Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [28th January],
That a Select Committee he appointed to inquire into the origin and circumstances of the incursion into the South African Republic by an armed force, and into the administration of the British South Africa Company, and to report thereon, and further to report what alterations are desirable in the government of the territories under the control of the Company.
That the Committee have leave to hear Counsel to such an extent as they shall see fit, and have power to send for persons, papers, and records."—(Mr. Secretary Chamberlain.)
§ Question again proposed:—Debate resumed.
Amendment proposed, in line 1, after the word "That," to leave out to the end of the Question, in order to add the words
in view of the peaceful settlement of affairs in the Chartered Company's territories, the punishment of all persons connected with the
raid into the Transvaal, and the inexpediency, in the interests of all South Africa, of reopening questions which have now been disposed of, this House thinks it unnecessary to reappoint the Select Committee of 1896."—(Mr. Maclean.)
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
who on rising was received with cheers, said: I rise at once, for I understand from my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Lubbock) that he has concluded the speech he was making when the House rose last night. My light hon. Friend and the Mover of the Amendment have made an appeal to the Government to treat this Resolution which they have proposed as an open question—to leave it to the House to decide whether or no this further inquiry shall be made. Well, Sir, I may say at once that is an unusual request—I will not say an unprecedented request; but the circumstances of the case are not such as enable me to comply with it. ["Hear, hear!"] I am glad to know from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, as well as from the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Amendment, that the objects on all sides of the House are the same in reference to this matter, and that it is the desire of all sections of the House to do everything in their power to allay the feeling of race animosity in South Africa, and to promote those good relations between the Dutch and English there without which the peace and prosperity of the country are absolutely impossible. Now, that is my policy, that has been my policy, and that will be my policy consistently so long as I have the honour to hold my present office. ["Hear, hear!"] I have patiently pursued it, not without being subject from time to time to some misunderstanding. If my conduct has not always appeared to be absolutely consistent to some of my hon. Friends, it has not been because my lines of policy have changed, it has only been because, from the nature of the circumstances, I have not always been able to pursue that policy exactly by the same means. ["Hear, hear!"] But my policy, and the policy anyone in my position must put forward, has for its primary object to remove causes of disagreement between the Dutch and English inhabitants 803 of South Africa. The mover of the Amendment said he was actuated by the same desire; but I must honestly say that I do not think he was fortunate in the manner in which he proceeded to accomplish his desire. I have no doubt it was entirely unintentional, but he did contrive to put his finger on every sore spot in connection with this controversy, and I am afraid that speeches of this kind will do more to promote than to allay the irritation we all deplore. The hon. Gentleman no doubt is a harbinger of peace, but at the same time I do think that upon reflection he himself will be convinced that the precise way he took to secure peace was not exactly the most discreet. ["Hear!"] I make no complaint whatever of the speech of my right hon. Friend who seconded the Amendment, who spoke with great moderation and evident sincerity on the subject. I will go further and say that I sympathise not only with his motive in bringing forward the Amendment, but I agree with many of the arguments he used. The House is perfectly well aware that the position of affairs in South Africa is still unsatisfactory. In dealing with matters at this juncture I am myself in a difficult position, and I am sure the House will show me every consideration. ["Hear, hear!"] I am not altogether disinterested. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment referred to rumours current during the last few months with regard to my action and policy previous to the raid. I cannot ignore these rumours, and if there be any person in or out of the House who believes that I knew of the intended raid or was cognisant of that raid beforehand, or that I did not take every step in my power to prevent the raid and to turn it back after it commenced—if there be any such person, then I have above all persons in the House the most reason to desire inquiry. [" Hear, hear! "] But I endeavour to put aside all personal considerations, and must then say to the House in my position as Colonial Secretary that undoubtedly the situation in South Africa at the present time gives cause for considerable anxiety. ["Hear, hear!"] Disquieting reports reach me every day, and I do not know how to distinguish in every case between baseless rumours and actual truth with solid foundation, 804 but undoubtedly there has been within the last few months a recrudescence of that unrestfulness which it must be the desire of all of us, if possible, to allay. ["Hear, hear!"] The situation has not been improved by recent legislation of the Transvaal Government, and there is no doubt that provisions in some of that legislation are contrary to the Convention of London, and if that legislation is enforced, undoubtedly a situation will be created which will require all our prudence, all our impartiality, and all our patience. ["Hear, hear!"] Then, again, there is the question of reforms which have been asked for on behalf of the Uitlander population. The President has again and again promised to give full and favourable consideration to requests, to suggestions which may be made, to friendly representations, I should say, made by Her Majesty's Government in regard to the population in the Transvaal. These friendly representations from Her Majesty's Government have not been wanting. These respectful requests from the majority of the Uitlander population, who pay nineteen-twentieths of the taxation—[cheers]—and who have no substantial representation whatsoever—["hear, hear"]—have also not been wanting. But up to the present time the response of President Kruger and of the Transvaal Government has, to say the least of it, been inadequate. Reforms have been proposed and carried in the last session of the Raad, as to which I have asked Mr. Conyngham Greene, our very able Agent at Pretoria, to furnish me with a full report as soon as he himself is in a position to do so. But in the meantime, there is no doubt that they go only a little way to satisfy what I believe every impartial man in any civilised and constitutional State would admit to be the legitimate requests on behalf of the majority of the population. [Cheers.] I do not recall, I do not withdraw, anything I have ever said with regard to this matter. The hon. Member who moved this Resolution referred to the Dispatch which I addressed to President Kruger immediately after the raid, and he said that