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Transcriber's Note: Please note that hyphenation is treated inconsistently in the original document. A number of obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of this document.
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LIBERALISM AND THE SOCIAL PROBLEM
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE WINSTON SPENCER CHURCHILL M.P.
HODDER AND STOUGHTON LONDON MCMIX
These are the principal speeches I have made within the last four years. They have been chosen and collected with the idea of presenting a consistent and simultaneous view of the general field of British politics in an hour of fateful decision. I have exercised full freedom in compression and in verbal correction necessary to make them easier to read. Facts and figures have been, where necessary, revised, ephemeral matter eliminated, and epithets here and there reconsidered. But opinions and arguments are unaltered; they are hereby confirmed, and I press them earnestly and insistently upon the public.
We approach what is not merely a party crisis but a national climacteric. Never did a great people enter upon a period of trial and choice with more sincere and disinterested desire to know the truth and to do justice in their generation. I believe they will succeed.
WINSTON S. CHURCHILL.
33 ECCLESTON SQUARE. October 26, 1909.
THE RECORD OF THE GOVERNMENT
THE CONCILIATION OF SOUTH AFRICA 3
THE TRANSVAAL CONSTITUTION 16
THE ORANGE FREE STATE CONSTITUTION 45
LIBERALISM AND SOCIALISM 67
IMPERIAL PREFERENCE—I. 85
IMPERIAL PREFERENCE—II. 106
THE HOUSE OF LORDS 124
THE DUNDEE ELECTION 147
THE MINES [EIGHT HOURS] BILL 173
THE SOCIAL FIELD 211
THE APPROACHING CONFLICT 225
THE ANTI-SWEATING BILL 239
LABOUR EXCHANGES AND UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE 253
THE BUDGET RESOLUTIONS 277
THE BUDGET AND NATIONAL INSURANCE 297
LAND AND INCOME TAXES IN THE BUDGET 318
THE BUDGET AND THE LORDS 344
THE SPIRIT OF THE BUDGET 357
THE BUDGET AND PROPERTY 384
THE CONSTITUTIONAL MENACE 405
The series of speeches included in this volume ranges, in point of time, from the earlier months of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's Government to the latest phase in the fortunes of Mr. Asquith's succeeding Ministry, and forms an argumentative defence of the basis of policy common to both Administrations. The addresses it contains deal with nearly all the great political topics of the last four years—with Free Trade, Colonial Preferences, the South African settlement, the latest and probably the final charter of trade unionism, the Miners' Bill, the measures for establishing Trade Boards and Labour Exchanges, the schemes of compulsory and voluntary assurance, and the Budget. They possess the further characteristic of describing and commending these proposals as "interdependent" parts of a large and fruitful plan of Liberal statesmanship. Of this scheme the Budget is at once the foundation and the most powerful and attractive feature. If it prospers, the social policy for which it provides prospers too. If it fails, the policy falls to the ground.
The material of these speeches is therefore of great importance to the future of democracy in this country. Let me say a word as to their authorship. To a friendly critic they appear to present not only rare and highly trained qualities of statement and persuasion, but a unity and sincerity of thought which give them a place above mere party dialectics. Mr. Churchill's distinguished service to Liberalism has not been long in point of years, but it opened with the first speeches he ever delivered in the House of Commons. No competent observers of political activities, and of the characters and temperaments which direct them, can have doubted from the first moment of Mr. Churchill's appearance on the stage where his moral and intellectual sympathies lay and whither they would lead him. It is a true and, indeed, an obvious comment on his career to say that he began where his father left off—as a Democrat and a Free Trader, and that on these inherited instincts and tendencies he has built what both his friends and his enemies expected him to build. Mr. Churchill came to Liberalism from the same fold as Gladstone, and for the same reason—that it presented the one field of work open to a political talent of a high stamp, and to a wide and eager outlook on the future of our social order. Liberalism and Mr. Churchill have both had good reason to congratulate themselves on that choice, and the party which failed to draw him into a disastrous and reactionary change of view has no reason to resent it. Before he became a Liberal Mr. Churchill had taken the broad views of the South African problem that his father's later opinions commended to him, and he was properly chosen to expound to the House of Commons the plan of self-government that embodied them.
If, therefore, the political groundwork of these speeches is sound Liberal principle, their meaning and purpose, taken in connection with the Budget, and the industrial reforms for which it provides, signify a notable advance into places where the thinkers, the pioneers, the men in the advanced trenches, are accustomed to dwell. Let us acknowledge, with a sense of pleasure and relief, that this is new territory. New, that is to say, for this country; not new to the best organisations of industrial society that we know of. New as a clearly seen vision and a connected plan of British, statesmanship; not new as actual experiment in legislation, and as theory held by progressive thinkers of many schools, including some of the fathers of modern Liberal doctrine, and most of our economists. What is there in these pages repugnant to writers of the type of John Mill, Jevons, and Marshall? How much of them would even be repelled by Cobden? In the main they preach a gospel—that of national "efficiency"—common to all reformers, and accepted by Bismarck, the modern archetype of "Empire-makers," as necessary to the consolidation of the great German nation. An average Australian or Canadian statesman would read them through with almost complete approval of every passage, save only their defence of Free Trade. Nay more; the apology for property which they put forward—that it must be "associated in the minds of the mass of the people with ideas of justice and reason"—is that on which the friends of true conservatism build when they think of the evils of modern civilisation and the great and continuous efforts necessary to repair them. Who does not conclude, with Mr. Churchill, that "a more scientific, a more elaborate, a more comprehensive social organisation" is indispensable to our country if it is to continue its march to greatness? Back or forward we must go.
Mr. Churchill, indeed, has thought it wise to raise the specific point at which, in the process of seeking a finer use and adaptation of the human material which forms society, the progressive and reforming statesman parts company with the dogmatic Socialist. There is no need to labour a distinction which arises from the nature and the activities of the two forces. British Liberalism is both a mental habit and a method of politics. Through both these characteristics it is bound to criticise a State so long as in any degree it rests on the principles of "Penguin Island"—"respect for the rich and contempt for the poor," and to modify or repeal the rights of property where they clearly conflict with human rights. But its idealism and its practical responsibilities forbid it to accept the elimination of private enterprise and the assumption by the State of all the instruments of production and distribution. Socialism has great power of emotional and even religious appeal, of which it would be wise for Liberalism to take account, and it is, on the whole, a beneficent force in society. But as pure dogma it fits the spirit of man no more exactly than the Shorter Catechism. As Mr. Churchill well says, both the collectivist and the individualist principles have deep roots in human life, and the statesman can ignore neither.
In the main, therefore, these speeches, with all their fresh brilliancy of colouring and treatment, hold up the good old banner of social progress, which we erect against reactionist and revolutionist alike. The "old Liberal" will find the case for Free Trade, for peace, for representative government, stated as powerfully and convincingly as he could wish. Their actual newness consists in the fact that not only do they open up to Liberalism what it always wants—a wide domain of congenial thought and energy, but they offer it two propositions which it can reject only at its peril. The first is that there can and must be a deep, sharp abridgment of the sphere of industrial life which has been marked out as hopeless, or as an inevitable part of the social system.
Here the new Liberalism parts with laissez-faire, and those who defend it. It assumes that the State must take in hand the problems of industrial insecurity and unemployment, and must solve them. The issue is vital. Protection has already made its bid. It will assure the workman what is in his mind more than cheap food—namely, secure wages; it affects to give him all his life, or nearly all his life, a market for his labour so wide and so steady that the fear of forced idleness will almost be banished from it. The promise is false. Protection by itself has in no country annulled or seriously qualified unemployment. But the need to which it appeals is absolutely real; for the modern State it is a problem of the Sphinx, neither to be shirked nor wrongly answered. And the alternative remedy offered in these pages has already, as their author abundantly shows, succeeded even in the very partial forms in which it has been applied. The labour market can be steadied and equalised over a great industrial field. Part of its surplus can be provided for. What Mr. Churchill calls "diseased industries" can be cut off from the main body, or restored to some measure of health. The State can set up a minimum standard of health and wage, below which it will not allow its citizens to sink; it can step in and dispense employment and restorative force under strictly specified conditions, to a small body of more or less "sick" workers; it can supply security for a far greater, less dependent, and more efficient mass of labourers, in recurring crises of accident, sickness, invalidity, and unemployment, and can do so with every hope of enlisting in its service voluntary forces and individual virtues of great value.
