§ On the question that the sum of 100,000l. should he granted to defray the expense connected with the capture of Slave-trading Vessels,
§ MR. BORTHWICK
said, that the state of the House and the period of the Session forbade his entering at length into the great question connected with this vote; he therefore would content himself with touching briefly upon a few of its leading features, and then leaving it in the hands of Government. The object which he had in view was, to relieve the pressure of a heavy burden on the finances of this country—to avert a vast amount of evil which the present course of things inflicted upon the inhabitants of Africa—and to remove from the path of human civilisation an impediment which for the time appeared to be insurmountable. England had much to answer for with reference to the people of Africa. If this country did not originate the odious traffic in human beings, she at least, by her example, encouraged it, and carried it to the height of criminality which it reached before 1807. Though the horrors of the Slave Trade, with the recital of which that House was wont to be thrilled previously to 1807, were such as to arouse the sympathies of Europe, those which had occurred of late years, since the stringent blockade of the coast of Africa had been enforced, exceeded them a hundred fold. England first engaged in slave-dealing in 1652, when John Cocking fitted out thirty-eight vessels, the largest 126 being 120 tons, and the smallest 40, to carry negroes from Africa to Hispaniola, now St. Domingo, where they were sold. From 1752 to 1762 the trade increased to such an extent, that during that time no fewer than 71,115 negroes were imported into Jamaica, and sold at the average price of 30l. each. From time to time, English dealers contracted to supply Foreign Powers with slaves, and in every instance the contracts were sanctioned by the British Government. It was a curious fact, that the first attempt to put an end to the traffic in slaves was made by the planters themselves. In 1747, the Assembly of Jamaica passed two Bills, the object of which was to suppress the Slave Trade; but the British Government refused to sanction those measures, and directed the Governors of the West India colonies to inform the assemblies, that if they passed any more Bills of a similar nature, they would be deprived of the power of legislating for their own affairs; and the reason assigned for that proceeding was, that the Slave Trade was very profitable to the citizens of the mother country. In 1794, the House of Commons took a step towards the ultimate abolition of the Slave Trade, by passing a Bill which prohibited the sale of slaves to foreigners. The House of Lords, however, rejected the Bill; and it was not until—in consequence of the famous agitation headed by Wilberforce and Fox, and countenanced by Pitt—the anti-slavery feeling took such strong hold of the public mind, that the Legislature was obliged to grapple with the question; and finally, in 1807, the Slave Trade, as far as Great Britain was concerned, was made felony. Since 1807 we had made various treaties with our allies, for the purpose of putting down the traffic generally; but, unfortunately, the effect of those treaties had been to aggravate greatly the evils of the Slave Trade. [The hon. Member read extracts from various documents to prove that before the abolition of the Slave Trade, greater attention was paid to the health and comfort of the negroes during their transit from Africa, than was now directed to those objects.] The number of a slave cargo was at that time thought enormous if it was 620; the mortality was estimated at from 3 to 10 per cent; yet the statement of that fact in 1788 roused all England, and in consequence of the indignation of the country the traffic was put an end to. But the noble Lord knew the mortality during the middle passage at the 127 present time, caused by the increased vigilance of the English cruisers, was 600 and 700 per cent. Out of 600 slaves taken on board on the coast, not more than 100 or 200 were landed alive. That dreadful increase of mortality was in consequence of a mistaken humanity on the part of the people of England, who were taxed to the amount of 1,000,000l. a year for the expense of putting down the traffic, for which no good effect was obtained. On the contrary, a certain impediment was thrown in the way of African civilisation. The accounts of Africa, written at the beginning of the 16th century, speak of the country before it was resorted to by the slave-dealers as comparatively civilised. The people of Guinea understood commerce, and to a certain degree art flourished among them. At one time the King of Timbuctoo was spoken of as a patron of literature. In a report made to the King in 1788, the negroes were described as an inoffensive race when they had no intercourse with Europeans; but after that they became degraded, and were depopulated by wars and cruelties. This was a melancholy confirmation of a remark of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, that when civilisation came in contact with barbarism, barbarism always had the worst of the conflict. If Europeans conducted their intercourse with the negroes as if they had the interest of that people at heart, it would be advantageous to the country; but in most parts of the continent the kings, encouraged by the