Clause 24—(Original Constitution Of Senate)
For ten years after the establishment of the Union the constitution of the Senate shall, in respect of the original provinces, be as follows:—
moved, in Section (1), after the word "nominated," to insert the words "four by the Governor-General and four."
The first two sections of the Clause contain the only provision which the Government has made in this Bill—as far as we understand—relating to the rights of the natives or the representation of the natives in these four Colonies. Reading the distinction between the Bill as originally introduced and the Bill as it stands now, there can be no doubt that during the discussions in London important points concerning the Protectorates and their future were obtained. But the provision in the original Bill we know to have been obtained in advance by the efforts of the Government and by the disposition of the four Colonies to meet and to explain them to us in the Debate on 13th May last year. In the speech of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies (Colonel Seely) on that occasion—we all of us quoted it the other day—he informed us that he was happy to be able to state that the statesmen of the four Colonies all then said that there ought to be some form of native representation and the representation of native interests. In the first place, he corrected himself by adding the words "direct or indirect," and Lord Selborne afterwards took up the same passage, the same expression, the same idea, and explained his great preference for "direct" over "indirect" representation as it stood at that time. I do not think it can be denied that my hon. Friend at that time hoped for something better than we have now got, and undoubtedly Lord Selborne stated that he did. My hon. Friend used the words "representation in the democratic sense." He said all the four Colonies had come to agree that the natives should have some representation, governed, no doubt, by the words "direct or indirect" being put in, but of a democratic kind. But the only representation that has been obtained, after all the efforts of the Government and of the High Commissioner, is that found in the first two sections of the Clause. That representation is of a kind which stands condemned in advance by the words used in the Debate I have referred to, and also by Lord Selborne's words. I see my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Simon) in his place. In his admirable speech the other night, he took a different view from that which I take, but I am one of those who frankly recognise the merits of that speech. The hon. and learned Gentleman expressed the view, in which large sections of the House concurred, that you can only produce a lasting and permanent settlement in South Africa by "liberty"—the only solvent and cure of discontent was "liberty." He went on to add that the methods must be those which South Africa devises for us. This particular form of representation of the natives in the future Parliament of the Union has been devised for us in South Africa, though it stands condemned by Lord Selborne's words and by the words of Lord Crewe in another place last week. Lord Crewe took the view that we take of this representation. He said that unless they got representation the Protectorates would be dealt with by a Parliament in which the natives were not represented, or not really represented, and that would be far worse for them, because, he said, all interests of the whites who were there represented were different from or in conflict with those of the natives. I think this particular proposal stands condemned in advance, and certainly Lord Selborne's words are fresh in the memory of those acquainted with this subject.
We are told unfortunately that no Amendment, however arguable, or, however moderate, can be accepted. The same thing was said at the time of the Australian Commonwealth Bill. We were told not a comma was to be changed, but it was changed, and nothing happened. That Bill had a much higher authority than this had. That Bill was a Bill which we accepted from a great Convention which had sat in public, and whose debates were laid before us a year before in a Blue Book. At that time the leaders of the two parties in Australia came over united in support of the Bill, not a comma of which should be touched. But the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain), supported by the present Secretary of State for War, and others in this House did make changes, and one considerable change, and that change was ultimately accepted by Australia. This Bill is our Bill; it is not a Bill of South Africa, but entirely ours. We are now to be here in the position to accept every word from the preamble to the schedule, for the effects of which we shall be afterwards reproached even in South Africa. It is familiar to the Members of this House that we have been blamed for having inserted certain provisions, that were not ours and that we did not desire in the least, in the Letters Patent in the Constitution of the Transvaal and Orange Free State. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies has stated that the natives would be represented under this provision in the Senate by their life-long champions. I think that was the phrase, or, at all events, that was the impression made, and I do not wish to use any that was not said. The impression was that four senators will be men whose names, said the Under-Secretary, will command their whole confidence, and that there has been some preliminary arrangement as to the appointments. If so, surely there is a case for making, in the first instance, non-party appointments. If that was so last week it is still more so to-day. A week ago it was thought that the first Government would be a coalition Government. It is now understood that it is to be a pure party Government, and that being so, these nominees, these eight senators, at the beginning will be men of strong party views. I plead that the four of them who are held to represent native interests shall be put in before the Union is actually brought about after the passing of the Bill. That is the intention of this Amendment and of the Amendments which follow it, and which, of course, depend on this Amendment. I do not think if I were to speak for a month I could add strength to the case as it appears to me to stand.
I wish to say one word upon questions which we shall discuss later, and upon which the Parliament will have direct control. The Parliament will have to deal with the land of the natives outside the reservations, it will have to deal with the taxation of the natives, and that taxation is exceptional and different from that of the whites. The poll and hut taxes will come before the Parliament, and by the use of those poll and hut taxes it is possible for that Parliament to break up the reservation system and to convert the natives, according to a policy which has been advocated by those who are likely to form the first Administration, into landless serfs who are absolutely at the disposal of the mining interest and the farming interest for the future. There was evidence given on this point by General Botha himself as to the policy, which was adopted by the whole of his friends, by the Boers, in 1904. I believe that General Botha has learned a great deal since that time. I doubt now whether he would be disposed to act on that policy, which he then stated was the policy universally adopted. We are going to have a party Government, and I greatly fear we cannot trust to not having those opinions raised in the form of four years ago. Reservation of Bills and Veto cannot be trusted. Mr. Merriman is likely to be the first Prime Minister, and no one has spoken so violently against the Veto and Reservation as he has. It would be far better, if this is the only kind of representation we can obtain, that at all events that representation should be by men put in as non-party representatives before the Union is actually brought into effect.
My right hon. Friend has raised several points which are not directly concerned with the Amendment that has been moved. He said so himself, and indicated in a portion of his very interesting speech that they would be raised again in the course of the Debate. Therefore, I am sure, he will understand it is through no lack of respect for him that I defer dealing with those points until a later stage, when, of course, he will have the opportunity again of putting forward those particular views. This applies to the general question of the native reservations and the powers of Parliament in relation thereto. It also applies still more to the question of the Amendment of this Bill. I think it would be more convenient for the Committee if I deal with that point on the next very important Amendment, which has reference to the partial elimination of the words "European descent." With regard to the particular Amendment before us, setting aside those important matters which we will discuss on subsequent Amendments, as my right hon. Friend suggested—
I did not make the second suggestion.
Perhaps the Committee will agree that may be a convenient course. I trust it will allow me to deal with the Amendment before us. The Amendment proposes that of the eight senators who are to be nominated four shall be nominated, not by anyone responsible to the Government of South Africa, but that they shall be' nominated by the Governor-General; that is to say, that they shall be nominated from here. Now, that raises the whole question of whether you are really going to trust South Africa or whether you are not. In regard to the natives in the Protectorates, it is quite true we are directly responsible, and have never divested ourselves of any responsibility, and they are not referred to at all here. We are dealing only with the four and a-half millions of natives, or a little more, who are inside the present self-governing Colonies. With great respect to my right hon. Friend, I must say that I regard his proposal as an impossible one to accept. The Government could not accept it. See what the position would be. We have given full self-government to each of those Colonies, full powers to regulate the whole of their internal affairs, and yet it is proposed that with regard to those internal affairs we shall from here nominate four men on our authority, without any reference to the Government in South Africa. If such a proposal were made in regard to any other self-governing Colony, I am sure it would receive no support whatever. Any suggestion with regard to Canada, if we had the power, that we should nominate four senators to look after the native races there, would be regarded as impossible of acceptance. Then why should we do it in the case of South Africa, when we have, by our own deliberate act, said to the people of South Africa, "You must work out your own destiny; you, who have to bear the brunt of any error, must yourselves direct the policy"? The nomination from this country of four persons on the Senate would seem to me to be a deliberate taking away of the powers we have already given. I am confident that the Parliaments of South Africa could not possibly agree to so flagrant an interference with the indubitable rights of any self-governing Colony to govern itself. Therefore, I respectfully urge my right hon. Friend not to press this Amendment, because it is one, I believe, impossible of acceptance in South Africa, and one which the Government could not possibly advise the Committee to accept.
I cordially support the contention of the Under-Secretary of State. If responsible Government had never been given, there would not be in this Amendment any interference with the action or the will of the people or the Government of these Colonies; but it would now be an unpardonably reactionary step to take away the power which has been given and acted upon by the administration of these Colonies regarding the natives through a long course of years. The position seems to me to be quite impossible. You cannot take away, without injury to the amour proper and the constitutional rights of the Government, that which is once granted. You have given them full rights, and any attempt to limit those rights, in however small a degree, could only do injury. Under this Amendment you would have on the Senate four men appointed directly by this Government, in sympathy or not with their colleagues, and the temptation would always be to suspect their action as being influenced by the Home Government or by the people of this country. Nothing could be more injurious to the administrative welfare of the country, or to the interests of the natives themselves. While I agree with the right hon. Baronet in many of his contentions with regard to the natives, I think it would be a serious infringement of the rights of responsible government to take the course he suggests on this occasion.
I have not the slightest intention of pressing this Amendment to a Division; but it was impossible to allow this Clause to pass without some protest being made. It might almost be supposed, from the sound Whig doctrine preached on both sides of the House, that this Clause was a democratic provision, whereas it is just the reverse. I will not withdraw the Amendment, but leave it to be negatived.
The course outlined by the Under-Secretary of State is quite correct. I would remind the right hon. Baronet that at the time responsible government was granted to these Colonies, we on this side of the House were repeatedly told that once responsible government was granted we should not be able to interfere except in cases of vital Imperial concern.
We were not then considering close, but Federal Union.
I do not think that that makes any difference. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot raise great eulogies and pæans on the granting of responsible government without taking the full consequences of your action. It is quite impossible, especially in a community which is admittedly democratic, to enforce upon them the acceptance of four senators, selected not by themselves, but from here. In fact, this Amendment really goes to the root of the arguments of the right hon. Baronet's Leader the other day. Six thousand miles away, as we are, we cannot undertake to be responsible for measures affecting the natives in the South African Colonies. It is far better for everyone that the people concerned should feel, not merely that they have the responsibility and the trust, but that if they should misuse that responsibility—which I do not for a moment suggest they will—upon them the consequences will fall.
However good this Clause may be, it is impossible for the Government to support it without using arguments which will not hold water. We are referred to Canada—as if there was any connection between the two cases. Canada has a population all of which has the vote, whereas in South Africa the great body of the people have no vote or representation at all. The Under-Secretary speaks of the merits of self-government and leaving the people to work out their own salvation. I think "salvation" is hardly the word. Damnation is more likely to be the result from this Bill. The right hon. Baronet does try to secure that, at any rate for the first few years, there shall be a certain number of senators appointed who have the interests of the subject races at heart. I do not know whether we should include Asiatics among the subject races, but he, at any rate, wishes that these races should be represented, at least for the first few years, until the progress of liberalising thought shall have made such appointments unnecessary. Whatever the demerits of the Amendment may be, there can be no question about the unsatisfactory character of the arguments by which it is opposed.
I regret very much that the Under-Secretary has not seen his way to accept this Amendment. I understand, however, that no Amendments are to be accepted. But if the hon. Gentleman is going to talk about democracy he had better produce a democratic Bill. These eight senators, as he has already been reminded, are not part and parcel of a democratic machinery. If we are to trust United South Africa to the full extent that he seems in his reply to assume, why has he himself provided in the Bill that four of these senators must be of a special character?
I do not appoint them; South Africa appoints them.
Well, Mr Emmott, I for one absolutely decline to take that view of this Bill. This Bill is our Bill. Does the hon. Gentleman really tell us that he has asked us to come here to-day and waste our time over a measure which is not his Bill, and for which the Government is not responsible? Are we merely asked to come down and dot the "i's" and cross the "t's" of a Bill that has come to us from 6,000 miles away? If so, we had better go home; we had better leave the matter altogether if you say that this Parliament has got no Imperial control, and has got absolutely nothing whatever to say as to granting of self-government in South Africa! If, however, the other view is right that we have responsibilities—even though they are limited responsibilities—then we are entitled to discuss this Bill. To pursue the argument: why, if this democratic view is animating His Majesty's Government, is it provided that four of the eight senators must be of special character and possess special capacities? If that provision is to be of any value whatever it ought to be carried out under conditions that will make it effective. As I understand it, that is the purpose of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. We admit that four of these senators ought to specially represent native interests. We will take that as the minimum. Very well, the Government agrees with us; South Africa agrees with us; and the private and secret Convention agrees with us. Surely, then, nobody will object if provisions are put in this Bill which make the intentions of the draftsmen of the Bill and the promoters and sponsors of the Bill effective and assured? That is the effect of the Amendment. I do not understand why it is rejected. Might I just turn to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover-square (Mr. Lyttelton). I am delighted that at last the right hon. Gentleman has decided to leave South Africa alone. I am bound to say that it is a most extraordinary doctrine that he has preached. Only a few days ago he was finding fault with my hon. Friend opposite because he had not censured Mr. Hertzog for not discharging certain insubordinate officials connected with the Education Department.
That is not in the least what I said. I most carefully said that I did not require or ask the Undersecretary to censure or do anything of the kind. What I asked was that the hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Government, should constitutionally exercise his influence with the South African Government in the matter.
That is precisely our view. I would never think of suggesting for a single moment to my hon. Friend that he should exercise his influence in an unconstitutional way. Far from it. I do not want to press the point, but I think we have been very familiar with speeches, statements, and movements from Opposition quarters regarding the discharge of officials who happen to be English, regarding the allegations that Dutchmen were being substituted for Englishmen in South Africa, and similar statements. Of course, it is always difficult to draw a line in these matters. It is absolutely impossible to say, "This is a matter of local concern which must not be interfered with by the Imperial Parliament; and this is not a matter of local concern, but of Imperial concern, which may therefore be interfered with by the Imperial Parliament." I do not want to push the argument too far, but I am bound to say—and this is the point I want to bring out: If it is legitimate for the Opposition to defend the interests of white men who happen to be English living in the Colony—the racial element of which is predominantly Dutch—then surely it is infinitely more important that this Parliament should look after the interests of the natives at this particular juncture in the history of South Africa? It is really for this purpose, and simply as a preliminary to what is going to happen afterwards, that I desire to rise and repudiate absolutely the idea that this Parliament has got no right adequately to safeguard native interests in South Africa, as provided for in this Bill. More particularly when a certain provision in this Bill not only shows that everybody concerned has agreed that at least four senators should be appointed to safeguard those interests is it right that we should see that the appointment of those four senators will be under conditions which will make that safeguard absolutely secure, and placed altogether beyond dispute.
I agree with the view of the hon. Member for Leicester as to the arguments which have been put before us by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies that the Governor-General in Council should appoint these senators as servants of the South African Ministry, and not in any way as representing the Imperial Government. I want to know what the Governor-General is for unless he is in some respects, in some degree, an intermediary between the Imperial Government and the Colonial Government? My hon. Friend (Colonel Seely) has put forward an argument that finds a great deal of acceptance and response among hon. Friends who sit behind him, and indeed Members in all parts of the House, that if we give a self-governing Colony a Constitution we wish to keep our hands off it altogether, and let those concerned have a free hand to do as they think right. We must, he suggests, trust them all or not at all. In regard to their control of the natives, their government of a vast native population much more vast than the white population, and a population for which we have always claimed to have some Imperial responsibility, and over which we have hitherto always exercised some Imperial control—in regard to them we are now abandoning all this responsibility, and giving them over absolutely to the newly-constituted Government. The words of my hon. Friend were that they have to bear the brunt of the situation, and therefore you must let them have the responsibility. I just want to appeal, I will not say from Philip drunk to Philip sober—but from my hon. Friend who is now Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies to my right hon. Friend who was lately Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. On 28th February, 1906, I introduced a Motion into this House which began:—
To that, at the end of a long and interesting Debate, we had an answer from the right hon. Gentleman who is now President of the Board of Trade. Towards the close of his speech he said:—"That in any settlement of South African affairs this House desires the recognition of Imperial responsibility for the protection of all races excluded from equal political rights."
And he had earlier in his speech stated:—"We will endeavour as far as we can to advance the principle of equal rights to civilised men irrespective of colour."
Time after time we have asked the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War—some of us, anyhow—why we cannot withdraw the troops from South Africa. The reason always given to us is that they are wanted, or may be wanted, for purposes of this kind. I hope that the Government will shortly return to what in my judgment is the wiser attitude expressed in the words of the right hon. Gentleman, and which I have just read. One observation on another matter. The Government themselves have told us, the Members of the House of Commons—the Members of their own party at any rate—in advance, and before this Debate occurred, that they are not going to listen to any Amendment or to make any Amendment; that it is-practically no use for us to come down here and propose Amendments, because the Government will not yield to them. I received a whip this morning which says that the Government will not be able to accept any Amendment—"In South Africa above all other Colonies we are provided with a most sure foothold for intervention on behalf of the natives. We have greater power and therefore greater responsibility. A self-governing colony is not entitled to say one day hands off, no dictation in our internal affairs,' and the next day to telegraph for the protection of a brigade of British Infantry."
I really think that is getting very wide of the point. I have been listening to the hon. Member for some time. Hardly anything he has said has any real relevance to the actual Amendment.
I must choose some other occasion, Mr. Emmott, to complain of what appears to me to be a slur on Members of this House; not to say a breach of privilege. I must say I received my whip with considerable indignation.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) always speaks as one having authority and not as the scribes. It is with some hesitation that I mike any remarks upon his speech, because as he spoke it really seemed as if he was really of the opinion that Members of this House could not be properly brought down to consider this Bill under the sort of conditions that we are discussing it under, and that the House was being muzzled. Surely the hon. Member has left out of account the consideration that is the dominant factor of the whole situation; that this is not the making of a new Constitution—it is the amalgamation of the existing Constitutions of Colonies that already possess certain powers of self-government which has been conceded to them, and who themselves have arranged under certain conditions that they would work together as one. Can it be said under these circumstances that we are brought down here to pass a Constitution without giving it any consideration? I submit, in spite of the authoritative air of the hon. Gentleman, that his speech omitted to take into account the one circumstance with which we have to deal, and that absolutely dominates every other one that is likely to be brought before us to-day. The hon. Member, or one of his predecessors—I believe it was the right hon. Baronet—said that the House is bound to accept this Amendment because it has a special responsibility to defend the natives of South Africa against the white man. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, said that it was the cause of labour. English versus labour.
Europeans versus labour.
Well, I meant that. The cause of labour versus the employers of labour. I submit that it is a very unfortunate complexion to give the matter, and one really not justified by facts. It is the hon. Member for Leicester who seemed to think and seems to assume that the Bill protects the white man in regard to his labour. We are all prepared to vote for the protection of the white man. I should have thought that the hon. Member would frankly have been in favour of the protection of white labour. I do not understand his indignation on this point, and it seems to me to be less justifiable from his than from any other quarter of the House. Nor could I see what rights, what valid rights, can be conceded to the natives unless they are voluntarily given by what, after all, however regrettable the hon. Gentleman may think it, is the dominant race.
The hon. Member's remarks are very wide of the question. [An HON. Member: "They usually are."]
I am following the remarks that have been made.
The hon. Member forgets the Amendment. He is following parts of other speeches which, as he is using them, are not relevant to the Amendment.
I will ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (ii.), to leave out the word "reasonable" ["The senators to be nominated … shall be selected on the ground mainly of their, thorough acquaintance…with the reasonable wants and wishes of the coloured races."]. This is a verbal Amendment, and, though I do not attach too much importance to it, I think it moves, in the direction of commonsense. It is provided in the Bill that the senators to be nominated by the Governor-General in Council shall hold their seats for ten years, and that one-half of their number shall be selected on the ground mainly of their thorough acquaintance with the reasonable wants and wishes of the coloured races in South Africa. What you really want is that the senators should be acquainted with the known wishes of the natives, whether reasonable or not. I should like to know who is going to say whether the wants and wishes of the natives are reasonable or not. The word "reasonable" is rather characteristic, and seems to indicate a morbid fear that the senators might be induced to attach importance to certain quarters of the natives who, in the opinion of others, might be considered to have wants and wishes that were unreasonable. Unless the Bill is so sacrosanct that we are not to be allowed to change a comma of it, I think that wore might be taken out.
My hon. Friend who moved this Amendment in the very short speech which he has just made, stated it was a point to which he did not attach very great importance, but that he thought the omission of the word might be an improvement to the Bill. With regard to the actual wording of the Bill, I think that the idea expressed in the clause might be put in another way, but to leave out the word "reasonable" in any case does not at a first glance appear to me to improve it. The effect would be that you want people to be reasonable by leaving out the word "reasonable" You might reach the same object in another way. It is an arguable point which is the better way to provide in order to carry out the known intention of the Bill, which is that the senators should give a reasonable attention to the wants and wishes of the natives. It might be said that they should pay reasonable attention to the wants of the natives, but, as I say, it is very arguable which is the better way to carry out the known intention of the framers of the Bill. That brings me to another point, namely, as to the Amendment of the Bill in matters of detail. As regards the question of Amendments in detail, I will ask the Committee to realise the position in which we find ourselves. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) spoke of provisions having been inserted by me as representing the Government. I feel bound to point out to him that the details of this Bill have been passed by certain South African statesmen; it is their work, and has been brought to the Government. The question is, Is it on the whole a reasonable and a just measure? The House has generously confided to the Colonial Office and the Government the task of making minor Amendments, and it has done that for this obvious reason. Amendments of principle cannot be accepted by the terms of the Instruction given to the delegates. Amendments in detail presumably may be, but the question of what is an Amendment of detail and what is an Amendment in principle may be one of some difficulty. Therefore if you accept Amendments in detail, and if the delegates afterwards find that in the view of their Parliaments they involve questions of principle, you may wreck the whole great scheme—for it is a great scheme—simply because you do not know that what you consider was a matter of detail here was, in the South African view, a matter of principle. For that reason the House has generously put their confidence in the Government to deal with matters of detail and to carry out the intention of the framers as to what is best in the interests of all concerned. I ask the Committee to realise, for the reasons I have given, we cannot amend on points of detail without running the risk of losing this great Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. W. P. Byles) referred to the statement of the President of the Board of Trade that the Government would not accept Amendments of any kind, but that if the House of Commons did not like what they proposed they could always turn them out. There is nothing in the least improper in such statements. It has been explained to the House of Commons on various matters that the Government cannot accept Amendments for the reasons I have given, and which I think are fully appreciated by hon. Members of this House, and therefore I say upon this particular Amendment I do not think there is sufficient, speaking for myself, to justify us in making this change. I trust the House will accept the statement which I have just made.
I understand from the statement which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has just made that the Government is determined to make no change in the Bill. This is a system of carrying Bills under the guillotine, and it is the strangest thing that has occurred in my experience of 15 years. It is an absolute abnegation of our Imperial functions. If South Africa wants troops we have to send them to her, but neither in matters of detail nor of principle can we amend this Bill. We cannot accept Amendments of detail because the Under-Secretary for the Colonies confesses he does not know the difference in this Bill between matters of principle and of detail, and therefore he cannot allow any Amendment. On 27th May, speaking in this House, he said:—
So he has been able, to get some Amendments accepted by the delegates, and they, in violation of this position, have gone behind the backs of their Parliaments and accepted Amendments from the Colonial Office."The draft Act cannot be brought in here in identical terms. A fresh Bill will have to be drafted; there will also be Amendments proposed by His Majesty's Government. We have settled upon broad principles, but there are certain principles between this country and South Africa which have to be discussed. After these discussions have proceeded for a little time, a Bill will have to be brought in. It is proposed as more convenient that the Bill should be introduced into the other House, but of course it will also be brought in here. The Amendments which we have agreed upon will also be brought in here, and it will be competent for any Member to move fresh Amendments, but it is unlikely that a great many Amendments will be proposed."
We are at cross purposes. If my hon. Friend will read the whole of my speech he will see I made it quite plain that it was anticipated that Amendments, not of principle, would be suggested by His Majesty's Government, and were suggested. I made a statement in the House when my hon. Friend was not present, and the House gave His Majesty's Government the task of making such Amendments, carrying out the known intentions of the framers of the Bill. No Amendment of principle was accepted, or could be accepted, by the delegates.
