§ Motion made, and Question proposed, " That a sum, not exceeding £40,396, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1907, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."
§ MR. H. H. MARKS (Kent, Thanet)
said he rose to move a reduction of the Vote for the purpose of directing the attention of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to certain judicial and punitive methods which prevailed in the British concessions in China generally, 254 and notably in the settlement of Hankow. These methods, he might at once say, were of a class which had recently received severe condemnation from high authority. They were methods which they had heard in this House the Government regarded with stern disapproval. The facts which he proposed to lay before the Committee, the evidence upon which they were based, and the statistics in reference to them, were not derived from sensational newspaper reports, or based upon mere vague rumour. They were taken from official information and statistics supplied from British official sources. He would divide the subject under two heads; first, flogging with bamboos, and secondly, torture with the cangue. Those were two forms of punishment inflicted upon Chinamen accused of offences against British subjects, and the extent to which they prevailed was very considerable. The cases were not to be counted singly, or by dozens or scores, but by hundreds. He had lately studied the report issued by the superintendent of police at Hankow, a report which had been made to the municipality of Hankow, and he found that in the year 1903, in the mixed Court at Hankow, 907 Chinamen were sentenced to be flogged with the bamboo and eighty-seven to be tortured with the cangue. In 1904, according to the same report, 585 Chinamen were sentenced by the same authority to be flogged with the bamboo and 101 to be tortured with the cangue and in 1905, 514 Chinamen were sentenced to be flogged with the bamboo and seventy-six to be tortured with the cangue. This flogging with the bamboo was by no means a mild penalty. As inflicted by the mixed Courts at Hankow it was a very severe punishment, and there were cases on record to which he would presently refer where a prisoner had been sentenced to no less than 1,000 blows with the bamboo. The Committee no doubt knew the character of the punishment by the bamboo, but perhaps he might be permitted to say a word as to the form of torture administered with the cangue. The cangue was a wooden collar or portable pillory which the offenders were condemed to carry on their shoulders, for a period ranging from a few days to 255 three months. It was a square wooden collar weighing from twenty to sixty pounds, with a round hole in it for the neck, and it measured from three to four feet across. The convict sentenced to wear this cangue was unable to reach his mouth or to lie down, and he could not even defend himself from insects, and he was, during the time he carried it about, entirely dependent on the good offices of his friends. Men and women were chained together in these cangues, and they were permitted to wander at large through the streets of Hankow, publicly exhibiting the punishment to which they had been sentenced, a punishment which it would at once be seen involved both mental and physical torture. The Chinamen subjected to this barbarous punishment were taken into custody by the police of the municipality of the British community. They were tried in what were called the mixed Courts, held in the Court of the British Consul. The prisoners were tried by a Chinese magistrate, sitting with a British Consular officer as assessor; the latter was described in the proceedings as the British assessor, and he was there to watch the proceedings on behalf of the British police, who were the prosecutors. It might be said that the British assessor could not control the Court or the sentence. He thought that was open to question, because by the agreement of Chefoo in 1876 it was expressly provided that—If the officer so attending is dissatisfied with the proceedings, it will be in his power to protest against them in detail.Therefore it was not an unfair assumption that the right to protest against these proceedings included the right to protest against the sentence in which those proceedings culminated. It might be said that the punishment and the torture would be inflicted whether the assessor assented to it or not, but it was very much open to doubt whether the dissent of these British assessors from barbarous punishments would be altogether disregarded. It was not at all likely that such sentences would cease to be inflicted so long as the British officials tacitly sanctioned them by their presence in. the Courts in which they were passed. So long as these assessors were officially present at the trials they could not claim 256 that they were free from responsibility, and he submitted that their responsibility was directly proportionate to their power. What was their power? They were under no compulsion to be accessories before the fact to the flogging and ill-usage of Chinamen in our concessions in China. Even if it was not deemed advisable to interfere with these established Chinese customs we could at least instruct our consular officials to refrain from being parties to the infliction of punishments which were repugnant to the public sentiment of this country. In Shanghai he believed the punishment by the bamboo had lately been abolished, but so far as he could learn, torture by the cangue was still in force, and in order that the Committee might form some idea of the way in which these punishments were inflicted, he would read a very brief report from theNorth China Herald. It was a report of the proceedings in the mixed Court of Shanghai. The proceedings took place before Mr. King, the Chinese magistrate, and Mr. Twyman, the British assessor who sat with him.Inspector Wilson mentioned the case of a prisoner who was convicted in April last for burglary, and sentenced to five years imprisonment and 1,000 blows—500 to be administered at the beginning of the term, and 500 after the expiration of six months. The prisoner received the first 500 blows, and afterwards became sick, but he was now certified as well enough to receive the remaining blows, and Inspector Wilson asked how the abolition of bambooing would affect this case. There would shortly be before the court a similar case of a prisoner who is sentenced to receive a second instalment of 500 blows, but in this case the man is also undergoing imprisonment for life, and the court will therefore have some difficulty in finding a punishment in substitution for the blows.He ventured to submit to the Committee that we need not shrink from incurring the resentment of the Chinese if we refused to be any longer parties to these brutal punishments and revolting tortures. If we even exercised pressure in this direction, we should be making better and more honourable use of our power than when we used it for the purposes of gain by forcing the opium trade upon the Chinese people in spite of the protests of their Government and the public opinion of the nation. He did not see how the Government could very well refuse to deal with 257 this question, or, at any rate, to take such steps as were necessary to prevent British consular agents from becoming parties to the infliction of these punishments and tortures. The Government and its more enlightened supporters disapproved of flogging, and upon that point they had had the most emphatic assurances. If the Government disapproved of flogging, then a fortiori they could not approve of torture by the cangue. They could not defend these practices, and therefore they could not consistently refuse to use what power they possessed to put an end to them. Surely they could instruct their Consuls to refrain from sitting as assessors in the Courts where these barborous punishments were inflicted. That was a point which he asked the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affiairs to consider. He wished to know whether it would not be possible and indeed whether it would not be proper that the Foreign Office should give instructions to their Consuls to refrain from sitting as assessors in the Courts where such barbarities as he had described were inflicted. He sincerely hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to take that course, and he was encouraged in that hope by a very pregnant sentence in a speech which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs delivered on March 14th last. If he was correctly reported in Hansard, the right hon. Gentleman said on that occasion—I think the only right and dignified position for the Imperial Government is to lay down once and for all that the Imperial diplomatic machinery will not be allowed to be used over any part of the Empire for an improper purpose."†He realised that that sentence was limited by the phrase, " over any part of the Empire." In his opinion the Empire might be said to include His Majesty's Consular Courts in whatever part of the world they might be situated, and if the right hon. Gentleman was of the same mind to-day as he was in March last, then he ought to use his authority to insure that the Imperial diplomatic machinery should not be allowed to be used in any British Court, or in any Court where the† See (4) Debates, cliii., 1291.258 British consular official was sitting for purposes which he and the Government did not approve of, or for the infliction of punishment and penalties which were repugnant to the British sense of humanity. He begged to move.
Motion made, and Question proposed, " That Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100."— (Mr. H. H. Marks.)
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
said he rose to call the attention of the Committee and the Government to an international question which was exercising the minds not only of the people of this country, but of the people of every civilised country in the world. The question he referred to was the condition of affairs in the Congo Free State, and the remarkable proclamation or manifesto which had lately been issued by the King of the Belgians, who was the Sovereign of the Congo Free State. He wished to call attention to the reforms contained in the decrees which had been issued, and the likely effect of those reforms upon that long train of abuses which had marked the Government of the Congo Free State, a State founded by the approval and with the co-operation of the great Powers of the world. The manifesto published by the King of the Belgians was one which they must separate entirely from the people of Belgium. He desired any remarks he might make to be separated entirely from any question of our relations with the Government of Germany, with whom we were altogether friendly, and with the people, a great many of whom sympathised with the action taken by the British House of Commons in 1903 in passing a Resolution condemnatory of the condition which existed then, and which had existed in an increasing degree during the last twenty years under the so-called civilised government established in the Congo State by Leopold, King of the Belgians. That manifesto was an extraordinary challenge to Europe and to all civilised peoples. He could not imagine in the face of the facts and of what was understood and said by his own people that 259 the Sovereign of the Congo Free State could have done anything else but keep his tongue in his cheek when he published that manifesto to the world. A great civilised nation—the United States— gave the first approval to the International Association of the Congo which the King of the Belgians established, not for the purpose set forth in the manifesto, but for the purpose of developing civilisation in those free States as they were called. They were called " free " because they were to be left open to all international commerce and trade. The word was not used in order to suggest freedom constitutionally from the opinion or influence or the right to interfere on the part of the nations which helped to establish the Congo Free State. The United States, through President Arthur, in 1883 said—The objects of this Society are philanthropic; it does not aim at permanent political control, but seeks the neutrality of the valley.It was doubtful whether the Congo Free State would have been established with King Leopold at its head but for the approval given by the President of the United States, followed by the agreement which England entered into with the head of the Congo Free State, who was also head of the Association. That agreement established without any shadow of doubt that British subjects and the subjects of all other nations should have the fullest right to trade within the boundaries of the Congo Free State. Then came the Berlin Conference and the Berlin Act, which established the right set forth in Article 26, namely—The Powers signatories of the present general Act reserve to themselves the right of eventually, by mutual agreement, introducing therein modifications or improvements, the utility of which has been shown by experience.That was the charter of our right to intervene in the affairs of the Congo Free State, over which Belgium had no more control than we had. Mr. Van der Velde had said—We have been told of money, profits, presents, made to Belgium. I say that this money, these profits, these presents, are shameful, because they are the result of exploitation of a whole people.Other members of the Belgian Chamber had expressed their views even more strongly than Mr. Van der Velde. In 260 spite of the position held by this country, the United States, Germany, Italy, and France in connection with the development of that State, the King of the Beglians said—My rights on the Congo are indivisible, they are the result of my toil, and of the expenditure of my money. It is essential that I should proclaim these rights aloud, for Belgium does not possess any in the Congo except those which emanate from me. If I am careful not to allow my rights to lapse, it is because Belgium, without them, would have no right at all… The Towers accorded their goodwill to the birth of the new State, but not one was called upon to participate in my efforts; hence it follows that none has the right of intervention, which nothing could justify.That was rather different from the message which the King of the Belgians sent to Manchester when he was posing as a philantropist eager to engage the sympathetic consideration of the British people. He said then—that the State had been called into being for the purpose of promoting the civilisation and commerce of Africa, and for other humane and benevolent motives; … to enable commerce to follow the Association's advance into Central Africa," " to prevent the slave trade," to enable European traders "to fully enter into communication with the natives," " to civilise Africa by encouragement given to legitimate trade.Not a single prophecy or promise of the King of the Belgians had been fulfilled so far as the Congo Free State was concerned. There was practically no international commerce. England made a separate agreement on behalf of herself and other nations that there should be international exchange and free commerce. A small portion of the Lower Congo was open. There were one Dutch firm and one British firm there, but in the whole of the vast territory to the north what had they got? It was a territory given up to rubber exploitation alone, and the rubber was not got by the payment of wages to the natives as was the case in every other portion of civilised and uncivilised Africa. In all the colonies of Africa, whether French, German, or British, there was not the same system of compelling natives through taxation only to develop the resources of the country. What had been the conditions of labour ever since the occupation began? Up to March of this year the natives spent 300 days in the year collecting rubber by force practically under the terrorism 261 of sentries, the only people who represented in these districts the commerce of the places. They were compelled by these sentries to gather rubber for the greater part of their natural existence. The reform announced in the decree published by the King of the Belgians suggested that now, instead of being looked to to pay through taxation during those long days of labour, the natives should pay a tax varying from 4s. to 19s. a year. But supposing the great companies who were the concessionaires and the Congo Government were to say, "Yes, we will allow you a penny or a halfpenny a pound for all the rubber you collect," he thought that, instead of forty hours labour per month being required to pay the tax on the natives, the old, bad, wicked, and oppressive system would still continue. This decree regarded from the standpoint of past experience would prove, he believed, as all those who had studied the question believed, to be a sham and a fraud upon Europe—a fraud upon the nations that had trusted the King of the Belgians. The King of the Belgians disputed our right of practical interference. In another place the case was put very fairly before the people of this country by the late Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the present Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. They put forward what had been put forward before in this House —our absolute right to intervene in the interests of humanity and civilisation to compel the King of the Belgians to make real reforms. But how could we do it? He believed that the only way that it could be done was through the appointment of consuls and the formation of consular courts. Those consuls would have an international supervision over the affairs of the Congo. The King of the Belgians talked of the people of his State. Who were they? 15,000,000 of natives with black sentries over them, armed with rifles, to compel them to collect rubber, and the rest of the officials hired by the King of Belgium to carry out his orders and nothing else. His orders were that sufficient rubber was to be brought in to enable companies such as he could name, which on a capital of £40,000 could make in three years a profit of £680,000. Why, if those pro- 262 mised reforms in the matter of taxation were true reforms to be carried out, the King of Belgium and all his authorities in the Congo Free State would be likely to leave it, because it was only by securing the rubber by this oppressive system that their obligations could become continuously successful. The profits of those companies had only been got by forced labour, and he wanted to know if, under the new decrees, the promises formerly made, and broken, by the King of Belgium were to be carried out. This country had a right to intervene; and were we willing to trust the Sovereign of the Congo Free State to carry out just one of the clauses of the decree as to forced labour which was to be occasionally applied? Were the natives to be compelled to serve as day labourers for five years or else to serve for seven years in the Army? The position was one which ought to make Great Britain as a civilized nation which understood what colonising meant, pause. He would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, who, he knew, sympathised with the position taken up by the late Government, and by this House, if he really believed that it was wise to wait until those decrees were applied; and if so how long?
