§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether it is the case that in May last a steam launch, the property of a British subject, passing up the Niger for purposes of legitimate trade, was, with its cargo, seized by the M'Blama tribe; and what steps, if any, have been taken by Consul Hewett to recover the said property; whether, in October last, the National African Company kidnapped three boys belonging to the said tribes, and still detain them, though instructed by Consul Hewett on June 2nd to hand them over; whether the seizure of the launch, its crew and cargo, was an act of reprisal on the part of the Natives for the detention of the three boys; that the launch and cargo are still in the hands of the Natives; and that the agent of the Company, when informed of the imprisonment of the crew by the Natives, declined, nevertheless, to interfere in any way for their rescue; what remedy the crew and the owners of the launch, and of the cargo, have for the injuries and loss they have sustained or still sustain, and against whom; and, whether Her Majesty's Government, having 876 regard to the charter lately granted to the National African Company, will inquire into the matter with a view to prevent such acts?
THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE (Sir JAMES FEEGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
This matter has engaged the attention of Her Majesty's Government. It is not certain whether the violence offered to this vessel can be traced to the holding as hostages by the National African Company of three of the M'Blama Tribe. The attention of the Company in question was at once, however, called to the incident, and on the 13th of July they telegraphed to their agents that the M'Blama hostages were at once to be returned to their tribe. On the 23rd ultimo they also informed the Foreign Office that every effort was being made by the Company and by the British Consul to obtain the surrender of the vessel and cargo, and the immediate surrender of the marauding Chief who had seized them. Her Majesty's Government can offer no opinion as to who is legally liable for the loss sustained by this outrage. They, however, have every hope that the grant of the Charter just issued to the National African Company will enable better police arrangements to be made, and prevent such occurrences taking place in future.