HC Deb 25 June 1872 vol 212 cc192-219

, in rising to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to establish a British Protectorate at Fiji. said, he was aware that a subject of this kind had not much interest in that House, but it was regarded as of great importance in Australia; it materially affected British interests in the Pacific; it involved the protection of a large portion of Her Majesty's subjects; and it had now assumed such magnitude that the Government must deal with it in some form or other. The Islands numbered 200 or 210, the natives were superior in strength and intelligence to any other of the races of the Pacific; but some years back cannibalism and human sacrifices prevailed amongst them to an enormous extent, and they were amongst the most ferocious and degraded of the inhabitants of the Pacific Islands. In 1834 a few Wesleyan missionaries, with true apostolic zeal, went forth, taking their lives in their hands, to reclaim these degraded savages, and few greater triumphs had been achieved in the history of the Christian Church than in these Islands during the last 37 years. The greater part of the Fijians had embraced Christianity, cannibalism had been abolished, schools had been established, and churches built, and the King and a large number of his Chiefs had embraced Christianity; and not only so, but the Scriptures had been translated, and were now in the hands of 100,000 natives. The Fiji Islands occupied one of the most important stations in the Pacific, forming the key of Polynesia. They were upon the direct track to San Francisco and British Columbia, and in the hands of a foreign Power would do us serious mischief. In 1859 the Sovereignty of the Islands, with 200,000 acres of land, had been offered to Great Britain. Colonel Smyth had been sent out to report on the propriety of accepting the cession. That officer had either been unfit for his task, or went there with a prejudice against the proposal, for his replies to the three leading questions put to him by the Government were, that the Islands did not lie in the path of any great commercial route; that the navigation was dangerous; and that they did not as a station afford us any security in the Pacific, while the prospective supply of cotton could never be otherwise than insignificant. Captain Washington, hydrographer, on the other hand, gave the very contrary replies to these queries; and had since been corroborated by the hon. and gallant Member for Stirlingshire (Admiral Erskine) in the account he had published some years ago of his cruise in the Pacific Ocean. With regard to the first point, a new line of steamers was projected from Sydney to San Francisco, and the Fiji Islands lay in their direct track on the great circle, and would also be a convenient station for the line plying from Vancouver's Island and British Columbia to Australia and New Zealand. As to the supply of cotton, an eminent botanist, Dr. Berthold Seeman, had borne his testimony that the Fiji Islands had seemed specially made for the growth of that plant, which could be cultivated on almost every rood of the land; and whilst in 1865 the exports in value amounted to £9,000, in 1871 they had increased to £88,920, and the increase in tonnage between Fiji and Sydney was not less than 100 per cent. Not only that, but while the price of ordinary cotton in Manchester was 10d. or 1s. per lb., that from Fiji realized 3s. and 3s. 2d. It could not be expected that a country possessing so many advantages would remain long without attracting the attention of colonists, and there were now upwards of 2,000 persons, all British subjects, who naturally looked to Great Britain for protection. The subject was taken up at an Intercolonial Conference held at Melbourne in 1870, and the unanimous opinion expressed in a resolution was, that it was of the utmost importance to British interests that these Islands should not form part of or be under the guardianship of any other country than Great Britain. At a public meeting held at Sydney also, it was agreed that a Petition should be presented to the Legislative Council, stating that the Fiji Islands had, within the last few years, become peculiarly interesting, affording great facilities for commercial enterprize and the extension of agricultural operations—that the condition and prospects of the Islands were exceedingly unsatisfactory, and the source of much anxiety to the well-wishers and promoters of Christian civilization in the Pacific Ocean—that Her Majesty's Government having declined to proclaim the Fiji Islands a British colony, notwithstanding the desire of the inhabitants, they were liable to be annexed by any maritime Power other than Great Britain. A memorial embodying these views was sent to the Home Government; but the application made was declined, Lord Kimberley stating that Her Majesty's Government could not depart from their original intention not to extend British Sovereignty to these Islands; but his Lordship added that the Government were prepared to give any aid in their power, by means of the Consul, for the maintenance of order until the Euro- pean community could establish a regular Government. A copy of this despatch was forwarded to the Earl of Belmore, Governor of New South Wales, with an intimation that if that colony wished to annex Fiji, the necessary powers would be conferred upon it for the purpose. The colony of New South Wales very properly declined to take such a step, regarding the question as an Imperial one. Sir James Martin, on behalf of himself and his colleagues, expressed great regret at the course taken by the Earl of Kimberley and the British Government, who were willing to recognize any regular Government which the European community might establish in Fiji, but were not prepared, as British Ministers to undertake the responsibility and incur the expense of converting Fiji into a British colony; and they added that they were not aware of any precedent for such an invitation to a few Europeans to establish, a separate nationality for themselves, and that the question was an Imperial one, and ought to be taken up by the Imperial Government, which had naval force enough to protect any Government which might be created tinder Imperial auspices. These were the words of statesmen, in which he fully concurred; and he trusted the British Government would ultimately yield to the unanimous wish of its Australian subjects on the question. The Victoria correspondent of The Times, writing in July last, said that great satisfaction was felt with the manner in which the Premier deprecated the project to annex Fiji to New South Wales, because such annexation, to be of any benefit to either party, must be the work of the Imperial Government; the acquisition of what must one day be one of the great depôts of the Pacific was a consideration of importance to Great Britain; the English Government advanced no reason against it but the expense, and to acquire the Islands at the expense of a few thousands would be a stroke of good policy. In fact, the policy of the Government was penny wise and pound foolish. Acting on the suggestion of the Earl of Kimberley, a Government had been formed, which commanded neither respect nor confidence; an association had been formed to resist the payment of taxes; and that Government was now drilling a force of natives to maintain its authority. With regard to its conduct towards the natives, it was of the most arbitrary character, and it appeared from The Fiji Gazette that it was the intention of the Government at an early day to institute measures for the inauguration of a military force to bring under subjection the mountaineers, and to occupy their land. If the Fiji Islands were under a British protectorate nothing of that kind would, in all probability, occur, nor would such outrages as those committed upon the British Consul, and which were detailed in The Daily News of the 10th of April last, happen. Her Majesty's Government, after trying to shift all responsibility on to the shoulders of the colony of New South Wales, thereby showing that it was not at all a matter of principle, now declined to recognize the unanimous voice and feelings of our friends in Australia. In the interest of Christianity, commerce, and liberty, he regretted that the money question, which, after all, was but a very small one, should stand in the way of putting down the slave trade, for they might depend upon it, that however much money they might spend in endeavouring to attain that object, they would never succeed until they assumed the protectorate over these Islands. Such a consideration as that did not stand in the way of former Governments when, the suppression of the African Slave Trade was aimed at. Again, it should be remembered that Fiji offered many advantages for the establishment of a naval station in the Pacific, and that would be a very important matter if we intended to maintain our naval supremacy. They would not have to make conquests for a naval station there; but having made them, he thought it was a matter well worthy the consideration of the Government. Was it not possible, he asked, to have such a British protectorate in Fiji as existed on the Gold Coast of Africa, and which, it should be borne in mind, had conferred such blessings on the natives of that Coast for the last 40 years? Moreover, such protectorate need not assume an extensive form, and the cost, as estimated, would not exceed £7,000 a-year. France and America had places in the Pacific under their protection, and he could not perceive any reason why this country should not extend its protectorate to Fiji. The course we had pursued of late years of refusing to extend our Colonial Empire had led us into many unfortunate wars, and had, in most instances, to be abandoned. He trusted that policy would not be pursued in the present instance, and that the fine opportunity we now possessed of acquiring these Islands would not be thrown away. On economical grounds alone it would be advisable that we should take these Islands under our protection, as otherwise we should be put to a large expense in endeavouring to put down the practice of kidnapping, to which reference had been made in "another place" last night; whereas, if Fiji had a protectorate, two gunboats would be sufficient not only to prevent kidnapping, but also to enforce our authority there. Then, again, the King wished to be under British protection; the people wished it; the missionaries desired it; so did the manufacturers and also the colonists; while civil government was urgently required to complete the blessings we had conferred upon it. Therefore, he thought it was only reasonable that the Government should accede to their united wishes. In conclusion, he must say that it was not often that he entirely concurred in the views expressed by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli); but he most cordially agreed in that part of his speech last night, at the Crystal Palace, in which he said— In my opinion no Minister in this country will do his duty who neglects any opportunity of reconstructing as much as possible our Colonial Empire, and of responding to those distant sympathies which may become the source of incalculable strength and happiness to this land. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.


