HC Deb 16 May 1845 vol 80 cc466-91
Viscount Palmerston

rose and said: I wish to make one or two observations on a subject to which I called the attention of the House on a former occasion—I mean the Slave Trade. I am induced to do this very much in consequence of the answer which the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) gave to the statement I then made, and which answer, I think, was by no means satisfactory. I wish, however, in the first place to request the attention of the House to the annual Slave Trade Papers. This is about the time when the annual Returns are received from foreign stations, and I hope the Papers may be presented at an earlier period than they have been for some years past. Of recent years the Papers have been presented very late in the Session, and sufficient opportunity has not been afforded for giving the documents a deliberate perusal. I know that the right hon. Baronet may tell me that when I was in office the annual Papers were sometimes presented very late in the Session; but during those years we had many difficult and complicated affairs in hand which prevented me from looking over those Papers as early as I could have wished, and no such conferences or negotiations are now going on. Passing that by, I am sorry to say, with regard to the general subject, that the answer of the right hon. Baronet on a late occasion only went to confirm the opinion which I am afraid everything that has happened during the last three years has tended to create; namely, that with regard to the Slave Trade, Her Majesty's present Government have occupied themselves during the period they have been in office, not only in undoing much that had been accomplished by those who went before them, but actually in defeating some of the things which they had by some accident accomplished since they themselves had come into power. The two means by which all former Governments of this country have endeavoured to put down the Slave Trade have been, first, entering into Treaties with the Powers whose subjects carried on the Slave Trade, stipulating that such Powers should bind themselves to prohibit and prevent their subjects from engaging in the traffic; and, secondly, by forming Treaties by which the mutual Right of Search should be given. The first means tended to prevent the Slave Trade from being carried on in those countries where the slaves were sold and employed. The latter tended to give to the British Government the means of preventing the transport of slaves across the sea, if the Governments with whom the Treaties were made should evade or disregard the obligations they had entered into to prevent their subjects from slave trading. It was obvious to everybody that long-rooted habits could not at once be over-come by mere diplomatic engagements; the British Government could not, therefore, trust entirely to the efficacy of the Treaty engagements of Portugal, of Spain, or of Brazil, to put an end to the Slave Trade; hence the necessity of other means for suppressing that traffic. Now, what were the means in existence for putting an end to the Slave Trade at the time when the late Government came into office in 1830? Declarations against the Slave Trade had been obtained from most of the Powers of Europe at the Congresses of Vienna and Verona, of 1815 and 1822; but they were merely announcements of the principle that the traffic in slaves ought to be suppressed, and were unaccompanied by any provision of means for carrying those declarations into effect. There had been, however, Treaties concluded with Foreign Powers for the purpose of suppressing the Slave Trade, which gave British cruisers a Right of Search, calculated to enforce the obligations contracted by those Treaties. Before the year 1830, we had Treaties on these matters with twelve Powers. We had Treaties with Denmark and with the United States. These were entered into in 1814; the first in January, the last in December. These Treaties contained only general engagements. The Treaty with Denmark stipulated in general terms, that the King of Denmark should prohibit his subjects from taking any share in that trade; and the engagement of the United States was contained in the Tenth Article of the Treaty of Ghent, by which the United States bound themselves to use their best means to put an end to the Slave Trade; but neither of those Treaties contained any means for enforcing the fulfilment of their conditions. We had also a Treaty with Portugal, entered into in July 1817, but that Treaty gave England no power to enforce its observance south of the equator. We had likewise a Treaty with Spain, also entered into in 1817, but which was liable to the same objection as that with Portugal, giving no power to search vessels south of the equator. Again, there was a Treaty with the Netherlands, and with Sweden, and also with Brazil, more complete in their stipulations. There were also Treaties bearing on this subject with Algiers, with Tripoli, with Tunis, with Madagascar, and with the Imaun of Muscat—the Treaties with Tripoli and Tunis, had chiefly in view the abolition of the practice of making slaves of Christian prisoners. These Treaties, twelve in number, existed when the late Government came into office. Now, what did we do when we came into power? Why, we concluded no less than eighteen Treaties with different independent Powers in various parts of the world for the suppression of the Slave Trade. We entered into a Treaty with France; into additional stipulations with Denmark; we also concluded a Treaty with Sardinia; a further Treaty with Spain, with Sweden, and with the Netherlands. We made a Treaty, also, with the Hanse Towns, with Tuscany, with Naples, with Chile, with Venezuela, with Buenos Ayres, with Uruguay, with Haiti, with Muscat, with Bo- livia, with Texas, and with Mexico. From Portugal we were not able to procure an additional Treaty; although she was bound by her former engagements to conclude one; but we passed an Act of Parliament which gave us all the power which we were entitled to ask by Treaty. In all, we concluded eighteen Treaties; besides the Act of Parliament in regard to Portugal. The great object in these Treaties was to obtain the mutual Right of Search. We knew that unless all the Powers having flags upon the ocean joined in this arrangement, our endeavours would not be entirely successful. Our great object, therefore, was to enlist into this league every Power which had a flag upon the sea. I think I have shown that the late Government were not inattentive to their duty on this point. There were, besides, Treaties made with African chiefs, binding them to put an end to the Slave Trade in their respective territories on the African coast. Six Treaties were entered into with those chiefs in 1841, namely, with the chiefs of Timmanys, Bonny, Cartibar, Cameroons, Aboi, and Egarra. Besides this, we succeeded in obtaining the liberty of many British subjects who had been illegally detained in slavery, especially in Cuba, who had been either kidnapped from Sierra Leone, or having been taken by their former British owners from some British colony against law to Cuba, had been illegally sold there. We frequently urged the Governments of Spain and of Brazil to give real liberty to the negroes called emancipados, who had been pronounced free by the Mixed Commissions; but who were still retained in a state of slavery. And we also required those two Governments to concert with us measures for giving effect to their own laws issued in pursuance of their Treaties with Great Britain—laws by which every negro who, after a certain time long since gone by, had been landed in the territory either of Spain or of Brazil, was ipso facto free. That was the sum and substance of the steps which we took upon this subject while we were in office. Besides the Treaties which I have mentioned, we had negotiated and all but signed a Treaty by which the Five Great Powers of Europe were combined for the suppression of the Slave Trade—an object which at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, was anxiously sought to be obtained even by large sa- crifices on the part of Great Britain. Now what has been done by the present Government since they came into office? Why, they have not concluded one single Treaty of their own with any Government. No; not one. They have signed two Treaties; but they were Treaties which they did not negotiate. The Treaty with Portugal was a mitigation of, and substitute for, the Act of Parliament which we had passed; and was, in fact, the very Treaty which we had proposed to Portugal, and her refusal to accept which, had been the groundwork of our Act of 1839. The Treaty between the Five Powers signed in December, 1841, had been negotiated by us; and I give them no credit for signing it, because the delay in signing it, arising solely from their not attaching due importance to the subject, was the real and original cause of the non-ratification of that Treaty by France. If they had signed the Treaty within a reasonable time after their coming into office in the beginning of September, 1841, the Treaty would have been ratified, because the period assigned for ratification would have expired before the Chamber of Deputies met; and those intrigues which finally prevented the ratification could not have been resorted to. That was the first backward step of Her Majesty's present Government. The consequence of that non-ratification was, that they failed to attain the accession of the kingdoms of Hanover, Belgium, and Greece to the general league against the Slave Trade; and thus these flags are still left open to the carrying on of that detestable traffic. I always said that such would be the consequence of the non-ratification by France The right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) admitted that it has been so. I asked the right hon. Gentleman why the accession of those three States to the Treaty which had been concluded with Austria, Russia, and Prussia, had not been obtained; and he stated that after the refusal of France to ratify that Treaty, it was not thought expedient to ask the accession of those three other Powers. I do not see the conclusiveness of that argument. Does Her Majesty's Government assume, then, that the influence of France in Europe is so much greater than the influence of England, Austria, Russia, and Prussia combined; that when those small Powers of the second order were asked to accede to a just and righteous engagement with them, the counter influence of France, wrongfully exerted to prevent the suppression of the detestable crime of making a traffic of human beings, is to be paramount to the moral influence of the other Four great Powers? That certainly would be an opinion by no means complimentary either to those Four great Powers, or to the three States to which the invitation should have been given. But even if that reasoning was just in regard to Belgium and Greece, why was it to be supposed that Hanover is to be so entirely absorbed and drawn into the vortex of France? Why should it be thought that to Hanover the invitation of the Four Powers would have been addressed in vain? I think Her Majesty's Government to blame for not having addressed that invitation to Hanover, and the other two States. It was their duty to have taken every step to gain the accession of every Power to the league. It would have shown a more becoming sense of what was due to the great cause of which I am speaking, if the Government had made the invitation, and have left the three States to give their reasons for not acceding to it. But if the course which the Government pursued be granted to be good, and if the refusal of France to ratify the Treaty was a good reason why you should abstain from attempting to get the accession of these three Powers to the League; then, on the other hand, it adds to the reasons which have led me to condemn the silence of Her Majesty's Government upon this breach of engagement on the part of the Government of France. We know on the best authority—for it was stated by the French Minister in the French Chambers—that his refusal to ratify a Treaty which he himself here, as Ambassador, had negotiated and settled, and which afterwards, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, he had specifically instructed the Ambassador of France at this Court to sign, was not met by any remonstrance or complaint on the part of the British Government. Looking at the transaction merely as a matter of diplomatic precedent, it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to have recorded a protest againt that refusal; and when it is seen that this refusal of France to ratify has had the effect of leaving three European flags open to the abuse of carrying on this nefarious traffic, it becomes a matter of still more serious concernment. This, then, is the result of the policy of the present Government with regard to the Slave Trade, as it concerns the European Powers. Then we come to the Ashburton Treaty, or capitulation, as it has been justly termed. By that Treaty Her Majesty's Government have let the United States out of the engagement contained in the stipulations of the Treaty of Ghent. The Treaty of Ghent stipulated that the two Governments of America and England should use their best endeavours to bring about the abolition of the Slave Trade. But by this Ashburton Treaty we accept, as a fulfilment of that engagement, an undertaking to send out five sloops of 16 guns each for the purpose of watching the Slave Trade along the whole coasts of Africa, Brazil, and the West Indies. Five such ships, it appears, are all that are to be sent by the United States upon the Slave Trade prevention service. Five sloops, of 16 guns each, are the whole force which is to be sent out to watch the abuse of the American flag along that immense line of coast; and this we accept as the "best endeavour" which the United States can make to co-operate with us for the entire abolition of the Slave Trade. That, surely, is not the best endeavour which the United States could make. It is difficult to conceive any endeavour at all which would not have been more effectual. This was bad enough; but there was another stipulation of the Treaty between England and America, by which the two parties bound themselves to make representations and remonstrances to the Governments of those countries which, by continuing to afford in their territories a market for slaves, held out inducements to others to pursue the crime of slave trading. Here, then, was something which Her Majesty's Government had to do, arising out of their own engagements. The former thing which they had to do, was to invite Belgium, Hanover, and Greece to accede to the Treaty with the Five European Powers. That was an obligation arising out of a Treaty which we had negotiated: they indeed signed our Treaty, but they declined to fulfil its obligation. Well, here was another backward step. The Treaty of Washington contained an engagement that the two parties to it should unite in making remonstrances and representations to the Powers of Brazil and Spain, on the subject of the Slave Trade, they being the Powers to whom the engagement referred. What did the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) state to me the other night? He stated that the British Secretary of State and the American Minister had had conferences upon the subject, and that they had at last come to the conclusion that it would be more agreeable to Brazil and to Spain that the representation should not be made jointly; that a joint representation might appear like dictation; that it would wound the national pride of the Governments to whom the representations were to be addressed; and therefore, they agreed to disregard that Article of the Treaty, and to make their representations separately. I never heard a reason which appeared to me to show so little earnestness in the matter to which it related. They determined not to make joint representations for fear of wounding the dignity and hurting the feelings of the Governments of Spain and Brazil! This of course meant that they were afraid of doing anything which might be disagreeable to the feelings of General Narvaez at Madrid, of General O'Donnel at the Havana, and of Senhor whoever he may be, who for the moment conducts the foreign affairs of Brazil. Here is a Government professing an anxious desire to suppress the Slave Trade, and yet abandoning the means resulting out of one of their own stipulations, because its exercise would not be agreeable to the slave-trading and Slave Trade-protecting and encouraging parties! Why, Sir, the value of the representation depended upon its being calculated to do what the right hon. Baronet calls wounding the feelings of the parties. The value of the representation depended upon its having somewhat of a dictatorial character; and in this respect the weight and force of the representation consisted in its being made jointly. Every one who knew the nature of international relations, and the effect of communications between Governments, must know that the representations made by two or more Governments jointly are very different from a representation made by one Government alone, or by two Governments separately. A joint representation is an indication of a unity of purpose, which may lead to unity of action between the two parties; whereas, separate representations indicate separate views which may by possibility never lead to combined action. It was the very circumstance of the weight which the joint representation would have carried with it that would have made it disagreeable to the Governments of Spain and of Brazil. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Peel), that if the line of conduct to be pursued by Her Majesty's Government in respect to the Slave Trade is to be regulated by a regard to the feelings of the Governments of the slave-trading countries—if their proceedings on these matters are to be guided by a consideration of what is agreeable to the Governments of Spain and Brazil, they might as well abstain from writing any more despatches, or taking any more steps for the abolition of the Slave Trade, and they may at once allow the slave traders to go on in their own way, and they may as well permit Spain and Brazil to go on as they like inviolating the Treaties they have entered into with us. Any representation henceforth made to obtain from them an effectual performance of their engagements will be represented by them as offensive to their dignity, and as an infringement upon what the Spanish call the "decorum" of independent nations. Here, again, the only forward step which the present Government had taken for the suppression of the Slave Trade, they themselves, upon consideration, have abandoned and retraced. Well, then, what have they done with regard to the liberation of British subjects from Cuba and Surinam? Why, they determined that they could not be justified in requiring the liberation of any British subject detained in slavery in Cuba or in Surinam, unless it could be shown that such British subject was born free, or had been actually in a British territory at the time the Emancipation Act was passed. Such a doctrine seems repugnant to every notion of common sense and common justice; but it is, moreover, a doctrine not borne out by their own acts. Notwithstanding, and in spite of this slavish doctrine, it appears that Her Majesty's Government have demanded and have obtained the liberation of some negroes which had been kidnapped from Jamaica. Their acts seem in this respect to have been better than their theory; and I trust this slavish doctrine of theirs will not be maintained. But we held a very different doctrine. I, on the 26th of August, 1841, addressed a despatch to Mr. Aston, the British Minister at Madrid, in which I stated— You will further state that it appears that there are many British subjects now held in slavery in Cuba, and as it is impossible that Her Majesty's Government can permit any British subjects, be their colour what it may, to be held in slavery in a foreign country, Her Majesty's Government claim and demand as a right from the Government of Spain, that all such persons shall be immediately released, and shall be placed on board the Romney, under the care of Mr. Turnbull, the superintendent of liberated Africans, in order to their being sent back to Jamaica, or such other British Colony as they may choose to go to. You will observe, that the fact that any such persons may happen to have been slaves in a British Colony at the time when they were taken from thence and carried to Cuba, can make no difference in the matter, because, in their removal from a British Colony as slaves was illegal, and because, they would now have been by law free if they had remained in a British Colony; and it cannot be admitted that their illegal removal to a Spanish island should deprive them of that liberty which the law of England has conferred upon them. You will add, that Her Majesty's Consul at the Havana has been instructed forthwith to take all the steps which may be necessary for finding out all the British subjects in Cuba who are thus illegally detained in bondage, and to apply to the Governor for the release of all persons whom he may discover to be so detained; and Her Majesty's Government request that the Government of Spain will immediately send the most positive orders to the Governor of Cuba to afford to Her Majesty's Consul every possible facility in pursuing his investigations; and to deliver over to him all persons who may appear to be British subjects, and to be so detained in bondage. That was the opinion which I entertained upon this matter in 1841, and which I entertain still; and I think that Her Majesty's Government have acted very hastily, and without adequate consideration, in adopting the opinion that they ought not to claim the freedom of any British subject now held in bondage in any Spanish Colony, unless it can be shown that such British subject had been carried thither since the Emancipation Act, or was free previous to that Act, and that they have not shown that strong feeling in favour of the liberty of Her Majesty's subjects, by which the Government of this country ought always to be inspired. Then, with regard to the emancipados, I should be glad to see by the Slave Trade Papers now about to be laid before us, whether since the recall of General Valdez from Cuba, every success has attended our efforts to obtain real freedom for that wretched class of men. Then, with regard to another demand, which was made by us, that there should be a joint Commission to inquire into the cases of the negroes brought into Brazil and Cuba against the law of those two countries, and who are, therefore, by that law entitled to their freedom. With regard to that application, Her Majesty's present Government at once, on the first refusal given to them, intimated that they did not intend to press that demand. Now, I say, that even if they had been convinced that to have enforced the demand with respect to the negroes already so imported would have been attended with any internal convulsion which they did not wish to risk, which, however, I do not admit, still they ought to have made, and were entitled to have made, the demand prospectively, and to have insisted that such an investigation should for the future be established. The Government, then, have added nothing to the means which the Treaties, existing when they came into office, have given to this country to prevent the Slave Trade; but they have, by the various steps which they have taken, gone backwards instead of forward, and have diminished in a great degree the means which former Governments had obtained for the suppression of that trade. I suppose we shall very soon be informed what is the result of the negotiations which have been going on between the two Commissioners — one appointed by our Government, and the other by the Government of France. We are, as far as the public are able to make any conjecture upon the subject, led to believe that one result of the negotiation will be, the returning to one of those measures which the late Government adopted with the greatest success, and which the present Government, in its eager haste to undo every thing which their predecessors had done, had directed the Admiralty to forbid. We are told that the chief measure to be adopted for the suppression of the Slave Trade is the destruction of the baracoons and the blockade of the ports on the African coast. Now, is that the arrangement to be adopted? It will be rather curious if it is. I ask the question, because one thing which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs directed the Admiralty particularly to attend to was, not to attempt to blockade any of the ports or coasts of Africa. But should these be the means to be pursued, I shall not quarrel with Her Majesty's Government. I promise not to taunt them if they do adopt the system of blockading the coast, and of destroying the baracoons. I have no doubt that if these means are adopted with energy, they will produce very great and important effects. But, Sir, we have beard within the last few days that another event has taken place with regard to this matter, and that the Government of Brazil have intimated to Her Majesty's Government that the Treaty of 1826, as far as regards the mutual Right of Search, and the establishment of Mixed Commissions, is at an end. I should be anxious to hear from the right hon. Baronet whether that is so. If it be so, I think the Government cannot be at a loss for a good answer with which to meet any such declaration. Until I hear that the Brazilian Slave Trade is really abolished, in the only sense in which the Treaty of 1817 between Portugal and England can be reasonably construed — namely, that that traffic should not be merely prohibited, but should actually be put an end to, the assertion that the Treaty, and the Mixed Commissions, and the mutual Right of Search, are at an end, does not deserve serious refutation. But even if the Brazilian argument were good, and if the Mixed Commissions and the Right of Search, under the Treaty of 1826, were no longer in force, still the stipulation of that Treaty continues in force, by which the Government of Brazil bound itself to prevent and utterly to abolish the Slave Trade by its own subjects, and declared, that the carrying on of that Trade either directly or indirectly by any of its subjects, should be deemed and treated as piracy—and this, of course, not by their own Government only, but by either of the contracting parties—I say that that stipulation would be quite conclusive upon the point to which I have referred, even if the other argument which I hold to be bad were as good as it is inconclusive. But I must say, that if the Government of the United States and the Government of England had, according to the engagement of the Treaty of Washington, made strong and joint representations two years ago to the Government of the Brazils, on its flagrant violation of Treaties, and on the open pursuit of that traffic which the Brazilian law has stigmatized, and has threatened to punish, I cannot but think that such representations would have had considerable effect on the Brazilian Government, or at least would have placed our Government in a different position from that which they would now occupy, in case any necessity should arise for entering into a conflict with the Brazils upon this subject. I hold that we have a right by Treaty to exact from the Brazilian Government the suppression of the Brazilian Slave Trade. But only see what has been the course of the present Government in its communications with Brazil upon this subject. It really does seem to me, that if Her Majesty's Ministers had determined on doing every thing they could do which, under the appearance of being hostile to the Brazilian Slave Trade, would, in reality, have the effect of preventing the Brazilian Government from fulfilling its engagements upon that subject, they could not have adopted a course more ingeniously calculated for their purpose than that which they have pursued. One of the first things they did was to send out a mission to Rio Janeiro, for the purpose of entering into negotiations for the renewal of a commercial Treaty between the two countries; and, as I have been informed—and I have never heard it denied—the condition which our Minister was instructed to propose as a sine quâ non, in return for the future admission of Brazilian sugar into this country, was not that the Brazilian Government should more scrupulously perform their Treaty engagements with respect to the Slave Trade, but that they should pass some law with regard to the condition of slavery in the Brazils. It has been said that you might as well ask the country gentlemen of England to pass a law giving a free trade in corn; but that was but a weak mode of expressing the inconceivable absurdity of the proposal to which I have referred. Any one who has the least knowledge of the state of public feeling in the Brazils, must know that to send out a negotiator to propose such a condition as that, was to render the success of his mission morally and absolutely impossible. If we are to abstain from a joint representation with America to Brazil against the continuance of a crime which the law of Brazil itself has denounced, and which a solemn Treaty binds Brazil to put down—if delicacy towards the Brazilian Government is to prevent us from taking such a step, what chance was there of our succeeding, when we proposed a condition warranted by no Brazilian law and borne out by no Treaty, but was sure to be deemed an insult by the whole people of that country—which was an interference in their domestic and municipal affairs; an interference by which we were to call upon them not to enforce a law which they themselves had passed, but to pass a new law at variance with all their prejudices, all their habits, all their feelings, and, as they would think, all their interest? That proposal was never actually made; because the Brazilian Government, choosing probably to anticipate it, made beforehand a counter proposal, nearly as inadmissible by us; and the negotiation thus failed at the outset, and never got to the point at which our inadmissible proposal could have been made to the Government of the Brazils. But here we are, on the one hand, supporting a great domestic monopoly, and inflicting injury on our commerce, and privation on the people, by excluding Brazilian sugar, under the pretence that we are so anxious for the abolition of the Slave Trade, that we cannot bring ourselves to admit Brazilian sugar into our markets, unless the Brazilians will alter and qualify the state of slavery within their territory; while, on the other hand, we are so excessively scrupulous about giving the least offence to the Brazilian Government, that we will not make up our minds even to address a joint representation with the United States, urging that Government to execute its own laws, and to fulfil its own engagements, lest by taking that small step towards the suppression of the Slave Trade, we should hurt the feelings of the Cabinet of Rio Janeiro. I certainly cannot reconcile the profession, that this ex- clusion of Brazilian sugar is founded on an aversion to the Slave Trade, with the declaration that the reason why no step was taken in conjunction with the American Government, for the purpose of remonstrating with the Government of Brazil, however effectual such a step might have been, was, that such a joint remonstrance would have hurt the fine feelings of the Brazilian Government. Sir, I have stated, therefore, what the last Government did, and what the present Government has undone. What the present Government has done, has been all in the wrong way; they have not advanced one step towards the suppression of the traffic. What they are now about to do with France may be a step in the other direction; but if they agree to abandon the mutual Right of Search with France, I will just ask on what ground they will demand to continue it with any other country, not carrying on the Slave Trade? If they give it up in the case of other countries, just as much entitled to demand the concession as France, they will open wide fresh doors to Slave Trade, and the result will be that the crime will increase with fearful rapidity. I hope Her Majesty's Government may, upon further consideration, and on having their attention more drawn to the subject—to which, perhaps, they have not, from the pressure of other matters, given that full attention which it so justly deserves—I hope they may, in future, take a more lively interest in this matter than they seem to me as yet to have done. I am perfectly certain that if the British Government shows itself in earnest in the matter, and both willing and determined to employ all its means of political influence, and of physical coercion, with a steady and firm determination, it may succeed — not in entirely extinguishing the traffic—that I am afraid can never be done as long as the condition of slavery exists—but in bringing it into a very narrow compass compared with its present enormous extent. Sir, I stated to the right hon. Baronet a short time ago, that the Return presented of negroes landed since 1815, on the continent and islands of America, was exceedingly defective. I should be glad, if it were in the power of the Foreign Department to furnish a more correct Return, to be presented with the Slave Trade Papers. The time is now come when the annual Papers ought to be prepared; and I hope that they may be laid on the Table of the House—within such a period as to give everybody who may choose to attend to them an opportunity of making during the present Session any observations upon their contents which he may think to be necessary.*

Sir R. Peel

Sir, with respect to the period at which the Slave Trade Papers for the present year should be presented, I certainly have a confident hope that they will be presented at an earlier period than the noble Lord was in the habit of presenting them. I believe during the noble Lord's tenure of office they were very rarely presented before the concluding part of the Session, owing, no doubt, to the claims which the other duties of the office made on the noble Lord's time. * The following concluded Treaties were referred to by Lord Palmerston in his speech:—

BEFORE 1830.
Denmark (general art.) January, 1814
United States (Ghent) December, 1814
Portugal January, 1815; July, 1817
Spain August, 1814; September, 1817
Netherlands May 1818
Additional Article (no slaves on board) December, 1822
Additional Article (Equipment) January, 1823
Sweden (with Equipment Article) November, 1824
Brazil November, 1826
Algiers, Tripoli, Tunis April, 1816
Madagascar October, 1817; October, 1820
Muscat September, 1822
SINCE 1830.
France November, 1831; March, 1833
Denmark July, 1834
Sardinia August, 1834
Spain June, 1835
Sweden June, 1835
Netherlands February, 1837
Hans Towns June, 1837
Tuscany November, 1837
Naples February, 1838
Chile January, 1839
Venezuela March, 1839
Buenos Ayres May, 1839
Uruguay July, 1839
Haiti, Muscat December, 1839
Portugal (Act of Parliament) 1839
Bolivia September, 1840
Texas November, 1840
Mexico February, 1841
18 Treaties.
1 Act of Parliament.
Austria, Russia, Prussia December, 1841
Portugal July, 1842
United States August, 1842
Belgium Hanover New Granada
Greece Oldenburgh Peru
Timmanus Feb. 1814 Cameroons May, 1841
Bonny April, 1841 Aboi Aug., 1841
Cartibar April, 1841 Egarra Sept., 1841
I assure the noble Lord that the business of the Foreign Office has not diminished since he left, and if that excuse were to prevail, it would be valid on the present occasion. But although the business of the Foreign Office has not diminished, yet I hope the Slave Trade Papers will be presented at an early period; and it will then be seen from the perusal of those Papers whether the noble Lord's imputations on the present Government, of lukewarmness and indifference with regard to the continuance of the Slave Trade, is well founded or not. The noble Lord will then have an opportunity, if he thinks fit, of bringing forward any Motion criminating the Government—a better mode, I cannot help thinking, of testing the opinion of the House with respect to the conduct of the Government, than to make, as the noble Lord has so frequently done, speeches on the general subject, not leading to any issue. The noble Lord, on the present, as on several former occasions, has passed a very warm, and I am bound to say a merited eulogium on himself, on account of the efforts which he has made for the Suppression of the Slave Trade. I never denied his merit. I believe his labours have been most assiduous and successful for the suppression of that traffic. I give him full credit for his exertions; but he seems to think that his merits in this respect have not been sufficiently admitted by this House and the public, and so about once in every month he takes an opportunity of calling our attention to them. Two or three times in the course of every Session he reminds us of all the Treaties which he made with African princes, his Treaty with the Imaum of Muscat, and not only the original Treaty, but some addition to it, which was the means of conferring the greatest possible advantages on humanity and the civilized world in general. The noble Lord alluded to some points on which he knows I am precluded from entering, namely, the pending negotiations with France. The time must shortly arrive when the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government will be made known to the House, but in the meantime the noble Lord is aware that my lips are sealed. I am pretty confident the noble Lord expects that there is some arrangement about to be made with France which will be much more successful for the suppression of the Slave Trade than any now in force. He seems to think that by means of a blockade of the coast, and Treaties with the native powers on the coast, we shall be enabled consistently with the law of nations to destroy the baracoons; and that if such a course should be taken, the joint action of France and England in a vigorous attempt to suppress the Slave Trade would be most successful and effectual. This being the case, I am sorry to see the noble Lord attempt to spoil the effect of such a combination by a premature discussion. It is quite clear that the noble Lord anticipates the most beneficial effects from the pending negotiations. The noble Lord asks whether it is true that Brazil has notified to the British Government that she considers the subsidiary Convention, which was to be in force, I think, for fifteen years, for the suppression of the Slave Trade, at an end. The noble Lord has been rightly informed. The Brazilian Government has thought fit to signify that it does consider that Convention thus enduring for fifteen years after the year 1830 is at an end. The state of the case is this. Our original Treaty was with Portugal, Brazil being at that time a dependency of Portugal, and being bound in respect to the Slave Trade by the engagements entered into with us on the part of Portugal. In 1825, I think, the separation between Brazil and Portugal took place, and Brazil in 1826, on her separate account as an independent state, entered into an engagement with this country to the same effect as that previously existing with Portugal for the suppression of the Slave Trade. I think Brazil, within three years after the ratification of the Treaty, was bound to declare the suppression of the Slave Trade, that is to say, its suppression by law, not, I am afraid, its actual practical suppression. That brought us to the year 1830; and afterwards there was a Convention of, I think, rather doubtful import, as to whether or not after a lapse of fifteen years after that period of its suppression by law, Brazil had a right to declare the Subsidiary Convention at an end. If she had such a right, the period for the termination of the Subsidiary Convention arrived, I think, on the 13th of March last. It appears that she does consider herself at liberty to declare that Convention at an end; but, as the news only came by the last mail, the noble Lord will not expect from me a declaration of a positive opinion as to whether Brazil is justified in the course which she has thought proper to adopt. But whether she declares that Convention at an end or not, she is bound by engagements of permanent operation. Brazil and this country have a Convention, signed on the 23rd of November, 1826, which provides— That three years after the exchange of the ratifications it should not be lawful for the subjects of the Emperor of Brazil to be concerned in carrying on the African Slave Trade under any pretext, or in any manner whatever; and that the carrying on of such trade after that period by any person, a subject of Brazil, should be deemed and treated as piracy. That is an engagement which is at present in force. I abstain on the present occasion from expressing any opinion as to the ability of Brazil to declare at an end the Convention which accords the appointment of a Mixed Commission. I have the satisfaction of knowing that there is that other Convention, which cannot be terminated by any act of Brazil, remaining in force, which declares the carrying on of the Slave Trade by a subject of Brazil to be an act of piracy; that is not merely a law of Brazil, but an engagement with the Government of this country, that such an act shall be considered an act of piracy. The noble Lord has referred to the answer which I gave him on a former night with respect to the operation of the Treaty which was signed by Five Great Powers of Europe, and which was ratified by four out of those Five Powers in 1840. I have only to state now what I stated then, that France having refused to ratify that Treaty, it became a matter of serious consideration whether it were politic to exercise the power which those who had ratified it undoubtedly had under the Treaty to invite the other maritime Powers of Europe, not being parties to the Treaty, to concur in the obligations of it. I will not on this occasion enter into