HL Deb 13 August 1846 vol 88 cc649-75

moved the Second Reading of the Sugar Duties Bill (No. 3).


said: I assure your Lordships that it is not without feelings of the greatest diffidence that I rise for the purpose of opposing the present Motion. The cause in which I am called upon to address you is one, the character of which is, in my eyes, peculiarly sacred; yet I feel the greatest difficulty in opposing myself to any proposal proceeding from Her Majesty's Government. It would give me great pain at any time to oppose a Government measure; and I conceive it to be highly inconvenient that opposition to any measure introduced by the Administration for the time being should proceed from any one sitting on this bench; but the pain necessarily occasioned by opposition of any kind, is much increased by the duty of opposing the present Govern- ment upon this question. I beg further to assure your Lordships, that if the Bill now before you was one which related merely to matters of revenue or finance, I should so distrust my own judgment, that I should not be found in opposition to the proposal of the Government, and upon other grounds I should abstain from troubling your Lordships this evening. But the Bill now before the House is not a matter of revenue or finance—it is one which affects, most deeply affects, the moral character, the justice, and the integrity of this country; and however influenced I may be by every one of the restraining feelings to which I have referred, I still am bound by a sense of duty to take the course which I am now about to pursue, and to obtrude myself on the attention of your Lordships upon this occasion. I repeat that it is peculiarly painful to me to oppose the present Government, because I cannot forget that those who preceded some Members of the Queen's Ministry in the hereditary honours and titles which they enjoy, were men distinguished for a long, persevering, and uniform support of that side of the present question which I humbly and feebly endeavour to advocate; they were friends of the cause in the old days when the cause was in disrespect; they were no summer friends to the cause they advocated. The noble Marquess, now President of Her Majesty's Council, I have long been taught to regard with honour and admiration on account of his opposition to slavery and the Slave Trade. I also cannot forget that a noble Earl, the second who possesses the title now borne by the Colonial Secretary, made a Motion in the House of Commons against the Slave Trade, and with a view to its total abolition. Therefore do I feel the greater pain in thus addressing the House; but the claims of duty frequently force us to do that which is the most repugnant to our feelings; and I can truly say, that if I did not feel bound by a strong tie of duty, I should on the present occasion have given a silent vote. But let me say at once, that I mean by no covert insinuation to suggest that noble Lords who support this measure, are one whit less humane, one whit less sincere and earnest in their desire to prevent slavery and the Slave Trade, than I am myself. I shall of course not trouble your Lordships with the metaphysical argument, in which I think we are right. It is what we know and see every day, that much is taken for granted; but that only makes it more the duty of those who consider they perceive, and in those noble Lords who desire to maintain, the right in this case, though an error in judgment if wrong, to come forward and to endeavour to clear away those misconceptions which have led others to a wrong conclusion. I think, after giving to it the best consideration, that the question, in the view that they take of it, may be stated in the fewest possible words. The argument which has been brought forward to induce your Lordships to pass this Bill is this—the people of England are now supplied with an insufficient quantity of an article, if not entirely essential to their well-being, essential certainly to their comfort, essential in a high degree even to their well-being; the quantity therefore which is now supplied must be increased; the increase can only come from facilitating the trade in that article with Cuba and Brazil; and therefore you must facilitate the admission of Cuba and Brazil sugar, in order, first, to supply the people at home with a sufficient quantity of this article, which is so necessary; and, secondly, to provide a vent for your manufactures, the production of which is the main livelihood of your home population. This, I think, is the argument put before us. Now, this argument implies this, that a larger quantity of sugar must be exported from Cuba and Brazil, to be imported into this country. And it necessarily implies this, for this reason, that the deficiency of the supply in the English market is not because the English market is not able to command this article in preference to other markets, but because the entire production of sugar, in all sugar-producing countries, is so limited that you cannot increase, as you wish, the supply to the English market, without increasing the production in the sugar-producing countries. I have it from a far higher authority than myself, from a declaration made in another place by a Gentleman who is well acquainted with the particular subject and the particular countries—from Sir J. Hogg—that there has not been up to this time, in all sugar-producing countries, such a sufficient supply of sugar as is required to be supplied. He went on to say, that only in regard to this great article of consumption does there occur the fact that, if you take the trade of a year, there is not at the end of the year three months' supply left on hand, so closely—even in a year—does the consumption of the produced material tread on the power of pro- duction. Therefore, does it seem that there must be an increased, and a greatly increased, power of production in Cuba and Brazil, in order to supply that increased demand which it is your purpose to create in England. Now, how is that to be increased? Not—and here I may quote the authority of the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon) upon the Treasury bench at this moment—by the introduction of machinery into Cuba and Brazil, because, as it was most truly said by the noble Earl, the powers of machinery imply a certain amount of knowledge, of civilization; the Slave Trade implies no amount of civilization, and therefore you cannot bring, you cannot compare, the two things together. The Slave Trade implies the production of sugar by the sinews, the muscles, and the thews of men—the mere effort of a man's strength; but by machinery are implied very different forces and agents. And it is not, therefore, that you will bring in machinery to do the work and to effect the end, but it is that you must, in some way or other, obtain from the manual labour of Cuban and Brazilian workmen, that greater amount of labour you require. Now, again, how is this to be obtained? Not by a greater amount of labour exacted from existing labourers: no; it is admitted on all hands that a greater amount of labour from that source cannot be obtained; that every effort has been tried, and that every effort has failed; that the lash has done its utmost; that physical suffering of every kind has done its utmost; and that the exertions under the influence of the lash which already have been made, are not to be exceeded. Therefore it is impossible thus to do it. At this moment we know by the accounts we have obtained, that the slaves of Cuba and Brazil are calculated to perish at the rate of 10 per cent per annum—that always at the end of ten years the whole existing amount of labour is killed off, and a new stock has to be brought in. It is therefore impossible out of the existing stock to obtain a greater amount of labour than is already obtained. How, then again, I ask, is it to be obtained? The only way to increase the production is to increase the number of producing labourers, that is to say, to extend the Slave Trade, which brings those labourers from Africa. And this is capable of being reduced so much to a numerical calculation, that, finding as we do in Cuba that the labour of one negro is equal to 19 cwts. of sugar, we may say that for every additional ton of sugar purposed by this Bill to be introduced into England, directly and by necessity—not by the remote chance of circumstances and causes—not by a mere entangled chain and connexion of causes, but directly and immediately—foreknowing and with our own eyes open—we render necessary the importation of one fresh negro labourer from Africa into Cuba and Brazil. But this is not all. Multiply that labourer who is to labour there by all the loss of human life which attends the collecting of negro slaves in Africa. Even this is not the worst