§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, he wished to put a Question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in the interests of humanity. They gave their sympathy freely to residents in the Valley of the Mississippi; why should they refuse it to inhabitants of the region of the Nile? Forced labour was the great evil and curse of that country. It was slavery in its worst form, because the slaveowner had a direct interest in the health and well-being of his slave, whereas a ruler with despotic power obtained labour on his own terms, and was troubled with no responsibility as to the maintenance of the wretched people who were brought in chains to perform his tasks from a distance of from 200 to 500 miles. They were brought from the cataracts to the Delta of the Nile with cruel severity and compulsion. The new Pasha of Egypt, however, had announced his intention of abolishing forced labour there. But from the extensive works going on at the Suez Canal, and from the abundant supply of workmen which the system of forced labour procured, it was feared that the influence of France would be employed against the course announced by the Pasha. The French Government, there was little doubt, would be solicited by the shareholders of the Suez Canal to do all in their power to forward that undertaking, and to prevent the adoption of any course which would interfere with its progress. He wished to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the Government will afford their support to Ismail Pasha in the execution of his declared intention to abolish forced labour in Egypt?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, the Question of the hon. Gentleman, as I understand it, is, whether the present Pasha of Egypt has issued, or is about to issue, a decree to prohibit the employment of forced labour in Egypt, and whether that measure has the sanction, and, so far as may be proper, the support of Her Majesty's Government. We understand that the present Pasha, as soon as be came into authority, announced his intention of abolishing altogether the system of forced labour in Egypt; and, undoubtedly, the opinion of Her Majesty's Government is, that it is a very proper measure, that it is only extending to Egypt that rule which, ever since the accession of the late Sultan, has been the law of Turkey, and that its impartial application would be very desirable in Egypt. Such a measure would relieve the population of that country from a tax which presses very heavily upon them, and would contribute very much to the agricultural prosperity of Egypt, because a great number of people are taken away from their private affairs and from the cultivation of their fields, and of course the districts from which they come are left destitute of that labour which is essential for their proper tillage and cultivation. Therefore my answer is, so far as it may be proper for Her Majesty's Government to interfere in a matter which relates entirely to the internal arrangements of the Turkish empire, that it is our opinion that the intended measure of be Pasha is a humane, a just, and a proper measure, and is calculated to extend to the people of Egypt the same relief from compulsory labour which has, for a great number of years, been extended to the people in other parts of the Turksh empire.