HC Deb 22 March 1899 vol 69 cc5-57

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That the Bill be now read a second time.

MR. BAYLEY (Derbyshire, Chesterfield)

I desire to call the attention of the House to what is going on at the present time under the administration of Her Majesty's Government, particularly in Uganda, where the inhabitants are British subjects under the control of this House, and where the magistrates are recognising the legal status of slavery. I will quote to the House the opinion of Bishop Tucker, who, writing on the 20th June 1898, says— It would be well to bear in mind what the facts are. There is a judge—a British subject, holding a Commission directly from Her Majesty, and paid by a Vote of this House—sitting in a courthouse over which the British flag flies; the whole process of the court is carried on in the name of Her Majesty, the depositions even being taken on paper embossed by the Royal Arms. A slave appears before him; she declares that a certain man claims her as his property; she repudiates the claim, and asks for freedom. Is she to get it or not? The court has decided that she cannot. Those are the facts of the ease, and it is a sample of what is going on at Mombasa. This particular case was that of a woman who had been for ten years at a mission station about 10 miles from Mombasa. She had been under the protection of that missionary station, and she had been baptised as a Christian at that station. She goes there under the protection of the missionary to Mombasa, and when she gets there her old master of 10 years ago claims her. She claims the protection of the magistrate, but she is given back again to her old master. This is only a typical case of what is acknowledged to be going on in many parts of Africa, for it has been acknowledged for some time now that British subjects and British servants are given back to slavery, and that the legal status of slavery is acknowledged, because cases like this must be of daily occurrence in Uganda. Now, we have on record the very able reply of the Attorney-General to a Question put two years ago as to whether Her Majesty's subjects in any part of Her dominions were subject to the legal status of slavery, and we have his decision that it could not be so. For two or three years since that decision the thing has been going on precisely in the same way as I have mentioned. Now, the Government have not been quite correct in their replies upon that particular statement upon which several Questions have been asked. One statement which has been made by the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is that this was practically a case of arrangement between the master and the servant. Mr. Crawford wrote on 21st June to Mr. Howe, the missionary, absolutely denying the statement which is made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He says— After the slaves were handed back by Mr. Lloyd in his judicial capacity, that the three slaves stated that they preferred to live at Ribe. Surely it is perfectly clear that this legal decision was given contrary to the express wishes of the slaves themselves. The question is a very serious one for the welfare of Africa itself. It is utterly impossible that this state of things should be continued if Africa is to be opened out to civilisation, and if countries like Mombasa and Uganda are to be made the home of our surplus population in this country. But while this country acknowledges, by the acts of its servants, the legal status of slavery in Africa you will never get this question really and seriously settled, and until it is settled you may spend millions of money in constructing railways in that country without any beneficial results. There is the question of whether Africa is going to be a free country, and whether the blacks there are going to have equal civil rights to the whites, and until you have got this question settled it will be perfectly hopeless to open up that country so that emigration and civilisation can go hand in hand. We have the opinion of Sir John Kirk who, in a dispatch on 13th March 1884, writes— I believe that the non-recognition of slavery as a status known to law to be essential to prosperity in Pemba. I believe Sir John Kirk would say now —although I have no authority to say so—that the non-recognition of the status of slavery in the whole of Africa is absolutely necessary to the prosperity of Africa at the present time. The right honourable Gentleman the Member for Devonshire, who has taken a very great interest in this subject, both in and outside the House, put down an Amendment on the Paper yesterday that the time had now arrived for the complete abolition of the status of slavery in Africa. It must be demoralising to our officers in Africa who have to do this work, which I am sure they do not like to do; it is absolutely demoralising to this House to have this Debate constantly occurring, and it is demoralising to the country to play fast and loose with this great question of slavery under the British Flag in a great part of Her Majesty's dominion in Africa. I do hope the Government will see their way at an early date to take up this question, not as a pious opinion upon which they have expressed their view so often in this House, but with a firm determined hand, so that we may get rid once and for ever of the greatest curse Africa has ever known. I hope, and sincerely hope, that before this Debate closes we shall have a statement from Her Majesty's representatives clearly setting forth what their policy is and what it is they intend to do on this grave subject. While I am calling attention to it to-day I can tell the Government that this is a question that the country when it knows the real facts will not let sleep, and I hope that the Government will take this question in hand in the spirit in which they know the country expects them to do, and I hope, Sir, to-day we shall have such a reply from Her Majesty's advisers as will do away with this matter and dispose of this grave and serious question to which I have referred.

* MR. MCKENNA (Monmouth, N.)

Surely it seems somewhat extraordinary that no representative of the Foreign Office should be here this morning. I believe my honourable Friend gave an intimation that this question was about to be brought before the House, and he had every ground for bringing it before the House to-day, because when the question was raised before, the reply was that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs was not able to reply then because he had not yet received the Report from Zanzibar. He has now received that Report, and I should have thought that he would have been only too glad to make an explanation here to-day. The charge is this, that under the interpretation of the law-given by the Attorney-General last Session in this House it appears that British representatives within the Zanzibar 10-miles coast strip are enforcing the slavery law contrary to the laws of this country. The representative of this country (Mr. Lloyd) appears to have been, according to the statement of the Attorney-General, acting contrary to the law. I do not suppose for a moment that he has done any such thing, but we ought to have laid down authoritatively the state in which the law is with regard to slavery within the 10-mile strip on the mainland of East Africa, and the manner in which it allows, through the British representatives, slavery to continue. It is not only domestic slavery—it goes beyond the case of the girl who went into the harem, it extends to the case of the girl's father and mother. There is another point to which I wish to draw attention; it arises from the expenditure which has come upon this Vote relating to the Juba expedition. It is very unfortunate that this Juba expedition should have to be in the Vote again. I have to call attention to a matter concerning the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The House will remember that the question of Major Macdonald's Juba expedition was raised in this House last year, and in the course of the Debates my honourable Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean suggested that the expedition was intended not only to explore the sources of the Juba, but was also to extend into the territory of the Upper Nile. The reply of the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to that statement was that it was all imagination. Later on Mr. Curzon again stated that he denied the suggestion. We have the most emphatic denial by the most responsible representative of the Foreign Office in this House as to the true reason of the Juba expedition. Then, in another place we have a speech from Lord Salisbury, and in that speech, in describing the object of the expedition, he said that there were rumours at the time of the expedition of designs upon the Upper Nile which made the Government anxious to establish our military power at some station on the Upper Nile. So here we get a direct admission of the facts which were directly denied by Mr. Curzon last year. I do not blame Mr. Curzon, because he was in as complete ignorance as it was intended this House should remain; but surely when intimation is brought to the Foreign Office, and after Mr. Curzon had been permitted to give this denial, it, was the duty of the Foreign Office to enlighten this House at the earliest opportunity as to the mistake made by Mr. Curzon, and not to allow the House to remain in ignorance of the true reason of the expedition as we have remained the whole year. If misleading information is given to us, I submit that the power of criticism in this House is reduced to absolute absurdity. When we are told matters of fact we are entitled to be told them by a person who knows; and it is surprising that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in this House should be allowed to remain in ignorance of events of vital importance, and that he should not be allowed the earliest opportunity of correcting the statements he has put forward to the House.

SIR R. REID (Dumfries Burghs)