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said that that only applied to the question of approaching the other Powers. If he remembered aright the late Government did approach the other Powers but did not receive a reply that they were willing to make representations with us.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said that that answer had no direct relation to the answer to the replies made by the other Powers. If the right hon. Gentleman meant something else, would it not be that England would take action upon her own authority whether the other Powers would intervene or not? A statement to that effect would, he was sure, be welcomed by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who urged strongly on the right hon. Gentleman that England should take the lead in this matter. After all, the Congo Free State would never have become an entity but for the approval of the 263 United States and this country; and we were entitled, in the interests of humanity and civilization to intervene. Our own position in Africa must be considered. The infamous treatment of the natives in the Congo Free State must affect the whole position of natives throughout Africa. The knowledge of the horrible injustice inflicted upon the natives in the Congo Free State was carried by those subterranean wires which all natives employed, from one part of the Continent to the other, and was bound to affect the condition of the natives under the British, German, and French flags. But this government of the Congo Free State was no government. It was the government of one man. If they could deal with this question from the standpoint of a responsible government he believed that the reforms which were demanded would have been put into active operation long ago. But, because they had to deal with an autocrat, who had not even a Council to advise him, but only administrators in Brussels, they had the existing state of things. If the Congo Sovereign were detached from Belgium, if our political sympathy with Belgium were not involved, how long would this monstrous travesty of government have existed in Central Africa? It was only because this man was King of Belgium that those things had been tolerated; otherwise they would have been stopped long ago. As to the subject of monopolies which, by the Berlin Act, were not to be allowed, in the new decree there was an almost farcical statement that foreign companies were to be taxed 1 per cent., as if to show how impartial the Congo Free State was, while Belgian companies were to be taxed 2 per cent. That looked like as if foreign companies were in future to be given an advantage. But the facts were that there were no foreign companies there. On the contrary, the whole of the State had been monopolised by the Belgian companies. Again, in reply to the British Note of 1903 the King of Belgium promised that the native land tenure should be religiously preserved; but afterwards the Congo Government stated that there was no longer any appropriated lands. He could not see how in twenty years every acre of land in the Congo State had been appro- 264 priated by all the Belgian companies.Again, a Commission had reported that practically the whole time of the natives was taken up in gathering rubber and that each village had to furnish from its plantations food every two or more weeks for the soldiers who came up on the patrol steamers. The offer to those natives of an enlarged amount of land for their occupation must have been made by the King of Belgium with his tongue in his cheek. It was of no value whatever. There might be in the southern part of the country some trade with British or French merchants, but in the northern part there was nothing but trade in rubber. The natives there had nothing to do but to supply rubber to the Government and food for the soldiers on the steamers which passed up and down the rivers which watered this most unhappy and much abused country. He had no hesitation in speaking strongly on this matter—not in the interests of the Belgian people or of the people of this country, but in the interests of humanity as a whole; and his aim was the destruction of those monopolies and the preservation of the rights of the natives of that region. The total imports for 1905 were £800,000 and the total exports £2,100,000. Of the £800,000, £150,000 represented goods bought by the white officers and servants of the railway and steamship companies. This country was therefore helping to build up the autocracy and monopoly of one man who in the face of all Europe said; " Hands off my territory." In spite of the protests of the Sovereigns of Europe and of the President of the United States this particular Sovereign had the audacity to say that. We however had done nothing during the past twenty years except agitate; we had done nothing to stop this system of spoliation of which this Sovereign was the head. Suppose King Leopold were to die to-morrow, having bequeathed this kingdom of the Congo to the people of Belgium, there would be in the midst of that State what was known as the Crown domain, which was four and a half times the size of Great Britain and Ireland and was absolutely reserved to him and his successors for ever. This territory had given £70,000,000 of profit to the King 265 of the Belgians. He asked the Committee to realise what that meant. Did we in this country imagine that we could make a colony a success in the first twenty years of its existence, unless there were gold mines there? Out of the Congo Free State in the few years during which it had existed an enormous revenue had been yielded to Belgium and to the King of that country. In order to placate public opinion and lead it into a channel in which it could be asphyxiated the King of the Belgians had spent a considerable sum in erecting great public institutions which had been great successes; he had endeavoured to bribe public opinion in Belgium to support him in his efforts in the Congo Free State and to make it believe that that State was a successful one from every point of view of colonisation. It was, however, the most unsuccessful attempt at colonisation in the history of the world. If things were allowed to go on as they were at present we should arrive at a worse position than we were in before, because none of the decrees in regard to reforms, even if put into operation, would change the position of affairs one iota. He had no doubt the Secretary of State held views as to reform quite as strongly as his predecessor, and he believed that the appeal which he was now making would have behind it the whole of the best opinion of the British people. The United States was sending a Consul-General out to this place and it was also our duty to establish consular courts. As was said in the House of Lords, half a dozen consuls in the Congo basin would do more for the civilisation of the Free State than all the decrees of the Sovereign of the Free State. The King of the Belgians, instead of dealing with this question by constructing in a perfectly fair manner a new administration, which would represent good faith, appointed three inspectors to cover a territory representing some 300,000 square miles. How in the name of common sense could they do the work? This subject was first called attention to in 1896 by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, who knew more about international affairs than anyone else, and they were all indebted to him 266 for bringing it forward. The missionaries of Denmark and Sweden and other countries in Europe last month signed an appeal. They were honest men who had seen what they had seen, and they signed an appeal and reported, and to his mind the report of Mr. Wagstaffe constituted the worst reflection ever made on the Congo Government. It showed a fearful condition of things. Wicked persecutions and horrible oppression of the natives, the using of native labour and grinding it to get rubber and practically no pay—to get rubber at the cost of civilisation, of life, and of the rights of the labour. Hon. Gentlemen might reply on behalf of the CongoGovernment that this was not so, but to them he would say that public opinion in this country, in Germany, in France, in Italy, and in the United States, was giving expression to views such as he was now putting forward, and was expressing them in such a manner that if this Government took direct action other Governments must follow.
§ MR. MCKEAN (Monaghan, S.)
said that several thoughts came into his mind while listening to the hon. Member for Gravesend, and the first was, if half of what the hon. Gentleman had said was true, what were the Powers doing? If half the picture which the hon. Gentleman had presented to the Committee was true, how could they find language strong enough to condemn the Powers who had rights and responsibilities such as the hon. Gentleman described and were utterly forgetful of their duties in this matter? If half only of these statements were true, why had not public opinion in the countries to which the hon. Gentleman referred given some sign or endeavoured to bring pressure to bear on their respective Governments to do their duty? Was not that a reason why this Committee should inquire into the matter for itself and see whether the remarks of the hon. Member contained any fraction of truth? It would be his duty to examine the picture presented to the Committee and see whether it was a true picture, or whether it was one of those exaggerated productions of which itinerant artists and irresponsible journalists were so fond. The hon. Gentleman had said that his speech was to be moderate 267 and temperate, but his phrases as to the the manifesto of King Leopold being a " fraud on the Powers" and the expression " with his tongue in his cheek," hardly partook of the character of moderation and temperance. He supposed it was of no consequence how Englishmen expressed their views towards a small country like Belgium. Bullying and bluff was the order of the day.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said he especially exempted Belgium. He addressed himself to the Sovereign of the Congo Free State.
§ MR. MCKEAN
failed to see how the hon. Gentleman had improved his position by that remark. He had said in this House that the manifesto was a fraud upon Europe. That manifesto came from the King of the Belgians, a king who was referred to in another place as a king beloved by his people. He was glad the hon. Gentleman had given himself away in the disgraceful language which he had used.
said that the words "disgraceful language" were rather strong, and to be regretted, but he could not say that they were un-parliamentary.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
drew attention to the fact that he himself had been called to order for using the word " disgraceful."
§ MR. MCKEAN
said he would now pass from the hon. Gentleman's language to his alleged facts and his assertions. He did not propose to follow him in the incoherent discourse which he had addressed to the Committee but would merely select one or two of his leading assertions and show how those assertions were negatived by the facts. He would then leave the Committee to come to their own conclusions as to the rest of the speech. The hon. Gentleman spoke of sentries armed with rifles. In the decree of 268 reforms which the King of the Belgians had solemnly and publicly sanctioned was this heading to a paragraph, " The suspension of capetas and sentries armed with improved rifles."
§ MR. MCKEAN
said the rifles were taken away from the capetas and armed sentries. So much for the truth of one assertion. The speech of the hon. Gentleman was not of sufficient importance to go through verbatim et seriatim. The hon. Member had further told the Committee that the natives of the Congo Free State had to work 300 days out of the 365, but the fact was that the tax the native had to pay was a tax of forty hours a month, and those hours were paid for. The things of which they had been told could not be true without the Powers of Europe acting in the matter; the thing was preposterous, absurd and incredible. The hon. Gentleman's speech contained only one important issue, and he would deal with it in accordance with the facts. This matter could not, and would not, be decided by bounce and bluster. The issue was the right of intervention. He denied the existence of that right, and he did so on three grounds. He denied that it existed on grounds of natural right and justice. He denied its existence on the facts and on grounds of international law. And, finally, he denied that it existed on the great principle of the law of equity, which said that he who sought equity must do equity: in other words, he who came into a court of equity must come with clean hands. Let him deal with each of these grounds in turn. First, he had said that on grounds of natural law and justice the right of intervention did not exist. Why? King Leopold, in his dignified and noble letter of June 3rd last, sanctioning the decrees of the Commission of Reforms for the Congo, answered the question. He said—The Congo has thus been and can only have been a personal work. Now, there can be no more legitimate right than the right of the author to his own work, the fruit of his own labour.269 And again where he boldly asserted—My rights on the Congo are indivisible. They are the result of my personal labour and expense.Hon. Members laughed. They would see that the claim formulated in these words was substantiated by independent authority, which was quoted with commendation and approval in another place only a day ago. He referred to an article which appeared in the Quarterly Review for January last, entitled "The Congo Question." That article was written in a tone distinctly hostile to King Leopold and his rule in the Congo. The admissions in it were, therefore, the weightier and more valuable on that account. Let him read some of them to the Committee. On page 47 he found these words—Stanley started for the Congo in 1879 at the head of a powerful expedition, mainly, if not entirely, paid for by King Leopold.On page 50 he found this sentence—The Congo Free State was left free for some years from international jealousies to develop its organisation at the cost of the King of the Belgians.This, he might remark, was subsequent to the Brussels Conference of 1892. Further down on the same page was the following sentence—The money, therefore, which had brought the Congo Free State into being and which maintained it thenceforward, came in the main from the private purse of the King of the Belgians: or, later, from such funds as the King could raise from the sale or granting of concessions or from the produce of the Royal domain.On page 54 was the following sentence—There was now nothing for it but to fight with the Arabs for the possession of the Congo Free State. So King Leopold had to spend vast sums in raising armies of trained negroes officered by Belgians, Swedes, and English; and to send them under the command of Captain (afterwards Baron) Dhanis to subdue the Arabs on the Upper Congo. The Arabs were wiped out in several campaigns, conducted with extraordinary bravery by the Belgians and their comrades.Further down on the same page was the following sentence—The financial condition of the Free State now became a matter of great urgency to King Leopold. Its mantenance cost many thousands of pounds annually; and its returns, chiefly 270 in ivory, went but a small way to meet the expenditure.The last quotation in this connection that he would make was the following from page 57—When it is remembered that nearly the whole of the gigantic expenditure of the Congo Free State and other Belgian enterprises in Central and Eastern Africa from 1875 to 1894, and to a less degree down to the present day, has been defrayed by the private fortune of the King of the Belgians, it is doubtful whether, even with all the private fortune assigned to him in the popular estimation as the result of the exportation of rubber and ivory from the Congo Free State, he has been more than reimbursed for the money that he laid out with the view, not only of enriching Belgium, but also of creating a great civilised State in the heart of Central Africa.That was from a hostile, article by a hostile writer. He noticed that hon. Gentlemen opposite did not scoff so much now, and perhaps before he had finished they would be even less inclined to scoff. Now they came to the kernel of this matter. He would be glad to hear afterwards the scoffers who sat opposite. They evidently did not know much about the question, if they did they would laugh a good deal less. He thought he was addressing a serious assembly, but he found that it contained overgrown and antiquated schoolboys. Those who claimed the right of intervention were divided into two classes. First, there were those who based the right on the alleged fact that England was a party to the foundation of the Congo State, which State they maintained was the creation of the Berlin Conference and the Berlin Act of 1885. That contention he would show to be historically untrue. Those who made it only showed their ignorance of the facts. The Berlin Conference opened on November 15th, 1884. On April 22nd in the same year the United States of America had recognised the International Association of the Congo as " a properly constituted State." The next day France did the same. On November 8th, 1884, one week before the Conference met, Germany recognised the Association as "an independent and friendly State." On December 16th, 1884, Great Britain, and on the 19th of the same month Italy, recognised the new State as independent and sovereign. Therefore what existed before the Berlin Conference could not be the creation of that 271 Conference. Not only was it historically untrue, as he had shown, that the Congo State was the creation of the Berlin Conference, but the contention was contradicted in 1894 by Lord Kimberley, the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In a despatch dated August 14th, 1894, Lord Kimberley wrote to the late Lord Dufferin, then English Ambassador in Paris, the following words—The Congo State was not, at least to the knowledge of the British Government, constituted by a Conventional Act.The other class of people who claimed the right of intervention were those who held that, though England was not a party to the foundation or creation of the Congo State, yet the said State was under treaty responsibilities to us, responsibilities derived from the Berlin Act, Clause VI, which provided, along with other matters of no importance for present purposes, that all the signatory Powers bound themselves to watch over the preservation of the native tribes and to have a care for their moral and material improvement. If that contention were well founded the Berlin Act was a treaty binding all the signatory Powers towards one another. But Mr. Root, Secretary of State for the United States, said in this connection—It is questionable whether the treaty rights of the signatories extend to intervention by any one or more of them in the internal affairs "—that was, the internal affairs of the Congo. But weighty as was the opinion of Mr. Root, he could prove their case without it. He could show that the right of intervention, based on Article VI. of the Berlin Act, was altogether with-out foundation. This was shown by what took place at the Brussels Conference of 1892. The Brussels Act of that year defined what was meant by the Berlin Act of 1885. At the Brussels Conference the following text was proposed for Article III—The powers exercising a Sovereignty, a Protectorate, or an influence in Africa, confirming and giving precision to their anterior engagements bind themselves to pursue by the divers means indicated in Articles I. and II. the suppression of the slave trade.And so on. He invited the particular attention of the Committee to what 272 followed. M. Macedo, one of the Portuguese plenipotentiaries, proposed to suppress the words by which the Powers confirmed and gave precision to their anterior engagements. Another plenipotentiary, however, called attention to the fact that these words referred directly to Article VI. of the Berlin Act, and he declared that consequently they were not useless. He proposed, how ever, to replace the word " engagements " by the word " declaration" which more closely corresponded, he said, with the text of Article VI. The text in this amended form, with the word " declaration " substituted for the word " engagement," was adopted. What was the conclusion, the only conclusion, deducible from this fact? Obviously, that all the Powers represented at the Brussels Conference, and England amongst them clearly defined, as he had related. Article VI. of the Berlin Act, not as an " engagement" binding all the signatories one to another, but as a " declaration" of principles binding each of them individually. When this matter came to be