, in rising to call attention to the Charter recently granted by Her Majesty to the British North Borneo Company; and to move—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to revoke or alter so much of the Charter as gives an implied sanction to the maintenance of slavery under the protection of the British flag,said: Mr. Speaker, before the House goes into Committee of Supply I am anxious to move that an Address be presented to Her Majesty in reference to the Charter recently granted by the Crown to the British North Borneo Company. When the present Government came into Office one of the principles they laid down was that there should be no extension of British dominion, and that no fresh responsibility shall be voluntarily incurred by the people of this country—certainly not without previous application to and full discussion of the matter in Parliament. It therefore appears to me that the supporters of Her Majesty's Government must have been not a little surprised when, in the month of November last, they became aware that without any application to Parliament, or any previous discussion of the matter, Her Majesty's Government had founded a new Sovereign Company on the model of the old East India Company, which was to govern and administer a great extent of country in the Island of Borneo. I think the supporters of Her Majesty's Government will expect to have some better explanation of the policy which was so 1149 carried out than the one which was given by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville) "elsewhere" the other day. The noble Earl stated that the Government of which he is a Member had a very high character; but that—If a case should present itself which promises great advantages to our political and commercial interests, with an absence of reasonable ground for apprehending military or financial burdens, it would be the act of doctrinaires, and not of statesmen, to refuse to go into an examination of such a case.In other words, that while Her Majesty's Government assume in the country a high character for neutrality and for preserving the country from foreign complications, yet if they could see their way to doing a little bit of filibustering by the hands of other people, cheaply, and without any great amount of danger, they would be more than men if they resisted the temptation. Now, about three years ago, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) was very curious on the subject of this North Borneo Treaty, which was then being talked about; and he addressed a Question to the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in this House, which I think that he and some of his Colleagues may answer in the House of Commons to-night. The Question was asked on the 12th of June, 1879, and it was—Whether any responsibility has been incurred by the British Government; and, also, whether, before any step is taken, full information will be given to the House? "—[3 Hansard, ccxlvi. 1699.]The right hon. Gentleman was then in Opposition, and was very anxious that the matter should be brought before the House of Commons; but the right hon. Gentleman seems to have no particular anxiety to bring it before the House now that he and his Friends are in Office. On the 16th of June, 1879, when the right hon. Gentleman was told by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that no decision had been arrived at, he asked this pertinent Question—Why the approval of Her Majesty's Government is asked, if there is no responsibility incurred?"—[Ibid. 1911.]The right hon. Gentleman is unfortunately not present at this moment; but I would suggest that, in his absence, his Colleagues should answer in the House of Commons to-night these three plain and pertinent questions—first, 1150 whether any responsibility has been incurred by the British Government? secondly, whether such a step has been taken before full information has been given to the House? and, thirdly, why if no responsibility has been incurred the approval of Her Majesty's Government to the Charter was ever asked for? And now, let me call the attention of the House for a moment to the Charter itself. It begins with a statement of the cession of Sovereign rights by two Sovereign Sultans—the Sultan of Brunei and the Sultan of Sulu—to Mr. Alfred Dent, and an anonymous individual who is never mentioned in the Charter at all, but who, I believe, turned out to be an Austrian subject, Baron Overbeck. Let me call the attention of the House to the nature of the powers ceded by these two Sultans to Mr. Dent. They include the power of life and death over the inhabitants, with all the absolute rights of property vested in the Sultan over the soil of the country and the right to dispose of the same, as well as the rights over the productions of the country, whether mineral, vegetable, or animal, with the rights of making laws, coining money, creating an Army and Navy, levying Customs rates on home and foreign trade and shipping, and other dues and taxes on the inhabitants as to him (Baron Overbeck) might seem good or expedient, together with all other powers and rights usually exercised by, and belonging to, Sovereign Rulers. It appears, therefore, that as far as the grant could be made, Messrs. Dent and Overbeck had an absolute Sovereignty over the territory. Then the Charter goes on to state that the Sovereign power had been vested in Mr. Alfred Dent alone, and then in a provisional Company founded under the Limited Liability Acts, and called the British North Borneo Provisional Association, Limited. This Limited Company has been formed for three purposes—first, to buy up and become possessed of the Sovereignty of Borneo—a strange possession for a Limited Liability Company, registered under the Limited Liability Act of 1862; secondly, to obtain a Charter from Her Majesty's Government; and, thirdly, to transfer the Sovereign powers over North Borneo which, had originally been conferred upon Mr. Alfred Dent from a Limited Liability Company to the Chartered Company. 1151 The Charter then goes on to create the British North Borneo Company; and I beg especially to draw the attention of the House to the operative words of the Charter. The Company is '' authorized and empowered by Her Majesty the Queen to acquire the Sovereign powers;" and it is further, by Her Majesty the Queen, "authorized and empowered to hold, use, enjoy, and exercise the same." Now, this has been denied in public despatches, and perhaps it may be denied in the House of Commons to-night; but I assert, without fear of contradiction, that those words are an authority from the Crown of Great Britain to this Chartered Company to acquire Sovereign powers, and that they are also an authority from the Crown of Great Britain to this Chartered Company to exercise and enjoy the Sovereign rights it is so empowered to obtain. But that is not the only circumstance which gives a political character to this Company. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told the Netherlands Government that it was only a mere Commercial Company. I dare say the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will make the same statement to the House to-night; but I do not think the arguments by which the Netherlands Government were convinced will convince the Members of this House. I wish to point out to the House from this Charter several circumstances which seem to me to establish beyond all doubt in the world that it is a Company of a political and not of a commercial character. In the first place, the Company is to be British, and is always to remain British; every member of the Court of Directors is to be a British subject; and every representative of the Company in Borneo, by whom these Sovereign powers are to be carried into effect, are all to be British subjects. There is to be no transfer of these Sovereign powers without the authority of the Secretary of State; and, if any difference arises between the Sultans of Brunei and Sulu, it is to be submitted to the decision of the Secretary of State, whoso decision is to be final; and, finally, it is declared that—If at any time our Secretary of State thinks fit to dissent from or to object to any of the dealings of the Company with any Foreign Power, and to make to the Company any suggestion founded on that dissent or objection, the Company shall act in accordance therewith.So that the Company is to enter into in- 1152 dependent relations with Foreign Powers, with the right of Her Majesty's Government to interfere at any moment, and to direct the Company how they are to be carried on. Section 11 provides that Her Majesty shall appoint the officers of this Company her Representatives in North Borneo to exercise her extra territorial jurisdiction and authority in Borneo over the British subjects who may happen to be there. The Secretary of State is to approve of the appointment of the principal representative of the Company in Borneo, who would be practically the Governor of the Island. Then the Company is to hoist and use on its buildings and elsewhere in Borneo and on its vessels a distinctive flag indicating the British character of the Company, and such flag is to be subject to the approval of the Secretary of State and the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. Finally, if the Secretary of State thinks that there are any powers in the territory of Borneo claiming adversely to the Company, the Secretary of State may in that case put a veto on the exercise of Sovereign powers by the Company. I am. not objecting to those powers being vested in the Secretary of State—they are, no doubt, admirable provisions—but if I show to the House that the Company is not a commercial but a British political Company, and that it is invested under its Charter with the exercise in the Eastern Seas of political powers, I appeal to the Members' of the Government themselves whether a Company which is authorized and empowered to take Sovereign rights from two Sultans of the Island, who are authorized and empowered by the Government to use and exercise those rights under the supreme authority and under the control of the Government of Great Britain—I appeal to the Government whether that is not the means by which Great Britain is endeavouring to avoid direct responsibility, and to prevent foreign nations from directly challenging the acts of this Company as the acts of the British Crown? While Great Britain is all the time sheltering herself behind the Company, she is in reality pulling all its strings and using it as a mere puppet, to whom she gives her orders, and through whom she acts in the Eastern Seas. In point of fact, it is a sort of filibustering by proxy which the noble Lord the Secretary of 1153 State for Foreign Affairs thinks is so extremely cheap and so very safe. Will the House forgive me if I tell them the story of how these Sovereign rights came to be acquired? In the year 1877 a Mr. Alfred Dent, whom I have already mentioned, sent out Baron Overbeck, an Austrian subject and an Austrian ex-official, to Borneo for the purpose of acquiring these territories, and the first thing he did was to meet Mr. Torrey, an American. Mr. Torrey was the sole survivor and representative of an American Trading Company, which was established in 1865, and which received from the Sultan of Borneo in that year a grant of this very identical territory, accompanied by a cession of these very identical Sovereign rights. But the American Company had not been fortunate. They made an attempt at settlement, but it did not succeed; and at the time Baron Overbeck went out the American Company was practically defunct, and the possession of Sovereign rights had been vested in Mr. Torrey. Mr. Torrey and Baron Overbeck went to the Sultan of Brunei, and the Sultan of Brunei accepted £1,000, or $5,000, for placing Baron Overbeck in the shoes of the American Company. I do not know how much Mr. Torrey got out of Baron Overbeck; but what the Sultan of Brunei got was this sum of £1,000, and then on the 29th of December, 1877, the Sultan of Brunei and his Prime Minister, who goes by the extraordinary name of Pangarang Tunangong, made a grant of absolute Sovereignty over these territories—which, by the way, I may mention incidentally, cover 500 miles in extent of coast, and are described as being extraordinarily rich in every kind of mineral productions—to Baron Overbeck for the sum of £5,000 per annum in round numbers. Now that was a very magnificent grant, and it was obtained on terms which I have no doubt the House will consider to be extremely cheap; but it was only a grant on paper, because when the title of the Sultan of Brunei came to be examined, it was found that he had no title to make any such grant at all. He was under two difficulties. In the first place, he had entered into a Treaty with Great Britain in 1847, and in this Treaty with Great Britain, which was entered into at the time we ceded the Island of Labuan, he entered into an agreement 1154 to make no cession of any part of his territory to anybody else without previously obtaining the leave and consent of the British Government, so that the grant made in 1865 to the American Company, and the grant made in 1877 to Baron Overbeck, an Austrian subject, were both inconsistent with that Treaty, and therefore as against the Government of Her Majesty were distinctly void. But that is not all. Not only had he no right to grant these territories, but he was not even in the occupation and possession of them. The whole of the territories he professed to cede to Baron Overbeck had already been ceded by him to the Sultan of Sulu, and not only so, but the Sultan of Sulu was in the actual possession of it, with the exception of a very small portion. The district which really was in the occupation of the Sultan of Brunei at the time he made this grant was a very small portion of the coast extending from the River Kimanis on the East Coast of Brunei to a river called Pandassan, a few miles up the coast. There is one remarkable thing that deserves the attention of the House, and I think that probably the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will give some explanation of it—namely, that it is quite impossible upon the map furnished by Her Majesty's Government to Parliament to make out where the territory which the Sultan of Brunei was in possession of ends, and the territory of the Sultan of Sulu begins; because the River Pandassan is not marked upon the Government map at all. But for the information of those who have got the map in their hands, I may say that the River Pandassan is a very short distance, indeed only a few miles, to the north of the river marked Tampasuk. The territory of which the Sultan of Brunei was in occupation—the piece belonging to the Sultan of Brunei—is only a very small part of the Eastern—not Western, as I said just now—portion of Borneo upon the map which I have the advantage of possessing, and which was issued by the Company itself. The territories are here very distinctly marked. The River Pandassan is carefully shown on the map, and the part of which the Sultan of Brunei was in possession is coloured blue, while the part of which the Sultan of Sulu was in possession is coloured red (exhibiting a map). The 1155 House even at this distance will see how large is the proportion of the territories in the occupation of the Sultan of Sulu to those in the occupation of the Sultan of Brunei. Well, Sir, Baron Overbeck seems to have been a clever and discreet Agent. Finding after he had got this grant that the Sultan of Brunei had very little power to bestow it upon him, Baron Overbeck went off to the Sultan of Sulu, and he found that the Sultan of Sulu was in very unpleasant circumstances, because he was in revolt at the time against the Government of Spain who claimed him as its Vassal, and asserted its rights of Sovereignity over the whole of his territory and possessions. Not only was the Sultan of Sulu at war with the Government of Spain, but he was getting very much the worst of it. He was nearly at his last extremity, and, in fact, about six months after the visit of Baron Overbeck he had to surrender at discretion and to give up the whole of his territory to Spain. He claimed to be entitled to the whole of the territory, not only to the part of which he was actually in occupation, but even the small portion still in the occupation of the Sultan of Brunei, by reason of a grant made to him some years before by the Sultan of Brunei, and he was in actual occupation of the whole of the territory from the River Pandassan down to a point south of the grant made to Baron Overbeck—in point of fact, the whole of the coast opposite the Archipelago of Sulu. There was a small portion of territory in the hands of independent Chieftians who recognized the Sovereignty of neither one Sultan nor the other. The position of the Sultan of Sulu was an extraordinary one, because, in the first instance, he was at war with Spain, who claimed the right of Sovereignty over his territory. I hope the House will not be led astray by the immense amount of Papers which appear in the Blue Book which have relation to the rights of Sovereignty of Spain over the Sultan of Sulu. I dare say that more than half the Blue Books contain Papers bearing upon that question—a question dearly introduced in order to complicate the matter a little; but it really has very little to do with the subject. As, however, the question of the Sovereignty of Spain is likely to be made the subject of discussion in this 1156 House, I hope the House will pardon me if I very shortly and concisely state how the claims of Spain to Sovereignty over Sulu stood at that time. Within the last century—between 1761 and 1769—there have been Treaties concluded with the East India Company, and those Treaties have lapsed. They have lapsed according to the admission of Lord Derby himself in the despatch he wrote to the German Government in 1876; but, strange to say, these Treaties have been reinstated by the present Government on behalf of the North Borneo Company, and they were quoted in the despatches last year as if they really existed, notwithstanding the fact that many years before a Minister of the Crown had declared in a public document that these Treaties had lapsed. In 1836, the Sultan of Sulu entered into a Treaty with Spain—and here, again, Her Majesty's Government in their recent despatches have made a statement which is absolutely incorrect. They said that from the dominions of the Sultan of Sulu, as defined in the Treaty of 1836, the mainland of Borneo was expressly excepted. Now, that is not true. If you look at the Treaty of 1836, there is an exception of the dominions of the Sultan in North Borneo; but it is that part of his dominions so excepted from the guarantee of protection which the Spanish Government gave to him for the whole of the rest of his dominions. The Protectorate is not to extend to the mainland of Borneo; but there is not one word in the Treaty of 1836 which would bear the construction that either of the contracting parties said the dominions of the Sultan of Sulu would not extend to North Borneo. The Government in their despatches wisely omit all reference to the stipulations entered into in 1850, which were expressly declared to be explanatory of the Treaty of 1836, and in which it is so distinctly laid down in the 2nd Article of the Treaty, that of the territories tributary to the Sultan he shall not cede any part without the previous consent of Her Catholic Majesty. With this should be understood the Convention of 1836. Whatever opinion there may be upon that subject, no doubt, in 1851, the Sultan of Sulu entered into a Treaty of re-submission to the Sovereignty of the Spanish Crown. In that Treaty he acknowledged the whole of his territories and possessions to be an integral part of 1157 the Dominions of the Spanish Grown. The best proof of that contention on the part of the Spaniards at that time is, that in 1849 an attempt was made by Sir James Brooke to conclude a Treaty between the Sultan of Sulu and the British Government; but, although that Treaty was signed, it was never ratified, and it was never ratified because the Spanish Government protested that the Sultan of Sulu was incompetent, at that time, to conclude a Treaty with the Government of Great Britain because of his obligations to the Government of Spain. This protest on the part of the Spanish Government produced such an effect on the Government of Great Britain that they never attempted to ratify the Treaty; and yet, although it will hardly be believed, the present Government have raked up this Treaty of 1849, which was never ratified, and have spoken of it in the recent despatches in the interests of the North Borneo Company as if it was an existing Treaty, and a Treaty the validity of which was admitted by all parties. Now, I do not know a stronger example of the inaccuracy into which their zeal in defence of the North Borneo Company has dragged the Foreign Office of this country. That being the Treaty of 1851, and the act of re-submission being most distinctly declared, I think the whole of the dominions of the Sultan of Sulu were incorporated with the Crown of Spain. Afterwards, the Sultan of Sulu thought fit to rebel, and between the years 1870 and 1877 there was an active rebellion going on on the part of the Sultan of Sulu against the Crown of Spain. A sort of desultory war was carried on, and Spain, among other proceedings, thought fit to declare that the Archipelago of Sulu was in a state of blockade, and to prohibit the vessels of any country from trading with Sulu without obtaining permission to trade with them. In carrying out this so-called blockade, the Spanish Government went so far as to seize a certain number of German vessels, and to detain one or two English vessels. Against this act of the Government of Spain a most resolute protest was made in 1876, both by the Government of Great Britain and by that of Germany, and, after a considerable amount of negotiation, a Protocol was agreed to, in 1877, in which the question of Sove- 1158 reignty was purposely left unmentioned, and in which none of the contracting parties committed themselves to any opinion. The Protocol was drawn up as a modus vivendi in order to put a stop to the illegal and arbitrary acts of the Spanish Government with regard to foreign vessels. It was urged by the Governments of Great Britain and Germany that, even assuming that Spain had the rights of a Sovereign, such a thing as the blockade of a whole archipelago, where no effective Naval Force was maintained to make the blockade real, was unheard of among foreign nations, and that Spain had no right to exclude shipping except from those parts of the archipelago in which they were in real and effective occupation. It was to put a stop to the existing state of things that the Protocol was agreed to. The substance of the Protocol of 1877 was an agreement that the pretensions of Spain should be confined to those parts of the archipelago of which she was in naval possession, and that there should be no attempt to blockade other parts where she had no Naval Force. The question of Sovereignty was never raised at all, but was very properly left out. It is quite true that at that time Great Britain refused to recognize the Sovereignty of Spain over Sulu; and it was quite right, because Spain had de facto no possessions in the archipelago. The Sultan of Sulu was in active rebellion and revolt against the Spanish Crown. He denied that he was a Vassal of Spain, and de facto the Sovereignty was not established. Therefore, Her Majesty's Government were acting with perfect propriety, and within the recognized Law of Nations. But will the House believe that the Protocol of 1877, concluded under these circumstances, has been raked up in the interest of the North Borneo Company by Her Majesty's present Government, as if it were a declaration that at that time Her Majesty's Government disputed the validity of the Treaty of 1851, and the validity of the Spanish Crown over the territories of Sulu? I am very much obliged to the House for the kindness with which it has listened to this rather dull statement about the position of affairs in Sulu. When Baron Over-beck arrived there, he found the Island in a state of great trouble, and he made use of the embarrassed position of the 1159 Sultan to the utmost extent. He invited him to make a cession of all his territory, and offered him the sum of $3,000, or rather less than £600 or £700 a-year, for the whole of his 500 or 600 miles of coast. I do not know whether he knew that the Sultan of Brunei had about 10 times that amount, with a much smaller coast line. The Sultan of Sulu did not like to part with his possessions at the price offered to him. Baron Overbeck then said—It does not matter much whether you make the concession or not, because, in the first place, the Sultan of Brunei is going to resume possession of all these territories which he claims as his own; and, in the second place, I am told that the Captain General of the Phillipines is assembling a great force in order to attack you in Sulu, and in a short time you will be wiped out altogether.This statement was verified by the subsequent conduct of the Captain General of the Phillipine Islands. Baron Over-heck increased his offer from $3,000 to $5,000 a-year, and the Sultan of Sulu, being in this tribulation, thought it was better to take what he could get, and, therefore, he made the cession on the 22nd of January, 1878, by which he granted to Messrs. Dent and Overbeck the whole of the territory from the Pandassan River down to the most Southern point of the Western Coast, opposite the great harbour of Sandakan, in as absolute Sovereignty as the Sultan of Brunei subsequently granted the rest of the coast. Within exactly six months after the grant of Sovereignty to Messrs. Dent and Overbeck, the Sultan signed a Treaty of Capitulation, and surrendered the whole of his dominions to the Spanish Government. The Government of Spain informed Baron Overbeck on the very same day what had been done, and the Sultan, no doubt at the instigation of his conquerors, revoked his grant, and recalled all the Sovereign powers he had conferred upon Messrs. Dent and Overbeck, informing Baron Overbeck that if he wished to make a further negotiation, he must negotiate with the Captain General of the Phillipines, although that was before the Foreign Office had any application made to them for a Charter. Yet, at this moment, Her Majesty's Government are asserting that Baron Overbeck or Mr. Dent—for Baron Overbeck is now lost sight of—that Mr. Dent was now exercising Sovereign 1160 authority in Sulu, notwithstanding the fact that in 1878 the Sultan of Sulu withdrew all authority from him. It was in the early part of 1878 that Mr. Dent first wrote to the Foreign Office; but though a letter—and a very cautious letter—was written, first by Mr. E. Dent, and then by Mr. Alfred Dent, to the Foreign Office, the House will observe that they carefully abstained from asking for a Charter. They only say that some application is going to be made, asking the Foreign Office to reserve its decision until they had an opportunity of giving further information; and although Baron Overbeck appears to have returned from the East in August or September, 1878, it was not until the 2nd of December, 1878, that any application was made to Her Majesty's Government for a Charter I do not know if the Foreign Office is in possession of any information as to why this delay took place. It is, however, a remarkable fact. Here are people wanting a Charter, knowing that the Crown of Spain has asserted its Sovereignty over a great portion of the territory over which they want a Charter, and yet they delay until the 2nd of December making any formal application to Her Majesty's Government for a Charter. Can the Under Secretary of State, or any Member of Her Majesty's Government, explain why this delay took place? And is a rumour which I have heard true, that the reason for the delay was that Baron Overbeck, who was an Austrian subject, took his concession in the first instance to the Government of Austria, and when the Government of Austria refused the responsibility which the Government of Great Britain has now undertaken, he carried his concession to the Emperor of Germany, and had a correspondence with Prince Bismarck; and it was not until this cession of the Northern part of the Island of Borneo had been hawked about, first to the Government of Austria, and then to the Government of Germany, neither of whom would look at the proposal for a moment, that it found its way in the form of an application for a Charter to the British Government? And the statement which has been made to me by many different persons is, that the responsibility for the grant of this Charter really rests with the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (the Marquess of Salis- 1161 bury). I suppose that people thought I might be induced not to bring this matter before the House of Commons if I were made to think that in so doing I should oppose the policy of the Marquess of Salisbury. I am glad to have an opportunity of showing my independence on this occasion; but I may say that the Papers on this subject furnish the most direct proof that the Marquess of Salisbury and the late Government had not committed themselves in any way whatever to the granting of this Charter. I find that it is quite true that in 1879, while the late Government was still in Office, a formal protest was made to the Government of Spain, and on the spot, in the Sulu Archipelago, against the assumption of Spanish authority and Spanish Sovereignty in North Borneo; but, at the same time, it was publicly stated both to the Government of Spain and in the villages upon the coast of North Borneo itself, that there was no reference to the cession made by the Sultan of Sulu to Messrs. Dent and Overbeck in the protest, and the proceedings of Messrs. Dent and Overbeck had not then received the Queen's sanction. Consequently, when the protest against the assumption of Spanish Sovereignty was made publicly in North Borneo, notice was given in every place that it had no connection with any Sovereign right which had been conferred upon Messrs. Dent and Overbeck, and which had not received the Queen's sanction. Yet a most ingenious attempt had been made by a careful juxtaposition of sentences to make it appear to the ordinary reader that the Marquess of Salisbury had made this protest against the assumption by Spain of Sovereign powers in the interests of Messrs. Dent and Overbeck, and that he had thereby signified his approval of their assumption of authority. But that is not all. On January 8th, 1880, a very few weeks after the late Government left Office, Her Majesty's Government addressed to the Government of Spain a despatch, in which they intimated their refusal to admit the Spanish Sovereignty as to the North Coast of Borneo. The despatch said—Her Majesty's Government do not wish it to be understood that, in making this protest, they have in view the establishment of any British dominion or rights of Sovereignty over any portion of the Island.1162 Therefore, as late as January the 8th, l880, we have an official record that the late Government were not contemplating any establishment of British dominion of any kind in the Northern part of Borneo. Now, Mr. Speaker, in 1879 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) began to be curious as to the responsibilities which Her Majesty's Government might incur by the grant of this Charter. I dare say his own Colleagues could give him a good deal of information as to the responsibilities they have incurred, and perhaps even the curiosity of the right hon. Gentleman has now entirely disappeared. But I should like to tell the House a few of the responsibilities which Her Majesty's Government have incurred; and I will restrict myself to three responsibilities of a foreign character and three of an internal character. As to the responsibilities of a foreign character, they have run the risk of serious complications with three Foreign Governments—the Government of Spain, the Government of the Netherlands, and the Government of the United States of America. I will point out shortly what these responsibilities are in each of these three cases. They have set the Government of Spain positively at defiance, for they have established a British Chartered Company possessing the Sovereign rights I have already indicated to the House in a territory of which Spain claims at this moment to be de jure and de facto the Sovereign. I am told that recently, within the last day or two, statements have been made in the Cortes of Madrid, in which the conduct of the Spanish Government in not more actively resisting the usurpation of Her Majesty's Government—for so it is called—has been seriously called in question. The protest of Spain is as definite and as distinct as any protest could be. Although Her Majesty's Government may pay no attention to a protest made by so small a Military and Naval Power as Spain, they may be assured that, had they ventured on a similar course in regard to Germany or Russia, their action would probably have resulted in a war. As to the Government of the Netherlands, Her Majesty's Government have not, I believe, infringed any of their positive rights; but they have cheated and they have affronted them. When this North Borneo Question was first talked about, 1163 the Representative of the Netherlands in this country had an interview with the Marquess of Salisbury on the 24th of November, 1879, and Count Bylandt was then assured that—Her Majesty's Government has no present intention of assuming any attitude with respect to these territories at all corresponding to such phrases as 'British Dominion' or 'British Protectorate.'Those phrases, "British Dominion" or "British Protectorate," had been used by Count Bylandt in conversation; and he was assured by Lord Granville, soon after the noble Lord came into Office, on the 21st of July, 1880, that if the Charter was granted to the North Borneo Company at all, it would have no political character. The Dutch Government appear to have claimed as a right that they should be consulted before any British Settlement was formed in the Island of which they were in actual occupation; and although, I believe, there is no right on the part of the Netherlands Government to have their leave asked before a Settlement is formed, it is quite obvious that when the greater part of the Island of Borneo is more or less in their possession, and that their territory is actually contiguous to the territories which the Sultan of Sulu professed to grant to Messrs. Dent and Overbeck, it was only common courtesy to inform the Government of the Netherlands what was going on. Therefore, Lord Granville, on the 10th of August, told the Representative of the Netherlands, as a matter of courtesy, but not of strict right, that he should be very happy to inform him of the tenour of the Charter before it was finally arranged. The assurances from successive Secretaries of State seem to have contented and satisfied the Government of the Netherlands; but when, shortly after, on the 22nd of January, Ib81, they received certain Papers which were circulated by the North Borneo Company, containing the form of their application for a Charter, and an intimation that a Charter of some kind was going to be given, the Government of the Netherlands again took alarm, and at once addressed a very strong and earnest despatch to the Government of Great Britain. They, apparently, thought they had been taken in, for they had understood that the Charter was to be strictly of a commercial character. For that they were 1164 rather called to task by the Foreign Secretary. Instead of waiting for the official documents which he had promised them, they had been so foolish as to be alarmed at a mere draft and unofficial Papers. Finally, on the 8th of August, 1881, the Government of Great Britain sent to the Government of the Netherlands a draft of the Charter which is substantially identical with the Charter finally granted, and asked them within three days to be good enough to state any objection they might have. That was rather hurrying the Netherlands Government, considering that the Charter had been under the consideration of the Government for so many years. But they seem in the Netherlands to be able to do things with more dispatch than we can in this country, because, on the 11th of August, only three days after the despatch from Great Britain, they sent a most admirable despatch, which pointed out, beyond all controversy, the political character of the undertaking. They complained of the way by which they had been hoodwinked by the assurances of the British Government; and they earnestly protested against such a Charter being granted, and prayed Her Majesty's Government would not think of doing so without giving full weight to the objection they had made. Her Majesty's Government had not the courtesy to answer that despatch. The Charter was not granted until the month of November; this despatch was written on the 11th of August; and yet, although the Government had the whole of the time from the 11th of August until the 9th or 10th of November, they never had the courtesy to answer the despatch. The first answer the Dutch Government received was the publication of the Charter in The London Gazette. That was a very courteous mode of treating a Foreign Government. They protested; and they had a letter, or despatch, from the Secretary of State, written after the Charter had been granted, in which the whole story was reiterated—namely,The British Government assumes no Sovereign rights in Borneo; and, indeed, the Charter contemplates the appointment of British. Consuls in the territories of the Company,A proof that the British Government assumes no Sovereign rights in Borneo is stated to be that "the Charter contemplates the appointment of British Con- 1165 suls in the territory of the Company." Will the House believe that the Charter contemplates nothing of the kind, and that the statement made to the Netherlands Government was the grossest—I might almost say the most impudent—inaccuracy? What the Charter does contemplate is, that the officers of the North Borneo Company shall be appointed by Her Majesty's Government to be her officers, to exercise her extra-territorial rights; not that British Consuls shall be appointed to act in North Borneo as they would act in the dominions of a Foreign Power. The paid servants of the very Company are to be made the Ministers of the Queen of England for the purpose of exercising her extra-territorial jurisdiction; and that being the fact in the case of the British Government, they have the cool audacity to tell the Netherlands Government there is no intention to assume Sovereign rights in Borneo. Well, it suits, of course, the Government of the Netherlands to accept a statement of this kind, though I have no doubt they see well enough that it is not true, because the statement being made in despatches by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, it will be convenient to refer to it hereafter. The third Power with which you have got into complication is more formidable than those I have mentioned—namely, the United States of America. I think I have a right to complain of the insufficiency of the Papers which have been laid before Parliament by the Under Secretary of State, because I hold in my hand what I believe to be an authentic document, which purports to be a despatch from Mr. Treacher, Her Majesty's Consul General at Labuan, to Mr. Read, of Singapore, who is Agent General of Messrs. Dent and Overbeck, and their representative in that country. In this despatch I find a copy of a correspondence which had passed between Commodore Shufeldt, of the United States Navy, and Mr. Read, wherein the Commodore informed Mr. Read that—The United States Government do not reckon the Sultan of Borneo is competent to make cessions of territory to private individuals or Companies in disparagement of the stipulations in his Treaty with the United States.I find another piece of information—namely, that the Sultan had addressed a 1166 letter to the President of the United States, in which His Highness, while asserting his right, as an independent Prince, to cede portions of his territory, assured the President that Messrs. Dent and Overbeck were aware of the Treaty obligations when they obtained the cession; and I find from the postcript that Mr. Treacher, as was his duty, reported to Her Majesty's Government what had taken place in the matter. [Sir CHARLES W. DILKE: What was the date of that?] The 8th of March, 1880. I have also in my hand a copy of what alleges to be a copy of the letter of the Sultan of Brunei to the President of the United States of America, and I have a copy of a letter of the President of the United States of America, dated the 8th of June, 1880, in which occurs the passage—The letter addressed to your Highness by Commodore Shufeldt, a copy of which has been sent to the proper department of the country, does not appear to differ from my views upon the subject. The objection to which that officer advances relates to those grants of land which are coupled with such exclusive privileges as seem to conflict with Articles of the Treaty between the country and Borneo.Some see by this that there has been some controversy, not brought to the knowledge of the House, in the official Papers between the United States of America and the Agent General of Messrs. Dent and Overbeck, a controversy in which the United States appear to have got the best of it. I have also a copy of the Treaty of Friendship, Navigation, and Commerce between the United States of America and the Sultan of Brunei, and, looking at the Treaty, which secures for the citizens of the United States of America perfect liberty to reside and trade in the dominions of the Sultan of Brunei, which says that no article is to be prohibited from importation by the Sultan of Brunei, which forbids the Sultan of Brunei to levy any duty on the exportation of any article of Borneo growth, and which restricts the amount of duty to be levied on American, shipments, I think there is a great deal in what the President of the United States says as to the power of the Company, for revenue purposes, to create a monopoly of spirits, opium, tobacco, or salt, in the face of the rights secured to the American citizens by Treaty. I do not think your Charter is worth the paper on which it is written. How can 1167 the Company, under the powers of the Charter they have received from the Queen, place a monopoly on the cultivation of opium, when, by the Treaty with the Sultan of Brunei, the citizens of America have the most perfect liberty to grow anything they like, or carry on any private trade? So much for the complications, or possible complications, with the United States of America. Now I will refer to three internal responsibilities. In the first, place, what are you going to do with the British subjects resident in Borneo? By Treaty with the Sultan of Brunei, Her Majesty the Queen enjoys extra-territorial jurisdiction. Are you going to appoint Consuls, as you told the Netherlands Government, or are you going, in accordance with the clause in the Treaty, to make the paid officers of the British North Borneo Company the Queen's Representatives? If you appoint the officers of the Company to discharge the duties of the Queen, will not the deception of your scheme become so gross, that neither the Dutch in Holland, nor your Liberal supporters here, will be able to shut their eyes to the fact that you have established British superiority in Borneo? What are you going to do with the subjects of Foreign States? That is the second responsibility. The citizens of America also, by Treaty, enjoy extra-territorial jurisdiction. I should think it very probable that the citizens of the Netherlands, of Germany, and, indeed, of most other European Powers, will enjoy, or claim, extra-territorial jurisdiction; and, certainly, the subjects of the King of Spain will not consent to submit to the jurisdiction of the Queen. Who is going to exercise jurisdiction over the subjects of Foreign Powers who may be domiciled in North Borneo? By your Charter, for example, all foreigners are forbidden to hold slaves. Suppose a Spaniard, or a Dutch subject, or a citizen of the United States, asserts a right to possess domestic slaves within the territory of North Borneo, how would you interfere in the matter? Will it be by negotiations through your Company, or will it be by direct negotiations with the Powers themselves? And this brings me to the most serious of the difficulties in which your Charter has landed you, and that is the question of Slavery. I observe that in the Charter it is called "Domestic slavery." "Domestic" is an 1168 adjective which is always applied to the word "slavery" by people who wish to excuse the wickedness of the institution. I do not find that the Government have taken any pains to inform themselves as to the nature of the slavery which exists in the Island of Borneo. I do not find that they have either asked or received any information from their own officers upon the subject. I should like the House to allow me to read to it the only information which I have been able to obtain amongst all this mass of Papers, as to the character of the slavery which exists in the territories in question. The information was derived from one of the Agents of the North Borneo Company, who, in page 225 of the first Blue Book, describes the state of things which existed in 1878 when the Company first took possession of these territories, at a place called Elopura, which is in Sandakan Harbour, the head-quarters of the authorities of the Sultan of Sulu; and therefore what is described took place in the most civilized part of the Island. Mr. Pryce says—Slavery was rampant. Slave boats containing cargoes of unfortunate starved wretches, in such a state that it turns one's stomach to look at them, covered with sores and ulcers, and many of whom died, were frequently to he seen here (Elopura) or in the Kina Batangan. Robbery was as rife. Creeses were drawn upon the slightest occasion. Slaves were used in the most atrocious way, being occasionally cut down or thrashed, and afterwards having mashed green chillies rubbed into the wounds.That is all the information to be derived from these Blue Books as to the character of the domestic slavery existing in the Harbour of Sandakan; and if that is the nature of the slavery in the Harbour of Sandakan, what may you expect in the more remote parts of the territory where the Sultan of Sulu or the Sultan of Brunei exert no effective authority? That being the character of the slavery which exists, the Agents of the Company who will probably be made the officers of the Queen, will have to regulate, to govern, and to protect the institution of slavery. ["Why?"] Why! Because by the Charter they are bound to observe the existing customs. Slavery being an institution they will have to protect it and legislate for it, and the only restriction in the Charter is one which the Company themselves proposed. The Government seem to have thought little of the question of Slavery. 