Mr. Secretary Fox
rose, in pursuance of the notice he had given, to submit to the house a Resolution on this subject, and spoke as follows:—Before, sir, I proceed to state the grounds on which I look with confidence for the almost unanimous countenance of the house in this measure, I feel myself called upon to say a few words by way of apology for being the person to come forward upon the present occasion. For the last sixteen or seventeen years of my life, I have been in the habit of uniformly and strenuously supporting the several motions made by a respectable gentleman (Mr. Wilberforce), who has so often, by his meritorious exertions on this subject, attracted the applause of this house, and claimed the admiration of the public. During the long period that I found it in such excellent, hands, it was impossible for me to feel the slightest disposition to take it out of them. I am still of the same opinion; and cannot but think it would have been much better, if the same hon. member and his friends had retained it in their own hands, and they might certainly have depended upon me, and those with whom I have the honour to act, for the same ardent support which we have always uniformly given them. But, sir, the hon. member, and many of his friends, seem so strongly to entertain different sentiments in that respect, from me, that I submitted my own opinion to theirs, and now assume the task, reluctantly, on that account, but on every other, most gladly. So fully am I impressed with the vast importance and necessity of attaining what will be the object of my motion this day, that if, during the almost forty years that I have now had the honour of a seat in parliament, I bad been so fortunate as to accomplish that, and that only, I should think I had done enough, and could retire 581 from public life with comfort, and conscious satisfaction, that I had done my duty. Having made these preliminary observations, I now come to the main question, but do not think it necessary to stop at present, for the sake of referring in detail to all the entries on your Journals, made at different periods since the year 1792, the different motions made by the hon. gent., the resolutions of the house, and the bills brought in to abolish the trade, particularly that which received the sanction of this house, though it was unfortunately negatived in another place. I have not lately had time, from other occupations, to prepare myself to refer minutely to dates and details; and must, therefore, content myself with a general reference, in which, should I fall into any mistake, I am sure there are gentlemen who will be certain to set me right. In the execution of this duty, I am happy to reflect, that whatever difference of opinion might have prevailed upon some points, of this subject, between a few members, and, at one time, unhappily, so as to defeat the measure, the opinion of this house upon the subject was, I will not say uniform, for in that I may be contradicted, but as nearly unanimous as any thing of the kind could be, "That the Slave Trade is contrary to the principles of justice, policy, and humanity." These, I believe, were the words of the resolution, adopted after long and serious deliberation; and they are those which I mean to submit for the resolution I shall propose this day. Surely, sir, it does not remain yet to be argued, that to carry men by violence away to slavery, in distant countries, to use the expression of an illustrious man, now no more (Mr. Burke), a man distinguished in every way, and in nothing more, than for his great humanity, "is not a traffic in the labour of man, but in the man himself." I will not now enter, for it would be unnecessary, into that exploded argument, that we did not make the negroes slaves, but found them already in that state, and condemned to it for crimes. The nature of the crimes themselves (witchcraft in general) is a manifest pretext, and a mockery of all human reason. But, supposing them even to be real crimes, and such as men should be condemned for, can there be any thing more degrading to sense, or disgusting to humanity, than to think it honourable or justifiable in Great Britain, to send out, ships annually to assist in the purposes of African police? It has, I am told, been asserted by an authority in the 582 other house of parliament, that the trade is in itself so good a one, that if it was not found already subsisting, it would be right to create it. I certainly will not compare the authority just alluded to with that of my hon. friend (Mr. Wilberforce), who, in the efforts he has used in order to abolish this dishonourable traffic, as well as in all his other pursuits, has always done himself so much honour. I will not compare that authority with that of a right hon. gent. now no more (Mr. Pitt), whose talents have always so justly been entitled to admiration, and whose eloquence was never more powerfully displayed on any occasion, than in opposition to this trade. I will not compare it with that of a noble lord (Sidmouth), one of your predecessors, but not your immediate one, in that chair, who though he opposed the manner in which we wished to obtain an abolition, yet as to the principle, no man ever enforced more strongly, or with more feeling, his utter detestation of it. Another noble lord also (lord Melville), who took a lead in constantly opposing our attempts at a total and immediate abolition; yet, in regard to the principle, when he prevailed in his measure of gradual abolition, recorded his opinion on the Journals, by moving, that the house considered the Slave Trade to be adverse to policy, humanity, and justice. I do not, therefore, suppose, that there can be above one, or perhaps two members in the house, who can object to a condemnation of the nature of the trade, and shall now proceed to recall the attention of the house to what has bean its uniform, consistent, and unchangeable opinion for the last 18 years, during which we should blush to have it stated, that not one step has yet been taken towards the Abolition of the Trade. If, then, we have never ceased to express our reprobation, surely the house must think itself bound by its character, and the consistency of its proceedings, to condemn it now. The first time this measure was proposed, on the motion of my hon. friend, which was in the year 1791, it was, after a long and warm discussion, rejected. In the following year, 1792, after the question had been, during the interval, better considered, there appeared to be a very strong disposition, generally, to adopt it to the full; but in the committee, the question for a gradual abolition was carried. On that occasion, wh[...] the most strenuous efforts were made to specify the time when the total abolition should take place, there were sev[...] 