§ *(9.31) MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
This is a question of some importance, and I shall move the reduction of the Colonial Office Vote by £500—
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I rise to a point of Order. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman for further information with regard to the subject we are now discussing. I should like to know whether I should be precluded from doing so, if the hon. Member (Mr. S. Smith) raises quite a distinct question.
§ *MR. SMITH
I am willing to give way now if thereby I do not lose the right of speaking on this question. I am quite in the hands of the Chairman.
§ MR. TIMOTHY HEALY (Longford, N.)
I submit that as no reduction has been moved on the general Vote—
§ THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! It is for the hon. Member (Mr. S. Smith) to determine whether he should give way or not.
§ *MR. SMITH
This is a matter of very great importance to the public, and many questions have been put in this House with the view of eliciting information as to the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to it. I think it is the feeling of all who sit on this side of the House, and of many who sit on the other side, that the answers of Her Majesty's Government have been very unsatisfactory, and that the papers which were placed in the hands of Members this morning do nothing whatever to diminish the dissatisfaction which has been caused by the action of Her Majesty's Government in regard to this question. My intention now is to direct the attention of the Committee to the whole subject of the revival of the Polynesian labour traffic with Queensland. I hold that the Polynesian labour traffic for the last twenty years has been as cruel as the slave trade of Africa in the worst period of its existence, and I hope that I shall have the support of my hon. Friends in laying the matter before the country, and in pressing upon the Government to take a totally different action to that they have hitherto taken with reference to it. It will now be my 1963 painful duty to refer to some of the disclosures which were made to the Royal Commission which sat in 1885. I will quote one or two paragraphs from the Report of that Commission, which will call the attention of the House to the characteristics of the trade, and which, I believe, are by no means absent at the present day.The love of home of those Islanders amounts to a passion, and the recruiting agents had to overcome dislike to practical exile by the assurance that they would not be absent for any length of time; whenever there was pronounced unwillingness on the part of the natives to go in the boats, or remain on the ships, they were too often impressed by threats.The Commissioners go on to say—The Government agents seldom seem to have informed themselves by personal observation and inquiry that the voluntary recruits understood the nature of their engagements.They further state—So far as we could discern, when the recruits were brought on board ship, the Government agents sometimes tied a piece of calico round their necks, sometimes they entered their names in the official logs; very rarely indeed did they take any trouble to learn whether the recruits really appreciated that they had entered into an engagement, or the purpose of it.Now that was the general conclusion which was come to by the Commissioners, who made a most extensive inquiry into the whole question of engaging Pacific Islanders for this traffic. They decided that the system from root to branch was one of fraud and deception, that the natives were not voluntary agents, that they were totally ignorant of the purposes for which they were engaged; and that, in fact, they were virtually kidnapped. The Commissioners were directed to make inquiries with reference to six ships, and they spent thirty days in the investigation. They examined no less than 280 of the Polynesian labourers, and I will read from their Report what they say about the manner in which the recruits were obtained. The Commissioners state—Our opinion is that all the recruits brought by the 'Ceara' on this voyage were seduced on board by false pretences, that the nature of their engagements was never fully explained to them, that they had little or no comprehension of the nature of the work they had to perform, and that the period for which they agreed to come was in no single instance for three years.1964 They further say—Our opinion is that a system of deliberate fraud was practised in engaging all recruits during this voyage … None believed they had agreed to remain in Queensland for three years.I will not weary the Committee by reading other extracts. They are all to the same effect, but in the case of the "Hopeful" a much worse charge is made.The history of the cruise of the 'Hopeful' is one long record of deceit, cruel treachery, deliberate kidnapping, and cold-blooded murders. The number of human beings whose lives were sacrificed during the recruiting can never be accurately known.Now the monsters who were engaged on the "Hopeful" were tried for these murders. They were found guilty, and were condemned to penal servitude. But what happened? A strong petition was got up in the colony asking that their punishment might be remitted, and after a few years' imprisonment the wretches were let loose. It was even proposed to give them a public dinner when they came out of prison; but this, however, was dropped. I have now an observation to make as to the mortality amongst these unfortunate islanders. From twenty to twenty-five per cent. of them died in one year. A gentleman who has been through the plantations of Queensland, and who had made close inquiries into the condition of the labourers there—Mr. Hume Nisbet—assured me that in the course of ten months the men were practically used up, and that they generally fell into consumption. If that is not a deplorable state of thing, I do not know what is. These men were taken to the plantations in good health, but the hospitals were soon crowded with them, and very few of them returned to their homes in a healthy state—the majority of them were sent back to die. I have one more fact to add to this tale of horror. In some cases, when they were sent back, they were landed on hostile islands, where they were killed and eaten by the savages, who were cannibals. That was the state of things for twenty years before the year 1885, and no one can rise up and say one word of apology for this abominable traffic. I have had an 1965 opportunity of discussing this question with an old sailor, who explained to me the method of recruiting these labourers. He said that the chiefs at the islands were offered an old musket and ammunition for three slaves, which was the regular tariff. The islanders were then taken on board ship, where the Queensland agent asked them questions in English, of which they did not understand a word. Three fingers were then held up by him signifying that they were to be engaged for three years, but the men did not understand what it meant. Their names were then entered in the logbook, and the unhappy people were taken away to Queensland. That is how the abominable traffic was carried on. During the whole period up to 1885 most admirable regulations were in force on paper. No better regulations could have been made; and I believe that the provisions telegraphed to us the other day were substantially the same as the old regulations. All the vessels were provided with agents, who were to explain to the recruits the nature of the traffic. Yet, in spite of them, the islanders were kidnapped without the slightest idea that they were to be taken to the sugar plantations, or that they were engaged for more than three months. The consequence was that, parted from their wives and families for three years, their hearts broke, and they became miserable wrecks, being afterwards sent home to die. That is the plain, unvarnished story of what is called the Polynesian labour traffic for twenty years up to 1885. We have been told that since then all these things have come to an end, and that no abuses now exist. But it should be remembered that the trade is carried on under almost the same regulations as before 1885. I have paid a good deal of attention to this question for some years past, and I am well acquainted with the splendid work done by the New Hebrides Mission and its apostle, Dr. J. G. Paton, and I know that down to the present time these ships take away labourers from the islands—separating husbands from wives, wives from husbands, parents from children, children from parents, and that such things have been going on up to the present day. 1966 Here is a letter from Dr. J. G. Paton, who has lived as noble a life as anyone since the days of the Apostle Paul, and who has done as much for the New Hebrides as Livingstone did for Africa. Writing to Sir Samuel Griffith, the Premier of Queensland, and speaking of the year 1890, when the traffic was suspended for about two years, he said—The minimum of the traffic evils in 1890 were appalling to all out of Queensland, and to some in it. Taking children from parents and parents from children, wives from husbands and husbands from wives, may appear to some a minimum evil in such a traffic, and all in the trade know that this is the common practice of every labour vessel to Queensland and all other places to which they are taken; and who knows how many were murdered in getting them away from their island homes.He further says—Shortly before you closed the traffic one of our missionaries was requested by a number of men on his island to go with them to a labour vessel, which had got a considerable number of their wives on board, and had them confined to take away; but the captain and agent refused the application to give any of them up, and took them all away. The missionary was abused for pleading for them, and though one of the fathers held up his infant child, pleading for the mother to be given back to it or it would die, yet the slavers would not give the mother to the infant, or the infant to the mother.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Baron H. DE WORMS,) Liverpool, East Toxteth
May I ask the hon. Gentleman what he is quoting from?
