[FOURTH DAY'S DEBATE.]
Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [14th February], "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth—
" Most Gracious Sovereign,
"We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—( Mr. Forster.)
Question again proposed.
I shall not detain the House long, nor should I have intervened at all at this stage in the debate but for the challenge which was directly addressed last night to the occupants of this bench by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. On the last occasion, in December, when the right hon. Gentleman spoke to the House upon the terms of settlement in South Africa, it was my agreeable duty, in following him, to congratulate him upon the spirit, and to concur to a large extent in the substance, of what he had said. The Amendment which had then been moved by my hon. friend the senior Member for Oldham was, by the general consent of both sides of the House, withdrawn, and it really seemed as if we were within a measurable distance of an eirenicon, not only as between parties in this House, but, what is much more important, as between the combatant forces in South Africa. Nothing, as far as we on this side of the House are concerned, has been said in the course of this debate to detract from or to qualify what then occurred. Criticisms —serious and weighty criticisms—have been passed by my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean upon certain aspects of the conduct of the war. Anxiety, natural and— as I venture to think—perfectly legitimate anxiety, has been expressed as to how far and by what means the terms of peace announced by the right hon. Gentleman in December have been and are being communicated to the Boers. An Amendment, it is true, was put down on the Paper by ray hon. friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs; but that Amendment has not been moved. That is one of the main grievances of the Colonial Secretary. I should think that it is the first time, that it is at any rate quite a novel thing for a Minister to complain when there are forty-six Amendments on the Address, that one of them is not to be moved, and that the possible number of divisions is to be reduced to forty-five. It is true that my hon. friend has not moved his Amendment. He confined his speech to an attack on the methods in which the war has been, and is being, conducted in South Africa—an attack in which I may say at once I myself do not in the least concur—and which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, will no doubt be met in due course by the Secretary of State for War. Finally, my hon. and learned friend the Member for the Dumfries Burghs made a grave appeal for the lenient and considerate treatment of those who should surrender —an appeal the extreme moderation of which was acknowledged by the right hon. Gentleman himself, who also said that it would be found not to have fallen on deaf ears. Such has been the course of this debate; and it is under these conditions that the Secretary of State for the Colonies takes the opportunity to make a speech as unprovoked and as provocative as almost any which I ever remember to have heard in this House. Why, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman, in one part of his remarks, went out of his way to revive—I hope I am not using too strong language—what we had all hoped to be the obsolete Billingsgate of the General Election. He described the six Gentlemen, including my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition, who have addressed the House from this side in the course of the debate, as so many pro-Boers. There was a time, in the heat of the election, when it almost seemed as though the right hon. Gentleman had brought himself honestly to believe that anyone who was presumptuous enough to question the wisdom of his diplomacy, or even the taste of his metaphors, must be in alliance, secret or avowed, with the enemies of his country. But the election fever is over. The majority has been secured, and now sits safely and, I hope, comfortably on those benches. These epithets have served their purpose: and is it not about time that they should be cast into the rhetorical dustbin, which is the only place fit for them? The right hon. Gentleman in almost the same breath complained of the want of unanimity in this House in strengthening the hands of the Executive. This is a very curious way of procuring unanimity. We are sometimes warned as to the effect which speeches made here may produce on the minds of the Boers. I am not sure that the best way to promote an early cessation of the war and to bring about a discontinuance of a hopeless resistance is to suggest, as the right hon. Gentleman more than suggested last night, that, if not the whole, the majority of those who sit on this side of the House are in sympathy, latent or acknowledged, with those who are in the field. However that may be, I think this kind of circumspection should begin at home. Has the right hon. Gentleman reflected what gratuitous obstacles deliverances such as that of his last night interpose in the way of that unanimity which he professes to desire, and of the consequent strengthening of the hands of the Executive for the attainment of that which, I believe, we all, without any distinction of party, agree to be at this moment the cardinal and the capital object of British policy—the securing of an honourable and lasting peace? But my main object, indeed my sole object, in rising is to remove one or two misconceptions to which the right hon. Gentleman's speech lent countenance, and which, if they were not misconceptions but were founded on fact, would reflect greatly upon our conduct and credit as an Opposition, and I think might even conceivably have the effect of hindering or postponing the termination of the war. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman suggested that we, or some considerable section amongst us, are in favour of undoing the annexation of the two Republics and restoring the political status quo. That I believe to be a complete delusion. I am not in the least ashamed to confess for myself that I was a slow and reluctant convert to the necessity of annexation. I am not going into the argument now. It was fought out at the General Election. It is sufficient to say this: that my own view, which I believe to be that of many others, is that to annexation there is not, and there has not been for a long time past, any practicable alternative—practicable, I mean, in a double sense: on the one hand, of guarding against the future recurrence of past dangers, and, on the other hand, of securing equality and freedom for the whole of South Africa. But that is no new statement of policy. So far back as last Whitsuntide my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition at Glasgow, with all the authority that belongs to his position, declared annexation to be inevitable, and stated that, in his opinion—which was also, of course, that of his colleagues—it had to be accepted both by parties in this country and by the Boers and British in South Africa as an indispensable condition of the ultimate settlement. So much for that. But the right hon. Gentleman went on to allege that a number of us here—and he singled out in this particular my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition —had expressed the opinion that the terms to be offered to the Boers should include the immediate concession of self-government in the conquered territories. Well, Sir, speaking again, I believe, not only for myself but for a number of others, and speaking certainly for my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition, I say we have neither entertained nor expressed any such idea. I listened, on the first night of this debate, to my right hon. friend's speech, and certainly he never said or suggested anything of the kind; and I was never more surprised than when I heard the First Lord of the Treasury father upon his words that construction—a construction which was emphatically repudiated a few hours later the same evening by my right hon. friend the Member for South Aberdeen, and I repudiate it now. What is the situation with which we have to deal in those conquered territories? I am speaking as one who is most anxious that, at the very earliest possible moment, the solemn pledges which the Government and the people of this country have given to the people of South Africa should be completely and effectually fulfilled. You have a community, of which it is no exaggeration to say that both the social and the political fabric have been overturned from top to bottom. You have population in which racial animosities have been heated and envenomed by the war until they have reached a state of the most acute inflammation. You have a territory which has been to a large extent devastated and depopulated. The leaders of the farming class are prisoners of war, and the industrial classes to a large extent are emigrants, Under those conditions I agree entirely with my hon. friend the junior Member for Oldham—whose interesting and eloquent speech last night we must all hope and believe, and especially those of us who, like myself, enjoyed the privilege of friendship with his illustrious father, was the first step in a Parliamentary career of the highest distinction—that to plant, or attempt to plant, the full machinery of constitutional government would be to ignore the fundamental facts of the case. There must be an interval for resettlement and revival, for a renewal of the ordinary functions of social and domestic life, before the work of political and constitutional reconstruction can be properly set on foot. How is that interval to be bridged over? Here, again, as it seems to me, the right hon. Gentleman magnified and inflated verbal distinctions into differences of principle and policy. I suppose we are all agreed that military government ought to be brought to an end at the very earliest possible moment that it is practicable to do so. I am sure my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition agrees with me there. We are all agreed. It may be, I hope it may not be, but one cannot ignore the possibility, and even the probability, that at the time when it is safe to bring the régime of a purely military administration to an end, the conditions are not yet sufficiently matured for starting the new machinery of self-government. If that be so, there must be a period, not of military but of civil administration; and when my right hon. friend protested, as I believe he did protest, in the speech to which I have referred, against introducing into these countries the system of what is called a Crown colony, what I understood him to mean, and what I should certainly mean myself, was that from the earliest moment when you transform the administration from a military into a civil character, you ought, so far as you can, to associate the work of administration and government with some representative element which, although you have not yet got full-fledged representative institutions, still less full-fledged responsible government, will ensure that the Government for the time being is more or less in touch with the feelings and interests and sympathies of the governed. No one proposes, as the right hon. Gentleman seems to think —no one, at any rate, with whom I am acquainted—to purchase peace in this manner at the price of dishonour. It is not a question of yielding to fear that which we are not ready, freely and spontaneously, to give; still less is it a question of betraying those who have trusted us. But it is of vital importance, with a view first of all to the speedy ending of the war, with a view next to making good the pledges we have given, that both Boer and Briton in South Africa shall understand that we are not going to replace the artificial ascendency of one race by the artificial ascendency of another. Surely it would be more useful — I do not care to use the word patriotic, because until recently patriotism was claimed as a monopoly by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, otherwise I should have said it was more patriotic—at a time like this of grave national necessity that, rather than endeavour to create a perfectly artificial party issue, we should inquire whether the best means have been taken, or are being taken, to attain this end. I am not going into the question—the very speculative question—of whether terms of peace could or could not have been arranged immediately after the capture of Pretoria last June. Speaking for myself, and for myself alone, I doubt it; and I doubt it for this reason, amongst others: that as we now know, and as the Boers knew perfectly well then, we were not at that time in any real or effective sense in occupation of their country. However that may be, I do not hesitate to say that, in my opinion, the steps which were taken in the immediately succeeding months were singularly ill-calculated for the purpose. What were they? You had a series of inconsistent and inconsequent proclamations. Of course the responsibility rests not with Lord Roberts, but with His Majesty's Government; and I must say, having studied those proclamations with as much care as I can, I think it must have been difficult almost to the point of impossibility for any Boer of average intelligence to ascertain at any given time what precise offer was open to him to accept. You had, at the same time, the policy of what has been called farm-burning, as to which, again, after carefully studying the evidence, I say— I am giving my own opinion—that it was conducted on the part of our officers and men with all the humanity that was possible in the circumstances. That is nay opinion. But it is a policy to be condemned, in my opinion, not so much for its cruelty—all war is cruel—but for its wastefulness, for its want of method, and, above all for its almost complete futility. Then the generals came home under the impression that the war was over; and the House still awaits, and awaits, I think, with interest and impatience, some statement from the Secretary for War as to the steps which were taken during the autumn and the winter to replace the disbanded and recalled troops and to replenish and reinforce the wasted regiments that were left upon the spot. What are we doing now? I suppose most of us will agree that we have, or we ought to have, two objects in view —to make the Army efficient, and to bring home to the Boers the conviction of the sincerity of our intentions. The right hon. Gentleman asked last night to whom are we to address ourselves. Well, it appears from the answer which he gave to a question this evening that the proclamation has not yet been issued which he foreshadowed in December last, and which was to be the means by which we at any rate understood the Government were to make known to the mass of the inhabitants of South Africa their intentions in this matter. I cannot help feeling great regret that the issue of that proclamation has been delayed; and we should like to know precisely what are the reasons for that delay. Let me ask, further, if the terms which the right hon. Gentleman announced two months ago have been conveyed to the Boer prisoners at St. Helena and Ceylon? Have any assurances been given to these men as to the restoration and restocking of their farms or as to provision being made for the mortgages and other debts which are accumulating upon them during their absence? Above all, have these prisoners been allowed, are they being allowed—this is one of the most pacific influences that you can bring to bear on the Boers—are they being allowed to communicate freely with their families, their friends, and kinsmen in the field? These are practical questions which demand categorical answers. We have differed widely in this House as to the origin of the war. We may differ—though suppose that there the differences are not quite so widespread—as to the wisdom, the foresight, and the energy with which it has been conducted. But we all agree,. I believe, without any distinction of party or section, in the desire to secure at the earliest possible moment an honourable peace. Sir, that end will not be accelerated, I venture to say by truculence of language any more than by weakness in action. If it is to he-attained, it can be attained only in one way, and that is by the combination of two things—an army, strong, mobile, capable of commanding victory, and terms of pacification which it will not be derogatory either for the victors to offer or for the vanquished to accept.
