§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum. not exceeding £35,771, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge 1236 which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1905 for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE () Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean
said the Foreign Office Vote was generally used for the purpose of a general discussion on the political situation of the country in regard to other Powers. They had had a very recent debate in which most of the topics which could be safely dealt with in the present state of Europe were discussed. He referred to the debate on the Anglo-French Convention, and although there might be questions asked in the course of that afternoon in regard to the action of the Government in Macedonia and Armenia, it was not his intention to deal with more than one subject that day. He doubted very much whether, in the present state of Europe, with the Russo-Japanese War proceeding, and with our engagement towards Japan, it was wise that the House of Commons should attempt to discuss these subjects. At all events, he should refrain from doing anything of the kind. It might easily cause harm, it could do no good, and silence seemed, under the circumstances, to be the best course at the present moment. But there was a matter which they discussed last year, on a separate Motion, for a full day in the House of Commons, and in regard to which they carried a unanimous Resolution. Since that time four Papers had been laid, one of them having been circulated only that morning, showing the course which the Government had pursued in consequence of the agitation which led up to the passing of the unanimous vote to which he had referred. The subject was, of course, the affairs of the Congo State, a matter on which public feeling in this country had been excited for many years past to an extent that had rarely been known. It was a matter on which public opinion had been still further excited by the revelations which the Government had had itself to make in consequence of the action it promised last year. The Motion of last year was passed on 20th May, when attention was called by several 1237 hon. Members to the treatment of the natives in the Congo State, and to the responsibilities of this country in connection therewith. In the course of that debate complaints were made that the Concessionaire Régime constituted a breach of the treaty conditions under which the Congo State was established, inasmuch as the effect of what was going on was to lead to the actual depopulation of the country under circumstances of the most horrible cruelty. The country was being worked out as a merely temporary possession, and it was not being kept going for the benefit of future generations. These were the allegations which were made on the occasion of the debate in the House of Commons, when it was resolved that measures should be adopted to abate the evils prevalent in that State. That debate was followed by the issue of a Government Paper, Africa No. 10, 1903, which contained a note from the Congolese, Government which was, he thought, intended for the purposes of the debate because it was dated two days before the debate actually occurred. In that Paper there was a dispatch to which he must draw special attention. He did not like to make disagreeable comments upon any of our public servants, but he confessed that he was a little disappointed that it should have been thought his duty by Sir Constantine Phipps to state that the correspondence led him to the, conclusion that—If the operation of the Commission has not been so effective as might have been, anticipated the fault is due not to any deficiency of conception or absence of energy on the part of the central Government.Now, he believed that statement to be entirely contrary to the facts and he regretted, therefore, to find it in the dispatch. It appeared to him to be contradicted by the whole of the information which the Government had subsequently themselves, upon official information laid before the House of Commons. The next Papers that were circulated were circulated at the beginning of the present session, one bearing the date Africa 14–1903. This was a dispatch written by the Government in consequence of the Motion made in that House, and in consequence of the Resolution passed by the House, and in that dispatch 1238 the Government spoke in all moderation; in fact, the dispatch was couched very much in the terms used in the House of Commons by the Prime Minister when he accepted the Resolution. In it the Government pointed out in the Note to the Powers that new instances of cruelty were proved, and they referred to the possibility or probability that those instances of cruelty might be connected with the system of administration, itself. They said that it was reported that the method of obtaining men for labour had often but little difference from that employed formerly to obtain slaves. It was an authoritative statement that new slavery existed, and that compulsion in regard to bringing in produce was exercised by irresponsible native soldiers uncontrolled by Europeans It was suggested that that was vouched for by men whose testimony could be relied upon. It was pointed out that vast territories were held by companies closely connected with the State, and the Note quoted the opinion of Mr. Casement as a Consul of wide African experience, to the effect that even in the treatment of British subjects by the Congolese Government there had been revealed instances of Cruelty, oppression, and horrible administration, and that as that occurred in the case of foreigners protected by their own Government, it might be assumed that the state of affairs was far worse in the case of the natives. It was said further that the Reports of Mr. Casement, the Consul, gave evidence of cruel maladministration and ill-treatment, that the Congo stations were shunned, the only natives seen being soldiers and prisoners, and then the Note went on to speak of the depopulation of that part of the country. Now the defenders of the Congo State, who, he was happy to state, were almost exclusively foreigners and not Britons, were too apt to suggest that the original state of that country was horrible in the extreme, and that, however bad things might be at the present, moment, at all events they constituted a great improvement on the past. That however, was not the opinion of this administrator of wide African experience He continually returned to the statement that things were getting far worse, and that large native trades which formerly existed had been destroyed, that the 1239 people were being driven across the borders, and that the country was becoming void of population. He would ask those who took an interest in the African question to refer to the high authority of Lady Lugard in her recent paper on "West African Negroland" as showing that the allegation that the state of things in former times was far worse was directly contrary to fact.
In the first Papers issued this year, Africa No. 1, 1904, Lord Cromer, in a dispatch written with that weight and authority which characterised everything that came from his pen, pointed out the extraordinary contrast which struck him when he passed from the Anglo-Egyptian sphere to the Congolese territory. He confirmed the statement that the natives shunned the Congo stations, and said there was no wonder the people should fly from the Belgians, for he was informed that the soldiers were allowed full liberty to plunder The whole administration lived in the country by forced labour and by forced supplies of food. If these things were allowed close to our frontiers in places continually under the inspection of our officers what might they expect in the interior? Lord Cromer's view was absolutely confirmed by Consul Casement's experience on the other side of the State—a thousand miles away. As Lord Cromer told them, there was a total absence of ordinary administration such as obtained in every other colony in the world—the whole administration, from the Governor-Gen era I down to the cannibal soldier, was living in The country by forced supplies.
Now he came to our own Consul's Report, which had been foully attacked and ought to be defended, seeing he was selected by the Government as an official of great experience to make the investigation, in consequence of a Resolution passed by the House, which was largely responsible for bringing this Congo State into existence, in the name of civilisation. The Report might be divided into two parts—one describing things he saw with his own eyes, and the other conveying statements on what might be deemed to be responsible authority. For instance, a most incredible statement was made by a Swedish missionary, since unfortunately 1240 dead, and anyone who saw that gentleman must have been convinced that he was stating facts. Incredible as it might seem, the evidence compelled the belief that cannibal troops were employed by the State and lived as cannibals. It had been said that the late General Gordon employed cannibal soldiers, but, at any rate, he did not ration them on human flesh. There was a horrible story re ported on good missionary evidence of cannibal soldiers asking a white officer to give them an old woman to eat, and he told them to take her, and the soldiers cut her throat, divided the body, and ate it. In describing the things he had seen with his own eyes, Consul Casement said he found steady deterioration and depopulation all the way up the river from the beginning of his journey; what were formerly large and flourishing trade centres he found ruined and laid waste; the inhabitants were forced to supply food for the officials even in Leopoldville; labour was enforced under cruel punishment, and the men were in this way prevented from fishing and trading. If men refused they were seized and sent away for long distances from their homes, and this was the condition of things long before the rubber districts were reached. On page 29 they had a description of how the depopulation of the country was proceeding. There were people who had walked from 120 to 150 mile. and when asked why they had fled they replied that "they had endured such ill-treatment at the hands of the Government officials and soldiers that nothing had remained but to be killed for failure to bring in rubber or to die in their attempts to satisfy the demands." That was why they had fled from the rubber districts. Many in their attempts to get away had been shot down and killed. Again, on page 30 they had a narrative showing how largely native trade had been destroyed. Occasionally Congolese punitive expeditions were employed because the people failed to bring in the required food supply. It was urged that we occasionally sent punitive expeditions, but they were of a totally different character. Heaven knew he had little sympathy with punitive expeditions, but we had never had one producing the results described in this 1241 Report. A native sentry belonging to a different tribe and speaking a different language was placed in charge of a village. He was armed with a rifle and supplied with a number of cartridges which he had to satisfactorily account for. He was responsible for seeing that the stores and food supplies were got in, and the more quickly it was done the better he liked it. So he used force to compel the people to work; life was held cheaply and the district was quickly depopulated. On page 31 it worked out thus—a "Government official" makes war on a town "for failing to bring in its fixed food supply. Many prisoners are taken and the women distributed as slaves." One man told Mr. Casement that he had three given to him, of whom one escaped. This was the new slavery— there was unmitigated slavery in connection with these expeditions.
The Consul's evidence in relation to the Domains priré confirmed that of Rev. A. E. Scrivener, a Baptist missionary, that that the manufacture of baskets for the conveyance of produce in the Government steamer by river and to Europe was enforced upon the natives by flogging. The people were frequently flogged for inability to complete the tale of baskets or food. Several (including a chief) showed scars, and Consul Casement added that" the statements were not untrue was confirmed by his visit to the Domaine pricé store." The district brought home the moral here, that we were not justified in pretending to ourselves that these evils existed only or mainly in connection with the Concessionaire Companies. They evidently existed still more markedly in the Domaine privé and the Domaine de la Couronne, In the Domaine de la Couronne, handed over to the administration of three: persons, two of whom were equerries to the King, a revenue was derived from illegal taxes. In this connection they had the evidence of the Rev. A. E. Scrivener, a Baptist missionary who travelled through the country of the Domaine de la Couronne from July to September, 1903. He told them the condition in which he found that great tract of 30,000 square miles, and Consul Casement's Report confirmed his statement on page 29. Consul Casement alluded to a letter from the Rev. John Whitehead given on page 60, 1242 "Notes on Refugee Tribes." Again, pages 63–4 described horrors which existed in the Domaine. The rev. gentleman saw a great number of skeletons, and the people told him that—When the soldiers were seat to make us cut rubber there were so many killed we got tired of burying.MR. Whitehead continued—All combined to convince me that during the last seven years this Domaine Privé of King Leopold has been a veritable hell upon earth.There was one matter in relation to which the denial of the Congo Government was peculiar. Mutilation was a common mode of punishment, and though the officials declared that in recent years they had put down the practice, there was evidence that it continued, nor was it surprising that it should be so when authority was enforced by barbarous armed sentries in the native villages, who would be likely to inflict this form of punishment. They had described on pages 34 and 45 terrible cases of mutilation. In one a lad of sixteen, another a boy under six, a third a boy between six and seven, and a fourth boy, whose arms were cut off or shot through. One lad had been twice shot through the arm at short range, shattering the bone and burning the flesh. In consequence of this mutilation, flogging, and shooting, the people "fly at the approach of steamers. Villages are emptied of all human beings." Mr. Casement states that he had entered villages which he had visited in happier times and where he had been courteously received, and found them deserted, and at last when he discovered some of his former friends they told him that they ran away from the white man's steamer because of the treatment they got from the white men. In the despatch which was circulated that morning, "Africa No. 7," Lord Lansdowne had a passage on the subject of mutilation. In that despatch, dated 6th June, there was an interesting passage—With regard to the question of mutilation His Majesty's Government note with interest that the Congo Government are aware that Mr. Casement is not alone in his opinion that such atrocities occur.He need not detain the Committee with the evidence of the people escaping from this horrible system to foreign 1243 territory. On page 36, "Africa No. 1, 1904" it is stated that—In the past they escaped in large numbers to the French territory, but many were prevented by force from doing this, and numbers were shot in the attempt.And on page 39 there was full detail of life in villages ruined by State forced labour. There was one case which was only one of thousands, which was personally investigated by Consul Casement—A widow came and declared that she had been forced. … to sell her daughter, a little girl. … about ten. … I found. … on returning. … that the statements made with regard to the girl were true. … The girl had again changed hands and was promised in sale to a town whose people are open cannibals. Through the local missionary.. …Consul Casement bought the child out of slavery, and sent her back to her mother. Now this was done with such knowledge that it amounted to connivance on the part of the authorities. In all those cases the people who were not killed were sold as slaves through the action of a Government which professed to have been established to put down slavery. Afterwards Mr. Casement went to the concessions area, where the same system was followed. Page after page of the Report dealt with the rubber and sentry system. On page 46 Mr. Casement gave his examination of one of these rough sentries. He got hold of this man because he was able to talk freely. Most of them were too stupid — being mere brutes; but this man told Mr. Casement all the facts