§ MR. EVELYN ASHLEY
, in rising to move, as an Amendment, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—In the opinion of this House, no arrangements for the government of the territories on the Gold Coast will be satisfactory which involve the recognition of slavery in any form,said, an evening organ of party opinion had within the last few days made the observation that in bringing this matter forward, he (Mr. Evelyn Ashley) was 608 prompted by mere selfish ambition. If the ambition to be the instrument of placing on record a Resolution which might elicit from the Government some decided expression of opinion, and some plan which the House could understand and lay hold of to put a stop to slavery on the Gold Coast of Africa, was a mere selfish ambition, he pleaded guilty to the charge. This was his only object, and he therefore hoped that Her Majesty's Government would, either by explaining their plan to the House or by frankly accepting his Resolution, afford him the satisfaction of attaining his object. It had also been said that he was guilty of gross inconsistency in bringing his Motion forward after having voted with the Government on the Amendment of the hon. Member for King's County (Sir Patrick O'Brien). He could see no inconsistency in that. He supported Her Majesty's Government, because he agreed with them in thinking that the country would be faithless to her obligations if she precipitately retired from the Gold Coast; but he supported the Government, with the hope that they would remain for the present on the Coast to do their duty, and not to shirk it; to discharge all their responsibilities, and not merely to claim their rights; to maintain the honour of their flag, and not to tarnish it by tampering with the system of slavery which existed on the Coast. He hoped to be able to show that, whether they looked to the merits of the case, or to the tone adopted by the Government in the enunciations made on the subject, there was ample cause for passing such a Resolution as the one he now proposed. The hon. Member for the City of York (Mr. J. Lowther), who represented the Colonial Office in that House, had on two occasions spoken upon this subject with brevity, but at the same time with great ability; and he (Mr. Evelyn Ashley) might remark, in passing, that he could have been satisfied with a little less ability if there had been more distinctness of purpose about the utterances. On the first occasion the hon. Gentleman, when alluding to those hon. Members of the House, and persons outside it who expressed themselves strongly to the effect, that some marked step ought to be taken for the abolition of slavery, applied to them the phrase "mawkish philanthropists." The hon. Member was, no doubt, 609 speaking for himself, and if he regretted the expression soon after it was used, it was the more incumbent upon him to take the first opportunity, which offered, in order to give a distinct intimation that what he had previously said was a slip of the tongue, and was neither his own conviction, nor the conviction of the Government. But he appealed to the House to say whether the hon. Member had given them any such consolation. In the few words the hon. Member addressed to the House, he dealt with the question in an evasive manner, and drew almost all his weapons of defence from the armoury of non possumus—non possumus for a strong Government!—non possumus which had been, rightly or wrongly, often supposed to communicate by a secret door with nolumus. One of his objects in putting his Motion on the Paper was, that foreign countries might hear from the Treasury Bench something to lead them to suppose that when Her Majesty's Government said—"We are not able" they did not really mean—"We are not willing." The Resolution was an abstract Resolution, and he knew the objection entertained by the House to Motions of the kind; but he had always understood that the objection was based on the opinion that those who supported them were bound to a course of conduct which when the time for action came, might be found inexpedient or, at any rate, difficult to carry out. With regard to this Resolution, would any hon. Member object to being committed to the declaration, that no government for the territories of the Gold Coast would be satisfactory which involved the recognition of slavery in any form? There was not only no danger in pledging themselves to that, but everything demanded that they should do so; so that surely nothing of the kind could be alleged against that Resolution. The Under Secretary for the Colonies had said there was no recognition of slavery in the administrative scheme which the Government were about to carry out. If that were the case, then that Resolution would not hamper them, but would only declare to the whole world, that they were determined to have nothing to do with the institution of slavery. He wished to point out that whatever had been the state of things in the past, they were now taking an entirely new departure 610 in regard to the question, and in doing so he would briefly describe the position under which the Government lay. After emerging from a most successful war, we were about to re-organize the whole of that country, to define and extend its territorial jurisdiction, to unite to the dominion of Cape Coast Castle, Lagos, a Crown colony, where slavery was not tolerated. Therefore, they were about to introduce into a hybrid Protectorate a territory where slavery was not tolerated, and place it side by side with a territory where slavery was tolerated. Since the late Ashantee War, England on the Gold Coast was in a very analogous position to that of a new Ministry returned with a powerful majority after an appeal to the country, and on whom it was incumbent to have a decided policy. By our successful campaign we had so established our prestige on that Coast, that we could do what we liked; we might now abolish slavery if we chose, but next year, or the year after, we might not be able to do so. And when the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary told them he was for gradual emancipation, he heartily agreed with him; but he did not believe in the gradual without gradation; he did not believe in the gradual, unless he knew what the first step was. The speech made in "another place" by the noble Earl at the head of the Colonial Office (the Earl of Carnarvon) was admirable in tone and right in sentiment; but the House must not be satisfied with mere expressions of sentiment and right feeling. Let the Government clearly state what their first step was to be. Were they to forbid the bringing of slaves from Ashantee to the Gold Coast? Were the slaves to be free henceforth, or was some date to be fixed for the purpose; or were the Judges no longer to be employed to enforce the Slave Laws backed by the power of England? Upon these points, the House was utterly in the dark, and it would not be satisfied with any expression of sentiment which did not shadow forth some stop to be taken. He did not deny that there had been forms of slavery far worse than that existing at present on the Gold Coast. The influence of the "judicial assessors" had greatly modified the cruelty and severity of the earlier forms of slavery; but he unhesitatingly asserted that 611 slavery did exist at present on the Gold Coast to all intents and purposes, as far as principle was concerned, as liable to condemnation as that which we spent £20,000,000 in 1833 to get rid of in the West Indies. The reports from those who had visited that country showed that there was open barter and sale, recapture under English authority, and that although there was no slave trade by sea to those stations on the West African Coast, there was a large trade of that kind from the interior; and there was no distinction in principle between such a traffic carried on by water and one carried on by land, nor did he believe there was much difference in the sufferings entailed. Slavery degraded the whole social system of African life, and rendered the introduction of civilized influences more difficult than it otherwise would be. When those statements were laid before the Earl of Carnarvon, by the Aboriginal Protection Society, he refused to believe them, and replied that there must be some misapprehension of fact in the matter. It was, however, confirmed by a despatch of Sir Richard Macdonnell. He did not wish when treating of this matter to indulge in anything of a sensational character; but he might mention, that when the Houssas were leaving Cape Coast some women, who had been slaves, accompanied them, but were reclaimed by their mistresses, and he was sorry to say that the judicial assessor acknowledged the validity of the claim, and sent them back to slavery. It was true that they were not claimed as slaves, but upon the charge of having stolen the clothes which they wore. As they could not well escape in a state of nakedness, there was no easier charge to bring against them than that of stealing wearing apparel, and thus their chances of escape from bondage were considerably lessened. He might add that it was stated that the women went back of their own accord, upon the persuasion of the judicial assessor; but whether that were so or not, they had this fact—that an English Judge had been employed in restoring to slavery two women who had escaped. By tolerating that system of slavery on the Gold Coast we were raising up for ourselves very great practical difficulty, and independently of the feeling of humanity, it involved other considerations. Captain Glover, in one of his despatches 612 to Sir Garnet Wolseley, said, that finding slavery a recognized institution in the Protectorate, he had been obliged to pay £5 for every Houssa he enlisted when raising troops to defend the Settlement from the attacks of the Ashantees where any claim was made by the master. In one case, too, one of his recruits came in with a staple on his leg, and with the marks of irons on his arms and wrists. He also said he considered it a subject for future consideration and settlement by Her Majesty's Government. That was his own (Mr. Ashley's) opinion; and he wanted to know whether Her Majesty's Government had considered it and resolved on some