§ House in Committee of Supply.
§ On the Question that 610,545l. be granted for the use of Her Majesty, for the purchase of provisions and victualling stores, &c,. for seamen and marines employed in Her Majesty's Fleet,
§ Viscount Palmerston
said: I am anxious to make a few observations on the subject of the Returns as to the Slave Trade. I first wish to draw attention to the first Return of Vessels, which has not been framed 200 in a very clear way. The vessels captured, in one year are mixed with those of another year; and I think the Return might have been done and made up in a clearer manner. But there is also a Return of the Number of Slaves landed on the Continent and Islands of America in each year from 1815 to 1843; and that does not tally, in any degree, with the information which is given by the documents actually referred to by the notes appended to the Return itself. Without going into the detail of all the discrepancies, I will just take one instance in regard to the slaves landed at the Havannah and Cuba in 1836, 37, 38, 39, 40, and 41. By this Return, the number landed appears to have been 49,992; and by the documents and papers which are actually referred to in the Return, the number appears to have been upwards of 82,000 for the same period. I am now talking of the Return stated by the Commissioners at the Havannah in a despatch quoted in the notes at the end of this Return; and those Commissioners not only give 82,000 as the number landed in those years, but they say this number is only three-fourths of the number landed in the island. Therefore, if the additional number is added to the 82,000 for the purpose of making up the total, it appears by the despatches of the Commissioners, that 109,000 were landed during those years; whilst the Return makes out that only 49,000 were landed. The gentleman in that Department of the Foreign Office, whose duty it was to make out these Returns, is a person of great diligence, and exceedingly zealous in the matter; but there certainly must have been some very unusual oversight in regard to this Return. It seems to me that he might produce an amended Return which would be more satisfactory. In looking over the Slave Trade Papers, there are one or two points I wish to take this opportunity of adverting to, as this will be the only occasion upon which my observations will regularly belong to the subject before the House. I mention the subject, because a part of this Vote applies to the providing of cruisers to be employed in the suppression of the Slave Trade. I am sorry to see, according to the last Reports from every quarter—from Cuba, from Brazil, and from the Coast of Africa, that Slave Trade is on the increase. But, before I touch upon that part of the subject, there is one point to which I wish to call the attention of the Government. It is a f 201 matter which has frequently been brought under the notice of the present and former Governments. It is stated that there are in Cuba and at Surinam a considerable number of negroes who, at different periods, had been brought from British possessions to the Spanish and Dutch Colonies, before the emancipation of our negroes, and who consequently remain now in a state of slavery; whereas if they had been left in the British Colonies they would have been included in the operation of the Act of Emancipation. This subject was brought under our consideration at the period when we were in office; and in the cases in which the statement was made, I thought it was the duty of the Government to endeavour to obtain the liberation of the individuals with respect to whom that statement was made. I am sorry, however, to see that the present Government have taken a different view of the matter; for I find a despatch from the Earl of Aberdeen, dated the 28th of August, 1843, to the Commissioner at Surinam, Mr. Schenley, to this effect—Mr. Schenley, I should say, had represented that there were several negroes, and he mentioned one in particular, who stood in that predicament—and Lord Aberdeen, in reply, says:—I referred to Her Majesty's Advocate General your despatches, dated the 15th and 26th of July of last year, together with the previous Correspondence extant in this office on the subject of Barbadoes negroes said to be held in slavery in Surinam. I have now to state to you for your information and guidance that the Queen's Advocate has reported it to be his opinion that Her Majesty's Government is not called upon to take any steps respecting these negroes. The Queen's Advocate observes that if there had been any reason to believe that any of the individuals in question were free-born subjects of Her Majesty, or that they had been emancipated and become free by the abolition of slavery throughout the British dominions, the endeavours of Her Majesty's Government to rescue them from the state of slavery in which they are now held could not have been too urgent or strenuous;—but that it is not the duty of Her Majesty's Government to insist on the liberation of persons, or the descendants of persons, who were removed as slaves into a foreign colony before slavery was abolished by British law, and who have continued as slaves in a foreign country down to the present time. With regard to the individual mentioned in your despatch of the 26th July, 1842, the Queen's Advocate observes that he is stated by you to be a very intelligent man, and to be, moreover, acting in the capacity of head mason with 202 several apprentices, and, therefore, not a very young man; but that it would seem that he cannot recollect the date when he was brought from Barbadoes to Surinam. And the Queen's Advocate observes that this fact tends strongly to show that he must have left Barbadoes long before the abolition of slavery in that island. Under these circumstances, you will not consider yourself authorized to take any further measures with respect to that individual.There is another despatch to the Commissioners at the Havannah, laying down the same doctrines as to Cuba, and stating that the Government did not intend to take any steps for the liberation of the slaves who were similarly situated in Cuba. It may appear very presumptuous for me to dispute the law laid down by so high an authority as the Queen's Advocate General; but I think that he must entirely have forgotten that there was another law passed with regard to this matter, previous to the abolition of slavery—in fact, ever since 1806 or 1807—by which it was illegal for any British subject to carry any slave out of any British possession for the purpose of sending him as a slave to any foreign possession. And, therefore, it may be presumed, unless the contrary be shown, that these British negroes who are held in slavery in Cuba and Surinam, were taken out of British possessions and carried into Foreign possessions at a time when it was against the law that such should be done. If a British subject was carried out of the island where he was born or had lived, and against the law was transferred to a foreign master, it would be the most cruel injustice towards that British subject for the British Government to neglect demanding his freedom, and thereby to deprive him of those rights which he would enjoy if he had remained under British law in the island to which he properly belonged. This is not a question that applies to one or two individuals. I believe there