This is not a problem of "relief," it is a method of humanity, and its aim is not merely to increase the mechanical force of the State, but to raise the average of character, of morale, in its citizens. Nor do these speeches represent only a batch of platform promises. The great scheme of social betterment preached in these pages is already embodied in half a dozen Acts of Parliament, with corresponding organisations in the Board of Trade and elsewhere; and if the Budget passes, the crown can be put upon them next year or the year after by measures of insurance against invalidity and unemployment.
Mr. Churchill's second proposition is the correlative of the first. How shall this imposing fabric of industrial security be reared and made safe? The answer is, by modifying, without vitally changing, the basis of taxation. The workman cannot be asked to pay for everything, as under Protection he must pay. In any case, he must pay for something. But if he is asked for too much, the sources of physical efficiency are drained, and the main purpose of the new Liberalism—the ideal of an educated, hopeful, and vigorous people—is destroyed. Now Liberalism, in ceasing to rely on indirect taxation as its main source of revenue, has opened up for contribution not merely the superfluities of society, the "accumulations of profit," as Mr. Churchill calls them, but those special forms of wealth which are "social" in origin, which depend on some monopoly of material agents, on means not of helping the community but of hindering it, not of enriching its powers and resources, but of depleting them for private advantage. In other words, the State in future will increasingly ask the taxpayer not only "What have you got?" but "How did you get it?" No one contends that such an analysis can be perfect; but, on the other hand, can a community desirous of realising what Goethe calls "practical Christianity," ignore it? And if in this process it enters the sphere of morals, as Ruskin long ago urged it to do, as well as the path of economic justice, is the step a wrong one? Has it not already been taken not only in this Budget, but in its predecessor, in which the Prime Minister made the memorable distinction between earned and unearned income? Those who answer these questions in the Liberal sense will find in these speeches a body of vigorous and persuasive reasoning on their side.
It is therefore the main purpose of these speeches to show that Liberalism has a message of the utmost consequence to our times. They link it afresh with the movement of life, which when it overtakes parties condemns and destroys them. They give it an immediate mission and an outlook on the wider moral domain, which belongs to no single generation. This double character is vital to a Party which must not desert the larger ways in which the spirit of man walks, while it quits at its peril the work of practical, everyday service to existing society.
A word as to the literary quality of these addresses, widely varied as they are in subject. The summit of a man's powers—his full capacity of reason, comparison, expression—are not usually reached at so early a point in his career as that which Mr. Churchill has attained. But in directness and clearness of thought, in the power to build up a political theory, and present it as an impressive and convincing argument, in the force of rhetoric and the power of sympathy, readers of these addresses will find few examples of modern English speech-making to compare with them. They revive the almost forgotten art of oratory, and they connect it with ideas born of our age, and springing from its conscience and its practical needs, and, above all, essential to its happiness.
THE RECORD OF THE GOVERNMENT
THE CONCILIATION OF SOUTH AFRICA (April 5, 1906) 3
THE TRANSVAAL CONSTITUTION (July 31, 1906) 16
THE ORANGE FREE STATE CONSTITUTION (December 17, 1906) 45
LIBERALISM AND SOCIALISM (October 11, 1906) 67
IMPERIAL PREFERENCE—I. (May 7, 1907) 85
IMPERIAL PREFERENCE—II. (July 16, 1907) 106
THE HOUSE OF LORDS (June 29, 1907) 124
THE DUNDEE ELECTION (May 14, 1908) 147
THE CONCILIATION OF SOUTH AFRICA
HOUSE OF COMMONS, April 5, 1906
We have travelled a long way since this Parliament assembled, in the discussion of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony Constitutions. When the change of Government took place Mr. Lyttelton's Constitution was before us. That instrument provided for representative and not responsible government. Under that Constitution the election would have been held in March of this year, and the Assembly would have met in June, if the home Government had not changed. But just at the time that the Government changed in December two questions arose—the question of whether or not soldiers of the British Army in garrison should be allowed to vote; and the question whether it would not be better to have sixty constituencies instead of thirty; and, as both questions involved necessary alterations in the Letters Patent, the time was ripe, quite apart from any difference which the change of the men at the helm might make, for a reconsideration and review of the whole form of the government which was to be given to the two Colonies.
The objection that must most readily occur in considering Mr. Lyttelton's Constitution is that it was unworkable. It proposed that there should be from six to nine nominated Ministers in an Assembly of thirty-five, afterwards to be increased to sixty elective members. The position of a Minister is one of considerable difficulty. He often has to defend rather an awkward case. When favourable facts are wanting he has to depend upon the nimbleness of his wits, and, when these fail him, he has to fall back upon the loyalty of his supporters. But no Minister can move very far upon his road with satisfaction or success if he has not behind him either a nominated majority or an organised Party majority. Mr. Lyttelton's Ministers had neither. They would have been alone, hopelessly outnumbered in an Assembly, the greater part of which was avowedly in favour of responsible and not of representative government. These Ministers, with one exception, had no previous Parliamentary experience and no ascertained Parliamentary ability. They would have been forced to carry their Bills and their Estimates through an Assembly in the main opposed to them. All this time, while we should have given to these Ministers this serious duty, we should ourselves have had to bear the whole responsibility in this country for everything that was done under their authority; and their authority could only be exerted through an Assembly which, as things stood, they could not control.
The Committee can easily imagine the telegrams and the questions which would have been addressed from Downing Street and the House of Commons to these Ministers on native matters, on the question of the administration of the Chinese Ordinance, on all the numerous intricate questions with which we are at the present moment involved in South Africa. And what would have been the position of these Ministers, faced with these embarrassments in a hostile Assembly in which they had few friends—what possibility would they have had of maintaining themselves in such an Assembly? Is it not certain that they would have broken down under the strain to which they would have been exposed, that the Assembly would have been infuriated, that Parties differing from each other on every conceivable question, divided from each other by race and religion and language, would have united in common hatred of the interference of the outside Power and the government of bureaucrats. Then we should very speedily have got to the bottom of the hill. There would have been a swift transition. The Legislative Assembly would have converted itself into a constituent Assembly, and it would have taken by force all that the Government now have it in their power to concede with grace, distinction, and authority. On these grounds his Majesty's Government came to the conclusion that it would be right to omit the stage of representative government altogether and to go directly to the stage of responsible government.
It is the same in politics as it is in war. When one crest line has been left, it is necessary to go to the next. To halt half-way in the valley between is to court swift and certain destruction, and the moment you have abandoned the safe position of a Crown Colony government, or government with an adequate nominated majority, there is no stopping-place whatever on which you may rest the sole of your foot, until you come to a responsible Legislative Assembly with an executive obeying that Assembly. These arguments convinced his Majesty's Government that it would be necessary to annul the Letters Patent issued on March 31, 1905, and make an end of the Lyttelton Constitution. That Constitution now passes away into the never-never land, into a sort of chilly limbo that is reserved for the disowned or abortive political progeny of many distinguished men.
The Government, and those who support them, may rejoice that we have been able to take this first most important step in our South African policy with such a very general measure of agreement, with, indeed, a consensus of opinion which almost amounts to unanimity. Both races, every Party, every class, every section in South Africa have agreed in the course which his Majesty's Government have adopted in abandoning representative government and going at once to responsible government. That is already a very great thing, but it was not always so. Those who sat in the last Parliament will remember that it was not always so. We remember that Lord Milner was entirely opposed to granting responsible government. We know that Mr. Lyttelton wrote pages and pages in the Blue Book of last year proving how futile and dangerous responsible government would be; and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who took the Government decision as a matter of course on the first day of the present session, made a speech last session in which he indicated in terms of great gravity and force, that he thought it was wholly premature to grant responsible government to the Transvaal. But all that is abandoned now. I heard the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, in the name of the Party opposite, accept the policy of his Majesty's Government. I heard the hon. Member for Blackpool this afternoon say that he hoped that responsible government would be given to the Transvaal at the earliest possible moment. In regard to the Orange River Colony, it is quite true that the official Opposition, so far as I gather their view, think that it should be delayed, and should not be given at the same time as to the Transvaal; but that is not the view of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. Speaking in the House of Commons on July 27, 1905, the right hon. gentleman said:
"Objection has also been taken that the same government which is now being given to the Transvaal has not been given to the Orange River Colony. I think that the experiment might have been far better tried in the Orange River Colony. It is quite true that in that Colony there is an enormous majority of the Dutch or Boer population. But they have shown by long experience that they are most capable and moderate administrators—under the admirable rule of President Brand they set an example to the whole of South Africa; and although I think there is some danger in this experiment, it is in the Orange River Colony that I myself would have been inclined, in the first instance, to take the risk."