, in seconding the Motion, said that his hon. Friend (Mr. M'Arthur) had appealed to him to give the House his personal experience of the goodness of the Fiji harbours and the admirable position of those Islands, which he had obtained 20 years ago, when he was the commanding naval officer at that station. At that date he had reported to the Admiralty that the Islands would form a valuable coaling station for Her Majesty's ships in the Pacific, and that the harbours in them were easily accessible to large ships, and available in every way for naval purposes of all kinds. In consequence of the rapid progress of the inhabitants of those Islands in civilization, the time had arrived when we had a right to demand that the community should be placed under regular and responsible government. As an instance of the rapidity of the progress which these Islands had made during the last few years, he might mention that in 1849 he gave the Chief Thackombau, now erroneously called King of Fiji, who has now a Minister of Finance, and who, shortly afterwards, paid the American Government 40,000 dols. for alleged injury done to a Consul, the first dollar he had ever possessed, although at the time His Majesty would have much preferred a musket instead of coin. In 1849 the White population of the Islands consisted of 14 or 15 Englishmen, who possessed one schooner of 25 tons, while the exports and imports were not of more value than £100 per annum, whereas at the present time, the White population numbered 2,040 souls, and the exports were of the annual value of £90,000, and the imports of £82,500; while the number of vessels over the whole of the Group were according to the last return no less than 211. Almost all our colonies had been formed originally by voluntary settlement, and it had afterwards been necessary for this country to step in and give them the benefit of some system of law and government. In the same way, and upon the same principle, the progress of affairs in the Fiji Islands proved that even where there existed but a very small community of White people, it was requisite that some protection against violence and lawlessness should be established. The interests of the natives and the claims of humanity alike demanded that. Nobody could doubt that the contact of White men with a native population among whom slavery was the rule must result in the rapid diminution of that native population; and, moreover, it was not to be expected that a community possessing the greatest facilities for piracy, and being without law, would not prey upon commerce until some settled kind of government and order was introduced into it. Indeed, he thought if it was not primarily a question for us to step in and decide, it would ultimately, on account of its increasing magnitude, become a question which would have to be settled on account of all nations and civilization generally. With regard to what it was the duty of England to do in that matter, if his advice was of any value, he should be inclined to recommend a protectorate over these Islands, although he knew that was a rather vague term. To the authority of the Earl of Kimberley against such a proposal he would oppose the equally great authority of Earl Grey. The hon. and gallant Admiral then quoted passages from Earl Grey's work on Colonial Policy, describing in 1853 the nature of British authority as exercised on the West Coast of Africa, where justice was administered by British magistrates, the Governor having at his disposal only two or three companies of a West India regiment. Earl Grey also showed the immense advantage resulting from the existence of British influence on the West Coast of Africa, and from our authorities there having a very small number of troops to enforce their decrees; and he concluded by pointing out that the consequence had been the establishment of a local Government which taxed itself to the amount of £40,000 a-year. He thought that putting small ships in the place of West India regiments, in the case of Africa, we might maintain a Government in Fiji and the other Islands with equally satisfactory results. At all events, it was necessary that something should be done, if only as a preparation for the future; and it was our duty, as paramount in these seas, to take upon ourselves the work of establishing something like a Government amongst the islands. In conclusion, he begged leave to second the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty that She will be graciously pleased to establish a British Protectorate at Fiji."—(Mr. M'Arthur.)


