HC Deb 26 March 1889 vol 334 cc886-927
*MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)

I hope, Mr. Speaker, the House will not think me presumptuous in asking it to listen to me in reference to this important subject of the Slave Trade. I should not have ventured to do so if it were not that I lave a strong hereditary interest in the subject. I do not think the House would desire me to detain it with any references to the horrors of the Slave Trade. We all know full well that the traffic in slaves throughout Africa produces awful suffering and an appalling waste of life year after year. The centre of Africa is rapidly becoming depopulated in order to gratify the greed and the lust of the Oriental slaveholders, and it has been calculated, I believe, by those conversant with the subject, that for every human being who is successfully enslaved some 20 or 30 others are sacrificed. In the last 80 years England has been almost single- handed making war against this hideous traffic, and I am glad to think that of late this country has had some seeming assistance, at all events, in the matter. The latest phase is the Anglo-German Agreement, which was entered into a few months ago in order to carry out a more thorough blockade of the coast of East Africa. I do not desire to enter into questions connected with that blockade, but I must confess that I am not prepared to blame the Government for having entered into that agreement, for they had to decide—a new departure having been already taken by the German Government—whether it was not in the interests of Africa and of Great Britain that we should enter into the arrangement. Indeed, I doubt, if the Government could have refused to accept a proposal for a friendly Power to help her in her great work, even though they may have had some doubt as to the entire genuineness of the object which the Germans had in view. By joining we increased our friendship with Germany, that partially influenced her proceedings. By forbearing it is pretty certain we should have lost much of our influence at Zanzibar. At the same, time while I do not blame the Government, I confess I do not agree with the very sanguine view of the matter which is apparently taken by the Government—namely, as Lord Salisbury said, that this blockade has been "exceedingly satisfactory." On two essential points the Government were over sanguine. England and Germany entered into the agreement on the understanding that the blockading vessels should have the right to search ships under whatever flag they sailed, and that no land operations would be taken in connection with the blockade. But it now appears that the French are inclined to stand on the dignity of their flag, and will not allow the right of search where it is concerned; and, as we are all aware, the Germans have unfortunately gone in for what is practically a land expedition, and have destroyed some hitherto peaceful towns. But the moral that I wish to draw is this: that a great question like this, in which so many nations have interests, direct or indirect, ought to be made an international question and not left to two Powers alone. All the Great Powers should take combined action in order that they might finally, if possible, bring this hateful traffic to an end. By international agreement they would be able to deal with a larger area and to serve a greater purpose. They might hope not only more effectually to intercept the supply, but to strike a deadly blow at the demand for slaves themselves. There is a good precedent for international action. I need not trouble the House with any detailed reference to the Congresses at which this subject has been discussed. As the House is aware, at the Vienna Congress of 1815, and again at the Conference at Verona in 1822, the English Government successfully urged the necessity of dealing with the Slave Trade. In 1841 a further Treaty was made by England, to which, unfortunately, France did not assent, which, declaring the slave trade piracy, as far as they were concerned, gave reciprocal powers to Austria, Prussia, and Russia to search suspected ships. Finally, the other day the representatives of nearly all the great nations, including Turkey, met together to consider the affairs of the Congo; and they unanimously agreed that every step in their power ought to be taken to put an end to the Slave Trade, in that portion of Africa at all events. Unfortunately, the opportunity which was afforded England of again dealing with this question at the time of the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 was entirely neglected, and this neglect remains a blot on our escutcheon. Now, Mr. Speaker, at the time of that Treaty the attention of the accredited agents of the Great Powers assembled at Berlin was called to this matter, and they gave personal interviews and great attention the delegates appointed to lay the matter before them; indeed, they said that as far as they were concerned they were willing and desirous that a new departure should be taken in regard to it. But it was generally thought that England should take the initiative, yet the representatives of Her Majesty were alone in refusing to take action, and to seethe delegates. Her Majesty's Government were—to our shame, be it said—bound hand and foot to a slave-owning country by the secret Treaty which they had made with Turkey. That is a blot which, though the Government cannot wipe it out, yet I hope they will endeavour to diminish its effect by taking the initiative now in a new departure. Fifty years ago the Great Nations met together to consider the question of the Slave Trade, and, considering the enormous strides made on the subject by public opinion during the last decade or two, considering the increased responsibility which rests upon all nations with regard to the opening up of the Dark Continent, I think it is not in any way premature to ask that a further step should now be taken, and that a fresh Conference of the Powers should be held to deal with this traffic. Germany and England, the two Powers most interested, have practically acknowledged the necessity of another Conference. When Prince Bismarck applied to England to join in the blockade, he applied also to the Cabinets of Paris, Lisbon, Brussels, and Rome to co-operate in the undertaking, thus showing that he thought the matter ought to be settled by the general consensus of the Powers rather than by one or two States individually. Our Government has gone even further, for in a despatch written in September last Lord Salisbury requested Lord Vivian to ask the Belgian Government to call a Conference of the Powers in order to discuss the question. These are his words— Her Majesty's Government feel that the altered political conditions of the African seaboard calls for some united action of the Powers now responsible for its control with a view to the closing of all foreign markets for slaves, and the consequent discouragement of the internal slave-hunts. The despatch went on to ask Belgium to call a Conference of the Powers. To that despatch the Belgian Government replied that they would be very glad indeed to call a Conference with that object; but, unfortunately, the incidents in the German Plan of Campaign, in the opinion of the English Government, put a stumbling-block in the way of the immediate calling of the Conference, and Lord Salisbury in November withdrew his proposal, though, as he said, he hoped that this step, from which so much good might be expected to result, is only postponed. The principle is thus admitted, and it comes to this, therefore—the question is whether or not this is an opportune moment to call a Conference. Many of us believe that the present is a very opportune moment to call a Conference of the Powers again to discuss the question of the Slave Trade. On the one hand, because the public conscience has been awakened and the public mind aroused on the subject of late in a way they have not been for some time past. It is not that a new crusade has been preached, but there has been an awakening of public opinion in this and in other countries, and other nations have shown a desire to share in the admirable work of the suppression of the Slave Trade. Germany, the great irritant, and France, the great obstructive in East African politics, have both of late declared their willingness as far as they can to assist England in this work. Italy is anxious to join also, and Portugal has declared that for this time, at all events, she is really in earnest in desiring to co-operate. While, on the one hand, there is this great increase of public opinion, on the other there is at the present moment a fresh upheaval of the Arab element in Africa against the Europeans. It is difficult to say how far this upheaval is due to the question of the Slave Trade, to religious animosity, or to a fear on the part of the Arabs that the spread of the influence of the European in South Africa will ultimately annihilate them and drive them out of the Continent. But whether it is due to fanaticism, greed of gain, or a real struggle for existence, certain it is that, unless it be checked, one principal result of that fresh upheaval will be this—that the Slave Trade will be enormously increased and the cause of civilization and humanity in Africa will be thrown back for many a decade. I submit that the Anglo-German blockade will neither on the one hand satisfy public opinion, nor on the other hand will it be sufficient to check the rising of the Arabs against the Europeans. What, it may be asked, may we expect to obtain from a meeting of the Great Powers; what measures could they take to put an end to the Slave Trade? There are four things of a real and practical nature which we might hope to attain from a meeting of the Powers. In the first place, the status of slavery should be no longer recognized by international law; secondly, the Slave Trade should by international law be declared piracy; thirdly, we should get rid of the difficulty which at present exists with regard to the right of search of suspected ships carrying other flags; and, fourthly, there ought to be greater restriction and supervision under international law of the imports of arms and ammunition into Central Africa. Now, in regard to the question of piracy, what we desire is that by international law a slave trader shall be declared a pirate, and shall receive such punishment as is meted out to pirates. I am glad to think that so far as regards any of our own subjects who have engaged in the Slave Trade for the last 60 years they have been treated as if engaged in a piratical pursuit; and as long ago as 1841 we were able, as I have already shown, to obtain the assent of some of the other Great Powers to that part of our programme. But, unfortunately, while we declare slave trading under our flag to be piracy, and some other Powers do the same, yet it is only a municipal law, and there is no international law declaring it to be universally piracy. Great difficulties and serious obstacles to the prevention of the Slave Trade ensue from this deficiency. We have no right as a nation to allow our war vessels, except by mutual agreement, to search ships sailing under other flags, however much we may suspect them of being slavers. I am sorry to say that France has consistently refused to allow dhows sailing under her flag to be searched. She seems to think that the dignity of her flag is enhanced by allowing—as was the case at all events until lately—its purchase at a small price, and by seeing it wave over and protecting these piratical slavers. If the slave trade were declared piracy by international law, each nation would acquire the right of mutual search of suspected vessels. And there would be a great further advantage. At present, where the Arab slavers fly a foreign flag or no flag at all, even though our gunboats may catch them red-handed, their wretched persons are held sacred, and the most we can do is to seize the dhows and liberate the slaves, while the slavers themselves get off scot-free. Though we have abolished capital punishment except for murder itself, and though we may not be able, as has been suggested, to string-up the slave-dealers or to flog them, still, if they were declared pirates by international law, we could give them 12 or 14 years' penal servitude. A few such sentences would greatly encourage the others, and would, I believe, lead the slavers to seek some other traffic in which there would be less risk to their precious skins. I do not think I need trouble the House with arguments in reference to the advantages to be gained from the prohibition by mutual international agreement of the import of arms and ammunition into Africa. As is well known, the import of arms and ammunition is very much at the bottom of the Slave Trade, because by the possession of arms of precision the Arabs are able to master crowds of defenceless Africans, and to depopulate whole districts. I am strongly of opinion that such operations as we do undertake ought to be, as far as we are concerned, confined to naval operations. It seems to me that to engage in land operations would be absolutely fatal as a policy, and the Germans, if they really attempt to carry out such a policy, will find that out to their cost. If a land force were sent up the country it would have no objective in view, it would have no opportunity of meeting the enemy in a body, and it would be decimated by disease and overwhelmed by the difficulty of food and transport. So far as our physical force policy is concerned, I think, therefore, it should be confined to naval operations. But I should like, however, to see land operations of a peaceful character—namely, that we should obtain the moral pressure of international agreement directed against the existence of slavery where it is still recognized as an institution. It would be a great step if an International Congress would declare that it would no longer recognize the status of slavery where slavery still exists. One great difficulty which arises in connection with the continued recognition of the status of slavery is the question to which reference has very often been made in this House—the difficulty in connection with fugitive slaves. Every Englishman has always desired that, if possible, the deck of a man-of-war shall be as free to the slave as if he had set his foot upon our soil. When at one time a Government of the same constitution as the present did attempt to diminish the force of that principle the public outcry was so great that they had to revoke the so-called Slave Circular, and revert to that which everyone believed was the then state of our law, but which they thought was not so. But there is a great difficulty in connection with this matter. We may have a strong opinion about it, and may send strong instructions to commanders of our ships; but, as a matter of fact, we have no real right so to deal with this question in the present state of international law. Moreover, the proceedings of different nations in this matter vary considerably, and some do not in any way admit that the decks of their war vessels are free soil. When, again, it comes to the question of the decks of merchant-ships, which is a far more important question, there is no power of declaring them free soil in a port in which slavery exists, and the result is that if the fugitive slave comes on board he must be handed back to his owner, or the captain becomes liable in damages. If my proposition were carried out, we should no longer recognize that such a thing as the status of slavery could exist, and there would be no necessity to hand a slave back to his owner, or even to the authorities of the country. Further than that, the non-recognition by international law of the status of slavery would exercise a very great moral pressure in the direction of the final abolition of slavery, and if an International Congress were called, the countries in which slavery still exists would be asked to attend. It is possible that, in the present state of public opinion, most of them would be ready to admit that the time has come for the abolition of slavery. But, whether they did or not, the moral pressure which would be exercised by the other Great Powers would go a long way to finally bring to an end the question of slavery. I know we are told by some, who are interested in the work that is going on in Africa, that by taking the course I have indicated we shall be doing more harm than good, especially in the interior of Africa, and that we had better leave the work of putting an end to slavery and the Slave Trade to our missionaries, and to the effects of civilization and trade. Unfortunately, however, the results of missionary effort in the direction of the abolition of slavery are infinitesimal, and I am afraid that if we wait until the natives are converted, the inhabitants of large tracts of country in Africa will be swept away before the influence of the missionaries can put an end to this traffic in human beings, and the same applies to the question of trade. But if some general arrangement could be arrived at among the civilized Powers, by which the Slave Trade should be declared piracy, the difficulties surrounding the right of search and the importation of arms and ammunition could be removed, and slavery itself affected at its source, much would be done to put an end to the Slave Trade and to give increased opportunities for converting the souls and clothing the bodies of the Africans. If there is any hope that such an agreement as I have indicated can be arrived at, it is the duty, and I am sure it will be the pleasure of this country, to take the initiative in bringing about such an agreement. We ask the Government to give us a pledge that they will, at the earliest possible moment, carry out the opinions they formed some months ago, that a further new departure should be taken in order, if possible, to exterminate this horrible trade. I beg to move the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in view of the present increasing and extending desolations of Africa caused by the slave trade, and also of the large responsibilities which European nations have now assumed in respect to that continent, the time has come when full and complete effect should be given to those declarations against the slave trade which were delivered by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and by the Conference at Verona in 1822; and that, therefore, an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to take steps for calling together (in London, if possible) a Conference of the Powers, in order to devise such measures for its repression as may be at the same time effective and in accordance with justice, and under the regulations of international law."—(Mr. S. Buxton.)

