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but what I do maintain is, that with the present native supply eked out with unskilled whites we can work as cheaply as in 1899, and eventually very much cheaper.” The experiment was given a very full trial from January 1902 to August in the following year, longer, perhaps, than was pleasant for the shareholders in the mine. Mr. Cresswell deserves nothing but praise for his experiment. “Every credit,” as Sir. G. Farrer said, “is due to him ; every credit is due to all men who try and persist in experiments which are practically a failure. The experiment was to prove whether unskilled white labour was practicable or not.” There can be no doubt, I think, that financially Mr. Cresswell's attempt was a failure, for in a report published by the directors when the Village Main Reef passed into the hands of a new manager, it was shown that the working costs of the mine with unskilled white labour were four shillings higher per ton than they would have been with black labour. Putting aside, therefore, the second suggestion as at present outside the bounds of practical politics, it only remains to test the truth of the first proposal, and to consider whether it would not be possible to find sufficient native labour in South Africa. There can be no doubt, I think, that every source of supply has been tested, and without any adequate result. There is no getting over the fact that there is a scarcity of unskilled labour throughout the whole of South Africa. The Labour Commission which was appointed in July of last year sat for thirty-two days, and examined no less than ninetytwo witnesses representing all the Colonies and Protectorates in South Africa, as well as Portuguese East Africa, British Central Africa, West Africa, and East Africa. The findings of the Commission were roughly as follows : (1) That the demand for native labour for agriculture in the Transvaal is largely in excess of the present supply, and as the development of the country proceeds this demand will greatly increase. (2) That the demand for native labour for the Transvaal mining industry is in excess of the present supply by about 129,000 labourers, and whilst no complete data of the future requirements of the whole industry are obtainable, it is estimated that the mines of the Witwatersrand alone will require within the next five years an additional supply of 196, ooo labourers. (3) That the demand for native labour for other Transvaal industries, including railways, is greatly in excess of the present supply, and will increase concurrently with the advancement of mining and agriculture.
(4) That there is no adequate supply of labour in Central and South Africa to meet the above requirements. In this country, I know, doubts have been cast upon the value of this Report. I myself am convinced of the genuine character of the work of the Commissioners, and I believe that the vast majority of the people of the Transvaal now realise that it is impossible at the present time to find sufficient native labourers in Africa. On my first arrival in the country I noticed a very natural prejudice against the importation of Chinese labour. It was argued that the introduction of a large number of Asiatics would be a serious calamity for the Colony; that it would be alike detrimental to the true interests of both the white and native population. Reference was continually made to the evil effects which Indian immigration has had in Natal ; it was urged that the same results would follow if Asiatics were allowed into the Transvaal. It would be impossible to restrict them to work in the mines. Every trade and industry would speedily fall into their hands. At that date (September 1903) the general public did not grasp the true situation. It had not been proved to their satisfaction that a shortage of labour did really exist. It was supposed that the capitalist class was only anxious to obtain larger dividends for their shareholders, and had seized upon an alleged failure in the supply of native labour to press upon the Government a demand to import from abroad labourers who would be content to receive smaller wages than those given to the Kaffirs already working upon the mines. The Bloemfontein Conference, held in March 1903, and the Report of the Labour Commission opened the eyes of the public to the real state of things. The great majority of people at length became convinced that the mining community were seriously alarmed, that the prosperity of the whole country was at stake, that the demand for Asiatic labour was a real necessity if the Colony was to be saved from bankruptcy. A curious instance of the change in public opinion is furnished by the recent vote in the Chamber of Commerce at Johannesburg. In January 1903 the Chamber passed a resolution by fifty-one votes to five against the introduction of Chinese labour. On March 1 o of this year the Chamber by sixty-one votes to eleven decided to join in the deputation to the High Commissioner to urge the immediate ratification of the Labour Ordinance. To any one who, like myself, knows the Transvaal and has recently been there, the reality of the agitation in favour of the importation of indentured coloured labour is so apparent that WOL. XLIII 2O
one almost fails to see the necessity of again emphasising the fact. I can myself bear witness to the perfectly genuine character of the great petition in favour of the introduction of Chinese labourers signed by no less than 45, ooo of the white male population of the Transvaal. I was one of those who signed the petition, and in order to test the value to be attached to it I made a point of visiting all the “signing tables " I could find, both in Johannesburg and Pretoria. At each table I inquired whether they were anxious to have more signatures, mentioning the fact that I had already signed the petition. In no instance was my signature accepted a second time. The recent debates in the Imperial Parliament have, however, made it clear that a great amount of misunderstanding still exists in this country upon the subject. Much, for instance, has been made of the unfriendly attitude not only of the Cape Ministry but also of the Progressive party led by Dr. Jameson, towards the projected importation of Chinese labour into the Transvaal. I was in South Africa during the course of the elections for the Cape Parliament, and had an opportunity both of meeting many of the candidates privately and of hearing their public utterances. In the seclusion of their chambers many of these gentlemen admitted to me that their objections to Asiatic labour were not of so far-reaching a character as might have been supposed