§ *MR. S. SMITH
The letter of Dr. Paton to the Premier of Queensland. I could quote similar letters, but I will only refer to two others. Admiral Erskine wrote in the Times the other day—Three years' experience in command of the Australian Squadron impressed upon me two important facts, viz., firstly, that even under the most stringent regulations wrongs and abuses occurred in connection with the labour traffic, which invariably led to bloodshed and accompanying complications and reprisals.Admiral Scott, at present in command of the same squadron, when also applied to for his opinion on the subject of re-opening the trade this year, replied—I regret that it is proposed to introduce labour from the islands where there is no form of government to look after the interests of those who are recruited.1967 He goes on to say—The men engaged in the vessels and the recruiting agent should be wholly honourable and trustworthy men.Then mark the next few words—It is a difficult matter to find men who are fit for such a service.These are guarded words; but they contain a great deal when one reads between the lines. I agree with these two Admirals, that no means that can be applied would prevent these abuses. There is no practical difference between the present regulations and those which existed before. The labour agents, who have to see that the regulations are carried out, are mostly young men of roving dispositions—often failures at everything else—and they have to live for months together with the captain and the crew. It is not human nature that they should withstand the pressure which is brought to bear upon them to neglect, or, at least, to take a perfunctory view of their duties. Now, all that the labourers get for their work is £6 a year and their keep, and they used to have to wait till the end of three years before they were paid. This is the reason why the Queensland Government will not apply to India or China for labourers. The coolies of India and China would not work for £6 a year. The reason why the Kanakas go so quickly into consumption is not through the want of food, but chiefly because they are separated from their wives and families, and their hearts are broken. Their position is far worse than that of negroes, who are sturdy and accustomed to hard work. These Islanders, unlike the latter, are a soft race, unaccustomed to manual labour, and live in a primitive state on the fruit of the earth. Hard work kills them, and the traffic with Queensland was formerly the traffic of a slaughterhouse; it produced a far more rapid extinction of human beings than the slave trade of old. Some Members of the House may have seen a remarkable letter which appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette yesterday. It was written by Mr. Hume Nisbet, from whom I have already quoted, and who thoroughly understands this matter, having himself visited the islands in a labour vessel. He also travelled through Queensland a few years ago, 1968 and has thus had opportunity of ascertaining the facts. I believe he is perfectly correct when he says—The past year's crammed hospitals, equally crammed graveyards, and human wrecks which are packed back to the islands to die after their three years of slavery are over, are conclusive enough proofs to anyone who has seen the plantations of Queensland that the Kanaka is as little suited to the work as the white man.Now mark the following words:—I never yet saw a healthy South Sea Islander after his three years were up, although they mostly come to Queensland strong and healthy enough.I say this is a terrible indictment, and the nation should be despised that allows such wrongs to go on without making a protest. I ask whether the people of Queensland are to be trusted with the absolute control of this helpless race? Has their past history shown them fitted? Is it not notorious, and does not the House know, that the aborigines used to be shot down like dogs, and were rooted out with ruthless ferocity, and that but few survive? Thousands have been murdered in cold blood, and who has heard of a white man being punished for the murder of a black man?
§ *MR. S. SMITH
Mr. Hume Nisbet gave me many of these particulars, and published a book of his travels.
§ *MR. S. SMITH
He travelled in Queensland in 1886, and I believe the same facts have been stated in Rusden's History of Australia. I happen myself to have a friend who tried to employ a few of the aborigines, but the white labourers refused to work unless he dismissed them. That shows the feeling. We have been told that the sugar plantations cannot be cultivated for want of Polynesian labour; but, as I have said, coolies can be got from India and China. The Indian coolies would, however, have to be treated very differently, and the Chinese coolies know how to take care of themselves. These, however, require higher wages, and, therefore, they are not engaged. Unless we can stop this traffic of South Sea labour we shall see those 1969 islands completely depopulated; indeed, many of them are already half depopulated. Just as the population of the West Indies faded away under the Spanish conquerors, so, too, will be the case of the Pacific Islanders unless some strong hand is put out to protect them. It lies especially on this country to engage in the sacred mission of protection. It is quite true we cannot interfere with self-governing Queensland; but we do exercise a protectorate over a great part of the Pacific, and surely we have a right to say that the Union Jack shall not be employed in the carrying out of a disguised form of slavery. Here we have just signed the Brussels Act against the slave trade, and yet we are going to allow our flag to float over a kind of slavery in the South Seas. I am told that interference with a self-governing colony is a difficult matter. I feel the force of that statement, and I think the Government have felt its force so overwhelmingly that their eyes are closed to everything else. But I see some considerations on the other side. We have been told that if we interfered with Queensland we should have all the Australian Colonies in revolt; but I am glad to read in the Times of to-day news from Melbourne that the Victorian Parliament has without a single dissentient passed a resolution condemning this traffic out and out, and calling upon the Government to put an end to it. I think we should have the approval of the great bulk of the Australian people in an endeavour to defeat this wretched policy. I am informed that in Brisbane and elsewhere many meetings have been held to protest against the revival of this Pacific labour traffic. In Brisbane I believe that public opinion is strongly opposed to it, and that all the Churches of Australia will aid us in putting it down if necessary. It is one of those cases in which we ought to grasp the nettle, for those interested in the traffic are only a mere handful—a few Queensland planters. I doubt if one per cent. of the Australian population have any direct interest in it. I say it is impossible for this nation to stand supinely by and allow the revival of a species of slavery. And here it is 1970 worthy of remark that, after nearly quarreling with some European Powers on the question of slavery, we are going to allow in our own Colonies a veiled form of slavery. I believe the Government have dealt with this matter in a very feeble manner. I have read through the Blue Book, and I only find a single protest—a letter from Lord Knutsford. On the 3rd May he wrote—I observe that it is stated in the Press that the Act permitting the resumption of Polynesian immigration has been passed by both Houses of the Queensland Parliament, and has received your assent, and I trust that it contains complete provision for the protection of the natives, both during their conveyance to and from the colony, and when at work on the plantations, so as to prevent the recurrence of those regrettable abuses which were on some occasions perpetrated before the labour traffic was prohibited.These are proper words, but they are feeble words. They amount to almost nothing, and no Colonial Government would be influenced by them. Surely you might have taken up a stronger stand against a traffic which a few years ago was execrated by all civilised Powers. I do not believe that the action of the Government is in harmony either with the wishes of this country or of Australia, and I hope this House will put a little backbone into the Ministry. If the Turks had been guilty of atrocities such as marked this traffic a few years ago the country would have rung with denunciation from one end to the other. I urge the Committee to show that the old hatred of oppression has not died out of England, and that we are worthy descendants of those who in former days struck the chains from the slaves. I beg, Sir, to move a reduction of £500.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Item of £7,000, for the Colonial Office, be reduced by £500."—(Mr. Samuel Smith.)
