The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Enclosure: David Lloyd George to General Jan Christiaan Smuts

My dear General,

I am sending you a formal dispatch about the South African Native Deputation which I received a few weeks ago. In view of the fact that it is public property that I have seen the Deputation, I have confined myself to generalities in my official dispatch. But I should like to add one or two remarks for your private eye. In the first place the Deputation made their case exceedingly well. Of course, as I told them, it was a one sided case, and I have no doubt that there is a great deal to be said on the other side. But it could not fail to impress any audience with the sense that the natives of South Africa believe themselves to be labouring under real grievances, and to be faced with a future which had little hope of progress and property for themselves. I was further impressed by the fa[c]t that it is evident among the natives of South Africa there are men possessed of very considerable oratorical gifts. The contrast between the case made by these black men, and by the Deputation headed by General Hertzog was very striking. They are evidently capable, not only of rousing their people, but of rousing public feeling in other countries. I am told that many of them have been going about the co[u]ntry lecturing at Labour Party meetings and Brotherhood meetings,[1] and that they have produced some effect. It was originally proposed that the Deputation should be introduced to me by Arthur Henderson,[2] Secretar[y] of the Labour Party, and Dr Clifford.[3] I refused to agree to this because it looked like mixing up South African politics with British politi[c]s, but it shows that they have been able to secure the sympathy of people of power and influence in this co[u]ntry.
Further, there is no doubt that there are forces in the world actively arousing the negroes and other primitive peoples to revolt. We are daily getting telegrams describing the manner in which the Bolsheviks are organising colleges and training schools for agitators to excite and organise the millions of Asia and Africa,[4] and I attach a cutting from the "Times" which shows what is happening in the United States. There is no doubt that this kind of movement is only in its infancy and is going to grow. It will be very likely stimulated by the disgruntled Germans and the Irish as well as by the Bolsheviks as a method of upsetting not only the British Commonwealth, bu[t] the whole existing structure of society.
I would like to urge you, therefore, to see these people and consider if anything can be done to redress any real grievances from which they may suffer, and to satisfy any legitimate aspirations. I know the immense difficulties by which this whole question is surrounded, but I know also that you entirely agree with me that moderate progress is the only way to avoid very serious outbreaks of this kind. The point which impressed me most about the Deputation was the one in which they declared that they had no constitutional means of securing redress. If they do suffer under disabilities, and if they have no effective mode of expression it is obvious that sooner or later serious results must ensue. I was glad to see a reference in the Press a short while ago to a proposal you seem to have made for meeting this difficulty.[5] As I said to you in my formal dispatch, the colour question is now a world question. It is impossible for it to be treated in water-tight compartments. What South Africa does is of vital importance to the rest of us, just as what we do is going to be of vital importance to you. I have, therefore, no hesitation in writing thus frankly to you upon a matter which is of such importance to both our countries.
I hope you flourish personally. I am afraid you have not a very easy task, but I have no dou[b]t that you will succeed in carrying on as Prime Minister those splendid traditions of statesmanship which General Botha, with your assistance did so much to establish in South Africa in earlier years. We all look forw[a]rd to seeing you over here again before very long to discuss Imperial and foreign problems. With kindest regards. Ever sincerely,
[D. Lloyd George]
PRO, CO 537/1197, file 1486. TL, carbon copy. Marked "Private and personal."
[1] The Brotherhood Journal of August 1914 reported on the London visit of the five SANNC representatives to appeal to British authorities regarding the Native Land Act. The journal printed Sol Plaatje's "An Appeal to the British Brotherhoods," which ended with the heartfelt plea: "We appeal to all our brothers and sisters in your Movement to help us in our fight for justice under the British flag" (Brotherhood Journal, August 1914, pp. 226–227).
The deputation, of which Plaatje was a member, was invited to address several Brotherhood meetings elsewhere in the country, and it elicited a great deal of public sympathy. Although there were Brotherhood members among the Labour party who were sympathetic to the deputation's cause, the House of Commons still refused to take up the question of the Native Land Act (ibid.; Brian Willan, Sol Plaatje: South African Nationalist, 1876 – 1932 [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984], pp. 180–181).
[2] Arthur Henderson (1863–1935), a leader of the British Labour party, was secretary for foreign affairs from 1929 to 1931. During World War I, he served as minister without portfolio in the War Cabinet, but was forced to resign by Prime Minister David Lloyd George in August 1917. Henderson gave up the chairmanship of the Labour party, and, as secretary, participated in the drafting of the party's Memorandum on War Aims, which suggested that the European powers relinquish their African colonies: "It is suggested that the interests of humanity would be best served by the full and frank abandonment by all belligerents of any dreams of an African Empire; [and] the transfer of the present Colonies of the European Powers in Tropical Africa . . . to the proposed Super-National Authority or League of Nations" (William Roger Louis, Great Britain and Germany ' s Lost Colonies, 1914 – 1919 [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967], p. 91) (Times [London], 25 October 1935; F. M. Leventhal, Arthur Henderson [Manchester, England, and New York: Manchester University Press, 1989], p. 73; WBD).
[3] Dr. John Clifford (1836–1923), British Baptist minister and political activist, was a leader of the Nonconformist and Brotherhood movements in England. He served as president of the National Brotherhood Council from 1916 to 1919, and as president of the World Federation of Brotherhoods from 1919 to 1920. Along with Labour party leader Arthur Henderson, who was also involved in the Brotherhood movement, Clifford was instrumental in arranging the meeting between Prime Minister David Lloyd George and the SANNC deputation that visited England in 1914. Plaatje was first introduced to the Brotherhood movement as a member of the SANNC deputation. When he returned to South Africa, he was named president of the Diamond Field Men's Own Brotherhood, which he helped found in Kimberley in July 1918 (Times [London], 21 November 1923; Willan, Sol Plaatje, pp. 221, 224; WWW).
[4] The first Soviet educational institution designed to prepare cadres of party workers for revolutionary agitation was established in Moscow in 1918. By the end of 1920, the institution offered special three-month courses intended to train the cadres for work in the Soviet Union's national regions. In April 1921, these courses were reorganized into the Communist University for the Toilers of the East (KUTV), under the auspices of Stalin's Commissariat for Nationality Affairs. KUTV admitted emigrants from China, Korea, Mongolia, Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan, to be trained as communist agitators. KUTV began recruiting Africans in 1923 (N. N. Timofeeva, "Communist University of the Workers of the East (KUTV), 1921–25," Narody Azii i Afriki 2 [1976]: 47–58; Woodford McClellan, "Blacks in the Comintern Schools, 1925–1934," IJAHS 26, no. 2 [1993]: 371–390; Edward Thomas Wilson, Russia and Black Africa before World War II [New York: Holmes and Meier, 1974], p. 121; Joseph L. Wieczynski, ed., The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History [Gulf Breeze, Fla.: Academic International Press, 1978], 7:227).
[5] The London Times reported that General Smuts had addressed the congress of the South African party on 11 December 1919, announcing the development of the "Government's native policy, including the establishment of a permanent council to advise the Prime Minister on native affairs" (17 December 1919). Speaking on behalf of his proposal in May 1920, Smuts insisted that black South Africans be provided with a constitutional outlet for their grievances. Later known as the Native Affairs Act of 1920, its provisions included the establishment of a Native Affairs Commission to advise the government on matters of policy toward black South Africans, and the creation of local councils on which black South Africans were to be represented. In July 1920, the Gold Coast Leader (Cape Coast) reported that "it seems as if General Smuts himself is undergoing some change of mind as the relations of black and white are concerned. . . . He appears to have conceived a 'Native policy'" (17 July 1920) (W. K. Hancock, Smuts: The Fields of Force, 1919 – 1950 [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968], pp. 119–120; Willan, Sol Plaatje, p. 296).