§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
MR. LABOUCHERE moved to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add instead thereof the words—
this House is of opinion that no further public funds should he voted for making this railway until more clear and definite estimates of its cost are presented.
He said that they had drifted into the construction of this railway in a most unbusinesslike fashion. There were many persons in this country who had a kind of earth hunger—it was a sort of disease—and their attention in late years had been mainly directed to Africa. The British East Africa Company having given up Uganda as a bad speculation, the Government took it over. The reasons given for that action were, in his opinion, very insufficient. It had been said that we must go to Uganda in order to hasten the suppression of the slave trade, but, as a matter of fact, we should do a great deal more in that direction by putting
an end to slavery at Mombasa and Zanzibar than could be done by going into the interior of Africa. In Uganda slavery was a domestic institution. He believed that there were more slaves than free men in that country, and, although we had established a protectorate over it, we had done nothing to abolish the system which flourished under our flag. Then pictures had been drawn of vast numbers of Englishmen going to this tropical region as colonists with their wives and children. As a matter of fact, those pictures where wholly fantastic. Even if European men could live in this region, their children could not. The case was very similar to that of India, where they did not find European colonists. Men went to India in order to make money, and returned as soon as they possibly could to England, where their families usually remained during their absence. Another argument used was that we ought to extend the area of our Empire in order to extend the area of our commercial relations. In Uganda, however, there was absolutely no prospect of commerce. Cereals could never be grown there because he supposed that ultimately we should have to put an end to the system of domestic slavery, and about the last thing that a native freeman would think of doing would be to devote himself to agricultural pursuits. Possibly a little cochineal might be obtained in Uganda, but the export trade would mainly be in ivory, which was diminishing in quantity every year in consequence of the destruction of the elephants. Looking at the railway as a matter of speculation, a worse speculation could not be presented to the public than the investment of public money in Uganda. The frontier was too indefinite. At the outset it was distinctly stated that our Protectorate would be limited to Uganda. He stated at the time that it was almost impossible to limit it, and he was right, for he saw the other day in the Gazette that Unyoro was added to it? Where were we to stop? Directly we had taken one place that was given as a reason for taking another; and thus we should go on spreading ourselves over the whole of tropical Africa. How many Europeans were there in Uganda? He did not believe there were 100. We had taken on our shoulders a quantity of Soudanese ruffians, who were about the
most objectionable set of scoundrels that ever existed. He had no doubt that when they were not under the eye of their officer they went about the country ravishing and stealing. Absurdity followed on absurdity. Having taken this precious Elysium on our shoulders it was now contemplated to make a railway to it. Lake Nyassa was situated about 657 miles from the East Coast. Therefore that would be the length of the railway. It would pass through a country which was practically a desert, and where there was a little grass and water it was inhabited by desperately fierce tribes.
MR. BITKDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)
They were our police.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
The hon. Member, who was a director of the British East Africa Company, said that these tribes were his police, yet they had been told that a whole caravan had been destroyed by them. [Laughter.] The Under Secretary certainly told the House that that was not the fault of the Masai, but occurred through some little misunderstanding. [Laughter.] At any rate the line would have to pass through the country of these respectable and virtuous Masai, and according to the survey every station would have to be a fortress, and every man employed would have to be armed. The House ought at least to know what would be the cost of the railway. It was stated in 1891 that at a cost of £20,000 to this country a species of survey was made and the figure was put down at £2,240,000. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer and his colleagues reduced that to £1,157,000, which had now been increased to £3,000,000. His own impression was that it would cost more than £5,000,000. He was not surprised at all this, for he had never yet heard that the Foreign Office was gifted in the way of making railroads. If anyone was calculated to make a mess of it it would, he should think, be the Foreign Office. [" Hear, hear! "and laughter.] Tenders were put forward by the Foreign Office for rails and two estimates were sent in—one from Barrow and one from Cardiff. The former was 1s. 6d. per ton higher than the latter, but it was accepted because the Foreign Office thought they would have to send out sleepers which they thought could be obtained near Cardiff. But when they had entered into the con 708 tract they were told that English sleepers would be of no use, because they were destroyed by insects. [Laughter.] They, therefore, cancelled the contract, paying compensation, and had to pay 1s. 6d. a ton more than they need for their rails. If this railway did cost £5,000,000, as he believed it would, that meant saddling £150,000 per annum on that country for 30 years. Most railways were expected to pay, but nobody expected this line to pay, and the estimates of traffic made out a large and permanent deficit