SIR J. KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)

In rising to second the Motion brought before the House by my hon. Friend, I feel I need not take up much of its time in striving to demonstrate that the question of the Slave Trade, which has deeply moved the hearts of the people of this country, which has been fought out with such persistency in this House and in this country, and which, so far as this nation is concerned, was brought to a triumphant issue many years back, is upon us now with all its horrors. We cannot shut our eyes to the pictures of the slave gangs, with all their miserable accompaniments, crossing over Africa, leaving enormous tracts of cultivated country, equal in size to European countries, desolate, and turning them into howling wildernesses. We cannot shut our ears to the cry of suffering humanity which comes to us to deliver that fruitful land from the curse of the Slave Trade; and it is not a question of humanity alone, but one of self-interest also. We cannot find that outlet for our manufactures which is so necessary to our commercial existence and prosperity in communities which have been deprived of all their inhabitants. We cannot help feeling disappointed that after all our efforts so little seems really to have been done. The slave traders are now spread through the length and breadth of the Continent of Africa, and even the discoveries of men like Livingstone and Stanley have in many cases been the means of opening out fresh Slave Trade routes and encouraging the Arabs to penetrate into the interior further than they have ever done before But there has been of late a new step taken by European Powers which seems to call for a new departure. The whole political map of Africa has been par celled out between the different Powers of Europe, and it is right that we should call upon those Powers to remember that right and duty are correlative, and that the advantages they hope to gather from acquiring a sphere of influence over this Continent carry with them great responsibility. We could not, of course protest against other nations seeking new openings for their trade, and we wish them well, but at the same time our old traditional policy calls upon us to make an appeal to them to use their influence to put down this great evil of the Slave Trade, and to try and obtain the benefit of united action in doing so. At the Congress of Verona, at which England, Austria, Prussia, Russia, and France were represented, the Duke of Wellington brought forward resolution urging the Powers to make the Slave Trade piracy. France objected on the ground that such a proposition was ultra vires of the political Conference. The result was that nothing actually was done. Since that Conference various Powers have been induced to make the Slave Trade piracy, and have granted each other a mutual right of search. Among them are Austria, Brazil, Germany, England, Portugal, Prussia, Russia and Spain, and as late as 1862 the captain of a vessel was hanged at New York for piracy. For some years the limited right of search was granted by the French Government, but at the expiration of the Treaty of 1865 this power was withdrawn, and since that time no right of search has existed in regard to vessels carrying the French flag. The slave traders have availed themselves to the utmost of the knowledge of this fact, and I believe at the present time, by the payment of £5 or £6, the right to use the French flag can be obtained at Madagascar. The result has been that the trade under the French flag amounts to twice as much as that under any other flag, and our efforts with regard to cruisers have been rendered almost entirely nugatory. In a despatch of September last, Lord Salisbury directed that the attention of the French Government should be called to the flagrant case of the landing of 75 slaves from a dhow carrying the French flag under the guns of a British man-of-war. The result was that orders were sent out to the French ships to look out for the slave traders, and catch them if possible. Lord Salisbury followed, that up by an important despatch in October to Lord Lytton, pointing out that the immunity from search enjoyed by vessels flying the French flag was an encouragement to the slavers to carry on the Slave Trade by sea, and also tended to develop it on land; and that that traffic devastated countries which the European nations were endeavouring to open up to Christianity and civilization; and he asked that France might accord that mutual right of search which in the case of other nations had not in its operation led to any difficulty. To that appeal no answer has been vouchsafed; and we can look to nothing but the strong force of public opinion to induce France to change her attitude on the subject. A gentleman who came over here with Cardinal Lavigerie, and who is an active supporter of the French Anti-Slavery Society, has written a letter, stating that it is utterly impossible to obtain the consent of the French Parliament and people to giving English gunboats the right to search vessels carrying the French flag. He recommends that the question shall be dealt with from a general point of view, and that there should be an agitation for a rule common to all nations, authorizing the searching of vessels. We must recogaise what is the position of the Government of Prance, how very delicate is the condition of parties, and how unwilling any Prime Minister with a majority of a dozen or so must be to enter into a course of action that might render him unpopular. We have Treaties with Turkey; but they are not carried out. Jeddah, which is under Turkish dominion, is one of the great marts for slaves, and while, as it is said, there are a thousand eunuchs in the Palace at Constantinople, it is evident the Turks will be unwilling to curtail the source from which supplies of slaves are obtained. On the 17th of September Lord Salisbury asked Belgium to take the initiative in summoning a Conference to which Great Britain, Germany, France, Spain, and Turkey should be invited. Belgium answered that she was ready to do so if the Powers were willing to come together; but, in the month of November, Lord Salisbury wrote and said he thought the occasion was not opportune, for various reasons. Whether those reasons were the complications which have occurred in East Africa, or that the Powers were not willing to take part in a Conference, was not stated. All we know is, that though Lord Salisbury earnestly desired to act in the matter, he thought the occasion was inopportune. It is, however, to be hoped that the Conference will not be postponed ad infinitum. and that Her Majesty's Government will lose no fitting opportunity of pressing it forward. We spend large sums of money on cruisers, and at present that money is thrown away, partly on account of the immunity enjoyed by slavers under the French flag, and partly because steam launches are needed that will overtake the slave dhows, which at present outstrip our ships and land their crews, who disappear in the bush. It would seem that the time is now very opportune for action in the matter. We are on the very best terms with Germany; we have, at this moment, in this country a very important Envoy from Germany; and Germany is under some obligation to us on account of the obloquy we have been brought under from falling in with her proposals. Among the questions that will come before the Congress, I think that of domestic slavery in the Congo will have to be considered; and we may hope it will result in the formation of that International Commission which was ordered to be set on foot at the time when the Congo State was founded, because it is said that great irregularities have occurred in that State, But while we endeavour to cut off the supply of slaves, it is necessary also to cut off the demand; and I think the Congress should be asked to procure the abolition of the legal status of slavery in Mahommedan countries, and, first and foremost, in Pemba and Zanzibar. Through our occupation of Egypt, slave markets are no longer held there; and any slave may now go and demand his freedom. That is being carried out now, under a Treaty which took effect in 1884, with the hearty co-operation of the Khedive. The same policy was to have been pursued in the Soudan. Much has been done by Her Majesty's Government in this matter. The fact that Slave Papers have been presented to us within a month or two of the actual occurrences, instead of at a time when the matters referred to have become ancient history, deserves recognition. The Government have the House of Commons and the country at their back in this matter. We hope that, amidst all the difficulties attending Foreign Office work, and in the special circumstances attending the present unhappy state of things in East Africa, the Government will not let this matter sleep, but will realize that it is a question on which the country has set its heart and its mind, and one on which it will not relax its efforts until it has been brought to a successful issue.