583 sions in the house about the number of years, and lord Melville, who was the leader and proposer of the gradual abolition, could not venture to push the period longer than eight years, or 1800, when it was to be totally abolished. Yet. we are now in the year 1806, and while surrounding nations are reproaching us with neglect, not a single step has been taken towards this just, humane, and politic measure. When the question for a gradual abolition was carried, there was no one could suppose that the trade would last so long; and in the mean time we have suffered other nations to take the lead of us. Denmark, much to its honour, has abolished the trade; or, if it could not abolish it altogether, it has at least done all it could, for it has prohibited its being carried on in Danish ships, or by Danish sailors. I own, that when I began to consider the subject, early in the present session, my opinion was, that the total abolition of the whole might be carried this year; but subsequent business, intervened, in the discussions of the military plan; besides which there was an abolition going forward in the foreign trade, from our colonies, and it was thought right to carry that measure first through, before we proceeded to the other. That bill has now passed into a law, and so far we have already succeeded; but it was then too late to carry it through the other house. In this house, from a regard to the consistency of its own proceeding, we could indeed expect no great resistance; but the impediments that may be opposed to it in another, would not leave sufficient time to accomplish it. No alternative is therefore now left, but to let it pass over for the present session; and it. is to afford no ground for a suspicion that we have abandoned it altogether, that we have recourse to the measure that I am now about to propose. The Motion will not mention any limitation, either as to the time or manner of abolishing the trade. There have been some hints indeed entertained, and thrown out in some quarters, that it would be a better measure, to adopt something that must inevitably lead to an abolition; but after 18 years of close attention which I have paid to the subject, I cannot think any thing so effectual as a direct law for that purpose. The next point is, as to the time when, the abolition should take place; for the same reasons or objections which led to the gradual measure of 1792, may here occur again. That also I leave open; but I have no hesitation to state, that with respect to that, my opinion 584 is the same as it is with regard to the manner, and that I think it ought to be abolished immediately. The motion, therefore, which I have to make, leaving to the house the time and manner of abolition, I cannot but confidently express my hopes and confident expectation, that it will be unanimously carried; and I implore gentlemen not to listen to that sort of flattery which they have sometimes heard (and particularly from one of the members for Liverpool), that they have abolished it already. When the regulations were adopted, for the space to be allowed for each negro in a slave ship, the same gentleman opposed it as being destructive, and exclaimed, "Oh! if you do that, you may as well abolish it at once, for it cannot be done." Yet, when we propose an abolition altogether, they use, as arguments against us, the great good already done, by regulating the slave ships, and bettering the condition of negroes in the colonies. In the same way, when we first proposed the abolition of the foreign trade, they told us it would have the effect of a general and total abolition; and I beg of them not to forget that declaration now; and having made it once, I must use to them a phrase in common life, "sir, if that be the case, I must pray you to put your hand to it." As to the stale argument of the ruin it would bring upon the West India islands, I would refer gentlemen to perhaps the most brilliant and convincing speech that ever was, I believe, delivered in this or any other place, by a consummate master of eloquence (Mr. Burke), and of which, I believe, there remains in some publications a report that will convey an inadequate idea of the substance, though it would be impossible to represent, the manner; the voice, the gesture, the manner, were not to be described.—"O! si illum vidisse, si illum audivisse!" If all the members of this house could but have seen and heard the great orator in the delivery of that speech, on that day, there would not now be one who could for a moment longer suppose that the abolition of the slave trade could injuriously affect the interests of the West India colonies. I am aware that a calculation was once made, and pretty generally circulated, by which it would appear, that were the importation of negroes into the islands put an end to, the stock of slaves could not be kept up; and if I recollect right, the calculation was made with reference to the island of Jamaica. Fortunately, however, for our argument, the experiment has been 585 already tried in North America, where the trade was abolished; and the effect of it shewed, that the population of the negroes was nearly equal to that of the whites. As that is the part of the world where population proceeds more rapidly than in any other, and as we know that within the last 20 years, the population of whites has doubled, and that of negroes very nearly so, without importation; it affords, I will not say a damning, but a blessing proof, that our adopting a similar course would ultimately produce the happy effect of a gradual emancipation, of increasing population, of enabling negroes to acquire property as the reward of long servitude; and thus place these islands in a state of safety beyond any thing that could be done by fleets or armies. Nothing now remains for me, sir, but to address a few words to those members opposite me, who are so fond of quoting the opinions of a right hon. gent. deceased (Mr. Pitt), and profess to entertain so profound a respect for his memory. They all know that there was no subject on which that right hon. gent. displayed his extraordinary eloquence with more ardour than in support of the Abolition of the Slave Trade. His speeches on that subject will not easily be forgotten; and, therefore, in supporting the present motion, they would not only have an opportunity of manifesting their private friendship for him, their admiration of his splendid talents, and the sincerity of their zeal and respect for his character and memory; but also the opportunity of quoting him with great advantage: added to which, they may now display all this for the public good, and on a subject upon which they cannot be suspected of making that respect and admiration, only a vehicle for party purposes.—The different proceedings held in the course of the motions for the Abolition of the Slave Trade were then read. After which the right hon. secretary moved the following resolution: "That this house, conceiving the African Slave Trade to be contrary to the principles of justice, humanity, and sound policy, will, with all practicable expedition, proceed to take effectual measures for abolishing the said trade, in such manner, and at such period, as may be deemed advisable."
§ Sir Ralph Milbanke
rose to second the motion. He should always, he said, endeavour to suppress a trade so unjust and so degrading to humanity; and he wished it to be remembered, that he had on every occasion given his vote for the abolition of 586 it. He had been uniformly of opinion that the slave trade was a ruinous and destructive traffic, that it was contrary to every principle of sound policy, justice, and humanity, as had been stated by the right hon. secretary in a much more able manner than he could do. He was happy to say that the majority of his constituents concurred with him in these sentiments. He was persuaded that the cultivation of the colonies could be very well carried on without any fresh importation of slaves, and concluded by seconding the motion.
