§ Act [8 and 9 Vic. c. 122] read.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
Sir, I have thought it right to bring under the attention of the House the present state of the relations existing between the 758 united kingdom and the empire of Brazil; and to submit to the House some considerations in connexion with that subject which arc, in my opinion, well deserving the notice of Parliament. It is my intention, also, to take the sense of the House on what I conceive to be the cause of the unsatisfactory state of relations as between the two countries, in which they now find themselves. When I say, to take the sense of the House, I mean to ask its opinion as to the cause of the present state of the relations—and whether the difficulties that incumber them should not at once be removed. I presented a petition a few days since from the Directors of the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester—signed by the President—which I will, as it is a short petition, road to the House, and which sots forth clearly the objects I have in view, and may indeed be said to be the foundation of the Motion I am about to make. The petition states—That the commercial relations between Great Britain and Brazil have, for some years, been placed in a most unsatisfactory position by the sole intervention of the British Legislature. That during the long continuance of a fiscal policy which, though most injurious to ourselves, was in a still higher degree offensive to Brazil—amicable relations between the two Governments were not interrupted, and British residents were protected, in their persons and property, by the provisions of a treaty which secured all the advantages of the most favoured nations; but, on the eve of a change in our own policy which would have enlarged our intercourse with Brazil, the Act of our own Legislature, the 8th and 9th of Victoria, cap. 122, aroused the indignation of the Brazilian Government, and caused the termination of the treaty on which the privileges of British residents rested. That your petitioners consider the. Act in question an aggression upon Brazil—unjust, impolitic, and destructive of the objects for which it was professedly framed; for although your petitioners yield to none in their detestation of slavery and the slave trade, yet they do not think that the destruction of that nefarious traffic will be hastened by forcibly offending national honour, or rendering impossible those results which friendly negotiation is more likely to accomplish. They therefore pray, on every ground, that the Act 8th and 9th Victoria, cap. 122, may be forthwith repealed.I must state that, for some time past, repeated representations have been made to me by gentlemen acquainted with and interested in the trade of Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow, to the effect that considerable uneasiness has been felt as to the state of our relations with Brazil. We have heard questions repeatedly asked in this House, and we 759 have heard of deputations repeatedly going to the Foreign Office to seek for good intelligence as to commercial treaties being effected with Brazil, or whether they might soon be expected. But time passes on, and we remain as we were. No progress seems to have been made, and the British subjects now resident in Brazil are actually in a worse position than the subjects of any other country, although the trading connexion between Brazil and the united kingdom is most extensive, and although there is every reason to suppose that, but for some special reason the connexion between the two countries would be of a most friendly and useful nature. We have had ambassadors sent over to Brazil who have returned after fruitless missions; we have had angry diplomatic correspondence which has been laid before this House—we are threatened with discriminating duties, and, therefore, I say that I am not taking a hasty or precipitate step when I say that the time has come for something like Parliamentary mediation, in order to enable the diplomatists to escape from their difficulties, and if possible to fix upon a mode for the amicable settlement of all differences. I can assure my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office, that I do not bring forward this Motion in any spirit of rancour or hostility. I bring it forward—although I know some Gentlemen will smile at the use of these words because they are often used in a different sense—I bring forward this Motion truly in a friendly spirit. For, inasmuch as it was Parliament itself which was mainly instrumental, by sanctioning an Act offensive to the Brazilians, in bringing about the present state of things, and as diplomatists seem to have arrived at their utmost point of success, the present seems to me a proper time for Parliament to reconsider the step taken in 1845—a step adopted for the purpose of rendering the subjects of an independent country liable to the criminal jurisdiction of this country, without having received any previous delegation of power from the foreign country, so as to render its subjects properly amenable, either in their persons or property, to our penal laws. Now, it may be said that the unpleasant feeling which exists in Brazil, arises from dislike to England, in consequence of the earnest endeavours she has been making during a series of years for the 760 abolition of the slave trade. But we have incontestable evidence that this is not the case—that it is not because we are anxious for the suppression of the slave trade that this feeling exists, but because we are attempting to suppress the slave trade by means not sanctioned by the law of nations, or the provisions of any treaty. The Executive Government of Brazil has invariably, and up to the present date, declared its earnest desire to effect such arrangements as, in co-operation with this country, might bring about the abolition of the slave trade. They have denounced the trade in as strong terms as the Executive of this country; and we have it in the evidence given by the Foreign Office before a Committee of this House on the slave trade—on the evidence of Mr. Bandinell—that the Executive Government of Brazil has twice honestly attempted to carry out a law and policy in Brazil for the purpose of suppressing the slave trade. But they found that they were attempting a course for which public opinion was not ripe; and, consequently, they lost their own popularity, and were turned out of office. It was therefore because they were unable, and not because they were unwilling, that they failed to carry such laws through the Legislature of Brazil as were necessary for the suppression of the slave trade. I quote these facts then—facts not depending upon my mere assertion, but on the important evidence of Mr. Bandinell, to show that the Brazilian Government has shown an honest desire on several occasions to put down the slave trade. As I have alluded to a Committee sitting in this House, I wish to state, that I am unfortunately deprived, for the purposes of this Motion, of the assistance of my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, who is chairman of that Committee. It was his intention to be present; but he received a notice of the death of a relative, which rendered his presence here to-night impossible. I have, however, his authority for saying that he considers this Motion most appropriate, and that if he could have been present he would have supported me with all the aid he could give. I would remind the House, that in 1845 my hon. Friend took a very active part in opposing this very measure which I am now about to question. My hon. Friend is no doubt opposed to the anti-slave trade policy; but it may be quite consistent with that policy to support the repeal of the Brazilian Act. As I have said just 761 now, it is not because we are anxious to suppress the slave trade that those unpleasant relations have grown up between England and Brazil, but because "we suppress it by means not sanctioned by international law—because we do not keep within our treaty engagements with Brazil—and because we are, by the course we are taking, violating the rights of an independent country. These are the grounds upon which the Brazilians protest against the policy of this country. They have evinced a willingness to act in co-operation, founded on such a treaty as shall secure the interests of their lawful commerce, and the reasonable rights of their coasting trade and of their citizens. But they do protest altogether against this country assuming to itself a right to deal with either the persons or property of Brazilian subjects for carrying on the slave trade, except in strict accordance with international law, and according to the provisions of the treaties subsisting between us. Sir, I am as anxious as any man can be to put down the slave trade. I hate and detest that abominable traffic; but I say, that if those allegations on the part of the Brazilians be true—if it be true that we are acting against the spirit of our treaty, there is good ground for protest and complaint. And although I may be ever so desirous to put down the slave trade, I will never be a party to its suppression by unlawful means. I hold the opinion expressed by Lord Aberdeen, when compelled to write a letter of instructions to the Admiralty in 1842, and when he told that department to change the illegal orders they had issued to their cruisers. As I have the letter, I may as well read it to the House. Lord Aberdeen says—The Queen's Advocate is of opinion that the blockading rivers, landing and destroying buildings, and carrying off persons held in slavery in countries with which Great Britain is not at war, cannot he considered as sanctioned by the law of nations, or by the provisions of any existing treaties; and that however desirable it may be to put an end to the slave trade, a good, however eminent, should not be obtained otherwise than by lawful means.I, Sir, hold that opinion also; and I would, in fact, found my faith on the principle announced by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society when they put at the head of all their publications these remarkable words:—The extinction of slavery and the slave trade can he obtained most effectually by the employment of means of a moral, religious, and peaceful character; and no measures shall he adopted by this society in the prosecution of its objects ex- 762 cept such as are in accordance with those principles.These are also the principles to which I should wish to adhere. And I am in a condition to show that the course we are taking in reference to Brazil, is a direct violation of the principle laid down in the letter of Lord Aberdeen in 1842, and that also of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. It is necessary, before I proceed to demonstrate the illegality of our proceedings, shortly to recite what is the present position of the treaty engagements existing between this country and Brazil. In the year 1826, Brazil made a convention with the Government of the united kingdom containing several articles, the first article being permanent, and the others, two, three, and four, being of a temporary character. The first article was a general declaration, and certainly must be construed into a permanent engagement on the part of Brazil. It was to the effect that from and after a certain time—1830—it should be unlawful for the subjects of Brazil to carry on the slave trade, and that the carrying it on, under any pretext or form whatever, should be deemed and treated as piracy. That was the declaration of the Executive Government of Brazil. The second, third, and fourth, were to last for a period of fifteen years, if so terminated by notice, and they contained various stipulations as to giving mutual right of search, as to mixed commissions, courts of adjudication for ships captured in the slave trade, and various modes of procedure under which it was arranged that slavers might be captured. These articles constituted the code of regulations under which England might capture Brazilian slavers; and by the admission of Great Britain herself they have expired regularly, and by the right of the contracting parties. There remains, now, therefore, only one single article of the treaty of 1826, namely, the first, in which it is laid down that it shall not be lawful after a given time for Brazilians to carry on the slave trade, but that such trade shall be deemed piracy. Such is the whole of your treaty engagements with Brazil; and the question is what construction ought to be put on this article that now remains? The diplomatic construction that was put for a series of years by the English Government on the first article was this—that the Brazilian Government engaged to induce the Legislature of Brazil to pass a law which should punish 763 Brazilian subjects for carrying on the slave trade, and moreover punish them as pirates, the piracy being created by a municipal law, enacted for the suppression of the slave trade. That was the obvious and only construction which such a declaratory article could bear; but I will take the liberty of reading to the House one or two short paragraphs to show that this was the construction which was considered by diplomatists of both countries to be applicable to the first article of the treaty. So late even as the 12th November, 1843, the British Minister at Rio addressed the Foreign Minister of Brazil in these remarkable words:—By the First Article of the Convention of 1828, the Brazilian Government pledged itself to the enactment of a law whereby the African slave trade should be declared illegal in Brazil, and any subject of the empire implicated in it be deemed to be and be treated as a pirate.And before the Committee of which my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead is Chairman, the noble Viscount the Secretary for Foreign Affairs said—The treaty says that the being concerned in the slave trade by any Brazilian subjects shall be deemed and treated as piracy. By rights the Brazilian Government ought to have passed a law in accordance with that engagement.His Lordship's meaning was clearly that such was the true effect of the engagement. But in the year 1845, finding that the Brazilians were unwilling to continuo these mutual rights of search which they had previously granted, and the courts of mixed commission, the Earl of Aberdeen put a totally new construction on the first article of the treaty. He said that we did not want any of those stipulations about the right of search which for the previous fifteen years had been thought absolutely necessary.We do not," said his Lordship, "want any mixed commission courts; we have got all the power we desire under the first article. You (the Brazilians) have agreed that your subjects are to be treated as pirates, and since you have agreed to that doctrine the Queen of England has derived a right to capture the subjects of Brazil on the high seas when engaged in the slave trade, to deal with them as pirates, to confiscate their ships and goods, in short to render them in any way subject to the criminal jurisdiction of this country.That was the Earl of Aberdeen's construction, and an Act of Parliament was passed to carry it out. Piracy is a crime by the law of nations—a point which nobody questions; you have a right to punish the offenders—the existing law and the law of nations being amply sufficient for the 764 purpose. The question is, did the declaration of the first article make the slave trade piracy? It is not sufficient to say that a man is a pirate to make him a pirate; and an offence is not piracy when merely so acknowledged by an Executive Government, but when it is made so by the universal consent of mankind. Robbery on the high seas is