HC Deb 27 March 1896 vol 39 cc307-36

Motion made and Question proposed:— That a sum not exceeding £10,350,018, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1897, viz.:—

Foreign Office 22,000
British Protectorate in Uganda and Central Africa 40,000
Royal Palaces and Marl-borough House 13,000
Royal Parks and Pleasure Grounds 34,000
Houses of Parliament Buildings 11,000
Admiralty, Extension of Buildings 12,000
Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain 24,000

*MR. JOSEPH A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside) moved, "That the Item, Class 2, Vote 5 (Foreign Office), be reduced by £200," in order to direct the attention of the Committee to the policy of the Government on the East Coast of Africa in relation to the question of slavery and to treaty obligations, and to afford an opportunity to the Under Secretary to make his promised statement. He should lay certain facts before the Committee to show that some different policy should be adopted in regard to the slave trade in our East African Protectorates in fulfilment of our treaty obligations, which should weigh with Members in the event of the statement of the Under Secretary failing to disclose the adoption of a satisfactory policy by the Government; at the same time, he hoped that the statement which would be made on behalf of the Government would be so satisfactory that it would not be necessary to divide the Committee on his Motion. He was glad to see that steps aiming at the abolition of slavery were being taken in Nyassaland and Egypt, and he wished to see a similar policy adopted in relation to the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, and on the mainland. According to Sir John Kirk, the number of slaves on those islands had been trebled during the last 10 or 12 years, and that fact was to some extent to be attributed to the absence of a continuity of an anti-slavery policy on the part of the present and two previous Governments. In face of the fact that promises were made in March last by the late Government, and in August last by the present Government, that measures would be taken for the speedy termination of slavery in some of our Protectorates, and the termination of a disgraceful state of affairs which at present it was admitted existed, he should await the statement of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs with much interest. Though no census of the number of slaves was available, it was estimated that no fewer than from 144,000 to 266,000 slaves were worked upon the plantations of the two islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, and as the Sultan of Zanzibar was under our control, and as his advisers were British officers, it was not too much to say that those slaves were detained under the Protectorate of the British Government. Moreover, those slaves, or at least many thousands of them, were detained illegally, in defiance of the Decree passed on June 5,1873, which made it unlawful to introduce new slaves into the islands. The life of a slave was very short, and fresh supplies had to be obtained, so that nearly the whole of this slave population had been illegally smuggled into the island in contravention of the Decree, or in defiance of other decrees, and was now detained illegally, and was so detained under the British flag. The further disgrace attached to us that while the Arabs nominally owned the slaves, yet the Arabs were financed by British subjects. There was this further anomaly, that while the plantation slavery was allowed to exist on the islands, encouragement was given to create slaves on the mainland to fill vacancies, and thus we were promoting with one hand that for which we were spending large sums of money to prevent on the other. Two methods had been suggested for dealing with the difficulty. One was that the legal status of slavery should be abolished; that the Mahomedan law which prevailed under the Sultan of Zanzibar should be amended by the introduction of certain sections of the Indian Code, thus giving a legal and recognised position to the slaves, and preventing the exercise of physical cruelty by the masters. The second method was emancipation. By the first method they might abolish the recognition of property by one man in the person of another, and might prepare for it peacefully and without revolution. It might be imprudent to adopt a course of emancipation at once or suddenly, but it might be safely carried out with a proper period of notice; and, whatever steps in this direction it was the intention of the Government to take, he desired to know in what way they would make their intentions known to the slaves. There should be ample publicity given. He believed sincerely that, if slavery were abolished in the islands referred to, free labour would be speedily attracted, and that, as in Cuba and many of the southern States of America, the free labour under such conditions would be greater and more efficient and productive. If during a period of transition it was found necessary to introduce coolie labour, those coolies should be introduced under conditions that would protect them from the abuses and cruelties which had been exercised under similar circumstances previously. But he contended that no question of labour difficulty should induce the House to hesitate about adopting a policy of liberation. That the slaves were subjected to great cruelty, there could be no doubt, recent reports from our own Consuls at Zanzibar proved it. But he would appeal to the Government on the question, not so much on account of the slaves at present existing, as in favour of an alteration of the system, so that the demand for new slaves might he prevented in those islands and in the interior of equatorial Africa. It was computed that no fewer than eight or nine lives were sacrificed in order to bring one marketable slave down to the coast. Cameron had estimated that two millions of lives were annually sacrificed by the slave trade, and a special Commissioner of the British and Foreign Slavery Society, who visited this part of Africa last summer, had stated that 24,000 lives were sacrificed every year by the Arabs in order to supply the slaves on the plantations of the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. He contended that England should have no lot or part, directly or indirectly, in such a hideous traffic. The view was sometimes put forward that if the trade was to be destroyed it must be destroyed at its source in the interior; but his view of dealing with the evil was rather to destroy the demand for slaves on the coast, and thus to deprive the Arab of all inducement to follow his abominable calling. On economical grounds, he thought a policy of emancipation would be justified. At least half the cost of the station would be saved if the necessity for trying to intercept the contraband traffic in slaves were removed. The expense and efforts of Her Majesty's ships in those waters were now practically thrown away. Moreover, the lessons taught the Arabs by our present policy were demoralising; for they perceived that while we professed to oppose and abhor slavery, we took advantage of slave labour to coal our ships, engaged slaves as porters in Government operations, and permitted revenue to be derived from slave labour. He did not dispute the fact that there must be some difficulties to contend with whenever there was a change of policy, but he did not believe in the present case that these difficulties would be diminished by postponing the change. He deplored the fact that there was a lack of co-operation on the part of the Consul General and Sir Lloyd Matthew at Zanzibar with the efforts of those who were pursuing the anti-slavery policy. He believed that those gentlemen had been influenced by their surroundings against their better judgment. The Sultan was himself the chief offender, for he owned 30,000 slaves. Sir John Kirk, Consul Smith, Sir Gerald Portal, and Sir Euan Smith had all advocated immediate action, and he trusted that the Government would adopt the policy which they recommended. There was no justification, as far as he knew, for the delay of nine months that had taken place since the Government's attainment of office. Action ought to be taken at once; and the legal status of slavery ought to be abolished throughout the Protectorate, and Courts established so that slaves might be able to obtain redress. If in connection with this matter we could clean our own hands, we should set a valuable example to the other Powers who were signatories of the Brussels Act. In conclusion, he asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to reply, if he could, to the following questions:—(1) What steps the Government were taking to fulfil their pledge to liberate the slaves in Zanzibar and Pemba? (2) Whether it was intended to issue any proclamation in regard to the agreement entered into on March 18th, 1891, between Her Majesty's Consul, the Administrator of the Imperial British East Africa Company, the Sultan of Zanzibar, and the Chiefs of Witu, by which slavery would be abolished finally and absolutely on the 24th May 1896, in the province of Witu? (3) What steps the Government were going to take to enforce the Decree of 15th January 1876, by which slavery was abolished in the Kismaya district of the Sultan; and whether in the interior the Decree of May 1, 1890, which recognised all the tribes to be free people, would be enforced? (4) Whether papers could be laid on the Table of the House which would bring the correspondence up to date? (5) Whether the Government proposed to repeal the secret Treaty of 23rd August 1890, which was a disgrace to our control, as it directed a master to punish a fugitive slave? (6) What steps would be taken to publish by proclamation or otherwise the regulations which the Government proposed to enforce, so that all slaves might realise the liberty and rights proposed to be conferred? (7) Whether courts and a police force would be established to secure for plantation and other labourers full redress against cruelty, neglect, or ill-treatment, or forcible detention? What compensation (if any) it was proposed to give to plantation owners? He did not believe himself that any compensation was necessary, and at any rate, it ought to be restricted to those who could prove a legal right to the possession of particular individuals. Certainly the merits of the case and justice warranted nothing more. His last question was whether the Government could see their way to reform and consolidate the administration of our East African Protectorate? There were at present five different administrations there under the control of the Foreign Office. He was of opinion that they ought to be consolidated and managed under the Colonial Department. That would secure greater economy, efficiency, and uniformity. He begged to move the Amendment standing in his name:— "That the Item, Class 2, Vote 5 (Foreign Office), be reduced by £200."


