Imperialism: A Study
By John A. Hobson
This study of modern Imperialism is designed to give more precision to a term which is on everybody’s lips and which is used to denote the most powerful movement in the current politics of the Western world. Though Imperialism has been adopted as a more or less conscious policy by several European States and threatens to break down the political isolation of the United States, Great Britain has travelled so much faster and farther along this road as to furnish in her recent career the most profitable guidance or warning.While an attempt is made to discover and discuss the general principles which underlie imperialist policy, the illustration of that policy is mainly derived from the progress of British Imperialism during the last generation, and proceeds rather by diagnosis than by historical description. [From the Preface]
First Pub. Date
New York: James Pott and Co.
The text of this edition is in the public domain.
- Part I, Chapter I, The Measure of Imperialism
- Part I, Chapter II, The Commercial Value of Imperialism
- Part I, Chapter III, Imperialism as an Outlet for Population
- Part I, Chapter IV, Economic Parasites of Imperialism
- Part I, Chapter V, Imperialism Based on Protection
- Part I, Chapter VI, The Economic Taproot of Imperialism
- Part I, Chapter VII, Imperialist Finance
- Part II, Chapter I, The Political Significance of Imperialism
- Part II, Chapter II, The Scientific Defence of Imperialism
- Part II, Chapter III, Moral and Sentimental Factors
- Part II, Chapter IV, Imperialism and the Lower Races
- Part II, Chapter V, Imperialism in Asia
- Part II, Chapter VI, Imperial Federation
- Part II, Chapter VII, The Outcome
Imperialism and the Lower Races
Part II, Chapter IV
The statement, often made, that the work of imperial expansion is virtually complete is not correct. It is true that most of the “backward” races have been placed in some sort of dependence upon one or other of the “civilised” Powers as colony, protectorate, hinterland, or sphere of influence. But this in most instances marks rather the beginning of a process of imperialisation than a definite attainment of empire. The intensive growth of empire by which interference is increased and governmental control tightened over spheres of influence and protectorates is as important and as perilous an aspect of Imperialism as the extensive growth which takes shape in assertion of rule over new areas of territory and new populations.
The famous saying, attributed to Napoleon, that “great empires die of indigestion “serves to remind us of the importance of the imperialist processes which still remain after formal “expansion” has been completed. During the last twenty years Great Britain, Germany, France, and Russia have bitten off huge mouthfuls of Africa and Asia which are not yet chewed, digested, or assimilated. Moreover, great areas still remain whose independence, though threatened, is yet unimpaired.
Vast countries in Asia, such as Persia, Thibet, Siam, Afghanistan, are rapidly forging to the front of politics as likely subjects of armed controversy between European Powers with a view to subjugation; the Turkish dominions in Asia Minor, and perhaps in Europe, await a slow, precarious process of absorption; the paper partition of Central Africa teems with possibilities of conflict. The entrance of the United States into the imperial struggle throws virtually the whole of South America into the arena; for it is not reasonable to expect that European nations, with settlements and vast economic interests in the southern peninsula, will readily leave all this territory to the special protection or ultimate absorption of the United States, when the latter, abandoning her old consistent isolation, has plunged into the struggle for empire in the Pacific.
Beyond and above all this looms China. It is not easy to suppose that the present lull and hesitancy of the Powers will last, or that the magnitude and manifest risks of disturbing this vast repository of incalculable forces will long deter adventurous groups of profit-seekers from driving their Governments along the slippery path of commercial treaties, leases, railway and mining concessions, which must entail a growing process of political interference.
It is not my purpose to examine here the entanglement of political and economic issues which each of these cases presents, but simply to illustrate the assertion that the policy of modern Imperialism is not ended but only just begun, and that it is concerned almost wholly with the rival claims of Empires to dominate “lower races” in tropical and sub-tropical countries, or in other countries occupied by manifestly unassimilable races.
In asking ourselves what are the sound principles of world policy and of national policy in this matter, we may at first ignore the important differences which should affect our conduct towards countries inhabited by what appear to be definitely low-typed unprogressive races, countries whose people manifest capacity of rapid progress from a present low condition, and countries like India and China, where an old civilisation of a high type, widely differing from that of European nations, exists.
Before seeking for differences of policy which correspond to these conditions, let us try to find whether there are any general principles of guidance in dealing with countries occupied by “lower” or unprogressive peoples.
It is idle to consider as a general principle the attitude of mere
laissez faire. It is not only impracticable in view of the actual forces which move politics, but it is ethically indefensible in the last resort.
To lay down as an absolute law that “the autonomy of every nation is inviolable” does not carry us very far. There can no more be absolute nationalism in the society of nations than absolute individualism in the single nation. Some measure of practical internationality, implying a “comity of nations,” and some relations of “right” and “duty” between nations, are almost universally admitted. The rights of self-government, implied by the doctrine of autonomy, if binding in any sense legal or ethical on other nations, can only possess this character in virtue of some real international organisation, however rudimentary.
It is difficult for the strongest advocate of national rights to assert that the people in actual occupation or political control over a given area of the earth are entitled to do what they will with “their own,” entirely disregarding the direct and indirect consequences of their actions upon the rest of the world.
It is not necessary to take extreme cases of a national policy which directly affects the welfare of a neighbouring State, as where a people on the upper reaches of a river like the Nile or the Niger might so damage or direct the flow as to cause plague or famine to the lower lands belonging to another nation. Few, if any, would question some right of interference from without in such a case. Or take another case which falls outside the range of directly other-regarding actions. Suppose a famine or flood or other catastrophe deprives a population of the means of living on their land, while unutilised land lies in plenty beyond their borders in another country, are the rulers of the latter entitled to refuse an entrance or a necessary settlement? As in the case of individuals, so of nations, it will be generally allowed that necessity knows no laws, which, rightly interpreted, means that the right of self-preservation transcends all other rights as the prime condition of their emergence and exercise.
This carries us on an inclined plane of logic to the real issue as ably presented by Mr. Kidd, Professor Giddings, and the “Fabian” Imperialists. It is an expansion of this plea of material necessity that constitutes the first claim to a control of the tropics by “civilised” nations. The European races have grown up with a standard of material civilisation based largely upon the consumption and use of foods, raw materials of manufacture, and other goods which are natural products of tropical countries. The industries and the trade which furnish these commodities are of vital importance to the maintenance and progress of Western civilisation. The large part played in our import trade by such typically tropical products as sugar, tea, coffee, india-rubber, rice, tobacco, indicates the dependence of such countries as Great Britain upon the tropics. Partly from sheer growth of population in temperate zones, partly from the rising standard of material life, this dependence of the temperate on the tropical countries must grow. In order to satisfy these growing needs larger and larger tracts of tropical country must be cultivated, the cultivation must be better and more regular, and peaceful and effective trade relations with these countries must be maintained. Now the ease with which human life can be maintained in the tropics breeds indolence and torpor of character. The inhabitants of these countries are not “progressive people”; they neither develop the arts of industry at any satisfactory pace, nor do they evolve new wants or desires, the satisfaction of which might force them to labour. We cannot therefore rely upon the ordinary economic motives and methods of free exchange to supply the growing demand for tropical goods. The resources of the tropics will not be developed voluntarily by the natives themselves.
“If we look to the native social systems of the tropical East, the primitive savagery of Central Africa, to the West Indian Islands in the past in process of being assisted into the position of modern States by Great Britain, or the black republic of Hayti in the present, or to modern Liberia in the future, the lesson seems everywhere the same; it is that there will be no development of the resources of the tropics under native government.”
We cannot, it is held, leave these lands barren; it is our duty to see that they are developed for the good of the world. White men cannot “colonise” these lands and, thus settling, develop the natural resources by the labour of their own hands; they can only organise and superintend the labour of the natives. By doing this they can educate the natives in the arts of industry and stimulate in them a desire for material and more progress, implanting new “wants” which form in every society the roots of civilisation.
It is quite evident that there is much force in this presentation of the case, not only on material but on moral grounds; nor can it be brushed aside because it is liable to certain obvious and gross abuses. It implies, however, two kinds of interference which require justification. To step in and utilise natural resources which are left undeveloped is one thing, to compel the inhabitants to develop them is another. The former is easily justified, involving the application on a wider scale of a principle whose equity, as well as expediency, is recognised and enforced in most civilised nations. The other interference, whereby men who prefer to live on a low standard of life with little labour shall be forced to harder or more continuous labour, is far more difficult of justification.
I have set the economic compulsion in the foreground, because in point of history it is the
causa causans of the Imperialism that accompanies or follows.
In considering the ethics and politics of this interference, we must not be bluffed or blinded by critics who fasten on the palpable dishonesty of many practices of the gospel of “the dignity of labour” and “the mission of civilisation.” The real issue is whether, and under what circumstances, it is justifiable for Western nations to use compulsory government for the control and education in the arts of industrial and political civilisation of the inhabitants of tropical countries and other so-called lower races. Because Rhodesian mine-owners or Cuban sugar-growers stimulate the British or American Government to Imperialism by parading motives and results which do not really concern them, it does not follow that these motives under proper guidance are unsound, or that the results are undesirable.
There is nothing unworthy, quite the contrary, in the notion that nations which, through a more stimulative environment, have advanced further in certain arts of industry, politics, or morals, should communicate these to nations which from their circumstances were more backward, so as to aid them in developing alike the material resources of their land and the human resources of their people. Nor is it clear that in this work some “inducement, stimulus, or pressure” (to quote a well-known phrase), or in a single word, “compulsion,” is wholly illegitimate. Force is itself no remedy, coercion is not education, but it may be a prior condition to the operation of educative forces. Those, at any rate, who assign any place to force in the education or the political government of individuals in a nation can hardly deny that the same instrument may find a place in the civilisation of backward by progressive nations.
Assuming that the arts of “progress,” or some of them, are communicable, a fact which is hardly disputable, there can be no inherent natural right in a nation to refuse that measure of compulsory education which shall raise it from childhood to manhood in the order of nationalities. The analogy furnished by the education of a child is
primâ facie a sound one, and is not invalidated by the dangerous abuses to which it is exposed in practice.
The real issue is one of safeguards, of motives, and of methods. What are the conditions under which a nation may help to develop the resources of another, and even apply some element of compulsion in doing so? The question, abstract as it may sound, is quite the most important of all practical questions for this generation. For, that such development will take place, and such compulsion, legitimate or illegitimate, be exercised, more and more throughout this new century in many quarters of this globe, is beyond the shadow of a doubt. It is the great practical business of the century to explore and develop, by every method which science can devise, the hidden natural and human resources of the globe.
That the white Western nations will abandon a quest on which they have already gone so far is a view which does not deserve consideration. That this process of development may be so conducted as to yield a gain to world-civilisation, instead of some terrible
débâcle in which revolted slave races may trample down their parasitic and degenerate white masters, should be the supreme aim of far-sighted scientific statecraft.
To those who utter the single cry of warning,
“laissez faire, hands off, let these people develop their resources themselves with such assistance as they ask or hire, undisturbed by the importunate and arrogant control of foreign nations,” it is a sufficient answer to point out the impossibility of maintaining such an attitude.