made piracy by a universal law, and the tribunals of every country may punish the pirate when they can find him. This is the law of nations; but the mere declaration of the Minister of Brazil, who lost his place because he could not carry a law to effect his object—a mere declaration does not make a man a pirate. It is only when he is a pirate by the jus gentium that you have a right to try him when you find him. Who ever heard that a declaration of this description could make criminal law, although, perhaps, I am presumptuous in saying so much in the presence of a learned Gentleman who was Attorney General when the Bill became law, and also in the presence of high legal authorities on this side of the House? I may be presumptuous in offering an opinion, and should not have done so if I were not fortified by the highest legal authorities in the united kingdom. Now, Sir, the Act that was passed was this. I must remind Gentlemen that its whole foundation was the Earl of Aberdeen's construction of the first article in the treaty. He says, "the first article makes them pirates, and you may deal with them as you like." Well, this is an Act which you passed to put the matter beyond all doubt. You passed an Act conferring jurisdiction on the courts of Admiralty, and entitling them to confiscate the ships of Brazilian subjects. You say that Brazilian ships are to he tried by all the rules and regulations contained in any Act of Parliament, now in force, for the suppression of the slave trade in British owned ships, and you recite several Acts, of which the Brazilians know nothing, but by which you say they are to be governed. These are the 5 Geo. IV., c. 114, 11 Will. IV., and 5 & 6 Vic, c. 122. These Acts you recite, and it is contended that they extend over the empire of Brazil, because—recollect that a Brazilian ship sailing under the Brazilian flag, with Brazilians on board, on the high sea is Brazilian dominion. I said that I had high legal authority for thinking that the Act which I propose to repeal, is founded on an entirely erroneous construction of the treaty. A case was drawn up, and a regular business 765 opinion was obtained from Mr. M. D. Hill, in consultation with the hon. and learned Member for Youghal, which was as follows:—We are of opinion that the 1st article of the treaty of 1820 does not confer on the British sovereign any rights whatsoever over Brazilian vessels or subjects engaged in the slave trade, under the Brazilian flag; and that the right of search and mixed commission being now at an end, all the jurisdiction ever conferred on that sovereign by the remaining articles has ceased. We think that according to the true construction of the 1st article, the Brazilian Emperor did merely contract with the King of Great Britain that the Brazilian legislature should, within a certain period, enact a municipal law, making the slave trade illegal and punishable as piracy; and that the failure, whether from inability or unwillingness, to perform this stipulation, although it might possibly have been a good cause of war between the two countries, nevertheless could not justify Great Britain in assuming to herself legislative or judicial authority over an independent State. We are therefore of opinion that the Act 8 and 9 Vic. e. 122, being founded on an erroneous assumption, is inoperative and void as against the subjects of Brazil (and their ships) carrying on the slave trade under the Brazilian flag, and not being domiciled in this country, nor owing any allegiance to its sovereign. It follows, from what has been said, that the seizure and condemnation of the two Brazilian ships were, in our opinion, tortuous and unlawful. The condemnation having been effected in a Vice-Admiralty court, we think that the proper remedy is by appeal to the Queen in Council.Now it will be in the recollection of the House that the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, when the Act was under discussion, questioned its propriety, and doubted whether the convention justified such legislation. He expressed his doubts in this House, and gave public notice that he would take a further opportunity of calling the attention of the House to the subject; and he has authorised my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead to say what he would have stated had he been here tonight, namely, that if he (the Chief Justice) had remained a Member of this House, he would have felt it incumbent upon him to bring the question under the consideration of Parliament, and to propose a repeal of this Act. His Lordship still retains the opinion he held in 1845, and has made a communication to my hon. Friend, an extract of which I shall road to the House. His Lordship says—Lincoln, March 12, 1849.—I have always deemed the Act you referred to a national disgrace, manifesting either great ignorance of the law of nations, or monstrous assumption, and calculated to lead to a war, or to our rendering ourselves contemptible. Should we over presume to enforce such au Act against a strong nation, and 766 redress be demanded and refused, our conduct would, I conceive, beyond all doubt, form a justifiable cause of war. If we rendered the redress required, we must appeal" either to act from fear, or to have assumed to legislate over the subjects of foreign nations to an extent which we were conscious that we could not justify. The question is, what is piracy? I understand it to be spoliation and violence committed on the high seas, not against any particular nation, but generally against all nations; and therefore it is that every nation may punish the aggressors, without regard to whether any specific wrong may have been committed against the subjects of the prosecuting nation or of any other. Treaties among nations may bind the consenting governments in honour to each other to prohibit a particular course of conduct by their respective subjects by the legislaitive authority of each country; but such treaties would not authorise either of the contracting nations to punish as criminals the subjects of the other, although the omission of a contracting nation properly to enforce the agreed restrictions on its own subjects might constitute a grievance, and, like the breach of any other treaty engagements, form a ground for war against the offending nation. Such a treaty, I apprehend, can furnish no ground whatever, consistently with the law of nations, for either of the contracting nations to legislate against foreign subjects.This is the opinion of high legal authority, perhaps the highest on such a subject; but really the notion of international law propounded in the Act of the Earl of Aberdeen appears to me to be contrary to the rules of common sense. My noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office, although not responsible for that Act, will, no doubt, defend it. If he does, he must take the position that Brazil has delegated to us a criminal jurisdiction over her subjects, with right to punish them either in their persons or property. Whether the slave trade be lawful or unlawful by their own law, can the mere declaration of the Executive Government of Brazil have armed us with powers of penal jurisdiction over Brazilians? Let us put the converse of this proposition. Suppose the noble Lord had unfortunately made a declaration that a given act now lawful should be unlawful from a certain date. Does he mean to say that he would thus entitle a foreign nation to inflict penal punishments on the subjects of these realms? That is the converse of the case, and it is in precise accordance with the principle of international law which the noble Lord must lay down in defending the Brazilian Act. What a monstrous proposition would this be! Then, if my noble Friend could not induce Englishmen to submit to such foreign laws, why should we endeavour to force such a system down the throats of the Brazilians? Is it pretended 767 that the Government of this country has greater power over the subjects of the Brazils than over the subjects of the Queen of England? Has the Queen of England greater power over the subjects of Brazil than is possessed by the Emperor of Brazil? Because these are the positions taken, and these are the principles involved, in the arguments of those who support the noble Lord's view. It is monstrous, in my mind, without any reference to the authorities on the subject—it is contrary to the principles of common sense—that, inasmuch as the noble Lord, without an Act of Parliament, would not be able to enforce the stipulations of such a treaty upon any Englishman, that he should be enabled to enforce it upon a Brazilian in the absence of any Brazilian law to that effect. I have quoted that high legal authority, in order to clear myself from the charge of presumption in undertaking, in the presence of so many able men in this House, to lay down the principles of international law. But I cannot help conditionally fortifying myself by a protest signed by his Grace the Duke of Wellington and by Lord Lyndhurst, in reference to the same principle which is involved in this question—in regard to another Act of Parliament, namely, the Partuguese Act. And the ground on which that noble Duke and the then Lord Chancellor protested against that law was precisely the same as that I am now taking against this Brazilian Act:—Protest.—House of Lords, August, 1839.—12th clause in protest.—Because the Bill authorises the capture and detention of Portuguese vessels, and natives of Portugal subjects to the crown of Portugal, and their adjudication before a British tribunal for a breach of treaty with the Sovereign of Groat Britain and Ireland, and a breach of the law of Portugal; thus assuming a right to exorcise a jurisdiction at sea to punish a foreigner by the sentence of the courts of this country, for a breach of the municipal law of his own country.13. Because such proceedings as are authorised by this Bill are inconsistent with the ancient and honourable policy of this country, to maintain for ourselves peace with all nations, by respecting the rights, institutions, and independence of all, and, cultivating their goodwill by friendly relations, to promote peace between the nations of the world in general, by our good offices and exertions, particularly in favour of the weak.—Signed by WELLINGTON, LYNDHURST, SHAFTES-BUUT, DEVON, &C.It is precisely the principle laid down by the distinguished men who signed that protest which we now take. And when I bring before you the legal opinion of Mr. 768 M. D. Hill, and of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite the Member for Youghal, who were consulted upon this question as a matter of business, and of the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas—than whom, I may safely say, there is no higher authority on international law in this country; and when I add to this this solemnly recorded protest of Lord Lyndhurst and the Duke of Wellington, I think I have freed myself from the imputation of having presumptuously or lightly questioned a policy founded on what I must call such erroneous notions of the law of nations. Now, Sir, let us consider what it is we are about. We are claiming the right to capture Brazilian vessels on the high seas engaged in a traffic which, execrable as it may he, and undoubtedly is, was carried on by Englishmen—which was once a legalised trade—and which not until after a struggle of some thirty years the British Parliament was induced to abolish. We are carrying Brazilian subjects before foreign tribunals—foreign to them—we are trying them in a language they are unacquainted with—we are subjecting them to rules of law and regulations of which they can have no knowledge—we are trying them before jurisdictions where a Brazilian counsel can have no locus standi, and cannot be heard. We are doing all those things to an independent nation, because the majority of the people have not yet arrived at an opinion of the slave trade such as we now hold, but which a few years ago was a matter of controversy and difference amongst ourselves. Is this, let me ask you, good policy? Is this the way to effect that object you profess to have in view—the abolition of the slave trade? Is it not rather the way to enlist on the side of the slave trade in Brazil feelings of national independence? Is it the way to secure that joint co-operation of the Brazilian people which we know to be absolutely necessary for the abolition of this trade, to take a course which is protested against by the Brazils as contrary to their rights as an independent nation, and which is denounced by your own high legal authorities as inconsistent with the principles of international law—is this a course, I say, likely to effect the object you have in view? Is it not more likely to produce irritation, ill-feeling, and lasting alienation on the part of the Brazils, and so to defeat, rather than accomplish, the purpose you seek? Now, what are the facts of the case? Since the Act came into ope- 769 ration —since you have been taking on yourselves to deal with Brazilian subjects out of your jurisdiction, according to your notions of right and wrong, and according to your ideas of criminal law—the slave trade between Africa and the Brazils has become greater than ever it was before. Why, 120,000 negroes were imported from the coast of Africa into the Brazils within the last two years, according to the statement in the last report of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society; and according to the evidence of my noble Friend himself, before the Committee, no loss than 60,000 negroes were imported into the Brazils during the last year alone. The effect, then, of the Act has not been to put down the slave trade. The price of a slave in the Brazils is now much lower than it was in 1845, when you commenced these unjustifiable proceedings. The price of slaves, as brought down by the large supply of negroes which have been introduced under your policy, is much lower than it was during that interval of time in 1845, between the expiration of that article of the treaty which gave the right of search, and ratified the appointment of the mixed commission courts, and the passing of this Act—an interval during which your interference was less than at any other time. Since then, although our power of suppressing the trade should have been more felt, the number of slaves imported has been increased since the adoption of this illegal and arbitrary course. Now, with regard to the engagements entered into by the Brazils, I conceive in this it may be a ground of dispute between this country and the Brazils; but, nevertheless, I think we are bound to take into consideration all the circumstances of the case, and the great difficulty which the Executive of the Brazils has to contend with in inducing the public to consent to such an enactment as would carry out the engagement into which they have entered. I do not deny that there does exist an engagement between the Brazils and the united kingdom—that engagement being the suppression of the slave trade by Brazilian law. But if you hear from the Brazils the reason why that engagement has not been fulfilled, it is for you to consider whether the excuse she offers is sufficiently ample, and whether you ought to be satisfied with it as a ground for the non-fulfilment, on her part, of the contract. In all these matters, as in all other disputes, you must 770 hear both sides; and having considered the circumstances in which the contracting parties are placed, you must then come to the conclusion whether the ground assigned for the non-fulfilment of the engagement by the other party, is sufficient to satisfy you. Let us consider how long it was from the day when the first Motion was made in this House on the subject, until the final abolition of the slave trade with us. It was no less than thirty-one years. It took thirty-one years of successive Motions to induce the Legislature of England to agree to the abolition of the slave trade. How long since is it that the Brazilian Government undertook to pass a law to suppress that trade? It was only in 1826 that they entered into the engagement with you, and from that time to the present so long a period has not elapsed as it took you to pass a similar law yourselves. Why should you expect that public opinion should advance more rapidly in the Brazils than it did here? Why should you expect when you yourselves had such a long and arduous struggle to overcome the interests and strong opposition you had to encounter to the abolition of this abominable traffic, that the Brazilian Government should at once be able to succeed in passing this measure of abolition; or in at once forming public opinion to its own will and pleasure? I believe, as Mr. Bandinell stated, that on several occasions the Executive of the Brazils has been honestly desirous to pass such a law, but has been prevented by circumstances over which it had no control. And I also conscientiously believe that the policy of this country, by irritating the Brazilian people, and encouraging a sort of national sympathy in favour of the slave trade—by leading to the belief that, by giving way upon the question, they would sacrifice their national independence—that by this policy you are creating a prejudice, and raising up the national voice against you, and increasing the difficulties of the Brazilian Government, and that you are, in fact, taking the best means for defeating your own object. Was the slave trade abolished in England by the armed interference of foreign nations? Was it put down by cruisers sent by France, Austria, or Russia, or by any foreign nations setting up their own code of morals for our observance, and telling us what course we should follow, and what we should avoid? No. But it was abolished by the slow and gradual formation of public opinion; by public opinion influenced by that moral 771 and religious sentiment which, I trust, will always influence the public mind of this country. These are the influences which brought about that great and glorious consummation here. But I am persuaded that if, while this public opinion was forming, you had had hovering about your coasts the armed cruisers of some foreign country, seizing your ships and your subjects—if you had had angry diplomatic correspondence going on with foreign Powers, and causes of annoyance such as are now operating with the Brazilians, we should, I am convinced, have been at that time no more able to abolish the traffic than the Brazilians are now. It is with these views that I earnestly call on Parliament to reconsider their decision. I arraign the Act—first, because it is founded on an erroneous construction of the treaty. I arraign the Act, because it is a violation of international law; and I arraign it, because it has been the subject of protest on the part of a Government whose co-operation you desire to carry out your object in the abolition of the slave trade. I arraign it, because it might form a precedent for the adoption of principles that might be used on other occasions and under other circumstances against this country, and bring great difficulties upon us; and because, moreover, if by a strange interpretation of international law, we could find an excuse for it, I believe it to be so unsound in policy—so little calculated to effect any great object—that I should nevertheless oppose it. I would ask the votes of those hon. Members who may not agree with me, either on the legal point of view, or on the question of policy. I say, that when the Act was passed by Parliament in 1845, a distinct declaration was given by the noble Secretary, that nothing would afford him greater pleasure than to propose the repeal of this Act; that he passed it with pain and reluctance; and that if the Brazilian Government showed a disposition to agree to any friendly co-operation for the abolition of the slave trade, he would be the first to come down to Parliament to repeal the statute in question. And since these promises were made, the Brazilian Government have submitted the project of a treaty to this country during the time the Earl of Aberdeen was in office, which, I believe I am right in saying, that noble Earl would have considered a good arrangement, and capable of carrying out the object which his Government had in view. He said, as 772 I am informed (but I speak under correction, though I think I am stating pretty accurately what passed), that if such a project as was then submitted by the Brazilian Ministers was ratified, and became a complete instrument, he should be willing to propose the repeal of this Act. The negotiation, I may say, had terminated, or was so far terminated, that the project which has been submitted was satisfactory to both sides, and had only to go to the Brazils for ratification; and if ratified, our Act would have been repealed. I speak, of course, under correction. I speak, nevertheless, cautiously, and on information on which I think I can rely. But when my noble Friend came into office, in 1846, he did not—and I say so with all deference and respect—he did not approve, as I suppose, of the project which had been submitted to the Earl of Aberdeen. He wrote a despatch, in which he immediately put an end to the whole of the past negotiations. That despatch is to this effect:—LORD PALMERSTON TO MR. HAMILTON,Foreign Office, Aug. 13, 1846.Sir—With reference to the Earl of Aberdeen's despatch, dated the 9th August, 1845, and to sub sequent correspondence on the subject of the Brazil Slave Trade Act, and upon the proposed negotiation of a new treaty with Brazil, which might suspend the operation of that Act, I have to desire that you will take no further steps in this matter until you receive further instructions from Her Majesty's Government. It will my duty to prepare a draft of an improved treaty between Great Britain and Brazil for the suppression of the slave trade, which I will send to you to be pro posed to the Brazilian Government; and it will only be upon such treaty being signed and ratified, and upon the treaty and Brazilian ratification being received in this country, that any steps can be taken by Her Majesty's Government to suspend the operation of the Act 8 & 9 Vic, cap. 122.—I am &c. "PALMERSTON.So the noble Viscount did not send a treaty for negotiation, but a treaty for signature. The noble Viscount, in effect, said, "It will be my business to send the draft, yours to sign it, contain what it may, however much it may interfere with the interest or the lawful commerce of the Brazils, however much it may affect the rights of Brazilian subjects. These are matters I will not entertain your objections to. I will draw up a treaty which you shall not be at liberty to question. Your business is to sign. Do so, and I will repeal the Act of which you complain; but on no other terms." This put an end to the negotiations. Ten months afterwards—(my noble Friend, it will be seen, gave ample time to the Brazilian authorities for digesting this 773 communication—his despatch was dated in August, 1846, and in June, 1847)—ten months afterwards—out came the treaty my noble Friend proposed. In June, 1847, the draft of this treaty was forwarded, and Lord Howden received instructions at the same time. He was told in these instructions not to alter a letter of the treaty—that he was to go to the Brazilian Government with it, and call upon them to sign it. I will read to the House the instructions which Lord Howden received:—Her Majesty's Government are desirous of removing all sources of difference between the two countries, and although Her Majesty's Government are fully satisfied with the effectiveness of the operation of the law of 1845—(The importation of the slaves being at that time greater than ever)—and feel more confident of obtaining just and impartial decisions against slave vessels by courts of Admiralty than by mixed commissions such as existed under the convention;—(And I believe your Vice-Admiralty courts are the very worst of all the English tribunals. A Motion was made the other day in reference to them, and it was not then denied that they were the worst courts we have:)—yet they would consent to recommend Parliament to repeal the law in question, if the Government of Brazil had actually concluded and ratified an efficient treaty for the suppression of the slave-trade. I accordingly transmit to you a draft of such a slave-trade treaty as Her Majesty's Government think would be effectual for its purpose; and I have to instruct you to propose it to the Brazilian Government, and to state that on receiving the ratification thereof by the Emperor of Brazil, Her Majesty's Government would recommend to Parliament the repeal of the law of 1845. This draft of treaty is nearly the same as the treaty concluded by Great Britain with Portugal in 1842, with some few alterations, in order to adapt it to the case of Brazil; and as it establishes no regulations of maritime police, or any other measures which are not considered by Her Majesty's Government to be absolutely essential to the effectual attainment of the object which it has in view. Her Majesty's Government cannot consent to make any alteration therein. The language, then, which you are to hold in this matter is, that the British Government considers itself fully and completely justified in having proposed to Parliament the Act of 1845; that it considers that Act as being for the present sufficient for the purpose of putting down Brazilian slave trade; and that, consequently. Her Majesty's Government have no wish to press the Government of Brazil to conclude a slave-trade treaty as a substitute for that Act; but that as the Government of Brazil objects to that Act, Her Majesty's Government would be willing, in deference to the wishes of the Imperial Government, to accept the treaty of which I send you a draft, in exchange for the Act of 1845; but in that case the treaty must be adopted such as it is purposed to be by the draft; and upon no other condition whatever can Her 774 Majesty's Government recommend to Parliament to repeal the Act of 1845.Now, I venture to think that these instructions—affording no ground for negotiation, or for consideration of any difference of opinion that might be entertained—were in no way calculated to be successful in obtaining a treaty from the Brazils. On the contrary, I am clearly of opinion that they were calculated to prevent it. I do not think the draft of the treaty which was sent out was of such a character as an independent country could well submit to. Whatsoever the Executive of the Brazils might desire, they would be found fault with by the Brazilian people if they were to consent to make them liable to many of the stipulations which that draft contained, and to submit to the mode in which it was proposed. I will not offer any further opinion upon the treaty, as I do not intend to recite it to the House; but I say that to send out a treaty, not to be negotiated, but to be signed, was neither justifiable nor likely to produce the object in view. I know I am not at liberty to quote despatches which have been laid before a Committee, before that Committee has reported. But I think I know enough of what has transpired to justify me in saying that Sir Charles Hotham, who commanded the African squadron, states that the plan adopted by us for the suppression of the slave trade has failed in its object. It has been unsuccessful in itself; and, with regard to the Brazils, it has aroused the feelings of the whole population against us. And he expresses this confident opinion—that there is there a considerable party among the younger men of that empire who have the same desire for the suppression of the slave trade as ourselves, but that the policy of England, in forcing on that country these obnoxious measures, has armed the nation against us, and prevented the co-operation of their younger men in putting an end to this horrible traffic. What does Sir Charles Hotham say? I had better read his words: a more important witness on such a subject we could not have. He says—To expect that the Brazilian Government would unconditionally, under present circumstances, suppress the slave trade, is to look for impossibilities. Any such attempt on the part of the Government would be the signal for raising the republican flag in Pernambuco and Babia; but I entertain a confident belief that in the Brazils there is a number of young men who are as strongly impressed with a desire for the suppression of the slave trade as ourselves; but our obnoxious measure has raised the voice of the whole 775 country against us, and prevents the co-operation of these persons in the common object.There are other remarks relative to the importance of a better understanding between the Brazils and this country, and showing how deeply England is interested in the cultivation of friendly relations. The trade between the two countries is important and growing, and there is no State as to which England can have a stronger or deeper interest in maintaining such relations. I think I have now stated sufficient reasons to induce the House to give full and fair consideration to the proposition I have to submit, which is that I have leave to bring in a Bill to repeal so much of the Act 8 and 9 Vic, c. 122; but perhaps I had better adhere to the words of my notice of Motion to repeal the whole of the Act; for I am willing to repeal the whole of the Act, except some minor details which might be useful in any future enactment that may be passed. Before I sit down, I must be allowed to make one observation as to a trial that took place some few months ago. A certain number of Brazilian subjects were captured on the high seas by one of our cruisers, or at least a ship in charge of one of the Queen's officers. The prisoners on board the captured vessel rose and retook her; and, in so doing, they killed all the Englishmen on board, I believe—but, certainly, an English officer, a Mr. Palmer, was one of those whose lives were sacrificed. These men were tried for the murder, and convicted in the first instance—the judge, in his charge, laying it down broadly that they were pirates; for though the special proviso of the treaty, contained in the second, third, and fourth articles, had not been strictly adhered to, they were held to be merely directory, and the first article gave power to the British cruisers to seize such persons as pirates, and that the seizure having been made in this instance, and the persons on board having resisted and killed those who had been placed in possession of her, were guilty of murder. But when the question came to be referred to the fifteen Judges, they arrived at a very different conclusion; and, as I am informed, all of them, except Lord Denman and Baron Piatt, were of opinion that those parties had been improperly convicted of murder. As no reasons for the judgment were made public, I cannot state the grounds of this decision; but, inferentially, I may state, that the treaty docs not constitute these men pirates. If they were pirates, cap- 776 tured on the high seas, I cannot conceive how it is that they were not in legal custody, and, therefore, guilty of murder. I can only suppose the declaration of the Executive of Brazil, in 1826, that the slave trade should be deemed piracy, did not make it so; that, if it did, it did not delegate to us a criminal jurisdiction over the subjects of another Power. I, therefore, beg to move for leave to bring in a Bill to repeal the Brazilian Treaty Act.
§ MR. URQUHART
seconded the Motion, and said, the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs had taken great credit for the efforts of a former liberal Government to enlarge our trade and commerce; but he had twice admitted that all our ordinary channels of commerce had been choked up. But if this were true with our European trade, how much more strongly did it apply to our trade with Brazil—that empire which owed, as it were, its existence to the fostering care of this country. He had, over and over again, brought under the notice of the House truths that might appear disagreeable and invidious—namely, that the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs had always made use of the agitation in respect of slavery and the slave trade to effect other and ulterior objects. He could not reconcile the noble Viscount's conduct with regard to the Brazils with his professed anxiety for the extension of British commerce. So far from the course taken tending to put an end to the slave trade, it was shown by the evidence of the commanders on the station that it tended to increase and perpetuate it. He said that Portugal had been treated in a similar manner to Brazil, and that the slave-trade transactions with the former country had been the model upon which the Act of 1845 was framed. He contended that there was no justification for the treaty of 1845, and that, as the Earl of Aberdeen had doubtless mistaken the law on the subject, the question naturally arose, in how far the present Government were responsible for that Act. To him it mattered little upon whose shoulders the responsibility must fall: they had to consider the "measures, not the men;" but in the consideration of this part of the subject, it must not be forgotten, that from the despatch sent by the Earl of Aberdeen to the Brazilian Government, it appeared he proposed the Act with extreme pain, and that he was anxious afterwards to come down to Parliament and move its repeal. M. Lisboa projected a treaty, to 777 which the Earl of Aberdeen assented. Then the Brazilian Government proposed an exchange of the right of search, saving their coasting trade, to which his Lordship also assented; and at that particular time a change of Government took place—the noble Viscount opposite returned to office, and forwarded that despatch to the representative of England at the Court of Brazil, to which reference had already been made by the right hon. Member for Manchester. There had been mawkish sensibility affected, and double dealing practised, by the English Government throughout the whole course of the negotiations. The treaty of 1826 gave the right to the British Government to deal with slavedealers as with criminals; but there were no laws passed by the Brazilians to make that act criminal. In the course of the last session of the Brazilian legislature, a measure was proposed to render persons criminal who should be found trading in slaves—that such offence should be treated as piracy—and that the parties should further be subjected to a penalty of 4,000 milrees. An amendment was suggested making the penalty banishment, with a fine; and to this there was no dissentient voice raised. All concurred in the necessity of some steps being taken; and the objection--the only objection raised—was, lest, by passing this measure, the Brazilians should appear to assent to the English Bill of 1845. Speaking of the slave trade on one occasion, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had said, that if the ratification had been withdrawn on the part of France, it was because that country was incensed against England on account of the Syrian policy of the noble Viscount; but Brazil and Portugal had no Syrian policy to be incensed against, although both had had experience of fatal influence and mismanagement from the manner in which slave trade and political negotiations had been jumbled together. For these reasons, he was happy to second the Motion of the right hon. Member for Manchester, hoping that it would be followed up by measures in reference to that damning trial in which a judge had condemned men who had justly defended themselves against others who, though exercising the authority of the Crown of England, had acted in a manner which could only be designated as piratical.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to repeal the said Act."778
§ SIR F. THESIGER
said, that in consequence of the remarks which had been made by the hon. Member for Stafford, he thought it necessary to remind the House that the Motion of the right hon. the Member for Manchester involved the propriety of repealing the 8th and 9th Vict., cap. 122. He trusted that the House would give no encouragement to the Motion, because he was satisfied that if the House should adopt the course which the right hon. Gentleman was disposed to recommend, not only would the means of giving effect to the most important stipulation in the convention with Brazil he destroyed, but it would also exhibit a degree of weakness and vacillation, on the part of the Legislature of this country, which he thought would not tend to enhance its character in the estimation of foreign nations. The right hon. Gentleman had certainly introduced his subject with much clearness and force; but he had, If he would forgive him for saying so, fallen into one or two errors which it was necessary he should attempt to correct, before adverting to the general question. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to him to understand the 8th and 9tb Victoria as if it gave power to the courts of this country to deal with the persons of Brazilian subjects. He (Sir F. Thesiger) thought it necessary that any such notion should be corrected, in order that the question might be properly understood. There was nothing whatever in that Act which gave any power over the persons of Brazilian subjects. It merely gave power to the Admiralty courts to adjudicate with respect to the vessels of Brazilian subjects, and the cargoes of those vessels. This being the case, it was necessary also that he should call attention to the real state of the question with respect to the passing of the Act of the 8th and 9th Victoria, because it was necessary to come to a careful determination on the point. The convention with Brazil of November, 1826, incorporated all the articles, clauses, and provisions of the treaty with Portugal of 1817; and by the first article of the treaty with Brazil it was provided that, in three years after the exchange of the ratifications, the slave trade should be entirely abolished, and that any subject of the Brazilian Government who trafficked in slaves, after that time, should be guilty of piracy. The treaty was ratified on the 13th of March, 1827, consequently the three years expired in 1830; and, under the additional 779 articles of the treaty with Portugal of 1817, it was provided that, after the slave trade should be entirely abolished in Portugal, the treaty should subsist between this country and that Government for fifteen years, and, therefore, that additional article being incorporated into the treaty with Brazil in 1826, the slave trade being abolished by the articles of the Brazilian treaty of the 13th March, 1830, the treaty continued to subsist with Brazil to the 13th March, 1845, when it expired. Now, while the treaty was subsisting, and all the articles contained in the treaty with Portugal forming a part of that Brazilian treaty, there were mixed commission courts established, which had the power of adjudicating with respect to vessels engaged in the slave trade; and we passed an Act, the 7th and 8th Geo. IV., for the purpose of giving effect to the treaty of 1826, and, by a clause in that Act, the parties were prohibited against proceeding in other courts of Admiralty, thus compelling all concerned to resort to the mixed commission courts. So stood the law up to the 13th March, 1845, when the treaty came to an end; and then it was quite obvious that, inasmuch as the 7th and 8th Geo. IV. was a subsisting Act, and inasmuch as it expressly prohibited proceeding in courts of Admiralty in this country, and as the mixed commission courts had come to an end with the treaty on which they were founded, and that, although the stipulation of the convention of 1826 was binding and conclusive that the slave trade should come to an end in 1830, yet there was no possibility of carrying that treaty into effect, or of enforcing it, by reason of there being no mixed commission courts to which reference could be made, or in which proceedings could be instituted. It became necessary, therefore, to consider the situation in which this country stood with respect to the important question of the engagement which had been entered into by the Brazilian Government, that the slave trade should be absolutely abolished; and, in the first place, he must be permitted to say that he thought the right hon. Gentleman had fallen into a mistake in supposing that for the purpose of giving effect to the treaty it was necessary there should be an act of the Legislature of Brazil, because he (Sir F. Thesiger) thought that when a sovereign or the legal representative of a State entered into a treaty with other nations, those other nations were not bound to consider what the municipal law of that 780 country was. The treaty was binding on all the contracting parties, and might be enforced, if necessary, by means of war. But it may at the same time be a treaty which the sovereign may have given the means of enforcing by more peaceable means; and he apprehended that the fact of the treaty of 1826, binding the Brazilian Government to abolish the slave trade in 1830, placed England in that position in which she was entitled to legislate under the circumstances which had occurred, in finding a substitute for the mixed commission courts, which had expired. That this was the notion of the Brazilian Government itself, appeared, he thought, clearly from a letter written by the Chevalier De Mattos in 1830, in which he stated that the slave trade having been totally forbidden to Brazilian subjects from the 13th of March, 1830, and persons infringing the law being liable to punishment under the convention of 1826, by the ordinary tribunals, he was directed to concert with Her Majesty's Government on the subject of the dissolution of the mixed commission at Sierra Leone and Rio de Janeiro, they having become superfluous. At the time, therefore, the Chevalier expressed an opinion that there was no necessity for the continuance of the mixed commission, and that the violation of that treaty might be referred to the ordinary tribunals of the contracting parties. It was quite clear that at the expiry of the fifteen years after 1830, the same power must exist in the ordinary tribunals as existed in 1830, when the treaty was subsisting, provided the stipulation was not temporary, but permanent and binding. That such was the case, nobody would dispute. There had been introduced into the discussion, in a rather unusual and irregular way, the opinion of a very distinguished person—the Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. He (Sir F. Thesiger) must confess that, although it might have been very desirable, for the purpose of fortifying the opinion of the hon. Member for Gateshead, that he should receive the expression of the views entertained by his right hon. and learned Friend—as he hoped he might still venture to call him—still it was not quite right that the right hon. Member for Manchester should have endeavoured to exercise an influence over the House by means of the powerful opinion contained in the letter of the Lord Chief Justice. He (Sir F. Thesiger) understood that that learned person had declared that 781 he considered the Act to be a disgrace to the country. He (Sir F. Thesiger) was very much surprised to find that, if such was the opinion of the learned Judge, he did not offer an amendment when the Bill was under discussion, so as to prevent the disgrace which would attach to the country by passing it. The right hon. Gentleman said that the learned Chief Justice did oppose the Bill. Certainly he suggested doubts and difficulties, and recommended the House to look very carefully at the provisions of the treaty, and entreated the House not to go beyond the right limits; but the learned Chief Justice never thought of dividing the House. The Bill was postponed for consideration to another night; he (Sir F. Thesiger) did not recollect if the learned Chief Justice was present on the second night, but most unquestionably be offered no opposition whatever to the progress of the measure. It really did appear to him (Sir F. Thesiger) a most unusual course, to say the least of it, to introduce the opinion, although that of a most distinguished person, in the way that it had been done. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the Brazilian pirates' case, "The Queen v. Serva," and seemed to suppose that the thirteen Judges had decided against the validity of the convention and of the Acts of Parliament; but the facts of the case were these:—A Brazilian vessel was seized by the crew of the Wasp, on the African station. That vessel had no slaves on board; but a British officer and crew were put in charge of her, and she then gave chase to a second vessel, and captured her, That second vessel had slaves on board. The two vessels were the Felicidade and the Echo, and the murder was committed on board the Felicidade. A midshipman of the name of Palmer and the crew of the Wasp were put on board the Felicidade, and the Brazilian crew rose upon them, mastered them, and killed the greater part. The only question in that case was, whether the Felicidade was in the lawful possession of the captors, because all the Judges admitted that if she was in the lawful possession of Her Majesty's officers, she was within the jurisdiction of the Admiralty, and the prisoners might be tried by the proper tribunal in this country. The question of the validity of the convention or Act of Parliament, therefore, arose incidentally only, and was not the foundation of the decision. The case of Portugal was quite different from the case of the Brazils, and had, in- 782 deed, been conclusively distinguished from it in the year 1845 by his right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth; but the question which the House had now to consider was, whether they would repeal the Act of the 8th and 9th Vict., c. 122; and, being satisfied that it was the only security which they now had for the Brazilians faithfully carrying out the stipulations of the treaty of 1826, and that if they abandoned the Act of the Legislature they would cease to have any hold whatever on the Brazilian Government, be thought that it would be; a most undesirable thing to repeal it. They had told the Brazilian Government that their object in passing it was to enforce compliance with the stipulations of the treaty, and that they should desire to repeal it as soon as steps were taken by that Government for effectually carrying it out; but whatever attempts the Brazilian Government had made, in fact no such law I existed in Brazil; and the consequence was, that if they repealed this Act of Parliament, the most important stipulations of the treaty of 1826 would become a dead 'letter, because there would be no means of enforcing it. In 1845, the Earl of Aberdeen had stated the intention of Her Majesty's Government to bring in such a measure as that of the 8th and 9th Victoria, "but that they would be ready to repeal it as soon as the measures of the Brazilian Government for carrying out the treaty would enable them to do so; and at the present moment they were not in a condition to say that the Brazilian Government had done anything effectual towards the performance of that condition. Considering then the sacrifices which this country had made for the purpose of putting an end to this odious traffic in human beings—considering the anxiety with which from time to time it had endeavoured to obtain the co-operation of other countries—and considering that under the stipulations of the treaty of 1826, it had received from the Brazilian Government an engagement to assist in that object, he asked the House whether it was desirable now to repeal that Act, and render that engagement ineffectual? He could not bring himself to think that it was, and upon that ground be conceived that the House ought not to agree to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said: I think the House and the country will feel under an obligation to my right hon. Colleague for bringing this question under the notice of the 783 House. I think the more it is discussed, the more it will be seen that the arguments on which this Bill is supported are of a flimsy and untenable character; and the more it will be seen that there are great interests in this country dependent upon the course we may take respecting our relations with Brazil, at this or some early period. There are two questions dependent upon the course we adopt to-night. One refers exclusively to the interest which this country takes in the suppression of the slave trade and slavery; the other, and a most important question, refers to our commercial relations with one of our best foreign customers. The question appears to me an exceedingly simple one; and I think the authorities quoted by my right hon. Colleague are such as to set it at rest in the mind of every Member in this House not concerned in the carrying of the Bill of 1845, or who from his official position may not conceive it his duty to defend that Bill now. The question is, whether we have the power to assume an authority over Brazilian subjects which the Brazilian Government itself does not assume, and does not and cannot exercise. There is a certain article of a certain treaty by which the Brazilian Government is bound to perform a certain act in which we are interested; but either from inability or unwillingness they have failed to perform their part of the engagement. Then comes the question, is the Brazilian Government unable or unwilling to do that which they have contracted to do? We have the evidence of a gentleman of high authority on questions of this nature taken before the Committee over which the hon. Member for Gateshead is presiding, Mr. Bandinell, from which I think we may fairly conclude that the Brazilian Government have not intentionally failed in the performance of that article of the treaty, nor wished to escape from their honest engagement. But if the Executive Government finds itself unable, by reason of a strong public feeling against them in Brazil, to fulfil the engagement, that does not justify us in passing a law which the right hon. Baronet then at the head of the Government would have been the last man to propose had it referred to the United States, to France, or to any country which ranks equal in power with this country amongst the nations of the world. I have said, we assumed a power by this Act which the Brazilian Government clearly cannot now exercise. I suppose the hon. 784 and learned Gentleman the Member for Abingdon will not argue that at this moment any court of law in Brazil could punish any Brazilian subject in the way our courts of law can. What more incredible than that our courts should have an influence over the subjects of a nation 6,000 miles away, which influence is not, and cannot, be exercised by that nation itself? A learned writer upon the subject of international law, Wheaton, says—Piracy, under the law of nations, may be tried and punished in the courts of justice of any nation, by whomsoever and wheresoever committed; but piracy created by municipal statute can only be tried by that State within whose territorial jurisdiction and on board of whose vessels the offence thus created was committed.It is quite clear, then, from this opinion, that, at any rate, it cannot be assumed for a moment that because this is called piracy in the first article of that treaty, therefore this country is empowered to treat it as the ordinary crime of piracy is treated amongst the various nations of the world. But, at this moment, the question is under discussion in the Brazilian legislature. I find in the Daily News of this morning, a report of a discussion on a project in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs declares that piracy, by the law of nations, was strictly defined, and slavetrading was not included therein; that municipal law can make no change in it; and that England, after the passing of this Act, would have no power which she had not before. And the whole discussion demonstrates the great difficulty we have got ourselves into by this interference, by this most improper and unsound measure that we have carried. But what are the proceedings which have taken place since this measure of 1845 was passed? By the Act, there ought to have been a return laid before Parliament of the ships captured. I have never seen such a return, unless it is mixed up with the ordinary slave papers. But I find that not less than 130 Brazilian vessels have been seized and condemned since the passing of this Act; and that of eighty-four so condemned, only eight had any slaves on board; the others were said to be equipped for the slave trade—an allegation easily proved before a court where the Brazilians had no counsel, and no locus standi; and, further, when we offer bounties and tonnage money to induce these captures, I know not to what length our invasion of the rights of Brazil may be car- 785 ried under this Act. Another point is the commercial part of the question; and if the noble Viscount at the head of the Foreign Department will give me his attention for a moment, I may give him some reasons why the people in my part of the country are anxious that the dispute should be settled. I have it on good authority that not less than four or five millions of British capital is invested in Brazil, in various commercial undertakings. The annual amount of our exports to that country is not very much less than 3,000,000l sterling. One of the results of our meddling with this slave question is, that our commercial treaties have fallen into disorder as well as the slave treaties. In 1844, our commercial treaty with Brazil expired; the Brazilian Government refused to renew it, except upon terms which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth at that time was not willing to concede—unless we would deal with the duties on sugar with some kind of fairness, such as they had shown to us with regard to our exports of manufactures. They were not willing to enter into a one-sided treaty with us, like the former one; and, since that time, we have had no commercial treaty whatever with them. Duties, then about 15 per cent, have, by various contrivances and small changes, one after another, been raised to 25 or 30 per cent; and now we are menaced with very high and retaliatory duties at the beginning of 1850. Moreover, there is a very awkward circumstance as to persons dying intestate in the Brazils, even though they have partners in this country: their property is obliged to go through, or rather to go into, a Brazilian court, and very little of it conies out again—it is nearly all wasted; and though there may be partners of the deceased persons living in this country, they have no means of recovering that property from the Brazilian tribunals. What, then, is the good of all the proceedings we have taken? Have you diminished the slave trade in the least? Your own evidence shows it has increased. I deny altogether the statement sent round to hon. Members this morning by the Anti-Slavery Committee—a committee of very energetic and busy men, but not the most judicious. I deny that there is proof of an increase of the slave trade consequent on the abolition of the sugar monopoly' in 1846. I say, what have we gained by proceedings which have cost this country so much of valuable 786 life on the coast of Africa, and so much treasure as we have annually spent? We find there has been no diminution of the slave trade; not only no diminution of its horrors, but an extraordinary increase of cruelty wherever cruelty was before inflicted; and we find at the same time that the great market for our manufactures, for the trade which I may be said here to represent to some extent, sending not less than a million and a half to the Brazils, and the whole industry of the country about three millions sterling per annum—we find, I say, our commercial relations with this great customer of ours very much entangled and perplexed by an attempt to do that which is absolutely impossible, to dragoon a free and independent nation into pursuing a course which we ourselves never should have pursued had any other nation attempted to compel us to it. It required many years of agitation, and the exercise of the strongest moral and religious sentiments of the people of this country, to induce the Legislature to assent to this with regard to our own dominions. Seeing the difficulty there was in prevailing on Parliament to abolish the slave trade and slavery in our own colonies, nothing could be more offensive or more presumptuous than for us to insist on the Brazilians taking a similar course before they had had the opportunity of making up their minds on the question. On this point Sir C. Hotham, in a despatch dated 5th December, 1848, says—In the year 1846 I had a conversation with Sonor Cavalcante, then Minister of Marine, and one of the ablest men in that country (Brazil). He expressed these opinions. He said, 'You cannot expect us to assist England, or to consent to stop the slave trade, whilst you are seizing Brazilian vessels, insulting our flag, and illegally condemning them.'Let us make this our own case. If we were the legislative assembly of the empire of Brazil, and a noble Lord at the head of the government of another country should send over his envoys, and be constantly meddling with this question; and if, when a measure was before this House for putting an end to the slave trade, a certain "Mr. Hudson," who is now in Brazil, and who, I believe, pursued the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth to Italy some fifteen years ago—should insist that our legislation should take this or that shape to please the government he represented, I am quite certain that, whatever might be the feeling of the House with regard to slavery, its independent spirit would rise at the attempt to in- 787 terfere with our legislation; and the very last thing we should do would be to abolish any institution of our country at the dictation of a foreign Power. The noble Viscount at the head of the Foreign Department has a benevolent crotchet on this subject; I believe he has the notion of doing a great deal of good on the coast of Africa and Brazil; but I can tell him there is a very altered opinion in this House and in; the country on this question. Very few out of doors are in favour of the course we are pursuing. The Anti-Slavery Committee and the Anti-Slavery Society, however numerous or however few they may be, have over and over again remonstrated against the policy we are pursuing with regard to the forcible suppression of the slave trade on the coast of Africa or Brazil. And, whether we consider the question with regard to the anti-slavery interest, or the commercial interest, it is evident we are sacrificing the true interests of the country, and taking up a very humiliating position, in maintaining the Act passed in 1845—passed because we were powerful against a nation much less powerful, and which we should never have attempted to pass had France, Russia, or the United States been in the place of the empire of Brazil.
