§ MR. BUXTON
said, he rose to call the attention of the Government to the great increase of the Cuban Slave Trade, and the importance of supplementing the exertions of the squadron on the African coast by j additional measures for the suppression of that trade. At that period of the Session, and in the then state of the public business, he would not detain the House for many minutes. Ho was very anxious, I however, to submit two or three suggestions to the Government which ho believed would be efficacious, if carried out, in greatly diminishing, if not overthrowing, the slave trade. It was no longer matter of question that Africa would afford a boundless amount of cotton if only the slave trade could be put down, so as to enable agriculture and commerce to thrive. Even, therefore, if no higher motives came in, he should feel justified in reverting to that painful subject before the Session closed. The recent accounts of the slave trade were terrible. Too ample proof was afforded by the blue books of the extraordinary activity with which the slave trade was being pushed forward. That lamentable state of things might fill them with discouragement and almost with despair, but the legitimate inference would be that they should reconsider the system on which they were acting, and see whether some further measures could not be adopted which would render their exertions more effectual. The fact was that since the American Government had refused to acknowledge the right of visit the British naval force had been rendered, he would not say useless, because he believed that fourteen slave ships had been captured during the past year, but far less potent than it used to be. He was anxious, therefore, to call the attention of the Government to two or three supplementary measures, which would, he thought, be of great value. One of these was suggested last year by the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs himself, though he believed it had not been acted on. It was that an 1642 attempt should be made to supplant the slave trade in Cuba by the introduction, under the most stringent precautions, of a free immigation from China and India. That would require the greatest possible care, and it might be thought that experience as to the abominable traffic in Chinese with Cuba ought at once to condemn the suggestion. But the truth was that recently Her Majesty's Government had made great and, he believed, successful exertions to put a stop to the cruelty with which that coolie immigration had formerly been attended. Our authorities in China, in conjunction with the Chinese authorities, had placed the emigration under strict regulations, and it also appeared that in Cuba the Chinese ha asserted their independence, and had enforced considerate treatment for themselves. He trusted that the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) would direct Mr. Crauford, the British Commissioner at Havannah, to make strict inquiries on that point, and if it could be shown that humane treatment and fair wages could effectually be secured for Indian and Chinese emigrants, then, by encouraging such an immigration, they would supplant, not only the slave trade, but in the long run slavery itself in the Island of Cuba. Next, he would urge on the Government that, instead of trusting only to cruisers on the sea, they should take steps to break up the slave trade on the African coast itself. He believed that would do even more than the squadron to harass and injure the slave traders, and it could not bring England into collision with any European Government. Now, by the kind of protectorate which England had established along the Gold Coast, and at Accra, and at Lagos, the slave trade had actually been extinguished along what formerly was its very mart and emporium, and which used in fact to be called the Slave Coast. But there was one exception. At Whydah, a port belonging to that execrable ruffian the King of Dahomey, the slave trade was still most prosperous. By the last accounts several slavers with large cargoes had sailed from Whydah. He could not see why they should not use violent measures to put a stop to it at that point. No courtesy surely need be observed with the King of Dahomey. Well, then, going further south, Portugal possessed great dominions along both the west and east coasts of Africa. Her western coast was formerly rife with the slave trade. When Mr. Gabriel, the English Commis- 1643 sioner at Loanda, first went there he saw eighteen slave vessels in one harbour. Since that the slave trade along the whole of the Portuguese West Coast had been utterly extinguished, and the result had been a great development of commerce, to the value, taking exports and imports together, of half a million a year. How had that come about? In great measure owing to the fact that England had had Consuls and Commissioners on that coast who had brought the influence of England to hear on the Portuguese authorities. Meanwhile, however, on the East Coast no such improvement had taken place. The last blue book showed an immense amount of slave trade from Mozambique and the adjoining districts. Now, surely, it would be only common sense for England to do her very utmost to induce Portugal to put the slave trade down on the East as well as on the West Coast, and nothing in his opinion would do so much towards that end as the appointment of an able and energetic man to the post of Consul at Mozambique. It might be said that no able and energetic man would go there, but a gentleman who stood very high in the opinion of the Government was willing to take the post. There were, he owned, some objections. The climate was unhealthy; the place was detestable. There was also the expense. That, however, would be small, and nothing in proportion to the interests involved. Again, it had been urged that Dr. Livingstone had recently been appointed Consul at Zambesi, but Zambesi was very far to the south, and Dr. Livingstone was always up the country exploring. The main objection, however, made by the Government was this, that a consul would be of no use without a large number of cruisers; but two or three ships of war were always kept on that coast. He thought their being few was an additional reason for giving them as much assistance and information as possible. Were the whole coast watched by cruisers it would be less necessary to have a consul on shore to find out all that was going forward, and the points from which it was likely that slaves would be embarked. The objections, then, were not strong ones. The inducements were very strong. The fact was that the Portuguese Government was well disposed on the subject. It was fain to stop the slave trade, but was too feeble to enforce its views on that far distant coast, where many of their own authorities had excellent reasons for cherishing 1644 the slave trade. Nothing, then, would so much tend to enable the Government of Portugal to carry out their views as the fact that England had a Commissioner there to watch with a keen eye all that went on, and report the proceedings of the slave traders and the action taken by the local authorities. In fact this would be the means of bringing the powerful influence of England to bear, and of pouring light on those dark places of the earth, rendering it infinitely more difficult for these cruelties to go on there. A consul had originally been appointed at Mozambique after full inquiry by Mr. Hume's Committee in 1853, and experience seemed to him (Mr. Buxton) to have shown the value of having such a representative of England on that coast. In urging the reappointment of a consul on the Government he was expressing the views entertained by Lord Brougham, by the Bishop of Oxford, the Anti-Slavery Society, the African Aid Society, and, in fact, nearly every one acquainted with the question of the slave trade. More than this, the same point had been strongly urged by the Economist newspaper, and by others who looked on the matter from a mercantile point of view. There seemed real grounds for believing that English influences exerted on that coast might do much to suppress the slave trade and open a large commerce. He was glad to think that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was sure to give the question a candid and careful study, as no man had shown more persevering energy in promoting as far as he possibly could the abolition of the slave trade.
§ MR. CAVE
— Mr. Speaker, I could have wished that the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Buxton) had been able to bring this question before the House on the day for which he first gave notice, as we might then have had the valuable assistance of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in discussing it; and I feel bound to take this opportunity of expressing my acknowledgment of the ready attention the noble Lord always gave to the representations I have felt it my duty to make from time to time on this subject. Late, however, as it is in the Session, I cannot think the moment an inopportune one, because the whole question has been advanced, during the last few days, by the publication of a very remarkable and important document. I allude to a letter from the French Emperor to his 1645 Minister of Marine, giving notice of the ratification of a treaty with Her Majesty, of which we have as yet heard nothing, but which will, I hope, late as it is, be laid upon the Table of the House before we separate at the conclusion of the Session. As far as we are able to conjecture, from the terms of the letter, this treaty extends and makes permanent the Convention of last year, under the provisions of which the Emperor, who cob siders the supplying his colonies with labour an Imperial question, is empowered, in return for abandoning the so-called African emigration, to compete in the labour market of Calcutta, backed by all the resources of France, with our colonists, who have only their own private and most scanty means to rely upon; and with such vigour have these resources been applied, that I have just learned that no less than twenty-seven ships have sailed from Calcutta with coolies for the French colony of Reunion, while only twenty-two have gone to the whole British West Indies collectively. I will not trouble the House again with my objections to the principle of this measure: I have already fully stated them, and they have since been strengthened by the occurrence of one of the evils I anticipated. We find in a recent minute of the Governor of Mauritius complaints that a large number of coolies had been shipped by French agents in Calcutta for Reunion, under the pretext of taking them to Mauritius.
I cannot help thinking, however, that the letter itself is highly unsatisfactory. The Emperor has some doubts about the African emigration. He thinks it may possibly be open to abuse; he therefore determines to put an end to it. But when? Immediately? No, at the close of another year. It may, indeed, be said that it would be impossible to terminate these arrangements at once; and this argument would be very forcible, were it not for a letter which I have here from the same Imperial writer to his cousin, Prince Napoleon, dated as long ago as 1858, couched in similar terms, breathing the same doubts, and expressing the same determinations: and so general was the belief in England, at that time, that the Emperor had become convinced of what all the world knew long before, that this immigration was the slave trade in disguise, and was resolved immediately to put an end to it, that an hon. Member, now a Member of the other House of Par- 1646 liament (Lord Stratheden), proposed a Resolution in 1859, conveying the thanks of the House to the Emperor for his zeal and sincerity—a Motion which was seconded by my hon. Friend who has revived this subject to-night, but which, from some information of an opposite tendency which I had received, I felt bound to oppose.