He asked the man—Why do you catch the women and not the men?And the answer was—If I caught the men who would work the rubber? But if I catch their wives. … the rubber is brought in quickly.On page 47 the matter was fully followed up, and on page 48 Consul Casement described how he himself saw men captured by those sentries, dragged on the ground and lodged in what were called Maisons des Otages. There was a House of Hostages on every station where the people were taken and terrified by the risk of flogging, death, or slavery into acting as hostages that those over whom they had authority should bring in a sufficient supply of rubber. This was explained on 1244 page 50, after he had talked the matter over with white officers—The truly recalcitrant man who proved enduringly obstinate in his failure to bring in his allotted share of rubber would in the end be brought to reason.In his general remarks on this system at page 59, Mr. Casement said—The officers could not but feel themselves bound to consider the profitable exploitation of indiarubber as one of the principal functions of Government.Just let the Committee consider what that meant. This rubber was not obtained from plantations, but from the virgin forest where the vines were cut and allowed to bleed to death. The rubber was obtained by this horrible means of torture and slavery; the vines died out; the country became a barren desert and the population disappeared. These wretched people had been exterminated for this temporary profit, and the exploiters passed to another district where the same practices were followed with corresponding results. In their first despatch the Government summed up Mr. Casement's statements on page 83 as "a grave indictment and need no comment." But in "Africa 7," circulated to-day, and which was chiefly filled with the Congolese reply to Consul Casement's statements already published in Belgium and here, and which was not worth much examination, at page 40 Lord Lansdowne in his dispatch of 19th April, which he thought was a weak despatch and which he regretted to see in that volume, asked that—A searching and impartial inquiry will be made into the allegations against the Administration. … and that if real abuses or the necessity should be thereby disclosed, the central Government will act as the necessities of the case demand.That was the situation when the Government got their information not only from Members of this House, missionaries, and others, but from Mr. Casement's Report. Surely enough had been disclosed and we need not have been put back where we were many years ago. He fully admitted, however, that on page 61 there was an excellent dispatch in which the Government, going back on their former dispatch, used these words—The inquiry promised is no doubt intended to be of a searching and impartial character, and His Majesty's Government hoped that they 1245 would before now have received some indication of the measures designed to carry out this intention. In the peculiar circumstances. … strict impartiality will hardly be attributed to an investigation conducted. … solely by the officers of the State or by the agents of the concessionaire companies.That, he was sure, would be the view of the Committee. That was a wise and consistent attitude for the Government to take up. Now, since the publication of Mr. Casement's Report, the Caudron case had occurred. This man, who was a Congolese official, and a coloured British subject from a neighbouring colony, also employed by the State, had been convicted and sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. Their sentence was slightly reduced by the Court of Appeal, the members of which were of opinion that their responsibility was to some extent covered by the direct orders of the Congo Government itself. The Court of Appeal asked for the production of the orders under which these men had acted and that demand of the Court was refused by the Congo Free State Government. The Court stated that although they believed that these persons had acted under the orders of the State, they nevertheless found that the acts they had committed were so horrible that no orders could justify them, and therefore, though they reduced the term of imprisonment, they retained a very heavy penalty upon them. The result of the Caudron case was that King Leopold had written a letter to the Governor-General of the Congo Free State in which His Majesty ordered him, after the manner of the Chinese Government, to search out everywhere the people who were responsible for the atrocities and bring them to justice. But these people acted under the orders of the Government of the King, and it was impossible for the Government not to know the system by which these enormous profits were gained. The impartial evidence obtained as to the system pursued in the Domaines was sufficient to show that. He did not think the position of the Congo Free State would be strengthened before the eyes of Europe by that letter of King Leopold.
He had hitherto dealt entirely with the humanitarian aspect of the question. He now came to the trade aspect, in which Liverpool and Manchester were naturally 1246 much interested. The concessionaire system of trade, the depopulation of the country, the destruction of the local trade —all meant the destruction of the international trade which the Congo Free State had pledged themselves to promote, and which was, in Africa, necessary to the happiness of the people. The monopoly system was destructive of the happiness of the people, which depended on general trade being permitted to be practised. Now when the Congo Free State was founded it was for two objects— in the name of the principles of humanity and with special reference to the principle of full liberty of international trade. The late Sir Henry Stanley delivered a most eloquent address on 18th September, 1884, on the subject in favour of the Congo Association just before it was officially brought into existence—it changed its name only after the Berlin Act—in which he said—We are international. … We have laboured for all nations. … Come with your cottons and woollen stuffs and trade freely. … We are not traders ourselves. We do not understand it, but you do. We will not ask what your nation is. … We wish to secure equal rights to all and the utmost freedom of commerce. … Whatever concessions. … we gained in that basin we wish to give away to every bonâ fide trader.Everyone admitted that there was the most frightful falling off in the Congo. Personally, he believed that the world had never in modern times seen such horrors as were perpetrated in the Congo State, except perhaps under Spain in the West Indian Islands and Peru, and nothing like them had ever been seen under any Government which professed to be civilised. This country was responsible both from the humanitarian side and the trade side. The Foreign Office assured the Manchester and Liverpool Chambers of Commerce that in any event freedom of trade would be retained. The late Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs said—We had a locus standi … The Congo State had entered into obugations towards us.They themselves had stated as individuals that the Congo State was the creation of Europe at the Berlin Conference. The Congo State, how ever, asserted that it was the creation of treaties made some years before the Berlin Act; and that the first of those treaties was with the United 1247 States. The Congo State, however, did not change its official name until 1st August, 1885, after the Berlin Conference. But if King Leopold took that view, and that the United States had recognised the Congo State as a sovereign State with a flag, before the Berlin Conference, then the Government ought to be asked to go outside the signatory Powers of the Berlin Act and to appeal to the United States. Having regard to the opinion expressed by the President aid the Secretary of State in the United States on those matters, he believed that such an appeal would be pregnant with good results. As regarded the trade side he would leave that to the Lanceshire Members. This country was now at war with Tibet nominally for the protection of trade; and if British trade were treated in Morocco as it was in the Congo hi believed every British warship in the Mediterranean would be ordered to the African coast. As regarded the humanitarian side, they were, however, all concerned. The responsibility which rested on those Englishmen, some of them Members of the House, who brought the International Association into existence was a very heavy responsibility indeed. In face of the facts which were now officially admitted, he asked the House whether the time had not come when they should sweep away all the difficulties which stood in the way, and force the Government to take stronger action than mere words in dispatches to deal with this horrible scandal.
§ *Mr. AUSTIN TAYLOR () Liverpool, East Toxteth
said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean had so exhaustively dealt with the serious condition of things in the Congo Free State that he hesitated to add anything to the luminous and lurid description he had given. Perhaps, however, as one of the representatives of a city which was largely interested, not only in trade in the Congo Free State, but also in the French Congo, he might be allowed to say a few words on this important question. The system prevailing in the Congo Free State, and to a certain extent in the French Congo, had been described in words which he would quote and winch seemed to him to sum up the crude method of dealing with tropical 1248 countries that had been adopted by France and Belgium. An area of a couple of thousand square miles was marked off on a map of Africa and then the company obtaining the concession was told— "Gentlemen, we, the Government of this African country, grant to you and your associates everything of commercial value which grows within the area marked on the map of that country. You will, of course, make it convenient to pay the native some little trifle for his self-imposed labour in bringing you what you require. Gentlemen, good day; and never forget that we seek only one thing—the moral and material advancement of the dark r ices." The result of that system was that instead of those countries being administered for the benefit of the natives, in the first instance, and secondly, as was originally promised on the founding of the Congo State, for the commercial benefit of those who desired to trade with the natives when they developed in their capacity as trading animals, there was a system of enforced slavery under which the concessionaire sought not the good administration of the country, not the elevation, moral or spiritual, or even material, of the natives, but the exploitation of the forests and the acquisition of rubber, one of the most important and most profitable of commodities, second perhaps only to gold in the steadiness of the demand and the enormously lucrative character of the profit obtained by those who traded in it. The head of the Government by armed violence supported them in their determined efforts to obtain this most valuable commodity, for the attainment of which they expropriated the native from any freehold he might have in the soil, and they wrung out of the soil, and all that grew upon it, everything of value to the utmost farthing, for commercial purposes, not, be it noted, for the benefit of other countries who desired to trade with the Congo State, but for their own benefit as sellers of this commodity in the European market, and also for the benefit of a Government which was not ashamed to share in the nefarious methods by which that commodity was secured. He would cite the very remarkable circular issued from Bema by the Governor-General in respect of the necessity of acquiring rubber in the greatest quantity. The 1249 circular was addressed to the commissioners of districts and the chiefs of zones, and referred at very great length to the depreciation in the quality of the rubber, and to the necessity of keeping up the quality, and also improving the quantity. It concluded with these remarkable words, which he thought were worthy of attention as coming from the Governor-General, and which might be taken as indicating what he considered to be the primary object of those to whom the circular was addressed—I may add that the value of rubber, even when free from all admixture, has gone down in every market for some time past. Territorial chiefs must, therefore, not only remove the two causes of loss which they can eliminate, but they must try also to neutralise the third by making unceasing efforts to increase production to the extent laid down in the instructions.There they had the Governor-General stimulating the authorities in those countries not for the benefit of the natives, not as a justification for the existence of this European Administration, but for the material profit of those engaged in trade, well knowing that it would lead to the degradation and bitter oppression of the natives. He did not desire to go at any length into the methods by which the natives were compelled to accept forced labour, and to suffer degradation in the process. He should like to quote an extract from the evidence of Lord Cromer. Whatever might be said with reference to Lord Cromer, he would be recognised by the House and by the country as a man who would not commit himself lightly to an expression of opinion in regard to the administration of native States. He said—It appears to me that the facts I have stated above afford ample and sufficient justification of the spirit which animates Belgian administration, if administration it can be called. The Government, so far as I could judge, is conducted almost exclusively on commercial principles, and, even judged by that standard, it would appear that those principles are somewhat shortsighted.He should also like to quote an extract from the Memorandum issued by Lord Lansdowne. The Congo Administration had endeavoured in self-justification to asperse the dealings of England with other native races. He was not prepared to contend that we were altogether free to bring these charges against the Free State without 1250 laying ourselves open to something that might appear at the first blush as a retort, but Lord Lansdowne, in his Memorandum, summed up with absolute truth and perfect clearness the difference that existed when he said that the native under the British system knew the fixed amount of his obligation, and, once discharged from it, was at liberty to seek where he would labour or leisure; but the Congo labourer might not even leave his village except as a fugitive, and was a close bondsman to his endless tasks. English administration, even if they went a long way back, could not be charged with any such abominable system as that of which details were set forth in the Memorandum on the Congo State. There was no Court of Appeal in Belgium. The public opinion of Belgium had declared through the proper channel that the Congo Free State was a foreign State, in regard to which it had no power of intervention. He was driven to the conclusion, therefore, that the only remedy was for the public opinion of Europe, and particularly of this country, to bring into force the clause of the Convention under which the Free State was founded. Consul Casement mentioned in his Report that 72,000 cartridges were issued in that State, and at the end of three years, when more were asked for, it was stated that all of those received had been used "in the production of rubber"— signifying that they had been utilised to terrorise or slay the natives who did not bring in enough of that commodity. This country could not allow such a state of things as existed in the Free State to go on without protest; and without something which he hoped would be more efficient than mere protest. The British Government had, indeed, moved in the matter, and he was confident that feeling on both sides of the House was unanimous that strong and effective measures should be taken to ameliorate the condition of things. He would not dwell upon that side of the question relating to the French Congo, in which the trade of Liverpool was perhaps even more interested than that of the Free State. The commerce of this country, although opinion differed as to its state at the moment, was sufficient to excite he envy of foreign nations, but the ufferings of those unfortunate natives 1251 appealed to something higher and nobler than that commercial instinct which had done so much to make England what she was, and the Government, in any steps they might take in the interests of the moral and spiritual regeneration of the dark races, might rely on the intelligent and ardent support of all citizens of all classes and creeds throughout His Majesty's dominions.
