HC Deb 05 March 1867 vol 185 c1336

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the British artisans who have been or are about to be taken out by Colonel Merewether to Massowah are to be exchanged for the captives now detained in Abyssinia, or are to be sent into that country after the latter are released; and, if so, whether it will not require great care and attention to prevent the transaction from simply resulting in the change of one set of prisoners for another?


Sir, strict orders have been given to Colonel Merewether that these artisans are under no circumstances to go into the interior until all the prisoners now detained by the King of Abyssinia shall be released. They have gone by their own free choice and upon their own responsibility. I took care before they went out that the position and the whole circumstances of the case should be carefully explained to them. As to the last part of the Question, it is rather a matter of argument than of fact. All I can say is, that, as the House very well knows, the whole question of the release of these captives is surrounded by difficulties; and we believe that the course we have adopted, though it may be open to some objections, is still open to fewer than those which presented themselves to the adoption of any other course, and presents the best chance of success in the object we have in view.