HC Deb 28 May 1857 vol 145 cc932-56

My purpose on the present occasion is, to invite the House to resume a function which it has abdicated for some time past. It is to undertake some part in the consideration of our foreign relations—matters which have been for some time past wholly and exclusively under the supreme control of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I repeat, the House has abdicated this part of its functions. We have seen the portentous incident of a war declared against another State, an expedition undertaken, a battle fought and peace declared, and this House wholly uninformed upon the matter. Now, Sir, I want to persuade the House upon a matter very different from that to which I have just referred, to reuudertake its functions, and to apply their consideration to our commercial and foreign relations. The subject to which I invite the attention of the House is, our relations with the empire of Brazil, and if the House will forgive me, I will preface what I have to say, by a very short account of what I believe to be the situation in which we stand with regard to the Government of the Emperor. As far back as 1826 we entered into a treaty with the empire of Brazil—which very shortly before had recovered its independence—on the subject of the slave trade. By that treaty the participation in the slave trade by any subject of Brazil was declared to be piracy. That was an engagement entered into by the Government of Brazil on behalf of the people of Brazil. I think it right on this occasion to state to the House what it no doubt is aware of, but the statement of which is necessary to the understanding of the observations which I am about to make. Brazil, Sir, has a constitutional Government; they have an emperor, it is true, but he is a constitutional monarch; they have a legislature which makes laws for the community, and unless the laws are made by that legislature they are not binding upon the people of Brazil. I think it right in limine to make this statement. Shortly after, 1826, a further treaty was entered into between this country and Brazil, and by that Convention there was created a reciprocal power of search on the part of both countries. And in that Convention there was power given to either party to put an end to the treaty upon notice given. This went on for some years, but in 1844 that Convention was put an end to on notice given, and the rights of search done away with. Thereupon Lord Aberdeen, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, under the late Sir R. Peel, introduced a Bill into the other House of Parliament, by which power was given to British courts of justice to take into consideration and adjudicate upon ships taken under the treaty of 1826. By the Convention which was put an end to there was a mixed Commission, which was abolished by the abrogation of the treaty, and this Act of Parliament was intended to supply the place of that Commission. But Lord Aberdeen, in introducing the Bill, stated clearly and distinctly, that under one of two circumstances its provisions would be put an end to. One was, if the slave trade were abolished and utterly abrogated in Brazil; the other, if another treaty between this country and Brazil on the subject of the slave trade were entered into. Upon the declaration of independence in Brazil, great difficulty and confusion arose in that country. In the year 1825, Don Pedro I. abandoned his throne of Brazil in order to take that of Portugal. He came to Europe, and left his son, a minor, and confusion reigned throughout the great empire of Brazil. Happily for Brazil, at that time there were at the head of the affairs of that country men of great capacity, who undertook the education of the son—the young sovereign Don Pedro II. then a child and left by his father in their hands. They so undertook that education as to make him a model monarch; and he has shown himself thoroughly desirous of carrying out in a liberal spirit the institutions of Brazil. He did not desire to extend his power and dominion, but to keep himself within the boundaries of his own kingdom. In fact, as I have said, he became a model constitutional monarch. But notwithstanding that, great difficulties lay in his path. Everybody must know that a country claiming for itself independence, under the circumstances in which Brazil was placed, must have a difficult task to pursue. Even the United States, accustomed as they were to our Government and institutions, found a difficulty in forming a government for themselves. The people of Brazil found the same difficulty. Notwithstanding this, they carried on their government, and after a time they gained stability and established good laws within the circle of their dominions. At the time when they declared themselves independent, their commerce was in a situation, not perhaps peculiar, but to which I must refer. Slavery was permitted in Brazil, and the slave trade was carried on by Brazilians between that country and Africa to a great extent; so great indeed that alarm was created among the people of Brazil. The importation of slaves was so great that the white population took fright, and public opinion being against the continuance of this traffic, it was determined to put an end to it. In addition to this, circumstances connected with trade had a great influence upon the mind of the public. Sugar had been the chief source of profit, but at the time to which I refer, it was discovered that coffee might be as advantageously cultivated, and without requiring the same amount of labour. As time wore on, the independence of the people of Brazil gained strength, and at length there came to be an end of the slave trade in that country. Am I not justified in saying this, when the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) himself stated, that we might now consider that the slave trade was at an end in Brazil? And so it has been, and is. They have even stretched the law and driven slaveholders out of Brazil, some of whom have come to Europe, while others have sought the more congenial shores of Cuba and North America. I know that the noble Lord has a strong feeling against the slave trade. In that I sympathise with him, and if I thought any act of mine on the present occasion would go to favour that trade in any one of its ramifications, I would not take that step. Under this state of things, I think that circumstances will justify the noble Lord in