Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £17.640, 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 1891, for the
Expenses of Various Services (other than Consular) in connection with the Suppression of the Slave Trade, and the Expenses of the Liberated African Department.
§ (4.59.) MR. HANBURY (Preston)
This is. I think, one of the most unsatisfactory Votes which comes before the Committee. The object sought to be attained by the expenditure of money in this direction is no doubt good, but the means employed to bring about the object have been of a most unsatisfactory character. The Vote, too, appears on the Paper without practically any information being provided as to the results achieved by this large expenditure of money. In addition to this, I would point out that this Vote does not represent the expenditure incurred in the suppression of the Slave Trade. As it is, the results are very small indeed considering the loss we annually sustain in Slave Trade hunting in Africa, and the vast amount of life sacrificed in this miserable business. The fact is, that the result of our whole expenditure is only about 130 to 150 slaves liberated from year to year. This is very unsatisfactory when we remember that the number of slaves we liberate only amount to l–20th or l–30th of the miserable creatures captured in the interior of Africa. I should like to ask the Secretary to the Treasury what is the total cost we incur in the suppression of the Slave Trade on the Fast Coast of Africa. Of course, the expenditure, properly so-called, is stated here; but I want to know what is the additional cost incurred by our Navy? There is no doubt it is a very unsatisfactory work for the Navy to perform, and it is also to a certain extent demoralising to our men, there being constant complaints of the service that has to be carried on upon the East Coast of Africa. Besides the cost to which our Navy is put on this service, I want to know what results are shown for the continuance of this system; also what causes are in operatain on the African Coast to prevent its being worked effectually; what nations there are whose flags still cover the Slave Trade; whether France is still ottering obstructions to its suppression; or whether there is any other country whose flag is being abused in a similar manner? I also want to know what has been the result of the suppression of domestic slavery at Pemba? I would 1116 further ask is it not possible to go about the suppression of this trade in a totally different fashion? The present system is practically obsolete. It is a relic of the old days of sailing vessels, when the best way of suppressing the trade was by sea; but those days have gone by. We have now penetrated the interior of Africa, and we know how slave-hunting is managed. From all that is told to me by people who understand the subject we shall do more for the suppression of the Slave Trade, and at a much less cost, if we take up a position in the interior and stop the trade at its source—that is to say, if we were to take up positions on the main caravan routes, and stop the trade along those routes. The advantage of this plan would be that, even if the present amount of the trade continued, we should save the enormous expenditure of life which is at present incurred in carrying the slaves from the interior to the coast. I regard this as an important matter, and I am confirmed in my view by Commander Cameron, who states, in an article contributed to one of the Reviews, that it is quite possible, by establishing military stations along the lines of route from the Great Lakes, to stop the caravans, which he says could be done for from £50,000 to £70,000 per annum. I do hope that the Foreign Office, looking not so much at the importance of the English trade with Africa as at the importance of effectually suppressing the Slave Trade, will not let the so-called understanding between ourselves and Germany as to the sphere of action of the two Powers remain in its present unsatisfactory state. The Great African Lakes are of the first importance in the consideration of this question. Who is to be master of those lakes? That is a point which is still undecided; and although we are told that Germany has undertaken not to do anything outside her own sphere of interest, which is almost defined with regard to the Great Lakes, I say that in the interests of Africa, which is being depopulated at the rate of about 2,000,000 a year, it is time we came to some understanding with Germany as to who should be in a position to go to those lakes, and so tap and destroy the Slave Trade at its main source. Or, at any rate, if we cannot come to an understanding as to who should be 1117 master, why cannot we come to an understanding as to why we should not work with Germany in the neighbourhood of the Great Lakes, just as we have come to an understanding with Germany as to the suppression of the Slave Trade on the sea-coast? If something is not done in the way of such an understanding with the great Power which, with ourselves, is becoming a predominant power in that part of the world, it may happen that if the Slave Trade is allowed to go on, when we come to deal with those lake districts we may find that instead of a trade being open to us there, there will be nothing but a desert, which will be of no use to anybody. I do not propose to move a reduction of the Vote; but I do hope that the Government will take up this question in a more masterly and businesslike way than has hitherto been the case. I cannot but think we are muddling away a great deal of money with but little or no result. If the Government will only adopt the suggestion I have made as to occupying stations in the interior along the route to the Great Lakes, I believe they will do away with at least nine-tenths of the horrors which are constantly occurring in the conveyance of slaves to the coast.
