« PreviousContinue »
of B. should be charged on the estate of A. would be void; a trust by which A.'s estate should be vested in B. in trust for A. himself would also be void; but a trust vesting A.'s estate in B. in trust to manage it, and to lease it, and to pay the rents and produce to A., would be good. Neither is the proposed abolition to extend to trusts arising by implication of law.
Having thus divested land of its feudal incidents, and simplified its legal qualities, the author commences his first title with a definition of real property according to his own system. He considers it to be land, with all that (following the old definitions) is above it and all that is under it; together also with such servitudes of light, way, water, &c. as are essential for its enjoyment. Then follow the various modes, by which he would direct that title should be acquired.
The first of these is Descent, under which head he recommends a departure from our existing rules of succession, in order, in some instances, to meet the ends of natural justice, in others for the sake of consistency and simplification. Having rejected the feudal incident of escheat, he assigns the estate, on a general want of heirs, to the crown; and this, in conformity with the law of every nation, which considers the state to be entitled to all property, of which there is no other owner. He obviates one of our worst anomalies, by admitting the half blood to the succession; with a preference of the full
blood, however, in the case of brothers and sisters and their issue; and with a preference also among the half blood itself, of the paternal, to the maternal line of inheritance. On failure of these near relations, the ascending line is admitted by him in preference to the collateral; and, under this last head, he introduces a novelty, borrowed from the Code Napoleon, by interposing a life interest to the father, on failure of lineal heirs, and a life interest to the mother on failure of brothers and sisters and their issue.
Whether the land come from the father or mother, he makes it descend, first in the paternal line; and failing this, in the materval. In this proposal, his great object is simplification; and his calculation is that, although the maternal line will thus be 'occasionally postponed, as to land strictly descended from a maternal ancestor, yet the maternal descendants will, in the greater number of cases, be gainers.
He allows of no right of representation beyond the issue of brothers and sisters; he proposes that more remote collaterals should take per capita; so that a junior uncle, surviving, would inherit in preference to the issue of his deceased elder brother. This he justifies on the ground, that, in descent, the leading principle of precedence is proximity of blood, which is deviated from,
owned and prohibited it. The abolition of slavery was one of the first acts of the Constituent Assembly of Guatimala. It declared not only that every man in the republic is free,' but that no one who takes refuge under its laws can be a slave; and it positively debars any one who carries on the slave-trade from the privileges of a citizen. This law was no sooner promulgated than one hundred slaves from the Honduras escaped into Guatimala; and these, though demanded back by our superintendent, were justly allowed the full protection of the statute which had proclaimed them free.
The recent conduct of Spain, and of the late Spanish colonies, in regard to this matter, has been justly held up by Mr. Canning as a reproach to the ancient and civilized monarchy of France. The cabinet of Madrid has readily entered into treaties for the abolition of the trade, and the voluntary acts of the emancipated colonies for the extinction of slavery have been already mentioned. But the urgent and reiterated expostulations of our minister, on the utter inefficiency of the existing French law for prohibiting the trade, have hitherto proved of little avail. In fact, the years 1824 and 1825 show an increased activity in the slave-trade under the flag of the lilies; and we do not find, in the papers before us, any mitigation or diminution of those atrocities which, from the first, have been exercised in the prosecution of this traffic. An earnest wish, and even a hope, it seems, was early expressed by our ambassador, Lord Granville, to the Baron de Damas, that the era of the reign of his Most Christian Majesty Charles the Tenth might be signalized by some decisive measures for the suppression of practices which he (Lord Granville) stated to be a scandal to the flag of France—and no doubt the answer was smooth. In vain, however, does Mr. Canning, up to this day, direct our ambassador to remonstrate in the strongest terms against the odious practices of the French slave-dealers, the indifference of the government, and the inefficiency of its regulations to check • this disgraceful traffic under the protection of the flag of France;'this traffic which, as he distinctly says, ' disgraces the French name.' The French minister is always ready enough with his assurances, that the French naval officers are strictly charged with the execution of the laws, and are zealous in intercepting slave-traders at sea, and in bringing the parties concerned before the tribunals ; but, unhappily, these assurances are not supported by facts. We know, on the contrary, that the authorities, civil and military, seeing the indifference of the government, have openly, as well as secretly, lent their aid in support of the diplomatically denounced traffic: and we shall give one sufficient example. Les Deux Nantais was one of those numerous vessels annually fitted out at
Nantz for the African coast. The attention of the French go vernment was specially drawn to this vessel by Sir Charles Stuart, in his note to M. de Chateaubriand, accompanied with a description of several other vessels fitting out at the very same port for the slave-trade, and terminating in a distinct call on the French ministry to take means for preventing the intended voyage. M. de Chateaubriand, in reply, gave the usual assurances, that the government of the king of France did not feel an interest less deep than that which was felt by the British government in the suppression of this odious traffic, and would not neglect any means for effecting the object.'
The iuterest,' however, which the king of France took would seem to have been the other way; for, notwithstanding these assurances of M. de Chateaubriand, the Deux Nantais did perform her African voyage without any molestation, either at home or on the coast, until she was boarded by his Britannic Majesty's ship Primrose off St. Domingo; when she was found to be laden with a cargo
of 466 negroes from the river Sherbro' and bound for Cuba, where she afterwards landed them. The case was so glaring, and the French government was so pressed upon it by our ambassador, that an order was sent to the Cominissary of Marine at Nantz to seize the vessel on her return from the West Indies. On the very day, however, after the receipt of this order by the Commissary, the several pilots at the mouth of the Loire were in possession of a circular, of which the following is a copy:
M. Mahé, Master of the “ Deux Nantais.” The moment you receive this you will steer for the port of Antwerp, whither I intend proceeding without delay. Pray do not, on any account whatever, put into a French port. Give the pilot, who is the bearer of this, and who will take you out to sea, a receipt, upon producing which he will be paid by me one hundred francs for his pilotage. I wish you a good voyage.