May I ask my hon. Friend whether this Amendment of principle has not been accepted by the delegates? Did not the delegates accept an Amendment to the Bill as it originally came from South Africa preventing them from splitting up territories in South Africa? I think my hon. Friend will find, if he compares the Bill as it came from South Africa, with the sanction of the four Parliaments, with the Bill as it now stands, he will find the Bill was altered in that very material respect. Now, if the delegates who came from South Africa made so great a concession as to deprive the Union Parliament of the power of splitting up territory, if they were so amenable to argument and pressure, it is not too much to hope that in other directions also they may act likewise. The hon. Member for Leicester talked of our power in relation to this Bill, and said that we were only to be allowed to cross the "t's" and dot the "i's." I may tell him that he is not going to be allowed to cross the "t's" and dot the "i's." As I understand it, we have got to take the Bill as it stands. We want men who know the unreasonable views of the natives much more than the reasonable views. It is the people of unreasonable views that cause difficulty, and I should much rather have one of those senators acquainted with the views of the natives, both reasonable and unreasonable, and I am quite sure my hon. Friend would be the first to allow this Amendment to be made, if he could, because, I am sure, he feels it is a reasonable Amendment.
We are going very much off the track if we try to get up a debate on or allow ourselves to debate whether or not the conduct of the Government is hostile to the powers of this House or not. This is really a purely practical question. The powers of this House are undoubted. We may accept purely verbal Amendments, such as the hon. Member has just moved. We may accept that which is much more fundamental, namely, Amendments which are going to be moved in the subsequent stages of the Bill, and nothing that the Government can do can take away from the House that absolute power. But is it unconstitutional or even foolish for the Government to make an appeal to the House of Commons, and to point out the special circumstances of this Bill, and say that, under these special circumstances, it surely is unwise for this House to endeavour to amend this Bill in exactly the same way and in exactly the same spirit as they would be justified or even obliged to deal with the details of a Bill which had its origin in the Government Department here, which dealt only with domestic affairs, which was brought down by a Minister concerned only with domestic affairs, and had the authority of the Government of which he is a Member to put it before an Assembly whose most competent work is to deal with such a Bill? The Government come before us and say, "This is a Bill of other Parliaments, and involves other duties." How are these duties on one of the greatest occasions that they can be exercised to be carried out? Is it by this House using its undoubted powers to modify, either in matters of principle or detail, a measure which has passed the ordeal of the four great self-governing Colonies of South Africa, which then passed through further sifting and criticism in that country, which has come to this country with that great weight of authority behind it, and which has then been reconsidered in matters of detail by the Colonial Office? Is the House doing its duty best either by accepting or rejecting broadly a Bill of that kind, or is it best carrying out its great functions in these circumstances and in the special conditions applying to this Bill and to Bills of the kind by either accepting or rejecting this measure, by either trusting the Government and the self-governing Colonies, or by saying to them both, "You have done your work; we mean to revise it; we mean to scratch out a word here and a sub-section there, to alter this principle, and to send the Bill back, not in the shape in which it came to us, but in the shape in which we think it ought to have come to us"? I cannot say that that is an answer to the plain and practical question. It has nothing whatever to do with the constitutional powers of this House. When that plain and practical question is put to us there is but one answer to it, and that answer is, if the House is prepared to accept this Bill it had better accept it graciously and without meticulous objections in points of detail or principle. Having agreed unanimously—and we rejoice to think South Africa is going to be henceforth one of the great united dominions under the Crown—we should not tamper with the smaller details by which it is going to be attained.
I hope my hon. Friend will not withdraw his Amendment, because the Government have raised no objection to it whatever. They cannot say that it is unreasonable, and after all who is responsible for the details of this Bill? If this Amendment be a reasonable one the Government ought to accept it. After all we are not here to say ditto to what has been agreed to by our two Front Benches. The Bill has, it is true, been drafted in South Africa, but we are responsible for the passing of it, or else what is the use of having a Committee at all? Is the Committee going to do that which the Government sanctions, or which is sanctioned in South Africa? We have the responsibility of this measure, and we ought to exercise our rights. We ought to look at each Amendment upon its merits, and not because it has been put before us by those in South Africa or by the Front Bench. I feel it is my duty to examine this Amendment on its merits. In regard to Amendments to any measure, that has always been the custom in this House, and I have never heard any arguments put forward in the contrary direction. I am astonished to hear that it is the opinion of the two Front Benches that we should sit skill and not press our Amendments. If we think a Bill is not perfect then it is our duty to try and make it as perfect as possible. We shirk our responsibility if we allow ourselves to be dictated to either by people in South Africa or on the Front Benches. I strongly advise my hon. Friends to move their Amendments and not withdraw them.
I am afraid I cannot accept the doctrine which has been laid down by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies. May I point out to the hon. and gallant Member that this Bill as it now stands is not the Bill as it left the hands of the South Africa Convention. Perhaps the House will allow me to read the change that has been made in the Bill since it left South Africa and came to this House. Clause 149 of the present Bill, which was Clause 150 of the original draft of the Bill as it came to the Colonial Office, provided that "Parliament may alter the boundaries of any province, divide a province into two or more provinces, or form a new province out of the provinces or territories with the Union." In the clause as it is now presented to the House, the Colonial Office, with the assent of the South African delegates, have struck out the words "territories," consequently the Colonial Office has thereby limited the power of the South African Parliament in this very important matter of dividing up territories. If that has been done by the Colonial Office, surely the House of Commons may make minor Amendments which do not raise the same points of principle as those which have been agreed to. Because there is an agreement on this matter or supposed to be an agreement in South Africa, surely to contend that the House of Commons should be both muzzled and gagged is a new doctrine which is alarming in its potentialities and possibilities.
I did not say that.
Apparently the right hon. Gentleman is somewhat ashamed of that doctrine. In spite of what the Under-Secretary of the Colonies has said, this Bill is now the Bill of His Majesty's Government. There is no dispute about that, and whilst we are bound to pay all respect to South African opinion, still, in the granting of such extensive powers as this Bill confers in regard to natives in the South African Union, it is most important that the House of Commons should exercise its proper function, and not on account of an agreement between the two Front Benches, forego its right to criticise and to amend a measure which may prove to be epoch-making in the history of the British Empire.
The measure which we are now dealing with is wholly different to the one which originally came before us. This measure has been carefully considered in South Africa, and the only question for us to consider is whether we shall accept or reject it, and not whether we ought to amend it. I know that the procedure is in the hands of the House itself, but the general principle of this measure has been approved on the second reading. There are certain great principles which are embodied in this measure, and if Amendments are carried to those principles, the Bill will be practically defeated. I understand that all these matters of detail have been discussed between the Government and the representatives of the South African Colonies. When that discussion took place, surely the representatives of the Colonies were present. I think it puts the Government in a very unfair position now to say that such Amendments as the one now before us are matters of detail which the Committee can reasonably accept. In this matter the Government have to consider what the representatives of South Africa will say to such changes. I am not so much in love with the Imperial prerogative of this House, but I am prepared to abrogate that Imperial prerogative in order to establish the principle of local autonomy in South Africa.
In view of what has been said by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
Clause 25 agreed to.
Clause 26—(Qualifications Of Senators)
The qualifications of a senator shall be as follows:—
For the purposes of this section, residence in, and property situated within, a Colony before its incorporation in the Union shall be treated as residence in and property situated within the Union.
moved, in Sub-section (d), after the word "subject," to insert the words "and if representing the Province of Transvaal or Orange Free State." In view of what has happened and the relations existing between the two Front Benches, together with the fact that we have not been able to get a small verbal Amendment through, I am afraid those facts indicate that we shall not be able to get a matter of principle through like this. Nevertheless, I rise to move the Amendment which stands in my name, and I am glad to notice that there is a similar Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. Clause 26, as the House is aware, consists of an enumeration of the qualifications of senators. Sub-section (d) sets out or stipulates that persons aspiring to a seat in the Senate shall be British subjects of European descent. If my Amendment is carried, Sub-section (d) will read "be a British subject, and if representing the Province of Transvaal or Orange Free State, of European descent." It will be noted that in substance this Amendment proposes to delete that provision in the Bill which proposes to deny the right of becoming a senator to a person in Cape Colony or Natal who has hitherto had a right to a place in their Parliaments. It proposes to delete that provision in respect to those colonies where that right has hitherto been held in those two Provinces. Therefore, it simply proposes to strike out from the Bill this disqualification, and thus maintain the status quo. In support of this Amendment I have to deal with an argument or a statement that has been put forward to the effect that the position of a person in Cape Colony or Natal is not affected. It has been said that, inasmuch as a person there will still have the right to a seat in the Provincial Council, and, inasmuch as the Provincial Council takes the place of the Parliament of Cape Colony and Natal, therefore there is no alteration in the position. I think I may venture to say that that is a mere subterfuge. It is in the very essence of the thing that the new Bill supersedes the power that the Parliaments of the four States have hitherto possessed, and, therefore, the Parliaments hitherto existing in Cape Colony and Natal ceased to have any legislative function and power, and their powers, functions, and duties in that sense are taken over by the new body which is to be set up. The Bill, therefore, as framed, does take away a right hitherto held by the people in those two Colonies, and we propose to restore that right by amending the Bill. In the second place, this is a new departure in British statesmanship. I know it has been said, and was said a night or two ago, that that is not so. We were told by the hon. Member who represents Walthamstow (Mr. J. A. Simon) that three years ago, on the occasion of the Transvaal Constitution being granted, we allowed the Bill to go through without protest, and that therefore we are committed already to the principle embodied in this Bill. I think I might fairly say that the granting of the Constitution on that occasion was simply a continuation of the Treaty of Vereeniging, and what was done on that occasion was more or less of a tentative character. We are now asked by this Bill to assert a principle of a more or less permanent character. At all events, it is well known to all of us that in the event of this Bill being passed in its present form it will be many a long day before any alteration can be made. I think we are, therefore, justified in asking the House of Commons not to commit itself to this new principle, which will set the seal of racial inferiority upon the masses of the people of South Africa, and which will commit us to a new principle in local government and human rights. There are, however, practical objections to this proposal. There is the objection as to what is meant by these particular words. Who is the author of these preposterous words? Can we be told by the Attorney-General or any other lawyer or any combination of lawyers how they are going to be applied? Are they going to be a sort of jargon to be argued over by lawyers in South Africa? It seems to me that is the only effect these words may have. Of course, literally applied, they would exclude a large number of people whom I cannot believe anybody has in their minds to exclude. Literally applied, they would exclude the white Australian or New Zealander, who assisted us ten years ago in fighting the Boers. I cannot believe that is meant. Take the position of the Maoris of New Zealand. They now enjoy all citizen rights out there. Provision is made in this Bill for the naturalisation of anybody who goes to South Africa. We therefore have this position. The Maoris can go from New Zealand British subjects and find themselves outside the pale of those rights of citizenship. That is an absurd position, and a position which cannot be justified by anybody in this House. Is the man in South Africa who aspires to a position in an assembly of this character to be armed with a certificate with a sort of genealogical tree in his pocket. If so, how far is he to go back? Without going into extremes, it is an undoubted fact there are many who have sat in this House, I believe there are one or two who are Members of it now, who are quite good enough for the Mother of Parliaments, but who, forsooth, would not be sufficiently high in the scale of the human family, and not sufficiently good for the people out in South Africa. We had two of our Indian fellow subjects Members of the last Parliament, and we have, I believe, at all events, one man of Asiatic extraction who is in this Parliament, but none of those men under the provisions of this Bill would be good enough for the Parliament we are about to set up. This exclusive provision is one of the worst, if not the worst blot upon the Bill. I am glad this was borne out by all the speeches made on Monday night last.
It must be a source of sincere gratification to the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. W. Dilke), and to many who have taken the part of the natives in these matters, as well as to the representatives of those native races now in this country, to know that on last Monday there was an unanimous chorus of disapproval of these particular provisions. I believe that chorus of disapproval fairly well indicates the opinion not only of this House but of the country generally. The anti-slavery Society and other organisations have passed resolutions of protest, and I have one this morning from the Grand Lodge of the International Order of Good Templars endorsing the position taken up by those bodies and themselves, expressing the hope that the House of Commons will resent and defeat a proposal so unfair as to constitute a disgrace to the British flag. All the speeches made last Monday were in that direction. Might I just make mention of one which is particularly significant because of the position of the speaker. I refer, of course, to the speech of the Prime Minister, who, as much as anyone here, upheld the proper principle with regard to human rights, and regretted that this particular provision was in the Bill. I cannot help thinking, even if the Bill passes, that that speech may have considerable effect in helping the natives on the spot in South Africa. There were other speakers on that occasion who struck a different key, and among those was the Leader of the Opposition. He struck a pessimistic, and I might almost say an ominous note. He seemed to assume that to ask for the rights of cultured, educated, and refined individuals in South Africa was somehow or another to assert racial equality as between ourselves and the native races in South Africa and elsewhere. He had a great deal to say, with a wealth of knowledge and a plentitude of illustration, with which, of course, I cannot deal, but it seems to me he was altogether off the mark, and it is the mere infirmity of philosophy to deny to cultured and educated individuals rights, which seem to us fundamental and inherent, simply because of the accident of the race from which they sprung or anything of that character. The proposal we are now putting forward does not in any way involve the principle of racial equality, because after all there is a good deal in the way of the native races getting on anything like an equality with us, even if this Amendment were adopted. There is the relative position of the coloured races, economically, educationally, and otherwise. It is not mere numbers that rule anywhere, either in this country, South Africa, or anywhere else. Brains, money, education, and economical position—all these things give a lever to one section of the people over another section, and, even if our Amendment is adopted, the white people will still have this lever in their hands, and by that means will be given a predominance in the counsels of South Africa, at all events for generations to come. The Member for Taunton (Mr. W. R. W. Peel) spoke of the Hottentots and the Basutos, and he suggested we were asserting for these people equality with ourselves, and were trying to get for them the exercise of the same power we possess. Nothing is further from our thoughts. Nothing can raise those people in the standard of civilisation except themselves, and all we do by this Amendment is to ask, having established something like law and order in South Africa, that we should now get out of the way of these people raising themselves to a higher plane in the standard of civilisation. If the Amendment is adopted there are still many things that will stand in the way of the natives having much power for a very long time to come. The native has still, by the provision of the Bill, to have £500 clear of debt, and that provision alone will bar out, it seems to me, at least 99 per cent, of the people. He must, moreover, be a voter. It is unnecessary to discuss what the qualifications of a voter may be in the Orange River Colony or in the Transvaal, because in the present state of public opinion in those areas it will be a very long time before anybody can be elected to a seat in the House of Assembly or get from there to the Senate. But, take the voting qualification in the Cape Colony: you have there a property qualification of £75 per year, actual earnings must be shown of £50 a year, and you have an educational test. These three things together must necessarily have the effect of barring out many people from the exercise of any power for a very long time to come.
It may be asked why, if that be so, we should insist upon a right which, after all, is but a mere abstract right. There is, however, such a thing as human feeling and sentiment, and that human feeling
and sentiment is a powerful factor in the world's affairs, and has been already a, potent factor in getting the South African, people in the Cape Colony to raise themselves very considerably in the scale of education and refinement. There are already 22,000 out of, I think, 190,000 voters in the Cape Colony who have surmounted all the difficulties of prejudice and poverty, and who have put themselves upon the electoral roll. It is reasonable to suppose that that right held by the people in Cape Colony in times gone by, and up till now, has been a very powerful influence in inducing these people to improve themselves educationally, morally, and socially. It has given the stimulus of hope and provided a platform to which they have aspired, and no fewer than 22,000 have already qualified for it. I turn now to the Home Rule aspect of the question. It has been said that the white people of South Africa are entitled to Home Rule, and that, in any case, if they make mistakes, the penalty will have to be borne by themselves, and the effects will fall upon them. I cannot accept that for two reasons. In the first place, historical precedent is absolutely against it. What do we find? Cape Colony has had this right up till now; so far as I can gather, it never asked for it. It was a matter of considerable controversy at the time the right was granted whether or not the people were in favour of it, but, by a despatch dated 1853 Cape Colony had the right conferred upon it. I think the despatch is well worth reading. It was signed by the Duke of Newcastle, on behalf of the Liberal Government of the day, and the words are:—
"It is the earnest desire of Her Majesty's Government that all Her Majesty's subjects at the Cape, without distinction of class or colour, shall he united by one bond of loyalty and common interest, and we believe that the exercise of political rights enjoyed by all alike will prove one of the best methods of attaining this object."
That is our position now. We believe it is the position of the great mass of enlightened public opinion in this country, and it is somewhat sad to think that, in these days of so-called democratic progress, we should be discussing a Bill which is altogether opposed to democratic principles. The right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, the other day, referring to this particular provision, said it might have been all right 50 years ago, when the number of people in these Colonies was small, but may I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the number in Cape
Colony is now far in excess of that in the other Colonies, and this particular principle has been a marked success in its operation in Cape Colony. It has furnished a platform and an incentive to coloured people to improve themselves, and it has been eminently successful, as those who have local knowledge must confess, just as it has been successful in New Zealand in dealing with other subject-races there. Following up this matter of Home Rule, it seems to me an extraordinary thing that this House should talk thus about Home Rule after having imposed its will upon the people of South Africa, not only in regard to the war, but since then in regard to clearing out the Chinese. Everybody admitted that we had a perfect right to interfere as we did interfere, and, therefore, it seems to me it is Home Rule run mad to deny this House the opportunity and privilege of examining these things upon their merits. It is said that the Colonies only will suffer in the event of mistakes being made. Is that so? As a matter of fact, is it not the fact that the South African Colonies are protected by our Navy and our Army, and that if mistakes are made in South Africa it is we who will have to suffer, because we shall have to pay for the rectification of any harm that may be done? Just a word or two with regard to the general character of this Bill. We believe it is a good Bill. We are in favour of it; we rejoice to know that at last Boers and Britons have come together. But, after all, the unification of South Africa is not a new thing. It has been in the mind of the African Bond for 30 years or more; although the unification which they have had in view has been based upon political restrictions and industrial monopoly against which we have fought; we have in so fighting spent no end of money and sacrificed many precious lives, ought we then to be asked to-day to acquiesce in going back on all these principles for which such great sacrifices have been made? I hope we shall do nothing of the sort. We cannot forget what has been the record of South Africa in the past. It has been a hunting ground for monopolists, gold-seekers, and financiers without bowels of compassion, who have gone there in quest of wealth, and have drenched the soil with blood in pursuit of it. We have to-day an opportunity of giving the country a new start on the basis of equal rights, and I trust we shall avail Ourselves of that opportunity. I hope
every Member possible will go into the Lobby in support of the principle. Absolutely the only argument put forward against this and other Amendments is that the Bill will be wrecked if any Amendment is carried. I refuse to think so meanly of people who carried themselves so well on the field of battle, and who have proved so resourceful since in the world of practical things. I refuse also to believe that they would have come here and simply ask us to pass this Bill in its present form or to reject it altogether. At the twelfth hour I appeal to the Government and to the delegates of South Africa, some of whom may possibly be within the range of my voice, to take a more generous view of the situation, I have not had an opportunity of consulting any of those in whose names these Amendments are down, but I think we might possibly be content if some indication were given to-day that, at all events in the near future, some Amendment might be made on the lines we suggest. I speak for myself only, but I think it might be possible to make a compromise on these lines. The Bill might go forward in it present form, and after the election of the first Parliament it might be agreed to take the opinion of the country. If that is done, in the light of the speeches delivered last Monday, and in the light of the knowledge they now must have that it is the unanimous opinion of the people in this country that this Amendment should be made, I think we shall get a settlement of this question in a manner appropriate to the need as well as in accord with their honour and the good name of the British Empire, of which these Colonies form part.
The hon. Member has supported the Amendment in a speech so exceedingly able and singularly temperate that I confess I find myself in no controversial spirit with regard to most of the proposition's he has put forward. As we said the other night, if there is anybody in any quarter of this House, or even in this country, with whom it rested to frame the lines, in this particular respect, of the South Africa Constitution, he would not insert this particular provision, but would prefer to give the freest and fullest franchise. I am strongly of opinion it is an invidious thing, and one difficult to reconcile with what we ordinarily consider to be an almost fundamental principle that a person who receives ex hypothesi the majority of votes in a constituency should be debarred exer- cising the trust and confidence reposed in him by his fellow citizens because of his colour or of the blood that flows through his veins. In that respect I go the whole length with my hon. Friend. But we have here to deal with a practical problem. When my hon. Friend supports this Amendment as if it were one in favour of equal rights I am bound to point out that it is not so. On the contrary, it proposes to confine the privilege—I would rather say the abolition of existing restrictions—to two particular Colonies—Cape Colony and Natal. If I understand the reason for that it is that it is only in these two Colonies that native suffrage already exists, and it is proposed to limit it to them in order to minimise the apparent interference which this Parliament would then be exercising in regard to South Africa. The Amendment does not carry out the principle of equal rights as regards the Transvaal and Orange River Colony. In those Colonies it would allow this colour bar to remain. In order to show that this Amendment does not definitely proceed on those lines which it should if it were carried to its abstract logical conclusion, I would point out that in itself it is an admission that this is a matter in which some degree of give-and-take must be allowed. That being so, I will point out to the hon. Gentleman and those who sympathise with him—I may include myself as one of his sympathisers—that the scheme embodied in the Constitution is itself a compromise. I may be asked why I say that. My answer is that it gives for the first time to the natives who are on the register in Cape Colony a voice in the administration of South African affairs as a whole. At present they can only vote in regard to Cape Colony affairs. In discussing this matter we may leave Natal out of the question altogether, because, for all practical purposes, the native franchise does not exist there. But the 20,000 natives who are now on the registers of Cape Colony will, if this Bill becomes law, have given them a right which they do not at present possess, namely, the right to determine the legislation and policy for South Africa as a whole. That is what the natives get out of the new Constitution, as compared with their position before it was brought forward. On the other hand, what does he lose; because I am now discussing the matter on the ground taken by my hon. Friend. As his Amendment says, you must have a compromise upon the matter. What does he lose? So far as Cape Colony is concerned, there he remains exactly as he was before. So far as the new Union Parliament is concerned he loses his right to be eligible to sit in that Parliament. I regret that, but when you are looking at it from the practical point of view, surely it is material that the abstract right of eligibility is one which, in point of practice, has never been really enjoyed by the natives in Cape Colony itself. There is not a single case in all the 55 years during which this native franchise has been in existence in Cape Colony of a native being returned to the Cape Legislature. Therefore, while on the one hand the natives are getting a substantial advantage in their power of voting for representatives in the new Union Parliament, so extending the range of franchise, on the other hand the thing which they are giving up, though on paper it looks an important and serious sacrifice, when you come to look at it in the light of past experience is not a practical sacrifice in any real sense of the term. I am not receding from the position from which I started, and I should have much preferred that these restrictions did not appear in the Constitution, but I am trying to point out to my hon. Friend and those who really look at this as a compromise that the native gains as a whole rather than loses by the transaction. This question is a very serious one. The Committee has to consider whether a compromise of that kind which is not one-sided, but involves a certain amount of give-and-take, and in which it appears to me that the balance, if you are to strike a balance, is on the whole favourable to the native—whether such a compromise which has been deliberately arrived at in South Africa is to be upset in this House.The hon. Member, in his concluding sentence, appeared to argue as though this was a definite, fixed, inflexible point, an indelible provision of the new Constitution, which cannot be altered and modified in the future. That is not the case. On the contrary, as anyone who reads the Bill will see, it will be open to the Union Parliament, if and when it is so minded, to remove this colour bar, and for my part I do not hesitate to repeat that we hope confidently and I may almost say have the expectation, which I expressed on the second reading, particularly in view of the Debate which has taken place and of the almost universal agreement of opinion in this country, that the new Union Legislature when it comes into existence, when it surveys this problem, as it will do, with a perfectly free and unfettered mind, may itself see its way without unreasonable delay to remove this colour bar, and will confer upon the natives who, so far as Cape Colony is concerned, are in enjoyment of the franchise, access, if their fellow citizens so desire it, to the Legislature itself. I put it to my hon. Friend, is it not far better for us, having regard to all the interests which are concerned in this matter, instead of interfering from above by the exercise of what I agree to be our own absolute and sovereign authority in a matter of this kind, having placed on record, as we have in these Debates, our own opinion in this matter, to leave it to the spontaneous and unfettered judgment of our fellow subjects there, and to our fellow subjects alone, to exercise the privilege which this Constitution is about to confer upon them as a matter of grace or as a matter of right, and to recognise the desirability of extending the avenues of access to the Legislature and of removing this invidious race distinction between one class of the community and the other? Some doubt has been expressed, not only with regard to this Amendment but as regards others, as to whether if this House were to strike out these words, either in this or the subsequent clauses, the Constitution could be preserved. I am bound to tell them, and I have in my hands a most authoritative communication, received only yesterday or the day before, from the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, who is here. He says, in the most explicit terms, confirming what the Under-Secretary for the Colonies and I stated the other night, that the delegation which came to this country has no power, express nor implied, to accept any Amendment of the nature referred to, which would destroy the compromise arrived at after prolonged discussion. He says also that any such Amendment, if insisted upon by this great Imperial Legislature would have to be remitted to the several Legislatures, in some of which the acceptance of it is more than doubtful. Further, as the Committee will not have forgotten in the case of Natal, this matter has been submitted not merely to the vote of the Legislature but to the referendum of the people, and it is extremely probable that if the House were to accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend, and make this, what is regarded in South Africa, vital disturbance in the compromise arrived at, you would have to have a referendum as well as a legislative vote in the different Colonies concerned. In other words you plunge into the crucible for refashioning or possible destruction this carefully contrived and most delicately balanced arrangement, which represents the deliberate opinion of the four separately consulted Legislatures, and in the case of Natal of the electorate themselves. I do once more, while thoroughly assenting to the principle laid down by my hon. Friend in the opening part of his speech, regretting as heartily as he or any man can, that a provision of this kind has been introduced into the Constitution—I do appeal once more with whatever authority and emphasis I can command to the Committee not to wreck this great work, for that is what it comes to, of freedom and reconciliation by pressing an Amendment, which, however palatable it may be to us, and however much we may desire that within a short period it may be regarded as acceptable by those responsible in South Africa itself, would if forced into the Bill at the present moment undo the whole of this beneficent work.