part of the business; for these slaves, before being made slaves were free, and their capture is the occasion of rapine, war, violence, and bloodshed on the coast of and in Africa; and, therefore, we are carrying back into the heart of Africa itself all this mischief. It is not solely and alone the single man that is represented by this significant 19 cwts.; it represents likewise all the fearful amount of iniquity, cruelty and injustice in Africa, which is previously to be perpetrated before this one man is to be bought on the coast, and put in the hold of a vessel to be transported across the middle passage. Then, there is to be considered also the waste of life in the middle passage and in the seasoning, and you are to take all this into account in making an accurate calculation. For every 19 cwt. or 20 cwt. of sugar you are going in this way to introduce into England, you will have to consider the loss of life in collecting the labourers in Africa, then the loss of life in the middle passage, and the seasoning on reaching those shores which to him are so cruel and inhospitable. Therefore, it is clear that the direct and necessary effect of this act of yours must be to produce a great, an immediate, and therefore, I say, a most iniquitous increase in that great crime—in that greatest of crimes—the Slave Trade; the capturing of man by violence, and violently and cruelly transferring him from the condition of a free man to the condition of a slave. Now, my Lords, this argument appears to me to be incontrovertible; at least, I will say thus much, that as yet it has been uncontroverted; there has been no direct answer to it whatever, and I speak after having studied with great attention the recent debates on this subject both in your Lordships' and in the other House. This plain, and as I think convincing argument, remains as yet untouched. It certainly has been met in this way, by a series of object- tions which, have been urged to take off the force of the argument, the argument itself being left without an answer. One objection urged—urged, I think, in your Lordships' House, and undoubtedly elsewhere—is this, that the whole of our argument falls to the ground, inasmuch as it is capable of proof that the increased production of sugar in Cuba and Brazil has not been kept pace with by an increased number of the imported negroes. Such was the argument addressed on a recent occasion to your Lordships' House by the noble Earl. It was urged by the noble Earl, that whatever may be the weight of the abstract argument, experience, which has greater weight, has proved this—that Cuba and Brazil could go on increasing the production of sugar, without increasing the number of the negroes by whom it is produced. But what is that, my Lords, really worth? I deny utterly the truth and verity of those figures on which the objection is based. A statement was produced by the noble Earl, giving the number of tons and cwts. of sugar produced from a time, beginning in 1844, and going five or six years backwards, and showing on one side the increased quantity of sugar produced, and on the other the diminution in the number of negroes imported. Why, we have no data—no real, reliable data of either the one or the other. We have no data for the quantity of sugar produced; because the only measure, the only approximation to a measure of any such which we have, is the quantity exported, not the quantity produced. We know only what was exported; how can we know what was produced? We hear the greatest conceivable complaints at this time, that there is a perfect glut of sugar in the markets of Cuba and Brazil—that it has no exit: this may have been the case in one of the years mentioned; and we have, therefore, only the quantity of sugar which was exported, and know nothing of the actual production. Then, on the other hand, what do we accurately know of the number of actually imported slaves? Why, we know nothing. In the returns brought forward by the noble Lord, and in those given to us by consular authority, we have certain statements; but what are they worth? What can the consul at Havannah tell of the number of slaves imported along that coast, when it is a fact that the trade in these slaves is declared to be and dealt with by that consul as illicit and contraband? I ask, how is it possible he can furnish any true returns of the trade or of the number of slaves landed along that wide seaboard? The thing when it comes to be examined is absolutely fallacious, and unsound from beginning to end. We know then, as I have proved, nothing of the quality of sugar produced; we know nothing of the number of slaves imported; we cannot compare them; and therefore an argument so insecure in its numbers, and depending for its validity, if it have any validity at all, on its numbers, cannot be accepted; and it is not a necessary sequence that the sugar is not produced without additional labour, and that the labour is not furnished by an importation of negroes. But there is another very important consideration—so important that I wonder it did not strike the acute mind of the noble Earl, that the introduction of negro labour into sugar-producing Colonics does not create in that year, or in the year following this introduction, any great increase in the sugar produced. The great necessity in those Colonies is, first, to keep up the existing supply, there being something of a regular demand; and, secondly, it is requisite to break up, calculating upon an increased after demand, the virgin soil, to build houses, to plant canes on the new lands, and to construct sugar-houses; and there is called for an immense addition to the number of labourers to bring these lands to the stage in which sugar is produced. It is five or six years before there is obtained that sugar which is the result of the toil in breaking up these lands, and of bringing them into cultivation; and therefore, provided that in the year 1840 or 1838, or in the year before that, there was an immense importation of negroes, the effect extended over the five or six years referred to—to 1844. You have, during those five years, a lull in the importation from Africa, and in the last year an increase in the production of sugar; for, in the preceding year, you had not to break up new lands. Thus, without an annual increase in succeeding years in the number of labourers, you have an increase in the quantity of sugar produced. But it is no mere speculation—in the very year preceding that to which the noble Earl pointed, there was one of those vast importations of negroes. In the one port of Rio alone, in the year preceding that referred to, no less than 30,000 slaves are stated to have been landed to break up the virgin soil; and the result of that importation, with the production year after year, has given you the state of things which the noble Earl has shown to have existed. This is the objection of the noble Earl to our argument; but while a negative argument is worth nothing, a positive argument is worth everything; and so far as this objection, on which great weight was laid by the noble Earl and by the noble Marquess, goes, the original position which I venture to lay down stands unshaken, and is to be received by your Lordships as untouched. It is so far true that the direct effect of this Act will be as a stimulus, as a bonus on that great crime, the Slave Trade. Another argument against us, which seems to me to be looked upon as the greatest of all, and which I find urged in all companies by persons of honour and integrity on that side, is what I would call the moral argument. It is said, at all events it is not possible for you who object to this measure to hold your objection, because you permit and sanction the importation of other articles, the production likewise of slave labour. You are receiving Carolina cotton; and how can you show a conscientious objection to taking Cuba sugar? The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) will do me this justice, not to include me among those who, as he supposes, are hypocritically using this argument, for the purpose of covering altogether a different ground—that, at any rate, he will not think I am a disguised protectionist. I have been ready before now to sustain all the obloquy I may meet with in proclaiming myself, on all proper subjects of free trade, as much a free-trader as the noble Marquess can be; and therefore I anticipate the noble Marquess will give that weight to what I say which the argument per se deserves, and without thinking he is dealing with a man who puts it on the ground of humanity, secretly intending to cover the ground of protection and personal interest. What is this, the moral argument, worth? It takes, if developed, this form; but you cannot, you are not bold enough to say—you do