§ Viscount Melbourne
, having first moved, tat the Address to her Majesty on the Slave-trade, agreed to by their Lordships on Friday, the 2nd instant, and her Majesty's gracious Answer thereto, be read, rose to move the second reading of the Slave-Trade Suppression Bill, and said, that, deeply impressed as he was with the great importance of this measure in every point of view, whether considered politically, or with reference to the great measure which it was intended to forward, he at the same time apprehended that he should not be compelled to intrude upon the patience of their Lordships for any very great length of time. The solemn act of their Lordships, to which he had recalled their attention by moving that their address to the Throne be read, the circumstances under which this bill had been introduced, and the present state of the question, rendered it unnecessary for him to enter into a long statemant of the reasons upon which it was founded, or of the grounds on which he hoped for their Lordships' approbation of it. They would perceive, that every provision of this bill, and the powers which were requested to be conferred by it, were stated in a very clear, and simple, and distinct manner in the preamble, and in the several clauses thereof. The objects were simply these:—that those persons who should be employed under the authority of her Majesty, for the detention and seizure of vessels engaged in the slave-trade, should be protected against the consequences of executing the orders given to them, by indemnifying them against all suits or actions brought against them; and that power should be given to the Vice-Admiralty Courts of the colonies to adjudicate upon the cases of all vessels so captured, in the same way as if they were British ships. Those were the principal features of the bill. Their Lordships were aware of the general object which it was intended to assist and carry out; and it was not necessary for him to make many observations upon that head. Their Lordships knew that this country had been now more than fifty years engaged in that which was unquestionably a very difficult, but at the same time, a very noble and honourable and praiseworthy task, and one which he thought would, hereafter, be the principal glory of Britain—that of attempting to abolish the African slave- 301 trade, and to extinguish that condition of slavery which had unfortunately grown up in many parts of the globe in consequence of that trade. After labouring for this end for many years, when peace was restored to the world, we had endeavoured to induce other nations to unite in the same honourable cause, and to combine their efforts with ours for the same glorious object. Their Lordships were aware of the zeal and energy displayed in this cause, and of the sacrifices made in it by this country; they knew that it was a cause which was deeply entwined and interwoven with the moral and religious feelings of the people, and that the general desire of the nation was for the extinction of this traffic. But when he came to consider the result of the exertions and sacrifices which had thus been made, he feared that what was stated in many quarters was too true, and that, indeed, it was a fact which was so strongly pressed upon their attention, that we had succeeded in a very limited degree in our object, and that the slave-trade was still carried on under certain flags which were allowed to shelter and protect it. He would not enter into particulars here; he would not stay to inquire whether the slave-trade were now as extensive as when measures for its suppression were first set on foot, or whether it had increased, as was alleged by some persons who had paid great attention to the subject, and possessed much information upon it. Suffice it to say, that it was impossible to doubt that the slave-trade was still carried on to a great extent, and prevailed in many parts of the globe, and that many thousand persons were yearly brought from their native shores to be subjected to that wretched state, which was injurious both to him that suffered, and to him that caused the suffering. Although there might be some doubt with respect to the greatness of the amount of the traffic alleged by some persons, there could be no doubt that its amount at present was great. But there was another point upon which he must touch. It was said that we had, by the measures which we had taken to put down the slave-trade, aggravated the evils which its victims had felt under it; and the horrors of the system had been depicted, in the course of the last Session, by his noble and learned Friend who sat on his right (Lord Brougham), with a force which must have left a strong 302 impression upon their Lordships' minds, and in language which he believed it was hardly necessary for him to repeat, in order to convince their Lordships of the deep sufferings and horrid cruelties inflicted by the furtive attempts which were made to elude all the vigilance of those who were engaged in putting down the slave-trade. It was felt and agreed on all hands, that this contraband system should not be permitted to continue, that every effort should be made to put a stop to it, and that the Legislature was in duty bound to carry out the great and good work which the nation had begun. But, unfortunately, they had to deal with cupidity—that blinding vice, which would allow the individual to regard nothing when in the pursuit of gain, but that one object, that thirst for gold which made men disregard every horror and misery to which others might be subjected while in pursuit of their own gratification. Such was the passion which had unfortunately defeated us, and deprived us of that success which we had anticipated, and which he still hoped to see realized. Amongst the nations under whose flag the slave-trade was now carried on, he was sorry to say that Portugal was pre-eminent. A greater part, he might say, but certainly a large proportion of the traffic, was sanctioned by the Portuguese flag. Their Lordships well knew how the matter stood with respect to Portugal, which, by more than one treaty, had undertaken to put an end to the slave-trade. It was not his wish to use any strong language upon this occasion, because he trusted that their Lordships would so enter into the matter, and act in so decisive a manner, as would render more strong language superfluous and unnecessary. But he would call their Lordships' attention to the last note presented by Lord Howard de Walden to the Portuguese Government, in which the case with respect to the conduct of Portugal was stated in a perspicuous manner. Lord Howard de Walden states that Portugal—In disregard of the 10th article of the treaty of 1810, declines to co-operate with her Britannic Majesty, by adopting the most efficacious means for bringing about a Anal abolition of the slave-trade.' In disregard of another part of that same treaty, she permits her slave-trade to continue in parts of Africa, ' where the Powers and States of Europe which formerly traded there have discontinued and abandoned it,' In violation of the treaty 303 of January, 1815, she still 'permits her flag to be used for supplying with slaves other places than the Trans-Atlantic possessions of Portugal.' In violation of the 3rd article of the additional convention of the 28th of July, 1817, she absolutely refuses to ' assimilate the legislation of Portugal upon slave-trade with the legislation of Great Britain.' In violation of the 2nd article of that convention, she seeks to prevent Great Britain from putting down that slave-trade which, by that article, both Powers jointly declare to be illicit—namely the exportation of slaves in Portuguese vessels from ' ports not possessed or claimed by Portugal, in Africa,' and the importation of slaves in Portuguese vessels into ' ports not in the dominions of her most faithful Majesty.' In violation of the separate article of the 11th of September, 1817, she refuses to adapt the provisions of the convention of the 28th of July, 1817, to that altered state of circumstances which exists in consequence of the law, which has abolished the slave-trade in all the dominions of the Crown of Portugal. She has refused to sign a treaty which comprises stipulations indispensably necessary for carrying these various provisions into effect, although urged to do so by Great Britain, during a negotiation protracted for upwards of four years; but on the contrary, she insists upon stipulations which would render such a treaty as inefficacious as are her own laws. Instead of consenting to give greater power for the detention and for the condemnation of of slave-vessels, she endeavours to recede from the limited power which she granted for those purposes twenty years ago. She tries to narrow the extent of the mutual right of search, which, by the treaty of 1817, is without any limitation of geographical space, and which may now be exercised in every part of the world. She wants to abolish the mixed tribunals, established by the existing treaties, and to submit the adjudication of detained slave-ships to Portuguese tribunals, from whom, in cases of this kind, guilt the most flagrant and the most clearly proved, would be certain to obtain an acquittal. She struggles for a power to cancel, at the end of a certain period, such portion of the treaty as she may dislike; that is to say, in other words, she asks for a power to revive, at the end of a certain period, the slave-trade of Portugal, in all the original plenitude of its iniquity. She demands a guarantee of her African possessions against the dangers to which they will be exposed from a measure which the Portuguese Government itself acknowledges to be an indispensable foundation for the welfare and prosperity of those colonies; and she asserts, that ' propriety and decorum require these conditions,' se utterly repugnant to good faith, to national interest, and to national honour.He had thought it necessary to read that passage, because it contained a very clear and distinct summary of the case with 304 respect to Portugal. But he had commenced his observations by stating that the present position of the question, and furthermore, that the acts which they had already done, and that the votes which they had come to, rendered it unnecessary for him to go at length into the case, in order to prove what had been the conduct of Portugal in the long-protracted negotiations which had taken place between the two Governments, and how far that conduct called for a measure of this kind. On looking back to the past proceedings of their Lordships, he found that his noble and learned Friend moved an address to the Crown upon the subject of the slave-trade, which address was agreed to by their Lordships, and at its close contained the following paragraph:—That this House cannot refrain from expressing to her Majesty the deep concern with which they have observed, from the papers which her Majesty has caused to be laid before them, that Portugal has not yet fulfilled the engagements which she has taken towards this country, by concluding with Great Britain an adequate treaty for the suppression of the slave-trade.That was the conclusion to which their Lordships came upon that occasion, and he need scarcely remind them that very recently they had agreed to another address to the following effect:That her Majesty will be graciously pleased by all means within her Majesty's power, to negotiate with the Governments of Foreign Nations, as well in America as Europe, for their concurrence in effectually putting down the traffic in slaves; and also that her Majesty will be graciously pleased to give such orders to her Majesty's cruisers as may be most efficacious in stopping the said traffic, more especially that carried on under the Portuguese and Brazilian flag, or by Brazilian or Portuguese ships; assuring her Majesty that this House will cheerfully concur with the other House of Parliament in whatever measures may be rendered necessary, if her Majesty shall be graciously pleased to comply with this prayer.Her Majesty had complied with that prayer, and had given directions to the cruisers to take the most efficacious steps to put down this traffic. The present bill, therefore, was necessary, in order to fulfil their Lordships' own intentions and wishes as expressed in their address to the Crown upon this great and important subject.