§ (5.10.) SIR G. BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
Although I do not believe we have done all we could in the suppression of the Slave Trade, I believe we have done a great deal of good, and I trust that the Government may see their way to support any operations it may be seemed desirable to take in the interior of Africa for the suppression of this traffic at its source. I venture to think that it is beyond the power of the Government to establish military stations in the interior of Africa; never the less, I hope they will support the many endeavours now being made to open up that great Continent for the introduction of commerce and other civilising influences which will tend to stop this infamous traffic at its Source.
§ (5.12.) MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I desire to support the argument urged by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury), and in doing so I have to state that I was about the first Member of this House to attack the principle on which the suppression of the Slave Trade was carried on by this country, and the 1118 mode in which the work of suppression was administered. Three or four years ago I pointed out that, in my judgment, as far as I could gather from the books I had studied on the subject, the system carried on by the British Government in attempting to put down the Slave Trade by the employment of British cruisers on the African Coast, instead of being the means of suppressing that trade, had only had the effect of increasing and intensifying it. On that occasion I did not receive the support of a single Member of the Committee of this House, and the consequence has been that I have not brought the subject forward since. It is now more than 15 years since Dr. Schweinfurth, one of the greatest travellers in the slave districts of Africa, pointed out that the efficiency of the British cruisers in the Red Sea, for the suppression of the Slave Trade was absolutely illusory; and he also gave full details of the sufferings to which the slaves were subjected, and the methods by which they were captured by the Arab traders. The result of his information was that, so far from our diminishing the evils inflicted on the slaves, for every slave brought down to the coast and captured by the British cruisers probably two or three slaves were captured from the interior of Africa to supply the places of those who were thus released. It is manifest that there are only two ways of interfering with the Slave Trade in a manner likely to prove effectual in diminishing the sufferings the slaves have now to undergo. In the first place, you must stop the supplies of these slaves at the sources whence they are obtained, or, in the next place, you must stop the bringing down of the men en route; because so long as you have an increased demand for slaves, and as long as the Arab traders have an interior field to operate on in providing the supply, the only result of our interference in the conveyance of those poor creatures from the coast will be that for every slave we intercept and set at liberty the Arab traders will obtain an increased number to supply the loss. Probably, for every slave delivered in the slave markets of Arabia, as many as 10, or probably 15, will be killed or destroyed on their way down from the interior; and therefore it seems useless to expect that we can suppress this in- 1119 famous trade by dealing with it in the way we have adopted. It is a perfectly illusory and useless method, and I go further, and say it is mischievous. You have three or four cruisers in the Red Sea, and there is a considerable loss of life, even to British sailors. It is a most unhealthy region in which to keep British sailors. As a result of the presence of these cruisers, you have nothing but an increased loss of life and additional suffering to the negroes of Central Africa. It has been said by the hon. Gentleman opposite that he would desire to see the Government support a movement by the German and other Governments in favour of stopping the Slave Trade. In my judgment, the first step towards concerted action is to get rid of the sham, and let the public know that no honest attempt has been made to put down the trade. After 15 or 20 years in the Red Sea, you have not made the smallest impression on the trade, nor saved the life of a single negro. It would be a good thing to drop this Vote out of the Estimates, on the general principle that it is wrong to waste money. But there is the higher object of bringing home to the public of England that no serious and earnest effort has been made to put a stop to this trade, which is a blot and disgrace to the whole of the civilised world. Nothing is more certain than that a fourth of the cost lavished on useless wars would have sufficed to stamp out this trade in six months. Eastern Africa is in a peculiar position. The hon. Member is not prepared to put military posts into the interior of Africa. I do not suppose he is, because Prince Bismarck would not allow it. We are informed that we have got one of the greatest Foreign Ministers England ever possessed. I do not pretend to be very well versed in foreign affairs; but all I know is that, wherever you go in Africa and Australia, the people living there appear to think that we cannot move without the sanction of Germany. In Samoa it was so, and it was the same thing in New Guinea. And if England stands by in Eastern Africa, it is that by some mysterious bargain, the details of which we do not know, that part of Africa is under the control of Prince Bismarck, in pursuance of what is known in America as the "Deal." I hope the German people will 1120 make a better use of their power than the English people have done, and that they will deal with this trade, having the English people, if it be necessary, to assist them in their efforts. Still, I think, it would be the best way to open the eyes of the people of England to the truth of this question, if this Vote were removed from the Estimates, letting them know frankly that the day has gone by for their cruisers in the Red Sea. If you do that, you will take a great step towards inducing the English people to take up this question in a really earnest manner.
§ *(5.22.) THE UNDER SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir J. FERGUSSON,) Manchester, N.E.
Sir, I will offer some considerations to the House, why it is undesirable at this moment to enter upon an extended debate of the policy of suppressing the Slave Trade, or upon the further measures which may be thought desirable to give effect to that object. The Committee will remember that there is at this moment a Conference of nearly all the Powers of the world sitting at Brussels, on the initiation of Her Majesty's Government, to consider this very matter. Every possible suggestion that experience can suggest for more effectively suppressing this devastating trade is now being considered by selected experts from all the nations of the world. Every practicable suggestion will be considered with the greatest possible advantage. The suggestion of my hon. Friend below the Gangway must occur to persons who are at all conversant with the history, and especially the recent history, of the Slave Trade. It must be evident that you only palliate, if in some respects you do not aggravate, the horrors of the Slave Trade if you merely cut it down on the seaboard, leaving almost untouched the area of its origin. Our information has brought closely to our knowledge the manner in which the slaves are brought to the East Coast of Africa. They are used as porters for the conveyance of valuable merchandise for export. It is only the miserable remnants of the caravans, that have traversed hundreds of miles to the seaboard, who, if opportunity offers, are put on board some vessel and transported to the markets of Zanzibar and different parts of Asia. The hon. Member has said that we do no good by our operations to put down the maritime Slave Trade; 1121 bat it is a fact that since the British and German squadrons have been operating in these seas the Slave Trade has there ceased. Great efforts have been made, for a long series of years, by Her Majesty's Navy to put down the Slave Trade, but I have always admitted that we do not strike the evil at its roots in employing these measures. Bat I cannot, on that ground, agree that those measures ought to be abandoned; but, undoubtedly, it is a reason why we ought to take some further measures, if possible, to save the remnant of the people who, at this moment, are being so extensively scourged and destroyed by this iniquitous trade that thousands of square miles of territory are absolutely devastated. As to the establishment of military Ports on the Lakes, the Committee will at once recognise the the difficulty of establishing them without a base, while for their relief you might be led into undertaking military expeditions of unknown magnitude. It is exactly to check the progress of the Slave Trade in Africa, by the adoption of measures additional to those in use on the seaboard, that this Conference in Brussels is sitting. Therefore, I venture to think Her Majesty's Government, in promoting that Conference, have taken the best means of ascertaining how to deal with this trade, seeing that, hitherto, the efforts of this country have been applied to only a small part of Africa. The hon. Member asked what Powers permitted the Slave Trade to be carried on. I know of none. The French have consistently refused to allow their ships to be searched by the ships of other nations, but, in recent years, the extensive granting of licences by agents abroad have been stopped, the abuse has been rectified, and French vessels are not now sailing, under cover of the French flag, to prosecute the Slave Trade. I do not think there are any other remarks on the general question which I need offer to the Committee. I venture to think the Committee will not draw back from the work this country has for many years pursued, for which it has made such great sacrifices, and in which it is now honourably engaged in concert with the other nations of Europe.
§ (5.32.) COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
I should have thought that some discussion on this Vote would have tended to strengthen the hands of 1122 the Government. I am bound to say I have long thought that our present methods of suppressing the Slave Trade on the East Coast of Africa have done very little good. On the West Coast we were extremely successful, but on the East Coast the circumstances are quite different. The vessels employed in the trade are small, and can easily escape the observation of our cruisers. I do not desire to get rid of the cruisers, however, because, although I do not think they do much good, I should hardly like to say that they do none. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary put his hand on the sore when he said that the large amount of the Slave Trade arose from the necessity of carrying ivory to the coast. If roads were made for the traders you would get rid of a great deal of the Slave Trade in East Africa. In the last few years part of Africa has been very much opened up, and the result is that what I may call the centre of gravity of the Slave Trade has been removed very much to the north—to the neighbourhood of the Victoria Nyanza. I do not think there would be any serious difficulty in establishing military forts on the Lakes, but I do not think that would be the true way of suppressing the trade. I believe the true way is to encourage the opening out of the country, and to try and get animals of some sort that will do the work of transport more cheaply than the slaves do it. No doubt, in both the German and British spheres of influence, a great step has been made in stopping the trade by opening up the country.