It is true the right hon. gentleman was speaking of representative government; but it cannot be disputed that if an advance were to be made in associating the people of the conquered Colonies with the government of those Colonies, the right hon. gentleman thought that it had better be in the Orange River Colony first. But at any rate now it is incontestable that there is no Party in this country or in the Transvaal that opposes the grant of responsible government to the Transvaal. That is a great advance, and shows that we have been able to take our first step with the approbation of all concerned.
But the Opposition, having abandoned their resistance to the grant of responsible government, now contend that on no account must the basis of the Lyttelton Constitution be departed from. I am not convinced by that argument. The Government are to pursue a new purpose, but to adhere to the old framework. We are to cut off the head of the Lyttelton Constitution, but are to preserve the old trunk and graft a new head on it. I do not believe that any Government, approaching this question from a new point of view, uncompromised and unfettered, would be bound by the framework and details of the Lyttelton Constitution. It may be that that Constitution contains many excellent principles, but the Government have a right to consider things from the beginning, freshly and freely, to make their own plans in accordance with their own ideas, and to present those plans for the acceptance of the House.
The noble lord the Member for South Birmingham spoke of the principle of "one vote, one value," which was embodied in the Lyttelton Constitution. The principle of "one vote, one value" is in itself an orthodox and unimpeachable principle of democracy. It is a logical, numerical principle. If the attempt be made to discriminate between man and man because one has more children and lives in the country, it would be arguable that we should discriminate because another man has more brains or more money, or lives in the town, or for any other of the many reasons that differentiate one human being from another. The only safe principle, I think, is that for electoral purposes all men are equal, and that voting power, as far as possible, should be evenly distributed among them.
In the Transvaal the principle of "one vote, one value" can be made operative only upon a basis of voters. In nearly every other country in the world, population is the usual basis of distribution, for population is the same as electorate and electorate the same as population. On both bases the distribution of the constituencies would be the same. There is, for instance, no part of this country which is more married, or more celibate, or more prolific than any other part. It is only in the Transvaal, this country of afflicting dualities and of curious contradictions, where everything is twisted, disturbed, and abnormal, that there is a great disparity between the distribution of seats on the basis of voters and on the basis of population. The high price of provisions in the towns restricts the growth of urban population, and the dullness of the country districts appears to be favourable to the growth of large families. It is a scientific and unimpeachable fact that, if you desire to apply the principle of "one vote, one value" to the Constitution of the Transvaal, that principle can best be attained—I am not sure that it cannot only be attained—on the basis of voters, and that is the basis Mr. Lyttelton took in the Constitution he formed.
But Mr. Lyttelton's plan did not stop there. Side by side with this basis of voters, he had an artificial franchise of L100 annual value. That is a very much lower qualification in South Africa, than it would be in this country, and I do not think that the franchise which Mr. Lyttelton proposed could be called an undemocratic franchise, albeit that it was an artificial franchise, because it yielded 89,000 voters out of a population of 300,000, and that is a much more fertile franchise, even after making allowance for the abnormal conditions of a new country, than we have in this country or than is the case in some American and European States. So that I do not accuse Mr. Lyttelton of having formulated an undemocratic franchise, but taking these two points together—the unusual basis of distribution with the apparently artificial franchise—acting and reacting, as they must have done, one upon the other—there was sufficient ground to favour the suspicion, at any rate, that something was intended in the nature of a dodge, in the nature of a trick, artificially to depress the balance in one direction and to tilt it in the other.
In dealing with nationalities, nothing is more fatal than a dodge. Wrongs will be forgiven, sufferings and losses will be forgiven or forgotten, battles will be remembered only as they recall the martial virtues of the combatants; but anything like chicane, anything like a trick, will always rankle. The Government are concerned in South Africa not only to do what is fair, but to do what South Africa will accept as fair. They are concerned not merely to choose a balance which will deal evenly between the races, but one which will secure the acceptance of both races.
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We meet unjust charges in good heart. The permanence and security of British sovereignty in South Africa is not a matter of indifference to his Majesty's Ministers. Surely no honourable Member believes that we could wish to cheat the British race in the Transvaal of any numerical preponderance which may properly belong to them. Equally with our political opponents we desire to see the maintenance of British supremacy in South Africa. But we seek to secure it by a different method. There is a profound difference between the schools of thought which exist upon South African politics in this House. We think that British authority in South Africa has got to stand on two legs. You have laboured for ten years to make it stand on one. We on this side know that if British dominion is to endure in South Africa it must endure with the assent of the Dutch, as well as of the British. We think that the position of the Crown in South Africa, and let me add the position of Agents and Ministers of the Crown in South Africa, should be just as much above and remote from racial feuds, as the position of the Crown in this country is above our Party politics. We do not seek to pit one race against the other in the hope of profiting from the quarrel. We hope to build upon the reconciliation and not upon the rivalry of races. We hope that it may be our fortune so to dispose of affairs that these two valiant, strong races may dwell together side by side in peace and amity under the shelter of an equal flag.
THE TRANSVAAL CONSTITUTION
HOUSE OF COMMONS, July 31, 1906
It is my duty this afternoon, on behalf of the Government, to lay before the Committee the outline and character of the constitutional settlement which we have in contemplation in regard to the lately annexed Colonies in South Africa. This is, I suppose, upon the whole, the most considerable business with which this new Parliament has had to deal. But although no one will deny its importance, or undervalue the keen emotions and anxieties which it excites on both sides of the House, and the solemn memories which it revives, yet I am persuaded that there is no reason why we should be hotly, sharply, or bitterly divided on the subject; on the contrary, I think its very importance makes it incumbent on all who participate in the discussion—and I will certainly be bound by my own precept—to cultivate and observe a studious avoidance of anything likely to excite the ordinary recriminations and rejoinders of Party politics and partisanship.
After all, there is no real difference of principle between the two great historic Parties on this question. The late Government have repeatedly declared that it was their intention at the earliest possible moment—laying great stress upon that phrase—to extend representative and responsible institutions to the new Colonies; and before his Majesty's present advisers took office the only question in dispute was, When? On the debate on the Address, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham—whose absence to-day and its cause I am quite sure are equally regretted in all parts of the House—spoke on this question with his customary breadth of view and courage of thought. He said: "The responsibility for this decision lies with the Government now in power. They have more knowledge than we have; and if they consider it safe to give this large grant, and if they turn out to be right, no one will be better pleased than we. I do not think that, although important, this change should be described as a change in colonial policy, but as continuity of colonial policy."
If, then, we are agreed upon the principle, I do not think that serious or vital differences can arise upon the method. Because, after all, no one can contend that it is right to extend responsible government, but not right to extend it fairly. No one can contend that it is right to grant the forms of free institutions, and yet to preserve by some device the means of control. And so I should hope that we may proceed in this debate without any acute divergences becoming revealed.
I am in a position to-day only to announce the decision to which the Government have come with respect to the Transvaal. The case of the Transvaal is urgent. It is the nerve-centre of South Africa. It is the arena in which all questions of South African politics—social, moral, racial, and economic—are fought out; and this new country, so lately reclaimed from the wilderness, with a white population of less than 300,000 souls, already reproduces in perfect miniature all those dark, tangled, and conflicting problems usually to be found in populous and old-established European States. The case of the Transvaal differs fundamentally from the case of the Orange River Colony. The latter has been in the past, and will be again in the future, a tranquil agricultural State, pursuing under a wise and tolerant Government a happy destiny of its own. All I have to say about the Orange River Colony this afternoon is this—that there will be no unnecessary delay in the granting of a Constitution; and that in the granting of that Constitution we shall be animated only by a desire to secure a fair representation of all classes of inhabitants in the country, and to give effective expression to the will of the majority.
When we came into office, we found a Constitution already prepared for the Transvaal by the right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square. That Constitution is no more. I hope the right hon. gentleman will not suspect me of any malevolence towards his offspring. I would have nourished and fostered it with a tender care; but life was already extinct. It had ceased to breathe even before it was born; but I trust the right hon. gentleman will console himself by remembering that there are many possibilities of constitutional settlements lying before him in the future. After all, the Abbe Sieyes, when the Constitution of 1791 was broken into pieces, was very little younger than the right hon. gentleman, and he had time to make and survive two new Constitutions.