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that no man could have read the papers upon this 305 subject which had been laid upon the Table, or have listened to the able speech which had been made last year by the noble and learned Lord (Brougham) opposite, or to the statements which had that evening been advanced by the noble Viscount at the head of her Majesty's Government, without being fully convinced of the existence of the slave-trade at the present moment. There was, in his opinion, no proposition more true, than that the slave traffic had of late increased, and that it had, in particular, extended to parts of the coast from which it had once been entirely expelled. He was also of opinion, for he had concurred in the address which their Lordships had sent up to her Majesty, that measures ought to be adopted by the Government to induce the government of Portugal to perform the stipulations of the treaties into which that nation had entered with her Majesty and with her Royal predecessors. No man could be more convinced of the necessity for such measures than he was, nor could any of their Lordships be more willing to adopt and to sanction such measures as Government, on its own responsibility, might offer, in order to the attainment of so desirable an end as the termination of the trade in slaves. But while he felt the deepest anxiety to see a period put to the traffic in slaves in every part of the world, he could have wished to see a different course adopted from that which had been pursued upon the present occasion. An application to Parliament of this description was not the proper course to be pursued for the enforcement of treaties entered into by other nations with her Majesty. The proper course was, for the Government to have adopted, on its own responsibility, the measures which they might have thought necessary for enforcing those treaties. In the first place, recourse ought to have been had to diplomacy, and, in his opinion, they ought to have sought, by negotiation, to secure the fulfilment of the treaties which Portugal had made But Parliament was not the proper judge on questions of this description, because it was not acquainted with the details of those negotiations. If, however, diplomacy failed, then they must resort to measures of a naval or military character, or of both, in regard to which that House had no knowledge either of the debates or of the consequences, or of the means necessary, any more than the 306 the other House of Parliament. Such measures were to be adopted by her Majesty, on the advice of her responsible Ministers, and not by Parliament, which had no knowledge sufficient to enable it to act. It was on these grounds that he had, on a recent occasion, advised their Lordships to reject a similar bill to that which was now before them; and he confessed, that he saw in the present bill fresh reasons for wishing that her Majesty had taken such steps as her Majesty might have thought proper, with reference to Portugal, before Parliament had been called upon to adopt any measures for carrying her Majesty's intentions into effect. The objection which he had taken to the former bill was not one merely of form, for he had opposed that measure on grounds which were essential to the existence and preservation of the authority of the Crown of England, and to the due carrying on of the public business; and he would again say, that it was impossible for him, or for any of their Lordships, except two or three noble Lords on the opposite side of the House, who were admitted to her Majesty's councils, to know what were the means at the disposal of the Government for carrying into execution those measures which her Majesty might deem necessary to enforce the fulfilment of those treaties. Much less were their Lordships able to judge of the consequences of those measures, of the means necessary to be employed, or whether those means which would be required were at the disposal of the Government, in case the diplomatic measures which he had first mentioned failed—in case Portugal should resist the remonstrances of England, and in case the dominion of the Crown, or the commerce of the country, should, in consequence, be exposed to risk, or to actual injury. He confessed that he saw other reasons, arising out of the enactments of the bill before their Lordships, which induced him to wish that her Majesty's Government had taken their own course on this subject, rather than have called for the decision of Parliament. He saw in the different clauses of this measure reasons for believing that the framers of the bill had not sufficiently attended to the treaties which had been formed, and which were now in force, between her Majesty and nearly all the powers of Europe, for putting down the slave-trade. The first clause said— 307Be it enacted, that in case her Majesty should please to issue orders to her cruisers to capture Portuguese vessels engaged in the slave-trade, or vessels of any Slate whatever engaged in the slave-trade, not having on board, or the master whereof shall refuse or neglect to produce, on demand, papers showing to the subjects of what State such vessels belong, it shall be lawful for any person or persons, under any order or authority of the Lord High Admiral, or of the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain, or of any one of her Majesty's Secretaries of State, to detain, seize, and capture any such vessels, and the slaves found therein, and to bring the same to adjudication in the High Court of Admiralty of England, or in any of the Vice-Admiralty Courts within her Majesty's dominions.Now, he would beg their Lordships to observe what the effect of that clause would be. The Lord High Admiral could, by the provisions of the clause, give, under his hand, authority to any one to detain, seize, and capture the vessels of any State whatever employed in the slave traffic. But let their Lordships recollect, that, before they could proceed to seize and capture, they must, in the first place, detain those vessels, for the purpose of examining papers, and that any one, under the clause, was to be empowered to perform to the ships of any nation. Such were the provisions of this clause; and now let him call their Lordships' attention to the special treaties which existed between her Majesty and the different Powers of Europe in reference to the detaining of vessels, to boarding, and to the examination of papers. In the first place, he wished to direct their Lordships' attention to the important treaty with France, in reference to these points, and to show what the effect of this first clause would be upon the provisions of that treaty. The treaty with France limited the time when, and place where, the visitation of French vessels could be made for the examination of papers. In the next place, that treaty stipulated, not that any or every person might detain and visit the vessels of France, but that the visitation should only be made by the commander of one of her Majesty's ships specially appointed for that purpose. The number of those commanders who were to have the right of visitation was limited by one of the articles of the treaty; and it was also provided, that the number and names of the vessels employed should be signified to France, as well as the names of their 308 commanding officers. It was also stipulated, that those officers having the right of visitation should not be under the rank of captain or lieutenant of the Royal Navy of Great Britain. Such were the stipulations of the treaty into which this country had entered with France, and yet the provisions of this bill empowered any person, no matter whom, if acting on the authority of the Lord High Admiral, not only to detain, for the purpose of examining papers, but to seize and capture the vessels of France, or of any nation whatever. He would go no further than the question of visitation. The clause gave the power to any person to detain, to board, and to visit any ship, to whatever nation she might belong, going, or supposed to be going, upon the slave-trade; and all this their Lordships were asked to consent to, after the matter of visitation had been thus settled in the treaty with France into which this country had entered. There was another point of great importance, in regard to this treaty, to which he wished to direct their Lordships' attention. It was required, in order to render more certain that provision of the treaty which stipulated that a captain or lieutenant of the navy should be employed in this duty, and in order that it might be known to the French government what ship it was that he commanded, that the commander of each vessel should carry with him an authority, empowering him to make the visitation, and which authority it was also required that he should produce at the first moment of boarding. But by this bill no exception was made—no authority was to be required to be produced—no limitation was made as to the ships to be employed, or in regard to the officers commanding them; and their Lordships, in defiance of this treaty, were called upon to pass a measure in which the power of visitation was to be given to anybody, and in which that power was to be extended to the ships of all nations. As he had said before, he should go no further than the question of visitation; and he would ask their Lordships, whether it was possible for them to consent to the provisions of the first clause of this bill, when they took into their consideration the stipulations of the treaty into which the country had entered with France? He would also beg to remind their Lordships that this treaty with France was substantially the same as those into which England had entered 309 with Spain, the Hanse Towns, Denmark, Sardinia, Naples and almost all the other Powers of Europe, and yet the flags of every one of those nations were to be exposed to the oppression of the enactments of this measure. He warned the Government not to proceed with this measure, but rather to issue an Order in Council or a declaration of war, or even to apply to Parliament, if necessary, to enable them to carry measures into operation under the treaties; but let them, in every case, take care, in granting this power of visitation, so to limit it as to leave no room for her Majesty's intentions to be misconstrued by other nations. That was another reason why he had wished, that instead of this bill, which had been sent up from the other House, and which he concluded was framed by persons who had no perfect knowledge of those treaties, the Government had brought down a message from the Crown, or published a declaration of what her Majesty's intentions were. Such a course would have been proper as regarded Parliament, and the object in view might in this way have been effected without the difficulty and without the scandal which must inevitably attend the passing of this first clause. There was one other clause of great importance, on which he wished to say-a few words—he alluded, to the fourth, or