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solemnly determined to sanction the slave-trade. She sanctions it at least for a while — her legislature, therefore, it is plain, sees no guilt in it, and has thus furnished us with the strongest evidence that she can furnish, of the justice unquestionably, - and of the policy also, in a certain measure and in certain cases at least, of permitting this traffic to continue.”
This, Sir, is the argument with which we furnish the other nations of Europe, if we again refuse to put an end to the slavetrade. Instead, therefore, of imagining, that by choosing to presume on their continuing it, we shall have exempted ourselves from guilt, and have transferred the whole criminality to them ; let us rather reflect that on the very principle urged against us, we shall henceforth have to answer for their crimes, as well as our own. We have strong reasons to believe that it depends upon us, whether other countries will persist in this bloody trade or not. Already we have suffered one year to pass away, and now that the question is renewed, a proposition is made for gradual, with the view of preventing immediate abolition. I know the difficulty that exists in attempting to reform long-established abuses; and I know the danger arising from the argument in favour of delay, in the case of evils which nevertheless are thought too enormous to be borne, when considered as perpetual. But by proposing some other period than the present, by prescribing some condition, by waiting for some contingency, or by refusing to proceed till a thousand favourable circumstances unite together; perhaps until we obtain the general concurrence of Europe (a concurrence which I believe never yet took place at the commencement of any one improvement in policy or in morals); year after year escapes, and the most enormous evils go unredressed. We see this abundantly exemplified, not only in public, but in private life. Similar observations have been applied to the case of personal reformation. If you go into the streets, it is a chance but the first person who crosses you is one, “ Vivendi recte qui prorogat horam.” We may wait; we may delay to cross the stream before us, till it has run down; but we shall wait for ever, for the river will still flow on, without being exhausted. We shall be no nearer the object which we profess to have in view, so long as the step which alone can bring us to it is not taken. Until the actual, the only remedy is applied, we ought neither to flatter ourselves that we have as yet thoroughly laid to heart the evil we affect to deplore; nor that there is as yet any reasonable assurance of its being brought to an actual termination.
It has also been occasionally urged, that there is something in the disposition and nature of the Africans themselves, which renders all prospect of civilisation on that continent extremely unpromising. “ It has been known,” says Mr. Frazer in his evidence, “that a boy has been put to death, who was refused to be purchased as a slave.” This single story was deemed by that gentleman a sufficient proof of the barbarity of the Africans, and of the inutility of abolishing the slave-trade. My honourable friend, however, has told you, that this boy had previously run away from his master three several times; that the master had to pay his value, according to the custom of his country, every time he was brought back; and that partly from anger at the boy for running away so frequently, and partly to prevent a still further repetition of the same expense, he determined to put him to death. Such was the explanation of the story given in the cross-examination. This, Sir, is the signal instance that has been dwelt upon of African barbarity.-- This African, we admit, was unenlightened, and altogether barbarous : but let us now ask, what would a civilised and enlightened. West Indian, or a body of West Indians, have done in any case of a parallel nature? I will quote you, Sir, a law passed in the West Indies, in the year 1722, which, in turning over the book, I happened just now to cast my eye upon; by which law, this very same crime of running away, is, by the legislature of the island, by the grave and deliberate sentence of that enlightened legislature, punished with death ; and this, not in the case only. of the third offence, but even in the very first instance. It is enacted, “that if any negro, or other slave shall withdraw him. self from his master, for the term of six months ; or any slave that was absent, shall not return within that time, it shall be adjudged felony, and every such person shall suffer death." There is also another West Indian law, by which every negro's hand is armed against his fellow-negroes, by his being authorised to kill a runaway slave, and even having a reward held out to him for doing so. Let the House now contrast the two cases. Let them ask themselves which of the two exhibits the greater barbarity ? Let them reflect, with a little candour and liberality, whether on the ground of any of those facts, and loose insinuations as to the sacrifices to be met with in the evidence, they can possibly reconcile to themselves the excluding of Africa from all means of civilisation? Whether they can possibly vote for the continuance of the slave-trade upon the principle, that the Africans have shewn themselves to be a race of incorrigible barbarians ?
