HC Deb 05 May 1882 vol 269 cc246-63

, in rising to call attention to the African Mail Contracts, their relation to the Slave Trade, and to the commerce of the United Kingdom with the East Coast of Africa and Zanzibar; and to move— That it is important to the commerce of the United Kingdom, and for the supplanting of the Slave Trade, that steps be taken by the Government to maintain and extend the existing postal facilities between Aden and East Africa, and also to secure similar communication with the Red Sea ports, said, he had no doubt that such an austere economist as the Postmaster General would have a great deal to say on the subject of pure political economy and unrestricted competition, and would, therefore, no doubt, have occasion to point out that if they continued the subsidies hitherto granted in the African mail contracts, they would discourage other systems; and he would, no doubt, argue that if they subsidized one line of packets, they would thereby prevent other lines from adopting the same route. He (Mr. Slagg) hoped, however, to be able to show that this was more than a question of political economy; and, further, that the subsidy, which was now, he believed, about to be abandoned, was not instituted purely from a postal point of view, but for other considerations very much more important. He thought he should be able to show that the object for which this grant was made had been, in a large degree, attained, and that it would be, to a very large extent, the undoing of their past efforts for the destruction of the Slave Trade on the East Coast of Africa if they now discontinued the grant. The subsidy chiefly in question was one of £10,000, granted to postal service between Aden and Zanzibar; and when it was given in 1872 it was expressly stated that the object of the Government was partly to discourage the Slave Trade by opening out commercial relations, and thus extending our influence in a country in which the Slave Trade predominated. The commercial object had certainly been, to a large extent, attained, for the trade in that region had now become very important. The imports into Zanzibar in 1859 amounted only to £549,000; in 1879 it was £709,000; but the most remarkable feature of that trade was that it was almost entirely British. Through the influence, to a very large extent, of the line of steamers subsidized by the British Government, they had been able to beat all competitors in that large market, and were in a fair way of possessing it nearly entirely for their own traders. Zanzibar was on the direct route to South Africa, and was on the line of communication with India and Australia, and so, as a postal station, its importance could not be over-rated. When this line of steamers commenced the total postage receipts only amounted to £5, whereas more than £2,000 was now received in postage by this line alone. It might be said that a large portion of the sum went to India; but that was surely a matter which was not of much consequence. With regard to the Slave Trade, he felt thoroughly justified in saying that the enormous reduction which had lately taken place in the slave traffic on the East Coast of Africa was almost entirely due to the steam service to which he was alluding. That reduction had been coincident with an enormous increase in the legitimate trade on that coast. There was no greater enemy to the Slave Trade in any part of the world than the introduction of commerce and the growth and stimulus of trading enterprize. If we withdrew this steam service we might assure ourselves that all the enormous expenditure that we now lavished upon men-of-war upon the East Coast of Africa would be comparatively useless, if not supplemented by the information which travellers and passengers gave on the subject of the Slave Trade. The details which they brought under the notice of the public, with regard to that traffic, did more for the suppression of it than all the men-of-war we could employ in such service. If we abandoned this Postal Service some other line of steamers would possibly take its place; but he was sure the work would not be performed as regularly and as efficiently as it was now. The trade was of too delicate a nature at the present moment, and in too early a stage of development, to admit of any tampering with it, and the mere chance of another steamship line taking it up was a feeble hope to rely on. The work would probably devolve on a French line of steamers, and one point to which he gave special prominence was the danger that the trade would fall into alien hands. If the French got it they might be sure they would take every possible means to keep the trade to themselves. Articles of merchandize and exchange had been brought down to the coast to be shipped in these steamers, and this had increased the wealth of the inhabitants, and given them a further desire and appetite for legitimate luxuries, and a stimulus to commercial ambition. Our French neighbours sought, with relentless zeal, to extend their commercial and their political influence in any part of the world. He thought it would be a very great misfortune if our political influence on the East Coast of Africa were taken from us. It was important, not only commercially, but also with reference to the suppression of the Slave Trade. The French were by no means such advocates of the suppression of the Slave Trade as the British people. He believed it would not be much beyond the mark if he said that we expended £500,000 every year in our efforts to suppress the Slave Trade on