§ *MR. J. A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)
It is somewhat humiliating to be compelled by the situation in the Zanzibar Protectorate to once again draw the attention of the House to the position of affairs on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, and on the mainland, within the Zanzibar Protectorate. It will be in the recollection of the House that last year a Decree was passed, upon which the Government relied to secure the abolition of slavery on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, and when the House reflects that that Decree was not the production of English officials, and that it was left to be carried out by the very officials at Zanzibar who had constantly reported against the abolition of slavery, it will not be surprised to find that the Decree has become practically a dead letter, in so far as the abolition of slaves on these two islands is concerned. I should be quite willing to admit, Sir, that the position of the slave population on the islands has been improved in consequence of this Decree. It is very obvious that certain direct and indirect benefits have been secured for them, and that Arab masters have been compelled in self-defence to show some consideration towards their slaves, and to treat them in a more humane manner than they did prior to the promulgation of the Decree. But the fact remains that the majority of the labouring population on these islands and under our British flag remain in bondage. It was on the 24th June last year that the First Lord of the Treasury pledged the Government to carry out on the mainland of the East Coast Protectorate what they were in the process of carrying out on the islands. But, so far as I can gather, in the interval between the 24th June and the present time no steps whatever have been taken to secure the abolition of slavery on the mainland portion of the Zanzibar Protectorate. In the island of Zanzibar I am told 20 slaves have been liberated. The number has perhaps been increased recently, and I hope the Under Secretary will give us 294 some information on that subject, for I am aware that our information is not very recent. In a letter which Bishop Tucker wrote to The Times newspaper, and which was published on the 26th January, there is a paragraph which says that there is no visible difference in the status of the slaves since the issue of the proclamation. Then, in regard to Pemba, we have the admission of the Vice-Consul there that on the 30th September only about 20 slaves had been liberated in consequence of the Decree of April 6th, on which the Government relied to secure the abolition of slavery in that island. So far as I know, very few slaves have since September obtained their liberation in consequence of the Decree—very few indeed out of the 60,000 or 70,000 that have been kept in bondage in that island. What is the reason put forward to justify that position? The Vice-Consul. Dr. Sullivan, says that the slaves themselves have no conception of the fact that they can obtain their freedom by simply asking for it. Surely, that is a reflection on the Government of the day, if the slaves themselves have not been made aware of the effect of the Decree passed last April. Now, I understand that the Decree was published on the island, not in Swahili, the only language which the slaves understand, but in Arabic. Still, Dr. Sullivan contradicts himself, for in another paragraph in his report he says that the slaves are gradually beginning to acquire some knowledge of what the Decree really means. We have, however, some further light on the matter, for Bishop Tucker, on December 30th, states that five slaves recently escaped from the island of Pemba to the mainland at the risk of their lives, and they testified to a general knowledge of the Decree on the part of the slaves, but to an equally general fear of the consequences of making any attempt to claim their freedom. But that is not to be surprised at, bearing in mind the procedure which it is necessary for a slave to go through before he can obtain his freedom. These are the steps that have to be taken. First, the slave must go before the Wali, an Arab official associated with prisons, shackles, and floggings. Then he is asked why he wants to become a free man, and whether he has any complaint to bring forward 295 against the master who possessed him. Next he has to tell when and where he became a slave, and has to allow himself to be examined. His description, height, colour, age, tribe, and length of arm, as well as any marks on his body, are taken note of. Then it is necessary for him to be conveyed from Pemba to Zanzibar, a proceeding looked upon more in the light of transportation than anything else; and as soon as he gets there he is again examined, and valued as a chattel, and not until all that is done is he presented with his paper of freedom. I hold that it is a disgrace to the British race, that it should be necessary thus to present a slave with papers of freedom. His liberty ought to be his inalienable right. We complain, too, that the law is being administered by a Wali official instead of by an English official, and that it is being administered as a permissive act contrary to the intention of Parliament, to British traditions, and to the spirit of the Brussels Act. It will be no credit to the Foreign Office if it proposes to shelter itself under the excuse that the administration of the law is under the Sultan's Government, and not under the British Government, for every Member of the House knows that any influence brought to bear by our Government, or any advice given, has to be accepted by the Sultan of Zanzibar. As an illustration of the administration of the law as it now exists, I should like to read an extract from a letter by Mr. Burtt, written last September, which says:Last week I visited the prison here, and found three female slaves heavily ironed. The Wali committed them to prison for seven days, with shackles on their legs, for refusing to work for their master. When asked if this was not contrary to the law, he said he knew it was, and then remarked, 'But then, the women don't know that they can be free.' He promised that they should be set at liberty at once, but when next I inquired, they were still in prison.That is merely one of many instances I could give the House of the way in which the law is administered by these Mahomedans. I submit nothing will be satisfactory except placing the administration of this law in the hands of British officials. The next point I wish to refer to is the clause in the Decree of the 6th April, which precludes concubines from obtaining their freedom. It is very diffi- 296 cult to ascertain the exact proportion of women to men on the island. I am told that in the island the proportion of women to men is probably about four or five to one, and it must be obvious to every Member of this House that the Arab slave-owner, when he knows these female slaves can be exempted from the operation of the Decree, has every direct encouragement to pursue his vile purpose of seducing the women in order that he may retain them in a position of slavery. Such a proceeding is differentiating between men and women to an extent not based on either moral or just grounds, and I do not think the Government will feel inclined this evening to justify such a distinction being made between the sexes. Sir J. Kirk, whose great authority is acknowledged at the Foreign Office, states—I object to female slaves being exempted and left in slavery, and I do not consider any practical difficulty would have arisen had the law been made of universal application.Then I want to turn to another point—the question of compensation. The Government have with some ground stated that the circumstances in the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar are somewhat different to cases where no compensation has been given. In the Decree the Government have undertaken to compensate all slave-owners who can prove that they have a legal right to the possession of their slaves, and the ground on which that decision is based is, I believe, that in the Decree of 1890 there were words which prevented any child born in slavery upon these two islands from being retained in slavery. Otherwise the status of the slave would remain unchanged, according to another provision in the Decree. Now, it seems to me that the Government have introduced into the clause the words "for ever." This country has secured from time to time the alteration of these Decrees, and the Decree of 1890 was altered only 19 days after it had been passed, with a view to making the position of the slaves rather worse. There were two provisions to which the Arabs took exception. One was the giving slaves the right to purchase their freedom, and the other telling the Arab masters that they must not ill-treat their slaves. Nineteen days later another Decree was passed, although it was not published in this country for many months, in which power 297 was given to punish slaves who ran away, and to refuse to accept money offered by a slave who wished to purchase his freedom, if the master desired not to take it. Therefore, we may take it that these Decrees are not permanent, and that there is no obligation on the Government to decline to alter the Decree of 1890. They can, if they deem it necessary, do away with compensation. I do not approve of the principle of compensation. I have to acknowledge the fact that the Government have instituted the system of compensation upon these two islands, but I say that the British taxpayers will probably be called upon to pay the compensation, and, as they naturally would like to know the extent of their liability, the Government should name a day upon which the right to compensation should cease to obtain. It would be most unsatisfactory to allow the charges for compensation to go dribbling on for a term of years; therefore, I would suggest the Government should fix a day by which the Arab owner must make his claim, so that the British taxpayer may know the exact amount he will be called upon to pay in compensation for the liberation of these legally-held slaves. I think I ought to allude to the way in which this money is concealed from the knowledge of this House. While this country is liable to pay any deficit that occurs in the Zanzibar revenue, the item is concealed from the House, as it is an item of the Zanzibar Exchequer account, and this House has no cognizance of the amount which will be paid for the purpose of compensation, in 1893 Mr. Rennell Rodd, in a despatch sent to Lord Rosebery, said it was his firm conviction that it would be difficult to adopt energetic measures on the islands without a similar enforcement on the mainland. He says—The link is too strong for differential treatment to be possible. The Arabs of the capital are so many of them holders of property on the mainland, and the old institutions of the Sultanate have been preserved in great measure on the coast, that portion administered by the Company being in fact still an integral part of the Sultan's dominions.Mr. Rennell Rodd was, perhaps, not altogether inclined to interfere with slavery in the same way some of us in England thought necessary. He submitted that the mainland question ought to 298 be settled at the same time as it was in the islands, and inasmuch as the mainland is governed directly by the Foreign Office, without any buffer between them, as was the case in the islands, it was quite as necessary for the Government to stop slavery. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, in March, 1895, said it was quite time slavery came to an end. The First Lord of the Treasury, since this present Government came into power, said—Any steps that can be reasonably asked of us we shall be willing and glad to take.We are asking to-night that reasonable steps shall be taken by the Government, and we ask that, first of all, on the mainland the slaves should be free, that it should be unnecessary that they should run out of our country into a foreign country, in order to come back and then be free. Under the law, as it was stated last Session by the Attorney-General, it was admitted that if a slave leaves the mainland, and goes out of that district, and comes back again, he can claim his freedom, as no British subject has the right to detain a fugitive slave. It ought not to be necessary to have recourse to that system in order to obtain freedom. The second thing we ask is a proper time limit, after which no compensation shall be paid; we ask also that freedom shall be given to all women, and that the administration of the emancipation law shall be placed in the hands of British officials and without delay. We think those demands are reasonable, and we think the time is opportune for another forward step to be taken by the Government. We hope the Government is now prepared to take steps which will, once for all, wipe out a stain and a blot upon the national honour of our country.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY
My hon. Friend who has brought this matter before the House, asks the House to express its regret that no efficient action has yet been taken for the abolition of slavery in the British Possessions or Protectorates in East Africa and Zanzibar. I feel that that regret will be shared not only by myself, but also by my hon. Friends as well. There is but one object: at the earliest possible time, and in the most practical way, to secure the abolition of 299 slavery. The attention of the country has been very much drawn to this question by the letter written about two weeks ago by Bishop Tucker, who, by his self-sacrificing conduct and devotion in the cause of Christianity and freedom, has made this cause of the abolition of slavery particularly his own. Certainly, there is a most deplorable condition of things in this Protectorate at the present time. He does not look with any favour on the so-called emancipation; he calls it rather a degree not of emancipation, but rather of slavery. It certainly was not the intention of the proclamation that it should have this distinctly retrograde tendency. Bishop Tucker is very much afraid lest a similar measure should be adopted in the East African Protectorate. He is in favour of a very strong Forward policy; he says the time is come for a very complete and full abolition, while there is a great demand for labour outside the slave trade, and he claims that no time is more opportune than the present. There are two ways—the slow way of Sir A. Hardinge and the more advanced one of Bishop Tucker. I am very glad to associate myself with my hon. Friend in this matter, because it is one on which the country is very sensitive. It is one to which this House is very distinctly pledged to go forward, and the feeling of the country is strong on this matter. Therefore, this matter must be very jealously watched, and every encouragement given to go forward and give help. For a moment I would ask the House to look a little more widely afield than this Protectorate. This country was bound to do what had to be done to put down the state of things in East Africa. In five years no less than 95,000 slaves had been exported to the coast of Arabia. Evidence was given before the Committee to inquire into the slave trade as to the awful state of desolation to which the interior of Africa was reduced by the raids upon peaceful villages, and it was calculated that for one slave probably five, or some thought ten, lives had been sacrificed through the cruelties inflicted upon them during the misery of a 500-mile journey. We may take great credit to ourselves for the efforts persistently made by this country, partly by the action of the police, and partly by colonisation and the taking up of 300 the interior of Africa. It is imperative that this infernal slave trade must end. Then through all that large district peace and quiet will reign, and the natives will be secure against slavery. But that is only a question of the slave trade. We may hope that very shortly, when the state of slavery is abolished, there will be no question of our spending large sums of money, and we should be able to draw our fleets from those shores. The question is rather a question of the abolition of the status of slavery. You must remember that, at all events, in the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, we hold the Protectorate, and in that Protectorate Mahomedan law prevails, and we are bound to recognize Mahomedan law. And that must be taken into consideration in dealing with this slave trade. We have a solemn responsibility. Mahomedan law, which recognises the mastery over slaves, and regards interference as unwarranted and sacrilegious, is enforced legally, and we are bound, to some extent, to respect it. But we have worked in the direction of freeing the slaves to a considerable extent, more especially by the Sultan's Proclamation of 1890, prohibiting the exchange, sale, or purchase of slaves, and declared the immediate liberation of slaves; and slaves who are ill-treated have the right to purchase their freedom. If that had been in force in these eight years, all who were slaves have the right to be free who were employed since 1893, and since 1890 have passed from father to son. This decree was acted upon by the British East Africa Company, and one-third of the slaves have been liberated under it. The view taken by Sir A. Hardinge is that slavery is a patriarchal institution, which would gradually disappear; it is the view generally held in America before "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was written. What I would like an explanation of is this. When the late Sultan died his slaves, who ought to have been free, were handed over to his successor. Then we come to this Decree of last April, and, after reading the report, I cannot but think that it was hardly treated. When you have this report from our responsible official, that the decree has acted beneficially, that it has effected a substitution of piece-work for undefined labour, that a slave can work for him- 301 self, that the owners no longer dare to ill-treat, and that the slaves are beginning to know that they can have protection, we must admit that the progress has not been rapid. But we are, at all events, on the right track in what we have done. We are bound to go forward. I say, again, our responsibility is great. This is a state of transition in Pemba, of which the Sultan has spoken, and cannot be regarded as final. Our responsibility for slavery is the same as if the country was our own. There is a strong national sentiment as to the incompatibility of slavery on British soil. That dictum we knew in the days of Mr. Wilberforce. It was laid down a hundred years ago. A still further step was taken in 1834, when slavery was abolished in the West Indies, and the inalienable right was established of everyone living on British soil to be free. We pride ourselves on that sentiment and that action, and we shall be satisfied if it is repeated in East Africa. We must be guided by commonsense and by prudence in the matter. We must remember the situation at the present time. We have read how Sir Henry Hardinge is at this moment on a great march for the relief of the garrison at Uganda, and when he returns I hope he will receive sufficient encouragement, and that sufficient pressure will be put upon him by my hon. Friend for us to see the freedom of every British subject brought about.
§ MR. BAYLEY (Chesterfield, Derbyshire)
We have a general statement from Bishop Tucker as to slavery in a country administered by the Foreign Office, and this House is responsible. He says that slavery is not only a legalised institution, but that it is bolstered up by an officer holding the Queen's Commission. We have the opinion of the Attorney-General, obtained at the end of last Session; we have the clear and definite opinion that it is illegal for a British subject to own a slave, and that it is illegal for a British subject in any part of Her Majesty's dominions to make a profit out of slaves. How much more illegal is it, then, for Her Majesty's Government sitting on the Bench to pay an officer who supports the system? I am glad that the 302 right hon. Gentleman cheers that statement, but we have this fact, that during the six months which have elapsed since the decree was promulgated, in Pemba only about 20 slaves have obtained their freedom. There is one ominous and peculiar sentence in a letter of Mr. Theodore Burtt, which says that there is a conspicuous scarcity of girls in the island of ages varying from 15 to 20 years, and yet there is an overwhelming majority of women in Pemba. What is becoming of these girls under the protection of the British flag, which is under the administration of the House of Commons? We are absolutely and entirely responsible. What has become of them? A statement has also been made in one of the Blue Books that there is a large trade to the north of Pemba. Is it not about time that we really dealt with the subject as it ought to be dealt with, firmly and determinedly? We hope that the Foreign Office will deal with it in the same determined way that the Colonial Office have dealt with the Western question, and then the whole question would be settled in a very short time. But can you settle a question like this when you have the gentlemen who have to administer this law by their own reports admitting that they are entirely out of sympathy with the administration of the law itself? That is the whole question. I have great pleasure in heartily supporting the Amendment.
§ MR. R. M'KENNA (Monmouth, N.)
I have no wish to charge the right hon. Gentleman opposite with personal inhumanity, nor to suggest that any British official is himself guilty of any desire to extend the evils of the slave trade, but we have a certain state of facts to deal with. Undoubtedly—I don't think the right hon. Gentleman will deny it—Sir Arthur Hardinge thinks that slavery in Zanzibar and Pemba is the best form of social organisation for the blacks. There cannot be a doubt that that is his view—provided the slaves are properly treated. Do the Foreign Office propose that slavery should be abolished gradually over a long period of years, as Sir Arthur Hardinge suggests, or that it should be abolished as the 303 Colonial Office have done it, in a single day, in West Africa? I think there are some very curious admissions on this point made by Mr. O'Sullivan in the recent despatch he has sent with regard to Pemba. In the first place, Mr. O'Sullivan describes himself, in carrying out the decree of April, simply as an amicus curiœ; he is not directly a party to the enforcement of the decree establishing freedom for the slaves. Then he tells us that the Arabs, on learning of the decree, heard of the terms with comparative relief, and he also tells us that a meeting of Arabs was called, in order to have the meaning of the decree explained to them. But, so far as one can learn, absolutely no step has been taken, or is likely to be taken, to inform the slaves that they will be freed. These unfortunate blacks in Pemba do not know that they are entitled to freedom. He then explains that, on the whole, the decree has been fairly well carried out, but he says that this has been owing, doubtless, to the knowledge of the Walis that their proceedings are in all cases carefully noted, and this has been the main factor in determining their course of action; that is to say that this gentleman, who is in the position of amicus curiœ, tells us that if by any chance he is withdrawn from his position as amicus curiœ, undoubtedly the Walis will not administer the decree in a satisfactory manner. Now, these are such very strong admissions that possibly the Government will be able to make some more definite statement as to their intention of carrying out the decree. Let me for a moment recall to the attention of the House what are, under the rules made under the decree, the necessary steps for a slave to go through before he can obtain his freedom—and it must be remembered that the slaves we are now speaking of are described as the most ignorant and stupid population in the world. First of all, the slave has to present himself before the Wali, whom he looks upon as his enemy. Then he has to make a statement in asking for his freedom, and to mention any complaints he has to make against his master, and when and where he became his slave. Now, these things are imposed upon the stupidest of human beings. Then the slave is sent from Pemba to Zanzibar. Then we are informed that the slaves in Pemba look 304 upon being sent to Zanzibar as a punishment of the greatest kind. At Zanzibar the slave is re-examined, and if everything is right so far he receives papers of freedom. What is the result? Only about 20 slaves have obtained their freedom under the decree within six months in the whole of the island. But there is another history attaching to these 20 slaves. I believe—though I cannot vouch for the figures—that more than half of these slaves, certainly a considerable fraction of them, obtained their freedom, not through the British Government at all, but by application through the French Consulate. A certain number of these slaves had gone through the formalities, as they thought, but on returning to Pemba there was found to be some informality in their papers and they were refused their freedom, and it was only on the application of the French Consulate that final freedom was given to them. I ask, is not the contrast between the action of the Colonial Office in this matter in West Africa and the Foreign Office in East Africa too marked for public opinion not to condemn the methods of the Foreign Office? I know that the right hon. Gentleman, if he were sitting on this side of the House, would make as eloquent a speech in favour of freedom of the slave as anybody could do on these Benches; it is only his position that makes him for a moment appear as inhumanly supporting slavery in Zanzibar and Pemba, and if he should be able during his present administration to secure final freedom for the slave, the country will hear a great deal about it. But, in the meanwhile, has he got any definite assurance to give us, who are deeply concerned in this matter, that the Government do intend to enforce upon their representatives the wishes of the House of Commons in this matter? I have no doubt, although the views of Sir Arthur Harding in the matter of slavery are such as I have described, that he is a zealous and honourable civil servant; and if he is assured by the right hon. Gentleman that the intention of the Foreign Office is that the slaves in Zanzibar and Pemba should be freed immediately, I have no doubt he will most zealously carry out their orders. The responsibility rests upon the Foreign Office, and they must 305 stand condemned or acquitted by the public opinion of this country, according to the manner in which they are prepared to deal with this great question.
§ SIR R. REID (Dumfries, Burghs)
want to try, in this extremely important matter, to bring to a point what I conceive to be the real difficulties with which we have to deal. The object of the Government and of Gentlemen on this side of the House was, as I understood it, that slavery should be put an end to. Now just let us see the way in which, in point of fact, slavery has been put an end to. I will deal with the island of Pemba first. It seems that, according to the information given by Mr. Farler, a complicated procedure has to take place, to which my hon. Friend referred when he opened this matter for the consideration of the House. In the first place, according to the statement of Mr. Farler, the wretched and miserable slaves, who naturally live in terror of the tribunal, before which they are dragged before they can become free, have to go before the Wali, who is the official in question, and give him full information as to why they wish to be freed. But why should they have to go before an official, and give reasons why they wish to be free? Then the next thing is that they must make an adequate complaint against their masters. How is that material? Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to us—I don't hold him responsible for it unless he allows it to be continued—how is it that they should first be compelled to mention any complaint they may have against their masters? Then another thing is, that they have to state when, how, and where they became his slaves. That, however, may be necessary for purposes of registration, and I don't make any complaint upon that point. Then all this is to be taken down for the information of the Wali. That may be perfectly right. Then it appears, after all that, the slave must be sent to Zanzibar, where he is again submitted to examination and valued for the benefit of his owner.