which might be taken at another £30,000 per annum. If the country was to go into the business of building railways it would be infinitely better they should be built at home. ["Hear, hear!"] Agriculture in England did not want the Government to give facilities for materials to be brought down from the centre of Africa. What it wanted was facilities of communication in England, so as to be able to compete with the foreigner in this country. When we had put every part of England into communication with markets, then we might consider whether money should be wasted in this foolish way in Africa. ["Hear, hear!"] If the British taxpayer was to be called to upon spend money in Africa at all, the money would be better expended upon lines in South Africa instead of in tropical Africa. They were once told that it was necessary to make a railroad to Berber, and, in fact, a large sum of money was expended in the partial construction of the line. But where was that railway now? Why, after constructing a certain portion of it, it was given up as a bad job by the intelligent Government that was then in power, and all that remained of it now was a certain amount of iron, which was being used by the Soudanese in resisting our inroad into their country. ["Hear, hear!"and laughter.] In his opinion the whole system of Protectorates in, Africa was madness, but if we were to embark in mad schemes, let us at all events have some method in our madness. Before we set to work to construct railways, we ought to weigh the advantages and the disadvantages that would result from their being made. The scope of his Amendment was confined to the assertion that at the present moment we had not sufficient data on which to form a judgment of the advantages that would 709 result from the construction of the line. Had hon. Members ever heard "of business men setting about the construction of a railroad in the vague way the Government had adopted, without having any estimate of the cost or any survey of the territory through which it was to pass? In his view his Amendment was a throrough business one. He should wish to ask whether the labour employed in the construction of the line was to be African labour.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said that in that case we were going to avail ourselves of slave labour. We might make what conditions we chose in the arrangements with the masters, but the men employed to do the work would be slaves, who would be brought down to the coast by the Arab traders. During the years that the line would take to construct, the railway would be a perfect hotbed of slavery. In conclusion, he begged to move the Amendment of which he had given notice. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * SIR CHAULES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said that in seconding the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton, he should wish to make two or three observations in connection with the general subject. On the last occasion when the question of the construction of this railway was before the House the hon. Member for Westminster had given as one of the reasons in favour of its construction that it would eventually run along the backbone of Africa, and would afford an unbroken communication between the north and south of that continent. He rather doubted whether all the hon. Members in that House had fully-considered the problem of the future of Africa and the bearing it would have upon this railway. The policy of British communication by railway from Egypt to British South Africa had gone by the board long ago, and it was one that we could no longer hope to see carried out. Such a policy was an intelligible and a real policy which was well worthy of examination and of thought, but it had now entirely passed out of the region of practical politics. It was true that we had entered into an arrangement with the Congo State to give us a right of way through their territories in consideration of our leasing other territories to them, but one-half of that 710 agreement had been torn up by Germany and the other half by France. It might, of course, be said that in time of peace we should have no opportunity of acquiring the right of way in question, but that we might obtain it as the result of war. But were we to commence the construction of this line in the hope of being able to complete it after the termination of the next great war in which we might be engaged? He thought that in attempting to open a railway communication from the north to the south of Africa we were engaging in a wild goose chase, and therefore he should second the Amendment. ["Hear!"]
§ * THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. GEORGE CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
The hon. Member for Northampton commenced his remarks by a criticism of the circumstances under which we found ourselves in Uganda. Those remarks, it seemed to me, might have been more appropriately addressed to gentlemen sitting on his own side of the House. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * MR. CURZON
Anyhow, they are not applicable to us. Our position in Uganda is a responsibility which we have inherited, and voluntarily inherited, from our predecessors, and we are now merely carrying to their logical conclusion the steps for the initiation of which they were responsible. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member then indulged in those a priori objections, which he so frequently airs in this House, against any extension of British influence or expansion of the British race. That is one of the special idiosyncrasies of the hon. Member which is quite impervious to argument, and which makes him one of the most perverse, but, I am free to admit, one of the most charming of men. [Laughter.] The hon. Gentleman has got a most extraordinary conception of the character of the country through which the railway is to run. It is scarcely conceivable that he has ever read even the most elementary work about the nature of the country.
