§ Sir Robert Inglis
rose to move an humble address to her Majesty on the subject of Foreign Slave Trade. He had never since he had had the 1123 honour of occupying a seat in that House, undertaken to bring forward a question with so deep and painful a sense of the difficulties in which he was placed. Never had he felt it more necessary, not for his own sake, but for the sake of the subject, to ask for the kind indulgence of the House. He begged to impress on them, that the subject he introduced, was one that involved the interests of many thousand human beings, and he feared lest he should do injustice to those great interests, and that the statement he should make, would produce a weaker effect than the subject ought to command. When he recollected by whom the subject was first introduced, he felt a greater sense of his inferiority, and he would say, that if his Friend, the late Member for Weymouth (Mr. Buxton), were still in his place, he (Sir R. Inglis) should not be the person to interpose between him and this question, because, though Mr. Buxton had not brought forward any motion on the subject, yet had he earned an almost prescriptive right to originate such motions from the success with which he had always advocated the interests of the slaves. Three years ago was the last opportunity the House had of expressing an opinion on this subject. Since that, he had obtained much information on it, and the subject had so grown on him, that, finding no other Member willing to take it up, he felt that to be his duty, and to urge on the House the necessity of adopting the motion he should conclude by proposing. It was now thirty years since Parliament, joined by the universal voice of the country, proclaimed the abolition of slavery. He never could recal that glorious time without also recalling a name which was now imperishably united with it, because, although the administration of Mr. Fox and Lord Grenville had the privilege of carrying the legislative measure, the House and the country could never forget that it was through the Christian zeal and untiring energy of Mr. Wilberforce that it was brought to perfection. Was it the object of the Parliament to relieve the nation from the guilt of allowing the system to continue, that that measure was carried; or was it to redress the wrongs of Africa, and to diminish the misery of the wretched natives of that country? If the object were that which he had first named, it had been accomplished, so far as our own participation in the slave-trade was concerned; but he was bound to say, if our object were to 1124 redress the wrongs or promote the happiness of the people of Africa, we had not succeeded; but, on the contrary, our efforts had tended to aggravate the sufferings of the wretched victims of human cupidity. He believed, that our exertions had increased the number of victims, and had aggravated all the horrors of the passage of the unfortunate negroes in the vessels which conveyed them from liberty to bondage. The truth of that allegation would be sufficiently proved, when he mentioned, that the largest exportation of slaves, which took place at the commencement of the struggle, which ended in the abolition of our slave-trade, was stated by Mr. Fox to be 80,000, while it was now stated that within the last few years it had increased to 100,000 annually, who had been carried from Africa to America and the West-India Islands. If he were to concentrate his arguments on this subject, he should say, that Parliament had converted a legal into a contraband traffic, had turned those who were fair traders into smugglers, and had compelled them to look to the speed of their vessels, and to their qualifications for sailing, as the only means by which they could secure the importation of their cargoes. By that means our laws had produced much of the misery to which the slaves were now exposed on their passage. By Sir William Dolbin's Act, a fair proportion of tonnage was to be allowed for every slave now under the Emigration Act, each emigrant was to be allowed a certain tonnage; and it was well known that a fair proportion of space was given to each sailor in her Majesty's vessels. But instead of a system of this description being adopted by the slave-vessels, it was proved within a few years that a vessel of about 158 English tons had a cargo of slaves amounting to 720 in number; making with the crew the total number on board 760—a number sufficient to man an English first-rate. The mortality in the year 1791, under the most favourable circumstances, when the trade was legal (if it were not an outrage on law so to call it), amounted to 62½ per cent.—a mortality, which, if extended over the world, would in the course of a year and seven months, have depopulated the globe. Since then, however, the ratio had greatly increased; and there were instances on record in which, in ten days, fifty-five out of 500 had died, and in which 200 or 300 out of one cargo had perished in the passage across the At- 1125 lantic. In one case where a ship had been seized, in which some of these miserable beings were contained, the mate was asked how many he expected to carry alive to the place of their destination, and hisanswer was "About one half?" He would take another case, the details of which he had in his possession. There were 355 slaves taken on board a vessel at Calabar, of seventy-seven Spanish (which equalled about 120 English) tons, twenty-seven of whom died on the night she left the river, while seventy-seven more died before her arrival at Sierra Leone, and eighteen more before the condemnation of the vessel. That was the rate of mortality amongst them after they were embarked, which was small compared to the rate of mortality on the whole, if those were included who were seized in their burning villages under this horrible system. The mortality, however, great as was its extent, was less an evil than the horrible state of suffering which caused it; and death was a happy escape from the pestilential hold of a slave-ship. He had instances before him, and which he would read, if it should be necessary; of cruelties committed under the flag of every nation; but he would not trouble the House with them in detail. From the moment at which Parliament rendered the slave-trade contraband, all the horrors which had since accumulated on the wretched victims had commenced; and whether it were in 1822 or 1832, the sufferings of those who were seized were produced. He would refer, first, to the work of Dr. Walsh, which was entitled, "Notices of Brazil," and which contained a narrative of Captain Arabin having met one of those atrocious slave-vessels. She was of 400 tons, Spanish, or about 680 tons, English, and fitted up to receive on board no less than 1,200 slaves. On her being seen by Captain Arabin, he determined to board her, desirous to perform his duty and to procure for his crew the prize money to which they would be entitled. The vessel had taken on board 336 males and 256 females, amounting in all to 592 individuals, and in the voyage of fifty-five days, seventeen had been thrown overboard during a chase. The slaves were all under hatches, and the space in which they were confined was so small that they were obliged to sit between each other's legs, and their stowage was so close that they were unable to lie down, or relieve themselves from their cramped position, by night or day. On the crew and officers going on board, they discovered their un- 1126 fortunate and miserable situation; and they discovered besides, that, as they belonged to different persons, they were all branded like sheep with different distinguishing marks, and, as the mate said with indifference, these had been produced by their being burned with red-hot irons. As soon as the poor creatures saw the English officers on board, many of them seemed by instinct to know that they came there as their preservers. Their countenances were observed to brighten up, and, clapping their hands, they called out in the little Spanish they had learned, "Viva, viva!" Some of them, on the contrary, seemed in great distress, and hung down their heads, as if their spirits were broken by their confinement in the low cells in which they had been placed, and which were only three feet high, shut out from light and air, and in an atmosphere where the thermometer stood on deck in the open air at 89—a heat scarcely bearable by the Europeans, with "all means and appliances to boot." The officers, seeing the state of wretchedness in which the unfortunate beings were existing, persisted in demanding that they should be permitted to enjoy the free air, and they were at length suffered to quit their cells and to make their way on deck. On the hatches being opened, the deck was immediately crowded with men and women in a state of nudity; and it was impossible to conceive how the 517 slaves could all have been stowed away, for the deck was completely covered from stem to stern. On search being made, some children were found below lying in corners in a state of complete torpor, produced by the heat and the unhealthy state of the atmosphere. They were brought into the air, and soon revived; but the most surprising and heartrending scene which was witnessed, was that which occurred on water being produced. They had hitherto been kept without this necessary article; and on its being shown, they all rushed to it like madmen, and neither threats nor blows could restrain them. Hon. Members might expect to follow these unhappy creatures to the land of promise, where they were once more to be restored to liberty and comfort. But no! On examining the papers, it appeared that