Demetrius Charles de Kavanagh Boulger.

The life of Gordon, major-general, R. E. C. B.; Turkish field-marshal, Grand cordon Medjidieh, and pasha; Chinese titv (field-marshal) yellow jacket order online

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fault is, to my mind, the military power of the country is eaten up
by selfishness and idleness, and we are trading on the reputation of
our forefathers. When one sees by the newspapers the Emperor of
Germany sitting, old as he is, for two long hours inspecting his troops,
and officers here grudging two hours a week for their duties, one
has reason to fear the future."

During his stay at Mauritius he wrote three papers of first-rate
importance. One of them on Egyptian affairs after the deposition of
Ismail may be left for the next chapter, and the two others, one on
coaling stations in the Indian Ocean, and the second on the compara-
tive merits of the Cape and Mediterranean routes come within the
scope of this chapter, and are, moreover, deserving of special con-
sideration. With regard to the former of these two important subjects,
Gordon wrote as follows, but I cannot discover that anything has
been done to give practical effect to his recommendations : —

" I spoke to you concerning Borneo and the necessity for coaling stations
in the Eastern seas. Taking Mauritius with its large French population,
the Cape with its conflicting elements, and Hongkong, Singapore, and
Penang with their vast Chinese populations, who may be with or against us,
but who are at any time a nuisance, I would select such places where no
temptation would induce colonists to come, and I would use them as mari-
time fortresses. For instance, the only good coaling place between Suez and
Adelaide would be in the Chagos group, which contain a beautiful harbour
at San Diego. My object is to secure this for the strengthening of our mari-
time power. These islands are of great strategical importance vis a vis\V\'Ca.
India, Suez, and Singapore. Remember Aden has no harbour to speak of,
and has the need of a garrison, while Chagos could be kept by a company of
soldiers. It is wonderful our people do not take the views of our forefathers.
They took up their positions at all the salient points of the routes. We can
certainly hold these places, but from the colonial feelings they have almost
ceased to be our own. By establishing these coaling stations no diplomatic
complications could arise, while by their means we could unite all our
colonies with us, for we could give them eftective support. The spirit of no
colony would bear up for long against the cutting off of its trade, which
would happen if we kept watching the Mediterranean and neglected the
great ocean routes. The cost would not be more than these places cost now,
if the principle of heavily-armed, light-draught, swift gunboats with suitable
arsenals, properly (not over) defended, were followed."

238 The Life of Gordon.

Chagos as well as Seychelles forms part of the administrative group
of the Mauritius. The former with, as Gordon states, an admirable port
in San Diego, lies in the direct route to Australia from the Red Sea, and
the latter contains an equally good harbour in Port Victoria Mahe.
The Seychelles are remarkably healthy islands — thirty in number — and
Gordon recommended them as a good place for "a man with a little
money to settle in." He also advanced the speculative and somewhat
imaginative theory that in them was to be found the true site of the
Garden of Eden.

The views Gordon expressed in 18S1 as to the diminished import-
ance of the INIediterranean as an English interest, and the relative
superiority of the Cape over the Canal route, on the ground of its
security, were less commonly held then than they have since become.
Whether they are sound is not to be taken on the trust of even the
greatest of reputations ; and in so complicated and many-sided a pro-
blem it will be well to consider all contingencies, and to remember that
there is no reason why England should not be able in war-time to con-
trol them both, until at least the remote epoch when Palestine shall be
a Russian possession.

" I think Malta has very much lost its importance. The Mediter-
ranean now differs much from what it was in 18 15. Other nations
besides France possess in it great dockyards and arsenals, and its
shores are backed by united peoples. Any war with Great Britain in
the Mediterranean with any one Power would inevitably lead to com-
plications with neutral nations. Steam has changed the state of affairs,
and has brought the Mediterranean close to every nation of Europe.
War in the Mediterranean is tvar in a basin, the borders of which are
in the hands of other nations, all pretty powerful and interested in
trade, and all likely to be affected by any turmoil in that basin, and to
be against the makers of such turmoil. In fact, the Mediterranean
trade is so diverted by the railroads of Europe, that it is but of small
importance. The trade which is of value is the trade east of Suez,
which, passing through the Canal, depends upon its being kept open.
If the entrance to the Mediterranean were blocked at Gibraltar by a
heavy fleet, I cannot see any advantage to be gained against us by the
fleets blocked up in it — at any rate I would say, let o\xx first care be for
the Cape route, and secondly for the Mediterranean and Canal. The
former route entails no complications, the latter endless ones, coupled
with a precarious tenure. Look at the Mediterranean, and see how
small is that sea on which we are apparently devoting the greater part
of our attention. Aden should be made a Crown colony. The
Resident, according to existing orders, reports to Bombay, and Bombay

