Mr. Stuart Wortley
would take that opportunity of calling the attention of her Majesty's Government to a matter which he thought deserved its serious attention. He held in his hand the papers which had been laid before the House accompanying the instructions issued to Lord AshBurton, and on which that noble Lord had negotiated the treaty of Washington. They contained all those documents which were thought to be necessary to illustrate the eighth article of that treaty. One of those documents was a report made to the United States government by two officers of the United States navy, who had been selected for the service on account of their being extremely welt acquainted with the nature and consequences of the African slave-trade. In that report those two officers, after stating their views of the course which they thought it would be desirable to be adapted by the two governments, went on to describe the slave-trade on the 750 western coast of Africa. They afterwards referred to the slave-trade on the Eastern coast of Africa, and to his surprise he found the following remarks. Those gentlemen say, admitting that they have little personal knowledge of the details of the slave-trade on the Eastern coast,From the best information we can obtain, it seems that a large trade is carried on by Portuguese colonies, the Arab chiefs, and negro tribes. Their greatest markets are the Mahomedan countries bordering on the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, the Portuguese East India colonies, Bombay, and perhaps other British possessions in the East Indies; this part of the trade is probably in the hands of Arab vessels.The language contained in that report (the hon. member continued) which had been presented to the British public, and nothing having been said by the government which placed it before the country, there might be a suspicion that there was some ground for the allegations thus made. It should be remembered that those allegations were made by two commanders of the United States navy, who had been expressly appointed on account of their knowledge of the subject to report on the subject of the slave-trade on the coast of Africa; and they were contained in a report made to the United States government. They were made too in a report which was presented to that government, as the basis of its negotiations, and they were on this account of more importance than they appeared at first sight, and deserved to be brought under the notice of the English Parliament. For his own part, he believed the allegations to be totally Unfounded; and they appeared on the face of them to be ridiculous and absurd. At the same time they were consistent with the spirit which prevailed in the United States; and he found several proofs, in the writings by which the negotiations were carried on, of a willingness to entertain the worst suspicions of our motives and practices. The allegations were vague, but still he thought it was necessary that her Majesty's government should declare them to be unfounded, and should meet them with nothing less than an indignant refutation.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, the House must recollect, with respect to the papers referred to by his hon. Friend, how they came to be laid on the Table of the House. The noble Lord opposite had asked for certain 751 general papers connected with the late negotiations, and the noble Lord had asked for further correspondence. He had acceded to that motion for papers, and amongst the papers was the document referred to by his hon. Friend. It is a report which was laid before Congress, and he did not consider himself entitled, in laying the papers before the House, to exclude this, notwithstanding the observations which it contained reflecting- on our government. His hon. Friend must not, however, suppose that the practises there referred to really existed, or that there were any grounds for the observations, because no remarks had been made on the document on laying it on the Table of the House. He was glad however, of the opportunity which his hon. Friend had afforded him to correct the erroneous impressions which were likely to be made by the report. With respect to slavery continued in India in the territories under our control, there was no ground whatever for the suspicions. This was a subject which had occupied the attention of the late and the present government of India, both of which had considered what would be the best means of most effectively putting an end to slavery and the slave-trade. It was a subject to which Lord Auckland had devoted considerable attention, and he had endeavoured to put an end to slavery in all the territories of the East India Company. It was impossible to deny that a traffic in slaves did take place in some parts of India. In the territories of the Nizam, for example, there was a considerable traffic in slaves; there was some traffic in the Portuguese colonies; and there might be slaves introduced into British ports from neighbouring territories over which we had no control. Cases of that kind had occurred. In November, 1841, an agent of one of the Ameers of Scinde was brought to trial, at Bombay, for taking four Arab girls from Bombay to Scinde. As the offence was committed within our jurisdiction, he was tried and convicted, and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. Strong representations were made to the government to pardon him, but the government refused to attend to these representations, and the man was now suffering the execution of his sentence. To say, then, that the slave-trade was not put down by our laws was not the fact. In the preceding sessions, at Bombay, four persons were brought to trial for a 752 similar offence (he meant the sessions of September, 1841), and were convicted and sentenced to five years' imprisonment. The government, therefore, was endeavouring, by the application of British law, to correct the evil as fast as possible. There were thousands of Arabs, in several parts of India, who were in the capacity of slaves, though called the wives of those with whom they lived, and it was difficult to prevent by the utmost care and caution that species of slavery, and amongst those persons, a species of slave-trade. But the impression which that paragraph was calculated to make, that the slave-trade was continued in British India, was totally without foundation. As he had said before, this was a subject to which Lord Auckland had paid much attention, and he had entered into communication with the Portuguese settlements at Goa, and there was reason to believe that in consequence no slave-trade was now carried on there by the Portuguese. He had great satisfaction, too, in stating, that measures had been adopted to enforce the law, and, by a singular coincidence, on this very day he believed they would come into operation. They were intended to prevent all violent interference with the possessions of those who were called slaves, and for putting an end to the slave-trade in every part of India under our control, and to take care that slaves shall not pass out of our territories. By a regulation made in July, 1842, in all the ports on the coast within our jurisdiction, a vice-admiralty court had been established, to put in force the laws against the slave-trade, giving to the governors of our different territories in India the same power on the subject as the governers of the West-India colonies. This day, as he said, there would come into force in India an enactment of great importance concerning the status of slavery. It was but justice to say that this measure was mainly attributable to a suggestion of Lord Auckland, who deserved the greatest credit for the attention he had given to the subject, and he had been followed on this point by the present Governor-general of India. The House could not object to hear a few clauses of this enactment read. They were as follow:—Fort William Legislative Department, Jan. 6, 1843.The following draft of a proposed act was read in Council for the first time, January 6, 753 1843:—' An Act for declaring and amending the law regarding the condition of slavery within the territories of the East India Company.1. It is hereby enacted and declared that no public officer shall, in execution of, any decree or order of court, or for the enforcement of any demand of rent or revenue, sell, or cause to be sold, any person, or the right to the compulsory labour or services of any person, on the ground that such person is in a state of slavery.2. And it is hereby declared and enacted, that no rights arising out of an alleged property in the person and services of another as a slave, shall be enforced by any civil or criminal court or magistrate, within the territories of the East India Company.3. And it is hereby declared and enacted, that no person who may have acquired property by his own industry, or by the exercise of any art, calling, or profession, or by inheritance, assignment, gift, or bequest, shall be dispossessed of such property, or prevented from taking possession thereof, on the ground that such person, or that the person for whom the property may have been derived, was a slave.4. And it is hereby enacted, that any act which could be a penal offence, if done to a free man, shall be equally an offence if done to any person on the pretext of his being in a condition of slavery.This enactment was of very great importance, and it appeared well calculated to arrest the progress of slavery, and check abuses, and when carried out in all parts of India under our control, or which we could influence, would go a long way to suppress slavery. The subject, he hardly need assure the House, had occupied continually the attention of her Majesty's Government for several years, and he could assure the House that the Government of India was sedulously engaged with it, and considered it of great and undoubted importance.
Mr. Stuart Wortley
said, the words, "greatest markets, "were applied to Bom- 754 bay, and, perhaps, other British possessions.
§ Sir R. Peel
replied, that it might have occasionally happened that Arab vessels, bringing African boys, came to these ports, and transferred their cargoes to the natives without the interference of the British authorities, but the greatest efforts were made to prevent abuse.
Lord J. Russell
believed the act quoted by the right hon. Baronet was not a new law. Several laws had been passed respecting the status of slavery, before the present law.