HC Deb 20 July 1874 vol 221 cc294-6

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If he will state to the House what steps are being taken by Her Majesty's Government to secure the suppression of the traffic in slaves on the East Coast of Africa?


I am well aware, Sir, that this is a subject about which much interest is taken both in this House and in the country. The hon. Member for Fife has had a Notice of Motion on the subject upon the Paper for some time, but has not had an opportunity of bringing it forward. Had he done so, I should have availed myself of the opportunity of showing the hon. Member that I am quite alive to the interest which is taken by all classes of the English public in the suppression of the slave trade. The Treaty which was made last year, if it is not all that we could desire, has had certainly a good effect; and I think the acknowledgments of the country are due to the Sultan of Zanzibar for signing that Treaty. We have no reason to think that the Sultan is anxious to recede from the engagements imposed upon him by that instru- ment, on the contrary, we have reason to believe that he is desirous to see that Treaty carried out in the spirit in which it was framed; and I venture to think that great credit is due to him for facing the difficulties which undoubtedly that Treaty imposed upon him. He has, contrary to the wishes of many of his most powerful subjects, absolutely abolished the slave market at Zanzibar, and I believe him to be doing his best to discourage the slave trade all over his dominions; but his resources are not great, and we must not expect too much from a Ruler who has upon this question the most violent opposition to encounter from almost all his own subjects. I would also remind the hon. Member that the authority of the Sultan of Zanzibar does not extend along the whole of the East Coast of Africa; that the suppression of the East African slave trade cannot be put down by his co-operation and exertions alone; that if we succeed in putting it down on the Coast of Zanzibar it will very likely break out at other places; and, further, that if we succeed in abolishing the Coast traffic altogether, vigorous efforts will be made to carry it on by land. But the best authorities upon the subject are of opinion that if we keep up a close blockade by sea it will not pay the slave dealers to run the risk of exporting slaves from the interior, and in this way a vital blow will be given to the trade, which will have the same effect on the East Coast that unquestionably this policy has had upon the West. Under these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government have taken measures to increase the squadron on the East Coast, and by a Supplementary Estimate placed on the Table by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty an expenditure of no less than £105,000 has been proposed. The London, a very large ship, specially prepared for the purpose, and intended to serve as a depôt, has already sailed, and she will have many small boats attached to her. So also has the Flying Fish, and the Egeria will follow in about a month. With respect to an additional Consul, it is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that we may find it necessary to increase the Consular Staff on the East Coast, and that it may be advisable to appoint a Consul at Mozambique; but the House is aware that no provision has been made in the Estimates for the present year for such increase, and no such proposal can be made without the consent of the Treasury. But the time is not far distant when it will be the duty of Her Majesty's Government to consider the Estimates for the ensuing year; and if it is thought a Consul at Mozambique would do good my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) will be prepared to appoint one. But upon that subject I do not wish to give a definite pledge, as it is possible further information might render it desirable to make another proposal. On the whole, I can promise the hon. Member that the subject shall have the close and earnest attention of the Government, and I would remind the House that the work upon which we are intent will require much patience, much prudence, and much expense to accomplish.