since then I have been overborne by the timid counsels of Sir Hercules Robinson. Of course I take full responsibility for everything that is being done or said by Lord Rosmead— 805 [Opposition cheers]—so long as he remains the Governor of the Cape and the High Commissioner of Her Majesty in South Africa. I do not attempt for a moment to get rid of that responsibility, but I say for him and for myself that we have no reason to withdraw the statement which I made to President Kruger that there would be no security for peace and for the good relations between the races in the Transvaal until some consideration had been shown and some attempt had been made to redress their grievances. [Cheers.] Let me not be understood in saying this to cast blame upon President Kruger. President Kruger has his own difficulties to contend with. ["Hear, hear!"] He is a constitutional ruler; he has his people to deal with, and it is quite possible he has objections to overcome which up to the present time he may have failed to overcome. We can only wish that his hands may be strengthened to carry out the policy to which he has again and again committed himself and as to his sincerity in regard to which I, at all events, have no occasion and no right to comment. While, however, I believe that President Kruger and the great majority even of the Dutch in the Transvaal desire to follow out the policy indicated by the President in that speech which he made, I think, shortly after the munificent subscription which was raised in the Rand for the sufferers by the dynamite explosion, and in which he said his policy was "to heal sores, to forget and to for give "—I do not doubt that that is the policy of the majority in the Transvaal—it is only too evident that there are extreme sections on both sides—["hear, hear"]—who apparently have an interest, or at all events are willing, to maintain the state of unrest. ["Hear, hear."] These are the circumstances which it is my duty to bring before the House. It is in face of these circumstances upon which my right hon. Friend the Member for the London University has laid stress, that we ask you to proceed with this Inquiry. It is an Inquiry in two branches. It is in the first place to inquire into the origin and the circumstances of the raid. It is in the second place to inquire into the administration of the Chartered Company. As to the second portion of the Inquiry, I do not imagine that there will be any 806 difference of opinion. [Opposition cheers.] Undoubtedly a new work, a gigantic work, is being carried on under very difficult and novel circumstances by this great organisation. [" Hear, hear!"] We have had some experience, we have had some knowledge; it is natural we should wish for more. We have come undoubtedly to a critical point, it may be to the turning point, and it is desirable that this House should be in full possession of all the facts with regard to the way in which this company has, up to the present time discharged its liabilities—[Opposition cheers]—in order that we may see whether we shall be justified in continuing its authority. ["Hear, hear!"] I am bound to say, and I say it in order that there may be no misapprehension, that, so far as my own official knowledge goes, and having regard to the magnitude and the difficulties of the task, I believe the Chartered Company will be able to make out a very good case for itself, and that the development of this country, which, could not be undertaken by the Imperial Government without, at all events, involving continuous and very large demands upon the taxpayers of this country—that that duty has been fulfilled by the Chartered Company with great energy and with great public spirit. [Cheers.] But there is no reason whatever, I imagine, why the Chartered Company should fear the Inquiry or why this House should not desire it. As regards the other branch of the Inquiry, no doubt it is a portion of the examination into the affair which requires great care and discretion. The raid is indissolubly connected with the discontent in Johannesburg. The discontent in Johannesburg is founded upon the grievances of the Uitlanders. No inquiry into the origin of the raid would therefore be complete—it would be a sham—unless it went carefully into this question of grievances—[cheers]—and unless it determined how far those grievances afforded a justification for that discontent and agitation in Johannesburg which, as I have said, made the raid possible. ["Hear, hear!"] Of course, I say again that an inquiry of that kind is a delicate and a difficult inquiry, and I think that it will require great care upon our part and upon the part of the Committee so to conduct it 807 as not to re-open old sores. I think my right hon. Friend will admit that at all events I appreciate the difficulties in the way, the pitfalls in the path, to which he himself has so well called attention. But in spite of that I think it necessary, on behalf of the Government, to press for the appointment of this Committee. It is quite true that no promise was given either to President Kruger or, so far as I know, to any outsider in this matter. The promise was made to the House of Commons—["hear, hear!"]—and when a promise is made to the House of Commons it does not mean to one side, but to both sides of the House and to the general opinion of the House as a whole, and the Government could not without failing in honour retire from a promise so given unless it were relieved by the general wish of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] I have pointed out that the Committee will have before them a task of great difficulty, but I have confidence in a Committee of the House of Commons. I believe it will be equal to this difficult task. ["Hear, hear!"] It will know that it has to shield great national interests, and it will know how to subordinate personal prejudices to those higher and patriotic considerations. Although the House will be placing a great responsibility upon its shoulders, I believe that it will show itself quite able to deal with it in a manner satisfactory to the country, and that this Inquiry may therefore result in securing that object which we all have at heart—that is, allaying, and not increasing, the animosity which may at the present time prevail. [Cheers.] Before I sit down there is only one point on which I wish to say a word; that is with regard to the composition of the Committee. The Government have been anxious that this Committee should not be a large one. We think that its deliberations would be shortened and probably improved by its being confined to a limited number of members. But a difficulty has arisen with regard to the representation of the Irish parties on the Committee. Of course we are not responsible for that in any way; we have merely fulfilled our formal Ministerial obligation in accepting the list, which is the true proportion according to numbers, and which has been handed to us in the usual course as the representation of the other side. But it appears that there 808 are certain sections of the Irish Party who consider themselves overlooked in the matter, and all I have to say is that I am so desirous that everyone should, if possible, be satisfied, that if it will conduce to that object the Government will be ready, though they do not recommend it exactly, to accept the proposal to increase the Committee to 17 in order that the Irish may have another representative. [Cheers.]