§ General Tarleton
said he felt some astonishment at the manner in which, and the time when, the right hon. secretary had thought proper to bring forward this Resolution. It was wholly uncalled for by any part of the country, and introduced seemingly for no other purpose, than to shew that he had the power to carry his point. The house had certainly expressed sentiments inimical to the trade, and favourable to its abolition; which, however, it had never thought proper to follow up by any, efficient measure. But the former resolutions were brought forward in periods of profound peace, when they were not pregnant with any such danger as at present, when the country was involved in an arduous war, and plunged in a situation more critical than at any former period of its history. Why the right hon gent. should have chosen such a moment for bringing forward the motion, was to him most astonishing, nor could he account for it upon any other principle than that of gratifying, for certain political purpose, the inclinations of an hon. member below him (Mr. Wilberforce), who was so extremely zealots, upon this subject, that he never could hear the Slave Trade mentioned without starting as it he saw a ghost, and exclaiming abolition! abolition! It was therefore most probable, that the right hon. gent. had in view to cultivate a new coalition in that house for the remainder of the session. He was aware, that in the course of the former. investigations which took place upon this subject, a most voluminous body of evidence had been laid before parliament. Much of that evidence was in favour, and much against the abolition; and whatever was the resolution, at that time adopted, it did not appear that parliament had since thought it wise to follow it up; but before the house should proceed to adopt the resolution now proposed, he felt it his duty to call their attention to tine situation of Li- 587 verpool—a town which, from a miserable fishing hamlet of about 150 huts, had within a century risen to be the second town,. in point of commercial wealth and consequence, in the British dominions, entirely by the African trade. He begged to impress on the recollection of the house what the situation of Liverpool was when the right hon. gent. and his colleagues came into power. It was eminent for the prosperity of its commerce, its wealth, its loyalty; for the important aid it furnished to the British marine, by affording at all times a numerous supply of seamen, through its African and West Indian trade. It was equally distinguished for its spirit in fitting out private ships of war, and by contributing annually three millions sterling in revenue to the public purse. But what measures of advantage had Liverpool experienced since the present ministers came into power? Why, the Restriction bill upon the African trade, by which the enterprising spirit of its merchants was paralysed, their trade diminished, the value of their shipping considerably reduced, and disputes existed between them and the planters. But if the mercantile interests of the country were to be thus crushed; if that commerce, which yielded so great a portion of the public revenue, was to be impoverished; what must be the natural consequence? But one of two alternatives; either the minister must resort to the landed interest entirely, for the supplies necessary to carry on the war, or he must be driven to an ignominious peace. If the right hon. gent. seriously meant to proceed with the proposed measure, he could only say, that his constituents would feel themselves justified in coming forward in the most respectful manner, to solicit from parliament that to which they would conceive themselves justly entiled; namely, compensation for the losses they would sustain, in consequence of a measure that would deprive them of a trade which they had followed from the time of queen Elizabeth, under the sanction of parliamentary protection. The necessary consequence of the measure must be bankruptcies without number; the emigration of useful artisans, with their capitals, to America; and the loss to this country, for ever, of many useful artificers.
§ Mr. Francis
said, it was certainly in the power of the hon. general's constituents to petition the house for compensation for the losses they would sustain from the abolition of this trade; but he, for his part, would 588 not consent to give any part of his property for that purpose, nor would he consent that it should be taken out of the public purse, as it was well known to the merchants, that they carried on the trade against the wish of the country at large. Another reason against allowing them compensation, was, that it could not be ascertained whether it would be beneficial to Liverpool or not; as, in all the bills which had been brought in for the regulation of the trade, they had uniformly stated, that each would act as an entire abolition, and had afterwards acknowledged that it had a contrary tendency. With respect to the principle of the measure, the person who proposed the abolition, let him stand on what side of the house he would, was always his friend. He thought, however, that the Resolution in 1792 was, decisive; and he thought, for the dignity of the house, it should have been acted on long before this. He was extremely sorry, indeed, that another resolution should now be proposed, the same, nearly, as the former, but not so strong, without the house haying any security that it would be followed up with any other motion. He was the more surprised at this mode of proceeding, as his right hon. friend had declared himself still an advocate for the immediate abolition, and he, for his part, heartily wished that the latter mode had been proposed. The argument used by his right hon. friend, against bringing in a bill, was, that the session was now far advanced, and that though it might be passed through one house, yet it was probable that there would not be a sufficiency of time to allow it to be discussed in the other; but, he would ask whether there would not be the same portion of time consumed in discussing a bill, as there was in discussing a resolution? The bill might be short, and conceiving that it was practicable to pass it in the present session, he, for his part, would advise that it should be brought in.