settlement of the question. In reply to Captain Glover's despatch, Lord Kimberley said that while making every allowance for the difficulty of the situation, he could not authorize any further payments. He would be glad to learn from the hon. Member for York (Mr. J. Lowther) whether the Government intended to pay £5 for each of the 1,100 Houssas they intended to keep on the Coast. Why, the Gold Coast Corps which existed some years ago was abandoned, because the Duke of Newcastle would not consent to recognize slavery by buying the men from their masters. The circumstances of the case showed that there was not a moment to be lost in taking advantage of the existing state of things with the view of terminating slavery on the Gold Coast, whether on the ground of humanity, reason, or common sense. The internal traffic in slaves brought from the Ashantee country which had ceased during the war, had been renewed and directly encouraged by the action of our arms; and he could not impress too strongly on the House that the present was a new point of departure, and that we were in an exceptionally favourable position for bringing the traffic to an end. The present Government, too, were for another reason better able to deal effectively with this question than their Predecessors. Until the late war, the people of this country knew little about the affairs of the Coast; but with the knowledge they had now obtained, they would willingly applaud and support any efforts which the Government might make for the rescue of these slaves. There was no question in this matter about spending a million sterling, for 613 the population was only 250,000, and when they remembered that the best slaves cost only £5, they might be sure that the extreme sum required would not exceed £100,000. But there was in reality no necessity for spending any money at all. All that was required was, that no English Judge should be permitted to enforce the law for the recovery of slaves, and that no slaves should be allowed to be brought from the interior and to be sold at Cape Coast. When that was done, slavery would soon cease without any disturbance of social arrangements; but let that course be delayed, or let us trust to a gradual decay of the traffic, and we should soon find that the work of liberation would not be so easy, as the slaves would, under the increasing prosperity of the country, become fifty times more valuable, being employed to a large extent in making of roads, and in the cultivation of the land, and their emancipation could not then be accomplished, as it could now, without social disturbance. Let us take time by the forelock, and get rid once for all of this detestable incubus. The Chiefs had, meanwhile, forfeited their claims to consideration, and we were free to deal with them as we liked. Lord Kimberley, in a despatch to Sir Garnet Wolsoley, said that the native Kings had conducted themselves so badly, that Her Majesty's Government would not feel themselves bound to consult them in future arrangements, and would place the affairs of the Gold Coast on such a footing as they might deem best. He ventured to suggest to Her Majesty's Government that that footing should comprise the abolition of slavery. When the hon. Member for the City of York told the House that there were great difficulties in the way, it should be remembered that even in connection with affairs on the Gold Coast, we had overcome greater difficulties still, for when we first went to the Gold Coast, human sacrifices were as frequent and general as they now were at Coomassie. Those sacrifices we abolished by a single stroke of the pen. He had been taunted good-hu-mouredly by some of his hon. Friends on the other side, with having abandoned the principles of the great statesman with whom he had been so long associated, and with having allied himself to those whom his hon. Friends 614 called "anarchical revolutionists." But he would ask in reply, whether there was any doubt on which side Lord Palmerston would have recorded his vote, if this Resolution had been proposed in his presence? In some eloquent words which he used on that subject, that statesman said there were no people so unfortunate or so forlorn that they did not turn a look of hope towards England; and that he knew no other nation ready to take our place—what he asked was, whether we were now about to abandon our place in the world? What he desired was, that the Government on the Gold Coast should be real and substantial. In reality, however, we had a Crown Colony there in everything but the name, and it was only called a Protectorate in order that slavery might not cease. The general character of this country depended upon the course which we pursued in relation to this question; and Russia, whom we had been in the habit of considering inferior to ourselves in civilization, had within the last few months set us an example for imitation. The first thing the Emperor of Russia did after the capture of Khiva was to call upon the Khan to emancipate every slave in his dominions. He did not trust to the influence of time and of increasing civilization, but declared at once that slavery would not be tolerated in any place where his power was known. The result was, a decree in which the Khan emancipated every slave of whatever description. With regard to Egypt, there had not till this time been any official announcement of the freedom of the slaves in that country; but he held in his hand a project for their emancipation, which though not strictly an official paper, had been published in an Alexandrian journal, Le Nil, and it was known that nothing was allowed in Egypt to appear without official leave. With these two examples before them, were they to hold back their hand, and wait and think, and not act at once? How should we answer the Sultan of Zanzibar if, on our putting pressure upon him for the purpose of having slavery suppressed, he said to us, "It is all very well to ask me to do this, because I am on the East Coast; but you yourselves have slavery on the West Coast, and your Judges sit there restoring the slaves to their masters." He challenged Her 615 Majesty's Government to name a single dependency of the British Crown in which slavery in any form was tolerated. Now, however, it was proposed to make one exception, but he saw no reason for such a course of procedure. Having gone so far up the hill, were we to begin now to retrace our steps? The course which they proposed to pursue with regard to the Gold Coast amounted to a distinct recognition of the continuance of slavery by this country. It was a case in which the credit of England was involved, and for his own part he had sooner we abandoned the Gold Coast altogether, than continue to recognize the slave trade within the territory under our protection. So long ago as the reign of Queen Elizabeth the Judges of the land came to a solemn decision that the air of England was too pure for a slave to breathe, and if we could not clear the physical atmosphere of the Gold Coast and make it as pure as our own, we might, at all events, in respect of slavery, clear the moral atmosphere. He trusted Her Majesty's Government would bring forward some distinct plan whereby we should get rid in that territory of an institution which was both injurious to man and foreign to our religion, and which had been condemned by our fathers.—The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, no arrangements for the government of the territories on the Gold Coast will be satisfactory which involve the recognition of slavery in any form,"—(Mr. Ashley,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he desired at once to refer to a particular part of the speech of the hon. and learned Member. Two speeches which, with the indulgence of the House, he had delivered, had been discussed by the hon. and learned Gentleman, who had remarked, with regard to them, that they possessed one characteristic in common—namely, great brevity. Now, brevity was the soul of wit, and in listening to the hon. and learned Member he really began to hope that he had himself been 616 brief; but he was sorry to be reminded of the fact that his first speech occupied no less than 35 minutes. [Mr. EVELYN ASHLEY remarked that he had referred only to the remarks about slavery.] He had understood the observation in a more general sense. There was another word which the hon. and learned Member had used with regard to the second speech. He had spoken of it as evasive. This was a more serious charge than that of brevity, and he thought the House would grant him some indulgence, while he ventured to recall to their minds what he really had said on the occasion in question with respect to slavery. He fully acquitted the hon. and learned Gentleman of the slightest wish to misrepresent him, and did so all the more readily because the hon. and learned Member was among those who had been fortunate enough to escape the infliction of hearing either of the speeches delivered. He had taken the precaution of refreshing his memory as to what he had said, by a reference to a remarkably accurate report of the debate of last Thursday, which appeared in a journal to which they were constantly in the habit of referring for authentic records of their proceedings. In the course of his speech on that occasion, he said—in the words of that report—Unhappily, domestic slavery was an institution on the Gold Coast. Some hon. Members would say it was the easiest thing in the world to put down that or any other institution. He regretted that many who on other subjects were rational and reasonable, apparently lost all self-possession and practical sagacity on the subject of slavery, and diminished the value of their counsels by laying down crude theories which would not stand the test of experience. If we were to insist on the total and immediate abolition of slavery on the Gold Coast, the Government must ask, not for £35,000, but for a sum in excess of the cost of the war against the King of Ashantee—they must ask for something like a million either to compensate the owners of the slaves or to maintain troops for carrying on another war. It would be perfectly impossible to put down an institution like this, which had taken so firm a hold upon the minds and habits of the people, without a largo occupying force and comprehensive measures of repression. In reply to those who said we should not consider any of these questions in dealing with a matter of principle, he would say he would not advocate any attempt to repeat in West Africa an experiment which had been tried not many thousand miles from the House, in governing one country according to the ideas of that country when they ran counter, not only to the ideas of the majority of the people of the United Kingdom, but also to the first and elementary prince- 617 ples of right and justice. He would not advocate the government of the Gold Coast according to Ashantee ideas; but it must he manifest no statesman would be justified in attempting to carry out preconceived ideas and theories, however just and sound, when they ran counter to every conceivable idea which had entered into the minds of the natives they were called upon to rule. Therefore, the Government proposed to seek the gradual—he hoped he should not be understood to mean the tardy—abolition of domestic slavery. It must be understood that this was a question in reference to which time and the officers proposed to be sent out must have the opportunity of making an impression upon the feelings, prejudices, and ideas of the natives, and the House must not expect that it could be settled in a day."