If organised Governments of civilised Powers refused the task, they would let loose a horde of private adventurers, slavers, piratical traders, treasure hunters, concession mongers, who, animated by mere greed of gold or power, would set about the work of exploitation under no public control and with no regard to the future; playing havoc with the political, economic, and moral institutions of the peoples, instilling civilised vices and civilised diseases, importing spirits and firearms as the trade of readiest acceptance, fostering internecine strife for their own political and industrial purposes, and even setting up private despotisms sustained by organised armed forces. It is unnecessary to revert to the buccaneering times of the sixteenth century, when a “new world” was thrown open to the plunder of the old, and private gentlemen of Spain or England competed with their Governments in the most gigantic business of spoliation that history records. The story of Samoa, of Hawaii, and a score of South Sea Islands in quite recent years, proves that, at a time when every sea is a highway, it is impossible for the most remote land to escape the intrusion of “civilised” nations, represented by precisely their most reckless and debased specimens, who gravitate thither in order to reap the rapid fruits of licence. The contact with white races cannot be avoided, and it is more perilous and more injurious in proportion as it lacks governmental sanction and control. The most gigantic modern experiment in private adventure is slowly yielding its full tale of horrors in the Congo Free State, while the handing over of large regions in Africa to the virtually unchecked government of Chartered Companies exposes everywhere the dangers of a contact based on private commercialism.
To abandon the backward races to these perils of private exploitation, it is argued forcibly, is a barbarous dereliction of a public duty on behalf of humanity and the civilisation of the world. Not merely does it leave the tropics to be the helpless prey of the offscourings of civilised nations; it opens grave dangers in the future, from the political or military ambitions of native or imported rulers, who, playing upon the religious fanaticism or the combative instincts of great hordes of semi-savages, may impose upon them so effective a military discipline as to give terrible significance to some black or yellow “peril.” Complete isolation is no longer possible even for the remotest island; absolute self-sufficiency is no more possible for a nation than for an individual: in each case society has the right and the need to safeguard its interests against an injurious assertion of individuality.
Again, though there is some force in the contention that the backward natives could and would protect themselves against the encroachments of private adventurers, if they had the assurance that the latter could not call upon their Government for assistance or for vengeance, history does not lead us to believe that these powers of self-protection, however adequate against forcible invasions, would suffice to meet the more insidious wiles by which traders, prospectors, and political adventurers insinuate their poisons into primitive societies like that of Samoa or Ashanti.
So far, we have established two tentative principles. First, that all interference on the part of civilised white nations with “lower races” is not
primâ facie illegitimate. Second, that such interference cannot safely be left to private enterprise of individual whites. If these principles be admitted, it follows that civilised Governments
may undertake the political and economic control of lower races—in a word, that the characteristic form of modern Imperialism is not under all conditions illegitimate.
What, then, are the conditions which render it legitimate? They may be provisionally stated thus: Such interference with the government of a lower race must be directed primarily to secure the safety and progress of the civilisation of the world, and not the special interest of the interfering nation. Such interference must be attended by an improvement and elevation of the character of the people who are brought under this control. Lastly, the determination of the two preceding conditions must not be left to the arbitrary will or judgment of the interfering nation, but must proceed from some organised representation of civilised humanity.
The first condition is deduced directly from the principle of social utility expanded to its widest range, so as to be synonymous with “the good of humanity.” Regarding the conduct of one nation towards another we can find no other standard. Whatever uncertainty or other imperfection appertains to such a standard, regarded as a rule for international policy, any narrower standard is, of necessity, more uncertain and more imperfect. No purely legal contentions touching the misapplication of the term “right” to international relations, in the absence of any form of “sanction,” affects our issue. Unless we are prepared to reaffirm in the case of nations, as the all-sufficient guide of conduct, that doctrine of “enlightened selfishness” which has been almost universally abandoned in the case of individuals, and to insist that the unchecked self-assertion of each nation, following the line of its own private present interest, is the best guarantee of the general progress of humanity, we must set up, as a supreme standard of moral appeal, some conception of the welfare of humanity regarded as an organic unity. It is, however, needless to insist upon the analogy between the relation of an individual to the other individuals of his society, and that of one society towards another in the commonwealth of nations. For, though cynical statesmen of the modern Macchiavelli school may assert the visible interest of their country as the supreme guide of conduct, they do not seriously suggest that the good of humanity is thus attained, but only that this wider end has no meaning or appeal for them. In the light of this attitude all discussion of general principles “justifying” conduct is out of place, for “just” and “justice” are ruled out
ab initio. The standard here proposed would not, however, in point of fact be formally rejected by any school of political thinkers who were invited to find a general law for the treatment of lower races. No one would assert in so many words that we had a right to sacrifice the good of any other nation, or of the world at large, to our own private national gain.
In England, certainly, Lord Rosebery’s declaration that the British Empire is “the greatest secular agency for good known to the world” would everywhere be adopted as the fundamental justification of empire.
Lord Salisbury expressly endorses the principle, asserting that “the course of events, which I should prefer to call the acts of Providence, have called this country to exercise an influence over the character and progress of the world such as has never been exercised in any Empire before”; while the Archbishop of Canterbury propounds a doctrine of “imperial Christianity” based upon the same assumptions. It may, then, fairly be understood that every act of “Imperialism” consisting of forcible interference with another people can only be justified by showing that it contributes to “the civilisation of the world.”
Equally, it is admitted that some special advantage must be conferred upon the people who are the subject of this interference. On highest ground of theory, the repression, even the extinction, of some unprogressive or retrogressive nation, yielding place to another more socially efficient and more capable of utilising for the general good the natural resources of the land, might seem permissible, if we accepted unimpaired and unimproved the biological struggle for existence as the sole or chief instrument of progress. But, if we admit that in the highest walks of human progress the constant tendency is to substitute more and more the struggle with natural and moral environment for the internecine struggle of living individuals and species, and that the efficient conduct of this struggle requires the suspension of the lower struggle and a growing solidarity of sentiment and sympathy throughout entire humanity, we shall perceive two important truths. First, “expansion,” in order to absorb for the more “progressive” races an ever larger portion of the globe, is not the “necessity” it once appeared, because progress will take place more and more upon the qualitative plane, with more intensive cultivation alike of natural resources and of human life. The supposed natural necessity for crowding out the lower races is based on a narrow, low, and purely quantitative analysis of human progress.
Secondly, in the progress of humanity, the services of nationality, as a means of education and of self-development, will be recognised as of such supreme importance that nothing short of direct physical necessity in self-defence can justify the extinction of a nation. In a word, it will be recognised that “le grand crime internationnel est de détruire une nationalité.”
*73 But even those who would not go so far in their valuation of the factor of nationality will agree that it is a sound practical test of conduct to insist that interference with the freedom of another nation shall justify itself by showing some separate advantage conferred upon the nation thus placed in an inferior position: partly, because it seems obvious that the gain to the general cause of civilisation will chiefly be contained in or compassed by an improvement in the character or condition of the nation which is the subject of interference; partly, because the maxim which recognises the individual person as an end, and requires State government to justify itself by showing that the coercion it exercises does in reality enlarge the liberty of those whom it restrains, is applicable also to the larger society of nations. Without unduly pressing the analogy of individual and nation as organisms, it may safely be asserted that imperial interference with a “lower race” must justify itself by showing that it is acting for the real good of the subject race. Mr. Chamberlain is no sentimentalist, and his declaration may rank as a
locus classicus upon this matter. “Our rule over the territories [native] can only be justified if we can show that it adds to the happiness and prosperity of the people.”
The moral defence of Imperialism is generally based upon the assertion that in point of fact these two conditions are fulfilled, viz. that the political and economic control forcibly assumed—by “higher” over “lower races” does promote at once the civilisation of the world and the special good of the subject races. The real answer, upon which British Imperialists rely in defending expansion, is to point to actual services rendered to India, Egypt, Uganda, &c., and to aver that other dependencies where British government is less successful would have fared worse if left either to themselves or to another European Power.
Before considering the practical validity of this position, and the special facts that determine and qualify the work of “civilising” other races, it is right to point out the fundamental flaw in this theory of “Imperialism,” viz. the non-fulfilment of the third condition laid down above. Can we safely trust to the honour, the public spirit, and the insight of any of the competing imperial races the subordination of its private interests and ends to the wider interests of humanity or the particular good of each subject race brought within its sway?
No one, as we point out, contends that so perfect a natural harmony exists that every nation, consciously following its own chief interest, is “led” as “by an invisible hand” to a course of conduct which necessarily subserves the common interest, and in particular the interest of the subject race. What security, then, can possibly exist for the practices of a sound Imperialism fulfilling the conditions laid down? Does any one contend that the special self-interest of the expanding and annexing nation is not a chief, or indeed the chief conscious determinant in each step of practical Imperialism?
Primâ facie it would seem reasonable to suppose that many cases would occur in which the special temporary interests of the expanding nation would collide with those of the world-civilisation, and that the former would be preferred. It is surely unreasonable to take as proof of the fulfilment of the conditions of sane Imperialism the untested and unverified
ipse dixit of an interested party.
While it is generally agreed that the progress of world-civilisation is the only valid moral ground for political interference with “lower races,” and that the only valid evidence of such progress is found in the political, industrial, and moral education of the race that is subjected to this interference, the true conditions for the exercise of such a “trust” are entirely lacking.
The actual situation is, indeed, replete with absurdity. Each imperialist nation claims to determine for itself what are the lower races it will take under its separate protection, or agrees with two or three neighbours to partition some huge African tract into separate spheres of influence; the kind of civilisation that is imposed is never based on any sober endeavour to understand the active or latent progressive forces of the subject race, and to develop and direct them, but is imported from Europe in the shape of set arts of industry, definite political institutions, fixed religious dogmas, which are engrafted on alien institutions. In political government progress is everywhere avowedly sacrificed to order, and both alike are subservient to the quick development of certain profitable trading industries, or to the mere lust of territorial aggrandisement. The recurrent quarrels of the armed white nations, each insisting on his claim to take up the white man’s burden in some fresh quarter of the globe; the trading companies seeking to oust each other from a new market, the very missionaries competing by sects and nationalities for “mission fields,” and using political intrigue and armed force to back their special claims, present a curious commentary upon the “trust for civilisation” theory.
It is quite evident that this self-assertive sway lacks the first essentials of a trust, viz. security that the “trustee,” represents fairly all the interested parties, and is responsible to some judicial body for the faithful fulfilment of the terms of the trust. Otherwise what safeguard exists against the abuse of the powers of the trustee? The notorious fact that half the friction between European nations arises from conflicting claims to undertake the office of “trustee for civilisation” over lower races and their possessions augurs ill alike for the sincerity of the profession and the moral capacity to fulfil it. It is surely no mark of cynicism to question closely this extreme anxiety to bear one another’s burdens among the nations.
This claim to justify aggression, annexation, and forcible government by talk of duty, trust, or mission can only be made good by proving that the claimant is accredited by a body genuinely representative of civilisation, to which it acknowledges a real responsibility, and that it is in fact capable of executing such a trust.