agreed with the hon. gent. who just sat down, that it was better, and he conceived it would be more consistent with the principle the right. hon. secretary had always entertained, to bring in a bill, even at this late period of the sessions, than to proceed on this indefinite resolution. This motion, a mere declaration of an intention to act, without naming any time, or any particular manner of acting, appeared to him to be of no use, except, perhaps, that of keeping up, for a little longer, the old 589 character of the rt. hon. secretary, amongst those who had felt evident disappointment at his conduct since in office. If the rt. hon. gent. really meant it as a serious proposition, or any thing else than one of those convenient measures of parliamentary management, which he sometimes condescended to adopt, he (lord C.) did not see any purpose it could answer to the rt. hon. gent. It pledged the house generally to a Resolution, for a purpose wholly indefinite as to time and mode. If, in point of fact, the trade could be abolished at once, why not do it immediately, instead of proposing a Resolution in general terms upon the subject, which, in its present form, was wholly unintelligible? The house had formerly come to a definite resolution, which had. never been followed up; and why? Obviously because it was found impracticable to realize the theories of those who led the house into that resolution. With respect to the principle of the Slave Trade, no man more sincerely wished than he did, that it were practicable now, or at any proximate period, to remove a grievance so calamitous, from the lot of humanity. As to effecting any thing like a general abolition of this traffic; he really feared it was not to be accomplished by parliament; for were the most peremptory bill that could be shaped, to pass this night upon the subject, to preclude all British ships and capitals from being employed in the African trade, even for the supply of our own colonies, he did not see any other purpose such a bill would answer than to involve us in disputes with those colonies, and to risk their ultimate loss, by forcing them to resort to other nations, who would certainly take up the trade as a source of wealth, the moment it was relinquished by this country. Did the right hon. gent. imagine, that any bill passed by the British Legislature for abolishing our own Slave Trade, would prevent France, Spain, and Portugal from carrying it on, under all those cruelties which the regulations of the British Trade were so well calculated to prevent? Did the hon. member near him (Mr. Wilberforce), who had announced his intention of moving this night an address to his majesty upon this subject, imagine that it would be in the power of his majesty to change the sentiments of other European governments, and more especially of the present ruler of France, whose principles and opinions were so well known upon the subject, and to whom the very circumstance of our abandoning the trade would be the strongest inducement 590 for its adoption? In fact, until such a concert could be formed with our own West India planters, and the other powers of Europe, it would be in vain to expect any thing like an effectual measure for the abolition of this trade; and by abandoning it ourselves, we should only throw a source of wealth into the lap of our enemies, without effecting any one good purpose to the unfortunate objects of our solicitude. Any real benefit must be the work of time and gradual progression, and by a corrective system, something of the nature by which smuggling and other abuses were corrected at home; such, for instance, as an high and almost prohibitory duty on the importation of new slaves into our West India islands; but this duty not to operate merely as a source of revenue to the crown, but of reward to the planters, for encouraging negro population in the Islands, and rewarding the kindness and encouragement shewn to slaves. The noble lord concluded by saving, that the present motion was unwise, and that if the right hon. gent. meant to abolish the Slave Trade, his Resolutions should have been more definite.
The Solicitor General
said, he should have much more cordially supported a motion for leave to bring in a bill for the immediate abolition of this abominable traffic: yet still, he thought the motion ought to be supported, as pledging the house to take the most speedy and practicable means to abolish it. Surely, if it were the sense of the house to adopt, in the present session, any measure more prompt and efficient for the purpose, this resolution would oppose no impediment to a purpose so desirable. The noble lord who had just sat down had said the resolution was vague and indefinite. Its object, he conceived to be .unequivocally explicit, and its purpose to revive the resolution of the house in 1792, which had not been acted upon. It was not his wish at this moment, to enter into a general discussion upon the Slave Trade, for what could there be offered to the house in vindication of a commerce so detestable, but arguments already refuted, and assertions long since disproved? It was hardly fair to say, the house had not done any thing in pursuance of its former resolution; for in the session before last it had passed a bill for the purpose, which was rejected in the other house of parliament, and. another was brought in last session, which miscarried, owing to the accident of a thin house, and a concerted plan to defeat the measure. He knew well that sometimes corrupt systems 591 were long continued in nations that had not courage to enquire into them; but that was not the case in this country with respect to this system, because there had been no want of courage to enquire into it; and after the opinion expressed by the committee, who in 1792 had investigated the subject with the most patient deliberation; whose opinions, and the evidence upon which they were founded, stand recorded on the journals of the house; and who solemnly declared, that this most atrocious traffic had been, and continued to be, carried on in the most wanton and barbarous manner, could any argument be necessary now to prove the propriety of its abolition? Or could the house feel the necessity of longer delay, when they were told, that since the adoption of those resolutions to abolish this infamous trade, no less than 360,000 wretched individuals had been torn from the coast of Africa, in consequence of war, and violence, fomented for the purpose of seizing and consigning them to slavery in the West Indies. An hon. general had said, that if this trade were to be abolished, his constituents of Liverpool must come to that house for compensation, and that a great source of revenue must be destroyed: be it so, at any expence, rather than hold the detestable principle, that the debts of England were to be paid with the blood of Africa. The noble lord had said, that the progress of abolition must be gradual, and that it could only be effected in concert with our West India planters. In such a case, indeed, the prospect must not only be far distant, but utterly hopeless, as the Planters were a set of men whose assent could never be obtained; and he would beg leave to refer to the former correspondence of lord Seymour and the West India planters on this subject, to show their intention to blindfold and mislead parliament upon the subject. He trusted the house, in its final decision, would not be guided by such testimony.