§ SIR R. REID
The right hon. Gentleman says that is not true. I am very 306 glad to hear that explicit statement from the right hon. Gentleman, because I think it conveys the impression that he does not approve of these things, which are stated upon very high authority to be true. Now if that is not true, of course. I have nothing to do but to turn to the Decree, for which I think the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge some degree of responsibility. Now I say that this Decree is almost as bad for all practical purposes as the particulars which I have been reading from, and which the right hon. Gentleman says are not correct. The object is that these men should become free men instead of slaves. I have a copy before me, and there is not a word in it stating that the slaves shall become free from its date. There are two articles of importance, Articles 2 and 5. By the second Article it is not said that a man may go to the court and demand that he should be declared not to be a slave and relieved from bondage, but in substance it is that where the master claims certain rights over the slave, the court should decline to enforce those rights. Is that a carrying out of any promise that there should be an abolition, or a substantial abolition, of the status of slavery in Zanzibar? Now the right hon. Gentleman and the Government may think that that is an effective method of extirpating slavery in Pemba, but the best proof that it is not an effective Measure, is that, according to Vice-Consul O'Sullivan, only 20 or 30 slaves have been restored to freedom during the six months following the publication of this Decree. And there is another thing to be pointed out, although I am not quite confident about it. I state it, however, upon the pretty good authority of my hon. Friend behind me, and it is that, practically, the Decree is unknown among the slaves. It is no use doing these things piecemeal. Either the thing is right or it is wrong; if it is wrong that you should take slavery under the British flag—and I think it is not only wrong but infamous—you ought to take the most simple and direct means of extirpating it. Let me pursue it further, because I should have thought that some sort of procedure would have been invented under this clause by which the slaves could have had the means of originating the proceedings themselves. 307 So much for the second article. I have only got one more article in this document to refer to, number five, which refers to the status of women, and I think it is a very remarkable article to have appeared under any Government in this country. Although I am not a purist in any particular sense, nor do I want to talk the language of Exeter Hall—for I don't much believe in the language of Exeter Hall—I think hon. Members will be rather shocked by what is contained in this Clause. The article simply amounts to this, that if a man has a dozen girls working in the fields, and who otherwise might be free, all he has to do is to turn them into his concubines, and he can keep them for the rest of their lives. (Mr. CURZON dissented.) Will the right hon. Gentleman distinguish between the consequences of this Clause and any suspicion he may have in his mind. I do not make any imputation of a motive, and I have not the least doubt that what is revolting to me and others is revolting to the right hon. Gentleman. That is the obvious effect of the Clause. These people don't want to part with their slaves; they are told that all they may do is to turn them into concubines, and they may keep them for the rest of their lives. I am perfectly certain that all gentlemen, who are men of the world and possess commonsense, will not dispute that. I am certain the right hon. Gentleman himself will not approve of it, and I don't think he will deny that that is the natural consequence and result of the Clause. Now, I want to say this for myself. As far as I am personally concerned, it is a simple matter, I know, but if the right hon. Gentleman and the Government will set to work to put an end to this abomination, I don't think any of us on this side of the House would object. I don't think we are unaware of the difficulties there are in dealing with a country of many centuries, or rather æons; we are not at all insensible to the difficulties which a civilising Power has to encounter when it goes to a country which is shrouded in a thick cloud of darkness. At the same time, is it a little money that is wanted? For my part, I would object to the money. But what is it that is wanted? It is nothing in the world but a firm determination to put an end to this 308 blackguard business—for it is a blackguard business—and to restore to these wretched people their freedom. These poor creatures probably do not know anything at all, and you have to tell them of their position. If the Government would do that, and approach the matter in the spirit which I have indicated, I don't think any difficulty would be experienced from any member of this House.
§ *MR. CURZON
The speeches which have been delivered by Gentlemen on both sides of the House, the moderation of which I desire to recognise, will give me the opportunity of removing many misapprehensions that appear to exist upon this matter. Hon. members have shown a greater moderation than has been exhibited by some of their clients in the newspapers. I have, of course, seen the letter of Bishop Tucker, to which my right hon. Friend, the Member for the Honiton Division, referred. I have read the series of letters from Mr. Burtt, the missionary in Pemba, and I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Chesterfield, when he said that those letters constituted a grave indictment of the honour of Her Majesty's Government, accusing, as they do, the Government of a reluctance or an inability to fulfil assurances that have been publicly made in this House. That is a definite challenge, and I am glad to have the opportunity of accepting it, and of refuting the evidence upon which it is based. The speeches to which the House has listened this evening, contain, in the first place, a general charge against the Government, and then a number of detailed and specific charges. The general charge is in this form, that the Decree of April, 1897, has been shown in operation to be a dead letter, that little or no effort is being made to carry it out, and the hon. Member for Chesterfield even went so far as to insinuate that British officials and Arab officials were acting together in a sort of conspiracy to defeat the ends of justice and to violate the pledges that have been given by the Government in this House. The words of Bishop Tucker have been quoted, and they are even more strong. He says that by the Decree of last year a cruel wrong was done to the servile population of Pemba, and that it has proved to be a Decree of enslavement 309 rather than of emancipation. Well, let us call to mind what this Decree was, and what were the assurances that were given with regard to it. The Decree was one for the abolition of the legal status of slavery in the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba—that is, for the abolition of the system under which the master of a slave enjoyed certain rights over the person and property of his slave under the Mahomedan law, supported by the Mahomedan courts of the country. We were asked to abolish that system, and to introduce into those islands the system which had been so successful in India in 1843, and I invite hon. Gentlemen, and especially my hon. Friend (Sir Robert Reid)—who, with his legal acumen, need not be reminded of the distinction I am about to draw—to remember that the abolition of the legal status of slavery is not the same thing as the abolition of slavery itself. If slavery itself is abolished every slave becomes ipso facto free from that moment; he is free to run away from his master or his service, and to do what he pleases; and in the islands of which I am speaking, had slavery itself been abolished, it would have been in the power of 140,000 persons out of a population of 220,000 at once to quit the service upon which they were engaged, and to sweep in a great wave of disorder across the surface of those two islands. But what does it mean when the legal status of slavery is abolished? It means that every slave is at liberty to go before a court established for that purpose, and to claim his freedom. All he has to do is to go before that court, prove his identity, claim the liberty to which he is entitled, and receive the papers which register that fact; and no court can, from the passing of the Decree, enforce any claims upon him by his former master. I venture to think my hon. Friend opposite has somewhat confused these two different things—the abolition of the legal status of slavery and the abolition of slavery itself. I would remind the House that it was the abolition of the legal status of slavery which was always demanded by the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. You may look back at their speeches, at the petitions of the Anti-Slavery Society, and at the addresses of the various missionary societies, and I defy you to find a single one in which it was not the aboli- 310 tion of the legal status of slavery which was asked for, and was promised by successive Governments in this House. And why did these societies and individuals ask for the abolition of the legal status of slavery, and why did the Government grant it? It was for the simple reason that all of us desired to effect a great social revolution with the minimum of social and economic disturbance. We wanted to strike off the shackles of these poor people, and at the same time not to ruin the industry of these islands; and, therefore, I venture to say that hon. Gentlemen opposite are not quite fair, or, at least, have not good memories, if they confuse these things, and now accuse the Government of having broken its pledges. At the present moment it is in the power of every slave—or every former slave, for no slave now in effect exists—in the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba to go and claim his freedom. A great many have done so—a great many more than hon. Gentlemen opposite have any idea of—but a great many have not done so; and why? Because their masters have wisely offered to substitute for the former conditions of their service new conditions, under which the same people can continue to work for them for a definite wage. The system of paid labour is everywhere in these islands replacing the system of forced labour; and there are, I assure the House, hundreds of slaves who, attached to the soil upon which they and their wives and families have lived for many years, satisfied with the new conditions of service under which they are now employed, have, instead of going to the courts to claim their freedom, settled down under the new conditions on the old spot. I venture to say that that is a state of affairs which ought to be encouraged rather than discouraged. Does anyone dispute that? Is there a man in this House who will contend that if these people are attached to the place where they have lived and worked, and if they are allowed to substitute free for servile labour, and to continue in the position of free men, instead of acting as slaves, that is a bad condition of things, and impediments ought to be put in the way of it?
§ *MR. CURZON
But the sources of information from which I speak to-night are really superior to those which can be in the possession of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The state of things in the islands is really such as I have described, and if that be the case I think both sides will agree that it is a state of things which ought to be encouraged. I turn to the particular charges which have been brought in this connection. The first charge is one of the greatest importance, and it is one to which I am very glad to have an opportunity of turning, because it has been the subject of great misconception. It is the charge about concubines. In the Decree which was issued last year, two paragraphs are found upon one point, as to which Her Majesty's Government entertained no doubt whatever—namely, as to the inexpediency and injustice of interfering with the family arrangements of the people. That Decree declared that so far from being attended with hardship or cause of complaint, the lot of the concubines who bore children, was not an irksome one, as they held a position scarcely inferior to that of a wife; and the Sultan was, therefore, to be assured that no interference was contemplated with the family rights to which so much value was attached. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries has said to-night that this was a provision at which every honest man ought to be shocked, and Bishop Tucker, in a letter to the Times, which has been quoted, called it "an iniquity beyond description." But at whose suggestion was it that we introduced this indescribable iniquity? It was by the advice of the representative of the Society, of which the spokesman in this House is the hon. Gentleman. He will not deny that three years ago the Anti-Slavery Society sent out to Zanzibar Mr. Donald Mackenzie, who came back and wrote a strong paper in favour of the abolition of the legal status of slavery, but who told Sir A. Hardinge that, in his opinion, concubinage, one of the most difficult factors of the slavery question, would have to be retained, even if slave labour was abolished, as it was so essential a feature of Arab domestic life, especially in that part of the Moslem world, that interference with it was practically impossible.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE
So far as I am aware, that opinion of Mr. Donald Mackenzie was never endorsed by any Society in this country, and I believe he came to the conclusion owing to the arguments of certain officials in Zanzibar, who were known to be against the abolition of slavery.
§ *MR. CURZON
But the question is, is it an honest opinion or not? And Mr. Donald Mackenzie's opinion does not stand alone. You will find in the same Blue Book the statements of two lady missionaries who may be presumed to have proper regard for the sacred interests of their sex. Miss Green writes—The effect on the slave women themselves of suddenly abolishing slavery would be disastrous, for though I am sure, some from affection, and some from family ties, would stay with their mistresses, the majority would leave them, and unless some great effort was made, immorality and sin would abound unlimited.I turn to the report of Mr. O'Sullivan, Vice-Consul in Pemba, who is a confirmed liberationist. He says:—It would be undesirable, I consider, to include concubines in any scheme of liberation which may be decided upon. I am confident that the Arabs would strenuously oppose and bitterly resent any interference with the inmates of their harems.Why were these persons excepted from the scope of the Decree? I know it is a delicate subject to speak on, and I hope I shall speak on it with respect, but I invite hon. Members to dissociate themselves from the ideas which ordinarily, in this House and in this country, connect themselves with this name. You must remember that we are dealing with a Mahomedan country, with Mahomedan institutions, and under Mahomedan law; and, as Mr. O'Sullivan says in respect of the island of Pemba, the condition of these women is very different from that of ordinary slaves. They are required only to perform the slightest domestic work; when they bear children they cease to be slaves and their children are legitimate. It is clear, therefore, that these persons, of whom I am speaking, are not slaves in the ordinary sense of the term, but are really wives in a country where polygamy is an institution; and I definitely assert it as my honest 313 opinion that if we had freed these persons we should have grossly and unnecessarily affronted the most deeply-rooted instincts of the Arab nature, and should have prepared for ourselves very serious social trouble. What is it that my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Dumfries, insinuates? He says that a man has merely to declare that any slave girl is a concubine, or to announce his intention to treat her as one, in order to be able to evade the Decree, and to retain her in slavery. No such thing has been done, I believe, or can be done—it would be a dishonest evasion of the Decree.