I do not think there can be any doubt in the mind of any Member of the House that the tone of the speech which has just been delivered by the right hon. Gentleman is different from that of the speeches of his colleagues who have spoken from the same bench. I think that it will be felt by the House that the right hon. Gentleman has struck a distinctly higher note than that which we have heard on previous evenings during this debate, and I venture to say that if all the speeches which have been made from that side of the House during the last three days had been delivered in the same tone and to the same purport the necessity for the speech which my right hon. friend the Secretary for the Colonies delivered last night would not have arisen. But, Sir, there was one very striking feature in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—striking and, to me, exceedingly disappointing—in that he spoke, not amidst the rounds of cheers which greeted the sallies of other speakers on that bench, but in chilling and disappointing silence. I call attention to that because the right hon. Gentleman asked the House to take up a position, which is not only far better and far higher, from the point of view of the office which I occupy, but also a far more useful and practical position for the purpose which we all ought to have, and I cannot help still hoping we all have, in view—namely, that we should use our opportunities in this House, from whatever standpoint we approach the question, with a determination to do everything, and to leave nothing undone, which will bring us nearer to the termination of the war. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken for his colleagues. I cannot say that the description which he gave of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition agrees with the impression conveyed to us on this bench when we listened to him on Thursday last. But when he proceeded to bring into line the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen, I think that we were in a position to make an effective retort. But I would rather leave that retort unuttered; I would rather accept his statement. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it does not give the Minister for War any pleasure, to use his own phrase, to go scavenging in the rhetorical dust-heaps of the past. It is almost impossible in approaching this question, in the daily responsibility of watching the ebb and flow of the war, knowing, as the Secretary of State must know perhaps more than any other man, what is going on at the front, responsible for filling up the too numerous vacancies made by wounds and disease, responsible also for withdrawing officers who may not I be efficient and replacing them, and for repressing disorder if it occurs, and still more responsible perhaps for defending ! those who have been maligned in or out of this House—I say it is impossible not to feel that the moment has come, frankly, when we should get rid of these stale party recriminations, and, putting party aside for a few moments, consider how we can best bring to an end this great loss of life which is going on, this devasta- tion which must take place of an entire country, this embitterment of feeling which will remain afterwards, and this waste of resources, which are the necessary concomitants of war. I look to the debate which is taking place solely from that point of view, and I ask the Opposition to consider, holding what views they please, the question not from the point of view of justice only, on which Gentlemen opposite may hold different views from us, but from the point of view which they themselves have adopted—namely, that of expediency; and I would ask, from that standpoint whether the speeches which have been made in the last few days tend to a speedy termination of the war. I am not going into the argument as to whether we are right in saying that there shall be no independence, whether the Member for South Aberdeen with his protected State is nearer the mark, or whether the suggestions made in two other speeches from that bench of a speedy return of self-government after the close of the war might possibly most tend to conciliation. I ask the House to look at the matter clearly and to face the facts as they are at this moment. We are told by all the speakers opposite that the Boers we now have to deal with are desperate men. You may say that we have made them desperate. [An HON. MEMBER: Who else?] The more you say so the more you force upon us the view that they are not open at this moment to a reasonable compromise. What I ask the House to consider is this. They are fighting for independence as they understand it. They have been told that the complete surrender of their independence is the only means by which the war can be finished. Does the Member for South Aberdeen really believe that if Lord Kitchener went to-morrow to General De Wet and General Botha and said to them, "We cannot give you back your independence, but we will make you a. protected State; we will give you back 25 per cent. of that for which for the last sixteen months you have been fighting," he would get a favourable answer?
I think the hon. Member is probably the only Member of this House who thinks so. ["No."] Is it not more in keeping with reason and with our past experience of the Boers to believe that the mere offer of 25 per cent. of their independence would cause them more vigorously than ever to pull themselves together to fight in order to turn that 25 per cent. into 50 per cent. The position at this moment, so far as the Government are concerned, is this. We have by proclamation offered to the Boers terms of surrender which have never before, I delieve, been offered to a vanquished enemy. [An HON. MEMBER: Never were there more disgraceful terms.] Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to develop that for a moment. Lord Roberts's original policy when he entered the Free State was to accept the oath of any Boer who came in and surrendered his rifle, and to allow him to go back to his farm. I do not believe that in any other war such a thing has been done—that a private soldier has been allowed to go free on mere parole, and to go back to live as a private individual in the very country in which warlike operations were going on. That leniency was a disastrous failure; because men who had given their parole were either cajoled or compelled again to take up arms, and the very men who came in one day and gave up their rifles would assault these same posts a week afterwards with all the advantage of the information they had obtained. The next stage in the operations was that those who were taken were sent across the water, and their wives and families were promised protection, and they were promised that they should return when the war was over. That plan, again, has not been a success, for the reason that the Boers, dreading to go across the water as they do, have preferred to continue in arms rather than to come in on those terms. Lord Kitchener has now undertaken a third step. He has proposed (and to the extent of 15,000 persons, I think, his proposal has been accepted) that all the Boers who desired to surrender to the British Government should be allowed to come in and obtain protection in laagers with their families and be preserved either from compulsion to take up arms again or from any danger which might accrue until it is possible for them to go back to their farms. I know not what a British general could have done more in order to bring home to those against whom he was fighting our desire to make the path of submission as easy as possible. But I think it would be not only a mistake but positively disastrous if we were now to go to a man like General De Wet, who is making such a desperate resistance and offering so determined a front against any terms whatever, who is flogging and shooting members of the peace committee, who is alleged, rightly or wrongly, to be flogging his own men who desire to surrender—
Where is your authority for that statement?
I say who is alleged to be doing so—is it not absurd to suppose that, if we were to go to him with a proposal now to leave him a few shreds of independence at a time which we cannot name and of a nature which he could not be expected to appreciate, we should break down his determination to continue in arms? I think by such a policy we should not only render ourselves contemptible in the eyes of the world, but make the British Government ridiculous throughout Europe. All I can say is this. The right hon. Member for South Aberdeen said the other night that he could not check himself in making speeches here by the effect which they might have in South Africa.
I did not say that. I said it was my duty here to say what I thought.
Allowing for the divergence of language, consequent perhaps upon my less concentrated methods of thought, I should have said that I had exactly expressed the right hon. Gentleman's meaning, However that may be, I want to make the House, in all sincerity, feel in the fullest sense its responsibility in this matter. It is one on which I feel exceedingly deeply. Letters reach me by every mail showing the mischief done by speeches, proclamations— [Irish cheers]—I mean by pamphlets and publications, and speeches which are called those of conciliation. There is a Committee of Conciliation, and another committee which, I believe, is distinct from it, called the Stop-the-War Committee. I believe I am right in saying that one or other of these committees was responsible for the atrocious libel on Lord Kitchener, when it was said that he had given orders to shoot all Boer prisoners. We know that a question in this House, or a statement in the newspapers, is sufficient to disabuse every Englishman of such an idea; but that statement goes broadcast throughout South Africa, and publications like the letter quoted last night by the Member for Carnarvon—from a lieutenant in the Canadian Horse, a letter which may be a highly coloured narrative, but which has never been verified or tested, but on which I will undertake to say General Smith-Dorrien will have considerable light to throw—have been found in the farmhouses not merely in Orange River Colony, but in Cape Colony. I heard by the last mail that our own troops that are pursuing General De Wet in Cape Colony had found them broadcast, having been distributed, deliberately, throughout the Dutch farmhouses in the Cape Colony, creating among those who read them an absolutely false idea, and immeasurably embittering the differences between the two races, and the feelings of those who have hitherto been loyal subjects of the King. What happened the other day in the town of Calvinia, which is in the western part of Cape Colony, and about 100 or 150 miles from the Orange River Colony? It is not a place about which any question of rebellion against Boer authority, if there was a Boer authority still existing in either of the colonies, could arise, as it was as much a part of His Majesty's dominions as the House in which we are sitting. What happened there the other day? A coloured man, educated, well-known in Cape Colony, cultured beyond his fellows, who has taken part in politics in Cape Colony to a considerable extent, was seized by a commando which reached that town about a month ago. What was his crime? It was that he was well-known to be a centre of loyal feeling in that neighbourhood. That man was openly taken out by the commando—who were no doubt stimulated by their feelings as regards cruelties which, they were told by every publication they came across in the Dutch farmhouses, had been practised on their own fellow-citizens—and flogged so brutally that his vitals were exposed. He lingered for three weeks, and was then shot in cold blood before our troops entered the town. I quote that only as an instance of many in Cape Colony who had been similarly treated, and I quote it because I would ask the House to consider whether the Conciliation Committee, by whom these stories are published, ought not better to have been called the Exasperation Committee, because these stories and loose talking across the floor of the House, such as that indulged in by the hon. Member for Carnarvon, without due consideration, and without being verified, do not influence us here, but they do go to South Africa to further exasperate and increase our difficulties there. I am not one who complains of the ordinary chances of war. You must lose lives, you must ride horses to death, you must see a country devastated if you once go to war. All these are necessary incidents of warfare. But surely, it is right for any man who is responsible in any degree for the conduct of operations, to make an appeal that we should do as much as we can here to prevent the ordinary horrors of war degenerating into acts of savagery of the kind to which I have referred. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has urged me to say what steps the Government have taken in the last two or three months to bring about a speedy termination of the war. In December last I stated that I believed the kindest thing to both parties was to place Lord Kitchener in possession of every force he could desire in order to bring about a speedy capture of the marauding bands which are disturbing the two colonies in South Africa. We are told that the Government have been drifting in their policy and action. I deny that altogether. Our policy has not changed and our action has not for one moment swerved. A statement has appeared in the papers that Lord Kitchener asked us for a large body of troops in December last and that we began very late to provide them. The fact is, we have never been behind Lord Kitchener in our supplies, but we have always endeavoured to anticipate his wishes. The 13th December last was the first time we had had any demand from South Africa for troops for some months. At that moment there were 210,000 soldiers in South Africa. Lord Kitchener then asked whether, as some of his mounted troops, owing to service in the war, had lost numbers, we could supply drafts. I took action on that at once. He also asked whether some of the colonial troops, on whom he greatly depended and whose services he eulogised in the highest manner, could be replaced. The Government immediately appealed to the colonies to replace their contingents, and we had a reply as enthusiastic as we could possibly receive. Ten days or a fortnight ago I published a summary of the mounted troops we hoped to supply in the course of a few weeks. In that summary I put clown the colonial troops at 5,000. I find that the number of those who have come forward has already exceeded that figure.
