§ Lord Grenville
rose and spoke as follows:—In stating to your lordships, in detail, some of the arguments on which this important measure rests, I hope I shall be excused by your lordships if I should feel myself obliged, in some instances, to tread over the same ground which has become so familiar to you in the course of a discussion which has lasted for 20 years. After the investigation this subject has already undergone, it is scarcely possible to avoid repeating, in some instances, the same arguments to which we have so long been accustomed. I will, however, my lords, proceed to the discussion without further introduction, and, in the first place, to state that argument which is the principal foundation of this measure, namely, justice. This measure rests upon justice, and calls imperatively upon your lordships for your approbation and support. Had it been, my lords, merely a question of humanity, I am ready to admit that it might then have become a consideration with your lordships as to how far you would extend or circumscribe that humanity. Had it been simply a question involving the interests or welfare of the British empire in the West Indies, it would then certainly have been a question with your lordships how far and in what respect you should legislate. But in this instance I contend, that justice imperiously calls upon your lordships to abolish the Slave Trade. I have heard some opinions urged to the effect as if justice could contain opposite and contradictory tenets. Justice, my lords, is one, uniform and immutable. Is it to be endured that the profits obtained by robbery are to be urged as an argument for the continuance of robbery? Justice is still the same, and you are called upon by this measure not only to do justice to the oppressed and injured natives of Africa, but also to your own planters; to interpose between the planters of your own islands and their otherwise certain ruin and destruction. You are called upon to do justice to your own planters in spite of their prejudices and their fears, and to prevent them by this measure from meeting that destruction which is otherwise certain and inevitable.—Was it, therefore, a trade which was in itself lovely and amiable, 658 instead of being, as it is, wicked, criminal, and detestable, that you were now called upon to abolish, this would be an unanswerable argument for its abolition, that its continuance must produce the ruin of our planters. But, my lords, when it is considered that this trade is the most criminal that any country can be engaged in; when it is considered how much guilt has been incurred in carrying it on, in tearing the unhappy Africans by thousands and tens of thousands, from their families, their friends, their connections, and their social ties, and dooming them to a life of slavery and misery, and after incurring all this guilt, that the continuance of the criminal traffic must end in the ruin of the planters in your islands, who vainly expect profit from it, surely there can be no doubt that this detestable trade ought at once to be abolished. We have heard, however, statements adduced for the purpose of attempting to prove that the present state of the population of the islands cannot be kept up without fresh importations. We are then to be told that that law of nature, which has hitherto been considered as universal, meets with an exception in the West Indies, and that there alone the increase and multiplication of the human species does not take place. Let us therefore examine how far this statement agrees with facts. Some years since I was engaged in calculations respecting the population of the West-India islands, along with a person who to many great and brilliant qualifications, added a complete knowledge of political arithmetic: I mean the late Mr. Pitt. The result of those calculations was, with respect to the island of Jamaica, that from the year 1698 to 1730, the excess of deaths above the births amounted to 3½per cent.; from 1730 to 1755, to 2½ per cent; from 1755 to 1769, to 1¾; per cent.; from 1769 to 1780, to 3–5ths per cent.; and the average of three years ending, in 1798 or 1800, it is not material which, gives an excess of deaths of only 1–24th per cent. In this calculation is included the whole population of the island, and of course the fresh importations; and it is well known, that with respect to the latter, the negroes newly imported die in the harbours before they are landed to the amount of 5 per cent., and that many more die soon after they are set to work. It is therefore clear that the population of the island is perfectly competent to support itself. It is remarkable also that in Dominica, although 659 a newer island, and although fresh lands are known to be inimical to the increase of population, there is an excess of births above the deaths. The argument, therefore, that fresh importations are necessary to keep up the present population of the islands, completely fails. But then we are told that fresh importations are necessary in order to cultivate new lands. My lords, to encourage the continuance of the trade for this purpose is to ruin the planters of your islands: are they not now distressed by the accumulation of produce on their hands, for which they cannot find a market; and will it not therefore be adding to their distress, and leading the planters on to their ruin, if you suffer the continuance of fresh importations? Even, however, on the supposition that the cultivation of the waste lands in Jamaica, or nearly the whole extent of the island of Trinidad, could produce profit to the planters, is it to be endured that this detestable traffic is to be continued, and such a mass of human misery produced, not to prevent loss but to create gain? My lords, according to a very moderate calculation, to bring into cultivation the waste lands in the islands of Jamaica, the slave trade must be continued for two or three centuries longer, and, to cultivate nearly the whole island of Trinidad, a much lunge period, whilst it would take a million of those unfortunate beings from Africa