the circumstances which induced France to refuse her ratification. The House will be aware what were the political circumstances, unconnected with any question of the Slave Trade, which induced her to adopt such a course. The noble Lord cannot be ignorant of the circumstances, counected, as they notoriously were, with the transactions which took place in the summer of 1840, with the Syrian campaign, and with the termination of that friendly alliance which previously existed between France and this country. I forbear to enter into the consideration of these circumstances. I forbear to discuss now who was the party, or with whom rests the blame of that termination. There cannot be a doubt, however, that political considerations connected with the Treaty of July, 1840, and the proceedings adopted by this country in reference to the Syrian campaign, were the real cause why France declined to ratify the Treaty. The noble Lord makes us responsible for the delay with respect to the signature. I assure the noble Lord that we are perfectly free from any such blame. We succeeded to power in August or September, 1841, and it was not through any negligence on our part that the signature of France was not attached to the Treaty. Circumstances occurred in the Chambers which prevented the ratification. If the noble Lord thought we laboured to obstruct the ratification of the Treaty, why did he not at the time make some Motion calling the attention of the House to the circumstances. The noble Lord says we made no remonstrance. We did every thing we could to impress on France the duty which she owed to the cause of humanity, to ratify, by her signature, the Treaty to which she had been a party. The question is, whether we were entitled to insist on its ratification? We certainly thought we were not, either by past usage or anything in the law of nations; and, not being entitled, it became, of course, a question in what manner we should direct any remonstrance against the act of a country which had thought fit to exercise a power to which we thought her entitled to resort. But, as to our passiveness and indifference, and our acquiescence in the refusal of France to ratify the Treaty, the noble Lord labours under a most erroneous impression. The Government of France did refuse to ratify the Treaty; it became the subject of eager debate in a popular assembly; and that assembly prevented the Executive Government, which was well inclined to the Treaty, from ratifying it. Placing a remonstance against it, and exercising that power which popular assemblies will occasionally exercise, they induced that Government to decline to ratify the Treaty which had been signed. France not having ratified the Treaty, it became a question for our consideration whether it would be politic to invite the three Powers contemplated by the Treaty—namely, Belgium, Hanover, and Greece, to concur in its engagements; the Slave Trade, in point of fact, being carried on on the Coast of Africa by none of these Powers, their flag never having been used to cover the traffic. I do not deny the advantage in point of moral impression of procuring their sanction to a reciprocal Right of Search; I think it of advantage that all the Powers of Europe should concur, even when the flags of those Powers may not be used for carrying on the Trade; I do not deny that a general protest against the Slave Trade would be of great public advantage. But we had to consider what would be the most desirable immediate practical course. It became a question, after the refusal of France to ratify the Treaty, whether or not a greater probability of advantage presented itself in an appeal to those Powers. We had to set against the advantages of that moral impression the disadvantages of the possible refusal on the other part to concur in our demand; and it was thought at the time inexpedient, after the example set by France, to call on Belgium, Hanover, and Greece, to concur in the engagements of the Treaty. But the noble Lord says, he always foresaw, after the example set by France, that great difficulty would be found in procuring the assent of these Powers; and that he was very much afraid that the refusal of France to ratify the Treaty, would not be confined to France. The noble Lord thinks that that part of the Treaty which enabled the concurring Powers to call on Belgium, Hanover, and Greece to acquiesce in its provisions, might be nullified by the refusal of France to ratify. Such was the noble Lord's impression, and he can, therefore, well estimate the motives of those who, after such refusal, thought it inexpedient to address themselves to those Powers. I am not prepared to say, that Hanover would not have acquiesced. The noble Lord says, "Why not appeal to Hanover?" But if Hanover had consented, and Belgium had declined, I still must think the advantage gained on one side would have been more than counterbalanced by the disadvantages on the other. The noble Lord has referred to the Treaty with Brazil. The noble Lord says, "You have done nothing yourselves, and you have undone what others had done." It is very easy for the noble Lord to make these charges; but I will refer to the Slave Trade Papers, already presented to the House, and to those which will shortly be presented; in those will be found the best evidence whether the present Government have been indifferent to the suppression of this infamous traffic. The noble Lord says, we have not even gained what was intended by the Treaty of Ghent, and talks about the eighty guns sent by the United States to the Coast of Africa, to suppress the Slave Trade. What did the noble Lord gain under the Treaty of Ghent? Did he get one gun sent by the United States to the African coast? I must assert, that we have procured a more active co-operation on the part of the United States for the suppression of the Slave Trade than the noble Lord was able to obtain, during his whole tenure of power, under that Treaty. The noble Lord talks of the unjust stipulations of the Treaty of Washington, which he again designates "a capitulation," when the very latest intelligence from the United States tells us that in that country they are applying to their own Government precisely the same terms. I assure the noble Lord that there are Palmerstons in the Congress of the United States who charge their Government with having made a capitulation, and state, that if certain documents had been produced two or three months ago, it would have been impossible for the Convention to have been signed. Therefore, I hope the noble Lord will no longer persist in so describing the agreement made by my noble Friend, which received the cordial sanction of the House, who, I hope, will not take the character of that most difficult and, as I think, successful negotiation from the noble Lord, who is evidently more mortified by that than by any other act of his successors, especially when the House recollects that my noble Friend, Lord Ashburton, had not only to effect that arrangement with the general Government of the United States, but that two of the States of that great country, Maine and Massachusetts, had the power, by withholding their assent, to interpose difficulties which it would have been almost impossible to overcome. Bearing this in mind, I cannot think that the great majority of this House will