HL Deb 13 March 1882 vol 267 cc708-24

, on rising to call the attention of the House to the Royal Charter granted on 8th November 1881 to the Company calling itself the North British Borneo Company, said, that if he did not hold in his hand The London Gazette of the 8th of November, 1881, he should scarcely venture to bring this question forward, lest their Lordships should think him the victim of some deception, or endeavouring to mislead their Lordships. They were all aware that the East was the land of adventure—that there individuals rose suddenly from obscurity to the summits of fortune; but this Gazette contained the history of a change almost without parallel. He read there how a merchant in China, of a house long enjoying the greatest commercial repute, but of no political importance, suddenly emerged from his obscurity to become practically a Sovereign Prince of a country on the North Coast of Borneo, containing about 30,000 square miles, with a seaboard of 500 miles, and a jurisdiction extending over three leagues from the shore, together with all the adjacent islands. Indeed, as it was well observed, "this Gazette almost took their breath away." The history of this transaction was this:—It seemed that in 1865 an American trading Company obtained from the Sultan of Borneo a 10 years' lease of this same territory. In 1875, when this lease was about to expire, Mr. Alfred Dent, of the eminent Chinese house of Messrs. Dent and Co., who had from time to time visited Borneo, thought it was a favourable moment to oust the American Company, and, at the cost of a large annual tribute, to purchase the whole territory. It was a bold idea, and it succeeded. There were no less than three different grants from the Sultans of Brunei and Sulu, and a fourth by the Prime Minister, the Pangeran Tumongong. For the terms of these grants and the extraordinary powers they conferred on Mr. Alfred Dent, he would now refer to The Gazette. The Petition stated— That on the 29th day of December, 1877. the Sultan of Brunei, in the island of Borneo, made and issued to the petitioner, Alfred Dent and another, or one of them, three several grants of territories, lands, and islands therein mentioned, and a commission. And whereas the said Petition further states that by the first of the grants aforesaid the Sultan of Brunei granted to the grantees, co-jointly, their heirs and associates, successors, or assigns, all the territory and land belonging to the Sultan on the West Coast of Borneo, comprising Gaya Bay from Gaya Head to Loutut Point, including Sapangar Bay, and Gaya Bay, and Sapangar Island, and Gaya Island, and all the other islands within the limits of the harbour and within three marine leagues of the coast, likewise the province and territory of Pappar adjoining the province of Benoni, and belonging to the Sultan as his private property. …. By the second of the grants aforesaid, the Sultan of Brunei granted to the grantees co-jointly, their heirs, associates, successors, or assigns, all the territories belonging to the Sultan from the Sulaman River, on the North-West Coast of Borneo, unto the River Paitan, on the North-East Coast of the island, containing 21 States, together with the island of Banguey, and all the other islands within three marine leagues of the coast, for their own exclusive uses and purposes. The grant then went on to provide that the grantees should pay the Sultan, his heirs, and successors, the sum of $ 6,000 per annum. Further— By the third of the grants aforesaid, the Sultan of Brunei granted to the grantees, their heirs, associates, successors, or assigns, all the following territories belonging to the kingdom of Brunei, and comprising the States of Paitan, Sugut, Bangaya, Labuk, Sandakan, Kina, Batangan, Mumiang, and all the territories as far as the Sibuco River, with all the islands within three leagues of the coast belonging thereto, for their own exclusive and absolute uses and purposes; and in consideration of that grant the grantees promised to pay co-jointly and severally as compensation the sum of 2,000 dollars per annum. It was further declared— That the Sultan had nominated and appointed, and thereby did nominate and appoint, the same grantee supreme ruler of the above-named territories, with the title of Maharajah of Sabah (North Borneo) and Rajah of Gaya and Sandakan, with power of life and death over the inhabitants, with all the absolute rights of property vested in the Sultan over the soil of the country, and the right to dispose of the same, as well as the rights over the pro- ductions of the country, whether mineral, vegetable, or animal, with the rights of making laws, coining money, creating an army and navy, levying customs rates on home and foreign trade, and shipping and other dues and taxes on the inhabitants, as to him might seem good or expedient, together with all other powers and rights usually exercised by and belonging to sovereign rulers, and which the Sultan thereby delegated to him of his own free will. It was also stated in the Petition that by the grant— The Sultan called upon all foreign nations with whom he had formed friendly treaties or alliances, and he commanded all the datoos, nobles, governors, chiefs, and people owing allegiance to him in the said territories, to receive and acknowledge the said Datu Bandahara as supreme ruler over the said States, and to obey his commands