spoke as follows:* I hold in my hand a petition from a numerous and most respectable body of your fellow-citizens— the inhabitants of Leeds. Between 16 and 17,000 of them have signed it, and on the part of the other inhabitants of that great and flourishing community, as well as of the county at large in which it is situated, I can affirm with confidence that their statements and their prayer are those of the whole province whose people I am proud to call my friends, as it was once the pride of my life to represent them in Parliament. They remind your Lordships, that between eighteen and nineteen* From a corrected report published by Ridgway, and dedicated to Marquess Wellesley.597 millions have been already paid, and the residue of the twenty millions is in a course of payment to the holders of slaves for some loss which it was supposed their property would sustain by the Emancipation Act, whereas instead of a loss they have received a positive gain, their yearly revenues are increased, and the value of their estates has risen in the market. Have not these petitioners—have not the people of England a right to stale, that but for the firm belief into which a generous Parliament, and a confiding country were drawn, that the Bill of 1833 would occasion a loss to the planter, not one million, or one pound, or one penny of this enormous sum would ever have been granted to the owners of slaves? When it is found that all this money has been paid for nothing, have we not an equal right to require that whatever can be done on the part of the planters to further a measure which has already been so gainful to them, shall be performed without delay? Have we not an undeniable right to expect for the sake not more of humanity towards the negroes than of strict justice to those whose money was so paid for nothing, under a mere error in fact, we, we who paid the money, shall obtain some compensation? And as all we ask is not a return of it, not to have the sums paid under mistake refunded, but only the bargain carried into full effect, when the Colonial Legislatures refuse to perform their part, are we not well entitled to compel them? In a word, have not the people of England a right to demand that the slavery which still exists under the name of indentured apprenticeship, shall forthwith cease, all pretext for continuing it, from the alleged risk of the sudden change, or the negro's incapacity of voluntary labour, having been triumphantly destroyed by the universal and notorious fact of the experiment of total emancipation having succeeded wherever it has been tried, and of the negro working cheerfully and profitably where he has been continued an apprentice? In presenting this petition from Yorkshire, and these thirteen others from various parts of the country, I have the honour of giving notice, that as soon as the unfortunate and pressing question of Canada shall have been disposed of by the passing or the rejection of the Bill expected from the Commons, that is, in about a week or ten days, I shall submit a 598 motion to your Lordships with a view of enabling you to comply with the earnest prayer of your countrymen, by fixing the period of complete emancipation, on the 1st of August in this year instead of 1840.
But, my Lords, while I thus express my entire concurrence in the sentiments of these petitions, and of the various others which I have presented upon this subject, I cannot conceal from myself that there is a very material difference between the subject of their complaint and of the complaint which I made at our last meeting respecting the continuance not of slavery, but the slave trade, which I cannot delay for a single hour bringing before Parliament. The grievance set forth in the petitions is, that the Emancipation Act according to some, did not go far enough and fast enough to its purpose—that while some hold it to have stopped short, in not at once, and effectually wiping out the foul stain of slavery, others complain of our expectations having been frustrated in the working of the measure by the planters and the local authorities—that enough has not been done, nor with sufficient celerity to relieve the unhappy slave of his burthen—nevertheless all admit that whatever has been effected has been done in the right direction. The objections made are upon the degree, not upon the nature of the proceedings. It is, that too little relief has been given to the slave —that too late a day has been assigned for his final liberation—that he still suffers more than he ought; it is not that we have made slavery more universal, more burthensome, or more bitter. But what would have been said by the English people—in what accents would they have appealed to this House—if, instead of finding that the goal we aimed at was not reached—that the chains we had hoped to see loosened still galled the limbs— that the burthen we had desired to lighten still pressed the slave to the earth—it had been found that the curse and the crime of human bondage had extended to regions which it never before had blighted—that the burthen was become heavier and more unbearable—that the fetters galled the victim's limbs more cruelly than ever—what, I ask, would then have been the language of your petitioners? What the sensation spread through the country? What the cry of rage echoing from every corner of its extent, to charge us 599 with mingled hypocrisy and cruelty, should we allow an hour to pass without rooting out the monstrous evil? I will venture to assert, that there would have burst universally from the whole people an indignant outcry, to sweep away in a moment every vestige of slavery, under whatever name it might lurk, and whatever disguise it might assume, and the negro at once would have been a free man. Now this is the very charge which I am here to make, and prepared to support with proof, against the course pursued, with a view to extinguish the slave trade. That accursed traffic, long since condemned by the unanimous voice of all the rational world, flourishes under the very expedients adopted to crush it, and increases in consequence of those very measures resorted to for its extinction. Yes, my Lords, it is my painful duty to shew what, without suffering severely, it is not possible to contemplate, far less to recite, but what I cannot lay my head once more on my pillow without denouncing, that at this hour, from the very nature of the means used to extirpate it, this infernal traffic becomes armed with new horrors, and continues to tear out, year after year, the very bowels of the great African continent—that scene of the greatest sufferings which have ever scourged humanity—the worst of all the crimes ever perpetrated by man!