I will endeavour to answer the various questions which the hon. Member has put to me so far as the materials at my disposal allow. He inquires about the state of affairs in the interior parts of the Protectorate. At no time has the status of slavery been recognised by us, nor is it the intention of the Government to recognise it, in the countries that have there come under our Protectorate. The hon. Member asks us for papers and correspondence. We propose at a very early date to lay upon the Table the Dispatches that we have received since the last Papers were presented to the House. They will carry the history of events up to the present time, and they form to a large extent the foundation of my remarks to-night. The hon. Member has invited me to make the promised statement with reference to the policy of the Government, and I will therefore take up the case at the point mentioned by him—at the point, that is to say, when this House received what he described as the satisfactory promise made in the Debate of last August. It is quite true that upon that occasion my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House did repeat the assurance which had been given by our predecessors in office as to the abolition at as early a date as possible of the legal status of slavery in Zanzibar and Pemba. During the Parliamentary Recess we have been very busily occupied in discussing the conditions, and in considering the machinery that should be applied for the purpose, and I had hoped to be in a position to make a statement on this subject at the opening of this Session. But hon. Members may remember that towards the latter part of last year an insurrectionary movement broke out upon the mainland north of the island of Zanzibar, which movement, at the beginning of this year, attained somewhat grave and serious dimensions. One or two important chiefs were drawn into the rebellion, and the troops of the Protectorate on the spot were not capable of dealing with it satisfactorily. The dissatisfaction spread over a considerable area, and we had to send to India for a native regiment to compose this difficulty. Hon. Members may quite properly ask, "To what cause has this movement on the mainland been due?'' and I will endeavour to satisfy them. I believe it to have been in the first place the inevitable consequence of the taking over by the Government of the British Protectorate in East Africa. It will be understood that the British Government, with its organised forces and with its far-reaching administration, is a more formidable body than the company which preceded it, and it is the case that some of the big chiefs near the coast seem to have thought that their independence would be compromised, and that they would be likely to suffer greater interference under the new regime of the central authority than they experienced under the former state of things. Then, in Mahomedan countries there are always smouldering certain sparks of religious feeling and fanaticism which it is easy to fan into a flame, as has been done in this case. In the third place, anticipations respecting the legislation which has been foreshadowed and promised in this House have had a very marked effect upon the minds of some of the chiefs and tribes of the mainland. It is a fortunate thing that many of the principal Arabs have remained loyal to our service, and matters have now reached a point at which it is reasonable to hope that the movement will be put down shortly, and that it will be possible to put into operation the measures of pacification which have been thought out. These events have caused a temporary suspension of the original plan of the Government. I think that hon. Members opposite will admit that the first condition before taking any such action as is contemplated, action which the Committee must remember is directed against the immemorial traditions and feelings and prejudices, if you like, of the people with whom you are dealing—that the first condition of any such action is a state of tranquillity among the population concerned. Such a state of tranquillity is particularly essential in East Africa at this moment—on the one hand for the consolidation of the Government Protectorate; and, on the other hand, for the commencement of the works on the Uganda Railway. At such a moment we could not afford to alienate the principal Arab chieftains and tribes from our side. Any sudden step would have shaken their confidence in our administration, and would have sent large numbers of this population over to the rebel side. If we had acted with indiscriminate haste, what was a small, although a serious, political revolution might very easily have swollen into a very formidable religious war. That was the view that was pressed upon us by the British Agent at Zanzibar. It was the view held by every British officer, so far as we know, in the Service. It was the view taken by the missionaries, whose righteous interest in this question cannot be doubted. It was the view taken by the Protectorate, Council of East Africa, and by others. It will also be clear to hon. Members that no decisive step of the character spoken of could be taken except in the presence of Her Majesty's Agent and Consul General at Zanzibar. We could not take it either while he is away in the interior, or while a deputy is acting on his behalf. Owing to the movement of which I have spoken, Mr. Harding has been for two or three months almost entirely on the mainland. He is only just about to return to Zanzibar. He proposes to come to this country, to enjoy what I think is a very well-earned holiday, in about two months from now, and we propose to take advantage of his presence here to consult with him as to the final measures that we intend to adopt, which measures will be put into execution when he returns there in the autumn. This is a course of action which, I have explained to the Committee, has been dictated to us by political and other exigencies which we could not foresee, but I venture to submit that no other course was possible. No Government, however strong an impulse it receives from this House, or however upright and honourable the motives by which it is actuated, has any right to trifle with the feelings and sentiments of native populations. Our duty in taking over the Protectorate in East Africa was to pacify the people, to win their confidence, to allay their suspicions, to familiarise them with our good intentions, and in no degree rashly to irritate or to alarm them. Steps, which may be possible and easy six or 12 months hence, would not only have been difficult but dangerous now, and I submit that the Government had no right in their desire to redress an admitted wrong to run the risk of creating a political revolution. The hon. Gentleman who moved the reduction spoke with great frankness about difficulties which, as he well knows, stand in the way of carrying out this Resolution. During the past six months it has been my duty very carefully to study the ins and the outs of this question. It is not, as hon. Gentlemen are aware, a question of great simplicity, but, on the contrary, the more you examine it the more complicated and difficult it proves to be. It is a question which, if at all rashly handled, might lead us to consequences which hon. Gentlemen most interested would be the last to desire. The Committee must remember that in carrying out this proposal you have against you the whole weight of the traditions and the religious sentiment of the native peoples; you have to deal with a Government and with Courts that are the Government and the Courts of a Mahomedan country. You have an absolute consensus of opinion on the part of every English authority, including the missionaries, on the spot, that any too sudden announcement might be attended with dangerous consequences, and when the step is taken, as we hope it shortly will be, you will have to accompany it by certain measures to prevent the occurrence of an immediate social and economic disorganisation. If one result more than another of taking the contemplated step can certainly be foretold, it is that a large number of slaves, enamoured with the fascinations of an idleness they have never hitherto enjoyed, will desert the plantations and flock into the towns, picking up there what small jobs they can to save them from starvation. That might constitute a positive risk to the peace and order of the towns, to meet which steps would have to be taken. But you might have even more alarming consequences on the plantations themselves. We have a recent report from Mr. Hardinge, in which he points out that one consequence of the great and increasing difficulty in procuring slaves, because of the vigour of the search which our men-of-war have carried on, is that a large number of plantations in Pemba are falling out of cultivation. If by the contemplated legislation you were still further to diminish that labour supply, if you were to cut it down by, as you might, 50 or 60 per cent., you might involve a large number of people in immediate financial ruin. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution suggested the introduction of free labour to take the place of slave labour. The Committee will remember that free labour, paid labour, is not indigenous to the place—it is an exotic, it would have to be imported, it would have to be carefully tended and watered to enable it to grow. The hon. Member seems to think that by a stroke of the pen you can import Indian coolies into Zanzibar to take the place of slave labour. I find that under existing regulations the Indian Government not only have it not in their power, but they would be most reluctant to allow Indian coolies to serve under Arab employers. But even if this difficulty were overcome, you have all the questions arising out of the hiring of coolies, of their transportation, of the organisation of free labour, of the condition of the buildings in which they are to live, of medical supervision, and of hospitals for their careful tending. You have to see whether the employers could employ the men and pay them their wages. There will be the further danger that the large number of slaves who will take advantage of the abolition of the legal status may constitute a great temptation to the slave-owners on the mainland, and, whereas it has hitherto been attempted, and with very remarkable success, to stop the importation of slaves from the mainland to the island, you may have a serious reflux in the opposite direction—from the islands to the mainland. Again, the bulk of the planters are unfortunately in the hands of usurers, who act in the most extortionate manner. The majority of the estates are heavily mortgaged, and, supposing you diminish the labour supply in the way I have been speaking of, you would have these usurers in many cases foreclosing on the estates, and exacting, so far as they could, the utmost farthing. I submit we have no right to hand over a class, many of whom are exercising a legal right, to absolute ruin. Suggestions have been made—such as the institution of land banks or the creation of some sort of loan to tide over the difficulty—to bridge the interval between the first somewhat sharp consequences and the final settlement of the new order of things. Furthermore, when you carry out these proposals you will have to take steps with regard to the tribunals. Unless your new legislation is to be a dead letter from the day that it is proclaimed, you will have to constitute new tribunals to administer the new law. My hon. Friend mentioned the case of Egypt. It is known that in Egypt a large number of slaves have taken out manumission papers and procured their freedom; and in Egypt the institution of homes into which slaves can go when they leave their masters, and stay till they get employment elsewhere, has been a great success. I think that at Zanzibar it might be very desirable to set up similar homes. All these points which I have endeavoured briefly to put before the Committee are points which must be met. They cannot be discussed at the end of a telegraph wire. We cannot get replies to Dispatches in less than six weeks, and I do not think that the position which I have indicated to the Committee will be in reality disappointing to hon. Members. They do not want any sudden action, which might set back this movement for years. I hope in these few words I have clearly explained to the Committee the position of the Government. We do not depart from the assurances we have given. We repeat and renew those assurances. We have been prevented up to this moment by circumstances which we could not foresee from carrying them out. There remain a number of questions of practical importance, but Mr. Harding will be in London in June, when we hope to arrive at a decision as to the actual methods by which the new system can be put into operation and carried out when he returns to Zanzibar. ["Hear, hear!"]

SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)

There are difficulties of two kinds which are now and always will be inseparable in dealing with this question. They are difficulties which always have to be faced whenever this question of slavery is dealt with. The right hon. Gentleman has faced those difficulties with that decision which he always has at his command; but at the same time, with all respect to him, I must remind him that the point reached last March was this. The difficulties were admitted they were known to exist. The Government of the day had promised that these difficulties should be overcome, and they were going to find a way to overcome them. ["Hear, hear!"] It must be a little disappointing to have these difficulties stated all over again, and to find that, as far as the information given to the Committee is concerned, we have advanced no further than a year ago. I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that the last time I stated those difficulties the Government received no quarter whatever from his friends. [Cheers.] I remember the expression from one Member opposite that our policy was sufficient to make the bones of Wilber force turn in his grave, and in particular the present Secretary for the Colonies was very hostile. Our position was this. We stated that the difficulties were great, but they must come to an end. I stated, on behalf of the Government, that until we received the Report which we were expecting we were entitled to plead for a little delay. The Secretary for the Colonies would not allow that, and he appealed to the House to decide whether or not slavery ought to go on in these islands. Now the present Government has received that Report. It has been in their possession ever since they have been in office, and now they come down to the House and, I suppose, ask my hon. Friend to withdraw his Motion. That must be most disappointing to many Members of the Committee, and I fear my right hon. Friend in his speech has been somewhat unconscious of the disappointment which must inevitably follow. I come next to the difficulty which has arisen from the conflict which has been going on in East Africa. That trouble had not arisen in our time. ["Hear, hear!"] The argument hitherto has been, as regards postponing these measures for the abolition of the legal status of slavery, the fear of disturbing the peace. Now we are told that steps cannot be taken because peace has already been disturbed. Undoubtedly you are running the risk of disturbances, and I think my right hon. Friend might have stated to-night that the Government was going to make a settlement of this question, and that a termination of this state of slavery must be a part of the settlement which must be come to at the end of these disputes. ["Hear, hear!"] Once before the demand was made, but there was not force enough to deal with it. Now there is force enough, and what I should like my right hon. Friend to assure the House is that, having got his force there, it is the intention of the Government to abolish the legal status of slavery in the islands, and that the extra force will not be withdrawn until that object has been carried out. [Cheers.] That certainly would be a step forward. It has been suggested that there may be financial grounds—that there may be economic disturbances—and that there is likely to be a Vote in this House to compensate for the loss of revenue which might be caused by the abolition of slavery. I think it is a little disappointing that no calculation has been made as regards that question. As to whether a Vote will eventually be required or not we might have been told. I think there is no doubt that such a Vote would receive the support of the Committee, in the confident hope that something was going to be done. There is one further question I should like to raise in connection with this question of slavery and the Foreign Office policy, and that is the subject of the Madagascar Treaty—our Treaty rights in Madagascar. I do not know whether the Committee have followed this matter of our rights with regard to France. They were expressly reserved in August, 1890. These Treaty rights have been used, not only not to give annoyance to France; we have stretched a point to prevent giving them annoyance. We have given up the right of searching for slaves in the territorial waters of Madagascar. But we have received no reciprocity with regard to the view of other Powers. We want to know how our Treaty rights in Madagascar are likely to stand in the course of the next few years. There have been rumours that, owing to the changes to be made by the French Protectorate, those Treaty rights are to be denounced, and great apprehensions of danger have been entertained. Under the Declaration of 1890 those Treaty rights were expressly guaranteed when the Protectorate of France over Madagascar was recognised; that Declaration has at different times been the subject of much criticism, partly by supporters of Lord Salisbury himself, on the ground that it was a bargain which was not favourable enough to British interests. I do not think I have ever taken part in that criticism, but, undoubtedly, if we are presently to be told that one of the inevitable and ultimate consequences of those Declarations exchanged in 1890 is that our Treaty rights in Madagascar are going to disappear altogether, and that we are going to lose that most-favoured nation treatment which we have now under our present Treaty rights, then the policy of the Declarations which were then exchanged will become the subject of very serious criticism. ["Hear, hear!"] It will be a very serious thing if we are to lose the most-favoured nation position as regards our commerce in Madagascar. The other day I pressed my right hon. Friend to give some definite assurance to the House that those Treaty rights would be maintained, and he then stated that it would be premature at present to make any statement on that subject—a statement which cannot have given great confidence to the commercial bodies who are anxiously watching the question.


The hon. Baronet is hardly fair to me——


I will confine myself to the fact that the statement which the right hon. Gentleman then made cannot have given confidence to commercial circles. I am using that argument, not necessarily to show that it was possible for my right hon. Friend to make a statement at that time, but as a justification for again bringing up the question and pressing him to give an assurance on this point as soon as possible. I hope that, having been told that it was premature then to make a statement, we shall not presently be told that it is too late to maintain our Treaty rights. Although I could understand that until my right hon. Friend has received the views and intentions of the French Government with regard to these Treaty rights, it might be premature to make a complete statement, still, I should have thought he might have said a little more as to what are the views of the British Government on the subject of our own Treaty rights. ["Hear, hear!"] If he cannot now make a complete statement, I ask him whether he cannot state the view of the British Government with regard to the maintenance of these Treaty rights, or, at least, give some assurance that that view has been made known to the French Government, and that Her Majesty's Government have made them fully aware of the importance which we attach to the provisions of our Treaty rights in Madagascar. I think that is not an unfair question to ask, because the question of whether the French Protectorate over Madagascar was to be modified or not is not one which has arisen in the course of the last few days, but was very much discussed in the autumn, when the change in the French Government was taking place—I think in November. The fact that there was possibly going to be a change in the French Protectorate over Madagascar has been known to the whole world for many months, and has been discussed in Paris, I believe, from the point of view of the effect which it was likely to have on the Treaties of other Powers. That is why I ask for the best and fullest answer upon those points.


said, he had always taken the strongest views on this Zanzibar question. He hoped no harm would accrue to British trade from what was passing in Madagascar. The interests of the United States were the same as our own, and the United States Government had declared that they would not recognise any such change as that which was in contemplation by France. He had no doubt that we should be able to agree with them on that point. All these Agreements which were entered into from time to time were full of pitfalls for the Government, and the Agreement in regard to Tunis was an even more important case than that of Madagascar. He would try and bring the Debate back to the particular question of Zanzibar slavery, which was more immediately before the Committee. He had himself, without much support, brought this matter before the House each year on the Foreign Office Vote, until last year, when his hon. Friend for the Tyneside Division raised the question on the Supplementary Estimate. The promise that was on that occasion made by the then Government, however, was much stronger than any promises which had been made that evening. ["Hear, hear!"] The late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs then said that this thing must be put an end to. He thought the late Government were to blame for allowing the matter to continue so long as they did, but they took note of their statement then, and, such as it was, it was a very strong and definite statement. That night the Under Secretary of State undoubtedly suggested that there must be new legislation; but he did not tell them that that new legislation was to mean the abolition of slavery. Not only was the time postponed, therefore, but the thing itself was far less definitely stated than it was in March last. The right hon. Member said that all the great authorities were in favour of extreme caution on this point, but there was no authority of greater weight than Sir John Kirk, and he thought the very strong opinion of Captain Lugard, although that was an outside opinion, was well worthy or consideration. In the Malay Protectorate they had had the same difficulties as they had had in Zanzibar; there was there a fanatical Mohammedan population, and Mohammedan landowners owning plantation slaves, and carrying on slavery by the same means. There had been risings in the Malay Peninsula when it was proposed to abolish slavery there, the same as there had been in Zanzibar. Slavery had, nevertheless, been abolished throughout the whole of the Peninsula, and yet none of the consequences that had been prophesied had followed upon that abolition. Exactly the same fears were entertained from the abolition of slavery in the Malay Peninsula as were now entertained with regard to the abolition of slavery in Zanzibar. The fears, however, were not fulfilled, and such risings as did occur were very easily put down and it was well known how nourishing the Malay Peninsula was at the present time. It was said that the industries of the Peninsula could not be carried on with free labour, but the result had been to give a most remarkable instance of the advantages which flowed from British rule. It had been said on behalf of the Government that if we were to abolish slavery in Zanzibar we must make a complete change, in all the Departments of State there, and it was asserted that it would be necessary to establish new courts and other executive and administrative Departments. In his view all these military Protectorates ought to be placed under the control of the Colonial Office instead of the Foreign Office. These so-called Protectorates were in reality colonies. Great confusion arose in consequence of the present system, because Zanzibar, which was under the control of the Foreign Office, was more an integral portion of the British Empire than many of the so-called Protectorates which were under the control of the Colonial Office. We should never see the abolition of slavery carried out in Zanzibar until the control of that colony was taken over by the Colonial Office from the Foreign Office. He believed that it might be safely said that slavery was recognised in the courts, which were really British courts. The slaves were, in fact, British subjects, who were brought from territories which were under the British Protectorate and who were subject to a horrible system of cruelty, and this system of slavery was recognised by the British courts there. He repeated that it was a fatal error that the Foreign Office should be allowed to administer colonies of this kind, and to keep up slavery. It was said that if disturbances continued on the mainland it would be impossible to abolish slavery at present. According to the inconvenient mode of procedure in Committee of Supply, it was impossible for hon. Members to discuss matters on a particular Vote that were closely connected with it. For instance, he could draw arguments from the total concealment by the Foreign Office in the Niger case, as to the manner in which they recognised slavery in Zanzibar. The House was not as full as it had been on the occasion when this subject was brought forward under the late Government. Perhaps that was because, on the previous occasion Parties were more evenly balanced, and the transfer of some 10 or a dozen votes from one side of the House to the other might have meant the upsetting of the Government. On that occasion many hon. Members who now sat opposite, had rejected the plea of the then Government for delay, but they now appeared to have forgotten the course they then took. He, however, had taken up his position then regardless of Party, and he did so on the present occasion. Perhaps, even now, before the Debate closed the Government might give the House a definite statement with regard to the new legislation which had been referred to. Did the Government mean that they intended to follow in the course which the late Government proposed to take and to abolish the legal status of slavery in Zanzibar? If they intended to take that course they should say so. It appeared, however, from what had fallen from the Government that night, that instead of making progress in relation to this subject we had rather receded from the position we had formerly occupied with regard to it.