Has it taken His Imperial Majesty all this time to make up his mind? or is it not rather to the opposition of Portugal that we owe the discontinuance of this French slave trade on the east coast of Africa, if it be indeed discontinued? Perhaps a consul at Mozambique might tell us a different tale. However this may be, we were certainly led to expect, and we had a good right to expect, that the moment French recruiting agents were allowed to set foot in British India they would cease to be employed on every part of the African continent. But it appears that a much harder bargain was driven by the Emperor: that the Convention under which the Queen's subjects are now, as we learn, being carried in such large numbers to Reunion, was to be paid for by abandoning the slave trade on the east coast alone; and that this wider and more advantageous treaty was necessary to induce its cessation on the west coast also. But the fact is we give up everything and get nothing. The Emperor knows that the African immigration is the slave trade, and cannot be defended. He knows this, or he would not go all the way to India for a more distant, a more expensive, and less efficient class of labourers. If it be the slave trade, France is already bound by treaties as solemn as any new ones can be made, to have nothing to do with it. So we are paying her extra for abstaining from doing what she is already pledged not I to do.
But, leaving this retrospect, I should like to say a word as to the future. As far as we can judge, France is to have the benefit, up to July 1862, of both Indian and African immigration, and we see that she is making the most of her time in I both. I presume we shall find that either of the contracting parties can put an end to the treaty by giving due notice. Supposing France gives this notice at the end of the year, she will be in statu quo as regards Africa, and be richer by some thousands of the Queen's subjects from Bengal. Again, there is an important exception in the terms of the treaty, as 1647 stated in the letter. France is still to be allowed to draw emigrants from her own possessions on the African coast. Now, any really free emigration from these places is out of the question, and, without imputing any intended breach of faith, I will show how liable this provision is to abuse, by a single illustration.
It is perfectly well known that for several years the Natives of the British Province of Madras were smuggled to Reunion through the French territory of Pondicherry. Between 30,000 and 40,000 Indians are computed to have been so carried off. I need scarcely point out how easy it would be for an unlimited African slave trade through a French possession to flourish; either with the connivance or without the knowledge of French authorities. The French possessions fringe the African coast for hundreds of miles, and are bounded by great slave-trading nations in the interior. We have seen already that a consul at Reunion is to be added to our list for the purpose of watching the operations of the treaty in that island; a far greater number of consuls than even the hon. Member proposes will be necessary on the African coast to guard against the possible abuse of it there.
Before sitting down I may, perhaps, be allowed to express a hope that when Her Majesty's Government were making these great concessions to France they at least stipulated in return for some modification of the French law relating to right of search, which interposes so many obstacles to the success of our African squadron. Hard language has frequently been used in this House in regard to the conduct of Spain, but Spain scarcely receives a single slave who is not carried under the flag of one or other of two great maritime nations. That the banner of America has long been deeply disgraced in this way is a matter of world-wide notoriety, but that of France is not unstained.
A naval officer commanding one of our cruisers on that station wrote to me a short time ago thus—The Franch flag, I am sorry to say, is becoming a cloak for slavery, through immunity as to the right of search. A French ship escaped on the south-west coast last November. She had a legal clearance for China for coolies.Somewhat significant this, especially as fetters form part of the equipment of free emigrants, according to French notions.But had her papers been ever so irregular she was French and could not be detained; so our cruiser let her go, and she took 700 slaves.1648 Now, Sir, if France and England really co-operate in earnest, America cannot long hold out, especially if her vessels are to sail henceforward under a divided flag. Now is the time to strike; and if, when this treaty is laid upon the table, I find that France has made some concession in this direction, even to the extent only of placing French Commissioners on board English cruisers to overhaul French slavers, I shall see some light under the cloud. If not, I shall be compelled to adhere to the belief, which is shared by many Members on both sides of the House, and it is said even by some of Her Majesty's Government, that this treaty, while creating new evils of a grave and painful nature, does practically little to obviate those which already exist, and against which it is ostensibly directed.