the equipment clause, as it was called. That clause was the most offensive of all. It was absolutely necessary that it should be known what equipment was to be the sign of a vessel being engaged in the slave-trade, but the same objections which were applicable to the first clause were also applicable to this clause. Vessels might be seized by any one acting under the authority of the Lord High Admiral, if in the equipment of such vessel there should be found any of the things mentioned in the clause; but in all the treaties to which he had alluded he found provision made in respect to equipment, and particularly in the treaty with France, on which all the others were founded. If their Lordships looked at those treaties, they would find it impossible to carry the provisions of this fourth clause into effect by an Act of Parliament without a manifest breach of their engagements with Prance, and without at once putting an end to all those treaties into which this country had entered. Other nations entertained on those points strong prejudices, and were determined 310 never to give up to England the power of visitation; and he could not imagine that the French government would ever consent to allow the vessels of England on the authority of an Act of Parliament to detain, seize, and capture their ships. He would entreat their Lordships to consider the situation in which they would place the country with respect to other nations by passing this bill, which put at defiance all those treaties. He could not think that this was a wise or politic course. There were some nations, one great nation in particular, the United States, with whom this country had made no treaties for putting down the slave-trade. It was true that there were engagements made by diplomatic notes, in which the United States had expressed her readiness to co-operate with this country in putting the slave-trade down, by declaring it piracy. Documents, however, which had lately been laid before their Lordships, showed that the slave trade was still carried on by vessels bearing the flag of the United States. If, then, there was one point more to be avoided than another, it was that relating to the searching vessels belonging to the United States. He alluded particularly to the correspondence which had passed between the commissioners at the Havannah; and he perceived, that not only was no inclination shown on the part of the United States to permit this detention and visitation for papers, for the purpose of discovering whether the vessel had a right to claim the protection, of another state, but, on the contrary, if we might judge from the correspondence of their consul at the Havannah, the very mention that such a thing was done, although proof was offered of the fact, was resented as an insult. Now, if the Government were to act under the authority of this Act of Parliament, that would not relieve them from the consequences of interfering in this manner with the rights of other nations. For his own part, he could not judge of the consequences that might follow—nor could he form an opinion of what our means were for the purposes of carrying this measure into execution, supposing the United States should think proper, as he thought we had every reason to believe from these documents they would, to resist the operation of the Act. This was another reason, in his opinion, for desiring that the measure should originate with her Majesty's 311 Government, who had all this knowledge, and not with Parliament. But there was another view of this question, which he thought was rather a low view of it in comparison with those which he had already drawn under their Lordships' attention. All these officers whoever they might be, acting under the provisions of this bill, were to be indemnified from all Consequences, but the State would not be indemnified. Under all the treaties, indemnities were liable to be paid, and there was a positive engagement to pay a very large demurrage, and if so, we might be certain, that no vessel of the United States would be detained even for a visitation which might last only a few hours for which this country might not be liable. Under all these circumstances, he thought, that this measure was one to which their Lordships could not with propriety agree, if they entertained that respect for the rights of other nations, which had been the uniform practice of this country to observe in its best days, and he therefore moved, that the bill be read a second time that day six months.
said, that it was with unfeigned regret and some surprise, that he had heard the observations with which the noble Duke had concluded what was otherwise an able and temperate speech. He must say, that he thought, even on the noble Duke's own principles, and, according to the tenour and scope of his own reasoning, that the course which the noble Duke and their Lordships ought to take was not to reject the bill at its present stage of a second reading, but to adopt the principle of the bill, which was excellent, and to modify it by some alterations of a material nature, which he should show were very feasible after they had allowed it to go into committee. He deemed this to be of the very greatest possible consequence. Even if larger alterations might be thought fit to be introduced than he had any reason to believe were necessary, he still deemed it to be of the very last moment, with a view to the abolition of this accursed traffic, that their Lordships should not object to the bill in its present stage, but allow it to go into committee. Why did he think so? It was because he knew the state of this trade. It was because he knew, it had pushed its roots deep in other countries after it had been abolished in this. It was because its roots bad been pushed deepest and spread 312 widest in the dominions of our ancieut ally Portugal, and because it had spread its roots into the hearts of the people of Portugal, he grieved to say it, and because that infernal traffic which was viewed elsewhere with horror, disgust, and execration, was the object even of popular favour among the deluded people of Portugal. There was no part of the West-Indies, even when the traffic in slaves was carried on without restriction, in which the trade was looked upon with more favour than in the cities of Lisbon and Oporto. It was because he also knew, the anxiety with which the people of Portugal were regarding their proceedings, and that they hung with breathless expectation on the arrival of the next packet, fur the purpose of finding whether their Lordships would have dealt with this bill in the same manner as they did with the last. He well knew the anxiety with which the people of Portugal heard the accounts that the former bill was introduced, not merely on 'Change, where the criminals congregated, but even amongst the highest classes. They regarded that bill as a death blow to the Portuguese slave trade. What, then, must have been their feelings, when, in the midst of their anxiety in consequence of the introduction of the bill, and their fear that it would pass which they must have thought from our former behaviour, would be synonimous with its being brought in, they were relieved about a fortnight ago from their apprehensions, and found that some change had come over the spirit of the Legislature in this country, and that we were going in an opposite track to that which we had pursued ever since 1807? Happily, by the same packet which announced that rejection, there was conveyed the intelligence that that House in its wisdom had voted an address to her Majesty, which tended to provide a remedy for the evil which the rejection of the bill was calculated to produce; but the Portuguese must naturally have expected that their Lordships would follow up that address: that they would act not merely in the letter but in the spirit of that address, and that they would redeem their promise to aid the other House and the Government in -the completion of any measures which might be necessary to carry the Orders in Council into effect. But if the Portuguese found that their Lordships threw out this bill, their hopes would. 313 revive, their fears would be allayed for ever, and forthwith the waters of the Tagus, those waters which for all the purposes of trade and commerce might be considered a British stream, would be covered with the perpetrators of the most odious, the most audacious, the most incorrigible species of crime that ever disgraced humanity. All treaties, all quibbling in the construction of notes, all diplomatic arrangements would by the Portuguese criminals be heeded no more than the air which was breathed by those criminals, but which they did not permit to make its way into the pestilential holds in which they penned up their miserable captives. He, therefore, trusted that their Lordships would permit the bill to be read a second time, so that the dreadful consummation of the loss of the bill might be avoided. The difficulties stated by the noble Duke were by no means insuperable. The preamble, for instance, might easily be so altered as to meet the objection stated against it by the noble Duke, and, perhaps, not unreasonably. The noble Viscount had stated that her Majesty had commanded orders to be issued to her cruisers to repress this traffic, and, in point of fact, such orders had now been issued. The objection of the noble Duke as to the preamble would, therefore, be obviated by changing the form of words from the prospective into the retrospective, as thus:—" And whereas her Majesty has been pleased to issue orders to her cruisers to capture Portuguese vessels engaged in the slave-trade, or any vessel engaged in the slave-trade," &c. If some such form as this were substituted, it would remove the main objection of the noble Duke, for it stated that the Crown had actually issued such orders, and would go on to call upon Parliament to take such measures as might be necessary to carry these orders into effect. This would not be putting the cart before the horse; but it would the Crown beginning, and the Government acting, on its own responsibility. The Government took the whole responsibility of issuing these orders; it did not come to Parliament to shield it, to protect it; much less did it call on Parliament to take the initiative: it said "We have issued the orders, and we now call upon you to redeem the promise you made in the address you sent up to the Throne, and to support those orders." It might be said that the preamble conveyed too extensive 314 a sanction of the right of search, but the noble Duke had not limited this right in the Crown; on the contrary, he called on the Crown to send down a message to declare its wishes, to send forth a proclamation to declare its will. ["No, no."] Certainly the noble Duke said so; but really there were some noble Lords who seemed to forget every thing in their very extraordinary zeal against the repression of the slave trade, or at least against this bill; and he (Lord Brougham) was astonished to find his noble and learned Friend opposite(Lord Wynford) who had so distinguished himself during his legal career by his able opposition to the slave-tade, now carried away so much by some idea about non-infringement upon the rights of nations, as to seem to lend his support to those who were against the measure. If this right of search were established, which was not half so bad as a declaration of war, and if Parliament sanctioned this bill, you would not relieve the Ministers from the responsibility of any course that they might adopt. They would not be above the responsibility of answering for the ordering this right of search, or even going to war, if that should be