union was—there were the difficulties and complications arising out of the railway systems of the different Colonies. What those difficulties were I will not trouble your Lordships with at this moment; but I may, perhaps, be allowed to say that when Lord Milner was administering both the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony he did his best to diminish those difficulties 758 and differences by amalgamating as far as possible the railway systems of those two Colonies. Then, there were questions arising out of the Customs, also a complicated subject with the details of which I will not trouble the House. All these practical considerations affected the minds of practical men there, and the result was that early in the year 1907 a communication was made first from the Cape which inspired an important and interesting Memorandum on the subject prepared by Lord Selborne, with which, I daresay, some of your Lordships are familiar. The year 1908 was taken up with conferences which led to the formation of the Convention, which, as your Lordships know, met first at Durban, where we were glad to be able to send a squadron of the British navy to do honour to the occasion, afterwards at Cape Town, and, lastly, at Bloemfontein. Now the Bill having passed the respective South African Parliaments, the delegation have come here, and the result is this measure which I now submit to your Lordships.
The form of this Bill, I may say in passing, follows rather the Canadian than the Australian model. The second part of the Bill, which describes the union, leads me to remark that, in my judgment, South Africa was wise to decide on a system of union rather than on a system of federation. The system of federation is one which is always naturally favoured by the smaller members of a great polity. A system that makes Delaware and Nevada the equivalents for the purposes of the Constitution of New York and of Pennsylvania is one which is naturally favoured by the former States. It was naturally in Natal that the greatest doubts arose as between federation and unification, and I should like to bear witness to the wise and steady guidance of the Natal Government in this matter, which resulted in the gratifying fact that when the Bill was submitted to a, popular referendum a majority for it was obtained in every district to which it was referred. My Lords, I need not dwell on the appointment of the Governor-General, who naturally replaces the existing Governors, or on the formation of the Executive which follows the usual rule in such matters. But I pass to the fourth part of the Bill, which deals with the constitution of Parliament.
The Parliament as is the invariable rule in the British Empire will consist of two Houses. 759 The Upper House—the Senate—consists of eight gentlemen elected from each of the four Colonies, with eight others nominated, four of whom, as I particularly beg you to observe, are to be selected owing to their acquaintance with native affairs. Provisions are made in Clauses 25 and 26 of the Bill for the future election of the Senate. The House of Assembly consists of 121 members drawn in varying proportions from the different colonies, a certain preference in numbers being given to the smaller provinces, as they will become. There is a provision for increasing their number as population increases, and on that I ask your Lordships to note that the quota for that increase is confined entirely to the European male adults. The country will be divided into electoral divisions, and in the 40th Clause there are five considerations indicated which the Commission may bear in mind in delimiting—such as physical features, means of communication, sparsity and density of population, with the possibility of allowing fifteen per cent. margin on the quota either way.
When we come to the qualification for sitting in either House we approach a point which has been the subject of much discussion and as to which many protests have been made. Those who sit in either House of Parliament have to be of European descent. So far, the position is that in the Cape Colony no such restriction has hitherto existed. On the other hand, no one not of European descent has ever sat in the Cape House of Assembly. I say frankly that there does seem to me to be a strong case against the insertion of such a provision in this Act or in any Act. There are men not of European descent who are of high standing, of high character, and of high ability. They regard this provision as a slight, and we regret that any loyal subjects of the King should consider themselves slighted.
On the other hand, the difficulties which have confronted those who have prepared this Bill were no doubt considerable. In the first place it is only in the Cape that the native has a vote; and therefore it would seem anomalous to allow a man to sit in an Assembly for which the class to which he belongs have not a vote in the greater part of the Union. It is also fair to point out that in the Australian Commonwealth a similar restriction exists, so that therefore, this cannot be said to be without precedent. It is also true that the grievance is probably 760 not a practical one, because if it was the case that no coloured member was elected to the Cape Assembly in the past it is extremely improbable, at any rate for a long time to come, that any such would be elected to the Union Parliament. The fact which has decided us in not attempting to press this matter against the wishes of the South African delegates has been that this is undoubtedly one of those matters which represents a delicately balanced compromise between themselves. As a Government we cannot take—and personally I am not prepared to take—the responsibility for the possible wrecking of this Union measure altogether by a provision of this kind; and I am assured that such would be the result of any attempt to insert such a provision in the Bill. The cause of those who desire this change to be made has been pressed with deep feeling and much eloquence by some of the natives themselves, and by those who specially represent their cause. But I do feel that if this change is to be made it must be made in South Africa by South Africans themselves, and that it is not possible for us, whatever we may consider to be the special merits of the case, to attempt to force it upon the great representative body which with absolute unanimity demands that it should not appear.
I pass to the question of the franchise, which is one that has also raised a consideration of some difficulty. At present in the Cape Colony any man, whatever his colour, who possesses £75 worth of property or £50 a year, and who can write his name and address, can get a vote. In Natal the provisions for obtaining a vote are somewhat similar; but as a matter of fact the native has to obtain what is called a letter of exemption, with the result that very few natives indeed are on the register. In the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony there is manhood suffrage for Whites, and no native vote at all. It is obvious from that description how difficult the problem was if there was to be any question of instituting a uniform franchise all over the Union. It was ultimately decided that Parliament was to prescribe the form of the franchise, it being, however, provided that the Cape vote should be saved to the native unless it was decided by a two-thirds majority of both Houses sitting together to abolish the native franchise there. This is said by those who desire to see the interests of the native in every way protected to involve a somewhat serious 761 risk that the Cape franchise itself might be done away with. I think we may assume that as far as the rest of the Union is concerned it will be in future a white franchise.
It would require, as you see, some 106 members of both Houses sitting together to abolish the franchise at the Cape. I think it may be assumed that it would require more than this, because it is not likely that the nominated Senators, especially those who are appointed for their interest in the natives, would be likely to join in a venture of that kind. Therefore, from that point of view, as far as South Africa itself is concerned, there does not seem to be much risk. It has also to be remembered that this is a matter on which we could not say that the power of disallowance which, of course, belongs to the Crown, would not be exercised. Certainly it is not too much to say that the disfranchisement of a class who had held this power of voting so long would be viewed here with very deep disappointment. Disfranchisement is always an odious thing in itself, and if it were to be applied in this particular manner I am bound to say that it would assume a somewhat specially odious form. Consequently I myself refuse to believe that there is any probability that this particular provision will be carried into effect. Looking at it as a purely abstract question, we could wish that the safeguard might be even stronger, but such as it is I am prepared to consider it strong enough. I may remind your Lordships also that there is a provision for the reservation of all constitutional Bills, and for reservation subject to instructions received from the Crown; and all Bills which desire to alter any provision in the Schedule are automatically reserved.
I will touch briefly on the creation of the new provinces. They will be governed by administrators appointed for a term of years by the Government and by Councils, and it is worth noting that as far as the Cape is concerned the natives can both vote for and sit on the Provincial Councils. The Ordinances of the Provincial Councils will be subject to the approval of the Governor-General in Council. There is a list of subjects with which the Provincial Councils may deal, and there is a provision for purely local subjects being reserved to them. But all such matters as Crown lands, public works, mines, and so forth are by the Bill left in charge of the Union Parliament.
I pass quickly over the creation of the judiciary. It is a great thing that the 762 whole of the judicial body of South Africa should be united into one High Court. I merely touch on the question of appeal to the Privy Council, to say that if it should appear to any one who studies these provisions that the right of appeal is more restricted in this Act than it is in some other Acts dealing with the self-governing dominions, it is due to the fact that this single High Court is created for the whole of South Africa. Nor do I dwell on Part VII of the Bill, which deals with finance and railway matters, further than once more to enforce the opinion as to the immense gain which it is to bring the railway system of South Africa under one control and one management. Clause 137 prescribes equality between the two languages, and Clause 147 makes special provision for the control of subjects affecting Asiatics being left to the Union Parliament. As your Lordships know, there have been in more than one Colony some difficulties in the past arising out of the presence of Asiatics there and out of the regulations made concerning them. It will be a still further benefit if the establishment of this Union enables South Africa to dispose of those difficulties, and I sincerely hope that such may prove to be the case.
