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SLAVE TRADE OF SPAIN
PORTUGAL has now ratified the treaty with Great Britain, for confining her trade in slaves to that part of the coast of Africa which lies to the southward of the Equator.
Spain has offered to abstain from the trade, except on that part of the coast which lies between the Equator and the 10th degree of north latitude.
Great Britain, and the Powers assembled in Congress at Vienna, labored there in vain to obtain from the Courts of Madrid and Brazil larger concessions than these, as to their present commerce, though both those Courts admitted the trade to be repugnant to humanity and justice; and stipulated for the total renunciation of it, at a period now only about seven years distant.
Such in respect of these Powers was the effect of the negocia tions at Vienna, as Lord Castlereagh's able and honorable labors reluctantly left them.
Circumstances have since that period very importantly changed. France, who then refused to abolish her Slave Trade in less than five years, has since followed the generous examples of Great Britain, of Holland, of Denmark, and North America, by an immediate and total prohibition of that shameful traffic.
Whether this happy event, which would probably have materi ally altered the tone of the Vienna conferences if it had preceded the month of February 1815, should now induce a peremptory demand on the Powers of the Peninsula for an entire conformity to the conduct of all other nations, which had such sacrifices to
make, and to the general wish of Europe, is an inquiry that I for the present decline.
The right of restraining Spain from singly prolonging the miseries of Africa by prosecuting her Slave Trade between the Equator and the 10th degree of north latitude, is a very different consider
The British Government and the Powers assembled in Congress cannot be said to have directly or indirectly bound themselves to acquiesce for a moment in this wanton and solitary crime. In fact, the treaties for immediate local limitations of the trade were matter of separate negociation between Great Britain on the one side, and Spain and Portugal on the other, in which the other Powers assembled in Congress did not interfere.
From Portugal, the treaty limiting her trade to the south of the Equator, was obtained by Great Britain alone. The proffer of Spain to confine herself to very different limits was neither desired nor accepted by our Government. It was in fact supposed by us to have originated in mistake; and it was confidently hoped that the Court of Madrid would, on a proper explanation of the case, willingly correct it.
The expectation was natural; for what was the principle of the concession? It was to open immediately, in a large region of Africa, a fair field for those commercial and agricultural improvements which Great Britain was benevolently attempting, but to which the Slave Trade, though prosecuted only by a single power, was felt to be a fatal obstacle.
And where were those benign improvements then actually commenced and advancing? In Sierra Leone, or its immediate vicinage; and partly also at our settlements on the Gold Coast.
Though man-merchants had hitherto commoned with us in that open field, our endeavours had not been wholly fruitless. But to secure the seedling plants from destruction, and still more to extend their culture, it was necessary that we should inclose against the Slave Trade. If that demoralizing and depopulating mischief were driven to the south of the Equator, the hither region of Africa would afford a fair and ample field for the enterprize of the merchant, the planter, the philosopher, and the christian. Their success might soon repair to that injured quarter of the globe the wrongs it has sustained from Europe, and open to Europe new mines of commercial wealth, more profitable by far than the crimes she has renounced.
France may now be expected powerfully to second the benevolent efforts of England in the same interesting region. No longer engaged in revolutionary struggles or foreign wars, deprived of her principal colonies in the East and in the West, but possessing in
Goree and Senegal the means of surpassing all other powers in the commerce of Northern Africa, with the exception of that odious traffic in human blood which she has honorably abandoned, her active spirit may now be expected to engage with eagerness in exploring the resources, and cultivating the trade, of that country. It is probable also that she will not neglect the advantages so clearly pointed out by one of her own travellers,' of planting agricultural colonies on the banks of the Senegal and the Gambia.
In such enterprizes may she be crowned with success! beneficial in the highest degree to Africa, they would be innoxious to Europe. England would feel no hostile rivalship here; though she would blush to be outstripped in the race of beneficence and reparation to the unfortunate natives. Their civilization will best be promoted by the extension of their innocent commerce; and by whatever hands that noble work is carried on, it will not redound more to their happiness, than to the advantage of all maritime powers.
But to such improvements in Northern Africa, the present purpose of Spain would be in the highest degree adverse, if not absolutely fatal.
The baneful influence of the Slave Trade extends itself far beyond the theatre of its immediate action.
It is not easy to determine from what distance the hapless subjects of that commerce would be carried along the coast for sale; but it is clearly established that koffles or caravans of slaves, sometimes march several hundred miles from the interior country; and there seems to be no impediment to their proceeding an equal distance in a line parallel to the coast; still less to their diverging from the direct line of their coastward march, so as to meet the Atlantic in a latitude higher or lower by several degrees than that from which they departed. What effectual relief then would it be, even to the maritime border, that Slave ships were driven from the immediate seat of agricultural or commercial improvement, if they were at liberty to hold out their incentives, and receive their prey, within four or five degrees to the southward?
The Senegal, the most northerly part of the Slave Coast, lies near the 16th degree of north latitude; the Gambia near the 13th; if therefore the Spanish limitation were accepted, the regions between those two rivers, the natural field of the beneficent attempts of France, would be on a medium only 270 geographical miles distant from a point of the coast from which Slaves might be exported. The seat and centre of British attempts at civilization would be in a far worse position; for Sierra Leone is in the 8th,
degree of north latitude, and our settlements on the Gold Coast are in the 4th and 5th.
The claim of our grateful and liberal ally is to station her Slave ships both to the south and north of all these our African possessions; and even in the river of Sierra Leone itself. In open and wanton contempt of those principles on which that colony was settled, principles, which she knows to be most dear to the hearts of Englishmen, she would erect her human shambles at its very door. On the sea-side her ships, on the land-side her slave factories, would surround it. She would counteract all our endeavours to enlighten and reclaim the poor ignorant natives, even on our own frontier line; bidding for the laborer where we treated for his work, selling or buying the merchant in his journey to our markets, and the youth in their way to our schools. She would excite the horrible tegria ar slave-making wars in all the neighbouring states; and inflame against us the hostility of the barbarous chiefs for spoiling the sale of their captives. All this and more is implied in her claim to continue on that part of the African Coast, the pestilent Slave Trade.
The concession that she will not carry on this desolating commerce to the northward of the 10th degree, is so evidently useless, that it could only be considered either as a mockery or a mistake. The latter, therefore, was supposed to be the case, till the obstinate refusal of the Spanish Court to amend the limitation, repelled that natural surmise.
It is now known to the ministers of Ferdinand VII. that their cruel purpose is not softened by such a modification, and that it jars irreconcilably with the humane efforts of Great Britain, and the rising hopes of Africa; that it may be ruinous to an object immeasurably interesting to mankind, and dear to the hearts of that generous people to whom their master owes his throne. But the men to whose unfeeling counsels Spain is surrendered, care for none of these things.
It would almost seem that the Slave Trade, like the Inquisition, had positive attractions to the perverted taste of these men; at least, when seasoned high with ingratitude to the deliverers of their country; for their obduracy, even on their own sordid views, has no adequate motive.
Spain has no settlement, no fort or factory, no territory or claim of territory, on the coast in question; and the only interest she can allege in protracting the desolation of Northern Africa, is that of a merchant in extending the manufacture of an article the supply of which already far exceeds the demand.
Portugal had possessions and agents, and a long established Slave Trade on the northern coast. Near to that district of it which is
the subject of the Spanish offer, lies Bissao, one of the chief settlements of this power; it being in 11 d. 30 m. north. Yet she has agreed to restrict her Slave Trade to the south of the equatorial line.
Portugal too, has for a long time exported from the coast in general, and for the use of her own colonies, three times the number of slaves that Spain has either exported or bought. Yet Portugal has no fear of not finding in Southern Africa an ample and redundant supply. Much less then can Spain be afraid of any scarcity of captives to satisfy her comparatively small demand. She had in fact no Slave Trade whatever, till the abandonment of the commerce by other nations induced her to engage in it; and even now, most of the few Slave ships which carry her flag are the property of foreigners; or fitted out in part at least, on foreign capital, and on foreign account.
But let it be supposed that this Power has means to acquire, and Portugal to maintain, a trade equal to the whole of their joint demand; still the supplies from the coast of Southern Africa must largely exceed their wants. England, France, Holland, Denmark, and the United States of North America, having all now withdrawn their competition in the Trade, and for ever renounced the use of its odious commodity, four-fifths at least of the former exports are disengaged; while less than one-third of the former supply would be cut off by the local limitation in dispute.
The Court of Brazil, had it not been conscious of these truths, would not have confined itself to the south of the Equator; but though largely engaged in supplying the Spanish colonies as well as its own, it had no fear of cramping its speculations by restraining itself to that too productive field, and abandoning the northern
Spain then, in standing out inflexibly against the interests of humanity, has not the extenuation, even of a strong or apparent self-interest to plead. No serious inconvenience would attend a concession so plainly due to humanity, to justice, to the liberal feelings of many great and friendly powers, and to the ardent wishes of a nation that has rescued her by its blood and treasure from foreign subjugation.
But the Spanish Government, it seems, is deaf to every friendly suggestion, solicitation, and remonstrance. It wantonly as well as cruelly resolves that Africa shall not be civilized; that her unparalleled moral and physical calamities shall not be removed; that her mines of innocent and beneficent commerce shall not be opened to the maritime countries of Europe. "I will spoil your noble experiment," proclaims this ungrateful and arrogant power, "not because it is my interest to do so, but because it is my will.”