Address For Papers
said, he rose to call attention to the supposed preparations for transferring the Colony of the Gambia to France. He thought that the Government would pause before agreeing to any such cession when they learnt that 20,000 inhabitants of that Colony, being subjects of the Crown, were exceedingly averse to being transferred to the dominion of France. From what fell from the Under Secretary for the Colonies the other day it might be supposed that the number of the colonists in Gambia was not sufficient to give any importance to the proceeding in question, and he, therefore, wished to state that, although no very large tract of country in Gambia was in British possession, yet what this country held there was an extremely valuable possession. The Gambia was a fine river on the West Coast of Africa, navigable for 400 miles, and accessible for 200 miles of its course to vessels of the largest tonnage. It had been in English possession since 1664, with the exception of a short interval, when, after being captured, it was held by the French from 1702 to 1709. The River Gambia was within 10 days' steam of England, and though for four months the climate was unhealthy for Europeans, the white man could live there for the remaining eight months of the year as comfortably as on any spot within the tropics. He had been informed by some gentlemen belonging to the Colony, and who were now in this country, that the number of whites in the Colony was 160, though the Under Secretary for the Colonies had stated that the number was confined to 39 males and eight females. The number of half-castes was 1,500, of liberated Africans 3,000, of blacks 15,000—making the total population about 20,000, of whom above half were Christian. The education of these people, 1,100 being children, was conducted by the persons connected with two Churches, one belonging to the Church of England, and the other to the Roman Catholic Church, and by 16 missions of the Wesleyan Church sent from this country. There consequently existed not only a love to England on the part of that population, but also a religious antipathy to being handed over to France. He would quote from A Statement of Facts, presented to the Colonial Office, and signed by Mr. Thomas Brown, Member of the Legislative Council of Gambia, a description of what had recently occurred there—
He would not read further extracts from this statement, but what he had read was sufficient to show that the inhabitants of the Colony, our fellow-subjects, had good reason for believing that their cession to the French Government was in contemplation. Three gentlemen of eminence in the Colony, Mr. Brown, Mr. Quinn, and Mr. Chowne, who were now in this country, stated that they had been requested by Sir Arthur Kennedy to inform him whether any and what objections were entertained to the proposed measure. They stated that considerable objection was felt to the proposed cession; that, as subjects of the Queen, they wished to remain under the dominion of England, and had no desire to be transferred to France. These, however, Sir Arthur informed them, were, he feared, not sufficient reasons, and the probability was the cession would take place in August next. It should be considered that, now the troops were removed, the Colony did not cost to the mother country a farthing. It paid £10,000 a year in the shape of salaries to the Administrator, chief magistrate, collector of Customs, the colonial surgeon, chaplain, engineer, clerks, police, and gaols. It also paid certain pensions which were chargeable on the revenue. As British subjects the colonists felt that the mother country should continue to give them protection, at all events until they were prepared for self-government and could establish themselves as an independent State, like Liberia, and not hand them over against their will to France, to which, both on political and religious grounds, they had particular objection. The Under Secretary for the Colonies on the 10th of June stated, in answer to a Question put to him—"In April last, a rumour, originating in Senegal, was spread that the British Settlements on the Gambia were to be transferred to the French Government; but as this could not be traced to any authentic source the merchants did not credit it; but the Native traders and inhabitants were alarmed, and immediately addressed a Petition to Lord Granville, pointing out and protesting against the injustice of the measure. No reply to this Petition had been received in Gambia up to the 11th of June, nor had Major Bravo, the Administrator of the Colony, received from the Colonial Office any information upon the subject, so that the inhabitants are kept in complete ignorance on the subject. On the 1st of May the French gunboat Etoile arrived at Bathurst, Gambia, having on board a French engineer officer and the 'Director of the Interior' of Senegal, with letters from their Governor, requesting the Administrator of the Gambia to allow these officers to survey and examine the public buildings, which was granted. On the 5th of June the French Admiral (Burgois), with Colonel Valiere, the Governor of Senegal, arrived in Gambia on board the frigate Bellone, having the gunboat Etoile in company. Major A. Bravo, the Administrator of the Gambia, immediately called meetings of the merchants, as also of the Native traders and inhabitants of Bathurst, to introduce them to the Governor of Senegal, in order to learn his views on the intended transfer. Colonel Valiere stated that his visit was not an official one, as the transfer of the Gambia to the French had not been completed; but he could assure them that taxation would be very considerably reduced, and ample protection to trade would be afforded, and he would be glad to hear their opinions on the subject. The merchants replied they had received no intimation of the transfer, nor had they any idea of the terms or conditions proposed; but they stated they preferred to remain under the British flag. The Native traders and inhabitants protested most strongly against being handed over to France."