repealing the Act of 1845. We should remember that Brazil is a constitutional kingdom, and the act of the Executive unauthorized by the legislature cannot have the force of law. Suppose that the Executive of England had chosen, under a treaty with Brazil, to make it an act of piracy to introduce corn into this country. Would that be law? If the House substituted the word "slave" for "corn," that was what the Government of Brazil had done. The Brazilian Government determined that any subject of Brazil engaged in the slave trade should be treated as guilty of piracy. They did not, however, pass a law making it piracy, and when Lord Aberdeen introduced the Act of 1845, he attacked the sovereignty of the people of Brazil. The Act was introduced, no doubt, with very good intentions, and it might have worked well, but it was not the less an attack on the sovereignty of the people of Brazil, and it is only natural that they should resent such an attack. They had resented it, and had refused to enter into any treaty with us on any subject until that Act should be repealed. By that Act English cruizers can go into the waters of Brazil, into its creeks and harbours, cut out a ship which they might deem a slaver, and subject her to be tried, not by a mixed tribunal, but by one which was wholly English. Now we are a commercial nation, having great commercial foes, amongst others the United States of America, which say to Brazil, "We will admit all your goods duty free, we are slaveholders like yourselves; we dominate in the north as you do in the south, and we are willing to enter into a treaty offensive and defensive with you. You will then see whether or not it is possible to be beyond the control of England." Brazil, it is true, under her excellent monarch, had refused to yield to the blandishments of America; she had refused the treaty, but she also refuses to enter into any treaty with us until we repeal the Act of 1845. Brazil is the fourth nation in our list of customers, taking from us to the value of twelve millions annually. America offered to take her goods without tax, while our necessities oblige us to tax every article of her produce. Still, as the sole representative of monarchy in America, Brazil is inclined rather for an alliance with England than for one with the United States, What I ask of the House of Commons is, to consider our relations with Brazil, and no longer to leave them exclusively in the hands of the Executive. All I ask you to do is, to consider, not to determine, anything. Let us inquire into our relations with Brazil, and also into the policy of repealing the Act of 1845. I appeal to the noble Lord under whose control we have been carrying on war with all the world. It is true we have now peace with Russia, but we are at war in Persia and in China, and there is confusion in India. We may, at any moment, be at war in the western quarter of the world, and therefore I ask the noble Lord not to oppose this inquiry, which may tend to preserve friendly relations with a great American nation. I ask him to rely on the feeling which Brazil herself has exhibited as a determined enemy to the slave trade. Although a more magnificent system of rivers does not exist on the face of the globe than is possessed by Brazil, yet the chief communication between her different provinces is by sea, and if it is necessary to remove a party of slaves from one province to another, it must be done by sea. The vessels in which this is done are constantly intercepted by our cruizers, who finding blacks on board, declare the vessel to be a slaver, take her before the court and condemn her, and thus the whole internal traffic of the country is interrupted. The coast line of Brazil extends upwards of 4,000 miles, indented with various ports, between which there is a constant traffic. British ships constantly enter these ports, and take possession of Brazilian ships under the very walls of the forts. I ask, would you dare such a procedure against a planter of the Chesapeak? would you dare to enter the harbour of New Orleans for such a purpose? If we did, America would at once be in arms, and we should be obliged at once to succumb. We should have to show ourselves, as we always have done, under the noble Lord's administration, subservient to the strong and arrogant, and overbearing to the weak. Whenever a nation is able to defend itself, we are its humble servants. Compare our conduct to Brazil, with that which we pursue towards Cuba. Why do we not interfere with Cuba? The noble Lord knows very well why we dare not. I believe that the noble Lord would not do wrong, if in this matter he divests himself of responsibility and throws it on the House of Commons. If the House of Commons takes it in hand, right will be done; but if it is left in the hands of diplomatists, it will be left in the hands of men who think that power and influence were synonymous with violence and bragadocio. I wish to mention the case of a ship which came to Brazil with slaves unresisted by the British authority. The Brazilians said that our authorities were connected with what occurred, but however that might be, forty of the slaves escaped. Subsequently, however, the Brazilians and the local authorities took possession of the vessel, but because some of the slaves had escaped, the Brazilian Government received a most haughty letter from Lord Clarendon, assuming that these authorities were in favour of the slave trade, although they condemned the vessel and confiscated all the runaway slaves. The people of Brazil, solicited on the one hand by the Government of America, and treated on the other with contumely by the Government of England, feel that we are doing all we can to induce them to break off friendly relations with this country, and to ally themselves with a slave-holding Power like the United States. I look upon such a state of things with considerable apprehension. Brazil is a fertile country, capable of furnishing us not only with sugar and coffee, but also with cotton, and thereby of rendering us independent of America, a service which would be appreciated by our children's children. We are now the slaves of America on account of the cotton crop. If we are insulted, we think of Lancashire and the cotton crop, and at once succumb. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving for a Select Committee, to take into consideration our relations with Brazil, and to report thereupon.