§ MR. C. ANSTEY
differed from the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon in his version of the decision of the fifteen Judges on the Brazilian piracy case. The admiralty of Brazil had recognised and sanctioned the doctrine that Brazilian vessels captured under an English Act of Parliament were justified in turning upon their captors, and treating them as pirates. When questions of the nature of that which had given rise to the present debate, came before the fifteen Judges, the decision which they pronounced upon it was always in the nature of a recommendation to the Crown, and not in the manner of an award, as though they had themselves any authority or jurisdiction in the case. Amongst the objections taken was this, that the slave trade as carried on by the Brazilians was not piracy—that the men engaged in it had been wrongfully and illegally captured—and that the homicide which they did commit was an act done not within the Queen's jurisdiction. Mr. Baron Alderson was understood to hold, that if guilty of a crime, and though brought within the Queen's jurisdiction by an illegal act, it was not competent to the tribunals of this country to try them for such crime. It 788 appeared to many by whom this question had been attentively considered, that the crime he referred to was not committed by them, but by their captors; and, assuming that to be the true state of the case, he affirmed that they were at liberty to rise upon their captors and put them to death. The result had shown that the court of admiralty in Brazil had taken this view of the question, for they upheld the doctrine that Brazilians captured under the alleged authority of an Act of the British Parliament, were entitled to turn on their captors and treat them as pirates. Looking at the decision of the fifteen Judges, he felt himself warranted in saying that they declared the opinion on which his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Abingdon had proceeded, to have been an erroneous opinion. They seemed to entertain no doubt that the law did not treat or recognise the acts of slavetrading committed by the Brazilians as cases not covered by the treaty, or as offences of which any court of justice could take cognisance, still less could they visit them with punishment. Further, he must observe that there were some important documents not noticed in the course of the present discussion—he alluded to the Brazilian protest of 1847, in which the Brazilians declared as an excuse for their so long omitting to carry into effect their treaty with this country, that that omission was owing to the treaty of 1826, which could not be imputed to them, but to the noble Viscount opposite, who neglected to proceed in the matter, or to invest our representative at Rio Janeiro with the necessary powers. Then came the question regarding the prerogative of the British Crown. Now, he believed that in all treatises of authority on the law of prerogative, it was held that the municipal law of every other country formed an exception to its effect and operation. If the treaty of 1826 had been adopted, it would have made the slave trade a crime; but, not having been adopted, not having been incorporated in that of the year 1830, it had not that effect; and he did not hesitate to say, that if the noble Viscount had intended to induce the Brazilians to reject every proposition for the accommodation of those differences, he could not have taken any steps more calculated to produce that result than the course which he had pursued ever since he came into office; nor could be have selected a better instrument for effecting that purpose than Lord Howden, although he said this without the least 789 knowledge of the noble Lord beyond the information which his public acts furnished; for he could know nothing of the noble Lord other than what related to his public career. There was not a treaty for the suppression of the slave trade, that he would not gladly see repealed to-morrow, because he did not see why we should make ourselves the policemen of the rest of the world for the purpose of contributing a very doubtful service to humanity. Whether the House agreed to this Motion, or not, the Act of Parliament would be a dead letter, for it was in itself a gross and wicked infraction, not only of the principles of natural justice, but of international law.
§ SIR B. BUXTON
would not enter into the legal or political questions raised on the present occasion; but he must confess his regret that this Motion should have been brought forward by the right hon. Member for Manchester at the instigation of his constituents; for he believed it to be a notorious fact that it was in Manchester that the goods by which the slave trade was fed were nearly all produced. He believed it to be the desire, he did not say of his right hon. Friend, but of some of those by whom he had been put forward, that all restrictions on the slave trade should be withdrawn, in order that their trade with the Brazils might prosper. [Mr. MILNER GIBSON: Substantiate the statement.] He apprehended his right hon. Friend would not deny that a great portion of the goods to which he had referred came from Manchester. [Mr. Milner Gibson made a gesture of dissent.] At all events his right hon. Friend would have an opportunity of replying. Looking at the question in a general point of view, the course which this country was taking with respect to the slave trade was a matter of serious consideration. He hoped the country would not forget the great and fatal step taken, as he thought, towards increasing the slave trade in 1846. He thought it was as clear as noon-day, that by admitting the sugar of the Brazils into this country in 1846, they gave a stimulus and impetus to the slave trade. The Committee, of which he had the honour to be a Member, and which was now sitting on its preliminary resolution passed last year, stated that the admission of slave-grown sugar for consumption into this country, had tended, by greatly increasing the demand for that description of produce, so to stimulate the African slave trade as to render an effec 790 tual check to the slave trade more difficult than at any former period. That was one step. The next was to make these treaties which we already had with the Brazils more difficult to be carried into execution, and render our cruisers almost useless. In short, he could only regard this Motion as a preliminary to that of the hon. Member for Gateshead, for removing our cruisers altogether from the African coast. Therefore, let the House and the country remember that having for forty years opposed the slave trade, by every means in their power—having thought no sacrifice too great to accomplish that object—they had in the first place, for the sake of cheap sugar, given up a great and noble principle, and were now called upon to take another step which must tend to increase that awful trade; and it was to be feared that before long our position with respect to it, as far as related to foreign nations, would be nothing but a matter of history. He would not longer detain the House, knowing that, before long, he would have an opportunity of entering more at large into the question.
§ MR. HUME
was surprised at the doctrine advanced by his hon. Friend the Member for South Essex, and that he should charge the manufacturers with encouraging the slave trade, because their goods happened to be carried to a particular place and made a particular use of. Why, on that principle a charge might be brought against all the distillers and brewers, that, by the manufacture of intoxicating liquors, they were destroying the health of the country. If that principle were acted upon, there was no saying where to stop. If his hon. Friend himself were to be judged by a committee of teetotallers, he would inevitably be condemned for compounding inebriating drink deleterious to health. His hon. Friend called upon the House to remember that for forty years they had been warring against the slave trade, and said they were about to retrograde. But was it not well to consider whether the means employed were beneficial, and produced the desired result? It had been shown by the clearest evidence from officers on the service, and others qualified to judge, that the means adopted did not promote the object, but on the contrary aggravated the evil. Was this country then, because it had originally acted with good intentions in a certain way, to refuse to consider whether the means had been adapted to the end? If 791 the most humane of the men who had exerted themselves in this cause—who had acted from the most benevolent motives, and sacrificed their time and money in promoting it—were now enumerated, it would be found that there was not one in twenty of them whose opinions were not changed. Let the House, then, consider two questions. The first was, whether the means now used really promoted the object? The answer to that was—No. The second was, did those means do good? and the answer to that was—No, they did harm. Then let the House consider at whose expense this system was carried on. Why, the whole sum collected for the window tax in this country—one million sterling—was thrown away upon maintaining the African squadron. If that squadron were not kept up, taxes to that amount might be repealed. Seeing, then, that the system was kept up at the expense of the light, and health, and life of our fellow-countrymen; seeing that in all this sacrifice of money and human life, that the means were utterly inefficient for the purpose, he thought the time had now come for the House to consider whether they were in the right path. His right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester had done good service in bringing the matter forward.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
did not think that the hon. Member for Montrose had succeeded in disconnecting the manufacturers of Manchester from the desire to promote the slave trade. Indeed it was pretty well confessed by the right hon. Member for Manchester; and it seemed to him (Mr. O'Connell) that the people of that town seemed to think that, in order that there might be free trade in goods, it would be desirable that there should also be free trade in slavery. He extremely regretted that the Motion had been brought forward by the right hon. Member. The Act of 1845 had given great encouragement to the abominable traffic in slavery; and they ought now to make a stand, or they would be driven back, and lose the advantages which had been gained by the Act of 1834, of which England might justly be proud, if even she had nothing else to be proud of. Hon. Members seemed to discuss the question as if it only concerned two parties—the English and the Brazilians; but they should recollect that there was a third party whom it more deeply concerned—the poor Africans; and surely this country had a right to interfere to protect them 792 from the cruelties to which they were subjected. The convention made with Brazil in 1826 had never been repudiated by that country, and therefore this country had a right to insist upon its being carried out. There might be some doubts whether or not the African squadron had added to the misery of the slaves; but they should recollect that, if it had, it was in consequence of the steps they had taken during the last two years, and they should hasten to retrace them. He thought humanity and charity were of far greater importance than any trifling advantage that might be obtained in a commercial point of view, and therefore he should oppose the Motion.
§ SIR R. PEEL
said, he thought hon. Gentlemen might postpone to another occasion than the present any discussion upon the general question of the suppression of the slave trade, and upon the measures which it might be desirable to adopt for that purpose, the more especially as the whole question was to be brought forward on an early day, upon the report of the Select Committee on the African squadron, when important evidence would be adduced, and the House would be in a position to form an opinion upon that subject. Of all the arguments which he had heard addressed to the House to-night, the effect was merely this—that because certain measures adopted by England had the effect of aggravating some of the evils attendant on the slave trade, therefore England should abandon all attempts to suppress or interfere with that trade. Now, there could be no doubt that if England would lend her ships to Brazil for the purpose of carrying slaves from Africa, the middle passage might be rendered more comfortable. Would this be any justification for such a proceeding on our part? And was it a conclusive argument against our continued attempt to suppress the slave trade, that such attempt occasionally increased the suffering of the unfortunate slave? He was sorry to find that the House should be pressed to apply to the slave trade the general principles of commercial traffic. The impression on the part of the public of this country and the Legislature was, that Christendom and the population of the world generally owed a deep debt to the African race, on account of the miseries inflicted, by the general consent of mankind, for the basest purposes of pecuniary gain, on their fellow-creatures of a different colour; and it had been the 793 general determination of Christian nations to co-operate for the reparation of these wrongs, and the suppression of the practice by which they were inflicted. It was with this understanding that a treaty between two Christian States, England and Brazil, was concluded; and to carry that treaty into effect the measure now under consideration was introduced in 1845. It was introduced to give effect to the convention voluntarily entered into by Brazil with this country. But it had been argued to-night that such an object is a violation of the clear principles of international law; and on that ground the House was pressed by their vote to repeal the measure which was thus introduced. It was singular that this discovery respecting the violation of an international law should not have been made before. The highest authorities on international law were consulted by the Government, and declared that, though without the consent of Parliament Government could not give effect to the convention, yet that there was nothing to offend against the principles of international law in the carrying out by statute the objects intended by the convention. The measure was brought before the House of Lords, and he was not aware that a single Peer opposed the passing of the Bill; he did not think that there was even a discussion upon it; the Bill passed in the presence of the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice, and others, the highest equity authorities and law Lords of the greatest eminence; yet nothing fell from any one of them to the effect that it offended against some of the principles of international law. It was passed unanimously by the House of Lords; by the Commons without serious objection; and now this House was invited to repeal, virtually at least, by a single vote a measure which passed with such general assent. Some reference had been made to an eminent lawyer, at present the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, having called the Bill a scandal; but that learned individual was a Member of this House when the Bill was passing. He offered some objections to the third clause, but did not oppose the Bill either on the second or third reading. The Bill passed the first, the second, and the third reading without opposition, unless difficulties made with regard to particular clauses were to be considered as opposition to the passing of the Bill. He entreated the House to consider—their as- 794 sent having been given to this Bill in 1845, the assent of the House of Lords having been unanimously given to the same measure, if the House should now, upon the ground that it was at variance with the principles of international law, repeal it by their vote that night—he entreated them to consider whether the authority of their decisions of such important matters must not be greatly impaired. The Member for Manchester argued that the act contemplated in this Bill was not piracy: piracy, he said, was understood to he that species of marauding which the law of nations empowered all to suppress; but, said the right hon. Gentleman, no one country could undertake to carry into execution the municipal law of another with regard to offences of another character. But the right hon. Gentleman seemed to forget that if two nations should enter into a convention for the accomplishment of a certain object, and should give to a certain offence the character of piracy; in that case, supposing the one to fail in the duties properly falling to their part, the other, in accordance with their undertaking, might justly execute the duties thus neglected. This was not the case of one country executing the municipal law of another, or of substituting the courts of one for the courts of another, for the punishment of a crime made such by municipal law only. This was a case wherein two countries, having entered into a convention, agreed to constitute and declare a certain act to be piracy; and where one of the two countries fails to act for the suppression of the piracy, in direct violation of the convention. In that case, he ashed, whether it was against the principles of international law for the other of the two countries to give effect to the convention? That was the question they had to discuss. The convention having been agreed to by both nations, the Legislature sanctioned the measure passed in 1845 to give effect to the convention, on the express ground that the Government of Brazil had not only failed in performing their part of the treaty, but persisted in continued, persevering, and glaring violation of the convention by direct encouragement to the slave trade. This was the account which had been given of the manner in which the convention had been observed by the Government of Brazil. The Earl of Aberdeen, in introducing this Bill in 1845, thus spoke—With rare and short exceptions, the treaty 795 had been by them systematically violated from the period of its conclusion to the present time. Cargoes of slaves had been landed in open day in the streets of the capital, and bought and sold like cattle, without any obstacle whatsoever being imposed upon the traffic. Our officers had been waylaid, maltreated, and even assassinated while in the execution of their duty; and justice, in such cases, if not actually denied, had never been fairly granted. No doubt much had happened in the course of the last ten or twelve years which would have justified, and almost called for, an expression of national resentment; but Her Majesty's Government had no wish save to provide for the effectual execution of the treaty as stipulated for by the first article; and with that view he had brought forward the present Bill, which had been approved of by the highest authorities in such matters.Repeal this Bill, and he felt that England would loudly proclaim to the world that all her efforts to prevent the slave trade, all her endeavours to mitigate the horrors of it, were unavailing, and must he abandoned. He would advise them to add, that they had determined no longer to oppose, but to to sanction and regulate, the slave trade—to permit Cuba and Brazil to carry on the traffic without molestation or remonstrance—in so many words, to declare to the nations of the world that they were not prepared to interpose, by acts or by influence, for the mitigation of the miseries of the African race.
§ MR. W. P. WOOD
did not apprehend that any person in that House could believe that England would ever retrace the steps which she had taken in the great cause of humanity; and sure he was that if he thought such could be the possible consequence of supporting the present resolution, he should say nothing in its favour. He believed that the question, when rightly considered, was one of the driest and shortest that could well be conceived; but though so dry and so short, it was pregnant with great and important consequences as regarded the national faith, honour, and integrity. It appeared to him that if they looked to the Act 8 &; 9 Vic. they should find very great difficulties, because it did not in any shape carry out the treaty, construe it as they would. The treaty did not rest with declaring that the offence to which it referred should be piracy; but it appointed a special tribunal, composed of a mixed commission of the two nations, for the trial of the offence. The 4th Section of the Act of Parliament, however, provided that the courts of Admiralty should proceed to adjudicate in these cases according to all the provisions in the Act for the suppression of slavery, and 796 not according to the Act relative to piracy. Well, there was a special tribunal appointed for the trial of that offence—perhaps unnecessarily appointed. That he would not now argue; but who ever yet heard of the legislature of any country taking upon themselves to say that they would enforce the performance of a treaty by handing over the subject-matter of that treaty to be dealt with by our tribunals, by an Act of our own passed some long period before the treaty was thought of? The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth said that the Bill sought to be repealed, was passed without a division in that House, and without discussion in the House of Lords. Suggestions, however, were made in the House of Commons with regard to it, and it passed under protest; but now they were to be told that they were going to repeal by a single vote all that which had been deliberately done—that they were going to stultify themselves, and to proclaim to the world that their opinion was of no authority or value whatever. In the first place, however, under any circumstances, they were not going to do all that by a single vote: for the present proposition was for leave to bring in a Bill, upon which, if introduced, there must be plenty of opportunities for discussion. Another point to which he wished to direct the attention of the House was this. In ordinary cases of Acts of Parliament passed by the Legislature in some degree of haste, there was some opportunity afforded for the parties interested to present petitions to the House explaining their views. But in this case they passed an Act of Parliament concerning a considerable foreign Power, which had no legitimate means of interposing in their discussions, or of causing them to hear arguments in opposition to the progress of that measure; and he did believe that on that very account it was—because there were no means of interposing to prevent its progress—that the Bill passed with such rapidity as it did.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I certainly shall follow the recommendation of my Friend the hon. Member for Essex by not entering at present at large into the question of the means for the suppression of the slave trade. Indeed, I must do my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester the justice to say, that there was nothing in his speech which rendered such a discussion necessary. He felt no doubt that, as a Committee was sitting 797 which has this matter under consideration, he was better performing the duty he had undertaken by confining himself to arguing the Motion he made, and not going into the other more large and extended question. My hon. Friend the Member for Montrose certainly launched at once into his favourite topic; and I am accused by the other hon. Member for Manchester of having a benevolent crotchet. The hon. Member for Montrose must excuse me for saying that he has a crotchet to which I cannot apply the same epithet. For myself, I acknowledge a "crotchet." I believe it is shared by a very large proportion of the people of this country; for, however hon. Members may give out for the purpose of their argument that public opinion is changed, and that the people of England are indifferent to the abominable and atrocious crime of slavetrading, they may depend upon it, if the people of England thought this House likely to retrace the steps which for so many years have been followed, in deference to the opinions of all the most eminent men, of whatever side of politics, who have adorned this House and this country, the hon. Gentlemen would find themselves under a grievous mistake. I shall content myself upon that point with saying that I totally differ from the assertions that are made with regard to it. I deny, in the first place, that the means which have been adopted have utterly and entirely failed. They have done immense good; they have prevented enormous evil. I deny, in the next place, that opinion which has passed from mouth to mouth, and is taken up without examination, that the methods of suppression we have adopted, have aggravated the horrors of the middle passage. Whenever we come to discuss that question, I will show that is not the case; that the horrors of the middle passage were greater in former periods than at the present time. But I pass all that by, as a matter much too large to he dealt with at present, and not belonging to the present question—at least, not to the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester. But I must be allowed to say one word with reference to what has fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Oxford, that he would not vote for this Motion if he thought by doing so he was giving the slightest indication of any disposition to encourage that atrocious and abominable crime. Why, nobody is consistent that I have yet heard, except 798 my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, who avows—at least, I think he is not prepared to deny—that he does wish to set the slave trade free. What would be the effect of repealing this law? It would entirely exempt the Brazilian flag from all molestation in the pursuit of the slave trade; and therefore you would have the ocean covered, the coast of Africa swarming, with slavetraders sailing under the protected flag of Brazil, and exercising their violent and cruel occupation from one end of that continent to the other. And therefore, when the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford says that he would not wish to do anything that should indicate that disposition, I must say, that in voting for this Motion he will be giving not an indication, but infinitely more—a proof, that, as far as his vote can go, he is ready to let loose the slave trade upon Africa. With regard to the law itself, the statements made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford, seemed to me to place the matter upon the clearest and most satisfactory ground. I have hoard arguments founded, I think, upon a jumble of ideas, arising from Gentlemen dealing with matters with which, perhaps, they are not quite familiar; and a great deal of the argument which I have heard to-night has been founded upon a confusion of international piracy and conventional piracy. At one moment Gentlemen argue this matter as if they were dealing with international piracy—piracy by the law of nations, and then, all on a sudden, they change their ground, and treat it as conventional piracy, and then again go back to international piracy, and the confusion of their ideas leads them to think that their argument is sound. Now, what is the state of things? There is a piracy which is, by the law of nations, cognisable by all nations without any conventional arrangement; piracy, I may say, consisting in acts of violence and plunder upon the high seas; which is proved by an overt act, but which, when committed, and the parties taken in the fact, is punishable summarily without any international convention. But that is not this case. The slave trade is not a high crime of that description; it is not piracy by the law of nations; it may be made piracy by convention or by the law of any particular country. Now, in this case two countries agreed that it should be piracy; Great Britain and Brazil made a convention, by which 799 any act of slavetrading committed by subjects of Brazil should be deemed and treated as piracy. That convention gave, therefore, to both parties the right of so dealing with and treating an act of piracy by a subject of Brazil. And when, by reason of the interpretation which had been put upon it, the Portuguese convention was held to have ceased, and all that machinery of mixed commissions was put an end to, then the late Government was justified in proposing to Parliament, and Parliament was justified in passing, that Act by which the act of piracy, and the crimes committed by Brazilian subjects, were brought to the cognisance of British tribunals. Notwithstanding what the hon. and learned Gentleman had said, he could not help thinking that the silence of the authorities in the House of Lords was a strong presumption that the objections sought to be urged on the ground of international law had no foundation whatever. The hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to object, not that the law went too far, but that it did not go far enough. His argument was that they ought to have dealt with the subjects of Brazil, and that they had only dealt with their ships. If it was conceived that the Government of this country had gone beyond the treaty, he could understand the argument; but he could not see that the assertion that they had not taken the full extent of the power, was a reason to show that they had gone beyond what they had authority to do by the convention of 1826. It was said that there were no parties to watch the passing of the Act; but was not the Brazilian Minister aware of the passing of the Act? [Sir R. PEEL: The Brazilian Government had notice of it.] He was reminded by the right hon. Baronet that there was the three years' notice, and that the Brazilian Government were perfectly warned beforehand that if they persisted in the course complained of, something of this sort would be adopted. It was not controverted that not only from the time of the actual passing of the convention, but from the time of the passing of the law in Brazil, in virtue of the convention, the Government of Brazil had pursued one uninterrupted course of violation of that treaty. It was said that the British Government had assumed a power of dealing with Brazilian subjects that was not warranted by the laws of that country. Now, the law of that country did not, he admitted, make the slave trade piracy, but the Brazilian Government passed a law in 800 1831, which if carried into execution would have had a very great effect in checking the perpetration of the crime of slavetrading. Vessels engaged in this traffic were to be confiscated, and everybody connected with the transaction, whether in furnishing money, going to Africa, buying slaves at home, or selling them again, was, by the law of 1831, liable to some degree or other of punishment. Did the British Government do more than the Brazilian law of 1831? The fact was it did less, because it only seized the ship and cargo, while the law of 1831 went to the extent of punishing every person connected with the transaction. It was perfectly true that a communication was made to the Brazilian Government, that if they would agree to a slave-trade treaty, the British Government would recommend to Parliament the repeal of the present law; but the statement was perfectly new to him that an arrangement for such a treaty was concluded by the Earl of Aberdeen. It was true that after became into office, in February, 1847, the Brazilian Minister did communicate to him a draught of a treaty, but which he said had been drawn out and prepared by a Government which was not then in office; and therefore he was not authorised to propose the treaty to him (Viscount Palmerston) in any official way. That was the only proposition that had come from the Government of Brazil, and it was liable to great objection. Accordingly, he sent out by Lord Howden a draught of a treaty such as would, if agreed to by the Brazilian Government, justify the Government at home in proposing the repeal of the present law to Parliament. That treaty had not been accepted by the Brazilian Government. They said that they would send a counter proposition, but it had not been made. A verbal communication had been made by the Brazilian Minister that he expected shortly to receive such a communication; but as yet no such communication had been made to him (Viscount Palmerston). It was now said by some parties that this question of the slave trade was the cause that no commercial treaty was made with Brazil; and he understood his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester to say that it was on account of this slave-trade controversy that the Brazilian Government refused to continue the expired treaty of commerce. The fact was not so. The former treaty of commerce with Brazil was an example of the bad effect caused by trying, in commercial 801 transactions, to get an undue advantage. It was a treaty which affected the import duties upon our commodities. They were limited to a low amount, and the treaty was felt as a most irksome restraint by the Brazilian Government. They had long considered it an impediment to an advantageous arrangement of their tariff; and they longed for the expiration of the term when they should be set free. It was quite a mistake, therefore, to suppose that raising their duties from 15 to 25, or 30 per cent, was in any degree a retaliation; it was the natural reaction of a Government that had long felt its financial resources crippled by an engagement made many years ago, under very different circumstances. It was an effort they naturally made, when they recovered their liberty, to apportion their customs duties to the necessities of the State. Hon. Gentlemen very much deceived themselves who imagined if this Act were abolished tomorrow, and they let loose all the Brazilian slavetraders to trade to Africa, they would find the Brazilians willing to enter into such an arrangement as the duties from which they had escaped. The fact was, that treaties of commerce, fixing mutual tariffs, were treaties which this country was not likely to enter into, and to which other countries would feel an insurmountable repugnance to accede. Practically, he did not think it would he said that our commerce with Brazil suffered from Brazilian restrictions. It was perfectly true, there was a law in Brazil which inflicted great injury and inconvenience upon British subjects; but it was one common to all foreigners residing in that country. He referred to the law by which the estates of persons dying intestate were administered by the court of orphans; and he must concede what his right hon. Friend said, that estates might sometimes pass through that court and come out in a totally different condition from what they were at their entrance. The practical application of this law, however, had been very much modified by arrangements and understanding between the two countries. Whether a treaty of commerce would be likely to make such alterations as were required, he did not say. It was a point, however, upon which it was desirable to obtain some alteration. He held the existing Act to be perfectly borne out by the treaty of 1826; and he was convinced that if it were abolished, the question would be at once solved, whether the 802 slave trade should be allowed to revive. The question would be solved without discussion, upon the merits of the case; and if that were done, it would be found that the feelings of the country would greatly revolt at it. Even those who were of opinion that everything that had been done upon this subject was wrong—who thought the slave trade ought henceforth to be free—even those, as a matter of discretion, suspended their decision until the Committee, which was now considering these matters, had reported whether they saw any means better than the present calculated to accomplish the object. On these grounds, he should resist the Motion of his right hon. Friend; and he could not allow himself to doubt, notwithstanding the feeling that seemed to exist in the minds of some persons—of, at least, indifference—that a majority of the House would adhere to the principle which had so long done honour to the country. He could not suppose, after such great progress had been made towards the consummation of a great national object, that, by voting for the Motion, the House would sanction the opinion that the country was indifferent to the continuance of the inhuman, atrocious, and abominable traffic in slaves.
§ MR. ROUNDELL PALMER
expressed his surprise that a Gentleman possessing so much acuteness as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford should have argued in such a strain; for by the treaty which this country had entered into with Brazil, it was distinctly set forth, that the Brazilian Government agreed with the Government of Great Britain that the carrying on of the slave trade by any subject of Brazil should be deemed and treated as piracy. What was piracy? Something that disentitled the persons committing the crime from the advantages of all international law. The Government of Brazil had declared that we were to deal with Brazilian subjects trafiicking in slaves as with pirates; therefore, the Government ofthat country had no right to complain if we dealt with them as pirates. There could be no doubt whatever that, according to the law of nations, private vessels legitimately captured by this country were amenable to the decisions of the Admiralty courts, and could be disposed of in any way that the Parliament of England might think most desirable. The Brazils would have no bonâ fide ground of complaint, according to the law of nations, if such a course were adopted by England.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton had done great injustice to his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, and those who concurred with him, in condemning the present method adopted to suppress the slave trade, by assuming that they wished for a return to the old practice of the slave trade. If there were one thing more universally admitted than another, it was the disastrous failure of the attempts to put down the slave trade by means of armaments. [Colonel THOMPSON: NO, no!] His hon. and gallant Friend said "No, no!" He would remind him of a statistical fact. Did not the Anti-Slavery Society, in the little tract which they had sent to hon. Members that morning, state, and prove by figures the truth of the statement, that the number of slaves now transported from Africa was more than it was in 1807, when the slave trade was earned on both by England and the United States of America? If more slaves were now taken by other countries than were required altogether, when England and France were the two greatest customers for slaves, could there be a doubt that all their attempts to suppress the slave trade by force had disastrously failed? In the same little paper, which was, he supposed, designed to induce them to vote against the Motion of his right hon. Friend, it was stated that the number of deaths on the middle passage had increased from fourteen per cent to twenty-five per cent since 1807, and that the horrors of the middle passage had increased in the same proportion. Under these circumstances, it was rather too hard, it was somewhat cool, for the noble Viscount to get up—the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam-worth put the argument on a similar issue—and say, that those who voted for the discontinuance of the employment of armed cruisers, were for that reason advocates of a return to the slave trade. Why, what said the Anti-Slavery Society itself in the little pamphlet which they all had in their pockets? The very first paragraph of an address presented to the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton by the Anti-Slavery Society, and signed" John Scohle, 27, Broad-street," was a protest against these armed cruisers, as having been totally unsuccessful. Did the noble Viscount mean to say that Mr. Scoble and the Anti-Slavery Society were in favour of returning to the slave trade? If the argument were good as against the hon. Member for 804 Montrose, equally good was it as against the Anti-Slavery Society; and he must say, it was rather hard that those who had borne the heat of the agitation in the anti-slavery cause, from the early life of Mr. Clarkson down to the present day, should be included in a general condemnation because they were not in favour of employing armed cruisers. He believed that the great reason why they had hitherto failed to abolish the slave trade was, that they had relied on coercion. His great quarrel with the anti-slavery people of the present day was, that they had departed from their own principle of attempting to influence nations by appeals to humanity and religion, and had attempted to effect their object through statesmen and politicians. From the moment when the Anti-Slavery Society went with deputations to Downing-street to urge the coercion of other nations into the adoption of anti-slavery principles, they had done more harm than good. Going back to the beginning of the system, he would assert, that every effort made at the Congress of Vienna, and every effort made at Paris in 1814, had produced the same injurious consequences. In letters of the Duke of Wellington written from Paris in 1814, it was stated distinctly that French newspapers and French society gave them no credit whatever for sincerity, and that they were regarded as seeking to convert other nations, in order that they might carry on the selfish traffic alone. If they would give other countries credit for having the same power to repress moral evils as was possessed by themselves, and if they would content themselves with setting a good example, they would do far more good than they could effect by armed cruisers. He would not trouble the House with one word about the legal question; he would only add, that he believed the statesmen of Europe, and the diplomatic corps of the whole world, were opposed to the treatment which Brazil received from this country.
said, even if it were to be conceded that the Anti-Slavery Society was right in its assertion that there was more slavetrading now than at some period assignable in history, it would not follow that the endeavours to check it had been useless; but that, on the contrary, if the effort had not been made, the mischief would have been greater. Here was a parallel case, which the hon. Member for the West Riding would have been very ready to answer, which would be, if it had 805 been urged that a great change in the commercial policy of this country had not been effective to the greatest extent imagination could suggest. During his whole life he had been a supporter of the main object of the Anti-Slavery Society; but he must confess, it appeared to him they were at this moment under a cloud. At all events, he was not bound to explain the rationale of their proceedings; and when he found the Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) speaking as he did of "benevolent crotchets," he felt no doubt that they should live to see that hon. Member presiding at the Horse Guards, or perhaps commanding the Channel fleet. On the subject of the Slave Trade Committee and the evidence before it, he implored hon. Members to wait till they had the opportunity of judging for themselves. If there was evidence of one kind brought before it, there was also evidence of another. In every service there were men of feeble organisation and despondent dispositions; and individuals of this description were brought before the Committee to assure them there was no use in trying to catch a slaver, they could not build vessels to do it, the service was unhealthy; in short, they did not like it. Now, if this was to be established, he would make a direct proposal, which was, that if the English Navy said they could not do it, a fair offer should be made to the French Navy to do it instead. He would intreat the House particularly to beware of the political economy they might hoar from the Navy. The new crotchet of the Navy was, that there was no use in cruising against an enemy's commerce, because it would only be driving it from Brest to Toulon, and from Toulon to Brest, and because it was plain that wages and profits must rise in proportion to the risk, and therefore cruising was only encouragement. This was the new naval political economy, and he was heartily ashamed of it. There was clearly a party on the opposite side; but he felt confident that those who had passed their lives in opposition to all forms of slavery, would not find their country to be against them in the end.
§ MR. BRIGHT
, in explanation, said, the noble Viscount referred to the phrase, "a benevolent project," as if, in using it, he (Mr. Bright) had alluded to the feeling against the slave trade. He should be ashamed to suppose that one man in that House felt more strongly on that subject than another; he believed the feelings of 806 all were equally strong; his observations had reference to the peculiar mode by which the noble Viscount thought he could put down the slave trade, and not to the slave trade itself.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
, in reply, said his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had, he apprehended, got into some confusion of mind between piracy by municipal law and piracy by the law of nations. Altogether, he (Mr. M. Gibson) must say, that his noble Friend had not been quite so clear as usual. He said, for example, that he could, under the existing treaty, deal with Brazilian slave-traders as pirates, and confiscate their ships; and yet he was, it appeared, about to negotiate a new treaty. If the old treaty were such as his noble Friend described, why did he seek to obtain a new one? The House was asked to decide that, in case his noble Friend made a declaration to a foreign Minister, that an Act which was now lawful in England had become unlawful, the subject might be handed over to the penal laws of a foreign country. He, for one, must repudiate such a doctrine as totally inconsistent with the first principles of international law and with common justice.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 34; Noes 137: Majority 103.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Moffatt, G.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Pilkington, J.|
|Brown, W.||Salwey, Col.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Smith, J. B.|
|Cobden, R.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Duff, G. S.||Sullivan, M.|
|Ewart, W.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Greene, J.||Thompson, G.|
|Hastie, A.||Thornely, T.|
|Henry, A.||Urquhart, D.|
|Heywood, J.||Williams, J.|
|Heyworth, L.||Wood, W. P.|
|Horsman, E.||Worcester, Marq. of|
|Hume, J.||Wyld, J.|
|Locke, J.||Gibson, M.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Bright, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Bass, M. T.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Berkeley, hon. H. F.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Blackall, S. W.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Blair, S.|
|Bourke, R. S.|
|Bagshaw, J.||Boyle, hon. Col.|
|Baines, M. T.||Brotherton, J.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Bruen, Col.|
|Baring, T.||Bunbury, W. M.|
|Buxton, Sir E. N.||Marshall, J. G.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Martin, C. W.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Masterman, J.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Childers, J. W.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Christy, S.||Milner, W. M. E.|
|Clements, hon. C. S.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Clive, H. B.||Moore, G. H.|
|Cole, hon. H. A.||Morris, D.|
|Coles, H. B.||Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Mulgrave, Earl of|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Craig, W. G.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Crawford, W. S.||O'Brien, Sir L.|
|Currie, H.||O'Connell, J.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Deedes, W.||Palmer, R.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Parker, J.|
|Duncuft, J.||Pearson, C.|
|Dunne, F. P.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Edwards, H.||Pigott, F.|
|Evans, W.||Pinney, W.|
|Ferguson, Sir R A.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Ffolliott, J.||Power, N.|
|FitzPatrick, rt. hn. J. W.||Price, Sir R.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Pryse, P.|
|Freestun, Col.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Galway, Visct.||Ricardo, O.|
|Glyn, G. C.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Gordon, Adm.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Greenall, G.||Russell, hon. E. S.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Grey, R. W.||Sadleir, J.|
|Gwyn, H.||Scully, F.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Smith, J. A.|
|Harris, hon. Capt.||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Hawes, B.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Heald, J.||Talfourd, Serj.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Hindley, C.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.||Thompson, Col.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Tollemache, J.|
|Hodgson, W. N.||Townshend, Capt.|
|Hollond, R.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Hood, Sir A.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Howard, Lord E.||Ward, H. G.|
|Howard, Sir R.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Jervis, Sir J.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Willyams, H.|
|Jones, Capt.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Keogh, W.||Wilson, M.|
|Keppel, hon. G. T.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.|
|Lewis, G. C.|
|Lowther, hon. Col.||TELLERS.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Tufnell, H.|
|Maitland, T.||Bellew, R. M.|
§ The House adjourned at One o'clock.