When the act for abolishing the British Slave Trade passed in 1807, and when the Americans performed the same act of justice by abolishing their traffic in 1806, the earliest moment, it must to their honour be observed, that the Federal Constitution allowed this step to be taken; and when, at a later period, treaties were made, with a view to extinguish the traffic carried on by France, Spain, and Portugal, the plan was in an evil hour adopted which up to the present time has been in operation. The right of search and seizure was confined to certain vessels in the service of the State, and there was held out as an inducement to quicken the activity of their officers and crews, a promise of head-money,—that is, of so much to be paid for each slave on board the captured ship, over and above the proceeds of its sale upon condemnation. The prize was to be brought in and proceeded against; the slaves were to be liberated; the ship, with her tackle and cargo, to be sold, and the price distri- 600 buted; but beside this, the sum of five pounds for each slave taken on board was to be distributed among the captors. It must be admitted that the intention was excellent; it must further be allowed that at first sight the inducement held out seemed likely to work well, by exciting the zeal and rousing the courage of the crews against those desperate miscreants who defiled and desecrated the great high way of nations with their complicated occupation of piracy and murder. I grant it is far easier to judge after the event. Nevertheless, a little reflection might have sufficed to shew that there was a vice essentially inherent in the scheme, and that by allotting the chief part of the premium for the capture of slaves, and not of slave-ships, an inducement was held out, not to prevent the principal part of the crime, the shipping of the negroes, from being committed, but rather to suffer this in order that the head-money might be gained when the vessel should be captured with that on board which we must still insult all lawful commerce by calling the cargo— that is, the wretched victims of avarice and cruelty, who had been torn from their country, and carried to the loathsome hold. The tendency of this is quite undeniable; and equally so is its complete inconsistency with the whole purpose in view, and indeed the grounds upon which the plan itself is formed; for it assumes that the head-money will prove an inducement to the cruisers, and quicken their activity; it assumes, therefore, that they will act so as to obtain the premium: and yet the object in view is to prevent any slaves from being embarked, and consequently any thing being done which can entitle the cruiser to any head-money at all. The cruiser is told to put down the Slave Trade, and the reward held out is proportioned to the height which that trade is suffered to reach before it is put down. The plan assumes that he requires this stimulus to make him prevent the offence; and the stimulus is applied only after the offence has been in great part committed. The tendency, then, of this most preposterous arrangement cannot be questioned for a moment; but now see how it really works.