not stop the introduction of cotton from America, and therefore you have no right to refuse to admit sugar from Cuba: you cannot say this. Is it, in a grave assembly of reasoning men, to be told to us, as a convincing argument, that because I cannot undo one evil, therefore I must consent to another? Am I to be told it is argument to bring forward to your Lordships in such an assembly as this, that because I cannot prevent housebreaking, therefore I am to legalize murder? Am I to be told, because it is impossible for me to prevent my people dealing in the cotton which the cotton slaves produce—which dealing, be it remembered, begun before this country announced it would have nothing to do with the Slave Trade or slavery; which trading we then found established; which trading from that day to this, this country has never been called upon to avow as a new principle—that, therefore, because this evil cannot be redressed, I would be a hypocrite not to join in inflicting another evil? When this argument comes to be weighed, it is utterly untenable, and will, I hope, he abandoned by your Lordships, and even by those who allowed themselves in extreme stress to use it; and it is an extreme and wonderful stress they are in to find arguments to meet that overwhelming case against them. But this is not all; we are told that we do not alone take cotton from America, but from Cuba itself there are goods admitted—as copper, coffee, indigo, and even sugar. That argument I answer at once by saying—I, for one, am perfectly ready to join with Her Majesty's Government in forbidding the introduction of Cuba copper. Let the noble Lords who occupy the places of the Government produce a measure which shall make it illegal to import copper the produce of labour of a most horrible description in the copper mines of Cuba and Brazil, and they will meet with the most unbounded support from me and from those who think with me upon this question. So far we would be quite free from the charge of hypocrisy, for we are as ready to join in repealing that as we are joined in opposing this. There has not, however, been a very fair statement of the case. It is stated that in the year 1842 the duty was taken off, and the introduction of copper from the mines of Cuba and Brazil was for the first time permitted. But that is not the fact: as the law stood before that, copper from Cuba and Brazil was admitted, not to be sold, indeed, in England, but to be smelted under bond; and all that we did in 1842 was to make a variation in the previously existing license—not to grant a new license altogether, It was a measure expedient on the ground of public revenue; not on which to introduce more Cuba copper into this country, but for a peculiar purpose—to be smelted and then exported. [Earl GREY: Hear, hear.] Mark how the noble Earl cheers: he thinks the argument unsound; but I use it only so far—we have taken no new step in introducing slave-produced copper within the last few years. I desert that argument; I say exclude this copper altogether, and that is my answer. And in arguing in this way the noble Lord will remember that there is this great distinction—this is not a sugar-producing country for our own necessity; we are not only a copper-producing country for our own necessity, but we are a copper-exporting country, and that, therefore, this copper does not find its way into the English market, and is only smelted for foreign importation when under bond. This, then, is our reply to the main argument, that I and others opposing this measure are ready at once to make illegal the importation of copper produced by that amount of wrong, ruin, and misery, involved in slave labour. Then the question of coffee comes; and I beg the attention of your Lordships to this point, for it is one of great importance, and one concerning which there has been much mis-statement. Some few years ago the coffee imported from Brazil and Cuba, was coffee imported only for re-exportation. There was a custom then universal in those places of drying the coffee on hides; this process imparted to the coffee a flavour which rendered it unsaleable in the English market; but the more northern nations, esteeming that particular flavour, were great purchasers from us of that coffee. The producers in time discovered this fact; they dried the coffee afterwards in a very different manner, and it then came direct into the English market. Here, however, the noble Lord will observe, that my objection, and that of many others, is not an abstract objection to articles produced in a country the internal institutions of which admit of slavery. I for one hold that with such a case as that we have nothing to do. My objection is, that this Act is a direct bonus on that which we, as a nation, have declared to be so great a crime that we brand it as piracy on the high seas. We have pledged ourselves, and have the concurrence of other nations, so to deal with it; and it would be a contradiction to an instituted national principle of this country to do anything to encourage that which, as a nation, we have so branded. Now, the production of coffee in Cuba and Brazil does nothing to encourage slavery. I maintain it on this ground—and I think I can prove it—that the growth of coffee affords abundance of employment, especially, not for the full-grown negroes, but for the women and children; and that the labour of the women and children in this is of more value than that of the full-grown slave. His strength is wasted in the coffee plantation; it is valuable in the sugar plantation; and thus an encouragement to the trade in coffee has an influence to make it the interests of the Brazilian planter to foster the growth at home of a native race of negroes, in place of importing them from the other side of the Atlantic. Those coffee plantations are the cheapest and best which are attended to and laboured in by women and children; these will have to be procured, and can only, if their growth be not encouraged at home, be procured from Africa; and just so far as you, in these countries, throw difficulties in the way of sugar, and facilities in the way of the importation of coffee, do you tend to make the planter in Cuba and Brazil depend for his profit upon the production of coffee, and not upon the production of sugar—just so far do you throw a hindrance in the way of the Slave Trade, and offer a bonus to the nurturing of a native race of negroes, growing up amid all the amenities of family life—and just so far, also, do you sow the way, in time—be that nearer or distant—for extirpating slavery itself; substituting free labour, obtained from the country itself, for the unhappy negro slaves carried across the Atlantic. Thus, though the coffee imported into this country be an article produced in a certain degree by the Slave Trade, yet the encouragement to that importation is inimical to the Slave Trade, and has the greatest direct effect in supplanting the profits of that trade in the very country from which we import the coffee. I think your Lordships will now admit that the second objection as well as the first, has been answered on a twofold ground. It has been shown that it is absurd to say, because you have done wrong in this case, and cannot get out of the wrong, therefore do wrong in another case. Why, my Lords, this is the argument that has been handed down to us as illustrating the history of temptation. What is the history of the temptation of every man in crime but this: he has taken one step, therefore take another; he has injured his character, and contracted evil connexions; it is too late to amend, and he goes on, on, down that dread descent which leads to reprobation and ruin? And, then, my Lords, think what that argument is; we may have done wrong of old in polluting ourselves with the horrors of the Slave Trade; we were mixed with slave-trading and slave-labour employing countries; late in the day we severed ourselves from an open participation in those enormities, but the remains of that former iniquity hang-about you; and because I can point out to you those, therefore be consistent, and join us to the full amount in those unholy profits of which once you, with other nations, were the unquestionable partakers. I think that that second objection is despatched. I will now proceed to say a few words on the third objection raised against us opposing this measure, and I will put it in the plainest form. It is said that the people of England must have an increase in their supply of sugar; that is the mode in which it is generally put; but I have heard it urged in an influential quarter in a more objectionable way; it was stated in language like this—it is quite true that you have abolished the Slave Trade as a matter of justice; but now there is another injustice done; the English people must have everything they want, and you must consider how much that claim of the English people qualifies your former principle of the necessity of abolishing the Slave Trade, and the principle of not introducing any measure that may tend to encourage slavery. Now, my Lords, I deny in the most emphatic terms that the people of England have any right to have any want supplied at the cost of injustice, robbery, and rapine; the English people have a right to expect at your hands, that you will enact laws lightening their burdens, and facilitating their obtaining from every part of the earth what may conduce to that end, provided it comes in by lawful channels of commerce; but the people have no right, and what is more, I do not believe if they were appealed to that they would be found to demand, that they should be supplied with luxuries, or even the necessaries of life, where they are earned by the blood of those who, if Christianity be not a fable, are their very brothers. I say, therefore, my Lords, that this argument of the necessity of an increased supply of sugar for the people falls utterly through. But then it has been attempted to be supported, as weak arguments often are, by a second weak one, as if two weak positions joined together would make a strong one; and it is a common fallacy for reasons of this kind to be supported in this way: it is said, though the argument as to the supply of the people may not be maintainable, yet, after all, we believe that in the long run, as a commonly admitted principle, free trade will do away with the Slave Trade and slavery. The proof is attempted in this way—it is stated that slave labour is dearer than free, and that if the countries cultivated by slave labour are brought into competition with those where free labour is used, they will, by the necessity of that competition, be forced to adopt the free system. This argument is produced with something like force, for it has the appearance of a weapon taken from our own camp. You say the emancipationists and abolitionists were always telling us free labour is cheaper than that of slaves: but what is really the argument? It is this, that free labour, cæteris paribus, is cheaper than slave labour; that if put together, the lash on the one band, and the inducements to work furnished by a domestic and family existence on the other, then the free man will do more work than the slave. This is undoubtedly true; but this argument is altogether inapplicable when a new condition is introduced, and is therefore altogether annihilated when it is permitted to the slaveholder to introduce an unlimited number of full-grown slave labourers to replace those who may be killed off by the work, or rendered valueless. It is not true then that free labour is cheaper than that of slaves, in the sense of a more immediate production of wealth. It is altogether untrue. I do not for a moment mean to say that the great Governor of this world has so ordered things that the larger reward will be to the unjust man who uses his fellow being as a slave, above the man who justly uses his hired labourer; but there is a more immediate return of wealth in one case than in the other; because wealth alone is not to be the measure of the blessing given by Providence upon one sort of labour compared with the other. Wealth may be obtained by slavery, but obtained in that evil way it brings a curse, not alone on the individual, but on the nation that so obtains it; and thus we see that slave labour, while it produces more immediate riches, produces also evils which are the sure witness of God against it. It introduces miseries and evils of every kind; every uncertainty as to the rights of property, every uncertainty of the tenure of life, not to the oppressed only, but to the oppressor; while it poisons all the relations of family life with regard to both. The history of all slave communities shows this to be so. It is true, indeed, that men may gain great riches by the system; but with it comes a curse that poisons the wealth, and makes it valueless to its possessors; men tremble in their very houses lest the instruments by which they have amassed the treasure, may at any moment become the avengers of the crimes by which they were made the instruments of obtaining it. As it is, slave labour, with an unlimited supply to replace those killed off, is undoubtedly cheaper than the labour of the free man, than the labour of those free men raised patiently through the years in which they can do no work, and maintained at the end of their lives through the years in which they can do but little. But it is said that in Cuba and Brazil this increase of slave labour, without stint or limit, is acting wholesomely in checking the importation by creating a fear of the slaves themselves. An abundant answer to this is, that the fear and the love of gain do not possess the same parties. The fear dwells principally upon the wealthy planter; the desire of gain rests upon the indigent, needy, and adventurous planter, and on the unscrupulous and greedy slavetrader who has no stake in the country. Whilst the greatest terror possesses the large capitalist, cupidity inspires the other; and the two elements, instead of checking one another, co-exist together. There may be a perfect dread in one portion of society of the continued importation of slaves; but there is a perfect thirst for gold in the other; and the conflict only serves to produce intestine discord, and to aggravate the condition of the negroes so introduced. What I say is, that with this power of an unlimited supply of slaves to cultivate the virgin soils, slave labour is absolutely cheaper than free; and by this measure you will stimulate the transference of the negro from Africa to these sugar-producing countries in the exact degree to which you introduce their sugar into your own market. There is one more objection, my Lords: it is the last I shall trouble the House with, and I must apologize for troubling it even at this length—it is said that, after all, the system of abolition upon which this country has hitherto been acting has proved a total failure; and that, therefore, we ought to make an alteration in it. It is said we have tried covering the coast of Africa with our vessels of war—we have tried the exclusion from our market of the produce of Cuba and Brazil; and yet all has failed—that at the present time the Slave Trade is four times as great as it was in 1807, when we passed the Abolition Bill; the system having thus proved a total failure, it is high time to try another course. But in this objection, again, I deny altogether the first position—I deny altogether that a greater number of slaves are now introduced into these countries than when we began our efforts. There is a barefaced fallacy in this statement, by which your Lordships must not be led away. The question is not whether there is a greater number of slaves introduced than in 1807, but whether that number is as great as it would have been had the Abolition Bill never been passed. Is this maintainable for a moment? To continue the stock of slaves in your own West India islands and in the Colonies you took from the Dutch and the French, upon the lowest computation, even if a single acre of virgin soil had not been broken up, 15,000 or 20,000 negroes would have been required annually. The transport of that number of slaves has been entirely stopped; so much for one part of the failure. And why has there been an increase in the importation to Cuba and the Spanish and Portuguese settlements? Was it in consequence of your measures? No; it was in spite of them; it has been caused by the increased riches of the Continent of Europe, making it a greater sugar market than before; and that increased demand for sugar in the market of Europe has increased the importation of slaves to supply the demand, in spite of all your efforts; it has overpowered all your exertions. But will any man bring this forward as an argument for throwing open to the produce of those slave countries the richest and greatest market on the face of the earth? If, in spite of everything you can do, by shutting them out of the richest market in the world, the demand for their produce has increased to this extent, surely it follows, as a demonstration, that if you open to them that richer and more powerful market, you will do more to stimulate the Slave Trade than ever you have done hitherto. There is one other part of the subject to which I wish to allude. Although there has been a great exportation of negroes from Africa, yet we have recently had abundant evidence that we were on the very margin of effecting the greatest possible abatement of the evil. This evidence comes from both sides the Atlantic. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) read a letter from a Government correspondent in Brazil, showing that there was spreading among the population there a feeling of great dissatisfaction at being excluded, on account of the Slave Trade, from the market of England, especially among those who wanted an immediate return of profits. There was a great disposition in that part of the community to admit that, given the exclusion from the English market, they were losers in many respects, instead of gainers, by the continuation of the horrible traffic. The Governments of Cuba and Brazil have long agreed with us to put down the Slave Trade, and to deal with it as piracy; but they have been overborne by their subjects. The people themselves are beginning to feel what exclusion from the markets of England is, and would be ready to join, not in treaties, for we have had treaties enough, but in giving effectual means for carrying those treaties into execution, and preventing the introduction of slaves. This is what is going on on that side of the Atlantic; on the other side, we have had, with the exception of an interval during the alarm of the Chinese war, a greatly increased and more efficient force on the coast of Africa, which has driven the Slave Trade out of its most favoured haunts, and limited it to comparatively a few spots, well known and more easily watched. We have been able to contract with the native chiefs new treaties for the extension of wholesome and lawful commerce; ports have been given up to us, which have been turned into outworks against the Slave Trade, instead of being its strongholds; missionaries having been appointed there along many miles of coast who are using all their means to civilize and convert the natives. Portugal is more disposed to co-operate with us than she has ever yet been. I have been told to-day by Dr. Lushington—an undoubted authority on this question—that, within the last few weeks, the Portuguese Government sent word to a near relation of his, that a vessel, built for the Slave Trade, was fitting out in a Portuguese port, and inviting him to come in and seize her, and prevent her engaging in this infernal traffic. France is joining heartily with us in the suppression of the Slave Trade; and those best acquainted with the subject have stated their opinion, that the combined fleets of France and England, acting heartily together, will be able to blockade and seal up the coast of Africa. In that opinion the late Secretary for Foreign Affairs coincided; that opinion is also held by the noble Lord who now holds that office. In the course of five years, eleven treaties and four conventions have been concluded for putting down the Slave Trade. If the present Powers act together heartily and honestly, they will be able to seal the coast of Africa against the exportation of slaves. But what you are now called on to do, my Lords, is to make all you have already done valueless and of none effect, and to reopen the Slave Trade along this immense seaboard; therefore, just at the very moment when there is the most reasonable expectation of reaching the goal we have so long thirsted for—just at the moment we were beginning to be repaid the outlay of life, treasure, energy, and principle, all freely spent in this great cause—just at that moment you are asked to give up all, by making it impossible to continue the blockade on the coast of Africa—by making it impossible for the Brazilian people to join with the Brazilian rulers—and by making it impossible for the nations of Europe to believe that we can have been in earnest, or could have had our hearts in a matter which we are so ready to give up for a consideration of mere fiscal advantage. My Lords, when it is said that the abolition of the Slave Trade has been a failure, I certainly feel some sensation approaching to indignation in my mind. It has been, my Lords, no failure at all. To those men, those honoured men, our common ancestors, who fought the battle, and to those still living who have taken part in it, the object to be gained was not the Quixotic idea of putting down slavery at once all over the face of the earth, by putting an end to it in their own country, or in lands subject to its control. It was that which they unflinchingly proclaimed before their fellow countrymen, and that at least has been no failure. Who can say how much, in the inscrutable decrees of Providence, the faithfulness of England to the truth in this point may have been the redeeming part of her character among a multitude of failings, and been the means of drawing down those blessings of Heaven of which all have been partakers, and with which all are at this moment enriched? The arguments used against us now were equally used against our forerunners. They were told, as we are, "what is the use of abolishing the Slave Trade? It will only be taken up by other nations, by the Dutch, the Spaniards, or the Portuguese." It was not denied; the answer was, "We trust in the long run we shall bring them over; but granting we fail—their own iniquity be upon them. Because others commit robbery and murder, shall we commit murder and robbery in a gentler manner, and with less of suffering to our victims?" We are told we do not and cannot stop the Slave Trade by our efforts: I reply, we keep ourselves free from it, and if you pass this Bill, you will no longer do so. I think it is done ignorantly. I shall earnestly repudiate it myself; but I am convinced if Her Majesty's Government believed, as I believe, that this measure will give a direct sanction to the Slave Trade, and a great stimulus to slave labour, they would not propose it. But, at the same time, though done ignorantly, it is done directly. You want cheap sugar, and you are going to say—import abundantly the slave labour that produces the cheap sugar we want. You say we give way upon principle; we have struggled long enough; we have been beaten; we will be untruthful to our principle; we are determined to enjoy the advantages we have lost by adherence to it; we will share them with you. This, my Lords, is the fearful step you are called on to take. I can only say, in conclusion, I have a fervent belief that if you take that step, it will be one more adverse to the opinion, the principles, and the convictions of the mass of this people of England than any step taken within my memory. I believe the history of the whole abolition cause has been this—slavery was shown to be contrary to the will of Providence, the happiness of man, and the revealed word of God, and therefore must be a blot and injury to the country. The announcement of the great truth enlisted on its side the strong religious feeling of the country, and the battle was won by the Christian principle of Christian England. I believe the antislavery cause, from various reasons, has rather fallen to an argument of a different kind, and that it has become something of a political and sectional question. But let there be an announcement that, directly or indirectly, you are going to plunge this country again into the guilt of this great crime, and I believe the people will rise again and pronounce against it with the same feelings of indignation with which they put it down when it before existed. And I would urge it on your notice, that the only respect in which the contest upon this question differs now from that by which it was formerly put down, is, that the advocates of truth and justice fought at a disadvantage in pulling down an existing evil; those who resisted them only maintained things as they were. But, we are called upon, for the first time, to make a direet step on the opposite path. We are for the first time called on to commit an act of retrogression, and to declare that the idea then written on the minds of the English people—the principle which, in spite of all the difficulties and hindrances it met with at a time when every free opinion were the semblance of Jacobinism, and was thought to threaten the institutions of the land, enthroned itself into the hearts of the English nation—must be abandoned; that we must take a step in the opposite direction; that we must reopen what our predecessors closed; renew what, upon conviction, they abolished, believing that this great political crime can be, in this world of God, nothing but a political error. We are called on to declare that we may improve our revenues, amend our finances, and increase and make abundant the supplies the people need, by doing a wrong, encouraging injustice, and giving occasion to the perpetration of the cruellest wickedness and the darkest evils that this earth ever groaned under. Believing this, feeble as I am, I should think myself unworthy of a place in this House if I did not express that opinion by moving that this Bill be read a second time this day three months.