slave-dealers, made perpetual war on each other for the sake of making prisoners; of these, the handsomest women were reserved for domestic slaves and concubines; the rest were sold on the coast to the slavers. Even when the traffic was recognised and under some regulation, when it was conducted with comparative mildness, the barbarous chiefs of Africa had recourse to these terrible practices; how much must they have been increased in horror now that not only the demand for slaves had increased, but the proportionate number required was so great, that six Africans must be found for every one landed at Cuba or the Brazils. He knew not how they could better begin to put an end to the slave trade, than by putting an end to its cruelties, and relieving Africa of the girdle of horrors with which they now encircled it; if they allowed something like free intercourse between Africa and the continent of Europe, the negro population 128 must insensibly imbibe some portion of the spirit of liberty. Even Sir T. F. Buxton, who, during a long life was the zealous advocate of the abolition of the slave trade, told them that all their expenditure of money, and of the lives of their best and bravest, had but increased the evil. Knowing this, he should not appeal to the noble Lord in vain to reconsider the treaties which, in an evil hour for the character of Great Britain and the fate of Africa, his predecessor had concluded with France and other Foreign Powers for the suppression of the slave trade. In the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, to which he had before alluded, the noble Lord quoted the case of the Kentucky, an American vessel, that was taken with 500 negroes—men, women, and children, huddled together in a space between decks only two feet ten inches high. The most shocking cruelty was practised on board that vessel, though the captain was a sugar planter and owner of the slaves himself, and therefore had a direct interest in taking as much care of them as possible. On one occasion he coolly ordered his men to fire through the deck on the poor wretches of both sexes crowded together in the hold below. Here the mortality was not merely two or three per cent, which at one time was considered enormous; here 500 per cent perished, partly from the cruelty of the captain, partly from disease and suffering. The steamers employed on the coast of Africa, by their rapidity, compelled the slavers to use vessels of the slightest construction, with the least possible amount of accommodation. The service was a revolting one to the navy engaged in it; and it had been stated to Lord Aberdeen, that the blockade never deterred the traders from entering on the traffic; its only effect was to make them build ships with less space and draught, the confinement in which was more destructive to human life than those formerly employed. He had thus briefly stated three points: first, that which the people of England would consider the least important, if any good result were effected by it, that the expense of the service to this country was 1,000,000l. a year, spent with no advantage, but causing a greater destruction of human life, and retarding the progress of human civilisation. Secondly, it was proved the loss of life among the officers and men employed was very large; they had to guard a coast of 3,000 miles in length, exposed to a deadly climate; but all the sacrifice 129 of health and life was useless. The third and most important consideration was, that for every thousand negroes sold into slavery, six or seven times that number died in the most excruciating agony. Such was the result they had attained after the sacrifice of millions of money, and the expending of hundred of lives on the part of Great Britain. In conclusion, the hon. Gentleman said, that, however imperfectly and rapidly, in deference to the wishes of the House, he had stated the facts, he trusted the noble Lord would pardon that deficiency, and would take the case on its merits—that he would not ask for this vote—that he would repeal the statutes enacted for carrying out our treaties in reference to the slave trade with Foreign Powers—and that he would at once proceed to abrogate those treaties, and thus free humanity from the terrible curse they entailed
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I certainly cannot find fault with the efficiency with which the hon. Gentleman has stated his case; on the contrary, it seems to me that he has laid it before the House with very great dexterity. Judging from the drift of his argument, I should suppose his object is to legitimatize the slave trade; and he has tried to insinuate that conclusion under the semblance of great regard and care for humanity. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that this country does owe a great debt of reparation to Africa in regard to this matter. It is quite true that England was originally a culprit in introducing this abomination to the shores of that quarter of the world; but it will be some atonement to remember that if England was among the first to commit the sin, England also led the way in a noble and generous crusade—that we not only abolished our own slave trade, but we also emancipated our own slaves. And, whatever differences of opinion may prevail as to the best and most effective means of checking or preventing the slave trade, one truth ought never to be lost sight of—that the trade never can be entirely and permanently put an end to until the condition of slavery itself shall be abolished. I differ with the hon. Gentleman as to the comparison he has drawn in regard to the cruelties of the middle passage before the abolition of the slave trade of England, and since this country has adopted the vigorous measures which have recently been pursued to check that dreadful offence. The hon. Gentleman has quoted from the evi- 130 dence taken before the Committee of 1826, to explain the course which was then pursued by the slavers, to show the superiority of the ships engaged, and the comforts enjoyed by the slaves. He says they were taken on deck in the daytime, and made to jump about; that in their absence their place of confinement was fumigated with delightful odours; that frankincense was even used to make their apartment luxurious; and that in consequence the mortality ranged only from two to ten per cent. Now, the hon. Member might even have gone further. If he had read the whole of the evidence taken before the Committee of this House, he would have found one witness stated, so delightful was the condition, so happy the state, of the negro in the middle passage, that it was actually the happiest period of the negro's life; and, possibly, comparing his sufferings during the passage, great as they were, with those he was destined to encounter on his arrival at the market at which he would be sold, it might prospectively be entitled so to be considered. These, however, were depositions made by the advocates of the slave trade; but the hon. Gentleman will also find, and anybody who will give himself the trouble to look will find, in the same examination, details of horrors taking place on the middle passage quite equal to any reported to have been committed in recent periods. There were some distinguishing features of cruelty in the slave ship of that time. There was the boarding netting. The deck of every slave ship was surrounded with high netting—and for what purpose? To prevent these miserable creatures from escaping from the tortures to which they were subjected by plunging themselves into and perishing in the waves. And that is the state of happy existence which the hon. Gentleman thinks so deserving of his praise. Why, the instances are innumerable of negroes jumping overboard; frequently the one dragging the other after him, and both sinking together; and often it happened that some desperate negro struggled to drag to the same fate the companion to whom he was chained, but who was not prepared for the determined act. They were exposed to the most fearful cruelties below; and, as they were compelled by the lash to jump about on deck in order that their physical health might be preserved whenever the opportunity presented itself, the more daring leaped into the sea to escape the terrible tortures of the vessel. 131 But the hon. Gentleman says, that at that time the mortality at the utmost did not exceed 10 per cent; and that now, by recent accounts, according to his showing, it equals 500 or 600 per cent. How the mortality can be at that amount per cent, I do not exactly understand. The hon. Gentleman means that out of every 500 or 600, 100 negroes died; and I would suggest that, if he looks to the calculation, he will find that, instead of it being 600 per cent, the mortality could only be, at that rate, something like 16 or 17 per cent. The difference, therefore, on his own showing, of the rates of mortality formerly and under the present system, can only be between 10 and 17. If 100 die out of every 600, that is only about 16 per cent. [Lord G. BENTINCK: That is not what the hon. Member said.] The supposed mortality of 600 has thus been reduced to the more humble and moderate proportion of 16 per cent. I do not, however, mean to deny that the cruelties now inflicted on the negroes on the passage, amount to anything that the imagination can conceive; and it is impossible to exaggerate the state of suffering which the wretched slaves are forced to undergo. And when you come to consider the deeds of violence and brutality which are committed in capturing the prisoners, the sufferings they sustain in the march to the coast, their tortures on the passage, and the miseries to which they are to be consigned when they arrive in America, you may with truth assert that which I took the liberty of stating on a former occasion, that, as I believe, if all the crimes the human race ever committed were summed together in one black aggregate, they would not amount to the heinousness of this one horrible sin. We are, then, all agreed as to the abomination of the trade; the hon. Gentleman avowedly only condemns the measures that have been adopted for the purpose of suppressing it, and he contends that our efforts at prevention have only increased the evil. He would be, if I rightly comprehend him, for removing all the cruisers, abrogating all the treaties entered into by the British with foreign Governments, and giving freedom to legitimate trade. Thus, he commences Ms conversion to the principles of free trade by demanding a free trade in slaves. I will not accept the conversion on such terms as these. It would be easy to show that that freedom of trade, instead of abolishing, would extend the slave trade 132 most enormously. The hon. Gentleman says that