§ * MR. CURZON
Then the hon. Gentleman must have an imperfect recollection of what he has read. He described the country as a desert from the coast 711 up to the interior, and then a jungle, and he asked how any European colonist could ever go or want to go into such a country. I remember a story that is told in history. When Julius Cæsar landed in this country his Roman patricians, who had never seen anything of this country before, said:—What an extremely undesirable place to live in The climate is not one that will suit us; there are parts of the country which are a desert, and other parts which are a jungle.[Laughter.] But in that desert and in that jungle the Roman patricians continued to live and to leave marks of their civilisation and government which endure to this day.
§ * MR. CURZON
What are the facts in regard to Uganda? You have a coast fringe which is to some extent unhealthy; then you have a sterile belt some 200 miles across; and then you come to a high, well-watered, fertile country. So far from its being a part of the world in which British colonists could not live, I am informed that British colonists are already arriving there, and that they are starting plantations of coffee. So far from its being the jungle my hon. Friend described, would he be surprised to learn that there is there a cool air, that you wear there the clothing we wear here in the autumn, and that in the winter time you almost invariably require fires at night? The hon. Gentleman once again attributed the lamentable deaths of Sir Gerald Portal and his brother to the effects of the climate of Uganda. Sir Gerald Portal died from an illness contracted in this country, and his brother died from an illness contracted far beyond Uganda. Indeed, gentlemen who have recently been through the country assure me that it is a very healthy part of the world. The next point of the hon. Member was that there can never be any commerce there, and that nothing but ivory ever comes from that part of Africa. That view is not shared by people who have been there. They assure me that there is every chance of cotton, indiarubber, cereals, and coffee being cultivated there. But the question of the advantage of the railway does not solely turn upon the amount of produce likely to be 712 exported from the country or the number of passengers who are likely to take tickets upon the line. The Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned the other day a point that ought not to be lost sight of. Being in Uganda, as we are, we are compelled to be continually sending up stores and supplies over a considerable extent of country from the sea to the interior. At the present moment all those stores have to be carried on the backs of native porters, which costs us £40,000 a year, but when the railway is in working order it will only cost us £6,000, which will be a saving of £34,000 a year. At present there are only two small steel boats on the lakes—one on the Victoria lake and one on the Albert lake. An order for a steamer for the Victoria lake was very properly given by the late Government. This steamer could only be taken up in pieces and sections on the backs of men. The cost of the transport of that steamer to the lake will be, if it ever gets there, £12,000. Many of these pieces of machinery have been thrown away on the journey, and it is doubtful whether we can ever get the steamer complete. If the railway were made the transport would only cost £1,100. Therefore the saving on Government transport to the lakes will be very considerable when the railway is completed. I go on to the next point of the hon. Gentleman. He seems to have got, I will not say his facts, but his substitutes for facts, wrapt in a jumble of the most impossible and abnormal character. [Laughter.] He asked why the contracts for the rails had been given to a Cardiff firm and not to a Barrow firm. The reason why the contract was given to the Cardiff firm and not to the Barrow firm was that the tender of the Barrow company for shipment at Barrow was £4 13s. 6d. per ton; the tender for shipment at London was £5 Is.; the tender of the Cardiff company for shipment at Cardiff was £4 14s. 9d., and we were obliged to ship at Cardiff because we were getting our coals at Cardiff. His next contention was about the sleepers. He was surprised that we should be getting the sleepers from this country. He also talked about some infringement of a contract and of some compensation having to be paid. There is no truth at all in the latter statements; and as 713 regards the sleepers, we were obliged to get them from England because there is no wood in the country of the character that is required for sleepers. We also required creosoted fir sleepers, because steel sleepers would have been liable to be corroded by the saline properties of the air near the coast. The next point my hon. Friend made, and perhaps it was the most extraordinary of all, was that this railway is actually going to turn the parts of Africa through which it is to run into hotbeds of slavery. Well, upon my word. [Laughter.] Up till now the argument which has commended the railway to hon. Gentlemen opposite has been that it would be one of the surest preventives of traffic in slaves, and that it would staunch the supply at its source. I can assure the hon. Gentleman anyway that there will be no slave labour employed on the line, and that his apprehensions in that respect are ill-founded. ["Hear, hear!"] I pass to the hon. Gentleman's next point. Throughout his speech he described this railway as if it were a happy-go-lucky affair which the Government had taken in hand, with no clear idea of where it was going to, what route was going to be adopted, and without the estimates and surveys that ought to have been made. What is the fact? In 1892 Major MacDonnell executed a survey of which a Report was laid before this House. It was a reconnaissance survey. It was executed with unusual care; it confirmed the independent studies made by engineers of the highest character beforehand; and it has been confirmed by the observations of those who have been there since. But it was not in the nature of things a detailed survey. I have sometimes wondered why in the