That was the only information on the subject before the House. But a further statement had been made by the First Minister of the Crown, who, after quoting a legal opinion as to the power of Government to transfer a Colony, said—"Communications have passed between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of France, having for their object the determining the limit of English and French influence on the West Coast of Africa, and that the transfer of Gambia to France is one of the steps under consideration as part of that arrangement. It may be well to state that, in 1868, the European population in Gambia numbered 39 males and eight females."—[3 Hansard, cci. 1842.]
He had, therefore, thought it his duty to bring the matter before Parliament, because at that very time the right hon. Gentleman could not be aware that on the 5th of June the French Admiral had inspected the public buildings, and pro- ceeded up the river, taking on himself to say that he was the representative of the Power to which very shortly the Gambia was to be transferred. The Under Secretary of State had, on a former occasion, alluded to the proceedings of a Committee in 1865, of which he (Sir John Hay) had the honour to be a member, and of which his right hon. Friend the Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley) was Chairman. Sir Charles Adderley had afterwards represented the Colonial Department in the House of Commons during the late Administration, and he, no doubt, had expressed views different from those which he (Sir John Hay) now was advocating. He must state, however, that the noble Duke at the head of the Colonial Department in Lord Derby's Ministry (the Duke of Buckingham) did not agree with Sir Charles Adderley on this particular point. The Report of the Committee did not justify the transfer of any Colony to any other Power. It only said that the settlement on the Gambia might be reduced by M'Carthy's Island, which is 150 miles up the river, being no longer occupied, and that the settlement should be confined as much as possible to the mouth of the river; that all further extension of territory or assumption of government, or new treaties offering any protection to Native tribes would be inexpedient; and that the object of our policy should be to encourage in the Natives the exercise of those qualities which may render it possible for us more and more to transfer to them the administration of all the Governments, with a view of our ultimate withdrawal from all, except, probably, from Sierra Leone. After the statement of the First Minister of the Crown in answer to his Question on the 10th of June, in which he pledged his Government to take no former stop in regard to the transfer of Gambia to France, without consulting Parliament, a letter was written by order of Earl Granville, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the Chamber of Commerce, Manchester, on the 23rd of June, of which this was an extract—"That there never had been the slightest intention of taking any proceedings of the kind without the consent of Parliament."—[Ibid. 1843.]
That extract seemed rather to be in opposition to the statement of the First Minister of the Crown, as it conveyed a strong impression that the Colonial Office had determined, without consulting Parliament, to carry out the arrangement. He (Sir John Hay) thought the question SO important that he had felt it his duty to call attention to the subject, and he begged to move for the Papers of which he had given Notice."I am directed by Earl Granville … to acquaint you …. that negotiations are going on with the French Government for exchange of territory on the West Coast of Africa, which will involve a cession of the Gambia," &c.
