NEW ZEALAND MOUNTED RIFLES

 

Transcript from the Evening Post, Volume LVIII, Issue 78,
29th September 1899, page 2
transcribed text taken from PAPERSPAST copy - National Libary of New Zealand.



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An intriging look at the stance and the mind set of the population of Colonial New Zealand that is reflected here in a report from Parliament in the press of the day.

A NEW ZEALAND CONTINGENT FOR THE TRANSVAAL.

Evening Post, Volume LVIII, Issue 78, 29 September 1899, Page 2

A NEW ZEALAND CONTINGENT FOR THE TRANSVAAL.

THE HOUSE DECIDES THE QUESTION.

A SCENE OF GREAT ENTHUSIASM.

MEMBERS SING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM.

There was an air of seriousness pervading the House yesterday when the Premier rose and moved his resolution regarding the colony sending a contingent of New Zealand volunteers to assist the Imperial forces in the Transvaal. Mr. Seddon, who treated the matter with much solemnity, said that on no occasion had he risen in the House with a greater sense of responsibility cast upon him than in moving the proposal now submitted. An emergency had arisen, and hon. members wore called upon to pass a resolution which meant involving heavy expenditure upon the colony. Outside that expenditure it also entailed grave responsibility. Not only that, but what was proposed meant that some of our countrymen, our volunteers and New Zealanders, would go to the Transvaal, perhaps never to return.

He hoped hon. members would approach the subject in a manner fit and proper. The volunteers would be asked to find their own horses. The Government proposed to pay the personal expenses, which were estimated at £10 per man. The troop would consist of 210 men — namely, a commanding officer, a surgeon, two captains, six lieutenants, four sergeants-major, twelve sergeants, twelve corporals, four trumpeters, and 168 privates. According to the military regulations, it would mean a cost of £50 per day for maintaining the company in the Transvaal. They should not, however, allow the cost to become a consideration.

They should, he thought, provide all the expenses, cost of passages and so forth, and land the force in the Transvaal clear of all cost to the Imperial authorities. He thought the men would willingly provide their own horses, but the Government would insure them, so that they would not be at any loss in the event of the horses being killed. A telegram has been sent to the commanding officers of each of the four districts asking them to raise a corps of fifty men and two officers from the mounted troops under their command, the men to be unmarried and under the age of 23 and 40, the pay to be according to scale laid down in the volunteer regulations, the volunteers to be distributed equally if possible between the various corps. The question of insuring the lives of those who went to the Transvaal was a matter that had not been decided upon, but it in the course of the debate there was a general wish that the colony would insure the lives of members of the contingent, the Government would be prepared to undertake that responsibility. There was no use underestimating the expenditure, which would total about £20,000.

The question would naturally be asked why should New Zealand take the course it was now proposing.  The answer simply was that they belonged to a great Empire. The flag that floated over them protected them, and was expected to protect their brethren, and their fellow colonists in the Transvaal. They must acquit the Imperial Government of any desire to make unjust and unfair demands.  Those demands were righteous and modest, and every opportunity had been given to the Boer to fairly consent the question.  The demands made by Sir Alfred Milner were just.
Had they been, otherwise he would have hesitated before bringing down the present proposals. The Boers were once glad to have the protection of the British flag, but now that they felt they were secure, they had sought to bring the flag down into the mud, and had flouted it. As our forces acquitted themselves so credibly at Home at the time of the Jubilee, so would they on the battlefield of the Transvaal. What were our ties with the Mother Country? Take from the Empire the colonies, and the Empire was weakened. And what was the Mother County doing for us? Each and every day she was doing something.  Looking at it from a sordid point of view, it was to our interest to assist the Mother Country to maintain her proud position. Would we enjoy the same rights and powers under another nation? No; see how cheerfully the taxpayers in the Old Country bore their share of taxation towards maintaining the first line of defence of the colonies. Should we then consider the question of cost in this matter? He was sure that instead of two hundred there were two thousand men available if required. In fact, so strong would be the beam-burning on the part of those who could not be included in the contingent, members of the native race and others— That he did not know that it would not be right that the colony should pay the passages of those others who  wished to go to South Africa, and there join the Imperial Army.

