Abbildungen der Seite

10, when 103,0001. was given to do Her personal fortune was very considerwhat? to cultivate new grounds and able.

The succession to the greatest encourage the importation of negroes part of it would undoubtedly have gone, for that purpose ! How did it clash, also, as in justice it ought to have done, to her with the proceedings on a late occasion, own relations, to whom she always ex. when 1,500,0001. was ordered for the de- presed, as in common gratitude to me fence of the colonies ! Was the right hon. she ought to have felt, the warmest affection. gentleman opposite ready to say that he Why was that just and reasonable expecwould provide funds for the risk that tation on our part disappointed ? Because would be incurred by this bill? He feared I did not yield to her earnest and repeated not, and therefore advised him to be cau- solicitations to vote against the abolition tious how he carried it into execution, or of the slave trade, or at least to be neuwe might be threatened with the loss of ter. I voted and spoke for it, and she the colonies, to the utter ruin of England. disposed of her fortune accordingly. The Gentlemen might go home to their dinners hon. general says, that we are very much or suppers, after voting for such a bill, at our ease, while we are voting away the and enjoy their luxuries at their ease : property of others; that we go home to but it behoved them to have some consi- the enjoyment of our dinners and our deration for those whom they thereby de- beds, without thinking on the misery and prived, not only of luxuries, but of ne- ruin we are to bring on a great body of cessaries also. It had been said, that our fellow-subjects. Well, sir, of me at the continuation of the slave trade was least it cannot be said that, while I ne.' contrary to justice and humanity; so was glected or sacrificed their interests, I was the act of pressing seamen ; but if be at careful of my own. I acted with my tempted to abolish it, it would be defend- eyes open, for I was distinctly threatened ed upon the plea of necessity. Upon with the consequence. And yet I went the same plea, then, he opposed the abo. home that day with appetite to my dinner lition of the slave trade. He wished to as I shall to day, and slept soundly that have justice and humanity shown towards night. Had I done otherwise, I should, the proprietors of lands in the West In- have lost the quiet mind, without which dies, and to persons interested in the neither can the luxuries of the table graprosperity and cultivation of those lands tify the palate, nor the bed of down give in our own country, as well as to the ne- repose. Forgive me, Sir, for speaking of groes on the coast of Africa. Much myself in this manner. The facts I allude abuse had been thrown out against the to are well known to every one who planters for their cruelty, &c., but the knows me. My object in referring to strongest proof of the falsehood of these them is to obtain credit for my sincerity accusations was, the alacrity with which in the part I now take, even with those the slaves turned out in defence of their who may undervalue my judgment. The masters and their property against the hon. baronet, in vehement language and French. He said he should not look at passionate terms, complains of the enor.. any of the regulations in the bill, be- mous loss and injury, which the West cause he held the whole principle of it India proprietors and planters are to sufin absolute abhorrence.

fer by this bill, without any compensation. Mr. Francis rose and said ; - Mr. I deny it as a fact. But, if it were true, Speaker ;-I really had no thoughts of let them begin by entitling themselves to taking part in this debate. My opinion redress, before they expect that the of the slave trade is sufficiently known. House will listen to their complaint. I But I confess I have not patience to hear answer them with the authority and in what I have heard this day, without feel the language of English equity, ever since ing indignation , and endeavouring to ex. equity was known in England; “ Do juspress it. The hon. general introduced tice before


demand it.” « Non feret his speech with premising, that he had æquum, qui petit iniquum.” As long as no property in the West Indies, nor any you are guilty of an enormous injustice, connexion with those who had. Allow