deemed necessary. It could not be shown by any species of argumentation that, by passing this bill, they were lightening by a feather's weight the responsibility of the Government in any course that they might pursue in carrying out measures to suppress the slave-trade. The noble Duke said, that they must not forget the treaties which existed between this country and France, and also with other Powers, such as the Hanse Towns, and he was sorry to say that there was no such treaty with the United States. But this bill would not sanction any ground of proceeding contrary to treaties Supposing a measure introduced with provisions opposed to the latter of the treaty with France, the Hanse Towns, or any other power whatever—and supposing this bill as it had passed the Commons, and come up to that House, should receive the unanimous support of their Lordships, and afterwards receive the sanction of the Crown and become an Act of Parliament, it would be as mere waste paper as regarded the law of nations; it could only regulate or control or affect the municipal rights of this country, and if any matter growing out of the operation of such Act came before any judge of any court, who decided by the law of na- 315 tions, he would not look to the law of the lane; he would not look to anything in it which was contrary to the obligations of the treaty, but what was done by the law of nations, and not what was done otherwise; and in the teeth of the Act of Parliament, he would refuse his sanction to that which went against the letter and spirit of the law of nations. He felt perfectly confident in this, for no treaty could be broken merely by an Act of Parliament; and it was with the greatest surprise that he beard the noble Duke—considering his great sagacity and acuteness—should ground an argument on it; and he feared, from the cheers that he heard, that some other noble Lords were led away by the same feeling. But look to the details of the proceeding:—The right of search was not to be left to any persons to be named by the Lords of the Admiralty, but it was to be entrusted to particular cruisers of her Majesty, and, as it were, almost named for that particular service; but nothing in this Act of Parliament could effect the treaty existing on the subject between France and England, for if his noble Friend (Lord Granville), who so ably and admirably represented England in the French court, had a case involving the point brought under his notice, and if he was asked on what principle or ground the French cruisers had been seized, searched, and interfered with; and supposing that his noble Friend at the head of the Admiralty had issued letters of marque, or allowed the fitting out of privateers—which he sincerely hoped and trusted he never would consent to do, for this or any other purpose—but the noble Duke knew where the distinction was between this description of free and regular ships of war—and, therefore, supposing that some private parties, zealous for the suppression of this infamous traffic should obtain some authority or other in the shape of letters of marque, and that these circumstances, in fact, happened, which the noble Duke had adverted to as being likely to occur, contrary to the treaty between the two countries, Lord Granville might, by possibility, say, that he did not mean to justify the transaction by the treaty; but here is an English Act of Parliament, on which one can rest under such circumstances, what would be the immediate reply? Marshal Soult, who, probably, from the pursuits and habits of his former life, was not a very good law- 316 yer, would be quite sufficient lawyer enough to know what to answer, and he would say here is the record of the treaty by which I abide; I have nothing to do with your Act of Parliament. The Act of Parliament would be mere waste paper in justifying any course that might be taken respecting foreign powers, and the-only question that could come before them must be determined by the law of nations. He had no hesitation in saying, that he thought that only king's cruisers should be employed against the slave-ships, and in stopping and searching vessels supposed to be engaged in that traffic; for you had due right, by treaty, to search Portuguese ships; but you had not the right to search French ships, unless under certain restrictions. But he should be glad, that even in the case of Portuguese ships, the search should be confined to King's cruisers. If there was not at present a sufficient number of them at the disposal of the Admiralty, he trusted that his noble Friend, at the head of the Admiralty, who he knew was most anxious to use every exertion to put down and suppress this infamous traffic, would have a large number of small cruisers and steam-boats stationed on the coast of Africa, and these latter might act as steam-tugs to drag the cruisers into the the bights and mouths of rivers to cut out the slavers. With respect, however, to this first part of the bill, he would recommend the noble Duke to state his objections, and propose the alterations that he required when they got into committee. The same objection also might be made to the 4th section, which specified a great number of things; but if these were meant as part of instructions or suggestions to commanders of cruisers, or suggestions as to the mode of determining the character of the vessel seized, it might be very well; he did not look upon this as a statement of what might be, or might not be, evidence before a court of justice; and, above all, when they had been told that this could not be taken as conclusive, but that they must go and ascertain what were the powers given them by the treaties, and that they must not regard what was peculiar to this bill, but only look to what obligations or powers the treaties entailed on them; it appeared, then, that this was not to be a description of the evidence that was to be regarded as conclusive; but that when vessels were found to be equipped in the way described in the bill, the responsibility of proof 317 should be thrown on the parties attacked or running the vessels. But this was, comparatively speaking, trifling with the structure of the bill, and the whole of these details should be referred to the committee. Something had been said in the course of the discussion about the United States of America. He could not disguise from himself that they were in this peculiar situation, that there was no treaty with America giving them the right of search of American ships. It was not the fault of the government of that country that this had not been done, for he thought that every praise was due to the government and the people at large in America for the abolition of the slave-trade; but, it should be borne in mind, that it was not very just to cast any odium on that State for not abolishing slavery, for, at the very earliest hour that it was enabled and allowed to do so by the federal union, it adopted the abolition of the slave-trade, and it was the first power to enact that it was piracy for any of its subjects to carry on the trade. He said that, because he looked with the utmost jealousy upon anything that was calculated, in the least degree, to lessen the amity which now exsisted between the two countries, which he thought it was essential for the interest of both, should be maintained. He thought that the popular prejudice against the people of America, for not abolishing slavery, was not altogether justifiable: it was a common thing to express something like contempt for the Americans on this account, and to set ourselves up in a pharisaical spirit above them, and to fold our arms, and say, "Oh, we are better than you, we have abolished slavery in our possessions; why do you not follow our example, and emancipate your slaves." He was sorry in being obliged to say, that they had followed the example of the people of England, not exactly of the people of Middlesex or Yorkshire who had no negroes; therefore, they had not the virtue of emancipating their own negroes, for the only virtue they had in the matter was the paying a portion of the price for emancipation; but he was sorry to say, that they had followed the example of another portion of the British people, namely, the people of Jamaica, of Barbadoes, of Trinidad, of Essequibo, of Demerara, of Berbice, of the Cape of Good Hope, and of many other places. If the matter had been left to them, how long would it have 318 been before the question had been settled? Would they have set this example which had been preached of so pharisaically to the Americans? The people of the northern states of America—the New England states—entertained similar opinions to the people of this country. They had no negro slaves, and had no objection to follow the example recommended here, for they appeared very zealous, as the people of Middlesex and Yorkshire were, for the abolition of slavery; but were the people of Virginia, the Carolina, Maryland, Georgia, Louisiana, and Tenessee, and other states prepared to follow their example? Therefore, he did not say that the Americans were so very inferior in this respect to ourselves, or that we should adopt such pharisaical airs at the example we had set; and reflection on this subject would only lead us to explain what was meant by the terms "we" and "ours," when we claimed such merit to ourselves. They set the example before us of abolishing the African slave-trade as soon as they possibly could, notwithstanding the spirit of mercantile enterprise, and the love of gold, held out such powerful inducements to continue that abominable and atrocious traffic. It should be recollected also, that the government in the United States of America was not so strong as a monarchical government in Europe, and had not such direct and powerful means of controlling its subjects. That country had most extensive coasts, and there were a great many inlets and harbours for their shipping into which they could get, almost without the knowledge and control of the Government, and he feared that they would often be found too strong for the law, and that the thirst of gold would often induce persons in this country, not only to risk their fortunes in this trade, but to stand the hazard of the die for incurring the deepest temporal loss, as well as the risk of almost eternal perdition. The Americans, however, were not without responsibility; but we should have set them the example long before we did; but still they were under a load of guilt as individuals when they allowed, not, indeed, the use of the national flag, but of their building yards, to send forth swarms of slavers to invest the coast of Africa, or, at any rate, of ships, which it was a matter of publicity and notoriety would be employed as slavers. He admitted that it was a very difficult question to grapple 319 with, and he sincerely wished that they could see their way. It appeared from the papers on the Table, that half a dozen ships had been fitted out, not as American slavers, but for Brazilians, or Portuguese, or Cuba men. They were, however, fitted out, and sailed under such papers, and in such a way that we could not take them as the law stood. You might say to the American builders, these vessels are evidently intended for the African slave-trade, and, therefore, should be condemned, and the proceeding of building of such vessels put a stop to; but he was afraid, that if any such complaint were made, the Americans would ask, in reply, whether it was not notorious that the handcuffs and fetters found on board the slave-ships were manufactured at Sheffield and Birmingham, where also were made their muskets for the coast of Africa, and for the trade in negroes, which burst before