§ Mr. Hutt
Among the various proposals which have been submitted to Parliament for revising measures which erroneous principles of legislation and mistaken humanity have imposed upon the country, I am surprised that none has been made for reconsidering the nature and results of that system by which we have undertaken to put down the Slave Trade. There has long existed in this country a very earnest and generous desire to extinguish the Slave Trade. Every successive Administration which, during the last forty years, has assumed the direction of public affairs, has exerted itself vigorously and perseveringly for the furtherance of this popular object. During that period—the last forty years—we have had Governments not distinguished by devotion to the real welfare or the constitutional liberties of their own countrymen; but I know of none which did not appear sensible to the wrongs and sufferings of the people of Africa. And the zeal of Government in this respect has always 1157 been warmly seconded by the public opinion of the country, especially where that opinion has been affected by the more religious communities. The ardour of these parties for the extinction of the Slave Trade has been occasionally extreme; indeed, the intensity of their feelings on this subject has made them strangely insensible on many others. For instance, since the termination of the late war there have been periods of great national distress—a sudden paralysis has affected all the operations of productive industry, and public economy has been fiercely demanded by the cry of the nation. But even then I can recollect no occasion on which any doubt has been expressed by any one as to the propriety of keeping up a large expenditure for the suppression of the Slave Trade. There have been times, too, when, from the reduction of establishments, our naval force has hardly been adequate to the duty of protecting our maritime and commercial interests, when more than a fourth of the naval power voted by Parliament has been employed in protecting the African population; but I cannot call to mind any proposal having been made to reconsider that policy. But what is more remarkable, we have been conscious of great miseries at home; we have had it proved to us, not only by personal observation, but by the more accurate and reliable investigation of royal Commissioners, that millions of our own countrymen—I speak of the three kingdoms — pass from the cradle to the grave in a state of moral and physical destitution little superior to that of the savages of the desert; and while we have done little or nothing for their relief, we have shrunk from no exertion, and scrupled at no expense, for repressing misery in Africa. Foreigners have thought these contrasts too violent for sound morality, and have asserted that there was something selfish and sinister in the prodigality of our African sympathies. They believe that we have other objects than disinterested humanity. I will not undertake to say, that none of those who have promoted the abolition fervour have derived personal advantage from the agitation. I have no doubt that many have; but of the country I can confidently affirm, that no people ever engaged more warmly in an undertaking which they were urged by their own interests to pursue. I am no apologist for the Slave Trade. I regard it as an appalling crime, and I feel as much satisfaction as any man can do in contemplating 1158 our exertions against it, so long as they have been confined to our legitimate sphere of action. But I contend that we cannot, without culpable neglect of nearer and higher duties, assume the task of extirpating the crime from among all other people, or patrolling the world to put it down. I deny entirely that we are under any kind of moral obligation to attempt it. But giving that question up, suppose that it is the paramount duty of this country to put down at any cost, at any risk of the consequences to ourselves, the frightful crimes which other nations are habitually perpetrating against the people of Africa; admit that instead of occupying ourselves with the welfare of our own suffering and neglected countrymen, we are right in ex pending our means and our exertions in warding off evil from the tribes of Africa, in extinguishing in fact the Slave Trade, are we extinguishing it? Here is the pith of the case. We have gone on for thirty years, not only assuming that a distant and barbarous people had more claims on our conscience than our own countrymen, but blindly and indolently assuming also that treaties, and commission courts, and preventive squadrons, meant suppression of the Slave Trade. I think it is time to inquire whether our assumption be correct. I want the House of Commons to ascertain the fact. We have been pursuing a system, very expensive as I am prepared to show, and deplorably destructive of the enterprising and gallant men engaged in our naval service, as I can prove also—a system which is constantly compromising the honour of the British Crown by lending us to form treaties with foreign countries, which foreign countries habitually disregard—a system which is for ever bringing us into collision with jealous and powerful nations, and thereby hazarding the peace of the world. Well, we have tried it long—we have tried it perseveringly, in almost every shape, under almost every modification of circumstances. What is the award which our long and large experience at last pronounces on the efficacy of our system? Is it possible that we have tried it in vain? I entreat the attention of the House to this point. For more than thirty years together we have busied ourselves with nothing so much as the abolition of the foreign Slave Trade—the abolitionists have had placed at their disposal the utmost latitude, one might almost say licentiousness of means—public money to any extent—naval armaments watching 1159 every shore and every sea where a slaveship could be seen or suspected—courts of special judicature in half the intertropical regions of the globe—diplomatic influence and agency, such perhaps, as this country never before concentrated on any public object. Well, we have succeeded in abolishing the Slave Trade, of course? Sir, we have failed, with consequences which it is frightful to contemplate. These are not my opinions, nor the opinions of any one whose judgment you can call in question; they are the opinions of those who have had the management of the suppression machinery, and who are responsible for its operation—I mean Sir Fowell Buxton and the Anti-Slavery Society, the noble Lord the Member for London, the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, and even of Lord Aberdeen. In 1839, Sir Fowell Buxton, to whose memory the right hon. Baronet paid the other evening so just and so feeling a tribute, published an elaborate and valuable work on this subject. After drawing together with great accuracy and research all the facts which could be brought to bear on this important question, and sifting and weighing them with that fairness and candour which were the amiable attributes of his mind, Sir Fowell Buxton came to this conclusion:—Towards the end of the last century the cruelty and the carnage which raged in Africa were laid open. From the most generous motives, and at a mighty cost, we have attempted to arrest this evil; it is, however, but too evident, that under the mode we have taken for the suppression of the Slave Trade it has increased. It has been proved, by documents which cannot be controverted, that, for every village fired, and every drove of human beings marched in former times, there are now double. For every cargo then at sea, two cargoes, or twice the numbers in one cargo, wedged together in a mass of living corruption, are now borne on the wave of the Atlantic. But, whilst the numbers who suffer have increased, there is no reason to believe that the sufferings of each have been abated; on the contrary, we know that in some particulars these have increased; so that the sum total of misery swells in both ways. Each individual has more to endure; and the number of individuals is twice what it was. The result, therefore, is, that aggravated suffering reaches multiplied numbers.Such were the opinions of this humane, enlightened, and honourable man. Sir Fowell Buxton, who represents the inventors and patrons of the system, states, in 1839— 1160It is, then, but too manifest, that the efforts already made for the suppression of the Slave Trade have not accomplished their benevolent object. Millions of money, and multitudes of lives, have been sacrificed; and in return for all, we have only the afflicting conviction that the Slave Trade is as far as ever from being suppressed. Once more, then, I must declare my conviction that the Slave Trade will never be suppressed by the system hitherto pursued.Such was the conviction which a careful review of the whole system forced on the mind of this virtuous and enlightened man. The Anti-Slavery Society echoed the same sentiments. But I have greater authorities than these. The noble Lord the Member for London is admitted by men of all parties to have displayed, in the arduous office of Secretary for the Colonies, talents and accomplishments of no ordinary character, in dealing with the various questions which came under his notice. What said the noble Lord on the subject of the Slave Trade, at the close of 1839? Writing an official letter to the Lords of the Treasury on the subject, he expressed himself in the following terms:—Under such circumstances, to repress the foreign Slave Trade by a marine guard would scarcely be possible, if the whole British Navy could be employed for that purpose. It is an evil which can never be adequately encountered by any system of mere prohibition and penalties.I come now to the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman attended a grand meeting at Exeter-hall, on the 1st of June, 1840, for the extinction of the Slave Trade. The right hon. Gentleman was more prudent in his anticipations on that occasion than some of his colleagues. He did not profess to expect that the Niger Expedition would instantly convert the interior of Africa into an Atalantis of happiness; but he is reported to have said—I had not the good fortune to be present—that the efforts for abolishing the Slave Trade had failed, and had even aggravated the misery of individual cases; and in order, as he said, to prove to the company that the Slave Trade was still in all its sinful vigour, he quoted from a newspaper one of those dreadful cases of the loss of life on board a slave vessel, with which we are but too familiar. I think, in this instance, out of 900 slaves crammed on board a small brig, 700 had perished in a voyage between Mozambique and the Cape of Good Hope. Lord Aberdeen's authority is perhaps more important, as it is of more 1161 recent date. Lord Aberdeen has not, indeed, pronounced any opinion, as far as I know, upon the whole question; but it is impossible to read his despatches to Mr. Bulwer, in 1844, and to the British Minister at Rio Janeiro, without seeing that he fully participates in the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Gentleman in 1840. Then there is the petition of Thomas Clarkson, presented to the House at the beginning of this year. Now, I think this is authority enough. I shall not attempt to strengthen this part of my case by showing how perfectly the views of our consuls and commissioners in various parts of Africa and America coincide with these convictions at home. I pass them by, and proceed at once to the facts derived from official Papers, on which it is to be presumed that the opinions of those great authorities were mainly founded. I find that the number of Africans carried away from their native country, at the beginning of the present century, was estimated in official documents at 90,000 or 100,000. At that time, Great Britain was actively engaged in the trade, and appropriated more than one-half of it. In 1807, the Abolition Act passed. The withdrawal of Great Britain from all participation in the Slave Trade necessarily diminished the amount of the exported slaves. The war was not favourable to the foreign Slave Trade; and there is reason to believe that, at the close of the war, this infamous traffic had not, in any degree, recovered its former magnitude. What is the amount of it now? What is the number of Africans who are now dragged away from the country, and sold into everlasting slavery and exile? It cannot be less, and it may be more, than 200,000 per annum, or double the number the Slave Trade ever reached before we undertook to put it down. It is still on the increase; the numbers will, of course, vary in particular years, under the influences that affect all commercial operations. Nor do I deny that the means we have directed against the Slave Trade, such as the penalties of piracy, the Equipment Treaty, the Right of Search, have all given at times a temporary check to its operations. The sanguine abolitionists have hailed these transient interruptions as evidences of the triumph of their system. It was a gross error. Their system, however, has exercised no durable suppressive influence whatever. The wave has retreated; but the tide has steadily advanced. Mr. Maclean, the late Governor of Cape 1162 Coast Castle, who, I believe, did more than all our treaties, and all our squadrons, for the suppression of the Slave Trade; and whom the Colonial Office, with its usual wisdom, has removed from his sphere of usefulness — Mr. Maclean estimated the number of slaves carried away in the year 1838, from the Bights of Benin and Biatra, at 140,000. Lord John Russell says—But after the most attentive examination which it has been in my power to make, of official documents, and especially of the Correspondence communicated to Parliament from the Department of Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I find it impossible to avoid the conclusion, that the average number of slaves introduced into Foreign States or Colonies in America and the West Indies, from the Western Coast of Africa, annually exceeds 100,000. In this estimate a very large deduction is made for the exaggerations which are, more or less, inseparable from all statements on a subject so well calculated to excite the feelings of every impartial and disinterested witness. But, making this deduction, the number of slaves actually landed in the importing countries affords but a very imperfect indication of the real extent of the calamities which this traffic inflicts on its victims. No record exists of the multitudes who perish in the overland journey to the African Coast, or in the passage across the Atlantic, or of the still greater number who fall a sacrifice to the warfare, pillage, and cruelties by which the Slave Trade is fed. Unhappily, however, no fact can be more certain, than that such an importation as I have mentioned, presupposes and involves a waste of human life, and a sum of human misery, proceeding from year to year, without respite or intermission, to such an extent as to render the subject the most painful of any which, in the survey of the condition of mankind, it is possible to contemplate.This is an estimate of the numbers landed in America, and taken from the west coast of Africa only. The noble Lord says that, limited in that way, the number exceeds 100,000, Sir F. Buxton proved from official Papers that the number of negroes introduced in 1838 from Africa into Cuba and Brazil was 140,000–61,000 into Cuba, and 78,000 into Brazil. But this is only an account of the slaves whom our consuls or agents had ascertained to be introduced. It is no return at all of the whole body actually imported into the two countries. Take, for instance, Brazil. The Consul General reports to the Foreign Office that he had received information of 78,331 having been clandestinely imported into the five 1163 principal seaports of Brazil; but can we suppose that when so many are smuggled into these five ports, that large numbers are not also landed on the remaining line of coast—a coast extending 2,600 miles, and abounding with harbours, creeks, and rivers, where disembarkation could be easily effected. 140,000 slaves are, however, proved to be landed; one-third more, or 46,000, must on an average have been torn from the coast of Africa; the average loss being from 30 to 35 per cent. 8,000 were in that year captured by British cruisers. We have thus 194,000 slaves exported from Africa for the supply of Cuba and Brazil during the year 1838. But Cuba and Brazil are not the only countries engaged in the Slave Trade. Porto Rico, Buenos Ayres, Texas, and the United States, are all participators in the crime. I know that persons have doubted whether the United States really import any slaves. I presume the Members of this House doubt it whenever the Sugar Duties are under discussion. I believe, however, that such is the fact. I rest my opinion not on the circumstance that it has been constantly alleged in the American Congress; not on the circumstance that there are so many slaves in America who do not know the English language; but upon this: I know that in Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, there is a large demand and a high price for every slave offered there for sale. I know that Americans are actively engaged in the Slave Trade for the supply of other markets. The Papers before the House constantly refer to slave ships belonging to American owners, fitted with American capital, sailing under American colours. Is it credible that under circumstances such as these, and the temptation of very high prices in America, that African born negroes are not introduced there? They may not be introduced directly from Africa; they may come through Texas, they may come through Cuba; but it would contradict all human experience to doubt that, with these facilities, high profits did not ensure the supply. Well, then, we have ascertained that in 1838, 194,000 negroes were torn from Africa, for supplying the markets of Cuba and Brazil; and there is presumptive evidence, amounting almost to a certainty, that a much larger number were actually smuggled into those countries. We have the importations into Porto 1164 Rico, Texas, Buenos Ayres, and the United States yet unaccounted for; can we hesitate to conclude that the Slave Trade is now, after all our expenditure and exertions, double what it was in 1814? Well, it may be said that my evidence only goes to show it was so in 1838; it may have diminished since. We have had the Right of Search Treaties of 1841, and the Treaty with Portugal of 1842; it may have disappeared altogether. What says the Slave Correspondence recently placed in our hands? The Commissioners at Sierra Leone state, at the beginning of 1844:—From the foregoing statement your Lordship will perceive that, unhappily for the case of humanity, the Slave Trade has greatly increased during the year 1843.The Commissioners at Havannah state, at the same time:—The list of vessels proceeding to the coast of Africa is far exceeding that of the last year. We regret having it further to state, as a matter of public understanding, that the trade is to be allowed to continue as much connived at as ever previously. From our former despatches, and the one we have hereafter to submit on the state of the trade during the last month, your Lordship will see the alarming extent to which these proceedings are now projected.On the 7th August, 1844, the Commissary Judge writes to Lord Aberdeen:—During the last month, I regret to have to report that the Slave Trade has exhibited proofs of unabated activity.The Commissioners at Rio afford corresponding testimony:—The total number of slaves, as shown by the present return, is not one half of the actual number successfully imported. We are assured that nearly 40,000 have been landed within these provinces in the period. This sudden augmentation during the past year is attributable to the continued encouragement and protection afforded by the Brazilian Administration to all slaving adventures. The greater number of slave ships which have effected the landing of their cargoes, have escaped our vigilant observation in consequence of the novel system recently followed by the slave dealers, which has proved eminently prosperous.Mr. Hesketh, the Consul at Rio, states, on the 2nd April, 1844:—The clandestine importation of slaves is carried on as extensively as ever.Now, Sir, I wish to place those broad 1165 facts before the common sense of the House. If this question is to be made a subject of casuistical dispute—a contention about words and terms, or a feat of strength in oratory, why, I now admit my utter incapacity to meet the right hon. Gentleman on such grounds; but upon the truth—upon the facts of the case — upon the practical results of the system, I fear no one whatever; and I trust, and believe, that I have now stated sufficient to the House to establish that part of my Resolution which says, that the traffic in slaves is undiminished. I have another charge against this rash and idle system. It actually grows the crime which it proposes to put down. We are constantly complaining that the people of Cuba and Brazil do not co-operate with us in our crusade against the Slave Trade. I know they do not; but is their estrangement from us in this work really a matter of astonishment? They have no fondness for the Slave Trade. The respectable people, the persons of wealth and intelligence in both countries view the traffic with consternation and horror. The extraordinary disproportion of the negro to the white population of Brazil has long been viewed by all prudent men of that State with anxiety and alarm. The same in Cuba. The British Commissioners at the Havannah write thus to Lord Aberdeen at the beginning of last year:—The consternation among the planters is exceedingly great; and within the last month there was a memorial presented to the Governor of Matanzas, signed by upwards of sixty of the most respectable planters and inhabitants of that city and the neighbourhood, of a most remarkable character. The memorialists complained in express terms 'of the bad faith towards England, in the continuing to permit the introduction of negroes, to the great injury of the island, and against the earnest wishes of the great majority of the people.' We are sorry we have not been able to procure a copy; but we have these expressions from a gentleman who read it, and on whose statement we can rely. This petition was directed to the Captain General, and was delivered to the Governor of Matanzas to be forwarded, who tore it in the presence of the parties deputed, telling them that it was the most friendly act he could do for them, as such a petition was an insult to the Government, and they would be looked upon as conspirators. The memorialists on this determined to present one to the Captain General direct, on hearing of which the Governor of Matanzas, Don Antonio Garcia Ona, called some of the principals, and told them 1166 that unless they desisted he would have to proceed against them officially.A copy was afterwards discovered and transmitted to Lord Aberdeen. It is among the Papers presented this year to Parliament. It is a vehement condemnation of the Slave Trade, and a most earnest appeal to the Government to put it down. It may be thought singular that, with so unquestionable a concurrence in our views, and with so many Treaties pledging them to co-operation, these people should not only refuse us all assistance in our common object, but, on the contrary, should treat all our abolition efforts with unmitigated hostility. But there is really nothing astonishing in the matter. It is one of the unhappy effects of the preposterous system of meddling and