Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

4 articles on this Page




IMPORTANT STATEMENT BY MR GEORGE w VY DII A M. A large number of questions relating to the war in South Africa were asked in the House of Com- mons on Thursday. Mr Wyndham said that a statement on the military situation would shortly be made in both Houses. Mr Balfour stated that the Committee of Defence was a Committee of the Cabinet, and it neither removed responsibility from the Cabinet as a whole nor from any of the Ministers responsible for the departments either of the army or navy. It obtained the best informa- tion it could from experts and from others. Mr Balfour also informed Mr Bainbridge that the consideration of a vast number of particular cir- cumstances had led to the opinion that the policy of the Transvaal Republic was the establishment of Boer supremacy in South Africa. But of course there was no direct statement either by President Kruger or by President Steyn to that effect that could be embodied in a Blue-book. Mr Balfour declined to lay any further despatches from Sir W Butler on the table, and reiterated his state- ment that Sir William had never suggested that the number of troops required in the case of an out- break of hostilities would be anything like the num- ber of troops actually sent out. The reason for Sir W Butler's resignation of the Cape command was that he and Sir Alfred Milner HELD DIVERGENT VIEWS on the policy to be pursued. The debate on Lord E Fitzmaurice's amendment to the address was resumed by Sir C Dilke, who criti- cised the military preparations for the war. Mr G Wyndham, Under Secretary tor War, who followed stated at the outset, what had been the objective of the War Office in the reorganisation during recent years of the army. Dealing with the preparations for the war, he said that the two critical decisions on which everything hinged were, first, not to make ostentatious preparations for aggressive action so long as diplomacy held out any hope and, secondly, Sir Redvers Buller's decision to proceed to the relief of Ladysmith, which meant that a transport for one organic force, which would have been matured by the third week in December, was broken up and diverted into another country, one might say, and some of the troops were diverted in a similar manner. He did not criticise Sir Redvers Buller's decision he would no doubt be able to give reasons for his action such as would CONVINCE MILITARY STUDENTS and the people of this country. The total number of troops which would be in South Africa in a fort- night or so, exclusive of the Eighth Division, would be 180,600 men. The Government had estimated that 59,000 men was the maximum force that the two Republics could place in the field. The num- ber of their guns of all calibres was estimated at 91, and since then they had captured 19 British guns, making in all 110. It might be that since June last a number of other guns had been intro- duced into the country. On the question of maps, the task of making a complete survey of so vast a portion of the earth's surface was not a feasible one. The little strip of territory between Ladysmith and the Tugela had not been surveyed, though special plans had not made of the bridges and approaches on the lines of communication. After Mr H 0 Arnold-Forster and others had spoken, Sir E Grey addressed the House. Mr Labouchere then moved the adjournment of the debate. A division was taken, when there voted-For the adjournment, 135; against, 155; majority against, 20. Sir F Flannery then continued the bebaie. MR. CHAMBERLAIN ON THE OPPOSITION. The first two hours and a-balf of the Debate which was resumed on Monday, were occupied by Sir William Harcourt and Mr Chambeliam. No two speeches could have formed a greater contrast, both in matter and manner. Sir William was in his most depressed vein, even though several passages bore traces of careful preparation, and of committal to memory. It was a Party speech from beginning to end, and was devoted throughout to an attack on the Colonial Secretary. It dealt solely with his policy, and scarcely made a single allusion to the conduct of the war. He quoted Mr Chamberlain's defence, in 1881, of the Boers' Independence in their domestic affairs, and his declaration that the main- tenance of the annexation of the Transvaal would be an act of fraud, force, and folly. The complete recognition of the independence of the Boers had been the policy of all Governments between 1881, and 1896, when it was reversed by the present Government, and Sir William asserted that it was to that reversal that THE PRESENT WAR WAS DUE. He attributed it to Mr Chamberlain not having gone to the best African opinion, such as that of Mr Schreiner & MrHofmeyr, but to his having consulted the men of the Rand and he interrogatively insinu- ated also that the Colonial Secretary had taken the advice of the helots who inhabited Park lane." The one part of his speech which was listened to more than any other was his reference to the reopening of the South African Committee. It bad been spoken of, he said, by Sir Robert Reed as a scandal and dishonour to the country. The authors of the Raid had constantly endeavoured to persuade the world that the British Government connived at the Raid. He believed when the matter was probed to the bottom it would appear that these charges were part of the SYSTEM OF FALSEHOOD AND FRAUD practised by the Raiders. Believing as he did that those slanders and falsehoods should be refuted and dispelled for ever, it would be the maximum of prudence and wisdom to do so, One or two voices called out How ? but the question was un- answered. In continuation Sir William declared that the war must be fought out until victory to the British arms was secured. Mr Chamberlain's reply made a great impression en the House. It was patriotic, elevated, and Imperial in its plane of thought, full of unflagging vigour from exordium to peroration, and had many eloquent and some pathetic passages. At intervals it met with some ironical cheers from the