§ SIR. R. REID
Does any doubt exist that the fact that a woman is a concubine excludes her from the chance of liberation? You cannot ask what is the motive for putting her in that position.
§ *MR. CURZON
That is exactly what we do ask. The only persons to whom that part of the Decree applies are, if I may use the word, bonâ-fide concubines, who have acquired that status in the household of their masters, which cannot be claimed in favour of a slave who is only a potential concubine. Any woman treated as the hon. Gentleman suggests, would only have to go before the Court and state her case. Let me also point out that the section of which I am speaking, is but a small section of the entire community. Mr. O'Sullivan says there are only 2,000 concubines in Pemba. The whole of the rest of the female slave population of Zanzibar and Pemba are absolutely free, and have only got to claim their freedom in order to receive it to-morrow. That is a clear and definite statement, to which the Government adhere. I pass on to the more specific cases which have been brought before us.
§ MR. BAYLEY
I should like to ask whether the inhabitants of Pemba have to go to Zanzibar to claim their freedom?
§ *MR. CURZON
That is very important point, and I will come to it in a moment. I pass to the specific cases, which appear in the letters of Mr. Burtt. 314 The hon. Gentleman below the Gangway said there was no reason to disbelieve the evidence of Mr. Burtt. I shall show that there is absolutely no reason to believe it. Mr. Burtt is a missionary, who represents the Society of Friends on a plantation in the island of Pemba, and he has written a series of letters to the Times, which have been published, with sensational photographs, by the Anti-Slavery Society, and circulated throughout the country. He brings forward a number of cases in which he accuses the Wali of Pemba having failed—of having, indeed, refused—to carry out the terms of the Decree. When we saw those statements, which I think the hon. Gentleman opposite was kind enough to send to me at the Foreign Office, we at once sent out a copy of them to Sir Arthur Hardinge, at Zanzibar, and instructed him to make inquiry. He went to Pemba, and announced his intention of holding a Court of Inquiry. The Vali, who had been accused by Mr. Burtt, emphatically denied every accusation, and asked to be confronted with his accuser. Sir Arthur Hardinge then asked Mr. Burtt to attend. I may say it appeared Mr. Burtt was not acquainted with the language of the country, and had had to rely on an interpreter, who was imperfectly acquainted with English; but will it be believed that Mr. Burtt declined to produce the interpreter, and himself asked to be excused from attending the inquiry? Sir Arthur Hardinge pointed out the inferences which would naturally be drawn there and in this country from that conduct; but Mr. Burtt said he had supplied names and dates and places, and that was enough. However, Sir Arthur Hardinge determined, in spite of these discouraging circumstances, to investigate these charges, and did so. I will deal with two of them. One has been mentioned in this House to-night. The other has been mentioned by Bishop Tucker, and I will deal with the latter first, because it is the most aggravated. Mr. Burtt, in his letter, made this statement—Only a few days ago a case came under my notice in which a young female slave refused either to allow her master to seduce her or to be made one of his concubines, and terribly had the poor girl to suffer at his hands in consequence. Complaint was made to the Wali, but no redress was obtained, and I presume she has had to submit and suffer.315 And it is upon that statement, greedily accepted without any examination by Bishop Tucker, that he remarks:We learn with a shameful indifference that, under the shadow and shelter of the protection afforded by Great Britain, the charmed circle of womanly sanctity, which is every girl's birthright, is obliterated and trampled in the dust.This charge proved upon inquiry to be entirely false. The girl came before the Court. She testified that some time ago she had become the voluntary mistress of a man, and that he, loving her, wished to legalise his position with her under the Mahomedan law, by making her his concubine. She, not caring for him, declined, and appealed to the Wali for protection. The Wali gave it her and restored her to her mistress, since which she has not been interefered with. That is the extent to which the charmed circle of womanly sanctity has been trampled in the dust by the Arab and British authorities in Pemba. I take the second case, which has been mentioned in the House to-night. This is the statement of Mr. Burtt, which was read out by the hon. Gentleman opposite—Last week I visited the prison here, and found three female slaves heavily ironed, who stated that their master had not given them proper food, and when they asked to be allowed to go into the town and find work, and earn money for their food and for him, he refused, and ordered them to go to work on his shamba. This they declined to do, and came and complained to the Vali, who forthwith committed them to prison for seven days, with shackles on their legs, for refusing to work for their master. On the Wali being questioned as to the cause of their imprisonment, he admitted it was for the offence stated above; and, when asked if this was not contrary to the law, he said he knew it was, and then remarked, 'But, then, the women do not know that they can be free.' He promised, however, that they should be set at liberty at once, but when I next inquired, they were still in prison.I may say that these are the four women who figured in the photos in the leaflets issued by the hon. Gentleman, and disseminated for the information of the constituencies in the recent elections in this country. What are the facts about these women? Three of the four were slave girls who left their master, who, on his part, complained to the Wali. The 316 Wali said they could not be allowed to live upon the streets as they were then doing, and if in three days they did not find some occupation he would be obliged to shut them up as vagrants. They did not comply with the injunction, and, after the lapse of the three days, they were shut up for one week. At the end of that time they were let out, they have obtained employment, and they have not since been interfered with.
§ *MR. CURZON
I think it is quite possible, under the circumstances, but I do not see that that affects my point or weakens my case. It is a matter of prison regulations. Perhaps hon. Members know that such things as handcuffs are in use in this country.
§ *MR. CURZON
I do not desire to say anything offensive. I am quite ready to apologise. I did not mean to say anything in the least personal; I was only tempted to say what I did by the interruption of the hon. Gentleman. The fourth girl in the photo was not a slave girl at all, but was put into prison in connection with a case of assault and wounding. I have now dealt with two of the cases alleged by Mr. Burtt. I have here a list of each of the cases named by him in his letters to the Times, but I will not detain the House by further exposing their inaccuracy, and I will only say that we propose to lay the papers on the Table, and so put the whole evidence before the House of Commons. There is, however, one other point in connection with Mr. Burtt. He concluded with a general charge against the Arab officials, to the effect that they had never come to understand the first principles of justice, and had not the slightest desire to see justice done or freedom given; and when he was asked by Sir Arthur Hardinge, to whom this sweeping accusation applied, he had to admit that it applied to no one but the Wali, whose vindication I have already given to the House. I come now to the point which was raised by the hon. Member for Chesterfield, who 317 asked just now whether slaves in Pemba were not required to go to Zanzibar to claim their freedom. I think there has been some misconception on this point, even in the island itself, because there is evidence in these letters, that Mr. Farler, who was appointed to superintend the execution of the Degree, was of opinion that slaves in Pemba had to go to Zanzibar to get their freedom. I need hardly say that that was a complete illusion on his part; and, as far back as November, Sir Arthur Hardinge, in reply to Mr. Burtt, told him no such steps were necessary, and that any slave desiring freedom, could, either by himself or through application to Mr. Farler or Mr. O'Sullivan, or to any missionary, apply to the Court; that the Court had no authority to send him to Zanzibar, but that the case of his freedom must be settled at once upon the spot, and that he must, on complying with the necessary conditions, be provided with papers testifying to the fact.
§ MR. CURZON
Yes, there is a Court at Pemba which is specially instituted to give slaves their freedom without any reference to Zanzibar.
§ *MR. CURZON
So far as I know, the only conditions exacted, are the satisfactory establishment of the identity of the person, and that he or she is the slave of a particular master. I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman, however, that if the procedure has been accurately described by him, it is unnecessarily cumbrous, and needs simplifying; and I shall be prepared to write out, and ask that it shall be as much simplified and made as rapid as is possible. It has been my duty to dispel some of the fictions which have been circulated, not by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but by persons in the island, and I should now like to give the House what, we are informed, are the real facts of the case as regards the carrying out of the Derece. The hon. Member, who moved the 318 motion, said that only 20 slaves had been freed in Zanzibar.