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouth, W.)
I certainly do not rise for the purpose of criticising or differing from what I will call the prudent and moderate speech made by the Colonial Secretary. My right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London last night attributed to me a part in this transaction which I should have no wish to disclaim if I had any right to it. He really attributed to me the principal part in the moving for the appointment of this Committee. [Some Ministerial cheers.] There is, fortunately for me, a much higher authority than I am in this matter. Who is the first person who announced to the world that there was to be a searching inquiry into this matter? The only point in which I differ from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is his statement that the promise was made to the House of Commons. No, it was not made to the House of Commons. It was an announcement made by the Sovereign of this country to the world at large. In the Speech from the Throne in the year which is just past the Queen, referring to this transaction of the raid, said:—A sudden incursion into the South African Republic by an armed force from the territories under the control of the British South Africa Company resulted in a deplorable collision with the burgher forces. My Ministers at the earliest possible moment intervened to prohibit, through the High Commissioner, this hostile action, and to warn all my subjects throughout South Africa against taking part in aid thereof. The origin and circumstances of these proceedings will form the subject of a searching inquiry.There is the promise that was made, that there should be an Inquiry into this matter. The hon. Member for Cardiff has asked to whom this promise was given. In the first place, I say it was given by the Sovereign, and not given to the House of Commons alone. It was given, not indeed in the definite terms of a 809 letter or Dispatch, but, in my opinion, and I think in the opinion of the House, it was given to the Government which had suffered from this transaction. [Cheers.] What is the situation there described? That an attack upon a friendly Government had been made by forces apparently, on the face of it, under the control of a body representing the British Sovereign. In the Speech from the Throne it was announced that an attack had been made upon a friendly Government by such a force, and that a full and searching inquiry into the origin of that attack should be made. What is the language in which the right hon. Gentleman properly described this transaction? He addressed the Chartered Company in these words:—Mr. Chamberlain desires you to note that the South African Republic is a foreign State with which Her Majesty is at peace and in Treaty relations; and in this connection I desire to remind you that the obligations imposed by the 22nd Article of the Charter of the British South Africa Company to perform and undertake all Treaty obligations of Her Majesty towards any other State.No one can doubt a violation of those obligations has taken place. In a fuller Dispatch, to which the right hon. Gentleman has very properly referred, he gives this account of the relations of the British Government to the Government of the Transvaal. He says:—Since the Convention of 1884, Her Majesty's Government have recognised the South African Republic as a free and independent Government as regards all its internal affairs not touched by that Convention.I would not say a single word which should weaken what the right hon. Gentleman has said with reference to his friendly representations in regard to the interests of the Uitlanders at Johannesburg. On the contrary, I should feel that in anything I could say it would be my duty to reinforce the representations which are being made by the right hon. Gentleman. ["Hear, hear!"] But that is not the question here. What we have to do, if we are going to give force to these friendly representations, is, in the first instance, to place beyond all doubt our own good faith. [Cheers.] That is the first and material point. That is the ground of the promise of this full and searching Inquiry which was made by the 810 Queen to this Government, with whom she was in friendly relations and at peace when this outrage was committed. In this Amendment we are called upon to pass, there are some assertions which, I confess, appear to me to be not well founded. The hon. Member for Cardiff says:—"In view of the peaceful settlement of affairs in the Chartered Company's territories" there should be no further action. He seems to think that because the rebellion has been put down the Inquiry should not take place. But at the time the promise of this Inquiry was made there was no disturbance whatever in these territories. ["Hear, hear!"] Then the hon. Member goes on to say that it will reopen questions which have now been disposed of. ["Hear, hear!"] But what questions have now been dispoed of, and how have they been disposed of? Certainly the trial of Dr. Jameson and his companions did not dispose of the questions. It disposed only of the question of the relations of those individuals to these transactions; it did not dispose of the question put forward by the right hon. Gentleman in his first Dispatch—namely, how far other persons and how far the Chartered Company were in any way responsible either for the earlier or the later part of the transactions. Therefore, the Jameson trial has not disposed of the principal part of this Inquiry? Then it is said by the hon. Member for Cardiff that the Inquiry at the Cape had disposed of the matter. The Inquiry at the Cape did not dispose of any question relating to the Chartered Company at all. It did not profess to do so; but, on the contrary, absolutely and carefully excluded it. The Inquiry at the Cape professed to be and was merely an Inquiry into how far the colonial authorities at the Cape were in any degree mixed up with or responsible for this matter, and the finding of that Committee confined itself explicitly to persons in that relation. ["Hear, hear!"] But that is not the question which, according to the Speech from the Throne, we were to inquire into. We were to inquire into the relations of the Empire in these transactions, and in regard to its relations to the other States who might be affected by it. It is, therefore, an entire error to suppose that either of these Inquiries has dealt with, or even touched, the main questions that were 811 to be inquired into. I confess myself I regret the language which the hon. Member for Cardiff used with reference to President Kruger. I do not think it was just language; I am quite sure it was not wise language. ["Hear, hear!"] I believe, as the right hon. Gentleman believes, that the object of President Kruger is to establish and to keep peace between his own people and the subjects of the Queen. ["Hear, hear!"] I believe that his object is not to exasperate but to heal the differences which exist between the two peoples. Are we likely to strengthen his hands, to conciliate his disposition to remove the evils which are complained of, by such language as the hon. Member for Cardiff used in regard to him? [" Hear, hear! "] But, Sir, it is not only with reference to the Government of the Transvaal that I think we are bound to set ourselves clearly in the right. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, and, I think, we on this side of the House have a right to claim, that from the beginning of these transactions we have done nothing to interfere with or make more difficult the very difficult task with which the right hon. Gentleman is charged. [Cheers.] We have done nothing that should weaken his hands in the task which he had to-night avowed as his principal object—of reconciling the British and Dutch races in South Africa. [Cheers.] I have always considered that is the main object of the policy which ought to be pursued by any Government, of whatever Party, or on whatever side of the House it sits. Then this Inquiry is addressed also to the Dutch population of the whole of South Africa; not only in the independent Governments of the Transvaal and of the Orange Free State, but the Dutch population, whether they be in a minority or majority, in every part of South Africa. ["Hear, hear!"] Therefore, what this Committee has to do is to do its best to ascertain what the real facts of the case are, and to give an assurance to the Government in South Africa and to the people in South Africa that the British Government and the British House of Commons desire nothing except to do justice and to deal fairly as between them. ["Hear, hear!"] But I understand that the promise of this Inquiry has a still wider extension. It is intended to give an assurance to the 812 world that this country has the desire and has the resolution to deal fairly with other nations. [Cheers.] I have heard language of this kind sometimes: "After all, what does it signify what is done, or by whom it is done, so long as England can derive profit and advantage from it?" Sir, that is language which is used by enemies, and not by friends, of this country. [Cheers.] I was very glad to read some words by a Minister of the Crown the other day—I think in relation to this matter, for they followed very soon after some observations he had made upon the extension of the Empire and of Chartered Companies—e.g., I refer to a speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Bristol, which he concluded in these words:—They would feel that there was one thing more important than money, more important than men, more important than ships, when they dealt with the affairs of such an Empire as ours. It was honour and good faith, that the word of an Englishman should be maintained, and that, when we made a Treaty, we should keep it. [Cheers.] It was that our neighbours should know, wherever they were—in Europe, or Africa, or America, or Asia—that the word of an English Government was the bond of England. [Cheers.] They might depend upon it that, however great our power and our means, our Empire was maintained more surely than by anything else by honour and good faith.[Cheers.] That was language worthy of an English Minister; and when my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London says that I pressed upon the Government to keep their pledge as to this Inquiry, I tell him I never thought of dishonouring an English Government by supposing it was possible that, under any circumstances, they could think of retiring from it. [Cheers.] It is utterly untrue that I have ever put any pressure on the Government, or thought of doing so. My only object has been to facilitate, as far as possible, the method by which that Inquiry might be most completely and satisfactorily carried out. [Cheers.] So far with reference to the first point of the Inquiry—I mean the origin of this raid and its consequences. Of course one of the subjects of the Inquiry must be how far that raid and its consequences have contributed to the recent disturbances in Matabeleland 813 and Mashonaland. Then there is another branch of the inquiry which is still more important—that is, with reference to the action of the Chartered Company, how far it has fulfilled the duties for which it was constituted, and how far it is to be trusted in the future. Those are inquiries which the House of Commons has always made in connection with organisations of this kind, which have been subsidiary to the central Government. Of course the great example of inquiries of this kind is that of the East India Company, which was the subject of periodical inquiry and revision by the House of Commons. There were great Indian Committees from time to time to consider how far the East India Company was competent, and how far it had fulfilled the great duties which had devolved upon it. No man can doubt that the circumstances of the time demand an inquiry of that kind with reference to the Chartered Company. That is a subject which ought to be gone into. Here is a territory containing a handful of English and some millions of natives. It is, I do not know how many times larger than the United Kingdom, and the company is now in a condition, if I may use the phrase, of disorganisation and revolution, because the right hon. Gentleman has thought it necessary, wisely I believe, to suspend the whole of its military and police authority. That, of course, is only a temporary situation, and it is for the House of Commons Committee to inquire into what shall be the future organisation of the Company. These are grave matters demanding that they should be dealt with with prudence, but also with firmness and courage, and with a desire not to do mischief but good; and I am quite sure that any Committee appointed by the House of Commons will address itself to those duties with a sense of grave responsibility. There is one thing which I have omitted to say. I regretted more than anything yesterday the sentence in which the hon. Member for Cardiff attacked Lord Rosmead. ["Hear, hear!"] I must deprecate the habit of going behind the responsible Ministers of the Crown to attack servants of the Crown who are acting under the authority and direction of their chiefs. I regret deeply that a man who in all that 814 dangerous and difficult situation which arose in the Transvaal and at the Cape just 12 months ago rendered the most eminent services to the cause of peace and the reconciliation of the two races should have been attacked by the hon. Member. He said that he hoped that the policy of Lord Rosmead might be reversed, and I think that was a most unfortunate observation. It is not in that way that the affairs of your country will be well conducted or the interests of the British Crown well served. If the responsible agents of the Crown are to be attacked in this way in the House of Commons, I am quite sure they will always be defended by the responsible Minister, as Lord Rosmead has been defended by the right hon. Gentleman tonight. ["Hear, hear!"] I am extremely anxious not to introduce any controversial matters into this Debate, and I hope I have said nothing tending to cause sentiments of exasperation. I have only desired to express my deep sense of the responsibility which is imposed upon the Committee which the Government intend to appoint, and I am quite sure that in whatever part of the House the members of that Committee may sit they will have but one object—namely, to strengthen our Empire by bringing about the union of all the races within its boundaries. [Cheers.]