*MR. A. E. PEASE (York)

I am very sanguine this Resolution will meet with general approval, and I am not without hope that Her Majesty's Government will give a favourable response to the appeals made from both sides of the House. We have Lord Salisbury's own admission of the necessity of a Conference, and the expression of his hope that the question is only postponed for a time. I am sure anyone who has any knowledge of the horrors of this African slave traffic must regard this question of an International Conference as a pressing and urgent one. During the last 10 or 15 years there has been something like apathy, something like popular cynicism, in regard to the Slave Trade, and this has been indicated by the heedlessness of this House with regard to the publication of papers on the subject. But lately public opinion has been aroused to the horrors of this trade, and we have seen the Government respond by laying information abundantly and punctually before us. I do not think anyone who looks at the Slave Trade as it exists in Africa, or who has given any attention whatever to the subject, but must be struck with the frightful cruelties that accompany it. It is a traffic associated with every imaginable crime, and murder, rape, and the unsexing of males are among the chief atrocities perpetrated. When the hon. Member for Poplar alluded to the fact that only one in 30 of the slaves originally captured reach the slave market, I was much struck with the figures, and they remind me of other figures given by a man well acquainted with the interior of Africa and the Soudan, and an acknowledged authority, Mr. Wylde, who states that for each eunuch that is made 200 human beings lose their lives in the performance of the horrible operation. So that the 500 eunuchs now in Cairo have been obtained by the sacrifice of 100,000 human lives in the Soudan. It is not only for domestic purposes the Slave Trade in Africa is carried on; the Arab dealers employ slaves by the thousand as the means of transporting goods to the coast and inland markets, whole districts being depopulated to make beasts of burden of the inhabitants. Therefore, I think we may justifiably look forward to increasing civilization in Africa and the introduction of better means of transport as one means of cutting off one of the great sources of the Slave Trade. An International Conference is wanted in order that effective measures may bring about an effective blockade; it cannot be said that the present blockade is effective. In my opinion there should be a great International Preventive Service. Though I know many argue that the existence of the blockade is mischievous in its tendency, I cannot but think that if all the Powers of Europe used their vessels as a great International Police it would do a great deal towards stopping the export trade in slaves. But, after all, the export trade is but a small fragment of the trade as a whole. Commander Cameron, with whom I have had the honour of conversing, told me that he estimated that the export by sea was only about a thirtieth of the whole Slave Trade. I also think with the hon. Member for Poplar that the punishment of Arab slave dealers should be made a matter of international concern. There are other points to which the attention of the House and the Government should be directed, and one of these is the difference in the method adopted by different nations in dealing with fugitive slaves. Even our own method is sometimes open to comment. If hon. Members will peruse the Blue Book issued in 1888 they will find numerous instances recorded of fugitive slaves having come on board English men-of-war and where the commander of the vessel has been perplexed, by the conflicting instructions, how to act, and seems almost to apologize for giving runaway slaves their freedom. A most flagrant case of the kind was reported not long ago by an officer on board one of Her Majesty's ships on an African station, and deserves, I think, the attention of the House. An account of the circumstances appeared in the United Service Gazette of September 8 last year. The ship was lying off Muscat, and at daybreak a poor black fellow swam from the shore and climbing on board fell exhausted on deck. He described through an interpreter how he had escaped from a dhow in which he had made a passage from Zanzibar. Further, he said two more dhows with slaves were expected, but no advantage was taken of this information. To the horror of the black fugitive, when the commander of the vessel appeared he ordered the man overboard at once, without listening to his story, and told the quartermaster he had grievously exceeded his duty by allowing him on board. When the hon. Member for Falmouth called attention to the incident, the First Lord of the Admiralty declared that the report was incredible in view of the definite instructions given to commanders, and so it may appear to many Members, but nevertheless the editor of the Western Morning News has declared that he can produce the officer's letter, and will disclose the name if his correspondent is guaranteed against any punishment for breach of regulations for writing to a newspaper on such a matter. I do not know whether the Admiralty have any further information on this subject. This right of refuge is one of the points to which the attention of a Conference would be directed. There is no need for me to make any references to the history of the Slave Circulars. I am sure that if the country knew that any doubt exists about whether a fugitive slave becomes free when setting foot on an English vessel it would at once insist on the issue of instructions removing any doubt whatever on the point. I believe Italy, Germany, and certainly the United States, agree in regarding a slave as perfectly free immediately he gets on board one of their vessels. A Secretary to the United States Navy has asserted that most emphatically, in these words— No officer would for a moment think of giving up a slave who had taken refuge on hoard his vessel, in order that he might return to a condition of slavery. I do not think we should be behind our American cousins in this matter. Another matter is the enforcement of Treaties which already exist with semi-civilized Powers, like Abyssinia and Zanzibar, in which Treaties they have pledged themselves to deny the legal status of slavery. Cargoes of slaves have been run into Pemba under the very nose of an English man-of war, but because the French flag was flying we have been unable to interfere. It is a monstrous anomaly that the mere flying of the French flag or of any flag should limit our right to search any vessel that may be engaged in the Slave Trade, whilst we permit, and the French give instructions for, the searching of any native vessels under our flag. I have a letter from an officer in the Navy, whose name I am afraid to give, because I suppose making public matters of this kind is an irregularity in the Service. He says— At Zanzibar there is an excellent French Consul, who very rarely, if ever, gives the protection of the flag; but I am convinced that the flag is obtained with the greatest facility at Mayotte, Nossi Bé, the Comoro Islands, and possibly also Madagascar. The sum charged is about £6 per year per dhow. The fact that the French flag shelters the worst slave trading in the world is a curious comment upon Cardinal Lavigerie's crusade; and although I most heartily sympathize with that noble man in his efforts to put down the Slave Trade, yet I think the first lesson needed is for him to teach the French nation and the French Republic that they should do something to prevent the carrying on of the Slav© Trade under the French flag. The subject has been dealt with so exhaustively by previous speakers that I need not add more to these few words in support of the Resolution.