the master of the vessel had taken the slaves from the south and not from the north of the line, and Captain Arabin was obliged to abandon her. To have carried her to Sierra Leone, would have compelled the vessels to beat up to windward, for which the ships had not a sufficient 1127 supply of water, and it was with infinite regret that Captain Arabin was obliged to restore the papers to the master of the slave-vessel, after an investigation which lasted nine hours. The last sounds which he appeared to have heard on quitting the slavers, were shrieks and cries from the slaves who had been momentarily revived by hope, only to be again plunged in despair. There was another case which was well known to some hon. Gentlemen who took an interest in the matter, and which was, perhaps, more horrible than the case he had already referred to, if any case could be. He found it in "A Narrative of a Visit to Sierra Leone," by Mr. Rankin, and which was published a year and a-half ago. It appeared from his statement that, in the autumn of 1833, the schooner Donna Maria da Gloria, supposed to be Brazilian, left Loango under that flag, and on the night of her departure received on board 430 negroes, who had been kept in readiness to be embarked. Hon. Gentlemen were aware, that when such an expedition was on foot, it was usual that a number of slaves who were about to be shipped off were ready to be put on board—and they were generally embarked under cover of the night. The Donna Maria was destined for Rio Janeiro; and arrived off the harbour with her cargo in November, and was there captured by her Majesty's brig Snake. On the case being brought before the court, a question arose as to her Brazilian character, which the court decided was not made out, and it was necessary that the case should go back to the mixed commission at Sierra Leone for inquiry. A second time, then, were the unhappy prisoners cooped up under the hatches of this vessel, and carried across the Atlantic to Sierra Leone. On their making that place, after a two months' voyage, it was found that the number of slaves was decreased from 430 to 335. The case then came to be considered before the court there, but until it was decided the slaves could not be landed. At length it was declared, that the capture was illegal, as the vessel was Portuguese and not Brazilian, and the slaver received a certificate from the court to protect her from future violence from any British vessels she might meet. Once again did the vessel start for Rio Janeiro, with her ensign flying as in triumph, the dying wretches still confined under the hatches, the total amount of their imprisonment having then extended to seven months. What had England done to prevent these evils? Treaty 1128 after treaty had been made, and he was bound to say, that there had been no want of vigilance on the part of either the present Ministers or their predecessors to enforce them. The Ministers had represented the true feelings of the people, as well as the will of the Sovereign, by endeavouring to put an end to the foreign slave-trade. But notwithstanding all that had been done, and all the efforts they had made, they had not met with success in their endeavours to put a stop to this, the greatest crime, in his belief, which man could commit. He was unwilling to detain the House by entering fully into the subject of the evils arising from the Mixed Commission Court, as now established; but there were physical objections to its being placed at Sierra Leone. He should abstain from any exposition of the disadvantages consequent on the constitution of the court, and should refer only to the mere physical objections to the position of the court. The greater portion of the slaves were taken away from the bight of Benin, and from thence to carry them when a vessel was detained—to Sierra Leone—produced a prodigious mortality, which, if the Government could have retained possession of Fernando Po, might in a great measure, have been avoided. It must be admitted by all, that Fernando Po, situated as it was, would be a desirable place for the mixed commission, and he should, therefore, beg to impress most strongly on the mind of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Palmerston) the propriety of endeavouring to establish the court at that place. He might mention, as an additional reason, that of 50,000 slaves who had been carried to Sierra Leone, 6,700 had died between the time of their capture and their liberation, and 40,000 had been liberated. With reference to other powers engaged in this trade, there was every reason to believe, that houses situated in the Havannah, and notoriously engaged in carrying on this infamous traffic, were furnished with capital for that purpose from other countries. Under the Spanish flag the evil continued to prevail to a very great extent. From the papers recently laid on the table of the House on the subject of the foreign slave-trade, it appeared that one of the most frightful scenes that he had ever seen described had not long ago occurred on board a vessel under the flag of that power. The name of the vessel was the Vencedora, and the substance of the document which he described from memory, though it was so striking that he could not mistake was, that 1129 this ship, after having been at Rio Congo, on the coast of Africa, went to Cadiz to take in passengers for the Havannah, and was at Cadiz many days, and was visited by the Spanish sanitary and custom-house officers. During the passage of the vessel across the Atlantic the passengers observed that a much larger quantity of rice and other provisions was cooked than appeared requisite for the number of persons which they saw on board. They also experienced a very unpleasant smell on board the ship, which they were unable to account for until their arrival at the Havannah, when they discovered that twenty-six negroes had been secreted in the hold during the whole period of the voyage, who were to be consigned to slavery in the Havannah. That was another example, that the efforts of England to suppress the traffic had only served to aggravate its horrors. In another case which was described in these papers five young negroes were taken out of a water-cask, in which they had been stowed for some time in order to be concealed from our cruizers. In another case a prize master was forty-eight hours on board a ship that had been seized before he discovered that there were slaves on board, so well had they been secreted. According to the papers on the table, there were three or four recent instances of slave-vessels being fitted out at Lisbon, under the Portuguese flag, and such was the general conduct of the Portuguese Government on this subject, that her Majesty's Minister at that Court, Lord Howard de Walden, in his dispatch to the Duke de Palmella, of the 12th of September, 1834, felt himself obliged to use the following language:—I have the distressing reflection now brought to mind that in no one single instance out of the many representations which I have brought by the King's command under the notice of the Government of Portugal, making known specific cases of encouragement of, or connivance at, this infamous traffic, has any one satisfactory answer been returned by the Portuguese Government, nor as far as I have been able to learn, has any one of the guilty, or suspected, or accused persons, been either proceeded against judicially, visited by any declaration of her Majesty's displeasure, or removed from situations where there exists every reason to believe that this system of encouragement to the traffic in slaves is still carried on in the fullest activity, in direct infraction of treaties, to the disgrace of the national flag, at the expense of the reputation and good faith of the Government, and the honour of the Queen of Portugal.1130 To what he had said, however, of the conduct of the Portuguese Government with reference to this trade he was bound to add, that there was one single instance of an officer in the service of that Government displaying good faith and honour in his efforts to check the slave-trade; and the same Minister, writing to the noble Lord opposite, had observed upon it, that such a proceeding on the part of a governor, or indeed of any authority whatever, "named either by the Queen of Portugal or by one of her Ministers, as that of attempting to check the slave-trade either in her most faithful Majesty's dominions, or any other part of the world, is, I believe, not before on record, I have thought it due to him to report this singular occurrence to your Lordships, anticipating the satisfaction it will cause your Lordships to learn the hopes which may fairly be entertained of one of the public functionaries of Portugal acting up to the general duties of humanity, which all those most loud in this country in proclaiming liberal principles are the first to profess and the last to practise." The name of this functionary, he had great pleasure in stating, was Don Domingo de Saldanah, the brother of the Marquess of the same name. But a great aggravation of the conduct of the Portuguese Government was to be found in the fact that we had purchased of Portugal their abandonment of the trade. We did not appeal to them as Christians, nor on the score of humanity, nor on the principles of justice, but we appealed to them for the performance of a bargain, for which we had actually paid the price; and he did trust, therefore, that the House would take such steps as would serve to record its sense of the strength and validity of the claims which this country held to require the fulfilment of that bargain. But, would