§ Mr. Milner Gibson
, feeling that this was a measure in the nature of a Penal Act against a friendly Power, and that it involved considerations of the greatest importance, bearing upon the peace and safety of Her Majesty's subjects in the Brazils and other parts of the world, had felt it his duty, before he should consent to the House going into Committee, to request the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Peel) to supply the House with such information relating to the subject as he had in his power, in order to justify them in giving, as they were called upon to do, their assent to this Bill. The correspondence between Her Majesty's Government and 1044 that of the Brazils had been laid upon the Table of the House; but it appeared to him that there yet remained important matters which should be made known, before the House could be in a condition to judge whether it were right and proper to share in the responsibility of commencing, as it were, a series of hostilities, for that was, perhaps, not too strong an expression to use, against the Brazilian Empire. Hon. Gentlemen might have imagined that this was a measure in accordance with other Acts which had passed through Parliament, namely, acts enabling the Government to execute Conventions with Foreign Powers in reference to the Slave Trade. But on looking into the provisions of this present Bill, they would find that it called upon Parliament to give to the Executive Government a power to exercise acts of hostility towards the subjects of the Brazils, which acts must be viewed by that country in a light calculated to lead to resentment and retaliation on the part of the Brazilians, and perhaps superinduce a series of difficulties greatly impeding the trade at present carried on between this country and the Brazils. This measure would authorize our cruisers to seize and stop all vessels on the high seas suspected of being engaged in the Slave Trade, and which they supposed to belong to the Brazils. It would authorize the Ministers to empower such person or persons as they chose to stop any vessel on the high seas, if to such person or persons it appeared that the vessel in question was engaged in the Slave Trade. This would lead to the detention of vessels, the examination of their papers, and to other circumstances which might very soon involve us in difficulties with Foreign Powers. We had a Slave Trade Convention with the Brazilian Empire. A portion of that Convention had lately expired. In the portion which had thus expired, there were provisions giving to the respective Powers—England and the Brazils—a right of mutual search and visit of the ships of the two countries, and also provisions establishing Mixed Commission Courts, for the purpose of adjudicating upon vessels seized under the provisions of the Treaty. But all these stipulations had now expired, and the Brazilian Empire was no more bound by them than was the Government of England. But it was said that there existed, beyond these special provisions, a general obligation on the part of the Brazilian Government to abolish the Slave Trade; an obligation which was to be found 1045 in the First Clause of the Treaty of 1826, whereby the Brazilian Government bound itself to declare that the carrying on of the Slave Trade by any of the subjects of the Brazils should be treated as piracy. But the question here arose, whether, although the Brazilian Government bound itself by such an obligation, that could form a justification, on the part of the House of Commons, for giving to Her Majesty's Government the power of carrying out the obligation in that clause? It was urged that the time had now come for us to step forward and interfere—for us to exercise the power specified in the First Clause; and if the Brazilians would not abolish the Slave Trade, that we should abolish it for them. But this involved an important consideration as regarded the law of nations. He had the highest authority to quote, to the effect that the granting of such powers, on the part of Parliament, to the Executive Government, would not be consistent with the usual custom which obtained in cases of this kind between Foreign Powers. When a Bill similar to this was introduced into Parliament by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Lord Palmerston), the Duke of Wellington and the Lord Chancellor protested against it on this ground, amongst other grounds, that the object of the Bill was to authorize officers of the Crown to exercise acts which might be construed into acts of hostility against Portugal. There was a second protest to the same effect; and he was informed, on the highest authority, that the Bill in reference to Portugal was similar in all its enactments to the present measure. When this country made the Slave Trade piracy, there was an express proviso in the Act of Parliament to the effect, that British subjects and British ships, if captured in following the Slave Trade, should be tried by British tribunals; and the Act gave no power to a foreigner or to a Foreign tribunal to adjudicate on the life or liberty of any of Her Majesty's subjects. That was sufficient to show that it was understood, when the Treaty was entered into, that it was to be given effect to by the laws of the respective countries. He admitted that there was a feeling in the breast of every man in this country, that when a foreign country entered into a Treaty with us, if there afterwards appeared a determination on the part of such foreign country to avoid the carrying out of such Treaty, or a disposition to practise upon England, and to mislead us as to the course taken in 1046 the accomplishment of the objects of the Treaty, we had then a right to take some means to enforce the obligations created by the Treaty. But the Government were bound to consider, in the case of the Brazils, that the Executive Government of that country could no more do what they pleased, in reference to such a question as the Slave Trade, than the right hon. Gentleman, who was the chief adviser of the Executive in this country, had it in his power to act as he pleased in reference to such a question as the Corn Laws, or any other question which had a powerful and interested party banded together for its support. The Brazilians would feel that, in carrying out this Act, we were interfering with their independence, and would also feel themselves humiliated if they permitted us to do so. In addition to this consideration there were many powers, passions, and influences warring against the Government of the Brazils; and he would ask the House, before they consented to commit an act of hostility towards that Power, to consider well the difficulties which that Government had to encounter in any attempt which it might make for putting down the Slave Trade. He did not think that the policy which the Government of this country were now pursuing, was at all calculated to influence aright the only power that could put down the Slave Trade—public opinion, which might be rendered unfavourable to its continuance. Besides, had the Brazilians done nothing to put down this odious traffic, in accordance with the Treaty of 1826? Had they made no sacrifices, had they made no concessions? They had done as much in this respect as other countries similarly circumstanced. Could the right hon. Gentleman show the House, from the Papers now on the Table, that the Brazils had expressed a determination, from this time henceforth, to do nothing to put down the Slave Trade? He (Mr. M. Gibson) knew of no such determination on the part of the Brazils. When negotiations were pending in August, 1841, the British Government submitted a distinct proposal to put down the Slave Trade. Negotiations progressed; but on a sudden, in 1842, a note was received from the Brazilian Minister, conveying a peremptory refusal to proceed any further in the negotiation with respect to the Slave Trade. He would beg the House to recall to their recollection at what period this took place. It was when the Government of this country had first an- 