§ *MR. EMMOTT () Oldham
insisted that the interest taken by this country in Congo affairs was due rather to the humanitarian than to the trade point of view. He admitted that in the French Congo Lancashire commercial interests were placed in an unfair position, and that, he trusted, would be remedied, but in the Congo Free State there had never really been any international trade, and British merchants had not taken any steps in the direction of opening up business. Therefore it was from the humanitarian rather than any other point of view he should address the Committee. After the debate of a year ago, His Majesty's Government issued to the Powers a Note, dated 8th August, asking them to consider whether the system now prevailing in the Independent State of the Congo was in accordance with the Berlin Act, and in various of the replies received from tbe Congo Free State to that and other communications there was a tone of veiled insult against the people, the Government, and the Consul of this country. The apologists of the Congo State had constantly asserted that in this attack the English Government were actuated by interested motives. For instance, the following passage occurred in the reply of the Congo Free State to the Note of 8th August—It is worthy of remark that this campaign dates from the time when the prosperity of the State became assured.In the same paragraph it was stated—As the State gave increased proof of vitality and progress, the campaign became more active, reliance being placed on a few individual and isolated cases, with a view to using the interests of humanity as a pretext, and concealing the real object of a covetousness which, in its impatience, has betrayed itself in the writings of pamphleteers and in the speeches of Members of the House of Commons, in which the abolition and partition of the Congo State has been clearly put forward.What State in its senses would desire to take up this damnosa hereditas of the 1252 Congo Free State? It was, however, important that this country should repudiate any idea of aggression or of "grab" in the matter. If it was true, as no doubt it was, that the attack had grown in force since the revenues of the Congo Free State had increased, it was duo to the fact that the system in vogue in that country was of such a character that it inevitably led to abuses, and the increase in the alleged development of the country had therefore inevitably led to more abuses. Information about those abuses from time to time filtered through to Europe, and this country had felt obliged to enter its protest. After all, the Congo Free State was formed, in the first place, to prevent the great nations of Europe from grabbing portions of the territory, and it was founded on a free-trade and humanitarian basis.
There were two points in regard to which the Government had given the Congo Free State ground for taunting them with having put forward a case they could not prove. In the Note of 8th August, they drew the attention of the Powers of Europe to the fact that the time of the British Consul—… has been principally occupied in the investigation of complaints preferred by British subjects, and he has, as yet, been unable to travel into the interior and to acquire, by personal inspection, knowledge of the condition of the enormous territory forming his district.The Congo Free State jeered at the Government for not sending proof of the outrages upon British subjects. He understood that the particulars required had now been sent out, so that the point was met, so far as the Congo Free State was concerned, but the House of Commons had a right to know what those complaints were. As to the outrages on natives, the Note of 8th August stated—Moreover, information which has reached our Government from British officers in territory adjacent to that of the State tends to show that notwithstanding the obligations accepted under Art. VI. of the Berlin Act, no attempt at any administration of the natives is made, and that the officers of the Government do not apparently concern themselves with such work, but devote all their energy to the collection of revenue.With regard to that, the noble Lord had stated that the information had not been sent out to the Congo Free State as it was of ancient date and was not considered worth sending.
§ *THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Earl Percy,) Kensington, S.
was understood to say that that applied to both cases.
§ *MR. EMMOTT
said the following passage occurred—With regard to the application, renewed in the Notes, for previous Reports from British Consular officers, it is necessary to explain that these Reports, though forwarding testimony upon which reliance could apparently be placed, were founded on hearsay, and lacked the authority of personal observation, without which His Majesty's Government were unwilling to come to any definite conclusion unfavourable to the Administration of the Congo State. Moveover, some of the Reports are of old date; the Congo State had admittedly been very active in pushing forward occupation of the country, and it would be unjust to bring forward statements regarding a condition of affairs which may have entirely passed away.Four times the Congo Free State had taunted the Government with making statements which they were not ready to back up by proof, and in that matter the Government had certainly placed themselves in a somewhat false position. It was a pity they made the statement if they were not going to back it up by proof, but, having made it, they ought to send the particulars to the Congo Free State, and publish them to the House of Commons. In the reply of the Congo Free State, dated 14th May, 1904, it was stated—The Government of the Congo State regrets that His Majesty's Government does not deem it necessary to communicate to it the other previous Consular Reports to which Lord Lansdowne's despatch of the 8th August, 1903, alluded. As was stated in the Notes of 12th March last, these Reports possessed the interest of having been written at a date anterior to the inception of the present discussion.The defenders of the Congo Free State were trying to make Europe believe that these Reports did not exist, and that, having made statements which they had not the material to back up, the Government had sent a Consul into the country to make a Report justifying those statements. That, of course, was absolutely false, but its falsity would be best proved by the publication of the Reports to which the Government had referred. He could not prove what he now hinted at, but he would suggest that some of those Reports were so bad that if they were published the Government 1254 would be asked why they had not taken measures at an earlier date to deal with the position. There must have been many other Reports from British Central Africa, Northern Rhodesia, and elsewhere, and he strongly urged the Government to produce those Papers. Since the debate of 20th May the fullest confirmation had been received of every statement then made. It was to be found in Lord Cromer's Report, in Consul Casement's Report, in the statement of Messrs. Scrivener and Weeks, and in the horrible Yaudjali massacre. It had been proved that cannabalism, organised murder, mutilation by order, and depopulation of certain districts existed; that unreasonable demands for food were made to such an extent that the natives themselves were dying of starvation; that excessive demands for rubber were made, and that women were imprisoned in chains. In the Caudron case, the accused was charged with having murdered 122 men in cold blood; he was adjudged guilty of murder and of raiding for rubber; and it was admitted that the only grievance against the men whom he had murdered was that they had not collected sufficient rubber to satisfy the authorities. The ordinary defence of the Congo Free State was that these things only occurred here and there, that the people were punished for them, and the crimes did not occur again. This crime occurred in the Mongala district, the same district where the massacres of 1900 occurred, and it was under the same company. In 1900 Lothaire, the murderer of Stokes, who was appointed by the King as director of this company after he had murdered Stokes, was in charge. It was thought that when these concessionaire companies were displaced these evils would cease, but that was not so, for evils as great occurred in the Domaine privé and the Domaine de la Couronne. Many of these companies were not really commercial companies at all. Consul Nightingale, on page 42 of the last Blue-book, said—The same abases may go on in the Katanga country as have hitherto gone on in the Mongala district, unless most stringent measures are adopted to prevent them.He also says—There is a decree published, giving powers to the agents of the Katanga Company to collect the State taxes.1255 What was the Katanga Company? It was a company from which the State received two-thirds of the profits. More than half its directors were State officials and the president was the Finance Minister of the State. This was a question of the whole system. These things were part of a system which was not so much a matter of monopoly as of the absolute destruction of trade. It was not a system of trade at all. Where there was trade there was barter. Trade meant that European merchants wished to exchange their goods for the raw produce of Africa. But in this case the merchant, who is really the State, says, "This land is mine, and the black native must gather the produce. I pay what I like for it, and this black man is to work as long as I wish for the collection of produce." That was not trade at all, but slavery. The black was not going to do this work for nothing, and it meant if he was dealt with in this way that force would have to be used. They committed these horrible atrocities in order to force the collection of rubber. Mark what followed. This black native was not being paid for what he collected, and he could not buy, because he had nothing to buy with, and therefore the trade did not exist at all. Look at the accounts of the Congo Free State. There were none so remarkable in the world, because they showed all exports and no imports. He invited hon. Members who believed that an excess of exports over imports implied prosperity to study the trade statistics of the Congo Free State and they would have their eyes opened. They must look this question in the face. Who was profiting by it? The State and the King principally. Whose interest was it that this state of things should be kept up? Why, the interest of the State and the King. That was a plain statement of the case. This system was wrong and he believed illegal, but whether illegal or not it was fundamentally, wholly, and unutterably bad. This was a danger for which they might have to pay very dearly, for when they were strong enough to raise a great black rebellion in that part of Africa it might affect the dominions of every other Power in negro Africa. What could be done? They must have a root and branch reform and a return to trade 1256 methods. By such a system the present head of the Congo Free State would lose. No half-hearted inquiry under the supervision of the King would be of any use, and they wanted something very different. The point was what should be done I They wanted a policy. What they wanted was another European Conference on this question. With regard to that he associated himself with his right hon. friend in suggesting that they should ask America to help them. He believed that America was ready to help them. Other countries should be made to believe that they were in earnest, because if they did; not think this country was in earnest they would not listen to them. Another suggestion made was to refer the legal point to the Hague Tribunal. He should be very glad to see a legal judgment given on that point, but he was afraid that it would not carry them very much further. In order to effect a reference they must both agree to refer and agree upon the terms of reference with the Congo Free State. There would be some difficulty in doing this. Again they could not separate the commercial from the humanitarian aspects of the question, because they were indissolubly interrelated. Suppose after inquiry by the Hague Tribunal—the specific verdict was against them, were they going to stop this agitation? He maintained that that would not affect it in the least. On the other hand, if the verdict was in their favour it would be a mere expression of opinion by the Hague Tribunal, requiring further action at the hands, of the Government.
He supported his hon. friend opposite as to Consular Courts. They ought to protect all their citizens, for that power was reserved in the Treaty of 188-1, and yet Mr. Stokes was foully murdered. Rabinek, an Austrian subject, was arrested, illegally tried, and sentenced to one year's imprisonment, when one month was the utmost imprisonment permissible for the offence he was charged with, and, as he appealed against this sentence, he was brought down for the case to be retried at Boma, but he died on the way. The treatment of British subjects had been such that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham stopped recruiting in our own neighbouring 1257 colonies. They had 2,000 British coloured subjects in this part of the world and the only safeguard they had was the Congo Judicature, which was removable at pleasure. Cyrus W. Smith, who was imprisoned after the earlier Mongala massacre, told them that 100 women who were illegally imprisoned died of starvation on his hands because the State authorities did not give him food to keep them alive. He imprisoned them under orders, and if he had not done this he would have been shot. Take the case of Silvanus Jones. He had seen cruelties perpetrated and had remonstrated. He had been told to catch natives and he sent people out, and one of his boys shot a woman. He reported the affair, and he was sent for to Boma to be tried, but he had no knowledge of the charge against him and no chance of getting counsel to defend him although he had money to pay with. He agreed that men who had committed such wrongs should be punished, but this man said he was innocent. He said he was innocent, but whether he was guilty or not he was not defended and he had not a proper trial. If they had their own Consular Courts they might get at the truth of these things, and they ought to insist upon such Courts. The Congo Free State might protest, but these horrible and detestable crimes justified them in demanding Consular jurisdiction. He did not ask the Government to rush in this matter, but they should make up their minds what they were going to do, and then invite other Powers to follow suit. This was to him the one clear step, if they could not get a conference, by which they would do something to protect their own subjects and bring the Congo Free State more or less to its senses. He apologised for the length at which he had detained the House, but his excuse was that he took a very keen interest in this matter, and it did not lend itself to very short treatment. He hoped the noble Lord would give him a sympathetic answer to this question of Consular jurisdiction.
