By Seymour Mclean

HL Deb 04 August 1882 vol 273 cc734-8
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, What caution he has taken that taking Cetewayo out of the hands of the Cape Government, and bringing him round through England to his own country again, may not appear to implicate us afresh in South African war, which may consequently revive, and relieve the Colonists from the understanding of their primary responsibility for self-defence which was recently impressed upon them; and what official reception Cetewayo was to have from the Government?

said, he thought there must be some misapprehension in the mind of his noble Friend (Lord Norton) in putting the Question, for his noble Friend asked, in effect, what precaution had been taken in bringing Cetewayo from the hands of the Cape Government; and, whether that would be construed as a part of the policy of the Government, and relieve the Colony from their responsibility for self-defence? His noble Friend must have forgotten that the Cape Government, for convenience, only undertook the charge of Cetewayo, and it had nothing whatever to do with the Zulu War, and was in no way responsible for the peace of the frontier of Natal.

The fact of the Cape Government having taken charge of Cetewayo had, therefore, nothing to do with the question of the Cape Colony defending itself; and Cetewayo, being no longer in the custody of the Cape Government, had no bearing upon the question of policy. Cetewayo had all along been looked upon as a prisoner of war taken by the Imperial Government; and the Zulu War, and the whole of those proceedings, were very largely conducted by Imperial Forces, and in pursuance of Imperial policy, and any step taken with regard to Cetewayo by the Imperial Government, that Government would hold itself responsible for. He entirely agreed with his noble Friend that it was highly desirable that they should do nothing to diminish the responsibility of the Colonists in South Africa for their self-defence.

The Home Government thought it of the highest importance that the Colonists should be encouraged to undertake their own defence; and they had shown their feeling on that subject by the course they had taken in regard to the Basuto War, and also by the proposal they had made in respect to responsible government for Natal. He must confess, with regard to the latter part of the Question, that he was somewhat embarrassed with respect to the official reception of Cetewayo in this country.

He did not know what was meant by official reception by the Government, neither was he aware that the ex-King would have any official reception, except such a reception as might be given him when he would be asked to call at the Colonial Office to say what he had to say. Anything like an official reception he certainly would not receive, for to speak of one being about to be given him was giving him a sort of importance, which, though he was no doubt a person as to whom a good deal of interest was excited, did not properly belong to him; and it seemed to be elevating him to a kind of pedestal which would give him a wrong idea of his position. Cetewayo would have every opportunity of communicating with the Government; but there would be nothing of the nature of an official reception.

said, the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Kimberley) had not noticed all the points put by his noble Friend (Lord Norton), the first of which was that, if the result of Cetewayo's visit to this country was to provoke a war, in that case the Colonists would have a right to complain. By bringing him to England they did incur some danger of creating disturbance in Zululand; and the responsibility for the consequences of that would ultimately lie at the door of the Home Government. Another point was that the fact of their having brought the ex-King to England was likely to convey a wrong impression to his mind; and on that point he (the Earl of Carnarvon) had been rather gratified to hear the noble Earl minimize the reception Cetewayo was likely to receive on visiting the officials of the Colonial Office, and that it was to be confined within the narrowest limits. To his (the Earl of Carnarvon's) idea, the wisdom of bringing him to this country was mistaken and doubtful, because, whether intentionally or unintentionally, it was calculated to create a false impression in the minds of his countrymen that it was but the prelude to his restoration.

said, that the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) seemed to misunderstand the question. The noble Earl seemed to think that the visit of Cetewayo was a prelude to sending him to Zululand. Whatever might be the result of that visit, if it was followed by his return to Zululand, it would bring a certain amount of responsibility on Her Majesty's Government. Of course, if they took any decided steps in that matter, they would be taken in full appreciation of their responsibility; and the question would be whether these steps were steps of sound policy or not. If any step was taken by Her Majesty's Government in regard to Cetewayo that had an important bearing on South African policy, there was no doubt they would be responsible for it.

held it to be most unfortunate that Cetewayo should have been brought to England; and if he were permitted to return to Zululand, and a war ensued in consequence, Her Majesty's Government and this country would be bound to pay every shilling of its cost.

said, that he understood most distinctly, when the question was brought before their Lordships a few days ago, that it was the noble Earl's intention that Cetewayo should return to Zululand.

said, he could assure his noble Friend that he had never made any such announcement whatever. Whatever Her Majesty's Government might intend to do in regard to Cetewayo, their intentions had never been announced. Although Questions had been frequently put to him on the subject, he had always replied that the Government were not in possession of sufficient information to enable him to give a satisfactory reply.

said, that the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies was understood to imply as much in the answer he gave the other day to the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset), when the noble Duke questioned him with regard to the object of making Cetewayo take such a roundabout course as to visit this country on his way from the Cape to Zululand. The noble Earl then replied in effect that it was very desirable, in the event of Cetewayo returning to Zululand, that he should in the interval see something of the greatness of the resources of this country, so that he would go back a very different man from what he was before, and know something of the position in which he would put himself if he placed himself in conflict with such a country as this.