Then the native lands are safeguarded by the same clause. That brings me to Clause 151 of the Bill, the clause which enables what are known as the Protectorates possibly at some future time to be transferred to the care of the Union under regulations provided for in a Schedule. The South African Union finds itself in a unique position—a different position from that of any other part of the Empire. Not only has it got a vast native population within its borders, but just outside its borders, and in one case entirely surrounded by the Union itself, there are whole countries, hitherto directly administered by the Crown, in some cases almost entirely inhabited by natives and carried on under the immemorial tribal system. Those Protectorates have been under our direct administration, and towards them we feel that we have a very solemn duty indeed. They were, speaking generally, not conquered by the arms of Great Britain, but came voluntarily under our control. They feel a profound confidence in the British Government, a confidence which has been largely inspired by able men who from time to time have administered them, and when the question of union became urgent, 763 we had to consider what was the best course to take in view of our honourable obligations towards the Protectorates. We felt bound to regard ourselves as trustees for these bodies of natives, and considering that it does not do for a trustee to hand over his trust to another man, however great his personal confidence may be in him, without a guarantee that the trust itself will be taken over, we decided to ask South Africa to accept the provisions embodied in the Schedule. Some opposition has been raised to the Schedule from two very different quarters. Some think that under no circumstances ought the native Protectorates to be handed over to the Union at all.
Here I may say that we have no desire, we are in no hurry, to hand over these areas to anyone. They are contented, they are not otherwise than prosperous, and we have no desire to part with them; in fact, they have expressed themselves as averse to passing from under the direct administration of the Crown. But we do feel that in any case that suggestion involves an impossibility. It does not seem conceivable that for an indefinite future these areas should remain administered from here and that the new South African Union should have no lot or part in their administration. Nor do I believe, in view of the varying circumstances of these districts, that it is possible to name a time limit and say, at any rate, we will not hand over a particular area for a fixed number of years. That is a course which might have its attractions, but if you do that, it seems to me you cannot combine that provision in the Bill with the existence of the terms embodied in the Schedule, because although we do not desire to hand over the Protectorates, yet the existence of the Schedule undoubtedly contemplates their being possibly handed over at some time to be fixed by agreement.
On the other hand, there are those who contemplate the Protectorates being handed over, but consider that it is not necessary to make any preliminary arrangement with regard to them, and that it would be better to wait and deal with each case as it arises. To my mind there are strong objections to that course. It is extremely advantageous to lay down, as we have laid down in the Schedule, with the full concurrence of South African opinion, certain general principles in order that continuity of 764 administration may exist, and in order that, above all, uncertainty may be avoided. By introducing this Schedule we at any rate obtain a certain uniform and agreed standard of administration. What weighs with me as much as anything is that the natives themselves are not anxious to be transferred, but, admitting that they may be some day transferred, actively desire the incorporation of a charter such as this in the Act itself. To me those reasons seem conclusive for the existence of this somewhat unusual form of provision in the form of a Schedule.
I will now give a brief outline of what the Schedule does. The Schedule lays down that the Government should legislate for and administer the Protectorates when they are taken over; and when I say the Protectorates I, perhaps, need hardly say that I am alluding to Basutoland, though strictly it is not a Protectorate, to Bechuanaland, and to Swaziland. It is the name by which they have for convenience been described. The Government will legislate by Provisional Order, which will be laid on the Table of the Houses of Parliament in the ordinary way. It may be asked, What is the object of this provision? If these native territories are going to be handed over, why not let them be legislated for by Parliament like the rest of the country? One may have an almost unqualified admiration for Parliamentary government, and yet may be disposed to think that a Parliament in which certain people are not represented may not be the best machine for administering the daily life of those people, particularly when the constituents of those who sit in the Parliament may have interests at direct variance with the interests of those for whom it is proposed to legislate. Consequently it is the absence of representation—because no one supposes that if taken over these natives will be represented in Parliament—which is the basis of the proposals in the Schedule. Those proposals involve the institution of something in the nature of a permanent buffer between the territories and Parliament. The Prime Minister, or a regularly appointed deputy nominated by him, is to be the Minister responsible for the government of these territories, and he will be advised by a Commission which will undoubtedly be composed of men of distinction and experience, not removable except by a vote of both Houses of Parliament. This will involve, as we hope, and 765 secure that continuity which of all possible considerations in dealing with natives is perhaps the most necessary of any.
There is always a danger in attempting to govern a native country of causing the natives to become the plaything of the varying policy of parties—parties the existence of which may depend on entirely extraneous matters with which they themselves have no concern. We here have been able to keep clear of that difficulty and danger by being so far removed in our Parliament from those great areas which we administer directly. But it is a difficulty which I am certain might probably arise in South Africa without the creation of some such body. For that reason I am glad to know its creation is welcomed by many South African statesmen. This body possesses a certain analogy —though not an analogy that must be ridden too hard—both in its composition and its functions with the Council which in London advises the Secretary of State for India. It has, however, certain powers larger than those of my noble friend's Council, of recording dissent.
Then the Schedule provides against the alienation of native lands, which involves the prohibition of indiscriminate prospecting; it provides against the supply of liquor to natives; and it provides that the restrictions which may exist in any of these territories on the supply of liquor to other than natives shall not be weakened if the territories are taken over. It also provides for the permanence of the native assemblies which have existed heretofore. These are the securities which we conceive to be given by the Schedule. It would not have been proposed from South Africa itself; but I believe it has been frankly accepted by South Africa, and that its actual provisions obtained the approval in the main of those who are entitled to speak for the Union.
One point has been raised, and may possibly be raised again. It might be said, What security have you when the Union is formed and the customs and the railways of South Africa are in one hand, that these territories, while they are still under your control, may not be subjected to differential duties or to differential railway rates? We do not guard in the Act against action of that kind. But I am assured that the delegates see no reason whatever to doubt that the liberal policy pursued in 766 regard to these matters—that is to say, by which the territories have been admitted to the Customs Union—will be continued so long as the territories remain under our control. I am quite prepared frankly to accept that opinion—which is as much, no doubt, as it is possible for the delegates to give, because they cannot answer for the doings of a Government which is not yet formed—I am prepared to accept that opinion and to agree. I do so for two reasons—first, because that opinion was freely and willingly given; and, secondly, because any action of the kind directed against a territory under the administration of the Crown would be so grave from every point of view, would approach so nearly to what, in the language of diplomacy, would be described as an unfriendly act, that I do not for a moment contemplate the possibility of any such occurrence.
Before I sit down I should like to ask you to consider for a moment what the Union does. I have spoken of the political and economic advantages which it must bring in its train to South Africa. What may the Union be also expected to do in the less visible but not less important sphere of human relations? This union of colonies marks, as I believe, a great advance in the fusion of the races which inhabit South Africa. The inhabitants of South Africa are some of British, some of Dutch, and some of French Huguenot descent. Their ancestors through many years of history suffered and fought for freedom. They underwent forfeiture and exile and imprisonment, and on the scaffold and on many battlefields they bore witness in the cause of civil and religious liberty. It would have been one of the most tragic ironies of all history if men descended from such races as those had remained permanently estranged. Now I hope we may look forward to seeing them joined in a free union under the supremacy of the British Crown, with a guaranteed freedom, for as many years in front of us as the imagination of man can venture to look.
It has been the peculiar good fortune of this movement towards union that some of the actual work of union has been done in the process of discussion by bringing into intimate personal relations the different South African statesmen, soldiers, and lawyers who before that time may have known but little of each other. The result of union will be that the whole past history of South 767 Africa will become the common possession for ever of all the races. The famous names of South African history will become the joint property of them all—names familiar to many of us in a different relation from that which those who bore them ever expected. We may think of the chivalrous figure of Sir Harry Smith, whose name is still extant, and of his wife, so romantically won, whose name survives still more familiarly in association with recent events to which both races may look back with pride. Then there was Sir Benjamin D'Urban, one of the Governors who suffered from not being entirely understood at home. I have mentioned Sir George Grey, and I might mention many more. But we must not forget the names of the distinguished men who filled the office of President in the Dutch Republics, and here I will say that we are particularly glad to welcome here among the delegates from South Africa Mr. Steyn, whose wholehearted advocacy of union has been of the greatest assistance to the cause. Nor can we forget the now common property of the whole Union in the name of Cecil Rhodes, who amid all the agitations of political life always dreamed of the union of South Africa. These men lived their lives, they enjoyed their triumphs, they suffered their failures, and we now in the fulness of time are able to see that where they succeeded, and even where they failed, they often unconsciously were working towards the consummation of this great act of union. Therefore, without distinction of race, party, or creed, we can now say that we honour them all.