§ SIR JOHN G0RST () Cambridge University
thanked the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean for the very clear and moderate statement he had laid before the House of Commons and the country. He did not wish to dis- 1258 sociate himself from a single word the right hon. Gentleman had sail. He had expressed the opinion of those who had taken an interest in the Congo question. He wished also to thank His Majesty's Government for the practical steps they had taken since this matter was under the consideration of the House last year. He hoped the Government would persevere in the course they had undertaken, and he assured them that in their efforts to secure a better state of things in the Congo they would have the support, not only of the House of Commons, but the unanimous and cordial support of the people of the country. It was the on; subject on which they were all agreed. The weighty words in the despatch of Lord Cromer, which had been read to the House, were written by him when In had two examples of administration on opposite banks of the Nile. The example on the one side was that of the new, humane, and enlightened policy of Empire which, at all events in theory, was observed in the administration of all the territories of the British Empire. On the other side he had the example f the old, barbarous, and wicked principle of Empire upon which the Empires of ancient times were carried on, and which lasted in modern times down to the Spanish conquest of America. The principle upon which Lord Cromer, in Egypt, the Viceroy of India, and all the great pro-Consuls of the British Empire, now proceeded in the treatment of native peoples was that the resources and riches of the State belonged to the inhabitants of it, that the civilised power in its administration sought only to develop those resources for the benefit of the people, and that the welfare of the people was the sole object for which the administration was carried on. The gain this country derived from administration of that kind was restricted to the advantages of trade. We believed, and believed justly, that if we made India or Egypt prosperous, that indirectly gave an enormous advantage to our own people. They were customers for the goods and commodities which we made, and they paid for the goods and commodities they bought from us by the produce which they raised and exported to our country. But the old principle 1259 of Empire was that the riches and resources of a country belonged to the people who conquered and occupied it, that they had a right to exploit the country for their own advantage, and that the wretched people over whom they assumed the duties of administration were only to be treated as slaves, and only to be employed in enriching those who had undertaken the administration of the country. When once that principle was adopted, as it appeared to have been in the Congo Free State, all the rest flowed from it. There was an example of that kind in the Spanish conquest of America, where the riches of the country were appropriated by the conquerors, and where the people were enslaved and ultimately exterminated. They had to work in gold mines to enrich those who had undertaken the administration of their country. In the Congo, where the same principle seemed to have been adopted, the rubber was regarded as the property of the Belgian State or colony, and it was exploited solely for the benefit of the Belgian monarch and those to whom he had granted concessions. The natives were employed in exporting this wealth to Belgium. If that principle was once adopted all those atrocities which had been described to the House were the natural consequences which flowed from such a method of administration. Without the evidence either of missionaries or Consuls it might be expected that horrors and wickedness of that kind would spring up in a State so administered. The evidence which the right hon. Baronet had laid before the House only confirmed the proposition that from a wicked system of Empire like that the natural consequences were; following.
They all trusted His Majesty's Government in this matter. With considerable confidence they left it in the hands of Lord Lansdowne and the Government. But there had been two very distinct suggestions made in the course of this debate on which he should: like to say a word. In the first place, he most heartily joined himself with the suggestion made by the right hon. Baronet and by the hon. Member for Oldham, that they should, if possible, in this matter act with the United States. He dared say that the Government would tell 1260 the Committee whether anything had been done in that direction. One reason for expressing that wish was that the interest of the United States was identical with our own. The interest of the United States was one of commerce and trade, and, as far as could be judged, they were in the administration of native States adopting principles analogous to those which we adopted. They had the same sense of responsibility and the same feeling that the trust they had undertaken must be exercised for the benefit of the people. He had no doubt that in any matter of this kind we should find the statesmen, Congress, and people of the United States sympathising with the views which were common to our own country. The United States had a peculiar responsibility in regard to the Congo because they were, he thought, the first Power to recognise it as an independent and autonomous State. The other suggestion which had been made and which he confessed he had a little more doubt about, was that if we were driven to it we should subject the Congo to Consular jurisdiction. Consular jurisdiction was not a very good thing for the State against which it was exercised. Those who had taken part in the administration of Egypt knew very well that it produced a sort of confusion which was always mischievous. It was, however, the claim which civilised countries made for the protection of the lives and property of their subjects in barbarous countries. To make such a claim on the Congo would be to advertise to the whole world that we regarded the Congo as a barbarous State. He did not know that we ought to do so now. If they would harken to the representations of His Majesty's Government, and make satisfactory reforms, well and good; but if they refused to listen, and persisted in the wicked course which had been described, it would be right to, at all events, threaten them with treatment as a barbarous country, and to intimate that if they did not reform their Courts and provide regulations for the administration of justice, which would ensure justice being done to British subjects living within the territory, we should be compelled under these circumstances to invite the United States and other civilised Powers to imitate our example, and to exercise the 1261 right given under the convention of setting up Consular jurisdiction. That was no, doubt, a subject which would receive the careful consideration of His Majesty's Government. All the Committee could ask them to do was to persevere in their efforts, and to make use of every expedient which the resources of civilisation might give them for the amelioration of the state of things in the Congo, with reliance that Parliament and the country would support them.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL () Yorkshire, Cleveland
said that a year ago he brought forward this question of the Congo in the House, and none of the evidence then adduced had been in any degree shaken. He thought that some reference should be made to the Burrows libel case. A certain Captain Burrows published a book, in which he freely denounced the Administration of the Congo Free State; and a libel action was brought against him by two Belgian officers, who had been mentioned in the book. The action went in favour of the Belgian officers. Those who had been interested in exposing the Congo case knew that the Burrows book was unreliable, and that the allegations in it could probably not be supported. None of them, therefore, had ever quoted a single word from that book as evidence in favour of their case, or from the statements of any discharged servant of the Congo Free State. He fully agreed with the right hon. Member for Cambridge University that those individual atrocities to which so much attention had been called were the inevitable outcome of the financial exactions of the Congo Free State. They could not have forced labour for trivial remuneration, heavy taxation, forest guards left uncontrolled, without frequent outrages and constant punitive expeditions. The result of this system was two-fold: to the companies and to the State it had given enormous profits, which had been eminently satisfactory to them. Take the Compagnie Anversoise one of the chief concessionaire companies, in which the State, in other words King Leopold, held half the shares. Its capital was 1,700,000 francs, and its profit in 1902 was 1,080,000 francs. The A.B.I.R. Company had a capital of 1,000,000 francs, and the profits for four years amounted to 12,000,000 francs. In this company also 1262 the State held half the shares. The effect on the natives of this financial system had been abundantly proved. Mr. Casement, who was sent I by the British Government to make an impartial investigation, was an official with twenty years experience in Africa—a gentleman of the highest standing and reliability, and whose good faith even the Congo Free State had not; ventured to challenge. He had written a Report of sixty pages, full of the most; specific and definite instances of cruelty land oppression. There were the cases of mutilation, including several which had come under Mr. Casement's own notice.
Only last night he was speaking to an English missionary, who had been on the Congo for many years. On one occasion that missionary came down to the river bank, and saw a canoe which had just come in in charge of a number of soldiers. In the canoe was a basket containing fifty human hands, which had been freshly severed from natives by these Congo Free State soldiers. The Congo Free State had most remarkable explanations for these mutilations. A boy who was brought to a distant station by a Belgian official, far away from his friends, was badgered into declaring that he had lost his hand while he was hunting. He saw a wild boar, and endeavoured to seize it by the ears, but the boar turned round and ate his hand off Then La Tribune Congolaise, a semi-official organ of the Congo Free State, explained these dreadful mutilations by saying that the natives suffer from cancer in the hands and that the loss of the hands is merely the result of an ordinary surgical operation! His hon. Friend had referred to the Mongala case, in which three Europeans and a British coloured subject in the employ of the Compagnie Anversoise were implicated and were condemned for certain crimes. What were these crimes? The killing of 150 persons and cutting off sixty hands, crucifying women and children, cutting off the heads of men and nailing them on the palisades of the village; shooting a native with a revolver; killing a native chief; shooting twenty-two women and two children of the village of Momba, and shooting three women outside it; shooting a native soldier; imprisoning sixty women and putting them "in the 1263 chain," where all but five died of starvation. These men appealed against their entence, and among other extenuating circumstances which secured a marked reduction of the first sentence imposed on the coloured man, the Court of Appeal cited the following—That it is just to take into account that, by the correspondence produced in the case, the chiefs of the concession company have, if not by formal orders, at least by their example and their tolerance, induced their agents to take no account whatever of the rights, property, and lives of the natives; to use the arms and the soldiers, which should have served for their defence and the maintenance of order, to force the natives to furnish them with produce and to work for the company, as also to pursue as rebels and outlaws those who sought to escape from the requisitions imposed upon them.These men, in spite of the extenuating circumstances arising from the connivance of their superiors, were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, but such is the rigour of the administration of the law in the Congo Free State that two of the men had been released after serving three years Precisely a similar occurrence had taken place within the last few months. A man named Caudron was sentenced for crimes almost as gross Again, he pleaded extenuating circumstances and again the Court admitted the plea on the ground that he was authorised to commit these crimes by those having authority over him. He would quote one or two cases to show the extent to which impoverishment and depopulation had been carried out in these regions. On page 46 Mr. Casement says—At a village I touched at up the Lulanga River, a small collection of dwellings, named Z, the people complained that there was no rubber left in their district, and yet that the La Lulanga Company required of them each fortnight a fixed quantity they could not supply. Three forest guards of that company were quartered, it was said, in this village, one of whom I found on duty, the two others, he informed me, having gone to Mampoka to convoy the fortnight's rubber. No live stock of any kind could be seen or purchased in this town, which had only a few years ago been a large and populous community, filled with people and well stocked with sheep, goats, ducks, and fowls. Although I walked through most of it, I could only count ten men, with their families. There were said to be others in the part of the town I did not visit, but the entire community I saw were living in wretched houses and in visible distress. Three months previously (in May, I believe) they said a Government force, commanded by a white 1264 man, had occupied their town, owing to their failure to send in to the Mampoko headquarters of the La Lulanga Company a regular supply of indiarubber, and two men, whose names were given, had been killed by the soldierAnd Mr. Casement gave the case of a man and his family, living in three huts, who were required to pay in an amount of produce equal to £80 a year. In another district he said that—The population of the lake side towns would seem to have diminished within the last ten years by 60 or 70 per cent. It was in 1893 that the effort to levy an india-rubber imposition in this district was begun, and for some four or five years this imposition could only be collected at the cost of continual fighting. Finding the task of collecting india-rubber a well-nigh impossible one, the authorities abandoned it in this district, and the remaining inhabitants now deliver a weekly supply of foodstuffs for the up-keep of the military camp at Irebu, or the big coffee plantation at Bikoro. Several villages I visited supply also to the latter station a fortnightly tax of gum-copal, which the surrounding forests yield.Each town, he estimated, was compelled to bring in this gum-copal to the value of £360 a year, for which they were paid in goods to the value of £10. There was also a large mass of evidence from the missionaries. There was the evidence, for example, of Mr. Weeks, who had been for twenty-three years on the Congo. In a letter that gentleman wrote on 30th November last, he said—Last week I returned from spending eight days in the Bokongo, Bongondo and other towns below this, our station at Monsembe, and while there I learned of the killing by Mabata (which was the native name of a Belgian officer) and his soldiers of twenty-two men and women.after giving the names of the victims— ten men, eleven women, and one girl—Mr. Weeks continued—And what was the crime of which these unfortunate folk were guilty? They were behind in their taxes, and owed the State between them a few goats.He went on to say that the natives were bound to supply goats for the table of the white officers, and that now all the goats had practically disappeared from the district. He gave the names of many cases where the people were actually compelled to sell their relatives and children into slavery to buy goats in order to provide the white officers with food. Another point assertad by the Congo Free State was that all the 1265 soldiers employed were Regulars, and never Irregulars not under control. A recent occurrence throws a remarkable light on this contention. On 28th November of last year, four British missionaries going down the river put into a village unexpectedly and found the Congo troops, under the eyes of two white officers, engaged in a horrible cannibal orgie. It was true that, on the complaint of the missionaries, the officers were arrested, and one had committed suicide.