MR. H. BERKELEY
said, that from letters which he had received on the subject he could corroborate the statement made as to the great increase of the slave trade on the East Coast of Africa. He was also in a position to state that the Portuguese authorities were most anxious that there should be an English consul at Mozambique, in the hope that a change for the better in that respect might be effected.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, that if he rightly understood the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward the question he was of opinion that the slave trade had not of late been vigorously prosecuted upon the Mozambique coast. But, if that were the impression of the hon. Gentleman, he (Sir John Pakington) had reason to believe that the hon. Gentleman was entirely mistaken upon that point. He had lately been informed by naval officers from the coast of Africa, that the slave trade so far from having decreased on the Mozambique coast, now flourished there in the utmost vigour.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he thought it would be well to defer creating any consular establishment on the East Coast of Africa until the report of Dr. Livingstone had been received on the result of his expedition up the Ruvuma. The presence of a consul at Mozambique was rendered the less necessary by the fact that the Governor General of the district entertained the most honest intentions to suppress the slave trade. The trade, moreover, was not carried on to such an extent at Mozambique as at other points of the East Coast of Africa.
1649 The Portugese Governor of Mozambique was exceedingly desirous of putting down the abominable traffic, and the fact was the more creditable to him because he was placed in a position of great temptation to connive at the evil. He did all he could to suppress it, but, in fact, he was powerless, on account of the extent of coast to be guarded, and the few and wretched means at his disposal. His soldiers were most of them twice convicted criminals, and he had only one brig and one gunboat, and that was useless. It was true he had a militia to assist him, but their value might be guessed from the fact that the officers only received £4 a year. They did not want a consul to keep an eye on the Governor General. If anything was to be done at all, they must have five or six cruisers; permanently stationed on the coast. But his own opinion was that Cuba was the point which ought to be watched. It was notorious that there was a joint-stock company in Havannah for carrying on the slave trade, and that slavers were fitted out in that and other ports under the very nose of the authorities. The law and the church, were always ready to connive at the importation of negroes, and the Captain General, though he had the power, wanted the will to put a stop to the slave trade. By stationing an efficient force of gunboats off the coast of Cuba they might, to some extent, check the importation of slaves, and it was also the duty of the Government to make the strongest representations to the Spanish Government with the view of inducing them to put in execution existing treaties. He repeated he could not approve the reappointment of a consul at Mozambique at that moment; they ought to wait to see whether Dr. Livingstone might not succeed in establishing a legitimate trade with the interior, which would supersede the slave trade.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he thought that was a peculiarly suitable time for calling attention to the subject. He was glad that the Emperor of the Ereneh had at last determined to put a stop to that branch of the slave trade between Reunion and the coast of Africa. It appeared to him that the Emperor, having adopted that course, might be induced to join with us in taking more vigorous measures for the suppression of the slave trade between the coast of Africa and Cuba. Persons were generally but little tolerant of those bad practices which they had relinquished themselves. The disruption of 1650 the American Republic was another circumstance which gave him hopes that they might at length be able to aim an effective blow at the slave trade. It was notorious that the real traffickers in the flesh and blood of their fellow men were citizens of the Northern States. It was in Yankee ships, floated by Yankee capital, commanded by Yankee skippers, sailing forth on their abominable errand, with the connivance of bribed Yankee authorities, that this work of the devil was carried on. Lord Lyons writing to Lord John Russell in September, 1860, stated that within the previous eighteen months eighty-five vessels had sailed from American ports to be employed in the slave trade. The captures made by the American squadron itself off the African coast from September, 1859, to October, 1860, consisted of ten vessels, seven of which were from New York. Of forty-four slavers