The Mauritius, the Cape, and the Congo. 239

to that Simla Council, which knows and cares nothing for the question.
A special regiment should be raised for its protection."

While stationed in the Mauritius, Gordon attained the rank of
Major-General in the army, and another colonel of Engineers was sent
out to take his place. During the last three months of his residence he
filled, in addition to his own special post, that of the command of all
the troops on the station, and at one time it seemed as if he might have
been confirmed in the appointment. But this was not done, owing, as
he suggested, to the " determination not to appoint officers of the Royal
Artillery or Engineers to any command ; " but a more probable reason
was that Gordon had been inquiring about and had discovered that the
colonists were not only a little discontented, but had some ground for
their discontent. By this time Gordon's uncompromising sense of
justice was beginning to be known in high official quarters, and the
then responsible Government had far too many cares on its shoulders
that could not be shirked to invite others from so remote and un-
important a possession as the Mauritius.

Even before any oflicial decision could have been arrived at in this
matter, fate had provided him with another destination.

Two passages have already been cited, showing the overtures first
made by the Cape Government, and then by Gordon himself, for his
employment in South Africa. Nothing came of those communica-
tions. On 23rd February 1882, when an announcement was made
by myself that Gordon would vacate his command in a few weeks'
time, the Cape Government again expressed its desire to obtain the
use of his services, and moreover recollected the telegram to which
no reply had been sent. Sir Hercules Robinson, then Governor of the
Cape, sent the following telegram to the Colonial Secretary, the Earl of
Kimberley : —

"Ministers request me to inquire whether H.M.'s Government
would permit them to obtain the services of Colonel Charles Gordon.
Ministers desire to invite Colonel Gordon to come to this Colony for
the purpose of consultation as to the best measures to be adopted with
reference to Basutoland, in the event of Parliament sanctioning their
proposals as to that territory, and to engage his services, should he be
willing to renew the offer made to their predecessors in April 1881, to
assist in terminating the war and administering Basutoland."

Lord Kimberley then sent instructions by telegraph to Durban, and
thence by steamer, sanctioning Gordon's employment and his immediate
departure from the Mauritius. The increasing urgency of the Basuto
question induced the Cape Government to send a message by telegraph
to Aden, and thence by steamer direct to Gordon. In this message they

240 The Life of Gordon.

stated that " the services of some one of proved abiHty, firmness, and
energy," were required ; that they did not expect Gordon to be bound
by the salary named in his own telegram, and that they begged him to
visit the Colony "at once" — repeating the phrase twice. All these
messages reached Gordon's hands on 2nd April. Two days later he
started in the sailing vessel Scotia, no other ship being obtainable.

The Cape authorities had therefore no ground to complain of the
dilatoriness of the man to whom they appealed in their difficulty,
although their telegram was despatched 3rd of March, and Gordon
did not reach Cape Town before the 3rd of May. It will be quite
understood that Gordon had offered in the first place, and been
specially invited in the second place, to proceed to the Cape, for the
purpose of dealing with the difficulty in Basutoland. He was to find
that, just as his mission to China had been complicated by extraneous
circumstances, so was his visit to the Cape to be rendered more difficult
by Party rivalries, and by work being thrust upon him which he had
several times refused to accept, and for the efficient discharge of
which, in his own way, he knew he would never obtain the requisite

