Слике страница

satisfied himself of their truth. This done, with unflinching firmness he supported Mr. Huskisson, in his wise and cautious application of tnose principles to the affairs of this country; and there can be no doubt that the determined spirit, thus displayed, was of the greatest assistance to that Minister, in enabling him to carry through his measures, and to bear up against the torrent of unmanly abuse, with which his opponents assailed his character, both as a man, and as a statesman.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The topicks of Slave Trade, Slavery, and the North-West Coast of America, to which this chapter is dedicated, are so little connected with the subject matter of the other parts of this work, that it would have been unnecessary to touch upon them, had not Mr. Canning taken too active a part respecting them, to allow of their being passed by without some notice.

1. Slave Trade. — The avidity with which Mr. Canning grasped at every opportunity to effect throughout the world the total abolition of the Slave Trade has on more than one occasion been mentioned. He had scarcely held office a week when he made his first effort at the Congress of Verona, but, it will be remembered, little or nothing was there effected. The three great military Powers looked with indifference upon a

question which did not affect their own immediate interests; and to the discredit of the French Government, although that Country was pledged, in 1815, to the abolition of the trade, it not only connived at its being carried on, but even in the ports of France herself, ships were allowed to be fitted out with all the horrid paraphernalia, necessary for the accursed traffick.

From the New States of Spanish America Mr. Canning obtained what he desired : they bound themselves to its abolition ; and with Brazil, whose consent to its extinction was of all countries the most important, Mr. Canning's efforts were crowned with a success which, alas! he himself did not live to witness. For it was not till the 17th of August 1827, that the Brazilian Government, agreed to abolish all Slavetrading after 1830, and to decree that those of its subjects who should be engaged in it, should be treated as Pirates.

Mr. Canning likewise negotiated a convention with the Ministers of the United States, by which was mutually conceded a qualified right of reciprocal search, and seizure, of those vessels, belonging to either country, suspected of carrying on the trade. The preamble of the convention stated that, by the laws of both countries Slavetrading had been declared piracy — an act of Parliament being passed, the day on which the convention was signed, to that effect. The American Senate, however, refused to ratify this convention ; not from the least disposition to favour the trade, but from a suspicious fear of any collision between the armed vessels of the two Countries.

From Portugal, the only Country in Europe which had refused to abolish the trade, Mr. Canning also obtained a promise that in the new treaty, then shortly about to be negotiated, an article should be inserted, “ bind

ing herself to its total abolition in her own “ dominions, and to co-operation with Great “ Britain for its total extinction.”

Upon the whole, therefore, it appears that Mr. Canning, during the time that he was in office, made very considerable progress in this humane work, for the commencement of which by this Country he had invariably been one of the sincerest, and warmest advocates.

2. Slavery. The abolition of the Slave Trade was the first step towards the annihilation of Slavery itself. Nevertheless when the discus- . sions took place respecting it, the abolitionists studiously disclaimed the ulterior purpose of emancipation ; not, however, on the ground of being content to purchase the one at the expense of for ever perpetuating the other, but because they held that the extinction of the Slave Trade ought to be argued exclusively on its own merits, and not in connexion with eman

[ocr errors]

cipation ; a measure which, however desirable in itself, was not, they asserted, by any means a necessary consequence of that extinction. Nevertheless it cannot be denied that the measure of cutting off the supplies of slaves was well calculated, by increasing the value of those then existing, to secure for them a proportionable increase of care and consideration. The cessation of the British Slave Trade in fact did produce this effect for the Slaves in the British Colonies, and it is certain that their condition was very considerably ameliorated from 1807, the year in which the abolition passed, to 1822, at which time Mr. Canning became leader of the House of Commons. When this is asserted, it is not meant to deny that there were occasional instances of Slaves being treated with barbarous cruelty by their Masters; but it would be as erroneous to judge of the general treatment of the Negro population by these isolated cases of barbarity, as it would be to assert, that all English apprentices were tormented because some apprentices had been beaten or starved to death by their masters. It is a fact, which those who know the truth must admit, that the lot of the Negro slave in our Colonies is in many respects better than that of the working population of many Countries of Europe. If they are ill, their owners feed and nurse them; if they are

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ПретходнаНастави »