« ZurückWeiter »
to be supplied with slaves, unless their own flag were able to cope with or elude our maritime power, in a navigation from Africa all the way to the Mexican Gulph.
Can it be seriously apprehended then that those colonists and their partizans in Spain will, for the sake of the Slave Trade, be desirous of exciting a war with this country? The surest motives of human conduct are a pledge to us for the reverse. We may confidently reckon on such men as the firmest friends of peace. While indeed they hope to deter us from perseverance in our purpose by the fear of a quarrel, they will stimulate their government to maintain its present ground; they will assail it indefatigably with public memorials, and with private solicitations and complaints; in order that their clamours may be echoed from the Spanish cabinet to our own. They will try also to alarm the British government by other and insidious means. They have their agents here, or rather their accomplices; men once largely engaged in supplying Cuba with slaves; and now not less deeply interested in its agriculture at least, and in its general commerce; men who well know how, by partnerships and varied firms, and by political as well as mercantile masks and intrigues, to reap all the advantages, without the inconveniences, of a double national character. These gentlemen will not only be the speaking trumpets, but the whispering tubes, of their Spanish connections. They will clamour on the Exchange, and insinuate their false alarms confidentially in our political circles, and at the offices of state. They will report, and magnify, all the angry remonstrances of their friends at the Havannah, at Cadiz, and Madrid; and if a British minister should listen to them with confidence, he might be led to believe that we had no alternative between an abandonment of the cause of Africa and a Spanish war. But like the fiends of their own catholic legends, the menacing phantoms conjured up by them will vanish, when opposed by a virtuous resolution. We shall then find the nerves of the Spanish cabinet suddenly relaxed; and by the effect of the same secret influence that now braces them up to such an apparent inflexibility of tone.
Nor would the event be different, if not only in Northern Africa, but on the whole range of the Slave Coast, we should suppress this iniquitous trade. There is one evil which the planters and merchants of Cuba, as well as the ministers of Spain, would shun at this juncture much more anxiously than the total loss of their African commerce; and that is a war with Great Britain.
If this truth should be doubted on the views we have hitherto taken, let us advert for a moment to the revolutionary contest now depending in Venezuela, Mexico, La Plata, and Peru. Wherever the standard of independency has been erected, the Slave Trade has been renounced; and native slavery itself has been restricted
in a way that would soon put an end to the odious rights of private property in man. The planters of Cuba, therefore, would behold with no less terror than the cabinet of Madrid, the progress of revolution in their sister colonies of the nearly adjacent continent.
But what hope would remain for the remnant of the sickly army of Morilla, (whose efforts against Carthagena had, down to the latest period of authentic advices, been fruitless) or what possibility would there be of stemming the revolutionary torrent by new expeditions, if the mother country were to quarrel at this moment with the mistress of the ocean? Every Spaniard who has a stake in the western empire of his country must anxiously deprecate such a measure, as not only desperate but frantic.
Spain then, we may safely conclude, will acquiesce in our coercive measures, when she finds acquiescence to be necessary. She may murmur, expostulate, remonstrate, threaten; but she will not go to war. We have only to be firm, and we shall deliver Africa, without shedding one drop of British or of Spanish blood.
It would however be a very imperfect survey of this great sub ject for the purposes of political judgment, which should embrace only the consequences of adopting the measure proposed, without regarding on the other side those of rejecting or deferring it. us look for a moment at these, as they will affect not Africa only, but England.
That British politician must be very short-sighted who has not anticipated very serious inconveniences likely to be felt by us in the West Indies in times of peace, while any power possessing a port in the Antilles persists in the Slave Trade. The collisions of two different systems so irreconcilable in their nature and principles with each other, will infallibly generate disputes hard to be composed.
It will be impossible, for instance, that foreign Slave traders should so conduct themselves as not to give reasonable umbrage to a Government anxious to maintain its own abolition, the coasts of whose colonies they must sweep with their slave ships by night as well as by day, and into whose ports or roadsteads the accidents of the sea may often constrain them to enter. It may be equally impossible to reconcile to a foreign government the necessary rigor of precaution which our new system will oblige us to use.
A general registry of Slaves in the British islands will indeed relieve us from much of that necessity. But we have now obtained conventional rights and interests in the suppression of the Slave trade, at every foreign island in the West Indies not under the flag of Spain. Are we to be passive when we see Guineamen under Spanish colours hovering on their coasts, or approaching their roads and harbours? If not, there must be seizures on suspicion, which may often prove to be unsatisfactory or groundless; and the con
sequences of detention in such cases can rarely be repaired. A Slave cargo brought to a port where the law will not suffer it to be converted by sale, has been hitherto, and always must be, found a most unmanageable subject of controverted right for conservation pending the suit.
More especially will those inconveniences be felt while the Havannah is a slave trading port; and northern Africa a place of departure of Slave ships bound to Cuba. An inspection of the map will show that a ship on such a voyage may have to pass through all the clusters of French, Danish, Dutch and English Islands; and may be suspected, in respect of her position, to be bound to one or more of them at every part almost of her proper course.
Evils of a like kind may be anticipated from the near approach of an open Spanish slave trade to the French settlements at Senegal and Goree. If the trade were driven wholly to the South of the line, we should find in those settlements co-operation, amity, and support; in the opposite case, they will probably become the seats and organs of a French contraband slave trade under Spanish disguise, and will certainly become magazines for the Spanish traders in the neighbourhood. If so, the French interest in that country, instead of seconding our benevolent efforts, will be hostile to Africa and to us; Slave smugglers even of our own country will be pros tected against us; frequent disputes will ensue; and in a short time we shall probably find it impossible to maintain either laws or treaties in the Senegal and the Gambia, without risquing a new quarrel with France.
