HC Deb 11 August 1843 vol 71 cc564-85

On the order of the day for going into committe on the Apprehension of Offenders (America) Bill being read,

Mr. V. Smith

should be glad if it were possible to exclude fugitive slaves altogether from the operation of this bill; but he did not see how it could be done. He should confine some suggestions he wished to make to amending those clauses which related to fugitive slaves, hoping that he should induce some expression of opinion from her Majesty's Government, as likely to have effect in the interpretation of the bill across the Atlantic. It appeared to him that a fugitive slave about to be committed by a magistrate should have some opportunity of offering exculpatory evidence. He thought too, that it should not merely be discretionary on the part of the Governor of a colony to send the documents relating to the committal of a slave to the Colonial Secretary, but compulsory. Again, it was said that the slave might be committed for every species of robbery and theft. What was to constitute these offences? Was it to be said that the clothes which a slave had on when he escaped, the boat he came in, or the horse that enabled him to effect his flight, were stolen? Again, supposing he was really guilty of some crime, was he, when taken back, to be treated as a slave or a freeman? The conditions of trial were very different, and so were the punishments of slaves and freemen. In the case likewise of a slave committed by a magistrate unjustly (and he supposed magistrates in the colonies were not wiser than any where else), and afterwards acquitted, what became of him? All the vindictive feelings of the owner might be exasperated against him on account of his flight, and he might be inclined to wreak his vengeance on him when thus restored to his possession. There was a great apprehension entertained by one who had devoted his life to mitigating the horrors of slavery—he meant Thomas Clarkson—that slaves who had been long inhabitants of free countries would have their settlements disturbed by false charges being preferred against them. For himself, he did not apprehend there was any such danger; but he owned that for the future he thought it not unlikely that slaves escaping would be prosecuted on groundless charges. Any one who paid attention to the quarrels which arose between the slave-holding and free states of America must see the necessity of having the provisions of this bill as little doubtful as possible. He hoped some such declaration would be made by the Government as Lord Aberdeen had expressed some time back, as to (we believe) the case of the Creole.

The Attorney-General

said the object of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be to exempt fugitive slaves wholly from the operation of this bill. He did not see how, if any attention was paid to the law of nations, such a general exemption should be made. In the case of the Creole it was the opinion of the law officers of the Government, that, according to our law, it could not for a moment be permitted that the slaves should be restored. They were as safe in the Bahama islands as they would be in the exchange; and whatever were the consequences her Majesty's Ministers were prepared to act up to the law. He thought he might pledge the Government to the declaration, that on any similar occasion they would pursue a similar course. The right hon. Gentleman had put the case of a slave effecting his escape in a boat, and asked whether, if he were charged with stealing the boat, he would be surrendered to the American Government? He did not hesitate to say that under such circumstances the man would not be surrendered; and for this reason, that it was a principle of our law that a slave was not guilty of theft in taking and using the property of another, be it a horse or a boat, for the purpose of assisting him in effecting his escape. But even if a fugitive slave should take property not with the view of aiding his escape—suppose he should steal the property—still that would not form a ground for delivering him up to the American Government, because theft was not one of the crimes enumerated in the treaty. No crime was recognised in the treaty except such as were acknowledged to be such by the universal assent of all civilized nations, namely, murder, assault with intent to commit murder, piracy, arson, robbery, forgery, and the utterance of forged paper. It was urged that cases would be got up, that false charges would be preferred against fugitive slaves for the purpose of procuring them to be surrendered to the United States. That certainly was possible, though he did not think it was very probable. It, however, was not fitting that in dealing with a foreign nation, with whom we were on terms of amity, we should assume that its citizens would commit perjury to such an extent as to render it necessary to make special provision