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obtain everything reasonable from the British Parliament. Here, however, when a vital question was presented, it was the Liberal Unionists, of which the Duke of Devonshire constituted himself the mouthpiece, who deliberately deprived themselves of their strongest argument against Home Rule. In his congratulatory speech to the Liberal Unionist Council (March 16), the duke found much satisfaction in reviewing the recent declarations of Liberal leaders on Home Rule, and came to the conclusion that it was no longer the chief object in their programme as it was in Mr. Gladstone's days. It was no longer a cause of alarm as it was then; rather it was a beneficial influence, for it acted as a clog upon their opponents, and it helped to unify their own party
—which was of some importance since it contained strong Conservatives on the one side and advanced Radicals upon the other. By a somewhat abrupt transition, which might, however, have been suggested by the idea of party differences, he passed to Mr. Balfour's declarations on the subject of granting a Roman Catholic University to Ireland. Some, he said, had thought it necessary to protest against these declarations, and even to withdraw from the ranks of the party. He himself did not see in these declarations anything which would justify opposition to the Unionist party. Mr. Balfour had been careful to explain. that these were his own personal views, and that the Government were not pledged by any declaration of his. He himself believed that several members of the Government were equally strongly opposed to these views. He should be extremely surprised if, during the existence of the present Government, any practical measure dealing with this subject were brought forward, though he admitted that he had not recently given any close study to the subject. Put briefly, this declaration of the Cabinet's intentions meant that the narrow bigotry of the Ulster Protestants, supported by the extremer forms of Protestantism in Scotland and England, had been allowed to triumph, and that expediency rather than justice was the recognised aim of political management.
By a singular coincidence, the signing between Great Britain and France of a convention defining the limits of the two Powers in Central Africa took place on the day (March 21) on which the German Minister of Foreign Affairs explained to the Reichstag the state of the negotiations with Mr. Rhodes. The arrangement with France concluded between Lord Salisbury and M. Cambon promised to put an end to the rivalries and misunderstandings which on more than one occasion had threatened to bring the two nations into collision. Egypt and the Valley of the Nile were tacitly omitted from the convention, which provided that the definite delimitation from the northern frontier of the Belgian Congo to the sixteenth degree of latitude was to be carried out by a mixed commission, on the general principle of Great Britain retaining the Bahr-el-Ghazal and Darfur, while France kept Wadai and Bagirmi, and generally the territory to
the east and north of Lake Chad, north of the fifteenth degree. Great Britain recognised that the French sphere extended south of the Tropic of Cancer as far as the western limit of the Libyan Desert. From the Nile to Lake Chad, and between the fifth and fifteenth parallels, the two Powers mutually conceded equal treatment in commercial matters; and thus France would obtain commercial establishments on the Nile. Finally, the two Powers mutually undertook to refrain from exercising political or territorial rights outside the frontiers fixed by the convention.
This arrangement, by which an enormous tract of territory was apportioned to themselves by two foreign Powers, wholly without reference to the wishes of the natives, was received with favour both in Paris and London. It was, however, looked upon with very different eyes in Constantinople, where the ignoring of the Sultan's suzerainty aroused the belief that the downfall of Mahomedan rule was desired alike by Great Britain and France. Italy also was aroused to angry protest at the implied suggestion conveyed by the treaty, that the former Power would do nothing to support Italian pretensions to Tripoli and its hinterland.
Mr. Cecil Rhodes had come to Europe on a short visit with the especial view of improving the prospects of the settlers in Rhodesia, and of cheering the shareholders in the company which had done so much to develop the country. He was still convinced that the Cape to Cairo Railway was to be the means by which success was to be ensured to the settlers, and his object was to persuade the British Government to give a guarantee for a portion of the interest on the capital raised to build the railroad and to complete the telegraph. His negotiations with the British Colonial Office were not wholly successful, and he was forced to fall back upon the shareholders of the Chartered Company for means to carry out his schemes. As a very considerable saving of time and expense could be effected by traversing a part of the country recognised to be within the German sphere of influence, Mr. Rhodes betook himself to Berlin, where he was most courteously received by the Emperor and his ministers, and at length questions in Parliament obliged the latter to make some statement which would satisfy public curiosity in the state of the proceedings. In reply to various questions, Herr von Bülow said that as regarded the laying of telegraphs through the East African Protectorate, an agreement had been made with the Trans-African Telegraph Company by which German interests and rights of supremacy had been safeguarded in every respect. The company had received permission to construct the line in question at its own cost through German territory, and it must be completed within five years. It bound itself to erect at its own cost, apart from the through wires required for its own purposes, another separate wire to be. used for the telegraph traffic of German East Africa, and to be
property would kee end of fort without
the property and maintained at the cost of the German Government, which would keep up the company's wires at the cost of the company. At the end of forty years the German Government could take over the line without compensation of any kind. Mr. Rhodes expressed himself highly satisfied with the result of his negotiations, and highly gratified by the reception he had met with.