§ (5.36.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
I quite accept the view of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs that we cannot go into this most difficult question of the Slave Trade at a time when a Conference is sitting on the subject. I may say, however, I do not think the establishment of military forts in the interior of Africa is so easy a thing as the hon. Member seems to think, and I consider that the only alternative to our present policy is the occupation of large tracts of country. I confess I notice with some regret that, in the course of his travels, the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. J. Dillon) seems to have inherited a large amount of Jingoism, as was evidenced by his remarks respecting the Germans in East Africa. I wish to call attention, however, to a more practical subject in con- 1123 nection with this Vote. £16,000 out of the £26,000 seem to me to have no connection with slavery whatever. It is the amount of a subsidy to the British India Steam Navigation Company for a, mail service to Zanzibar. I do not know why this is put in the Slave Vote, because it certainly has no direct connection whatever with the Slave Trade. It seems, however, that it is a very easy way of getting the item through by putting it under the Slave Vote. The suppression of the Slave Trade is an object which will justify almost anything in the eyes of the people of this country. I observe that the British India Steam Navigation Company is very intimately connected with the East African Company, and it seems to me that this item in the Vote is something very like an indirect subsidy to the East African Company. I want to understand why the amount appears in this Vote, and what is the nature of the subsidy. I also want to know why they contracted so much with the British India Steam Navigation Company for service on the East Coast of Africa. I want to know if the East African Company, or any other Companies, are to pay anything towards this Contract Service?
§ *(5.41.) THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON,) Leeds, N.
The reason the subsidy paid to this Company appears under this Vote is, because it has, for many years, so appeared. I admit the justice of the hon. Member's criticism, and I suppose the explanation is that when the contract was made many years ago it was found that the mail service was of great assistance in keeping up regular communications, and thereby checking the Slave Trade. The contract has been presented to the House, and an explanation of it will soon be made, when hon. Members will have an opportunity of discussing it. The companies referred to do not contribute to the subsidy.
§ *(5.43.) SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman behind me pointed out the great benefit of communications by land for the putting down of the Slave Trade. When this subsidy was first granted there was no question whatever of opening up Africa by land, but since that time we have made a considerable advance, and we know now that there is a fair prospect, through the "spheres of influence" and the German and English 1124 Companies, of opening up Africa by land. Formerly there was no regular communication with Zanzibar at all, and one of the recommendations of the Committee, which sat nearly 15 years ago—and which I had the honour of serving on—was that the best way of putting down the Slave Trade was by encouraging legitimate commerce, and that commerce along that coast would be encouraged if a subsidy were granted to a steamship company, so that there might be a regular communication. This was unanimously agreed to, and thought a very practical measure at that time. Whether it may be necessary any longer I cannot say. I suppose the contract is entered into for a considerable time, and I can conceive it possible that when it comes to an end it may be advisable to reconsider its continuance.
§ *(5.46.) SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE (Kensington, N.)
I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary that the present moment is inopportune for the discussion of any general measures for the suppression of the Slave Trade, as the Conference is still sitting. But since such a strong expression of opinion on the subject has been put forward by the hon. Member for East Mayo, and the point has also been dwelt on by other hon. Members, I do think it is only right that those who think differently should put forward an equally strong expression of opinion. I do not at all agree with the hon. Member that no honest attempt has been made by this country to suppress the Slave Trade on the East Coast of Africa and in the Bed Sea. I think a considerable amount of success has attended our efforts, and I am quite certain of this, that public opinion in this country will never sanction—at least not in our time—the course of policy recommended by the hon. Member, that of abandoning these attempts to put down the Slave Trade. At the same time, I am free to confess that the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston possibly does go a little too far. The establishment of military posts up in the interior of Africa would, clearly, involve this country in very serious responsibilities, to an extent to which we cannot quite see the conclusion. I think our true policy in this matter is to support the pioneers of civilisation in Africa—to give our moral support to the Mis- 1125 sionaries, and the commercial companies and traders who venture into these regions. It may occasionally be necessary for that moral support to take the form of military expeditions. It always, of course, involves naval operations. Beyond that I do not think the public would support the Government in going. But I am quite certain that public opinion would not support any abandonment of the measures now taken.