said, he would beg to second the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend, which he thought ought to give satisfaction to the Government, as it afforded them an opportunity of distinctly stating what their ideas were with regard to our colonial Empire; for there was an impression prevalent not in England only, but in the Colonies also, that the present; Government were anxious to get rid of the Colonies. If that was not the feeling of the Government it ought to be distinctly stated. He was not in the House when a very interesting discussion took place on the subject of our Colonies, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. R. Torrens); but he read it with great interest, and it conveyed to him the impression that no great affection existed between the present Government and the Colonies, and now this supposed intention to transfer Gambia; to Franco seemed to confirm that impression. In his mind, it was no matter whether a Colony was large or small, whether it was on the Coast of Africa or in the Pacific, the principle of ceding a Colony was a highly important matter. He thought the House would agree with him in this principle, that there were only two occasions when Colonies could honourably be ceded or exchanged. The one was after a war, when in the interests of peace it became necessary to recast the map of Europe, or of the world; and the other was when, as a military operation, it was not desirable to retain a Colony as an outpost. On a former occasion, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the cession of the Ionian Islands. But the Ionian Islands were not a Colony; they were a Protectorate, and their cession was no justification or precedent for our giving up our Colonies, It might serve to guide them in their estimate of the relation of the Colonies to us if they remembered that, in one of his despatches, the Earl of Carnarvon I wrote that any colonist who suffered injustice, whatever might be his class or colour, had a right to protection at the hands of the Colonial Minister of this country. If that principle applied to an individual, how much more did it apply in the case of a whole Colony. He did not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Monsell) would defend the giving up of a Colony which had been so long connected with us, and a Colony which protested against being given up, and handing it over to a country with a totally different Government and a totally different religion. He rather thought there must have been some blunder in public opinion as to the feelings or views of the right Gentleman; but it was certainly remarkable that the French had sent their Admiral to the Colony to prepare them for the cession. He wished, before it was too late, to press upon the Government to consider what would be the effect upon other Colonies if they asked Parliament to cede Gambia. It would lead to universal distrust. Gambia was no expense to us, and he hoped, therefore, that the House would not sanction the policy of transferring it to Franco. While he was on this colonial subject, he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Government would not take into consideration the expediency of amending the Colonial Governors' Pension Bill, so that a Governor serving six years should be entitled to a pension?
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Copy of all Papers relative to the contemplated transfer of the Colony of Gambia to France,"—(Sir John Hay,)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
said, that as he had been some years ago at the Colonial Office, the question before the House was one in which he took considerable interest. He would not, however, enter into the general subject on this occasion, but would content himself with asking the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Monsell) two questions, on which he wished to have a distinct answer—first, whether the inhabitants of Gambia had been, or would be consulted as to their desire to be transferred to France; and, secondly, whether the Board of Admiralty had been consulted with respect to the importance of the Colony as a naval coaling station in the event of war; and whether any correspondence had passed between the Admiralty and the Colonial Office on the matter? No Colony, he might add, great or small, ought, in his opinion, to be transferred to another nation against the wishes of its inhabitants, or without Parliament being consulted before the good faith of the country was so far pledged that they could not, with honour, withdraw from the engagement. Those transactions, he might add, were watched by the great commercial communities such as that with which he was connected, with much jealousy, and it was on all accounts most desirable that they should not be carried out without due time for the fullest consideration being given to all those who were concerned in them.
