SIR BARTLE FRERE ON HIMSELF.
SIR BARTLE FRERE is, perhaps, the most conspicuous living example of the class of men who will deliberately conceive and carry out an iniquitous policy, thinking all the while that they are doing God service and conferring benefits even on the victims of their policy. In a pamphlet just pub- lished Sir Bartle defends his Afghan and South-African policies with arguments which might be used to justify every auto da fe in the records of the Spanish Inquisition. The pamphlet is, in fact, a vindication of the policy that the end justifies the means. Sir Bartle Frere would, perhaps, deny this, for one of the most curious things in his pamphlet is his incapacity to appreciate the moral significance of his words and acts. The ostensible cause of his apologia is a very courteous reference made to him by Mr. Gladstone in one of his Midlothian speeches. To his and Sir Henry Rawlinson's influence Mr. Gladstone attributed in a large degree the Afghan and Zulu wars. But to Sir Bartle Frere and Sir Henry Rawlinson per- sonally Mr. Gladstone gave high praise. He described them as men " of high character and great ability," "gentlemen of benevolence " also ; but " apt, in giving scope to their benevolent motives, to take into their own hands the choice of means, in a manner those who are conversant with free institutions and a responsible Government never dream of. Sir Bartle Frere's mode of action at the Cape of Good Hope does not tend to credit his advice in Afghanistan." This quotation Sir Bartle Frere makes the text of his pamphlet. It " gave currency," he says, " to the old calumnies and mis- representations of facts and opinion," and tended to " the ruin of the prosperity of a region which might otherwise become a southern home of men of European races, discharging a great duty in civilising, and raising in the scale of humanity the mil- lions of natives of Africa." Sir Bartle Frere has always got some grand scheme of benevolence in his mind to justify the most nefarious policy. But how did Mr. Gladstone's Midlothian speeches ruin Sir Bartle's high policy ? "Because," says Sir Bartle, "large numbers of my countrymen had consequently, in reliance on your testimony, condemned me, and all I had done or proposed to do, in South Africa, before I could be heard in my own defence ; and I was recalled from South Africa at a very critical period in the fortunes of its colonies." Sir Bartle Frere has here fallen into an error of fact. The large majority of his countrymen had con- demned him months before Mr. Gladstone's Midlothian
campaign. Nor was he condemned " before he could be heard in his own defence." In this pamphlet he has added no fact or argument of the slightest value to the defence that he made of himself in voluminous despatches which were pub- lished at the time in the Blue-books, and which were before
the public when his policy was arraigned in both Houses of Parliament. The late Government employed its majorities in, successfully resisting the demand for Sir Bartle's recall ; but, with the exception of Lord Salisbury and Lord Carnarvon, no attempt was made to justify his policy. On the contrary, the late Government rebuked him severely for needlessly precipitating the Zulu war, and soon afterwards superseded him in the region where he had done so much mischief, by the appointment of Sir Garnet Wolseley in his stead. That he "was recalled from South Africa at a very critical period in the fortunes of its colonies" may be true ; for the periods of Sir Bartle Frere's independent rule have generally been critical periods. He was allowed to remain in South Africa till the event proved that he had no influence but for evil. The work which he was sent thither to accomplish was the Confederation of the South-African Colonies, and he was only recalled when that scheme was rejected, and rejected in a way which showed that, if it was ever destined to succeed, Sir Bartle Frere was not the man to bring it about.