§ (5.47.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury seems to me to put the cart before the horse, for he proposes that we should first vote the money and then take into consideration the terms of the contract. I apprehend that the contract is a new one, under fresh terms, for I see that last year we voted £6,870, with a Supplementary Vote of £3,000, and that this year we are to vote £16,000. I do hope that after, the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury that this contract only appears under the Slave Trade Vote because it always has done so, in another year we shall not find these Estimates arranged in such a form as to deceive the country, making it believe that this money is spent in the suppression of the Slave Trade, whereas it is expended for other purposes. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said it was undesirable that we should enter into a discussion of this Vote at the present moment. Well, I never yet heard any proposal to enter into a debate on any Estimate which was not met by the Minister in charge of the Estimate explaining that under other circumstances the debate would be desirable and legitimate, but that under present circumstances it was neither the one nor the other. Why does the right hon. Gentleman say it is undesirable to discuss this matter now? It is because there is at the present moment a Conference sitting on he question. I should have thought the fact that a. Conference is now sitting at Brussels on the subject of the Slave Trade would make the present discussion particularly appropriate, as Ministers would desire to receive suggestions from Members for the assistance of the Conference. I do not approve of the suggestion to establish forts in Africa, as that course has always been followed by the annexation of the surrounding' country, and I have always 1126 thought that King Theodore explained the thing pretty clearly when he said—I understand your civilised countries. You send to us first your missionaries, then consuls to look after the missionaries, and then armies to look after your consuls—and what becomes of the poor African?I do not think anything would be gained so far as the Africans are concerned, by the establishment of these forts. The specific complaint is that money is wasted by the attempt to put down slavery in the Red Sea. When we first went to Suakin the plea was—though we have changed it a dozen times since—that it was necessary to undertake the expedition in order to suppress the transport of slaves from Africa to Arabia. We expended millions then, and have expended millions since, but all to no purpose, so far as I can make out. Where on earth do the slaves go to? A certain number come down to the coast as porters, and then go back. We utilise their labour. The fact that Stanley, who was sent to relieve Emin Pasha, employed many slaves in his expedition makes it difficult for the people of Africa to believe that we really wish to put a stop to the Slave Trade. If we did away with the slave markets in Turkey, Asia Minor, Arabia, and Egypt, there would be no profit left for those who took the slaves across the Bed Sea. It is impossible to prevent slaves from being transported across, seeing that it is not like a wide ocean which takes days or weeks to cross. We are ready to spend money for the suppression of the Slave Trade, but we want to spend it to the best advantage. It is impossible to prevent it by the measures we at present adopt, and we ought to consider whether there are not some practical means of laying out our money to better advantage than we do at present. The system we now have in practice, it seems to me, has proved, to all intents and purposes, almost entirely ineffectual for suppressing the trade in slaves across the Red Sea.
§ *(5.50.) MR. J. MACLEAN (Oldham)
I was glad to learn from the statement of the Secretary to the Treasury that if we pass this Vote to-day we shall have another opportunity of discussing the enlarged expenditure that is to be granted for the Mail Service of the British Indian 1127 Company. My recollection is that this Service was first suggested by Sir Bartle Frere, when he went on a Mission to Zanzibar. He said it would be one of the most effectual means of substituting legitimate commerce for the illegitimate commerce known as the Slave Trade. The extension of this expenditure raises a serious question of policy, because it is pretty well-known that the leading men of the British Indian Company are also the principal directors of the East African Company that has obtained the Charter giving it such large powers in Eastern Africa. I think the House ought to know a good deal more about the working of these Chartered Companies, and the powers they possess, and the extent to which this House is prepared to back them up, than we have yet had an opportunity of learning. We know there is not only the East African Company, but the South African Company, who have obtained a Charter. Are these Companies formed merely for the purpose of putting down the Slave Trade, or to what extent do their powers go? The hon. Member for Preston has suggested that England should establish a chain of military posts from Zanzibar right up to the Nile, but I do not think that a country which a very few years ago abandoned Khartoum would be likely to approve a policy of that kind. But it seems to me that if these chartered companies are allowed to go on with their operations we may be committed to serious responsibilities in both East and South Africa before we realise fairly what we are doing. It is the tendency of this country to commit these large powers to these companies, in order to avoid fixing responsibility on the Government itself, and having to undergo the ordeal of criticism in this House. But we know from the history of our difficulties in the past how conflicts have arisen.
§ *MR. J. MACLEAN
I will stray no further, Sir, and was only led so far by remarks made in debate. I will only say that I think it is desirable we should clearly understand what powers these companies possess, and the position in which they may ultimately land this country.
