HC Deb 27 April 1874 vol 218 cc1204-25

, in rising to call attention to the Report of the Committee which inquired into the condition of our West African Settlements in 1865; and to move— That this House is of opinion, that, in the interests of civilization and commerce it would not now be desirable to withdraw from the administration of the Gold Coast, said, the condition of things in our West African Settlements was very different now from what it was when the Committee reported on the subject. In 1865 the position of those Settlements was, if not entirely hopeless, entirely unsatisfactory; and the Gold Coast, of all others, was most unsatisfactory. The trade was not only ridiculously small, but decreasing; and while the expenditure amounted to only £9,000 a-year, the revenue reached to only one-half of even that sum. At that time—and so long as the Dutch remained upon the Coast—there was no possibility of increasing it. A poll tax had entirely failed. A licence duty on the sale of spirits was being tried with an indifferent prospect of success; and the Customs duties themselves were levied in a manner expensive in collection, and distasteful to those from whom they were collected. So little had been done towards the civilization of the Gold Coast that human sacrifices—which, it was hoped, had been suppressed—threatened to reappear with increased vigour on our withdrawal. On the other hand, the slave trade, the suppression of which had been our primary object on the Gold Coast, had almost entirely ceased. Our prestige, gained under Governors Maclean and Hill, had been lost in the disastrous expedition of 1863, when our troops, after an encampment of three months on the bank of the Prah, during which they never once saw the enemy, were seized with a panic, and fled precipitately to the Coast. So unsatisfactory, in fact, was the state of affairs on the Gold Coast that the Committee would have been justified in proposing the abandonment of the Settlement had not strong considerations of humanity urged Great Britain to remain. Since 1865, however, circumstances had entirely changed, and while we should experience even greater difficulty in withdrawing, we had now the strongest reasons for remaining, He would not refer to the moral effect of the war just concluded, but he would rather call attention to the satisfactory position of our material resources. From a Report published by the Colonial Office there had been of late years a gradual increase in the revenue and trade of the coast. The imports had risen in 1872 to £260,000 as against £77,000 in 1863, and the exports to £385,000 in 1872 as against £53,000 in 1863. In 1872, the revenue had increased to £40,000 as against £8,547 in 1863. Of even this £8,547, about £4,000 was, in no proper sense, revenue, but supplied from the Imperial Treasury. But as on account of the war then going on, that contrast might not be regarded as fair, he would take the average of the six years from 1867 to 1872, compared with the average of the six years from 1858 to 1863. The average annual imports in the previous period were £200,000 as against £120,000 in the latter, whilst the exports showed an increased average of £280,000 as against £115,000. The trade with the Fantees for palm oil, &c., had been steadily increasing year by year, and as to the real trade of the Gold Coast—the Ashantee trade—it had not been opened at all for the last 10 years, and yet there was this enormous increase of exports and imports. The Returns of the year 1872, moreover, did not include the Dutch territories which had been handed over to us in April of that year. The full effect of the new tariff had not yet been felt, and still in 1873, when the war was going on, the revenue exhibited a considerable increase. The Revenue of 1873 was, in fact, £53,000 against an expenditure of £40,000. This expenditure was, no doubt, very large when compared with the £9,000 spent in 1863; but it still left us a balance of £13,000, sufficient, or nearly so, to cover the expenses of the Governor and the troops, which were now defrayed by the Home Government. The expenses of the squadron could not fairly be charged upon the Settlements, but counted rather against such places as the Oil Rivers, where the Commodore had so constantly to interfere. More than this, on looking at the Returns of expenditure, published by the Colonial Office, he found sums amounting to sometimes £10,000 in a single year, which could, in no sense, be considered to form a portion of the expenditure, but which were rather the savings or surplus revenue of the Settlement. The present position was this—our prestige had been recovered by the war. Our imports had been increased by three-fold, our exports by seven-fold, and our revenue by twelve-fold, and we had a surplus of at least £13,000. But the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), when addressing his constituents last year, had laid it down as an axiom of commerce that "trade flourished best without forts." The example of the Gold Coast might, of itself, go far to disprove that assertion, inasmuch as, although we had held that Coast under most disadvantageous circumstances, we could point to an increasing trade and revenue. However bad our government had been both on the Gold Coast and at Lagos—and it could not be much worse—yet, owing to the advantage of British protection, the trade there had enormously increased. The trade of Lagos had increased from £300,000, in 1863, to £800,000 in 1873, and the revenue from £16,000 to £41,000. In 1865, a large number of merchants and others interested in this trade were examined before a Committee. Some of them were in favour of our retaining the Settlements, and others of abandoning them. But those who objected to their retention, took exception mainly to the machinery of the Bankruptcy Courts and other matters of that nature, which were not an essential part of our government. Of the objections on principle, one was, that our taxation drove the trade from our Settlements to