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It was the obvious duty of Lord Carnarvon to repudiate the conduct of Mr. Froude on every principle of right government, and particularly upon that which he had himself laid down so clearly in a debate in the House of Lords on the inauguration of Confederation in Canada.
If responsible government means anything at all, it means this --that you not only give to a Colony free institutions and enable the inhabitants to elect their own Parliament, but you also undertake in matters of Colonial policy to deal only with that Colony through the legally constituted authorities.
Had he repudiated the violation of this fundamental and constitutional principle by the agent and agencies through whom and through which his policy had been attempted to be foisted and thrust upon the people of South Africa, little permanent injury might have resulted.
Let us bear in mind that Mr. Froude had declared that England had no desire to retain South Africa, and that should she desire to separate she might do so whenever she chose, and that this policy had been come to deliberately and was to be carried out immediately on certain conditions.
He thereby placed Lord Carnarvon if not England on the horns of a dilemma. If this were true, then the sooner South Africa set up an organisation to work for this object the better pleased would England be; and if it were not really her view, then Lord Carnarvon and England must be accused of a most unworthy deception, which has brought about very fatal results. We have never yet had a disavowal by word or despatch of this policy. Is it still England's? We have had ample circumstantial evidence that it was not Lord Carnarvon's intention, for we find him subsequently annexing the Transvaal, and it leaves a somewhat unpleasant reflection as to his sincerity. It is this playing fast and loose with matters of vital moment which has done so much injury to South Africa, and made so much trouble for England.
We see now what a serious matter it was for Lord Carnarvon to give his support to all that Mr. Froude had said, and yet what does he say in his despatch of January 24, 1876, in stating what has been Mr. Froude's position with reference to himself and to her Majesty's Government? _
He has possessed from first to last my full confidence, and whilst unfettered in his own discretion as to the events of the moment, with regard to which it is obvious I could not give, and for which I purposely abstained from giving, detailed instructions, he has been able to explain the general tenor of my wishes and objects with an eloquence and fulness and ability to which, hereafter, if not now, ample credit, I am convinced, will be given.
And in place of any censure he continues to observe that he takes this opportunity to express his recognition of the great and lasting benefit which he has conferred upon South Africa by his untiring energy, by the high qualities which he has brought to bear on the particular question of the time, under circumstances of peculiar difficulty, and by the clear and forcible manner in which on many occasions he has inculcated a policy and principles not unnaturally lost sight of by many under the more immediate pressure of local questions.
He further stated that Mr. Froude had received no official instructions, and that no formal correspondence had passed between him and this department, and, finally, that
he is fully satisfied that no unconstitutional agitation has been carried on in the Cape Colony in connection with this question.'
Lord Carnarvon and his agent being the accused, the former constitutes himself the judge and pronounces in his own and his agent's favour. Lord Carnarvon again imagines, as he frequently did, that his ipse dixit was all-sufficient to settle the question. History and time must give a different verdict, as indeed did all impartial persons at the time.?
Despatch, Jan. 24, 1876. I. P., C-1399, ? Lord Blachford writes to Sir H. Taylor, December 28, 1875:- What do
Although the tone adopted by a powerful Government at home had given the key-note to an ill-informed public opinion which treated the Cape Ministry as fools, who, to use a vulgar but expressive proverb, 'would cut off their nose to spite their face,' yet even the Times,' while fully supporting Lord Carnarvon's policy, very fully admitted that it cannot be denied that Mr. Froude's position has been for some months anomalous, scarcely consistent—in form at any ratewith the usages of Constitutional Government.
The 'Daily News,' writing on the same subject, said :
How much power Lord Carnarvon intended to delegate to Mr. Froude when he sent that gentleman out to the Cape as
a Commissioner of a public office, the public has no means of knowing. Mr. Froude as a man of genius is an admirer of heroic modes of action, and, seeing a fight going on, threw himself into it with an ardour which contrasts strangely with the prudent and patient reserve which most men of official training would have considered was imposed on them by their position.
The Standard,' writing on Mr. Froude's action, says :
It is impossible to say where his knowledge of facts leaves off and where imagination begins to supply its place.... when he assumed to himself the position, the power, and the honours of a Royal Commissioner his vanity made him take his commission from his imagination.
Mr. Froude went beyond his tether, and was 'playing fast and loose in a very unworthy manner.'
Under all those circumstances no one will wonder that Mr. Molteno addressed a Minute to the Governor advising
you know or think about Lord Carnarvon's Cape of Good Hope agitation? It seems to me (as to the Cape people) that the Froude mission was an error, both as to the thing and as to the man. I wonder Herbert, with his Australian experience, agreed to it. And Froude was not the kind of man (I should think) to make it go down-a man who would take up a view and work it not with reference to truth or practical success, but with reference to scenic effect. No doubt he is a very clever fellow, and when he has got a truth he makes it tell. But I cannot imagine a more unpersuasive person-judging from his books and a long-ago recollection of his person.'— Letters of Lord Blachford, p. 361.
him to summon a special session of Parliament. He therein
There had been no opportunity for the Ministry to express their feelings. Mr. Molteno considered it entirely beneath the dignity of his position to make any communication to the newspapers. Mr. Froude had had the field to himself, and when Mr. Merriman attempted to speak he was shouted down by Mr. Froude's supporters.
EVENTS LEADING UP TO SPECIAL SESSION OF PARLIAMENT.
Mr. Molteno's reasons for advising Special Session-Contemplates Resignation
-Correspondence with Sir Henry Barkly-Press supports Lord Carnarvon's Policy--Misrepresents feeling of Country-Lord Carnarvon's second Despatch-Ministerial Minute on Confederation, Mr. Molteno refuses to allow Mr. Froude to see Minutes - Froude presses Governor for Ministerial Policy -Correspondence with Sir Henry Barkly-Revolution in Constitution of Natal-Sir Garnet Wolseley Dictator-Reply of Natal-Reply of Free State - Reply of Transvaal-Public Excitement.
MR. FROUDE, as we have already seen,' had urged upon the Governor the summoning of a special session with a view to displacing the Premier. It was from quite a different point of view that Mr. Molteno had arrived at the conclusion that a special session was absolutely necessary in the interests of the country. It appeared to him to be imperative to take the strongest constitutional step in his power to put an end to an agitation, which was fraught with the most dangerous consequences to the country. It was indeed a time of severe trial to him. The arduous work, to which he had devoted his life, of consolidating the different portions of the Colony, both politically and in sentiment, of disposing of contentious party cries, such as those of East and West, and English and Dutch, of uniting the best qualities of both in the advancement of their common country, of disarming the power of the natives for evil by ruling them with justice, and showing them the genuine desire of the white men for their welfare—all this was now being shattered by the wild and reckless agitation directed and fanned by Mr. Froude.