HC Deb 14 March 1864 vol 173 cc1902-4

said, he wished to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether Her Majesty's Government have any recent information as to the Slave Trade on the East Coast of Africa, and especially in the neighbourhood of Zanzibar; and whether any and what measures have been adopted to prevent the carrying on of that trade by the Portuguese and Northern Arabs?


said, in reply, that the information received by the Government with respect to the slave trade on the eastern coast of Africa was, he regretted to state, of a very unsatisfactory nature. While on the western coast the slave trade had greatly diminished, on the eastern it was very much on the increase. Her Majesty's cruisers had done all in their power during the last two or three years, and had captured upwards of one hundred Arab vessels with slaves on board; but the circumstances in which Her Majesty's ships were placed were very difficult. There were several reasons why they were not able to carry on the same action on the east as on the west coast. The cruisers were not sufficiently numerous, and since the abolition of the Indian navy there was not the same class of officers acquainted with the coast who were formerly able to put a stop to the slave traffic. According to information which he had received, between 20,000 and 30,000 slaves were carried off that coast annually by Arab vessels, which came down the Red Sea and from the Persian Gulf. This was partly the result of the efficacious measures taken by the Turkish Government, which had put an end to the slave trade on the Barbary coasts, so that the slave dealers bad now recourse to the eastern coast of Africa. Another cause of the increase of the traffic had been the inability of Her Majesty's ships to interfere with native vessels carrying on the coasting trade in the dominions of the Imaum of Muscat. Under the treaty with the Imaum the coasting trade in slaves was so far sanctioned that it could not be interfered with by Her Majesty's cruisers, and the consequence was that a very large slave trade had been carried on. The Sultan of Zanzibar had now, however, authorized Her Majesty's cruisers to stop vessels which perform these coasting voyages at certain times of the year, and that permission would enable the cruisers to put an end to a large amount of slave trade. Other causes of the increase of that trade had been the facilities afforded to Arab vessels for flying the French flag, and carrying French papers, and thus securing themselves from search, and the encouragement of the trade, if not a participation in it, on the part of a large number of subordinate Portuguese authorities; though the Portuguese Governor of Mozambique was, no doubt, doing his utmost to put a stop to the traffic. A number of representations had been made on this subject to the Portuguese Government, and Her Majesty's Government had received assurances over and over again that the traffic should be stopped, but hitherto this had not been done. He had read with feelings of horror the accounts sent by Dr. Livingstone and others of the cruelties and devastation resulting from the prevalence of the slave trade within the Portuguese dominions on the eastern coast of Africa. Her Majesty's Government would not lose sight of the subject, and every attempt would be made to put a stop to that detestable traffic.