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of the Slave Trade has, as a subject of dis- | and with the direful influence of which the cussion, opened to the view, and brought peace, the order, the subordination, the under the notice and consideration of this happiness, of the whole habitable globe, Houşe; a field too large for me to range is threatened. And yet such is the philoin, too comprehensive for the extent of sophy, such are the principles, and such individual ability, more than enough to the people, that, in this age of novelty and occupy the exertions of every head, and innovation, we are called upon by some to to rouse the energies of every heart among adopt, to fraternize, and to affiliate with. us-to occupy the exertions of every head And now, having said this, if it were to in appeal to wisdom, and to rouse the appear to your lordships, that this very energies of every heart, as a call upon the proposition for the abolition of the slave characteristic justice of this House. It is trade, not only makes a part in speculation not then, in this field that I am now about of this new philosophy, but is actually to enter ; neither is it to those tribunals of founded on those very principles in pracyour lordships wisdom and justice that I tice which I have just mentioned, would am in the act of addressing myself. The it be too much to look for your lordships stage in which this business is, is ripe for agreement with me in a motion for postneither; and God forbid it should ever be poning the farther consideration of this so; but there is a third tribunal to which business to a period, when intermediately I am now to address myself, and that is, mankind may be restored to their senses, in solemn appeal, at this most momentous and this enthusiastic madness no longer crisis of public affairs, to the political dis- shall remain? We are at war with France, cretion of this House: nor even here either either for the extinction of these princi. shall I have occasion to trespass long ples, or with a view to self preservation, on the patience of the House ; for what which is the first law of nature, social as this momentous crisis of public affairs is, well as individual, for the extirpation of will need no representation from me to the people theniselves; for otherwise, bring to your lordships minds; the facts, what is the result?. The result is, that we in events too terrible even for the admis shall, as of unavoidable necessity, sink into sion of thought, being already before our the same abyss of misery with them, and be eyes; and the effects springing from the what they are ; for is not their philosophy causes that have produced them, but too founded on this? do not their principles plainly speaking for themselves. It is, lead to this? are not their decrees declatherefore, enough for me to presume, that ratory to this ? is not their object ex your lordships are sufficiently aware of that pressly this ? and, if success should attend new philosophy, as it is called, which is their measures, will not their end be this? gone abroad; containing like Pandora's And if so, in my contemplation, better box of old, all the evils and vices that hu- were it for us, that we were created toads, man nature or the world can be inflicted to live on the fumes of a dunghill, rather with. Of that philosophy on the princi- than possessing the feelings and the faculples of which those monsters in human ties of men, and of Englishmen too, born shape, I mean the people of France ; and to the blessings of a constitution founded when I say monsters in human shape, let on liberty, be made to endure a life that not the charge of a national reflection shall pass away with the mortifying sup; (speaking as I do, not from my own, but pression of the former, and in the cruel from much better authority than my own) deprivation of the latter. be imputed to me, namely, that of one of But I have said, that this proposition their own countrymen (Voltaire), who for the abolition of the slave trade, is in knew them well, and who says, in describ- speculation a part of this new philosophy ; ing the nation, that “ They are a race of and who shall controvert the position ? people descended from monkies and from For in the very definition of the terms wolves ; for when they are not skipping themselves, as descriptive of the thing, anıl dancing like monkies, they are ra- what does the abolition of the slave trade venous and ferocious as wolves." I say mean more or less in effect, than liberty then, your lordships are aware of that new and equality? what more or less than the philosophy on the principles of which rights of man? and what is liberty and these monsters in human shape, this savage equality; and what the rights of man, nation, have declared war, not only against but the foolish fundamental principles of man, but against God himself-principles this new philosophy ? But this is not all. by which all Europe is already convulsed, ! It is a proposition that has been adopted,
of which the proofs of correspondence tion of the slave trade, and from whence are not wanting, in concert, or rather let it comes, as a matter of reflection only," me say more ad rem, in fraternity with and to pause upon. I have read a sersome of those profligate and abandoned mon of Dr. Priestley's upon this very subconspirators, the National Convention of ject, preached to a society of dissenters, France; and is, or has been, carried on and published at their request. What through the medium and by the means of this sermon is, your lordships may supsubsisting clubs in both countries ; which pose. It is, of course, to inculcate these shows not only that the proposition is in doctrines with all the ability that belongs itself founded on French principles, that to that well-known philosopher. But it is, on French philosophy; but proves is to do more; it is to state facts, that, that we too have in this country our Con- coming from his superintending knowdorcets, our Brissots, our Abbé Gre- ledge and authority, are not to be disregoires, and our Robespierres. And if garded. He tells us to whom we are inthis be so, is not this ground enough for debted for the agitation and adoption of your lordships, at least for the present, this question_" To the Quakers," says to rest on your arms ?