I will now say one word from the Imperial standpoint. It is not necessary for us to roll up the map of the British Empire as Mr. Pitt desired to roll up the map of Europe, but it is tolerably safe to say that, so far as we can venture to see ahead, this Act of Union places the self-governing Dominions of the King in something like their final form. There is the great American group, the great Pacific group, and the great African group. There may be some re-arrangement and some modification, but it is, I think, reasonable to say that for many years to come, longer than the life of any of us here, these three great divisions will form the three main self-governing parts of the British Empire outside these islands. This fact will enable the advisers of the Crown here and in the Colonies and Dominions abroad to deal with questions 768 of Imperial defence with more certainty and with greater freedom than they have been able to deal with them hitherto. That is one point of gain. I will go further. If it should ever be the fact, as I hope it may, that it is found possible to solve the very difficult problem of co-operation all over the Empire in the policy of the Empire, to that achievement this Act of African Union is a necessary preliminary. I believe, therefore, that there will be no part of the Empire which will not give a most hearty welcome to the new South Africa, with earnest prayers that she may both merit and enjoy the rewards of prosperity and the blessings of peace. My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill I commend it to your good offices, and I trust that it may pass in this House, and also in another place, without amendment.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Crewe.)
§ LORD NORTHCOTE
My Lords, as one who has had an opportunity of taking a small share in the working of a constitution not much older than that which we hope shortly to see established in South Africa, perhaps I may be permitted to add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Selborne and his South African colleagues upon the measure of success which has attended their long and anxious deliberations, and I may further say that I associate myself entirely with the noble Earl opposite when he congratulated South Africa upon the shape that their scheme has taken, being that of union rather than of federation. I am glad to think that South Africa was ripe for union, and I congratulate them upon thereby getting rid of those inter-State and federal difficulties which certainly have not been conducive to the progress and prosperity of Australia. I trust that time, and no long time, will remove the friction which has thereby been caused, but undoubtedly in the meantime it is a serious inconvenience to public business.
I have no intention of attempting to follow the noble Earl opposite into the details of the Bill, which he very naturally, as the responsible Minister, fully explained to the House. Indeed, the only criticism of the noble Earl's speech which I should be disposed to offer is in relation to his remarks as to how this union was made possible. I am inclined to think that when 769 the noble Earl gave credit—I do not by any means wish to say undeserved credit—to the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and to Lord Elgin, he was trespassing a little upon matters which should rather form the subject of discussion on electoral platforms. We meet here, I believe, to-night with the sincere wish to assist His Majesty's Government by passing, unanimously and heartily, a measure so much desired by South Africa, and not to consider to which of the great political Parties in this country more or less credit may be due.
There is one question which is likely to excite more attention in this country than any other in connection with this Bill, and that is the question of the electoral position of the coloured races in Cape Colony, and I have read with feelings of keen appreciation, and not without sympathy, the memorial which has been addressed to the citizens of this country by Mr. Schreiner and other distinguished signatories in South Africa. But I would venture to say that we must look at this question from the practical as well as the sentimental point of view. I would remind the gentlemen who signed that memorial of a single sentence in the memorial itself in which they say that to regard the South African question as an isolated one would be a grave mistake, and that what has to be considered is the whole idea underlying the sentiments of the independent and yet inter-dependent members of the community which go to make up the British Empire. Then I would ask this House to consider what that whole idea really is. I say unhesitatingly that, alike in the case of Canada, Australia, and South Africa, it is the determination to have white rule and white responsibility for the conduct of public affairs.
I need hardly remind your Lordships that this question of the relationship between the coloured and white races must present itself from very different points of view to the inhabitants of the over-sea Dominions and to those of the Mother Country. It is impossible for us in these islands ever to run any risk of being swamped by an influx of coloured races. That is not at all the case in any of our over-sea possessions; and I need hardly remind your Lordships of the excitement which was caused not long ago in Canada by the threatened influx of a large number of Japanese immigrants. In Australia, which is the 770 most democratic portion of His Majesty's Dominions, the one feeling which unites all parties, and not least the Labour Party—the most democratic Party in a democratic country—is a determination to preserve Australia white, and, therefore, they cannot be expected to look at the matter otherwise than from a practical rather than from a sentimental point of view.
Then I would ask whether it is in the interests of the coloured races themselves that the risk should be run of ruining this new-born Constitution for the sake of giving to certain coloured residents in South Africa privileges which they do not at present enjoy. As the noble Earl pointed out, this Bill takes away nothing from the coloured residents at the Cape. They are still eligible for election to the Cape Parliament, and, in addition to that, they will secure votes for the Union Parliament, although the privilege has not been conceded them of occupying seats in that Parliament. As Lord Crewe very justly said, if no coloured men have yet been elected members of the Cape Parliament, the presumption is that they will not find it easy to secure election as members of the Union Parliament. I therefore think that, in the interests of the coloured races themselves, it would be most undesirable if, to secure that dim and distant possibility, the risk were run of throwing the whole Constitution back into hotch-pot. Would it tend to promote amicable feelings between the white and coloured races if the white men were to find that through this action they had to commence their whole work over again? Moreover, what would be the effect on the relations between South Africa and the Mother Country? Surely it would create a bitter feeling if the people of South Africa were led to think that owing to the interference of the Mother Country in what they regard as a matter of local arrangement the work that they have striven so long to accomplish was suddenly undone. I would further add that in my judgment very considerable apprehensions would be excited alike in Canada and in Australia that the old days of Downing-street interference were likely again to be attempted.
And, lastly, I would point out that at the present time a very grave moral responsibility rests upon every white race which feels it incumbent upon it to restrict in any way the rights of citizenship of their coloured fellow-subjects, and I believe 771 that upon the whole that responsibility is acknowledged and generally acted up to by the members of our great self-governing possessions. If I thought that their hostility to coloured labour was the result of any foolish prejudice against the colour of a man's skin or was actuated solely by the fear that coloured competition would reduce the rate of wages, I should have no sympathy whatever with such feelings; but I believe that above and beyond that lies the fact that they do feel that unless their relations with their coloured fellow-subjects are very carefully regulated grave national dangers may be apprehended. That is at the bottom of their jealousy to admit the coloured races to what they regard as an excessive amount of power. I do not think your Lordships will have very much difficulty in coming to a decision in favour of the principles of the measure which has just been brought before you; and I do not speak with any pretension of convincing your Lordships, but merely because I think it is well to place on record that, in supporting the principles of the Bill as they stand, we do so having well considered the question as to whether they are not in the long run the best and the most fair and reasonable that the coloured races can be expected to obtain at our hands.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I desire to join my noble friend behind me in congratulating His Majesty's Government most heartily and unreservedly upon the introduction of this measure and upon the reception that it has met with in all parts of the country. I agree with what the noble Earl the Leader of the House said, or, at any rate, with the inference we are justified in drawing from his remarks, that the credit for this measure, if that is a point we are called upon to discuss, is to be divided between more than one Government and between many statesmen, both in this country and in South Africa. I agree that the exact proportionment of that credit is a matter not for ourselves, but for history, although when the noble Earl selected as the type of historian who is to make up our minds for us at some distant date a Froude or Macaulay of the future I am not certain that he provided us with the best guarantee for a strictly impartial verdict.
My title to speak upon this question is a very limited one, and it is only 772 assumed with the utmost diffidence. It arises solely from the fact that I happened to be in South Africa in the course of last winter at a time when the draft of Union was being deliberated, and when in all parts of the country the forces were being moulded that led to the issue we are here to consummate. Everything that I then heard from the spokesmen of public opinion in South Africa as to the hopeful chances of this measure, even though it was thought by some to be optimistic at the time, has been entirely justified by the results; and I do not think that the most confident anticipations that were made in South Africa and re-echoed in this country have at all exceeded or exaggerated the realities of the case.
It is indubitable that this Union represents not any conspiracy or combination—however honourable such conspiracy or combination might be—of the leading politicians of South Africa, but that it springs from the deliberate and settled convictions of the vast majority of the European population, at any rate, of that part of the Empire. It is not a measure that has been pushed forward with any undue degree of haste, and most certainly its progress has not been accelerated by any pressure from outside. When we remember that it has passed through the ordeal of the Local Parliaments in South Africa, that it has run the gauntlet of all the constituencies there for months, and that it has twice been debated and passed by a Convention of the leading statesmen of that country, we may form an idea of the degree of support that is behind it. It comes to us with an authority which, I believe, has never attended any document of the same character in the history of the British Empire. The Government of Great Britain has given constitutions sometimes to willing and sometimes to unwilling and suspicious recipients. But assuredly it has never given its sanction to a constitutional experiment which has been to so great an extent the product of local conditions or that has so well expressed the Colonial will.
