THE EARL OF MAYO had the following Notices on the Paper—
To draw attention to the arrest and subsequent treatment of Mr. Bowskill, a Baptist missionary at San Salvador, in Angola; and to move for Papers, including correspondence from His Majesty's Consuls on the subject.
To draw attention to the system of contract labour in the Islands of San Thomé and Principé; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I wish first to draw attention to the arrest and subsequent treatment of Mr. Bowskill, and I hope your Lordships and the noble Viscount opposite will bear with me while I relate the story of what happened at San Salvador, which is in the Congo district of the Portuguese Province of Angola. The trouble which led to Mr. Bowskill's arrest began about October 13 of last year. Senhor Godino, a Portuguese, arrived at San Salvador for the purpose of recruiting contract labourers for the plantations in the Islands of San Thomé and Principé. He required anything up to 1,500 labourers, and he so informed Senhor Paulo Moreira, the Portuguese chef de poste or commandant, at San Salvador. He suggested going round to the chiefs in the district and getting the men in that way, but it was thought that it would be better to assemble the chiefs at San Salvador and put before them the wishes of this gentleman for labourers. About fifty chiefs assembled. It was explained to them that the labourers required would work for one year only; that they would then be sent back to their district; that they, men and women, would be paid so much in advance and so much while they were working, and the rest would be given to them on their arrival back. Anybody who knows anything about these matters knows perfectly well that in nearly all cases these promises are not carried out with regard to the natives who are induced to go to the Islands of San Thomé and Principé, commonly called the Cocoa Islands.
The chiefs who were assembled said—
We paid your hut tax. When asked for carriers we gave them. When labourers were asked for plantations at Cabinda we gave them. Now we have only men like ourselves—old men.
The chiefs were, however, threatened. The commandant said—
As you will not do what you are ordered to do, the Governor may send men to catch workers by force.
Another plan was tried by which Senhor Moreira saw the chiefs separately in order to endeavour to break up their unity, and by means of bribes and promises he induced the King of San Salvador to offer about 20 men, and finally, by persuasion and being told by their chiefs that they were to go, a fairly large number of labourers were sent off down to the coast.
§ Then the trouble broke out. The whole country became unsettled and the town of San Salvador was attacked. This was in December, 1913. The attacking party were actually in the town, when the commandant asked Mr. Bowskill to go and make peace with the natives outside. This he very pluckily did. He took with him some of the Christian natives of his own mission, and succeeded in making peace. Hostilities were suspended and a great war palaver, as it is called, was held. The charges made at this war palaver by the hostile troops were as follows:—First, against the King of San Salvador and two of his counsellors for having sold the country for personal gain; secondly, against Senhor Paulo Moreira, the chef de poste, for having behaved in an unlawful and cruel manner in his position as ruler of the district; thirdly, against certain native emissaries of the king and Senhor Moreira, who had committed crimes and atrocities of the vilest kind when out tax gathering or securing forced labour contracts. There had been town burning and looting by Senhor Moreira himself when out recruiting forced contract labour, and witness after witness proved these charges in front of the missionaries at this station, and we have every reason to believe that their statements were perfectly true. The result was that the king was deposed and fled to the Belgian Congo across the border, and I believe that at a later period the commandant of San Salvador was also deposed, but that was very much later.
§ There was, however, more trouble to come, and four of the native Christians were arrested and put in prison, among them being two of the men who had gone out with Mr. Bowskill to make peace for the Portuguese. There were more hostilities after this. The town of San Salvador was again attacked, mainly because no answer had been received from the Governor of Angola to the demands made by the natives at the war palaver and because these Christian natives had been imprisoned.162
§ The native town and native huts at San Salvador were burned and the place became practically a town of ruins. Now I come to the serious matter of Mr. Bowskill's arrest. Mr. Bowskili had gone down to Matadi to meet the Governor of Angola, and on his return he was arrested and confined in the fortress at San Salvador—that was on February 19 last—on the ground that he had fomented the war. And this was the man who had made peace before ! If he had been an ordinary Englishman, a trader or a visitor to the country, perhaps it would not have been so serious, but here was a missionary who had lived for many years in the country and bad the good feeling of the natives with hint, as was shown by his successful action in securing peace on the previous occasion. He was arrested and, as I have said, put into prison.
The next thing that happened was that the Governor of Angola came up to San Salvador. Shortly afterwards Mr. Bowskill was released on parole, and then a day or two later he was released and told he was free to go where he liked. No doubt it would have suited the Governor and the Portuguese authorities if Mr. Bowskill had cleared out, and the whole matter would have been hushed up. But matters of this sort cannot be hushed up when an Englishman is accused of a grave offence without sufficient evidence. This also shows the way in which the Portuguese authorities carry on this system, which is not one of contract labour at all but should really be given another name—that of slavery. The situation is summed up in a letter from Mr. Bowskill to His Majesty's Consul at Loanda, dated March 10 this year, in which he says—
The whole of the unrest in the country, the war and everything connected with it, is the direct result of Senhor Paulo Moreira's maladministrations. He terrorised the people to such an extent that they could put up with it no longer. Hence this rising. And as I have already stated in previous letters to you, in order to wreak his vengeance on us for having reported his misdeeds and (as he said) checked him in his forced labour recruiting, he has sought to 'father' this whole war on us.