-But I have said, he, “ who were the first to show themnot only that this proposition is founded solves friends to the rights of humanity, on this new philosophy in speculation, and to dissenters of all denominations; but that it has, on its very principles, adding, in the true spirit of levelling, to been reduced to practice; and of this nei- his levelling fock, this prophetic exther are the damning proofs deficient: for, hortation to perseverance in the good look at the state of the colony of St. Doo cause; namely, “ that the time is arrivmingo, and see what liberty and equality, ing, when the wolf shall lie down with see what the rights of man, have done the lamb, the present state of there. Look at the 10th of August, and things," says he, “makes highly probathe 2d and 3d of September at Paris, and ble;"—that is to say, that all being equal, in comparison with the foul calendar of blacks and whites, French and English, murders committed at St. Domingo, you wolves and lambs, shall all, “ merry comwill find these days of humanity and com- panions everyone," promiscuously pig passion. There indeed (at Paris) you will together ; engendering a race of people have brought to your view murderers and not descended, as Voltaire says, from cannibals enough, it is true ; but here (at monkies and wolves, but a new species of St. Domingo) you will see rivers of com- man as the product of this new philosophy, merce dried up, whilst fountains of hu- a nondescript in the order of human beman blood are made to issue in their ings, and hitherto unknown to the natu. stead; and (as if in the pride of exulta- ralist. But as that present state of tion for this philosophic event) hear too, things to which the sermon alludes, is in the milk of his humanity, what one of widely different from the present state of these murderous philosophers (citizen things, the only remark I shall make upon Robespierre) says upon this very occa- what I have stated, is this, in the shape sion : “ Perish,” says he, “ the colonies, of a question-Is there, or can there be, rather than that we should loose one of any just reason why the Quakers, or any our principles !" But let us remember, other of the sects of dissenters, should be my lords, that we have colonies of our more forward in showing themselves own; and would your lordships be willing, friends to the rights of humanity, than the by making the same experiment, to pro- members of the established church are ? duce the same consequences? And if And to this I shall wait for an answer in arnot, let us have some regard for our con- gument: but, in the mean time, having sistency. Let us not spill the blood and heard the assertion that they are so, and waste the treasure of this country, in a understanding that all the petitions for the war with France, to combat principles abolition of this trade have been either that we ourselves are giving law to. from, or through the influence of, this
Thus much have I thought it necessary body of men ; and apprehending that the to say in address to the political discretion same proceeding may be adopted in this of your lordships ; and now I will add a House, I shall trouble your lordships with word or two in argumentum ad suspicionem, a few reflections on this subject. in address to the jealousy of this House. I say, then, as a general proposition, And in so doing, let us see who are the that the right of petitioning the king, or abettors of this proposition for the aboli- either House of parliament, is a right inherent in the subject, fundamental in the and if petitions are to be admitted for constitution, just in its origin, and benefi- conscience sake, why not petition to alter cial in its application; but, at the same the liturgy of the church of England, and time, it is a right subject to limitations. to change the established religion of the That it is a restricted right we know from country? The ground is the same, and the act of the 13th Chas. 2d, s. 1, c. 5, the the reason the same ; but, I trust, the restrictions of which I need not here enu- practice is not meant to be the same. merate ; but the reasons of those restric- But here, too, reverts my question, what tions we all must remember to be on ac- right has a Quaker, or any other dissencount of the rage for petitioning that ter, to more humanity than a church of preceded the grand rebellion in 1640; and England man? And yet such is the prewe know too, that it is under these re- tence; but admitting he has, what is the strictions that the right is declared and answer to their petitions ? The aswer is, confirmed by the act of the 1st of Wiliam have nothing to do with the trade, and and Mary, s. 2, c. 2. This, then, being your humanity is out of the question ; the case, my argument is, that the ground but if this were not so, let me ask again, of every petition to the king, or to either what right has any body of men, however House of parliament (legal ground Imean) numerous (unless with sinister views, or is and can only be for two causes—either for hypocritical purposes) to set up their against the infringement of a constitu- humanity against the humanity of other tional right by the legislature, or by any people ; and, to satisfy that humanity, to branch of it; or, that right being so in call upon parliament-to do what? to refringed, fora redress of grievances. Now, peal their own acts; and this, too, in a I conceive, the constitutional rights of case where not only public faith is to be the subject to be, and only to be, the violated, public justice sacrificed, all right of personal security, the right of ideas of policy obliterated, thousands and personal liberty, and the right of private tens of thousands of subjects ruined, milproperty; and against the infringement of lions and tens of millions of property lost any of these rights, or, if infringed, for but where against this very now-disthe redress of grievances, are the only senting) humanity, this trade has been grounds, on which the subject's right of carried on by all countries in the four petitioning is made to rest. This I take quarters of the globe ; and particularly to be clear and indisputable doctrine ; by this for near two centuries and a half. and being so, let us see whether the peti. But what is all this to us, say these petions that have been and may be again titioners ; for has not citizen Robespierre presented, for the abolition of the slave said, “ perish the colonies, rather than trade, are founded upon the infringement we should lose one of the principles of of any one of those rights; and if not, whe- our new philosophy ?”