MR. CAMPBELL moved the following Resolutions: —
That this House feels bound, before the Session closes, to express the deep respect it entertains for the firm and honourable manner in which the Government of Portugal has acted on its Treaties with Great Britain, in restraining Negro exportation from the Eastern Coast of Africa in 1857 and 1858.
That this House fully recognizes the zeal with which the Emperor of the French has resolved to check the Slave Trade in all its forms through his dominions.
§ MR. BUXTON
, in seconding the Motion, said, he would not detain the House except to say that that question was of much more practical importance than might at first sight appear. He knew that the Portuguese themselves were anxious that there should be some such expression of opinion on the part of the British Parliament as that now proposed, which would have the effect of placing them in a better position with respect to their efforts to suppress the slave trade than they were in at present.
§ MR. CAVE
quite agreed in the Motion as far as Portugal was concerned. With regard, however, to France, he asked were they quite certain that the Emperor of the French had resolved to cheek the slave trade in all its forms throughout his dominions? He had himself received information from Martinique that a vessel with several hundreds of negroes on board, and belonging to a firm at Marseilles, had lately landed at that island; thus showing that a traffic was being carried on which our Government had stigmatized as the slave trade, and in consequence of which they addressed remonstrances to the Emperor. It was also stated that the vessel in question, after landing her cargo, was to return to the coast of Africa for a fresh one. It might be asserted that these negroes were free emigrants; but when it was known that they were sometimes placed in irons and put on board vessels which carried them to French possessions, it certainly did not seem as if they were allowed to exercise much free agency in the matter. Some of them had escaped from Martinique and Guadaloupe to British territory, while others had been drowned in their attempts at flight—circumstances which threw considerable doubt on their alleged freedom. Negotiations were said to have been set on foot by the Emperor of the French with our Government with a view to substitute Indian Coolies for these negroes. To the immigration of these Coolies to our own colonies there was no objection, because their embarcation and debarcation were both conducted under the strict surveillance of our Government agents. But if they were to be carried from the British possessions to Martinique, Guadaloupe, or Bourbon, immediately they had sailed, they would be withdrawn from the control of our authorities, and when they had arrived at their destination there would be no security for their proper treatment. If that was to be the compensation which we were to pay for the Emperor's apparent abandonment of the slave trade. he maintained that the price was too high.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
regretted that such a Motion should have been brought forward so late in the Session in so thin a House, and when his noble Friend at the Government and his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, were both unavoidably absent. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman who had introduced the subject would not think it necessary to 1400 press his Resolutions. He believed the Portuguese Government had acted with great zeal in restraining the exportation of negroes from the coast of Africa, and that the Emperor of the French had also been earnest in his endeavours to check the slave trade. But a correspondence was still going on with respect to that subject between our Government and the Government of both of the countries referred to in the Motion; and if these Resolutions were passed they might lead those two Governments to say that we were entirely satisfied that they had done all that was necessary. Its effect, therefore, might be to weaken instead of strengthening the hands of the Government in its further correspondence with these Powers. Moreover, even if the Resolutions should now be adopted, they could not have the weight which they ought to carry with them, owing to their having been passed in a very thin House, and without discussion, at the close of a Session.
§ MR. BRISCOE
concurred in what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, and trusted that the Motion would not now be persevered in.
said, that if the right hon. Baronet had had the goodness to read the terms of the Motion, he would have seen that it referred, as far as regarded Portugal, to transactions which were already concluded, and therefore could not inconvenience but must rather aid the Government in any correspondence now pending between them and that State. But under all the circumstances, and seeing that the Resolutions did not appear to command that support from the Government which was necessary to give them due authority, he thought he should best consult the feeling of the House by withdrawing them. At the same time, while following the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet, he must throw upon him the whole responsibility for the evil consequences which must flow from the postponement of the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.