said, it was not his intention to trespass at the present moment at any length upon their Lordships' time; feeling, as he did, that any lengthened remarks were wholly unnecessary after the eloquent, the able, and the convincing address just delivered by his right reverend Friend. But occupying the position which he filled, he felt that it would be neither justice to that position, nor to his own feelings, if he did not state what his convictions were on this most important project. He had been at first inclined to complain of the arrangement of which he, in common with others, had not been made aware, by which Her Majesty's Ministers, and others in that House, had agreed to take the discussion on this measure on Monday evening last; but he had since then rather congratulated himself on that arrangement than otherwise, for it had afforded him an opportunity of considering with great care all the arguments both for and against the measure that had been used by the speakers on both sides of the question; and the result was a deep and heartfelt conviction on his part, that their Lordships would, if they passed this measure, sanction a direct encouragement of the Slave Trade, the abolition of which was one of the brightest features in the history of this country, and one which he thought might well be considered to be a set-off against the offences which they had for a long series of years committed against justice and humanity. It seemed to him that they were clearly taking a step in the wrong; that they were calling on the public to retrograde in that course, by bringing themselves to which they had made a considerable, and a noble, though he might add a somewhat tardy, compensation for the long course of crimes committed—he would not say by their Lordships—but by their ancestors, and that they were now undoing, as far as they could without a direct legislative declaration, the good—the great good—which was wrought by those eminent men who so ably struggled against slavery, and particularly by one (Mr. Wilberforce) whose son had that night shown himself to have inherited, in more respects than one, the mantle of his honoured sire. It was unnecessary for him to refer to the arguments used on a former night by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham), and enforced and illustrated that evening by his right rev. Friend, and to which in his opinion no answer had as yet been given. That argument indeed amounted to a demonstration that if they were to have a large increase in the quantity of sugar received from slave States, they must have also a large increase in the slaves to cultivate it, which increase could only be effected by a large increase in the Slave Trade itself. The importation of slaves to Brazil and Cuba was at least 150,000 per annum. Now, if they were to have an increase of 30,000 or 40,000 additional tons of sugar from these countries, they could only have that increase by the labour of 30,000 or 40,000 additional slaves. This in itself seemed to be a conclusive argument against the measure. When the circumstances which attended the transport of slaves were considered, the argument acquired great additional force; and when it was recollected that the number of slaves imported into a slave-owning country was by no means the extent of the injustice which the Slave Trade perpetrated. It was, he believed, calcu- lated, and nobody had questioned the calculation, that for every slave imported, at least two perished, either in the process of capture and detention, or in the middle passage. Therefore, if they were to have 30,000 or 40,000 additional slaves imported into Cuba and Brazil, it must be by an additional expense, not only of the liberty of these 30,000 or 40,000 human beings, but of the lives of some 60,000 or 80,000 who would be hurried into eternity, or exposed to the most cruel torture. Now, he did not hesitate to say, that if this increased supply of sugar for the labouring classes of England was only to be provided for at such a cost—if, in order to supply the people of this country with what they were supposed to need—he would not say 30,000 or 40,000 or 60,000 or 80,000 human beings were to be sacrificed as part of the process by which the importation of that additional supply of sugar was to be effected; but if the object could only be attained at the cost of the liberty of ten men; nay, if it were to cost the liberty or the life of but one man, he would consider it to be purchased at too dear a rate. There were no secular or economical benefits which could be cheaply purchased at the expense of the commission of crime. The interest of the nations themselves would, he was pursuaded, be best consulted by honestly, frankly, and fearlessly repudiating all that savoured of crime and injustice. Such a course would ultimately be found most advantageous, whatever might be the present temporal consequences. It was impossible, feeling as he felt, and as he had taken every opportunity of telling their Lordships, that the real prosperity and honour of this country depended on this great principle being adhered to—feeling that the wealth, and authority, and influence which this country possessed in so superlative a degree, were bound up with this question, he for one could not give a tacit acquiescence to the passing of a measure which he believed from the bottom of his heart would fix a stain upon the legislation of this country, which he doubted whether the efforts of future years could ever effectually remove. He considered this subject apart from the question of protection; he regarded it as altogether distinct from any question of political economy, except, indeed, of the highest kind, such as had been already brought under their Lordships' notice. He looked upon it as altogether separate from a question of protection, except that protection which, as a Christian Legislature, and in accordance with the precedents of previous years, they were bound to extend to those unhappy beings so long the victims of their cupidity and injustice, who for a number of years had rejoiced under the shield of their protection, but who were now to be handed over to those who had been neither deterred by the measures this country had taken for the suppression of the Slave Trade, nor moved by the sacrifices which it had made of interest to principle, from attempting to perpetuate that great crime. And now, he feared, the measures of Government would increase and exaggerate the horrors of what Mr. Pitt had described as the greatest practical evil of modern times. He felt that be would only weaken what had been said by his right reverend Friend if he entered further upon the subject, though at the same time, he could not remain altogether silent when such a question came before their Lordships. He would, therefore, conclude by giving his most cordial support to the Amendment of his right reverend Friend.