I think it is only right that the Government should have an opportunity of giving the House information in regard to the very serious case, as I think, of a breach of British law with regard to slavery which has already been brought to the attention of the House. The House has not altogether lost its interest in the question of slavery, and it has not altogether lost its interest in the law and the persons administering the law abroad, for which this House takes the responsibility. Now, I am not going to affirm the fact absolutely, because I know that the statements brought before us ought always to be regarded with a certain amount of reserve, and if any responsible Minister is able to contradict it we shall all be extremely glad, but the circumstances of this case either require an affirmation that they are not true or a distinct negative. Now, let me state the facts, so far as I know them. There is a missionary at Zanzibar who in June 1898 was approached by the father of a young woman named Kombo. This young woman had lived for some years outside the 10-mile strip of Zanzibar mainland, but had gone down to Mombasa and was there detained by her former master, she having formerly been a slave. Thereupon the missionary, Mr. Howe, writes to Mr. Crawford, Her Majesty's Sub-Commissioner, on the 4th June 1898— Dear Mr. Crawford.—The bearer Kazibene says that his daughter, Kombo, who has been for many years on this station, and has been baptised, having come down to Mombasa, is being detained by her former master, Salehe bin Mwitade. Will you please see what can be done in this case.' To that letter he gets no answer, and he writes again upon the 12th June— Dear Mr. Crawford,—I wrote to you on the 4th inst. with regard to the detention of one of our mission members, a girl named Kombo, by her master in Mombasa. You have not yet replied, but the bearer of the letter, the girl's father, Kazibene, returned here the next day saying you required the presence of the mother also. Kazibene now says that you ordered the return of the whole three to the master. I should like to hear from you what actually took place. The father and mother were both outside and safe from the grip of the slave master. Kazibene admits that Kombo, before you, formally elected to return to her master, but says that she had been intimidated before her appearance before you—made to take an oath that she would not again leave her master. Did the mother and father also return to the master of their own free will? The father and mother were, as I have said, outside and safe, but they were required and they went. Immediately the father and mother west into the territory which is administered by Her Majesty, where she has entire power, and justice is administered in her name, the slave master having got them into his control comes to the British court and demands that as these are lawful slaves of his all three should remain in slavery under his control. Mr. Lloyd is acting district officer, and he, unless these letters, which are supplied by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, are fraudulent, writes this letter— My dear Howe,—With reference to your letter of the 4th inst., I am sorry to say I was unable to do anything for Kombo or for her mother or Kazibene, as they all admit of their own free will that they are the lawful slaves of Salehe bin Husein (Mwitadi). Under these circumstances I had no option but to return the slaves to him. I went into their case thoroughly. They could bring nothing against their master, and could raise no plea upon which to demand their freedom. That is a country administered by Her Majesty. PS.—I referred the case to Mr. Crawford before giving my decision, and he was also of opinion that there was nothing to be done. The case, then, we see, was referred to Mr. Crawford, the Sub-Commissioner. Now, the next thing that takes place is this. Mr. Howe writes again to Mr. Lloyd and complains that the slave owner had not regained possession of Kazibene and his wife until they were handed over by Mr. Lloyd, and then he entered a protest against the illegality of the action of Mr. Lloyd. Now, I am not going to say that it is actually the case—it is controverted and denied that Kombo and her father and mother were handed over by a British officer—but these proceedings took place in the Court, and here is a copy of the proceedings— Salebe bin Husein claims his three lawful slaves, Kazibene, Kombo, Maine Kombo, who have been living at Roebe for the last 10 years. The slaves have no plea wherewith to claim their freedom, and as Roebe is within the Sultan's dominions, I am of opinion that they have always been in slavery, and as they all declare that they are the lawful property of the claimant, the Court orders them to return to their master. That is signed "Edward Lloyd, Acting District Officer," and dated 6th June 1898. Then there is another letter that has to be brought in. Mr. Crawford, who, as I have said, is Her Majesty's Sub-Commissioner, writes on the 21st June to Mr. Howe, and says— Mr. Lloyd has shown me your last letter concerning the people from your mission station. He tells me that all the three persons—Kazibene, Kombo, and Mame Kombo—said in his presence that they were the lawful slaves of Salebe bin Husein, and said that they all knew that it was their duty to return to their master, but that they preferred to live in Ribe. That is to say, they were not willing to return. I hope the Under Secretary will kindly note that it was not any rumour that led them to Zanzibar, and it does not appear that there was any desire to return to slavery; on the contrary, Mr. Crawford says they preferred to live at Ribe— The master then asked that the law should be pronounced, and Mr. Lloyd said that they, having acknowledged that the man was their lawful master, ought to accompany him. This they did, and they are now, I understand, living in his house. Mr. Lloyd suggested, before giving the above deliverance, that some arrangement for the purchase of their freedom should be come to, but the slaves made no answer, and the master refused to accept the proposal. It is not likely, I think, that they would make any answer under the circumstances. The master now wishes to have the matter put into legal form, and has taken out a summons for his slaves, so that he may have his lawful possession declared beyond dispute. The case is before the Provincial Court, which will adjourn to a convenient date, to give you an opportunity of appearing in person or by deputy, if you wish to do so. Kindly let me have your answer. I write you at this length in order to convince you that the officers of this administration have no wish to act in an unfair manner, as your letters would imply, but that they have to carry out the law current in these dominions, even when it entails upon them the disagreeable duty of pronouncing the legality of a state of slavery between the Sultan's subjects. To this there is a note by Mr. Howe— As a matter of fact, the summons was never issued, and the case never came before the Provincial Court. I had, however, a personal interview with Mr. Crawford, Mr. Lloyd, and the slave owner, from which I came to the conclusion that the decision of the Acting District Officers' Court would not be reversed on appeal—at least not in Mombasa. But, as Mr. Lloyd admits; in his own letter, he requested them to go back. Now, those are the facts of the case, so far as they are known to me, and I wish to repeat again that if there are any other facts calculated to alter these they are not known to me. If there are any known to the Under Secretary of State, he no doubt will inform us. But every statement which I have made has been taken from the letters written by the officers themselves—officers who expressed in their letters the disagreeable character of the matter which was put upon them. So much for the facts. Now for the law. I affirm that the whole thing is a direct violation of the laws of this country. I say it is unlawful for any British subject to do what Mr. Lloyd has done on this occasion; no matter whether he has done it at Zanzibar, or Constantinople, or in any other part of the world. There are two kinds of law in this country, one of which is local in its operation, and the other which follows British subjects wherever they go. This is one of the latter class. I do not ask that the Committee should accept myself as an authority upon this subject; I give it upon the authority of the right honourable Gentleman the Attorney-General, who concurred in that statement in 1897. I refer to the 50th Volume of"Hansard,"1897, page 534. I was addressing the House, and I said— Whether it was at Constantinople or in any corner of the globe, wherever a British subject bought a slave, he was committing an offence against British law, and would be justly punished for his offence. I begged to affirm my opinion that if what I was informed was being done at Zanzibar was true, it was contrary to the law. I pointed out that when I was Attorney-General I took pains to ascertain what the law was, and, in answer to a question, stated that— it was unlawful for any British subject to accept, receive, or detain against his will any person as a slave within the territories of the Sultan of Zanzibar. And I said the Attorney-General would confirm me in the opinion that such was the law. Then the Attorney-General said, "I said so in this House the other day."


Read my answer; it is in the same volume, I think.


I have got the extract, I have no doubt, correctly— That a British subject, no matter where or in what service or employ he may be engaged, is breaking the British law, and is exposing himself to penalties if he takes part in the restoring to his master, or otherwise depriving of his liberty, any person on the sole ground that he is an escaped slave. But I do not think there can be any difference of opinion as to the law upon this subject; but whether there is a difference with regard to the law or not is only one portion of the question. What I want to know is, whether this is the sort of thing wo are going to sanction in the Empire which we are creating in Africa? I am not one of those who are violent or strong against the Imperial idea, understood in a fair sense, but I want to know whether in this Imperial idea it is proposed to allow domestic slavery. We have abolished this in our dominion in India long ago. We know what the practice and feeling has always been in this country with regard to slavery, and I say, without the fear of contradiction, that it is contrary to all the spirit and tradition of the British Government for the last 100 years that we should permit such a thing in a country which we are administering now, and for which we take full responsibility for national government, where we have everything in our own hands, and can do what we like. It is a direct violation of all the best traditions which have governed this House for the last 50 years if we tolerate this sort of thing in Zanzibar. I do not blame the officials who are discharging a very disagreeable duty. The responsibility is upon the Government to put a stop to it. The right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary has referred to this ease, and stated that information was received in reference to it in October last. The facts of this case were brought to the attention of this House at the very commencement of this Session, and I have no doubt the attention of the Government must have been drawn to them long before. I have no wish to blame the right honourable Gentleman; I should be very reluctant, knowing the amount of business at the Foreign Office, to cast any aspersion on a responsible Minister——


I am sorry to interrupt the honourable Gentleman, but I think the right honourable Gentleman could not have been in the House last night when I read the information.


I read the speech of the right honourable Gentleman in "The Times." I do not wish to hurl accusations against him, but I certainly do think it is important that we should have an explicit explanation with regard to this question, and I do not think that we have had any. I understood the right honourable Gentleman to say that he had received some information, not from the officials in the country, but from an undisclosed source, that these people, because there was a famine, wanted to go back to their master. That is quite inconsistent with the letter that I have read to the House. I do not think that the right honourable Gentleman could have obtained that information from any official source. And I thought I understood, from what I read, that the right honourable Gentleman said it was not intended to make any further inquiry into the subject. I hope that is not so. Rut the point I am putting to the House is that my purpose is not to blame or censure the Government, but to try and get the influence of this House so applied that we may make it impossible for this kind of thing to go on in future. It is a violation of the law; of that there is no doubt but quite apart from that it is a, departure from all the best traditions of the country and of the House, and I sincerely hope that honourable Gentlemen on both sides of the House will assist me in trying to make it impossible that such a departure from the best traditions of the House in this matter shall continue.


I waited a moment before I rose, in order to see whether any other honourable Gentleman desired to address the House upon this question. The honourable and learned Gentleman has concluded his speech with an impassioned appeal, and has complained of the time which has elapsed since this particular case was brought before the House. The difficulty, as I have explained on several occasions already during this Session, has not been due to any desire on the part of the Foreign Office to burke inquiry. The promise was given by Mr. Curzon in August last, the day before he was taken ill, and the matter was allowed to stand over until he was able to resume his duties at the Foreign Office in September. In consequence of the great length of time involved in communication with Mombasa, and the subsequent fact that Mr. Lloyd, the officer in question, had been promoted to an inland station, and had already gone up country, some delay was caused, and we only received the actual dispatches three or four days ago. I do not wish, after what has fallen from the honourable and learned Gentleman, to suggest that there has been any exaggeration on the part of those who have furnished information with regard to this particular case, but, at the same time, there is very considerable conflict of statement between the officials and the missionary, Mr. Howe, as regards the actual facts of what transpired. There is no doubt that the three slaves who had escaped from their master, and had been for some time living in Ribe, were claimed by their master, and an investigation was held before Mr. Lloyd with regard to them. The allegation in all these cases is that the slaves have been forced to return, and the suggestion is made that they had escaped from a cruel bondage, to which British officers have returned them. I hope I shall not be considered unsympathetic in regard to these cases which have been brought forward if I say that a great many of these statements must be taken cum grano sails. It must be recollected, in the first place, that no cruelty can possibly go on between master and slave without that slave having redress in the court. If a slave can prove any act of cruelty on the part of the master he can go to the court, and he will receive manumission at once. The idea that a slave has been cruelly returned to bondage therefore falls to the ground. Then comes the question whether he should be returned at all. With regard to that the honourable and learned Gentleman's argument carries him a great deal further than, I am sure, he himself would be prepared to go. The honourable and learned Gentleman says, "Why do we maintain slavery in Zanzibar, or on the mainland of East Africa, when we have abolished it in India long ago?" In the first place, the honourable and learned Gentleman, I believe, is wholly in error in stating that we ever abolished slavery in India. The conditions in Zanzibar at this moment are legally infinitely more favourable to slaves than they have ever been in India, although Zanzibar is only a protectorate under the British Crown, while in India we are dealing with provinces directly under the British Crown. The Act of 1843, to which, I suppose, the honourable and learned Gentleman refers, was certainly quoted by him with legal accuracy. But that enactment forbids the selling or the buying of slaves. It provides for their status before a court, but it does not prohibit the possession of slaves.


The language I quoted was taken from the section of the Indian Act of Parliament. I will get it if necessary.


I have not got the Indian Act here, but the honourable and learned Gentleman will not deny that its provisions prohibit the selling and buying of slaves. That is exactly the case at the present time on the mainland in East Africa. What the honourable and learned Gentleman leaves out of his calculations is this—that the declaration under which we undertook the protectorate and under which the Sultan of Zanzibar undertook to hand that protectorate over to us absolutely prevents our abolishing without some compensation the status of slavery in Zanzibar and the mainland. In the decree of 1st August 1890, in which this country took over the government of Zanzibar, it is stated that all slaves possessed on that date by the subjects of the Sultan "shall remain as they are at present, and their status shall be unchanged." The honourable and learned Gentleman says we can do what we like to-morrow in Zanzibar. I say we can do as we like only by violating the pledges which we have given to the Sultan, under which we undertook the protectorate.