—[The Times, June 26.]He appealed to the House to say whether these observations could fairly be characterized as either brief or evasive? Now, what were the comments passed upon that speech by hon. Gentlemen who, less fortunate than the hon. and learned Member for Poole, sat there for the three-quarters of an hour during which it was his painful duty to inflict his remarks upon the House? He would classify those hon. Gentlemen under two categories—namely, the official and the non-official, including in the former those who had been Members of the late Government. Dealing first with the non-official, he would point out that his hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury) had in no way misunderstood what he said on the subject of slavery. The same remark applied to the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. J. Holms), who criticized, at once with great fairness and freedom, many portions of the scheme which was submitted to the House. The hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) represented the Vote, no doubt, as one to enable Her Majesty's Government to establish slavery in Africa; but in fairness, it must be added that the hon. Baronet declared almost in the same breath that champagne and civilization were convertible terms, and he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) joined in the merriment which these announcements very naturally called forth. The hon. Member further said that it was all very well to speak of "domestic slavery," but that the character of slavery could not be changed by the selection of an adjective for the purpose of qualifying it. To this point he (Mr. Lowther) would have occasion to refer at a later period. Meanwhile, he desired only to point out that the hon. Baronet had not put the same construc- 618 tion upon his observations with regard to slavery as hon. Gentlemen who, like the hon. and learned Member for Poole, had not heard him. The right hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman), on the same occasion, discussed the policy of the Government, and referred to his (Mr. Lowther's) own humble exertions to place the matter properly before the House, in terms for which he took this opportunity of sincerely thanking him. No misconception crossed the mind of the right hon. Gentleman as to the policy of the Government with regard to slavery. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. M'Arthur), who was well known as a leading and most respected member of the Anti-Slavery Society and the Aborigines Protection Society, and of many others which aimed at philanthropic objects, not only expressed the opinion that the communication which had been made to the House on the part of the Government was eminently satisfactory—an opinion which, coming from such an authority, must be heard with respect—but read passages which he had received from friends who, equally with himself, took a prominent interest in such subjects, and who distinctly expressed approval of the proposed gradual suppression of slavery. As to the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. T. E. Smith), who like the hon. and learned Member for Poole, had been fortunate enough to be engaged elsewhere at the time he (Mr. Lowther) was addressing the House, all that need be said was, that, like others who followed him, he did not understand a speech he had not heard. He would not detain the House with further references to what had fallen from non-official Members. Coming to the other category, he would allude to the remarks which had proceeded from the front bench opposite. The right hon. Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), in a very candid speech, expressed on behalf of the late Administration, approval of the policy which it was proposed to pursue on the Gold Coast. What followed the speech of the right hon. Gentleman? There then occurred a scene of a kind which till the present Session had been unprecedented. During the course of this Session, however, whenever a right hon. Gentleman had risen in his place on the front bench opposite, and expressed a strong opinion in favour of one course of 619 action, he was followed, as a natural consequence, by another right hon. Gentleman on the same bench, who, in the exercise of his liberty of thought, expressed an opinion directly opposite. Under the circumstances, it was, perhaps, not surprising that on the occasion to which he was referring, a right hon. Gentleman, although sitting beside the late Under Secretary for the Colonies, found it impossible to agree with him. But there were peculiar circumstances, of which it was right to remind the House, with regard to the speech of the late Under Secretary. The House would recollect that while the speech it had been his (Mr. Lowther's) duty to make the other night, was to a great extent, in its essential features, a reproduction of a statement that had been made in "another place" by his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the approbation expressed by the right hon. Member for Sandwich of the policy of the Government, was a reproduction to an equal extent of a speech delivered in "another place" by the noble Earl the late Secretary of State for the Colonies. The speech of the late Under Secretary was, in fact, a re-echo of the approbation accorded to the policy of Government by Lord Kimberley. Well, what followed upon this? Why, up rose the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), in his capacity as one of the Commissioners for executing the office of Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, and without a word of apology, or a word of explanation, he proceeded to throw over his brother Commissioner and to throw over his late Colleague, Lord Kimberley. [Mr. GOSCHEN: Nothing of the kind.] Although the right hon. Gentleman had not heard his (Mr. Lowther's) speech, he had heard that of his hon. Colleague, in which he expressed general approval of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, reserving to himself the right of subsequent criticism. [Mr. GOSCHEN: Read mine.] He had not been able to avail himself of any authentic record of the right hon. Gentleman's speech; but this he knew, that the right hon. Gentleman took him to task for having used the term "domestic slavery," and he added that the subject was one which he thought had not been fully considered by Her Majesty's Government. His right hon. Friend the Member for Sand- 620 wich distinctly referred to domestic slavery, and did not disapprove the statement referred to. [Mr. KNATCH-BULL-HUGESSEN: I did not hoar that part of the speech.] The right hon. Gentleman was apparently one of the fortunate ones. However, his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City charged him with inventing the term, and with having applied it as a convenient adjective to describe a system which he did not sufficiently condemn. That fact rendered it necessary for him to briefly call attention to the past history of the question. There appeared, he should first say, to be some confusion throughout the speeches of the hon. and learned Member for Poole and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City, between the system which prevailed in ports under the British flag and in the adjacent districts. The distinction could not be too definitely drawn. In their Report the Committee which sat in 1842 on the West African Settlements said—It is to be remembered that our compulsory authority is strictly limited, both by our title and by the instructions of the Colonial Office to the British Forts, within which no one but the Governor, his suite, and the garrison reside, and that the magistrates are strictly prohibited from exercising jurisdiction even over the natives and districts immediately under the influence and protection of the forts. All jurisdiction over the natives beyond that point must, therefore, be considered as optional.They went on to say—Their relation to the English Crown should be not the allegiance of subjects, to which we have no right to pretend and which it would entail an inconvenient responsibility to possess, but the deference of weaker Powers to a stronger and more enlightened neighbour, whose protection and counsel they seek, and to whom they are bound by certain definite obligations.And again—In this arrangement we should find the solution of our difficulty in regard to domestic slavery.That was written in 1842, when he was about a year and a half old, and he was therefore a little astonished to find the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City had so little studied the subject as to think that he was entitled to claim the authorship of the phrase in question.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I never suggested it. I did suggest that the hon. Member 621 did not distinguish between the two points.