said, he thought the House would go along with him if he declined on the present occasion to be led into a general colonial debate. He must, at the outset, protest altogether against the supposition that it was the intention of the Government to part with any territory which might be truly called a British Colony. He felt as strongly as any man that one of the noblest prerogatives which belonged to this country was that of establishing all round the world Colonies which would, in the future, develop into nations of our own race, but it would be a degradation to apply that ennobling idea to a small territory which after we had had it in our possession for 200 years contained only 47 European inhabitants. Before entering further into the subject he might state, in reply to the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane), that while the Government would be ready to consider what was due to justice in the case of the Colonial Governors, he could not promise that any alteration would be made in their position. In answer to the noble Lord who had last spoken he might add that no such correspondence as that to which he had referred passed between the Admiralty and the Colonial Office. The Papers asked for by his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) he should have no objection to give; but in reply to his hon. and gallant Friend's remarks, he must observe there was not and never had been any intention of handing over the settlement of Gambia to the French without, in the first instance, consulting Parliament, and the honour of England would in no way be pledged in the matter without giving Parliament the fullest opportunity of pronouncing an opinion upon it. In every statement that had been made to the French Government that was put in the front; every arrangement that had been made with them was made subject to the consent of Parliament, and that consent would be asked for probably before the close of the present Session. His hon. and gallant Friend relied very much on a statement made by Mr. Brown, but in a letter which was written by Mr. Brown and the principal merchants of Gambia on the 12th of August, 1869, they gave the following description of the Colony:—
Now, he should, in the next place, observe that the question of the cession of Gambia did not originate with Her Majesty's Government. It had been suggested, after a visit which he paid to that settlement, by Sir Arthur Kennedy, a similar suggestion having been made a few years ago by the late Governor Blackall, who gave it as his opinion that it would be advantageous both to France and to England if they would come to some definite understanding, by which mutual jealousy and interference might be avoided, adding that he would advise the adoption of that course even at the cost of an exchange which might, in the first instance, appear disadvantageous. His successor, Sir Arthur Kennedy in a despatch dated the 13th of March, 1869, wrote as follows:—"This small trading community, on a sandbank 38½ miles in length and one mile broad, the half of which is an uninhabitable swamp, …. and has a population of about 4,000, of whom about 50 only are European."
The Gambia Settlement was not only unhealthy for Europeans, but it was unsuitable even for the Africans. In the Blue Book published in 1866 or 1867 there was a statement that between the years 1857 and 1866 the number of births was about 1,200, whilst the num- ber of deaths was 2,300, and that it would be impossible to preserve the Colony from extinction but for immigration. Sir Arthur Kennedy went on to say—"The European population is insignificant in number and never likely to increase. The situation of the settlement renders it very unhealthy for four months of the year. This evil may be mitigated, but never wholly remedied, at the cost of extensive and expensive drainage works."
Such was the opinion which had been expressed by the Governor General of the West African Settlements in the course of last year, and it was in consequence of the information which he had conveyed to them that the Government were induced to take the matter into consideration. Now, the question was one in dealing with which the present Earl of Derby had, he thought, hit the nail on the head when, referring to Gambia and other settlements on the West Coast of Africa, he said—"The revenue, depending as it does mainly upon the export of ground nuts, must be always precarious and fluctuating. A deficiency of revenue for 1869, as compared with 1868, to the extent of £3,667 is expected. The nature of the surrounding population forbids the hope that civilization or British influence can ever be greatly extended, and peace can never be enforced or expected for any lengthened period among a population where such discordant religious elements exist, Almost the whole bulk of trade is in French hands—produce paid for in cash and carried in French bottoms to French ports. The producing portion of the population belongs to unsettled, wandering tribes, who hire and exhaust the land and then go elsewhere. This system of cultivation will soon render the land valueless, and of course lessen the amount of produce. An outlay far exceeding the amount at present to the credit of the settlement is required to erect a wharf, rebuild the Government House, and drain the swamp. The turbulent and aggressive character of neighbouring populations renders the maintenance of a military force necessary at a serious expense. Lately there were 15 officers of all ranks to superintend 120 men. A militia is impossible. The position of Bathurst is, in a military sense, indefensible, and would prove a source of embarrassment in time of war as it is of serious expense in time of peace."
