§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
rose, and addressed the House to the following effect:—
Sir;—In subjecting a motion for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire whether the Slave Trade has prevailed in the Mauritius, and to what extent, beg to remind the House, that the Slave-trade was abolished by this country in 1807, declared to be felony in 1811, and piracy in 1824. The abolition has been confirmed by many treaties with other countries; and these treaties have been accompanied with many and great sacrifices. Yet there is, perhaps, no one point on which the whole people of England, of all ranks, of all politics, of all religious persuasions, are more agreed than in detesting this trade, and in the resolution that, as far as England is concerned, the abolition shall be carried into full effect.
Nevertheless, Sir, stand here to assert, that, in a British colony, for the last fourteen years, the Slave-trade, in all its horrors, has existed. I do not mean to say, that there have been some few violations of the law, or that some desperate adventurers have introduced some fifties or hundreds of slaves—but that it has been carried on upon a large scale, to the extent of thousands and tens of thousands, and this, from the capture of that colony, 1015 almost to the present moment. In short, that there has been a regular, systematic, and unceasing importation of slaves. I do not mean to assert, that it has not been occasionally interrupted. I know that general Hall, during his short administration, effectually checked it. I know that, about the year 1822, the distress consequent upon the reduced price of all colonial produce, caused some cessation of the trade; and it may, or it may not be—for do not pretend to have very accurate information to a recent period— that, for the last year or two, it has ceased. But, with these exceptions, there has been a regular, systematic, and unceasing importation of slaves into the Mauritius. That is the proposition I lay down, and I now proceed to prove it.
I have a large body of witnesses to produce, who have served in civil, military, and naval departments—who will speak to the facts they have witnessed. An officer, who held a high command in the Mauritius for seven years, shall tell you that the Slave-trade was not only tolerated, but encouraged—
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
. —I do not say that it was carried on by members of the government—I had intended to avoid any personal allusion—but, as I am called upon, I do say, that it was carried on to such an extent, and in a manner so open, as to reflect, in the strongest manner, on the highest authorities in the island. Another military officer, a general, states, that from the vessels that were hovering over the coast of Bourbon, then in our possession, in the latter part of the year 1813, between nine and ten thousand new slaves were landed—that "the landings of new Africans were frequent, but by no means clandestine." Another officer, writing in 1819, says, that the whole population of the Mauritius—meaning the whites—were engaged in the violation of the Slave-trade Abolition laws; and that, in despite of them, 700 new slaves had been introduced in the preceding month. Another officer, a colonel in the army, writing in 1821, says, that at least 30,000 new slaves had been landed at the Mauritius, between 1810 and 1817. A naval officer, an admiral, gives governor Farquhar warning, in 1812, that the Slave-trade shall not be carried on, notwithstanding the encouragement it received. A captain in the navy, speaking of the 1016 shameful abuses of the indulgence granted by government in the removal of slaves into the Mauritius, says, that at Tamatave, which he captured, there was not more than 400 slaves belonging to all the settlers—that they claimed permission to remove them to the Mauritius, which he refused, because it was contrary to law, and because he was sure that, if granted, it would become the cover for an unlimited Slave-trade. The settlers applied to the governor of the Mauritius, and obtained his consent to the removal of these slaves; and the captain officially states, that though the number was but, originally, 400, at the date of his letter, the 9th of January, 1812, 863 slaves had been introduced, and 347 more were yet to come. A captain in the navy, dating his letter in April, 1821, says, that 1,300 new slaves were at sea, destined for the Mauritius, and that 20,000 more were collecting on the coast of Africa, destined for Mauritius and Bourbon. Another naval captain says, that vessels, with cargoes of slaves on board, sailed, in open day, into the harbour of Port Louis. Another captain says, in 1824, that the Slave-trade, through the Sechelles, was going on under his nose, and in spite of his teeth. Of civil officers there were the Collector of the Customs of St. Denis, the Collector of the Customs at St. Paul's, the acting Collector of the same port, the Chief Commissioner of the Police at the Mauritius from 1812 to 1817, his successor, who held the same office till 1822 —all agree, that there was slave-trading at the Mauritius, and carried on in the most open manner.
I now come to a higher description of civil servants—Governors. Of these there have been three—the hon. gentleman opposite (sir R. Farquhar), who held that office from 1810 to 1817, and again from 1820 to 1823—general Hall, who was acting governor for the year 1818—and general Darling in 1819. As the hon. gentleman is present, shall not venture to tell you what his testimony may be; but his successor, general Hall, begins his first despatch on the subject, by saying "the Slave-trade has obtained a daring pitch here," January, 1819. In another despatch, in the same month, he says, M this traffic has obtained a degree of effrontery, from the impunity of offenders and collusion at their escape, which reflects a mark of disgrace on the government." In April of the same year 1017 he says, "I regret to state, that not a week passes without slave vessels appearing off some part of this island." Again, "the opulent and powerful part or the Mauritius community not only encourage but support the Slave-trade, and threaten destruction to those who oppose it. The legal authorities interpose their abilities and professional knowledge to defend the agents of this traffic, but not to punish them. The tribunals are as deeply interested in it as any other part of the society." Again in June, "the Slave-trade has not only been connived at but promoted and encouraged." And again in June, 1819, "with respect to the slaves, which I state to be unregistered, to the amount of 40,000, I can assure your lordship, that I have every reason to; feel convinced, from every source of information which I have consulted, that the number is not over-rated."
The testimony of general Darling, who succeeded general Hall, is the more valuable as he was known to have adopted a system directly opposite to that of his predecessor. He reversed all his orders, and restored to office those who had been dismissed. But, after a short experience, he makes these acknowledgments. General Darling says, that "at the date of his despatch, 16th July, 1819, the Slave-trade had revived with a peculiar degree of activity and effrontery. There is no hope of prosecuting with success, in the Mauritius, any one for being concerned in it. When general Hall went away the slave-dealers renewed the trade with recruited vigour. Daily violations of the law were notorious and public, but none would assist in bringing the offenders to justice, whilst too many were ready to protect and to conceal them."
But there is another confirmation of this. The French, possessing the neighbouring colony of Bourbon, knew what was doing at the Mauritius, and have repeatedly complained to our government of our toleration of the Slave-trade. For example: The viscount Bouchage says, that, "when he proposed to the French king new measures for putting down the slave-trade, he was not ignorant of the examples of toleration of this traffic which the English nation afforded the French in their island of Mauritius." The duke de Richelieu, in a conference with sir Charles Stuart, said, "that the same vigilant attention, on the part of the French agents to the British colonies, and particularly to the 1018 Isle of France, might, he was sure, lead to the discovery of infractions upon our laws respecting this trade, which we should find it difficult to justify, if they became the subject of official representation."
Now, I do not produce these testimonies as constituting that body of proof, upon which I should be warranted in making a charge against any individual. I am ready to admit, that they are too general and too loose for such a purpose. But I contend, that the concurrence of so many persons, having such different opportunities of gathering information upon the same point—the naval officers making their observations at sea—the military officers on shore—the civil officers having access to other sources of information—the governors knowing that which, perhaps, was concealed from all the rest—and finally the French, looking at it under a totally different aspect—the concurrence of all these in declaring that there was Slave-trading, and to a great extent, justifies my motion; which is not for condemnation, but for inquiry.
I now come to still more precise proof. First, I shall shew you, that between thirty and forty vessels, engaged in the Slave-trade, have been captured in that quarter. It was strange if each of these vessels were captured in their first adventure. I can prove it was not so. It was well known that, for example, the "Industry" had introduced 6,000 slaves before she was taken. It was strange also, if every vessel engaged in the trade were seized. I can prove they were not—that some vessels regularly, and for years, so employed, were never captured at all. The House may judge how many slaves were introduced in the successful voyages of the vessels which at last were captured, and of those vessels which were never captured at all. I confine myself to what I can distinctly prove; namely, that between thirty and forty vessels were actually captured.