§ *(6.2.) SIR R. TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
In a very few words I venture to express an earnest hope that the Government will not relax their efforts in the slightest degree for the suppression of the Slave Trade in the Red Sea, notwithstanding what has been said by some hon. Members opposite. It may be true that those efforts have not yet been successful in accomplishing their end, but certainly they do operate as a check upon that most inhuman traffic. I admit that the facilities for transporting slaves from Africa to Arabia causes our operations to be evaded and eluded, but we ought to do what we can, even though our exertions do not meet with all the success for which we might hope. The hon. Member for Northampton was quite right when he said it was to the markets of the Slave Trade that we must look. The market in Egypt, I am glad to say, is rapidly closing, and I trust that that at Constantinople will soon be closed. But there is one very prominent market which, I am afraid, will be more difficult to deal with, namely, Jeddah, which is the seaport in the Red Sea for Mecca, and the point at which pilgrims from India debark when they go to Mecca. However, we have a Consul at Jeddah and therefore we have some means of supervision and of acquiring knowledge as to the progress of the Slave Trade in that market. I remember once taking part in the development of that Consulate. Still, I must remind the House that too much must not be expected from any supervision of that kind by us. For the jurisdiction there is not ours, but is nominally Turkish. If we had the authority there we might strike a blow at the Arabian. Still, we may exercise influence. If we make the most of our opportunities we may do something, at all events, to bring the moral influence of this country, of Europe, and of the world, to bear on this market, which really forms a basis for a part of this dreadful trade.
§ (6.5.) MR. PICTON
The hon. Baronet has hardly done justice to the remarks of the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon), who urged that the money spent on this object is to a great extent wasted, because it is not supplemented by efforts to prevent the Slave Trade on land. It is not possible to do this by a chain of forts across the country; but this I do say, that no 1129 procession of slaves, whether used as porters or otherwise, should be allowed without interference to pass any British post or through any district where we hold influence.
§ *(6.6.) SIR J. SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
May I ask whether the East Africa Company is not identical with the British India Company carrying mails to Zanzibar? Also I wish to know is not the Company in the habit of using forced labour for the carriage of goods into the interior from the coast? I believe it is intended that the East Africa Company shall make a railway into the interior, and that is all very well; but we have it on record that Mr. Stanley's expedition was supported by slave porters, and I should like to know whether this Company to whom we are voting this sum follows that practice—hiring slave labour?
§ *(6.8.) SIR J. FERGUSSON
The point to which the hon. Baronet referred is a very important one. In a place where all, or nearly all, servants are in the position of slaves, and slave labour is the only labour to be got, it is a very difficult point to deal with, but I believe that everything is done to see that those employed do get fair wages for their work, and strict regulations have been laid down by which that object was secured. But the East Africa Company has done a very great deal to establish free labour in their sphere of influence, and have made great sacrifices in obtaining the freedom of large numbers of slaves who have taken refuge in their stations, or in mission stations; they have always relieved them from the necessity of returning to their masters. More than that, they have enabled many slaves engaged in the labour to obtain their freedom, and it has been their main object to establish free labour in their sphere of influence to a great extent, and thus gradually to substitute it for the services of slaves. With regard to what has been said as to the identity of the British India Company and the East Africa Company, it is quite a mistake to suppose that they are the same; though they have the same Chairman, the Board of Directors and shareholders are different.
§ (6.12.) MR. DILLON
From whom are these slaves purchased? I have 1130 always understood that the British Government refuse any recognition to slavery, but if this East Africa Company has been in the habit of giving a price for the purchase of a slave's freedom, that is an evil practice that should cease at once, for it really is an encouragement to Slave Trade.
§ *(6.15.) SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I stated the reverse of what the hon. Member for East Mayo has alleged. I did not say that the company purchased slaves, but only that a sum was advanced to them after their liberation. It must be remembered, moreover, that this is in foreign territory, and that it is impossible for the British Government to abolish slavery there by a stroke of the pen. These territories are under the dominion of the Sultan of Zanzibar, or of native chiefs, and we cannot abolish slavery which throughout nearly the whole Continent is habitual. What I said was that the Company used their utmost efforts to promote free labour, and took opportunity to obtain the freedom of slaves, allowing these last to work out a certain portion of the money paid by them in compensation.
§ (6.18.) MR. DILLON
I did not mean to suggest that slaves were purchased for employment as slaves by the company, but I do consider it is highly objectionable that English money should, though indirectly, act as an encouragement to the Slave Trade. The motive may be a good one, but still the action of the company does to a degree encourage the Trade.
§ *(6.20.) SIR J. SWINBURNE
After what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman I do not think we ought to allow the Vote to pass without an assurance that the charter of these companies shall be withdrawn unless they give an undertaking not to use forced labour.
§ *SIR J. SWINBURNE
I may say that we have no assurance that this East Africa Company does not employ slave labour or forced labour, and I do not think we ought to pass this Vote without such an assurance.
