The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers


Philip Kerr[1] to Major H. C. Thornton,[2] British Colonial Office

Dear Thornton,

I enclose herewith the record of the Prime Minister's interview with the South African Native Deputation,[3] and a copy of the dispatch which he is sending to General Smuts in regard to it. Could you let me have the dispatch back as soon as possible with any comments the Colonial Office may wish to make as it ought to have gone off some time ago?[4] The Prime Minister is probably also sending a private and personal letter to General Smuts at the same time. Yours sincerely,
P. H. Kerr
[Handwritten minute endorsements:]
? No comment necessary—we should ask for a copy of the despatch. 9/1/[20]
. . . which gives food for thought. [words illegible] and no doubt Lord Milner[5] w[ill] be interested, on his return, to see the "despatch" & the P[rime] Min[ister]'s reply to the deputation. 9.1.[20]
Copies of the two communications now received & attached. 10/3/20
I think that we should send out to Lord Buxton[6] for his inf[ormation] Secret a copy of the "despatch" & enclosure[.]
The "despatch" is the document of 3 March & it is two months later than the P[rivate] & P[ersonal] letter which heralded it. (7 January)
This is as far as I know the first formal despatch which the P[rime] M[inister] has ever written to a Dominion. 11/3/1920
Col. Amery[7]
PRO, CO 537/1197. TLS, recipient's copy. Illegible initials in endorsements elided.
    
[1] Philip Henry Kerr (1882–1940) was private secretary to British prime minister David Lloyd George, and as such played a prominent role in Britain's international affairs. He is credited with primary responsibility for the important section on Germany in the Treaty of Versailles. In 1921 Kerr resigned his secretaryship and began to write and publish works on imperial politics. In 1930 Kerr became Lord Lothian. In 1939 he was appointed ambassador to the United States (DNB, 1931–1940).
    
[2] Hugh Cholmondeley Thornton (b. 1881) was private secretary to Viscount Milner from 1916 until 1920; he was appointed Crown agent for the colonies in October 1920 (DOCOL, 1935).
    
[3] In December 1918 the leadership of the SANNC agreed to send a deputation to Great Britain to request that the British government intercede with the South African government on behalf of South Africa's black population, many of whom had contributed to the Allied war effort by joining the Native Labour Contingent, which had seen service in France. Three members of the deputation, L. T. Mvabaza, R. V. Selope Thema, and Rev. Henry Ngcayiya, left for Great Britain in March 1919, with the remaining members, Sol Plaatje and J. T. Gumede, leaving for Great Britain on 11 June. On 21 November 1919, Lloyd George met with the deputation, which included several leaders from London's black community: J. Eldred Taylor, editor of the African Telegraph; S. Hughes, secretary of the Society of Peoples of African Origin; T. H. Jackson, editor of the African Sentinel; and T. B. James. During the interview, in which the deputation pleaded its case concerning the franchise, land, taxation, education, and employment, Lloyd George was shown a selection of passes the delegates had brought with them. "Let me have a look at them," he said. "I have never seen them" ("Minutes of Deputation of Southern African Native," PRO, CO 537/113/3473). There was no mention of the meeting in the Times. However, a report of the interview, entitled "The Prime Minister and South African Native Deputation," did appear in the African Sentinel (Times [London], 5 June 1919; African Sentinel [London], 17 January 1920; Brian Willan, Sol Plaatje: South African Nationalist, 1876 – 1932 [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984], pp. 228–234, 241).
Three members of the South African delegation to London, May 1919, Left to Right: R. V. Selope Thema, L. T. Mvabaza, and H. Reed Ngcayiya
    
[4] Thornton replied that "we have no comments to make upon it" (Thornton to Kerr, 16 January 1920, PRO, CO 537/1197).
    
[5] Viscount Albert Milner (1854–1925) was British colonial secretary from 1919 to 1921. He had previously served as undersecretary of finance in Egypt, governor of the Cape Colony (1897–1901), and high commissioner for South Africa (1897–1905). He received a viscountcy in 1902 for his services during the South African War. He entered the War Cabinet in December 1916, and in 1918 and 1919 he was secretary of war. He is known for his recommendation of "virtual independence" for Egypt (CBD).
    
[6] Sydney Charles Buxton (1853–1934), first Earl Buxton, served as undersecretary of state for the colonies from 1892 to 1895, and was governor-general of South Africa from 1914 to 1920. He toured South West Africa in 1919, addressing black audiences in the wake of South Africa's occupation of the former German colony. He is reported to have promised Africans "the old freedom along with great possessions of land and unlimited herds of cattle" (quoted in C. H. L. Hahn, H. Vedder, and L. Fourie, The Native Tribes of South West Africa [1928; reprint, London: Frank Cass, 1966], p. 162). This was interpreted by many Hereros to mean that the land they had occupied in precolonial times would be returned to them, and was used as evidence in their petition to the United Nations in 1947 (M. Scott, In Face of Fear: Documents Relating to the Appeal to the United Nations of the Herero and Other South-West African People against Incorporation in the Union of South Africa and for the Restitution of Their Tribal Lands [Johannesburg: Michael Scott, 1948], pp. 3–11, Appendix 1; DSAB).
    
[7] Leopold Charles M. S. Amery (1873–1955), journalist, solicitor, and British public official, was secretary of state for the colonies from 1924 to 1929. As a reporter for the London Times in the South African War, he became a follower and advocate of Sir Alfred Milner's strong imperial philosophy. From 1919 to 1921 he joined Milner, then secretary of state for the colonies, as parliamentary undersecretary (A. J. P. Taylor, English History, 1914 – 1 945 [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965]; DNB, 1951–1960).