1 FEBRUARY 1879,
WE do not know why Sir Bartle Frere should be so fre- quently described as a " peaceful " High Commissioner in South Africa. He is a very able man, and has, we believe, thoroughly comprehended the " secret " of South Africa,— namely, that that vast dominion must become, and will become, a smaller India, and not an English colony, or group of colonies, must, that is, be a "dark man's land," and not a "white man's land ;" and he will, we do not doubt, if permitted, or- ganise it efficiently upon that basis. He has great ability both for administration and for the management of men, and an experience which, for his purpose, may be described as limitless. But Sir Bartle Frere 's capacity for govern- ment has always been impaired by a certain viewi- ness unusual in such a master of detail, a disposition to dream dreams, and to seek the realisation of ideas out of proportion to the means at his disposal. When Commissioner of Scinde he was always proposing grand frontier policies, and never could raise revenue in the province sufficient for his spmewhat lofty designs. In Bombay he believed in the "wave of prosperity" caused by the cotton famine, encouraged some of the wildest of the schemes of improvement which marked the mania, proposed in an open despatch an immense increase to all official salaries, and generally deported him- self as if the American war would never end. His viewy memoranda on Afghanistan have been republished by this Ministry as text-books, and he is treating Zululand exactly as he would have treated Afghanistan. He sees, or thinks he sees, a danger, marches to meet it, and by demands for immense concessions to the British need of security brings on war, with all its consequences. Afghanistan may be made a basis of attack, and consequently we must occupy strategic points in Afghanistan, and there is war. Cetewayo has an army which may be dangerous, and consequently a demand must be sent to Zululand that this army be disbanded, and there is war.
We do not say Sir Bartle Frere had not much better grounds for his policy in Zululand than for his policy in Afghanistan. We rather think he had. So far as we under- stand the position, the danger from Cetewayo, or rather from his army, was very great indeed,—was of that urgent and direct kind which even in Europe is held to be a justification for complaint or war. A savage King, with a genius for military legislation, has contrived to form and maintain upon our border an army of 40,000 riflemen and spearmen, strictly organised, very brave, and as they cannot marry till they have fought, ardently desirous of war. Such an army would be formidable anywhere, and in the special circumstances of Natal it is excessively dangerous. As a rule, no force exists in the colony equal to cope with this army, the few thou- sand settlers available being unorganised and surrounded by 300,000 Zulus, who may be treacherous, and must have much sympathy with their tribesmen. If Natal is to be safe, only two courses are open to the Government,—to garrison the colony as the Punjab is garrisoned, or to insist, once for all, that the danger shall take itself away. The former policy is nearly impossible. The colony cannot pro- tect itself, for it has not the money to raise an army by wages; and compulsory service among the settlers would either be fatal to prosperity, by causing wholesale emigration, or would lead to a cruel domination over our own Zulus, now gradually settling down into cultivators, for the purposes of a conscription. South Africa, as a whole, has no army, though she may raise one hereafter • and the United Kingdom neither can nor will maintain in Natal a permanent garrison of 10,000 men, to be paid by the British taxpayer, and to corrupt the settlers by diverting all enterprise towards contracts. A short but decisive war would be better for the colony, for the Empire, and for the world ; and if the Zulu army threatens us, as Sir Bartle Frere —probably on sufficient grounds—believes it does, such a war is not radically unjust. He has still to state the facts bearing upon that point—which is, of course, of the last importance—but all prinad facie evidence is in his favour, the universal account of experts being that although Cetewayo may be reluctant to fight, being aware, in some measure, of the consequences war will entail, the governing spirits in his army are all for war, certain to invade, and even inclined, in the last resort, to accept Boer guidance. If that is the case, Great Britain must either per- manently garrison Natal, as a country menaced with invasion —a course practically impossible—or abandon it, which no one dreams of doing, or insist that the menacing Zulu army shall be reduced to reasonable strength. We might risk a mere invasion, but we cannot risk a universal massacre. That is what Sir Bartle Frere has insisted upon. He has demanded that Cetewayo's army shall be disbanded, that a Resident shall be admitted to see that the disbandment is real and permanent, and that the Zulu marriage law shall cease to be arranged so as to be a perpetual incitement to war. These are the three serious demands, and though they involve great interference with a neighbouring State, and are detailed in official letters with blundering minuteness, and furnish in themselves just ground for a declaration of war by Cetewayo, we do not see that, the threatening attitude of the Zulu army being granted, they are contrary to justice. We are not bound to maintain a ruinous armed peace, because it suits the convenience of Zulu warriors not to invade till they are ready, and no smaller demands would give the colony any sufficient guarantee. If Cetewayo accepts them, nobody will interfere with him—a proposal that the Resident's functions should be limited to watching the military danger being sure of acceptance—and if he refuses, he, under the circumstances, virtually declares war, and war, as is well understood, for the expulsion or the extirpation of the Whites.