and respect his authority therein as the Sultan's own; and in case of the death or retirement from office of the said Datu Bandahara, then his duly-appointed successor in the office of supreme ruler and governor-in-chief of the Company's territories in Borneo should likewise, if appointed thereto by the Company, succeed to the title of Datu Bandahara and Rajah of Sandakan and all the powers above enumerated be vested in him. They now arrived at the second act of this drama. Mr. Alfred Dent, as they saw, awoke one morning to find himself a Sovereign Prince; but he was soon oppressed by his own greatness, and resolved that others should share his honours and responsibilities, so he founded a Company called the North British Borneo Company, and consisting of the following names:—Sir Rutherford Alcock, K. C. B., Richard Biddulph Martin, M. P., Richard Charles Mayne, C. B., and William Henry Macleod Read. The 1st clause of this Company's articles of association was the most remarkable, and required much explanation— To purchase from Alfred Dent, his interests and powers in, over, and affecting territories, lands, and property in Borneo, and Islands lying near thereto, including Labuan. Did the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies know that sovereign power of life and death in Labuan as well as Borneo was conceded? And this brought him (Lord Lamington) to the third act of this Eastern transformation play, when a Royal Charter was granted to the Company. Before, however, he touched on the terms of that Charter, he wished to recite to their Lordships what was the position of the island of Borneo. The earliest settlers were the Dutch and Portuguese; but Spain also had claims of territory; and for the last 40 years this country had had an interest in the island by the cession of Labuan to Great Britain, and of Sarawak to Sir James Brooke, who first planted the British flag in Borneo. He was one of those men, like the adventurers of old, who dared much, not for personal objects, but in the spirit of Sir Stamford Raffles; there was no more interesting study than the history of the early struggles of Sir James Brooke; but not only did he fail to receive any Royal Charter, but he was the victim of cruel persecutions, and the chief charge made against him by Mr. Hume and others was, that his was a commercial enter-prize, whereas, on the contrary, all commercial interests were subordinate to those of civilization; and, although his great and good work had been carried on so successfully by his nephew, the present Rajah, the slight support he received from the Government by the presence of a British Consul at Sarawak had, he understood, been withdrawn within the last few years. And now, as to this Charter, he thought their Lordships would be startled at the magnitude of the concessions made by it. In some respects it exceeded the conditions granted to the East India Company. The only similar charter was that given to William Paterson, of the Isthmus of Darien Company, and the result was certainly not encouraging; and in the same way, the present concession might prove to be most disastrous. He thought that the Government would be glad of the opportunity of more clearly defining the powers of the Company. He turned again to The GazetteTransfer to Company of Grants and Commissions.—1. The said British North Borneo Company (in this our Charter referred to as the Company) is hereby authorized and empowered to acquire by purchase or other lawful means from the British North Borneo Provisional Association (Limited), the full benefit of the several grants and commissions aforesaid, or any of them, as the same is vested in that association, and all interests and powers of that association thereunder, and all interests and powers vested in that association in, over, or affecting the territories, lands, and property comprised in those several grants or in, over, or affecting any territories, lands, or property in Borneo, or in any island lying near thereto, including Labuan, and to hold, use, enjoy, and exercise the same for the purposes and on the terms of this, our Charter. The General Powers vested in the Company comprised authority— To acquire and take by purchase, cession, or other lawful means, other interests or powers in, over, or affecting the territories, lands, or property comprised in the several grants aforesaid, or any interests, or powers whatever in, over, or affecting other territories, lands, or property in the region aforesaid; and to hold, use, enjoy, and exercise the same for the purposes and on the terms of this our Charter. To farm out for revenue purposes the right to sell in the Company's territories spirits, tobacco, opium, salt, or other commodities. To take and hold, without licence in mortmain or other authority than this our Charter, messuages and hereditaments in England and in any of our Colonies or Possessions and elsewhere, convenient for carrying on the management of the affairs of the Company, and to dispose from time to time of any such messuages and hereditaments when not required for that purpose. To do all lawful things incidental or conducive to the exercise or enjoyment of the authorities and powers of the Company in this our Charter expressed or referred to or any of them. It seemed to him that the Charter being a voluntary grant, the Government might at least have insisted on more favourable