§ LORD COTTESLOE
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he is able to give the House any information respecting an outrage said to have been committed at Whydah upon the European agent of an English house; and as to the expedition which Commodore Sir Wm. Hewett is stated to have undertaken in H.M.S. "Active," with four gunboats, and accompanied by the Lieutenant Governor of the Gold Coast, for the purpose of punishing the authorities at Whydah; and as to other offences said to have been committed by the Dahomians against Englishmen? The matter was of some importance, if only because an expedition had been undertaken composed of four vessels of war, and accompanied by the Lieutenant Governor. He was afraid that this might unhappily turn out a prelude to another of those little wars that this country had been engaged in from time to time, and therefore it was desirable to ascertain what steps were likely to be taken in reference thereto. Differences of this kind, which began in a small way—about the size of a man's hand—involved much anxiety, trouble, and expenditure of money. The telegram which reported the outrage on two English subjects also stated that two Frenchmen were bound hand and foot, flogged, and were put into empty casks and kept there for a considerable time. The King of Dahomey was a warlike and powerful Prince, and, next to the King of Ashantee, was the most powerful Ruler on the West Coast of Africa, and his dealings with his neighbours and Europeans were of the most unscrupulous character. He had a standing army of 10,000 men, and, like all warriors, he delighted in war, and in cutting off the 556 heads of his subjects. He had also a body-guard, who were no mean or contemptible opponents, composed of females. They were said to be well-drilled, efficient, and as brave as men, or even more so; for they were said to keep the men up to their work, they fully understood the use of the musket, and their activity was surprising. They fought bravely in the last war against Abbeokuta, and those Amazons who were engaged in that expedition were nearly all cut off. The King of Dahomey therefore was by no means to be considered as a contemptible enemy. No doubt a large portion of the revenue of the King was derived from the traffic in slavery; and in a despatch sent home to this country by Commander Wilmot, it appeared that the King of Dahomey had said that if he attempted to put down the slave trade and an end to human sacrifices he would lose his own head. His Lordship, in conclusion, said that he had no doubt that Her Majesty's Government were alive to the occurrences which were taking place on the Gold Coast, and that they would be prepared to interfere if necessary; but this was a point on which he thought they ought to have information.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
said, he had very little official information on the subject of his noble Friend's Question. He had seen in the newspapers the telegram to which his noble Friend had referred, but neither that telegram nor the substance of it had ever reached the Colonial Office. Some time ago circumstances occurred which, perhaps, were the foundation of the telegram—unless, indeed, since that to which he alluded, there had occurred one of those outrages which were not infrequent on that coast. If so, it must have been a matter of trifling importance, and certainly need not assume the dimensions which his noble Friend apprehended. He had received no information that there had been any such outrage as that mentioned in his noble Friend's Question, or that any expedition had been sent to punish the King of Dahomey. What he had received information of was this—The town of Abbeokuta was not far distant from Whydah, which was about 50 or 60 miles from the capital of Dahomey. In Abbeokuta there were a large number of Christian missionaries, and from time to time he received communications from them. 557 It appeared that it was the custom of the Dahomians to make an annual raid on Abbeokuta. Those raids were connected with the abominable practice of human sacrifice, and sometimes they were very serious, and ended in hostilities. He had received from the societies that had sent out the missionaries urgent requests that he should ask the British authorities on the Gold Coast to represent to the King of Dahomey the objectionable character of those incursions. In accordance with those requests he had directed the Governor to take a suitable opportunity of making such a representation: and a short time ago he received a despatch from the Governor stating that he had taken advantage of the presence of Commodore Hewett with his ships on the coast, to send a letter by Captain Lee, the official Administrator, asking the King to put an end to those incursions, and to cause his subjects to abstain from the abominable practice of human sacrifice. Beyond that he knew nothing. He hoped what had been done would have the desired effect; but, whether it should be successful or unsuccessful, he had no reason to apprehend that any little war would arise between this country and Dahomey.