they had been fired three times. Now, it would not be very easy to draw a distinction, and to prevent these things being manufactured for the African slave-trade. He had just been put in possession of a letter, from a most respectable person in Barbadoes, who stated, that a King's ship had arrived there from the coast of Africa, and the officer commanding it had assured him, that there were 29 American-built ships now on the coast of Africa carrying on this horrible and revolting traffic. He believed that every one of those vessels was American-built, and manned by either Brazilian or Portuguese sailors, but on board some of them there were American captains. But although these vessels were American-built, it did not follow that the people of that country were responsible for the purposes to which they were devoted, certainly not more responsible than an English ship-builder, who sold the ships built in his yards, which were afterwards sent to the coast of Africa. If this bill, however, passed into a law, we should hear something more of the American ships said to be engaged in this trade. He should recommend that the consideration of the preamble, and the next enacting clause, be postponed until they get into committee, when such alterations might be made as would remove some of the objections of the noble Duke. But the great principle on which he went was, that, for the orders which would be issued, the Government would be responsible, and the bill, if it passed, would not 320 affect the treaties with France, the Hanse Towns, or any other Power, for the chief provision of it was to give an indemnity in our courts to the captain of a King's cruiser, who seized a vessel coming within the specifications of the equipment of a ship, as described in the second clause of the bill, and prevent any action for damages for the detention of such ship; but it did not in the slightest degree relieve the Government from any responsibility for the conduct of our cruizers against the ships of other nations supposed to be engaged in this trade. If any persons could make out any claim of right, or unjust detention and seizure, against the Government, in consequence of their orders, he would come forward and establish that claim; and if the country was serious in its intentions—as he, in his conscience, believed it to be—to put down the African slave-trade, he was sure that the Parliament and the people would cheerfully make good any indemnity for vessels that had been unlawfully and illegally detained or seized by our cruizers. He knew that he did not differ far from the noble Duke as to putting down the African slave-trade; the only question was, as to the mode in which the end was to be attained; and he trusted that they should be able to make this bill, to a considerable extent, effective for the purpose. He knew, also, that as to these means, he differed from his most excellent and estimable friend, Mr. F. Buxton, who, in a recent pamphlet on this subject, said that the Legislature had begun at the wrong end, and that it was better, at present, not to say anything more on the subject, because it only exasperated, instead of lessening, the sufferings of the negroes; and he almost doubted whether it would not have been better not to have passed the law for the abolition of the slave-trade, in consequence of the atrocities that had since occurred. Mr. Buxton also stated, that he thought all the attempts to put down the foreign slave-trade had only tended to increase the number of slave-ships, and to have exacerbated the crimes and horrors of the middle passage. He admitted the latter objection, but he still thought, that, if they went further than they hitherto had gone, they would put down the slave-trade altogether. When they told him, that they had not hitherto put down the slave-trade, and that they could not put it down, he would reply, that they could not 321 put it down till they had tried the means in their power. If they did not try—if they did not use every exertion in their power, they let "I cannot" wait on "I will not." When he said that he differed from this worthy individual as to the means of stopping the slave-trade, by putting a stop to slavery wherever it existed, he would ask, whether they were to wait until the inhabitants of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, Georgia, and the other slave-holding states of America, entertained this view of the subject? Were they to wait until the Portuguese, the Brazilians, the inhabitants of Cuba, and the South American States, were sufficiently instructed to adopt their opinions, and would they allow the African slave-trade to go on without check or interference, on the mere speculation that, perhaps, at the end of a century, these people would open their eyes to the evils of slavery. He emphatically denied, that the slave-trade had not been lessened or destroyed in any way by the ships that had been taken. The foreign slave-trade, it was true, had been increased within the last five years, but what had become of the English slave-trade? Had then the labours of Mr. Wilberforce been altogether in vain, as well as those of Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharpe, and Mr. Buxton himself? Was this, then, all the thanks that they were to give to the exertions of those great men in the cause of emancipation, and in liberating their fellow man from a state of slavery—were they, then, no longer to lay to their consciences the flattering unction of having proved successful in putting down the English slave-trade, and in having wiped away the foul stain of slavery from the name of England? Had it already been forgotten that, under the English slave-trade, upwards of' 20,000 slaves from the coast of Africa were formerly annually imported into the old colonies, and 10,000 into the new colonies? and, if the trade had been continued, more than double that number would, at the present time, have been imported into these colonies? Was no account to be taken of upwards of 50,000 persons that otherwise would have been consigned to all the horrors of slavery? Were they to be told that all their labours in this respect were to be regarded as nothing? But they were told that the profit was so great in this trade, and that the means of insurance were so open, that the greatest in- 322 ducements were held out to engage in the traffic. Did any one, however, at this present day, presume to say either a Bristol, a Liverpool, a London merchant, or shipowner, carried on the slave-trade? No: it was possible that the means of insurance against the loss of the vessel might be found, but was there security for the consequences of his conduct, and against the punishment that would follow, if detection took place? You have made those of your subjects who were found to be engaged in this traffic, run the risk of being hung by the neck, or being transported for life to Botany Bay; and did you find that they were engaged in it? These might be induced by the possibility of getting cent, percent., or double that, for the chance of success, and when the means of being repaid for his losses were afforded to him, but he would not run the risk of being dealt with as a felon, if he were discovered, for any such remuneration. He gloried in having been the instrument of effecting this, by his introducing to the other House, in 1813, first, the slave-trade (Felony) Bill, and subsequently, the slave-trade (Piracy). It appeared that the Spanish and Portuguese flags, and chiefly that of the latter power, had been the chief protection for conveying slaves from the coast of Africa. If Portugal saw that this country was in earnest, and would not longer be trifled with, but that she would insist on the fulfilment of the stipulations of the treaties she had entered into, steps would be taken by Portugal to effect the object she was bound to by the most solemn engagements. Talk, indeed, of resistance to us, on whom she almost depended for an independent existence—to us, without whose aid she hardly could have continued as a free state—to us, rather to be regarded as her mistress than as her friend, in consequence of the assistance we had so constantly rendered her—to us, who had sent the noble Duke and our armies to her support, and who had crowned himself with immortal glory in driving her enemies from her soil—to us, who had rendered so constantly the means of preserving her in the rank of nations—he would not listen to such language; it was idle, and had no meaning. If their Lordships were determined not o lend their countenance to her slave-traders by rejecting this bill, he would answer for it, that they would soon find the ways and means of putting down the African slave-trade 323 carried on under her flag. Let Portugal only do what she had solemnly promised—let her only fulfil what she had stipulated to do—let us have the assistance of her laws to that of our own, and that she would make it felony for any of her subjects to be engaged in the Slave-trade, from which no man could escape; let her try this fairly, and boldly, and eventually we must succeed in suppressing this atrocious traffic. He had exhausted himself, and, he feared, the attention of the House; but he spoke at such length in consequence of the deep interest he felt on the subject. He should sit down with the most consolatory and lively conviction, that he had not addressed their Lordships hi vain on this subject, but that they would be induced to give this righteous bill a second hearing.
§ Lord Wynford
said, the question before them was, not whether the slave-trade ought to be put down, but whether the means provided in that bill were those which ought to be adopted for that purpose. If the treaties were stated by the noble Duke with his usual accuracy, that bill, if carried, would involve us in a general war. It was not the effect of the Act on our relations with Portugal which should be looked to, but its effect upon France and other nations. It was said they might alter the bill in committee, but if they could not alter the treaties it would not be of any use to alter the bill. One of the enacting clauses of that bill gave a very extensive power to our officers who might be engaged in the prevention of the slave-trade. It indemnified them in entering and examining ships of all nations, not confining that power to ships sailing under the Portuguese flag. Such an Act might tend to endanger our relations with France or with America, and with the latter nation we had no treaty which could by any means authorise us to seize an American ship. He should be sorry to say anything to impeach the address which they had voted a few nights ago—an address which pledged them to do all they could to put an end to the Slave-trade—that meant anything which it might be lawful and consistent with the treaties they had entered into, to do. They might indemnify their officers, it was true, but that would not indemnify them for acting in that manner towards the ships of other nations. As the noble and learned Lord had correctly observed, Marshal Soult 324 would not look to Acts of Parliament in the case of the seizure of a French ship, but he would look to the treaty. If the Act of Parliament were not borne out by the treaty it was a dead letter, except so far as it went to involve England in difficulties. He was aware that the course which noble Lords took in opposing that bill would be subject to misrepresentation, and that it would be said they professed a willingness to put down the slave-trade, but that they refused their co-operation when the proper time arrived. They were willing to put down the slave-trade, but it was the mode proposed for so doing to which they objected.
