« PreviousContinue »
Lord Ashburton to the Earl of Aberdeen.—(Received May 11.) (Extract.)
Washington, April 25, 1842. I BEGIN with our relations with this country with regard to the Slave Trade, and the so-called Right of Search or Visit;; and I do so because I have a communication to make on this subject which I am sure will give your Lordship great satisfaction.
Your Lordship’s last letter to Mr. Everett, which has been published here only since the arrival of the “Great Western," has with all reasonable persons settled this controversy. But still there remains the clamour about the right of search, liberty of the seas, &c., which has been sounded through the country: and many who are better informed, entertain the idea that the French Chambers have made their opposition in support of America, and that therefore it does not become this country to abandon the cause. Any efficient right of search would, however, with difficulty be conceded; and I need not add that the practice of visitation, limited as it now is, would give little practical remedy against the tricks of the slave traders. Considering this state of things, I put it to several persons of influence, what remedy they could suggest, and whether America could remain in the position of refusing all remedy against crimes which they had been the most vehement to denounce, and of the existence of which they could not doubt. This view of the case has brought Mr. Webster to the consideration of a scheme for joint cruizing on the coast of Africa, on the plan suggested by the Commissioners at Sierra Leone in their Report to Lord Palmerston, of the 31st of January, 1839, and by his Lordship's order communicated by Mr. Fox to Mr. Forsyth in his note of the 29th of October of the same year. . . It is proposed that each country shall engage to maintain at least
cruizers on the coast of Africa, one of each nation to cruize constantly together, or, to use the expression of the Commissioners, to hunt in couples.
This plan would be executing on a larger scale the arrangement made between Captain Tucker and the American Lieutenant Payne, which was afterwards disavowed; and I have the satisfaction of adding, that this same Lieutenant Payne has been ordered here with a view to a consultation with the Navy Department as to the best scheme for executing this arrangement.
If this arrangement can be brought to execution by treaty I shall consider it to be the very best fruit of this mission. The vexed question of the Right of Visit will settle itself under this arrangement, and if any formal assurance becomes necessary from me in consequence of my special mission, I shall strictly take for my guide your Lordship's last despatch to Mr. Everett, which leaves nothing to be desired or altered.
The Earl of Aberdeen to Lord Ashburton. (Extract.)
Foreign Office, May 26, 1842 ITH reference to that portion of your Lordship's despatch of the 25th of April, which relates to the Right of Search, and to a scheme of joint cruizing on the coast of Africa for the suppression of the Slave Trade carried on in American vessels, I have to inform you, that if you should not find it possible to induce the Government of the United States to become a party to any Convention conferring a mutual Right of Search, Her Majesty's Government would willingly accede to an arrangement of the nature described in your Lordship's despatch.
Your Lordship has already been furnished with a return, showing the amount of the British naval force on the African coast. In the event
of such an arrangement taking place, it is not to be expected that the American cruizers will be made equal to the whole number of the British ;' but it will be very desirable that they should be as nearly so as possible; and you will use your utmost endeavours to induce the Government of Washington to employ such a force in this service as may effectually and at once put down the trade in slaves, wherever carried on by citizens or vessels of the United States, or by natives of other countries fraudulently sheltering themselves under the Flag of the Union.
Whatever may be the amount of force employed, it will be essentially necessary that the officers in command of the cruizers of the United States should act under instructions of the same nature as those which, in the British service, are founded upon the equipment articles contained in all Treaties lately concluded between Great Britain and Foreign Powers for the suppression of Slave Trade; so that an American cruizer shall have authority to detain and carry to trial, vessels of its own nation, as well for slave equipment, as for the actual presence of slaves on board.
Further than this, Her Majesty's Government do not consider it necessary to lay down any rule for your Lordship's guidance in the details of the Treaty. It will be a source of sincere satisfaction to them if, in default of a more extended Convention, you should be able to bring the proposed arrangement to a successful conclusion.
No. 4. Lord Ashburton to the Earl of Aberdeen.—(Received May 30.) (Extract.)
Washington, May 12, 1842. ON the important subject of effectually suppressing the Slave Trade by cooperation, I hope I am making very valuable progress. Your Lordship will find herewith the report of the two American naval officers in reply to certain queries put to them by the Secretary of State on the subject of the African Slave Trade, and the best means of suppressing it. This is a most valuable document. It is written by men of honour, impartiality, and experience, and will show, I believe, that they agree with the general view of the best informed persons of our own country on this subject. With this business I trust your Lordship's instructions in reply to my last despatches will enable me to proceed. Nothing has been done towards framing the Article for cooperation, but it is intended to engage for the employment of a given joint force, leaving to the commanders of it the settlement of their plans of acting. Mr. Webster seemed to think the amount of force to be employed rather large, but has no objection to the United States supporting their half of it. I apprehend that, with respect to the amount of this force, I may safely leave them to please themselves,
Inclosure in No. 4.