I desire entirely to identify myself with the argument of the noble Earl and also of the noble Lord behind me as to the superior advantages, in the circumstances of the case, of union over federation. Lord Rosebery the other day, in the course of a famous speech, appeared to congratulate 773 the Australian Commonwealth on the evidence of virility which it possesses in being able to maintain seven separate Constitutions and Governments. Whatever may be the case in Australia, South Africa does not appear to me to have the numbers, even if it has the vigour, to support four. Unity of system in respect of railways, Customs, Imperial defence, and statute law must be a source of great strength to the future administration of South Africa. It will be of immense advantage, as matters develop, to have a national land settlement policy, a national immigration policy, a national labour policy, and, if the forecast is not too Utopian, a national native policy also. Whether a single Government will be able in the remote future to cope with the difficulties of controlling and administering territories so extended and so enlarged as these are likely one day to be need not concern us now. What we have to do, and what His Majesty's Government is doing in this Bill, is to provide the most potent and effective governing instrument for the needs of the hour.
The degree to which the centre of political gravity in South Africa has changed and is changing could not be better illustrated than by the tone of this debate. The real issue is no longer one between British and Dutch. That is an issue that has gone by and been submerged; as we hope never again to be revived. In so far as any racial issue at all occupies our consideration it is not one between British and Dutch, but between the Europeans and the different tribes and sections of natives. The important part that is played by this question in our deliberations is sufficiently indicated by the proportion, I think amounting to nearly two-thirds, of the speech of the noble Earl the Leader of the House which was devoted to that subject, and it is almost the only part of the Bill about which I am at all anxiously concerned, and upon which I am, perhaps, in some small measure entitled to express an opinion, owing to the fact that in another part of the Empire I have been concerned with different evolutions of the same problem—namely, the management and control of native peoples.
I do not complain of the attitude which has been taken up by the advocates of 774 what are called native rights. That attitude seems to me to be both honourable to them and reasonable in its character. Whether we regard the question of the native protectorates or the question of the exercise of the franchise by natives it is pre-eminently incumbent on both Houses of Parliament to safeguard the interests and protect the future of the native communities committed to our charge. The question assumes a two-fold aspect. There is the question of the Protectorates in South Africa, the native populations in which I believe amount to about 600,000 souls. There is no doubt that the chiefs and the peoples in those Protectorates have regarded, and, I dare say, still regard, with very great and not altogether unnatural apprehension the change in their political status that is involved in the Union. They attach supreme importance to their direct rule by the Crown and by the representative of the Crown in South Africa. They have found their political independence guaranteed, their ownership of the soil secured, and their personal liberties safeguarded by that system, and in simple and rather moving language they protest—as we have read lately in the Press—against any change. It is true also that Colonial Governments have not always been successful in the past in their dealings with native Protectorates or in their management of native questions. Further I agree with the remark of the noble Earl opposite that Parliamentary rule is not the form of administration best adapted to solve the difficult and critical issues involved in native questions. Nevertheless, I unreservedly agree with the conclusions at which the Government have arrived. I do not see how it would be possible permanently or in the remote future to contemplate a system of dual control in South Africa, a system under which the native population, in the self-governing States, who, I believe number about 4,500,000, would be under the local Governments, while the small minority of 600,000 natives in the Protectorates would be under another régime administered and controlled from Great Britain.
I listened with appreciation and respect to the cautious and statesmanlike language of the noble Earl on this subject. I hope that the process of transferring the Protectrates to the Union will not be sudden, abrupt, or violent, but gradual and slow, and that it will be accompanied by scrupulous 775 regard for the feelings, desires, and conventions of the inhabitants. Many of your Lordships must have looked with great interest and care upon the contents of the Schedule of this Bill. I confess that to me the Schedule is almost the most important part of the measure, and I was glad to learn from the noble Earl that it had been introduced in its somewhat unusual form here to meet the express desire of the chiefs and peoples of the Protectorates themselves. From a perusal of the contents of the Schedule I think your Lordships may feel satisfied that the guarantees given for the preservation of the land rights of the inhabitants of the Protectorates, for the restriction of the liquor traffic, and in respect of taxation are adequate, and that the form of administration which the Government propose to set up is, on the whole, the most satisfactory that could be devised for the purpose.
Now I pass to another aspect of the native question which filled so large a portion of the speech of the noble Earl. I refer to that aspect of the case which relates to the political rights and the franchise enjoyed by the natives. Here, I think, it cannot be denied that in two respects the situation appears to be, though I hope it is not, worse as a result of this Bill. As the noble Earl told us, whereas there is under the existing constitution in South Africa nothing to prevent a native in Cape Colony from standing for, or being elected to, the Cape Parliament, under the Act of Union natives will be excluded altogether from standing for or sitting in the Parliament of the Union. I observe that in a letter to The Times this morning Mr. Schreiner, a very able and convinced exponent of the native case, draws attention to the fact that this opportunity enjoyed by the natives in Cape Colony has never been abused. It is quite true that it has never been abused, but it has never been abused because it has never been exercised or enjoyed. The noble Earl said that no native had ever been elected to the Cape Parliament, but I think it is true also that no native has ever stood or solicited the suffrages of the constituencies.
Here again, I am in sympathy with the noble Earl. On abstract grounds I regret very much this provision. I regret the exclusion of natives in South Africa from the privilege of standing for and being returned to the Parliament of the Union; but I think that the Government, particularly 776 after the explanation given by the noble Earl to-night, were perfectly right not to assume the responsibility of insisting on any such measure. The noble Earl told us in the clearest language that had they so insisted they might have wrecked the Union and that would have been a very serious and very perilous step to take. I doubt whether any Government in the same position would have acted otherwise. Moreover, even if the Union were not menaced, was it in the least likely that, simply because the Cape, whose policy with regard to natives has always been more advanced and generous, decided, I think half a century ago, to admit natives to their Parliament, which, it must be remembered, was only a local Parliament, the other self-governing States of South Africa, who had never given this privilege at all, would, on the basis of that analogy, have extended it over the whole area of South Africa, not for a local Parliament, but for the great Union Parliament?
The second point on which there appears to be some loss of privilege is with regard to the political franchise and political rights. Under the Bill of Union we know that the franchise enjoyed by the natives in Cape Colony can be taken away by the vote of a two-thirds majority of both Houses of Parliament sitting in session together. I listened with interest to what fell from the noble Earl on this point, and here again I thought he was right. The prospect, the fear that any such thing may take place is one of which I at any rate am not at all alarmed. I cannot believe it to be in the least likely that public opinion in South Africa or in this country would allow of any such deprivation. Rather I should hope that public opinion in South Africa will steadily move in the opposite and more liberal direction in the future. Again, your Lordships cannot fail to have been impressed by the serious language used by the noble Earl in this connection, in which he not obscurely indicated that if any such measure were presented at a future date to His Majesty's advisers they would not be oblivious of the fact that they have the power of veto.
I think, therefore, that over the field of action covered by the noble Earl the natives of South Africa cannot be said to have lost anything substantial. It would have been impossible either for the Union statesmen in South Africa or for His Majesty's Government to go further than they have 777 done. If there is a single question I imagine on which it is impossible for Governments or statesmen to march in advance of public opinion it is in respect of racial issues. As we all know, they excite the most heated passions and produce the most profound social and moral fissures. We may deplore that public opinion in South Africa or anywhere else has not reached the precise point of advancement to which we, with our greater irresponsibility and often with our superior ignorance, have attained, but the real line in all such matters is not to force public opinion up to your level, but to wait until it reaches the point you have attained yourselves.
This brings me to the only other remark that I wish to make, and that is that the main, or one of the main, justifications of the Union of South Africa appears to me to be the splendid mental and moral discipline that it will provide for the whole of the South African community. We shall see there the evolution of a national consciousness, and—I hope the remark may not be considered an invidious one—the growth and development of a national conscience in all these matters. Whereas, under a system of four Governments, separated to some extent from each other by petty squabbles and the somewhat narrow and selfish interests of the various communities, you could have nothing of the sort, under a single and powerful Government you will have a new national sense growing up in South Africa. You will produce large and broad-minded statesmen who will take a wide rather than the petty and narrower view both of local and Imperial affairs. And if as time goes on this process of intellectual and moral expansion is accompanied, as I hope it may be, by an increasing amalgamation of the races and the two peoples inter-marry and reproduce all the best qualities of both, then, my Lords, I believe that this Bill will be not only the dawn of a new era in South Africa, but will prove a positive and most important landmark in the history of the civilised world.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
My Lords, I think we must all be impressed with the gravity of the situation in which we find ourselves. We are accepting from South Africa the draft scheme for the union of the hitherto separated Colonial Governments of that country, and we are setting on foot something which, in the 778 words of the noble Lord who has just sat down, we may hope will develop a national mind, a national conscience, and a national policy, especially in respect of native affairs. We are bound probably to accept on almost every question which is submitted to us the opinion of those who have been engaged in the formation of this Act of Union, in view of the great issues which, as Lord Curzon has pointed out, are involved. But having regard to the fact that in respect of a great class of questions those who have been engaged in the formation of this union were not representatives of, and in no case entitled to speak for, those for whom they were legislating, we are bound, I think, to offer some opinion, even if we abstain from going the length of attempting to enforce our opinion when we find it different from the conclusions arrived at in South Africa. My own prepossession is entirely to accept with little question what has been brought to us.
As my noble friend who introduced this Bill has told you, this is not the first time that a proposal for the establishment of a united Government for South Africa has been brought before Parliament. More than thirty years ago a scheme for the confederation of South Africa was submitted to Parliament and ultimately became law. That was very early in my political life, but I took—it may be known to some of your Lordships—a rather resolute stand in opposition to that project, which became ultimately abortive because it was never put into operation. But my chief ground for opposition, and one of the main principles on which I proceeded, was that that union did not come from South Africa and was not conceived in any just relation to the circumstances that then prevailed in South Africa. The present Bill does come from South Africa and is founded upon an intimate knowledge of the circumstances of that country; and it comes to us with the authority of a happy union of the most distinguished men, both Dutch and British, who have been engaged for years past in the government of South Africa. Every principle, therefore, which led me to resist the former Bill leads me to accept, with deference, what is here submitted to us. The provisions relating to questions concerning the relations of the different white populations of South Africa to one another and the provisions which deal with 779 the formation of a European or a European-descended community in South Africa command my entire concurrence and respect. But when the representatives of the European communities there go further and lay down principles which shall govern the organisation of South Africa in the future with regard to the overwhelming black population, then I think we may be entitled to question their authority; and if we do not go the length of pressing our opinions on their acceptance, we may at least state them and invite their consideration under aspects which, perhaps, have not previously occurred.
The two main points to which I would like to call attention are the denying of the eligibility of the native to sit either in the Senate or in the House of Representatives of the South African Parliament and the taking over of the Protectorates by the future Government of South Africa. Both the noble Earl who introduced this Bill and the noble Lord who spoke last expressed regret that the native should not be eligible to sit in the Parliament of South Africa; but it was pointed out by both of them that this was a new question not governed by what had pre-existed. Lord Curzon said it is very difficult to press upon an unwilling local population any principle which they strongly resent, and that you are bound to defer to the authority of those on the spot. The argument of the noble Earl who brought in the Bill and the argument of the noble Lord who has just sat down would be very strong if it were necessary to choose between the eligibility of non-European-descended persons to sit in the United Parliament for all constituencies under all circumstances, and their to sit for Cape constituencies or to sit in the Senate. In maintaining their eligibility for Cape constituencies you would be practically maintaining what exists, and it would not have been necessary to insist that they should have been eligible for election as representatives of the Transvaal or the Orange Free State, where they are not now eligible, or as representatives of Natal, where they are eligible but under such conditions that it would be impossible to dream of their being elected. It is not necessary to have a universal eligibility. It would have been quite sufficient and consistent with what has gone before if you maintained the eligibility of natives as representatives of Cape constituencies.
780 Was there any invincible obstacle to that eligibility being maintained? We are told that if any such change had been insisted upon it would have broken up the scheme of the Union. I do not find, however, that that statement is made with respect to this partial eligibility on which I have dwelt. It is made in respect to universal eligibility. Would, it have been impossible to have maintained the status quo in regard to eligibility in Cape Colony? I am not clear from any statement that has been made that such a provision would have involved anything like the destruction of the Union. I would go further and say that, from conversations I have had and from communications which have been made to me, I think that this difficulty was in a large measure unreal. I am at all events not convinced,—perhaps a desire not to be convinced leads to the conclusion, but I do not think so—that if a quiet resolution had been maintained on the part of the representatives of the King to insist upon the retention of the eligibility, however theoretical that may be, of the natives for election for Cape constituencies, such a resolution would not have prevailed. Indeed, there are reasons for thinking that even in the Transvaal and in the Orange Free State the objection to the possibility of a native member sitting with other members in the united Parliament of the future was not as great as has been represented.
Let me recall to your memory a circumstance which I think illustrates this. Before representative institutions were granted to the new Colonies and whilst the Transvaal was still administered as a Crown Colony, there was a Commission appointed to inquire into the government of the natives, and that Commission held an elaborate inquiry and presented an ample Report. It has not led to any practical conclusions, and I do not think, indeed, that the mind of the Commission was so decisive as to produce any legislative consequence. But it is a remarkable fact that in the course of their Report great stress is laid upon the possibility of maintaining native representation in any future Parliamentary institutions that might be set up in South Africa by following the New Zealand pattern, where, as your Lordships know, native Maories elect four Maori members to sit in the New Zealand House of Representatives. There 781 was no kind of repulsion expressed as to the possibility of admitting a similar system in South Africa—that is to say, the idea of admitting one, two, or three native members, elected by the natives to sit in the Union Parliament, was not at once rejected as absolutely inadmissible. Thus the aversion to possible co-operation in this way of natives with those of European descent in the future government of the country is so far shown to be something which you might grapple with and dispel. Is there any solid reason why a stronger line should not have been taken with respect to this question of eligibility? It was stated by my noble friend below me, and repeated by Lord Curzon, that no native presented himself for election, and, therefore, that no native had ever been elected to the Cape Assembly. That is perfectly true; but eligibility is not a matter of merely sentimental consideration, as was suggested by the noble Lord who spoke second this evening. It is a matter which concerns those who take a very practical view of this problem.
What is the problem, after all? The great problem of the future is the government of the natives by the whites, and how they should be associated in the organisation of South Africa. Now, what are the circumstances with respect to the natives in relation to the problem? The native is increasing in numbers and shows a remarkable aptitude for education, insomuch that some of them are occupying honourable positions in the liberal professions; others are engaged in trade, and a larger number every year are going through the practical education which lies in the industrial development of the community. You have some 20,000 native voters in Cape Colony; you have native barristers, native doctors, native editors, native preachers; and it is a most practical question not to stifle the aspirations which we find in the minds of those natives, and which will become stronger and stronger with their progress and development, but to allow the possibility, even though it may not become immediately active, of these natives passing up and going from a position of members of a subject race to a position of equality with the superior race in the government of the country. If you really wish to get a national conscience, if you wish to get a national mind, could you secure better contributions to the magnificent thing you desire than by the co-operation, 782 in however feeble a manner and however slight a degree, of native action with your own in the Government in the future?
There were some observations made by Lord Curzon which lead me to think that he agrees with me in this respect, that in the remote future there must and will be such an association of the educated natives with the whites as I have been sketching. When you have got, as even under this Bill, native electors in the Cape; when you have got, as even under this Bill, natives eligible to be elected to the provincial committees of the Cape, do you think that even a South African Parliament could permanently withstand the admission of natives to sit in the House of Representatives if sent there by a Cape constituency? Our own experience leads to the conclusion that ineligibility of that kind could not be maintained in the circumstances of an election taking place such as I have suggested. You had a law prohibiting Catholics sitting in the House of Commons but when the people of Clare sent Mr. O'Connor there, the Duke of Wellington did not think it wise to face the possibility of a civil war in Ireland and the disability was removed. I have no doubt that this ineligibility will be removed, but I do not desire that it should be removed as the result of severe contention, or of strife which may take a material shape. Do not take away eligibility because it has not been exercised; allow it to remain since it involves no serious danger. It gives the possibility of the building up of that society in South Africa in the future in which alone can we hope to find a stable, a progressive, a civilised nation.
