« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
No. 89.- Consul Hutchinson to the Earl of Clarendon.—(Rec. Nov. 8.) MY LORD,
Clarence, Fernando Po, September 24, 1856. I IAVE the honour to transmit herewith a Code of Bye-laws for the regulation of trading matters between the British supercargoes and the native traders at Old Calabar, which I deemed it expedient to sanction during my recent visit to that river, in Her Majesty's steam-ship Myrmidon.
With this I also inclose to your Lordship a document, granting a piece of ground which was made over to me by King Duke Ephraim, without any purchase, or solicitation, or threat, on my part, to obtain it from him, for the purpose of building an Equity Court. I deemed it expedient to accept of it, as well because a house, which was purchased from a Chief, named Egbo Jack, by British supercargoes, formerly stood on that spot of land, and was used as a place of meeting for evenings' recreations, as because I deemed his offering it to me to be in the light of my sanctioning a security that white and black men might meet there, without danger of the latter being arrested by the former. The natives of Old Calabar are not a race of people who can be expected to jump at once to the bestowal of their confidence in the executive authority of any class of men who have so long treated them as I regret to say the former class of supercargoes at Old Calabar have done; and although I assured the Kings that the bye-laws I had just sanctioned were to do away with the iniquitous code of making one man accountable for debts contracted by another, I deemed it judicious not to refuse the grant, as I thought all the Chiefs would have more faith in a Court there than on board a merchantship.
I must beg of your Lordship, in analysing the 25 Articles of this Code, to bear in mind the peculiar condition of commerce in this river, and to believe that there are some of them that I would not have sanctioned, were it not my determination to watch over their administration with attention. In the first place, there is now an immense amount of goods out on trust: the practice of giving it indiscriminately for the future—and one which I believe to have been very much fostered by the former objectionable Code it is intended to try to limit by Article XIX. Article XII has been inserted chiefly to prevent the Sierra Leone men resident on the Mission premises from shipping oil to England, as they sometimes do, and which oil is virtually the property of the British supercargoes, who bring out vessels and cargoes at great expense. Goods are paid for this oil in trust, before it is delivered to the supercargoes contracting with the natives.
Article XVIII was agreed to unanimously by the Kings and Chiefs, after I had read it over to them more than once; and though I represented to the supercargoes that I did not think detaining a man on board a ship as prisoner would enable him to pay his debts, they were of a contrary opinion, and so I succumbed, more especially as your Lordship will observe by Article VI that all cases of appeal are to be suspended, in the action of judgment, till my next visit or communication. The system of giving bills, as in Articles XX and XXI, is adopted in imitation of the Bonny Equity Court, whose proceedings are carried on in a manner that is highly creditable to its members.
When I add that goods are now in the hands of the natives for an amount of debt exceeding a year and a-half's produce of the country, I trust your Lordship will allow for the many difficulties that stand in the way of the supercargoes towards adopting a more perfect code.
I quite agree with the supercargoes of Bonny and Old Calabar, of the necessity there exists of having a man-of-war placed here for my more frequent visits to the rivers within my jurisdiction ; from Clarence to Lagos, the only place near this where men-of-war are permanently stationed, a distance of 383 miles intervenes. All the communication which can be effected between this place and the latter, is by the mail-steamer once a-month ; men-of-war only touch here when they are in want of coals.
Your Lordship will, I trust, observe from this the unsatisfactory position of a Consul for the Bight of Biafra, whose jurisdiction extends over a coast extent of nearly 500 miles, into which 28 rivers empty themselves.
I have, &c. The Earl of Clarendon.
THOS. J. HUTCHINSON.
(Inclosure 1.)—Bye-Laws.-September 19, 1856. At a meeting of the British supercargoes and native traders, resident at Old Calabar, held on board Her Majesty's steam-vessel Myrmidon, Lieutenant Commanding Hastings St. John de Robeck, R.N., the following Code of Bye-laws for the better regulation of trading matters between the parties hereunto subscribing, was unanimously agreed to, and sanctioned by Thomas Joseph Hutchinson, Esquire, Her Britannic Majesty's Consul for the Bight of Biafra and the Island of Fernando Po:
ART. I. That an Equity Court be established in the Old Calabar country, to keep in their integrity the following bye-laws and regulations, and that the Court shall consist of all the supercargoes, a corresponding number of the chief traders of the locality being admitted at each meeting to hear the decisions of the Court, whose Kings only shall have a vote in the proceedings.
II. That these laws now entered into be complied with and
respected by supercargoes absent from the river, or afterwards to be here, and any native traders, who shall come up, to be bound by them also; and that a majority of votes at each meeting have the deciding power on any subject brought before them, the chairman's vote being equal to two.
III. That this body have a monthly sitting, unless in special cases to be summoned at any time; that a supercargo, each in his turn according to seniority, be elected chairman for a month; and that a report of each meeting be forwarded to Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Fernando Po.
IV. That the proposed Court-house be erected at the joint expense of the supercargoes now trading in the river, on the ground where Whitehall once stood, to be considered British property, and under the protection of Her Britannic Majesty's Consul.
V. That in case of non-payment of just debts by the native chiefs and traders, after the customary notice be given to them by the Equity Court, the supercargoes refuse as a body to take any oil from the debtors, until the ship first ready to go out be settled with and that each supercargo bind himself to give intimation to the chairman of any oil being offered.