the House believe it, the flag of Portugal was at that moment to be bought for a few dollars, on the coast of Africa, at Cape de Verd, for instance, or St. Thomas's, or Prince's Island; so that the Slaver had only to touch at one of those places, and there fit itself out, and secure itself against the risk of being boarded by the cruisers of any other nation. But the greatest iniquities occurring in this trade had, after all, been inflicted on the African negroes who were imported into the Brazils. He should not go into the details of the subject, it was enough to state that the single ground on which Portugal could ever have claimed the privilege, as she was pleased to call it, of continuing this infa- 1131 mous traffic, was the necessity of supplying her own possessions with labourers; but that ground was removed, the moment Portugal lost the dominion of Brazil. That ground had ceased altogether, therefore; but they were told, indeed it appeared from the same despatches to which he had referred, that Brazil was altogether an agricultural country, that is to say, it was wholly indebted for the support of its population to the labours of imported negroes. This had been urged by Portugal, but, notwithstanding, the Brazilian government had entered into a treaty to abolish the slave trade. Some of the authorities in that country held strong language on the slave trade; but when the noble Lord sent dispatches to Mr. Hamilton, the English minister at Rio Janeiro, directing him to call upon the Brazilian government to do that which they were bound to do by treaty, the result was, that it called forth a very strong expression of opinion in the Brazilian Chamber, against the Imperial government for submitting to the dictation of England, and against England for attempting to interfere with their concerns. By the first article of the declaration of the Brazilian government of 1831, it was emphatically stated that all slaves entering the Brazils after a certain date, should be free, but it was accompanied with an exception to slaves employed on board vessels belonging to any nation whatever, where the identity of the individuals should have been verified, by the exhibition of the passport and the list of the crew; and also with an exception as to slaves who passed from one province of the empire to another, having run away, or gone with their master's consent, provided that such circumstances were proved by the attestations of the police. Was not the English government, then, called upon to interfere with the authorities in the Brazils, to do that which they were bound to do by treaty, and by other most solemn engagements? Mr. Hamilton, the English minister at Rio Janeiro, said in his dispatches to the noble Lord, that he feared that it would be almost impossible at once to eradicate the feeling which existed in favour of the slave trade in the Brazils. In a dispatch, dated August the 15th 1837, which he would read to the House, Mr. Hamilton said:—This commerce is so deeply rooted in the country, by the influence of individual interest and by habit, that I fear we may not look for any effectual remedy either at the present moment or hereafter from within. From 1132 abroad alone is it that the cure can come, and then, even, only from England. She must sweep the seas on the coasts both of Africa and Brazil, and employing some half dozen of armed schooners, of small draught of water for that purpose here, and inflicting summary punishment on some few masters of slavers, as guilty of piracy, her benevolent enterprise will be successful. Without some strong and sweeping measures of this kind, our success must prove uncertain and remote.He was happy to say that the noble Lord had responded to the call of the Minister, deputed to represent England in Brazil. The noble Lord in his answer made use of the following just and forcible language:—You will add, that the British Government has undertaken the task of putting down this evil, and will not be deterred from so holy an end by any obstacles, which, from time to time, may obstruct its endeavours; and her Majesty's Government sincerely hopes that no circumstances may ever arise which should compel it to treat summarily, and by its own authority, as pirates and outlaws, ships pursuing this traffic, under the fraudulent shelter of the flag of a friendly power.In another part of these papers, it was stated that if Portugal persisted in thus violating her engagements and her social duties to other powers, as well as what was due to herself, England would be obliged to take up the subject; and the noble Lord added:—And you will state, that if this fraudulent use of the Portuguese colours shall continue to be permitted, the Portuguese Government must not be surprised if a flag thus deliberately prostituted to such base purposes, should no longer be respected by British cruisers.'He had stated that these evils existed in the greatest degree at Rio Janeiro and other parts of the Brazils, and in many places under the Portuguese flag. At the same time he did not undervalue the evils which arose from this traffic at the Havannah; on the contrary, he believed them to be of a most serious character. He had received a letter from a gentleman at Rio, who said that the number of vessels employed in that traffic, was greater than was known at any former period, and he added that, if it increased at its present rate, all the blacks in Africa would be imported into the Brazils. He made great allowance for some of these powers, for he recollected—to the disgrace of this country he said it—how long we continued this traffic after some of the local legislatures of the United States of America, before their indepen- 1133 dence as a separate state, wished to abandon the traffic, and to prevent the importation of negroes into these states, and how England interfered, and refused to allow them to abolish the trade. In addition to this, England had taken credit to herself for supplying Spain and her colonies with negroes under the Assiento treaty. But for Portugal there was no excuse; she had never been forced to continue in this commerce, and yet she was at present its main support, though in a state paper which he had seen, it was affirmed that "the dominion of Portugal was only known for good; and that her object had ever been, not domination, but propagation of the gospel." He should leave this part of the subject, without trusting himself with the expression of any opinion upon such a statement. But he must say, that he was astonished to find that a nation which had made the rights of man the basis of their legislation, and declared the slave trade to be a piracy, had yet allowed, if not the flag of the United States, at least the capital of its subjects to be employed in it. Since he had come into the House, he had had put into his hands a letter, from a gentleman on the Bahamas, of the date of the 30th of January last, on the subject of this traffic. He would not give the name of the writer for very obvious reasons, but he had no doubt, but that implicit reliance might be placed on the statement. This gentleman stated, that hearing of the shipwreck of a vessel, he went to a small and very dangerous bay where she had been wrecked. She had on board 150 Africans, all of whom were saved. The captain of the vessel had engaged two other vessels with the intention of smuggling them into the island of Cuba. The gentleman proceeded with a body of armed men, and succeeded in bringing off all the negroes in safety. These slaves were chiefly lads between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, and the value of this cargo was supposed to be upwards of 50,000 dollars. The value of the raw produce of this cargo, if he might use such an expression, was extremely small, and yet after its arrival at the place of its destination, it produced a great sum. He had asked his friend, Mr. Macgregor Laird, what was the average price of a young negro slave as high up the country as he had been, and had suggested that the price might probably be about fifteen dollars; but this gentleman assured him that there was no difficulty in buying a lad for twenty-five shillings. It appeared, however, that, 1134 in the Havannah, the average price of a slave of this kind was about 423 dollars. The enormous profit which those persons obtained who encountered the risks of this disgraceful traffic, made it very difficult, he was aware, to suppress it. He should be ashamed of himself if he introduced into the discussion of this question any mixture of party politics. He could not, however, help adverting to the influence of England in the Peninsula, which was not denied, but considered a matter of congratulation on the part of the Government; and he would not say, whether that influence were well exercised or not on other subjects; but the fact of such influence being admitted, he regretted that it had not been used over both Spain and Portugal to accomplish the effectual suppression of the slave trade. God had not intrusted this country with that influence merely for the purpose of preventing Don Carlos occupying the throne of Spain, or Don Miguel that of Portugal, but for higher purposes; and this country would not be wholly irresponsible if it did not now effectually use its influence in the cause of humanity. In saying this, however, he felt bound to admit that it did not arise from any want of will on the part of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to put a stop to this infamous traffic; nor was his motion intended to imply the least complaint of indifference or neglect. He was not asking the House to adopt a course that