HL Deb 01 July 1861 vol 164 cc105-11

, in moving for a copy of the Memorial addressed to the Secretary of State for Jamaica, respecting the annexation of St. Domingo by Spain, said, it had often happened that his views had been in conflict with those of our colonial fellow-subjects upon question relating to slavery; but on the present occasion he had the happiness to be entirely of their opinion, and to join with them in urging their Lordships to consider the Memorial to which his Motion referred. This document was agreed to at a public meeting at Kingston, and received the signatures of 3,700 persons, who prayed the Crown to refuse its assent to the annexation of St. Domingo to Spain. The alarm which the memorialists expressed at the prospect of San Domingo being annexed to the Spainsh dominions was most natural; for they had long been suffering from the competition of slave-grown sugar from Cuba. It was true, that when that great measure the emancipation of our West India slaves was carried, a very large sum was paid the planters by way of compensation; but that compensation, particularly in Jamaica, has been found inadequate, and much suffering had resulted in consequence. The great source of their suffering had, however, been the admission of slave-grown sugar into our markets, and now they naturally felt considerable apprehension lest the annexation of St. Domingo, or rather of the eastern part of the island, to the Spainsh territory should render matters infinitely worse. They feared lest slavery should be revived by the Spainards. It was true it had been stated more or less distinctly by the Spainsh Government that it was not their intention to revive slavery in San Domingo. The reason given was that slave cultivation was not required in San Domingo, in consequence of the excellence of the soil. But was the soil more excellent in San Domingo than in Cuba? Nothing of the kind. The soil of Cuba, beyond doubt, was superior, yet, in Cuba, slavery had been continued down to the present hour. He regarded the declaration of the Spanish Government that there was no intention to introduce slavery into the eastern portion of the island of St. Domingo with more than suspicion. Looking to the more solemn engagements by treaty which the Spanish Government had left unperformed, those suspicions were converted into all but a certainty that slavery would be introduced. The Spainsh Government complained that they were misrepresented in general declamatory statements. He would, therefore, use the very words of the Treaty of 1817— His Catholic Majesty concurs in the fullest manner with the sentiments of His Britannic Majesty on the iniquity and inhumanity of the traffic in slaves. He engages to take effectual measures for its suppression, conformable with the principles of humanity with which he is animated, and he hopes the moment will be hastened when that object shall be obtained. He then engaged To declare that it shall be unlawful for any subject of the Spainsh Crown after the 30th of May, 1820, to engage in the inhuman traffic; and within tow months of the ratification of the treaty To promulgate throughout the Spainsh dominions a penal law inflicting severe punishment on all who, on any pretence whatever or in any way whatever, shall take any part in the traffic in slaves. In 1835, however, it was found necessary to make another convention, whereby it was declared that all traffic in slaves should totally and finally be abolished in all parts of the Spanish dominions— that inhuman traffic which the Spanish King had solemnly engaged to put down in 1817— and a stipulation was inserted for the payment by this country of £400,000 as compensation to those persons whom His Catholic Majesty should name. That part of the treaty had been most punctually performed, but not so the other parts. The slave trade to Cuba was continued not only equal to what it was, but it had increased, so that instead of 20,000 or 30,000 unhappy Africans being transported to Cuba every year, for several years part the numbers had risen to £ 40,000. The Spanish Government said they had done all they could, that they had written despatches to the Captains General of Cuba, desiring them to put a stop to the trade; but the Portuguese Government had acted in a much more vigorous manner, and had abolished their slave trade altogether. From 60,000 it was reduced in a single year to 12,000, then to 5,000, and for the last seven or eight years it had ceased altogether. Nothing could exceeed the honesty and good faith of the Portuguese Government; their cruisers had always done their duty most effectually, and the Brazilian Government had responded to their efforts and put an entire stop to the Brazilian slave trade. In that country he was informed the treatment of persons of colour was most liberal. A free negro had been a court physician, and others had been employed in various confidential positions. As long as the slave trade continued it was impossible that any progress could be made in developing the commerce of Africa. While this traffic was permitted the people preferred to seize and sell one another, but the instant the traffic ceased their energies were devoted to innocent commerce. He had the authority of Mr. Gabriel, the able and highly respectable member of the Mixed Commission, and who had been twenty years on the coast, for the statement that on the abolition of the Brazil slave trade the African exports, which had been little or nothing, soon rose in Loango alone to £ 230,000, and the imports to £ 20,000 or £30,000 annually of British manufactures. The whole exports from the African coast were nearly £1,500,000. With regard to the annexation of San Domingo, he understood that Hayti had offered to the Spanish Government at Madrid, by its Minister, to acknowledge the eastern part of the Island called San Domingo, but the answer given was that it was too late—meaning that the Spanish Government had determined to accept the annexation. He would not stop to discuss the question whether any territory had a right to annex itself to another territory without the consent of its neighbours; because, in this case, nothing like the consent of the people of San Domingo had been shown. San Domingo was held in thraldom by a reign of terror. Some 5,000 or 6,000 Spanish troops had been sent from Cuba, and more would be sent, no doubt, if necessary. The consequence of the Spanish intervention was that the great territory of Hayti was kept in a perpetual state of preparation for war although they were at peace. He knew from the highest authority that there was the greatest inclination in that island to apply these resources to the promotion of education, and the improvement of their institutions. But all was absorbed in the military preparations rendered necessary by the Spanish intervention. In fact, that part of the world was in the same unhappy predicament with Europe, having peace with all the expenses of war; so that, in some respects, we might say— Soevit toto mars impius orbe. No wonder, then, that the annexation was strongly opposed by Hayti, and he was informed that nothing could exceed the ill consequences which would occur to that flourishing republic from the change. He wished the French Government would join with our own in protesting against the annexation of St. Domingo, but he had little hope that it would; however, one of the evils of the annexation was that France would, in all probability, not be an indifferent spectator of it, and the Haytians were not a little alarmed by the apprehension of her making some attempt to regain her ascendancy, lost after a desperate conflict early in this century. Her succeeding in any such attempt by force was utterly impossible; there was not a man in Hayti who would not lay down his life in the struggle to maintain their independence. America had shown a strong disposition to prevent the Spanish annexation, having warned the Spanish Government that they did it at their peril. Some were apprehensive of the threat, meaning that the Federal Government would annex Cuba and Porto Rico; but this plan seemed impossible to be in the contemplation of the Northern States, declared enemies as they were to slavery. How far it might fall in with the policy of the Southern States was another matter. It was, however, plain that this annexation involved questions of the utmost importance to a large body of men, Cuba having a population of 1,600,000, of which nearly a million were slaves, and Porto Rico 400,000, with comparatively few slaves. In all respects, therefore, the annexation was entirely to be deprecated, as well for the great island itself, with its population of nearly a million, as for the other countries in its neighbourhood. That annexation was not, perhaps, to be resisted, but it was to be strongly protested against, and he hoped that steps would be taken by our Government with that object. In conclusion, he moved a humble Address to Her Majesty for a copy of the Memorial in question.