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Baron H. de WORMS,) Liverpool, East Toxteth
I am sure that all hon. Members who have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith) will feel that he spoke from the bottom of his heart in condemning those atrocities which we, with him, 1971 deplore. He was, however, not dealing with the present but with the past, and I venture to say that if such were not the case we should not this evening have to discuss this Bill passed by the Queensland Legislature. I claim for our brothers in the Colonies an equal amount of human feeling, an equal amount of civilisation, and equal detestation of wrong and oppression as we ourselves possess. I am sure that if one tithe of the atrocities recited by the hon. Member to-night had been or could be practised in Queensland at the present moment, the Queensland Legislature would not under any conditions whatever have sanctioned a resumption of the traffic. I interrupted the hon. Member and asked him who was his authority for the statement that a permit had once been granted by the Queensland Government for the killing of blacks, and, further, for the name of his informant with regard to the massacre, which he said had taken place, of ten thousand Kanakas.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
He gave me the name of Mr. Hume Nisbet, but I did not gather that Mr. Hume Nisbet gave to the hon. Gentleman the name of his informant. At all events, if he did, the hon. Gentleman did not communicate it to the House. These charges are too grave, too terrible, to be submitted to the House of Commons without the fullest proof that they are based on credible evidence. Considering the nature of them, we are entitled to ask for the fullest, most complete, and absolute evidence of the truth of the statements alleged. Without in the least degree desiring to disparage the hon. Gentleman, I must say that such evidence has not been given to us. Passing from that for a moment, I turn to another point the hon. Gentleman raised—namely, that the answers given by me with regard to this question were unsatisfactory. If that is so, I regret the circumstance very much, but at all events I gave to the House all the information at my command, and I gave the facts as supplied me by those who had the best opportunity of knowing them. If that information was insufficient I cannot but regret it. I cannot, however, agree 1972 that the Blue Book presented to the House also contains but a meagre statement. Every document in our possession relating to the case as it now stands is embodied in this Blue Book. Neither do I understand how the hon. Member can say that we do not express ourselves sufficiently strongly to the Queensland Government in face of the despatch, a portion of which I will read to the Committee, written by the Secretary of State to Sir Henry Norman. On the 3rd May, Lord Knutsford said—I observe that it is stated in the Press that the Act permitting the resumption of Polynesian immigration has been passed by both Houses of the Queensland Parliament, and has received your assent, and I trust that it contains complete provision for the protection of the natives both during their conveyance to and from the colony and when at work on the plantations, so as to prevent the recurrence of those regrettable abuses which were on some occasions perpetrated before the labour traffic was prohibited.I want to know how the Secretary of State could say more in addressing a representation to the Ministry of a great self-governing Colony? He expresses his hope that these regulations would be ample, and I am bound to say, in view of the fact that since 1885 there have been but very few, if any, abuses—and later I will show this by facts and figures—that there was reason to be satisfied that, with the already stringent regulations now made still more stringent, these few abuses would cease altogether. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Victorian Parliament had passed a Resolution against the introduction of Kanakas into Queensland. I dealt with this subject in answer to a question put by him to-day, and I regret that he should have thought it necessary to again recur to it after that explanation. The Resolution of the Victorian Parliament was not directed specially against the importation of Kanakas into Queensland. It was a general Resolution against the importation of alien labour of whatever nature; and as I pointed out then, however important that Resolution might be, and whatever respect it was entitled to, it was impossible for Her Majesty's Government in dealing with a question so grave as the disallowance 1973 of an Act passed by the Queensland Legislature to taken into consideration a Resolution passed by the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, not directed against native employment on humanitarian grounds, but against all foreign labour, coolie or native.
§ MR. S. SMITH
In place of being a totally different subject, it contains direct reference to the action of the Queensland Parliament in sanctioning the resumption of the importation of Kanaka labour.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
I explained that the Resolution was directed against the general importation of alien labour. The Committee will, I hope, consider that I am not trespassing on their time and patience if, in dealing with this grave question, I first call their attention to the history of the traffic. The first batch of Islanders was brought to Brisbane in 1863. At first there were no Government regulations applied to the recruiting vessels, and as the trade, generally speaking, was in disreputable hands, great abuses occurred. A strong agitation sprang up in Queensland on the report of these abuses, and general indignation meetings were called. The result was that in 1868 an Act was passed by the Colonial Legislature which made provisions for the supply of food and medicine during the voyage, and for the appointment of Inspectors of the Polynesian labourers. Two inquiries were held into the working of the Act, the first in 1869 and the second in 1876; and the general conclusions were that the labourers were properly obtained and that they were willing to come to the Colony. In 1880 the Act of 1868 was repealed and another was substituted, which contained much more elaborate provision for the protection of the labourers, with power to the Governor in Council to make regulations for the due execution of the objects of the Act. In the same year, 1880, an inquiry was again made into the treatment of Polynesian labourers on the plantations, and the Government recognised the importance of hospital treatment. In 1884 an important set of regulations was framed amplifying and augmenting those contained in the Act. In 1885 an inquiry into the "Hopeful" and 1974 other cases was held, which disclosed eight instances in which the vessels had committed gross abuses and violations of the Imperial Kidnapping Acts of 1872–5. These cases occurred just about the time of the enactment of a Queensland Statute, which enabled Polynesians to give evidence without taking the oath, as they did not understand the nature of such an obligation. In the same year, 1885, after the issue of the "Hopeful" Report, an Act was passed that no licences to introduce Polynesian labourers should be issued after the end of 1890. I have thought it right to give to the Committee this brief history of the labour question, because it goes far to show that the Government of Queensland, from the very beginning of the importation of Kanaka labour into Queensland in 1863, up to the terrible events of the "Hopeful" in 1884 and the subsequent inquiry, have endeavoured by every means in their power to so regulate the traffic as to prevent the possibility of atrocities which we are all united in condemning. Since 1885 there have been no cases of atrocities whatever.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
More than that, the alteration of the law, that is to say, the rescinding of these licences, which came into force in 1890, was not caused in the main by the fact that atrocities had been committed, but for perfectly different reasons. I am prepared to show by the debates which took place in the Colonial Parliament on this Act of 1885, that there is little reference made to the "Hopeful" case, not because the speakers in any way palliated these atrocities, but simply because they found that the regulations then in force were sufficiently stringent. The principal arguments for this Act were based upon general objections to the introduction of any coloured labour into the Colony—an objection similar to the present Resolution of the Victorian Parliament—and the belief that the change would lead to the splitting up of large sugar estates into small estates, on which white labour could be employed. That view was shared by Sir Samuel Griffith. Sir Samuel Griffith is a man who has 1975 earned a reputation as a statesman, and he thoroughly deserves it; and having come to the conclusion that Kanaka labour could again be introduced into Queensland, I think he must, first of all, have thoroughly convinced himself that the safeguards by which he intended to surround the new Act were adequate to prevent the recurrence of those terrible abuses. Now, the reasons given by Sir Samuel Griffith for passing the Act of 1885 were hardly based on the atrocities at all, but were these—first, because he considered that the system then in existence tended to encourage the creation of large landed estates, owned for the most part by absentees and worked by gang labour, and so to discourage actual settlement by small farmers working for themselves; secondly, because it led to field labour in tropical agriculture being looked down upon as degrading and unworthy of white races; and, thirdly, because the permanent existence of a large servile population, not admitted to the franchise, was not compatible with the freedom of political institutions in the colony. To these reasons was added, so far as Polynesian labour was concerned, the discredit that had been brought upon Queensland by the abuses that for some years prevailed in the South Sea Island trade. These were the reasons which led to the Act of 1885 and the abolition of licences to recruit after the expiration of 1890. But between 1885 and 1890 several causes arose which led to the introduction of the present Act, and I think it only right to give to the Committee a general statement of what those reasons were. In 1889 a Royal Commission in Queensland inquired into the causes of the depression of the sugar industry, and in the course of that inquiry included some questions relating to the importation of Polynesians. It was stated that the capital invested in that industry in the colony was £5,000,000; that in Mauritius sugar was grown by coolies whose wages were one shilling a day without rations; that in Java the cost of labour was sixpence a day, and in China probably less; and that in Fiji the coolies were paid one shilling per working day. Now, the hon. Gentleman stated that the 1976 wages of the Polynesian labourers were only from £6 to £7 a year. He will, therefore, be surprised to hear that in Queensland the cost of a Polynesian labourer is sixteen shillings or seventeen shillings a week.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
That may be so. The Royal Commission recommended that Polynesian labour should be permitted, as otherwise the capital invested in the sugar industry would be wiped out of existence, and the whole population now dependent upon that industry for a livelihood would for a time be thrown out of employment. Annexed to the Report was a Return respecting the vessels engaged in the recruiting trade during the period 1886–1888, from which it appears that seventy-nine voyages were made in that time, and that only in one case had any irregularity occurred which was attributable to the crew. That was the case of the "Forest King," which was brought back at the request of the Government Agent owing to the insobriety of the crew and the want of control over them by the master. The inquiry, however, disclosed no outrage on the islanders. When, therefore, I stated that the hon. Member (Mr. S. Smith) appeared to have brought before the House certain cases which he had not proved by the ordinary rules of evidence, I think I have shown that I was justified in that statement. The hon. Member at the outset of his remarks said that the traffic during the last three years exhibited the very worst form of slavery.