to cultivate each island; to cultivate Trinidad even a greater number. Were it possible, my lords, that these two millions of human beings could be collected together at the same time, and that they could be contemplated with the reflection that they were to be torn from their families and their friends, that every social tie was to be broke asunder, that they were to be delivered over to barbarity and oppression, and were to endure the greatest misery that it is possible for human beings to suffer; would it be endured by any one of your lordships, that a traffic productive of so much misery should be continued for an instant? would it not soften the obdurate heart of the greatest barbarian that ever tyrannized in a slave ship? We were told, however, yesterday, by the learned counsel at the bar, that fresh importations were necessary, in order that the slaves might be more easily governed; we were told of the favourite maxim of divide et impera, and that by fresh importations the slaves were more readily divided into classes, and more easily kept 660 in order than one body of natives. My opinion is directly the contrary. Fresh importations are surely more likely to put those negroes already on the island in mind of the injustice they had previously suffered, and there is little difficulty in communicating a sense of injustice and oppression from man to man. Prohibit fresh importations, and let the negroes already on the islands be well treated and properly protected, and they will become sensible of the protection and kindness extended to them, and gradually lose their feelings of the original injustice practised upon them. The horrors of St. Domingo have been, however, presented to our view; but to what are they to be attributed? to the violation of solemn promises, to the breach of faith towards the negroes, and the gross injustice practised towards them. My lords, so far from the abolition of the slave trade having a tendency to produce those horrors in our islands, I contend that it is the only measure that can prevent them. I have endeavoured to prove, my lords, that the continuance of this trade is unnecessary, with a view to the present state of the population of the islands, as that can support itself; that to suffer it to continue for the purpose of cultivating new lands, will be certain ruin to the planters, and that the abolition of the trade is the only way of avoiding, in your own islands, the horrors which have afflicted St. Domingo. Some years since, it was thought that a gradual abolition was the best mode of destroying this trade; the advocates at that period, of gradual abolition, must now be adopted for a total abolition, for the period has arrived to which they looked forward, namely, when the population of the islands would be able to support itself. Nothing but a total abolition will now satisfy justice. Let us not think that any regulations in the islands can be carried into effect with a view to abolition: on the contrary, abolition must take place with a view to regulations. In the year 1792, when the proposed abolition of the slave trade was negatived, it was a agreed to address his majesty, praying him to send instructions to the governors of the colonies to procure the adoption of measures for the better protection, and the better treatment of the negroes. What was the consequence? My lords, I wish not to inflame, and therefore I will simply refer your lordships to the correspondence upon the table relative to that subject, and 661 particularly to that of my lord Seaforth, the governor of Barbadoes; three most horrible and dreadful murders of slaves were committed in that island, attended with circumstances of barbarity, which I will not shock your lordships by detailing. Lord Seaforth of course instituted an enquiry, upon which it was found that the murder of a slave was only punishable by a fine of eleven pounds. That noble lord, in conformity to the instructions he had received, and with a proper regard for the British character, immediately proposed to the legislature of the island, to enact a law, which affixed the punishment of death to the murder of a slave. How was this proposition received? it was received, my lords, with insult, and the council and house of assembly returned answers in language fitting, as they conceived, to the insult which had been offered to them. What then is to be expected from regulations to be adopted by the colonial assemblies? It is but right, however, that I should state, that I have heard it reported that the legislature of Barbadoes has since adopted the course which justice pointed out, and have affixed the proper punishment to the murder of a slave. Still, however, if the evidence of a slave is not to be received against a white, is there not given to the master an opportunity of tyrannizing over his slaves, and inflicting on them dreadful cruelties without the possibility of bringing him to justice? Let us, my lords, abolish this criminal traffic, and we may look forward to the period when the slaves, become in a great degree natives of the islands, will feel the benefits of the protection extended to them, and the good treatment they experience, and will evince a corresponding attachment to the country from which they receive those benefits. Throughout all history we find that the progress from slavery to liberty has been first by means of personal slaves becoming predial, or attached to the land, and from thence they have ascended to freedom. My lords, I look forward to the period when the negroes in the West-India islands, becoming labourers, rather than slaves, will feel an interest in the welfare and prosperity of the country to whom they are indebted for protection, and of the islands where they experience real comforts, and when they may be called upon to share largely in the defence of those islands with a sure confidence in their loyalty and attachment. My lords, the measure now proposed for 662 the abolition of the slave trade is one to which I cannot think that any one who dispassionately considers the subject, can give