Why did you give these pledges?


What was the date of the decree?


The 1st of August, 1890. If the honourable Gentleman asks that question with a view to discovering under which Government that decree was made, I venture to remind him that in 1895, a few days before the late Government left office, Lord Kimberley gave, as regards the mainland, an absolute pledge that the law of Islam should be maintained, and that no change should take place. We have, then, these two declarations staring us in the face, and, though it is extremely easy to get up on the other side of the House and make a strong appeal to the sentiment of the English people, there is one thing which is paramount in this case, and that is that we should observe the conditions under which we pledged ourselves, and in administering the law we should have regard to those pledges. In regard to this particular case, the honourable and learned Gentleman has stated that those slaves were returned unwillingly; that they were forced to return under the influence of great pressure. The facts I believe to be these, and I state them from the information of the officials. Sir Arthur Hardinge writes— These slaves made no objection to returning to their master. I understand, indeed, they were desirous of doing so, in order to get food; that the famine at Ribe at the time was severe; and that the master bringing the matter into Court was due to his wish to get a formal declaration of his legal right to their services in return for the subsistence he was willing to afford them. That is an intelligible explanation of what occurred. Then it is stated by the missionary that, except in an English court, this would not have been done at all. I think, under all the circumstances which exist, the right of the master to these slaves could have been made patent. But I think a good deal of this case falls to the ground if it is proved, as we are told on the authority of a native missionary, that when the famine ceased at Ribe, a few-months afterwards, the two women slaves escaped from their master, who has not since claimed them, and the male slave ran across the boundary, and took service as a porter, and is now receiving wages in that capacity.


Is that the statement of Sir Arthur Hardinge?


That is reported to us as having been stated to the officials there by a native missionary. It is expressly stated that Sir Arthur Hardinge had not had time to get confirmation of it before the mail left. As regards the whole question, I should like to put this consideration before the House. We are dealing with a very difficult problem on the mainland of East Africa. The experience in Zanzibar up to this time of the abolition of the legal status of slavery has been very satisfactory. A larger number of slaves have claimed their freedom—about 8,000 in the first year—three quarters—and a very considerable number more have made agreements with their masters, and are working for a wage, or for the consideration of occupying land for nothing. The progress has been quite as rapid as is desirable in the interests, not only of the island, but of the slaves themselves. I think some gentlemen are under the impression that the transition from slavery to freedom is a transition which is to be desired in the case of every individual who is nominally in slavery. I am not quite certain that to release a vast number of slaves at the same moment is desirable. What we are striving to do is to relieve those held in slavery from the curses of slavery as they are understood in this House—curses which we have been trying to remove for many years past in all parts of the world, and every slave in Zanzibar knows he can go to court and get his freedom. That is not denied by the missionary. It was denied, but it is not now denied.


That is on the island; not on the mainland.


No, on the island. Emancipation is ready to hand. In any case of cruelty a slave has only to go to the court to get manumission. The children of those who remain in slavery on the islands when they can be emancipated are born free. There is among the slaves something which I believe honourable Members will not readily credit; there is, strangely, an attachment, at all events, to the place in which they have been brought up and the status to which they have been accustomed, that is not altogether sentimental, extraordinary as they seem to us. As long as slaves remain in slavery their masters under every circumstance manage to feed and house them. Cases have been numerous in the last few months, when famine has taken place, where those slaves who had run away and had obtained their freedom have been unable to find labour, and have been forced either to return to their masters or to subsist on charity. It must be understood that people in a condition of slavery have very slight ideas of the benefits of freedom, and they look at two things particularly, food and housing, and both these they obtain from their master. That is the reason, we believe, and the missionaries agree, why so large a number of slaves on the islands who might obtain their freedom do not claim it. It is the experience of those who have been working among the slaves that the slave is strangely content in bondage, and I honestly admit that, as regards Zanzibar and Pemba, the desire of the Government in the interests of the slaves themselves is not to make them discontented as a body, but more to secure them from the disadvantages of slavery, so that a gradual transition may take place. One of the results, when a considerable manumission takes place, is that slaves who have obtained their liberty have at first refused to work. All that has been avoided at Zanzibar. With regard to the mainland, it may be asked, if the results have been so good as this on the islands, why cannot we abolish the legal status on the mainland, and that seems to me to be a far more important question than the individual question of two or three slaves whose slavery has been resumed under whatever circumstances. There is a difference between Zanzibar and the mainland; the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba are within a limited compass, the mainland is a vast territory as to which the legal status of slavery still exists in the strip along the coast some 250 miles long, and the population involved on the coast and in the interior is very large. Then the islands of Zanzibar and Pomba are quiet, while the mainland is contiguous to regions which have been unquiet during the last three years. Putting all these facts together, I believe it would at this moment be the height of unwisdom to seem to go back or to break faith in any way with the Arabs on the mainland strip. We are tied by the announcements made by the decree of 1890, and again by that of 1895, and I would ask the House to consider this, that we have gone much farther in this protectorate than we have gone in any Mahommedan country with which we have had to deal. In the case of India, upon which I will say a word later, we took years to stop importation. On the mainland of Africa the importation and the selling of slaves has been stopped. All children born since 1890, that is, all children of nine years old and under, are born free; all slaves who have been illegally imported, or who can prove that they are illegally held, can go before tribunals and obtain their freedom. The slave and the free man stand equal as regards the laws, and what is penal if done to a free man is penal if done to a slave. Therefore, we have gone a very long step forward, and I think the best evidence of that is that during a period of no less than three years only one or two cases from the whole of that vast extent of country have been brought before the House in which there has been any injustice or any case of cruelty. We do not depart from the pledge given by my right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, who has said that he would at the earliest possible opportunity extend to the mainland the change already carried out on the islands; but I submit that the state of the mainland at this moment is such that it would be foolhardy in the extreme to attempt to force the position, and to cause such a dislocation as must occur in the labour market from a general manumission of slaves. At the present moment it is impossible for the Arabs to obtain free labour, having regard to the drain caused by the railway, on which high wages are being paid, which makes free labour almost unobtainable by the Arabs. It must be remembered also that we have no right in this Protectorate to cause the whole of the islands to fall out of cultivation. The crops in Zanzibar and Pemba last October were extremely well picked in one island by free labour, owing to an arrangement made by the Arabs with those who have been their slaves, or who might have ceased to be their slaves. What will be the attitude of the Government in the future in regard to that? may be asked. Well, I have stated several times to the House that we cannot break our pledges to the Sultan.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

Is the right honourable Gentleman aware that by treaty with us the Sultan had agreed to abolish slavery long before the British Consul gave that illegal promise.


I should like to see that statement supported. I believe the honourable Gentleman is entirely in error. What the Sultan undertook to do was to prohibit the importation of slaves, and that was done, but what we undertook to do when the Sultan placed his dominions under our protectorate was that we would not interfere with the legal status of slavery nor with the Mahommedan law. The interference that has taken place in Zanzibar and Pemba has only been carried out by subsequent agreement with the Sultan himself, but he is in an entirely different position with the Arabs on the mainland. Manumission is a good thing, and is the end of all our endeavours, but the honest observance of our pledges to the Sultan is also very important. With regard to the action of British officers the honourable and learned Gentleman has laid down in the strongest possible way what his views of the law are. He says the whole thing is a violation of the law of this country, and that if there is a local law there are also other laws which follow the British subject wherever he may go. Under what statute does he make that declaration?

* SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

The Attorney-General laid it down.

COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)

The Attorney-General laid down the law, and the right honourable Gentleman promised to circulate the opinion among the Members of the House.


On 24th June 1897, the Attorney-General said— If a British subject did in fact detain a slave, it mattered not whether in a foreign country or on British territory, that was not in accordance with the law. Detaining a, slave is not necessarily equivalent to restoring a slave, but that is very different to the interpretation put upon it by the honourable and learned Member opposite. I do not think there is any question here of any British subject detaining a slave. If there is any statute which makes it an offence for a British subject to sit in court under a Mahommedan law to carry out the local law, I want to know what it is. We are determined to go to the extreme possible limit in considering sentiment in this matter, but after all, we must know what the statutes are which the honourable and learned Gentleman says follow British subjects wherever they go.


Is not the right honourable Gentleman aware that he is quoting the words, as I understand them, of the present Attorney-General?


My point is this, that to say that the action of a British court in administering the local law is contrary to the common law of the land shows total ignorance of what has been stated by the Attorney-General. The question is as to whether a British subject is to administer the local law if he finds himself in a court in which the local law is established. We want something more than the right honourable Gentleman's obiter dictum on this sub- ject, and we want to know upon what statute he bases his statement.


The Slave Trade Act of 1834 and the Slave Trade Act of 1843 taken together.


Well, as to these, I might quote strong opinions pronounced by that learned Judge, Lord Stowell, and by the eminent American Judge Storey, which are at variance with that expressed by the honourable and learned Gentleman—and I maintain that there is not a unanimity of legal opinion in favour of the contention of the honourable and learned Gentleman. We wish, in carrying out our desire, to act with, certainty within our engagements. Lord Salisbury has, therefore, given directions that no British official shall assist in sending back persons to slavery. But that does not control the native courts, and if facts come before them that a slave is claimed by his; master the Sultan's law cannot be interrupted unless some of the numerous reasons can be substantiated by which the slave obtains manumission. We are most anxious to proceed to the extreme limit in every case, but we must have regard to the undertakings of Lord Salisbury and Lord Kimberley that the law of Islam shall be observed, and that obligation we have endeavoured to carry out. Let me say, in conclusion, that difficulties in this matter are extremely great, and the progress we make must to a certain extent be slow, but that the progress we are making is not unreasonably slow Papers now before Parliament and others we propose to lay on the Table before long will show. We go to the extreme point we can in our desire to get rid of slavery. We are pushing forward emancipation, but, in endeavouring to accomplish our aim, we have to consider that our sympathies shall not lead to the mainland of East Africa under our rule being in a worse state than before we assumed the protectorate. Now, the honourable Member for Monmouth (Mr. McKenna) has referred to statements made as to the motives for the Macdonald Expedition, and he thinks he has discovered a difference of opinion which does not really exist between what was said last year by Mr. Curzon and what was said the other day by Lord Salisbury. I have not had time to study what Mr. Curzon is reported to have said. It has been alleged that the object of the Macdonald Expedition was, to prevent the acquisition by the French of positions on the west of the Nile; but, as has been stated from the first, the primary object was the delimitation of the British and Italian interests on the River Juba, and to obtain geographical information. Lord Salisbury stated the other night—I have not his words before me—that beyond this primary object Major Macdonald was intended, had he found himself able to do so, to push forward. Well, Sir, this question had not arisen at the time Mr. Curzon spoke last year. (Opposition cries of "Oh!") What I mean is, he had to depend on the carrying out of his preliminary object before it could be said that a further object was possible, and it soon became obvious that Major Macdonald would not do more than carry out his primary object. At the first available opportunity this Session I informed the House of the progress of Major Martyr's Expedition, and stated his definite instructions, and yet the honourable Member for Monmouth now says the House has not had the opportunity of judging of the object.