1047 nounced their intention to that of the Brazils of carrying on thenceforth against that country a hostile commercial policy, and of placing its produce in our ports under a species of ban and exclusion; and it was when Mr. Ellis was sent out to Rio Janeiro with instructions, which had never yet been produced to the House; and he was confident that these instructions, so studiously withheld, were an essential element for them to be in possession of, in order to be able to form a correct judgment upon the merits of the Bill now presented to the House. Mr. Ellis's negotiation had now come to a conclusion. No public interests could therefore now be affected by the production of the correspondence and instructions; and before the right hon. Gentleman called upon them to share in the responsibility of the contemplated acts of hostility against the Brazils, he was bound to show them that his own policy was not the policy which created the necessity for now resorting to such a measure—a measure which he regarded as nothing short of a declaration of war, and that such necessity, if it existed, would not be done away with by resorting to a different course of policy. They must have the whole case before them, or they were not in a condition to give to the Bill the support which was demanded of them. He found in the papers before the House, that Lord Aberdeen admitted that this was an extreme measure—that he adopted it with regret—and that if the Brazilian Government entered into terms with reference to the Slave Trade the Act would be repealed. The noble Lord clearly intimated, by this correspondence, that he was entering upon a harsh and hostile policy. Let the Government keep the responsibility of that policy to themselves, and not call upon the House to share it with them. If they thought that the circumstances of the case required such measures, let them make war openly upon their own responsibility, and come next year to Parliament for a Bill of Indemnity, which, if a sufficient case were shown, Parliament would no doubt grant. The Executive was shrinking from its real duty on this question. The Bill itself showed that the Executive Government of this country was doubtful of the rights which it possessed by the clause in the Treaty of 1826. If the clause gave them such rights as they stated, he said the Government had shrunk from carrying those rights into execution. This Bill gave no power to deal with Brazilian subjects, but 1048 merely to seize and confiscate Brazilian ships. It appeared, then, that our rights under this Treaty were questionable, and that the Government scarcely dared to exercise them. It seemed to him, also, that if the clause of the Treaty did not give the right to interfere with subjects, it would not give the right to interfere with ships. Again, he would put it to the Government, was it proper to press on a Bill of such importance, and involving such important consequences, with so much haste? An important amendment had already been introduced by the Government into the Bill since it was first brought forward. They had provided that the parties who seized these Brazilian ships should be entitled to the bounties and tonnage dues usually allowed in such cases. Now, let it be recollected, that Parliament had voted, out of the Consolidated Fund, 20,000l. or 30,000l. to the officers and crews of our cruisers for seizing Brazilian slave ships. He would call upon the Government to consider the probable result of the course they were now adopting on the minds of foreign nations. Already suspicions as to our motives were entertained; and it was said, in reference to the practice of sending the negroes found in the captured slave vessels to our own Colonies, that England required labourers for her own Colonies, and was taking the shortest course to procure them by sending those negroes which her vessels of war found in the captured Brazilian ships into her own Colonies. Then the mortality amongst the negroes during their passage to our Colonies was as great almost as in the middle passage, and that improper crowding of vessels, which was so properly complained of as a feature of the Slave Trade, we ourselves were actually guilty of. A letter written by Mr. MacLeod, dated Trinidad, February, 1844, mentioned that 288 negroes were brought in there in a vessel from Rio Janeiro, several having died on the passage. It was too generally the impression in the Brazils that it was our own advantage we sought in our efforts to suppress the Slave Trade, and it was thought, too, by many that the reason why the officers in command of our cruisers were so active off the coast of the Brazils was the bounties and pecuniary advantages which resulted to themselves from the seizure of slave vessels. He considered that the course we were adopting was calculated to excite the feelings and passions of the Brazilians 1049 against us. What would have been our own feelings were some foreign nation to attempt to interfere with us in the same way as it was proposed now to interfere with the Brazils? When England was a slave-trading country itself, it would have repelled with indignation such an interference on the part of any foreign country. He (Mr. M. Gibson) was almost inclined to agree with the view expressed the other night by his hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Hutt); he was almost inclined to go with his hon. Friend in saying that it was doubtful whether the exertions of our cruisers on the coast of Africa and on the coast of Brazil, for suppressing the Slave Trade, had not tended to increase the evil it was our object to put an end to. At all events he was inclined to think our policy in this respect was questionable; and should his hon. Friend in the course of the ensuing Session feel it his duty to move for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the subject, he would support him. What at this moment was the position of the great interests of this country—of our manufactures—in reference to the Brazils? The Brazilian Government said, we will put a discriminating duty on your manufactures of 20 or 30 per cent. as compared with the duty we impose upon the manufactures of other countries; and we will continue that discriminating duty until you give up your exclusive policy in reference to our sugar, and until you receive that sugar on the same terms as you admit the sugars of the most favoured nations. He called upon the right hon. Baronet to show to the House that it was not his own policy that had brought Lord Aberdeen into that disagreeable necessity in which he had admitted he was placed in proposing to carry out the clause of the Treaty of 1826 in this hostile spirit—and he would call upon the Government to say, supposing that the result of this measure should be the confiscation of the property and the endangering the lives of British subjects in the Brazils — whether they had contemplated such a contingency—whether they had considered all these things? Some time ago Lord Aberdeen intimated, in reply to a question put to him, that a Treaty was about to be concluded with the Brazilian Government, and he had no doubt that British property and British subjects in the Brazils would be respected. But the late mail contained nothing confirmatory of that statement, and every reason to suppose that no such Treaty 1050 as that to which the noble Lord alluded had been concluded with the Brazils. He called upon the Government to say how long were the great manufacturing interests of this country to be jeopardized—how long were the property and the lives of British subjects to be endangered, in order to carry out the peculiar views of a small section of the anti-slavery party in this country? He said a small section, for he was justified in saying that the anti-slavery party, as a body, disapproved of the policy of Ministers—and the Memorial which had been presented to the Government from that body, distinctly deprecated armed interference. The hon. Member concluded by saying that he should take the sense of the House against the Bill.
§ Sir R. Peel
said: I will, as shortly as I can, state to the House the objects of the Bill which has been sent down by the House of Lords, and which I now move shall be considered in a Committee of this House. The international engagements between Brazil and this country in respect of the Slave Trade rest on a Convention concluded between the two countries in 1826. By the First Article of that Convention, it was provided that it should not, from a time therein named, be lawful for a subject of the empire of Brazil to be concerned in carrying on the African Slave Trade under any pretext or in any manner whatever, and that the carrying on of such trade after that period by any person or subject of His Imperial Majesty should be deemed and treated as piracy. There was, therefore, an international engagement between this country and Brazil, that from a certain time the subjects of the Brazilian empire, engaged on any pretext or in any manner in carrying on the Slave Trade, should be guilty of the offence of piracy. The Brazilian subject was not merely by the municipal laws of his own country liable to the penalty for piracy; but there was a solemn engagement entered into between the Brazilian Government and this country by which the offence was made piracy. Shortly after that Convention there was another entered into by the Brazils, adopted from one that was existing between Portugal and this country, concluded in 1817, which had for its object the determining, by mutual arrangement between the two countries, in what mode effect should be given to that engagement. A mutual Right of Search was given in the case of Brazilian ships 1051 and English ships, and Courts of Mixed Commission were appointed for determining offences at variance with the existing engagements. Either Government had the power in its own discretion to terminate that Convention in the month of March, 1842, a period of fifteen years from the time it was entered into. Brazil thought fit to give notice of her intention to terminate that subsidiary Convention, and this Government thought fit to accede to such desire on the part of the Brazilian Government. But there remained in force the original Article of the Treaty of 1826, and the object of this measure is to give effect to the stipulations of that Treaty. A great part of the hon. Gentleman's speech appeared to be in favour of the abandonment of all policy on our part for the suppression of the Slave Trade. The hon. Gentleman says, imputations are thrown out on the faith and integrity of this nation, and that on that account we ought to be particularly careful how we interfere with the rights of other countries. No doubt such imputations are thrown out, and thrown out from interested motives. There is no doubt a desire to depreciate the character and paralyse the exertions of this country in the suppression of the Slave Trade; but I think the sacrifices this country has made for the mitigation of the evils of the Slave Trade, and for the termination of the status of the Slave Trade, may enable her safely to defy all such unjust suspicions. The hon. Gentleman says, there was a time when this country herself carried on the Slave Trade, and the bishops in the House of Lords made speeches in its favour. The fact may be so; but does the hon. Gentleman think that that constitutes an argument why we should relax in the efforts we have made for the suppression of the Slave Trade? The Government proposes this measure with regret. It would have been infinitely more satisfactory to them that the Brazils should have consented to enter into a new engagement in substitution of the engagement of 1817, and should have acted in ready concert with us in the suppression of the Slave Trade. I have laid on the Table the correspondence that has passed on this subject, and I leave it to the House to judge whether any effort on the part of Her Majesty's Government for the last ten years has been omitted in order to induce the Brazilian Government of its own good will to 1052 enter into that friendly concert. The House will see what have been the proposals that have been made from time to time; not recently, but during the period my noble Friend Lord Aberdeen has been Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and during the period the noble Lord opposite held the same office. The House will find that repeated exhortations were addressed to the Brazilian Government, for the purpose of inducing them to enter into amicable concert with us, and to enable us to search Brazilian vessels, and to punish those who were engaged in the Slave Trade under that Act which had been agreed to by the Brazilian Government of its own free will. But those efforts have failed. The Brazilian Government have from time to time distinctly stated to us, that her views on this subject are entirely at variance from ours, and from the Brazilian Government we can expect no assistance or co-operation in the suppression of the Slave Trade by her own subjects. Shall we then altogether abandon our efforts? Shall we hold the Convention of 1826 to be of no effect; and, notwithstanding that international engagement between the Brazils and this country, shall we permit Brazilian subjects and ships to carry on the African Slave Trade without any independent effort on our own part to suppress it? First, I say, that the Brazils themselves have admitted that this country, under the Convention of 1826, has a right of its own authority, failing other engagements entered into with the Brazils, to suppress the Slave Trade carried on by Brazilian subjects. The hon. Gentleman will observe in the correspondence that has taken place, in a note presented by the Brazilian Government, that at an early period subsequent to the last Convention, Brazil expressly considered that under the Convention of 1826, this country had a right to interfere for the suppression of the Slave Trade. He will find in page 7 of the Printed Papers, that in a document issued by the Brazilian Government, it was stated that the Government had received from the British Minister an assurance that certain Brazilian vessels which had been employed in trafficking in slaves, but which could prove that on or before the 30th day of March, 1830, they were not so employed, should be allowed to proceed and finish their bondâ fide voyage without incurring the liability of being 1053 treated as pirates, according to the Convention of 1826. The hon. Gentleman, again, will find that the Brazilian Secretary of State relied on the Article in the Convention of 1826, as a proof that the Slave Trade was totally forbidden to Brazilian subjects. No law was passed in the Brazils at that time, making the Slave Trade piracy; for the Brazilian Secretary of State said, that the Slave Trade was abolished, and that the offence was constituted piracy; and, in saying that, he was not speaking of the municipal laws passed by the Brazils, but of the effect of that Convention which had been signed between this country and the Brazils. But efforts were made to put an end to the Mixed Commission. Objections were made to it by the Brazilian Government; but in making those objections, the Minister of the Brazils urged that the continuance of the Mixed Commission was unnecessary; because, under the Convention with England, there was a power on the part of the two Governments to suppress the Slave Trade, by making it an offence cognizable by their own respective legal tribunals. There was, then, a distinct admission that we had a right to treat the offence as piracy, virtually by the law of Brazil. The hon. Gentleman says, he will not share in the responsibility of the Government in bringing forward this measure. What is the effect of it? We consider that the Crown is empowered to direct the detention of Brazilian vessels. We have not acted without the fullest deliberation. It was the impression of the noble Lord opposite, than whom none has paid more attention to this subject, that on the suspension of the last Convention an Act of Parliament would be absolutely necessary to give effect to the Convention of 1826; and the noble Lord inquired of me whether it were my intention to propose a Bill for that purpose. It is true that we did not proceed without mature deliberation. We approached the subject with great caution and reluctance, for we were most anxious that the Brazils should take the course which Spain took in 1835, and Portugal in 1842, and by mutual stipulations should have enabled us to effect this object. But all we do by this Act is not to give the Crown the power to issue these orders, for we think that the Crown has the power to direct the detention of Brazilian vessels, in virtue of the Convention, and we are prepared, to take on ourselves 1054 the responsibility of issuing those orders. But at present the Vice-Admiralty Courts of this country are prohibited from taking cognizance of these offences. At present, without the intervention of an Act of Parliament, I apprehend that the Vice-Admiralty Courts could not proceed to the adjudication and condemnation of Brazilian vessels; and it is necessary to provide in this case, as you did in the case of Portugal, that the Vice-Admiralty Courts should have that jurisdiction of adjudication and condemnation, with respect to vessels seized on suspicion of carrying on the Slave Trade, which they would not have without it. The hon. Gentleman tells us to issue the orders on our own responsibility, and trust hereafter to an Act of Indemnity. It is infinitely better to ask from Parliament the power of adjudication upon vessels that