HL Deb 16 June 1874 vol 219 cc1666-8

said, that as the recent disturbances in Natal and the trial which had resulted in the condemnation of one Kaffir Chief who had instigated the rebellion against the Government, had given rise to considerable interest in this country; and as the Colonial Office were now possibly in possession of the details, he wished to ask his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies, Whether there were any Papers referring to those matters which he could lay on the Table of the House?


said, the Question put to him by his noble Friend had been asked more than once in the other House of Parliament. He was not surprised that some interest should be felt on the subject, but up to this time he had felt disinclined to produce any Papers relating to it, because the Correspondence showed that there had been very warm feelings on both sides, and he was apprehensive that its production—especially as it was as yet incomplete—might tend to produce prejudiced views. He had, however, been in communication with his noble Friend and other persons with reference to this Correspondence; and, after a careful consideration of the matter, he now saw his way to laying on the Table a first instalment of the Papers without any public inconvenience. This instalment would contain the history of the disturbance, or the insurrection, as his noble Friend called it—for himself he hardly knew what to call it—and also an account of how it was suppressed, of the trial of the Kaffir Chief, and of the course adopted towards the prisoners. He had mentioned that there had been a good deal of warm feeling on both sides. On the one hand, there were allegations of undue severity, and, on the other, those allegations were denied. It was found impossible to allow the prisoner the benefit of counsel. He regretted that should have occurred; but there were technical difficulties, and the advocate felt himself unable to conform to the regulations of the Court and so to be justified in undertaking the defence of the prisoner. He thought this was unfortunate; but he had since heard—not officially, but through the usual sources of public information—that in the ease which had been reserved Bishop Colenso, in default of a paid advocate accepting the defence, intended to argue the question for the prisoner. There had recently been received a letter addressed to the Colonial Office by Captain Lucas, who was in command of a part of the forces—indeed, he believed he had the command of the whole of them at one time—in which that gallant Officer gave a pointed denial to the statement that there had been unnecessary severity. After he should have laid on the Table the instalment of the Papers, there would be a certain gap in the history between the issue of the trial and the next proceedings. He had made inquiries which had not yet been answered. In the meantime he had studiously refrained from expressing any opinion or pronouncing any judgment on the affair; and he hoped Parliament would also refrain from expressing an opinion on it while it was still sub judice.

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