HL Deb 25 June 1858 vol 151 cc374-6

rose to ask his noble Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies (the Earl of Carnarvon) two questions which he had kindly undertaken to answer that night. The first was, when it was probable that the papers he had lately moved for on the subject of coolie emigration would be laid upon the table of the House? And the second was, whether, as it must necessarily be some time before those papers could be ready, after the statement which his noble Friend made to the House of the degree to which the Government was already cognizant of the enormous evils attending the exportation of coolies to foreign parts, they would not, on their own responsibility, and without waiting for the action of Parliament, take such measures as they might see to be necessary for the purifying of the trade? He was the more anxious that Her Majesty's Government should bestir themselves upon this subject, because it was not only important that this immediate evil of kidnapping, the coolies from their own homes should be checked on its own account, but also because the free and legitimate emigration of those coolies who were willing to go, and which, as he stated the other night, he held to be a matter of the first importance, was checked and discouraged by the continuance of those kidnapping practices to which he had alluded. While on this subject, he must say he felt it difficult to account for the misrepresentations of what he and others had said on a former night on this subject. There were persons who endeavoured to represent that he and those who thought with him were opposed to the emigration of the free and willing coolies, and that they desired that that source of free labour should be sealed up to our Colonies. Their Lordships would recollect, that when he addressed them the other night on this subject, he stated with how much pleasure he had learned that the British Government had, by their regulations, so arranged the voyage that the emigration was attended not only with advantage to the planters, especially in the Mauritius, but to the coolies themselves. And it was not only the coolies that went abroad and the planters to whom they went that were benefited, but there was this other advantage—that many of these men, having made money in the Colonies, returned to their native homes, and that they by their very earning of that money had learnt many of the habits of civilized life, and some, at the least, of the principles of Christianity; so that they returned to their own country as the most effectual pioneers of civilization and Christianity that their land could be favoured with. That seemed to him to be one of the main advantages of the emigration; but that advantage was perilled if there grew up in the native mind an association of this emigration with the fraud and violence, and kidnapping, with which the other mode of exportation was tainted. He hoped, therefore, that not a day would be lost in guarding against those evils which his noble Friend had stated so strongly to the House that he would not attempt to add by a single word to the strength of those statements.


said, his answer would be very simple. With regard to the papers, every despatch would be used in their production; but, at the same time, the House knew very well that papers like these, of considerable bulk, required time for their publication. He hoped, however, that those papers would be upon their Lordships' table in the course of ten days at the farthest. As to the other point to which his right rev. Friend had alluded, it was right he should say that a measure was at this moment under the consideration of his right hon. Friend at the head of the Colonial Department, and he hoped it would be in his power early in the course of the next week to lay it upon their Lordships' table and to ask them to give it a first reading.


said, he was very glad that his right rev. Friend had made this statement, for he also had been misrepresented in a way that was perfectly incredible, especially considering the manner in which the subject had been brought before their Lordships the other night. He would remind their Lordships that he then said he had not the least objection to the legitimate—he would not say exportation —but the legitimate emigration of the coolies to the Mauritius, and even to Guiana; and he had illustrated his case by comparing the state of the African slave trade a few years ago before this emigration system had been sanctioned—when 25,000 Africans had been imported, notwithstanding that it was a capital felony to engage in the slave trade—and what it had been since. What he condemned was the exportation of coolies by fraud and kidnapping to foreign countries where there was no possibility of watching over their shipment or the treatment they received when in those foreign settlements. His noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough), when he was Governor General of India, was fully aware of the difference between these two modes of obtaining coolies, for it was he that first called his (Lord Brougham's) attention to the grievous evils that were quite certain to happen if the coolies were allowed to be carried off to foreign settlements where there was no consul, no agent, no official settlement of any kind, no security whatever that the contract entered into with them would be performed or that they would be treated with common humanity. Therefore, he suggested that the sure remedy lay in a narrow compass, and could be easily carried into effect—it was the absolute prohibition of the transportation of coolies either from India or China to foreign settlements. Let that be put down, and all that would then remain would be the fair and legitimate emigration of coolies to our own Colonies, to which no objection could be made.

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