« AnteriorContinuar »
Continuance of Irish Insurrection Act.-Mr. Wilberforce's Motion for an Address to the Prince Regent relative to the Foreign Slave Trade.-Purliament closes.-Prince Regent's Speech.
IRISH INSURRECTION ACT.
or petit juries; and to sentence persons guilty of no greater crime
N June 13th the order of the than being absent from their
chief secretary for Ireland had laid before the House, in the last and present session, certain documents referring to disturbances in Ireland, the latter of which mentioned outrages which had occurred in the county of Louth. It was upon the last of these documents that the right hon. gentleman had called upon the House to continue these most severe and unconstitutional measures; but it was incumbent upon the House to exercise its inquisitorial powers, and to examine whether the disturbed state of only four baronies in one county of Ireland was a sufficiently strong case for such an expedient. The law was one of uncommon severity it went to create six new transportable offences; to enable the magistrates at sessions to proceed to trial without either grand
sunset, be trans
ported for seven years. But the right hon. gentleman, in palliation of his case, says, " the law is not general; the House may depend upon the moderation of the magistrates in requiring its enforcement, and upon the forbearance of government." But the occurrence in the county of Louth fully proved the disposition of the magistrates; for they were led to apply to government in consequence of a single outrage, which, though not of great enormity, had the effect of producing a compliance with their wishes. The continuance of the Insurrection Act appeared to the hon. member particularly objectionable, because it seemed to be one intended to complete the new system for the future government of Ireland. Though we were now in a state of peace with all the world, the right hon. gentleman had proceeded just as if we were in the midst of a war. He had first obtained an arms bill; he had then made his own particular law, the peace act, stronger than before; and he now aims at the continu. ance of the Insurrection Act.
The hon. baronet would not go so far as to say, that the facts produced
produced showed that the Insurrection bill was not necessary; but they certainly proved the propriety of making some inquiry before the measure was adopted. If a committee were appointed, he should himself be prepared to point out some means for strengthening the civil power. He concluded by moving, "that the bill be committed this day se'nnight." Mr. V. Fitzgerald said he could see no good ground for even a day's delay. The act had been passed by several successive parliaments, and no gentleman could be supposed ignorant of its contents; and being now near its expiration, it was thought neces sary to revive it, lest the government of Ireland should be divested of its present powers. The government proclamation applied only to Louth, but the outrage was to be considered as coupled with the general state of the country. Every day produced fresh outrages; and at length there was an unanimous request from the magistrates, and from a county meeting, after which the proclamation was issued.
Mr. Peel said, that he was led to attend to the county of Louth more particularly, because the disturbances which called for its exercise there, were more recently laid before the House, and the atrocities with which they were accompanied had made the deepest impression on the country. His argument was, that though the country was generally tranquil, yet if there was one part of it so disturbed that the laws could not be executed in their usual course, it was necessary to arm the government with this act, to
be exercised on its responsibility when the emergency arose. hon. baronet proposed that the bill should be suspended till farther inquiry should be made by a committee. For his own part he saw no reason for the appointment of such a committee. If there was a measure brought before Parliament on which it was competent to decide, without the delay of a committee, it was the present. There never camne before Parliament a case in which government had more clearly offered the grounds on which it called for permission to act upon its responsibility, and on which the House had received better means of judging whether it ought to be granted. The hon. baronet had said that the Insurrection Act was an evil, in which he (Mr. Peel) fully concurred; but unhappily there was now only a choice of evils; and was it better to give to government the power of preserving tranquillity even by a severe measure, or to allow the country to be converted into a scene of confusion by withholding the present act?
Sir W. Burroughs entered into an examination of the several clauses of the act, and commented in strong terms on its severity. He particularly dwelt upon the great disproportion between the numbers apprehended and the numbers convicted in the several counties; and argued, that as it was to be presumed that the petty sessions had done their duty, therefore all those acquitted had been justly acquitted, and had consequently been wrongfully arrested.
After some further discussions,
Sir H. Parnell's amendment was put and negatived. The House then resolved itself into a committee, when Sir W. Burroughs proposed to limit the duration of the bill to six weeks after the meeting of the next session of Parliament; which was negatived, and the duration was fixed at one year.
It does not appear that any further proceedings took place during the passage of this bill through either of the Houses.
FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE.
On July 9th, Mr. Wilberforce rose to bring forward a motion, the object of which was to give weight to the executive power in its negotiations with foreign countries. He lamented to say, that among those powers which had declared their intention of abolishing the Slave Trade, there were no appearances of being disposed to carry the purpose into effect; and that the subjects of some of the powers were even engaged in carrying on this odious traffic. He was sorry to be obliged to state, that under the flag of America this trade was in some measure practised; that at Goree and Senegal it was vigorously pursued; that a charge had been brought in one instance against Holland; but that the great evil in which all others sunk into insignificance, was the trade now carried on for slaves by Portugal and Spain. The latter power seemed as if they alınost intended to ridicule our efforts for the amelioration of the state of Africa. When we had particularly chosen a part of the coast for our efforts in introducing civilization, the Spaniards for their
purposes fixed upon the very same spot; and in consequence, great numbers of natives of Spain, or others who sailed under the Spanish flag, now frequented that quarter. In places where schools had been established, and efforts had been made to induce the chieftains to supply their wants by peaceful industry and legitimate commerce, the Spaniards now came to persuade them to return to their old habits by selling their subjects, or making war upon their neighbours. Ships are crowded beyond all precedent. As the persons engaged in this illicit traffic were apprehensive of being taken, they constructed vessels not calculated for stowage, but for quick sailing, whence the miseries of these unKappy beings were increased. In an instance it had been stated, that of 540 negroes embarked, 340 had died. Of the slaves procured by the Spaniards, the greater part were sent to the Havannah. By a paper which had been obtained by the Cortes, it appeared that there had been imported into that colony in eleven years, from 1799 to 1811, about 110,000, or 10,000 per year; and in the three last years the importation was much greater. The Spanish and Portuguese flags formed also a cover for the illicit traders of other nations. It had been decided by high authority to be law, that though Portuguese vessels might be found trading for slaves in parts which they had renounced the right to trade to, they could not be made a prize unless they had intruded upon our possessions. The ships of Spain, when questioned, often defended themselves, or anticipated attack by aggression. They
had, indeed, committed acts of piracy of the most flagrant kind. They had driven away the native merchants from the coast, to keep it clear for their horrible traffic.