those cruisers by which the coast of Africa is watched, prevent any legitimate traffic; and he supposes that if you allowed Europeans to have a fair traffic in Africa for the purpose of buying negroes, the principles of liberty would soon diffuse themselves throughout Africa, and that then the legitimate trade would put an end to the slave trade. Now, if there is one fact which all those conversant with Africa concur in more than another, it is this—that the slave trade extinguishes legitimate trade, and that wherever the slave trade is, there legitimate traffic ceases to be. And consequently, if I am correct in assuming that the measures suggested by the hon. Gentleman would increase and scatter the trade over the whole coast of Africa, I am borne out in saying that one of the results would also be to annihilate all legitimate trade in the neighbourhood of that coast. It required very little demonstration to show the justness of the conclusion to which I have now come. What is the price of a negro in Brazil and Cuba? Has that price increased, or has it not? Every one knows that it has increased enormously, for that is the very argument of those who wish us to discontinue our precautions. They say, that seeing the great profits of this trade, and the temptations it in this way holds out, we can never put it down in the manner hitherto tried. They point out that all the risk is repaid if there is landed one cargo out of three or four, or one out of five or six, and that we pay the slave trader; but, translate that into common English, and it means simply that the supply falls infinitely short of the demand. It means nothing more; it means only the number of negroes brought into America is so much less than the demand for them, that the profit is great enough to make one cargo landed out of six pay the person who has undertaken the infamous traffic. What is that withholding that required supply? Why, our preventive measures, your cruisers, your treaties with European Powers. It is obvious, common sense tells you, that if you don't dam up the stream, the water will flow in its abundance; and, naturally, if you remove these cheeks we have imposed, the supply will at once spring to equal the demand; and for every 100 men that now reach the coast of America, you will have 500 or 600. Is that the mode you will employ of putting an end to the cruelties and horrors of the slave trade? 133 Depend upon it, if the measures now pursued were to cease to be adopted, you would have the coast swarming with such a number of slavers, pirates, and ruffians of every sort and kind, that there would be no safety for legitimate trade. Moreover, the profits which the native chiefs in that case would derive from the trade in man, would supersede all inducement to traffic in any other way; your legitimate trade ceasing, your chance of African civilization would cease also, and the coast then would be a sort of hell upon earth uninterrupted by any intercourse with civilized beings. That would be the necessary and inevitable consequence. But I am told that the evil would at last reach to that degree that the native chiefs would become disgusted with it, and that the people in Brazil and Cuba would be sick of so unprofitable a concern, and eventually of their own accord put an end to the trade. Why that is very like the well-known proposal of the Anti-Jacobin to make housebreaking so ludicrous an affair as to deter any one from committing the offence. I say that nothing will put an end to the slave trade but your preventive measures. First of all, to prove my case, I must refer to all the voluminous papers which have been laid on the Table of the House from year to year, which show that, in proportion as your preventive measures are strict, the slave trade diminishes, and that when they are relaxed, that trade becomes extensive again. I have here the evidence given before the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the subject, the Due de Broglie and Dr. Lushington, and they examined, not any speculators, but men conversant with the state of things on the coast of Africa. I will read to the House one or two questions and answers. Captain Henry Dundas Trotter, R.N., was asked—Do you think that the slave trade has increased or diminished since the time you have known the coast of Africa?—It had very much decreased during the interval between my first and second visit to the coast. I mean that during this interval, from 1834 to 1841, the number of slaves exported had diminished to a comparatively small amount. Indeed, in the year 1841, when I went to the Niger, the number had be-come very small indeed; and it was still lower in 1842, when I believe it had reached its minimum, owing, no doubt, to the destruction of the barracoons by Captain Denman, in the year before, and the approval, by the Government, of that proceeding. It has, since then, again increased. To what do you attribute the increase since the year 1841?—I attribute the decrease, in the interval I have alluded to, very much to the blockade system, and its subsequent increase to that 134 system having been at times less rigidly maintained.Captain E. Butterfield was asked—Do you conceive that any measures could be resorted to which would be effectual for putting down the slave trade?—The most effectual would be to declare it piracy by all nations. Did the slave trade increase to your knowledge? It increased very much after I left. For what reason?