That the House was misled.


We have put the facts before the House. With regard to the Macdonald Expedition, we had to wait the reports from that officer to know whether it was possible to undertake anything further. The honourable Gentleman used very strong language, and talked about concealment and leaving the House in ignorance, but we took the earliest opportunity to inform the House of the Expedition which went down the Nile, and I stated how far it would proceed.


The right honourable Gentleman is referring to the Martyr Expedition; my inquiry was as to the Macdonald Expedition.


Quite so. The Macdonald Expedition started with a certain object which it did not succeed in carrying out, and it was premature to assign to it the further object no doubt in the mind of the Government had it been possible to accomplish the first. We had to know the disposition of the tribes, and what arrangements could be made in a country to which Major Macdonald was sent. As the Prime Minister has said, Major Macdonald's instructions would have carried him further, but it was found impossible; and the instructions given to Major Martyr were communicated to the House at the first opportunity this Session. I think there is nothing further to explain in this matter, and I think it is perfectly clear that the divergence of purpose the honourable Member professes to have discovered in the language used by Lord Salisbury and Mr. Curzon exists only in the honourable Member's imagination.

MR. BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)

I hope the House will allow me to say a few words—because in this question of slavery I take great interest—in answer to some of the observations made by the right honourable Gentleman. He touched upon several points, which I will deal with one by one. The first was the question, raised by my honourable Friend below the Gangway and emphasised by my honourable and learned Friend beside me, with regard to slavery. That, to my mind, is a, very serious one indeed, and I cannot say that I think the right honourable Gentleman has dealt with it in a manner that will in any sense of the term exonerate the officials in the position they have taken in regard to it. He said that there was a conflict of statement. I have listened with great attention to what has been stated, and I cannot see that there has been any conflict of statement in regard to what actually occurred. Mr. Lloyd, the official who was interested in the matter, has himself said—and my honourable Friend has read the sentence from the correspondence—that the slaves knew that it was their duty to return to their master, but that they preferred to live in Ribe. That seems to me to bring them under the first dictum of the Attorney-General—namely, that no British subject had any right to detain a slave or hand a slave over to his master. But, assuming—and I am ready to admit—that these slaves raised no objection to return to their master, I say that it does not make the case of Mr. Lloyd, or of the Foreign Office, or of the British officials one whit the better. The right honourable Gentleman was asking us just now what was the extent to which we went in saying that no British officer had any right to hand a fugitive slave back to his master. We base this proposition on the words of the Attorney-General himself.


The question I asked was under what statute the honourable and learned Gentleman based his very strong opinion.


I cannot quote the statute offhand; that question does not arise. But what I want to point out to the right honourable Gentleman is this, that, as far as the officials are concerned, it is not a question of statute; it is a question of instruction sent by the Foreign Office, and founded on the legal opinion given in this House by the learned Attorney-General. Not only did the learned Attorney-General lay down the proposition in this House, but it was actually telegraphed by the Foreign Minister on the 26th June, 1897, to the British officials in the mainland in East Africa. This is the telegram sent, not only to Sir Arthur Hardinge, but to Mr. Crawford, Mr. Lloyd, and the others interested in this matter:— Forward to Mr. Crawford the following telegram:— 'The Attorney-General has laid down that a British subject anywhere, in whatever service or employment he may happen to be engaged, if he takes part in restoring to his master, or otherwise depriving any person of his liberty' on the sole ground that he is a fugitive slave, is breaking the British law and exposing himself to penalties. I have to inform you, for your personal guidance, that you should conform your conduct to the law thus laid down.' I say that that absolutely and entirely covers the case in point. It does not matter to us in the least whether the slaves did or did not, on this particular occasion, desire to return to the control of their master. According to the evi- dence of the officials themselves the slaves did desire to return, but whether they did or did not, at ail events this instruction from the Foreign Office ought to have been followed by immediate action. Unfortunately, when we had the matter before us previously, the officials out there—and I am not blaming them personally or individually—allowed, I do not say without reluctance, the local law of the Sultan to override the British law. We have the Blue Books before us to show that they expostulated in the strongest way against the dictum of the learned Attorney-General, because, they say, it would be somewhat embarrassing; and no doubt it is somewhat embarrassing for them to have the instruction of the Attorney-General on the one hand, and the law of the Sultan on the other. Now, I am bound to say that I heard with some considerable misgiving the words which fell from the right honourable Gentleman. I understood him to lay down that under the law as it stands, the Attorney-General's opinion will have no effect on the native courts, because it is obvious that this will lead to proceedings being taken in the native, and not in the British, courts. The right honourable Gentleman said, in effect, that we had pledged ourselves to the Sultan on the legal status of slavery in the mainland, and that it is impossible for us to go back from that. I can only say, if the proposition of the right honourable Gentleman is correct, that two years ago a pledge was given by the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to the opposite effect. I do not know that I need trouble the House by reading the right honourable Gentleman's words. (Cries of "Read!") Well, these are the words the right honourable Gentleman used in the House on the 24th June, 1897:— The Government are earnestly desirous, at the earliest possible opportunity, to carry out on the mainland of the East Coast Protectorate what they had already carried out upon the Island. I am sorry to say that this was two years ago, and, as far as I can judge, not only has very little been done but, as far as this case is concerned, obviously a great deal has been done in the wrong direction. I think I may say that the promise of the First Lord.

which has not been fulfilled, is absolutely contradictory to the statement of the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that we are so bound to the Sultan of Zanzibar that it would be impossible for us to abolish slavery in the mainland. If I understood the right honourable Gentleman aright, the only obstacle which stands in the way of carrying out the First Lord's Pledge is the question of compensation. All I can say is, that if it is simply a question of money, this House, and this country, will not let it stand in the way of the abolition of slavery. If it is a question of compensation, I am quite sure we are ready to vote any sum which may be required, but I do, not think at the present moment that it is a question of compensation. I do not think that the circumstances on the mainland are so very different from those on the islands that it is a mere matter of compensation. I will endeavour to point out to the House that, as regards the question of our undertaking with the Sultan, the Government have already undertaken to abolish slavery on the mainland. What we have asked the Foreign Office to do, and more than once to do, is to show our officials out there that they are seriously in earnest in this matter. It has, unfortunately, been the case with regard to the Foreign Office that they have always been glad to find some excuse. It has constantly been necessary to urge them to take steps in the matter; they have never voluntarily moved themselves. They see lions in the path on every possible occasion, and they never take an opportunity, on their own initiative, to wipe out this blot on the escutcheon of England. The right honourable Gentleman went somewhat into detail as to the extent to which the abolition of slavery has already taken place on the islands. If he is satisfied in thinking, after we have been nibbling at this question for 20 years, that the status of slavery is practically abolished in Zanzibar because, as he said, of 200,000 slaves, 8,000 have had their freedom, I do not for a moment agree with him. I think it is perfectly true that the condition of all the slaves has been improved by the abolition of the status of slavery, so far as it goes, but I do not think we can rest satisfied, as the right honourable Gentleman seems to be, by thinking that we have already done enough there. I think there has been sufficient opportunity for the Government to enable these 200,000 slaves, if they so desired, to obtain their freedom. The blot to which I have referred only exists on a comparatively small strip of territory 10 miles wide by 200 long.


450 long.


Well, 450. But what I want to ask the House is, whether there is any real distinction with regard to British authority over this 10 miles strip and over the rest of the territory? I think we ought also to remember that we have a railway running some considerable way up the coast. Is it really right, when we have made such sacrifices for the abolition of slavery in other parts of our Empire, that we should have a railway belonging to the British Government, and paid for by the taxpayers of this country, running through a, territory where the Government still allows the status of slavery to exist? Mr. Speaker, I am much obliged to the House for allowing me to make these remarks, because it is a subject on which I feel very strongly. I hope the right honourable Gentleman does not think that I desire to make this, in any sense of the term, a Party question or attack on him. So far as I have stated what I have stated, it has been in the desire of strengthening the position of the Foreign Office and the hands of the right honourable Gentleman. I can only say that if they are prepared to undertake the risk of abolishing the status of slavery in that strip, I can assure them that, as far as I and honourable Members on this side of the House are concerned—and I believe I can speak for all of them—we shall give them our hearty support.