are seized, rather than to issue orders and leave it in doubt whether there be any jurisdiction competent to decide upon those points. The hon. Gentleman refers to a speech made, and a protest entered into, by my noble Friend in 1839, with reference to the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, enabling the British Government to detain Portuguese vessels concerned in the Slave Trade. I, for one, seeing there was an indisposition on the part of Portugal to fulfil the obligations of her Treaty with this country with respect to the Slave Trade, felt that the noble Lord was justified in the measure he proposed. I saw the unavailing attempts he had made to prevail on Portugal to fulfil those stipulations into which she had entered with this country, and that after benefits received from this country, and every diplomatic effort having failed, I thought that the noble Lord was fully justified in calling on Parliament for their assistance. Both Houses have, from time to time, presented addresses to the Crown for the suppression of the Slave Trade, and have assured the Crown of their willing co-operation in case legislative interference was necessary. Those addresses were unanimously carried, and therefore on the part of the Crown, I think, after the Convention of 1817, I should be abandoning my duty if after those addresses I permitted that state of things to arise which would arise unless you give to the Vice-Admiralty Courts the jurisdiction which this Bill proposes. But the noble Lord proposed in the case of Portugal an Act of Parliament expressly 1055 giving to the Crown the power of issuing orders, and enabling the Vice-Admiralty Courts to exercise those powers. At a subsequent period, after some difficulties in respect to the first Bill, the House of Lords acquiesced in what was proposed by the noble Lord; but the case of the Brazils is very different from the case of Portugal. In the case of Portugal there was no such Treaty as in the case of the Brazils. There was an engagement on the part of Portugal that she would co-operate with you generally in the suppression of the Slave Trade—that she would pass a law prohibiting the Slave Trade—that she would give you a Right of Search; and she engaged to do various things which she did not do, and entered into various stipulations which she did not perform, and the noble Lord asked for the interference of Parliament to compel Portugal to do that which the British Crown had required of her, but which she refused to do. But that was a casus belli. The noble Lord thought the conduct of Portugal justified the Crown, first in making the most urgent diplomatic remonstrances, and, those failing, then to call on Parliament to compel Portugal to enter into her engagements. If the hon. Gentleman refers to the protest of my noble Friend, he will see that it proceeded upon those grounds: because the Constitution of this country and the usual practice had been to leave it to the Sovereign, acting on the advice of Her Ministers, to come to a decision upon all questions of peace and war; and to carry into execution such measures and to order such operations as Her Ministers proposed. My noble Friend contended that in the case of Portugal it was a casus belli—that the Crown ought to have proceeded upon its own imperial authority, and declared war against Portugal to compel her to perform her engagements. But this is not a casus belli, it is a casus fœderis. There are stipulations by the Brazils with this country expressly declaring that carrying on the Slave Trade by Brazilian subjects should be piracy; we therefore do not ask Parliament to enable us to declare war against the Brazils. We are content under the Convention, after taking the advice of the highest authorities in this country, including my lamented Friend Sir W. Follett, whose name I shall never mention without a feeling of respect for his memory as that of a most distinguished man. After the best consideration, and after com- 1056 munication with the Queen's Advocate, he and the other highest authorities in this country, gave us deliberately their opinion, that, under that Convention, failing the agreement and consent of the Brazils to other measures for the suppression of the Slave Trade, we were entirely authorized in continuing to exercise the Right of Search over Brazilian vessels. The right now reverts to the Crown of acting under the Convention of 1826; and, supported by the advice to which I have referred, we feel it to be our duty to abide by it, in so far as to give to the Admiralty Courts the power of exercising the rights conferred by that Convention. I think the hon. Gentleman cannot complain that I have thrown any difficulty in the way of the production of all the Papers which, consistently with my sense of public duty, I could lay before the House. He will see that, in the last communication we made to the Brazilian Government, there is an expression of deep regret that considerations of public duty compel us to propose this measure, and an assurance that we shall have the utmost satisfaction in proposing to Parliament its repeal, if—influenced by the Act of the noble Lord in 1839—the Brazils shall enter into a Treaty with us, not for the suppression of slavery, not for interference with any institutions in the Brazils, but for the purpose of giving effect to the original engagement of 1826. We have waited to the last; for a series of years we have implored the Brazils to substitute something efficacious in lieu of this temporary measure; at length we feel driven to the necessity of interfering ourselves, to enforce the exercise of our right. But, at the same time, while we intend to exercise that right for ourselves, we accompany the intimation of our intention with an earnest exhortation to the Brazils to relieve us from this necessity, by entering into amicable engagements with us on the subject. The hon. Member for Manchester says that this measure is imperfect, be cause some alterations were proposed by me in Committee, into which the House went pro formâ the other night. But what was the alteration that was then made? It was simply this:—As the Mixed Commission, with the consent of the two parties, are to continue their operations for six months, in order to preclude any doubt as to the validity of their decisions, a clause was inserted giving to the deci- 1057 sions of that Commission all the force which their decrees had under the former Convention. As the period for which that Commission is to sit, is continued beyond the term specified in the original Convention, the object of that clause was merely to solve a doubt which might have arisen as to the validity of their subsequent decrees. I also introduced into this Bill the usual clauses—similar to those contained in the Portuguese Act, and in every other measure of the same nature—enabling the Lords of the Treasury to award to vessels which succeed in capturing slave-ships a proportion of prize-money. These clauses, being regarded as money clauses, were omitted in the other House of Parliament; and it became my duty to propose their insertion in the Committee in this House. I think, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman's charge, that this Bill has been got up with such haste as to render considerable alteration necessary, is, so far as it regards the alterations to which I have referred, altogether unfounded. I am not aware that there is any other point to which it is necessary for me to refer. The correspondence I have already laid on the Table will probably afford sufficient explanation of the circumstances under which the Bill was prepared. I again repeat, that it is with reluctance I propose this Bill; and I trust that the necessity of continuing it will be removed by the voluntary act of the Brazils, in entering into a Treaty with us similar to the Treaties we have concluded with Spain and Portugal. I can assure the hon. Gentleman I shall have much greater pleasure in recommending the repeal of this Bill, than I now have in proposing it to the House. The negotiation with the Brazils—not for a tariff, but for a commercial treaty, is still making progress: and if I felt that any good object could be promoted, or the success of the pending negotiation advanced, by the further production of Papers and instructions, I would readily consent to lay them before the House. The instructions I have already produced will, I think, afford proof that I have been desirous to lay upon the Table such information, bearing, in my opinion, immediately upon the subject, as I could do consistently with my public duty; but I regret that I cannot consent to produce the instructions issued to Mr. Ellis alluded to by the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Mr. Hutt
believed that if this Bill were passed its effect would be, in the course of two years, to destroy all commercial intercourse between this country and the Brazils. Although this measure might, to some extent, prevent the Brazilian flag from affording protection to the Slave Trade, he believed hon. Gentlemen were mistaken if they supposed it would have the effect of preventing that trade from being carried on to the same extent as at present. His conviction was, that this measure would not diminish the Slave Trade; and in a fruitless attempt to effect that object the Government were sacrificing some of the best interests of this country, and bringing us to the very verge of war, or, at least, placing us in circumstances which it would be the highest wisdom to avoid. He therefore felt it his duty to oppose this Bill.