The slave vessel is fitted out and sails from her port, with all the accommodations that distinguish such criminal adventures, and with the accustomed 601 equipment of chains and fetters, to torture and restrain the slaves—the investment of trinkets wherewith civilized men decoy savages to make war on one another, and to sell those nearest to them in blood—with the stock of muskets too, prepared by Christians for the trade, and sold at sixteen pence a piece, but not made to fire above once or twice without bursting in the hand of the poor negro, whom they have tempted to plunder his neighbour or to sell his child. If taken on her way to the African Coast she bears internal evidence, amply sufficient, to convict her of a slave trading destination. I will not say that the cruisers having visited and inspected her, would suffer her to pass onward. I will not impute to gallant and honourable men a breach of duty, by asserting, that knowing a ship to have a guilty purpose, and aware that they had the power of proving this they would voluntarily permit her to accomplish it. I will not even suggest that vessels are less closely watched on their route towards the coast than on their return from it. But I may at least affirm, without any fear of being contradicted, that the policy which holds out a reward, not to the cruiser who stops such a ship and interrupts her on the way to the scene of her crimes, but to the cruiser who seizes her on her way back when full of slaves, gives and professes to give the cruiser an interest in letting her reach Africa, take in her cargo of slaves, and sail for America. Moreover, I may also affirm with perfect safety, that this policy is grounded upon the assumption, that the cruiser will be influenced by the hope of the reward, in performing the service, else of what earthly use can it be to offer it? and consequently I am entitled to conclude, that the offering this reward, assumes that the cruiser cares for the reward, and will let the slaver pass on unless she is laden with slaves. If this does not always happen, it is very certainly no fault of the policy which is framed upon such a preposterous principle. But I am not about to argue that any such consequences actually take place. It may or it may not be so in the result; but the tendency of the system is plain. The fact I stop not to examine. I have other facts to state, about which no doubt exists at all. The statements of my excellent friend, Mr. Laird, who, with his worthy coadjutor, Mr. Oldfield, have recently returned from Africa, are before the world, and there has been no attempt made to contradict 602 them. Those gallant men are the survivors of an expedition full of hardships and perils, to which, among many others, the learned and amiable Dr. Briggs, of Liverpool, unhappily fell a sacrifice—an irreparable loss to humanity as well as science.
It appears that the course pursued on the coast is this: —The cruiser stationed there to prevent the slave trade, carefully avoids going near the harbour or the creek where the slavers are lying. If she comes within sight, the slaver would not venture to put his cargo on board and sail. Therefore she stands out, just so far as to command a view of the port from the masthead, but herself quite out of sight. The slaver believes the coast is clear; accomplishes his crime of shipping the cargo, and attempts to cross the Atlantic. Now, whether he succeeds in gaining the opposite shores, or is taken and condemned, let us see what the effect of the system is first of all, in the vessel's construction and accommodation—that is, in the comforts, if such a word can be used in connexion with the hull of a slave-ship—or the torments rather prepared for her unhappy inmates. Let us see how the unavoidable miseries of the middle passage are exasperated by the contraband nature of the adventure—how the unavoidable mischief is needlessly aggravated by the very means taken to extirpate it. The great object being to escape our cruisers, every other consideration is sacrificed to swiftness of sailing in the construction of the slave-ships. I am not saying that humanity is sacrificed. I should of course be laughed to scorn by all who are implicated in the African traffic, were I to use such a word in any connexion with it. But all other considerations respecting the vessel herself are sacrificed to swiftness, and she is built so narrow as to put her safety in peril, being made just broad enough on the beam to keep the sea. What is the result to the wretched slaves? Before the trade was put down by us in 1807, they had the benefit of what was termed the Slave Carrying Act. During the twenty years that we spent in examining the details of the question—in ascertaining whether our crimes were so profitable as not to warrant us in leaving them off—in debating whether robbery, piracy, and murder, should be prohibited by law, or receive protection and encouragement from 603 the State, we, at least, were considerate enough to regulate the perpetration of them, and while those curious and very creditable discussions were going on, Sir William Dolben's Bill gave the unhappy victims of our cruelty and iniquity the benefit of a certain space between decks, in which they might breathe the tainted air more freely, and a certain supply of provisions and of water to sustain their wretched existence. But now there is nothing of the kind, and the slave is in the same situation in which our first debates found him above half a century ago, when the venerable Thomas Clarkson awakened the attention of the world to his sufferings. The scantiest portion which will support life is alone provided; and the wretched Africans are compressed and stowed into every nook and cranny of the ship, as if they were dead goods concealed on board smuggling vessels. I may be thought to have said enough, but I may not stop here. Far more remains to tell, and I approach the darker part of the subject with a feeling of horror and disgust which I cannot describe, and which three or four clays gazing at the picture has not been able to subdue. But I go through the painful duty in the hope of inducing your Lordships at once to pronounce the doom of that system which fosters all that you are about to contemplate.