In these views perhaps, and others, an immediate forcible suppression of the Spanish slave trade, especially in Northern Africa, would be more likely to prevent a future, than provoke a present
At all events, to delay the measure in question is not to avoid the future necessity of it, or lessen its probable evils.
If there be danger or inconvenience now, in our interposing by force between Northern Africa and the only power that persists in its devastation, there is no reason to expect that the interposition will be safer or more convenient hereafter; neither is it probable that Spain will be more compliant with our wishes, so as to spare us the necessity of resorting to compulsive means, at any future period.
Here we might invoke the arguments lately so irresistibly urged against the revival of the Slave trade of France. The appetite for this unnatural commerce will not be glutted by feeding. Spain will not be less unwilling to renounce it, or any branch of it, when she shall have experienced for years its real or apparent advantages, in the extension of her export trade, the increase of her shipping, and the multiplication of her colonial products.
With France, the question was only of a revival. Here it is of a new creation. Spain, till within a very few years past, had no Slave trade at all on the African coast. By a cruel and ungrateful consequence of the deliverance we gave her from the grasp of Buonaparte, her flag was enabled in some degree to frustrate our generous efforts for the deliverance of a still more injured people, soon after our own abolition took effect. But her Slave traders, or rather foreigners who traded in her name, were so greatly obstructed by the frequent captures during war, to which their suspicious characters exposed them, that they formed no settlements in Africa; and their odious commerce can hardly be said yet to be established upon any considerable scale; or in any regular course. Very different will the case be in a few years, if Great Britain should be passive. Slave factories will be established on many points of the coast; great numbers of ships will be built or purchased for the trade; and a vast capital will be employed in their outfit from Europe; the consignees at the Havannah and Cadiz will raise their heads into that ephemeral splendour and consequence which, from the magnitude of the early returns, generally distinguish houses embarked in this branch of commerce; while the extensive paper circulation they always employ, will connect with their credit, and engage in their support, much of the more respectable part of the commercial body throughout the Spanish dominions. The difficulties opposed by similar circumstances to our own abolition are sufficiently known; but in Spain they will be fearfully magnified, by the large propor tion which these new-created interests are likely to bear to the whole foreign trade of the country. How then can we hope that Spain will be less tenacious of her Slave trade seven years hence, if allowed to prosecute without restriction in the meantime, than she is at the present moment?
We shall have the security of a treaty, it is true; but to what this amounts, when opposed by the seduction of a real or supposed self-interest, let history attest. In the present case the brittle tie is peculiarly weak, from this unprecedented circumstance; the compact is for the future reformation of a heinous and acknowledged crime. Spain, resolving to persist during eight years to come in a cruel systematic violation of what she admits to be the law of nature and of God, covenants with us to repent at the end of that period! Unless good faith be a higher principle than justice or humanity, the contracted obligation is not stronger than the antecedent duty. Those therefore who consciously persist to violate the latter, are not very likely to respect the former. We place little confidence in the promised future reformation of a drunkard or a spendthrift; but should trust still less to the charterparty of a pirate, resolving to continue his cruise.
The treaty nevertheless is of great value. It is precious, as a
recognition of principles; and may eventually be productive of inestimable good. The question is not, be it always remembered, of maintaining the treaty; but of abstaining from a measure perfectly consistent with it, from a reliance on its future efficacy alone.
It is not however only among the subjects of Spain, that the difficulties of abolishing the Slave trade will be multiplied by delay. In the new establishments to be formed in Africa and the West Indies, and in the property of the ships themselves, though under Spanish flags, other foreigners will largely share. It will be well, if all the righteous and salutary severity of our statutes shall prevent British subjects and British capital from being employed in the baneful work: but that merchants of France, and Holland, and Hamburgh, and other German ports, will be induced by the prospect of large profits, and of returns in West India produce, to supply the credit, the enterprize, the African agents, the cargoes, and other specific means in which the Spaniards are themselves deficient, cannot be doubted; not at least by any man who knows the temptations of the trade to speculative minds; and adverts to the circumstances of the times.
Above all, the old French Slave traders, and the renegades from different countries who were recently rallied under their banner at Nantz, and other French ports, will be eager to rush into this inviting and only open field.
Here the inconveniences and dangers of suffering a SpanishSlave trade in Northern Africa, are peculiarly great and alarming. No part of the subject demands more serious consideration from a British statesman, than that which has been already touched upon, the high probability, nay the absolute certainty, that the French settlers at Senegal and Goree, instead of renouncing the habits of the Slave Trade, will resort to Spanish connection and Spanish disguise, for the purpose of resuming or continuing their former occupations. French West India merchants and planters too, may be expected soon to concur in the profitable game; and to employ it as a most convenient mode of supplying their colonies in a contraband way, and with the least possible intervention of foreign agents, from their old Slave markets in the Gambia and Senegal.
The benefits of the French abolition would in that case be greatly impaired. The risk of disputes with that power for contraventions of the treaty, would be equally enhanced. Her co-operation in compelling hereafter the powers of the peninsula to perform it, would be infallibly lost.
The Spanish flag is the only one from which such dangers can be feared; not only, as has been already shewn, in Northern Africa and the West Indies; but in any part of the world.
Portugal, restricted both in Africa, and in her transatlantic marNO. XIV.