§ SIR WLLFRID LAWSON
I never charged the hon. Gentleman with being the author of the phrase. I only charged him with using an adjective to explain the system.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
only desired to show that he was not the author of the phrase and was not responsible for describing the system as domestic slavery. He would now call attention to a despatch written in July of the year 1841 by a noble Lord, whose opinion was always received with the utmost respect at both sides of the House, and whose authority naturally had great weight with hon. Gentlemen opposite. Lord John Russell, in a Despatch dated the 14th of July, 1841, to Governor Maclean, said—Her Majesty's dominion on the Coast is, as I understand, of very narrow local range. If I am correctly informed, it extends only to the forts themselves. Whatever influence Great Britain may exercise beyond those precincts, my supposition is that beyond the very walls of the forts there is no sovereignty, properly speaking, vested in the British Crown, but that the whole adjacent country is subject to the dominion of the native Powers. My information on this subject may be defective or erroneous; but if I am rightly informed respecting it, it follows that within the fort of Cape Coast Castle a different rule of law regarding slavery may prevail from that which exists beyond those limits. Within them the Statute 3 and 4 William IV., cap. 73, is unquestionably in force. Beyond them it is not so.…. With regard to persons living in the vicinity but not within the British dominion, the same rule does not apply. If the laws or usages of those countries tolerate slavery, we have no right to set aside those laws or usages except by persuasion, negotiation, and other peaceful means.Such was the opinion of Lord John Russell. He now came to a more recent period, as to which he could claim to have personal knowledge, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite could assist him by verifying what he was about to say. On the 3rd of February, 1866, Lord Cardwell, who was then Secretary for the Colonies—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) occupying the position of Under Secretary, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London being then a Member of the Cabinet—wrote a Despatch to Governor Blackall, in which he said—But there is a serious question which has been pending since our occupation of Lagos, which your appointment as Governor and Com- 622 mander-in-Chief over the West African Settlements will, I hope, enable you to bring to a close—namely, the existence of domestic slavery in British territory, and the grant of compensation for the liberation of slaves. I need scarcely remark that this state of things is inconsistent with the provisions of the Imperial Act, which has made all the Queen's dominions free soil; and I am fully aware of the extreme difficulty which a Governor must encounter in having to assume the control of a territory under British jurisdiction in which domestic slavery, as in every part of Africa, is a constituent clement in the fabric of society.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he would remind the hon. Gentleman that he had left out an important line in the middle of a passage in the Despatch.
§ MR. LOWTHER
said, he did not pretend to read the whole Despatch, but he was ready to do so if the right hon. Gentleman so desired.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that it would be sufficient if the hon. Gentleman would read the passage to the House completely, to which he had referred.
§ MR. LOWTHER
then read the passage referred to, supplementing his previous omission thus—The Imperial Act of the 3rd and 4th William IV., c. 73, which has made all the Queen's dominions free soil, and by which every person in Lagos has been free since the occupation.He had complied with the request of the right hon. Gentleman, and was willing to read more Despatches, if the right hon. Gentleman desired it. He had read for the sake of brevity, and had only troubled the House with what he deemed essential. Passing over some eight or ten paragraphs in the Despatch, he came now to the concluding portion of it. Lord Cardwell then said—But the readiest and most effectual way of escaping from all these embarrassments is to confine British territory within the smallest compass which may be practicable; and if it should be found that British law cannot be fully established in the island of Lagos, and in the towns occupied by us, we must confine the area of British territory, as at the Gold Coast, to the land occupied by the Government buildings, constituting the rest of the territory acquired from Docemo, a Protectorate where our influence could be used to soften and gradually destroy slavery, without our authority being called on to abolish it.Those were the views of Lord Cardwell at that time; and before he (Mr. J. Lowther) left the subject of the opinion of former Governments, he would like to draw the attention of the House to a very brief extract from a Despatch of 623 the Earl of Kimberley. In a Despatch dated the 12th of January, 1872, Lord Kimberley said—The position of the British Government in the Protectorate is that of influence over people who are not British subjects; and while every means should be taken to induce the natives to desist from such practices as those reported by the Acting Administrator, it does not appear to me that it is advisable to interfere by direct legislation.He (Mr. J. Lowther) hoped he had made clear to the House that the distinction which Her Majesty's Government had drawn between bonâ fide British territory, where slavery never had and never would be allowed to exist, and territory which was commonly called the Protectorate, was simply that which had been fully recognized by the late Government, and he must say that if any other course ought to be adopted with regard to our relations with West Africa, the time for making suggestions on the subject might well be said to have passed. He should like also to remind the House that at the termination of the late War, there were four courses which presented themselves to the Government with reference to this territory. The first course was the abandonment both of the Coast towns and the Protectorate. The second was the retention of possessions on the Coast, combined with the abandonment of the Protectorate. The third was the extension of what he might call bonâ fide territory, through what had hitherto been known as the Protectorate. That was a policy which had been described as the establishment of an African empire. The fourth was the course which Her Majesty's Government had continued to follow—namely, the retention of the Coast towns as bonâ fide British territory, tempered with the exercise of a Protectorate over certain portions of the interior. As to the first course, it was very fairly and ably advocated by the hon. Member for Hackney and the hon. Member for Carlisle, but that proposition did not elicit approbation from any considerable section of the House, and there was no division upon it. As to the second course—namely, the retention of the Coast towns, but an abandonment of the Protectorate—that would be found to be equally as impossible as the first course, because its adoption would involve us in a direct breach of faith with the tribes with whom we had entered into relations 624 during the late war. As to the third course—namely, the establishment of the British Empire throughout the whole of the Protectorate—that plan was never seriously discussed by any public writer, or by anybody inside or outside the Houses of Parliament, and he thought it was entirely visionary. What remained was simply the plan which Her Majesty's Government had adopted and recommended to Parliament—namely, the continuance of the Protectorate, with the introduction of such reforms, alterations, and modifications as recent experience dictated. As to the criticism of the hon. and learned Member for Poole upon one of his (Mr. J. Lowther's) speeches, which the hon. and learned Gentleman admitted he did not hear, and in which he complained of the use of the words "mawkish philanthropy" as applied to those who were opposed to the continuance of slavery, the remarks in question were not applied to those who wished to put down the institution of slavery, but were made in consequence of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle saying that the Government would be soon coming down to ask for a Vote to enable them to penetrate all the strongholds of Satan on the African Continent. He had replied that the Government had no intention of asking for a Vote for any such purpose, and would not be guided by any sentiments of mawkish philanthropy. As to a further criticism with regard to the Assessors' Courts, he would not attempt to justify the system which had been in force in respect to those Courts, and for which the late Government must be held to be responsible. He had said, on the contrary, that one of their first endeavours would be the reform of the judicial arrangements in the Settlements, among which the reform of the Assessors' Courts would take a foremost place. They intended, however, that the reform of an intricate system should be preceded by a judicious inquiry, and without pledging himself to the form which the new judicial system would assume, he could assure the House that this subject had not been overlooked, and that it was the intention of the Government, as soon as they could obtain the necessary Report on which to found their action, to establish such a new system for the administration of the law, as should afford protection from a 625 recurrence of the abuse which had been pointed out in that debate. In conclusion, he had only to say, that in those statements with regard to domestic slavery, which was the question more particularly before the House on that occasion, Her Majesty's Government had been, still was, and still would be, most anxious to determine how this great question would be met; and that it was impossible for any hon. Member of that House to be more impressed than were the Secretary of State and himself with the necessity of providing an early remedy that would remove so great a curse from the African Settlements.