the East Coast of Africa. Without the goodwill of Sultan of Zanzibar that expenditure would effect little. In 1876 the Sultan of Zanzibar was, with much difficulty, induced to use his endeavours to stop the export of slaves. It was a great personal loss of revenue to him; but it was pointed out that efforts would be made to develop his commerce. Those efforts had proved eminently successful, and the revenue of the Sultan had been more than doubled by the new commerce introduced into his territory. The Sultan had done that for the suppression of the Slave Trade which no Naval Force could possibly do, and at the risk of loss to himself. What was the alternative if this subsidy was abolished, and the line of steamers ceased to run? He was told it was intended to provide a yacht, or despatch boat, to be used by our Agent in visiting the various ports in relation to the Slave Trade; and he wished to compare the cost of this with the £10,000 we were paying to the line of steamers which carried the mails. We could not get a vessel for less than £5,000 to £7,000, and could not run it efficiently for less than £7,000 or £8,000 a-year. Then it would not be as regular in its visits as the present steam packets; and he saw no other alternative but an increase in our Squadron on that station to deal with the Slave Trade, and with no great prospect that it would be successful in its object. As an instance of the success which had been attained by a subsidy of this kind, he might refer to the line of steamers running in the Persian Gulf. Before that line was established piracy and slavery were rife, and there was no commerce worthy of the name. The rich natural advantages of the district were almost entirely unused; and although it was a region which might have been made enormously conducive to British commerce, it was almost an unknown land until 1860. Then the total tonnage on the Gulf was 10,000 tons, and now 15,000 tons of steam shipping alone annually visited one port on the Gulf, whilst the trade was of immense value, and had a great future before it. No one could dispute the fact that it had been created and fostered by the maintenance of the steam traffic. No one would quarrel with the Treasury if it were a little in advance of public opinion in the matter of economy, so long as it did not economize in the wrong place. A small sum given for such useful and obviously advantageous purposes as he had indicated was the worst specimen of economical work the Treasury could produce; and he hoped to induce the Government to abandon the idea of saving the small sum now given to this line of steamers. We could not in this country afford to lose markets. There was an enormous production from our industries, and manufacturers were sometimes at their wits' end where to send their produce; and it would be a most ill-advised step on the part of the Go- vernment to endanger, in the slightest degree, the markets to which he had alluded. He spoke not only for Manchester, but for every industry throughout the country, which were all concerned in finding a market for their products, and in receiving something in return. But he spoke also in the name of humanity in asking for the continuance of a subsidy, which had been successfully expended in largely reducing so shameful a traffic as the Slave Trade. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.


, in seconding the Resolution, remarked that he and his hon. Friend together represented by far the largest commercial community gathered in one centre in the Kingdom; and he himself had had some observation of the trade routes referred to. In general terms, the Resolution was one in favour of the extension of British freedom and British commerce, and it was on those grounds that he supported it. It was unnecessary for him to disclaim any leaning in the direction of Protection; but he would point out that in France subsidies were given, not only for shipbuilding, but for navigation. While not advocating such a practice in this country, he thought that the maintenance and extension of postal facilities in those distant regions was a proper object for a subsidy. The peculiar value of a Postal Service was that it was regular, and traders could rely upon it; and there was a very important difference between a postal subsidy and one given in the shape of bounty upon navigation. A postal subsidy should never be given where independent vessels were or were likely to be engaged in the same trade. He would never say a word in that House in favour of giving a postal subsidy where a regular line of packet communication would be carried on independently. Upon the subject of slavery it was important to notice that the French Marine, which claimed full power of repression and interference, had a fitful character about it. Her Majesty's Service had lately lost a brave and zealous officer—Captain Brownrigg, whose death was due to punctilious observance of the rights of the French flag, which led to his not carrying arms on that occasion. The French did not maintain a sufficiently strong force to support their claims; therefore it was not right that they should require the commanders of British ships to forego the search of vessels carrying the French flag. He placed great value on the regularity of the Postal Service; and he was satisfied, from personal observation, that it was the most efficient means of promoting commerce in remote regions of the world. The district of Zanzibar, to which his hon. Friend had alluded, was, at no distant time, a part of the Dominions of the Sultan of Muscat; and that important centre of British trade, Aden, was now, as it had long been, the great place for the interchange of the traffic coming from Central Asia, and passing partly down the Coast of Africa, and partly through the Suez Canal. It was a fact that the commerce of a country generally followed the nationality of the ships engaged in the trade. There was a French proposal on foot for a French line of steamships to be started on the East Coast of Africa, and to be largely subsidized by the Sultan of Zanzibar. The Sultan might be induced to take that course from various motives; and he hoped that the diplomacy of the Foreign Office would be exercised to preserve our influence, at least in a position of ascendency, in the Dominion of the Sultan of Zanzibar. The French Mercantile Marine, aided by its bounty system, had lately established, not a regular, but a fitful service of vessels in the Persian Gulf; and a Frenchman who had been long resident in Teheran had obtained from the Shah of Persia a concession for the exclusive navigation of the only river in Persia which was navigable. Neither his hon. Friend nor himself asked for any favour; but they had a very strong objection to anything like exclusive concessions. The Postmaster General was aware that in consequence of the withdrawal of the postal subsidy the Union Steamship Company had lately abandoned their service from the Cape to Delagoa Bay. That might or might not be a matter of importance; but it was essential, in regard to these questions of subsidy, to ascertain whether the Service would or would not be abandoned if the subsidy were withdrawn. He was strongly of opinion that the interests of this country had been largely, and were at present very greatly, promoted by the assistance which was given by the Post Office. As an illustration of the possible development of trade he might mention that in 1880 grain to the value of £86,000 was actually imported into a Persian port, whilst in a Persian province not very far distant, to which, however, there was no means of communication, wheat was plentiful; and Major Napier, son of Lord Napier of Magdala, who was travelling there in 1876, estimated the supply of surplus wheat alone, within easy distance of the port above referred to, at 80,000 tons, and he stated in his Report to the Government of Bombay that it was being disposed of at 15s. per ton. Only the other week Persian wheat of inferior quality was being sold in the London market at no less than £8 5s. per ton. He mentioned this to show how extremely important it was, in the interests of this country, that by regular service of ships we should develop intercommunication and the exchange of food products between other countries and ourselves. Navigation had already so much progressed in the Persian Gulf that within the 10 years since the opening of the Suez Canal the steam traffic had increased from 3,000 tons to 80,000 tons, and was capable of still further development.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is important to the commerce of the United Kingdom, and for the supplanting of the Slave Trade, that steps be taken by the Government to maintain and extend the existing postal facilities between Aden and East Africa, and also to secure similar communication with the Red Sea ports,"—(Mr. Slagg,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he considered the tone of the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg) one of great moderation, and he had put the case very clearly and very well. At the same time, he had only dealt with one part of the question. The African Mail Contract was really divided into two portions. One portion was that which provided for the carrying of mails between Aden and Zanzibar, while the other portion provided for carrying the mails between the Cape and Zanzibar. He would remind his hon. Friend that this question was discussed at great length in the year 1873, and it became the subject of investigation by a Select Committee. At that time he doubted very much if the House of Commons would ever have sanctioned the two contracts that were entered into, if it had not been, to some extent, that the Government of the day had already made certain arrangements. It was within the recollection of the House that in 1873 the proposal was to give a subsidy to that service which was now under discussion—namely, to the British India Steam Navigation Company for conveying the mails from Zanzibar to Aden. The other portion of the contract, for conveying mails from Zanzibar to the Cape, had been arranged for by what was given to the Union Steamship Company. If the House assented to this Resolution, it could not, in his opinion, withhold renewing the subsidy with the Union Steamship Company, which expired in February, 1881. In 1873, when this question was discussed, the policy of the Government was to establish those steamships all along the coast for the purpose of putting down the Slave Trade. The whole coast was regarded as being in the same condition. The distance from Zanzibar to Aden was 1,700 miles, and to the Cape 2,500 miles. The two Companies between them agreed that the services were alike, and that the one should receive £10,000 and the other £15,000. As he had said, evidence was taken at the time before a Committee in order to prove what he had asserted—namely, that the Northern portion—that was, from Zanzibar to Aden—was quite as profitable, and was looked upon as being quite as valuable. He asked the House to go with him back to the position in which they were in with relation to the contract which had expired—namely, that with relation to the Union Steamship Company, which expired in 1881. When it expired that Company asked it to be renewed. The Government could find no reason for the renewal of that contract, and upon these grounds—the one was that a rivalry had arisen which had given a very good and substantial trade between the Cape and Natal, at all events, if not so far as Zanzibar, and the other reason was that at the first, when the subsidy was given, it was mainly for the purpose of maintaining a communication from port to port by steamships; but in 1873, from the exigencies arising owing to the war in Zululand, telegraphic communication was established, and telegraphic communication was, of course, more speedy than ordinary steamships could possibly be. The result, of course, was that there was no case whatever for continuing that subsidy, and it came to an end. No complaint had been made. On what ground, then, could his hon. Friend for a moment expect that the Government was to give or continue a subsidy of £10,000 a-year from Zanzibar to Aden, more especially when they found that trade had developed, as his hon. Friend had said, to such an extent that they might now fairly expect, not only rivals from our own country, but from foreign countries? Sir John Kirk, British Consul at Zanzibar, was in favour of subsidies generally; but he had expressed the opinion that steam communication between these ports would not cease in the absence of subsidies. The position in which matters stood now was that this subsidy came to an end at the end of this year, and if they were to agree that that subsidy should be continued, the Government could not see why they should not also re-establish the subsidy which ended in 1881. For these reasons he trusted the House would not consent to the Resolution of his hon. Friend.


pointed out that we had at the present time no line of steam communication between the Cape and the Red Sea. He had not a word to say against the French taking up the traffic, except that the French did not look upon the Slave Trade in the same way as we did. It was, therefore, worth while to consider whether we could not make a small pecuniary sacrifice in order to put down that traffic. He was glad to observe a great diminution in it during the last few years, the number of slaves having fallen from 12,000 to 4,000, thereby raising the condition of the slave and making his labour more valuable. It was the duty of the Government to endeavour to discourage the practice of slavery as much as possible; and the presence of steamers running up and down the coast would enable them to give information to cruisers on the look-out for slave ships.


said, there was no subject more interesting to the House than the great Slave Question; and he supported the Resolution before the House on the ground that a regular communication of postal steamers was one of the most civilizing influences to which a country could be subjected. The development of civilization in Africa was a matter of the highest moment to this country, whose manufactures would rapidly find their way into the country as soon as any progress in civilization was made. The way to put an end to the Slave Trade was to convince the Rulers of the interior of Africa that they could do better with their subjects than by selling them; as soon as you convinced them of that, the trade would cease. He supposed that he was the only Member of the House left who voted for the extinction of the Slave Trade in 1834, and the only Member who had been on board slave ships and seen the living slaves side by side with the dead. If hon. Members could only have seen the horrible sights that had met his view on those vessels they would be as anxious for a vigorous effort to be made for the extinction of the abominable traffic. It was due to the Christian character of our country that we should extinguish slavery; and he trusted the Government would use their best efforts in that direction. He was also one of those who lamented that some notice was not taken of this question of the Slave Trade at the Congress of Berlin, as he believed that a very great deal might have been done by the concurrence of the Representatives of the various Powers upon that occasion.


was extremely glad to hear the statement of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. J. Holms) as to the great impulse which had been given to trade along the East Coast of Africa. That trade would prove a most important means in killing the traffic which had been carried on there. He had been a Member of the Commission which sat in 1871 for the purpose of investigating the subject. The late Mr. Russell Gurney was Chairman. At that time there was no postal communication with Zanzibar at all; and one of their recommendations was that a small subsidy should be given for a small steamer to run periodically between Seychelles and Zanzibar, as it was quite impossible that trade could be maintained and extended without means of communication. A great improvement had taken place since then in that mat- ter; and though it might be true that the steamers were self-supporting, they could not be sure that, in the absence of a subsidy, it would not be necessary to withdraw them, in which case we should lose the advantage we at present possessed. If, however, it could be proved that there was no danger of the steamer ceasing to run, even if the subsidy were discontinued, he saw no reason why it should not cease.