.. But I say, that ther they are not consequently illegal ? this is to dictate to parliament ; it is to Let me ask then, is the carrying on of the petition “ for the alteration of matters slave trade against the personal security, established by law in the state,” which is the personal liberty, or the private pro- expressly contrary to law; it is to set up perty of these petitioners; or does it in toleration against establishment, and to any wise disturb any one of these rights? | presume on strength where weakness What must be the answer? Examine the ought to prevail
. The inference I then question. It is impossible to be so. Upon drew, is this, that these petitions are not what ground, then, are these petitions ? founded on any constitutional ground, Are they for the redress of grievances ? either of infringement of right, or redress No: this neither cannot be ; for none of of grievances, but savouring of the times, these "rights are infringed upon, and not are like those tumultuos petitions that, being infringed upon, there are no griev- preceding the grand rebellion in the year ances to be redressed.
1640, gave occasion to the act alluded to But these petitions must have some of the 13th Chas.2d, and being so, are conground to stand upon ; and what is it? sequently illegal, and being illegal, ought It is, say the petitioners, the ground of not to have been received, but being rehumanity; but humanity, as I have ceived, ought wholly to be disregarded. shown, is no ground for petitioning: hu- -His lordship then moved, “ That the manity is a private feeling, and not a pub- further consideration of the question for lic principle to act upon : it is a case of the abolition of the slave trade be postconscience, and not a constitutional right; poned to this day five months.” [VOL. XXX.]
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Earl Stanhope said, that the present mo- / a great insult to the Commons to decide tion was unprecedented. What! stop a by this hasty vote that which they had judicial inquiry, when only one side of the with such labour and pains brought to question had been heard! This would their bar for a solemn decision. be the height of injustice. The abolition The Duke of Clarence made a handsome of the slave trade was a most glorious apology for what he had said on Mr. Wilwork; it was the work of humanity, of berforce: he respected that gentleman's freedom, and of justices Our slave trade very high character, and certainly meant had nothing to do with the French Revo- him no personal or political insult. lution, and therefore he should give the The Bishop of St. David's said, that motion his decided negative.
though neither a correspondent with ConThe Duke of. Clarence thought it would dorcet, an admirer of French republibe impolitic and unjust to abolish the canism, or a friend to fanatics, yet he slave trade. He went into the merits of conceived that, before war was declared the trade, the immense capital that was against France, he might communicate employed, and the consequences that must by letter with a man of sense, talk familiensue from putting a stop to that which arly with a dissenter, and converse on ages had confirmed as highly beneficial philosophy, without losing an atom of to this country. The business of this sort , that veneration he had for our mixed of freedom was begun by a Mr. Ramsay, monarchical government, or forfeiting an who was one of the most tyrannical men iota of his firm allegiance to the king, that ever governed a plantation in the and his true friendship for the constitution. West Indies, but who, philosophied by But it so happened that he had no corresthose new-fangled principles of liberty, pondents in France, and that he detested which had deluged Europe with blood, from his heart the principle which it was became now as great a tyrant to order now evident actuated this rebellion. He and good government as he was before to was, however, a friend to the bill for abo. justice, moderation, and true liberty. His lishing the slave trade, and having sturoyal highness asserted that the promoters died the whole of the evidence on that of the abolition were either fanatics or hy- subject, and in a great measure made up pocrites, and in one of those classes he his mind upon it, he should certainly give ranked Mr. Wilberforce. That French his negative to the motion made by the politics did interfere with the opinions noble earl. and arguments of British senators, he The Earl of Mansfield hoped the noble should be able to prove by a letter from earl would withdraw his motion, and not lord Stanhope to citizen Condorcet. This take the sense of the House upon it. letter he read. It contained congratula- The Earl of Abingdon agreed to withtions to the French republican on the draw his motion. turn which the slave trade was likely to take, and the victory obtained in the Debate in the Commons on the Renewal House of Commons over the opponents of the East India Company's Charter. ] to freedom. It also mentioned with joy April 23. The House having resolved that the day was arriving when liberty into a committee to take into considerawould triumph, and monarchical tyranny tion the petition of the East India Combe every where exploded and crushed. pany relative to the Renewal of their
