A QUESTION OF IMPERIAL RESPONSIBILITY.
[To THS EDITOR Of THE " &ROTATOR." J SIE,—As a regular reader of the Spectator for more than thirty years past, I am aware of the high line you always maintain in advocating the recognition by the nation of our duties and responsibilities in all matters of Imperial interest. I am emboldened, therefore, to hope that your powerful support may be enlisted in a cause which seems to rouse scanty public interest, but which to my mind is of vital and urgent importance.
By what conceivable line of reasoning can our position in Southern Nigeria be justified? Briefly, it is this, that nearly half the revenue of this colony is derived from the duty imposed on spirits, and consequently that the more alcoholic liquors are consumed by the natives the easier does it become to meet the necessary expenses of Government. And yet, notwithstanding the Report of Sir Mackenzie Chalmers' Committee (about which I should like to say much, but I fear you could not find me space), and notwithstanding the violent assertions of the African Mail, there is practical unanimity on the part of unbiassed and well- informed people that this habit of drinking which we are encouraging among the natives committed to our care is fraught with the utmost danger to them, physical, moral, and spiritual, and is nothing less than a disgrace to our Imperial Administration.
My reason for asking you to bring this matter before your readers is that the Press, as a whole, cannot be induced to pay much attention to the subject., and consequently it is very difficult to rouse the public conscience. On May 8th I had the honour to preside in Grosvenor House at the annual meeting of the "Native Races and the Liquor Traffic United Committee," and though full reports of the proceedings were sent to all the leading daily newspapers, while some failed to publish a single line, few gave more than a brief paragraph, and yet the importation of spirits into Southern Nigeria, and the consequent demoralization and degradation of the native population, has been advancing with alarming rapidity. This is abundantly clear from figures officially published.
Can we, as a nation who, one hundred years ago, spent mil- lions in freeing the ancestors of these poor folk from the curse of slavery, deliberately give ourselves over to the policy of binding them in far worse fetters, and ruining them body and soul? Can we consent, not only not to protect them, children as they are, from the advances of the spirit traders, but actually to encourage them in drunken habits, and make it easy for them to indulge their lowest passions Is this to be the result of the boasted Pax BritannicaP Are we to repeat in South Nigeria the vile and devilish policy ad- vocated by some of our forefathers in dealing with Maoris in New Zealand and Aboriginals in Australia—viz., that they will most easily and conveniently disappear by our introduc- ing among them the vices of Western civilization?
Thank God, that policy has long ago been repudiated by the national conscience in Australasia. Are we to do nothing to prevent its establishment in Equatorial Africa P—I am, Sir, S. A. DONALDSON, D.D., Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.