HC Deb 20 February 1883 vol 276 cc408-9

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether Her Majesty's Government have taken, or intend to take, any steps to prove or disprove the truth of the statement made by an arrested slave dealer to a superintendent of police in the Gold Coast Constabulary, and published in the official Correspondence, relating to a horrible murder committed on the West Coast of Africa, according to which statement it is the custom of missionaries, as well as the invariable custom of other British subjects on the Niger, to purchase and employ slaves, and, in many cases, to so cruelly illtreat them as to call forth the remonstrances even of the slave dealers; and, whether, having regard to the aforesaid atrocious murder, and to the Report of the Commissioner as to the impunity with which such outrages are at present committed, the Government will take steps for the emancipation of slaves owned by British subjects, and for the better protection of the natives, as well as for the more certain detection and more adequate punishment of such crimes?


in reply, said, that these Questions ought to be addressed to the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, because the districts on the Niger, where the events referred to took place, were entirely outside of British jurisdiction. No doubt it was true that certain British subjects in the outlying districts of the Niger had been in the habit of purchasing and employing slaves; but whenever evidence to that effect had been produced, and they had been brought within British jurisdiction, they had been prosecuted and punished. As for taking steps for emancipating slaves held by British subjects, of course, directly slaves came within the British territory they were ipso factofree; but the British Government had no authority to advance upon territory where they had no jurisdiction. An Order in Council was under consideration to enable the British Consul on the West Coast of Africa more efficiently to punish persons guilty of these crimes. As soon as the Order in Council was passed it would be laid on the Table.