which arrived at a certain part of the African coast within a limited period, thirty-one were American vessels. It was not surprising, under these circumstances, that Lord John Russell should have written in strong terms of the prostitution of the American flag. The noble Lord had conducted his correspondence with the American Government in a spirit which entitled him to the highest commendation from every person to whom humanity was dear. The reply of General Cass was couched in a style of flippant impertinence; but the rejoinder of the noble Lord—that as long as it was clear that the American flag was prostituted to the purposes of the slave trade—as long as that accursed traffic was mainly maintained by American citizens he would not cease to remonstrate with the American Government and people on the subject — was worthy of the Foreign Secretary of England. The United States were no longer hampered by what were called Southern prejudices. Now was the time to test the truth of all the statements they had made that Southern prejudices had prevented a really vigorous opposition to the slave trade, and to see whether, when an appeal was made to the United States authorities, we might not be able to obtain from them that real hearty co-operation which would enable us eventually to put down this traffic. The difficulty hitherto experienced, as every one knew, was the almost impossibility of stopping, detaining, or visiting American vessels. Every proposal we had made to the United States with that view had been rejected. Joint 1651 cruising and every other expedient had been invariably rejected. In former days, no doubt, these proposals had been rejected, not from any inherent difficulty in the proposals themselves, but because there was a feeling in America that it would be against American interests, he might say, to attempt to employ vigorous means in the stopping of the trade. At one time it was perfectly notorious that the acquisition of Cuba was the question not of years but of months, in the opinion of the American people. That dream had now faded completely away. It was then a great object to obtain Cuba well stocked with negroes. It was no longer an object that it should be so. On the contrary, if the slave trade were not revived—and he would not enter into the question of the real bonâ fides of the Southern States upon that point; he simply believed they did not intend any thing of the kind—and if Louisiana had to contend against Cuba, it was the greatest object to Louisiana and the South that the importation of negroes into Cuba should not continue. That negro labour in Cuba should be dear was a primary object to the Southern States. He believed, therefore, they ought now to have both the North and South of America perfectly concordant in their views to put down the slave trade. He did most sincerely trust that Her Majesty's Government would now have to deal with a different set of statesmen at Washington, and that they would again appeal to them in the cause of humanity to join with England in vigorous action to put down this trade; for he was perfectly confident that it did rest with the hearty determination of the American authorities to prevent these slave vessels sailing from their ports, when they had sailed, to give every facility for their capture, so that they might eventually hope for the suppression of that detestable and atrocious traffic.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he thought the only conceivable objection that could be urged to the reappointment of a consul at Mozambique was the salary he must receive; but when he considered the success which had attended the presence of a consul on the West Coast, and the large sum they spent in cruisers, he was inclined to believe that small outlay might result in a great saving; so that the appointment might be justified on the mere grounds of economy. He agreed that that was a peculiarly fitting time when an effort should be made to obtain the co-operation 1652 of other countries in putting down the slave trade, and they might especially hope for the co-operation of the United States. Till recently America had been the great supporter of the slave trade. If disruption should unfortunately take place, he should look forward with great fear to the revival of the slave trade. Upon that point he might mention the fact that Mr. Gancey, the leading Commissioner to Europe of the so-called Southern Confederacy, himself proposed a year or two ago in the Southern Convention at Montgomery a resolution for the repeal of the law of the United States against the slave trade, and for months supported the resolution with great energy and ability. He differed from his hon. Friend who introduced the subject as to the propriety of sending coolies into Cuba. He did not see how they could take on themselves the responsibility of their proper treatment under a foreign Government.