My Lords, unlike the two right rev. Prelates who have just spoken, I have already had an opportunity of addressing your Lordships, and I therefore think it quite inexpedient to seize this opportunity of which the right rev. Prelates had so just a right to avail themselves, for the purpose of entering again on the discussion of this subject. But I feel that it would be almost disrespectful to the right rev. Prelates, or disrespectful more particularly to the right rev. Prelate who made the Motion, were I allow it to be put to the vote without a single observation upon what has fallen from them; and also because I feel that the right rev. Prelate who first addressed the House, addressed it with peculiar claims to its attention—claims which I should, on all occasions, be happy to acknowledge, on account of those talents and abilities in debate which he has more than once had occasion to display before your Lordships; but, most of all, this has been an occasion when he addressed your Lordships with peculiar advantages, the greatest of which, perhaps, was, that he bears the name of one whose reputation, whose fame, whose life, and whose glory are imperishably connected with that monument which he raised to himself in procuring the abolition of the Slave Trade; in regard to which the right rev. Prelate has done me no more than justice in stating that to me it must ever he a matter of gratulation and pleasing rejection that I was one of the labourers when that monument was raised. The right rev. Prelate had also another advantage in addressing the House; because he undoubtedly, from the circumstances of his position, recently called by that position into the Councils of his country, had no inconsistencies to explain, has borne no part in that series of measures which, notwithstanding what has fallen from him to-night—and I have heard similar remarks from others in the course of these debates—would, if allowed to remain on your Statute-book, present the most glaring of all inconsistencies in legislation if you do not adopt the measure before your Lordships: and when the right rev. Prelate states that you have been most moral in your legislation on this subject, not once, or twice, or thrice, but incessantly and advisedly, in the course of the last ten or twelve years, let me remind him that it is not only essential that you should be in your own estimation consistent (which cannot be said if you retain that patchwork of legislation which now exists, and encourages slavery in one place, while it professes to depress it in others), but if you can persuade yourselves that you are doing your duty to God and to yourselves by so imperfectly continuing to carry into effect that system he recommends, you are not answering your purpose, you are not accomplishing your object, unless you persuade other countries that you are consistent in it. My Lords, it was from the effect produced by your example on other countries, that you are to hope to carry the abolition of the Slave Trade into effect. And I beg to state that if the right rev. Prelate who spoke first has heard in any quarter the opinion expressed that the great measure of the abolition of the Slave Trade has been a failure, I am sure it is not from me or from any of my noble Friends that he could have heard such a sentiment. But, looking forward with hope and confidence, and in reliance on the protection of Providence in a design so holy, I do expect that the time will come when full effect will be given to that abolition. It is by the moral effect of your example upon other countries that the object is to be accomplished; and if to those countries you cannot exhibit a plain, intelligible system of policy, totus teres atque rotundus, you cannot expect that they will follow you into those sophistical arguments which draw a distinction between what it is allowable to do for interest, and what interest will not permit you to do; and which involve questions as to what is the precise amount of the claims your manufacturers may have upon you to dispense with the claims of morality and justice, or how far you can concede to the claims of morality and justice without doing yourselves and the public finances a great amount of injury. It is not by supporting such a system that you can expect to reconcile to your doctrines the other countries of the world. When the right rev. Prelate makes use of the authority of a noble Friend and Colleague of mine (Lord Palmerston), for the opinion that the trade on the coast of Africa might still be repressed by the diligence of Her Majesty's navy, and by the measures of those in Hoi-Majesty's Councils, I trust he will give me leave to state to him that it is the most confident opinion of my noble Friend that to the ultimate repression, and even to any further success in the repression of that traffic, what is most essential is to establish free commercial intercourse with other countries, especially the Brazils, which by that means, and by that means only, may be made to unite with us in making a general and efficacious attempt to put down the trade which it has been so long the object of our policy to suppress. In that very country, let me assure the right rev. Prelate, there is, to a much greater degree than he supposes, a free-labour cultivation of sugar and coffee. It is the opinion of those who are conversant with the subject, that free labour will gain to quite as great an extent, and probably in a greater proportion than slave labour can, by establishing free intercourse with those parts of the world with which it is the object of this country to establish such free intercourse. I therefore again say, that I indulge the greatest hope of the most beneficial results from the adoption of this more liberal and more generous system of policy so far as commerce is concerned. So far as commerce is concerned, the right rev. Prelate does not deny it. But those benefits will not stop there; the principles associated with our policy will work into men's feelings and opinions through the medium of commerce, and will lead to the production of a higher tone both of moral and of religious principle. I therefore will say I cannot consider this as a measure of retrogression. I do believe it is consistent with all the hopes we can permit ourselves to entertain on the subject. Knowing what I do of the religious feelings, the moral feelings, the high tone of sentiment, which prevail among the people of this country, I must say that with all their intelligence, with all their means of practical information in all commercial towns, with the active agency which we know is employed, and justly employed, where the interests of religion and morality are supposed by a large class of the community to be at stake, I cannot but consider it as a most decisive proof that it is not the opinion of the country that this is a measure of retrogression, when this measure has been for weeks before the public, when the call upon the people to oppose has been loudly sounded, and yet no echo has been returned except in the shape of some half-dozen petitions presented within the last few days; so that, if in the opinion of the country the measure be objectionable, whether viewed as a matter of interest, or of humanity, or of policy, not a week would have elapsed but your tables would have been covered with petitions against passing it into a law. I hail it as a proof that concurring with Her Majesty's Ministers, they see no violation of principle involved in the Bill, and no encouragement to the Slave Trade, and that they are prepared to join in the fervent hope, not only that the people of this country will be assisted as consumers, that their interests will be promoted, that commerce will be extended and enlarged, but that the moral feelings of mankind, from the extended intercourse among nations, will yet lead to the final euthanasy of this question. In conclusion, I have only to express the hope that your Lordships will be induced not to accede to the Motion of the right rev. Prelate, however powerfully it may have been recommended to your notice.

