HL Deb 30 July 1923 vol 54 cc1459-80

EARL BEAUCHAMP rose to ask His Majesty's Government if they will give information to the House upon the decision of the League of Nations to discuss slavery during the next Session; to ask whether they will communicate to the League the general memorandum on Abyssinian Slavery, the Report of the Maji Commission, and extracts from the Reports of Consuls Hodgson, Walker and Hawkins dealing with slave owning and slave trading; and to move for Papers?

The noble Earl said: My Lords, there is, I am glad to say, some common ground between the noble Marquess and myself in regard to the Question of which I have given notice. It is with regard to the actual existence of slavery in Abyssinia. The evidence is so conclusive that the fact that there is a great deal of slavery in that country is not, I think, denied by anybody. The representative of the Foreign Office in another place, in answer to a Question on March 29 this year, said that he did not deny the fact that there was evidence of the existence of slavery, and that he knew that there was. He also said that, in the case of the slaves of the servants of the Legation, this country had been obliged to buy those slaves. The only way in which we could emancipate them, he explained, was to buy them, because if we had insisted on the servants getting rid of them, they would sell them to some one else and we should have done no good.

We have evidence of the same kind from the Admiralty. Naturally, the extent of the slavery to which the Admiralty refers is nothing like so great as that which' exists in Abyssinia itself. It is a mere slopping over from the general reservoir. In the Naval Estimates of this year I find this sentence:— There has been some recrudescence of slave-running in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf and H.M. Ships have been actively engaged in endeavouring to suppress it. As I say, that is not so important as the general question of slavery in Abyssinia of which this is, as it were, an off-shoot, and I turn to Command Paper No. 1858 which was laid upon the Table of the House, containing "Correspondence respecting slavery in Abyssinia."

In that Paper there is a letter addressed to the noble Marquess opposite by Mr. Claud Russell, and I shall venture to read to your Lordships a paragraph from that letter. He wrote:— My attention has been drawn to the Press report of a Question in Parliament on the subject of slavery in Abyssinia. The statement made in reply that the slave trade is on the increase in this country is inaccurate, according to all the information at my disposal. The gradual depopulation of the slave-producing districts, and the delimitation of the frontiers of Abyssinia, which now march everywhere with those of civilised Powers, have necessarily led for many years past to a decline in the slave trade. I ask your Lordships to notice the reason which is given by Mr. Russell for the decline in slavery at the present moment. It is that there has been so much slave trading and slave raiding in the past that there are comparatively few people left upon whom the slave traders can now exercise their industry; it is because there has been so much in the past that there is comparatively little to-day. That seems to me to be implicitly a very significant admission on the part of Mr. Russell.

And your Lordships will probably have seen a very interesting telegram which appeared in The Times on June 19 last from the correspondent of that paper in Abyssinia—a correspondent of a specially trustworthy character and of very high reputation. He reports an interview which he had at that date with Ras Tafari, the Regent of Abyssinia. In that interview the Regent said, as to the dhows, that they were generally owned and manned by Arabs, and that these Arabs were generally either French or British subjects. The Regent did not deny the existence of the slave trade nor that facts pointed to a recrudescence of the traffic. But he maintained that the responsibility for the present state of affairs rested as much with the British and French authorities as with the Abyssinian Government. In those circumstances it is, I think, quite clear that we have a very serious responsibility in this matter.

So far I have spoken only of the amount of slavery which exists in Abyssinia. Your Lordships will, perhaps, allow me to say something of the slave raiding which goes on in British territory. We have some significant evidence with regard to that in an interesting Report which has been drawn up by Dr. George Montandon, entitled, "Slavery in Abyssinia." That Report was drawn up by him for the Swiss League for the Defence of Native Races with the object of presenting it to the Fourth Assembly of the Société des Nations. In the course of that Report he quotes from a private letter which had been addressed to him by Major Darley. This is part of the letter which he quotes. It is dated April 29, and in it Major Darley says that the Abyssinians had seized the occasion to make raids from the Maji on to British territory, from which they had carried off or killed the population over a distance of sixty miles. Now, I would venture here to quote something which was said by Sir Frederick Lugard at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society on June 21, 1920. Sir Frederick said:— I am proud to say that I know Major Darley, Major Athill's comrade, and he has given me very much fuller and more elaborate details of the horrors which the slave raiders have perpetrated in Abyssinia. There is more evidence of what has been going on in British territory, too.