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said that the right hon. Member had uttered his usual panegyric on the policy of the Colonial Secretary, and had made statements in the course of his speech which it would be exceedingly difficult to substantiate. The House, he thought, would have noticed from the speeches of both the right hon. Gentlemen who had spoken that there was a very considerable feeling even in their minds against the institution of this Inquiry. The House was apparently pledged to this Inquiry of statements made in the past, statements made rather prematurely and too much under the direct inspiration of the Leaders of the Opposition. Of course, there was no doubt that the two men chiefly responsible for this Inquiry were the hon. Member for Northampton and the right hon. Member for West Monmouth, who usually followed the lead of the hon. Member. He admitted that it 815 was exceedingly difficult for the Government to avoid proceeding with the Inquiry, but he was at the same time convinced that it could only result in evil, and he believed that that was the real opinion of five-sixths of the Members of the House. What good would the Inquiry do? It would drag on to a weary and very possibly exasperating length. If it had any results it would end either in the acquittal of the persons who were likely to be accused, or in a recommendation for their prosecution. Such a prosecution could not well be brought to a close in less than 18 months from the present time, and for a year or more the bitterness of race antagonism, which it was so desirable to allay, would be kept alive in South Africa. The Colonial Secretary's speech was a practical confession of the failure of the policy of the last twelve months. The tone of the right hon. Gentleman that afternoon was very different from his tone in August last, when he delivered a speech full of roseate promises, and led the House to believe that all was going smoothly between the two Governments and the two races in South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman declared on August 13 that everything was going on in the most promising way, and that the Boers were passing valuable measures of reform. But what were those measures? The first was a sham Education Bill. Then there was the promise of a Municipality for Johannesburg, which had never been fulfilled, and the law relating to the sale of liquor to natives, which had not been carried out. But what had the Boers done on the other side of the account? No sooner was the British Parliament prorogued than the Volksraad at once passed laws of the most repressive character. The Colonial Secretary never tired of telling them that President Kruger showed a most conciliatory spirit and a desire to promote good will. Could the right hon. Gentleman be ignorant of the fact that President Kruger held the Volksraad in the hollow of his hand, and that he was responsible for the legislation of the Transvaal? What was the character of the recent legislation there? First there was the Aliens Expulsion Law, under which the Boer Executive was entitled to expel from the Transvaal any non-Boer citizens without trial. The whole of the 80,000 Uitlanders were thus 816 placed at the mercy of the six persons who constituted the Boer Executive. Then there was the law for gagging the Press, which gave the Executive special power to fine, imprison, and exile. Thirdly, an Aliens Immigration Law had been passed, under which the Executive was able to prevent the entry into the Transvaal of any aliens whatever. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: "They got that idea from Lord Salisbury's Bill!"] In their negotiations with the Transvaal on these subjects it would be well if the Government were to exhibit a little less patience and a little more courage. How could the Leader of the Opposition tell the House that President Kruger was the friend of moderation, conciliation, and peace, in view of the fact that these monstrous and oppressive laws, so contrary to the tenour and spirit of the Convention of 1884, had been passed and put into execution? Those laws had been put in force, and already the most independent and pro-British newspaper in the Transvaal had been violently suppressed by President Kruger, thereby depriving the Uitlanders of the only means of making their grievances known to this country, and inflicting great financial injury on the proprietor. Those facts changed the situation altogether. The acts of President Kruger were not conciliatory; they were most hostile. The Transvaal was steadily increasing its armaments, and foreign mercenaries were being imported in large numbers. [Ironical cheers.] The situation in this country had also changed. Those responsible for the raid had been tried and punished, and this was another reason why it was not necessary to pursue this Inquiry further. The Leader of the Opposition said that the object of the Inquiry was to redeem the good faith, the pledges, and the honour of this country. Those sentiments from the right hon. Gentleman reminded him of the "unctuous rectitude" they had heard of on another occasion. No Member of the House had done more to break the pledges and depreciate the honour of this country than the right hon. Gentleman. [Ironical cheers.] Almost every pledge given to British colonies in the past by Governments of which the right hon. Gentleman had been a prominent Member had been deliberately broken, to 817 the great injury of the colonists. The principal object of the Inquiry had never been concealed. The hon. Member for Northampton had committed himself in the strongest way to an ex parte view of the conduct and character of the Inquiry, and his wish was to drag down if possible the eminent man who had done so much for British dominion and commerce in South Africa. If the Inquiry was to be satisfactory to the Boer Government, who hated Mr. Rhodes with a bitterness that could scarcely be expressed, it must result in injury to the position and influence of that great man. In view of the practical confession of the Colonial Secretary that the policy of conciliation, tried with so much patience and persistence and at the expense of very considerable humiliation, had been proved to have completely and absolutely failed, he thought it most unfortunate that the Committee should be constituted.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said that during the 12 years he had been in the. House he had not spoken with a greater feeling of responsibility than he did now. When the speech of the Colonial Secretary was read by President Kruger and the Boer Government he thought that it would hardly tend towards peace, or to that union of the States and colonies of South Africa which was so much desired. The policy of the right hon. Gentleman, as declared that day, would, he feared, prevent certain reforms which were necessary in the Transvaal from being carried out so quickly as might otherwise have been the case. The Colonial Secretary had again repeated certain statements which he ought to know the Transvaal Government repudiated. The right hon. Gentleman said that certain Uitlanders paid nineteen-twentieths of the taxation. The Transvaal Government asserted that this was utterly untrue—that it was a fiction. The Boer Government denied that there were legitimate grievances among the Uitlanders. [Ironical cheers.] The two charges that had caused a great deal of trouble in South Africa and had rankled in the minds of certain Africander statesmen had been made, one in the House and one outside. The Colonial Secretary at a South African banquet accused the gentlemen who formed the Government of the South African Republic with being corrupt. 