§ MR. O'DONNELL
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Why no Despatch from the Colonial Office has yet been published in the Blue Books laid before Parliament forbidding the South African authorities to indenture out captured Native women and children in servitude to the Colonial farmers; and, whether former British Administrations have not most strongly condemned this practice on the part of subjects of the Transvaal Republic?
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I believe that the practice of indenturing captured Native women and children to subjects of the Transvaal Republic, which was condemned, was one under which children were indentured for 21 or 28 years, and the rights of a master in the indentures of his apprentice were transferable by sale; and that nothing has now occurred which can fairly be compared to this system. So far as I know, in the only instances in which indenturing has now been resorted to, it was necessary to save from starvation destitute women and children who had been deserted by the men of their tribe; and I 1017 certainly gathered from the reports of these cases that the term of service was short, and that the conditions interfered no more with the liberty of the apprentice than indentures in this country. But, on looking at these reports again, I have thought it advisable, in order that the circumstances may be perfectly clear and any possible abuse prevented, to direct further inquiry to be made as to the precise action which has been taken; and I shall, of course, inform the House of the results of this inquiry, and of any measures that it may be necessary to take on the subject.