For the sake of trade it would or would it not be advantageous for us to keep the settlement; and he would be able, he thought, to lay before the House facts which would completely satisfy them on that subject. He found that the value of the imports into Gambia in 1869 was £94,207, of which only half came from Great Britain. The value of the exports was £91,000, of which only £20,000, or about one-fifth, were to Great Britain. The number of ships entered was 188; of which 34 were from Great Britain, 21 direct from France, and 90 from Liverpool and Goree. Of the 34 from Great Britain 20 were mail steamers, whose aggregate tonnage was 15,700. Deducting these 20 from 34, 14 remained, representing 3,286 tons, against 111 French vessels, with a tonnage of 11,495 tons. Of 198 vessels which cleared from Bathurst, 39 went to Great Britain, 110 to France. Of the 39 to Great Britain 19 were subsidized mail steamers. There were four English commercial houses, two conducted by resident principals, all restricting their business; and four French houses extending their business. Trade by barter, which was the English system, was being superseded by cash transactions of French traders. The French capital considerably exceeded the English. Much of the revenue was derived from growth of ground nuts, which were now being grown in the Southern States of America. It would be seen by those figures that the exports and imports of Gambia were, so far as we were concerned, absolutely insignificant, and that the great mass of the trade was getting into French hands. Under these circumstances, the Colony being really of no advantage to us, and Sir Arthur Kennedy having given it as his opinion that it would be a good exchange for us that France should abandon her claim to interference with or sovereignty over the Monah and Samo country, and we give her Gambia, the Government had taken the subject into their consideration. Acting on that same principle, the Government were negotiating with Holland for the purpose of obtaining, and he believed they would obtain, a very valuable possession belonging to her on the Gold Coast, which would tend to consolidate our territory, and lead not only to the expansion of our trade, but the civilization of the Natives; for nothing operated more to the injury of our interests, and to check the progress of civilization in that quarter, than the conflicts which were constantly occurring between the Natives, who were protected by different Powers. We could not, it should also be borne in mind, continue to keep possession of Gambia without entailing on ourselves considerable expense, especially for military purposes. The idea of the Colony going on without support from any civilized power, and being able to maintain itself against the warlike tribes, was quite absurd. In times of peace the Colony might be able to get on, but in time of war it must claim assistance. The liberty of the people in respect of their religion was a point that had been strongly insisted upon in the negotiations with France, as well as the protection of their lives, property, and civil liberties. The care taken to protect religious liberty had, perhaps, been more than was necessary, for he did not think there was any country in which there was greater religious liberty than there was in France. In order to ascertain the feelings of the population with respect to the proposed transfer, Sir Arthur Kennedy, Governor of Sierra Leone, was sent to the Gambia, and he reported that he could hear nothing to induce him to believe there was any serious opposition to the transfer, and that he felt more than ever convinced of the soundness of the policy of Great Britain in endeavouring to divest herself of a responsible charge, the possession of which offered no equivalent advantage. He supposed it was not expected that they should take the votes of the people by a plébiscitum, and he did not see that they could have got at the opinions of the people by any means other than those which they had adopted. As he had said, all the questions raised would be very carefully considered by the Government, as would every statement made by the merchants, who had been invited to make representations of the losses they were likely to suffer; for, while the Government felt that it was to our interest that this settlement should be got rid of, they also felt strongly that we were bound to protect, as far as possible, private interests. In these respects, therefore, he was able to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman the fullest assurances. With regard to the whole matter, no step would be taken which would in any way commit this country to the cession without everything being laid before the House; and his conviction was, that when the whole question was fairly submitted, and when we considered the unhealthy climate of the settlement, the moral and physical effect of it upon the people we sent there, and the great advantage that we should derive from the cession France made to us, the House would come the same conclusion as the Government had arrived at, that it was for our interest that the cession, or rather exchange, should be made."When I say they serve no useful purpose, I mean that they do not answer the end of promoting our trade, because I suppose nobody imagines that we increase our political influence or military power by retaining them. We ought to view this simply as a question of trade."