§ MR. S. SMITH
No, not quite so. What I said was that the traffic of the last few years still retained many of the vices that belonged to former periods—not the more extreme and violent ones.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
At all events, as far as the last three years are concerned, the hon. Gentleman cannot furnish the Committee with 1977 one single authentic case of cruelty in reference to this importation of Polynesians, and as far as the preceding years are concerned, I have shown the hon. Member from official statistics that in seventy-nine voyages there was not a single case of cruelty reported. Sir Samuel Griffith has been accused of changing his policy in supporting the present Bill, and as having done so simply in the interests of the sugar planters. I think it is only fair to Sir Samuel Griffith that I should remind the Committee of what that gentleman's own reasons are, as given by himself, with regard to the present Bill. He said—Amongst the working population, whose interests I had perhaps too exclusively in view, there has arisen a body of men, claiming to be leaders of thought, who have by their speech and action rendered it impossible that the experiment of the employment of white labour in tropical agriculture should be fairly tried. There are not at present in Queensland a sufficient number of Europeans able and willing to do the necessary work and to take the place of the Polynesians who are gradually leaving the colony, and of whom no more can be introduced under the existing laws. Yet every opposition has been offered to the introduction of any additional labour, the opinion has been promulgated that field labour in tropical agriculture is degrading, and the employment of white labour in that industry has been denounced except at rates of wages which the industry cannot pay. In short, these men will neither engage in the work themselves nor, so far as they can prevail, allow anyone else to do so.Under these circumstances the Prime Minister of Queensland felt that something must be done, and what did he do? He made more stringent regulations than those which had been sufficient to prevent any outrage from 1885 to the present time, and he felt that with these safeguards he could again import Polynesian labour; and having introduced it, he would be able once more to revive the sugar trade of the country, which was rapidly dying out. I say that with these safeguards, and presuming them to be sufficient, he was perfectly justified in the course he took. The hon. Member says it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government not to allow this Bill until they see whether or not the safeguards are sufficient. But does the hon. Gentleman know that the disallowance of this Bill would not prevent the traffic? Even if Her 1978 Majesty's Government were prepared to take that extreme step—which they are not—the traffic would continue just as it does now.
§ An hon. MEMBER: No.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
The hon. Gentleman says "No"; but I will explain the position in a few words. It is expressly stated in the Pacific Islanders' Protection Acts, 1872, Section 8, and 1875 that compliance with the requirements of the Queensland Statutes as regards the obtaining of licences to carry labourers from an island to a colony shall be sufficient. The issue of licences to "carry" in this sense has never been prohibited; and if no such licences were granted in Queensland they could, under the Imperial Acts, be applied for in any other Australasian colony. What the Act of 1885 did prospectively prohibit was the issue of licences to "introduce" Polynesians, and it will be seen from a perusal of the Act that a licence to "introduce" is not the licence granted to a master of a vessel to "carry," but a licence to a planter to engage and bring from the vessel into the colony. This is, however, a matter of local concern. If Her Majesty's cruisers have no power to stop recruiting by Queensland vessels—and no such power would result from the disallowance of the Act—Her Majesty's Government could not, by taking such a step, prevent Polynesians from being taken into and employed in Queensland. There would, it is true, be an Act on the Colonial Statute Book prohibiting such employment, but Her Majesty's Government could not secure its enforcement; and if the Colonial Government were driven to an attitude of defiance the only result might be that Polynesians would be employed without any restrictions on the planters. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman will see that, even if Her Majesty's Government were prepared to adopt the extreme measure suggested, they would not be able thereby to stop the introduction of Polynesian labour into Queensland; so that nothing would be gained except that they would have done something which, so far as I know, never has been done with respect to a large self-governing colony. I will now deal with one other question before I leave 1979 this branch of the subject. The hon. Member has pictured what he alleges to be the terrible condition of the Kanakas; but I think I shall be able to show, on the best possible authority, that the informants of the hon. Gentleman have misled him. I do not say that they have done so wilfully; they may have considered that they were justified in making such statements, but I hope to satisfy the Committee that those statements are not based on facts. There have been cases of irregularities in the Western Pacific brought to light since 1885; but either, as in the case of Edmunds, who was recently charged with murder and kidnapping in the Solomon Islands, they have occurred on a vessel which was not licensed by or connected with Queensland; or, as in the cases of the Queensland labour vessels "Hector" and "Forest King," they were cases of drunkenness and insubordination amongst the crew. That such cases have been discovered and reported upon shows that Her Majesty's cruisers and the colonial authorities, including the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, now watch carefully and efficiently the manner in which the traffic is conducted, and therefore strengthens the presumption that grave cases of violence have not occurred. Seven years have now elapsed since the Report on the "Hopeful" and other cases was issued; and during that time, up to and including part of 1891, the introduction of Polynesian labourers was vigorously prosecuted, there being a rapid increase after that date in the numbers imported. Thus in 1886, 1,505 were introduced; in 1887, 1,988; in 1888, 2,291; and in 1890, 2,459. These figures indicate the continual and growing demand for such labour and the impracticability of the idea which underlay the Act of 1885 that the sugar plantations can and will be worked by white labour. Now while there has been a steady increase in the number reported, there has been a sustained decrease in the number of deaths reported. Thus the deaths for the five years ending 1890 were given as follows:—1886, 573; 1887, 520; 1888, 482; 1889, 481; 1890, 417.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
Will the right hon. Gentleman give the numbers 1980 amongst whom these deaths occurred so as to show the proportion?