others not our own, where there was no taxation. But that was an objection rather to no return being made to the merchants for the taxation imposed on them and their customers than to taxation itself. Lately, however, the system of taxation had been entirely changed. Now, legitimate trade had no taxation—it was imposed only on gunpowder, guns, and rum; and he did not believe any objection would be raised to taxes on articles of that kind, which were the great curse of the West Coast of Africa. It was said that when merchants had protection they were more quarrelsome than when they had to trust to themselves, but the answer to that was, that, as a fact, our Gold Coast Settlements had had the effect of keeping both the Natives and the merchants in order, and the mere trade quarrels amounted to nothing at all. But whether the merchants quarrelled with them or not, the Natives, if not controlled, would, undoubtedly, do so both among themselves and with the merchants. It would be all very well if we could get merchants with the same kind of influence as Livingstone; but, unfortunately, the merchants in gunpowder, guns, and rum, were by no means the best specimens of Englishmen that could visit these countries. The Natives themselves were not such as Livingstone saw in the central parts of Africa, but were tribes already long debauched by this trade in rum and muskets. It was a curious circumstance that even those who did not advocate the retention of the Settlements were strongly in favour of retaining the squadron, except where the Native Chiefs were strong enough to afford the necessary protection, and these strong Native Chiefs were very rare. The whole West Coast was a country of small tribes, who were perpetually at war. Moreover, the tendency of our Government on the Gold Coast had unfortunately been to take all power out of the hands of the Chiefs. That some kind of protection was necessary to our merchants was clearly shown by the fact pointed out to the Committee, by Dr. Livingstone, that there was no trade whatever on the East Coast of Africa, simply because the Coast tribes were such Protectionists that nobody had any chance, unless he had British force at his back to open up trade. But a Settlement afforded much more protection than a Consul and a squadron would. The curse of the West Coast of Africa had been the inefficiency of our officials, and it was only by accident that we could find a proper man to accept the post of Consul there. In any case he would probably be a man of inferior stamp to a Governor, more open to bias, and less capable of deciding the difficult questions that must arise between the trader and the Native. The Commodore, if suddenly called in by him, had no time for a sufficient inquiry, and would naturally incline to the side of his countrymen. Thus, as a fact, the tendency of the trader was to more frequent quarrels at such a post than where there was a regular Settlement. Beyond that, a squadron was far more expensive than our Settlements where we had some revenue, and on the Gold Coast, a very sufficient revenue. But the Oil Rivers were constantly quoted to prove the assertion that trade flourished best without a Settlement. Now, the case of these Rivers was wholly exceptional. It was the only place on the whole Coast where you found a wonderfully rich country and good means of communication combined. The enormous development of trade there previous to 1865 was due to this fact, and also to the fact that it was an entirely new trade. But what was the case now? The squadron had constantly been called in to interfere between merchants and Natives, and the true oil country had never yet been reached. The result was that trade there was now stationary; and, unfortunately, what imports there were, were principally rum, gunpowder, and Birmingham muskets. He was no admirer of negro character, no frequenter of Exeter Hall, no advocate for putting a coat of moral whitewash, very often a very thin one, on every black man we came across; but it was one thing to go on Quixotic expeditions of regeneration, and another thing to debauch these people by the rum and gun trade of our own countrymen. In that respect our conduct contrasted unfavourably with that of other civilized countries towards savage tribes, for the Americans levied heavy penalties on whoever sold spirits or firearms to the Indians of the reservations. We did the same ourselves in Natal. But he need not go further than England in search of an example. In this country, we took upon ourselves to deal with and to control the liquor traffic, and yet in the case of these people, who were comparatively children, we hesitated to protect them against the evil practices of our own countrymen. Not only that, but those who held that civilization and trade progressed hand and hand must surely mean that the trade should be a good trade? But the trade he deprecated not only created no new wants, but limited its own area. It was to the interest of the Natives on the Coast, when the trade was in arms and gunpowder, to prevent that trade extending inland, and there- fore the extension was either impossible, or was carried on by a system of middlemen and of credit which had the effect of checking it. When we obtained any article of trade from the interior, the payment we made at the Coast was so diminished by passing through the hands of different brokers, that it was but poor remuneration by the time it reached the hands of the original producer, who therefore had hardly any interest in encouraging further production. The Returns which had been furnished showed that during the last 20 years our exports to Settlements non-British had actually fallen, while our exports to British Settlements had increased 70 per cent; and while our imports from the former remained stationary, they had doubled in the case of our own Settlements. Not only the amount, but the character of the trade also was different, for in 1872, while we exported £154,000 worth of arms and gunpowder to the non-British