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, who had addressed the House in a most able, amusing, and good-tempered speech, had alluded to the debate or last Thursday, and it was, therefore, necessary briefly to follow him into that part of the question. He hoped, however, the House would not lose sight of the very important nature of the Amendment before it, by discussing the relative conduct of hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House. With regard to himself, he entirely denied—and he hoped the hon. Member would accept his denial—that there was any difference of opinion between his right hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) and himself. They both approved the policy of the Government in remaining on the Gold Coast, and he (Mr. Goschen) had a right to complain that the hon. Member did not quote any part of his speech. [Mr. J. LOWTHER said he was unable to obtain a copy of the speech.] The newspapers were at the disposal of the hon. Member, and in every one of them both himself and his right hon. Friend were reported to have expressed a general approval of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in reference to the question. It was, therefore, unfair to say that any difference of opinion existed between himself and his right hon. Friend, who both warned the Government in almost the same terms with regard to the question of slavery. The hon. Gentleman had also stated that when the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. M'Arthur) spoke on the question of slavery, he ought to be heard with respect; but it was matter of fact that on Thursday evening the hon. Member was refused a hearing by 626 Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. It was on account of the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite and of the mode in which the question of slavery was regarded by the House generally, that he warned the Government that the question was too important to be slurred over. He thought the Government, instead of being offended, ought to be glad that another opportunity had been afforded them of ascertaining the views of the House upon the question; and the House ought also to be glad that on the present occasion they had heard more with regard to the administration of the Gold Coast than had previously been laid before Parliament. They had learnt for the first time that Her Majesty's Government intended to continue the Protectorate upon the same footing as hitherto, our possessions being limited to the Forts. He did not entirely endorse the emphatic statement of his hon. and learned friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Ashley) that the existence of the Protectorate enabled domestic slavery to be continued, and that it would cease under a different form of government; but on this he wished to say that the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary was reading from a Despatch of Lord Card well's and omitted a line, no doubt unintentionally, but which stated the effect of the annexation of Lagos—namely, that every slave had ipso facto become free; and that had an important bearing on the question they were discussing. When the Government of Lagos was assumed, that occurred which the hon. and learned Member for Poole now desired should happen, the cessation of slavery there. The House would see, therefore, that the closest and most exact distinction must be drawn between the relations of England with parts of the country which had become her "possessions," and what was called the Protectorate; and it must also be remembered that Lagos was a British possession and was not in the position of a Protectorate. Taken as a whole, then, the changes to be effected seemed to be separation from Sierra Leone, union between the Gold Coast Settlement and Lagos, a transfer of the capital to another place, the substitution of Houssa police for the present force, and certain judicial reforms. With regard to the latter point, he should like to know 627 whether the Government intended to accept in its integrity, a memorandum made in 1857, with reference to Cape Coast Castle, which stated that no Judicial Assessors should, on any account whatever, compel or order a slave to return to his master; that on cruelty being proved against a master, the slave should become free; and that in other cases the Court should decline to adjudicate. It was important that this debate should have taken place, if for no other reason, at least for this—that Her Majesty's Government should disavow the argument which had been put forward by their Representatives both in that House and "another place," that the question of slavery could not be dealt with on account of the millions of money which would be involved in its abolition. If it was made a question of money, any Government which took the line of argument to which he had alluded would be distinctly falsifying all that had ever been said or done by England in reference to this question. The question was no doubt a difficult one, but greater difficulties had been overcome in connection with the question of slavery in other quarters, and England would be unable, with any hope of success, to continue her campaign against slavery, if her Government argued the question of slavery on the Gold Coast on monetary grounds. What would our Mahometan subjects say, who had been taught that slavery could not be continued, if we shrunk from applying to this part of the Gold Coast the doctrine which we had held elsewhere? Despatches had been quoted, written in 1842, 1856, and in 1862; but he would ask the House, whether there was not a great difference between our position then and that in which we stood after the conclusion of the Ashantee War? Was not that a time for us to make a new start? When the Government came down with a new policy and laid it before Parliament and the country, was not this precisely the time to look the question in the face? Domestic slavery was, after all, only a modified form of that hateful traffic which was repugnant to the feeling of this country; and however hard it might be to deal with the difficulties involved, he considered that the Government were now placed in such a position that they could suppress the slave trade effectually. If they intended to do so, he thought that 628 they should give the House some more definite information as to their policy than had yet been given. To say that that modification deprived it of a great portion of the horrors and atrocities accompanying that traffic, and that we might do more harm than good by its abolition, was an argument that it was impossible to urge in that House. Such an argument could not be used, because it was inconsistent with the doctrines we had been urging on other Powers for so many years past. Foreign countries were not always disposed to believe in the philanthropic sincerity of Great Britain, and you could not converse with any one on the Continent who did not believe there was an immense amount of insincerity and humbug in the views England had taken upon this question. In fact, the opinion prevailed in many parts of the world, that it was only when our own interests were involved that we called upon other countries to make great sacrifices, and to place themselves in the most inconvenient positions in order to do away with slavery. What, then, would those countries say when they saw that the Colonial Minister talked of the gradual abolition of slavery and said that it would cost a great deal of money? Now, we had a new start, and he thought the House might assist the Government in coming to a right decision. If the course proposed by the hon. Gentleman opposite were adopted, and if the local officers were consulted, the answers would be to the effect that the difficulties were so insuperable that the thing could not be done; but if the House of Commons backed up the Government and said that the question ought to be dealt with at the present time, the task of the Government would be enormously lightened. It was not for hon. Members on that side of the House to state the precise line which her Majesty's Government should take, but they were entitled to ask for an assurance from Her Majesty's Government that no steps would be taken which, in the words of the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Poole, involved a recognition of slavery in any form. If the Government did not mean to make such recognition, let them accept the Resolution. If they did, they ought to let the House understand clearly, under what forms and conditions slavery was to continue to 629 exist in the Protectorate. Whatever course, however, the Government might adopt, the House ought first to know what change of arrangements the Government proposed, and then hon. Members would be able to come to a decision upon it. The Government would strengthen its own hands if it adopted the Motion proposed by his hon. and learned Friend, for in what he had said there was no hostility whatever to the Government, which had a most difficult task to perform. He believed, however, they would secure the support of the country in carrying out their proposals on the Gold Coast if they frankly recognized the great importance of this subject,—if they did not endeavour to slur it over by indistinct utterances, and if they placed before the country a policy which was sound and straightforward.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, if the Government complained at all of the course taken by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite it was not on the ground of their acting in a spirit of hostility towards the Government. In the first place the Government had no reason to believe that that was the case, and in the second, they fully recognized that in a matter of this importance the question of hostility to the Government ought to be as nothing in the eyes of those who came forward to support a cause in which—as the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat clown said, and said truly—the honour and character of England were so deeply interested. But what the Government did complain of, and what they thought they had reason to complain of, was that, considering the importance of the case and how much there was at stake, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City and the hon. and learned Member for Poole made proposals which indicated that they had taken but a cursory and imperfect view of the real state of affairs. As for the hon. and learned Member for Poole, he had but recently entered the House, and therefore he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) should not so much complain of him; but he was supported and followed by a right hon. Gentleman—and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would forgive him for saying so—who ought to have known better the real state of the case. When the discussion was raised, the first question one asked oneself was "What is pre- 630 cisely the object with which this Amendment is brought forward?" If the hon. and learned Member for Poole, bearing an honoured name, and having every right to take an interest in such a matter, had been told by those who had been attending to the subject, that the question of the policy of England in relation to slavery was raised, and that it seemed as though England were going back a step in the great career in which she had achieved so much honour, anyone could understand why the hon. and learned Gentleman should state in indignant terms that the House of Commons and the country were opposed to any such backward step. Although he was surprised to find that the hon. and learned Gentleman thought it necessary to come forward on this occasion, yet, when he listened to his speech and noticed what were his ideas, he perceived how it was that the hon. and learned Gentleman imagined this question was one of importance. One of the earliest expressions he used was with reference to bringing Lagos into what he called "this hybrid Protectorate." The hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out that at that present moment Lagos was British territory, and that every man there was a freeman; and he seemed to think that by the new constitution, Lagos was about to be brought into a system in which they would be deprived of that freedom.
§ MR. EVELYN ASHLEY
said, what he intended to express was that it would be a parti-coloured Protectorate—half-free and half-slave.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
remarked that that was exactly the point on which the hon. and learned Gentleman entirely misunderstood the situation. No portion whatever of British territory formed or would form part of the Protectorate. The hon. and learned Gentleman had mixed up two things which ought to be kept distinct. There was, in the first place, the British territory—Cape Coast Castle, Lagos, and other Settlements on the Coast. In these freedom had prevailed since the passing of the Emancipation Act, and there it must by the law of England continue to prevail. There was no danger of that freedom being at all lessened. But what were we going to do in regard to the Protectorate? This was a difficult and delicate ques- 631 tion. We had had to deal with it for a great number of years, and as his hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies had pointed out, we had all along had great difficulties to contend with. Something had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City in qualification of his hon. Friend's remarks in regard to the Judicial Assessor, and certain instructions dating back to the year 1857 had been cited. He would refer the right hon. Gentleman to a later document, which he ought to be aware of, as it bore the date of 1873, when he himself was in office. The following extract was from a communication made to Sir Garnet Wolseley by Mr. James Marshall, Chief Magistrate and Judicial Assessor, in December, 1873:—One of the most important duties of the Judicial Assessor's Court since its foundation, and which has been constantly recognized in Committees of the House of Commons on West African affairs, has been the regulation, as far as has been possible, of the system of what is called domestic slavery, which exists among all the tribes which compose the British Protectorate. This duty involves the recognition and regulation of the rights of the masters as well as the protection of the servants.That was a state of the case which overrode the quotations of 1857; and what was the occasion of this statement being made? It was the occasion of a slave being taken away out of, he thought, a British ship, and taken back under the authority of the Judicial Assessor.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
explained that he did not allude to the Memorandum of 1857 as governing the relations between this country and the Gold Coast. What he asked was, whether the Government accepted the spirit embodied in that document.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that was the spirit in which Her Majesty's Government intended to deal with the question, and in which they announced that they intended to deal with it. If those who brought forward the Motion had said that the Government ought to take the Protectorate under their immediate control, turn it into a Crown Colony, and establish an African Empire, he could have understood their demand that slavery should be at once put down in the same way as it was effected in Trinidad, Jamaica, and the West Indies generally. But that was not the course which they 632 recommended the Government to take. They said, "Do something with regard to this matter," but they did not venture to suggest what should be done. They said that the Government were neglecting the subject, but he could assure the House that there was no foundation for such an assertion, and he could not understand how it could have been made after the statement that had been made by his noble Friend the other night in "another place." A few evenings ago the Under Secretary for the Colonies, in the debate which took place in an exceedingly thin House, in referring to this subject, had pointed out that it was unnecessary for him to travel over all the ground which had been gone over by Lord Carnarvon, because the statement of the noble Lord had been very widely circulated, and therefore those who took an interest in the question must be thoroughly acquainted with it. He should have thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City, who had taken so distinguished a part in this discussion, would really have thought it worth his while to read in some form or other the speech which had been delivered by the Secretary for the Colonies. [Mr. GOSCHEN said, that he had quoted a passage from that speech.] In that case, if the right hon. Gentleman had read the speech of the noble Lord at all, he must have done so with exceedingly little profit, because he had said that it had been announced for the first time in the debate of that evening that the Government thought that the old state of things as between the British Government and the Protectorate was to be continued. But the statement of Lord Carnarvon was as follows:—Your Lordships will see that Her Majesty's Government propose to retain, as far as territorial jurisdiction goes, the Protectorate pretty much as it stands. Committees of the House of Commons at different times have held different language as to the extent of territorial power which we exercise—and the Colonial Office, perhaps, has not been more consistent, but, on the whole, it seems to mc that though some increase is inevitable in order to carry out a more effective administration, the present limits of our territorial power should not be enlarged more than is absolutely necessary."—[3 Hansard, ccxix., 166–7.]The noble Lord expressed his views on the subject of slavery thus:—Nor is it possible in the consideration of this branch of the question to forget that domestic slavery exists. Slavery in any form is so utterly 633 repugnant to all our principles that it must be the object of a Minister as soon as he can to extinguish it. It is also a constant source of embarrassment; but though difficulties are brought about by native slavery, on the other hand, the difficulties involved in an immediate and compulsory emancipation of slaves would be still greater. Unless Parliament is prepared in such case to do that which is fair, to look upon the slave as property and vote a compensation—which probably would not be far short of £1,000,000 sterling—I hardly see how you can deal effectually and honestly with that subject; but if slavery were immediately abolished, the necessary results would be an increase of our obligations, our expenditure, and of the complications in these territories. I am bound to add that I believe the hardship to the slave has been largely and happily reduced. When Dr. Madden was sent out in 1841 by Lord John Russell, who was then Colonial Secretary, he reported that the slaves absolutely refused to be liberated unless the Government would undertake to provide food. This, of course, is not conclusive, but it shows at least how full of difficulties this question is. I would gladly lay down such rules as would pave the way to the ultimate, and, indeed, to the early extinction of slavery, but anything sweeping in the way of compulsory emancipation seems to me at this moment more calculated to enhance the difficulties with which we have to deal, and even to worsen the lot of the slave, than a gradual and cautious way of dealing with it."—[Ibid., 166.]