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
Of course, there were a great many Kanakas in the colony at the time, but I cannot for the moment give the proportions.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
The figures are given in the Reports, and the proportions are about sixty to the thousand.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
I especially want to meet the allegation that these people are dying by thousands. Between 1869 and 1889 23,700 Kanakas were returned to their homes on completion of their engagements. These would naturally explain to their neighbours the conditions of their life in Queensland. There is no general allegation that the islanders have been ill-used on the plantations. Public opinion would make itself promptly felt if cases of cruelty occurred, and there is always an influential party in the Colonial Parliament which is ready to inquire into and denounce any such cases. Large numbers of islanders return to Queensland and some have settled down there. Thus in North Rockhampton there is a colony of them, some of whom have married white women, have carts of their own, and compete with Europeans. At Bundaberg there are at least 300 who have engaged themselves for short periods. It is said that these people receive a miserable pittance for wages. In the Government Savings Bank there was a sum of £17,659 on 31st December, 1890, to the credit of 3,060 islanders. Considering that it is alleged that these people receive no more than £6 a year each, they must have been extraordinarily thrifty to have been able in so short a period to accumulate so large a sum. I think these facts and figures dispose of the principal allegations of the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith). Towards the end of his speech the hon. Member quoted the views of a missionary, doubtless a very excellent man—Mr. Paton, and I think I shall only be doing my duty by showing that many of the statements of this gentleman are absolutely misleading and incorrect. The charges of Mr. Paton are so many in number, that I cannot deal with them all; but I will select one or two. In 1889 Mr. 1981 Cowley, the Member of the Queensland Legislature for Herbert, and at present the Minister for Lands, made the following speech in his place in the Assembly:—In December, 1881, Mr. Paton published a long letter in the Melbourne Argus, which contained charges so grave that Captain Bridge, of Her Majesty's ship "Espiègle," was instructed by Sir Arthur Gordon to investigate them. Two of the principal charges, together with the official Report on them, are printed in the Argus.This was one of Mr. Paton's charges—A labour vessel decoyed a Christian native teacher on board. Word was then sent to the young men and boys of the school that their teacher wanted to see them. So soon as one hundred were collected the vessel sailed away.This was the official Report—A native teacher left by a native vessel, but he went voluntarily. He was not decoyed. Word was not sent to collect the scholars. None were entrapped. There was no such kidnapping incident.Another of Mr. Paton's charges was—That two tribes that were fighting placed their women and children on a reef; that a labour vessel stole in, got the women and children into the boats, and sailed away, despite the firing of the men and the pleading of the women.This was alleged to have occurred at Tanna. The official Report was as follows:—The Rev. Messrs. Watt and Neilson have been long on Tanna, and both say they never heard of any such thing occurring on that island.Mr. Cowley, on the same occasion, further said—What do the people in our country say—the ministers of all denominations in our midst? I would refer to one man who has lived amongst the people of North Queensland, the Bishop of North Queensland. He has travelled through the whole North, not excepting the plantations. He has been among the islanders for days at a time, inspected their houses and food, and seen how they were treated. I know that his opinion is that those people are well looked after, and are benefited by being brought to this country. There is no doubt that there has not been any complaint from any minister of the Gospel of any denomination whatever, who has made it his duty to go among the islanders and see the way in which they are treated.Again, the Annual Report of the Department of Pacific Island Immigration for 1889, in speaking of the mortality, stated— 1982This has been of a normal character, and there has been no epidemic among the islanders.The Report for 1890, the latest forwarded to this country, said—The death reports, I am pleased to state, show a decrease in the number of deaths year by year. The deaths for the past year have been of the usual character, there having been no disease of a special nature amongst the islanders.To show that the Islanders are not averse to labouring on the plantations in Queensland, the following figures from the same Report for 1890 may be referred to:—New introductions, 2,577; re-agreements, 2,760. And it is added—This must, it is thought, convince impartial persons that there can be no 'slavery' in this form of service; otherwise the labourers would insist on their right to be returned to their islands instead of re-engaging for a further term.The Right Rev. W. Saumarez Smith, Bishop of Sydney and Primate of Australia, has declared himself as not opposed to Kanaka labour under rigid supervision; and the Rev. Alexander C. Smith, the Convener of the Queensland Presbyterian Heathen Mission Committee, in a letter which appeared in the Brisbane Courier of 26th March, 1892, after speaking in warm terms of the condition of the Kanakas he had met with in his tours in the colony, continued—In conclusion, let me say I deeply regret, I deplore, that that protest (Mr. Paton's) has been made at all, and especially in the terms in which it has been couched. It is, as a whole, hasty, and, through defective knowledge, in many respects without foundation. It is calculated to wound and offend all right-thinking people, and grieve the hearts of most, if not all, Christian men and women in the colony. It is fitted to give a wrong impression of our whole colony as a Christian country throughout the world.I think this testimony, coming from men of such eminence, is at least equal in weight and authority to that which the hon. Member has adduced. I do not like to weary the Committee, but I feel I have an important duty to perform, which is to vindicate not only the action of Her Majesty's Government, but also the honour of the Colony of Queensland, and I hope the Committee will bear with me while I read a quotation from 1983 a letter written by Commander Heath, of the Royal Navy. This gentleman was Chairman of the Marine Board of Queensland, and being at the same time the officer in charge of the harbours and lighthouses, he annually visited the ports and rivers of the colony throughout its long seaboard; and the inspection of vessels licensed to carry Islanders is performed by officers attached to his Department, and acting under his orders. He says—Admiral Erskine seems to have forgotten the fact that when some doubts were felt as to whether the New Guinea natives who have been brought to Queensland in 1884 properly understood the length of time for which they had been engaged, Sir Samuel Griffith chartered a steamer, collected the whole of the remaining natives, and sent them home at the public expense, carefully landing each native at his own village. The Admiral seems, moreover, to be unaware that no natives from New Guinea have since been brought or proposed to be brought into Queensland. Since the year 1884, to which he refers, the whole system has been changed, and no person could have done more to put an end to all possible abuses previously connected with the importation of South Sea Islanders than Sir Samuel Griffith. The master or mate of any vessel against whom the slightest charge of drunkenness or other misconduct can be substantiated is prohibited from being again employed in the Service. The cubic space allowed to each passenger is the same as under the Imperial Passenger Acts. The dieting scale is ample, while the length of the voyage is only a few weeks—sometimes they are on board only a few days — while a representative of the Government is on board to see the regulations carried out, and that the natives understand their agreements. From the constant passage of Islanders to and fro they now know at which ports they are best treated, and at which plantations they are most comfortable, and they have also their favourite vessels by which they prefer to take their passage to Queensland. When on the plantations their hours of work and rates of pay are fixed by Act of Parliament or regulation, while their wages are paid through the Polynesian Inspector of the district, who is a Magistrate of standing, and who periodically visits the plantations to ascertain if the men have any complaints to make.This is the condition of slavery alluded to by the hon. Member, and this is the foundation of the terrible charge levelled against the Government of one of our Colonies, on the evidence of persons who are unable to give the names, dates, or position of their informant. It is on such flimsy evidence that Her Majesty's Government 1984 are asked to disallow a Bill passed by a great self-governing colony. If the hon. Member had wished to find evidence the other way, a little research would have yielded some facts in favour of those he has so bitterly attacked. The hon. Member has quoted the evidence of ministers of religion. I do the same, and of men with better opportunities of judging than those to whom he has referred. I have shown from official sources that the statements made by the hon. Member are not founded on fact, and that they are disbelieved by those who have the best opportunity of judging whether they are true. I will only make one further quotation from a letter of a man whom everyone reveres, and who has spent his life in teaching and in doing good amongst the most barbarous races in the world—I refer to Bishop Selwyn, late Bishop of Melanesia. This man, who has passed his life in a great and good cause, has expressed in a letter, with much power and eloquence, his view that these statements are not founded on fact, and ought never to have been made. We cannot neglect the evidence of such a man.
§ An hon. MEMBER: Read his words.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
I will read his words, and those words I should certainly say are not only those of experience, but of truth; and I trust that when we take into consideration the great facilities he has had for knowing, and his sacred mission, which certainly teaches him, as it teaches all men, to do unto others as they would that others should do unto them, you will agree that we cannot accuse him of being likely to excuse or conceal slavery in any form. We must take his evidence, perhaps, as the most weighty of any I have been able to give, and as proving that this whole system, bad as it was, terrible as it was years ago, has ceased to be bad and terrible now, and that the Queensland Government are justified in importing, under the safeguards which now exist, Kanaka labour for the purpose of promoting colonial industry. If we were to follow the argument of the hon. Member we should be debarred from employing negroes, because in the old days before Wilberforce they were slaves. But slaves were freed by 1985 the voice of this House; and in the case of Queensland, the humane and wise dispositions of the Colonial Legislature have freed the Kanaka traffic from the curse of slavery. I think, therefore, they have a right to import, under these safeguards, that labour which they consider necessary. I maintain that the hon. Member has in no way made out his case, and he has proved no infringement of the Rules and Regulations which the humane sympathies of the Queensland Government have passed for the protection of the Kanaka labourers. With these words of Bishop Selwyn I will conclude my remarks. He says—I cannot help feeling that the indiscriminate condemnation of the traffic that has been expressed is likely to do more harm than good. It was true of the traffic in its beginning; it is not true of the traffic as it is now conducted.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
The letter is published in the Blue Book just issued. It was written by Bishop Selwyn about a fortnight ago. He continues—These restrictions if faithfully enforced would go far to remedy the abuses now existing, and with them I think the traffic might be worked to the benefit of the Islands and of Queensland.