I have been so often referred to in this and previous Debates, and so much has been put into my mouth that I have never said, that I hope I may say what is my view of the law. The statutes have not been correctly quoted. The words are plain and very simple. By the Act of George IV. it was provided, among other things, that persons should not carry away or remove, or contract for the carrying away or removal, of other persons in order that they might be dealt with as, slaves. The right honourable Gentleman below the Gangway is right in saying that that statute applies to British subjects everywhere. I quite agree that that law affects British subjects all over the world. But we have got to consider what the prohibition is. When the Act was passed and made it an offence to carry away or remove—and I have no desire to whittle away or cut down my statement—it was not intended thereby to stop and put an end to slavery all over the world, for the very act of George IV., by section 17, recognised the right of slaves to go with their masters, and the right of masters over their domestic slaves. Indeed, this was recognised long after, even in the British possessions. I see no reason to go back on anything I have said. I have never said that it was illegal for a man, a British subject or not, to express his opinion, even as a judge, that a master is entitled to his slave. Now I have said in this House more than once that that was my view of the law, and I see no reason to go back on it now. I never did say, or understand that I have said, that it is illegal for a man, whether a British subject or not, to express his opinion, even as a judge according to the law of the country, on the status of slavery. There is no section in any British statute that I know of that deprives foreign people of their rights over their slaves; but if it be attempted to bring within these words, "carry away or remove," such action as a judge, who may be sitting in a court at Zanzibar or elsewhere, in saying that a man has made good his claim to slaves, that view is, in my opinion, a wrong view of the law. It is not concerned with carrying away or removing. Let me take a case which actually occurred. One slave owner brings an action against another native slave owner, saying that he had taken his slave away. I have no doubt whatever that it would not be a breach of the law of England to say that the slave owner was entitled to return that slave, and to pay damages for the detention of that slave. The distinction lies between taking a person or being concerned directly or indirectly in sending back a person into slavery and the giving of a decision on a point of law as to whether a person is or is not a slave. I have said in the House, and I desire to repeat it, that if a British subject anywhere in the world, either by himself or is concerned with others, in the sending back or restoring to slavery persons who are claiming to be free, simply because they are slaves—I believe that that would be against the law. I desire it to be understood that I never did mean to say—nor does my language, fairly construed, mean—that a British subject is not to be allowed to express his opinion that a man coming before him in a court has established his right according to native law to a slave, and to intimate, by a judgment, that a man may go in pursuit of a runaway slave, and has a right to claim him by process of law. I wish to say but one word on the general question. I take the facts from my honourable and learned Friend, subject to what my right honourable Friend near me has said. As I understand it, the statement is made both by Sir Arthur Hardinge and Mr. Lloyd that these persons were willing to return to their masters.


The actual words were that these slaves knew that it was their duty to return to their masters, but that they preferred their freedom.


My right honourable Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs slates that he was informed that these people were willing to return to their masters, and that Mr. Lloyd has said that these people did not express any unwillingness to return. I am referring to the communications made by Mr. Lloyd to the Foreign Office. I do not believe for a moment that the honourable and learned Member for Dumfries Burghs considers that any breach of the statute has been committed by Mr. Lloyd. I do not agree with the honourable Member for Poplar in thinking that what Mr. Lloyd was supposed to have done was either in the letter or the spirit contrary to the law which I have endeavoured to lay down in this House. May I be permitted only in one sentence to protest against that kind of exaggeration which has accompanied some of the statements made in regard to this matter. In this House, in 1897, when I spoke, I bad to point out—because I knew from papers before me—that cases had arisen in which slaves who had been charged by their masters with theft claimed their freedom in order that they might not be punished for the theft, and I said that these persons were not to be allowed to be sent back as slaves. What happened? The missionaries immediately wrote that I had invented facts, and had alleged that the slaves were being detained for the offence of theft instead of being detained as slaves. It is plain that you have to receive statements made in regard to these slaves with considerable caution. Again, I say that if it be a fact that a person directly or indirectly, by his own hands or by the hands of others with his authority, forces back to slavery slaves who claimed to be free, then that is against the statute; but if he has only declared, on the facts before him, that the person claiming the restoration of a slave is entitled to have his slave, there is no rule of British law to make that an offence.

* MR. J. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)

Everyone who has sat here since we have commenced our proceedings will agree that we are dealing with a very serious and important matter—a matter touching the honour of the country, and which affects the reputation of the House, and of the Government in particular. I have listened with great attention to the special case brought before the House by the honourable and learned Member for Dumfries. He laid it before us with all the precision and accuracy which we invariably expect from him. He not only detailed the facts of the case on the authority of the persons principally concerned—Sir Arthur Hardinge and Mr. Lloyd—but he gave us a very important opinion as an ex-law officer of the Crown —not less an authoritative master of the law than the honourable and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General. I am sorry to say that the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs did not, so far as this particular case is concerned, dispose for a moment of anything which fell from my honourable and learned Friend the Member for the Dumfries Burghs. He did not explain the extraordinary delay which occurred before the House became possessed of the facts of the case. He said there were great difficulties in the matter. We all know that in regard to these questions of slavery it is said that there are difficulties in the way. This was said to be so in connection with slavery in the West Indies. The excuse for not taking action in the olden days was that there were difficulties in the way. Again, if you read the reports of the proceedings in the House when the emancipation of the slaves in the West Indies was advocated, you find repeated assertions that the slaves were much better in a state of slavery than in a state of freedom; and other antiquated statements of that kind. But Parliament has for two generations come to the conclusion that slavery must cease throughout the British dominions. I listened with very great attention to what fell from the Attorney-General, but I am sorry to say that to me—no doubt because of my obtuse lay mind—he seemed to deal rather with the subtleties of the legal aspects of the case than with the plain commonsense view of the matter. What the House of Commons wants to know—and the House of Commons is entitled to an assurance from the Government on the subject—is whether the instructions of the Prime Minister are to be carried out or are they not. The Prime Minister's language is of the most precise nature, and no one can for a moment doubt the meaning of his words. He says— The Attorney-General has laid down that a British subject anywhere, in whatever service or employment he may happen to be engaged, if he takes part in restoring to his master or otherwise depriving any person of his liberty, on the sole ground that he is a fugitive slave, is breaking the British Law and exposing himself to penalties. I have to inform you, for your personal guidance, that you should conform your conduct to the law thus laid down. Can anyone say that Mr. Lloyd did not take part in restoring slaves to their masters? The Attorney-General makes a gesture of amusement. Here, again, I speak as an obtuse layman, but I say, can any person in the British Isles—lawyers apart—say that Mr. Lloyd did not take a part in restoring slaves to their masters? Very well, then, Mr. Lloyd has disobeyed the instructions of Lord Salisbury. We do not want to make this a Party question. The proceedings of last Parliament are saturated with occasions on which those who are now sitting on the Ministerial Benches brought forward the question of slavery in Zanzibar. I remember very well, while occupying a perfectly impartial position, listening to a discussion, when the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Birmingham West addressed himself in the most unmeasured language against the tardiness of the then Government in their proceedings with this matter of slavery in Zanzibar. A great many years have elapsed since then, and we ask that the agents on the spot should be informed that the mind of Lord Salisbury is the mind of the Government and the mind of the British nation, and that his lordship's instructions must be carried out in letter and in spirit. I say that if there is any further hesitation in the real manumission of those persons in a state of slavery, not only on the Islands of Zanzibar but on the mainland, a great responsibility will be at the door of the Government. There is a considerable amount of uneasiness in the country, and even in this House, in the minds of the supporters of the Government, in respect of their attitude in this matter. That uneasiness will not be removed by the tone of the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, or by a good deal which fell from him in the course of his speech. The intervention of the honourable Member for Holderness is a sign of the uneasiness, and I hope that the Debate to-day will have the effect of spurring the Government to wipe away the great stain on the honour of this country of tolerating slavery under the British flag.


On several occasions during the last three years I have taken part in discussions of this kind, and I must admit that I have never seen discussions in the House of Commons where less Party feeling has been shown than to-day. This is a battle between the missionaries on one side and our officials in East Africa on the other. Up to now the missionaries have been successful; they have even been right in their law, and the Government wrong. During the time the country of the mainland was under the care of the Chartered Company the officials had to send back escaped slaves to their masters, and when we took possession of the territory these persons ceased to be servants of the company and became servants of the British company, though they still insisted on the return of escaped slaves. Bishop Tucker came home and took the advice of the most eminent counsel in London. He was informed that the action of our officials in East Africa was illegal, and he became determined to fight them. He therefore sent out instructions to his clergymen at Mombasa not to deliver up escaped slaves. I am glad to think that honourable Gentlemen on the other side of the House feel as strongly as we do on this matter. In fact, the strongest expressions used in regard to our officials in East Africa have come from the Government side of the House. Both Governments have required all the pressure that can be brought to bear upon them in this House to compel them to carry out what we believe to be not only the law, but what is just and right. What are the facts of the case as far as the mainland is concerned? We had a treaty with the Sultan of Zanzibar, under which two proclamations were drawn up, although only one of these proclamations was issued. By treaty we have the absolute right to abolish slavery both in the island of Zanzibar and on the mainland. When the proclamation was issued there were 80,000 plantation slaves. We all acknowledge there is a great difference between the plantation slave and the household slave. Many domestic slaves voluntarily remain slaves when they could be free. They are associated with the household, and it suits them better to remain as slaves, but that slave relation is a social relation, not a legal one. Well, at the time of the proclamation there were 80,000 plantation slaves, but now they have increased to 200,000. How can this be? The old 80,000 must have been dead long ago. Plantation slaves do not live long. I remember before the abolition of slavery in the United States I spent some time in the Southern States, and lived amongst the negro slaves there. They seemed to enjoy life very well—much more than the white slaves do in this country. And probably a good deal can be said about that: but I always remember the reply made to me by a negro who had run away from his plantation, and had secured freedom. This negro admitted that ho had had a good master, who had been kind to him, and I asked him why then had he run away. His answer was, "The situation is open, if you like to go to it." My contention is that the 200,000 slaves on the plantations are slaves contrary, to law. But this question will never be settled so long as you retain the present Consul-General and the Sub-Commissioner. No matter what decision the House may come to they will thwart it. There was no getting over the dispatch sent out by Lord Salisbury to Sir Arthur Hardinge. The dispatch said— The Attorney-General has laid down that a British subject anywhere, in whatever service or employment he may happen to be engaged, if he takes part in restoring to his master or otherwise depriving any person of his liberty on the sole ground that he is a fugitive slave, is breaking the British law and exposing himself to penalties. These words seem to go further than the opinion expressed to-day by the Attorney-General. It may or may not be true that the missionaries, in order to get labour cheaply, induce the slaves to run away from their masters to work on their own plantations. The girl Kombo had been away from her master for 10 years. She came down to the coast on a message and was seized as a runaway 6lave. The case was tried in a British court. Her mother was cited as a witness, and also her father, and all three were handed over to slavery by a British judge. That was monstrous. The House of Commons has expressed its views on two or three occasions, and the present Colonial Secretary expressed his righteous indignation a few years ago against the action of the then Government. We nearly killed the Government upon the slave question; it was in greater danger from that question than from cordite. Where is the right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary now? He very soon cleared when he heard how the Debate was going. The independent Members in this House are determined that they shall turn out any Government that maintains slavery within the British dominions and permits British officers to send by force escaped slaves back to bondage.