Next I come to the disembarkations which have taken place. These I gather from persons who actually witnessed those disembarkations. Of these I have a great number of instances. It would be impossible for me to go through all the depositions of these persons; but I will give one by way of sample. A man of the name of Higginson, a soldier, deposes, that in June, 1821, he was stationed in the Mauritius, upon the estate of Mr. Telfair. Mr. Telfair was private secretary to the hon. governor opposite, public secretary of the 1019 colony, curator of orphans, registrar of the court of Vice-Admiralty, and he had received from the governor a present of two islands. Higginson deposed, that "he, whilst on a visit to his friend, corporal Storey, of the 82nd regiment of foot, in the command of a military post, consisting of himself and three men, stationed at the Bay du Cap, in the island of Mauritius, saw a schooner, which he well knew, commanded by a white man of the name of Jean Louis, coming into the said Cap: that his friend corporal Storey hailed the schooner, and ordered the captain to lower his boat, and come and fetch him to inspect what was on board. To which the captain, in the hearing of deponent, replied, "Stop a bit" (arretez un peu); and whilst deponent and his friend were waiting for the boat to come to the side of the bay on which they were, deponent observed a great stir in the vessel, and black people, who, from the matting and plaiting of their hair, and other marks, he knew to be natives of Madagascar, come out of the hold of the vessel and go over her side into a boat, placed at the side of the schooner to receive them; and one Pierre, a black man, whom deponent well knew, and who frequently had told deponent, that he belonged to governor Farquhar, having placed himself in the place of helmsman, and three other blacks, all evidently sufficiently used to the place to be called old slaves, having seated themselves as rowers in the boat, made for the opposite side of the bay to that on which was the military post. In this place, rather more towards the mouth of the bay than where the schooner was at this time lying, deponent saw the black people whom he had watched from the hold of the schooner, land; and, at the landing-place, perceived that certain persons were stationed to receive them, two of whom conducted the first two or three that put foot a-shore, into an adjoining wood, which here stretches itself nearly down to the sea side, and, the other two waited near the boat, and ordered those that next came out to follow the steps of their companions into the woods, whilst the two who conducted them thither returned to superintend the rest of the disembarkation. Thus was the first boat's load, consisting, as deponent believes, of from sixteen to twenty persons, landed and disposed of, and the boat returned to the schooner for more; corporal Storey still continuing to hail her, and to order her commander, 1020 Jean Louis, to lower his boat for him to come on board. To which Louis only replied by an execrable oath; telling deponent's friend, at the close thereof, that he had no occasion for him, and saying in French, as well as deponent can now describe it, 'va faire foutre—ne pas besoin de vous.' Whereupon deponent's friend, in presence of deponent, ordered his men to fire, not, however, into the boat, but over her, to bring her to: notwithstanding which, however, deponent saw the boat by this time loaded again with the same description of persons, push off for the shore, which she duly reached and landed about twenty more naked Madagascars, or Malgachi, in the face of deponent and his friend in charge of the post; the aforesaid corporal Storey, who seeing his power thus contemned, and in fact obviously insufficient either for prevention or punishment, set off again for the civil commissioner, or magistrate of the district, one Mr. Blancard: but deponent remained behind with the three men of his friend's regiment, the 82nd, and saw the boat for the third time landed with slaves, and, as before, push away for the shore, which it duly reached. Thus, what deponent considers as the whole cargo was landed and lodged in a wood adjoining the property to which the vessel they were landed from belonged, and to which he concludes, as a matter of course, they were shortly conducted. They were all in a state of nudity. Corporal Storey returned to his post in time to see the third boat, or the boat for the third time return to the vessel; after which she set sail; but, unable, from contrary winds, to weather the point, and get round to Belle Ombre, to which she was bound, she was obliged to put back, and return to Bay du Cap. On the return of corporal Storey to Bay du Cap, he reported to deponent, that Mr. Blancard, the magistrate, not liking the errand on which he. Storey, had come, told him to look to his men, mind his business, and if any thing were wanted, he Blancard, would supply it. Blancard was at this time, or had been, as deponent believes, a part owner in Belle Ombre."
This is the deposition of one individual. There are many others which I am ready to produce before the Committee. Several soldiers are ready to depose that they had received directions from their superiors, not to pay any attention to the disembarkation of the slaves. One, an overseer of convicts, would prove, that he had 1021 actually gone to his officer. Captain Rossi, to state, that he knew where a disembarkation was taking place. The reply was, that he should mind his own business, and that he would be punished for interfering with what did not concern him. One man goes so far as to state, that he was flogged for the crime of interfering with the Slave-trade. I wish to state the evidence with perfect fairness, and therefore I candidly admit, that this statement seems to me quite incredible. But I have the greatest reliance on the multitude of other depositions, all proving that disembarkations did take place.
The House will observe, that the number of soldiers at the Mauritius was very inconsiderable; never, I believe, exceeding 1,200. Of these, a large proportion were stationed at Port Louis, where they had little opportunity of making any observations upon the Slave-trade. Only a few were stationed in different parts of the island. Of these, some are dead, some are still in the Mauritius; and of those who have come to England, I have not been able to trace out more than twenty; but those twenty I am ready to produce before the committee; and they shall prove, that they witnessed ninety-nine separate disembarkations.
The House will remember, that the coast possessed many bays and recesses, in which slaves might be landed with little prospect of detection—that the country abounded in large forests, where the slaves once placed, would be secure from discovery—that the whole body of the colony were favourable to the trade, so much so, that even the Chief Justice, not perhaps the most active officer in preventing it, had officially declared, that the colonies looked upon the abolition of the Slave-trade as an injustice, and every man engaged in it as a meritorious character. When all these circumstances are taken into consideration, it is probable, that a multitude of disembarkations took place which were never discovered.
There are other cases, in which I have not positive proof, but the strongest grounds of suspicion. For example: Captain Lynne, of his majesty's ship Eclipse, in an official letter to his admiral, in 1812, says, "a brig was fitted out from the Sechelles, and brought back a cargo of new slaves, in number two hundred, from Madagascar." It is very possible, when captain Lynne is summoned before the committee, he may give us 1022 such information as may enable me to transfer this from the list of suspicions to the list of proveable cases. Another officer speaks of seven brigs and a schooner, which foundered in the Humianè in 1814. Another officer says, that seventeen vessels were equipped from Port Louis for the Slave-trade, between December 1818, and March 1819. And a number of other cases of the same description can be produced.
Taking, however, no notice of these cases of suspicion—no notice of the disembarkations which might have taken place, but which were never discovered—no notice of the cargoes of slaves brought in by the vessels that were captured in their successful voyages, or of those brought in by vessels that were never captured; but confining ourselves to that which is capable of proof, namely, that between thirty and forty vessels were captured, and nearly a hundred disembarkations witnessed, we have proof to the extent of a hundred and thirty cargoes. It would be difficult to say how many slaves were comprised in each of these cargoes. I have heard of a vessel with a thousand slaves aboard. Vessels have been captured with 100, 200, 400, 500, and 600, slaves. Rating each cargo at 200, we have, in these hundred and thirty cargoes, proof of Slave-trading to the extent of between twenty and thirty thousand human beings.
Now, if I stopped here, I should say I had proved my case. If I wished to convince the right hon. gentleman, that there had been smugglings at the Isle of Wight—if showed to him, that so many: vessels had been captured in that illicit trade—that so many landings had been witnessed—that so many officers, civil, military, and naval, united in declaring that, to the best of their knowledge and belief, smuggling had flourished for so many years—I take it, that the right hon. gentleman would think that there was pretty good reason for a strict inquiry. But go further. There are certain observable circumstances which, to my mind, constitute a body of proof still more conclusive than any direct evidence. It is barely possible that all those persons whom have enumerated—officers of the army, navy, and civil service, judges and. governors—may have entered into a conspiracy to delude, the people of England. But the facts to which now allude, admit of no possibility of delusion. There 1023 are,I say, certain observable circumstances and marked peculiarities, which always exist where there is Slave-trading —which never exist where there is not Slave-trading—and which, therefore, constitute a test by which we may decide in any given colony, whether there has been, or has not been, this crime. The first test of this kind to which shall refer, is the proportion of males and females. Gentlemen who have turned their attention to this subject, know that in colonies where the Slave-trade prevails, the males always greatly exceed the females. The trade, indeed, is a trade in males. I am assured by officers who have captured Slave vessels, that of the Negroes on board, there were at least ten males to one female—and the same thing appears by inspecting the official returns. So it was in the West Indies. The disproportion between the sexes was the great argument upon which the West Indians depended. They maintained that they could not keep up the population without the Slave-trade, because they had two males to one female. Mr. Pitt's answer was— "Abstain from the Slave-trade for a few years, and the population will right itself; nature will provide an equal proportion of males and females." This prediction has been exactly fulfilled. There are seventeen West-India colonies. In thirteen the females already exceed the males. In four the males exceed the females. But the total presents an excess of females over the males—the females being in number 360,558, the males 356,684.