The Question having been put,


Sir, I cannot refrain at the outset from expressing my surprise that a person like the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, who has given his attention to public affairs, who understands the current of events, and to whom neither the present nor the near past can be unknown, should give countenance to the vulgar and unfounded insinuations which persons far below him in position attempt to propagate—namely, that it is the practice of England to bully the weak and truckle to the strong. Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman remember the time in his life, and in mine, when England stood alone, opposed to almost every Power in Europe, combined against her—when she held a firm front to every enemy that could be brought to threaten her? And does he not also remember that at a more recent period she undertook a great struggle against one of the most formidable empires in the world, and carried on that war at a remote distance of her own shores and on the very territory of the enemy. I allude to Russia—the country there in antagonism with her. I am astonished that for the purposes of argument the hon. and learned Gentleman should wish to impose on the credulity of his hearers and try to persuade them of that which is directly the contrary of historical fact. The hon. and learned Gentleman has, however, made an admission which entitles me to claim his support against his own Motion. He says that nothing is further from his intention than to do anything which may in the remotest degree assist or encourage the slave trade—that no man feels more deeply than himself the horrors of this traffic; and therefore, if I can satisfy him that his proposition has a direct tendency to stimulate the slave trade he is bound in consistency to vote against his own Motion or else to withdraw it. The hon. and learned Member has fallen into error in a material fact which I he stated. Evidently speaking from information not gathered by himself, but furnished to him by interested parties, he asserts that the Act of 1845 is still in operation; that our cruisers now act in virtue of the powers given by that law; and that our ships daily stop and detain vessels coasting along the shores of Brazil. This is an entire mistake. The Act of 1845 has by mutual consent been suspended for several years past, our ships do not interfere with vessels sailing along the coast of Brazil, and that law is at the present moment, for all practical purposes, a dead letter. The hon. and learned Member was pretty correct in the historical recital which he gave. In 1826 the Government of Brazil entered into a treaty, not simply to make the slave trade piracy, but to abolish it by preventing any of their subjects from engaging in it. And the discussions which have since arisen between that country and Great Britain have not turned on the technical point dwelt upon by the hon. and learned Gentleman—namely, whether or not the Brazilian Government made the slave trade piracy. They turned on the wider question, whether that Government did not bind itself to exert its authority to put down this traffic, in which respect it had notoriously violated the engagements into which it originally entered. I should be insulting this House if I were to endeavour by any argument to convince them that the slave trade is one of the greatest crimes which have ever stained the human race—that it demoralizes all those employed in it, and is the ruin of the countries by which it is carried on; and that England has in no respect done herself more honour than by the unwearying and persevering efforts she has put forth from 1815 down to the present time to extinguish this detestable traffic. Well, Sir, we had a treaty with Portugal when Brazil separated from that country, and Brazil took with her the engagements by which the Portuguese were bound. Among those engagements were the stipulations of a treaty establishing mixed tribunals, giving a mutual right of search, and enabling those tribunals to adjudicate upon vessels seized while carrying on the slave trade, and also to liberate all negroes who might be thus captured. That treaty was limited in duration. It ceased to have effect upon Portugal, and by the same reason it ceased also to have effect upon Brazil. When this cessation occurred in regard to Portugal, about the year 1839, what did the British Government do? I had then the honour to be at the Foreign Office, and we passed a law precisely similar to the one enacted in 1845 against Brazil. In con- sequence of the passing of that law Portugal, which up to that period had refused to renew her treaty engagements for the suppression of the slave trade, did make a treaty in which she contracted to suppress that trade, and the result was that the Act of 1839 was repealed;—not, indeed, that I think this was a very prudent measure, though I am bound to say, as far as regards Portugal, that it has not been attended with any inconvenience. The difference between the cases of Portugal and Brazil is obvious. The former nation, having been engaged in exporting slaves, has not so great an interest in the maintenance of the slave trade as a country like Brazil, which imported them for the cultivation of its soil. When Brazil, therefore, had put an end to the slave trade treaty she was invited to renew, as Portugal had done, her engagements for the suppression of that traffic. She refused, and in consequence of that refusal the Government of Sir R. Peel, when Lord Aberdeen was at the Foreign Office, in 1845 prevailed on Parliament to pass a law respecting Brazil, the exact counterpart and of precisely the same purport as the measure adopted in relation to Portugal a few years before. Was there any ground for that? Did the Brazilians, in fact, carry on the slave trade to any great degree, and were they bound by treaty not to do so? Why, they stood pledged ever since 1826 to put an end to this abominable traffic; and yet year after year they carried it on to an enormous extent. The precise number of slaves landed at their ports I cannot now specify, but I believe they ranged somewhere from 50,000 to 70,000 annually. Let any man figure to himself the frightful amount of human misery engendered by such a state of things. For every 1,000 negroes landed in Brazil probably 3,000 are ruthlessly dragged from their homes in the centre of Africa, the usual computation being that one-third of them die on their journey to the coast, and another third perish during the sea passage. And what effect did the system have on Brazil? Nothing more degrading and demoralizing could possibly be imagined. The capital of the country was diverted from its legitimate channels to be invested in the purchase of human flesh, and a curse, as might have been anticipated, was brought upon the nation in the shape of the contamination of the race and the depravation of its habits. A people, not belonging to the men of Portuguese origin, was multiplied, and to the tainting of the very life blood of the country was added the dangers of internal convulsion. It may naturally be asked, "Why was this traffic carried on if it was so injurious to Brazil?" It is true that many of the most reasonable men in Brazil soon began to think that the slave trade was a great calamity to the country, but there were those landowners whose estates were