said, his noble and learned Friend, in making a very simply Motion, had alluded not merely to the annexation of St. Domingo, but to the wide and very serious question of the continued traffic in slaves on the part of Spain. Their Lordships would not expect him to enter into subjects which fell within the sphere of the Foreign rather than of the Colonial Office; but he could not avoid expressing his regret that his noble and learned Friend so frequently brought these grave charges against the Spanish Government, in season and out of season, reading passages from treaties, and taunting the Spanish Government with the breach of them. This would not be matter for regret if he were likely to accomplish the benevolent object which he had in view, and to stop the traffic in slaves; but his (the Duke of Newcastle's) own individual opinion was that the course pursued by his noble and learned Friend was not calculated to attain that object. Such allusions to the Government of a proud and sensitive people like the Spaniards were rather likely to aggravate the evil by rendering them obdurate on the subject and by weakening the hands of the Executive Government both in this country and in Spain for the purpose of effecting the object which his noble and learned Friend had so sincerely at heart. As regarded the assumption by Spain of the sovereignty of St. Domingo, his noble and learned Friend deprecated it on the ground upon which the petitioners in Jamaica had remonstrated. How far the suspicions which had been expressed might be realized he could not say, but the declarations of the Spanish Government were most distinct. They said, no doubt, as stated by the noble Lord, that slavery was not required in St. Domingo, while it was in Cuba, because the soil was more fertile in the former island. But this was not the only reason assigned by the Spanish Government, for they had repeatedly and emphatically declared, both verbally to the English Minister at Madrid and in written communications, their firm determination not to allow slavery in any form to be established in St. Domingo—basing that declaration not on the ground of self-interest, but expressly recognizing that such an act would be at variance with the faith of treaties and opposed to the interests of civilization. He believed he was accurately quoting the language used by the Spanish Government on more than one occasion. Of course, the noble and learned Lord was at liberty to express his opinion as to the validity of these promises, and the probability of their being kept; but, so far as the English Government was concerned, these declarations had been most distinct. The memoralists took the same view as that which had been just urged. They feared that if slavery was again introduced into St. Domingo they would have to compete with the slave-grown sugar both from that island and from Cuba, and, therefore, they hoped that Her Majesty would take some steps to prevent the annexation. Though this memorial only stated the same grounds as those which his noble and learned Friend had gone over, there could not be the least objection to produce it if it were desired.


did not wish to enter into the question at any length, but he must say that when their Lordships carried their recollections to former times, when they remembered that Spain owed her liberties and even her existence to the exertions of this country, and then turned their recollections to the many occasions when Spain had put herself in a false position towards this country by the course she had pursued on many occasions, he could not refrain from expressing his satisfaction that there was at least one Member of their Lordships' House who had spoken the truth on this important subject. Nothing could be more extra-ordinary than the conduct of Spain with regard to the pecuniary loan she had re- ceived from the capitalists of this country—she had repeatedly and systematically violated—he was sure he did not aggravate the expression every engagement she had entered into with them. On this question of the slave trade they had the information afforded by Her Majesty's Consul at Cuba, that the most solemn engagements of Spain with regard to the slave trade were not only systematically violated, but the known violators were rewarded by the Spanish Government. He was sorry, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government did not propose to take more energetic steps in this matter of the annexation of St. Domingo. But this was not the only point where the Spanish Government set itself in opposition to English feeling. Wherever there was a question of humanity or wherever humanity and religious sentiment were mixed up together, the Spanish Government was in opposition to England. English subjects who went to live in that country and to carry on their commercial affairs were not allowed to worship God according to their conscience; and even the religious service allowed our Ambassador at Madrid was so much a matter of privacy that if a stranger went into the chapel it was considered a violation of Spanish law, and he was apt to be turned out by the police. He thought the noble and learned Lord had done his duty in calling attention to this question, and he hoped that what had passed would have a beneficial effect upon the Spanish Government.


said, it was a slender proof of no intention to restore slavery, that the Spanish Government said it would be at variance with treaties—what treaties could be more solemn than those of 1817 and 1835,in the name of the most Holy Trinity, and yet they were shamefully broken in all but the reception of the money. He suggested that in any communication with the Spanish Government his noble Friend should remind it that General Valdez, during the years he was Governor of Cuba, succeeded in bringing down the slave trade to little or nothing; but his successor raised the head-money on the slaves imported from 1½ to 3 doubloons, and men were known to have made £100,000 in two or three years, every farthing of which was blood money.

Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at a quarter past Six o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.