§ *MR. CURZON
I am glad to hear the hon. Member say so, because as far back as July last—less than three months from the passing of the Decree—Sir Arthur Hardinge told us that 120 slaves had claimed their freedom, and he also said that the freed slaves, although willing to take work, were insubordinate and difficult to manage. On the 17th June Archdeacon Farler reported that the news of the Decree was spreading rapidly, and that the slaves were recognising their freedom, but were disobedient and independent. He said—When I first came here it was cruelty or beating, but the letter of His Highness the Sultan has almost put an end to cruelty, and the Walis deal now officially with all cases of grave offence on the part of slaves.On July 2nd, he wrote—The slaves are getting very independent and to know their rights, and refuse to work at all if they think the work is not fair. Sometimes, when angry, they will bring serious accusations against their masters, without a shadow of truth in them.He mentioned two cases in which the charges were proved to be quite false. Many of the slaves who applied for their freedom were given work for wages, but they soon proved to be hopelessly idle, transferred their services, and preferred to starve rather than work. On August 29th, Archdeacon Farler visited Weti. He says—We have visited Weti and inspected the prison, and made arrangements for new contracts between several parties of masters and their slaves.Then I turn to the report, which I need hardly quote, of Mr. O'Sullivan, lately presented to the House. From it the House will see that he speaks of the greatly improved conditon of the prisons, the re-organisation of the native police, and in it he also says that the importation of slaves has absolutely ceased. Well, Sir, that is, so far as the Government are acquainted with it, the real state of affairs in the island. I now come 319 to the question—how is it that so few slaves have so far been freed in Pemba? The hon. Member who moved the Amendment implied that under the Decree issued on the 6th April only 20 slaves in all had been freed in the island in sis months, and he seemed to assume that the whole of the rest of the working population had remained in slavery. That is not quite correct. If he will continue to read that passage in the report he would see that a very definite explanation, with which I need not trouble the House, is given as to the reasons why the slaves had been so slow in applying for their freedom. But there is a further reason, not there stated, which is worth mentioning, and that is that in Pemba it is not urban slavery but agricultural slavery, and the people on the island, who are satisfied with the condition in which they and their families have been accustomed to live, are content, as I have before remarked, to accept wages in place of the old slave labour, and to remain on the estates with which they have been connected. At the same time, we are most anxious to spread the knowledge of this Decree to every hut and hovel in those islands. I do not deny for a moment that every step ought to be taken, and we are most anxious to take every step, to spread this knowledge of the Decree. It is for that reason that we asked Archdeacon Farler, who is well known as a very strong advocate of liberation, to act on behalf of the Government, and to see that the Decree was properly carried out. In September last we sent special instructions to the Wall in Pemba directing them seriously to enforce the Decree. Sir, there are two other points raised by the hon. Gentleman, to which I must allude. One is the question of compensation. I will not argue the rights or wrongs of compensation now. The Government decided a year ago that they were bound by their word, and that has, I believe, been acquiesced in by the House. But the hon. Gentleman has asked me whether this was not involving great expense upon the British taxpayer. Well, we have no reason to suppose that any claim will be made upon the British taxpayer. The number of cases in which compensation has been demanded is very small, and is well within the competence of the Zanzibar administration to deal with. 320 As regards the question of a limit of time, I cannot see that that has anything to do with it, when the obligation is one of honour on our part, and if we had acted in the way that has been suggested we should, I think, have been giving away our own case. The other question to which I alluded was in regard to the mainland. Sir, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House last year gave a pledge that, at the earliest possible date the abolition of slavery would be carried out on the mainland also, but the conditions are not favourable at present for the carrying out of that task. In the first place, we must wait for the result of the experiment in the islands, from which we shall, no doubt, learn some useful lessons. Then there are one or two local conditions which have greatly disorganised the labour market on the mainland, and brought many of the landowners to the verge of ruin. One is the construction of the Mombasa railway, which has raised the price of labour; and another, the temptation held out by missionaries to induce slaves to run away from their masters, and to settle on the mission land. But there is a third reason, which is this: that, with a troublesome rising going on in East Africa in the interior, we have enough on our hands, and we do not want to precipitate trouble upon the coast. I think I have now answered the various criticisms and remarks that have been made by gentlemen opposite,, and I think I have said enough to show that, if upon the mainland we have not yet been able to carry out all that hon. Members opposite desire, yet the Government and the agents of the Government have endeavoured to honourably carry out their pledges, and I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will not be so unreasonable as to demand that the prescription which we adopted on their advice should be abandoned almost before it has been tried. The proclamation was only passed last year, and has not yet run for ten months, and in that short space of time you cannot eradicate all the social instincts and religious prejudices—because you must remember that slavery is a matter of religion to the Mahomedan—that have grown up in the mind's of these people in the course of centuries. You cannot take a national character into your hands and twist it and shape it as if it were 321 putty, and you must consider past history. We do—and I repeat the assurance I have given—we do want to make this abolition of the legal status of slavery not a dead letter but a living and enduring fact; we want the native courts to be genuine in the discharge of their responsibilities; and we want every freed slave to be turned not into an idle vagrant, but into a free labourer, working for a recognised wage. I hope I have made this clear to the House. I must be allowed before I sit down to repeat my apology for one hasty expression which I used in reply to an interruption from an hon. Gentleman opposite. May I say that if hon. Gentlemen opposite would give us a helping hand in this matter; if the Society which the hon. Gentleman so ably represents in this House, instead of rushing headlong into the Times newspaper whenever any sensational letter conies from a missionary at Pemba containing perfectly groundless and unsupported charges, would put themselves in correspondence with us, and endeavour to assist us in the honourable object we have both at heart; and if, instead of prejudging and denouncing the Government for every step taken, hon. Gentlemen would give us credit for a little of that honesty and sincerity which we are only too ready to believe they possess themselves, I believe that if they would only treat us in that way, we should, in a few years' time, settle this vexed question of slavery without detriment to the peace or prosperity of the islands.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT (Monmouth, W.)
The language used by the right hon. Gentleman at the beginning and end of his speech will not, I think, find sympathy in any part of this House. This is not a question which ought to excite Party feeling. The question of slavery has not, in these discussions, assumed a Party aspect, and no Party character attached to any single speech yet made in this Debate before the right hon. Gentleman rose. This is a matter upon which every person, I believe, in this House desires to obtain a satisfactory solution, but the right hon. Gentleman has made it the opportunity for an attack upon a man like Bishop Tucker.
§ MR. CURZON
I really must interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, though I do so most reluctantly. I repudiate absolutely having made any attack upon Bishop Tucker. All that I did was to show that Bishop Tucker had, in a letter in the Times, supported and repeated, without adequate examination, charges made by a missionary, which I have proved, in evidence, to be false.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
I express my own feeling on the subject. I say that the language used by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs about Bishop Tucker is, in my opinion, considering the influence, the most proper influence, which Bishop Tucker has in East Africa, most unfortunate, and I think it will have the effect——
§ MR. CURZON
Will the right hon. Gentleman quote my words. I am very sorry to persist in interrupting, but I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to do me a great injustice any more than I desire to do an injustice to Bishop Tucker. He has made a very serious charge against me. Will the right hon. Gentleman quote my words?
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
I cannot from memory quote your words, but they will be reported, no doubt, and then it will be seen whether or not the right hon. Gentleman did severely censure Bishop Tucker.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
Well, I say that was a most unfortunate course for the right hon. Gentleman to take on a question of this kind. I do not think Bishop Tucker deserves any censure. The only question we have to consider is really this. Are we doing all we ought to do, or all we can do, to put an end to the system of slavery in Pemba? That is the only question before us, and not any difference between the Under Secretary and Bishop Tucker or anybody else. That difference is really immaterial, and 323 I only mention it in order to protest against his being made the scapegoat in this discussion. This question of slavery in these countries has been for several years, and upon many occasions under discussion in the House of Commons. Now, the right hon. Gentleman has stated that nobody ever proposed the abolition of slavery. That is not so. My right hon. Friend behind me, who so persistently and ably brought this matter up for discussion in the House, most distinctly dealt with it upon that footing, advocating emancipation pure and simple. Upon a former occasion the present Colonial Secretary, totally dissatisfied with the statement of the Government of the day on this subject, came forward and said—Is it consistent with all we have done and said in the past, that what is practically the British flag should fly over slavery?That was said in 1895, and the only question we have now to ask ourselves in 1898 is—Is the British flag to continue to fly over slavery? That is a very plain and simple matter, and it has nothing to do with letters in the Times or anything else. The question is—Is the British flag flying over slavery today? That is a matter upon which the House can judge and upon which the Government can act. I, therefore, hope that without the least regard to Party, or the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman, the House will proceed to vote upon the immediate issue—whether or not, in their opinion, slavery ought to go on in those islands. That is a very definite issue. The question which the Colonial Secretary asked upon a former occasion, we ask now. He was dissatisfied with the course that was taken at that time, but the Government of which he is a Member are now responsible, and are they prepared to act upon the principle as stated by the Colonial Secretary? That is a definite matter upon which the House of Commons can pronounce an opinion. Well, now, Sir, as to these documents, these articles which have been drawn up. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken as if it was inconceivable that there should be abolition of slavery. I hold in my hand what professes to be a translation of the Decree. I don't know whether it is a mistake or not, but it professes to be a 324 document declaring what has been done in Zanzibar and in Pemba. Now, what is the heading? It is "The Abolition of Slavery in Zanzibar." That is the heading, and it professes to be an official translation of the Decree abolishing slavery, issued by the Sultan on the 8th of April.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
It may be that it is not part of the document; that it is no part of the Decree. Now, the Decree as I have got it here, professes to carry out what the Colonial Secretary calls "the abolition of slavery under the British flag." Let us see how it is done. It is done in this extraordinary way. First of all, all claims made, of whatever description, before any Court of public authority, with respect to the relations of master and slave, shall be referred to the District Court. Well, now, that Court, as I understand it, is administered by the Vali. I have nothing to say against the Vali, but I venture to think that if you want to put an end to slavery under the British flag you should have the authority of the British Government to do it, and you never will really accomplish the object which you aim at if you do not carry this thing out under British supervision. It is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, that the people are of the Mahommedan religion, and that they do not look upon slavery as a thing to be got rid of. It is the English belief and English faith alone that can do any thing in this matter to put an end to slavery. Therefore, if you are to do any thing at all, it ought to be done under British administration, whatever the machinery may be that you employ. When you come to consider that these ignorant slaves are to be themselves the promoters, and carry on as it were a litigation which is to end in their freedom, the thing, on the face of it, is doomed to be a failure. It cannot be otherwise. Then the right hon. Gentleman said—and I could not understand that part of his speech—that the slaves who were emancipated were "disobedient and independent." Well, it is very much the nature of a slave, when he is emancipated, 325 to be disobedient and independent. These men, the moment they are emancipated, would become independent. Do I understand that when they are free they are to be subjected, in the well-known phrase, to forced labour? Are these men, when their slavery has been abolished, in the words of the old Southern States of America, to be men "held to labour," because that was the euphemism for slavery. What is the meaning of denouncing these emancipated slaves? The right hon. Gentleman has described what bad fellows they were—that they were "disobedient and independent"——
§ MR. CURZON
They were really not my words; I was quoting from the letters of Archdeacon Farler, the representative of the Government in the Island of Pemba.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
Very well, then, I do not want the Government to be represented by men who say that slaves who are emancipated are "disobedient and independent." I strongly desire that the right hon. Gentleman shall instruct his agents in future not to be impatient of the independence of any emancipated slaves; and, at all events, if we gain that, it will have been something gained in this matter. Well, Sir, the question is: Is not the thing condemned by the fact that the number of these slaves is 200,000, and that they are to be emancipated at the rate of 40 per month? I want to know when this will end. I do not know whether the present Government will last until the final emancipation of 200,000 slaves at this rae of 40 per month, of these independent and disobedient men. We make no charge against the Government of desiring not to see the emancipation of the slaves; but we want to point out that the methods they are pursuing are not adequate. I have no doubt the Government desire, as any Government would desire, that slavery under the British flag should be abolished; but what we are contending for is, that the methods they are pursuing are not the proper methods, and are not adequate methods. Now, the extraordinary thing is that the right hon. Gentleman talks of the small number of 326 men in respect of whom compensation was paid. That is a very striking fact, because compensation is only claimed by those men who have owned slaves under the old law; but the great majority of these slaves have never been legally slaves at all, and that proves that the condition of things is that these were men who were illegally held in slavery altogether, and that there was no question of compensation at all. Then the right hon. Gentleman complains that the missionaries have been inducing slaves to run away from their masters. Why should they not be induced to run away? Has the right hon. Gentleman ever read "Uncle Tom's Cabin," or the history of the runaway slaves in the Southern States of America? These men were legally slaves, but when they are illegally, by the laws of the country, held in slavery, why should not the missionaries induce them to become free and independent men? But the right hon. Gentleman charges these missionaries with inducing the slaves to leave the condition of slavery in which they are. I cannot understand the observation made by the right hon. Gentleman upon this subject. He really seems to think that it is the duty of these illegal slaves to remain with their masters, and anybody who induces them to leave their masters is doing something which he ought not to do, and that the slave who frees himself is wrong in preferring liberty to slavery, and the company of the missionaries to that of the slave master. Then the right hon. Gentleman came to deal with the question of the article—that article with reference to the question of concubines, and he waxed very warm about the opinions and feelings of Mahomedans upon the subject. But I want to know, can you give any example of where you are setting to work to do away with slavery when you have made a similar condition? Now, the right hon. Gentleman gave his strong opinion upon the matter; but, Sir, the hon. Member who sits behind me has given his opinion, which I venture to say, with every respect to the right hon. Gentleman, is as good an opinion upon this subject as his; but he did not stop there. He gave us another opinion. If there is any man who is an authority in East Africa, it is Sir John Kirk. Any man who knows Africa 327 knows he is one of the best administrators in the country, and, now, let us see what Sir John Kirk says in a letter to my hon. Friend—I object to female slaves being exempted from the operation of the new law, and left in slavery. I do not consider that any practical difficulty would have arisen had the law been made of universal application.That is an absolute contradiction to the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, and a contradiction by the man who is most capable of giving the House an opinion upon the subject. I hope the Government will really alter that article, which makes this exception in the case of female slaves, an exception which Sir John Kirk thinks totally unnecessary. If that is so, I cannot think that the Government will have any desire to insist upon an article which certainly does not read pleasantly at first sight. Now, Sir, upon this whole matter let us see what it is that we ought to do in the House of Commons, without any party feeling or prejudice. Let us ask ourselves, are we going on with this work, which we all believe to be a necessary and honourable work, as fast as we ought and as effectually as we ought? I cannot help thinking that as this work was commenced to be undertaken in 1895, and this is the third year since it was undertaken, and last year—the Jubilee year of the Queen—the Proclamation was issued, it is a work which should be speedily accomplished. We are not getting on with it as we ought to do. Therefore, I do hope that we shall have an assurance from the Government that the methods by which the emancipation of slaves shall be effected, shall be more rapid, more reasonable, and more efficient; and that these roundabout methods of procedure shall no longer be insisted upon; above all, that the British authorities shall themselves undertake to see that the thing is done, that it shall not be left in the hands of Mahommedan administrators, but the Government shall make themselves directly cognizant and directly responsible for the carrying out of a work in the prosecution of which I believe both sides of the House are equally interested.