a negative. What right do we derive from any human institution, or any divine ordinance, to tear the natives of Africa, to deprive them by force of the means of labouring for their own advantage, and to compel them to labour for our profit? If then to do so is gross injustice and oppression, as I contend it evidently and undoubtedly is, can there be a question that the character of the country ought to be cleared from the stain impressed by the guilt of such a traffic, of a traffic by the effect of which we keep Africa in a state of barbarity and desolation? In support of the trade, it has been said, that if we did not take away the individuals who are the objects of it, they would be put to death either as prisoners taken in war, or for witchcraft, or other crimes; but is it not evident, from the testimony we have had upon this subject, that this is not the fact? On the contrary, we have not only every reason to believe that the men made prisoners in war would be, according to the custom of barbarous nations, made domestic slaves to their captors, but we have every reason to conclude, that it is the temptations held out to the chiefs on the coast of Africa, for the gratification of their passions, that induces them to enter into those frequent wars, and that produces those frequent accusations of crimes, by means of which negroes are procured for the purpose of selling them to our traders. Of the desolating influence of the slave trade, in Africa, and its effects in keeping the country in a state of barbarity, we have sufficient evidence in the Travels of Mr. Parke on that continent, although the work was edited by a person known to be one of the most active opponents of the abolition of the slave trade. Yet we find in that work, that it is towards the interior of the country, that population and civilization increase, and that on the coast barbarity continues to prevail, which can only be attributed to the influence of the trade, which your lordships are now called upon to abolish. My lords, an argument was used against this measure last session, which I cannot conceive entitled to the least weight. It was said that we ought not to abolish this trade, unless other powers would agree likewise to abolish it; that is to say, that we should not do an act of justice, unless other powers would consent 663 or rather that we should continue to commit injustice, and persist in guilt, in criminality, because if we did not, other powers would. As well might it be said, that a man could be justified in robbing another, because if he did not, he knew there was a banditti ready to commit the robbery; or that an assassin would be justified in committing murder, because he knew that if he did not, others were ready to perpetrate it. This argument, however, bad as it is, fails in its own grounds. The united states of America, who had fixed the period of the abolition to take place in 1808, have anticipated that period (I wish we had had the glory of being the first in the race), and there is already, according to the last accounts, a bill in its unresisted progress through the legislature, for the immediate abolition of this trade, in which it is declared that death shall be the punishment of those who deal in the blood of their fellow creatures. With respect to the European powers, how are France and Spain to carry on the trade? Sweden never engaged in it. There remains only Portugal, and how is that power to carry on the trade? Is it to our own islands, where we prohibit it; is it to the French islands, which we block up; is it to the Spanish islands, where we prevent it; and where is Portugal to find capital to carry it on? Another objection advanced by a noble and learned lord (Eldon) is, that this measure does not come up to the resolution passed last session, and that instead of the abolition of the African slave trade, we are only abolishing the British traffic in that trade; but is it to be contended, my lords, that because we cannot embrace all the good that may be done, that therefore we are not to effect a partial good? If that were the case, we could never effect any good whatever. My lords, in calling your attention to this great measure, let me entreat you to consider that the whole country looks to the parliament to wipe away the stigma attached to its character in continuing this detestable traffic; that it looks not merely to parliament, but to your lordships' house. Twice has this measure failed in this house, and if this iniquitous traffic is not now abolished, the guilt will rest with your lordships. We have to lament the loss, in the other house of parliament, of some of the ablest and most distinguished advocates for the abolition; we have also to lament in this house, the loss of some of its able and strenuous supporters. Still, however, if your lord- 664 ships should agree to the abolition of this inhuman trade in blood, as I trust you will feel it due to your own character and to the character of the country to do, it will meet in the other house of parliament with the strenuous support of a person to whom the country is deeply indebted for having originally proposed the measure, and for having followed up that proposition by every exertion from which a chance could be derived of success. I cannot conceive any consciousness more truly gratifying than must be enjoyed by that person, on finding a measure to which he has devoted the labour of his life, carried into effect—a measure so truly benevolent, so admirably conducive to the virtuous prosperity of his country, and the welfare of mankind—a measure which will diffuse happiness amongst millions, now in existence, and for which his memory will be blessed by millions yet unborn. My lords, I have to apologize for having troubled your lordships so long; but upon a measure of such importance—a measure, for the completion of which I have been labouring for the last 20 years—the ardent zeal which I felt for the attainment of such an object, will, I trust, plead my excuse. The noble lord concluded by moving that the bill be now read a second time.
