HC Deb 09 March 1807 vol 9 cc63-6
Mr. Hobhouse

brought up the report of the Slave Trade Abolition bill. On the motion that the amendments be read a second time,

Lord Howick rose

and said, that before the amendments were read, he was anxious to advert to what had passed on a former occasion, and propose, what he flattered himself would be sufficient to obviate certain objections; in doing this, however, he begged to be understood as not in the slightest degree swerving from the opinions he had advanced, and still entertained, of the principles of the bill itself. He wished to give gentlemen, who had started their objections, every possible accommodation; and though he could not see how the preamble of the bill in its present form could be productive of the ill consequences that had been so strongly apprehended, yet he would consent, by omitting the two first lines, to put that preamble in a form less objectionable. At the same time, when he recollected that all the former proceedings of the two houses of parliament, relative to the slave trade, had been published in all parts of the West Indies, and there circulated, and especially the very resolution declaring the trade to be inconsistent with justice, humanity and sound policy, and that those publications were not productive of any disturbance or disaffection among the negroes; he could not think that if the preamble stood in its original state, it could be productive of the least evil; this opinion, however, should yield to his anxiety for general accommodation on a great question like the present. The amended form of the preamble then proposed by the noble lord, excluded the terms "founded in humanity, &c." and substituted, for certain special reasons, "it is expedient that the slave trade be abolished."

Mr. Hibbert

said he should reserve what he had to say for a future stage of the bill.

General Vyse

contended that the terms used in the first preamble, were but characterestic of so infamous a trade, and represented the miseries of the wretched victims in a three fold point of view, the circumstances of their capture and sale in Africa, those of their passage to the colonies, and the manner of their reception on their arrival there.

Mr. Rose

thought, that the wording of the preamble as it originally stood, would have been productive of dangerous consequences among the slaves.

Mr. Wilberforce

could not see it in so alarming a point of view, but had no objection to the amendment.

Mr. Fuller

felt himself much obliged to the noble lord for the Willingness he had evinced towards general accommodation on this subject; he could not however help adverting to the unfair and unhandsome construction that had been put upon his own conduct in this business; he did not much like to see upon a former night an hon. member going about the house asking questions about his estate in the colonies, the name of it, and other circumstances, as if it were to detect him (Mr. Fuller) in any assertion that might not not be strictly consonant to the fact; he should scorn to assert any thing which he did not think he could substantiate. He knew what was due from every member to that house, and he knew also what was due from a man of honour to himself. He was no pitiful canter;—confident in the integrity of his intentions, no superstitious folly hurried him to interpret every little casualty into a dire visitation of Providence. But had he no internal principle to guide him, he had to support that character, a long line of ancestry bequeathed him. The family were well known and respected in 1607, and this was 1807, and they were now, as they were then—not one of them indebted to any faction or to any ministry for sixpence of the public money; they were then in prosperity, and now in the fairest way of prospering, it gentlemen would let them prosper. As for himself, he had always voted in that house as a juror upon his oath. He was not endeavouring to get in with the government,—he felt and acted as an independent man, and was never an admirer of affected piety.

Mr. Barham

approved of the amendment in the preamble proposed by the noble lord (Howick) on principles of policy. The impressing upon the minds of the negroes that it was by a violation of the laws of justice and humanity that they came there, would be only filling their minds with unavailing regret. He acknowledged that the circulation of the papers respecting the abolition in the West Indies, was rather a singular sort of proceeding. But, at the same time, the negroes must have learnt from these that the sentiments concerning the inhumanity, injustice, &c. of the measure were only those of the minority in this country. He recommended conciliatory measures, and observed, that whatever bad effects might result from the mode of proceeding in this business, he had nothing to do with them. He disapproved of the trade itself, but had objections to the manner of abolishing it.

Mr. Dickenson

observed, that the opinions which he formerly maintained on this subject were much weakened; still, however, doubted the policy of the measure, but at the same time could not help paying his tribute of approbation to the moderation of the noble lord.

General Gascoyne

also approved of the amendment; but still contended that the measure would in the first instance occasion a separation of interests and opinions between this country and the colonies, and ultimately occasion an entire separation, unless the law passed in 1807 should be repealed in 1808.

Lord Howick

proposed a clause to prevent the late regulations for limited service extending to the negroes. The negroes, therefore, are still to be inlisted in the first instance, his Majesty having the power to make such regulations respecting them as he may hereafter judge proper. The object of this was to prevent any apprehensions of their becoming chargeable to the islands. This clause was received and added to the bill.—The amendment in the preamble, and the amendments in the committee were then agreed to, and the bill was ordered to be read a third time on Wednesday.