1169 The only restriction in the Charter is that—The Company shall to the best of its power discourage, and as far as may be practicable abolish by degrees, any system of domestic servitude existing among the tribes.And so in the interval, at all events, the system of domestic slavery is to be maintained and legislated for by officers of a Company who will probably be the officers of the Queen; and this has to be done under a flag which is to be distinctly British in its character and approved by the Secretary of State and the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Admiralty. I will just call the attention of the House to what were the opinions of the Prime Minister in reference to this question of domestic slavery in the case of the Colony of Fiji. In 1874 the right hon. Gentleman opposed a Motion made in this House by the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. M'Arthur), praying the Crown of England to take over Fiji upon the expressed ground that the institution of slavery was existing in Fiji, and that the Crown of England could not countenance the continuance of such an institution. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Could not assume dominion]. I will quote the right hon. Gentleman's exact words—We are to go in upon the recommendation of the Commissioners, who, instead of saying that slavery is to be put down, tell us distinctly that it is to be maintained and allowed, and left to take its own course. We are to wink at it; we are to know and allow it to exist, and allow those interested in it to use every means in their power to maintain it, and allow it to exist upon this basis—that this slavery which we are to go in and recognize is in these Islands the foundation of social order. If you accept the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, it will bind you to place the Crown of England in relation of sovereignty over a savage race, among whom slavery exists, and with respect to whom our own Commissioners inform us that that slavery is the basis of social order."—[3 Hansard, ccxxi. 1285.]Now, may I show the right hon. Gentleman and the House what Her Majesty's officers holding Her Majesty's commission in North Borneo will have to do, because the Charter contemplates that the officers of the Company are to be made the officers of the Crown for the purpose of exercising her extra-territorial jurisdiction? This is what they are to do, and this is the refutation respecting slavery made by the Sovereign Company on the 27th of October, 1881— 1170In the case of the Natives of Sabah, all Natives absconding will, for the present, be returned, unless they can (a) purchase their freedom for a sum to be fixed from time to time by a Resident of the district, subject to the approval of the Governor, or (b) can prove that they are cruelly treated by their masters, in which case they will become free men.So that these officers of the Company whom you are going to make officers of the British Crown will adjudicate upon the case of these wretched slaves, sometimes as representatives of Her Majesty and sometimes as officers of the North British Borneo Company. Do you think that is the way to instil into the minds of these Natives respect for the authority of the British Crown? You will have to settle what will be the price of blood, because the price of these wretched, absconding Natives is to be fixed from time to time by the Resident of the district, subject to the approval of the Governor. That very officer is appointed under the approval of Her Majesty's Secretary of State, so that the Secretary of State will have to inquire, when approving an appointment of this Native, whether the man is a proper person to fix the price of blood. I will not go further. I think it is really distressing that one should read of regulations of this kind made under the authority of the British Crown. I deeply regret that in the course of this debate I have not observed the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in his place, because, had he been there, I would have made a personal appeal to him. I know how he has distinguished himself during his long political career for love of liberty and for an unswerving hatred of the institution of Slavery. I remember very well, when the right hon. Gentleman was in Opposition, how he led the attack upon Her Majesty's late Government for the issue of the Slave Circular, an attack which only became abortive because it was proved that the Circular was a modification of an earlier and more severe one. Had the right hon. Gentleman been present, I should have asked him whether the possession, for one single year, of despotic power in Ireland had so corrupted his love of liberty, had so familiarized him with the exercise of coercion, that he had become untrue to his earlier convictions and false to the sacred principles which, he has be long advocated in this House? 1171 As he is not here I will venture to make the same appeal to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. I will ask him whether it is honourable that a Government which professes a love of liberty, and professes to be founded upon the most sacred principles, should allow officers of a Company, acting under the sanction and authority of the British Crown, to have anything at all to do with the institution of Slavery; and whether he will allow the British flag to float over slaves? The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words ''an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to revoke or alter so much of the Charter as gives an implied sanction to the maintenance of slavery under the protection of the British flag,"—(Mr. Gorst,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, the words of the Resolution proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham commended themselves so much to his approval that, were it necessary, he should not hesitate to second it. On the first night of the Session he had given Notice of his intention to call attention to this transaction, but he was unable to get an opportunity of bringing forward the Motion he had intended to make. After the full and clear statement of the hon. and learned Member, it was unnecessary to go at length into the facts, as he should otherwise have desired to do; for the speech of the hon. and learned Member plainly showed that, whether the Government chose to call it so or not, the action of the Government amounted virtually to annexation. He knew that the Government would deny it; but he thought those who had heard the hon. and learned Gentleman, and his analysis of the Charter, could not but think that, if it were not annexation at once, it was leading the way to it, and could lead to nothing else; it assumed Sovereign rights, and he was unable to distinguish it from annexation. Nothing could be done without the consent of the Government; and if that did not constitute 1172 Sovereign rights, he was at a loss to know the meaning of the term. If any doubt remained on the subject it was removed by the Ministerial statement made in "another place." He found it stated by a Member of the Government in the House of Lords that it was right and proper to grant this Charter, because, if the British Government did not step in, some other Government would. What did that mean? It meant that this country would step in, and take Sovereign rights, because some other country would have done it if we had not. They seemed to admit, on the part of the Government, that if it was not annexation, it was, at all events, meant to hand over this territory to the British Government sooner or later. They had said distinctly that no other country would be allowed to keep it. There was a provision in the Charter for winding-up the Company if it came to grief. How would the Government act in that case? Would they step in and assert their Sovereign rights over the shareholders, whoever they might be? He did not wish to go into the legal question; but he appealed to the common sense of the House to say whether they should not have to assert Sovereign rights in disposing of the Company's affairs under those circumstances? Military difficulties might also arise. The House would remember that when Sarawak, a comparatively small district, was handed over to Sir James Brooke, the Natives showed a good deal of opposition. If this were so with Sarawak, the Government would not find it so easy to put down any wars that might occur in the far larger territory comprised in the Charter. Besides, he did not approve of these grants by the Sultans of Borneo and Sulu. There were other persons to be considered besides those two Potentates; there were the Natives themselves, who had rights of their own, and who might object to a transfer from one Government to another. They might object, and they might resist, and then the Government would very likely be called upon to support their fellow-subjects, and would be committed to another of those wars with semi-barbarous nations of which they had lately some experience. They all knew how the Spaniards had dealt with the Natives, and they would be obliged to enter upon still more cruelties in order to conquer them—for 1173 conquer them they would be compelled to do. This Treaty had also attached to it some very aggressive conditions. Clause 15, paragraph 5, gave the Company power to acquire, by purchase or other lawful means, certain territory in addition to that ceded. In other words, the Company were to have a Roving Commission to seize other lands, a power which would be resented by the Natives, They would be told, perhaps, that the people of these countries were only savages, and that our dealings with them were a very light matter. Did the House think they were a light matter? [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no.] Let them remember the experience they had had in Afghanistan, Zululand, and the Transvaal. They had gone into them with a very light heart, and he was afraid they had not a very light heart about them now. He therefore hoped they would pause and consider very seriously before they annexed territory, or gave powers to a Corporation which would enable them to embark in aggressive wars, as he thought they distinctly did by this Charter. With all that his hon. and learned Friend had said on slavery he heartily concurred, and he agreed also with his remarks on the opium monopoly that would be enjoyed by the Company; because he felt sure that, opium being a source of revenue, the annual growth would be encouraged rather than checked or controlled. He wished to know whether the country was willing to pay in character as well as in men and money for the enterprize it was called upon to undertake, and, indeed, whether it was ready to embark in the undertaking at all? His own belief was that the country, if it were consulted, would refuse to venture upon the scheme. That the result would be simple annexation there could be no doubt, and he, for one, earnestly demanded that the country should be consulted before further steps were taken. A Liberal Government might reasonably be expected to accord the public a voice in such a matter; but whether they were allowed a voice or not the concession of a Charter was equally to be condemned. He could not help contrasting the present attitude of the Members of the Government with their declarations when they were in Opposition. It was in the recollection of everyone that hon. Gentlemen who were now in the Cabinet denounced the 1174 position assumed by the late Government in similar cases with regard to Native populations. And that fact made their present error all the more regretable. Only two years ago the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, speaking on the Motion of the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard), said—Nothing can be so ruinous to a country. … as to be in the position which we have too often witnessed in the case of the inhabitants of our own Colonies in later times, of having the privilege of provoking wars for which they were not called upon to pay."—[3 Hansard, ccliii. 103.]That was one grave objection to the Charter; and he hoped that even now some modification might be introduced into it which might prevent the evils he anticipated. He trusted that the transaction might be explained away, and that it might be shown to be either an error in judgment or an act of loyalty to the intentions of the late Government. It seemed, from the letters of Lord Salisbury, that the late Government had committed themselves to the scheme. In 1879 Mr. Dent was informed, by direction of Lord Salisbury, that "the matter was under consideration"—a dilatory phrase—and that ''he should be informed as soon as possible of the decision." Just before the late Government went out of Office, Mr. Dent, who not unnaturally thought he had a better chance of getting concessions from the Conservatives than from the Liberals, was particularly anxious to get the Charter sanctioned by the Government. Had he been in Mr. Dent's place, after the declarations made in Opposition by right hon. Gentlemen now on the Treasury Bench, he should have altogether despaired of getting them to grant the Charter. As he had said, he hoped it was no more than an error or an act of loyalty to the policy of their Predecessors. However, the matter remained unsettled up to the very last moments of the existence of the late Government, and on April 22, 1880, Lord Tenterden informed Mr. Dent from Lord Salisbury that the question should be left to be dealt with by his Successor. The course taken by the present Government ought, if possible, to be excused and explained, but certainly not to be justified. Such a step taken without the sanction of Parliament was not susceptible of justification; and some assurances which would be most wel- 1175 come to many of the most earnest Supporters of the Government would, he hoped, be given that in future no territory would be annexed without the previous knowledge and consent of Parliament.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
complained that it was not until 15 minutes before the close of his hon. and learned Friend's speech that he had touched upon the subject of his Amendment. Up to that moment he had attacked the foreign policy of the Government, and had found fault with it in every possible way. If his hon. and learned Friend had intended to take that course, it would have been more convenient if he had embodied his views in the Amendment; because, as it stood, it simply appeared that objection was taken to the clause in the Charter connected with the question of domestic slavery. That was his indictment; but he had introduced many different counts, and objected, apparently, to the whole Charter itself and to the principle He wished to recall to the House the precise point at issue; but first to notice one or two of the general remarks of his hon. and learned Friend. Some fear, apparently, existed in his mind that he would not be credited with perfect independence in regard to the matter; but he could assure his hon. and learned Friend that he had been independent enough. He did not wish to refer to what had occurred in "another place" as to the extraordinary unanimity displayed on the subject of this Charter. Not one of those with whom his hon. and learned Friend acted found it opportune on that occasion to express the slightest dissent from any portion of the Charter. His hon. and learned Friend must know that in that "other place" there was no objection expressed to the granting of the Charter. Throughout his speech there had run an error in assuming that the occupation of Borneo by this Company was in virtue of the Charter. It was no such thing. On the 2nd of December, 1878, Mr. Dent communicated to Lord Salisbury a statement of the real position of this trading Company. Mr. Dent stated that in 1877 concessions had been made, three in number, by virtue of which the Company obtained those rights which his hon. and learned Friend had termed "Sovereign rights." These were granted to, and legally became the property of, the Company. 1176 The Foreign Office, he presumed, would have had no power to object to a trading Company obtaining those rights. But if there were objections to such rights, was it not the duty of Lord Salisbury so to have dissented either by action, or, if not by action, by moral representation, as to have prevented the Company getting such powers as they had obtained? But he (the Attorney General) would ask whether it would have been consistent with the frankness which should exist between a Minister and the subjects of the Crown to allow this Company to continue investing large sums of money if there had been anything illegal in their obtaining the large powers which they had obtained; also whether the present Government could have abstained from affording them that protection which every subject of the Crown was entitled to? Instead of making any objection or protest, Lord Salisbury listened with a willing ear to every representation made by Mr. Dent. As early as the 12th of February, 1879, Messrs. Dent and Overbeck, in a letter addressed to Lord Salisbury, said—Without entering here into the merits of the Treaty above alluded to concluded between Spain and Sulu on the 24th of July, 1878, which gives Spain the Sovereignty over all the Sulu Possessions, we think it is evident that, even assuming that Treaty to be valid and in force, a part of the Sulu Dominions ceded by the Sultan and Chiefs in the most formal and binding manner six months previous to that Treaty, cannot possibly be held to be included in and form part of the Sulu Possessions at the time the Treaty in question was made, and therefore cannot be affected by the provisions of the same or give it any retrospective effect.Founding his remonstrance to Spain on that representation of Mr. Dent, Lord Salisbury, writing to Baron von den Brincken on the 24th of April, 1879, said—I have the honour to communicate to you a draft copy of a despatch which, with the concurrence of the German Government, Her Majesty's Government propose to address to Her Majesty's Minister at Madrid, in which they reserve to themselves the right of declining to recognize the new Treaty between Spain and Sulu, so far as its provisions purport to confer on Spain any rights over the Sulu Archipelago not expressly conceded to her by the Protocol of the 11th of March, 1877, and which may conflict with British interests.And when asked for an answer to the question whether a Charter would be granted, Lord Salisbury said, on the 1177 7th of April, that the reason he could not give one was because he was making a representation to Spain which rendered it advisable to postpone making a reply. Was there not moral responsibility, when from 1877 until May, 1880, this question was before the consideration of the Foreign Office, and Lord Salisbury's immediate consideration; when there was not one word of dissent and complaint to the trading Company in relation to the position they had thus occupied, and the rights they had acquired; and when the explanation given as to why a determination was not arrived at was that the absorbing position of affairs in Continental Europe prevented Lord Salisbury from determining the question? Under such a condition of things he must cast upon Lord Salisbury the burden of allowing the Company to be in the position it occupied. He might remind the House that long before this application was made to the late Government, or before it came under the consideration of the present Government, the Company had proceeded to exercise its powers. They had proceeded to act under their grants; and, therefore, when the present Government became seized of this question, and had cast upon them the responsibility of saying what course they would take, they found an irresponsible Company, unchecked and unrestrained, with no power in this country able to control them—exercising all those powers which his hon. and learned Friend said were so injurious that the Company ought never to have been permitted to obtain them. What power had Her Majesty's Government to prevent the Company from being placed in that position? If that power existed, it rested in Lord Salisbury's hands, and yet it was never exercised. Her Majesty's Government had no power to enter into the general question of the expediency of a trading Company occupying Borneo. It would have been confiscation of their property, if, after what had occurred, the Government had attempted to take from them the rights they had acquired, and they could not, if they had sought so to do, have done more than use a a most ineffectual remonstrance. The question the Government had to determine was, not the broad question of the expediency of the Company acquiring or exorcising the powers granted 1178 to them, but the narrow issue whether it was better that the Company should exist, exercising those irresponsible powers, or whether they should have placed upon them certain obligations which would be found to be in every instance in restraint of that power. The simple matter which the Government had to decide was, he repeated, whether they should leave the Company to act unfettered and entirely without control or not. His hon. and learned Friend quoted from documents to show in the district under the Company's control