§ Viscount Palmerston
As I cannot concur in the views of many hon. Gentlemen near me, I am quite prepared to give Government my support as to the Bill now under the consideration of the House; indeed, I have no other course to pursue, having, as the right hon. Baronet has reminded me, been the first to suggest that this course should be pursued. Let us see how we stand. There exists a Treaty, concluded in 1826. Now, the question for the House to consider is, whether that Treaty is to be allowed to remain a dead letter; and whether all that was to be accomplished under it, and by it, is to be permitted to remain unfulfilled? or whether this House is to take such measures as it can, in order to carry it into practical execution? Parliament has repeatedly addressed the Executive since the year 1814, urging the Crown to conclude Treaties with Foreign Powers—pointing out the object of these Treaties to be the suppression of the Slave Trade—and, in some cases, suggesting the means by which they were to accomplish the purposes in view. Now, it would be utterly disgraceful to the country if Treaties so concluded were allowed to be violated by the bad faith of the Governments with whom they were contracted. I am sorry, Sir, to say, that it is impossible to state in exaggerated terms the just accusation against the Brazils, of bad faith as to the Conventions agreed to by it, respecting the Slave Trade. It is true, that the Government of which I was a Member did, during the ten years we were in office, urge, year after year, by every possible argument, the Government of the Brazils to 1059 fulfil the engagements by which they were bound. But all our inducements—all our arguments—all our persuasions, were utterly fruitless; and whenever the subject of the Slave Trade has been discussed here, the notoriously bad faith of the Brazilian Government has been on all hands admitted and deplored. Therefore, the question is, are they to be permitted to carry on their Slave Trade with perfect impunity? or are you to take, in order to prevent them, the only means which the Treaties you have passed, place within your power? Considering the matter in this light, I am prepared to share in any responsibility which, as an individual Member of Parliament, may accrue to me, in giving my support to this measure. At the same time, I must admit that there is some force in the observations of my hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson), that if the Government had not taken that injudicious course which they have thought it right to pursue, with respect to the Government of the Brazils, as to the Sugar Duties, I think it is very possible that we should not be placed in the situation in which we now find ourselves; because, Sir, it is certainly true, that that course was calculated to produce a great deal of unnecessary irritation in the Brazils—irritation which may have led the Government of that country to put an end to the Treaty of 1817. The argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, however, that you cannot expect Brazil to submit to what we now propose to do, because England would not submit, were any Foreign Power to assume the right of exercising on our coasts that sort of inspection and police, which we propose to establish on those of Brazil—I say, Sir, this argument does not appear to have much weight; and for this reason—the Government of the Brazils is bound by Treaty to submit; and I hope and trust, that were we so bound, we should also submit. Indeed, I am convinced we should; for I have such an opinion of the honour of this country, that I know we should submit to any inconvenience, however galling to the national pride, were we bound by stipulation to do so. Therefore, in asking Brazil to fulfil her engagements, we are only urging what we ourselves would consent to do, under converse circumstances. I fear, however, at the same time, that what, the hon. Member for Gateshead anticipates, in regard to the effect of the Treaty, may, in a great degree, take place. I am very much 1060 afraid we shall find the result of this will be, not to put an end to the Slave Trade of the Brazils, but to drive it to take shelter under some other flag. It is quite clear, that if the Right of Search be given up with France, and if it do not exist with America, that the Slave Trade to Brazil will be carried on under the flags of France and of the United States. Nevertheless, it is, perhaps, a point gained to drive it out from under the flag of Brazil, if such should be the effect of the Treaty. It seems to me, however, that a remark of the hon. Member for Manchester was not understood by the right hon. Baronet, as it was not adverted to by him, while he answered an observation which my hon. Friend did not make. I understood my hon. Friend to have put a particular question; and if he did not, I beg to put it myself. The Treaty with the Brazils says, that the subjects of Brazil who may, directly or indirectly, be concerned in carrying on the Slave Trade, shall be deemed as pirates; while the Bill before us merely applies to ships, not to subjects: and, if I understood my hon. Friend, he alluded to this discrepancy, and expressed a wish to know what were the grounds on which Government, proposing as it does to carry out the stipulations of the Treaty, introduced a measure different from that which these stipulations would allow them to propose. It appears to me, that the Bill falls short of what the Treaty would justify. Government, in acting under the Treaty, might deal with the subjects of Brazil, whilst the Bill is limited to dealing with ships and cargoes; and it may be remarked, that the confiscation of vessels and goods must be incidental to the crime of piracy committed by the owners of the one, and the navigators of the other; and, therefore, surely you are as much justified in punishing the latter, as in extending the consequence of their crime to matters contingent on the offence. Sir, I with to take this opportunity of recalling to the attention of Government one or two points which I more than once endeavoured to impress upon their notice, and which I hope will receive their attention during the recess. I would advert for a moment to the Slave Trade carried on upon the coast of Muscat. I adverted some few days ago to a Treaty signed by an officer of the French Government, which seems to me calculated to lead to a renewal of the Slave Trade from Zanzibar to the Isle of Bourbon. Since then, I see that the Due de Broglie, 1061 in the French Chamber, has stated that the Treaty did appear to contain some stipulations liable to that accusation; and on that ground, some of these clauses were not ratified. But if anybody will look to the Treaty which has been published to-day in the Anti-Slavery Reporter, it will be evident that it is hardly possible to ratify any portion of the Treaty without leading to the encouragement of the Slave Trade, and particularly of the land Slave Trade, on the eastern coast of Africa. For if you engage or hire persons who are in a state of slavery such as exists in Zanzibar — if you hire and carry them to another country, their places must be supplied, and will be supplied, by means of the internal Slave Trade of the country; and, therefore, I do hope that the Government will make those friendly representations to the Government of France which they are undoubtedly entitled to make, in order to urge the latter Cabinet to consider whether this Treaty, if acted upon, will not have the effect of encouraging those abominations of the Slave Trade which France—in common with every other civilized nation—must wish to see abolished. I think, however, that our Government ought to come to the consideration of the matter with clean hands; and I should recommend them to reconsider the orders issued by the Governor of the Mauritius, giving sanction to similar proceedings for the supply of labourers in that Colony. There is certainly this distinction between the two cases—slavery does not exist in the Mauritius, and, therefore, you can take care that the negroes brought thither shall be secured in the condition of free men; while slavery does exist in Bourbon, and labourers imported there, necessarily sink into the condition of slaves. But if the supply of labourers to Bourbon, give encouragement to the trade in Africa—a trade attended with so much cruelty—might not Government urge upon the Imaum of Muscat some arrangement to mitigate those horrors, of which the other night I read a description, taken from that part of Sir Fowell Buxton's work on the transport of negroes from San Sebastian to Zanzibar? I am sure that if Government were to express a strong feeling to the Imaum, much good might be done. Sir, I do trust that Government will not agree to permit the Governors of Cuba and Surinam to send to Coventry our Consuls and Slave Trade Commissioners in those countries. I may 1062 ask, too, whether the Governors of Cuba and of Surinam have been compelled by our Government to receive the communications which our Consuls and Commissioners are ordered by those who have sent them out, to make?
§ Sir R. Peel
We have made representations to Spain upon the subject, insisting upon the right of our Consuls and Commissioners to be heard.
