HC Deb 19 May 1835 vol 27 cc1233-6
Mr. Fowell Buxton

, with the permission of the House, would postpone the Motion of which he had given notice respecting the treatment of the Aborigines in the British settlements, and proceed with that on the subject of the Slave Trade. The resolution which he formerly proposed, was objected to on account of its length; but he thought that his present Motion would obtain the assent of every hon. Gentleman present, inasmuch as it was not only short, but contained all that could be desired. He had on the former occasion gone at some length into the facts of the case, and as the matter must be fresh in the recollection of every hon. Gentleman present, he had little more to do now than call the attention of the House to the enormous extent to which this trade was carried on at the present moment. In fact the Slave Trade was as active now as ever it had been, though treaties for putting an end to this inhuman traffic had been formed with foreign nations. Spain and Portugal, in particular, had weighty pecuniary considerations for adhering to the solemn engagements which they had entered into with us; but, instead of keeping faith, as they were bound to have done, those Powers, he was sorry to say, had grossly violated their treaties by allowing the Slave Trade to be carried on under their respective flags. No one could conceive the horrors of this dreadful traffic, and, if it were necessary, he could go into details of the most striking and painful nature. It was not, however, expedient that he should do so, and, therefore, all he should now say was, that the address which he was about to propose was couched in temperate language, perhaps more temperate than he should have used if negotiations were not going on which he had no wish, by any harshness of expression, to impede or interrupt. He must say, however, that if this trade were not speedily put an end to by peaceful means he hoped the Government would feel it their duty to repress it by force. The hon. Gentleman moved— That an humble address be presented to his Majesty, to inform his Majesty that this House has learned with deep regret, from the documents which have been laid before it, that the traffic in slaves still continues to be carried on, under the protection of the flags of foreign nations, particularly under those of Spain and Portugal, to an extent almost as great as at any former period of its existence, and attended with circumstances of additional cruelty and horror. That this House particularly calls the attention of his Majesty to the conduct hitherto pursued by the governments of Spain and Portugal, who are bound not only by the most solemn treaties, but by the payment of large sums of money, and the remission of debts due to this country, totally to abolish this nefarious traffic. That this House, with a view to put an end to this iniquitous and detestable trade, humbly beseeches his Majesty to enter into negotiations with his allies, for the purpose of revising all the treaties having for their object the suppression of this traffic, in order to reduce the terms and stipulations contained therein into one solemn league between all the high contracting parties, and to introduce it into such general treaty. First, An extension of the limit to the right of search to the whole of the western and eastern coasts of Africa and the Island of Madagascar, and to such distance from these coasts as shall ensure the capture of all slaves; and an agreement, that this right of search shall be reciprocal between all the high contracting parties. Secondly, That the right of seizure shall be extended to vessels equipped for the purposes of trading in slaves, although not actually having slaves on board. Thirdly, An agreement that all such vessels as may be condemned by the mixed Commission Courts shall forthwith be broken up, or otherwise effectually destroyed; and, Fourthly, A stipulation that the trade in slaves shall be declared piracy.

Mr. Hume

seconded the Motion, and said that he concurred in every part of the resolution except that which stipulated for the destruction of the ships engaged in the Slave Trade, which might be captured. As these vessels could be used for other purposes, he did not see the advantage of destroying them; but with respect to all the other parts of the resolution he wished to see them carried into full effect.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the resolution had the entire sanction of his Majesty's present Government, but as some misapprehension seemed to prevail on the subject he wished to assure the House that no effort or pains had been spared, either by the present Government or any former administration, to put an end to this trade, and thereby carry into full effect the intentions of Parliament. The second paragraph of the resolution alluded to the "conduct hitherto pursued by the Governments of Spain and Portugal, who are bound, not only by the most solemn treaties, but by the payment of large sums of money and the remission of debts due to this country, totally to abolish this nefarious traffic;" and he wished to guard himself from the inferences to be drawn from such a statement, that the present governments of Spain and Portugal had not manifested a disposition to act on different principles from those adopted by their predecessors in reference to this subject. The fact was, that they had, and that treaties were now in the act of negotiation with both powers which, he hoped, would terminate to the satisfaction of all parties. He disapproved of the proposition for breaking up the vessels, but he had no objection whatever that it should become the law of nations that all persons taken in the act of carrying on this trade should be deemed guilty of piracy.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that it was all very well for hon. Gentlemen filling official situations to speak with mildness of the conduct of Spain and Portugal, but for his part, unconnected as he was with office, he thought no language that could be used, in reference to the course pursued by those powers with respect to this trade, too strong. They had been guilty, to say the least of it, of a gross violation of national faith in lending their flags for such a purpose; and he, therefore, thought it was the duty of that Mouse not only to speak distinctly, but to call upon the Government of this country to insist upon having the stipulations of these treaties fulfilled. He hoped that the treaties now pending would be carried into effect; but, at all events, he trusted that the example which this country set would have the effect of ultimately putting an end to this horrible traffic.

Mr. Robinson

said, that it was not enough to tell them that Spain and Portugal had evinced a disposition to put an end to this trade. Both those powers, but more particularly Portugal, were bound to do so; and he, therefore, hoped the governments of those countries would be speedily induced to look into a subject which it was a disgrace to any civilized nation to tolerate.

Mr. Fowell Buxton

wished to explain to his hon. Friend, the Member for Middlesex, and the House, why it was he wished to have all slave vessels captured destroyed. The fact was, that, being fitted up in a peculiar manner, they were unfit for any other employment, and, therefore, if they were not broken up, the chances were, that they would be again applied to their original purpose.

Mr. Pryme

said, that he could not see any advantage that would be gained by breaking up those vessels, since they must become useless if the trade was abolished.

The Motion was agreed to.