We do not propose, nor is it necessary, to examine in detail the line of argument which Sir Bartle Frere has followed in this vindication of his policy. The value of the whole per- formance may be tested by a few typical examples. "The true causes of the Zulu, as of the Afghan, war," says Sir Bartle Frere, " are neglect of neighbourly duties and responsi- bilties, incumbent on a rich and powerful nation, towards poor, barbarous tribes on the borders. We have allowed a noble- people, capable of rapid and permanent advancement in civili- sation, to grow in numbers, whilst they festered in barbarism, till they became a serious danger to us." The " serious danger," in Zululand as well as in Afghanistan, we believe to be purely a creation of Sir Bartle Frere's imagination. The deliberate- conviction of those who had the best means of knowing are dead against him. Dean Green and Bishop Colenso are strongly opposed to each other on other questions, but on this they are agreed. They have spent more than thirty years in Natal, and have an intimate knowledge of the Zulus, and they have both publicly declared that there was not the slightest danger of a Zulu invasion. And this conclusion was entirely justified by facts. After the disaster of Isandlana, Natal lay for some time at the mercy of the Zulus. Yet they took no advantage of their opportunity, and it is now known that Cetywayo's orders to his army were to stand on the defensive.. But Sir Bartle Frere maintains not only that the Zulus would, but that they actually did, invade Natal :—" I have always maintained," he says, " it was not we who made war on Cety- wayo, but he who made war on us." The foundation for this astounding assertion is the following :—Two Zulus, who were guilty of a capital crime according to Zulu law, fled across the Tugela river. They were followed some little distance into British territory, fetched back, and put to death. This is magnified by the heated imagination of Sir Bartle Frere into "two armed violations of British territory by armed bands," who had forcibly taken away two refugees from British territory into Zululand, and there murdered them." There was a time, and not very long ago, when the theft of a handkerchief worth five shillings was a capital offence in England. Is it Sir Bartle Frere's opinion that every king under whom that barbarous law was executed was a murderer ? Or does he think that the crime—that of adultery—for which the Zulu refugees were executed is morally less heinous than petty larceny ? And as for the armed violations of British territory by armed bands," it simply means that two hot-headed youths, relatives of the- runaway culprits, and who were doubtless very ignorant of international law, crossed the British frontier with a few followers in pursuit of the runaways. For this offence Cetywayo apologised, and offered what, according to Zulu customs, he considered an ample atonement. This is Sir Bartle Frere's justification for saying that "it was not we who made war on Cetywayo, but he who made war on us." The truth is, Sir Bartle Frere believed that he had a mission to civilise and evangelise the Zulus, and he seems to think, with the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, that bullets and bayonets are the most effectual instruments for propagating the Gospel of Christianity and civilisation. Bent on the policy of Confederation, he was anxious to propitiate the Boers. With this object in view he virtually set aside the award of his own arbi- trators, and practically adjudged to the Boers valuable territory which rightfully belonged to the Zulus. Nor was this enough; the power of the Zulus must be entirely broken. The trumpery "invasions of British territory," to which we have referred, were greedily seized upon " as unquestionable acts of hostility and virtual declarations of war," and lest the Zulu king should accept Sir Bartle Frere's ultimatum on that point, other con- ditions were added which really meant nothing less than the surrender of the independence of the Zulu King and nation, and the practical annexation of Zululand.
So much for Sir Bartle Frere's policy in South Africa. The obliquity of moral vision which is so evident there is still more conspicuous in Sir Bartle's too successful policy in Afghanistan. "For close on a quarter of a century," he says, "I have per- sistently urged on the Government of India, and through it, on the Government of England the only policy which, as later events have shown, could have prevented the necessity for any military advance into Afghanistan." This policy is fully explained in Sir Bartle's famous Memorandum of June, 1874, which he has republished in this volume, and to which is due the conversion of Lord Beaconsfield's Government to the policy which resulted in the Afghan war. The salient points of that Memorandum are three in number. The first is the occupation of Quetta ; the second, the placing of British officers in the principal towns of Afghanistan ; and the third, the promotion of civil war between Shere Ali and his son Yakoob, who was then governor of Herat. This was a policy which Sir Bartle Frere frankly owns " would give umbrage to the Ameer of Cabul." But if he made any serious objection, the Indian Government was to break off diplomatic relations with him, and "clear for action." Sir Bartle Frere's third recommendation was frustrated by the imprisonment of Yakoob Khan ; but the other two were fol- lowed out to the letter, and were the direct cause of the Afghan war. Yet Sir Bartle Frere says, with transparent sincerity,- " I am no more responsible for the Afghan war than the person who asserts that night and day must follow each other is for the existence of light and darkness. To me the policy of neglect, approved by Mr. Gladstone's Government, has always seemed the immediate and main cause of the Afghan war." Sir Bartle's own policy, on the other hand, he describes as " the advance into Afghanistan of a friend and a neighbour, anxious to cultivate friendly relations and prevent war." Well, the advance was made strictly on the lines of Sir Bartle Frere's Memorandum, and the Afghan war followed as a natural consequence. Sir Bartle Frere disputes this. But he might just as well dispute, to quote his own simile, the sequence of light and darkness as the result of the diurnal revolution of the earth. For forty years the opposite policy to his prevailed in our relations with the Afghans and Zulus, and the result was peace; At the end of the forty years Sir Bartle Frere's policy was tried, in spite of the teaching of experience and the warnings of our wisest statesmen, and the result has been war. Against these stub- born facts Sir Bartle Frere's special pleading is of no avail. In the condemnation of his contemporaries he may read the ver- dict of history. Mr. Gladstone's policy he denounces as that of one " acting on the principles of Cain," and " following the practice of the cautious priest and selfish Levite, fearing to increase their responsibilities by helping their senseless and wounded neighbour." But surely even " the practice of the cautious priest and selfish Levite " is preferable to that of the robbers who rendered their neighbour " senseless and wounded ;" and it requires very subtle casuistry to distinguish the morality of the Afghan and Zulu wars from the morality of the men who stript the wayfarer on the road to Jericho and left him bleeding and half-dead. We are thankful that a man so fanatically and sincerely colour-blind as to the funda- mental laws of political morality, no longer occupies a position of official responsibility.