HL Deb 12 May 1884 vol 288 cc3-5

rose to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether any Correspondence had passed between Her Majesty's Government and the German Government or other public authorities in reference to the assumption by the Emperor of Germany of sovereignty over the bay and harbour of Angra Pequena on the West Coast of Africa, and neighbouring territories; and whether, in consequence of this assumption, any previous rights or claims of the Government of this country were abandoned? and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said, it might be known to their Lordships that not only this harbour, but the coast from the Orange River, belonged to England. There seemed to be no question about that, as all the maps so marked it, and our claim had never been disputed. But a year or two ago a German trader, acting for himself or a Company, bought from a Native Chieftain some miles of property inland and along the coast, and he had not only carried on trade there, but had commenced large works and expended much money there, and he sought to recover duties from English traders and merchants going to the same place. Ho had also interfered with English merchants residing on the spot, and had threatened to fire on an English ship, and was only deterred from doing so by the captain running up the English Flag. He did not know what action the German Government had taken on the subject; but it was reported in the news- papers that there was a very strong feeling in Germany in favour of Colonizing the district. It was said that we had never substantiated our claim to the place, and had taken no steps to Colonize it, and it was reported from Berlin that it was considered a very desirable investment for Germany, and that German traders were preparing shipments for the district. It was said that the German gentleman had given under £200 and two guns for the rights he had purchased, and that the Chief who sold them inherited them from his father, who purchased them for a pickaxe. Having visited the place many years ago, he had been struck with the immense facilities it offered for a naval station, and he had been astonished that it had not been used as one. It was the finest harbour along that coast, and the islands opposite the harbour abounded in guano, the deposits of which were now claimed by this gentleman. He had seen 300 vessels anchored there, and nobody had ever disputed our rights. Now, not only the harbour, but the small islands forming part of it, were claimed by this gentleman, or the Company which he represented. He anticipated that it would be said that the coast was valueless, and that we did not want the harbour; that it was not an attractive country, and that it was without water; but if the place were valueless, it would hardly be worth the while of a German gentleman to make large investments there. He was assured by an ex-Governor of the Cape Colony that colonization in that direction was extending, and a report of Captain Spence, a considerable trader, to the Chamber of Commerce at the Cape, dwelt on the advantages of the place for stock-farming, and also on its mining capabilities. Unless something were done, the traffic would go into the hands of the German traders. About two years ago the Admiralty sent a man-of-war to inspect the coast, and since that time copper mines had been discovered in the territory said to be included in the cession to the German gentleman. There could be no doubt as to the advantages of the harbour for a naval station. He looked with regret at the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government in ceding so many parts of Africa and other places. For instance, Delagoa Bay, a magnificent harbour on the east coast, was ceded some years. He should regret if we pursued the same course in this case. He therefore moved for Papers on the subject. He also wished to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether any surveys or reports had been received by him or existed in the archives of the Admiralty in reference to the harbour of Angra Pequena and the neighbouring coasts; and whether, in such case, he would lay the same on the Table of the House?

Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for, Papers relating to the assumption by the Emperor of Germany of sovereignty over the bay and harbour of Angra Pequena, on the West Coast of Africa, and neighbouring territories."—(The Viscount Sidmouth.)


In regard to Delagoa Bay and the coast, I think the noble Viscount must have been misinformed. We never claimed the harbour of Delagoa Bay, and therefore we never ceded it; but there was an arbitration, and it was decided against us. With regard to the noble Viscount's first Question, I have to state that a Correspondence has been going on and is going on between the German Government and our own as to the extent of the claim of this country over the territory in question. The German Government has never assumed any sovereignty over any portion of these territories that I am aware of. The Correspondence is in progress at this moment, and the noble Viscount will understand that I cannot undertake to produce it at once. Perhaps the noble Viscount will allow me to answer the Question he has addressed to my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. I beg to state that all the information possessed by the Admiralty is published in the African Pilot, vol. 2, page 223. I think, therefore, it would be hardly worth while to reprint that information in the shape of a Parliamentary Paper.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.