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“ Milton ! thou should’st be living at this hour;
England hath need of thee; she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men:
Oh! raise us up, return to us again.”—Wordsworth.

In the last chapter a sketch has been given of the predominant impressions regarding the camps, so far as the country had any impression at all; and with but few exceptions no more was known. As illustration of the general vagueness about this great movement, I may mention that the editor of a prominent London paper was under the impression that there was only one women’s camp, and that one somewhere in the vicinity of Cape Town. My advisers in England were anxious to facilitate the collection of funds for the relief of the camps by the publication of a few extracts from my letters, descriptions written on the spot to my family and friends. Before deciding to appeal to a wider circle by means of these letters, I desired as my first step to lay my information before the Secretary of State for War. A recent speech [ Times, May 25, 1901] he had made in the House increased this desire, for he had then spoken of the “women coming for food and protection against the Kaffirs" — of “ 20,000, 30,000, or 40,000 women who had placed themselves in our charge”—of “no occasion in which in these camps food ran short,” and of “ immense improvement," etc.

I wrote, therefore, to Mr. Brodrick, asking if an interview would be agreeable to him [May 31] and I mentioned that though my first duty was towards the Committee whose funds I had been administering, yet I wished to lay all information before the Government before any publicity was given to my statements, in the event of that course being decided upon.

In reply, I was invited to see Mr. Brodrick [June 4] and so far as could be done in a short hour, I explained the condition of the camps—the insufficient supplies—attempted improvements swamped by increased numbers—the great sickness and heavy mortality — that the great majority were there by compulsion, and were prisoners not allowed to leave, though health and life itself were endangered.

I was listened to with kindness and attention, and requested to send my suggestions in writing. This was done the same day, and they were subsequently embodied in the Report [See my Report, p. 14] which the Committee of the Distress Fund issued a fortnight afterwards. This Report drew general attention to the Concentration Camps. Meagre as it was, it aroused considerable sympathy, creating, as Lord Spencer put it, “a profound feeling of compassion throughout the country.” Previous to its issue there had been a debate on the Concentration Camps in the House of Commons on Mr. Lloyd George's motion of adjournment [June 18]. He first graphically described the situation, and, supported by Mr. Ellis, appealed to the humanity and Christianity of the House to take immediate steps to alleviate the sufferings of the women and children.

Mr. Brodrick adopted the apologetic attitude [See Times, June 19] and asserted that the fault of these women being in camps at all lay with their own men, who did not “ recognise their own responsibilities in the matter.” It was even, he said, “owing to the action of their own friends.” He urged the difficulty, which has always been obvious, that in war-time it is hard to keep 63,000 people (the numbers at that date) sheltered and fed in addition to a great army. So obvious is this fact, that most people would have thought that some preparation would have been made for it before entering upon so vast a military movement Mr. Brodrick assured the House that those who had been out there to distribute gifts, and had since returned and spoken to him, had told him “ that things, so far from going from bad to worse, have been steadily ameliorating.” My own effort had been to impress Mr. Brodrick with the view that such improvements as had been effected, and they were few, were nullified by the increasing number of families brought in.

Very clearly in my remembrance of that debate stands out Mr. Herbert Lewis's attempt to fix the attention of the House on the humanitarian side of the question. The House was unsympathetic, and neither knew nor cared to hear. Humanity was appealed to in vain, and Mr. Lewis was literally howled down by continual noise and wearied shout of “ Divide ” from the crowded Ministerial benches. The picture thus exhibited of callousness and impatience, not willing even to listen to sufferings innocently endured, contrasted badly with scenes fresh in my mind in South Africa. In common with the Boer women, I had felt sure that English humanity would not fail to respond instantly if the facts were clearly understood. I was wrong; no barbarisms in South Africa could equal the cold cruelty of that indifferent House.

The first part of Mr. Brodrick’s speech on this occasion was answered by President Steyn in his despatch to Lord Kitchener, and may be interesting in this connection—

[From Reply of Mr. Steyn to Lord Kitchener’s Proclamation, dated Aug. 15, 1901.] “ To say that they are in camps of their own free will is altogether opposed to facts, and to assert that these women were brought to the camps because the Boers refused to provide for their families (as the Minister of War is said to have done recently in Parliament), is a slander which wounds us less than the slanderer, and which I feel sure will never bear away your Excellency’s approval. M. T. Steyn."

A few days after the issue of my Report, the Secretary for War sent me the following answer to the Recommendations which had been forwarded by me at his request:—

“ War Office, June 27, 1901.

“ Dear Miss Hobhouse,—The Recommendations contained in your letter of June 4 on the subject of the Concentration Camps have been most carefully considered, and I am now in a position to give you the opinions which have been formed on them by the Government, and which, I think you will agree, generally speaking meet with your wishes. As regards—

Questions. Answers.

Q1. You ask that all women who still can, should be allowed to leave - 

(a) Those who, themselves penniless, yet have friends and relatives in Cape Colony;

(b) Those who have means and could support themselves in Cape Colony or in towns on the line;

(c) Those who have houses in town to which they could go;

(d) Those divided from their children who wish to find and rejoin them.

A1.   We have communicated to Lord Kitchener our view that any women comung under these four headings should be allowed to go, unless there is some military objection. The question of refugees going to Cape Colony in large numbers is open to grave objections, and is one on which m any case the wishes of the Cape Government would have to be consulted.

Q2. Free passes into all towns near by for all wishing to find work there.

A2. We understand this to be already the practice in most camps.

Q3. In view of the size of the camps, the sickness and mortality, a resident minister in each camp, or freejaccess to any minister living close by.

A3. Lord Kitchener has telegraphed that ministers are resident in or near all Refugee Camps, and regular services are held.

Q4. That, considering the countless difficulties ahead and the already overcrowded state of the camps, no further women or children be brought in.

A4. We believe that every care is being taken to check overcrowding. We cannot undertake to limit the numbers who, for military reasons, may be brought into Concentration Camps.

Q5. That, considering the mass of the people are women and children, and seeing the successful organisation of the matron at Port Elizabeth, a matron conversant with both languages be appointed in every camp. Many women would undertake this voluntarily.

A5.  Every camp now has a trained matron, with a lady assistant, and also a qualified medical officer and superintendent, with efficient staff. The nurses include women selected from the refugees, who receive payment for their services. The whole staff is chosen with a special view to their knowledge of the Dutch language.

Q6. That, considering the congested state of the line and the ever-increasing lack of fuel, any new camp formed should be in a healthy spot in Cape Colony, nearer supplies and charitable aid.

A6. Careful attention will be paid to these points in selecting the site of any fresh camps.

Q7. That because all the above, and much more not mentioned, including the economical distribution of clothing, demands much careful organisation, detailed work, and devoted attention, free access should be given to a band of at least six accredited representatives of English philanthropic societies, who should be provided with permanent passes, have the authority of the High Commissioner for their work, and be responsible to the Government as well as to those they represent. Their mother-wit and womanly resource would set righ many of the existing evils.

A7.  We think it more desirable to work through local committees and persons sent out by the Government to act with them, and shall shortly send out certain persons to aid the committees in distributing charitable funds.

Q8. That the doctors' report on the condition of the children in Bloemfontein be called for and acted upon.

A8. This report has been called for. 

Q9. That the women whose applications are appended be at once allowed to leave the camp. They are good women, and their health and strength are failing under the long strain.

A9. Copies of these applications have been sent to Lord Kitchener.

“ All the above Recommendations have been forwarded to Lord Kitchener, who will no doubt act upon them, except in any case where military necessity may preclude him from doing so, though I do not foresee any difficulty of that kind. Meanwhile, the Government has accepted with pleasure a suggestion that funds should be raised to provide comforts in the camps beyond the actual necessaries which the Government can properly supply, and is willing—through the local committees or persons sent out from England by the Government, to act in co-operation with the local committees—to be responsible for the distribution of any such funds, whether intended for the Concentration Camps or for loyal subjects of the Crown who have suffered through the war. You will doubtless have seen a letter by me to Mrs. Alfred Lyttelton on this subject which appears in the press to-day. I have every hope that within the necessary limitations imposed by camp life all reasonable provision will be found to have been already made in the Concentration Camps, for adequate food and the necessaries of life, with proper medical treatment, schools of instruction, religious ministration, various forms of labour, and amusements for the inmates. No doubt the assistance received from the funds referred to above will help to make the lot of those who are suffering from the effects of the war as comfortable as the circumstances of war and the difficulties of the country will permit.—Yours faithfully,

“ St. John Brodrick.”

Any one familiar with the Recommendations as sent to the War Office will observe in this reply the omission of the word “ equally,” from No 2 and the entire omission of the original No. 3. These ran:—

“ 2. Free passes into towns for all equally wishing to find work there.

“ 3. Equality of treatment, whether the men of the family are fighting, imprisoned, dead, or surrendered.”