There is an extract from a letter which was written to the Westminster Gazette by Major Darley and Dr. Dyce Sharp. Major Darley has had experience as a member of the Maji Commission, and Dr. Dyce Sharp is a former British official in Abyssinia. They wrote together a letter which appeared in the Westminster Gazette, and from which I take this quotation:— Gangs of slaves, marching in misery, the men chained together in rows, and the women and children dragging themselves beside the main body, can be seen by any traveller in Southern Abyssinia to-day. Some of these slaves are captured on Abyssinian territory, others in British East Africa, others in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. These things we have seen. And we have seen also hundreds of square miles of territory utterly depopulated by Abyssinian raids. Most of this territory is within the confines of the Abyssinian Empire, but part of it is within the British Empire. The facts, we repeat, are not unknown to the British Foreign Office. Now I turn to the Swiss Report which is going to be presented to the League of Nations on behalf of the Swiss Government, and there I find that Dr. Schrenk also gives evidence upon the subject of slavery in Abyssinia. What he says is this: All the great centres of slavery are in the English zone: Djimma, Kaffa, Ghimirra, Maji. That explains partly why the English have made so hard a struggle against slavery.

There are some general remarks upon slavery in Abyssinia which I should like to make, and which would have been made by my noble friend Lord Buxton had he been able to be with us to-day. I am sure your Lordships will all regret the cause of his absence. This is, as your Lordships know, a subject with which his family have been most honourably connected for very many years. With regard to the position of the slaves in Abyssinia, I do not wish to say in any way that they are necessarily badly treated. They are more valuable than horses; they cost more; and therefore they are not unlikely to receive better treatment. But there are directions in which some of them are very badly treated. There is considerable demand for eunuchs in Abyssinia, and they are always recruited from the ranks of the slaves. With respect to the young girls they are obliged to submit to their master's desires, and, in case of refusal, are flogged into submission. There exists that unfortunate superstition in Abyssinia that a slave virgin is an antidote for venereal disease. The consequence is that there is a very considerable amount of that disease amongst these slave girls throughout Abyssinia. But it is really in connection with the slave raiding and the slave trading that the worst' abuses occur. West and South-Western Abyssinia have been conquered from the native inhabitants in comparatively recent times, and the evidence which comes from more than one quarter amply confirms what was said by Mr. Claud Russell that the present state of the country is such that it is no longer possible for them to get the same quantity of slaves from those districts as they used to be able to secure; but between five and ten thousand slaves are now raided every year in the South-West Province and sent north for sale. The majority are obtained in Abyssinian territory, and the rest in British territory. It is with regard to those in British territory that your Lordships will feel that we have special responsibilities.

The question now comes how the matter can be dealt with. There are two ways in which it might be dealt with—through the medium of the League of Nations and the Treaty of St. Germain, which was signed on September 10, 1919, or under the Anglo-Abyssinian Treaty of June, 1884. There is a very significant Article in the Treaty of St. Germain, Article No. 11 I think it is, that I shall venture to quote to your Lordships:— The signatory Powers exorcising sovereign rights or authority in African territories will continue to watch over the preservation of the native populations, and to supervise the improvement of the conditions of their moral and material well-being. They will, in particular, endeavour to secure the complete suppression of slavery in all its forms, and of the slave trade by land and by sea. And it is significant that this Treaty was signed by the United States of America as well as, I think, by several other States which are not sovereign States within the Continent of Africa. The consequence of that, therefore, is that all States, whether they possess these sovereign rights in Africa or not, are entitled to speak upon this matter. For instance, they may supply any information which they possess with regard to slavery in territories in which they themselves do not exercise sovereign rights, and, therefore, it seems to me that it is entirely within the competence of His Majesty's Government who have, as we all know, sovereign rights in Africa, to present any information in their power to the League of Nations upon this subject. I understand this matter is to be raised at the next meeting of the League.

I am fortunate enough to have here a Report of the minutes of the twenty-fifth session of the Council which was held on July 5 of this year. In the Course of that M. Branting read a report in which this phrase occurs:— interesting information will be found in the replies from several Colonial Governments, and especially in the very comprehensive report with full references forwarded by the French Government. I am happy to be allowed to pay my tribute to the remarkable preparation of this report. I wish M. Branting had been able to pay the same compliment to this country as he paid to France on that occasion. He then proposed a resolution of which the last part runs as follows:— To request the Secretariat to continue its efforts to secure information on the subject, and authorise it to extend its inquiries to Governments or countries not Members of the League.

