Saturday, January 19, 2013


HANSARD 1803–2005 1860s 1867 June 1867 18 June 1867 Lords Sitting


HL Deb 18 June 1867 vol 188 cc5-15

, in presenting a petition from Inhabitants of the colony of the Cape of Good Hope, said, that the petitioners prayed generally against the withdrawal of the regular troops, a proposal which they contemplated with considerable apprehension. The petitioners also referred to the annexation of British Kaffraria which was inhabited by Native tribes, which were perpetually at war with each other. The petitioners alleged that this annexation had been made without duly consulting them, and though they did not make any complaint on that ground, they expressed their opinion that some arrangement might have been made, more conducive to the maintenance of peace, than the existing one was likely to prove, and they thought that the immediate withdrawal of the English troops would have a bad effect on the adjoining frontiers. In the present unfortunate financial state of the colony the colonists were unable to make adequate provision for its defence. He (the Duke of Manchester) must say he thought the colonists had some reason for the demand which they now made upon the Government; they had also reason to complain of the annexation to the colony of a large territory inhabited by restless savage tribes without having been consulted in the arrangement. He did not think that Parliament should take upon itself to impose laws on colonies which had Legislatures of their own without any representation of those colonies or taking their opinion as to the course to be adopted. It might perhaps be impracticable to have colonial representatives in the House of Commons; but there might be a kind of Imperial Council in which the colonies should be represented in some fair proportion, and no measure which affected the colonies as well as the United Kingdom should pass into law without the sanction of that Council. He thought the Government might fairly comply with the prayer of the petition, that until the financial embarrassment of the colony was diminished, and the present danger from Native tribes passed away, the regular military forces should not be withdrawn.

expressed his regret that the noble Duke had not given him earlier notice of his intention to present this petition; but it was only this morning that he became aware of it, and he was no longer in a position to discuss the matter in detail, not having immediate access to those papers and other sources of information which it was desirable he should consult before addressing their Lordships. He must, therefore, trust to his general recollection of the circumstances in dealing with the question. The subject was really a very large one, being neither more nor less than the terms on which Her Majesty's forces should be stationed in our colonies. The House was aware that the Imperial troops were scattered over all parts of our enormous Empire. In many cases they were stationed in those places for reasons that might be said to be purely, or almost purely, Imperial. So long, for instance, as we garrisoned Malta, so long as we held Gibraltar, Ceylon, Singapore, and Hong Kong, we must be prepared to place there whatever troops might be required for the defence of these stations, and spend whatever money was required from the Imperial treasury. Some of the troops, again, were stationed in some places, not for Imperial but for colonial and local objects. The terms on which they were stationed in Canada and Australia, for instance, varied very materially. For instance, Canada and the British North-American provinces paid no direct contribution whatever towards the military forces stationed there; but, on the other hand, Canada did pay indirectly a very large sum. In 1864 Canada paid 300,000 dollars for the Militia and Volunteers, and in 1866 she paid upwards of 2,000,000 dollars for the same purpose. In Australia there was no indirect payment, but there was direct payment, and sometimes to a very considerable extent. In some instances, every soldier maintained in an Australian colony was charged at so much per head. In these cases a very considerable sum was paid. In the same way, a question arose not long since with regard to the stationing of a ship of war in the harbour of Victoria. When the Government looked into the question, it was apparent that the colony had spent a very large sum—upwards of £1,000,000—in the defence of the harbour; and it appeared to be wise, on political as well as economical grounds, to concede that point. But with regard to the Cape, the arrangements were of a very different nature. The noble Duke (the Duke of Manchester) said the Cape colonists had some grounds in reason for this petition; but he (the Earl of Carnarvon) wished the noble Duke had stated what those grounds were. For a great number of years Cape Colony had had a considerable body of Imperial troops, and at the present moment there were upwards of 4,000 British soldiers employed there. If he was not mistaken, the state of circumstances there at the present moment was this. The charge which devolved on this country for maintaining those troops exceeded £300,000 a year. The colony bore an infinitesimally small proportion of the military charge. About £50,000 was paid for police; but the colony had no right, because it paid for a police force, to exact from the Government a large expenditure for regular troops. They only paid £10,000 a year as the colonial allowance towards the maintenance of the troops, though, if they paid at the same rate as most other colonies, the colonial allowance of the Cape would amount to £30,000. He was therefore at a loss to understand what hardship the Cape colonists had to complain of on this head. Considering the serious financial embarrassment and the commercial difficulties which had beset the colony of the Cape for several years, he, as Colonial Minister, while believing that it was only just that the Cape colonists should be charged on the same scale as the majority of British colonies, was quite willing to make to them an