Now then, let us see whether the population of the Mauritius resembles that of the West Indies as it was formerly, when there was Slave-trading, or now that there is none. In the Mauritius, by the official returns, the males were 41,015, and the females 22,754. And by the last returns from the Sechelles, dated January, 1825, there were five males to one female. Now, if this shows the existence of Slavetrading at all, it shows it to a vast extent. It is not occasional violations of law —it is not the act of a few French renegadoes, which could thus alter the laws of nature, and derange the proportion of the sexes. You have 21,000 males more, or 21,000 females less, than you ought to have. And this tells me, that some great engine has been at work—some vast machine has been in motion—to account for such a phenomenon.
The next point is equally inexplicable, 1024 except upon the presumption of Slave-trading: mean the fact, that the foreign slaves in the Mauritius so much excelled the natives. In a country in which the Slave-trade has been abolished for a given time, if a vast majority of the slaves are natives, the presumption is, that there has not been Slave-trading. But if, in another colony similarly circumstanced, the great majority are foreign, and the few only Creole, there it is difficult to doubt that the law has been avoided. Now, do not find in the West-India colonies, the number of Creoles greatly exceeding that of foreign. But, in the Mauritius find the number of Creoles greatly falls short of that of foreign. Now, must confess that my proof is not of that conclusive nature that could wish have, from two West-India islands, the number of foreign slaves separated from the natives. But this is wanting at the Mauritius; and wanting, because the registry is in the utmost state of confusion. I am therefore reduced to the necessity of taking the best data can procure—the advertisement of slaves in the newspapers. There have from the vender the account of how many are foreign—how many natives. And, as a native slave, accustomed to the climate and to the mode of labour, and understanding the language, is more valuable than a foreign slave, may fairly infer, that if he errs wilfully at all, it is in augmenting the number of Creoles, and reducing that of the foreign. I have extracted all the advertisements from all the newspapers I could procure; and, according to them, the proportion of foreign negroes to Creole, is as three to one. But, feeling the objection to this argument, that it is a comparison between the total in one case, and particular instances in the other, I have looked around me in order to find some less exceptionable comparison—and I have found it. We have the population of the Sechelles; and that population divided into the two classes of foreign and Creole. We have the same in two West-India islands I wish it had been possible to compare them in the same year; but the returns from the Sechelles are in 1815, and from the West Indies in 1817. And the facts stand thus: In the West-India islands the population being 95,000, 85,000 are Creoles, 10,000 foreign. In the Sechelles the total being 6,500, 1,000 are Creoles, 5,500 foreign. So that you have, in the West Indies, eight natives to a foreigner—at the 1025 Sechelles, five foreigners to a native. Supposing the population of the Sechelles had been equal (as indeed the population of the Sechelles and Mauritius together is nearly equal) to that of the West India islands, the result would be, that you would have 85,000 Creoles in the one, 15,000 in the other; 10,000 foreigners in the one, 85,000 in the other. There would have been a difference of 70,000 in each case. Now, I admit that this calculation is liable to some great deductions. First; we do not know that, at the moment of abolition, the proportions were the same—what they ought to have been to make the calculation perfectly correct. Secondly; the census in the West Indies was taken two years later than in the Sechelles. Thirdly; the Slave-trade was abolished in the West Indies earlier than it was at the Sechelles. Each of these causes calls for a considerable reduction. But make the greatest deductions possible, they are utterly insignificant in proof, that there is not a much larger proportion of foreign slaves in the Mauritius than there ought to be, upon the supposition of the abandoning of the Slave-trade at the time it was by law abolished.
There is another fact almost equally important. We know that the cultivation of sugar is the great and permanent motive for the introduction of slaves into a colony. I will not say that slaves are introduced for no other purpose; but I am persuaded that there never was an active Slave-trade except for the purpose of growing sugar; and if sugar ceased to be used, that crime would also cease. An increase, therefore, in the quantity of sugar produced, furnishes some criterion—by no means a perfect one, I admit—by which we may judge whether there has been any Slave-trading. In the year 1810, very little sugar was grown at the Mauritius. As far as I can learn, more was exported. Shortly after, there was an export of about half a million of pounds. In 1822 it amounted to thirty millions of pounds; that is, it had increased sixty-fold. Now, it may be said that this increase arose from an increase in the price of sugar, which had induced the proprietors to turn their attention from the growth of other articles to the growth of sugar. The fact, however, is, that they grew more of other articles in the latter period than in the former; and that the price of sugar, instead of rising, fell. For example: in 1819, the price was 30s. the cwt. and the export 50,000 cwt. In 1822, 1026 the price was 17s. the cwt. and the export 208,000 cwt. So that we have, in that short period, the price reduced nearly one-half, and the production increased four-fold.
There is another phenomenon equally remarkable. Bounties are paid upon the capture of each slave illicitly imported. If the Slave-trade were abolished in the Mauritius, as it was in the West Indies, there ought to be some proportion between the numbers captured at the Mauritius, and in the colonies in the West Indies. Now, I extract the following Return from a parliamentary document printed in 1822:—
Now, if it were necessary, I could aggravate this argument very considerably. I could prove that the slaves in the West-Indies were not new slaves, but slaves removed from one island to another, and
A List of the number of captured Negroes, on account of whom Bounties have been paid out of his Majesty's Treasury, to the 31st of March, 1822, distinguishing the number for each Colony. Antigua Barbadoes Berbice Bermuda Demerara Dominica 24 Grenada 3 Jamaica 40 Montserrat Nevis St. Christopher St. Lucia 7 St. Vincent Tobago Trinidad 8 Virgin Islands Total for all the British West-India Islands 82 Bahama Islands 115† Cape of Good Hope 8‡ Total for all British Colonies exclusive of Mauritius 205 For Mauritius alone up to the same date 2,452*These Negroes came from a vessel bound to Cuba, which by stress of weather put into Jamaica, where they hoped to dispose of them; but trying to do so, the parties were immediately seized, and tried, convicted, and transported. They were tried and convicted in the island itself. The names of the parties so convicted and transported were Hudson and Jones, two of the crew navigating in the Spanish vessel.†The greatest part of these Negroes were landed from an insurgent privateer. Vide Bounty Paper made up at the Treasury, 30th of March, 1822.‡Two of these are said to be returned servants from Scotland.1027 forfeited for technical errors. The only two real cases of Slave-trading are one at the Bahamas, where an insurgent privateer landed the slaves that were captured—another at Jamaica, where a Spanish vessel intended for Cuba, put into Jamaica from stress of weather. Whereas, the numbers stated at the Mauritius might be increased, if the account were made up to the present time; because, the Censeur, the Succés, the Industry, the Walter Farquhar, have been Captured since the period at which that return was made up. But, let the argument stand as it does—in nineteen slave colonies bounties are paid on 205 slaves— in the twentieth, on 2,452. There are ten times as many captured in a single colony, as in all the other colonies put together.
Now, if the House will look at these facts together—that the male slaves double in amount the females—that the foreign slaves double in amount the creole—that the growth of sugar in 1822 was increased sixty-fold under a falling market—that the bounty on captured slaves at the Mauritius was ten times as great as in all the other colonies put together, I think the House will concur with me, that there has been Slave-trading.
Here are, independently of positive testimony, four tests—take any test you please, and it tells you that there has been Slave-trading, and, if at all, on a very large scale—a scale so large, as to change the whole statistics of the colony —a redundance of men, as compared with women—of foreign slaves, as compared with Creoles—a quadrupled production upon a sinking market.
I come now to the Registry. It was established as a complete and perfect check against the Slave-trade. As such it was sent out to the colonies—as such it was recommended by our government to foreign powers—and it was sent by lord Bathurst to the Mauritius, with strict injunctions to carry all its regulations into effect; and the governor, in his reply, acknowledges, that if carried into effect, it will suppress the Slave-trade. It will surprise the House to hear, that almost all its important regulations have been rejected or neglected, at the Mauritius. For example—it was required, that the marks of each negro should be distinctly stated. In nineteen cases out of twenty this has not been done. It was required, that every person purchas- 1028 ing a negro should state the person from whom, and the estate from which, he was procured. At the Mauritius, they contented themselves with saying, that the negro was acquit, or acheté; but, whether from a bona fide proprietor, or from a slave-smuggler, from a neighbouring estate, or from the hold of a slave-ship—the only material question—no species of information was given by the register.