§ The question was not one of money; it was whether England should undertake a task which would tax her utmost energies to accomplish—a task in attempting to accomplish which she might very materially worsen the position of the slave and bring about great complications and difficulties, merely for the purpose of accomplishing that at a later date which the Government hoped to accomplish earlier by other means. The hon. and learned Member for Poole had referred to the great influence which England had exercised in putting an end to the atrocious human sacrifices and other inhuman customs on the Gold Coast, and it was by the exercise of similar influences that the Government hoped to extinguish slavery there. The subject was not one which Her Majesty's Government were neglecting, and those who sat on the Ministerial side of the House were not willing to concede to the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends opposite the monopoly which they claimed of hatred to slavery.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
was of opinion that there was but little to choose between the policies adopted by the two great parties in the House relative to those West African proceedings. Successive Committees of that 634 House had reported upon the subject; but neither party took action upon the Report of the Committee of 1864, presided over as it was by a Member of the present Government (Sir Charles Adderley). He (Sir Patrick O'Brien) agreed with the Under Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. J. Lowther) that the British public were not sufficiently instructed in the proceedings which had taken place for years past on the Gold Coast. Were the pigeon-holes of the Colonial Office emptied, and their contents disclosed to the people, a very different feeling would prevail regarding the course adopted by the Government. Through the courtesy of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Lowther), he was permitted to look over several documents in the Record Office connected with the Gold Coast, and, with the permission of the House, he would read an extract from a remarkable Paper written in 1843 by the then hon. Member for Weymouth (Mr. Hope), and then Under Secretary for the Colonies, upon this matter, in reply to Mr. Steven, an employé of the Colonial Office. He wrote—The Committee of Merchants, being established by despatch, may be abrogated by despatch. …. The judicial officer having to execute beyond the Queen's dominions justice not law, his jurisdiction does not require a legal basis—an Act of Parliament might render it legal within its local range of authority; but how to frame such an Act is, I suppose, an insoluble problem. We are about to make an usurpation which the goodness of our motives and the necessity of the case are to justify, and I suppose that such a justification would not be improved by an abortive attempt to give a semblance of law to that which is lawless. If the white Judge is fit for his employment, he will not be critical about his com mission. …. It would answer no good purpose to trouble Lord Stanley with an argument to prove that the recommendations of the Committee are wrong, not in details, but in their essence. …. Put to what end trouble you with a discussion of the nature of those African settlements to our commerce, or that their utility in preventing the slave trade is enormously exaggerated—that, in fact, they are nothing else than factories kept up at the expense of the nation at large for the profit of half-a-dozen inconsiderable merchants." &c.This was the opinion of one of our ablest Colonial Secretaries—that opinion had been upheld by subsequent Committees, all reporting against any intervention upon our part. The only administration which ever appeared to have succeeded was that of the British Merchant Committee, with Maclean as their 635 Administrator. At a cost of some £4,000 a year, they preserved peace and concord upon the Coast, whereas some years before, under the Governmental administration, the cost amounted to £27,000 per annum. For his part, he should have preferred having recourse to that factory system of the merchants which had proved to be calculated to preserve peace and order in Africa.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he wished to make a few observations on the speech of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Any question relating to slavery was one which came home to the honour of this country, and he believed there was on the present occasion a general desire on both sides of the House to be in perfect agreement with reference to it. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that he very much wondered that hon. Members sitting on the Opposition benches could in any way sanction the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Poole. The right hon. Gentleman himself, however, must, he thought, be rather glad that the Amendment had been moved, inasmuch as it had led the Under Secretary for the Colonies more clearly to describe the views entertained by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman could hardly be aware of the extent to which the House and the country were interested in the subject, and why, he would ask, under the circumstances, did the Government object to the Amendment? They might protest against such an Amendment being pressed upon them; but then, they could at once remove any difficulty wich might exist on that ground, by stating that in consequence of the fresh start which the late war had given us, there would for the future be no recognition of slavery in our West African Settlements under any form. He was aware of the difficulties which were connected with the question—difficulties which he was willing to admit the present had inherited from previous Governments. We had, however, gained great experience by the events of the late war, and all that the House now invited the Government to do was to take advantage of that experience, and not to think they were doing sufficient if they proceeded upon the old footing. There was one lesson, at all events, which we ought by this time to have learnt, and 636 that was that we should prevent any recognition of slavery. Of course, he was not unmindful of the difficulties which were connected with the question of the fugitive slave. Cases had come before the judicial assessor in which the question of property in the slave was involved, and with regard to the point, there was a regulation once made by an official on the Gold Coast, to the effect that in cases where cruelty existed slavery should be at once abolished; but where it was not exercised, things should remain as they were. It had, however, been found by almost every administrator of the Colony nearly impossible to carry out that regulation. That clearly showed, he thought, that we must now take bolder and higher ground, and declare positively that we should not recognize slavery in any country over which we exercised direct or indirect jurisdiction. Beyond that the Amendment did not go; and he believed Lord Carnarvon was as anxious to act upon the policy which it expressed as any hon. Member in that House. Why, then, should the Government hesitate to give his hon. Friend the assurances for which he asked? The Under Secretary for the Colonies, he might add, had alluded to a Despatch of Mr. Cardwell with respect to the state of affairs at Lagos. He (Mr. W. E. Forster) was a Member of the Committee which sat on the subject, and facts were laid before it which showed that there was a large number of slaves not only in the territory annexed to it, but in Lagos itself. Well, the Committee strongly recommended to the Government that an end should be put to that state of things, and Mr. Cardwell sent out a Despatch in which he stated that it was contrary to British Law that there should be any slaves in Lagos, and it was distinctly pointed out that we would give up no fugitive slave. Great difficulties were experienced in carrying out that policy, but there were now no slaves in Lagos. But our position on the Gold Coast was much stronger than it had ever been in that Colony, for we had entirely defeated our opponent on the Coast, and we had the fall right to make our own conditions. Nothing, therefore, could, in his opinion, be more reasonable, or, in an economical point of view, better for the country than that we should take advantage of the position in which we had been placed by the 637 late war, make a new start in the direction indicated by the Amendment, and loudly declare that under no conditions whatever would this country recognize or permit slavery, be it domestic or otherwise.