§ General Gascoyne
said, that with respect to the Abolition of the Slave Trade, unless the house did something effectual, they would do a great deal of mischief; for the subject would now be stirred afresh; it would go abroad, and be talked of in other places; it would be agitated with warmth in the colonies, where it would rouse feelings that had in a great measure subsided, raise expectations that would be disappointed, and, in fact, prove pregnant with more injurious consequences than many gentlemen could well conceive. He was well assured it would prove highly injurious to our 592 commercial interests in the colonies; and he wished to be informed, if there ever was a period in our history, in which our colonial trade had been in greater danger than it was at the present moment? but the house had been told, it must give some opinion on the. subject; and the resolution said, the Slave Trade was contrary to every principle of justice, humanity, and sound policy. As to the question of justice, he could by no means acquiesce in it; but while we were so strenuous in favour of justice to the Africans, we should not lose sight of it towards one another; and it was not at all clear, in his mind, that it was just in the mother country to treat the colonies in the way she had done, by first giving legislative encouragement to the traffic in question, and afterwards, when large properties had been embarked in it, endeavouring thus to put a stop to it, and thereby involving in beggary and ruin, those who had risked their property, and thereby added greatly to the wealth, prosperity, and aggrandisement of the whole empire. He could not help expressing his great surprise at what had been said by a right hon. and learned gent. (the Solicitor-General) who had introduced a degree of warmth and violence of language, that night, which had not been heard in the house for many years; had reverted to the expressions originally used on the subject, of rapine, robbery, and murder; and he wondered, as he had taken up the matter so warmly, that he had not also mentioned the cruelties of the middle passage, the murder by Capt. Kimber, &c. which had been all proved since to be fabrications and fictions, but which had been used with considerable effect in the outset of the business. As to the trade itself, he could prove, it had been sanctioned by the authority of the wisest and most pious legislators. If he was mistaken, his pious friend near him could set him right. The hon. general then quoted the 25th chapter of Leviticus, out of which he read the 44th, 45th, and 46th verses, as follows:—"Both thy bordmen and thy bond-maids which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bond-men, and bond-maids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land, and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen 593 "for ever." The above clearly proved, that slavery had from the earliest times, been countenanced and authorized by religion itself. It was equally certain, it had been encouraged at various periods, during and since the reign of Elizabeth. As to the doctrine of the right hon. and learned gent. respecting indemnity, he did not know where he had learned it; but, in that house, whenever, in the various discussions which had taken place, the subject of indemnity had been mentioned, it had never been denied, that the merchants of Liverpool, and the planters in the colonies also, were all entitled to it. Would the house say, that the justice they would extend to the Africans, they would refuse to their own countrymen. He would repeat what he had said on a former occasion, with the same qualification. If we had new colonies to cultivate, and he was asked his opinion, in respect to encouraging the Slave Trade, he would certainly advise it; and why? because our commerce had derived such immense sources of wealth and prosperity from it, as had proved a great mean of raising the country to its present state of aggrandisement and magnificence, and enabled us to contend with our enemies. Would any man say Europeans could cultivate the colonies? If we looked at the melancholy ravages made in our armies when sent over to the colonies, we should find, that without having any hard labour to perform, the effects of a burning sun, and a continued sultry climate, were such, as to sweep away more than one half in the course of the first year they arrived there. He thought that pledging the house now to renew a measure which had so long lain dormant, could do no good, and might effect much mischief, and he should therefore vote against the motion.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
said, that with regard to one part of the hon. general's speech, he was doubtful whether he should not have interrupted him by calling him to order. But if the hon. gent. could believe that slavery was sanctioned by our holy religion, he should only feel disposed to pity his weakness and error, and should endeavour to rectify his mistake in the spirit of mildness and conciliation. It was the glory of our religion, that it not only forbade all those odious means by which slaves were procured, but expressly prohibited the practice of man-stealing, and called us to act on a principle of universal philanthrophy, and kind good-will to all men. But he should ever deprecate the 594 introduction of such appeals to sacred authority into that house, as tending rather to ridicule than to any satisfactory result. He should have heard with pleasure the declarations of his noble friend (lord Castlereagh,) respecting the radical injustice of the traffic, had he not at the same time seemed to oppose every method that had been proposed for its abolition, and had not his speech been uniformly applauded by those who were friendly to the trade. They were perfectly willing to permit the trade to be railed at, while, in fact, it received their most effectual support. He himself had derived pleasure from the reflection, that the measures he had brought forward at different times on this subject had been supported by almost all the ablest men on both sides of the house, who had seldom agreed on any great measure of policy, If he had erred, he had erred with great authorities. But his noble friend, while he reprobated the principle of the Slave Trade, had obtained the support of those only who were friends to that traffic. The noble lord had proposed to accomplish the gradual abolition of the trade by means of duties on the importation of slaves. But this would only tend to increase the price of slaves; and surely the co-operation of the colonies, which was so little to be expected, would in this way become more necessary than in any other method that could be devised. It had been said, indeed that it was absolutely necessary that the colonies should co-operate in the abolition, in order to render it effectual. This, however, he must deny; for the importation of various commodities into the West India islands had been prevented by legislative interference, and surely it would not be more difficult to prevent the importation of slaves, who, whatever they might have suffered, still exhibited some appearance of the human form. No measures, he contended, were to be expected from the colonies even for the gradual abolition of slavery. They had declared, that whatever steps might be taken for ameliorating the condition of slaves, these were in no degree to be considered as adopted with a view to the abolition of slavery, the perpepetual enforcement of which they regarded as their birth-right, of which they should never .be deprived. Even this language was more agreeable to him than the professions of others, who, while they pretended to wish for the abolition of slavery, yet effectually impeded it by every means in their power. It had been said that