—There were fewer men-of-war there at that time. Do you believe that by the application of any extent, of naval force you could so blockade the coast as to prevent the slave trade being carried on?—I think so.Captain G. Sprigg was asked—Did the trade continue about the same in 1841 and 1842, or did it diminish, or did it increase?—It diminished in 1841 and 1842, because our force much increased after 1840.Your force was not much diminished there in 1841 and 1842?—No, it was increased over 1840.The trade decreased during the years 1841 and 1842?—Yes.Do you believe it would be possible to blockade the whole of that 2,300 miles of coast along which the trade extends, so as perfectly to prevent the slave trade?—No doubt it is possible with force enough.Captain J. Denman was next examined. He stated, in answer to a question—The diminution of the slave trade in 1841 is clearly to be traced to the new system of blocking up the slave factories, and its reduction in 1842 to the small number of 3,000 is undoubtedly owing to the destruction of those depôts, and the fear that the same measures would be univerally adopted. And I am equally satisfied that if that system, be resumed and carried out with vigour, it cannot fail of putting down the slave trade. This result will be immensely accelerated if the system of destroying the slave depôts be at the same time resumed under proper restrictions and precautions.The examination went on-—So that assuming that a sufficient force could be obtained, you could effectually prevent the slave trade?—I have not the slightest doubt of it. The suppression would be greatly accelerated by breaking up the slave factories.You have considered the question of suppressing the slave trade very maturely?—I have given my mind to the subject a great deal for some years.Have the goodness to state what measures you would propose to adopt with a view to extinguishing that trade?—I consider, first, a universal right of search upon the part of the ships of war, of whatever nation, employed upon that service, to be indispensable, whether under particular treaties, or whether under some substitute for the existing system; but that right I take to be quite essential. The next thing in importance I think would be to affix a personal penalty or punishment upon the persons who may be found engaged in the traffic. Thirdly, the breaking up of the slave depôts. Fourthly, the entering into treaties with the native Powers, providing for the destruction of the slave factories. Fifthly, the establishment of commercial posts in the neighbour- 135 hood of all present slave-trading districts, the encouragement of legitimate commerce, the instruction and improvement of the natives by means of missionary labours and otherwise.The noble Lord went on to say—It appears from these extracts of the opinions of persons practically acquainted with the subject, that I am borne out in my opinion that the slave trade could be put an end to by the means which I have described. That view is borne out, not only by those who are best acquainted with the subject, but by general reason. The hon. Gentleman has quoted the opinions of the late Sir Fowell Buxton upon the subject of the suppression of the slave trade; and no doubt the opinions of such a man are deserving of the greatest respect; but the hon. Gentleman ought to recollect what was passing in Sir F. Buxton's mind at the time when he expressed those opinions. When he wrote the boot from which the hon. Gentleman quoted, he had the humane and benevolent object in view of inducing the Government to send out an expedition for the colonisation of part of the coast of Africa with a view to civilizing the negroes; and in looking to that object he brought his mind to the conclusion that the existing measures had failed, and that it was worth while for the country to undertake a new, and, as many then thought, a doubtful course. The expedition was unfortunately unsuccessful; but his principle was a sound one, though he carried it too far. It is true that the best method of putting an end to the slave trade, after putting an end to slavery in other countries, is to strike at its origin, and persuade the chiefs not to kidnap and sell negroes, but rather to employ themselves in legitimate commerce. That is one of our measures, the progress of which is well known. By a treaty between England and France, the two countries turn their attention to that subject, and to the formation of treaties with chiefs in Africa, with a view to inducing them, of their own accord, to put an end to the slave trade. A good many treaties of that kind have already been entered into, and a good many chiefs have, under these treaties, engaged not to permit the traffic in slaves in their possessions. That is a good and efficient arrangement, so far as it goes; and it will be the object of the British Government, as I am sure it is the object of the Government of France, to extend the range of those treaties—to persuade the chiefs on the coast where the slave trade is now carried on to abandon it 136 —to employ themselves in other pursuits—and if necessary, to use force to expel any Europeans who may wish to establish themselves on the coast with a view of carrying on that traffic. I hope that those efforts will be persevered in, and that they will