Well, my Lords if that is going on at San Salvador, from which district we have been able to get the whole truth because there happened to be a Baptist Mission there, what is going on in other districts of Angola where there is nobody to report upon what takes place except, perhaps,
our Consuls, who do not, however, travel through the whole of the country? If this state of things is going on at San Salvador, it is most likely that it is going on in other districts.
One of our Vice-Consuls, Mr. Bell, arrived at San Salvador on March 28 last and left on May 13 by the overland route to make further investigations as to forced labour. His Report exists, and I believe it is at the present moment at the Foreign Office. As far as we know, matters at San Salvador at present are not very agreeable or peaceful. A cablegram received from Matadi on June 15 ran—
San Salvador property surrounded by Government soldiers. All mails and communication stopped. British Consul has demanded Loanda free passage mails and missionaries. Mr. Bowskill remaining at present San Salvador.
That was bad enough. But on the 20th this telegram was received—
Mails from San Salvador to England have been seized by authorities at San Salvador, opened, and detained. Mission passengers arrested. San Salvador property kill surrounded by Government soldiers. Urge Foreign Office to bring pressure to bear upon Lisbon.
THE EARL OF MAYO
To the Anti-Slavery Society, and I imagine they were communicated to the Foreign Office. This is a serious matter, as the San Salvador Mission depend very largely upon the supply of provisions from the coast and would be soon reduced to starvation if the carriers could not get through. Unless food could be got up front the coast the members of the Mission would have to live on native provisions, which are hardly fit for white men; at any rate, they are very disagreeable and would be likely to lead to illness. The place being surrounded by soldiers, it would be very difficult to send native messengers out because they would be frightened.
Portugal is a country with which we have a Treaty which is well defined and well known. Great Britain has undertaken by an Article in the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of Alliance—to defend and protect all conquests or colonies belonging to the Crown of Portugal against all his enemies, as well future as present.Old though that Treaty is, it has been recently confirmed. Yet the country with 164 which we have this Treaty is a country which practically countenances slavery. They have in the part of the world to which I am referring a whole district in rebellion because of the way in which they have treated the natives. Yet, as I have said, that state of things is permitted by a country with which we have a Treaty under which we are bound to support them, and therefore we are practically supporting the system of slavery which Portugal is carrying on in West Africa. It seems, however, that the San Salvador affaire and scandal has reached the authorities at Lisbon. For we learn from our own Foreign Office, in a Despatch dated June 2, that His Majesty's Minister at Lisbon has reported that Lieutenant Crato, Chef du Cabinet of the Portuguese Minister for the Colonies, was leaving that capital on the 7th of the month for Loanda in order to investigate into the circumstances of Mr. Bowskill's arrest. That is all very well. But what we want to know is what is happening to the people at San Salvador. Is nothing being done to relieve the situation in any way?
What we ask for are—First, the publication of Vice-Consul Bell's report upon his investigations at San Salvador; secondly, the formulation by the Portuguese of their charges against the Baptist missionaries, and a justification of, or an apology for, their treatment of the Mission; and, thirdly, the fair trial or immediate release of the imprisoned assistants of Mr. Bowskill—I mean the Christian negroes who assisted Mr. Bowskill in making peace. These black men have been imprisoned, and we all know that when these sort of people are incarcerated they are not treated with much kindness, especially by the black soldiers who are put there to guard them. Vice-Consul Bell's report would give us the whole story. The facts as I have stated them are from letters written from the Mission at San Salvador to the Anti-Slavery Society in this country.
I pass from that question to draw attention to the system of contract labour in the Islands of San Thomé and Principé, and to move for Papers. I brought up this subject last year, and I should like to say at once that the Consular Reports confirm in almost every particular the unofficial information which for years the Anti Slavery and Aborigines Protection 165 Society and private individuals have been forwarding to the British Foreign Office. I should like to quote from the White Paper [Cd. 7279] an account of an interview between Mr. Carnegie, our Minister at Lisbon, and the Prime Minister of Portugal. Mr. Carnegie wrote to Sir Edward Grey as follows—The Premier said that no one was more fully aware than himself of the importance of improving the conditions of native labour in the Islands of San Thomé and Principé. Long before he assumed office he had inveighed against the iniquitous system which had existed in the Portuguese possessions on the West coast of Africa. He was most anxious to do all in his power to enable Portugal to face the world without any fear that accusations that she countenanced slavery in he dominions could he brought against her.That Despatch was written on November 15, 1913. The whole of the trouble at San Salvador, the rebellion and the sending of these contract labourers to San Thomé, were going on practically whilst the Prime Minister was saying this to our Minister at Lisbon. What, then, can we think of the protestations made by Portuguese Ministers? There is a telegraph office at Matadi, not far off, and the Portuguese authorities at Lisbon must have known what was going on. The Portuguese authorities have made so many protestations that we are beginning to get suspicious of what they say in these matters.
