§ Mr. Borthwick
said, that, under any other circumstances, he should have had no hesitation to postpone his motion. Let it be remembered, however, that he had in vain essayed on several occasions to bring his motion before the House, and that he had been taunted because he was defeated by some hon. Members on the other side of the House, who took advantage of an accident of their own creation, and counted out the 491 House. All that he felt it his duty to the country and the House to say, he could say in half an hour, and yet that half-hour was denied him. When he found himself reproached and taunted, and treated almost with discourtesy, because he had mildly submitted, he could not see how any example, however powerful it might be, should induce him to give way. He would, however, undertake to restrain his observations within the limit he had mentioned, and he thought that would be stretching his courtesy to the utmost point.
§ Mr. Wakley
rose amidst loud cries of "Order." He wished the House to remember, that when his name was called he consented to postpone his motion, but it was with the understanding that all the hon. Members who followed him should do the same, to enable the House to come to more pressing and important business. He would therefore ask whether it was fair for the hon. Member to take this course after several hon. Members had acted upon that understanding.
§ Mr. Borthwick
did not consider himself a party to the proposition of the hon. Member for Finsbury. He did not feel bound to deprive himself of the opportunity of bringing this motion before the House if that hon. Member had thought proper to abandon his.
§ Viscount Howick
regretted that the hon. Member for Evesham had not complied with the general wish of the House; but he feared that if he persisted in his motion, in strict order he must be allowed to proceed, though it might prevent the House from going into other very urgent business.
§ Sir Robert Peel
had scarcely ever witnessed more forbearance than had been shown by the hon. Member for Evesham. He had frequently given notice of this motion, to which he attached great importance, and as he had not made himself a party to the proposition of the hon. Member for Finsbury, who had waved his right, that hon. Member ought not to have interrupted him. The hon. Member for Evesham was in possession of the House, and he would appeal to the Chair whether he had not a right to proceed with his motion.
§ Sir George Grey
thought the hon. Member for Evesham should bear in mind the causes of the delay of which he com- 492 plained. When he brought his motion forward, he was unsupported by the right hon. Baronet opposite and the party acting with him, for they absented themselves. The House was counted out, and the hon. Member had complained of the absence of his friends. Last night, when he had an opportunity of bringing his motion forward again, he refused to do so, but renewed his notice, and charged the Government with delaying it, by keeping the Irish Constabulary Force Bill in Committee two hours. He congratulated the hon. Member on the present full attendance on his side of the House, and the disposition which seemed to prevail there, rather to sit and hear him than to go on with the Irish Corporation Bill.
§ Sir John Hobhouse
said, the hon. Gentleman had an undoubted right to proceed if he liked; but as twenty Gentlemen who had precedence of him waved their right, he thought he might also.
§ Mr. Borthwick
said, he was not precluded from proceeding, on a former occasion, by the absence of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) or his party, but by the premeditated and tricking devices of the Government, who availed themselves of every accident to suppress his motion. To this Ministerial and unworthy manœuvering —this political jockeyship—he would not yield. The hon. Member then proceeded as follows:—"Sir, of the large sum of money which has been awarded to the late proprietors of slaves, in order that they might, under the provisions of the Abolition Act, relinquish their claim to that description of property, one tithe, or about 2,000,000l. has been awarded to persons claiming property in slaves in the Isle of France; and the question which I submit to the consideration of the House, is the propriety of appointing a Select Committee to inquire whether these slaves are bonâ fide the property of those who claimed them or not. There are two grounds, and but two, upon which I found the necessity for this inquiry: first, the state of the Registry, and, secondly, the consequent condition of the negro population in that island. In 1810, when the colony came into the possession of the British, there were returns which showed a black population of 60,000 souls, and the proportion of the different sexes was then two and a-half male to one female; and, according to these returns, it is clear from natural causes (to which I need not more particularly advert) the population ought in ten 493 years considerably to have decreased. But we find, in 1818, the black population was 80,019, and from these returns I would put a question to those who assert that no illicit importation of slaves has taken place in the Isle of France. How do they account for this increase? In 1822 the Commissioners reported that not above 7,485 slaves could be traced to a satisfactory registry. I would ask any hon. Member whether the remainder were not entitled to immediate emancipation; and whether it is possible out of that number, with the same disproportion between the sexes which existed in 1818, to manufacture a black population of 63,000, and to legitimize the claims, in respect of that number, for the two millions awarded as compensation money to the Mauritius? In 1832, by the same Report which gives the number of 60,000 as the black population, we are informed that the returns, owing to the imperfect state of the registry, are not valid., So that, actually, we are reduced to one of these two anomalies, cither that the returns on which we arc called on to devote 2,000,000l. as compensation to the owners of slaves in the Mauritius, are invalid and not to be depended upon, or else we have to believe that in ten years, from 1822 to 1832, out of a population of 7,000 and odd, with the proportion of two and a-half male to one female, there could have been manufactured a population of upwards of 60,000. I ask if, even already, there is not a case made out for inquiry? But I pass over the arguments to be derived from these facts, and I beg to draw the attention of the House to this, that in 1811 an application was made to Sir George Murray, Governor of the Mauritius, for leave to continue the slave-trade in that island after it had been abolished in all the other British colonies. That request was indignantly refused by the then Governor; but I will read one or two extracts from despatches, to prove that it was well known the slave-trade was illicitly carried on in that colony, not with standing the vigorous determination on the part of the Government to put it down." The hon. Member proceeded to read extracts from despatches from Sir George Murray to the Colonial office, 1811; and one from Earl Bathurst to the then Governor of the Mauritius, 1817. "I will not weary the House by detailing the number of vessels that have been captured for engaging in an illicit traffic in slaves in that colony, but I will just