On the return of the CHAIRMAN after the usual interval,

MR. J. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)

said, the difficulties in connection with the abolition of slavery in Pemba and Zanzibar had been before the world for a long time. Now, what they wanted to know was, how those difficulties could be overcome. He contended, in spite of what had been said by the hon. Baronet who preceded him, that there had been some advance since a year ago. It was then said that the legal status of slavery ought to be abolished. Now it was said that when Mr. Hardinge came home next autumn slavery would be abolished. Attempts had been made to put down slavery by precautions at sea. These were entirely futile, for the reason to which the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had alluded—namely, the jealousy the French had of any interference with their flag. This prevented the possibility of our work at sea being effective. The question of compensation was one which, on the Ministerial side of the House, certainly in the Debate that had been alluded to, they pledged themselves as willing to meet. But it should be borne in mind that compensation was a small matter, because it had been shown over and over again, that the percentage of legally held slaves was so very small that he did not think any one would propose to compensate the owners of any except those held under the old decrees, and they numbered five, six, or seven thousand. Another difficulty raised, and which carried most weight with many in the House, was how the supply of labour would be obtained if the legal status of slavery or slavery itself, was abolished. There was a difference of opinion as to the likelihood of freed slaves working. Last autumn there was a letter in The Times, understood to be from an authority on this matter, who gave a case in point. On the mainland, he said, opposite Zanzibar, and 50 miles distant, there existed a colony of 300 liberated slaves. They had diligently devoted themselves to the cultivation of the soil; their plantations extended over miles of ground, they were living in happiness and plenty, and showed themselves wonderfully ready to combine for good work. The writer added that his primary object was not to display the success of a piece of missionary effort, but to show that the freed slave had it in him, when he had a chance, to become a useful member of society. From the hon. Member's own knowledge native tribes could be induced to work steadily and hard, and other tribes in the neighbourhood would furnish navvies ready to work under proper treatment and a moderate amount of pay. In regard to the question of labour, there was one special point—the nature of the industry upon which, in Zanzibar and Pemba, slaves were employed—namely, the clove plantations. This differed from other forms of industry, because these plantations supplied four-fifths of the whole quantity of cloves that the world produced. The consumption of cloves was not indefinite, and any limitation in the supply of cloves raised the price at once proportionately, or even more. If there was a Cecil Rhodes to take charge of the products of the clove plantations, by limiting the quantity of cloves the price could be kept up, and the whole value of the crop and the revenue of the colony derived from an ad valorem duty on cloves could be made even more considerable than if they increased the product. This was the view the late Sir Gerald Portal took in his Report of a year ago. The market was overstocked with cloves. High prices led to a great increase in the supply of doves, which led to a more than proportionate drop in the price. He was convinced that the fear in regard to labour was exaggerated. In the first place he had tried to show that freed slaves or other natives wore willing to work when they saw the prospect of getting a fair wage. In the second place, it was apparent that natives could not be induced to go into these islands so long as there was a danger of finding themselves again reduced to slavery. So long as the legal status of slavery existed in the island a man was afraid to go, even with the prospect of work, because he knew he might again become a slave. But if the legal status of slavery was abolished that fear would go, and natives would be attracted from the mainland who could be trusted to take care of themselves and who would come and go freely according to the demand of the market In that way he believed the labour difficulty would be found to vanish. He was glad the Under Secretary was prepared to fix a date at which the legal status of slavery would come to an end. ["No, no!"] He was only stating what he inferred from the Speech of the right hon. Gentleman; and to that inference he understood the right hon. Gentleman to give his assent. Therefore, he hoped that in a few months the system of slavery in these islands would come to an end.

