HC Deb 25 February 1884 vol 284 cc1873-5

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the following translation, published in The Times, of General Gordon's proclamation on the subject of slavery, is correct:—

"Proclamation.—To all the inhabitants. Your tranquillity is the object of our hope. And as I know that you are sorrowful on account of the slavery which existed among you, and the stringent orders on the part of the Government for the abolition of it, and the punishment of those who deal in them (the slaves), and the assurances given by the Government for its abolition, seizing upon and punishing those concerned in the trade; the punishment of those who trade in slaves, according to Imperial decrees, and the firmans forwarded to you—all this is known to you.

"But henceforward nobody will interfere with you in the matter, but everyone for himself may take a man into his service henceforth. No one will interfere with him, and he can do as he pleases in the matter, without interference on the part of anybody; and we have accordingly given this order.

"My compassion for you.

"(Signed) "GORDON PASHA;"

and, if so, whether such a proclamation on the part of the recognized agent of Her Majesty's Government in the Soudan is not in direct contravention of the principle of the Act of 1807 abolishing the slave trade; and what steps, if any, Her Majesty's Government propose to take in the matter?


wished, before that Question was answered, to ask whether, having regard to the extraordinary and exceptional character of the mission of General Gordon, it would not be better to leave General Gordon to carry out, unmolested and in his own way, the duties which he had so courageously undertaken, and not through Questions addressed to Her Majesty's Government, especially when those Questions were founded on imperfect information—[Cries of "Order!"]


having interposed, Sir HENRY TYLER resumed his seat.


Sir, undoubtedly I concur, and very strongly concur, with the general sentiment expressed in the truncated Question of the hon. Gentleman. I understood, likewise, as far as I could interpret the feeling of the House, that to be the decided feeling of the House. But, at the same time, it was quite understood that the case of this Proclamation was to be treated as an exception. The Government have given a pledge for its production, and they do not regard it in the main as a political Proclamation. On that ground I cannot find fault with the hon. Gentleman (Baron De Worms) for the inquiry he has made. My reply to that inquiry will not be held to involve me in any inconsistency if I should decline to reply to other inquiries respecting General Gordon of a different character. But I must still ask the hon. Gentleman's indulgence to some extent. We have received the authentic text of what appears to be General Gordon's Proclamation, and that authentic text has been laid upon the Table to-night. Hon. Gentlemen will, therefore, have the opportunity of considering it for themselves. It is not in accordance with the terms of this Proclamation, and that is all, I think, that I can say at the present moment, because it is not in my power absolutely to assert that General Gordon has not issued some Proclamation with which this may be in more or less correspondence. We have sought the Proclamation to which the discussions in this House referred. It is the text of that Proclamation which has been sent to us, and it will now be in the hands of hon. Members. The hon. Gentleman will, therefore, not expect me now to answer the closing clause of his Question, in reference to the consistency of the text of this Proclamation with the Act of 1807. But I cannot reply to the Question without stating that our confidence in General Gordon on this subject is absolute and unabated. Our belief is, that he has issued no Proclamation whatever that is in any manner in conflict with the Act of 1807.


asked, whether the Proclamation would be laid on the Table in Arabic, as well as the translation of it, in order to afford the Arabic scholars of the country the opportunity of comparing the translation with the original?


Sir, we are not in possession of any Arabic original or version, whichever it be, and I am not able to undertake to seek for this Arabic document until and unless it can be shown to me that there is some special reason why so unusual a course should be adopted, because it certainly would be attended with a good deal of prac- tical inconvenience to the working of our Parliamentary system.