At 5s. a day !
And if more were wanted they would be ready to come to our assistance. I promised 2,500 cavalry and 1,000 mounted infantry. Of this 3,500, 2,500 left in a few days, and at this moment form part of the column in pursuit of De Wet. In addition to that, we quickened the recruiting of the 10,000 Colonial Police, which, being a, force of a more permanent character, did not fill up quite so quickly as the more temporary reinforcements; and we brought before Lord Kitchener the extreme desirability of prompting every man in Cape Colony willing to take up arms for local defence to do so. Now that the war has extended to Cape Colony, I think the colonists ought to be among the first to strike a defensive blow. Within three weeks some 10,000 men were enrolled in Cape Colony, and these were mounted and equipped with rifles by the British Government. I have been asked by several hon. Members questions as to the supply of horses, and we have been taken to task in some quarters for delay in sending out an additional supply. In keeping up the supply of horses our difficulty has been great, for this reason, the wastage of horses has always exceeded the wastage expected by the commanders in the field; consequently, although we kept up the supply, that supply was not sufficient. When I took office three months ago I immediately tried to attain an object which is most important in regard to the supply of horses in South Africa, that they should arrive a mouth in advance of the time of their actual requirement. That alone gives the animals time to regain their condition, and probably prolongs their working life many weeks or months. In these efforts we fairly succeeded. From 1st October to 14th February there were 21,800 horses landed in Cape Colony, and on 14th February there were 8,500 at sea on their way, a total of 30,000 in a period of little over three months. I do not think there will be found in any period of the world's history an instance of any nation sending for an expedition to any part of the world 30,000 horses a distance of 6,000 miles in three months. Lord Kitchener also, when the war extended to Cape Colony, found it necessary from the point of view of anticipating Boer raids to secure as many horses as he could locally; and he succeeded in obtaining at a good price a good supply of 13,000 horses and 4,000 mules in January, and I am glad to say, from the most recent telegrams sent, Lord Kitchener has got all the men he can mount provided with good horses. Lord Kitchener applied for reinforcements at the end of January. Early in January I found that the recruiting for the South African Constabulary was not proceeding as rapidly as I had expected, and I thought it necessary, in view of probable demands from Lord Kitchener, that we should be ready to send out a large force of Yeomanry. We called for more Yeomanry, and the response was extraordinary. We have up to date enlisted 8,000 or 9,000, and they are coming in very rapidly. I understand the men are of very good stamp. The result was that when Lord Kitchener did tell us at the end of January that, owing to a very great increase in the area of warlike operations, more mounted troops were needed, we sent him at the end of the same week the first batch. We have sent a considerable number, and in ten days ships will sail with further forces; and by the end of March we expect to be able to put at Lord Kitchener's disposal something like 30,000 men. It is not for me to say anything of the future course of the war. I can only say that the strain at the front must be very great. Many officers have been on active duty for fifteen or sixteen months, and it must not be suposed that when generals come home in any special case they are in any way discredited. It is extremely desirable that some generals should have a rest, and we are therefore sending Lord Kitchener every general he has selected or desires to have in order to relieve those who have been on service for a long period. In this connection I quite agree with my right hon. friend the Member for Oldham when, in his admirable speech last night, he said that in Sir Bindon Blood and General Elliot, distinguished officers with Indian experience of a special character, we are sending the best men we can to supplement Lord Kitchener's force. But the House may rest assured that whatever form the operations may take the Government will work hand in hand with Lord Kitchener, and we have every confidence and expectation that the steps taken are such that before long they will greatly narrow the area of the war. We recognise that in strengthening Lord Kitchener's hands lies the way to this. The House may be assured that to this consideration everything— even the reorganisation of the Army at home—will be subordinated, that we may keep the Army in the field in the highest state of efficiency we can attain. During the debate there have been three or four speeches in reference to hospital arrangements in South Africa, and I hope the House will pardon me for entering on that important subject. It is fully worth a debate to itself, but as it has been brought forward during this debate, I ought to say a few words upon it. Great blame has been thrown on the Army Medical Department, and I do not for a moment mean to say that the Department has not many things to answer for; but, in considering mistakes made by the Army Medical Department, let us also consider the part the House of Commons has played in bringing about the present state of things. I am quite ready to take responsibility and blame for which we are fairly accountable at the War Office, but it should be remembered that in the House of Commons, when nearly fourteen years ago the late Lord Randolph Churchill carried on for two years his crusade against public expenditure, this Army Medical Department was severely criticised. I well remember a strong speech in which the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton said there were too many doctors, and that the Department wanted overhauling, for it cost too large an amount of public money, and the Report of the Committee at the time bore out the right hon. Gentleman's belief. The Committee, after two years investigation at the War Office, decided that there were too many doctors, and that they were too highly paid, with a too high proportion of retired pay, and that the whole subject required revision. By this the War Office has ever since been influenced. In the House of Commons successive Ministers have laid it down that we must provide for three army corps at home and two abroad, and upon this the arrangements of the Army Medical Department have been made. Can you wonder, then, that when we came to send the equivalent of six Army Corps to South Africa the medical arrangements should he somewhat strained? Difficulties arose that were not foreseen in sending supplies along lines of communication longer than had ever been necessary in a Continental war. The War Department in the matter of doctors has for the last fourteen years been between the upper millstone of a Parliament determined to keep down expenditure and the lower millstone of the medical profession, who denied their best candidates except upon better terms. The War Office did all it could to get better men, but the heads of the profession declared that medical men must have military rank, without which they could not hold up their beads among their military colleagues. I remember it was even urged that beyond the titles of major and colonel the title of general should be open to them. Five years ago Lord Lansdowne was assured that unless the title of "general," not "surgeon-general," were given other proposals would he useless. I remember perfectly well suggesting that a deputation of the profession should go over to the Admiralty and ask that naval surgeons should be allowed to become admirals, When they received that recognition the War Office would consider the concession of the rank of "general." But, not to trouble the House at length, I will sum up in a few words what the experience of the war has shown. It has shown, in the first place, that these military titles have not altogether conduced to harmony. In the second place, the Commission of able, independent men, who, whatever we may say of their conclusions, certainly held no brief for the Government, have shown in their Report that there has been no general disposition on the part of the Army Medical Department to shirk its duties, and that there has been great devotion shown among the medical I men. If in some cases there have been defects of organisation and skill, that organisation can be reformed, and want of skill has been due to the fact that officers have been so hardly worked that they have not had proper opportunities of studying their profession. It has been said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ilkeston Division that we have not realised the importance of a suggestion that came from himself— that sanitary committees should be sent out to direct sanitary arrangements for the various camps. I think the experience of the war has shown that a committee of that character, or something like it, would have done good service. And, while knowing as I do the devotion to duty of the great mass of medical officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps, I cannot deny that it has been brought out in the course of these inquiries that there was a certain amount of professional jealousy, an indisposition to avail themselves of outside assistance in an emergency, and, perhaps, too much of that red-tape disposition which is supposed to pursue the Army in all its courses, which I, at all events, desire to see removed to a great extent. And in this respect let me say that so far from regarding those who have interested themselves in these matters, both here and in South Africa, with any suspicion or distrust, I thank them for their attempts; I believe they have been largely productive of good to the public service, and I believe we may found on the recommendations of the Commission, and on the extraneous assistance we have received, partly from Members of this House, a new and satisfactory system, but one which can only be brought about by a drastic reform of the Army Medical Service. But in the emergency as it now exists we cannot pretend to make a complete reform in a few weeks. We are bound to look at this question very carefully, and we are determined to call to our assistance the heads of the medical profession. It may be that by making our terms of enlistment more elastic, it may be that by making them more attractive in other ways, we can obtain a better class of men. All I would say is this: if the House will give us a little confidence in this matter I will undertake that no effort shall be wanting, that there is no experience we can get but shall be turned to account, and that no past prejudices shall be allowed to intervene, or prevent outgiving the Army in the future an effective medical service. I do not know that there is any other subject on which I need trouble the House, for I feel that I have been too long already, but I wish to say this before I sit down. The right hon. Gentleman expressed regret that the Colonial Secretary had not yet been able to put out the proclamation foreshadowed in December last. He may rest assured that at the first moment that such a proclamation is likely to have any effect it will be at once published. Lord Kitchener has made, and is making, every effort, by personal action, by offers to meet the hostile generals, by every means in the power of a general or administrator to take, to bring before the Boers the terms on which he is willing to give them the opportunity of surrendering. And those who know—the right hon. Gentleman thought the Boers do not know—those who know what have been the terms in these proclamations, those who know how earnestly the Government desire, and the House desires, to see the Dutch and British races in South Africa again settling down in amicable concord, will know that no stone will be left unturned, as far as is possible to remove past subjects of bitterness and to secure peace between the two races in South Africa. I can only conclude by adopting in the fullest sense the language of the right hon. Gentleman, and by saying that if this House will only keep before it first and foremost, putting aside all party issues, the main question of bringing this war to an end, we shall not only avoid great occasion of difference and recrimination in this House, but we shall go a long step towards securing for South Africa an honourable and lasting peace.
