HC Deb 28 July 1890 vol 347 cc1042-3

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the attention of the Government has been called to a statement recently made by the Reverend John G. Paton, Missionary, regarding slavery in the South Seas, wherein he states that the Presbyterian Mission Synod at Kwamera, Tanna, New Hebrides, unanimously resolved that the Kanaka labour traffic has To a large extent depopulated the New Hebrides and adjoining islands, upset family relations among the natives, and has been, and is the cause of much sorrow, suffering, and bloodshed among them on the islands; that he has himself seen white men in their boats taking Kanakas to a labour vessel, and by force lifting them on board, and when they tried to leap overboard to swim ashore, they were knocked down again and again on deck until they lay stupefied, and were so taken out to sea; and that he had been on board a labour vessel which had all the stout Kanakas that were likely to escape or give any trouble fastened under irons, and that the crew of the vessel had shot an Errumangan Chief dead while binding and taking his daughter away by force, they also shot one of his men who attempted to protect her, after which they took her on board the ship, and afterwards they shot dead one of the native Christian teachers; whether he is aware that this labour traffic, which was for a time suspended, has now been resumed, with a probability of the recurrence of similar treatment; and whether, under the circumstances, the Government will endeavour to put an entire stop to this labour traffic, in the interests of humanity?


I have been furnished by the hon. Member with a copy of the newspaper containing Mr. Paton's statement, but it is not possible to take action upon it unless Her Majesty's Government can be furnished with the names of the vessels, and the colony from which they came (if they were British ships), together with the dates of these occurrences. If these particulars can be supplied, the fullest inquiry shall be made, with the view of bringing the perpetrators to justice if possible. I am not aware that the traffic had been suspended, but by a law of 1885 it is provided that Polynesian labourers shall not be introduced into Queensland after the end of this year. As regards Fiji, which is understood to be the only other colony where this kind of labour is employed, no complaints of ill-treatment have reached the Colonial Office, and I do not see that Her Majesty's Government are called upon to interfere.

Forward to