conditions in the Charter. He suggested that it might not yet be too late to do so by means of a supplementary agreement. He would touch very lightly on our relations with foreign Powers, especially Holland and Spain, for all his information was derived from foreign papers. He therefore would not refer to the possibility of any foreign complications, which he hoped would not arise. He had already stated that since 1521 Spain had claimed the Sulu Archipelago, and he saw The Liberal asserted that the Sultan was a vassal of Spain, and in the Chamber, the Minister said that Spain had protested against the English occupation of Borneo, and that no country had rights on the Northern Coast superior to Spain. He had no fault to find with the Government in the matter. One of the accusations brought against the late Government was that it was too ambitious, and involved the country in new responsibilities; but he was pleased to see that some part of Lord Beaconsfield's mantle had fallen on noble Lords opposite, and that, to some extent, they might be congratulated on the fact that they were also developing an Imperial policy—only instead of a new Cyprus we had a new Borneo, and an interest in North Borneo instead of Suez Canal shares. He concluded we should now hear no more of the cession of Colonies and the sacrifice of dominion; but he thought, however much we might approve of an Imperial policy, we might ask whether the Government had fully considered the complications which might arise from granting a commercial Company a Charter, the most extensive in its powers that was ever granted by the Crown?


My Lords, although I think the noble Lord opposite (Lord Lamington) might have waited until the Papers on the question were laid on the Table to-morrow or Wednesday, I do not complain that the matter has been brought forward now, particularly in the vein of cheerful pleasantry which the noble Lord has adopted. I am glad the noble Lord has given me an opportunity to make some observations in explanation of a subject about which there appears to have been some misconception and some exaggerated alarm. Borneo is, as your Lordships are well aware, one of the largest, if not the largest, island in the world, if Australia be properly described as a continent. Borneo has vast national resources, and abounds in mineral and vegetable riches. It has long been a subject of jealous observation between this country, the Dutch, the Spaniards, and the Portuguese, and has been colonized partially by each of those Powers. In fact, the East India Company had Treaties regarding Borneo in the last century. Since the Peace of 1814, however, the English and Dutch have alone maintained establishments there. But for more than 60 years diplomatic communications have been going on in regard to it. It is not necessary for me to describe them in detail. It is sufficient to state that under successive Governments the British contentions have been of a perfectly consistent character. During that time the Dutch have made immense acquisitions, not only in the islands south of the Straits of Singapore, but also in the South of Borneo. The claims of Spain, as lately developed, would, if they had been verified, have placed the whole of the islands of the Eastern Archipelago, extending 2,000 miles in one direction, and 2,500 in another, with the exception of the land lying on the track of our immense trade with China and Australia, the Straits Settlements, Labuan and Sarawak, en- tirely in the power of those two nations, with both of whom we desire to be on the most friendly terms, but whose commercial arrangements are far from being as liberal as our own. It was under those circumstances that my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby), when he was Foreign Secretary, considered it to be his duty to take a firm stand as to the claim of Spain. Some communications followed, and they were spread over considerable time, and, in 1877, a Protocol was signed by which England and Germany agreed with Spain as to a modus vivendi, securing the freedom of navigation and commerce to this country in the Sulu Archipelago, but without an acknowledgment of Spanish sovereignty. Subsequently, however, to this Protocol, England and Germany thought they had reason to complain of acts which appeared to them entirely in disaccord with its provisions, and which showed that the Spaniards intended to occupy portions of North Borneo. The Dutch, on the other hand, made new claims, being alarmed by concessions which had been made by the Sultan of Borneo and of Sulu to Mr. Dent, who, on his part, in 1878, applied to Her Majesty's Government for a Charter of Incorporation. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury), the then Foreign Secretary, also held firm language to the Spanish Government, repudiating their claim to any portion of North Borneo, stating that the claim of the British Government was a stronger one, if the independence of the Sultan was to terminate in favour of any European country. He held language equally firm to Holland. Germany concurred in these views. Mr. Dent again pressed for a decision on his application for a Charter, which, during the preceding two years, had not been unfavourably received by the noble Marquess, who, I think, with propriety, considered that it was matter to be finally decided by the incoming instead of the outgoing Administration. The problem left to us was not an easy one to decide. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Lamington) has said there has been a great change of policy on the part of the Government, and he called it an Imperial policy. Now, no one feels stronger than I do with regard to the great responsibility which there must be in reference to the government of the island of Borneo. It is not necessary for me to say that Her Majesty's present Government are also deeply impressed with the enormous responsibilities which weigh upon this small island, and the undesirability of recklessly increasing these responsibilities without sufficient cause. But this is not a reason why we should obstinately refuse to consider, on its own merits, any case which may arise. If a case should present itself which promises great advantages to our political and commercial interests, with an absence of reasonable ground for apprehending military or financial burdens, it would be the act of doctrinaires, and not of statesmen, to refuse to go into an examination of such a case. There seemed to be three courses open to us—either ourselves to annex this vast territory; to leave it to Mr. Dent and the important Company which he represented to make the best of the concession which had been granted to them—in other words, we might have left things to take their own course—or to leave the whole country to its almost inevitable absorption by foreign nations. There were grave objections to the first and third courses that did not appear to apply to the second. We learned not only from Mr. Dent, but from the concurrent reports of our Consular and of our naval authorities, the most satisfactory account of the progress, the development, and the civilization of the country under the Company. Order prevailed, Englishmen have been cordially received, and the authority of the Resident was everywhere acknowledged. It is a country which, from its climate, is not fitted for European labour; but it has a population, and may receive other immigrants, who, under the honest and intelligent supervision of Europeans, may produce great results. Mr. Dent had his concession and could act under it. The Royal Charter had no legal effect, except to give the Company incorporation. But it was possible for it to get incorporated under the Companies Acts. I have heard it said that it is unconstitutional to have conferred this Charter without consulting Parliament. That objection has certainly not presented itself either to the Foreign Office, to the Council Office, or to the Colonial Office, to the Cabinet, to the learned Lord on the Woolsack, or to the Law Officers, and for the simple reason that the Charter, in this instance, con- tained no powers beyond those which Mr. Dent and his partners might have procured by simply putting themselves under the Companies Act. Your Lordships know that in some of our Colonies—New Zealand, for instance—there are large Companies which possess extensive territories, and the Charter obtained by Mr. Dent does not go beyond those obtained by those Companies. The Royal Charter gives no additional powers to the Company. It is of a restrictive character. We obtain a negative control over the Company with regard to their general treatment of the Natives and to their dealings with foreign Powers. We incur no obligation to give them military assistance, except that which we give to all Englishmen engaged in trade in uncivilized countries. The noble Lord complains that our position and that of the Company is not sufficiently defined with regard to this Charter—that our duties and obligations are vague. I must join issue with the noble Lord. The advice of the Law Officers was sought for in the drafting of the Charter, and their attention particularly drawn to the salient points. As to military protection expected or hoped for by the Company, they have distinctly stated that the Charter would entail no responsibility upon Her Majesty's Government for the protection of the country, beyond that which is inseparable from the nationality of those engaged in developing its resources. Her Majesty's Government are advised that they are not pledged by the Charter to afford any greater amount of protection or support to the Company than would be extended to it if it were simply incorporated under the Companies Act. More than this, the Company have stated, they do not expect or hope for under the Charter. In the case of the Hudson's Bay Company and the New Zealand Companies, the Crown had dominion over the respective countries. That fact alone entailed the duty of providing for their military defence. In the present case, there is no dominion over North Borneo from which such an obligation can flow. The granting this Charter does not vest in Her Majesty any Sovereignty over the territory, which remains under the suzerainty of the Sultan, although he has delegated the administrative power to the Association. The grant of the Charter has moral ad- vantages for the Company, but legally it does nothing for it except turn it into a body corporate with perpetual succession. On the other hand, it imposes considerable restrictions upon the Association. It establishes a control over them which would not have existed if they had incorporated themselves under the Companies Act. But this control is of a negative character. It was first proposed to follow the precedent of the Eastern