MR. THOMAS BAYLEY (Derbyshire, Chesterfield)

said, he must express his disappointment, which would be shared by many people, with the statement the Under Secretary had made. The facts as stated by Mr. Hardinge did not quite agree with some of the statements the right hon. Gentleman had made. According to the figures supplied by Mr. Hardinge, the total number of slaves in Zanzibar and Pemba was 140,000, and he said that, as the result of certain considerations which he stated, of these 140,000 not more than from 5 to 10 per cent. were persons who were lawfully held in slavery. So that the great Question they were discussing was whether, in the two islands where we had absolute control, we should give freedom to 140,000 slaves. For ten or fifteen years the Governments of this country had been discussing on what terms and conditions this number of slaves should be emancipated, and this was the whole question before the House. There were difficulties in the way and successive Governments had dwelt upon these difficulties. The Under Secretary had warned the Committee of the danger of acting in an impulsive manner, and of incurring the necessity of having to resort to physical force to suppress a native rising. But upon this point again he quoted Mr. Hardinge, who expressed an opinion that the landing of a force of some 300 or 400 blue jackets and marines would effectually suppress any outburst of popular discontent that might arise upon the status of slavery being abolished in the islands. At the present time the strength of the Navy in Zanzibar waters was amply sufficient to supply such a force. A very serious charge he had to make against a British subject in a responsible official position, was that he, an administrator responsible to the Crown and to Parliament, had illegally, contrary to Common Law, acknowledged and recognised the status of slavery within Her Majesty's dominions. Upon this point he had on several occasions put questions to the Government, and never had he received a satisfactory reply. He noted, however, that the replies were always very carefully worded, and never acknowledged that a legal status of slavery existed within Her Majesty's dominions. But, however, in Mr. Hardinge's official Report there were passages plainly showing that the allegation was well founded. Mr. Hardinge referred to the grounds upon which slaves were now freed by the Sultan and by himself, plainly showing that he had the power of giving or withholding freedom, and that in fact he administered a law which acknowledged the legal status of slavery. Reporting what he did when a case of cruelty to a slave was brought before him, Mr. Hardinge said, "I either free him myself"—thus acknowledging that he had the power—"or if he belongs to the mainland I send him to the Sultan;" in other words, he sent him to slavery. There were societies who would, he hoped, take up this matter; and when Mr. Hardinge returned to this country he would like to see a prosecution instituted against him at Bow Street for the contravention of the Common Law. Surely this question of freeing the slaves in Zanzibar, which, as had been shown, was really of small dimensions, was ripe, and more than ripe, for settlement, and when the facts were really known the strong and determined feeling in the country would insist that representatives of Her Majesty in all parts of the Empire should wash their hands finally of any connection with or recognition of the status of slavery. Let the Government fix a date declaring that after that date slavery in Zanzibar shall cease, and Parliament would support them in carrying out a Measure for that purpose. ["Hear, hear!"]


My intention was not to glorify myself at the expense of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. My complaint was that the right hon. Gentleman had not taken the matter further.

CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E.R., Holdeness)

said the hon. Baronet had himself said three years ago that he was going to solve the difficulty, but he had gone out of office and the difficulty still remained. It seemed to him that the Foreign Office were too much apt to indulge in finesse in these questions. They were very properly anxious to look as far ahead as they could; they did not want to take any action until they saw their way clear; but there were times when the best policy was to do that which was immediately before one, and trust to the future to bring a solution of the problem that might arise hereafter. He thought the question was a simple question. If the abolition of the legal status of slavery were declared, it did not seem to him that there would be a necessity to take the steps to enforce it which the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had indicated. The new condition of things would gradually grow into the customs of the people. He did not apprehend any difficulty in regard to labour. He rather thought that when the serfs were freed in Russia in 1863 the immediate difficulty as to labour was got over by committing the serfs to the owners for a certain period under certain advantages to the serfs; and though he did not think the case of Russia strictly analogous, he thought it showed that there would not be that complete absence of labour which some people feared if the legal status of slavery were abolished. He hoped he was right in interpreting the speech of the Under Secretary to mean that immediate steps would be taken for the abolition of the legal status of slavery. He thought that after the frequent votes of the House of Commons on this subject, and the sentiments that had been expressed, with general concurrence by both sides of the House, it was discreditable that this country—which had led the way in the abolition of slavery everywhere its influence was felt—should still, in fact if not in theory, allow the disgrace of slavery to exist under the British flag.


thought he had made the position of the Government perfectly clear. He had begun his speech by stating that the assurance which was given on the part of the late Government in March of last year that early steps would be taken for the abolition of the legal status of slavery in Zanzibar and Pemba had been repeated by the present Leader of the House last August, and that by that assurance the present Government still stood. He had also given the reasons why they had not yet been able to carry out that assurance. They wanted first to compose the difficulties with which they had been confronted in those territories, and they were, he was glad to say, in a fair way of doing it. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division had said the Government ought to make the abolition of the legal status of slavery part of the settlement of the dispute. They did not think it would be a wise thing to go, so to speak, with their troops in one hand and their proclamation in the other. They preferred to pacify the districts first, and then, when the districts were pacified, proceed to the completion of their policy. It had been asked what sum the Government might have to pay the Zanzibar Government. How could they put forward an estimate of what they would have to pay until they knew whether the Zanzibar Government had experienced a loss? That was a matter of dispute. Some authorities contended there would be a serious loss of revenue; other authorities denied it. The hon. Baronet also said the Government had been doing nothing during the last six months. The Government said the legal abolition of slavery was going to end. [Ironical laughter.] He had even indicated the time in which it would end, and therefore he could not understand the meaning of that laugh.