After some further observations, Mr. Wilberforce concluded with moving, "That an humble address be presented to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, most humbly to represent to his Royal Highness, that, in bringing to a close the other business of this session, a great and important duty stills remains to be performed by Parliament, that of again submitting to his Royal Highness, in the most dutiful but urgent terms, the expression of our continued and unceasing solicitude for the universal and final abolition of the African slave trade :
"That we are grateful for the efforts already made, and for the progress which we have had the happiness to witness, in the achievement of this great work: That we rejoice that, in all his Majesty's dominions, this wickedness is now for ever proscribed, and that our laws have stigmatized it by severe and ignominious punishment:
"That we have seen, with unspeakable satisfaction, that so many of the other nations, under whose flag this criminal traffic had formerly been protected, had now joined in the same prohibition, and have contracted with his Majesty, and with each other, the obligation of persevering in it, as in a duty from which they never can be released: and that our confident expectations of the universal adoption of that prohibition have been greatly confirmed and strengthened by that memorable
declaration which was promulgated by the plenipotentiaries of all the principal powers of Europe, assembled in their general congress; a declaration which well became the just and powerful sovereigns in whose names it was issued; proclaiming to their subjects and to the world, their deliberate conviction, that "the African slave trade is repugnant to the principles of humanity and of universal morality;" and adding to that avowal, the gracious and solemn assurance of their earnest desire "to put an end to a scourge which has so long desolated Africa, degraded Europe, and afflicted humanity :
"That we must indeed deeply regret, that practices acknowledged to be of such a character should, even for an hour, be continued, and even tolerated under the sanction of any civilized and Christian government; but that it is impossible for us to doubt of that ultimate determination by which these crimes and miseries will finally be terminated: this engagement has been deliberately taken, and publicly and unequivocally announced, and its performance is imperiously required by every motive of interest, and of honour, of humanity, and of justice :
"That we beg leave, however, with all humility, to represent to his Royal Highness, that the actual attainment of this great object can alone discharge our country from the obligation of pursuing it with unremitted attention and with daily increasing earnestness; and that we cannot disguise from ourselves the painful certainty, that the intermediate sus
pense and delay not only prolong, but greatly augment, the evil which we are thus labouring to remedy:
"That it appears to us but too notorious, that these crimes, hitherto partially checked by the prohibition of so many just governments, and by the abhorrence of all good men, are now again renewed, and are carried on with fresh, and continually increasing activity; that many of the subjects of those powers which have concurred in the abolition, are found, nevertheless, still to pursue the some nefarious course; that the stipulations by which other governments have consented to put limits to this evil, stipulations purchased by this country at the price of large sacrifices, are constantly, and almost openly disregarded; while the protection of the only remaining flag under which this wickedness can now be carried on without limit or restraint, and the intervention of the only nation to which its continuance is indiscriminately permitted, are used, not merely to protect this horrible traffic in the extent to which that people formerly pursued it, but as a sanction to its indefinite increase in their hands, and as a cover for the breach of the laws by which all other civilized communities have restrained their subjects from embarking in it:
"That, in humbly submitting these painful circumstances to the humane and enlightened consideration of his Royal Highness, we are sure it cannot be requisite to dwell upon the other and great evils which they necessarily involve that this state of things
has led, by manifest and necessary consequence, to a system of armed defiance and outrage, a system utterly destructive of all peaceful commerce, insulting to legitimate authority, and, in its effects and consequences, little, if at all, short of open piracy: that this system also impedes, or rather it altogether frustrates, the just and benevolent endeavours of those powers, who are labouring to introduce among the natives of Africa the arts, and habits of civilized life; is productive of perpetual contest and irritation, leading not unfrequently to open violence between his Majesty's ships and subjects, and those of the sovereigns in amity and alliance with this country; and continually endangers even those relations, the maintenance of which is of the utmost moment to their interests and to ours, as well as to the general repose and tranquillity of Europe :
"To represent to his Royal Highness, that being deeply impressed with the magnitude of all these considerations, we earnestly entreat his Royal Highness, that he will be pleased to pursue with unremitted activity, those negotiations into which he has already entered on this most momentous subject; that he will establish for this purpose the most effective concert with those sovereigns, whose just and benevolent principles respecting it, have already been announced to the world in concurrence with his own; and that he will leave no effort untried to bring the present evils to a speedy and immediate termination, and thereby to prevent the future and still greater mischiefs