lightly estimate the wisdom and perseverance of my noble Friend, which led to the termination of differences which then threatened the continuance of amicable relations between the United States and this country. I should like to know what we lost by the arrangement. I should like to know whether or not, by removing the risk, which was then imminent, of an immediate hostile collision with the United States, the arrangement made by Lord Ashburton involved a sacrifice, on the part of this country, of her honour, or of anything permanent or valuable. But there was under that Treaty of Washington a power on the part of this country and the United States to make, jointly, representations to other Powers carrying on the Slave Trade. I stated to the noble Lord, that the mode of carrying into execution that engagement had been the subject of conference between my noble Friend, Lord Aberdeen, and Mr. Everett, the American Minister, immediately after the signature of the Treaty. I believe the impression of Mr Webster and Lord Ashburton, at the time of concluding the Treaty, was, that the representations to be made were not to be representations simultaneously and jointly made. The question was considered whether or not we were more likely to operate successfully by uniting in our representations to Brazil or to Spain; those representations being jointly made in the common name of the two countries, or whether we should not better secure our object by leaving each country to take its own course, urging its representations in the way each might think best. The noble Lord says we wished to spare the feelings of Brazil; but that was not our object. We wished to consider the mode by which we were most likely to effect the object contemplated, namely, to impede and annihilate the Slave Trade. If the noble Lord will look at the representations we made to Brazil, he will see that there was no desire on our part to spare the feelings of either Spain or Brazil—he will see the terms in which we address our remonstrance to both these countries. All that will appear in the Slave Trade Papers; and then all parties will be competent to judge whether there has been any desire to consult the feelings of parties who have been carrying on the Slave Trade in defiance of the existing Treaties. Sir, I believe also that the United States were actuated and influenced by no desire to consult the delicate feelings of Brazil. What I stated was this—that the two countries feared if their representations were made conjointly, they would be less effectual in inducing Brazil to observe these Treaties, than if they were made separately. I think if the noble Lord will refer to the representations of our Minister, and his denunciations of this traffic, his bringing under the notice of the Brazilian authorities their constant infraction of the Treaty, and the constant connivance of the subordinate authorities at the infraction of the Treaty, the noble Lord will see that this country has shown no disposition, but, on the contrary, has used the strongest language, and taken those steps which were best calculated to enforce on the Brazilian Government the moral and political duties which should induce it to adhere to these Treaties. Sir, these were the considerations that induced my noble Friend and the Minister of the United States to abstain from making, in the first place, a joint representation from the two countries. I believe I have replied to the principal observations of the noble Lord. He admits, that with respect to the emancipados, every representation that could be made has been made, so far as may be judged from the Papers. The noble Lord spoke of the representations that had been made to Spain for the appointment of a Mixed Commission in Cuba to put down the Slave Trade. I am surprised the noble Lord should impute to the present Government any indifference to the continuance of the Slave Trade. The noble Lord did make that representation; but at the time he did make it, I think he could not have expected that if that representation did not produce a moral effect in Spain, he had any legal power to enforce it. It might have been wise to do everything in our power to induce them to observe the obligations of the Treaty; but we were advised, in case Spain refused to appoint that Mixed Commission, that we had no power by any engagements entered into, or by the general law of nations, to compel them to appoint the Commission. I am certainly surprised to hear the noble Lord say that he differed from that opinion, which was enunciated by very high legal authority. I quite agree with him in the desire he has expressed to see the suppression of the Slave Trade; but where I differ from him is, that I do not believe that any assumption of authority by this country, which is not warranted by engagements, or by the law of nations, is the most effectual course that might be adopted for the suppression of the Slave Trade. We should make every effort, consistent either with actual engagements or the law of nations, to compel those countries which have engagements with us to observe those engagements; to induce other Powers which have not engagements—to induce them by persuasion, and by every motive which can influence them, to concur with us in a strong effort for the suppression of that trade. Sir, this has been our course; but the noble Lord advises, without reference to engagements, that we should assert our right to compel other Powers to suppress the Slave Trade. On that point I differ from him; and I doubt whether our difficulties, instead of being diminished, would not be increased, if we were to place ourselves decidedly in the wrong, even in enforcing the admitted rights of humanity. Sir, when these Papers are laid on the Table, the House will be able to judge whether the Government is justly liable to the charge which the noble Lord has advanced on various former occasions, and again repeated to-night. If they could be substantiated—if it could be shown that we are indifferent to the suppression of this monstrous evil, so degrading to civilized nations, I should deeply regret that Ministers had laid themselves open to just censure; and in such a case no condemnation could hardly be too severe to inflict on the Government of a country which has made such sacrifices for the suppression, not only of the Slave Trade, but for the abolition of slavery.

Viscount Palmerston

explained. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suppose that he (Lord Palmerston) had argued that this country had a right to compel Spain to appoint a Mixed Commission. What he had argued was, that the Ministers should not have acquiesced in the refusal, but have made a counter proposal; nor did he argue that they should violate the law of nations, or do anything which the Treaties did not warrant. His argument was, to have Treaties with the parties, which, if carried faithfully into execution, would tend to suppress the Slave Trade.

Mr. P. Howard

contended that as that renowned statesman, M. Guizot, had constantly evinced the utmost desire to promote the happiness of mankind, no doubt he would take an early opportunity of doing all in his power to terminate the direful evil of slavery. A decided distinction ought to be made in our conduct to- wards States which had or had not joined in the hallowed cause.