discussed, not amongst politicians with a smattering of knowledge upon the subject, but amongst right hon. Gentlemen like the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the importance of this would be at once realised. He supposed the Committee followed the distinction— a very important distinction. If the conclusion which he had drawn was not the correct one, then what would be the significance or force of the change of words? Clearly it would have no force nor meaning whatever, and they would have the spectacle of the delegates of the Great Powers, met in solemn conference, wasting their time in making useless verbal alterations in an historic treaty ! What an impossible position ! No; those who asked for intervention had not, to use a popular phrase, a leg to stand on—an assertion which was proved by the fact that hitherto they had made so little headway in their agitation so far as concerned the Foreign Powers who were signatories to the Berlin and Brussels Acts. The Government were simply making themselves ridiculous. Let him here interpolate a consideration which, though he did not make it a formal part of his argument, was not without 273 force and substance. If we had a right of intervention in the Congo, a fortiori we had a right of intervention in Natal. Why two months ago did the Government refuse in the most explicit terms to exercise this undoubted right? Let the Committee hear what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said. Speaking on the 15th of March last he said—I remember in my time at the Colonial Office I was asked to take the strongest possible measures by well-intentioned people who complained of the treatment of natives by West Australia. My own belief was then, and is now, that these statements of the ill-treatment of the natives were grossly exaggerated. But whether they were right or wrong, I refused to pay any attention to them beyond conveying the letters in which these accusations were made to the Governor of the Colony, leaving it, to his discretion to communicate them to his Government, but making it perfectly clear that I had no claim whatever to interfere in what was a matter of local interest and local interest alone. I deny altogether that on any ground Imperial interest, as under-stood by any constitutional authority, we have or could have any right of interference in West Australia, or, again, in the case of the Transvaal.He was glad to find that he had such weighty authority as the Tribune newspaper with regard to his third ground. When one went into a national court of equity it was necessary to have clean hands. Was there any country in the world which went into an international court of equity with such hands as England did? The Tribune newspaper on Tuesday last used these words—There is an appreciable Party in the House " (referring, of coure, to this House) "which, in addressing itself to the methods of barbarism in the Congo, will be inclined to ask: 'Are our hands clean?'Common decency ought to prevent men in this House or outside of it, having regard to the facts of the situation in British Colonies, from getting up and making these appeals until they had set matters right in their own lands. A writer, who called himself an Englishman, said in the Daily Mail some ten days ago—I am not going to say that England is not a robber. She is. She possesses a genius for robbery.And this was the nation that sat in judgment on the conduct of other 274 nations ! No wonder they were called Pharisees and Philistines all over the civilised world. In listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Gravesend one would have thought that the British Colonies were little paradises, that their administrators were saints, and their institutions perfect. The hon. Member talked of the despotism of the autocrat. Speaking for himself he would say " Give me the autocracy and the despotism of King Leopold in Ireland a dozen times before your boasted constitutional Government." They talked of the depopulation of the Congo and of over-taxation. Were the Committee aware that a Commission of Inquiry appointed by the British Government found that this rich country was robbing Ireland, which was a poor country, of over £3,000,000 a year? And then hon. Gentlemen talked about over-taxation and forced labour in the Congo. What about the forced labour they had in Ireland? This country had sent her sentries to Ireland in the shape of landlords, and the poor people had to live on Indian meal three times a day in order to be able to pay rents to the landlords. It was not this Liberal Government, much as the Irish representatives respected it, that put an end, or attempted to put an end, to forced labour in Ireland. It was done by the Government that preceded this one. Depopulation ! Where were the millions of Irish exiles who by evil laws had been driven from their own land? The hon. Member for Gravesend had talked of the private domain of the King of Belgium in the Congo. What about the private domain in India where the State owned three-fourths of the territory as a private domain? Every one of the blots in the Congo which had been painted in such lurid colours to-night were to be found existing in an intensified and aggravated form in British dependencies. They heard a great deal about atrocities in the Congo. Had there not been atrocities in Ireland too? Government officials in Ireland had committed outrages. They had houghed cattle, got up moonlighting raids, and sent threatening letters. Hon. Members had only to read the debates in this House to know the kind of things which had been done in Ireland. They could not be denied. These things had been done by the officials and the police, 275 and the people knew the meaning of atrocities in Ireland. In the same way as the police in Ireland had manufactured outrages and got innocent men convicted and sent to prison, where one of them died, so the reports of atrocities in the Congo had been exaggerated. But there the converse proposition was true. Atrocities had been committed by cannibals, and then, forsooth, they were charged upon the administration, which was not like the British, a pattern administration. He would cite the authority of Mr. George Grey, brother of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in favour of what he was saying now. The statements of Mr. George Grey went to show that what had been said by the hon. Member for Gravesend was not true. Mr. Grey said in a letter addressed to the Morning Post—In the part of the Congo where I lived, I saw nothing of the atrocities which certain English newspapers allege are a daily occurrence in that part of the world. On the contrary, my experience of the Congo administration is that it is composed, of gentlemen who are characterised by humane and kindly feelings, and perform the duties entrusted to them with strict impartiality.In a letter addressed to the Morning Post on January 20th, 1903, a Mr. Grey, who, he assumed, was the same Mr. Grey from whom he had already quoted, wrote —That the natives of this country have never suffered ill-treatment from white men was evident to me from the time I entered the country.And then he said—When I first entered the Congo I found some armed natives who posed as soldiers of the Belgian Government, and who lived more or less the life of robbers, raiding and stealing wherever they went. The natives believed that these men were the authorised police of the European administration.He would quote another letter published in the Globe, dated 28th December, 1905, addressed to the Government of the Congo Free State by Mr. Millman, the head of the Baptist Mission in part of the Congo region. He said—It is a pleasure and an honour to be able to say that in this part of the province Orientale, that is in the country lying between Isanghi and Stanleyville, with which we are, and have been, for eight years very intimately acquainted, we have never see nor known of any case of grave maladministration or cruelty.276 Again he said—We have just completed our annual inspection of the native schools under our direction in over seventy villages, in which some 3,000 children are being taught to read and write, and we have found in all these places uniform tranquillity and comparative contentment.He would only cite one other authority, Sir Harry Johnston, who said—While at work in Uganda I had occasion to visit the adjoining regions of the Congo Free State along and across the Semliki River. In this portion of the Congo Forest I questioned many natives. From none of them did I receive the slightest complaint as regards the treatment they received from the Belgians, and indeed, the sight of their villages, plantations and settlements, and the fact that they so freely came and talked to the white men, were sufficient to show that they were perfectly content with their present lot. The Belgian and Swedish officers whom I met in this portion of the territory of the Congo Free State were men of the best character. In short, this portion of the Congo territory left little to be desired, and in some respects was better organised than the adjoining districts of the British Protectorate.Further down he said—There are no doubt bad Belgians as there have been bad, cruel, and wicked Englishmen and Scotchmen amongst African pioneers. In the early days of African enterprise I have seen too many misdeeds of my own countrymen in Africa to be very keen about denouncing other nations for similar faults.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
asked if the hon. Gentleman did not know that Sir Harry Johnston had taken the chair at a meeting which he had attended, and had endorsed the opinions of the mover of the Motion now before the Committee?
§ MR. MCKEAN
said that if Sir Harry Johnston gave expression to one set of opinions at one time and another set of opinions at another time, the facts remaining the same, so much the worse for Sir Harry Johnston. The story of the atrocities and maladministration in the Congo Free State was one of the greatest myths of the nineteenth or twentieth century. He asked the Committee whether, in face of such testimonies, it considered that there were grounds for intervening in the affairs of the Congo? In connection with the testimony that he had adduced in favour of the existing régime in the Congo, there was another vitally important topic with which he should like to deal at 277 length, but which, owing to the exigencies of time, he should have to deal with very briefly, and that was the evidence upon which this fabric of misrepresentation, not to use a stronger word, was based. He would give the Committee his own personal experience to begin with. He went to a meeting this year in the Caxton Hall, at which a resolution condemning the administration of the Congo was proposed and seconded. It was supported in a long speech by a missionary from South Africa, who dealt at great length with the question of atrocities. He told in great detail the story of one atrocity. Strange to say, he never mentioned such important facts as where the alleged atrocity occurred, when it occurred, by whom it was perpetrated, or who the victim of the atrocity was. The speaker, when questioned, said he was prepared to give him (the hon. Member) all the facts. He continued to speak on the topic, but still failed to give a single one of the particulars requested, He (Mr. McKean) again pressed him for the desired information. The gentleman then gave the name of the place where the incident occurred, and the name, so far as he could gather, of an official who was connected with the perpetration of the atrocity. Not wishing to interrupt the proceedings, he accepted for the time being this inadequate information. After the meeting was over the gentleman came to him and told him he would write him full particulars. After the lapse of some days he did write and send him a copy of a letter that he had sent to a Belgian official, but so far as he could gather the document had no reference whatsoever to the alleged atrocity. At a meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society held some six days afterwards he had a somewhat similar experience with the same reverend gentleman. That gentleman talked at large about atrocities. He manipulated his phrases in such a way that one would think he was relating personal experiences. To make sure, he questioned him on the point. He had to say that they were not personal experiences. He asked him from what source then did he obtain the accounts of these atrocities? He answered " From the Report of the Commission of Inquiry." A gentleman in the audience rose and said: " From the 278 Report? " The missionary then said: " No, not from the Report, from the evidence given before the Commission," and upon further pressure he admitted that he had never witnessed during his whole time in the Congo a single atrocity. If time permitted, he (Mr. McKean) thought he could satisfy the Committee that all the witnesses on whose evidence these charges of atrocities and cruelties were based were in the same case. He would show that their evidence was utterly unreliable, and he asked whether in these circumstances it was wise on the part of hon.. Gentlemen to engage in this campaign. Not only did they exaggerate and prevaricate, but they were frequently guilty of perversion of the facts and suppression of the truth. By no chance did they ever make an honest admission. Never did they pay the smallest tribute to the work done in the Congo. He wished he had time to read what the Report of the Commission of Inquiry said on this subject. He respectfully submitted that King Leopold's rule in the Congo justified its existence by two alone of its achievements—the abolition of slave raiding and the virtual prohibition of the trade in alcohol. He would not speak of the railways, telegraphs, steamboats, technical schools, and other evidences of civilisation that were found in the Congo. They might ask: How is it that nowhere else is there an agitation proceeding with regard to the administration of the Congo except in this country? " Were we the only humanitarians? Was not the absurdity of the position perfectly transparent? If these charges that were made against the Congo were true, why was it that the other Powers were so slow in supporting our demand for intervention? Let them suppose for a moment that things were not perfect in the Congo. Was there not a certain amount of indecency in this agitation, having regard to the facts with which he was going to deal? A Commission of Inquiry had been appointed and had reported, suggesting certain reforms, and these reforms had been sanctioned by the King. If hon. Gentlemen had waited, had given reasonable time for the reforms to be put in practice, if they had watched the 279 operation of those reforms, and found that they had not achieved their object, they would have been in a more favourable position, as he thought, for continuing this campaign. Before concluding, let him say a word on the international aspect of the question. These attacks on the Congo and its Sovereign had excited feelings of deep resentment in the breasts of the Belgian people. Belgium, though small, was a wealthy State, and rich nations in times of difficulty could make their power felt in unexpected ways and places. Perhaps Belgium possessed more influence in some of the courts and some of the Chancelleries of Europe than we suspected. Then, let them ask their military experts as to the strategic value of Belgium in case of war with a certain other European Power. Was it wise, therefore, for hon. Gentlemen to be identifying themselves with a cause which, without their countenance, would speedily collapse, and which, if hon. Gentleman only knew the facts, they would find to possess no humanitarian basis whatsoever? Would it not be wiser to give time for the reforms to be put into practice, thus maintaining our old traditional policy of friendliness towards Belgium, remembering that this country was largely instrumental in calling Belgium into existence as an independent State, and that at every critical period in the history of Belgium, England had been the defender and the protector of independence?
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that only one day was allotted to the discussion of the Foreign Office Vote although this was a most important Vote, and upon it questions were raised in which many Members took very great interest. He was glad that the Committee was not forced to consider the problems of our relations with the great Powers of Europe, for these relations were delicate. By saying that he did not mean to suggest that there was any risk of war. Even the recent proposals of disarmament would be a risky subject to discuss in detail in the Committee. In order to save time he should avoid the many subjects in which he fully supported the 280 Secretary of State, and deal only with those as to which he had questions or doubts, before he replied to the hon. Member for South Monaghan. He would point out that, perhaps through no fault of its own, the Foreign Office was at the present time more unpopular than it probably realised in a large portion of the King's dominions. Very severe attacks had been made upon the Foreign Office in the Commonwealth of Australia. That unpopularity was incurred on account of matters which touched other Colonies as well as Australia and New Zealand. Canada was upset on the question of the treaty-making power. In regard to the New Hebrides, a question of great difficulty and danger and one which concerned Australia deeply was dealt with by the Foreign Office in Paris without any previous consultation with the Colony. No doubt the feeling excited had been exaggerated, but he hoped the Foreign Minister would do something to allay the feeling which had arisen in regard to this matter. As to the question of the visit of the Fleet to Cronstadt, many Questions had been asked. He fully agreed with the Foreign Secretary in his desire that this country should be on the best of terms with Russia. The difficulty lay in the prevalence of religious persecution within that Empire. We had had the recent persecution of the Gregorian Church. Then there was the persecution of the Roman Catholics in Poland, and there was also the persecution of Jews in various parts of Russia. All these matters had been admitted by many persons in Russia including Prince Urusoff. In many cases it was also admitted that officials of the Government had assisted in the persecution. When the Fleet arrived in Russia, were there to be banquets and State receptions? If so, to whose honour and glory were they to redound? To what Party would the credit go? We could not tell, but we must take no steps that might be looked upon as expressing sympathy with any Party. Prince Urusoff, one of the leading members of the Duma, who was formally a Home Office official in Russia, said from his experience that the police had taken part in massacres. It was perfectly possible that within a day or two Prince Urusoff might become Home Minister for Russia. In circumstances of that kind 281 it might no doubt do more harm than good to stop the visit of the Fleet. But might not the House of Commons ask that at all events there should be nothing in the shape of demonstration or fraternisation? We should not seem to take sides with any Party in Russia. Coming to the Congo, no one could wonder that we should have statements made about our hands not being clean in the face of the first telegram in regard to the Egyptian events that went round the world. The misfortune caused by a first telegram was very great indeed. The great impression produced throughout the world was the first impression. That was what had to be faced. No one would deny the fact that it had always been the desire of the Radicals of this country, whether they were sitting on one side of the House or the other, to hold the balance even between this country and others. If it was shewn that things were wrong they joined with hon. Gentlemen opposite and tried to set them right; they always worked together on matters of that kind. Although there were circumstances with regard to the Congo Free State which wer every different from anything that was alleged in the Egyptian case, yet there was this fact. This House desired to pursue a policy which would conciliate the Egyptians to our rule, if it were possible, and if our object was to strike terror, as it seemed to be from the terrible floggings of which they read, it was fatal to our Occupation, and we must give up the Occupation in Egypt altogether if it could not be maintained without such things as that. He thought enormous harm had been done by the telegram. The punishment of flogging when, even remotely, it appeared to be connected with political offences was one which did this country great and permanent harm abroad, where, in most countries, an entirely different view prevailed with regard to these matters from that which prevailed here. There was some reason for those remarks, because there had been such things denied at first, but afterwards admitted and were recorded. One terrible case was that of Afghanistan at Christmas, 1879–80; a case first denied, afterwards admitted, subsequently apologised for in this House, complete satisfaction being ultimately given. He would not pursue the subject now, as time was precious. All he asked 282 the right hon. Gentleman to do in correcting that telegram was to make it clear to the country, and if possible to the world, that we repudiated the statement that we gloried in such horrors; and also that he should remember that the punishment of flogging in connection with any offence which could even appear to be a political offence did undying harm to the name of this country abroad. With reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for South Monaghan, he was glad to think we had now reached a time when Catholic opinion and Belgian Catholic opinion was on our side. This country was fond of Belgium, and had great sympathy for the Belgian ' people in this matter of the Congo Free State. He asserted most emphatically that there was no quarrel with Belgium. The quarrel was with the Sovereign of the Congo Free State as a distinct and separate entity from the King of the Belgians, and he was happy to say that after a long struggle Catholic opinion in Belgium was with us on this matter.