Frankly, what I may, for brevity's sake, call the Lyttelton Constitution was utterly unworkable. It surrendered the machinery of power; it preserved the whole burden of responsibility and administration. Nine official gentlemen, nearly all without Parliamentary experience, and I daresay without Parliamentary aptitudes, without the support of that nominated majority which I am quite convinced that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham had always contemplated in any scheme of representative government, and without the support of an organised party, were to be placed in a Chamber of thirty-five elected members who possessed the power of the purse. The Boers would either have abstained altogether from participating in that Constitution, or they would have gone in only for the purpose of wrecking it. The British party was split into two sections, and one section, the Responsibles, made public declarations of their intention to bring about a constitutional deadlock by obstruction and refusing supplies, and all the other apparatus of Parliamentary discontent. In fact, the Constitution of the right hon. gentleman seemed bound inevitably to conjure up that nightmare of all modern politicians, government resting on consent, and consent not forthcoming.
As I told the House in May, his Majesty's Government thought it their duty to review the whole question. We thought it our duty and our right to start fair, free, and untrammelled, and we have treated the Lyttelton Constitution as if it had never been. One guiding principle has animated his Majesty's Government in their policy—to make no difference in this grant of responsible government between Boer and Briton in South Africa. We propose to extend to both races the fullest privileges and rights of British citizenship; and we intend to make no discrimination in the grant of that great boon, between the men who have fought most loyally for us and those who have resisted the British arms with the most desperate courage. By the Treaty of Vereeniging, in which the peace between the Dutch and British races was declared for ever, by Article 1 of that treaty the flower of the Boer nation and its most renowned leaders recognised the lawful authority of his Majesty King Edward VII, and henceforth, from that moment, British supremacy in South Africa stood on the sure foundations of military honour and warlike achievement.
This decision in favour of even-handed dealing arises from no ingratitude on our part towards those who have nobly sustained the British cause in years gone by. It involves no injustice to the British population of the Transvaal. We have been careful at each point of this constitutional settlement to secure for the British every advantage that they may justly claim. But the future of South Africa, and, I will add, its permanent inclusion in the British Empire, demand that the King should be equally Sovereign of both races, and that both races should learn to look upon this country as their friend.
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When I last spoke in this House on the question of the South African Constitution, I took occasion to affirm the excellence of the general principle, one vote one value. I pointed out that it was a logical and unimpeachable principle to act upon; that the only safe rule for doing justice electorally between man and man was to assume—a large assumption in some cases—that all men are equal and that all discriminations between them are unhealthy and undemocratic. Now the principle of one vote one value can be applied and realised in this country, either upon the basis of population, or upon the basis of voters. It makes no difference which is selected; for there is no part of this country which is more married, or more prolific than another, and exactly the same distribution and exactly the same number of members would result whether the voters or the population basis were taken in a Redistribution Bill. But in South Africa the disparity of conditions between the new population and the old makes a very great difference between the urban and the rural populations, and it is undoubtedly true that if it be desired to preserve the principle of one vote one value, it is the voters' basis and not the population basis that must be taken in the Transvaal—and that is the basis which his Majesty's Government have determined to adopt.
The right hon. gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, had proposed to establish a franchise qualification of L100 annual value. That is not nearly such a high property-qualification as it would be in this country. I do not quarrel with the right hon. gentleman's Constitution on the ground that his franchise was not perfectly fair, or not a perfectly bona fide and generous measure of representation. But it is undoubtedly true that a property-qualification of L100 annual value told more severely against the Boers than against the British, because living in the towns is so expensive that almost everybody who lives in the towns, and who is not utterly destitute, has a property-qualification of L100 annual value. But in the country districts there are numbers of men, very poor but perfectly respectable and worthy citizens—day labourers, farmers' sons, and others—who would not have that qualification, and who consequently would have been excluded by the property-qualification, low as it is having regard to the conditions in South Africa. Quite apart from South African questions and affairs, his Majesty's Government profess a strong preference for the principle of manhood suffrage as against any property-qualification, and we have therefore determined that manhood suffrage shall be the basis on which votes are distributed.
It is true that in the prolonged negotiations and discussions which have taken place upon this question manhood suffrage has been demanded by one party and the voters' basis by the other, and there has been a tacit, though quite informal agreement that the one principle should balance the other. But that is not the position of his Majesty's Government in regard to either of these propositions. We defend both on their merits. We defend "one vote, one value," and we defend manhood suffrage, strictly on their merits as just and equitable principles between man and man throughout the Transvaal. We have therefore decided that all adult males of twenty-one years of age, who have resided in the Transvaal for six months, who do not belong to the British garrison—should be permitted to vote under the secrecy of the ballot for the election of Members of Parliament.
Now there is one subject to which I must refer incidentally. The question of female suffrage has been brought to the notice of various members of the Government on various occasions and in various ways. We have very carefully considered that matter, and we have come to the conclusion that it would not be right for us to subject a young Colony, unable to speak for itself, to the hazards of an experiment which we have not had the gallantry to undergo ourselves; and we shall leave that question to the new Legislature to determine.
I come now to the question of electoral divisions. There are two alternatives before us on this branch of the subject—equal electoral areas or the old magisterial districts. When I say "old," I mean old in the sense that they are existing magisterial districts. There are arguments for both of these courses. Equal electoral areas have the advantage of being symmetrical and are capable of more strict and mathematical distribution. But the Boers have expressed a very strong desire to have the old magisterial districts preserved. I think it is rather a sentimental view on their part, because upon the whole I think the wastage of Boer votes will, owing to excessive plurality in certain divisions, be slightly greater in the old magisterial districts than in equal electoral areas. The Boers have, however, been very anxious that the old areas of their former Constitution, of their local life, should be interfered with as little as possible, and that is a matter of serious concern to his Majesty's Government. Further, there is a great saving of precious time and expense in avoiding the extra work of new delimitation which would be necessary if the country were to be cut up into equal mathematical electoral areas.
The decision to adopt the old magisterial areas, which divide the Transvaal into sixteen electoral divisions, of which the Witwatersrand is only one, involves another question. How are you to subdivide these magisterial districts for the purpose of allocating members? Some will have two, some three, some a number of members; and on what system will you allocate the members to these divisions? We have considered the question of proportional representation. It is the only perfect way in which minorities of every shade and view and interest can receive effective representation. And Lord Elgin was careful to instruct the Committee as a special point to inquire into the possibility of adopting the system of proportional representation. The Committee examined many witnesses, and went most thoroughly into this question. They, however, advise us that there is absolutely no support for such a proposal in the Transvaal, and that its adoption—I will not say its imposition—would be unpopular and incomprehensible throughout the country. If a scientific or proportional representation cannot be adopted, then I say unhesitatingly that the next best way of protecting minorities is to go straight for single-member seats. Some of us have experience of double-barrelled seats in this country; there used to be several three-barrelled seats. But I am convinced that if either of those two systems had been applied to the electoral divisions of the Transvaal, it would only have led to the swamping of one or two local minorities which with single-member divisions would have returned just that very class of moderate, independent, Dutch or British Members whom we particularly desire to see represented in the new Assembly. Therefore, with the desire of not extinguishing these local minorities, his Majesty's Government have decided that single-member constituencies, or man against man, shall be the rule in the Transvaal. But I should add that the subdivision of these electoral districts into their respective constituencies will not proceed upon hard mathematical lines, but that they will be grouped together in accordance with the existing field cornetcies of which they are composed, as that will involve as little change as possible in the ideas of the rural population and in the existing boundaries.
The Committee will realise that this is a question with an elusive climax. It is like going up a mountain. Each successive peak appears in turn the summit, and yet there is always another pinnacle beyond. We have now settled that the Members are to be allotted to single-member constituencies based on the old magisterial districts according to the adult male residents there. But how are we to apply that principle? How are we to find out how many adult males there are in each of the districts of the country, and so to find the quota of electors or proper number of Members for each division? The proverbial three alternatives present themselves. We might take the Lyttelton voters' list revised and supplemented. We might make a new voters' list, or we might take the census of 1904.
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Lord Selborne has pointed out to us that it might take just as long a time to revise the Lyttelton voters' list as to make a new voters' list, which would occupy seven months. So that, with the necessary interval for the arrangements for election, ten months would elapse before the Transvaal would be able to possess responsible institutions. I think we shall have the assent of all South African parties in our desire to avoid that delay. I am sorry that so much delay has already taken place. It was necessary that the Cabinet should secure complete information. But to keep a country seething on the verge of an exciting general election is very prejudicial to trade. It increases agitation and impedes the healthy process of development. We are bound to terminate the uncertainty at the earliest possible moment; and we have therefore determined to adopt the census of 1904.