My reply will show that I feared that the first important concession would prove a dead letter unless friends were at hand to make it known and smooth away the difficulties, and indeed events have proved it to be no more than a paper concession. Had it been acted upon, the lives of many would have been spared. I wrote:—

“ Dear Mr. Brodrick,—I feel greatly indebted to you for your letter to me containing the opinions of the Government on my Recommendations concerning the Concentration Camps. Every one will share a feeling of relief and thankfulness at hearing that all women coming under the four headings a, c, d will be allowed to go. The clause ‘unless there is some military objection * appears to me, who have seen the complexities in the working of martial law, to give ground for some apprehension i lest the above permission be rendered nugatory. I will hereafter' venture to make a suggestion on this point. I may be allowed to express my entire concurrence with your suggestion that the Cape Government should be consulted with regard to the question of large numbers going south to form new camps, and I trust that their opinion may be sought without delay. The initial difficulty of removal would be considerable, but it would surely prove of advantage in the end, especially if, as I gather from your reply to No. 4, there is every probability that the numbers in the camps will be augmented, and I know from experience that it is already impossible to prevent overcrowding in the existing camps, owing to the impossibility of obtaining enough tents so far from the coast. The supplies would be easier and cheaper, the line proportionately relieved for military use, and I cannot doubt that the effect universally desired, of arresting the abnormal mortality, would be in large measure obtained. (If the co-operation of the Cape Government can be obtained, I have the permission of my Committee to place my services at your disposal for the personal supervision of such a removal; whilst the funds of the Committee could be usefully employed in supplementing the Government supplies with things necessary to women and children in such circumstances.)

“ With regard to Recommendation 2, I am fully aware that it is, as you have understood, already to some extent the practice in most camps to grant passes, ’but I desired to point out, by the use of the word ‘ equally * in my first letter to you, that; the passes are at present granted or withheld for reasons not easily understood and often apparently capricious, and I would urge that the rule should be laid down that passes should be freely granted unless there were some clear and unmistakable reasons for denying them in a special case.

“ No. 3. With regard to ministers, what is urgently needed is not so much the holding of regular services as ministrations to the sick and dying and the burial of the dead. These functions can clearly not be performed for large bodies of people by clergy resident in neighbouring towns in addition to their own parochial duty. Could not Dr. Andrew Murray’s suggestion, that ministers from Cape Colony already British subjects should be invited to take up their residence in the camps, be more widely acted upon ? This has been already successfully arranged at Norval’s Pont.

“ No. 5. I fear that I cannot have made plain that my suggestion with regard to matrons had reference to the necessity of matrons for the camps as well as for the hospitals. The hospital matron, often the only trained nurse, is fully occupied in her own sphere. What is needed is a lady in each camp, holding the position occupied by Miss Hauptfleisch at Port Elizabeth, who has enjoyed the entire confidence of the military, and whose womanly tact and power of organisation has had a success attested by all who have seen the camp under her control. I believe that a sufficient number of competent ladies, both English and Colonial, are at this moment forthcoming who would undertake the work without remuneration, so that if it were thought necessary to retain the present superintendents at high salaries, little if any extra expense would be incurred. I will further venture to make here the suggestion alluded to earlier, that the camp matrons should be authorised to act as intermediaries in cases in which women were applying to quit the camp, and should be allowed to investigate and represent the circumstances of the applicants, especially when any objection was felt in the first instance by the military authorities. In such cases that came under my notice I have felt sure that the military objections must have rested on a misunderstanding or the incompleteness of the evidence presented, and this might have been removed by the kind of assistance which might be rendered by a responsible person on the spot.

“ In respect to the distribution of charitable funds through the medium of the local committees (some of which I myself helped to set on foot, and of whose work I had considerable experience), I feel sure that the work will be done most satisfactorily if some of the persons whom you propose shall be sent by the Government to act with them, were persons nominated by the committees of the several funds raised in England and submitted to the Government for approval. I am not in a position to speak for the other funds, but with regard to the South African Distress Fund I am authorised to state that such a mode of distribution would meet the approval of the Committee. For obvious reasons they would not feel justified in delegating to others the entire responsibility of distribution.

“ In conclusion, bearing in mind the great extent of country, the masses of people, the gigantic responsibilities of the whole undertaking, the pressure of work resting on all local officials, it will at once be apparent to any one who has worked at this subject on the spot, that the successful carrying out of the instructions of the Government, as well as the desires of the English charitable public, will practically depend upon full facilities being accorded to a sufficient number of voluntary but accredited workers.—I am, etc.,

“ Emily Hobhouse.”

Early in July, Lord Ripon, as acting Chairman of the Distress Fund, had approached the War Office with a suggestion that ladies should at once be sent out to the camps, and had given my name as one prepared to go on this mission.

On the 9th of July the reply came—

“. . . I am directed to assure you that His Majesty’s Government view with satisfaction the readiness of various philanthropic associations to supply funds and give service for the amelioration of the condition of those suffering by the war; though they would regret that such efforts should be confined to [The Distress Fund gave irrespective of nationality.] one part only of those who have been rendered homeless or penniless by the course of hostilities. But these proposals, by their number alone, make it impossible for the Government to accede to them. The Secretary of State for War has three such proposals before him at this moment, and it is obvious that it would be impossible to introduce a variety of authorities into camps organised and regulated by the Government”

Thus there were three proposals to send helpers, and nearly 40 great camps to divide them amongst, and all would have been willing to work under the Government; none proposed “to introduce a variety of authorities.” The help so sorely needed was offered and refused. Months later it had to be sent.

The letter proceeded—

“ The Secretary of State has every reason to believe that, allowing for the obvious difficulty of temporarily accommodating so large a population as is now congregated in the camps, all proper arrangements have been made for the food, clothing, medical attendance, and spiritual supervision of those in the camps. Schools have been established, and a properly qualified matron [ It was many months before this was done] has been appointed in each camp. Beyond this the Government will shortly send out certain ladies to visit the camps and co-operate with the local committees in the distribution of comforts or gifts of money which may be entrusted to them.”

From this rosy description of the camps it was evident to me that I had failed to present the matter in its most urgent and serious light to Mr. Brodrick. The long delay before sending workers and the rise in the death-rate combined to make me seek and obtain a further interview with the Secretary of State [July 18].

The conversation was confidential in character, but the refusal of the Government to let me return to the camps was reiterated, and as it was confidently expected by the public in many parts of England that I should so return, I asked for and was promised a letter containing the Government’s reasons for this refusal. Not having received this letter by the 26th July, I wrote as follows, and received an immediate reply :—

“ Dear Mr. Brodrick,—When we parted on the 18th you promised to send me a letter giving the reasons why you could not allow me to return to my work in South Africa. Such a letter has not reached me, and I hope you will forgive me if I rather urgently press that it should be immediately sent. I am continually asked on all sides when I am going out again. It is generally expected I shall soon start, which is, indeed, my own desire. Since you have adopted, in principle, almost all my recommendations, I can scarcely think any ground of objection can be regarded as tenable against a proposal to resume work the results of which have been accepted by yourself. It has occurred to me that you might say that any help on my part was unnecessary, because you have yourself selected certain ladies to visit and report upon the Concentration Camps. In relation to this, may I be permitted to urge that the number you have sent is really quite insufficient for the work entrusted to them, considering the largely increased number of refugees now found in the camps, unless they have supplementary assistance; that they must spend much time and labour before they will have acquired the preliminary knowledge necessary for useful action; and, if I may speak of myself, that my experience in the camps, my acquaintance with the»people, and to some extent with their language, ought to enable me, and I trust would enable me, to be a useful auxiliary to them in the discharge of their duties ? I would fain hope that the delay in sending your letter may mean a disposition to reconsider my appeal for leave to revisit the camps in South Africa, In spite of improvements that have been made, there is much suffering and misery still wanting alleviation, and I do most earnestly press you to grant me permission to return at the earliest possible moment to the work in which I have become so deeply interested.—I have, etc.”

“ War Office, July 27, 1901.

“ Dear Miss Hobhouse,—I am sorry if there has been any delay in writing you a letter on the subject which, with others, you mentioned when I saw you on the 18th, but as I was forced to refer to the matter publicly in reply to questions in the House of Commons, I hoped I had done what was necessary to explain the action of the Government The only considerations which have guided the Government in their selection ) of ladies to visit the Concentration Camps, beyond their special capacity for such work, was that they should be, so far as is possible, removed from the suspicion of partiality to the system  adopted or the reverse. I pointed out to you that for this reason the Government had been forced to decline the services of ladies representing various philanthropic agencies, whose presence in an unofficial capacity would be a difficulty in camps controlled by Government organisation. It would have been impossible for the Government to accept your services in this capacity while declining others, the more so as your reports and speeches have been made the subject of so much controversy; and I regret, therefore, we canriof alter the decision which I conveyed to you on the 18th instant.—Yours, etc.,

“ St. John Brodrick.”

Thus the principle laid down as a guide in the choice of the ladies for this Commission was that “ they should be removed from the suspicion of partiality to the system or the reverse.” This good rule was unfortunately not followed, because two of the women selected had already expressed themselves with some warmth in the public Press. Mrs. Fawcett, who was made, principal of the Commission, had written a criticism of my Report, which was in substance a defence of the concentration system [Westminster Gazette, July 4, 1901.] In one phrase she had spoken of the formation of the Concentration Camps as “ part of the fortune of war.” One wonders in what war Mrs. Fawcett had read of such a system, unless it was the Spanish action in Cuba, which was condemned by every civilised nation. Or did she refer to the wars of Shalmaneser and Nebuchadnezzar to find precedents for the wholesale uprooting, capturing, deporting, imprisoning, or exiling of the whole non-combatant portion of a country. In that case more wisdom was displayed, as we are expressly told that the husbandmen and poorest of the land were left to till the soil.