interference out of our legitimate sphere of action. The very means we resort to for putting down the Slave Trade actually promote its continuance by enlisting the passions and prejudices, and even the national pride and honour, of all the slave-trading countries in its defence. No nation—as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh observed some nights ago—no nation likes to be told by another, we are more virtuous than you. The very assumption of such superiority provokes contradiction — provokes in the hearts of those we admonish a disposition to justify both their conduct and their principles. But we do not confine ourselves to admonishing and lecturing our neighbours on morality, though the annual Slave Trade Correspondence proves that we do a great deal in that line. We do, however, something else—something far more exasperating. Now, I should like to know what would be the feelings of any of the inhabitants of our own coast — Brighton, for example—if they were in the habit of hearing that British vessels engaged in smuggling had been chased, burnt, sunk, or run ashore by Russian or American ships of war, fitted out to suppress their illicit operations with France; if every now and then they beheld vessels belonging to their own port, on board which they knew that their own townsmen were serving—over which their own national colours were flying — destroyed off their own town, or captured and carried away as a prize before their own eyes by the ships of a foreign nation—of a foreign nation which, arrogating to itself superior conscientiousness, had promoted 1167 a league to put down public immorality throughout the world. What would be the natural feelings of the people of Brighton in such exasperating circumstances? Would they not violently rebel against the foreign dictators, who came to teach them morality with fire and sword? As for my gallant Friend the Member for Brighton, I am convinced that he would immediately leave off legislating for oysters and periwinkles. He would put to sea, and become a smuggler on a principle of public spirit. But, indeed, Sir, it is true, the course we are pursuing deprives us of the assistance—the cheapest, the most powerful, the most effectual which we could have, in the public opinion of the countries in question. We not only fail to secure that valuable co-operation, but we actually contrive, in spite of the alarm of this people about the Slave Trade, to array public feeling against us. By the vigilance of our consuls, and other agents, we are supplied with something like an account of the number of those unhappy beings who are annually carried off from their country and sold into slavery for life. But, Sir, we have no account—for no computation can be formed—of the multitudes who are massacred in the progress of the operation. We know nothing of the numbers who annually perish while penned up in the African baracoons, waiting for embarkation—nothing of the numbers who perish in the ship's hold, even in the most favourable voyage across the Atlantic—nothing of those who are suffocated under the hatches in a storm, or who are heaved alive into the sea on the approach of a cruiser—far too little of those who annually sink under the effects of confinement, suffering, and disease in the slave ship, in the dreadful period between their capture by our cruisers, and the adjudication of their case by the Commission and Admiralty Courts. Of the sufferings of those who survive the horrors of the voyage, there is no one to give us an account. All that we know is, that the whole constitutes a complication of tortures of human mind and body—scenes of misery, blood, and death, such as are probably unmatched in any other passage of earthly affliction. And, mind, before we undertook to suppress the Slave Trade by force, there was little or nothing of this. Both the seller and the buyer of the slaves were interested above everything 1168 else in the safety of their articles of trade. The slaves were brought down by the African chiefs to convenient spots on the coast; there they were expected by the European dealer. After they were purchased, they were openly and leisurely embarked. They were generally accommodated on board ship in a way to secure their physical well-being. The first concern of their owner was their preservation. The moment we undertook to destroy the trade by violent means, all this was changed. The first object now of the slave trader was not the safety of his cargo, but his own escape from capture; and the consequence has been an accumulation of horrors in all the operations of the Slave Trade, such as, to use the words of Mr. Burke, no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no tongue can describe. I now come, Sir, to the most critical part of my subject; but, having at last taken it up, no false delicacy shall restrain me from speaking plainly what I feel with deep sincerity to be true. Our system is the direct cause of these horrors, and for that system we are personally responsible; and we—myself—every man who has a seat in the Legislature, but, above all, the Ministers of the Crown, who might put a stop to these deeds of atrocity if they would, and who will not do it, are participators in the perpetration of the crime. The slaves are now brought down in gangs of thousands to the baracoons on the coast, and have there to wait until they can be embarked so as to elude the vigilance of our cruisers. If they have to wait long, as they get little food, they usually perish in multitudes from starvation, or from diseases incidental to destitution. When a slaver arrives, and the victims are looked over by the buyer, the sickly and emaciated being condemned, are deliberately murdered. The rest are embarked. I dare say that few Members of this House ever saw a slaver. I have. I had an opportunity of inspecting two a few years since at Nantes, on the eve of their departure. It is not necessary for me to give any other description of them than that, in order to insure swift sailing, they were built so low that they were almost gunwale-edge with the water. The Slave Trade Correspondence, recently presented, speaks of a vessel only twenty-three inches between her decks. Into this dark and miserable hole human beings are crammed by hundreds. They 1169 are massed together like herrings in a cask. Of course they suffer and they die. Why, think of 400 human creatures forced between the decks of a vessel of only eighty tons, in the Torrid Zone, and carried across the Atlantic. Sometimes whole cargoes are extinguished. Of those who survive many are dislocated and distorted for life from the unnatural posture in which they have been fixed in the ship's hold during the voyage. The body will often stiffen into a permanent curve, and may never regain an upright position again. Now, Sir, I will not proceed. I will say nothing about the consequences when disease or storms at sea add their visitation to this thick compound of horrors. Most persons have read the Rev. Mr. Hill's pamphlet. I will only remark that most of the statements are substantially verified in the Papers before the House, as are all the other facts I have adverted to. Such, then, Sir, is one part of the price that is paid for maintaining our system of abolishing the Slave Trade. Now, are these cruelties to last for ever? Yon are preparing for their continuance; I believe for their aggravation, too, by your Treaty with France. But have you no fear how you deal with blood? Can any object be really good that is to be accomplished by human sacrifice. Sir, it is not by calling the Slave Trade inhuman and wicked that you can justify proceedings such as these, much less entitle them to support in a Christian assembly. Whenever I may perpetrate knowingly and recklessly cruelty and bloodshed, but most of all when I do so in the name of humanity and religion, denounce me as a hypocrite and a felon! I shall be no better. Humanity never taught such a system as this, and still less the Christian religion! But there is another and a different chapter in this melancholy history. I think I have shown that our system is productive of nothing but evil to the people of Africa. They do not suffer alone. The system has its victims among our own countrymen. England is annually weeded of her best and her bravest in order to carry on this idle and mischievous project for stopping the foreign Slave Trade. I do hope that those who, gratified by yearly rehearsals of our innumerable ineffectual treaties, by computations of the slavers we have uselessly destroyed, and of slaves we have vainly captured, will occasionally turn their thoughts to the homes in England which their devices 1170 have left desolate, and to the hearts within their own land they have made hopeless for ever. What the amount of this idle destruction may be, I have no means of stating to the House. Some Returns which I moved for many weeks ago on this subject have been found so difficult to make up, at least I presume so, that with all the zeal of the subordinate Members of the Government for promoting a fair consideration of this important subject, they have not been able to get them presented to the House. Probably they will be laid on the Table to-morrow. The same reason applies, though in a less degree, to the expenses of our system. Sir Fowell Buxton stated more than five years ago, that our anti-slave trade measures had cost the country since the peace about fifteen millions sterling. This included the sum of 1,300,000l. paid to Spain and Portugal as bribes to induce them to abandon the traffic. We originally offered them nearly 2,000,000l.; but as they have carried on the Slave Trade with double activity ever since they engaged to leave it off, we may think ourselves very lucky that we only paid them 1,300,000l. The annual expenses are generally taken at half a million; they are probably rather more. The Commissioner of Inquiry on the Coast of Africa estimated the expense incurred in that part of the world, and independent of the salaries and contingencies at home, at 229,090l. per annum. The Mixed Commission Courts cost the country 15,000l. per annum, and the officers have all retiring salaries. Many of the other charges vary with the number of men of war employed in the service during the year, the number of slave ships and slaves captured by them, and the amount of money to be paid by this country for illegal detention. Putting all these expenses together, I suspect it will be found that we carry on these insane operations at an expense exceeding half a million per annum, and that the whole cost of them since the peace has been nearly 18,000,000l. sterling. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that there are objects at home on which this money could be beneficially and philosophically employed. I have brought before you the sums of money which our anti-Slave Trade vagaries annually cost the noble and suffering people of this country. I have adverted to the dreadful sacrifice of our seamen by which you carry them on. I have shown you the horrible cruelty and butchery which your 1171 system enforces on the Slave Trade. I have shown you that the system itself rather tends to promote than suppress the trade. Lastly, I have shown you that your system has, practically, not suppressed it at all, but that the trade has increased it under your system, and that in a prodigious ratio. Now, I think I have a right to demand of the right hon. Gentleman either to invalidate my statements — to disprove my facts — or candidly and honestly to admit my conclusions, and abandon the system. I may be asked, then, what I am prepared to recommend as its substitute. I say, withdraw your cruisers; they are far worse than useless for your purpose. Encourage as much as possible commercial intercourse with the coast of Africa; not by Niger expeditions—which was a most insane application of a principle, wise enough in iiself—but, as was recommended by the West African Committee of 1842, by promoting the formation of simple and inexpensive establishments on both sides of the coast of Africa. At the same time give to your West India islands every possible facility of importing free labour from the tropics. You may then do so without fear of exciting the irritable jealousy of other nations on the question of slavery. By doing this you will sap the foundations of slavery, by underselling its productions. You put down the Slave Trade by destroying the speculation. I may be told that if you give up your squadrons on the coast of Africa, the Slave Trade will burst forth like a torrent. Where is this torrent to go to? Not to Cuba and Brazil. They can hardly import more than at present—they will not import at all if you will only give to the law which prohibits importation the best, the wisest, and most powerful assistance which the law gathers in every land from the support of public opinion. Every intelligent man in Cuba and Brazil is well aware of the awful dangers which are impending over his country, created by the importation already effected. Nothing, indeed, can be more alarming. At present, indeed, all is still—The storm yet sleeps, the clouds yet keep their station—The bloody earthquake yet is in the womb—The unborn chaos yet expects creation,But all things are disposing for their doom.The elements are waiting but the word—Let there be darkness—and they grow a tomb.1172 Whether in the inscrutable purposes of Providence it is decreed that that hour of retribution, so fearfully anticipated by the observers of both countries, should arrive or not, it is out of our province to conjecture. But this at least is certain, that should the day of insurrection ever appear—and may God in his mercy long avert it—the convulsion will be bold, and bloody, and tremendous, in the same degree as the crimes which have brought it on have been inexcusable for their wickedness. You may say there are other slave-trading countries than Cuba and Brazil; but let even them beware—let Texas beware—let the United States of America beware. Should that menacing meteor, which is now blackening all the horizon of Cuba and Brazil, ever burst upon the country, its mission will hardly be accomplished till it has visited brighter borders and fairer cities. And if the proud republic of North America shall not learn to avoid the calamities in her career—if she shall still persist in encouraging the growth of slavery, and the practices of the Slave Trade—she may one day see the most prosperous provinces of the present Union confederated with the half-savage dominions of Hayti. The hon. Member concluded by moving—That the course pursued by Great Britain, since 1814, for the suppression of the Slave Trade, has been attended by large expenditure of the public money, and by serious loss of life to the Naval Forces of the Country, and that it has not mitigated the horrors of the middle passage, nor diminished the extent of the traffic in Slaves.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