Before entering upon this matter a few words may be given to the
financial agreement between himself and the Cape Government. The
first office in 1880 had carried with it a salary of ^^1500; in 1881
Gordon had offered to go for ;£j'7oo; in 1882 the salary was to be a
matter of arrangement, and on arrival at Cape Town he was offered
;^i2oo a year. He refused to accept more than ;^8oo a year; but as
he required and insisted on having a secretary, the other ;^4oo was
assigned for that purpose. In naming such a small and inadequate
salary Gordon was under the mistaken belief that his imperial pay of
^500 a year would continue, but, unfortunately for him, a new regu-
lation, 25th June 1881, had come into force while he was buried away
in the Mauritius, and he was disqualified from the receipt of the income
he had earned. Gordon was very indignant, more especially because it
was clear that he was doing public service at the Cape, while, as he said
with some bitterness, if he had started an hotel or become director of a
company, his pay would have gone on all the same. The only suggestion
the War Office made was that he should ask the Cape Government to
compensate him, but this he indignantly refused. In the result all his
savings during the Mauritius command were swallowed up, and I believe
I understate the amount when I say that his Cape experience cost him
out of his own pocket from first to last five hundred pounds. That sum
was a very considerable one to a man who never inherited any money,
and who went through life scorning all opportunities of making it. Rut

The MauiHtius, the Cape, and the Congo. 241

on this occasion he vindicated a principle, and showed that " money was
not his object."

As Gordon went to the Cape specially for the purpose of treating
the Basutoland question, it may be well to describe briefly what that
question was. Basutoland is a mountainous country, difficult of access,
but in resources self-sufficing, on the eastern side of the Orange Free
State, and separated from Natal and Kaffraria, or the Transkei
division of Cape Colony, by the sufficiently formidable Drakensberg
range. Its population consisted of 150,000 stalwart and freedom-loving
Highlanders, ruled by four chiefs — Letsea, Masupha, Molappo, and
Lerothodi, with only the three first of whom had Gordon in any way to
deal. Notwithstanding their numbers, courage, and the natural strength
of their country, they owed their safety from absorption by the Boers to
British protection, especially in 1868, and they were taken over by us
as British subjects without any formality three years later. They do not
seem to have objected so long as the tie was indefinite, but when in 1880
it was attempted to enforce the regulations of the Peace Preservation
Act by disarming these clans, then the Basutos began a pronounced
and systematic opposition. Letsea and Lerothodi kept up the pretence
of friendliness, but Masupha fortified his chief residence at Thaba
Bosigo, and openly prepared for war. That war had gone on for two
years without result, and the total cost of the Basuto question had been
four millions sterling when Gordon was summoned to the scene. Having
given this general description of the question, it will be well to state the
details of the matters in dispute, as set forth by Gordon after he had
examined all the papers and heard the evidence of the most competent
and well-informed witnesses.

His memorandum, dated 26th May 1882, read as follows: —

"In 1843 the Basuto chiefs entered into a treaty with Her Majesty's
Government, by which the limits of Basutoland were recognised roughly in
1845. The Basuto chiefs agreed by convention with Her Majesty's Govern-
ment to a concession of land on terminable leases, on the condition that Her
Majesty's Government should protect them from Her Majesty's subjects.

" In 1848 the Basuto chiefs agreed to accept the Sovereignty of Her
Majesty the Queen, on the understanding that Her Majesty's Government
would restrain Her Majesty's subjects in the territories they possessed.

"Between 1848 and 1852, notwithstanding the above treaties, a large
portion of Basutoland was annexed by the proclamation of Her Majesty's
Government, and this annexation was accompanied by hostilities, which were
afterwards decided by Sir George Cathcart as being undertaken in support
of unjustifiable aggression.

"In 1853, notwithstanding the treaties, Basutoland was abandoned,
leaving its chiefs to setde as they could with the Europeans of the Free
State who were settled in Basutoland and were mi.xcd up with the Basuto


2^2 The Life of Gordon.

"In 1857, the Basutos asked Her Majesty's Government to arbitrate and
settle their quarrels. This request was refused.

" In 1858 the Free State interfered to protect their settlers, and a war
ensued, and the Free State was reduced to great extremities, and asked Her
Majesty's Government to mediate. This was agreed to, and a frontier line
was fixed by Her Majesty's Government.

" In 1865 another war broke out between the Free State and the Basutos,
at the close of which the Basutos lost territory, and were accepted as British
subjects by Her Majesty's Government for the second time, being placed
under the direct government of Her Majesty's High Commissioner.