Dr. Jane Waterston, on her part, was inspired by the tidings of English efforts to improve the camps, to write at some length in the Cape papers [Cape Times, July 22, 1901.] Here are a few of her sentences, written before she herself became engaged in ameliorating the camps—

“Judging by some of the hysterical whining going on in England at the present time, it would seem as if we might neglect or half starve our faithful soldiers, and keep our civilian population eating their hearts out here as long as we fed and pampered people who have not even the grace to say thank you for the care bestowed on them.

“ At present there is the danger that the Boers will waken up to have a care for their womenfolk, and will go on fighting for some time, so as to keep them in comfortable winter quarters at our expense, and thus our women and children will lose a few more of their husbands and fathers.”

After reading this, one wonders how Dr. Waterston could be so cruel to our soldiers as to accept a post on the Commission, and it is to her credit that, as we learn, she at first declined to serve.

It was tragic to feel that instead of a great number of good nurses, and, above all, voluntary workers as camp matrons, being at once despatched in early June, only six ladies started [The Commission sailed without either Mrs. Fawcett or her companions making any effort to see me with a view to obtaining information, which might save time, when time was all-important. Mrs. Fawcett was invited to meet me, but declined on domestic grounds, and did not delegate a colleague to do so. She recently stated in a London meeting (Times, March 24, 1902) that she could get no help whatever from our Committee, and in a subsequent letter to the Times excused herself by saying that she had asked me through a relative for information in writing. It was a pity that she did not choose the far simpler method of approaching me direct, instead of employing a medium. I never saw the letter to which she alludes, but the impression made by it at the time and conveyed to me, was that she evidently did not desire any help I might be able to give her.] in a leisurely way towards the end of July, not themselves to work, but to make more inquiry.

The death-rate rose, and after the August mortality list had been published [see Appendix] I made one more appeal to Mr. Brodrick, entreating immediate action. A few weeks after, the control of the camps passed into the hands of Mr. Chamberlain.

Open Letter.

“ Sept. 29,1901.

“ Dear Mr. Brodrick,—Three months have passed since I approached you on the subject of the Concentration Camps in South Africa, three terrible months in the history of those camps. Can the appalling figures just shown in the Government returns for August and the preceding month pass unnoticed by the Government and by the great mass of the English people? Will you bear with me for a moment if I approach you again on this sad topic, and with these latest figures before us make one more appeal to your clemency, and through you to the humanity of the country?

“ If we leave for the present the coloured camps and speak only of the white people, the returns show that the population of the camps has increased gradually during June, July, and August from 85,000 to 105,000 souls. In the past month of August 1,878 deaths occurred among the whites, of which 1,545 were children. The total number of deaths for the three months for which we have returns is 4,067, of which 3,245 were children. We have no account of the hundreds who passed away in the first six months of this year and part of last year. What is there to indicate the probability of any abatement in this fearful mortality? The cold winter nights are happily passing away, but rains are falling in many parts, and the increasing heat will bring sicknesses of other kinds. Scurvy has appeared. Daily the children are dying, and unless the rate be checked a few months will suffice to see the extermination of the majority.

“ Will nothing be done? Will no prompt measures be taken to deal with this terrible evil? Three months ago I tried to place the matter strongly before you, and begged permission to organise immediate alleviatory measures, based on the experience I had acquired, in order thus to avert a mortality I had plainly seen was increasing. My request was refused, and thus experience which I could not pass on to others rendered useless. The repulse to myself would have mattered nothing, had only a large band of kindly workers been instantly despatched with full powers to deal with each individual camp as its needs required. The necessity was instant if innocent human lives were to be saved. Instead, we had to wait a month while six ladies were chosen. During that month 576 children died. The preparation and journey of these ladies occupied yet another month, and in that interval 1,124 more children succumbed. In place of at once proceeding to the great centres of high mortality, the bulk of yet a third month seems to have been spent in their long journey to Mafeking, and in passing a few days at some of the healthier camps. Meanwhile, 1,545 more children died. This was not immediate action; it was very deliberate inquiry, and that, too, at a time when death, which is unanswerable, was at work ; nay, when the demands of death, instead of diminishing, were increasing. Will you not now, with the thought before you of those 3,245 children who have closed their eyes for ever since last I saw you, on their behalf, will you not now take instant action, and endeavour thus to avert the evil results of facts patent to all, and suspend further inquiry into the truth of what the whole world knows?

“ In the name of the little children whom I have watched suffer and die, and whom I cannot for a moment forget, I make bold to plead with you once more. In the name of our common humanity I urge that immediate steps may be taken by those qualified and empowered to act, lest one day we are bowed down by the humiliating and grievous thought that we have sat still and watched calmly the extermination of a race brave and strong enough to have kept the British Empire at bay for two long years. I need not recapitulate the proposals which I made to you, some of which you seemed to adopt, though, alas, even your adoption has appeared to be powerless to secure the effectual employment of the most important. I ask at least for effectual amelioration.

“ Yet is it not conceivable that we might go further? The men cannot end the war. The women will not end the war. Cannot the children help to bring about that peace which both sides so earnestly desire? Thousands have given their innocent lives. Thousands more are sick and like to die. Is it not enough ? What the children need of proper food, clothing, and shelter cannot be brought to them; transport is too difficult, supplies too scarce. They must die, die where we have placed them, in their hundreds and their thousands, unless the war ends and sets them free. "The cry of the children ’ comes to us now not from our own mines and factories, but from across the seas.

Will it be heard and answered? Will not your own and every parent’s heart in England respond to their cry, and beat in sympathy with those mothers who have bravely borne the lossN of homes and possessions, but stand aghast and enduringly resentful as they witness their children swept away ? There are cases where women have entered camps with eight and ten children, and death has claimed them all Do we want ‘ unconditional surrender at the cost of so much child-life ? Is it worth the price ? For the men of either side I say nothing. They have chosen their part and must abide by it. For the women also I do not now plead; they are always strong to endure. But I do ask, in the name of the innocent and helpless children, that England’s humanity may triumph over her policy, so that the sacrifice of the children may be stayed. Is there a i nation that will not honour her the more ? In die earnest hope that you will listen to my appeal,—I have the honour to be, yours faithfully, Emily Hobhouse.” 

Appeals for relief for the camps had been periodically made throughout the spring by the Committee of the Distress Fund, and in April had appeared a letter from Lady Maxwell, wife of the Military Governor of Pretoria, who appealed to the American public through the New York Herald [New York Herald, April 16, 1901] She is herself an American, and gave as her reason for turning to American charity, that England was too exhausted by other claims to give in this direction. We have never heard it hinted before that England has not money enough and to spare for destitute women and children, taken either willingly or unwillingly under her protection. Such a letter as Lady Maxwell’s, coming straight from Pretoria, and from the wife of an officer, would, if it had been addressed to the English public, have reaped a harvest of ready subscriptions. At any rate, we who are English feel it was our duty as well as our privilege to provide for the health and comfort of these victims of the war, likely also to become our fellow-subjects. “ It is in the name of the little children,” she wrote, “who are living in open tents without fires, and possessing only the scantiest of clothes, that I ask for help.” Lord Hobhouse’s eloquent appeal had been issued simultaneously in England. It was addressed, he said, “to all English people who have hearts to feel for the sufferings of fellow men and women, and to all who are thinking what course of action at the present moment is most likely to bring honour and permanent rest to our country.” [Speaker, April 20, 1901.]

He went on to describe something of the conditions of camp life, and touched on the mental suffering, which was at all times the deepest—

“ Numbers crowded into small tents: some sick, some dying, occasionally a dead one among them ; scanty rations dealt out raw; lack of fuel to cook them; lack of water for drinking, for cooking, for washing; lack of soap, brushes, and other instruments of personal cleanliness; lack of bedding or of beds to keep the body off the bare earth; lack of clothing for warmth, and in many cases even for decency; no needles or thread to mend tatters; shelter only in tents of single canvas, now scorched by a very hot sun, and now drenched by rain, and very slender appliances to meet the maladies consequent on such exposure.

“ We do not dwell on wounded feelings, the anguish of separation, the despair of watching the children, unable to help while they waste away. These are griefs which money can alleviate but little. But every kind of physical affliction seems to be accumulated in these camps, or at least in some of them, containing thousands of people: hunger, thirst, nakedness, weariness, dirt, disease; and money judiciously applied may alleviate these things.

" We add that our proposal is to give help wherever sufferings and a chance of alleviating them are found ; all without reference to the national character of the recipients.”

About the end of June another group of people became at last aware of the want which had been so long distressing the women and children in South African camps, and a new fund was formed under the auspices of the Victoria League.[Times, June 25, 1901.] This fund, like the South African Women and Children’s Distress Fund which had been so long at work, was non-political in intention, though not sufficiently withdrawn from partisanship to work in concert with the existing Committee. Some of those instrumental in forming this fresh fund had been asked but had refused to join the Committee which had pioneered the work of relief. They also received the approbation of the Government, and their collection was administered by the Commission, the members composing which were some weeks after announced by Mr. Brodrick.