said, he was glad that the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. M'Arthur) had brought that important subject under the notice of the House, for he (Mr. Eastwick) maintained that it was only a question of time, and that the protectorate of Fiji by this country was not only expedient, but necessary. There was a statement in Part 4 of the Consular Reports recently presented, to the effect that the number of British subjects who had settled in the Fiji Islands gave to them the character, though none of the advantages of a British colony. There were, according to that Report, 3,700 British subjects in these Islands, so that, if it were correct that in 1871 the number was 3,000, a rapid increase had taken place. And at the same time the cultivation of the Islands was extending. The Georgian Group and Leeward Islands contained only 450 French subjects, and not more than 970 Europeans; and the fact that those Islands had been brought under French rule formed a strong argument in favour of a protectorate in islands with 10 times the number of European settlers. Not only that, but the Fiji Islands were almost bordering on the Australian Colonies, and it was fairly asked that they should be a stepping-stone between them and the waste of waters between us. It had been mentioned that the United States had annexed the Navigator Group, and there might be some hon. Gentlemen who would wish that the United States would annex the Fijian Group also; but he could not himself sympathize with that view; and it must also be remembered that the United States had no intention to proceed further in that direction. Moreover, it more properly devolved on Great Britain, for an independent buccaneering Government had been established, which would attract all the desperate characters in Australia and the surrounding islands. It was already raising troops to coerce the peaceable settlers and overawe our Consul, and according to Sir James Martin, the Attorney General of New South Wales, it would interpose difficulties in the way of dealing with offences in the South Seas unless the Imperial Government, without delay, either expressly recognized it, or took possession of Fiji; for if that Government remained unrecognized, the seizure within its limits by British authority of persons charged with offences for the purpose of trying them in these colonies might lead to difficulties of a serious character. He hoped, therefore, the House would support the Motion of his hon. Friend, for the formation of a Government in Fiji was indispensably necessary; indeed, there was no other way to prevent the kidnapping now going on in the South Seas except a British protectorate, for the adoption of that step would enable us to establish an Admiralty Court, and to call upon the tribes to acknowledge the power and jurisdiction of the Queen, to renounce human sacrifices and other barbarous practices, and agree that murders, robberies, and other crimes should be tried by the Queen's officers. The objection could not be the expense, for it need cost us nothing. We had a Consul there already; and the necessity of keeping ships of war in the seas where these Islands were situated had been pressed on the Government by Lord Belmore, who, in a despatch of the 22nd of November, 1871, said— I must press on the Government the necessity for the constant presence, while the season permits, of one, if not two, of Her Majesty's ships for some time to come among the South Sea Islands, cost what it may.


said, he was sorry that the protectorate of these Islands had not been assumed 10 years ago, and he should certainly support the Motion, though he thought that absolute annexation would now be better. He did not quite understand the meaning of a protectorate, the French protectorate of Tahiti amounting to absolute government, and he agreed with the Earl of Kimberley, that a protectorate, if it meant something less than annexation, would not diminish our responsibility, while it might be a source of embarrassment. Something must certainly be done, for Lord Belmore had declared that anarchy prevailed in the South Seas, and it was clear that the Fiji Group was fast becoming the refuge of scoundrels and fugitives of all descriptions. The soi disant Government was not recognized by many of the White settlers, and, as mentioned by Sir James Martin, British subjects charged with acts of violence in the Fijis were amenable to the Courts of New South Wales, an Act of George IV. giving them jurisdiction over all the islands in the Pacific not subject to any European State. Our intervention was, therefore, likely to be invoked. In that case he saw no medium course between reorganizing the Government that had been set up by the Whites, and absolute annexation. To the first course there were, he need hardly say, insuperable objections, for all control over them being by that Act abandoned, it would lead to the extermination of the natives, and to the increase and permanence of slavery. The policy he recommended, therefore, was that of absolute annexation, and he said so with the full sense of the reasons that made the British Government unwilling to extend our colonial possessions. In this instance, however, it was a duty to humanity to do so, for the present scandals could never be effectually put down until we assumed the government of these Islands. It was intolerable that a great slave-holding Anglo-Saxon settlement should grow up in the South Seas. While he was glad to hear that the Government intended to strengthen our squadron in the Pacific, and to add some light-armed cruisers to it, he also hoped that the more decisive step recommended by this Motion would be supported by the House.


said, it appeared that considerations of expense had hitherto deterred the Government from taking possession of these Islands and establishing civilization in them; but he seriously doubted whether there would be any expense at all in doing so. The great colonies of Queensland and Victoria had cost the mother country nothing, and South Australia had caused no expenditure till some years after her foundation, when a grant of £200,000 had been made to meet a season of distress consequent upon the mismanagement of an autocratic Governor appointed by the Home Government. He cordially agreed with the last Speaker that annexation was the only course to be thought of, if any action at all were taken by the Government. The policy and mission of this country had hitherto been to enlighten the dark places of the earth; that policy had been recognized by Europe as an honourable distinction, and he trusted the Government when taking this matter into consideration, would be impressed with the feeling of pride with which the people of England regarded the results of that policy hitherto.