Opposi. tion, but the Ministerialist approval was continuous. Referring to the re-opening of the South African Committee, which had been closed at Sir William Harcourt's own suggestion three years ago, and which he seemed to suggest should now be re- opened, he would reserve any statement he bad to make on that point till the Motion which Mr D A Thomas had put upon the paper came to be dis- cussed. The turning point of Mr Chamberlain's argument was that the issues between Boer and Briton did not begin with 1881, but went baok to the beginning of the century. They were real issues, and the Franchise question and Blomfontein Conference were not causes but mere con- sequences of them. Before the ink of the Treaty of Majuba was dry, the Boers began to break their obligations, and even Mr Gladstone was com- pelled to run the risk of race hatred by sendijjg out an Expedition. So far from the present Govern- ment having been the first to INTERFERE IN THE INTERNAL AFFAIRS of the Transvaal, the Liberal Ad ministration which immediately preceded them had themselves done so, and their proposed remedy was a five years' franchise, and this remedy the present Govern- ment had borrowed from them. The difficulties with which ministers had to contend were not the work of one or any Government; they were inherent in the situation, in the Boer character, and in the British character, in Boer civilisation and British civilisation. There lay the root of all that had happened. From first to last the Boer aspira- tion had been to get rid of British supremacy, and that meant the inferiority of every other race. This issue had to be tried and the battle fought out; one party or the other had to give way, if peace was to be preserved. The Government were anxious for peace; but the war was just, righteous, and necessary. This was met with cries of No," in which the Irish members loudly joined, and by counter Ministerial cheers. If the Opposition did not think it was, then they should have brought forward an amendment that the war was unjust, unrighteous, and unnecessary. After referring to the self-sacrificing attitude of the country, to the losses in many homes here and in South Africa, to the noble developement of the Imperial spirit in the Colonies, to the SPLENDID HEROISM OF THE SOLDIERS and the Colonial troops, and after expresssing regret for the mistakes of the Government, be touched upon the divisions of opinion on the Opposition benches, and, amid great cheering, asserted that ne, er again would there be a second Majuba, that never again would a citadel be erected in South Africa, and never again would the paramountcy of Great Britain be endangered. The closing passage of his speech referred to the unity of the Empire which the war bad promoted, and he sat down amid ringing cheers. During the delivery of these two speeches the House was crowded to the utmost corner. In the Gallery facing the Treasury Bemch, from which Mr Chamberlain could be well heard and seen, the throng of members was so great, that the door was blocked by those who could not find a seat. From the Gallery facing the Front Opposition Bench, a row of members looked down upon Sir William Harcourt. The Peers' Gallery was also overflowing with noble Lords, all of whom left as soon as the two speeches were over and the Strangers' Gallery also presen ted an unbroken array of visitors. The debate was carried on by Mr Moulton, General Russell, Mr Atherley-Jones, Mr Malcolm, Mr Channing, and Mr Dillon, Mr Courtney rose amid a tremendous burst of Irish' and Radical cheering, and de- nounced the war as the result of the deplorable and perverse mismanagement of the diplomacy by the Colonial Office. His speech was continuously and vehemently cheered by the Irish members. Loud applause went up from them when he de- scribed the difficulty of governing South Africa by an English garrison. "You know what it is in Ireland," he remarked amid a triumphant Nationalist outburst. Mr Dillon broke in, how- ever, with the jarring inquiry" Why did you op- pose Home Rule ?" to which Mi Courtney gave no reply. The debate was continued by Mr Beckett and Mr Hemphill, and was adjourned on the motion of Mr Asquith. MORE OPPOSITION SPEECHES. A number of Liberal Peers crowded the Peers' gallery in the House of Commons on Tuesday to listen to Mr Asquith, who resumed the debate on the vote of censure. Mr Asquith received some applause from the Rosebery section of Liberals on rising. The opening passages of his speech were of a strong party character, and for a time he was loudly cheered by the Radicals and Nationalists. But when he went on to say that the war was neither intended nor desired by the Government the applause of the Nationalists turned to derisive laughter, which was drowned by cheers from the Ministerialists. He added as a second proposition that the war might and could have been avoided by President Kruger. Some Irish members called out Oh," while others broke into laughter. Proposals bad been put forward in September, and urged on his acceptance net only by Her Majesty's Govern- ment, but by men belonging to every shade and school of political opinion in this kingdom, as per- fectly compatible with the independence of his own State, and as a proper and legitimate instalment of a long-delayed and OVERDUE DEBT OF JUSTICE to the British population in the Transvaal. Those proposals were rejected, and demands were put for- ward known to be impossible, and intended to be refused, and these were followed by the invasion and annexation of British territory. If Mr Kruger thought that the negotiations of the Government had been a mere cloak and pretext, and had the purpose of sapping the independence of the Trans- vaal, and paving the way for its annexation, and, worse than all, if the Government had allowed themselves to become the dupes and tools of a gang of interested speculators, then, despite the invasion of British territory and the loss of British lives, Mr Asquith could not have voted one halfpenny for the prosecution of the war. But that was not the opinion of