In a word, until some genuine international council exists, which shall accredit a civilised nation with the duty of educating a lower race, the claim of a “trust” is nothing else than an impudent act of self-assertion. One may well be sceptical about the early feasibility of any such representative council; but until it exists it would be far more honest for “expanding” nations to avow commercial necessity or political ambition as the real determinant of their protection of lower races than to feign a “trust” which has no reality. Even were international relations more advanced, and the movement begun at the Hague Conference had solidified in a permanent authoritative body, representative of all the Powers, to which might be referred not only the quarrels between nations, but the entire partition of this “civilising” work, the issue would still remain precarious. There would still be grave danger lest the “Powers,” arrogating to themselves an exclusive possession of “civilisation,” might condemn to unwholesome and unjust subjection some people causing temporary trouble to the world by slow growth, turbulence or obnoxious institutions, for which liberty might be the most essential condition of progress. Apart from such genuine misapprehensions, there would exist the peril of the establishment of a self-chosen oligarchy among the nations which, under the cloak of the civilising process, might learn to live parasitically upon the lower races, imposing upon them “for their own good” all the harder or more servile work of industry, and arrogating to themselves the honours and emoluments of government and supervision.
Clear analysis of present tendencies points indeed to some such collusion of the dominant nations as the largest and gravest peril of the early future. The series of treaties and conventions between the chief European Powers, beginning with the Berlin African Conference of 1885, which fixed a standard for the “amicable division” of West African territory, and the similar treaty in 1890, fixing boundaries for English, German, and Italian encroachments in East Africa, doubtless mark a genuine advance in the relations of the European Powers, but the objects and methods they embody throw a strange light upon the trust theory. If to the care of Africa we add that of China, where the European Powers have lately taken common action in “the interests of civilisation,” the future becomes still more menacing. While the protection of Europeans was the object in the foreground, and imposed a brief genuine community of policy upon the diverse nations, no sooner was the immediate object won than the deeper and divergent motives of the nations became manifest. The entire history of European relations with China in modern times is little else than one long cynical commentary upon the theory that we are engaged in the civilisation of the Far East. Piratical expeditions to force trade upon a nation whose one principle of foreign policy was to keep clear of foreigners, culminating in a war to compel the reception of Indian opium; abuse of the generous hospitality given for centuries to peaceful missionaries by wanton insults offered to the religious and political institutions of the country, the forcible exaction of commercial, and political “concessions” as punishment for spasmodic acts of reprisal, the cold-blooded barter of murdered missionaries for the opening of new treaty ports, territory at Kiao Chow, or a new reach of the Yang-Tse for British trading vessels; the mixture of menace, cajolery, and bribery by which England, Russia, Germany, France, and Japan have laboured to gain some special and separate railway or mining concessions, upon terms excluding or damaging the interest of the others; the definite assumption by Christian bishops and missionaries of political authority, and the arrogant and extensive use of the so-called right of “extra-territoriality,” whereby they claim, not only for themselves but for their alleged converts and protégés, immunity from the laws of the land—all these things sufficiently expose the hollowness in actual history of the claims that considerations of a trust for civilisation animate and regulate the foreign policy of Christendom, or of its component nations. What actually confronts us everywhere in modern history is selfish, materialistic, short-sighted, national competition, varied by occasional collusion. When any common international policy is adopted for dealing with lower races it has partaken of the nature, not of a moral trust, but of a business “deal.”
It seems quite likely that this policy of “deals” may become as frequent and as systematic in the world of politics as in the world of commerce, and that treaties and alliances having regard to the political government and industrial exploitation of countries occupied by lower races may constitute a rude sort of effective internationalism in the early future.
Now, such political arrangements fall short in two important respects of that genuine trust for civilisation which alone could give moral validity to a “civilised” control of lower peoples. In the first place, its assignment of a sphere of interest or a protectorate to England, to Germany, or Russia, is chiefly determined by some particular separate interest of that country by reason of contiguity or other private convenience, and not by any impartial consideration of its special competence for the work of civilisation. If, for example, European Powers were really animated by the desire to extend Western civilisation to China for her own good and that of the world, they might more favourably essay this task by promoting the influence of Japan than by inserting their own alien occidentalism. But no one proposes to delegate to Japan this “trust”; every nation thinks of its own present commercial interests and political prestige.
Secondly, the civilisation of the lower races, even according to accepted Western lights, is nowhere adopted as the real aim of government. Even where good political order is established and maintained, as in Egypt or India, its primary avowed end, and its universally accepted standard of success, are the immediate economic benefits attributed thereto. The political government of the country is primarily directed everywhere to the rapid, secure, effective development of the national resources, and their profitable exploitation by native labour under white management. It is maintained and believed that this course is beneficial to the natives, as well as to the commerce of the controlling Power and of the world at large. That Indians or Egyptians are better off to-day than they were before our autocratic sway, not merely in economic resources but in substantial justice, may be quite true; it may even be accredited to us that many of our governors and officials have displayed some disinterested concern for the immediate well-being of the races committed (by ourselves) to our trust. But it can nowhere be sincerely contended that either we or any other Christian nation are governing these lower races upon the same enlightened principles which we profess and sometimes practise in governing ourselves. I allude here not to method of government but to ends. In the more enlightened European States and their genuine colonies, though present economic considerations bulk largely enough, they do not absorb the present and the future of public policy; provision is made for some play of non-economic forces, for the genuine culture of human life and character, for progress alike in individual growth and in the social growth which comes by free processes of self-government. These are regarded as essential conditions of the healthy growth of a nation. They are not less essential in the case of lower nations, and their exercise demands more thought and more experiment. The chief indictment of Imperialism in relation to the lower races consists in this, that it does not even pretend to apply to them the principles of education and of progress it applies at home.
If we or any other nation really undertook the care and education of a “lower race” as a trust, how should we set about the execution of the trust? By studying the religions, political and other social institutions and habits of the people, and by endeavouring to penetrate into their present mind and capacities of adaptation, by learning their language and their history, we should seek to place them in the natural history of man; by similar close attention to the country in which they live, and not to its agricultural and mining resources alone, we should get a real grip upon their environment. Then, carefully approaching them so as to gain what confidence we could for friendly motives, and openly discouraging any premature private attempts of exploiting companies to work mines, or secure concessions, or otherwise to impair our disinterested conduct, we should endeavour to assume the position of advisers. Even if it were necessary to enforce some degree of authority, we should keep such force in the background as a last resort, and make it our first aim to understand and to promote the healthy free operations of all internal forces for progress which we might discover.
Natural growth in self-government and industry along tropical lines would be the end to which the enlightened policy of civilised assistance would address itself.
Now, what are the facts? Nowhere has any serious organised attempt been made, even by Great Britain, by far the largest of the trustees, to bring this scientific disinterested spirit of inquiry to bear upon the races whose destiny she dominates.
*75 The publications of the Aborigines Protection Society, and the recent report of the Native Races Committee, dealing with South Africa, indicate the vast range of unexplored knowledge, and the feeble fumblings which have hitherto taken the place of ordered investigations.
*76 It is natural that this should be so. White pioneers in these countries are seldom qualified to do the work required; the bias of the trader, the soldier, or the professional traveller, is fatal to sober, disinterested study of human life, while the missionary who has contributed more than the rest, has seldom been endowed with a requisite amount of the scientific spirit or the scientific training.
Even the knowledge which we do possess is seldom utilised for light and leading in our actual government of native races. There are indeed signs of an awakening intelligence in certain spots of our Empire; administrators like Sir George Grey, Lord Ripon, and Sir Marshall Clarke have brought sympathy and knowledge to the establishment of careful experiments in self-government. The forms of protectorate exercised over Basutoland and Khama’s Country in South Africa, the restoration of the province of Mysore to native government, and the more careful abstention from interference with the internal policy of feudatory States in India, are favourable signs of a more enlightened policy.
In particular, the trend of liberal sentiment regarding government of lower races is undergoing a marked change. The notion that there exists one sound, just, rational system of government, suitable for all sorts and conditions of men, embodied in the elective representative institutions of Great Britain, and that our duty was to impose this system as soon as possible, and with the least possible modifications, upon lower races, without any regard to their past history and their present capabilities and sentiments, is tending to disappear in this country, though the new headstrong Imperialism of America is still exposed to the taunt that “Americans think the United States has a mission to carry ‘canned’ civilisation to the heathen.” The recognition that there may be many paths to civilisation, that strong racial and environmental differences preclude a hasty grafting of alien institutions, regardless of continuity and selection of existing agencies and forms—these genuinely scientific and humane considerations are beginning to take shape in a demand that native races within our Empire shall have larger liberty of self-development assured to them, and that the imperial Government shall confine its interference to protection against enemies from without, and preservation of the elements of good order within.
The true “imperial” policy is best illustrated in the case of Basutoland, which was rescued in 1884 from the aggressive designs of Cape Colony, stimulated by industrial exploiters.
Here British imperial government is exercised by a Commissioner, with several British magistrates to deal with grave offences against order, and a small body of native police under British officers. For the rest, the old political and economic institutions are preserved—government by chiefs, under a paramount chief, subject to the informal control or influence of public opinion in a national assembly; ordinary administration, chiefly consisting in allotment of land, and ordinary jurisdiction are left to the chiefs.
“As far back as 1855 Moshesh forbade the ‘smelling-out’ of witches, and now the British authorities have suppressed the more noxious or offensive kinds of ceremonies practised by the Kaffirs. Otherwise, they interfere as little as possible with native ways, trusting to time, peace, and the missionaries to secure the gradual civilisation of the people.” “No Europeans are allowed to hold land, and a licence is needed even for the keeping of a store. Neither are any mines worked, European prospectors are not permitted to come in and search for minerals, for the policy of the authorities has been to keep the country for the natives, and nothing alarms the chiefs so much as the occasional appearance of these speculative gentry, who, if admitted, would soon dispossess them.”
These sentences serve to point the path by which most of our Imperialism has diverged from the ideal of a “trust for civilisation.”
The widest and ultimately the most important of the struggles in South Africa is that between the policy of Basutoland and that of Johannesburg and Rhodesia; for there, if anywhere, we lay our finger on the difference between a “sane” Imperialism, devoted to the protection, education, and self-development of a “lower race,” and an “insane” Imperialism, which hands over these races to the economic exploitation of white colonists who will use them as “live tools” and their lands as repositories of mining or other profitable treasure.
It is impossible to ignore the fact that this “saner” Imperialism has been vitiated in its historic origins in almost every quarter of the globe. Early Imperialism had two main motives, the lust of “treasure” and the slave trade.
Gold and silver, diamonds, rubies, pearls, and other jewels, the most condensed forms of portable and durable wealth by which men in a single hazardous adventure, by fortune, fraud, or force, might suddenly enrich themselves—these from the ancient days of Tyre and Carthage have directed the main current alike of private and national exploration, and have laid the foundation of white dominion over the coloured races. From Ophix, Golconda, and the Orinoco to Ashanti, Kimberley, Klondiks, the Transvaal and Mashonaland it is the same story: to the more precious metals, tin and copper were early added as motives of nearer and less hazardous trading ventures, and the machine economy of recent generations has lifted coal and iron deposits to the rank of treasures worth capture and exploitation by civilised nations. But gold still holds its own as the dramatic centre of gravitation for Imperialism.