The Attorney-General was good enough to say that I had rightly quoted the statutes on which he bases his view of the law. There is no difference of opinion as to the bearing of the particular case before us or regarding the statutes dealing with slave trading. It was not my intention to have spoken this afternoon after the answer made by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs yesterday. It seems to me that the facts of this particular case are too much in dispute to make it possible for us to usefully deal with it. It is alleged that the girl, after 10 years, returned to slavery by her own consent, and she is also alleged to have escaped again. It is also said that the mother was sent for as a witness and entrapped, but that is denied. With regard to the father, who was, I believe, a messenger of the Primitive Methodist Church, there is also a dispute as to the facts. That being so, it seems to me we cannot usefully pursue this particular case, but it has led to a most interesting and important general discussion on the law applicable to this case, and it is with reference to that law that I desire to make a very few observations. Now I confess that, while we all agree with the dictum of the Attorney-General as regards the law, just as we welcomed his previous statements, I, for one, cannot understand the last words he used in replying on this particular case. While he went as far as most of us as regards the liability of any British subject who was in any way concerned in the removal of a slave, he went on—I must confess I cannot understand why—to allude to an opinion which a British subject may express as a judge. Is that an obiter dictum —or an opinion to be followed by action on the part of the Native Courts? How did this matter arise originally? How was the Attorney-General asked for his opinion two years ago? Bishop Tucker brought before a number of Members of this House the actual documents issued by the Courts in this Protectorate directing the police to seize the persons of slaves as fugitive slaves in the British missions. Some 40 cases occurred, and when the matter came up he said that persons had written to the papers alleging that he had unfairly stated that some of these persons had committed other crimes. The letters were the letters of Bishop Tucker in "The Times," and when the warrants were produced to Members of the House and shown to the Under Secretary, there was no allegation whatever that these persons were wanted by the police for other crimes. It was because they were fugitive slaves that the missionaries were called upon to surrender them; and merely because there is a doubtful case now we cannot let pass the Attorney-General's statement with reference to the opinion of a judge, to be followed by action, as I understand, on the part of the Courts.


I can explain in one sentence. The question has constantly arisen where there are two claimants to slaves. Then the judge decides to whom the slaves belong, and orders them to be given to him. That was the opinion to which I referred.


No such case was brought before us. Every case was that of a fugitive slave who was restored as such, and I believe it is absolutely illegal for a British judge to give an opinion which is followed by action which sends these persons into slavery. The Under Secretary, in defending the Foreign Office, made a most amusing statement, which will be read with great astonishment throughout India and by retired Indian officials in this country. They will be amazed to read the Under Secretary defending the Foreign Office by saying that slavery was worse in India. There are 60 million Mahommedan subjects of the Queen in India, and in no ordinary sense of the word can it be said that there is a single slave among them.


What I said was that the position was better now in Zanzibar than it was in India in 1843, when legislation was passed which did not put the legal status of Mahommedans in India on so good a basis as is that of the slaves in Zanzibar at present.


That I cannot understand. In 1843 the legal status of slavery in India was abolished, and is abolished now, and how the right honourable Gentleman can possibly contend that in India the position of the people as regards slavery from 1843 was worse than it is in Zanzibar I cannot understand. The legal status was abolished in India, but it is maintained in Zanzibar, against the opinion of the highest authorities in this country and the best of our African officials who contend that the legal status must be abolished in the Protectorate. The Foreign Office is to blame that that is not done. The only other matter to which I wish to refer is that raised by my honourable Friend the Member for Monmouthshire, who alleged in very courteous language, no doubt, that the House had been innocently deceived by the Foreign Office last year. I have often heard Members in jocular conversation assume that the Foreign Office delighted in deceiving the House of Commons. I know that is not so. The House is not consciously deceived by any Member of the Government in any matter of public interest. The statements that are made are truthful, and when Ministers cannot make a statement they refuse information, and state why it cannot be given to the House. Therefore if I make a, very strong charge against a former representative of the Foreign Office of deceiving the House, I am sure, from private communications to me, that he was innocently deceiving it, and that he had not been informed of the facts he denied. But, Sir, those facts were, I confess, after hearing the explanation of the Foreign Office, rather lightly denied. What occurred last year was this. The matter arises on this Vote, which is the first occasion on which we could have raised it. Yesterday papers contained the speech of the Prime Minister, in which he gave away the case of the Foreign Office last year. When we were asked for a large sum of money last year for the Macdonald expedition, we were told that its object was to delimitate the frontier between Italy and this country on the Juba River. There was a phrase in the dispatches to which I called the attention of the House, and which showed that that could not be the sole or even the principal object of the expedition. That phrase directed the commander of the expedition to take with him certain tribes, and I pointed out to the House that these tribes lived a vast distance from the frontier of Italy and Great Britain in the neighbourhood of the Juba River. The Under Secretary, in an interruption, said that this statement was all imagination, and then he directly denied it, and he informed the House that the object of the expedition— by which he meant the sole object—was the delimitation of this frontier. It was, he said, to remove doubts and to deter- mine the frontier between the respective I Protectorates of Italy and Great Britain, and he added— There is no foundation for the suspicion of the right honourable Gentleman, which I confess never occurred to me until I entered this Chamber to-night, and which comes on me as an absolute surprise. That is to say there was then a suspicion that it had reference to the establishment of a post on the Nile, in anticipation of the French. Now, the new statement of the Prime Minister is this: in stating the difficulty about the delimitation of the frontier between Italy and ourselves, he says, "I may, however, say frankly that that was not to be the only object of the expedition." The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told us to-night that other matters, which might have led to another intention, have arisen since, but the Prime Minister makes exactly the opposite statement. He says— There were rumours at the time of designs on the Upper Nile, which experience did not altogether falsify, and these made us anxious to establish our military power at some station on the Upper Nile. Now I confess that I never knew a case in which the House of Commons was more directly misled by the office responsible for the Vote than in this statement of the Under Secretary of last year. I know he was not acquainted with the real object of the expedition, which the Prime Minister has made clear, but when we are voting public money, this is a matter which ought not to be passed over in silence, and my honourable Friend was right in causing it to be mentioned in the House.

* MR. H. J. WILSON (York, W.R, Holmfirth)

In rising to address the House for a few moments upon this question, I desire to say that I do so in no Party sense. Honourable Members on this side of the House have repeatedly voted against their own leaders on questions of this kind, and I hope we shall do so again if the necessity arises. When this incident was being introduced, the right honourable Gentleman opposite was asked across the floor of the House for the date, and I do not think it was quite worthy of him that he should try to make this a Party question, and say that we had only asked for the date in order to find fault with it in a political sense.


There was an interruption, in which I was asked for the date. I have no desire to make a Party question of it, and all I intended was to state that this had not been the policy of one Government only, and that the same considerations were equally binding upon the late Government.


If the right honourable Gentleman disclaims that intention, I have no more to say upon the matter, but his words had that appearance. It is perfectly well known that some of us have repeatedly voted against our own leaders upon questions of this kind when they have unfortunately been mixed up in them. I desire also to express my regret that upon a question of this kind a speech such as we have heard from the right honourable Gentleman opposite should have been made in this House. It is, as has been said already, very much the same kind of speech made a great many years ago when slavery still existed in the West Indies, and similar to those which were made in the American legislature, when slavery existed in the Southern States of America, We had hoped that the day had gone by for that kind of speech, and I intensely regret that Her Majesty's Government, or any Member of it, should have attempted to palliate a state of things which is entirely abhorrent to the general feeling of this country, and which, I am sure, is abhorrent to the feelings of Members on both sides of this House. He talks in an easy kind of way, and says, "that the slave, if he was ill-treated, had only to walk off to the Court," I should like a little more information as to how far the Court will be away, and what facilities the slaves have for "walking off" there. I am bound to say that this phrase itself shows an un-English kind of feeling in reference to the whole question. My honourable Friend the learned Member for Dumfries asked a question which has not been answered. He wanted to know whether we were to understand in all these extensions which are going on, and this increasing of our territory, that such a policy was going to be tolerated and extended, but he got no answer at all to that question. Some are not fond of this policy of extension under any circumstances, but if it is going to be attended by the extension of slavery, we object to it far more. You cannot get over Lord Salisbury's dispatch, and there has been no attempt made to answer it. Lord Salisbury said that no British subject was justified in taking part in this restoring of slaves to their masters, and that ought to be obeyed by our emissaries abroad. Instead of that, our officials seem to snap their fingers at Lord Salisbury and the Foreign Office, and as long as this state of things is tolerated they will continue to do so. They are a long way off, and they do not seem to care for the views of Parliament upon this subject. I quite agree with what was said by my honourable Friend the Member for Caithness— that until you change some of these officials you will never be able to do anything in this matter. I have read a great deal in the papers about this matter, and anyone can see that Sir Arthur Hardinge is determined to maintain this kind of thing. I do not wish to detain the House, but I enter my protest against the speech of the right honourable Gentleman and the state of things which exists out there, which is apparently condoned, from time to time, by the Foreign Office.

MR. MACLEAN (Cardiff)

I have heard with some astonishment the statement made by the Under Secretary, suggesting that the status of domestic slavery in India has not been abolished, and I think it will cause the utmost astonishment in that country. I venture to say that if any official in India in the service of the Crown were to give an opinion, even in any Court in India, that a man who had escaped from the status of domestic slavery might be returned to his master, that official would be summarily dismissed from the service of the Crown, and I do not think anyone will be able to quote a case in which anything of the kind has happened on the part of any of the officers of the Government. I know that it would be a most dangerous thing, for we have had some remarkable experiences in India lately, and it now seems that, in, ad- dition to protection, we are also to have the status of slavery restored.


My honourable Friend is misinterpreting my words I was referring to the Act of the year 1843, and I was not speaking to what was de facto the case in 1899.


Does my right honourable Friend admit that domestio slavery does not exist in, India, and that it is not connived at?


I do not say it exists, and I really hope and believe it does not. No British official in India would think of returning a domestic slave to his master. But, as a matter of fact, I doubt whether by statutes at the time the law was altered domestic slavery was abolished.