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that was the case. The hon. Gentleman he was afraid had been trying to raise Catholic opinion in Belgium against us on this subject, as he had endeavoured to raise Irish opinion against us. There was one most gratifying illustration of the truth of what he said in the book written by Father Vermeersch, a Jesuit, which had been circulated, not by him, but by his brother Jesuits, a fact which showed that those gentlemen had come to the belief that the state of things in the Congo Free State was doing harm to the national name of Belgium and the Catholic cause throughout the world. It was from the point of view of the patriotic Belgian and the religious Catholic that Belgians had circulated the work of Father Vermeersch. The hon. Member in his speech referred to the domaine de la Couronne. In that domain there was not a single Roman Catholic missionary and not a single mission station of any kind. Therefore there was a territory, next to the territories of the great companies, where the worst abuses prevailed of any part of the State, with regard to which we might admit that the Catholic missionaries had not been able to help us because 283 they were excluded from that country. He had stated that all the most authorised representatives of Belgian Catholic opinion had now come on to our side. He would make good that assertion. The newspaper in Belgium which had the largest sale, Le Patriote, was on the side of reform. The best Conservative paper, Le 20ième Siècle, and Le Bien public de Gand, which was the best-known ultramontane paper in Belgium, were on our side. The present attitude of the Catholic Church in Belgium was expressed by the episcopal organ when it said, in reference to the proceedings they had been pointing out, " This must cease." In the recent five days debate in the Belgian Chamber a number of Catholic organs were quoted, as showing the change of opinion that had occurred. The Mouvement das Missions Catholiques au Congo, an official Bulletin, had declared that " We must submit to the evidence," and " not continue to compromise everywhere the Belgian name." That was exactly what they in this country said, and they were, he submitted, friends of Belgium and not its enemies in saying it. He believed they might now say that the whole of the Protestant missionaries— Swedish, Norwegian, American, Danish, German and British, and the Catholic missionaries stood upon the same side. The hon. Member for South Monaghan had denied altogether the right of this country to interfere, and that right had also been denied by one or two of his friends by interpellated questions during the last few weeks. The State was the absolute creation of Europe, and the right of the Powers collectively to interfere had never been denied by anybody except the King of the Belgians. As to the right of this country to interfere, Stanley, who had in this House described himself as the servant of the King of the Belgians, had declared that we had the strongest claim to intervention if we chose to intervene. The right of intervention seemed to him to be clear beyond all dispute. There were not wanting occasions on which we had interfered in affairs of State on behalf of humanity, where we were less entitled than in this case. But looking at the history of this transaction—which was told most admirably in another place a few days 284 ago by the late Secretary of State and the present Under-Secretary of State, who agreed completely on every point— it was impossible to say we had not a national responsibility. The State was founded by the Anti-Slavery Society. It was created in the name of Almighty God for the protection of the natives of Africa, and as an example to all other people of how the natives of Africa should be treated. The hon. Member for Gravesend had alluded to the action of this House in the Congo State at various times. The first action was that taken by him, in which he was glad to say he had the support of the hon. Member for East Mayo, who would, no doubt, take the same line on this occasion as he did then, namely, that of condemning these horrors, but holding that we should first set our own house in order. In that he quite agreed, but we had a national responsibility in respect of this particular State. After that the missionaries were called in and an illusory Committee was appointed to blindfold the people. Then in 1903 there was the unanimous Resolution of this House in consequence of which King Leopold most unwillingly appointed the Commission of Inquiry. Next came the report of that Commission, which he withheld from publication until he was forced into publishing it. The evidence had never been published up to the present time. Then came the reference of that report to the Reforms Commission—a Commission which, though packed with creatures of the King, nevertheless reported dead against him. That report had not been published, though the President of the Commission pressed for its publication, and a Resolution was carried unanimously by the Belgian Chamber. In the preface to that Resolution it was stated that the Chamber expected that the report of the Reforms Commission would be published, which it had never been. It also expressed the conviction that the decrees based on that report would be satisfactory. Those decrees were drawn by the Commission of Reforms, and they were cut down and sent out to Governor-General Waihis who was responsible for all the horror that had occurred. In their emasculated form the decrees were offered to us as though they were a sufficient 285 satisfactory reply to all the demands. What was wanted above all was publicity. The five days debate in the Belgian Chamber eventuated in this resolution —Seeing the conclusions of the Commission of inquiry … expresses confidence in the Commission of Reforms and the consequent decrees … and decides to proceed without delay with the Annexation Bill.Both Parties in this House had accepted the policy of annexation of the State to Belgium because annexation to a free constitutional State like Belgium ought to bring Parliamentary responsibility and publicity. But, they had since seen the King's manifesto, which, flouting Europe in a way which Europe had seldom been flouted by any potentate, and maintaining principles which they thought were out of date and which were, at all events, singularly inconsistent with the original principles of the foundation of the State and with the original claims made by the king himself, hampered the whole of the future of the State and showed that the King did not desire, in spite of his Ministers, to hand over that State to his country in a free and above-board fashion. What had been done? This, was a practical House, and desired to see practical steps taken. By these decrees as they now stood the domains were left alone. Some of the evidence was too horrible to publish, and witnesses were being punished; but feeling in this country had been too strongly excited to allow Mr. Stannard to die in gaol. He supported the hon. Member for Gravesend in the proposals he had made. Germany had not been very willing to act with us in the past, but always, he thought, for political reasons, having to do with the general state of Europe. On the particular case in question the German Chambers of Commerce and various conferences had more than once expressed concurrence in our view. Lord Fitzmaurice in a recent debate threw out a suggestion which was not reported, that the International Commission for the Congo Navigation could be set up by the Berlin Act. † The Foreign Office once threw some doubt upon the possibility of setting up that Com-† See (4) Debates, clix., 1580.286 mission and rather looked upon it as a temporary power which had lapsed. If the Foreign Office did express that view they were wrong. There was one possible means of action besides the revival of the Consular tribunals, the setting up of the Congo Navigation Commission, which he held could be done. To bring into force the navigation powers which could be maintained by such a Commission required only the signature of five of the signatory Powers. He admitted that we could not act in such a matter without Germany, but knowing the feeling of the German Chambers of Commerce on this question he believed it was not impossible to secure. German co-operation, but it should not be overlooked that it was within the right of any five Powers to establish at once a Commission for the navigation of the Congo, supported by their own ships of war. What they asked was more light, and he believed the various suggestions thrown out would afford a leverage for getting it. It was light and publicity they were asking for and which he was convinced this country was still demanding.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir EDWARD GREY,) Northumberland, Berwick
I rise, not because I wish to reply now on the Congo debate, or on most of the points which have been raised. I realise that there are others who still wish to speak. But I rise to make a short statement, an appeal to the Committee on a subject which has been touched on. It is, if the Committee will only realise it, the most serious subject which has yet been touched upon this evening—the question of the present position in Egypt. The right hon. Baronet has spoken of the immense harm which has been done by the first impression given by the report of the way in which the sentences were carried out. I asked the House when the sentences were first announced to accept the statement which I made that the tribunal had been the highest possible, and that its character was such as to be a guarantee that the trial had been fair. But that was followed by an account of the way in which the sentences were carried out. Now, I am perfectly well aware of the effect and impression made 287 by that account which appeared in the Press. It gave rise to two impressions certainly, I think, perhaps, three. One impression conveyed by that account was that, in executing the sentences, the men who were going to be hung were compelled to regard others being flogged, so that the last thing they saw was the sight of other men being flogged. The second impression was that the execution of the sentences had been deliberately protracted so that it lasted for a period of three hours. I am told that the third impression created was that the population was compelled to attend and witness the execution. When I read that account in the Press I made up my mind at once that with a short account like that the only fair and sensible thing to do was to say nothing, and as far as possible to do what is much harder, to think nothing till a full report of the whole circumstances had been received from our responsible representative in Egypt, and from those who were concerned in the case. I would ask the House still to wait for a full report—but I have enough information to dispose of all these three points. It is not the case that any single one of the condemned men witnessed the sentences being carried out on others; they were kept apart in separate tents so that that should not be done, and special pains were taken to prevent that. In the next place, the sentences were carried out with the greatest expedition possible in the circumstances of the case; it did not last for three hours, but the whole were executed in one hour. In the third place, no one not on duty was compelled to attend, and a cordon of police was formed to keep the population at a considerable distance. That disposes entirely of the painful impression produced on those three points by the first report that appeared in the newspapers. I would ask the Committee to believe that, when the Court had pronounced its sentence, and the sentences, I think, were to be carried out on the scene of the outrage, there fell to those on whom the duty rested of carrying out the decree of the court a serious and most painful duty, which had to be carried out under considerable difficulties. I must ask the Committee to believe, as I believe from the information I have now read, that that was carried out in 288 a way which did not lay anyone concerned open to the charge of being callous. I ask the Committee to remember that I have promised full Papers on this subject. Short telegraphic reports are always liable to error. I would ask the Committee to remember that, in a matter of this importance, to embark upon a discussion before you have a full report of the circumstances, is certain to lead to things being said which, when you get the full facts, you will realise have not been fair to those who have been concerned. Already some unfairness has been done by the way in which Captain Machell's name has been brought into the matter, which I have done my best to repair by a reply I have made this afternoon as to Captain Machell's character. Surely it has been recognised for some time that of all the English officials employed in the service of the Empire, there are none of higher standing than there are in Egypt, owing to the great capacity that has been shown by Lord Cromer, and his great care in selecting men of ability, character, and fairness. Therefore, on the ground simply of mere-fairness, I would ask the Committee not to embark on a debate on this until they have more Papers. But this is not the most serious ground. All this year a fanatical feeling in Egypt has been on the increase. It has not been confined to Egypt, it has been stretching along the north of Africa generally. It was for that reason a little time ago that the garrison had to be increased, and the despatch of British officers which happened recently is something which would never have occurred a little time ago, and would not have occurred to-day but for the fanatical feeling which has arisen in Egypt and spread during this year. Since that attack took place, and even before the trial of those who had been condemned for the attack, one or two disagreeable and significant attacks had been made, I think, upon British individuals, or at all events, Europeans, by natives. We may be on the eve of further measures necessary to protect Europeans in Egypt; and if the House of Commons questions the decision of a tribunal composed of the highest English Judges and the highest Egyptian Judges, it is bound to have the effect of weakening the authority 289 of the Egyptian Government. As things are now I say deliberately, with a full sense of responsibility, if the House of Commons does anything at this moment to weaken or destroy the authority of the Government as it exists in Egypt, they will be face to face with a very serious situation, because if the fanatical feeling in Egypt gets the better of the constituted authority of the Egyptian Government you are then face to face with the use of force. The work which has been done by Lord Cromer in the last generation has been widely recognised. The condition in Egypt to-day is very different from what it was twenty-five years ago—I doubt whether in any generation you will find the lot of the common people has improved so much as that of the Egyptian people has, compared with the original state they were in before we were there. I know very well the House is not going to allow, whatever happens in Egypt, that work to be swept away by a rush of fanatical passion. I know that that is so. I promise to lay full Papers on this question, not because I doubt the fairness of the trial, or of anything that has happened, but because, when a wrong impression has once got afoot, as the right hon. Baronet said, how difficult it is to overtake it. The only chance of overtaking and removing it is to publish the fullest possible information. Therefore I shall publish it, not because I doubt, or because I think the House doubts, but because I wish to overtake and remove that wrong impression. As I say, I know the House is determined not to allow the work we have done in Egypt to be undone; but if they say or do anything in debate now to weaken the authority of the Egyptian Government, they may find themselves at any moment forced to take other measures, unconstitutional measures, measures which they are bound to take in an emergency, which no one would regret more than the present Government, and no one more than the present House of Commons, though they might be compelled to do so.
§ EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)
said that with reference to the executions in Egypt he would say nothing after the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, except to 290 express, he thought, on behalf of the whole House the satisfaction with which they heard the statement he had made, and the desire they all had to do everything in their power to avoid giving the impression of wishing to criticise in any way the conduct of the Egyptian administration. The right hon. Gentleman had called for a report both upon the procedure in court and upon the manner in which the sentences were carried out; and, until the report was received, it would obviously be unfair that they should pass any judgment upon the transaction. So far as he was concerned, and he believed he might also speak for the Party with which he was associated, he saw no advantage, on the facts as stated, in carrying the matter further. The House of Commons had in the past never claimed a general right of intervention in the ordinary administration of affairs in Egypt, most of the responsibility for which must rest on the Khedive and his officers, and the right hon. Gentleman who had control in this country, which was fortunate in possessing as its representative in Egypt one who had earned in the course of many years administration the confidence and respect of all classes of the community. He believed they might have every confidence in entrusting matters of this kind to the judgment and discretion of the right hon. Gentleman and Lord Cromer. It was not necessary to ask the right hon. Gentleman to give any fresh assurances as to the policy of the Government on the wider issues of foreign policy. The declarations of the right hon. Gentleman before he assumed office and the policy he had pursued since give them every confiednce that the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and the maintenance of close and cordial relations with our neighbours across the Channel were regarded by the present Government as the twin pivots on which the foreign policy of this country rested. Both of them were founded on the natural community of interests, and neither of them prejudiced in the slightest degree our friendly relations with any other power. On the contrary it might be said to be one of the greatest arguments against a policy of isolation, which he thought this country had now definitely abandoned, that inevitably there should be a suspicion in the minds 291 of foreign countries that a nation which had no settled affections could hardly have a settled policy. He passed, therefore, to the subject which had been alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean which would perhaps be further alluded to in the course of the debate. He meant the question of the treatment of the Jews in Russia. That subject had been dealt with in terms of strong indignation. Indignation could not be expressed too strongly; but he thought that very careful consideration was required before such a course as that suggested by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean was adopted by the Government. The right hon. Baronet had said very truly that we had to carefully abstain from taking any side.