are many hundreds of persons in the situation of the individual to whom I allude. The Commissioners state that in Cuba the British language is spoken by the greater part of the negroes in many estates, thus proving that they were originally brought from British Colonies. The Queen's Advocate's opinion is tantamount to saying that Her Majesty's Ministers are not called upon to afford whatever protection is in the power of the British Government to give to any British subject who labours under any injustice, from which they have the means of freeing him; and there certainly cannot be a greater injustice, inflicted on 203 any man than retaining him in slavery, when according to the law of his country he is entitled to his freedom. I do hope that Her Majesty's Government will reconsider the decision which they have adopted, in consequence of the opinions given on this question by the Queen's Advocate. It is not compulsory on the Government to adopt the decision of the Queen's Advocate. They are at liberty to adopt or reject that opinion, as they please; for in either case the responsibility of what they do rests with them, and not with the Queen's Advocate. I should wish them to refer back to the Law Officers of the Crown, the question as arising out of the Acts of 1806 and 1807; and I think the Government ought to take a more enlarged view of the duties which they owe towards a born subject of the British Crown, than they would appear to have hitherto done. But there is another class of persons also, whose situation engaged the attention of the late Government. These were the slaves who had been captured in slave ships taken under existing Treaties, and who had been emancipated at Brazil, or in the Spanish or Dutch possessions, under the sentence of the Mixed Courts of Commission, and who are known by the name of Emancipados. It is well known that these individuals, though nominally emancipated, are in effect held as slaves: the Spanish and Brazilian Governments, under the pretence of fitting them for liberty, hire them out to individuals for terms of five years, and receive a sum of money for their services on each occasion of their being rehired at the end of every five years. They are, in fact, worse than slaves; as no person has an interest in their well being. Now, I am glad to perceive that the Government have succeeded, or at least did succeed, during the Governorship of General Valdes in Cuba, in obtaining certificates of freedom for some of those persons, which placed them in the situation of free and independent agents; but that Governor objected to give certificates of freedom to all who were entitled to receive them; as he said such a sweeping emancipation would produce a convulsion in the island, thus showing that the number of negroes thus circumstanced was very considerable. I fear the present Governor of Cuba is a very different man from General Valdes. I fear that General O'Donnell has returned to all the bad and corrupt practices of former times—that he encourages the Slave Trade, 204 and that he takes money for permitting the landing of slaves; and I, therefore, fear that he would be very much indisposed to grant any farther certificates of freedom. I trust the Government will not relax in its endeavours to procure real liberty for all the negroes circumstanced in the manner I have mentioned, and that the whole number of the emancipados will be placed in the condition of freemen. I have great pleasure in perceiving that the Government of Brazil have consented that all individuals emancipated by the Court of Mixed Commission shall be made free. There are a great number of negroes so circumstanced, and I trust their situation will not be lost sight of. This disposes of two classes of negroes to whom I wished to direct attention; but there is also a third class much more numerous than either of the former, and that is the class of negroes who have been brought into Cuba and into Brazil at the period when it was forbidden by the laws of those countries that any such importations should take place, and who are, therefore, by the law of the land in which they reside, really entitled to their freedom. By the edict of Ferdinand, every negro brought into any Spanish possession, after the 2nd of May, 1820 following, was to be declared free from the moment that he landed in a Spanish possession; and the existence of that law is not denied by the Spanish Government, nor is it repudiated by the Governors of their Colonies; for in Cuba; General Valdes did actually set free a great number of newly landed Africans under that very edict. Now, we applied to the Government of Spain to sign a Convention, of which we sent them a draft, the purport of which was, that the Mixed Commission at the Havannah should be authorized to inquire into the cases of negroes who were in the condition of those to whom the Governor had, on his own responsibility, in obedience to the abovementioned edict, given their freedom, and to admit their claim to be released from captivity. We thought that whereas the Governor of Cuba had acknowledged practically the existence of that law, the British and Spanish Commissioners sitting at the Havannah should have power to emancipate all negroes so situated, just as the Governor had emancipated a portion of those who had recently been landed. The Spanish Governor gave no answer to that demand on our part, until after we had left office; but at the end of 1841, in a long 205 note on the subject, they refused to comply with our proposal. Their answer was no refutation of our right to make the demand; but Her Majesty's Government thought proper to acquiesce in that refusal, and dropped all further negotiations on the subject. Instead of making further negotiation on the point, they accepted from the Spanish Government an engagement to pass a new law inflicting additional punishment on the persons engaged in Slave Trade. No doubt they were bound by the Treaty of 1835 to pass such a law; and as they had never done so, it was proper to require them to fulfil that engagement. But I am sorry to say that I attach no value whatever to any law that the Spanish Government may pass on the subject of Slave Trade; because while the law of Ferdinand remains a dead letter, no other law is likely to be carried into execution; and if that law were faithfully enforced, no other enactment would be necessary on the subject. But I do think that Her Majesty's Government too easily acquiesced in that refusal of the Spanish Government; and even if they had thought fit to wave the demand with regard to the negroes now in Cuba, who are as much entitled to their liberty as any Spanish resident in the island, and that by virtue of the Treaty concluded with Great Britain—if, I say, they had waved the demand with regard to the negroes so circumstanced, I think they ought to have insisted on obtaining for the Mixed Commission power to decide on the cases of all negroes who may hereafter be brought into Cuba contrary to law. It is very well for the Spanish Government to object to having the officers of Foreign Powers mixed up with matters of internal jurisdiction in Cuba; but they are too late with such objections, inasmuch as the Treaty already existing between this country and Spain establishes a Mixed Foreign and Spanish jurisdiction in Cuba. The proposed Treaty was not intended to extend that