I think the House must feel it a pleasure to get away from virulent Party attacks, and to turn to a subject which must awaken in all English breasts a feeling of generosity and hope. Previous speakers have touched but lightly on the losses we have sustained in the Dark Continent; and I might mention that on this very day we have heard of the loss of a man who did good service to his country, not only in office at home, but in Suakin and other places in Africa—namely, Mr. Guy Dawnay, whose loss we all deplore. In placing before the House a few considerations as to the shortcomings of this country with regard to the Slave Trade, I may mention, first, the question of the Soudan; secondly, the question of Zanzibar and the coast below Zanzibar; thirdly, the question of the Congo; and, fourthly, the question of the Gold Coast. I would ask any fair and honest man in this House whether any greater encouragement was ever given to the Slave Trade than was given to it by the abandonment of the Soudan? Surely, even if it was thought by some people to be right that the Soudan and the Egyptian garrisons should be given up, our duty still was clear in regard to the Slave Trade. We have lost a Gordon, but there is one of his lieutenants still remaining—Emin Pasha—who still occupies the Equatorial Provinces, has done his duty nobly and gallantly maintaining civilization in the country which we abandoned. What ought to have been our great object with regard to all that country? If we had had the pluck to do what a great nation ought to have done, we should not only have under our control the whole country up to Khartoum, now again the centre of the Slave Trade, but we should be able to go through the 500 miles of independent country between Emin Pasha and the Congo River. When Belgium undertook great commercial interest on the Congo, it might have been thought that Belgium would determine that slavery should be put a stop to; but when Stanley started from Zanzibar to relieve Emin Pasha, he took with him Tippoo Tib, the greatest slave trader in the world. Tippoo Tib has since been appointed Governor of Stanley Palls, and, instead of giving up the Slave Trade, does just as he did before, to the great disgrace and discredit of those who employed him. Then, what has taken place at Zanzibar? Mr. Stanley has stated clearly that when he got to Zanzibar he was astonished at the state of affairs there. He found that the Germans had been placed in possession of a large tract of coast. The trade with which we had been connected had been entirely destroyed, and the colonization of the Germans, however well-intentioned, had ended in a stupendous blow being dealt not against, but in favour of, the Slave Trade. We ought to have demanded compensation for the injuries which our British-Indian subjects have suffered. That is a subject which demands the serious consideration of this country, and we ought to do everything in our power to protect their interests. It is not too late even now, and I venture to hope the Government will have the courage to demand from Germany that compensation which our British-Indian subjects so fully deserve. And briefly now let me touch upon this question as it concerns the Gold Coast. What is the town in the neighbourhood—in the immediate neighbourhood—of the Gold Coast, which furnishes the largest number of slaves for sale in the course of the year? Why, it is the town of Salagha, 120 miles from our frontier. There are never less than 20,000 slaves sold there every year. Even our own people are in the habit of buying 6,000 or 8,000 slaves, who are taken back to the Gold Coast, and the authorities know it to be done; but, because these slaves are exchanged for goods and the trade is prosperous, it is allowed to go on. Why should we not do as we did before in the case of our Possessions in the West Indies, and put a stop to this horrible trade? The largest town in our Protectorate near the Slave Market is Panto, containing 5,000 inhabitants. My authority was in Salagha in time to see the arrival of two caravans, the one containing 400, the other 500 slaves. He saw an old woman of 80 bought for a few cowries of the value of 8s., to look after five or six little children from two to ten years old, who were sold at the same time. The men to be sold came in after a march of two or three months, with their right hands tied in a knot behind their necks, and from the first to the last a rope was passed through, so that the Arab dealers, if they pulled it, could drag down all these men at once. To the north and north-west of our Gold Coast there is a country densely populated, but which has never been explored by Europeans. The people there are all pagans, and there is a certain King Jaberima there, who has 15,000 men, mostly mounted, and all well armed. They are Mahommedans. With them he besieges villages and towns, carries off the men, women, and children, and kill the men who resist. All the men who fight he mows down unmercifully. Salagha is comparatively close to our frontier, and we ought to show our willingness to forego anything we might otherwise gain, and make a start and do something in the interest of those unfortunate creatures. All these facts can be verified by two gentlemen in this country at present. I do not like to weary the House by too many statements of this kind, because there will be many hon. Members anxious to speak, but these are matters which certainly deserve our most serious consideration. There is another subject which is of interest to the House in which I would say a word. I hold in my hand a letter written in August by Mr. Bonner to Mr. Jamieson, which states that Mr. Stanley has arrived at Unana, some 500 or 600 miles from Stanley Falls, bringing with him 130 Zanzibarese, and 66 of Emin Pasha's porters. That shows that Emin Pasha was able to give him a certain number of porters. All Stanley's own followers would appear to have been dissipated in some way or other, but it would seem that Emin Pasha has been able not only to hold his own, but has been in a position to give Stanley a certain number of porters. I will not read anything further in the letter, as it is a sad subject to me. I feel most grateful to all my friends who have so kindly expressed their sympathy to me in my terrible loss, and I certainly feel grateful to my country for having valued as it has done the services of my poor son. This brings me to the great question of what must be done in the present condition of affairs. It seems to me that the first thing is to determine, and having determined, to maintain those spheres of influence which we have laid down for ourselves. I am one of those who are bold enough to think that this is not a policy too great for this country. We ought to know our own minds, and not to give in to any other nation. We have said that our sphere of influence should extend from the south to the Zambesi, the magnificent waterway up which so many of our missionaries have lost their lives. Our missionaries, with the Bible in their hands, whom we as a nation are bound in every way to protect, have been the pioneers into those regions. I am proud in this connection to mention a Sussex man, Bishop Hannington, sans peur et sans reproche, who has done everything that a good and religious man could do for the work he took in hand. But he is only a type of those who have gone forth to proclaim the glad tidings to those unfortunate people whom, I hope, we shall never neglect. Portugal is a country we should help in every way in our power; but she is not a colonizing country like England. I say, with pride, that there is no other nation which has the same gift of colonization as the English nation has. We ought to deal liberally with Portugal, but at the same time we should ask for Delagoa Bay. We have lands on the West Coast we could well exchange with Portugal. It is only by stating what we want and what lands we are prepared to throw our protecting shield over that a great country like ours can do its duty. But there is another question. Operations by land have been talked about—though they have been touched upon very lightly, because the question, as everyone knows, is a difficult one. Such operations may in certain eventualities from time to time be necessary, but I will put that question aside. We have companies, the East Africa Company, for example, at this moment anxious to do their duty. The East Africa Company has a large tract of land running up to the Albert Nyanza, and we know from Mr. Mackenzie that nothing has been left undone on their part to obtain the affections of the natives. That is the best civilizing influence that can be used. We are bound to give these countries every aid and protection in our power, especially by sea. Well, there is another company proposed to operate in the neighbourhood of Suakin. Nothing, it seems to me, would do more good to the neighbourhood of Suakin than if we could get a company to go there. I deeply regret that the railway between that place and Berber has never been carried out. If we had had the pluck which some of our ancestors possessed, we might have sent a little expedition across the country, and then Gordon would have been still alive; and if we had the railway, though we should prevent a good deal of traffic going down the Nile, we should have turned it in a direction where it would be a great deal more profitable, and where it would operate as a material safeguard against the Slave Trade. It is because I believe that companies are anxious to undertake the arduous duty of extending the civilizing influence of this country and will carry out the duty loyally that I press this particular question on Her Majesty's Government. I will only say in conclusion that, as one of the greatest nations in the world, as the country which has done more than any other to promote civilization, we ought to do all that lies in our power to promote the peace, civilization, prosperity, and happiness of these people.

MR. MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)

The hon. Member who has moved this Resolution possesses an hereditary interest in this question, and I personally cannot but feel a national interest in it, as I remember that the great man who for 13 years in this House fought the battle of freedom acknowledged his obligations to the Irish Members of the Unreformed Parliament of that day. As far as I remember, this Resolution is in the very words of the Resolution which stirred the great heart of humanity and the conscience of the world at the great meeting held in Prince's Hall when Cardinal Lavigerie made his magnificent speech. Bishop Hannington, whom I have the honour of knowing, and Bishop Smythies, who knows more of this portion of Africa than any other man, are in exact accord with the Mover of the Resolution, that no great good is to be expected from armed expeditions into the interior. Bishop Smythies writes that where a British mission is established, there slavery gradually disappears in all its worst forms, and that missionary zeal is the only effective remedy for the evil. The Bishop further writes that great good will also combine to declare the Slave Trade piracy and to act on the declaration. I believe also that we might reckon on the co-operation of Mahommedan Powers. It is true that the Koran recognizes domestic slavery; but the sanctity of the conjugal tie is respected and children are not separated from their parents. In spite of the many revolting features of American slavery the owners always had regard to the health and productive capabilities of their slaves. But no such mitigating circumstances exists in the hideous traffic in Africa with which this country has so long contended. There ought to be no difficulty in obtaining a Conference of the European Powers, for on this question there are no jealousies of nationality, no parties, no conflicting interests. It is a question upon which all the countries of Europe are united by the bonds of human sympathy. I have great pleasure in supporting the Resolution.