§ EARL PERCY
Or seeming to take a side in the internal policy of Russia. He was not quite sure that the course which the hon. Baronet recommended might not have exactly that effect. We had no right to suppose that either the Government of Russia or public opinion in Russia was less alive than we were to the infamy attaching to these repeated outrages upon an inoffensive and defence-less population; and he thought they must recognise quite as clearly as we did the disastrous effect which a repetition of them might have on the relations between the two countries, which all desired should be placed on a more friendly basis. When minorities in any country were exposed to persecution of this kind it was commonly charged against them, either in good or bad faith, that they were actuated by motives of disloyalty to the Government under which they lived; and he was afraid nothing would be more likely to lend colour to that than criticism or intervention on the part of foreign countries. He thought that if this country was to render real assistance to the Jews that assistance might take a different form. The emigration of Jews from Russia, if this persecution were continued, would probably reach an unprecedented scale and might give rise 292 to appeals to facilitate the acquisition of temporary settlements for the refugees. One scheme had already been under the consideration of the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office in regard to the acquiring of territory in Africa. Although that had been abandoned, other schemes might very likely be brought forward, and if that was the case he should like to offer for his own part an expression of his wish that His Majesty's Government and other Governments would bring to the consideration of any such schemes an earnest desire to do something more than offer platonic sympathy to the Jewish people, who had quite as much title to the sympathy of the Powers as many of those other races on whose behalf the good offices of Europe had been so often invoked and secured in the past. He wished to touch on the question of the 3 per cent. increase in the Turkish Customs duties in connection with Macedonia. The debate which took place two days ago in another place had left him in some doubt as to what the present state of affairs was. He understood that His Majesty's Government in common with the other Powers presented to Turkey a Note in which they signified their readiness to assent to an increase in the Customs duties on condition that certain stipulations were carried out. He understood also that the Turkish Government made a reply, in the course of which they raised so many objections and difficulties that the negotiations had practically come to a stand. He did not understand that the negotiations had been finally dropped or that the Government had dissociated themselves from the action of the other Powers. As they were at present in the dark as to the particular point on which the negotiations had broken down, it was very difficult to form any opinion as to the chances of their eventually reaching a satisfactory termination. He believed the Turkish Government had signified assent to the demands already made in regard to the reform of the Turkish regulations affecting British trade. He concluded, therefore, that the difficulties raised had reference to the demand that the collection of the proceeds of the new duties should be entrusted to the Commission of the Ottoman Debt, or else to the stipulation 293 that was made, that the 3 per cent. increase should be limited to a period of seven years. He entirely agreed with the statement the Government had made in another place, that those demands formed the irreducible minimum which we could accept. He did not believe that public opinion in this country would agree to an appreciable extra burden on British trade, unless we had some guarantee that the money would be properly spent, that the promises of the Turkish Government would be carried out, that the financial equilibrium in Macedonia should be restored, which we might hope would take place within seven years, and that British trade would not be put in the position of having to go on contributing money for purposes of expenditure, or the financing of schemes for railways, or other purposes, from which British trade would derive possibly no benefit, or a very indirect benefit, and over which we should have no control, or no adequate control. But the breakdown of these negotiations with regard to the 3 per cent. increase might be regarded from two points of view — from the purely British point of view, or from the point of view of the European Powers. He thought the failure of those negotiations might be regarded, he would not say merely with equanimity, but with positive satisfaction, so far as we were concerned, for we should no longer be under the obligation to consent to further burdens on British trade, and so far as other Powers were concerned, they would not be in the I position of having to surrender a lever in regard to finance which might perhaps be of great advantage to them in future negotiations with Turkey. But from the point of view of the Tukish Government the breakdown of the negotiations was little short of disastrous. Without fresh revenue neither the financial commission nor the gendarmerie could carry their work to a successful conclusion, and it was obvious that the Powers could not with any regard for their self-respect allow the commission to become a nonentity. Therefore, in some way or other the requisite money must be found, and it could not be found from increased taxation within the Ottoman Empire. It amounted already to 12s. per head per annum, and it would be universally recognised that no administrative reform 294 would compensate them for an increase in the burden they now bore. It had been suggested that, as an alternative to the increase of the Customs duties, the Powers might consider the policy of guaranteeing a joint loan to Turkey. In the first place, he did not suppose the Government desired to encourage Turkey in the policy of borrowing, least of all for purposes which should be met out of current revenue; and, secondly, a loan would not be compatible with the existence of such a condition as the seven years' limit without which there would be no effective guarantee for the proper use of the money. Only two practical solutions remained. Either the Powers would have to insist upon the thorough re-organisation of the whole financial system of Turkey, a proposal which would involve an interference with the prerogatives of Turkey greater than had yet been suggested, or else they would have to insist upon a reduction of the vast military expenditure which was largely responsible for the present deficit, but a reduction which the Powers would not be justified in insisting upon unless they also insisted upon a corresponding reduction in the military armaments of the surrounding Powers, or were willing to give a collective guarantee of the territorial integrity of the Turkish Empire. The adoption of either of these courses would raise issues of great magnitude which the acceptance of the financial commission had laid in abeyance. He believed that the financial commission, if properly supported by the Powers, was capable of effecting very material improvements in every branch of Turkish administration. He frankly recognised that if Turkey persisted in its present attitude, a new chapter would be forced upon the Powers. He, therefore, hoped that the Turkish Government would think twice before they rejected conditions which were neither onerous nor disadvantageous to them, and the refusal of which could only be interpreted as motived by a desire on their part to reduce the financial commission to impotence. As to the question of the Congo, it was quite true that it was not from the Berlin Act that the sovereignty of the Congo State was derived, and that that Act did not provide any machinery for enforcing the obligations which were undertaken by its signatories. 295 But, as the assent of the Powers to the recognition of the Congo as a State possessing a national existence was given on the express understanding that certain definite principles of administration would be recognised by its Government, it was idle to contend that the Powers had not the right, collectively or individually, to reconsider their position if effect were not given to those principles. He should say further, that, apart altogether from treaty obligations, every State interested in any portion of the territory of the Congo comprised in the Convention had not only the right, but was under the obligation, from the point of view of self-interest, to consider how far the present system of misgovernment carried with it a serious menace to the reputation and even to the security of the European Government. He thought that if any criticism was possible on the action of the late or the present Government in regard to the Congo it was that they had been over-patient. His Majesty's Government would find it difficult, if not impossible, to defend the attitude of mere passive remonstrance if the only result of their forbearance was that the situation altered—as it undoubtedly had altered since the report of the first Commission —steadily for the worse. In regard to the report of the first Commission he had no desire to question its general fairness and impartiality. So far from seeking to palliate the infractions of the law and the abuses which had taken place, he thought the report might be taken as a general condemnation of the whole system under which the administration of those territories had been carried on, and was an emphatic endorsement of the accusations that had been brought against the Congo Government. What we were principally concerned with was not the verdict of that Commission on what had passed, but their recommendations regarding the future, and the practical steps that were to be taken to give effect to those recommendations. In the circumstances, one would have thought that the Congo Government would have been the first to recognise the need of some immediate action. It was said in their defence that some of the reforms proposed by the first Commission required elaboration 296 in detail by persons possessed of some actual experience in administration. Even on that assumption, the composition of the second Commission was open to very serious criticism. From that Commission every representative not only of Protestant, but of Catholic missions, was excluded, and it contained actually seven members of the very Administration whose conduct had been so severely condemned. He was not disposed himself to admit that some of the most important reforms advocated by the first Commission ought not to have been immediately put into force without further investigation. Why should not the forty hours minimum of labour have been enforced; why should not fresh lists of contributors have been drawn up with a view to a more equal distribution of taxation; why should not stringent interim orders have been issued forbidding the employment of armed forces in connexion with the taxes; why should not a beginning have been made with earning out the recommendations of the first Commission with regard to the judicial administration of the Congo? The extraordinary decision not to publish the findings contained in the report of the second Commission was exceedingly regrettable. The decrees were for the most part a mere reaffirmation of general laws and regulations which had been for a long time in existence, but which had not been enforced. As to the suggestion that the doubling of the number of officers which was necessary to secure the adequate control of the public forces, and that the general reorganisation of the administration must be postponed and could not be taken in hand without a further increase of revenue, he observed that the ruler of the Congo State had been able to devote a large part of the proceeds of that State to magnificent public buildings in Europe. Yet we were to wait for an increase in the revenues before the Congo State carried out its elementary obligation, but for which it would never have obtained international recognition. The one solitary measure on which we were asked to pin our confidence was the appointment of three inspectors to look after the interests of the natives in an area of something like a million square miles. 297 In one respect he discerned in the Report of the second Commission a slight advance on the Report of the first. They recommended that in future the right of levying taxation should be entrusted to special agents who were to act under the District Commissioners. If that recommendation meant that the agents were in future to have no connection with trade, and if it were adopted, it might mark a certain improvement. In view of the statement which had been made that the taxpayer had no right to claim the countervail of the tax which he paid, and the fact that there were no means of ascertaining how a great portion of the revenues derived from the Congo State—either the domaine de la Couronne or the domaine privé— were actually spent, one could not wonder that people should assert that no substantial amelioration of the state of affairs in the Congo could be expected without that provision for full and constant publicity and searching supervision which would be obtained by the establishment by Belguim of Parliamentary control over these territories. That brought him to the concluding remarks he had to make. An answer was given by the Foreign Secretary the other day to the effect that the Government did not propose to renew their representations on this subject in view of the fact that the Congo Free State recognised its obligations under Article 5 of the Berlin Treaty, and time should, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, be given to see the result of the action taken under the present decree. He thought the wording of that answer was unfortunate. There were two Articles of the Berlin Act which had a bearing upon this matter—Article 5 and Article 6. Article 5 referred to free trade in the Congo Basin, and the Congo authorities had always placed a different interpretation to that which we placed on those words. We had invited not merely the Congo Free State, but also France and the other Powers interested to submit the whole question of the interpretation of this free trade clause of the Berlin Act to the decision of some impartial tribunal. A short time ago the French Government seemed mot unwilling to consider the invitation favourably, and he earnestly hoped, 298 in view of the dissatisfaction which existed, and the necessity of clearing up questions of this kind in order to avoid all chance of friction with any Power in the future, the right hon. Gentleman would do his best to bring the Powers into line with us in that connection. Article 6 referred to the protection of the natives. And every man of the House except one agreed that the decrees which had been announced were hopelessly inadequate to secure a radical and real reform even if they were carried out in the Congo Free State territory, which was very doubtful. Yet we were going to imply by deferring representations on this subject, until it was seen whether these reforms were satisfactory, that we had some hope of a satisfactory result coming from these reforms. He had no such hope, and if he did not press the Government to-night it was because he was conversant with this question, having had to study it when he was a member of the late Government, and because he knew all the difficulties. In this matter we had no quarrel with Belgium. In the debate no one had uttered a word of criticism of Belgium or the Belgian people. There was ample evidence that the Belgian people were quite alive to the extreme gravity of the situation. Than England there was no country in Europe which, in view of its treaty obligations, had a greater interest in the strength and prestige of Belgium, and no one would rejoice more heartily than ourselves if under Belgian auspices, under the contro of the Belgian Parliament, the Congo Free State were made in reality what its authors aspired it should be, a standing monument not only to the colonising genius but to the humanity, aims, and principles of the Belgian people.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
said he did not propose to continue the discussion on the Congo Free State. After all, what he saw going on there was but a continuation of what had taken place in all countries civilised and uncivilised in the past—the rich and strong oppressing and robbing the weak and unfortunate. He rose to refer again to the contemplated visit of the British Fleet to Russia. In Russia at the present time was being waged one of those great 299 constitutional struggles which divided a nation into two parts. On the one side was practically the entire nation—the peasants, the workmen, the great intellectuals of the universities, and the business men—demanding the sight of self-government; on the other, the Czar and the small ruling class which desired to perpetuate autocratic government. Under these circumstances, if the British Fleet went to Russian waters, who would be honoured by the visit, and what interpretation would be placed on the visit by the people as a whole? Some further light had been thrown on the situation by the telegrams which appeared in this morning's papers. In a letter to the Tribune, one of the Leaders of the Liberal Party in Russia expressed the opinion that if this visit took place it would be looked upon by the people of Russia as a siding on the part of this country with those who were opposing the reform movement. Surely it would be a mistake for the Fleet of Great Britain to visit the Government of a nation when that Government was in open conflict with the entire nation. Only the other day they were told that the explanation of the mutiny of the Marines at Cronstadt was the fear that the British warships which were coming to Cronstadt would fire on them as supposed mutineers. An overwhelming majority of the Liberal Party were against this visit as was a very fair percentage of the Unionist Party. Under all these circumstances was the Government justified in taking the risk of appearing to oppress the people of Russia? If the Fleet went to Cronstadt it would not go to the people of Russia, but to the Russian Government. It would not go with the goodwill of the people of this country, but on the responsibility of the Government itself. If festivities were held, there was strong probability that they would result in conflict between our Marines and the Russian Marines. Undoubtedly from every consideration that could appeal to the Government it was to be hoped that even now the Foreign Office would so recast its plans as to take the visit of our fleet to Cronstadt out of the area of the possible. The persecution of the Jews was but one phase of the struggle for reform. Every prison in Russia 300 was filled to overflowing with political prisoners. The road to Siberia was-black with the long dark lines of men and women who had been sent to exile because they were asking to be treated like human beings, and he for one protested against this country in any shape appearing to side with a system of government which made that state of affairs possible. He hoped therefore they would have some assurance in the matter.
§ MR. STUART SAMUEL (Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel)
desired to enter a protest against our fleet being sent to pay a visit to Russia. Such a visit was always regarded as a compliment to the country to which it was sent, and if the British Government sent the Fleet at this time to a Russian port it would be practically an insult to the people of this country. It had been proved that the present Russian Government not only connived at but was implicated in the massacres at Byelostok and elsewhere. Were we to hold out our hands in friendship to hands that were imbued with the blood of innocent women and children? The accounts of the massacres at Byelostok which had reached this country from authentic sources were really too horrible for words. He would content himself with reading to the Committee an extract from a Russian newspaper in connection with the murders at Byelostok, describing the funerals of the Jews who had been murdered—But the moat striking scenes were observed near a stretcher which stood apart from the others, in width were lying two little corpses— brother and sister. Their bodies were covered up but their heads were visible. The brother, two years of age, had his hack ripped up with an axe, and the sister, only ten months old, had been strangled. Both appeared as if calmly asleep lying clasped in each others arms and representing the most touching and peaceful picture of two little children wrapped in slumber. Their mother had also been killed. The persons surrounding this stretcher are not the relations of the children, but nevertheless the despair is indescribable and all the men, women, and children round about are weeping bitterly, and their groans and cries seem to say Why all this? and to raise a reproach to the Heavens.That was a quotation from a Russian paper, and the fact that it had been, allowed to appear in Russia showed that it was founded on fact. This country very properly refused to recognise the 301 murderers of the King and Queen of Servia, but he submitted that the life of the meanest person in a country should be protected by the Government of that country. There was no difference between the life of a sovereign and the life of a subject so long as the individual was wronged. And therefore to send the Fleet at the present time to fête this Government —which, contrary to what had been said by the noble Lord opposite, had been conclusively shown to be implicated in these murders—at a time when the Jews were being murdered in Russia would be a great mistake. Time was when this country was the great champion of liberty, and he believed it to be still. In the American House of Representatives a vote had been unanimously passed in both Houses condemming the outrages on the Jews in Russia. He did not object to the rivalry, but would be very sorry to find that this country had been deposed by the United States as the champion of oppressed peoples and of liberty. He trusted therefore that the Government would take note of the proceedings in the American Houses of Parliament, and that even at this stage they would still decide not to send the Fleet to Cronstadt. In any case, as a member of the Jewish faith, he must raise his protest against this country having any dealings with those who had been guilty of the crimes he had referred to.