jurisdiction beyond the subject-matter of its present competence, but was merely devised to make it more complete. It was said, that we may trust to the present Governor of Cuba; but my answer to that is, that I have no reliance on him in carrying the Treaty with Great Britain into execution. I want a British authority to be employed in effecting that object. For, after all, what did General Valdes do? He confiscated some negroes brought into Cuba, in violation of the Spanish law. He professed to give them their liberty, to which 206 they were by law entitled; but in what way did he do so? Why, he said, these are men brought from the wilds of Africa, and totally unfit for the state of society in which they are thrown. We must deal with them as we do with the emancipados. We must apprentice them. And, accordingly, the female slaves were hired—that is to say, sold—out to householders to act as domestic servants, without any security being given that they are not permanently to remain in a state of slavery; while the males, as the best means, forsooth, of making them permanently useful members of society, were sent out to work in lighting the streets. Now, I don't think that exactly the way to confer upon them that moral, and religious, and mechanical instruction which is to make them useful members of society; and I see no reason why our Government should not have required from the Spanish Government the liberation of all slaves brought into Cuba in violation of the law of Spain. They should, in my opinion, have insisted on the Mixed Commission being authorized to interfere in the cases of these slaves. If the negroes had been captured on board a ship, the Mixed Commission would have had an undoubted right to deal with them; and when they are captured on shore, after being introduced into the island from a slave ship, the same right should be acknowledged. Now, I am sorry to say that, since the present Government have been in office, the Slave Trade is increasing in every country in which it is carried on. I certainly had been apprehensive that the fact would be so; but it is in the power of Her Majesty's Government to take measures which would effectually put an end to this disgraceful and disgusting crime. The most effectual measure is, no doubt, the mutual Right of Search; and, by the by, I would say, with regard to that subject, that there is a Report from the Commissioners at Rio which shows the importance of the Treaty with France by which the Right of Search was given. In July, 1843, the Commissioners at Rio state that French vessels are beginning to be more and more employed in the Slave Trade from the coast of Africa to Brazil; and that this has taken place under the impression that the British cruisers have lately received orders not to intercept or search any vessel sailing under the flag of France. But, indeed, the Return which has been laid on the Table of the House strongly demonstrates the truth of this matter. In the 207 year 1830, the number of negroes imported was 37,000, and the number fell very rapidly, even according to this Return, after the Treaty had been signed by France. But the Right of Search, it is to be hoped, is a question which should no longer be in doubt; for if the Commissioners now sitting examined, as I have been informed they have, officers who were employed on the coast of Africa, they would learn that without a mutual Right of Search it would be a complete farce to continue employing cruisers on the African coast. But, as I was about observing, there is another measure for suppressing the Slave Trade, that would not fail to prove exceedingly effectual; I allude to the destruction of the slave baracoons on the Western Coast of Africa. The Commissioners at Sierra Leone tell you, that in 1842 or 1843, the Slave Trade had very much diminished. They say that diminution arose from three causes. One of these was, I think, the greater vigilance exercised by the Governor in Cuba; another was, I forget what; but the third and the principal cause was, the destruction of the baracoons. They dwell at length on that subject, and tell you that the most effectual mode of putting an end to the Slave Trade must be, the destruction of the baracoons. Now, when the present Government came into office, the first thing they did was to write a letter condemning the burning of these baracoons, and stating, that such a proceeding was against the law of nations. I think that a most extraordinary doctrine, and one that I should very little expect would be put forward, either by the Government of England or by the Government of France. When the British Government thought it was very desirable to annex the territory of Scinde to the British Empire in India, the Ameers, who governed that country, were required to sign a Treaty. They shuffled, and evaded the demand; they fought—were conquered, and taken prisoners, and deprived of their possessions. When that mode of proceeding was found fault with, the right hon. Baronet defended it, and said that the laws of nations, which governed the international intercourse of European States, could not be considered applicable to a semibarbarous state of society such as that existing in Scinde. When the Government wished to get possession of Scinde, they thought this doctrine very good; but they did not consider it at all applicable to the case of the half naked and uncivilized chiefs of Africa, though 208 there was no intention of taking any of their territory from them, and though the only object in view was to put an end to an abominable and detestable traffic. Now, the Government of France found an island in the Pacific, happy and tranquil, offending nobody, quarrelling with nobody, and only desiring to be left alone. They picked a quarrel with the people of that island, and forced on the Queen a protection which she did not want. The Queen fled, and has refused to come back to Tahiti; and the inhabitants are encamped on the hills in a state of warfare, because they do not choose to submit to French domination. When the French wanted to take possession of Tahiti, they set the law of nations at defiance; and I would wish to know if the French Government concur with the British Government in thinking that the destruction of the slave baracoons on the coast of Africa could not be allowed, because it is not in conformity with the law of nations? Now, if our Government want to co-operate with the Government of France for the suppression of the Slave Trade, and if the Government of France be equally desirous to co-operate with the Government of this country for the same purpose, let them unite in sweeping from the coast of Africa those dens of iniquity. Let them get the consent of the African chiefs if they can; but if they cannot, let the baracoons, at any rate, be destroyed. If the two countries unite determinedly for this purpose, the question of the Right of Search will cease to be a practical question, and will resolve itself into one of theory. I am very anxious to bring this matter under the consideration of the Government, because I do think that although when the subject is mooted in this House nothing can be more satisfactory than the language held out by the Members of the Government, still, when it is necessary to act, the same energy cannot be perceived. The strongest expressions of condemnation of the Slave Trade are used