Apart from the ties of kindred, we were partners in that Empire, the envy of the civilised world We had to wipe out the stain on the British flag in the Transvaal, and the time had now arrived. The British Government could not now retire with honour from the position it had taken up. It might be that the altitude taken up by the British colonies might assist to avert war, but its greatest advantage consisted in the fact that it strengthened the hands of the Imperial authorities. Victory meant maintaining civil rights and that wherever the British flag flew there would be liberty and freedom. It might be that the blood of young New Zealand would stain Transvaal soil, but it would be mingled with that of their brethren from England, Ireland, and Scotland, and the shedding of that blood would be a sign to the world that Britain's dependencies were ready and willing to stand by the Motherland, and would never desert her in the hour of adversity. He then moved the motion of which he had given notice.

The Leader of the Opposition (Captain Russell) had great pleasure in supporting the motion. It was not for him, as a true Englishman, to enquire deeply into the cause of the quarrel. He knew, of course, what had been said in the papers, but the cause of the quarrel had little to do with him. Feeling that the Government of the Old Country used every possible patience, and believing, as no did, sincerely that the Mother Country never precipitated a war that could possibly be avoided, he was here us a citizen of the Empire, to say that he supported the proposal to send troops to prove that, however remote we might be to the great Empire, we were loyal in heart to the Imperial idea. We had known colonial arms in the past do good service in our own country. The energy, activity, and intelligence of the colonists proved them to be capable to fight alongside corps of the Imperial Army. (Hear, hear.)

The great object we had in view was to assist in Imperial Federation, and the solidarity of the British Empire. It was not a mere question of despatching a few men. The power of England was great enough for any war in South Africa. He hoped for the building up of a largo empire in South, Africa, which, like India, would be one of the lustres of the British Crown Shakespeare had said that if England to herself was true she would still rule, though three-quarters of the world were in arms. At this time the lesson was not England against three-quarters of the world, but three-quarters of the world with the Empire. He believed that in the departure they were now making they were doing more for the solidity of the Empire than the works or speeches of statesmen or politicians had ever yet done. (Cheers.)

Mr. Rolloston said the Premier and Captain Russell had left little to be said. The voting for the resolution involved a very heavy responsibility, but he felt that all would sympathise cordially with the proposal. The resolution carried with it a determination to join with the other parts of the Empire at a critical time in a great national effort.  He wished to show our identity with, and our sympathy with, our fellow-countrymen in other parts of the world. The tie joining the British race throughout the Empire was growing stronger and stronger. Ho did not intend to go into the merits of the present position, but they could see from the newspapers that the limits of endurance had been reached. Such a demonstration as now proposed should not be made hesitatingly or spasmodically — trembling hands made bloody work – but should be firmly and unanimously agreed on. What they did in passing the resolution was to express entire sympathy with the Mother Country in her present position.

Mr. Hone Heke said that ever since 1855 the Maoris of the colony had been under the protection of the British Crown and they appreciated that protection. He now expressed with every confidence the willingness of the natives north of Auckland to assist the Crown in enforcing its demand either in Africa or anywhere else. They would give every support in the way of men.

Mr. G. Hutchison said that with a risk of being misunderstood he wished to draw attention the practical side of the question. He asked the House not to run away with the fervour of enthusiasm and not make clear what would have to be undergone. Of course the British Government really needed no assistance, it was really a matter of sentiment. But the proposal was a niggardly one. What a thing to ask the volunteers to pay part of the cost themselves. It was the very thing to militate against efficiency. The volunteers who went should be thoroughly and properly equipped at the sole expense of the State, A scheme of insurance should also be prepared in case of fatality, and there should be the utmost liberality shown. There should be no haggling—none of that miserly treatment such as had been shown to the old soldiers of the colony who had fought its battles of the early days. 
Mr. Carson rose with pain. He could not support the motion. In time of need he, old as he was, would with personal effort and treasure do all that was possible for the British Empire. No one more so. But there was no necessity at the present time. A contingent from New Zealand was not needed.  He regretted that the Premier had attempted to go into the merits of the Transvaal trouble.
Mr. J. Hutcheson said the present was a sorrowful moment. If he had stood alone he would have voted against the motion. He was not lacking in patriotism or the blood of a warlike race; but he could not support this proposal. The time might come — God forfend, when the British Empire would be on its defence, and then New Zealand would contribute its share, and shed its blood with any part of the Empire.  He was not going to vote to shed his brothers' blood where he would not risk his own, and he must confess that he did not feel bad enough against the Boer to go there and fight him. The time had not arrived for anything of this kind. It meant sending the pink and flower of the land to risk their lives without good reason.

Mr. Taylor said they could not blind themselves to the fact that the war was a territorial one. There was the British Government demanding from the Transvaal a more liberal franchise than they wore prepared to give in Great Britain. (Cries of "No.") Besides this, as already stated by one member, the Imperial authorities were quite able to conduct this war without assistance from New Zealand. Mr. Taylor went into the merits the case and asked why should we send our men there, when the Outlanders themselves whom we were going to defend were leaving the Transvaal? He could not see the slightest reason for sending our men there. It was asking to spend money upon a purely sentimental matter. England had not asked for assistance. He was not to be blinded by any jingoism on this subject.
Mr. Buchanan supported the motion Mr. Taylor had said that England had not called for assistance. Did he mean that we should hold back until asked? Such a contention was unworthy of the House.
Mr. Scobie Mackenzie deprecated the remarks of Mr. Taylor, and pointed out that no one was being ordered off to the Transvaal. Those who would go would be volunteers. He did not altogether agree with the wisdom of bringing forward this motion at the present time, but it having been brought it should be carried without any hesitation.
Mr Mills, as one born in New Zealand, felt that it would not be right to give a silent vote. Ho was proud of the British race, proud of its traditions, and proud to think that the member for Christchurch (Mr. Taylor) was not a colonial, He warmly supported the motion.

Mr. Bollard hoped there would be no division. Mr. Taylor was so surcharged with cold water that he could not stand up in the House without throwing cold water over someone. He talked about sentiment - it was sentiment that had made the British Empire what it was. He had a son in the volunteers, and he hoped he would volunteer to go. (Applause.)
Mr. Crowther sincerely hoped there would not be war, but if there was, the men that went from this colony should not be called upon to pay their own expenses, even to the extent proposed. Mr. Smith was of opinion that the British Government had used every endeavour to prevent war. He deprecated the personal element introduced. The Transvaal war was only a small war, but there was no knowing what it would develop into. In his opinion, the sentiment shown in the present motion would have an effect, as showing the unity of the Empire, in preventing the European complications. He hoped that those who differed, and he respected their opinions, would not call for a division.
Mr. Fisher briefly reviewed the history of the Transvaal trouble, and hoped that President Kruger would not back down, and that the war would wipe him out completely. The British Empire had to maintain its supremacy in South Africa, and while it could do this without the assistance of this colony the moral effect of our offer would be great. The men who volunteered to go should not be put to any expense.

Mr. J. Aden regretted that the last speaker could not on an occasion of this kind refrain from personal attacks upon his colleague Mr. J. Hutcheson. He regretted also that some could not support the motion, but all who had disapproved of it had expressed their willingness to stand by the Empire in time of necessity. He did not know the cause of the present trouble, but he believed the quarrel to be just. He respected the Boer, and was sorry for him. So far as our men were concerned he hoped the Government would equip them fully, and not put them to any cost. Also, he trusted that when the men came back their positions would be reopened to them. We should not wait for an emergency to offer assistance.
Mr. McNab disapproved of the proposal, but if men were to go, urged that they should be selected from the volunteers.

After further debate.

The Premier replied, complimenting the House on the spirit of patriotism almost unanimously evinced.  It was not for them to question England's action or the causes that had led to it, but it was their duty to render assistance.

On the motion being put Mr. Taylor called for a division, with the result that 54 voted for it and 5 against. Then occurred a scene never before witnessed in the history of the House. The Premier, rising in his place, led off a verse of the National Anthem. Members responded gallantly, and the occupants of the galleries joined in the stirring refrain. The utmost enthusiasm prevailed, handkerchiefs were waved in the air by the more excitable, while the usually sober going members sang vigorously, and when the verse ended three ringing cheers made a fitting climax to the patriotic display. A party from Government House was present during the afternoon. The five members who voted against the motion were Messer’s Taylor, Kelly, J. Hutcheson, Gilfedder, and J. W. Thompson.