§ Viscount Palmerston
I am only putting the right hon. Baronet in mind of the matter, as, amid the multiplicity of affairs to be attended to by a Government, it might be left to pass unnoticed. I know that the Governor of Surinam did not go so far as the Governor of Cuba. He took no notice of the representations of our agents, and in the whole year 1844 no answer has been received from him to any of their applications. I am sure, then, that the right hon. Baronet will feel that our officers are, both in Cuba and Surinam, in a position quite inconsistent with due respect for the Government which they represent. There is another point I wish to mention, relative to those negroes conveyed into Surinam. Those negroes have been so carried away against the law of England. The consequence was that they became forfeited to the Crown, and the result of that forfeiture was their freedom. Such being the case, then, I say that no Foreign Power can have a right to retain British subjects in a state of slavery, unless they have some legal right on which to ground that act of theirs. But in this case, the subjects of Spain and of Holland, who purchased those slaves, purchased them illegally; and I do hold that these British subjects are entitled to be rescued from the state of bondage in which they are now held, by the interference of the British Government. I hope the subject may receive the fullest and most liberal consideration of the Law Officers of the Crown, and if they feel that the Dutch and Spanish Governments have not an unquestionable right to retain these negroes in bondage, that Her Majesty's Government will feel that, not under any particular law, but under the general international rights of countries, they will be enabled to demand that these British subjects shall be set at liberty. Then there are the Emancipados. No progress has been made in giving them that freedom which by Treaty, and the decree of the Mixed Commission, they are entitled to. When General Valdez was in Cuba, from 1,200 1063 to 1,400 were set free. There remained slaves, some 2,000 or 3,000. It was then stated, that to liberate them all would be productive of inconvenience to the Colony. The excuse was quite futile; but so long as the Cuba authorities went on increasing the number of those to whom were granted certificates of freedom, there appeared little reason why the Government of this country should press the matter. This progress has, now, however, been stayed. General O'Donnell has ceased to grant these certificates of freedom; and seeing that such is the case, I hope that the Government will insist upon the virtual freedom of these nominally emancipated slaves. There is another point on which I am anxious to touch—namely, the case of those negroes introduced into Cuba in violation of Spanish law. It was on that question that the late Government proposed to that of Spain a Convention, giving a Mixed Commission Court power to inquire into the matter. The Spanish Government objected, and our Government acquiesced in the objection. I think that their doing so was unfortunate. We have, by Treaty, the right to demand that these negroes should be admitted to the freedom to which they are entitled. At all events, we are bound to press the point, that all negroes henceforward imported into Cuba should be free; and I am sure that if the point were pressed on Spain, it would go further than anything else to bring it to a faithful execution of the Treaty as it stands. I repeat, that in my opinion, some such arrangement might be made. Sir, I hope that the Slave-Trade Papers of next year may justify more than the Papers of this year, the expectations held out by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government that we should find satisfactory proof of the activity and energy of the Ministry upon the subject. When they talk of the Slave Trade, they say everything which a man can desire; but when we look to what they have done, I am sorry to say that their acts fall very far short of their promises. And as people have sometimes the habit of judging men by what they do rather then by what they say, I am afraid, as the matter now stands, that it is impossible to give them much credit for any active zeal in furthering an object so dear to every good and every reasonable man. I hope, however, that the points which I have urged, will not escape their attention; and I may be also permitted to express a hope that next year 1064 we shall have the Return which last year I moved for; so that we may have some better grounds to go upon, as we shall have when we know how many negroes are imported from time to time into America. May I hope that the industry of the Foreign Office shall be put in motion, and that a Return moved for in July, 1844, may be presented in February, 1846?
§ Sir Robert Peel
was understood to say, that if the noble Lord could point out the way in which the Returns could be made up, he would request Mr. Mandeville (as we understood) to use every exertion to supply the information. He could assure the noble Lord that he hoped it would be forthcoming, and he thought that Mr. Mandeville, whose diligence and ability the noble Lord was well acquainted with, would be able to satisfy him that it was not from inadvertency or negligence that the delay in the production of the Returns had arisen.
§ Mr. Gibson
wished to explain. What he meant to have said, and which seemed to be understood, was, that the Executive in Brazil having declared traffic in slaves piracy, but there being no law there to that effect, it was questionable whether we could carry into effect in English courts such a law against Brazilian subjects.
§ House resolved itself into Committee on the Bill.
§ On the 1st Clause,
§ Captain Pechell
said, he hoped the Government would not be unmindful of the officers who had done such important services in the Slave Trade. Lieutenant Wilson, of the Wasp, had been on a raft for twenty-one days, and he endured such sufferings, that he (Captain Pechell) considered him worthy of the highest reward. Six only out of thirteen escaped.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, there really must be a limit to the recommendations of promotions in that House. He had undertaken that in the case of the very gallant conduct of Mr. Robertson, a promotion should take place. But he should recommend that, as a rule, the question of promotion should be left to the decision of the Crown.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
said, there was a clear distinction between the two cases cited. The promotion of one was for an act of extreme valour, which, if it had been imitated, the disasters which had taken place might not have occurred. The 1065 other was the case of an officer who, by an accident of the elements, was placed in great peril. No doubt he deserved credit, and his case in all its bearings would be considered by the Admiralty; but it was quite distinct from the former.
§ Mr. Hawes
was anxious to know whether the Government had any objection to produce the instructions given to Mr. Ellis. The right hon. Gentleman was justified in proposing this Bill; but it was in consequence of the failure of the negotiations it became necessary. It was important to know, then, what the instructions were which led to the first rupture. Those who were better informed than he was, anticipated a still greater alienation of the Brazilian Government, in consequence of the present proposal. Parliament had, therefore, a right to know the origin of the evil.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, the House had always that degree of confidence in the Minister, as not to press for the production of documents which he pledged himself could not be given without detriment to the public service. He did not think these instructions had any immediate bearing on the present policy of this country, and he assured the hon. Gentleman their production would not increase the prospect of a successful termination of the negotiations for a commercial Treaty. If the hon. Member looked to the Papers before the House, he would see, that long before the mission of Mr. Ellis, every effort was exhausted to bring about an amicable negotiation on the subject of the Right of Search. So far back as 1835, an application with this view was refused. In 1840, a new proposition was made, but with a similar result. In 1841, also, when the Slave Trade was extensively carried on, Brazil refused to take any steps in conjunction with this country for putting a stop to it.
§ Mr. Gibson
said, that in 1841, when the negotiations were pending, they were brought to a sudden termination by the passing of the Resolution of the noble Member for Liverpool, which displaced the late Government. The House had a right to know what were the instructions which led to the alienation of Brazil. The right hon. Gentleman asked the House to put confidence in him. He did place confidence in the right hon. Gentleman, but not so far as to consent to legislate in the dark.
