HC Deb 25 April 1873 vol 215 cc971-2

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he is aware that from existing disruptions at Lagos and on the neighbouring continent the commerce of those districts has greatly diminished; exports, imports, and the public revenue being all seriously reduced in amounts; whether any reasonable or early restoration of the means of resuming business may be expected; if he would state to the House whether Lagos, with its British residents and their property, retains its usual defence, or has been deprived of that defence; and, whether Negroes under persecution and in slavery, having taken refuge in Lagos, have been surrendered to their assumed owners?


Sir, it is quite true that there has been much interruption of the commerce and trade of Lagos, owing to the action of the neighbouring tribes, though there has been such a considerable receipt of duties at the Custom House, in spite of all difficulties, as to prove that peace and tranquility are alone needed to render Lagos a most flourishing settlement. When we are dealing with fickle and savage tribes, it is hardly safe to prophecy as to their course of action; but the judicious attitude maintained by Administrator Berkeley opens out a prospect of better things. In his last letter he states that he had received a communication from the Egbas and Jebus, which was likely to lead to explanations which it is hoped would bring about a more satisfactory condition of affairs. As to the question of defence, it is true that 150 of the Houssa Police had been sent to the Gold Coast, but steps were being taken to maintain the local detachment at its full strength, and no apprehension was entertained of any attack on the settlement. A ship of war had, however, gone to Lagos. Mr. Berkeley had made an expedition to a part of the country where difficulties had been reported to exist, and had found those difficulties to have been greatly exaggerated. As to negroes having been returned to slavery from Lagos, it was true that complaints had been made, which, on careful inquiry having been instituted, turned out to be somewhat exaggerated, but not without foundation. Nothing of the kind, however, had occurred since the arrival of the present administrator, and the most stringent order had been sent out from home to the effect that British territory must in every part of the world be free territory; in which the slave might find a safe harbour of refuge.