remarked that, in considering a question of this kind, we should regard ourselves as the head of an aggregate of great countries rather than as a single country. The particular matter under discussion was a question of detail combined with a grave question of policy. The question of detail as to whether the Fiji Islands were of more value to this country than to any other, and whether they would be of value to us in time of war, was a question which might safely be left to the Colonial Office. With regard to the cost of maintaining a few troops in the Islands for their protection, Her Majesty's Government would do well carefully to consider the importance of the work to be done compared with the smallness of the sum to be expended before coming to a decision upon it; and he must remark that the difficulty of governing these Islands could not be very great if they got the right men for the purpose. He hoped the policy of withdrawing troops from British colonies would not be pressed too far, and he said that, although he approved, on the whole, with some exceptions, the policy which had been pursued thus far in reference to that particular question. Turning to the question of Imperial policy involved in the Motion of the hon. Member for Lambeth, he hoped Her Majesty's Government would pronounce clearly their opinion as to whether England could, without danger of disaster, stop short in the civilizing course involved in the addition of new colonies to her Empire.


said, he believed the statements made with regard to the present condition of the Fiji Islands and their Government were very much exaggerated. He had been in communication with a gentleman who had recently arrived from the Fiji Group of Islands, who had given him a very different account. The facts appeared to be these—In Australia it was not easy to grow cotton and sugar for want of native labour; but in the Fiji Islands the case was different, and a number of enterprizing Australians having gone there in consequence, it was natural that they should seek the protection of the English Government. Their overtures were, however, declined; and, under these circumstances, they established a Government of their own. The form of Government adopted included two Houses of Parliament, and Thaukambau was recognized as the King. It was now proposed to the House of Commons to establish in the Fiji Islands that very protectorate which the Government formerly refused, and this proposition was met by another of a still more serious character—by a suggestion that we should at once annex the entire Group. What right had they to annex a territory with a population of 100,000 or 200,000 persons, without the consent of the inhabitants? If they had such a right, they would have an equal right to annex other islands of the Pacific Ocean, and we should be embarking in a course the end of which no one could foresee. He contended that the English Government should hold their hands, and wait to see whether the newly-formed Government could not repress kidnapping; and that they should take no action with reference either to protection or annexation until they were requested to do so by the inhabitants of the Fijis. He hoped they would not be led into incautious and hasty action by the violent language used that evening.


said, he would remind the hon. Member for Birmingham that it was the Fijians who had themselves supplicated the protection of England, which could only be afforded by an annexation of the Islands. We ought not only to extend the protection of the British flag to the White population, but also to incorporate in the Empire a sturdy race, and establish a community which would tend to augment the strength and influence of this country, for if we allowed the present state of things to continue much longer we should probably have to interfere in a manner which would be discreditable as well as expensive. The dregs of the population of Australia were swarming in every direction, and the authorities in India were already considering what was to be done with the "loafers," who flocked there in large numbers. The same immigration of worthless characters was going on even to a greater extent in the Fiji Islands, which in the course of a few years would become a receptacle for pirates. It was all very well for professors of political economy to say that we ought not to take charge of these Islands, but practical men who were acquainted with the real facts of the case took precisely the opposite view, and, as for himself, he was certain that the incorporation of these Islands with the Empire would be of the greatest advantage to us not only on account of their strategic position, but also on account of their productive capacity, and therefore he should support the Motion of his hon. Friend. He thought, however, that the Motion would receive a larger share of support from the House, if his hon. Friend would substitute for "protectorate" the words "British authority."