to be cultivated, the importers of slaves, those whose duty it was to prevent, but whose practice was to encourage the slave trade, those authorities who received bribes for connivance—all these people practically set at defiance the laws of the country and the stipulations of the treaty. What, then, was the result of the Act of 1845—a law which was perfectly justifiable, because Brazil had broken her treaty engagements to co-operate with England for the suppression of the slave trade, and had thereby entitled England to do for her that which she had by treaty agreed to do for herself? For some four or five years that law was left unacted upon; but in the year 1850, the Brazilian Government having neglected repeated warnings which any hon. Gentleman by looking at the records of the slave trade in the library (consisting of the annual Reports thereon laid before Parliament) will see at full length, and having done nothing whatever to put a stop to this criminal trade, it was determined to entrust the enforcement of the Act no longer to the Brazilian Government, but to put it in force ourselves. Our cruisers were accordingly sent to their harbours, creeks, and rivers, to accomplish that object, and all charged with a violation of the Act were ordered to be tried in British not in Brazilian Courts. A great outcry was immediately raised about the national dignity and independence having been invaded, and every sort of appeal was made against that course. Assurance was given that measures would be taken by Brazil herself that would be as effectual as the operation of that law. Our Minister at Brazil, and our admiral upon the coast consented to accept this assurance and to suspend the operations of the Act. They were suspended, but so also was suspended the action of the Brazilian Government with reference to the suppression of the slave trade. Instead of those measures which the Brazilian Government had promised the slave trade was allowed to revive to its utmost extent. In January following our Minister told the Brazilian Minister, "You have broken your engagements; you have failed to fulfil your promise; the slave trade is not put down; no new measures have been taken for the purpose. Everything is going on just as before; and therefore I tell you that the Act of 1845 must be renewed. It was renewed, and after a certain time the Brazilian Legislature did co-operate with the Brazilian Government iu passing laws, which were to a considerable degree effectual; and when we found that the Brazilian Government was in earnest, and really took steps to put down this abominable slave trade, then, again, the operation of the Act of 1845 was suspended, and has been suspended from that time to this. The Act has not been repealed, and most dangerous would it be for many years to come to repeal it, because its existence is a security for the continuance of the Government of Brazil in the course which it has adopted; and the hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely mistaken in thinking that the Act is now in active operation—on the contrary, it has from that time to this been entirely suspended. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that our commerce is injured by the absence of a treaty, by the position in which it places Brazil as regards the United States, and the temptation it created for the former to enter into a treaty with the latter power. But the Brazilians are more dependent upon the United States than we are, because they draw from the United States a great portion of those breadstuff's which are essential to their subsistence. They are indeed a singular instance of an empire vast in its extent, comprising within its limits every variety of climate and soil, capable of producing almost everything that grows in any other part of the world, and yet importing bread from America and stone to pave the towns of Brazil from Aberdeen in Scotland, having every opportunity to grow sufficient food for themselves, and having stone in abundance which might be applied to the purposes for which they get it from Scotland. But the hon. and learned Gentleman says that though our trade is in danger yet we annually export £12,000,000 worth of produce to Brazil. Why, Sir, if we do that without a commercial treaty, what more could we do if we had one? We made a great mistake with Portugal in times past in making a treaty to limit the amount of duty that was to be imposed upon British goods, for I hold that kind of treaties to be detrimental to the interests both of the country that fixes that limited duty and the country which apparently is to derive a benefit from it. Those treaties are opposed to the fundamental principles of political economy, and I trust that no treaty of that sort ever will be entered into between this and any other country in the world. Brazil should be free to lay upon our importations that duty which she may think best adapted to her financial interests; but does any man seriously imagine that the people of Brazil, who import these £12,000,000 worth of commodities, and who send us an equal value in return, are actuated in any degree by a knowledge of this Act of 1845, which is a dead letter, the existence of which is only known to the Government and to those who wish to encourage that slave trade which it is calculated to prevent? It is very well for those who may wish on either side of the Atlantic to revive this slave trade to represent this Act as a bar to the commercial intercourse between the two countries; but those who know what that commercial intercourse is, and the foundation upon which it rests, know very well that the existence of the Act has no effect whatever in restricting our relations with the empire of Brazil. It is quite true, as the hon. and learned Gentleman says, that the Emperor of Brazil, his present Ministers, and, no doubt, all the enlightened men of that country, are on principle adverse to the slave trade, and determined to put it down as far as their means will enable them to do so; but it is not true, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has been told, that there have been no importations or attempts of importation made. That very case to which he alluded—the importation at Surinam—is in truth an attempt to revive the slave trade, and we know that it is not the only attempt which is likely to be made. It is also a proof of the difficulty which any Government of Brazil, however sincerely anxious to put down the slave trade, must have in resisting that combination of selfish and corrupt interests which tend to encourage and renew the trade. What happened in that case? There was an attempt to land a cargo of slaves. All the authorities were of course supposed to be determined to resist it; but the governor of the district was absent, the Government officers having been told to go another way. Every facility was given for landing the slaves and for their being distributed over the plantations to which they were destined. But our consul, with an activity that did him great honour, interfered, not in the insolent manner described by the hon. and learned Gentleman, but by representing the matter at once to a few Brazilian Gentlemen, who, together with some inferior persons, enabled him to arrest these negroes. And what did the Government do? Why, those persons who were most active in detecting that attempt, and