The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
I have endeavoured to lay before my readers a plain narrative of facts, avoiding the deeper questions of high policy and finance, which can scarcely be advantageously discussed at the present moment, because the whole situation is changing from day to day. It is usually expected of a writer (and here I must express my thanks to my publisher, Mr. Andrew W. Tuer, of the Leadenhall Press, for permission to use to-night matter from my book; "Matabeleland and Our Position in South Africa" on the eve of publication) that he shall claim for the subject he has chosen supreme importance over all others. Yet with a vast and growing empire like ours it would be hard to lay the finger on any one imperial interest and say "This is the point of paramount importance." South Africa, however, looms very large on our imperial horizon. It is in the throes of a crisis which will affect the lives and fortunes of millions of men yet unborn, and which before it is solved promises to strain our imperial system to its foundations. Hence to us and our generation no subject is fraught with such deep practical issues. And on their mere territorial merits these vast regions, so long neglected as a field for colonization, are now on the way to being recognised as a land of such marvellous and varied resources as give assurance of a brilliant future to those who may be fortunate enough to cultivate the soil, and exploit its hidden treasures.
It has generally a healthy climate, where cloudless skies, continuous sunshine, and dry air can be enjoyed. The western half and the south, away from the coast, have a scanty rainfall. The natural vegetable products are poor; but its mineral wealth of all kinds is enormous, the deposits being varied and seemingly inexhaustible.
The diamond industry, which has produced from 1867 to 1891 close on £57,000,000, gave the first impetus to the gold industry in page 95 South Africa, which, in turn, will give a stimulus to enterprise in all directions.
Already the third, it promises shortly to become the most productive gold region in the world (the output has risen from 34,000 ozs. in 1887 to 794,000 ozs. in 1890, and 1,056,000 ozs. for nine months of 1893). And the potency of gold as an agency for effecting the development of a new country is magical, bringing with it the two essentials—capital and population. South Africa will repeat the past of Australia, whose advance was stimulated in such a wonderful degree by gold.
Its resources in coal, iron, copper, asbestos, salt, fire-clay, are in valuable and, indeed, absolutely indispensable to the gold industry.
The commerce of South Africa is already £35,000,000 per annum in imports and exports, and is destined to grow with bounds.
In the northern half of South Africa, especially that region known is Matabeleland, the rainfall is regular and sufficient, the altitude sufficient to ensure health, and the soil well adapted in great part for agriculture. It is a country where the white man may hope to see his children grow up strong a nd healthy.
While the high table-land is suitable for the white man, the low-lying region to the east and in the Zambesi basin can be developed by Indian coolie labour, well suited for plantation work. The two processes of colonization will be carried forward simultaneously.
Matabeleland, the last high land south of the Zambesi suitable for European colonisation, is invaluable as a field for the expansion of South Africa and Britain.
Gold, which has Anglicised the Transvaal, will open an area much wanted for the still strong trekking disposition of the Boer.
The internal progress made in Mashonaland, considering all the difficulties which had to be encountered, has been good, and the result of the present campaign will be to bring peace and security to our new colony, the first things necessary towards progress. A result which is surely owing in great measure to that handful of pioneers who are successfully accomplishing this latest stage of our Colonial expansion. The gold-wealth is there, and it only requires security and good communications to enable the country to make rapid progress.
I have faith in Mashonaland and Matabeleland, and believe the colony founded in 1890, with settled government replacing a cruel and despotic barbarism, is destined to be the home of hundreds of thousands of our fellow-countrymen.
This is no vulgar annexation to gratify territorial greed. The page 96 extension of our Empire is a national and a social necessity; and; wherever, without violating conventions or existing rights, we can prepare the way for our kindred to live and spread under conditions which promise prosperity, it is the most urgent of all duties to seize such opportunities as they arise.
The Providence which has guided our destiny so far has by the mere force of circumstances rendered our imperial duties imperious duties, for we are not as other nations are. Not only are our own islands too small for our people, but the course of our commerce and industry has been such that we are increasingly dependent for their maintenance on a trade against which incessant war is waged as if we were the Ishmael of civilised nations. As we cannot grow our own food, we must either send our people to distant countries in search of it or find ever new customers for our manufactures. We in fact resort to both alternatives, but are still not able to keep pace with the natural growth of our people and the requirements of advancing civilisation. There is no object which a British statesman can set before himself comparable to the central necessity of providing for the development of our own race. If that be a selfish national policy, may our statesmen be saturated with such selfishness. And no nobler contribution to the ways and means of such a development has ever come across the national path than this opening up of South Africa, which is to crown a century of imperial achievement.
[The Paper was illustrated by a number of lime-light views representing the scenery of the country and various portraits of leading men, for which the lecturer expressed his indebtedness to the kindness of the Rev. Frank H. Surridge and the Proprietors of the "Graphic."]
The Discussion of this Taper will Appear in the Next Issue of this Journal.