But along with these motives, and of even wider operation, has been the desire to obtain supplies of slave or serf labour. The earliest, the most widely prevalent, and the most profitable trade in the history of the world has been the slave trade. Early forms of imperial expansion were directed less to any permanent occupation and government of foreign countries than to the capture of large supplies of slave labour to be transmitted to the conquering country. The early Imperialism of the Greek States and of Rome was largely governed by this same motive. Greeks and Romans did not often effect large permanent settlements among the barbarians they conquered, but, contenting themselves with keeping such military and magisterial control as sufficed to secure order and the payment of tribute, drafted large numbers of slaves into their countries in order to utilise their labour. The Greek cities were mostly maritime, commercial, and industrial, and the slaves they drew from Eastern trade or from the Scythian and Thracian “hinterlands” they employed upon their ships and docks, in their mines, and as artisans and labourers in their towns: Rome, the capital of an agricultural State, used her slaves on a “plantation system,” ousting by this cheap forced labour the peasantry, who, driven into Rome, were subsisted chiefly upon public charity, defrayed out of the tribute of their foreign conquests.
Now modern Imperialism in its bearing on the “lower races” remains essentially of the same type: it employs other methods, other and humaner motives temper the dominance of economic greed, but analysis exposes the same character at bottom. Wherever white men of “superior races” have found able-bodied savages or lower races in possession of lands containing rich mineral or agricultural resources, they have, whenever strong enough, compelled the lower race to work for their benefit, either organising their labour on their own land, or inducing them to work for an unequal barter, or else conveying them as slaves or servants to another country where their labour-power could be more profitably utilised. The use of imperial force to compel “lower races” to engage in trade is commonly a first stage of Imperialism. China is here the classic instance of modern times, exhibiting the sliding scale by which sporadic trade passes through “treaties,” treaty ports, customs control, rights of inland trading, mining and railway concession towards annexation and general exploitation of human and natural resources.
The slave trade or forcible capture and conveyance of natives from their own to a foreign land has in its naked form nearly disappeared from the practice of Western nations (save in the case of Belgium in the Congo), as also the working of conquered people as slaves in their own country.
The entire economic basis of the industrial exploitation of inferior races has shifted with modern conditions of life and industry. The change is a twofold one: the legal status of slave has given place to that of wage-labourer, and the most profitable use of the hired labour of inferior races is to employ them in developing the resources of their own lands under white control for white men’s profit.
“In ancient times the employer would not, if he could, go away from his own country to employ Libyans or Scythians in their native places. If he left home, it was not so easy to come back. He was practically in exile. In the second place, he was not sufficiently master of his slaves in their own country. If they were all of one nation and all at home, they might rebel or break loose. If a strong Government prevented that, it was at any rate much easier for individual slaves to escape—a consideration always of the utmost importance. In modern times, the increasing ease of communication has enabled white men to go abroad to all parts of the earth without suffering much real exile and without losing the prospect of returning home at will. Our Governments, judged by ancient standards, are miraculously strong; our superior weapons make rebellions almost impossible. Consequently we do not attempt to import blacks, coolies, and Polynesians into Great Britain. The opposition of the working classes at home would be furious; and, even if that obstacle were overcome, the coloured men would die too fast in our climate. The whole economic conditions are in favour of working the coloured man in his own home.”
This conclusion, however, requires some qualification in the case of European colonies. The British colony of Queensland and the French New Caledonia are fed still with indentured labour from Polynesia; Natal has been “worked” in large measure by a similar flow of “coolie” labour, while Chinese labour, free or indentured, has found its way into the Straits Settlements, Burma, Borneo, New Guinea, North and East Australia, and many parts of America, Oceania, and Africa, until checked or prohibited by legislation. Still, it is true that the general modern tendency is to work the coloured man in his own home, or in some neighbouring country to whose climatic and other natural characters he can easily adapt himself.
The chief economic condition which favours this course is not, however, the greater willingness of modern white men to sojourn for a while abroad, but the ever-growing demand for tropical goods, and the abundant overflow of capital from modern industrial States, seeking an investment everywhere in the world where cheap labour can be employed upon rich natural resources,
The ancients carried off the lower races to their own country, because they could use their labour but had little use for their land; we moderns wish the lower races to exploit their own lands for our benefit. The tastes for tropical agricultural products, such as rice, tea, sugar, coffee, rubber, &c., first aroused by trade, have grown so fast and strong that we require larger and more reliable supplies than trade with ill-disciplined races can afford us; we must needs organise the industry by Western science and Western capital, and develop new supplies. So likewise with the vast mineral resources of lands belonging to lower races; Western capital and Western exploiting energy demand the right to prospect and develop them. The real history of Imperialism as distinguished from Colonialism clearly illustrates this tendency. Our first organised contact with the lower races was by means of trading companies, to which some powers of settlement and rights of government were accorded by charter as incidental to the main purpose, viz. that of conducting trade with native inhabitants. Such small settlement as took place at first was for trade and not for political expansion or genuine colonisation of a new country. This was the case even in America with the London and Plymouth Companies, the Massachusetts Bay Company, and the Hudson’s Bay Company, though other colonising motives soon emerged; our first entrance into the West Indies was by a trading settlement of the London Company in Barbados; the foundation of our great Eastern Empire was laid in the trading operations of the East India Company, while the Gold Coast was first touched by the Royal Africa Company in 1692. Holland and Francs were moved by the same purpose, and the tropical or sub-tropical settlements which later passed from their hands into ours were mostly dominated by commercialism and a government based avowedly on commercial exploitation.
As we approach more recent times, investment of capital and organisation of native labour on the land, the plantation system, play a more prominent part in the policy of new companies, and the British North Borneo Company, the Sierra Leone Company, the Royal Niger Company, the East Africa Company, the British South Africa Company, are no longer chiefly trading bodies, but are devoted more and more to the control and development of agricultural and mining resources by native labour under white management to supply Western markets. In most parts of the world a purely or distinctively commercial motive and conduct have furnished the nucleus out of which Imperialism has grown, the early trading settlement becoming an industrial settlement, with land and mineral concessions growing round it, an industrial settlement involving force, for protection, for scouring further concessions, and for checking or punishing infringements of agreement or breaches of order; other interests, political and religious, enter in more largely, the original commercial settlement assumes a stronger political and military character, the reins of government era commonly taken over by the State from the company, and a vaguely defined protectorate passes gradually into the form of a colony. Sierra Leone, Uganda, and, at no distant date, Rhodesia, will serve for recent instances of this evolution.
The actual history of Western relations with lower races occupying lands on which we have settled throws, then, a curious light upon the theory of a “trust for civilisation.” When the settlement approaches the condition of genuine colonisation, it has commonly implied the extermination of the lower races, either by war or by private slaughter, as in the case of Australian Bushmen, African Bushmen and Hottentots, Red Indians, and Maoris, or by forcing upon them the habits of a civilisation equally destructive to them.
*82 This is what is meant by saying that “lower races” in contact with “superior races” naturally tend to disappear. How much of “nature” or “necessity” belongs to the process is seen from the fact that only those “lower races” tend to disappear who are incapable of profitable exploitation by the superior white settlers, either because they are too “savage” for effective industrialism or because the demand for labour does not require their presence.
Whenever superior races settle on lands where lower races can be profitably used for manual labour in agriculture, mining, and domestic work, the latter do not tend to die out, but to form a servile class. This is the case, not only in tropical countries where white men cannot form real colonies, working and rearing families with safety and efficiency, and where hard manual work, if done at all, must be done by “coloured men,” but even in countries where white men can settle, as in parts of South Africa and of the southern portion of the United States.
As we entered these countries for trade, so we stay there for industrial exploitation, directing to our own profitable purposes the compulsory labour of the lower races. This is the root fact of Imperialism so far as it relates to the control of inferior races; when the latter are not killed out they are subjected by force to the ends of their white superiors.
With the abolition of the legal form of slavery the economic substance has not disappeared. It is no general question of how far the character of slavery adheres in all wage labour that I am pressing, but a statement that Imperialism rests upon and exists for the sake of “forced labour,”
i.e. labour which natives would not undertake save under direct or indirect personal compulsion issuing from white masters.
There are many methods of “forcing” labour.
Wherever the question of industrial development of tropical or sub-tropical lands for agricultural or mining purposes comes up, the same difficulty confronts the white masters. The Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1842 on the state of the West Indies, subsequent to the emancipation of slaves, states the problem most succinctly: “The labourers are enabled to live in comfort and to acquire wealth without, for the most part, labouring on the estates of the planters for more than three or four days in a week, and from five to seven hours in a day, so that they have no sufficient stimulus to perform an adequate amount of work.” The reason of this inadequate amount of work (how many white men in the West Indies put in a five to seven hours’ working-day?) is that they can get high wages, and this is attributed “to the easy terms upon which the use of land has been obtainable by negroes.” In a word, the Committee considered “that the cheapness of land has been the main cause of the difficulties which have been experienced, and that this cheapness is the natural result of the excess of fertile land beyond the wants of the existing population.”
The negro would only put in a five to seven hours’ day at high pay because he had the option of earning his livelihood on fertile land of his own. The same trouble confronts the white master everywhere where the lower races are in possession of agricultural land sufficient for their low and unprogressive standard of comfort; they either will not work at all for wages, or will not work long enough or for low enough pay.
“The question, in a few words,” writes Professor Ireland, “is this—What possible means are there of inducing the inhabitants of the tropics to undertake steady and continuous work if the local conditions are such that from the mere bounty of nature all the ambitions of the people can be gratified without any considerable amount of labour?”
There are only two genuinely economic forces which will bring such labour more largely into the labour market; the growth of population with increased difficulty in getting a full easy subsistence from the soil is one, the pressure of new needs and a rising standard of consumption is the other.
These may be regarded as the natural and legitimate inducements to wage labour, and even in most tropical countries they exercise some influence, especially where white settlements have taken up much of the best land. In the lowest races, where the increase of population is kept down by high mortality, aggravated by war and infanticide, and where new wants are slowly evolved, these inducements are feeble; but in more progressive peoples they have a fair amount of efficacy. Unfortunately, these natural forces are somewhat slow, and cannot be greatly hastened; white industrialists are in a hurry to develop the country, and to retire with large, quick profits. The case of South Africa is typical. There many of the Bantu races are fairly educable in new needs, and are willing to undertake wage labour for their satisfaction; many of them, notably the Basutos, are becoming over-crowded on their reserved lands, and are willing to go far for good wages. But the demands of a vast mining industry, growing within a few years to gigantic proportions, cannot await the working of these natural stimuli; the mine-owners want an unnatural accession to the labour market. The result is frantic efforts to scour the continents of Africa and Asia, and bring in masses of Zanzibari, Arabs, Indian coolies, or Chinese, or else to substitute for natural economic pressure various veiled modes of political or private compulsion.
The simplest form of this compulsion is that of employing armed force upon individual natives to “compel them to come in,” as illustrated by the methods of the South Africa Chartered Company before 1897,
*84 which, when the chiefs failed to provide labour, sent out native police to “collect the labour.” Save its illegal character, there is nothing to distinguish this from the
corvée or legalised forced labour imposed on natives in Natal, or the Compulsory Labour Ordinance passed by the Gold Coast Legislature in December 1895, reviving the lapsed custom under which it was “obligatory on persons of the labouring class to give labour for public purposes on being called out by their chiefs or other native superiors,” and authorising the Government to compel native chiefs to furnish as many carriers as were needed for the projected expedition to Kumasi.