There was abundant evidence that in despite of their treaty obligations the Congo Free State had failed lamentably to care for the moral and material interests of the natives, and to a large extent the origin of all these evils was the trade monopolies which the Congo Free State, in violation of the Berlin Act, had granted. In reply to remonstrances, the State explained that every one was free to buy or sell what he pleased—only it happened that the whole of the soil of the Congo State had been declared to be vested in certain companies or individuals; if the soil were vested in those companies or individuals the products of the soil were also vested in them; and, consequently, no one else could legally buy those products; they were told, however, that everything else they were quite free to buy. As there was nothing else there, the Congo Free State, by means of this subterfuge, completely defeated the avowed intention of the Powers at the time of the Treaty of Berlin. Not only was this a source of outrage on the natives, but it was also an invasion of legitimate British interests. British merchants had a right to claim that they should be permitted to trade freely on the Congo; and, not only merchants in England, but also merchants in British territories adjoining the Congo State. It should be remembered that the Congo State adjoined British territory at four separate points: in Northern Rhodesia, in British Central Africa, in Uganda, and in the Soudan. On all those frontiers trade was absolutely impossible between British subjects and the Congo Free State. That also gave this country a legitimate right to insist that this illegal system should be terminated. The Government suggested that this specific point should be put to the arbitration of the Hague Tribunal. The 1266 only point on which he did not agree with his hon. friend the Member for Oldham was with reference to the utility of that suggestion. It appeared to him most desirable that this suggestion of arbitration should be pressed; and he had little doubt that there would be a. decision in favour of this Government; and then, as they believed, when they got rid of those monopolies they would also get rid, to a large extent, of the outrages on the natives which followed from them. He had sufficient confidence in the impartiality of the Hague Tribunal to believe that if this country were right, it would be judged to be right* and if it were judged to be wrong then they would have to proceed on different lines, and limit their movement to the humanitarian aspect of the question. The Congo Free State had refused to arbitrate. His Majesty's Government had not, however, pointed out—and he hoped they would—that there was another clause in the Berlin Act, namely Article 12, under which the signatories of that Act bound themselves specifically in case of any serious dispute to refer it to mediation or arbitration. Therefore, the Foreign Secretary might clearly point to that particular Article, by which the Congo Free State was bound, and claim as a right that this matter should be put to mediation or arbitration. The Congo Free State said that those were questions of sovereignty and internal administration which could not be properly arbitrated upon. But the great majority of cases now put to arbitration at the Hague Tribunal were questions of sovereignty and internal administration. Three of the four cases now pending or recently decided—the case of the claims of the Powers arising from misgovernment in Venezuela, the case between the United States and Mexico relating to some Church property in California, and the case between Japan on the one hand, and England, Germany, and France on the other with reference to a house tax in Japan—were all cases dealing with. matters of sovereignty and internal administration; and the fact that this matter was also a question of sovereignty and internal administration by no means removed it from the category of international cases fitted to be arbitrated upon.
1267 The proposed establishment of Consular Courts commanded the warmest approval of all those interested in this proposal. But that the Government should consent only to a mere inquiry would, he thought, be a most unfortunate outcome. There was once a member of the New Zealand Parliament who committed a bull which, although, it was a mixed metaphor seemed absolutely to express the position of the Government in this matter much better than if a correct expression were used. He said—In this case, sir, I think that the Government are trembling on the verge of a cul-de-sac."In considering their assent to a mere inquiry as a solution of this matter, the Government were trembling on the verge of a cul-de-sac. It would lead nowhere, and would only prove—if it proved anything—what was already quite notorious. He sincerely trusted that the Government would press for a much more definite and complete measure of reform. It was often said that from the present Administration they might expect a spirited foreign policy. The phrase often meant a policy of reckless aggression; but there were occasions in which spirit was pre-eminently desirable in a Foreign Secretary; and this was certainly one of them. If the Government pressed this matter with more vigour, he was convinced that it would be supported by public opinion, not only in this country, but probably by public opinion in the United States also. The people recognised that it was intolerable that the Sovereign of the Congo Free State should be allowed to seize the native's land, to reduce him to slavery, to impoverish him by excessive taxation, to expose him to a rôgime of outrage and oppression, to shut out foreign trade, to tear up treaties solemnly made, and, when remonstrances were offered, to meet them with a smile and a shrug of the shoulders. It was not consonant with the duty or with the dignity of this country that the representations earnestly made should be permitted to be treated as if they were of no account.
§ *LORD EDMUND FITZMAURICE () Wiltshire, Cricklade
said he desired to say a few words on this question because it so happened that at the time the Congo 1268 Free State was called into existence he occupied the position in His Majesty's Government that was now occupied by the noble Lord opposite. At that time he took a very active part in the long and somewhat exciting discussions in this House in regard to what was to be the future of those regions; and he ventured to recall to the attention of the Committee what passed then, not merely to develop an argument of a purely historical character and interest, but because it had been already indicated in this debate that what happened then was of the utmost importance in regard to what was happening now with reference to the position of the Congo State. There was an extraordinary hypothesis which appeared to run through all the arguments put forward by the Congo State, and especially through those which emanated from the present Minister or representative, whichever he might be called, and that was that the Congo Free State was like any other State which formed part of the State system of the world. It was positively stated in the first place that the Congo State came into existence as a State long before the Berlin Conference. He ventured to assert that the Congo Free State—and he believed he was expressing the opinion of the whole House—was as much the creation of European law as any corporation in this country which might be created under an Act of Parliament was the artificial creation of English law. Without the Berlin Conference there would be no Congo Free State; and if the reasons which induced Europe to consent to the formation of the Congo Free State failed, and if the conditions of that international contract were not fulfilled, and especially were not fulfilled by the beneficiary of that contract, then, at any moment, Europe, which called the Congo Free State into existence, was entitled to dissolve that State. He ventured to go further and say, though he admitted it was a strong proposition, that any one of the signatories to the great document which settled Africa at Berlin in 1884, was also justified in bringing, before whatever tribunal was the proper one, notice of its intention not to be any longer bound by conditions which were not fulfilled. Further, he would venture to remind the Congo Free State how 1269 very easy it would be, if they persisted in what he ventured to call the insolent and insulting tone which permeated those documents, for Europe, or indeed for any State that chose, to practically put an end to its existence by sending a few ships to the mouth of the Congo. They had heard a great deal lately of the great weight of sea power; and the Congo Free State lay absolutely at the mercy of this country, or any other country which chose to say that it would occupy the capital at Boma in the name of civilisation. He did not hesitate to say that the documents which had been published were an insult both in substance and in tone.
He would venture specially to call attention to one particular passage, in which an attempt was made to introduce into the controversy that most odious of all arguments the odium theologicum. That was an attempt to show that this country and its agents were being influenced by religious motives because they were Protestants. The passage appeared on page 14 of the White Pacer and was as follows—Whether such was his intention or not, the British Consul appeared to the inhabitants as the redresser of the wrongs, real or imaginary, of the natives, and his presence at La Lulonga, coinciding with the campaign which was being directed against the Congo State, in a region where the influence of the Protestant missionaries has long been exercised, necessarily had for the natives a significance which did not escape them. The Consul made his investigations quite independently of the Government officials, quite independently of any action or any co-operation on the part of the regular authorities; he was assisted in his proceedings by English Protestant missionaries; he made his inspection on a steamer belonging to a Protestant mission; he was entertained for the most part in the Protestant missions; and, in these circumstances, it was inevitable that he should be considered by the native as the antagonist of the established authorities.He had ventured to call attention to this, because nothing could be more abominable than the judicial murder of Mr. Stokes, especially the concluding passages of it, which took place in the Belgian Courts of Appeal, when every attempt was made the odium cum theologicum in a country where religious feeling runs high. Because Mr. Stokes was an Englishman and a Protestant many appeals were made to that Court, in order to prevent justice being done to the 1270 relatives of Mr. Stokes. The blood of Mr. Stokes still cried out from the ground. No adequate attempt was made at that time by the Foreign Office of this country to see that Mr. Stokes's case was properly supported to its conclusion. In his opinion the best counsel—some jurist conversant with all the ramifications of international law—ought to have been retained at the trial. It seemed to him there had been a failure of moral support and a failure of legal support of Mr Stokes' case in the Belgian Court. Then there was the terrible case of Rabinek, who was not a British subject but was on a British ship. This man was not murdered in the off-hand way in which Mr. Stokes was murdered, he died on his way to Boma to take his trial, but, nevertheless, he was practically just as much murdered as Mr. Stokes. AH this might be considered more or less idle lamentation over events that had occurred, but, as the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge had very truly said, the Congo Free State had reached the point when it ought to be no longer recognised as a civilised State.
What we had to do, as he ventured to suggest, was, in the first place, to take advantage of everything there was in the Berlin Act to exert to the utmost the rights of this country against the Congo Free State, and also to assert, where we could, the international rights of Europe against the Congo Free State. His first suggestion was that we should insist on the establishment of Consular Courts. If we had been entitled to have Consular Courts in a country whose civilisation was not our civilisation, as in Japan, we were certainly entitled to have Consular Courts in the Congo Free State. The Committee was aware that one of the most important clauses of the Berlin Act of 1884 related to the policing and the navigation of the rivers of Africa. It was one of the principal objects of Mr. Gladstone's Government at that time to establish both on the Zambesi and on the Congo some sort of international control, similar to that found on the Danube and other rivers in Europe. Had the treaty which we negotiated with Portugal in 1883 been carried out it would have entirely altered the whole situation in Africa, because there was a 1271 saying in Africa that if an Englishman and a Portuguese were put in a boat together the Portuguese would do the rowing and the Englishman would command, and Europe was quite satisfied to put the Congo under Anglo-Portuguese control, and that would have served very well. But that Agreement was thrown out of this House. Then came the Berlin Conference, and an International Commission was substituted for the Anglo-Portuguese Commission and the Congo was placed under its control. When the British Government accepted the International Commission they were not thinking of a river Commission in the mere technical sense of the term, but believed with the other Powers that an International Commission would be of great use in establishing on the Congo the flag of civilisation, and that a Commission of that kind on that river would be a sign to all those who lived in that part of the world that civilisation was on the river. He had always regretted that since that time no attempt had been made to establish an International Commission on the Congo. He ventured to say that the Government should take every step they could for the establishment of an International Commission on that river.
This state of things which he had described could not fail to show this House and the country that we were facing a very serious situation, and when we remembered that this country by the great instrument which the Government had executed with France, which placed both countries on a friendly footing, each with the other he could not help thinking that they could not give the world a clearer sign of their amity than by making the restoration of law and order in this region the outward and visible sign of it. We owed this Congo Free State to the fact that in 1883–4 our relations with France were not so cordial as we could have wished. There was a good deal of rivalry between us; the French colonial tariff had been proclaimed and actually established in the not distant colony of the Gaboon. Such a tariff would have resulted in our trade and commerce being shut out of the Congo. The Belgians took advantage of the situation, and brandished in the face of a credulous world their magnanimous intentions as against the narrow intentions 1272 of France, and promised if they got in there should be universal free trade. The Government of the day were not quite so credulous, but they were overruled by this House, and if he desired any justification for the course then taken by the Government of Mr. Gladstone with regard to the future of these regions, he would find it in this Paper and the others which had been laid on the Table.
§ *EARL PERCY
I think the tone of the speeches this afternoon, and certainly their intention, has been favourable to the policy of His Majesty's Government. There has never been a policy of which it might be said as truly as of this one that it was the policy not so much of His Majesty's Government as the policy of the House of Commons. We have been reminded in the debate that that policy was adopted on the authority of a Resolution moved from the opposite side by the hon. Member for Cleveland and passed without a division last year, and that Resolution has undoubtedly been endorsed by the unanimous feeling of the country at large. It has been approved at meeting after meeting during the past twelve months, attended by men of every shade of political and religious opinion; and the indignation which has been expressed at those meetings has found its origin not in any prompting on the part of the Government—on the contrary, we have deliberately withheld our evidence until we could examine it carefully—but in the accumulated facts and horrible indictments which have been brought forward by missionaries, traders, and others who have been long resident in the Congo territories. I allude to this unanimity and spontaneity of opinion because it has an important bearing on the reply to our first Note, addressed to us by the Congo Government. That the Congo Government should not have acknowledged the truth of the accusations brought against them, that they should even have indignantly repudiated them, would not have been surprising. We did not ourselves think that we were justified by the evidence at our disposal in vouching for their accuracy, and the reason why we did not furnish the Congo Government with the earlier Reports was that they contained even less information upon which we could implicitly rely. 1273 We put them forward tentatively for what they were worth in the belief that the Congo Government would recognise that, from the standpoint of its own interests, let alone any question of humanity, they constituted a strong, an overwhelming case for searching and impartial inquiry. In that hope we were disappointed. The Congo Government, not content with denying the truth of these allegations or the existence of a case for inquiry, went out of its way to impute motives to those who brought them forward. They alluded to the fact that these accusations only dated from 1895, and they built upon that fact the deduction that the whole of this agitation in England was merely a campaign of calumny motived by feelings of commercial jealousy at the growing trade and prosperity of the Congo State. I regret that the same suspicion of ulterior motives has found an echo in the writings of eminent statesmen and publicists abroad. I refer more especially to an article written, I think, by M. Etienne, in a review some time ago, in which he fastened on a statement alleged to have been made by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, to the effect that he and those who acted with him would gladly see the rule of France substituted for that of Belgium in the Congo State. M. Etienne observed that expressions of that kind were calculated to increase rather than to diminish the suspicion of interested motives on our part. It is no business of mine to defend or to explain the expressions used by the right hon. Baronet; he is far better able to do that himself; but to any one who has the slightest acquaintance with English politics, and knows them, as perhaps only an Englishman can know them, from the inside, the idea that we were actuated in this matter by any selfish or personal motive is simply ridiculous. We entertain no illusions on this subject. We are quite aware that these philanthropic crusades do not contribute to our popularity abroad; we know very well, and we are constantly informed of the fact by the for ign Press, that they are commonly ascribed to motives of hypocrisy, if to nothing worse; and we act, if we act at all, simply from the conviction that an international convention bind- 1274 ing its signatories to act on certain definite and recognised principles implies a collective as well as an individual responsibility to see that those obligations are carried out.