interval between 1893 and 1895, when we started the railway, the late Government did not proceed to the execution of the detailed survey that was required before the railway could be commenced. My impression is that they were engaged in making up their minds whether they should remain in Uganda or scuttle out of it. ["Hear, hear!"] A valuable opportunity was then lost, and we are now carrying out a work which could have been more advantageously initiated by them. The process that is followed 714 is this. A party goes ahead upon the trace of Major MacDonnell; then comes a party laying temporary lines, and then a working party laying the rails in their final position. Hon. Members can understand that in these circumstances a margin is wanted over and above the original estimate of Major MacDonnell. But the Government are not departing from Major MacDonnell's observations, nor are they deviating substantially from his figures. There is one other point in regard to which the Government was challenged, and that is as to the reasons for which we have adopted what is known as the Departmental system of construction. The hon. Member talked about this railway as being managed by the Foreign Office, whose officials he regarded as perfectly incapable of constructing such a work. That may be the case under ordinary circumstances, but this railway is being made by a Committee of experts sitting at the Foreign Office. I will give the House the names of the Committee. In the first place, the managing director is Mr. O'Callaghan, a man whose whole life has been spent in railway work in India. The consulting engineer is Sir Alexander Rendel, who is consulting engineer to the India Office, and the other members of the Committee are Sir Montagu Ommanney, Crown Agent for the Colonies, who is familiar with similar business, and Sir John Kirk, whose experience in that part of Africa is exceptionally great. This Committee sits at the Foreign Office, but can scarcely be legitimately described as a Foreign Office Committee. It embodies the most expert and authoritative opinion we can obtain, and to this Committee come week after week the accounts sent home by our local engineers on the spot. Whatever system of construction you apply, whether you build by departmental system or by contract, in the last resort a great deal must depend on the vigilance, the judgment, and the experience of the local engineers, and in the person of Mr. Whitehouse, who has great experience of railways in Africa, in India, and other tropical countries, we have a most excellent man. No firm of contractors and no company working this railway could possibly have applied to the supervision and control of the work done by their engineers on the spot the 715 authoritative supervision which is applied by this expert Committee sitting at the Foreign Office. This method of construction is one with which we are very familiar. The hon. Member spoke of it as an experiment made for the first time. That is not so. The Departmental system in this case is only Foreign Office in so far as the expert Committee sit at the Foreign Office. This Departmental system is one under which the majority of our railways in India and at the Cape have been constructed, and under which we have made our railways in Trinidad, in Ceylon, in "Western Australia, and other Colonies. Experience shows us that it is on the whole a smoother and more economical method, and more particularly will it be so in this part of Africa, for the reason that in the first place, we have the advantage, working through Government agency, of the assistance of the Indian Government. For instance, we have got the assistance of 3,000 coolies to start the works with. The Indian Government would never have let those coolies go to work under a company or a contractor. We can get any amount of rolling stock from India; we have, too, the advantage of obtaining engineers and surveyors already trained in somewhat analogous work and with Indian experience. No firm of contractors or company could have commanded these advantages. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members opposite are never tired of telling us that the construction of this railway is going to be threatened and retarded by the raids of the Masai tribes. But if troubles arise, or are likely to arise, surely you will be much more likely to compose them and to get on well with the local chiefs and tribesmen if you have your own officers in charge. ["Hear, hear!"] If you employ contractors what guarantee have you that they will engage men who are experienced in the ways of managing native tribes and in dealing with them dexterously? That reason, if there were no other, would be strong enough to impose on the Government the duty of constructing the railway. I hope I have fairly met the various points raised by the hon. Member, but I would ask the House, in giving their vote on the matter, to consider this—that we have taken over this country for better or for 716 worse. We may have been right or we may have been wrong, but that question is not now before the House. It was decided after due consideration, and, I am sure, with a full sense of responsibility, by the late Government, and it has been accepted by the present Government. The whole policy of the British Protectorate in Uganda has been explained, criticised, vindicated, and accepted more than once by overwhelming votes of this House. ["Hear, hear!"] If that be the accepted policy of the country, the necessary corollary of the dominion we have established is that we should have railway communication between the interior and the seaboard. ["Hear, hear!"] That is the whole question in a nutshell. If you do not establish that communication with the Victoria Nyanza, Germany will do so. It is in pursuit of our responsibilities, and of the obligations we have inherited from our predecessors, that we are constructing this railway, and I believe the time will arrive when hon. Gentlemen who make these speeches now will look back with bewildered surprise on the utterances with which they have favoured the House, and will wonder how it was that they "raged so furiously together and imagined such vain things." [Laughter and cheers.]