The Bishop of London
said, it was with sincere concern that he felt himself called upon to vote against the amendment, and in support of the motion of the noble Viscount. The duty was imposed on this nation of suppressing this traffic, which had so long disgraced Christendom. If we valued our liberty, we ought not to lose a moment in giving liberty to those who had so long, partly through our instrumentality, been bereft of it, and in restoring those blessings to the benighted inhabitants of Africa, for the loss of which we had so fearful an account to give. The rejection of this bill, he was satisfied, would induce the Portuguese to think they might continue this traffic with impunity, and before six months elapsed the sea would be covered with slavers. With respect to the observations of the noble and learned Lord (Brougham) upon the opinions of an hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Buxton), and of those who concurred with him in his views as to the suppression of the slave-trade, it appeared to him (the right rev. Prelate) that the noble and learned Lord had not correctly stated those opinions. All that Mr. Buxton, and those who agreed with him, argued, was, that the efforts for the suppression of the slave-trade and slavery, had been successful only in a degree; but they did not say, that those efforts had not been productive of most important effects to the cause of humanity. One of their very useful suggestions, was, that attempts should be made to civilize the African chiefs so as to convince them that it would be more profitable for them to employ the labour of their subjects or prisoners than to sell them to slavery. With respect to treaties, that was a subject on which he did not feel competent to en- 325 ter, but it did seem to him to be a matter of common sense, that this bill, if it became an Act of Parliament, would in no wise alter the position of this country with regard to those treaties, because the maintaining or violating those treaties would still rest with the Crown. The Act did no more than give them increased powers and facilities for carrying into effect those measures which, with a strict regard to treaties as they now existed, or as they might by future negociations be modified, might be required. Even on this point he should not feel precluded from voting in favour of the bill, which he should do with the most perfect satisfaction. The passing of this Act would be an honourable demonstration in the eyes of all Europe of a fixed determination on the part of a Christian people to consider, that whatever they might have achieved for Europe by securing the liberties of millions, yet, that the great work would remain imperfect until they should have put down that most revolting and abominable traffic, which had been and which continued to be, a disgrace to the nations of Europe.
rose for the purpose, if possible, of divesting their Lordships' minds of what he conceived to be a great misapprehension on this subject, because he felt their Lordships would concur in voting for the measure, if the apprehension had not taken possession of their minds, in consequence of what his noble and learned Friend (Lord Wynford) bad said, that it would lead to a violation of existing treaties. His noble and learned Friend, had said that this bill must be considered as if it enacted that French ships should be searched contrary to the treaties with France. There were no such enactments in the bill. The enactments were to enable the Crown to give directions for dealing with Portuguese vessels, and certain other vessels. [Lord Wynford: All other vessels.] Well, all other vessels: but if the master of a French ship said we are protected by the treaty and we will not be searched, if that were so, it would be a violation of the treaty to search that ship. But was it because they directed search to be made where search might be made, that search would be made where it ought not to be made? The Crown would be just as much bound to adhere to the treaties with France, and any other country, if the bill passed, as it would if the bill were le- 326 jected. But with regard to Portugal, the bill would undoubtedly be an effective measure. The object of the bill was, to enable her Majesty to direct her cruisers to do that which Portugal had contracted to do, but which she had refused; and to prevent them being called on in this country to account for what they had done. The issuing of orders by the Crown would not indemnify those officers; and was her Majesty to direct her officers to seize those vessels, at the peril of they themselves being liable to pay for the damage sustained, or the value of the vessel that might have been taken. That their Lordships, he was sure, did not wish. But, then, he would ask, what did their Lordships mean when they addressed the Crown to issue these orders, and said they would take such measures as would enable them to be executed? What measures? He apprehended, simply to indemnify the officers that might act in execution of those orders. That was all ibis bill proposed to do. He did, therefore, hope, that when his noble and learned Friend looked at the provisions of the bill, and saw that its object was confined to those purposes, and left the relations of this country with other countries untouched, that he would not refuse to go into Committee on the bill. If their Lordships apprehended there was anything in the bill that would interfere with our relations as to other countries, nothing could be more easy than to introduce a proviso in Committee to guard against that; but to refuse to pass this bill after the resolutions their Lordships had agreed to, seemed to him to be conduct the most unintelligible. It was, in fact, refusing to do what they had undertaken to do, if the Queen should issue certain orders to her cruisers,—and these orders had been issued.
said, that to know what measures were necessary to be taken, it was requisite to know what the orders were. The bill confounded two principles that ought to have been kept entirely distinct—measures with respect to Portugal, and measures with respect to other countries. It was said their Lordships were only now asked to pass such a measure as would indemnify the officers for executing 327 the orders that had been given; but that was a totally distinct case from that brought under their notice, because they were now asked to make provision for indemnifying officers who seized the vessels of any nation. When he heard the observations of the noble Duke, he had thought, that although the noble Duke pointed out the difficulties and dangers that might arise, he might, perhaps, have been dwelling on an exaggerated picture of the evil; but he had since had placed in his hands the last report of the Commissioners of Sierra Leone, and he found that all the noble Duke had prophesied was actually intended, and the object was to seize the vessels of all nations that might be suspected of carrying on the slave-trade. The Commissioners said, that even a treaty with America was of little importance—that the slave-trade had gone from France to Portugal, from Portugal to America, and that it would go to all the States of South America; but they said there was a remedy in time of war, and that Great Britain exercised the right of searching all neutral vessels, and that that was the only possible mode of putting down the slave-trade. The Commissioners might be right in that, but what they meant was universal war. And, desirous as he was of putting an end to the slave-trade, he was not prepared to run the risk of universal war for the accomplishment even of that object. He was surprised that noble Lords opposite, after hearing what the noble Duke had said, should not yet have more fully explained themselves, and should not have evinced the slightest disposition to answer the objections the noble Duke had stated, and, by acting in conformity with constitutional principles, place the House in a position to do that which it desired to do—indemnify her Majesty's officers acting under those orders that were necessary. He was not prepared to give them the right to search vessels of all nations in time of peace; and whatever might be the feeling of the country with respect to this measure now, yet when they found, that, under the delusive hopes held out by this bill, they had been betrayed into measures that would lead to a collision with France, and a collision with the United States, and that there was a feeling of universal jealousy on the part of all maritime powers, and a determination to maintain their rights by war, the people would then think that the noble Duke was wise, and that 328 noble Lords opposite had been led away, to gratify the present feelings of the country, to do that which had been productive of great evils.
The Earl of Minto
said, that of all the surprising and astounding statements which, he was sorry to say, he had heard that night, the greatest was that with which the noble Baron commenced his speech, in which he stated, that the Government ought to communicate to Parliament the terms of the orders issued to her Majesty's cruizers—a thing which had been resisted and refused by every Government, and never insisted on by that House. And for what purpose was that to be done? Why, that that House might have the appearance of directing and conducting those very measures to which the noble Duke and the noble Baron said that House ought not to be a party, but which ought to be conducted on the sole responsibility of the Government. The question of the relations of this country to other countries had been so well argued, that he would not trouble their Lordships with going over the arguments again. The noble Duke had accused the Government of neglecting treaties, and of asking for measures that would lead this country into war with other powers, and more especially with the United States. There was nothing in the bill calculated to excite the slightest jealousy on the part of the United States. The slaver-trader had in many instances, resorted to the flag and the ships of the United States. But how had he done that? Why, as the noble and learned Lord had stated, a vessel was built in America, and chartered at the Havannah. She went from Havannah to the coast of Africa with an American captain. She got a cargo of slaves, and came away with a Portuguese or American flag. Five or six instances had occurred in which ships of this description had been stopped; but how had the Americans treated the capture of those vessels? The parties had been conducted to Boston. The authorities there had said, that, according to their feelings, the slave-trade was a piracy not to be tolerated by any Christian country. They had not remonstrated against the capture of the vessels, but they had, on the contrary, requested that our officers and men should remain there, to give evidence in their courts, for the conviction of their subjects who had violated those laws. That was the danger 329 we ran of a collision will) the United Slates. The simple question was, whether their Lordships would or would nut, in one form or another, co-operate with the Government in putting an end to this detestable traffic. The address that had recently been sent up to her Majesty on this subject, and her Majesty's answer to that address, seemed to settle the question. On the faith of Parliament, those orders had been issued. Their Lordships had been informed by his noble Friend, and he repeated that information, that orders of a most peremptory nature had been despatched, calculated to carry out the views of Parliament,—orders which he would not at present minutely describe; but he was perfectly ready to tell what would be the effect of those orders. They would lead to the detention and capture, by our cruizers, of all slavers under the Portuguese flag-, whether on the north side of the line or on the south side of the line, without regard to place or time. Those orders would lead to the detention and to the capture of every piratical vessel sailing without a legal national character, let her be found sailing where she might. That would be the effect of the orders. To execute these orders, it was necessary the officers should be protected and indemnified for the consequences. He did not think that either the Government or his friends would take upon themselves any great responsibility in doing all they could to meet the wishes of the whole of the people of the country to suppress the slave-trade. He would now endeavour to satisfy their Lordships that the enactments of the bill were necessary. The first enactment was, that her Majesty should issue orders to capture vessels not having on board the proper flag and papers. He thought no noble Lord could doubt the propriety of that enactment, because the mixed commission courts, constituted under treaties, could deal with no ships except those which had the colours and character of the countries to which the mixed commission court belonged; and, therefore, unless this power was given, vessels carrying on this illegal traffic would have nothing to do but to sink their papers, and they would get off with impunity. It was necessary, therefore, that a power should be given to stop all ships that had not a lawful national character. Such a provision did not confer any additional privilege on the 330 Crown, it only confirmed the powers that it now possessed. It was impossible, also, that any violation of a foreign flag could take place under this clause of the bill. Then, with respect to the next clause, it provided, that if any slaves were found on board the vessel, they were to be brought o adjudication. Was not that provision necessary, in order to deal effectually with piratical vessels? If such vessels were allowed to run free, how could slaves that were found on board be brought to adjudication? The next clause indemnified all persons against actions, and established a court, in which all claims were to be tried. With respect to the fourth clause, he felt bound to differ from his noble and learned Friend, that it could be conveniently dispensed with, because he thought it essential that there should be some distinct statement as to the equipment, which constituted a vessel carrying on the slave-trade. These were the several provisions of the bill, and he trusted their Lordships would give their assent to them. He begged their Lordships to consider that the slave-trade of the world was at the present moment carried on under the flag of Portugal. He had received returns relative to the number of vessels that had been captured for carrying on the slave-trade, and of forty-three vessels thirty-six were Portuguese, six American, one Spanish, and one Russian. Latterly, the whole slave-trade of Havannah had been carried on under the flag of Portugal. In the papers, now before their Lordships, they would find Portugal expressing her horror of the slave-trade. Nothing was more zealous than the language of Portugal against the slave-trade, but in proportion as she expressed her horror of the slave-trade, in that proportion it increased under her flag. She had declared the slave-trade illegal, and yet she was the only slave-trade nation in the world. The noble Earl concluded by expressing a hope that their Lordships would cordially co-operate with her Majesty's Ministers in putting an end to this detestable traffic.
