Si,—Mr. R. W. Schumacher at the recent meeting of the
Glen Deep, Limited, in his speech from the chair is reported to have said :—" But some unscrupulous people, anxious, no doubt, to improve their miserable election chances, will not hesitate to re-echo the old lie that the Chinaman is ousting the white man in this country. I have already given the distinct pledge that not one white man, skilled or unskilled, will be ousted from employment on our mines by the arrival of Chinese here, and figures will be stated at the Chamber of Mines from time to time showing how the number of white employes is constantly growing."
Although without an eye to any "miserable election chances," I am "unscrupulous" enough to challenge both the statement made in the above quotation, and the implied statement that the public may accept, as covering the whole case, figures and facts which may from time to time be given to the world by Mr. Schumacher and his friends. Much as I would like to take any other mine for my text, I fear I must again quote the Village Main Reef, as my knowledge of its past history is fuller than of that of any other mine.
In order to show why the statements of Mr. Schumacher and his friends must be taken with reserve on this subject, let me quote a few out of their many utterances, and then let me cite a few facts in connection with the same subject which they have not thought fit to make public. At the Chamber of Mines meeting, December 3rd, 1903, Mr. Schumacher said :—" Do not misunderstand me on this subject. I do not want to say we should have employed no unskilled whites on the Village Main Reef Mine. We are now employing a large number of unskilled whites, and we intend to do so as long as we can do so with benefit to the Company. We shall continue to use whites on the Village Main Reef, but in very reduced numbers."
At the general meeting of the Village Main Reef seven months later Mr. Lionel Phillips, the chairman, said:—" Touching on that paragraph of the Report which refers to the experiment which was made in the employment of white labour with the idea of using it in conjunction with natives to make up the scarcity that prevailed. Well, your directors countenanced and agreed with the experiment being tried, and of course it had to be extended over a considerable period before results could be fully ascer- tained. The course of the operations was followed with great care, and was investigated on behalf of the Board by engineers of the first repute. The result of the investigation was that it was a distinctly losing operation." Later on in the same speech he said in another connection :—"In January the profits were 49,005, in February £6,573, in March .9-8,993, in April .29,261, in May £12,471, in June £12,650. So you will see that there is an almost continuous progressive increase in profits."
Now, some facts which, so far as I know, Mr. Schumacher has never cited furnish a curious commentary on these statements and those at the head of this letter. They are as follows :— (1) That from December onwards the Village Main Reef has continued to use white unskilled labourers. That, instead of the numbers of these being greatly decreased, as indicated by Mr. Schumacher, they had in August last increased to some 250, as against about 140 to 150 in November, 1903.
(2) That other circumstances being the same, had the mine not been able to avail itself of the labours of these men the con- tinuously increasing profits Mr. Phillips speaks of with such satisfaction could not have been made; so that it was clearly not "a distinctly losing operation," as be states.
(3) That in spite of the often-repeated assertion that the use of white labour to any great extent to supplement the coloured supply was only possible at a prohibitive cost as compared with before the war, the following were the results actually obtained during August, 1904, as compared with August, 1899 :—
August. 1899. August, 1904.
about 1,900 ...... about 950 500
1 0•10 890 1.510 22s. 5d. from 20s. 6d. to 21s.
In other words, with some 50 per cent, of the native force and twice as many white men employed, not anly were they able to run the pre-war hundred stamps, but to increase this number by sixty, and this under equal conditions of sorting; while, so far from their total costs per ton milled being ruinously higher than pre-war costs, they were actually nearly 10 per cent. less. It matters not at all how many or what causes contributed to this, such as cheaper dynamite; cheaper steam, &c., &c. No mention at all was made of these possible economies when the Chamber of Mines stated that the substitution of whites for natives would raise the costs on the mines by 10s. ld. per ton, and would mean cessation of profitable working for all but a very few.
(4) That, consequent on the advent of Chinese at the Simmer and Jack Mine, about 200 natives who had been working on that mine were no longer required there, and in the early part of this
Natives employed White men employed Percentage sorted Cost per ton milled, excluding development redemption, which is excluded as being a book entry, charged at 5s. a ton before the war, and 3s. 3d, since the war
(5) That, also in consequence of the filling up of other mines with Chinese, the W.N.L.A. have during the month been enabled to make further considerable allotments of natives to the Village Main Reef. NB.—The total number of natives on the mines was on September 30th still 3,669 less than on March 31st last.
(6) That, in consequence of this increase of the native force on the Village Main Reef, in itself a direct result of Chinese importa- tion, that mine has during the last few weeks reduced the number of its white employes by something between 150 and 200 men.
If the plain English of the matter is not that through the arrival of Chinese on these fields some 150 to 200 unskilled white men have been ousted from employment on one mine alone, and if it is a "lie" to make the assertion Mr. Schumacher referred to, then I think most of us will require to be supplied with a new dictionary of the English language for use in Johannesburg. It matters not one iota whether men were sacked, or whether some left of their own accord and others who were ready to take their places were told there were no vacancies.
Let it be borne in mind that this is the result on a mine where already all the stamps erected were in operation at a less cost per ton milled than before the war; while there are still some two thousands stamps idle, which, if we are to believe former state- ments, are idle solely through scarcity of labour. At present the Chinese are being used in effect to eliminate the employment for the unskilled white. The natural tendency will certainly be with Chinese labour continually to reduce the number of skilled men who will be required for a given stamping-power, and this latter cannot be for ever increased.
My purpose in writing this letter, and in asking for the hospitality of your columns for its insertion, is again to draw attention to the fact that in any matter in which both the mine- owners and the inhabitants of this Colony are deeply interested statements by the former must not be taken as covering the whole, or nearly the whole, of the facts. Pledges such as that of Mr. Schumacher quoted above are utterly worthless, in however good faith they may be made, as I have no doubt was the case with this pledge. Given certain conditions laid down by the law, it is beyond any man's power to ensure the fulfilment of such a pledge.
Let us hope that those are in the right who discern in the result of the recent Municipal elections signs of a healthy reaction against the hitherto preponderating influence of the Chamber of Mines in politics, whether Municipal or Colonial.
—I am, Sir, &c., F. H. P. CRESWELL, 185 Stock Exchange Buildings, Johannesburg.
[Mr. Creswell informs us that this letter was sent by him to the Transvaal Leader, but that it had not actually appeared before the mail left. Mr. Creswell deserves the greatest possible credit for the courage and persistency with which he advocates the claim of the white man to work in the mines, and insists that the Transvaal shall be a white man's country. He is doing, we are convinced, a truly Imperial work, though, considering the forces and influences arrayed against him in Johannesburg, it is a work which few men would be found willing to undertake.—En. Spectator.]
THE LESSON OF SUGAR.
[TO THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR.']