Settlements, we exported only £50,000 worth to the British Possessions. In the same way, the value of the spirits exported in the one case was £160,000, against £11,000 in the other. In other words, we exported to places where we had no Settlement twice the proportionate amount of arms, and more than eight times the proportionate amount of spirits. With respect to abandoning the Coast, all admitted that it was impossible to do so at present. The consequence would be, that the most horrible war would ensue, the place would become a kind of Pandemonium, and human sacrifices, with other barbarous practices, which had received some check, would break out with all their original force. If we were to wait until the people acquired a superficial civilization, or until some artificial system of self-government should be established, we should withdraw only to leave behind us a state of matters worse than it was before. The Natives would be in a worse position, for while we had not redeemed them from barbarism, they would, in addition, have contracted some of the vices of civilization. We were not in a condition to treat the Natives in the way we could have treated them when we first discovered them. They had been demoralized by the slave and spirit trade, and we had so deprived the Chiefs of their authority, that within the Protectorate, a Chief sometimes had not even the power to imprison one of his subjects. Assuming that war would not break out, at any rate, it was apprehended that the Natives would take the whole of the trade of the Coast to themselves, as they had done in Liberia, and shut out English merchants altogether. Assume, however, that no such result occurred, it might be said that the trade at the Gold Coast could be conducted by a company. Well, with regard to the African Company, which existed up to 1821, and which received from the Imperial Exchequer a large subsidy, amounting at one time to £13,000, and at another time to £20,000, its inhumanity, cowardice, and injustice, especially in its later days, were such as to stamp its rule with a blot which had never been effaced, and to compel the Government to take the administration of the Coast out of its hands. It might be said that a better company could now be established—that, for instance, one of the limited liability companies that were in fashion might undertake the work; but anyone who had had as much experience as he had had in investigating the affairs of limited liability companies, would probably agree with him in thinking that there was not much in the way of commercial or any other morality to be expected from them. It was admitted that the administration of Governor Maclean had been one of the most successful ever known on the Coast; but it must be remembered that, although a servant of a company, he was a man of unusual ability, and that he took over the government at a most fortunate time, a war having been concluded in 1828 in which the disgrace of the previous defeat had been wiped out and our prestige had been re-established. Moreover, a Treaty had just been signed which was exceedingly favourable to the King of Ashantee, inasmuch as it permitted Ashantee traders, who previously had been stopped at Mansu, to come down to the Coast; and this in a great measure, accounted for the fact that peace lasted during the whole of Governor Maclean's administration. Our happy relations with that king were further secured by the presence of a Consul at Coomassie. But the great advantage that Governor Maclean possessed lay in the fact that he remained at the Coast for 17 years, and was able during that length of time to acquire a thorough knowledge of the Natives. That was the great secret of his success on the Gold Coast, and proved that in this respect, at any rate, his rule was the model of the system they ought now to adopt. Moreover, he was not the mere deputy of a deputy, but the direct Representative, if not of the Sovereign, of a trading company which was directly under the control of the Government. In regard to the trade of the Coast, a comparison of the figures relating to the present time with those relating to the period of Governor Maclean's administration would he most unfair, as the former referred to only a few ports along the Protectorate, while the latter applied to the trade of the whole Gold Coast proper, stretching from the Assinee so far east as to Lagos. If a fair comparison could he obtained, he believed it would be found to be highly favourable to the present trade. Governor Maclean's administration had been pointed to as the administration of a trading company, but that could not be accepted as anything but an accidental description of it. It had, however, been that Governor's opinion, and the opinion of Mr. Swanzy, who had acted with him, that the administration would be very much improved, if it were once more taken wholly in hand by the Home Government. What, however, had recently been the difficulties in the way of our Government? While the Dutch occupied a Settlement on the Coast, there were constantly petty local squabbles arising, and smuggling was prevalent to the detriment of our finances, but now that they were gone, many of the difficulties which were connected with the financial question had been done away with. In 1865, when evidence was taken before a Committee of the House of Commons, one objection which attached to our Government in the Settlement, was the fact that the people of the Coast entertained strong resentment against those who assisted in stopping the slave trade. Well, the slave trade was now, in that quarter at least, nearly suppressed, and the argument no longer existed. During the last ten years, since 1863, we had suffered from loss of prestige, owing to the disastrous expedition under General Macarthy, and there was nothing to be wondered at when the Fantees refused to help those whom they believed to be the weaker party. The great difficulty of all, however, was the recommendation of the Committee of 1865. Their policy was so