Let me first remind you of the analogy which this head-money system bears to what was nearer home, called blood-money. That it produces all the effects of the latter, I am certainly not prepared to affirm; for the giving a reward to informers on capital conviction had the effect of engendering conspiracies to prosecute innocent men, as well as to prevent the guilty from being stopt in their career, until their crimes had ripened into capital offences; and I have no conception that any attempts can be made to capture vessels not engaged in the trade, nor, indeed, could the head-money, from the nature of the thing, be obtained by any such means. But, in the other part of the case, the two things are precisely parallel, have the self-same tendency, and produce the same effects; for they both appeal to the same feelings and motives, putting in motion the same springs of human action. Under the old bounty system no policeman had an interest in detecting and checking guilt until it 604 reached a certain pitch of depravity, until the offences became capital, and their prosecutor could earn forty pounds, they were not worth attending to. The cant expression, but the significant one is well known. "He (the criminal) is not yet weight enough—he does not weigh his forty pounds," was the saying of those who cruised for head-money at the Old Bailey. And thus lesser crimes were connived at by some, encouraged, nurtured, fostered in their growth by others, that they might attain the maturity which the law had, in its justice and wisdom, said they must reach before it should be worth any one's while to stop the course of guilt. Left to itself wickedness could scarcely fail to shoot up and ripen. As soon as he saw that time come, the policeman pounced upon his appointed prey, made his victim pay the penalty of the crime he had suffered, if not encouraged him to commit, and himself obtained the reward provided by the State for the patrons of capital felony. Such within the tropics is the tendency, and such are the effects of our head-money system. The slave-ship gains the African shores; she there remains unmolested by the land authorities, and un-visited by the sea, the human cargo is prepared for her, the ties that knit relatives together are forcibly severed, all the resources of force and of fraud, of sordid avarice and of savage intemperance, are exhausted to fill the human market; to prevent all this nothing or next to nothing is attempted; the penalty has not as yet attached, the slaves are not on board, and head-money is not due; the vessel, to use the technical phrase, does not yet weigh enough, let her ride at anchor till she reach her due standard of five pounds a slave, and then she will be pursued. Accordingly the lading is completed, the cruiser keeps out of sight, and the pirate puts to sea. And now begin those horrors, those greater horrors, of which I am to speak, and which are the necessary consequences of the whole proceeding, considering with what kind of miscreants our cruisers have to deal.
On being discovered, perceiving that the cruiser is giving chase, the slaver has to determine whether he will endeavour to regain the port, escaping for the moment, and waiting for a more favourable opportunity, or will fare across the Atlantic, and so perfect his adventure and consummate his crime, reaching the American 605 shores with a part, at least, of his lading. How many unutterable horrors are embraced in the word that has slipt my tongue. A part of the lading! Yes, yes; for no sooner does the miscreant find that the cruiser is gaining upon him, than he bethinks him of lightening his ship, and he chooses the heaviest of his goods with the same regard for them as if they were all inanimate lumber. He casts overboard men and women and children. Does he first knock off their fetters? No! Why? Because those irons by which they have been held together in couples for safety, but not more to secure the pirate crew against revolt, than the cargo against suicide—to prevent the Africans from seeking in a watery grave an escape from their sufferings; those irons are not screwed together and padlocked, so as to be removed in case of danger from tempest or from fire, but they are rivetted—welded together by the blacksmith in his forge, never to be removed nor loosened until after the horrors of the middle passage, the children of misery shall be landed to bondage in the civilized world, and become the subjects of Christian kings. The irons, too, serve the purpose of weights, and if time be allowed, in the hurry of the flight, more weights are added, to the end that the wretches may be entangled, to prevent their swimming. Why? Because the negro, with that Herculean strength which he is endowed withal, and those powers of living in the water which almost give him an amphibious nature, might survive to be taken up by the cruiser, and become a witness against the murderer. The escape of the malefactor is thus provided both by lightening the vessel which bears him away, and by destroying the evidence of his crimes. Nor is this all. Instances have been recorded of other precautions used with the same purpose, Water-casks have been filled with human beings, and one vessel threw twelve overboard thus laden. In another chase, two slave ships endeavoured, but in vain, to make their escape, and my blood curdles when I recite, that, in the attempt, they flung into the sea 500 human beings of all ages and of either sex. These are things related not by enthusiasts of heated imagination—not by men who consult only the feelings of humanity, and are inspired to speak by the great horror and (inextinguishable indignation that, fills their breasts, but by officers on duty— 606 men engaged professionally in the Queen's service. It is not a creation of fancy to add, as these have done to the hideous tale, that the ravenous animals of the deep are aware of their prey, when the slave-ship makes sail; the shark follows in her wake, and her course is literally to be tracked through the ocean by the blood of the murdered, with which her enormous crimes stain its waters. I have read of worse than even this. But it will not be believed. I have examined the particulars of scenes yet more hideous, while transfixed with horror, and ashamed of the human form that I wore—scenes so dreadful as it was not deemed fit to lay bare before the public eye—scenes never surpassed in all that history has recorded of human guilt to stain her pages, in all that poets have conceived to harrow up the soul—scenes compared with which the blood-stained annals of Spain;—cruel and sordid Spain—have registered only ordinary tales of avarice and suffering, though these have won for her an un-envied pre-eminence of infamy—scenes not exceeded in horror by the forms with which the great Tuscan poet peopled the hell of his fancy, nor by the dismal tints of his illustrious countryman's pencil, breathing its horrors over the vaults of the Sistine chapel. Mortua quin etiam jungebat corpora vivis. On the deck, and in the loathsome hold are to be seen the living chained to the dead, the putrid carcase remaining to mock the survivor with a spectacle that, to him, presents no terrors—to mock him with the spectacle of a release which he envies. Nay, women have been known to bring forth the miserable fruit of the womb surrounded by the dying and the dead, the decayed corpses of their fellow victims. Am I asked how these enormities shall be prevented? First ask me to what I ascribe them, and then my answer is ready—I charge them upon the system of head-money which I have described, and of whose tendency no man can pretend to doubt. Reward men for preventing the slaver's voyage, not for interrupting it—for saving the Africans from the slave-ship, not for seizing the ship after it has received them, and then the inducement will be applied to the right place, and the motive will be suited to the act you desire to have performed.
But I have hitherto been speaking of the intolerable aggravation which we superadd to the traffic. Its amount is 607 another thing. Do all our efforts materially check it? Are our cruisers always successful? Are all flags and all the slavers under any flag subject to search and liable to capture? I find that the bulk of this infernal traffic is still un-diminished; that though many slave-ships may be seized, many more escape and reach the New World; and that the numbers still carried thither are as great as ever. Of this sad truth the evidence is but too abundant and too conclusive. The premium of insurance at the Havannah is no higher than twelve and a-half per cent. to cover all hazards. Of this four and a-half per cent. is allowed for sea risk and underwriter's profits, leaving but eight for the chance of capture. But in Rio it is as low as eleven per cent., leaving but six and a-half for risk of capture. In the year 1835, eighty slave ships sailed from the Havannah alone; and I have a list of the numbers which six of these brought back, giving an average of about 360, so that above 28,000 were brought to that port in a year. In the month of December of that year, between 4,000 and 5,000 were safely landed in the port of Rio, the capital of our good friend and ally, the emperor of Brazil. It is frightful to think of the numbers carried over by some of these ships. One transported 570, and another no less than 700 wretched beings. I give the names of these execrable vessels—the Felicidad and the Socorro. Of all slave-traders, the greatest—of all the criminals engaged in these guilty crimes, the worst, are the Brazilians, the Spaniards, and the Portuguese, the three nations with whom our commerce is the closest, and over whom our influence is the most commanding. These are the nations with whom we (and I mean France as well as ourselves) go on in lingering negotiation, in quibbling discussion, to obtain some explanation of some article in a feeble, inefficient treaty, or some extension of an ineffectual right of search, while their crimes lay all Africa waste, and deluge the seas with the blood of their inhabitants. Yet, if a common and less guilty pirate dared pollute the sea, or wave his black flag over its waves, let him be of what nation he pleased to libel by assuming its name, he would in an instant be made to pay the forfeit of his crimes. It was not always so. We did not, in all times nor in every cause, so shrink from our duty through delicacy or through fear. 608 When the thrones of ancient Europe were to be upheld, or their royal occupants to be restored, or the threatened privileges of the aristocracy wanted champions, we could full swiftly advance to the encounter, throw ourselves into the breach, and confront alone the giant arm of republics and of emperors wielding the colossal power of France. But now, when the millions of Africa look up to us for help—when humanity and justice alone are our only clients, I am far from saying, that we do not wish them well. I can believe, that if a word could give them success—if a wave of the hand sufficed to end the fray, the word would be pronounced, the gesture would not be with olden; but, if more be wanted—if some exertion is required—if some risk must be run in the cause of mercy, then our tongue cleaves to the roof of our mouth; our hand falls paralyzed; we pause and falter, and blanch and quail before the ancient and consecrated monarchy of Brazil, the awful might of Portugal, the compact, consolidated, overwhelming power of Spain. My Lords, I trust, I expect, we shall pause and falter, and blanch and quail no more. Let it be the earliest, and it will be the most enduring glory of the new reign to extirpate at length this execrable traffic. I would not surround our young Queen's throne with fortresses and troops, or establish it upon the triumphs of arms and the trophies of war—no, not I! I would build her renown neither upon military nor yet upon naval greatness; but upon rights recured, upon liberties extended, humanity diffused, justice universally promulged. In alliance with such virtues as these I would have her name descend to after ages. I would have it commemorated for ever, that in the first year of her reign, her throne was fortified and her crown embellished, by the proudest triumph over the worst of crimes—the greatest triumph mortal ever won over the worst crime ever man committed.