§ MR. G. W. HOPE
said, he thought that the only means of effectually putting the slave trade down would be by making it unprofitable, and that could only be done by rendering the production of free-grown sugar as cheap as slave-grown. He entirely agreed that the introduction of East Indian coolies into foreign countries was fraught with the greatest danger. At the same time he advocated the importation of free coolie labour into our own colonies. He was glad to find there was a great change of feeling in this respect, and that the measure was no longer opposed by those who were inimical to the slave trade. Under the present stringent regulations, however, it did not pay to invest private capital in that enterprise, as a sufficient term of service was not insured. As a remedy for that difficulty he would propose, although it might be an unpopular suggestion, that a differential duty should be put upon slave-grown sugar, which might be applied for the purpose of coolie emigration into our own colonies. He regretted that this country had so largely imported slave-grown sugar from Spain, and he thought the noble Lord at the head of the Government would inflict a heavier blow on Spain by putting a differential duty on that article of produce than by attacks on paper. If Spain gave up the traffic he believed it would cease in the quarter of the world alluded to.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, that he thought the tone of the discussion proved, that there was not the least dimunition in the deep 1653 feeling of hostility entertained in this country against the abominable traffic in slaves. He trusted that some of the observations made by the hon. Member for Galway would have their due effect upon Her Majesty's Government. It was an indisputable fact, that the capital and ships of the Northern States of America had been largely employed in this traffic, and our Commissary Judge at the Havannah (Mr. Crauford) said—Since the year 1858, when there was such outcry about our cruisers in these waters boarding American ships, the traffic has been almost exclusively carried on by vessels under that flag, which fit out and sail from the United States; and such has been the effect of the impunity enjoyed by the slave traders, that the American masters and crews no longer hesitate to continue on board, and have brought all their energies and cunning into operation to avoid their own Government cruisers, as well on the coast of Africa as in the waters of Cuba, from the last mentioned of which all Her Majesty's vessels of war have been withdrawn for the two last years.Our cruisers had been withdrawn from the Cuban waters because the American Government refused to co-operate with them in suppressing this nefarious traffic; and the American cruisers, being left to execute that task alone, had entirely failed in its performance. He earnestly entreated the noble Lord not to imagine that the restoration of the consul at Mozambique was not to be desired. The slave trade was carried on there to a considerable extent, and but for our cruisers it would be greatly increased. Dr. Livingstone was particularly anxious that there should be a consul at Mozambique. The trifling expense which such an officer would entail on the country would be amply repaid by the legitimate trade it would occasion, for there was a great demand therefore our cloth and hardware. He looked with extreme jealousy on the plan for importing coolie labourers from India into the French colonies, and he hoped that the recent treaty on the subject would be laid on the table without delay.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I rise to make some observations upon what has passed with regard to the slave trade. I am bound to say that I think the House and the country are under obligations to my hon. Friend who brought forward this Motion, because this is a subject of the deepest interest; and it is impossible that this House can too often or too strongly express its opinions in condemnation of the continuance of this abominable traffic. The truth is that the abolition of the slave 1654 trade, although it may be, and, in some instances, has been brought about, as in the case of Brazil, by the exercise of force, cannot be wholly extinguished except by the progress of opinion, not only in the minds of different Governments, but in the minds of the different nations which they rule. I regret to say that of late years there has been a relapse on the part of our neighbours on the other side of the Channel. France very early abolished the slave trade. France not many years ago abolished slavery in her colonies; and we had reason to hope that, the French nation and the French Government being throughly convinced that slavery and the slave trade were abominations, and having determined to get rid of both, there was no danger whatever of their backsliding. But the first symptom of a relapse was seen when the French Government, under M. Guizot, refused to ratify the convention for the mutual right of search which was negotiated by the Earl of Aberdeen, its refusal being grounded on some Motion made in the French Assembly. That was, no doubt, an indication of a retrograde movement in opinion. Then came, four or five years ago, the Regis contract for the emigration of so-called free labourers into a French colony, but which was nothing more nor less than the slave trade in its purest and simplest form, at least as far as the acquisition of the labourers was concerned. It was the slave trade in the beginning of the process, though not entirely so in its end, because although these unhappy creatures were landed in a French colony, apprenticed against their will, subjected to regulations which rendered them liable to degrading punishments, and otherwise made to feel that they were in a state far from one of freedom, the French law did not acknowledge the system of slavery. The manner in which these negroes were caught was exactly the same as that in which the Spanish and the Portuguese got their slaves in order to send them to Cuba. It was said, indeed, that they were ransomed, and were to be set free, and documents were given to them which professed to be certificates of their emancipation. But they were obtained in the first instance by persons who sold them to the French by all those means of force, of violence, and fraud by which slaves were and still are procured for the Spanish market at Cuba. This, unfortunately, was the result of the ascendancy gained in French councils by the colonial interest.