the existence, at one time, of slavery iniquitous and degrading. But the Government knew from those very documents that three years after the acquisition of Borneo by this trading Company everything had changed. The condition of the people had been altered without the interference of a soldier or policeman under the influence of the British example and of British humanity. Well, were the people to pass again under the control of those who had imposed such degradation upon them? The hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) feared that the power of the Company had been exercised with tyrannical effect, and he regretted that the people had not been allowed any voice in a transfer which affected them so much. His hon. Friend, however, would find that something like what was done in a civilized country was done there. If he turned to page 131 of the Blue Book he would find this passage—In order to convey to the Natives information of the grants, each of the two Sultans deputed a high officer to accompany a representative of the Association in a voyage round the coast. At each of the places touched at, those officers assembled the Chiefs and people and read to them a solemn proclamation of their Sultan announcing the grants and exhorting and commanding them to obey the new authorities. This was done at six different places, and everywhere the news was received in a friendly spirit.He was anxious to make perfectly clear what would have been the position of this trading Company as regarded ourselves and foreign nations had it continued to exist without a Charter. Supposing the Company had been interfered with by Spain, and its settlements attacked, could this country have stood by and have seen British subjects molested without our taking any action in the matter? The grunting of this Charter, there- 1179 fore, had carried our obligations very little further than they extended before. What were the objections which his hon. and learned Friend raised to the provisions of the Charter itself? He presumed that his hon. and learned Friend said, in the first place, that the Government had not introduced into the Charter sufficiently strong provisions with regard to slavery. But in this instance we were confronted, not with the Slave Trade, with which we could cope and doubtless suppress, but with a system of domestic servitude, which existed as part of the law of the country, with which we had no right to interfere by force. What was the course that a Government like ours could take in dealing with an institution of this kind? Were we, with a strong hand, suddenly to set aside the law of the land as regarded the rights of property, in order to put down this system of domestic slavery? There was one view of this subject which was presented by Lord John Russell, in dealing with the domestic slavery that existed at the Cape Coast. He said—If the law and usages of the country in "which each slavery exists tolerate slavery, we have no right to set aside those laws and usages except hy persuasion, negotiation, and other peaceful means.That was written in 1841, and it was quoted with approbation on the 21st of August, 1874, by Lord Carnarvon, then the Secretary of State for the Colonies under a Conservative Government, when referring to the case of the Cape Coast Protectorate. It would be in the recollection of the House that, when the Protectorate was extended to certain portions of the Gold Coast, the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Evelyn Ashley) brought forward a Motion in that House to the effect that slavery in no form should either directly or indirectly be recognized by this country. The then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther), and many others pressed upon the House the view that it was impossible that we could by force cast the institution of domestic slaveryon one side, and eventually the Resolution of the hon. Member was withdrawn. Everyone must have read with great satisfaction the eloquent address which was made by Captain Strachan, as the representative of the English nation, to the Natives of the Gold Coast, over which we then had the 1180 full power of a Protectorate. He reminded them of all the Queen had done for them; how she had sent her officers and her soldiers to fight their battles; how she had spent ten times more gold in protecting them than their country possessed; and that all she desired in return was to express the wish that they should obey the law and would abolish slavery within their territories. But no order was issued or force employed to enforce such wishes. If now the House condemned this Borneo Charter, it would be passing censure on the course that had been pursued with regard to the Gold Coast. What did this Charter propose? In the first place, if it had never been granted, slavery would have continued in Borneo, with all the horrors which his hon. and learned Friend had depicted. The Charter contained a provision to the effect that the Company should "discourage and, as far as possible, abolish by degrees, any system of servitude which existed amongst the tribes." What more could have been done unless the Government had said there should be no such thing as slavery? Unless that had been done, the Government could have followed no other course than that which it had adopted. It must be remembered that, even when we were abolishing slavery in our own possessions, we were obliged to prepare the way for the change by instituting a system of so-called apprenticeship. The obligation was distinct so far as the Company was concerned, that no foreigner should be allowed to own slaves. That obligation sprang from that Charter alone; and yet his hon. and learned Friend asked the House to condemn the Government for having allowed the 7th clause to be inserted in the Charter at all. It was a question whether the Government could possibly do more than they had done in the matter? There was one other matter to which he must refer. The officers that had been alluded to were not officers of the Government, but of the Company. The House was asked to say that the judicial officers of the Company should be recognized without the aid of the Government, and without the moral influence which could be brought to bear by the Government. It was impossible that that could be the case. His hon. and learned Friend had, moreover, spoken of the evils of annexation. He thought that it was time 1181 enough to deal with that, and to censure the Government when annexation did, in fact, take place. That would be a question for the House to decide according to its merits. The granting of this Charter would, he believed, be attended with advantageous results. Prior to it the inhabitants of the country had been subjected to slavery, and reduced to a state of degradation, without any proper government or guidance. Now the country had passed into the hands of men who held a Charter from our government, which Charter would be revoked if the slavery that had existed before was not put an end to.
SIR, JOHN HAY
, as one who had served in Borneo, and as one of the few Members who knew the country, expressed the opinion that the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gorst) was one which ought not to be supported. Had the Forms of the House permitted, he had intended to ask them to alter the Motion to these words—The House views with satisfaction the extension of power to the British North Borneo Company as being likely to promote commerce and exterminate piracy and slavery.His hon. and learned Friend was mistaken in the views he entertained in regard to the Charter which had been granted. He (Sir John Hay) believed that civilization would be advanced by it, just as it was advanced in the case of Sarawak, which was a portion of the Kingdom of the Sultan of Brunei. He had the honour of serving in Borneo when the foundations of civilization were laid in that part of the Island by Sir James Brooke, Sir Thomas Cochrane, Sir Rodney Mundy, and Sir Harry Keppel. The territory of Sarawak was then conceded by the Sultan to Rajah Brooke, just in the same way as he and the Sultan of Sulu had now conveyed their rights over North Borneo to the present Company. It seemed to him that in the arrangements which had been made every difficulty had been fenced round, while the advantages which it secured must be manifest to all. The Treaty gave them two of the best harbours in those seas—Sandakan and Gaya—besides numerous other natural advantages for trade. With regard to the claims of Holland, it was merely with reference to the south-eastern portion of the territory which was granted; and they knew very well that the Government of the Nether- 1182 lands was a Government which did not always yield to Treaty rights when they were demanded. As Canning said—"A very peculiar people the Dutch, both giving too little and asking too much." As to the gain to this country, he would only say that the acquisition of a rich territory, with a population of something less than 150,000 on 18,000 square miles, showed that there was a very large field for enterprize; and they had the assurance that the Natives desired that they should be placed under the control of British gentlemen and officers, such as those who were to be the guaranteed servants of the Company. The harbours which would be obtained were of the greatest possible service and advantage to this country; and although the whole of the Islands in the neighbouring seas were in the possession of the Dutch, they were not occupied by them, and many of them were still in a state of savagery. The Dutch had long been in possession of the Southern portion of Borneo; yet no one could say that the territory there was at all to be compared in civilization with the territory of Sarawak. He anticipated, by the action of the Company, that Northern Borneo would become as fertile and as prosperous and well-conducted a territory as that of Sarawak was now. Thirty years ago there was not one of the rivers or harbours there that was not swarming with pirates, who preyed on the trade of the Eastern seas; but the result of the English settlement had been that there was not now a pirate known on the whole of the North-West or the North-East Coast of Borneo. He confessed that, looking at this matter from a naval point of view, and as one who had actually served in those seas, and in that portion of the world, he deprecated entirely the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member, and cordially approved of the action of this and the late Government with reference to the granting of the Charter, and the co-operation of the Government with the Company on the Northern Coast of Borneo.
§ MR. CROPPER
said, he thought they must all feel glad that the discussion that evening had gone far ahead of the Motion before the House, and that it had touched a number of subjects which the Motion did not cover. They must also feel much obliged to the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), the 1183 hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), and other hon. Members, who had directed such pointed attention to the institution of Slavery. He (Mr. Cropper) sincerely hoped that the effect of the discussion would be to induce the Government, rather than to slacken their vigilance in regard to the Slave Trade, to look closely after the Company to which the Charter had been granted. If he might be allowed for a few moments to take up the time of the House, he would like to allude to another matter which would require great care from the Government of this country in superintending the action of the Company. There had been introduced into the Charter power to grow and to deal in opium. He presumed the Company expected to derive as large an income as possible from the growth of opium. It was in their power to compete with us for the China trade, and to extend the consumption of the drug in Borneo itself. He happened to hold in his hand a letter from a Dutch gentleman, referring to the effect of the introduction of opium into Java, where a similar population to that of Borneo existed. He said—Opium eating seems to be in correlation with gambling. A high functionary reports, 'Their wives have to work the rice fields while they are eating opium and gaming.' No wonder that some Native Chiefs and legislators have imposed the self-same punishment—that of penal servitude for life—on betting defalcations and opium eating. A Dutch Colonial Minister quoted a well-known Japanese proverb, 'The Schinver (opium eater) is not to be trusted.'When he saw that the power to grow and to deal in opium was to be brought within the provisions of the Charter of the new Company, he felt that there would be a great need of control in order to prevent the drug from becoming as great a curse and evil in Borneo as it had proved to be in Java. The Report of the High Commissioner of British Burmah said—There can be no conception on the part of the Government of the fearful strides with which the demoralization of the Arakanese portion of this district is progressing, mainly owing to the indulgence of the inhabitants in opium smoking.This country came into their hands from a simple, unsophisticated Indian race, and it would be a terrible blot upon their character, and upon the country which had introduced this Company into 1184 Borneo, if they rewarded the touching simplicity with which the Natives were confiding in our rule by exercising an influence over them which must do them harm instead of good. He was bound to say that some of the names which he had heard in connection with this Company were not altogether free from suspicion on that point. He was sorry to say that the head of the Company came from a great house which had long been connected with the opium trade in China, and Sir Rutherford Alcock himself, although once strongly opposed to the opium trade in China, had lately taken to apologize for it. The gentlemen whose names were attached to the Charter were persons who were not likely to take a philanthropic view of the trade; and they might possibly find, in the course of time, that the country was engaged, not only in a profitable opium trade with China, but in Borneo as well. He trusted that this question of the opium traffic would receive the careful consideration of Her Majesty's Government. He did not wish to enter into the question of the annexation of that territory. There had been times when the exercise of the power of annexation of this Empire had given to the people they had taken under their rule a prosperity which they never before enjoyed. But it was certainly the case that of late years the annexation of great territories, whether in the Mediterranean or in South Africa, had detracted rather from their honour than added to it; but, at the same time, they could not read the Blue Book, and see what possible commerce might be derived from the granting of this Charter, without feeling some Sympathy with the new foundation, and some hope that the magnificent resources of the country would now be opened up, and that the results of their rule would prove a great blessing, and not a curse, both to this country and to the people of Borneo.
§ MR. RICHARD
I agree with my hon. Friend who has just sat down, that we are greatly indebted to the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) for bringing this question before the House. I wish, indeed, he had submitted to us a Resolution of a broader character; for, undoubtedly, the course he has taken is open to the objection raised by the Attorney General, that his speech covered far wider ground that 1185 his Amendment. I sympathize thoroughly with this Amendment about slavery; and I do not think the Attorney General has disposed of the objection, for here we have slavery again placed under the protection of the British flag, and the price of slaves will be fixed by a British Court, or, at least, by an officer who, in one capacity, will exercise jurisdiction as the Representative of Her Majesty the Queen. But I very much prefer the form of Resolution put on the Paper by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea; for I believe with him that—It is inexpedient that any annexation, direct or indirect, should take place without the full previous knowledge and consent of Parliament.I hold this opinion on the simple principle that all such annexations involve national responsibilities, and generally responsibilities of a very grave character; and that, therefore, the Representatives of the people ought to have a voice in deciding whether the nation should incur those responsibilities. At present it seems to be in the power of any petty officer representing the Government—or, indeed, of any private adventurer—to take over large territories and saddle the duty of maintaining and defending them upon the British people. There are many who believe that our Empire is already big enough—that we have as many territories in all parts of the world as we can administer wisely or defend effectually. The Duke of Wellington said, many years ago, in regard to India, what seems applicable to our whole Empire—"In my opinion," he said, "the extension of our territory and influence has been greater than our means." But, at any rate, whether it is expedient or not to enlarge our boundaries, surely it is right that such extensions should be the deliberate act of the nation, and that we should not be inveigled into them by personal interests or ambitions. It may be said—and, indeed, has been said—in regard to this particular Company, that we are not bound to defend them or give them military assistance, except that which we give to all Englishmen engaged in trade in uncivilized countries. But that exception covers everything. Instructed by past experience, we may very confidently predict that what will happen will be this—These new rulers 1186 will fall out with some of their neighbours, or with their own subjects. We know that Holland and Spain have large pretensions in that part of the world, as the hon. and learned Member for Chatham has already shown, to say nothing of the revelations made as to the United States. If anybody is satistisfied with the vague general understanding we have come to with Spain, and thinks that it affords adequate security against the danger of future conflicts with that Power in those regions, he must be of a far more sanguine disposition than I am. Indeed, these two Blue Books placed in our hands are not to me very pleasant or edifying reading; for they exhibit three so-called civilized and Christian nations—England, Holland, and Spain—scrambling against each other for the possession of a country which belongs to none of them. They appear like birds of prey hovering over a weak or wounded animal, screaming viciously at each other, but all ready with beak and claw to fall upon their unfortunate victim. But if this Chartered Company do not fall out with Spain or Holland, they are sure to quarrel with their barbarian subjects or other Native Tribes. Englishmen always do so. For amid the many admirable qualities of the Anglo-Saxon character, it has this cardinal defect—that it has not the ruling faculty, if by ruling you mean attaching to you in willing allegiance those over whom you exercise sway. As a conquering race, as a colonizing race, as a commercial race, Englishmen are without their equals in the world. But as a ruling race they fail, as is proved by the fact that there is scarcely an instance in our history in which we have come into contact with any other nation, or tribe, or race, in any part of the world without quarrelling and fighting with them. That we may be pretty sure will be the case in North Borneo. Indeed, it is clear that the advocates of the scheme before us themselves anticipate this. A significant hint is given by Consul General Treacher, who calls himself the friend of Baron Overbeck. Writing from Labuan in a despatch dated January 2, 1878, that gentleman says—If supported by the occasional presence of a gunboat, I think the proposed Company would not have much difficulty with Natives.Now, I do not believe in government by gunboats.
§ MR. RICHARD
Well, I am very sorry that missionaries so far forget their own character as servants of the Prince of Peace as to apply for gunboats. We must remember that the people of these ceded Provinces have not been consulted in regard to this transference; and nothing is more likely than that they will rebel against the authority of the foreign adventurers to whom they have been handed over without their consent and possibly without their knowledge. Indeed, we are not without a warning example even in Borneo. We know what took place before under Rajah Brooke. It has now become the fashion to eulogize and almost to canonize this gentleman, and to represent the course taken in regard to him by Mr. Hume and Mr. Cobden as the persecution of a great and good man. I believe, on the contrary, that no men ever rendered a greater service to humanity than Mr. Hume and Mr. Cobden did in the check they imposed on the proceedings of that unscrupulous adventurer. He also got possession of a certain Province in Borneo, very much as I suspect this Company has done, partly by cajolery and partly by violence or menace. And almost as soon as he was installed in authority, he quarrelled with neighbouring tribes. And what happened then? Why this happened—that there were certain ships of our Navy wandering about in those seas, having nothing to do, and looking out for a job, and Rajah Brooke called them in, and they promptly obeyed the call to fight his battles, a proceeding which the Prime Minister has characterizedAs the least justifiable of all the proceedings carried on in the British name within the last half century.
§ MR. RICHARD
These ships attacked a Native fleet, and there followed one of the most frightful and wholesale massacres of Natives that is recorded in history. And as Rajah Brooke thought fit to brand these Natives as pirates, the people of this country had the pleasure of paying £20,000 as head money to our officers and men, so much a head for each man they had killed. Well, when this now Company gets into diffi- 1188 culties with their subjects or other Native Tribes, what will then happen? Why, a loud outcry is sure to be raised in the country, and we shall be told—"There are our dear, helpless countrymen attacked or besieged by barbarous savages, and we must go to their rescue." And so we shall be obliged to espouse their quarrels and to fight their battles, just or unjust. Now, I protest against being dragged into these responsibilities. I say again, what I said last year, when I brought forward a Motion on a similar subject—this nation of 35,000,000 of people ought to be master of its own destinies, instead of its blood and treasure and reputation being placed at the mercy of others without the knowledge or consent of people or Parliament.