The Earl of Minto
said, that after the eloquent speech of the noble and learned Lord, and after the severe attack which the noble and learned Lord had made on the officers of the profession over which he had the honour to preside, their Lordships would naturally expect a few observations from him. The greater part of the speech of the noble and learned Lord was directed to prove that, in consequence of the paying of head money, the 609 officers employed to put down this traffic were induced to neglect their duty and the orders of their country, and to allow the escape of vessels fitted out for this most iniquitous traffic. He would admit, that the statements so powerfully addressed to their Lordships by the noble and learned Baron, of the horrors of the slave trade were not in the slightest degree exaggerated. The noble and learned Lord, however, had directly imputed to the officers of the navy, that in consequence of the profit they derived from head-money, they were induced to allow vessels to pass in to the coast to get a cargo, in order that they might capture these vessels on returning with a cargo. To use the noble and learned Lord's own words, those gallant Officers were induced to allow vessels equipped for the slave trade to escape in order that they might weigh enough; they were induced to watch at the mouths of the rivers and to wait till the slaver had taken in a cargo. Now, he would not say that not a single such instance had occurred; but, with all the opportunity he had of acquiring information, he could say, that no such instance had come to his knowledge, nor did he believe that any such existed. He regretted that the noble and learned Lord should make such charges without bringing forward a single case of neglect of duty. It might be perfectly true that in many cases the officers might find it necessary to allow the vessels to take in a cargo before they could attempt to capture them, as they might not until then become subject to the articles of the treaty. But there were many cases in which they took a contrary course, and he could assure their Lordships that the only complaint he ever heard against the officers was, that they were too ready to take these vessels, that they were too little careful of themselves, and that they did not sufficiently attend to their own security against prosecutions. Had any such instances as those referred to by the noble and learned Lord occurred, the officers so guilty would have justly lost their commissions; but he must say, that no such instance had he ever heard of. On the contrary, every letter he received from those who were thus employed lamented the difficulties in the way of obtaining the means of the capture and conviction of these vessels until the cargo was embarked, and they all urged the conclusion of further treaties. 610 If those treaties were extended to all those nations under whose flags the slave trade were carried on, there would be no difficulty in putting down the traffic; but as long as those treaties remained in the state they were in at present it would be impossible effectually to put down the traffic. The case was not the same with regard to Spain as with regard to Portugal; because with Spain we now had a treaty which effectually enabled us to capture slavers under the Spanish flag, but with Portugal this was not the case, and the consequence was, that a great part of the traffic was carried on under Portuguese colours, and the cruisers of this country were unable to capture the vessels until they had taken in a cargo. The noble and learned Lord in the course of his eloquent and forcible speech had condemned the conduct of the Government in strong terms for being on friendly terms with nations which recognized this most detestable traffic. When the noble and learned Lord held a high official situation in the Government of this country why did he not take this subject into consideration? But had there been no change? Had not the present Government at least obtained this advantage, that the Spanish flag would no longer cover this traffic? He begged pardon for making these few observations, but he could not listen to such insinuations against the profession over which he had the honour to preside, he could not hear them compared to the police officers of the Old Bailey, without offering some defence and making some explanation.