The Committee of the Distress Fund, anxious to add to their resources by a wider dissemination of facts, arranged to hold a meeting for that purpose in the Queen’s Hall, Langham Place, where I could plead the cause of the sufferers in the camps. The Bishop of Hereford promised to preside. During the voyage home I had had some conversation with Lord Milner with regard to permission either for myself or for other women to go to the camps, and he had promised me a speedy decision. As this had not reached me, 1 wrote [June 7] with the sanction of the Committee, to tell him of the proposed meeting, adding that it would give great satisfaction if he could enable me to announce to the audience that we had his permission to bear their gifts to the destitute people. A fortnight later, the day of the proposed meeting, the reply came [June 24] saying that the matter having now passed into the hands of the Government, it would be better to learn from them direct what decision had been arrived at Feeling the delay serious, I wrote again to Lord Milner, begging no more time might be lost if the dying children were to be saved. The arrangements for the projected meeting in the Queen’s Hall had continued, the hall was hired and the meeting advertised. Suddenly, three days before the appointed time, the lessee of the hall, Mr. Robert Newman, withdrew his consent, breaking the contract The excuse offered was that a political meeting had been held by other people in his hall during the previous week, and some roughs, outsiders not connected with the meeting, had made a disturbance; therefore Mr. Newman suddenly resolved to refuse the hall for a philanthropic meeting with a bishop in the chair. The secretary of the Committee had been making final arrangements with the lessee on the Saturday morning, and in the afternoon received word of this change of mind. The expenses incurred in advertising the meeting on the strength of Mr. Newman’s agreement were never made good. The minister of Westminster Chapel, hearing of this incident, offered the use of his large church, and plans were in train for holding the meeting there. But the timidity which possessed the metropolitan police and' Mr. Newman infected four out of the six deacons of this chapel, and neither would they allow a cause to be publicly pleaded, funds for which had the open sanction of the Government.-The meeting was perforce abandoned, and the Bishop of Hereford sent the following letter to the Times;—

“ June 24.

“ Sir,—As the meeting on behalf of the South African Women and Children’s Distress Fund, at which I had promised to preside to-night, has been unavoidably postponed, I desire to appeal to your readers for subscriptions to the fund.

“ Every humane person who reads Miss Hobhouse’s report must feel a desire to alleviate the misery described, and would be sorry if what has occurred should stop the supplies which Miss Hobhouse and her friends have been using so well and so kindly.

“ While making this appeal, and to avoid misunderstanding, I desire to add that the proposed meeting was not intended to be in any sense a political or party meeting.

“ The object of its promoters was purely philanthropic and charitable. Their work is a work of mercy. Lord Roberts might take the chair at such a meeting, and it would accord with his well-known kindness to do so. Lord Milner could do no better service in the cause of peace and goodwill between Dutch and English in South Africa than to preside at one of Miss Hobhouse’s meetings.

“ It is a comparatively new phenomenon in English life for such meetings to be rendered dangerous or impossible by a portion of the Press and the lawless and brutal element in the community. Let us hope, for our national credit’s sake, that it may soon disappear.

“ The natural instinct of the English people is to give very generously in relief of such a pitiable lot as that of those poor women and children, and I hope the fountain of charity may flow freely on this occasion; for those who give to this good work will not only be joining in a work of mercy and Christian benevolence, but will also be helping to sow in the hearts of the sufferers seeds of pity and loving-kindness which can hardly fail sooner or later to bear good fruit and to come back to us in grateful memories and consequent goodwill.” [Times, June 25, 1901]

Unable for the moment to help the cause in any other way than by the collection of money, I proceeded to accept invitations to address meetings of a non-party character for that purpose. Owing to the interest awakened by the issue of my Report, these invitations were numerous ; but evil communications corrupt good manners, and the example set in London by Mr. Newman and the four deacons spread to the provinces, and several halls already engaged shut their doors at my approach. These meetings, at which I appealed only to the sympathy and humanity of my audience, aroused in a certain section of the Press and the people a most intolerant resistance. Various facts which came to my knowledge combined to show that the opposition to my lectures was not spontaneous, but organised by people who did not appear. In several places the police allowed themselves to be made the instruments of this opposition, affecting fear that they would not be able to keep order. The spectacle of the Press and police force of the country affecting alarm at the quiet gatherings in which I described suffering women and sick children would have been ludicrous, had it not been the outward sign of an inward intolerance, inhumanity and pseudo-patriotism, lamentable to all who hold their country’s true honour and dignity at heart. The Society of Friends, whose ears are always open to I the cry of the distressed, came to my assistance, and offered the use of their meeting-houses. Having no intention of abandoning i my projected tour because of this foolish agitation, I publicly stated that the more I was opposed the more determinately I should continue to carry out my plans, and it would be for the benefit of the agitators to desist from further interference. This, combined with the fact that those from whom it is probable the opposition emanated began to see that the agitation was ridiculous, and merely served as an advertisement, had its effect, and I proceeded quietly with my work. I spoke at forty public meetings in the course of the summer, and with three exceptions every one was peaceful and orderly. Cheltenham excepted, a deep interest was evinced in each place, and marked enthusiasm in some towns. The three disturbed meetings were Bristol, New Southgate, and Darlington. At Darlington the audience itself was large and orderly, the disturbance being entirely due to some ten roughs who sat together under a leader, evidently engaged to obstruct by singing songs the whole evening. The meeting reassembled in a private house next day. Bristol and New Southgate were attended by a good many rowdies, who made quiet presentation of the subject impossible, and were unamenable to reason. They deemed it patriotic to end their proceedings by throwing sticks and stones, with more injury to themselves than to me.

Efforts to nullify the effect of my story, lest public sentiment * should be aroused, took two forms, viz. criticism of myself and justification of the camps. I was labelled “political agitator,” a “ disseminator of inaccurate and blood-curdling stories.” [Times, June 19, 1901.] A discredited South African wrote insinuating that my mission , had been a political propaganda [Hansard vol. xc. p. 1543; Daily Hews, June 27; Times, June 25.] My Report was described as a “ weapon ” [Times, Aug. 27] used “ wherever the name of England was hated.” I was “ deficient as an investigator,” and had not the competence to compile “ charges against us.” [Times, Aug. 27] This last remark brings to mind a similar fault found with Mr. Burdett-Coutts. During a debate on the Hospitals Commission, he said—

“ I consider it an attack upon my motives to convert the statement of facts I made into an attack upon Lord Roberts. (Opposition cheers.)

“ Mr. Balfour : You did criticise somebody, and who that person can be if not the responsible officer we have been unable to discover.

“ Mr. Burdett-Coutts: I critised nobody; I criticised a state of things. (Opposition cheers.)

“ Mr. Balfour : There is no such thing as criticising a state of things. (Loud cries of ‘ Oh ! oh ! ’) You may describe a state of things, but not criticise it. (Cries of ‘ Oh! ’ and Opposition laughter.)

“ Mr. Burdett-Coutts : I am extremely sorry to interrupt again, but I ask the right honourable gentleman in what words, where, and when I criticised any person and who that person was. (Opposition cheers.)

“ Mr. Balfour replied that the honourable gentleman’s criticisms were of a vague and obscure character. (Opposition laughter, and cries of: “ Then why appoint a Commission ? ” ) [Western Morning News, July 6.]

Finally I was “hysterical” and put “implicit belief” in all that was told me. [Times, June 20] Mr. Conan Doyle has gone still further on this point, distinctly saying, in misquotation of words used at Derby by my friend and cousin Mr. Charles Hobhouse, that “ some of my statements would not bear examination.” [See The War; Its Cause and Conduct, p. 96. By A. Conan Doyle.] Mr. Doyle’s attention was repeatedly called to this error, which had gone out into the world in a quarter of a million copies, but he let months elapse before making any public withdrawal of his words, and then did so in such scant fashion that I am obliged to make the correction myself. Drawing my cousin’s attention to the misrepresentation of his words at Derby, I received the following reply, which he gave me leave to publish. I do so with my answer—

Letter from Mr. Charles Hobhouse, M.P.

“ I had already seen the reference in Dr. Conan Doyle’s book to which you allude. I wrote to him pointing out that I was in no position to admit that some of your statements would not bear examination, that I had never stated anything of the kind, and that as to the accuracy or inaccuracy of your Report I could say nothing because I did not know.

“ The meaning of my words at Derby was clear to myself if not to others. Your Report purports to be a careful review not only of the state of the Concentration Camps, but also of the conditions under which persons were brought into those camps. The extracts which you give from statements made to you impugn not only the want of foresight by the authorities, but the individual humanity of officers and soldiers ordered to carry out what was, I believe, an uncongenial task. If such accusations are to be made at all, and are, moreover, to carry conviction to those who can only judge of events at second-hand, I am strongly of opinion that they should only be made upon the evidence of persons whose names are given in full, and whose assertions are verified and corroborated by others, and not upon the ex-parte statements of people whose identity is veiled behind initials and blanks.”

From this it is plain that Mr. Hobhouse did not say “ my statements would not bear examination,”[Vide Dr. Doyle, now Sir A. Conan Doyle.] but that he wished other people’s statements made to me could have been examined. This I also wish and hope it will one day be done. I replied to him as follows:—

“ My dear Cousin,—I am much obliged for your letter. I now understand that by an unverified statement you mean one taken down from the lips of one or more eye-witnesses, and published precisely as taken. If you had made this clear in your speech (at Derby), I think you would have avoided some misunderstanding. On p. 36 of my Report I particularly mention that the individual name of the person making the statement is in each case known to me and the Committee. I have withheld the names of these witnesses for reasons which will be apparent to all who have lived under martial law. You will have noticed that the name of the farm is given in each case. It was an essential part of my work with a view to relief to clear up the question whether the women came into the camps voluntarily or otherwise. This could only be determined by their own narratives, and if the narratives were to be given at all, they had to be given word for word as received. I may remark that for your private information I am willing to give you any name you may desire, but without the consent of the women concerned I cannot at present make them public.