against it. Would it be decent on our part to say to the United States, "we will give up any man whom you charge with murder unless he be a slave; but him we will not surrender?" Would not that be a plain declaration that a slave might commit any crime in America without incurring the risk of being delivered up if he should succeed in making his escape into the British territories? It would be unbecoming the character of the British nation to pursue such a course. If we could for a moment suppose that the Americans were capable of foreswearing themselves, it would be far better for us to abstain altogether from entering into treaties, or even forming commercial relations with a people in whose good faith we could put no confidence. The right hon. Gentleman had adverted to the difference in the punishment inflicted on a slave and a freeman in the United States; he said, for instance, that the crime of arson was punished by death in the case of a slave, and by imprisonment in that of a citizen; and then the right hon. Gentleman asked whether a fugitive slave was to be delivered into the hands of the Americans as a slave, or in his new character of a freeman, which he had acquired by placing his foot upon British soil? His answer to that question was this, that we had nothing whatever to do with the circumstance of the person delivered being a slave or a freeman. We should deliver him up as a criminal. The word "slavery" was not mentioned either in the treaty or the bill. We had nothing to do with it. All that we insist upon is, that before any man shall be delivered up to the Americans, he shall be charged with one of the crimes mentioned in the treaty. If that were done, we did not care whether the man had been a slave or not; if it were not done, we were equally indifferent as to whether the man had been a slave or not. We said, in effect, "If you charge the man with the commission of one of the crimes enumerated in the treaty, you shall have him, whether he has been a slave or not; and if you do not so charge him, you shall not have him, whether he has been a slave or not. Under these circumstances he could not see that the subject of slavery had anything to do with the question. If he were acting as a magistrate, and any person stated that a man claimed to be surrendered had been a slave, he would desire the person not to mention the word in his presence. The magistrates would have to deal with a man charged with having committed an offence in a foreign state, and his status in that state had nothing to do with the case. That was a point to be settled on the man's return to America; all the magistrate would have to do was to determine whether the man had committed one of the many crimes mentioned in the treaty. Suppose the American law inflicted differ-punishments for the same offence when committed by bachelors or married men—that would be a case precisely parallel to that suggested by the right hon. Gentleman; but would it be a circumstance of which we could take cognizance in framing a bill to carry into effect the stipulations of a treaty for the reciprocal surrender of persons, charged with certain classes of crimes? There would be the greatest practical difficulty in taking any other course than that prescribed by the bill. He begged to call the attention of the House to the following provision in the first clause:— Provided that this should only be done upon such evidence of criminality as, according to the laws of the place where the fugitive or person so charged should be found, would justify his apprehension and commitment. This was a great security against commission of injustice. It was clearly provided that a person charged could be delivered up only on the production of such evidence as would warrant his committal for trial according to the laws of this country. Now, the laws of this country require that a person shall not be committed for trial on suspicion, but only on such evidence as, if uncontradicted, would lead to the conclusion that the party was guilty of the offence with which he was charged. In what he had said, he had endeavoured to explain the feelings which animated the Government with respect to this bill. He hoped he had Succeeded in convincing the House that, under the provisions of the measure, a fugitive slave would incur no peril except from false testimony, against which it was impossible to guard, except by the exercise of prudence and caution on the part of the magistrates. False swearing was the besetting sin which clogged and impeded the course of justice; but he knew no practical remedy for it except that which was applied under our system of jurisprudence. In conclusion, he believed that in framing this bill the Government had taken the best course for carrying out an object of the highest importance to the maintenance of friendly relations between this country and the United States.