§ The Earl of Galloway
wished to know if the bill went into committee, whether it were the intention of the Government to alter the preamble, by slating that her Majesty had ordered ships engaged in the traffic to be captured, instead of that she might order it.
§ Lord Denman
said, my Lords, I feel so strongly on this subject, that I should not forgive, myself if I did not state my reasons for thinking that it is the duty of your Lordships to pass the present bill. It is clearly admitted by the noble Duke opposite, that Portugal has no right to complain of any measures that may be adopted to put an end to the traffic in which her subjects were engaged. I am not going to argue this question with the slightest party feeling whatever, but I think your Lordships having it now in your power to prevent a great and enormous crime, it is your bounden duty to do all in your power to accomplish so benevolent and desirable an object. If the House does not pass this bill, they will be holding out a premium for the commission of a crime which diffuses blood over the whole world, and I hold, therefore, that it is the duty of your Lordships to spare no means of accomplishing so desirable an object. Supposing this measure was made applicable to Portugal alone, would there be the slightest objection to the passing of this bill? Certainly not; and if there is any objection arising from the other provisions of the bill they may be each struck out. Your Lordships have now a case before you, and you ought not to allow any opportunity to pass which will enable you to make the suppression of the practice of the slave-trade not merely a name, but a fact. What possible objection can there be to putting this country in the same position as Portugal in the suppression of the slave-trade. My noble Friend on the other side of the House must have forgotten the excellent judgment by which he distinguished himself in 1823, when a judge in the court in which I have the honour to preside; that judgment was that no subject of any nation had any right to sue in the courts of this country if he was guilty of a crime that was looked upon as such in the law of nations. The slave-trade is looked upon as such, not only by this country, but by Portugal herself. Though my noble Friend has forgotten that judgment, the right rev. Prelate has stated the same fact. The Government, therefore, in my opinion, ought not to shrink from the performance of their duty in persevering in this bill. When once it has been established that the slave-trade is illegal, the restraint which treaties have put upon its abolition ought to be looked at with a jealous eye. That is the prin- 332 ciple that was laid down by Sir William Grant, and by that principle I think your Lordships ought to be guided. That I state to be the exception to the rule to be introduced by the treaties. The Slave-trade of Spain was recognized by implication, and, therefore, the judgment of the court, in the case be had just alluded to, was, that the English captain had acted improperly, and was bound to make compensation. I may be told that the power proposed to be given by the bill is not wanted—that the indemnity proposed to be given by it is not required; but I need not tell my noble and learned Friend that in our courts of law there are many difficulties on the point, and that it would be the height of injustice to the officers employed to carry out the humane principles recognized by your Lordships, should they not be indemnified—that an English judge should be obliged to tell an English jury, that for a single moment there was a doubt on their minds that he was guilty of any crime, and liable to a heavy punishment for so humane an act. I say, then, that the necessity is imposed upon your Lordships of providing that the judge should be relieved from the necessity of stating that a man who had been engaged in the capture of his dark fellow-creatures was engaged in a legal traffic; that he had a right to go and drag hundreds of thousands of his fellow-creatures, and consign them to all the horrors of slavery; and at the same time tell the jury, that the man who, in obedience to your Lordship's orders, stopped him in the inhuman traffic, was guilty of a punishable offence. I say, your Lordships are called upon to do something for the protection of your own agents, acting upon your own enactments. Now, my Lords, with respect to the Admiralty Court—it surely would be a great security for the suppression of the slave-trade, that that Court should have the power to adjudicate upon such cases in the spirit of English law. The bill can do an injury to no one being; in may be superfluous, but it can do no harm; and if your Lordships should follow the course you took the other night, it will be a source of lasting regret to all those who abominate the horrid traffic. Then, my Lords, with respect to the seizure of other vessels. I am really sorry to say one word upon the subject, after what fell from my noble and learned Friend. I feel ashamed 333 to repeat that no Act of Parliament can give the Crown power to seize vessels which it is precluded from doing by treaties. The words "any vessel" mean only any vessel which the Crown is now permitted to seize by treaties into which it has entered, and does not include any vessel which under the treaties it could not capture. If the treaty with France or any other power, binds our Government to employ only parties of a particular rank, and require their conduct to be limited by special instructions, surely that does not interfere with the principle of the bill—it can be remedied and provided for in Committee. The description of persons to be employed, may there be made conformable to the treaties. Although by the treaties, the power is restricted to certain classes of individuals, still there is the right of search and visitation. The persons seizing a vessel, must act on their responsibility, for nobody can possibly tell that a vessel was fitted out for slaving purposes, until he has been on board. But let me ask, my Lords, what other possible method is there of putting down the abominable and atrocious slave-trade? Now, my Lords, allow me to allude for a moment to the case of America. Undoubtedly there must be the right of search of American vessels as well as others. There have been seizures of American vessels, and she has not resisted it—nay, she has handed over her malefactors to her own tribunals for punishment, anxious to put an end to the atrocious system. She has said that the slave-trade is piracy—an abomination and an atrocious crime—in which she ought to have been joined by all nations. Now, my Lords, if a mistake is made either with an American vessel or one of any other nation, the captain making the mistake, must be liable in respect of it, or the State in his place. If it were not so, it would be impossible to take any steps for the suppression of the slave-trade. The Government take upon themselves the responsibility of the whole matter, they call upon the House to do nothing but indemnify the officers of her Majesty in the discharge of a duty imposed upon them, and to allow the Admiralty Court to adjudicate upon seizures made under the treaties. I wish to abstain from any topic that can produce any angry feeling. I am anxious to do nothing but call your Lordships' attention to the true state of the case—to show that 334 there is not one objection made to the measure but can be remedied and obviated in Committee. I therefore say, that my opinion strongly is, that your Lordships should permit the second reading of the bill.