said, the only difference between the sentiments of the hon. Gentleman and those entertained by Her Majesty's Government was as to the manner in which they were to arrive at the object both had in view—viz., the suppression of the Slave Trade. Undoubtedly he could not agree with the hon. Gentleman that the best way to do so was to withdraw the whole of our force from the African coast, to leave the trade unchecked, except by the force of public opinion alone. It was only last year that a new system had been adopted. England had doubled her force upon that coast; and officers had been appointed to commands there who were most intimate with it; and the ships, instead of cruising about as they did in former times, had now fixed stations, in a manner blockading those parts of the coast in which the Slave Trade had flourished 1173 most. The new plan had been in operation for a very short time, but the accounts of its working which had reached the Admiralty were so far satisfactory. There had been recently received from the Commodore on the Coast of Africa, accounts bearing date December 31, 1844. He reported—The measures taken for the watching of the Gallinas had proved completely successful.And on the 5th of April, 1845, the Commodore reported—I have the honour to submit to their Lordships' consideration the enclosed list of captures of slave vessels, amended from the latest returns, from which it appears that the total amount of seizures during the last twelve months has been forty-five, of which one only has been released by the tribunals to which their cases were subjected. I humbly venture to hope that their Lordships will be pleased to accept this result as a satisfactory proof of the zeal and diligence of the officers on this station in the execution of their duly. It is very gratifying to me to be assured that the Slave Trade has been severely checked, and in some of its principal haunts effectually suppressed; and I entertain a sanguine expectation that the continued vigilance of the squadron will give it still further and more decisive blows, although it may, as yet, be too much to calculate on its final and total extinction; and yet even that result is not beyond my hopes, when I see the faithful exertions made by the Portuguese Government in the cause of the Slave Trade suppression on the southern part of this station.Another feature in the case which was new was, that of the whole forty-five only twelve were captured with slaves on board—all the rest had been taken while they were attempting to get in. With regard to the loss of life amongst our own force on that coast, the statement which the hon. Gentleman had been instructed to make was very much exaggerated. If he would refer to the Returns upon the subject, he would find that between 3 and 4 per cent. was the actual loss from casualties, disease—in fact from all causes. And with regard to the other observations of the hon. Member, he must allow him to add, that there was fully as much wretchedness under the old state of things as at present. The hon. Member did not seem to remember that the slave trader had still the same interest in getting his slaves over in a healthy state that be had before. At the same time, however, it must be admitted that the slaves used to be kept 1174 too long in the baracoons; but since those baracoons had been attacked and destroyed, very few of the slaves had been brought down in that way. Those who dealt in slaves were beginning to see that the trade had become more expensive than it was. Now as they had every reason to believe, therefore, that they had succeeded in inflicting a very severe blow upon the iniquitous trade, in his opinion it would not be a wise measure to put down our force at that moment. Besides, we had lately entered into an arrangement with France, the effect of which would be again to double the force already upon that coast. It was impossible for a seaman to say that no vessel could escape; but most undoubtedly as the force upon the coast was increased, the chances of escape for slave vessels was very much diminished, the risk they ran was greatly increased, and the carrying on the trade would be rendered more expensive, and, consequently, less worthy of being followed. They ought to give the new plan for putting down the trade a fair trial, the more especially after the additional force to be provided by France. He had as great an abhorrence of the crime as the hon. Gentleman himself; but if the Motion of the hon. Gentleman were agreed to, it would do much mischief, by putting aside the Treaties we had entered into with the native chiefs. They were now anxious enough to accept our presents, for the purpose of abstaining from the trade; but undo the Treaties, remove our force from their shores, and they would immediately return to their old traffic in human flesh. The Motion, if agreed to, would create much more misery and mischief than the hon. Gentleman was anxious to remove. He would, therefore, give it his most strenuous opposition.
§ Viscount Howick
entirely concurred with the hon. Member for Gateshead in the views he had expressed; but in the present state of the House would not advise him to press his Motion. As to the promises held out by the right hon. Baronet, and his expectations from the new system, he must confess he had the smallest possible faith in them. For the last thirty years, Parliament had, at intervals, been assured, by one Government after another, that some new scheme had just been devised which would effectually put an end to the Slave Trade; former plans, it was always admitted in such cases, had 1175 been failures, but the new device was exactly the thing. The new scheme, however, invariably turned out as unsuccessful as its predecessor; and such, he apprehended, would be the case with that now in operation, and from which the right hon. Baronet augured so much. The ingenuity of the slave trader, whetted by the enormous profits realized, had always proved more than a match for us. At the present moment the Slave Trade to Brazil and Cuba was greater than ever; but, in his decided opinion, were we to desist from our so futile efforts, the Governments of both Cuba and Brazil would find it necessary to interfere, in obedience to the public opinion of the respective States. Already, the increase of slave population was exciting much alarm in the minds of the Cuban merchants, and the rest of the non-coloured community; and were our efforts to cease, the augmented importation of negroes, and the prospect of still increasing importations, would produce an effect on public opinion, which would render the interposition of the local Government essential. And there was as little doubt that the local Governments, both of Cuba and Brazil, could effectually interpose, as there was that our interference was of comparatively no avail. Nay, our interference in one material way aggravated the evil; for it generated in the minds of the States with whom we interfered, a spirit, not unnaturally either, of resentment at what they considered our meddling in what did not concern us. Indeed, he could not but think that the foreign Governments in question had exhibited no inconsiderable forbearance, patience, and good humour, considering the way in which we harassed them at every turn, in a traffic which they regarded with very different feelings from those which it excited in this country. He doubted much whether we should exhibit similar toleration of another nation interfering with us in a similar way. As to the Mixed Courts of Commission, they were a mere mockery; it was absolutely a mere toss-up, whether the judgment went for the British capture, or the Brazilian or Cuban slayer. With reference to the combined operations, whence the right hon. Baronet anticipated such augmented success, he (Viscount Howick) much doubted, whether they would not do more harm than good; there was danger alike of the French and English officers agreeing too well, and of 1176 their differing too much. The best mode of putting down the Slave Trade, as had been pointed out by his hon. Friend, would be the extension of our commercial relations with the African coast, which result the French squadron would certainly not be disposed to promote. We had had an illustration of that in reference to the gum trade. As the Government was determined to persevere in their present policy, it only remained for those who objected to it to express their dissent, leaving the whole responsibility on the shoulders of Ministers. He would, however, express a hope that the right hon. Baronet would give an assurance to the House thus far, that if, at the end of a year or two from the present time, the new plan was found not to answer, he would come forward and, honestly confessing the fact, adopt a different policy.