818 The right hon. Gentleman had not repeated that charge in the House; but he had now made the charge that the condition of things in Johannesburg and the grievances there were such that unless the Boer Government brought about a radical change there would probably be a recrudescence of troubles. Those two charges might be true or not, but he asked the House to contrast the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman with what occurred a few years ago. The Jameson raid was not the first raid. The first raid was the Shepstone raid. For four years the British Government controlled the Transvaal—from 1877 to 1881. Did the Government during those four years give a vote to the Uitlanders? Did they carry out the pledge made by the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman that representative Government would be granted? No; during those four years the Transvaal was ruled by the British Government as despotically as Turkey or Russia was now ruled. With regard to President Kruger he believed him to be as honest a man as there was living. Could they say so of the British Government and the Colonial Secretary (Sir Theophilus Shepstone) who formerly administered the Transvaal? If anyone wanted to ascertain the facts he had only to inspect the letters to the Colonial Secretary by the right hon. Member for Bodmin, where it appeared the Colonial Secretary swindled and cheated us, where his presents, his mistresses, even his fishing-rod were all put down as forage, and the British Government had to pay for it, and stopped Sir Theophilus Shepstone's pension for the purpose of making up for the money stolen by himself or his family. Well, it was too strong to say "by himself," for he should not think the old man knew the work he was doing by his sons. With that fact before them, however, it was not advisable to bring a charge of corruption against the men who formed the present Government of the Transvaal. Speaking from the standpoint of the Boers he said they had done all that men possibly could do to aid the Outlanders. He must be frank, however; he did not think the powers given to the Second Chamber were adequate and that reform in this direction was necessary. But the Outlanders appeared 819 to think they ought to be allowed to hold the country in four years for nothing. Why, it was not yet ten years since he went down from Pretoria to lay the foundation stone of the first house in Johannesburg. What had caused all this estrangement? It was the policy adopted by Lord Derby. He agreed with the Secretary of State for the Colonies that the Aliens Bill was not in accordance with the provisions of the Convention of 1884, and if he, by force or otherwise, compelled the Transvaal Government to see that that Convention, as regards the rights given by the Sands River Convention, the Pretoria Convention and the London Convention were carried out, he would be perfectly justified in doing so. Apart from reform of the Second Chamber, the only other grievance was that the Transvaal Government carried on a system not of free trade, but of protection, and gave monopolist concessions for the purpose of developing industry. But was not that the case with other Republics, the French and the American, with the German Empire and other civilised countries. If there were any special taxation put upon aliens different from citizens there would be reason to complain, but the alien had almost the same rights and privileges, so far as taxation was concerned, as the native, and no special burden was placed upon him. All the gold was open to everyone, native or alien. There was no royalty at all in the country, though there ought to have been. With regard to Mr. Cecil Rhodes he had a high respect for him on account of his great ability, high character, and charming personality; and he regretted to see him placed as he was. In his reply earlier in the day the Colonial Secretary seemed to say that one of the questions that must be considered by the Committee was whether the condition of things before the raid was sufficient to justify a rising. He could only say that if the Committee accepted evidence on that point the Boers would tell them it amounted to a breach of the 1884 Convention and affected their right of self-government, and would refuse to give evidence; and if we persevered Heaven knows what terrible results would follow. He regretted that he had been compelled to state so strongly the view held by the Transvaal people in regard to this matter; but it was better 820 that that view should be stated as it was held in the Transvaal.
§ SIR HENRY HOWORTH (Salford, S.)
said that the question which many hon. Gentlemen had been asking themselves, independently of Party considerations, in regard to this Committee was, Cui bono? If the agent of this country did a wrong there must be a complete and drastic inquiry into the whole transaction. And if this country entered into obligations to bring certain people to trial, the promise must be carried out. But the obligations of this country had been carried out to the letter. There had been trials both here and in South Africa, and every possible issue had already been raised in regard to some of the subjects of this proposed inquiry. The Committee would inquire into the administration of the territory of the Chartered Company, into the circumstances of the raid, and into the internal administration of the Transvaal. As to the first of those subjects, he could see very little harm in the inquiries of the Committee; though he could not agree with the Leader of the Opposition in comparing the position of affairs with the position of the East India Company. The East India Company was a separate and substantive governing authority outside the authority of the Colonial Office. The Chartered Company had been subject immediately to the Colonial Office, and the Colonial Secretary last year altered the whole constitution of its military arrangements. But in regard to the other two subjects of inquiry he saw every promise of difficulty and danger. A great English proconsul was to be put on his trial. He did not know Mr. Rhodes, and he had never seen him; but he could not help feeling that, a hundred years hence, the men who had added to the Empire a territory seven-fold as great as the United Kingdom, would stand in the rank of men like Clive and Hastings. And if a man like that were to be brought to trial, for a great offence against the State, he ought to be tried by a proper and judicial tribunal. A Committee of the House of Commons, the Members of which were selected because they were partisans, and everyone of whom had more or less made up his mind as to the issue, was not the proper tribunal for such a case. The trial might 821 have been transferred to the grandest Court of Justice in the world—Westminster Hall—where Bacon and Strafford were tried. As it was, the verdict of the Committee, whatever it might be, was discounted beforehand both here and at the Cape. If the Commitee found that no blame at all attached to this great proconsul, he would go back with such power and prestige that he would be a dangerous citizen of the Empire, because he would be sore and angry that he had been brought here not to be impeached for high crimes, but to be brought before a mere Committee of the House of Commons. And was such a Committee to be intrusted with the very delicate questions of alterations and reforms in the internal Government of the Transvaal? He would rather leave such questions in the hands which hitherto, under desperate difficulty and strain, had conducted affairs with admirable skill and prescience. From the day when the Colonial Secretary jumped in front of the German Emperor with that famous dispatch, he had conducted the affairs of South Africa with singular prudence and skill. It must not be forgotten, either, that ours was not an Empire of Englishmen only: and that in these matters we had to deal with a large population which did not speak our language, and which possessed different traditions. In Holland he had seen many newspapers with correspondence from the Cape, showing that angry feeling had been roused in Cape Colony; and he could not help feeling that unless we were careful in handling these questions, we should have a fire ablaze in South Africa which could not be put out without a desperate strain on our resources. It was impossible to deny the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman—that if this matter were to be settled with the concurrence of this country, the Outlanders must he conceded the rights and privileges hitherto denied to them. The right hon. Gentleman had fought hard for that position; and it was impossible to face with equanimity the question being left to a tribunal so inappropriate as a Committee of the House. This was not the time for blustering words. Recriminations ought to be avoided, in order that those subjects of the Crown, who had always been very loyal, but who were very sore just 822 now, should not feel that this Mother of Parliaments was, where Englishmen and Dutchmen were at issue, treating the latter with any want of justice.