undecided that the Governors along the Coast really did not know what to do, and nobody knew whether there existed any policy to be acted upon. It produced indecision and vacillation on our side, and indifference on the part of those whom we professed to protect. It was not intended on our part to occupy the Gold Coast permanently. Still, the Fantees were heavily taxed; but we had done very little in opening up the country by the making of roads, or giving them any kind of return. Not only that, but we had adopted a system which he could not better describe than as a mere dog-in-the-manger policy, for, while we said that we would not defend them against the Ashantees, we refused to allow them to set up any means of defence for themselves. The Ashantees themselves had been emboldened by our weakness, the indifference of our allies, and our evident anxiety to leave the Coast so soon as we could decently do so. In spite of all those difficulties, however, our trade had flourished, and something had been done in the way of civilization. But with such advantages as we now possessed, what might we not expect to accomplish? Our prestige was established, and we were free to occupy a position of perfect neutrality towards all parties. All we need do was to keep up a few troops on the Coast, and we had, thanks to Captain Glover, a very good force at our disposal in the Houssas, who had been well organized, and who had, moreover, this advantage, that, coming from a distance, they had no associations. By doing so our trade would be largely increased. Everybody admitted that there was in Ashantee and the districts beyond a very considerable trade in gold dust, the result of superficial washings, because no determined attempt had hitherto been made there to get gold as in California or Australia. By our occupation, that would be properly worked, and by opening up the Volta, we should obtain the inland traffic. But if we were to secure all the benefits of the trade we must make full use of our control on the Coast. If we did not prevent the Ashantees from obtaining Sniders, we should soon find that we had a more formidable enemy to contend with than we had in the late war. But one of the most important questions of all was what kind of government we should establish on the Coast. We were, in his opinion, bound to have a really good government, and if efficient men could not be procured to fill the office of Governor and other positions of responsibility at the present rate of pay, the salaries ought to be increased. There need be no difficulty in inducing good Governors to go out to those Settlements if we paid them, instead of a paltry £1,500 per annum, £5,000; and gave them, as we might easily do, a decent place to live in, and one in which some attention was given to the elementary principles of sanitary science. Such a man might retain office for several years, and so be able to form a better system of rule than could be carried out by those who, after a few months residence at Cape Coast Castle, returned home sick. During the last 17 years we had no fewer than 18 successive Governors on the Coast—a state of things obviously incompatible with any fixed or efficient system of government. No cumbrous machinery nor any elaborate. Constitution was wanted for those regions. The one great object should be the maintenance of peace. We ought simply to act the part of policemen there, and let things take their natural course, giving the people an opportunity of learning the arts of peace, and educating them, so that the superior members of their race might administer side by side with us. We owed it, moreover, to the Dutch, who did not sell those settlements, but ceded their jurisdiction on the Gold Coast to us; we owed it also to legitimate trade, and likewise to the interests of our own subjects there, not to abandon our position. Further, we owed a duty to the Natives. We had demoralized and disunited the people, and had deprived the Chiefs of their authority, and until some elements of union and self-government were established on the Coast, it would be most unfair to leave it. But there was another consideration, and that was, that there were some customs which it was our bounden duty to interfere with, one of which was that of human sacrifices. Now, if we were to abandon the Coast, there was no doubt that these sacrifices would be renewed in all their vigour. These sacrifices were largely due to our suppression of the slave trade, and therefore an additional responsibility was cast upon us to endeavour to put a stop to them. There were three courses open to us. The first was, that we might take the course which had been adopted since the year 1865; but he thought it would be much better to abandon the Coast altogether than to continue to pursue such a course. The other two courses were, either to abandon the Coast, or to make full use of the power which we had acquired. A great opportunity was now before us, and we should not be true to the English power which was spread throughout the whole world, if we retired from the Coast, simply because we could not see how to govern the people. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Resolution.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words this House is of opinion, that, in the interests of civilization and commerce, it would not now he desirable to withdraw from the administration of the affairs of the Gold Coast."