The House will, perhaps, see the state of confusion into which the registry has fallen by a single fact. In 1816, 87,352 slaves were returned. In 1819, 20,948; in 1822, 7,485. Now, by law, there is a fine upon the planter of 100l. on each slave omitted in the return. The difference between the first return and the last is 80,000 slaves. The penalty of 100l. on each of these slaves would amount to eight millions of money in 1819, and eight millions more in 1822; and every slave so omitted is by law free. I do not pretend to say whether these fines should or should not be remitted; or whether government should restore to the proprietors these slaves, which having actually belonged to them, have been forfeited by their neglect. But I warn government, that there are in the Mauritius many thousand negroes, who have been imported since 1810; who, by the laws of England, are free. And I give notice, that we demand the execution of the law in their favour. Government may relax the fines or the forfeitures which have been incurred by neglect; but they must not give to the planter what never belonged either to themselves or the planter —the negroes who have been imported contrary to law, since the year 1810. For example: on Mr. Telfair's estate, about 250 negroes were returned in 1816. No return is to be found in the Registry office in this country for 1819 and 1822. And there are abundance of witnesses who have seen from a thousand to twelve hundred negroes upon that same estate. Mr. Telfair, at least, shall be called upon to explain how these slaves were procured.
There is another symptom, I will not call it a proof, of slave trading. I mean the very dreadful treatment of the slaves at the Mauritius. I am one of those who think, that wherever there is slavery, there there is cruelty; and, therefore, mere cruelty would be no proof. But the excessive ill-treatment of the slaves at the Mauritius, and the mortality which 1029 that ill-treatment has produced, coupled with the fact, that the population has not diminished, are at least a strong corroboration of my opinions. Excessive labour, or excessive punishment, may be restrained by the reflection, that a substitute is not to be found, or only at a very great price, for that being, whom those excesses send to the grave. But, where the Slave-trade prevails—where there is a market, and that market abundantly supplied, there it is plain to experience and plain to reason, that the life of man will be held at a very cheap rate indeed. There was an officer of the Mauritius, whose duty it was to make a report to the governor, day by day, of the deaths of the negroes in his district. The population of that district was, I am told—for I have not proof—in 1816, somewhere about 11,000: in the next six years 6,565 died. Such a mortality proves excessive ill-treatment. But a population existing under such a mortality is proof of Slave-trading.
Now, I turn to another part, the population of the Sechelles. The House will recollect, that it has been already proved, by official documents, that there were five males to one female, and five foreign slaves to one native; which, if all other facts were wanting, would be sufficient to establish that there had been Slave-trading. There are three returns of the population of the Sechelles—that taken by the French immediately before the capture; that taken by captain Bevers shortly after the capture; and that taken by governor Farquhar in 1812. According to the French return, there were 1,200 negroes in 1810. In 1825, there were 6,000; that is, the population has increased five-fold. This is not all. In the interim, there have been exported from the Sechelles, openly and according to law, 2,000. There has also been an illicit trade. It is impossible to state what numbers have been smuggled; but I have reason to think I speak within compass when I say, that the illicit trade at least equalled that which was legal. To the 6,000, then, which remain at the Sechelles, must be added the 2,000 legally, and the 2,000 illegally removed. And thus you have a population, 1,200 in 1810, which has swelled to 10,000 in 1825.
Now let us look at this a little more in detail. The population was originally 1,200. It would be fair to suppose, that 1030 the males form a greater proportion to the females then than now. For Slave-trading was then permitted; and now it has been prohibited for fourteen years. But, in order to be quite within compass, we will take the proportion in 1810, as they are proved to be in 1825; that is, five males to a female. There were, then, 1,000 males, and 200 females. First, as to the males—1,000 in 1810, exported, nearly 4,000, remaining 5,000. That is, the 1,000 males have multiplied to 9,000. The females are still more curious. There were 200 originally; of these 150 have been exported. The 50 who remained, with the assistance they received from the others, while they continued in the island, have been the mothers of the whole colony. That is, they have produced 9,000 living children. But, it is computed, that one half the negro children die in the first month. That would give them a family of 18,000 children. It is calculated, that in a given number of females, some die—if any died, the wonder is increased. It is calculated, that in a given population of females, only one out of four bears children. This would still more increase the wonder. If I were not afraid of throwing an air of ridicule over a subject in itself so serious, I would tell you how many children each of these matrons must have produced—every year, every month, every day, of that period. But I confine myself to say, that whether you take the census of the French, of captain Bevers, or of governor Farquhar, it is absolutely impossible that the population of the Sechelles should have been produced, except by the Slave-trade.
If any one disputes the inference drawn from the facts I have already stated, let him now attend to me, and I will give him a numerical demonstration, that there has been Slave-trading. In 1812, the governor says, that the population of the Sechelles was 3,000. I will suppose, for argument sake, that all these were foreign slaves. I will suppose that none of them died, and that none of them were exported. You ought to have had, in 1815, these identical 3,000 foreign slaves. By the official return you have 5,500 foreign slaves. That is, you have 2,500 who must have been imported.
With respect to the Mauritius, the population, when we captured the island, was 60,000. I suppose that this account is not far from correct; because the French, by their census, make it 60,000 shortly 1031 before the capture, and the English 59,700 immediately after. We will take it, therefore, at 60,000 in 1810. In 1812, the governor says, the slave population decreased at the rate of five per cent per annum. In five years, therefore, it ought to have decreased 15,000: that is, it ought to have been 45,000. The census was taken at the end of these five years, and it was found to be 87,000. That is, 42,000 more than it ought to be.
Again in 1815, the planters themselves returned 87,000. I suppose that they returned every slave they had—because it was their interest to do so. Nevertheless, three years after, we are informed, upon the official authority of the governor, that there were 40,000 slaves in the island, which had never been returned at all.
I may be asked why, having these three demonstrations, I have troubled the House with so large a range of proof. I have done so, because it is almost incredible to my mind, that such things should have been done in a British colony, and under the eye of British officers. I would not myself believe it, if I had not proofs equally conclusive, derived from so many quarters. I would not have believed that a British officer, the representative of his majesty, could have addressed a despatch to lord Bathurst, craving permission to permit the Slave-trade, as I find dated the 15th of February, 1811. He pleads earnestly, and argues strongly, for its continuance. He says that the abolition law does not extend to the Mauritius—in which he is mistaken. He goes on to say, that if it did, we having, by the capitulation, guaranteed the laws, customs, and religion of the island, Slave-trading, of course, was included. Next, he says that we did wink at the Slave-trade in Trinidad, after the Abolition act passed—in this he is mistaken. He then goes on to argue, à fortiori, that it must be tolerated in the Mauritius, where slavery is the very soul of their existence, where universal torpor and poverty must reign without it, so that the islands must decome deserts, if the importation of new negroes was denied.
Now, then, I have gone through my case. I have proved Slave-trading, by vessels engaged in the trade—by disembarkations witnessed. I have proved the same thing by the state of the population; which is exactly what it ought to be on the supposition that the Slave-trade has flourished, and exactly what it ought not to be, on the supposition that the Slave- 1032 trade has been abandoned—the males being double the females—the foreign negroes being double the creole. The same thing have I proved by the increasing growth of sugar, on a falling market—by the bounties paid on negroes illicitly imported—which are ten times as great in one colony as in all the other colonies of Great Britain—by the state of the registry —by the fact, that the population has thriven and multiplied, in spite of an unheard-of mortality. And, if these are not enough, I have proved the same thing by three distinct numerical demonstrations.