very ground and subject matter of me in my turn to declare that, although I | your pretended wrongs, the court will not have no property in the islands, I once listen to you, even though it were true was intimately connected with some, who that you had some equitable claim to possessed a great deal. The person I al. compensation or relief. The hon. barolude, to had no relations but in my family. net says, that the preamble to the bill, in asserting that “ the slave trade is con- also should be lost to Great Britain. If trary to the principles of justice and hu. this be a speculation only, I answer it manity,” is a cruel mockery of the suffere with a better ;- that the events and issues ings of persons in his situation, and that of human counsels are at the disposal of it adds insult to wrong. The hon. gene- a higher wisdom than ours, and that those ral, on the other hand, says, that it is conclusions, which we most strongly nothing but the truth, that it was true a dread and deprecate in prospect, are hundred years ago, and has continued so very often beneficial in the event. If it to this hour; and therefore, I suppose, be a menace, I answer it with a fact. At he concludes it is too trite and notorious the outset of that unhappy contest, the to be worth asserting: The hon. gentle terror held out by those who promoted men agree better in their views, than in and those who opposed it, was the loss of their principles. The hon. baronet says, America ; by the former if we yielded, that the state of the greater part of the by the latter if we persisted. But all West India proprietors is already suffi- parties agreed, that the loss of America ciently distressing, and in many instances must be the ruin of Great Britain, America deplorable; that their estates are mort- was lost; yet in spite of that loss, and gaged, for nearly the whole of their ac- of all that this country wasted and sufa tual value, to merchants and other monied fered in attempting to recover it, Great men in this country; and that this bill Britain has survived, and stood as firm will annihilate the security of the mort- and secure as ever ; nor do I know with gagees. Be it so. The interest then is certainty that, setting aside the expenses in them, and from them we have had no and calamities attached to the contest, petition. The hon. baronet's anxiety Great Britain is essentially weakened or about the mortgagees is extremely gene- impoverished by the separation of Amerous, I confess; but, if his account of rica. The hon. general states it as an abthe actual situation of West India pro- surdity in the councils of administration perty be correct, the owners would suffer to waste so many lives, and to squander Iittle or nothing, even by a general fore- such immense sums of money in expedie closure. These gentlemen recommend tions to make conquests in the West Init to us not to forget policy, while we are dies, while in effect they forbid the cultitalking of justice; from which I can only vation not only of any you may acquire, collect that, in their minds at least, there but even of those which you possess. Of is an evident distinction between policy what use are the acquisitions, if the imand justice, In mine, Sir, they are the portation of negroes be forbidden? Sir, the same. If there be any circumstances it would be improper to enter now into of the present moment, or in the actual | the policy of these expeditions. That situation of affairs in the West Indies, question is not before us, nor is this the which may render it prudent or advisable time for it. But to the objection, as it is. not to carry the measure of abolition into stated, the answer is obvious.

on the

On our instant execution, his majesty's ministers, principles, there is no contradiction be who have the best information on such tween the policy of the expeditions and, points, and who are trusted with the care the object of the bill. The two measures. of the general interests of the empire, may be consistent, at least in the judg.. ought to tell us so. I must confide in ment of persons, who think and maiotain, their prudence. If, by withholding any as I do, that the cultivation of all the lands necessary information of fact, they suffer in the West Indies may be effectually prothe House to be misled, they are to an- vided for without a farther importation of swer for it. But, as to general and fun- negroes from Africa. The hon. baronet damental principles of policy, I want no complains of the extreme rigour and see instruction from any man. I know that verity of the penalties imposed by this it is by justice only that great em- bill. My answer is, that if the purposes pires can preserve their greatness, “ sic of the law be good, if the object be just fortis Etruria crevit," and that, by aban- and necessary, the penalties must be sufdoning that principle, they insure their ficient to enforce the execution, and inruin. But, when argument fails, we are sure the effect. Beyond that point, I alto be threatened if we persist. The ex- | low, they ought not to be extended. On ample of the loss of America is held up this part of the subject I call on the gento us by way of warning not to pro- tlemen of the long robe to give us their voke the West India islands, lest they advice and assistance. It is properly.


