§ VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH
, in asking the Question of which he had given Notice relative to the supply of arms to the Native tribes of South Africa, said, that the disaster which had befallen our troops on January 21 had created a profound impression in the country; and it was a matter of astonishment that the Zulus should have been so well armed in the manner and to the extent they were found to be. The able despatch from the High Commissioner must have prepared the public to find that the Zulus were in strong force; but they had been taken by surprise to learn that the savages were supplied not only with muskets and rifles, but with breech-loaders and all the appliances of modern warfare. Looking 1503 at the situation of Zululand, it was obvious that those arms and appliances could only have reached the country in one of two ways—either by the Portuguese frontier or through our own Colonies. If the former method had been resorted to, he hoped Her Majesty's Government had made representations to the Portuguese Government, with the view of putting an end to the traffic. If, as had been reported, the Portuguese Government were powerless to interfere, he saw nothing to prevent an agreement being arrived at to enable our Government themselves to take action in the matter. But there was reason to believe that, in many instances, the arms had been manufactured in this country. If so, that was very serious indeed; and he was sure their Lordships would agree with him in denouncing such a traffic as most nefarious and unpatriotic. He scarcely knew what could be done; but he trusted that the Government would devise some mode of action. Certain it was that many of our brave soldiers would have been spared had the Zulus not been armed so efficiently with British weapons; and thus it was that he ventured to trouble the Government with his Question. He had to ask, Whether any steps have been taken to prevent the importation of arms and warlike stores into Zululand?
§ EARL CADOGAN
I can assure your Lordships that the attention of Her Majesty's Government has been directed to this important and intricate question. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies and my noble Friend the late Secretary have been in constant correspondence with the local authorities on the subject. With regard to the export of arms from this country, that, I believe, has never been prohibited except in cases of great national emergency. With respect to the importation of arms into the Colonies of South Africa, those Colonies have their own laws and regulations, which, in the opinion of the Government, would, if strictly enforced, suffice to prevent this traffic. I need hardly state that under present circumstances it would be in the interest of Natal, as well as that of Her Majesty's Government, to do all that is possible to prevent the importation of arms to the Zulus. Perhaps I may be allowed to state the chief local regulations existing 1504 on this subject. There is no restriction on the importation of arms and ammunition to the Cape; but when imported they cannot be removed from the Queen's stores inwards without a licence. In Natal application must be made to an authority named the Arms Board in respect to the removal of arms; that body reports to the Attorney General, who accedes to or refuses the application in accordance with the instructions of the Lieutenant Governor. The importation of ammunition by private persons is forbidden. They can only be imported by the Lieutenant Governor or by an officer of the Government appointed by him in that behalf. The provisions as regards gunpowder are almost, if not quite, as stringent. In Natal and the Orange Free State the trade in ammunition is in the hands of the Government, and powder may be sold only from the Government magazines. In the Cape no great distinction is made between the trade in arms and ammunition, and gunpowder may be kept in private magazines if licensed, or, where the quantity does not exceed 100 lbs., in a place other than a licensed magazine approved by a magistrate. As to ports and harbours, the principal harbour on that coast where warlike stores can be landed is Delagoa Bay, which is in Portuguese territory: but Her Majesty's ships, which in time of war cruise in those waters, will take every care to prevent it. A correspondence has taken place between the Foreign Office and the Portuguese Government upon this subject. That Government, it is fair to say, has met us in the most friendly spirit, and has promised that its best efforts shall be directed to suppress the traffic wherever they have the power. I may give an instance to show the difficulties they have to contend with. My noble Friend says he believed Delagoa Bay was the only place where arms could be imported on those coasts; but when the Portuguese prohibited the importation at that harbour, they found that at a place north of their territory a large importation was taking place. Care will be taken to prevent it in future. I think it right to say that the arms of the Zulus have been largely obtained from Kimberley and the Diamond District, where Native labour can only be obtained by payment in guns and rifles. The Zulus will come 1505 any distance to work if they can only take away with them a gun or a rifle. I cannot help expressing my conviction that one of the most important results of Confederation, if it is ever attained, would be the establishment of a uniform system of controlling the sale of arms and ammunition in the Provinces of South Africa. I can assure the noble Viscount that every precaution has been taken and will be taken by Her Majesty's Government, and that all due vigilance will be exercised with a view of remedying the evil of which he so justly complains.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
