Page:The slave trade of east Africa.djvu/10

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

6

whom he had concerted his first measure, avowing his opinion that it was wiser to await more tranquil times before the trade could be abolished. Again and again did Mr. Wilberforce return to the attack. His perseverance was at length rewarded, and the House of Commons for the first time passed a Bill, in 1794, for the immediate abolition of the trade. This Bill was lost in the House of Lords; and in succeeding Sessions Mr. Wilberforce laboured zealously, though ineffectually, to induce the House of Commons to resume the ground they had already occupied. Defeat followed defeat, and the contest, which had lasted for twelve years, seemed for a while to leave the advocates of slavery the masters of the field. In 1802, however, Mr. Wilberforce resumed his attempt, though under most discouraging circumstances. A second time did the Bill pass the Commons, only to be hung up in the Lords, and the question was adjourned to the following Session. The next effort was foiled; the House of Commons, in 1805, rejecting the Bill, inflicting upon Mr. Wilberforce distress and pain beyond that suffered on any previous defeat. But the impending change in the position of parties gave promise of hope. The Ministry of Mr. Fox had scarcely succeeded Mr. Pitt's Cabinet, when Bills were introduced into the Lords, and a Resolution carried in the Commons condemnatory of the trade; and finally, in 1807, the Bill was passed which condemned for ever the trade in slaves. Twenty-six years afterwards, the abolition of slavery in all British Dominions took place, and the example and influence of England soon secured from all European powers treaty-engagements by which trade in African slaves was declared to be piracy, and punishable as such. Under these treaties the African squadron was maintained, and mixed courts instituted at various ports around the African coast, for adjudging all cases of capture or seizure of vessels engaged in the trade. The watch maintained by the cruisers of the African squadron, and the energy and interest in the subject displayed by the late Lord Palmerston, have brought about the result we have adverted to, and true it is, so far as the West Coast of Africa is concerned, that the African Slave Trade is a thing of the past.