“ In investigation work, when a number of people from wholly different places and quite independently of each other make statements which are found to be in agreement on certain main points, such statements are, I believe, looked upon as in a sense corrobative evidence. . . . Perhaps a stronger testimony is offered by letters and books written by soldiers, and accounts given me in South Africa by soldiers themselves were the strongest of all. Naturally, amongst so many men, characters and manners varied infinitely. I quite agree that cousinly considerations should not interfere with one’s public work, but Dr. Doyle’s grave misrepresentation of your words, which I had previously determined to ignore, has made it necessary to defend myself in the interests of my cause.”

The existence of the camps was justified by sundry reasons self-contradictory in nature [Since peace was proclaimed, reasons for the camps have been more fully dwelt upon by the Tinus special correspondent {Times, July 12, 1902) :— “ Lord Kitchener’s first intention undoubtedly was definitely to clear the country of stock and inhabitants by mobile columns operating from the railway. The impression generally prevailed in South Africa, that the Boers, on account of their proverbial domesticity, could not long endure separation from their wives and families. “ Also for military reasons it was necessary to remove the occupants from their farms. . . . We had promised protection to such burghers as surrendered and returned to their estates—a promise which ought never to have been made, and which, in but few instances, could be fulfilled. . . . Partly to meet the apparent breach of faith to the surrendered burghers, consequent upon the withdrawal from the occupation of outlying townships, and in the main to further the * clearance ’ scheme, the Concentration Camps organisation was conceived. It is possible that the conception of the Concentration Camps and the inordinate haste in which Lord Kitchener pushed hurriedly-recruited mounted troops into the field, are the only two serious blots upon the handling of a campaign fraught with difficulties. . . . The formation of the Concentration Camps did not bring about the desired results. In fact it rather increased the difficulties of the situation. The undesired interference of inquisitive and notoriety-seeking persons brought the Concentration Camps into public notice, so that they became a lever in the Pro-Boer campaign at home and on the Continent, which has been the most nauseating circumstance of the whole war. But that was a lesser evil in comparison with the effect which the camps had upon the military situation. The scheme, which was designed to bring pressure upon the Boers in the field, instead of goading them into surrender, was welcomed by them as a means by which to rid themselves of impedimenta.” On p. 102 it is shown that the Boers sent no families into the British lines except those of surrendered burghers.—E. H.] e,g, “ The camps are an absolute military necessity” [Times, Aug. 30] again, “We have voluntarily and out of humanity gone out of our way to undertake certain obligations in regard to the families of our foes.” Later, it was asserted that they were formed as reprisals. The mortality was explained as due to the habits of the Boer women, and their inferiority as careful mothers [Times, June 20 and July 20.] Attempt was also made to minimise it by proof that the normal death-rate in South Africa was high and the population consequently slow in increasing.

Mr. Letherby of Plymouth contributed a letter on the death-rate in the Cape Colony village of Middelburg [Times, Sept. 1] (which has no connection with the camp of that name). Others writing in the same strain induced a leading article from the Times full of unverified and ill-digested facts—

“The death-rates in the camps look enormous to people accustomed to the rates obtaining in English towns. But heavy as they are, they are not enormous judged by South African peace standards, for our correspondent mentions that the rate in Middelburg, Cape Colony, before the war was 150 per 1,000. He also observes that the increase in the population of the Orange Free State between 1896 and 1900 was only 11 per 1,000 per annum, and this among a proverbially prolific race. Obviously the normal death-rate must have been appalling, judged by English standards.” [Times, Oct. 19, 1901.—Leading article]

Mr. Brailsford’s answer [Times, Oct. 25, and Morning Leader, Oct. 24, 1901.] to this muddle of figures and facts was complete—

“You suggest that a death-rate which seems high, if judged by English standards, would not appear so by ‘South African peace standards.’

“ I find that the death-rate among the European population of Cape Colony has varied during die period 1896-98 from a fraction over 15 to a fraction over 16 per 1,000. As the English rate is a fraction over 19, it seems dear that there is no such contrast between English and South African standards as you imply.

“You further cite the increase of the Free State population between 1896 and 1900. The reference in your correspondent’s letter is to 1886 and 1890, and the figures in the leading article appear there, no doubt, by an oversight How your correspondent obtained his figures I do not know, as the census in the Free State is taken decennially. The white population in 1880 was 61,022, in 1890 it was 77,716. There was, therefore, an annual increase per 1,000 of 27.4, which is, I think, more than three times the rate in the United Kingdom. How your correspondent reached his figure 11, I am at a loss to guess.”

Mr. Brailsford goes on to show that the mortality of Middelburg in 1899 brought forward by Mr. Letherby was so exceptional that a special report on it was presented to Parliament. The population there, which consists largely of English consumptives and natives officially described as dirty, filthy, and lazy, was 1,666 persons, and there were 125 deaths in the year, giving a death-rate of about 75, not 150. The normal death-rate in South Africa (something over 15) appears to be lower than that of the United Kingdom. In relation to this, a doctor who has long practised in the Free State, told me recently that he thought it would be quite easy to get a return of the deaths in that country when the war is over. Deaths were not formally registered, but each little town had its one undertaker—the town of Bloemfontein possessing two. They did all the necessary business, and their books and those of the practising doctors would give all deaths and the information needed to compile returns.

During the summer white papers were issued which showed the rapid increase of the mortality. Yet in the midst of this a telegram from Lord Kitchener was published, which said—

“ Goold-Adams has made tour of inspection Refugee Camps, Orange River Colony, and reports people well looked after and completely satisfied with all we are doing for them.” [Lord Kitchener to Secretary of War, Aug. 3. See Morning Leader, Aug. 6, 1901.]

It was constantly affirmed that the people were thus “ completely satisfied,” and this was relied upon by men who do not seem to have made any effort to understand their attitude. Mr. Chamberlain dwelt upon it in his speech of August 14. [ See Times, Aug. 15, 1901] He said, too, that the women could all escape if they wished to do so, and the fact that they did not do so (with perhaps half a dozen young children) was proof, in his opinion, that they had no complaint. Evidently Mr. Chamberlain has never known what it is to be shut up, as many of these people were, in an enclosure of barbed wire 8 feet high—curiously enlaced, nor to find himself ringed by armed sentries and military camps. In spite of these preventions, women in some camps did escape with the help and connivance of soft-hearted English soldiers, who often objected to being the armed guardians of women and children. On the same occasion Mr. Chamberlain alluded to the suggestion of the Natal ministers, of charging the maintenance of the Boer families to the fighting burghers [Part I. chap. ii]. As was revealed in an earlier chapter, subordinate officials had already made this idea familiar to the women of Pietermaritzburg in the matter of clothing. Mr. Chamberlain limited the proposal to a charge only upon those to whom the families belonged.

In September public opinion on the camps was further consoled by an account of an inspection of Middelburg by the burgher Lieutenant Malan [Times, Sept. 13. See p111] a young unmarried officer in the artillery. This was permitted by General Blood, and Malan was said to be “ agreeably surprised,” “ satisfied,” “ finding the people content.” In his despatch Lord Kitchener alluded to this visit in the plural, as if Malan had visited several camps. It was, however, only Middelburg. Judgment must be reserved until we have seen Malan’s own signed account of this visit. From the manner in which the Times has transformed my own opinions, I should hesitate to accept as accurate any one else’s presented in its pages. Supposing, however, Malan’s opinion is correctly given, what does it prove ? It was said this fighting Boer’s verdict would be worth more than any report drafted by a commission sent from England [Times, Sept. 13, 1901.] We ought then to tear up the report of the Ladies’ Commission on that camp, and condemn them for dismissing its superintendent In the face of the death-roll of those weeks at Middelburg Camp—of the various accounts of it in the Blue Books—of many a woman’s letter received from there—Lieutenant Malan’s reported opinion is of little worth. He may be a good soldier, but is evidently a bad investigator. Possibly he judged from the superficial aspect of the camp, as many, Dutch and English, have done before him, notably the Times special correspondent and sundry members of the Women's Loyal Guild; but that the women did not, as asserted, complain to him is no criterion that they had nothing to complain of. I do not know the Boer woman who would by complaints of her own sufferings weaken the arm of her countrymen in the field, while I do know that women of all nations can, if they choose, easily deceive a man about what they personally undergo [Since writing the above, I have heard that the medical inspection asked for by the Boers was distinctly refused by Lord Kitchener, and that Malan’s visit was not authoritative. Happening to come in with despatches, he was conducted bv General Blood through the camp.]