§ The Duke of Clarence
assured their lordships that he had ocular proof of the manner in which the planters behaved to the negroes; he had been in almost every island in the West Indies, he had conversed with the people themselves, and the result of all his observations and all his enquiries was a most clear and positive conviction on his mind, that there was not the least foundation in fact for the charge which had been brought against the planters of ill-treatment to their slaves. The noble lord, among other things, had said, that we should look to the fate of St. Domingo; every man who wished well to the commercial interests of this country, must agree with his lordship, and also hope that their lordships would weigh deliberately in their minds the fate of St. Domingo, before they came to a decision upon this important question. It was not at present competent to England to prefer any claim to sovereignty over that island; and whenever the time of peace should arrive, the French most probably would turn their attention towards the recovery of an island which had been lost to them by insurrection and revolt. No other nation 665 on earth could reasonably interpose their authority or their influence between two parties so circumstanced, and it was far from being improbable that that island would one day be in the hands of France. He most seriously called upon their lordships to consider what might probably be the consequence of such a re-assumption of power, by the natural enemy of this country, if at the same time we were to have abolished our only mode of supplying our islands with labourers Would they not, with an island of so great extent at their command, would they not continue to import; and if they could not frustrate our views of abolition by smuggling, would they not at least on the first appearance of misunderstanding between them and Great Britain, foment disturbances in our islands, and endeavour to accomplish that most prevailing wish of their present ruler, by the destruction of British commerce?
The Duke of Gloucester.
—My lords, I cannot find language sufficiently strong to express my abhorrence and detestation of this abominable traffic in human blood; and I think the present question is the most momentous that ever came before your lordships: for what question can be more momentous, or come more closely home to our bosoms and our feelings of humanity, than that which concerns the welfare, the happiness, nay even the lives of myriads of our fellow creatures? Adverting to the resolution of last parliament, now on your lordships' table, declaring that the Slave Trade is contrary to justice, humanity, and policy, can you still allow British subjects to carry on what has been thus solemnly declared to be unjust, inhuman, and impolitic? It has been told us from the opposite side of the house, that the mortality among the slaves has of late years decreased, and that the negroes were flourishing; but I can tell your lordships the real cause of that decrease in mortality: It arises not from the situation of the slaves having been actually ameliorated, but from the encouragement given by some planters to the breed of free negroes, instead of purchasing slaves. They find, from experience, that the former, though, perhaps, the slower method of procuring a supply of labourers, is yet by far the most beneficial in the end to the planters, as it is also more consonant to the feelings of humanity. As to the ruin that will fall upon the merchants engaged in this traffic, if it is put a stop to, I have to observe, that there are many new 666 branches of trade that might be opened in lieu of it. I have been on board of and inspected several of the vessels employed in these inhuman voyages, and I do not think there are any ships in the world better qualified for transports for conveying troops than they are. It has been also urged against the present bill, that the passing of it would destroy one of the finest nurseries for our seamen; but this cannot be correct, for I know, from an actual examination into the subject, that only one half of the seamen employed on any one slave voyage, returned to this country, the rest generally dying on the voyage. In fact, there are two-thirds more seamen lost to this country in this manner than the boasted nursery of the African slave trade produces. It has been said against the abolition, that the natives of Africa would murder the prisoners they brought down to the coast with the view of exposing them to sale, but I do not think that one single life would be lost in this manner.—His highness concluded with repeating his abhorrence of the trade, and gave his warmest support to the bill.
