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RESOLVED, That, from and after the 5th day of April 1792, the duties now payable on certain inhabited houses, containing less than seven windows or lights, charged by an act of the 6th year of the reign of His present Majesty, do cease and determine.
RESOLVED, That, from and after the 5th day of April 1792, one halfpenny in the pound of the duty upon all candles (except wax and spermaceti candles) do cease and determine.
ORDERED, That a bill, or bills, be brought in upon the said resolutions; and that the Earl of Mornington, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Edward James Eliot, the Lord Bayham, Mr. Hopkins, Mr. AttorneyGeneral, Mr. Solicitor-General, Mr. Rose, and Mr. Charles Long, do prepare, and bring in, the same.
And in the committee of the supply on the same day, it was resolved to grant to His Majesty the sum of 400,0001. to be issued and paid to the governor and company of the Bank of England, to be by them placed to the account of the commissioners for the reduction of the national debt.
April 2. 1792. The House, after receiving a number of petitions *, praying for the Abolition of the Slave-trade, resolved itself into a committee of the whole House, to take the circumstances of the trade into consideration : - when Mr. Wilberforce moved the following resolution: “ That it is “ the opinion of this committee, that the trade carried on by British “ subjects, for the purpose of obtaining slaves on the coast of Africa, « ought to be abolished.”
Mr. Pitt, at a late hour, rose and addressed the committee as follows:
At this hour of the morning I am afraid, Sir, I am too much exhausted to enter so fully into the subject before the committee as I could wish; but if my bodily strength is in any degree equal to the task, I feel so strongly the magnitude of this question, that I am extremely earnest to deliver my sentiments, which I rise to do with the more satisfaction, because I now look
* The whole number of petitions presented to this day, was five hundred and eight.
forward to the issue of this business with considerable hopes of success.
The debate has this day taken a turn, which, though it has produced a variety of new suggestions, has, upon the whole, contracted this question into a much narrower point than it was ever brought into before.
I cannot say, that I quite agree with the right honourable gentleman over the way*; I am far from deploring all that has been said by my two honourable friends. + I rather rejoice that they have now brought this subject to a fair issue, that something, at least, is already gained, and that the question has taken altogether a new course this night. It is true, a difference of opinion has been stated, and has been urged with all the force of argument that could be given to it. But give me leave to say, that this difference has been urged upon principles very far removed from those which were maintained by the opponents of my honourable friend when he first brought forward his motion. There are very few of those who have spoken this night, who have not thought it their duty to declare their full and entire concurrence with my honourable friend in promoting the abolition of the slave-trade, as their ultimate object. However we may differ as to the time and manner of it, we are agreed in the abolition itself; and my honourable friends have expressed their agreement in this sentiment with that sensibility upon the subject, which humanity does most undoubtedly require. I do not, however, think they yet perceive what are the necessary consequences of their own concession, or follow up their own principles to their just conclusion,
The point now in dispute between us, is, a difference merely as to the period of time, at which the abolition of the slave-trade ought to take place. I therefore congratulate this House, the country, and the world, that this great point is gained; that we may now consider this trade as having received its condemnation; that its sentence is sealed; that this curse of mankind is seen by the House in its true light ; and that the greatest stigma * Mr. Fox.
+ Mr. Dundas, and the Speaker,
on our national character which ever yet existed, is about to be removed! And, Sir, (which is still more important,) that mankind, I trust, in general, are now likely to be delivered from the greatest practical evil that ever has afflicted the human race from the severest and most extensive calamity recorded in the history of the world!