The arrival of my Report in South Africa, and the news of the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry, occasioned an outburst of the most “loyal” Colonial opinion. Owing to martial law, opinion could only be expressed by one party, with one or two valiant exceptions. Dr. Jane Waterston’s long letter of indignation has been alluded to. Mr. Victor Sampson, M.L.A., and Colonel Harris describe how they walked up to Kimberley Camp one afternoon [July 28] and found everything satisfactory, all the children plump and well fed [Times, Aug. 27, 1901] Yet in July, 59 died out of 3,624 persons [Cd. 819, p. 209.], and in August 163 out of 3,7011 [Cd. 819, p. 292] in that camp. Canon Orford writes from Bloemfontein that “the families of those fighting us are being better fed and cared for than our own people.” A batch of letters were published by Mrs. K. H. R. Stuart, chiefly from members of the Guild of women she represents [Times, Aug. 20]. Most of the writers had not seen a camp, and the others had only paid a passing visit if one happened to be near at hand. The upshot of their remarks is, that if the women in the camps are not very comfortable they ought to be. They show also a tendency to rush into comparison of the camp prisoners with those loyalist refugees who came south early in the war. If the Committees who distributed relief to this set of war victims allowed them to want they are surely to blame, but that is no reason why another class of war victims should also be neglected. It was a surprise to me to learn that any of these loyalist refugees were still in want, when so large a sum as £240,000 had been expended on their behalf. I had therefore determined on my second visit to South Africa to investigate their needs in the coast towns side by side with those of destitute exiles deported from the north. The result will be remembered. I was prevented from even landing at Cape Town, and forced to make the return voyage when physically unfit, in a way greatly to the discredit of those official servants of the country who conceived the plan and carried it into practice. Mrs. Stuart published more letters as “protests” against my “misleading Report.” [Times, Sept. 7, 1901] Does she consider the whole group of Blue Books also misleading, and will she continue to protest? The Cape year ended with the self-congratulations of the Cape Times, based on some Christmas amusements wisely prepared for the children in the camps—

“ It is a consoling thought at this festival of the Christian year, that no war that was ever waged has been so tempered and civilised by the influence of Christian sentiment, as this in South Africa. The British people is supporting at this moment, in all the comfort that can possibly be extended to them, 120,000 of the helpless dependents of our enemies. We are glad to know that Christmas time is not to be allowed to pass in the Concentration Camps without some effort at a suitable celebration. The superintendents of all these camps are authorised to incur some expense for this object. Sports, Christmas trees, and treats of all kinds are being arranged, and everybody will wish these people as merry a Christmas as is possible under the circumstances. Next Christmas, let us hope, they will all be restored to their homes, with memories not altogether unpleasant of their prolonged Feast of Tabernacles.” [ Cape Times, Dec. 25, 1901].

Section B

Turning from the comfortable assurances of the Times and the anger of Cape Colonists, we find expression freely given to many weightier views on the camps both on one side and the other, only a few of which can be cited.

Lord Hugh. Cecil's letter to the Times [June 24, 1901] which that organ eulogised as “vigorous and entertaining,” is a plea for the justness and rightness of their existence, and seems to be called out by Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman’s well-known phrase “methods of barbarism.” “Since the Generals think so, we must take it,” argues Lord Hugh, “that these measures are military necessities. This raises the issue, however necessary, can they be justified? Are they not morally intolerable for whatsoever purpose they are taken ? If any one has his misgivings on this point, let me ask him to consider a single argument. Would not all the suffering involved in devastating and concentrating be considered quite allowable if inflicted not on dwellers in the open, but on the inhabitants of a besieged town ? . . . Morality cannot depend upon fortifications. . . . But the example of a siege plainly shows that all that has been done and very much more—is justifiable if it be necessary to achieve the object of the campaign. And that it is necessary we must accept on the authority of the best military advice at our disposal.”

Lord Crewe at once replied to this [Times, June 26] “ as far as Lord Hugh Cecil argues it seriously.” “ Lord Hugh's propositions are two— first, that responsibility rests in the main not on the Government, but on the military commanders; and, secondly, that suffering undergone in one of these camps may properly be compared with the hardships endured in a besieged fortress. He regards the conditions as strictly analogous if not identical . . . Lord Hugh seems to ignore the essential fact that the difference is riot between fortifications and no fortifications, but between the results involved by active resistance on the one hand and passive submission on the other. A scheme of defence applied to a particular place . . . will involve certain consequences, familiar since war has existed, upon non-combatants who remain there. Similarly, if a farmhouse on the veld is held by armed Boers, women and children who are there must take their chance of being shot, or of having nothing to eat so long as resistance lasts. ... In the one case it is impossible to distinguish parts played by individuals in maintaining the resistance, except by showing respect to the Geneva Flag; in the other case there is no resistance, and the ‘devastation and concentration’ are the acts of a Stronger Power alone. These people are in fact . . . ‘prisoners in Refugee Camps,’ and they have a claim to be treated with the consideration due to prisoners at any rate. In fact. Lord Hugh’s fallacy, like so many of its kind, breaks down by proving too much. He would be the last to suggest that these women and children ought to undergo the privations of most sieges.

“ The other argument which fixes responsibility on the Generals is an old friend. ... It is not courageous . . . but a pusillanimous plea may be technically sound. This plea, however, is not even thus sound. Those who abhor the method entirely will condemn the Government only; but let it be granted that ‘devastation and concentration’ may in extreme cases be admissible military acts. I say “ in extreme cases,” because the method is new, risky, and open to grave abuse; but I am willing to admit the possibility. Now there are three stages in the business—devastation, deportation, and detention. In the case of each cleared district these three may be humanely carried out, so far as humanity is possible; or there may be shortcomings, with a ghastly result, in any or all of them. Can it be conceived that a commander-in-chief, holding the tangled skein of enormous operations, can supervise in person the triple process in each case ? Of course not. Public opinion will not so burden Lord Kitchener, but it certainly will lay heavy responsibility on the Government for any proved failure to meet the plain needs of the case. The whole question, indeed, is one of degree. A proved military exigency — its results foreseen, its processes carried through with every possible precaution—such is the case the Government has to make for itself. It may be right to suspend judgment until all the facts are known; personally, I think it is.

“ The real mischief, however, of such a contention as Lord Hugh’s is the unintended encouragement it gives to a certain sinister sentiment, which can be traced between the lines of not a few articles, public letters, and speeches nowadays. The war is terribly costly and tedious, it is whispered; let us finish it as best we can, and not ask too many questions about the means. Even the mortality in Concentration Camps may (under Providence) have its use, by convincing the Boers of the futility of further resistance. To Lord Hugh himself such pernicious views would, of course, be absolutely abhorrent They would be equally odious to Lord Milner and to Lord Kitchener, in whose humanity the country at large has complete confidence. It is all the more to be regretted that Lord Hugh Cecil’s unfortunate letter should be open to a misinterpretation which nobody would deplore more entirely than he himself.”

Speaking at Southampton early in July, Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman put the subject strongly before the country on the grounds of humanity, morality, and policy. He reiterated boldly the phrase “ methods of barbarism.” He said—

“ I wish to say a few words on some of the methods pursued in the conduct of the war. I take strong exception to those measures. I do so not merely on the grounds of humanity and morality, but on the ground of policy, because our objects being what I have described them to be, namely, to bring the war to an early close, and establish good relations and kindly feelings after the war, these practices seem to me to be specially designed to defeat both these objects. I have called them methods of barbarism. So they are. . . . Between 60,000 and 70,000 women and tender children are imprisoned in camps, huddled together in tents under blazing sun and icy winter winds. Everything has been done by the Commandants of these camps that was in their power to modify the hardship of existence, but such has been the want of proper food and other necessaries, and such the dangers, that the average death-rate over all the camps has been 116 in the thousand. I do not know what the death-rate in Southampton is, say 13 or 14, and in these camps it is n 6. The death-rate is an unerring test which knows nothing of prejudice or sentiment.” [Times, July 3]

Sir Henry was supported not only by Liberal politicians, but by many of the ablest thinkers of the country, some of whom wrote or spoke from time to time. Mr. Frederic Harrison lectured and wrote indefatigably, Mr. William Watson and Mr. Herbert Spencer were not silent.

Mr. Goldwin Smith wrote [Manchester Guardian,] “Things are being done which may bring a lasting stain upon the honour of the country. . . . The Boers were regular belligerents. What right have we now to veer round and treat them as rebels, deport them to Ceylon, bum their farms, and turn their women and children out to starve ? ”

No opinions carried so much weight, and none were more striking, than those of the veteran soldier, Field-Marshal Sir Neville Chamberlain. Mr. Herbert Spencer has told in his latest book [Facts and Comments] the difficulty which Sir Neville Chamberlain had in getting his opinions made public, how the Daily Chronicle delayed and demurred; and he has himself complained to me how, after his letter was published by the Manchester Guardian, the rest of the Press boycotted all allusion to it. Yet few opinions on the military side could have more value.

“ The necessity,” he wrote [Manchester Guardian, Aug. 5, 1901.] “ has never been made clear to the nation to justify a departure from the recognised laws of international warfare. I mean the frequent injudicious if not reckless burning or sacking of farmsteads or homes of the Boers, the removal or destruction of the food stored in their houses for the maintenance of their families, the sweeping away of all cattle and sheep, the destruction of mills and implements of agriculture, as also the forcible removal into camps of all the women and children, and there being kept in bondage. I do not wish to imply that extreme measures are never justified during war, but I do assert that the daily reports which have appeared in the Press during the past seven or eight months indicate that a great wave of destruction has been spread over the Orange and Vaal States, such as has never before been enacted by our armies. . . . In times past British Generals have earned an honourable repute for moderation and humanity in their dealings with the people of the country in which they had to operate, and the history of our nation tells us that war can be carried on with safety to the troops and with brilliant success without resorting to methods of oppression, and the more especially against the families of the combatants and non-combatants. . . . The conditions and the suffering of which Miss Hobhouse assures us she was a witness ought to be enough to make it impossible for them ever to be repeated. It surely can never become a recognised episode in war for wives to be forcibly tom from their homes and to know not what had become of their children; for women about to become mothers to be forced into railway trucks and to have to travel tedious journeys and then remain in camp devoid of the comforts needed for maternity; for women and children to be sent to live in bare tents, and often exposed to sleeping on the bare ground or to be drenched under leaky tents; or for mothers to see their little ones dwindle and die for the want of suitable nourishment. . . . What would be the indignation in the United Kingdom if anything approaching to such miseries were enacted by an invading army in our own country, where even the nests of the birds are under the protection of the law ? Admitted that measures have lately been taken to remedy many of the evils that formerly beset the Concentration Camps, still the suffering and the indignity have had to be endured and cannot now be whitewashed. . . . Finally, let me add that when the war is ended, the nation will, I believe, be made to realise the truth of the saying of Sir Philip Sidney—" Cruelty in war buyeth conquest at the dearest price.’ ”

A few weeks later, Sir Neville Chamberlain was again constrained to express his view.

