HC Deb 07 May 1845 vol 80 cc239-42
Viscount Palmerston

wished to put a question to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government—it was one which he had put the other night, and which as the right hon. Baronet was not then prepared to answer, he would now repeat. By the Treaty of Washington, concluded in Angust, 1842, and by the 9th Article of that Treaty, it was stipulated that— Whereas, notwithstanding all the efforts which may be made upon the coast of Africa for the suppression of the Slave Trade, while the facilities for carrying on that traffic by the fraudulent use of flags are so great, and the temptations for pursuing it when markets can be found are so strong, that the desired result may be long delayed, unless all the markets now open be shut up against the purchase of African negroes—the parties to the Treaty do therefore agree to unite in all becoming representations to, and remonstrances with, any and all of the Powers within whose dominions such markets are allowed to exist, and that they will urge on all such Powers the propriety and duty of closing such markets fully, at once and for ever. He wished then to ask whether, in consequence and in pursuance of that 9th Article, the Governments of the United States and of England had united in communicating any, and, if any, what representations and remonstrances to the Governments of Brazil and Spain, both of them nations included in the class of those referred to? He wished, also, to ask, with reference to the Treaty of December, 1840, for the suppression of the Slave Trade — the Treaty, he meant, signed between England, Austria, Prussia, and Russia — whether any steps had been taken in pursuance of the 17th Article, which stated that— The high contracting parties agree to invite those maritime Powers of Europe which have not yet concluded Treaties for the abolition of the Slave Trade, to accede to the present Treaty, The Powers referred to were Belgium, Hanover, and Greece; and the question which he wished to put to the right hon. Gentleman was, whether the parties to that Treaty of December, 1840, had, in pursuance of the Article he had referred to, applied to those three Powers to obtain their accession to the Treaty?

Sir R. Peel

said, that the noble Lord having given him notice of his intention to ask the questions which he had put, he had made inquiry at the Foreign Office as to the transaction referred to. The noble Lord had quoted—of course correctly—the Article of the Treaty of Washington, as to representations and remonstrances to be made by the Governments of Great Britain and the United States to certain Foreign Powers. After the passing of that Treaty, several conferences had taken place between his noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Department and the American Minister, Mr. Everett, upon the subject of the Article in question. The question was, whether it would be most advantageous and most likely to bring about desirable results, were the representation to be made by both countries united, or by each for itself. The words of the Article undoubtedly were that both countries should "unite," but it was not considered that they were necessarily bound, therefore, to make a joint representation, and that, should it be thought most desirable for each country to make a separate representation, each country was at perfect liberty to do so. It was ultimately determined, as the best course to be adopted, that each country should make such a separate representation. The Government of Great Britain had faithfully adhered to that arrangement, and he understood from the American Minister that the Government of the United States had also made a similar representation to Brazil, through their Minister there, who had all along shown the utmost readiness to assist in every measure calculated to put down the Slave Trade. As to the second question of the noble Lord, he had correctly stated that in 1841 a Treaty had been concluded by Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, conceding to each other a mutual Right of Search, in order to suppress as far as possible the Slave Trade. That Treaty had been signed by France, but had not been ratified by her. The other great Powers of Europe, however, independent of that non-ratification, concluded the Treaty. It was a quadruple Treaty binding on four Powers; and it became a question whether, after the refusal of France to ratify the Treaty, it was desirable that representations should be made to the three Powers who had not at all joined it, namely, Belgium, Hanover, and Greece. He believed that no vessels belonging to these countries were engaged in the Slave Trade, nor were their flags used in the promotion of that traffic. No doubt it would be very desirable that all the maritime Powers of Europe should unite to put it down; but there were considerations connected with the refusal of France to ratify the Treaty which were judged to form obstacles in the way of representation being made to the three Powers alluded to.

Viscount Palmerston

observed that as to the first question, as it appeared that the Government of the United States had made remonstrances in execution of the Article of the Treaty of Washington referred to, he presumed that there would be no difficulty in obtaining a diplomatic communication of these remonstrances from that Government, and in laying them before the House. If the remonstrances had been joint, as was the literal construction of the Treaty, they would have been laid on the Table of the House as a matter of course; but being conformable to the Treaty in spirit, although not in form, he still did not see that there could be any obstacle to their production.