RIGHT HON. A. J. BALFOUR
I cannot ask the House to listen to me for more than a few minutes, and I should not have intervened in these pro- 328 ceedings to-night had it not been that it appears to me the right hon. Gentleman has implied a luke-warmness on our part in dealing with this question of slavery, which certainly we are not open to, and has implied a virtue on his part to which, I think, he has very little claim. The islands of Zanzibar and Pemba have now been under the dominant control of the Government of this country since, I think, the year 1891 or 1892. In the years which have elapsed since that period, the right hon. Gentleman has had a leading share of control in the policy of the country for a large portion of the time. Let anybody ask himself in what years, since 1890, most has been done towards the liberation of slaves in the islands? The Party to which I belong, both in Opposition and in Office, have shown a great desire to further the cause of freedom. The zeal of the right hon. Gentleman has been demonstrated in acts, and in words even, only since he went into Opposition. And for him to come down and lecture us, and pose as the great advocate of freedom as against the Party who sit on this side of the House, really is absolutely ludicrous in face of the undoubted historic facts which we all have at our command, and within our most recent memory. Do not let the right hon. Gentleman or his friends suppose that I think that they are less earnest than we are in the cause of the abolition of slavery. I make no such absurd charge. I know they are anxious to do it; but I think they will admit, on their side, that it is a little unreasonable to be so very much alive to the extreme difficulties of the problem while you are in office, and to see no difficulty at all in sweeping away the whole system at one stroke of the pen directly you get into Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman forgets that the steps we have taken, and which are now criticised by him and his friends, are steps taken, I was almost going to say, upon the very advice of those who now pose as our critics. We are told we ought to have done much more than abolish the legal status of slavery. Sir, to abolish more than the legal status of slavery would be to go against the advice of Bishop Tucker and other missionaries. And when the right hon. Gentleman quotes Bishop Tucker, as he 329 has a perfect right to do—the Bishop being a great authority on the subject—let him remember that in this case it is Bishop Tucker's advice we have taken. No doubt, one result of proceeding to deal with the problem of slavery, by abolishing the legal status, is that the actual process of liberation may be somewhat slower than it otherwise would be. That may be true, but the right hon. Gentleman has, in the first place, not ventured to say that the gradual process is less beneficial than the sudden process in such matters; and, in the second place, he has greatly exaggerated the slowness with which that beneficial process is being carried on. He quoted statistics, furnished by the hon. Gentleman behind him, and which at any rate I do not want, to the effect that only 40 slaves a month have appealed to the court for their freedom; and he bases upon that premise the erroneous conclusion that it is only 40 slaves a month who have obtained their freedom. There is no connection whatever between the premise and the conclusions. The slaves are widely acquainted—I hope they are universally acquainted—with the fact that the legal status of slavery is abolished, and that they can obtain their freedom. One of two courses is open to the slave. He may go to the court and take his freedom; or he may go to his master, and say—I have a right to my freedom. I am now a free man under the laws of the country. I am satisfied that I can leave your service, but I am prepared to work for you for a wage.And that is the process which has gone on to a much greater extent than the legal process, which the right hon. Gentleman erroneously thinks is the sole and only measure of the success of the action the Government has taken. Of course, we have no statistics as to the number of slaves who have made new conditions with their former masters, we have not the power to get or give them, but there seems every ground to believe that they are far in excess of the number of slaves who have found it necessary to go to the court. Every man in this House will admit that, of the two processes, the first is far the smoothest and most beneficial, and the one least likely to cause social revolution and difficulty. For the House must remember that, how- 330 ever desirable it may be to carry out such a change of the law as we are endeavouring to accomplish in Pemba and Zanzibar—and nobody can think it more desirable than I do—no such great social revolution can be carried out without much suffering. The result itself may, in the main, be beneficial—I believe that they are almost wholly beneficial—but the change itself in no country in the world has yet been carried out without a great deal of difficulty and friction, and evil—subsidiary evil, if you like, but still evil. If we can find a plan—as, I believe, under the advice of Bishop Tucker and his friends, the Anti-Slavery Society, we have done—of carrying out this great change without undue friction, we deserve, in my opinion, not blame, but credit for what we have done. The House may rest assured that the policy, so far from being inimical to the cause of freedom, is the very policy which is likely to place that cause on a solid and permanent basis. I do not know that I need deal with any of the subsidiary sarcasms of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman denounced Archdeacon Farler for having, in a report which my right hon. Friend read to the house, described the slaves, who claimed their freedom, as being disobedient and independent, and, indeed, as having all the other virtues of the present Liberal Party. But I think the right hon. Gentleman was unduly hard on us when he criticised us for appointing Archdeacon Farler as our assistant and adviser in the process of extinguishing slavery in Zanzibar and Pemba. He was appointed at the very request of the gentlemen who sit behind the right hon. Gentleman. He had been well known for many years for his strenuous and arduous work in the cause of liberation, and that cause had no firmer friend in East Africa, or elsewhere, than this gentleman now attacked by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It does appear to me that never was anybody worse situated for criticising us in this matter than the right hon. Gentleman. In office he did nothing, and when we come into office and try to do something he attacks us for not doing more; and then, when his indictment is closely examined, it turns out that the things for which we are chiefly attacked are the things which we have done at the instance and 331 by the advice of the Anti-Slavery Society, of which, in Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman is glad to make himself the spokesman. Under these circumstances, I hope the House will not agree to this Amendment. We are all at one in our earnest desire to carry out the policy to which both sides of the House have now committed themselves, and the House may rest assured that no measures will be left unattempted by us which may bring this great social reform to a successful issue, without carrying in its train more than the inevitable minimum of evil which any social revolution must necessarily carry with it.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
I should deplore if this subject were in any way to be treated as a Party question, because it is a matter that for many years past has been one of the utmost importance. Now, Mr. Speaker, the point that has been raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and by the Under Secretary, was practically that he did not propose to abolish slavery—that it was not possible at one fell swoop to liberate all the slaves at Zanzibar. But I think it is understood on both sides of the House—it certainly is on this side of the House—that, if it is to be abolished, it is not to be a dead letter, but that it was to be carried out at the earliest possible moment, and that it was to be carried out earnestly. I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman is somewhat sanguine as to the steps which have been taken towards the abolition of slavery in Zanzibar, and as to the likelihood of its being altogether abolished. The right hon. Gentleman said that a good many slaves were being liberated without the operation of the court, but simply went to their masters and claimed their freedom. But that is certainly contrary to the report of a gentleman who was sent out to inspect and report upon the subject, for he says that slaves were being retained as slaves who had no knowledge of the position—the legal position—in which they had been placed and they did not know that they could obtain their freedom. Could not the right hon. Gentleman take such steps as would bring the matter more to the knowledge of the slaves themselves, or do something more than has been done 332 at the present moment? We understand, from the official reports, that these proclamations have never been published except in Arabic. I certainly think, and others think, that the proclamations, should be published in the language of the slaves themselves, so that those who were able to read them should be in a position to explain their purport to their fellow-slaves. I am glad to hear that it is not a fact that these slaves, in order to obtain their freedom, have to go through all sorts of formalities, and that they have not to be sent in any case to Zanzibar. But it is a fact, as the right hon. Gentleman says, that they are sometimes sent from Pemba to Zanzibar in order to obtain their freedom. These slavery formalities will be in future, as far as possible, abolished, so that the slave will be able to obtain a summary freedom. And I should like to go further. I certainly consider, Mr. Speaker,—and I think there is a great deal of force in what I desire to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman—viz., that in every case where these demands for freedom are heard in the native courts, there ought to be some English representative present not only to give confidence to the slaves but also to see that justice is done. As regards the compensation which the right hon. Gentleman referred to, what we do think with regard to that matter is this—whether it would not be worth while to consider the advisability of stating that after a certain date no further compensation will be paid—in order to see whether, by adopting that course,, it will induce the masters of their own free will to bring the system of slavery to an end shortly themselves, in order to obtain that compensation which they will not otherwise obtain later on. Under present circumstances I think there can be no doubt that there is almost universal ignorance as to their proper legal status on the part of the male population themselves. There is, of course, a great deal of opposition on the part of the Arabs to allowing the meaning of the proclamations to be widely known, and consequently there are very many difficulties in the way of any person who desires to obtain his freedom. Something has been said with regard to the administration of these Acts. There is no doubt that the chief is a man of very 333 great ability—a man who has done more public service in the proposed abolition of slavery than anybody else—but we can hardly expect that he would be anxious to endeavour to carry out these proclamations as some impartial new man. And, Mr. Speaker, I am afraid that his opinions are well known to the Arabs of Zanzibar, and they consider that so long as he is there they need not themselves very much trouble about the abolition of slavery. We have had arguments so fully stated on both sides of this House with regard to this matter that I do not propose to carry it further, but what all of us do feel, and feel strongly, is that this matter has continued too long, and we do desire, by raising our voices in protest this evening, not in any way to say anything at all adverse to the Government, but to do that which the right hon. Gentleman wishes us to do, viz., to strengthen the hands of the Government in the work which they have undertaken, and I earnestly trust that this Debate will do something towards bringing about, the consummation we all desire, but I do regret that neither in the speech of the Under Secretary of State, nor in that of the First Lord of the Treasury, have we had any adequate promises with regard to this matter. It is a very lamentable thing on the part of my hon. Friend that he should have over and over again in this House to raise this vexed question, but the full justification for his action has been shown by the fact that whenever he has raised this question he has obtained satisfactory concessions from the Government of the day, and we are all at one in hoping that this Debate will lead to further concessions.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 120; Noes, 181.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ COLONEL SIR C. E. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