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I should not have thought it necessary to offer any observations to the House on this matter if the right hon. Gentleman had not made an attack on his predecessors. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton that the right hon. Gentleman is one of the most amiable of men, but he is, I think, in the conduct of his department in this House, sometimes unnecessarily aggressive. [Laughter.] It was quite unnecessary, for the purpose of this Bill, that the right hon. Gentleman should have indulged either in an attack on the late Government or in those references to Germany which he is so constantly making, and which, coming from the Foreign Office, are singularly impolitic. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * MR. CURZON
I cannot allow that interpretation to pass. What I said was that one of the main grounds for the construction of a railway to Victoria Nyanza was that if we did not make it Germany would. ["Hear, hear!"] 717 There was nothing aggressive in that. ["Hear, hear!"] I was speaking of what is the avowed intention of Germany. The Germans have a perfect right to make the railway through their territory; and our policy should he, and has been, to anticipate them. [Cheers.]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
That is precisely the sort of remark that abroad causes great irritation, and which, I think, should be avoided. It was perfectly unnecessary, and has nothing to do with the argument. It is a remark in invidiam, and it introduces into the discussion a prejudice which is altogether unnecessary. I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman should have made any reference to Germany at all. ["Hear, hear!"] With regard to the late Government, the position in which they were placed was a very simple one. I have never altered my opinion that going to Uganda originally was an unwise step—["Hear, hear!"]—and I do not think the case has been improved by the right hon. Gentleman's illustration of the Roman invasion of this country. Julius Cæsar came here, but he went back almost as soon as he came. It was not a permanent occupation, and though the Romans came here and spent a great deal of money with the idea that they were going to get a good return by the pearls they obtained, they got really very little out of the country, and ultimately evacuated it, having got very little profit for the money they had laid out. That illustration does not help the Uganda railway. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] There is an illustration much nearer home in the Congo State. In that State there are means of communication that do not exist in respect to Uganda, and if you consult the parties who are interested in the profits and advantages derived from the Congo, I do not think they will be found to be very considerable. The right hon. Gentleman has thrown some new light on the climate of the Equator. It is apparently necessary there to have an extra great coat, and I suppose the coals being shipped at Cardiff are intended to warm the people at the Equator. [Laughter.] That, however, is an expensive operation under the circumstances. [Laughter.] The position of the late Government with regard to Uganda when they came into Office was, as I have said, a 718 very simple one. When they came into Office they found that the East Africa Company was practically insolvent; they had endeavoured to make a settlement in Uganda, and had failed to do so, and had given notice that they were going to abandon the country. The policy of Lord Salisbury was to accept the evacuation of Uganda by the company, but he made no provision whatever for what was to succeed. That was the situation we found when we came into Office. We had to consider what was to be done. There were settlements in Uganda; there were British subjects there involved in the enterprises of the company; and no provision was made as to what was to be done on the retirement of the company; and, under the circumstances, the Government felt that they had no alternative but to make the provision in regard to Uganda that was made in 1892. The late Government agreed—and I believe the hon. Member for Northampton agreed—that a railway was a necessity, but we were of opinion that it must be what is called a light railway. Having regard to the condition of things in Uganda and to the uncertainty of what was to go there and what was to come from there, the notion of laying down a great and expensive line was never entertained by anyone in the world. The Committee of 1895, which was composed of the same gentlemen who reported in 1896, recommended the adoption of a reduced scheme, and that scheme was to cost exactly half the money which it is now proposed to expend. They recommended an expenditure of £1,755,000, but the present estimate is double that sum. I do not see that the House can be asked to assent to such a proposal. Why should they? I confess I am a little sceptical as to the accuracy of the estimate of the traffic on a line which is to have a train once a week upon it, and I am likely to remain so until the line has been at work some time. The right hon. Gentleman, with his usual confidence, assures us of the success of the line. I remember that a few months ago Mr. Rhodes told me he was absolutely certain there never could be any native difficulty, either in Matabeleland or Mashonaland. It only shows how very well-informed persons may be mistaken. I require some more solid assurance than that of the right 719 hon. Gentleman that in the settlement of Africa no native difficulties are possible or even probable. I would advise the right hon. Gentleman not to be too confident in a matter of this kind. I think it was not wise to have doubled the estimated expenditure upon this line, and I confess that, as between the two reports signed by the same gentlemen, I prefer the report which was made to us and upon which we stated our intention of embarking upon a railway to Uganda. From our point of view the state of things was one which only justified what may be called a tentative railway—a light railway. Of course, if the passenger and goods traffic developed, you might lay down a heavier railway, make stronger bridges, and multiply your trains. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Northampton in his depreciation of railway constructing and building by the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office endeavoured to administer Cyprus, and they made such a mess of the matter that we were obliged to take it out of their hands and transfer it to the Colonial Office. I would prefer that this work should be done by the Colonial Office, who have a staff with some knowledge of administration.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
The staff the Colonial Office employ for such a purpose is the staff of Crown Agents, and the staff of Crown Agents is doing this very work.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Why don't you put this administrative work in the hands of the Colonial Office, which is an administrative Office? The Foreign Office is not an administrative Office, and whenever they have attempted matters of administration we have always found that they have not been successful. I must express my sympathy with the Chancellor of the Exchequer at being called upon to pay for a railway which is to be made by the Foreign Office and upon estimates upon which they can place no reliance. In the last report it is distinctly stated that:—it became evident to the Committee, on further examination, that detailed surveys might modify the conclusions of the able officers who had surveyed the route in 1892. The reports of the chief engineer have shown that the ascent from the coast to the tableland will be more expensive than was anticipated. Thence to the broken country of the Mau range the estimates are 720 thought to be approximately correct, though the consideration of recent reports on the meteorological and climatic conditions raises doubts regarding the sufficiency of bridging allowed for. As regards the difficult country after the Mau range is reached, the Committee recognise that, in the absence of detailed surveys, there must be an element of uncertainty. They consider that, with the information at present at their disposal, it would be impossible to say that Major Macdonnell's estimate of initial cost may not be exceeded.That was the condition of things upon which you are entering upon this expenditure. I do not regard that as a very satisfactory state of things. You are going to make a railway through the Foreign Office upon estimates you admit are absolutely uncertain. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must admit from a financial point of view anything more unsatisfactory than to set to work to make a railway into the centre of Africa without estimate or detailed survey it is difficult to conceive.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS
said the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton, as was his wont, could not make a speech on this subject without attacking the East Africa Company, and the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken cast something of a reflection upon it. He could not, in justice to the gentlemen with whom he had worked on that company and who he had a ways maintained were animated by the highest motives, let the attack pass without saving a word in answer.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS
said he would proceed in a moment to show how that arose. The hon. Member for Northampton said the company went into Uganda, found it a bad speculation and retired, and he gathered from the right hon. Gentleman's remarks that he wished the House to infer that the company, having spent so much money in going into Uganda, were not able to remain there, but were bankrupt. He wished to remind the House that they did not go into the country as a speculation or with any object of their own to serve. They were forced to go there by 721 the urgent solicitation of the king and people; they were urged to go by public opinion; they went with the sanction and encouragement of the Government of this country; and when they got there they secured a condition of peace and contentment among the rival factions. In going to Uganda, as throughout the whole career of the Company, they had undertaken national obligations as apart from commercial obligations; and when they asked the Government to recognise this fact and to give them some encouragement and support in their work, it refused. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman how his Government treated the Company with reference to this very railway. He proposed to buy them out for 10s. in the pound, and he knew that it was then determined to build this railway. He knew that the building of the railway would have enabled them to get unlimited capital, but he kept the intention secret, and, having completed the purchase on terms which lost the Company half its capital, he came down the next day and announced the intention of building the railway. It seemed to him that this showed the commercial sharpness, added to the political morality, of an old furniture dealer. [Laughter.] With regard to the remarks of the Member for the Forest of Dean, he always listened to the right hon. Baronet with interest, knowing the great knowledge and industry which he brought to bear on these subjects. On this occasion he observed one omission in his speech, his usual avowal of his own Imperialism. He had never heard the right hon. Baronet speak on subjects of this kind without laying claim to being something of an Imperialist, and he had never known an Imperial project brought before this House without the right hon. Baronet opposing it. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Baronet was like the signpost to which Charles Dickens was compared, which pointed out to others the way to go, and never went it. [Laughter.] The right hon. Baronet shrinks from his 722 own ideal. [Sir C. DILKE: "The increase of the Navy."] He was not going into that. The right hon. Baronet confined his speech to an attack on a forecast which he (the speaker) had put forward in reference to the railway on a former occasion, of a backbone of communication running from north to south through Africa, and this Uganda railway forming a link between the centre of that backbone and the finest harbour on the east coast. He had never said that the line of communication must necessarily be a line of railway—it might be a mixed water and rail communication—or that it must be altogether in the hands of this country. England held a predominant position in South Africa, and when England had purchased Delagoa Bay, as they would purchase it—[a laugh]—and when England was permanently established in Egypt—[a laugh]—he saw the right hon. Gentleman smile, but he had never been able to foresee the time when the withdrawal of England from Egypt would not mean the subsidence of that country back into the condition from which the English occupation had raised her. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS
bowed to the ruling of Mr. Speaker. He was led off by the smile of the right hon. Gentleman. [A laugh.]
§ MR. BURDETT - COUTTS
I did not observe the smile on the right hon. gentleman's countenance. If I had, I should have dwelt on it. [Laughter.] My gaze was fascinated by the smile on the face of the right hon. Gentleman next to him (Mr. J. Morley). [Laughter.] With England holding this predominant position in the north and in the south, it was most inevitable that a line of communication should be established between the two extremes. With regard 723 to the strip of territory referred to by the right hon. Baronet, he very much regretted that the Government did not follow up and confirm the foresight which the Company had shown in the making of their treaty with the Congo State with regard to this intervening territory. It was a great loss to have given it up, but he did not for a moment believe that this intervening strip would prevent the line of communication from being eventually completed. It was absurd to suppose that a few miles of territory, far from the coast, at the farthest end of the German possessions, could stand in the way of a great work of civilisation. Would the right hon. Baronet himself maintain that, supposing such a line was completed from the south to one side of that small strip, and from the north to the other side of it, anything could stand in the way of the line being completed across it? The carrying out of this railway would be not only an enormous benefit to the country and a relief to the people from the horrors of slavery, but it was entirely in consonance with the best traditions of English policy. ["Hear, hear!"]
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said they were told that if they did not make this railway Germany would, but he did not believe that Germany paid the slightest attention. There was a great uncertainty as to the country, and there was a complete absence of information as to the line the railway would take. There was the question of the bridges, and whether they would be able to withstand the great floods. Ultimately, no doubt, the cost would be six millions rather than three millions. The right hon. Gentleman held out a prospect of tremendous cultivation, but Sir Gerald Portal had said that there was an entire absence of any natural product except ivory, and possibly coffee, in the country. The strategical advantage of a country 800 or 700 miles from the sea was, he thought, quite worthless; it would be 1,200 or 1,400 miles to Khartoum, and then they would have to get to Alexandria. He should have thought it would have been better to disembark their troops at Suakim, or some other central place. There was also the greatest uncertainty as to the revenue. The higher lands over which it was proposed 724 to take the railway were 8,000 feet above the sea, and that part of the route had not been surveyed. He did not say that they were bound to go on with this railway now, although it might be that the Government found themselves tied to what was called a continuity of policy, but he was convinced that the railway would prove enormously difficult to make, and that they would never get a penny out of it.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 239: Noes, 86.—(Division List, No. 348.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed for To-morrow.