The right hon. Gentleman has just stated that it is the desire of the Government to do everything they can to bring this war to an honourable and satisfactory close, but in the early part of his speech he seemed to convey to us that the only effectual means was to conquer them. He told us that it was useless to offer to the Boer generals in the field terms of accommodation which would not be wholly acceptable to them, because the only result of offering 25 per cent. of what they wished for would be to induce them to ask for 50 per cent. I hold that this is not the way in which the Government ought to conduct this great and momentous business. I think there must be a feeling in this House and in the country also that the time has come when some more effectual steps should be taken to bring this dreadful conflict to an end. On our side, at least, it is felt that there is doubly a reason for that, because many of us believe that you can obtain now terms which would be better, safer, and more conducive to the welfare of this country and to a lasting peace than you would obtain if you carried this war through to the hitter end and crushed out every spark of opposition. Why do we think that? It appears to some of us that the policy of force and of simply using the enormous power of this country to crush out all opposition in South Africa is in itself doomed to failure. However successful you may be and however complete the triumph which, after infinite losses and sacrifices, you may obtain, the result will be less than the result which you might obtain without those sacrifices by offering generous terms. We are told that to offer terms would be a sign of weakness, but what argument can be weaker than that? What is the supreme weakness of a statesman? It is the fear to seem weak. It requires courage to look the facts fairly and fully in the face and deal with them, not according to the exigencies of party—God forbid that any man on these benches should look to the interests of party in a matter of this kind—but in the interests of the permanent peace of South Africa and the welfare of this country. We have not got to deal merely with the suppression of the resistance of our enemy in the field, but how are you going to govern people on the other side of the globe unless you can do something to reconcile them to your rule? How are you going to do it? If you are going to do it or try to do it why will you not at once make it plain to them what are the lines of the healing policy on which you intend to proceed. It is my conviction that the only means by which we can secure the permanent peace of South Africa is to offer to respect the natural sentiments of these people, their dignity and prejudices and love for their old customs and institutions, and to give them everything which you can give subject only to this one condition, that you shall guard yourselves against the outbreak of hostilities in the future. What are the securities which are necessary in order to protect us from a fresh outbreak of war, and in order to secure to us the fruits of all this expenditure of blood and treasure? There is now no practical question before the House of restoring to the conquered States the full independence which they have lost. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies confused the issue when he suggested and actually stated that that was the question which divided the parties in this House. He asked," What is the issue if it is not a question of annexation? "That is not the issue. Annexation is now accepted as a practical necessity, whatever we may think of its justice. We on this side of the House realise that we are powerless upon this matter, and that is not the question upon which we are at issue for the moment. The difference between us is quite other than that. It is not a question of the restoration of the full and complete independence of these two States as Sovereign International States, but we have to consider how we can reconcile those States, who dearly loved the independence they have lost, to the loss of that independence. That is the problem which statesmen have to grapple with at this moment. How can we reconcile them unless we are prepared while they are in the field, and as a condition of their surrender, to tell them what terms we will give them, in what way existence is to be made tolerable to hem, what respect is to be shown for their sense of nationality, their love of their flag and of their country. I believe we might go a long way to meet them, and at least it is worth while trying. The right hon. Gentleman says that to attempt to negotiate or make an arrangement is simply to encourage the Boers to resist. A more fallacious argument I never heard. At any rate, if we believe that any terms of accommodation can be made which will safeguard the interests of this country and at the same time will in some measure reconcile the conquered territories to their absorption in the body of the Empire, it is our bounden duty to make that effort. I believe that much could be done, and that even now it might be possible to put an end to the waste of life and treasure. Obviously the great fear of the Boers is that they will be deprived practically of their independence and that they will be governed in a way they detest—by British officials from Downing Street. This is what happened to them before. This is not the first experience the Boers have had of British annexation. We annexed their country once before. We then promised them that we would grant them full local self-government, but we never fulfilled that promise, because we had not the courage, even when they were a small, weak people, compared to what they are now, to say, "We will give you local independence at once under the British flag providing you acknowledge the supremacy of the Crown." I believe the same thing will happen again, and if we begin with Crown colony govern- ment we shall go on with it. It is all very well to say that when these men become reconciled to your rule, when they are loyal and prepared to accept from their hearts British supremacy, then, and not till then, we will grant them self-government. Why should they become loyal to the British? What faith are they likely to put in our promises if their fulfilment is postponed to a remote and indefinite future? The only plan is to take our courage in both hands and to say to these men, "We give you full control of your own affairs. We respect your old institutions. Keep your Volksraad, your President, your flag—subject, all of them, to the supremacy of the British Crown and the British Government." It is no doubt a difficult course, but all courses are difficult, and I believe it will give the only chance of reconciling these people to British rule and of securing from them, if not a willing assent, at least an assent to the incorporation of their country in the British dominions. I believe, myself, the best plan would have been to treat the conquered territories as protected States, and to have left them their institutions. But if that be objected to—and I admit there are great objections to it— another plan is to treat them as two of the federated States of South Africa. Federation has been the dream of the Colonial Office for a generation. It has been responsible for much of the mischief that has been done and for many of the errors that have been committed. But now. I believe, federation would be accepted, and it would be a panacea to a large extent for all our difficulties. If these States were treated as independent, and were added as two States possessing autonomy under a federal constitution, then the conscious allegiance of the individual citizen would be to his State, as it is in Canada and Australia—the allegiance of the State would be to the Federation, and the Federation would be under the authority and supremacy of the Crown. In that way we should escape the greater part of our difficulties. We should escape all the friction and trouble arising from the need of a Resident and constant interference from Downing Street with the affairs of these commit- nities. We should have a federal body to deal with, a body responsible and strong, with which we could deal effectively, and which we might trust to deal itself with disaffection or rebellion in any of its members. I do not believe that we would get disaffection, but in that way we would to a large extent escape from these difficulties. There are no doubt difficulties in this course, but there are far greater difficulties in the opposite course. Suppose the Government determine to offer no terms, but to crush out opposition and at their own time and in their own way to give some small portion of self-government which by degrees would be developed into a larger measure, what would happen? The Boers would not believe us, they would not trust us, and, thinking that we had deprived them of their rights as citizens and did not mean to restore them, they would become discontented and rebellious. Their discontent and rebellion would again be made a reason for refusing to extend to them the self-government we had promised. No, I believe it is far better and safer to take the risks of dealing at once and effectively with the constitutional position of these States, and with the rights of their citizens, and that by postponing it we shall only lay up for ourselves an infinitely greater crop of troubles in the future.
The speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has been answered already many times in this House, and never more effectively than by the right hon. Member for East Fife. The speech delivered last night by the hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was, from his own point of view, a very able one, and if I am not presumptuous in saying so I can pay it the compliment of saying that if it were properly printed, with a sufficient number of head-lines, it would be a most effective conciliation pamphlet like those with which hon. Members of this House are so generously supplying the public. What struck me, from a debating point of view, was the peculiar ability and the remarkable success of the way the hon. Member laid his baits for the applause of the Gentlemen around him. The first of these baits rather surprised me. It was a reference to the Colonial Secretary's expression of opinion as to the personal honour of Mr. Rhodes. The applause which that remark excited was not due to its novelty; but it seems to me that, as regards the Colonial Secretary, there is no statute of limitations, that the oftener a charge is made against him, and the less there is in it, the more certain it is of being applauded by a certain section of the House. But did the hon. Gentleman not perceive that in attacking the Colonial Secretary he was attacking the former leader of his own party? In 1896 the right hon. the Member for West Monmouth used these words—
These words seem to me to resemble very closely those employed by the right hon. the Colonial Secretary."Knowing Mr. Rhodes as I do, I am certain that he may have been actuated by what the poet calls 'the last infirmity of noble minds,' but that he has not been actuated by any mean or sordid motives, or greed of gain.
That was before the Inquiry.
I expected the interruption; but these words referred to the supposed complicity of Mr. Rhodes in the raid. These speeches, it seems to me, were creditable to both the statesmen who made them, although I daresay the hon. Member for Carnarvon cannot understand the motives which induced them to make them. It is easy to hit a man when he is down, but that is a form of warfare which does not commend itself to either of the statesmen I have mentioned. Another reference of the hon. Gentleman was to the quotation from the Prime Minister He said that because we demanded the unconditional surrender of the Boer Governments there would be masters, and therefore the Boers must be servants. But no one knows better than the hon. Gentleman that the moment the war is over and the last shot fired, the Boer race will be under exactly the same laws as the men of British extraction; and what is good enough for our own people is surely good enough for the Boers. But what shall we say of the charge made by the hon. Gentleman against the distinguished General now in the field? It seems to me that the last person whom a fair-minded man would attack is one who is absent, who cannot speak for himself, who is serving his country in the field, and who, after all, is risking his life in her service, while the hon. Member is risking nothing, not even his reputation. But it is such a man whom the hon. Member has chosen for an attack, and whom he attacked so brutally last night, and who, for all the hon. Gentleman knows or at all events for all that he has told this Mouse, was merely executing literally the orders of his superior officer. The hon. Member said that we had exasperated the Boers. That is perfectly true, but he seemed to be under the impression that it would be our duty to make war in a peaceful manner ! Whenever he could win from these benches a sign that we do not like what is going on in South Africa, he seemed to think that he was scoring against the Government. Of course we don't like it; the soldiers do not like it: and. above all, Lord Roberts does not like it. We don't like war, we don't like the horrors of war, but we are responsible for them only if the war is an unjust war, and that is a responsibility which this Government and country can bear with a clear conscience. If the hon. Member had proved that in this war we had done anything contrary to the laws of war there might have been something in the charges he has made which would have affected the Government and done discredit to the country. But he has not proved that, and no one could. What are the laws of war? The laws of war are the usages of war, and the usages of war are the history of what has been done in modern times by nations under circumstances similar to those in which we are placed to-day. Reference has been made more than once to the, analogy of the American Civil War. I venture to say that if our generals had chosen to adopt the measures adopted by American generals in that war, the war in South Africa would have been ended long ago. Hon. Gentlemen know one quotation so-well that it is hardly necessary to repeat it. They know the phrase used by General Sheridan in a letter to General Grant describing the devastation caused in the Shenandoah Valley, because it was quoted in one of the Conciliation pamphlets. In that letter General Sheridan said he had devastated the valley so effectually that "if a crow were to fly over the district it would require to bring its own rations with it." I will read you another proof of what I say, which is perhaps not so well known— the general order issued by General Sherman before proceeding on his march through the South, which ended the Rebellion, He gave these instructions—
That order was most literally and most accurately fulfilled. The hon. Gentleman had again brought the God of Battles into the debate. He told the House that because the war had been more difficult than we had expected, therefore the God of Battles apparently was not on our side. That is a curious and dangerous argument, and I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. I agree rather with Sir Wilfrid Laurier when he said that the very fact that the war has proved so difficult, and that our enemies were so ready for it, while we were not, proved that the war was not our war, but that it was the war of those who were ready for it, and expected to beat us in it."To army corps commanders is entrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton gins, etc., and for them this general principle is laid down. In districts and neighbourhoods where the army is unmolested no destruction of such property would be permitted; but should guerillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army corps commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility."
I do not wish to go over in any detail the subject of farm-burning, but I desire to deal shortly with a reference of the right hon. the Member for East Fife to the speech of the hon. Member for Carnarvon on that point. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think or state that he did not concur with the eloquent and able speech of my hon. friend; but immediately after making that statement he proceeded to show that he did concur distinctly, and in every respect, with it. The right hon. Member for East Fife said that my hon. friend complained against the manner in which the policy of farm-burning had been carried out. My hon. friend made no such statement. On the contrary, he said that the soldiers who had been employed to carry out that policy loathed it, and if they loathed it the inference was left that they carried it out to the slightest extent consistent with obeying orders. What my hon. friend complained of was the inhuman and barbarous policy forced upon the soldiers, so that if the right hon. Gentleman had not misunderstood my hon. friend's speech he might have agreed with it completely. My hon. friend quoted instance after instance in which the soldiers were annoyed and ashamed of what they had to do; and he quoted especially a Welsh Member who has been fighting at the front and who was the first and loudest to raise his voice from the other side of the House in denunciation of the barbarous and inhuman policy, ordered probably from home, and certainly proclaimed by Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener. The hon. Member who had just spoken seemed to imply that even Lord Roberts disapproved of the policy, or, at any rate, had a strong distaste for it. I am inclined to think that that is the case; but, if so, Lord Roberts has shown himself a very weak man. It was obvious to everyone who had closely followed the news which came from South Africa that an attempt was made to force Lord Roberts's hands in that respect. We were told that references were coming over from the press in South Africa urging this policy upon the military authorities, and, in fact, covertly and openly denouncing Lord Roberts for his leniency. And Lord Roberts was weak enough to give way. Pretty nearly every mistake that we have made in connection with this lamentable war in South Africa has been due to following the advice given us by the English colonial gang there. Even this disastrous and hateful policy, now proved to be futile and injurious to our own interests, was inaugurated solely and pressed upon us and forced upon us by the Uitlanders, who have deluded us all so long, and for whom we have been fighting. The right hon. the Secretary for War had made a very powerful and impassioned appeal to hon. Members on this side of the House to refrain from expressing their views because of the injury which it caused in South Africa. That appeal had been made before the war commenced, and I can say that it has been fruitful in mischief. In my belief it was that appeal which brought about the war. From an expression dropped on the other side of the House it seemed to be believed even there that there was really not so much force in the complaint of the Secretary for War. That complaint was made on the radical delusion, fostered by the war party from the very first, that the Boers do not know their own business, that they are incapable of judging for themselves, that they are not sensible or even intelligent men, but a set of little children who can be led hither and thither by the opinion of other people who know less of the circumstances of the case than they do themselves. It has been that nonsense that has led us to carry on our whole policy, under the belief that bluff would succeed with the Boers. Bluff succeeds with children, and very often has succeeded with the Front Opposition Bench; but it has never succeeded with the Boers. They understand their own business as well as anybody, and always have been and will be guided by their own judgment, and it is not to be supposed for a moment that they would be influenced in the slightest degree by anything said in this House. In fact, the Colonial Secretary admitted as much in the remarks he made last night; while the hon. Member for Oldham expressly dissociated himself from the statements of the Secretary for War. He based his argument upon the practice of the most eminent Parliamentarians in past times. When these denounced an African War in a previous crisis, the Boers did not allow themselves to be guided by the pinion of their friends in this country. The mistake the British make in judging of other nations and peoples is in not believing that others are actuated by the same feelings of patriotism as themselves, and that they are not able to judge what is good for them as well as we. Would England be affected in a matter of this kind in the slightest if she was in a similar position to that of the Boers? Supposing that this country was invaded by France, and that the French were unanimous as; to the invasion, and that they were as much stronger than we as we are than the Boers, and that we had been driven up north as far as Carlisle, and we were asked to shape our policy in accordance with the opinions of a few gentlemen in the French Chamber of Deputies, who had still some regard to justice. Should we be so foolish as not to defend ourselves to the utmost upon the reliance that the views of truth and. justice raised by those gentlemen in France might finally prevail? No, Sir, we should not allow that to influence us in the slightest degree, and it is not to be supposed that the Boers would in this case. There is this injustice, of which we are entitled to complain. Whatever we do, hit high or hit low, we are to be blamed. The Colonial Secretary on a previous occasion denounced us because we did not express our views. On the 11th of May last, in Birmingham, he expressly said the question was whether the war was just, righteous, and inevitable, and later on he could not refrain from expressing his contempt for the men who, though they believed the war was unrighteous and unjust, had not the courage to express their views. The same argument was urged by the First Lord of the Treasury. Therefore, we who believe from the depths of our hearts that this war is unrighteous are denounced as contemptible if we do not express our views, and if we do we are accused of a want of patriotism. Possibly, if the universal opinion in England and throughout the world was that the war was just on the part of England and unjust on the part of the Boers, the opinions we hold might have had some effect; but the opinion is the other way. The opinion of independent people on the Continent is dead against us, a great part of the country is dead against the war, and the opinion in America is practically unanimous against it, and on that account I for one shall never refrain from expressing my opinion, in the endeavour to save this country from the evil and disastrous course it is pursuing in this war. We were silent in the autumn of 1899 in order to give the policy of bluff a chance of succeeding, which in the case of the Boers it never has. We remained silent because it was said any protest on our part would strengthen the hands of the Boers, but my belief is that if two or three hon. Members and right hon. Members who sit on the Front Opposition Bench—the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton and the hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick, and others—had sat on the other side of the House it would have been better for the Opposition. We have had to fight them from the first, and I trace the war to a great extent to the paralysing influence of those Gentlemen's silence in opposition. Now what is the present condition of affairs? It is such as nobody ever dreamt of. No one ever dreamt for a moment that we should be in the deplorable position in which we now find ourselves. Every object for which we embarked in this war could, after the capture of Bloemfontein and Pretoria, have been secured. All the Boers wished for then was to concede what we asked, and that was intimated by the two Presidents to Lord Salisbury. All they wished to maintain was their independence in the country, and that we did not desire to take away when we went to war. The Colonial Secretary stated what was incorrect when he said that from the moment the invasion of Natal took place by the Boer troops the policy of the Government was changed, and became a policy of exterminating the Boer States, and that the policy of not leaving a shred of independence to these people was adopted from that moment. I suppose the reason he made that mistake was because he does not read all Lord Salisbury's speeches. If he had read those speeches he would have found that a month after the invasion of the Transvaal Lord Salisbury said at the Mansion House: "We seek no goldfields and we seek no territory." My point is, that we could have attained all our objects if we had been content with those objects for which we went to war; but after we succeeded in capturing Bloemfontein and Pretoria we thought the rest would be a walk-over, and we declined to listen to any terms. If the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who guide our destiny knew then what they know now they would not have thrown away that opportunity. A declaration has been made that "not a shred of independence" is to be allowed to remain, and I have no doubt that every effort will be made to maintain that declaration, but it would be as well to remember that Lord North and his king George III., in the last century, made just as strong a declaration, and had just as high stomachs, but they had to withdraw and give way. The force of circumstances compelled them to do so, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that this Government may have to seek some other solution. I believe, unless some terms are made, that South Africa will be lost to England, and it is only by making terms it can be retained. Hon. Gentlemen have said that in South Africa we shall have a second Ireland on our hands if we annex the Transvaal. It is not suggested that if we restore the independence of these States, Cape Colony will be a second Ireland. I believe that if we gave them independence in internal affairs they would give up all claim to direct foreign affairs; and if they were independent in internal affairs it would reconcile all the Dutch, loyal and disloyal. We have been accused of disloyalty — I am quite as loyal as any man who prates patriotism and jingoism, who maintains that the best interests of the country are to be sacrificed and thousands of lives are to be lost in the future as there has been in the past to save the faces of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Government benches, and the politics of the Conservative party. We have been denounced by our friends and even by our constituents, and called pro-Boers. I have been called a pro-Boer in my own county, but I did not quail. I did not let that cow me. I explained my views and denounced annexation at every meeting which I attended, and the result was that I was returned unopposed, although the Conservatives did everything in their power to obtain a candidate to contest the seat. Other hon. Gentlemen have been returned unopposed — the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton was returned unopposed, and others—but only by the goodwill of the Conservatives. They were returned unopposed because they made friends with the enemy. I was returned unopposed because my enemies did not dare to face me. We have suffered a good deal for our opinions, but we stick to those opinions, because we believe the best interests of our country depend upon those opinions being expressed and adopted by the country. We are ready to sacrifice ourselves to save the country. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, on the other hand, have been ready to sacrifice the country to save themselves. Hon. Gentlemen who have made this war have made a name for themselves in history, but a name only similar to that of the Duke of Alva. In thirty or forty years all England will be eager to dissociate itself from the responsibility of the war. There is no war in the history of our country which will be at the same time so famous and so infamous as this; the fame will rest with the Boers, the infamy with us. The war has made a great general, but he is not English—his name is De Wet. Look at the ignominy of this war. The white population of the Boer Republics is half a million, the population of the country which attacked them 50,000,000. If there was a country opposed to us as superior to us in numbers as we are superior to the Boers, it would have to have a population seven times as large as that of the entire world. These people have resisted an army in proportion to theirs of twenty to one for twelve months. If we had been able to do a like thing we should be entitled to look upon ourselves as heroes, and so they will be reckoned in history. I do not care what the consequences may be to me for the course I have taken in this matter. I have conscientiously discharged what I believe to be my duty, and I believe if everybody else in this House had done the same there would have been no war.