Let me ask the Committee now to examine the sixteen magisterial districts. I think it is necessary to do so before allocating the Members amongst them. In all the discussions in South Africa these have been divided into three areas—the Witwatersrand, Pretoria, and the "Rest of the Transvaal." Pretoria is the metropolis of the Transvaal. It has a very independent public opinion of its own; it is strongly British, and it is rapidly increasing. It is believed that Pretoria will return three, four, or five Members of the Responsible Party, which is the moderate British Party, and is independent of and detached from the Progressive Association. The "Rest of the Transvaal" consists of the old constituencies who sent Boer Members to the old Legislature. There will, however, be one or two seats which may be won by Progressive or Responsible British candidates, but in general "The rest of the country" will return a compact body of members of Het Volk.
Having said that, I now come to the Rand. We must consider the Rand without any bias or prejudice whatever. The Rand is not a town or city, but a mining district covering 1,600 square miles, whose population of adult males practically balances the whole of the rest of the country. The Rand population is not, as some people imagine, a foreign population. The great majority of it is British, and a very large portion of it consists of as good, honest, hard-working men as are to be found in any constituency in this country. But there are also on the Rand a considerable proportion of Dutch. Krugersdorp Rural is Dutch, and has always been excluded from the Rand in the discussions that have taken place in South Africa, and included in the "Rest of the Transvaal." But in addition to that there are the towns of Fordsburgh, which is half Dutch, and two other suburbs which also have a Dutch population; and it is believed that these will afford seats for members of the Responsible British Party with the support of Het Volk. I must say further that the British community upon the Rand is divided into four main political parties. There is the Transvaal Progressive Association, a great and powerful association which arises out of the mining interest. There is the Responsible Government Association; there is the Transvaal Political Association—a moderate body standing between the Responsibles and the Progressives—and there are the labour associations, which are numerous. There are three main labour associations, or really four—the Independent Labour Party, the Transvaal Labour League, the Trade and Labour Council of the Witwatersrand, and the Trade and Labour Council of Pretoria. Why do I bring these facts before the Committee? I do so because I feel it necessary to show how impossible it is to try to dismiss the problems of this complicated community with a gesture or to solve their difficulties with a phrase, and how unfair it would be to deprive such a community, in which there are at work all the counter-checks and rival forces that we see here in our own political life, of its proper share of representation.
Applying the adult male list in the census of 1904 to the three areas I have spoken of, I should allot thirty-two Members to the Rand, six to Pretoria, and thirty to the rest of the country; or, if you include Krugersdorp Rural in the Rand, it would read thirty-three to the Rand, six to Pretoria, and twenty-nine to the rest of the country. Arrived at that point, the Committee in South Africa had good hopes, not merely of arriving at a just settlement, but of arriving at an agreement between all the parties. I am not going to afflict the House with a chronicle of the negotiations which took place. They were fruitless. It is enough to say that there were good hopes that if the Progressive complaint, that the adoption of the census of 1904 did not allow for the increase in the population which has taken place since the census was taken, could be met, a general agreement could be reached. The Boers, whose belief that we were going to treat them fairly and justly has been a pleasant feature in the whole of these negotiations, and will, believe me, be an inestimable factor of value in the future history of South Africa—the Boers with reluctance and under pressure, but guided by the Committee, with whom they were on friendly terms, were willing to agree to a distribution which allotted one more seat to meet this increase of the population in the Witwatersrand area, and the proposal then became 33, 6, and 30, or, including Krugersdorp Rural, 34, 6, 29. The Responsible Party agreed to that. The Progressives hesitated. The great majority of them certainly wished to come in and come to a general agreement on those terms. Certain leaders, however, stood out for one or two or three seats more, and, although Lord Selborne expressed the opinion that the arrangement proposed, namely, 33, 6, 30, excluding Krugersdorp Rural, was a perfectly fair one to the British vote in the Transvaal, those leaders still remained unconvinced and obdurate, and all hopes of a definite agreement fell through.
The Committee returned to this country, bringing with them the recommendation that the Government on their own responsibility should fix the allocation of seats at that very point where the agreement of one Party was still preserved and where the agreement of the other was so very nearly won. And that is what we have decided to do. We have decided to allocate thirty-four seats, including Krugersdorp Rural, to the Rand, six to Pretoria, and twenty-nine to the rest of the country. Lord Selborne wishes it to be known that he concurs in this arrangement. Now I am quite ready to admit that every Constitution ought to rest either upon symmetry or upon acceptance. Our Transvaal Constitution does not rest upon either symmetry or acceptance, but it is very near symmetry and very near acceptance, and in so far as it has departed from symmetry it has moved towards acceptance, and is furthermore sustained throughout by fair dealing, for I am honestly convinced that the addition of an extra member to the Witwatersrand areas which has been made is justified by the increase of the population which has taken place since the census.
On such a basis as this the Transvaal Assembly will be created. It will consist of sixty-nine members, who will receive for their services adequate payment. They will be elected for five years. The Speaker will vacate his seat after being elected. The reason for that provision is that the majority in this Parliament, as in the Cape Parliament, with which the government is carried on, is likely to be very small, and it would be a great hardship if the Party in power were to deprive itself of one of the two or three votes which, when Parties are evenly balanced, are necessary for carrying on the government. It would be a great disaster if we had in the Transvaal a succession of weak Ministries going out upon a single vote, one way or the other. And it is found that when Parties have a very small majority and are forced to part with one of their Members for the purpose of filling the chair, they do not always select the Member who is best suited to that high office, but the Member who can best be spared.
Now let me come to the question of language. Under the Constitution of the right hon. gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, the Members of the Assembly would have been permitted to speak Dutch if they asked permission and obtained permission from the Speaker. We are not able to lend ourselves to that condition. We are of opinion that such a discrimination would be invidious. The recognition of their language is precious to a small people. I have never been able to work myself into a passion because there are in parts of South Africa Dutch people who wish to have Dutch teachers to teach Dutch children Dutch. I have not so poor an opinion of the English language, with its priceless literary treasures and its world-wide business connections, as not to believe that it can safely be exposed to the open competition of a dialect like the taal. We believe that the only sure way to preserve in the years that are to come such a language as the taal would be to make it a proscribed language, which would be spoken by the people with deliberation and with malice, as a protest against what they regarded, and would rightly regard, as an act of intolerance. Therefore we have decided to follow the Cape practice and allow the members of the Transvaal Parliament to address that Assembly indifferently in Dutch or English.
I shall be asked what will be the result of the arrangement that we have made. I decline to speculate or prophesy on that point. It would be indecent and improper. I cannot even tell in this country at the next election how large the Liberal majority will be. Still less would I recommend hon. gentlemen here to forecast the results of contests in which they will not be candidates. I cannot tell how the British in the Transvaal will vote. There are a great many new questions, social and economic, which are beginning to apply a salutary counter-irritant to old racial sores. The division between the two races, thank God, is not quite so clear-cut as it used to be. But this I know—that as there are undoubtedly more British voters in the Transvaal than there are Dutch, and as these British voters have not at any point in the Constitutional Settlement been treated unfairly, it will be easily within their power to obtain a British majority, if they all combine to obtain it. I nourish the hope that the Government that will be called into life by these elections will be a coalition Government with some moderate leader acceptable to both parties, and a Government which embraces in its Party members of both races. Such a solution would be a godsend to South Africa. But whatever may be the outcome, his Majesty's Government are confident that the Ministers who may be summoned, from whatever Party they may be drawn, to whatever race they may belong, will in no circumstances fail in their duty to the Crown.
I should like to say also that this Parliament will be of a high representative authority, and it will be the duty of whoever may be called upon to represent Colonial business in this House to stand between that Parliament and all unjustifiable interference from whatever quarters of the House it may come.