said, that although Fiji was not a British colony, yet the artillery of so many speakers in the present debate had been directed against the Colonial Office, that the House would not feel suprised at his rising to reply to the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth (Mr. M'Arthur). A fallacy ran through a great majority of the speeches which had been delivered. It seemed to be assumed that at the present instant, the inhabitants of the Fiji Islands were supplicating us either to assume authority, or, at all events, to establish a British protectorate over them. As far as his information went the inhabitants were doing nothing of the kind, and therefore, brushing that cobweb aside, he would proceed with the general question. Allusion had been made to other acquisitions of territory which Her Majesty's Government had sanctioned in South Africa, and on the West Coast of Africa, but there the circumstances were essentially distinct from the case of the Fiji Islands. With regard to South Africa, we had to deal with a large territory immediately bordering on our great colony of the Cape, and containing a population which comprised a considerable number of British subjects, and it was essential to the welfare of the Cape that order and good government should prevail in that colony. Again, in that case, there was a unanimous wish among the native population that we should annex the territory, because they feared that if it were not under British rule they would be absorbed by another neighbour. We had, besides, the interests of a large population of British diggers and of the Cape Colony to consider. What the Government said, therefore, was that if the great colony of the Cape, in the interests of civilization, of the British diggers, and of the native tribes, and of South Africa itself, thought fit to undertake the government of that country, Her Majesty's Government were not indisposed to think it would be a wise and conciliatory policy to consent to the annexation. With regard to the West Coast of Africa, we had a large sea-board, which was broken in upon by certain Dutch possessions, the result being a divided authority and a dual jurisdiction, which could not fail to be productive of complications and inconveniences, whilst the friendly cession to us by the Netherlands Government of their forts could not but tend to the peaceful and progressive development of our own original settlement, and conduce to the well-being of the native tribes. The case of the Fiji Islands was, however, entirely different. Thirteen years ago Mr. Pritchard, British Consul at Fiji, forwarded to Her Majesty's Government what purported to be an offer on the part of the King to cede to Great Britain the Sovereignty of the Islands. Now, he noticed that in the course of this evening's discussion the hon. Member for Lambeth spoke of the King of Fiji as being the supreme Ruler over all the Islands, whereas the hon. and gallant Admiral (Admiral Erskine) said there were many Chiefs who had authority in the different Islands. Her Majesty's Government would certainly have done wrong if they had annexed the Group without instituting an inquiry on this point, and they accordingly sent out a gentleman of high character, who reported that instead of there being one King, there were about 40 independent Chiefs who had power in the Islands, and whose authority would have to be disputed in the event of any foreign Power acting on the assumption of the King having the power to dispose of the territory. It was exceedingly doubtful whether these independent Chiefs really understood what was involved in the word "annexation;" and even if they had understood it, it was still more uncertain whether they would have concurred. There existed among the tribes many barbarous practices which it would have been impossible to tolerate in a British possession, but which could not be eradicated without great difficulty, and no inconsiderable labour and expense. Doubts were, moreover, thrown upon the cotton-producing powers of Fiji in Colonel Smyth's Report. It was pointed out, moreover, that all England wanted was a coaling station, and that that might be obtained without annexing 200 islands for the purpose. It was also pointed out that the direct route from Sydney to Panama lay many miles south of the Fiji Islands. Under those circumstances the Government of the day would have acted very rashly if they had accepted the offer which was made. Since that time nothing like a formal offer had, so far as he knew, been made on the part of those Islands that we should assume Sovereignty over them. His hon. Friend behind him (Sir Charles Wingfield) had spoken of the existing Government of Fiji; but on that point, he must confess he had heard with pleasure the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon), because it was the first in which anything like a fair view had, in his opinion, that evening been taken of the condition of that Government, to which he had heard with pain such terms as "filibustering" applied. It was no part of his duty to express any opinion upon the character or probable stability of the Fiji Government; but at all events it was a Government which professed to be endeavouring to establish law and order, to put down slavery, and to develop the resources of these Islands; and until that Government should have been proved by some act of its own to have forfeited our confidence, and to have committed offences against public morality, it was, he thought, a little hard that we, in the House of Commons, should take upon ourselves to judge of its conduct from the reports contained in newspapers and in private letters which were not always disinterested. It must also be borne in mind that the annexation of Fiji, though it might by some be looked upon as a simple matter, was not one which could be considered entirely by itself. The hon. and gallant Admiral behind him, than whom nobody was more conversant with the subject, had informed the House as to the enormous number of islands which there were in the Pacific, and had used these remarkable words, that the occupation of Fiji would entail the acquisition of an enormous number of small islands, and would be a step owing to which White settlers would gradually occupy all the Islands in the Pacific. If we were to annex one group of Islands, was it possible, he would ask, that we could stop there? He might also observe that the Fiji Islands were over 1,700 miles from Sydney, and 1,150 from New Zealand, and about 1,400 from Brisbane. When, therefore, they were spoken of as being contiguous to Australia, those who used such language must, he could not help thinking, be regarded as having rather an elastic imagination. There might be, no doubt, considerable advantages arising from the annexation of the Fiji Islands, but it was by no means desirable that we should hurry to a conclusion in the matter. He (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) would sum up the case for and against annexation as clearly and concisely as he could. The first argument in favour of annexation was that there was a large and increasing number of British subjects resident in these Islands; that a considerable amount of British capital was embarked there; and that during the last two or three years they had made great progress. That, however, was hardly a good reason for interfering with the present state of things, for we must take care that in trying to make things better we did not make them worse. The second argument was with regard to the cotton-producing powers of the Islands, and he thought the statements which had been made in the Report of Colonel Smyth had been negatived by experience, for the evidence went to show that cotton of a very superior character could be grown in Fiji, and the supply might no doubt be materially increased. There was also the argument in favour of annexation, that it would be a great advantage to us to have an advanced post in the Pacific, and there was, besides, another point, of very considerable importance, that unless there was a strong Government in Fiji our exertions to put down the abuses of the labour-traffic would be very much paralyzed. On the other hand, we must bear in mind that there were cogent reasons against annexation. In the first place, we had no expressed wish on the part of the inhabitants of those Islands that we should annex them, or enter on a protectorate. Then there was the question of the expense, which might be variously estimated, and when speaking of philanthropy and the growth, of cotton the British taxpayer must not be entirely ignored. We ought, therefore, to see our way very clearly before we entered on any course which would throw additional burdens on him unless there were some corresponding advantage. New Zealand had been mentioned in the discussion, but hon. Members should bear in mind that our original policy with respect to New Zealand had cost this country something not far short of £20,000,000, expended in wars with native tribes. There was a further argument against annexation, and that was that it would be rather hard after having declined the proffered Sovereignty in 1859 and actually encouraged the European community to try and govern themselves, we should now, when we saw the Fiji Islanders progressing, uninvited and unwelcomed, turn round and say—"We shall change our minds and annex you, because we think it would be to our advantage." These were the main reasons why he looked upon annexation as impossible at the present moment. A protectorate would, in his opinion, be very much worse. It involved all the responsibility, without the advantages of annexation. Indeed, he had never been able to find out exactly what a protectorate meant, but the idea of a protectorate, especially of an uninvited protectorate, was one which he could not help thinking it would be in the present case most unwise to entertain. It was, however, by Australian energy that the resources of the Fiji Islands were being developed, and if they could be governed through one of those Colonies, considerable advantages might be the result. That was the proposition which the Government had made in the last despatch presented to Parliament, in which the Earl of Kimberley said that— If the Colony of New South Wales were willing to undertake the responsibility of providing for the government of the Islands, Her Majesty's Government would not refuse to entertain such a proposal, if it met with the concurrence of the Native Chiefs. We should thus virtually extend British Sovereignty over Fiji, whilst it would be directly governed by and through that portion of Her Majesty's Dominion which was most immediately concerned with its commerce and settlements. It was far better, however, to wait and act with caution than to take any precipitate step. He had heard some general principles enunciated to-night about adding to our Colonial Empire. Well, if the House chose to lay down the rule that wherever there was a country inhabited by uncivilized and barbarous tribes, the possession of which by England would, in our opinion, be ultimately beneficial to the inhabitants of that country and to ourselves, then it was our duty to annex that country. Of course, if such a rule were established, it was wrong on the part of the Government in not annexing Fiji in 1859; but he was not prepared, either speaking for himself or on the part of the Government, to adopt such a Quixotic policy, and he would beg the House seriously to consider to what results such a rule would lead. He would not, however, endorse for a moment the policy founded on the other extreme. A policy founded on the other extreme was maintained by a party in the country. He did not refer to that party which was said to undervalue the advantages to England of her present colonies, and to desire the disintegration of the Empire. He sometimes heard of that party, but he never met them. If they existed, he believed their number was infinitesimally small, and they might be practically ignored. In fact, he was inclined to think that they only existed in the fertile brains of imaginative statesmen who, in order to create a new political programme for their own party, found it necessary to misrepresent the policy of their opponents. But he referred to those who, more or less admitting the value of existing colonies, stedfastly set their faces against the acquisition by England of any more territory under any pretext whatever. They were principally actuated, no doubt, by economical considerations; but in his opinion there were sometimes considerations of higher moment than those of economy. The conquest of a country against the will of its inhabitants; the acquisition of territory merely for our own aggrandisement and our own convenience—these were offences against public morality which could not be defended. But the acquisition of territory freely offered by the goodwill of its inhabitants, securing to them the advantages of order, good government, civilization, and Christianity, and at the same time opening up to us new markets for our trade, new fields of labour for our people—this was not an acquisition to be spurned or lightly estimated. The peculiar conditions of Great Britain should never be forgotten—the smallness of her area at home, her large and ever increasing population, the active, energetic, restless character of her people, all point to the wisdom of enlarging by every legitimate means the field of action before us. And he would venture to say that if English statesmen, forgetful of these conditions, ignoring the responsibility of England as a great nation, and thinking only of economy, should ever lay down as an axiom of policy that Great Britain should under no circum- stances acquire additional territory, they would not only do an unwise and wrong thing, but they would sound the first note of their country's retrogression in the scale of nations. Every case, however, must be dealt with on its own particular merits, and it was not right to adhere to any hard and inflexible rule; and he was quite content that the conduct of the Government should be judged by the future result. And what were the Government now doing? With respect to the slave trade they had passed a measure which they hoped would put a stop to that traffic, and the Admiralty were about to strengthen the squadron in those seas where it was complained that the slave trade was carried on. With regard to the Fiji Government, which had been so much abused, he did not stand up to defend them; but it must be recollected that the gentleman who had been so much reflected on in the public press had recently left that Government, and that a person of the greatest respectability now occupied his place—namely, Mr. Thurston, who had recently been British Consul in Fiji. Moreover, the individual who had accepted the office of Chief Justice bore the highest character. While there was hope that good government might prevail in the Fiji Islands, it was not for this country to interpose by force, and accordingly instructions had been sent out to the English Representative there to recognize the actual Government as a de facto Government, but the extent of our recognition would depend on the ability of the Government in the Islands to maintain good order, and on the sincerity of their efforts to suppress the slave traffic. He did not see what other course Her Majesty's Government could take, and if hereafter the White population and the natives should desire the territory to be annexed, the British nation would never hesitate when the interests of civilization and Christianity were concerned to take whatever steps would best promote those ends. But it was better to be too cautious than too precipitate, and while progress was being made in the Fiji Islands, the British Government exercised a wise discretion in not forcing a protectorate on them. Whenever any information arrived in this country relative to the condition of the Islands he would take care that it should be laid before Parliament, and considering how much had already been done, he trusted that the hon. Member would withdraw his Motion.