I think they might, at all events, admit that slavery was not going to be restored in India, but what we want to know is whether it is going to be continued on the mainland of Zanzibar. Now, the right honourable Gentleman gave as a plea that when we took over the Protectorate we entered into an engagement with the Sultan that his status of domestic slavery should not be interfered with. But I think that we should assert the common law of England, which forbids slavery in any British Protectorate. My right honourable Friend said that, to do this would cost a great deal of money, but, we have lavished a great deal of money in Africa upon much less worthy objects than this, and if this is the only defence which the Government can offer, it is a, very unworthy and weak defence of an impossible position.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I beg to bring before the House a, question of the gravest importance in connection with the administration of the law in Ireland, and I regret that the absence of the Chief Secretary prevents me from going into it in that full detail which I feel to, be necessary. I think it is extremely inconvenient for the Government to place the Consolidated Fund Bill as the first Order on Wednesday, and thereby deprive honourable Members of a fair opportunity of bringing forward Private Bills. It is the fault of the Government, and not in the least the fault of the Party, that public duty compels me to take advantage of this opportunity to bring forward a matter of urgent importance. It is a matter which I feel bound to allude to, even in the absence of the Minister for Ireland, because it is a grievance which affects the life and liberty of a gentleman in Ireland, which is in danger. Some days ago I asked the Chief Secretary whether any steps had been taken—and I asked him on several successive days—to put an end to a condition of lawlessness and outrageous persecution which has prevailed, and is boasted of in the light of day, in the city of Belfast, where an unfortunate clergyman has been made the victim of organised and continuous persecutions worse than I have ever heard of in this country. And what did the Chief Secretary say to me? He said that adequate protection would be afforded to this gentleman, who is the Rev. Mr. Peoples, the incumbent of St. Clement's, Belfast. Now, on Sunday last the scandalous conduct of which I complain was repeated in an aggravated form. This reverend gentleman has been for Sunday after Sunday for weeks and months hounded through the streets of Belfast by a howling mob, numbering tbousands of persons. Stones were hung at him, and the most infamous of language was used, and some hundreds of policemen have been obliged to escort the object of all this obloquy to and from his church when he goes to perform his service. On Sunday his church was burst into by a body of men, who, judging by their conduct, I may fairly describe as a mob of howling savages— people who do not belong to his congregation—and they turned his church into a perfect pandemonium. It may be contended by the Chief Secretary that his jurisdiction stops at the doors of the church, but am I to be told that it is affording sufficient protection when continuously for nearly six months this gentleman has to be escorted from his house to the church and back again by a hundred policemen, and pelted with stones and howled at through the streets? I complain that the Government- have done nothing to put an end to this state of things. I had intended to state the history of this case in full detail, but I will confine myself to a few sentences to illustrate the extreme urgency which has induced me to bring this subject forward to-day. On Sunday last, I am informed by Mr. Peoples himself, that when he was going to his church a large stone was flung at him which passed close to his head, and struck the door of the church with terrific violence. He was then escorted to his house by an immense force of police, and howled at and denounced by a mob who followed him. This occurrence took place after the Chief Secretary had stated in this House that the Rev. Mr. Peoples would receive adequate protection. Does any Member of this House hold that this is adequate protection, when he is allowed to be stoned in the street? This is a fact which I must impress upon the House, that in spite of these proceedings which are going on Sunday after Sunday, no one has been arrested and no prosecutions have been instituted by the police, and no attempt has been made to put a stop to this outrageous persecution. But this is not all. Not only was the Rev. Mr. Peoples pelted with stones and hounded down, but other members of his congregation were set upon. The unfortunate man who gave evidence against Johnston—the other day Johnston was convicted and sentenced to two months' imprisonment for brawling in the church;—was assaulted and knocked down in the yard of Workman and Clark's, the shipbuilders, and was beaten severely, and on Sunday last he was again assaulted by the mob, and was obliged to fly for his life into the house of a friend out of the public streets of Belfast. Again, a young lady who was one of the choir at St. Clement's Church was surrounded by a crowd of young men and boys, as they were called, and assailed by the most filthy language in the public streets, and was obliged to fly for protection to a neighbouring house. I want to know how long this kind of thing is to go on? The Chief Secretary when we pressed him a, fortnight ago to afford protection to this gentleman, and when we asked him whether the police were going to take any effective steps in the matter, said the police had done everything they could to disperse the mob except to prosecute, and he said that though it was illegal to do these things it was not always expedient to prosecute. I can prove to the Chief Secretary, and I declare deliberately— and I will repeat it whenever the occasion arises—that there is one law for the South of Ireland and another for the North, and that in the streets of the city of Belfast Orangemen are allowed to carry on a system of riot, intimidation, and assault which would not be tolerated for a moment in any other city in the United Kingdom. I think it is monstrous that a man whose only offence is that he con-duets the service of a Protestant Church according to his own views should be assaulted in this way, and that people should be allowed to indulge in conduct, with impunity, which would be a disgrace, I will not say to people professing the Christian belief, but to those people who pretend to be Christians. Surely in the streets of the city this man ought to be entitled to walk about as freely as we walk through the streets of London without being Sunday after Sunday hounded through the streets of Belfast by a howling, raging mob, who pelt stones at him. The answer of the Chief Secretary is, "We do our duty by giving him the protection of 200 police, who surround him." I put it to any Member of this House, that, supposing a Member of Parliament was singled out by a mob in London, and that when he came down to this House day after day he was pursued by a howling mob and surrounded by police after he had escaped any stones fired at him, would he accept from the Chief Secretary or the Home Office such an answer as we were forced to accept from the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that adequate police protection had been afforded, when no attempt was made to disperse this mob? His final answer was that it had been the custom in Ireland not to interfere in religious disputes, and this had been the custom of successive Governments. Apparently now this constitutional doctrine is going to be laid down for the benefit of the Orangemen of the city of Belfast, that so long as the matter is a religious dispute you may hound a man through the streets of the city; you may torture him by filthy language, and take long-shots at him with stones after the police have drawn a ring round him; and this is not an offence which the Executive Government will interfere with because it is a religious dispute. In the whole course of my experience—and I have heard many strange declarations—I have never before heard so monstrous a doctrine laid down by a responsible Minister as that which has been laid down by the Chief Secretary. This persecution is not a spontaneous out burst of popular feeling. If it only occurred on one occasion, and the Executive were not prepared for the outbreak, we might say that there were some palliating circumstances. This, however, was a, deliberately organised persecution, which was boasted of and which the people of Belfast desired to continue every week. I am told, and I believe it to be true, that the people organising this persecution have boasted of it at public meetings every week in Belfast, and I believe the men Who are organising this abominable persecution have not only boasted of it, but have announced their determination to drive Mr. Peoples from Belfast, or, as has been said, to hound him to hell or starve him out of the city. Are the Government of Ireland—which God knows in the South and West of Ireland have carried the doctrine of protection as far as it would go—going in the North of Ireland to allow it to be publicly announced that an unoffending citizen is to be hounded out of the city and served in this disgraceful way? When Mr. Peoples applied for protection to the Commissioner of Police for Belfast.—and this is what Mr. Peoples told me himself —the answer he got, according to his own statement, was that so long as he indulged in ritualistic practices in his church this sort of thing would continue. We have had it almost plainly confessed by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in an answer he gave the day before yesterday to a Question, that within the last fortnight Mr. Moriarty, the Commissioner of Police in Belfast, went to the Protestant Bishop of Belfast, and asked him to close St. Clement's Church or remove Mr. Peoples, because the police of Belfast refused to do their duty. The remedy suggested was that Mr. Peoples should be removed from his cure, or that the church of St. Clement's should be closed. I think I have a right to ask if there is one law for the South and another for the North of Ireland, and I shall continue to raise this question upon every available opportunity until some satisfactory answer is given. In the South of Ireland we had a case the other day in which a body of police claimed that they had been intimidated because an objectionable air, "The Peeler and the Goat," was played. In this case the people were held to bail, and were sent to gaol because they could not find bail. And yet there were no stones thrown nor any violence used, and the police admitted that they were not intimidated. In the North of Ireland this unhappy clergyman is hounded through the streets, and every Sunday stones are thrown at him and he is in terror of his life and in constant danger of injury. A few days ago a stone struck a lady in her own house, and yet the Chief Secretary says it is the custom of the Irish Government not to interfere in religious disputes. Under those circumstances I think the House will feel that I am justified in taking the very earliest opportunity of bringing this case before the House, and I regret that the Chief Secretary is not present. I shall probably, however, have another opportunity of bringing it forward.


I have listened with great attention to the speech of the right honourable Gentleman upon the slavery question, and I feel that, as far as the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is concerned, he will do his very utmost in this matter. I will not, therefore, trouble the House with all the remarks which I had intended to make. It seems to me that the right honourable Gentleman made out a case as far as he was concerned with the very greatest care and consideration. Unfortunately, we know that we cannot go beyond a certain point, and certainly honourable Members on this side will agree with me that the Foreign Office has done exceeding well, and has been most successful in very many things which it has achieved of late. Now, a great amount of material and moral support has been given to the Government, but in reference to this particular affair their object does not seem to be to use the power which they have in their hands to accomplish what I believe most Members on this side of the House, and also on the other side, desire to see done. This country has supplied the present Government with a great amount of moral and material power and force, and they have been able to use that power and force on many occasions with great advantage to this country. Now; this question of slavery is not nearly so difficult a matter, and not nearly so hard to deal with, as many of the difficulties which they have passed through and surmounted. I want to go a great deal faster in this affair than the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and we want to go a great deal faster than the right honourable Gentleman indicated that the Government would go. There is no doubt from what Lord Salisbury said that he distinctly desires to come to the point which we desire on this question of slavery on the Island of Zanzibar and the mainland, and that it should be entirely done away with. I see many Members of the Government on the Front Bench, and I am sure that I am speaking the feelings of honourable Members on this side of the House when I say that we want them to wake up and be in earnest upon this matter. We desire them to seriously face this question, and when they are in earnest they will be able to confront the difficulty and solve it It is a question which does want solving, for it is an open sore and has been for some time. We do not ask them to draw the sword, but if they will only skake the sword in the scabbard it will be quite enough. A great deal has been done upon this question in other countries, and surely the Government can deal with the Sultan of Zanzibar. It seems to me that if it is the opinion of the Prime Minister and also the desire of the right honourable Gentlemen on both sides of the House that slavery ought to be done away with, surely it can be accomplished if the Government are in earnest and take up a strong and determined course. I think I am only stating the feelings of the honourable Members near me when I state that if they would do this they would put an end to what I call an open sore and what is undoubtedly a stain upon the good name of England.

MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)

I need hardly point out that surprise and pain has been felt in the country at the position in which we stand in regard to slavery in Zanzibar by the explanation of the Attorney-General. Now, what does that explanation amount to? It amounts to this, that we are all agreed that no British subject, either in Zanzibar or anywhere else, can take part in returning slaves to their masters; but it seems, according to the explanation of the Attorney-General, that English officials sitting in courts where the local law prevails can express an opinion that runaway slaves ought to be returned to their masters. We ought to have had a clear explanation, for the right honourable Gentleman has stated that he referred to the dispute as to the ownership of slaves between two masters, I think we are coming to a very delicate playing with language. I should like to know what is the power of an opinion expressed by a high British official in a territory like Zanzibar? I should say that the power of such an opinion is about the strongest and most important factor for the return of slaves to their masters that we could possibly have. We might illustrate this by a case in the Old Bailey when you have had a trial for murder, and the man is found guilty, but the judge only expresses an opinion that he should be hanged and he is hanged. Where a British official expresses an opinion that a British slave should be returned to his master, I am bound to say that any opinion expressed by an official will be a very important factor in returning those slaves to their masters. I am sure the country will be very much surprised to hear that we are to allow our local officials in Zanzibar, where the British flag flies, to over-ride British principles of justice. We pretend to be very much advanced, but if this be a true reading of the law we are behind the Romans in the management of this business. I do not know whether I shall be cut of order in citing the case of Pontius Pilate. Here is a case of local law prevailing, and there is a person said to be deserving of certain punishment, and what does the Roman governor do? He refuses to express an opinion as to whether he is guilty or innocent, according to the law. He sends him back to be tried, but he takes no part in such law. I do claim that in the administration of our great Empire and in this great matter of slavery we shall rise to the level of the Romans. I did not intend to rise, but I am quite certain when it is understood that we allow our officials in any part of our Empire to express the opinion that slaves ought to be sent back to slavery, the life of any Government will not be worth many years' purchase. We have been asked as to whether this system is to be extended to the other parts of our rapidly growing Empire, and if this is so I think people will hesitate about adding further to our possessions. I ask the Government, at any rate, to make it clear to us, and through us to the country, that no English official will be allowed in any part of our Empire to take any part in expressing an opinion as to the return of slaves to their masters.

MR. MOON (St. Pancras, N.)

In this case we appear to have a definite agreement made, and our officials are placed in a very difficult position indeed. The Attorney-General has to some extent stultified that dilemma by the judgment which he has pronounced, and therefore in that respect it is different to the case brought forward by the honourable Member for Bolton in regard to the Old Bailey. The judgment at the Old Bailey is followed by that judgment being executed. But such a declaration of opinion as one of our officials might give utterance to would not be put into execution in any sort of way. I think the upshot of the whole matter is that we should urge the Government, as my honourable Friend behind me did, to get rid as quickly as we can of this agreement of 1890, which is the root of the difficulty £ the whole matter. When that is got rid of, then our officials will not be put into the conflicting position in which they are now.

MR. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)

I do not intend to detain the House for many minutes, but I want to ask the Under Secretary three questions, on all three of which I have addressed Questions to him in this Session, and in regard to two of which Questions have been addressed to him by honourable Members behind him. I desire to call the right honourable Gentleman's attention to the closing of the Armenian Orphanages. Within the last few years 17 orphanages have been established in Armenia, supported by English and American funds, as well as by other funds from countries in Europe, without counting the orphanages established under the auspices of the Patriarchate. Now, it so happens that within the last few months an edict has gone forth to certain provincial governors to the effect that those orphanages should be closed, and in the case of four of them this order has already been carried out. Since then, however, a paragraph has gone the round of the newspapers, which appears to have emanated from Constantinople, and in which it has been stated that the order was not to the effect that these orphanages should be closed, but that there was no teaching to be carried on in them except by the permission and under the control of the Sultan. I think honourable Gentlemen will see that the two orders practically mean the same thing. It is impossible for orphanages supported by British and American money to exist under such conditions. I think it is desirable that the British Ambassador at Constantinople, in conjunction with the American Minister, should make every possible endeavour, not only to get that order rescinded, but also to prevent it from being carried out, in spite of that order having been issued. It is a matter which is of very urgent importance, and although the honourable Gentleman stated a few days ago that it was engaging the attention of Sir Nicholas O'Conor, it is desirable that it should be immediately dealt with, and that we should take every possible step for the purpose of putting an immediate stop to these proceedings. My first question then is in regard to the closing of certain orphanages established in Armenia for purely philanthropic purposes, and supported by British and American money. My second question is with regard to the very long and serious delay which has taken place in regard to the compensation which has been due to British merchants at Constantinople in consequence of (he losses they incurred at the time of the massacres in 1896. That massacre at Constantinople occurred a very long time ago—I believe in August 1896—and from that year down to the present time not a, single farthing of compensation has been paid, in spite of the very obvious justness of the claim, and the very good grounds on which the claim was based. It is an important and an urgent matter. It may be said that it is a matter for international action, on the ground that other mer- chants suffered at the same time. I know that I am within the bounds of facts when I state that the losses in regard to British merchants on that occasion were distinctly greater than those of any other nationalities, and, therefore, England has a paramount claim. But there is another matter of a more delicate nature, which concerns the relations between Russia and Turkey, although it is not a matter of which we have the same direct responsibility which we have in regard to the orphanages. In the month of May last year an edict went forth from St. Petersburg requiring that within 12 months all Armenian families who had taken refuge in Trans-Caucasia should return to Turkish territory, or else naturalise themselves as Russian subjects. The difficulties in the way of complying with this order are obvious in certain cases, because many of these Armenians have taken refuge in the small villages from which they had been driven, and naturally they desire to return to look after their property, but if they become naturalised Russian subjects they at once lose the locus standi which they previously possessed. In addition to that, there are sentimental considerations which are connected with their homes, and there is also the still graver reason that very serious disturbances may occur in Turkey if so great a number of expelled Armenian subjects were all at one time to return, and possibly come into conflict with the Kurds. I think that raises the question to a somewhat different plane from one merely of relations between Russia and Turkey, because obviously we have certain treaty obligations in regard to the Armenians in Turkey, and if there is that sudden influx, as there may be towards May and June, into these mountain highlands, the exiles will run the risk of coming into conflict with the Kurds, or of an attack being made upon them by Kurds, who have taken possession of their lands. The effect of that would not conduce either to the pacific character of Asiatic Turkey, or to the friendly relations which we desire to see continued between ourselves and the Empire of Russia. On these grounds, it seems to me that it is desirable that time should be taken by the forelock, and that this Government should exhaust every endeavour to use its good offices with the Government at St. Petersburg to try and secure a modification of that edict, because unless that edict is modified very serious consequences may ensue with regard to the future. These are the three questions which I desire to impress upon the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I am certain that the question of orphanages requires most urgent attention. The position of the Sultan's Armenian subjects cannot be ignored, and the delay which has already taken place is lamentable, and ought to be brought to a speedy close. With regard to the third question. I admit that it is a question of a more delicate character. It seems to me, in view of the present relations between this Government and the Government of Russia, and also of the prospects afforded by the coming Peace Conference, that opportunity might be taken of putting that question upon a better footing than it now stands.


I regret that the Chief Secretary has made an engagement which necessitates his absence from the House this afternoon, and therefore that he is unable to reply to the questions raised by the honourable Member for Mayo in his speech. I am sure the honourable Member for Mayo will not think it discourteous of mo if I do not at present attempt the defence which the Government have—a defence which I think the house will consider adequate when it is put forward. It will be more satisfactory, I think, to leave this matter until the honourable Member shall have had an opportunity of developing his entire case against the Government, when the defence of the Government can cover the whole ground. I think I shall best consult the convenience of the House if I reserve the defence of the Government until that occasion arises.

MR. HOLLAND rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined to put that Question.

* MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)

I just want to refer briefly to the subject raised by my honourable Friend beside me. I have had several representations made to me in connection with the closing of the Armenian orphanages. Very cruel effects are resulting just now from the treatment of the Armenians. I believe that but for the agitation that has arisen in this country and other countries, we should soon hear of the closing of all the orphanages. The fact is that the Turkish Government is pursuing the Armenian people with the same cruelty and vindictiveness that have distinguished it from the beginning. It is not doing it so openly, but it is doing it stealthily; the desire is still to crush the Armenian nationality, and I believe that but for the fear of public opinion in Europe we should soon have a repetition of the more violent forms of massacre. There is great suffering going on just now. I am informed that in the district of Van there are about 80,000 Armenians who are literally starving, and are only supported by charity obtained in Europe. Even that charity is frequently seized by Turkish officials, and it is with great difficulty that it can be distributed. I had most pressing appeals from several sources, amongst others one sent by the Duke of Westminster, which, no doubt, many Members of this House have received. I would suggest to the Government that as we are now on such amicable terms with our friends across the Atlantic—and these orphanages are mostly of American origin—why should not the two Governments go hand in hand in representations made to Turkey? I believe that if America and this country had gone hand in hand two or three years ago, during the time of the massacre, we should have been able in a great measure to stop it. But, unfortunately, the Venezuela difficulty occurred just in the midst of our negotiations, and we were paralysed. Now, happily, all that has passed away. The two countries are going hand in hand, I hope, in all good works, and I would therefore impress upon the Government the necessity of using this golden opportunity, of arranging a common concert to protect these poor Armenians. There is one other question. This Peace Conference I think, might very well be used for dealing with questions of this kind. The Powers of Europe will consult together in connection with the object of maintaining peace. We all know that the harrowing events which have taken place in Turkey have been one of the greatest causes of European unrest, and they may again be a great cause of European trouble. Why should not this golden opportunity be seized, when we are in concert with Russia on the one side, and the United States on the other side, of trying to come to some common understanding? I hope that some Member of the Government will be able to throw a little light upon this subject. There is nothing which has caused such pain and sorrow in this country for many years as our failure to carry out our obligations towards the Christian populations in Turkey. The least we can do is to attempt to save the poor scattered remnant that survives.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for to-morrow.