would lead to the attainment of any pecuniary advantage for this country; he was not demanding of the noble Lord to write to our Minister at Madrid, to require the fulfilment of the Assiento treaty with Spain and her colonies; no, all that he required was, that Spain and Portugal should be called upon, and compelled, if necessary, to fulfil the solemn engagements they had entered into with England. He trusted that the time was not far distant when the House would sanction such measures that the carrying on the slave trade, which was nothing but wholesale robbery and wholesale murder, should be treated as piracy. If a person on shore dealt with another, as the negroes were treated on board the slave ships, the crime would entail upon the individual the punishment and the consequences of murder. If, then, such conduct to a single individual was followed by the infliction of the last punishment of the law, he could not see, when the same crime was committed towards hundreds, that a culprit should escape altogether. As one means of 1135 putting an end to this traffic, it might be suggested that a treaty, offensive and defensive, should be entered into with all the states of Africa; and, at the same time, we might say to Portugal, if that power refused to concede, that she would render herself responsible to England by continuing the traffic. He would ask whether there were any doubt in the mind of any one capable of forming an opinion as to the slave trade being piracy and buccaneering, and should be punished accordingly? This was not a singular opinion on his part, but it was entertained by numbers in foreign countries, and even in those countries where the slave trade still existed. He found, that Senhor Borges, one of the ministers of Brazil, said "that nothing but the conviction and execution of one or two slave-dealers at Rio would effectually suppress the traffic in that country." He looked, however, to the exertions of this country for the suppression of this trade; for it was only by her exertions, he was satisfied, that this great moral object could be obtained. The means by which this was to be done was, by the right of mutual search beyond the reach of those places and latitudes to which it was now confined. As another means, he would also suggest to the noble Lord the employment of steam ships of small draught of water, and which were capable of following slave-ships into the creeks into which they were often run, out of the reach of the British cruisers. He was aware that in another place a charge had been brought against the officers of the navy for not having pursued that course which they ought to have followed in the suppression of this horrid traffic. He was most unwilling to enter upon disputed subjects, but he felt bound, in justice to those gallant officers, to make one or two remarks. From the returns on the table it appeared that, within a certain period, they had captured twenty-nine ships engaged in the slave trade, and, out of this number, not less than nineteen had been taken under the equipment article, and the remainder had been captured with that which was said to be the chief inducement, namely, the having slaves on board. Therefore, as far as this paper remained uncontradicted, the imputation thrown on our naval officers was altogether without foundation. At the same time, if they did not intend the present system to influence the officers of the navy, it must be perfectly nugatory, and should be got rid of, so that even the suspicion of such an imputation should be 1136 avoided. Upwards of thirty years ago the Parliament had passed an act for the abolition of the slave-trade; it had since abolished slavery in the colonies, and had declared the carrying on the slave-trade by Englishmen to be piracy, and obtained similar declarations from other powers; but, at the same time, they had neglected to see, that the treaties they had entered into with foreign powers on this subject had been fulfilled. He would, therefore, say, do not "lay the flattering unction to your souls" that you have done your duty to the cause of humanity, for a great deal yet remains to be done. England had not hesitated to make sacrifices for the suppression of the slave-trade, and corresponding hopes had been raised by the promises of foreign states which had never been fulfilled; but unless a more vigorous course were taken, not merely by the Government, but by the Legislature, those evils which they now so much deplored, would continue in a more aggravated form; he trusted, therefore, that such steps would be taken by the noble Lord and that House as would lead to the speedy and complete abolition of this odious and infamous traffic in the blood of our fellow-creatures. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving:—That an humble Address be presented to her Majesty, dutifully to submit to her Majesty, that the slave-trade, which the congress of Vienna most justly described as having degraded Europe, desolated Africa, and afflicted humanity, nevertheless still continues with great intensity; that, notwithstanding the various treaties and conventions which have been entered into by her Majesty and her royal predecessors with different powers for the suppression of this traffic; and notwithstanding all the endeavours of successive Administrations at home, and of her Majesty's Ministers and agents in foreign countries, and of her Majesty's naval force employed in this service abroad, the trade has been aggravated in all its horrors; and that it is the opinion of this House, that a general concurrence of the great powers professing Christianity, in a declaration that the slave-trade, by whomsoever carried on, is piracy, and ought to be punished as such, as, under the blessing of God, one of the most probable means of effecting the abolition of that trade.That this House is further of opinion, that, in all treaties to be contracted between her Majesty and her allies, the concession of a mutual right of search of their commercial vessels respectively, would be another of the means likely to attain this most important object; and that this House most respectfully implores her Majesty to represent these their 1137 opinions, and wishes and hopes, in such manner as to her Majesty shall seem most likely to be effectual to her Majesty's several allies.That this House cannot refrain from expressing to her Majesty the deep concern with which they have observed, from the papers which her Majesty has caused to be laid before them, that Portugal has not yet fulfilled the engagements which she has taken towards this country, by concluding with Great Britain an adequate treaty for the suppression of the slave trade.
§ Mr. Irving
rose to second the motion. He was understood to say, that, 2000,000l. had been vainly expended by this country in endeavouring to put an end to the slave trade, and that, however serious Spain might have, at any time, been in professing to join in that endeavour, certain it was, that the abominable traffic had been carried on by that country, through the island of Cuba, from year to year, in no way diminishing in consequence of our exertions, but, on the contrary, increasing, having been last year more abundant than heretofore. Experience had shown, that very little expectation was to be entertained from the result of treaties. To England alone they must look for the suppression of the slave trade, it being in his opinion a mere delusion to expect effective co-operation from other nations. The number of slaves imported from Africa in the year 1709, by all European nations, was 9,000, while in 1832 it had increased to the enormous amount of 200,000 and in 1838 was equally great, if not somewhat greater. Some evil arose, also, from carrying the slave vessels, when captured, to Sierra Leone. The average length of the passage was forty days. There was an instance of a ship, that was captured with 576 slaves on board, and though the vessel had a favourable voyage, she landed only 452, no less than 124 having died under the most distressing circumstances. He did not think, that Spain had done all that was to be expected of her in order to put an end to this traffic. It appeared that treaties were little better than waste paper in putting a stop to the foreign slave trade. The hon. Member here referred to some documents to show the extent to which the slave trade on the part of foreign powers had increased. He could not speak with the same approbation of Sierra Leone as others; for whatever might have been the motive of its original establishment and present maintenance it was one of the most unfortunate colonies 1138 this country ever had. With respect to America he had reason to believe, that the slave trade was still carried on to a considerable extent under her colours. There was also another way in which the flag of that country was made auxiliary to the traffic. Small craft were fitted out from the ports of the United States with equipments and stores, for the Portuguese slavers, and these beat about the coast for the purpose of supplying them when necessary. The noble Lord (Palmerston) should look to these things. Few were aware of the immense sacrifices made by this country to suppress the slave trade. Several millions had already been expended in the effort, a sum quite large enough to make the public consider whether they should not, in justice, make another and a final step, and employ one, if necessary, to make the treaties entered into with foreign powers available. To this end he should suggest, that any ship or any power taken with slaves on board should need no further evidence for its condemnation.