their business and duty to watch the for- , argument in favour of this trade to say, mation of all penal acts, and to take care that it was permitted or encouraged by that they neither violate the principles, our ancestors; for, if they were wrong, nor extend the rigour of our English ju- it was no reason why we should persist risprudence without absolute necessity. in the error. The antiquity of a bad sys. I must own I have my doubts, whether tem was no justification of its continuthere may not be some foundation for the The friends of the abolition had apprehension expressed by the hon. ba- obtained every necessary communication ronet, that the extreme latitude of the on the subject. Parliament had heard terms used in the first clause, by which evidence, and examined witnesses, and the “ procuring, aiding, or abetting" the were convinced of the necessity of the importation of any negroes, is put on the abolition. Gentlemen had talked of their same footing with the actual importation, property in this trade; they therefore and made subject to the same penalty of must have a bias upon the subject; but transportation for fourteen years, may those who wished for the abolition had involve innocent persons in the conse- no interest one way or the other ; they quences of acts done without their parti- acted only from conviction, and a sense cipation, and even without their know- of their duty. It appeared to him, that ledge. Here again I call on the gentle upon this question, all the eloquence, all men of the long robe, to examine this the argument, and all the justice was on matter, and give us their advice. The the side of the abolition. The House had hon. baronet affirms and laments that, by already voted for the abolition; they this clause, men of birth, fortune, and were therefore bound in honour, and coneducation, polished and improved by man- sistency to vote for this bill. ners and by learning, are liable to a pu- Mr. Secretary Dundas said, that he nishment degrading as well as rigorous, had found himself called upon, in disand to be confounded with felons and charge of a public duty, to come down to criminals of the vilest denomination. I the House that evening, not without confeel the force of the objection, and wish siderable personal inconvenience, to opto have it considered. At the same time, pose a measure, which, if carried into exe. I do not think it comes with a very good cution, would not only not be productive of grace from the hon. baronet. When the good, but the cause of much mischief. sedition bill passed, he took no part to He knew he had the misfortune, in enteroppose it. He saw no objection then to taining this opinion, to differ from some the newly created penalty of transporta. honourable friends, for whose judgment tion for å seditious libel, on a second of- he had the highest respect, and of the fence. By what sort of persons could that integrity of whose intentions he was well sort of offence be committed ? By men of convinced. Though no subject had unlearning, genius, and education. He saw dergone more ample discussion, though no objection, then, to the penalty of every degree of evidence had been called transportation in company with felons of in, and every species of argument brought every description, thoughi possibly it forward, all that had passed in the course might fall on such a man as Mr. Burke of seven years debate, had only tended to or Dr. Parr, or on persons the most emio confirm him in the truth of the proposinent in the kingdom for literature and tions which he had originally laid down. science. Such men, if they were obnoxi- And those propositions he would re-state, ous to government, would be prosecuted, as they contained the grounds of all the in the first instance, on any trifling pre- opinions which he had formed. The first tence, for the sake of insuring the pe- was, that admitting, the African slave nalty attached to the second conviction. trade to be founded upon injustice and The hon. baronet has different rules and inhumanity, and that it would be for the measures for offenders, whose quality and interest of the colonies that it should be character are the same. But justice abolished, this was not the proper time ought to be distributed with an equal for the abolition. The second was, that hand to all men. The class of the of- without the cordial co-operation of the fender undoubtedly should be considered, West-India planters it would be absolutely as well as that of the offence. If, in this impossible at any time, by any legislative respect, the bill should be found liable provisions, to effect an abolition of this to objection, it ought to be corrected. traffic. He very easily foresaw the sort

Mr. M. Montagu considered it as no of reply which would be made to him: it would be said, “ What! will you con- But waving the question of right, he tinue to commit injustice, robbery, and was decidedly of opinion, that it was out murder, because, if you don't, others of the power of the British legislature to will do it?" To this he would answer, suppress the trade without the co-operathat those who considered this question tion of the West-India planters. To this merely with a view to humanity, must he knew it would be said-What! is the give up the very ground of their argu- British navy unable to prevent the decrees of ment, if they put it in that way; because parliament from being violated? Who is it was absurd to talk of a wish to serve the man that will maintain such an ab. the cause of humanity, by throwing the surd position? He was that man, and in trade into the hands of those who would confirmation of his assertion, he would not carry it on with so much mildness as appeal to the experience of last year, we did. It would be very fair for gen- when with 28 ships of war stationed on tlemen to say, they wished, by the aboli- the coasts of two islands in the West-lotion of this trade, to wipe away the stain dies we were unable to prevent a commuwhich it had thrown upon this country; nication between these and other islands. but it was absurd to say, they wished to Slaves would be smuggled into the Briserve the cause of humanity by it, because tish islands in spite of all the vigilance by the mode which they proposed, the which could be exercised. The act very reverse must be the result. It had offered an inducement to the West-India been stated, that America, Denmark, and merchants to combat its execution. The other powers, were taking steps towards conclusion was one which he would press, the abolition of this trade. He would again and again, upon the House-that state his opinion very fairly upon that they ought impartially to consider whepoint: he did not think it possible for ther those would most effectually attain England to abolish the slave traffic, unless the object of the bill, who proposed an other nations would also consent to its abolition of the trade by slow and gradual abolition. He did not like to speak about means, whether those who best consulted the power which this country had over the interest of the oppressed African, the colonies; it was a subject which re- who were for abolishing the trade by graquired to be handled with great delicacy; dual, conciliating, and natural steps, or but he wished just to throw out a hint those who attacked it with the high hand for the serious consideration of the of head-strong authority, forgetful both House. If this point, of the extent of of the parties interested, and the property our power over the colonies, remained a at stake. He submitted it to the supmatter of dispute, it might lead to the porters of the bill, whether it was not discussion of another question, which this worth while to mix a little conciliation country had not been accustomed to hear with their provisions; to mix a little condisputed. No man, who was able to cern for the interests of the colonies, with form an idea of the relation which sub- those manly and just feelings for the fate sisted between the mother country and of an oppressed nation. He was afraid her colonies, could be ignorant of these that the whole mode of proceeding had points-that the colony was entitled to tended to engage the West India planters protection ; that she was bound to send in one common interest; or rather, perher produce to the mother country; and haps, in one common passion, against that she was to take, in return, the ex- their best interests. Aspersions of the ports of the mother country, and not go to foulest kind had been thrown out against any other market for them. These were the West-India planters, as a collective all points which admitted of no dispute. body. They had been represented as a A question, however, had been started band of savages, and as disgracing the only of late, how far the mother country country from which they claimed descent. was entitled to prohibit that supply from There was no species of obloquy with being obtained by its colonies which it which they had not been besmeared: cannot furnish and which they have been there was no tale of reproach which had accustomed to receive from the continent not been hunted out; no insulated inof Africa. And, if there was not some- stances of cruelty which had not been thing in this subject which precluded all brought forward 'as characteristic of all considerations of policy, he conceived a the planters. Accordingly, the first sen. full discussion of this question to be well | timent which offered itself to the minds. orth the attention of the House.