The statement with which the right hon. Gentleman concluded his speech will, I think, be admitted on all hands, to be one of the very gravest weight, and one which this House would be very rash indeed to disregard. I do not mean to waste the time of the Committee in discussing the merits of the Amendment. The Prime Minister has a difficult and ungracious task, such as sometimes falls to Ministers, in defending on grounds which I think quite conclusive, a course which on its abstract merits is not an agreeable one, but is one which ought to be accepted by responsible statesmen in the interests of the Empire. I agree, as everybody does, in regretting that the compromise in South Africa embodied this particular Clause, but we all know how difficult these compromises are to arrive at, and all of us who have any practical knowledge of the world, and do not get our ideas of politics merely from the study of books, know how, when a particular compromise is arrived at on an occasion like this, it always means that something is embodied in it which many of those who are parties to it regret. I have no doubt there are many persons in South Africa who regard this particular provision as we do in this country, being in a position of greater freedom and less responsibility and different traditions with regard to this native question. In this country our opinion is unanimous, but is it for us to upset the compromise arrived at, after such long deliberation and negotiation, and in itself so difficult, and carrying with it seeds of so much good for the future? The only question which we can really ask ourselves is that which the Prime Minister put to us a few moments ago: Is this Amendment likely to be followed by the upsetting of this delicately balanced compromise? No one is a better judge of that than the Government themselves—they, and they alone, have access both to the eminent statesmen immediately concerned and to the transactions which led up to this compromise, which would enable them to speak with authority to the House upon the results which are likely to ensue from any rash course which we may adopt. If that be admitted, what is the only inevitable conclusion? I never heard a Minister say with more emphasis or more evident conviction, with a more careful and evident desire to put before the House the carefully ordered results of his own investigation—I have never heard a Minister express an opinion with greater solemnity than the right hon. Gentleman, and it is perfectly impossible that we who agree with Ministers in the desire that they express for the passage of this Bill should break away from them after a statement like that which has just been made by the Prime Minister.I should regard all the professions I and my Friends have made in favour of this great beneficent Imperial change as mere hypocrisy and waste paper if I took this opportunity of saying that, much as I desire the Union of South Africa, this was a point upon which I was going to follow my own personal wishes and convictions, and leave the Government to fight as best they could those who took different views from them. Holding the views which I hold, and which are shared by hon. Members on these benches, and which I believe are shared on the benches below the Gangway—we differ from hon. Members there only on this point, that while they think they are not going to wreck the arrangement we think they are. They think they are not going to wreck the arrangement, because in their inner consciousness they cannot imagine anybody in South Africa being so foolish as to give up a great reform on what they consider a trifling ground. It is not trifling, it is a funda- mental part of the compromise, both to those who like it, and to those who dislike it. In these circumstances let us come to the only conclusion to which we can come as to the practical result of accepting this Amendment, and if we do that we shall all, I think, take the course of supporting the Government, who, on their authority as responsible Ministers of the Crown tell us that, having looked at this question on all sides, having consulted all those who are best qualified to give an opinion, as to the practical results of our action—tell us, if we accept this Amendment, we shall vote to destroy the Bill containing the compromise which we all desire to see carried into effect.
Many of us do not desire to see the Bill itself passed into law at such a price as the Empire pays by putting in these words. The two right hon. Gentlemen both spoke as if it were a necessary advantage to the Empire to have regard in this matter only to the 7,000,000 of people, white and black, who inhabit South Africa. We are trustees for nearly 400,000,000, upon whom our Empire rests, and towards whom we have constantly preached the opposite doctrine. To deal with this measure, even to fashion this measure into one of federal union instead of close union—if that were to be the result of carrying the Amendment—is a small matter to the Empire as compared with the impression which will be produced by our turning our back on all our promises after the Treaty of Vereeniging by inserting this clause. We have stated before the world, and have pressed upon others, and by example have inculcated others who have followed us, the doctrine of no bar of race or colour. We have taught it to South Africa even, and the greater portion of the white people of South Africa have followed it, and, although it was forced on them at first, for 50 years they have followed it voluntarily of themselves. Even there they have learnt from us and followed us. But the impression produced by our going back, I am afraid for ever, and turning our own back upon our great past is equivalent—personally, I think worse—than it would be if we turned our back as regards the introduction of technical and real as against virtual slavery.Then just imagine, if you are going to do the thing, the offensive fashion in the choice of words in which it is being done. You have Indians who come here and sit as Members of this House. You have always taught this doctrine—you have taught the doctrine to South Africa—that though tribal natives cannot be trusted with the ordinary concerns of election and registration and political and Parliamentary life, nevertheless you call out those who adopt your philosophy or your theology, those who make themselves of you in spite of the blackness of their skins. As you welcomed them in the great wars as sailors on board Nelson's ships, so you have welcomed them in the Constitution here. And now you are going to draw the line and include Jews, but exclude Parsees, from Bombay. That is the effect of the legal decision. If the thing is to be done at all the form in which it is being done is the worst possible, and if we are asked to do it we have such doubt in the minds of the Government that the Under-Secretary himself evidently agrees with the High Commissioner, who is known to think that the words will be loosely and widely construed so that many of those whose cases are most prominent will come in in spite of those words. When it was suggested the other day that the matter will be referred to our tribunals for decision, and will probably come to the Privy Council, I am certain, under the cases before us, that the decision of the Privy Council will be against the wide or loose interpretation of these words, and that, by the most rigid construction, unconscious or uncertain traces of coloured blood—even Parsee, though not Jewish, blood will be counted as non-European, and will be fatal to the position of men trying to sit in these Assemblies. I accept to the full the challenge of the Leader of the Opposition. I should feel ashamed of myself if I threw any difficulties in the way of this Bill if I did not believe an enormous Imperial interest was at stake in the insertion of these words: I feel that so strongly that if the hon. Member opposite goes to a Division I shall be compelled to give him my support.
It is with very great regret that, while agreeing entirely with what has been said by the hon. Member opposite and my right hon. Friend (Sir C. W. Dilke), I find myself compelled to vote against the Amendment. I have come to that decision very reluctantly because this is a question to which I attach more importance than to any question which has come before the House. This seems to me to touch not merely the foundations of the Liberalism in which I be- lieve, but to touch the very foundations of the British Empire. Not only is the thing bad in itself, as the right hon. Gentleman says, but it is badly done. We are allowing other people to put in this Bill words which we all of us dislike and words which have no definite interpretation, so that a great many men in South Africa will not know whether they come within or without this colour bar. That is very serious. People in high position in South Africa whose blood has a trace of black in it will not know whether they are to be excluded or included within the new Legislature. Worse than that, I contend that these words are an insult to the whole British Empire. Though we are apt to forget it, our Empire consists of something like five to one coloured men, and we are virtually saying to the whole of these people, "You are until, to be there on an equality with us, whatever stage you may have reached in civilisation." If I am not touching upon too delicate a subject, may I remind the House that the words which we are now putting into this Bill would have excluded the founders of every great religion the world has known. There is no great religion which has been founded by men of European descent. Ex oriente lux. It is through the East that the light of religion comes. Beyond that there is danger to South Africa itself. This is a matter on which this Government, as responsible for the protection of the whole Empire, has a right to speak. Do the people who have framed this Constitution really imagine that they can permanently hold a vast black population in subjection? They virtually tell every man in South Africa, however much he may rise in the European scale of civilisation, he shall be thrown back into the black mass because of the colour of his skin. What must be the future effect of that? That instead of bringing these more intelligent natives into line with European civilisation they are made our enemies instead of our friends. The time may come when they will be leaders of a great black revolution against the white race.I also hold very strongly, in opposition to hints which have been dropped, that this Parliament has a perfect right to deal with this matter; and I agree with the right hon. Baronet (Sir O. W. Dilke) that we should have a perfect right to reject this Bill and to throw back the Union rather than admit what is an injury to the whole Empire. The Empire is bigger than South Africa, and, therefore, if that were the only issue involved, I would see the whole Bill go rather than do something which is a violation of the traditions of the British Empire. I may be asked why it is that I vote against this clause. My answer is that it comes too late. We have given away the fortress. We gave it away first of all with the Peace of Vereeniging. We went to war with the Boers largely because we claimed that they were not treating the natives justly, and that they were injuriously treating our British Indian fellow subjects. Then the Peace of Vereeniging gave away a large part of the principle for which we fought, because we agreed that the natives should be excluded from the right to vote. But that is not all. We further gave away a principle a little later. When the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lyttelton) was framing his Constitution he not only excluded from the power of voting the natives, as he was bound to do by the Treaty of Vereeniging, but he extended the word natives to include coloured men and British Indians—as much as if someone having agreed to pay in pounds subsequently voluntarily turned the pounds into guineas. He was then going even beyond the Peace of Vereeniging. That was not all. His Constitution did not go through. Another Constitution was framed, and I remember how the then representative of the Colonial Office, now President of the Board of Trade, described that policy. He described the various suggestions which had been made for the new franchise in the two conquered States and he said he came to the conclusion that the only sound principle upon which to go was that all men were equal. A fine phrase for the platform! But what did it mean? It meant that the greater part of the men in the Transvaal were to be excluded from that conception of equality, and that in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, apparently, a black man was not a man at all. I do not agree with him. I agree much more with the right hon. Gentleman in holding that all men are not equal, but that all men are entitled to justice. I know that raises the very difficult question of what the word "justice" means, and I fancy in most of our Debates, though we are all agreed that we want justice, the real division of opinion arises because we cannot precisely define what justice is. But though it is difficult to define what justice is, there are cases where we can clearly say what is injustice. There is not a man in the House who will not agree that it is injustice to say to a fellow human being, "Because of the colour of your skin you shall never rise to the right of exercising Parliamentary privileges or the privileges of a citizen." That injustice we have already accepted. We accepted it when this Constitution was being discussed between the Colonial Office and the South African organisers of the Union, as it must have been months ago, and I cannot help thinking that if the Imperial Government had then taken a somewhat stronger attitude we might to a large extent have been saved from the present situation. But that is done, and now what we are asked to do is to pass an Amendment which does not give us back any of the great principles that we have thrown away, but which merely introduces a pettifogging discrimination and which, in so doing, actually commits this House to the proposal that in two of the Colonies in South Africa the colour bar shall continue. On that ground alone I shall vote against the Amendment, because it asks the House to say we are to set up a colour bar in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony which is partially to cut us away from the other two Colonies. That is not a principle, it is only a pin-prick. The Amendment does not embody any great principle on which the House can divide. It is merely a pin-prick to the people who drafted the Constitution. As practical men we have got to consider whether we gain anything by thus attempting in this small detail to alter the Constitution. Do we really secure any better rights, any better treatment, for the natives? I do not think we do, and for this reason. Ultimately their treatment must depend upon the people to whom we have handed over the Government. If I saw any indication on either side of this House of a determination to really govern South Africa, and to accept our responsibility, then I would go with them, but I see no sign. But I know perfectly well that if any big issue comes up the attitude of both sides of the House will be, "You must help the white Colonists." That being so, it does not seem to me to be worth while bothering to amend this Bill at all. The best thing to do is to say, "You have got the responsibility on your shoulders. You have drafted the Constitution, and you must take all the risks it involves." I come to another point on which, I think, the Government will agree with me, namely, that it is a necessary conquence of the handing over of South Africa-to a new Union Government that our troops there must be withdrawn. We cannot in one breath say to the South African Colonists, "Do as you like," and at the same time say that we are going to support them with troops, whatever mistakes they make. They must take the responsibility for their own mistakes. They cannot call upon us to make good their blunders with our troops. If that is accepted, and I think it is—
It is a question of cutting the painter.
My hon. Friend forgets that in New Zealand and Canada there are no British troops, and that they have not cut the painter. There is this last point. At the present moment the House is unanimous. We all agree in deploring certain features of this Constitution. Is it not better that that unanimous voice of the House should go forth? We all regret the blunder which we think the Colonists of South Africa make. We are all convinced that they are running a great risk. We all believe that they are doing dishonour to the Empire by the course they have taken. They must take the responsibility for the course they have adopted, and we will not mar the unanimity of the House by taking a Division on this Amendment.
The speech of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Cox) is one of those extraordinary speeches to which the House is becoming accustomed. The hon. Member blamed my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment for its limited character, and gave us the impression that he would have voted for it if it had gone the whole hog. That is to say, because two Colonies in South Africa have admitted the colour bar, therefore he is justified in extending that colour bar to the other two Colonies. He deplores the existence of the colour bar in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, but he is about to vote for its extension to Cape Colony and Natal. Surely that is not a logical attitude to adopt in this case. The hon. Member frankly admitted that he would not vote for the Amendment, of which the hon. Member for Sleaford (Mr. Lupton) has given notice, and which proposes to strike out the words "of European descent," and restore the status quo in all the four Colonies. The Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and others who have spoken on similar lines, have referred to this clause as a compromise. This clause is not a com- promise. The only compromise before the House is that embodied in the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Barnes). At the present time in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State only white men and Europeans are eligible for election to Parliament. In Natal and Cape Colony coloured as well as white persons are eligible for election. The Bill, as drafted, proposes to extend the colour bar from the two Colonies where it now exists to the two where it does not exist, and that is called a compromise. Where does the compromise come in? The Prime Minister said that now the coloured voter in Cape Colony would have a wider influence by his vote, but he forgets that the right to be elected to the Cape Parliament which he now enjoys will then cease, because the Cape Parliament will come to an end. There will be a sort of glorified county council, or provisional council, to which natives may be elected. The legislative Parliament is being taken away under the Bill which we-are now discussing. That is my point. To speak of this as a compromise appears to me at least to be an abuse of language. The great point made by the Prime Minister and also by the Under-Secretary in regard to the House interfering in this matter was that the House by interfering would wreck the delicate balance of conflicting interests which this Bill sets up. In support of that statement the Prime Minister read a communication from Mr. Merriman, the Prime Minister of Cape Colony, but I notice that Mr. Merriman does not say that the acceptance of this Amendment would wreck the scheme. The parts read were to the effect that if an Amendment of this kind were carried the scheme would require to be referred back to South Africa for fresh consideration. That is all that Mr. Merriman says. The cables are open, the delegates are still here, and, as in the case of the Australian Bill, where similar language was used, and where a similar set of circumstances arose, the Government did take action, and the delegates who were here from Australia, by the aid of the cable doubtless, were able to adjust the point of difference, with the result that the Bill was amended and the scheme was not wrecked. Basing myself on that analogy, there is no reason whatever why the, acceptance of this Amendment should wreck this present scheme. There is no compromise there, and I submit that to say that the interests affected by this Bill, the great trading and com- mercial interests, which stand to benefit by the Bill, the Customs and Union interests, the railway interests, and the whole of the property interests of South Africa, which, undoubtedly, will benefit, and are intended to benefit, under the measure—to say that these interests are going to throw overboard the benefit which the measure proposes to bring to them because this House insists on retaining the status quo in South Africa seems to me ridiculous.I understand that the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Simon) on Monday evening made reference to myself, and stated that I did not oppose the Transvaal Constitution, which contains the colour bar, but, as has been pointed out twice already in the course of this Debate, the terms of the Transvaal Constitution were fixed under the Vereeniging Treaty, by which peace was secured. It is stipulated in that treaty that the question of the colour franchise was not to be dealt with until responsible self-government had been conceded, and that being so, the British Government, the House of Commons, this country, and, indeed, the Empire, were bound by the terms of that treaty when the Transvaal Constitution was drafted. 6.0 P.M. Another point which has already been mentioned and which cannot be too much emphasised, is one in connection with which the rights and responsibilities of the House of Commons come fully into operation as to this measure. My right hon. Friend (Sir Charles W. Dilke), in the two remarkable speeches he made on this question, one on Monday last and the other to-day, referred to the case, not of the natives of South Africa, but of the gentlemen from India, of whom there are large numbers in South Africa. In India a native of education, culture, and social standing may be a member of the Viceroy's Council. He may sit as one of the advisers of the King's representative m India. He goes from India to South Africa, and finds there a barrier raised by which he cannot be elected to assist in making the laws. An Indian in this country may sit in this House. In South Africa there are Indians of various races and creeds, and a large number of them have been brought there as indentured labourers. Others have gone to Natal as traders. They are already smarting keenly under the treatment which is being meted out to them in some of the Colonies of South Africa. When their compatriots at home learn further that the House of Commons has deliberately set up this colour bar which prevents those men from being returned to the South African Parliament, is that going to increase their sense of loyalty or their faith in the justice of British rule? Therefore the House of Commons in this respect has a direct reponsibility, and if acts of this kind lead to a combined native rising in South Africa Imperial troops will be called in, and, in spite of what fell from some hon. Members opposite, the cost will not be wholly borne by South Africa. The Mother Country is in duty bound to bear a share of the responsibility and the cost of putting down a great rising of that kind, and therefore the House of Commons should not lightly rid itself of the sense of responsibility by saying that this matter can be left to be dealt with in South Africa. The Leader of the Opposition in his speech to-day, the sympathetic note of which awakened such a warm response in every corner of the House, said in regard to this question that both sides in Africa, those for the native and those against him, felt keenly on this question. But surely his trained logical mind must have led him to this conclusion, if his own premises were properly laid down, that as a means of the solution of the difficulty, the decision of Parliament on this Bill is meant to be final, and if both parties feel strongly there will be an aversion to raise the question on either side in South Africa after the Bill becomes law; and it is all the more important, therefore, that the House of Commons should do its duty by the principles which have animated the Empire at home and abroad in times gone by by refusing to agree to a form of words which raises an insuperable barrier in the way of native races and of Asiatic races from developing on the lines which are supposed to be the aim and object of the Empire. It has been assumed that this matter may come before the Privy Council on leave to appeal for a final decision, but this is very doubtful. Anyone who will turn to Clause 106 of the Bill will find that the right of appeal is not only limited under the Bill, but—and this is the important point—the South African Parliament may make laws limiting the matters in respect of which such special leave may be asked, the special leave being leave to appeal to the Privy Council. We are practically saying the last word on the subject, and it is of the utmost importance that the last word should not be spoken in the way of washing our hands of responsibility, either towards the people of South Africa, or the Empire as a whole, and that the House of Commons should not assent to the setting up of the doctrine that because of a man's misfortune in having been born with a coloured skin he is to be barred the possibility of ever rising to a position of trust.
I do not think it necessary for anyone who belongs to the party for which I speak to associate himself with the principle which was so moderately and so eloquently put forward by the Mover of this Amendment. There is no doubt we are in favour of giving full rights to the coloured men in South Africa and elsewhere; but another question is raised here by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Chas. Dilke); that is to say: Are you willing to wreck this scheme in order to prevent the assertion of the principle that is embodied in the words to which objection is taken? Speaking for myself, and speaking after consultation with the Leader of my party, I find that I am bound to oppose this Amendment, or any such Amendment, on the ground that the important thing before us is the establishment of a nationality and the establishment of autonomy. Where you have a nationality, fully recognising that nationality does not imply freedom for all the people living in that particular country. The question is, What is it you propose to do by the Bill, and what is it you propose to do by the Amendment? Beyond proposing to give freedom to South Africa—South Africa already enjoys it—beyond proposing to give to the white man in South Africa control over the native—because he already exercises that control—what is it that you are doing? It is just this, that after an almost impossible situation, and through almost insuperable difficulties in South Africa, a nation has come to birth. It is quite true that this Union rests very largely upon business considerations. But this Union would never have been possible were there not behind those business considerations the sentiment of a common right, and a common interest, and an identity and also a diversity which is, in effect, the sentiment of nationality. We all recognise the birth of the nation. We salute the new nation. We are bound to realise what the nation is and what is the birth, and I say that it is plainly a nation of white men—a European nation; an outpost of Europe in South Africa, and that that nation has the right, and even the duty, to maintain its European character. [An HON. MEMBER: "Slave owners."] I do not think they are slave owners, but I think that they have the right to limit the concession of civic privileges. Is there any man in this House who will assert that there should be absolute equality between white and black in South Africa, and that there should be the same condition of franchise for the coloured men and for men who are of white skin?
As in Cape Colony.
I do not think even in Cape Colony the conditions are absolutely identical.
The same vote.
That may be so, but I confess, if I was a South African I should feel myself bound to maintain the European character of my nationality. There is no use telling us here in England that we have the same franchise here for a Hindu as for ourselves, because here it is not a question of the nation being overborne. It is not a question of complete subversion of the type. These men have the right to deal with this matter as one of compromise, as one of doling out civic rights; and once you admit that there can be no general principle laid down, then I think you are bound to admit that it is a matter for local settlement. It is a settlement of how you are to give the franchise; in what position the white community is to find itself in relation to that portion of the surrounding community which is more numerous than itself. Those questions are infinitely difficult. It is a difficult task; but I think the task belongs to South Africa. And, more than that, it is a privilege which South Africa already enjoys, because it has been sufficiently pointed out that under this Bill we are practically formulating the theoretical status quo in two of the States and the actual status quo in two. I claim then that this Bill is in reality the charter of existence for a new nation, for an European nation which has been created by the action of four separate States amalgamating and incorporating their existing life. We cannot go into the Transvaal or the Orange Free State—and I think the logical course in raising this question would have been to adopt the Amendment of the hon. Member for Slea- ford (Mr. A. Lupton)—but even in Natal we cannot practically go and say, "admit the coloured men to your Assembly. What is proposed now? Because these States in South Africa have sunk their differences, and people of different races and political ideas have made a compact among themselves, we, in this House, are to seize the occasion to levy a kind of blackmail upon them and to declare "unless you accept the principle which we cannot enforce on you as things stand, you shall not have your national Union." It is a speculation, so far as I can understand, if it is moved seriously, upon the unwillingness of South Africa to sacrifice the results of so much of her moderation and so much of her goodwill. To me it seems that that is not fair and is not just, and I do not think it is even wise for the interests that we are proposing to support. If you take these words, I dislike them. I regard them as reactionary and illiberal, in the same way as I regard the words of the statute which declare that no Roman Catholic shall be Lord Lieutenant of Ireland or Lord Chancellor of this country. That statute to me appears to embody prejudice, and I regard these words as embodying prejudice also; but it is quite clear that the South African community hold that they are right to assert in this Bill their European character—
Will the hon. Member explain why he is supporting one and opposing the other?