Military service, borrowing a semblance of “civilised” usage from the European system of conscription, is utilised, not merely for emergencies, as in the Kumasi expedition, and in our South African campaign, where native labour has everywhere been “pressed,” when ordinary economic motives failed, but for regular industrial labour. The classical instance is that of the Congo Free State, where a “militia” levy is made upon the population, nominally for defence, but really for the State and Chartered Company service in the “rubber” and other industries.
In face of unrepealed decrees according “une protection spéciale aux noirs,” and prescribing that “l’esclavage, même domestique, ne saurait être reconnu officialement,” a system of “voluntary” and “militia” levies has been instituted to be used “in the establishment of plantations and the construction of works of public utility.” The accuracy of Mr. Fox Bourne’s commentary is attested by numerous witnesses. “The ‘force publique’ with its ‘agriculteurs soldats’ and others subordinate to it, when not employed on military expeditions, are used as overseers of what are virtually slave-gangs or as collectors of ‘tribute’ from the luckless aborigines, whose right to live in their own country, without paying heavily for the privilege, is denied.”
So far as “forced labour” is designed merely as a mode of revenue to the State, a system of “taxation in kind,” it cannot be condemned as essentially unjust or oppressive, however liable it may be to abuses in practice. All taxation is “forced labour,” whether the tax be levied in money, in goods, or in service. When such “forced labour” is confined to the needs of a well-ordered government, and is fairly and considerately administered, it involves no particular oppression. Such “servitude” as it involves is concealed under every form of government.
The case is quite different where governmental regulations and taxation are prostituted to purposes of commercial profit; where laws are passed, taxes levied, and the machinery of public administration utilised in order to secure a large, cheap, regular, efficient, and submissive supply of labourers for companies or private persons engaged in mining, agricultural, or other industries for their personal gain.
Where white settlers find “lower races” in occupation of lands rich in agricultural, mineral, or other resources, they are subject to a double temptation. They want possession of the land and control of a cheap native supply of labour to work it under their control and for their gain. If the “natives” are of too low an order or too untamable to be trained for effective labour they must be expelled or exterminated, as in the case of the “lower nomads” the Bushmen of Australia and South Africa, the Negritos, Bororos, Veddahs, &c., and even the Indians of North America. War, murder, strong drink, syphilis and other civilised diseases are chief instruments of a destruction commonly couched under the euphemism “contact with a superior civilisation.” The land thus cleared of natives passes into white possession, and white men must work it themselves, or introduce other lower industrial peoples to work it for them, as in the case of slave labour introduced into the United States and West Indies, or indentured labour into Natal, British Guiana, &c.
But where the “lower races” are capable of being set to profitable labour on their own land, as agriculturists, miners, or domestics, self-interest impels the whites to work a “forced-labour” system for their private ends. In most tropical or sub-tropical countries the natives can by their own labour and that of their families get a tolerably easy subsistence from the land. If they are to be induced to undertake wage labour for white masters, this must be put a stop to. So we have pressure brought upon government to render it impossible for the natives to live as formerly upon the land. Their land and, when they are a pastoral people, their cattle are objects of attack.
The Torrons Act, by which in 1852 the doctrine of “eminent domain” was applied to South Australia in such wise as to make all the country virtually Crown land, though not ill-meant, has furnished a baneful precedent, not only for encroachment of British settlers, but for the still more flagrant abuses of Belgian adventurers on the Congo. White settlers or explorers, sometimes using legal instruments, sometimes private force or fraud, constantly encroach upon the fertile or mineralised lands of natives, driving them into less fertile lands, crowding them into reserves, checking their nomadic habits, and otherwise making it more difficult for them to obtain a livelihood by the only methods known to them.
A chief object and a common result of this policy is to induce or compel natives to substitute wage labour, altogether or in part, for the ancient tribal life upon the land. Those ignorant of the actual conditions involved often suppose that the alienation of lands or mineral rights, or the contracts for labour, are negotiated in accordance with ordinary methods of free bargain.
The modern history of Africa, however, is rich in instances to the contrary.
The history of competitive knavery and crime, by which Lobengula was inveigled into signing away “rights” which he neither owned nor understood to the Chartered Company, cannot yet be written completely, but its outlines are plain and profitable reading.
A “free contract,” implying voluntary action, full knowledge and approximate equality of gain to both parties, is almost unknown in the dealings of superior with inferior races. How political treaties and industrial concessions are actually obtained may be described for us by Major Thrustin,
*87 who was sent to negotiate treaties in 1893 in Uganda.
“I had been instructed by Colonel Colvile to make a treaty with Kavalli, by which he should place himself under British protection; in fact, I had a bundle of printed treaties which I was to make as many people sign as possible. This signing is an amiable farce, which is supposed to impose on foreign Governments, and to be the equivalent of an occupation. The
modus operandi is somewhat as follows: A ragged, untidy European, who in any civilised country would be in danger of being taken up by the police as a vagrant, lands at a native village; the people run away, he shouts after them to come back, holding out before them a shilling’s worth of beads. Some one, braver than the rest, at last comes up; he is given a string of beads, and is told that if the chief comes he will get a great many more. Cupidity is, in the end, stronger than fear; the chief comes and receives his presents; the so-called interpreter pretends to explain the treaty to the chief. The chief does not understand a word of it, but he looks pleased as he receives another present of beads; a mark is made on a printed treaty by the chief, and another by the interpreter; the vagrant, who professes to be the representative of a great Empire, signs his name. The chief takes the paper, but with some hesitation, as he regards the whole performance as a new and therefore dangerous piece of witchcraft. The boat sails away, and the new ally and protégé of England or France immediately throws the treaty into the fire.”
This cynical bit of realistic humour expresses with tolerable accuracy the formal process of “imperial expansion” as it operates in the case of lower races. If these are the methods of political agents, it may well be understood that the methods of private “concession-mongers” are not more scrupulous. Indeed “political protectorate” and “land concession” are inextricably blended in most instances where some adventurer, with a military or other semi-official commission, pushes across the frontier into a savage country, relying upon his Government to endorse any profitable deal he may accomplish.
But since, in the case of England at any rate, political expansion is commonly subordinate to industrial exploitation, a treaty or concession, giving rights over land or minerals, is of little value without control of labour. Enclosure of lands, while it facilitates a supply of native labour by restricting free land for native agriculture or pasture, does not commonly suffice. Various devices are adopted for bringing pressure to bear upon individual labourers to “contract” for wage labour. The simplest, apart from direct compulsion, is to bribe chieftains to use their “influence” with members of their tribe. Such was the system devised by the philanthropic Earl Grey to procure labour for the mines in Rhodesia.
Such bargaining, either with “headmen” or with individual natives, is usually conducted by professional labour touts, who practise every form of craft and falsehood so as to induce ignorant natives to enter a labour contract. In the case of the Transvaal mines this abuse had become so monstrous as to “spoil the labour market,” obliging the mine-owners to go ever farther afield for their labour, and eventually compelling them to petition the Government for assistance in putting down the system of private labour touts, and substituting authorised responsible officials. Alike in the Boer Republics and in Cape Colony, the seizures of land and labour have been chief motives of the border warfare constantly recurring in the history of South Africa. The encroachments of Boers or British colonists upon native territory or reserves, or the seizure of cattle on border land by one party or the other, have led to punitive expeditions, the result of which has been further confiscation of land and capture of prisoners, who, formerly held as slaves, have in more recent times been kept to labour as “apprentices” or indentured labourers.
The case of Bechuanaland in 1897 affords a serviceable illustration. A small local riot got up by a drunken native sub-chief on a trifling grievance, and involving armed resistance on the part of a few hundred Kaffirs, easily put down by a small body of armed volunteers, was exaggerated into a “rebellion,” and was made a pretext for driving some 8000 natives from the lands “inalienably” secured to them by the Bechuanaland Annexation Act of 1895, and for confiscating these lands for British occupation, while the rest of the population, some 30,000, were to be gradually removed from their settlements, and given “equivalent land” in some other district. In the speech introducing the confiscation measure in the Cape Parliament, Sir Gordon Sprigg explained that this was “very valuable land, and probably would be cut up into very small farms, so that there might be a considerable European population established in that part of the country.” There was no pretence that most of those who were deprived of their lands or deported were proved to have taken part in the “rebellion.” The sequel of this clearing is most significant. What was to become of the people taken from their land? They were offered a choice between prosecution “on a charge of sedition” and “service in the colony upon such conditions and with such rates of wages as the Government might arrange for a term of five years.” The Government, in thus proposing to compound a felony, was well aware of the extreme difficulty of proving “sedition” in a court of justice, and, in point of fact, in two cases which were put on trial the Public Prosecutor declined to bring the case before a jury. The object of the threat of trial was to coerce into the acceptance of “indentured labour,” and in fact 584 men, with three times as many women and children, were handed over to serve under colonial farmers, wages being fixed at 10s. a month for able-bodied men and 7s. 6d for women.
Thus did covetous colonials kill two birds with one stone, obtaining the land and the labour of the Bechuana rebels.”
*89 It is not necessary to suppose that such incidents are deliberately planned: where empire is asserted over lower races in the form of protectorate, the real government remaining in native hands, offences must from time to time arise, local disturbances which can by rash or brutal treatment be fanned into “rebellion” and form the pretext for confiscation and a forcing of the landless rebels into “labour.”
Among African tribes the most vulnerable point is the cattle, which form their most important, often their only, property. To encroach upon this is a sure way of provoking hostility. The Bechuana riot seems to have arisen from an injudicious handling of precautions needed to deal with the rinderpest. The second Matabele war, with its murders of white settlers and the wholesale slaughter in reprisal, was directly instigated by the seizure of cattle belonging to the tribesmen, on the unproven theory that all cattle belonged to the king and thus came into the possession of the Chartered Company. As a sequel of the first Matabele war large quantities of cattle had been stolen by white settlers to stock the farms which had just been pegged out for them in the land they had taken, and the further threat of a wholesale confiscation of cattle, though not carried into full effect, lay at the root of the subsequent rebellion.
Everywhere these attacks upon the land and cattle of lower races, provoking reprisals, followed by further confiscation and a breaking-up of the old tribal life upon the soil, have as a related secondary object the provision of a supply of cheap labour for the new white masters, to be employed in farming, on mines, or for military service.
Such labour commonly preserves a semblance of free contract, engagements “voluntarily” entered into for a fixed period at agreed wages. The amount of real freedom depends partly upon the amount of personal pressure brought to bear by the chief through whom bargains are commonly struck, still more on the amount of option which remains to get a living from the land.
This last is the vital matter in an understanding of “forced labour.” In one sense all labour is “forced” or “unfree,” where it is not open to the “proletariat” to get a living by cultivation of the soil: this is the normal condition of the vast majority of the people in Great Britain and in some other white man’s countries. What is peculiar to the system of “forced labour,” as here used, is the adoption by a white ruling race of legal measures designed expressly to compel the individual natives to whom they apply to quit land, which they occupy and by which they can live, in order to work in white service for the private gain of the white man. When lands formerly occupied by natives are confiscated, or otherwise annexed for white owners, the creation of a labour supply out of the dispossessed natives is usually a secondary object. But this “forcing” becomes a system when measures are devised by Government for the express purpose of “compelling” labour.
The simplest method, that of “slavery,” is generally abolished by European nations.