§ *(11.5.) MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
The right hon. Gentleman has given us a most interesting résumé of the history of this matter, but I venture to say that the effect produced by his speech on the minds of many of those who listened to him must have been the same as it made on mine. Why should the Government of Queensland have found it necessary from time to time to make these regulations, to amend them and revise them? Because the regulations have proved insufficient to remedy the abuses they were framed to meet. I think the right hon. Gentleman entirely misconceives the position of the whole matter. The presumption is against the recommencement of this traffic. The Blue Book I hold in my hand was the outcome of the Commission appointed in 1885, and was the result of a very careful inspection by a member of the Queensland land Legislature, a barrister at law and 1986 a police magistrate in that country. The Blue Book teems with evidence as to the atrocities under the regulations that are in existence at this moment. The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny that what is stated in this Blue Book with reference to what took place in these five vessels happened under the existing regulations. Therefore it is for the Government to show why they did not disallow and prevent the renewal of this traffic; the onus probandi lies with those who wish to revive the traffic. It is not sufficient for them to call on us who object to this revival to show that cases of the kind we allege have occurred. I admit that the evidence that there have been atrocities and enormities since 1885 is meagre, but I think we are entitled to complain very strongly of the action of Her Majesty's Government in not placing us in possession of information. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted very largely from a Blue Book which was issued to Members this morning, but we only got that Blue Book in consequence of a question which was addressed to the Government from this side of the House. We ought to have had earlier information laid before us. The right hon. Gentleman, in reply to a question this afternoon, gave me some figures with respect to the deaths among the Kanakas, but they were by no means complete, and it was very pertinently pointed out by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) that we not only want to know the number of deaths, but the number of people amongst whom those deaths arose, and on that subject the Blue Book contains no information. During the three years 1888, 1889, and 1890 the number of Islanders imported into Queensland was 6,782, and the number who returned to the islands was 3,849. The deaths reported were 1,380, but it is admitted that there were a large number of deaths which were unreported, and that there are places where there is no Inspector, and where the deaths which occurred are not entered in these figures of 1,380. It is admitted on the other hand that 6,782 represents more than the number of persons to whom the number of deaths applies, and I think 1987 anyone going through the figures carefully will find that the death rate in in the three years is something between seventy and a hundred per thousand. I venture to submit that that admitted fact, drawn from official sources, is a matter which requires further inquiry. I say, further, that if the right hon. Gentleman contends that no case of atrocity has occurred in recent times he cannot have studied the Blue Book. Page 39 of the Blue Book will reveal to him that there were many instances of firing from boats, and firing no doubt takes place on both sides. One outrage gives rise to another, and there is no doubt whatever that there is still going on a great deal that one must deplore. The right hon. Gentleman has read to us a number of letters from persons in Queensland; but I think they would have carried more weight if they had been from independent persons, instead of from persons who were to a certain extent implicated in the allegations that have been made. The letter from Bishop Selwyn is honoured with a place in the Blue Book. I will read a few lines from a letter from another Bishop, who has been in Australasia some years. Many of us knew him by reputation before he went out, and he is the son of that distinguished architect who erected this pile of buildings. I refer to Bishop Barry, a man of the highest honour and experience. The letter appeared in the Guardian newspaper of the 4th May, and is very pertinent to this matter. He says—It is with reluctance and pain that I find myself forced to make these quotations.These are quotations from the Commission which was appointed in 1885.Let it be clearly understood that I have no doubt that the Queensland Parliament and Queensland Government fully intended to provide, and thought that they had provided, adequate safeguards against all cruelties in the labour traffic and all injustice and oppression on the plantations. But to make good laws is one thing; to enforce them under all the circumstances is altogether another. Certainly the history of the past shows the difference only too clearly. Accordingly I deeply regret the revival — I see by Sir S. Griffith's letter the reluctant revival on his part—of a traffic which I believe to be injurious in itself, and which is evidently so liable to abuse and atrocity. I have the 1988 privilege of knowing Sir S. Griffith, and I have full confidence that, warned by this past experience—of which no one has spoken more indignantly than he himself—he will do his best now to mitigate or remove all abuses. But even if this can be done, I must repeat that I believe the whole traffic to be bad in its effect, and that I have grave fears as to the provison against abase in the future. Therefore I have said that all must be done, here and in the Pacific itself, to see that the cause of humanity be sternly defended, and the hands of those who fight for it strengthened in every way.I have only read one or two sentences from Bishop Barry's letter, but he is a man of the highest authority in everything that appertains to Australasia.
§ *MR. JOHN ELLIS
But he had to do with the Continent as well, and this is the direct testimony of a man who never allowed anything that affected Australasia to escape his notice while he was out there as Bishop. I set that authority to a certain extent against the other. The right hon. Gentleman passed very lightly over the remarkable testimony quoted by my hon. Friend (Mr. Smith) from Admiral Erskine and Admiral Scott. What authority at the present moment could be higher than that of Admiral Scott? Admiral Scott, writing with all the authority of his position, says—Before making any remarks on recruiting labour from the Pacific Islands, I would venture to observe that I regret it is proposed to introduce labour from countries that have no form of government to look after the interests of those who are recruited.Again he says—Proper supervision of recruiting in the Islands appears to be a very difficult matter," and "It is a difficult matter to find men for such service.The letter from a commander in the Royal Navy which was quoted by the right hon. Gentleman must give way in point of authority and in point of responsibility to such a letter as that from Admiral Scott. Therefore, the case has been established to this extent. The onus probandi lies on those who seek to revive this traffic. Then we are confronted with regulations, and told that they are amply sufficient; but the Agent General for Queensland, in a letter to the Times, has admitted that all the evils have taken place under 1989 the regulations which are now in force. Why the Act of 1880, under which they are framed, occupies pages of the Blue Book just presented. They contain five parts, eleven Schedules and provisions without number, but they will be useless unless you have men who are determined to carry them out. In the letter of Bishop Selwyn quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, it is pointed out that further regulations are needed, and suggestions are made which really amount to another Revised Code. The Agent General for Queensland was so impressed by this letter in the Guardian of the 4th May that he at once sent it to the Government of Queensland and expressed the hope that they would adopt the suggested regulations if the traffic was to go on. Therefore, the Agent General admitted that the regulations might be improved to the extent the Bishop suggested, thereby admitting that even the revised regulations, of which we have heard so much, are inadequate. What is the reason given for re-opening this traffic? We find it put in a letter from Sir Henry Norman. The last lines in the opening letter in the Blue Book are—This, as your Lordship is aware, is a reversal of the policy adopted a few years ago, and will, I have no doubt, greatly help to revive the declining sugar industry of this Colony.I venture to say that it is the old story. I doubt if this country or Queensland has any moral right to go to these islands in the manner proposed in order to develop any industry. There is too much trade about the matter, and I think we have a right to demand that the policy of the Government shall have less regard for the development of trade and more regard for the principles and dictates of humanity. I endorse the complaint of my hon. Friend as to the action of the Colonial Office in this matter. They show a great want of knowledge. Even the right hon. Gentleman seemed quite unaware of the Resolution passed by the Victorian Parliament, and suggested, when reminded of it, that it was on an entirely different matter.
§ BARON H. DE WORMS
I gave it in the form of an answer. The hon. Gentleman is quoting from a newspaper; I am giving official information.