endeavouring to thwart it, were all put in prison and prosecuted, but the guilty parties to whom these slaves were consigned remained at large subject to no proceeding. That very case, therefore, is a proof that there still exists in Brazil among individuals—not, I trust, among the public at large, and certainly not among the members of the Executive Government at Rio, but among a certain number of parties—a proneness to protect and encourage the slave trade, to receive those bribes which slavetraders are quite ready to give. All these are disposed to connive at the slave trade. I say, then, that if the House were to agree to the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman to appoint a Committee, intelligence thereof would be received with acclamation by all those adventurers in the United States—by all those culprits still in the Portuguese dominions, and by all those who are interested in the produce of Brazil and in the slave trade, who are only waiting for an opportunity to elude the vigilance of our cruisers, as a proof that this House of Parliament is prepared to reverse the policy which this country has pursued ever since 1815, and they would look with anticipation to some proceeding that would supply them with fresh scope and opportunity for their criminal projects. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that the Earl of Aberdeen made a promise that when the slave trade in Brazil was put an end to be would consent to the repeal of this Act. I know nothing of that promise, but when the hon. and learned Gentleman says that the slave trade in Brazil is put an end to, I maintain that although that is to a great extent true with regard to the present, it is not so with regard to the future. The slave trade is stopped for the moment, but you have no security whatever that it would not revive; on the contrary, we know for certain that there are parties now looking out for opportunities for its revival. There has been a great mortality among the negroes in Brazil. On many of the plantations labour is scarce. The owners of those plantations are men who in former years bought as many negroes as they could get. They do not feel those scruples of principle which we do, and if they had an opportunity of purchasing negroes they would do so to any extent to which the importations would enable them to go. The Government of Brazil has taken some steps in order to increase the free population of the Brazilian dominions, but not to the extent that it ought. It does not give those facilities for immigration which the great variety of the Brazilian soil would enable it to afford. It has not taken those steps which it ought, to turn its Indian population to account by bringing that people into habits of productive industry. But this will come with time. The capital of Brazil, which used to be entirely employed in a traffic of human blood, is now devoting itself to internal improvements, and if, by the continued watchfulness of the British Government and the goodwill and sincerity of the Brazilian Government, the slave trade can for many years be prevented, it is to be hoped that those in the Brazils who have been hitherto engaged in that crime will pass away, that a new generation will spring up, and that those in Africa who have hitherto exported their subjects as slaves will turn their attention to industry of a different kind. It is quite true that Brazil might be made more useful to us by the cultivation of cotton and also of cane in the higher and more temperate regions, and that its great rivers which run through its interior might be made the channels of commerce for Europe as well as for America. But much yet remains to be done. The lurking love of the slave trade is not yet extinguished in the hearts of these Brazilians. It is nothing but the impossibility and danger of indulging in it which restrains them from a commission of their former crimes. I do entreat the House, then, if they have any regard for those principles which have so long actuated this country, to avoid doing anything which can lead to the revival of a crime the greatest of which the human race was ever guilty—a crime which has inflicted upon mankind more calamities than war, famine, pestilence, or any of the other evils incident to humanity, and which has tended to the ruin and degradation of those countries which have been guilty of it. If it is not straining too much thus to interpret the workings of Providence, I may say that from the time when Great Britain emancipated itself from this degrading crime, we may, perhaps, date a start of prosperity and well-being which certainly this country never enjoyed before. I do, therefore, entreat this House and the hon. and learned Gentleman (whom I believe to be as honestly and sincerely adverse to this crime as I or any man here can be) not to take a step which would be misunderstood in Brazil, and which would tend to renew those great evils which we have taken such immense pains to avert.


had been perfectly astonished to hear the statements which had fallen from the noble Lord, and the great injustice which had been done to a nation of whose sincere desire to put down the slave trade he could speak from his own personal knowledge. He knew the people of Brazil intimately, believed they were most desirous to put an end to this abominable traffic, and would challenge the noble Lord to give a single instance in which Brazilians, for many years past, had been shown to be concerned in the trade. Since the passing of the law in 1850, which had been referred to, not a single instance could be furnished where Brazilians had been connected with the slave trade; nay, more, the only slavers captured on the coast of Brazil had been taken by the Brazilians themselves. The statement that Rio Janeiro was paved with granite from Aberdeen was too absurd in a place which was surrounded by ample supplies of the same material. It was possible that stones might have been taken out as ballast by vessels going from Aberdeen, but the story of the city being all paved with stones imported from Aberdeen itself, was on a par with what happened at the early opening of the trade with Brazil, when some wise persons sent out a cargo of warming-pans and skates to a country where there was never any ice. With reference to the case of one of the slavers taken at Surinam, it was rather remarkable that the individual who was praised, and received the thanks of the English Government through Mr. Consul Cowper, for the assistance he afforded on that occasion, afterwards turned out to be the person implicated in the transaction, and had since been punished by the Brazilian Government. Then, to show that the feeling against the traffic was not confined to the Government, he would instance the case of the Mary Elizabeth Smith, captured at Port St. Matthew. Those on board that vessel had no confederates in Brazil; they attempted to land the slaves without success on one point and another of the coast. The Brazilian population to a man joined to resist the landing, even at points where there were no police and soldiers; and at last she was captured by the Olinda, a Brazilian, not an English cruiser, which had pounced upon her in the harbour of Port St. Matthew. The Brazil agent in New York had a photograph of the vessel taken, and she was traced from New York to Monte Video and