Now, I appeal to the House, whether I have not argued this question strictly, and upon its own merits, without an attempt to inflame their feelings by a recital of the horrors with which the Slave-trade is invariably attended? But, it being my duty to urge the House to lose no time in stopping such abominations, I am bound, painful as it is, to open to you some of the horrors of such a system. It is right that the House—that the country—that the world—should know how slaves are procured. One mode is—and we have an instance of it in these papers, in the case of the Voyageur—for the crew to disembark at night-fall, surround a village, and capture the inhabitants. Another mode is, that bodies of armed ruffians traverse the country, surprise females—(we have an instance of this; the sister of a native king having been thus taken and conveyed to the Mauritius)—stealing children, and sometimes taking unarmed men. But the more usual course I am now about to describe. I do so upon the authority of captain Moresby, an officer who had peculiar opportunities of observing personally the mode in which slaves were procured: "The Arab traders from the Coast of Zawyiban go up the country provided with trinkets and beads strung in various forms; thus they arrive at a point where little intercourse has taken place, and where the inhabitants are in a state of barbarism, here they display their beads and trinkets to the slaves, according to the number of slaves they want. A certain village is doomed to be surprised; in a short time the Arabs have their choice of its inhabitants—the old and infirm are either left to perish or be slaughtered."
In fact, as I gather from other sources, they surround the village in the night, set fire to it in various places, slaughter some, burn others. The remainder are collected the next morning the old, the young, 1033 the infirm, are despatched, and the remnant is the booty. This is the first step. The second I derive from the report of an officer, major Gray, who was employed to travel in Africa by our government. He says, "On the 10th of February, 1821, Samba, who had been absent from his town since the preceding night came to tell me that the Kaartans had gone into Bondoo on a plundering excursion that morning. They had made 107 prisoners, chiefly women and children, and had taken about 240 head of cattle. Many of these unfortunate beings were known to me. The men were tied in pairs by the neck, their hands secured behind their backs; the women by the necks only. I had an opportunity of witnessing during this short march, the new made slaves, and the sufferings to which they are subjected in their first state of bondage. They were hurried along, tied as I before stated, at a pace little short of running, to enable them to keep up with the horsemen who drove them on as Smithfield drovers do fatigued bullocks. Many of the women were old, and unable to bear such treatment. One in particular would not have failed to excite the tenderest feelings of compassion in the breast of any, save a savage African; she was at least 60 years olefin the most miserable state of emaciation and debility; nearly doubled together, and with difficulty dragging her tottering limbs along: to crown the picture, she was naked, save from her waist to about half way to the knees. All this did not prevent her inhuman captors from making her carry a heavy load of water, while, with a rope about her neck he drove her before his horse, and whenever she showed the least inclination to stop, he beat her in the most unmerciful manner with a stick. The sufferings of the poor slaves, during a march of eight hours, partly under an excessively hot sun, heavily laden with water, of which they were allowed to drink but very sparingly, and travelling barefoot on a hard and broken soil, covered with thorny underwood, may be more easily conceived than described. One young woman, who had, for the first time, become a mother only two days before she was taken, and whose child being thought by the captor too young to be worth saving, was thrown by the monster into its burning hut, from which the flames had just obliged the mother to retreat, suffered so much from the swollen state of her bosom, that her moans might frequently be hoard at the 1034 distance of some hundred yards, when refusing to go on, she implored her fiendlike captor to put an end to her existence —but that would have been too great a sacrifice to humanity, and a few blows with a leathern horse-felter soon made the wretched creature move again. A man also lay down, and neither blows, entreaties nor threats of death could induce him to move. He was thrown across a horse, his face down, and with his hands and feet tied together under the animal's chest, was carried along for some time, Never did I witness, nor did I think human nature could endure, such torments as were inflicted on this man. When he refused to go on they had recourse to a mode of compulsion, which I have been told is common on these occasions, but of too disgusting a nature to be described."
This is the second step. The third I describe in the words of captain Moresby. "The Arab dows, or vessels, are large unwieldy open boats without a deck. In these vessels temporary platforms of bamboos are erected, leaving a narrow passage in the centre. The negroes are then stowed, in the literal sense of the word, in bulk, the first along the floor of the vessel, two adults side by side, with a boy or girl resting between or on them, until the tier is complete. Over them the first platform is laid, supported an inch or two clear of their bodies, when a second tier is stowed, and so on until they reach above the gunwale of the vessel.
"The voyage, they expect, will not exceed 24 or 48 hours; it often happens that a calm, or unexpected land breeze, delays their progress—in this case a few hours are sufficient to decide the fate of the cargo; those of the lower portion of the cargo that die cannot be removed. They remain until the upper part are dead, and thrown over, and from a cargo of from 200 to 400, stowed in this way, it has been known that not a dozen at the expiration of ten days have reached Zanzibar. On the arrival of the vessels at Zanzibar the cargo are landed; those that can walk up the beach are arranged for the inspection of the Iman's officer, and the payment of duties—those that are weak, or maimed by the voyage, are left for the coming tide to relieve their miseries, An examination then takes place, which for brutality has never been exceeded in Smithfield, perhaps the bargain is concluded for a well grown young man from six to nine dollars, for a girl near the age of puberty, more."
1035 The fourth step is the Middle Passage, the horrors of which are beyond description. I find in the reports of all the officers who have captured slave vessels, statements which make one wonder at the possible wickedness and hard-hearted-ness of man. There were some points in; which they all agreed. For example, the mode of packing. The hold of a slave vessel is from two to four feet high. It is filled with as many human beings as it will conveniently hold. They are made; to sit down, with their heads between their knees: first, a line is placed close to the side of the vessel: then, another line, and then the packer, armed with a heavy club, strikes at the feet of this last line, in order to make them press as closely as possible against those behind. And so the packing goes on, until, to use the expression of an eye-witness, "they are wedged together in one mass of living corruption." Then, the stench is so dreadful, that I am assured by an officer, that holding his head for a few moments over the air-hole was almost fatal to his life. Thus it is—suffocating from want of air— starving for want of food—parched with thirst for want of water—these creatures are compelled to perform a voyage of fourteen hundred miles. No wonder the mortality is dreadful! There are instances in which one third of the cargo perish. There are other instances, in which there is still greater mortality. The last vessel that was taken, was the Walter Farquhar. The slave-traders, seeing that they could not escape capture, threw over-board several of the negroes, choosing rather that they should perish, than that they should fall into the hands of the English. I have the fact upon the authority of the captain: On the authority of one of the officers who boarded the vessel, I have this statement; "her decks were so crowded, that I could scarcely get fore t and aft. They clung to me, as conscious of some good being done for them. In fact, they could not contain their joy, nor did they know how to express it, but by tears and gestures. They kissed the hands of the sailors, and welcomed them with every natural expression of gratitude." The officer, seeing they were in a starving condition, had the boiler filled with rice. But the hunger of these poor creatures could not be restrained. "They rushed," says the officer, "with the impatience of starvation, plunged their hands into the boiling cauldron, and 1036 eagerly devoured the heated morsel which they could grasp." Fifteen days before, this vessel had left Mosambique with 190 slaves on board; fifty had already died, and, but for their capture, there is every reason to think, that half, if not more of the remainder, would have perished.
No man's imagination, however active, is sufficiently strong to embrace all the horrors of this trade. Let us dismiss from our recollection the suffering which is endured—the alarm which must prevail in Africa, fatal to industry and to social happiness; the distress of the poor creatures who are goaded across the desert; the agonies endured on board the Arab Dows, and all the miseries of the Middle Passage: and let us confine ourselves merely to the murders committed. Let us embrace in one calculation, those who perish on board the slave ships, those who are suffocated in the voyage to Zanzibar, those who expire in the march across the desert, those who are murdered in the original conflagration—and then it will appear to all, that for every human being who is imported into the Mauritius, at least two others have been murdered.
But, terrible as is the contemplation of such foul crimes, there is a consideration which swells its horrors a thousand fold. The Slave-trade at the Mauritius, is the apology for the Slave-trade of the whole world. We all know that the Slave-trade exists by the connivance of France; that the French flag covers the villainies of all nations. Reproached with this by us, the French turn upon us and say, "Look at home—purify yourselves—take the beam out of your own eye—we know what has been doing at the Sechelles—we know how the Slave-trade has been tolerated at your own colony of the Mauritius." It is most provoking to reflect, that but six weeks ago, the question of the Slave-trade was brought before the Assembly of Deputies in France, under auspices peculiarly promising. Vessels had been seized at Nantz, laden with those implements of torture which the Slave-trade requires—petitions against the Slave-trade had come from various considerable towns. A good feeling had grown up; and there seemed every probability (I have the fact from the highest authority)—that the result of that night's debate would be the abolition of the French Slave-trade. A deputy, M. Duden, a native of Bourbon, rose in his place and said, "It is true we do encourage the 1037 Slave-trade—we do so in imitation of the English—your benevolence, so inert in your own dominions, has no right to be so active in ours." And thus, the question was lost.