The Swiss Branch of the Evangelical Alliance had issued an appeal on the subject of the war to the Christians of Great Britain. It appeared to them that unnecessary suffering was being meted out to innocent people. To this appeal the Bishop of Liverpool replied on behalf of the Evangelical Church. Dr. Chavasse spoke through the medium of the Record\ and expressed “distress” and “dismay” at the charges they had formulated, but acknowledged that if they were true, Great Britain would deserve the condemnation of the civilised world [Aug. 19, 1901. See Manchester Guardian, Aug. 22, 1901.].

“ That our Government have made mistakes we admit, but that we have been inhuman, oppressive, and unrighteous, we emphatically and indignantly deny. . . . Terrible as the farm burning has been, it was only ordered when absolutely necessary by a British General whose character for humanity and godliness is beyond dispute.” “ The Boer women and children,” continued the Bishop, “ were crowded into camps because they could not be kept alive in any other way. Their own friends could not help them, and starvation stared them in the face. No doubt they have suffered hardships, but so have our own soldiers and civilians. No doubt the death-rate in the Concentration Camps has been lamentably high, especially among children, but so has it been in our own camps amongst strong, seasoned men. . . . The best answer to your unhappy charge of cruelty to women and children is that the Boers themselves sent their families for protection to British territory, and that Mr. Kruger left his wife behind in Pretoria under British rule [Dr. Chavasse omits to state that this was only done by “surrendered” Boers, whose families had special facilities. Mrs. Kruger remained in her own house, not in a camp. These had not then been thought of.] . . . The great mass of Evangelical Christians,” the Bishop was sure, “would support the Government policy, because it involves the complete civilisation of South Africa and the evangelisation of the native races.” [The Bishop may be unaware of the Dutch activity in missions to the coloured races.]

Dr. Chavasse concluded by saying he felt sure the Swiss Alliance had acted on “ seriously defective information.”

It was to this letter of the Bishop of Liverpool that Sir Neville Chamberlain, with his wide knowledge of military affairs, replied in words which perhaps few people in the country have yet had an opportunity of reading—

“ [Manchester Guardian, Aug. 29. Letter from Field-Marshal Sir N. Chamberlain to the Bishop of Liverpool.] He (a Commander) is held responsible to his own nation for conforming to the dictates of humanity, and further, any departure therefrom deserves, in the words of Dr. Chavasse, the condemnation of the civilised world. The right reverend prelate emphatically and indignantly denies that any measures taken during the war have been ‘inhuman, oppressive, and unrighteous.’ I am unable to concur in that conclusion. . . . We have the assurance of Dr. Chavasse that he read the appeal of the Swiss Alliance with ‘distress and dismay.’ What then must have been the distress and dismay of the simple Swiss Protestant ministers to discover that a prelate of the Church of England could view as unavoidable the horrors that had already devastated and are still devastating the two Boer States? Never before has anything approaching to such wholesale destruction or abduction of families been enacted by a British army. . . . The existence of Concentration Camps is justified by the reverend prelate on the plea that starvation stared the women and children in the face. It was so because their homes were burnt over their heads and the food they contained carried away or destroyed. Further, where is any analogy to be found, as referred to by the Bishop, between helpless females and infants suffering rigorous treatment, and the condition of the troops, who are only discharging their duties as soldiers employed on active service ? So ignorant of facts, or so blunted have become the minds of our people on the subject of the women and children, that they have come to believe that the Press is justified in extolling the great kindness and liberality which have been shown to these poor prisoners. Perhaps the best way of giving some idea of the loss of life that has taken place among the women and children in the Concentration Camps during the past month of July, is to give the following figures which are taken from the Government’s return [Subsequently this rate was much increased]—

Women in camp: 31,225. Died: 187

Children in camp: 44,594 Died: 1,117

Total in camp: 75,81:9. Total died: 1,304

These figures, reduced to a few simple words, imply that about ten women and children have died in the Concentration Camps in July, as compared to one who would have died in London. Who is guilty for the excess of the nine?

“ My letter may be ended by calling to mind the humanising words of the Scotch peasant poet Burns—

‘These movin’ things ca’d wives and weans
Wad move the very heart of stanes.’ ”

Twice during the autumn Dr. Haldane wrote [Westminster Gazette, Sept. 29 and Dec. 4.] drawing attention to the death-rates of the camps, and also to the scale of rations as affecting it.

The months following those upon which his calculations were based were, of course, still more disastrous to life. He says—

“ I venture to think that the apparent apathy with which these returns are received depends largely on the fact that to most persons the significance of a high death-rate is not easy to grasp. The following analysis of the figures for the last three months may therefore be of service, as showing roughly the deaths among Boer women and children which may be put down to insanitary surroundings, as compared with deaths which might be expected under normal conditions:—

Hobhouse deaths
Hobhouse deaths

“The deaths under normal conditions are calculated from the last decennial return for England and Wales, children being taken as under fifteen years, and women as averaging about forty years old. The actual normal death-rates are not, of course, available; but the figures given are more likely to be too high than too low.” [Letter to Westminster Gazette, by Mr. T. S. Haldane, M.D. F.R.S.]

Dr. Haldane’s second letter is of importance, showing as it also does the insufficient food allowed the soldiers, on the basis of which ration the women’s allowance appears to have been drawn up. In addition, it must be remembered that not infrequently the supply ran short of the allowed weights, and the quality was inferior. He writes—

‘‘ Dec. 3.

“ On November 28, I addressed to the Editor of the Times a letter; (which has not yet appeared) on the Concentration-Camp statistics, and at the end I referred to the inadequacy of the rations specified in the recent Blue Book. As the question of diet in these camps is one of immediate importance, I venture to write to you more fully on the same subject.

“ In any diet the most elementary condition which requires to be fulfilled is that the food should contain a sufficient amount of available potential energy to support the activities which are indissolubly bound up with life. The actual requirements of the body, as regards potential energy, have for long been clearly established by numerous experiments; and it is generally admitted that for an adult the energy required is equivalent to about 3,000 calories (units of heat). For children the amount is, of course, a good deal less; but in proportion to its weight a child requires far more food than an adult. If the food is insufficient, the body supplies the deficient material at the expense of its own tissues. When the insufficiency is only a slight one, the balance is gradually re-established at a lower level of nutrition. If the insufficiency is great, death occurs—usually from intercurrent disease—after a period which varies from a few weeks in the case of absolute starvation, to many months, or even years, in partial starvation. In children this period is shorter.

“ On looking over the diets specified in the Blue Book, I have been able to come to no other conclusion than that grave mistakes have been made as regards their sufficiency. Nor can I find any evidence that these mistakes have been clearly recognised or more than partially rectified. The supposition that any British officer would deliberately underfeed women and children under his care is out of the question. The mistakes have undoubtedly been made in complete ignorance, for which it will probably be found that the combatant officers are in no way responsible. After discussing the subject with others who are more familiar with military matters, I feel little doubt that the miscalculations have had their origin in official ideals as to the amount of food required by a soldier. The diets of the Concentration Camps seem to have been calculated by, comparison with the food allowance which still constitutes the so-called “ daily ration ” of a British soldier on a peace footing. In the case of the inmates of the Concentration Camps, a certain addition has even been made to this * daily rations,’ in order, apparently, to leave no doubt as to the sufficiency of the allowance.

“The normal energy requirements of the body at the respective ages referred to being taken as equal to ioo, the actual energy supplied in the British soldier’s (daily ration ’ and the Concentration Camp rations are stated approximately in the following table. The references are to pages in the Blue Book. In the case of children’s rations the probable mean age of the children is stated:—

Hobhouse rations
Hobhouse rations

[Re tge 48% soldier's rations: This figure is, in my own opinion, an overestimate of what is supplied as compared with what a young soldier absolutely requires if he is to become really efficient.]

“The table speaks for itself. Nothing but seething discontent, an enormous death-rate, and very great expenditure in hospitals, doctors, nurses, ‘medical comforts,’ etc., can be expected in Concentration Camps with a dietary calculated on the same scale as the miserable official allowance to the British soldier. A soldier can supplement his ration out of his scanty pay, but a 8 refugee ’ in a Concentration Camp, and without money, is in a very different position.”

