HL Deb 06 May 1889 vol 335 cc1194-219

My Lords, in bringing this question of Liquor Traffic among the African races before your Lordships' House, on behalf of all the temperance societies of the country, combined with the missionary societies and others who are interested in the matter, I have to call attention to the evils attending the introduction of foreign spirits among native races in Africa, and to appeal to the Government to continue their efforts to mitigate them by restriction and, where possible, by prohibition of the Liqour Traffic. I have been requested to bring this matter before your Lordships by the Committee which represents all the large temperance societies in the country, allied with the missionary societies, who are impressed by the gravity of the case, and are anxious to know what can be done to remedy the evil. Those societies have gained extensive information from all parts of the world, from the most reliable witnesses, and some of that evidence I should very much like to place before your Lordships. I hope I shall not trespass too long upon you if I call attention to a few of the strongest cases which have been brought before them. Debates on the subject took place last year in both Houses of Parliament, and nothing could be more satisfactory than the replies then given by the Members of the Government. I had the honour of accompanying a deputation last year to the Prime Minister, and was delighted to hear the reply of the noble Marquess. There is, however, one sentence in that reply, with regard to which I join issue with the Prime Minister, and that is the sentence wherein he said the Government must proceed with caution and circumspection, and with due respect to the craving for drink which had to be satisfied in Africa. We object to that statement, and assert that the want of drink among the natives is created by the supply. In many cases the natives make their own liquors, but these were as milk and water compared with the abominable stuff imported from this country, America, Portugal, and especially from Germany. In Africa there exists the curse of the slave trade, and the curse of the liquor trade, and some of the natives say that the liquor traffic is almost a greater evil than the slave traffic.: However that may be, it is the duty of all the civilized nations to do what they can to put an end to the curse of the liquor trade. Professor Drummond says Africa is the land of the unemployed; the men do nothing but eat, and the women do the work. Under the great heat prevailing, the drink traffic reduces the natives to absolute ruin and misery. The blackest spots appeared to be on the west and south coasts in the district connected with the Cape. Liquors are poured into that country, and some of the spirits are sold at 4s. 6d. per dozen pint bottles. What is called "superior gin" is sold at 2s. 6d. per dozen pint bottles, and "splendid rum" at 9d. per gallon. These horrible drinks supplied to the natives, under the hot sun beneath which they live, reduces them to misery and ruin. There is no question of moderate drinking with them. They will drink to excess. Former Governments have dealt with this evil, and the present Government should follow their example. Mr. Joseph Thomson, a very reliable witness, says: In the notorious gin trade, however, lies a still greater evil. It is indeed a scandal and a shame, well worthy to be classed with the detested slave trade, in which we had ourselves ever so prominent a part. We talk of civilizing the negro, and introducing the blessings of European trade, while at one and the same time we pour into this unhappy country incredible quantities of gin, rum, gunpowder, and guns. We are so accustomed to hearing a delightful list of useful articles which the negro wants in return for the products of his country that we are apt to think that the trade in spirits must be quite a minor affair. Banish all such pleasing illusions from your minds. The trade in this baleful article is enormous. The appetite for it increases out of all proportion to the desire for better things, and, to our shame be it said, we are ever ready to supply the victims to the utmost, driving them deeper and deeper into the slough of depravity, ruining them body and soul, while at home we talk sanctimoniously as if the introduction of our trade and the elevation of the negro went hand in hand. The time has surely come when, in the interests of our national honour, more energetic efforts should be to suppress the diabolical traffic. There can be no excuse for its continuance, and it is a blot on Christian civilization. From the moment the traveller leaves Liverpool he finds himself in an atmosphere of poisonous spirits. It pervades every corner of the steamer in which he takes passage. He sees the gin and rum disgorged from its capacious holds in thousands of cases at port after port, and he will almost look in vain for a bale of Manchester cotton. On shore he finds the warehouses of the merchants almost exclusively occupied with the same pernicious stuff. In marching through some of the native villages on the Kru Coast, one feels as if in a kind of Hades peopled by brutalised human beings whose punishment it is to be possessed by a never-ending thirst for drink. On all sides you are followed by eager cries of gin, gin, always gin. The line of African coast, dotted over with European settlements, stations, and factories, should be a fringe bright with promise for the future, a fringe which should radiate some of the warmth, the sweetness, and light of civilization, which, slowly extending onward, should tinge the whole heart of the Dark Continent. That is how I would like to describe the influence of the white man on the black; but if I am to speak the truth I must use far different terms. To me that fringe of coast is simply a hot-bed of cancerous roots, which are swiftly growing inward, threatening to turn the entire continent into one huge festering sore, rivalling in magnitude that other great African disease from which that region has suffered for some centuries. I believe, my Lord, that is a very true description of the state of affairs. There is an island of Lagos on the West Coast. It is not a very large place. It is inhabited by 75,000 odd of the natives, it has been a Crown colony for six years, and it is a very unhealthy part of the country. I will quote the statement made in the report of Mr. Johnson— Lagos is a small island on the West Coast of Africa, and has been a Crown colony for the last six years, and it is the key to the Yoruba country, with which it held commercial relations. It has a population of 75,000. Before its cession there was a small amount of liquor traffic carried on because it was a slave-trading port. Since the cession to the British Crown—and that cession was made with the distinct object of suppressing the slave trade and the amelioration of the country—the facility which this government gives to trade has enabled the liquor trade to grow steadily until it has attained at present tremendous proportions. In the town of Lagos, which has 35,000 inhabitants, the