HC Deb 06 May 1889 vol 335 cc1341-6


"That a sum, not exceeding £35,286, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1890, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including certain Expenses connected with Emigration."

Resolution read a second time.

*Mr. DILLWYN (Swansea)

I regret that this Order should be reached so late in the sitting, but I do not think that sufficient attention has been given to a circumstance in connection with the massacre on the Gold Coast, which was brought to the notice of the House by the hon. Member for Leicester on Friday last. The discussion then related prin- cipally to what my hon. Friend described, as a massacre of natives, but there was another point raised that did not receive the attention it deserves. Two natives were tried before a jury in a proper manner for conspiracy and murder of Mr. Dalrymple. The Judge summed up in their favour, and they were acquitted. There was another charge against them, but the Colonial Attorney General entered a nolle prosequi. So far, there is no complaint. But the Governor did not seem satisfied, and a Bill was passed by a subservient Legislative Council which enabled the Governors to keep these men prisoners notwithstanding their acquittal. That seems to me a proceeding so entirely contrary to all ideas of right and justice that I think we are justified in raising this point again, seeing that the Under Secretary on the last occasion did not deny or make any explanatory comment on this transaction. I trust some explanation may be forthcoming now, and to raise the question I formally move the reduction of the Vote by £50.

Amendment proposed, to leave out "£35,286," and insert "£35,236"— (Mr. Dillwyn).

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That '£35,286' stand part of the Resolution."


If the hon. Member had given me notice that he was going to bring this on, I would have taken care to have had the means of full explanation with me.


I ought to have done so.


I am afraid. I can only repeat the information I gave the other night, when I think the hon. Member was present. [Mr. DILLWYN: Yes]. I then explained that the persons against whom prosecutions were withdrawn, the Government did not see fit to return to their district where they had been the means of raising a rebellion. The Governor had thought fit, not with a view to punishment, but in the interests of peace, to detain these men, and an Ordinance was passed by the Legislative Council for the purpose of preventing their return and a recurrence of those unfortunate events to which reference has been made.

*MR. PICTON (Leicester)

I really think that the lives and liberties of Her Majesty's subjects ought to have a little more serious attention than they seem likely to get from the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman has not stated the whole facts as they are known at the Gold Coast, and reported in the Press there. In addition to the two men referred to, an old woman, Akoto Mamlay, is also detained, from whom surely no danger can be expected. The fact remains that these persons are committed to prison apparently for life, but at any rate, during the pleasure of the Crown, although they have been acquitted of the crime with which they were charged, and the Attorney General of the Colony has entered a nolle prosequi with respect to other charges. Why preserve the institution of trial by jury at all if the decision of juries is to go for nothing? Certainly after the practical admission of the Attorney General that he had no evidence to tender, these persons ought surely to be set at liberty. This Ordinance was practically the expression of the will of the Governor. [Interruptions.] It is all very well for hon. Members to exhibit impatience when they care nothing about the Dependencies of the Crown except as a source of wealth to themselves. These people have a just right and claim to our consideration. Late though the hour is, we are bound in duty to give some attention to this matter. We desire to know whether the Governor has this Constitutional power to pass an Ordinance and imprison people at his will after they have been acquitted by a jury of the offences alleged against them. I should like to know if the Constitution of the Colony recognises any such system of lettres de cachet. A grave wrong has been committed, and we demand some serious explanation.


The Government have always understood that this is a question which is not yet finally decided. The condition of affairs to which the hon. Member has referred could not remain without investigation, and my right hon. Friend gave an answer the other night to the effect that the Government were waiting for Despatches, and that when those Despatches are received the whole case will receive consideration at the hands of the Government.

*MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)

I think this matter ought to be put a little more positively by the Government. May we have a distinct assurance from the Government that the Papers will be laid on the Table after the decision of the Government has been arrived at?


The Government could not absolutely undertake, until they had seen the Papers, to lay them on the Table of the House. They will, however, be presented to the House unless there is some impediment in the way of their production.


I am quite aware of that technical rule, but I thought an assurance should be given that unless a clear reason of public policy prevented their presentation they would be laid upon the Table.


By the indulgence of the House I may be allowed to say that I stated last week that the Government are awaiting a Report from the Governor. When they receive the Papers, if it is possible to present them to the House, we shall be happy to do so

SIR W. LA WSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)

The logical course would be to postpone the Vote. The Papers that are coming may throw an entirely new light on the subject. I would therefore move the Adjournment of the Debate.

Motion made and Question proposed. "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)


I hope that the hon. Baronet will not press that Motion. Members of the Government have spoken, and would not have an opportunity of speaking again if the debate were adjourned. When the Papers are presented, hon. Members can raise any question they desire.

MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)

What opportunity have we?


The ordinary opportunities open to every Member. Tuesdays and Fridays still remain for the purpose, and as we have seen to-night matters of urgency find other opportunities.


If the Government will intimate that steps will be taken to secure the release of these innocent persons, we shall be satisfied, but short of that I do not think we ought to be.

*SIR R. FOWLER (London)

Papers have been presented, and we have had an opportunity of discussing them. I do not see that the Government can give a more absolute promise in regard to other Papers they have not yet themselves received, and, moreover, I cannot see any reason for passing what would practically be a Vote of Censure on Lord Knutsford. I think hon. Members might accept the answer as given.

Question put, "That the debate be now adjourned."

The House divided:—Ayes 58; Noes 169. (Div. List No. 97.)

Question, "That £35,286 stand part of the Resolution," put, and agreed to.

Resolution agreed to.