I understand that more information has also been supplied to the League of Nations by Italy and Switzerland.

I am anxious that His Majesty's Government should also give all the information in their power to the League of Nations. I do not know what information has been supplied by His Majesty's Government, or whether they have supplied anything more than is contained in the Command Paper to which I have already referred, and which contains the Despatch from Mr. Claud Russell. I can imagine that it would be possible for the noble Marquess opposite to demur somewhat to the idea that we should send to the League of Nations Papers which in any way reflected upon the Government of a friendly and of a sovereign State. Should that be so, I would suggest that those Papers might be laid upon the Table of this House, more especially those Papers which refer to the slave raiding in British territory. If those Papers were laid upon the Table of this House they would become public property. In view of the fact that so many of these slaves seem to have been taken from British territory, I think we have a very special responsibility in the matter, and that His Majesty's Government, or the Foreign Office, possess a good deal of information upon the subject.

First of all, there is that general Memorandum upon slavery in Abyssinia which is first mentioned in my Question. I am not entirely conversant either with the origin or with the object of the Memorandum, but I understand that it deals more with the legal and historical aspect of the question than any other. Then there comes the Report of the Maji Commission which was appointed by His Majesty's Government in order, I think, to de-limit more accurately the boundary between our territories and those of Abyssinia. There are also the Reports of Consuls Hodgson, Walker, and Hawkins dealing with slave raiding and slave trading. With regard to those I have no particular information of any 6ort or kind, but I cannot imagine that any consul living in Abyssinia and sending home Reports upon the general condition would not deal in some way or other with the general question of slave raiding and of slave trading. It is those extracts, which I presume are to be found within their Reports, that I would ask the noble Marquess if he is able to present to the League of Nations.

On the Maji Report your Lordships will perhaps allow me to quote a statement which was made by our of the Commissioners in The Times, on April 9, 1920, in which he says— In 1920 the Foreign Office Mission travelling through Abyssinia reported meeting groups of slaves yoked together and moving openly through the country. In view of all this evidence it is very necessary indeed that we should not be behind other countries in presenting all the information which is in our possession to the League of Nations. Then the League of Nations, reorganising the bureau which already exists, might set up something of the kind which exists at the present moment for dealing with the white slave traffic. Of the two alternatives which I have mentioned I think action by the League of Nations is much the better. The League of Nations can act, being recognised as a disinterested body, and there can be no suspicion on the part of any Power with regard to the advice given or the assistance it might offer.

There is the other alternative—namely, to act on the Treaty which exists with Abyssinia. I think it would be very difficult to act in regard to this matter on these lines. It would mean isolated action on our part, although the terms of the Treaty are so very plain that it would be easy for His Majesty's Government to take steps in the matter. Article 1 of that Treaty says that His Majesty agrees to prohibit and prevent to the best of his ability the buying or selling of slaves within His Dominions. And he also agrees in the same way to prohibit and prevent the import or export of slaves to or from His Dominions. In these circumstances I do not think any complaint could be made if His Majesty's Government announced that they were prepared to take definite action immediately upon these lines, although, I confess. I would prefer united action with the other States of Europe through the medium of the League of Nations.

I desire to refer to one other matter before sitting down. It is not definitely mentioned in the Question on the Paper as it has reference to the existence of slavery in German South West Africa. I am afraid I have not warned the noble Marquess of my intention to mention this point. In 1915 a statement was made by the Foreign Office that there were 185,000 slaves in German East Africa. Sin[...] we received a Mandate in regard to that territory slavery has been abolished legally, and we should like to know how far the efforts which have, been made to secure abolition have been successful. A somewhat serious Report was issued by the Administrator in German South West Africa with regard to the condition of slavery in the Okavango regions. I cannot expect the noble Marquess to be able to say anything on this subject, but I do press upon him that all the information in the possession of the Foreign Office should be placed before the League of Nations in order that they may deal with the matter more fully than they seem able to do at the present moment. This country has a great historical tradition in regard to its fight against slavery, and I hope the noble Marquess will use his utmost endeavours to see that the League of Nations is able to carry on this work to its fullest extent. I beg to move.