Although I also had the honour of being returned unopposed, I do not feel equal to the task of following the hon. Member who has just sat down in those flights of rhetoric in which he has indulged. I approach the consideration of this question from he point of view of one who has spent ten months in the country and travelled over a great portion of it, and therefore I should like to ask the indulgence of the House while I say a word upon the subject of South Africa. I have listened with great attention to the criticisms that have been made in the course of this debate, but what seems to stand out very strongly is the I criticism as to the prolongation of the war, and the policy which has guided our Government. In the question of the whole operations of the war the Government has been taken severely to task because at some particular moment when I was in South Africa there seemed to be an idea that the war was likely to come to a termination. Personally, I may say that does not seem to me to be very unreasonable. May I ask the House to look back for a moment to what the circumstances were when the Army under Sir Redvers Buller drove back the Boers and took possession of the railway from Pretoria to Komati Port. Mr. Kruger had gone out of the country with £ 2,000,000, we had beaten the army over and over again, we had taken prisoner their best general and some 17,000 men, we had taken possession of their chief cities, and occupied their railways, and cut off their supplies. Was it unreasonable to suppose that on the Boers, a brave and intelligent foe, the dictates of common sense and humanity would prevail, and that they would realise the position, that they would see that they were beaten, and would sue for peace? But in considering this matter, it seems to me that what is wanted is a knowledge of the Boer character. What is the Boer character? Take a community of Dutch such as those who settled at the Cape in 1652, add to them a sprinkling of broken and desperate men whom the Dutch East India Company enlisted in their service, and mix with them a strain of the inflexible French Huguenot, such as settled there later, and the product must be a hardy, rugged, virile, and unconquerable race. Give the Boers a country which is peculiarly adapted to the; tactics of marksmen and riders, and you have the most formidable and remarkable foes which any people could encounter. You have in the modern Boer the most formidable enemy that has ever crossed the path of Great Britain. We have altogether misunderstood the character of the Boer for three-quarters of a century, just as they have misunderstood us, and it is not likely that we should understand them now. So far as I am concerned, I do not blame the Government for forming a wrong judgment with regard to the early termination of the war, but at the same time, while I exonerate the Government, I am not prepared to exonerate a great department of the State—the War Office—for relaxing the efforts which they should have continued unceasingly up to the present time. It is, of course, delicate ground to touch upon. I do not know what the relations are between the Defence Committee of the Cabinet and the Secretary of State for War, but at least I am quite sure of this, whatever miscalculations they may have made with respect to the war, and the time when it will be terminated, they never told him to relax his efforts in keeping up the supply of equipment, stores, and food, and, above all, of trained mounted men for South Africa. If that was not said to him then, how was it that on my return from South Africa, the other day, I saw it announced in the newspapers that there was a fresh call to arms, which was practically going to the country for untrained men and offering them 5s. per day? According to my conviction, these preparations ought to have been made earlier, and the army in South Africa should have been reinforced by men who had been in training. There will be another opportunity for discussing these matters, but I should like to make a point of this particularly, because I had an opportunity, which I was glad to have, of equipping and training a body of men myself. I make a point of this because, as I have said, I found on my arrival here that a miscalculation had been made, apparently, inasmuch as no efforts whatever had been made for keeping up the supplies. The next point I wish to make is as to the criticism that has been passed on the policy which has guided His Majesty's Government in our efforts at subjuga- tion. Again I say that to a certain extent there was a miscalculation of the Boer character. For myself I would say that I have had the honour of the friendship of Lord Roberts for about twenty years. I do not suppose that the whole world contains such a humane man as Lord Roberts. While he is a man of wide sympathies, no one is more capable of exercising an iron will should the necessity arise. The Boers never gave Lord Roberts a chance. I have heard in South Africa and also in this country a great deal about the use that was sometimes made of the white flag, and I think it is quite possible that some of these incidents may have been exaggerated, but I do know that time after time when the Boers thought they were in a tight place the white flag was raised, and when the English soldier, with the simplicity and confidence characteristic of his nature, appeared, the inevitable volley ensued. That occurred over and over again. With regard to the policy of farm-burning, I have from the first regretted it more than I can tell, but such a measure was in my opinion necessary. A long line of communication, which is obviously the life blood of an army, had to be maintained, and I can state from my own personal observation, and also upon the authority of letters which I have received from my own friends, that in every instance in which farm-burning took place it was only under exceptional circumstances, and only after the officer in command had thoroughly assured himself that a case of treachery had occurred. We heard last night some of the fiction which has been current in regard to the action of our troops in South Africa. There is another side to the picture which perhaps the hon. Member for the Eifion Division of Carnarvon has not seen. There was the case of the white flag appearing over a farm and an English soldier going to the farm to get a drink of water and being received with a volley.
Did the hon. Member see such a picture himself, or is he repeating rumours?
There is another point I should like to refer to, very shortly, and that is the recklessness of the language which has been employed in this country during the whole course of the war. It is language which ought not to have been used. I will give credit to hon. Members who sit opposite for honestly believing that what they say here does not matter, but that is an utter fallacy. The Leader of the Opposition at the commencement of the session said in the speech he made that it was quite possible the Boers did not know of the House of Commons itself, and possibly had never heard of the Colonial Secretary. Let me relate my own experience. When I was in Johannesburg, Sir Alfred Milner made me chairman of a committee to inquire into looting which was alleged to have taken place. I came in contact with burghers who had been fighting against us—lawyers and others who had been in the Transvaal Government. I conversed with them on various topics. They told me that everything that had been said for the last twenty years in this country had been faithfully represented in South Africa. They said—
They stated with respect to themselves that at least when they were at war all other considerations were put on one side and they faced the foe as one man. There are two aspects of this question which have presented themselves to my mind. One is the problem as to the settlement of South Africa, and the second is the expansion of our military forces for the defence of the Empire. In regard to the first of these questions I do not think it is desirable for me to say anything on this occasion except that, as the result of my observation and judgment, the very best effect with the view to the fusion of the two races will come from the colonisation of the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal, From that point of view I am bound to say that in my judgment there are large tracts of country which hold out the most promising prospect for the agriculturist. I shall state what in my opinion would be the best course to pursue. I believe that as soon as subjugation has taken place, or if possible before, if the Government were wise they would adopt some definite form of state colonisation. Farms should be acquired by purchase, and I would suggest that our colonists should be allowed to settle on them. I would suggest also that the farms should be stocked and our colonists placed on them. In the course of this debate I have heard some doubt cast upon the question as to whether any of our people would be inclined to remain there as colonists. My own experience in South Africa has convinced me that many of the men now on service in the country would remain there in fairly large numbers. When I came away my own force was broken up, and of the eighty men left in the country sixty announced their intention to remain in the Colony. As to the problem of the expansion of our military forces in order to provide for the defence of the Empire, I shall have an opportunity of discussing it on the Army Estimates, but I should like just briefly to say that if anything is proved as the result of this war it is that Army critics like the hon. Member for West Belfast, who is now a member of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Forest of Dean, and others, including myself, have been absolutely right in our criticisms as to the organisation of the War Office, and that the defenders of the old and bad system were wrong. We have said in the past over and over again that no plan of operations for the defence of the Empire had really been carefully thought out and decided upon, and we also said that when the military organisation of this country was put to the test of war it would be found inadequate. The Government will say, "Look at what has been done—250,000 men have been taken over 6,000 miles of sea, and stores, equipment and supplies have been kept up all the time." I am the first to give credit where credit is due, and so far as I am concerned no words I can utter can convey my appreciation of what has taken place in South Africa—the valour, endurance, and intrepidity of our troops, Regulars and Volunteers, and particularly the Yeomanry, but having said that I ask: Is that enough? Is it right that we should depend on all that in the future? Great armies are not built up in a day. It is only done by laborious years of steady scientific work. If the lessons of this war are taken, the problem of Army reform will be the more easily solved."The Boers can perfectly well understand that under your form of government there is an Opposition whose duty it is to criticise. We know that one party takes a different view from the other. We have seen that during the last twenty-five or thirty years. We have seen vacillation in this country. We have seen the party in power acquire territory, and we have seen another party hurriedly abandon the same territory without the slightest consideration for the loyal people whose interests were affected. All that we can understand. We have seen it, and we know what it is, but what we do not understand is that in time of war there can be any dissentient voice in the whole of your country."
