« PreviousContinue »
Lord Carnarvon --Recalls Sir George Grey-Confederation in Canada-Condi
tion of Colonies and States of South Africa--Cape Colony-Natal-Griqualand West-Orange Free State-Transvaal-Difficulties caused by Govern. ment from afar-Antagonism of East and West-Principal Difficulties in South Africa-History of Confederation in South Africa-Removal of physical Obstacles-High Commissioner deprecates raising question-Great reversal of Imperial Policy.
It was in February 1874 that Lord Carnarvon succeeded to the seals of office as Secretary of State for the Colonies. In the whole history of South Africa no more fateful appointment was ever made. The power of the Secretary of State in the affairs of the colony was at this time practically absolute, in so far as it was uncontrolled by public opinion in England. Lord Carnarvon used his power to the full, and pressed it beyond its usual limits. Before his advent to office, peace had prevailed in British South Africa for a quarter of a century; his action is the direct cause of the unsatisfactory and dangerous condition of South Africa since 1875. All the wars since that period are directly due to the policy of confederation which owed its initiation to him. Unconscious of the full significance of his words, he himself characterised his unconstitutional agitation as the most important era which had occurred in the history, not only of the Cape Colony, but of South Africa.'
Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert was in his twentyeighth year when in 1858 he began his connection with the Colonial Office. He had taken high honours at Oxford in classics, and he reached a prominent position in English
politics as a peer without serving his apprenticeship in the House of Commons. The valuable lessons which are learned by contesting a seat in a popular assembly and partaking in the keen debates of a representative chamber were thus wanting to his experience. From February 1858 to June 1859 he continued as Under Secretary under Lord Stanley and Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton. From 1866 to 1867 he occupied the position of Chief Secretary, resigning his position at the latter date owing to his refusal to assent to the projects of reform decided upon by the Ministry of which he was a member.
At the period of Lord Carnarvon's first connection with the Colonial Office he had shown that he shared to the full the then prevailing sentiments with regard to the uselessness of the Colonies and the absolute necessity for the restriction of Imperial rule in South Africa. The most important event with regard to this latter country during his tenure of office had been the recall of its popular Governor, Sir George Grey, who in 1859 had addressed the Cape Parliament on the subject of a resolution of the Orange Free State in favour of a union with Cape Colony, and suggested a federation of the South African colonies and States. On the receipt of this address in England, Sir George Grey was immediately called to task for expressing his sentiments in this direction, and was informed that he was recalled, as her Majesty's Government had found that he had committed himself on a subject of the first importance to a policy of which they disapproved.
When in 1866 he joined Lord Derby's third Ministry his opinions had undergone a considerable change. Representative institutions in the Colonies had borne fruit and had raised into existence in North America, Australia and New Zealand several young English nations, bold, prosperous, and self-reliant. Events had moved on in the Colonies in the direction of maintaining and strengthening
the connection with the mother country, and the movement there was about to react upon feeling at home. The loosening of the formal bonds had the valuable if unexpected result of strengthening the sentimental ties. The Canadian Colonies had held many meetings and passed resolutions upon the subject of Confederation, and a forward step in this direction was now necessary if the aspirations of the Colonies were to be met. It so chanced that matters had been brought to the point of settlement before Lord Carnarvon took office, and it fell to his task to carry through the formal act expressing the Imperial assent to the desires and wishes of the Colonies.
On the 17th of February 1867 in the House of Lords he moved the resolutions for confederating the British Colonies of North America.
The prominence given to the question of colonial administration had affected the public mind, and the reaction from the policy of the abandonment of the Colonies was now in full force, with the result that Lord Carnarvon, who had taken the strongest steps in his power to prevent the consolidation of British interests in South Africa by the recall of Sir George Grey, had become an advocate of the confederation and extension of Imperial rule in South Africa by means of a dominion similar to that which had been created in Canada. The circumstances of the two cases were, however, extremely dissimilar. No resolutions had been received from the South African Colonies with a view to the mother country taking action.
Let us consider the position of the various Colonies and
Sir Charles Adderley says: “The Act of Union simply embodied in an Imperial enactment the provincial resolutions passed at Quebec.' (Colonial Policy, p. 47.) · The federal form was necessary in the first instance to meet the requirements of Canada,' but a solid legislative union would, in his opinion, have been better. The Imperial Legislature acted externally, so to speak, to the transaction, having not to institute the arrangement, but only to ratify and confirm the Colonial compact' (p. 49).
States in South Africa with a view to understanding the difficulties which at that time prevented any immediate steps being successfully taken in the direction of confederation. South Africa, so far as it had been rescued from savagery, consisted of three British dependencies, the Cape Colony, Natal, and Griqualand West; and two independent Republics, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. The Cape Colony in population, wealth, and the general elements of civilisation, as well as extent of territory, outweighed all the other States put together. It had long been established as a settlement—its history extended over a period of more than two hundred years; it had passed through all the stages of development from that of a Crown Colony, directly governed by an autocratic Governor from England, to the condition in which it acquired a Legislative Council assisting the Governor with legislation, and subsequently to the enjoyment of representative institutions; and it had finally received its full development in the establishment of responsible government in 1872. Its connection with England dated only from the commencement of the last century, but its customs, politics, and party divisions were affected by long antecedent traditions. It had surmounted most of the difficulties of a young settlement, and had entered upon some of the characteristics of older organisations.
As we have seen in these pages, frequent occasions of conflict had arisen between the local Parliament and the Imperial Governor and the Home Government while representative institutions were still incomplete. With the advent of responsible government there was abundance of evidence that the Cape Colony had assumed with credit to itself the responsibility of self-government, and enormous progress had been made during the short period that had elapsed since responsible government had been introduced. No one could gainsay the successful working under Mr.
Molteno, and both Lord Carnarvon and Mr. Froude themselves fully admitted it.' The unfettered development of this principle was bidding fair to become a successful solution of South African difficulties. The governing factor in South African politics had until that period always been the unwise, unsympathetic rule of officials appointed by the British Government, who at one time from want of local experience and knowledge of the country and its people had unwittingly offended them ; at another, under orders of a Colonial Secretary still more ignorant, had failed to govern them in accordance with their views. It was now determined that local experience should have its proper weight in shaping a policy, and as soon as the causes of irritation with the mother country were removed a better feeling at once came into existence.
The most serious problem with which the Cape Colony had to deal was its relation to the aboriginal races. After long struggles and patience under frequent disasters these were finally settled, as we have seen, upon a basis of justice and reason. English statesmen had at last decided to entrust the control of the natives to the colonial authorities themselves, though there was still some tendency to interfere with this control. The best proof of the success with which
See I. P., C—1399, p. 8; and as to native policy, I. P., C–1776, p. 3. 2 In a petition signed by upwards of 5,400 people against the annexation of the Transvaal, we find these persons, principally of Dutch extraction, addressing Lord Carnarvon as follows:-
*(1) That your Majesty's petitioners are aware that among the descendants of the old Cape colonists there has been ever since the country came under British rule, a feeling that from distrust or want of sympathy on the part of the British Government their interests were not properly cared for, and that accordingly those colonists have a long series of grievances to record against that Government.
*(2) That the free institutions which it has pleased your Majesty to grant to this Colony would have gone far to obliterate that feeling, were it not that interference on the part of your Majesty's Government with what the old colonists consider to be the rights guaranteed by solemn treaties to their brethren and kinsmen in the neighbouring republics had constantly reminded them of those old grievances which they would fain forget.' (See I. P., C-1883, p. 28.)