thence to Africa, and was captured by Lieutenant Lonciero in spite of the American ensign which was flying, so certain was he of the vessel from her likeness to the drawing. For this service, Mr. Jerningham had been directed by the British Government to write a despatch, thanking the Brazilian authorities. With regard to the correspondence that had taken place between our authorities and the Brazilian Government, he could state, from an attentive perusal of that correspondence, that a tone invidious and insolent had been assumed by the inferior British representatives in Brazil, and that the Brazilian Government had just cause of complaint at the treatment it had received. A gentleman of the name of Swan boldly went up the river Amazon and hoisted the English flag, and refused to haul it down, although called upon to do so by the authorities as contrary to the usual regulations; and in that determination he was supported by the British Consul. Such conduct should not be countenanced. There could be no doubt whatever that the Bill passed by Lord Aberdeen, in 1845, was an interference with the sovereignty and independence of Brazil, and the Government there was perfectly right in refusing to enter into any treaty with this or any other country, while we exercised such rights as those of capturing Brazilian vessels and adjudicating with regard to them on the spot in the Brazilian waters. The atrocities, as he might call them, which had been committed by the British cruisers would raise the indignation of any people. One of these cruisers had captured a Brazilian steamer with passengers on board, and after the passengers had been landed, the vessel was set fire to by order of the British commander. This act, though it took place within two days' sail of Rio Janeiro, was justified by the British authorities. Was it treating a nation upon equal terms to decide that its vessels might be condemned upon the meredictum of British commanders. Such a course would not have been attempted against any nation strong enough to resist it. There was one statement made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and adopted by the noble Lord, which showed a great want of information as to our relations with Brazil. The trade between this country and Brazil was represented as amounting to £12,000,000. Now, any man who was at all acquainted with this subject, knew that the trade did not amount to one-half of that sum, and that the entire importations into Brazil from all parts of the world were only valued at £12,000,000. It was of great importance to encourage the relations between the two countries. Brazil was the only nation in South America that had kept faith with its creditors, and it was the only constitutional monarchy in South America, and it was our interest and duty to cherish, encourage, and uphold monarchical principles in this hemisphere. He could respond to every word of praise which had been used with regard to the Emperor of Brazil—a model Sovereign, virtuous and good, whose only object was to promote the happiness of his people. He might remind the noble Lord of the difficulties with which Brazil had to contend in putting down the slave trade. The slave trade on the coast of Brazil was carried on entirely in Portuguese and American vessels, which were fitted out in the United States, and then obtained cargoes of slaves on the coast of Africa; yet they heard of no attempts being made to prevent them quitting the United States. The coast it had to watch was something like 3,000 miles in extent, and when it was remembered that we were not able to put down the trade in our own colonies, it would be acknowledged that the Brazilian Government must labour under much greater difficulties. The slave trade was carried on in Sierra Leone to an extent which would be incredible to the people of this country; but if hon. Members would look over the despatches of Governor Kennedy, they would find him describing the difficulty of suppressing the traffic, and stating that no jury would convict in these cases—a practice, indeed, so prevalent, that Governor Kennedy had even applied to the Home Government to put down trial by jury there. He thought this decidedly a case in which inquiry was demanded, and in which this House was called upon to concede a Committee, and he hoped, there- fore, that the hon. and learned Gentleman would persevere with his Motion.


admitted that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had made out a good case for the Government of the Brazils, but not for the appointment of a Committee, the Motion for which, he thought, went beyond a mere inquiry, inasmuch as it indicated a change of policy. Besides, nothing had occurred since the Report of the Select Committee of 1852 to authorize the appointment of another Committee, or the attempt to elicit any more facts than were before them. At the same time he thought that they ought to feel greatly indebted to the hon. and learned Member for having elicited the interesting and satisfactory statement which they had heard as to the present policy of the Brazilian Government on this question. The policy of the noble Lord for the abolition of the slave trade had been eminently successful. In 1847–48 a Committee of that House reported that it was vain to hope that the Brazilian Government would be brought to act with good faith, or that there would be any diminution of the slave trade in so far as that country was concerned. At that time the annual import of slaves into the Brazils was between 50,000 and 60,000; in 1852 it was reduced to between 700 and 800. He thought it would be well if the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield or some other hon. Gentleman would move for papers to ascertain whether there had been any increase since, which was probable, as the important events in which this country had been engaged during the last three or four years might have in some degree lessened the vigilance of our cruisers; but to call upon Government to relax its efforts, or to abandon any of the powers it possessed for the suppression of the trade, would be a fatal step. The feeling of the Brazilians as to the slave trade was not that rooted moral abhorrence with which it was regarded in this country, but rather an astute feeling of policy and self-preservation. They knew very well that if any large increase in the number of the black population took place, the lives and properties of the whites would be in danger. A large portion of slaves imported into the Brazils were not of that tame submissive character which marked the black population of the States. The policy of that country was to keep down their slaves to that standard which was necessary to supply the labour to cultivate their estates. If any great mortality took place amongst the blacks, no doubt attempts would be made to make up the deficiency by further imports from Africa, consequently it would be most unwise to abandon or relax any of the powers possessed by our Government. Our success in treating with the Brazils should rather induce us to apply the same policy to other nations where the slave trade was encouraged than abandon it in that case. A Committee would be productive of no good result; it would afford no information of which the House was not already in possession, and therefore he hoped that the Motion would not be successful.