in this House; but, when we look to see what the Government has done, we find that they are going step by step to undo every thing that has been done by their predecessors for the purpose of preventing this abominable traffic, and that they refuse to take any forward step likely to lead to its suppression. But, when they have done all that I have now pointed out to them—when they have succeeded in putting down the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa—there will still remain 209 enough to occupy them in the eastern and northern parts of that continent. In Egypt the Pacha promised several years ago to relinquish the razzias, by which he is in the habit of recruiting his army in the interior; and, nevertheless, in 1843, one of the most disgraceful of scenes of that kind ever committed was perpetrated by his troops. We have also evidence that in Muscat the Slave Trade is going on to a great extent. The Imaum had engaged that the trade to Christian nations should cease; but he is still carrying it on, at least his subjects are, with the aid of the Portuguese; not to mention the great annual exportation of slaves from his territories to the Coast of India. Sir, I have not made these observations in any spirit which should at all indispose the Government to take up the subject in earnest. I do not wish to make it the occasion of either a personal or a party attack; but I could not forbear to say what I have said of the shortcomings of the Government in these matters. I would, however, most anxiously recommend to the consideration of the right hon. Baronet the case of those British subjects who are illegally detained in slavery in Cuba and in Surinam, and the expediency of establishing a tribunal which should give real and practical freedom to the negroes detained in those places, but entitled to their liberty by decrees of Mixed Commissions. I would also ask him to consider the question of the destruction of the baracoons; and I should hope that the French and English Governments united would be able to achieve that entire suppression of the Slave Trade which would be more glorious than any action of which either country is yet able to boast. I would further ask the right hon. Baronet one question bearing on this subject. By the Treaty of Washington the American Government engaged, in the first place, to send a small force to the Coast of Africa, and the two parties to the Treaty agreed to unite in strong and earnest recommendation to those Governments which still carried on the Slave Trade, for the purpose of inducing them to desist from that criminal practice. Now, I should like to ask whether those Governments have made any joint representation to the Brazilian or to the Spanish Government; and if so, I should presume that there would be no objection to produce the Papers.
§ Sir R. Peel
said: It is not possible to condemn the noble Lord's observations as 210 not being perfectly in order; for in a discussion on the Navy Estimates it is scarcely possible to say what subjects may or may not be properly introduced. But the noble Lord would certainly have acted more in accordance with usage and with the general practice of the House, had he informed the House that he intended to discuss on this occasion the general practice of the Government with respect to the Slave Trade; but neither directly nor indirectly has the noble Lord given me any such notice. I have not the Papers to refer to; nor had I the slightest reason to expect that the noble Lord would have taken advantage on this occasion of the right which he undoubtedly possesses Considering, too, the advantage which may be taken in Cuba or Brazil of any admission made by the Minister, it requires some consideration before I answer the noble Lord on this subject. With respect to the mode of making out the Returns, I thought I had communicated with the noble Lord on that point, and that he was satisfied with the mode adopted. If he had made any suggestion on the subject, it should have been acted on; and even now, if he will point out any alteration he suggests in the mode, or will clear up anything that is equivocal, I will communicate with the officer in the Foreign Office who has the Returns under his charge, and see that the alteration is made. With respect to the case of the negroes in Surinam, I cannot hesitate for a moment in saying, that if there has been any misapprehension, on the part of an officer of the Government, as to the rights of the persons now in slavery in Surinam, those rights ought not to be forfeited on that account. If he thinks that the Act of 1806 or 1807 has not been sufficiently adverted to—if it has any bearing on the case of that slave to whom the noble Lord referred as being an example—if there has been any such inadvertence, which, from the high character of the Queen's Advocate, I can scarcely suppose to have been the case, and it is sufficient to constitute a claim for the interference of the British Government—I can inform the noble Lord that that negro who is now in slavery, or in a condition approaching to it, shall not be prejudiced on that account. Sir, the part of the speech of the noble Lord which gave me most satisfaction was, that in which he stated that a cordial union be- 211 tween France and England for the suppression of the Slave Trade, would do more towards that object than anything else. In that sentiment of the noble Lord I cordially concur. I believe that a cordial union between those two great Powers, considering the extent of the marine of France—an union for the purpose of enforcing the obligations of Treaties, and of compel ling the observance of the law—I concur with him in thinking that it would have more effect than any other measure. Nor do I despair of such an union being affected, and that France and England will together be able to concert such measures on the Coast of Africa as will be successful. I have reason to believe that the Slave Trade on the eastern coast is not carried on to the same extent as it was formerly. Within the last six months more success has attended the efforts of the British cruisers; and there have been of late some remarkable instances of the capture of slavers. I fear this increased success may be partly attributed to the increase of the traffic; but I cannot help thinking at the same time that the success which has attended our cruisers will strike a decisive blow at the continuance of the traffic. With regard to the position of the slaves in Cuba, I am certainly not prepared for the discussion now, and I would much rather not on this occasion express an opinion. I consider the position of this question as regards Cuba to be most unsatisfactory; and I am forced to admit that since the retirement of General Valdez, there has been a great deterioration. The noble Lord professes to be generally satisfied with the case of the Emancipados; and with regard to the case of the slaves, as distinguished from these, the noble Lord refers to proposals which were made before he left office, and which have not been complied with. I remember the general character of those proposals; but I am not prepared, as he gave no notice, and I therefore speak with some diffidence as to matters which occurred three years since, and not in my own department; and I repeat, that an additional difficulty arises out of the danger there is that admission made