§ Sir H. Verney
was gratified, that the subject before the House was brought forward by a Gentleman of such uniform prudence and such universally acknowledged rectitude of intention as his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford. His statements were more than borne out by the papers furnished and by the corroborative testimony of others; and he (Sir H. Verney) had no doubt but many hon. Members could add the weight of their own evidence to tha already produced on this occasion. To those who had ever the misfortune to witness the horrors of a slave-ship the extract from Dr. Walsh's book quoted by his hon. Friend would be found an understatement of the facts. Every naval officer in that service was too well aware of the fearful horrors of the middle passage on board these prison ships, and of the tricks of the commanders and crews to evade search and seizure by the cruisers employed to suppress the trade. The traffic was, however, still carried on to an unexampled extent with Brazil; for, according to the statement of a Brazilian merchant, made to him in a letter received the day previously, there were no fewer than seventeen slave-ships, fully laden, entered for clearing in the port of Rio Janeiro in the last month of 1837. These things should not be allowed to 1139 pass unnoticed, neither should the present opportunity be suffered to elapse without a further effort to suppress the diabolical traffic. The annexation of Texas to the United States of North America would be a death-blow to the abolition of slavery, if some strong measures were not taken to neutralize the evil consequences certain to accrue from it to the hapless negroes. It was a singular fact, and one which he hoped the Government would be able to explain, that those States over which England exercised most influence were those which were most active in the traffic. Whatever might be the issue, he trusted, that the Government would not shrink from enforcing the treaties entered into on the subject, even by war if necessary; and he was quite sure, that however strong the course they might take, they would have the cordial concurrence of the public. With respect to the observations made by the hon. Member who spoke last on the conduct of the naval officers engaged in suppressing the trade, he saw no foundation whatever for them in fact. The system under which they acted was radically bad—that was not their fault—but he was firmly convinced that as officers they were entirely exempt from the imputations which had been cast on them. He heartily concurred in the motion of his hon. Friend and was greatly rejoiced that he had proposed nothing short of the punishment of piracy for those engaged in the horrid traffic in slaves.
§ Captain Pechell
reiterated his complaints regarding the ungenerous attack made on the character of the naval officers employed on the coast of Africa by a certain noble Lord in a speech made in another place. Well, then, he would not say in a speech made in another place, but in a pamphlet published by the noble Lord, and of which he boasted that thousands had been circulated. He had hoped that the debate might have been permitted to pass over without further allusion to anything that had fallen from that noble Lord, but he continued to think that the aspersions in which he had indulged on the character of the gallant men alluded to, were uncalled for and unfounded. He regretted that the efforts of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, should be obstructed, and almost invalidated by the conduct of the Spanish authorities in evading the equipment treaty. The Captain-General 1140 of Cuba had shown but little regard to the solemn obligations which his nation had contracted with the British Government, and the evil caused by this hostility or indifference on his part had been aggravated rather than lightened by the dilatory and vacillating proceedings of the court of mixed commission. Some time since a slave-ship, the General Laborde, had been brought into Havannah under the equipment treaty, and though the case against her was fully made out, had been restored to her owners. Allusion had been made to the unhealthy nature of the service on the coast of Africa. He would urge on her Majesty's Government the necessity of holding out to seamen some greater inducement than now existed to enlist in vessels sent on that service, as it could not otherwise be expected that men would consent to condemn themselves to probable or certain death on the pestilential seas of Western Africa, when they might embark for the pleasant station of the Mediterranean or the American coasts. He feared, however, with all the exertions of the British squadron it would be impossible to suppress the slave trade unless the Government of this country would act more independently of foreign powers in issuing commissions to its ships authorising the capture of slave-vessels. At present it was necessary that these commissions should have the signatures of the Powers with whom we had concluded treaties for this purpose; and he was aware that the Government of Spain manifested the greatest reluctance to sign them; and even that of France did so with extreme jealousy. The flag of Brazil was that under which the odious traffic in slaves was at present chiefly carried on; it was this which baffled all the vigilance of the British cruisers, and nothing could enable them to overcome the obstacles unless a treaty was formed with that country to facilitate the object we wished to attain. With respect to the employment of steam-vessels on the coast of Africa, the mortality on board of them had been found to be so great that the Admiralty did not consider themselves justified in retaining them on that service. It was a singular fact, that the steam-vessel which had been employed there had made fewer captures than any other ship of war on the station. The noble Lord had certainly obtained by his policy a moral influence over the 1141 Spanish Government. The Spanish flag was at present, he believed, unknown on the coast of Africa; the flags of Portugal and Brazil were the only ones which now entered the ports of Cuba with slaves. He hoped the noble Lord would be able to state to the House that his negotiations with the Portuguese Court on this subject were likely to have a satisfactory issue.
cordially thanked his hon. Friend, the Member for the University of Oxford, for bringing under the notice of the House a subject which had too long been suffered to slumber. The horrors of the slave-trade, as well as the number of its victims, he was satisfied, had been under-stated, rather than exaggerated, by the hon. Baronet. From papers on the table of the House, it appeared that 72,000 slaves were annually imported into Brazil, and about the same number into Cuba, making a total of 144,000 into these countries alone, exclusive of those imported into Texas and Mexico, or bred in the United States. The average height between decks in the ships which conveyed these unfortunate wretches was not more than three feet, and he had seen a letter, written within a year, by the Lieutenant-Governor of the island of Grenada, in which a slave-vessel was mentioned, the between decks of which was only two feet high. For every 100,000 imported, it might be calculated that another 100,000 perished in their journey to the slave-ships on the coast and on the voyage across the Atlantic. His hon. Friend had urged the necessity of declaring the slave-trade piracy, and extending the right of search, in order to its suppression. In this he agreed, but he thought it further essential, that power should be given to punish the master and every one of the crew navigating the ship, though it might not have a single slave on board, if its build and equipment were such as proved it to be destined for the trade. With respect to our relations with the United States on this subject, he had less hope than ever from him who presided over the Government of that country, because he could not forget that every expression which that magistrate had used as to the annexation of Texas to the United States was characterised by the most cold, calculating, and unfeeling spirit, which declared that neither he nor the people of the United States would be moved by any considerations of moral 1142 right or human happiness, but by considerations of an inferior kind, which, however important, ought not for a single moment by the head of a Christian State to be put in comparison with the civilisation and happiness of the world. He rejoiced that one of the most illustrious writers of America (Dr. Channing) had come forward to denounce the inhuman traffic in slaves, and the perpetuation of it by the addition of a slave-trading community of the Union. Several proprietors of slaves had also, he was glad to say, protested against that measure, and he trusted their example would be generally followed. Looking, however, to the high character of the British Government, and to the excitement prevailing in some parts of the United States on this subject, he could not but hope, when the people of America saw that we sought for an extended right of search with an honest purpose, and not with the view of giving increased ascendancy to our maritime power, a spirit would arise in that country from which we might expect ultimately to obtain efficient assistance. With respect to the mortality which had occurred in steam vessels on the African coast, he hoped that objection might be obviated by manning them with coloured seamen from the West Indies, whose constitutions and habits were suited to the climate. He thought steam-boats would be particularly useful in watching the numerous mouths of the Niger, so subject to calms of long duration. Some of the native chiefs had shown an inclination to put a stop to the traffic in their territories, and he hoped this disposition would be encouraged. The Sheik of Bournou had stated his anxiety to put an end to the slave traffic, and another chief had also used the same language. To the suggestion which he was about to throw out there might be some objection on the score of difficulty and expense. Might not some port be occupied at the mouth of the Niger, where means might be taken to stop the transport of slaves down the river, and protect the transport of commercial articles up it? It might be said, that such an arrangement would entail upon us considerable expense. It could not be said, that he had not always been influenced by a deep regard for economizing the resources of the people; but he must recollect that this country, to use the eloquent language of Wilberforce, owed a great debt to Africa, for no country 1143 had sinned so deeply as Great Britain against the inhabitants of that great continent. We concluded the Assiento contract to obtain a monopoly of the trade. We prevented, in the year 1775, under the administration of Lord Dartmouth, the prohibition of that trade by the United States, which then formed part of our colonial empire. We were also the nation which prolonged the sufferings of the negro race for twenty-five years after the eloquence of Mr. Wilberforce had depicted them in the most affecting colours; and we, therefore, owed a great debt to Africa, and he for one was ready to pay his portion of it, being convinced that it would open sources of traffic to us, and of improvement to Africa, which would repay us more than a thousand-fold.