Mr. Macaulay

had hoped that his hon. and learned Friend would have given such an explanation as would have rendered it unnecessary for him to address the House on the question; but, with great concern, he must declare, that, after listening to the observations of his hon. and learned Friend, he felt more uneasiness respecting the bill than he did when the discussion commenced. He could assure the right hon. Baronet opposite that he had not the smallest intention of making any charge against the Government on this occasion. He was aware that a similar treaty was in contemplation when the late Ministry was in office, and he gave the present Ministers full credit for having intended nothing, but to connect more closely the relations of amity between the two countries, and the promotion of justice. He, however, looked with some anxiety to some portions of the bill, and he seriously entertained an opinion, which would probably startle his own Friends as much as the hon. Gentlemen opposite, namely, that the best course the Government could take would be to drop the bill, and cancel that part of the treaty to which it referred. He could not concur in the fundamental principles which his hon. and learned Friend had laid down on the subject of extradition—a word, by-the-bye, which seemed to be introduced into the English language, and which, therefore, he might be excused for employing. No doubt it was a great evil that murderers and robbers should escape punishment—it was an evil to the country from which they fled, as well as to that in which they sought refuge; but, nevertheless, he must be allowed to observe, that in another part of the world in which he had had an opportunity of hearing the matter discussed, it was considered essential to a good scheme of extradition that there should be between the two contracting states a general assimilation of laws, manners, morals, and feelings, as would make it impossible that any conduct should be pursued by one state which would be grossly shocking and startling to the other. This had been the course pursued in India under successive governments. Our Government in India never delivered a fugitive criminal to a power which was likely to try him upon principles which, according to our views, were grossly unjust, nor to a power which was likely to inflict a punishment shocking and horrible to civilised men. Those were the principles on which they acted in India. Suppose there was a country so barbarous and absurd as to punish offenders by the ordeal of red-hot ploughshares, would it be proper to establish extradition with it? Should we give up offenders to be subjected to that punishment? And, taking his hon. and learned Friend's illustration, if any nation were to be so utterly absurd as to enact that a bachelor should be broken on the wheel for an offence for which a married man would be merely fined, would his hon. and learned Friend contend that we should have a treaty of extradition with that nation? As regarded the treaty with France, he saw no objection to it; and if such a treaty as the one under consideration had been entered into with the Northern States of America, in which the reports of our law courts were quoted, and the very details of our legal proceedings were adopted, it would have been productive of advantage. But in the Southern States the unfortunate relations between master and slave came into operation. He meant to give no opinion on the subject of slavery in the United States. He thought that it was in the highest degree improper for Members of that House to pass censures on the institutions of foreign countries, and if he wanted a warning to deter him from that course, he should find it in the exhibitions which American orators had made when descanting on internal questions appertaining to these islands. He alluded to the question of slavery merely for the purpose of observing that there was a fundamental difference in that respect between the law of England and America, and that difference in the law occasioned a difference in manners, usages, and habits, which would create difficulties almost insuperable, to the execution of a treaty of extradition between the two countries. Now, a word with respect to the law. He did not wish to misrepresent his hon. and learned Friend, and begged it to be understood that he was seeking for information on the question he was about to put. He earnestly wished to know in what sense his hon. and learned Friend understood the words murder and piracy? His hon. and learned Friend would say that those words must be interpreted according to the law of the country in which the offences are committed. Now, there are many acts which would be classed as murder or justifiable homicide, accordingly as the relations of slavery might be recognized or not in the place in which they were committed. He would give one instance of this. A woman in England, attacked by a ravisher, had a right to defend herself, and if she should kill her assailant, the act would be declared justifiable homicide; but if a woman in Georgia should slay her ravisher, or if a Quadroon girl should act so, she would be held guilty of murder. Take the case of a slave who had committed murder in his own defence. Suppose a man scourged him, pursued him, the slave had surely a right to resist, and in his defence, to kill his assailant, by the law of England that would be justifiable homicide, by the law of Georgia it would be wilful murder. In the case of the Creole, his hon. and learned Friend said he had recommended the Crown not to give up the slaves; and, no doubt, he was quite right in doing so; but what would his hon. and learned Friend have done under this act? He (Mr. Macaulay) should like to hear a definition of piracy. Suppose any person were to lay hold of us, clap us under hatches, and take us to sea with a view of selling us, there could not be a doubt that, by the law of England, individuals so held in confinement would have a perfect right to seize upon the ship, and to take it into the first port where they thought themselves likely to be secure. But if the persons held in confinement on board of such a ship were convicts, in the legitimate charge of officers appointed to take care of them, the same act would be piracy. There could not, surely, be any objection to the insertion in the bill some clause to this effect: Provided always, that in any case of a charge against a slave, he should not be delivered up if the offence with which he was charged would be one justifiable if committed by a freeman. He did not mean to propose these as the precise terms of the clause. That his hon. and learned Friend would be much better able than he to draw up. The next point on which he felt anxiety was the mode of trial to which a fugitive slave would be subjected. He could not agree with his hon. and learned Friend that England had nothing to do with the mode of trial that might be adopted; nor could he believe that the nature of the punishment to be awarded was unimportant. Another question presented itself to him. Suppose the man was acquitted in America, what was to be done with him then? Was he to remain a slave in the hands of a master incensed by the attempt to run away? Would the slave's life in such a case be safe, even after his acquittal? No; for in some states of the American Union the law held it no crime to cause the death of a slave by what was called legitimate correction. And, be it remembered, he was talking now, not of a guilty but an innocent man, and he must say that he could not contemplate such things without the greatest dread as to the effects they were likely to have on our national character. We had nothing to do, certainly, with the laws of America, but we must not on that account make ourselves the slave-catchers of the Americans. Suppose, even, her Majesty's Government put a liberal construction on this bill, the question was, what construction the Government of the United States would put upon it? He believed that the view taken of the treaty in the United States was, that if a case similar to that of the Creole were to occur again, that the "pirates and murderers," as they were called, in America, would be delivered up under this act. But was this country prepared to submit to such a thing? If her Majesty's Government had made up their minds that they would not be the slave-catchers for the United States; and if the United States Government persist in taking a different view of the obligations of the treaty from that taken by her Majesty's Government, would it not be better to cancel this treaty at once? By doing so, they would be guilty of no breach of engagement, for the power of doing so was expressly reserved in the treaty itself. If, however, her Majesty's Government waited till another case like that of the Creole occurred, and then while they put one interpretation upon the treaty, and the Government of the United States put a different interpretation upon it, it was very possible that the most serious consequences might arise.

The Attorney-General

said, that in all the cases put by the right hon. Gentleman no doubt could arise. The bill expressly said, that the fugitives must be tried by the laws of the country where they were found.

Mr. Macaulay

asked, whether he were to understand, then, that an action not criminal in a free man, could not be held to be criminal in a slave?

The Attorney-General

said he was of opinion that an English magistrate would not be at liberty to enter into the question as to whether the fugitive brought before him was a slave or not. He could only enter into such questions of common law as might arise out of the case, and if the accused person was not shown to be a criminal, no extradition could take place.