§ *MR. JOHN ELLIS
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us the precise words of the Resolution? He has not read them to the Committee—he only gave the effect of them. I take it they are given correctly in the Times, and they relate specifically to this question. There has been great and unaccountable delay on the part of the Colonial Office in this matter. The letter from Sir H. Norman was received on 29th March, but the date of Lord Knutsford's despatch is 13th May, so that five weeks were allowed to elapse before he made any observations to the Queensland Government on the matter. That does not show very great anxiety, or any great sense on the part of the Colonial Office that the question is a vital and pressing one. When questions were asked in the House telegrams were sent out the next day. Why could they not have been sent out when the Government of Queensland pointed out that the whole policy was going to be reversed? The right hon. Gentleman suggests that the Government have no power in this matter. I will only call his attention to Lord Knutsford's suggestion in a telegram of 9th May, and Lord Knutsford said—I trust your Government will not object to a short delay before issuing licences under the new Act until I can receive and consider the measure and the safeguards with which it is doubtless surrounded.Did Lord Knutsford receive any reply to that telegram? Have the Queensland Government complied with the suggestion contained in it? Because if the Colonial Office could do nothing it was hardly worth while to make the suggestion that the issue of licences should be suspended unless it had something behind it. This is not a matter for the Colony of Queensland alone—I will say nothing disrespectful about that great Colony—but, in the words of Admiral Erskine's letter—The honour of this country is concerned in seeing that these poor unhappy people receive the protection of this great Empire.1991 Our policy in the past is about to be reversed; the traffic is going to spring up again, under regulations which everybody says are insufficient.
§ *MR. JOHN ELLIS
Licences were stopped and no new ones were issued. If not, what does Sir Henry Norman mean by the words—Your lordship is aware there is a reversal of the policy adopted a few years ago.The old licences are going to be re-issued, and Lord Knutsford asked that they should not be issued till he had further information. I am not in a position to say that Lord Knutsford ought to have disallowed the Act, but we have a right to demand that ample information shall be placed at the disposal of Lord Knutsford, and through him before Parliament, before the issue of new licences is permitted to proceed.
§ (11.23.) MR. W. A. MCARTHUR (Cornwall, Mid, St. Austell)
Everybody must give the hon. Gentleman full credit for his stand against the continuation of this traffic, and while I find myself compelled to differ from him and from the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith), I must ask to be believed when I say that I have no sympathy with any form of slavery, and detest as much as anyone the atrocities and abuses which took place in Queensland years ago. Undoubtedly up to 1885 there were abuses which were revealed by the Commission. It was conclusively shown that sufficient care had not been taken in the selection of agents on board the recruiting vessels, and that proper care in many cases had not been taken to explain to the Islanders the conditions under which they were to work, and the term for which they were engaged. The system of inspection was also very lax. But I say the rules themselves were good rules, and that there was nothing disgraceful in the traffic itself, provided you got the good rules carried out, and nothing which ought to prevent the Colony of Queensland engaging in it. 1992 Even Lord Charles Scott is of that opinion, for in the last clause of his letter, on page 5 of the Blue Book, he says—The regulations approved by His Excellency the Governor of Queensland in Government Gazette of 18th April, 1884, appear to me to be such that if strictly carried out and enforced by Government agents on board labour vessels, they should insure the labour traffic being properly conducted.I might also commend to the attention of the Government another paragraph, No. 6, in Lord C. Scott's letter, the paragraph in which he suggests that it might be possible for the Queensland Government to establish a permanent station on those islands where recruiting is carried on, so that there might be an officer living on the spot who could explain to the Islanders the terms of their engagements. Sir S. Griffith feared that the French Government would intervene if we established a post of that kind, but it would be worth while for the Foreign Office to communicate with the French Government on the subject. The difficulties of control in this matter are immense, but I am not prepared to say that it is impossible that effective control should be established. I do not say that I like the traffic, or that it is one which, unless most carefully watched, is not likely to be greatly abused. But I would point out this, that the Government of Queensland is conducted by Sir S. Griffith, who at one time came to the conclusion that the regulations were not and could not be carried out; but Sir S. Griffith, with all the details before him, has changed his mind, and believes he could frame regulations under which it could be safely conducted, and that he could ensure effective supervision of the traffic. Sir S. Griffith is the last man in the world to make wild statements which he cannot substantiate. You have the Prime Minister of Queensland, who says he could control the traffic, the majority of the Queensland Parliament who approve of it, and the Government of Queensland also believes effective regulations can be framed. You have all these authorities in that great self-governing Colony, who believe that this traffic can 1993 be carried on in a creditable manner. Are we in England, with none of their experience, going to say to the Ministry and Governor of Queensland, "We do not believe one word of anything you tell us. We are going to have our own way, and we do not care a straw what you think." All I can say is that if we are prepared to take that stand, I think it would be a very unfortunate day in the history of our relations with our great Southern self-governing Colonies. Surely, if we are to attach any importance at all to the opinion of public men in Queensland we are bound to take their word as the solemn assertion of their belief. Every single executive and popular authority in the Colony give their word that they can carry on this traffic without the disgraceful circumstances that accompanied it in times gone by. Do we, I say, refuse then, point blank, to take them at their word? Do we refuse our consent that this experiment should be made? If the anticipation of the public and responsible authorities in Queensland should not be realised, surely we can interfere at any time we choose. If we are able to bully Queensland, or any other Colony that passes legislation which we do not like, surely we can interfere next year as well as this year; and I say it is a very doubtful policy to stop this experiment on the very threshold. I absolutely agree that this traffic will want watching. I will myself call the attention of the Aborigines' Protection Society and other bodies to it; and I hope the Admiralty will also call the attention of the captains of our men-of-war vessels upon the Australian station to it, so that as far as they can they may ensure that this traffic will be properly carried on. I do not like the traffic at all itself; but neither do I like legislation directed against the popular authorities in the Colony of Queensland, especially legislation which would seem to be passed in what is very like a state of panic. Queensland is not a Crown colony. This is a colony which has a free Constitution; it is not bound to us by any very strong constitutional ties; and it is a serious thing, therefore, to reject and absolutely to refuse to assent to legislation which is practically unanimously 1994 asked for by this great self-governing Colony. I do press upon Her Majesty's Government to represent to Queensland in the strongest possible manner the alarm that exists both in the House and in the country in consequence of what happened some years ago, and to urge upon them the necessity for the most strenuous control of this traffic. I do implore of this House of Commons, at all events at this juncture, not to put to shame their own professions with regard to the rights of self-governing Colonies by refusing what has been unanimously asked for by the people of Queensland. When we have got the assurance of the Prime Minister, of the Governor, and of every Public Body in Queensland, surely it is a hard thing to say to all these authorities that we do not believe a word they say; that we are opposed to giving them the chance of making this experiment, and that we set up our own experience against theirs.
§ *(11.36.) MR. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
I think the House is indebted to the hon. Member for Flintshire for having introduced this question; but I think that, after having heard the speeches which have been made by other hon. Members, we may fairly say that this philanthropic bubble, if I may so term it, has largely been pricked. I have myself been long interested in this question, and have had some acquaintance with it through relations engaged in this nefarious slave-owning in Queensland. Having heard from the mouth of the hon. Member for Flintshire of the atrocities that have been committed, I thought I really ought to say something on behalf of those who are absent from this House. We have heard some very extraordinary statements this afternoon. The hon. Member for Nottingham complained that the evidence of recent atrocities was very meagre, and said he thought because the evidence was very meagre we should obtain some evidence anyhow and perhaps at any cost. I hold in my hand a paper—and I have only had it a few hours—signed by "W. Kinnaird Rose," dated 18th May, in which that gentleman says— 1995I have drafted the Report of the Royal Commission of 1886, and I am bound to admit that not a word can be truly urged against the labour traffic of Queensland from 1886 to the present day.This gentleman confesses that he drafted the very Report the hon. Member for Flintshire quoted from, and he affirms from his own knowledge that there is not that evidence which the hon. Member for Nottingham complains is so very meagre, and which at any cost ought to be obtained. The hon. Member for Flintshire and the hon. Member for Nottingham seem to have mistaken the motive of the Melbourne Legislative Assembly in passing the Resolution to which reference has been made. Everybody knows that the labour question is a burning question in the Colony, and the Melbourne Resolution is only a protest against any labour whatever of dark skins being imported into the Colony. When you read the Blue Book you will see that the Kanakas, after having served their time in apprenticeship, were so content with the country that they stayed there, and percolated into the adjoining Colony; and no doubt this Resolution was passed owing to the belief that this percolation was calculated ultimately to reach Melbourne. The hon. Member for Nottingham has adduced the authority of Bishop Barry, but is Bishop Barry to be put in the same category with Bishop Selwyn? As to the condition of these so-called slaves, the editor of a leading journal in Queensland states that ample evidence can be brought forward to show that they are in a fairly good state of health, and that a good many of them like their work so well that they remain in the country after their term is finished. He quotes the evidence of Mr. Lindt, F.R.G.S., on the subject. The Rev. Alexander Smith, the Convener of the Presbyterian Heathen Mission, declares that he found the hours of labour of the Kanakas very fair, and that he examined their food and found it plentiful. As to the alleged increased mortality amongst them, it is quite conceivable that it might be attributable to the fact that they eat too much meat, these islanders not being accustomed to animal food. Bishop 1996 Selwyn's statement points to this conclusion. It is well known also that when the black man comes in contact with liquor he usually suffers considerably for it. The hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. John Ellis) said that neither Queensland nor any other Colony should be allowed to introduce these people from the outside, that neither Queensland nor this country had any moral right to do so; but is he prepared to say that the rich fields of Queensland are to lie desolate merely because this moral right is denied to that Colony? Can the Government do anything to uphold their alleged moral right to prevent the Queenslanders doing what all really self-governing Colonies have a perfect right to do? When you consider that a vast area of this Queensland district can only be opened up by the help of this alien labour, it is for them to say whether they are willing that that alien labour should come within their borders, and, if they do so, to take care that there shall be no injustice in bringing them over. There is ample evidence that they come willingly; and I venture to think as years go on, and as immigrants return to their country with a knowledge of what is to be made in Queensland, assuredly there will be a greater influx every year of the islanders, because they will see the enormous benefits to be got there, and the wealth that is to be made there and carried home. For these reasons I think the House will do well to maintain the position which the Government have taken up. It is altogether preposterous that we should interfere with a Colony like Queensland; for once we venture to interfere with the local concerns of a great self-governing colony, so assuredly shall we create great ill-feeling and dissatisfaction.
§ (11.46.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I do not wish to detain the Committee at any length, but I am rather anxious to call its attention to two questions raised by the Debate on the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith). The first of those two questions is the view that we ourselves take of the traffic, and the other question is whether we are to 1997 comply with his suggestion and expect the Colonial Office to disallow this Act. It appears to me that my hon. Friend would make a very serious demand indeed, and I will go so far as to say a dangerous demand, if he were to ask the Colonial Office to disallow an Act of this character. We all know that for a great many years past the practice has been to hold the power of the Imperial Parliament to disallow an Act in reserve as a power only to be used in cases of very grave, urgent necessity. Can any hon. Friend, upon the information we now possess, which is admitted to be incomplete, say that any such case of grave, urgent necessity has arisen? I believe that we should give great offence not only to that important Colony of Queensland itself, but also to all the Australian Colonies, if we were to disallow an Act of this kind to pass through their Legislature. I do not believe that the Resolution of the Victorian Legislature was intended to suggest any such act on our part. Whether it was dictated by philanthropic motives, or whether the desire to prevent the pauper labour traffic from coming to them had something to do with it, I do not pretend to say. In any case we must be perfectly certain that had anyone risen in the Victorian Legislature, and said, "Would you like this to be stopped by the Act of the Imperial Government?" the Victorian Legislature would have unequivocally answered in the negative. I venture, therefore, to think that having regard to all the circumstances, and especially to the undesirability of interfering, except in extreme cases, we ought not to suggest the disallowance of this Act. But it is quite a different matter, as the Under Secretary for the Colonies has done, to endeavour to justify this matter through and through. I confess I think that the trouble that has arisen in this matter has very largely arisen, in the first place, from the somewhat airy and easy way in which the Colonial Office appear to treat the question; and, secondly, from the habit the Under Secretary has formed of rather overstating his case, and endeavouring to justify everything that is done. One would think, to listen to him, that this traffic was absolutely unexceptionable 1998 and rather pleasant than otherwise. The most we can say, I think, is that it is a traffic for which there is something to be said, and which may possibly, under very stringent regulations, be prevented from doing harm. We have only to look at Queensland itself to see how much danger there is. Admiral Scott and Captain Davies evidently think that even the best regulations require the most watchful and constant care to prevent an abuse of the traffic. That is also the opinion of Bishop Selwyn, because, he says, very moderately, that these regulations, if they are enforced, will be sufficient, implying, I must say, that what powers there are are not very properly enforced. It is very clear, therefore, that we are justified in having a debate here, and pressing this matter on the Colonial Office, and perfectly justified in having these new Regulations laid before us, and having an opportunity of discussing them. I will add one word more. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary referred to the Act of 1872. That was an Imperial Act, and, of course, all this traffic, so far as it is carried on outside the boundaries of Queensland—that is to say, so far as it is carried on in the islands and on the high seas—is carried on under the protection of the British flag. It is not a matter within the competence or jurisdiction of Queensland at all. There are two conclusions to be drawn from that observation. The first is that we have ample power, whenever we choose, to make any additional regulations; or, perhaps, what is more important, to take additional precautions, for the enforcement of the regulation which may be necessary. I hope that that fact which has now been brought before the House will be carefully considered by the Colonial Office, and that, if they see reason to believe that the resumption of the traffic is likely to lead to the revival of the old abuses, they will take care that the powers of the Act of 1872 are put very fully into force, and that all the Navy can do to watch over them shall be done. The other remark I make is this: We have also a responsibility. It is under the protection of the British flag that the trade is carried on, and it is therefore 1999 no part of our duty to throw this matter entirely back upon Queensland. We are jointly responsible with Queensland. Queensland is responsible for what goes on within her territory; we are responsible for what goes on upon the high seas and in the islands; and we are therefore amply justified in raising this Debate, and in asking that the renewal of the licences should be subjected to the very severest scrutiny. At the same time, seeing that many of us feel the great difficulty of interfering with the powers of a colony, I hope my hon. Friend (Mr. S. Smith) will feel that his object has been sufficiently served by the Debate which has taken place, and will not think it necessary to proceed to a Division.
§ (11.52.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
While I agree with many of the remarks of the hon. Member who has just spoken, I think he has done less than justice to my right hon. Friend (Baron H. de Worms), who, I am sure, takes quite as serious a view of this serious question as the hon. Gentleman himself or any Member of this House. It is a question of very great importance, and I think the hon. Gentleman opposite has done well to point out that it divides into the two branches which he has specified—namely, the question of how far we can or ought to interfere with an independent colony; and, secondly, how far this trade is or is not good in itself. We must all be agreed that interference with an independent colony is absolutely impossible. With regard to the traffic I agree, and so does my right hon. Friend, in asserting that, in so far as our direct responsibility is concerned—the responsibility which extends over the whole of the high seas, in distinction from the territorial waters—that is a very grave responsibility; and it is the duty of of the Colonial Office to watch very carefully that the interests of the native population are in no way injured. For the rest, my own impression is that this importation of labour is probably very important to the interests of the Colonies, but that it is a practice capable of very great abuse. Yet, at the same time, it is a practice which, by sufficiently 2000 guarded safeguards, and by rigid rules, rigidly enforced, may be carried on to the benefit of the islanders themselves. Under these circumstances, I can assure the House that the Government are fully alive to all the responsibility which this trade lays upon them; and I venture to think that the burning question of the relations between the Mother Country and the Colonies may well be avoided on the present occasion. I hope the Committee will not think it necessary to longer continue this Debate; and if we obtain this Vote tonight, I can assure the Committee that it will greatly facilitate Public Business.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Cuninghame Graham.)
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 67; Noes 169.—(Div. List, No. 147.)
§ It being after Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.