HC Deb 04 June 1868 vol 192 cc1130-2

rose to call attention to the sums paid by the Treasury as bounties for the capture of Slaves, and for their support, &c., after capture, yearly from 1863 to 1867, inclusive, and Estimate for 1868–9; also, the amount paid for the support of the Mixed Slave Commission in the West Indies. In 1863 the tonnage bounties, & c, paid amounted to £44,454; in 1864, to £45,592; in 1865, to £16,955; in 1860, to£4,857; in 1867, to £24,738: the number of slaves captured in those years being in 1863, 1,395; in 1864, 6; in 1865, 0; in 1866, 3; in 1867, 0; in 1868, 0. The sums paid for support and conveyance of captured negroes in those years were—1863, £26,059; 1864, £26,528; 1865, £23,787; 1866, £36,280; 1867, £4,840; and the Estimate for the present year was £28,656. The cost of the Mixed Slave Commission was in 1863, £10,650; in 1864. £10,950; in 1865, £7,550; in 1866, £10,650; in 1807, £10,450; and this year it was estimated at £9,450. The tonnage bounties, therefore, for the five years 1863 to 1867, amounted to £136,596, and the expense for the conveyance and support of slaves for those years to £117,494. The Mixed Slave Commission, in the West Indies, cost £50,250, add to these sums the pay of the squadron for those five years on the West Coast of Africa, £366,590, and we have the formidable sum of £670,930, for the capture of 1,404 slaves on the West Coast of Africa, or at the rate of nearly £478 per head, and this was independent of the pay of ships on the East Coast of Africa; the number of slaves captured on that coast not being stated in the Returns, The hon. and gallant Member complained of the want of distinctness in keeping the Treasury accounts, although he did not at all assert that the money had not been properly disposed of; but it was impossible to determine from the Treasury accounts what portion of the outlay applied to slaves on the West Coast, and what portion to the East Coast of Africa. In looking over the ships to which the bounties had been given for several years he had not found, except in two or three instances, that they had been on the Western Coast of Africa, where slavery had altogether ceased. On the Eastern Coast, slavery was of a domestic character, and its outlet was confined to the Arabian peninsula. It was quite right we should endeavour to put it down; but that should be done at as little cost as possible to the country. He was glad to know that the Admiralty had reduced the number of vessels employed on the West Coast, considering the melancholy waste of life and health; but he thought, instead of fourteen five or six vessels would be sufficient for that service; and he hoped they would go on diminishing the force. He wished to know whether the Secretary to the Treasury could not lay on the table a more distinct account of the manner in which the slave bounties were distributed, and whether the captures had not been confined to one coast?


said, he did not think it any part of his duty to follow the hon. and gallant Member into details as to the policy of the suppression of the slave trade or the possibility of making further reduction in the West Coast squadron. He should confine himself to answering the Question put to him; and, in a great degree, the hon. and gallant Member had himself anticipated the answer he had to give. The greater portion of the slaves had been captured on the Eastern, not on the Western, Coast of Africa. The majority of the slaves captured on the West Coast were taken, not by Her Majesty's ships, but by coasting vessels. District officers captured, in 1863, 50 slaves; in 1864, 39, out of a total of 45 seized; and in 1865, 35 slaves. The following were the relative numbers of slaves captured on the East and West Coasts:—In 1863, on the East Coast 383, on the West 1,475; in 1864, on the East Coast 110, on the West 45; in 1865, on the East Coast 645, on the West 35; in 1866, on the East Coast 831, on the West none; and in 1867, on the East Coast 382, and none on the West. The slaves who were captured on the East Coast were disposed of in a very convenient manner, and at no cost to this country, by being sent to either Zanzibar, the Seychelles islands, or Aden, where they easily found employment. The sums expended upon tonnage bounties were as follows:—£5 per ton where slaves were captured; £4 per ton where no slaves were captured, but where no doubt existed as to the character of the vessel; and 30s. per ton in the event of the ship being broken up and not being available for conversion into money. The whole of the money was expended in conformity with the terms of the Act of Parliament. The expense under this head was a diminishing expenditure on the whole, and for this reason—that the mixed Commission applied only to those parties who were of approved nationality. The policy of the slavers was to throw their papers overboard, and thus hide their liability. The cost was diminishing because the establishment at St. Helena was broken up, and the Mixed Commission at New York might not be continued. He readily admitted that the Returns which had been quoted by the hon. and gallant Member were calculated to mislead, and he would take care that if moved another year that they should be more clearly set out.

Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," agreed to.