1655 That ascendancy was paramount; and for a long time the French Government was deaf to all the remonstrances made to them by the Government of England, pointing out that this was the slave trade, and contrary to every principle by which they had openly promulgated their resolution to abide. At last the French Government consented to put an end to that system, provided other means could be obtained by which the additional supply of labour required in the French colonies could be procured. The only means by which we could at all assist in procuring labour was by allowing the French to obtain coolies from our possessions in India; and the question was whether we would give them that permission on condition that the Regis contract should be put a stop to. I should say that two years ago the French Government, upon the urgent representations of the Queen's Government, did put down the exportation of the so-called free labourers at the Western Coast of Africa, but it still continued on the East Coast. There were great objections, such as those referred to in the course of this discussion, to our allowing these French colonists to go to our territories in India for the purpose of obtaining coolies. No doubt, it was liable to this objection—that improper means might be resorted to for, as it is called, kidnapping the coolies; and, therefore, it was necessary to establish regulations by which you should be sure that those labourers who went did so of their own goodwill, that they should not be overcrowded or otherwise ill-treated during the voyage, and that they should be well-used when they reached the island of Re-union or the French West Indies. These matters were the subject of long and difficult negotiations, because we had to contend with the peculiar interests of those who thought it better and cheaper to go on with the existing plan. The Emperor's advisers felt that the system was a bad one, and were anxious to co-operate with us to put an end to it. Accordingly, a treaty has been recently concluded by which, under certain regulations, the French colonists are entitled to bring coolies from India into the French colonies. It has been said that we give everything and get nothing. That is not exactly the case. It is quite true it permits the exportation from India to take place at once, while the French Government does not engage to stop the Regis contract until 1862—a period to which 1656 they are bound to allow that contract to continue in force. We might have said, "We will not allow you to get coolies while you are carrying out this contract." That point was considered, and it was decided, rightly as I believe, not to act upon that view. We felt that they would not get a less number of negroes if we refused them coolies; but that, on the contrary, it was probable if we allowed them to have coolies immediately they would find them better labourers, more subordinate, and cheaper than negroes; and in proportion as they obtained coolies so they would obtain fewer negroes; and, therefore, our object being to put an end to the abominations of the African trade, I think we were right in opening the supply of coolies at once to the French colonists. I am not sure whether that convention has been ratified, but when it is it will, of course, be laid on the Table of the House.
There is no doubt that the crime of slave trade does exist still, and to a great extent; but, omitting for the moment all question of the Regis contract, it is chiefly confined to the supply of Cuba. Now, how is that carried out, and how have we been prevented from putting an end to it? It arises from the corruption of all the authorities in Cuba, and the apathy of the Spanish Government at Madrid. We have remonstrated time after time; we have sent proofs that the slave trade is enormously carried on—that large fortunes are made by their officials—that Captains General go out poor and return rich. We were met by assurances that the orders sent out would be better observed, and that there was every disposition on the part of the Spanish Government to fulfill their treaty engagements. That is what we get from Madrid. It is unsatisfactory, but, of course, we are obliged to take the answer, especially when it admits the treaty obligations, and declares the intention of the Spanish Government to observe them. Then, in Cuba, when our consul sends proofs to the Captain General that a cargo of slaves has been landed at such a time and place, and calls upon him to punish the offenders, the Captain General says he will make inquiries, and after a certain time he reports that he has made inquiries, and is unable to trace any proof that a landing has been effected; and when he is requested to search certain plantations to which it is suspected the slaves have been removed, he replies that he has not the power to do so conferred 1657 upon him by the Home Government. So we have Cuba setting up Madrid, and Madrid setting up Cuba against us. That is a disgraceful thing for a country like Spain, and I believe that at last they feel it to be so, as they have lately sent additional ships to watch the coast of Cuba, in fulfillment of their treaty obligations. It is quite true that the importation of slaves into Cuba does not take place in Spanish ships, but in ships sailing under other flags, and especially under the American flag. There are some little Portuguese shipments from the East Coast of Africa, but it is mainly carried on under the American flag. Lately there has been some little amount of slave trade carried on under the French flag, but not to any great extent. We have, as is well known to the House, been constantly remonstrating with the American Government against that abuse—that prostitution of their flag. In one piece of correspondence I told them that a piece of bunting ought not to be a national passport. They took offence at that, and said I had insulted their flag. It was not the expression that nettled them, but the reproach that their flag was prostituted to base purposes. We tried to persuade them to grant a mutual right of search, but we were unsuccessful. We tried other plans, and at last we proposed to the Government of Mr. Buchanan that English and American cruisers should sail in company, and when any ship under the American flag should be taken with slaves on board, she should be prize to the American cruiser, and treated according to the American law; but when a ship was taken without a flag or papers with slaves on board she should be prize to the British cruiser, and be subject to our law. That proposal seemed too well calculated to accomplish its purpose to be accepted by the American Government, and accordingly it was declined. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) says that now that the North and the South are at variance is the time to get the assistance of the North against the South. It is quite true that at the time of the disruption of the Union—if we may assume it to have taken place—or before this civil contest broke out, it was the influence of the South which prevailed at Washington, and prevented the Government there from accepting any of the offers we made for the purpose of enlisting the support of the United States Government in the execution of their treaty engagements. There is a treaty engagement by which they are bound 1658 to co-operate with us for the suppression of the slave trade. For a time they sent one or two small vessels to the coast of Africa, and lately they have increased the number. But this I have observed, that when an American cruiser is commanded by a captain from the South, no effective assistance whatever is given us for the suppression of the slave trade. The Southern captain shuts his eyes to what is going on, and runs off to Madeira for supplies or water; but the cruisers commanded by captains from the North do give us very effective and vigilant co-operation. This would lead to the hope, no doubt, that if the turn of events should give to the North a more sovereign existence, possibly the spirit of the North would prevail over the influence which hitherto has controlled them, and, although most of the cruisers were fitted out at New York and at Boston, and, perhaps, with capital from the North, yet it was the spirit of the South which animated these expeditions. With a view to the suppression of this crime we have urged upon the Government of Portugal to exert its authority more effectually upon the eastern coast of Africa; but, as has been truly observed, the Portuguese possessions on the eastern coast are of enormous extent, thinly populated, and the ports are separated by immense distances, while the authorities there are far removed from the observation of the Government at Lisbon, with every opportunity for yielding to corruption and bribery; and, therefore, it is very difficult for the Lisbon Government to control what goes on there. I am informed by our Minister at that Court that that Government is doing all in its power by removing delinquents and sending out better persons as Governors to put an end to the evil. Whatever may be said of the Government of Spain, I have no doubt of the sincerity of that of Portugal in exerting all the means in its power to accomplish this purpose. I do not even despair of seeing the Portuguese Government adopt some measure for prospective emancipation. Portugal has no interest in the slave trade, but quite the reverse. Her possessions lie in Africa—they want all the labour for cultivation and improvement that the population will afford, and every man sent away is a man withdrawn from the development of the natural resources of the country. Spain is in a different position. Her colonies import labour from other places, and in their narrow and erroneous view every slave imported is so 1659 much gain. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hope) wants us to revert to a differential duty between slave-grown and free-grown sugar. The question has been frequently discussed, and Parliament has made up its mind that such a plan is not desirable, as evasion would be easy, and, if applied to sugar, the principle must be extended to slave-grown cotton, tobacco, and other articles. As to the particular point of establishing a consul at Mozambique, I am inclined to agree that it would have little reference to the slave trade. Mozambique is known to be an unhealthy station, and there would be a difficulty in inducing a consul to go and in insuring his continued residence when he was once there. I believe it was chiefly on account of the unwholesomeness of the place and the little influence he would have in checking the slave trade that the consul has been withdrawn from Mozambique, but at the same time the expediency of his return is a fair subject for consideration, and I can assure the House that my noble Friend (Lord John Russell), who is as eager and as anxious as any man can be to put an end to this abominable crime, will give to this and every other method of putting a stop to it the fullest consideration. I do not know whether there is any other point to which I ought to advert, but I can assure the House that both my noble Friend and myself and every Member of the Government are most anxious to complete the work—I will say the noble work—in which this country has been engaged for so many years. Cuba is now the only plague spot in the world, for I do not believe that there is any real importation of slaves into the Southern States of America. Cuba, I repeat, is the only real plague-spot, and I hope that by some means or other we may be able, if not entirely to put an end, at least greatly to check and ultimately to put an end to the abominable practice of the slave trade.
said, he thought the abolition of slavery could be best effected by importing large quantities of free labour into the slave districts, as they would thereby reduce the value of negro labour, and, therefore, the value of the negro, and consequently render the importation of negroes an unprofitable occupation.