(Signed) OGERAU.' We need scarcely say, that at Antwerp she accordingly turned up, laden with a cargo of colonial produce. M. de Damas put forward an attempt to justify the local authorities; but the case was found to be too strong for him, and the affair was reluctantly brought before the tribunals; and the · Deux Nantais' was finally confiscated. The notoriety and the novelty of this proceeding, and its issue, alarmed the worthy people at Nantz, and still more so the receipt of new orders addressed to all the ports by the minister of the marine; the result of which was, as stated by Sir Richard Clayton, (in a letter dated 25th January, 1826) that
a temporary stop has been put to every thing in this shameful commerce, and shares in the concern were yesterday endeavoured, from the
alarm, to be 'disposed of on the Exchange at 30 and 40 per cent. loss, but without success.
But there was another reason to induce the government to put on the appearance of severity in the case of the Deur Nantais. It seems that public opinion (thanks to the British press and to the persevering remonstrances of Mr. Canning !) was beginning to declare itself in Paris against the infamous traffic.
The merchants and bankers of that city had already petitioned the legislature against it; they had held up Nantz as the great emporium for sanctioning a crime which they declared to be compounded of robbery and murder; against which the law, they observe, as it now stands, recognizes but one single offender, namely, the captain of the ship, although his guilt is shared by the owners, the insurers, the advancers of capital, the supercargo, and the seamen. France has also its abolition societies, though yet in their infancy, who are scandalized at the barefaced proceedings of the dealers of Nantz.
Thirty ships (says one of them), belonging to a civilized country, have sailed in the nineteenth century from a single port of one of the most enlightened nations in the world-a nation which honours letters, which admires the sciences and the arts, which publicly recognizes and professes the religion of Christ; and these ships have sailed, not to communicate to Africa the blessings of civilized life,-not to go, guided by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, that Spirit of mercy and of peace, and carry to the inhabitants of Africa the good tidings of salvation,-but to bear thither terror and desolation, to foment war and carnage, to pollute its shores with the most flagitious crimes, and to condemn thousands of innocent victims to the horrors of the middle passage, unparalleled in the history of the miseries of mankind.'
The slave-dealers of Nantz have also been told, by one of their own deputies, what their real character is.
• If the pirate is a criminal, an armed robber, often an assassin ; so the man who orders, or shares in such a traffic, (for there is no difference between the slave-captain who executes, and the merchant who, from his counting-house, in cold blood, gives out to his accomplice this execrable mission,) the man thus sharing and thus ordering is also a criminal, an armed robber, often an assassin : he is, moreover, as cowardly as he is ferocious : be has not even the courage of a pirate. He does not deserve to be less hated, because he must be more despised.'
The spirit of commercial avarice, however, though checked, is not easily subdued; and we are therefore not in the least surprized that the trade under the French flag should, at the moment we are writing, be as vigorously pursued as ever. If the government manifests, to say the least of it, a frigid indifference on the subject, we may be quite sure that the commanders of the few ships of war, ostensibly sent to the coast of Africa for the suppression
of the trade, will imitate the supineness of the ruling power. While these traffickers are swarming on every part of the coast, few, if any of them, are captured. The master of one of them, which was boarded by one of our cruizers, said he had been visited by a French ship of war before he took on board his cargo, the commander of which only told him to take care he did not fall in with him ou his coming out some ten days afterwards ; as, if he did, he should be obliged to capture him: a friendly hint which, of course, was not lost upon the slave-dealer. Another slavecaptain says to his owner,
‘M. La Traite (who commands the Hebe) gave me plainly to understand that he was not ignorant of my voyage, and told me at parting, "Be prudent, and look well about you.'
There appears to be some ground, therefore, for the complaint of the Baron de Damas, that the officers of the navy are disposed to do their duty very reluctantly. But why are they so disposed? The reason is obvious enough-they meet with a degree of discouragement from the government and the civil authorities, which the spirits and the hardihood of a seaman can scarcely be expected to surmount. Yet one French officer at least has honestly done his duty. Captain Lachelier detained and sent to Senegal for adjudication several French slaving vessels, and among others three that were afterwards boarded by the Maidstone; but mark the issue—they were all liberated by the Court there, and, when very shortly afterwards met by our Commodore, Bullen, they had already audaciously returned to complete their adventure.
The law, therefore, as it now. stands, is either inadequate to the object, or there is a secret understanding that it is not meant to be acted upon. In truth, it is a mockery of common sense to proclaim a traffic to be unlawful, and to punish the offender with confiscation of the vessel only, while neither infamy nor corporal punishment attaches to the individual, and while he knows that the profits of one successful voyage will more than compensate him for the losses he may sustain in two, by the capture of his ships. France objects to a mutual right of search, and to the capture of her ships actually engaged in the slavetrade, because, forsooth, such a concession would militate against the honour of her flag-strange notions of honour, that can suffer the French flag not only to protect a trade which France has declared to be infamous and illegal, but to give security and protection to the wretches of other countries engaged in the trade who may chuse to display it! France, however, may rest assured that even her flag would not be dishonoured in assisting the British Aag in the work of extending humanity to the African race.
In point of fact, the privileged pirates under the French flag