there must 595 be something impracticable in the measure, since from the year 1792, when it had received the sanction of parliament, nothing effectual had been done for its accomplishment. Parliament had at that period been actuated by an ardent feeling which had been almost universal in the country. But it was to be regretted, that the feelings of benevolence were too apt to be evanescent, while interest was a cool and calculating principle; and the feelings of interest had gradually overpowered the dictates of philanthropy and the compunctions of humanity. He should have preferred the immediate introduction of a bill for the Abolition of the Slave trade; but he had submitted to the judgment of those who thought that at the present advanced period of the session there was little probability of its receiving the concurrence of parliament. The former bill which had passed this house, had not been negativated by the lords, but had been merely rejected on the ground of their not having sufficient time for its full discussion. But the present resolution would hold out the hope, that the house was now more desirous to fulfil that pledge which they had long ago held out to the country, and therefore it met with his cordial approbation and concurrence, On the whole, he conjured the house to recollect that Providence had never connected the happiness and prosperity of any country with injustice; and that whatever apparent prosperity the slave trade might produce, it would ultimately be found rotten to the core. There would be no need of bounties for the encouragement of negro population, as had been proposed by a noble lord, if the domestic comforts of the slave were properly attended to; and the only way of producing this effect would be the total abolition of the slave trade, which would force the planter, from a sense of interest, to improve the situation of the negro. But as long as the slave market could be resorted to, so long would the system of breeding be neglected.—As to the plan, he could have wished a Bill to have been immediately brought in for the Abolition; but his right hon. friend had most forcibly shewn, that could not be done, at so late a period of the session; as there would not be time for the Lords to consider the bill with that mature deliberation which the subject required. His noble friend was, however, mistaken, when he said the Bill of last year was negatived by the Lord—it was only laid aside, 596 because there was not time for a full consideration of it. He hoped, therefore, the present resolution would pass, to shew that the houses were determined to take up the question early in the next session, and evince to the world that they will, as speedily as possible, abolish a traffic which they have so repeatedly declared to be abominable in its principle, its nature, and its consequences.
§ Sir W. Young
thought this resolution might tend to raise hopes and expectations which might have a very mischievous tendency. He would rather wish the subject had been taken up by a bill; in which case, all the merits of the question might have been discussed in that house, and then sent to the lords for their consideration. If, however, this resolution had been proposed at the beginning of a session, he would not have objected to it, because it might have been followed by a bill before the close of it; but now so near the close, and when they might not, on separating, meet again before January, a resolution of this kind would be agitated in the colonies, and might produce much mischief among the negroes. He should, therefore, oppose the. motion.
§ Lord Henry Petty
said, he should certainly have given the preference to a bill for the immediate abolition of this abominable traffic; but it had been most eloquently and forcibly shewn by his right hon. friend, that the lateness of the session would not allow the practicability of such a measure. What, then, had his right hon. friend done? After the longest deliberation that, he believed, had ever been given to a resolution of that or any other legislature in the world—after a resolution of that house passed in 1792, that this abominable traffic should be abolished in 1800, his rt. hon. friend, in 1806, a period of 14. years, calls on the house to agree with him in a resolution, the object of which was to remove from the house that degree of shame and disgrace, which they had so long laboured under, from an apparent dereliction of a resolution so solemnly passed, and a pledge so seriously given, on a subject of such vast importance, after the most mature deliberation, and most ample discussions. The noble lord (Castlereagh) by his argument, seemed to think this resolution must be sent to the other house, and that there would be something indecorous in so doing; he could not, however, see it at all in that light. What right had the noble lord, or what reason had the house 597 to suppose or believe that the other house would differ with them on the general principle of this measure? He denied that the house had any fair and reasonable ground to suppose so; all they had done to shew their opinion, was, they had thrown out a bill which was sent to them on the subject, not from any consideration or discussion of its principle or merits, but because it was too late in the session to give it due attention and deliberation, For this reason the present resolution was now laid before the house, and would be communicated to the other house; and it would be open to them, when this matter came before them in a general shape, to give their opinion fully and fairly on the subject. As to the general subject, his own private opinion certainly accorded strictly with the words of the resolution, and he thought the trade contrary to every principle of justice, humanity, and sound policy, so far as sound policy could be connected with a matter of this nature. The trade commenced in Africa, and after spreading a variety of vices there, in order to effect the robbery of persons who were the objects of its pursuit, it proceeded, with cruelty, to the misery and destruction of the places where it was carried on, and frequently to the desolation of those who procured those negroes. Besides these horrible effects, it was attended with the mischief to the British sailors of a waste of life, exceeding double and treble the number of those who died in any other employment in which they were engaged, which not unfrequently amounted to one-sixth of the whole ship's company in a voyage; and it also produced the worst of all moral effects among the planters, and those who were under the necessity of using slaves in the West Indies. These, he said, were the considerations he felt on the subject; and he believed they were the same which operated on the house, in 1792, to come to the resolution they then did. What had since happened to change that opinion? Every instance had shewn that encouragement and mitigated labour, had made the negroes productive and useful; they had encreased in population; we had made of them soldiers and non-commissioned officers; and having done so for our own interests, having made them defenders of the country, against the common enemy, for our interests, why should we not do something for theirs? It had been proved that the population might be kept up without further importations, no- 598 thing could prevent it, but the extremity of vice and misery which prevailed in the West Indies, which kept down the charities of life, and which the house were silently continuing during the present session. The present resolution would lay the foundation for proceeding in the business early in the next session, which he thought not only desirable, but absolutely necessary for the honour and character of that house, and as such it had his most cordial support.