*SIR L. PELLY (Hackney, N.)

There is no question concerning the evils of slavery, although the domestic slavery in Asia is not, perhaps, so cruel a crime as was that of predial slavery in the West, where a white man might drive a nigger to death for the sake of enhanced profits in sugar, or what not. Still, whatever may be the shades of difference in slavery, slavery is everywhere so great an evil, that every man in this House will do his utmost to put a stop, not only to the Slave Trade, but to the status of slavery. But how is this to be done? It does not necessarily follow that, because this widely-spread evil pervades two Continents, therefore the Government of these Islands should feel itself bound to cope with and able to destroy it. Nevertheless, we have done what we could in many ways. We have for generations past maintained Her Majesty's ships along the East Coast of Africa, watching the slave craft, destroying dhows, and enfranchising slaves. I know from my own official experience in the territories of Zanzibar that so long ago as 1861 this country was assured that if it would only persevere in its naval operations against the Slave Trade for a few years longer, that trade would be extinguished. Yet now, in 1889, we are told on authority that the Slave Trade is more active and thriving than ever, and the Resolution now before us declares, on the face of it, that it is in consequence of the increase and extension of the trade that the Resolution itself is framed, and that it is because the time is opportune that the Resolution proposes an International Conference, and expresses a hope that countries like Turkey, Arabia, and Persia may be induced to abolish the status of slavery. Well, one thing is plain, that the use of naval force during a generation, along the East Coast of Africa has admittedly failed. No doubt the ships we are now able to station between the Mozambique Channel and the Gulf of Aden are both swifter and in every way superior to the five-knot gunboats that used to steam with green wood after swift dhows in 1861. But still it is absurd to suppose that half a dozen vessels, dependent upon coal, can successfully watch the indentations of a savage coast-line, beset with coral reefs and rapid currents, and extending from 18 degrees south latitude to 11 degrees north. Nor is it to be expected that the Admiralty will permanently retain on the East Coast the force with which they have complemented the German Squadron in the blockade. I am aware it is understood that the Islands of Pemba and Zanzibar are now to be blockaded, and no doubt the present blockading squadron can lay out their boats and encircle these Islands, and drive the Arabs there ashore up into a corner. But what then? Suppose you find the Arabs, you cannot touch them. They will embark in their craft under your very noses, and sail off to the mainland, where they will again prosecute their nefarious trade. But to return to the Resolution. I confess my inability to concur with the Mover that the present time is particularly opportune for Her Majesty's Government volunteering a leading part in an International Conference for the suppression of slavery in the East. There was a time, and I witnessed it, when the representation of the United Kingdom was tenfold more powerful than it is at present. Aye, from the Indus along the coast of Mekran, round the shore line of the Gulfs of Persia and Oman, along the coast of the Arabian Peninsular, thence across to Capo Guardafui, and so along the East Coast of Africa to the borders of the Portuguese Settlements, the word of the British Representative was almost law. But those days are gone. I do not attribute the decadence to any question connected with the Slave Trade in particular, but rather to the evolution of European States, and to the opening of the Suez Canal. But the fact remains that in Asia and Africa we are not what we were, and that the present day, as compared with days gone by, cannot be regarded as opportune. Again, the Mover of the Resolution suggests the most desirable object of inducing Turkey, Arabia, and Persia to abolish within their several territories the status of slavery, for he, doubtless, feels that in this, as in other trades, supply will endeavour to follow demand. It is likely that, if powerful combined pressure be brought to bear on Persia she will make promises, but will she, can she, fulfil them? Her slave demand is one which rests upon national opinion, and I venture to question whether there be any sudden, exterior cure for an ancient social disease. Anyway, if Persia does crush the slave status, she has become a very different country from what she was when I resided 11 years within her limits. Nevertheless, by all means try a Conference; try moral force, as physical force has failed. One hon. Member has cited an instance in which the commander of a British man-of-war, lying in the Cove of Muscat, ordered a fugitive slave off his deck. Well, he was lying in territorial waters, and his proper course would have been to communicate with the British Consul and the Sultan. But if you will neither apply to your own civil authority, nor to the head of the State, nor to his functionaries, what can you expect? I can only say that the Sultan of Muscat has never failed to respond to my wishes when I have made a similar application to him. But, be all that as it may, of this rest assured—that boats scouring along the shore line of the East Coast of Africa will incur many dangers, will harass trade, and, as experience has amply shown, achieve no practical permanent good.


The House must feel the force of the observations of the hon. Gentleman who last spoke. The weight of experience and the great knowledge which he possesses on this question entitle us to regard with the greatest respect whatever falls from him upon this question. A Conference limited in its operations and kept within well-defined limits might be valuable, but a Conference such as has been suggested, not in this but in previous debates, might give rise to serious commercial and political complications, which might be extremely detrimental and prejudicial to the object which we have in view. Where is the Slave Trade, and where is it to be dealt with? I suppose it may be assumed that, at any rate at present, it is impossible to reach the Slave Trade at its source. You can only do that by a gradual process of civilization. Therefore, you are compelled to grapple with the Slave Trade at its outset, which is almost entirely confined to the littoral of the Red Sea. It is perfectly true that there is a considerable Slave Trade along the coast of Zanzibar, I think it would not be a difficult thing for the Government to conclude a Treaty with the Sultan of Zanzibar, whereby a system of registration might be introduced, and the gradual extinction of the Slave Trade so effected. I understand from authoritative sources that the Sultan of Zanzibar is disposed to treat with the English Power and with no other European Powers. But where is this great evil of the Slave Trade chiefly to be found? Along the Red Sea, and its destination is Jeddah, and it is distributed by various channels through a large extent of Asia Minor. Considering the relations which we hold with Turkey, it is a perfect scandal that an open slave market should be permitted to exist at Jeddah. I ask the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Fergusson) whether it is possible for Her Majesty's Government to make such representations to the Sultan of Turkey as will finally stop this slave market at Jeddah? The traffic is carried on by means of dhows, which chiefly convey the slaves across the Red Sea at night time. The means of suppressing the Slave Trade consists of some five gunboats which steam at the rate of about five knots. I would suggest to the hon. Baronet the necessity of organizing an Intelligence Department, whereby information would be afforded as to the movements of slave dhows along the coast. Now, from information which recently appeared in the French journals, it would appear that the Arab slave dealers have the most perfect system of information. They know the whereabouts of Her Majesty's boats, and the information is conveyed through various channels along the coast, and they seize the time for transmitting their slaves across the channel, when they know there is no probability of an effective prevention by Her Majesty's vessels. I should wish to point out that for immediate purposes something of a useful character might be effected by the organization on the part of the Government of an Intelligence Department which could employ gunboats steaming rapidly along the coast, and performing duties that would put a stop to the Slave Market at Jeddah. I do not think there would be any difficulty in putting an end to the present abuse of the French flag, and I trust that the right hon. Baronet will be able to state that a Convention will speedily be concluded between Her Majesty's Government and that of France, whereby that abuse will once for all be stopped.

*SIR R. TEMPLE (Evesham)