Corvée, the Congo and former Rhodesian methods are seldom openly advocated or defended; but the adoption of various forms of public compulsion in order to drive natives into private service is generally approved by “colonials,” and is sanctioned by imperialist statesmen. A chief instrument of this indirect compulsion is taxation. There is nothing essentially unreasonable in imposing a hut or a pole-tax upon natives to assist in defraying the expenses of government, provided that care is taken in the modes of assessment and collection, and due allowance made for the fluctuating economic circumstances of agricultural populations with narrow markets and small use of money. But these taxes are not infrequently applied so as to dispossess natives of their land, force them to work for wages, and even to drive them into insurrections which are followed by wholesale measures of confiscation.
The case of the risings in Sierra Leone during 1898 attests the nature of this impolicy, and the following passage from the report of the Special Commissioner, Sir David Chalmers, deserves attention. His conclusions as to the causes of the insurrection are thus summarised:—
“The hut-tax, together with the measures used for its enforcement, were the moving causes of the insurrection. The tax was obnoxious to the customs and feelings of the people. A peremptory and regularly recurring impost is unknown in their own practices and traditions. The English Government has not as yet conferred any such benefits as to lead to a burden of a strange and portentous species being accepted willingly. There was a widespread belief that it was a means of taking away their rights in their country and in their property.”
*91 “The amount of the tax is higher than the people, taken together, can pay, and the arrangements by which liability is primarily placed on the chiefs to make good definite amounts on demand are unworkable.” “The mode of enforcing payment provided by the law would probably prove abortive, whether used to meet inability or unwillingness to pay.” “Repugnance to the tax was much aggravated by the sudden, uncompromising and harsh methods by which it was endeavoured to be brought into operation, not merely by the acts of native policemen, but in the whole scheme adopted by the colonial authorities.”
Here Sir D. Chalmers condenses all the familiar grievances of monetary taxes imposed by strong expensive white Governments upon poor “native” races. White government, if good, is expensive, hence taxation tends to be heavy in amount; fixed in amount, it must be paid out of very fluctuating industries; levied in money, it forces self-subsisting families or tribes to find markets for their goods or labours; collected, as it must be, by native authorities, it breeds extortion, corruption, and cruelty. But Sir D. Chalmers lays his finger on the central vice when he names “a widespread belief that it was a means of taking away their rights in their country and in their property.”
Where there exists a large growing demand for native labour this method of compelling natives to pay money taxes is seen to have a new importance. They can only earn money by undertaking labour contracts. Hence a system of direct taxation imposed by hut, poll, or labour-taxes is devised. Everywhere, as we have seen, under free popular government, the tendency is to subordinate direct to indirect taxation. “Imperialism” alone favours direct taxation of the working classes. It does not, however, propose a general system of direct taxation applicable alike to whites and blacks. The direct taxes with which we are here concerned are applied exclusively to the “subject” races.
In South Africa their chief avowed aim is, not to provide revenue, but to compel labour. The hut and labour taxation is not strongly developed in Cape Colony or in Natal, because the break-up of old tribal life, and the substitution of individual economic family life favouring wage labour, has hitherto furnished a sufficient supply of labour to countries, mainly agricultural, thinly peopled by white settlers, and only in one district, that of Kimberley, developing a considerable centralised demand for native labour. The hut-tax in these colonies has, therefore, not proved an oppressive burden. Only when the diamond fields found difficulties in obtaining a ready supply of native labour, and wages rose, did Mr. Rhodes, a chief proprietor, use his public position as Cape Premier to procure an Act designed to assist De Beers in obtaining cheap labour. By this statute, the Glen Grey Act, it was enacted that every male native, in districts where the Act was adopted, should pay a “labour-tax” of 10s. per annum, unless he could prove that during three months of each year “he has been in service or employment beyond the borders of the district.” No secret was made of the fact that this measure was designed, not to provide revenue, but to compel to labour.” If they could make these people work they would reduce the rate of labour in the country,” said Mr. Rhodes; and in another speech in Parliament: “It was wrong that there should be a million natives in that country, and yet that they should be paying a sum equal to about £1 a week for their labour, while that labour was absolutely essential for the proper development of the country.”
The “labour-tax” has not, however, operated oppressively in Cape Colony; for the diamond industry, being limited in output, has not demanded more native labour than could be easily supplied by ordinary economic inducements.
It is in the Transvaal and Rhodesia that taxation of natives ripens into a plan of forcing labour. The mine-owners of the Transvaal are agreed as to their right and their need to compel the natives to undergo the dignity of labour, and they regard taxation as one important instrument. The testimony of witnesses before the Industrial Commission in 1897 was unanimous in favouring such compulsion, and Mr. Rudd, of the Consolidated Goldfields, stated the demand very plainly at the annual meeting of his company.
*93 “If we could only call upon one-half of the natives to give up three months of the year to work, that would be enough. We should try some cogent form of inducement, or practically compel the native, through taxation or in some other way, to contribute his quota to the good of the community, and to a certain extent he should then have to work.” The general feeling of the “Outlanders” in the Transvaal has favoured the oppressive hut-tax of £2, imposed by the Republic in 1895, and has only complained of its inadequate enforcement.
Similarly, in Rhodesia, where mines require a larger supply of labour than can be obtained from natives by ordinary economic motives, an increase of the hut-tax and a labour-tax are an integral part of the public policy. Earl Grey, recent administrator and present director of the Chartered Company, thus states the case: “Means have to be found to induce the natives to seek, spontaneously
(sic!), employment at the mines, and to work willingly for long terms of more or less continuous employment. An incentive to labour must be provided, and it can only be provided by the imposition of taxation. I look forward to the imposition of a hut-tax of £1 per hut in conformity with the practice which exists in Basutoland, and I also hope that we may, with the permission of the imperial authorities, be able to establish a labour-tax, which those able-bodied natives should be required to pay who are unable to show a certificate of four months’ work.”
It remains to add that one “imperial authority” of some importance has expressly endorsed this policy of using public finance for private profit-making purposes. In a speech in the House of Commons dealing with the Chartered Company,
*94 Mr. Chamberlain said: “When you say to a savage people who have hitherto found their chief occupation in war, ‘You shall no longer go to war; tribal war is forbidden,’ you have to bring about some means by which they may earn their living in place of it, and you have to induce them to adopt the ordinary means of earning a livelihood by the sweat of their brow. But with a race of this kind I doubt very much whether you can do it merely by preaching. I think that something in the nature of an inducement, stimulus, or pressure is absolutely necessary if you are to secure a result which is desirable in the interests of humanity and civilisation.”
A far more thorough and logical application of the policy of taking natives from their life upon the land in order to perform wage labour is devised by the Transvaal mine-owners. The native labour problem there differs widely from the case of Kimberley, where only some 12,000 natives under strict control are required for the diamond industry. The intention of working out, with the utmost rapidity, the gold of the Rand can only be accomplished by securing a vast and a growing supply of native labour on the spot. In 1899, with great difficulty and at heavy expense, less than 100,000 natives were secured for work upon the mines. If twice or thrice this number is to be procured and at lower prices, this can only be accomplished by using taxation, coercion, and persuasion to induce large numbers of Kaffirs to come and settle down with their families upon locations in the mining districts, where the amount of land provided does not enable them to get a living from agriculture, and where they will consequently be dependent on wage labour at the mines, and will breed a permanent supply of young labour on the spot. The wages paid will be determined, not by competition, but by the Chamber of Mines; the houses they will occupy will be the property of the mines, as also the shops where they will be compelled to deal. This is the policy advocated by the chief mining experts.
Break up the tribal system which gives solidarity and some political and economic strength to native life; set the Kaffir on an individual footing as an economic bargainer, to which he is wholly unaccustomed, take him by taxation or other “stimulus” from his locality, put him down under circumstances where he has no option but to labour at the mines—this is the plan which mineowners propose and missionaries approve.
This system of “native locations,” fortified by hut and labour-taxes, and by pass laws which interfere with freedom of travel and practically form a class of
ascripti glebæ, is the only alternative to an expensive system of indentured labour from India, China, or distant parts of Africa. It will be adopted as the cheapest mode of getting a large, reliable, submissive supply; it will be defended as a means of bringing large masses of the natives under influences of civilisation, education, and Christianity.
The tendency will be for many who suspect the means adopted to condone the methods as necessary and as serviceable to the cause of progress. Sir Harry Johnston, in his “History of the Colonisation of Africa by Alien Races,” expresses a view which easily recommends itself to those who are convinced that there is but one sort of civilisation.
“In this world natural law ordains that all mankind must work to a reasonable extent, must wrest from its environment sustenance for body and mind, and a bit over to start the children from a higher level than the parents. The races that will not work persistently and doggedly are trampled on, and in time displaced, by those who do. Let the negro take this to heart; let him devote his fine muscular development, in the first place, to the getting of his own rank, untidy continent in order. If he will not work of his own free will, now that freedom of action is temporarily restored to him; if he will not till, and manure, and drain, and irrigate the soil of his country in a steady, laborious way as do the Oriental and the European; if he will not apply himself zealously under European tuition to the development of the vast resources of tropical Africa, where hitherto he has led the wasteful, unproductive life of a baboon; then force of circumstances, the pressure of eager, hungry, impatient outside humanity, the converging energies of Europe and Asia will once more relegate the negro to a servitude which will be the alternative—in the coming struggle for existence—to extinction.”
This widely accepted theory, accompanied by the illustrations of practice given above, makes it quite evident that Imperialism in its bearing on lower races implies the use of public force to compel natives to labour for the gain of white masters, and incidentally, it is claimed, for their own education and progress. The term “servitude” is rightly used by Sir H. Johnston. It is indeed feigned that the contracts by which natives hire themselves out to their white masters are “free,” in the sense in which an English mechanic is free to dispose of his labour. But investigation of the circumstances attending such contracts shows the absence of the two essential characters of a “free contract,” equitable purchase and voluntary service. In almost all cases, political domination by a white race, empire, is abused in order to apply compulsion to labour which would not be possible under conditions of popular self-government.
It is, of course, not true that all labour in the tropics is subject to these abuses. It is right to consider the best as well as the worst work of Imperialism on its economic side. There can be no question but that the best administered system of tropical labour under British rule is the indentured labour system as practised under imperial protection in certain West Indian islands and in Natal. British Guiana, Mauritius, and Trinidad are the West Indian possessions where the system of importing Indian coolie labour has been most practised, and where the system is best tested.
The present law governing indentured labour in British Guiana provides against most of the abuses which beset the economic relations of white employers towards “lower races,” and appears to be well administered. Here the Imperial Government in India approves all contracts with immigrants, and these contracts not only contain a full statement of time, wages, and other conditions of labour and of living for the immigrant and his family, but provide for his return, if necessary at the public expense, at the end of his time. During the term of his indenture in British Guiana he is under the protection of authorities appointed and controlled by the governor alone. An immigration agent-general, with a staff of agents, who visit all plantations where indentured labourers are employed, hear privately all complaints, and bring them, if necessary, into the courts, retaining counsel and acting in all cases as the principals. Employers of indentured labour are obliged to keep and produce full and accurate books of accounts under heavy penalties, and are forbidden to pay wages below a certain sum or to overwork their labourers. No punishment of any kind can be imposed by employers without recourse to the courts. It is contended by Professor Ireland, who has had long experience as an overseer, that this system operates with remarkable success both economically and socially
*96 in British Guiana and in other West Indian islands; and in Natal, though “coolies” are regarded with anything but favour by large sections of the population, substantially the same protective legislation is in force, and there is every reason to suppose that indentured labourers are well protected as regards wages and other economic conditions.