§ SIR EDWARD SASSOON (Hythe)
said the debate had ranged over a variety of subjects, which must be the reason for all reference to the present state of affairs in China having so far been omitted, but which might, he feared, before long require the vigilant attention of the Government. But before alluding in detail to that subject, he desired to ask the Secretary of State whether he was aware that the Sultan of Brunei had recently died, and if so, whether the Foreign Office had it in contemplation to incorporate the Brunei territories with the domain of the Rajah of Sarawak. The Regent of Brunei, commonly known as the Bandara, as well as all those who had qualification and authority to speak on the matter, had strongly declared their anxiety in writing to have that fusion brought about without any further loss of time. He felt convinced that in view of the humane and 302 enlightened administration of the Rajah, the Foreign Office would give this matter their earliest consideration. He now came to the cautious and circumspect allusion of the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean to the contemplated despatch of the British Squadron to Russian waters. We could put out of sight the existence of a dark and menacing spot in a not inconsiderable portion of Europe, where the pinions of liberty and ordered government wore groping, struggling, toiling towards an issue, and he therefore was heartily in agreement with the right hon. Baronet that any action on our part which might even remotely be interpreted as a condonation of those hideous excesses and barbarities which had been amply brought home to the disgrace of Russian authorities, or as countenancing the taking of sides between those who were engaged in the epoch-making conflict between the bureaucracy and the Duma, would mean a deplorable set back towards reaching that issue. Looking further east, we saw the successful emergence from the straits and narrowness of an ancient and mediaeval feudalism. Japan had been spontaneously accorded a front rank among the nations of the globe. But the newly extended alliance with this country was eminently calculated to maintain order and stability in the Far East, to conduce to civilised progress in those regions, and, above all, to give effect to the universal cry of "hands off" to a Power with a stormy petrel at its head, who had been only too conspicuous in fermenting discord among the comity of nations. But eirenicon, with Japan was apparently not devoid of the something bitter, not exempt from some sources of friction and anxiety; because her great neighbour China, without the homogeneity, the cohesion, or any of the attributes of a civilised scheme of government, was endeavouring to acquire immunity from all liability to the trammels of international control. China had shown signs in many directions, and in divers ways, that she was chafing binder that tutelage. Her government was trying to nullify the treaty governing the conduct of the maritime customs, and to usurp the functions and jurisdiction of the consular body in respect of the administration of the Mixed Court. In order to vindicate its aspirations, the oligarchy should prove its capacity to govern as well as to reign, the central 303 government should be able to show that it could make its fiat obeyed throughout the length and breadth of the land, and that it possessed the first elements for the dispensing of strictly impartial justice, for the administering of a just and a humane code of laws. He asked the Committee whether these conditions were at all within a measurable distance of being fulfilled. The desire to achieve and to imitate a conquest by Japan of freedom from foreign control, to promote a policy of exclusion and extrusion embodied in the phrase of " China for the Chinese," from all the available data at our disposal seemed to be based upon nothing more tangible than the vague and nebulous view of being altogether rid of the foreign barbarian, without the remotest notion of what might happen to the considerable foreign interests and to the numerically not negligible foreign subjects, who were there pursuing their normal legitimate avocations secured to them under the aegis of treaties, some of them concluded two centuries ago and under the Pax Britannica as represented by the wholesome presence of the British Navy in the far Eastern mains. This consideration, though important, was not the only one. Had any human being any conception of what would befall the Chinese themselves, clustered in their millions under the patriarchal and more or less benevolent despotism of provincial viceroys, whose allegiance to the emperor and empress, or whichever was the power behind the throne, was of the slenderest character, who had been encouraged to organise Army levies for the purpose of maintaining order which the Government themselves, in acts of public spirit, seemed unable to see done themselves, and to whom the bare inkling of foreign withdrawal would be a trumpet call for internecine warfare or struggle for mastery? Did any one doubt that such an occurrence, with its sanguinary trail, would spell disaster, woe and red ruin, to the industrious millions who inhabited that vast geographical and heterogeneous entity known as the Chinese Empire? Fortunately, the Powers were united in their resolve to resist any encroachments upon formally, solemnly, and deliberately concluded treaties. The consuls were, he believed, keenly alive to the latent and inchoate, if they liked, but yet serious unrest and disaffection which was sedulously and 304 clandestinely being fanned by some of the advanced Chinese politicians. He would address a respectful warning to the right hon. Gentleman not to permit any repudiation of the legally acquired rights, of British subjects. If immunity was vouchsafed in one case, it would assuredly lead to fresh violations. Some weeks ago he brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman a case which he felt sure, the Committee would agree was an exceptionally flagrant instance of this new spirit that was abroad. He was loth to weary the Committee, and so proposed cursorily to run over the salient features of the Anhui Mining Contract. The preliminary agreement was signed in May, 1902, by the order of the Governor of Anhui, an important district on the Yangtze, and a British syndicate. The final contract was concluded with all the formal, prescribed formalities known to diplomatic usage at the Chinese Foreign Office, in June, 1903, with the full concurrence of our Minister. Mr. Wilkinson, the Legation Secretary, was instructed to be present. Thereupon the sinking of shafts and blasting operations were commenced at considerable expense, in order to determine the value of the mineral deposits. In June, 1905, the engineering and mining staff were sent down, only to be told, without rhyme or reason, that permission could not be granted. That was a deliberate attempt to tender nugatory a concession of which His Majesty's Government had, over and over again, recognised the validity, because the required conditions, and to this he gathered the right hon. Gentleman assented, had been scrupulously observed. Thirteen months had since elapsed, and the demand of our Minister for a recognition of title had been treated with contemptuous procrastination. The natives of Anhui were only too anxious for the granting of the permission, so that they might earn their wages by the emploment which the mine owners were desirous of offering. The Secretary of State had exhausted all methods or persuasion; all conciliatory devices having so signally failed of their effect, the question arose should the Government, would it be wise, for them to acquiesce in such cavalier treatment? The right hon. Gentleman realised, and no one better, the mischievous character of the precedent that would be set were such unquestioned claims allowed to be 305 disregarded and the Mackay Treaty, one of the essential stipulations of which contemplated the sanctity of these rights to be unceremoniously torn up and treated as so much waste paper, forsooth, because it did not accord either with the wish or the convenience of the Chinese Government to adhere to them. He might mention that he had no direct or indirect personal interest in this particular matter. But the view of those on the spot, who were best qualified to form a judgment, was that such claims, when recognised by our Government, should be resolutely urged and as promptly enforced. In the case of another Oriental recalcitrant Power nearer East, the Committee would recall to mind the incident of the seizure of a German vessel by the authorities in Constantinople; the German Ambassador, without wasting precious time on circumlocutory correspondence, boarded the vessel himself and hoisted the national flag, and the trick was done. He would suggest to the right lion. Gentleman that it would be rendering a service to the Chinese Government were he to adopt a more vigorous course of action. In that case the Government would turn to the provincial governor and say, " This is a case of force majeure, resistance is futile," and so the Chinese face would be saved. Was there anything unreasonable in that suggestion t the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who knew China well, could assure the Committee how vital, and what vital assets were prestige and influence in Oriental countries, and how disastrous it would be for our Foreign Office to brook an act of injustice on so shallow and untenable a plea as the refractory attitude of a country governor. Let the Committee suppose that our own Government, or any other civilised nation, were to be guilty of a similar injustice; they could be taken before the impartial tribunals of the land, they could, to use the expressive language of recent education debates, be mandamused, or reparation could be obtained by the salutory provisions of a Defaulting Authorities Bill. What recourse had our subjects in China? What could they do to exact redress if the arm of British might and majesty confessed its powerlessness? A more contumacious act on the part of China had hardly yet been recorded. He shrewdly suspected that her states- 306 men, who were acute philosophers, had been speculating on the efficacy of those doctrines of non-intervention and turning the cheek to the smiter, which had been so abundantly preached and so insistently advocated by many supporters of the right hon. Gentleman. He respectfully pointed out that by tamely submitting to a bare-faced act of spoliation, which he felt convinced neither the United States nor Germany would tolerate, the right hon. Gentleman would be laying up a store of trouble and harassment to the Government and the nation, such as in former years and so unexpectedly led to the China war. He earnestly implored him not to allow our far-reaching influence and preponderance to became a byword and a reproach, that the influence and power, by means of which, and of which alone our subjects' rights might be uphold, and the predominant commercial position of Great Britain in the China Seas might remain properly safeguarded and unimpaired.
§ MR. BENNETT (Oxfordshire, Woodstock)
said the subject of the Congo State was one upon which he felt as deeply as upon any topic which had been discussed in this House. It was, of course, quite impossible within the time available in the present debate to attempt to bring forward in any detail the evidence upon which they relied in their case against the Congo State. Every fair-minded man who had gone into the question must be aware of the infamous misgovernment of that region and the widespread pillage, torture, outrage and murder which prevailed. The evidence irresistibly proved their case against the Congo State up to the hilt. He was astonished that the only opposition to bringing about a better state of things in the Congo State should come from the Irish Benches. He could only say that the perusal of the evidence left him more thoroughly convinced of the justice of their case than ever. An apology for King Leopold's Government written by a gentleman with an Irish name and a Belgian decoration, recently sent broadcast to Members of this House, relied very largely on its description of various external signs of prosperity in the Congo regions. Photographs of the " before and after" type were displayed—a war canoe on one page and 307 opposite to it a stem wheel steamer— large public buildings, steel bridges and so on. Some photographs which this precious pamphlet did not exhibit were those of hestage bands, of ruined villages, of the mulilated bodies of men, women and children whose sole offence was their failure to bring in enough rubber. The reasoning was based on that fallacy too common in modern times—the fallacy that the prosperity of a comparatively small section of the community was a reliable indication of the general happiness. It had, for example, been argued in this House and elsewhere that the securing of large dividends from the mines of the Rand was a proof of the prosperity of the Transvaal. But what thoughful man believed that the general sum of human happiness in the Transvaal and South Africa was not infinitely greater before the goldfields were discovered and the mineowners' war waged than it had ever been since? There were two great evil principles at the very root of this infamous misgovernment in tropical Africa. One of them was the doctrine that the native had practically no rights whatever and no property and that he might be lawfully called upon to labour incessantly for the benefit of the white man, either without wages at all, or at wages wholly inadequate and fixed by his employer. The wages paid to a Congo native amounted to the magnificent total of 11s. per annum. In return for this, according to the Report of King Leopold's own Commission—The native must every fortnight journey two days' inarch, sometimes further, in order to reach that part of the forest where lie can find rubber vines. There he lives. … a miserable existence. He is compelled to build, himself an improvised shelter. He has not the food to which lie is accustomed: he is deprived of his wife, exposed to the climate, and the attacks of wild beasts.…He returns to his village where he can only remain two or three days before the new demand is; made upon him.The Belgian Prime Minister, M. de Naeyer, had said quite frankly—The native is entitled to nothing.This was simply the old pagan view of the barbarian as a bond-servant by nature "; but against this immoral and utterly unchristian doctrine every Liberal worthy of the name 308 must utter his protest whether it was preached by a Belgian on the Congo or a British colonial in South Africa. The second evil principle to which he alluded was the deplorable usage, far too common amongst European Powers, of recklessly employing black troops of inferior civilisation to do their police work and act as their soldiers. The horrible outrages which had disgraced the Government and inflicted this long agony upon the desolate and oppressed people of the Congo State were directly due to the employment of armed savages—in some cases even cannibals—under the euphemistic name of " sentries " or " forest guards."The black soldier," said the Report of the Belgian Commission, " left to himself falls back upon his sanguinary instincts.Of course we were told that our own hands were not clean in these respects. He remembered that some weeks ago when he asked a question about the Congo, the hon. Member for Stoke, whose enviable versatility enabled him to deal with every conceivable topic of political interest, got up and asked what right we had to interfere in the Congo when we were engaged in a reckless and unjust war against the Zulus, or words to that effect. He freely granted that our hands were not clean in these respects. He had seen with his own eyes what the employment of semi-civilised troops might mean. Why, too, in Natal at this moment did we never hear of wounded Zulus—the proportion of wounded to killed would be something like five to one. They had better address that question to the black levies or the Government which sanctioned their employment in these inglorious slaughters—too much like rook shooting to be glorious: in fact, the parallel was very close, for he read the other day that forty Zulus had been shot sitting in the trees ! And then let them remember that infernal picture of Christian Vengence which the Moslem fellaheen of Egypt lately witnessed. Oh, no ! our hands were not clean; but still this argument was not in any way conclusive, and if pressed to its issue would really stultify all human efforts towards improvement. He felt sure that few Members of this. House would be deceived by King Leopold's illusory promises of reform. Condemned 309 even by his own picked Commission of inquiry, he now recommended, inter alia, that no European factory must possess more than twenty-five rifles of the newest pattern—merely a repetition of an old law, and containing no prohibition of rifles of older patterns. Again, sentries were not to be armed with breech-loading rifles—again a mere repetition of an old enactment which had never been observed. In short, these promised reforms were part and parcel of the same old game of bluff and hypocrisy played by King Leopold and his satellites. It was quite hopeless to expect justice under the existing régime: " What is law to me? " said one of the agents to Mr. Harris, " I am sent here to get plenty of rubber—not to carry out law." He pleaded that something must be done. Surely this infamy could not be allowed to continue. The churches, alas, did not help as they should. There were forty Congo missionaries in this country to-day, and only two, as far as he was aware, were actively helping on the efforts for reform. This "immeasurable suffering" continued from year to year and the Churches of Christ looked on almost in silence ! The immediate summoning of a Conference of the signatory Powers, the establishment of British Consuls and extra-territorial Courts and, for the moment, the rescue of our countryman Standard from the vengeance of these official blackguards—these were the things that naturally suggested themselves. And further, never were the circumstances of the time more propitious for Congo reform than at present. We appeared to be on excellent terms with the French and the Germans, and Italy had come to regard King Leopold's system in its true light. At any rate something must be done and done speedily,for,otherwise, the Congo question would gradually solve itself by the virtual extinction of the people, and the utter destruction of the country's resources. From the shame of that terrible solution he trusted the civilisation of Europe might be saved. He appealed to fair-minded men in all parts of the House and in the country to support the Government in doing what it could to abolish this wicked and abominable system on the Congo, which might be described as the most terrible engine of human oppression and cruelty that the modern world had ever seen.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said that everyone who was in the House when the Secretary for Foreign Affairs was speaking, must have felt the importance of the present state of affairs in Egypt. He had listened with the utmost possible pain to the statement of the Foreign Secretary with regard to the Denshawi affair. It reminded him of the early " eighties," when the Liberal Party who were returned to power, as they had lately been, with a great majority, were shattered into fragments on the two questions of Egypt and of Ireland, when on those two questions the then Government departed from Liberal principles, and when the guns at Alexandria sealed the fate of the Party for many a year. It was a melancholy fact that when a Liberal Government was in power with a great majority at its back it forgot the principles which it had proclaimed loudest in Opposition. When he heard the Foreign Secretary ask the Committee to abstain from discussing the recent events in Egypt, and draw a terrible picture of the events which might follow any discussion, he asked himself how differently he would have spoken had he been in opposition. [" No, no."] Every word which fell from the right hon. Gentleman convinced him rather of the necessity of discussing the matter as leading him to believe that the case was even worse than he had supposed. When the right hon. Gentleman said that a wave of fanaticism had passed over Egypt, and spoke in tones which most profoundly affected the House as to the danger of discussion, he thought what a sad commentary it was on the twenty-five years of English rule in Egypt. He was old enough to remember all the ideal prospects held out to justify the Occupation. It was a preparation, it was said, for self-government by the Egyptians, and this was the only ground upon which the occupation was defended by the Liberal Party. The speech of the Foreign Secretary left little hope in that direction. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of Lord Cromer in the usual formula. Knowing something of Egypt, he declared that the government of Lord Cromer was the most undiluted, unqualified despotism the world had ever seen. In the main that despotism had 311 been a benevolent one; he had effected a marvellous change in the condition of the Egyptian people. All credit for that he justly deserved; but at the same time even a benevolent despotism required careful watching, and particularly when that despotism rested upon an army of occupation. Never in history had there been such a condition of things in which great abuses had not arisen. Three distinct sets of circumstances were to be kept apart in connection with the Denshawi affair: the incidents connected with the outrage, the circumstances of the trial, and the circumstances in which the sentences were carried out. Why, and on whose responsibility, were the sentences carried out with such fearful rapidity? The Secretary for Foreign Affairs thought that he had removed all the impressions that were made by the telegrams which he characterised as incorrect. But here was the telegram—The four natives who were condemned to death for the murder of Captain Bull and the attack on other British officers were hanged to-day. Six others, convicted of complicity, were flogged.The prisoners were conveyed on carts from Shibin el Kum early to-day, guarded by a detachment of infantry. The gallows and whipping post followed. The cavalcade arrived at Denshawi at 7.40. Mr. Machell, Adviser to the Egyptian Minister of the Interior, selected the place close to the road where the executions were to take place, and a space 60 yards by 30 was roped in, the gallows and whipping post being erected in the centre.The prisoners arrived at half-past one o'clock. One man was first hanged, and left hanging while two other were being whipped. Another was then hanged and two were whipped. The remaining two men sentenced to death were next hanged and the other culprits were flogged. Troops were posted round the enclosure, and hundreds of natives stood in a wide circle 200 yards distant. The women wailed dismally as the lash was applied and the prisoners were hanged. All the condemned men met their death with calm.Not a word in the published accounts was inconsistent with the right hon. Gentleman's statement, and a more brutal, barbarous exhibition he had never heard of. This disgusting exhibition would remain for ever a stain on the history of the British occupation of Egypt. Was it expected by these methods to inspire respect for Christian civilisation and British government in Egypt? Some hon. Members opposite thought, and he did not blame them, that he 312 had some desire to excuse the abuses which existed in the Congo Free State. That was not so, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had admitted that he was the first man to stand up and support him, when he first called attention to the question of the Congo Free State. What he said was, that it was a pity that in Natal and Egypt this country had done things and were doing things which made it impossible for us to exercise moral influence in Belgium or even in Russia. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that no official attempt had been made to prevent the publication of these details. But he found in the Daily News a statement that after the telegram had been sent out, Reuter's Agency sent out a circular requesting the British Press to suppress all allusion to the groans and cries of the women who were present at the executions. He thought some Government agent must have interfered. That was a most disgraceful transaction, because the public ought to be allowed to know these things. Speaking of the affray, the Foreign Secretary had stated that the evidence showed premeditation in regard to the attack upon British officers. What did the right hon. Gentleman mean by premeditation? The officers were part of a moving column passing through the country, and they had only arrived at the village the night before. On the following morning a local notable invited them to go pigeon-shooting in the village of Denshawi, thus leading the officers to believe that he had the consent of the villagers. Did the right hon. Gentleman charge this local notable with being in the conspiracy? This man provided the carriages and took the officers to the village, and he contended that there could not have been premeditation unless the notable was in the plot. On the 23rd of June, the Pall Mall Gazette, which was rabidly anti-native in this matter, published a telegram from its Cairo correspondent, in, which it was stated, that the fellaheen strongly objected to the pigeon-shooting on the ground that their crops would be destroyed and their stores burned. It was also said in this account that in the course of the trouble Major Pine 313 Coffin's gun went off and shot a native woman. In the official account, which was issued, as he thought, most improperly, by the adviser of the British Minister at Cairo before the trial took place, it was admitted that the officers commenced to shoot these tame pigeons without first obtaining the permission of the head man of the village, who was absent when they arrived. The issue of the official account before the trial was improper, because it must be remembered that in Egypt there was no such thing as an independent judge. Every judge in Egypt held his position by the favour of Lord Cromer, and he thought it was objectionable to issue a detailed account of the proceedings, coming from the Minister of Justice, some days before the trial. As he had said, in this official account it was admitted that the officers commenced to shoot without obtaining the permission of the head man of the village who was absent. Therefore, the officers were at that moment engaged, as he was informed, in an illegal act, it being the law in Egpyt that before these tame pigeons, which belonged to the villagers, were shot, the consent of the head man should be obtained. The pigeons could not under the law be shot unless the necessary consent had been obtained and a sum of money paid. It was exceedingly hard to obtain trustworthy news from Egypt, and he did not accept as Gospel truth any of the accounts which had been received of this matter. There was the greatest possible confusion and conflict in regard to the most important event in connection with this occurrence, and that was in regard to the shooting of the native woman. There was no doubt that the greatest cruelty and brutality was shown by the fellaheen to the British officers, but it was the fact, that when the British troops arrived, they found a ring of men round the officers protecting them. The officers at that moment were surrounded by villagers who were guarding them. He had no doubt that great brutality was shown by the fellaheen, and it was said that a man jumped upon Major Pine Coffin. That officer, however, was evidently a man of great humanity, and 314 he showed great courage and forbearance' controlling the men who came to his rescue. The brutality of the attack upon the officers was frankly admitted, and the whole question turned upon the point, which was in dispute, whether the woman who was shot and wounded, if not killed, was shot by one of the officers in mistake, of course, before the row broke out. If the woman was shot in the course of the controversy while the peasants were remonstrating with the officers, and before they struck any blow, it was monstrous to hang any of these natives. The Secretary of State had said that there was a. wave of fanaticism passing over the country, and he was afraid there would be an advance of this wave of fanaticism unless steps were, taken to stop events of this kind occurring. Hon. Members must not suppose that in Egypt we were dealing with an uncivilised race. On the contrary, it was a civilised race, consisting of an educated people, with a highly intelligent Press. News of incidents of this kind ran from one end of Africa to another. There was a very able native Press in Cairo, which was read extensively by the people of Egypt, and there was a University there attended by students from the whole Mohammedan world, and every detail of this transaction would be known throughout the Mohammedan world within a month. What was the Arabic account of this affair? He did not vouch for the truth of it, but he proceeded to read to the House an account of the affray supplied by a native correspondent to an Arabic newspaper in Cairo, the editor of which he (Mr. Dillon) knew to be an able and truthful Arab gentleman. He asked whether the Secretary of State imagined that he was going to cloak this business by preventing the House of Commons from discussing it. The whole Mohammedan world was discussing it to-day.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
I have promised a report of the evidence, a full report of the judgment and a full report of everything which has taken place. I have urged the House until they have got that report not to embark upon a discussion which is open to danger.
§ MR. DILLON
said he had seen this kind of thing before. When the full report was received they would be asked why go back on these unhappy transactions. He then drew attention to the remarkable fact that the whole French Press at Cairo, which since the entente between this country and France had been friendly to Lord Cromer and Great Britain, condemned the transaction from beginning to end. He thought it was a most sinister fact that before the trial of the Egyptians took place, the Alexandria correspondent of the Daily Chronicle telegraphed that the natives would be severely dealt with, and the sentences would be carried out with military severity. To his mind these transactions savoured far more of a desire to strike terror than to do justice. If officers in Egypt, even if they were doing an illegal act, were brutally assaulted, their assailants should be punished, but in a way as to leave an impression on the minds of the people of Egypt that justice was being done. This policy of endeavouring to strike terror, these brutal, disgusting, and un-christian performances, was not calculated to recommend British rule to the people of Egypt. It was true—he admitted and rejoiced in the fact — that owing to his great ability and his sympathy with the people of Egypt, Lord Cromer had succeeded in twenty-five years in doing more to elevate the name of England in that region than had ever been done by an English Government before, but Lord Cromer had gained nothing of the confidence and love of the Egyptians. It was admitted by the Secretary of State that years ago the lash as a punishment in Egypt was abolished from the native law. It was left for a Christian court set up specially for the protection of British officers to order that men should be lashed in public before their women. Was that the way to recommend British civilisation and Christianity to the people of Egypt?
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
I cannot reply to the speech of the hon. Gentleman without doing what I am of opinion would be serious mischief—embarking upon a premature and dangerous discussion. If he had raised general questions of 316 whether there should or should not be an interval between the passing of the sentence and the execution, or whether the code should be revised, and questions of that kind in the abstract, I should have nothing to say, because undoubtedly incidents of this sort do bring those questions under our consideration with regard to the future. But I am sorry— more sorry than I can say—that he has not responded to the appeal I made, and sorry that it is he who has not responded. He said he had seen this sort of thing before from Liberal Governments. He went back to 1880, but there was no analogy there with regard to Egypt, because we were not then in Egypt.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
I know, but that is no analogy to the situation in Egypt, at the present time. Does he really believe that those of us who have been in Parliament now for more than twenty years, who have sympathised with the cause of Ireland, who have known, because we had to study it, the distress caused by the condition of the land question in Ireland, who have constantly voted with him and his friends against oppression in Ireland— does he think we have gone through all those twenty years without having learnt a great deal, without having become, I think, wiser and better politicians? That, I have no hesitation in saying, is one obligation which I shall always owe to the hon. Member and to his friends; through the difficulties of Ireland, and our association with them in difficult times, we have learnt more sympathy and more caution in being on our guard against oppression than we should have learnt but for that experience. But if he gets up in this House and makes statements, for the truth of which he says he cannot vouch, at a time when I have already promised the truth shall be given in full, how can he teach me further lessons in sympathy? He asks me questions which can only be answered by the evidence, which is not yet in my possession. Surely the hon. Member must know, as things are at present, that there is at the present moment no other course but to promise the House the fullest information I can 317 give to them, and to say I accept responsibility for this; and I have enough confidence in the character of the tribunal to believe that I shall not have to regret taking that responsibility. I recognise the tribute that the hon. Member has paid to Lord Cromer. That tribute goes a long way in doing credit to Lord Cromer's work in Egypt; but when the hon. Member draws the conclusion that because a fanatical feeling, which is shared, not only in Egypt, but in North Africa, now exists there that work has not been so good as we have thought, I dispute that altogether. Between East and West, do what you like, whether it be for twenty years or for 200 years, all the material benefit of all your good rue will still leave a crust, and a thin one, between East and West. That has always been; and it is because it is so that in questions of this kind, whether it be Egypt or India, whether it be any other question affecting Eastern civilisation, I ask the House to be exceedingly careful; for by debate and language used in this House, you may set in motion forces, always near the surface, which if they once break forth will lead to consequences which I know the House; will deplore. I must pass from that to other subjects.
With regard to the Japanese alliance, that alliance is still living and is in exceedingly good health. Japan is devoting that energy and public spirit which has produced such remarkable results in recent years to the arts of peace and civil government, to the guiding of Korea, a great task, and to the development of her own resources; and we in Asia are pursuing no adventurous or enterprising policy. On the contrary, it is one of consolidation; and the result of that situation in both nations is that the alliance which exists to-day gives a sense of mutual security to each with out being a source of anxiety to anybody else. I trust it will long remain so, and that it may gain in strength and confidence on those terms.
With regard to France, the diplomatic support which the two countries have promised to each other has been forthcoming from either country without qualification and without reserve whenever occasion has arisen. I have but two things to say about our 318 relations, our good understanding, with France. One is that that good understanding is not directed against any other country; and the second is that it must be recognised that that good understanding must not be impaired by any other development of our foreign policy. The more clearly these two things are borne in mind, the more clearly it will appear that for neither country is that good understanding a barrier or hindrance to good and cordial relations with other Powers. As to other countries in general, I will only say that the Government reflects, I believe, accurately the public opinion of this country. It is that we cherish no hostile design, diplomatic or other, against any of them. We do not bear any ill will to any other country whatever; and if evidence of that is wanted, I will only point to the recent remarkable readiness shown to give hospitality to and to receive hospitality from other countries.
Now, Sir, I pass from that to what was, after all, the main subject of debate this evening, and that is the Congo Free State. We have to look back at the origin of the Congo Free State and then to look at what has recently been disclosed to see how much there is which naturally appeals to public attention. The origin of the State was a fair one. It had its origin in 1884 in those declarations exchanged between the British Government and the International Association of the Congo, founded by His Majesty the King of the Belgians for the purpose of promoting civilisation " and other humane and benevolent purposes hereby declared." Our Government declared their sympathy with and approval of the humane and benevolent purposes of the Association and recognised the right of the Association to the Congo State. We have travelled a long way since these declarations. The International Association has disappeared—I do not know where—and as the realisation of the aspirations and expectations under which it was founded we have this Report on the state of things in the Congo by an inquiry appointed by its own Government. I am not surprised, and nobody is surprised, at the impression which has been produced by that report. The statements which were made by British missionaries in the Congo before 319 the Report appeared can be discounted no longer, because the Report confirms them. There is, in my opinion, but one thing to be done in regard to those statements, and that is to give the fullest possible publicity to the evidence taken by the Commission and to carry out the reforms recommended in its Report. That is not the course that has been followed. The evidence has not been published. Another Commission was appointed to recommend in regard to reforms. The Report of that Commission has not been published at all, and the reforms which they are said to have recommended are in some material respects less than those that were recommended by the Commission of Inquiry. And that has been accompanied, not with a public expression leading us to believe that by the Government of the Congo the full extent of the mischief in that State has been realised, not with anything that would give us a full assurance that the conscience of the Government of that State has been so reached that matters would be improved in the future, but with a pronouncement of rights in which the Sovereign of the Congo State speaks less as a governor, and more as if he were the owner of private property. Even property has its duties as well as its rights; and every Sovereign of every State, though he has his rights, has also his obligations. If it is to be a question of the letter of rights in this matter, other people and other countries have their rights, too. There are treaty rights, and more than treaty rights. There is the point which the noble Lord opposite dealt with with such force, that if in the centre of Africa a great territory was allowed to fall into a state of bad government it must become a danger to the surrounding States. Some one said in the course of the debate that Mr. Root, the Foreign Secretary for the United States, had expressed a doubt of the right of the United States or of any of the other Powers to interfere in the affairs of the Congo. The United States is not a neighbour of the Congo State. But we know that when the United States had on its own borders a state of disorder which was found to be intolerable it took measures of its own to protect its own interests. That feet I lay stress on as an important 320 factor in the case of the Congo. But let me add that, whatever we may say about the Congo State, we do not reflect upon Belgium, or upon the Belgians or upon Belgian officers. The hon. Member for South Monaghan quoted two letters which he said my brother had written to the Press on the Congo State. I am not sure that I have seen those letters; but I have heard from my brother, who has been many years in the Congo State, experiences which entirely bear out the quotations which have been made from his letters. I attach great importance to what he says, because I know him to be attached to accuracy to an extent rather rare in one who has travelled so much. He is, at any rate, likely to be an impartial witness. He has never been in the service of any administration, either Congo or British; but he has had great experience of the natives, having been engaged in private enterprises in Central Africa for many years and never having any trouble with them. He told me personally what he appears to have said in his letters to the Press, that the Belgian officers with whom he came into contact have been men who tried to do their duty. They had small experience of the country, and they may have made mistakes, but they have been humane men who tried to do their best in trying circumstances. In all that I need do nothing to corroborate what the hon. Member for South Monaghan said, but what the hon. Member for South Monaghan did not emphasise was that this statement was carefully limited. The region in question is the southern extremity of the Congo State. It is not in the rubber district. The Belgian officers of the Congo State who have been there have been there solely for the purpose of keeping order, and had nothing to do with the development and exploitation of the resources of the country. The evidence of Sir Harry Johnston about a different part of the Congo State is not relevant to the question of what has happened in the rubber-producing districts and districts conceded to various companies in the Congo State. The very neighbourhood of a man like Sir Harry Johnston or the very presence of British enterprise in any part of the Congo State would have been almost certain, I think, 321 to do something to diminish the evils complained of. That has a great bearing on one remedy which has been suggested to-night—whether our consular jurisdiction should not be extended. It is true that by extending our consuls and consular jurisdiction we may not in theory touch the evils of which people have complained, but the mere presence of consuls of another country, distributed through the State, would be bound to have a beneficial effect on the administration and tend to check abuses in the State. As to the contention that forced labour in the Congo State is equivalent to a tax, it is true, no doubt, that forced labour may be equivalent to a tax. If a native cannot pay a tax and his labour is given to the State on that account, then you may call that labour virtually a tax. But this labour which is said to be instead of a tax in the Congo State, do we know that it goes into the pockets of the State or the public revenue? There are no public accounts, and so long as that is so and so long as this taxation or this labour is levied by companies working for profit, the Congo State must remain open to the reproach that it is imposing, not taxes, but forced labour for the purposes of private profit.