said, it seemed to him that the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had to a very great extent conceded the point at issue. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the way in which the Government had acted in reference to the Cape and in_ reference to the West Coast of Africa, pointing out that the Government had been induced to pursue a policy of annexation in those cases, because it was necessary to have the frontiers of those colonies well protected, for commercial and other reasons, and to draw into their net those neighbours who were around them. But the argument applied to those distant colonies of the Empire applied still more strongly to the Empire itself, for it was a matter of Imperial interest that the great Empire of England should not suffer from not attending to the annexation of points necessary to strengthen her dominions all over the world. His hon. Friend went on to depreciate the importance of Polynesia. Was it possible to suppose that the islands of Polynesia would be allowed to remain independent principalities? If those islands were to fall to one of the great States of the world, were we not in duty bound to see that these important ports and centres of civilization and religious influence should not fall into the hands of other Powers than our own? We were bound, watching over the security and welfare of our great colonies, Australia and New Zealand, to take some action in the case of the Fiji Islands. The cost of maintaining colonial establishments there would be comparatively small. He agreed with his hon. Friend as to the question of protectorate. He thought his hon. Friend was almost committed to annexation. He evidently looked to future action in the matter, and certainly annexation was a hundred times safer. He deeply lamented that the legitimate offer made a few years ago had not been accepted. It was a shirking of responsibility which naturally fell upon us, and which if it had been then accepted would have saved us from very serious difficulties that might await us in the future. His hon. Friend said that the Government felt so well disposed in this matter that if Australia should think fit to do the work for us there would be no objection. That, again, was a shirking of responsibility. It was also a new doctrine, as to which he should like to have the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown, whether a colony had power to attach responsility to the mother country for annexing any stray islands in the seas adjacent to it. The straightforward course would be to announce at once that if the people of these Islands were willing to submit themselves to our rule, we would be willing to accept them, with all the responsibilities that followed upon such a course; and by so doing we should secure not only the hearty concurrence of Australia, but the approbation of our own countrymen and the applause of the civilized world.