said, that the noble Earl had entirely mistaken what he had said. He had never made such charges against the officers of the cruisers as the noble Earl had imagined. The noble Earl, therefore, only denied what he (Lord Brougham) had never stated. His charge was this—that there being a slaver on the coast of Bonny or Calabar, which was known to be there, and which the cruiser knew to be there, he had asked, was it true or not, that the cruiser instead of co-operating with the authorities and preventing the unhappy cargo from being embarked, went out to sea just far enough not to be seen, but not so far as not to see the port, and there waited until the vessel came out? It might be very easily said that this was done to entice out the vessel, in order to capture her. Yes; but 611 it enabled the vessel to put, in the meantime, its unhappy cargo of human beings aboard. Was it, he would ask, true or not that they enabled these vessels to come out, and coming out to be chased, thus running the risk of tempting the master and crew of the slaver to throw overboard its human cargo in order to lighten the vessel? It was very possible that he had been misinformed; but he could refer to an excellent authority in the book lately published by Mr. Laird. As to the statement of the noble Earl, that when he (Lord Brougham) was in the Government nothing was done to remedy the evils, he begged to say that circumstances had very much altered since then. Neither Spain nor Portugal was now precisely in the same condition that they were in at that time. This country had now much more weight in Lisbon, if any body could have weight or influence in such an anarchical form of Government. Again, the Government of Spain was entirely dependent on this country, which was not the case in the reign of Ferdinand 7th. During the last eighteen months the most satisfactory indications had been given of an improved feeling on the part of the French Government, and he had no hesitation in saying, that the Government of this country would not do its duty to the character of the country, or to the cause of humanity, if it did not take immediate steps with France to put down the slave trade at all hazards. The Earl of Minto said, that as he understood the noble and learned Lord's question, it was this—whether or not it was the case that those cruisers lay off the mouths of rivers in which they had reason Jo know that a slaver had entered, for the purpose of taking in a cargo, long enough for the cargo to be taken in, in order that they might capture the vessel when she came out? He must repeat what he had said before, that if any officer knowing that a slave-vessel had gone into a river into which he could safely follow her, for the purpose of taking in a cargo of slaves, that vessel being under colours which entitled the cruiser to capture her under the equipment article, any officer failing to do so, and waiting till the vessel got a cargo, would be guilty of a breach of duty; and if it came to his (Lord Minto's) knowledge, that officer would be called to account. But he knew of no such case. He did know of many cases in which officers had been unable to follow vessels, or 612 had been unable to seize them, because they carried flags which did not place the vessel under the equipment article. He hoped that the distinction was sufficiently intelligible. There was nothing which an officer desired more than to have an opportunity of getting into the rivers, and of taking those vessels before they get their cargoes, when they were entitled so to do. Such things were of constant occurrence. Some of the most gallant actions had been performed in this way, and by very young officers. A remarkable instance had occurred not long ago, when a midshipman was directed to enter a river in a boat, in order to obtain information about a suspicions vessel, to learn what colours she sailed under, and what men she had on board. He met the vessel coming down the river, he boarded her with his six men, and though she was armed with thirty men, he captured her and brought her out. There were several such cases. It would be preposterous to suppose that officers would expose themselves to censure by going on board vessels sailing under the Portuguese flag, unless they were quite certain that slaves would be found on board. Under such circumstances, then, the only course that officers had to take was to lay off at a distance, or to be out of sight, in order that they might be able to make a capture. He knew of no case where officers could legally have made a capture where they had failed to do so.
wished to know if there could be the slightest objection to abolish head-money, and paying a reward for the tonnage of the vessel captured?
The Earl of Minto
thought, that the noble and learned Lord had made out no case to show that head-money had the effect which he had described; at the same time he did not mean to say but that it might have that effect. Head-money was continued, and, in certain cases, a reward was given according to the tonnage of the vessel.
considered that there could be no doubt but that the head-money had had the effect of affording an inducement to those evil consequences which had been described. He thought that where gallant actions had been achieved by young officers, the remuneration ought 613 to be as great as when large vessels made a capture on the open sea, and where but slight peril at least was encountered. The noble and learned Lord had, in his opinion, ably described the horrors which followed from a slaver being pursued, and he had no doubt but that there was an inducement to the master of the slaver to destroy the slaves on board, in order that the reward of those who pursued them might be lessened.