I should like also to quote what Vice-Consul Smallbones, who went to the Cocoa Islands, said with regard to these matters. He said—From what I have been able to gather, all the serviçaes (contract labourers) I have now seen were bought in the Province of Angola; their original contract was a sham, and the renewed contracts were a farce.That is perfectly plain speaking, and it is the truth. The whole system may be put under three heads—(1) the contract system on the mainland for private profit; (2) the recontracting of contract labourers on the islands; and (3) repatriation. It is not, indeed, a contract system. Lord Cromer said in this House that he was not averse to a contract system provided it was properly carried out and provided it was for public works, such as railways. But this is a system for private gain absolutely and solely, and the planters of San Thomé and Principé have made large fortunes out of this so-called contract labour. The contract system on the mainland is one 166 which it is immensely difficult to get at. We should require a whole army of Consuls and Vice-Consuls there to see that the system was properly carried out. But Sir Edward Grey has given a line which is most useful, and which, if carried out, would help greatly to stop this evil. In a Despatch to our Minister at Lisbon, dated November 25, 1913, Sir Edward Grey said, speaking of the action of His Majesty's Government—It is their intention to appoint a Consul-General for Portuguese West Africa Whose principal duty will be to superintend the Consular posts already established on the mainland and in the islands. This officer's duties of superintendence will entail constant visits to San Thomé, w here the labourers are employed, as well as to those localities where they are recruited and contracted, and it will therefore be possible for him, if he is afforded the necessary facilities, to furnish His Majesty's Government with full information on the points to which I have referred, and thus enable them through the medium of their Consular officers to assure labourers at the recruiting stations that they con safely contract for service on the plantations.I would like to supplement that. Supposing these men are brought down to the coast, it would be very useful if they could be taken to the curador's office—that is, the office of the Portuguese official—and, in the presence of one of our Consuls or Vice-Consuls, asked whether they were prepared to go to the islands or not, and whether they were satisfied with their contracts. You could in that way find out whether they had been properly contracted for, or whether their services had been secured by corruption and bribery of the chiefs or by actual force brought against these unfortunate people them selves.
I come now to the second head—recontracting on the islands. Despatch No. 20 in the White Paper clearly sets out our Vice-Consul's opinion on this matter, and what he saw with regard to it. He points out that the natives from Portuguese East Africa, who are more independent, are invariably sent direct to the curador's office in the chief town or city at the expiration of their contracts. These men who come from the East coast are contracted for generally for a year, and when their time is up they walk down to the town and see the official and say whether or not they want to go home, and if they do they are sent home. The Angola natives, who are in much greater numbers, are treated in a very different manner. 167 The planters, when they think it is time for the labourers to go back, send for the Portuguese official. The natives do not go by themselves to the town, but the Portuguese official comes up to where they are working and holds an inquiry at the plantation. You can well imagine the sort of pressure that is brought to bear in these circumstances to make the men stay on. They are induced in more ways than one to recontract, and, as our Vice-Consul quite rightly stated, this recontracting is a farce. What should be done is this. The Angola labourers should go down to the town and make their wishes known to the Portuguese representative the same as is done in the case of the Mozambique labourers. This would be quite easy to carry out, because the Governor of San Thomé informed our Vice-Consul on September 13 last that in the curadoria of the Province sufficient documents and data exist to enable the Curador-General to know when the contracts of the labourers on the different plantations terminate. Therefore the machinery is there, and it could quite easily be put into operation. Now with regard to the third head—repatriation—I go back to the original Despatch of November 15, 1913, sent by our Ambassador to Sir Edward Grey.
THE EARL OF MAYO
The Despatch is on page 77. In it our Ambassador says—Senhor Macieira, had informed him" [the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Lisbon] "that I had stated that the repatriation of the serviçaes was not proceeding as fast as it should. He admitted that that was true, but he assured me that it arose solely from the insufficiency of vessels to convey the labourers to the mainland. He was at the moment engaged in negotiations with the Portuguese shipping company concerned with a view of having two more vessels made available for the purpose.Now I must contradict this statement entirely. According to the sailing table of the Empreza Nacional Shipping Company, there are four Portuguese sailings from San Thomé to the mainland. The average carrying capacity of the company's fleet is 400 labourers per vessel, with four calls in each month—that is to say, a minimum of over 1,000 each month or over 13,000 a year. But during 1913 only 2,071 serviçaes were liberated and 168 repatriated. This is confirmed by Despatch No. 63 in the White Paper from Mr. Hall, our Consul at Loanda. There is a repatriation fund which was created by stopping wages from the contract labourers. That fund is short of some £100,000, which I believe cannot be accounted for. And instead of these labourers getting £18 as a bonus after their contract is over, I believe they get only £10. The accounts are difficult to follow. This fund is in the hands of a planters' committee, and there is a great deal of money which might properly be expended in giving these labourers grants when they land so that they should not starve, because there have been cases where they have been dumped on the mainland and been unable to get to their homes.
I think I have made out a case for the production of any further Papers that the Government may have with regard to this contract system at San Thomé and Principé. I myself once travelled with these slaves. I was at San Thomé for a short time. I know what the country is like, and I have seen these men put on board ship. They looked cowed, miserable, and unhappy—in fact, like slaves. That was many years ago, I admit, but I believe very little has since been done to help these people beyond this, that a certain number are now allowed to go back to their homes. When I was in that part of the world I do not think any of them got back home at all. They were kept there until they died. I beg to move.
§ Moved, (1) That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers, including correspondence from His Majesty's Consuls on the subject of the arrest and subsequent treatment of Mr. Bowskill, a Baptist Missionary at San Salvador, in Angola. (2) That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to the system of contract labour in the Islands of San Thomé and Principé.—(The Earl of Mayo.)
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT MORLEY)
My Lords, the noble Earl last year went over a good deal of the general ground that he has covered this evening. I make no complaint of the noble Earl for bringing the subject before us. I entirely concur with what was said by the most rev. Primate in the debate on the last occasion, that it 169 has always been one of the glories of this country to do what is superciliously called the policing of the world—that is to say, when there is inhuman treatment and oppressive wrong-doing, if we are able, it is our duty to press on those who are concerned, Governments or private corporations, to redress those mischiefs. Therefore there is no difference between the noble Earl and myself in principle and aim. The noble Earl has told the story of Mr. Bowskill and has asked for Papers.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
That will be produced in time, but I will show later why it is better to wait a little longer. The noble Earl has told the story of the Baptist missionary with a running attack, in effect, upon the Portuguese authorities there before we really have heard the other side. I believe the bald facts are simply these. The noble Earl has not left any of them out, but he has put them in a very invidious setting. News reached San Salvador that there was an insurrection in the South, and it was known that that insurrection was due to the supply of labourers to the Government's recruiting agent by the native King of the Congo, who was breaking faith, in effect, with his own subjects. On December 10 there was a native attack on San Salvador. Senhor Moreira, the Portuguese administrator, sent an urgent request to the Baptist missionary, Mr. Bowskill, to use his influence to call a truce. His influence was known to be remarkable, and at considerable risk to himself he complied with this request and arranged a parley for the following day. On December 11 and 12 there took place accordingly what the noble Earl properly called a war palaver, and the Portuguese Roman Catholic priests went to lay the case before the Governor of the Congo. On, January 17 of this year the priests returned with a favourable reply. But troops came the same day from Noqui, whatever the significance of that was.
Things then began to take rather a singular turn. On January 19 Senhor Moreira collected all the guns belonging to the adherents of the Baptist Mission, although they were duly licensed. On the same evening Senhor Moreira came to the station with the Portuguese officer in 170 command of the fort, and said that there was a rumour that, an attack was to be made on the town that night. Then Mr. Bowskill and a colleague offered to go out and parley with the rebels provided the priests did the same. They went out together, and this intervention of the Baptist missionary and the Roman Catholic clergy was again successful. That was the second time in which the Baptist missionary had been of extreme service in getting a truce. But still the situation remained serious. Mr. Bowskill states that he tried hard to co-operate with the Roman Catholic priests and they with him to prevent another outbreak. On January 20 news came that the town of San Salvador was to be invested by the rebels, and the Mission station was barricaded in anticipation of that attack. On January 25 fighting began, and the remaining houses of the town were sacked and burned, and the Mission buildings happened to be in the line of fire. On January 30 Mr. Bowskill started for the coast in order to inform the Governor of the serious situation. The fortress was at that time cut off from the Mission station, and his action on this occasion was not taken at the request of the Portuguese authorities. He saw the newly-arrived Portuguese Governor and returned to San Salvador on February 13.
Then came the extraordinary climax. Mr. Bowskill was sent for by Senhor Moreira and placed under arrest. He was afterwards released on parole and was subsequently released from parole. He has no complaint to make, so we are informed, of his treatment while in the fortress. I forget how many days he was there. What did our Government do next? Vice-Consul Bell was sent from Boma to inquire into all the circumstances of the missionary's arrest. His report, to which the noble Earl referred, has been received; it is, as he supposed, now at the Foreign Office—I think Sir Edward Grey has told the House of Commons something to this effect—and it is still under consideration. The noble Earl may smile at the expression "under consideration," it being not an uncommon one for a long suspension of the production of a Government document.