said, that the question was wholly unconnected with party, for the negotiations on the subject had been carried on by three successive Governments. They were begun by Lord Clarendon in 1866, and were continued by the late, and then by the present Government. The question simply was, whether the proposed exchange would be advantageous to the interests of this country or otherwise. No one could suspect him of any inclination to consent to the cession of any territory of the Queen in any part of the world, for when the cession of the Orange River Territory was proposed he stood alone in opposition to the project—and the year before last he only consented to an exchange without diminution of territory on the Gold Coast. He maintained that no cession or exchange should be completed without the knowledge of Parliament. No one could regard the Gambia as a Colony in any sense whatever. It was a mere settlement or station, established by us first for the purpose of carrying on the slave trade, and afterwards used for the suppression of that trade. It had been regarded of late merely as a station for carrying out the anti-slave trade policy. The settlement could not be of any importance to the trade of this country. The trade, such as it was, being almost entirely in French hands; no English mercantile interest whatever existed for maintaining that settlement. With respect to its use as a coaling station, he believed it would be as useful to us on that account if it were in the hands of the French, because if war broke out the question as to who would get the coal stored there would depend on which Power was master of the seas at the moment. It had been said that it was a most eligible station, and that the Gambia was a fine river. Time was when a great desire existed to get hold of every fine harbour throughout the world and hold it as a station; but the feeling of the country now was that it was not desirable to lay hold of stations all over the globe, because by so doing our naval strength was uselessly scattered. The reasons for retaining the Gambia were of a trivial and sentimental nature; but the reasons against so doing were unanswerable. It was a station absolutely pestilential to English constitutions, and the advantages ought to be very great indeed for maintain- ing it at such an enormous sacrifice of life. There was no portion of the West African Coast which was more certain to become the scene of tribal warfare very soon than this settlement at the mouth of the Gambia. At this very moment the Mahomedan tribes in the interior were pressing the coast tribes down towards that point. The French had an enormous military station on the Senegal, and as they seemed to be in love with tribal wars it would be better to let them undertake and enjoy them. They had, in fact, began already. If by a change of station we could get out of these wars and strengthen our position lower down, leaving the French to fight coming battles, he did not think we should have reason to regret any loss of glory. The West African Committee of that House came unanimously to the conclusion that it was advisable for the country to get out of all their responsibilities and liabilities along the West African Coast, retaining only Sierra Leone, and the idea of the Committee was that self-government should be as speedily as possible developed and fostered among the people of these settlements, in order that we might soon abandon them, securing, of course, the interests of merchants and settlers during our occupation. As to the merchants and traders at the Gambia Settlement, they would be as well cared for and protected by the French as by us. If the English merchants thought a garrison useful, the French would supply them with one three times the size this House would over allow this country to place there. The question was not at all a question of a party character; but it was one which affected the interests of the country, and he could not conceive that anybody would entertain much doubt that the interests of this country would be served by the exchange which was contemplated—for it should be borne in mind that what was proposed was not a cession, but an exchange. Our station at the mouth of the Gambia was only 200 miles from the French military station at the Senegal, while it was 500 miles away from our nearest station, Sierra Leone; and it was proposed that the French should give us an undisputed right to several stations nearer to Sierra Leone about which there was dispute at present, and that we in exchange should give them the Gambia station, which was practically already French. He hoped there would be no unnecessary delay in completing the negotiations on the subject.
said, that while we ought to feel obliged to the French for taking this pestiferous spot, we ought to remember that the people, some 3,000 or 4,000 in number, including 50 Europeans and four English houses of trade, were British subjects, and ought not to be transferred to a foreign jurisdiction without their own consent. He was not satisfied with the Report of Governor Kennedy as to the means he took to elicit the opinions of the people, for he simply said he "understood" and "believed" there would be no objection on their part to the transfer. The people had been living under English laws, and they would find those of France quite different, and they ought distinctly to be informed of their probable future position. He wished, further, to call attention to the risk incurred by the Ministry of compromising themselves with Parliament by negotiations for transferring our territory without the previous consent of Parliament.
said, he had already stated that the French Government had been informed that no step would be taken in the matter without the consent of Parliament.
said, he was speaking generally, and if Parliament refused to sanction a proposed transfer the Ministry would find themselves in a false position.