now, if indiscreet, may be taken advantage of. My impression as regards those proposals is, that after consulting the highest legal authorities as to whether we could compel their adoption by the Spanish Government, the answer 212 was, that we were not entitled by any Treaty to compel them. Greatly as the proposals of the noble Lord might be for the interests of humanity, the real question was as to whether we could compel their adoption. There was, I believe, every disposition on our part to enforce those proposals, if we could do so consistently with existing Treaties and the law of nations; but my impression, speaking from memory, is, that the highest legal authorities were of opinion that we could not. With regard to the destruction of the baracoons, notwithstanding every wish on the score of considerations of pure humanity and of disinterested policy to suppress the trade, yet I cannot think that we are entitled to violate the general law in order to do it. I think such a course would ultimately retard rather than advance our object, and tend to paralyse rather than increase our power. The noble Lord calls on us to destroy the baracoons, whether justified by the law or not, and he points to the cases of Scinde and Tahiti. I quite concur with the noble Lord that we ought, by Treaties with the neighbouring Powers, to get possession of those baracoons, and destroy them. I trust England and France will unite to obtain that power. I attach the greatest importance to that mode of proceeding. I believe that Treaties which would enable those Powers to effect that object, would be more efficacious than the greatest maritime efforts they could make. That is a subject which has had the consideration of the two Governments; and I do not despair of making some arrangement by which, with the consent of the native Powers, we may obtain the right to interfere and suppress those baracoons; but I cannot agree that, even for the purpose of putting an end to the Slave Trade, we should be justified in disregarding the general laws which bind nations. Sir, if the noble Lord will give me an opportunity of entering more fully into explanations, I shall be ready to do so; but on the present occasion, when I have not present to my memory all the circumstances which have happened from time to time, I think it better to abstain. But if there is any information which can be given, and the noble Lord will only point out in what way it can be made intelligible, I can assure him that no effort on my part shall be spared to procure it for him.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said: I am led to think that it was just as well that I did 213 not give notice to the right hon. Gentleman, as the want of it enables him to avoid being driven at present into a discussion of matters in which, as he properly said, a casual word dropped by him might be misinterpreted by Foreign Governments. My object was merely to draw attention to certain points; and I did not desire to bring on a discussion upon the general subject. What I meant with regard to the baracoons, was the very course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman; and I am fully convinced that it would be found to be practicable in almost every case; that is to say, that we should hold out to the native chiefs inducements, and I am confident small inducements would be sufficient, to lead them to permit us to destroy the baracoons on their coasts. But what I insist upon is this, that if in any case there were a chief who clung so to the Slave Trade that he refused to take our offers to permit us to destroy these baracoons, such conduct on his part would afford a case which would justify us in destroying them by an act of war. The objection raised as to the law of nations is simply this—that you have not the right of landing on the territory of an independent chief with the design of there executing a purpose to which he is no party. But if there is an African chief so barbarous that he will not concur with his neighbours in co-operating with you in the suppression of the Slave Trade, then, I say, you would be justified in compelling him by force to do so. Such conduct, on the part of that chief, would be a case of war within the law of nations. Your war with him would be carried on for a purpose which would not interfere with his independence or with his territorial possessions. But I cannot see anything in the law of nations to prevent you from having recourse to hostile means to compel such a chief to concur in a legitimate purpose. There is no doubt that if France and England combined for the purpose, they would be able to hold out to all these chiefs inducements to co-operate with them in securing the great and humane object which both have in view, The Return made to my Motion, I consider an imperfect Return. I had moved for a Return to be made up from documents in possession of the Government; and it is clear, from the notes added to this Return, that there are documents in possession of the Government which contain information which the Return does not contain.
§ Mr. Hume
was sorry to differ from the noble Lord. He agreed with him that it was a most desirable object to put an end to the Slave Trade and slavery. No man had done more with a view to that object than the noble Lord. Throughout the whole of the period during which he presided at the Foreign Office, his attention was unremittingly devoted to this matter. But we had been carrying out the views of the noble Lord at great expense and great risk, without being able to effect our object. The trade in slaves remained, he feared, as rife to-day as it was when England began her operations. He was not quite clear that the information they had, in many instances, could be depended upon. If correct information were supplied, he was afraid it would be found that they had added to the evils of the traffic, instead of suppressing it. When the noble Lord spoke of treaties with the African chiefs, he thought it would be impossible to effect much in that way; for so long as the chiefs could make it profitable to carry on the trade, it would be next to impossible to make them desist. If they burnt the baracoons one week, in the course of a few weeks the chiefs would be in possession of others. If they drove them from one point of the coast, they would soon be found at another, engaged in their nefarious traffic. This was a matter in which the exertions of England had been much misdirected. If half the time, trouble, and expense had been devoted to the increase of free labour in our own Colonies, we should have done much more in effecting the suppression of the Slave Trade, than we can now console ourselves with having done. As no good had resulted from the system so long pursued, a new course must now be taken. England was entitled to the credit of having—in the cause of philanthropy—in the cause of negro emancipation—done more than any other country in the world. He hoped that the attention of Government would be directed to the increase of free labour in the Colonies, both east and west. When they had deprived Brazil of its sugar and coffee market, in which it now commanded a good price for its productions, and rendered the Colonies of England able to produce those articles more cheaply than at present, they would succeed, and not till then, in putting a stop to the Slave Trade.