in reply, said that he was sorry to find that a question of so much importance did not excite more interest in the House. The noble Lord had given no reason why this Motion should not be agreed to. He stated, that the slave trade was a great enormity, in which it was not difficult to agree with him; and he went on to give a graphic description of the different phases of the slave-trade question in former years; but what had that to do with the question? He could understand that everything which fell from the noble Lord was interesting to the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Monckton Milnes); but to less partial judges there was nothing in the noble Lord's speech which could be said to amount to a real objection to the Motion. The noble Lord argued that if the House of Commons granted an inquiry into this particular branch of our foreign relations those persons who were intent upon the slave trade, would immediately conclude that the House of Commons had expressed an opinion which was favourable to them. Nothing could be more destitute of foundation. He had great confidence in the House of Commons, though he had none in the noble Lord; and he believed that it was as great an enemy to the slave trade as the noble Lord himself, and was as little likely to express an opinion favourable to it. He believed, too, that the House of Commons was thoroughly alive to the honour, interests, and dignity of England, and an inquiry such as that asked by this Motion would be eminently conducive to the honour and dignity of the country. Why should it not? The noble Lord said that the Brazilian Government in times past had been great friends to the slave trade, but that self-interest had shown them that it was a dangerous trade for Brazil. But what motive could there he more potent than self-interest? Then the noble Lord warned the House that there were people in Brazil who were friends to the slave trade; but did the noble Lord believe that there were no people in England who were friends to the slave trade? Let him not lay "that flattering unction to his soul." There were people, in truth, who would trade not only in the bodies of blacks, but in their own souls—ay, in England, too—in virtuous England. It was his sincere belief that the real promoters of the slave trade might be found within the three kingdoms called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It was maintained in spite of our cruisers, and it was put down in Brazil, not by the noble Lord's laws, but by the will of the Brazilians themselves. All that our Acts of Parliament had done was to sow dissension between us and the Brazilians, and to encourage our diplomatists to insult the Brazilian Government. Had any one written to the noble Lord such a letter as Mr. Jerningham wrote to the Brazilian Minister, how he would have declaimed in that House on the insulted honour and dignity of England, and called upon the country to avenge the insult. The noble Lord charged him with appealing to the vulgar prejudice that it was our policy "to bully the weak and truckle to the strong;"— but was not this the case? Where was the slave trade most flourishing now? In Cuba. And why did not the noble Lord put it down there? Simply because he dared not. Because the French Emperor would not allow him. The noble Lord talked of vulgar prejudice; but had the noble Lord answered the charge he had brought against him of using the power of England to aid and assist the strong and bully the weak. The weak were the people of Brazil—the strong the people of America. Dared they send a cruiser into the Chesapeak? They dared not. America would be in arms, and the noble Lord would go to the Minister of the Republic and humbly beg his pardon that he had presumed to interfere with the inviolability of her flag. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bramley-Moore) had corrected him as to our exports to Brazil; but he believed that if he referred to documents he would find that our trade amounted to nearly £12,000,000 per annum. Now, there was this difference between Brazil and America, that Brazil had no manufactures, while America had. Brazil exported agricultural produce to America, which could supply her with manufactured goods as cheaply as we could; therefore, if we induced the Brazilians to prefer an American alliance to ours, we should lose our trade with their country, and the Americans would get it. He only asked for an inquiry, and he was quite sure that that would lead to no mischief. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes) said, that he had a policy in view. He had not. What he wanted to come to was the truth; and he asked whether the House was in a condition to say to any one who made out such a case as he had done, "You shall not inquire. We have such confidence in the noble Lord"—for there it lay—"we have such confidence in the noble Lord that we put all the foreign interests of England into his hands, and will not inquire." Shame on the House of Commons that would say so!They might have confidence in the noble Lord. He (Mr. Roebuck) had no doubt that he had confidence in himself, but they might depend upon it that they could not injure the interests of England by inquiring. All he sought was the appointment of a Committee which might obtain evidence, and upon that evidence he would ask the House to decide this question.


I was about to speak when the hon. and learned Gentleman rose to reply, and I therefore hope he will excuse my making one or two observations in explanations of the vote I am about to give. This Motion is certainly rather a strong one. Had the hon. and learned Gentleman moved for papers, or had he made some Motion which would have brought more information before the House before he asked it to pronounce an opinion, I should not have taken the course which I now personally feel it my duty to pursue. A Motion, however, which by its language takes the management of our diplomatic relations with Brazil out of the hands of the Government and submits them to the consideration of the House of Commons, has, so long as I have had a seat in the House, been regarded as a Motion which implies a want of confidence in the Government of the day. I have listened with great interest to the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman, though, owing to an unfortunate circumstance I lost some of his observations, but I did not understand that ho recommended his Motion by any particular instance which has recently occurred, or that he represented that any complaint had been made by the Brazilian Government with respect to the Act which has been so frequently referred to. Indeed, I understood from the noble Lord that that Act, of the operation of which the hon. and learned Gentleman complains, is at this moment suspended by an agreement between the two countries. Really under the circumstances I cannot support the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman. If the Act of which he complains be at this moment in suspense, it must be in consequence of some previous discussion between the two Governments, and if it remains suspended we have a right to infer that these discussions will be renewed, and that there will be some hope of a satisfactory and amicable settlement of this question. Under these circumstances, and after that declaration from the Minister, I do not feel justified in supporting a Motion of so strong a character as that before the House. I am, however, quite of opinion that the subject which the hon. and learned Gentleman has introduced to us is one that ought to interest the House; and, I think, we are much indebted to him for bringing it forward, because our relations with Brazil are of great importance, and have for some time been involved in very undesirable obscurity. I do not know how many years it is since we first heard of an impending treaty of commerce with that country, from which the greatest