Page images
PDF
EPUB

openly declare that they have no fear of being disturbed by the king's ships. Mr. Canning may therefore well say, that the slave-trade is now carrying on under

the flag of France with scandalous publicity.' So little,' says Commodore Bullen, 'do they appear to fear detection, that the officers of La Sabine voluntarily conducted ours over their vessel, pointing out the different apartments for the males and females, and explaining every circumstance connected with it.'

Some notion of the system of atrocities under which this traffic is carried on may be collected from the dispatches of Commodore Bullen; but we must observe, that the number of slave-vessels seen and visited by our squadron, on a line of coast of more than a thousand miles, affords no criterion of the real extent of the trade. Neither can we form an idea of the sum of human misery from the cruelties which are witnessed in those few that are captured; as is justly observed in the Nineteenth Report of the Directors of the African Institution, there is not more of cruelty, it

may fairly be assumed, in the one vessel which is captured, than in the hundred which escape.' In their Twentieth Report they say,

'It is stated, under date of 10th December, from Sierra Leone, that, notwithstanding the activity of English cruizers, the coast still swarned with slave-dealers. The Redwing boarded, during a single cruize, French vessels having on board upwards of three thousand slaves; beșides which, she saw many French vessels which avoided her. A brig, la Jeune Caroline, bad four hundred and fifty slaves on board, every one of whom was closely battened below when she was boarded. A large French ship, having five hundred slaves on board, and carrying twelve guns and sixty men, bound for Martinique, was boarded a few days prior to the Redwing's return to Sierra Leone. She had all her guns clear for action, but offered no resistance to a visit from the boats of the Redwing.

"Three Spanish vessels were captured by the Redwing's boats between the 7th and 11th October, but only one had arrived at Sierra Leone by the 10th December. The schooner Teresa was upset on the morning of the 19th October, in a tornado, when one hundred and eighty-six slaves, three men and one boy belonging to the Piedwing, and the Spapish mate, were lost; the remainder, two officers and nine seamen belonging to the Redwing, and six slaves, were picked up on pieces of the wreck the next morning: fortunately, fifty slaves had been removed to another vessel the day before, and have since arrived at Sierra Leone, It is observed, that the captures of the last six inonths equal any other in a similar space of time which can be named, fourteen vessels having been captured, making a total of 1,690 tons, and carrying about 4,000 human beings. It is stated that the Maidstone boarded, amongst many other French vessels, a coryette fully armed and manned, which originally had 1,000 slaves on board. On the whole, it appears that the slave-trade has increased during the

last

[ocr errors]

last year, and that, notwithstanding the number of prizes taken, it continues to rage with unabated fury; and that the coast, with the erception of the British settlements and their immediate neighbourhoods, is in a worse condition than it has been for years past; that the Spaniards and Brazilians

carry their profligacy as far as eter; whilst the French have become the slave-carriers of the Antilles.'

The Maidstone, in one month, between 17th June and 15th July, 1925, in the Bights of Benin and Biafra, boarded seventeen slave-vessels, ten of them under French colours, and seven of which were about to take on board 3,000 human beings. In September following, there were eight vessels under French colours in the river Bonny. In September, 1825, Commodore Bullen boarded the Orphie of Nantz, 377 tons burthen, five days from the Old Calabar river, bound to Martinique, with a cargo of 698 slaves, originally 700, two having died since leaving the river.

The state (he says) in which my lieutenant found the miserable objects of their brutal traffic, is truly revolting to the feelings of human nature: the whole of the men (550 in number) were heavily chained in couples ; some round the ancles and arms, and many by the necks; the wbole of whom he set at liberty, and suffered them, during the search, to ivhale the fresh air ; tbe confined and putrid air issuing from the slave deck, a height of scarcely three feet, was so strong as almost to deter my lieutenant from exploring it; but considering it his inperative duty, and my orders to search every part of her as minutely as possible, that I might be the better enabled to particularize to their lordships every circumstance respecting ber, he did so, and found her as before described. My instructions positively forbidding my interference with French vessels, other than as before mentioned, it was with feelings of reluctant regret, I allowed the master to triumph in his villainy, by suffering him to proceed on his execrable and inhuman voyage.'— Parliamentary Papers, Class B. p. 133.