§ Lord Ashburton
said, that if there were no objection to the remuneration by tonnage, it would be much more desirable than the mode by head-money. He could not but think that the House and the country were obliged to his noble and learned Friend for calling their attention to the great and crying enormity of that traffic as it was called. Undoubtedly, the people must think that vigorous measures were enforced with respect to this trade, when they saw it abolished by Act of Parliament, and when they found, year after year, fresh treaties ostentatiously paraded as having been recently concluded with foreign states, and with small and insignificant states too, as an instance he might mention Bolivia, with which country a treaty was, he believed, concluded last year, for the suppression of the slave trade, although that country never had any slaves, and never had been engaged in the trade. Yet this trade was, nevertheless, carried on to as great an extent, and with tenfold more cruelty than ever; and he had no hesitation in saying, that if this country had left Spain and Portugal to carry about those poor creatures as they pleased, humanity would have been less outraged, and fewer atrocities committed. The state of our relations with Portugal was unsatisfactory on this point, and he thought ought not to be submitted to by this country. It ought to be remembered that the family now on the throne held its seat there by our intervention; and connected as we thus were with them, he did think that it was too much that Portugal should be (as the noble Earl had informed their Lordships, and no doubt truly) the real bar to putting an end to the trade. England had sent out a fleet to blow the Dey of Algiers out of his citadel, because the depredations of his subjects were inconsistent with the regulations of civil society, yet England suffered the kingdom of Portugal to stand a nuisance on the ocean, by carrying on a trade the horrors of which 614 were aggravated by England's interference. He did think, therefore, with the noble and learned Lord, that some way or other might be found to put an end to this state of things, and to prevent the perpetration of horrors consequent on it.
§ Lord Glenelg
could state, on the part of his noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Department, that he was at the present moment engaged in negociating a treaty with Portugal with the view of putting a stop to this trade. He certainly must coincide in the opinion expressed by the noble Lord, that the horrors of the trade would not have been aggravated to their present height if we had never meddled with it as carried on by other nations; but he also thought Parliament would not have done its duty, or satisfied the expectations of the country, if the fear of aggravating those horrors had prevented them from taking every means to extirpate the trade. It was very difficult for this country to interfere in the matter without infringing the respect due to foreign states. With respect to the horrors of the slave trade he must say he believed the account given of them by the noble and learned Lord was not exaggerated, for they heard the same on all hands; but he must also say that he did not think the noble and learned Lord had satisfactorily proved that these horrors were at all attributable to the giving of head-money. It might be as the noble and learned Lord had stated; but he did not think that the fact had been proved. He admitted that head money afforded a temptation to persons to allow the shipment of slaves, but no other course was open to them for rewarding the captors, except in the case of vessels sailing under the flag of a nation with which we had a treaty, including the equipment article. He was not, however, prepared to defend the practice of head-money—indeed he had not examined the merits of the question.. The practice had been established several years ago by persons well informed on the subject, and was intended as a means of stimulating the exertions of both officers and sailors on board the cruisers, and of securing good treatment for the slaves after capture. He certainly thought those officers and men employed in such a pestilential climate, and on such a disagreeable duty, were entitled to some reward for their exertions. With respect to vessels sailing under the flag of nations whose treaties included the 615 equipment article, rewards were given not only according; to the number of slaves, but to the tonnage of the vessel captured, and indeed his wish was, to abolish head money altogether. The only nation that still persisted in endeavours to thwart the exertions of this country to put down the abominable slave traffic was Portugal. He deeply regretted, while he could not conceal the fact, that vessels sailing under the Portuguese flag were constantly guilty of violating not only the laws of humanity, but the direct stipulations of the treaty with this country. He knew it was the anxious wish of his noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Department to bring the question to a satisfactory issue, and in the meantime whatever could be done to alleviate the miseries of the slaves he was sure would be done by him.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Lord Redesdale
said, that it had teen his intention to move for copies of all despatches received by the Colonial-office from the governors of her Majesty's colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward's Island, during the year 1837, and the date of each despatch, but he understood that there was some objection to their production.
§ Lord Glenelg
said, that copies of the despatches could not be produced, but he was ready to tell the noble Lord the dates of the times at which they were received.
§ The Earl of Devon
presented a petition from Exeter, praying for the more general extension of the benefits of education.
The Duke of Sutherland
presented petitions from Etruria, in Staffordshire, and other places, praying the immediate emancipation of the slave apprentices in the West Indian colonies.