I come to the decrees and reforms which are to be applied. I think it right that our consuls should watch closely the application of these reforms. If carried out in a really good spirit they might produce a great change indeed. Large as their shortcomings are in some respects, they would undoubtedly be of much benefit. I would only refer hon. Members on that subject to the speech made by Lord Fitzmaurice in another place†, in which he described what a paradise the Congo State might be if these reforms were adequately carried out. Therefore, I do not care too much to examine the character of these reforms. It is easy enough to point out that they fall far short of what they might be, but if properly applied they might do a considerable amount of good. Their application should, no doubt, be watched. Even if we find no fault with the reforms on paper, I should still be distrustful as to the amount of good they would do, because the system is wrong.† See Debates (4), clix., 1579.322 In the Congo State the State is a trader and you have private trading companies with administrative powers. We have always looked with suspicion upon the combination of trading rights and administration. That fact has always made this House most anxious with regard to its own chartered companies. If we have sanctioned that system, if to an increasingly limited extent it is still allowed to go on, yet we know that behind the chartered company there is the Colonial Office, and that behind the Colonial Office there is this House. There is besides the company the State itself—impartial, not interested in the profits of the company —which is over the company. Even so, we do not much like the system and gradually it has been contracted. The Niger Company, for instance—I believe one of the best chartered companies there ever was—was extinguished, I think, under the late Government. In the Congo State the State itself is a trader, and as long as that is so, I believe that is the real root of the mischief. Other European Countries which have had to deal with natives have at one time or other made mistakes which have had to be regretted; but where there is responsible government, if mischiefs occur, and even if they endure for a time, sooner or later no free Parliament will allow the continuance of the mischiefs; the thing cannot be indefinitely prolonged. But in the Congo State there is no responsible Government in that sense of the word. It has become more like a private possession, and what is really required is a change in the system. I am asked whether we will not have a conference with other Powers. Our record in this matter is a good one. We have once invited them to a conference, and I am ready to make it known again that if all or any of them will join with us in pressing for a change, we shall be only too ready to share in responsibility and in effort with them, and if any Power thinks it has a greater interest, directly or prospectively, in the Congo State than this country, we shall be ready to join with that country if it should desire to take the lead. Meanwhile, till such Power shows a disposition to take the matter up, I agree that the moment has come when we must consider what we ourselves ought to do. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the 323 Forest of Dean suggested bringing into existence the provisions about the Congo navigation. I think that needs the consent of other Powers. That is a suggestion which I do not dismiss, but I should like to examine it further. Then there is the question of free trade and the prohibition of monopolies. If there is talk of rights on the part of the Congo State, we must look into our rights, and we shall have to inquire how far it is consistent with the provisions of treaty rights and obligations that there should be these enormous reservations of huge areas of private property in the Congo State, and if there is dispute about those treaties there is the Hague Tribunal. Then there are our rights of consular jurisdiction, and the time must come when we shall have to consider whether, in the interests of better knowledge of what is going on— —information hitherto so difficult to obtain—and the general interests of improvement in the Congo State, those rights should not be enforced. One remarkable change has taken place, and that is that the Belgian Parliament and people have shown an interest in this matter which promises to increase, and have begun to show a sense of responsibility which, in my opinion, is a most welcome and healthy sign. After all, the reform of the Congo State is the first business of Belgium, and the House must remember that it is very desirable not to take any steps which might have the effect of discouraging Belgium from taking the step which I think is so much to be desired—namely, to see to the reform of the Congo administration. If you establish extra-territorial Jurisdiction it will discourage the interest which is now being shown in Belgium. Therefore, I will wait, and I rather think the noble Lord had this point in his mind when he assumed that this matter would be discussed in Belgium. I would like to leave it this evening, so that Belgium, so far as we are concerned, is encouraged and not embarassed by anything we may do. But we cannot wait for ever. We must make up our minds as to what our responsibility in the matter is, but in view of the remarkable awakening of interest which has been shown in Belgium, and in view of the fact that the matter must be further discussed in that country, before I com- 324 mit his Majesty's Government to any definite steps, I should like to wait and see what the autumn may bring forth.
Now I pass from the question of the Congo to one or two of the other questions which have been raised. I do not want to deal at length with Macedonia and the 3 per cent. Customs dues, because time is short and there are other questions still to be brought forward. But I should tell the House in regard to the Customs dues what I found when the present Government came into office. Negotiations had been begun in which, on behalf of this country, it was stipulated that there should be certain commercial concessions, improvement of the Custom houses, and improvement of the mining laws, and other matters. Communications had also been made that if financial reform was put on a satisfactory footing in Macedonia we should be prepared to concede the Customs dues in order to enable that scheme of reform in which Lord Lansdowne so earnestly co-operated to continue. So that the present Government did not come in with quite a free hand. Certain conditions had been stipulated for, and if the Porte fulfilled those conditions we were bound to agree to the increase of the 3 per cent. Then I was confronted with this situation. The Porte claimed that, after Lord Lansdowne had accepted the Financial Commission which the Porte had conceded, this country was bound in honour to agree to the increase of the 3 per cent, dues, and some of the other Powers showed great anxiety that we should agree from fear that, if we did not, the scheme of reforms in Macedonia might be wrecked. The other Powers were ready to agree. In looking into the matter, I came to the conclusion that the conditions stipulated for by Lord Lansdowne had not been, fulfilled. The situation was this. Admitting that the Financial Commission would do much to improve the finances of Macedonia, still there was no guarantee that, if we agreed to the increase of the Customs, the money would be better collected or would be so placed that it would be devoted to Macedonian reforms. After some little time the other Powers, who had been so anxious we should agree, supported us in this point, and we all 325 came into line as to the stipulation for these conditions to be conceded by the Porte. This was very satisfactory, because it is essential that the Powers should all be in line. If we had been left alone as the only Power against the increase of the Customs, the other powers would naturally have held ns responsible if the Financial Commission collapsed and the state of Macedonia got worse. If the Customs dues are going to be properly collected and applied to Macedonian reforms, then we ought to consent to the increase of the dues rather than see the Financial Commission starved for lack of funds. But if we gave way too easily, it would do no good to Macedonia and the money would be wasted. If, on the other hand, we continued to refuse, there was the danger that the scheme of the reforms would collapse. The situation was serious, because the deficits wore not being met by the Porte as the Porte had engaged to do. The increase in the Customs could not come into operation for some months, because the increase required, the assent of several Parliaments. Unless the money required to make up the deficits was forthcoming from the Porte, we were bound to raise the question whether the large military expenditure now being charged upon the Macedonian Budget ought to be allowed to continue. Our great object is to keep in step with other Powers or to keep them in step with us, as the case may be. The Financial Commission has undoubtedly done some good work. I think it is possible that it may do still more. But unless the funds are forthcoming, undoubtedly the situation will become more serious still, and at the present moment we are all agreed, that pressure ought to be put upon the Porte to make up the deficit. Unless it is made up, the whole question of the amount of the military expenditure allowed to be placed on the Macedonian Budget will have to be revised.
As to China, the whole question of concessions in China is difficult at this moment. We hold that while the Chinese are perfectly entitled to claim for themselves a free hand in the future, they are bound to recognize the concessions and obligations into which they have entered in the past. I propose, when Sir Ernest Satow returns 326 in a few days, to discuss with him the whole question of concessions in China, and to see whether we cannot arrive at some general settlement with the Chinese Government. With regard to the punishments inflicted in the mixed courts in the foreign settlements in China, I can only repeat again that these punishments are inflicted by Chinese magistrates in Chinese courts. It is true that our police arrest prisoners and bring them before those courts, and that a British assessor sits by the side of the magistrate. But the treaty says that the law administered shall be the law of the nationality to which the officer trying the case belongs. These punishments are indicted by the Chinese not only in the foreign settlements, but through the whole of their own country. If China shows any desire to reform the sort of punishments that she inflicts upon her own subjects she will find no more willing sympathiser than us. But it is impossible in a large settlement like Shanghai, where there are hundreds of thousands of Chinese, that the Europeans should be responsible for all the punishments inflicted by Chinese courts on Chinese subjects according to Chinese law. And the danger of interfering is very great. The Chinese are extremely jealous of their rights. The other day, in the foreign settlement of Shanghai, the consuls laid down a rule that Chinese women brought before the Chinese Court were to be taken to the municipal or European prison, and not to the mixed court gaols, because, on grounds of humanity, they considered that the Chinese prison was not in a condition fit for the reception of female prisoners. A very laudable motive, but unfortunately an act that was not warranted by our treaty rights ! The attempt to enforce it resulted in a protest by the Chinese magistrate and a struggle in court, and ended in a riot, in which one or two people lost their lives and much property was destroyed. It shows the danger of encroaching on Chinese jurisdiction in these foreign settlements. There are treaty rights and an established law and practice; but they cannot and must not be altered without the consent of the Chinese, and if you try you are bound to have trouble, for no nation is more jealous of its rights or knows better, what those rights are than the Chinese.
327 There remains a final question and a difficult one, though one in which the House has shown much interest, and that is the question of our relations with the Russian Government and the visit of the British Fleet. I think that the less comment in this House on Russian affairs the better, but if we must comment on those affairs, let us understand quietly what the situation is. There are, no doubt, great troubles in Russia. There are now three authorities known to the outside world, and they are all recognised as playing a great part in Russian government. There are the Tsar, the Russian Ministers of the Central Government, and the authority represented by the Council of the Empire and the Duma. Not one of these three is responsible for these massacres in Russia, and there is not one of these three that does not deplore them. An hon. Member behind me said it has been proved that the Russian Government was involved in the Byalostok massacre and that the Duma itself had held an inquiry and made a report on the massacres. I do not understand that there was any charge made in the Duma by Prince Urusoff against the Central Government in St. Petersburg. On the contrary, the inquiry has led to an entirely opposite conclusion. I can give no information as to what happened at Byalostok, because three different inquiries have been made in Russia itself. But the Central Government neither knew nor was aware of what took place at Byalostok. Russia is an enormous country. Its organisation of officials all over the country is not thoroughly known to us, and when these disturbances and outrages take place in different parts of the country I am sure that you are adding to the difficulties which exist in Russia when it is assumed that it is the Central Government which is responsible. Then it is said that there should be official representations and so forth. Why I believe that there are three parties in Russia—the reactionaries, the reform party, and the revolutionists. I am certain of this, that any interference from any State whatever outside will not strengthen the reform party, but rather strengthen one of the other two parties. All history shows that this has been the result of interference from outside. 328 Then as to the visit of the Fleet. The visit of the Fleet was settled some time ago. I am not sure whether it was settled before or after the Duma was summoned by the Tsar, and there was nothing inappropriate in the fact that as the Fleet was to go to the Baltic it should visit some of the Russian ports. As the Fleet went to the Baltic last year and did not visit Russian ports, it would surely be inappropriate if again this year when it went to the Baltic it should not visit any of the Russian ports. In Russia this year a Parliament had been summoned for the first time. It is a remarkable step in Russian history. I do not know why these misconceptions should arise with regard to the visits of the Fleet to the Baltic. Last year something of the same kind took place. The visit of the Fleet was planned early in the year, and it was to visit some of the German ports. Between the time when the visit was planned and when it took place certain events had occurred, and there was a report that the visit of the Fleet was deliberately intended as .a sort of menancing comment on the events which had occurred long after the visit was originally planned. Nothing of the sort was, of course, intended, and the visit of the Fleet took place. Because certain things have happened since the cruise of the Fleet was originally planned, this time it is suggested that the cruise should be abandoned. Why? Because the idea is now that the visit of the Fleet, if it took place, must be intended or must be taken as a sort of commentary on the internal affairs of Russia or an indication of some intention on our part to take sides. The right hon. Baronet hoped that there would be no demonstration, on the occasion of the visit. I do not know what he means by " demonstrations." I think it is usual when the Fleet goes to the ports of a friendly country that the admirals and officers should be shown some civilities by some of the municipal authorities, by the officials of the Government, and so forth. If anything of that kind takes place, and the Fleet is shown civilities of that kind, I trust that such civilities as are shown will include the members of the Council of the Empire, the Duma, and the other branches of the State. If that is so, there can be 329 no misconception. The Fleet goes without reference to the internal affairs of Russia. It goes to pay its compliment to the best of its ability to the Tsar, the head of the great Russian nation. It goes in a friendly spirit to the existing Russian Government, but I cannot imagine that its visit to the Russian ports has been fixed without its being arranged and understood that the visit is also intended for the Russian people. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil took the line that we ought not to take sides. The thing is impossible.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE
said the visit was not so much a question of taking sides as of being interpreted by the people as the taking of sides.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
I cannot believe that this interpretation will be made, and I am in doubts whether that interpretation will be largely shared. But apart from the taking of sides, I ask would it be possible not to make it seem that there was a taking of sides if the Fleet did not visit the Russian ports? I look forward to increasing our good relations with the Russian Government and the Russian people. There is one safe rule to follow, and that is as far as we can to avoid comment and all interference. The agrarian question alone in Russia is probably more widespread, and on a larger scale perhaps, causing more acute distress, than any agrarian question we have known in the United Kingdom, and that is saying a good deal. The political troubles we all know, and we all realise that Russia is passing through a critical and difficult time—difficult for the people and difficult for the Government. Now for the first time she has her Parliament, and it seems to me through all that has happened there are signs of a vitality, energy, and an ability to work her way through to a great future. I am quite sure that the best thing we can do is to go on as we have been doing, trying to remove political difficulties which may exist between us, discussing difficult questions—difficult frontier questions—when they arise, preventing them from becoming difficult and clearing them away altogether when we can, which can do nothing but good; but so far as our ordinary action, visits of the Fleet, or anything else, is concerned, to go 330 on our way without reference to internal difficulties in Russia in the belief that our sympathy, our help, can best be given by not interfering, and that sometimes as the best help in these matters is the least interference, so the best sympathy is silence.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. J. M. ROBERTSON
asked what limit was to be set to the veto on discussion by the plea of danger from fanatical movements, and did the Foreign Secretary quite realise what he had himself done by making this plea. Was it possible to give a greater stimulus to anything like a dangerous movement than was given by this avowal?
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.