The assertion of the noble Earl, that the Zulu War was undertaken simply for Imperial purposes, was one which he (Lord Norton) altogether disputed. That war was waged primarily for local interests, and Imperial interests were but secondary in it. He could only say that if Cetewayo's going from this country to Zululand should lead to any revival of the war there, this country would be held to be responsible. As to the reception that might be given to him, he maintained that, while it was hoped that he was not going to be made a "lion" of, even such a reception as the noble Earl had hinted at was calculated to raise Cetewayo's opinion of himself and of his position, and, what was much more important, give the Colonists probably an erroneous view of the relations subsisting between Cetewayo and the Home Government. It seemed to him, however, that the reception he would get was not such as would make him less pretentious on his return to Zululand.

said, it was important that his words should not be wrongly interpreted, for his noble Friend (Lord Norton) had put words into his (the Earl of Kimberley's) mouth which he had never said. He had never said that the war in Zululand was undertaken for Imperial purposes.

If he had said so, it would have been contrary to his own opinion. What he had said was that it was conducted by the Imperial Government, and at the expense of £5,000,000, to which the Colonists contributed a very small part.



HL Deb 15 August 1882 vol 273 cc1803-7
rose to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether Her Majesty's Government have yet arrived at any determination as to whether they will permit Cetewayo to return to Zululand or not, or as to what is to be his future fate; and, if so, whether he will communicate their intentions on the subject to the House? When a question as to Cetewayo's visit to England was mooted in July last, the Colonial Secretary had seemed undecided as to what was to be done with the ex-King. Cetewayo's visit had become a fait accompli, and the deposed Monarch had had an interview with the Prime Minister and the Colonial Secretary, and had had the high honour of an introduction to Her Majesty the Queen at Osborne.

In spite of the fact that the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) had said that nothing like an official reception would be given to Cetewayo, people both at home and in South Africa would look upon this as something like an official reception; and it was only right that the Government should give some explanation on that matter. He had no hostility to the ex-King. On the contrary, it was impossible not to regard him with a certain amount of sympathy and compassion. On the other hand, the Government, by their conduct towards him, were placed between the horns of a disagreeable dilemma. If they prevented his return to Zululand, they must dash to the ground the hopes they had excited in his mind. On the other hand, if they decided to restore him, they would fly in the face of almost everyone whose personal knowledge qualified him to give an opinion on the matter, and would be pleasing only Bishop Colenso, Lady Florence Dixie, and the ex-King himself. Should another Zulu war be the result of the restoration of the ex-King, the responsibility which would rest on Her Majesty's Government would be very serious. The noble Earl concluded by asking his Question.

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have determined to consider the possibility of making arrangements for the partial restoration of Cetewayo to Zululand, with proper safeguards and conditions. Some portion of the country, to be hereafter defined, will be reserved, in order to meet obligations to those of the appointed Chiefs and people who may not be willing to return under Cetewayo's rule.

A British Resident will be maintained in Zululand, and Cetewayo will be required to enter into engagements similar to those by which the 13 appointed Chiefs are now bound, which specially include a prohibition to revive in any form the military system formerly prevailing. No portion of Zululand will be annexed to British territory. I have made a communication to this effect to Cetewayo to-day.

My Lords, it is impossible to hear the announcement just made by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies without feeling that Her Majesty's Government have taken upon themselves a considerable responsibility—a responsibility not only towards the Colonists of Natal, whose lives and property may be endangered by the resolution to which they have come, but also a responsibility with respect to the general effect which their announcement will have on the estimation in which the policy, or continuity of policy, of Great Britain is held. This is another step in the process of reversal. It gives confirmation to the opinion of those who believe that England has no settled Foreign or Colonial policy, but that her policy veers about with the variation of political opinion at the hustings.

And this, in an Empire where so much depends not on absolute force, but on the belief that is entertained in the stability of English resolutions and in the permanence of English policy and power, is a very grave decision to arrive at. As to the details of this matter, it is impossible, of course, to criticize them until we see them in more fulness than the noble Lord has been able to give them in his present explanation. But I cannot help observing that the prohibition to revive the military system will be a very idle threat unless Her Majesty's Government are prepared to maintain an amount of military strength in Zululand entirely inconsistent with their more recent policy towards the Colonies. With respect to the individual himself, it is, perhaps, impossible to say all that the documents in our possession would suggest to one to say; but the fact is that the man we are about to restore to power over a race whom we have affected to protect, and by the side of a Colony for whose safety we are responsible, has shown himself to be one of the most dangerous and most bloodthirsty of tyrants.