Archipelago Company, and to provide that the Company should obey the directions of the Secretary of State. But we decided that the power should be confined to a power of objection and dissent in matters affecting foreign Powers and the treatment of the Natives—confined, in fact, to certain limited matters in which the conduct of the Company might conflict with the views and policy of the Government, or with public opinion in this country. But this negative power is strong, and any disregard of the objections of the Government entails the possible cancelment of the Charter. I trust that this controlling power will not be called into effect; but its existence is most important. With regard to an objection raised by the noble Lord as to Mr. Dent being connected with the opium trade, the great China opium firm of Dent and Co. wound up its affairs more than 10 years ago, and this Mr. Dent never belonged to it. Opium would have been grown by the Natives under this Association whether a Charter had been granted or not. A monopoly can alone restrain the abuse of it, excepting by a total and sudden prohibition, which would cause the greatest resistance on the part of the Natives. This monopoly has been found necessary at Hong Kong and Singapore. I am bound to say that one of the greatest objections which have been brought forward against the grant of this Charter is that complications might arise with other Powers. I am inclined to believe that the delay in granting the Charter on the part of the late Government was principally caused by this difficulty. It was one of considerable weight; but I am happy to say that the final result will be rather an avoidance of these difficulties than any increase of them. Germany has formally stated that she has no objection to raise to the course which we have pursued. Both Spain and Holland entered protests. Your Lordships will see by the Correspondence that the question was fully argued with Holland, and that the Dutch Minister made a statement in the Chambers which I felt it my duty to acknowledge as being of a very statesmanlike and friendly character. The Correpondence has ended entirely in that tone, and also with an assurance from Holland that the incident may be considered as finally closed. The Spanish Government took up the subject warmly; but in the last discussion in their Parliament they announced their intention of treating the matter as an accomplished fact. Since then we have discussed a further arrangement by which we should acknowledge the sovereignty of Spain over Sulu, subject to provisions of perfect liberty to our trade and navigation, while they would withdraw all claim to sovereignty in North Borneo, and the matter will thus, I have every reason to believe, be closed in a way perfectly satisfactory to Germany, Spain, and ourselves. Borneo is a most valuable and important part of the world. Though its climate is such as to prevent the use of European labour, it is well adapted to labour of a different sort; and if the resources of the country are developed under the honest and intelligent supervision of a certain number of Europeans, I believe that great results may be achieved, while no additional burden, either military or financial, will be thrown upon this country.


said, he thought the House was under an obligation to his noble Friend behind him (Lord Lamington) for having brought the question forward, as it was an important one and might be still more so in the future. But the discussion must be carried on under disadvantageous conditions, as there were no Papers upon which to found an opinion. Still the House could not have failed to hear with interest the statement of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) with regard to the position taken up by different foreign countries in connection with this matter, and they would be able to reserve their judgment until the Papers were before them. As he (the Earl of Carnarvon) understood the question, there were really four parties to be considered, but of two of these the statement of the noble Earl disposed. The parties to whom he referred were Hol- land, Spain, and the Sultans of Sulu and Brunei. The annexations which Holland had made in the last 30 or 40 years were simply enormous. They stretched 2,000 miles in one direction and still further in another. It was impossible not to remember that Holland had not shown, and, indeed, did not possess, the power to make use of the territory she had acquired. Though he said this, he certainly bore Holland no ill-will, and considered her an excellent neighbour in that part of the world. He had no wish that she should lose her possessions there, or that her power should be curtailed. It would, on the other hand, show a very ill-founded and mistaken notion of her own interests if she were to indulge in any jealousy of England. She was a very reasonable neighbour to us, and we, in our turn, were very good neighbours to her. He was very glad to hear that Spain had practically confined herself to a formal protest against the proposed step. He could not conceive how Spain could have even the smallest possible case in such a matter as that which was under their consideration. There was a difference between the position of the Spanish nation and the Spanish Government, and he therefore drew a distinction between the action of individual captains in the Spanish Navy and the