§ Mr. Warburton
observed, that the 215 Papers to which the noble Lord referred, gave the following results, which he would read to the House. It appeared that from 1815 to 1843, according to the imperfect returns which the Government had been able to obtain, the number of negroes transported from Africa to Cuba and Brazil amounted to 639,145; and, according to the notes appended to those Returns, in order to arrive at the real number, they were instructed to multiply by two, which gave as the whole number so transported 1,280,000. Now the total number of those liberated by British cruisers was only 18,042, which number was, as compared with 1,280,000, as one was to 72; and one in 72 was less than 1½ per cent. 1½ per cent. being the total number liberated, how small a proportion was that to the whole number shipped from Africa! And yet such was the result of our vast expenditure and sacrifices, in prohibiting free trade between this country and those countries which abounded in tropical produce, but with which a free intercourse had been prohibited because they carried on the Slave Trade. 1½ per cent. was all that they had liberated! Were they not to look at this fact, and argue from it for the future? The noble Lord on the one side, and the right hon. Baronet on the other, told them that if France and England would only cordially unite to put down the Slave Trade, their conjoint efforts would speedily be attended with the most triumphant results; for the Slave Trade would become so hazardous, that an end would soon be put to it. To this he would only reply, after the manner of the Spartan—"if." When they cordially united to put down the Slave Trade, they might possibly achieve much. As yet they had done but very little, as the returns but too clearly indicated. If they took the experience of the past, from 1815 to 1842, and considered that during the next thirty years different results might be attained, then he agreed with the noble Lord that it might be desirable that there should be such a union, if such consequences were to follow. But who expected that such would be the case? At present, by the course the Government were pursuing, they were only exasperating those amongst whom they were endeavouring, by futile means, to put down the slave traffic and the institution of slavery; while gentler means and more kindly representations would induce them 216 to abandon both the trade and the institution.
§ Viscount Palmerston
thought that the hon. Member for Kendal did not take all the proper items into his account, in stating the number of slaves who had been emancipated by the endeavours of the British Government. The number to which the hon. Gentleman alluded was the number of those emancipated and landed upon the American coast; but besides this number they had between 60,000 and 70,000 who had been landed at Sierra Leone. The hon. Gentleman should also recollect that a great number of vessels were captured upon the coast of Africa without any slaves on board, and which, if not captured, would have returned laden with cargoes of 500 or 600 slaves a piece. The hon. Gentleman, if he took these things into the account, would find that a much larger per centage of negroes than that which he had just mentioned, were either emancipated from the slave ships, or saved from capture and bondage.
§ Sir Charles Napier
agreed with the hon. Member for Kendal, with the noble Lord, and with the right hon. Baronet. He thought that if France and England should really and seriously combine to put down the Slave Trade, their object could soon be effected; but he did not think that France would ever come to such an agreement. That country was now trying to do away with the Right of Search. What plan France proposed as a substitute for that right, was not yet divulged; but it appeared that there was some plan in view. But if the right hon. Baronet would give up all that humbug of destroying baracoons, and all that humbug about doing what might be construed as being contrary to the law of nations, which he considered altogether humbug in reference to this matter, and embark a couple of thousand of black troops from the West Indies on board a few steam boats, and let them make a run from one end of the coast of Africa to the other, and destroy, in their progress, every place from which slaves were exported, his word for it, they would soon put an end to the Slave Trade. There was no use of mystifying the matter; for that was the plain English of it. Let them compare his plan with that which, for so many years, had been perseveringly pursued. Let them look at the loss of 217 life which had been sustained on the part of this country, and at the enormous loss of life amongst the negroes, by the multitudes thrown overboard and otherwise destroyed, and they could not fail to be convinced that there was really more inhumanity in the mode in which they had been attempting to suppress the traffic, than if they resorted to the plan which he had just suggested. Let them get a sufficient number of black troops, and land them at every obnoxious point of the coast, and they would soon put an end to the Slave Trade.
§ Captain Pechell
believed that the accounts of slaves landed were imperfect; and the only course left for the House to pursue was to discuss the question on the Returns, which they found to give the most correct account. He differed from the hon. Member for Montrose, as to the attempts which this country had made to put down the traffic in slaves. In his opinion, our operations had been most successful. He found that from 1831 to 1835 there were 75 vessels taken with slaves, and only 7 empty; and those who had the boldness and the courage to seize the empty ones, had been charged with damages to a considerable amount. From 1836 to 1841, 104 vessels were taken with slaves, and 143 empty. These were statements which he hoped the hon. Member for Montrose would take notice of. During the two last years of the late Government, the years 1840 and 1841, only 8 vessels loaded with slaves were captured, and 48 empty, by one account, and 54 by another, but say 50 empty, were also taken during these two years. This showed that the exertions of this country had been eminently successful. Now, the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Estimates, and called for an increased Vote for the Naval Service, assigned, amongst other things, as a reason for making such a call, that additional armaments were to be sent to the Coast of Africa for the suppression of the Slave Trade. He would, therefore, call upon the Government to explain to the House whether they (the Government) had been successful in the new policy adopted, of concentrating their forces in the African seas, by the withdrawal of our cruisers from the Coast of Brazil, from Cuba, and from the Gulf of Mexico? Had our cruisers, under these circumstances, been successful in reducing the number of 218 negroes embarked? He would also ask, whether instructions had been sent to their officer on the Coast of Africa, in pursuance of any understanding with France, in regard to visiting and landing on the coast, for the purpose of liberating slaves from the baracoons? In these particulars had their efforts been successful? If they now relaxed their system, this increased estimate which was called for would be of no use whatever; and it therefore remained for the House to be very vigilant as to giving their vote for it. The Government must take care lest in this matter they lowered the character of this nation amongst Foreign Powers, or did anything to compromise the cause of humanity, in which this country had always taken so prominent and distinguished a part. He would ask the gallant Admiral what was the cause at the present moment of ships not being able to get an equipment of men? There was a great complaint, not only of the want of seamen, but also of the description of men. Captains were now in the habit of inquiring what had become of the old-fashioned seamen? A great difficulty seemed now to exist in manning the ships. The gallant Admiral educated every year hundreds of gunners. What had become of them? The gallant Admiral might think, that if he hoisted his flag to-morrow, he would be able to find men enough. He hoped he was not deceived.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