I hope, therefore, we shall hear no more of the moral impossibility of civilising the Africans, nor have our understandings and consciences again insulted, by being called upon to sanction the slave-trade, until other nations shall have set the example of abolishing it. While we have been deliberating upon the subject, one nation, not ordinarily taking the lead in politics, nor by any means remarkable for the boldness of its councils, has determined on a gradual abolition; a determination, indeed, which, since it permits for a time the existence of the slavetrade, would be an unfortunate pattern for our imitation. France, it is said, will take up the trade, if we relinquish it. What! is it supposed that in the present situation of St. Domingo, of an island which used to take three-fourths of all the slaves required by the colonies of France, she, of all countries, will think of taking it up? What countries remain ? The Portuguese, the Dutch, and the Spaniards. Of those countries let me declare it is my opinion, that if they see us renounce the trade, after full deliberation, they will not be disposed, even on principles of policy, to rush further into it. But I say more: How are they to furnish the capital necessary for carrying it on ? If there is any aggravation of our guilt, in this wretched
business, greater than another, it is that we have stooped to be the carriers of these miscrable beings from Africa to the West Indies for all the other powers of Europe. And now, Sir, if we retire from the trade altogether, I ask, where is that fund which is to be raised at once by other nations, equal to the purchase of 30 or 40,000 slaves ? A fund, which if we rate them at 401. or 501. each, cannot make a capital of less than a million and a half, or two millions of money. From what branch of their commerce is it that these European nations will draw together a fund to feed this monster ? - to keep alive this detestable commerce? And even if they should make the attempt, will not that immense chasm, which must instantly be created in the other parts of their trade, from which this vast capital must be withdrawn in order to supply the slave-trade, be filled up by yourselves ? — Will not these branches of commerce which they must leave, and from which they must withdraw their industry and their capitals, in order to apply them to the slave-trade, be then taken up by British merchants ? - Will you not even in this case find your capital flow into these deserted channels ? - Will not your capital be turned from the slave-trade to that natural and innocent commerce from which they must withdraw their capitals, in proportion as they take up the traffic in the flesh and blood of their fellow-creatures ? .
The committee sees, I trust, how little ground of objection to our proposition there is in this part of our adversaries' argument.
Having now detained the House so long, all that I will fur. ther add, shall be on that important subject, the civilisation of Africa, which I have already shewn that I consider as the leading feature in this question. Grieved am I to think that there should be a single person in this conntry, much more that there should be a single member in the British parliament, who can look on the present dark, uncultivated, and uncivilised state of that continent, as a ground for continuing the slave-trade,- as a ground not only for refusing to attempt the improvement of Africa, but even for hindering and intercepting every ray of
light which might otherwise break in upon her, - as a ground for refusing to her the common chance and the common means, with which other nations have been blessed, of emerging from their native barbarism.
Here, as in every other branch of this extensive question, the argument of our adversaries pleads against them; for, surely, Sir, the present deplorable state of Africa, especially when we reflect that her chief calamities are to be ascribed to us, calls for our generous aid, rather than justifies any despair on our part of her recovery, and still less any further repetition of our injuries.
I will not much longer fatigue the attention of the House; but this point has impressed itself so deeply on my mind, that I must trouble the committee with a few additional observations. Are we justified, I ask, on any one ground of theory, or by any one instance to be found in the history of the world, from its very beginning to this day, in forming the supposition which I am now combating? Are we justified in supposing that the particular practice which we encourage in Africa, of men's selling each other for slaves, is any symptom of a barbarism that is incurable? Are we justified in supposing that even the practice of offering up human sacrifices proves a total incapacity for civi. lisation? I believe it will be found, and perhaps much more generally than is supposed, that both the trade in slaves, and the still more savage custom of offering human sacrifices, obtained in former periods, throughout many of those nations which now, by the blessings of Providence, and by a long progression of improvements, are advanced the farthest in civilization. I believe, Sir, that, if we will reflect an instant, we shall find that this observation comes directly home to our own selves; and that, on the same ground on which we are now disposed to proscribe Africa for ever from all possibility of improvement, we ourselves might, in like manner, have been proscribed and for ever shut out from all the blessings which we now enjoy.
There was a time, Sir, which it may be fit sometimes to revive in the remembrance of our countrymen, when even human sacrifices are said to have been offered in this island. But I would