Sir Bartle Frere may have been a little too ready to take advantage of his opportunity, may have been needlessly peremptory in tone, and may, and we think has, treated Cetewayo and his army too completely as if they were one; but the substance of his policy is, we think, defensible. The Zulu Army must cease to threaten Natal and the Trans- vaal, and cannot, from the nature of its organisation, cease to threaten them unless it is disbanded. The demand for dis- bandment is not unjust ; and if war follows, as appears certain, war is preferable to a long armed truce, during which agri- cultural colonists cannot prosper, the immigrant Zulus must be restless and suspected, and immigration from England, the best hope of the colony next to the pacification of the natives, must be suspended. It remains, however, to be assured, in the interest of both sides, that the war should be sharp and decisive, should not degenerate into an interminable border war, productive of nothing but hatred, apprehension, and cruelties on both sides, and on this point we confess to considerable doubt. Lord Chelmsford, the Com- mander-in-Chief, is a good officer, and is reported on all hands to be dissatisfied with the strength allowed him, complaining that he shall want more cavalry to follow up a victory and obtain information, and that he is not sufficiently rich in scien- tific instruments of warfare, especially the new rockets. At first sight, these complaints, even if really made, would seem to be ill-founded. Lord Chelmsford has 8,000 European soldiers, besides a fluctuating but considerable number of mounted settlers, and 7,000 natives, who ought to fight at least as well as the invaders. If we cannot win at those odds anywhere outside Europe and against dark foes, we cannot hold our Empire at all, and had better give over straining at the task. But the apparent strength behind Lord Chelmsford is not the real strength. The natives have been hastily armed and dis- ciplined, and though well led by officers specially selected or sent- out for the purpose, may not turn out efficient auxiliaries. If they do, Natal difficulties are half over, for any number of such Sepoys can be obtained ; but it is not certain they will, and the stake is rather a large one to leave dependent on such a doubt. Then the deficiency of regular cavalry certainly exists, and of the 8,000 Regulars, 2,000 at least, it is stated, must be left at carefully selected points, lest in the event of a reverse or rumoured reverse the immigrant Zulus should declare for the King, and massacre all white faces. The true odds, there- fore, are, on one side, an army of 40,000 Zulus, fairly armed, trained to obey, and flushed with victory and vanity ; and on the other, 6,000 English soldiers, supported by a considerable body of undrilled European yeomanry and 7,000 doubtful natives. Those are long odds, and, although for a reason we will soon state, we believe victory to be most probable, we do not wonder that men more familiar with Natal and experienced in old Kafir wars should regard the prospect with considerable anxiety. Our confidence is based upon this reasoning :—We believe Cetewayo or his lieutenants will make the magnificent mistake of meeting us in the field. If he could disperse and yet control his regiments, use their superior powers of marching and knowledge of the country, harass our movements, cut off our supplies, and in fact wear the British out, Cetewayo might win ; but he will, we believe, use his men as an army, and he may be crushed at a blow. It is only natural he should do so. There is, we believe, scarcely an instance in history where a King, having formed an army, with regular organisation, discipline, and officers, has used them as guerillas, though Hyder Ali, the only native prince who ever beat us, did something of the kind. The temptation to retain the benefit of numbers, of enthusiasm, and of undivided com- mand is too great, and even the Mahrattas have always met us in the field. Cetewayo, we imagine, will do the same; and will learn for the first time what scientific artillery, and civilised tactics, and the terrible fire of the breech-loader can accomplish. Still, this is only a reasonable surmise, and if Cetewayo should fight in the old fashion, appear at half-a- dozen points at once, desolate every district we enter, and avoid a pitched battle in the field, Lord Chelmsford will have a long campaign to conduct against a dangerous enemy, over an immensely extended frontier, with an inadequate supply of men.