said, that the gallant Officer had alluded, in the first part of his speech, to the success which had attended their efforts on the Coast of Africa, and was anxious to know whether they (the Government) were now succeeding in their efforts. He had great pleasure in being able to say, that during the last year, they had exceeded even their expectations. From news lately received from the Coast of Africa, it appeared that seventeen vessels had been recently captured, and he was very happy to say that three vessels out of every four were without slaves. This was the best proof which could be adduced of the value of having a squadron on the Coast of Africa. The squadron on the African station consisted of twenty-three vessels. Amongst these, there were six or seven steamers, which were very useful, although they did not find that they captured any more slavers than did the other sailing vessels. In the next place, they had that day received an account of an 219 attack made by the officer in command there, who had landed some of his men, and, on account of the improper conduct of some chiefs, destroyed three or four of their towns; and then went up the country, and brought the King, Mannah, to his senses, and made him promise to enter into a Treaty. He had every reason to believe that our cruisers on the Coast of Africa were fast destroying the Slave Trade. He also understood that the price of slaves had of late risen in the Colonies, which he regarded as another proof of success. That was not the first time that he had declared upon the floor of that House and elsewhere, that if they one year dismissed 4,000 men, and the next year took them on, it would not be easy, acting on such a system, to get an equipment of men at a moment's warning. As long as they chose to keep and find seamen, they would get as many as they pleased. But they must give them employment to keep them. They could not have an increase of seamen at the moment in which they wanted them; but he was sure that in a very short space of time they would be able to get them. They would not be at such a loss in critical moments, when those moments arrived, if the House of Commons kept men when they got them. Captains, besides, were much more nice now-a-days, than they were in time of war. Notwithstanding the complaints to which the hon. Gentleman alluded, there were as fine men now in the service as ever were in it. In addition to this, the condition and conduct of the men were much better than they were before. As regarded the getting of men, he was aware that they could not be found immediately. It was only three months since they had commenced commissioning eight ships of the line; and although they had been only that short time at work, with the exception of the Queen, the Hibernia, and the Canopus, all the rest were manned. The Rodney was now, he believed, about forty men short. The Queen and the Hibernia wanted about 300 each. Within these three months they had all but manned eight ships of the line. Considering the difficulties in the way, he must say, upon the whole, that they manned their vessels much faster than could have been expected.
intended to avail himself of another opportunity for calling attention to the proper manning of the 220 British navy. It was his opinion that when men entered for a particular ship, they ought to be allowed to stick to it. Men had entered for the Albion, under Captain Lockyer. What had become of these men? Why had they not been kept? Why had they been turned adrift? Why, he asked, had a reduction taken place in the crews of the experimental squadron that was now going to sea? Suppose that America forced them to go to war; he feared they would be again beaten, as they had been beaten before, and for no other reason, but because they fought with a miserable peace establishment—because they were undermanned—he feared they would be beaten again. A difference of 200 men marked the distinction between an efficient and an inefficient man of war.
§ Sir C. Cockburn
declared that no man could be more convinced than he was of the necessity of sending ships to sea fully manned. When the Albion had been sent abroad she was fully manned; but when commissioned for home service, her complement had been reduced. The ships that were going out would have their numbers supplied from the dockyards and Marines. They were an experimental squadron, and the object was to test them at sea. For his own part, he should be very glad if the House of Commons voted 2,000 men more, so that they might keep their ships fully manned at home, and ready to go to America or anywhere else. It was his wish to have them fully manned, so as they might be ready to take their part against any nation. The men, he must remind the gallant Officer, entered for general service, and were subject to be sent where they were wanted, and not to any particular vessel.
§ Sir C. Napier
said, that the men with whom any ship was a favourite, entered only for that ship. The gallant Admiral had said that he would keep them for three years if he wanted them; but the men ought not to be turned out of a ship because one Admiralty thought proper to adopt one system, and another Admiralty another. He did not think that the gallant Admiral had given a satisfactory answer about undermanning the ships. Great outcry had been raised against the late Admiralty for having, in so extraordinary a manner, undermanned the ships in the Mediterranean. Men, it was true, were sent out, but they arrived after the war was over. The same thing would take 221 place as to the gallant Admiral's fleet. He had got them on the home station, it was true; but if a war were to break out to-morrow the ships would be sent to sea undermanned, with the hope and prospect of being able to send out steam boats. No ships should be sent to sea unless they were properly manned. He had much sooner send seven ships fully manned, than eight undermanned. The men would be much more inclined to do their duty, than if they were harassed night and day. The gallant Admiral said that the ships were well manned. Now, he was in communication with officers every day, and had it from them that the ships were extremely ill manned, that the men were of an inferior quality, and that good seamen were not to be got hold of. An officer of the Superb, whom he had met in the train, and who could have no reason to tell an untruth, had told him that he had not more than forty able seamen in the ship; that the generality of men were trash, and that they could not get better men. They were very well behaved, it was true, but they were neither seamen, nor likely to be made seamen for a considerable time. He might say the same of other ships. The Admiralty could not help it, but the Government could. Let them hold out more encouragement to men than they did. His hon. Friend had last year mentioned the propriety of establishing Seamen's Homes, which could be done with very little expense on the part of Government; for an individual who had spent a large sum in establishing one in London, had met with the most perfect success. If the Government would establish at each of our chief seaports a "Seamen's Home," such as they had in London, he was sure it would have the best, possible effect. As it was, they were preyed upon by everybody, and therefore naturally looked upon everybody as thieves and robbers. By giving them a home this would be avoided; but he despaired it would be done; for since he had been in the service they had never done a single thing to assist or protect the seamen, or to make them like the service. Look how they were treated in China. When the ships were being commissioned, placards were stuck about offering the men plenty of prize money. But when they flocked on board, sailed to China, and made their first attack on Canton, all they got was one year's batta. He said this was disgraceful to the Government. 