Not so long ago the Party which supports Her Majesty's Government, and many of those who now form part of the Government, denounced the policy of this country with respect to Turkey, on the ground of crimes which were imputed to the Turkish Government. Some of those imputations were well-founded, and some were not well-founded; but even if they were well-founded, they would be trivial when compared with the crimes that have characterized the government of Cetewayo in the past. I do not know how far this policy of restitution is to go. The Gaekwar of Baroda is dead, and consequently Her Majesty's Government cannot restore him. Ismail Pasha still remains, and he is an angel of light compared to the candidate whom Her Majesty's Government have replaced on the Throne of Zululand.

Of course, this policy must in a great measure be judged by its results. It is an undertaking little consistent, I think, with prudence, with the interests of the Colonies, with the prospective peace of Africa, and, above all, it will tend to create among all the populations whose destinies are affected by the decisions of the British Government a belief that in the policy of that Government there is no stability.

My Lords, the noble Marquess can hardly expect me to enter on the present occasion into a detailed defence of the policy which Her Majesty's Government have thought it best to pursue towards Zululand; but there are one or two of the observations of the noble Marquess which I ought not to pass by without notice. In the first place, the noble Marquess says that this is a reversal of policy. No doubt it is; and though, my Lords, I quite agree that it is a misfortune when policies have to be reversed, it is a much greater misfortune to maintain obstinately a policy which we believe to be wrong.

I need not repeat what I have often said before, that I believe the entire policy which dictated the late Zulu War was wrong from beginning to end. Further, I am of opinion that it has been abundantly shown, and those who have studied the despatches already presented must, I think, come to the conclusion that, whatever may be their opinion of the best policy to be pursued with regard to Zululand, the settlement which was made after the dethronement of Cetewayo has failed. Therefore, I think almost everyone—I am sure everyone in South Africa who is acquainted with the subject—is distinctly of opinion that a fresh policy might be adopted with advantage. Of course, I am perfectly free to admit that the question as to whether we have taken a right decision or not is a question quite fit to be canvassed, and one on which, no doubt, people will hold different opinions. At the same time, I have watched with very great care and attention all the indications of opinion in South Africa, and I am absolutely convinced that a considerable change of opinion has come about on this subject.

As to the argument that we ought not to put Cetewayo over any part of this territory because he is a bloodthirsty tyrant beyond all experience, I simply deny the fact. I am quite aware that a number of stories were collected together for the purpose of justifying what I believe to have been a most unjust aggression on Cetewayo. It was erroneously thought that an attack was made on the British Colony by Cetewayo, whereas, in point of fact, we attacked him. I am aware that Cetewayo, in common, I believe, with every Chief in South Africa, committed many of what we justly call cruelties; but it is well to consider precisely what those cruelties were. In the first place, a considerable proportion of them took the form of what is called "smelling out witches." My Lords, I am not a believer in witchcraft, still less am I one who approves of the punishment of supposed witchcraft; but I cannot forget that it is not so very long ago that persons in Europe and this country—persons under far more enlightened Rulers than Cetewayo—

imagined that there were witches, and punished them in a most cruel and barbarous manner. Although Cetewayo was, therefore, far behind his age, however we may disapprove his cruelties in this direction, it must be remembered that he was acting according to the customs which prevailed in the country. I admit that there is something behind of very much more importance. Cetewayo, no doubt, inflicted severe and sometimes wanton punishments on his people in order to maintain his sovereignty. But, against these facts, you must put this on the other side. If he was so cruel a Ruler, how was it that his people adhered to him as they did? Sir Bartle Frere thought his people would desert him; but, so far from that being the case, with the exception of one of his Chiefs, who came over to our side for special reasons of personal ambition, so completely were his people attached to him that, after he was defeated by our troops, and was a solitary fugitive through the country, not one of his people would betray him to our agents. Therefore, I come to the conclusion that he was not a specially bloodthirsty tyrant, as compared with men who have occupied similar positions. I agree with the noble Marquess that the step we have determined to take must be judged by the results. The whole question of dealing with South Africa is one of extreme difficulty. We have waited with great patience to allow an opportunity thoroughly to consider the position of affairs in that country, and we have deliberately come to the conclusion that the time has arrived when it is no longer safe, looking to the condition of Zululand and to the future, not to arrive at some decision for a new settlement, and the main provisions of that settlement I have announced tonight to your Lordships.

§ 6.20 P.M. House adjourned during pleasure.
§ 12.25 A.M. House resumed by the Lord MONSON.


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