Now, in what a posture of degradation does this place us! We, bound by every principle and every pledge—by the letter of our law, by the tenets of our religion, by the treaties we have signed, by the professions we have made, by our own boasts of our own unsullied integrity, by the reproaches we have vented against the duplicity of others—bound to stand before the world as examples. And, what are we? Not only criminals ourselves, but the apologists for the criminality of others. Make the best of it, still the reputation of the country has been sorely tarnished—I will not say irrevocably lost. She may still retrieve her character. It is only recently that I have made these surprising discoveries, which, for the first time, I unveil to the country this night. This is the moment for parliament to act—to shew to the world that she does not tolerate the Slave-trade. Doing this, we may again presume to hold up our heads—we may again have the honour of raising our voices in behalf of humanity. But, refusing to do this, there is an end of our abolition labours. No more high-sounding treaties with the Imaun of Muscal, or the king of Madagascar—no more exultations at our own righteousness—no more remonstrances against the hollowness of France! England will stand as the worst of Slave-traders, and the chief of convicted hypocrites. I now move,
"That a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire whether the Slave-trade has prevailed at the Mauritius, and to what extent, and the causes thereof; and to Report thereon to the House."
Sir H. Farquhar
declared, that, when he came down to the House that evening, he was totally in the dark as to the tendency of the hon. member's motion; the scope which he meant to take, or the extent of the facts which he meant to go upon. He always understood, that it was usual to give any hon. member whose conduct was attacked, at least a private notice of what he meant to do; but no such notice had he received. He hoped, therefore, that the House would extend their indulgence to him, while he entered into an explanation of what had been alleged against him. The hon. member, in bringing forward his motion, had art- 1038 fully spread his facts over a space of sixteen years, taking very good care to direct the attention of the House to the earlier period, keeping altogether clear of the last six years, during which not one act of Slave-trading could be proved to have taken place in that colony, except that which had been brought under the consideration of the House last year. Notwithstanding the loud and pompous declamation of the hon. member—notwithstanding the various statements he had made—the House would have seen, had the necessary papers been printed, that the whole of his argument would have fallen to the ground—that he would not have had a leg to stand upon. But, as such was not the case, it was evident that both he, and the House, were taken by surprise by the motion. And even if he could have called for the necessary documents, they would have been as voluminous as Chambers's dictionary in quarto. The hon. member, too, had introduced this question, knowing that, when it was before the House last year, it did not appear that there existed a vestige of the Slave-trade in that colony. This was a fact which could now be proved to the satisfaction of the House, if time had been only given for the production of the papers. At all events, he hoped that, from the multiplicity of details into which the hon. member had entered, the House would extend to him their indulgence. The hon. member had adverted to five particular instances, the facts relative to which it was impossible he could carry in his mind at this distance of time. He could not, however, help observing the dexterity with which the hon. member had upon this, as well as upon a former occasion, attempted to enlist the West-Indian interest in his favour. He hoped, however, that that body were too honourable to lend themselves to such a proceeding. The hon. member had embarked upon a voyage of discovery into the events of the last sixteen years; but he appeared to be in the situation of certain persons who, finding that they could gain nothing by law, were anxious to turn round, and try how much could be gained by what was called a fishing bill in Chancery. Some of the charges made against him had reference to a period when he was four thousand miles distant, and for which, of course, he could not be responsible. The charge of the hon. member, therefore, as far as he 1039 was personally concerned, he rejected with scorn. His attack was, "telumimbelle sine ictu." But, in defence of an hon. gentleman not present (Mr. Telfair), he felt bound to say that they were totally unfounded. He came to that conclusion from his long experience of that individual, and from the knowledge which his greatest enemies had of all his actions. They had the power, if they thought he was doing wrong, to search all over his estate for the proof of his guilt. They had the opportunity of examining every slave on his plantation. If those persons had not acted in this way, what was the inference? The fair inference was, that they had no grounds for accusation or complaint. No charge, however, had been substantiated against that individual; but there was no paucity of hints or insinuations. [The hon. baronet here read an extract of a letter from the chief judge of the Mauritius to general Hall, in support of his position]]. The hon. gentleman had commenced by saying, that he would not refer to the papers which were ordered to be printed; but, so far as he could judge, he had reason to think that the hon. gentleman had, on the contrary, made a very extensive use of them. He, however, doubted very much whether it was courteous in the hon. gentleman to have recourse to those papers in manuscript, without the House being at all acquainted with their contents. He did not think that such a proceeding was consistent with that decent respect which was due to the House. The hon. member, so far from having made no use of those papers, had seen them all in manuscript, and had come down very well charged with their contents, so far as they answered his own purpose. It was to be recollected, that all the hon. member's facts, and all his observations, related to the year 1819, and the early part of 1820, and not to a posterior period. With regard to the affair of captain Lynn, it was undoubted, that a capitulation had been made at Tamatave; and the papers showed, that the slaves were the property of the inhabitants; and it was agreed that they should be returned and go with their owners to the Mauritius. The hon. member had asserted, that great fraud had been committed; and all he (sir R. F.) could say in reply was, that the usmost pains were taken to prevent it. It wat upon this point that the hon. gentle- 1040 man had quoted the statement of an Admiral, to show that he (sir R. F.) had encouraged the Slave-trade. The whole subject had been discussed in "The Edinburgh Review;" and the editors had subsequently done him (sir R. F.) the justice to make an apology for their observations upon his conduct, as far as related to the business of Tamatave. So much for that affair, and for the statement of the belief of an admiral, on which the hon. gentleman had relied. He entreated the hon. gentleman, and the House at large, not to confound the Seychelles with the Mauritius. The Seychelles were an Archipelago of ten or twelve islands, at the distance of not less than a thousand miles from the Mauritius; as distant as Gibraltar was from Downing-street. He had used all the means in his power to obstruct the Slave-trade, and to punish those who persevered in it, and he had ultimately succeeded in extinguishing it in the Mauritius; but he could have no authority at a point so distant as the Seychelles, and he could be no more responsible for what was done there, than the British government could be for any transactions at Gibraltar. The next observation of the hon. gentleman was, that there were forty thousand more slaves in Mauritius than had been registered; and this supposed fact he endeavoured to establish by various mathematical problems and solutions. All he could say was, that he had never denied, and indeed it was admitted last year, that up to 1820, when he returned from his government, there had been several extensive debarkations of slaves. When, however, the hon. gentleman asserted, that such a number as forty thousand slaves had been fraudulently and illegally; introduced into the Mauritius, he must withhold his belief of it. He was sure that there was no adequate foundation for any such exaggerated calculation. In the early part of his government, fraudulent importations had been made; but though he had not brought it down with him, he had in his possession a memorandum, in the hand-writing of the French general Decaen, a very able and intelligent officer, in the following terms:— "The returns of slaves at the Mauritius are fifty-nine thousand by the tax-roll but to my certain knowledge, from information I derive from my commissaries and others, there are eighty-thousand slaves in the colony." This was almost 1041 decisive upon the point; and it was, besides, to be recollected, that the law of registration was very defective, and that, although it might be applicable to other possessions, it was very unfit for the Mauritius: it could no more be applied to all the colonies than a cobbler could make one last suit the feet of all his customers. The defectiveness of the law of registration was admitted on all hands, and a new system had been sent out; for it was soon discovered that the old one would not answer the purpose. Allowance ought, besides, to be made for between seven and ten thousand slaves carried off in 1819, by the cholera morbus. But, barring these, he maintained that the slave population of the Mauritius had remained very stationary. With regard to what had been said of the population of Port Louis, it would be just as applicable to mention that the population of London had augmented, as the additional number was no proof of the existence of Slave-trading. It was acknowledged that there had been a depreciation of 30 per cent in the currency, which might fully account for the advance in the price of sugar; but, after he restored the currency to a wholesome state, the price of sugar was reduced to its former standard. The hon. member had next called the attention of the House to what he termed the appearance of a whole fleet of vessels off the coast, which had induced a colonel to call out the troops, and establish military law, under the apprehension that an invasion was to be attempted. Afterwards it turned out, that the supposed fleet of enemies was only a fleet of slave-traders. The fact was, that there was certainly one slave-vessel; but the colonel had resorted to measures of such extraordinary violence, entering houses, and other acts of the same kind, that in order to justify himself he had written over, that he had mistaken a large fleet of slave-traders for an invading enemy. There was, however, no more ground for an apprehension of the kind, than there was at this moment to fear the appearance of a hostile Russian navy off Spithead. Two small vessels, with about 150 slaves, were afterwards seized, prosecuted, and condemned. He admitted that there had been some illegal introductions; but, if an opportunity had been afforded for examining the papers, it would have been seen that they were to a comparatively trifling extent. He should say, that, on an average, each 1042 vessel did not convey more than one hundred slaves. They were chiefly small schooners; and, however closely they might be packed, the largest would not hold more than 150 or 200, and others not more than 70 or 80 slaves. The grossest misrepresentations had been made upon this point on both sides. In the Morning Chronicle he had read a paragraph, bearing the stamp of a certain mint, which asserted that 