Lord Grenville took up in a very se- Charter, rious manner, the attack made on Mr. Mr. Dundas introduced his observations Wilberforce-á gentleman who was an upon the important national subject of ornament to human nature. The epithets the British government and trade in the of fanatic or hypocrite did not belong to East Indies, by stating, that the difficulhim: he had taken up the business with ties which he had experienced had arisen, a spirit that flowed from justice, and had not only from the importance and maguipersevered in it with an assiduity that did tude of the subject, but from the system credit to his heart as well as his head. which he was to propose being in oppo
There was little doubt, but that in the end sition to established" theories in governthe noble object of his pursuit would be ment and in commerce. These theories, crowned with success. "In respect to the he admitted, were just and applicable to motion, it certainly should have his dis- other cases, and yet he found it dangersent; because it was not giving a fair ous to listen to them, when he was devischance to the business; and it would be ing a plan of government and a system of trade for British India. “No writer upon is thus, on the one hand, increased, by political economy (he said) has as yet the export of produce and manufactures, supposed that an extensive empire can be and the consumption of these manufacadministered by a commercial association; tures enlarged by the number of persons and no writer on commercial economy has returning with fortunes from India, or thought, that trade ought to be shackled who are supported by the trade and reveby an exclusive privilege. In deviating nues of India ; and on the other, it is fosfrom these principles, which have been tered and encouraged by the import of the admitted and admired, I am sensible, that raw materials from India, upon which my opinions have popular prejudices many of our most valuable manufactures against them, but I am supported by suco depend. In short, the receipts and paycessful experience; and when the House ments of the East India company amount adverts to the peculiarities of the subject annually to more than six millions sterbefore them, they will at once see, that ling: I am not attempting to overturn theories, Having made these observations, Mr. though I am unwilling to recede from old Dundas brought forward the general quesand established practice. I wish, in the tion_Upon what principle ought the state outset, to arrest the attention of the to govern its Indian possessions? And House, and to fix it on the advantages under what regulations ought the trade which Great Britain actually possesses, to the East Indies to be conducted ? " He and then to ask, whether it would be wise wished if it were possible, to state sepaor politic to forego them in search of rately his observations upon the two great greater advantages which may exist only points comprehended in this question ; in imagination? It would be idle, it would, but he found that it would be impracticaperhaps, be a proof of ignorance, to main- ble to explain his ideas of the government, tain that all the advantages which Great without frequently referring to the conBritain possesses from its connexion with nexion established between it and the India, arise out of the present exclusive trade. Mr. Dundas then stated the naprivilege of the company; but it would be ture of the present government of India ; rash, and, perhaps, impossible to say, what that it was vested in a corporation under might be the political or commercial ef- the control of the executive power, and fects of a variation from the present sys- the superintending authority of parliatem. In an age of enterprise and improve ment, and that the experience of nine years ment, men are unwilling to hear of re. had justified this system, and induced him straints; but the wisdom of the British par- to propose to the consideration of the liament will not rashly relinquish a positive House the continuance of it. “ There good in possession, for a probable one in were (he said) facts and events respecting anticipation.” Mr. Dundas then stated, which there could be no difference of opithat the shipping employed by the East nion. India, or the country in HindosIndia company amounted to 81,000 tons; tan governed by Britain, is in a state of that the seamen navigating those ships prosperity unknown to it under the most were about 7,000 men, who had constant wise and politic of its ancient soveemployment; that the raw materials im- reigns. The British possessions compared ported from India, for the use of the home with those of the neighbouring states in manufactures, amounted annually to about the peninsula, are like a cultivated gar700,000%; that the various articles of den compared with the field of the slugBritish produce and manufacture annually gard. The revenues of India have been exported to India and China, in the com- increased, and the trade connected with pany's ships, amounted to upwards of a them is in a state of progressive improvemillion and a half sterling, including the ment. A war, as inevitable as it was poexports in private trade allowed to indivi- litic, has been conducted with vigour and duals ; that the fortunes of individuals ac- brought to an honourable and advantagequired in India, and remitted home through ous conclusion. Should it here be said, the medium of private trade, by bills on that the company is an improper instruthe court of directors, or by other means, ment for the management of an empire: formed an addition to the capital of the I would (if they were not under the connation, the amount of which could not trol of the executive power and the superbe accurately ascertained, but might be intendance of parliament) readily admit stated, at least, at a million per annum. the force of the argument; but if I find “ The industry of Britain (he observed) them to be an organ of government, and