I rise to propose the Amendment which stands on the paper in my name. I regret that there is such a very short time to-night for the discussion of so complicated a subject. I will not detain the House 334 longer than I can possibly help, but the House will realise that a matter of this sort has necessarily to be stated somewhat fully. Sir, although I make reference in this Amendment to the West Indian colonies, it will not, I hope, be thought that I complain in any shape or form of the attention that has been given to those Colonies in the Speech from the Throne. Indeed, I think it is very doubtful indeed if the relief that is proposed does not come altogether too late. At all events, I am rejoiced by the recognition made by the Government that the position of affairs in the West Indies has beenArtificially stimulated by the system of bounties to the producers and manufacturers of beetroot sugar maintained in many European States.I notice that the Speech goes on to say:There are signs of a growing opinion in these states that this system is injurious to the general interests of their population.I think that that exactly indicates what is the result of Measures of that sort. The result has been that every year fresh duties and greater exactions in the way of Customs regulations against our trade have been made in every part of the world. I cannot, of course, anticipate the remedy which the Government propose as regards the West Indies. This, however, I may say at once, that the belief of the Chairman of the recent Royal Commission, that the only suit able remedy is by countervailing duties, is a belief that is shared almost unanimously by the people of the West Indies as expressed by mass meetings, the re ports of which have now come over from Barbados, Saint Christopher, and others of the West India Islands. As regards myself I can only say this, that I have received a positive mandate from my own constituents not to vote for any pecuniary aid for the West India Colonies unless steps are taken by the Government to get rid of these foreign bounties. But it is not only a question of the West Indies and of the sugar industry. The bounties have ruined the West Indies. They have compelled the Government to come forward to tax our already overtaxed people. The bounties have closed 335 more than half the sugar refineries which existed 15 years ago in this country; they have deprived thousands of employment and laid a large amount of capital idle. But this evil as regards the sugar industry is not half—is not indeed a tithe—of the injury which has been done to the staple trade of this country by foreign bounties and hostile tariffs, and other fiscal means. I am surprised that the colossal increase in the importation of foreign manufactured goods shown by the trade returns of last year, and the alarming decrease in the exports of British manufactured goods has not been referred to in Her Majesty's gracious Speech. Indeed, I may almost say that it would look as if the Board of Trade hardly existed at all. Everybody knows that my right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, is a very active and industrious man, and we all appreciate the great exertions that he made lately in endeavouring to arrange the lamentable dispute in the engineering trade; but I hope my right hon. Friend is not going to rest on his laurels, or to rest from his labours. The other day he gave a humorous extract from his diary. It ran, for last Saturday:—10.30. Went to Board of Trade; found nobody.12 noon. Went to Cabinet Council; did nothing.No one who knows the indefatigable zeal of the right hon. Gentleman and his unswerving devotion to his duties, would take this humorous diary too seriously, but, at any rate, it would seem to afford something like a ground for the exemption from the Queen's Speech of all matters relating to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. There is nothing about alien immigration, or the promised legislation on that subject, although the number of immigrants had increased to nearly 50,000 last year; and there is no reference to any trade or labour subject. It is true that last year we passed the Prison Goods Act, and since that Act has been placed on the Statute Book no complaints of the importation of prison goods have been received. At any rate, I have received none, and as before the Act was passed I had received very many, I think that is some evidence to 336 show that the measure has been extremely valuable. I may just say that Mr. Bateman, the new Comptroller-General of the Commercial and Statistical Department of the Board of Trade, under my right hon. Friend's direction, has made very considerable changes in the form in which the Trade and Navigation Returns are presented to this House; and I take the opportunity of thanking my right hon. Friend for his directions to Mr. Bateman in this connection. I do invite very seriously the attention of every hon. Member to the Trade Returns for last December. They are most clear, and they show a lamentable condition of things. They show that in 1897 the imports were nearly £10,000,000 more and the exports nearly £6,000,000 less than in 1896. They show an excess of imports over exports in 1897 of £157,000,000, while the exports of the United States exceed the imports by 356,000,000 dollars. They show that we exported £8,700,000 less of textile fabrics, and that we imported £85,000,000 worth of foreign manufactured articles—more than ever before, £14,000,000 worth of miscellaneous articles, and £1,000,000 worth by the Parcel Post. All these £100,000,000 worth of manufactured goods—ten times the importation of manufactures 40 years ago—could have been made in this country by British and Irish labour, instead of by foreign artisans, who thereby earned between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 in wages. I make no apology for continually bringing these matters before the House. It is what Central Sheffield has sent me here to do. These are matters that concern the very life of my constituents. They would be the very last to complain if their exports had received equal treatment at the hands of foreigners that we extend to the imports of foreign countries. In a fair field Sheffield can well hold its own. The right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean—who I observe have left the House directly a labour subject has come before it, although they were here five minutes ago—spoke on Tuesday with tears in their eyes at the effect which had been produced upon British trade by the state of affairs in Madagascar and Tunis. If the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, and the right 337 hon. Baronet who sits below the Gangway, are so sincere in their apprehensions as regards British trade, I am very much surprised that they are not here tonight and have not studied these Returns for themselves. It is no question whatever of Party; and if, when they spoke so vigorously the other night, it was not really the interests of British trade which animated them, but merely the desire to make some little hit against Lord Salisbury, I say it is a most unfortunate condition of affairs for the great industrial masses of this country. Everybody knows that Lord Salisbury takes a common-sense view of these matters, and he has repeatedly expressed himself in that direction, and, I believe, he would do all in his power to give British trade the full rights which, in common-sense, it ought to enjoy, but he fears—as I think, needlessly—to go in advance of public opinion. Already the Government has done much by last year shaking us free of those Commercial Treaties with Germany and France which so seriously handicapped us, and the result has shown that there was no ground for the fears that were expressed that a renunciation of that character would be adversely taken by the people of this country; on the contrary, there is a unanimous chorus of approval of the action taken by the the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Colonies. But there is much more than this to be done. I have here the Dingley Tariff of America, which was passed in July of last year, and which puts duties of 40 to 60 per cent. on one-third of what we sell to the Americans. Then there is the French Tariff, with its duties up to 50 per cent. on the goods they buy from us, as compared with the free market we give to four times the quantity of goods the French sell to us. And what, Sir, is the result of a state of affairs such as this? The result is that many firms—I may mention, for instance, Messrs. Oldham and Messrs. Priestley, and there are many others—have removed their plant and capital to France, and, while employing no British labour whatever, paying no contribution towards our taxation and duties, they command the British market just as easily as they did when they were established here, and, in addition, they command the 338 French market. There was a decrease last month in the exports of textile fabrics by half a million, a decrease of three and a quarter million pounds in the importation of raw materials for textile manufactures, a decrease of £500,000 in the exports of machinery and wearing apparel, while nearly £8,000,000 worth of foreign manufactures were imported to what Mr. Cobden declared was the workshop of the world. And so it was before he established free trade without reciprocity. I am sorry not to see the hon. Baronet the Member for Hallamshire in his place. He made a very notable declaration in the course of last year, and, as nobody will dispute his long commercial experience, I may quote what he said. He declared—That this country cannot support its present population unless we are able to maintain our export trade with foreign countries, and that we are gradually being beaten out of.But it is not a question of duties alone. There are, as everybody knows, who is engaged in the slightest degree with our export trade, harassing Customs exactions to which British goods are subjected by foreign States—Custom House detentions for paltry offences, fines for misdescriptions, misweights, and what not. Cases have been recently brought to my notice in which the French and Spanish Customs have persistently harassed goods from Sheffield by placing every kind of difficulty in the way. It is not only in regard to sugar that Germany and other countries give bounties, to our most grievous injury. The Merchandise Marks Committee of last year reported in these words—The Committee has had evidence of the increase of bounties and subsidies granted by foreign Governments to their national lines of shipping, expressly designed to foster foreign trade in national bottoms, and officially declared to have done so. Moreover, some foreign State railway administrations have adopted a system of reduced rates from inland ports to seaports, and for long distances, by which prejudice has been caused to British interests.The hon. Member for West Perthshire, President of the Shipping Exchange, gave evidenceThat in 1896 these subsidies amounted to about £45,000 in respect of the German East and South Africa lines alone, or about equal to their earnings.339 Even so as to German lines to India, Australia, and America, and to some of the French lines competing with us.But it is not only," said the hon. Member for West Perthshire to the Committee, "bounties which have to be considered, but the international wrong done by State railway aid in low through rates. They give a special rate of carriage of 10, 15, or 50 per cent. less than what is intended for British ships loading alongside them in the docks; and this enables them to ship hardware from the Continent at 19s. 6d. per ton less than from Sheffield or Birmingham or any British port.I submit, on the grounds I have briefly enumerated, that the artificial stimulus given to foreign competition with the staple trades of the United Kingdom by foreign tariffs, bounties, and other fiscal means, should receive quite as much or the attention of Her Majesty's Government as the state of things produced in the West Indies by similar means. The duties, bounties, and fiscal exactions which are raised against us in every port in Europe, and, indeed, throughout the world, are most hostile to the welfare and the well-being of the working masses of the country, and tend to increase the number of unemployed and the number of paupers. I have brought this matter before the House mainly in consequence of a recent public declaration of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that the policy of Her Majesty's Government is, first and foremost, the trade of the United Kingdom, the retention of what we have, and the taking steps to secure that by no means whatever shall other markets be closed against us, and monopolised by any other country to our prejudice. The House, I am sure, will recognize that I have put a complicated matter before them, in circumstances of some difficulty, and I apologize for having detained them at some length. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
§ *CAPTAIN R. G. W. CHALONER (Wilts., Westbury)
I think, Sir, the present is a particularly opportune moment for the consideration of the matters with which the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend deals, in that our memory is now fresh with the result of that terrible strike which has taken place in one of the great trades of this country; and, I think, if we consider the reasons of that strike, we shall find that they are closely 340 interwoven with the subject of this Amendment. Everyone knows that these strikes are brought about by the action of the Trades Union leaders, and I would venture to press this upon the Trades Union leaders of this country. The object of Trades Unions, I take it, is to protect labour from the tyranny of capital, and also to keep up, so far as they can, the wages earned by the labourers. But I venture to say that the efforts of these Trades Union leaders are entirely in the wrong direction. The reduction in wages that has been brought about is inevitable, for the simple reason that, owing to the competition from abroad, the employers of labour are obliged to reduce their working expenses, and one of the first of those expenses to be reduced is naturally one of the heaviest—namely, that of the price of labour. If, therefore, the labour leaders would turn their attention to endeavour to keep up prices, they would be benefiting the working classes, instead of running their heads against a brick wall as they have been doing. Foreign nations are now attacking us in every direction, not only in their own markets, but even in our own Colonies and Dependencies. What we have to consider is whether we intend to allow them to deprive us of our trade by means of tariffs, while we are unarmed, and, therefore, unable to compete with them, or whether we should not arm ourselves with the same weapons that they possess, and fight them on the same terms. I believe Ave are all in favour of Free Trade, but at present we do not possess real Free Trade; it is a one-sided sort of Free Trade, by which we suffer and foreign nations derive the benefit. On the other hand, if we could arm ourselves with the weapon of a tariff which would enable us to meet them on their own ground on level terms, the result would be that we should be able to get markets now closed to us open to our export trade, and in that way not only the whole trade of the country, but the working classes themselves would benefit. I will not detain the House at this late hour with any further observations, but for these reasons, and in the hope that, if no absolute action can be promised, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to assure us that this proposal will receive his sympathetic consideration, I beg to 341 second the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend.