Report of Naval Officers to the Government of the United States respecting
Slave Trade. Sir,
Washington City, May 10, 1842. IN accordance with the wishes expressed in your communication of the 30th ultimo, we have the honour to submit the following statement:
In reply to the first particular, viz.:• “The extent of the western coast of Africa, along which the Slave
Trade is supposed to be carried on, with the rivers, creeks, inlets, bays, harbours, or ports of the coast to which it is understood slave-ships most frequently resort.”
. The Slave Trade, from Western Africa to America, is carried on wholly between Senegal, lat. 16° north, longitude 161° west; and Cape
Frio, in lat. 18° south, longitude 12° east, a space (following the windings of the coast at the distance of three or four miles) of more than 3,600 miles.
There are scattered along the coast five English, four French, five American, six Portuguese, six or eight Dutch, and four or five Danish settlements; besides many which have been abandoned by their respective Governments.
These settlements are generally isolated; many of them only a fortress without any town, while a few. are clusters of villages and farms.
The British, French, and particularly the American settlements exercise an important influence in suppressing the Slave Trade.
The influence of the Danes and Dutch is not material.
The Portuguese influence is supposed to favour the continuance of the trade, except the counter influence of the British, through treaty stipulations.
North of the Portuguese cluster of settlements, of which Bissao is the capital, and south of Benguela (also Portuguese), there is believed to be no probability of a revival of the Slave Trade to any extent.
This leaves about 3,000 miles of coast to which the trade (principally with Cuba, Portorico, and Brazil) is limited.
There are hundreds of trading places on the coast, calling themselves • factories,” and each claiming the protection of some civilized Power. Some of these were the sites of abandoned colonies, others have been established by trading companies or individuals.
The actual jurisdiction of a tribe on the coast seldom exceeds ten miles, though these small tribes are sometimes more or less perfectly associated for a greater distance.
Of these factories and tribes, a few have never been directly engaged in the Slave Trade, and are opposed to it; but the great preponderance is of the slave-trading interest.
To enumerate the rivers and inlets of the coast, would not convey a just idea of the slave country or practices; as the embarcation often takes place from the beach where there is no inlet, but we will state a few of the most noted.
Commencing at Cape Roxo, in lat. 12o. 30'. north, and running down the coast as far as the River Mellacoree, in lat. 9o. north, the Slave Trade is more or less carried on, but (in consequence of the vigilance of cruizers) not to the same extent it was a few years ago.
Another portion of the coast, from the limits of the Sierra Leone Colony to Cape Mount (a space including the mouths of six or more rivers) the Slave Trade is extensively prosecuted; here commences the jurisdiction of the American Colonization Society, which extends to Grand Bassa; there are several slave stations between Grand Bassa and Cape Palmas; for thence eastwardly to Cape Coast Castle, situated near the meridian of Greenwich, we believe there are no slave stations ; but eastward of this, and in the bights of Benin and Biafra, along the whole coast (which includes the mouths of the great rivers Benin or Formosa Nun, Old and New Calabar, Bonny, Camerons, Gaboon and Congo) with few exceptions, down to Benguela, in lat. 13°. south, the Slave Trade is carried on to a very great extent.
2nd. “ The space or belt along the shore, within which cruizers may be usefully employed, for the purpose of detecting vessels engaged in the
Men-of-war should always cruize as near the shore as the safety of the vessel will admit, in order to take advantage of the land and sea breezes. Twenty or thirty miles from the coast there are continual calms, where vessels are subject to vexatious delays; besides which, ships engaged in the Slave Trade keep close in with the land, in order to reach their places of destination.
3rd. 6. The general course of proceeding of a slave-ship, after leaving Brazil or the West Indies, on a voyage to the coast of Africa, for Slaves, including her manner of approach to the shore; her previous bargain or arrangement for the purchase of Slaves ; the time of her usual stay on or near the coast, and the means by which she has communication with persons on land ?”
Vessels bound from the coast of Brazil or the West Indies, to the coast of Africa, are obliged, in consequence of the trade winds, to run north as far as the latitude of 30 or 35, to get into the variable winds; thence to the eastward, until they reach the longitude of Cape Verd Islands; then steer to the southward to their port of destination ; and, if bound as far to the eastward as the Gulf of Guinea, usually make the land near Cape Mount or Cape Palmas. Vessels from Brazil, bound to the southern part of the coast of Africa, run south as far as the latitude of 35°. south, and make up their easting in the southern variables..
Slave vessels are generally owned or chartered by those persons who have an interest in the slave establishments on the coast of Africa, where the Slaves are collected and confined in baracoons, or slave prisons, ready for transhipment the moment the vessel arrives; they are, therefore, detained but a short time after arriving at their place of destination. Instances have come to our notice, of vessels arriving at a slave station in the evening, landing their cargo, taking on board all the Slaves, and sailing with the land-breeze the following morning.