Sir, I cannot help supposing that the very clear and candid statement of my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General may have sufficed to very much narrow the field of this debate. Indeed, I draw that inference from the tone of the speech which followed his statement compared with a portion of debate which went before it. But I am anxious to do what I can in furtherance of the same task, for I think nothing but a clear view of one or two fundamental facts in this case is necessary in order to satisfy the House, and in order, I almost think, to satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gorst), that he will not do wisely in endeavouring to persuade the House to adopt his Amendment. I have no intention of quarrelling with any of the principles laid down by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, any more than I did when he moved a Resolution on a kindred subject nearly two years ago. Nor have I any intention to enter into the question as to how far the Marquess of Salisbury is, or is not, responsible in this matter. My own impression is that if the Marquess of Salisbury had had views in the slightest degree like those declared by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham, it is clear that he could not have entertained the question of this Charter as he did; he must have felt that, instead of keeping it on hand, it was his duty at once to enter his protest against the continuance, even under the Charter, of a Company such as has been described. But I believe it is probable that the Marquess of Salisbury, looking 1189 at this case, saw that, though it might have a limited scope in itself, yet it involved principles of delicacy and importance, and that in the dying days of his Government it would not be well for him to deal with it. Therefore, I do not wish, in the slightest degree, to throw responsibility on the Marquess of Salisbury beyond the moderate extent to which I have stated it; and I am willing on the part of my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, and on my own part, to take the responsibility of this transaction, and to state to the House why we are willing to take it. My hon. Friend did not do justice to the attitudes of the different countries. He said it was painful to see Holland, Spain, and England rushing into competition and quarrelling in order to obtain possession of a country like Borneo, to which none of them had any right. But my hon. Friend should recollect that England has never claimed any right to the possession of any part of Borneo, nor has she done any act which she could avoid leading to that possession. [Mr. EICHARD: What about the Charter?] I will come to that directly, and I shall contend that it had a directly contrary effect. What would be the advantage of adopting this Amendment? We are asked to adopt an Address praying the Crown to revoke or alter so much of the Charter as gives and implies sanction to slavery. If we only alter provisions of the Charter relating to slavery, it is perfectly clear that if we modify their form, any question of the sanction of slavery still remains in principle in the Charter. Suppose we struck slavery out of the Charter, what follows? That slavery is abolished? Not in the least. Slavery continues without restraint and without the slightest obligation from without upon the Company; whereas, as the matter now stands, in case, in the judgment of the Crown, the Company fail to execute the engagement into which they have entered to temper slavery, to qualify slavery, to put an end to slavery so soon as it shall be practicable—if they fail in the execution of these engagements, the Crown is empowered legally to revoke the Charter. I say that is in the nature of a security against slavery, and not of implied countenance to it. I am not entering upon the question with regard to opium, except that I believe, should the Com. 1190 pany misuse its powers in respect of opium, the power of negative interference on the part of the Crown will enable the Minister to check any misconduct in that respect also. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) asked me to give a pledge that no annexation of territory should take place without the consent of the House of Commons. As far as consent is concerned, I am rather disposed to think it is an affair not only for the House of Commons, but for the whole of the Legislature of the country, and if I gave an abstract pledge it would be in that form. I do not, however, propose to give any such pledge, and my hon. Friend will find that it is time enough to make demands upon us with respect to annexation when there is on our part any tendency towards favouring or affecting it. Throughout the whole of my political life, whether under Sir Robert Peel or as a Member of the Liberal Party, I cannot recollect an occasion on which I gave a vote or took a step in a controverted matter except on the side which was opposed to annexation. I trust, therefore, I am not likely to be suspected in the matter. In truth, for the first 20 years of my political life, opposition to annexation—I do not mean simply on abstract grounds, but extreme indisposition to annexation—was characteristic of the two political Parties in the State alike, and they heartily cooperated in that sense. There has been some amount of change since, on which I need not dwell; but we undoubtedly adhere, and I, for one, adhere in full, and, if possible, with growing strength of conviction, to the views upon that subject that I have always entertained. I believe that the expression of these views, not only on my own part, but on the part of others who sit near me, and with whom I am associated, is better security than my hon. Friend could have in any abstract declaration on the subject. We believe that the responsibilities of this great Empire, which we have inherited with all their burden and with all their glory, and with all their duty as well as with all their glory—we believe those responsibilities are sufficient to exhaust the ambition or the strength of any Minister or of any Parliament, and we do not wish to overload them and to break them down, apart from other questions, 1191 by gratuitous, not to say by guilty additions. The question is—"Have we in this instance, by any act of the Government, augmented its responsibility in respect to the British Settlement, if so I may call it, on the Northern Coast of Borneo, or aggravated a danger connected with that Settlement?" I think that is not an unfair statement of the case. How does this arise? Do not let the hon. and learned Member who brought forward this Resolution, or my hon. Friend who seconded it, suppose for one moment that I deny the existence of responsibilities and dangers. The responsibilities and dangers which were largely stated by the Mover of the Amendment unquestionably exist. The relations with Foreign States, the relations with foreign residents, the relations with the Natives of the Island are all of them matters full of responsibility, and not apart from danger. But these things have not arisen by the act of Her Majesty's Government, and our contention is that the act of Her Majesty's Government does not extend, but qualifies and reduces, those dangers. Sir, the case is one of great interest. I am not about to use language of mistrust and condemnation as regards the Company which has settled itself in Borneo, and which has obtained these remarkable powers—powers involving the essence of Sovereignty, though covered by the Suzerainty of the Native Chief. I must, however, lodge a protest against the statements of the hon. and learned Gentleman, for these powers are totally different from the case of the East India Company, which was under a different system, and assumed different rights in its relation to the Native Sovereigns and the Queen, whose Dominions likewise extended into India where the East India Company went. The fact is this. Let the Government adopt, with mathematical rigour if you like, an opposition to annexation, and what does it effect? It does nothing to check that tendency—that, perhaps, irrepressible tendency—of British enterprize to carry our commerce and the range and area of our Settlements beyond the limits of our Sovereignty in those countries where civilization does not exist. I am not prepared to say that that is altogether an illegitimate object. I am inclined to hope that, duly regulated, it may be made an almost unmixed good; and 1192 that even where not so happily regulated, yet in some cases, as in the case of the New Zealand Company, on the whole, a balance of good has been obtained for the happiness of mankind. At any rate, there the thing is, and you cannot repress it. If the views of the hon. and learned Gentleman are to be fully carried out, he must bring in a new penal law. He must make it penal for British subjects to go and settle themselves beyond the limits of the Empire, and he must devise the means of executing that law. ["No, no!"] The hon. and learned Gentleman must have his choice. He must have his preventive law, which I call a penal law, with the means of its execution, or else be prepared to see these things happen. They have happened during all my life. The oldest controversy I remember took place more than 40 years ago about taking possession of an island—I forget its name—in order to prosecute the South Sea Fisheries; but it is needless to enter into details. It cannot be denied that there is this continual tendency on the part of the enterprizing people of this country to overpass the limits of the Empire, and not only to carry their trade, but to form their settlement in other countries beyond the sphere of regular organized government, and there to constitute establishments, and even to constitute a certain civil government of their own. Now, Sir, the question is whether, if abuses spring up, it is wise for the Government to establish for itself a rule of sitting by with folded arms, and allowing these things to go on without the slightest attempt to regulate them? It so happens that we have in Borneo a good example of the old system, and a good example of what I may, perhaps, call the new system. Sir James Brooke went into Borneo without asking or obtaining aid or sanction from anyone. By his own remarkable energy he established himself in that country; and I am not sure my hon. and learned. Friend was right if he meant to say that Mr. Hume and Mr. Cobden ever objected to Sir James Brooke's enterprize ab initio. They took an honourable part in the discussion that then arose upon the subject, and I myself gave them my humble aid at the time to prevent any sanction being given to certain unhappy proceedings that then took place; but I do not recollect that 1193 they ever attempted to take objection, which would have been futile, to that tendency of British enterprize to pass into those remote and uncivilized countries. But what happened in the case of Sir James Brooke was that we let it alone. And did that prevent us from mixing in its affairs? No; on the contrary, a very questionable undertaking—in my opinion, a very guilty undertaking, but, to state it moderately, a most questionable undertaking, was the consequence. Not only was he permitted to pursue his course, but he was assisted by the Fleet of Her Majesty; and not only so, but when his course was challenged in this country, and when the intervention of the Fleet was challenged, a large majority of this House voted in his support. So you did not escape any responsibility by endeavouring to have no relations with those people who found themselves in those remote regions. Now, what has been done in the present case? We have thought it better to make an experiment of some wise and moderate method of preserving control over a Company of the nature of this North Borneo Company. What have we given and what have we got? It was asked by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), if no good would be done by this Company, why was the Charter given at all? The benefits actually conferred upon the Company were extremely small. It was established simply as a body corporate, with perpetual succession; but I believe that in the view of the law it obtained nothing else whatever. I doubt very much whether obtaining that legal privilege would of itself have been sufficient to induce the Company to enter into relations with Her Majesty's Government. What else did it get? Sir, it may seem strange and paradoxical to say it got nothing else. What it got was restraint, not privilege. There is not a single privilege given to it by the Charter over and above what it had already acquired upon a title sufficient to enable it to enter into the exercise of all its powers. I am sorry that the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman never brought into view that paramount and fundamental fact that we were dealing, in granting this Charter, with a pre-existent Company. We were not calling a Company into existence. We were not inciting people to go and do a certain 1194 thing. They were in possession of every power that the Charter gives them, and the question is, did we worsen or did we better the state of things? You say—Why did the Company submit to this restraint? I venture to give my own reason. The restraint exercised on the conduct of the Company by the power of the Crown to interfere was a guarantee of considerable power against misconduct on the part of the Company. That there should be such a guarantee against misconduct on the part of the Company's agent would tend to raise the character of the Company, and to improve the credit of the Company; and it was that indirect, but still, as I hope, very considerable advantage obtained by the Company in the most legitimate manner, by submitting itself to restraint, which formed, as far as I can see—but I have no title from the Company; I have had no communication with them—their principal inducement. But, Sir, we have undertaken no new responsibility whatever. We shall have—and this was a matter which was carefully considered by the Foreign Office and by the Government—we shall have no more responsibility, as it is perceived by my hon. Friend who spoke last, not one grain more responsibility with regard to the North Coast of Borneo than we have with regard to the territory of Sarawak. Wherever your subjects go, if they are in pursuit of objects not unlawful, you are under moral obligations towards them that you cannot possibly forget or ignore; and their objects being lawful, you afford them all the protection which your powers enable you to give. Well, Sir, that is precisely the case in regard to British North Borneo, and there is not the slightest addition to our responsibility beyond what we incurred with regard to Sarawak. The hon. and learned Gentleman says we have incurred serious responsibilities with Spain, the Netherlands, and the United States of America. I think he considerably exaggerated those dangers; but I do not deny that difficulty, and even danger, may exist; but I say two things. First of all, that we are under no obligation whatever to settle the existing controversies with those Governments for the Company; and, secondly, that we are in a condition to render difficulties far less likely to occur in future, by using our negative and restrictive powers to shield the Com- 1195 pany from the temptation to be led into unwise and aggressive action; so that our contention is, there is not a point from which you can look at this question at which you do not find that, whatever our responsibilities are in regard to these uncivilized foreign countries, they are likely to be limited rather than extended by the grant of Charters such as this. My hon. Friend who spoke in so excellent a spirit in seconding this Resolution, and my hon. Friend also who spoke last, say this is virtually an annexation. Now, Sir, I am very sorry to hear hon. Members in this House say it is virtually annexation, because the day may possibly arise when their speeches will be quoted in support of its being considered to have been annexation. But, first of all, I do not admit in the slightest degree that it is an annexation in effect or an annexation in right. In right, I will not allow that there is the slightest tendency to annexation; in fact, I will make to you this admission—that wherever your subjects have settled themselves, and have become virtually masters of the territory, there may be a seed of possible future annexation. That I cannot deny. But I say the danger of that, the danger attending it, you cannot escape, unless you are prepared to support—what even the hon. and learned Member opposite does not seem inclined to bring in—a penal law to prevent British subjects from going beyond the limits of the Queen's Dominion. I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman can realize the effect of his own Motion. You can only prevent British subjects from settling in foreign countries by prohibiting them from going beyond the limits of the Empire, and you can only do that by penal legislation. Those, then, are the grounds for our course of action in this matter, which we have not entered upon without scruple and consideration. It is a matter which we do not attempt to place too high. The motives which I have supposed may have deterred Lord Salisbury and the late Government from settling it with rapidity was a sense that the whole subject was beset with difficulty, and that, go which way you will, it is a choice of difficulties. We have seen what has happened from the neutral, or, as it is sometimes called, laissen faire policy, and we are not satisfied with the results. I venture to believe that, if we 1196 had had a greater control over the proceedings of the New Zealand Company, we might have postponed annexation. We cannot tell whether we might have avoided it or not; but it might have been in our power to prevent precipitate and unwise proceedings. We do not say this is a system of which the success has been demonstrated. It may break down. What we say is, that it is an experiment we are trying, the whole matter being full of responsibility, and that responsibility not being apart from peril. After the many great imperfections and defects of our previous methods of proceeding, it is worth our while to make a modest and well-considered trial of this new method of proceeding. For that purpose we ask the indulgence of the House. We protest against the immediate condemnation of our plan. We say, let it stand the test of experience, which will soon prove whether it is wise or unwise; and, in order that it may do so, I hope the House will not assent to the Resolution of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, it was exceedingly difficult to resist the charm of the eloquence of the Prime Minister, and especially so for a Member who counted himself one of the right hon. Gentleman's humble followers. But he grieved to confess that he very much wished that the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman had not been exerted on an occasion which seemed like sailing very near the wind in regard to the matter of annexation, of which the right hon. Gentleman had been so strong an opponent. It seemed to him that in this case, whatever lawyers might call it, whatever technical arguments might be used, it was very difficult to believe that the recognition of the North Borneo Company was not an annexation—it was the same recognition of territory passing to the British Crown as took place when a trading Company, acting under a Royal Charter, possessed themselves of India. There was a parallel and an analogy between the two cases which was very striking. It might be said that he, who had spent his life in administering and, in some cases, pushing forward British annexations in India, might not be unfavourable to the granting of this Charter; but, on the contrary, his argument was that we had so much already that we ought to pause and hesitate be- 1197 fore we took more. Whatever arguments might be used, he should continue to believe that, having once taken in hand the North Borneo Company, the œgis of British protection was thrown over the country. His alarm had not been quieted, but further alarm had been occasioned him, by the eloquent speech of the Prime Minister. From that speech he gathered that the right hon. Gentleman rather disliked what had been done, but that, there being only a choice of evils, the grant of the Charter was inevitable. It really seemed to him a matter of deep moment that in the eyes of the present Prime Minister, an advocate of peace and an opponent of annexation and extension, our political position was such that the British Government, whether Conservative and aggressive, or Liberal and opposed to annexation and Jingoism, was bound by an insatiable necessity to follow and protect, he would not say every British filibuster, but every British adventurer, and take possession of the territory bought by him from some foreign Prince or savage King, and that this country must submit to the extensions of territory, whether it desired it or not. He doubted very much the soundness of the arguments both of the Prime Minister and of the Attorney General. They had told the House that the Company was an accomplished fact, and that the Charter only secured it in the possession of the territory which it had acquired. This was a territory half as large as France; but, so far as he could gather from the Papers, the Company was really in possession of nothing but a few petty points upon the coast. The Charter not only confirmed the whole of the immense grants of territory which had been given to the Company by Rulers who did not possess it, but it authorized the Company, under British protection and under the British flag, to take possession of those territories in the best way they could—that was, either by fair means or foul, for Companies were not necessarily over-scrupulous. They were further authorized to take possession of any more territories they could in that quarter of the globe. That was a most startling authorization, and was simply a roving commission. Nothing like so wide an authority was given to the East India Company. Parliament was always restraining that Company. Although he 1198 had personally taken part in some annexations of territory, he thought that those in which he was concerned ought to be about the last, and that we ought to go no further. We were a comparatively small Island, and, speaking with reference to the great Asiatic populations, a comparatively small population, and possessed but a small standing Army. For his part, he believed that the Constitution, the unwillingness to serve, and the occupations of the people rendered it unlikely that Great Britain would ever have a powerful Army or become a great military Power. One of his greatest objections to bluster and Jingoism was that they had not an Army powerful enough to bear them