§ Sir C. Adam
subscribed to almost every word which had fallen from his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets. He knew from the official documents which came under his own view, that the slaves were crammed into a very small space, and that they remained in that dreadful state of close confinement until they were landed either in the West-India islands or on the continent of South America. He confessed, that it was most desirable that we should put an end to this traffic, and by the employment of steamboats, if that were possible. The first thing to be done, however, was to make such treaties with foreign Powers as would enable us to do what we were desirous to do on this very interesting question. He had not, however, risen for the purpose of saying this, but to correct an error into which his hon. Friend opposite had fallen. He had spoken of the great loss of life which was sustained by our cruisers on the African station; and he was sorry to confirm his hon. Friend on that point. But the loss of life was not so great as his hon. Friend had represented; for he had compressed into three months a loss of life which ought to have been spread over three years.
§ Viscount Palmerston
quite concurred with the hon. Gentleman who had preceded him in the debate, in complimenting the hon. Baronet who had brought forward the motion, for the manner, the god taste, and the judgment with which he had treated the subject; for, undoubtedly, on a question like this, with which party differences had nothing to do, and that it was desirous that the House should come 1144 to an unanimous vote, the hon. Baronet had treated it in a manner which was well adapted to accomplish that object. The subject was most interesting, and well deserving of the attention of the House. It had, in the first place, for half a century past, occupied the attention, and interested the feelings, and employed the talents of almost all the distinguished men who had appeared upon the scene of public life in this country. It was a subject which involved, more than any other he had ever heard of, the greatest extent of human crime and of human misery. The hon. Baronet had only done justice, not merely to the present Ministers, but to those who preceded them, from the end of the war down to the present time, in stating, that the Governments of Great Britain had laboured sedulously and sincerely to induce other countries to put down that trade which they had previously put an end to with regard to their own subjects. But the hon. Baronet (Sir R. Inglis) had contended that, notwithstanding the efforts which had been made to put it down, the slave trade continued in existence; and, if anything, was aggravated in the horrors attendant upon it. Now, with regard to the last assertion, he was afraid he must concur with the hon. Baronet, because knowing as he did the manner in which that trade was now carried on—seeing, as he did, from the papers which it was his duty from time to time to lay before the House, the way in which that trade was at present conducted, it was impossible to deny, that the cruelties and horrors connected with it were even of a worse character than any by which it was at a former period marked. He would not compare the present mode of conducting the slave trade with a description of it which he had lately read in Mr. Clarkson's history of the abolition of it. In that work more than one witness of the slave trade was described as deposing that what was called the middle passage was the happiest period in a negro's life. If that were so, then must the other periods of it have been bad indeed. He would, therefore, abstain from taking that passage as a proof of the manner in which the cruelty of the slave trade had increased since it was written. He would content himself with remarking that the space then allowed to the negro on board the slave ship was very different from the space allowed to him at present. When he recollected, that cargoes of negroes were now crammed 1145 into places not more than two feet and a half in height, and that hundreds of them were confined during the whole of the passage, not in a space—for space it was not—but in the closest crib which human ingenuity could devise, he could not doubt that the beings so crammed and huddled together did suffer the greatest possible amount of human suffering. He had been told by officers who had captured these slave vessels, that when these unfortunate wretches were dragged from the hold into which they were jammed together, the majority of them were quite unable to stand, and that some of them had become completely paralysed, and never again recovered the use of their limbs. This was, however, only one portion of the cruelty to which they were exposed, for when the slavers were chased, it was not unusual for them to throw the slaves overboard in order to lighten their ships. There was not even mercy in their cruelty, for, instead of throwing the slaves overboard with weights attached to their persons, to sink them immediately, they flung them overboard wedged up in casks, in which they floated long in incredible suffering. He, therefore, concurred in the correctness of his right hon. Friend's assertion, that the cruelties of this infamous traffic had of late years greatly increased. That was, in his opinion, an additional reason why the House and the country should insist on its speedy termination. It was no reason for repenting them of their past exertions; but it ought to serve as a stimulus to excite them to greater exertions in the times that were to come. He differed, however, from his hon. Friend in thinking that the extent of this traffic had increased along with its horrors. If it were to be reckoned in positive quantities, it was quite clear, that that traffic could not be now of the same extent which it would have been if we had not abolished our own slave trade, and if we had not made treaties with foreign powers to engage them to abolish theirs. He did not attach much value to the calculations which had been made of the number of negroes annually carried from the coast of Africa to the West Indies and South America previously to the abolition of the slave trade: but if it were true that previous to our abolition of it the number of negroes annually exported from Africa was only 8,000, let them calculate what number would now have been required to supply the demand in the market both in America 1146 and in the West Indies. Baron Humboldt computed the number of negroes there at five millions. Those who knew the great waste of human life which always took place in a state of slavery, and who likewise knew the recklessness of masters in exerting to the utmost the strength of their slaves when conscious that they could at any moment repair the loss of one slave by the purchase of another, must be aware, that if the slave trade had been permitted to all the nations of the world, the number of slaves exported from Africa must have been much greater than it was now, when we had taken steps to prevent the importation of them into our colonies. So well were those steps known that he would not weary the attention of the House by expatiating at all upon them. He thought, however, that the House would like to know the state of our engagements with foreign Powers on this subject, and it was briefly this:—With all those nations of Europe which had once carried on the slave trade we had now, with one solitary exception, treaties, which were quite sufficient for our purpose, whilst with those states which had never carried on the slave trade we had treaties, which would prevent their flag from being used by other subjects than their own to cover their abominable transactions in that traffic. The House would recollect, that at the Congress of Vienna all the great Powers declared, that they were determined to put down the slave trade. With Sweden and with the Netherlands we had formed treaties which had enabled us to establish a mixed commission to adjudicate upon all cases of ships seized on the ground of being engaged in the slave trade. We had recently rendered those treaties more complete by adding to them an equipment article, and an article for breaking up all ships condemned as good prizes, instead of selling them as formerly. For a long time the flag of France was employed in covering the slave trade, and the reason was, that the long war between England and France had created a jealousy between the two countries which prevented them from conceding to each other the mutual right of search. On the accession of the present Government to office, it had made a proposition on this subject to the French Government, which had fortunately overcome its reluctance. We proposed that the search should be made not as a ship of war belonging to either England or to 1147 France, but by virtue of a warrant given by the Admiralty of the one power to the cruiser of the other—so that if