222 There was no use in mincing the matter. Moreover, instead of serving it out as prize money, and in proportion to rank and length of service, the warrant officers and boys got the same money. When Canton was taken, and the troops just ready to storm the town, and pounce upon what they considered their right, the Civil Commissioners stopped them, and a ransom was given, but the Government "sacked" it all. He said that was deceiving the seamen; and it was notorious that since he had been in the Navy faith had never been kept with British seamen. What was done when he retired from Syria? Why they gave the men a 10l. note and a fortnight's leave of absence. What was the result? Why many of them would not take it, and the rest deserted, and never came back. He would read to them Lord Nelson's notions of manning the Navy, which they would see were very different. In that document, which was lent him by Lord Nelson's nephew, he found that he proposed certificates should be granted. He calculated that there were 42,000 seamen in the merchant service seduced by the superior pay from the Navy. He proposed, therefore, that every seaman with good character, who had served in the fleet five years, should be paid four guineas every New Year's-day, or King's birth-day, and if he had served eight years, eight guineas, irrespective of pensions. It was true that last year they did get a registration of seamen. This was the first step they had taken towards a prudent policy; and he believed the best that could be taken. He was sure it would create order and sobriety, and better moral feelings than had before existed. He wished the Government would go further, and bring in a Bill that before men became registered seamen they should serve a certain period in a man of war. He had no doubt that in that case many would come forward voluntarily. There was another thing he wished to see corrected, and that was the press system. The right hon. Baronet, much to his credit, had brought in an Enlistment Bill, which provided that in the case of a war taking place, or a proclamation calling upon sailors to come forward, they should receive 10l. each (he did not use the word bounty, for it was so long since the men had any that they did not know what it was,) and also that the men who were actively employed should receive the said money.
223 In this case, however, supposing there were 40,000 seamen, and there was to be a war with America, the first step to be taken would be to pay them a double bounty, which would amount to 400,000l.; but he did not think men expected anything of the kind. What he proposed was, that if a war took place, and they were actually called out, they should have this bounty. It appeared by recent returns that there were 115,000 seamen in America. Of these 100,000 were foreigners, and most of them Englishmen. Now, if a war took place to-morrow, there was no doubt if they were called on, these men would leave the American service; but, if they once began to press men in England, not one of them would leave the American service. He trusted, therefore, if we ever went to war again with France or America, the Government would never think of pressing men. If they offered a good bounty they would get them; but if they pressed, they would get none.
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, he was not surprised there was a difficulty in getting men for the Navy at this season. The late Government found it difficult to get only 3,000 men; so that, if the present Government had already got 3,400, they had done as much as could be reasonably expected. There was no difficulty in getting men in the autumn, but now they were just going out in merchantmen on short voyages. He could not agree that the present race of sailors were degenerated. The late Government had, undoubtedly, kept their ships at home undermanned; the present Government did the same. The late Government, however, did so, because they thought they were right; but the present Government did so, knowing that they were wrong. The late Government were blamed for their conduct in this respect, and the hon. Member for Kent used to express his fear of the Russians attacking the orchards of Kent; and yet during the last summer the coast was left completely defenceless. The present Government were accusing them for what they themselves were guilty of, because they would not come down and ask for 2,000 men more. He would conclude by saying that the Navy was not in the state it ought to be; neither had Her Majesty's Government a sufficient complement of men at command to make the Navy efficient.
§ Mr. Sydney Herbert
said, that the pre- 224 sent Government did not send ships with reduced complements of men to foreign stations, though the ships on the home stations had been in some degree undermanned. But the Government had acted on the principle that it was desirable all the ships on foreign stations should be fully manned, and that the vessels on home stations should have reduced complements, because there would be no difficulty in obtaining men at home, should they be required, and the ships on home stations could therefore be speedily placed in an efficient condition. The case of the Albion was the only exception to this rule. The Government with which the hon. Member for Halifax was associated, had sent out ships to foreign stations, even at a time when we were at war, with reduced complements of men; and the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Sir C. Napier), in the course of his operations on the coast of Syria, accounted for the slackness of his fire by the want of a sufficient number of men to work the ships under his command efficiently. The hon. Member for Halifax had stated that the shores of this country had never been in so defenceless a condition since 1835 as they were in last year; but he begged to inform the right hon. Gentleman, that there was last year a far larger number of men in commission on the coast of this country than there had been in 1835, or even in 1841, when public affairs were in a very unsettled state. He would venture to say that they had had much finer ships' crews lately than at some former periods. He believed if an increased number of seamen was required, there would be no difficulty in obtaining them; for it must be remembered that at this time the trade and commerce of this country were in a peculiarly flourishing state, and there was consequently a great demand for merchant seamen.
did not find any fault with the present Board of Admiralty, but he thought it of the highest importance that the House of Commons should know whether or not it was as easy as formerly to man the British navy. In his opinion it was not; and he preferred the opinion of the hon. and gallant Admiral near him on that point to that of the four Gentlemen who had been Secretaries to the Admiralty.—Vote agreed to.
§ The House resumed. The Chairman reported progress, and obtained leave to sit again.225
§ House adjourned at a quarter past one o'clock.