§ Viscount Palmerston
The memory of my hon. Friend must be shorter than I could have supposed, for the substance of the instructions to Mr. Ellis were stated at the time. I think, what was stated was, that it was intended to propose to the Brazils, some law which, by internal operation, should modify the condition of slavery. There was proposed by Mr. Ellis as a sine qua non, some law applicable to the condition of slavery, and the Brazils began by a condition sine qua non, inadmissible by any negociator for this country; and, therefore, Mr. Ellis never found himself in a situation which would enable him to state officially the condition which we wished to impose. Most unquestionably I always considered such a condition a very injudicious step on the part of our Government. We were perfectly entitled to press measures which would cause them to fulfil their engagements to put an end to the Slave Trade; but we had no Treaty rights to stand on which would justify us in calling for internal regulations as to the condition of slavery. It must be obvious to every one that we were taking the bull by the horns—that we were asking what it was not in the least likely we could, by any possibility, obtain—and that when we made the passing of a law as to slavery, the condition of our admission of their sugar, we were opposing an obstacle which it was impossible to overcome.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ On Clause 3, which provides that vessels engaged in the Slave Trade, contrary to Convention, should be tried by Courts of Admiralty,
§ Sir Thomas Wilde
said, it must be borne in mind that this clause subjected those who belonged to another State to trial by our law. Now, in the first place it must be observed that the mere agreement between, the Brazils and this country to pass a Treaty declaring the Slave Trade piracy, could not be brought into operation against the subjects of the Brazils, unless a law was passed there for the purpose of giving it effect, no more than the mere declaration of the Minister could apply to our subjects, unless the Legislature carried it into operation by a special Act. When that Treaty was made, a particular jurisdiction, called the Mixed Commission, was created, to try the question as to the forfeiture of vessels acting in contravention of it; and the British Legislature 1067 passed an Act restricting the jurisdiction of the Courts of Admiralty, with respect to such cases as were likely to come before the Mixed Commission. Whether the Courts of Admiralty would or would not have had jurisdiction he should not stop to inquire; but it seemed to be assumed that they would have had such jurisdiction, by the restraint imposed by the Act. The present Act, however, gave them express jurisdiction. The First Clause declares that the subjects of the Emperor of the Brazils, if found engaged in the Slave Trade, should be deemed guilty of piracy; and then by this clause it was declared that the Courts of Admiralty should have jurisdiction over any vessels engaged in the Slave Trade in contravention of the Convention of 1826. Now, he could very well understand that as a general principle both countries should agree that the subjects of each engaged in the Slave Trade should be guilty of piracy; but the question was, could they go so far as this Bill attempted, and declare that foreign subjects—Shall be tried by the like rules and regulations as are contained in any Act of Parliament now in force in relation to the suppression of the Slave Trade by British owned ships?Would it not be better to say that they should be proceeded against as pirates? With respect to the negroes alluded to by his noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston), perhaps he might be allowed to suggest a difficulty as to their position, which struck him forcibly. At the time these negroes were transported there was a property in them recognised by the law of England. Now, supposing they were goods, and that you prohibited their exportation, would you, because their transfer was a forfeiture in your own subjects, be justified in saying to a foreigner who had fairly purchased them, "We demand these goods because a British subject illegally exported them?" The Crown could acquire no title to them except by record; but the judgment once obtained, it referred back to the Act of Forfeiture. If the goods could be seized before the new title of the foreigner intervened, we might claim them; but, as it was, the question required great consideration.
The Attorney General
was sure the House must feel greatly indebted to his hon. and learned Friend for the valuable suggestions which he had thrown out. As 1068 he was particularly anxious that his hon. and learned Friend's opinions should not be misrepresented, he begged to ask him whether he correctly understood the proposition which his hon. Friend had laid down? If he understood him correctly, his hon. and learned Friend denied the power of the Brazilian Government to enter into a Treaty with this country, by which the dealing in slaves should be declared piracy. [Sir T. Wilde: No. no!] His hon. and learned Friend then admitted that the Brazilians had the right to enter into such a Treaty. In 1826, the Brazilians adopted all the stipulations of the Treaty with Portugal of 1817, which embodied all the stipulations respecting the Mixed Commission, and in which it was declared that dealing in slaves on the part of the subjects of either State, within three years of the ratification of the Treaty, should be piracy. In consequence of the adoption of the Treaty, the Mixed Commission Court was a necessary part of the stipulations, and the 7th and 8th of George IV. was passed. In March, 1845, the stipulations of the Treaties with the Brazils, with respect to the Mixed Commission and other matters, ended. It was admitted that the Brazilians passed no law for the abolition of the Slave Trade; but he contended that the whole of the Treaty, declaring it to be piracy, was equivalent to the abolition of the Slave Trade by that country. The question was, whether, in consequence of this Article in the Convention, the jurisdiction of the Admiralty and Admiralty Courts still existed. He had no doubt on the subject; but it appeared that doubts were entertained The question, then, was as to the mode this matter should be dealt with. He knew no other mode in which they could treat the subject than to regard it as piracy, and then, inasmuch as parties guilty of piracy were liable, by the law of nations, as enemies of mankind, to the most severe punishment, they should be dealt with accordingly. As the Mixed Commission would expire, it became necessary to revive the jurisdiction of the Courts of Admiralty, and powers must be given to them accordingly; therefore, he considered that the first part of the clause was essential and necessary. The first part of the clause enacted—That it shall be lawful for Her Majesty's High Court of Admiralty, and any Court of Vice-Admiralty, within Her Majesty's domin- 1069 ions, to take cognizance of and adjudicate any vessel carrying on the African Slave Trade in contravention of the said Convention of the 23rd day of November, 1826, and detained and seized on that account subsequently to the said 13th day of March, by any person or persons in the service of Her Majesty, under any order or authority of the Lord High Admiral, or of the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral, or of one of Her Majesty's Secretaries of State, and the slaves and cargo found therein.He thought, with submission to his hon. and learned Friend, that it would be better to give this power under the Article of the Convention, instead of saying that engaging in the Slave Trade must be treated as piracy. It would be better to refer to the Article of the Convention, than to a course which might imply an erroneous interpretation of it. The clause then wenton—In like manner, and under the like rules and regulations as are contained in any Act of Parliament now in force, in relation to the suppression of the Slave Trade by British owned ships, as fully, to all intents and purposes, as if such Acts were re-enacted in this Act, as to such vessels, and to such High Court of Admiralty, or Courts of Vice-Admiralty.He admitted, that he thought that this part of the clause deserved very serious consideration, as to how far they might carry out the provision by this stipulation. He did not mean to say that he could not justify it; on the contrary, he believed that he could; and he certainly could not abandon the latter part of the clause without serious consideration. He had heard the objections of his hon. and learned Friend for the first time; and he admitted that they involved matters worthy of consideration. Did he understand his hon. and learned Friend meant to say, that there was great danger in adopting the clause as it stood? He thought that it would be better to leave the objection of his hon. and learned Friend for further consideration at a future stage of the Bill; but he was not at once prepared to adopt his views.