I am endeavouring to explain that one has to take account of the passions and prejudices of men. It seems to me it is probable that if you omit these words you wreck the settlement of this scheme. I hold strongly that the prudence and wisdom of the Legislative Assembly of the nation is likely to be greater than the prudence and wisdom of the Legislature of a Colony. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Home Rule?"] But suppose the omission is made, suppose these words are struck out, suppose that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sleaford is accepted, and accepted by South Africa, what would be the advantage? It is quite true we should have served consciences by the barren assertion of a theoretical right. There I cannot agree, because we should have to assert a principle in those Colonies which they do not desire to have; and if we impose this principle upon them we know that the inhabitants of those young States would resent it, and would make it their business to see that the principle became a dead letter in practice. I hold that the way to accomplish the end we desire—that is to say, to include in this Constitution men of colour, educated men—is to let the germ develop and to utilise to the full the rights which exist. Under this Act you have the franchise for the coloured voter at the Cape, and under this Act the coloured voter has a right to sit in the Provincial Councils. We have heard the powers of the Provincial Councils spoken of slightingly here, but all I can say is that the powers proposed to be given are considerably greater than the powers which were proposed to be given to the Irish Council. I have heard it explained that it was not by any determination of the Cape citizens to exclude coloured men from the Cape Parliament, that no coloured man has ever sat in that Assembly, but simply because no coloured man was willing to get himself put forward. If coloured men wish to find their place in the Legislature of South Africa, I think they have first to make their way; they have first to prove their metal and their value in the Provincial Councils. If that be done, I think only a short time will elapse before this injustice is swept away. The germ is there; and in favour of its development you have that great force which I think in all these discussions has been underrated, namely, that the public opinion of the Empire is solid in favour of the extension of the right to the franchise to the natives. I believe the more untrammelled you leave this new Assembly, this new nation, the more sensitive it will be to that great force of public opinion; but the more you try to impose and enforce your own ideals upon it, the more obstinate will be its resistance to the end you propose.I confess I find comfort in thinking that the men who have made this great compact, who have shown such wisdom, such moderation, such magnanimity in dealing with one another, will show the same qualities in dealing with all these complex matters which arise out of the question of the colour bar. For my own part, being firm in this matter of the principle of Home Rule, I would gladly leave to South Africa the full amount of responsibility for all these matters. It seems to me that this House has enough responsibilities to occupy it; in all conscience they are heavy enough. We have to concern ourselves with British India without troubling about the British Indians in South Africa. For the present, as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Harold Cox), the fact is that in South Africa this House is practically-powerless as against the local Legislature; and I appeal to this Committee to give full trust where they give responsibility. We trusted these men when we gave these States freedom separately. I confess I should like to see the compact which they have made ratified by House unanimously. If this House wishes to consult the opinion of South Africa, I think it will do so best by example, and by dealing boldly and frankly with the question of extending the right of Government abroad—in India, in Egypt, and much nearer home.
I have listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down. I do not forget that he has spoken as deputy-leader of the Irish party, and he has spoken on behalf of his leader.
I should like to say that I did not speak for the Nationalist party, because that party has not come to any joint decision on the matter. The general view I have expressed is the view of the Leader of the party.
The hon. Member spoke for his leader, but not for his party. It is not the first time that an hon. Member has spoken for his leader and not for his party; at any rate, if I may say so with great respect, the opinions expressed by the hon. Member have not that importance attaching to them which I thought they possessed when I understood he was speaking for his party. I foresaw this speech of the hon. Member when I read a column of print in the "Daily Mail," giving an account of an interview which the hon. Gentleman had with the Prime Minister of the Transvaal, and the hon. Gentleman may have to some extent mixed up the views of the Prime Minister of the Transvaal with the views of the Leader of the Irish party. In that interview the Prime Minister of the Transvaal, who is probably to become the Prime Minister of the Union Parliament, although he is not the only competitor for that position, said that if votes were given blindly to natives and coloured men the whole of the white people would be wiped out, because they are only as one million among six millions. No doubt the hon. Member was greatly impressed by the views of the Prime Minister of the Transvaal expressed some time prior to 2nd August last. The Prime Minister, in his speech on the second reading, emphasised the point that we were not dealing with equal rights in this Amendment. That is perfectly true. We are not asking for what we think the coloured and native men are entitled to; we are only asking for them to retain that which they are entitled to now. It is not a question of equal rights in this Amendment, it is the question of the status quo, and it is really a little hard that we should be taunted because we are dealing with the status quo, and not with equal rights. My hon. Friend (Mr. Harold Cox), who said this was a pettifogging Amendment, has made many extraordinary speeches, which do not surprise anyone. He is usually optimistic in our Debates, but today he struck a very pessimistic note, and he said that so much wrong has been done to these natives in the past that he should not worry to right them now. I do not follow that argument. I hope I am not paraphrasing the hon. Gentleman. It would be a difficult thing to paraphrase what he says, for his style does not lend itself in that direction. The Prime Minister said that the native and coloured voters will gain more than they lose by this compact. Is there really any substance in that argument? What have they got at present? They have got the franchise in Cape Colony, and they have got a sort of franchise in Natal. The franchise in Natal is this—if they have resided there 12 years, and if they get three Europeans to sign the paper in their favour, besides fulfilling other conditions, then they can get the vote. The result of that has been that only 150 natives and 50 other coloured people are on the franchise in Natal. Do not let us forget that there is nothing in the Natal law to prevent natives or coloured voters from being nominated to sit in the Natal Parliament. Under this Bill, that right has gone, and gone for ever. It is said in Cape Colony there are 180,000 on the register, and 22,000 odd are natives and coloured voters—that is to say, they have got one-ninth of the voting power in Cape Colony. It is quite true that they have never tried to send a man to represent them in the Cape Colony Parliament, but is it not a little hard that that should be used as an argument against them? I believe on one occasion one of their number was asked to stand, but he did not accept the invitation, knowing that his supporters would not be able to return him. But what they could do is this: When two white candidates stand they could exercise the franchise in support of the one most favourable to the rights and privileges of the coloured population. Under this Bill they have lost the entire right to be represented, and they have lost a great deal of the voting power they possessed. They have less power under the Union Parliament than they had in Cape Colony. You should hear what the natives have to say about their gaining more than they will lose under the Union Parliament. I think it is important, if we are to go into the merits of this controversy, to hear what these natives themselves say, because, I agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. Harold Cox), that it is not only South Africa we are dealing with, but the whole Empire. While it is not perhaps popular to champion this cause, yet I think, in view of recent occurrences in our Dominions, that this is a time in our history when we should be extraordinarily cautious in our dealings with those men, and we must remember this, that in so far as these subject races are concerned, the principle is this, if you educate them you must in the long run emancipate them, and if you want to keep them in subjection you must keep them in ignorance. We have educated them, and emancipation is bound to come. So far as we are concerned, this is our opportunity of expressing our views. The Convention did not report until 9th February, and, as has been stated more than once, it was a closed doors Convention. No one knew what had taken place. There was no representative of native opinion of the city. The Government themselves—we know now, and are proud of it—are the trustees of the natives, but what a pity that the trustees were not represented. They are the guardians of the natives, but what a pity the guardians did not go to the Convention to see that those wards were properly looked after. After the Convention itself was declared on 9th February, the native and coloured population began to hold congresses all over the land. I have the details here, but I do not wish to trouble the House with them. The natives met at Winburg, Emgwali, Nancefield, Pietermaritzburg, Bloemfontein, King William's Town, Cape Town. At all of those Congresses resolutions were passed against the colour bar. This is the resolution passed at King William's Town in April, at which there were 63 delegates present, representing 22 centres:—
The coloured men's political organisation met in conference in Cape Town for four days between 13th and 17th April, with 89 representatives, representing 50 centres. There, again, a unanimous resolution was passed against the colour bar. The Transkeian General Council, which the House perhaps knows, contains 15 European magistrates and about 40 native councillors, ratepayers from amongst natives chosen from Cape Colony, unanimously passed a resolution against the colour bar provisions of the Bill, and, what is not an unimportant thing for us to remember, 30,000 of the native and coloured men of South Africa have subscribed to send a deputation of their own kith and kin to represent their views in this country. We have heard a good deal about another deputation coming with great prestige to this country from the four Colonies, but do not let us forget that more humble deputation, whose expenses have been subscribed by 30,000 natives, to place their views before the people of England. It has been said, "Pass this, and in a little while all will be right." Cape Colony and the Transvaal heard the views of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, and they will soon change their minds and pass another law. Is that very likely? I have here in a review views published the other day of the present Prime Minister of the Transvaal, who said that no self-respecting white man would sit in the same Parliament as a black man. If that be the view of the leaders of Colonial opinion, I think there is pretty slight chance of amendment. I say it, and quite frankly, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) will allow me to say so, I am exceedingly obliged to him for the view he expressed to-day a little more clearly than the views he expressed on Monday, that he himself does not approve of these words, and that if he had his own way he would eliminate them. I am sure we are all much indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for that view of the matter. At the same time this is our opportunity of dealing with this Amendment. I think it is quite useless for us to say that this is a South African Bill. It was a South African Bill; it is our Bill to-day. I cannot quite understand the hon. Member who preceded me. I suppose he thinks this is a Home Rule Debate. I can quite understand that he will come with the Protestants of Ulster and the Catholics of the South, and ask us to approve of a Bill which they have approved of, but I would like to see its financial provisions very much. He will come here and say, "Look what the South and North have agreed upon. I appeal to you in the sacred name of Home Rule to pass it as it stands, do not change a syllable, do not dot the i's or cross the t's." That is a principle that may be carried too far. I fear, and I say it quite candidly, that we are buying union at the price of injustice to these native coloured people. If we are the trustees of the natives, if we are their guardians and protectors, against whom are we to guard them, against whom are we to protect them? Against the men of European descent in South Africa, the very men to whom we are going to deliver them, the white population of South Africa. I fear this will put the native and the white populations into two hostile camps. You will set class against class and colour against colour. That is the danger against which we ought to be forearmed, and against which we are forewarned. I trust something may yet be done to modify this Bill."That the introduction of the colour line into the draft South Africa Act is unjust to the aborigines and coloured people, is unprecedented in the annals of the British Empire; is, moreover, in the opinion of this Conference, a grave reflection upon God who made those people, and is therefore calculated to create discontent among them and thus tend to unrest aim disturb the harmony and happiness of the people of South Africa."
This is a Debate of very grave importance, and I do not feel able to give a silent vote, though I will not stand long between hon. Members who desire to address the House. Two questions have been discussed very particularly in this Debate, and the reason they were so discussed was on account of the conclusion by the Prime Minister with regard to the subject of this Amendment. This Amendment does not really deal with the question of native suffrages. There are two questions: There are questions elsewhere in the Bill of native suffrage. This is a question of eligibility of standing for Parliament of the natives, or of any native in South Africa. Now, considering the great importance of this Debate, I wish to make it clear, and I address hon. Members who will also yet consider that question, the question of native suffrage does not mean equality of rights between natives and whites as regards suffrage. For myself, I regard that as an absolutely inadmissible and untenable claim, and, if there were not some distinguished men against me I would say it was ridiculous to claim to put the black man in the same position as the white man all over the Empire as regards the vote. The right hon. Baronet (Sir C. W. Dilke) conveyed to me in the speech he made that the natives were for the first time being treated in South Africa differently from that in which they were treated elsewhere.
Oh, no; we have insisted upon this retaining of eligibility in all Constitutions.
I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. So far as suffrage is concerned, I am sure it will be well known to him that not merely in every Crown Colony but in places like Canada hon. Gentlemen are familiar with the fact that quite recently protests have been made on behalf of British Columbia as to equality of rights.
I expressed the view that I was not in favour, and I did not know many who were, of the suffrage to men living under tribal conditions.
Neither the prudence nor the elementary common-sense of the Empire can possibly admit the claim that blacks, very likely hundreds and thousands of years behind the whites in civilisation, are to be admitted to the same suffrage with them. Not only is that contrary to the entire theory of the Crown Colonies, but also the express opposition—recently avowed in the plainest possible terms both by Canada and Australia. Therefore, let us clear away that subject, and, if I may address myself to the Labour party, if there was any idea of the kind amongst the whole of that party, who are pretending that black men should be equal to whites in this House, I do not believe that there is a single white trade unionist throughout the whole of the Empire who would not absolutely repudiate their action. I think I need not waste further time upon that point. But the point we are dealing with in this Amendment is, as I said, the eligibility into the Senate of the coloured men. I wish to say in an absolutely unqualified way what I said the other day: that that provision is not a rule to be defended on the merits. I believe that the history of the matter was this—but I cannot speak with absolute certainty—that when proportionate, representation was proposed to the Convention, the theory of those who were opposed to the natives sitting in Parliament, and the fear was that proportionate representation would lead to the representation of narrow sections, or of what we would call faddists. They inserted this provision as to the eligibility of persons not of European descent in order to counteract what they believed would be the effect of proportionate representation. Proportional representation was excised at a subsequent Convention in Bloemfontein, but the European descent clause remains. When I say that I regret in the most unqualified way that this was inserted, I do so from the knowledge that there are coloured men who are fit to sit in any assembly. I dare say many of the Members have read the speeches of Mr. Booker Washington, a coloured man in the United States, whose speeches could scarcely be equalled in this House either for picturesque, or forcible and homely effects. I really cannot understand the ground upon which this South African Parliament have excluded coloured people. I am sure we have not got to the bottom of the matter. We must remember that this is really the whole question. How is this matter to be rectified? How is opinion upon it to be advanced? By interference from here now, or by relegating the matter to the South African Parliament concerned—a method which the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Ellis Griffith) ridiculed as altogether not to be believed in. I do not agree with him. In the first place, as I have said before, I myself warned the House, at the time of giving responsible government, of the open and signal dangers, perfectly palpable to everybody who had studied the question which would arise in the dealings of a responsible Government in the Transvaal with British Indians or natives. The House were perfectly aware what they were doing when they gave responsible government. In my judgment, they handed over the fate of these men, both British Indians and natives, to the responsible Government; and when they did that they removed the matter altogether from the right and responsibility of this House. It is a delusion to suppose that this country, when she gives up her right and her responsibility, necessarily loses her influence and her powers of persuasion. She does not. I might cite the late Lord Elgin and Lord Dufferin, and at the present time Lord Grey and Lord Selborne, as men who, representing in an unpolitical and unbiassed way the best opinion of this country, have had most important and persuasive influence upon the self-governing dominions with which they have been connected. It is a delusion to suppose, in the next place, that our great self-governing dominions are not influenced by De- bates in this House. They are influenced by them; and it is to that fact I attach importance, especially when I consider the history of this clause, and how, I hope almost accidentally, these words were kept in after proportional representation went out. But be that as it may, I hope, at any rate, that the strong respectfully-expressed opinion of this House will be regarded there, and that we shall not run into the great danger of setting back, by unwise and premature interference, the opinion which is already moving largely in this direction in South Africa.That really is the heart of this question, and in regard to it I believe this House is thoroughly agreed. Upon the merits of this question I believe the House is really unanimous, and that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour) had the whole House with him the other day when he expressed with perfect clearness the opinion that this clause with regard to the non-eligibility of natives was deeply to be regretted. The sole question is how shall we advance the cause which we are unanimous in believing to be the true one? I hold myself, first on constitutional grounds, that once you have given responsible government you have practically given autonomy, certainly in all internal affairs. At the same time, when we say that, do not let us forget that which I am delighted to say is becoming more and more prevalent throughout this great Empire—I mean the influence of one part upon another; the influence of the best opinion upon other opinion. There are questions in which Colonial opinion has acted with the greatest possible force and persuasiveness upon this country, and I am sure the Colonies will not mind my saying that there should be reciprocity in these matters. I believe there will be. At any rate, though I have a certain reluctance in speaking against those with whom I am in such agreement upon the merits, and though I honour both the fire and the heart of the opposition which they have made to this clause, yet I feel myself bound in the interests of the cause itself to vote against them.
My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Ellis Griffith) asked whether the Committee was or was not prepared to deal with what he called the merits of the controversy, and he dealt with what he believed to be the merits of the controversy in a very convincing manner. It was convincing because we are all agreed. If the controversy upon which the Committee are to judge and decide was really that about which he spoke, we are all one. But I submit to the Committee that it is of the first importance for us to keep clear in our minds the distinction between two things. One is, what is the opinion of this English House of Commons on the exclusion of natives from the Senate in South Africa. As to that, we are agreed. But that is not the real controversy. The other, and it is a distinct question, is this. Finding ourselves in the position in which we are in relation to this Bill, are we prepared by the vote which we are going to give to sacrifice the Bill? I ventured on second reading to put that question to some of my hon. Friends, and to point out that that is the real controversy. As far as I am concerned, I certainly call no man unpatriotic, or by any other unpleasant epithet, if he takes the view that it is better to sacrifice the Bill than pass this clause. It is a perfectly fair view to take. What I point out is that that is the controversy. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Ellis Griffith), who spoke so eloquently as to the position of the natives in South Africa, was, if I may say so with all possible respect, forcing an open door, and the wrong door. The real question for us at this moment is, this proposition being put forward as a proposal for Union by four communities to which we have given self-government, are we prepared to accept it and to put our seal upon it, or are we not? The hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Keir Hardie) said that the last time the English Parliament had to deal with a proposal by States to unite in a greater whole, they suggested an Amendment which was carried, and the Confederation was not lost. He was referring to the ease of the Australian Colonies. But may I point out to those who accept that argument this distinction in the case of the Australian Commonwealth. The proposal was one which was accepted, and accepted here upon the spot, by persons able to accept it.
It took three weeks.
I should think very poorly of those who are now responsible for the Colonial Office if they had not spent three weeks in discussing this matter with South Africa. What was the substantial point as to which a change was made? The question concerned the number of appeals that there would be to the Privy Council from Australia. That, in my judgment, as a lawyer, is of first-rate importance; but it was not regarded as of first-rate importance by those who had really to decide it. Who really had to decide it was not the House of Commons, but Australia. They decided that they were willing to take the Confederation, which is now called the Australian Commonwealth, with that modification, proposed, I believe, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). But that is not a real analogy or parallel with this case at all. It is admitted on all hands that the proposal represented by this Amendment is one of first-rate importance, not only from our point of view—on that we are all one—but from the point of view of South Africa also. Once we are told, as we have been told in the plainest terms, that to insist upon this Amendment is to sacrifice the Bill—I do not say that that would produce irreparable disaster, but a disaster which must be repaired—then that becomes the real problem, and it ceases to be a question any longer whether or not the case of the natives is strong or weak. What answer is suggested? The first answer suggested by those who present the case, with great moderation, and with a real desire to serve the interests of all, is, "Yes; you must sacrifice this Bill in the interests of justice "; and the second answer is, "Yes; you must sacrifice this Bill in the interests of Empire." Take, first, the interests of justice. The hon. Member for Merthyr was good enough to refer to an observation which I made on second reading when I called attention to the fact that he and others who think strongly and follow his lead were, for the most part, Silent in 1906 when we took the step which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lyttelton) has pointed to as the decisive step, namely, that of conferring by our own Motion upon the Transvaal a Constitution of their own. The hon. Member pointed out that his silence then might, to a large extent, be explained and justified by the fact that the Treaty of Vereeniging left no alternative. I accent that most frankly. But may I point out that that confirms the position which many of us feel bound to take up at this moment? What is the provision of the Treaty of Vereeniging to which he referred? As the price of peace, a price which hon. Gentlemen sitting on those benches were most willing, and, in my judgment rightly willing, to pay, we agreed with the Dutch population in the Transvaal, who were then making, not an unconditional surrender, but a capitulation on terms, that there should be no attempt from us, from the Colonial Office, from this House of Commons, to impose a franchise for natives upon the Transvaal until after self-government. What does that mean? It means, as the hon. Member has seen, that we then and there agreed that the question whether there should be such a franchise in the Transvaal was a question for them and not for us. That is inevitably involved in the proposition that in 1906, or in 1902, a bargain was made. Therefore, when we are told that in the interests of justice we are obliged to take this stand now, I submit to the Committee that the year 1909 is not the time when we can repair that. When the devastation and havoc of the war was nearer to us than to day, we found—rightly found—not merely in the interests of the white people, but in the interests of the black people, that it was worth while to agree to these conditions for the sake of peace. We made our bargain, and it follows—in my judgment necessarily—that from that point forward, so far as that portion of the earth's surface is concerned, that those people who claimed to govern themselves in the Transvaal have now to decide this matter. It is said: "Oh, yes, the Transvaal is a wide area, but how can a distinction of that sort be relied upon if, in the interests of justice abstractly considered, we are obliged to sacrifice these people at this priceless moment?" What is the contention in the interests of Empire? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, put with great force—quite truly—to the Committee the fact that in this, and in every great and solemn determination there are interests to be considered outside geographical boundaries. For my own part I, and many other Members here who intend to support the Government, have the greatest misgiving and anxiety of any provision which appears to render even possible additional causes of native discontent in that part of the world. It is a most serious thing. Do not let it for a moment be supposed that any of us here who find it impossible to support this Amendment are wanting in our appreciation of the gravity of the situation thereby suggested. But I would beg hon. Members to consider that there are other interests which are going to be promoted by this Bill, and by this compromise. There is a happy agreement, I know, between us here in this country and in this House that the quarrel between Dutchmen and Britisher is over. So it is. This is the document that sets its seal upon it! Before I can bring myself to join those who support the Amendment, I ask them to say if they are willing to sacrifice the settlement? I am obliged to ask myself, "What does that settlement mean, what is involved in ripping it up, and in leaving open the possibilities of conflict which are more and more dangerous because they are so ill-defined?" The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition the other day spoke of this as a miracle. We may perhaps not take exactly the same view as to the probability of such being the result flowing from the fearless application of the principles which we all unite to accept here. But at any rate this is a most wonderful result for those who were lately at war. I can conceive that there can be no principle more safely applied in this matter than that when you give liberty to people you should give it utterly. Perhaps the Committee will allow me to put it in my own way. Every Englishman who goes to Canada sails up the St. Lawrence and climbs up to where Wolfe stood on the plateau outside Quebec, and surveying the scene of the culminating struggle, just as bitter, just as determined as the struggle before Ladysmith, cannot but ask himself—if he be serious, patriotic, and sensible—"How is it possible that elements so conflicting could ever have been reconciled?" He passes from the Plains of Abraham to Quebec, through the very gateway by which Montcalm, the French general, retreated mortally wounded, and inside the walls of that city finds the descendants of the combatants trading together, sharing a common life, speaking both languages, imbued with a common patriotism. He is surely a short-sighted man who asks himself how has this miracle been wrought, and simply answers, "A political formula." It was a far more difficult and arduous task than the repetition of a formula. The alchemy by which the diverse elements were fused was not merely by the formula of self-government, but by saying that the only wise thing to do was to trust the people utterly. The history of Canada, apart from that, was folly—the folly of giving the people not enough liberty. It will be folly if we, the people of this country, imagine that we can safeguard this interest or that when the real thing to do is once and for all to say, "You shall have liberty, and have it all." I would appeal to hon. Members in this House who felt keenly when the terrible struggle was going on—as many of us did—to remember now that British and Dutch are one, and that the same wise principle you applied in 1902 and in 1906 you must apply now. That is the only wise way in which to deal with Imperial interests.
Before dealing with the arguments the hon. and learned Gentleman has just addressed to the House, I must confess to the Committee that I rise with very mingled feelings. The position which one in my position finds himself is not at all an enviable one. The House has agreed upon a general principle. But if we could only suspend our Standing Orders, and forms, and if you, Sir, would allow us to pass a general Resolution which would enable us to express our opinion regarding this colour bar, judging by the speeches which have been delivered this afternoon, the House would come to an absolutely unanimous decision. I am sure it must have appealed to every Member of this House as it has appealed to me. Would it not be possible to allow the Committee to pass over this point after the speeches which have been delivered, and simply content ourselves by indicating to South Africa what our opinions are, not through a Division, but through these speeches which have been delivered? I can assure you and this Committee that we have not come to the decision which we have light-heartedly. Had it been possible we would have accepted that happy solution. It is absolutely impossible. If the Committee will allow me, I will endeavour to explain why. I want to make it perfectly clear to the Committee why the Amendment is drafted in its present form. I will not go over the ground which has already been covered. The first reason is that the Treaty of Vereeniging makes it absolutely impossible that we should have applied generally an Amendment to abolish the colour bar from the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony as well as from Cape Colony and Natal. We stand by that agreement. I am bound to say that I could not quite see what the point was in the very delightful cloud of words that the hon. and learned Member for Walthamstow addressed to the Committee on the point. The Amendment as it stands says to the Transvaal, "We do not desire to impose upon You any obligation which is not now imposed upon you." It makes it absolutely clear to the Transvaal and to the Orange River Colony that, this House, whatever its opinion may be on the general question, stands loyally and honourably by the Treaty which was given by this nation to the Transvaal and Orange River soldiers before they laid down their aims. There is absolutely no idea, no suggestion, of any attempt to undo one single provision of the Treaty to which this country put its name. I am bound also to say parenthetically upon the hon. and learned Gentleman's words that we agreed—I do not quite know how he made it an agreement—to them when we accepted its terms. I would remind him that there was no such thing as a Labour party in the House at that time. So far as our conduct in the country was concerned, we regretted most profoundly that that condition was put in. There has never been the least doubt about it.
What I said was that the Labour party was very honourably associated with the conclusion of peace.