But the very encomia passed upon this well-administered system of indenture show how defective is the grasp of the magnitude and the real nature of the issues involved in the control of tropical labour.
It seems a light and natural thing that large bodies of men, with or without their families, should be driven by economic pressure to quit their native soil in our Indian Empire and absent themselves for ten years at a time in some unknown and remote colony. Migration to, and colonisation of, sparsely peopled lands by inhabitants of thickly peopled lands is a natural and wholly beneficial movement, but the break-up of settled life, implied by long periods of alienation, is fraught with grave injuries to both countries alike. A country which relies for its economic development on continual influxes of foreign labourers who will not settle is impaired in its natural process of industrial and political self-development by this mass of unassimilated sojourners, while the country which they have abandoned suffers a corresponding injury.
Why is it necessary or desirable that large bodies of our Indian fellow-subjects should desert their native land, removing for long periods their industrial services in order to develop another country which is not theirs? If India is over-populated, permanent colonisation is surely the remedy; if it is not, this practice of “indentured labour” seems to testify to misgovernment and bad husbandry of our Indian resources. To break up considerable areas of Indian society, and remove its able-bodied males for ten years at a time, in order that these men may bring back some “savings” at the end of their term, seems at best a wanton sacrifice of the stability and normal progress of Indian society to a narrow consideration of purely monetary gain. History teaches, in fact, that a peasant people living on soil which they own will not consent thus to alienate themselves for purposes of slight economic gain, unless they are compelled by excessive taxation on the part of Government, or by extortions of money-lenders, which deprive them in large measure of the enjoyment of the fruits of their labour on their land. Certain very thickly peopled districts of China form the only instance in the modern world where the mere stress of growing population seems to be the prime motive to such alienation.
However well administered this system of indentured labour may be, it seems vitiated in origin by its artificial character and its interference with normal processes of self-development. It involves a subordination of wider social considerations to purposes of present industrial exploitation. What is true of the system, as applied in the West Indies and elsewhere for agricultural work, is still more true of industrial labour in mining processes. Whether we regard the huge barrack-prison life of the Kimberley “compounds,” or the laxer, more licentious conditions of Rand or Rhodesian locations, we are confronted by convincing evidence of the damage done to native life and character by these periodic removals from normal tribal life. When “civilised” Kaffirs choose to quit their individual farms in the Transkei, or elsewhere, in order to earn extra money by three months’ service in the mines, no particular harm may offset their monetary gain; but when labour agents are employed to break up tribal life and tempt “raw” Kaffirs away from their kraals and the restraints of their habitual life into the utterly strange and artificial life upon the mines, the character of the Kaffir goes to pieces; he becomes a victim to drink if he can get it, and often succumbs to the vices of the crowded, laborious, unhealthy life to which he has sold himself, while the arbitrary restrictions under which he works and lives, however justified, degrade and damage his personality. According to the evidence of most experienced and competent investigators, he returns home a “damaged” man, and often by his example a damage to his neighbours.
*97 The least reflection will expose the dangers which must arise from suddenly transferring men from a semi-savage, tribal, agricultural life to a great modern, elaborate, industrial business like that of diamond and gold mining.
It may well be doubted whether there is a net gain to the civilisation of the world by increasing the supply of gold and diamonds at such a price.
It may be said: “Whatever the motives of employers may be, it is surely a good thing to take natives, by persuasion or even by force, from a life of idleness and habituate them to labour, which educates their faculties, brings them under civilising influences, and puts money into their pockets.”
Now while the statement that such Kaffirs, West Africans, and other tropical or semi-tropical men, left to themselves, lead an idle life, is commonly a gross exaggeration, due largely to the fact that their work is more irregular and capricious than that of their women, it must be admitted that the repression of internecine warfare and the restriction of hunting do set free a large quantity of male energy which it is really desirable should be utilised for industrial purposes. But for whose industrial purposes? Surely it is far better that the “contact with civilisation” should lead these men to new kinds of industry on their own land, and in their own societies, instead of dragging them off to gang-labour on the lands or mining properties of strangers. It can do this in two ways: by acquainting them with new wholesome wants it can apply a legitimate stimulus, and by acquainting them with new industrial methods applicable to work in their own industries it can educate them to self-help. Where native peoples are protected from the aggressive designs of white profit-mongers, this salutary evolution operates. In large districts of Basutoland and in certain reserves of Zululand the substitution of the plough for the primitive hoe or pick has led to the introduction of male labour into the fields;
*98 every encouragement in stock-raising, dairy-farming, or other occupations connected with animals enhances male employment among natives; the gradual introduction of new manufacturing industries into village life leads to men’s taking a larger share in those industries in or near the kraal which were formerly a monopoly of women.
So far as Imperialism seeks to justify itself by sane civilisation of lower races, it will endeavour to raise their industrial and moral status on their own lands, preserving as far as possible the continuity of the old tribal life and institutions, protecting them against the force and deceit of prospectors, labour touts, and other persons who seek to take their land and entice away their labour. If under the gradual teaching of industrial arts and the general educational influences of a white protectorate many of the old political, social, and religious institutions decay, that decay will be a natural wholesome process, and will be attended by the growth of new forms, not forced upon them, but growing out of the old forms and conforming to laws of natural growth in order to adapt native life to a charged environment.
But so long as the private, short-sighted, business interests of white farmers or white mine-owners are permitted, either by action taken on their own account or through pressure on a Colonial or Imperial Government, to invade the lands of “lower peoples,” and transfer to their private profitable purposes the land or labour, the first law of “sane” Imperialism is violated, and the phrases about teaching “the dignity of labour” and raising races of “children” to manhood, whether used by directors of mining companies or by statesmen in the House of Commons, are little better than wanton exhibitions of hypocrisy. They are based on a falsification of the facts, and a perversion of the motives which actually direct the policy.
In setting forth the theory which sought to justify Imperialism as the exercise of forcible control over lower races, by regarding this control as a trust for the civilisation of the world, we pointed out three conditions essential to the validity of such a trust: first, the control must be directed to the general good, and not to the special good of the “imperialist” nation; secondly, it must confer some net advantage to the nation so controlled; lastly, there must exist some organisation representative of international interests, which shall sanction the undertaking of a trust by the nation exercising such control.
The third condition, which is fundamental to the validity of the other two, we saw to be unfulfilled, inasmuch as each nation claiming to fulfil the trust of governing lower races assumed this control upon its own authority alone.
The practice of Imperialism, as illustrated in a great variety of cases, exhibits the very defects which correspond with the unsound theory. The exclusive interest of an expanding nation, interpreted by its rulers at some given moment, and not the good of the whole world, is seen to be the dominant motive in each new assumption of control over the tropics and lower peoples; that national interest itself commonly signifies the direct material self-interest of some small class of traders, mine-owners, farmers, or investors who wish to dispose of the land and labour of the lower peoples for their private gain. Other more disinterested motives woven in may serve to give an attractive colouring to each business in hand, but it is impossible to examine the historic details in any important modern instance without recognising the supremacy of economic forces. At best it is impossible to claim more than this, that some consideration is taken of justice and humanity in the exercise of the authority assumed, and that incidentally the welfare of the lower race is subserved by the play of economic and political forces not primarily designed to secure that end.
Everywhere, in the white administration of these lower races, considerations of present order are paramount, and industrial exploitation of the land and labour under private management for private immediate gain is the chief operative force in the community, unchecked, or inadequately checked, by imperial or other governmental control. The future progress of the lower race, its gradual education in the arts of industrial and political self-government, in most instances do not at all engage the activity of imperial government, and nowhere are such considerations of the welfare of the governed really paramount.
The stamp of “parasitism” is upon every white settlement among these lower races, that is to say, nowhere are the relations between whites and coloured people such as to preserve a wholesome balance of mutual services. The best services which white civilisation might be capable of rendering, by examples of normal, healthy, white communities practising the best arts of Western life, are precluded by climatic and other physical conditions in almost every case: the presence of a scattering of white officials, missionaries, traders, mining or plantation overseers, a dominant male caste with little knowledge of or sympathy for the institutions of the people, is ill-calculated to give to these lower races even such gains as Western civilisation might be capable of giving.
The condition of the white rulers of these lower races is distinctively parasitic; they live upon these natives, their chief work being that of organising native labour for their support. The normal state of such a country is one in which the most fertile lands and the mineral resources are owned by white aliens and worked by natives under their direction, primarily for their gain: they do not identify themselves with the interests of the nation or its people, but remain an alien body of sojourners, a “parasite” upon the carcass of its “host,” destined to extract wealth from the country and retire to consume it at home. All the hard manual or other severe routine work is done by natives; most of the real labour of administration, or even of aggression, is done by native overseers, police and soldiery. This holds of all white government in the tropics or wherever a large lower population is found. Even where whites can live healthily and breed and work, the quantity of actual work, physical or mental, which they do is very small, where a large supply of natives can be made to work for them. Even in the parts of South Africa where whites thrive best, the life they lead, when clearly analysed, is seen to be parasitic. The white farmer, Dutch or British, does little work, manual or mental, and tends everywhere to become lazy and “unprogressive”; the trading, professional or official classes of the towns show clear signs of the same laxity and torpor, the brief spasmodic flares of energy evoked by dazzling prospects among small classes of speculators and business men in mushroom cities like Johannesburg serving but to dazzle our eyes and hide the deep essential character of the life.
If this is true of South Africa, much more is it true of countries where climate inhibits white settlement and white energy, the general condition of those countries which represent the expansion of modern Imperialism.
Nowhere under such conditions is the theory of white government as a trust for civilisation made valid; nowhere is there any provision to secure the predominance of the interests, either of the world at large or of the governed people, over those of the encroaching nation, or more commonly a section of that nation. The relations subsisting between the superior and the inferior nations, commonly established by pure force, and resting on that basis, are such as preclude the genuine sympathy essential to the operation of the best civilising influences, and usually resolve themselves into the maintenance of external good order so as to forward the profitable development of certain natural resources of the land, under “forced” native labour, primarily for the benefit of white traders and investors, and secondarily for the benefit of the world of white Western consumers.
This failure to justify by results the forcible rule over alien peoples is attributable to no special defect of the British or other modern European nations. It is inherent in the nature of such domination. “The government of a people by itself has a meaning and a reality, but such a thing as government of one people by another does not and cannot exist. One people may keep another as a warren or preserve for its own use, a place to make money in, a human cattle-farm, to be worked for the profits of its own inhabitants; but if the good of the governed is the proper business of a government, it is utterly impossible that a people should directly attend to it.
THE LABOUR POLICY OF TRANSVAAL MINE-OWNERS
This policy is most succinctly stated in the language of the President of the Chamber of Mines, at Johannesburg, in his annual address for 1898:—
“I consider that one of our chief aims should be to get a class of labour that stays, and in that direction I should consider it a distinct advantage if we had been allowed to establish at a short distance from here some huge location where the natives could live with their families, but having no other means of earning their livelihood except by working in the mines, they would have secured a supply of skilled labour constantly available” (Cd. 9345, p. 31).