I wish to take the House back to the question of China. Although great anxiety is felt in connection with the South African War, I would remind the House that we may sometimes lose the true sense of political perspective. We must recollect that the problems in China are much more difficult and complicated, and fraught with issues of much more importance than those in South Africa. We are face to face in South Africa with only a small population, and we have a problem to solve which we are certain to solve; but in connection with the question of China we are in touch with the oldest and largest civilisation in the world, and we are acting in union with others whose objects we cannot always fully understand. We are extremely nervous in Lancashire as to what will come of the conduct of the Government in this matter. We are extremely anxious that they should take a wise, firm, and right line. One doubt we have in our minds, if I am not speaking disrespectfully of the Government, is this: the general feeling is that we are drifting, and waiting on events without a clear policy. Another fear that we have is that the Government may have allowed itself to be dragged into a line of action distinctly unwise as regards our own interests. I refer to the position in this matter of the German Emperor. I think the Emperor remembers the motto of his famous Chancellor, Dout des. We ought to consider that the interests in China of others are not necessarily the interests of this country. I would ask the Government to consider in regard to this question what they mean to do in China. You have a great carcase there and you have the European eagles gathered together. Do the Government mean to keep up the present Government, or do they mean to substitute another? So far as I can judge their policy is to maintain the present Government. If that be their policy, I ask them to consider the danger of doing anything to weaken that Government. We must be guided by something more than that. This country will make a great mistake and will greatly jeopardise her interests in China if they allow themselves to be dragged by any desire, even of giving just government, into any step that will weaken the government of China. The noble Lord who spoke on the question the other night said that we were the wronged. Is that quite true? Let us look at the thing from the point of view of the Chinaman as well as from our own point of view. We have taken piece after piece of his territory. Another is encamped in his back yard and another in the garden. He has heard these men talking together as to how they shall arrange for the disposal of the rest of his property. Is it not a reasonable thing that people with national spirit should feel indignant and angry at this process? It is natural that they should resent this treatment. We have divided up the Empire into spheres of influence, and have not hesitated to talk of it in the most open way. Allowance must therefore be made for the natural irritation of the Chinese, and we must not let our indignation at anything they have done carry us beyond the lines of reasonable policy and due consideration for our own material interest. The other question to which I wished to refer was in regard to the policy to be adopted for bringing the Boer War to an end. Everybody in the House practically agrees with the Minister for War that the question now before us is not one of recrimination about the war, or of explanations of the philosophy of the war, or of discussion as to whether it was right or wrong to begin the war; but it is how, in the name of Heaven, can we bring it to an end at the earliest possible moment. During the last session I was fortunate enough to obtain a promise from the Colonial Secretary that in any proclamation stating the terms of peace it should also be clearly stated that as soon as possible there would be granted to these territories the same system of self-government, or one similar to that which prevails in the other South African colonies. I am extremely sorry to hear that such a proclamation has not been issued, and the absence of such a proclamation may have done much to continue the war. It may seem a bold step, but I would ask the Government to consider whether, when such a proclamation is issued, in addition to stating that a condition of self-government will be given to the colonies, a definite time could not be named when that condition of self-government will be given, unless proper reason can be shown to the contrary. The First Lord of the Treasury has discussed this matter as if there were only two courses. He twitted the Leader of the Opposition with being in favour of granting self-government immediately the war was over. That, of course, was a mistake. But the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the only other course was a vague promise of self-government at some time or other. If the Government adopt my suggestion it will put upon them the onus of giving a reason for not giving self-government. We are very suspicious of getting a system of self-government crystallised in these colonies. It has been stated again and again that the military system of government is a bad system, and that there must be some system of civil government intervening between the cessation of military rule and the beginning of self-government. But if you allow a form of civil government to settle itself in a territory of this kind it will be extremely difficult to disturb or displace, and I would rather have an inefficient military government for a time than a more efficient civil government perpetuated for a longer period. Another ground upon which I press the wisdom of this step is the remark made by the Prime Minister on this question when he said that "it may be years, it may be generations" before self-government is granted. To dangle before nations a promise of self-government as an inducement to submit, and to add that it may be generations before that promise is fulfilled, is simply to play the fool with anything like business matter. Therefore, I am quite certain it would be a wise thing for the Government to take upon themselves the onus of having to give a reason at the end of a stated period for not giving self-government. There are two reasons why I press this course. In the first place, it is said that it is no use granting self-government to the people until they are fit for it. But people do not become fit for things except by using them. History teaches again and again that the gift of self-government to one community after another has been successful, though the promise was not great, because once you put responsibilities upon people you bring out the virtues which are necessary for the proper discharge of those responsibilities. I am greatly afraid that in years to come, when others are in our places, this gift may be delayed by the plea that the people are not fit for it; and therefore I ask that we should commit ourselves to some definite promise. My second reason is, that those of us who read Continental papers know quite well that our attitude in this matter is not believed in the world to be honest. I do not believe that we should live for the good of the people of the Continent, or that we should consider the good opinion of anybody, so long as we are doing what is right; but at the same time I do believe that when we find a consensus of judgment against us it should make us consider whether we have done everything we ought, and whether we are really as honest as we claim to be. I am one of the last to desire to run down my countrymen, but I am inclined to think there is a great deal of Pharisaism and hypocrisy about us. Looking back over history I find that whenever there has been a squabble in the world Great Britain, when she has entered into it, has done so with professions of the highest principle, and has emerged from it carrying away the best portion of the swag. This matter involves taking upon ourselves some material burdens, and greatly increasing the difficulties of our political life, and it would be wise for us to make it clear, not merely to the French and German, but also to the American world —for they, too, do not believe in us— that we are honest when we say, "We want no gold; we want no territory," and bind ourselves to grant to these people at a certain date, unless good reasons can be given to the contrary, those principles of self-government which we have extended to our other South African colonies. I believe that we, as Englishmen, are honest in our desire to give this self-government, and I urge that the strongest pledges should be given that we will carry that desire into execution. Finally, I would say that in bringing about a peace we have to consider not merely the time when the sword will be sheathed and the guns cease to be fired —that will be only the beginning of the task—but we have to look forward to the time when there will be a strong and united fellowship of good feeling between the citizens of these lands. How are you going to bring it about? One element of power in the hands of the Government is the element of hope. I beg of them to consider what they may do by giving hope to these people—not by telling them merely that we will give them self-government in some vague, far-off, uncertain time, but by saying that at a certain time, unless we can give good reasons to the contrary, we will give it. You will then put into the hearts of these people the hope that, within their own lives and the lives of their children, they may become free citizens of a great Empire, and united to forward its interests. Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present—
Order, order ! The hon. Member is proposing to address the House in a language with which I am not familiar, but which I presume is Irish, and he will not be in order in doing so. It is an unknown practice in this House, and I must ask the hon. Member to address the House in English.
The hon. Member is disregarding my ruling, and I cannot allow him to address the House in any other language but English.†
Upon a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I wish to ask if there is any rule, written or unwritten, to prevent an hon. Member speaking in the language which is most familiar to him. Of course, one cannot argue this question from the experience of other legislative assemblies, but I may be allowed to point out that in my own experience I have heard in one of the legislatures of the Empire—that of New Zealand—Maori members speaking in their own language, although the language used by the general body of the members was the English tongue. I would respectfully ask you whether there is any precedent recorded in the journals, or other authorities of the House, which makes it incompetent for an hon. Member elected by a constituency to address the House in the language most familiar to him, and. which is the language used by the majority of his constituents.
There is no precedent one way or the other so far as I know; but during the 600 years Parliament has been in existence, there is no record of any hon. Member having attempted to address the House in any other language but English.
Upon a point of order, I should like to ask if it is not a fact that when the Irish Chieftains came over to England representing the Irish Parliament—which was being
absorbed by this Parliament at the time of the Union—they were allowed to speak in the Irish language, although the English representatives spoke the English tongue. If that is so, why should an Irishman not be allowed now to talk in his own language.† Mr. O'Donnell gives the following translation of the two sentences spoken by him in Irish: "Mr. Speaker, as an Irishman from an Irish-speaking constituency, a member of a nation which still possesses a language of its own, and is still striving bravely for freedom." At this point the Speaker interposed, after which the hon. Member resumed: "Is it not true that Irish is my native language, the language of my ancestors, the language of my country?"
I must remind the hon. Member that Irish Members have now set continuously in this House for 100 years, and they have never before thought it to be a grievance to be prevented from speaking any other language but English. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for West Kerry, with the usual eloquence of his countrymen, will be able to address the House in English if he pleases, quite as well as in Irish. A claim of this kind, if it is to prevail, must first be established by a Standing Order of the House.
Is it not within your own knowledge that so recently as the year 1896 the hon. Member for the Rhondda Valley actually addressed this House in Welsh?
I remember the incident to which the hon. Member refers. The hon. Member for Rhondda used a Welsh word or quotation in the course of his speech, but he did not make a Welsh speech to the House. But I must adhere to my ruling. The rule of the House is as I have stated, and I hope the hon. Member will conform to it.
If I may be allowed to offer advice to my hon. friend, I should advise him to bow to your ruling, but refuse to address the House in English upon this occasion, I reserving his right to address the House in Irish.
If the Government had only taken the advice which I gave them upon a former occasion with regard to the situation in South Africa a great deal of money would have been saved. The Government has been disgraced owing to the fact that for the last fifteen or eighteen months some 250,000 men have been trying to conquer 25,000 farmers. This war is a disgraceful war, provoked for the purpose of benefiting land-grabbers and stock-jobbers. It is a stock-jobber war, and actually certain Members of the Government and their families will benefit by this war in the supply of stores and ammunition. I believe that the opinion of every Member on the other side of the House is the same as that of the noble Lord who spoke a few minutes ago, and who let the cat out of the bag when he said that many people had gone out there for the purpose of settling down, and of acquiring large tracts of rich and fertile land. The acquirement of land in this way is simply grabbing the property of others, and as long as I am a Member of this House I shall protest against any such system of grabbing the property of others. The speech of the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen reminded me very forcibly of what Ireland has suffered in the past when the land was grabbed from the people. Now the Boers will be driven into the worst parts of the country, and you will place speculators on the rich lands formerly owned by the Dutch farmers. I should be very glad to see this unjust and wicked war terminated, but I do not see that there is much chance of this when we read that De Wet is invading Cape Colony. So far from these 250,000 men having succeeded in beating the Boers and keeping them in their own country, the Boers are actually invading the English colony, and it is a disgrace to us that such an extraordinary army of English soldiers, about whose valour and perseverance we have heard so much, has not been able to prevent the invasion of our colonies. With regard to this war, and the mistakes which have been made, some people blame the War Office, others the Colonial Office, and some say that the provision for nursing the sick and wounded was at fault. It does not matter to me who is at fault, for I believe this war to be unjust and unholy, and I shall have the greatest pleasure in voting against the adoption of the King's Speech, and in every way I can I shall oppose the voting of money for the prosecution of this war in the future. There is another matter which I regret has not been mentioned in the King's Speech, and that is in regard to the action of the Local Government Board in Ireland. If there is anything which affects the district councils and the board of guardians at the present time in Ireland in discharging their public duties it is the extraordinary and arrogant manner in which they are interfered with by the Local Government Board. During the time when ex-officio members predominated on boards of guardians there was very little chance of the Local Government Board poking its nose into the affairs of local bodies, but the moment popularly-elected bodies came into being the Local Government Board rendered it almost impossible for them to prosecute their business in any sort of a decent manner. Since the election of district and county councils in Ireland they have increased the salaries of the assistant county surveyors in some cases by 75 per cent., and when I put a question to the late Chief Secretary for Ireland as to why this was done, his reply was that they were very much underpaid in the time of the grand juries. So long as the grand juries were in power the Local Government Board never thought it worth their while to interfere with the salaries of these officials. The moment these popularly-elected bodies get the management of local affairs, then the Local Government Board step in and say, "These men have been underpaid in the past, and we will make you pay 75 per cent. of an increase in their salaries." The action of the Local Government Board has made it almost impossible for these public bodies to transact their business and give satisfaction to those who have elected them on these local councils. If the Local Government Board had contributed anything to the rates in these localities in Ireland, then they would be justly entitled to interfere and say what salaries ought to be paid. But it is not fair for them to step in and increase salaries towards which they are not going to contribute anything. The Local Government Board seems to have one object in view, and that is to try and increase the rates in Ireland and endeavour to bring discredit upon popularly-elected bodies. I will give one instance which occurred in my own district. There is a poor dispensary district, where for the last four years we have had a doctor at a salary of £100 a year, and the guardians found that during the time that the doctor was away on his holidays they had to pay £3 3s. for a substitute. The board of guardians therefore decided to raise the doctor's salary by £20 a year. The Local Government Board said, "No; we cannot sanction this." But last year there was a secretary elected for the county council, and it was made a condition of his election that his salary was to be so much, and that he should do the whole work with three assistants. But he was not six months in office when he said he wanted another assistant. A representative of the Local Government Board came down and said, he must have assistance, and the result was that, although several members of the county council protested against it, an additional assistant was given and an addition to the secretary's salary made at a total cost of £160. The reason of the refusal of the increase in the one case was that half the money would come from the Treasury, while in the other case, where the increase had to be given, it came out of the rates. I say, therefore, that I regret that no mention has been made in the King's Speech that there is to be no improvement in the management of the Local Government Board. I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland in his place. I have read some of his speeches in Ireland, and I think he will make an effort to be conciliatory, both in regard to the district and the county councils. If he does so, he will be remembered for a long time in that country. In many places these councils are doing their best to make local government in Ireland a success, but owing to the insensate obstacles thrown in their way by the Local Government Board, it is absolutely impossible for these local bodies to do their duty with satisfaction to themselves and the country. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see that the Local Government Board will give more satisfaction to the popularly elected bodies who are doing their work without fee or reward, while a few well-paid officers domineer over and scout the ideas and views of the popularly elected councils. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that owing to the action of the Local Government Board there are any number of appeals pending in the Superior Courts, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to meet the county councils and district councils in Ireland sympathetically; and I will pledge my word that they will ask very little but what will be for the benefit of the ratepayers, and with the sole idea of carrying out the ideas of the electorate which they wish to carry out. If he does this he-will do a great deal to smooth the way of these bodies, which has hitherto been somewhat rugged.