Viscount Palmerston

did not go so far as some of his friends in his apprehensions as to the effects of this bill, and the explanation of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had gone far to remove the apprehensions which he might have entertained. He understood that in no case where a slave was charged with the offence of murder or robbery, would any English magistrate be justified in delivering him up for trial, unless the offence he was charged with was one that was looked on as a murder or robbery by the law of England; and he apprehended that any act that a slave might commit in resisting the coercion of his master, could not amount to murder, and would not justify a magistrate in giving up the fugitive. His chief object in rising was to touch on a subject connected with this bill, a subject on which, on a former occasion, he had endeavoured to obtain some explanation from her Majesty's Government, and on which he now wished to receive some clearer information than he had then been able to obtain. In the correspondence which had passed between Lord Ashburton and Mr. Webster, and which had been laid before Parliament, there were several letters on the question what was to be done in an English colony if a ship with slaves on board was to be driven into the colony by stress of weather. America demanded that in such a case no "officious" interference was to take place on our part, for the purpose of setting those slaves free. His opinion was, that in such a case there ought to be interference, in order to give to the slaves the enjoyment of the liberty to which they were entitled. Mr. Webster's doctrine was, that the duties of good neighbourhood ought to prevent the authorities of the West Indies from interfering in such a case, and Lord Ashburton seemed in some degree to admit such a doctrine. In such a case he thought that the slave ought to be looked on as a nearer neighbour to us than the master, for the slave so circumstanced had rights which we were bound to give him the full enjoyment of; and he hoped that the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, would now be able to state, that if a cargo of slaves were driven, either by stress of weather, or by any other cause, into a harbour belonging to an English colony, the slaves would in that case be immediately placed in the enjoyment of the liberty to which they were entitled. There was another point on which he wished to have some information. When he and his friends were in office, on one or two occasions the slave barracoons on the coast of Africa were destroyed, the slaves rescued, the barracoons burned, and the property found in them handed over to the chiefs of the territories in which the barracoons were found. Since he had been out of office, he had heard that the present Government had expressed it as their opinion that there were objections to such a course, and that the proceedings were not strictly legal. He should wish to know what was held to be the law of nations on this subject. He could understand, that if a landing were effected for such a purpose, without the consent of the Government of the State to which the territory belonged, such a landing might be a violation of international law: but in this case the consent of the chiefs had been obtained; the chiefs were glad to see parties put down whom they were themselves unable to control, and were very willing to pay their debts by taking possession of the stores round in the barracoons. The first instance of such an interference arose thus: the garrison of one of these slave barracoons had fired upon the boats of one of our cruisers, and the boats effected a landing to revenge this outrage. It was a case very similar to that of the Caroline. The territory was that of another state, but in the temporary occupation, not of the proper authorities of the country, but of intruders stronger than the authorities. He should be glad to hear that it was not the intention of the Government to abandon this practice. In the papers laid before Parliament this Session, there would be found a report, by Captain Payne, of the American navy, who said, that of all measures this was the most effectual way of putting down the Slave-trade. He (Viscount Palmerston) hoped that whenever it could be done with the consent of the chiefs, no opportunity would be lost of destroying the barracoons. To that part of the treaty more immediately under discussion, he could not on principle object. The construction put upon the treaty by the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney-general) would no doubt have the effect of preventing abuses; but if abuses should arise out of the treaty, he could not entertain a doubt that her Majesty's Government would, without hesitation, avail themselves of the power reserved by the treaty, and immediately put an end to it.