An article in the British Medical Journal, quoted in the Times, [Times, Nov. 8, 1901.] thus summarised the probable causes of mortality and suggested remedies:—

“The camps appeared to be a military necessity, and it was doubtless regarded as more humane thus to mass the women and children than to leave them on their half-ruined homesteads. The results have been calamitous. . . . The conditions of life in these camps are doubtless responsible for the greater part of the evil. Dysentery and diarrhoea, enteric fever, and pneumonia, as well as measles, probably prevail in them. The habits of the Boers probably make matters worse. But this is simply a further reason for not permitting the continuance of the concentration of persons under such unsatisfactory conditions. ... But the whole matter is really one of sanitary administration, and we should like to have an assurance that the direction of these camps has been placed in the hands of experienced sanitary administrators, with authority and power to carry out the changes necessitated by the proved facts as to the unhealthy condition of the people detained in the camps. The important point for the moment is what can be done immediately ? The one essential thing is to split up the camps into a number of much smaller camps on new and unpolluted soils. Large numbers of cases of measles cannot be safely treated together, unless under the most favourable hygienic conditions. Failing these conditions, the aggregation of patients must be stopped.

“ What are the causes which are likely to have been productive of the present excessive mortality in the Concentration Camps ?

“ 1. Almost certainly measles and complicating pneumonia are not entirely the cause. When the story is completely told, it will most probably be found that diarrhoea and enteric fever have also been prevalent.

“ 2. Some importance must be attached to the fact that a large proportion of the Boer children have probably never been previously exposed to measles, and have now been exposed under conditions which ensure concentration of the poison of this disease. The conditions are analogous to those of a workhouse into the babies’ ward of which measles is accidentally introduced. Those who have experienced how fatal measles is under such circumstances will have little difficulty in partially realising the state of matters in the Boer camps.

“ 3. The Boers are stated to be dirty in their personal habits, and difficult to control in regard to the elementary rules of sanitation necessary to maintain a large camp in a wholesome condition. Probably this is true. It is one of the strongest reasons for not permitting dense aggregations of people possessed of habits which are only safe in detached and lonely houses.

“ 4. Possibly unsuitable food and deficient clothing, although every effort has doubtless been made to remedy these defects, greatly aided in producing the result.

“ 5. In view of the excessive mortality from enteric fever among our own troops, to which we have repeatedly drawn attention, we are bound to suspect that the same unreadiness

to make provision for probable contingencies has characterised the action of the responsible Army authorities in this as in other health matters. The sanitary control of the large camps, whether for soldiers or for Boers, has been most unsatisfactory. One of the most important recommendations of the recent South African Hospitals Commission was as to the necessity for appointing special sanitary officers, whose duty it would be to organise and control the sanitary arrangements of all large camps. The sanitary, as distinguished from the medical, organisation of the South African Army has been attended by calamities for which the War Office must be held responsible.

“What remedies are practicable?

“ 1. The immediate organisation of sanitary control of the camps on a scale sufficient to meet all requirements.

“ 2. Splitting up of the camps into a much larger number of units, each having a separate organisation, visits from camp to camp being strictly prohibited. . . . Uncomplicated measles needs to be treated in a separate building from measles associated with broncho-pneumonia; and if disinfection is not required for measles, it is desirable for its complications. Such methods may not be practicable under the conditions of camp life. The alternative is that no considerable number of susceptible children must be grouped together. The camps must be split up and to some extent scattered. This point is clearly brought out by Sir Walter Foster in a letter to the Times, and he also lays stress on the importance of placing the camps on non-polluted soils.”

Imperceptibly, by the force of facts, opinion was changing in England, and a desire to have the camps reorganised was forming. Warning notes of the serious position began also to filter through from South Africa. One of the first of these to write was Mr. Dewdney Drew [Letter from Rev. Dewdney Drew to Secretary of Colonial Mission, dated Cape Town, July 24. See Daily News, Aug. 1901.]

“ There are just two points,” he says, “ on which I feel impelled to write to you, and they both relate to an essential mistake which we are making about the Boer people. They are not a people to be cowed, nor are they a people to forget. This bears, for one thing, very relevantly on our conduct of the war. Every piece of terrorism, every * severe measure,* has so far recoiled on ourselves. This burning and pillaging committed by our troops, and to which I can testify (having ridden hundreds of miles in their track), has merely put the very devil into the Boers. I have heard from their own lips and from the lips of their women how it has affected them. To give names, I was dining one day last month with the mother and two sisters of the Commandant Kritzinger, now invading the Colony, and with the Miss Olivier (daughter of the Commandant of that name) whom he is engaged to marry. These ladies are refugees in Basutoland, where I met them. They were unanimous in ascribing the continued resistance of their relatives and countrymen to the above-mentioned cause. At Thaba ’Nchu, where my brother-in-law’s farm is situated, there lives a Mrs. Adams, whom I have known for years. She is an English lady and ministers to the sick in hospital, showing them charity regardless of their nationality. She told me, too, as I travelled homewards from Basutoland, that the wounded Boers were giving the same explanation. From what I have personally seen of the ravages inflicted by our troops on the Free State by fire and pilfering, there are revelations yet to be made to the British public which will fulfil Mr. Kruger’s forecast and indeed ‘ stagger humanity.’

“ I know nothing personally about ‘Concentration Camps,’ having never visited one. However, I have, when riding on the veld, met convoys of women and children, and have also seen them huddled by scores in open trucks which stood by the hour at Springfontein railway station until the line could be cleared for forwarding them to the Bethulie Camp. The last-mentioned contingent had come in the same day from Fauresmith owing to * clearing ’ operations in that district. There were, of course, inevitable discomforts, let such removals be planned as wisely as possible, but I do not think the Boer women would make much of these. What will never die from the memory of the survivors is the horrors which we have allowed to fall upon them, not, of course, intentionally, but through sheer muddlement. The Government returns as to the mortality in these camps furnish only too convincing proof, and I venture to predict that Miss Hobhouse’s findings will be virtually endorsed by the Ladies’ Commission which has now sailed. It is the same kind of neglect which caused the hospital scandals, and which I have with my own eyes witnessed going on in the fighting districts and in the near presence of the enemy. A General sets out to ‘ clear ’ a given stretch of country. He is going to scoop human lives wholesale into his net, but has no notion of what he will do with them when caught. The capture effected, he dumps the unfortunates down on the nearest camp, whose officer is at his wits’ end to provide for them. Then the troubles begin : children die for lack of milk, women are untended in child-birth, and the Government have to compile a set of * returns * which make an Englishman’s ears tingle as he reads.”

This tingling of the ears does not appear to have communicated itself to the Daily Mail [Daily Mail, Dec. 27]. Its correspondent wrote optimistically and reported that “ the Commission was well satisfied with the condition of the camps generally.” The more observant agent of the Central News Service spoke in strong terms, distinctly asserting that the death-rate had become so formidable as to become quite the most important question of the day [Central News Special Service, Pretoria, Dec. 6. See Matichester Guardian, Dec. 30, 1901.] A change of some kind, he argued, must be made at once, as “ we are not warring against women and children.” He considered “the extraordinary increase of disease due to the heavy rainfall which has converted the tent cities into veritable death-traps. The most feasible plan would be to allow them to choose some village not occupied by us, to allow them doctors, nurses, food, and liberty ”; or, as an alternative, distribution in Cape Colony.

On the Continent and in America, where interest in and information about the camps had all along been more general than at home, philanthropic feeling was deeply moved, and on several occasions found public expression. At midsummer, Madame Waszklewicz, President of the Women’s League for the Promotion of International Disarmament, had addressed a letter to Mr. Brodrick pleading for the Boer women in the name of the women of Europe and America [The Hague, June 23. See Algemeen Handclsblad.]. She offered to relieve the military authorities of all burden by forming an International Committee, on which Englishwomen should be represented, to deal with the care of the Boer families, and she suggested that the example of Sir George White at Ladysmith should be followed on a large scale, and all the women handed over to a piece of neutral ground. Her offer was refused.

The appeal of the Swiss Evangelical Alliance has already been alluded to; at Christmas the women of Switzerland published an open letter to the women of England, and the women of Germany made a strong appeal in the same month. Numerous meetings were held and resolutions passed in America and elsewhere. 

The mortality of September had been so high [See Appendix B, also Cd. 819.] that details were anxiously expected, and these were given for the Transvaal Camps in the first Blue Book issued in November. With the exception of Bloemfontein for one month only, no monthly reports have been provided for the Orange River Colony Camps.

It was realised that the country was getting roused ; numerous letters were written to the papers, and the city of Manchester sent up a largely signed petition to the Government, headed by the Lord Mayor and the Bishop. The issue of the second Blue Book [Cd. 853, Dec. 1901] showed that the Colonial Office had already assumed control, and that Mr. Chamberlain was applying his energy and business faculties to the remodelling of the camps. Some of the suggestions urged by the Ladies’ Commission were also being carried out. The telegraphic correspondence reveals some impatience on the part of Lord Milner and others in South Africa at the importance attached to this work, and the attention required for its details, but Mr. Chamberlain rightly insisted; the order was at last given that no expense was to be spared [Cd. 853, p. 128.] and Lord Onslow, speaking at Crewe in December, assured the country that “ the civil authority under the Colonial Office had now taken over all the Concentration Camps from the military authorities. No pains and no money would be spared to put the camps in the most efficient and healthy condition possible.”

Thus the gloom of the year 1901 was lightened at its close with the hope that substantial reforms were really inaugurated and would work speedy and effective amelioration.

Parent Category: Books
Category: Hobhouse: Brunt of the War and where it fell
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