Here is the mining policy in a nut-shell. Natives are to be induced to come from a distance “with their families.” At present they leave these families behind, and when they have earned enough money go away with it, and resume their tribal life of agriculture. But if they can be got to bring their families, they will have broken their tribal ties, and however much they may afterwards regret their action and desire to return, they will have given hostages to fortune; they cannot carry off their families, trek many hundreds of miles, and resume the old tribal life. In their new location they are not to be allowed land to cultivate, but are to be kept in an economic condition, which allows them no option but continuous work at the mines. These “location” natives will no longer work three or six months, and go away with their wages as heretofore; the conditions named above, supported by a rigorous enforcement of the pass law, will oblige them to stay all their working life in the service of the mines. Here is one great advantage of the location over the compound. Another advantage hardly less important is that by this location system the mines will “breed” their labour on the spot, young Kaffirs ripening in reliable crops every year to meet the growing demands of the labour market, with no option of turning to any other market or of making a living off the soil.
No wonder the location policy is popular among mine owners and managers. This is the scheme which is approved by all the witnesses before the Industrial Commission. Mr. Albu “would not recommend the compound system,” because “it would hurt the industrial community” (p. 25); but says, “I think if the natives had their locations here, and had their wives and families, they would make this place their home” (p. 24).
Mr. Way, mine manager, when asked,” Can you suggest any plan by which a permanent supply could be relied upon for the Rand, skilled principally?” replied: “The only way is to give natives facilities for family life. We do it to a certain extent on the George Goch, and we get into considerable trouble for doing it. We have a location upon our lower claims, and I have boys who have their wives and families, who have been working at the mine for the last eight years. If locations could be established somewhere in the neighbourhood of the mines—within walking distance—so that the natives could bring down their wives and families, I think you would have a far greater supply than you require” (p. 43).
Mr. S. J. Jennings (p. 46), Mr. Brakhan (p. 184), Mr. Kenny (p. 376), Mr. W. Hall (p. 429), the other mining witnesses examined on this subject, all endorsed the location policy, the last named giving his opinion as follows:—
“As to the Kaffir, he cannot be made to become a progressive and reliable employee under the unnatural condition in which he is now held. That he should have at least a temporary home, within no great distance from the mine centre, to which he could inexpensively retire after his engagements on mine service are over, and with the end of returning to mine work, seems to me to be absolutely essential to the end in view; or else he must be carried by rail, at a merely nominal rate, practically to and from the country of his birth” (p. 429).
This last passage indicates a new “economy” of the location system. The demand for labour on the mines has been, and will continue to be, irregular, and subject to swift and sudden fluctuation. It is therefore important for the mine-owners to have upon the spot “a far greater supply than you require,” in Mr. Way’s words, so that you may get your increase quick and cheap when you want it, and may force it “inexpensively” to retire into unemployment when it is no longer wanted.
One other economy is subserved by the location. The miner will be forced to spend all his earnings, not merely in the country, but on the spot, in shops owned, rented, financed, or otherwise controlled by the mining companies, or by the members of those companies in some other business capacity.
The advocacy of the location system is, however, not confined to the mine-owner. The clergy and missionaries, who profess the deepest concern for the “elevation” of the natives, are divided between advocacy of the compounds and advocacy of the location. While the Rev. J. S. Moffat is persuaded of the beneficial moral influences of imprisonment in the Kimberley compound, the Rev. J. M. Bovill, rector of the Cathedral Church, Lorenzo Marques, champions the location. In his instructive book, “Natives under the Transvaal Flag,” he states the case as follows:—
“Let native reserves or locations be established on the separated mines, or groups of mines, where the natives can have their huts built,
and live more or less under the same conditions as they do in their native kraals. If a native found that he could live on the Rand under similar conditions to those he has been accustomed to, he will soon be anxious to save enough money to bring his wife and children there, and remain in the labour district for a much longer period than at present is the case. It would be a distinct gain to the mining industry as well as to the native ” (p. 59).
This may be taken as a characteristic utterance of the sham philanthropy of the professional harmoniser of God and Mammon. For Mr. Bovill, who displays throughout his book an intimate acquaintance with the mining industry, must be well aware of the falsehood which is contained in the words we have italicised. These natives are not intended to live “more or less under the same conditions as they do in their native kraals,” where their life is entirely agricultural and pastoral. On the contrary, it is, as we said, clearly recognised that they must not be allowed to work on the land, but must work in the mines for wages. In the location Mr. Bovill would not even leave them property in their own huts.
“Huts could be erected on a mine, or group of mines, at a very small cost, and I am sure that the natives would be quite willing to pay a monthly rent if they were properly housed. Their huts, of course, would be the property of the mines, built on ground belonging to the mines, and under the supervision of the mines, much as our miners’ houses are in some of our colliery districts” (p. 61).
In order to complete the picture of economic servitude, it is right to understand the wage system under which these Kaffirs will work. Mr. Bovill does not trouble to explain this, but the admission of mining witnesses before the Industrial Commission and subsequent events supply the lack. When Kaffirs with their families are “induced” to settle in these locations, and to live in huts supplied by mining companies, not only must they work for wages in the mines, spending those wages in rent for their huts and for goods purchased from the mining companies, but they must work for whatever wages their employers choose to pay. They will have no voice whatever in determining their wages; no power of bargain will be left to them. Their wages will be fixed, not by competition, but by the dictation of a complete monopoly. For years past the policy of the various mining companies upon the Rand has been to adopt a fixed tariff of wages; this has been from the first a chief object of the Chamber of Mines. The 30 per cent. reduction of wages in 1897 was successfully carried out by joint action, and Mr. Albu, when asked, “Is there competition among the mines with regard to the wages?” replied, “I don’t think so at the present moment.” To the further question, “Is it in the power of the mining industry to regulate the wages of Kaffirs?” he answered, “To a great extent it is, provided that the Government assists us in bringing labour to this market” (p. 14).
Since 1897 the amalgamation of mining interests has proceeded apace, and the virtual supremacy of the Eckstein group greatly facilitates joint action. Before the war great progress had been made in common action as regards both Kaffir and white wages, and there is a plain recognition of the necessity of dealing with the native labour question by united co-operation with the Government. How clearly this need was recognised four years ago appears in the evidence of Mr. Wm. Hall, who put the matter thus:—
“In short, the mine managements must work together in this matter. For that purpose they must be organised as one institution, and every mine management must be in it. This could only be effected under a law of the Republic. The details of the law should be presented by the representative Chamber of Mines. The operation of it should be wholly in the hands of the organisation created by it, under general supervision—not absolute dictation—of the Government. By some such means only can I see the way at all clear to handle the Kaffir labour problem of the future of the Rand” (p. 428 ).
Before the war the fact that so much labour must be brought from a distance at great expense, and the difficulty of getting and keeping enough Kaffirs made it difficult to prevent mine managers from contravening secretly the regulations of the Chamber, and trying to entice away the labour from other mines, a selfish policy, facilitated by the loose administration of the pass law. With large native locations, a fixed population of native families, and a rigorous pass law, the wages schedule will be strictly adhered to, and natives will have to work for the mines adjoining their location at wages dictated by the Chamber of Mines. The special laws under which they will live would render strikes or other organised labour action impossible, while their utter dependence on the mines for a livelihood and their inability to leave the neighbourhood will make all effective resistance to reduction of wages ineffectual. The natives upon their locations will be
ascripti glebæ, living in complete serfdom, with no vote or other political means of venting their grievances, and with no economic leverage for progress.
Edinburgh Review, April 1900.
Times, 24th February 1902.
“The German missionaries who escaped after the mission house at Frayuen was destroyed by Chinese have returned. It is reported from Canton that the French bishop intends to protect the natives who destroyed the Berlin mission station. The first information showed that hostility existed on the part of the Catholics towards the native Protestants, but it is believed that the aggressors assumed Catholicism as a subterfuge. If the bishop defends them, the situation of the missions in Kwang-tung will become complicated.”
Howard Hensman, defending the administration of the Company in his “History of Rhodesia” (Blackwood & Sons), admits the practice, thus describing it: “In Rhodesia a native who declined to work” (
i.e. for wages) “was taken before the Native Commissioners and sent off to some mine or public work close at hand, paid at what, to him, were very high rates, fed and housed, and then at the end of three months he was allowed to return to his kraal, where he was permitted to remain for the rest of the year” (p. 257).
Times, 28th November 1896).
The Inspector of Native Locations in his report of the affair distinctly asserts: “That it was not a general rising of the Mashowing people is certain, because there were not more than 100 natives engaged in the Kobogo fight.” Yet the whole of the Mashowing territory was confiscated and all the population treated as rebels.
While only some 450 men were taken with arms, 3793 men, women, and children were arrested and deported, 1871 being afterwards “indentured” in the colony. Seven-eighths of the prisoners were women, children, or unarmed men. Even of the men who were taken in arms at the Langeberg Sir A. Milner wrote (January 5, 1898): “I am inclined to think that in many other cases, if the prisoners had chosen to stand their ground, the same difficulty (as in two cases taken to trial) would have been found in establishing legal evidence of treason. It is probable that, of the men who surrendered at the Langeberg, some had never fought against the Government at all, while many others had done so reluctantly. To bring home treasonable intent to any large number of them would, I conceive, have been a difficult matter” (p. 48).
“Seeing that Lobengula only allowed his followers to own cattle on sufferance as it were, all the herds in the country might be said to be the property of the late king, and that was the view which the British South Africa Company took. The number of cattle in the country at this time was estimated at not less than a quarter of a million head, and the indunas were ordered at once to drive in the cattle from the districts over which they had control to Buluwayo. Some of the indunas duly complied with this demand, in which they saw nothing more than what was to be expected as the outcome of the war; but others, and those chiefly who had not taken any part in the fighting, declined to do so, and hid the cattle away out of reach of the Native Commissioners. As the cattle did not come in in such numbers as they ought to have done, the Government ordered the Native Commissioners to collect and send in each month a certain number of cattle…. This step proved a highly unpopular one among the natives” (“History of Rhodesia,” by H. Hensman, p. 165).
“It has been said that the Sierra Leone hut-tax war is a ‘little Indian Mutiny’; those who have said it do not seem to have known how true the statement is, for these attacks on property in the form of direct taxation are, to the African, treachery on the part of England, who, from the first, has kept on assuring the African that she does not mean to take his country from him, and then, as soon as she is strong enough, in his eyes, deliberately starts doing so” (“West African Studies,” p. 372; Macmillan & Co.).
“Hitherto, under our commercial-tenure system, there has been little absolute necessity for our young natives to leave their homes to work. The land supplies them with food, and a few shillings will buy a blanket, and as soon as the young man marries he is entitled to receive his lot of arable land; but once this is stopped—and it will be stopped by the survey and individual tenure—a young man before he marries a wife will have to be in a position to support a wife, and to obtain this he must work, and once having married her he must still work to maintain her and himself, and once the necessity of work is created there will be no lack of men ready and willing to work” (“Blue-book on Native Affairs,” C. 31, p. 75). For the Transvaal mine-owners’ extension and systematisation of the policy, see
Appendix at the close of this chapter.
(The Reformer, December 1901).
Part II, Chapter V