I am unwilling even for a moment to refer to a matter which may be regarded as peculiar to myself, but I think the case for maintaining the eligibility of the native is much stronger because of the unfortunate removal from the final draft of the South Africa Act of that principle of proportional representation which was embodied in it at first. Having regard only to the composition of the white communities there, it was most desirable that in the Parliament of the future there should be found representatives of every shade of moderate opinion; that there should emerge from the Boer community, so to speak, men who would be more in agreement with the English and would have sympathies and 783 affinities leading them to understand their ways of thought, and that from amidst the English communities there should emerge those having affinities and sympathies with the Boers—that you should get the man of moderate opinion, free from the folly of extremes, who should carry forward that steady, sober, persistent and well-maintained course of moderate policy which is found in the happy circumstances under which this Act of Union has been framed, by bringing the representatives of both parties together, but which is always in danger of lapsing under Parliamentary institutions such as we usually understand them. It is pre-eminently desirable that this principle should have been kept in the Union in the interests of the natives, because in the absence of it I am afraid there may be great difficulty in anybody who is dubbed a negrophile finding it possible to obtain access to the united Parliament.
I put it to your Lordships as a matter of practical wisdom, not as a matter of sentiment. If you go to the root of the matter and consider what is practical and wise, if you take into account the composition of the population and the proved improvability of the native races, if you take into account the way in which they have raised themselves and are raising themselves, you see that it will be impossible to maintain the position assumed in this Bill, and it would have been better at the outset to have allowed this question of eligibility to remain open as it was in the past, and to have left to the Parliament of South Africa its development in the future. When we get into Committee I shall feel it my duty to put before your Lordships a proposition for removing from the Bill the clauses requiring that all Senators and members of the House of Representatives should be of European descent. I do not quite know, by the by, what that expression means. There is no definition of it in the Bill, and it would be interesting to know what proportion of blood renders a person European. But whatever it may be, if this disqualification were removed, then the eligibility of natives for the united Parliament would remain the same as for the present separated Parliaments, so that, in fact, in the Cape a native would be eligible, in the Transvaal and Orange Free State he would be ineligible, and in Natal he would be theoretically eligible though 784 practically ineligible. The simple removal of the disqualification clause would leave things as they are.
One strong reason in favour of the removal is that it would operate as a means of enabling the gradual working up of the great populations of South Africa into a position to take some share, however small, in the government of the country. It may appear to many of you fanciful to think that in maintaining this eligibility we should have any kind of prospect of welding the populations of South Africa together. But the fact that any man may look forward to being in Parliament is a circumstance which is of the profoundest influence in the organisation of society among ourselves, and in South Africa, too, it would tend to make society one. This eligibility I repeat is a thing which ought to be cherished if we really wish to build up a society which will hold together as one society in Africa.
I pass to the other matter on which I wish to make a few observations. It will be said, and has been said, with respect to what I have been already speaking about, that it is idle to make a proposition for removing the clause in question because it is vital to the Act of Union and could not be removed. But with respect to the taking over of the Protectorates we have, as I understand from the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal, an admission that that emanated from us, that the Clause and the Schedule attached are home-grown, that they are not of Smith African formation, and that although the delegates are ready to accept them they are not brought forward by them, and, indeed, there is a rumour, which may or may not be accurate, that when it was suggested that items in the Schedule might be strengthened the members of the Convention were ready to accept them as they stood but would prefer to have them dropped altogether than altered. But they are not averse to having them dropped altogether. It is, therefore, within our competence to strike out the provision relating to the taking over of the Protectorates. I cannot help thinking that it is very desirable that that should be done, and I would almost claim the noble Lord opposite, Lord Curzon, as a supporter in that. He wishes that the Protectorates should be taken over slowly, that there should be delay and due weight paid to all representations made by those concerned; 785 and though he admitted that the thing must be done, he was in favour of its being done later rather than sooner.
I admit quite frankly that these Protectorates must at some future day be taken over by the Government of South Africa. It is impossible to conceive that they should remain apart from that Government, intermixed as the Protectorates are with the area which will be governed by the South African Parliament, but it need not be done at once. If the clause were omitted there would be this great advantage, that when the transfer of a Protectorate was proposed the conditions would have to be examined anew by the Home Parliament, and this circumstance would be of extreme value, because we should have more opportunity for deliberation and preparation. If we cannot do that, we might at least attach some conditions to the transfer which are not found in the Bill at present. I would remind your Lordships that, although it may be argued with almost irresistible force that you could not deal with the non-eligibility of the native to sit as a member even for the Cape in the House of Representatives, you are perfectly at liberty to deal with this question of the transfer of Protectorates.
Now, are the clauses in the Schedule dealing with this subject really as trustworthy as seem to be thought by my noble friend below me and as was accepted by the noble Lord who spoke last? What do they amount to? They really amount to nothing more than this, that the Protectorates should be under the Parliamentary Government of the Cape in future. Examine them quite narrowly, and you will see that all the precautions that are supposed to be involved in these clauses are of a very shadowy and unsubstantial nature. The transferred Protectorate is to be under the government of the Prime Minister. Who is the Prime Minister? He is the man enjoying the confidence of the House of Representatives at the Cape. The laws and regulations are to be made by the Governor-General in Council. Who is the Governor-General in Council? The Governor-General is not an independent authority like the Governor-General of India. The Governor-General in Council in the future will be a Constitutional monarch, and the Governor-General in Council is another name for the authority of the Prime Minister. These regulations and laws have to be submitted as Provisional 786 Orders to the Parliament, and again you have the concurrence and the co-operation of Parliament. You have the whole of the administration of the transferred territory practically under the control of Parliament. It is true that there are to be certain gentlemen appointed as advisers of the Prime Minister, and they are to have a certain fixed tenure of office and fixed remuneration. They will be chosen, however, by the Prime Minister in the first place, and they will naturally be chosen in a way not to present opposition to him. More than that, the Prime Minister, although he is bound to present to his advisers any new scheme of legislation or of taxation, is not bound to accept their conclusion; and although when they dissent they have a right to record their dissent, the Prime Minister—the Prime Minister again—with the concurrence of his colleagues, can determine that the publication of the dissent would be opposed to good policy and injudicious in the circumstances of the situation, and the dissent could in that way be suppressed. So that the guarantees that are supposed to be involved in this separate administration are, as I have said, of a very shadowy character.
Even the safeguards supposed to be derived in the case of India are wanting in respect of these Protectorates. The great mass of our members have no special knowledge of or interest in India, and there is no legislation with respect to India which they desire to promote for any ends of their own. But take the case of the Protectorates of Bechuanaland and Basutoland. They are close to the electors and close to the members of the Cape Parliament. The eyes of many of the constituents are directed to the lands contained within those Protectorates. They have very plausible arguments for saying that if these lands were taken under their control there would be plenty to allow the natives and the rest might be turned to better use—might, in fact, be made the means of developing a large European society. These temptations of interference in the administration of the Protectorates do not prevail in respect of British India and therefore the safeguards which you think you derive from the analogy of British India are wanting in respect of the Protectorates of Bechuanaland and Basutoland.
There is one other consideration I desire to present to you. We are bound in respect 787 of Basutoland, for instance, in the most clear fashion by promises of a very deliberate and unmistakable character to give the Basutos the benefit of direct government from home. State Papers amounting to a contract exist, for Lord Derby's great Despatch of 1883 guaranteed to Basutoland direct government from home. I admit that all these declarations, whether contained in treaties, conventions, or other State documents, cannot be regarded as being perpetually binding as eternal obligations. They must be construed with reference to the circumstances in which they are given and the circumstances in which they are sought to be applied; and I admit that, despite Lord Derby's solemn assurance amounting to a promise, a case may arise and must arise when Basutoland would be handed over from the direct authority of the Crown to the control of the Parliament of South Africa. But the members of His Majesty's Government must be very slow to take that liberal view of the way in which conventions and treaties can be manipulated. At all events, their language in recent months has led them to look upon all such negotiations as matters which cannot be changed, and they may agree with me in thinking that they must not be changed until the proposed changes have been communicated to those interested in them, until those interested have had a right to speak upon them and to make out any case they may desire to make in opposition to them. If the Schedule and the Clause are retained, they should at least secure that no transfer should be made of a Protectorate from the direct control of the Crown to the Government of South Africa until the indunas had been collected together and the circumstances explained to them, until they had had an opportunity of expressing their opinions, until they could, if necessity arose, send representatives to appeal to the King in Council not to sanction the transfer. That is the simplest and most natural way of protecting a right which is acknowledged to exist, and which should not be changed except under the most cogent considerations demanding a change.