Almost simultaneously came from South Africa mutterings of an approaching storm which Mr. Rhodes had done something to provoke. The Transvaal Government had gone out of its way since the raid to show its dislike and distrust of the Outlanders, on whose behalf and possibly at whose instigation the unfortunate expedition was undertaken. The promises made at the time, when the Boers would have been taken unprepared for a serious uprising, had never been fulfilled. Additional burdens had been imposed upon the gold industry, from which the Transvaal Government drew large sums, which were spent in arms and armaments in view of future complications. Complaints as to the treatment of the Outlanders arrived from time to time, but the British Government recog. nising that the Boers had a reasonable grievance against men, whom, rightly or wrongly, they regarded as implicated in Mr. Rhodes's schemes, had shown every desire to postpone pressing their demands, and had endeavoured to calm the growing excitement. The Outlanders, either of their own motion, or, as was alleged, stirred up by the mine owners and capitalists, who were the objects of every form of taxation, at length determined to take united action. A petition signed, as it was stated, by 21,000 British subjects in the Transvaal, was forwarded to the Queen. The Boer Press and the Boer authorities at once declared that a great proportion of the signatures were fictitious and that the petition had been got up by a small body of disaffected persons, but there was very little support forthcoming of either charge. The petition rehearsed the regular Outlander grievances, noting that the promises of redress had not only not been kept, but that since they were made the position of the Outlanders became worse. For example, the Raad had passed a Press law giving the President arbitrary powers, and an Aliens’ Expulsion law permitting the expulsion of British aliens at the will of the President, without, as in the case of the burghers, an appeal to the High Court; and the municipality granted to Johannesburg was declared to be worthless. “Half of the councillors are necessarily burghers, though the burghers and Outlanders number 1,000 and 23,000 respectively. The Government rejected the report of the Industrial Commission, which was composed of its own officials.” The High Court had been reduced to a condition of subservience, and the police, exclusively burghers, were ignorant and prejudiced, and a danger to the community. “Jurors are necessarily burghers, and justice is impossible in cases where a
racial issue may be involved." After mentioning the shooting of the man Edgar, the petition ended by declaring that the condition of the British subjects was intolerable, and asking for an inquiry to be held into their grievances.
The difficulty of insisting upon reforms in the sense prayed for was increased by the fact that the petition seemed to imply that British force should be employed in order to help men to divest themselves of their British nationality, and to adopt citizenship with those who had no desire to admit them. Moreover the Outlanders at one time, before 1894, could have been nationalised in the Transvaal without hindrance, but as citizenship involved military service when called upon, the British settlers had with very few exceptions abstained from paying this price, and on several occasions, when frontier wars were menacing, had claimed exemption. It was therefore not unnatural that the Boers, with the memory of the raid still rankling in their minds, had shown no desire to conciliate such unwelcome immigrants, whom the gold discoveries had alone attracted. Doubtless underneath this surface cause of hostility there was the deeper racial feeling which separated the Dutch and British throughout South Africa, and the remembrance of the way in which, fifty years before, the fathers of the present generation of Boers had “ trekked out” across the Vaal River to live their own lives according to their own ways.
Shortly before the House rose for the Easter recess Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman had the opportunity at the National Liberal Club (March 22) of reviewing the position of the party of which he had been elected the leader. The results of the bye-elections, although no seat was actually gained, gave sufficient grounds for hoping that the Liberal party was awakening from its prolonged slumber and depression. Sir H. CampbellBannerman was therefore fully justified in adopting a cheerful tone. He admitted that their opponents had a great majority in the Commons, and the Lords in their pocket; but what had they done? Mr. Balfour was giving up his Irish University scheme because it did not suit the Liberal Unionists. A private bill on the half-timers question, which embodied a clause of a bill the Government had themselves brought in, and which fulfilled a pledge they had made at Berlin, had been read a second time by an enormous majority, and now it was said the Government were afraid to find time for the bill. The same thing was happening in the case of the bill to prevent railway accidents. The present was not a Government at all; it was mere wire-pulling. Mr. Brodrick had accused him of talking platitudes, and the Duke of Devonshire of opportunism. He was not afraid of the word ; but there was bad and good opportunism. Bad opportunism was that of a Government which rested upon the simultaneous support of extreme reactionaries and some advanced Radicals, and which had to please one after the other, which gave subsidies of public money in order to
stifle the scruples of powerful classes and interests in the country. But good opportunism was nothing more than a recognition of the fact that they might do harm if they rushed at a thing which was momentarily impossible, and that they ought to watch for the proper time and the proper method, lest they should do more harm than good to the cause which they sought to serve. It was the kind of opportunism by which most of the good had been done in the world.
The Government only a few days later afforded a painful object lesson in opportunism. In face of the opposition raised by the railway interest in Parliament, Mr. Ritchie announced the intention of the Government to withdraw the Railways Regulation Bill which had been introduced with the object of protecting the lives of railway servants, especially shunters. The bill aimed at making the adoption of automatic couplings compulsory within five years from the passing of the bill. That there was urgent need of some such protection as proposed was borne out by the ghastly return of men killed or injured annually on our railways. Unfortunately railway directors could rely on the support of railway shareholders, if an expenditure likely to reduce dividends was suggested; and although every statement of this kind was traversed by those more interested in the lives of railway men than in the interests of shareholders, the Government decided to bend before the storm, and to withdraw the bill without venturing a challenge of strength upon the second reading.
The Socialists at Leeds—Mr. Courtney in Cornwall-Harrow Election—The
Budget-Small Houses Acquisition Bill—Decoration of St. Paul's—Board of Education Bill—The London Government Bill in Committee—The Finance Bill—The Primrose League at the Albert Hall and the Salvation Army at the Mansion House–The Education Estimates—The Vice-President's ProtestThe Church Discipline Bill-Technical Education Bill for Ireland-China and the Transvaal—The Licensing Commission-Lord Rosebery and the State of the Liberal Party-The Queen's Eightieth Birthday
THE Easter recess, although marked by several stirring events abroad, in which Great Britain was more or less closely interested, was singularly devoid even of political speeches. The disputes between the representatives of the three Powers concerned in the administration of the Samoan Islands, each jealously asserting the claims of their respective Governments, had culminated in the appointment of three commissioners with nearly absolute powers to revise the Constitution. In the recent disturbances the cooperation of the British and American representatives against the German officials had been the most marked feature.
A Socialist gathering at Leeds (March 31) was noteworthy as being one of the first public conferences of a body which for some time had been steadily increasing in numbers, although