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'facto' who governs the Cape—the Supreme Executive. To suspend the Constitution of Cape Colony, a phrase in everyone's mouth, means the substitution for the time being of a new system, which, of course, must have the authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. To invite Parliament to legislate directly for Cape Colony further involves the making of Parliament fully acquainted with the existing situation in that colony. Now, with a military censorship in force in South Africa, with the suppression of free speech and public meetings, Parliament has not as yet before it evidence upon which it can safely act in a matter of such extreme importance. An impartial and thorough inquiry into the existing state of things in Cape Colony should surely be undertaken, and reports laid before Parliament to enable it to act with knowledge and deliberation. This, it is true, will take time, but it is by no means certain that the lapse of a few months after the cessation of hostilities before the resumption of regular civil government would not be beneficial rather than the reverse.
It is unfortunately the case that those who should be best acquainted with the condition of Cape Colony take diametrically different views of the policy which should be pursued. Lord Milner, in a letter written for publication, commenting upon a petition to Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson, Governor of Cape Colony, from forty-five members * of the Colonial Legislature, praying for a temporary suspension of the Constitution, uses very decided language.
'I entirely sympathise,' he writes, 'with the desire to preserve the Colony from the disastrous consequences which are likely to result from the resumption of Parliamentary and party strife before the bitter passions excited by the war have had even a little time to sub- Iside.' And he goes on at some length to declare that this view is 'no defection from the principle of responsible government. Local independence is the essence of our Imperial system, and so far from wishing to depart from it in this country, we all, I believe, hope to see it extended in the not distant future to the whole of South Africa. But it may well be that an interregnum of non-Parliamentary Government in the Cape Colony will not prevent, but promote, a return to the normal working of the constitutional system, and preserve that system from the complete breakdown with which a repetition of the events ot the summer and autumn of 1900 would undoubtedly threaten it. As a matter of fact an interregnum of a sort already exists. For some time past the administration has of necessity been carried on without
* Three of these subsequently withdrew their names.
Parliamentary authority. No sensible or loyal man will blame the present Government for that. On the contrary, they deserve the gratitude of the community for not having shrunk from the responsibility forced upon them by the circumstances of the time, and for having preferred to run a personal risk, to plunging the country into anarchy. ... It does not follow that an interim Colonial Government, because it was not based on popular election, would therefore not be representative. On the contrary, it would be the interest as well as the duty of the Imperial Government to make it so, just as it would be its interest and its duty to see fair play between the various Colonies in any federal arrangement.'
At a great meeting at Port Elizabeth on June 22, at which Dr. Smartt and other members of the Cape Parliament were present, little was said about a short interregnum, whilst it was urged that it would be criminal and cruel folly to allow the Parliament to meet' for some years to come.' Dr. Smartt, who has left Sir J. Gordon Sprigg's Ministry on this question, seemed to think the Imperial Government would be very unwilling to take the responsibility of putting an end to the Parliamentary Constitution of the Colony. Many of the Dutch better classes, he said, desired this, Lord Milner wanted it, and 'it might be necessary to appeal for 'aid to the British people in England and in the other 'colonies to compel the British Government to take a re'sponsibility which the circumstances of the case urgently 'demanded.' On the same day an equally unanimous meeting at Queenstown, addressed by Mr. Douglas, a member of the Ministry, came to an absolutely contrary conclusion, declaring its entire disapproval of the proposed suspension of parliamentary government.
Sir J. Gordon Sprigg, the Prime Minister of the Cape, now in England, and Mr. Graham, acting Prime Minister in his absence, are convinced that the suspension of the Constitution would have the most disastrous consequences, and large and enthusiastic public meetings have endorsed their views. In the interest both of English and Dutch they insist that the Parliamentary Constitution must be preserved.
'It is said * that two per cent, of the whites of the Colony are rebels; and because a handful of the scum have gone into rebellion, is the Colony to be branded with the stigma of rebellion? If every Dutchman in the Colony were branded as a rebel we should store for ourselves a heritage of woe, and if the Constitution were suspended the Dutchmen would certainly think they were so branded.'
* Mr. Graham's speech, ' Times,' June 18, 1902.
In solemn language Mr. Graham warned England and the Home Government on the dangers of the course recommended by Lord Milner and Dr. Smartt.
These divergent opinions, vehemently held by men of undoubted loyalty, make it incumbent on the Imperial Government to proceed with great caution before coming to Parliament with proposals to legalise an entirely anomalous position in South Africa. It will be most unfortunate if the internal affairs of South Africa are made the shuttlecock of political parties at home; and means might perhaps be found to avert this most undesirable result. A very great deal will turn upon the wisdom and tact of those who govern the Colony. Even should it be found on trial impossible to revert at once to full parliamentary institutions, steps must be taken to show that the Imperial Govern- j^ment means Dutchmen as well as Englishmen to have their share in governing the country. Men of Dutch blood and of Dutch sympathies are amongst the ablest and fittest men in the Colony for the work that has to be done; and it is of the greatest importance for the future loyalty and prosperity of the Colony that we should avail ourselves of their assistance.
The Government has now decided against the suspension of the Constitution of the Cape, until at least 'incontro'vertible proof should be produced either that the con* tinuance of the existing Constitution is a positive danger to 'the peace of the Colony and to the interests of the Empire, Bi
I'or that the great majority of the white population desire a 'complete transfer of authority to the Imperial Government, 'a desire which might be expressed in constitutional form * by a resolution of the Cape Parliament.'*
This decision is in every way satisfactory. Mr. Chamber- ^
Iain's despatch to the Governor of the Cape indicates his belief that now the war is over Englishmen and Dutchmen will show themselves wise enough and patriotic enough to do their best to bury the past and to work together for the common good. The Government is absolutely in the right in its desire to put, if possible, the responsibility for affairs in Cape Colony upon the people of the Colony. Dr. Smartt's curious speech is too much like an attempt to force the hands of the Ministry at home, and shows moreover little understanding of popular sentiment in Great Britain or in her
* See Despatch of Mr. Chamberlain, July 2, 1902, Parliamentary Papers, Cape Colony. [Cd. 1162.]
VOL. CXCVI. NO. CCCCI. T
self-governing colonies. As Mr. Chamberlain in his admirable despatch points out, the formal suspension of the Constitution is beyond the power of Ministers of the Crown. If it is to be done at all, it must be done by Act of the Imperial Parliament. It may, however, well be that the aid of that Parliament will yet have to be invoked. It is impossible to see far into the future; but at present there is strong reason to hope that the Cape Parliament will show itself equal to the occasion, and that the free Constitution of the Colony, with its equal laws and privileges for all white men, though it has been suspended by force of circumstances during the stress of war and rebellion, will revive with a condition of settled peace, and find support amongst the great majority of sensible men of both races.
It was of the utmost importance at the present juncture to assure the European population of South Africa that his Majesty's Government was firm in the determination, again and again expressed, to preserve to them the privileges of self-government. In these days it is hardly conceivable that any British Ministry would wish to reserve to itself and the Home Parliament the duty of governing a distant and populous European colony, and we may be quite sure that Lord Salisbury and Mr. Chamberlain are genuinely anxious, in the interest both of Mother-country and Colony, that the Cape should govern itself.
The Peace has come; and with the peace new problems for solution, which it is certain will tax the wisdom and patience of Colonial and English statesmen for many a long year. The Home Government is working on sound principles, and if its efforts are well seconded in the Colony, the return of prosperity and concord to the South African population, which has suffered so much during the last three years, will not be long delayed.
No. CCCCIL will be published in October.
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