allowance in point of time; and he accordingly proposed in a despatch that for the year 1867 no claim should be made on the colony in regard to an increase of the colonial allowance; that in 1868 the colony should pay the same rate per man as Australia for one battalion; that in 1869 it should pay the same rate for two battalions, and in 1870 it should pay the same for a third battalion. After that he proposed there should be no change until 1872, when the whole charge should be subject to revision. He did not think that that was an unreasonable or unfair proposition. The Cape colonists had enjoyed for very many years past the benefit of the presence of a very large military force, and of all the protection which that force afforded, as well as of the benefit arising out of the large Imperial expenditure which had taken place in consequence without the payment of one farthing on their part, except the £10,000 he had already mentioned. In the next place, he proposed by the terms of his despatch that one regiment should be withdrawn next year, another in the year following, and another in the third year. He might have reduced the force all at once, but he declined to do so, and adopted a gradual course in order to meet the commercial pressure in the colony. The only doubt in his mind was whether he was dealing fairly by this country in conceding terms so favourable to the Cape, in comparison with other colonies which paid very large sums and were not so favourably treated. Hong Kong, which was subjected to much more commercial embarrassment than the Cape, paid £20,000 a year; and the terms arranged with the colony of Ceylon were that they should pay £160,000 in a lump sum to this country; while in the same way Singapore, under the new arrangement, paid a very fair proportion. Even the little colony of St. Vincent was ready a few months ago to pay £4,000 a year, provided only a small detachment of infantry should be stationed there. Again, in Australia the terms arranged were very fair on both sides, though he could not say as much for New Zealand, where some objections had been raised. He only mentioned these cases of the other colonies in order to show that the Cape colony had no just or reasonable cause of complaint. He was not prepared to say that when they required the Cape colony to bear the burden of the military expenditure there they should not at the same time give to the colony responsible government. The expediency of having responsible government was discussed in the colony more than once some six or seven years ago, and a proposition in its favour was rejected by a small majority. If responsible Government by the colony itself were to be adopted, of course many very important changes would follow upon it. Their Lordships might not he aware that the colony was divided into two districts—the eastern and western districts; and the eastern district, apart from the Native population, was chiefly inhabited by settlers of English descent, while the western district was chiefly inhabited by Dutch colonists; and it was a curious fact that the English colonists were rather averse to responsible government, while the Dutch were generally in favour of it. His own opinion was, considering the present circumstances of South Africa, the great, extent of frontier there, and the general state of affairs, that the Cape colony was not yet ripe for responsible government in the full sense of the term; but when the colonists were fairly in a position to receive it, no doubt the subject would meet with ready consideration on the part of Her Majesty's Advisers. The real difficulty in this and similar questions, arose from the presence of the Native population, The 4,000 troops maintained at the Cape were certainly not kept there in furtherance of any Imperial policy, but simply with a view to Native policy and nothing else; and if Native policy were put out of consideration, there would be no pretence whatever for maintaining a large British force there. One of the questions to be considered in reference to the policy to be pursued was whether it would be safe to withdraw a large portion, or, it might be, the whole, of the troops from the colony, and on this point he could only say that no one living in this country, and perhaps no one residing in the colony, was able to speak with any degree of certainty as to the results of taking such a step. He had, however, made inquiries on the subject of every person whose opinion was worth having, and had been led to the conclusion that it was practicable and consistent with the actual state of the colony to make the reduction which he had proposed. At the present time, it should be borne in mini the position of the Natives on the frontier was very different from that which they occupied when the noble Duke was at the Cape, a quarter of a century ago. Since then a great many of the tribes which threatened the peace of the colony had been broken up, and had absolutely disappeared. A very large proportion of them, indeed, had come into the colony; and for several years past many others had applied to be taken under British protection. Therefore, looking at the general attitude of the tribes and their strength for aggressive purposes, he was of opinion that it was quite safe to reduce the number of British troops in the colony. And though the Orange Free State was, in many points of view, a source of objection and difficulty as far as the Natives were concerned, yet there could be no doubt that the presence of the Free Stale acted as a great check upon them by preventing aggressive tendencies on their part. It used formerly to be said that the maintenance of a body of troops in a colony, where there was a large Native population, gave us a better control over the colonial administration, and therefore gave us the power of protecting the Natives and ameliorating their condition. That opinion was very widely held even at the present day, and he did not hesitate to declare that he himself had entertained it for a considerable time, and had only given it up with great