§ Sir R. Peel
I am sure the noble Lord will not consider that I mean towards him the least disrespect, if I decline to follow him in his observations upon the subject of the Convention recently ratified between this country and France. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman who brought forward this Motion, deprecated the introduction of that question; and I have the less reluctance in declining to enter upon it now, as the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) has given notice of a Motion which will lead to the discussion of it in a distinct and separate form. With regard, then, to the Motion at present before the House, I think the hon. Gentleman who brought it forward, has proceeded upon totally erroneous grounds. I admit that the measures adopted by Her Majesty's Government have not been successful in abolishing this traffic. I also admit that the horrors of the Slave Trade continue — abated in some degree, but still to an extent which every friend to humanity must deplore. But when the proposal was made to abolish the Slave Trade, it was foreseen, whatever measure you might adopt to effect it, that would lead in some degree to an aggravation of the evil. Those who were averse to the abolition of the Slave Trade said, that if it were abolished slave smuggling would follow to a greater extent than then existed. Still, general considerations of humanity prevailed over objections of that nature; this country determined to set an example to the rest of the world, and abolished the Slave Trade; not, however, without feeling that, 1177 in some particular cases, the evils of the illegal traffic might be greater than those of the permitted traffic. Upon this question, as upon others, this country was subject to hot and cold influences. It is unnecessary for me to refer to the origin of the feeling which had been excited against the Slave Trade. The evidence which was taken before the Council was quite sufficient to have raised that feeling—a feeling which was only to be satisfied by the abolition of the Slave Trade. In the course of that evidence it was stated, in reply to a question upon the point, that they did indulge in merriment on board slave trading vessels, but that the occasions were those of funerals, when the body of some unfortunate slave was committed to the deep, amidst the general exultation of the survivors at his being released from the horrors of his situation. Such evils as these were not new or unprecedented; and they raised such a feeling in the country as led to the abolition of the Slave Trade. Although I am aware that the avidity of slave dealers would lead them to make the passage in the shortest possible time, and although I don't mean to deny that owing to the vigilance of our cruisers, the horrors of the voyage are increased, yet, upon the whole, I greatly doubt whether or no the sufferings of the unfortunate slaves will be diminished, if you relax in your vigilance. It is notorious, notwithstanding the suspicions of the hon. Gentleman, that there are but two countries now carrying on the Slave Trade to any great extent—Brazil and Cuba; and I shall not despair, if the efforts of this country be persevered in, that even as regards those two countries those efforts will be crowned with the success which they deserve. With respect to Brazil, such is the extent of cultivatable land, so great is the demand for slaves, and so great also is the disposition upon the part of the authorities to connive at the introduction of slaves, that the withdrawal of your cruisers from the coast of Africa would give a stimulus to the Slave Trade which you can hardly imagine. I think the hon. Gentleman has greatly exaggerated the number of slaves that are introduced into the different countries which sanction slave labour. I very much doubt if the whole number imported into Brazil and Cuba exceeds 35,000, whereas he has estimated them at 180,000. The hon. Gentleman proposes to encourage the 1178 produce of our own Colonies by the introduction of free labour, which he says will successfully compete with slave labour. But even supposing his anticipation upon that point to be well founded, see what a length of time must elapse before he could realize it. I admit the advantage of introducing free labour into your own Colonies, but I apprehend that the two systems are not consistent, and that an attempt to make them so would give encouragement to the direct Slave Trade. I deeply lament the failure of our exertions; but holding the opinion I held on the occasion which has been referred to, I still think there is a prospect of ultimate success, and that it would be most unwise in us to relax in our efforts for the suppression of the Slave Trade. The hon. Gentleman says it is carried on to an immense extent on the Coast of Africa. I believe that impression to be erroneous, and I have here a letter from our naval officer which tends to prove it is so. The letter is dated from Her Majesty's ship Cleopatra, off Quilimane, December 20, 1844; and the writer says—I think we are doing very well against the Slave Trade on this side of Africa, and a twelvemonth after this it will be a rare thing to hear of a slave vessel on the coast, if the present number of vessels are employed to prevent it. There were ten agents employed at Quilimane to collect slaves for the Rio vessels, nine of which have left, and the other remains only to collect the property and wind up the affairs of the company. There are now about 2,000 slaves ready to be embarked, and vessels are expected every day for them. It is no easy thing for them to get off safely, as the Governor of Quilimane, who has just arrived, will not allow the trade to be carried on from that river, and the Governor General is very earnest in putting an end to it by all the means in his power. He has given me authority to capture any vessels employed in the Slave Trade from any river, harbour, or roadstead belonging to Portugal, and has sent a very strong letter to the Governor of Inhambam for allowing the Kentucky to enter the port under American colours, telling him he will make him responsible should a similar occurrence take place.On the east coast of Africa, so far as relates to South America, we have great reason to believe that the Slave Trade has been suppressed through the cordial co-operation of Portugal, whose conduct within the last two years has, I must say, been most excellent. Portugal has, during that time, lent us a sincere and cordial co-operation. The civil authorities of Portugal had sent 1179 out a commander who had manifested the utmost desire to give us every possible assistance for the suppression of the Slave Trade. A slave vessel having been captured by the Alert, was carried before a Mixed Commission on the Coast of Africa; but the death of one and the removal of another of our Commissioners, left the matter in the hands of the two Portuguese Commissioners, who, acting singly, and without any stimulus from the presence of our Commissioners, proceeded at once to the condemnation of the vessel. Captures have even been made by Portuguese vessels. A Portuguese garde-marine, on the 27th of May, 1844, captured the Brazilian brig Caçador, having on board 850 slaves; the commanding officer recommended the garde-marine for promotion, on account of his vigilance; the recommendation was attended to; the promotion was granted, and Lord Aberdeen expressed his satisfaction at, and acknowledgment of, the example which had thus been set. That was not the only instance. In another case another Portuguese officer distinguished himself by effecting the capture of a Spanish slave-trade vessel, and was accordingly promoted. These acts upon the part of the Portuguese Government—these promotions of officers for capturing Brazilian and Spanish Slave Trade vessels have produced an effect through the Portuguese navy which leads to the hope and belief that the co-operation of Portugal is not only sincere, but that it will be most effectual. Indeed, the whole conduct of Portugal has been such as to deserve the grateful acknowledgments of every friend to humanity. With regard to the United States, although the force they have sent to the coast of Africa is limited in amount, and does not exceed 80 guns, the experiment has not been unsuccessful, as may be seen from the following letter:—
§ "Sierra Leone, April 4, 1845.