" In 1 87 1 Basutoland was annexed to the Crown Colony of the Cape of
Good Hope, without the Basutos having been consulted.

" In 1S72 the Croiu)i Colony became a colony with a responsible Govern-
ment, and the Basutos were placed virtually under another power. The
Basutos asked for representation in the Colonial Parliament, which was
refused, and to my mind here was the mistake committed which led to these

"Then came constant disputes, the Disarmament Act, the Basuto War,
and present state of affairs.

" From this chronology there are four points that stand out in relief: —

" I. That the Basuto people, who date back generations, made treaties with
the British Government, which treaties are equally binding, whether between
two powerful states, or between a powerful state and a weak one.

" 2. That, in defiance of the treaties, the Basutos lost land.

" 3. That, in defiance of the treaties, the Basutos, without being consulted
or having their rights safeguarded, were handed over to another power — the
Colonial Government.

"4. That that other power proceeded to enact their disarmament, a
process which could only be carried out with a servile race, like the Hindoos
of the plains of India, and which any one of understanding must see would
be resisted to the utmost by any people worth the name ; the more so in the
case of the Basutos, who realised the constant contraction of their frontiers
in defiance of the treaties made with the British Government, and who could
not possibly avoid the conclusion that this disarmament was only a prelude
to their extinction.

" The necessary and inevitable result of the four deductions was that the
Basutos resisted, and remain passively resisting to this day.

"The fault lay in the British Government not having consulted the
Basutos, their co-treaty power, when they handed them over to the Colonial
(lOvernment. They should have called together a national assembly of the
Basuto people, in which the terms of the transfer could have been quietly
arranged, and this I consider is the root of all the troubles, and expenses,
and miseries which have sprung up ; and therefore, as it is always best to
go to the root of any malady, I think it would be as well to let bygones be
bygones, and to commence afresh by calling together by proclamation a
Pitso of the whole tribe, in order to discuss the best means of sooner secur-
ing the settlement of the country. I think that some such proclamation
should be issued. By this Pitso we would know the exact position of
afYairs, and the real point in which the Basutos are injured or considered
themselves to be injured.

" To those who wish for the total abandonment of Basutoland, this course
must be palatable ; to those who wish the Basutos well, and desire not to
see them exterminated, it must also be palatable ; and to those who hate the
name of Basutoland it must be palatable, for it offers a solution which will
prevent them ever hearing the name again.

The Mattritms, the Cape, and the Congo. 24


"This Pitso ought to be called at once. All Colonial officials ought to
be absent, for what the colony wants is to know what is the matter ; and the
colony wishes to know it from the Basuto people, irrespective of the political
parties of the Government.

" Such a course would certainly recommend itself to the British Govern-
ment, and to its masters — the British people.

" Provided the demands of the Basutos — Vv'ho will, for their own sakes,
never be for a severing of their connection with the colony, in order to be
eventually devoured by the Orange Free State — are such as will secure the
repayment to the colony of all expenses incurred by the Colonial Government
in the maintenance of this connection, and I consider that the Colonial
Government should accept them.

"With respect to the Loyals, there are some 800 families, the cost of
keeping whom is on an average one shilling per diem each family, that is
£ifO per diem, or ^1200 per month, and they have been rationed during six
months at cost of ^^7200. Their claims may therefore be said to be some
^80,000. Now, if these 800 families (some say half) have claims amounting
to ^30 each individually (say 400 families at ^30), ^12,000 paid at once
would rid the colony of the cost of subsistence of these families, viz. ^600 a
month (the retention of them would only add to the colonial expenditure,
and tend to pauperise them).

" I believe that ^30,000 paid at once to the Loyals would reduce their
numbers to one-fourth what they are now. It is proposed to send up a Com-
mission to examine into their claims ; the Commission will not report under
two months, and there will be the delay of administration at Cape Town,
during all which time _;^I200 a month are being uselessly expended by the
colony, detrimentally to the Loyals. Therefore I recommend (i) that the
sum of ;^3o,ooo should be at once applied to satisfy the minor claims of the
Loyals ; (2) that this should be done at once, at same time as the meeting of
the National Pitso.