The Earl of Wicklow
thought, there was great force in the objections taken to the bill by the noble Duke. The measure was not brought in a due and proper manner before the House. It ought to have been recommended by a Royal message. The noble and learned Lord had stated, that the statement of a Member of that House, but especially of a minister, was sufficient reason for legislation on the part of their Lordships—he did not agree in that opinion. Had their Lordships been aware of what would grow out of their resolution of a few nights ago, he thought they would have hesitated before they agreed to it in so hasty and informal a manner. It was true the bill did not add to the powers of the Crown, but it sanctioned the exercise of powers which must lead to explanations, and might prove very embarrassing to the country. A second and more serious objection might be remedied by confining the operation of the bill to Portugal. But then other flags would be resorted to, and the slave-trade would be carried on. If that were the case, the second provision of the bill, calculated as it was to lead to incalculable mischief, must be retained, or the measure would be wholly ineffectual. Though disapproving of the present measure, he was sincerely anxious to cooperate with the Government in any proper measure for the suppression of the slave-trade. He protested, however, against its being considered that his professions were insincere, because he did not happen to agree on the plan which the Government chose to propose. And no desire for the attainment of the more desirable object, the abolition of the traffic in our fellow-creatures, should induce him to assent to a measure which he believed would endanger the general peace, by producing jealousies and dissensions among different nations.
said, it was with pain he felt himself on this occasion compelled to vote in opposition to those with whom he usually' had the pleasure to act, and against the noble Duke, for whom he had the highest respect. He had hoped that there would have been no resistance to the 335 bill—and that after the address which had been unanimously agreed on by their Lordships, the Government would have been supported in the means which they took for carrying it into effect. He could not help remarking, that it was very injudicious to call on the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty, to divulge the orders of the Board, and he complimented the noble Lord for having divulged so much of them, more upon his candour than his prudence. No doubt the bill might have some faults, but they would be amended in Committee, He had intended to rise to advocate the cause of those officers and men who, in obedience to the orders of the Admiralty, might expose themselves to great hazard; but their claims had been so ably stated by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and eloquently urged by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Denman) that he need not attempt to add anything to what they had said. Those noble and learned Lords had stated, that these parties were wholly unprotected—they could not examine into the constitutional considerations connected with any particular service—their duty was to obey orders. Was it not ungenerous, then, to leave them to be tormented by protracted law-suits, instead of passing the close of their days in peace and comfort, and enjoying those domestic felicities from which they had so long been separated in foreign climes? It was for the British Legislature to do everything they could to put an end to the slave-trade as now existing; and he trusted their Lordships would allow the second reading of the bill, in order that such alterations might be made in Committee as were deemed necessary. God forbid it should go forth to the world, that the House had refused to pass an Act of this description.
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents 39; Not-Contents 28: Majority 11.336
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
|Wicklow||Stuart de Rothesay|
§ The following Protest was entered against the second reading of the Bill.
§ 1. Because the object of this bill is to au thorize an officer of the Crown to order the adoption of measures of hostility against Portugal, and other operations of war, not founded upon any public declaration of the Sovereign, or message to this House in the usual form, announcing the necessity for such measures and operations, and calling upon the House to give its legislative assistance to enable her Majesty to carry into execution and perform the same, if such assistance should be necessary.
§ 2. Because this House has not before it the information to enable its members to judge of the expediency and necessity for these measures and operations; of the force necessary to carry into execution and carry on the same; of the probable resistance and retaliation of Portugal and other powers, and, in that case, of the means of resistance of this country for the protection of her Majesty's dominions abroad, and of the innocent and defenceless commerce of her subjects in all parts of the world.
§ 3. Because the constitution of this kingdom and uniform practice have been, to leave to 337 the Sovereign, acting by the advice of her servants, the decision on all questions of peace or war; and to carry into execution such measures, and to order such operations, as the Sovereign might be advised.
§ 4. Because the enactment by Parliament of measures and operations of war against a power of Europe is unusual and unconstitutional.
§ 5. Because the enactments of the first clause in the bill enable the Lord High Admiral, or any one of her Majesty's Secretaries of State to authorize any person or persons, that is, in a privateer letter of-marque, or otherwise, to detain, visit, demand, search for, and examine the papers of any vessels engaged, or by such persons supposed to be engaged in the slave-trade; and in case such vessels should not have on board, or the master thereof should refuse, or neglect to produce on demand, papers showing that they are justly entitled to claim the protection of the flag of any state or nation, to detain, seize, and capture such vessels, and this, while the existing treaty with the King of the French, for the purpose of more effectually suppressing the criminal traffic called the slave trade, stipulates that a mutual right of search might be exercised on board the vessels of each of the two nations within certain waters; but that the right of search shall be exercised only by ships-of-war, whose commanders shall have the rank of captain, or at least that of lieutenant in the Royal Navy. That the number of ships, invested with this right, shall be fixed each year by special agreement. That the names of the ships and their commanders shall be communicated by each of the Governments to the other, and information given of all changes. That the ships-of-war authorized to exercise the reciprocal right of search shall be furnished with a special authority from each of the two Governments. That the search shall be exercised only within the waters as described, that is to say, the west coast of Africa from the tenth degree of south latitude to the fifteenth degree of north latitude, as far as the thirty degrees of west longitude from the meridian of Paris; all round the Island of Madagascar, to the extent of twenty leagues from the island; to the same distance from the Islands of Cuba and Porto Rico, and from the coast of Brazil. That whenever a merchant vessel shall have been overtaken, being liable to suspicion, the commanding officer, before he proceeds to the search, shall exhibit to the captain of the merchant vessel the special orders which confer upon him, by exception, the right to visit her. The treaty then proceeds to specify the places to which shall be sent for adjudication French merchant ships detained by her Britannic Majesty's ships, being all of them places in which the jurisdiction was to be French.
§ But the first and all the clauses of the bill which enable the Lord High Admiral, or any Secretary of State, to authorize any person or persons to detain, search, seize, and capture 338 any vessels, require that the same shall be brought for adjudication in the High Court of Admiralty in England, or in any Vice-Admiralty Court within her Majesty's dominion.
§ 6. Because treaties to a similar purport, if not copies of the treaties with the King of the French, have been concluded for the same purpose with the following powers and states: The King of Sweden and Norway, the King of Denmark, the Queen of Spain, the King of Sardinia, the King of the Two Sicilies, the King of the Netherlands, the Hanse Towns, and the Grand Duke of Tuscany.
§ 7. Because the fourth section of the bill particularly refers to the equipment of a merchant vessel which has negroes found on board, shall be considered as a primâ facie evidence of the employment of such vessel in the transport of negroes or others for the purpose of carrying them to slavery, and requires that such vessels shall be brought to England, or elsewhere, to be adjudicated and condemned in a British court of justice, notwithstanding that the treaty with the King of the French contains a special stipulation upon this very subject of equipment, and provides that merchant vessels under French colours, detained and found to be so equipped, shall be sent for adjudication to a particular place stated, there to be adjudged by a French tribunal. The treaties with other powers contain similar stipulations.
§ 8. Because the provisions of the bill convey powers to the Lord High Admiral and to the Secretaries of State, to give instructions to her Majesty's cruisers, and to give authority to all persons, which must occasion breaches of the stipulations of her Majesty's engagements with nearly all the powers of Europe, if exercised, as they may, and probably will be.
§ 9. Because the exercise of the powers given by the bill to the Lord High Admiral, and to the Secretaries of State, may tend to the detention and search for papers; and the consequences of these acts on board the merchant vessels belonging to the citizens of nations or subjects of powers with which her Majesty is not engaged by any treaty for the mutual detention and search of vessels for the purpose of preventing the traffic called the slave-trade, may be that such detention and search may be resisted or retaliated, and eventually lead to other measures of war.
§ 10. Because it is the Sovereign, with the advice of her Council, who ought to originate such measures likely to be attended by such consequences, if the honour or the interest of the country should require their adoption, and not the Houses of Parliament, whose duty it is to adopt proceedings in support of such measures, when regularly called upon by the Sovereign, by message in the usual form.
§ 11. Because measures so unusual, and calculated to be attended by such consequences, are not necessary in order to obtain from Portugal the due execution of the treaties concluded with the Sovereigns of this coun- 339 try; at the same time, they are more likely than others to lead to permanent, if not interminable hostilities between the two nations.
§ 12. Because the bill authorizes the capture and detention of Portuguese vessels, and natives of Portugal, subjects to the Crown of Portugal, and their adjudication before a British tribunal for a breach of treaty with the Sovereign of Great Britain and Ireland, and a breach of the law of Portugal; thus assuming a right to exercise a jurisdiction at sea to punish a foreigner by the sentence of the courts of this country, for a breach of the municipal law of his own country.
§ 13. Because such proceedings as are authorized by this bill, are inconsistent with the ancient and honourable policy of this country, to maintain for ourselves peace with all nations, by respecting the rights, institutions, and in dependence of all, and cultivating their good will by friendly relations, to promote peace between the nations of the world in general, by our good offices and exertions, particularly in favour of the weak.
|Wicklow||De L'Isle & Dudley.|