§ Sir T. Wilde
wished shortly to explain. Suppose that this country made a Treaty with the Executive Government of a foreign nation, and in which there was an Article declaring that to be piracy which was not so by the law of nations—for some civilized nations had regarded the Slave Trade as legitimate commerce — suppose that Executive Government had no powers from its Legislature to punish such act as 1070 piracy, could that Government enforce the stipulation in the Treaty? If the Executive Government possessed the power of making criminal laws, there the case ended. The Minister who made the Treaty must be assured that he could get the Legislature to make a law to carry out this stipulation, or in other respects it was a dead letter. If a country could not maintain the provisions of such a Treaty against its own subjects, how could it do so against the subjects of another Power? Was it meant to say that this country had greater power and authority over Brazilian subjects, than over British subjects? There might be countries where the executive and legislative powers were united in the same body; but this was not the case with respect either to the Brazils or this country. He apprehended that two Executive Governments had no power to make that a crime which was not acknowledged to be so, by the respective Legislatures of those two countries. Therefore, any agreement between two nations did not constitute an offence piracy, without the legislative authority of each. Were there any other stipulations in the Treaties than the Convention alluded to, to give this power of confiscating slave ships, and prosecuting the parties as having been guilty of piracy? He understood, that because the Brazilian Government had put an end to the Mixed Commission, that this Bill had been introduced; but he would say, take care that its provisions were confined within the bounds of the existing Treaties. He would suggest, if there were other powers or stipulations on this subject, that they should be looked to most attentively, as the subject was of great importance. Recollect that this clause applied an interpretation and a law to piracy, which was not applicable by the law of nations. They might punish their own subjects as pirates for any offence they pleased; but could they pass a law to punish as pirates the subject of another nation, for committing such an act against the subjects of a third nation? They had no more right to make a law binding on the subjects of Brazil, than they had on the subjects of China, or any other nation; and they had no right to punish them for an alleged act of piracy, which was not piracy by the law of that country. If powers did exist in the Treaties, they must take care that they strictly adhered to them, or the worst consequences might ensue; but the probability was, that they could not do anything. All that he wished 1071 to suggest was, that before they attempted to act as they proposed, that they should exercise the utmost caution.
§ Sir R. Peel
was satisfied, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had no other object in view than the promotion of the public interest, in the suggestions which he had just made. The hon. and learned Gentleman's objections were mainly directed to the latter part of the clause. He was bound to say that the preparation of this Bill was committed to the most able hands; and if he mentioned the names of those gentlemen it would be sufficient to make the Committee assured that it had received the most mature consideration. There were two subjects to be considered in this matter—the situation in which the Brazilian persons engaged in the Slave Trade would be placed by the clause, and the situation of Brazilian slave vessels captured. The Bill did not authorize more to be done against Brazilian persons or Brazilian property so engaged, than could be done under the present Convention. Under the Article of the Treaty of 1826, it was, perhaps, doubtful whether authority was not given to each Power to judge as to whether any case of slave trading was piracy or not. Since the Treaty was signed in 1826, which was subsidiary to that with Portugal in 1817, this country had only dealt with property, and not with persons engaged in the Slave Trade. The object of this measure was also only to deal with property. He admitted that it would be difficult to deal with Brazilian subjects engaged in the Slave Trade as pirates; for by their own municipal law it was not piracy; and even if it were, the punishment in the two countries for that crime was not similar. British subjects for that offence were liable to transportation for life; but this was not the case with Brazilian subjects. With respect to the engagement with the Brazils, in the First Article of the Convention there were two provisions, the one having respect to the period of the abolition of the Slave Trade, and the other to its absolute abolition. The Article was—At the expiration of three years, to be reckoned from the exchange of the ratifications of the present Treaty, it shall not be lawful for the subjects of the Emperor of the Brazils to be concerned in the carrying on of the African Slave Trade, under any pretext, or in any manner whatever, and the carrying on of such trade after that period, by any person, subject of His Imperial Majesty, shall be deemed and treated as piracy.1072 It was thought to be compatible with this Article of the Treaty to proceed against the parties so engaged in the Slave Trade before the Admiralty or Vice-Admiralty Courts, for penalties not exceeding those imposed for piracy. With regard to Brazilian vessels so engaged, the law was the same as with respect to British vessels. It was thought by the high authorities who framed this Bill, that there was nothing inconsistent with the Treaty in enforcing the penalty as that proposed. He would, however, refer the subject to those persons, and would take it into his consideration before the third reading. Before that period, he could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman, that the Bill should undergo further consideration; and for this purpose there should be no delay in communicating with the gentlemen who framed it. If the case should be as stated by the hon. and learned Gentlemen, he would see what alterations could be made.
§ Mr. M. Gibson
observed that the right hon. Baronet had stated that it was not intended to provide against the persons of Brazilian' subjects who were taken while engaged in the Slave Trade; but Lord Aberdeen, in his despatch just laid on the Table, stated that under the Treaty he could deal with Brazilian subjects engaged in the Slave Trade as pirates. This was very different from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir Robert Peel
stated, that the Convention enabled them to deal with both persons and property engaged in the Slave Trade; but for the last thirty years, they had not carried the Convention into effect against persons. Practically the treatment under the Treaty was not the same between the two countries, as there were no British vessels engaged in the Slave Trade; but many Brazilian vessels had been and were now engaged in it; but in no case had a Brazilian subject been proceeded with for piracy for being taken in a slave ship, although many Brazilian vessels had been confiscated for having been so employed. All that they asked for, was sufficient powers to suppress the Slave Trade, in conformity with the stipulations of the Treaty. Although an abstract right existed as to dealing with persons engaged in the Slave Trade, there would be the same abstinence as for the last thirty years from exercising the extreme right; and although they might, under the Treaty, deal with Brazilian subjects engaged in the Slave Trade as pirates, yet they, under 1073 that Bill, only really asked for powers to confiscate the ships of Brazilian subjects employed in the Slave Trade.
§ Captain Pechell
said, that under this Bill they proposed to deal with captured Brazilian slave ships in a different manner before the Admiralty Courts than before the Court of Mixed Commission. He doubted whether they could do this under the Treaty. In this Bill they took the power of destroying ships so taken, whereas under the old Treaty they were sold entire, which made a great difference to the captors. He believed that they had not legal authority to break up these ships. This country never had a power under the Convention to detain a Brazilian ship equipped for the Slave Trade. He wished to know whether it was now intended to detain Brazilian vessels equipped for the Slave Trade in the same way as they did ships under the Spanish Treaty?
§ Sir R. Peel
replied, that the equipment was admitted as a proof of a ship being engaged in the Slave Trade.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ On the 4th Clause being put,
§ Sir Robert Peel
would assure the hon. Member that he would take no unfair advantage, if they went on with the Bill then. If it was necessary, he would introduce the proposed alterations in the third reading.
§ Mr. M. Gibson
did not believe that they would carry out the objects of the Bill by means of it; he therefore trusted that his hon. Friend would persist in his opposition to its progress then. The whole power of the Bill was involved in the 3rd Clause, and this was open to the most serious objections. Because they were then in July or August, he did not see why they should not do their business properly. If they could not do so, let the right hon. Gentleman prorogue Parliament, but do not force measures through the House in July, without that consideration which they would have received in March.
§ Sir R. Peel
was willing to recommit the Bill if necessary, provided it was allowed to go through its present state. The Bill could not have been brought in at an earlier period of the Session, in consequence of the requisite information not having been obtained from the Brazils, and it was of 1074 importance that it should pass without delay. He argued that the subject required the most serious consideration, and it certainly should receive it; but he trusted that the hon. Member would not then press his opposition.
§ Mr. Muntz
said, that under the circumstances, he would not press his objection at the present stage of the Bill, although he still objected to its being hurried through the House. He felt after what had been stated by the hon. and learned Member for Worcester, that the attempt to act in such a manner would lead us into such a contest with one nation that it would produce a general war.
§ Clause agreed to, as were the remaining clauses. House resumed.