Every Government for the last ten or fifteen years has said that this state of things was going to be ended. The last Government said it would be ended immediately, and the present Government have taken six months before they have even indicated their policy. ["Hear, hear!"]


The hon. Gentleman must not judge of our virtues by the vices of the Party opposite. [Laughter.] The charge had been made against Mr. Harding, the British Agent, that in some cases he had handed natives back to slavery. That was not the case. Mr. Harding handed the natives over to the Sultan because they were subjects of the Sultan, but he handed them over to make them free. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean seemed to think it was desirable that our Protectorates in Africa should be given over to the control of the Colonial Office. But it must be remembered that many of these Protectorates were still in an inchoate condition. Their boundaries were not determined; questions arose concerning them which brought us into contact with foreign Powers; and these questions could only be dealt with, and must be dealt with, by the Foreign Office. ["Hear, hear!"] He quite believed there was something in the argument that the Foreign Office had too much to do; and when those Protectorates had had their boundaries fixed and determined, it might well be that some portion of the burden could be handed to other Departments of the State. But the moment for that change had not yet arrived. The question of Madagascar was of extreme importance. The hon. Member who raised the question asked what were the views of the British Government. Those views must necessarily be determined by the attitude of the French Government itself, of which Her Majesty's Government had not yet been informed. A treaty of Protectorate was imposed upon Madagascar by the French forces under General Duchesne. That treaty had been since supplemented if not superseded by another declaration of the Queen of Madagascar. Since then a statement had been made by the French Foreign Minister to the French Chamber—a statement which, if correctly reported, was of the most serious character. That statement contained the announcement that a notification of the attitude taken up by the French Government was about to be sent to the Powers. It would be improper for any representative of Her Majesty's Government in the House of Commons to announce what the Government's action would be until that notification had been received. At the present time Her Majesty's Government knew no more of what the French Government intended than was in the newspapers. As soon as they heard they would take the proper steps to defend British interests; Her Majesty's Government were thoroughly conscious of what those interests were. They were perfectly aware of the clause in the Zanzibar Treaty of 1890; of the statement made by M. de Freycinet in 1885, when the Protectorate of Madagascar was first taken over by France; and of the statement made by the present Foreign Minister of France, as late as November 27 last, that:— We have no need to declare that we shall respect the engagements which we have contracted with certain foreign Powers. On the one hand the British Government had what they conceived to be British Treaty rights; and on the other hand they had a statement made in the French Chamber, unverified and un-reported to Her Majesty's Government, but accompanied by the assurance that a notification would be sent to the Powers. Until that notification was received Her Majesty's Government could take no steps; but the House might rest assured that what the Government held to be British Treaty rights would be efficiently guarded. ["Hear, hear!"]


said, one or two words which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman called for some reply. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the vices and broken pledges of the late Government in relation to slavery in Zanzibar. The pledge of the late Government was given about the month of March in last year. It was to the effect that slavery must come to an end; but the precise steps to be taken were not then announced, but were promised as soon as Mr. Harding's Report had been received That Report was received in June, very shortly before the Government resigned. The present Government had been in possession of that Report for a far longer time than the late Government were in possession of it; and the present Under Secretary had repeated the same general pledge which the late Government gave. But, in spite of having been in possession of the Report so long, the right hon. Gentleman had not announced the precise steps that would be taken. There never was an occasion when there was less justification for using words such as the right hon. Gentleman had permitted himself to use about his predecessors. [Cheers.]


pointed out that it was by agreement between both sides of the House that the discussion should terminate at midnight. There was a discussion to be raised on Siam, and on a question interesting to the Welsh Members, and, as his right hon. Friend had repeated the pledges already given, the Committee might now come to a decision on the question by dividing or by accepting the assurances of the Government.


said, that the whole question was when the promised abolition of slavery was to be carried out. Would the right hon. Gentleman name a date in August or September next when slavery in Zanzibar should come to an end? If he could do so it would give general satisfaction. There was nothing in what the right hon. Gentleman had as yet said which would prevent him telling the House next year that the determination of the Government remained the same, but that difficulties had occurred to delay its being carried out.


It would be unwise to name a day, or even a month. But I am quite willing to give an assurance that our representative at Zanzibar will, in fact, put the decision of the Government into operation.

MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)

hoped that the back of the Government would be as stiff as possible in regard to Madagascar. The interests of many of his constituents were threatened by the position which the French Government seemed to be taking up. M. Berthelot had made a declaration as to the imposition of tariffs, which was of most serious interest for British merchants.


said, that he should like to withdraw his Amendment if he correctly understood the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to mean that Mr. Harding would go back to Zanzibar in the autumn with instructions to carry out immediately the abolition of the legal status of slavery.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.