observe, that it 494 does not appear, out of the innumerable ships that were taken and confiscated, there was one owner or captain ever brought to justice, and tried for the offence, either in the colony or in this country. There is one subject, Sir, to which I beg specially to direct the attention of the House; it is a memorial addressed to Lord Glenelg by M. H. Hitié, who styles himself "the representative of the bona fide proprietors of slaves in the Isle of France." Sir, I am well aware that there is a wide difference between this colony and our West-Indian possessions: that coming into our hands, as it did by conquest from France, with manners, customs, habits, feelings and laws, exclusively French, it would have been impossible, at that early period, entirely to have extinguished the slave-trade; but when I find this "Representative of the bonâ fide proprietors of slaves in the Isle of France" hurling defiance in the face of Lord Glenelg, and of this House, if it should attempt inquiry into this subject, I do think it becomes the duty of this House to assert its own dignity, and the dignity of this country, (the hon. Member then read part of the memorial addressed by M. Hitié to Lord Glenelg). What is the language of this gentleman: "We dare you to inquire into the condition of the Negro population i in the Mauritius! we admit we have illegally imported slaves into this colony, but we defy you to an investigation into the extent of our crime." Sir, when I remember the many pathetic appeals that have been made to this House upon behalf of suffering Africa in the West Indies, I must be permitted to ask why it slumbers on behalf of those Africans who are captured by the traders to the Isle of France from the eastern coast of the continent and from the Island of Madagascar? But supposing this Committee granted, and every allegation proved, respecting this colony, what is to become then, it may be asked, of the compensation money voted to it? That is not the question to be inquired into now; but I answer at once, throw it into the bosom of the Indian Ocean, rather than allow the majesty of British Justice to be bearded in her seat by those who dare her vengeance for the offences they have committed against her! I know the feeling is abroad that I am pleading in behalf of another cause. Sir, I give that impression the flattest and most direct contradiction. When the West-Indian question was first agitated, I took an active 495 part in the discussion, but, from the moment when the matter became a government question, and was brought under the consideration of the House of Commons, I told the public that it would not he becoming in me to promote popular agitation on any question under parliamentary investigation, and from that hour to this I have had no communication, direct or indirect, with the West-Indian body, and I believe, there are Gentlemen on the other side who can bear out my assertions. I bring forward the question only because I think the House owes it to itself to let the country know upon what grounds the compensation money to the Mauritius is granted, and in what way it is to be distributed. If it is the intention of the Government, (as I understand the hon. Baronet, the Under Secretary for the Colonies to move for certain returns as an amendment to my motion) to produce returns amply and fully enough to satisfy the House and the public upon this question, and in what way the money is to be applied, I for one should be quite satisfied; till I know that such is their intention I must say I consider I have made out grounds sufficient for a Committee; and I hope, therefore, the hon. Baronet will meet this question fairly and openly, and give the House an account of the policy which they intend to pursue. I move, Sir, for a Select Committee to inquire into the state of the negro population in the Mauritius, as it affects the claims of that colony to compensation."
§ Sir George Grey
; Sir, the hon. Member has called upon me to state distinctly the policy which the Government means to pursue with regard to the Mauritius. I answer, the only policy which they can pursue, viz., to carry out faithfully and effectually the provisions of the Abolition Act: That Act providing how the compensation should be paid, through machinery which it also creates. The hon. Member had asked why the mercy and the justice which pleaded so powerfully for injured Africa in the West Indies should have slumbered with respect to the Mauritius? Sir, I deny that they have so slumbered, and if he had been in the House at the time this Act was passed, or had he taken the trouble to look through that Act before he brought forward this motion, he would have discovered that the very case he alludes to was brought forward at that time by the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets; and that the 46th clause was introduced into the Act for the express pur- 496 pose of meeting that case. I will shortly state the machinery which the Act provides. There arc Commissioners to be appointed who are to appoint Assistant-Commissioners in all the colonies; these are to hear claims and to examine evidence if opposed; but are not enabled to make any final adjudication. By the 38th clause the Commissioners in London having had the evidence taken before the Assistant-Commissioners on disputed claims transmitted to them, are to adjudicate upon them: their decision being liable to an appeal to the King in Council, whose decision is final. Now by the 46th clause it is enacted that, in respect of slaves illegally detained or imported, no compensation money should be granted; but that the money in respect of them should be applied to the liquidation of the general expenses of the Commission in the colony. There has not yet been one claim before the head Commissioner in London, though innumerable claims of course have been made before the Assistant-Commissioners at the Mauritius; and as it will be at least ten months before any claim can be decided upon, the hon. Member will be perfectly at liberty and will have plenty of time for preparing himself to go in before the Commissioner and offer evidence against any claims that he or any other person may know to be illegal. With respect to the registry, all the evidence upon that subject received either by Lord Aberdeen or Lord Glenelg has been transmitted to the Compensation Commissioners in London, that they may be able to form a judgment on the whole facts of the case. With respect to the personal condition of the negroes illegally detained in slavery, the colonial office has ordered a case to be laid before my hon. and learned friends, the Attorney and Solicitor-general, and, acting upon their opinion, have sent out despatches to the Governor of the Mauritius, informing him that such negroes were entitled to immediate emancipation; and I propose to move as an amendment to the motion of the hon. Gentleman, that those despatches be laid before the House, together with other papers which will, I think, contain all the information necessary for the House to be possessed of on this subject. I beg to move, an address to his Majesty for copies or extracts of all documents, or correspondence between the Governors of the Mauritius and the Secretary of State for the Colonies since 1828, relating to the illegal detention of slaves,
§ The original motion was withdrawn, and the amendment was agreed to.