The Earl of Morton
opposed the bill, and recommended to their lordships to pause, and to consider whether the abolition of the trade would not be attended with worse consequences in the view of humanity, than its continuation.
The Earl of Westmoreland
said, that in the British West-India islands the life of the slave was protected by the law as well as that of any other inhabitant. The house had been told that they should prevent the continuance of oppression and cruelty; but the question was not as to how far we ought to exert ourselves to put an end to practices of that nature, but how far any thing that was in our power was capable of effecting that purpose. Portugal, for instance, had no other means of working her mines than by the employment of slaves; could we suppose that she would give it up? indeed nothing had been said about her. Of France there had been something like a whisper that she would relinquish the trade, and it was then inferred that Spain would follow her example. America had promised, but had not yet given up the traffic; and who could answer for Carolina, that it would agree to the resolutions of the other states on that head? If we abandoned this trade, it was certain that some others would take it up, who might not act with so much humanity as the British traders; and with it we should abandon the employ- 667 ment of one million capital, about 6 or 700 ships, and from 16 to 20,000 seamen. This, he maintained, would occasion the loss of nearly one-third of the amount of British imports and exports. He had a stronger objection yet to make against the adoption of this measure, namely, that if such a system were acted upon, no property could be reckoned safe which could fall within the power of the legislature; upon such a principle as this the tithes of the clergy, and the very freehold estates of the landholders might be sacrificed to field-preaching and popular declamation. His conduct, however, should never receive the smallest degree of influence from such powers as those, and though he should see the presbyterian and the prelate, the methodist and field-preacher, the jacobin and the murderer unite in support of it, in that house he would raise his voice against it.
The Earl of Selkirk
could not reconcile to his mind the distinctions made by the noble earl who had just sat down. If he was right in his conception of what had fallen from that noble lord relative to the dispensations of Providence, it went the length of asserting, that no cognizance should be taken of any moral offence, however aggravated or injurious to society. If human duties were thus estimated, and vicious deeds only considered by that criterion, rapine and outrage would be constantly at work, and jurisprudence be rendered incapable of repressing the commission of crimes, by merited punishments. There was also another observation made by that noble earl, with which it was impossible to coincide, unless evidence was produced at the bar, that the climate of the West Indies was unfavourable to the propagation of the human species. In countries where the means of human subsistence were proportionate to the number of inhabitants, the increase of population had always been found progressive. This principle had been acknowledged by all writers on the subject, and had been unanswerably explained in the able work of Mr. Malthus upon population. The noble lord proceeded to discuss the causes which were likely to increase or lessen the black population in the West Indies, and concluded with the inference, that after the proposed abolition, the West-India planters would naturally look to moderate profits, and a progressive increase of the negroes on their estates; whereas, the thirst of immediate gain, and the opportunity of speedily supplying a deficiency of labourers, was, under 668 the present circumstances, a strong incentive to overwork the negroes, and, consequently, to curtail the population.
felt it a painful duty to be obliged to differ from some of his noble friends, particularly on a subject which involved questions of justice and humanity. To the measure itself he had no objection, if it could be accomplished without detriment to the West-India islands; but this he did not think possible, under existing circumstances. Instead, therefore, of abolition at present, he begged leave to suggest, that the best plan would be to throw certain difficulties in the way of the trade, which may finally, and perhaps at no distant period, operate as a bar to it altogether. For this purpose, he would suggest that a tax be laid on every slave imported into any of the islands, gradually raising this impost, till the merchants should of themselves give up the traffic. With respect to the West Indies themselves, he would recommend the advice of that great man (Mr. Burke), viz. that churches should be built for the negroes in the islands, and that they should be instructed in the morality and doctrine of the Christian religion; he would also have them united by the ties of matrimony, as the first step towards civilization, and the future improvement of their condition. With these advantages, and the blessing of being protected by our laws, he thought that the time would arrive for emancipating them.