I see no difficulty about inserting provisions requiring that these securities shall be realised before any transfer is made. It is admitted that the inhabitants of Basutoland and Bechuanaland implore you not to make the change. Well, do not be in a hurry to make it. Do not insist on its being done soon. Let time elapse before it is done. 788 Remove the power from this Bill, and let it come up again before Parliament. But if you persist in maintaining the machinery in the Bill then at least improve that machinery by securing to the people most affected the right of remonstrance and of presenting their case. The noble Lord opposite, Lord Northcote, spoke of this Act of Union as part of a great measure of Imperial relations. The primary object to be considered is what shall be the relation of this Act to the people of South Africa. Imperial relations will follow in due course; but no Imperial relations can be sound unless you have a united, a self-reliant, a self-conscious, a vivified community. If you have only a small proportion, relatively, of European descent governing a vast mass of coloured population you will have a position of unrest, of instability, and of future danger such as would not make South Africa a sound element in your Imperial Union. You must in some measure or other admit the possibility of co-operation between native and white if you would make South Africa a united part in the union of Imperial Britain.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I desire to say a very few words on this subject, and I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes. I feel deeply the responsibility of uttering any word which savours, I will not say of objection, but even of serious criticism of a Bill which is fraught not merely with the power of effacing so many of the memories of strife in the past, but also with the possibility of opening the gates of high hope for the future. I am a grateful and glad supporter, with the rest of your Lordships, of the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill, and, more than that, I am ready, in all the circumstances, that the Bill should stand upon the Statute Book without amendment of any kind. The noble Earl who introduced the Bill to-night so eloquently, spoke in his opening words of the fact that what we are doing closes a chapter in South African history; and he went on to say, to my great satisfaction, that it opens a chapter as well. I regard these as words of good omen, for the chapter which is opening may, I trust, unroll a story of progress and advance in more ways than one.
But there is one matter to which every speaker has referred and which cuts so 789 deep into the principles upon which the central legislation of a great Empire ought to rest, that, sitting where I do, I should find it difficult to pass it by in silence, or rather to pass it by as though we acquiesced in this proposal, at a juncture like the present, as something essentially and fundamentally right. I refer, of course, to the racial or colour bar which cuts across the path of certain men. Whatever their gifts and whatever their educational and other qualifications for the responsible discharge of the functions of a citizen, or even for high office, these men are to be debarred on the ground simply and solely of the racial or colour distinction. The calm consideration of the racial question is always apt to be hindered by excessive sentiment on the one side or by violent prejudice on the other, and I am very far from contending either that the question is an easy one or that those are to be censured who, either in South Africa or in England, are responsible for the Bill as it stands.
Again, I would not say a word which might seem to imply that I thought we had, reached a stage at which the native races in South Africa could be placed as regards the functions of citizenship on a par with the white men. The overwhelming majority of the people of South Africa must for some generations to come be regarded, I am afraid, as quite unfit for any such charge or responsibility. I gather that what is here proposed is not in the least likely to do any harm at this moment to any appreciable portion of the native races. The greatest danger, I suppose, of all to which we could expose the native cause would be that the privilege of the franchise should fall into the hands of natives who are obviously unfit to exercise it. But in case we should hereafter be regarded as having acquiesced in laying it down as a permanent principle that there is to be a bar against certain men, whatever their other qualifications, on the mere ground of race or colour, we must to-night make our position clear. To say that would be saying what to some of us is not merely against the grain, but traverses principles of a very sacred kind. Noble Lords have to-night used the phrase "native franchise," but the words in the Bill are "of European descent." I believe there has been no judicial interpretation of these words. We can imagine an interpretation which might carry us very far indeed. I should be out of my depth if I discussed that matter, but I think it is well we 790 should bear in mind where these words may possibly lead us, and what effect their rigid application may have upon the position of many who now possess an unchallenged franchise or a seat in Parliament. I fee so strongly about the principle which is at stake in regard to this colour bar that I should greatly have liked to hear that it had been possible, in South Africa, to take a different line from that which has been adopted. As at present advised, I should be sorry to try to force Amendments upon the Bill as it stands, for the very plain reason that, pace Lord Courtney, I am given to understand that such an Amendment would, be fatal to the Bill and that the dropping of the Bill would be in the highest degree harmful, not only to the general well-being of South Africa, but specially to the native cause in South Africa, and that by wrecking the Bill we should be defeating the very object we have at heart.
The principle on which I suppose that we may fall back in this matter was laid down in an eloquent address delivered to the University of the Cape in a perfectly private capacity by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, to whom South Africa owes so much. He laid down in that address, speaking, he tells us, not as High Commissioner, but as a graduate of one University addressing another University, that what we have to remember in our dealings with the natives in South Africa is that we are the adults and they are the children. The white man, he points out, is the racial adult: the black man is the racial child. That principle runs through all that is best and most desirable in the legislation we may lay down. On that principle it is that I desire to base the hopes I entertain that good may come out of what is to many of us an apparent evil. If we clearly realise that the restrictions and limitations which are for the present imposed on so many of our fellow-subjects are restrictions and limitations which correspond to those which we impose on children, or growing boys, in our own land, and that they will grow up and that the time will come when they will be fit to discharge all the responsibilities we withhold from them at present, we may look forward to the future without the alarm which this provision would otherwise cause us. We believe that what we regard as the larger, sounder, and more Christian principles will in the long run 791 prevail in South Africa as years advance. I have been glad to notice, as Lord Curzon has already said, that whereas under the Bill any endeavour to restrict the rights given by the Bill to the natives must be supported by a two-thirds majority of the Assembly, the privileges can by a bare majority be extended freely in more directions than one. That seems to me to strike a hopeful note, and corresponds with the satisfaction with which we are able, on the whole, to welcome what I believe to be a measure of a wise and beneficent character, and likely to tend to the good of the whole peoples of South Africa.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, if this debate is not prolonged further into the evening, and if the closing speeches are addressed to somewhat sparsely filled Benches, I trust it will not be believed that that is because there exists in any part of the House anything like a feeling of indifference to the Bill before us. We recognise, on the contrary, its vast importance to the Colonies concerned most immediately and to the Empire as a whole.
But this Bill comes to us in somewhat special circumstances. We are not asked to consider this evening the draft or the outline of a new system which is to be submitted to these Colonies and afterwards brought back to us for final consideration. What we have before us to-night is a carefully-elaborated scheme for the creation of a new Constitution in South Africa—a scheme which comes to us backed by the responsible Governments of the four Colonies concerned and, so far as we are able to judge, by the people of those Colonies. We therefore on this side of the House not only do not approach the question in anything like a critical spirit, but we realise that, as the Secretary of State for the Colonies told us earlier in the evening, it is most important that this Bill should pass through Parliament without anything approaching serious alteration. For that reason our discussion this evening has been necessarily of a somewhat academic character. If we are to give self-government to these Colonies, surely it is clear that it is not for us, at any rate as regards matters of detail, to tell them how they are to exercise the rights which we confer upon them. To do so would be to sow the seeds of future trouble, and to assume responsibilities which I do not think we ought to undertake.
792 Therefore we have to ask ourselves with regard to this Bill the simple questions—Is it a good Bill for the Colonies? Is it a good Bill for the Empire? I think we may safely answer both those questions in the affirmative; and it does seem to me to be established by what has passed to-night that union is good for South Africa, not only because, as the noble Earl told us, without union economical administration would be impossible, not only because without union a sound railway system would be unattainable, but because without union it would be impossible for these communities to found stable institutions and to create that wider patriotism of which signs have already been manifested during the negotiations which led to the framing of this measure. Therefore, I say unhesitatingly that I, for one, regard this Bill as a great achievement on which I offer His Majesty's Government my sincere congratulations. It is an achievement which would have been creditable in any circumstances. It is an achievement which seems to me doubly creditable when we remember that within the present decade we were locked in a deadly struggle with some of those who have acted most energetically and most cordially in bringing about this great settlement.