from their platform speeches. It was impossible for either party to declare itself in favour of the importation of coloured labour, or even to leave the question outside the radius of Cape politics (as I believe many of the Progressive leaders would have liked to do), for the simple reason that at that date it had not been made clear to the trading classes in Cape Colony that the regulations to be imposed on the Chinese immigrants would effectually prevent their becoming commercial rivals. I am also merely stating a matter of common notoriety in South Africa when I say that another great reason for the alleged opposition of both political parties in Cape Colony to the introduction of Chinese labourers into the Transvaal was from the desire of catching the black vote, which is a very powerful factor in Cape politics. South African politicians are no less capable of electoral devices than are politicians in this country. The Liberal cry that has been raised at more than one by-election recently with great success is that the present Government is in league with the capitalist and is endeavouring to prevent the Transvaal mines becoming a field for British labour. Thus, the idea is gaining ground that the object of the capitalists is to prevent British immigration into the country,
because they are afraid that white labourers will organise themselves into trade unions and increase the rate of wages now paid in the mines. They are “slamming the door,” it has been said, “in the face of the British population.” It was stated in the House of Commons that there were hundreds and thousands of labourers in this country who would be glad to have the opportunity of going to the Transvaal and doing the work which was there to be done. In this connection attention should be given to a point which Mr. Lyttelton brought out very clearly in his speech in the House of Commons on February 16. He explained that the result of bringing in unskilled white labour would not necessarily mean the employment of more British labour. It is perfectly clear that, in the event of foreign competition with British labour, inasmuch as the foreign standard is much lower than the British one, the effect would be to lower the standard wage throughout the country. In addition to this important point it has also been clearly demonstrated, both before the war and since the annexation of the Colony, that it is the output of gold which, to a great extent if not entirely, regulates the number of white immigrants. A bankrupt country where no work can be counted upon is not likely to become a popular field for British emigrants. It is unlikely that decent English working men—and it is most important to bear in mind that it would be fatal to the best interests of the new Colonies if the Transvaal were to become the “dumping-ground" of a refuse population—would emigrate to a country where the cost of living is, roughly speaking, two and a half times as expensive as in England, not to better themselves, not to earn higher wages, but to do unskilled work in competition with Kaffirs—work which even the poorer Dutch consider degrading to their self-respect. Personally, I do not think that the Colony at the present time is in a flourishing enough condition to supply labour for a larger white population than already exists. There are endless possibilities for the future if only the present difficulties are successfully overcome, but no practical statesman should shut his eyes to existing facts and attempt to prevent the country adopting a policy which it believes to be the best for its needs. In March 1903 the late Colonial Secretary promised that although the new Colonies were technically Crown Colonies, they should be treated as far as possible as if they were selfgoverning Colonies. “As long as the opinion of the Transvaal is hostile to Asiatic labour,” said Mr. Chamberlain in the House of Commons on July 27 last, “the right honourable gentleman may rest perfectly satisfied that I shall not assent to it. . . . I think it is very likely that the opinion which is now hostile may not always be hostile.” Mr. Chamberlain's opinion was right. The opposition to Chinese labour no longer exists. On the other hand, the extraordinary meeting at the Wanderers' Hall, Johannesburg, on December 14, 1903, at which I was present, and for the earnestness and genuine character of which I can vouch, clearly proves that a strong feeling does prevail amongst the skilled white labourers against the wholesale flooding of the mines with unskilled white labour. It is not surprising that the skilled workmen who are already employed at the mines should resent the idea of a large immigration of unskilled white labourers, who would soon become their rivals for the little work that is to be obtained. An increase in the white population of the Transvaal at this particular moment, even if it were possible, would, I am convinced, not add to the prosperity of the country, but would make its condition even worse than it is at present. It must not be supposed, however, that public opinion in the Transvaal is definitely opposed to British immigration. Nothing would be more untrue or misleading. It is a recognised fact that the political future of the Colony depends upon the increase of the English-speaking inhabitants—upon the immigration of the right class of British colonists. Lord Milner has publicly stated that his paramount endeavour will be “to increase the white population and increase the opportunity for whites to earn a proper wage to enable them to bring up their families.” This is the object which those who advocate the importation of Chinese labour have in view. People in England often seem to forget that gold-mining in South Africa is a very serious business. It is not a wild and feverish speculation ; it is the staple industry of the country, upon which its prosperity depends just as much as does the prosperity of England upon her iron and coal. The mine-owners are not the selfish and tyrannical class that they are so often represented to be. I hold no brief for the mine-owners in the Rand—I admit even to having had a prejudice against them before my visit to the Transvaal. Since then my opinions have changed considerably. Any impartial man who goes to Johannesburg cannot fail to be struck at the excellent work done for the benefit of the town by the so-called capitalists. It would be a good thing for this country if the leading commercial men could be induced to take the same active interest in municipal affairs. In Johannesburg a number of the most prominent of the representatives of the mining interest responded to Lord Milner's invitation to become members of the first