. It is not unusual, however, for vessels unconnected with any parti. cular slave establishment, to make their purchases after arrival; if any delay is likely to occur, an agent is landed, and the vessel stands to sea and remains absent, for as long a time as may be thought necessary to complete their arrangements. The slavers communicate with the shore, either with their own boats, or boats and canoes belonging to the stations, assisted by the Kroomen in the employ of those on shore.
4th. “The nature of the stations, or baracoons, in which Slaves are collected on shore to be sold to the traders; whether usually on rivers, creeks or inlets, or on or near the open shore?”.
The slave-stations are variously situated : some near the mouth, others a considerable distance up the rivers, and many directly on the sea shore. The baracoons are thatched buildings, made sufficiently strong to secure the Slaves; and enough of them to contain, in some instances, several thousand.
The Slaves are collected by the negro chiefs in the vicinity, and sold to the persons in charge of the stations, where they are kept confined until an opportunity offers to ship them off.
Materials of all kinds necessary to convert a common trader into a slave-ship are kept on hand, and the change can be completed in a few hours. À number of Kroomen are employed, and boats and canoes ready for immediate service.
The slave stations are generally fortified with canon and muskets, not only to guard against a rising of the slaves, but to protect them from sudden attacks of the natives in the vicinity, and to command their respect.
5th. “The usual articles of equipment and preparation, and the manner of fitting up, by which a vessel is known to be a slaver, though not caught with Slaves on board ?”
Vessels engaged in the Slave Trade are either fitted up with a slave. deck, or have. the materials on board prepared to put one up in a few hours. Their hatches, instead of being close, as is usual in merchantmen, have gratings; they are supplied with boilers sufficiently large to cook rice or farhina for the number of Slaves they expect to receive; an extra number of water-casks, many more than are sufficient for a common Crew ; also a number of shackles to secure their Slaves.
- Most of these articles, however, are concealed; and everything is done to disguise the vessel. It is not unusual for them to have several sets of papers, two or more persons representing themselves as captains or masters of the vessel, and flags of all nations. Every devise is resorted to, to deceive, should they encounter a cruizer. • Some are armed with only a few muskets, others have a number of heavy guns, according to the size of the vessel; and they range from sixty to four hundred tons burden, with crews from ten to upwards of one hundred men.
6th. “ The utility of employing vessels of different nations to cruize together, so that one or the other might have a right to visit and search every vessel, which might be met with under suspicious circumstances, either as belonging to the country of the vessel visiting or searching, or to some other country which has, by treaty, conceded such right of visitation and search ?”. ! We are of opinion, that a squadron should be kept on the coast of Africa, to co-operate with the British, or other nations interested in stopping the Slave Trade; and that the most efficient mode would be, for vessels to cruize in couples, one of each nation.
7th. “ To what places Slaves, taken from slave-ships on the coast, could be most conveniently taken ?”
If captured under the American flag, send them to Cape Mesurado, Liberia ; or, if convenient, to such other of the American settlements as the agent for the United States there may wish.
. 8th. “Finally, what number of vessels, and of what size and description, it would be necessary to employ on the western coast of Africa, in order to put an entire end to the traffic in Slaves; and for what number of years it wouid probably be necessary to maintain such force to accomplish that purpose; adding such observations as the state of your knowledge may allow, relative to the Slave Trade on the eastern coast of Africa ?”
As our personal knowledge of the coast extends to only that part of it comprised between Cape Verd and Cape Palmas, it is difficult to state the exact force required for this service; not less, however, than the following, we think necessary:
One first-class sloop-of-war.
All the vessels to have one-tenth less than their complements of men, to be filled up with Kroomen on their arrival on the coast.
A steamer (to be fitted up, if possible, to burn either wood or coal, as circumstances require) will be essentially necessary.
That part of the coast of Africa from which Slaves are exported, is subject to light winds and calms; a steamer propelled at the rate of six miles an hour, could easily overtake the fastest sailing vessels; and would be a great auxiliary in ascending rivers and towing boats, in order to attack slave stations. Less duty is performed by sailing cruizers on this coast than on any other we are acquainted with, from the reasons just stated; and the importance of steam-vessels is much increased by this difficulty.
We cannot state confidently how long such force would be necessary, but we are of opinion that in three years the trade would be so far destroyed, as to enable the United States to withdraw a greater part, while a small force of observation would be necessary, until the natives had become accustomed to other occupations, and lost all hope of again engaging in the traffic.
In connection with this subject, we beg leave to remark, that the American fair trader is sometimes obstructed in the most vexatious manner by armed British merchantmen, sustained by British cruizers.