My Lords, the noble Earl, as ho himself admitted, will hardly expect me to reply to the question with which he concluded his observations since it relates to a matter which I have not been able to investigate. But I will deal with the Question as it appears on the Paper and as he developed it in the course of his remarks. He ended by making an appeal to the historical traditions of this country, which has always made itself famous for the attitude it has taken up not merely in deprecating and condemning but as far as possible in extirpating slavery in all its forms in all parts of the world. He can rest assured that His Majesty's present advisers are just as firm custodians of that tradition as any of their predecessors. With the spirit, therefore, that lay behind the observations of the noble Earl I am myself in agreement, although, as I shall show, his statement of the case was in some respects imperfect.

The first Question he put on the Paper is: To ask His Majesty's Government if they will give any information to the House upon the decision of the League of Nations to discuss slavery at the next session; that is, at the session that will open next month at Geneva. The history of the interest of the League of Nations in the matter appears to be as follows. It was raised at the meeting of the Assembly last year by Sir Arthur Steel Maitland. He was the representative at the Assembly of the Government of New Zealand, but he appears to have raised the matter neither upon instructions from the Government he represented nor after any intimation to His Majesty's Government. I fancy he was impelled to do so by representations made to him by the Anti-slavery Society. Accordingly the Assembly adopted a Resolution to the effect that the question of the recrudescence of slavery in Africa should be included in the agenda of the next Assembly—that is, the forthcoming Assembly—and they requested the Council of the League to present a report on the subject.

The Council then asked the various Governments to give any information they might see fit to communicate on the existing situation; that was the exact invitation that was addressed to the various Governments. His Majesty's Government replied, speaking with full responsibility for the territories with which we are concerned and as to which I shall say more in a moment, that there is nothing that has occurred or is occurring in those territories under our control to justify any apprehension of the recrudescence of slavery. We could answer for ourselves; it was not our business to answer for other people. Other Governments answered, I believe, in a somewhat similar vein, and then came the reply of the French Government, which received a special compliment from the noble Earl but which really was not a report on the existing situation at all.

It was an historical summary, mainly compiled from published works about the history of slavery in Abyssinia; compiled by a former French representative at Addis Ababa, and it concluded with the suggestion that the Abyssinians should be allowed to import more arms and ammunition in order to deal with this traffic. That is a suggestion which I should profoundly deplore, because experience has shown that if the Abyssinians get hold of arms and ammunition they very speedily get out of the hands of the Central Government and pass into the hands of Provincial Governors and other persons who use the arms thus acquired for the very purpose of slave-raiding which the noble Earl so rightly deplores. Therefore the practical suggestion, apart from the historical compilation, of the French Report does not appear to me to be deserving of the high encomium which the noble Earl bestowed upon it. All these answers from the various Governments will be communicated to the Assembly in the month of August next. I believe that the Council do not hold themselves justified in presenting a report upon the rather meagre information so far at their disposal, but we shall hear their views when the matter comes up before the Assembly, and I need hardly say that the last attitude which His Majesty's Government would wish to adopt would be that of deliberately withholding any useful information that is in their possession.

But upon the information specified by the noble Earl in his Question, and elaborated in his speech, he is, if I may say so, very imperfectly informed. For instance, he asks us to communicate to the League a general Memorandum on Abyssinian slavery, and he spoke of this document as being in our possession. There is no such document; nobody in the Foreign Office knows anything about it; nobody in any Department knows anything about it. It is non-existent. Then he goes on to ask us to communicate the Report of the Maji Commission. The Maji Commission was a body that was sent up to the frontiers of British territory and South-West Abyssinia in 1919 and two officers who were members of that Commission, named respectively Major Darley and Major Athill, who were referred to by the noble Earl, sent Reports which included a very distressing description of the conditions of slavery that were at that time, or had before that date been existent in the regions of South-West Abyssinia, and to their Reports was attached a further Report by Major Walker, who acts in a consular capacity for us at Gore, which dealt in the main with the juridical and legal aspects of the question of slavery.

Those Reports were written more than four years ago. Such information as we have is to the effect that things have bettered since that date. The noble Earl himself alluded to an interview, which I have not yet seen, between the correspondent of The Times and the present Regent of Abyssinia, in which the latter made encouraging assertions, although he passed a reflection upon the conduct of the British Government to which I shall refer in a moment. I do not think that it would be desirable—indeed, it would be unfair—to publish reports about a situation that existed more than four years ago and which related mainly to a condition of affairs which has, I believe, been substantially modified since that time. The course which I should like to follow, in pursuance of my engagement to give all reasonable information in our possession to the League of Nations or to whomsoever is investigating this matter, is to obtain from our representatives their Reports about the situation as it now exists, in order that we may be able to deal fairly with those who are investigating the matter.