§ MR. DISRAELI
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken says the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Poole is one with respect to which both sides of the House are agreed. If he means by that, that throughout the House generally there is an unanimity of opinion that it is not only the duty, but the pride of this country to discourage slavery in every way and form possible, then I admit the right hon. Gentleman is right, and that there is an unanimity of opinion on both sides of the House. But when we are asked to accept a Resolution, it becomes necessary that we should examine its terms with somewhat of criticism. Now, I confess, when I read this Amendment, I am at a loss to find in it that precision of meaning which it is so desirable should exist when a Resolution is to be unanimously adopted. We are asked to declare—That, in the opinion of this House, no arrangements for the government of the territories on the Gold Coast will he satisfactory which involve the recognition of slavery in any form.Well, I should very much like to know what the word "recognition" means, and what it is upon which we are really asked to pronounce a decision. "Re-cognition" is a word so vague, so large, and so loose that it may mean anything or everything. And what are the circumstances under which the Amendment is moved? The House of Commons has by an overwhelming majority approved the policy of the Government with respect to the Gold Coast. It has voted the means of carrying that policy into effect. What is the state of the business at present? We are on the Report of that Vote, and now the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down asks what on earth is the reason why we object to the Amendment. Why, independent of my objection to the vagueness and indefiniteness of the language of it, the unsatisfactory engagements in which it would involve the country—if really the country has at heart, as I believe it has, the wish that slavery should be abolished even in those territories which are not included in the Gold Coast, 638 but where we necessarily exercise an influence—irrespective, I say, of those reasons, I have this objection to the Amendment—that if the House were to accept it, it would be assuming that the Government are not going to do that which the Amendment recommends. I object to it, because it is an obstacle to our receiving the Report of a Vote which has already been agreed to, and which we obtained for the purpose of carrying our policy into effect. If the Amendment be accepted, it will be an indication on the part of the House that it cannot trust us to pursue a course of policy which is in conformity with the general opinion of hon. Members on both sides. We have been told throughout this debate, that some critical circumstances have now occurred in regard to our position on the Gold Coast to give us a new starting point to put down slavery. But when the country has been just agitated by a war, and great excitement prevails, it does not seem to me to be a moment peculiarly fitted to inaugurate a new policy on the Gold Coast. The time when the late Government inaugurated their new policy, when they entered into those Treaties with the Dutch Government, when they accepted the Dutch Forts—that was the time when the late Government might have come forward and reviewed their position. The country was then at peace, and the Government might have facilitated and advanced their views. But to pretend now that we are in a new position appears to me to be a view which is not justified by the circumstances. The changes in our position are adverse to the policy which the House is asked to accept. No doubt, the state in which the country is now placed requires the most cautious and careful handling, but that was not the case when the late Government purchased, and took over those Forts and Settlements, and when they had an opportunity of introducing changes. I cannot do otherwise than advise the House to act with great caution at this moment. The suppression of slavery must be a common object on both sides of the House, and the question is, whether we shall proceed with caution, and by the means already pursued, or whether we shall have recourse to an act of violence. It comes to that. Let me read the House a passage from a Despatch which is upon the Table. It is 639 dated November 3, 1870, and is from Sir Arthur Kennedy, the Governor of Sierra Leone, and is addressed to Lord Kimberley. It was written at the time when we were taking over these Forts and Settlements from the Dutch. Sir Arthur Kennedy said—"That very mild institution, slavery, is curing itself daily, and any violent interference with it would be most disastrous." That was the advice of Sir Arthur Kennedy, an experienced and intelligent man, and it was advice upon which Lord Kimberley acted when the Government took over the Dutch Settlements and had the opportunity of introducing a new course of policy. The late Government being assured that slavery was curing itself daily, resolved that they would not have recourse to any violence. I trust that the House will not cancel that policy of the late Government, and that it will view this question as one requiring the utmost caution and management, and I also hope that the House will give to the present Government in their attempt to establish a new system of administration on the Gold Coast, that fair play and that fair chance to which they are entitled. I can say that the Government have given to this question many anxious hours. We have engaged the services of persons eminently qualified to carry our arrangements into effect, and we believe that there is a chance, with prudence, of rendering these Settlements advantageous and not dishonourable to this country. We also believe that it is possible to terminate that institution which Sir Arthur Kennedy says is daily dying out. Of this, however, we are confident—that unless the House supports us at this moment, and if this should be turned into a party question, it will offer an obstacle to our plans of the most serious character, and that speedy abolition of slavery—not, it is true, carried on in territories belonging to our Sovereign, but which are still more or less under our influence—which we all desire, will not be accomplished; but the consequence will be that the institution will be long protracted and ultimately strengthened.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
wished that his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Ashley) would ask himself what would be the result if he pressed his Amendment to a division. That was a question upon which any division in the British Par- 640 liament would be watched very closely and carefully in other countries, and if he could believe for a moment that the feelings and opinions of the two opposite sides of the House on the question of slavery at all differed, it might be necessary to maintain the views held on that—the Opposition—side of the House as distinct from the other. But hon. Gentlemen on the opposite benches were quite as anxious to promote the abolition of slavery as themselves; if they were not, the Government would not deserve or retain the confidence of the country for an hour. Until the Prime Minister took part in this debate he did not think the language of the Government had been as precise and definite as could be wished. The right hon. Gentleman, however, in saying that his objection to the Resolution was, that if it passed, it would imply that the Government were unwilling to do the very thing the Resolution itself proposed, used language clearly implying that the Government intended to do what the Amendment called upon them to do. He believed that he had not misinterpreted the right hon. Gentleman; if so, he could rise and tell him so. It would be a sad thing to show the world outside that there could be any division on this point. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Amendment was vague; but he understood it to mean that it recognized the position which this country had hitherto held in regard to slavery on the West Coast. There had been a possibility of a charge being brought against us that, while forcing other countries to abolish slavery, we were not so careful ourselves as we ought to be. What was wanted, therefore, was that no stone should be cast at this country, and that so far as our judicial officers were concerned, they should not adjudicate upon these questions. The House would shortly see what the Government did in the matter, and if it did not come up to their professions and to the language held that night, there would be time to make some Motion on the subject. For those reasons, his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Poole would be well advised if he abstained from dividing the House. If he went to a division and found a large majority against him, it would act mischievously, and very much increase the difficulty of dealing with the question of slavery on the West Coast of Africa.
§ MR. EVELYN ASHLEY
said, he did not wish to do any mischief. As the right hon. Gentleman had held forth the hope of a speedy abolition of slavery on the Coast, he should be sorry to press his Amendment to a division.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, "That the said Resolutions be now read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions read a second time, and agreed to.