said, he had listened to the speech of his noble Friend with great attention and warm sympathy. This was not a new question. Some 16 or 18 years ago he had accompanied a deputation to Lord Palmerston on the subject. They waited upon other Ministers; and they asked—"Where is Fiji? We never heard of it." But with Lord Palmerston it was very different. He knew that Fiji possessed some of the most remarkable harbours in the world, and unrolling a map told them the exact number of fathoms in depth, and stated that there was not a ship then afloat that could not sail into those harbours. Most cordially did he receive the deputation. His hon. Friend now said it was to Lord Palmerston's Government that the offer of annexation was made. The state of things then was very different from what it is now. And what did Lord Kimberley say in reply to Lord Belmore? He feebly answered—"The next point is one already under the consideration of the Foreign Office." "Consideration" was a great word with the Government. Lord Belmore had said— The practical importance of the subject is my excuse for drawing your Lordships' attention to it—it is that of giving certain magisterial powers to the British Consul at Fiji over British subjects. There were 2,000 British subjects, which formed an important population. They applied to us to annex the Islands, and the Government took on themselves the responsibility of refusing. He hoped the Government would not fall back on Lord Palmerston's opinion. They must rest on their own responsibility. [Laughter.] His hon. Friend laughed. [Laughter.] Surely, this was one of the wisest of Governments, for when they got into trouble they laughed. The Motion, however, threw on the Government the responsibility of resisting the appeal for annexation, and if they refused, some other country would take the step. It was a question between a bold and a cowardly policy. If we accepted the offer of these Islands we might save an enormous amount of crime, the responsibility for which, if we refused the offer, would to that extent rest on our shoulders. These offers did not come often. If his hon. Friend went to a division he should support him. When the expense of New Zealand and of Australia was spoken of, his answer was that the Governments of Australia were repaying us all expense incurred, and would repay us 100 per cent for the money that England laid out. Our colonies were an accession of strength to the mother country, and woe be to those who refused to accept the offer now made to England. It was all very well for Members of the Government to make pretty speeches about our colonies, but we wanted something else—we wanted action.


, said, he found that the general feeling of the House was that his Motion did not go far enough, but that the Government ought to annex the Fiji Islands. He would, therefore, alter the terms of his Motion, which would be to ask Her Majesty to establish a British protectorate at Fiji, or to annex the Islands, as the Government might think desirable. It had been said that no such wish had been expressed and no such offer made; but be believed that the White population would be delighted with the annexation of the Islands, and the rest of the inhabitants had again and again expressed themselves favourable to the proposition that they should be annexed to the British Crown. A few years ago the population of Fiji was 200,000; now it was reduced to 120,000, and it was daily decreasing. England's true policy was, therefore, not to be too late. Delay was against England. Our true policy was to place ourselves in communication with the Islands; and if this were done, he believed that the Islands would receive with acclamation the announcement that they were to be annexed to the British Crown. Let law and authority be once established there, and emigra- tion to the Islands would set in to an extent that at present was almost beyond contemplation.