70,000 slaves had been illegally introduced into the Mauritius, and that they were thrown upon the coast there in the most open way. It went on to add, that the Slave-trade was carried on from Seychelles, and that a linguist was sent out to teach them French for six months, after which they were brought to the Mauritius with impunity. The whole was a most incredible story; but both statements could not be true: either the slaves were not thrown upon the coast in the most open way, or, if they were, it could not be necessary to teach them French. It was represented, that the disproportion of the sexes was a little more than two to one; so that it the Slave-trade had been carried on, the effect had not been to increase that disproportion. Now, he maintained, that the slave population of the island was 80,000; and he might have originally said, that from the cholera morbus, and other causes, there was an annual decrease of 5 per cent; but that decrease had sub-sequently been overcome by the better treatment of the negroes, and the introduction of cattle, which diminished the necessity of human labour. By a return he had obtained only two days ago, it appeared that the annual diminution of 5 per cent no longer existed, and the disproportion of the sexes was less than it had been. He had himself visited the plantations and habitations of several individuals, and found that the sexes were well paired, and that the population was proceeding in the regular course, so as to enable the colony to flourish without the introduction of fresh slaves. It was impossible to ascertain in what way the mathematical problems of the hon. member for Weymouth were to be solved. If the population increased, the charge was, that the effect was produced by the illicit introduction of slaves: if, on the other hand, it decreased, then it was owing to the barbarous treatment of the wretched negroes. As to Belle Ombre, he knew nothing of the hon. member's in- 1043 formation, but be bad beard that some soldier had made a certain statement. It appeared, however, to him, that all that Mr. Higginson represented could be most easily and naturally explained: he saw a schooner, and blacks going backwardsand forwards in boats. The planters were obliged to employ schooners for their produce, and that produce was conveyed on board by means of slave sailors, who, of course, went to and fro to unload or load the vessels. Nothing better than suspicion bad been advanced by the hon. gentleman; but the fair inference was, that what Mr. Higginson saw was only the exercise of honest commerce in a legal manner. With regard to seizures by soldiers, positive orders had been sent out, that they should not be allowed to seize, as they were not competent to do so, but that they were only to give information to a magistrate, who was to carry the law into effect. Such a decision was founded on wisdom and prudence. He begged also to observe, in allusion to another part of the hon. member's speech, that no comparison could be fairly instituted between the West Indies and the Mauritius. The former had long been prepared for the change in the law by the debates in parliament, while the inhabitants of the Mauritius were in ignorance upon the subject; and as a conquered French colony, it could not be supposed favourable to the abolition of the Slave-trade. The hon. member had given great importance to what was really a very trivial matter—tbe letter which be (sir R. F.) had written. When he went to the Mauritius from India, nothing was known regarding the new regulations for slaves; and, under such circumstances, it was very natural for the inhabitants to ask, whether they might be permitted to obtain a proportion of female slaves. He remembered that he had not tolerated it; be felt that the Slave-trade was abolished in the island the moment the British flag was floating over it; but he saw no reason why he should not submit the question to the British government. Certain seizures of slaves and slave-ships had been made, and they were sent to the Cape of Good Hope for adjudication, and the court decided, that the islands just ceded did not come within the provisions of the law. The high Court of Admiralty in England had confirmed this judgment; so that he could not be held very blameable in entertaining a similar opinion. The hon. 1044 member had remarked upon the produce of the island, and especially upon the increased growth of sugar. But, it ought to be remembered, that the Mauritius was liable to be desolated once, and sometimes twice, a year, by the most dreadful hurricanes, which levelled and destroyed all the coffee and cocoa plantations. It was natural, therefore, that the inhabitants should turn their attention to the cultivation of sugar, which alone was capable of resisting those hurricanes. The hon. member had likewise relied upon a list of the bounties paid upon captured slaves, up to 1822; but he had not extended his inquiries to the two subsequent years, well knowing that the return would be nil. It was to be observed also, that the number of seizures since were of Portuguese and French vessels. With respect to the slave population of the Mauritius, he had, in 1813, sent home all the returns on the subject that he could possibly collect. As to the Seychelles, there was a great decrease of the slaves in those islands. The slaves had, in fact, gone to the Mauritius; for the wood in the Seychelles had been cut down, and afterwards the islands could not be made to produce any thing. Every possible exertion had been made to prohibit the introduction of slaves into the Mauritius. But the transfer of slaves from the Seychelles into that island was perfectly legal; as much so as the transfer of slaves from one British colony to another. The hon. gentleman had drawn a lamentable picture of slavery. He (sir R. F.) yielded to none in his abhorrence of slavery, and had done every thing that appeared best calculated to put an end to the traffic on the coast of Africa. The hon. gentleman had alluded to the Arab hordes; but, whatever excesses they might have committed, there never was any treaty with them for the removal of slaves. The hon. gentleman had avoided to notice the good which he (sir R. F.) had effected during his stay in the Mauritius, while he, per contra, was at all times ready to admit that much was due to the hon. gentleman for his unwearied exertions to put down the Slave-trade. He himself had also contributed his best exertions to produce a similar effect; and he was happy to say that, owing to those exertions, during his residence in the Mauritius, the French Slave-traders were entirely shut out from trafficking on the eastern shores of the colony, and were obliged to resort to the west.—He 1045 believed that he had now gone through the principal points which had been urged by the hon. gentleman, and he had nothing further to offer by way of remark or explanation on the statement which had been brought forward that night, which he hoped he had now sufficiently refuted. With respect to cruelty of conduct on the part of the master to his slaves, where such had existed, it was always put down by his majesty's government and met with the severest reprehension. With respect to the letter which he had written, and to which allusion had been made, he could only say that he had written that letter under the conviction, that he was justified by circumstances in so doing. If any parties were to blame, his majesty's government should be exonerated from censure; for they had always set their face against the Slave-trade. To his certain knowledge the French authorities had protected the most nefarious Slave-trade that had ever prevailed. Every measure of his government, with respect to the slave traffic, had for its object to put an end to that trade. But he had not thought it expedient to tell those who had been employed in the trade, that they were mere felons, his wish being to avoid irritating the people. His object had been to produce a just moral feeling on the subject in the minds of the people; and, in point of fact, the principal persons who were engaged in these slave expeditions were renegadoes and pirates. From the anomalous state of the law, he did not think it prudent to proceed with the utmost severity. And yet when the judges at Bourbon, at the time it was in our possession, refused to recognize the act of parliament for the abolition of the Slave-trade, he had suspended the whole bench, until he brought them to a better temper. No means were, in fact, neglected by him. He had done all he could, with the tools he had; and he left it to the higher authorities to do the rest in a regular manner. He begged pardon of the House for speaking of himself, but he was forced to do so by the hon. member's course of proceeding. His first object was to effect a moral improvement in the island; and he was justified by high authorities in saying, that a moral feeling, a disgust towards slavery, had taken place in the Mauritius. By this means, and by the measures he simultaneously took, he had been enabled 1046 to state last year, that the Slave-trade had ceased there. This he was authorized to state, upon the testimony of sir Lowry Cole, commodore Owen, and others. In August last, sir L. Cole wrote, that he had no reason to think that the people of the island had any concern in the trade, or that there was any Slave-trade in that quarter, as far as the Mauritius and its dependencies were concerned. Amongst the measures he had taken to repress the trade, he had entered into engagements with Radama, the king of Madagascar, and with the Imaum of Muscat; and they had had the most benign effects in extending civilization in those regions, as well as in consolidating the British power where the French had hitherto been predominant. In all his measures he had, in fact, co-operated with the benevolent efforts which the hon. gentleman and his friends were making in other quarters. But he could not help calling the attention of the House to the manner in which evidence had been collected against him by the hon. gentleman. He held in his hand a letter written by a Mr. Byam, who had been in his service at the Mauritius, to Mr. Scott, calling upon him to procure the evidence of some disbanded soldiers, at the Rampant-horse, Norwich, against governor Farquhar, for the use of Thomas Fowell Buxton, esq. member of parliament. He also held a letter written by a mutual friend of his, and of the hon. member, declaring that there was not a word of truth in the reports which had reached the hon. member, adding that, "his friend Buxton would hurt his head against the Mauritius, and be shipwrecked there, as he was." The writer was sir Robert Barclay, who had the misfortune to suffer shipwreck on the island. The writer concluded by saying, that he did not think any person in the Mauritius would purchase a slave. He would next refer to a letter from Mr. Veitch, the authorized British agent at Bourbon to him, which stated, that the Slave-trade had formerly been openly carried on; but, in consequence of his (sir R. Farquhar's) exertions, it was now confined to Madagascar, and several vessels had brought blacks from the west coast of Africa. He added, that the British flag had ceased to be disgraced by this nefarious traffic. In conclusion, he would refer to a letter from his friend Thomas Clarkson, esq. which, after complaining that sir Lowry Cole had taken 1047 away the pensions from the missionaries' at Madagascar, expressed a hope that the treaty with Radama would be fulfilled, which he considered would be of infinite benefit. He could assure the House, that nothing but this most unexpected attack could have compelled him to trespass upon them so long. He had had so little time to prepare himself, that he had been able to make only pencil notes, which did not always assist him. He relied on the protection and indulgence of the House, and he was perfectly prepared for the fullest inquiry into his conduct.
