« PreviousContinue »
cumstances, to any enhancement of the Customs duties which would bring them up beyond 5 per cent. ad valorem. The withdrawal of the European force was actually in progress ; 3,300 of our own being already under orders to leave. Referring to the affair of the concession at Tien-tsin, Lord Lansdowne observed that owing to the moderation exhibited on both sides we were extricated from a situation which at one moment had become extremely acute. At the same time he mentioned that quite lately the Government had received reports of assertions of Russian ownership on the part of the troops of that nation, as to which they had felt bound to send a representation, as yet not replied to, to St. Petersburg. Touching the question of punitive expeditions, we had made no secret of our objection to be drawn into any operations remote from Pekin, a feeling which was shared by a majority of the Powers. As to the firing by Germans on a steamer carrying British colours, the German officer responsible had expressed his regret for what had occurred, and promised that steps should be taken to prevent its happening again.
In regard to an incident at the Elliot Islands, where a Russian admiral attempted to warn off a British man-of-war which went there, as we had by treaty a right to go, in pursuit of pirates, Lord Lansdowne gave, though in somewhat curious language, the satisfactory information that the unfortunate Port Arthur precedent had not been followed. “We refused,” he said, “ to obey the Russian admiral.” The Viceroys of the Southern Provinces, for whom the British Government entertained sentiments of very high appreciation, had tendered advice which would be carefully considered, but which it was not expedient to make public. Material support had been offered to the Viceroys, but no steps had been taken in that direction, because assurances had been received that they were in no personal danger.
The one absolutely satisfactory feature in Imperial life through the spring, and indeed almost throughout the year, was the appearance of newspaper despatches describing the tour of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York. The admirable dignity, tact, and sympathy with which they discharged their mission at Melbourne on the occasion of the opening of the first Parliament of the Australian Commonwealth, and at every other colonial centre which they visited, and the enthusiastic loyalty with which they were everywhere received, awakened ever fresh sentiments of legitimate pride and satisfaction among persons of all classes and parties in the mother country.
Arrival of Sir A. Milner.
Arrival and Welcome of Sir A. Milner-His Visit to the King and Elevation to
the Peerage-Mr. Chamberlain's Luncheon to Lord Milner-Bye-ElectionsRecess Speeches on South Africa by Sir E. Grey, Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman and Mr. Morley—Co-operative and International Miners' Congresses—Mr. Chamberlain and Old-Age Pensions--Mr. Carnegie's Gift to Scottish Universities–Utterances on the Education Bill by the Duke of Devonshire, the National Liberal Federation, the National Society and Others—Report on War Office Reorganisation-Factory and Workshop Acts Amendment Bill Read a Second Time and Referred to Grand Committee-Legislative Failures --Gibraltar Debates-Liberal Divisions-National Reform Union Dinner Speeches-Debate and Division on Concentration Camps : Liberal Imperialist Abstentions-Queen's Hall Pro-Boer Meeting—Mr. Asquith's Protest: Its Effect-Heated Debate on War Loan-Liberal Meeting at the Reform ClubLord Rosebery's Letter and Speech-The Asquith Dinner-Debates and Divisions on the Finance Bill-Withdrawal of the Education Bill-The Education (No. 2) Bill Carried through without Amendment-Debates and Ministerial Statements as to the Mediterranean Fleet and Naval Construction-House of Lords' Debate on Soldiers' Pay-Mr. Brodrick on War Office Reorganisation -The Abortive Royal Declaration Bill-Royal Titles Bill Carried–The Rating Bill—The Factories Bill in Grand Committee and on Report—The Abandonment of the Laundry Clause-Unionist Irritation-The Blenheim SpeechesThe Globe and the Nationalist Members—Ministerial Statements about China-The Concentration Camps-Concluding Debates on South AfricaOther Imperial Questions—The King's Speech.
