Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

The Government of Cyprus.

189

exercise of the power and jurisdiction vested by treaty “in Her Majesty the Queen in and over the Island of • Cyprus : now therefore Her Majesty, by virtue of the • powers in this behalf by the Foreign Jurisdiction • Acts, 1843 to 1878, or otherwise, in her vested, is

pleased with and by the advice of Her Privy Council to order, and it is ordered, as follows :' and thereupon it is ordered that there should be a High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief, to be appointed by Commission under Her Majesty's sign-manual and signet ; and also a Legislative Council who should generally advise the High Commissioner in making laws and regulations. But the High Commissioner was to have the same power as the Viceroy of India, of making, in cases of emergency, orders to be in force for six months. The Order repeals all previous Orders of Council which have been made for the regulation of consular jurisdiction in the dominions of the Sublime Porte, and other similar Orders, so far as the Island of Cyprus was concerned ; and the present Order was to remain in force until the same should be revoked or altered by Her Majesty with the advice of her Council. As a specimen of the Ordinances here contemplated, enacted by the High Commissioner and • Commander-in-Chief of the Island of Cyprus, with the

advice of the Legislative Council,' may be cited the following Ordinance, since repealed, dated the 16th day of December, 1878, the object of which was said to be “to • provide for the execution of works of public utility in

the Island of Cyprus by the inhabitants. The Ordinance recites that it has been the custom for the inhabitants of the Island of Cyprus to contribute by

their labour to the making of roads and the execu• tion of other works of public utility,' and that it is

' expedient to provide for the continuance and regulation

of this custom.' In the January of every year, a list has to be prepared, in every town and village, of all the able-bodied men between the ages of sixteen and sixty, exclusive of those in the service of the Government, and of priests and ministers of all religious denominations. On a requisition for labour being made by the Commissioner of any district, the head-man and the council of the village are to choose by lot from the list the number of men required to perform the labour. The labour is to be paid for at the rate of not less than a shilling per day of ten hours; and any person quitting his work without permission is liable to a fine not exceeding a pound, or to be imprisoned, with hard labour, for a period not exceeding a month.

This institution of forced labour, which in no particular except that of its softened title can be distinguished from slavery, gives fresh importance to the question, already raised by the Order in Council constituting the form of British government in Cyprus, as to whether Cyprus is to be treated as a Crown Colony,– that is, a territorial possession the government of which is initiated and formally prescribed by the Executive, in the exercise of the Royal Prerogative,—or whether it is a territory over which the British Government has temporarily and provisionally nothing more than certain limited rights, conceded by the real Sovereign authority, the Sultan of Turkey, for the purpose of securing orderly administration, and rendering the place available as a military and naval centre in case England should be called upon to carry into effect those clauses of the Convention transferring the possession of Cyprus, which would oblige her in certain emergencies to protect the Asiatic

Forced Labour in Cyprus.

191

dominions of the Sultan against Russia. The citation, at the head of the Order in Council, of the Foreign Jurisdiction Acts would seem to favour the latter view,-that is, that Cyprus is in no sense ceded to Great Britain, but is merely foreign territory over which the British Government, in the exercise of powers conceded by Parliament, and by virtue of a temporary Convention with the Sovereign authority to whom Cyprus belongs, is entitled to exert certain defined functions. There is no doubt that, in the case of any true British territory, such an ordinance as that which perpetuates a system of slavery would be instantly repudiated by Parliament as soon as its attention was called to it. Certainly no greater public inconvenience could accrue from the disallowance for the first time of the enforcement of such a system, even in territories previously habituated to it, than the wide-spread disaster and calamities which ensued on the sudden abolition of private slavery in the West India Islands. It must, then, be assumed that Cyprus is at present not part of the British dominions, and that if ever, by further transactions with Turkey, it becomes so, the system of forced labour would in any case have been abolished. Of course a further political question is suggested, that cannot here be discussed, as to whether, in the course of indoctrinating the Turkish Government with sounder principles of administration, it was well to lose a signal opportunity of evincing the superior moral and economic advantage of a system of private contract over that system of servitude which, in one shape or another, is one of the main causes of the decrepitude and demoralisation of the Turkish dominions.

These views seem to have been to some extent appreciated by the British Government, as appears from

a later despatch (given below) of Lord Salisbury, the Foreign Secretary, which led to the repeal of the Ordinance. The despatch has a further importance as exhibiting the existing constitutional attitude of the country towards slavery, or towards what the Government apprehend may be interpreted as slavery. Before the promulgation of the Ordinance,—that is, on the 9th of September, 1878,- Sir Garnet Wolseley, writing to Lord Salisbury, says: 'I would propose to discuss this • matter in the Legislative Council, and, acting upon • the advice of the three island members, to bring out a • law upon the subject, taking care in no way to inter• fere with the farming operations. I should not like • to discuss the subject at Council unless I was assured

that the Ministry would consent to the general prin• ciple involved, namely, of insisting upon the people • supplying labour for public works of general utility

“a principle which is acted upon in India, and, I believe, :. in all Eastern countries. Under the Turkish law

6 every man is obliged to give to the public a certain • number of days' work on the roads—twenty consecutive • days' work every five years—during the period extend•ing from the 1st of May to the 1st of November of each ' year. Do you approve of my introducing a law with • this object in view, or may I act on the Turkish law • existing without any fresh legislation ?'

On the 20th of March, 1879, Lord Salisbury writes as follows to Sir Garnet Wolseley :

* Foreign Office, March 20, 1879. • I have received your despatches of December 17 6 and February 3, inclosing to me an Ordinance on - Public Works passed by the Legislative Council of Repeal of the Compulsory Labour Clause. 193

Cyprus. In your despatch of December 17, you stated that the Ordinance in question was one which would • be seldom if ever brought into operation, implying

that at that time you did not contemplate any immediate employment of the powers conferred by it. It . did not seem, therefore, a matter of urgency to com

municate with you in respect to it, and it has been • postponed to more pressing questions. Within the • last two days, however, I have received information • from a private source, to the effect that the Ordinance • has been put into operation in one locality, and there

fore it is desirable that I should without further delay * place you in possession of the views of Her Majesty's • Government in regard to its provisions. On October * 25, in reply to a semi-official communication from 'you, I sent to you a telegram, from which the follow

ing is an extract: “ You may requisition labour either 6" under old law or a new one, as you please. But we • 6 think punishment in default should be a fine on 666 village and not fall on individuals; otherwise we shall 6 66 be charged with setting up slavery.” The Ordinance

as it has actually passed, in so far as the greater part of it is concerned, is substantially in harmony with • these instructions. One clause, however, in the Ordi‘nance (the tenth) is not entirely in accordance with the

principle laid down in my telegram of the 26th • October. It provides that persons electing to con• tribute by way of labour instead of payment shall be • compelled to perform the labour they have undertaken 6 by imprisonment, if necessary. They are not forced * to labour in the first instance; but they are forced to

complete their tale of days' labour when they have • once elected that their contribution shall be in the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »