LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
SIR ALFRED MILNER AND THE CAPE DUTCH.
[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] Si,—One charge of Mr. Mackarness's incurred, as well it might, your editorial protest. But if nothing more is said, it will probably reappear ere long on the list of charges which Sir Alfred Milner, "though often challenged," in Mr. Mackarness's phrase, has not answered. Sir Alfred Milner is never likely to answer it, nor much else of the same sort. But others may do so ; for there is no mistaking the tendency of a mass of petty charges of this kind, if persistently repeated, to produce gradually some damaging impression. "The most frequent and intimate visitor at Government House," Mr. Mackarness writes, "was the editor of the chief opposition paper." It may interest Mr. Mackarness to know that whatever title this proscribed editor may have to be included in the largish circle of Sir Alfred Miler's friends (few men have a larger circle), dates from Egyptian and English days, when the one had as little to do with a South African paper as the other with a South African governorship. It may reassure Mr. Mackarness to know that, even so, this marked man has dined with the leader of the Dutch party a good deal oftener than he has dined at Government House. But can he deny calling and having conversations ? Well, anybody can have those, certainly any Member of Parliament, Bond or League,—Mr. Molten°, for instance. If Mr. Molten° has not been encouraged to make his now famous call "frequent," the fact may be susceptible of another explanation than that of the alleged partiality for Leaguesmen. "The leaders of the South African League," Mr. Mackarness proceeds, "were welcome." The language is vague ; but when I remark that most of the leaders of the League live in the remoter part of the eastern province of the Colony, distant several days by rail or ship from Government House, Cape Town, it will be seen why, without having myself watched the doorstep of Sir Alfred Miler's house, I doubt its having been unduly beset by them. Possibly Mr. Mackarness means not Colonial, but Johannesburg, Leagues. men. Soon after taking office, Sir Alfred Milner caused it to be known that he would always be ready to see or hear from British subjects in the Transvaal ; and a large number, on their journeys through Cape Town, took him at his word. That ended the official cold-shoulder which, necessarily, perhaps, for a time after the Raid, had been turned upon this section of the Queen's subjects. The new attitude did not please everybody ; it may not please Mr. Mackarness; but it was a clear duty, and it did an immense amount of good. As to the South African League itself, it is in Cape Colony simply the party organisation on one side, just as the Afrikander Bond, which it was formed to oppose, is the party organisation on the other ; and Mr. Mackarness naively suggests that its leaders should be treated as social pariahs, because (strange to say) it is "publicly condemned by Mr. Schreiner,"— the party leader on the other side ! The fact is, the social side of Sir Alfred Milner's governorship has been noticeably hospitable, and the suggestion that no Dutch need apply is quite a new one. But it is true, no doubt, that the race-feud has made itself felt of late even in things social; and one example may indicate where the fault lies. Before Sir Alfred Milner had said or done any of the things which Mr. Mackarness cites as cause of offence, simply when the Transvaal Imperial issue was quickening somewhat, certain Dutch Bond Members agreed to absent themselves from Sir Alfred's Parliamentary dinners. Thus at the Cape a ceitain faction absents itself, and then its friends in
England complain that it is not "welcome." And English- men are asked to condemn Sir Alfred Milner on such gossip as this.
To any one who has been at all behind the scenes in Cape politics, Mr. Mackarness's picture of Sir Alfred Milner strain- ing at the leash to dismiss the Schreiner Ministry, while Sir Gordon Sprigg and the other reversionaries of office beg him for the Empire's sake to do nothing rash, is rich with unin- tended humour. But it needs no special knowledge to see the absurdity of Mr. Mackarness's culminating indictment of Sir Alfred Miler's relation to Mr. Schreiner,—viz., that he has not " observed " Mr. Schreiner's prescription of "neutrality." The idea that this word could in any, even in a Schreinerian, sense, describe the attitude of a British Colony when the British Empire was at war, created some astonish- ment when Mr. Schreiner first announced it. But Mr. Schreiner, we all recognised, was in a difficult position. There seems a distinct prospect that when he next meets Parliament his working majority of "tried loyalists" may have disappeared owing to the number of them holding com- mands in the Boer forces. We make all allowance for Mr. Schreiner and his neutrality. But what would have been said if a British Governor had even pretended to " observe " the same maxim ? The Queen's representative neutral between the Queen and her enemies ! Not only that. Mr. Schreiner spoke at a time when he still fondly believed, and could assure Kimberley and Mafeking, that there was no fear of the Boers molesting Cape Colony. I am sure his belief, from whatever source derived, was honest. But is it possible Mr. Mackarness does not see how ridiculous he makes him- self by making it a complaint that Sir Alfred Milner does not take a similar line now, when the fallacy of Mr. Schreiner's hopes is known to the whole world ; when the enemy have invaded and annexed large parts of Cape Colony, and " commandeered " numbers of Cape Colonists, while the arms which loyal Colonists have taken up in her Majesty's service are needed for the actual defence of their homes ? Mr. Mackarness denounces the use of Cape Volunteers and Irregulars at a time when the Regular forces are seen to need the help of the latter more than any other reinforcements, and when both have been doing service which the whole Empire has admired, in the defence of Kimberley and Mafe- king, saved for long weeks by the help of just these men from the fate to which Mr. Schreiner's "neutrality" nearly con- signed them.—I am, Sir, &a,
[We have only been able to print a portion of Mr. Garrett's very long letter. We do not intend to continue this corre- spondence, but Mr. Garrett had clearly a right to be heard.— En. Spectator.]