§ *(6.21.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
We are told that the slaves have their freedom purchased, and that a bar- 1131 gain is made with them as to working out a part of the cost of that freedom; now I want to know, while that is being worked out, who is the owner of a slave in this position? The more we look into this subject the more unsatisfactory it appears. It is difficult to move a redaction of this Vote, because one is so liable to be misunderstood. I am sure we all agree in voting money for the suppression of the Slave Trade; but, as the hon. Member for Mayo has said, the system is so bad that I very much doubt if our action in the Red Sea does not cause more suffering than we prevent.
§ MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)
I should like to have from the Under Secretary some assurance that Her Majesty's Government will really put pressure upon the Sublime Porte to put an end to that great scandal, the slave market at Jeddah. The Turkish Empire is tolerated in Europe only by the goodwill of the great Powers, and if they would bring their pressure to bear this scandal to civilisation might be put an end to. I am not sure that a bombardment of Jeddah every few years would not be more effectual than the maintenance of our cruisers in the Red Sea.
§ (6.25.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
In former times a good deal of slave traffic went by way of the Persian Gulf. Has the right hon. Gentleman any information on that point? As to the point just referred to, I think the Porte has not much more than nominal authority at Jeddah.
§ *(6.27.) SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
In reply to the hon. Member for Leicestershire, I may say the Porte two months since issued stringent orders to their officers to put down the Slave Trade by every means, and I hope these orders will be carried out successfully. In answer to the question of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, I believe that the operations of the combined squadrons on the Coast of Africa have had the effect of almost entirely stopping the over-sea transit of slaves in the Persian Gulf, and that the Trade has been reduced to the smallest proportions.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
I think it my duty to move a reduction of the Vote, for it seems to me that our boasted efforts to abolish the Slave Trade are really a sham. For example, apparently, it is proposed to spend £26,000 a year on the work, 1132 but when we inquire into the matter it is found that £16,000 of this sum is given as a subsidy to a company to carry mails, and to open up a trade for its own benefit, and this company itself is in the possession of slaves who are not really working for their wages, but for their freedom. The company buy the slaves, and thereby encourage the slave-owners to produce the slaves, and then it keeps those slaves as free labourers until they have paid the purchase-money.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
No; they first obtain their liberation; and then advance sums in compensation to their former owners which they, in a short time, work out.
§ MR. STOREY
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say they were paid for, and that they remained with the company until they worked out their price.
§ MR. STOREY
But they work out a portion of their price, therefore they are not only working for wages, but for freedom. In other words, the company buys the slaves, and thereby encourages slave-owners to produce slaves, and then the company use the slaves as what the right hon. Baronet calls free labourers until they have paid for the purchase-money. Many of us have been in districts where slaves are, and we know that for all practical purposes the position of a free labourer who has to pay for his freedom is no better than the position of a slave. I, therefore, propose to re-move the reduction of the Vote. But I was saying what a sham the whole business is after all. What sham philanthropists we are in the matter. If you subtract the £16,000, it appears we spend £10,000 ostensibly for the suppression of the Slave Trade, which extends over hundreds of miles of sea. [An hon. MEMBER: There are the men-of-war.] Yes, they are used, but the point of my observations is this: that to the £10,000 a year which we are supposed to spend for the suppression of the Slave Trade, we must add superannuation allowances which amount to nearly £2,000 a year, and which are given to those who have done nothing in the suppression of this abominable traffic. In this, and other matters, wo pretend to do great things, and we 1133 are really doing little. The Under Secretary of State said he has made representations to the Porte. What nonsense it is to make representations to the Porte such as he makes. The Porte knows we really mean nothing in the matter, and the Porte takes no notice except in language and writings of our representations. Is the Porte the only sinner? The Porte has next to no influence in Arabia. It has no influence in Egypt. But we have. What is the Government doing to prevent the Slave Trade there? Last year we fought the Arabs. We killed many of them, but a certain number of them were left, and these were brought down into Egypt. We do not call them slaves, but for all practical purposes they are slaves, since they do not know their own rights. But the worst case remains. If these African companies wish to carry on their business they must employ slave labour in one form or another. If you are to trade there you must in one form or another employ labour under the conditions of the country, and, therefore, a man who hates slave-owning will not touch the dirty business in order to make money; he will leave it to other less philanthropic souls. But we encourage slavery by our charters, and assist it by our forces, and, therefore, it is a sham to spend this paltry £10,000 or £20,000 a year in the suppression of the traffic. In order to express my great dissatisfaction with the explanation which the Under Secretary has given us, I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £16,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item B, £10,000, Aden and Zanzibar Steam Service Subsidy, be omitted from the proposed Vote."—(Mr. Storey.)