But let us turn to Portugal, as to which the noble Earl was so extremely suspicious, and, may I say, uncharitable. His Majesty's Government—I have not the date—made serious representations to the Portuguese 171 Government, who replied with more than diplomatic courtesy that there was no reason to suppose that the affair of Mr. Bowskill could not be settled most satisfactorily. The trial would take place at Cabinda; it would not be hurried on precipitately, as was at one time apprehended; and Mr. Bowskill would be given the opportunity of legal assistance. And then a Portuguese officer was detailed to go and investigate the whole case, and he left for Angola on June 7. I submit to your Lordships and to the noble Earl that before producing Mr. Bell's report it would be better and fairer to await the arrival of the Portuguese counter-case, if it be a counter-case. It would be very unfruitful and not paying any great compliment to the Anti-Slavery Society if we were to give them Vice-Consul Bell's report without waiting to see what Lieutenant Crato, the Portuguese officer appointed to investigate the matter, had to say. We are promised that we shall have that report; and I think the House will agree that the Govern-merit are justified in asking the noble Earl and the Anti-Slavery Society to await the time when the whole case can be presented. The noble Earl has been perfectly fair as far as the Government are concerned. He has admitted that it is almost impossible to penetrate into these wild and remote areas with such effect as to be able to investigate the real truth of the situation there. But we have at all events taken a forward step in appointing an officer whose business it shall be particularly to watch these affairs.
The noble Earl made a number of suggestions the value of which I suppose nobody in the House, certainly not I, could contest. I can promise him that I will draw the attention of the Foreign Office to the suggestions that he has made, and I am perfectly sure that, they will he carefully considered and all the use made of them that can be. I want to say generally that since this time last year, when I had the honour of replying to the noble Earl on this subject, there has been a marked improvement in the state of things existing in regard to labour. The noble Earl said truly that the repatriation of the labourers who were kidnapped before the regulations of 1903 had been a slow work, but there is no reason to think that it has not gone on, especially during the last three or four years, perhaps owing to the noble Earl's efforts and the efforts of his friends, at 172 a much better pace. One important fact which I think the noble Earl will recognise is that the Portuguese Government confidently expect that by the end of this year all but 8,000 of those who were kidnapped will have been repatriated.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I am not sure. The noble Earl, however, may take it from me that it is said to be so. But it appears to His 'Majesty's Consular officers that there have been unnecessary delays. I think one can readily understand that ill an operation of this kind there might well be some miscarriages and delays. One reason was referred to by the noble Earl, though he brushed it aside—namely, the scarcity of shipping. He read some figures upon that point, and gave us the measure and accommodation of some of the ships which ply regularly there. He spoke of the tonnage of these vessels and how many labourers they carry. Yes; but the Portuguese authorities point out that they must have a large amount of space for cargo, and that these ships carry as many labourers as can fairly be expected from them. That difficulty, therefore, is more real than the noble Earl seems to think.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Be that as it may, the Portuguese Minister for Foreign Affairs has promised to investigate the matter thoroughly.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Then something was said by the noble Earl as to the bonus, and the doubt which he entertained as to whether the bonus, which is meant to be reserved pay, really finds its way, as it ought to do, into the hands of these men. No doubt there is a pretty careful handling of the bonus, not really to the disadvantage of the emancipated labourer. You are doing him no kindness—I think this is mentioned in one of the Portuguese Despatches—by dumping him down there with money which he will assuredly fritter away under the worst imaginable conditions. Therefore the noble Earl must be careful in supposing that this handling of the bonus is all to the bad. 173 The Anti-Slavery Society have always pressed that we should supervise the administration of the bonus fund; but, as I said last year, it is most unreasonable to suppose that we can supervise the whole administration, the audits, the receipts, the discharges, and so forth, of this fund. It is not for us to do it; it is for the Portuguese authorities; and it is a misplaced accusation against the British Government that they do not take care of this—
THE EARL OF MAYO
I did not accuse the British Government. I only mentioned that this fund existed, and I said that I did not think the natives were getting sufficient bonus out of it. They ought to receive £18 and I believe they get £10. I never made any accusation against the British Government with regard to the matter.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
If not by the noble Earl, the point has, at any rate, been taken by others. I repeat that it is impossible for us to superintend the administration of a fund of this sort. Let me close this part of the matter by saying that recent repatriation figures have shown a decided increase. During the first five months of this year 1,821 labourers have been repatriated from San Thomé to Angola, as against 2,071 during the whole of the year 1913. That, the noble Earl will admit, is a most satisfactory improvement.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I am not competent to discuss the noble Earl's suggestions, but I venture to say that the action of the Portuguese Government in making new regulations and in giving instructions to their agents in these places deserves recognition; and I think Sir Edward Grey recently said that if you want them to go on in the path of progress and humanity it is no bad thing to recognise the progress they have already made. Their regulations are thought to be satisfactory. They are cumbrous, but they are regulations with which we find, as I understand, very little fault; and they have been or are about to be immediately presented to the Lisbon Parliament. The noble Earl knows as well as I do how frightfully difficult it is to do real good in a terrible case of this sort; but he needs no assurance from me that the Government have, and must have, the fullest sympathy with the spirit in which he has moved in these matters.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, before the House passes from the consideration of these questions I should like to say a word or two with regard to the first of the two Motions standing on the Paper in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Mayo. Personally I think it is rather unfortunate that the discussion upon the two matters, which are perfectly distinct, should have been mixed up as they have been in the discussion this afternoon. I am not going to say anything about the general question, important as it is, of contract labour in this district; but the matters touched upon in the first Question are of very great and immediate importance. I may say, in passing, that the telegrams which were the subject of question and answer between the noble Viscount opposite and the noble Earl were sent, not to the Anti-Slavery Society, but to the Baptist Missionary Society, and they have been communicated to the Foreign Office. That I have been assured of as a fact since the discussion began.
Regarding the treatment of Mr. Bowskill and, I may add, his two native Christian companions, I want to say a word or two. The noble Viscount seemed to think that the noble Earl had, as he described it, put the matter in a rather "invidious setting"—that was the expression used. I venture to say that the statement of fact as given by the noble Viscount did not better the matter so far as the Portuguese officials are concerned. I say nothing about the Government, but about the conduct of some of the subordinate Portuguese officials, which, so far as we know at the present time, has not met with any censure on the part of their own authorities. The facts as given to me, and I have done my best to assure myself of their accuracy, are these. Mr. Bowskill and two leading native Christians of the Mission went, at the request of a Portuguese official, to make peace. The noble Viscount says that his information is that they offered to do this.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Three occasions there were on which they went, and I think in regard to one occasion what I said was perfectly accurate.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
At any rate, on one occasion I am informed that they went actually at the request of the Portuguese officials—
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
For the purpose of preventing a native expedition from attacking the Portuguese settlement. In that intervention Mr. Bowskill and his two native Christian friends were successful. As the noble Viscount said, a war palaver followed. Mr. Bowskill and the two native Christians acted as interpreters on this occasion. But very soon after that not only Mr. Bowskill but his two native companions were arrested. It is true that Mr. Bowskill was released on the order of a superior official. Probably the fact that he was a British subject had some influence in that direction, and it was recognised that it would be too dangerous even for a subordinate Portuguese official to keep a white British subject in durance vile without the formulation of a charge. But my information is that the other two men, the natives, are now in prison; that they have been for months in prison; that they have had no trial at all, and that they have not even had a definite formulation of the charge against them.
The noble Viscount himself is not in the Foreign Office, and therefore I cannot ask him now for an answer to the point that these two native Christians, who did a service to the Portuguese Government, are at present and have been ever since this occasion actually lying in prison—and we can imagine what a Portuguese prison in those districts is like—not only without trial, but even without a formulation of the charge against them.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
There was a charge formulated against Mr. Bowskill—namely, that he had made an incendiary speech at Boma, or some such place.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I understand that that was the case, but my information is that the charge against him on that point has been withdrawn. At any rate, whether it has been withdrawn or not, as the noble Viscount said, it was investigated by Vice-Consul Bell, and in the course of time we shall hear the result. I am confident that the result will be in favour of Mr. Bowskill. But Mr. Bowskill is free, and therefore we can afford to wait. My point is that these other two unfortunate men who have been treated in a worse way are not released, have not been tried, no 176 charge has been made against them, and they do not know, and even their friends do not know, the particular reason why they have been incarcerated. I call the attention of the noble Viscount to that, and I do so feeling it to be absolutely true that there is no man in this House, no man in this country, who, left to himself, would deprecate more or view with greater horror such a state of facts as I mention, if they be true. The point I make is that the noble Viscount should urge the Foreign Office to use the same influence on behalf of these two unfortunate natives, at any rate to the extent of getting them released pending the trial which it is perfectly fair they should stand. I am glad to think that we are to have in due time Vice-Consul Bell's report of his investigations. If it was received only a few weeks ago it is probably reasonable that time should elapse before we have it.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
May I put my point again, such as it was? We should like to keep Vice-Consul Bell's report back until the report of the Portuguese agent has been received, so that we may have the whole case before us.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I think, if I may say so, that that is absolutely reasonable. But I hope that the Foreign Office will take care that no undue procrastination on the part of the Portuguese authorities takes place, and, if it does, that they will say that Vice-Consul Bell's report shall be put before this country after such interval of time as would allow the corresponding Portuguese investigation also to be produced. I press also very strongly for the formulation by the Portuguese of their charges against these two native Christians. I do think that we ought to have an apology for the treatment of the Mission as a whole; also a promise of a fair trial in due time; and I urge strongly for the immediate release of the imprisoned assistants of Mr. Bowskill, who must be suffering very much at the present time. I do not go into the general discussion, but these are personal things which do not admit of any delay. Unless the action which has been taken by the Foreign Office is followed up by the limited steps which I have mentioned, we shall not be doing justice to those who are suffering for wrongs which I do not believe they have committed.
*THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords. I do not think there can be any one in the House who does not entertain some sympathy for the noble Viscount who is called upon, of all men in England, I do not say to defend doings of this kind, but to give such apologies as he can from the point of view of His Majesty's Government for a narrative such as that which we have heard. The story as told by the noble Viscount does not really differ from that which Lord Mayo has brought before the House and which appeals in the documents that have been made public. The noble Viscount the President of the Council, in his speech, said that at the particular moment in question a "rather singular thing" happened. Yes, my Lords, it was a singular thing. The position was this. An English missionary had defended the Portuguese authorities from what would have probably been something very like a massacre, and he bad with him as his colleagues the two natives who were the leading Christians in the place. A little later, at I he hands of these very authorities, and in consequence of his chivalrous action on their behalf, he was himself arrested and put into prison, and although he is now released he is to a very real extent under a kind of quasi-censure; wide the two men, who went with him to save the lives of the Portuguese authorities who were practically enlisting slaves, are imprisoned to this hour, and are waiting until a trial shall some day take place after a report has been received which is promised us as to the conditions going on. We have been told that these men have been suffering the foulest indignities, and that on one occasion they were kept five days without food in the dungeon in which they are. And these are the men who had helped our English missionary, who was there under special privileges in connection with Treaty obligations which were our own, to save the lives of these people. He was accompanied by these native Christians, who were alone able to intercede effectively; and these men are now in the position that I have endeavoured to describe.
As for Mr. Bowskill himself, it has been inferred sometimes that he was a man who was interposing in a way that was not necessary, and doing one of those troublesome things missionaries are supposed to do. The position was this. Here was a man with an important stake in that place 178 on behalf of Christianity and civilisation, with a school, hospital, and the rest of it, all for the good of the people there, and for that reason he is the friend of the whole of the natives of the neighbourhood. He alone was able to interpose and save these Portuguese from the rising of those whom they were endeavouring to enslave. So bad was the case—it has all been made public, there is nothing to conceal about it—that the representative of the Portuguese authorities actually took refuge in Mr. Bowskill's bathroom. Mr. Bowskill was willing to give him that shelter. The one place to which he dared to go for safety was to the home of the English missionary. This man is now released as a kind of favour, as though he were a person they would tolerate, but no apology has been made and no explanation given why this man, after conferring that benefit upon the Portuguese, has been treated in the way he has. Far less is anything now being done in regard to his colleagues, the native Christians who went with him to intercede on behalf of those who are now treating them in the way that has been described.
We are told that some day we shall get full reports. The noble Viscount himself stated that, even in our own parlance, it is sometimes the fact that when a matter is said to be "under consideration" the phrase is a way of saying that some little time may elapse before the consideration is concluded. We can imagine what is meant when we are told to await a report which is going to be made by the Portuguese authorities some day, and all the time the Christians who went with Mr. Bowskill and thus endeavoured to save the Portuguese authorities are to remain in the position which we know them to be in now.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I do not think I used the expression "some day." The Portuguese agent left on June 7 and we expect his report within, say, a month or two months. That is what I am told.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
Of course, if we are assured that it really will be expedited, we must take what we can get and hope for the best. But I confess that the position of those who are now in prison does not strike me as other than one of which we should be profoundly ashamed, seeing that we have Treaty obligations in the matter. However, I shall await with great anxiety the effectual pressure which will be brought by His Majesty's Government, as I hope, 179 upon the Portuguese should there be any delay in producing the report which is going to elucidate this matter, and do something to alleviate the lot of these unfortunate men who are in the Portuguese prison. I think this is one of the darkest stories we have heard even in the narratives of the Dark Continent.
Then a single word about the general question. It is perfectly true that the White Paper lately published gives a record of a definite improvement in more ways than one. I think anybody who will look into the facts and see what are the points upon which improvement has taken place, and then look hack upon what has taken place in this House and elsewhere in England before, will be able to find cause and effect, and will be able to see that it is worth while for us on occasions like this to bring pressure to bear, because the very points upon which we have brought pressure are those which have in consequence been improved. Therefore I feel that nothing but good comes from our raising a point of this kind and pressing the matter home. The noble Viscount gave, in words which I was most thankful to hear, a reply to the taunt sometimes levied as to our policing the world. In this case it is not a matter of policing the world, but of fulfilling obligations which are our own, because we have in this particular matter definite Treaty obligations. We are linked up and tied with those whose misconduct—it cannot be called anything else—we are describing to-night; and if we are apathetic, or quiet, or submissive in allowing these things to go on, we have a grave responsibility in the matter. More than that we have, through the Foreign Office, given a quasi-pledge to the Portuguese authorities that, given satisfactory conditions for the enlistment of native labour, we shall help to secure that that labour is forthcoming. That was a wide responsibility to take. I think in some ways it was a wise one, because native labour will be required, and if it is properly conducted it is of benefit to the people who are thus enlisted as well as to those on whose behalf it is carried out. But it is a grave responsibility on our part, and if we are in any wav directly or indirectly supposed to be guaranteeing that that labour shall be forthcoming, we are bound to see what are the conditions under which the labour and also the repatriation take place.