out. Why should we assert a right and a claim to occupy every part of the globe, to the exclusion of other people? It would be much better if we should take an example from the view expressed in a very statesmanlike manner by the Dutch on this question—that our policy should be rather concentration than further progress. There was already plenty of opening for our surplus population in the various Colonies. In this Eastern quarter, between Assam and Singapore, was a vast district, sufficient to afford ample scope for the energetic young men of the upper classes who could not pass for the Army. He confessed to a feeling of sadness and regret at hearing the Prime Minister enunciate views which came so very near the "Rule Britannia" kind of policy which bound us to follow every British subject who chose to follow an aggressive course in any part of the world. He had hoped that this country had abandoned the Palmerstonian policy of looking upon every person calling himself a British subject as entitled to their protection, wherever he might go and whatever he might do. It had been said that this was a peculiar case, in which the advantages counter-balanced the disadvantages. What was there in this case which made it peculiar? It seemed to him that Lord Granville and the Attorney General, representing the Government, had been very easily satisfied as to the extraordinarily beneficent character of this Company. They had the statement of a gentleman named Lees, who was the agent of this very Company, and of two or three naval officers, who had visited several small points on the coast. That was the whole evi- 1199 dence on which this case was taken out of the category of objectionable annexations. That being so, he greatly doubted the wisdom or expediency of entering on a new region of annexation which, heretofore, had been closed against us. Why should we, alone among all countries in the world, undertake to protect the human race—sometimes to protect them off the face of the earth? He had looked over the Blue Books, and had not found anything in them that rightly exempted this country from the policy of non-annexation. We had the great territory of India; we had not rid ourselves of responsibility in South Africa—he did not know whether we ever should—and Egypt was still on our hands. Why should we enter on this great region of the earth? It was a very dangerous policy to enter upon a course of something which, if not annexation, was affiliation, because it was impossible to say where it was to stop. He could not help thinking that Her Majesty's Government had found that they had very considerable difficulty in justifying themselves. He was disappointed that the Prime Minister did not get up at once, instead of leaving the case in the hands of a great forensic Advocate—the Attorney General. If it was desirable to add to our territories, it was better that that should be done directly by Her Majesty's Government, and not by giving a Charter to a Joint Stock Company to do so. He had great doubt whether India was better administered now by Her Majesty's Government directly than it was by the East India Company. But things went on; you could not go backwards. Parliament thought it right to put an end to that Company; and now were they going to create another Company of this kind in its place, when financiers in the City were much less scrupulous than they were in the time of the East India Company? They were going to give power to this Company to raise an Army, to borrow money, to make laws, and to annex territories wherever it could? It seemed to him that that was a very dangerous policy. They had been told that the effect of this Charter was only to give to this Company a moral support. It seemed to him. that the giving of the Charter implied a great deal more—namely, the support of Her Majesty's ships in the first place, and financial support in the second place. The Com- 1200 pany could go into the City with Her Majesty's Charter, and obtain money which it could not get if left to stand by itself. The East India Company, he would point out, had followed the course of passing a law desiring their Courts and servants not to recognize or enforce any right founded on the practice of slavery; and he could not see why that precedent should not be followed in the present case. Though he differed from much that had fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), he should, nevertheless, give him his support if a division were taken, for he was of opinion that the Charter ought not to have been granted.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, he was surprised at the opposition of the hon. Member who had just spoken. He should have expected from a Gentleman who had filled many high offices in India an appreciation of the great benefits conferred by English rule on Native races. He could not, therefore, help thinking that his hon. Friend had a Radical constituency in view, instead of the House of Commons, when he delivered his speech, and that he might have to regret ever having made that speech. It was said by those who objected to this Charter that the East India Company's Charter was at first similarly limited in scope. Well, no doubt that was so; but who could deny that the Charters granted to the East India Company were the origin of great benefits enjoyed at the present time by the Native races? The policy which he had in view when he approved the Government's consent to the North Borneo Charter had been characterized as a "Rule Britannia" policy. He was not, however, ashamed to affirm his adherence to a policy of that kind; and having seen the great social and moral effect of what was called "Jingoism," he hoped he should, as long as he lived, always be a "Jingo." How, he asked, would our commercial interests have been extended so largely, if an element of "Jingoism" had not always been prevalent among the English people? It was noteworthy that the "peace-at-any-price" politicians were always ready to reap the fruits of a successful "Jingo" policy. To his mind there was a close analogy between the extension of our commerce and what had been called "Jingoism." He hoped that any barbarous customs that might exist in North. Borneo would be abolished 1201 in the course of the next few years. They must remember that it was not so very long ago that sutteeism and infanticide were abolished in India; and however abhorrent these practices had always been to us—the dominant Power in India—yet it had taken years thoroughly to eradicate such barbarities. The process of abolition ought, however, to be gradual, for by showing an impatient hostility to the traditions of the Native population an unfavourable impression would probably be created. The First Lord of the Treasury had said that the Charter did not throw any new responsibility on the country. He could not accept that view of the case. If he could believe that the Charter was a sham, and that we were never to defend it, if necessary, by force of arms, he certainly should not support the Government on that occasion. He intended, however, to do so, because he believed that the Charter was not to be a sham. In his opinion, it was impossible to have a Charter with the Queen's Sign Manual without responsibility. He agreed, however, with much the Prime Minister had said, for the right hon. Gentleman had swallowed a good deal of what he had said at Mid Lothian; and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman delivered to-night was the first tinge of a national policy which this great Government had yet shown. If the Charter carried with it no new responsibility, what was the use of this storm in a teacup? The East India Company, when in existence, was supported by the forces of this country over and over again; and he trusted that similar support would be accorded to the North Borneo Company in case of need. The Attorney General, seeing that the step taken by the Government did not meet with universal approval on the Ministerial side of the House, had endeavoured to make the Marquess of Salisbury responsible for the Charter. He did not say that the Marquess of Salisbury would have sanctioned the Charter exactly as it stood; but he had no doubt the late Foreign Secretary would have sanctioned it in principle, and he thought he was justified in this assertion from the perusal of the Blue Books. Still, he (Mr. Onslow) objected to any Member of the Government, when they found they were in difficulties and were likely to offend some of their stanchest 1202 supporters, try to throw the blame upon their political opponents. They had heard the strange words "British interests" from the Attorney General. He had thought the Liberal Party was never going to use those words again; but he was glad they had cropped up. But the remarks of the Attorney General and the Prime Minister were at total variance with everything said in Mid Lothian two years ago. The remarks made from the Treasury Bench were totally at variance with not only the speeches in Mid Lothian, but at variance with the remarks of every Member of the Government, whose sole object two years ago was to turn out that great statesman the Earl of Beaconsfield and place themselves in Office. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister recalled that little word "prestige." Two years ago the right hon. Gentleman said "prestige" was a hateful word. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] He differed from the right hon. Gentleman now, as then; and he was glad the word had been recognized now in the granting of this Charter. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) said that it was done out of loyalty to the late Government. He had never seen the slightest loyalty from the Prime Minister to the late Government; and he thought the hon. Member for Swansea must have been poking fun at the House when he spoke of the granting of the Charter being an act of loyalty to the Earl of Beaconsfield and the Marquess of Salisbury. He did not believe the Prime Minister was capable of loyalty towards his political opponents. He (Mr. Onslow), however, believed that the Charter would work well for the country, and that the Natives who were friendly disposed to us would greatly benefit by the change. It had been said that steps might be taken in future years to annex this territory to the Crown. The only doubt he had in his mind was whether, rather than grant this Charter, the Government ought not at once to have annexed the territory. There would be difficulties, no doubt, but they had had difficulties in India; and he, for one, did not quail because of "difficulties." To his mind, the overcoming—and that, too, so successfully—so-called difficulties, insuperable as they had often been considered, in India, was one of the grandest deeds in the annals of 1203 British history. Do not, then, let us yield to this bugbear of difficulties. He believed the Natives in India and elsewhere preferred English rule to the rule of their own Rajahs. He believed there was a great future in the country to which this Charter had been granted for the trader, the engineer, and the missionary. He could only account for the policy of the Government on this question by supposing that the right hon. Gentleman was coming back to a sense of true national responsibility; and if he went on in that policy many Members on that side of the House would give the Government their cordial support. He did not know how the Under Secretaries of State for the Colonies and for Foreign Affairs could reconcile to their views support of the policy of the Government in this matter. It was a great concession that had been made to the Company, and he believed the policy pursued with regard to it was a national policy. There might, no doubt, be difficulties in dealing with the country; but it must be remembered that they had not acquired it by coercion or fighting, but wholly by peaceful means—a great guarantee that the Natives would be peaceable and abide by the laws laid down. He was sorry that on this occasion he could not vote with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). Considering the policy of the Tory Party in bygone years, it did seem to him strange that an hon. Member sitting on that side of the House should bring forward a Resolution of that kind. No doubt he was induced to do so by the interest he took in the Slave Question; but, for his own part, he believed that slavery would be in no way encouraged in Borneo by the granting of the Charter. If he had the slightest idea that the Company would, by any means, encourage slavery, of course he would not vote with Her Majesty's Government; but so great was the aversion to slavery, by politicians in this country of every hue, that he felt confident that in a few years slavery in Borneo would be a thing of the past. This Charter would much more probably lead to the granting to North Borneo those glorious institutions which we had been the means of introducing into our Indian Empire; and it was because he believed there was in the future of that country great commercial pros- 1204 perity, and a wide field for all kinds of civilization under British rule, that he now supported Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. R. BIDDULPH MARTIN
said, that, as one of the filibusters to whom so much reference had been made, and one of those to whom the Charter was granted, he thoroughly appreciated the position which had been laid down by the Prime Minister with reference to this grant. In taking the limitations imposed upon them, the Company accepted the responsibility of those limitations, which they would endeavour to carry out to the best of their ability. With regard to the question of slavery, they would not, in dealing with the subject, have possibly adopted stronger measures. It was their firm intention and wish to extirpate this curse as soon as they possibly could. It was only a question of practicability that limited their so doing. They would like to wipe it out with one sweep of the pen; but it was absolutely impossible, in a country of which they knew practically nothing, to do that. Slaves were generally made by the dhows, which swooped down and carried off as many as they could. The only effectual method of preventing them was to send a gunboat or an armed steamer to protect the de-fenceless Native villages on the coast. The Company's settlements could protect themselves, but the Native villages could not. Slavery was a recognized institution. and it was impossible to put it down at once. They were compelled to suffer it, but to suffer it only for a limited time. In reference to what had been said of opium growing in the Island, he believed that the soil was not favourable to its cultivation. So far as their own territory was concerned, the Company would try and keep it out by imposing the highest tax upon it they could. One of their first acts was to take off the tax upon rice, a tax which weighed very heavily on the people, and place it upon opium. On the other hand, the Island would be benefited by the introduction of English credit. European manufactures would be brought in, and the people of North Borneo, who had a great inclination towards commerce, would gladly take the opportunity of extending their trade. They had no difficulty at all with the Natives. A circumstance illustrative of their feeling came to the 1205 knowledge of the Company a fortnight ago. Two tribes living beyond the limits of their boundary had sent a message to the Resident saying that they wished their territory to be annexed also. The answer was that they were beyond the boundary line, and it was therefore impossible. Notwithstanding this, however, they sent a reply saying they would send their wives, their children, and their movable goods into the district, and when they could not bear the tyranny of their Native Rulers they themselves would follow. They had already carried out the first part of their undertaking, and all that remained to be seen was, whether they would carry out the rest. Of course, he admitted that the object of the Company was a commercial one; but he thought all these circumstances should be considered in connection with the undertaking.
said, he did not wish to criticize anything that had been said as to the action of the Company by the hon. Member who had just spoken; but he maintained that in not one single remark did the hon. Gentleman lay before the House the smallest reason why this Charter should be granted. They were told that orders had been sent out for a gradual and speedy suppression of slavery; but the date of those orders was not mentioned. If he understood the matter aright, they were sent out before the granting of the Charter; therefore, of whatever effect they might be, that effect was in no way dependent on the Charter. Then, as to the cultivation of opium, that appeared to him also to be a matter which in no way concerned the grant of the Charter at all. Slavery, unfortunately, existed already in some of our Dependencies in its domestic form, and in other Dependencies they had what approached it very nearly—forced apprenticeships. The opium trade they had in India; but he did not think it was necessary to enter into those questions. They appeared to him to be totally irrelevant to the Charter. The real question that would make him vote against the Government, if the matter went to a division, was the point of annexation. When the Liberals were in Opposition, and when they appealed to the country at the last General Election, they all protested against annexation. He protested against annexation then, and he protested against it now. The 1206 sole question was, how far this action of the Government was a step in the direction of annexation? Let them examine into it for a moment. They were told, in the first place, that the inducements which led Her Majesty's Government to grant this Charter were that it was restrictive, and would give the Government an opportunity of controlling the operations of this Company. He did not exactly see to what extent it would do this; but he knew that the British law gave Her Majesty's Government very wide powers indeed to prevent wrongdoing on the part of her subjects abroad. They were told of the attachment of the people of Borneo to Her Majesty the Queen; but that was hardly a reason for annexation. He had no doubt they would get up as good a show of attachment to Her Majesty in any barbarous part of the globe. As to the inducement held out to the House that the Charter would foster missionary enterprize, he thought that only required to be looked at for one moment to be seen through. The fact of the matter was that if they had not exactly annexed this territory, they had given a Charter which confirmed Sovereign rights; a Charter under which the policy of this trading Company was controlled by the Government. They had given a jurisdiction over British subjects, the power of peace and war, of raising an Army and a Navy; and Her Majesty's Government reserved the power of negativing the appointment of a Governor. He could not see that any Company could be instituted under any document which would more clearly render the Government responsible for its operations than was the case with this Company. The Prime Minister admitted that he did not much like the Charter, but that the Government had simply before it the choice of two evils. He agreed with that, but did not think they had made the right choice. They were told by the Attorney General that the Marquess of Salisbury, in a despatch to the Spanish Government, had referred to British interests in those parts that required to be protected; and the hon. and learned Gentleman spoke as if they were bound to regard every British interest which the Marquess of Salisbury considered as such in precisely the same light. Now, he could quite understand how Members on the other side of the House should 1207 consider themselves bound by any views expressed by the Marquess of Salisbury; but they on that side of the House had repeatedly ridiculed and disavowed the views of the noble Marquess as to British interests, and he thought they would only be acting consistently if they repudiated that belief in those British interests in Borneo to which he had referred, and allowed this Company to protect its own interests. On the one hand, they had the choice of giving the Charter, which rendered them as completely responsible for the Company in good and evil fortune as any document could make them; and, on the other hand, they could have said to the Company—"You are a trading Company, trading under the Limited Liability Statute; you say you have done very good work under that Statute; continue to do it. You know your rights; you must look after them in your own way. You have purchased certain rights of Sovereignty from the Brummagem Sultans of Borneo, who sold you their rights over 33,000 square miles. You must have known they could not be of much worth. You bought them at your own risk, and you must look after them and protect them; and if in doing that you violate those laws of Great Britain which regulate the conduct of British subjects in savage countries we shall hold you responsible." The idea of British interests in such a matter appeared to him to be preposterous. Those British subjects went to Borneo and acquired certain rights as traders, and this country might have been bound to protect them; but those were not the rights from which our dangers would arise. The rights from which our danger as a nation would arise were the Sovereign rights, and these Sovereign rights in a trading Company we should never have recognized or listened to. They had been told that in the course of negotiations which had taken place between the Sultan of Borneo and this Company, the Sultan of Sulu granted a concession which, when the Spanish Forces had subdued him, he was compelled to recall. Without any Charter the Company had gone on with its work and had any question arisen as to Sovereignty the Government of Spain and the Sultan of Sulu would have been obliged to settle it between themselves. What would be the consequence now if 1208 that Company, incorporated by Royal Charter, having the power of raising an Army and a Navy, floating the British flag over it, were to have a dispute with Spain? It would be impossible for this country to remain neutral. He would not enter into the question of State policy of annexation. It might be that the attitude of Spain had been such that we could not allow it to pass without some action on our part, and that such action rendered annexation almost a matter of necessity; but what he protested against was this form of annexation, which appeared to him to be by far the most insidious and dangerous form of annexation they could adopt, and on that ground he should be constrained to vote against Her Majesty's Government on this Resolution if the matter went to a division.