The noble Earl laid great stress upon the Reports made by a Swiss gentleman, Dr. Montandon, and the British medical officer who served at Addis Ababa, Dr. Sharp, but he did not say, probably because he was unaware, that Dr. Montandon's book was written between the years 1909 and 1911—a considerable time ago—and was published as far back as 1913. That which I have said about our Consular Reports applies even more forcibly, therefore, to that book, because the information is quite obsolete and out of date. As regards Dr. Sharp, the medical officer whom, I believe, the noble Earl quoted as having seen certain incidents in Abyssinia, I think that such can hardly be the case. Dr. Sharp was the doctor of our Legation at Addis Ababa. He left the country in 1921. He never travelled in Abyssinia at all, and such information as he derived about it was gained during his residence at Addis Ababa and during his passage from there to the coast. If, therefore, the suggestion is made that he had any experience of the regions where the slave trade or slave raiding exists, I do not think that it can be well founded. So much for the information to which the noble Earl adverts.

In his discussion of the question as a whole he drew a distinction which I thought was a perfectly fair one between the various forms of slavery as they exist in Abyssinia. He said, in the first place, that there is what may be termed domestic slavery. That is a form of servitude which, however foreign it may be to our ideals, is at the same time not accompanied in the vast majority of cases by anything like oppression or injustice. It is a system that is deeply rooted in the social customs and prescriptions of the Abyssinian people, and what we have to do is precisely what we have done—namely, to insist that no shadow or shred of British sanction shall be given to that particular institution. As the noble Earl knows, and, indeed, remarked, as soon as we heard last year (I think) that a form of this domestic slavery actually existed within our Legation—that is to say, that servants in our Legation themselves possessed slaves, although this was quite unknown to any of us, so thin is the line of division between domestic service as we understand it in this country and slavery as it exists there—we took steps, as the noble Earl very fairly remarked, by purchase to manumit the slaves, and that particular abuse came immediately to an end.

The second form of slavery to which the noble Earl adverted was that of slave raiding outside the borders of Abyssinia into the territory of foreign Powers, and here he remarked quite justly that, in so far as any such raiding might take place into British territory, a special degree of responsibility devolved upon ourselves. That is quite true, and I acknowledge it. But when the noble Earl went on to say, as he did, that a good deal of this raiding into British territory still takes place, I should be very grateful indeed if he would supply mo with the information upon which he bases that assertion, because I can find no evidence whatever in support of it. On the contrary, what is happening is this. The White Paper which has been published, to which the noble Earl referred and which he holds in his hand, shows that on the South-Western side, on the frontier between Abyssinia and Kenya, as it is now called, the institution of police posts has very effectively brought to an end slave raiding across our frontier. The same applies to the other European Powers whose territories or Protectorates surround Abyssinia, and in proportion as the frontiers of Abyssinia are getting fixed, and as the possessions of great European States surround them, so is it certain (and the result is already in operation) that slave raiding across the frontiers becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible. I believe that at the present moment, in so far as slave raiding into any territory for which we are responsible is concerned, it may be said to have been effectively checked. If any evidence comes to the contrary the matter will be at once investigated, and will be vigorously pursued.

Then comes the third form of slavery as it exists in Abyssinia, and this is the real gravamen of the case made by the noble Earl. I speak now of slave raiding inside the territories of Abyssinia, followed, it may be in some cases, by the export of the slaves so raided to territories outside. As regards what happens in Abyssinia itself nobody knows better than the noble Earl the difficulty of actual intervention. Whether that intervention be carried out by the Powers under Treaties which the noble Earl quoted, or whether it be by the League of Nations, nobody contemplates armed excursions into Abyssinia. You are entitled to put every form of pressure you can upon the Government, but any more active intervention would probably be the source of greater evils than it would do good. What, however, we can do is to be very careful indeed about the export of the slaves so raided into territories for which we have any responsibility, or where we have any influence.

Now here I am at a loss to understand what Ras Tafari meant when he said that the responsibility, or the main responsibility, rested with the French and ourselves. If any responsibility devolves upon the European Powers it emphatically devolves upon the French and Italians, because they possess the ports from which the traffic goes across the Red Sea to the other side. We have no ports there at all, and I am not aware of any British port from which export takes place.