intentions of the Spanish Government. The interference with freedom of trade by Spanish cruisers in Eastern waters had been sometimes simply intolerable. He would not say that it had been authorized by the Spanish Government. Mention had been made by the noble Earl opposite of the joint action of Germany with ourselves in that matter. He (the Earl of Carnarvon) had heard that statement with pleasure, for it was very desirable that there should be co-operation among Powers in that part of the world. He thought the Government might well take advantage of the recent interchange of amicable communications between Spain and this country, to ask whether the Spanish Government would consent to a demarcation of territorial rights? He believed that some understanding had been come to on the subject in 1877 and 1878, and he should like to know how far it had been carried out? He maintained that it would be desirable to place the matter upon a less shifting basis than that which it occupied at present. With regard to the position of the Sultan of Brunei, he would point out that the Sultan was already actually under a Treaty obligation not to alienate territory without the consent of the British Government; and so far from objecting to this country, he desired to see all the accessories of English Government established in his territory, believing that he would be a gainer to a large extent. He (the Earl of Carnarvon) would go so far as to say this, that it would have been not only disastrous to the Natives and the population in that part of the world, but a source of great inconvenience and risk to ourselves if any other country than England had been lodged in the North-eastern part of Borneo, and there could be no doubt that if we had not established our position there, some other European Power would. It was very desirable that they should see the Papers that were promised, and he was convinced the more closely they looked into this matter the more satisfied they would be, and the more highly they would appreciate the advantages gained by this country under the Charter. Risks and responsibilities should not be lightly incurred, and he quite agreed with the noble Earl opposite that the matter should be judged on its own merits; but, on the other hand, it was very important that this country should recognize what an enormous stake it had in the trade that passed through these waters. The trade from the West between England and China was simply vast; but there was also the trade growing up between China and Australia, which was very considerable. There could be no doubt that their position in the North-east of Borneo, whether looked at as a matter of peace or of war, was of very great consequence. He could not, of course, speak with the same authority as the noble Earl; but he believed the result of this settlement had been extremely advantageous already. Great improvements had been made, piracy had diminished, murders and other crimes had been reduced, kidnapping had been brought almost to an. end, human sacrifices had disappeared, and there was a general indication of prosperity. No force had been used; on the contrary, taxes had been imposed, and assented to without any remonstrance on the part of the Natives. He had more than once had to question the policy of the Colonial Government; but in this particular case, he could do nothing but congratulate them on the policy they had adopted, and as one who had held the Office of Colonial Secretary, he gave them his cordial support in the matter. With regard to the powers granted to the Company, what the noble Earl said about the Charter was quite true. The Company might have gone elsewhere, or it might have registered itself under the Joint Stock Companies Act; but so far as the Charter went it really granted no new powers to the Company; it recognized the status of the Company under the Sultans of Sulu and Bornei, and it imposed restrictions, so that the Company would not be able to abuse those powers if if it were disposed to do so. Objections had been raised, especially with respect to the monopoly in opium; but that was no new complaint, and the fact that the monopoly existed would tend rather to diminish than to increase its general consumption. Besides, a higher tax was imposed by the Company upon opium; and there was no danger in the direction pointed out by his noble Friend. Objection had also been raised with respect to the extensive powers granted to the Company; but if there was to be any government worthy of the name, they could hardly give much less power than that obtained by the Company under the Charter; and it did not appear that the Company had ever used their powers improperly, or diversely from the wishes of the Government, or interests of the country. In his opinion there was a very good defence for the course which had been taken, and it would place the island very much in the position in which it was when governed by Governor Brooke, if we had allowed it to drop into the hands of some barbarous Chief. He did not see how the Government could have acted otherwise than they had done, and he believed they had taken the only course open to them. They would have done a great wrong if they had allowed this territory to pass into the hands of any foreign State. He believed that the possession would be a valuable one both in peace and war, and as such he welcomed its acquisition.