said, there were cases in which it was impossible for private individuals to establish lines of communication between points of business. If, therefore, it were found that the steamers could not be maintained, he advocated the granting of a subsidy for that purpose. It was quite possible that, in estimating the probability of the continuance of these steamers, notwithstanding the withdrawal of the subsidy, agreements made between this country and Egypt had been taken into account. Now, those agreements had not been faithfully carried out. The Convention which Egypt had entered into with this country in 1877 with regard to the Slave Trade had not been faithfully carried out by the Egyptian Government, and now the Slave Trade was flourishing up the Nile. Avarice and covetousness were the leading incentives to that trade in human beings; and he might multiply evidence to show that, in spite of the Convention with Egypt, a very large Slave Trade was being carried on, and that a large proportion of the slaves were carried across the Red Sea into Arabia and the adjacent parts. A great preventive of the Slave Trade would, he believed, be found in the passing of information and bringing the matter before public opinion. He was glad, therefore, that our Government had arranged to place a Consul at Khartoum, and that before long another would be stationed at Massowah. Where the Slave Trade was engaged in, other trade would not flourish, and it should be a great object to substitute for it legitimate commerce. The trade of the Sultan of Zanzibar had doubled, the people were now more happy, and those who previously carried on slave-hunting raids had settled down to the production of india-rubber and other articles of commerce. The trade from Zanzibar in india-rubber alone amounted to £200,000 a-year. Under these circumstances, what ought to be the policy of the Government? It was unwise to economize in matters which would tend to foster our trade while promoting the cause of humanity. He hoped that the Government would take up afresh the question of the Slave Trade in Egypt, and would impress on that country the duty of carrying out the Convention on the subject. They ought to take every opportunity of obtaining certain information as to what was passing in the regions where that nefarious traffic prevailed, and to use every effort in their power to put an end to a scourge which had too long existed, to the degradation of Africa and the humiliation of mankind.


said, he believed that no movement for the suppression of the Slave Trade could be wisely and patiently conducted without laying the foundations of future commerce for this country; and he expressed the great pleasure with which he, in common with other hon. Members, had heard the few remarks of the venerable and highly respected Baronet the Member for Buckingham (Sir Harry Verney). There were cases in which expenditure, while small in amount, was of an extremely important character, and this was an instance of that description. In this matter they could not separate commercial from philanthropic interests, because it was impossible to open out trade in countries like East Africa without, at the same time, promoting the interests of civilization, Christianity, and humanity; and, on the other hand, efforts to suppress the Slave Trade laid the foundations of commerce tending to enrich this country. He believed we could not drop any part of our remaining means of postal communication along the Coast of Africa without lessening the possibility of suppressing the Slave Trade; and he feared we had already gone too far in withdrawing the small subsidies which insured regular communications that were highly valuable in enabling us to keep a watch upon the Slave Trade, and to extend our commercial intercourse. He, therefore, ventured to hope that the Government would see their way to continue that very small postal subsidy. It was never more necessary than now to endeavour to increase the demand for the products of British industry in parts of the world which were not civilized, and which were not themselves likely to manufacture. He trusted, therefore, that they would see a distinct forward movement in the opening out of markets on various parts of the Coast of Africa, and in the interior of that Continent, and that the Government would extend its aid by granting and maintaining such small postal subsidies as might be necessary. In advocating that course, he felt he was acting consistently with the interests even of the most needy of our working population, the insuring of whose continued employment was a matter of vital moment.