an English ship detained a French merchant vessel suspected of dealing in the slave trade, it did so by virtue of a warrant from the French Minister of Marine, and if a French ship detained an English merchant vessel, it did so by a warrant from the Admiralty of England—a plan which made the cruisers of the two Powers mutually special constables to each other for the purpose of suppressing crime, and which got rid of all the national jealousy existing between the two countries. From that time the slave trade under the French flag had disappeared, the French Government had acted with exemplary good faith, and no instance of the continuance of the slave trade in the French West Indian colonies was even suspected. It was an article of that convention that we should propose to the other marine powers to accede thereto. We had, in consequence, made to them that proposition. Denmark, Sardinia, Naples, and the Hanse towns had acceded to it. Our treaties with Sweden and with the Netherlands were to this effect—that there should be a mixed commission to adjudicate on the cases of all ships seized. The French Government said, that according to the principles of the constitution of France, none but French tribunals could adjudicate on the claims of French subjects, and that any offenders on this ground must therefore be handed over to French tribunals. That proposition was agreed to. We proposed the same convention to Austria, Prussia, and Russia,—not that the slave trade had ever been carried on by their flags, but because we knew, that so long as any flag which sailed the ocean was not enlisted against the slave trade it might be employed, and our labours would be ineffectual. Austria, Prussia, and Russia had all declared themselves willing to make treaties with England and France on this subject, and the only cause which had prevented the completion of them was, that we had proposed a more extensive right of search than was given in the convention now existing between England and France; and as we had not yet obtained the assent of the French Government to it, we had not availed ourselves of the willingness of the three Powers to assent to the existing convention. Greece, Belgium, and Hanover, would unite with us in the same object as soon as the three Powers of Austria, 1148 Prussia, and Russia had signed the same convention with us that France had done. With the government of Spain we had now a treaty as complete as, under the circumstances, could be expected. We had the same treaty with Spain as that which was consented to by the Netherlands and Sweden. That government granted every thing we asked: more we could not expect. They had agreed to the mixed commission—by far the most convenient mode of adjudicating on such questions—the right of search without limit, except as to the Mediterranean and that part of the Atlantic adjoining Europe; the breaking up article, and the equipment article. He thought it but right and just by the government of Spain to entreat the House to draw a distinction, which had been much overlooked in that night's discussion, between the part taken by Spain and Portugal on this question. Spain had done handsomely every thing we asked. He now spoke of the government of Spain, which had executed its engagements with perfect good faith, though it had not yet proposed in the Cortes as severe a punishment for the party guilty of the offence of slave traffic as might be wished; but when they considered the peculiar circumstances of Spain—that she was now engaged in forming a constitution, that there was a civil war raging in the country, and that there were so many pressing matters to occupy her attention, they ought to make much allowance for the delay which had taken place. An hon. Friend near him reminded him of Cuba. He admitted that when he spoke of the Spanish government doing all in their power to put down the slave trade, he did not mean to include in that praise the Spanish authorities; and this led him to say, that whatever value might be attached to the proposal which the hon. Baronet invited the Queen, by his address, to make to other nations, it would not be in itself sufficient to obtain the object which was contemplated, because the enforcement of such a law as that required must depend on the circumstances of the country in which it was passed. They all knew that nil prosunt leges sine moribus. So long as public opinion was not peremptorily pronounced in those countries of whom it was proposed to make this request, we should look in vain for a due execution of the laws passed with regard to it. And when we alluded to this want of moral feeling, which might and must naturally excite great indignation in our 1149 minds, yet we should recollect that which was adverted to in this debate, namely, what were the feelings of the English people up to no very distant period—to what an extent we indulged in this crime, and with what pertinacity many persons in this country defended it to the last; and these considerations would teach us to mitigate the indignation which we experienced at the comparative indifference to the horrors of this system exhibited by Spain, Portugal, and many parts of the American continent. He repeated, we had obtained from Spain a complete treaty, and the consequence was, that the slave trade had greatly diminished, though he could not say, it had entirely ceased in their possessions. In Cuba and Porto Rico the flag of Spain was frequently and fraudulently obtained by Portugal to cover her traffic to those islands. Brazil was stated by some to be a great offender. As a recipient of slaves she might be, because the importations from Africa to Brazil were very great; but the trade was not carried on under the flag of Brazil, for an hon. and gallant Friend of his was mistaken in supposing, that we had no treaty with that power. We had with it a treaty complete, except as to the equipment and breaking up articles. There was no limit to the search of a Brazilian ship; she was not protected south of the line like a Portuguese vessel, nor had she the right of saying "we can sail, though equipped for the slave trade." The Government, two years since, concluded a treaty as to equipment and breaking up of vessels with this power; but as, by the constitution, it rested with the Chambers to ratify treaties, and as the interested influence of the slave trade prevailed there, we had not been able to obtain a ratification of the articles concluded between the two governments. He should have said, when on the subject of the convention, that France and England, with other European powers, ratified the proposals then made. He regretted to say, that they did not find in the government of the United States the same willingness to wave national jealousy and national etiquette as was exhibited by France. He greatly regretted this, but he thought, that the time might come, and at no distant period, when a different feeling might prevail in the United States, and when their government and the people of their country would consider it more an honour to unite with the other powers of Christendom in putting down this abominable 1150 traffic, than to stand out on a mere question of etiquette, especially when the arrangement was such as entirely to save every point of national honour. He now came to the great offender, Portugal; and he could assure the hon. Baronet that no predilection of his in favour of the system of government now fortunately established in that country, or any degree in which he might have identified himself with the support of that system as contra-distinguished from the tyranny of Don Miguel—no feeling of that kind would he allow to interfere by mitigating, in the slightest degree, the indignation which he felt, in common with the hon. Baronet, on this subject. He must confess, that the slave trade, as it was now carried on under that flag, was a disgrace to any civilised or Christian state. He saw by the papers which were laid on the table, the steps which had been taken by the government of this country to represent strongly to Portugal the necessity of making good her previous engagements, entered into at the cost of an enormous sum of money, and which concluded with an additional treaty for the full completion and execution of those engagements. The case with respect to Portugal was simply this: We had a right to seize, detain, and condemn any Portuguese ship found on the north of the line which had slaves on board, but we had no right to meddle south of the line, even though the ship had slaves on board, and neither north nor south of the line merely on account of being equipped. Now, what we demanded was, first, an extension of the limits, so as to seize slavers any where; and, secondly, that we should be entitled to seize any ship palpably equipped for the traffic; and he must say, that it Portugal should continue to refuse what we had a just right to demand of her, in