said, no proper answer had been given to the questions whether the transfer would be made with or without the consent of the inhabitants, and whether the opinion of the Admiralty had been taken as to the propriety of retaining the settlement for a coaling station. The chief object which the Governor of Sierra Leone would necessarily have in his mind in his inquiries would be the improvement of his own Colony. Regarded as a coaling station, if the place would be as valuable to us in the hands of the French as it was in our own, why should we not at once transfer Malta and Gibraltar to the French? The rule, if good in one case, would apply to all our possessions. To a certain extent, the opinion of the House had been already recorded against this transfer, for the first Resolution of the Committee of 1865 was that it was not possible for the British Government to transfer any settlement on the West Coast of Africa, either wholly or in detail, and if the Committee in the third Resolution pointed to a limited transfer of our possessions, except Sierra Leone, it was done in terms which implied the lapse of a considerable interval of time; and if a cession was to be made at all, it was to be not in favour of a foreign Power, but in favour of a government by the inhabitants themselves. It was the people themselves who were principally concerned, and if they were opposed to transfer to the French no Government in the world, and least of all the English Government, should think of transferring them against their wishes. In this case there was a population of 20,000 speaking the English language, and it would be inconvenient and calamitous that they should be subject to the rule of those whose language they did not understand. Then the people were all Protestants—chiefly Wesleyans and Baptists, and some of them members of the Church of England; and, of course, they did not wish to be placed under a Roman Catholic Power. In addition, they had been accustomed to a moderate and equitable administration, and as every day their settlement afforded a refuge to those who escaped from the French rule, could they think that French rule would offer them any advantages? No pecuniary advantage would be gained by the transfer, because the revenue of the Colony more than covered the expenditure. We did not know how much harm might not result to the trade of the place by the adoption of that course. There was one consideration which was entitled to great weight, and that was that the presence of the British in the settlement had put an end to many abominations in the locality, such as the carrying on of the slave trade and the cruel practice of human sacrifice, and a revival of that and other horrible customs was dreaded in the event of the withdrawal of the British authority as was stated before the Committee of 1865. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Monsell) had described the climate as pestilential; but he saw lately a gentleman who had lived in the Colony for 20 years, and his appearance was quite as good as that of the right hon. Gentleman.
said, the people of the settlement were British subjects, and it must not be forgotten that besides the 50 whites, there was a large negro population, the descendants of those who had been taken out of slavery by our ships, and placed there under the guarantee of the British Government. We were responsible for them, and for maintaining our jurisdiction over them as long as they chose to submit to it. It was quite time that we should recognize no distinctinctions of colour in free citizens. It was said that the settlement would be as well, and perhaps better protected under the French Government than under ours; but as the French settlement at the Senegal was a purely military settlement, there was no doubt that the French, if they went to the Gambia would carry out the same system and would be constantly at war with the neighbouring tribes, and great misery would be inflicted on the people. He felt bound to protest, especially after the serious news which had only just reached the House, against handing over the Gambia Settlement to a Government which, before all things, was a purely military Government. That would be the very worst policy and that policy he would never sanction.
said, they had now received a clearer declaration of the policy of the Colonial Office than they had ever had before. That policy seemed to be to take no care of small and insignificant dependencies, which were not likely to be remunerative to this country; and it would be no satisfaction to the people of the Gambia Settlement to learn that if they had been stronger and more powerful they would have had a chance of being better cared for. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman's sympathies would get enlarged during the Recess, and that he would have more consideration for the future for small and weak dependencies, which had been connected with us for so many years. It was a very singular state of things, if our subjects were to be transformed at any moment into Frenchmen, Spaniards, or Dutchmen, without their knowledge or consent.
said, he wished to know whether proper protection and security would be given to our merchants and traders under the proposed change? Their interests ought to be properly protected.
said, a deputation of merchants came to the Colonial Office yesterday; and they were informed that the Government felt bound to consider their interests, and they were requested to put in writing the character and amount of the losses they anticipated from the cession of Gambia. Their statement would be carefully considered.
said, this was not a small question, nor a question of pounds, shillings, and pence, but a question of Imperial policy, and he hoped that we should keep the Gambia Settlement for ever.
said, he must strongly condemn the cession of a Protestant community to the French. The right hon. Gentleman must know very little about the administration of French colonies. But regarding the question from another point of view, and looking at Gambia as a coaling station, there were the strongest reasons against ceding it to the French. If we were at war, and the French happened to be neutral, Gambia would be entirely closed to us; and this would be the more disastrous, because the River Gambia was the only one on the West Coast of Africa which could be approached at all seasons.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.