I now approach the question of the Second Chamber. That is not a very attractive subject. We on this side of the House are not particularly enamoured of Second Chambers, and I do not know that our love for these institutions will grow sweeter as the years pass by. But we have to be governed by colonial practice; and there is no colony in the Empire that has not a Second Chamber. The greater number of these Second Chambers are nominated; and I think that the quality of nominated Second Chambers, and their use in practice, have not been found to be inferior to those of the elective bodies. His Majesty's Government desire to secure, if they can, some special protection for native interests which is not likely to be afforded by any electoral arrangement, I am sorry to say. We are unable however to countenance the creation in a permanent form of a nominated Second Chamber. But in view of the position of native affairs, in view of the disadvantage of complicating the elections, to which all classes in the Transvaal have been so long looking forward, and most particularly because of the extra delays that would be involved in the creation of a new elective body, the Cabinet have resolved for this Parliament only, and as a purely provisional arrangement, to institute a nominated Legislative Council of fifteen members. They will be nominated by the Crown, that is to say at home, and vacancies, if any, by death or resignation, will be filled by the High Commissioner, on the advice of the responsible Ministers. During the course of the first Parliament in the Transvaal arrangements will be completed for the establishment of an elective Second Chamber, and if necessary further Letters Patent will be issued to constitute it.
Under the Treaty of Vereeniging we undertook that no franchise should be extended to natives before the grant of self-government. I am not going to plunge into the argument as to what word the "native" means, in its legal or technical character, because in regard to such a treaty, upon which we are relying for such grave issues, we must be bound very largely by the interpretation which the other party places upon it; and it is undoubted that the Boers would regard it as a breach of that treaty, if the franchise were in the first instance extended to any persons who are not white men. We may regret that decision. We may regret that there is no willingness in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony to make arrangements which have been found not altogether harmful in Cape Colony. But we are bound by this treaty. Meanwhile we make certain reservations. Any legislation which imposes disabilities on natives which are not imposed on Europeans will be reserved to the Secretary of State, and the Governor will not give his assent before receiving the Secretary of State's decision. Legislation that will effect the alienation of native lands will also be reserved. It is customary to make some provision in money for native interests, such as education, by reserving a certain sum for administration by the High Commissioner or some other political or Imperial official. We propose to reserve Swaziland to the direct administration of the High Commissioner, with the limiting provision that no settlement he may make is to be less advantageous to the natives than the existing arrangement.
On November 30, 1906, the arrangement for recruiting Chinese in China will cease and determine. Our consuls will withdraw the powers they have delegated to the mining agents, and I earnestly trust that no British Government will ever renew them. A clause in the Constitution will provide for the abrogation of the existing Chinese Labour Ordinance after a reasonable interval. I am not yet in a position to say what will be a reasonable interval, but time must be given to the new Assembly to take stock of the position and to consider the labour question as a whole. I said just now there would be a clause with regard to differential legislation as between white persons and others, and to this clause will be added the words: "No law will be assented to which sanctions any condition of service or residence of a servile character." We have been invited to use the word "slavery" or the words "semblance of slavery," but such expressions would be needlessly wounding, and the words we have chosen are much more effective, because much more precise and much more restrained, and they point an accurate forefinger at the very evil we desire to prevent.
I have now finished laying before the House the constitutional settlement, and I should like to say that our proposals are interdependent. They must be considered as a whole; they must be accepted or rejected as a whole. I say this in no spirit of disrespect to the Committee, because evidently it is a matter which the Executive Government should decide on its own responsibility; and if the policy which we declare were changed, new men would have to be found to carry out another plan. We are prepared to make this settlement in the name of the Liberal Party. That is sufficient authority for us; but there is a higher authority which we should earnestly desire to obtain. I make no appeal, but I address myself particularly to the right hon. gentlemen who sit opposite, who are long versed in public affairs, and who will not be able all their lives to escape from a heavy South African responsibility. They are the accepted guides of a Party which, though in a minority in this House, nevertheless embodies nearly half the nation. I will ask them seriously whether they will not pause before they commit themselves to violent or rash denunciations of this great arrangement. I will ask them, further, whether they cannot join with us to invest the grant of a free Constitution to the Transvaal with something of a national sanction. With all our majority we can only make it the gift of a Party; they can make it the gift of England. And if that were so, I am quite sure that all those inestimable blessings which we confidently hope will flow from this decision, will be gained more surely and much more speedily; and the first real step will have been taken to withdraw South African affairs from the arena of British party politics, in which they have inflicted injury on both political parties and in which they have suffered grievous injury themselves. I ask that that may be considered; but in any case we are prepared to go forward alone, and Letters Patent will be issued in strict conformity with the settlement I have explained this afternoon if we should continue to enjoy the support of a Parliamentary majority.
 Mr. Lyttelton had meanwhile been elected for that Constituency.
THE ORANGE FREE STATE CONSTITUTION
HOUSE OF COMMONS, December 17, 1906
Letters Patent have been issued during the last week conferring a Constitution upon the Transvaal Colony. These instruments have now been for some days at the disposal of the House, and this afternoon affords an occasion for their discussion. Other Letters Patent conferring a Constitution upon the Orange River Colony are in an advanced state of preparation, and I think it would be generally convenient if I were to make a statement as to the character and scope of that Constitution. With that view I have, by the direction of the Prime Minister, placed upon the Paper a Resolution which I now move, permitting a general discussion upon the constitutional arrangements which we are making both in the Transvaal and in the Orange River Colony. Now, Sir, by the Treaty of Vereeniging, Great Britain promised full self-government to the peoples of the two Boer Republics which had been conquered and annexed as the result of the war. This intention of giving responsible government did not arise out of the terms of peace, although it is, of course, solemnly expressed in them. It has always been the settled and successful colonial policy of this country during the last fifty years to allow great liberties of self-government to distant communities under the Crown, and no responsible statesman, and no British Cabinet, so far as I know, ever contemplated any other solution of the South African problem but that of full self-government. The idea which I have seen put forward in some quarters, that, in order to get full satisfaction for the expense and the exertions to which we were put in the war, we are bound to continue governing those peoples according to our pleasure and against their will, and that that is, as it were, an agreeable exercise which is to be some compensation for our labours, is an idea which no doubt finds expression in the columns of certain newspapers, but to which I do not think any serious person ever gave any countenance. No, Sir, the ultimate object, namely, the bestowal of full self-government, was not lost sight of even in the height of the war; and as all parties were agreed that some interval for reconstruction must necessarily intervene, the only questions at issue between us have been questions of manner and questions of time.
How much difference is there between Parties in this House as to time? It is now more than three years since Lord Milner, speaking in the Inter-colonial Council, bore emphatic testimony to the faithfulness with which the Boers—those who had been fighting against us—had observed their side of the terms of peace. Lord Milner said:
"It is perfectly true that the Boer population, the men who signed the terms of peace at Vereeniging, have loyally observed those terms and have carried them out faithfully. They profess to-day, and I absolutely believe them, that no idea of an armed rising or unlawful action is in their minds. I may say I am in constant, perhaps I should say frequent communication with the men who in the war fought us so manfully and then made manful terms. We differ on many points, no doubt, and I do not expect them to rejoice with us in what has happened, or to feel affection for a man who, like myself, has been instrumental in bringing about the great change which has come over the Constitution of the country. But I firmly believe their word when they come forward and meet us, and, without professing to agree in all respects with the policy of the Government, declare that they desire to co-operate in all questions affecting the prosperity of the country and the maintenance of public order. I accept the assurance they give in that respect, and I think it is practically impossible to put your hands on anything done by myself or any member of the Government which can be regarded as a manifestation of distrust of the men who have shown themselves, and do show themselves, men of honour. Let me say, then, I am perfectly satisfied that so great is the influence of their leaders over the minds of the main section of the Boer population that so long as those leaders maintain that attitude a general rising is out of the question."
Those are the words which Lord Milner used three years ago, and I think they are words which do justice to the subject and to the speaker. But more than two years have passed since the representations were made to the right hon. gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, which induced him to confer a measure of self-government on the Transvaal. Those representations laid stress on the fact that the desire for self-government was not put forward only by the Boers, but that both sections of the community in the Transvaal desired to take the control of affairs into their own hands. The right hon. gentleman published a Constitution. That Constitution conferred very great and wide powers. It conferred upon an overwhelming elected majority the absolute power of the purse and control over legislation. But it has always been my submission to the House that that Constitution had about it no element of permanence, that it could not possibly have been maintained as an enduring, or even a workable settlement; and I am bound to say—I do not wish to be controversial this afternoon if I can avoid it—that, when I read the statement that this representative government stage would have been a convenient educative stage in the transition to full self-government, the whole experience of British colonial policy does not justify such an assumption. The system of representative government without responsible Ministers, without responsible powers, has led to endless friction and inconvenience wherever and whenever it has been employed. It has failed in Canada, it has failed in Natal and Cape Colony. It has been condemned by almost every high colonial authority who has studied this question. I do not think I need quote any more conclusive authority upon that subject than that of Lord Durham. Lord Durham, in his celebrated Report, says of this particular system:
"It is difficult to understand how any English statesmen could have imagined that representative and irresponsible government could be successfully combined. There seems, indeed, to be an idea that the character of representative institutions ought to be thus modified in Colonies; that it is an incident of colonial dependence that the officers of government should be nominated by the Crown without any reference to the wishes of the community whose interests are entrusted to their keeping. It has never been very clearly explained what are the Imperial interests which require this complete nullification of representative government. But if there is such a necessity it is quite clear that a representative Government in a Colony must be a mockery and a source of confusion, for those who support this system have never yet been able to devise or exhibit in the practical working of colonial government any means for making so complete an abrogation of political influence palatable to the representative body."