§ MR. LEONARD COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said he had had hopes of not taking part in this discussion, because he was satisfied that, whatever might result from the labours of the Committee, very little good would result from any more speeches which might be delivered. ["Hear, hear!"] After the speech of the Colonial Secretary the House might wisely have allowed the discussion to lapse. [Cheers.] The hon. Member for Salford had spoken anxiously as to the effect of appointing the Committee; but one comfort was that, at any rate, the Committee would not make speeches. [Cheers.] They would ask questions and elucidate facts, and possibly they would come to conclusions which would command respect. But they would not make speeches. [Cheers.] There would not be that danger of exasperating opinion in South Africa which, he feared, would result from a continuance of this discussion. The hon. Member for Caithness had used language which he could not accept as accurate, when speaking of corruption in the administration of the Transvaal, when the country was under the British Government, and had referred to letters bearing his signature as having exposed that corruption. It was quite true that when the Transvaal was administered by our Government the accounts were kept in an exceedingly loose fashion—especially at the beginning of affairs—and vouchers were not forthcoming for much of the expenditure, or when they were produced they were not considered satisfactory by the Treasury. But the whole amount involved was exceedingly small, and nothing transpired that could sustain a charge of corruption. However, he did not rise to continue the discussion. He felt sure the speech of the Colonial Secretary had persuaded everyone that if we were to clear ourselves this Commission should sit, and that we should wait in patience until its exhaustive inquiries were concluded.
§ MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Cardiff)
said that, after the discussion which had taken place, and especially after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, that the Government thought 823 they were bound ill honour to reappoint the Committee, he would ask leave to withdraw his Motion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ Ordered,—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the origin and circumstances of the incursion into the South African Republic by an armed force, and into the administration of the British South; Africa Company, and to report thereon; and further, to report what alterations are desirable in the Government of the territories under the control of the Company.
§ Ordered,—That the Committee have leave to hear Counsel to such extent as they shall see fit, and have power to send for persons, papers, and records.—(Secretary of State for the Colonies.)
§ MR. J. L. CAREW (Dublin, College Green)
rose to move an Amendment which stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. P. O'Brien (Kilkenny), proposing "That the Committee do consist of 17 Members."
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, Order! An Amendment of which notice must be given can only be moved by the hon. Member who put it down.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
pointed out that a Member of the Government had often introduced a Bill of which notice had been given by another Member of the Government.
MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN,
who had been absent from the Chamber, now returned, and moved his Amendment. He said he understood from the statement of the Colonial Secretary that the Government were prepared to accept his proposal.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said he should not object to the enlargement of the Committee from 15 to 17 Members if the reason were that the Opposition were not fairly represented upon it. But his right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary had stated as the reason for the proposed increase in the membership of the Committee that a 824 certain section of the Irish Party was not represented upon it at present. He had no personal objection whatever to Nationalist Members sitting on the Committee. He acknowledged their ability and he had experienced their eloquence. [Laughter.] But he failed to see a sufficient reason why another Irishman should be added to the Committee, in the fact that the Nationalist Party happened to be divided into sections, and that no Gentleman in that Party could speak on behalf of all his colleagues. [Laughter.] Besides, there were other Irishmen in the House besides the hon. Gentlemen Opposite. It appeared to him a strange thing that when the Government came to the conclusion that it was necessary to add another Irishman to the Committee they should have overlooked that Irish Party which was mainly responsible for placing them on the Treasury Bench. [Laughter.] He did not see why the divisions in the Nationalist ranks should be officially recognised by the Government, especially in view of the fact that it was not at all improbable that before long there would be 80 Nationalist Parties. [Laughter.] Great constitutional and Imperial questions might arise before this Committee, and if it were necessary to add another Irishman to the Committee he should not be chosen from the ranks of those who had never shown that Imperial instincts dominated their policy. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said the hon. and gallant Member was entirely mistaken in the view he had taken of the matter. The Government in the course they proposed to pursue in regard to the enlargement of the membership of the Committee were not doing a special favour to any section of the House. They were simply doing a bare act of arithmetical justice to the Nationalist Members. When the Committee consisting of 15 Members was appointed last year with only one Nationalist Member upon it he urged that, in proportion to the strength of the Opposition, the Nationalist Members were entitled to two representatives on the Committee. He failed then to carry his point, but the Government had now yielded to that view, and in order to equalise the representation of parties on the Committee they proposed to add also to the Committee one of their own supporters in 825 the person of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for London University. It was quite true that, as the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh had said, great Imperial questions were to be considered by this Committee. But all those who took alarm at the prospect of its appointment might be assured by the recollection of what had happened in the case of the Financial Relations Commission, for if the Government were not satisfied with the findings of the Committee they could appoint another. [Laughter.]