The Earl of Rosslyn
said, he was convinced that the immediate abolition of this odious traffic would be attended with no injurious effects to the colonies, to the culture of which the negroes already imported were fully competent, if properly treated. Such treatment, it might be said, it was the obvious interest of the planter to give the negroes, and therefore it might be inferred that they experienced it already, and yet that importation became necessary to keep up the supply. This, however, he was prepared to contradict. It was only from the strongest impulse of self-interest, from the most cogent persuasion of necessity, that men of such habits were likely to adopt the practice of humanity. When unable to procure any more negroes, they would feel the urgency of taking care of those they already had. With regard to the statement of the noble earl (Westmorland), as to the various description of persons who concurred in a wish to produce the abolition of this trade, he thought that formed a forcible argument in favour of the 669 measure before the house. For the concurrence of men of all religions, of all political parties, and even of those who professed no religion, in support of this measure, served to shew that to all who were susceptible of a sentiment of humanity, who were capable of discriminating between the beauty of virtue and the deformity of vice, this traffic was abhorrent. With such an unanimity of sentiment, with such a combination of powers, could that house, without fixing a stain upon its character, without incurring universal odium, hesitate to accede to the motion of his noble friend?
Earl St. Vincent
deprecated the measure, which, if passed, would, he was satisfied, have the effect of transferring British capital to other countries, which would not be disposed to abandon such a productive branch of trade. As to the humanity so much contended for, it would be well if noble lords reflected upon this question, whether humanity was consulted by the abolition. If it were, their arguments would be well founded. But, from his own experience, he was enabled to state, that the West-India islands formed Paradise itself, to the negroes, in comparison with their native country. Knowing this, which, upon due enquiry, it was in the power of any noble lord to ascertain, he was surprised at the proposition before the house; and, considering the high character and intelligence of the noble proposer, he declared that he could account in no other way for his having brought it forward, but by supposing that some Obiman had cast his spell upon him. (A laugh).
argued forcibly in support of the motion, which, in his opinion, nothing but the sacrifice of every generous and manly sentiment to cold and low calculations of self-interest; nothing but a perversion of justice and humanity, could induce any man to defend. And with regard to the reliance which some persons professed to place upon the equity and feelings of the colonial legislatures, he begged to know if a perversion of justice and humanity were supported in that house, what was to be expected from less enlightened and liberal assemblies?
detailed several instance of wanton cruelty practised upon the negroes in the colonies by their masters, who were scarcely under the controul of any law with regard to their conduct. If human treatment were practised towards the negroes, he was certain, from his knowledge of the interior of the colonies, that a suffi- 670 cient supply could be kept up for every purpose of cultivation, and such treatment the good effects of which he had witnessed in St. Christopher's and other of the colonies, was not, he was very much afraid, ever likely to become general, until the planters were precluded from farther supplies.
§ Lord Eldon
considered that the abolition of the British traffic would by no means imply that of the Slave Trade in general, which could still be carried on by other states. The present had been called a measure founded on justice, humanity, and policy. If it were so in justice and humanity, he would agree that it was so it policy. But it was not clearly made out that it was so, in justice and humanity. It was, however, necessary that it should be shewn that this measure would promote the views of justice and humanity more than they were at present promoted. The learned lord then entered into a review of the measures adopted by parliament respecting this trade, which, he contended, had been sanctioned by parliaments in which sat the wisest lawyers, the most learned divines, and the most excellent statesmen; and he declared, that on this subject he had always differed from his illustrious friend Mr. Pitt. He adverted to Mr. Locke, lord Somers, and others, and they did not think it wise or politic to oppose it.