As the House is aware, I never rise to address it unless I have had some experience—often of a hard and laborious character—in regard to at least some portion of the subject under debate. Of course, I cannot pretend to a knowledge of the vast region, comprised in this debate, extending from about 1,500 south of the Equator to about 1,500 miles north of the Line; but, at any rate, I do know something of the North East Coast of the African Continent, inasmuch as I have had to govern Aden, which is a coaling station and port opposite the north-eastern corner, and also the islands of Socotra outside, and of Perim, a maritime station inside the strait of the Red Sea. I have had to do with the political affairs of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, and especially the Consulate of Jeddah. Therefore, I have had some practical experience in relation to the question under discussion, and I cannot but express the hope that, whatever may be the result of this debate, whether it may lead to a Conference or not, whether we decide on stopping the slave traffic at its source, or on arresting it at its outlets, at all events it will go forth to England and to the world at large that the British House of Commons does, from the bottom of its heart, denounce this African slavery as the greatest of all crimes perpetrated under Heaven in this, the nineteenth century. I trust also that it will this evening register a vow that, as far as in it lies, it will do its very utmost to suppress this most inhuman and infernal traffic. This country has preponderating power in the north-west of Africa, and we are one of the several Powers among which the control of the central continent is divided. In the first place we have, most honourably to ourselves, created and maintained missionary establishments throughout the length and breadth of the country. These missionaries fortunately have friends in England who can make their voices heard within the walls of this House. We have establishments on the Zambesi, we have influence on the Congo, we have jurisdiction on the Gold Coast and on the Niger, we have domination over Egypt, and last December we resolved to keep Suakin. Whether our resolve in this latter respect was right or wrong, having decided to keep Suakin, we are bound to fulfil the responsibilities of that position, and the most important of these has reference to the Slave Trade. Now this hateful traffic exists from one end of that vast continent to the other, and it is said to be on the increase. To this description the southern part of the Continent under British influence or jurisdiction is the sole exception. It is most truly heartrending to read the tales, which are told, as I believe, with scarcely a tinge of exaggeration, of the horrors attending, not so much the Slave Trade, as the process of slave capture, and the bringing away of the victims from the interior of the country to the coast with a terrific loss of African life. From numerous regions in Africa, from the sources of the Zambesi, from the upper reaches of the Congo, where Livingstone once laboured, from the heart of the Dark Continent itself, from the sources of the Niger, from the shores of Lake Tchad, from the head waters of the Nile and its lower mid-valley, from the coast of Zanzibar—from each and all of these portions of the great African territory the blood of murdered Africans cries aloud to Heaven. We have listened to the testimony of African travellers, such as Speke and Grant, and Livingstone and Cameron—all of whom furnish ample evidence of the extent to which this abominable traffic prevails. Besides our power in Africa we possess much influence elsewhere. We have influence with Turkey, Arabia, Persia, and other Asiatic regions, and that influence we are bound to exercise in order to put down this nefarious trade which is carried on by the Arabs, a race which forms the most important factor in Africa. Born beneath the cloudless skies of Arabia, in a climate that nerves the physical energies, and hardens the character, they have left their arid fatherland and crossed the Red Sea to the fertile tracts of Africa. Thus they have acquired a domination over the whole of the Northern and Central Continent, which for centuries they have held. Not more surely does the Indian tiger track down and prey upon the deer, the antelope, and the gazelle than do these Arab hunters—I will not call them traders—pursue and prey upon the flesh and blood and muscle—nay upon the very lives—of these poor Africans. The Arabs constitute indeed a prime mover in most of the political movements connected with the African Continent. What is it that has disturbed the relations between the German Establishment near Zanzibar and the natives? The slave trade and the influence of the Arabs. What was it that made Egyptian rule impossible in the Soudan? The slave trade and the Arabs. What was it that nerved the soldiers of the Mahdi in the gallant resistance they offered to the trained discipline and scientific arms of our English troops? Why, the slave trade. Every one of the men who thus opposed us was either a slave holder or a slave trader, or both combined. These Arab hordes come swooping down like the simoom wind of their Arabian deserts, on the villages of the native races—carrying off the women and children when the men are away at work, so the men return home at eventide to find their cottages desolate. Or, haply, the Arabs, coming across the men when they are engaged in the fields, bear them straight away, leaving the women and children to mourn the husbands and fathers who will never return. What then happens we are too well acquainted with. The victims of both sexes thus seized and captured are marched first through the moist and temperate regions, where they are still in their native climate; then they are dragged across the dry and torrid portions of the country, where they sink and faint by the way, or are slaughtered to save the cost of transport. A remnant at last reaches the mid-valley of the Nile, where they are packed on board the river boats like herrings in a barrel, where most of them die of putrid fever, the result being that only about one in 30 of those originally captured are actually sold into slavery and sent to foreign countries. Now, Sir, we have heard from the hon. Member for Hackney that the real cause of the slave trade is the demand for slaves in Asiatic countries. The demand in the interior of Africa is very great and beyond control, and until civilization shall be spread throughout that continent, I know of no way in which it can be stopped, except, perhaps, in the neighbourhood of the British Gold Coast border, as mentioned by the hon. Baronet. But something may be done for Asiatic countries; and may I ask the attention of the House to this subject from a geographical point of view? In that regard we have two points at which we might stop the traffic—the mouth of the Bed Sea and the entrance of the Persian Gulf. The Bed Sea is like a bottle, of which the strait of Babel Mandeb is the neck. Inside the neck is the Island of Perim, which I have already mentioned. The Persian Gulf is also like a bottle, opening out into the Sea of Oman. Its neck is formed by a promontory of Arabia jutting out right opposite the territory of Mekran. Both straits are narrow, only a few miles in breadth. The necks of these two bottles could, if England chose, be stopped against the slave trade by her gunboats and cruisers. I may be asked why I did not do that when I had the power. When I was Governor of Bombay I never had at my disposal a sufficient maritime force for that purpose. We had but 13 or 14 vessels for all the East Indian Seas. The Member for Hackney, who spoke despondingly somewhat, mentioned a miserable force only of a very few gunboats. Of course, we could not check the slave trade without some maritime force being detailed for the purpose. If I had now placed at my disposal such limited naval force as I might ask for, I would undertake to stop any slaver entering the Red Sea or Persian Gulf, and if they do not enter there I do not see how these human cargoes are to be got into Asia. It may be said that between the mouth of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf there is a long stretch of Hadramant territory, but there are few facilities for landing on that coast, and we might almost certainly stop the slave trade there. There, too, is situated Muscat, where the ruler (as mentioned by the Member for Hackney) can be induced to co-operate. In the Red Sea there are the two ports of Massowah and Suakin. The former is in the hands of the Italians, whose co-operation may be secured, and the latter is in our own. Then there is the great slave market of Jeddah. The fact that it is a great slave market is one of the principal reasons that a British Consulate has been established there for the purpose of putting a spoke in the wheel of the slave traders, and nothing could be easier than for our gunboats and cruisers to bar the entrance to Jeddah. Much might be done in this direction by diplomatic negotiations in Asiatic countries where we have influence. Of course too much reliance must not be placed in Mahommedans in a matter of this sort; as observed by a preceding speaker, they are too apt to make promises which they cannot fulfil. I do not know whether there is any text in the Koran approving slavery, but it must be remembered that wherever Mahommedanism has existed, slave-owning also has prevailed. With regard to vessels sailing under the flag of France, it is important to come to an understanding with her; if we allow slavers bearing our flag to be searched, she might allow the same for slavers carrying her flag. In dealing with the slave trade, I may add that we require steam launches of small draught, so that we might pursue the dhows in shallow water and capture them. Certainly, as remarked by the hon. Proposer of the Resolution, we need legal power to treat slaver crews as pirates. As to arms, as mentioned by the hon. Member, it was shown in the debates of last December that, but for our prevention, Suakin would drive a roaring trade, the exports being human creatures, the imports being guns, shot, and shell! In conclusion, I desire to express the hope that the country may be assured, by the passing of some Resolution, that the House is unanimous in its practical detestation of the evil of the slave trade, and is determined to put an end to it so far as the means available to us will permit. The action taken in years past by Members of the Liberal Party for the suppression of the slave trade may be numbered among the most glorious traditions of the Liberal Party and among the brightest jewels of the Liberal crown. But I must not attribute to them a monopoly in a good cause. As my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London reminds me, there were heroes of humanity on the Conservative side of the House also. As these humane principles of the past generation seem to be still preserved by the Liberal Party, so they are also by the Conservative Party, and if the pleas for suffering humanity are sounded on the opposite side of the House, they find an echo from the Ministerial Benches.