Our Commodore speaks of a whole horde of French slaveships in the Gallinas; he gives a list of thirteen that were boarded in the course of a month; nay, he states that, in September, 1825, Lieutenant Griffin, whom he had dispatched in the two pinnaces and cutter, in the short space of two days boarded no less than eighteen vessels, engaged in the traffic, thirteen of which were French. · With respect,' says the Commodore, • to what an alarming extent the slave-trade is prosecuted, on this coast, under the flag of the French nation, there are, in that river alone, 2,007 tons of shipping, 293 persons, and 35 guns, under that flag, employed in the speculation of human flesh.' Well might Mr. Canning affirm, that the laws of France on this subject are neither efficient in themselves, even in the heart of her dominions, nor can it be believed that they are acted upon

with integrity'

It would be an endless task to enumerate all the cases of atrocity which have even recently come to light; we shall content ourselves with the selection of a very few. On the 3d, October, 1824, Commodore Bullen writes thus

Finding the James here, commanded by Captain Prince, who conducted bimself so humanely, and showed such attention to the crews of my boats, on their arrival in a distressed condition in the Bonny, in June last, I was happy in being enabled personally to express to bim my sincere thanks for his praiseworthy conduct on that occasion. From him I learn that the French slave-trade has lately most considerably increased in the rivers Bonny and Old Calabar. Several new vessels have arrived, and many laden with full cargoes of human victims bave left, under the white flag and manned by Frenchmen, although the capital embarked is ostensibly Spanish. That their lordships may have full and complete information respecting the degrees of barbarity and want of feeling evinced by these subjects of an enlightened nation, which publicly disavows such horrible and infamous conduct, I beg leave to acquaint them, that “ Le Louis," commanded by “ Oiseau," who was so insolent to my officers on their visiting him in June last, on completing her cargo of slaves in the Old Calabar, without the slightest spark of humanity in him, thrust the whole of these unfortunate beings between decks, (a height of nearly three feet,) and closed the hatches for the night; when morning made its appearance, fifty of the poor sufferers bad paid the debt of nature, owing to the confined, diseased, and putrid atmosphere they were condemned to respire. The wretch coolly ordered the bodies of these miserable victims of his total want of human feeling, to be thrown into the river, and immediately proceeded on shore, to complete his execrable cargo, by a fresh purchase of his fellow-creatures. To detail all the enormities committed by these dealers in buman flesh, who feel they are protected by the nation they claim, and the flag they hoist, would trespass too much on their lordships' time; suffice it to say, they are heart-rending, and would disgrace the most unenlightened savage and most refined cruelty.'--State Papers, pp. 340, 341.

. In the same month, Captain, Willis, of the Brazen, boarded the Eclair of Nantz, 120 tons, with 169 slaves, bound to the Havannah; the master stated that he lost one-third of his cargo in the surf, in embarking them; she measured three feet, one inch, between decks; the men chained, many of them unable to sit upright.'

A case is stated, from Guadaloupe, of La Louise, Captain Armand, having landed a cargo of 200 negroes, the remainder of 275, which he had taken on board, for, it being discovered that she was unable to stow and provision so many, seventy-five of them had been thrown overboard alive! The Baron de Damas finds it difficult, as well he may, to give credit to so revolting an atrocity, and denies its truth. He does not, however, condescend

to

[ocr errors]

to offer the slightest proof of its falsehood; and when we call to mind the atrocious case of the Rodeur, which the French government so carefully endeavoured to conceal, we need not hesitate in believing any enormity from a French slave-dealer, whose crimes are not visited, if visited at all, with any severity of punishment. It is the character of this hateful traffic to deaden the feelings, and to harden and brutalize the heart.

*The captain,' observe the Directors of the African Institution, 'who, without necessity, throws overboard the goods of his employers, is visited with the whole vengeance of the law; but if he takes on board a greater number of negroes than his vessel can conveniently transport to ber place of destination, and, as has lately happened, quietly casts the supernumeraries into the sea, the crime becomes alleviated, and he escapes

with comparative, nay, with almost entire impunity.'

The petition from the abolitionists of Paris, presented in February last to the Chambers, is not so incredulous on this point as is the Baron de Damas. It states that * it is established by authentic documents, that the slave-captains throw into the sea every year about three thousand negros, men, women, and children ; of whom more than half are thus sacrificed, whilst yet alive, either to escape from the visit of cruizers, or because, worn down by their sufferings, they could not be sold to advantage.'

Is it possible that a nation, calling itself enlightened, can tolerate such atrocious proceedings as these, and not attempt a remedy ?-QUOUSQUE TANDEM.

If we turn to the opposite coast of Africa, we there find the French flag equally active, in conjunction with the Portugueze, in carrying

on the same traffic. Captain Owen states, that in the port of Quiloa, he found seven vessels preparing their cargoes for Rio de Janeiro, one of which, of 600 tons, was to take on board 1,200 slaves; the annual number exported from Mozambique, he computes at 15,000, and from Quilliman, 10,000 more; and he adds that if one-third arrive safe, it is considered a good voyage.

At the Havannah, too, the French are not less actively engaged in the slave-trade than the Spaniards. It is stated by the commissioner, Mr. Kilbee, that in the year 1824, sixty vessels landed in Cuba upwards of 16,000 slaves ; that of these ships a great number were French, and that, after disposing of their negroes on the island, they make it their usual practice to take on board a cargo of colonial produce for some of their own ports. The authorities of the colony take no notice of these arrivals, and their negligence is seconded by the connivance of the naval officers, and by the obstinate indolence of the government of Spain. Indeed the Captain-General declared, that copies of the additional articles to the treaty concluded in December, 1822, had never been trans

mitted to him by his government, and accordingly he refused to act on their stipulations.

In the first month of the year 1925, nineteen vessels had left that port for the coast of Africa, and twenty vessels, five French and fifteen Spanish, had arrived from thence, having previously landed, within twenty leagues of the Havannah, 5,766 negroes.

In the month of July, four vessels sailed from the Havannah for the coast of Africa, and four returned from thence; the latter having landed upwards of 1,200 negroes on the coast of Cuba. In September, three Spanish vessels sailed, and two arrived, having landed 530 negroes. In November, a Spanish brig landed 480, and a French schooner upwards of 300 negroes, previously to their entering the port of Havannah. In consequence, however, of the steps taken by the French consul, who had recently received instructions from his government, the captain thought it prudent suddenly to depart very early on the morning after his arrival. In December, no less than eight slave-vessels arrived, after clandestinely introducing into the island nearly 2,300 slaves.

Whether the Additional Articles to the treaty of 1817, which were signed under the government of the Cortes of Spain, and which, by the influence of the Duke del Infantado, have at length, in the early part of the present year, received the sanction of his Catholic Majesty, and have been transmitted to the authorities of Cuba for their guidance, will have any beneficial effect, a short time will show; but it is much to be feared that the authority of the government of Spain is very little regarded by the local authorities of Cuba, when its orders are opposed to their interests. Mr. Lamb says, and we doubt not says justly, that the character of the Duke of Infantado is a sufficient guarantee, that what is. promised is intended to be executed.' But in the mean time the trade increases at the Havannah, and it is notorious, as Mr. Canning observes, that there is scarcely an individual in the department of the local government itself, who is not directly or indirectly concerned in the trade.' The capture of the Zee-Bloem affords a curious specimen of the tricks and frauds by which this horrible, greedy, and inhuman traffic,' as the Secretary of State properly designates it, is carried on.

This Flower of the Sea' was captured under Dutch colours ; her Captain, Goldwaith, an American, threw her papers overboard, maintaining that these were Spanish, and that she was the property of a Frenchman of the naine of Dutocq, of Cuba; 'he had stated but the day before, that she belonged to Mr. John Martin of St. Eustatius; and the owner in the end turned out to be a Mr. Nathaniel Mussenden, a member of the Council of Police of St. Eustatius. Among some precious MSS. found on VOL. XXXIV, NO. LXVIII.

board

PP

« PreviousContinue »