Lord Stanley

, before be proceeded to speak of the treaty itself, would say one or two words in answer to the noble Lord who had just sat down. He (Lord Stanley) had not been aware that the noble Lord intended to put any questions on matters so remotely connected with the subject under discussion, and not having the papers now before him, it was not in his power to give as complete an answer as he would have done if he had known of the noble Lord's intention to put these questions. With respect to the destruction of the barracoons on the coast of Africa, the noble Lord seemed to believe there was some difference of opinion between the present and late Government. He believed that no such difference existed, for if he understood the noble Lord aright, the noble Lord admitted that if the destruction took place against the consent of the state in the territories of which the barracoons were situated, the act would be an offence not justifiable by any international law; but where the chief or the sovereign of the country lent his sanction, an officer destroying the barracoons would of course not be guilty of any violation of territory, and he agreed with the noble lord that no step could be more effectual in putting down the slave trade. So far, therefore, as, the law of nations went, there was no difference between the noble Lord and himself. But the noble Lord's reference bore upon a case now before the legal tribunals, in which the question arose, whether the requisite consent of the state had been obtained. This case was pending at that moment; the officer concerned in it was defended on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and under such circumstances, he should not consider it consistent with his duty to express any opinion on the merits of the case. The noble Lord did not go so far as the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Edinburgh, in condemnation of the treaty; indeed, the Government of which the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman were members, had endeavoured to negotiate with the United States a treaty to precisely the same effect as that now the subject of discussion. [Viscount Palmerston: Robbery was not among the offences mentioned in the treaty which the late Government sought to negotiate.] The noble Lord seemed to found an objection on the insertion of the word "robbery;" but let it be remembered a broad distinction had been drawn between that offence and the supposed cases put by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh differed so much from them on the fundamental principles of the treaty, that even at this late period he would have Her Majesty's Government declare this part of the treaty null and void. The right hon. Gentlemen said that that the laws of two countries ought to be similar, before such a treaty were agreed to. Now, the principle of the treaty was this. Here were two conterminous nations, divided by an imaginary boundary. In Canada the law had allowed persons guilty of grave offences in a foreign country to be proceeded against, but the United States said that their common law prohibited every kind of extradition, and every scoundrel was at liberty to cross over into their country, and by law they could not deliver him over to the authorities of this country where he had been guilty even of the gravest offences. A treaty had been agreed on with a view to remedy this defect. Now came the question, whether by the terms of the treaty injustice might be done to a certain class, and whether the apprehension of that was in itself a sufficient reason for not carrying out the treaty. He did not go so far as to say that because a man was a slave he should therefore enjoy complete impunity, whatever his offence might be. The treaty they were told might be liable to abuse. What law had ever existed that was quite free from such a liability? Every precaution, however, had been taken to prevent abuses. The noble Lord said he should like to hear a definition of the offence of piracy. He said that under this treaty the case of the Creole would have been one of piracy. Now, what was the case of the Creole? The demand on that occasion was that the parties should be surrendered to take their trial in the United States. The answer of the English Government was, "No; we have no option. The law does not allow us to do so. But, if you wish to try these parties for piracy, we will give you every facility for having them tried in our courts, and you shall have the services of our officers in carrying on the proceedings." At the same time, the Government did not fail to make known that the opinion of the law officers of this country was, that the parties accused could not, by our laws, be held to be guilty of piracy; their offence having been committed without any felonious intention of stealing the ship, but merely with a view of escaping from slavery. The question was then asked, whether it would be the duty of our Custom-house officers at Nassau, if they believed slaves to be in confinement on board of a vessel, to refuse a clearance to the vessel on such a ground? The answer was, that it was no part of the duty of the Custom-house officers to make any such officious interference; but if they were informed on credible testimony that on board of any foreign vessel then in a British port there were persons detained in slavery against their own will, then it became the duty of the authorities of that port to take care that such persons should not be deprived of the benefits of British law. The case had been put of a female slave who, in resisting an attempt to commit a rape, killed her master. Why, the only mode that could be contemplated of dealing with such a case would be according to the terms of the treaty. Now the words of the treaty on this point were clear, and admitted of no ambiguity. The words were:—"Provided that this should only be done upon such evidence of criminality as, according to the laws of the place where the fugitive or person so charged should be found, would justify his apprehension and commitment." Beyond this, it was impossible that any demand could go or be complied with. Another case that had been put, was that of a slave who had stolen a boat or a horse, to help him on in his flight. His hon. and learned Friend, however, had drawn a broad distinction between robbery and theft, and had stated that theft must be committed with intimidation, or with an apprehension of violence to constitute robbery. No doubt it was possible that persons, whether guilty or not, if sent back to a country where slavery prevailed, might be returned to a state of slavery. What were the practical directions of the Government of the noble Lord himself no longer ago than 1839? In the latter part of 1838 a complaint was made by the Danish Government