King Edward VII – 1904 King’s Speech

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Below is the text of the speech made by King Edward VII in the House of Lords on 2 February 1904.

My Lords and Gentlemen,

My relations with Foreign Powers continue to be of a satisfactory character.

My Government has concluded with that of the French Republic an Agreement which will, I trust, do much to promote the recourse to arbitration in cases of international dispute. Apart from its intrinsic value, the Agreement affords a happy illustration of the friendly feelings prevailing between the two Countries, of which striking proofs were given during My visit to France and that of the President of the French Republic to Great Britain, and of which further evidence has been furnished by a recent exchange of international courtesies.

Similar Agreements are in process of negotiation with the Governments of Italy and the Netherlands.

An Agreement has been concluded between My Government and that of Portugal for the settlement by arbitration of the frontier line between the possessions of Portugal in South-West Africa and the territory of the Barotse Kingdom. His Majesty the King of Italy has been pleased to accept the office of Arbitrator.

The Tribunal appointed under the Convention concluded on the 3rd March last between My Government and that of the United States has given a decision on the points referred to it. On some of these the verdict has been favourable to British claims; on others it has been adverse. Much as this last circumstance is to be deplored, it must, nevertheless, be a matter of congratulation that the misunderstandings, in which ancient Boundary Treaties, made in ignorance of geographical facts, are so fertile, have in this case been finally removed from the field of controversy.

The military operations in Somaliland are being pushed forward as rapidly as difficulties of climate and transport will permit. The successes recently obtained by My troops under General Egerton will materially contribute to the destruction of the Mullah’s power and the consequent pacification of the country. I have received cordial co-operation from the Italian Government, and from the Emperor Menelik of Abyssinia, who has organised a force which, by advancing from the west, will, it is hoped, materially assist the movement now in progress.

I have watched with concern the course of the negotiations between the Governments of Japan and Russia in regard to their respective interests in China and Korea. A disturbance of the peace in those regions could not but have deplorable consequences. Any assistance which My Government can usefully render towards the promotion of a pacific solution will be gladly afforded.

The scheme of Macedonian reforms proposed in February last by the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Governments, with the concurrence of the other Powers Signatories of the Treaty of Berlin, has been improved and strengthened in several important particulars. The revised scheme has been concurred in by the other Powers, and accepted, after a regrettable delay, by the Porte. The winter has brought a cessation in the disturbances which prevailed throughout Macedonia during the greater part of last year; and it is to be earnestly hoped that advantage will be taken of this respite in order to carry out those practical measures of amelioration which are so sorely needed in these unhappy regions.

Amongst these measures the organisation of the Macedonian Gendarmerie deserves a prominent place. I note with satisfaction that His Majesty the Sultan has appointed a distinguished General Officer of the Italian Army to take charge of this reform. He is to be assisted in the discharge of his task by other officers appointed by the Powers, and I have authorised the employment of a Staff Officer of My Army, aided by other British Officers, for this purpose.

I am gratified to observe that the Legislatures of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Colony of New Zealand have passed laws giving effect to the Naval Agreements entered into at the Colonial Conference of 1902, under which they assume a larger share than heretofore in the general Scheme of Imperial Defence. The New Zealand Legislature has also sanctioned a Tariff which gives a preference in its markets to the produce of this Country.

The insufficiency of the supply of the raw material upon which the great cotton industry of this Country depends has inspired Me with deep concern. I trust that the efforts which are being made in various parts of My Empire to increase the area under cultivation may be attended with a large measure of success.

With the concurrence of the Chinese Government, a Political Mission has entered Tibetan territory in order to secure the due observance of the Convention of 1890 relating to Sikkim and Tibet. A Chinese official has been despatched from Pekin to meet it, and I trust that an arrangement may be arrived at with the Chinese and Tibetan authorities which will peacefully remove a constant source of difficulty and friction on the northern frontier of My Indian Empire. Papers on the subject will be laid before you.

Gentlemen of the House of Commons,

The Estimates for the year will be laid before you. Although they have been framed with the utmost desire for economy, the burden imposed on the resources of the Country by the necessities of Naval and Military Defence is undoubtedly serious. The possibility of diminishing this burden is being carefully considered in connection with the general problem of Army and War Office Reform.

My Lords and Gentlemen,

A measure for the purpose of dealing with the evils consequent on the Immigration of Criminal and Destitute Aliens into the United Kingdom will be laid before you.

A Bill amending the Law with respect to Licences for the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors in England will be submitted to you.

A measure for the Amendment of the Law with respect to Valuation Authorities and the Preparation of Valuation Lists will be introduced.

A Bill to Amend the Laws relating to Education in Scotland has been prepared for your consideration.

A measure will be introduced to Amend the Labourers Acts and the Housing of the Working Classes Act in Ireland.

Proposals will be laid before you for Amending the Workmen’s Compensation Acts, for Amending the Law relating to Public Health, for dealing with the Hours of Employment in Shops, for Consolidating the Enactments relating to Naval Prizes of War, for removing, after the termination of the, present Parliament, the necessity for Re-election in the case of Acceptance of Office by Members of the House of Commons, for Supplementing the Powers of the Congested Districts Board in Scotland, and for Amending the Law relating to Sea Fisheries.

I commend your deliberations to the care and guidance of Almighty God.