A commentary on the treaties
ENTERED INTO BETWEEN
HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTY,
HIS MOST FAITHFUL MAJESTY,
SIGNED AT LONDON, THE 28th OF JULY, 1817;
HIS BRITANNIC MAJE STY,
HIS CATHOLIC MAJ ESTY,
SIGNED AT MADRID, THE 23RD or SEPTEMBER, 1817;
HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTY, AND HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF THE NETHERLANDS‘
SIGNED AT THE HAGUE, THE 4TH MAY, 1818.
THE PURPOSE OF PREVENTING THEIR SUBJECTS FROM
ENGAGING IN ANY ILLICIT TRAFFIC IN SLAVES.
BY ROBERT THORPE, ESQ. LL.D.
PRINTED FOR LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME AND BROWN,
- PATERNOSTER ROW; RICHARDSON, OPPOSITE THE ROYAL
- EXCHANGE; RIDGEWAY, PICCADILLY; AND LLOYD, HAR-
- LEY STREET, CAVENDISH SQUARE.
THE Author regrets never having read the Treaties, on which he feels himself obliged to comment, ‘until last December, and the moment having arrived when information might be beneficial, he delivers it hastily, lest the opportunity should be lost.
On this occasion, it is not desirable that the Author should detail the melancholy accounts he has lately received of the present decided increase, and unrestricted state of the Slave Trade, or to enlarge fully on the imperative duty of the allied Sovereigns to constitute it piracy.
In the cause of philanthropy the humblest individual is listened to with, a predisposed desire to be convinced ,; but although the Author is ever zealous, watchful, and investigating, he will not obtrude himself unnecessarily; the Abolition is now consigned to Statesmen, to aid them to its ﬁnal accomplishment is the duty of every person, warm in the cause, and possessing matter that might be useful, under this impression, the Commentary on the Treaties is laid before the Public.
- CIrencester Place,
- Jan. 25, 1819.
When Great Britain, after a minute investigation, became satisﬁed that the Slave Trade was unjust, inhuman, and impolitic, she abolished it by Act of Parlinment; and being convinced the cultivation of Africa, and the civilization of its inhabitants, depended on the universal abolition of the sale of its people, her executive government mediated with every foreign state engaged in that horrible commerce, for its final renunciation, unﬁi the completion of the glorious undertaking had been nearly effected.
I am no doubt the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has laboured to gratify the wishes of the nation, the desire of the Prince Regent, and his own benevolent feelings, in bringing this inestimable work to perfection; therefore with real concern I feel myself, as an avowed advocate of the cause, called on publicly to state, that the treaties, lately ratified between Great Britain, Portugal, and Spain, must tend greatly to augment the traffic in slaves, and that the Commission Courts, about to be established under those treaties for the detection of an illicit trade, will become a legalized protection to that commerce, and the means of deterring any spirit of enterprise in our navy for its suppression.
I shall commence with the first in order of date. “The Treaty entered into between His Britannic Majesty and His Most Faithful Majesty, for the purpose of preventing their subjects from engaging in an illicit traffic in Slaves; signed at London, on the 28th day of July, 1817.” The declared object of this convention (as stated in the preamble) is “to employ effectual means to prevent Portuguese vessels trading in slaves, inconformity with the laws of Portugal and the existing treaties, from suffering any loss or hindrance from British cruizers ;" at the same time, to , preclude any necessity for an illicit trade, the treaty has allowed a most extensive range of the African coast, on the east and westside, south of the equator, in which this nefarious trade maybe pursued with impunity.
By the second article it is agreed, that “the territories in which the traffic in slaves continues to be permitted under the treaty of the 22d of January, 1815, to the subjects of His Most Faithful Majesty, are the following :”
“ 1st. The territories possessed by the Crown of Portugal upon the coast of Africa, to the south of the equator, that is to say, upon the eastern coast of Africa, the territory lying between Cape Delgado and the Bay of Lourenco Marques; and upon the western coast, all that which is. situated from the eighth to the eighteenth degree of south latitude.”
“ 2d. Those territories on the coast of Africa to the south of the equator, over which His Most Faithful Majesty has declared, that be has retained his rights, namely,”
“ The territories of Molembo and Cabinda, upon the eastern coast of Africa, from the 5th degree, 12 min. to the 8th degree, south latitude.”
Here it is necessary to observe, that in the avidity with which His Faithful Majesty seizes possessions in Africa, he does not even pause to consider where they are situated, for Molembo and Cabinda are on the western, not on the eastern coast; and allowing this to have been a mistake, it may be worthy of remark, that between latitudes five and eight south, on the west coast lies the great kingdom of Congo, over which His Faithful Majesty possesses just as much jurisdiction, as he does over Siberia, yet he assumes the right of plunging its inhabitants into interminable slavery, for the purpose of administering to the indolence, the riches, and the criminal gratiﬁcations of the inhabitants of Brazil. Before I leave this article, I must try to ﬁx the reader's attention more particularly on the space allowed for trade: from Cape Delgado to the Bay of Lourenco on the eastern coast, embraces an extent of nearly twenty degrees of latitude and longitude, and from Cabinda to Cape Negro on the western coast, exceeds thirteen degrees of latitude, so that by this treaty we sanction His Faithful Majesty’s claim to twenty times more dominion in Africa than he really possesses; (for he has but one fort on the eastern and two on the western side,) and to an extant of coast far surpassing that of the Brazils.
Bounded ambition, and extensive humanity, having induced His Faithful Majesty thus to contract the sphere in which his pious subjects shall exercise this laudable traffic, Great Britain has thought it Only just to bestow on him a boon of three hundred thousand pounds sterling, for relinquishing the trade in Africa, north of the equator, after having already nearly desolated its western coast!!
Article 5. “ The two high contracting' powers, for the more complete attainment of' their object, namely, the prevention of all illicit traffic in slaves; On the part of their respective subjects, mutually consent, that the ships of war of their royal navies, which shall be provided with special instructions for this purpose, as hereinafter provided, may visit such merchant vessels of the two nations, as may be suspected, upon reasonable, grounds, of having slaves on board, acquired by an illicit traffic ; and, in the event only of their actually finding slaves on board may detain and bring away such vessels, in order that they may be brought to trial before the tribunals established for this purpose, as shall hereinafter be specified."
“ Provided always, that the commanders of the ships of war of the two royal navies, who shall be employed on this service, shall adhere strictly to the exact tenor of the instructions which they shall have received for this purpose.”