Government allow 25 wholesale shops for the sale of this drink. There are 50 licensed places where spirits are sold to the people of the town and district, and then through them to the interior of the country. The farmers bring their produce to Lagos, and they return to their vehicles loaded with rum and gin. Men and women and children all drink, and one result of it is that the people have become utterly demoralized. Their Kings and chiefs have endeavoured by their own laws to put a stop to the importation of this drink; yet they have no power over their people. The people are so demoralized that they will not conform to the wishes of their rulers, and these have been obliged to give way. And then as to the Niger, where we have 250 miles under British protection, there is a large trade done in liquor with tribes some of whom are cannibals and some of the wildest tribes that could possibly be imagined. We were able to introduce missionary work into some of these towns 30 years ago but some of them have been in commercial intercourse with England for 100 years, and although this is' the case we find during those times that the people indulged in cannibalism and other unimaginable vices. Then there is a Report from Mr. W. C. Betts, one of the principal native liquor traders in Sierra Leone:— I am myself a large dealer in spirituous liquors; I have on the road now thousands of gallons of rum and several thousands of demijohns of gin bound for the Northern River countries, where I carry on the greater part of my business. The liquor traffic destroys body and soul together; such slaves have they become to the white man's rum and gin. Rum and gin are their incessant demand and cry. The traffic has so debased them that everywhere they neglect their own comfort. From these reports, my Lords, it is clear that everyone objects to the traffic, speaking from the results in his own part of the country. In the case of the Niger territory the Company have taken steps to prohibit the importation of liquor, and in some parts of their district they have had satisfactory results. The Cape Government Commission on the Liquor Traffic has reported as follows:— The Commission have been deeply impressed with the emphatic and urgent representations contained in nearly all the evidence taken, and especially from the natives themselves, on the evils arising out of the sale and consumption of strong drinks. All this evidence points in the clearest way to the use of spirituous liquors (chiefly ardent spirits, the produce of the distilleries) as an unmitigated evil to the native races, and that no other cause or influence so directly increases idleness and crime and is so completely destructive not only of all progress or improvement, but even of the reasonable hope of any progress or improvement. Those members of the Commission who, for the purpose of taking evidence, had occasion to visit the border districts were eye-witnesses of the mischief, wretchedness, and misery which multiplied facilities for the sale of spirits by licensed canteens in the neighbourhood of native locations are producing. If unchecked, it can only have one result, and that is the entire destruction of that portion of the natives who acquire the taste for brandy. All the better class of natives, and even the heathen and uneducated portion, appear to be conscious of this, and have implored the Commission to suppress the evil which is bringing ruin on themselves and their country. Drink has very much the same effects upon the natives in all parts of Africa; they have the same craving for drink, which is never satisfied, except by some of this horrible stuff. The following extract from an article in the Christian Express, of Lovedale, South Africa, of the 1st of February, 1886, will show what has taken place in Basutoland:— What the state of affairs in Basutoland was six months ago is very well known. 'Drunken Basutoland, Riotous Basutoland!' has been the common talk of all who take any interest in its future. From Caledon to the heart of the Blue Mountains brandy had become a curse under which individuals, families, and the whole tribe were crushed without any visible hope of rescue. And yet, incredible as it may look, matters have suddenly taken a new turn. Our chiefs had all become total abstainers and used now their great influence to oblige their subordinates to renounce strong drinks. It is a fact that for the last six months Letsie, Lerathodi, Mama, Masupha, and all the principal chiefs in Basutoland have not even tasted liquor, and that the bulk of their people have done the same. Strict watch is kept on the border to prevent either the Basutos from going into the Free State and buying brandy there, or the white smugglers entering Basutoland with their accursed merchandize. Canteens, which were very common in Masupha's district, have disappeared, and heavy fines are imposed on those who have been caught in the act of tress-passing against the orders of the powers that be.', My Lords, I am afraid that the Portuguese are great offenders in this matter of importing spirits. They import great quantities, and I am told that in one opium factory on the Zambesi the people employed are paid in spirits. I quite recognize the difficulties which surround this question. In connection with this point, I may quote the evidence of two or three people. Mr. James Irvine, of Liverpool says:— Two hundred and fifty miles of the West Coast of Africa consume 20,000 tuns of spirits a-year—say, 20 ships of 1,000 tuns each. The amazing thing is that all this traffic is conducted in the main by not over a dozen firms, the members of which are excellent men, and many of them, I believe, sincere Christians. Convince them that they are wrong, and induce them to withdraw. What is accomplished? Simply that worse men take their place. I cordially believe that no effort should be spared to stop or reduce the evil. It is the Lord's work, and He can make it succeed in ways unthought of at present by us. My Lords, we are perfectly well aware of the difficulties surrounding this question. Lord Salisbury told us that he was impressed with enormous difficulties in the way, and one cannot help feeling impressed with the extraordinary difficulties on all sides. Mr. Joseph Thomson, a great authority in regard to the West Coast of Africa, says:— There is something more required than to bring a British public to a proper sense of its duty in this matter. To be of any use, the entire conscience of Europe must be roused. Britain does not hold one-tenth of the African coast line, and her settlements are broken into by those of France, Germany, and Portugal. Hence, merely to stop the trade or heavily handicap it in our colonies, will only be to invite it to enter by the back door from French, German, or Portugese sources. It is one thing to arouse a trade or an appetite, and another thing to stop either. If you do not supply the natives with gin they will find a thousand ways of getting it from other people. Therefore, to be effectual you must get all the countries of Europe to work in concert with you. How difficult this task will be is shown by the Berlin Conference, which would not prohibit the introduction of gin into the Congo, nor permit the suppression of the existing trade in the Niger, though it was, curiously enough, the company itself which worked the Niger trade that wanted the suppression. Well then my Lords, there was a rather curious letter on the subject from the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, re- ceived by the Rev. R. Lang, of the Church Missionary Society, on June 18th, 1886:— Honoured Sir,—In answer to yours of the 10th inst., I beg to state that the Chamber of Commerce has had no opportunity to go into the question of the liquor traffic in Africa, nor is it known to them that in any part of Africa spirituous liquors are used as a currency and a circulating medium with the natives. The question of the liquor traffic has been brought before the public through the Press, and frequently by the Imperial Diet warmly discussed. Merchants of this place interested in the African trade are of opinion that measures for the limiting of this trade are injurious to the development of the trade with those countries, and that the importation of those liquors as carried on at present has no injurious effect upon the natives. The assertions made by opponents that the chief liquors imported into Africa are deleterious on account of ingredients contained in them have been disproved by an efficial investigation, made upon ordinary so-called trade rum which was sent in by the Governor of the Cameroons. Yours respectfully, Dr. GUTSCHAM, Secretary. My Lords, that shows the state of feeling in very influential quarters where the means of obtaining evidence is possessed, and it shows that the information so obtained has considerable influence in those quarters. The trade in spirituous liquors may be a very profitable one. No doubt great profits are made by it, but in the long run it acts injuriously to commerce in all articles which are conducive to the comfort, welfare, and happiness of the native inhabitants. Those who know Africa well know that it acts in the long run prejudicially to the interests of legitimate trade. The Rev. Hugh Goldie, 40 years a missionary in Old Calabar, said:— The moral aspect of the question is supreme; but its economical aspect is also very important. Commerce is employed as a means of elevating Africa; and if of a useful kind is a most powerful means. But in opening new roads for our manufactures we open new channels to the destructive flood, so that the benefit intended to be conferred is neutralized by the accompanying evil. One principal cause of the depression of trade existing at present in this country is doubtless, as is alleged, the vast amount of money spent in intoxicating drink. A friend mentioned to me lately that a member of a Glasgow firm stated to him that he formerly employed a large number of looms weaving cloth for the African market; now he has not one. A trader in the Calabar River wrote recently to this principals to send no more cloth—drink was the artice in demand. Mr. Joseph Thomson in, his recent journey into the Niger regions, found this evil so abounding therein that it will render hopeless the demand, anticipated by some, by the natives for unlimited supplies of calico, as effectually as will the sterility of the eastern countries through which he formerly travelled. In all its effects, moral and economical, this traffic is only evil—impeding the work of the Church at home, marring her mission work abroad, and destroying beneficial industry. The Christian community in past times aroused the nation to abolish the slave trade and slavery in British territory. A like task is now before it, the awakening of the nation to abolish this drink traffic. Mr. Joseph Thomson again says— Let us for a moment lay aside questions of Christian morality and ask ourselves if this trade in spirits can be a paying one. Looked at superficially there seems to be no possibility of doubting that to raise a paying trade rapidly there is absolutely nothing like spirits. But let us ask, Is that a trade which will continue to grow? Will it pay in the long run? Will commerce thrive and branch out? Will the country flourish under such a system?' To these questions I answer emphatically, No! a thousand times no! A trade which commences with gin will continue with gin and will end with gin. Industry and thrift cannot be found in such company, and with the absence of these there can be no development of the mineral and vegetable riches of the country. In these facts lies the secret of the astoundingly small progress our West Coast Settlements have made through all the long period they have been in our hands. My Lords, something may be done in this matter, and what may be done was suggested by the North Sea Fisheries Convention in 1887. There are at present some 11,000 men and boy engaged in the deep sea trade of the German Ocean, exposed to all weather at all seasons, and in winter it was the most boisterous and uncongenial piece of water in those latitudes. By the North Sea Fisheries Bill the liquor traffic is forbidden in the territorial waters of Great Britain, and by the international agreement between Great Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Denmark, which applies to that part of the North Sea outside territorial limits, the sale of spirits to fishermen and other persons on board fishing vessels is prohibited; fishermen are equally forbidden to buy spirits; the exchange or barter for spirits of any article, especially the fish caught, nets, or any part of the gear or "equiopage" of the fishing boat, is also prohibited. Vessels which ply on the North Sea for the purpose of selling to fishermen other articles have to be licensed by the 'Government of their own country, and are liable to strict regulations with the object of ensuring their not having spirits on board for sale. That International Convention, signed at the Hague on Wednesday, November 16, 1887, binds the six countries I have named by their respective Legislatures to carry that arrangement into effect. I do not wish to hamper the Government, but I think that suggests a mode of dealing with this difficult question. The fact that a Resolution has been recently passed in another place dealing with the same question, and that the use of spirituous liquors in this country is diminishing, show that the circumstances are favourable for taking action in the matter. What I ask the Government to do is to take measures for the prohibition of the importation of liquors into Africa wherever that is possible, and, where that is impossible, to see that proper regulations, by means of high licences or otherwise, are taken to regulate the sale of liquors there, and to urge upon our Colonial Governments to see that their liquor laws are thoroughly and properly carried out. Although our hands are not clean in regard to the liquor traffic, I believe we are more free from blame than other nations, and that fact, coupled with the diminishing consumption of liquor in this country, will enable us to take action in the matter with stronger hands.


My Lords, I do not think the noble Duke has at all exaggerated the evils flowing from the liquor traffic with native races, which according to Sir Richard Burton causes misery greater even than that of the slave trade itself. It destroys not merely life, character, and morals, and all that religion teaches, but even trade. It would perhaps not be untrue to say that for every gallon of spirits imported a bale of legitimate goods is kept out. The question concerns in part the Colonial Office, and in part the Foreign Office. As regards the Colonial Office there are three classes of territories concerned. There are the great responsible colonies, which may be well to include Natal. Secondly, there are the Crown colonies on the West Coast and there is a group of protected territories of different sorts in South Africa. As regards the great free colonies, and especially the Cape, they must be left to deal with that question themselves. The Cape Colony have passed good laws in regard to the importation and sale of liquor to the native races; but the real difficulty is to enforce those laws, which mean considerable expenditure and the employment and maintenance of a large police force. There is an idea in this country that native Africans are one and all unmitigated barbarians, but those who know the Cape are well aware that there is every shade and degree and variety of civilization among the natives, and in some cases the civilization approaches so close to that of Europeans that it is extremely difficult to distinguish between them. This obviously constitutes a great difficulty in dealing with this question; but a greater one is that there are great facilities for obtaining drink from the Transvaal, and it is here that the mischief is really done with regard to a very large portion of South Africa. In the Transvaal there are laws against the traffic, but they are notoriously not enforced. The frontier line is so thin that it is almost imaginary, and the facilities for crossing for the purpose of getting liquor are almost boundless. There is a second group of Crown colonies on the West Coast of Africa, and I am very much afraid that the condition of Sierra Leone, Gambia, the Gold Coast, and Lagos is very far from satisfactory. Perhaps Gambia is not so bad, but this is because the population is partly Mahommedan, and wherever we come into contact with Mahommedans there we find, as a rule, that this curse of drink does not exist, or at least that the people are comparatively free from it. I can refer with great satisfaction to the successful efforts of a native chief in the district northwards of Bechuanaland to the Zambesi. That chief has not only stopped the importation of liquor, but has induced his own people to abandon the manufacture of it. I think my noble Fri end may do a great deal in this matter. I will not attempt to go through all the methods by which this might be attempted, but I will mention one fact. In some of the Crown colonies it is very common for the wages of the natives to be paid in drink. That is an abominable and demoralizing system. It is a system which can be controlled and checked by the authorities, but, as far as I know, there is nothing in the laws of any of those Crown colonies which prohibits or even restrains such a pernicious practice. In one such colony certainly, though not in Africa (the Leeward Islands) there are reguations on the subject. I commend that fact to your Lordships' attention. It is a system which can be restricted by the authorities. But, after all, my Lords, the real difficulty with which we have to deal is this, the question of expense. The Treasury have now for many years past, through successive administrations, put down and bullied and cajoled each Secretary of State in turn to such an extent, that money which ought not to have been given up has been abandoned, and poor colonies have been thrown on their own inadequate resources. It is a question which concerns the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office. As regards the Foreign Office I quite admit the great difficulty that the Prime Minister, as Foreign Secretary, has to deal with; at the same time it is not more important than the colonial side of the question. It is clearly the duty of the Government to endeavour to bring about some sort of common action with foreign Governments, and for this reason: that the imports from foreign trading houses are really larger than those in this country. I speak without figures before me, but I apprehend that where there are hundreds of thousands of gallons of spirits imported by English manufacturers, there are millions imported by foreigners. Some twelve years ago, when I was at the Colonial Office, I endeavoured to come to a settlement with France and Germany as to the possessions of the countries, which often run into each other, and overlap each other on the West Coast. The agreement which I had nearly succeeded in carrying out was upset, owing to an outcry by English merchants who declared that valuable territory was being bartered-away. So the negotiations were not proceeded with, and very likely the chance will never occur again. I venture to urge on the Colonial Secretary the immense importance of using his powers to act in concert with other nations. I am afraid without that little would be done. There was another somewhat similar case in the Pacific Ocean where there was for a time an enormous trade carried on with the natives in arms and liquor, which were used to demoralize, degrade, and destroy the people in those seas. Nothing could be morally and politically more abominable. In that case my colleagues and I passed a Bill through Parliament which created a High Court there and made the Governor of Fiji for the time being High Commissioner. My Lords, that would have been perfectly satisfactory and sufficient but for one single thing, viz.: that we could only unfortunately deal with British subjects, and the subjects of other countries set our legislation at defiance. Still, the Act itself has done some good. I do not desire to take up your Lordships' time further. This is a matter of immense importance, and I would only venture to press upon both my noble Friend the Prime Minister and the Colonial Secretary the advisibility of using those powers which they have—the Colonial Secretary in the Crown Colonies and the Prime Minister—in bringing about that concert with the Governments of other nations which is necessary to enable anything effectual to be done.


My Lords, I have for the last five years been Chairman of one of the largest commercial enterprises in this country connected with these regions, and your Lordships will understand that I would not have become Chairman of the Company if I had not been desirous that the benefits of commerce might be introduced without those evils which have so often converted it into a curse; and I was rejoiced to find the experienced men who sat at that Board were as strongly convinced as myself that the introduction of spirits was a thing which not only affected the moral and physical condition of the natives, but interfered with the interests of trade and commerce. My Lords, I would like to refer to what has been done by the Royal Niger Company. Over an immense district extending for 1,000 miles up the Niger, the Company have imposed heavy duties on liquor with the result that there has been a great reduction in the quantity of spirits imported over the whole length of its great tributary the Binné, extending over 400 miles, the Company, availing themselves of the power conferred on them by their Charter, have absolutely prohibited the introduction of spirits. Altogether we have been able to reduce the consumption of liquor in the vast district under our control by 75 per cent. It may be asked why if the Niger Company has been able thus largely to reduce this traffic, it cannot be wholly abolished? I think the answer to that question is afforded by a reference to the geographical position of the country. Take the lower part of the district; it is accessible by I do not know how many different branches of the Niger, and it would be next to impossible for the Company or for any Government to put a stop to the introduction of spirits into a district so formed. With regard to the Upper Niger, again, we are confronted with the difficulty that it can be reached. overland from the West Coast, where as we know there is an enormous sale of strong liquors; and, if we were absolutely to prevent the introduction of those liquors into the upper part of the river district from the West Coast, we should in a short time have regular caravans starting from Sierra Leone and Lagos and from other places on the coast conveying liquor, so that the last state in regard to this traffic would be worse than the first. How far, then, is it possible to put an end to this state of things? What it seems to me it is possible to do, is to induce other Governments to join with us in checking this traffic by the imposition of heavy duties on liquors. By joining with us they would greatly reduce the importation of liquors on the West Coast where so much mischief is being done. Another thing which might be done is to follow the example of the Royal Niger Company in prohibiting the payment of wages in drink. That has been done by them for some time past, and might have been done by all the British Colonies on the West African Coast. One practical step, therefore, which could be taken, is to call upon foreign Governments to unite with us in taking measures for the regulation of the traffic, another for rendering illegal the payment of wages. I doubt whether, in the present disposition of foreign Governments, more than these measures is practicable. That has been done in the case of the North Sea fishermen, and I see no reason whatever why the same course should not be adopted with success in the countries along the Niger.


My Lords, we do not bring this matter forward as in any way connected with the home temperance movement, nor do we advocate it as a question on the views of total abstainers. I have been convinced by the utterances of statesmen on the subject, and not least, by those of the noble Marquess at the head of the Government, that to apply for prohibition would be rather injurious than helpful. We shall not ask for anything but what we really believe will be calculated to do practical good, on all reasonable principles, nor shall we ask for anything which would embarrass Governments in dealing with this question, least of all, should it be supposed that we could do anything to embarrass our own Government. But by every word I have heard to night I have been convinced more and more that there are preparatory steps which require at once to be taken. We are thankful indeed to the noble Marquess for the clear manner in which he stated the principle that we ought to regard native races as children to be protected by us. In order to take a proper view of the position we must realize that they are not only children needing to be protected, but children endowed with passions the most fiery and easily maddened, that they have all the worst passions of men along with little or nothing of self control; and that the first real work of civilization is to give them that self-control. We know that we are obliged to be cautious and circumspect, as the noble Marquess has advised, if we are to be sure we are proceeding in this matter on solid ground. We know that by the interlacing of territories in these regions and from the configuration of the coast, there are great difficulties in carrying out our object. But the moving power which is behind those who have spoken is, I am persuaded, although it has not been thought necessary to make allusion to it, a motive power to which I must make allusion; and I am sure it will be listened to in this Assembly with the most cordial and earnest sympathy. We stand before you, my Lords, as the Christian ministers of a Christian nation whose bounden duty it is to support Christianity by Christian methods. We say that the power of doing so is being rapidly taken from us by the action of Christian Governments. Our efforts are directed to the promotion of Christianity. We are now engaged in these places really in a contest with Mahommedanism, and Mohammedanism works against us with the great advantage of being able to oppose a system of total abstinence to a system of drunkenness. We should work with still greater advantage if we could oppose to it a system of temperance, such as all men in their hearts approve. I mentioned in the debate which has been already alluded to the fact that in one of our own Crown Colonies a mosque had been built partly with the contributions of English people, because the Mahommedans were there civilizing and elevating the natives, which we were not able to do, in this respect. Through the drink traffic perdition, body and soul, is being brought upon large masses of the native people. This is no utterance on behalf of a fanatic section of people which I will read to your Lordships, but is from the report of Bishops who from all parts of the world met at Lambeth last year. The whole body of 150 Bishops say:— It has pleased God to make the Christian nations stronger than any other, stronger than all others combined, but this strength brings with it a higher reponsibility, and this high responsibility the Church ought to rest on those who bear authority. It is grievous that it should be possible to say that so far from the white race benefitting the natives, it would be better that Christian nations should never come into contact with them at all. It may not convey a very distinct idea to us, but it is stated that in four years over 30,000,000 gallons of spirits have been imported into those districts. The other figures, however, which have been laid before you are a sufficient testimony to the ease with which natives are able to possess themselves of drink. Last year the Church Missionary Society sent a Commissioner to Africa for the purpose of observing what was going on in relation to this traffic, and nothing can exceed the vivid horror of the report which that gentleman has since furnished. He saw canoes in hundreds coming down the river laden with ivory, tusks, gold, palm-oil, and the most precious products of the interior, and returning with nothing but filthy spirits. The ground in villages and along by-paths was strewn with gin bottles and capacious glass jars worked with wicker, which had contained spirits, and in grotesque horror the very seats of a church were constructed of the green boxes in which the liquor had been carried. Some of the native chiefs are ardently allied with us on the side of suppressing the evils of the trade, which are sufficient not merely to destroy the hope of Christianity, but the very hope of the continued existence of the race. There is a letter from one of the great native Princes, the Emir of Nupé, entreating Bishop Crowther and the great priests to "beg the English Queen to prevent the bringing of rum into his land." He says:— For God's and the Prophet's sake he must help us; he must not leave our land to be spoiled by rum. May God bless him in his work. This is the mouth-word of Maliki. Those are the half heart-broken words of a Mahommedan ruler; and Khama, chief of an immense territory, appeals to Sir Sydney Sheppard in this moving strain. He says— It is one thing to offer his country to Her Majesty's English settlers, but another thing to be obliged to allow worthless men to occupy it with their drink canteens, and flood it with drink just after the long struggle with his people at the risk of his life, just when they themselves came to see what salvation there was in his drink Laws. It were better for him to love his country. To fight against drink is to fight against demons, not men. The assegai of the Matabele kill men's bodies, and it is over; the drink puts devils into men, and destroys souls and bodies forever. It would never heal. I pray your Honour never ask me to open a little door to the drink." Is not that pathetic, my Lords? I do not desire that it should be thought that I do not appreciate the encouragement which Her Majesty's Government are giving to right action in this matter. I own the difficulties, and I know the spirit in which the Government have worked, and will work. But we want to implore them to maintain the policy which was so well put forward by Sir Edward Malet at Berlin. What we want is that they should pledge themselves to those international efforts which we are assured can be made, and which we have been told will be made as opportunity offers. We want the whole power of the country to back them up and support them in using their utmost endeavours to have a high duty fixed upon the importation of drink. We do not ask for prohibition; we believe that it would be impossible, and there are many of us who do not believe that in the long run it would be an absolute gain. But we do feel certain that a great step would be made towards the repression of the evil if a high import duty were by international concert fixed upon the introduction of these liquors. Another thing we desire—I do not know how it is to be done, I do not know the necessary details of the policy, but we want, if it can be done, that support should be given to those noble native chiefs who, just emerging from the darkness of Africa, see the worse ruin that is ahead, and see also the light and strength that England can give them. To all the world beside I truly believe that England's operations have always been the greatest blessing. When the Bishop of Calcutta was over here last year he bore the strongest and most spontaneous testimony to the fact that the very presence of the English of whatever class was a blessing to the inhabitants of India. It is not only the theoretical people—it is not only the working missionaries—but it is the actual presence of justice and right and honour in the very presence of the Civil Servants. And I truly believe that if our Government, as I am persuaded it will, continues its strong and generous efforts the civilization of England must be, as it ought to be, no less a blessing to Africa than to all other parts of the world.


I do not wish to detain the House many minutes, but there are two points which I wish to press on the attention both of the House and the Government. One of them has been mentioned in the course of the discussion, but I think it requires more emphasis than has yet been given to it. This mischief which we are now considering is an increasing one at this very moment, and it is not a time, therefore, for our holding up our hands and considering for a very long while what it is that we ought to do. We ought to remember that year after year the influx of these intoxicating liquors into Africa is gaining ground, and that the examples that are quoted to us—one of them I think was quoted by the noble Duke—are only examples of what has become general. Thus, for instance, it is stated that within the present year in one place the introduction of intoxicating liquors—of rum of the very worst kind—has risen from about 400,000 gallons to 1,200,000 gallons, which it was in the year before last, and it is going on increasing still. The same thing is taking place in many other parts. We ought, therefore, to be very strenuous indeed in our efforts, and not fancy that this is an evil which will bide our time, because it will not. As British influence and British power extend every year it is inevitable that the methods by which the native races have hitherto protected themselves where they chose to protect themselves are become impossible. They protected themselves very often by very violent methods, and such violent methods of stopping any evil are inconsistent with our notions of civilization. Instead of allowing people to put things clown by physical force amounting to something like riot, we step in and require that everything should be orderly, and when we require that everything should be orderly we rob the natives of their usual methods of resisting the invasion of anything that they strongly disapprove of, and we do not supply them with any methods of our own. Now this goes on, and will still go on, unless we stop it. This is one point that I want to press upon the House and upon the Government. Then there is another and a more abstract matter. I will venture to suggest that we must not lay too much stress upon an argument which commends itself naturally to statesmen generally and to those who mix themselves up in political life; we must be always on our guard against it; I mean what I may call the butcher's-dog argument. Your Lordships know the old fable of the butcher's-dog, whose master's meat cart was attacked by a very large number of dogs, and who found it hopeless to resist the attack because the attacking dogs were so numerous. Therefore he joined them in devouring his master's meat, and when the master came out and drove the dogs away and killed some, his own dog pleaded that it was for his master's interest that he should have his share of the meat and join the other dogs in consuming it, seeing that he could not prevent them from doing the mischief. I cannot help thinking that there is a little of that argument very often present in the minds of statesmen in matters of this kind. What we want to do is to bring men to a sense of something that is morally higher than the rule by which they are living. We should try and persuade men to join in what is morally good; and we may depend upon it that we shall hinder our own endeavours considerably if we allow too much stress to be put upon the argument that, because we cannot stop other people doing mischief, therefore we are to join them in doing mischief. It should be made plain that we are ready to make sacrifices in such a matter as this, and I wish very much that all those who entered into negotiations should endeavour to maintain a high moral standard in the name of England whatever moral standard be adopted by any other country.


Your Lord-ships are, I think, very well agreed on the principle of this matter, and it might be asked if that is so, what is the use of continuing the discussion? Now, I think that the noble Lord who brought forward this matter intended this discussion to be in some way a demonstration, for he said that it was necessary to rouse the conscience of Europe. I think, my Lords, that it is necessary to arouse not only the conscience of Europe, but also the conscience of the United States. As your Lordships are aware, the United States did not see their way on a certain occasion to assist the late Government when they did what they could to put a stop to this iniquitous traffic. Both parties in this House are agreed upon this principle. The noble Lord at the head of the Opposition has shown what his feeling was at the time of the Berlin Conference, and the Noble Marquess at the head of the Government has stated very distinctly his opinion. He has said:— We will never cease to press this matter whenever we see an opportunity of pressing it with effect. We will press it in season and out of season, because we believe that a vast amount of human happiness or misery depends upon the course which these negotiations take.'' It is impossible for any man to speak in stronger terms than that, and I thank the noble Marquess for having been bold enough, if I may say so, to speak his mind, and, I believe, the mind of Her Majesty's Government. We have heard very stirring and eloquent words from his Grace the Archbishop with regard to the Christian point of view of this question, and from the Right Rev. Bishop with regard to the moral point of view. Now, I am going to take your Lordships down to a very much lower ground—a ground which has not yet, as far as I know, been very much touched upon, although it has been slightly touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, the ground of the commercial value or disvalue of this drink traffic. This country is growing at an enormous pace in population. It is long ago since this country has been able to maintain its population by its food supply. Every year it is increasing in numbers, and every year it is more and more difficult to feed this population. The population is fed to-day by food which is purchased by the sale of the manufactures that are made by the working men of this country. In order that those manufactures may be sold we must have markets, and every year our markets become more difficult to find. If we look at this continent of Africa we find it peopled by millions who are yet unapproached, we may say, by the trader. You may ask what has that to do with the liquor traffic? It has this: that wherever a trader with his cask of rum or his bottle of gin goes, there disappears the commerce of England; and it is therefore common wisdom on the part of the traders of this country to see that the native races of Africa should not be demoralized so that they shall be unable and unfit to avail themselves of the products of civilization. We know for a fact that where-ever this drink traffic has gone it has ruined the population, and they are unable to purchase our goods. Now this is a very low ground, but it is a practical ground, and I lay it before the merchants of this country, before the working men of this country, to consider whether it is not worth thinking over. As soon as the gin bottle gets into a district it becomes much more difficult for the honest trader to get into that country. Evil passions are aroused, feuds take place, hostilities commence, and the trader has to fight his way. Well it may be said, "how is this country to help in this matter?" We have heard of the difficulties which Her Majesty's Government and other Governments have encountered. I must say that I think some of those difficulties have been rather exaggerated. We learn that in Basutoland it has been found possible altogether to prohibit the drink traffic, and I do not see why, in other districts wholly or partially under British rule, a similar policy should not be pursued with like success. It has been contended that we cannot interfere with our Colonial Governments—that we must leave them free and unfettered. That may be true, but we can assuredly expostulate and advise with those Governments. I can well understand that a much greater difficulty arises when we come to deal with the Governments of other countries. I am certain that if there is one man who will do his best to secure the co-operation of foreign Governments in this matter it is Her Majesty's Prime Minister, and this demonstration—for I look upon it as a demonstration—will strengthen his hands. I hope that the opinion of this House and the opinion of the House of Commons, which has already been expressed, will be known far and wide, and that the United States will re-consider their determination, and will not be afraid of mixing themselves up in the affairs of Europe on a question such as this, which can hardly embroil them in any political difficulty. I trust that the debate which has taken place this day will be of service not only to the advance of Christianity and of morality, but may be of service in increasing our markets and in providing food for our working classes.


My Lords, if my reply on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to the appeal made to them by the noble Duke be somewhat short, it is not because the Government are not fully alive to the importance and interest of the subject submitted to the House, not because they do not desire to give effect to the assurances made to the deputation by the noble Marquess at the head of the Government, but because I have very little information to add to that which has already been given to Parliament. The replies to the circular to which I referred in my speech of March, 1888, will be found in the Parliamentary Paper (C 5563), and I think that all who have read those and the previous papers will arrive at this general conclusion, so far as Africa is concerned, that there is not so much want of legislation, as want of effective enforcement of the existing law. I certainly was not aware that labour had been paid for on the West Coast of Africa in drink as has been stated this evening, and I need hardly say that I shall ask at once for a Report on that subject, and, if necessary, require that an ordinance should be passed to stop that practice in the future. I think that in dealing with this subject of liquor traffic laws, it must in fairness to the Colonial Governments be remembered that those laws are of all laws the most easily evaded, and therefore the most difficult to enforce, and especially so where, as in the case of Bechuanaland, there is a large non-native population. It is found to be very much easier to enforce the law in places like Zululand and Basutoland, where there is not that large non-native population. Where there is a large European population it is not possible or practicable to prevent importation of spirituous liquors or their sale to other than natives; but, of course, the more liquor there is introduced, the more difficult is it to prevent the natives getting hold of it in exchange for goods, or to stop the sale or gift of it to them. I will now very briefly refer to the different places in South and West Africa referred to by previous speakers. I venture to think that the noble Duke has hardly dealt fairly with the Cape. The noble Duke, in speaking of the Commission appointed at the Cape, omitted to mention that the Cape Government had immediately, after receiving the Report of that Commission, passed a most important measure—Act 28 of 1883—which was most stringent in its terms, and entirely prohibited the sale or gift of any liquor to natives in certain native locations, and the Governor was also given power to constitute