said, that the non-fulfilment by the Khedive of Egypt of the Convention in respect to the Slave Trade had nothing to do with the Motion of the hon. Member for Manchester. He sympathized with the other hon. Members in the desire to take every measure possible for the suppression of the Slave Trade; but, from a practical point of view, all they had to look at now was whether the means proposed to be adopted could serve the end in view. The hon. Member for Whitby (Mr. Arthur Pease) had just stated that there was a large increase in the traffic in slaves between North-Eastern Africa and Egypt, over the Red Sea, and with Arabia. The hon. Member said the traffic passed the Red Sea; but that traffic had nothing whatever to do with the Aden and Zanzibar route. If the hon. Member meant that there should be a subsidy given to the steamers touching at the ports on the Coasts of the Red Sea, in order to prevent the transport of slaves from one part of the Sea to the other, he begged to give it as his opinion that no such subsidy should be allowed, for the simple reason that there were hundreds of steamers regularly passing up and down the Red Sea, and calling at these ports, serving the commercial purposes which the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold) desired should be stimulated; and to subsidize one line and not the other lines would be unfair. The hon. Member for Whitby could not mean that the slaves pass the mouth of the Red Sea to Aden; but Arab dhows did leave the North-East of Africa for the Persian Gulf, just as there had been a large traffic in the Mozambique Channel. A subsidy given to the Aden and Zanzibar line would not be sufficient for the prevention of slavery on the Eastern side of Africa. They must extend the subsidy to the service of steamers between Zanzibar, Mozambique, Delagoa Bay, and Natal—such a service as was established in 1873, at the same time as the Government gave the contract to the British India Company for the line between Aden and Zanzibar. Now that that service between Natal and Zanzibar had ceased—the Government having withdrawn the subsidy—the subsidy to the Northern portion of the East African Service ought to be witdrawn also, or else the Government should subsidize the lines on the Northern and the Southern Coasts of East Africa. But the question was, would this put down the Slave Trade, or assist in putting down that trade? He ventured to think that a steamer calling once a month at Mozambique or Quillimane, where some slave operations had been carried on, could not have any real effect in terminating the Slave Trade in those quarters. The only argument in favour of the service was that the service had a postal object, or stimulated commerce. From a postal point of view, then, what had been the expense to the country? The Postal Service between Natal and Zanzibar and Aden had cost the country £260,000 since 1873; and the whole revenue which the Post Office had derived for the whole of that period did not exceed £5,000. There was, therefore, no argument, from a postal point of view, in favour of the continuance of such a subsidized service. What was the advantage which a Steamboat Company had in carrying on commercial intercourse, except the development of commerce along the East Coast of Africa? The commercial aspect of the question had been touched upon, and might be estimated in this way. Up to last year the Zanzibar traffic was divided between the Union Company, carrying it South round the Cape to England, and the British India Company, carrying it North to Zanzibar via Aden, the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal; and those two trades, as was expected when the contracts were taken, had largely increased, and there was sufficient encouragement for private steamers to run in these regions. When those two Companies divided the contract between them by a private bargain, and when the Government of the day failed to put the contracts up to public competition, as they should have done, the House of Commons appointed a Committee of Investigation. That Committee condemned the contracts which had been extended by the noble Lord, now in the Upper House, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. The original amount of the contract was £25,000, and that was increased to £6,000 a-year for eight years to one of those Companies, making up for the disappointment they had sustained in not getting the monopoly of the mail contract. But as the Union Company lost their mail contract from Zanzibar to Natal last year, the British India Company now enjoyed a monopoly of the Zanzibar traffic via Aden and the Red Sea, and this should be more than equal to the subsidy they had lost. But he repeated that if the Government were to continue the service between Aden and Zanzibar, either for trade purposes, or for the suppression of the Slave Trade, or for postal facilities, then he must insist that the contracts must be for a line or lines girdling the whole East African Coast from Natal as far North as to Zanzibar. But, in his view, it was not necessary to go to that extent, and therefore he could not support the proposal of the hon. Member for Manchester.


said, he hoped the Government would, to some extent, meet the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg). No doubt, there was a growing British trade in the Red Sea and along the East Coast of Africa, and some indication of the probability of this was furnished by the fact that the revenue of the Sultan of Zanzibar had doubled since he abolished the Slave Trade. Considering what the useful products of the region were, our trade was sure to be increased by additional postal facilities, and still more by the suppression of the Slave Trade; because wherever that was carried on there existed a hatred of the British flag, which was fatal to the development of our commerce. If the Government could not accede to the Resolution as it stood on the Paper, he hoped they would give some assurance that the subsidy would not be entirely dropped, unless they had good grounds for believing that the mail service would be continued.