And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the artificial stimulus given to foreign competition with me staple trades of the United Kingdom by foreign tariffs, bounties, and other fiscal means, should receive the attention of Your Majesty's Government simultaneously with the condition there brought about of certain of Your Majesty's West Indian Colonies, and particularly in the increase to £100,000,000 last year in the importations of foreign manufactures, and the decline of the exports of British and Irish produce, and the consequent displacement of labour" (Sir Howard Vincent).
§ Question, "That those words be there added," put, and negatived.
§ Main Question again proposed:—Debate arising.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
Sir, none can be surprised, knowing the views held by the hon. Member for Sheffield, that he should have taken the very earliest opportunity he could of bringing before the attention of the House the question of tariffs, in which we all know-he takes such an interest. He has gone over a vast number of extremely important points in connection with the subject, points involving a great mass of detail in an extremely short time, and we are all very much obliged to him for having concentrated his remarks in the brief way he has. I will endeavour to emulate my hon. Friend in the way of brevity in the remarks I have to make. Sir, my hon. Friend has raised the question of bounties, and on that point I am entirely in accord with him. As the House knows, we are engaged in negotiations for the purpose of endeavouring to bring together a Conference of Powers, in the hope that the Conference will result in the abolition of sugar bounties which have done so much harm to our West Indian Colonies. I am certainly not one of those who believe in the ultimate advantage of bounties even to the countries that grant them, and I do not think that any Member of the House, in whatever quarter of the House he sits, will be prepared to defend the system of bounties from any point of view I 342 believe the whole House would welcome the abolition of bounties if it could be brought about by some action of the Powers who give them. My hon. Friend has spoken of bounties in addition to those connected with the sugar industry. He referred to the Report of the Comittee on the Merchandise Marks Act as showing that bounties were given in increasing quantities to the shipping of foreign countries, and, I think, especially to German shipping. This kind of bounty is, of course, of a different order altogether to the sugar bounties of which we are endeavouring to get rid. These so-called bounties are given in the form of subsidies, and with regard to them it must be remembered that this country is not altogether free from the same kind of thing. They are subsidies given for the purpose of establishing quick communications by sea, and services are performed in return for the subsidies which are given. Whether these subsidies exceed the value of the services rendered or not is a question which it would hardly be possible to discuss with any hope of arriving at a satisfactory result. But whether that be so or not, if we were convinced that these subsidies were in excess of any services rendered, I would like my hon. Friend to point out any means by which we could stop them being given. He referred to another matter—namely, the Inland Railway charges in Germany and other countries, which undoubtedly do give to the lines of steamers belonging to those countries an advantage over those possessed by shippers in this country, and I think that, having regard to the fact that we in this country endeavour to secure that there shall be no preference whatever given to any person or body of persons in the matter of railway rates, we are entitled to make some representation on the same score when opportunity arises to foreign Governments. I may tell my hon. Friend that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in accordance with a suggestion made from the Board of Trade in connection with the new German tariff, is making a representation on the subject with a view to endeavouring to see whether Germany will not do as we do in this country, and place their Railway tariff in such a position as will secure that no parti- 343 cular body will have an advantage which is so injurious to our traders here. That representation will be made, and we hope that the German Government will see their way to meeting us in that matter. I hope my hon. Friend will be satisfied with my assurance that we are alive to the facts that he has put before us, and that we are doing what we can to endeavour to secure the advantages for which he seeks. My hon. Friend drew a rather melancholy picture of the position into which the country was getting in consequence of the duties and the tariff regulations of foreign countries, and he referred to the increase of our imports of manufactured goods and the decrease in our export trade. No doubt it is the fact that there has been an increase in the import of various manufactured articles, but not to such an extent as he imagines.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
My figures do not agree with those cited by the hon. Member. My information is that the hon. Member is not correct in giving one hundred millions as the increase. There is no doubt that the imports of manufactured articles have increased, but it must not be taken that the whole of these articles, although they are manufactured articles, are really altogether completely manufactured. A very large proportion of these articles are things which in effect form the raw material for manufacture in this country.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
They would not be properly classified under the head of raw material, but practically they are partially manufactured here, so that although they appear as foreign-manufactured articles, they are, in effect, raw material for manufacture in this country. It would be impossible at this hour of the night to enter into the economic argument with regard to this matter, but I will only say that while I regret to see our exports somewhat decreased this last year, the quantity of imported manufactured articles coming into this country does not alarm me. Indeed, so far from the country being in the melancholy state de- 344 scribed by the hon. Member, I do not believe that at any previous time this country has been in a more healthy condition. When my hon. Friend speaks of displacing our labour, I would remind him that the returns of the unemployed in the Trades Unions of the country up to the time when the unfortunate strike and dispute occurred was much less than had been the case for years past—very much less; and, further, the prosperity of the working classes of this country at the present time is shown by the very great increase that has taken place year by year in all the excisable articles of consumption, and so with regard to the savings banks deposits and other indications of prosperity. The condition of the working classes cannot be described otherwise than as one of prosperity—greater prosperity than in any previous period. Therefore, although the statistics that my hon. Friend has given may not be altogether satisfactory, they certainly do not show that the country is in an unhealthy condition. With regard to the decrease in the exports, the amount of decrease is not large; it is, I think, something like six millions, and that is quite sufficiently explained by the abnormal condition of things in several of our best markets. Take, for instance, the state of things in India. In consequence of the famine and pestilence which unfortunately visited that country last year, the exports have naturally fallen off considerably. So with regard to China. The state of China has been such that she has not had that buying power which she formerly possessed, and therefore a falling off in our exports to that country was perfectly natural. So with regard to the United States of America. The currency tariff troubles have had a very considerable effect upon our exports to the United States. There are other causes which I need not trouble the House with. We are sorry to say that the exports did go down last year, but the amount by which they have fallen is nothing to be alarmed at, and when we come to consider the dislocation of trade caused by that disastrous strike to which my hon. Friend the Seconder of the Amendment has referred, I do not think there is very much to be surprised at. My hon. Friend has made a few pertinent remarks in regard to that unhappy trade dispute. In my opinion, the barriers which are erected 345 against our trade in foreign countries, are nothing like the barriers which are erected often by ourselves. I hope that one good result of this unfortunate dispute will be to convince the working classes that the only method by which they can hope to encounter successfully the keen competition which faces them in every quarter of the globe is by endeavouring to work in harmony with their employers, and to turn out as much work in as little time as possible. I was informed by one who knew thoroughly well what he was speaking of in regard to this strike that if the freedom for which the masters contended, in the carrying on of their business, was secured by them, he hoped and believed that the cost of production in this country, in some of our great manufacturing trades, would be reduced by something like fifteen per cent. Well, Sir, if it be true that by our own trade troubles and disputes, by unduly insisting on certain conditions for the carrying on of work, we raise the cost of manufacturing operations in this country by ten or fifteen per cent., I say that we ourselves raise up a greater barrier against our export trade than any barrier raised by any foreign country. My hon. Friend seems to think that we should better gain entrance into foreign and neutral markets by adopting protective tariffs. My own view is exactly the contrary. I have yet to learn that a protective country can, as a consequence of protective tariff, produce articles for sale in neutral markets at less cost than we can. I have yet to learn that the fact of the manufacturer having to pay more for the machinery which he employs, more for much of the material that he uses, because of an import duty, will put him in a better position to compete against a country which has perfect free trade. I do not believe it is so for a moment. If we were to abandon the policy of free trade, which has done so much for this country, it would make our position, in competing with foreign countries, much more difficult than it is. Sir, my hon. Friend has a right to ask that we should use every endeavour to lessen the difficulties which face us; he has a right to ask that the Government should omit no effort to procure greater facilities for our trade and to open up new markets. I am satisfied that the declarations re- 346 cently made by Members of the Government as to their determination not to allow this country to be shut out of the markets which they have a right to enter, and to do their utmost to secure that the territory which they possess, and which they protect in other parts of the world, shall not be handicapped by the operations or the actions of foreign Powers, embody a policy which has met and will continue to meet with the approval of the country. I hope that in the few words I have said I have convinced my hon. Friend that what we can do we will do; but we can not agree that the proposition which he urges with so much energy and earnest ness would be at all likely to carry out the end he has in view, and certainly the methods he proposes are not methods which can be adopted by the Government of this country. My hon. Friend has referred to many other matters, to which I would have liked to allude but for the lateness of the hour. He referred to the great increase in German shipping. I can only say there has undoubtedly been that increase that he speaks of, but the increase in German shipping, which he says has been brought about by subsidies, is not to be compared for a moment with the great increase which has taken place in our shipping, and if I had time to give the House some statistics with regard to these matters I am sure that even my hon. Friend would be convinced that, so far from having anything to be afraid of with regard to competition of that kind, we can face with equanimity any competition which is likely to arise. Sir, I hope my hon. Friend, having discharged the duty which he thought was imposed upon him by the representation of Sheffield, will not consider it necessary to trouble the House to go to a division, but will be satisfied with the assurance I have given him.
§ COLONEL SIR HOWARD VINCENT
After the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, and his assurance that he will do everything he possibly can in the direction at which I am aiming, I do not think it is necessary to trouble the House to divide. I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Leave to withdraw being refused, the Amendment was put and negatived.347
§ Main Question again proposed—
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Patrick O'Brien)—put and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till to-morrow.