native areas within which liquor was not to be sold at all. I have reason to believe that that law has been enforced in those native locations and areas, as from the Cape Blue Book on native affairs published in 1888, which contains Reports from all the districts, it appears that drunkenness on the whole is decreasing among the natives. There was a good deal of Kaffir beer brewed and consumed at festivities, but in six only out of 42 districts do the reports make reference to the prevalence of brandy drinking. The Magistrates seem fully; alive to the desirability of diminishing the supply of spirituous liquors by the canteens. In the Transkeian territories the Proclamation of 1885 was very stringent in terms, both as to importation of spirituous liquors and sale of them to natives; and the last reports are quite satisfactory as to spirits, though it appears there is a large consumption of Kaffir beer. I would only add, as regards the Cape, that, as has been observed by the noble Duke, we have no hand in the administration or legislation of that colony; but I would venture to suggest to those Associations or Committees who have so usefully taken up this question in this country, that if they are made aware of repeated infringements of the law upon evidence on which they can rely, they should communicate these cases, with full details, either direct to the Cape Government or through the Secretary of State. I am satisfied that such communications will receive full consideration. With regard to Natal, although the law appears to be sufficiently stringent, I admit that, owing to lack of police supervision over roadside places of entertainment in rural districts, there has not been sufficient enforcement of that law. The finances of that colony have not hitherto been in such a condition that any great additional expenditure could be lightly incurred, and no doubt the increase of police to secure the full supervision would have been very costly. But I am glad to state that proposals has just been received for appointing supervisors over the natives, who will, among other duties, advise the chiefs against the excesses which prevail at their ceremonies. I have been able to sanction the appointment of those supervisors, and, when giving my sanction, I have strongly urged upon the Colonial Government that these supervisors should exercise all their influence towards securing the efficient working of the law prohibiting the sale of liquor to natives. As I pointed out in my speech last year, the question of regulating the importation of liquor into South Africa by means of the imposition of an uniform high duty, was not favourably received by the Cape or Natal. The view taken by the Cape Government with regard to high tariffs was that, so far as the natives were concerned, the traffic could only be checked by internal regulations, and that a high tariff would stimulate smuggling and illicit manufacture of spirits much of which would be of a most deleterious character; and the view taken by Natal was that it would be of little use for them to pass any measures until the Cape and the Portuguese Governments had acted in the matter. With regard to the territories and places under the more direct control of the Home Government, a much more favourable account can be given. In Zululand the Natal liquor laws are in force, and I have received no complaints of evasion of the law. In Basutoland, as has been stated, the drink traffic has ceased to exist. In a Report of July, 1888, it is stated that— The drink traffic has been suppressed, and considering the extent of border, there is little smuggling. For this we are indebted to the assistance we receive from the Orange Free State authorities. As to British Bechuanaland, I have already pointed out why it is more difficult to prevent evasion of the law in that Colony, where there is a large nonnative population, than in other places; but, although in the past there has been a want of energy on the part of the police, every care is now taken to enforce the law. The original Proclamation against selling liquor to natives has been made more stringent. Giving liquor to natives is prohibited, and a license is forfeited on the second conviction. There is, however, great difficulty in obtaining proof of breaches of the law. Although the system of "trapping" is not a very desirable one, it has to be resorted to. "Trapping" is sending natives to the houses to get liquor sold to them; and the chief difficulty about that is to get trustworthy natives to do the work. It is, however, satisfactory to learn that the largest liquor dealers at Taungs have recently been convicted of selling liquor to natives, and that their licenses have been forfeited. I have also directed that greater care should be taken about the granting of licenses, and confining them to persons who could be trusted, and I have transferred the power of granting licenses from the Licensing Boards to the Resident Magistrates, so as to have the licenses more under the control of the Government. Turning to the West Coast of Africa, while I am quite free to admit that the state of things there is unsatisfactory, at the same time I would urge that the remedies are not easily attainable, and the peculiar circumstances of those colonies with regard to the colonies of other nations, make it difficult, if not impossible, either to prohibit or restrict the importation of liquor into our colonies. If the Government of Lagos were to attempt by high duties or in any other way to restrict the passing of spirits through Lagos, the effect would simply be to divert the trade from Lagos to some other place under the French or the German flag. I fear upon further inquiry that there are grave, if not insuperable, difficulties in obtaining an international agreement for imposition of high uniform rates of import and license duties. It would be next to impossible to prevent the smuggling along the vast stretch of Coast line. A large and expensive augmentation of Custom Officers would be required, and this expense would have to be incurred while the revenue was diminished. Take the Gold Coast for example. I am not sure that there is any staff at Liberia, Assinee, or Togo; but if there is, such staff would have to be largely increased, and I do not think it probable that the foreign Powers would view this with favour, even if the Gold Coast finances would justify the expenditure. As far as Lagos itself is concerned, I do not hear much complaint of drunkenness there, although large quantities of spirits pass through into the inland territories, but I will call for a report upon the state of things. I may mention one fact of some interest: Katanu, which is a place under our protectorate, not far from Lagos, has been entirely flooded with spirits from Porto Novo, where the king is under French protection. An appeal has come from Katanu, asking that the Spirit Licensing Law of Lagos might be applied there; and to that application I have recently given assent. I shall watch with great interest the result of that extension of the law of Lagos. I shall, of course, take notice of the points which have been raised with regard to the Colonies on the West Coast. In. conclusion I would say it is satisfactory to the Government to find that in the notice of the noble Duke there is a general recognition of the efforts Her Majesty's Government have made to restrict this traffic; and I can assure the noble Duke that the appeal which has been made by him will not be made in vain. With reference to a point made by the Lord Bishop of London, I desire to state that the latest returns of the import of spirits into Lagos, those for 1887 show a diminution in the quantities imported as compared with former years, except in Geneva, in which there has been an Increase.