On the day (May 24) on which Parliament rose for the Whitsuntide recess Sir Alfred Milner arrived in England on furlough. Landing at Southampton he was warmly welcomed by a small party of personal friends, including Mr. Wyndham and Sir Edward Grey, and by the Mayor and Corporation and many other inhabitants of the seaport. After a brief exchange of salutations the High Commissioner proceeded to London, where he was met at Waterloo Station by a very distinguished company, including the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor, Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Balfour and other Ministers, and Lord Tweedmouth of Liberal ex-Ministers. He drove, with Lord Salisbury and Mr. Chamberlain, by Westminster Bridge, Whitehall, Cockspur Street and Pall Mall, being cordially cheered by large numbers of people at various points on the route, to Marlborough House. There he was at once received by the King, who gave him and Mr. Chamberlain a long audience. In its course the High Commissioner learned that he had been raised to the peerage. The title which he assumed was that of Lord Milner of St. James's and of Cape Town. On the following day (May 25) the ennobled High Commissioner was entertained at luncheon at Claridge's Hotel by Mr. and Mrs. Chamberlain, a company of distinguished personages assembling to meet him, including the Duke of Cambridge, Lord Salisbury, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Roberts, Mr. Balfour and Sir Henry Fowler. The gathering was a private one, but a report was furnished to the newspapers of the speech made by the Colonial Secretary in
proposing Lord Milner's health and of the latter's reply. Mr. Chamberlain recalled to the brilliant company round his board how, four years before, the choice of Sir Alfred-henceforward to be known as Lord-Milner for the arduous post of High Commissioner in South Africa had been "acclaimed by men of all parties, who were confident that he would bring to this great duty a mind trained to judicial investigation, eminently impartial, and at the same time a courage and a calm resolution which would not fail him in the greatest emergency.
These expectations, Mr. Chamberlain went on to say, had been justified. The welcome and the honour which he had received were indications that Lord Milner possessed “the unabated confidence of his Sovereign and of his fellow-countrymen.” Still more arduous, but also more congenial, duties lay before him than those which he had so ably and devotedly discharged, and Mr. Chamberlain expressed on behalf of all present the hope that Lord Milner, “strengthened by a short respite from the strain of the last few years, and heartened and encouraged by the proof that he still had the support of his fellow-countrymen, would be able to crown the work which he had undertaken, laying broad and deep the foundations of a United South Africa, as free, as prosperous, and as loyal as the sister federations of Canada and Australia."
In his reply Lord Milner, after expressing his very deep sense of the reception which had been given to him, said that it would have been better if he could have arrived at home, taken his hard-begged holiday, and returned in the quietest possible manner. But he recognised that his doing so would have been misconstrued. It was hard that some of the busiest men in the world should be obliged to occupy their time and be put to inconvenience merely in order to prove to persons with an ingrained habit of self-delusion that the Government of this country would not give up its agents in the face of the enemy, and that the people of this country would not allow themselves to be bored into abandoning what they had spent millions of treasure and so many precious lives to attain. Lord Milner proceeded to express his grateful recognition of the support given to him by the Government and to bear testimony to the devotion of the loyalists—not only British, but Dutch-of South Africa. It seemed to him that we were slowly progressing towards the predestined end. What had sustained him personally on the weary road was his absolute, unshakable conviction that it was the only one which we could travel. Peace we could have had by self-effacement, but we could not have held our own by any other methods than those which we had been obliged to adopt. “I do not know," Lord Milner continued, “ whether I feel more inclined to laugh or to cry when I have to listen for the hundredth time to these dear delusions, this Utopian dogmatising, that it only required a little more time, a little more patience, a little more tact, a little more meekness, a little more
[141 of all those gentle virtues of which I know I am so conspicuously devoid, in order to conciliate—to conciliate what? Panoplied hatred, insensate ambitions, invincible ignorance. I fully believe that the time is coming (Heaven knows how we desire to see it come quickly) when all the qualities of the most gentle and forbearing statesmanship which are possessed by any of our people will be called for, and ought to be applied in South Africa. I do not say for a moment there is not great scope for them even to-day, but always provided that they do not mar what is essential for success in the future, the conclusiveness of the final scenes of the present drama.'