I contend that the right hon. gentleman's Constitution would have broken down in its first session, and that we should have then been forced to concede grudgingly and in a hurry the full measure of responsible government which, with all due formality, and without any precipitancy, the Letters Patent issued last week have now conferred. But even the right hon. gentleman himself did not intend his Constitution to be a permanent settlement. He intended it to be a transition, and a brief transition; and in the correspondence which passed on this subject two or three years is sometimes named as the period for which such a Constitution might conveniently have endured—two or three years, of which, let me point out to the House, nearly two years have already gone. Seeing how little difference there is between us upon that question, I dispense with further argument as to the grant of a Transvaal Constitution, as I see the course we have adopted does commend itself to the good sense of all Parties in this country and is sustained at almost every point by almost every person conversant with South African affairs.
It is said, however, we have heard it often said, "It may be wise to grant responsible government to the Transvaal, but it is not wise to give it to the Orange River Colony. Why should you give it to the Orange River Colony too?" I say, "Why not?" Let us make it quite clear that the burden of proof always rests with those who deny or restrict the issue of full Parliamentary liberties. They have to make their case good from month to month, and from day to day. What are the reasons which have been advanced against the issue of a Constitution to the Orange River Colony? Various reasons have been put forward. We have been told, first, that the Colony is not ripe for self-government. When you have very small communities of white men in distant and immense territories, and when those communities are emerging from a wild into a more settled condition, then it is very necessary and very desirable that the growth of self-governing institutions should be gradual. But that is not the situation in the Orange River Colony. The Orange Free State was the model small republic of the world. The honourable traditions of the Free State are not challenged by any who take the trouble to study its history, either in the distant past, or in the years immediately preceding the South African war. The right hon. gentleman the Member for West Birmingham himself, speaking in this House on December 7, 1900, used language which, I think, should go far to dissipate the idle fears which we hear expressed in various quarters upon the grant of self-government to the Orange River Colony:
"We do not propose," said the right hon. gentleman, "that the Constitution of the Orange River Colony should necessarily be the same as the Constitution of the Transvaal Colony, either at starting or in the immediate future. It will be dealt with upon its own merits, dealt with separately, and we think it possible"—I ask the House to mark this—"from the circumstances with which every one is familiar, that an earlier beginning to greater political liberty may be made in the Orange River Colony than in the Transvaal. That is due to the fact that the Government of the Orange River Colony previous to the war was by common consent a very good Government, and consequently, speaking generally, of course, and not of individuals, we shall find there probably the means to creating a satisfactory administration more quickly than we can do in the case of the Transvaal Colony."
Then we have been told that responsible government presupposes Party government, and that in the Orange River Colony there are not the elements of political parties, that there is not that diversity of interests which we see in the Transvaal, that there are not the same sharp differences between town and country, or the same astonishing contrasts between wealth and poverty which prevail in the Transvaal. And we are told that, in order that responsible government should work properly, and Party government should be a success, there must be the essential elements of Party conflict. I suppose we are, as a majority in this House, admirers of the Party system of government; but I do not think that we should any of us carry our admiration of that system so far as to say that the nation is unfit to enjoy the privilege of managing its own affairs unless it can find some one to quarrel with and plenty of things to quarrel about.
Then we are told that—"The country is prospering as it is. Why change now? The land is tranquil, people are regaining the prosperity which was lost in the war. It is a pity to make a change now; now is not the moment." I admit the premise, but I draw exactly the opposite conclusion. It is just for that reason that we should now step forward and, taking occasion by the hand, make an advance in the system of government. How often in the history of nations has the golden opportunity been allowed to slip away! How often have rulers and Governments been forced to make in foul weather the very journey which they have refused to make prosperously in fair weather!
Then we are told that Imperial interests will be endangered by this grant. I do not believe that that is so. The Boer mind moves by definite steps from one political conception to another. I believe they have definitely abandoned their old ambition of creating in South Africa a United States independent of the British Crown, and have accepted that other political ideal which is represented by the Dominion of Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia. At any rate, no people have a greater right to claim respect on the ground of their loyal adherence to treaty engagements than the people of the Orange River Colony; for every one knows that it was with a most faithful adherence to their engagements, with almost Quixotic loyalty, that they followed—many of them knowing where their fortune was going to lead them, knowing full well what would be the result of their action—their sister State into the disastrous struggle of the South African war.
It is quite true that there is in existence at the present time—and I think Lord Milner has pointed it out—no bond of love between the men who fought us in that war and this country. I was reading the other day a speech by Mr. Steyn. Mr. Steyn is, of course, one of the most clearly avowed opponents of the British power. But Mr. Steyn is quite clear upon this point. He says there is no bond of love, and it would be untruthful and dishonest on their part to say that such a bond existed. But, he says, there is another bond; there is such a thing as a man's word of honour. "We gave our word of honour at Vereeniging, and it is our intention to abide strictly by that." I state my opinion as to the safety of the step we propose to take, but I cannot expect the Members opposite to set much store by that, although it is an honest and sincere opinion. But I will quote them an authority which I am sure they will not dismiss without respect. As soon as the right hon. Member for West Birmingham returned from South Africa, while his experiences in that country were fresh in his mind, while he had but newly been conversing with men of all parties there on the spot, the scene of the struggle, he made a speech in this House which really ought not to be overlooked by persons dealing with this question.
"Great importance," said the right hon. gentleman, "seems to be attached to the view that in the interests of the two Colonies it is desirable that a certain time, not a long time in the history of a nation, but still a certain time should elapse before full self-government is accorded. Whether a long time will elapse I really cannot say. One thing is clear: if the population of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, both Boer and Briton, by a large majority, desire this self-government, even although it might seem to us to be premature, I should think it unwise to refuse it. I do not myself believe there is any such danger connected with Imperial interests that we should hesitate to accord it on that ground. The ground on which I should desire that it might be delayed is really the interest of the two Colonies themselves, and not any Imperial interest."
The peace and order of the Orange River Colony establish this case on its merits. It is a State bound to moderation by the circumstance of its geographical position. In all its history in South Africa it has been largely dependent on the goodwill of its neighbours—goodwill and friendly relations maintained with Natal and the Transvaal, on the one hand, and with the Cape Colony on the other. It is inconceivable that a State so situated in regard to its railways and its economic position generally should be a disturbing influence from the point of view of the different States of South Africa. But there is another fact which justifies this grant, and that is the extraordinary crimelessness in a political sense of the whole of that country. Let the House remember that there had been three years' war, of which two years were fierce guerilla fighting, and that on all sides there were to be found desperate men who had been for a long period holding their lives in their hands and engaged on every wild and adventurous foray. Peace is agreed on, and what happens? Absolute order exists and prevails throughout the whole country from that moment. There has not been a single case of violent crime except, I believe, one murder committed by a lunatic—hardly a case of sedition—and not a single case of prosecution for treason of any kind. I say without hesitation that in order to find a similar instance of swift transition from violent warfare to law-abiding peace you have got to look back to the days when the army of the Parliament was reviewed and disbanded at the Restoration.
I submit to the House that a case for conferring responsible government on the Orange River Colony is established on its merits. But that is not the whole question before us this afternoon. We have not merely to decide whether we will give a Constitution to the Orange River Colony, but whether, having given a Constitution to the Transvaal, we will deliberately withhold one from the Orange River Colony; and that is an argument which multiplies the others which I have used. On what ground could we refuse that equal treatment of the Orange River Colony? There is only one ground which we could assign for such a refusal, and that is that in the Orange River Colony there is sure to be a Dutch majority. I cannot conceive any more fatal assertion that could be made on the part of the Imperial Government than that on this specific racial ground they were forced to refuse liberties which otherwise they would concede. I say such a refusal would be an insult to the hundreds and thousands of loyal Dutch subjects the King has in all parts of South Africa, I say that this invidious treatment of the Orange River Colony would be the greatest blunder, a fitting pendant to all that long concatenation of fatal mistakes which has marked our policy in South Africa for so many years; and I say it would be a breach of the spirit of the terms of peace, because we could not say, "We promised you self-government by the terms of peace, but what we meant by that was that before you were to have self-government, enough persons of British origin should have arrived in the country to make quite sure you would be out-voted."