I wish to express my appreciation of the tone of the speech of the right hon. the Secretary for War. I am very glad that he has stamped his approval on the devoted and admirable work done in South Africa by the Royal Army Medical Corps. In the face of difficulties, complications, and dangers complete success in the performance of these duties was almost impossible. The prime difficulty was that the Department was far too. undermanned. That is not only my own opinion, but that of the Hospitals Commission. In their report the Commission stated that the deficiency in the staff of the Royal Army Medical Corps and of the staff of officers associated with them had been urged on the authorities before the war without avail. I am very glad to hear from the Minister of War that he has it in contemplation to initiate inquiry into the whole working of the organisation of the Royal Army Medical Department. We have heard about the purely military titles conferred upon the officers of the Department in answer to their desire that such arrangements should be made. It was perfectly well known that unless that concession had been made the supply of candidates for the service would have dried up from the medical schools. I have not been able to satisfy myself whether the system is a success or not, but the Secretary for War seems to think that it is a success. As one who took part in the agitation which led up to the conferring the titles, I can say that the unanimous opinion of the Army Medical Department was that some such recognition of military rank was necessary in order to enable the surgeons to carry on their work to a successful issue in the time of war. Whereas the medical practitioner has had admirable oppor- tunities for the exercise of his profession and of gaining fresh experience as he goes on, the army doctor sees very little, the range of experience is very small and meagre, and the opportunities of working at his profession scientifically are few. What we have urged over and over again, outside the House and inside the House, is, that the medical officers of the Army should get periods of leave, when they might learn the advances in the science of their profession at the post graduate courses in the great centres of medical study throughout the country. The leave might extend to three months every two years, and, in that way, the army surgeon might become once more as efficient as when he started practice in his profession. Of course, all these things will be worked out when the new Commission is instituted. I am very glad to hear from the right hon. the. Secretary for War that that Commission is to be founded on a large and generous spirit, and that he has taken into his counsels the leaders of the profession, from whom, I have no doubt, he will learn what is best both for the student and the army doctor. I have no doubt that the result will be that the Royal Army Medical Corps will once more become a popular branch of the service.
As a humble Member of the House, sent here by the common people to try and seek justice for them, I feel considerable disappointment at the treatment given to the hon. Member for West Kerry. It would be a satisfaction and a pride if we were permitted to speak in the language which is dearest to our hearts, the language in which we were taught to lisp at our mother's knee, and in which we can best express our thoughts. But while we are deprived of the opportunity of using that language, and compelled to resort to a foreign tongue, I have come to the conclusion that hon. Members care as little for our wants as for our language. The Irish language, however, has survived; a new effort has been made to cultivate it, and perhaps a time will come when hon. Members opposite, as well as Irishmen, will take an interest in its study and use. I do not appear in the House in my present attire for the purpose of outraging the traditions of the House. I come here as I live and move amongst my own people, in order to show exaxctly what I am—one of the humble, ordinary folk who have to work for their living; and to make my appeal to you here for justice. I must confess, from my first impressions of this Assembly, I am not too hopeful of any good result from my presence here. I must say that when I came amongst the hon. Members who occupy seats on the one side or the other of this House, I expected to find men whose first desire and intention would be to try and learn the various points in connection with the different questions that would come up for discussion. But, after two or three days experience in the House, I find that too many hon. Members seem to be more anxious to learn the ins and outs of the smoking-room and the dining-room. I would not have intervened in this debate were it not for the purpose of joining in the appeal in behalf of the people I represent, and asking you to confer on them at least some of the rights to which they are entitled. When I came to the House I expected to hear that in His Majesty's Speech from the Throne some concession was to be made to the feelings of Catholic Irishmen in regard to our faith, which is as dear to us as our very lives. But an oath which contains one of the most direct insults to that faith has still to be taken by the King. And yet we are asked to be loyal, and to shout "God save the King." That, in itself, is one of the strongest and most painful arguments that could be used by an Irishman in regard to the inefficacy and hopelessness of Parliament. However, I do not believe that all hon. Members, even on the Tory benches, possess coldness of heart or want of interest in Irish affairs. I believe that some amongst them have good hearts and good intentions, and that if we could only get at their hearts and make them see the condition of things as they really exist in Ireland, and show them that such conditions ought not to continue, I believe they would do justice to Ireland. But if they will not do justice to Ireland, the Irish Members will, I hope, make it impossible for them to do justice to England also. That is the purpose for which we have been sent here, and we shall knock at the door of Parliament until justice has been done to our people—not asking as gentlemen who have had a university education, but with the honest voice of men who have sprung from the people, who feel with the people, and who take a pride and glory in belonging to the working masses of the land. The other evening the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division was speaking about Manchester beer. The only thing I remember about Manchester is that twenty-three years ago three honest Irishmen were offered there as a sacrifice to British tyranny, and for their loyalty to Ireland. We are not much interested in Manchester beer, or in the affairs of China, or even in the Transvaal, although we sympathise to a great extent with the brave Boers, and protest against the injustice perpetrated against them by England. But I would say to the right hon. Gentleman who gave us such an extraordinary amount of statistics with reference to the consumption of beer in Manchester, that if he wants to get a good glass of beer he should go where you go for your finest soldiers—to Ireland, and he will have a good chance of getting it. Not that I would like to see any Member of this House, or the people generally, indulging to any extent in the beer of any country. I may say it would be a pleasure and satisfaction to me if all the beer were poisoned. I have heard of Army chaplains, and sometimes of Navy chaplains, but in future we apparently shall have a "Beery Chaplin" in this House. I wish sincerely that hon. Members would come here for the purpose of trying to understand the statistics relating to the population and condition of Ireland with as much exactness as those relating to Manchester poisoned beer. While I listened to the right hon. Member for Sleaford and watched him holding out a cup of that poisoned beer for the investigation of right hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial bench, I could not help thinking that there was, perhaps, in the mind of the right hon. Member just the suggestion of a wish that someone upon that bench would drink it, so that a vacancy might be left for him to occupy. I noticed, however, that the noble Lord the Financial Secretary to the War Office displayed a courtesy and a kindness towards these benches that I did not quite expect, and he paid a high tribute to the gallantry and nobility of character of the Boers. I could not help feeling, therefore, that there was at least one man on the Treasury Bench whom I should not like to see taking a cup of that poisoned beer. His testimony, of course, was to a certain extent depreciated by the conclusions he drew. He told us that the Boers went into the war with the distinct object of killing. I suppose everyone who goes into war does so with such an object, unless it be that some Englishmen go into it for the purpose of running away at the first opportunity. However, we sympathise with the Boers in the struggle they are making, as we believe, for the simple and sole purpose of gaining their liberty. Although they are doing it in a different way, they are, like ourselves, fighting for their liberty. We believe that they are fighting against the capitalists who have been instrumental in bringing about this war, and they have done so with energy and manhood against frightful odds. They have not been beaten yet, although in the end their liberty may be dragged from them; but while there is an Irishman left we will always speak in their favour and against the tyranny and injustice perpetrated against them. In my own poor county of Kerry we have a labouring population which has been continually depleted by emigration. When I listened to His Majesty's Speech read from the chair, I hoped to hear some indication that at the beginning of a new reign, of a new era, of a new century something was to be done for the Irish race, so that our men and women would be permitted to live in their own land without having to go abroad, surrounded by dangers and difficulties which few of them are aware of. When crossing from Dublin to Holyhead, one of the persons who accompanied me was a young Irish girl who was leaving her country to seek her fortune in the large city of Manchester. I hope when she gets there that she will not be induced to touch any of the poisoned beer. If any hon. Member had been with me on board that boat and had seen that young girl—and remember, she was only one of thousands who are leaving our native land year after year—he would certainly have felt one touch of nature in his heart, and have evinced a strong desire to give us in Ireland an opportunity of managing our own affairs, so that our boys and girls should not be compelled to leave their native home in order to get a living elsewhere. I have spoken much longer than I intended, and I have merely striven to give expression to a few of the sentiments in my heart. I want you to understand that though you have thrust the Irish people to their knees, they are living still; and that until the right to manage their own affairs which they ask for is conceded, and until they are placed in a position to legislate for themselves, so that the Irish people of every description are able to live in their own land, they will continue coming and knocking at the doors of the British Parliament demanding that right for Ireland.