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country. But one condition, and one only, is made by our colonial brethren, and that is, 'Send us suitable emigrants.' I would go further, and appeal to my fellow-countrymen at home to prove the strength of the attachment of the motherland to her children by sending to them only of her best.'
The chief political interest of the last few weeks of the year lay undoubtedly in the re-appearance of Lord Rosebery in the political field. It was early in November that an announcement appeared that, having regard to the serious position of national affairs, Lord Rosebery had felt constrained to accede to the invitation of a Liberal Association at Chesterfield that he should address its members, with a view to throwing his opinions into the “common stock”. The date fixed was rather remoteDecember 16 — and during the interval there was an extraordinary amount of speculation as to the line which Lord Rosebery would take. Whether or not the position of the nation, as a whole, was such as to require his intervention, the condition of the Liberal party continued to be one of practical paralysis for purposes of effective influence on public affairs. Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, as has been seen, was engaged, from his own point of view, in keeping the head of the Opposition straight, and in doing so accentuated all the points on which he differed from the Imperial section of his party. In a speech at Plymouth, for example (Nov. 19), he strongly denied that he had ever uttered one syllable which could be twisted into encouragement of the Boers”—here replying to what he took to be an allusion to himself, with others, in a recently published letter from Lord Salisbury—and proceeded, a few sentences later, to lay to the charge of the Government that they were “not content with the overthrow of the enemy in the field. They must humiliate him and hunt him to the death." “They must have,” he went on to say, “ the policy of unconditional surrender, of devastation and confiscation, of deportation and concentration, with the result that the war was in its third year. But when the war is ended the whole of the Dutch population in our colonies, as well as in the two territories, will, in all probability, unless we change our methods—if it be yet timė to do so—be permanently and violently alienated from us. That is the great peril of the hour. It is time," said Sir H. CampbellBannerman, "we awoke to it, and I am ready to speak out to-night and to say, what I have never yet said, that for my part I despair of this peril being conquered so long as the present Colonial Secretary is in Downing Street and as long as the present High Commissioner is at Pretoria.”
Very different was the tone of Mr. Asquith in dealing with the South African question. Speaking a few days later (Nov. 23) at Oldham he pointed out that the reason why the struggle continued, if we might trust the authorised declarations of the recognised leaders of the Boers, was that they were fighting for the thing which even Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman had
1901.) The Duke of Devonshire on South African Policy. [219 recognised as impossible-independence. That, in his opinion, made it all the more necessary to make clear that our object was to establish throughout South Africa, under the British flag, free institutions, equal laws, and responsible government, after an interval, but he hoped a brief one. It was difficult to see any difference between the policy thus laid down and that declared on the same evening by the Duke of Devonshire, at Eastbourne, on the part of the Government. Having deprecated the idea, which appeared to be that of Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, Lord Spencer, Sir R. Reid and other Liberals, that we should offer renewed negotiations without an initiative from the Boers, the duke said : “ Their leaders know perfectly well, and if their followers do not know it it is not our fault, that there is nothing which the Government of this country, as well as the people of this country, more desire than that at the earliest possible moment all races in South Africa, or, to repeat the words used in a speech made by Lord Spencer the other day, all the inhabitants of South Africa, whether they be English or Dutch, should at the earliest possible moment enjoy all the blessings of the freest and most liberal institutions of self-government under the British flag. They know that is our earnest desire; but everything turns upon those words, at the earliest possible moment, because we should be false to the trust which has been committed to us if, until the time arrives at which these free institutions may be safely conceded, we were to allow a state of things to be created which would render possible a further recrudescence of hostilities or of rebellion. Of the time when it arrives it is we, the victors, and not the Boers, the vanquished, who can be alone the proper judges.”
At the meeting of the General Committee of the National Liberal Federation on December 4, however, this declaration was either ignored or treated as insufficient, and a resolution was passed “calling upon all members of the Liberal party to unite in demanding that his Majesty's Government should state openly and definitely” what their terms for an honourable peace were. This resolution was amended by the vote of the meeting so as to include an assertion that the time had arrived for peace negotiations, for which a Special Commission (of course superseding, ad hoc, Lord Milner) should be sent out; but another amendment, embodying a demand for assurance that the best military measures were being taken for the conclusion of the campaign, was rejected. The proceedings of the Derby meeting were made the text of comments in precisely opposite senses by Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman and Sir E. Grey. The former, speaking at Dunfermline (Dec. 10), spoke of the gathering in question as having done “a great and notable service" to the country and to the Empire. On the 11th, at Bristol, Sir E. Grey insisted that the Derby resolution erred negatively in not pressing for the energetic prosecution of the war until it was apparent that peace was desired by the Boers, and he deprecated the step
virtually implied in it of recalling Lord Milner as certain, if adopted, to prove most disastrous.
It was in presence of the situation thus indicated with regard to the Liberal party that Lord Rosebery, on December 16, supported by a principally Imperialist platform, on which Sir Henry Fowler, Mr. Asquith and Sir E. Grey were conspicuous, addressed a great Liberal meeting at Chesterfield. Lord Rosebery began by saying that he had come amongst them to speak his mind. There were four preliminary facts which must be remembered with regard to the Liberal party. In the first place, they had gone through a long and painful malady, and were only now approaching convalescence. In the next, they were free altogether from the Irish alliance. Thirdly, they had to gain or regain unity. Lastly, they had to gain or regain the confidence of the country. The first piece of advice he had to offer them was to clean their slate, and that “when you have to write on your clean slate you will write on it a policy adapted to 1901 or 1902, and not a policy adapted to 1892 or 1893. Again, I would strongly urge you—and, I may add, this advice applies to all parties—I would strongly urge you not to promise more than you can perform.