be followed by a diminution of that abominable traffic. According to our accounts the import of slaves to Cuba has very much diminished; and I am sure if the Government of Spain is disposed to exercise its authority in Cuba, that diminution will be still more evident; but perhaps the Government of Spain is not very strong in its extremities even in the Peninsula, not to say in Cuba; and the Governor of Cuba, and the officers under him, thus obtain a large profit arising from the sale of slaves. I believe that latterly the orders from Madrid have been pretty well attended to in Cuba, and there has been no considerable importation of slaves into Cuba for the last two years. Brazil is another offender in these matters. There is no improvement in Brazil; but a great aggravation of the crime has taken place on the part of Brazil, no less than 42,000 negroes having been imported into Brazil in 1846, according to the account which I have seen; but I much fear that the real number has been still greater. In Brazil there is not a man from the highest to the lowest—I am now speaking of subjects, not of sovereigns—I am afraid there is not a man from the highest to the lowest in Brazil, who is not in some way or another directly or indirectly encouraging this trade, which forms part of the foul emoluments of those employed by the country. The treaty of last year gives powers which I have no doubt as they become more exercised will have the effect of checking this state of things. The hon. Gentleman has read, from the Slave Trade Commissioners at Cuba, a statement to the effect that it is no use to try to put an end to the slave trade by operations on the coast. I have not that statement before me; but I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will find that the opinion of the Commissioners is not that repressive measures are of no use, but that the coast of Africa is not the place for those repressive measures—that is the expression as well as I recollect—and that those repressive measures would be more efficient on the coast of Cuba. That opinion would tend to show, not what the hon. Gentleman appears to think, that repressive measures would be useless, but merely that they might be more efficiently em- 137 ployed on the coast of Cuba than on the coast of Africa. Latterly the opinion has prevailed, and it is one in which I am disposed to concur, that the best mode of proceeding is to stop the ships on the coast of Africa before beginning their voyages; for if you secure the vessel before she gets the slaves on board, you prevent all the evils which would otherwise arise from the transport of the slaves across the Atlantic, and all the evils of removing them from their own country. For some time past the concentration of forces at the River Plate is such that slavers making their escape from the coast of Africa have been enabled to escape unmolested; but if the affairs in the River Plate are soon, brought to an amicable termination, we may be enabled to give some check to the trade on the coast of Brazil, and that will effect a considerable diminution in it. If the Government of Brazil is bound by treaties to prevent its subjects from encouraging the slave trade, and is notwithstanding daily violating its engagements, then I say that it is guilty of a breach of contract towards Great Britain. I have heard that in the northern portion of Brazil the planters are beginning to employ the native Indians instead of the negroes, and that they are found to be as good for that purpose as the negroes; and if the practice should continue, we may hope that some check may spontaneously be caused to the slave trade by that means. With regard to the expense of repressing the slave trade, I deny that it is as great as the hon. Gentleman represents—the expense is considerable, and I do mean to underrate it; but whatever it may be, I am satisfied the people of this country will think the expense well incurred if they rescue annually 100,000 or more Africans from misery; and if thereby they may plant civilization in Africa, and establish there legitimate commerce, instead of the abominable traffic in human flesh and blood. That has been to a great extent proved by the facts I have quoted; and by persevering in the course we have adopted, and engaging the chiefs of the African coast in the pursuit of legitimate traffic, instead of the illegal and abominable traffic in slaves, I hope in process of time to see that traffic altogether extinguished. In the meantime we are diminishing it; and if we should now cease our exertions, we should be guilty of a greater offence than when we first began the slave trade; because with our eyes open, we let loose upon the unfortunate 138 Africans an amount of misery and horror that would exceed any power of description possessed by the hon. Gentleman or by me, and which would be enough to make every man shudder merely to contemplate. Although this is not the vote to which the observations of the hon. Gentleman immediately apply, yet all the votes connected with this subject deserve the favour of the House; and I am sure that nothing in this world could strike the people of this country with more astonishment than to hear that we bad put an end to a system which we have so many years persevered in, and that we let loose a band of slave-dealers and pirates to devastate Africa from one end to another.