The Bishop of Durham
supported the abolition, and considered the Slave Trade as wholly inconsistent with the spirit of the Christian religion. He reminded the house of the story of Themistocles, who proposed a measure by which the enemies of the Athenians might be destroyed, without hazard to themselves; which was referred to Aristides the Just: it was to destroy their fleet, while they thought they were in safety. Aristides said to the Athenians, it could be done; but that it was unjust: upon which the people, with one voice, said it should not be done, for that the Athenians would not owe their safety to injustice. The British people should not be surpassed by the Athenians in a love of justice; and therefore, if there were any profits to us, in the continuation of the African Slave trade, we should forego them. We were a people more favoured by Heaven than any other nation had been from the commencement of time to the present hour; but we should beware how we forfeited the protection of Providence, by continual injustice; for if we did, we should look in vain hereafter 671 for the glories of the Nile or of Trafalgar.
The Earl of Moira
took a general view of the subject; he thought that the evidence upon the table of the house must be sufficient to convince their lordships of the necessity of abolishing this sanguinary traffic. If noble lords were not satisfied with this evidence, he referred them to Holy Writ, he referred them to that great work of our forefathers the Old Testament, and that great Commentator upon that work, whose maxim was, "Do unto others as you would they should do unto you."
§ Lord Hawkesbury
admitted that the slave trade was a great political evil, and that it was desirable to put an end to it; but considering that slavery had been permitted under the Jewish dispensation, that there was no express prohibition of it in the Christian; that it was a condition of mankind which many great and wise men in all ages had sanctioned, he was not prepared to say, that to allow slavery was a crime. Nevertheless, combining slavery and the slave trade, he thought that it was matter of regret the latter had ever existed, and that it was desirable to abolish it. The question was, however, whether it could be abolished by the proposed measure, and whether the consequences would be beneficial to the nations of Africa? He contended that the Slave Trade in Africa had subsisted before Europeans had entered upon the trade, and he doubted whether their withdrawing from it would put an end to the evil, or tend so much as was argued to the internal peace and improvement of Africa. He denied, however, that our withdrawing from it would abolish the trade; and if it only shifted hands, the change would be to the disadvantage of the negroes, and of the cause of humanity.
said, that the arguments of the learned lord (Eldon) respecting the opinions of former statesmen and legislators, lord Somers, Mr. Locke, &c. would, in their application, put a stop to all improvement. But could it be supposed that so great and wise a man as Mr. Locke, after reading the evidence which lay on the table respecting the slave trade, would give it his sanction? The evil was now exposed, and could not be defended. As well might we be told that the Reformation was unnecessary, as it might be said, could a reverend prelate be more wise than sir T. More, or more learned than Erasmus. It was in vain, therefore, to say that the slave trade was justified by the authority of those whose attention had never been 672 called to its enormity. The, Christian religion had tended to abolish slavery in Europe, and its principle equally led us to abolish the detestable traffick in human beings on the coast of Africa. The noble lord contended, on the authority of Mr. Park, that the demand for slaves tended to perpetuate wars in the interior of Africa, and maintained that if the market were taken away, the horrors which led to its supply would cease. He insisted that if the trade were abolished, the stock of negroes in the West Indies would be kept up by the ordinary means of increase, which could not be the case while the trade continued, and the interest of the planters found its account in a different system. He maintained that it was impossible to believe that the state of a negro in the West Indies was such as to lead him to prefer it even to slavery in Africa, and it was absurd to think so, considering the new kind of labour to which he was condemned, when he had never been accustomed to such habits, and when he must be torn from his country and connections. He was convinced, too, that, far from weakening, the measure would tend to the security of our islands, and he shewed from the instance of Barbadoes, and that in the cases where the importation of negroes was the least, the proportion of whites to blacks was greatest. The noble lord concluded with a pathetic allusion to the sentiments of Mr. Fox on this subject. Mr. Fox had often told him that the two objects nearest his heart were, the restoration of peace, and the abolition of the slave trade, and when, by the shuffling of the French government he anticipated disappointment in the former, he consoled himself with the hope that the latter might be obtained. The noble lord mentioned with approbation the exertions of others in this cause, and particularly of Mr. Wilberforce, whom, though he was hardly acquainted with him, he should always consider, notwithstanding any past or any future differences of opinion on other points, as an honour to his country and to human nature on account of the zealous, able, and persevering efforts lie had made for the abolition of this odious traffic.
The Earl of Suffolk
said a few words in support of the bill; after which their lordships divided,
Contents 72; Proxies 28… 100 Non-Contents 28; Proxies 8 36 Majority 64