HC Deb 23 April 1891 vol 352 cc1163-4
MR. MORTON (Peterborough)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Managing Director of the Chartered British South Africa Company, Mr. Cecil Rhodes, despatched at the end of February last, from Port Natal, a steamship, the Countess of Carnarvon, under what were virtually false clearance papers; that afterwards Captain Pawley and certain troopers in the employ of the Chartered British South Africa Company were taken on board, as well as 1,000 rifles and 20,000 rounds of ball cartridge; that the Countess of Carnarvon afterwards! ascended the Limpopo River, within Portuguese territory, a river not open to free navigation under the modus vivendi of August 1890, instead of proceeding to the port for which she had cleared; and that the arms and ammunition referred to were afterwards landed on Portuguese territory and conveyed into the interior; whether he can say for what purpose these arms were landed, and whether he is aware that no arms are allowed to pass through Portuguese territory into the interior of Africa without a licence from the Portuguese Government; and whether the proceedings of the officers, crew, and passengers of the Countess of Carnarvon constitute a violation of the fourth and other Articles of the modus vivendi of August 1890, between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Portugal?


had also on the Paper the following Question: To ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any official information has yet been received concerning the seizure of the British steamer Countess of Carnarvon by the Portuguese on the Limpopo River?


I will reply at the same time to the question of the hon. Member for Glasgow. The reports which have reached us are incomplete, and do not enable me to reply in detail, but they confirm in part the statements as to the voyage of the Countess of Carnarvon referred to in the first part of the question. The High Commissioner has called for further information, and has directed that affidavits shall be obtained. The arms appear to have been supplied to Gungunhana at his request, and were landed at a spot indicated by him. I am informed that a bond was given to a Portuguese official for payment of duties if they could be legally claimed. The only engagement taken by Her Majesty's Government in the modus vivendi was that from the date of that agreement they would not make Treaties, accept Protectorates, or exercise any act of sovereignty within the sphere of influence assigned to Portugal by the Convention of August 1890. There was therefore nothing in the proceedings of the officers, crew or passengers of the Countess of Carnarvon, so far as we are acquainted with them, which constituted a violation of the modus vivendi agreement, but it appears certain that she sailed with false clearance papers.