Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

extract. But the temper of the Portugueze upon these seems to indicate, how little can be expected from their dispositions to fulfil the more important stipulations of the treaty, and to provide for the total abolition of the traffic. Upon this subject we have formerly so fully expressed our sentiments, that we shall only now repeat our hopes, that neither the friends of justice and humanity, nor the advocates of the colonial body, will ever cease urging the Government, until they shall obtain that to which they unquestionably are entitled, a compulsory abolition of the Portugueze slave-trade-if none other can be accomplished.

li is in vain to say, that this would be interfering with the domestic policy of our ally. The kidnapping of men is no branch of domestic policy ;--and we have the self-same right to stop the Portugu ze slave-shi;is, or to demand that the traffic be abolished, that we have to prevent French troups from being sent into Portugal, or to insist on France delivering up Ferdinand VII., and withdrawing from the Peninsula. By what right do the Portugucze invade, butcher, and transport the unoffending inhabitants of Africa ?- When an answer has been given to this question, it may be time to discuss the rights of this country to insist on their abstaining from such gross outrages upon the law of nations. We are told, indeed, that the law of nations extends only to a certain number of states ; for this scems the sense of ihe restriction which confines it to what are termed civilized countries. Yet it is plain that we treat pirates, of whatever nation, as common outlaws, because they are so held by the public law of the whole world ; and, unquestionably, if a negroe-manned vessel were to commit depredations, we should consider ourselves as justified in retaliating, by the laws of war. The case, indeed, may be put directly in that shape--and it is far less improbable than it would have been a few years ago. We shall suppose a St Domingo cruizer, or a vessel navigated by native Africans, to enter the Tagus, and carry off some scores of our Portugucze allies--several of all ranks, as might naturally enough happen-a few priests --some of the Lisbon contractors - one or two of the Regency-nay, among the crowd, a dozen or two of English residents, or soldiers and sail. ors. Or suppose it to land a few stout hands on our own coasts, in some part unfrequented by cruizers; to come for example, on a holiday, or a Sunday evening, while the natives of the village were temptingly assembled in their way to or from the church ; --the negroe-trader is speedily filled with his cargo, and carries them all off to Angola, or to St Domingo. We speak not now of the probability of such things happening, for that is wide of the question :But let the reader only figure to himself the epidemic fury into which the whole country would be thrown by such an invasion. The loud cries of rage and lamentation--the descriptions of private misery-the aggravating circumstances in the situation of the sufferers--all ending in one universal cry for signal vengeance by retaliation! The tribe to which the vessel belonged, would find indeed but a slender protection in the position, that being uncivilized, and having no minister resident here, it should not be treated as an European power. War, de facto, would at all events be made upon it;-and, whether capable or not of maintaining the relations of peace and war,' it would speedily be found liable to the pains of hostility. It seems, however, to follow clearly from a people being liable to be treated as enemies, that they should be capable also of being considered as friends; and, from the moment that we make one individual of a tribe answerable for what another does, (which we daily do in Africa), we acknowledge the existence of a corporate body, whom we may call a nation, and ought to treat as such.

There is indeed no occasion for pushing this argument farther. All civilized nations treat pirates as common enemies, and that without the least regard to the condition of the people upon whom their depredations are committed. Were a government wicked and foolish enough to lend the sanction of its allthority to acts of common piracy done by its subjects, this would not raise a moment's hesitation as to the character of those acts, or the mode of treating their perpetrators. A vessel, however sanctioned, which should be found plundering the property of any tribe, how rude soever, would be treated as a pirate. The seizing of a bag of gold dust, or a tusk of ivory, would suffice for her condemnation. How then can it be pretended that the cargo of a Portugueze slave-ship should pass harmless under the eye of our cruizers ?

It is perfectly true that many of the most judicious and en lightened friends of the Abolition, have been hitherto averse to any sudden measures of this decisive nature, from an apprehension that they might be charged with violence,—and still more from a sense of the apparent inconsistency of such conduct in a state which has itself only of late years awakened to a sense of justice, and abandoned this piratical occupation. They have therefore been willing to delay, for a season, having recourse to the steps now hinted at, in the hopes that by means of negotiation, Portugal might be brought quietly to adopt the principles on which we now act. But to this forbearance some bounds must at length be put; and if all the authority and influence so justly due to us in the councils of our ally shall be found insuffi

cient to recommend our disinterested suit, it may be full time for urging the demand upon its higher and more appropriate grounds of strict right and justice.

Since the report now before us was presented, some discussion has taken place in the House of Commons upon this most important point. On the 14th of July Mr Wilberforce moved that Assembly to address the Crown, that there might be laid before it an account of the steps taken by the Government to obtain the concurrence of Portugal in the abolition. Lord Castlereagh, on the part of the Ministry, stated, that attenipts had, been made, and were still making, for this purpose--but ac, knowledged that difficulties had occurred. He however begged Mr Wilberforce to withdraw his motion for the present; which he did-on the ground that it might interfere with a pending negotiation:-Lord Castlereagh expressly observing, that the motion might be renewed at the beginning of next Session, in case no satisfactory progress should in the mean time be made in the negotiation. To this point we trust the eyes of the abolitionists in and out oi Parliament will be steadily directed. If the Ministry are sincere (which we are not disposed to question, whatever we may think of their zeal), they will feel supported and strengthened by the interposition of Parliamentary authority :-If they are not, this interference becomes indispensable ;--and in either case, such a voice as that of the British Legislature, cannot fail to have a powerful effect in the councils of the Portuguese Government. We shall not be slow to renew this discussion if it shall appear that any serious doubts are entertained as to the right of interference. Hitherto the obvious policy of waiting for a certain time until it should be ascertained whether any interference would be necessary, has induced the abolitionists to abstain from mooting the question of right. But this certainly has not arisen from any doubts being entertained regarding the right.