said as far as regarded the question of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, his opinion was still consistent with that which he had on all occasions expressed; and it was not altered with respect to the season and manner in which the question was brought before the house, as he considered this not less objectionable than any hitherto proposed. He had long ago stated his opinion of the manner in which the great and humane object could alone be attained: it was, that a progressive duty should be imposed upon the importation of slaves into the West Indies, until at last it should amount to such an impost as would prove an absolute prohibition of the traffic, and that the bounty should not be a source of emolument to the state, but be paid to the mothers of slaves born in the islands, until they had borne a certain number, when they should be considered free. He did not think the West Indian Planters had had fair play; they bad been goaded by the hon. gent. who had for years agitated the question in that house, with the requisition of a total and immediate abolition, or nothing at all. To the charge of a right hon. gent. that the trade was a system of rapine, bloodshed, and murder, he would only say, that he had read every tittle of the evidence collected on the subject, and was at a loss to form from it an opinion of the measure; that evidence was clogged with some unfounded relations, particularly the story of a ship under the command of admiral Nugent having lost 80 out of a cargo of slaves, from their being made to "walk "the board," in which there was not a syllable of truth. He was not becoming the defender of what was practised towards the slaves; undoubtedly, much was indefensible. His objection to the present proposition was, that it was indefinite and vague, and he thought it would be putting the house of lords in a situation in which they ought not to be placed, to ask of them to commit themselves to a measure so uncertain as to its ultimate object. He had argued against the abolition of the trade, 599 because it would be depriving the country of a great source of revenue, amounting to two or three millions, at an inconvenient time, and because the American trade in slaves would increase exactly in the proportion that ours decreased. He had been misrepresented out of doors, when stated to have said, that by carrying a few slaves, our merchantmen conformed to the laws of Spain, and got articles into the Spanish colonies, which they otherwise could not. What he had said was, that the Spanish governors of provinces covered themselves under the circumstance of a few slaves being on board our ships, and permitted the sale of our manufactures. The average of 118 cargoes, was only 7 from Great Britain; and he thought, by abolishing that limited trade of slaves, we should do more injury to our commerce, than could be compensated by the advantages calculated upon. His alarm was not so much as to the abolition of the trade, as that the object of gentlemen went to the emancipation of slaves. What had fallen from a noble lord (H. Petty) to-night, induced this apprehension, as well as what a right hon. secretary had lately implied, in speaking on the subject of limited service, when he said, that there was no fear of finding recruits for the colonies, if the Slave Trade was abolished. He thought with the right hon. gent. that the colonies might be well defended with the native troops, enlisted for life, as the island of Dominica had exemplified in three instances in which it had been attacked; but not so if the men were to be turned adrift after a certain period. It was his misfortune to disagree with his lamented friend (Mr. Pitt) on the subject of this trade; and his opinion with respect to it was so firmly rooted, that he believed it would die with him. Its sudden and entire abolition he was satisfied would be attended with the worst consequences, and even be the occasion of much bloodshed in our islands. He thought the West India planters had a claim upon parliament, that their property should be protected, instead of being subjected to the inroads of so fatal a measure as the sudden abolition of the Slave Trade would prove. The mortality which a noble lord (H. Petty) had spoken of, he was sure he would, on due examination, find incorrect. The treatment which the slaves experienced was always exaggerated in a number of pamphlets which were circulated on the eve of a parliamentary discussion. Unless the house acted in concert with the colonies, the measure, he was convinced, would never prove 600 effectual; and although the resolution would not have any opposition from him, he could not but wish, that the colonial interest had been associated, as in the end they must be, in so important an undertaking.
§ Lord H. Petty ,
in explanation, said, that he had not so wild an object in view, as the issuing of a proclamation immediately after the passing of this resolution, for granting freedom to all negroes in our West India islands, as the right hon. gent. seemed to apprehend; but if by gradual progress the slaves could be led on to a fit state for freedom, he was certainly an advocate for that object.
said, he considered it to be the fault of those by whom this question had been before introduced, that the Slave Trade was not ere this entirely abolished. Hand in hand with the proposition for the measure, should be the assurance to those who would be affected by it, that every claim of compensation would be attended to, and that it was an object intended to be effected at the expence of the country, and not of individuals. It would be in vain to look to the accomplishment of the object, unless this course was adopted, as not all the navy of England could prevent the landing of contraband cargoes by the planters of the islands, in case the traffic should be prohibited by the English parliament. He was an advocate for the abolition of the trade, by rendering slaves capable of the enjoyment of freedom; but he entertained faint hopes of the accomplishment of that end, as no means could be at present devised to induce free labour: no reward was a sufficient stimulus to the voluntary exertion of the negro, as he had no wants in a country, where the labour of a week would supply the wants of a year. For forty or fifty years, nothing had been omitted in the colonies to counteract the decrease of slaves by death, but, in some, there was no instance of a child having been born for a very considerable period. If the amelioration of their condition could be such as to prevent this decrease, it would be a most desirable object, and would go far to obviate the necessity of the continuance of the trade.
§ Sir J. Newport
said, he would venture to assert, that whatever difference of opinion might exist in this country, the general accordant sentiment of the people of Ireland was strongly in favour of the abolition of the slave trade. So great was the detestation of that abominable traffic, that when a set of commercial gentlemen lately proposed, in a maritime district, a participation 601 in the wealth deduced from our West India trade, the reply was, that sooner than be parties to the rapine, robbery, and bloodshed, that stained our intercourse with that quarter of the globe, they would forego the pecuniary advantage, however great. One remedy proposed in lieu of this proposition before the house, was an increasing duty on the importation of slaves into the colonies ; but, as it was said they would be imported in defiance of our navy, the increasing duty would only become an increasing premium on contraband traffic. The hon. baronet, on account of the lateness of the hour, concluded by expressing his satisfaction at the renewal of this pledge to the country, that the trade would be abolished, and his belief in the concurrence of the other house of parliament in the proposition.