On Question, that the word "now" stand part of the Motion, House divided:—Contents 28; Non-contents 10: Majority 18.

List of the CONTENTS.
Lord Chancellor. Kingston
DUKES. Wicklow
Norfolk Grey
Bedford. EARLS.
Lansdowne St. Germans
Clanricarde Ducie
Normanby. Auckland.
Scarborough Hawarden.
Radnor BISHOP.
Fortescue. Durham.
Clarendon Camoys
LORDS. Lilford
Beaumont Dinorben
Calthorpe Strafford
Carrington Campbell

Bill read 2a.

House adjourned.

The following Protests against the Second Reading of the Sugar Duties Bill were entered on the Journals:


1. Because, after the Legislature had nearly half a century, and the country above half a century ago, condemned the African Slave Trade as the worst of human crimes, comprising almost all others, and as the greatest practical evil that ever afflicted the world, we cover ourselves with a disgrace never to be effaced by adopting a measure whose avowed object is immediately and largely to increase the mass of sugar grown in the slave-trading countries, and which can only be grown by an immediate and large importation of Africans. Consequently, the avowed object of the measure is the encouragement of the African Slave Trade, as much as murder, and not robbery alone, is the avowed object of the felon who destroys his neighbour in order that he may possess his property, by removing him out of his way.

2. Because it is in vain to disguise from ourselves and cover over the guilt of slave-trading thus incurred, by pretending that we do not directly offer any premium for its encouragement. We as directly partake of that enormous crime by knowingly and wilfully augmenting the amount of the traffic which lays waste the villages of Africa, and desolates her coasts, as those do whom we brand with the name of felons, and visit with the pains of felony, for only letting to hire the ships employed in the traffic, although they have no more direct participation in the African voyage.

3. Because nothing can be more futile than the defence of our conduct drawn from a reference to the importation which is allowed of cotton and other articles, the growth of slave-dealing countries. If that importation be an encouragement of slave-trading, it was criminal to permit it, and the fact of our having once been guilty is no excuse for extending and multiplying our offences. But the great bulk of such commerce is notoriously carried on with countries in which slave-trading has long ceased to be practised. Moreover, the chief branch of the importation, that of cotton, was established nearly a quarter of a century before we ourselves abolished the Slave Trade; and there is the greatest possible difference between refusing to give up a trade or a practice of any kind already adopted, and entering for the first time into a novel career of crimes not yet begun to be perpetrated.

4. Because the question now under the consideration of Parliament differs from every other part of the discussions so long carried on respecting the Slave Trade and slavery. In all former cases our offence was, that we delayed to abolish a criminal system already, and for ages, established; we only refused to do that which was clearly right. But now we are doing that which is clearly wrong; and are for the first time beginning, not continuing, a Slave Trade. We are actively creating a Slave Trade which does not now exist, and not passively suffering an existing traffic to go on.

5. Because it is in vain to expect that other nations will shut their eyes to the garb of hypocrisy in which this conduct of ours clothes all our professions of zeal for the abolition. When we urge them to join in putting down the execrable traffic, they will point to our Act encouraging it; and, required by us to abandon the gains which they derive from conniving at the traffic, they will marvel at our boldness in expecting such sacrifices from them when we all the while are encouraging it ourselves for the avowed purposes of cheapening a luxury that we relish, and adding a small sum to the mass of our revenue.

6. Because it is altogether preposterous to cite in such a debate the principles of political philosophy, and to call this a sacrifice to the doctrine of free trade. The highest authorities have long ago proclaimed that in this measure there are involved no considerations of commercial or financial policy; but, as one of the late Ministers said, "the honour of this country," as another asserted, "the credit and reputation of this country," and as all impartial men who considered the subject have said, the creating or the preventing an amount of suffering among peaceful and unoffending nations, so frightful to contemplate, that no calculator of profit and loss can be hard-hearted enough to weigh against it the largest amount of gain, whether commercial or financial, which could be conceived to result from our legislation.

7. Because, finally, the hurrying through Parliament at the very close of a long and laborious Session, and in the absence of nearly all its Members, a measure of so desperate a character, and which is connected with other measures seriously affecting our whole colonial policy, as well as the trading interests of the mother country, betokens on the part of its authors an impatience of delay and of full discussion, only to be explained by the supposition that the extraordinary state of parties at the present moment offers them the only chance of carrying their measures, which would assuredly have been rejected, as they were five years ago, as soon as those parties had resumed their wonted position. BROUGHAM.


Because, beside all the other reasons of justice, humanity, and sound policy, which prohibit a measure so directly, so inevitably tending to the encouragement of the Slave Trade, it is wholly in-intolerable, as it is altogether unprecedented, to hurry through Parliament, at the very close of the Session, and after almost all its Members have left town, such important measures, without the possibility of full discussion, and without giving the mother country, or the Colonies, any notice of them—measures which at one blow alter the whole commercial system of the country, and affect in the most serious mariner, and to the greatest extent, the manufacturing and trading community of the Empire.




S. OXON. (Wilberforce.)