advantages were to result. I have myself had the honour of bringing that, together with other proposed treaties of commerce, under the notice of the House; but on such occasions I have never received much encouragement from those who possess extreme opinions with regard to commercial exchange. I have generally been told that treaties of commerce are very old-fashioned inventions, and are by no means so desirable as our forefathers used to consider them. Our trade with Brazil is, however, a very important branch of our commerce, and is one from the increase of which great advantages may be expected to result, not only to this country, but to the Brazilians themselves. Let us see what has been the conduct of the rulers and people of Brazil since that treaty of commerce was first noticed in this House and promised as a possible result of our diplomatic relations. Why, there is no doubt that all the statements which were made some years ago as to the encouragement given to the slave trade by the Brazilian authorities and the Brazilian people are at the present moment without any foundation whatever in fact. I quite agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. B. Moore) that it is owing, not to the interference of the British Government or to the activity of our cruisers, but to the policy of the Brazilian Government and the feeling of the Brazilian people, that the slave trade in Brazil has become almost extinct. For twenty years the policy at all times so earnestly recommended by the noble Lord was vigorously pursued, and at the end of that time the number of slaves imported into Brazil was as great as at its commencement. Therefore the utmost energy in carrying out the policy of the noble Lord produced no effect whatever. What, then, had produced the desirable result that the slave trade with Brazil was nearly extinct? What but a change in the opinions of the Brazilian population and community, and the creation of a conviction that it is rather by encouraging emigration, by developing the interior resources of their country, and by pursuing that enlightened policy which the present Emperor of Brazil has at all times supported and patronized, that the wealth and the power of their country will be best secured, rather than by recurring to that system for which Brazil was once so notorious? If this be true, I think the time has come when a spirit of the utmost conciliation and courtesy should be exhibited by the English Government towards that of Brazil. The time has come when it would be well for the noble Lord to consider whether this Act, which is now by mutual consent suspended, may not be altogether abrogated, so that there may be no misunderstanding on the part of the Brazilian Government as to the temper of the Government and people of England; but that the authorities of the Brazils may know that their exertions for the amelioration of society in their own country are appreciated and respected, and that the stories which were the basis and data of earnest, but perhaps in some degree passionate, legislation, are now no longer credited as characteristic of their land. The speech and Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman have had this advantage—that they have introduced to the House of Commons in its first Session a subject of the greatest interest and importance, and that they will give a proper tone to the manner in which we shall hereafter discuss our relations with the Brazilian Government. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman—though I cannot suppose that he will be influenced by any wish that I may express—will not ask the House to divide upon this particular Motion, which is, I think, too strong for the occasion. If he will be satisfied with having induced an interested discussion upon an important subject, and having elicited from a large majority of this House the feeling that the Brazilian Government and people ought to be respected, and that our Government should treat them in accordance with this sentiment, he will have achieved a very great result, and one with which he may well rest content. I trust that he will be contented with that, and will not ask the House to come to a division which will not convey to the country an accurate idea of the sentiments of the House of Commons.


Were it not for an assertion made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which, according to my view, is likely to lead to a misunderstanding of this question, and create a false impression on the House, I should not have thought it necessary to say a word upon this subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire said that the instructions given by my noble Friend at the head of the Government, when Minister for Foreign Affairs, were that our cruisers should go into the waters of Brazil; that, notwithstanding the slave trade in Brazil had increased, and no check had been put upon it by the vigilance of our cruisers, and by the orders under which they had previously acted—that Brazil herself, from her own views of policy, had undertaken this question herself, and had put an end to her own slave trade. Well, if that be a correct interpretation of the facts, the consequent inference would be that, our efforts having failed, and Brazil having performed this voluntary act herself, it would be but reasonable for us to repeal the Act of Parliament which has been so much in question. But I maintain that that is not a correct representation of the facts. My impression of the matter is this—that, for some time our efforts, energetic as they were, having failed to produce the desired effect upon Brazil, in respect to her slave trade, that trade having increased notwithstanding the vigilance of our cruisers, and the orders of the Foreign Office, instructions were at length issued by my noble Friend, that our cruisers should not confine their attention to the sea-coast, but should go into the waters of Brazil, and take any slavers which they found there. That order was productive of such good effect that the Brazilian Government at last thought it necessary to pass an Act to put an end to the slave trade, which was then found to be a losing concern by all those who were concerned in it. Many of the slave masters, who had previously been deriving large; profits from the trade, finding that their losses were so very great in consequence of the close proximity of our cruisers, felt convinced—and indeed so confessed to the diplomatic agents of different parts of Europe—that they could not continue it any longer. Now, I believe that that is a correct statement of the facts; and, being so, I am desirous to leave this question in the hands of my noble Friend and the Government. I believe generally that all questions connected with our foreign affairs ought to be left in the hands of the Government, without any interference on the part of this House. I believe that the present question particularly, owing to the diplomacy of this country and the vigilance of our cruisers, has been conducted most successfully, and therefore it is the more befitting the House not to interfere with it by the appointment of such a Committee as has been proposed. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had brought forward a Motion by which the slave trade of Cuba might be suppressed—if he could suggest any measure having that object in view, I do not believe that the Government would be found to be so much afraid of the powerful monarchy of Spain as to be deterred from supporting it; and I only hope that, when the hon. and learned Gentleman again touches this subject, he will show us how the slave trade of Cuba can be effectually suppressed, and how the slave trade altogether can be put an end to.

Motion made, and Question put, "That a Select Committee be appointed to take into consideration the relations of this Country with Brazil."

The House divided:—Ayes 17; Noes 312: Majority 295.