§ MR. COLERIDGE KENNARD
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the terms of General Gordon's Proclamation to the Soudanese, as reported in the newspapers of to-day, are in conformity with the instructions given him by Her Majesty's Government, especially in regard to the uninterrupted facilities to be accorded to the hunters of and dealers in slaves?
We have not received a copy of the Proclamation; but I may go so far as to say that any proceedings in the encouragement of the Slave Trade would be as much out of keeping with the purposes of General Gordon's Mission and the instructions given to him as they are out of keeping, I am convinced, with the whole of his nature and character, and the aims to which his life has been devoted.
§ MR. COLERIDGE KENNARD
May I ask whether Her Majesty's Government have telegraphed any disclaimer?
No, Sir. We will not telegraph any disclaimer of any document which we are quite certain never was issued.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the Government, can now give any explanation of the Proclamation stated to have been made at Khartoum by General Gordon; whether that Proclamation was made by the authority of Her Majesty's Government; and, whether General Gordon's instructions were intended to cover a proclamation granting permission to carry on the Slave Trade? The right hon. Gentleman added that he did not wish to press Questions which 1349 were inconvenient; but he thought there was every reason why there ought to be an explanation of the Proclamation itself, or, at any rate, an explanation of the most curious reference that had excited a great deal of interest.
I admit the cautious terms of the right hon. Gentleman's Question, of which I make no complaint. The only objection that I have to it is, that any explanation I give as to its details must necessarily be a conjectural explanation; but I have not the least doubt in my own mind that the key to this matter lies in the distinction between slavery in the Soudan and slavery elsewhere. Hon. Gentlemen will find full, curious, and interesting information in the book called General Gordon in the Soudan. I may refer to pages from memory. I think the particulars are given between pages 334 and 354, where you will find ample illustration of what I am now stating. I think it is stated by General Gordon, among other things, that seven-eighths of the population of the Soudan are in a state of slavery; moreover, that the state of slavery has been made the subject of legislative consideration; and I think hon. Gentlemen will find that explained in a despatch of Lord Dufferin which is on the Table; and that the state of slavery having by Egyptian law a term fixed for its existence is, as it were, under distinct guarantee of the law down to the expiration of that term, which is in 1889. I think that is, perhaps, as much as I should say now. It will be seen from the book I have referred to that General Gordon, with the noble enthusiasm of his character, exclaimed—Would to God that by laying down my life this night I could put an end to the slavery in the Soudan.He afterwards goes on to speak of it, saying how his heart and mind were in that purpose; but the whole texture of the matter goes to show that slavery is so interwoven with the state of government in the Soudan that it could not by any possibility be dealt with at one blow.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
The right hon. Gentleman will see that there are other matters contained in the Proclamation besides the clause as to carrying on the Slave Trade. The right hon. Gentleman will observe that I put the 1350 Question whether the Proclamation, whatever it may have been, was issued by the authority of Her Majesty's Government—that is to say, whether it was in his capacity of Representative of Her Majesty's Government that General Gordon made whatever Proclamation he did issue; or whether it was on the authority of the Egyptian Government?
I have no reason to doubt at all that the other important matters contained in the Proclamation reported in the succinct summary, with regard to the remission of payments due and the nomination of the Mahdi as Sultan of Kordofan, were within the powers of General Gordon. But with respect to the question, as to whether the Proclamation was made with the authority of Her Majesty's Government, what I have already stated is that General Gordon is acting under the direct authority of the Egyptian Government; but as regards indirect authority, and as regards full responsibility, Her Majesty's Government hold themselves completely responsible for what General Gordon does.
§ MR. GUY DAWNAY
I would ask, whether General Gordon was not sent to arrange the evacuation of the Soudan as a plan irrevocably decided upon; and, if so, to what possible taxes—past, present, or future—the proposed remission of 50 per cent could possibly apply? Is it on principle, or is it with a view of breaking it gently to the Soudanese?
Before answering the Question with reference to the payments I must see the Proclamation. I can easily conceive there may be considerable retrospective payments due in the Soudan to which it is possible such a Proclamation may apply. General Gordon certainly went to the Soudan for the purpose of carrying into execution the military evacuation of that country.