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If the indulgence so kindly conceded to the Portuguese statesmen, of a dubious meaning in the terms of that article, was so conceded in the presumption that, after they should have freely availed themselves of it for a year or two, they might be wheedled or lectured into a surrender of the vantage, there never was a grosser miscalculation. As might have been foreseen, they hold it fast, in easy contempt of common places of justice and humanity, to which they know no reason why they should pay the smallest attention. And then to venture on the slightest hint beyond this style of persuasion, to make the remotest allusion to the argument of power, it would be as much as the existence of a state like England is worth, to hazard such an inuendo to a state like Portugal or Brazil,especially as England owes the preservation of that very existence through the late dreadful political storms, to the generous aid of that faithful and invincible ally!
Meanwhile it is perfectly conceivable how this well-contrived uncertainty must perplex and cripple the exertions for carrying into full effect our own abolition laws.
A very considerable Slave Trade, carried on under the Portuguese flag, still exists on the western coast of Africa. This trade has been partially restrained by the vigilance of our cruizers; but their exertions in this line of service have been materially impeded by the uncertainty which still prevails respecting the real import of that article in the Treaty with Portugal, which stipulates for the limitation of the Portuguese Slave Trade to places on the coast of Africa actually under the dominion of the Crown of Portugal. A number of appeals from the sentence of the Vice-Admiralty Court of Sierra Leone, involving this momentous question, are now before the Lords of Appeal; and on their decision it will in a great measure depend, whether the Portuguese Slave Trade shall henceforth be confined within the narrow limits of their African Settlements, or whether it shall again spread its fearful ravages, without restraint, along the whole range of the African Coast.'
No one will be malicious enough to surmise that the benefits of all these law proceedings, foreseen as a natural consequence of the indefinite Article, could have any influence in the formation of it. But certainly it will innocently recall to many people's recollection the old proverb, It is a bad wind that blows nobody any good.
The next thing that has given a gloomy cast to this Report, taken with its additions included, is the portentous enormity that has arisen since the time of the General Meeting, and has turned to blackness those prospects which, in several of the earlier Reports, were hailed as so delightfully dawning over Africa. If the Institution does not number among its members or officers any person implicated in the gratuitous guilt, there
is great cause to admire the self-government by which the Directors have refrained from a language of unlimited severity and indignation.
There are probably in the annals of time extremely few instances so signal of the power or principle of evil watching a grand crisis, and striking in with exquisite precision and magnificent triumph. It was really so mighty an achievement, that it would seem too much mischief for human agents, on any fair principle of proportion to effect. When they reflect on the ininfinity of crimes and miseries that will result from their act; when they reflect, that by one decision of their will, by one dipping of the pen in ink, misery and desolation are about to be scattered over unmeasured spaces of the globe; afflicting beyond remedy or hope, unknown and countless multitudes of the human race; what an efficacious resource against the rigorous castigations of conscience will offer itself in the suggestion that evil is the element of this world, and the predominant quality of man; and that therefore it is a grand general power above them, acting by innumerable servile instruments, that is accomplishing these dreadful and immense effects!
As to any check from a consideration of the doctrine of a future retribution, we strongly fear there is no legend of the most antiquated superstition, more powerless than this suggestion on the minds of such persons as those who are now standing accountable for the removal of one of the most enormous abominations that ever plagued the earth.
All the while, however, there remains the humble commonplace, that such an event will come.
We have assumed without scruple or qualification, and we but concur in the general conviction in assuming, that the agreement and sanction on the part of our government to the French Slave Trade, was altogether without necessity, for there was the most complete power, as well as the happiest opportunity, of putting a decisive final negative on its renewal. There have been but few, and feeble, and shrinking attempts to maintain the contrary. The plain, notorious state of France as a political power, at the time the treaty was made, appeals irresistibly to the understanding of every honest man. It is then such a mortification as philanthropists can hardly ever again be reduced to feel, to see in a very considerable measure undone, hus coolly, gratuitously, and in a moment, the results of the zealous, comprehensive, and indefatigable labours of so many past years, and to see virtually done by the same act, a mass of iniquity never to be repaired, and, in all probability, to be indefinitely prolonged.
A large portion of the pamphlet is occupied with an account
of the proceedings which the Directors of the Institution felt themselves called upon to adopt as soon as the publication of the treaty of Paris made known to what purpose the Africans had been recollected by the liberators of Europe. The most prompt exertions were made, and on the widest scale, to rouse once more the public mind of this country to a manifestation of opinion in petitions to the legislature. The Institution was also active in inciting the addresses which were made on the subject to the Regent, from both Houses of Parliament, entreating that a stand might at last be made, if possible, in favour of humanity, at the approaching Congress at Vienna To these addresses it is recorded that the most gracious answers of royal assurance were made. The circumstance had necessarily a very animating effect, because similar assurances had been graciously vouchsafed in answer to the addresses which both Houses had presented not many weeks before, pending the negotiation with France, entreating that an effectual effort might be made for Africa in that negotiation. Still, however, it was inevitable to see that the grand opportunity was gone by; and after the very temporary exhilaration from the cause just mentioned was past, it is probable that no one did seriously expect that any thing would be effected at Vienna, however disposed our credulous multitudes might be to entertain a much more favourable opinion of the leading actors that were to be there, than has been since justified by the quality, as far as yet known, of their tedious performance. That was to be a meeting at which France would be no longer in the attitude of asking mercy; and when, even had she set no value on the Slave Trade for itself, her pride would be resolute to retain every thing that could testify that she had been strong enough in her fall to stipulate with her conquerors. And then for the other powers about to be assembled, it could not in soberness but be acknowledged that there were no such symptoms tending to authorize a hope or a dream that a number of rival military monarchs, assembled to adjust and take their respective wages for what they all regarded as their very best piece of work, should be disposed to think so far away from the business of the occasion as the rights of some barbarous tribes of black men in Africa. We need not observe what an aggravated completeness of despondency would have been felt by all that joined in petitions and addresses, had it been possible to foresee what a perfectly determined principle of ambition, too eagerly rapacious even for an attempt at hypocrisy, was to actuate, at this august Congress, the mighty potentates, several of whom were thus to shew with what excellent judgement of character they had been almost idolized in this country.
Nevertheless, it was well to have the public mind excited to
the utmost on the occasion. There is no one just principle, not even that which emanates in maledictions on the Slave Trade, so absolutely fixed in the habitual feeling of the community as that it is no longer desirable to seize all occasions for giving it a deeper hold and an animated exercise; and if in this fresh excitement it should burst forth in indignant expressions against those who have trifled with it, compromised it, betrayed it, we know no obstruction that can rightfully be put to this direction of its animosity. Again, it is a good thing for nations to be led to dwell attentively on the most striking proofs that the way to secure the accomplishment of any important improvements in the world, must be just the opposite to a thoughtless, superstitious confidence in men. Perhaps it is just possible, besides, that such a universal display of national opinion and feeling, may have some very slight influence on other nations, in the way of exciting attention, and at least some doubts favourable to the cause of justice. And also, it is well worth while for a nation to stand forth in this way to rescue itself, in some measure, in the view of the civilized world, from the dishonour in which the deeds of the persons managing its affairs may otherwise sink its character.
On the whole, it is, at present, with a strangely inauspicious aspect that the Christian world, as it is called, looks towards Africa; an aspect in which the expressions of languor after a long riot in ravage and blood seem to demand, for mere stimulus, a renewal of the amusements of death in another place, and a less hazardous form. This great monster is heard uttering in intermingled sentences, creeds, and professions of Christian doctrine. and charity, and orders for ambushes, midnight assaults, burnings, and assassinations. It maintains a temple for two religions, and laughs to hear it said that the true God will not accept the worship which he is expected to share with Moloch.
The summary of the case is, that Portugal carries on the trade in a spirit that disdains even to agree to a definite interpretation of the article in which the local extent had been pretendedly limited that Spain will do as much in the trade as her exhausted means will permit-that France, with very large and growing means, is eager to return to it, and with great contempt, beyond all doubt, of the fancied authority of the paper restriction to five years' duration-and that, while these powers are prosecuting the business unrestrained, no possible vigilance of the friends of Africa can prevent English and American property and enterprise from being largely embarked in the concern. Another circumstance is to be added:
It is painful,' say the Directors of the Institution, to communicate to the Meeting, that there is too much reason for believing that a considerable traffic in slaves still exists on the North Coast of Africa; whither it would seem that considerable numbers are brought for sale from the interior, and thence exported chiefly to the islands VOL. III. N. S.
and the opposite continent of Europe. It appears too, that in Tunis and Tripoly, and the towns of Egypt, there are regular Slave markets, where men, women, and children, are sold at very low prices.' p. 9.
In the comprehensive view of the subject, however, there are circumstances of considerable alleviation; and among these the activity of our cruizers deserves to be mentioned with distinction. One of the documents in the Appendix- Return of all Ships ' and Vessels brought into any Port in the Colonies of Great Britain, and condemned therein, under any of the Acts for the 'Abolition of the Slave Trade,' would be highly gratifying by its great number, if that circumstance did not at the same time shew the wide extent to which the iniquity has ventured beyond its legitimated boundaries, and suggest, by proportion, what a multitude of transgressors have most probably escaped; especially as the Directors have still to repeat the complaint which they have constantly had cause to make, of the very deficient number of cruizers appointed to the service from a prodigious navy, by a zealous abolition government.
The decided and complete renunciation of the traffic by the government of Holland, is a fact of very material consequence to the cause.
An eminently important and gratifying circumstance, is the abolition by the National Congress of Chili, in October, 1811; and by the Provisional Executive Power of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata,' decreed at Buenos Ayres, in May, 1812. This decree was followed by two others, one dated February, 1813, declaring all children born after the 31st of January, 1813, to be absolutely free: and a second, a few weeks later, prescribing regulations for educating this young black race of freemen, and appointing a provision for them on their coming to maturity. This decree comprises more than twenty articles, and bears evidence of much thought and sincere solicitude on the subject.
It is exceedingly pleasing to see these revolutionary states giving such a proof that they deserve to be free; and signalizing the commencement of that independence in which they will soon be joined by every thing that has been denominated Spanish America, by a generous deed so far above the ambition of the wretched monarchy of which they had been the vassals.
Though not within the scope of the statements of the Report, another source of animated and really sublime gratification is found in the resolute, powerful, and warlike attitude of the people of St. Domingo. It remains to be seen whether the French government is determined to expend an army in revenge of the defiance, and in the attempt to reduce those courageous, and elated, and indignant islanders to a quiet and grateful acceptance of the Most Christian economy of whips and chains; but