Yes, but we have never said peace at any price. If the Transvaal—the old Republics—had insisted upon Chinese slavery as a condition under which peace was to be obtained, I doubt very much if it ought to have been accepted. I come to the next point, to the argument which has been addressed to the Committee most particularly by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has preceded me. He says:—
My reply is this: "We have not given it self-government, we have not given it a Constitution, and that there is no self-governing authority in South Africa," which is the provision of the Bill before us at the present time. The position today is this: that four independent States in South Africa have decided—and we welcome the decision—to unite. They have held a Convention. The Convention was held in private. We know absolutely nothing, except what has leaked out as a rumour, as to what took place behind those closed doors. They have produced a proposition to us. This Bill is not in the position of a Bill reserved for Royal Assent. This Bill is in the form of a proposition, an agreement come to between these independent self-governing States, who say, "We desire to establish a Constitution: do you, the Old Country, the Imperial authority, agree that that constitution shall be given to us upon those lines? Do you agree to set up self-government within our four borders—within the principles contained in this Bill?" Surely that is a totally different case to the one assumed by the hon. and learned Gentleman in order to build up his argument. I am bound to say that if this Bill were merely a Bill reserved for the Royal Assent, passed by a self-governing Colony, or Dominion, or Union; if it had been the subject of a general election, of a reference to the people; if it had been decided and agreed to by the ordinary representatives directly responsible to the people and the Colonies, then there would be a great deal to be said in favour of the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument. But in view of the present position of this Bill the argument is absolutely beside the point, has absolutely no bearing upon the decision that this Committee is asked to come to. Moreover, the hon. and learned Gentleman made a very eloquent reference to a visit he paid to Canada. He said:—"We have given united South Africa a Constitution; we have given it self-government; therefore we ought to accept the full responsibility of that Act ourselves."
No one knows better than the hon. and learned Member what preceded the granting of self-government to Canada, and no one knows better than he what would have happened if Lower Canada was allowed to be dealt with by Upper Canada, and if the Imperial authorities had not sent someone out to act as an impartial judge and to impose the political morality held in this country upon the contesting races in Canada. If we cared to elaborate that point, or to go into the details of what preceded Durham's visit or into the details of the Durham Report, and what came after the Durham Report, it would be an absolute parallel to the condition of things from which a united Canada emerged, and that which appeal to the Committee to establish in South Africa now. It is the greatest grief and sorrow to me to stand "here this afternoon and oppose personal friends of mine who occupy the position of political responsibility in South Africa, men who are here to-day with this Bill in their hands, men by whose side we stood in storm and in stress and not merely when the weather was fair. Hon. Members opposite undoubtedly have done the same; I never for a single moment suggested any reflection upon anyone else, and I am only explaining the reasons of the pain of our position. Well, there it is. I am convinced from what I know from these men, what we know of the opinion of South Africa, that this bar is meant to be final, that it is not to be put in for the purposes of tiding over a temporary emergency. I am absolutely convinced that the intention of this provision in this Bill is that never, so far as man can secure "never," will the native, the coloured man, sit in the Parliament of United South Africa. I would not lay so much emphasis and weight upon that as I do if? held the optimism of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover-square (Mr. Lyttelton). He referred to those magnificent orations of men like Mr. Booker Washington, with which, so far as knowledge of the political conditions are concerned, so far as statesmanlike sagacity is concerned, backed up by practical application of the principles in education, in self-government, everyone of us are familiar who know the position of the negro of the American States at the present time, and which could not be surpassed. We must have felt how profoundly true the right hon. Gentleman was in his reference to Mr. Booker Washington, or to men like his admirable colleague Professor Dubois, in his wonderful work for the negro in South America, for his education, for his social, his political, his industrial, his economic advancement, but there the right hon. Gentleman and I part company. I think he suggested that things were getting better, that the white people of the world not merely of America but all over the world where the races are mixed, are bearing a more liberal tribute and a more generous and a more gracious spirit to the marvellous worth of the coloured races, and to the men who are their leaders and their guides. If I could join the right hon. Gentleman in that view I should not feel it is not so much our bounden duty to carry this Amendment to a Division, but my belief is exactly the opposite direction. My belief is, explain it as we may—and this is not the place to try to do so—from personal knowledge and contact, and from being in places where these mixed races are, my belief, my melancholy belief is, that things are getting worse and not better, that the racial antipathy is becoming more and more marked. What we are asking the Government and this Committee to do is to do more than has been done to protect the rights of the natives in South Africa. There is one other point which I desire to come to. Like my hon. Friend opposite, I have no desire to shirk it. Are we or are we not prepared to sacrifice this Bill? There is no desire to sacrifice this Bill. Nobody has said the Bill will be sacrificed, but I put it much stronger than that. Does anybody who has ever sat down with the map of South Africa in front of them, more particularly the map of South Africa marking clearly its railways and geographical points of entrance and exit, does anybody who has sat down and given half an hour's study to what you may call the geographical foundation of politics believe that if this Bill was dropped to-day that the union of South Africa would not take place within a year? It is simply sheer and supreme folly for anyone who has undertaken that elementary study to suggest to this Committee that there is any danger of irreparable ruin, or of any great damage being done to the Union of South Africa, if we were to pass the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I would like, if I may say so, that argument might be met with argument, so far as I am concerned, to refer to the Australian problem. The hon. and learned Member for Walthamstow talked about distinction between what happened in the case of Australia and what is going to happen now. It is not a question of distinction. It is a question of what the two situations hold in common, and what they held in common was the definite, decisive and unqualified statement of the delegates from Australia on the one hand, and from South Africa on the other, that if their Bill was to be touched the Union would be in danger. That is the common ground upon which they stand. The distinction may be great, or it may be small outside that, but that is all we need concern ourselves about this afternoon. I cannot, however, see that the hon. and learned Member's facts were accurate. He told us it was a comparatively small thing to upset the decision of Australia with regard to Privy Council appeals. Is there any Member of the House who followed that controversy who will agree with that statement of the hon. and learned Member? Do not hon. Members who are concerned in that controversy remember those tremendous despatches and pamphlets that, for instance. Chief Justice Way addressed upon the subject supporting the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), who was mostly concerned? Do they remember the tremendous outpouring of Australian wrath upon the heads of right hon. Gentlemen who were then responsible to the Government of this country? Hon. Members who know the real mind of our Colonies know there is no more sacred spot in the liberty temple which they have erected, and which symbolises the rights of self-government, than this right regarding appeals to the Privy Council. Members have only to look to "The Liberty of the Subject," when that controversy was on to see—I say it with sincere respect—how very ludicrous is the suggestion that has been made that this was a minor matter. The position to me is unthinkable that this Bill should be lost. What really does it mean? There, are men in this country at the present time in charge of this Bill who are the Premiers of the Transvaal, the Orange River Colony, Natal, and Cape Colony. Does anyone mean to say for a single moment that if these men, whose services to their various communities have been unexampled, agree with this House that certain precautions should be taken such as we suggest, that these men could not carry their people with them and get them to follow them? Yes, they could; and judged by their declarations at the last election in some of the States, they could get their people to follow them gladly. I hold in my hand an extract from a leading article which I cut from the "South African News" of 21st July, 1909, which reached me the week before last. This paper, if there is any paper in the whole of South Africa, is the common organ of opinion of the political parties to which the gentlemen belong who are here upon this mission at the present time. It is the paper that held up their views, it is the paper that opposed the war, it is the paper whose editor was sent to prison because he opposed the law. This paper, the organ, if there is any in the country, of the majority of the peoples of the four Colonies, said:—"The secret of our success, our marvellous success, In Canada has been that we give Canada self-government."
There the implication is—and I want to emphasise this point, as I believe it is not a little significant—that the Amendments will have to be considered undoubtedly, and that the consideration will be undertaken in the most friendly and favourable frame of mind, and that it will take so-little time until the Bill is sent back to us that everything can be settled in due time for the 1st May, when I believe the Union is going to be consummated in a proper way. Now I should like finally to say that I am bound to give some reason for our belief that Amendments would be received without a great amount of unfriendliness by the Colonies. Take, for instance, the statement made by Mr. Walton, who moved a vote of thanks to Sir Percy Fitzpatrick at a meeting on 15th March, 1907. He said:—"Even if Amendments are introduced into the Bill by the Imperial Parliament there is no reason to anticipate that any of the Colonies will not accept them, and acceptance can easily be notified well before the end of the year."
Dr. Jameson, in an address delivered at Grahamstown on 3rd March, 1908, said:—"We have laid down one principle, and that is equal rights for all civilised men, and we cannot depart from that consideration."
Mr. Malan, one of the youngest and ablest and most influential of the Africander Bond, speaking in Cape Town on 17th January, 1908, said:—"There is, I find, an insuperable obstacle in the way of unification, and that is the question of the native franchise, and that is why I say we must go for federation, so that we may hold to our native policy till the neighbouring Colonies are sufficiently educated to agree to allow equal facilities to blacks and whites to rise in the scale of humanity.
Finally, and perhaps in a sense the most important of all, Mr. Merriman, the present Prime Minister of Cape Colony, speaking in the Cape Town City Hall, on 17th January, 1908, said:—"The South African Party is against drawing a colour line for political purposes. I say so irrespective of election times. It would be unwise to draw a colour line. It would not be practical to do so, and furthermore it would be unjust. I do not wish the colour line drawn in Cape Colony, and I would not like to see the colour line in a federated South Africa, and if it is necessary to wait five or ten years it will be better to do so."
In the face of this declaration is this Committee going to give any weight to the statement which has been made that if this Amendment is carried then this Bill will come to a sudden end? I do appeal to hon. Members in regard to this matter. This is not a South African question only, but it is a great Imperial question, and one which is probably going to have more to say in shaping the future of this Empire than any other single question which is before us now. No man who has gone abroad from one end of the Empire to the other, and has seen the people and the problems which are rising up that those people have got to face, can have come home with anything but a feeling of great depression with regard to the future of the native races within our Empire. I hope that future is going to be a future of peace. I hope we have heard the last of racial wars between blacks and whites, and I hope white men will have sufficient foresight to see that the Cape Colony example is the right example, the safe example, and the honourable example; and I appeal to the Committee by its vote this afternoon to declare that it stands by the Cape Colony experience."It is impossible to govern large masses of men unless we give them the same political rights under the peculiar circumstances of the country. I believe we have adopted in this country the right course. I believe the one thing we are all agreed on in this country is that we have adopted this course, and this course I could not, under any circumstances, retreat from."
There are several very important Amendments on the Paper, one of them as important as this, which we must presently discuss; and, therefore, I hope the Committee will shortly come to a decision on this matter without much delay. I, therefore, rise to answer the very eloquent speech which has just been delivered by my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). I am not going to go over the ground already traversed, except to say that the Prime Minister spoke with literal truth when he said that this was a compromise which upon a balance of actual advantage could be shown was favourable to the natives. In reply to the point raised by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Ellis Griffith) I may point out that the native is getting an actual concrete accretion to his voting power, namely, 20,000 native votes. They will have a voice in the destinies of South Africa. We do not say we will not have a colour bar, but only so much of one. I earnestly suggest that it would be well not to break up this compromise. Let me answer one point put by the hon. Member for Leicester before I come to the concrete question he asks. He says we ought to impose our political morality on South Africa as we did in Canada, and he has told us that there is a distinct going back in South Africa, as elsewhere, in the treatment of native problems by whites. I. vehemently repudiate that assertion on the part of South Africa, and I believe it to be wholly and absolutely untrue. The hon. Member for Leicester says he has lived in countries where there are blacks and whites.
I said I had been there.
So have I, and I have observed what has been going on. Besides speaking from my own observation, I will also give other proofs. I may say that I have seen the most striking and enormous advance in generosity and in the humane treatment of the natives in South Africa. I deny that in this respect we have a monopoly of morality in this House. I think those great statesmen in Cape Colony who have been pursuing this policy and who have accepted this Bill have as much claim to morality as any of us here. What justification is there for stating that the effect of the words "European descent" has been to create the general feeling which the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil supposes? What indications have we? We know that in Cape Colony during the last two or three years there has been a period of the greatest financial stress and very real suffering. Hundreds of Civil servants have been sent away, hundreds have suffered great hardship, the salaries of officials have been reduced from the Prime Minister downwards, and all round very real suffering has ensued. During that period every Department of the State has retrenched, but not one penny has been taken from the fund allocated to the natives for their education.
But what is the increase in the native taxation during that period?
The amount spent on education, as the hon. Member knows, is far larger in the part to which he has referred than in other parts of South Africa, and the amount of the grant has not been diminished by one farthing. The hon. Member for Leicester says he has not lived there, but has been there, but I will quote to the Committee the opinion of a man who has been in South Africa for 40 years:—
That is the opinion of Mr. Merriman, and I ask the Committee to accept that statement as a great and sensible advance in public opinion upon this question. I repudiate the assertion, which I believe to be quite groundless, that there has been any retrogression in the treatment of the natives, because there has been no retrogression. Then there is the question whether the acceptance of this Amendment will wreck the Bill. Suppose we do put these words into the clause, how are we going to enforce them on South Africa? I do not think this point has been apprehended by my hon. Friend opposite and by hon. Members "below the Gangway. Who is going to support us in South Africa if we accept these words? This Bill was agreed to not only by one political party in the State but by both. Upon this question the Oppositions and the Governments in the South African Colonies joined together in support of this compromise, the Cape being the only Parliament in which an Amendment was moved specifically raising this point. In that Parliament there were many men with moral sentiments regarding the natives just as good as our own, and the natives themselves were represented. In that Parliament a great number of members defended the native vote, but by a majority of 96 votes to 2 they endorsed the compromise."Generally, I think I may say that year by year there is a great and sensible advance in public opinion both as to the extreme gravity of the problem before as and as to the necessity for a liberal policy as the only reasonable chance of ensuring safety for the future."
That was the final vote.
It was on the third reading.
That does not in the least affect my argument. How are we going to get our views upheld if we adopt this Amendment, because we have nobody to support us? The Governments will be against us and so will the Oppositions, and we shall have nobody on our side in the whole of South Africa except those two excellent gentlemen who voted in the minority of two.
If they want the Bill they will pass it.
But you have no authority for imposing this upon them. If you want to disfranchise the natives or take away from them anything which they have got under this Bill, you have to get the two-thirds majority. If you wish to amend this Bill in this particular, by Clause 152 you can do it by a bare majority. Surely, South African statesmen would not have inserted this provision if they had determined that the Bill could not have been amended. I believe the Bill can be amended and will be amended by the South African Parliament. Now I come to the important point. Can we pass this Amendment and yet save the Bill? I understood the hon. Member for Leicester to say that so bitterly would he regret the loss of this Bill that he would hesitate to vote for this Amendment if he were convinced that the acceptance of it would involve the loss of this measure, and he quoted in support of that view the opinion of the editor of a South African newspaper. May I be permitted to read a letter sent to me on this very point by the chairman of the Delegation after he bad consulted the delegates on this point? This matter is of such importance that I will read all the letter. It is dated 17th August, 1909, and is addressed to me:—
"Dear Colonel Seely,
"After listening to the views expressed by many speakers in yesterday's Debate to the effect that the omission of the provision affecting natives would not endanger the passing of the South Africa Act, I thought it desirable to ascertain the views of my colleagues on the Delegation who are in London. They desire me to reiterate their opinions, with which you are doubtless already familiar, and which I may briefly summarise as follows:
"1 The Delegation has no power, express or implied, to accept any Amendment of the nature referred to which would destroy a compromise that was arrived at after prolonged discussion.
"2. Any Amendment affecting important principles would have to be remitted to the several Legislatures in several of which the acception of the alteration proposed would be more than doubtful.
"3. As you are aware, the Act was submitted to a referendum in Natal, and any alteration would have to undergo a similar ordeal. It is probable that in a matter affecting the very foundations of social relations in South Africa other Parliaments would insist on a similar course of procedure.
I think that is conclusive. My hon. Friend opposite asked if it was not possible this Amendment might be accepted. We have here the considered statement of the chairman of the delegates, after consulting all of them here, that it is quite impossible. It must be referred back to their Parliaments, and we have this considered verdict that its acceptance by the Parliaments is more than doubtful. He adds:—"4. Under the most favourable conditions great delay would ensue, and the accomplishment of union would he postponed for a very considerable time if not entirely ended."
I would say let justice be done even if the skies fall, providing the skies are going to fall on our heads; but they are not. It will not hurt us a bit if we pass this Amendment. We shall not suffer at all. But we shall not get our way in South Africa. We cannot do it. All that would happen would be an exacerbation of feeling against this country. The Cape will continue to control her own natives, the Transvaal will continue to control her own natives, the Orange Free State will continue to control her own natives, and Natal will continue to control her own natives, and the whole of the civilised races there as well. I thought we had agreed that Union would be an advantage to the great native races. I thought we were practically unanimous. If the letter I have read is true—and I do not see how it can be otherwise—and if we cannot possibly enforce our will and get Union with these words, then I would earnestly appeal to the House and to every man who hears me to look the facts in the face, and realise that we cannot get our way, that we have no power to get it, and to pass the Bill and trust to the people of South Africa, who have not failed us before, who have a generosity just as good as ours, and who I have little doubt will before long eliminate from the Bill on their own motion words to which they know we deeply demur, and which everyone here would be so glad to see eliminated."It is not necessary for me to enlarge on the feeling that would be aroused towards the natives in South Africa by such a development, nor how this would increase the difficulty of dealing with the great problem, a difficulty which weighs on the mind of everyone who is responsible for the government of South Africa."
I am in entire agreement with the hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover-square (Mr. Lyttelton) that this Debate is of fundamental importance. It goes to the vital issue in South Africa. Are we or are we not to let South Africa manage its own affairs? That is really the vital question. Are we going to make an attempt once more to deal with questions some 6,000 miles away? However good our intentions may be, we have not the detailed knowledge of affairs to ensure that our view will be either to the advancement of South Africa or ourselves. I agree theoretically with the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes) in his desire to get this matter through, but I disagree with him in the method he suggests. He desires, instead of relying on the powerful moral influence which we exercise throughout the Empire, to rely upon force, and to compel South Africa to accept our view. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out what a very wonderful performance it was to have brought about this Union. I do not think the difficulty has been fully appreciated in this country. You have four communities to deal with there. One of those communities is familiar with native representation, but three of them are quite unfamiliar with it, the problem having been wholly unconsidered by the voters in them. The matter is entirely new to' them, and naturally it is impossible for the delegates to go beyond the view and knowledge of their constituents. They were unable to accept a measure with this vital change to their Constitution at this particular time. After all, human energies are finite, and it is impossible to do everything at once. Surely the first step was to bring about the Union, and then to go further as opportunity offers. Whatever our view may be, there is no doubt that the Colonies, even if they make a mistake, are better able to deal with native questions than we are. We tried for many years to control native questions in our Colonies, and it has always ended in failure. We have carried on no less than seven great native wars, and we have never been able to maintain peace so long as we tried to control dim-cult native questions 6,000 miles away. So soon, however, as we have handed over the control of native questions to men on the spot we have immediately had peace. History is clear on that point, and, in face
Division No. 484.]
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Shackleton, David James|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Higham, John Sharp||Shipman, Dr. John O.|
|Branch, James||Hodge, John||Snowden, P.|
|Bright, J. A.||Holt, Richard Durning||Steadman, W. C.|
|Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire)||Horniman, Emslie John||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hudson, Walter||Summerbell, T.|
|Byles, William Pollard||Jenkins, J.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.)||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Thome, William (West Ham)|
|Crooks, William||Jowett, F. W.||Walsh, Stephen|
|Crosfield, A. H.||Kelley, George D.||Wardle, George J.|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lupton, Arnold||Watt, Henry A.|
|Gill, A. H.||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Glodinning, R. G.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Glover, Thomas||Macpherson, J. T.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Winfrey, R.|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Pointer, J.|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Barnes and Mr. C. Duncan.
|Harwood, George||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Hazleton, Richard||Seddon, J.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh)||Laidlaw, Robert|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.)||Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)|
|Armitage, R.||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Lambert, George|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Doughty, Sir George||Lambton, Hon. Frederick William|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lend.)||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Lamont, Norman|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Ellbank, Master of||Lehmann, R. C.|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Erskine, David C.||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Baring, Capt. Hon. G. (Winchester)||Evans, Sir S. T.||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David|
|Barnard, E. B.||Everett, R. Lacey||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dublin, S.)|
|Barran, Sir John Nicholson||Fell, Arthur||Lundon, Thomas|
|Beauchamp, E.||Ferens, T. R.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Fletcher, J. S.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Forster, Henry William||M'Callum, John M.|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Freeman-Thomas, Freeman||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)|
|Birreil, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||M'Micking, Major G.|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Gordon, J.||Maddison, Frederick|
|Brigg, John||Gretton, John||Mallett, Charles E.|
|Brodie, H. C.||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)||Guinness, Hon. R. (Haggerston)||Marnham, F. J.|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)|
|Bums, Rt. Hon. John||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Massie, J.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles||Harcourt, Rt Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Middlebrook, William|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Montgomery, H. G.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Haworth, Arthur A.||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Helmsley, Viscount||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Napier, T. B|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Cleland, J. W.||Hills, J. W.||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Clough, William||Hobart, Sir Robert||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Coates, Major E. F. (Lewisham)||Hooper, A. G.||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Partington, Oswald|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Hyde, Clarendon G.||Pease, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Saff. Wald.)|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Jackson, R. S.||Percy, Earl|
|Cox, Harold||Jardine, Sir J.||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Radford, G. H.|
|Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan)||Kekewich, Sir George||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Keswick, William||Rees, J. D.|
of shat, we should, I think, be ill-advised to attempt to force this on South Africa.
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
Question put accordingly, "That those words be there inserted."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 55; Noes, 155.
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Stanley, Hon. A. Lyulph (Cheshire)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Strachey, Sir Edward||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Rose, Sir Charles Day||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Russell, Rt. Hon. T. W.||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Rutherford, Watson (Liverpool)||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)||Williams, Sir Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Scarisbrick, Sir T. T. L.||Thomson, W. Mitchell (Lanark)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)||Tomkinson, James||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Sears, J. E.||Trevelyan, Charles Phillips||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Seely, Colonel||Tuke, Sir John Batty||Yexall, Sir James Henry|
|Simon, John Allsebrook||Verney, F. W.|
|Sloan, Thomas Henry||Walters, John Tudor|
TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Captain Norton and Mr. Fuller.
|Stanier, Beville||Waring, Walter|
The other Amendments have practically been disposed of by previous discussions.
Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
Is not the question raised by the Amendment as to the words "of European descent" admissible?
That has been settled by the Debate.
That Debate referred only to the words as applied to the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. We want to raise is as affecting the whole of the Colonies.
I understood that the discussion was carried on on the whole question of European descent—that the larger question covered the smaller.
May I point out the point in the discussion was whether the Orange Free State and the Transvaal should be exempted from the general rule. Now that that point has been decided, I propose to discuss the rule itself, because I want to remove the colour bar altogether.
The greater includes the less. You cannot exclude the whole without then excluding the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, and that point has already been decided.
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
Clauses 27 to 33 inclusive agreed to.
Clause 34—(Increase Of Number Of Members)
The number of members to be elected in each province, as provided in section thirty-three, shall be increased from time to time, as may be necessary in accordance with the following provisions:—
|For the Cape of Good Hope||167,546|
|For the Transvaal||106,493|
|For the Orange Free State||41,014|
moved, in Sub-section (i), to leave out the words "European male adults," and to insert instead thereof the word "voters."
My object is to get from the Under-Secretary, or from the legal advisers of the Government, some definition of the phrase "European male adults," as used in this connection. Does it mean persons of European descent? Would an American, for example, be a person of European descent? What is far more important, would a person born in South Africa be of European descent for this purpose? Then, again, the words are that it should be "European male adults," and if this Bill is to go through without Amendment or alteration it is quite conceivable the Privy Council may one day hold that persons born in South Africa are not qualified to become voters under this very Bill. I want enlightenment on this point. I also wish to enter a protest against membership of the Parliament being based upon European "male" adults. Surely, in this connection at least, the claims of the white woman in South Africa might have been considered. Surely, also, the coloured people who now have the franchise might have had their claims considered. This is one of the indications which, to my mind, go to prove that it is not intended that the coloured people of the Cape shall be allowed to continue to enjoy the franchise. "European male adults" based on membership of the different Parliaments, means that it becomes a superfluity to retain the coloured voters. Has attention been given to the possible interpretation of these words? Cannot the Government, without risking the Bill, take out the word "male" from the phrase, so as not to thrust the white women of South Africa into an association with the coloured community, which may be construed in a manner which cannot be considered otherwise than most insulting?
My hon. Friend has raised a very interesting point, which is new to me—the question whether Americans are included in the phrase, "of European descent." That point was touched upon in the House of Lords, and Lord Crewe said that unless they happened to be Red Indians they would be included. Then he raised the question whether a person born in South Africa might not be excluded by what, after all, is but a drafting error. I think we may trust to the South African authorities to see that they do not bring upon themselves the disaster of having no voters at all. With regard to the use of the word "male," I do not think we can here attempt to force upon South Africa a reform which we have not yet introduced into this country, and I may say, in all seriousness, it would be more difficult there than here, because in countries where polygamy obtains the question would have to be dealt with in a particular way. With regard to the phrase "European male adults" I think we must accept it in the form it now is, because we have agreed to a provision that the membership of Parliament shall be confined to persons of European descent, and that being so, we can hardly have as the basis a native population, especially in view of the fact that the natives are in effect, though not in law, excluded from the franchise. I hope the Amendment will not be pressed.
I do not propose to move two Amendments which stand in my name, but, instead I will ask a question. As I understand it there is no separate census of European adult males. The instructions given in the four Colonies for procuring the figures were not sufficiently-explicit, and, as a result, the numbers obtained from the census enumerators are more in the nature of guess-work than actual figures. It has already been decided in the Law Courts that "European whites," and other similar phrases, mean the same as "of European descent."
I think the intention of these words is fairly obvious. The framers of the measure have carefully refrained from giving any precise definition. They have used the term "of European descent." It is an equivalent phrase for "European population," and obviously the words "European male adults" are used in the same sense. It seems to me the intention is that the words shall be construed by the South African Courts. It is left to the courts to say what, in the particular case, signification should be given to the words of the Act, and whether or no the applicant is of European descent. The first observation that an English lawyer would make is that there is no attempt to say what the words of "European descent," "European male adult," or "European population" mean, and "whether the word "European" is satisfied by entirely European descent or European blood without any admixture of other blood, or whether the words would admit of the admixture of other blood. You may have extreme cases of either view. For instance, you may have a candidate very far removed from the original strain and with some trace of non-European blood. It might be urged upon one construction that he was open to disqualification, but such a construction as that would have the effect of excluding a great many persons who are now in South Africa treated as being persons of European descent, and I think, though I am not an authority on the subject, many of these have been included in the Census of the European population. There is another construction. You might have a person who is clearly and obviously one of the coloured races, but who has gained by some remote ancestor some trace of European blood.In such cases as those the courts are left to decide, and they will decide in accordance with the local signification of the words, "European descent" and the other words to which I am referring. In order that these extreme cases may be dealt with on their merits, the Bill refrains from anything like a precise definition, and the effect of that is that it is to be decided by the various South African Courts. There will be an appeal by means of the Appellate Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, and there is possibly, but I cannot say with certainty, an appeal to the King in Council, that is the Privy Council; but it is provided in Clause 106 of the Bill that that appeal can only be brought when the Privy Council grants special leave to appeal, and that leave is subject to some qualification. The clause reads: "There shall be no appeal from the Supreme Court of South Africa or from any division thereof to the King in Council; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to impair any right which the King in Council may be pleased to exercise, to grant special leave to appeal from the Appellate Division to the King in Council." Then it goes on to say: "Parliament," that is the South African Parliament, "may make laws limiting the matters in respect of which such special leave may be asked, but Bills containing any such limitation shall be reserved by the Governor-General, for the signification of His Majesty's pleasure." This clause shows essentially the elements of compromise where sometimes one side get in a phrase and sometimes the other side get in a phrase, which more or less qualifies the original one. It comes to this, however, this question must come before the local courts; there is an appeal to the highest of the South African Courts, and the Privy Council may then be asked for special leave to appeal to itself, and that may be granted, but the power of granting that leave is subject to any subsequent Bill that the South African Colony may pass, deciding on what subjects leave to appeal may be asked. And, last of all, if any Bill of that sort is brought in it is reserved for the signification of the King's pleasure. In the matter of Colonial Bills, the veto of the Crown is exercised upon the advice of responsible Ministers and of the House of Commons, and is exercised with sufficient frequency to make it a living veto, although it is in the case of the United Kingdom exercised with great rarity. In this case, of course, it is not a veto. That is not the right term, but the King may refuse his consent, and he will certainly, before he gives his consent, carefully consider the rights of a larger portion of his subjects in a matter of this kind. Therefore, that power of reservation is an important, substantial, and useful power. It is not for me to say how it may be exercised in future, but it is sufficient for me to point out that the power exists.
I do not know why the hon. and learned Attorney-General has told us these things on this Amendment. I do not know whether it is by way of reassurance, because I ventured to say, earlier in the evening, that the cited cases in South Africa are very much against the more liberal view and in favour of the stiffer construction of these words, and I am convinced that a friendly court here would be most certain to decide against them if they came before it. Take the case, which you might take, of a Royal personage, descended from the Russian poet Pushkin, who has negro blood in his veins, or the case of Alexandre Dumas in France. The judgments in South Africa would shut them out.
I had no idea of giving any assurances as to what the Privy Council might hold, but only arose in consequence of the hon. Member's question and because I was desirous of explaining how the case stood exactly on the question of appeal. I had no wider intention in my mind.
I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member in charge of the Bill (Colonel Seely) has any reason to believe that European women in Africa have any wish for the franchise, but the hon. Member opposite, having brought the matter forward, I would say that I should think that, primâ facie, an English woman looking after her husband's interests on an African farm had no time for electoral and emotional extravagances. But I will not pursue the matter, as I want to ask a question. As I understand the hon. Gentleman's Amendment, it seems to raise the whole point of the colour bar again. He wishes to substitute for "European male adults" the word "voters," which would include Africans and Indians; therefore, I submit, Mr. Chairman, at the outset, lest I should be out of order, that on this Amendment I should be in order in making some remarks on this subject, more particularly arising out of what the right hon. Baronet said with regard to the position of India in reference to this matter. I was not able to get in before the last Division, but I consider this to be a matter of very great importance. I differ from my right hon. Friend, I am sorry to say, and I propose to make a few remarks now.
That Amendment was proposed on Clause 26. We are now dealing with Clause 34, which is for a different purpose.
I should like to have it made clear whether the word "European" in this case includes Ameri- can. If it does the Americans will not like it at all.
My own view would be that the South African Courts would undoubtedly hold that "European" includes American.
The Americans will not like it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved, in Subsection (£), after the word "adults" ["European male adults in the Union"], to insert the words "and other British subjects qualified to vote in the election of members under this Act."
This raises a very simple point, and it proposes to alter the basis of the franchise, and to bring into the quota as between the four Colonies inter se the coloured population of Cape Colony and Natal, who now have votes. I really see no reason at all why these coloured voters should not be reckoned in this process of quota, and why the apportionment should be arrived at by altogether excluding them from the calculation. There are four Colonies. In two, the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, there are no native or coloured voters, but in the other two there are native and coloured voters, and I submit it is only fair and reasonable that this proportion of native and coloured voters should be taken into account in making this quota. To exclude them from this apportionment is practically to say, "You are good enough to be voters in Cape Colony, but you are not good enough to be citizens in South Africa." I think that is a stigma upon the 22,000 natives in Cape Colony, and these words should be added in order to show that, as far as they are concerned, they have been recognised as equal to European voters in Cape Colony. Why should they be disqualified under the Bill?
My hon. Friend raises this point in very moderate, but very cogent language. Of course, it is really the same question over again. We have it on the best authority that on the whole the Boers treat the natives well, but they do not regard them as their political equal, any more than we do in some parts of the world. They would be the first to admit that he should be so reckoned in years to come, when he has advanced sufficiently high in the scale of civilisation, but they do not admit it now. All the representatives of the Colonies agree on the method of apportioning the seats, and I am sure we cannot go back on that without obviously altering the whole scheme of the Bill. I am sorry I cannot see my way to accept the Amendment.
I think the argument we have heard is entirely inadequate. The coloured man has already sufficiently advanced in the scale of civilisation to the number of 22,000. They are already voters, and you are proposing to disfranchise them.
We are not proposing to disfranchise them.
But you ignore them entirely. They are not counted. Every man's individuality is absolutely ignored under the Act. He counts for nothing at all, and he gets no special representation. The representation is supposed to be on a numerical basis, but it is a numerical basis which is purchased at the price of saying these men are unworthy to be counted as citizens of this Empire. It is the same case over again in a different department, and it now calls for a new protest under new circumstances.
I think there is a great deal in this Amendment which is worthy of very serious consideration. It is a strong argument in favour of disfranchising natives, that if there are a great number of natives who are not counted for the purpose of apportioning the representation it lessens the powers of the European voters. The Europeans having got their relative power reduced, at present, say, by one-tenth, will have it reduced perhaps in a few years by one-fourth, and later on by one-half, because these voters will come in not counted, and therefore we, as whites, have comparatively little power compared with the white man in another province. There is another point of view. Suppose, for the sake of argument, it should be decided to give women the vote. If the Amendment is carried the women will be counted. It is a great hardship upon married people in Cape Colony that they who are prominent citizens, who vote not merely for themselves, but for their wives and children, as representative voters count for no more than birds of passage. It is a very serious matter indeed. It must be admitted now that this Bill has to be altered. If the Bill can be altered in one thing we have broken down the barrier of the unalterability of the Bill. If it can be altered so as to turn "European" into "European descent" it can be altered in the way suggested by the hon. Member (Mr. Ellis Griffith). I trust we have heard the last of the statement from the Government Benches that the Bill cannot be altered, because practically it is an admission that it has to be altered.
I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to one point. During the recent discussion a very great deal was made of the fact that those people who at present enjoy the franchise in Natal were having their influence widened by, and through, the Union. It seems obvious to me that these people are not going to be counted, and if the Amendment is not going to be accepted these coloured people cannot be reckoned to have full citizenship. Therefore, if that is so, it seems to me, on the face of it, that the argument used with so much force and eloquence by the Prime Minister and by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies that the influence of the coloured people in Natal was going to be widened because of the Union is an argument that falls entirely to the ground. I think more is being taken away from these people than is being given to them, and that there is a good and strong case, even on the speeches made by the Prime Minister and the Under-Secretary, for this Amendment.
I confess I cannot understand why this Amendment should not be accepted by the Government. At the same time, I cannot suppose that my hon. Friend will go to a Division on the matter, keeping in view the general difficulty which has been placed before us, namely, that the adoption of such an Amendment as this would tend to wreck the Bill. Personally I am not going to do anything in that direction, although I am not prepared to admit that the Colonial Office is at all infallible. When we remember the position of the Colonial Office in 1398, which led us into all our difficulties in South Africa, I hope no one will ask us to put too much faith in the Colonial Office or any other Office.
I must ask the hon. Member to speak to the Amendment.
I do not want to do anything to wreck the Bill. The native question must be settled, I suppose, by somebody. I do not believe that the provision we are now discussing is one which can never be altered.
The hon. Member is not speaking to the Amendment. He is just repeating what he has already said.
I think if this cannot be put in to-night there is no reason why it should not be put in at some other time.
Can the Attorney-General assure us that all who have votes now among the natives of Africa will retain those votes under the new Constitution?
I would point out to the hon. Member that Section (2) of Clause 35 says: "No person who at the passing of any such law"—that is, supposing that a law were passed dealing with this qualification—"is registered as a voter in any province shall be removed from the register by reason only of any disqualification based on race or colour."
I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to the fact that the quota for the Cape of Good Hope is 167,546, that is to say, 13,000 less than the actual voters on the register. Of course, all the male adults in Cape Colony are not voters. Still, in deference to the wish of my hon. Friend I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
There are I no other Amendments in order, and therefore I put the Question, "That the Clause; stand part of the Bill."
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 35—(Qualifications Of Voters)
(1) Parliament may by law prescribe the qualifications which shall be necessary to entitle persons to vote at the election of members of the House of Assembly, but no such law shall disqualify any person in the province of the Cape of Good Hope who under the laws existing in the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope at the establishment of the Union is or may become capable of being registered as a voter from being so registered in the province of the Cape of Good Hope by reason of his race or colour only, unless the Bill be passed by both Houses of Parliament sitting to- gether and at the third reading be agreed to by not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of both Houses. A Bill so passed at such joint sitting shall be taken to have been duly pased by both Houses of Parliament.
(2) No person who at the passing of any such law is registered as a voter in any province shall be removed from the register by reason only of any disqualification based on race or colour.
I beg to move, after the word "persons" ["to entitle persons to vote at the election of members of the House of Assembly"], to insert the words "either male or female." Fortunately it will not be necessary for me to detain the Committee more than a minute in stating the object of this Amendment. I have put it down in order to ascertain whether, under the provisions of this clause, the Union Parliament will have power to make alterations in the basis of the franchise in future? Will they be able by an ordinary majority vote to extend the franchise to women? I raise this question because I am not quite certain that in law, and especially franchise law, the word "persons" includes women. So far as I understand the meaning of that word in English franchise law, women are not included, and I wonder whether the word has the same meaning in this measure. I should like to have an assurance from the Attorney-General that at any time the Union Parliament would be able to extend the francise to women by an ordinary majority vote.
I think the construction of the word "persons" in Clause 35 would include males or females. The female suffrage might be granted by a local Parliament forthwith. Clause 152 provides that "Parliament may by law repeal or alter any of the provisions of this Act," subject to certain restrictions and reservations with regard to Section 35, with which we are now dealing.
There is a clause in the Bill which provides that certain things shall not be done except by a majority of two-thirds. May I ask whether that would apply in the case of a Bill to give female suffrage?
The provision to which the hon. Member refers does not apply in such a case.
I take it, on the statement of the Attorney-General, that the Union Parliament will have at any time, under the powers conferred by this Act, the right to extend the franchise to women by a majority vote. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in Section (1), after the word "Hope" ["any person in the province of the Cape of Good Hope "], to insert the words "or the Province of Natal." I think the House is entitled to some explanation of the necessity for the Amendment which I am now moving. Clause 35 stipulates that before the franchise can be taken away from the coloured voters in the Cape of Good Hope a two-thirds majority must be obtained. In Natal there is also a native right to the franchise, and though it has been considerably nullified by legislation it still exists, and somewhere about 1,000 persons, native and coloured, are actually qualified now in Natal under this franchise. It will be seen from the clause that while the native in the Cape of Good Hope requires a two-thirds majority to be obtained against him in the new Parliament before he can be deprived of a vote, a simple majority is sufficient to take away the vote from the native in Natal. In both these cases the natives enjoy the franchise, not through anything done by the local bodies, but as a result of regulation issued by the Crown, which conferred equal political and civil rights upon natives. The proclamation of the Governor of Natal in 1843, in granting the Constitution, declared "That there shall not Ids in the eyes of the law any distinction whatever of colour, origin, livelihood, or creed, but the protection of the law in letter and in substance shall be extended impartially to all." That was the Imperial attitude towards the people in Natal in 1843 when the Constitution was granted. The point I want to raise is a point of substance as to why the special protection is not to be afforded for the native voter in Natal. The two men stand on terms of absolute equality in the eye of the Constitution. Both obtained the right under like circumstances and conditions, and if any distinction is drawn at all as between the two Colonies there is more need to give effective protection to the native in Natal than there is in Cape Colony. The Bill is drafted so that the native in Natal can be deprived of his vote by a simple majority in the Union Parliament. The object of my Amendment is to extend the protection of the two-thirds majority to the native of Natal, the same as the Bill provides is to be given to the native of Cape Colony.
I hope my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment, because I do not really believe it is one of great practical importance, for this reason: I presume there was no two-thirds protection put in here because the number of voters in Natal is so very small. Speaking from recollection, there were either two or six natives and about 150 coloured people who had the franchise. There are something like 200 out of the whole population. The advantage, from the point of view of the balance of power, of taking away these votes is clearly negligible, and the difficulty of doing it would be intense. To reverse a law giving franchise to all the race is a most difficult thing to do. Therefore, I think that such a thing could never by any possibility arise. Of course, it might be asked: Suppose in years to come they were to relax the franchise in Natal so as to let all the natives in? But if they were to do that they would do it in pursuance of a policy of extension of franchise to the natives, and, ex hypothesi, they would not want to take it away. Of course, my hon. Friend knows that under Clause 36 existing rights cannot be made away with except by an Amendment of the Constitution, and, therefore, I do not think the point is of any very great importance.
I sympathise very much with this Amendment, because I think that the native franchise ought to be safeguarded. We talk a great deal about the colour bar to the right of entrance by the native into the Union Parliament, but it strikes me as a really more important point that, except in Cape Colony, really there is no representation for the native at all in South Africa. They have had it for 50 years in Cape Colony, and, by universal consent, it has worked admirably.
They have had it in Natal also.
They have had it nominally, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not know whether there were six or two native voters. I have here the most admirable and interesting speech delivered by Lord Selborne in February last before the congregation of the University of the Cape of Good Hope. In that he says:—
I do think those are words of wisdom and common sense. It is absolutely impossible for white men to govern natives wisely unless the natives have some measure of representation. I would not argue for, say, equality of representation for the natives. We know that in the Orange Free State and in the Transvaal they have man's suffrage, and it would be absurd to suggest that the natives should have manhood suffrage. We see perfect equality working well in Cape Colony. We come to Natal. I might in that connection remind the Committee that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under-Secretary himself said on 13th May in this House that "what His Majesty's Government are committed to is in any solution of the South African question some special representation must be found for the natives in order to safeguard their rights, and with that I am glad to think all people in South Africa are now practically agreed." There is very little representation at all at present; there is no real representation in Natal. It is only in Cape Colony that it exists. Now it is wanted to be safeguarded in Natal; and that native representation is greatly wanted in Natal I think has been proved by this most interesting report, with which hon. Members are so familiar, of the Native Affairs Commission in Natal, to one sentence of which I do not think sufficient justice has been done, and I trust that the House will pardon me for reading it. This is from the Report of the Native Affairs Commission, 1908:"I am not one of those who say that the natives require no system of representation whatever. Far from it, because I do not believe in the possibility of the white men, however good their intentions, being able to rule the natives wisely unless the natives have an opportunity of being heard and expressing their views on what concerns them most."
That seems to me a flash of humour. They are not to have fire-water, firearms, and the franchise as being dangerous things for the natives. We have heard a great deal about the female franchise of late, but the idea of giving the natives females in lieu of the franchise is most comic and peculiar. Speaking quite plainly, the whole Report of this Native Affairs Commission does show that the rights of natives in Natal need to be more safeguarded. I will only make one further quotation from the Report, which says, on page 21:—"For the information of those persons who are apt to revile the people in this Colony for a supposed desire to deny the natives the common rights of mankind, the following particulars may be noted in passing regarding their position or standing in the State. Legal status may be somewhat difficult of definition, but in the case of the natives the civil rights which they enjoy which had been conferred by law compare very favourably with those of Europeans. For instance, Europeans can only sue or be sued in the Colonial Courts, while the natives sued both his own courts and the Colonial are open. He can equally with others possess moveable and immoveable property, and if for his own good he is restricted in the use of liquor, firearms and franchise, he enjoys a much wider connubial experience than the Europeans."
At any rate, this shows that the majority of the Commission were of opinion that the natives ought to have some form of representation. We now find that by a bare majority they can take away that right of representation. I was one of those who during the war was called a Pro-Boer. I entirely sympathised with Lord Morley (then Mr. John Morley) when he characterised that war as one of "uncompensated mischief and irreparable wrong." We are doing what we can to compensate that mischief and repair that wrong. I deplore certain statements made by the leaders of the Dutch party—with whom we so fully sympathise—in regard to this native franchise. We must not forget that in this country and in this House we have immense responsibilities for the natives which, it seems to me, we are now shuffling off our shoulders, although in any court of honour or of justice it would be held that we could not free ourselves from them."The majority of the Commission contended that the exempted natives should be permitted individually to qualify for the Parliamentary franchise by means of education and the possession of landed property or income, and, by a system of registration based upon compliance with certain tests, have their names entered upon a special electoral roll, applicable to the whole Colony."
I regret the reference which the hon. Member made to the late war. After all, we are a long way removed from the pains and difficulties of that time, and I think if he visits South Africa again he will find that those who were most bitter against us as a race now realise that the war was inevitable. ["No."] I was led to make this remark on account of the statement made by the hon. Gentleman. I will not pursue it. The Committee understands perfectly well that I do not wish to import anything controversial into this Debate. The hon. Gentleman on my left (Mr. Keir Hardie) and other Members feel very strongly that the vote may possibly be taken away from the natives of both Cape Colony and Natal—in the case of the Cape by a two-thirds majority, and in the case of Natal by a bare majority. I agree with the Under-Secretary, who said that the evidence of history shows that the franchise once given is never taken away. We have an example of that in the United States, and if you were to poll the United States to-morrow ninety-nine one-hundredths would not take away the franchise which has been given.
The Amendment before the Committee proposes to extend to the Province of Natal the same benefits which Clause 35 confers upon the Province of the Cape of Good Hope in preventing disqualification.
I was using Cape Colony as an illustration. Personally, I have great sympathy with the arguments used by hon. Members, but I do not think there is the slightest possibility of the vote being taken away from Natal natives. On the contrary, I hope and believe that the franchise which has been given will be extended. The Leader of the Opposition on Monday night said that we could not solve this problem in this House by imposing upon the people of South Africa, or any portion of the people of South Africa, that which they do not desire to have at this moment. That I believe is the point. I think there is a constantly developing feeling in South Africa generally in regard to giving the natives increased advantages, not only politically, but educationally, and in every other way. This Constitution is a compromise. That compromise was arrived at amidst difficulties which we cannot understand, unless we have lived there or have known intimately the life of the people in South Africa. The difficulties are enormous. Natal, I believe, will be influenced by the progressive policy of the Cape. The Cape is essentially progressive, and there is seen there the successful application of the principle of local government. There are native district councils, where the native taxes himself and votes as much as £25,000 for educational purposes. Does anyone suppose that, with 51 members representing it, the most powerful and progressive portion of South Africa, with the most influence at the present time, naturally, by virtue of its position, in the new Parliament will not have enormous influence, because of the very success of its policy in the past? I think I am in order when I say that the fact of the Cape representation will produce a more forward policy in regard to Natal. I think I am in order in using that as an illustration.
The discussion must not be extended beyond the limits of the Amendment.
I do not in the least oppose your ruling, Sir. I thought I was justified in saying that what the hon. Member desires will eventually be accomplished by extending the advantages which may be given to Natal, and, ultimately, I believe, by the advantages given also to the Transvaal and to the Orange River Colony.
I ask why this protection was given to the native in the Cape, who I agree is fairly strong and able to protect himself, and has been refused in Natal where he is weak. Can the Attorney-General explain why this protection is given to a two-thirds majority in the Cape, and withheld in Natal. Is it because the voters in Natal are mostly Indian gentlemen that it is proposed to-take away the franchise from them without any special protection. The point is one of some substance, and we ought to know why the distinction is made.
I do not think it is very difficult to answer. In the case of the Cape the number of coloured voters forms an appreciable and important and substantial element, as compared with Natal. No doubt they are numerous enough to have a distinct effect on the policy of the Cape Parliament. In the case of Natal, a totally different state of things prevails. No party in South Africa would trouble about a franchise which resulted only in putting a very, very small number of persons on the register. Therefore Natal apparently does not desire this franchise should be protected, as nobody would desire it should be attacked. The fact is that it is left alone, and I do not suppose there is the slightest possibility anyone will take action against it. In the case of the Cape, if unfortunately any political party or body of men should set themselves to get rid of the coloured men, this is a protection.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved, in Section (1), to leave out from the word "colour" ["of his race colour"] to the end of the Clause.
This Amendment is of very great substance and, if I may say so, of very great importance, because, taken in conjunction with Clause 64, it gives the power of reservation of Royal Assent to Bills. Clause 64 provides "All Bills repealing or amending this section or any of the provisions. … under the heading' House of Assembly' and all Bills abolishing provincial councils. … shall be so reserved." It is rather a melancholy sight, only one Member sitting on the Conservative Benches, and still more melancholy that he represents Gravesend. As I understand, the clause as it now stands it empowers the Union Parliament, without any reservation, to limit the future electorate, that is, to discriminate between the coloured voters. They cannot affect those already on the register without being subject to reservation. Now, if these words are left out, there is no measure of discrimination which they can pass which is not immediately subject to reservation by the Crown. I submit that is a very important alteration. As I understand it, the future electorate under this clause as it now stands can be limited without any reservation. My object in moving this Amendment is to make it clear that if in future there is any discrimination by the Union Parliament to effect the colour bar that such an attempt at legislation would be subject to reservation and subject to Imperial control, I beg to move.