"The eftect of this measure in connection with the meeting of the
National Pitso would be very great, for it would be a positive proof of the
good disposition of the Colonial Government. The greater claims could, if
necessary, wait for the Parliamentary Commission, but I would deprecate
even this delay, and though for the distribution of the ^30,000 I would select
those on whom the responsibility of such distribution could be put, without
reference to the Colonial Government, for any larger sums perhaps the
colonial sanction should be taken.

" I urge that this measure of satisfying the Loyals is one that presses and
cannot well wait months to be settled.

"In conclusion, I recommend (i) that a National Pitso be held; (2) that
the Loyals should at once be paid off.

" I feel confident that by the recommendation No. i nothing could be
asked for detrimental to colonial interests, whose Government would always
have the right of amending or refusing any demands, and that by recom-
mendation No. 2 a great moral effect would be produced at once, and some
heavy e.xpenses saved."

Attached to this memorandum was the draft of a proclamation to
the chiefs, etc., of Basutoland, calHng on them to meet in Pitso or
National Assembly without any agent of the Colonial Government
being present. It was not very surprising that such a policy of fairness
and consideration for Basuto opinion, because so diametrically opposite
to everything that Government had been doing, should have completely

244 ^-^^ -^'^/^ ^f Gordon.

taken the Cape authorities aback, nor were its chances of being
accepted increased by Gordon entrusting it to Mr Orpen, whose
poHcy in the matter had been something more than criticised by
the Ministers at that moment in power at the Cape. Gordon's
despatch was in the hands of the Cape Premier early in June, and
the embarrassment he felt at the ability and force with which the
Basuto side of the question was put by the officer, who was to settle
the matter for the Cape Government, was so great that, instead of
making any reply, he passed it on to Lord Kimberley and the Colonial
Office for solution. It was not until the 7th of August that an answer
was vouchsafed to Gordon on what was, after all, the main portion of
his task in South Africa. In the interval Gordon was employed on
different military and administrative matters, for he had had thrust on
Iiim as a temporary charge the functions of Commandant-General of
the Cape forces, which he had never wished to accept, but it will
be clearer to the reader to follow to the end the course of his
Basuto mission, which was the essential cause of his presence in South

On the 1 8th July the Ministers requested Gordon to go up to
Basutoland. At that moment, and indeed for more than three weeks
later, Gordon had received no reply to the detailed memorandum
already quoted. He responded to this request with the draft of a
convention that would " save the susceptibilities of I\Ir Orpen between
whom and Masupha any etitente would seem impossible." The basis
of that convention was to be the semi-independence of the Basutos, but
its full text must be given in order to show the consistency, as well as
the simplicity, of Gordon's proposed remedy of a question that had gone
on for years without any prospect of termination.

Convention between Colony, Cape of Good Hope, and
THE Chief and People of Basutoland.

"The Colonial Government having nominated as their representatives,
Colonel C. Griffiths and Dr J. W. Matthews, the Basuto nation having
nominated the Chief Letsea Moshesh and Masupha Moshesh as their repre-
sentatives, the following convention has been agreed upon between these
representatives : —

"Art. I. There shall be a complete amnesty on both sides to all who have
taken part in the late hostilities.

" Art. 2. The question of the succession to Molappo Moshesh's chieftain-
ship shall be decided by the Chief of the Basuto Nation.

" Art. 3. The Colonial Government engages to respect the integrity of
the Basuto nation within the limits to be hereafter decided upon, and also to
use its best endeavours to have these limits respected by the Orange Free

The Maurititis, the Cape, and the Congo. 245

"Art. 4. The Colonial Government will appoint a Resident to the Basuto
nation, with two sub-residents. The Resident will consult with the leading
Chief of the Basuto Nation on all measures concerning the welfare of that
country, but the government of the Basutos in all internal affairs will remain
under the jurisdiction of the chiefs.

"Art. 5. The Supreme Council of Basutoland will consist of the leading-
chiefs and the Resident ; the minor chiefs of Basutoland will form a council

Online LibraryDemetrius Charles de Kavanagh BoulgerThe life of Gordon, major-general, R. E. C. B.; Turkish field-marshal, Grand cordon Medjidieh, and pasha; Chinese titv (field-marshal) yellow jacket order → online text (page 28 of 40)