§ Mr. Canning
said, he thought it impossible for the ingenuity of man to devise a form of words contributing to the repeal of the Slave Trade that he should not concur in; he lamented, however, that the house had not the subject more fully before them, and censured his majesty's ministers for not bringing it more tangibly and efficiently forward, during the vacant interval that presented itself between the recess and the time that the right hon. secretary (Mr. Windham) brought forward his military plan.
§ Mr. Manning
thought the debate on the present occasion might as well have been spared, as tending merely to give alarm to those concerned in West India Property, and being, in fact, nothing more than a repetition of the resolution of the house in the year 1792. Every man connected with the colonies had an undoubted right to the protection of parliament. This was a bonâfide British trade, acknowledged in the public statutes so long ago as the time of queen Elizabeth, and it was the duty of that house, to afford a remuneration to those who might be injured by its prohibition. The situation of St. Domingo could not but be in the contemplation of gentlemen, and he exhorted them fully to weigh all the consequences of the measure proposed. Without conciliating the planters, he was sure the house would never effect their object; and he earnestly entreated them, before the next Session, to turn their attention to the claims of the proprietors, who would be affected by it.
Mr. W. Smith
said, he hoped after that night, the house would hear no more of the silly confusion of abolition of the trade, and emancipation of the negroes, as the latter had been as constantly denied by, as attri- 602 buted to, the supporters of the former. He thought the character of the West-India planters, who had refused the suggestion of government to make the killing of negroes murder, hardly entitled them to the consideration gentlemen seemed to think they ought to have. He thought it was only by attention to the morals of the negroes that their decrease in the colonies could be prevented. By memorials from two clergymen at Dominica, is appeared, that not only no registers of deaths and births were kept in that island, but marriages were never practised there at all amongst the slaves. As long as the trade continued, he thought the avocation of those employed in it could not be distinguished by other epithets than those of rapine, bloodshed, and murder. Mr. Bryan Edwards had declared, in the face of the whole island of Jamaica, that to distinguish it by another name was a mere mockery, and all travellers had afforded one uniform general evidence to the same end. The hon. gent. in answer to the observations on the other side, observed, that the only towns in England now interested in this trade, were London, Bristol, and Liverpool. Bristol had relinquished it, London was nearly approaching to the same, and he trusted ere long, Liverpool would follow so good an example, and that persons engaged in this trade of blood and rapine will soon be ashamed to show their faces in society. He concluded by saying, he never could permit this measure to pass without expressing his sentiments upon it; he therefore heartily concurred in the present motion.
§ Mr. Windham
assured the house, that at present he wished nothing more than the abolition of the slave trade; when a proper period, however, should arrive, and that the concurrence of other powers should be obtained, he would not hesitate to, say that slavery itself ought not to be suffered to remain among the institutions of any civilized state.
§ Mr. Fox
made a most able and animated reply, which, we regret it is not in our power to detail at length. It had been, stated that he had been lukewarm upon the present question; but he appealed to the house whether he had not zealously and uniformly reprobated the slave trade. It had been said, that this might have been brought forward at an earlier period, to this he partly pleaded guilty; but it was the opinion of those with whom he had the honour to act, that the Colonial bill should first pass, and then they could bring forward this measure with more propriety. The house, be con- 603 sidered, was pledged upon this subject, and it was now their business to redeem that pledge; he confessed he felt sanguine in the success of this measure, but if it should fail, he trusted some other plan more eligible would be adopted. The Abolition of the Slave Trade would lead to .the abolition of slavery altogether in the West Indies; but he totally differed with some gentlemen, who thought the former could not be done without the consent of those islands, for if this was to be the case, no consent whatever would be granted. With respect to compensation; when the claim was well made out, let the abolition be enacted, and if then shewn that any injury had been sustained, let that be remunerated. But he could not, agree to the general principle that injury must be sustained, and compensation must be granted. He heartily rejoiced at the unanimity of the house, and declared he would take the earliest opportunity possible at the commencement of the next sessions of parliament, for carrying the measure into complete execution.—The question being loudly called for, the house divided, when there appeared for the motion 114, against it 15; majority 99.—When the gallery was again opened for the admission of strangers, we found Mr. Fox on his legs, proposing that a me, sage should be sent to the Lords, by lord Henry Petty, requesting a conference with their lordships, upon a subject of justice and humanity. Which motion was carried without a division.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
then rose, pursuant to notice; and having prefaced his motion by a short speech, moved the House. "That an humble Address be presented to his majesty, beseeching his majesty to take such measures as in his wisdom he shall judge proper, for establishing by negotiation with foreign powers, a concert and agreement for abolishing the African Slave Trade; and for affording assistance mutually towards carrying into execution any regulations which may be adopted by any or all of the contracting parties for accomplishing their common purpose; assuring his majesty, that this house, feeling the justice and honour of the British nation to be deeply and peculiarly involved in the great object they have in view, will be ready, at all times, cheerfully to concur in giving effect to such measures as his majesty may see fit to adopt for its attainment." The question was then put, and carried in the affirmative.