I listened with some surprise to my hon. and learned Friend. The effect of his Amendment would be to cut out the most useful safeguard, one of which I think the whole House approved, against the disqualification of the coloured voter. Clause 35 deals not with the existing voter, but with coloured persons who may become voters under the existing Cape franchise. Section (2) of Clause 35 deals with existing voters. My hon. Friend proposes to omit from Section (1), and entirely remove those words which require any measure affecting the qualification of coloured voters to be passed by both Houses of Parliament sitting together, and with not less than two-thirds of the total members. He would really put those voters at the mercy of a majority of the Union Parliament. That clause which above all is intended to safeguard the position of the coloured voter, would now by the action of my hon. and learned Friend, who is himself a most sincere and able supporter of the coloured voter, be destroyed. The reservation we always have, and it does not require any special enactment with regard to this in regard to Clause 35. Really the Executive Government here can always by instructions to the Governor-General ensure any particular measure or clause of a measure would be reserved.
The learned Attorney-General has been exceedingly plausible. He has taken certain words, and, if I may say so with great respect, with a vast amount of innocence, has told us to take this clause upon its face value, and that upon its face value it is a guarantee that the Union Parliament shall not be able to delete from its registers the names of future coloured voters in Cape Colony. That is all very well; but that is not the intention of the clause, nor of the proviso to which my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Ellis Griffith) objects. So far as I am concerned, I should feel that there is much more security in an Act of the Union Parliament passed for this purpose just in the ordinary way. I will tell the Committee why. The two-thirds majority is no safeguard at all. If the Attorney-General will go into the figures and distribution of the representation, he will see that the two-thirds majority simply means that if nine votes from the representatives of Cape Colony can be detached, the assumption being that the representatives of the other Colonies will vote for disfranchisement, the whole thing is done. It is no good, for the purpose of being polite and nice, to shut our eyes to the facts and feeling in South Africa and to follow in the footsteps of the Under-Secretary. We know that, in the opinion of three of the provinces, the coloured man should have no vote at all. In two of the provinces he has no vote now, not by any accident, but upon a principle which the typical citizen of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony holds to be as sacred, as rational, and as just as anything I hold to be sacred, rational, or just. We may put it this way: that it is part and parcel of his religious conviction that there is a gulf fixed between himself and the native which must be expressed in political inequality, and that it is essential to the expression of that political inequality that the native should have no vote at all. That is in respect to two provinces. As regards Natal, perhaps the less said the better. I suppose they would be as unanimous in Natal in regard to the political rights of the native as we were in regard to the position that we have just been discussing. Therefore the onus of maintaining the political rights of the coloured man in Cape Colony will lie on the Cape Colony representatives, and this magnificent safeguard, when interpreted in actual fact, is simply a device for enabling a majority in the State affected to be over-ridden by a majority of outsiders. Still, literally, the Attorney-General is right. It is a two-thirds majority.Then we come to another point. The alternatives are these: A Bill passed by a bare majority, reserved for the Royal Assent, and a Bill passed by a two-thirds majority, reserved for the Royal Assent. If the two-thirds majority was really substantially different from a bare majority I am not at all sure that I should not consider that this safeguard was a good safeguard; but as it really means that the province where the strongest opinion and the largest vote can be had in favour of the native franchise is to be put in such a position that a minority of its representatives are to decide the future position of its registers, I say that it is no safeguard at all. From our point of view what is the difference? Supposing there came over to this country a Bill passed by a bare majority, taking away from Cape Colony citizens rights which have been recognised for years and years—rights which have not only been recognised, but have been valued by the natives, and the value and wisdom of which are admitted by practically 90 per cent, of the Cape Colony people to-day—should we not be in an infinitely stronger position to withhold the Royal Assent from such a Bill than we should be in withholding it from a Bill passed under this so-called safeguard of a two-thirds majority? In actual working this clause, first of all, is an invitation to take from the natives of Cape Colony political privileges which they now enjoy; secondly, under guise of being a safeguard, it is, as a matter of fact, an easy method of taking away those rights; and, thirdly, it really puts this country in a much more awkward position in making up its mind to disallow a Bill than would be the case with a Bill passed by a bare majority in the ordinary way. The simple fact that you are establishing special machinery to do a special piece of work means that when that special piece of work is done you are less entitled than you would be under ordinary circumstances to disallow that particular piece of work. Therefore, when one really understands the position of the Colonies, and knows what the intention of this provision is, the whole thing does not take the value which it bears on the face of it, but has the value which I have attempted to describe to the Committee. If there is the least doubt about that, and if the Attorney-General is really as innocent as his speech would seem to indicate, perhaps I may read the opinion of some of those who attended the Convention, and at whose instigation the so-called safeguard was included in the Bill. General Botha, speaking at Pretoria, on 4th February, said:—
That is a fair indication of what General Botha has in mind. I do not blame him for it. It is part and parcel of the opinion which he holds, which his fellow-countrymen hold, which we all know they hold, and to which we expect they will do their best to give political effect. General Smuts said:—"There is not a matter upon which I have stronger feeling than this. The native franchise was not a matter which the people of Cape Colony laid clown in the Constitution; it was given to the meat the time they received responsible Government; therefore under the circumstances the only possible course for us to follow was followed in our draft constitution—that was, to create machinery which would make it possible for the people of South Africa to solve this problem."
I quite agree."On the first occasion it can be swept away (that is, the safeguard). It was found necessary that there should be some check, but it was not a powerful check; perhaps it was no check at all."
As a matter of fact it was never meant to be. These are other opinions. I quote them, not to put them on the same level as the two opinions, but as expressing the opinions of the ordinary man in the street—the man who honestly expresses what is the prevalent feeling of his fellow-countrymen. The first says:—"it had been put there. But he did not think it meant to be."
That is the safeguard."So long as they did not turn traitor to their skin they would never allow a coloured man to have a vote in this country. The Constitution would give them power."
That is the safeguard that the hon. Gentleman has been telling us is such an admirable system to keep the Cape Colony coloured voter upon the register for ever. Now, the whole point rests upon the position I took up on a previous Amendment, whether we have got any guarantee by the events which are happening in South Africa or elsewhere that the white races are recognising more fully or more generously than they have done before their proper obligations to the coloured races. I am bound to say that I believe, in spite of the per-fervid oration of the Under-Secretary, who stood up in such an unnecessarily manful way against those who had never said a word against the political morality of the leaders of South African opinion, and who simply made the reflection, which everybody knows is true, that where two streams of civilisation mix neither stream is so pure as if separate from each other; and where you have a white civilisation mixed up with a black civilisation you have to adopt a lower method of social—not individual—morality in order to effect what my hon. Friend the Member for Galway expressed in a previous speech—namely, to secure the independent existence—the pure existence, according to some theories—of the white race. The very fact that these provisions are put into the Bill shows some haunting idea in the minds of the very best friends of the natives in South Africa that something of the kind that I have been foreshadowing is going to happen. It was exceedingly suggestive that when the Under-Secretary quoted the opinions of a man who had been 40 years in South Africa, to show that his feelings for the coloured people were generous, and thus the two races were coming closely together—I say that it was most suggestive that that 40 years' resident was the Premier of Cape Colony, one who was spasmodically interested in the operation of this franchise that is going to be taken away under this Bill. The franchise is not going to be granted to any new qualified coloured people if a two-thirds majority of the united House has decided so: the franchise is going to remain so long as the existing Provincial Council, as it is now called, is concerned, after the power that makes the Provincial Council a Legislature is taken away from it. What we find is this: the Cape Colony Parliament is to be no longer a Parliament, but a County Council. Its financial powers are going to be the financial powers of an English county council. The powers of administration are, strictly speaking, powers of administration, and not powers of legislation. Whatever it desires of legislation it has got to present a petition for to the Parliament of United South Africa. Then the Under-Secretary tells us that the position of the voter in Cape Colony is not going to be deteriorated, and his powers are not going to be taken away. The fact of the matter is that the argument I am making is a perfectly sound argument. It is perfectly well understood by everybody in South Africa. Everybody who has expressed an opinion and defended their action, everybody concerned in depriving the coloured voter of his privilege, has stated perfectly honestly, perfectly candidly and clearly, that this clause is meant not to be a safeguard, but to be a method of depriving the coloured voter of his privileges! And as a proof of his opposite contention the Under-Secretary chooses to put up as evidence a man whose only experience in South Africa has been Cape Colony. But let me quote one who has also been in South Africa, and knows it even better than Mr. Merriman, and knows the tendency between the two races much better than Mr. Merriman; whose experience has been wider, and whose insight is equal. I refer to Sir Harry Johnson. He, referring to this clause, together with the clause that we debated earlier, says:—"And he declared when once they had diddled the British Government to give them this power, by jove, they should use it!"
Sir Harry Johnson knows Africa perfectly well."The mere suggestion of it is a backward step in the ethics of the British Empire."
He knows Central Africa; I think not the Cape.
Nominally the argument we are using refers to South Africa. Nevertheless, it raises the Imperial issue. This latter argument has been made so often that I did not desire to trouble the Committee with a repetition of it. The argument I used was the tendency between the two races which is undoubtedly affecting South Africa, amongst other places, but Cape Colony least of all on account of the fact, that the native there has received a substantial measure of political recognition. Why I am opposing this, and why I am going to support the Amendment, is that the effect of this so-called guarantee, this apparent safeguard, is this, that the franchise is really going to be taken away from the Cape Colony native in such a way as to make it absolutely impossible for us here, when the time comes, to disallow the Bill. I would just like to hear the Under-Secretary then. I hope he will still be Under-Secretary for the Colonies, unless his merits have given him a higher position. But for the sake of the amusement that I, at any rate, shall have when the time comes, I should hope that my hon. Friend will be Under-Secretary, and is opposing the Resolution which we will put down to disallow the Bill for the disfranchisement of the Cape Colony natives. I know what he will say. He will speak in most eloquent and impassioned language, telling us about self-government, telling us—as he can do so well, and with bated breath—that "we must remember that this is not merely a Bill that has been passed by a bare majority in the United Parliaments; this is a Bill which was the subject of agitation; that both Houses had met before it was considered, and before it was settled; and in both Houses a two-thirds majority had actually to be found, yet hon. Members below the Gangway (he will say) have so little respect for a self-governing Empire that they will actually say that a Bill passed under such circumstances should be disallowed by His Majesty." That is an accurate forecast of his speech. I feel perfectly certain, when the time comes, and when he has sat down, that all his followers and his friends will agree that we were right in principle, but were wrong in practice. Although they will deplore taking away the franchise, they will feel that it is being taken away because it was passed by a two-thirds majority and not by a bare majority; by the two Houses sitting as one, and not by one House sitting separately from the other House.
Something in the nature of a personal appeal has been made to me by the hon. Member who has just sat down. First of all, let me meet the point of the assumption that all the delegates and all the Members of the Union Parliament and the representatives of the Cape Parliament will be opposed to the native franchise. I think it so unlikely that it cannot be seriously contended. I have been looking since Monday into the history of such matters, and I find there is no precedent for the disfranchisement of a whole race of persons. I do not think it could be done, and I would strongly demur from any suggestion that this thing should happen. I do not think it is a fair statement of the case, and there certainly is nothing in this Bill to disfranchise a whole race. The only disqualification in this Bill is this disqualification of certain persons to sit in the Union Parliament. There is no disqualification of a whole race—that would be a thing quite apart from anything contemplated here. I would in broad terms appeal to the Committee, in discussing these things, not to lose sight of the fact that, taking the Bill as a whole—and it is a Bill of 152 clauses—that it is a high measure, showing a fine appreciation of the rights of the natives and showing that its promoters have not lost sight of the rights of the natives or of the interests of the natives to some share, not so much in political power, but to some share in the land they live in. It breathes throughout the whole of the clauses a spirit of conciliation and therefore I would urge upon the Committee that, although the Bill may have points to which exception may be taken, still it is a great measure, and we should not take upon ourselves to say that this great measure is designed by mean persons seeking by this means to take away rights from other people. That is foreign to the whole principle of the Bill, and it is foreign to the whole character of the people who framed it, and no one knows that better than my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester. I appeal to the Committee to remember all the time that we are discussing a great measure, not only of conciliation between the white races of South Africa, but a conciliation between them and the black races also.
I am rather glad to have an opportunity of speaking in favour of the Amendment of my hon. Friend to this clause of the Bill. I quite concur with what has fallen from the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies that it is unwise and untrue to assume that the worst would happen in South Africa and to assume that those carrying out this constitutional change are not quite as likely to be in sympathy with the dark races, and that they are to be in determined and persistent animosity to them. But the point of view I personally hold is this, I cannot see how the Imperial Parliament is justified in leaving the fate of the black franchise in Cape Colony to the risks of the future. Our partnership in the present state of things is not a passing acquiescence. It is specific and positive, as has been pointed out many times by the Colonial Office. What I feared to have heard during the Debate was that some Member of this House whose knowledge of Colonial history is far more detailed than mine would have got up and given us some precedent in favour of the clauses of the Bill, but so far nothing has been said to that effect. There is no precedent for the Imperial Parliament consenting to any Act which will take away existing rights and existing securities from fellow subjects of ours over whom this Parliament has responsibility. If that be true, as I believe it to be true historically, it is very difficult indeed to offer any argu- ment of expediency such as those we heard from both Front Benches, which would lead one to acquiesce in so remarkable a change of policy and such a departure from what has been the greatest safeguard of all the subject races in all parts of our Empire. I wish that this embarrassing doctrine of verbal instruction was not made at every turn of this discussion. It is to be regretted, and I think the blame does attach to the fact that there should have been left in the House of Commons no power to modify any of the details of this kind. I am sure if my hon. Friend's amendment were adopted and embodied in the Bill it would show that England adhered to her time-honoured attitude in seeing that where any race of people acquired rights under her flag they should never be deprived of them.
I only desire to say just one word in answer to the arguments raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, which appeared to amount to a charge of bad faith against the delegates who came to this arrangement. It seems to me he had no ground for making what is a very serious charge. He did quote, indeed, at length, two speeches by delegates of the Transvaal, where, as he knows very well, no vote at all is given to the native races. But these were speeches made to electors explaining that although this arrangement had been come to it was still left open to the Parliament to deal with franchise in the future. That is surely a very different thing from the suggestion that there was a deliberate attempt to hoodwink public opinion here and to enable the South African Parliament to brush the Cape native franchise aside at the first opportunity. The hon. Member does not venture to suggest that any of the delegates from the Orange River Colony or the Cape Colony, or even from Natal, suggested that. We have had the statement of the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony given to-night by the Under-Secretary in a totally opposite direction. There may be, of course, a great deal to be said for the Amendment of my hon. Friend upon its merits, but it is not at all necessary to support it by charges of the kind made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester. I think his charges lose sight of the real point. At the present moment any self-governing Colony can alter the franchise by a bare majority. I think this proposal of a two-thirds majority has been made with the deliberate object of showing a desire to consult public opinion in this country by making alteration more difficult.
In the quotations I made I was reading certain extracts not, as the hon. Gentleman has assumed, from election speeches, but from, speeches made in regard to what had happened at the Convention and made by General Botha and General Smuts, and they were not election speeches. If I may say so with due respect, there is a little difference between speeches to electors and election speeches. I thought I made it perfectly clear that the opinions I quoted were held perfectly honestly, and I had no intention whatever of making any such imputation as the hon. Member opposite has suggested.
As I under stand it the effect of the clause as it now stands is that if the Union Parliament, by a two-thirds majority, says that in future no native or coloured voter shall appear on the register of Cape Colony, and a two-thirds majority of the joint Houses come to that conclusion, that Bill is not reserved. I think that is so.
I thought that question would be more conveniently raised on the next Amendment.
I understand that the policy of this Bill is to trust the Colonies, but why trust them only when there is a two-thirds majority I Why cannot you trust a bare majority? If it requires a two-thirds majority on this question, why trust a bare majority in regard to other things? My hon. Friend will remember that when General Smuts made his speech on 24th February he spoke in the presence of General Botha, and he said that this provision was no check, and they never intended it as a check. If they had said it was a check it would be quite another thing, but they never intended it as a check. In saying this they were perfectly sincere, and I have not a word to say against that policy, but what will the natives say? General Botha, speaking in November, said: "No self-respecting white ought to sit in the same Parliament with a coloured or a black person." What will the natives and the coloured men think of that? I think we ought to take the ease of the natives into account, and that is why this Amendment ought to be accepted. Upon these Amendments we are speaking under extraordinary circumstances, because we have not had the courage to divide the Committee. I shall persist in speaking upon these Amendments, if only to show these natives and coloured voters that there are still some men left in the House who are prepared to champion their cause, and to show them that there is a vast body of public opinion in this country, whether represented in the Division Lobby or not, prepared to back them on the lines taken up in this Amendment. I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved, in Section(1), to leave out the words "both Houses of Parliament sitting together and at the third reading be agreed to by not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of both Houses," and to insert instead thereof the words "the members representing the Province of the Cape of Good Hope in both Houses sitting together, and at the third reading be agreed to by not less than two-thirds of the total number of such members."
It seems almost hopeless to advocate even this miserable shred of liberty for these people in Cape Colony. If they have any electoral power, I have very little doubt that it is intended to be taken from them. We are told that we ought to treat South Africa with full and generous feelings of confidence. I know it is urged that those on the spot have a greater knowledge of these questions, much greater, in fact, than that which is possessed by the majority of the people in this country. The Prime Minister, speaking about the necessity for confidence in this way, said: "Our ideas, we believe, will prevail." That was to say, in his opinion, the time was approaching when there was to be a widening rather than a narrowing of the colour-franchise in South Africa. This Bill gives not the slightest glimmer of hope that that desired end is likely to arrive. I defy anybody to say there is here any substantial grant of large powers or liberty to the coloured people in South Africa. The one point only the Premier was able to offer us was that, after the passing of this Bill, the representatives of Cape Colony, being themselves elected in part by a coloured vote, would carry the influence of the coloured man's vote into the greater Parliament, which ruled over the united South Africa. When he had said that, he said no more. The beginning and the end apparently of the gain that was to come to the coloured man in South Africa was the shadowy grant of four persons who would look after his interests, and we do not seem altogether clear as to whether these interests may be reasonable or otherwise. We have carried on this Debate to-day under one very serious disadvantage. We were told that no Amendments would be accepted, so to-night, if this Bill passes, we ring down the curtain on another interesting experiment of bringing into the Empire, on the footing of hopefulness and expectation of the coloured people associated with us in building up an Empire. I want to know whether there is any necessity whatever to imperil the liberty which the coloured people in South Africa enjoy? My Amendment would, at any rate, ensure that the limitation of their powers should come from those who know them best, who have lived with them, who have worked with them, and who understand them.
There is another aspect of the question to which the House might have its attention drawn. The position of the coloured people in Cape Colony is, one might almost say, unique in the Empire. They are probably amongst some of the oldest settlers of the Eastern people speaking our speech. They are not an inferior type of people. I understand, in part, why a Transvaaler or a Free Stater objects to the liberty which is suggested should be given to the coloured native. But these others come from a higher type of the human life, and they might, if you will but infuse them with self-respect and reasonable aspirations, make splendid citizens. What is the secret of the antipathy in Natal to this clause being amended in favour of the few Indian voters at present on the list? It is a trade objection. The Indians in Natal, by cutting down the conditions of life, have managed to introduce tremendous competition, and the white man hates and abhors him. That is the secret of it there. In Cape Colony, however, these people are filling all sorts of posts and contributing in all sorts of ways to the social well-being. You would not have this clause in the Bill to-day if Cape Colony thought you were going to sweep these people out of the Colony. Not a bit of it. They are too valuable an asset. We want these people to be an object lesson to other Colonies similarly situated as to what may be done with a coloured population when it is trusted and when its reasonable aspirations are encouraged.
If you scorn and despise men you not only do not get the best out of them, but they become mean spirited and degraded, and I fear if those people who are strongly clamouring for a white South Africa have their way, we shall never have the lifting up of the head of the coloured man, be he Asiatic or African, within the length and breadth of that great country; and if they do at any time, under some great and inspired leader, break out, it will only provoke eruption, wild disorder, and bloodshed, to be trodden out by merciless force. We have here to regard this matter from the point of view of what our other Asiatic Imperial subjects think. I believe in many and many a distant home and palace in India this day's Debate will be read and pondered over, and all over the world the question is rapidly growing as to how long the intolerant domination of the proud white is going to last. The black people are wondering, not as to when full equality is to come, for that is not in the mind of the average coloured man, but when his elder white brother will take him by the hand and try and lift him on to a higher platform. I believe this clause makes the Bill a hypocritical Bill. I do not believe any real advantage will be conceded to the poor coloured man. I shall, however, have said my word in protest against this measure. I would not like to wreck it. God forbid that I should do that! we love South Africa too much. This clause, however, is framed in an ungenerous, unenlightened, unprogressive spirit. I abhor that section whilst commending the rest, and I deeply deplore that the House of Commons has been called upon to discuss it muzzled rather than in a free Imperial spirit, by which we might have held out a hope to the aspirations of coloured folk all over the world.
I was glad to hear my hon. Friend say at the close of his interesting speech in moving this Amendment that he supported the Bill as a whole, and, "God forbid, we should lose it." He said that the Bill was conceived in an ungenerous spirit to the natives. Honestly I do not believe that to be the case. That was not the intention of the framers, nor is there anything in the clause we are now discussing which carries out that idea. While everybody else in South Africa will be disfranchised by a bare majority under this clause, the natives in Cape Colony cannot be disfranchised except by a rather more than two-thirds majority. It is suggested that the Union Parliament for this purpose shall divide itself up into its component atoms; that only the Cape members shall have a say in this matter, and that in their case there must be a two-thirds majority. I do not think we can ask the delegates to accept such an Amendment as that as being one which we can fairly claim to be an essential safeguard to the Cape native vote. In the view of the Government, the Cape native vote is adequately protected under the Bill, and to make this vital Amendment in a very unusual direction would be an unreasonable course to pursue. While, therefore, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend in being anxious to see the native franchise adequately protected, I must say the Government are convinced that it is so protected under the Bill, and we regret we cannot accept the Amendment proposed in that excellent speech to which we were all glad to listen.
I must take exception to the description of the natives of India as a black race. They are people of a high civilisation, and, while I wish to speak with all respect of the inhabitants of the Cape who are dealt with in this Amendment, I must state that they belong to an absolutely different plane, and the Indians and the Africans should never be confounded. There is only one respect in which they resemble one another, and that is they really do not care at all for representative institutions. The hon. Gentleman will remember that when the Indians were complaining of the treatment they met with in South Africa they have always been at pains to say, "We do not want representation; we only want to be relieved of humiliating conditions." I desire to protest against the way in which India has been most irrelevantly introduced into this Amendment. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. W. Dilke) suggested that there was a great Imperial danger if this Amendment were not passed, and that there was a possibility that the people of India might be offended and goaded into rash acts. But the danger is rather the Imperial danger of self-governing Colonies being coerced by this Parliament into doing that which they do not want to do. There is no similarity of sentiment or solidarity of interest between the 300,000,000 of natives in India and the 5,000,000 in South Africa. To suggest otherwise is one of the most absurd things that could be laid before Parliament. On many occasions before self-government was given to South Africa I pleaded for these Indians, but now I am bound to say I do not think they care the least bit about this matter. All they want is liberty to trade freely. They are impeded in their trade by the regulations. I wish to protest as strongly as I can in the same terms as the Under-Secretary used in the admirable speech he recently delivered against that self-righteousness which induces certain hon. Members to assume that Members of this House have a monopoly of all the virtues. I was distressed to see the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Cox) led astray in that direction; but, after all, the net result of his excessive logic was a recommendation, which has luckily no chance of being accepted, that all troops should be withdrawn from South Africa.
I really do not see what this has to do with the question before the Committee.
Are we to understand that the two-thirds majority in the Union Parliament means a two-thirds majority of the Cape members? I think that is the object we should aim at.
If I can commend this matter to the authorities in South Africa I shall be glad to do so. I do not think it is necessary, but I will see, at any rate, that they are informed of the views put forward by my hon. Friend.
Although a great number of these Amendments are moved and withdrawn, still it will let the people on the other side know that we are anxious for their interests. The Amendment will be withdrawn in the usual way.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved, in Section (1), after the words, "A Bill so passed at such joint sitting shall be taken to have been duly passed by both Houses of Parliament," to insert the words, "but no such law shall become operative until it has been sanctioned by an Act of the Imperial Parliament."
