HC Deb 01 June 1815 vol 31 cc570-2
Mr. Horner

said, that during the progress of the negociations at Ghent, he had put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for the purpose of learning from him what information was possessed by Government on the subject of certain allegations made by the Government of the United States, respecting the mode in which the war had been conducted in America. It had been publicly stated, that we had by proclamation tempted the slaves to run away from their masters; and that after they had sought the protection of the British forces, we had sold them again as slaves. The right hon. gentleman had stated at the time his conviction that there was no foundation whatever for the statement, but that he would immediately set on foot an inquiry into the subject. He was extremely anxious that this matter should be cleared up. It had not only been asserted in a message to Congress, by the American Secretary of State, but it was also said that the documents on which the statement rested had been sent to the commissioners at Ghent, for the purpose of being communicated, if necessary, to the commissioners of this country. He should be happy if ministers could now give a denial to the whole of the charge.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that immediately after this charge was made known to him, he had addressed a note to the American plenipotentiaries, requesting them, as the abolition of the Slave-trade was a point on which they were equally interested with this country, to communicate the evidence of which they were in possession, that it might be in our power to bring our officers, if guilty, to punishment. It did so happen that the American ministers did not think themselves justified in communicating the information with which they were famished. But at the same time, in a conversation with one of the gentlemen, he had expressed his willingness to furnish him (Mr. Goulburn) with the information on which the charge was founded; and he had the satisfaction of learning, that it rested on the affidavit of a single individual, who swore that he knew of a slave having been carried in an English ship of war into the Bahamas, whom he saw afterwards sold to an individual there; and that he had heard that this was a constant practice. As this affidavit contained the name of the individual to whom the slave was alleged to have been sold, and other particulars, it became an easy matter to ascertain the truth of the charge; and instructions had immediately been sent to the governor of the Bahamas, to inquire into the whole circumstances of the case. An answer had not yet been received, though they were hi daily expectation of one; but before the House should separate, he expected to have it in his power to satisfy them on this subject.

Mr. Horner

expressed himself satisfied with the course of conduct which had been pursued. It gave him the sincerest pleasure to learn that a charge of so serious a nature, a fleeting the character of the army and the country, rested on so slight a foundation.