I speak in the garb of a penitent, for I was a member of the Government which drew up the Queen's Speech of 1893.” Again, they must not move very much faster than the great mass of the nation was prepared to move.
His last word of advice to the Liberal party would be not to dissociate themselves from the new sentiment of Empire which animated the nation. many the word 'Empire' is suspect as indicating aggression and greed and violence and the characteristics of other empires that the world has known; but the sentiment that is represented now by Empire in these islands has nothing of that in it. It is a passion of affection and family feeling, of pride and of hopefulness; and the statesman, however great he may be, who dissociates himself from that feeling must not be surprised if the nation dissociates itself from him.”
The way being thus cleared, Lord Rosebery proceeded to say that if they asked him what was the line of policy and what were the measures to which he would apply the axioms he had laid down he should answer that his watchword if he were in office at this moment would be the word “efficiency.”
efficiency.” In the first place, they must look to the efficiency of the Parliamentary machine ; in the second, to that of the administrative machine. Complaints of the War Office were unanimous, and he believed them to be just. A massive Blue Book indicated them to be just, and it was not too much to say that the very first duty of an energetic and patriotic Minister would be to employ his best strength to examine into the administration of that department. The Navy he believed to be in a high state of efficiency, and they must see that it was maintained at that standard. An energetic Government might also take a great part, in the way of stimulation and inquiry, in promoting our commercial and
221 industrial efficiency. Above all, our efficiency as a nation would be increased by a national system of education, instead of the almost haphazard arrangements of the present time. Closely allied with this question, though not perhaps in appearance, was that of the housing of the working classes, as to which they would get nothing done by any Government that did not throw its heart and soul into the work. Last, but by no means least, came the question of temperance, towards the settlement of which a great advance might be made by a Government which grasped the nettle firmly and refused to listen to the fanatics on either side.
The domestic situation having been thus compactly dealt with, Lord Rosebery went on to observe that he had said that they were at a great crisis of the nation's history, and he would tell them why. For one thing, he knew of no parallel to the hatred and ill-will with which they were regarded almost unanimously by the peoples of Europe. When the Liberals retired from office in 1895 they left behind them "peace with honour," and a reasonable amount of good-will. Something of the hostility now manifested against us was due to the oratory of Mr. Chamberlain, who forgot that what was very good for home consumption did not answer abroad. He thought, too, that the Government should have probed the Jameson raid, and they should have paid reasonable compensation to the Transvaal Government, thereby acquiring a strong position in which they could have taken a resolute line with President Kruger as to his excessive and menacing armaments. Another matter in respect of which the Government had contributed to the crisis was that of the general election. Their representation that the war was then over was scandalous, and not less so were the methods by which the election was fought, and which constituted a grave breach of political morality. “If any body of men seems to be responsible in this country for the prolongation of the war it is those who announced that every Liberal who was returned to Parliament was returned as a Boer; that every seat lost to the Government was a gain to the Boers; and, therefore, on high authority--the highest in the Government-the Boers in the field, who are very well informed, were made to understand that, in addition to the eighty Irish Members who were returned as avowedly the friends and supporters of the Boers, there were a large number of Liberal Members who were returned to represent Boer ideas and advance the Boer policy in Parliament." He emphatically denied the contention which had been made that there was no alternative Government. “ The nation,” he said, "which cannot produce an alternative to the present Government is more fit to control allotments than an Empire.”
Coming to the question of the war, Lord Rosebery said: "On one point I am perfectly clear—that we must pursue this war to the end with all the energy and all the resources of which we are capable. Our honour, our character, the future
of South Africa, all require that we should bring this war as vigorously and successfully as possible to the promptest and most complete solution. On that point I have no doubt-I will express no ambiguity at all. I do not believe we could be in better hands than Lord Kitchener's. He enjoys the confidence of the country and of his armies.” At the same time Lord Rosebery also thought that, at the end of the war, and in some cases before then, a searching inquiry ought to be instituted into various subjects, more especially the surrenders in the field, the purchase of remounts, the administration of martial law, the refugee camps, and the medical service.
He repudiated the “vile and infamous falsehoods " which had been spread on the Continent with regard to the conduct of our troops in the field, and he equally acquitted the Government of any barbarity. If he were to speak about atrocities that night, he should turn his attention rather to those committed by the other side. “I should have a word to say about the constant cold blooded massacres of the natives, I should have something to say about the flogging of those burghers who have taken the oath of neutrality, in order to induce them to perjure themselves, I should have something to say about the murder of our wounded soldiers on the battlefield, and, last of all, I should have something to say on that most unspeakable crime-stigmatised as unspeakable from the remotest antiquity-the flogging and the murder of an emissary of peace in cold blood last year.' As to the “methods of barbarity,” a phrase which he thought unhappily employed by however old a friend of his, the refugee camps were a result of the necessity of clearing the country. No doubt they were mismanaged at first, but it was not a very easy thing to manage. “With regard to those camps, I gladly adopt all the words of the resolution that was passed at Derby (which lamented the terrible rate of mortality, and urged that immediate steps be taken, at whatever cost, to remedy the present condition of the camps), “ though I must limit my adherence to the resolution upon the camps. Then again with regard to martial law, of which there is some complaint, and of the administration, of which I am afraid there is more. As regards martial law itself, it was, I believe, a necessity of the situation; it was to prevent the importation of arms, munitions, warlike supplies, and men to our enemies in the field, and, so far from blaming the declaration of martial law when it was made, I am disposed to blame the Government that it was not declared long ago, and that this open channel of supply was not stopped at an earlier period.”
Turning then to questions of policy, Lord Rosebery expressed his dissent from the, as he thought, unfortunate remark made by Lord Milner at Durban to the effect that, in the formal sense of the word, the war might never be at an end. Against this idea, and the absence of permanent settlement which he held that it involved, Lord Rosebery entered his