This Amendment is one which I feel certain the Under-Secretary for the Colonies cannot possibly resist. We have heard all the way through that the right of veto would be reserved, and I want to make it quite clear. The Under-Secretary has intimated, and I have no doubt sincerely believes, that this horrible suggestion of this two-thirds majority being used for the purpose of taking away the franchise in Cape Colony will not be carried out, and I gather that, supposing it is, it would, he thinks, be a case for the exercise of the Royal Veto. I propose to put an Amendment in the Bill which would make this quite secure, as we are all in agreement about it. If that is put in, it is quite certain that the franchise cannot be taken away in any hole-and-corner way, although, of course, it is possible for an Under-Secretary for the Colonies to come down to this House and say that a Bill must pass without the slightest Amendment, or South Africa would be ruined, and perhaps carry it by means of a majority from the smoking and reading rooms. I confess it would be a much more serious thing to over-ride the vote of a Parliament constituted under this Act than to amend this Bill, but now is the time to prevent this wrong being done, and I, therefore, move this Amendment, and await with interest the reply of the Under-Secretary.
The point raised by the Amendment is an interesting one but I think the hon. Member really means to refer to the question raised by Mr. Schreiner in a letter to "The Times." The point would be better dealt with on the next Amendment. The actual method he suggests for ensuring Imperial control would be so entirely unprecedented and so obviously unreasonable that I do not think he would wish to press that. What he wants to ensure is that the Government of this country shall have a say in the matter under all circumstances. I think I shall be able to satisfy the Committee on that important point on the next Amendment.
The Under-Secretary says my Amendment is unreasonable because it is unprecedented. Has he any precedent at all for this Bill? Is there any case in the world where a two-thirds majority of white representatives in three Colonies, where the natives have no vote, shall disfranchise the natives in another Colony? If you have an extraordinary condition of affairs you want extraordinary methods of dealing with them. That seems to me quite evident and very reasonable.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved to add at the end of Section (1) the words, "but any such Bill shall be reserved by the Governor-General for the signification of the King's pleasure thereon."
The Prime Minister and, I think, the Under-Secretary stated that it was provided by the Bill automatically that in the case of a Bill being passed by the Union Parliament to provide by a two-thirds majority that in the future no natives should be on the register, that Bill by the provisions of this Bill would necessarily be reserved for the (signification of His Majesty's pleasure. The Bill specially reserves certain matters for the signification of the King's pleasure, and the Amendment I am now proposing would make it clear that a Bill dealing with the qualification of voters should also be reserved. I have searched through his Bill, and I have not been able to find any provision that such a Bill would be reserved for the signification of the King's pleasure. It is said that if it is not so reserved special instructions could be given to the Governor-General to reserve such a Bill, but I think it would be very much more satisfactory to have it stated in the Bill.
This point is one of considerable technicality, but to me, at any rate, it is one of great interest. I hope I shall make it clear to the Committee in a few words, although it is technical. The question is whether there is a double safeguard against the taking away of the native vote in Cape Colony. The Prime Minister and myself both stated in the Debate the other day that there was a double safeguard. But my hon. Friend asks: Do the safeguards both operate together? With regard to existing rights and with regard to natives in Cape Colony there is no doubt whatever that for those who have the vote there is a double safeguard. My hon. Friend will see that under Section (2) of Clause 35 no one can lose the vote under any circumstances. The only way he could do it is by an Amendment of the Constitution, which can be done by a two-thirds majority. So much for the natives who have already got the vote. There the double safeguard exists. Though he did not put it in this form, Mr. Schreiner, in a letter to "The Times," in effect asked: Are you quite sure in regard to future rights that they are safeguarded? I know it is not contemplated, and I vehemently demur to its being contemplated that these rights should not be safeguarded, but let us talk of it in the abstract. Supposing a Bill were passed through Parliament without the necessary two-thirds majority disqualifying future voters or disqualifying for registration in future, then it is said that Section (2) of Clause 35 does not operate because it only protects persons who already have got the vote. Now let us turn to Clause 36. Put in broad language, it says that the qualification for the Union Parliament shall remain the same as it is for existing Parliaments. Therefore, it is urged by those who take what is called the South African view, the view of the framers of the Act, that whatever else you may say at the beginning of the clause, if you alter the qualification you do in effect amend Clause 36, which comes under the operation of Clause 35, involving a two-thirds majority. Against that it may be urged that the first line of the clause, "subject to the provisions of the last preceding section," over-rides that consideration, because, although it does in effect alter the qualification, although people who were going to have the vote are not going to have it now, although everything is changed, yet it is not an Amendment to the Bill, because the point of Amendment is provided for in the Bill; and that it is not an Amendment of the clause itself, although it is an Amendment of the provisions of the Bill. I have submitted this matter to legal authorities—in fact, to all the highest legal authorities. Those who are less cognisant of the South African side of the matter are inclined to read the law as I have first stated it, that it is an Amendment of the Bill. On the other hand, my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is of opinion that, although that view may be an arguable view, yet it is quite possible, taking the first line, "subject to the provisions of the last preceding section," that the Bill might not be considered by a court of law to be amended, although the qualification was amended. I am glad to be able to announce that I have dealt with the matter, having consulted my hon. friend Mr. Schreiner, and the matter is now merely an academic one. For in order that there may be no possible mistake in the matter it is provided in the Royal Instructions that any such Bill shall be reserved, and therefore the matter becomes purely academic. If anyone takes the view that the Instructions are liable to alteration, I may say that that is not a likely case, because we in our party are not likely to advise His Majesty to alter the Instructions with a view to taking away other people's votes easily. I trust that I have met the points which have been raised.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 36 to 63 inclusive, agreed to.
Clause 64—(Royal Assent To Bills)
When a Bill is presented to the Governor-General for the King's Assent, he shall declare according to his discretion, but subject to the provisions of this Act, and to such instructions as may from time to time be given in that behalf by the King, that he assents in the King's name, or that he withholds assent, or that he reserves the Bill for the signification of the King's pleasure. All Bills repealing or amending this section or any of the provisions of Chapter IV. under the heading "House of Assembly," and all Bills abolishing provincial councils or abridging the powers conferred on provincial councils under Section eighty-five, otherwise than in accordance with the provisions of that section, shall be so reserved. The Governor-General may return to the House in which it originated any Bill so presented to him, and may transmit therewith any amendments which he may recommend, and the House may deal with the recommendation.
moved, after the word "section" ["provisions of that section"], to insert the words "and all Bills which in any way affect native territories." With every desire to expedite business, I desire to move this Amendment in order to get some explanation, and, I hope, some satisfaction. This clause has reference to Bills which are passed without reservation and Bills which must be reserved. The latter category, the House will observe, are all Bills of what might be called a Constitutional character—that is to say, it is stipulated that Bills which in any way infringe upon the powers of the Constitutional authorities are to be reserved. The clause also provides that Provincial Councils shall not be abolished, and the powers of those Provincial Councils in regard to taxation and other powers generally shall not be infringed upon except the Bills so infringing are reserved for Imperial consideration. We propose that these words should be inserted so that Bills of that character in any wise interfering with native rights shall be reserved. I know that in the Schedule there appears to be some safeguard in that direction—that is to say, it is stipulated that no land should be alienated. There is a good deal that might be done short of alienating land, and a good deal that might be done adversely affecting the natives, and we want to provide that nothing of that sort shall take place except the Bill doing it shall be reserved for consideration. It is with that object that I move this Amendment.
By this Amendment it is proposed to reserve all Bills affecting in any way native territories. I may say quite truly that there is a number of safeguards to be found in the Bill, but there is also action which could be taken outside the limits of the Bill. While that, no doubt, is quite true, it is only action of a high-handed character, which none of us anticipate, to which the hon. Member would wish to apply his Amendment. I do not think it is desirable to limit precisely the powers of the Governor-General. He has great responsibilities to discharge, and in respect of nearly all of them he applies to the Minister. In assenting to or reserving Bills he is obiged to act on his own authority, but you may be quite sure that any action of the nature to which my hon. Friend might reasonably raise objection, the Governor-General would not be disposed to assent at once, but would seek further instructions from Home. In point of fact, if the action taken is reasonable, my hon. Friend would not desire to apply this Amendment, because something might be done entirely for a good object and to suit their convenience. On the other hand, if there were any case of a highhanded character, I am sure the Governor would not act withoutout applying for instructions from Home.
May I ask as to the land question whether the natives are properly protected? It was found that in Canada and elsewhere there was an old-fashioned custom of driving the natives or Indians away and taking their land, but that was put a stop to previous to 1850.
I am sure that I cannot truthfully say otherwise, but that in my view, speaking on behalf of the Colonial Office, the native is adequately protected under this Bill. In regard to the Amendment, "territory" might be taken to mean lands within the Union. I do not think that would be convenient in this part of the Bill.
There is a question we might raise on this Amendment or on Clause 122. I am disposed to think that the lands will be somewhat better protected by the effect of Clause 122 than they are at the present time, though I am a pessimist with regard to the land question in South Africa. The feeling of the Transvaal has been unfortunately shown, as has that in the Orange Free State, by recent attempts at legislation. Even with regard to those, and still more the Crown lands in Natal and Zululand, they will be somewhat improved in the Bill as compared with the present state of things. I challenge the assertion of Dr. Jameson that there has been no breach of faith in regard to those native lands, and assert in the strongest possible terms that a breach of faith has occurred.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clauses 65 to 105, inclusive, agreed to.
Clause 106—(Provisions As To Appeals To The King In Council)
There shall be no appeal from the Supreme Court of South Africa or from any division thereof to the King in Council, but nothing herein contained shall be construed to impair any right which the King in Council may be pleased to exercise to grant special leave to appeal from the Appellate Division to the King in Council. Parliament may make laws limiting the matters in respect of which such special leave may be asked, but Bills containing any such limitation shall be reserved by the Governor-General for the signification of His Majesty's pleasure: Provided that nothing in this section shall affect any right of appeal to His Majesty in Council from any judgment given by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court under or in virtue of the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890.
Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
I do not wish to resist the Clause in any way, but I should like to ask a question of the Under-Secretary as to the first paragraph: "There shall be no appeal from the Supreme Court of South Africa or from any division thereof to the King in Council, but nothing herein contained shall be construed to impair any right which the King in Council may be pleased to exercise to grant special leave to appeal from the Appellate Division to the King in Council." It proceeds: "Parliament may make laws limiting the matters in respect of which such special leave may be asked …" If I understand it aright, the effect of that is to give to the Union Parliament the right to say, as to any particular matter, no leave shall be asked to appeal from the Courts in South Africa. That appears to be a regrettable provision—not because I have the slightest fear that our fellow-countrymen in South Africa will not work this Act perfectly fairly as far as the native question is concerned, but for this reason. One of the great recommendations of the Bill is that these unions of portions of the Empire, I hope, lead up, it may be in the distant future, to a more complete union of the Empire. I think we all look forward to some such ultimate result as that. Anything which interferes with the idea of the unity of the Empire is to be regretted. Certainly one of the links of Empire is the power of appeal to the Privy Council, the central court of the Empire, which has been of inestimable advantage to all parts of the Empire, and not least to this country. Therefore I regret anything which weakens the idea of a Central Imperial Court, especially in view of the steps which have been, taken in recent years to make it a real Imperial Court, with representatives from other parts of the Empire sitting upon it. I would ask whether my interpretation of the clause is correct; if so, whether there is any possibility of that provision being modified so as to leave the right of the Privy Council in regard to granting special leave to appeal absolutely unfettered? I do not suggest that any Amendment should be put in by this House. I recognise all that has been said about the difficulty of amending this Bill—not because I think we are not perfectly entitled to amend any Bill, but because an Amendment in such a Bill as this should only be made where we fear that some great miscarriage of justice or interference with Imperial interests might otherwise take place. I do not think there is such a case for an Amendment of this clause any more than I think there has been in regard to any previous clause; but I should like an answer on the point I have raised.
There is no clause in the Bill which bears more clearly the marks of negotiation and compromise than Clause 106. It begins by saying that there shall be no appeal from the Supreme Court of South Africa to the King in Council—that is, the Privy Council. That is a very sweeping statement. Then follows an important qualification, showing another view, which demanded some concession, namely, that nothing in the clause shall be construed to impair any right which the King in Council may be pleased to exercise to grant special leave to appeal. Now comes in what I may call another side of the contention; the clause states, "Parliament may make laws limiting the matters in respect of which such special leave may be asked." Then, that having been inserted, another ciew says that if any such laws are passed they shall be reserved for the signification of His Majesty's pleasure. It is a clause which it is perhaps more inexpedient for us to alter than any other clause, because of the obvious negotiation and bargaining there has been. It cannot be said that there is anything inconsistent in the different parts. The Privy Council is felt, both here and in the Colonies, to be not merely a symbol, but a great instrument of Imperial unity; and the view prevails, and is certainly extending in the Colonies, that it is very desirable that there should be some Supreme Court of Law to unify, as far as possible, the prevailing different systems of local law. The appeals to the Privy Council from South Africa have been fewer than from Canada or Australia, because there the Roman law prevails, and a very special and expert knowledge is desired on the part of those who adjudicate on the appeals; so that it is not unnatural that there should be in South Africa a stronger party who are averse from appeals to the Privy Council, not because they do not appreciate the function of the Privy Council as a great instrument of Imperial unity, but because they are afraid that the appeal might be indiscriminately used by those who can afford it against those who have obtained judgment in South Africa.
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
Clauses 107 to 122, inclusive, agreed to.
Clause 123—(Mines And Minerals)
All rights in and to mines and minerals, and all rights in connection with the searching for, working for, or disposing of minerals or precious stones, which at the establishment of the Union are vested in the Government of any of the Colonies, Shall on such establishment vest on the Governor-General in Council.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
I should like to point out that Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, now Lord St. Aldwyn, intended to pay the whole cost of the war out of the Bewaar-Plaatzen. But a curious thing has happened since this clause was put into the Bill. Section 53 of the Transvaal Gold Act places an embargo on the money accruing by the taking for the State of the Bewaar-Plaatzen mentioned in Section 52. It ends by stating "that the monies accruing to the Crown shall be set aside pending the decision of Parliament." Since that time, in May of this year, I understand a Commission of three has been appointed to deal with this question. It was appointed on 12th May last to report whether any of the money set aside was to be paid to other persons, and, if so, in what proportion. Perhaps the hon. Member the Under-Secretary is not in possession of the facts to-night; but, at some subsequent occasion, he might make a statement to the House. As we were promised the whole cost of the War would be paid out of that, it is well to know who are the persons among whom the money is divided.
The question of the mining right is a technical one, and I do not claim to have as wide a knowledge of the subject as the right hon. Baronet, but if he will give me an opportunity, whether by question or otherwise, or on the Report of the Commission, I will do my best to get him the information. I regret I cannot elucidate the matter now.
Question, "That Clause 123 stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
Clauses 124 to 146, inclusive, agreed to.
Clause 147—(Administration Of Native Affairs, &C)
The control and administration of native affairs and of matters specially or differentially affecting Asiatics throughout the 1Union shall vest in the Governor-General in Council, who shall exercise all special powers in regard to native administration hitherto vested in the Governors of the Colonies or exercised by them as supreme chiefs, and any lands vested in the Governor or Governor and Executive Council of any colony for the purpose of reserves for native locations shall vest in the Governor-General in Council, who shall exercise all special powers in relation to such reserves as may hitherto have been exerciseable by any such Governor or Governor and Executive Council, and no lands set aside for the occupation of natives which cannot at the establishment of the Union be alienated except by an Act of the Colonial Legislature shall be alienated or in any way diverted from the purposes for which they are set apart except under the authority of an Act of Parliament.
Question proposed, "That Clause 147 stand part of the Bill."
I beg formally to move the omission of the clause in order to ask the Under-Secretary a question. He said there was one single class of case in which the Governor-General had to act apart from his Cabinet or advisers. There was hitherto, and there is still, named in this clause another class of case—so-called single cases—in which the Government has been conducted with great hardship to the native races. Formerly the powers of the paramount or supreme chief have been a matter of reservation by both parties in the State. The whole delay in the granting of responsible institutions in Natal rested upon this point. And the granting of Zululand to Natal rested on the same point, namely, whether the paramount chief was the Governor or Governor-General in Council.
I think the right hon. Baronet will agree with me when I say that this cannot be done because the Governor has no staff or funds, and therefore he cannot exercise those powers. The questions raised with regard to Natal show how difficult it is for the Governor to act in these matters.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
Clauses 148 to 150 agreed to.
Clause 151—(Power To Transfer To Union Government Of Native Territories)
The King, with the advice of the Privy Council, may on addresses from the Houses of Parliament of the Union, transfer to the Union the government of any territories, other than the territories administered by the British South Africa Company, belonging to or under the protection of His Majesty, and inhabited wholly or in part by natives, and upon such transfer the Governor-General in Council may undertake the government of such territory upon the terms and conditions embodied in the Schedule to this Act.
moved, at the beginning of the clause, to insert the words, "At a period not less than 10 years after the passing of this Act, and subject to the consent of the territories affected expressed in a manner to be determined by the King with the advice of the Privy Council." This clause deals with the-transfer of the government of native territories to the Union Parliament. It provides that the King may, with the advice of the Privy Council, transfer to the Union the government of any territories outside those administered by the British South Africa Company inhabited wholly or in part by natives. The object of my Amendment is that this transfer shall not take place until a period of 10 years have elapsed from the date of this Act coming into force. This would give the new situation created in South Africa time to consolidate and settle down, and it would give the natives in the territories concerned a feeling of confidence that they would not be rushed immediately into the Union without their consent. There has been considerable apprehension on this point expressed both by the natives themselves and by Europeans, more especially by missionaries; and if there was some specific understanding that nothing would be done to force these natives to come within the domain of the new Union Parliament for at least a period of 10 years, that in itself would have a soothing effect upon the native mind, and would tend to allay the unrest which now exists. Another object of my Amendment is that before these native territories are taken over native opinion shall be consulted and be expressed in some manner to be determined by the King, with the advice of the Privy Council. If any attempt is made to force these natives to come within the South African Union without their consent there may be trouble of a very serious kind. The Colonial Secretary, in reply to a question, practically gave the assurance that before these natives were brought within the Union in those territories their feelings and opinions should be consulted and ascertained. I hope we shall have definite declaration from the Government on these two points. The provisions of the Bill as they now stand are viewed with considerable apprehension. I beg to move.
My hon Friend's Amendment raises two points. The first is, whether the territories are to foe transferred immediately, and the second is, when they are to be transferred will regard be had to native wishes in the matter? He does not, as I understand it, wish to press the Amendment to a Division; he wishes to know the intention of the Government as to the meaning of the words. On the first point, I may say at once it is not anticipated that any transfer will take place for some time to come; and, more than that, our right to transfer or not remains unimpaired by the provisions of this Bill. The other day I gave, with the sanction of the Prime Minister, an undertaking, so far as we could bind ourselves and our successors, that no such action would be taken without the House of Commons being informed; and I repeat that undertaking now. This statement having been definitely made now, and it being known, as it will be, in South Africa, it might, if we put in the suggested time limit, give the impression that in ten years the transfer would take place. After the statement I have been authorised by the Prime Minister to make, the ten years' time limit might operate in the reverse way it is intended. I do not, therefore, think it would be advisable to put it in now. It would, I know, meet the views of some of my hon. Friends if we were to say the consent of all the natives must be obtained, but, apart from that technical point, I can assure the House that the wishes of the natives in the territories will be most carefully considered before any transfer takes place.
I should have preferred my own proviso at the end, but I understand the Government Gave really given us all they can of what I ask, and on that understanding I shall not move.
May I ask whether the pledge the hon. Gentleman has just given means that before any such territories are taken over, the House will have an opportunity of expressing their opinion?
Oh, certainly. They will have an opportunity of discussing, and, if they wish, of disapproving of the action of the Government. So far as my right hon. Friend is concerned, I can make that pledge.
When that time arrives, shall we not be told that we must not interfere in the autonomy of a self-governing Colony, exactly as we have been told in this Debate? If not, why not? Why should we be told to-day we must have no part in the proposal brought before us by our Colonial friends, and yet, when this question of transfer comes before us, be left with a perfectly open mind? It appears to me, and has done all along, that the four Colonies have bitten off quite as much as they can manage. I do think they would do well not to ask in addition to take over a number of our Imperial responsibilities, which I, for one, am not prepared at the moment to surrender. They would much prefer to retain their allegiance direct to the King instead of having to look forward to being governed by the Prime Minister and the Governor-General in Council. We know that the wishes of the natives are that they should not be taken away from our Imperial rule, and I do not know why we should not regard their wishes.
Before the lands are taken, will treaties be entered into with the natives that they shall be paid for them?
All that is provided for in the Bill.
Will the House of Commons be consulted as to agreements for the transfer of the land?
If this Government is still in office, the House will have the fullest opportunity of considering any agreement.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 152—(Amendment Of Act)
Parliament may by law repeal or alter any of the provisions of this Act: Provided that no provision thereof, for the operation of which a definite period of time is prescribed, shall during such period be repealed or altered: And provided further that no repeal or alteration of the provisions contained in this section or in Sections thirty-three and thirty-four (until the number of members of the House of Assembly has reached the limit therein prescribed or until a period of ten years has elapsed after the establishment of the Union, whichever is the longer period) or in Sections thirty-five and one hundred and thirty-seven, shall be valid unless the Bill embodying such repeal or alteration shall be passed by both Houses of Parliament sitting together, and at the third reading be agreed to by not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of both Houses. A Bill so passed at such joint sitting shall be taken to have been duly passed by both Houses of Parliament.
moved after the word "seven" ["or in Sections thirty-five and one hundred and thirty-seven"] to insert the words "or in the Schedule to this Act."
I do not think this would be advisable. Section (25) of the Schedule reserves all Bills to amend or alter the provisions of it for the signification of His Majesty's pleasure. Even if it were not so, I do not think it would be desirable, for it might operate the reverse way to that which we wish. The Schedule reserves the territories under our control, and it might be possible that we might wish to amend the Schedule and the majority of the Union Parliament might wish to do so in a sense favourable to our view, but you might not get the two-thirds' majority. Therefore we might get a barren provision, and I think the hon. Member might see that it would not be wise to press this Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
moved to amend Section (3) of the Schedule ["The members of the Commission shall be appointed by the Governor-General in Council …"] by inserting after the word "appointed," the words "as to two by the Governor-General, and as to the remainder."
Earlier in this discussion the proposal was made to have a special representative of the natives in the senate, but it was pointed out that the Schedule had a special application to the natives in the territories. I understand that in this Schedule the Governor-General in Council, which is another name for the Prime Minister, may proclaim law in these territories without the consent of the people, or the chiefs, or the assemblies, and even without the consent of the Union Parliament itself. It is a tremendous power to give to one man. The Schedule says that the Prime Minister shall be charged with the administration of the territory transferred and he shall be advised by a Commission consisting of not fewer than three members, with a secretary to be appointed by the Governor-General in Council, who shall take the instructions of the Prime Minister in regard to correspondence and official papers relating to the territories. I think it is fair that the Governor-General shall appoint not less than two, as my Amendment proposes, or, at least, one member of this advisory Commission. If the members of this Commission, when they are appointed, wish to appeal against the Prime Minister, they have to make an appeal to the Prime Minister and they are in a very illusory position.
The hon. Gentleman proposes that as regards two of the members of this Commission they should be appointed by the Governor-General.
He thinks at least one or two should be appointed by the Governor-General and not by the Governor-General in Council. In other words, that we should appoint them from here. I do not think that is a proposal that would work for this reason, that you cannot have two different systems at the same time. Either we keep control of the Protectorates or we do not. If we decide to keep control of them, and we wish to, we can. But this House itself foresaw, when it passed the Resolution a year and a half ago, that the time might come for transfer. When you do that it would be, I think, a ridiculous mistake to endeavour to do the thing by half, to hand them over and yet to retain a little control by nomination. I do not think that could ever work, and I would suggest that the hon. Member should not press the Amendment.
Question, "That those words be there inserted," put and negatived.
moved, at the end of Section (14) ["It shall not be lawful to alienate any land in Basutoland or any land forming part of the native reserves in the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Swaziland from the native tribes inhabiting those territories"] to insert the words "nor shall tribal tenure of the land be interfered with nor titles to hold land be granted to other than members of the native tribes inhabiting those territories." It is well known that most of the troubles in connection with natives in South Africa have been connected with land, and it does not appear to those well qualified to form a judgment, in whose name I am speaking, that the section goes far enough. The object of the Amendment is to secure that tribal tenure of land shall be continued and that the title to land shall not be given to others. If that system continues there will never be the trouble which has arisen in this country in trying to get from unearned increment a small proportion for the benefit of the State. So long as the land remains tribal the whole of the increment goes to the community, and, if for that reason only, the Amendment ought to meet with sympathetic consideration at the hands of the Government.