said, observations had been made by hon. Members on both sides in reference to the Slave Trade, and he need hardly say that the remarks of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Sir Harry Verney) were received with universal sympathy on both sides of the House. The Government would yield to no one in their desire that nothing should be done to increase the Slave Trade; but the House would expect him to discuss the Motion simply from a purely postal point of view. Regarding this simply as a Post Office question, it was impossible to justify the continuance of the subsidy at the present amount. The whole amount of the postage between Aden and Zanzibar was not more than £500 a-year, and we received only £200 towards a subsidy of £10,000, the Indian Government taking £300 towards the expenses to which they were subjected. It would be obvious to anyone that the trustee of a branch of Public Revenue could not be justified on economical or other grounds in an expenditure of £10,000 for a yield of only £200. Sometimes it was said there was a great deal of money at the Post Office; but there were a great many improvements to be carried out, and he could show many desirable improvements which would be of great public advantage that could not be carried out for want of money. If the Post Office went on the plan of spending £10,000 for £200, the want of money would rapidly increase. It was said, however, that the expenditure in question was to be regarded, not as Post Office expenditure, but as outlay for the encouragement of trade and the suppression of slavery. If that were so, the House ought to come to a distinct understanding on the subject, and Post Office revenue should not be used for one purpose when it was meant to be used for another. If we were to spend money for the promotion of commerce or the suppression of the Slave Trade, the Foreign Office or some other Department ought to be responsible for the expenditure, and it ought not to be put down obscurely as a postal subsidy. A postal subsidy was only justified when without it it was not possible to obtain a regular postal service, and when it did not involve a larger expenditure than was justified in the circumstances of the case. Every sixpence that went beyond this launched us on a boundless sea of expenditure in the encouragement of trade by public money. If we accepted the idea that it was desirable to spend postal revenue in opening markets when there was a glut of goods in England, where were we to stop? We might spend public money in this way in every quarter of the world; but in doing that we should be following the steps of those countries which had adopted the unfortunate course of promoting the enterprize of their citizens by the fatal gift of State aid. It would be asked—"Have you grounds for believing that if this subsidy were discontinued, there would be a sufficiently regular and a sufficiently good postal service between Zanzibar and India?" The whole subject turned upon that. When the case was submitted to him, it seemed to him that the grounds were very strong for arriving at the conclusion that without the subsidy there would be a regular and a sufficiently good mail service. In this night's debate, however, men of greater commercial experience than he could claim for himself had positively asserted that without some subsidy it was vain to hope for the establishment of a regular postal service; and, therefore, in deference to these assertions, but without pledging himself to a change of opinion, he was willing to give the subject his renewed and candid consideration. He should be very glad to have evidence and information laid before him by his hon. Friends the Members for Manchester, Salford, and Preston, or by others who had gone into the question. If they succeeded in convincing him that it would be impossible to look for the maintenance of a regular postal service to those countries without a subsidy, although he should not feel justified in recommending such a large sum as that which was now demanded, he would recommend to the Treasury that, opening the contract to free competition, a smaller subsidy should be granted if it would secure a regular service. He hoped that assurance would be satisfactory to the House. In conclusion, he wished to express his belief that postal subsidies did not in reality encourage trade. In certain exceptional circumstances they might be inevitable, but at best they were painful and unpleasant necessities; while the consequence of granting them unnecessarily was that public money was used to defeat competition. On behalf of the Government he could not accept the Amendment; but he repeated, that there might be no mistake, that the subject should have his careful attention.


, in reply, observed, that his only object in asking for a subsidy was to insure that the postal service to the places mentioned in his Amendment should be regular, and not intermittent, and he should be glad to see this effected in the most economical way possible. He had every reason to believe that a subsidy was necessary; but he accepted the assurances by the Postmaster General to the effect that the matter should have his future careful consideration, and asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."