The debate which has been raised on the Motion of the hon. Member for Poplar has been somewhat remarkable, as it has attracted an unanimous expression from all parts of the House. Such a debate cannot be without advantage, because, however desirous any Government may be to advance in the path in which their Predecessors have done so much, it requires, no doubt, a popular impulse to strengthen their hands, even in a national policy. Sir, although there has been little difference of opinion expressed the question has been regarded from many points of view. The hon. Member who introduced the Motion had, as has been justly observed, an hereditary right to take an interest in this subject, and my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, who seconded the Motion, has not this evening for the first time attempted to excite the interest of the House in the cause of the suppression of the slave trade. It is well that from time to time we should be reminded of our duties in this matter. The hon. Member for Poplar has kindly recognized the fact that Her Majesty's Government have not been indifferent to this cause; and he has referred to the despatch which Lord Salisbury addressed to the Government of Belgium in September last, and which was undoubtedly a fresh departure in this matter. Well, Sir, that despatch indicated a desire on the part of the Government to secure the co-operation of the other Powers who had previously been allied with this country in the suppression of the slave trade in a fresh endeavour suited to the times. The hon. Member, while approving of that step, referred to another matter; he touched upon the great step which was taken by the Government in the course of last autumn, along with Germany, for the more active suppression of the slave trade on the East Coast of Africa—namely, the joint naval operations in that quarter. I could have wished that the hon. Member had not dropped one sentence in which he expressed some want of faith in the sincerity of our allies. If, however faintly, that sentiment was expressed, the hon. Member subsequently answered himself on that point in the latter part of his speech, because he pointed out that Prince Bismarck had also sought the co-operation of the other Powers of Europe. I cannot understand with what justice we can assume for ourselves entire honesty, sincerity, and disinterestedness in our endeavours to suppress the slave trade if, at the same time, we throw doubts on the sincerity of other Powers. I do not know why we should be regarded as the only people sincerely desirous of suppressing the slave trade. Christianity and humane sentiments are not confined to ourselves, I suppose, and at all events, Her Majesty's Government could not have done otherwise than accept the co-operation which was extended to us by the German Government for more active operations on the East Coast of Africa. Now, Sir, the hon. Member referred to the hindrances to beneficial operations that have resulted from the collision between the German East African Company and the Arabs, and he has spoken of the Germans as an irritant influence in that quarter. I do not wish in the least to shrink from distinct reference to the subject. Let it be remembered that we have had great experience in dealing with Oriental nations, yet our contact with Eastern nations has not always been attended with success; but by long acquaintance with them we have been able to maintain relations with and to control Oriental Powers without humiliating ourselves, and so our new efforts at colonization may have met with more success than those of other nations. But it is natural that other Christian Powers should also have the desire for expansion and colonization; and when the great Empire of Germany was formed, it was only natural that the people of that Empire should feel a desire to form colonies as we had done. They are a kindred race to us, and there is no reason why they should not be as successful in colonization as we have been. In the British Colonies, where I have had the honour to hold a commission as Governor, I found the Germans among the most useful, enterprizing, and orderly of colonists; and it is natural to suppose that those who have done so well under our flag and under that of the United States should also form Colonies of their own which should become to their Empire a Germany beyond the sea. Let us hope that the troubles which have attended the first operations of the German East African Company will come to an end, and that they will be enabled to extend the blessings of civilization and commerce in that continent as we have to some extent been able to do ourselves. We may hope that the Imperial Commissioner who has gone there to control operations will be able to bring to an end the unfortunate collisions that have occurred. Now, Sir, the hon. Member spoke as if there had been, in consequence of these unhappy events, a failure of our operations on the coast, but that is far from being the case. Happily we have had as yet few troubles in the sphere of our own interests. It would be premature to speak of what might happen in the future among the excitable races we have to deal with; but at present there has been a good foundation laid for colonizing operations in East Africa by means of the chartered company which we have established there. And as to the suppression of the slave trade by means of our operations in concert with those of Germany, there has been an almost entire cessation of the seaboard slave trade for several months past. I believe Her Majesty's ships have visited between 600 and 700 craft on the coast within the last few months, and have not found a single slave on board. That shows that the more active operations which have been lately taking place have not been without result. The season is approaching in which the slave traders are usually more active, and their operations will require the close attention of our ships and their officers to prevent an increase in the slave trade. But these measures cannot be taken without great exertions and considerable expense. When hon. Members talk so easily of the suppression of the Slave Trade, and of occupying important points on the coast, they must remember it would require a larger number of Her Majesty's ships than could well be spared. These things must be done on system, and your net could not be so wide as to close a traffic which has gone on so long, and in which so many are, unfortunately, interested. Now, Sir, I do not like to omit noticing another point taken by the hon. Member for Poplar, and I hardly think it was worth his while to refer to the fact that, at the Congress of Berlin, the British Representatives declined to enter into the question of the Slave Trade with some people who went over to Berlin for the purpose of directing the attention of the Plenipotentiaries to it. Remember, their attention was really engrossed by other subjects, and that rendered the discussion of the Slave Trade inopportune. During the last 15 years Her Majesty's Government, of whatever Party, have given no reason to believe that there has been indifference to the hereditary duty of repressing and suppressing the Slave Trade—a matter in which we know no Parties. In 1871 there was an inquiry by a Committee of this House, and the result of it was the expedition of the late Sir Bartle Frere to Zanzibar, and a better understanding of the mischiefs of the Slave Trade than ever existed before. Following on that visit a ship was permanently stationed at Zanzibar, from which boats were continually sent to intercept slave traders leaving the ports of Africa. Although the London has been withdrawn, both from motives of economy and efficiency, it is an open question whether the system adopted since has been more satisfactory and, in the end, more economical than the system of having a stationary ship. In order to carry on the blockade of the coast against the exportation of slaves and the importation of arms, we have had to concentrate a number of vessels on that coast, which it is impossible for us to permanently maintain there; and therefore it is questionable whether it would be judicious again to have a stationary ship or some barracks on shore, from which swift vessels could go out to intercept the departure of the dhows from the mainland. Since 1873 there have also been conventions with Egypt and with Turkey for the entire suppression of the slave trade, and it has been acknowledged that this has conduced to very efficient results in the diminution of slavery in those countries. Something has been said as to the insincerity of the Ottoman Government in their undertaking to suppress the slave trade, and it has been pointed out that a large part of the Turkish dominions contains the chief market for the slaves from the coast of Africa. It is undoubtedly the fact that the Arabian coast is the great slave market, and that a large portion of it is under the protectorate of the Turkish Government. But I do not think that it is possible to hold the Turkish Government responsible for all the violation of the conventions in that respect. In a previous debate on this subject—I think in the month of November—I told the House that there had undoubtedly been an increase of activity on the part of Turkish officers in the neighbourhood of Jeddah to suppress the Slave Trade, and I am now glad to say that about ten days ago the Government heard of very active steps having been taken by a Governor in that district to discover where slaves were concealed who had been run across the Red Sea. A raid was made on Mecca, Jeddah, and some other places, resulting in the discovery of several hundred slaves, who received their manumission. Undoubtedly we have many difficulties both by land and sea to contend with. One of the great difficulties we have to encounter is the refusal of the French Government to join the other Christian nations in allowing mutual right of search and the capture of vessels under the French flag who are found to be engaged in the Slave Trade. The Treaty of 1841 between Austria, Great Britain, France, Prussia, and Russia for the suppression of the African Slave Trade was assented to by the representative of France; but the Government of France did not ratify the Treaty. France has always been jealous of permitting the ships of other nations to visit vessels flying her flag and, in the case of the Slave Trade, to exercise the right of capture. That is a very unfortunate circumstance, because there are great numbers of native vessels which obtain licences from French Consular Agents on account of the protection which the French flag legitimately gives, and which abuse it. The abuse of the French flag in the way of slavery is not a thing of yesterday. For half a century it has been a matter of frequent report and complaint. I believe that the French Government and people are by no means wanting in the sense of disgrace which attaches to their flag by this abuse, and I know that there are French Consular and Naval officers on the East Coast of Africa who were active in endeavouring to suppress the abuse. But, nevertheless, the fact exists that one of the great hindrances to the proceedings of the German and the British Naval officers on the East Coast of Africa has been the prevalence of vessels flying the French flag. They have only to display their papers to secure immunity from capture, and slaves have been landed in the Island of Pemba, and other places, within sight of the British and German cruisers. Something has also been said about the blockade not having been useful in the suppression of the Slave Trade, and having operated as a hindrance. That is a mistake. Had it not been for the proclamation of a blockade, according to the law of nations, we should have had no right to search French vessels, but the blockade having been established along the great line of coast, all vessels can be visited, and it is open to cruisers to seize any vessels having slaves on board, and take them into Zanzibar; and the result of that power has been to paralyze the seaborne Slave Trade on that coast. But other remedies are undoubtedly needed. The hon. Member for Poplar and others have pointed out the necessity of something much more vigorous being required to deter persons from continuing this cruel and devastating trade. It has been suggested that it should be made punishable as piracy to carry slaves, and that persons engaged in the trade should be sentenced to death. At present, as the House knows well, we have a Treaty with many nations which engaged us to declare the Slave Trade piracy, which gives us mutual right of search, and enables us to carry vessels found with slaves on board into port; but the traders can only be tried according to the law of their own country. In the United States men have been executed for the crime. It is highly desirable that the slave-trader should be punishable by the country whose ship has captured him and that the penalty of death should be attached to the offence, which involves not only murder, but the murder of many human beings for the enslavement of one. Then, again, it is exceedingly necessary there should be a general agreement; we should be glad, therefore, if the Powers of Europe could be induced to meet and deliberate upon the most suitable measures for the purpose which they have long had in common, and if the Government of France could be induced to join on equal terms with other nations and to surrender an immunity which does them no honour. The question of prohibition of arms into Africa is a very difficult question. Cardinal Lavigerie, whose zeal and spirit of benevolence all have recognized, has made a proposal that a corps of Volunteers, supplied with funds to the extent of £40,000, should operate under an International Committee on the line of lakes in Central Africa and interfere with the passage of slave caravans. I must say I think a proposal of that kind does more honour to the Cardinal's heart than to his head. It would be exceedingly difficult and dangerous to carry out. It was not endorsed by the hon. Member for Poplar in his practical speech, and no other Member of the House has given his assent to it. But it does not follow that because Cardinal Lavigerie's scheme in that respect does not commend itself as practical that something in some measure upon its lines may not be thought of. Personally, I think it is not by plunging into the heart of such a country with a corps large or small, which, must be supported in case of disaster, that we can best cope with this enormous traffic. Slave hunting in the interior of Africa is of immemorial usage, and seems to be ingrained in the habits of the people. They prey upon each other, and, perhaps, as in the case of the freebooters of old, it is as much for wild sport as from motives of plunder that they engage in it. But it is so widely spread and so deeply rooted in their habits that it cannot be put down by any sudden movement. It must be sapped and mined; it must be approached by gradual operations, by the advance of civilization from many points with a settled purpose, and with common views on the part of civilized nations. We are now operating by means of powerful companies, managed by men of great ability and public spirit, who are animated as much or more by philanthropic motives as by the desire for gain, and the operation of these companies, I believe, will in a few years produce a great effect on the warlike and predatory habits of the tribes of the interior of Africa. Now, the despatch addressed by Lord Salisbury to the Belgian Government in September last has been referred to. There is no doubt that any real effective measures ought to be based on united action. We must have a consensus of international purpose, and that can only be attained by avoiding all international jealousies. Had Her Majesty's Government themselves proposed a Conference to deal with this subject, I think we might possibly have such jealousies. No such feeling whatever has interfered with our co-operation with Germany in the matter; but we might possibly have excited doubts in the minds of some nations as to our altogether disinterested motives if we had ourselves proposed a Conference. At all events, it seemed to Her Majesty's Government more probable that such a proposal would produce beneficial results if made by what I may call a neutral Power. Hence Lord Salisbury, last September, directed Her Majesty's Minister at Brussels to propose to the Belgian Government that they should take the initiative in getting together the Powers interested in the suppression of the Slave Trade, in order to deliberate as to further united measures with that object. The proposal was cordially accepted. The King and the Government of Belgium were perfectly ready to serve as an intermediary between the Powers. But, in the meantime, there occurred those unfortunate events on the East Coast of Africa which rendered the summoning of the Conference inopportune. It is, therefore, postponed, but not sine die. I think that the debate that has taken place to-night cannot fail to give a new impulse to the movement; and it was one of those impulses which, when supported by all Parties in the House, as this has been to-night, must produce a powerful effect in this country, and perhaps also abroad. The hon. Member for Honiton (Sir J. Kennaway) referred to the blockade of the East Coast of Africa, and hoped that it is approaching its end. I am glad to say that the objects of that blockade have been nearly attained. The effect of our vigorous measures cannot possibly but be felt. With respect to the remarks of the hon. Member for the Honiton Division, let me say that though it is obvious that good results cannot be expected from in ferior steamers, whose approach can be discerned by the slave dhows, yet good service has been done by the native vessels which have been fitted out for that service. It is only too true that a number of vessels have eluded observation, and that a great deal more must be done before the trade can be stopped. It is also true that the evacuation of the Soudan has led to a revival of the traffic General Gordon had suppressed the trade on the Upper Nile, but, unfortunately, since his death Khartoum has become a centre of the Slave Trade, and slaves are constantly being sent to the Red Sea. Valuable service has, indeed, been done by the enterprize and missionary zeal of Englishmen and Scotchmen in the neighbourhood of Lake Nyassa. The Government, however, unfortunately cannot guarantee these devoted men protection and succour; but we have expressed our interest in them, and we have, in their interests, represented to the Portuguese Government that they have claims upon us which we cannot disregard. The hon. Baronet the Member for Sussex has sadly earned a personal interest in African affairs. His allegations of participation in the Slave Trade of persons within our Protectorate on the Gold Coast will receive attention; but as to his remarks in reference to the action of Germany, I do not think it is necessary for me to say more than that I firmly believe it was our duty to join with Germany in vigorous efforts to suppress the slave traffic on the East Coast; and after the painful experience we have had, I trust we may proceed on better lines to the accomplishment of the good work on which we have been engaged. As to the losses suffered by British Indian subjects, we much regret these; but it was beyond our power, beyond the power of anyone, to prevent those who are engaged in peaceful avocations from suffering loss when warlike operations are proceeding. These British Indian subjects have earned, I believe, the confidence of all parties; and I make no doubt that when quietness and order is restored their influence will continue. The descriptions of the horrors of the Slave Trade we have heard are not, I believe, in the least overdrawn. Our efforts to stop the traffic on land may not be effectual; but certainly we can make successful efforts to stop the trade at sea. Every possible opportunity will be taken to prevent the massacres and cruelties which have made that sunny land one of the blackest spots on the face of the earth. In that way we shall perform the duty handed down to us by our forefathers, and shall fulfil the just expectations of the country, which expects Her Majesty's Government to carry on this holy cause. And now let me say a few words on the Motion of the hon. Member. I hope that he will recognize that Her Majesty's Government are in no wise hostile to it. As the Motion runs, however, it would be hardly in accordance with diplomatic usage. It would be more convenient, I think, and more likely to attain the object of my hon. Friend, if he would leave out the words after "steps" down to "devise," so that the Motion would read— That Her Majesty would be graciously pleased to take steps to ascertain whether the Powers signatory are willing to meet in Conference for the purpose of discussing such measures for its repression. If the hon. Member will be good enough to adopt these words, Her Majesty's Government will be very glad to accept the Motion.


Just a word or two in reply. I need hardly say that I am glad the Government have so cordially accepted the Motion; and certainly I agree to the amended form proposed, and anticipate that it will be accepted unanimously. As to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I may notice one omission: he did not touch, upon the question of the abolition of the status of slavery which we regard as one of the chief objects of an International Conference. I will only add that we recognize, as I am sure the country at large will, the intention of the Government to move in this matter, and that whether the Government make London the central home of the Conference or prefer to rely upon Belgium as an intermediary is to us equally satisfactory.


If I may be allowed, I would mention this omitted point to which the hon. Member has called my attention. I am afraid that there would be great difficulty in Her Majesty's Government proposing to Mahommedan countries to abolish the institution of slavery. Compulsory servitude of a domestic character is a different thing from the traffic in slaves, and these most important and necessary reforms must be gradual. We were unable to abolish slavery even in Her Majesty's Dominions without paying a large amount of compensation.

*SIR R. FOWLER (London)

I only rise to congratulate my hon. Friend on the success of his Motion, and I trust it may bear fruit and be of great service to the cause of humanity. My hon. Friend has worthily upheld the traditions of his family, as his grandfather advocated the cause in this House for a long course of years.

*MR. DE LISLE (Leicester, Mid)

It is too late now to take up another subject; and I may be allowed a few words. I would endorse the views expressed by the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Barttelot), and urge Her Majesty's Government to take energetic steps against the Slave Trade carried on at the Gold Coast. I may mention that some years ago, when I had the honour of serving in the Malay Peninsular under Sir F. Weld, there were districts under the protection of Her Majesty the Queen where slavery in a most revolting form was practised by the natives upon women. Although he was assured that to interfere with a system which had so long had legal sanction would probably lead to rebellion, the Governor of the Straits Settlements came to the determination, after full consideration, that it should be put down, and in six months, and without any great difficulty, the system of debt slavery for women was put an end to. Equally successful, I have no doubt, would be energetic measures on the Gold Coast; and I am sure the distinguished officer commanding there would be ready enough to give effect to the wishes expressed by Her Majesty's Government in this direction. As to other points, I may say I regard the suppression of the Slave Trade at Jeddah as of the utmost importance. If the Turkish Government cannot, or will not, use its influence for the suppression of the traffic, then a gunboat or two sent there, and preparations made to bombard the town, would, I am sure, have the desired effect. This infamous trade, especially the mutilation of youths of the male sex, without doubt, is fostered by the Caliph of the Mahomedan Empire, and, therefore, pressure should be applied to him, and the Sultan must be made to feel that his existence in Europe is simply tolerated with a view to the suppression of the Slave Trade. I sincerely hope Her Majesty's Government will induce France to act in conjunction with us in checking the trade in the Red Sea, and allow dhows carrying the French flag to be searched if suspected of carrying slaves.

*SIR J. PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)

With much pleasure I have heard the declaration of Her Majesty's Government as expressed by the Under Secretary, and I am sure the country will approve it. I congratulate my hon. Friend on the tone and spirit of the debate which has been manifested on both sides.

Question put, and agreed to. (1.) Resolved, That in view of the present increasing and extending desolations of Africa caused by the Slave Trade, and also of the large responsibilities which European Nations have now assumed in respect to that Continent, the time has come when full and complete effect should be given to those declarations against the Slave Trade which were delivered by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and by the Conference at Verona in 1822. (2.) Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to be graciously pleased to take steps to ascertain whether the Powers, Signatories to the Declarations against the Slave Trade, are willing to meet in Conference for the purpose of devising such measures for its repression as may be at the same time effective and in accordance with justice, and under the regulations of International Law.

To be presented by Privy Councillors.