to the Government of Her Majesty, that the proximity of the British West India Islands to the Danish Islands was so great, and the facilities for the escape, not of criminals, but of fugitive slaves, so numerous, that they must entreat Her Majesty's Government to take steps to co-operate with the Danish Government for the punishment of slaves escaping from their own country, by bringing them to trial before the British tribunals. What was the answer given by Lord Glenelg, who then held the office which he had now the honour to hold, after communication with the noble Lord opposite, then Secretary for Foreign Affairs? It was this;— You will remark that I have considered as inadmissible the proposal that fugitive criminals, flying from the Danish colonies, shall be tried by the British colonial tribunals for the crimes committed by them in the Danish colonies. It has appeared to me, however, that where the criminals whether slaves or freemen, shall be satisfactorily proved to the British colonial authorities to have been guilty of murder, or any other heinous crime, which the laws of all nations visit with condign punishment, the safety of society demands that such a criminal should be brought to justice, and that it will become the duty of all governors of colonies to afford every assistance for his apprehension and restitution, to take his trial in the foreign colony in which the crime may have been committed. That was the principle laid down by Lord Glenelg, after communication with the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, only the noble Lord went further, for the law did not then justify what he advised to have done. You will be guided by this principle in any case of this description which may come under your consideration, and should the law of the colony under your government offer any obstacle to the adoption of the course I have laid down, you will take an opportunity of recommending such a revision and amendment of the law, as may be required to attain the object in view. Here was a principle laid down, not in fulfilment of a general engagement, or a reciprocal treaty between free states, but to be acted upon in the neighbourhood of territories in which all the criminals spoken of were slaves, surrender all persons accused of crimes, if you are satisfied they are properly accused, to take their trial in the slave colony, and if the law as it stands does not justify you in so doing, amend it. On a subsequent occasion, when a similar question was again raised, the noble Lord opposite wrote:— It cannot be denied that cases may possibly arise in which the slaves may have committed crimes demanding exemplary punishment, and in such cases the servile character of the offender cannot properly be admitted as an excuse for shielding him from that punishment. Thus this class of offenders, according to the instructions of the noble Lord, were to be handed over to countries in which there was a different system of punishment for offences committed by slaves, and offences committed by freemen. [Mr. Macaulay: If satisfactorily proved.] It was required in the treaty that there should be such an amount of evidence as—if the person were not a slave, and a British subject, and residing in the dominions of this country—would justify a magistrate in putting him on his trial. What further evidence did the right hon. Gentleman suppose could be required by the instructions he had read? They required those to whom they were addressed to be satisfied on that evidence of the criminality of the person, and being satisfied to return him, slave or no slave, to be tried by the laws which regulate the punishment of his offence, not your legislation, but the legislation of another country; and if acquitted by those laws, still under those instructions he would be subjected to this penalty, that being acquitted of the crime with which he was charged, he would, notwithstanding, be restored to the condition of slavery. Lord Normanby again said:— To render our colonies the place of refuge for persons guilty of such offences, would be to violate the principles on which all civilised communities regulate their relations with each other. It is doubtless true, that the words murder, rape, arson, and, indeed, all the words employed to characterize crime, are vague and susceptible of erroneous meaning, but for the present purpose they must be understood according to the definitions they have received from the laws of England. Now, this treaty laid it down that the committal must take place only on such evidence of criminality as, according to the laws of the place where the fugitive is apprehended, would justify his apprehension and committal. No fugitive, for instance, could under it be surrendered as a murderer, unless his offence were such as our laws would qualify with that epithet. Lord Glenelg's circular required that the officers administering the colonial laws must be satisfied, on proper evidence taken before a competent British magistrate, that the crime imputed had really been committed. Why, that was what the treaty said. Could the noble Lord or the right hon. Gentleman show any difference in its conditions? He did not hesitate to say that in point of reciprocity this treaty was of infinitely greater advantage to the people of Canada than to those of the United States. We should obtain by this treaty the surrender of offenders without reference to the state of slavery, when their guilt was satisfactorily made out according to the evidence required by the laws of the country in which they might be found. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Give up this treaty, it may lead to difficulties." He saw no reason to apprehend that different constructions would be put on the treaty by the two countries; but if that should prove to be the case, the treaty contained a distinct stipulation that it was to be held binding so long only as neither country remonstrated against its operation. But on the demand of either party, if either government was satisfied that justice was not done to their own subjects under the treaty, the bill provided that there should be power to either the British or American Government to put an end to the treaty. He hoped the noble Lord and the members of the late Government would feel that not only on account of the long period that had elapsed without any settlement of this branch of international law, but on account of the great inconvenience of negativing a bill brought in to give effect to a treaty which had been concluded and laid before Parliament, since the treaty would tend to the mutual advantage of both parties, and since security was provided against abuse, they ought not to persist in their objections to the bill, and, that it would obtain the general assent of the House and the country.