VI. That any one member of the Court have the power to make an appeal against its decisions, the hearing of which is to be deferred, and action of judgment suspended, till the Consul's next visit or communication; and that if on examining this appeal it be found frivolous or invalid, the appellants are to be fined, at the discretion of the Court, not less than twenty or more than sixty pieces of cloth.
VII. That this Court shall apply the fines levied by it, to the expense of the erection, and keeping in order, of the Court-house, or otherwise, as the Court assembled may think fit; that the fines of palm oil be handed over to the ship next in rotation for going out, her supercargo paying the worth thereof in coppers to the chairman, who is treasurer for the time being, and who cannot be at any time in the position of getting the oil for his own ship.
VIII. That any supercargo or native after receiving a formal notice to appear at the Court at the time fixed for meeting (two hours' grace being given), refusing to attend, thereby setting at defiance the laws of the Court, shall be fined in the amount of twenty pieces of cloth, unless he can show clear cause for his absence.
IX. That in the event of any native trader attempting to evade the penalty of the Court, by non-appearance or otherwise, and notice of such a defaulter being sent to all the traders and supercargoes in the river, such traders and supercargoes are hereby bound under the penalty of 100 crews of good palm oil, to forbid [1856–57. XLVII.]
such defaulter coming to his ship for trade, or any other pretence whatever, and if necessary the final settlement of the case to await the arrival of Her Britannic Majesty's Consul.
X. That any native refusing to pay any fine that may be inflicted by this Court, shall be stopped from going on board any ship in the river, either for trade or any other purpose, and any supercargo refusing to pay a fine shall be denied the privileges of the Equity Court.
XI. That all future comeys be paid to King Ego Honesty and Duke Ephraim only, two-thirds to the former, and oue-third to the latter, and that the rate of comey be twenty coppers per register ton; and if at any time the supercargo of a ship, after having paid or tendered the usual comey for the privilege of trading, can prote that the trade of his ship has been stopped, either directly or indirectly, upon any pretext whatever (although no compulsory trust is to be allowed), the Kings are to be held responsible for such stoppage, and must pay one puncheon of saleable palm oil per day, for each 100 tons register to the said ship, as compensation for the loss incurred. The said oil to be paid within seven days after such stoppage shall have been made, and to continue to be paid as long as the trade of any such ship shall be stopped.
XII. That no man can be recognized as a legitimate trader in the country unless he pay, through the Court, a comey of 20,000 coppers per annum, for the privileges of purchasing and shippivg oil, and that persons who may attempt trading without paying such comey, shall be liable to have their oil seized as smuggled produce, and delivered to the supercargo next in rotation to leave the river, he giving to the King an acknowledgment in book or books for debts to the like amount due to him.
XIII. That all comey be tendered on the arrival of a vessel in the river, and if not accepted, the supercargo may commence trade immediately, such comey to be paid in cargo, and by said ship when subsequently demanded.
XIV. That the existing regulations respecting cask-houses be held in force, and the King Eyo and King Duke Ephraim shall prohibit any of their subjects, under any pretence whatever, from entering any of the cask-houses without a written order from the white trader to whom the cask-house belongs : if they do so, they are liable to be arrested and brought before the Court, which shall fine them or those to whom they belong, and if any supercargo can prove that his cask-house has been illegally entered or broken into by any of the natives, and any property stolen therefrom, King Iyo and King Duke Ephraim shall make good all such loss themselves.
XV. That British subjects having any complaint against the
natives of Old Calabar, will bring his or their complaint before the Kings, Chiefs, and supercargoes assembled at the Court, and they hereby promise to redress any such grievance by punishing the offenders; and if any British subject shall maltreat a native, he shall also be punished by a Court assembled for that purpose.
XVI. That after the comey has been paid or tendered to the Kings, every trader shall be allowed to trade in his own name, and neither the King nor any other trader is entitled to exact any other comey whatever.
XVII. That in the event of the Kings or any other of the traders making any agreement to take goods from a ship at a certain rate, all such agreements shall be perfectly binding; and in case the goods agreed upon are not paid for within the time specified, such' goods shall be forfeited, and the oil be considered due, as though the goods had actually been paid : such oil not paid during the ship’s stay in the river to be deducted from the comey of the said ship on a future voyage, or from that of any other ship in the same employ.
XVIII. That in the event of any native trader failing to pay his debt in the time awarded by the Court of Equity, that the said native trader shall be delivered up by the King and Chiefs as a prisoner, until such time that his debts be paid, unto the supercargo so demanding the said native trader on board his ship.
XIX. That any native trader contracting debt after these laws shall have come into force, must show to the satisfaction of the Court that he is in a position, and intends, to pay his present debt before he shall be called upon to pay the debt subsequently contracted.
XX. That those natives who are at present guarantee for others, be held responsible for the debt of the parties whom they have guaranteed; and that for the future all trust shall be given out in bills, payable at such time as the contractors may agree upon.
XXI. That no such bills are to be considered invalid in any way or shape, and are to be paid under the supervision of the Court.
XXII. That all parties who shall not have paid their just debts contracted for, shall be posted in the Equity Court on the departure of the vessel to which they should have paid those debts, and that any supercargo giving trust to such an individual after his being posted, shall be denied the aid of the Equity Court to recover his debt.
XXIII. That in the event of the death of a native trader owing debts to a ship or ships, if his successor be not of age, or otherwise unfit, that an order from the Court shall empower the King and Chiefs to take charge of the property, and to pay all debts that may be due to the supercargoes, and that the King and Chiefs become