reluctance. Experience had shown, as in the case of New Zealand, that although we might profess to exercise a control of the colonial policy, the presence of British troops had been powerless to prevent long and bloody Native wars breaking out, the justice of which was often, to say the least, doubtful. At the Cape, too, an enormous military force had been maintained for many years past, but it had been unable to prevent the breaking out from time to time of Native wars, attended with the greatest possible cruelty, and involving this country in considerable expense. The control over the Natives, therefore, had been nominal rather than real; and upon abstract principles he could not see how it was possible to reconcile an imperium in imperio so as to make it consistent with the integrity of colonial self-government. He had been obliged to speak on the present occasion from memory alone; but if a longer notice had been given by the noble Duke of his intention to raise the question, he had no doubt he should have been better prepared to justify every step he had taken in regard to this matter. If the noble Duke at the head of the Colonial Office (the Duke of Buckingham) were to produce the despatch in which he had set forth the terms on which Her Majesty's Government were prepared to sanction the maintenance of troops at the Cape for a certain time, and also the principle on which the reduction was to be made, their Lordships would be able to judge of the propriety of the course which he had adopted. In conclusion, he sincerely trusted that the noble Duke at the head of the Colonial Office would continue to carry out with firmness the policy indicated in that despatch. At the same time he hoped the noble Duke would carry it out with forbearance, temper, judgment, and discretion. Allowance, of course, must be made for the different positions of different colonies, because an attempt to apply thoroughly and roughly a cast-iron rule in every case would be productive of much mischief. He thought the proposal which he had made was a fair and moderate one, and he trusted that Parliament would have no hesitation in confirming the policy which he had laid down.

agreed with his noble Friend who had just addressed the House (the Earl of Carnarvon) that the question raised by the petition was a very large and important one. He must, however, express his entire dissent from some of the principles which his noble Friend had enunciated respecting the extent to which colonies might demand military assistance. He believed it was during the time that he (Earl Grey) held the seals of the Colonial Department that the first serious attempt was made to diminish the cost of maintaining troops in the colonies. But while he agreed in the principle that the colonies generally ought to contribute largely to the expense of their own defence, he could not admit that this principle ought to be universally and indiscriminately applied. There was a great distinction to be made between different colonies. His noble Friend had referred particularly to the cases of Canada, Australia, and Ceylon; and with regard to these it was undoubtedly most fit and proper that they should contribute largely to their own military expenditure. It was obvious that nothing could be more unjust than to tax the people of this country for the military defence of Australia, where the people enjoyed a complete system of self - government, were highly prosperous, and at the same time almost secured against danger by their geographical position and the absence of any large and warlike savage population. In like manner Ceylon was also a rich and prosperous colony with a Native population easily controlled. But when colonies were placed in immediate contact with savage tribes of a warlike disposition, it appeared to him that they had a strong claim to the protection of the mother country, especially when their having been so placed had been the Act of the Imperial Government. Now he begged to remind their Lordships what were the circumstances of the Cape of Good Hope? In the eastern part of the colony the colonists had been placed by the direct action of the British Government in a most exposed position, and were scattered to such an extent that it was hardly possible for them to unite for their own defence. Land was assigned to them under regulations by which they were dispersed over a wide territory, and encouraged to adopt pastoral farming. Thus their property consisted chiefly of cattle, and a Kaffir could not see a fat ox without earnestly desiring to drive it off as a prize, much like the moss troopers of the Scottish borders 400 years ago. They all knew what the system of the old Dutch colonists was—it was to drive the Natives before them as they occupied the land, and shoot every black man without mercy who attempted to interfere with their doing so. The conscience of this country revolted against such practices, and compelled the Government to interfere for the protection of the Natives. We justly looked upon the system of commandos, as the expeditions against the Natives were called, as utterly barbarous and un-Christian, and though it had been very effectual we put an end to it, and be trusted we should never see it revived. The Kaffirs, too, were a very different people from the degraded Natives on the West Coast of Africa. They were singularly intelligent, and having learned from Europeans the use of firearms, they bad become so skilful and daring in desultory warfare as to be most formidable antagonists. In regard to matters of this kind, there were responsibilities which were above any consideration of pounds, shillings, and pence. There was no doubt, as his noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon) put it, that if we refused to give the colony military assistance we could not consistently deny them the management of their own affairs, and they must be allowed to deal with the uncivilized tribes within and near their boundaries according to their own discretion. We could only pretend to control them in these matters if we were ready to assist