Not only is it absurd to suppose that commercial jealousy alone would have inspired the unanimous feeling which has been manifested on this subject in the country, but the charge of interested motives is about the most double-edged argument that the Congo Government could have possibly selected to employ in its own defence. It is true that this country has not enjoyed the proportionate share in the growth of the trade of the Congo State which it might reasonably have expected. The figures are rather significant. Between 1898 and 1901 the Belgian share of the total trade has risen in the case of imports from 67 to 72 and in the case of exports from 79 to 91 per cent. Other States, however, have grown in prosperity and wealth with even greater rapidity than the Congo State without exciting feelings of commercial jealousy in this country. Where such feelings have been excited, it has invariably been due to the fact that our commerce has been artificially excluded by tariff barriers. If that is not the case in the Congo State the alleged motive of commercial jealousy remains unexplained; whereas if it is the case, the Congo Government admit the contention we have always put forward, viz., that, whether in the spirit or in the letter, they have violated the free-trade provisions of the Berlin Act. But the Congo Government has itself supplied the most conclusive refutation of this charge. In an historical account in the Bulletin Officiel published some time ago, the following sentence occurs—The regions reserved for State exploitations were fixed in 1892. Apart from these lands more than a quarter of the State lands, not counting those below Stanley Pool, were assigned to private persons, who in these zones had the exclusive right of collecting rubber. But only after 1897 did factories spring up on the Kassai, the Thelemba, the Lulonga, and Congo banks, and these were all Belgian. Some firms (as for instance the A.B.I.R. Company, which was originally English) voluntarily abandoned the rights they possessed.That is to say, the Congo Government admits that the British firms who are supposed to have inspired these feelings 1275 of jealousy, voluntarily abandoned the vantage ground they actually possessed, and that the Belgian firms whose conduct has been the principal subject of complaint never established themselves at all until 1897. So far from being a refutation of the truth of these accusations, I think that the coincidence of dates affords the most remarkable corroboration. Why was it that in 1895 the Congo State first rejoiced in this sudden sunshine of prosperity, that for the first time the revenue balanced the expenditure without the aid of external subventions, and that as the Congo Government itself says 5,000 tons of rubber are now offered for sale where thirty tons were collected in 1887? The Congo Government again supply the explanation. They say that the collection of rubber, the plantations of coffee, cocoa, and tobacco, etc., date from the day when the State assumed the initiative in the matter, and that the exports were insignficant before the impulse imparted by Government enterprise.
Let me recall to the Committee the specific allegation which we made in our Note to the Powers. We said—The information which has reached His Majesty's Government tends to show that, notwithstanding the obligations embodied in Article 6 of the Berlin Act, no attempt at any administration of the natives is made, that the officers of the Government do not appear to concern themselves with such work, but devote all their energy to the collection of rubber.Mr. Casement's Report has been quoted at length, and hon. Members have referred to cases of atrocities reported by missionaries and traders; but I do not think that it is necessary to go into the evidence of Mr. Casement or others in in order to substantiate the specific allegations which we made. We have only to look at the actual findings of the Courts in the Congo State itself. If the House will allow me, I will read from the judgment of the Court of Appeal at Boma in July, 1901. They were trying cases of oppression in the Mongala district and specifying the extenuating circumstances which might be taken into account in favour of the accused. They say—It is just to take into account that by the correspondence produced in the case, the chiefs of the Concession Society have, if not by formal orders, at least by their example and tolerance, induced their agents to take no account whatever of the rights, property, and lives of the 1276 natives, to use the arms and the soldiers, which should have served for their defence and the maintenance of order, to force the natives to furnish them with produce and to work for the Society, as also to pursue as rebels and outlaws those who sought to escape from the requisitions imposed upon them. That, above all, the fact that the arrest of women, and their detention to compel the villagers to furnish both produce and workmen, was tolerated and admitted even by certain of the administrative authorities of the region.That was the finding in 1901. If that is too early we can come down to 1903, to the circular of the Governor-General of the Congo quoted in Mr. Casement's Report. That circular enjoins the commandants and officers of the "Force Publique" to—rigorously observe the repeated instructions against the employment of black troops unaccompanied by a European officer,and admits that—in spite of the most imperative orders forbidding the employment of black soldiers by themselves on the public service, in many places this deplorable custom continues to be practised.Lastly we have in this very year the case of the British subject, Silvanus Jones, who was put on his trial for the commission of murders, including the murder of women and children. He did not deny, I think, that he had committed these crimes, but he pleaded as an extenuating circumstance, which the Court admitted, that he had committed them either in deference to the orders of his superiors, or in the belief that that conduct would have their sanction and approval. Is it possible, in view of the verdicts of the Congo Court itself, let alone any private testimony which may be received from other sources, that a refusal on the part of the Congo Government to institute any inquiry into the circumstances can carry any other conviction to impartial or independent minds than that either the Congo Government is afraid of the revelations to which an honest inquiry might give rise, or eke that, however anxious and eager they may be severely to punish atrocities which are brought to their notice, they will take no effective steps to reform a system which makes the continuance of such atrocities possible for fear that effective reform may entail a possible diminution of revenue? From the point of view of the British Government, the Congo 1277 reply to our Note is absolutely irrelevant. The gist of the defence put forward by the Congo Government is that the charges are always of the same character, that they have often been made before—which is unfortunately true but not our fault— that they have very often been refuted and that the refutations have always been ignored. They say that the principle of compulsory labour as an alternative to taxation is universally recognised in all civilised European countries which own possessions in Africa, and they take considerable credit to themselves for the measure which they have adopted to suppress the slave trade, to reform the Force Publique, and to provide schools and hospitals and such like for the natives. I do not know that if we admit every one of these contentions that they in any degree detract from the force of the case which we put forward. No one, as far as I know, certainly not His Majesty's Government, has ever denied that the Congo Government has done a great deal of good work in the Congo Basin. We have never asserted that the provisions of the Berlin Act have been universally or deliberately violated. We fully recognise that in every State the Government of the country has the right to take, either in money or in kind, a reasonable contribution from the natives for the expenses of administration. I do not think that we need be surprised that in an area comprising hundreds of thousands of squares miles and millions of natives, isolated cases of abuse of authority should occur. We draw a sharp distinction between occasional acts of cruelty by individuals, and barbarities which are in fact inseparable from the system. Our complaint is not that white men in the midst of a black population occasionally commit abominable atrocities but that they are enabled to commit them, and in most cases with perfect impunity, by the fact that the Government itself invests them with irresponsible authority, that it exercises no adequate supervision over them, and that in many cases there is no readily accessible tribunal before which they can be brought.
We are prepared to give the Congo Government every credit for good intentions and we admit that the regulations that they have laid down for the 1278 protection of the natives would, in most cases, if they were seriously enforced, probably be adequate for the protection of these natives. But while we make that admission it must be remembered that we have a striking example of what really becomes of the safeguards for the protection of the natives in the case of tin Commission instituted for the express purpose of protecting them. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean alluded to this Commission at the beginning of the debate, and expressed regret that Sir Constantine Phipps should have said in his despatch that if that Commission had proved a failure the blame did not lie upon the central Government, or words to that effect. No doubt at that time we were not in possession of the full facts in regards to the history of the Commission, and Sir Constantine Phipps reported the conclusion he had arrived at upon the data then at his disposal. Subsequent investigations have shown that the Committee for the protection of natives was instituted in September, 1896. During the whole period between September, 1896, and September, 1898, of the six members composing that Commission only three met on two occasions for half a day. The Committee was reconstituted in March, 1901, but the secretary did not arrive until nine months after his appointment, the Committee was never invested with any powers which enabled them to make effective inquiries or to take evidence, and they lived at such long distances from each other that it was almost impossible for the members to come together. In the second period between 1901 and 1903 the Committee never met at all. We may make every allowance for the Congo Government, and for ignorance of what goes en at a great distance from the seat of administration, but I do not think we can possibly acquit them of a grave responsibility for the indefinite continuance of system under which the mere exploitation of commercial resources and the accumulation of rubber is made by their own agents the excuse for insensate and inhuman barbarities.
What, in view of these facts, is the policy which His Majesty's Government intend to pursue? A great many suggestions have been put before us. Some 1279 were thrown out in the debate last year and new ones have been put forward this afternoon. I observe that of the suggestions made last year, only one has been revived this afternoon. The suggestion made by the hon. Member for Cleveland last year, and which has been repeated by the noble Lord who immediately preceded me, is that we should entrust the investigation of this question to the International Commission for the Navigation of the Congo, which was intended not only to deal with navigation but to investigate all breaches of the provisions of the Berlin Act. Another proposal was that we should seize the opportunity when the Congo Government desired to raise its import duties to refuse our assent to any increase above the limit fixed by the Act. I think I may say at once that neither of these suggestions is practicable. The first is impossible on two grounds. In the first place the International Navigation Commission has never had any existence, and can only be called into existence on the initiative and by the consent of five of the signatory Powers; and, in the second place, even if it existed at the present moment, under the wording of the Act its activities would be restricted to those parts of the Congo Basin where no Power exercised any Sovereignty, and therefore it would not meet the difficulty in this particular case. The second suggestion with regard to Customs duties is impossible because the provisions of the Berlin Act have been set aside and superseded by the subsequent Act passed at the Brussels Congress, in which it was laid down that any of the signatory Powers might raise their import duties to 10 per cent, in default of any subsequent agreement. The only practicable suggestion which I think has been made this afternoon is that this country should revive its claim to the exercise of extra-territorial jurisdiction in the Congo State. It would be a novel and inconvenient course if the representative of the Foreign Office in this House were expected not merely to defend and explain the policy adopted by the Government, but also to discuss en clair, and express approval or rejection of every possible expedient by which that policy might be carried out. Of course I do not dismiss a suggestion of this kind, but I will only make one or two observa- 1280 tions in regard to it. There is no doubt whatever that we have an explicit treaty right to claim extra-territorial jurisdiction ii we choose in the Conga State, but I cannot help thinking that we ought to be very careful Bow we mix up two questions which have really nothing to do with one another. If British subjects in any part of the world, whether in the Congo Basin or elsewhere, are unable to secure legal protection, then it is the bounden duty of the Government at home to see that protection is secured to them whether by the assertion of extraterritorial jurisdiction or by any other method. But that has little to do with the general question of maladministration and the atrocities committed not upon British subjects, but upon subjects of the Congo State itself who would derive no benefit whatever from the exercise of extra-territorial jurisdiction by this country, while, of course, all cases in which Congo subjects were defendants and British subjects prosecutors would be tried not in British, but in Congo Courts. No doubt in certain cases His Majesty's Government have had to complain of delays and of what we conceive to be failures of justice in matters affecting British subjects. The most recent instance his been that of Silvanus Jones, to which I have already alluded. The House will remember that Jones advanced as an excuse for the murders he had committed that he had acted under the authority, or at any rate with the approval, of his superiors. I think it will occur to the minds of most Members that there would be a certain lack of humour in the selection by His Majesty's Government as the occasion for demanding extra-territorial jurisdiction the condemnation of a British subject by the Congo Courts for atrocities of the very kind which we are complaining that the Congo Government takes no effective steps to prevent.