If we were to adopt such a course we should be false to that agreement, which is the great foundation of our policy in South Africa. I hope the House will earnestly sustain the importance of that Vereeniging agreement. For the first time in many years the two white races dwelling together in South Africa have found a common foundation on which they can both build, a foundation much better than Boomplaats, or the Sand River Convention, or the Conventions of 1880 and 1884, far better than Majuba Hill or the Jameson Raid. They have found a foundation which they can both look to without any feeling of shame—on the contrary, with feelings of equal honour, and I trust also with feelings of mutual forgiveness.
On those grounds, therefore, we have decided to give to the Orange River Colony full responsible government. We eschew altogether the idea of treating them differently from the Transvaal, or interposing any state of limited self-government between them and the full enjoyment of their right. There is to be a Legislature which will consist of two Chambers, as in the Transvaal. The First Chamber will be elected upon a voters' basis and by manhood suffrage. The residential qualification will be the same as in the Transvaal, six months. The distribution of seats has been settled by general consent. The Committee which we sent to South Africa, and which was so very successful in arriving at an adjustment between the parties in the Transvaal, has made similar investigations in the Orange River Colony, and I think we may accept with confidence their recommendation. They recommend that the number of members should be thirty-eight. The old Volksraad had sixty members, but it was found to be much too large for the needs of the country, and on several occasions efforts were made to reduce the representation. Those efforts were not successful, from the fact, which we can all appreciate, that it is very difficult indeed to get a representative body to pass a self-denying ordinance of that character which involves the extinction of its own members. There will be separate representation of towns in the Orange River Colony. In the Volksraad there was such a representation: there were forty-two rural members and eighteen urban members. Out of the thirty-eight we propose that there shall be twenty-seven rural members and eleven urban members; rather less than a third of the representation will be that of the small towns. That is a proportion which is justified by the precedent of the old Constitution, and also by the latest census.
There will be a Second Chamber, and, as in the Transvaal, it will be nominated, for the first Parliament only, by the Governor, under instructions from the Secretary of State. It is not an hereditary Chamber; and it may be, therefore, assumed that the distribution of Parties in that Chamber will be attended by some measure of impartiality, and that there will be some general attempt to select only those persons who are really fit to exercise the important functions entrusted to them. But even so protected, the Government feel that in the ultimate issue in a conflict between the two Chambers, the first and representative Chamber must prevail. The other body may review and may suspend, but for the case of measures sent up in successive sessions from the representative Chamber on which no agreement can be reached, we have introduced the machinery which appears in the Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, that both Chambers shall sit together, debate together, vote together, and the majority shall decide. The whole success of that operation depends upon the numerical proportion observed between the two Chambers. In the Australian Commonwealth the proportion of the First Chamber is rather more than two to one; in the Transvaal the proportion will be more than four to one, namely, sixty-five to fifteen; and in the Orange River Colony it will be thirty-eight to eleven.
The other provisions of the Constitution will mainly follow the lines of the Transvaal Constitution. The Constitution of the Orange River Colony will become effective as soon as possible; and I should think that the new Parliament might assemble in Bloemfontein some time during the autumn of next year. When that work has been completed, and the new Parliament has assembled, the main direction of South African affairs in these Colonies will have passed from our hands.
Sir, it is the earnest desire of the Government to steer colonial affairs out of English Party politics, not only in the interest of the proper conduct of those affairs, but in order to clear the arena at home for the introduction of measures which affect the masses of the people. We have tried in South Africa to deal fairly between man and man, to adjust conflicting interests and overlapping claims. We have tried so far as possible to effect a broad-bottomed settlement of the question which should command the assent of people even beyond the great party groupings which support us.
Other liberties besides their own will be enshrined in these new Parliaments. The people of South Africa, and, in a special measure, the Boers, will become the trustees of freedom all over the world. We have tried to act with fairness and good feeling. If by any chance our counsels of reconciliation should come to nothing, if our policy should end in mocking disaster, then the resulting evil would not be confined to South Africa. Our unfortunate experience would be trumpeted forth all over the world wherever despotism wanted a good argument for bayonets, whenever an arbitrary Government wished to deny or curtail the liberties of imprisoned nationalities. But if, on the other hand, as we hope and profoundly believe, better days are in store for South Africa, if the words of President Brand, "All shall come right," are at length to be fulfilled, and if the near future should unfold to our eves a tranquil, prosperous, consolidated Afrikander nation under the protecting aegis of the British Crown, then, the good also will not be confined to South Africa; then the cause of the poor and the weak all over the world will have been sustained; and everywhere small peoples will get more room to breathe, and everywhere great empires will be encouraged by our example to step forward—and it only needs a step—into the sunshine of a more gentle and a more generous age.
LIBERALISM AND SOCIALISM
ST. ANDREW'S HALL, GLASGOW, October 11, 1906
(From The Dundee Advertiser, by permission.)
The first indispensable condition of democratic progress must be the maintenance of European peace. War is fatal to Liberalism. Liberalism is the world-wide antagonist of war. We have every reason to congratulate ourselves upon the general aspect of the European situation. The friendship which has grown up between Great Britain and France is a source of profound satisfaction to every serious and thinking man. The first duty of a nation is to make friends with its nearest neighbour. Six years ago France was agitated in the throes of the Dreyfus case, and Great Britain was plunged in the worst and most painful period of the South African war; and both nations—conscious as we are of one another's infirmities—were inclined to express their opinion about the conduct of the other in unmeasured terms, and keen antagonism resulted. What a contrast to-day! Ever since the King, whose services in the cause of international peace are regarded with affection in every quarter of his dominions, ever since by an act of prescience and of courage his Majesty went to Paris, the relations between Great Britain and France have steadily and progressively improved, and to-day we witness the inspiring spectacle of these two great peoples, the two most genuinely Liberal nations in the whole world, locked together in a league of friendship under standards of dispassionate justice and international goodwill. But it is absurd to suppose that the friendship which we have established with France should be in any degree a menace to any other European Power, or to the great Power of Germany.
If the prospects on the European continent are bright and tranquil, I think we have reason to feel also contentment at the course of Colonial affairs. We have had unusual difficulties in the Colonies; but in spite of every effort to excite Colonial apprehension for Party purposes against a Liberal Ministry through the instrumentality of a powerful press, the great States of the Empire have felt, and with more assurance every day, that a Liberal Administration in Downing Street will respect their rights and cherish their interests.
But I am drawn to South Africa by the memory that to-night, the 11th of October, is the anniversary of the declaration of war; and I think it is in South Africa that we have especial reason to be satisfied with the course which events have taken, since we have been in any degree responsible for their direction. One great advantage we have had—a good foundation to build on. We have had the Treaty of Vereeniging, by which peace was established between the Dutch and British races in South Africa upon terms honourable to both. We have had that treaty as our foundation—and what a mercy it is, looking back on the past, to think that the nation followed Lord Rosebery's advice at Chesterfield to terminate the war by a regular peace and a regular settlement, and were not lured away, as Lord Milner would have advised them, when he said that the war in a certain sense would never be over, into a harsh policy of unconditional surrender and pitiless subjugation.
The work of giving these free Constitutions to the two Colonies in South Africa, so lately independent Republics, is in harmony with the most sagacious instincts, and the most honoured traditions of the Liberal Party. But I notice that Lord Milner, who, as we remember, was once a Liberal candidate,—and who now appears before us sometimes in the guise of a silent and suffering public servant, sometimes in the aspect of an active, and even an acrid, political partisan, haranguing his supporters and attacking his Majesty's Ministers,—Lord Milner describes all this improving outlook as "the dreary days of reaction." Progress and reaction are no doubt relative terms. What one man calls progress another will call reaction. If you have been rapidly descending the road to ruin and you suddenly check yourself, stop, turn back, and retrace your steps, that is reaction, and no doubt your former guide will have every reason to reproach you with inconsistency. And it seems to me not at all unnatural that to one who regards three years' desolating civil war as a period of healthy and inspiring progress, a good deal of what his Majesty's Government have lately done in South Africa must appear very dreary and reactionary indeed.