HL Deb 09 July 1858 vol 151 cc1146-7

said, he wished to put a question to the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs with respect to the efforts which were at present being made by this country for the suppression of the Slave Trade. He entertained the highest admiration for the great men who had originated the anti-slavery movement in past years, and he hoped that he was saying nothing incompatible with that feeling when he expressed his belief that the days of sentimental legislation had passed away. It could never be forgotten that this country had made great sacrifices for the suppression of the Slave Trade. She had compensated the slave owners in her own Colonies and had paid other countries: it might, indeed, be said that she had bought treaties and alliances for this object. But many of those treaties had ceased to exist and others had failed to be observed, while our alliances had disappeared, and we now stood alone in our advocacy of that cause. He would ask their Lordships whether recent occurrences in the Cuban waters had not led them to think that that question had entered upon a new phase? Under these circumstances, he would ask the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it was true, as it was reported, that her Majesty's Government had determined to recall the squadron from the Cuban waters with the intention of reinforcing that now blockading the coast of Africa; and if so, whether they had thought right to institute an inquiry for the purpose of ascertaining how far it was desirable to continue that blockade?


Although I agree with the noble Lord who has asked this question, that sentiment may be looked upon as an ephemeral feeling, yet there are some principles in morality which are immortal, and which cannot, under any circumstances, be changed. I think that, although the circumstances attending the Slave Trade may be altered, there can be no difference in the feeling throughout this country with respect to the great importance of our continuing our efforts for its suppression. With this conviction Her Majesty's Government have, under the present circumstances—to which I do not desire now, more particularly, to refer—thought it more prudent to remove from the Cuban waters the squadron that was there stationed, but they have no intention of removing the squadron from the African coast; and I think I may add that, after all the sacrifices this country has made for the suppression of the Slave Trade it would be a most deplorable act on the part of the British Government to give up the principle on which we have hitherto acted, and to discontinue our efforts on the coast of Africa. I do not by any means think that those efforts have been ineffectual. On the contrary, I believe that they have been crowned with great success. They certainly were to no inconsiderable extent interrupted by the outbreak of the Russian war, and the consequent withdrawal of our cruisers, and the captures of slave ships were greatly diminished in number immediately after that event, compared with what they had been in the years immediately preceding. In conclusion, I have only to state that Her Majesty's Government have no intention to withdraw the squadron from the African coast, although they have given orders to diminish the squadron in the Cuban waters.