consequence of having made a treaty in 1817, by which it was admitted, that we were to abstain from interrupting her slave trade only so long as she held any trans- atlantic possessions, and while the traffic was legal in Portugal, whereas Brazil, was now separated from her, and she had herself passed a law to abolish the traffic, and render penal the offence, we were entitled now to demand from Portugal to give her assistance in enforcing that law, and putting down her slave trade in every part of the world. And he did think, that if Portugal should continue to refuse to us that justice, the time must come when it would be incumbent on her Majesty's Go- 1151 vernment to appeal to Parliament for powers to do ourselves and on our own authority that which Portugal refused to permit us to do by treaty. He trusted we should not be driven to that necessity, painful as it must be to that House; and, indeed, he had reason to hope, from the communications which he had recently received, that the Portuguese government had come to a due sense of its being incumbent on them to redeem their honour by concluding a treaty similar to that which existed between Great Britain and Spain. It had been said, that Sierra Leone was not well adapted for the mixed commission. This matter had been long controverted and much debated. There was no question if a place were selected lying much to the northward of that where the slave ships were captured, much loss of life and inconvenience must result to the slaves taken. Fernando Po, which was in a more favourable situation, had been tried; but the difficulty arose that it was not a British possession, and, therefore, besides the doubt whether a British tribunal could properly sit there, there was this difficulty, that if Spain had a right of sovereignty, it was not fair to those negroes, whose title to permanent liberty we professed to acknowledge, that we should not secure to them the protection of the British crown. He did not believe, that there was now so much mismanagement as had been stated on the part of the authorities of Sierra Leone. He believed, that the liberated negroes did maintain themselves, and had been encouraged to resort to industry of various kinds; and it was only within the last few days that he received accounts that the neighbouring negroes brought in their produce for the purposes of commerce, and that a prospect was held out of a commercial intercourse between us and them, susceptible of a great and rapid increase. His gallant Friend (Captain Pechell) had referred to some remarks which had been made on the system of giving bounties on the capture of slave ships. The returns on the table completely exonerated British officers from the charge of being influenced by pecuniary considerations in their efforts to put down the slave trade. If any man could for a moment believe that honourable-minded men, like the officers of her Majesty's navy, could be swayed by such motives, he would find how utterly unmerited was the imputation by referring to the returns in question. It would from them be seen that, with re- 1152 spect to Spanish slave vessels, the greater portion of those seized were seized without having slaves on board. He must, however, say that, considering the great sufferings and dangers the officers employed on the coast of Africa had to undergo, the giving of head money was but a fair reward for their services. He fully agreed with the hon. Baronet opposite that it would be most desirable to get the general declaration of all Christendom in favour of the suppression of the slave trade. They had now got such a declaration from all the powers of Europe save Portugal, and that power, it was to be hoped, would not long form an exception. He owned, however, he had to fear, that as soon as they should succeed in putting down the slave trade in all other places, those engaged in it would attempt to carry it on under the protection of the United States flag, but still he could not believe but that if such an attempt were made, the government and the great majority of the people of the United States would rise to the rescue of their national flag from so great a degradation. He fully agreed with the hon. Baronet as to the two remedies he suggested for putting down the trade, but he, at the same time, was of opinion that the surest means of putting a stop to it was that stated by his hon. and learned Friend near him, namely, the encouragement by an the Powers of Europe of a peaceful and lawful trade for the inhabitants of Africa. He should concur in supporting the motion of the hon. Baronet, and he trusted, that night's expression of the opinion of the House of Commons—unanimous as it would be—carried up to the Throne, and by the Throne conveyed to the various powers of the world, could not fail to have a material effect in accomplishing the object which the hon. Baronet had, with so much credit to himself, brought under the consideration of Parliament.
§ Sir S. Canning
congratulated the hon. Baronet on the manner in which his motion had been received; for it was painful to reflect, after all that had been done by this country, that the evil of slavery still continued. Though he had listened with great satisfaction to the general statement of the noble Lord opposite, yet there were some points in that statement which he regretted. He fully concurred in what the noble Lord had said with respect to Portugal, and he trusted that the expression of an unanimous opinion of that House, 1153 in conjunction with the sentiments which had been expressed by the noble Lord, which he was convinced were also the sentiments of her Majesty's Government, would have the very best effect upon the Government of Portugal. He was glad to find, that the noble Lord viewed with satisfaction the intentions of the Government of Spain in regard to the slave trade, and that his communications with that country afforded evidence of the desire of Spain to terminate such an abominable traffic. The legislature of Spain had consented to the abolition of the slave trade, and it was now to the Government of that country that the Government of England had to look for the execution of the acts of the Spanish legislature. He believed the noble Lord had only paid a just tribute to the French Government in what he had stated as to the intentions of that country on this important question, and he trusted, that the example of France and England would have the effect of uniting the whole of Europe in opposition to the inhuman traffic in slaves. He was sorry to find from the noble Lord that no steps had been taken in the United States with respect to the right of search. He himself had once been engaged in a negotiation with the Government of that country respecting the right of search, and it was probable that the treaty then framed might still be found in the noble Lord's office. If that treaty were found it might possibly lead to beneficial results, and in conjunction with the influence of France and England induce the United States Government to reconsider the whole subject, as by that treaty the right of search was recognized by the American Government. The treaty had not been signed only on account of some proceedings on the part of the American Senate, but all the preliminary had been gone through. He would not longer detain the House, but he did trust, that the present discussion would not pass away without fruits, and that the opinion of that House, carried to the foot of the throne, and made known throughout Europe, would be productive of the most beneficial results.
Sir T. Acland
rose to congratulate his hon. Friend (Sir R. Inglis) on the result of that night's debate, and to express the satisfaction which he felt at the sentiments which had been expressed by the noble Lord opposite on the part of her Majesty's Government. He regretted the line of 1154 conduct pursued by Portugal, and, if it were persisted in, he trusted, for the sake of the interests of humanity and the honour of England, that the Government would come down to that House, and ask for the means of enforcing the fulfilment of the treaties which had been entered into. He begged hon. Members to remember they had not yet accomplished their object, and the present proceeding was only the beginning of the last and most important step for the abolition of the slave traffic, and they were only now recording their determination to see it put an end to. It was their duty not to relax their efforts till they had fully attained their object, and he was sure the country would hail with satisfaction the proceedings of that evening.
§ Sir R. Inglis
thanked the House for the attention which they had given to this important question, and he would not trespass further on their time at so late an hour by adding a single observation to those he had already advanced.
§ Motion carried—address to be presented by Members of the House being Privy Councillors.