Mr. Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of the War Cabinet which issued the Balfour Declaration, who was at that time a practising solicitor, was the legal adviser employed by Dr. Herzl in his negotiations with the British Government on the Uganda offer who submitted Dr. Herzl’s views on the offer to the British Government. Dr. Reichenfeld, a cousin of Dr. Herzl’s, writing in the Zionist organ, “Neue Welt” here, claims to have found new documents which reveal this association of Mr. Lloyd George with past Zionist history. His action as Prime Minister, in issuing the Balfour Declaration, Dr. Reichenfeld suggests, may thus be traced back to the inspiration which he received years ago from Dr. Herzl. It is possible that Dr. Reichenfeld will shortly publish the texts of the documents in question.
THE UGANDA PROJECT
It was at the Sixth Congress, known in Zionist History as the Uganda Congress, in 1903, that Dr. Herzl announced the willingness of the British Government to set aside an area in East Africa as an autonomous Jewish settlement, with Jewish Administration, Jewish Local Government, with a Jewish Governor at its head, all of course under British suzerain control.
The bloody days of the Bessarabian town, Herzl began his speech, shall not make us forget that there is many another Kishineff, even beyond the borders of Russia. The spirit of Kisheneff hovers over every place where Jews are physically or morally afflicted, dishonoured, impoverished, because they are Jews. Let us save those that can still be saved. The new territory has not the historical, religious and Zionist value which the Sinai-Peninsula would have possessed, but I do not doubt that the Congress, as representing the Jewish masses, will receive the new offer with the warmest gratitude. As the matter was of such extreme interest for us all, it was necessary that the proposal should be constituted in such a way as to harmonise with those national ideals that are so dear to us. Our representative, therefore, carried on for some time, comprehensive negotiations with the members of the British Cabinet and heads of Departments, and these negotiations took a favourable course. When the proposal was made I did not consider myself justified, in view of the condition of Jewry, and the necessity of at once seeking a means of ameliorating the situation as far as possible, in taking any other course than that of obtaining permission to submit the proposal to Congress.
Mr. L. J. Greenberg, the present editor of the “Jewish Chronicle”, who had been instrumental in obtaining the offer, formally presented the British offer to the Congress. The document, which he read out, was dated “Foreign office, August 14th., 1903.” The exact region had not yet been decided, he explained. The region which Mr. Joseph Chamberlain said would suit the colony lay between Nairobi and Mau Escarpment. It was described as a highland and its climate like that in the southern part of England. The land between Nairobi and Mau Escarpment was on the railway from Mombassa to Port Florence. Should the concession be made the British Government would grant an area comprising between 200 to 300 square miles.
When the vote was taken by the Congress two-thirds of the Congress said “Yes”. Eighty delegates held their peace. Some were absent. The motion was carried; for, 295; against 177; majority, 118. The result was a threatened split in the Zionist Organisation, the formation of two groups, the “Zionist-Zionists” and the “Ugandists”, which finally resulted in the formation by Mr. Zangwill and his, supporters of the Jewish Territorial Organisation (Itc), and the reunification of the Zionist Organisation.
NO JEW WILL EVER BE UNMINDFUL OF SPLENDID SERVICE TO OUR CAUSE AT DICTATES OF HUMANITY OF BRITISH GOVERNMENT: GREAT BRITAIN HAS LONG BEEN PATTERN TO WORLD IN HER TREATMENT OF JEWISH SUBJECTS
Whatever may come of the East African proposals, Herzl wrote in a letter to Sir Francis Montefiore, then President of the English Zionist Federation, no Jew will ever be unmindful of the splendid service to our cause at the dictates of humanity of the British Government. Great Britain has long been a pattern to the world in her treatment of her Jewish subjects throughout her vast Empire. The letter which Sir Clement Hill addressed to Mr. Greenberg was additional evidence of the spirit of toleration and freedom which animates the bulk and body of the British people. That the letter at the same time recognised the Zionist movement as the organised representative of Jewry was a satisfaction for us of which every Zionist may well be proud.
Lord Delmare had meanwhile cabled to the English Press from Nairobi, in Uganda, “Feeling here very strong against introduction alien Jews,” and the few white settlers in Uganda raised objection to “the best portion of the protectorate being handed over to foreigners.”
The London “Times” wrote of the scheme; “A little Jewish State in East Africa, restrained within certain limits of action by the British Government, but in many respects self-controlled, would either succeed or fail in bringing within its borders a fair proportion of the ability by which the Jews have always and in all countries been distinguished. Uganda would afford no sufficient opening for great talent or great ambition, and the Jews there would have little or no opportunity for any display of the qualities which had brought their kindred to the front of affairs in so many ways and in so many places.”
The late Lord Balfour once confessed that his first interest in Zionism had been stirred at the time of the Uganda negotiators, when he was Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, his uncle, Lord Salisbury.
Mr. Lloyd George, who in 1903, was chiefly known for his vehement opposition to the Boer War, has claimed in Zionism to be a proselyte to Dr. Weizmann. While he was at the Ministry of Munitions, he once said, they had run short of one of the great motive powers needed for cordite. He turned to Dr. Weizmann, and Dr. Weizmann had saved them. They owed a deep gratitude to Dr. Weizmann, and they said to him – what can we do for you? He replied: “All I ask is that you should do something for my people”. It was worth anything to us, he said, in honours or coin, but all Dr. Weizmann asked was to allow him to present his case for restoring his people to the country made famous by their literature. Palestine converted me to Zionism, Mr. Lloyd George said.
Uganda, is by a coincidence, the subject of an editorial article in the “Times” to-day, in connection with the opening to-day of the bridge over the Nile at Jinja and the railway extension to Kampala, connecting Kampala with the Kenya and Uganda Railway and the East Coast. The extension is notable, the “Times” writes, as an important step in opening up Western Uganda and making smoother the path of the traveller and the merchant. Africa is rapidly being transformed, it says, as more and more roads and railways come into existence, and the new bridge will be a further help towards easy intercourse in a part of the continent which up to now has presented some of the most difficult going to the traveller in Africa.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.