Mr. Wilmot Horton
said, that the House, he was sure, would sympathize with the hon. baronet in what had fallen from him. He did not mean to say that the hon. gentleman ought not, from any personal feeling towards any hon. member, to come forward and discharge his duty; yet, if he understood the hon. gentleman correctly, he had imputed indirect criminality to the hon. baronet. That being the case, he could not help expressing his regret that the papers upon the table of that House respecting the Mauritius had not been printed, and in the hands of members previous to this discussion. From the letters alluded to by the hon. gentleman, it certainly did appear, that the late governor of the Mauritius was charged with having winked at the traffic in slaves. Such a charge appeared to him extraordinary, when he considered that that hon. baronet had taken measures the most likely to put an end to that traffic; and he trusted the House would suspend their judgment until they should be in possession of more information. He could not reconcile the inconsistency, that a governor, who had taken such measures, should be guilty of culpable indifference, amounting to the sanction of the Slave-trade in the island of which he was governor. The House must be aware that the period of time at which the acts imputed were done, made all the difference in this case; and in order to arrive at a just decision, the House must be in possession of more specific information than they had at present. Did the hon. gentleman mean to say that the Slave-trade in the Mauritius had gone on up to the present period?
Mr. Wilmot Norton,
in continuation, denied that it had been carried on, to any extent, since 1811. But, at all events, 1048 before any imputations were thrown out against the characters of gentlemen, the House ought to have all the information that could be procured on the subject and, therefore, he thought that the horn baronet had hardly been fairly dealt with by the hon. gentleman, who had gone so much at large into the subject at this premature period. The jealousy which the French had of our proceedings was, he thought, the cause of the repugnance they displayed to listen to our remonstrances, or imitate our example. As to the case of Mr. Telfair, alluded to by the hon. member, he was not prepared to answer, nor would he enter into the charge; but it might turn out that it was only an importation of apprentices—that ignorant witnesses might be deceived themselves, and might have deceived others—and it was therefore incumbent on the House to proceed with great caution in listening to any such accusations. The present governor of the Mauritius had gone there prepared to pursue his inquiries into the subject indefatigably. He could not understand how it was possible that the governor could be deceived, and was quite ready to assert, that if he had been so deceived it must have been from a united attempt on all hands to effect the deception. The uniform statements which had been made by every one to whom government had access was, that the Slave-trade had been fairly extinguished in that quarter. The policy of government had been to create in the minds of the people a feeling hostile to such a detestable traffic, and if the hon. member thought that policy wrong, or the creation of such a feeling unimportant, he had undoubtedly a right to blame government. He must own that he should like to hear something more definite from the hon. member, on a question of such vital importance, before he gave his consent to the motion. The hon. member ought to declare, what was the specific charge, and what was the precise period of time respecting which he wished for a committee of inquiry. If he did so, the same objection would not exist to the motion; but, in the present vague and undefined shape in which it was brought forward, he should feel himself called upon to oppose it.
§ Mr. F. Buxton
explained, that it was his intention to bring the whole subject before the committee. The Slave-trade had existed before 1810, and had been 1049 certainly continued up to 1824. His inquiry would embrace the whole of that period.
Mr. W. Horton
replied, that the papers already laid before the House, established the fact of the existence of the Slave-trade up to 1818, and he would therefore submit to the House, whether is would not be a waste of time to enter upon such an extensive injury, when no inquiry was necessary. The point which it was desirable to inquire into was, whether the Slave-trade existed now, and to what extent.
§ Mr. F. Buxton
replied, that the Slave-trade was not put down, and he was prepared to show that it was not. He was surprised to see the slight notice taken by his hon. friend of the enormities he had brought under the notice of the House. Was it a waste of the time of the House to inquire whether these enormities existed? The Slave-trade was still carried on; and was it not the duty of the House to put a stop to it? He wished the House to see, by evidence, to what extent thes Slave-trade still existed, and he should persist in his motion.
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, that if the motion were intended to convey matter of complaint against any individual, he should object to it in the strongest manner. He should certainly object to the hon. member's calling for a vote of that description, founded upon the contents of papers which the majority of the House had not yet had the opportunity of perusing. He should also have objected, upon a statement so vague and general, to go into an examination pointed against individual character. But, upon the ground of its being a question of national honour, in which light he had understood the hon. member to present it, and in which he did not differ from him upon the alleged imputation, that the Slave-trade carried on in the Mauritius was connived at, if not openly sanctioned by the governor, he was willing to agree to the motion. This charge had, in fact, often been thrown in their teeth, whilst they were endeavouring to infuse into foreign powers some of that feeling with which the people of this country were inspired, with reference to this detestable traffic. He understood the hon. gentleman to disclaim any imputation upon government, in the statement he had made; but he had declared, that the facts of the case established an imputation upon the 1050 country. As, therefore, the hon. gentleman offered to produce proofs that this trade did exist, he thought it would have a bad effect upon foreign countries if the British parliament were to refuse to enter into the examination of a case so recommended. Viewing the motion, therefore, in the light of a public question, and not as an individual charge, he was not disposed to offer any obstruction to it.
§ Mr. Brougham
declared his concurrence in the view taken by the right hon. Secretary upon this question. He thought that the charges of his hon. friend did reflect on the country, on the government, and on the island in general. After the declaration of his hon. friend, that he would produce proofs of the truth of the statement he had made, he thought they had no option, but must proceed at once to institute the inquiry. He thought that, independent of the private information possessed by the hon. gentlemen opposite, which the House could not know, enough might be seen on the face of the returns, and the papers they were in possession of, to justify the House in going into an inquiry. A trade had been carried on, of which there had been no example in any other colony belonging to the Crown. After this island had been eleven years in our possession, the disproportion of the sexes amongst the slaves was a sufficient ground of alarm, and justified inquiry. It was nearly in the proportion of two to one, compared with the number at the conquest. In 1822, the numbers were, forty-one thousand males, and twenty-two thousand females. Then there had been a great increase of production in that island; the number of slaves captured, and on which a bounty had been allowed, was ten times greater in that island than in all the West-India islands put together. He said this to justify his opinion, that the West-India colonies were, in this respect, pure in comparison with this island. In the former, it would appear that the Slave-trade had been satisfactorily extirpated. He would vote simply on the facts before the House, and on the credit of the evidence which his hon. friend had promised to produce.
Sir R. Farquhar
referred to the testimony of commodore Owen for the fact, that all along the West coast of Africa, vessels were employed in carrying on the Slave-trade. They usually went under the French flag, and carried their slaves 1051 to the isle of Bourbon, where the laxity of the government afforded them great encouragement.
§ The motion was agreed to, and a committee appointed.