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I trust the Committee will not assent to the Vote without some further explanation on the subject of the so-called contract labour. My own impression is that what the Chartered Company did was quite justifiable. I understood that a large number of slaves took refuge with our people, their owners demanded their restitution, but the Chartered Company compromised the matter by paying a considerable sum for the liberation of the slaves. On the whole, I think that a wise proceeding. 1134 But the right hon. Gentleman has just made a most awkward and regrettable admission, namely, that the slaves are now working out the price of their freedom. The Government contributed £800 towards the liberation of these slaves, and, therefore, I hope we shall receive some further explanation.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
The hon. Gentleman is mixing up two different cases. The statement I made with reference to certain fugitive slaves having their freedom granted, and making free contracts with the company on somewhat lower wages, so that in a short time the price of their freedom is supposed to be worked out, did not refer to the slaves who were found at the Mission Stations, and freed partly by the Missions, partly by the company, and partly by Her Majesty's Government.
§ (6.43.) MR. DILLON
I think the Committee are entitled to know what is the nature of these contracts. We are informed that a British Company, chartered by the Crown, is in the habit of purchasing slaves, and allowing them to enter into free contracts at reduced wages. What is the meaning of that? It is a most extraordinary term, and I think the members of the Committee will like to know, before the Vote is passed, what is the nature of these contracts, and how the men are compelled to observe the contracts, because if the contracts are free, the men are free to go away any time they like and get higher wages. If they are not at liberty to do this, I maintain that they are slaves. I am not entirely unacquainted with the doctrine of free contracts. We have all heard something about the sugar plantations. We were told there was no slavery at all. I know quite well that great reforms have been introduced by the Queensland Government, and that, in consequence of the exertions of public men in that country, the abuses of the system have been largely done away with. But when public attention was first directed to the matter men were engaged in the most nefarious system of slavery ever practised in the world. I have no doubt that that system was more cruel than that which now exists in Arabia, yet we were told it was a system of contract. The men were under contract to work for three years, at £6 a year, and if they did not do any work they were compelled to 1135 do it, and not allowed to go away—not allowed to enter into the service of any one else, and get higher wages. I say that if a man is not at liberty to go where he likes, and receive higher wages, or live without working, if he can, you have not free contract, but slavery. My experience has led me to believe that where you have a great commercial company carrying on this system of contract labour, the greatest possible abuse will arise. [Cries of "Divide."] I will not divide. Hon. Members opposite who cry "divide" belong to the same class of men who tried to shout down every discussion in reference to the atrocities committed on the sugar plantations. They talk about their British philanthropy, and yet want to rush this Vote, this preposterous and delusive Vote for the suppression of the Slave Trade, through the House without adequate discussion! I do not believe this Vote will prevent the suffering of a single negro in Africa. We are entitled to know whether a British Company is so conducting itself as to throw disgrace upon the name of this country. We have heard that there is a system of contract in force which is condemned by the public opinion of this country. We are entitled to know what are the rules and regulations of the system; but I go further, and say, that even if the system of contract labour is carried out satisfactorily, I protest against the buying of slaves for any purpose whatever.
§ (6.47.) MR. JACKSON
I sympathise very much with the object the hon. Gentleman has in view, but let me point out that there is nothing whatever in this Vote dealing with contract labour. [Mr. DILLON: I did not say there was.] Two questions are mixed up. One question is that of the British Indian Steam Navigation Company, which is a mail company, and the other is the question of the East African Company. The remarks of the hon. Gentleman have no reference to any item of the Vote.
§ *(6.48.) SIR J. SWINBURNE
I have had considerable experience of the interior of South Africa, and I can inform the Committee that there is not the slightest trouble or difficulty in getting any amount of free labour there. That is proved every day by the thousands of natives who come to work at the diamond fields. Yet the Government tell us they cannot get labour in East Africa with- 1136 out they employ forced labour, or men who are working out their freedom under compulsory contracts. Before this Vote is passed we ought to have some assurance from the Government that they will not continue their support to this East African Company as long as the company employ forced labour.
Let me point out that there is nothing in the Vote connected with the East African Company.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Co., Mid)
There are two points to which I wish to call attention. When these Estimates were framed we were told we should have them in a better form than previously. The Secretary to the Treasury must be aware of the fact that in the Committee upstairs——
It being ten minutes to Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.