Viscount Palmerston

explained, that he did not object to the principle of the treaty, nor did he wish that this country should afford impunity to slaves who had really committed offences. The noble Lord had imputed to him rather too broad a construction of international law, as to the destruction of slave barracoons. He said, that, as between independent states, it was contrary to international law that the forces of one should land on the territory of the other, for the purpose of committing violence and making war; but, that if persons were abstracted from the territory of a state by third parties who took forcible occupation of it, and if these parties committed acts of violence against you, you would be justified in redressing the injuries.

Mr. Hawes

feared, that although between free states these treaties might be very beneficial, yet between free states and slave-holding states, they would produce continual subjects of dissension. When a fugitive slave was charged with committing a robbery, the question of slavery must necessarily be raised. He was apprehensive, that the treaty would lead to an encroachment on the principle to which England owed so much of her glory—the principle, that a slave, the moment he touched her soil, became a free man. He should feel it to be his duty to vote against the bill on this ground.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, it was quite clear, under the 10th article of the treaty, that the instructions given to the naval officers of the two squadrons on the coast of Africa were to be in the possession of each government, and, therefore, the right hon. Baronet must be in possession of the instructions issued by the United States government to the officers of their squadron. He wanted to know whether America had, equally with England, fulfilled the tenor of the 8th article, and whether in the instructions given by that Government, this passage was not to be found? He would not say they were the precise words, but he believed this to be the sub- stance of the passage, which he had received from an authority that he had not the slightest doubt was correct,— That the primary considerations with the American government was not the suppression of the slave-trade, but the protection of their own flag, and the assertion of their own rights. If they had stated this in substance, he said that was sufficient ground for believing the assertions which had appeared in the public journals of this country and America, that the United States were not sincere in their professed desire to suppress the slave-trade. The question he wished to put to the right hon. Baronet, was this—and it was due to the American Government, if his information was incorrect, that a direct and unequivocal contradiction should be given to a charge implying insincerity in the American Government, and also base connivance on the part of the British Government at the conduct of the Americans in contravening the 8th article. He should like to know whether the British Government had protested against such instructions being given to the American cruisers, because, if such had been given, it was a perfect mockery in them to send their men-of-war in pretended co-operation with England, which had well evinced the sincerity of its efforts to put down the odious traffic in slaves. He wished to know also if the right hon. Baronet had any objection to lay these instructions on the Table of the House?

Sir R. Peel

certainly did not consider himself bound to lay on the Table of the House the instructions which the Government of the United States had given to its officers for the suppression of the slave-trade. It was for the government of the United States to determine whether or not it would publish those instructions. They had in compliance with the 8th article communicated those instructions to the British Government, but he conceived it to be no part of his duty to communicate those instructions to Parliament. Those instructions contained a reference to the various devices by which vessels engaged in the slave-trade, might attempt to elude discovery, and carry on the trade, and that alone, would be a reason for refusing to produce their instructions. As he did not consider himself entitled to give the instructions, he certainly should not consider it his duty to answer any question respecting their contents. The hon. Member had not named the authority on which he had made his statement; but the hon. Member had drawn an inference, that the government of the United States was not sincere in its endeavours to suppress the slave-trade. He must say, he saw nothing whatever in the conduct of that government, which bore out the view the hon. Gentleman had taken. He should state generally, that being in possession of the instructions issued by the government of the United States to the officers in command of the squadron fitted out under the 8th article, he thought that any imputation on the honour and sincerity of the government of the United States, in respect of its desire to suppress the slave-trade, would be unjust and unfounded. He had read those instructions with great care, and he was bound in justice to the government of the United States to declare, that the inference he drew from them was, that there was an earnest desire on the part of that Government, faithfully to suppress the slave-trade. They had acted in conformity with the 8th article; the British instructions have in return been communicated to the Government of the United States, and there was nothing in all that passed between the Governments since the signature of the treaty called the Ashburton treaty, which diminished the hope he (Sir R. Peel) had entertained that this joint action on the part of the united squadrons would very powerfully aid in suppressing the slave-trade. With respect to the observations of the hon. Gentleman who sat next to the hon. Member for Finsbury, he should be sorry indeed to come to the conclusion at which he seemed to have arrived, that it would be impossible for the two Governments of Great Britain and the United States to enter into a reciprocal treaty for the extradition of offenders. He should very much regret if difference in the laws of a free and a slave-bolding I state, should preclude any arrangement being concluded between two countries, each of which had the strongest possible inducements to come to such an arrangement, speaking as they did a common language, and carrying on the greatest commercial intercourse of any on the face of the globe. Look at the boundary between the United States and Canada, at the vicinity of the West Indies to the conti- nent, and the great facility which existed for intercourse between the dominions of the two states, and lamentable must be the condition of feeling, if treaties of this kind could be made between this country and France, or Belgium, but not with the United States. The hon. Gentleman had heard the instructions of the late Government read by his noble Friend, in which it was shown that it would be quite impossible to exempt a person from punishment for an offence, merely because he was in the condition of a slave. The hon. Gentleman illustrated his views by reference to the case of a slave being charged with robbery, because he had taken a horse or something else to assist in his escape. The hon. Gentleman asked, was the fugitive to be charged with robbery, if he took the horse not animo furandi, but to facilitate his escape. But this did not illustrate the difficulties connected with slavery in the least. Suppose a man committed to prison, who escaped, and took a horse which he found by the way to aid him in making his escape, the same question would arise in the case of the slave, if he were charged with stealing the horse; and if he brought conclusive evidence to show that he did not mean to appropriate it to his own use, but took it that he might be enabled to effect his escape, there would be an end of the charge of robbery. He trusted the House of Commons would give its assent to a bill which enabled them to make great advance in civilization, of preventing two great countries from becoming places of refuge for each other's criminals.

