HC Deb 28 January 1897 vol 45 cc678-9

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether Prempeh, late King of Ashanti, has memorialised the Colonial Office, asking for the carrying out of promises made to him by British officers previous to the late expedition to Kumassi, to the effect that if no resistance was offered the matter would be settled amicably; whether Prempeh gave assurances that he would make full submission and accept the British terms, and pay the indemnity demanded of him in due course, if a reasonable time were allowed; whether any resistance whatever was offered to the advance of the British troops by Prempeh or his chiefs, who had made proclamation throughout the King's territory that all weapons should be removed to the interior, and that no opposition should be offered to the expedition; will he explain why, after these assurances, the King was deposed and made prisoner along with several of his chiefs, and the British soldiers who had been permitted to march without resistance to Kumassi afterwards looted the King's house and dug up the graves of dead chiefs in search of treasure; and, whether he will lay a copy of Prempeh's petition upon the Table of the House?


A petition signed by Prempeh has been received, but the statements contained in it materially misrepresent the facts. In December 1895 and January 1896, while the expedition was on its way to Kumassi, the Governor of the Gold Coast sent messages requiring Prempeh to make full submission and to pay the cost of the expedition; no promise, however, was then made by Prempeh to pay this indemnity, and no reliance can be placed on the statement made in his petition that he would pay it if a reasonable time were allowed. No resistance was offered at Kumassi, but the Governor received no message reporting the removal of all weapons. Sir W. Maxwell reported, however, that in October 1895, messengers from Kumassi arrived in Samory's camp who invited him to help Prempeh "to recover all countries from the coast to Gaman which formerly belonged to Ashanti." I dare say the hon. Member knows that Samory is a powerful chief who has been slave-raiding in the Hinterland. On December 25th, the King of Bekwai informed us that although he had pressed Prempeh to comply with the demands of the British Government the latter had refused, and the reports from other chiefs proved the constant aim of Prempeh to have been the re-establishment of the old limits of Ashanti with its necessary consequences of slave-raiding and human sacrifices. The deportation of Prempeh was under the circumstances necessary, and without it the expedition could not have realised the objects for which it was intended. The articles found in the King's house were taken possession of by the officer commanding the expeditionary force, and have been fully described and accounted for. Further papers relating to the affairs of Ashanti will be laid before Parliament, and Prempeh's petition will be included.


May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has received newspapers from the Gold Coast written by Englishmen confirming all the statements made in the petition?


No, Sir; but even if I had, I should not take ex parte and anonymous statements as being evidence against the statement of the Governor. [Cheers.]