said, he concurred with the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) in thinking that the Govern- ment had taken the proper course in this matter. It was a curious thing that some years ago, when the late Mr. Hume was quoting the testimony of Mr. Burn, the captain of a small trading schooner, as to the non-existence of piracy in Borneo, that gentleman was having his head cut off by some of the very men he maintained had no existence; and the ship to which he (Lord Elphinstone) belonged was sent to avenge his death. The chief pirate afterwards unhesitatingly avowed that had not the most of his men been away on a piratical expedition not a man of his (Lord Elphinstone's) party would have been allowed to return to their ship alive. There was a vast contrast between the state of that country in 1851 and 1881. When he visited it at the former date the country was then in a very lawless state. Piracy was openly acknowledged. To show what North Borneo was at present, he desired to read to the House a few brief extracts from the letters of a gentleman who was well known in North Borneo. Mr. Prior, writing from that country in February, 1881, said he was well satisfied to find that the bare knowledge of an Englishman's presence in the country had sufficed to put a stop to sacrifices and to the cruelties practised in the collection of customs; but, he added, much yet remained to be done. Writing in June, 1881, he stated that when he arrived in the country crime was simply rampant, robbery was rife, and there was no security either for life or property. In so short a time as two years all this had changed. There was a brisk trade doing, two steamers called regularly every month, and crime had almost disappeared. This was the testimony of a gentleman well worthy of the attention of their Lordships. Some years' experience had taught him of the great advantage, geographically and commercially, which the possession of Borneo would confer, for the splendid position of the country and its spacious harbours were well known to the House. Its commercial products resembled those of Ceylon, the latitude of both places being approximately the same, and coffee, the cocoa bean, and sago were very generally grown. The country showed every sign of still further development; and he congratulated the Government upon the course they had pursued in not refusing the Company's request for a Charter.


said, he had extremely little to add to the discussion their Lordships had already listened to. One or two points raised by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Lamington) seemed to require some answer from him. The noble Lord appeared to consider that the Company's Charter contained a clause enabling them to interfere in the Colony of Labuan. The clause in question gave the Company no particular rights whatever. All that the Charter said was that they might have power to purchase lands and property in Labuan, in precisely he same manner as in any other island in the neighbourhood. He need not have said anything about the concession with respect to the opium traffic, if it were not that some extraordinary opinions appeared to prevail on the subject of opium farming. The provision in the Company's Charter merely enabled them to farm out revenue obtained in the usual way from the sale of opium. Farming the tax did not mean a monopoly of growing opium; but by means of farming out the tax the Company would be able to control the opium trade. Similar farms of taxes on opium had existed for many years in Hong Kong, the Straits Settlements, and Labuan; and he never heard of any objection being made to them. With regard to the general question and the alleged impolicy of interfering in the affairs of Borneo, and looking to what was going on in that part of the world, it was only a question of time as to whether some control should be exercised by England or by a foreign Power over this part of Borneo. He could not too strongly assure the House that the Government were opposed to any plan which would enlarge the responsibilities and the charges at present imposed upon this country. But each case must be considered in reference to its own particular circumstances; and the territory in question was peculiarly situated. Its position was a very central one; it might be said to be in a manner derelict, as the Native Sultans exercised very little authority there, and, sooner or later, in all probability sooner rather than later, some foreign Power must intervene. He thought that anybody who had studied all the relations which existed between the different States, both Native and European, in that quarter of the world, must have seen that the only natural conclusion was that this country should undertake this amount of responsibility. It was not the first time that we had interfered in the affairs of Borneo; and we were only now following the line of action which had formerly been pursued. We had entered into a Treaty with the Sultan of Brunei more than 30 years ago, and the policy Her Majesty's Government were now acting upon was a policy which they had pursued for a very long period. With respect to the Dutch possessions in that part of the world, he did not think that it would be contended by anyone that we were under any obligation to the Dutch not to interfere. Our relations with them were regulated by the Treaty of 1825, and he saw no reason why we should not always be good friends with them. He thought that the Dutch, who had in recent years made such great additions to their territories in this quarter, might reasonably acquiesce in the extension of our power. He believed that they were satisfied that we had not taken these steps in hostility or dislike to them—on the contrary, that those we had taken were in their interest as well as our own, and that we should work together in perfect harmony in the exercise of our respective influence in that country. He thought that there was no probability of a recurrence of the disputes which had from time to time arisen between the English and Dutch in that part of the world. Our interest there was peaceful trade and commerce; and he reminded the House that it was probable that conflicts and disturbances would be the result of the introduction of any new power into the Island. As to Spain, as his noble Friend had said, the Government had taken the same view on this question as that taken by their Predecessors—they did not admit in any way that the Spaniards had any rights on the mainland of Borneo; but he was happy to say there was a prospect that all disputes would come to an end in that quarter by the demarcation of a distinct line of boundary. The course taken by the Government was perfectly consistent with the policy which they had followed throughout the world—namely, a policy of promoting peace and tranquillity, instead of increasing the dangers and burdens, already so great, which this country had incurred.