said, he had heard with surprise and disappointment that it was the intention of the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. M'Arthur) to carry to a division not the Motion of which he had given Notice, but that Motion with an essential alteration. From a number of hon. Members the hon. Member had received considerable support so far as the general purpose of taking some step was concerned; but every hon. Member who gave such support emphatically condemned the plan of establishing a protectorate, and recommended annexation. The hon. Member, however, now invited the House to pass a Resolution, leaving it in the discretion of the Government to adopt a measure which his Friends condemned, or one which they approved; to both of which alike, under existing circumstances, the Government, which alone was responsible, was opposed. Was it possible that Parliament could place itself in such a position? The Government ought not to have referred to them the option between a protectorate and annexation. It would be surely absurd for hon. Gentlemen who had denounced a protectorate to place the Government in the position of selecting between that and annexation, with no indication to guide them. What was a protectorate? It might be anything or nothing; it was the most shadowy of all relations; it might involve almost all the responsibilities of government. Those who undertook to mark out a policy and enforce it on Government surely ought to indicate what in its essential features that policy was to be, and not to mix together in the terms of the Motion, without distinction, things which they declared to be entirely different. The Government was not prepared to accept the responsibility of either the one or the other, and that not because it professed a policy of indifferentism, or had registered a vow in Heaven that nothing should induce it to add to the territory or the territorial responsibilities of this country. Unquestionably, he had viewed with surprise how hon. Gentlemen, when the Government were overwhelmed and totally inadequate to undertake their own responsibilities—when from year to year the Government were groaning over the mass of work left undone—["Oh, oh!"]—he thought that was one of the truisms of the day, and he did not envy them their position who were disposed to dispute it. It was admitted that there might be cases in which it might be wise even to make additions to the territorial responsibilities of this country; but as his hon. Friend said—and justly said—without any reference to abstract principles, the question ought to be considered on its own merits, and with reference to its own individual character. The hon. Member entreated them in the name of humanity and philanthropy to interfere, because the native population was diminishing; but would he guarantee that the annexation of the Islands would stop the diminution of the native population? Probably, the hon. Member knew that while 30 or 35 years ago there were 120,000 people in New Zealand, the population had now dwindled down to about 40,000, and, therefore, he must decline to accept the guarantee of the hon. Member that annexation would stop the decay of the population in the Fiji Islands. His hon. Friend the Member for Perth had referred to the historical aspect of the case and stated that Lord Palmerston expressed readiness to annex the Fiji Islands; but, so far from that being the case, he ventured to state that the Duke of Newcastle, who was Colonial Secretary at the time, was the only Member of Lord Palmerston's Cabinet who was favourable to annexation. It was true the circumstances of the present day were different; but the difference mainly consisted in the fact that at the present day there was no request on the part of the people of the Fiji Islands for annexation. His hon. Friend further said that the inhabitants of the Fiji Islands longed for this country to annex them; but was he the ambassador and plenipotentiary to represent and act for these islanders? If he was, let him do what other plenipotentiaries were bound to do, exhibit his credentials. Again, at the present day, the people were thrown upon their own resources, Europeans had settled in the Islands, and a Government had been formed, which was endeavouring to organize itself in a sense favourable to civilization. The statements made by his Friend the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. M'Arthur) in support of his Motion all went to prove the disposition of the people to rely upon their own resources, and therefore he asked whether, in the name of prudence and policy, any sufficient reason had been shown why the British Government should at the present time undertake the task of making a provision for the civil welfare of the people of the Fiji Islands which they were endeavouring to make for themselves? So far as it was possible to lay down an abstract and general rule with regard to annexation, he was prepared to say that Her Majesty's Government would not annex any territory, great or small, without the well-understood and expressed wish of the people to be annexed, freely and generously expressed, and authenticated by the best means the case would afford. Let them guide their conduct in that respect by the light of experience. In New Zealand a treaty was entered into by and with the consent of the native authorities with this country; but when it came to be acted upon, it was ascertained that the New Zealanders put a different interpretation themselves upon the meaning of that treaty, and which had led to a series of bloody wars that were not honourable to the history of this country, and which had cost between £11,000,000 and £12,000,000. This, however, was the case of 200 islands, inhabited by about 150,000 or 160,000 persons; and of those 200 islands about 60 were uninhabited; and those that were inhabited were not under the rule of one chief; but 12 principal tribes, with many subdivisions, with relations from the heads of the tribes to the kings of a most uncertain character. Under these circumstances he appealed to the House and the supporters of the Motion not to attempt to force on Her Majesty's Government the duty of forcing the Fiji Islanders to annex themselves to this country, for there really was no evidence that they desired it. If the House wanted to force Her Majesty's Government, they ought not to force the people of these Islands, who were endeavouring to organize a Government amongst themselves, and which this country, by means of friendly negotiations, were encouraging; but if Her Majesty's Government was to be forced into doing anything, let it be to ascertain the real feeling of the islanders, and not to force on the islanders that which they had shown no desire should take place. This was the only form in which he, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, could accept any responsibility with reference to the question.


asked the hon. Member for Lambeth if he withdrew his Motion?


, in reply, said, he was going to move his amended Motion.


said, the hon. Member could not move an Amendment to his own Motion.


said, the hon. Member might withdraw his original Motion by the leave of the House, and then move it in an amended form.


observed that after the statement of the Under Secretary of State it would be impossible for the Government to refuse the annexation of those Islands, if they obtained from them a responsible expression of a desire for such annexation.


said, that as the general feeling of the House appeared to be in favour of leaving the Government the option of either establishing a protectorate over the Fiji Islands, or of annexing them, he wished to alter his Motion accordingly. He presumed, therefore, that the better plan would be for him to withdraw his original Motion and substitute another to that effect.


asked, as a point of Order, whether it was competent for the hon. Member, if he withdrew his Motion, to move his amended Motion that night, or on another opportunity?


said, it would depend on the pleasure of the House, if the Motion was withdrawn, whether another Motion should be put at once or not.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. M'ARTHUR moved— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to take into consideration the propriety of establishing a Protectorate at Fiji, or of annexing those Islands, provided that this may be effected with the consent of the inhabitants.


said, he rose to Order. If the Motion was to be put, the whole of the Rules of the House would at once be put an end to. That subject had been argued with great interest and ability on the question of a protectorate; and it was not until the hon. Mover replied that he intimated that, in consequence of the debate, he was about to amend his Motion by in- cluding in it the alternative of annexation. On the putting of that question the First Minister of the Crown argued the whole matter; and, no doubt, according to the practice of the House, the hon. Member would have been perfectly in order if, with the consent of the House, he had withdrawn the former Motion and then proposed the words on which the question was argued by the Prime Minister. But now to alter the terms of the Motion again, which terms had not been argued either by the House or by the Prime Minister, appeared to him to be such a deviation from the whole established order and mode of proceeding that he put it to the Speaker, with great submission, whether that Question could now be put from the Chair. He thought the Motion ought not to be so altered now, because they would be dividing on a totally different question from that which had been under discussion.


also asked whether the hon. Member having now brought forward a practically new question after half-past 12, was not shut out by the spirit, if not by the letter, of a Resolution of the House?


said, there was no doubt that the Motion now before the House differed materially from that originally proposed by the hon. Member for Lambeth. Of course, it was in the power of the House, if it pleased, to entertain that Motion; but he was bound to say that it seemed to him, having regard to the practice of the House, that the present Motion, differing as it did so materially from the original, should not be entertained without Notice.


Take the original Motion.


said, that having had a discussion on the subject which he trusted would be followed by some good result, he would under the circumstances withdraw the Motion. ["No, no!"]

Whereupon Question put, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to take into consideration the propriety of establishing a Protectorate at Fiji, or of annexing those Islands, provided that this may be effected with the consent of the inhabitants."—(Mr. M'Arthur.)

The House divided:—Ayes 84; Noes 135: Majority 51.