In stating the view of His Majesty's Government in regard to the position of affairs in the Congo, I think I must invite the attention of the Committee to two paramount considerations. In the first place, we have never claimed, nor do we claim now, any special responsibility, or any special right of intervention iu the affairs of the Congo State. It was because we were anxious that any 1281 representations that were addressed to the Congo Government should be, as far as possible, invested with an international character that we made our I appeal, in the first instance, to the various Powers who signed the Treaty of Berlin. We have refrained from pressing these Powers for a reply to our circular, because we understood that some of them, at all events, were conducting independent local inquiries of their own, but I am bound to tell the House that, so far as we can judge, most of those Powers are not prepared to? act with us in the matter. I may mention, by the way, in answer to questions asked by several hon. Members, that although the United States was not one of the signatories of the Berlin Act, in consideration of the active part which that country played in connection with the inception of the Congo State, we did communicate to them Mr. Casement's despatch as well as to the other Powers. Italy, the United States, and Turkey have informed us that they are giving our representations their most earnest consideration. But most of the Governments I am afraid take the view, which to us is quite incomprehensible, that their material interests are not sufficient in the Congo Basin to warrant any active participation in the matter. The second consideration, which I ask the Committee to bear in mind, is that the situation has been somewhat altered by the character of the last Note addressed to us by the Congo Government. I think some complaint was made of the tone of one of the later despatches we had addressed to them. I do not agree with the right hon. Baronet that the alteration in the tone of our despatches was not justified by the alteration, the very satisfactory alteration, in the tone of the last reply of the Congo Government which shows a far juster appreciation of the motives which have actuated His Majesty's Government. In that reply the Congo Government did not recur to the imputation of selfish or interested motives., and although, of course, they did not admit the truth of the allegations made in Mr. Casement's Report, they did not reject them in toto, but, on the contrary, recognised that they formed a strong case for inquiry, and intimated their in- 1282 tention to promote an investigation of that kind.
I think perhaps the House may be interested to hear the measures taken in this connection by the Congo Government which have up to the present been brought under our notice. They are at all events a satisfactory indication that the action of this House and the representations which have been made by His Majesty's Government have not been without their effect. They include the issuing of orders to the local administration at Boma to make a detailed inquiry into the system of forced contributions, and the conduct of the gardes forestières, the appointment of Italian officers as State inspectors, and the creation of a new office of Royal High Commissioner of the Congo who has been instructed to ensure the complete execution of the measures which have been taken for the protection of the natives. Instructions have also been issued to the A.B.I.R. Company forbidding restrictions on the freedom of commerce, and, lastly, that company has itself sent out an officer armed with independent powers to inquire into its administration, and to insist upon the removal of any officials whom he thinks ought to be removed. I do not pretend that those measures are all, or anything like all, which we have a right to expect. The reply of the Congo Government leaves absolutely out of account the question of our trade rights and the trade rights of Europe in the Congo Basin. His Majesty's Government in their original Note to the Congo Government, while asking that the question of the system of Administration should be submitted to an international conference composed of representatives of the Powers who signed the Treaty of Berlin, asked also that the question of trade rights should be referred to the Hague Tribunal. The Congo Government have made no approach at all towards meeting our views as to the latter question. But the Committee will remember that this question of the compatibility of the concession system with the free trade provisions of the Berlin Act has arisen not only in the Congo State, but in the French Congo and in other parts of the conventional basin of the Congo. 1283 In fact, I may say at once that we ourselves have found very considerable difficulty in drawing up the form of our concessions in the East African Protectorate with strict fidelity to the phraseology of the Berlin Act. We are perfectly willing, if we can obtain the concurrence of the other Powers, to submit to the Hague Tribunal our own practice with regard to these concessions in British territory, and we are at present in friendly communication with the French Government, with a view not only to the settlement of the private claims between British firms and French firms, but also with a view to obtaining a satisfactory interpretation of the meaning of the free-trade clauses of the Berlin Act. I hope, at all events, that if we are successful in that attempt, it will have the effect of removing the wholly unwarrantable suspicions with which the Congo Government has hitherto viewed the appeal which we have made to them.
Another consideration which renders it impossible for us to pronounce as wholly satisfactory the steps which that Government have already announced is that we are still wholly in the dark as to the character and scope of the proposed investigation and as to the composition of the tribunal by which it is to be carried out. It is obvious that an inquiry confined to the specific cases mentioned in Mr. Casement's Report, and conducted, as in the Epondo case, by the agents of the Administration or of the companies whose action has been the subject of criticism would command no general confidence, nor would its conclusions carry weight with any independent mind. We have drawn the attention of the Congo Government to these considerations in connection with their request to be supplied with the names of natives who gave information to Mr. Casement. Those names we on reflection decided to suppress for reasons which are fully explained in the White Paper, and will, I think, commend themselves to the judgment of the House. We are willing to give every information in our possession to the Congo Government provided we have adequate security that measures will be taken to p event the exercise of any pressure to withhold evidence in the future and the possibility of retaliation on the witnesses 1284 for the evidence they have given in the past, and provided the composition of the tribunal is such as to deserve our confidence. We hope that the Congo Government will meet our views in that respect. We adhere to our original view that the more complete the international character that is given to this tribunal, and the more absolutely it is divorced from the local administration, the better it will be for the reputation of the Congo Government, and the more quickly will they secure the removal of a regrettable source of misunderstanding between two friendly Governments. But that is a matter which we must leave to their discretion. They met our appeal to an international conference by a denial of the competence of such a tribunal. Sir, we made that appeal in good faith, in no spirit of animosity to the Congo Government, and in the belief that that Government would welcome a tribunal before which they would appear, not merely as defendants or witnesses, but as joint assessors with the other Powers. The Berlin Act provides no machinery for enforcing the obligations registered therein, and though there is some force in the point of view urged by various speakers, notably by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, it is at any rate technically true that it is not from the Berlin Act that the Sovereignty of the Congo State is derived. When the United States first, and the European Governments subsequently, recognised the existence in the Congo Basin of a Government possessed of a national status, that recognition was accorded not to the Congo State, but to an association professing an international character, and proclaiming before the world as the object of its being, not the accumulation of rubber at an infinite cost of human life and suffering, but the protection and civilisation of the natives of Africa. The international character of that association has long ago departed, but I Suppose that the lofty professions and the great responsibilities remain. For good or evil the Congo State stand to day in the eyes of millions of the heathen throughout the darkest regions of that unhappy continent as the mandatory of Europe, the sole exemplar and interpreter of Christian methods of government. What is at issue if that 1285 position is abused and that trust betrayed is not the question of the existence or the Sovereignty of a State—that is a matter on which the Congo Government may make its mind easy—but the fair fame of Western civilisation, and the reputation of the creed upon whose principles that civilisation is avowedly based. It is with that conviction that we made our appeal, not less to the Governments of Europe than to the ruler of the Congo State itself, and it is in that spirit that we earnestly hope the Congo Government will now address itself to the inquiry which it has publicly and solemnly announced.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY () Northumberland, Berwick
said he had listened with too much satisfaction both to the tone and substance of the noble Lord's speech to wish to add much to it, and if he followed him it was only for the sake of emphasising his agreement with the general view which he, and every one, had taken on this question. It was not often that there was such unanimity in the House of Commons, but it had been a somewhat gruesome unanimity; one wished that it could have been disturbed by some one who could have qualified or contradicted. But the facts were too well established. It was quite true that the noble Lord did put in some qualifying remarks on behalf of the Congo Government as to their having done good work in some respects; it was also true that Sir Harry Johnston and Major Gibbons, and some others, who had travelled, he thought, mostly on the frontier of the Congo State, had reported favourably of what they had seen in the particular districts they had been in, and had borne testimony to the fact that they had known Belgian officers who had done their best for the Africans under their care. But to say that the practices they had heard about that afternoon were not universal in the Congo State was neither here nor there, what was detestable was that they should exist at all. The story they had listened to, told by men who had gone closely into the question and who had disregarded all that seemed to them doubtful and had selected only what seemed to them clearly established, was one that would have been distressing to read about 1286 if it had related to the history of centuries ago; it was intolerable to hear about it in relation to contemporary history. As the noble Lord had said, the European Powers had a responsibility and the European good name was in question. He did not think any of the great European Powers, with the facts so clearly established as they now were, ought to be content, in view of their own honour in the matter, to sit still and do nothing. The Congo State was not an independent Power in the same sense as the great European Powers, it was really the mandatory and trustee of the other European Powers. At a time, or just before the time, when the great European Powers themselves were becoming anxious to get portions of African territory, and during the time when they had been engaged, some of them, in scrambling for territory, a scramble which aroused great jealousy and suspicion, they allowed not one of themselves, not even a small State, but an individual to possess what they might call the heart of tropical Africa. And why? Because it was a possession established in the interests of philanthropy and free trade. Well, it had led to the story they had heard. The State was really created by a sort of self-denying ordinance on the part of the various great Powers: but he would put it higher than that; he-believed that many of them sanctioned it by a really generous impulse, to see civilisation spread. That that should have led to the state of things which they had heard recounted ought to be intolerable to the Powers which sanctioned it.
The noble Lord had said measures were being taken by the Congo State to improve the state of things. Well, they had heard of something like those measures before, and of course what they wanted was results and not promises. It would be satisfactory, or at least more satisfactory, if the Conga Government would definitely instruct their officials, not only to take these measures generally, but to take them specifically, even at the sacrifice of revenue As long as the officials were called to account when there was any falling off in the revenue collected, a general instruction as to good intentions 1287 would remain a dead letter. He agreed that the Government should take whatever steps were possible; he agreed in the steps that had been taken, but they looked to them to take further steps which were possible. What further steps were possible? He thought the noble Lord was entirely justified in declining to be too explicit as to what further steps might be possible. We wanted to take as few steps as might be necessary, but at the same time we wanted other Towers to take steps, and if it remained perhaps a little doubtful as to the exact steps we might be disposed to take our selves in the matter, it might predispose other Powers to be a little more active than they had been in co-operating with us. It was true we had no intention of interfering permanently with the Government of the Congo State, but interference, as the noble Lord told them the other day, had often been forced upon them against their will.
With regard to the jealousy and suspicion with which separate action on our part might be regarded, let them be under no illusion in the matter. Now, as at all other times, we wished to avoid exciting such jealousy ox suspicion, but they knew that there was a proverb abroad about Englishmen, as Lord Salisbury once told the House of Lords—"First missionaries, then Consuls, then gunboats." Missionaries were in the Congo State; it had been suggested that we should appoint more Consuls there, and there were people who would say that these were only preliminary steps to gunboats following. These things would be said, and we must run the risk of exciting jealousy and suspicion; indeed, he expected we had excited some already by the steps that had been taken. But a matter of that kind cut both ways; it was true it made it difficult to take separate steps, but, on the other hand, whatever step we had to take was likely to lead the other Powers to take steps also. He gathered that some of the Powers whose co-operation would be most essential in this matter had declined to co-operate because they said they had no material interests. He was glad that in that debate whatever material interests we might have bad been entirely subordinated to other motives. There were trade questions in- 1288 volved. They had heard with great satisfaction from the noble Lord that certain discussions with France were proceeding in a friendly way with regard to trade concessions, which might possibly lead to the clearing up of the difficulties connected with the Berlin Act, and might be a help in getting some trade difficulties within the Congo overcome, but that had not been the motive of that debate. Nobody could think for a moment that material interests had not been entirely superseded in the minds of the Committee by humanitarian interests and a general sense of the responsibility of the civilised Powers. To the Powers which said that they had no material interests, he thought they must say that we also had no material interests sufficient to justify separate action on our part, but that as it was so obvious that very little combined pressure from the European Powers would effect what was wanted, and as the honour and good name of the Powers who consented to the creation of this State was involved, they, like us, must see that there was a little more than the question of material interests involved.