—(Mr. Hanbury,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, it must be plain to every hon. Member that the question of the Ashantee War was one which had caused the people of this country very considerable anxiety, and in proportion to that anxiety was the interest they now felt as to what our future policy would be with regard to the Gold Coast. Although he did not concur in the Motion of the hon. Gentleman who had addressed the House, he was glad that the subject in question had been so early, and so ably, brought before them by him as it had been. For himself, he would rather urge upon the Government to leave the Gold Coast as soon as practicable, and the entanglements of war could be got rid of; but, at the same time, no reasonable man would expect that it should be left all at once. He felt the question had been raised in rather an unfortunate manner, because it was of so grave a nature that, in his opinion, a division should be taken on it as a substantive Motion instead of on the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair. In the first place, it was a question as to our giving up a possession of the Crown; in the second place, it was a question whether the House would agree to, or dissent from, the opinion of a Select Committee, and further, the whole question of the late unfortunate Ashantee War was involved in the discussion of the subject. In dealing with a question so large as this, we must look at it from every point of view. First, we had to regard the honour and interests of the nation. We had then to look at what position our merchants and missionaries would he in if we withdrew from the Gold Coast; and we were also hound to look at our obligations towards the Fantees and other African tribes, and not to forget the position in which we were placed in respect to the King of Ashantee. At the outset, he wished emphatically to say he regarded this, as no party question, for all parties alike were interested in a rational and practical settlement of the difficulties which had arisen out of our connection with the Gold Coast—fortunately respecting this possession we had more information than about any other of our settlements abroad. To the Gold Coast the whole of his observations would be confined, and they would not include Sierra Leone or any other Settlements. On entering upon this subject two questions suggested themselves—first, for what purpose were we at the Gold Coast at all? and, secondly, how was it that, with all our experience of the past, and with the distinct recommendation of a Select Committee that we should reduce our responsibility on that Coast, with a view of ultimately departing from it altogether, we found ourselves engaged in prosecuting the greatest war we ever had on that Coast, for the purpose of greatly extending our territory and increasing our responsibility? In reference to the first question, that it might be answered clearly, he would divide our occupancy into three epochs—the first, from the time we became possessed of the territory in 1672, until 1807, during which epoch we were there for the purpose of obtaining a cheap supply of slaves for our Colonies and plantations. In 1807, when we abolished the slave trade, the position of affairs at the Gold Coast was this—that from Appolonia to Voger, a distance of 250 miles, were to be found 27 forts belonging to the various nations of Europe, who had fastened upon Africa like leeches, and were sucking her very life-blood, those forts being maintained for the purpose of offering facilities for obtaining slaves. From that period until 1862 might be called the philanthropic epoch, because we were there partly for the purposes of trade, but mainly with the object of putting down the slave trade, in which we were eminently successful. From 1862 until now, constituting the third epoch, we had been there solely for the purpose of having an outlet for our manufactures and merchandize. What had the value of that trade been? Had it been profitable in any sense? The statistics he would use were all based upon official Reports, vouched for by the most experienced officers of the Board of Trade, the Colonial Office, and by others whose position gave them access to the most accurate information. Taking the two years from 1805, before the abolition of slavery in 1807, he found the amount of exports from England was £2,811,000. In 1830, the British Government finding the government of the Gold Coast somewhat troublesome, as well as expensive, came to the conclusion that it would be better to withdraw from it altogether. The English merchants, there, however, took the responsibility upon themselves, upon being allowed £4,000 a year by the Government for doing so, and they appointed a Committee—three from Liverpool, three from Bristol, and three from London—sitting at the latter place, who ruled the Gold Coast, through Governor Maclean, whom they appointed. Governor Maclean, who had no army to back him, acted with great wisdom, and endeavoured to find customers wherever they might be found, and, consequently, the Ashantees found their way to the Coast, and the road from Coomassie was open and could be traversed in swinging hammocks in 60 hours. What was the trade done during this period of ten years? From 1831 to 1840 the amount of exports from this country to the Gold Coast was £2,274,000. Since then the territory had been ruled by a succession of Governors, and whereas Governor Maclean was there for 17 years, without any change, during the 20 years from 1854 to 1874 there were 26 different changes of Governors, and it was quite impossible for us to rule with such changes; and from 1853 until 1862 our exports to the Gold Coast fell to only £1,154,000. Our exports during the following 10 years were somewhat different from the amount stated by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hanbury). He held in his hand a Return from the Colonial Office, which was of a most fallacious character. It was a Return showing that the trade from 1863 to 1872 amounted to £1,301,000. That did not represent the trade from this country with the Gold Coast, but it was the trade of the whole world with that Coast. The real amount of our exports to the Gold Coast during that period was £1,156,000, or altogether, for the 20 years, from 1853 to 1873, £2,310,000, and if that did not show a diminishing trade, he did not know what did. But what had the British taxpayer to pay during the same 20 years? Parliamentary Grants had amounted to £50,000, we had a military expenditure of £440,000, a war in 1863 had cost us £700,000, and the latest one £900,000, so