The return was announced on May 25 of Mr. Ormsby-Gore, the Conservative candidate for the Oswestry Division of Shropshire, by an even larger majority–1,088—than that secured by bis much-respected predecessor, the late Mr. Stanley Leighton (who had not been opposed in 1900), at the general election of 1895. The Liberal candidate, Mr. Allan Bright, blamed Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Kruger about equally for the outbreak of the war, but held that having broken out it must issue in annexation. His candidature received the benediction of Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, and his failure to make any impression on the Unionist majority in the Oswestry Division was, of course, encouraging to the Government, now that the middle of the first session of the new Parliament was past with very
prospect of legislative fruit. They could not, however, regard as an agreeable incident the return a week later (June 1) of Mr. J. H. Pease (L.) for the vacancy in the Saffron Walden Division of Essex, caused by the death of Mr. Armine Wodehouse (L.), by a majority of 792 as compared with that of 115 secured by Mr. Wodehouse in 1900 over the same Conservative candidate, Mr. C. W. Gray.
The political speeches made during the Whitsuntide recess dealt largely with the war and the subsequent settlement. The Liberal Imperialist position on that subject was restated in a clear and firm, though conciliatory manner, by Sir Edward Grey. Speaking at Berwick (May 30) he maintained that the war was one of defence, not aggression, on the British side. As against Mr. Morley, he held that the question between the two races in South Africa was indeed solving itself before the war, but "solving itself by South Africa slipping from our grasp. He also insisted that Lord Milner must be the administrator to carry out the settlement of the new territories after the war. The confidence which he possessed on the part of the British in South Africa would make him strong enough to be impartial. Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speaking (May 31) at a Liberal meeting in Edinburgh, acknowledged the existence of differences in the Opposition ranks about the war, but claimed that at any rate they were united, with the possible exception of an insignificant section, against the most unwise as well as the most nnworthy policy of enforcing unconditional surrender upon those
who were to be their loyal and contented subjects in the new colonies.”
In the first of a series of speeches delivered to his constituents, Mr. Morley, at Montrose (June 4), after dwelling on the miscalculations and blunders of which the Government had been guilty in regard to the war, made some remarks in reply to Lord Milner's luncheon speech. The High Commissioner himself, he observed, had said in August, 1899, that he did not expect war. And these people talked of creatures of delusions. He would beseech these people, as Cromwell did the Presbyterian ministers, to think it possible they might be mistaken. “Do you think,” he continued, “that if we had known at the time of the Bloemfontein Conference, if we had known the strength and the power of the Boers, should we have conducted the negotiations in the spirit in which we did actually conduct them, or should we not have trusted to my policy of patience and time?” An able negotiator would not have hurried President Kruger at the conference; but he would have made him some such offer as: “This we will guarantee, the independence of your country.
your country. We do not want it. We will protect you against the land robbers. We do not want your gold, we do not want your territories. We will protect you, but you must give up your arms and give up your correspondence with foreign Governments." However, when a policy of threatening was pursued, the means to carry out those threats ought to have been in readiness. It was said that the Boers struck the first blow, but the aggressor was not the man who first used force, but the man who first made force necessary. What, asked Mr. Morley, would be the effect on the future peace of the country of the concentration camps and the farm burning, which, he still maintained, was completely unjustifiable and contrary to the rules of the Hague Conference ? There was no alternative but fighting and annexation, he admitted, after the Boer ultimatum and invasion of British territory, but he contended that by a conciliatory policy the continuation of the war after the occupation of Pretoria might have been 'avoided, with all its loss in material strength and in moral credit.
As usual, the Whitsuntide holidays were made use of for various conferences on subjects of special interest to the working classes. The Co-operative Congress which met at Middlesbrough (May 27) was the largest of the kind ever held.
As many as 1,300 delegates were present, representing a membership of 1,620,185 in 1,108 societies, and the annual report indicated marked progress in the shares, sales and profits of the wholesale and retail societies. Encouraging development was also reported in the case of the productive societies, though not on so considerable a scale, but in regard to agriculture the progress made in co-operation in England was less satisfactory, and compared unfavourably with the