§ "My Lord—We have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Lordship's despatch, No. 2, of the 19th of February, transmitting the copy of a despatch from Her Majesty's Commissary Judge at Havannah, containing a copy of his Report on the Slave Trade at that place for the month of December last. Of the slave vessels mentioned by Mr. Kennedy, we have already, in our despatch, No. 25, of the 24th ultimo, notified to your Lordship the capture and condemnation of the Huracan; and we have now the pleasure of communicating the capture of the Spitfire, on the 25th ultimo, in the Rio 1180 Pongas, by the United States vessel of war, Truxton, Commander Bruce, by whom the prize was brought into the harbour, and is about to be despatched to Boston for trial. The seizure of the American slaver was effected by the boats of the Truxton, which rowed up the Pongas in company with the boats of Her Majesty's steamer, Ardent, Commander Russell, both parties carrying British colours, upon an understanding between the two commanders, by which means the American crew of the Spitfire were induced to mistake the Truxton's boats for those of the English cruiser, and having hoisted, in supposed security, their own ensign, were immediately seized. A Spanish vessel, which was captured by the British boats at the same time alongside the Spitfire, is now before this Court, and will be reported to your Lordship in due course.
§ "We have the honour to be, with the greatest respect, my Lord, your Lordship's most obedient and most humble servants,
§ "M. L. MELVILLE.
§ "JAMES HOOK.
§ "The Right Hon. the Earl of Aberdeen, K. T.," &c.
§ The same course was taken with the Spanish vessel. The Spanish slaver hoisted the Spanish colours, thinking to escape, and was seized. There was no interruption here with legitimate commerce; they were vessels with slaves, and were seized by the joint operations of America and this country. I cannot, therefore, help entertaining a sanguine hope, that if a determined effort be made by the joint action of the United States, France, and Portugal, with this country, that effort will be successful. Under these circumstances, I trust the hon. Gentleman will take the advice of the noble Lord, and, in the present state of the House, not press his Motion to a division. Had there been a fuller House, I should have been prepared to enter at greater length into the question. I do not think there is any evidence whatever to justify the House in adopting this Motion. The loss of life and the expenditure of money to which the Motion refers, are no doubt open to objection; but I think, nevertheless, that upon the whole, it greatly contributes to the mitigation of the horrors of the Slave Trade. Whatever the amount of the present evils may be, I believe that if, at the present moment, you withdraw your squadron from the coast of Africa, and permit the unrestricted import of slaves into Cuba, but above all, into Brazil, you will give an impetus to the Slave Trade, which will render fnture efforts to suppress it useless. 1181 Under these circumstances, and seeing the cordiality with which France, Portugal, and the United States, are co-operating with this country for the suppression of the Slave Trade, I do hope that the hon. Member will consent to withdraw his Motion.
§ Sir C. Napier
could not agree with the hon. Member for Gateshead, or with the noble Lord, in the propriety of abandoning the blockade on the coast of Africa. If we now, with the favourable prospects before us of putting down the Slave Trade, abandoned the blockade, we should see the coast of Africa converted into a regular place for the rendezvous of vessels, and in all probability they would find regular convoys. That the middle passage had been rendered worse by the blockade there was no doubt, and frequently slaves were thrown overboard when the vessels were chased. Still those were evils which it was impossible altogether to prevent. The gallant Admiral had told them that the profits of the Slave Trade were not so great as they had been, for out of forty-five vessels captured only twelve had slaves on board, which proved that only a portion of the number fitted out of the coast of Africa could succeed. He thought, therefore, we ought to persevere, and to put out our energies, which if they had been properly used, the Slave Trade would have been put an end to long ago. We had now taken up the matter seriously; we had steam-vessels on the coast, and forty-five sailing vessels; and if the right hon. Baronet gave equal assistance with what he was likely to receive from America, he would put down this trade. The gallant Admiral had told them what must be very gratifying, that the loss of British life was not more than 4 per cent.; in fact, he thought he said it was only 2 per cent. It would have been well if they had been told also the percentage of men who were invalided and sent home; but if we only lost 4 or 5 per cent. of the men employed, the experience gained by the officers and men on the coast would well repay that small loss of life. He was also glad to hear from the right hon. Baronet that Portugal had, at last, taken vigorous steps to support our Government. He would have entered into the question of the new Treaty with France, but it seemed to be generally understood that all observations on that point were to be left till the subject of that Treaty was regularly before 1182 the House; and he would, therefore, only add, that he perfectly concurred with the right hon. Baronet in the propriety of withdrawing the present Motion.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter past nine o'clock.