Sir C. Napier

said, the right hon. Baronet had evaded his hon. Friend's question. It was invariably the practice to attach the instructions issued by both Governments to the treaties and conventions formed between two powers for the suppression of the slave-trade. He contended that the right hon. Baronet was bound to follow the rule that had hitherto been observed, and let the country know clearly and distinctly whether or not the Government had given up the right of visit that had been so long contended for, and whether or not it was perfectly true, as he (Sir C. Napier) sincerely and conscientiously believed it was, that we were to go to the African coast, and hunt in couples, yet that the English cruisers were not to interfere with the American vessels, or the American cruisers with English ves- sels. Unless the right hon. Baronet could state that the British Government had not given up one single iota of their right to visit vessels suspected to be pirates or slave traders, he (Sir C. Napier) must say that the Government had given up a point they had no right to yield. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman, however, would be able to say that that point had not been given up, but that we stood in precisely the same position as before. There was a great difference between the right of visit and the right of search; and for the latter he (Sir C. Napier) did not contend, for we had no right to it. But on the coast of Africa, or any other coast where there was suspicion of slave-trade or piracy, the British officer had the right of visit. He hoped the right hon. Baronet would furnish the instructions given to the British cruisers, and also copies of the instructions of the American government to their cruisers, so far as those documents could be given without furnishing the slave-trader with information.

Sir R. Peel

said, he was precluded, by the rules of the House, from answering the observations of the hon. and gallant officer, but he trusted that the House would allow him to say a few words. The hon. and gallant Member had said, that on the signing the convention concluded by Lord Ashburton, the Government had relinquished their principles in regard to the right of visit. That question was brought under the consideration of the House at an early period of the Session, when some language that had been used by the President of the United States was adverted to, and he (Sir Robert Peel) then stated to the House most distinctly, that in acceding to that convention, the Government never meant to relinquish, and never had relinquished, any one of the principles in regard to the right of visit which this country had maintained, and he stated that a communication had been made by this Government to the Government of the United States maintaining the principles which he had always avowed. He apprehended that in consenting to that convention neither country had waived the principles they had maintained, but as they could not agree as to those principles, they thought that by having squadrons acting in union on the coast of Africa, important progress might be made by such a co-operation in putting down the slave-trade. That, he apprehended, was the object of both countries, and, although neither country had waived its principles, they yet occupied a neutral ground in the course they had adopted. He had already stated his belief that the American government were sincere in their exertions to put down the slave-trade. They had communicated to this Government their instructions to their cruisers, and the instructions to the British cruisers would be communicated to the American government, but so erroneous was the hon. and gallant officer in his notions of the nature of the general instructions to the British officers, that he (Sir R. Peel) might mention the fact that they had actually not yet been communicated, but had been delayed until the committee of which Dr. Lushington was a member, should have made their final report. If there should be further delay in the preparation of those general instructions, the instructions in regard to the eighth article of the treaty should be given. When they were so given he should still reserve to himself the right of withholding such parts of them, the disclosure of which might enable the slave-trader to carry on his traffic with impunity. As the instructions, however, were not yet communicated to the United States it was not in his power to lay them on the Table of the House.

House went into committee on the bill.

On Clause 1.

Mr. Hawes

moved the insertion of the word "free" in the ninth line, before the word "persons."

The committee divided on the question, that the word be inserted. Ayes 25; Noes 59: Majority 34.

List of the AYES.
Aldam, W. Hutt, W.
Archbold, R. Morris, D.
Bowring, Dr. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Bright, J. O'Conor Don
Brotherton, J. Pechell, Capt.
Clements, Visct. Plumridge, Capt.
Collett, J. Smith, B.
Crawford, W. S. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Duncan, G. Wakley, T.
Elphinstone, H. Wawn, J. T.
Ewart, W. TELLERS.
Gibson, T. M. Hawes, B.
Hindley, C. Duncombe, T.
List of the NOES.
Allix, J. P. Broadley, H.
Antrobus, E. Bruce, Lord E.
Baring, hon. W. B. Clerk, Sir G.
Borthwick, P. Cripps, W.
Damer, hon. Col. Martin, C. W.
Douglas, Sir H. Masterman, J.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Maxwell, hon. J. P.
Eliot, Lord Meynell, Capt.
Escott, B. Mildmay, H. St. John
Estcourt, T. G. B. Neville, R.
Flower, Sir J. Newport, Visct.
Forman, T. S. Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Fuller, A. E. Northland, Visct.
Gaskell, J. Milnes O'Brien, A. S.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Polhill, F.
Gore, M. Pollock, Sir F.
Goulburn, rt. hn. H. Round, J.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Sheppard. T.
Gregory, W. H. Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.
Grogan, E. Somerset, Lord G.
Hamilton, G. A. Stanley, Lord
Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H. Stanley, E.
Henley, J. W. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Hope, hon. C. Verner, Col.
Hope, G. W. Vivian, J. E.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Wellesley, Lord C.
Jones, Capt. Young, J.
Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E Fremantle, Sir T.
Marsham, Visct. Pringle, A.

Clause agreed to, as were the remaining clauses.

House resumed, bill reported.

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