§ MR. JOSEPH A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, (1) whether Her Majesty's Government is aware that in recent years some hundreds of British subjects have been engaged within the Sierra Leone and Gold Coast spheres of British Government (in many cases through the paid agency of a native of Sierra Leone, named Porter) under contract for service as labourers at Boma, in the Congo Free State, for a period of two years; (2) whether the labourers have been subsequently employed without their consent as soldiers, and, although British subjects, compelled by force to go on expeditions to distant parts of the Congo territory to be employed in war; (3) whether these men or many of them have been compelled to remain beyond their contracted period of service; (4) whether they have been subjected to most cruel floggings, and in some cases actually murdered by Belgian commissioned and non-commissioned officers; arid, (5) whether the engagement of these native subjects of Her Majesty has been made with the knowledge of Her Majesty's Representatives in those colonies?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Her Majesty's Government is aware of the circumstances stated in the first paragraph; and complaints have been received of these British subjects having been employed without their consent as soldiers, and of their having been cruelly flogged, and in some cases shot; but not of their having been compelled to remain 772 beyond their contracted term of service. They were engaged with the knowledge of Her Majesty's Representatives, and every possible precaution was taken in their interests; but, in consequence of the complaints received, the recruitment of labourers for the Congo in the British West African colonies has now been prohibited, and the attention of Vice-Consul Arthur, who has now reached his post, has been specially directed to the matter. ["Hear, hear!"]