Where then does our connection with the matter come in? When they are in the dhows, and upon the sea. And the noble Earl read out a passage, which I have not seen myself, from a Report of the Admiralty, indicating the activity that is maintained by His Majesty's vessels in the Red Sea, in order to arrest this traffic and catch the slaves who are being so transported. I think it is in that Paper that reference is made to a successful case of such capture last year, when a dhow containing some Abyssinian slaves was seized by His Majesty's ships, and slaves, between twenty and thirty in number, were taken out and sent back to Abyssinia, and at once released. Therefore, as regards that part of our responsibility we are doing everything that we can.

And I might add that another form of influence which it is possible for us to bring to bear we are exerting, and that is by representations to the Arab chiefs in more or less close connection with ourselves, who occupy the Arabian shore of the Red Sea. There we are making representations to them for the suppression of this traffic, which we can only control upon the sea. I hope, therefore, that I have shown the noble Earl that within the limits of our own responsibility we are doing everything we can to act up to the traditions that he so rightly quoted. If any further suggestions can be made I hope to receive them. As regards assisting the labours of the League of Nations, we shall be only too glad to acquire any information pertaining to the existing situation, and to place it at the disposal either of our representative upon the Council of the League, or at the disposal of the Council of the League itself.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Marquess, with whom I have crossed swords on this subject in another place, for the undertaking which he has now given to your Lordships, but there are one or two points to which I should like to direct his attention. It is felt in other quarters that this country has not been in the forefront, but has been behind other Powers, in supplying the information required by the Council of the League of Nations in order to make its Report.

The French Government have already, I understand, supplied the Council with all the material at their disposal. The Italian Government have done the same, and even the Regent in Abyssinia has authorised a statement to be made, and published in The Times newspaper last month, that he was only too willing to co-operate with the French and English Governments—to whom he specially alluded—in giving information and doing his utmost to help to subdue the slave traffic and the slave raiding which, unfortunately, has existed on the borders in the south of Abyssinia, and which is even alleged to have existed in British territory. At any rate, there are areas which have been raided, and which are alleged to have been almost depopulated, over which we have some control. I have no information which I can give in connection with this matter, but our consuls ought to be able to supply the information which will enable this Report of the Council of the League of Nations to be made, so that action may be taken by the various Powers, including the United States of America, who are ready to co-operate in this matter.


May I interrupt for one moment only, to correct an omission in my previous remarks? One question put to me by the noble Earl was whether I would communicate to the League of Nations extracts from the Reports of certain British consuls dealing with slave owning and slave trading. I only interrupt now to say that there are no such Report". I have had the matter looked into, and there is not a single Report from any consular officer in that region which has any connection with the matter at all, and that is the reason we are unable to give the information.


The noble Marquess said that the last course which the Government would adopt deliberately was to withhold any information which they had in their possession. Ho now informs us that he has practically no information from these consuls to whom reference has already been made, but I understand that he is prepared to try to secure from them up-to-date information with a view to supplying it to the League of Nations. That is all to the good, and, of course, we do not want antiquated information; but when the noble Marquess alluded to the information at the Foreign Office, which led him, as I understood, to say the the position was much better now than it was four years ago, the noble Marquess was speaking in an absolutely contrary sense to Mr. Cecil Harmsworth, who, in another place, last year, admitted that during the last ten years the Government had received Reports of a widespread and growing slave trade. That information, whatever it is, which was in the Foreign Office last year was the sort of information which we thought the Government appeared to be somewhat reluctant to give to the Council of the League of Nations. But I am only too anxious that the information shall be up-to-date and that it shall be full, and that the Government shall do their utmost to join the other nations, in order to enable such action to be taken as may be possible by the League of Nations.

There is one other matter on which I think, perhaps, I ought to correct the noble Marquess. The noble Earl, when speaking, alluded to Dr. George Montandon, and the noble Marquess thought he was referring to the document published in 1913, based upon the facts of 1909 to 1911. As a matter of fact the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, was referring to a Report by Dr. George Montandon presented to the Swiss Government, which has just been issued. The Report has been published in pamphlet form, and has been handed to the League of Nations. That information, no doubt, has not yet been placed in the hands of the noble Marquess. I wanted to correct the impression under which he apparently laboured, and to point out that the Swiss Government had joined with other Governments in giving up-to-date information. I am very glad to hear that the noble Marquess is prepared to do the same.