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I desire to say that the Government understood it was the general wish of the House that the Committee should be increased, and they put down the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for London University as the Member they suggested as the representative of this side of the House in the event of another Member being-added to the Committee as the representative of the opposite side of the House. Of course, if the House should decline to increase the Committee, and should retain the original number, 15, the name of my right hon. Friend will be withdrawn. I would point out that in the appointment of a Committee practically only two parties have to be considered—that is to say, the Government of the day, and the Opposition, and the Committee is divided in proportion to the Members sitting on the two sides of the House. In the case of a Committee of 15 Members the Government nominate nine members, but they have nothing whatever to do with the nomination of the remaining six. We did nominate our nine members, and a difficulty arose—with which we had nothing whatever to do, and as to which we wash our hands entirely—as to the composition of the other six members. We understood there was a difficulty in substituting another Irish member for one of the members from the Opposition side who had already been nominated, and in order to meet the wishes of the other side we suggested that in that case it might be convenient to increase the number to 17, so that the difficulty might be removed. The decision which the Government came to was really with a view to conciliate everybody; if it has not that effect, and any objection is 826 taken, the Government are perfectly indifferent in the matter. If we have any preference, I may say we would rather go back to the Committee of 15. [Cheers.]
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
said that as his name had been mentioned, perhaps the House would allow him to say that he thought, from the turn the discussion had taken, it would be very much better to leave the Committee with 15 members. ["Hear, hear!"] Personally it would be a great relief to him.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Committee do consist of 17 Members," put and negatived.
§ The names of the Attorney General, Mr. Bigham, Mr. Blake, Mr. Buxton, and Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman as members of the Committee were agreed to.
§ On the Motion that Mr. J. Chamberlain be appointed to serve on the Committee,
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
said the right hon. Gentleman had said himself that he knew there were charges brought against him. He thought those charges were most abominable, and he was not in the least implying that there was one word of truth in them. [An HON. MEMBER; "What are they?"] The right hon. Gentleman alluded to them himself, and was it not rather strange, if these charges were made, that the right hon. Gentleman should sit upon the Committee and act as a judge? That was a rather difficult position for him to be in.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
hoped his hon. Friend would not press the point. This Committee would be utterly useless unless they had the Colonial Secretary upon it—["hear, hear!"]—who had had all the means at his disposal of placing before them the information on the subject which they had had.
The name of Mr. Chamberlain was then agreed to, as were also the names of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Cripps, Sir W. Hart Dyke, Mr. John Ellis, Sir W. Harcourt, and Mr. Jackson.
827 On the Motion that Mr. Labouchere be appointed to serve on the Committee,
§ MR. HENRY SETON-KARR (St. Helen's)
said he desired to take the opinion of the House whether the hon. Member for Northampton should occupy a place on this Committee. The hon. Member stood in a category by himself, as he had expressed in his interesting journal views hostile to the Chartered Company and to Mr. Rhodes, which, it seemed to him, absolutely pledged the hon. Member to one side of the question. ["Hear, hear!"] It was impossible to suppose that any evidence brought before the Committee would alter the hon. Member's opinion.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I hope my hon. Friend will withdraw his objection. I think I can give him two reasons why he should do so, which, I trust, may be conclusive to his mind. The first is a general reason which applies to the appointment of the members of all Committees. The arrangement is, as I have said, that, the proportions being settled, the nomination of the members on each side is left to their respective side, and for the Government, therefore, to interfere and to object to a nomination from the side of the Opposition, or vice versâ, would be to strike at the system under which our Committees are elected and would give rise to endless difficulties in the future proceedings of Parliament. ["Hear, hear!"] As to this particular objection, I am bound to point out to my hon. Friend that it is entirely in accordance with precedents that the hon. Member for Northampton, who has undoubtedly taken an extremely strong view, and expressed an extremely strong view in respect to this matter, should be a member of the Committee, and be enabled thereby to bring his charges to the test. ["Hear, hear!"] If a Member of this House thinks that he has an allegation to make of serious importance against any person who may be a witness before a Committee of Inquiry, that is the only proper and reasonable way in which his allegations may be brought to the test. I can quote precedents, such as that of the Hyderabad and Deccan Committee, in regard to which very strong charges were made, I think also by the hon. Member for Northampton. [Laughter.] The hon. Member, 828 however, was appointed to that Committee, and did very useful service to the Committee in their endeavour to elucidate the question. Another precedent is the case of the Foreign Loans Committee, in regard to which my noble Friend Lord James of Hereford had made certain charges, and Lord James of Hereford was appointed to serve on that Committee. I think, therefore, we are only following a course in accordance with precedent.
§ MR. SETON-KARR
said he would withdraw his objection.
The name of Mr. Labouchere was then agreed to, as also were the names of Mr. Wharton and Mr. Wyndham.