§ MR. HUME
maintained that the expense of our squadron on the coast of Africa was upwards of a million sterling annually; and, notwithstanding that outlay, our exertions had not been successful in suppressing the slave trade, nor were they likely to be attended with success. The result of our exertions had been to double the demand for negroes, and consequently to increase the temptation to the slave-dealers, so that at present they were in the habit of sending so many as 200 or 300 slaves in a very small vessel, and they were satisfied if no more than fifty or sixty survived, as that number would repay them. Even the Anti-Slavery Association were now convinced that keeping up a blockade of the coast, at the expense of a million of money, was attended with no beneficial result. The noble Lord said if we wont on with this system we should succeed—but succeed in what?—in keeping the slave trade in check? Even the noble Lord did not assert that we should succeed in putting an end to the trade. He (Mr. Hume) looked upon the slave trade as a species of smuggling, which was caused by the high price brought by human flesh and blood. He had seen a friend within the last month from the Havana, who stated that the profits of plantations in the Havana were actually doubled. The planters, therefore, might well afford to pay 500 dollars, instead of 400 dollars, for a slave. Now, what was the remedy which he proposed in order to put an end to smuggling of this description? He would deal with it just as he would deal with smuggling in tobacco—he would lower the duty, and so take away the temptation to smuggle. Let them make free labour as cheap as slave labour, and then, but not till then, would they put an end to slavery At present 139 our colonies were unable to maintain a competition with the Spanish colonies, in consequence of the enormous price which they paid for labour. The only mode, therefore, of remedying this evil was by allowing those who had capital in the West Indies to go to the coast of Africa, buy slaves there and carry them to the West Indies, where they might be placed as freemen, and produce those articles of consumption which came into competition with slave-grown commodities. [Mr. HAWES: A Government steamer is employed to carry labourers to the West Indies.] That was not the way to put down the slave trade. Let our colonists buy slaves at the same market as the Spanish colonists; but when they had bought their slaves they should be enfranchised. There need be no fear of oppression on the part of the masters, because as soon as the slaves were landed they would become free, and in a very short time they would become electors, and would regulate the way in which they should be governed. He therefore did not agree with the noble Lord, and thought that he had no proof whatever of the success of his plans, on which account he (Mr. Hume) had submitted a plan of his own, which, whatever else might be said of it, was at least based upon sound principles.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
wished to say one word in reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose. His hon. Friend had quoted the opinions of the Anti-Slavery Association, and he (Viscount Palmerston) was quite aware that these were the opinions entertained by the association of late years; but the hon. Member for Montrose was perhaps not informed that the opinions of that association were also, that the best mode of defending the country would be to get rid of our Army and Navy. Such, at least, was the opinion entertained by the Peace Society. With regard to the observations made by his hon. Friend on the subject of smuggling, and allowing a free importation of labour into our colonies, he must say that he had always understood that if it were desired to increase the importation of a commodity, smuggling might be put an end to by licensing the importation, and thus the quantity of the commodities brought in might be increased. But the object of the Government was not to increase the commodity in question, but to diminish it; and though the policy of his hon. Friend would no doubt alter the channel of trade, still, upon every principle of political economy, 140 it would increase the traffic. His hon. Friend said that it would be advisable to introduce free labour into our colonies, and thus put down the competition for slave labour; and no doubt the importation of free men into our colonies would have exactly the effect which the hon. Member supposed; but when he proposed that British subjects should be allowed to go to Africa, and go into the slave market to buy slaves, his hon. Friend only looked to one branch of the subject, because the objections to the slave trade did not relate merely to the nature of the trade between the West Indies and Africa, and the middle passage, but also to the sufferings occasioned by it in Africa itself. Every one who knew anything on the subject was aware that the wars, burnings, and murdering of women and children, which were perhaps the worst features, though the necessary consequences of the slave trade, would be more than ever encouraged by the plan of his hon. Friend, because the African chiefs would commit all these atrocities for the purpose of procuring slaves to sell.
§ MR. HUME
wished to know whether the news had reached the noble Lord that 2,000 unfortunate slaves had been put to death by the chiefs in Africa because they could not be sold; and whether it would not have been better that they should be sold than put to death?
§ MR. HUTT
entirely concurred in the views taken by the hon. Member for Montrose, and sincerely regretted to see his noble Friend committing himself to a system which he was sure must, before long, be condemned by the universal voice of the people. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had already expressed his strong opinion against the continuance of this system, and so had the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and his lamented Friend the late Sir Fowell Buxton. It was impossible that a system leading to so much cruelty, while, at the same time, it drained the pockets of the people of a million sterling annually, could continue much longer. He trusted that in the next Parliament the House would entertain a full discussion upon the subject; and he hoped that even his noble Friend would then come over and join the cause of those who wished to do away for ever with the present expensive and useless system of blockade.
§ MR. BORTHWICK
observed that the noble Lord had charged him with favouring 141 the continuance of the slave trade; but he was sure that every word which he had addressed to the House tended only to show that the modes which the noble Lord was employing to put down the trade, had increased all its atrocities. He was glad that the question had been brought under the consideration of the House, for he believed that some change in the manner of repressing the slave trade must necessarily soon take place.
§ Vote agreed to.