in protecting them. Now representative government was a most excellent thing if the people to be represented were a homogeneous people, and if none of them were excluded from the pale of the Constitution; but all experience taught us that if we allowed representative government, without any check from the mother country, to a colonial population divided into different races—more especially if those races differed in colour—the race which obtained the upper hand would be oppressive. But the oppression of such, a race as the Kaffirs would inevitably drive them to bloody acts of vengeance, and experience too clearly proved how, in such circumstances, mutual wrongs were sure to produce a war in which no mercy was shown on either side. No doubt the black race would ultimately be exterminated in such a struggle, and the whites would gain the ascendancy; but while that result was being worked out outrages would be perpetrated and life and property sacrificed to an extent which it would be fearful to contemplate. If their Lordships referred to the case of New Zealand, they would find a most significant warning against the policy which his noble Friend advocated. Soon after New Zealand was colonized quarrels sprang up between the colonists and the Native population, and a war in which we at first met with great disasters broke out with the Natives. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), who was at that time Secretary for the Colonies, sent out a very distinguished man (Sir George Grey) to take the Government of the colony, by whose wise and energetic measures the Natives were first defeated and then conciliated. Peace was restored, and a firm and just system of Government was established under which, for the eight years between 1847 and 1855, the most perfect tranquillity reigned in the colony; New Zealand was advancing in wealth, and each day saw an improvement in the condition of the colony, and the Natives and British settlers were in a fair way to become gradually amalgamated, and to form a united and prosperous population. But in an unhappy moment it was thought right by the Ministry of this country not only to establish representative government in New Zealand, but to do this under the form of what is called "responsible Government," which virtually deprived the Crown of the authority necessary for the protection of the Natives from injustice. Within six months after the establishment of that system of government there, disaffection re-appeared and improvement was stopped; the old feuds re-commenced, and the passions of the Natives were roused by seeing those who had recommended the most unjust measures against them put in places of trust and power. In spite of all our declarations about the colonists defending themselves, and about their interests not being ours, as soon as the war broke out the Home Government began to feel that they could not allow British subjects to be murdered and British property to be destroyed, and not fewer than 10,000 British soldiers and a large naval force from this country were employed to put an end to a war in which an enormous amount of property was destroyed. Financially, the result was that this country had paid a pound for every shilling it would have bad to pay if the old system had not been changed for one which had been recommended on grounds of economy. Well, in the case more immediately under their Lordships' consideration, if we withdrew our military protection, we must concede responsible government; and when this was done men would come into power who would bid for the support of those who had votes. The blacks were not of that latter class—some of them might have nominal votes, but very few of them had a practical exercise of the right of voting—the whole power would be in the hands of the whites, and the government would be administered with a view to the interests of the whites, and in accordance with their prejudices. Every man knew how strong were the prejudices which existed on either side when the two races were brought into that sort of contact. We might be sure that the Government would be carried on with little regard for the feelings or even the rights of the Native race. But these fierce people would meet injustice with violence — they on their side would be guilty of murder and plunder against the whites, and another Kaffir war would not be long in breaking out; and we should not have a limited population like that of New Zealand to contend with. Fresh and fresh tribes of warlike savages from a large part of Southern Africa would be drawn into the contest. He should further observe that he thought his noble Friend bad overrated the cost of our keeping a considerable garrison in the Cape Colony. It should be remembered that we had always to maintain a large military force for the defence of these islands and of our foreign possessions; and there was no other portion of the world in which a strong division of our army could be kept in reserve to meet any emergencies that might arise so advantageously as in that colony. Regarded as a place in which to keep a large force ready to be sent wherever it might be wanted, the advantages of the Cape were very superior. It was singularly healthy, as was shown by the statistical Returns which had come under his observation; the nature of the service required of soldiers formed most useful training—nothing could better fit men for actual warfare; the position of the Cope was such that the men stationed there could be speedily despatched to any places where their services might at any time be required; and, indeed, upon the occasion of the Indian Mutiny the forces sent from the Cape most materially assisted in suppressing the out break. So that even if no local interests required the continued presence of troops at the Cape, it was, in his opinion, a place offering most superior advantages for keeping a portion of our army ready to be called on either for our defence at home or for the defence of others of our colonies.
Petition ordered to lie on the table.
  1. NAVAL STORES BILL [H.L.]33 words