of the planters, was a desire to vindicate


their own characters. Come, said they, he had been deceived. It was stated by with one voice, let us exculpate ourselves an hon. general, that the trade had from the imputation of these crimes, the existed for a great length of time. And disgrace of which will descend to our the reply to this was, that its ancient posterity, and make them ashamed to ac. standing ought to make us the more knowledge us as their ancestors. The anxious to get it abolished. Ought we, common injury which their character in justice to the memory of our ancestors, sustained, united them in one common to testify so much eagerness to throw

upon them the stigma, of having so long Mr. Dundas then adverted to the pro- encouraged a trade of inhumanity and visions contained in the bill. The pe- injustice? But, independently of all connalties were rigorous : but he was not siderations of this sort, the answer itself inclined to quarrel with them if the ob- was not a fair one; for, certainly, the ject of the bill was admitted to be proper. long duration of any system, was an arIf he had been the framer of the bill

, gunent why it should not be abruptly however, there was one clause which he exploded. It had not, however, been certainly would not have admitted, viz. sanctioned by a mere acquiescence on that by which the planters were invested the part of the British parliament. Fowith the power of removing negroes from reign merchants had been goaded and one island to another. After acquiring stimulated by this country, to embark an attachment to the soil, and being in their capital in the trade. It was unnesome measure a second time domiciliated, cessary to refer to all the acts of parliato be separated from a wife, a son, or a ment 'which might be quoted to prove relation, and conveyed to an island to this proposition; but what he argued which he was a stranger, seemed to him from it was this--not that the trade ought to be one of the cruelest situations in not to be abolished, but that the legislawhich the unhappy African could be ture ought not to overlook the interest of placed. This power, however, might be any of the parties concerned; that while reserved to the planters as a proof of the they acted upon the enlarged principle of attention which had been paid to their granting justice to all mankind, they interests by the framers of the bill. There ought not to neglect the municipal and was another clause, however, to which provincial interests of their own country. this observation would not apply. When The property vested in the West India a vessel, laden with negroes, was found islands had been calcutated to amount to at sea, what was to be done ? The un- between seventy and eighty millions, happy wretches were to be sold, and, as twenty of which were reckoned to be a recompence for their miseries, a moiety British. This claim of interest, though was to be given to the informer! Was it had been much inveighed against, the this consulting the interests of injured planters had a right to state; and if the humanity? He allowed the principle of legislature was imposing any hardship the bill to be just : he thought that the upon them, their creditors had a right to African slave trade was contrary to jus- complain. Four years ago he had protice and humanity, and that it ought to posed a gradual'abolition, but when he be abolished; but he had no hesitation proposed this, he never lost sight of apin saying, that it was not possible for par- pointing a commission to inquire into the liament to give effect to the bill at the amount of the injury which the planters present moment. For he repeated, that, would sustain, so that parliament might from the experience of last year, it would provide for their indemnification. The be absolutely impossible to prevent the want of such a clause, was a capital obsmuggling of slaves from one island to jection to the present bill. If the bill, in another. And, upon this ground, he sub- its present form, were to go out to the mitted to the House, whether it was pos- West Indies, and if the planters were to sible to abolish the trade without the co- be considerably inflamed by its contents, operation of the planters ? He expected let gentlemen recollect the sort of provo. to have found something on the face of cation they had had from attacks upon the bill, which would have shown that their character as well as their property. parliament paid some attention to the In his opinion it would be wisdom on the interests of a respectable body of men, part of the House, to pause before they who had put their property under the came to a decision; to mix some measures protection of the legislature. But in this of conciliation with their zeal; to mix

« ZurückWeiter »