It seems to me that what we have before us in the White Paper as it stands is not 180 nearly clear enough, and when further Papers are furnished I hope we shall have a good deal more told us of how we are taking care that the obligation upon which we have insisted as a condition is being fulfilled before we help that native labour to be enlisted. The whole matter is one which ought to be as fully and as often brought before the public as possible until we see that we have the facts made perfectly clear to the world. The facts with regard to the missionary Mr. Bowskill reveal a sad and wretched story. I venture to hope that we shall find that not the missionary alone but the people whom he has been protecting and who are now terrorised by what is going on will receive proper protection. With regard to the general question, let us note what are the improvements that have taken place; and let us see that we do what in us lies to improve matters where we are concerned, directly or indirectly, and to see that the obligations in which we are involved shall be carried out in their entirety, not for the gain of the private exploiters for whom we are sending the labour, but for the good of the people on whose behalf we have undertaken these obligations, which are hard to discharge but which we ought to endeavour to discharge to the best of our ability.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, I do not wish to say anything about the case of Mr. Bowskil, which has been so fully dealt with. But I want to say a word about the contract labour at San Thomé. My noble friend Lord Mayo quoted a statement by Lord Cromer, but I do not think, if he will allow me to say so, that he quoted that statement quite correctly. Lord Cromer spoke not of contract labour but of forced labour when he said that under no circumstances should forced labour be used for the purpose of private gain. He admitted that there might be exceptional circumstances under which forced labour might be legitimate for some truly public purpose; but I think Lord Cromer said "never for private gain." We all admit that contract labour may be quite legitimate for the purpose of private gain. The whole question is whether the natives who are contracting do so voluntarily, whether they understand exactly the conditions of the contract they have undertaken, and, lastly, whether full faith is kept with them in respect of the contract they have made.
181 It is in this connection that we feel so doubtful as to what the conditions really are under which the natives now working in the islands of Portuguese West Africa have been recruited. We do not know too much about the conditions under which they are being recruited now. We cannot say that we feel absolutely satisfied that they always understand exactly what they are doing, and that no pressure is put upon them. The noble Viscount himself said quite bluntly that prior to 1903 these unfortunate natives were kidnapped. I am not at all sure that something worse than kidnapping is not occasionally mixed in this business. I understand kidnapping to mean a sort of form of legal pressure put upon natives living in the Portuguese territory to come away from their villages and kraals, whether they like it or not, to work in the islands. Although I have not been to San Thomé I have been within what I may call a comparatively short distance of the Eastern border of Portuguese West Africa and of the Congo border up into the North-West corner of Northern Rhodesia. I was quite satisfied myself from what I heard—indeed, it is on record in the Colonial Office—that that corner where British territory and the Belgian Congo and Portuguese territory join has within quite recent times been traversed by the ordinary brutal African slave raider, and he was always going westward. Therefore, so far as we know, he was going to try and dispose of his human wares in Portuguese territory. We do not know; we have no possible proof; but at any rate it is possible that some of those unfortunate slaves may have found their way to these islands. All that is more or less a matter of conjecture.
But what we do know is this that the natives now under contract in these islands are almost all anxious to get away. They are not staying there voluntarily. No one can read the White Paper without coming to that conclusion. It is an infinitesimal percentage of the natives who are staying there voluntarily. Very many of them are, by the admission of the Portuguese Government itself, kept there after the period for which they are said to have contracted has expired, and the excuse for that is that the shipping is inadequate. I entirely agree with the noble Viscount that, it would neither be wise nor just not to recognise that the Portuguese Government has been making a genuine effort to improve this matter, and we must recognise that the 182 Portuguese Government has real difficulties with which to contend. There are important vested interests. It is always difficult to dislocate a system on which many interests depend, and many interests apparently do depend on this native labour. But surely His Majesty's Government cannot really be finally contented with the explanation that there is not shipping enough to enable natives to be repatriated whose term of contract it is admitted has expired months and months ago. Therefore I think we are justified in urging His Majesty's Government to be constant in their pressure.
It is not an agreeable thing to put this kind of pressure on a friendly Power and on an old ally. But I submit that it is not only a question of carrying out our self-assumed function of policing the world. It is not even a question of acting where we have a definite locus standi like we had in the Belgian Congo. Here His Majesty's Government are on much firmer ground than that—namely, the ground mentioned by the most rev. Primate. Here we are absolutely bound by an offensive and defensive alliance to protect all the Portuguese possessions all over the world. But, as Lord Cromer said, it is absolutely unthinkable that we should spend a life or a pound in defending Portuguese interests where slavery existed or where there was slavery in some vague form. Therefore while I would not demur at the attitude which the Foreign Office has hitherto assumed of courtesy and patience, yet I think that pressure ought not for one moment to be relaxed and the Foreign Office ought never to forget the great strength of our ground.
§ On Question, Motions agreed to, and ordered accordingly.