The first change, he thought, which was wanted with regard to the Congo State, whenever there was an opportunity of bringing it about, was that the Government of that State should be one which was responsible to a Parliament. He did not care what European Parliament, so long as it was a European Parliament. If that Government had been responsible to a Belgian or other Parliament these things would have been put a stop to long ago. Whatever happened, let them never again be a party to setting up in any part of the world a private irresponsible Government of this kind. He hoped that the other Powers would join with us on the first opportunity in saying that this Government should be responsible to some representative assembly. With regard to our appointing Consuls, he was very glad that the noble Lord did not dismiss that suggestion.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said he meant Consuls with Consular jurisdiction. The 1289 right hon. Member for Cambridge University had said that we could only do that, practically, by dealing with a barbarous Government. He thought we might put the establishment of Consuls on the ground that if other Powers would not co-operate with us in this matter, in what we considered the general interests of humanity and civilisation, which were as much theirs as ours, we must at any rate see to the protection of our own subjects. It was true, as the noble Lord said, that there was not a favourable opportunity at the present moment; but when we had a case like the Stokes case on record, a case in which a man was clearly illegally executed, we had a case which could not have happened under Consular jurisdiction of our own, and which would have been ample justification for our taking steps to establish a Consular jurisdiction. It was true that the susceptibilities of other Powers might be aroused if we appointed Consuls. Then by all means let them appoint Consuls of their own. He would point out to the noble Lord that his hon. friend the Member for Oldham, in pressing this step on the Government, put it exceedingly moderately and suggested that it should not be taken without first entering into communication with other European Powers. By all means let that be done, and if other European Powers did not like our taking such steps let them suggest other steps. He would like to see some conference called to revise the Berlin Act. The Berlin Act, under which this State was created, and which had other conditions, was now getting rather old, and these international Acts when they got old began to lose their force, just in the same way, he believed, as an accumulator charged with electricity lost a great deal of its force and ceased to be of any use if it were left for sometime. The results of these European conferences tended after a time to lose their force. Sometimes it was a happy thing that they did so tend, but here there was occasion why they should remain in force, and he thought the time had come when the Powers might usefully consider the question of coming again into conference and considering how far the Berlin Act needed revision. He trusted that the Government would be on the look-out for any 1290 favourable opportunities which might arise in European politics for pressing this question. There was an ebb and flow, and there were currents and eddies in European politics which sometimes provided unexpected opportunities of getting the Powers to work together in a matter of this kind. He was convinced of this, and he was sure that the noble Lord would feel, from the tone of the debate that afternoon, from the fact that this was a House of Commons policy, and from the way in which his own speech had been received by the whole House, that the country would be only too ready to support the Government in any steps they might feel justified in taking.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES () Lynn Regis
said he had waited until the conclusion of the debate on the Congo State to introduce another subject, which would not occupy the attention of the Committee at any great length. He referred to the action of the Foreign Office under the Brussels Sugar Convention. He would not enter into the merits of that Convention except to say that he believed it had not produced all the marvellous results predicted for it; it had not brought prosperity to the West Indies, and certainly had not brought anything but dearer sugar to this country. The permanent Commission established under the Convention at Brussels was in a position to dictate to this country the whole of its tariff policy in regard to sugar; and Papers had been presented to the House giving a description of the further findings of that Commission. They were very important Papers indeed, for various reasons; and having read them he confessed to a desire, which had long existed in his mind, that some means could be found of endowing the Foreign Office with some gentleman possessed of elementary notions of business and language. The permanent Commission which had been set up under that Convention went on holding its meetings at Brussels and giving its decisions with regard to bounties and the duties which the various countries, including Great Britain, should put on, and yet the House had no adequate information in regard to its proceedings. He submitted that having regard to the importance of the decisions, arrived at by that Convention and the 1291 binding nature of those decisions on this country, it was absolutely necessary that the proceedings of that Commission, as represented by the procès-verbaux, should be laid on the Table of the House, in as much as they comprised part of the duty this House had to perform, and the House ought to know the decisions their masters had taken, and what steps it was necessary for the Government to take. It was true that there were copies of some of them in the library, but those copies were incomplete and did not contain the most important report, namely, that of the twenty-third sitting. He pointed out that the despatch of Sir Henry Bergne on the decision of the Commission arrived at on 16th October, as published in the White Paper, contained a most serious error. The delegates actually arrived at the decision that the Russian system gave rise to a bounty, but according to the White Paper Sir Henry Bergne stated that the Commission affirmed that the Russian system did not give rise to a bounty. By the courtesy of the noble Lord he had been able to ascertain that the word "not "was a mistake, But what a mistake to make. A mistake which represented to us the exact contrary of the decision at which the Commission arrived. How it could have been allowed to pass by those who read the proofs of the Foreign Office Papers or by Sir Henry Bergne himself, who presumably read the proof, he could not conceive, but it was a most serious thing. The House would remember that in the original translation of the Convention there were so many errors that the Government had to withdraw the Paper, but this blunder was of capital importance, and so extraordinary a blunder raised great doubts in his mind as to the accuracy of the other Papers.
There was, again, the important point of the treatment of the sugars of our self-governing Colonies. The Commission came to the conclusion that bounties on sugar were given by three groups of British Colonies—Canada, South Africa, and the Australian Commonwealth. They fixed the countervailing duties on those sugars at 3f. 63c. per hundred kilos of refined sugar in the case of Canada, 3f. 89c. in the case of South Africa, and 5f. 62c. in the case of the Australian Commonwealth. That, he imagined, in the last case would amount to about 2s. 6d. per Cwt. 1292 The effect of that decision with regard to those colonies was that every one of those countries which had contracted with us for the presumed advantage of our West Indian Colonies, and with whom in return we had contracted to exclude sugar which was bounty-fed and so prevent our people having cheap sugar—every one of the contracting parties to the Sugar Convention was obliged to place these countervailing duties on their sugar. They would put duties on all Canadian, South African, and Australian sugar that they received, and this Government, which had taken up the defence of the self-governing Colonies against the wicked, foreigner, would be obliged to submit. It was true that this country would not impose such duties, because at the moment of ratifying the Convention His Majesty's Government declared that they would not carry out the undoubted obligation of the Convention by imposing countervailing duties on sugar from the self-governing Colonies. It was also true that this country was the greatest consumer of colonial sugar, so that the imposition of the duty by the other contracting States was not so important as it would otherwise be. Still. it was important, because the exportation of sugar from the Colonies to the other contracting States might become larger, but whatever dimensions it assumed, so long as this Convention lasted, every pound of that sugar would be subject to this differential tax. Of the twenty-third sitting of the Commission the House had no account.
They had not the procès-verbal, in the French, and consequently had to rely on Sir Henry Bergne's account. That account, however, did not give the date of the-sitting—dates and time were nothing to the Foreign Office—but he thought he might fairly assume that it was in October last. At that sitting Sir Henry Bergne raised the serious question of sugared products. Personally, he believed that the Convention and all its principles applied to both sugar and sugared products, and it was only right that if it applied to one it should to the other. Sir Henry Bergne stated—In the course of Thursday's sitting I had the honour to put the following question to the Commission whether according to Article I. of the Convention the contracting States have power to 1293 levy a surtax on sugared products sufficiently high to give rise to a bounty.The matter was discussed, and it was quite clear that the whole tendency was that while we were still bound to exclude from our ports any sugar in its crude state which had received a bounty, however cheap it might become, or however advantageous to our people, any other country was to be allowed to send sugared products, and we had no remedy. This Commission was now engaged in the work of interpreting the treaty, a work for which it was not suited, and for which it was never intended. The whole of the important questions which had been discussed turned upon the interpretation of the treaty. They came to the conclusion in October last that they were not quite ready to interpret this treaty. There was no doubt to his mind as to its meaning, for it applied to sugar in its raw state as well as to sugared products, and all the penalties and obligations applied to both. The object of this country was that sugar should be cheap, but their object was dear sugar and the retention of the monopoly. When this serious question was submitted to the Commission they said they could not decide upon it. First of all, let him say that there was a vote taken, but it appeared that the affirmation made by the Commission that the contracting States had the right to levy on sugared products a surtax higher than Article III. allowed was come to by the vote of eight in the affirmative, and one in the negative, that one being Great Britain. The very result had happened which the opponents of the Convention had always predicted, namely, that the voice of this country, the great sugar-consuming country, the country upon which these sugar-producing countries lived, which ought to be the dominating voice, was overruled by the countries interested in dear sugar. The question of how this was to be dealt with was left open. According to Sir Henry Bergne the delegates had received instructions of such a nature as left no hope of obtaining a satisfactory solution of the matter that session, and Sir Henry urged the Commission to fix the next meeting at a not J very distant date. Could the noble Lord tell him the date of the twenty-third sitting?
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said the noble Lord appeared to know no more than he did as to the sittings. The question of the time was very important. The next meeting was fixed for October and that was a very long time. That was seven months, but his impression was that it was twelve months from the last meeting. He wanted to draw the attention of the Committee to these declarations. Sir Henry Bergne said—If, however, my Government assents to an adjournment it must be well understood that they reserve full liberty to take in the interval any measures which seem to them necessary to protect British trade in sugared products against the competition of bounty-fed products.On page 30 at the bottom Sir Henry Bergne had pointed out that the only remedy for any misdeed was the absolute exclusion of the sugar. He wished to ask the noble Lord—What has the Government done, what are they doing, or what do they propose to do to carry out Sir Henry Bergne's declaration between the twenty-third sitting of the Conference and October next? Sir Henry Bergne's declaration referred not to a sitting in October, but to what would happen in the meantime. Did the Government propose to take any steps, or did they mean to wait till the month of October, leaving British trade in the meantime subject to what would be unfair competition prohibited by the Convention? The whole Sugar Convention had been the most unfortunate and blundering business ever entered into by this country. The same blundering seemed to be committed in every act done, and in every document issued. He thought the noble Lord would be shocked at the amazing and unprecedented blunder committed in this Paper. He, himself, had considerable difficulty in accepting it as at a11 accurate, and he should like to see the proès-verbaux.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON () Orkney and Shetland
said he regretted that owing to the answer he received that afternoon from the noble Lord in regard to the alienation of territory in East Africa he could not indulge in the universal congratulations which had been showered upon his conduct. He had 1295 for some time tried his best to get information from the noble Lord with regard to the concessions to which for the first time he had vaguely alluded that afternoon. The noble Lord had, made some suggestion as to submitting these concessions to the Conference at the Hague. He thought the Members of the House of Commons were also fairly entitled to have these concessions submitted to them. Why should they not be submitted here? If he could find them for himself he would not trouble the noble Lord about them. There was a great deal of mystery about them. What were the concessions which he was prepared to submit to the Hague Conference. When a straightforward Question was asked that afternoon the noble Lord endeavoured to evade it by what was more or less a legal quibble.
§ *EARL PERCY
I spoke of concessions. The hon. Member asked about what he calls the "alienation of territory." It is quite a different thing.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said it was the same thing as alienation. It was parting with property which was in possession of this country to some persons. The House of Commons was entitled to know who were the persons who had got it and what consideration had been paid for it. Why should this alienation of territory be shrouded in mystery, and why should the House of Commons be absolutely refused information on the subject? What reason could there be for this secrecy?
*THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that the Uganda and East Africa Protectorates are under separate Votes, and that it would not be in order to discuss them on this Vote.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said he was discussing the noble Lord's refusal to give information, and the taking advantage of a legal quibble because the word "alienation" instead of lease had been used. If it was out of order to do so he would not pursue the subject further at present.
§ *EARL PERCY
If the hon. Member wishes to know exactly which concessions we would refer to the Hague Tribunal I cannot tell him. But the conditions if the lease of land to the Jews are still under consideration and have nothing to do with the matter.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said he was entitled to call attention to the noble Lord's refusal to answer a Question on the Vote for his salary.
*THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member can allude to the noble Lord's refusal to answer the Question, but he cannot go into the Vote to which the Question refers.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said he did not propose to do so. The Question which the noble Lord refused to answer was not asked in any unfriendly spirit to the Foreign Office, and the noble Lord took a line in regard to the Question which he had never known to be taken in the House before. The information asked would, he believed, be of great interest to the House. It referred to a definite matter in which the whole country was immensely interested. Surely there was nothing whatever to be ashamed of in the noble Lord's action in connection with the matter.
§ And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.