The next subject touched upon in the Report, is the trials of the slave traders at Sierra Leone, to which we have already had an opportunity of calling the attenticn of our readers. An account is also inserted, of the flagrant proceedings in the Isle of France, which we at the same time noticed. The indignation excited by these abuses, occasioned the correspondence of the Admiral and Governor to be laid before Parliament; and extracts from the papers are inserted in the Appendix. The statement of the Governor is, that conceiving himself justified in giving facilities for the execution of an article in the capitulation of a French settlement in Madagascar, whereby property was allowed to be removed to Mauritius and Bourbon, he had granted licenses for removing a limited number of slaves, and had

sent a proper officer to see that thiş permission was not abused, Nevertheless, the grossest abuse of it speedily took place; and was detected, not by the civil government, but by the navy. As this matter involves considerations of great delicacy, we shall abstain from any further remarks upon it, except merely to state, that the expressions in the Governor's last despatch do him much credit; and that we trust the whole affair will be placed in a light satisfactory to all parties; and to the public, by its more ample discussion in Parliament, where, of course, it will without delay be taken up. From comparing the two following extracts,-the first from Captain Lynne's letter of 9. January 1812 to Admiral Stopford,—the second from Governori Farquhar's despatch to Lord Liverpool, of 1. February 1812, it will appear, that there does not subsist the most perfect cooperation between the civil and naval branches of the service in those parts.

6“ The shameful abuse of the indulgence granted by Govern. ment to the inhabitants of this island, and Bourbon, is such, that it is high time it should be checked. A list was given of eight hundred and sixty-three slaves, at Tamatave, as private property, at the time of the capitulation of that colony; whereas, I am fully convinced, not half that number were in their possession ; and I have now certain information of eight hundred and eighty having been introduced into the two islands since : notwithstanding which, Mr Deller, who is styled the accredited Agent of Government, writes word, that there are three hundred and forty-seven slaves still remaining to be sent from Tamatave.

“ You may rely, Sir, on my using my utmost endeavours to seize and detain them, feeling that I am fully authorized to do so by the Slave Act."

P. 40, 41. Thus far Captain Lynne. The following passage is from Governor Farquhar's despatch.

• “ An additional case of suspected unlawful commerce in slaves has likewise been acted upon by Captain Lynne, of his Majesty's sloop Eclipse, upon this station, in his late seizure of the Eliza lugger, bound from Tamatave to this port, having on board the private property, slaves adverted to in the commencement of this despatch, under a passport given by the sworn British Agent at Tamatave, pursuant to the capitulation for that settlement, made hy Captain Lynne himself-the subsequent proclamation on the subject--the permission granted by this Government-and the measures thereupon taken, in concert with his Majesty's senior naval officer here, Captain Schomberg.

• “In this instance, it seems that the vessel belongs to parties apparently innocent, and that the proprietors of the slaves are not in: fault, as far as I have been able to discern. The sending the vessel and Blacks under all such circumstances, for adjudication to the

[ocr errors]

p. 43.

Cape, struck a violent alarm in the Colony, and made the minds of numbers of the inhabitants waver, as to the belief of the British faith, and reliance on the Government here. Impressed as I was, therefore, with the importance of this case, in every point of view, I deened it proper to commence a correspondence with Captain Lynne on the occasion, and on the representation of the claimants, to write to his Majesty's Proctor at the Cape; copies of all which correspondence and letters, I have the honour to forward here with, for your Lordship's full and particular information on the several points connected with the transaction at large.

It is only fair towards the Governor to add, that he is beset by a whole community of planters, clamorously urging him to a relaxation of the Abolition Laws, and that, although in an earlier part of his correspondence he seemed disposed to recommend some measure of this kind, upon learning the sentiments of the Government at home, he appears to have abandoned all such ideas. He alludes generally to measures favourable to the slaves, which he had adopted; and adds the following statements which it is fair that we should quote.

"" These proceedings have not passed without evident and avow: ed dissatisfaction expressed by many ; nor without occasional highlycoloured representations of the danger to be apprehended from my successive efforts in favour of the slaves. It is consonant indeed to the general infirmity of the human mind, that the Colonists should take a prejudiced view of their own concerns upon such a subject, and that this prominent new order of things, which they conceive strikes at the root of their most valuable individual interests, should, above all other considerable measures of the British Government, agitate and ferment their passions, especially in a colony just conquered, where, for the last century, the most uncontrolled and lia centious loose has been given to the pursuit of this inhuman traffic in Negroes. I trust, nevertheless, that your Lordship will always have occasion to remark my exertion to meet their alarms or their remonstrances, by a prudent, though not less obstinate, firmness and resistance. A conscientiousness of my duty to my King and Country, as the chief member of one of his Majesty's governments, at this enlightened epoch of the world, as well as my ardent desire to accelerate the civilization of the surrounding African states, will not only induce my perseverance in such a course, but prompt me to fulfil the task with all that cheerfulness and zeal, which its ten. dency to the development of general prosperity, and to the extension of British arts and industry to foreign countries, under my immediate auspices, is calculated to inspire.”' p. +1.

Now, the advantage--the inestimable advantage-of having euch bodies as the African Institution, and a free press, whereby they may communicate with the public, is this, that though the Royal Family, with a single exception, supported the slave

« AnteriorContinuar »