My Lords, when I was in Syria I made the acquaintance of some of King Feisal's slaves. Two of these were natives of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. It is true that the slaves in Arabia are well treated. King Hussein, I believe, when he leaves Mecca appoints one of his black slaves as his Viceroy, and such is the common practice in Arabia. It is, nevertheless, regrettable that British subjects are liable to be carried into slavery. I was for six years in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, and it is well known to everybody in that country that there is continually a certain amount of slave raiding and slave trading along the frontiers between the Sudan and Abyssinia. No blame for this, I believe, rests on the Sudan Government. The Sudan Government have stopped the transport of slaves from the Sudan to Egypt altogether and they have also very nearly stopped the transport of slaves from Suakin to Jeddah. But the enormous length of the frontier between Sudan and Abyssinia, and the very great difficulty of the country, make it quite impossible to stop the slave trade on that frontier altogether, unless they receive more assistance than they have hitherto received from Abyssinia.


My Lords, I should be glad if the noble Marquess would also obtain such information as he can from South-West Africa and from what was German East Africa, because it is alleged that there are still slaves there, and it is advisable, I think, to have information, dealing with slavery in Africa, as full and complete as possible.


My Lords, we have heard from the noble Marquess that the Foreign Office does not at this moment possess any Reports on this matter from its consuls which are less than four years old. I own that it is a little surprising that, with the knowledge that during these four years this subject has been frequently ventilated, the consuls should have observed that severe rule of silence on a matter which certainly has a very wide interest in this country. Possibly the noble Marquess may have had some information from other sources than the Reports of the consuls, because he spoke of the belief that the state of affairs was now improved. That belief, I presume, was based upon some information. There is no man in Europe of whom it may be stated with more certainty than about the noble Marquess that he is absolutely opposed to anything in the nature of the toleration of slavery. But what puzzles us a little in the matter is that, if we have representatives in that country, some years should have elapsed since information was forthcoming from them which might now be made available.

The noble Marquess has told us that he will now obtain from our consular representatives in Abyssinia, or on its boundaries, such up-to-date information as is available, with a view—as I hope we may understand—to its transmission to the approaching Assembly of the League of Nations. My fear is that the time is rather short. The Assembly meets at the beginning of September, and we are now at the end of July. I do not know how long it would take to obtain from the consuls the information in question, but it is rather vital to the treatment of the matter by the League that the information, even in the rudest outline procurable, should, if it be at all possible, be in the hands of those who will have to deal with it, in about six weeks' time. That appears to me to be an exceedingly important matter, but I am prepared to trust the noble Marquess implicitly, as one who would be as eager as anybody to help us to do what is right in this matter.

I do not gather that the matter is more complex than I have indicated. One's fear might have been that there was some international or other complication in the matter which might be causing difficulty. If that be so, I hope it is only of a very temporary kind, and that it will be speedily overcome. Anyhow, I understand that we may now believe that, inasmuch as the Foreign Office has been without information about the matter for the last four years, information will be forthcoming at once. That a detailed Report could be in the hands of the Government and of the League of Nations before the meeting of the Assembly is, I suppose, practically impossible—I suppose, but I do not know. But that some general information will be possible of a kind which could be communicated briefly to us in England, and by us in England to the League of Nations is, I hope, foreshadowed by what the noble Marquess has told us. We may therefore, I hope, feel relieved by the assurance that when the League of Nations does discuss this matter, as it-is bound to do in September, it will have before it up-to-date information from England, as well as from other countries.


My Lords, the noble Marquess, in the course of his remarks, rather reproached me for being out of date. He thought that I was referring to some document written by M. Montandon some time in 1911 to 1913. But, as Lord Gainford has already pointed out, I referred to something a great deal more recent than that, something printed in the year 1923. This, as I think I said in the course of my remarks, is a definite Report, drawn up by a society in Switzerland, which, having been presented to the Swiss Government, will forthwith go to the League of Nations. In this matter, I think, I am even a little bit more up-to-date than the noble Marquess himself.


Does the Report convey recent information?


I quoted several things which are to be found in this Report, dated 1922, and no doubt, if I searched it, I could find a great deal more of recent date. I might remind the noble Marquess of one or two quotations which referred to the Maji Report.


But that is four years old.


Yes, but I think the noble Marquess reproached me because he thought I was referring to something in the Montandon Report in 1911 or 1912. What I spoke of, however, was much more recent than that. I venture to press the noble Marquess upon this point. Here was the Maji Commission Report, revealing the most serious state of things, and acknowledging the existence of all this slavery. It was presented to the Foreign Office. Did the Foreign Office do nothing? Was it content with this Report, and did it not ask for any more Reports or information? Did it ask its officials whether this slavery, which was attested by the Maji Commission Report, had ceased, or were they content with the Report as it stood?

The noble Marquess must really forgive me if I venture to say that I am not satisfied in this matter, and I cannot help feeling that a great deal more might have been clone to secure information upon the subject. This is not the first time that the question has been raised, not here but in another place, and over and over again the representatives of the Foreign Office have been urged that these Reports should be presented and that information should be given. But the answer never before was that; the information was not up to date and, therefore, could not be given. This is the first time that we have heard it. But now, if I understand him, the noble Marquess is good enough to say that he will get up-to-date information and that when he gets that up-to-date information it will be presented to the League. If that is the intention of the noble Marquess, I thank him very heartily for the assurance he has given. I shall look forward to those Reports being presented, not, I am afraid, in time for the next meeting of the League but at any rate before the end of this year, and on the understanding that this up-to-date information is going to be asked for by the noble Marques" from the responsible officials in Africa, I shall be ready to withdraw my Resolution. Had it not been that I had a promise of that kind from the noble Marquess I certainly should have asked your Lordships' House to proceed to a Division.

Before I sit down, may I refer once more to the Report or the Memorandum which the noble Marquess tells us was attached to the Report of the Maji Commission? I do not know whether it would be possible for the noble Marquess to present that or to lay it upon the Table of the House. It would be a very valuable piece of information, dealing, as I think he said, rather with the juridical aspect of the matter than the actual state of affairs as it exists. I do not know whether he has any objection to the presentation of that Report. I think it would be a very valuable document if it could be presented. May I venture to repeat that it is on the understanding that this up-to-date information is to be asked for, that I withdraw my Motion and do not press it to a Division.


My Lords, there are one or two slight misunderstandings which I should like to remove. The first is with regard to the reference that was made to the pronouncement by the present Regent of Abyssinia, Ras Tafari, that he was warmly in sympathy with this desire of the League of Nations to inquire into the matter and would co-operate with them in every way. Our representative at Addis Ababa, seeing this report, enquired of Ras Tafari whether it was true, and he denied it altogether. I think, therefore, the noble Earl must be a little bit cautious in accepting the belief that we shall meet with that warm co-operation from the present Regent which we all desire. His predecessor Menelik, who died I think in 1913, did take a relatively strong attitude corresponding greatly with our feelings and desires about slavery. But, as the House knows, when Menelik died chaos and anarchy prevailed in the country and every man was a law unto himself. The Provincial Governors assumed the right to control the regions under their influence. No doubt, there has been during that period a considerable weakening of the central authority, and I dare say a revival of some of the worst abuses of slavery to which reference has been made.

The second point which was made was with regard to the testimony of M. Montandon. It is quite true that I was unaware of that Report and that I had not seen it, but I gather from what the noble Earl has said that it has only just been published; but here again, allow me to insinuate a word of doubt. M. Montandon has never been to Abyssinia since 1911: how can he produce modern evidence? The noble Earl deprecated evidence four years old; but M. Montandon's evidence is ten years, twelve years, and thirteen years old. Of course I shall be only too happy to study the Report when I see it, but unless M. Montandon has correspondents in Abyssinia who give him information up to date, it appears to me that he is merely relying upon information that is now quite out of date.

The third point was as to the reports of our consuls, and here the most rev. Primate appeared to be somewhat astonished that our consular officials have not reported to us upon a matter of such evident public concern. I think I ought to explain that our consuls there are not consuls in the ordinary sense of the term at all. They are persons who are engaged for one for other reason, very likely in business or hunting, or something of the sort in those remote regions, and their duties are in the main the duties of fostering trade and of promoting British interests. I do not imagine that it ever occurs to them that it is any part of their duty to send a report upon slavery to us, because they do not send any report at all. There is no report at all, and when I enquired from the Foreign Office whether I could find any reports and extract from them any references to slavery such as the noble Earl desired, I was informed that there were no such reports because they do not send them. I have given instructions that these gentlemen are to be written to and informed that we should like a report upon this particular question. There is, of course, no hope that their replies will arrive in time to be placed before the League this year, and I doubt very much whether the information in the possession of the League will enable it to take any very active steps this year. But it is clear that the League or anybody can only act when the information is fairly adequate and complete, and we will hope to make our contribution to that sum total of knowledge as soon as it is possible.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.