HC Deb 31 March 1881 vol 260 cc354-6

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, when the Convention was approved by Her Majesty's Government, which granted an amnesty to those who had taken up arms against the Queen, they were aware of the terms of Sir Owen Lanyon's Despatch, which states that the Boers "sent in a message with the white flag, ordering the Colonel (Anstruther) to halt and proceed no further;" that "while this was being done the enemy continued to advance under cover of the white flag, and so took up positions, which, from a previous reconnoitre of the ground, they had selected as being most suitable to pour in a deadly fire on our men;" and that "on the receipt of the reply that their orders could not be complied with," they did immediately" open a murderous fire on our men from about 200 yards with such effect, that in a short time 57 were killed, and 101 officers, men, and women were wounded;" and, if so, whether Her Majesty's Government will treat this attack as within the scope of civilised warfare?


Yes, Sir; and I am not surprised by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's Question; but Sir Owen Lanyon was at Pretoria when this deplorable event occurred, and Her Majesty's Government was also in possession of the despatch of Colonel Anstruther, the officer in command, which gives a somewhat different complexion to the affair. More than this I had rather not say at present.


asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether as it appears by Sir Evelyn Wood's telegram, that no instructions had been given by Her Majesty's Government to the Commissioners in the Transvaal to protect the interests of British subjects who had purchased land or advanced money on land in the Transvaal in consequence of its having been annexed as a British Colony, Her Majesty's Government have since given, or will now give, such in- structions; and, as Sir Evelyn Wood states in the said telegram "that the Royal Commission should consider the provisions for the protection of native interests," how is it that the Government had taken no steps to ensure that the Royal Commission should also consider provisions for the protection of British interests, and especially of British subjects who purchased land or advanced money upon the land in consequence of the Transvaal having become a British Colony?


Sir, the hon. Member will, perhaps, permit me to reply to his two Questions. As to the first, I have to observe that, as Her Majesty's Government have not yet given instructions to the Commission upon any subject, it has not given any instructions on the particular subject to which the hon. Member alludes; but, as a matter of course, it will do so. That statement is a full reply to the latter part of the hon. Member's second Question; but I may add that I fail to see how the fact that Sir Evelyn Wood had very properly called attention to Native interests should have led the hon. Member to infer that Her Majesty's Government proposed to neglect British interests.


asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether Her Majesty's Government will give instructions to the Transvaal Commissioners to enforce the Article of the Sand River Convention, by which it is agreed that no slavery is or shall be permitted or practised to the North of the Vaal River, a stipulation which was continually violated by the South African Republic?


In reply to the hon. Member for the City of London, I have to say that Her Majesty's Government will call the attention of the Commission to the provisions of the Sand River Convention on the subject of slavery. SIR WILFRID LAWSON asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he can give the House any information as to the number of slaves, if any, who were found in the Transvaal at the time of the annexation, and what course the British Government took with regard to those slaves?


In reply to the hon. Baronet, I have to say that I never heard that any person in what is technically known as a state of slavery was found in the Transvaal at the time of annexation. The facts which have been so much commented upon occurred, I believe, some years before that event.


asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he can state approximately the number of so-called "apprentices" employed by the Boers in the Transvaal at the time of its annexation; whether that "apprenticeship" is or is not a system of forced, unpaid labour; and whether he can explain the difference between that institution and slavery?


No, Sir, I cannot state the figures, nor do I know that they are procurable. I am afraid that apprenticeship not unfrequently bore a good deal of resemblance to slavery.