The Coming Ruin: Lord Salisbury

Casus belli: Explicit Cause

On the 9th October 1899 the Boer republics declared that British troops should be withdrawn from their borders. In parliament, the Boer war became particularly divisive, with ‘Pro-Boer’ becoming a term of abuse and Irish Nationalist MPs coming out in support of the Boers. Ideologies of liberty were splitting apart, while the run of initial defeats for the British threw questions of Empire and capital into relief. Lord Salisbury addressed the subject of the Boer war in his Guildhall speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet:

"We seek no goldfields. We seek no territory. What we desire is equal rights for men of all races and security for our fellow-subjects and for the Empire." (Printed in The Times 10/11/1899)

The ‘goldfields’ speech became famous; it is a key example of the rhetoric of unity gained through a technically true, but highly disingenuous denial of motives. The modern state cannot claim explicitly to be defending or fighting for the interests of capitalists. Motives and purpose must be dissolved into the liberty of “equal rights”. The “goldfields” rhetoric makes explicit through negation, as The Times made clear five days later: “Though we covet no goldfields we shall not allow the territory that happens to contain them to renew in a more formidable shape the dangers that now confront us.”

Andrew Roberts, Salisbury: Victorian Titan (2000: London, Orion Books)
Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War (1991: London, Phoenix Books)

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

  • Twitter
  • Intercapillary Places (Events Series)
  • Publication Series
  • Newsreader Feed