When I say that, I wish to guard myself against being supposed to suggest that this, in our opinion, is in all respects a perfect measure. I do not believe for a moment that it will solve all the problems which lie before us in South Africa, and I do not believe that those who have been most responsible for framing the Bill would themselves claim that it is a measure of that kind. But taking the Bill, as we must, as a whole, I regard it as a justification of the expeditious procedure which His Majesty's Government preferred to the more deliberate policy which found favour with their predecessors.
The noble Earl observed that the point with regard to which most anxiety is felt in this House is the manner in which the Bill deals with the political rights of the non-European part of the South African population. As to what I conceive to be the main principle on which His Majesty's Government have proceeded in this respect I have not a word of complaint to offer. I understand them to found themselves as far as possible on the recognition of the status quo. That seems to me to be a reasonable proposal. 793 The question of native rights is one which for generations has distracted South Africa, and it would have been impossible to attempt in this settlement to substitute for the anomalous and inconsistent arrangements which now obtain in different parts of His Majesty's South African Dominions anything like a uniform or symmetrical arrangement. To have attempted any task of the kind would only have over-weighted the Convention and might well have led to its complete failure.
I cannot, however, refrain from saying that there are points in regard to which considerable anxiety is felt by those who are interested in these matters. There is, in the first place, the general and sweeping exclusion of all persons not of European descent from the right to sit in the Union Parliament. That broad exclusion has come, I have no doubt, to many people as a very considerable shock. The noble Earl evidently felt that, for I think he told us that in his opinion it was necessary to make a very strong case for such an exclusion. The most rev. Primate who has just spoken has called attention to the ambiguity of the expression "European descent." That is a question which I will not pursue at this moment, but it is quite clear that a great deal depends upon the interpretation which it is intended to give to those two words. But apart from that ambiguity, the wholesale exclusion of non-Europeans undoubtedly seems a somewhat striking and unsatisfactory feature. There is only one answer to that objection, and it is the answer which in effect the noble Earl gave when he told us that without this condition the Bill would not have been attainable at all. If that be the case, as I have no doubt it is, much as I regret the insertion of these words, I very much prefer the Bill with the exclusion to no Bill at all. Then there is the special hardship occasioned to Cape Colony. The non-European residents of Cape Colony are at this moment qualified to sit in the Legislature of Cape Colony. They retain the right, but they are not eligible for a seat in the Union Parliament. I do not press that objection very hard. It seems to me that the arguments which apply in the case of qualification for a local Parliament do not necessarily apply where you are dealing with the Parliament of the whole Union. Moreover, even in Cape Colony there has been, I think we were told, no instance in which a person not of European origin has been allowed to sit in the Legislature.
794 Then just a word, with regard to a point which has been taken by more than one speaker—the question whether under this Bill there is really anything like adequate security for the retention of the franchise by the citizens of Cape Colony. The noble Earl was confident that the two-thirds majority was a sufficient safeguard. I frankly confess I am not quite so easily reassured. It does seem to me by no means inconceivable that circumstances might arise in which that two-thirds majority might not prove a sufficient safeguard. As I understand the figures, a two-thirds majority would mean 108 votes out of 161. Of those votes I understand ninety-four would be drawn from the Transvaal, the Orange River State, and Natal, in which it is notorious that the feeling is against the native franchise. If that figure is correct it would follow that only fourteen additional votes would be necessary in order to provide the two-thirds majority under which these people might find themselves disfranchised. That does seem to me to be a serious risk, and I think the noble Earl must be aware that it is a serious risk, because he told the House that in his view the remedy for such a state of things would probably be found in disallowance by the Imperial Government of the statute in which that disqualification was embodied. Disallowance of a Dominion statute by the Imperial Government is not a light matter, and I should be sorry to look forward to the use of that particular safeguard. I do not desire to press that point further. I would only say that I am very glad that this point has been fully discussed in this House, and that the noble Earl himself, by his language, should have showed that he realised how grave the question was, and that this right, now enjoyed by the people of Cape Colony, was not one of which they ought, in any circumstances to which we can look forward, to be deprived.
But, my Lords, I feel that these are really not questions which we can dispose of in this house. We must look forward for a satisfactory solution of them to the same patriotism, the same love of fair play, and the same Imperial instincts which have characterised the discussion of this measure in South Africa, and we may, I hope, be confident that those qualities will be displayed again. Meanwhile we welcome this Bill both on its merits and because it is the outcome of negotiations 795 in which these great qualities have been so repeatedly manifested. I regard the Bill as full of hopeful augury for the future. May I be permitted in passing to say that I was glad the noble Earl rather went out of his way to mention the manner in which the people of Natal had responded when the referendum was submitted to them? It was a very remarkable exhibition of disinterested and patriotic conduct. We gladly join noble Lords opposite in doing honour to the statesmen to whom this happy solution is due. I would gladly mention the names of those whose personal services and exertions we should like to recognise specially, but I feel how dangerous it would be for any one in my position who has not been behind the scenes during the last few months to single out those to whom special honour is due. We desire to honour them all, whether they be of the British or of the Dutch race.
But I may be permitted to say one word—and I shall do it all the more gladly because it relates to an old friend and colleague—in recognition of the part played by Lord Selborne in these affairs. He has held what I suppose we may call a watching brief for the Empire. No one could have shown more tact and courage than he has throughout these negotiations. And may I add to the name of Lord Selborne another name? I think at this moment we must all feel how much is due to the services rendered to the Empire by Lord Milner, who bore a weight of overwhelming responsibility in days when the task was much more thankless and the prospect much less hopeful than it is at present. Without the preliminary work which Lord Milner accomplished I do not think it is too much to say that this great result might have been unattainable. The names of all these men will indeed go down to posterity associated with these events—the names of actors in one of the most memorable chapters in the history of the Empire, a chapter begun amidst suspicion, strife, and racial animosities and ending amidst high hopes, generous aspirations, and mutual good will.
There were some who in the darkest days of our South African troubles cherished the hope that there would emerge from that great struggle a new order of things in which those admirable elements to be found in South Africa should no longer antagonise, but should be found blended 796 together in happy combination for the good of South Africa, for the good of this country, and for the good of the whole civilised world. That hope has been fulfilled more rapidly than any of us could have dared to hope, and therefore it is in no grudging spirit that we on this side of the House are ready to take our full share of responsibility for assuring to this Bill a safe conduct through this House. And should it ever be our lot, or the lot of those associated with us, to watch over the Bill in operation, you may depend upon it that we shall do so in a spirit not less cordial and friendly than that exhibited by the noble Earl and his colleagues. This is a great Imperial settlement, and it is for the Imperialists of the old country and of the new to see to it that it is made a success.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD LOREBURN)
My Lords, I have very little to add to what has been said. This debate has been quiet because it is unanimous, not because any one has been indifferent to the occasion. The only topic on which I would say a word or two is that relating to the political status of the natives, to which allusion has been so freely made. It is easy to express aspirations for political ideals, but it was quite impracticable for His Majesty's Government to press further the point on which so much insistence has been laid. I think your Lordships should remember, in the first place, that it was a very difficult task to reconcile differences in South Africa itself; next, that these are four self-governing Colonies, and that the doctrine of non-interference with the wishes of self-governing Colonies in regard to their own confines is thoroughly well established between both Parties; and, further, that these provisions are provisions which affect their own life and their own business 6,000 miles away from us.
At the same time, I hope that our countrymen in South Africa will feel that the real anxiety that exists in Great Britain on this subject is due not to any selfish reasons of our own, but to our obligations of honour, and that it is shared by large numbers of men in this country who have most honourable sympathy with the native races. This anxiety is not due to any distrust of our countrymen in South Africa, but wherever there is exclusion there always will be apprehension, whether the scene 797 be in England or in any other part of the world. My hope and belief is that by indirect leading to direct means there will be in good time an admission of the native element in South Africa.
My own feeling of satisfaction is the same as that which pervades the whole House. I will not refer to any names of those who may have been parties to this settlement. I am not sure that we should agree or that we do agree altogether with regard to names. But I am certain we all agree in this—that there should be an effacement of anything remaining that may be bitter in the minds of any man as to past events in South Africa. Let us imitate the example of those brave and honourable men out there who have forgotten, though they have suffered much more than any of us can possibly have suffered, and look forward to a future of union and unreserved good will among all classes of the people in that distant country.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.