§ SIR HENRY HOLLAND
desired to state in a few words why he should support the action of Her Majesty's Government in granting this Charter. He entirely dissented from the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) in calling this action "filibustering." Surely the granting a Charter with certain carefully considered conditions to a trading Company which had been established for two or three years was not a "filibustering" act. Nor could he admit that the Company was a political, and not a commercial, Company. The very rights which were transferred to this Company had been granted, in the first instance, by the Sultan to a Company which was admitted by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham to be a "trading" Company. And the conditions imposed by this Charter were, as he (Sir Henry Holland) would show, intended to keep it a commercial, and to prevent it becoming a political Company. Her Majesty's Government expressly reserved a right to interfere and decide in any questions which might arise between the Company and the Sultans or any Foreign Power. Two points must be admitted in this discussion—first, that this part of Borneo was very rich in resources and very capable of development; and, secondly, that it was desirable that it should be so developed by British subjects, looking to the proximity of the district to our Colony of Labuan. No Government could properly object to this district being worked by a trading Company. 1209 Indeed, when he (Sir Henry Holland) was in the Colonial Office, in 1873, when a German Company proposed to open a trade in Borneo—he believed in this very North-Eastern district—the Earl of Kimberley said in a despatch that he saw no ground for offering opposition to the attempt of the German merchants; and all he could do was to suggest that the Sultan should be requested not to grant to them any monopoly of trade. If, then, no objection could be made to a trading Company, surely it was not unreasonable to show some favour to a British trading Company, considering, as he had before said, the nearness of this district to Labuan, a Colony which was increasing in importance, and which in war would be still more important owing to the coal found there. What, then, were the disadvantages which were to be set off against the above advantages? Difficulties with Foreign Powers had been put forward. These might be considered under two heads—time of peace and time of war. Now, as to difficulties in time of peace, what had we to fear? He (Sir Henry Holland) would not follow the hon. and learned Member for Chatham in discussing the Spanish claim; but, although he would not ask the House to accept his opinion against that of the hon. and learned Member, he might fairly set against him the different opinions of Law Officers and the decisions of eminent statesmen—including Lord Aberdeen—who had presided over the Foreign Office. At all events, Spain had contented herself with a protest. As regarded the Netherlands Government, it was clear that no difficulty need be anticipated from them, as the Correspondence in the Blue Book ends with an expression of hope on the part of the Minister—That the new undertaking may contribute to the happiness of the Native population, and be fruitful in useful results.The hon. and learned Member for Chatham referred to the United States; but there was no information before the House to lead it to suppose that any claim had been made; and the House might be satisfied that such information would have been given, if there had any serious claim been advanced. So far for difficulties in time of peace. As regards difficulties in time of war, any danger was greatly lessened, if not altogether done away with, by the fact that Her 1210 Majesty did not claim Sovereignty, or even a Protectorate, over this district; indeed, it would be found that any such Sovereignty was, over and over again, disclaimed in the Correspondence with the Netherlands. An attack, then, on the British settlers would not be an attack on her Sovereignty, and would not in itself necessitate reprisals. In truth, these settlers had taken all risks upon themselves, just as British traders did who went up the rivers in West Africa and settled there. They had no claim to be protected, although special circumstances might render it desirable to grant such protection. It must be observed, moreover, that any difficulties, either in peace or war, would be greatly obviated by the stringent provisions in the 6th Article of the Charter, which imposed a useful check upon the dealings of the Company with Foreign Powers. He (Sir Henry Holland) might, therefore, fairly assume that the disadvantages did not equal the advantages of having a British trading Company in this part of Borneo; and he would, therefore, pass to a consideration of the Charter. Now, in the first place, he thought the hon. and learned Attorney General pointed out with great force the true position of the case presented to the Government. Here were British subjects who might have continued to trade as partners without any resort to the Government; who might also have placed themselves under the Companies' Acts without any conditions imposed upon them, except such as were provided by those Acts. But they applied for a Charter; and surely it was a wise thing for the Government to take that opportunity of securing the peace of the country and the happiness of the Natives, and of placing some general check upon British subjects settling down in a foreign country. What, then, were the checks which a Government would desire to see imposed? Just such checks as we find secured by the following Articles—namely, by Article 3, that the British character of the Company should be maintained; by Article 4, that a transfer of powers should not be made without consent of a Secretary of State; by Article 5, that the decision of a Secretary of State should be taken in any case of difference with a Sultan; by Article 6, that the Company should be bound to adopt any suggestion of the Secretary of State 1211 with reference to the dealings of the Company with any Foreign Power; and, lastly, by Article 7, that the Company should gradually put an end to domestic slavery. Upon this last Article he (Sir Henry Holland) heartily concurred in what had fallen from the hon. and learned Attorney General; and he only desired to add a few words upon the question, as almost the last work he did in the Colonial Office was to render his humble assistance to Lord Carnarvon when that noble Lord took the first stops to putting an end to domestic slavery on the Gold Coast. No one had done more than the Earl of Carnarvon in this respect; but he would not have succeeded, had he not proceeded with judgment and patience. He knew that to abolish domestic slavery at once would have led to violence, and, perhaps, bloodshed, in a country where domestic slavery was a deeply-rooted institution, and where the relations between master and slave were naturally looked on with favour by the inhabitants. In a despatch of August, 1874, the Earl of Carnarvon required—The immediate abolition of slave-dealing and the importation of slaves, to he followed by such regulations of the relations between masters and slaves as shall ultimately, and in no long course of time, effect the extinction of slavery itself.Now, this careful mode of proceeding had been wisely followed in the Charter. The House would observe that, if this Article of the Charter were to be revoked as desired by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham, the settlers and Native Chiefs might continue domestic slavery for ever. He would not detain the House any longer, but conclude by stating his concurrence in the hope expressed by the Netherlands Minister that the new undertaking might contribute to the happiness of the Native population, and his belief that it would do so; and that it would open up a trade alike profitable to the Natives as to this country.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he had come to the conclusion, after reading the Papers presented on that subject, that the claims of Spain were of the most shadowy description, and that it was hardly possible for her to put forward any reasonable ground upon which she had a right to interfere with the Sultan of Sulu giving the concession to the British North 1212 Borneo Company. At the same time, our Government appeared to have regarded the claims of Spain as of some weight, and to have thought there was some reason why they should seek to conciliate that country. Our Government had intimated to Spain that they would be disposed, in return for the recognition by the Spanish Government of the action of the British Government, to recognize the claims of Spain to influence and authority in the Sulu Archipelago. As to the Netherlands, they were a weak country and did not like to be treated with indifference and almost with contempt; yet they had no right to complain of the course of our Government, in regard to the Charter of that Company; he was, however, surprised that these Papers contained no reference to the United States of America in connection with the arrangements with the Sultan of Borneo; and he hoped that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would explain why the despatch mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) was not alluded to in the Blue Book. It might be the fashion to sneer at American diplomacy; but where the United States had trade interests, those interests, if touched, would be looked after in a manner that would admit of no neglect. He was not surprised at the line taken by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow) in that matter. It was natural for hon. Gentlemen opposite to talk of promoting British interests, of the great highways of British trade, of national prestige, and of securing strategical advantages over other Powers. It was quite clear from the Papers that the late Government were prepared to confirm the Charter of that Company. He did not blame them for that; but it was not consistent with the policy of that (the Ministerial) side of the House. If the late Government had done that before they went out of Office he should have denounced it in Lancashire, had he been speaking at a public meeting, as a part of their dangerous policy of adventure, and possibly a much greater man than he might have denounced it also. The speeches made in Mid Lothian by the Prime Minister had been read by millions of his countrymen with the greatest satisfaction; and he himself looked upon them as a sort of vade mecum and pocket companion, 1213 He had read those Mid Lothian speeches again and again with the highest admiration; he thoroughly agreed with them, and he believed they had struck deep into the mind and touched the conscience of the country. [" Question! "] That was the question. He was not using any taunt, or insinuating the smallest doubt of the right hon. Gentleman's perfect sincerity; but he said that his own intellect was not sufficient to enable him to see that all the views expressed in those speeches had been carried out in Office. He could understand the position taken up by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Sir John Hay) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow), because they believed that by stretching out our hands and seizing points of vantage we were strengthening the Empire. They were consistent in supporting any annexation which would have that end. But the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in Mid Lothian, said that those annexations, instead of strengthening, overloaded the Empire; and he compared the case to that of Gulliver, whom a number of Liliputians with a multiplicity of threads was able to tie down, though each of the threads was so minute that he could break it in a moment. This Borneo affair was another thread tying down the British Gulliver. The Attorney General's argument came to this—that if a private Company had got a concession from a barbarian Potentate we, as a country, were bound to back them up. That was the old Palmerstonian doctrine of Civis Romanus sum. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster opposed Lord Palmerston in the height of his power, because he endangered this country by a system of intermeddling all over the world.. If we were bound to protect all adventurous Englishmen who in any part of the world obtained grants from barbarian Potentates, where were we to draw the line? Let them take the consequences of their conduct. Those gentlemen with their guns—and the Government had sold them several—might get into a war. Nobody knew that there were not Sovereigns in Borneo who did not submit to the Sultan of Borneo or Sulu, and then, what of the Natives who were said to be delighted with this annexation? What did we know about the Natives, touching, as 1214 we did, only the fringe of that enormous country? In this annexed territory there were 150,000 inhabitants spread over 18,000 square miles—something like eight people to the square mile. Of course, the population of the sea coast, who thought they might get some advantage by it, were delighted at the annexation; but would the people inland receive equally well a Government which might introduce customs objectionable to them? Mr. Dent asked the Marquess of Salisbury to grant the Charter as soon as possible, because certain Spaniards were treating with the Rulers of the country to obtain territory for themselves. And there was a passage in a despatch from Mr. Dent to the Marquess of Salisbury, which would be found at page 164 of the Blue Book, in which he spoke of "lawless characters" as likely to be collected to fight against the Natives and the representatives of the Company. Therefore, it appeared that we might have a war not only with the people within the districts, but with people adjacent. But, whether that was so or not, it was impossible for the House not to see that this was an additional responsibility taken by this country. Earl Granville, in a despatch which would be found at page 203 of the Blue Book, told them why the Government had resolved to support this Charter. He said—North Borneo lies in the fairway of an immense British maritime trade between China, Australia, India, and the United Kingdom. Its occupation by a Foreign Power would be a source of disquietude to this country, and for that reason clauses were inserted in the British Treaties of 1847 and 1879 with the Sultans of Sulu and Brunei under which they respectively engaged not to make any cession of territory to any other nation than Great Britain without the consent of Her Majesty's Government.We wanted to get a foothold, because we thought it necessary for the protection of our trade. But that was the old tale—the tale which had been so often told by hon. Members now sitting on the opposite side of the House, and which had been so often denounced as based upon a doctrine of selfishness. But, in his opinion, we ought to seek in the legitimate channels of trade to secure those interests, which could be promoted without involving us in the dangers of a spirited foreign policy.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that this debate was one of the most singular that he had ever listened to. There 1215 were a great many able speeches delivered in defence of Her Majesty's Government; but those speeches had all come from the Opposition side of the House. There had been several Jingo speeches; but the most remarkable of them came from the Treasury Bench. The only hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House, in an independent position, who had supported the policy of Her Majesty's Government, was one whom they were all very glad to hear to-night for the first time, but who, he believed, had some direct pecuniary interest in the concerns of the Company which the Government had taken under their especial protection. If the Resolution which his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) brought forward with so much ability at the beginning of the evening had served no other purpose, it had proved, at all events, that the independence of the Liberal Party, which some supposed to be a thing of the past, was still a practical reality. In the earlier speeches that evening one or two Gentlemen on the other side of the House showed a most unusual and surprising reverence for the Marquess of Salisbury's policy. Great reverence for the Marquess of Salisbury's policy was also attributed to Her Majesty's Government by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. The hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) attributed the whole of the action of the Government to the principle of continuity, and to the fact that they were following out the policy which the Marquess of Salisbury advocated. Hon. Members opposite appeared to go far beyond himself in their admiration for the Marquess of Salisbury, because they admired not merely what he had done or what he had said he would do, but what they, without the slightest shadow of evidence, chose to imagine he would have done. It was alleged that when the Marquess of Salisbury resigned Office he had formally left this matter to be dealt with by his successor, but had previously held out such hopes to the Company that practically the incoming Government were pledged to grant this Charter. That, however, was not the view of the then situation which was taken by the Company itself; because Mr. Alfred Dent, writing on the 12th of April, 1880, stated that, owing to the insecurity of their position, it was impossible for 1216 the Company to organize any regular trade. The hon. and learned Gentleman who opened the debate had dealt not only with the question of slavery, but with the diplomatic antecedents of the present action of the Government. The Papers which were in the hands of hon. Members represented the diplomatic conduct of Her Majesty's Government in a very unfavourable light. Their action had evidently given deep umbrage to the Dutch Government; and, whether just or unjust, the Charter was of such a character that Her Majesty's Government must have known that it would give the deepest umbrage to that Government. The Prime Minister had tried to give the transaction a commercial, and not a political character. But Earl Granville, in the House of Lords, speaking on this subject, laid strength on the fact that it would exclude foreigners from North Borneo, and that that country was one of our great trade routes. Was there nothing of a political character in these considerations? By the Charter Her Majesty's Government recognized the right of this Company to levy taxes, to enforce the law, especially the law of slavery, and to establish a monopoly over an area nearly as large as France. Could this be represented as a purely commercial arrangement? It appeared that we had practically annexed this large territory. And how had we obtained it? It was obtained through an Austrian subject acting as the agent of an English firm, who appeared to have bought precisely the same article from three different persons—namely, from an American gentleman, the Sultan of Sulu, and the Sultan of Brunei—who could not possibly have all owned it at the same time; and none of whom, as a matter of fact, had completely owned it at any time, since a large part of the territory in question was held by Native Chiefs, who cared nothing for the American citizen and very little for the two Sultans. He wished to draw the attention of the House to the relation which the present action of the Government bore to their professions when out of Office. When out of Office the present Ministry ridiculed and denounced the policy of securing our communications with India, yet they now defended this Charter on the ground that Borneo was on one of our great trade routes. In 1879 the pre- 1217 sent Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs denounced, most unjustly, it is true, the late Government for countenancing slavery in Cyprus. But where now was the zeal of the hon. Gentleman for the abolition of slavery? Perhaps he would explain how, in the interval of 1879 and 1881, that zeal had gone through so effectual a process of cooling. Then, again, the Prime Minister, when in Mid Lothian, had declared that the most fatal course we could pursue would be to increase our responsibilities. How did the right hon. Gentleman attempt to reconcile his preaching with his practice? He said that the responsibilities in this case arose from the fact that British subjects had gone to Borneo, and that the only effect of the Charter had been to limit the extent of those responsibilities. If that were so, the Government ought to hurry after any body of British subjects who made a settlement anywhere, and should pray of them to accept a Charter in order our responsibilities might be limited. Did not this difference between the professions of Gentlemen when out of Office and their action when in Office strike a heavy blow at political morality?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, if that were the case hon. Members opposite had carefully refrained from touching upon them. Nothing could be plainer than that our responsibilities were greatly increased by the Charter. When the electors throughout the country became acquainted with the course the Government had adopted, how could they avoid coming to the conclusion that the present Ministers were carried away at the late General Election by Party passions, and that they had now thrown over a policy which was convenient when they wanted to get into Office, but very inconvenient when they got there? Certainly, they would have great difficulty, like the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), in reconciling the action of the Prime Minister in this case with the words which he used when a candidate for Mid Lothian. He supposed that this was another "hateful incident" of their policy. He feared, however, that these incidents were becoming so frequent as to make it difficult to distinguish them from a settled policy. With regard to the actual Amendment of the hon. and 1218 learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) he intended to support it, because he was unable to discover from the Papers that the Government had shown the least zeal about diminishing slavery. There was no evidence that they had even gone so far as to make inquiries into the condition of the slaves, neither were any Reports on that subject laid upon the Table. He could not understand why the Government had not inserted in the Charter provisions which would have led in time to the total abolition of that great curse.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that the hon. Member who last addressed the House had referred to the debate as being a singular one. He agreed with the hon. Member as to that; but it appeared to him that the greatest singularity consisted in this—that the speeches had but little to do with the Amendment. The speeches were very wide; the Amendment was a very narrow and simple one. He congratulated the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) on having imported one singularity in particular into the discussion. He had made the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow) support Her Majesty's Administrators in a speech which had the effect of destroying the nerve of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands). The hon. Member for Burnley had made a few observations on foreign affairs which it was his duty to notice. He said also that he believed that some of the people in Borneo did not submit either to the Sultan of Sulu or to the Sultan of Brunei. He could not help thinking that the hon. Member for Burnley must be one of those independent individuals. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham dealt at some considerable length with the Spanish portion of the case. He said that the Government had denied a perfectly good "de jure" title on the part of Spain. But that title had been denied by the Earl of Carnarvon and other British Ministers at the head of the Foreign and Colonial Departments through an immense number of years in succession. It had also been denied specially, in the Papers now before the House, by the Earl of Derby, the Marquess of Salisbury, and the Earl of Carnarvon, in the strongest terms. He thought it was hardly necessary to go through those different denials; but he 1219 felt bound to give the references to them, as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham had built a considerable portion of his case on that matter. On page 63 of the Spanish Papers the Earl of Carnarvon's words would be found, in which he alluded not only to the mainland, but also to the islands. On page 70 Earl Derby stated at great length the views of the Government in 1876 on the subject of the Spanish case. Those views were fully stated with regard to the Treaties between Spain and the Sultan of Sulu in pages 70, 71, and 72. Earl Derby pointed out that it was not the case that Spain had the oldest rights. There were older rights of this country which, like those of Spain, had lapsed. We had rights by Treaties made in 1761, 1764, and 1769. Those were the oldest rights regulating the conditions of the country in question. Earl Derby pointed out that in 1851, and after 1851, the Sultan of Sulu had denied that he had surrendered any portion of his Dominions. Then Earl Derby stated that the Government had refused to recognize those Treaties, or that the Spaniards had maintained the slightest footing in the country. All those older Treaties he considered to have lapsed by the complete failure of the Spaniards to obtain a de facto control over the country. This statement was borne out by a further statement on page 77. Then it appeared that we had the entire support of Germany for our views, as regarded our denial of the Spanish rights. We had gone hand in hand with Germany, who had expressed her absolute concurrence in our denial of the slightest shadow of claim on the part of Spain. Communications on much the same terms had been exchanged between the two Governments at Madrid, and the terms of those communications had been steadily adhered to by successive Governments in this country. The Spaniards had disavowed claims to any portion of the mainland. He declared that there was not, and never had been, any intention of the Spanish or Philippine Governments to lay claim to any forts in the islands or on the coasts. There might be some shadow in the claims of Spain in the Archipelago. They had prosecuted war, and had obtained de facto possession of some of the islands in the Archipelago. With regard to the oldest 1220 Treaty, it would be found recorded on page 126, where mention was made of a Treaty with Spain which the Sultan of Sulu had been made to enter into. The Marquess of Salisbury wrote to Madrid that this matter ought to be pressed upon the Spanish Government with the utmost force, and their claims strenuously denied. He wished, however, to point out that the action of the Spanish Government was subsequent to the formation of the Company which was the subject of the debate. Therefore, the Spanish rights amounted to nothing at all. The Charter of the Company was in January, 1878. It could not, therefore, be contended that we had for many years denied rights which only accrued subsequently to the formation of the Company. The last reference he should make to that part of the subject regarded the Papers which would be found on pages 147, 148, 149, 150. The Marquess of Salisbury expressed his regret at receiving the announcement of the renewed attempt on the part of Spain to assert rights of Sovereignty. The Marquess of Salisbury said that his Government had received from the Sultan himself a distinct statement that at no time had he or his ancestors ceded any portion of Borneo to Spain. The Marquess of Salisbury's expressions on that occasion were strong and absolute. He would next deal with the statements of the hon. Member with respect to the Netherlands. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham had answered his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley, because he passed over the Netherlands portion of the case by merely telling us that we had cheated the Government of the Netherlands, though he admitted that they had no right nor title in the matter. It was quite true that we were told on page 18—which was quoted either by his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley, or his hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour)—that the Dutch were aggrieved at not having been consulted by us on this subject. That was in October, 1880. The grant of the Charter was much later, and the feeling of the Dutch on this subject was entirely removed at a later moment. On page 43 would be seen the latest des-1 patch of the Dutch Government on the subject, in which they expressed their complete satisfaction with our explanations. They found that Great Britain 1221 had not attempted to assert rights of Sovereignty, and they expressed their appreciation of the spirit manifested by Earl Granville in his despatches, which they recognized to be animated by a desire to maintain cordial relations with Spain. Earl Granville, in his reply, expressed his pleasure at receiving the friendly assurances of the Government of the Netherlands. Hon. Members would thus see that all cause of offence on the part of the Netherlands to this country had been completely removed. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham had made references to the United States. On that part of the subject Rome Reports appeared to have been made by a gentleman who was acting for the Government, though he was not in the Queen's Service, at a time previous to the accession of the present Government. That gentleman stated that he had made certain Reports with regard to American views. Those American views had never been reported to the Government of this country by the Government of the United States. No representation of any kind had been made to the present Government as regards the views of the United States; and since they came into Office there had been nothing to show that the Government of the United States looked with hostility on the proposed arrangements. Any protest which might have been made by the captain of an American man-of-war when the late Government were in Office would, of course, have been founded on the existence of the American Company. But it ought to be borne in mind that that Company was afterwards bought up by the English Company. He had now done with the foreign aspect of this case, except so far as the Foreign Office had been consulted on the purchase of arms. The hon. Member for Burnley had alluded to the purchase of great guns by this trading Company. They were, in point of fact, 15 guns of an obsolete pattern, for signalling and saluting purposes only. Indeed, they were not equivalent in force to the armament of the Castle of Walmer. He would now ask the attention of his hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour), who addressed him personally with regard to remarks made by him in that House as to what was called slavery in Cyprus. It was true that he called attention at that time to the question as 1222 to whether domestic slavery existed in Cyprus, and also to the institution of forced labour in that Island. These were two distinct questions. With regard to the latter, there was a direct charge against the Government of having introduced the practice. As to domestic slavery, he then maintained, as he still maintained, that it ought not to be allowed in a country which was directly administered by this country. But there were other countries not directly administered by this country in which slavery had existed for a great number of years. For instance, he might refer to the Gold Coast. Of late years steps had been taken to discourage domestic slavery; but it had never been contended that slavery ought to be immediately put down there. Again, in the Malay Peninsula there were several protected States. In those countries domestic slavery existed at present just as it existed on the Gold Coast. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH dissented.] At all events, it was the opinion of the Colonial Office that at this moment domestic slavery still existed in two out of the three States of the Malay Peninsula. What we had to hold in view in the case of these indirectly administered countries was that every possible step should be taken in order to diminish the length of the existence of domestic slavery. In that principle he was entirely in accord with the hon. and learned Member for Chatham. The hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. R. B. Martin) had said it was the intention of the North Borneo Company to get rid of domestic slavery as fast as they could; and Her Majesty's Government had taken powers in the Charter that would enable them to go to any length in putting down the practice of slavery when they thought it was right and proper, and when the circumstances of the country enabled them to do so. He had no desire to use disagreeable terms about the Company, in whom they had every confidence; but, at the same time, he might say that they could distinctly punish the Company if the wishes of the Government in this matter were disregarded. [Mr. GORST: How?] [An hon. MEMBER: Withdraw the Charter.] It was distinctly in the power of the Government to revoke or withdraw the Charter. The greater portion of the speeches made to-night had nothing whatever to do with the 1223 Amendment. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham had been singularly lucky in procuring the promised support of his Amendment by hon. Members whose speeches had really been an argument against it. Hon. Members appeared to be going to vote with the hon. and learned Gentleman for maintaining the Charter subject to a slight alteration, although their speeches condemned it altogether. It placed them in a most anomalous position, and he could hardly think they would follow up their speeches by their votes.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, it is perfectly true, as the hon. Baronet has observed, that at first sight a great deal of the debate we have heard has travelled far beyond the Amendment which has been submitted by my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gorst). Undoubtedly the vote which we shall have to give will be upon the narrow question which is submitted in the terms of the Amendment; but I think I shall be able to show that the discussion which we have listened to this evening springs naturally even out of the terms of the Amendment, and that in discussing this question, or any question connected with future administration by the Company in Borneo, it is quite impossible to avoid the importation of such considerations as have been introduced in the debate to-night. It has been a very interesting debate indeed, and I think many of us must feel we have had very important additions made to our political education; but I will confine myself, for a moment, to the particular question which is raised by the Amendment itself, and to which the hon. Baronet has referred. The question which my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gorst) raises is this—that we should pass some Resolution praying Her Majesty to be graciously pleased to revoke or alter so much of the Charter as gives an implied sanction to the maintenance of slavery under the protection of the British flag. Everybody must feel that if there is any point on which we are all at one, it is that it is the duty and the desire of every Government in this country, no matter from what Party it is drawn, to suppress—in every possible way—slavery in any part of the world, which is directly or indirectly under British dominion; and if it is possible to do more than is proposed to be done 1224 in this case by the Government and the representatives of the Company towards the entire suppression of slavery in Borneo, this House will be found ready to vote that that should be done. But I am bound to say that upon that particular point we ought to bear in mind the considerations which have been put before us, not only now by the Representatives of the present Government, but in former times by all who have had responsible duties in countries where slavery has prevailed; we must bear in mind the difficulty and delicacy of the subject; and if we see there is a bonâ fide endeavour to do that which all Englishmen desire, and if we see that is being carried into effect in a proper and serious spirit, we should not be too hard upon anything that may appear on the Paper to be a shortcoming in that respect. Well, but then the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) says we have taken power by this Charter which will enable us to punish the Company if they fail to do that which one of its Directors has told us they intend to do. The hon. Baronet was directly appealed to on the subject, and very naturally asked how he proposed to punish the Company? As far as I could make out, that was a question which the hon. Baronet was not prepared to argue across the Table.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
That is an important admission to make, and I think we had better take notice of it in view of what I may have to say later. Assuming, then, that the provisions which are inserted in the Charter are sufficient to enable the Government to revoke the Charter to promote the desired object of reducing slavery to a minimum, and, as far as possible, getting rid of that blot upon civilization in a country either directly or indirectly under British dominion, I wish to ask this question. How is it that upon this Amendment we have embarked upon so large a question as that which has occupied the greater part of this evening, and I may point out necessarily so? This is a question whether the administration of this country is to be carried on in a particular way or not. Let us suppose that the answer of the Government had been even less satisfactory than it may be held to have been. What would be the conduct of this House? We 1225 should call upon the Government to take some steps as would insure that the will of the House and of Parliament should be carried into effect. The Government say that the administration of this country is, in some way or other, under the control of the Government of the day, and is under the control of Parliament, and that it is perfectly beside the question, and gives an entirely false idea, to say that we have not assumed responsibility. You are responsible, and you admit your responsibility by the very argument you have used. If you. had met us by saying—"This is a matter with which we have nothing to do; we have not assumed responsibility for the administration of this country, we leave it entirely to the Company which has been formed; we have no doubt that the gentlemen who are the Directors of that Company will do that which is their duty; but if they do not we cannot help it." That would have been an answer which would have satisfied us that there was no new responsibility assumed. But that is not the answer given. The answer given is that there is sufficient provision made for the restraint and the abolition of slavery; and if slavery is not abolished by the Company, we will take care it is, for we shall operate on the Company in a way which is not shown in the Charter. After that, do not let us be told that the Government have not assumed any greater responsibility. How would it have been if the Charter had not been granted? How would it have been, two or three years ago, if this question had been raised in this House, and anything had been said with regard to the existence of slavery in this part of the globe? The Government would have been bound to say that that was not a matter over which they had any control, and they could only express their regret with regard to it. But you have altogether departed from that position; and, therefore, it is absolutely impossible to contend that in what you have done you have not assumed responsibility. I do not wish to take any share in blaming the Government for assuming responsibility in respect to this country. I think there was a great deal to be said in favour of taking some course of the kind; but whether the particular course they have taken by granting the Charter was, or was not, the right one, I am not now prepared to say. With regard to 1226 the propriety of taking some steps in the matter, I am not disposed to be one who would cast blame upon the Government. The question was brought under the consideration of the Foreign and Colonial officers of the late Government; but it never was ripened sufficiently to be brought under the consideration of the Government as a whole. It was left by the late Government to be dealt with by their successors just as they liked. They were perfectly free to grant the Charter or to withhold it; if they preferred to grant it, they were at liberty to put in whatever conditions they pleased. I am not inclined to find fault with them for exercising their power; but what I do complain of is that we have not got frankly before us a real admission of the fact that they did assume a greater responsibility. If the right hon. Gentleman had got up and said—"I admit there is something in what we have done on this occasion which may be said to be inconsistent with the views we expressed when we were out of Office; but I must point out to the House that there is a good deal of difference between the free criticism from an irresponsible position and the action which a responsible Minister is obliged io take," we should not have been disposed to press too hardly upon him. All I should then have been disposed to say is—"We now see, by the acknowledgment of those who have been our critics in former times, there was a great deal more to be said for the conduct of the late Government than their critics were disposed to give them credit for." Instead of taking a line which I think he might very fairly and honourably have taken, I regret to hear the right hon. Gentleman drawing distinctions which seem to me to be too subtle, and to some extent unsound. I go the length of saying that the doctrines which he laid down with regard to responsibilities of this country for British subjects who go into foreign countries and into uncivilized countries are serious and alarming, because it is one thing for a responsible Government, with full cognizance of all the circumstances of the case, and with a knowledge of what the interests of the country demand, to come forward and say—"We call upon you to annex such and such territory," and it is quite a different thing to put ourselves at the mercy of any Englishman, or any body of Englishmen, who may 1227 choose to go for their own purposes into a foreign country, and for the Government to say—"These gentlemen may draw us on when they please; we will grant them a Charter which will make us responsible for the government of the country to which they have gone." We know perfectly well that the gentlemen who administer this Company are gentlemen of high character, and I have no doubt that we are safe to a very great extent in their hands; but the doctrines which are laid down would cover the case of gentlemen of a very different position and character. According to the doctrines of the Prime Minister, we really are entirely at the mercy of any number of gentlemen who may go into what we call an uncivilized country unless we pass a penal Statute, which the hon. and learned Member for Chatham was invited to produce, but which he very wisely declined to produce. Unless a penal Statute is passed preventing gentlemen going into these countries, any men may go, and having gone there, the doctrine of Lord Palmerston, Civis Romanus, immediately applies, and the Prime Minister gave us to understand, in language which certainly recalled to my mind the Civis Romanus doctrine, that those gentlemen having gone into a country beyond civilization, were still entitled to the protection of the British Power. They may go to uncivilized countries, and when they have done so it appears to me there is no power to prevent them—indeed, there is no reason why they should hesitate to form themselves into a Company. That is what these gentlemen did. There is nothing to prevent them acquiring rights from Native Princes; and having done that they are certainly in a position which, according to the doctrine of the Prime Minister, entitles them to the protection of England.
I never said that. I spoke of the general practice of the country, which did not regard that as excluding them from the protection of England.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Then they are not excluded from the protection of England. The Prime Minister says—"What had these gentlemen to gain by the grant of a Charter of Incorporation? They had nothing to gain, because by placing themselves under a Charter they became restricted. 1228 They had everything to lose by it, and it was a very curious way of gaming something." But I suspect that the Company will toll you they gained a great deal more than that. There are many hon. Gentlemen in this House who are perfectly well aware of the reasons why the grant of a Charter of Incorporation became of such great advantage. As we know, the Companies Act was passed to enable persons to form themselves into Companies, with limited liability, and to obtain other advantages. Why was that Act passed? It was in order to get rid of the inconvenient and misleading form of Charters of Incorporation, which, in old times, was the only way in which bodies who wished to associate themselves together got the privilege of perpetual succession and other advantages. Why were these Charters of Incorporation given up? It was because it was said that the very fact of the Royal Assent being given, and the Royal Seal being attached, and so forth, gave to these Companies a certain strength and a certain interest, which was delusive in some respects, because it gave to them a character which they did not possess. That is exactly what these gentlemen got. By incorporation, and by obtaining a Charter, they got a recognition which would be held to carry the Company a good deal further in the matter of responsibility than otherwise it would have gone. I must say it seems to me that doctrines such as have been laid down are of a perplexing and bewildering character, and, to a considerable extent, of an alarming character. I do not wish to criticize the action of the Government nearly as much as the manner in which that action has been defended to-night. It seems to me that the defence has been short of the necessity of the case in one respect, and has gone very far beyond it in another. Now, Sir, I began by saying that I am not prepared to take part in censuring the Government for what they have done. I am not prepared to say that if we had had the Charter brought under our consideration, and had deliberately considered it, we might not have granted that Charter—whether with some conditions or modifications is a point on which I am not prepared to express an opinion. I feel there is a great deal of force in the arguments used in different quarters as to the necessity of doing something to develop 1229 the resources of the country and maintain the position of our traders; but I reserve the consideration of whether it is better to do it by means of a Charter of Incorporation, or in any other way. I am not prepared to express an opinion against the course which, upon the whole, has commended itself to Her Majesty's Government. The matter was one which, I have no doubt, they fully considered. They have gone into the question of our relations with foreign countries, and they have disposed of the cases of Spain, Holland, and the United States. The answer of the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has not so completely dealt with the case of the United States as my hon. and learned Friend opened it, because it appears, long after the cessation of the American Company—more than a year after the cessation of the American Company—some of these remonstrances were made on the part of the United States. However that may be, the Government have taken the trouble to inquire into and investigate all these claims on the part of foreign nations; and they have given to the country something very much approaching a guarantee that, so far as the relations with foreign countries are concerned, they are all right. They have given the Company the prestige, which a Royal Charter necessarily gives, in placing a stamp on their dealings with the Indian Chiefs. If that does not amount to annexation, I really should feel some difficulty as to the nature of the distinction, and what that precise phrase means. I think if there is any phrase which can be used to signify an intermediate position, it is that adopted by the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), when he described this as a case, not of annexation, but of affiliation.
If I may be allowed to offer an explanation, I must admit that there was some ambiguity in the language I used in speaking of diminished responsibility. As regards the actual exercise of internal power by the Company, I must fully admit that we have undertaken the responsibility of watching over the exercise of that power, and have thereby charged ourselves with new interests and responsibilities. What I had in view was territorial responsibility, which I take to be the more serious part of the matter, arising from 1230 the possible relations of this country with Foreign Powers. This responsibility I conceive to be greatly diminished by the Charter, for, according to my view, we are in much less danger of being unable to correct or to control the proceedings of the Company than we should have been if the Charter had not been granted.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 125; Noes 62: Majority 63.—(Div. List, No. 51.)
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," again proposed.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, that before the Speaker left the Chair he should like to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he was in the receipt of a recent despatch from Consul General Treacher, and if he would lay it on the Table? Would the hon. Gentleman also lay upon the Table the Correspondence between the United States and the Sultan of Borneo in 1851?
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that if the hon. Gentleman would give Notice of the Question he would answer it.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.