HOUSE OF LORDS, DEBATES

 

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HISTORIC DOCUMENT

 

HOUSE OF LORDS, DEBATES

 

JULY 28, 1873

 

 

ACHIN

 

 

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENON

 

 

LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY called the attention of the House to the affairs of Achin, and to move an Address to Her Majesty for a Copy of the Correspondence relating to the abrogation of the Treaty of 1824. The noble Lord said that a Convention was signed at Hague on the 2nd November, 1873, and ratified February, 1872, between Her Majesty and the King of the Netherlands for the settlement of their relations in the island of Sumatra. The Convention was presented to Parliament in 1872; but it did not appear to have attracted any attention till this year, when its affects made themselves felt. The convention abrogated that part of the Treaty of the Treaty of 1824 between Great Britain and the Netherlands which prevented the Dutch extending their dominion in Sumatra north of the Line. No cause had been shown for signing this Convention. Its effects had been most injurious to British interests; and the interest of this country the Indian Ocean and Straits of Malacca, which should have been carefully watched over by the Government, had been sacrificed to that department of the Colonial Office within its jurisdiction, had saddled us with an Ashantee War, beside the other injurious effects to which he now wished to call the attention of their Lordships. The Treaty of 1824, which had become part of the public law of the countries adjoining the Malacca Straits, as much so as the Treaty of Vienna was the public Law of Europe; and Her Majesty's Government was not justified in abrogating it without regard to the interests and obligations which had grown up under it. Under this Treaty Her Majesty's subjects carried on trade with Bandar Achin, and other parts of Sumatra, and the population of Sumatra had friendly relations with the British Straits Settlements, and trusted to the Treaty of 1824. This had been abrogated without any necessity oven on the part of the Dutch, who had no grounds for quarrel with Achin, which had done them no injury. The Dutch had attacked Achin, and failed. There were grounds for hoping that they would not renew the attack, and that Her Majesty's Government might use their eudeavours to engage them not to renew it; for should it be renewed, and be successful, the fall of Achin would be ruinous to our prestige throughout Southern Asia, and the utmost dissatisfaction would be felt. Not only by Her Majesty's European and Malay subjects in the Straits Settlements, but also by all the Malays in the Malay Peninsula, whose goodwill was very important to us. It was not only the prestige of this country, but also its commercial interests, that had been injured by this new Convention; for if the Dutch should carry out their designs of last spring the whole the whole of the pepper trade of Penang would be lost. The Dutch system in Jawa, besides being one most opposed to freedom of trade, differed so little from slavery - for the Dutch called it unpaid labour - that it did not appear why Her Majesty's Government should have been desirous to promote its extension to the whole of the north of Sumatra, or why they did not make the necessary reservations on behalf of Achin, which State was entitled to expect that we should not forget its ancient independence, and a history which at some periods had been brilliant; - for Achin was an independent State at the time when Holland was a Spanish province. After that engaged the Portuguese floots victoriously. Rather more than 300 years ago Achin put itself under the Achin were still to be seen at Pidir and Pasè. This fact was mentioned in a Dutch history of the East Indian Islands by Mr.Tommick. It was now for the fourth time that Achin had sought the protection of the Ottoman Porto. It might be asked the independence of a free State which had done them no harm, and this at a time when they had yet recovered from the fears which they had good reason to entertain for their own independence after the late French war - for it was well known that a party I Germany aimed at absorbing Holland and acquiring the Dutch colonies, and a still larger portion of the Germans had been persuaded into the false belief that the Dutch would be not unwilling to be united or annexed to Germany. Under these circumtances , it was not a matter for supprise that a Dutch General should have been despatched to renew the attack upon Achin, under the auspices and with the encouragement of the German Minister at the Hague. But this policy was equally shortaighted on the part of Holland and Germany; on the part of Holland, because this aggressive policy must diminish the symapathies which would otherwise be felt for that country if its independence was menaced; and on that part of the Germany, because if German hopes should over realized, and should Germany scquiro Holland had to attack and annex Achin - the recognition of that claim by England would be far more doubtful if Sumatra were included with Java. In such a contigency the conduct of Her Majesty's Government was already marked out by what took place when Holland fell into the hands of France at the beginning of the century; and whilst it might be possible that Great Britain should acquiesce in the transfer of Java to other matters, it would be impossible for England to suffer Achin to pass into hands of a strong military Power. For, as admiral Sherard Osborn had recently pointed out, Achin was a station of extreme importance in maritime strategy; it commanded not only the Straits of Malacca and China trade, but also the approaches to rangoon and British Burmah. It was true that the new Convention gave to British subjects the right to trade with Indrapura, and with other Sumatran States that might become dependent on the Dutch legislation, and, as this trade was carried on by Her Mejesty's Asiatic subjects, it would be much discouraged. But it was not only the policy of this Article which was bad - its legality also was doubtful; for after the words of Her Majesty's Government to contract to make distinctions between Her majesty's British and Indian subjects, and the treatment to which they might be subjected and the amount of protection to be afforded them. The words of the Proclamation were:

 

"We hold ourselves bound to the Native of our Indian Territories by the same obligations of duty which bind us to all our other subjects, and those obligations, by the blessing of Almighty God. We shall faithfully and conscientiously fulfil."

 

 

 

 

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