THE VACILLATION IN SOUTH AFRICA.
WE augured little good and not a little mischief from the recent change of Government, but we did hope that the change might involve one incidental advantage, the incorpora- tion of a little more backbone into the conduct of our colonial affairs. Lord Derby never seemed able to settle anything. We did hope that his successor might be more capable of a definite course. We fear that we shall be disappointed. The infirmity of the Colonial Office during Lord Derby's reign seems too likely to be the infirmity of the Colonial Office during his brother's regime, if we have any right to judge by Colonel Stanley's reply to the deputation which waited upon him last Wednesday. That deputation had, on one point at all events, a very clear position,—they urged, and urged on principles which seem to us quite unassailable, that Sir Charles Warren who had been sent out to solve a most difficult problem in Bechuanaland on his own responsibility, and who has, by universal consent, succeeded most admirably in his task, should be, we do not say left to do his work without any kind of local interference, but at least exempted from the one kind of local interference which could not by any possibility be impartial. Sir Hercules Robinson may be all that Colonel Stanley and previous Governments have supposed him to be as a Colonial Governor. In this duty he may be as firm, as vigor- ous, and as skilful as the Colonial Office certainly think him. But it is from the very nature of the case impossible that a Governor who is so deeply identified with the interests of one particular colony as the Governor of the Cape Colony, can be the kind of High Commissioner we want for the purpose of super- intending the administration of other dependencies with very different interests from those of the Cape Colony, and, indeed, interests superficially at variance with those of the Cape Colony. Sir Hercules Robinson must, like all Governors of Parliamentary Colonies, imbue his mind with the atmos- phere of the Parliament to the advice of whose Ministerial guides he more or less conforms his own actions. It is simply impossible for the Governor of the Cape Colony not to be more or less biassed by what we may call the Dutch view of South African affairs. The Dutch form so very important an element in the Cape Colony and so very important an element in the Cape Parliament, that no Governor residing at the Cape and looking at South African affairs from the point of view of the Cape Colony, can possibly take the position which a High Commissioner over all our depen- dencies in South Africa ought to hold. Therefore, we do think that Mr. Forster was well warranted in pressing on Colonel Stanley that Sir Charles Warren should not be hampered in Bechuanaland by the necessity of conforming his views to those of a High Commissioner who, before anything else, is Governor of the Cape Colony. We have often urged that a Viceroy should be appointed for all our South African possessions, who should not be identified with any one colony, and to such a Viceroy Sir Charles Warren would, of course, be subordinated, as all the other Governors would be subor- dinated ; but the last person to wield such a Viceroyalty with impartiality, is the Governor of a colony with so very strongly biassed a Dutch element in it as the Cape Colony.
Well, we can see no sign that Colonel Stanley appreciates this difficulty. He replies to the deputation in the regular cut-and- dried official see-saw, praising first Sir Charles Warren, and then Sir Hercules Robinson, and then explaining how much difficulty there is in coming to any decision at all. Sir Charles Warren has done his work admirably,—that he admits,—but he hastens to add that Sir Hercules Robinson has done his work quite as well ; and if they do not exactly agree, well, it would be highly unofficial and premature to say which of them is in the right. In short, he shifts about, standing first on one leg and then on the other till the deputation must have felt that even Job had not more difficulty in discovering the tree dwelling place of Understanding than the British Colonial Secretary. Everybody knows that in point of fact Sir Charles Warren and Sir
Hercules Robinson are not agreed about the administration of Bechuanaland; that all the recommendations of Sir Charles Warren are regarded with suspicion by Sir Hercules Robinson, and come home to the Colonial Office with paralysing com- ments from the High Commissioner. Now, we submit that. this is not the fair line of conduct to pursue towards such a man as Sir Charles Warren, sent out to solve so very difficult a problem,—a problem avowedly political as well as military. He should be left free to do his work in his own way, subject only to the direct superintendence of a really impartial authority, and not to the superintendence of the advocate for one of the parties between whom he has to discover the true via media. We believe that Sir Charles Warren has executed, with- out shedding any blood, one of the most difficult tasks ever imposed upon a British officer, and has raised the credit of the British Government amongst the Boers themselves by the way in which he has done his duty. And let it be re- membered that those who praise the late Government most for its action towards the Boers after Majuba Hill, are bound by the very fact that they do support them in a trans- action open to so much misrepresentation as that, to stand firm whenever they are justified in standing firm against Boer injustice. It is because Sir Charles Warren has stood firm against Boer injustice that he has restored to Great Britain so much prestige by his administration of the Bechuanaland difficulty. And it is by supporting him there, where he is in the right, that we can best obliterate the remembrance of the misconstruction which was put on the retrocession of the Transvaal at a time when so many Liberals held that the British Government had been in the wrong in annexing it.
It will be a great misfortune for the Tory Govern- ment if Colonel Stanley should continue the vacillation which marked the Colonial administration of Lord Derby. Sir Charles Warren should be most cordially supported from home, and if it is necessary to review his decisions in the interests of Great Britain herself, then a Viceroy should be appointed who would be as independent of the Dutch Battlers of the Cape as Sir Charles Warren is. We see with real regret that Colonel Stanley,—as yet at least,— does not seem to be at all more robust in resolution than Lord Derby. The uneasy shifting of the British Colossus from the leg in Bechuanaland to the leg in the Cape, bodes us no good. The "weary Titan" is never so much in danger of collapse, as when he begins to shamble from sheer irresolution as to the best way.