that the taxpayers of this country had to pay a sum of £2,090,000 for sales of merchandize amounting to only £2,300,000. Surely, the loss of the lives of our brave soldiers must count for something; but if it were taken merely as a money-making concern, the best thing we could have done would have been to have asked the merchants not what their profits were, but what their sales were, and to have given the whole sum into their hands rather than to have adopted the course we had done. The hon. Member for Tamworth had said, that we should have no more wars with Ashantee; but, in his opinion, so far from having a peaceful prospect with Ashantee, we might look for the very reverse, and that at no distant date, He believed the King of Ashantee would arm himself with superior weapons within a moderate space of time, and assert his claims to certain places which we held, especially to Elmina, which he regarded as the key to Ashantee. It was a remarkable fact that whilst our trade had been such as he had described, that of the United States had shown a great increase, whilst they had incurred no charge whatever for the maintenance of these dependencies. In 1863, their exports to the Gold Coast were £76,000; in 1870 they had increased to £253,000, of which £80,000 was from the United States, and only £156,000 from this country. Last year the amount was £266,000, of which £177,000 belonged to this country. He now came to the important subject of increased expenditure on the Gold Coast. Whilst for 17 years before 1868 it averaged £10,000 a-year in 1870–71 if was £32,000; in 1872, £42,000, and for the present year the estimate was £54,000. That money had been raised mainly by increased duties upon imports. In 1867 the duties on manufactured goods were 2 per cent. and in 1873 they were 10 per cent; in 1868 the duty on spirits was 6d., and in 1873, 2s. 6d. per gallon; in 1868 the duty upon tobacco was 1d. per lb., and in 1873, 6d. per lb. The effect of these high duties was to drive the trade to the Volta on the one side, and Assinee on the other, and these duties had no small influence upon the King of Ashantee. Whilst we were doing all we could by high duties to keep goods out of this Settlement, he thought we also acted very unwisely in our treatment of those whom we ought to allow to come to the Coast; we aided the Fantee brokers to keep the Ashantees from the Coast, and we disregarded not only the latter, but also our own merchants, who had not received that support from the Government which they might justly have expected. Some eight years ago, when the Ashantee trade flourished and the Ashantees came to the Coast, the Fantee brokers charged for their board and lodging, and as commission, 3 per cent upon the goods purchased by the Ashantee merchants. In 1872, when they resumed their trade with the Coast, this 3 per cent was again demanded of the merchants, and refused. The Fantees then created a riot, and while this riot was in action, the acting Governor and the local magistrate recommended the mercantile community to submit a claim so made and so enforced to arbitration. The general opinion of the British merchants was that trade was more satisfactorily carried on with the Natives at places where our Government did not interfere. He would now ask the attention of the House to a very important consideration in dealing with the subject, and that was the European population of our Gold Coast Settlements at the last Census, which consisted of only 16 merchants or clerks, and three British missionaries. The British subjects there only numbered 19, and they were under the control of 22 civil and military servants of the Crown. We were, no doubt, indebted to missionary labours throughout the length and breadth of the world, but we could not look with satisfaction at the state of mission work on the Gold Coast. Our three missionaries and 11 Native assistants and their stations were maintained mainly by our guns and bayonets, and the influence of the Dutch missionaries at Elmina extended only as far as the camion of their forts reached. But there were 39 German missionaries in Liberia, and 25 American missionaries, and 64 stations, without any Government to look after them, and on the eastern side of our Settlements, on the Coast of Calabar, there were 11 British and six foreign missionaries where there was no Government protection. He was sure, that if it were necessary that our missionaries should be maintained by the country, the people of this country would be prepared to supply them with the means of carrying the Gospel of peace to the native population; but if their position was such that they were to be maintained by the aid of the guns of the British it was better not to have them there at all. What he (Mr. Holms) could not understand was why the Government of this country sought more territory on that Coast, when all the information they had had on the subject, when every recommendation made by Committees that considered and examined it, recommended them to prepare to withdraw from it altogether. Instead of doing so, however, they had greatly increased it. What had been our experience of the past? From 1807 to the present time they had nothing but a succession of wars there and a succession of Commissions to inquire into their cause. In 1811 they had a war on the Gold Coast, and in 1812 a Commission to inquire into it; in 1816 another war, and in 1817 a Mission to Coomassie, who made a Treaty with the King, which in 1819 was found to be useless, and in 1822 we had another war, and again in 1826, until they gave up the whole territory, in 1830: but it was again resumed in 1843, and from that date down to 1865 many complications and difficulties occurred. A Committee to consider the whole subject was appointed in 1865, consisting of the present Earl of Derby, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Charles Adderley), the right hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), and other eminent Members of the House, and they unanimously recommended that all extension of territory on that Coast was inexpedient, and especially recommended that the British agents there should keep on good terms with the native authorities, and that the Protectorate should only be partially encouraged. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), speaking last October to his constituents, told them that the time would come when Parliament, acting on the advice of that Committee, would consider it wise to withdraw absolutely from the African Coast. With respect to the course which this country had pursued, the Government did proceed in 1867 to carry into effect the recommendation of the Committee of 1865, but it was not done very wisely, and that was the first step towards the late war. We possessed a long territory, and the Dutch had their forts intertwined with ours, and as our customs duties and laws were different from those of the Dutch, great inconvenience undoubtedly arose. The proposal of the English Government was that we should assume the protection of all the territory to the east of the Sweet River, taking over all the Dutch forts, and that in like manner the Dutch should take over all our forts which lay to the west of the Sweet River. We did not, however, consult some hundreds of thousands of Natives on the subject. The Commendah people, always loyal to us, greatly disliked being transferred to the Dutch, and thus becoming, in fact, allies of the Ashantees who were their enemies. They resisted the transfer and the Dutch bombarded them. Their old allies, the Fantees, came to their aid and in retaliation blockaded Elmina, and the result was that in 1868 the King of Ashantee, at the request of the Elmina people, sent an army there in spite of the Dutch, who were said to be the rulers of the place, and in spite also of the Fantees, who were supposed to be under our rule. As the Ashantee army would not depart from Elmina, the Dutch Government, beginning to feel very uncomfortable, sought to find a customer, not for the goodwill of the business, but for the stores and fixtures. In October, 1870, they offered them to us for £80,000; in the following month, finding we would not take them at that figure, they offered them for the reduced sum of £25,000. Shortly afterwards we had a Treaty by which the amount was limited to a sum not exceeding £24,000, and the negotiations ultimately ended in this that, adding 5 per cent to the charges for delay, we actually paid them the modest sum of £3,790 1s.d. In accepting the cession of Elmina by the Dutch, whose rights were of a doubtful character, we entirely ignored the claims of the King of Ashantee and the King of Elmina. It might be said that the King had renounced his claims in a letter dated 19th August, 1871, and which had been obtained through Colonel Natglass, but this letter of renunciation would require some explanation as being quite contradictory both to the words and acts of both parties all through the previous negotiations and by the light of which it looked ludicrous. Hence the present difficulties. It was this, combined with the unfortunate disregard of the wishes of the native tribes which led to the recent war. At the Legislative Council held at Cape Coast in January, 1873, that was abundantly clear. A despatch which arrived at the Colonial Office on the 25th of January, 1871, gave a key to the whole difficulty. It was sent from Governor Kennedy to Lord Kimberley, and he answered two questions which the Colonial Office was very anxious to understand. One was, "What right the King of Ashantee had to Elmina?" and the second was, "Whether the native populations desired to come under our protection?" That despatch went to show that the King of Ashantee distinctly claimed the sovereignty of Elmina; that the Dutch Government had paid the King a monthly allowance on account of his claim to the Castle of Elmina; that our Governor Usher was clearly of opinion that the King of Ashantee had such rights as it was dangerous for us to disregard in relation to the port of Elmina; and that the King of Elmina and other native tribes, assembled in public meeting at the St. George's Hall at Elmina, had declared that while they were anxious for peace, they did not wish to be joined with the Fantees under the English flag, but wished to remain under the Dutch flag. He now came to the question of the action taken by our Government, and he thought the great war which had cost us so many lives and so much treasure, and which had opened the question as to whether we should continue to maintain this distant possession of the Crown, was a subject that ought to be discussed with gravity and care. He was aware that the subject could not be completely discussed that evening, but he had endeavoured to place some facts before them which were, at any rate, beyond doubt, and he thought he had mentioned enough to show that the Government of the day might have paused before having to do with an extension of territory especially when without the goodwill of the people of the soil. The Government did not immediately answer the despatch, which was received on the 25th of January. It was not answered till the 28th of February, when the terms used were— It should be distinctly explained to the Elminas that Government had no intention to compel them to accept British protection. Although they had just received a despatch which showed how earnestly these tribes had refused to come under the British flag, yet, three days before this language was used, a Treaty had been signed at the Hague which in effect settled the whole business. It appeared that during the whole of our transactions with the Dutch, a general of the Ashantees. Prince Atjempon, still remained in Elmina, that he was there when the transfer to us took place on the 6th of April, 1872; and that it was only after that transfer, that he was sent over the Prah. The King then sent forth the invading Army, and that was the beginning of the late war. It might be urged that the King desired the return of Prince Atjempon, but, looking at the facts, it did not appear that this really was the case. He was merely anxious for time to prepare for war with us and merely appeared to wish for his return. On the 17th May, 1869, Earl Granville, in writing to Governor Kennedy, stated— You cannot be unaware that the recent war with the Ashantees was a subject of the greatest regret to the Government, that the recurrence of such a war would he viewed as a great calamity, and that the employment in it of British troops would be wholly against the policy of this country, and on the 11th February, 1873, after the Ashantees had invaded the protected territory, Colonel Harley, in reply to some Natives seeking aid from him, stated that the maintenance of the fighting men by his Government was out of the question, and that the Fantees must understand that they were called upon to defend their own soil. By that, the policy was laid down as clearly as possible, that we were not to protect the tribes at all beyond our own forts. How was it, then, that we departed from that policy and advanced our troops not only beyond the forts, but across the Prah to Coomassie? He thought the House must look forward with great interest to the statement of the late Government as to what was the real cause of the war. He had shown how utterly the native tribes when under the Dutch detested the idea of coming under British rule, and that the Home Government had said they would not take these tribes under their protection unless they liked, and he would now give them from an official despatch the history of one day—that the first day—of the war. The troops were in motion at 5 A.M., and in a short time marched to the first village on their route. In 35 minutes they fired upon that village, and then they destroyed it. They then marched to the next village, which was two hours distant. That village was deserted, and they destroyed it. They then marched to the nest village, which was also deserted, and which they likewise destroyed. And this was done by the troops of a country which sent forth more missionaries to spread the Gospel of peace than any other, and which distributed millions of tracts inculcating peace and goodwill among men, and which, while it was considering how to alleviate famine in one distant country, was, by means of fire and sword, carrying famine into another, and against a people whose only crime was that of refusing to come under the protection of a country which by the mouth of one of its chief Ministers had declared that they would not be forced to act against their will. There were great difficulties to be encountered by remaining on the Coast. The Government had now 810 miles of boundary to defend, instead of 370, and its frontier towards Ashantee had increased from 170 to 190 miles. Moreover, we could not in honour remain and become the protectors of any of the tribes he had spoken of without asking their sanction. A suggestion had been made to form a confederacy of native tribes for mutual defence against the Ashantees; but these tribes were not friendly among themselves; and even if we succeeded in forming an Army amongst them, we would have to instil into them a bravery which they did not possess. Our withdrawal from the Coast could scarcely be hindered by a consideration of obligation to the Fantees, who had involved us in several wars, and who had behaved in so cowardly a manner in the late expedition. As regarded our merchants, it would be worth our while to compensate those who retired from the Coast, if we withdrew our forces. The Government might induce the merchants of 1874 to do what the merchants of 1830 did, and hand over the management of the Gold Coast to them. As to the Ashantees, history had declared, what experience had recently confirmed, that they were the only tribe in Africa who were able to organize and maintain a Government. If we had been as zealous to make friends of the Ashantees as we had been successful in making enemies of them, we should long ago have arrived at a solution of the difficulty. Our Government should now change their policy, and, instead of driving them back into the interior, should encourage them to come to the Coast, and above all things endeavour to bring them into harmony with some of the border tribes, for already, indeed, some of the Fantees would willingly be associated with them. This policy had been recommended many years ago by the Rev. Sydney Smith, who, when reviewing the work of Mr. Bowditch, the African traveller, said that he sympathized with the victories of the King of Ashantee, and that if the King had been encouraged to come to the Coast, we should have been saved many of the difficulties which the great traveller recorded. In Mr. Smith's opinion, the best thing that we could do was to leave the Gold Coast altogether. Whilst endorsing this view no reasonable man would think of instantly withdrawing, but rather that we should prepare to do so as early as practicable. In conclusion, he begged to express his regret for having occupied the time of the House for so long, but he felt that if he touched upon the question at all, he ought to do so thoroughly.


, in moving the adjournment of the debate, said, he did so because there were many hon. Members who wished to speak on the subject.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Arthur Mills.)


Sir, I think that it would be much for the public convenience that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department should have an opportunity of bringing forward the Licensing Bill, in accordance with what has been arranged; therefore I shall not oppose the Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate, and the more especially so, because the subject now under discussion is one of great public interest, and is one upon which many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak. Feeling it to be my duty to meet that wish, I am willing to agree that the debate shall be resumed on Monday next.

Motion agreed to.

Debate adjourned till Wednesday.