I quite feel with my noble Friend that in connection with South African affairs there cannot be a more important question than this. It is quite true, as my noble Friend says, that when I was at the Colonial Office I gave my best attention to this matter, and I am glad to hear that the present Head of the Colonial Office is doing the same. It was one of the first points to which my attention was directed, because I received from all quarters information as to the enormous quantity of arms and ammunition gradually being imported into South Africa, and over which we exercised no control. Arms in South Africa are the great object of ambition of every Zulu or Kaffir. They are, so to speak, the current coin in which the wages of labour are paid; and it has been, as we have reason to know, the policy of Cetewayo, the Zulu King, to insist on every man of his tribe somehow or other providing himself with a gun. The result has been that a very large amount of arms has been accumulated. Two years ago, while I was at the Colonial Office, I was led to believe there were not less than 500,000 arms of one sort or another in the Southern part of Africa. I am bound to say I think my noble Friend touched very lightly indeed on the conduct of the Portuguese Government in this respect; for it is my opinion that a very large portion indeed of the supply finds its way through Delagoa Bay—in fact, I believe the importation formed a large part of the revenue of that port. I am glad to hear that the Portuguese Government have promised, at all events, to exercise restrictions; but I should have been more pleased to hear that they had suppressed the trade altogether —for nothing short of that will have the 1506 desired effect. The question of Confederation has an important bearing on this matter. It was one of the great objects I had in view, when I urged the Confederation of the South African Colonies, that uniform laws as to the sale and regulation of arms should be adopted. In August 1875, I was able, after a good deal of correspondence and negotiation, to bring together a Conference here in London. At that Conference were represented the Colony of Natal, the Province of Griqualand West, and the Orange Free State. One Colony was wanting—namely, the Cape—and the Transvaal. The Transvaal had mixed itself up with Native hostilities, and the Cape was so very jealous of anything that approached a more suspicion of Confederation that although Mr. Molteno, the Minister of the Colony, came to England at the time, he did not attend the Conference. That Conference met and discussed various matters—the sale of spirits, the education and apprenticeship of Kaffir children, and finally the introduction and regulation of arms. There was perfect unanimity as to the course which ought to be adopted on this latter point; and the Conference came to the conclusion—very sensibly— that in order to do anything effective it was necessary to secure the co-operation of all the European Settlements in South Africa. It is perfectly obvious that it must be so, because if you left one side open for the introduction of arms, it would be utterly useless for the others to pass restrictive laws. I endeavoured to get Mr. Molteno to give his support; but he could not see the matter in the same light. Consequently, the conclusions arrived at by the Conference were of no avail. That is a circumstance I have never ceased to regret, for it lies very much at the root of our present difficulty, and is the real cause of the loss of so many valuable lives. I understand that the Portuguese Government have now undertaken to impose restrictions on the sale of arms in Delagoa Bay. That will be a very great advantage if they carry out their engagement. And I am glad, to find my noble Friend has laid on the Table documents which show that the Cape Government is disposed to view the matter in a very different spirit from that which it showed a few years ago; but it appears to me that the enactments my noble Friend quoted to- 1507 night require tightening up a good deal. There can be no doubt that arms have come through Delagoa Bay, and I regret to say through English merchants. There have also been rough manufactories in the interior beyond our Border where weapons are produced, which, although of a very inferior order, are capable of being used with deadly effect, There is an important despatch of Sir Garnet Wolseley's in existence upon the question of the importation of arms, and if there is no objection, I would suggest to the Government that its publication at this period would be interesting and useful.
§ VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH
asked if the second port which the noble Earl alluded to was in Portuguese territory?
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.