the House or of the great majority of the country, and that was why, with regard to the necessity and duty of carrying on the war, they were a united Parliament and a united people. He then branched off into a criticism of Mr Chamber- lain's methods, temper,, and judgment—which could not be condoned or approved, and which showed a demonstrable lack of insight and fore- sight. He insinuated that Mr Chamberlain himself would like now to have a chance of RE-EDITING HIS DESPATCHES and speeches, a, sentiment which produced enthusi- astic opposition cheering. I would not alter a word," interpoloted the Colonial Secretary quietly across the table, and, the remark being taken up by the Ministerialists, they in turn applauded vociferously. The rest of the speech was a criticism of^ Mr Chamberlain's management of the negoti- ations, and closed with the acceptance of a challenge thrown out to the opposition by the Colonial Secretary (JIl the previous evening to state what they thought the end to be aimed at should be. The settlement sketched by Mr Asquith differed little from the fundamental points which have more than once been stated by Mr Chamber- lain himself. The Nationalists and Radicals remained silent, but the Roseberyites and Ministerialists cheered. The former laughed ironically at Mr Asquith's hops that the Dutch and English, after the war, would forget their animosities. The chief speeches of the dinner hour were made by Mr Lloyd-George and Mr John Burns. The former spoke with bitter sarcasm of the hypocrisy and groundlessness of the complaints of the Uitlanders, and denounced the war as a fight for a forty-five per cent. dividend. Of the Uitlanders, whose cause the Government had taken np, seven thousand were fighting for the Boers, and the others were not worth ONE DROP OF BRAVE BRITISH BLOOD. Mr Burns, in a speech presenting many points of rhetorical originality, protested against the incom- petenoy of the Government, the stupidity of the negotiations, and the insolent manner which the Colonial Secretary had too frequently shown in this controversy. He mentioned that he had examined the Register of the Chartered Company, in whose interests the war was being waged, and he found it full of Dukes and Generals and persons highly placed, and of newspaper proprietors by the yard. Nearly every person who had spoken in support of the Government in this Debate held Stock. Mr Havelock Wilson supported the Government and warmly rebuked the Liberal Party for submitting such a contradictory Amendment. Mr Bond made a maiden speech against the Amendment. Sir H Campbell-Bannerman began with a spirited defence of the right and duty of the Opposition to bring forward this Amendment, and was disclaim- ing all desire or expectation of Party advantage when he was interrupted by a sudden and pro- tracted outburst of applause on the- Ministerial benches. The news of the result of the York Election had just reached the House. How much P" asked some Ministerialists in the midst of the cheers. Fourteen hundred," replied others, and the cheering was renewed and redoubled. The one piece of solid information they had received from the Government during the Debate was Mr Wyndham's statement that the Intelligence Depart- ment was fully ACQUAINTED WITH THE ARMAMENTS AND PREPAR- ATIONS of the Boers. But the House had received no proof of the existence of a great conspiracy, and he believed it was an invention from beginning to end. The key of the position was that the English and Dutch had to live together at the Cape. He asserted that the war must be prosecuted with vigour and without despondency. It was a quarter past eleven" when Mr Balfour rose, amid vociferous Ministerial cheering. He opened with some pleasant persiflage directed at Sir W Haicourt, who, he said, always answered speeches in the House to which he did not belong, and avoided the speeches in the House of which he was^so distinguished a member. Mr Balfour made a reference to his own speeches, and a member of the Opposition reminded him of his admission and he took no interest in them. "I have refreshed my memory," replied the first Lord, amid much laughter. The amendment was not, in his opinion, an attack on the War Office, but on Mr Chamberlain, and he delivered a glowing eulogy of the Colonial Secretary, through whose great admin- istrative abilities THE DRAMATIC MOMENT HAD OCCURRED when every British Colony joined hands with the Mother Country. His name would be for ever associated with—the sentence was interrupted by a storm of ironical cheering from the Opposition, and when it subsided, Mr Balfour completed his broken sentence—" associated with that great moment in our history." "With slaughter," exclaimed Mr Healy. Mr Balfour went on to inquire on what the Boers had rested their hopes. On God," interpol- ated an Iiish mnmber. "On the complications in which this country might, at some time or the other be involved," replied Mr Balfour, "when it might be driven to a dishonourable peace." He wound up his speech with an eloquent appeal to the House to present an undivided front. Mr Harwood rose from the Opposition Benches, and could not make himself heard for impatient Ministerial cries of Divide." When it was discovered, however, that he was advising the Liberal Leaders to withdraw the Amendment, loud cheering broke from the Ministerialists, and loud hooting and protests from the Opposition. Mr C D Shaw, rising from below the Opposition Gaugway, seconded this appeal, and declared himself a warm supporter of the Government. When he sat down there were loud Ministerial cries of Withdraw." No response came from the Front Opposition Bench and the Speaker put the Question the first time "Arcades arnbo," shouted Mr W Redmond in a loud voice, and the Irish members rose in a body and left the House. The Question was again put for the second time as usual, and the Division taken. The figures showed that the Amendment was re- jected by 352 to 139, being a majority of 213. The Ministerial cheering which greeted the announce- ment broke out again and again.