In proceeding to give my reasons for concurring with my honourable friend in his motion, I shall necessarily advert to those topics which my honourable friends near me have touched upon; and which they stated to be their motives for preferring a gradual, and, in some degree, a distant abolition of the slavetrade, to the more immediate and direct measure now proposed to you. Beginning as I do, with declaring that in this respect I differ completely from my right honourable friends near me, I do not, however, mean to say, that I differ as to one observation which has been pressed rather strongly by them. If they can shew that their proposition of a gradual abolition is more likely than ours to secure the object which we have in view that by proceeding gradually we shall arrive more speedily at our end, and attain it with more certainty, than by a direct vote immediately to abolish : - if they can shew to the satisfaction both of myself and the committee, that our proposition has more the appearance of a speedy abolition than the reality of it, undoubtedly they will in this case make a convert of me, and my honourable friend who moved the question ; they will make a convert of every man among us, who looks to this, which I trust we all do, as a question not to be determined by theoretical principles or enthusiastic feelings, but considers the practicability of the measure — aiming simply to effect his object in the shortest time, and in the surest possible manner.
If, however, I shall be able to shew that our measure proceeds more directly to its object, and secures it with more certainty and within a less distant period; and that the slave-trade will on our plan be abolished sooner than on his; may I not then hope, that my right honourable friends will be as ready to adopt
our proposition, as we should in the other case be willing to accede to theirs ?.
One of my right honourable friends has stated, that an act passed here for the abolition of the slave-trade would not secure its abolition. Now, Sir, I should be glad to know, why an act of the British legislature, enforced by all those sanctions which we have undoubtedly the power and the right to apply, is not to be effectual : at least as to every material purpose? Will not the executive power have the same appointment of the officers and the courts of judicature, by which all the causes relating to this subject must be tried, that it has in other cases ? Will there not be the same system of law by which we now maintain a monopoly of commerce? If the same law, Sir, be applied to the prohibition of the slave-trade, which is applied in the case of other contraband commerce, with all the same means of the country to back it, I am at a loss to know why the actual and total abolition is not likely to be effected in this way, as by any plan or project of my honourable friends, for bringing about a gradual termination of it. But my observation is extremely fortified by what fell from my honourable friend* who spoke last: he has told you, Sir, that if you will have patience with it for a few years, the slave-trade must drop of itself, from the increasing dearness of the commodity imported, and the increasing progress, on the other hand, of internal population. Is it true, then, that the importations are so expensive and disadvantageous already, that the internal population is even now becoming a cheaper resource? I ask then, if you leave to the importer no means of importation but by smuggling, and if, besides all the present disadvantages, you load hit with all the charges and hazards of the smuggler, by taking care that the laws against smuggling are in this case watchfully and rigorously enforced, is there any danger of any considerable supply of fresh slaves being poured into the islands through this channel ? And is there any real ground of fear, because a few slaves may have been smuggled in or out of the islands, that a bill will be useless and ineffectual on any such
* Mr. Jenkinson.
ground? The question under these circumstances will not bear a dispute.
Perhaps, however, my honourable friends may take up another ground, and say, “ It is true your measure would shut out further importations more immediately; but we do not mean to shut them out immediately. We think it right, on grounds of general expediency, that they should not be immediately shut out.” Let us therefore now come to this question of the expediency of making the abolition distant and gradual, rather than immediate.
The argument of expediency, in my opinion, like every other argument in this disquisition, will not justify the continuance of the slave-trade for one unnecessary hour. Supposing it to be in our power (which I have shewn it is) to enforce the prohibition from this present time, the expediency of doing it is to me so clear, that if I went on this principle alone, I should not feel a moment's hesitation. What is the argument of expediency stated on the other side ? It is doubted whether the deaths and births in the islands are as yet so nearly equal as to ensure the keeping up of a sufficient stock of labourers : in answer to this, I took the liberty of mentioning, in a former year, what appeared to me to be the state of population at that time. My observations were taken from documents which we have reason to judge authentic, and which carried on the face of them the conclusions I then stated; they were the clear, simple, and obvious result of a careful examination which I made into this subject, and any gentleman who will take the same pains may arrive at the same degree of satisfaction. ,
These calculations, however, applied to a period of time that is now four or five years past. The births were then, in the general view of them, nearly equal to the deaths; and, as the state of population was shewn, by a considerable retrospect, to be regu. larly increasing, an excess of births must before this time have taken place.
Another observation has been made as to the disproportion of the sexes ; this, however, is a disparity which existed in any