Imágenes de página

ficient to accom, that, weremmon prude of still

tion! Was it not in Athens, Sir, where the Slaves were better treated than in any other of the Grecian states, that a proposal being made for them to wear a particular dress, that by a palpable mark they might at once be distinguished from freemen, the plan was at once rejected, on the suggestion, that it would infallibly bring on the ruin of the state, by making to the slaves, who greatly outnumbered the free citizens, the dangerous discovery of their superior force. In the West Indian colonies of the different European states, the hand of Nature herself has made that dangerous discovery..

When, therefore, we consider, that the Blacks in your West Indian colonies outnumber the Whites, in a proportion not far short of ten to one, and when we take into account, that the newly imported Negroes, from the common feelings of our nature, are the most discontented and refractory, and inclined to rise in insurrections, so that Mr. Long, one of the most experienced of the West Indian writers, ascribed the great Jamaica insurrection, in 1765-6, to the newly imported Negroes, and exclaimed, that 27,000 fresh Slaves, imported in two years and a half, were alone sufficient to account for mutinies and insurrections ; surely it may be truly affirmed, that, were all considerations of justice or humanity out of the question, common prudence alone would protest, with a loud voice, against the rashness of still farther increasing the disproportion between the Blacks and Whites in your old · colonies, by continually renewed importations of African Slaves. But, above all, is not this important truth powerfully enforced on you by the dreadful incidents of St. Domingo ? Are you ignorant, that, whatever may have been the immediate causes which produced that awful explosion, whatever may have been the spark that kindled the flame, it was the unprecedented importations of Slaves into that settlement, for the fifteen years immediately preceding the revolutionary year 1790, to the average amount, in the last ten years, of twenty-six thousand per annum, which heaped up that mass of combustibles, which soon burned with such resistless fury? Surely the handwriting on the wall would be an insufficient warning to those, who can slight the instructive lesson which the events in that island have read, on the fatal consequences to which those communities must be ever liable, that are compounded of such discordant elements, in defiance of the fundamental principles by which the Great Author of all things has provided for the happiness and safety of the social state ; in contempt of justice and humanity, of the laws of nature and of God. In our astonishment at the folly of this misconduct, we are almost lost to the perception of its guilt. To be carrying in fresh fuel, at the very moment when every prudent man would be preparing agains

the impendirig conflagration! Scarcely less would be the madness of any one, who should expend his substance in building a costly edifice on the searcely covered embers of some volcano, which should still be smoking, after overwhelning all the adjacent region with its liquid fire. Yet even this infatuation becomes sobriety and reason, when compared with the still more monstrous conception of resettling and cultivating St. Domingo, as formerly, with successive importations of African Slaves! yet, in the recent memorial of the Chamber of Commerce of Nantes, not only is this design announced in explicit terms, but it seems to be regarded as an event of no extraordinary difficulty or danger. Even in this country, the real state of St. Domingo has been known only to very few persons, who have made it their business to inquire into it.' The merchants of Nantes must be completely ignorant of the actual condition of that island, or, even if they could indulge the vain hope of being able to bring its numerous population once more into subjection, they could not at least consider the restoration of the ancient system as an achievement of such easy and expeditious accomplishment. Are they ignorant of the issue of the last invasion of St. Domingo ? For a time, indeed, Buonaparte's general deceived the generous nature of Toussaint, then the chief tain of the Blacks; to whose good faith, as well as other eminent qualities, the British commander-in-chief, General Maitland, bore the highest testimony.' Toussaint, being himself of unimpeachable truth and rectitude, was too backward to suspect the perfidy of others; and, for a time, the Blacks appeared to be lulled into acquiescence in French superiority. But no sooner did the real nature of the intentions of the French Commander to restore the state of slavery become manifest, than the Negroes universally flew to arms; and, though General Le Clerc, aided but too well by his second in command, having exhausted every resource of artifice and cruelty, deliberately and systematically proceeded to exterminate those whose spirits, so long as they should exist, he found unconquerable, yet all his efforts were vain, and the small remainder of the 70,000 French troops, who had been sent on that ill-fated expedition, were only saved by surrendering themselves up as prisoners of war to their British enemies. Le Clerc's cruelties were too shocking to be now described. But they, as well as his faithlessness, live fresh in the remembrance of the surviving children and relatives of the wretched victims; and have. assisted in inspiring them with a determined and unalterable resolution to resist every approximation towards the imposition of that.

See the Iristory of Toussaint Louverture, printed in London, first in 1803, republished in 1814; a most interesting narrative, compiled from official documents and authentic intelligence, by a highly respectable menuber of the British Parliament. See Pamphleteer, No. viii. p. 311.

abhorred yoke (so Toussaint termed it), to which the merchants of the Chamber of Commerce of Nantes conceive the Negroes can be brought so readily to submit. And I solemnly assure the Chamber of Commerce, that I have learned, from authentic information (and let me recommend the fact to their most serious attention, and still more to that of the French Government, that the disposition, which France has manifested, to recommence the Slave Trade, having become known to them, has converted into a fixed persuasion the apprehension, which was before felt in St. Domingo, that the restoration of peace with her European enemies would lead to a renewal of an attempt to impose on them once more the yoke of slavery. It is a persuasion, I will add, which nothing but the solemn renunciation of the Slave Trade for ever can remove. It is stated by the Chamber itself, that the increased ease and comfort, in which the St. Domingo Blacks have been passing the last twelve years, have produced a great increase in their number, and can they have rendered less distasteful to them the idea of a transition to the bitter bondage and degradation, which will be described to them by their more aged relatives ? But the Chamber of Commerce is little aware, how much the St. Domingo population has increased in intelligence as well as in number, during the last ten or twelve years; how much, in short, it has been raised in the scale of being; consequently, how much better qualified it is, as well as more disposed, to resist its assailants. Little does the Chamber of Commerce think of the seas of blood through which they would have to wade to their object, even if by such a price that object could be purchased. But will the benevolent monarch, who now sits on the throne of France, will his enlightened ministers engage his brave soldiers in such an unequal combat, in which that very climate and those very labors are to an European soldier no less than death, which to their opponents are congenial and even salutary? Will they sacrifice army after army? Will they thus profusely dissipate the blood and treasure of their country, after it has been so long bleeding at every pore? And all for what? To regain--at such a cost as the acquisition of a great and populous kingdom would insufficiently requitéthe nominal right of ownership over lands, the whole population of which shall have been exterminated, and which must, therefore, be repeopied, the works on them be rebuilt, and a new colony be set on foot, again probably to become, in its turn, the destruction of a fresh explosion, after an immenselý prodigal waste of the na. tional capital.

Be assured, Sir, I do far too much justice to the Chamber of Commerce of Nantes not to believe, that the earnest wish they show to recommence the Slave Trade could be accounted for by

ho could be due to their obieas of bloodittle does

no other supposition than that of their being under the influence of errors and prejudices similar to those which originally possessed the minds of our African and West Indian opponents. Like the latter, they have entirely forgotten, in their reasonings, the tendency in all human societies to augment their numbers, in obedience to the primeval command and law of our nature-Increase and mul. tiply. They have been misled into an erroneous supposition, that the British have been encouraging the growth of tropical products in her East Indian empire, and sacrificing the interests of the West Indian settlements. The direct contrary is the fact; and it is matter of notoriety, that much heavier duties are imposed on the East Indian than the West Indian sugars, for the express purpose of enabling the latter to maintain its competition with the former : for, otherwise, the East Indian sugar would obtain a decided preference from its superior cheapness, notwithstanding the vastly greater distance from which it is brought ; and, consequently, the i greater expense of its conveyance,

But the Chamber of Commerce, in the warmth of its argument, Teasons as if the Slave Trade were at this moment actually carrying on to its ancient extent, and talks of the revenue, that must be renounced, of the commerce, which must be extinguished, and of the artizans, who must be thrown out of employment by its sudden abolition. On the contrary, France has not now the poor excuse to plead, that the abolition would demand sacrifices, which she cannot afford to make. Not one solitary vessel, not a single seaman, not a livre of capital is now employed in the Slave Trade : not a single manufacturer or artizan is occupied in fabricating goods for it. She would only establish by law that same discontinuance of the traffic, which, for twenty years, has subsisted in fact. All the foreign commerce of Nantes nas been suspended by the revolutionary war, all the various paths of commercial enterprise lie open before her, and she has now to choose for herself some occupation for her industry and her capital. When once made acquainted with the real nature and consequences of the Slave Trade, is that the line she will select for herself? I could prove to her merchants, that the Slave Trade is, on established commercial principles, a highly ineligible traffic. That it is in its nature a lottery, an uncertain and fluctuating commerce; a trade, also, which slowly returns the capital employed in it. But if she wishes to trade with Africa, is it in the bodies of its inhabitants only that a commerce with Africa is to be carried on? Want of time compels me to suppress all I could say to you on this most important branch of the argument. But it is the less necessary for me to enlarge on this subject, because it has already been discussed, with unanswerable force, in Mr. Clarkson's Impolicy of the African Slave Trade ; and the arguments, on which I have

here faintly touched, have been recently urged, with invincible power of reasoning, by M. Sismond 'de Sismondi , an author, whose high literary reputation gives additional weight to all the sentiments he expresses. I will only, therefore, affirm, that, when we consider the almost boundless extent of the African continent, its vast population, and the innumerable productions which its climate and its soil spontaneously offer, or by cultivation would supply to us, and, on the authority of Mr. Parke, I will add, when we take into account the commercial dispositions of its people, we cannot doubt but that a commerce with Africa might soon be instituted far greater and more profitable than the trade in Slaves ; a commerce, which has been hitherto prevented only by the dissociating and barbarising influence of that detestable system, strangely misnamed a trade, since, from first to last, it is in its nature anticommercial. It deserves attention, also, that the possessions surrendered by England on the coast of Africa command districts which, both from their productions and the character of their population, offer peculiar facilities for opening a legitimate trade. The true question, therefore, for the merchants of Nantes to ask themselves, even as to Africa, is not whether they shall carry on the trade in Slaves, or none at all, but whether they will carry on a commerce worthy of the name, a just and huniane, à civilizing, and consequently, above all, a growing commerce, the ultimate extent of which exceeds all powers of calculation; or whether, with this boundless field of commercial enterprise opening to their view, they will forbear to enter it, and will return to the de. testable traffic in Slaves now, when all its abominations are ana nounced to them, and carry it on for a few years, till, its unutterable abominations having become as generally known in your country as they are in ours, they will be forced to abandon it with remorse and shame.

But, if the Chamber of Commerce of Nantes distrust my speculations, let me refer them to experience.—Liverpool was the Nantes of Great Britain. It had by far the largest share of the trade in Slaves, and its commercial delegates were the most strenuous and persevering opponents of the abolition : its representatives in Parliament were instructed to declare, that the abolition would reduce that populous and florishing town to beggary and ruin. Parliament, however, was not deterred. The trade was abolished ; and that, too, when it was in full vigor. Mark the sequel. But a few years have since elapsed; yet not only have no complaints been made of declining commerce, but even Liverpool herself now joins the rest of the kingdom in condemning that detested traffic.

Let me confess to you, Sir, that I am deeply mortified and dis.. appointed by the accounts I hear of the disposition, that is too

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »