Final Act of the Congress of Vienna/Act XV

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ACT, No. XV.— Declaration of the Powers, on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, of the 8th February 1815.[1]
The plenipotentiaries of the powers that signed the treaty
The Treaty was drawn up in French as specified in the Article CXX of the General Treaty of the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna, as it was the lingua franca of diplomacy at the time.[2] This translation was laid before the British Parliament on 2 February 1816, with some additional formatting from the French original.

The Plenipotentiaries of the Powers who signed the Treaty of Paris of the 8th May 1814, assembled in conference,

Having taken into consideration that the commerce, known by the name of "the Slave Trade," has been considered, by just and enlightened men of all ages, as repugnant to the principles of humanity and universal morality; that the particular circumstances from which this commerce has originated, and the difficulty of abruptly arresting its progress, may have concealed, to a certain extent, what was odious in its continuance, but that at length the public voice, in all civilized countries, calls aloud for its prompt suppression; that since the character and the details of this traffic have been better known, and the evils of every kind which attend it, completely developed, several European governments have virtually come to the resolution of putting a stop to it, and that successively all the Powers possessing colonies in different parts of the world have acknowledged, either by legislative Acts, or by Treaties, or other formal engagements, the duty and necessity of abolishing it;

That by a separate Article of the late Treaty of Paris, Great Britain and France engaged to unite their efforts at the Congress of Vienna, to induce all the Powers of Christendom to proclaim the universal and definitive Abolition of the Slave Trade;

That the Plenipotentiaries assembled at this Congress cannot do greater credit to their mission, better fulfil their duty, and manifest the principles which actuate their august Sovereigns, than by endeavouring to carry this engagement into effect, and by proclaiming, in the name of their Sovereigns, their wish of putting an end to a scourge, which has so long desolated Africa, degraded Europe, and afflicted humanity;

The said Plenipotentiaries have agreed to open their deliberations, on the means of accomplishing so salutary an object, by a solemn Declaration of the principles which have governed them in this undertaking; accordingly, being duly authorized for this purpose, by the unanimous accession of their respective Courts to the principle laid down in the said Separate Article of the Treaty of Paris; they declare, in the face of Europe, that, considering the universal Abolition of the Slave Trade as a measure particularly worthy of their attention, conformable to the spirit of the times, and to the generous principles of their august Sovereigns, they are animated with the sincere desire of concurring in the roost prompt and effectual execution of this measure, by all the means at their disposal; and of acting, in the employment of these means, with all the zeal and perseverance which is due to so great and noble a cause.

Too well acquainted, however, with the sentiments of their Sovereigns, act to perceive, that however honourable may be their views, they cannot be attained without due regard to the interests, the habits, and even the prejudices of their subjects; the said Plenipotentiaries at the same time acknowledge that this general Declaration cannot prejudge the period that each particular Power may consider as most advisable for the definitive Abolition of the Slave Trade. Consequently, the determining the period when this trade is to cease universally, must be a subject of negotiation between the Powers; it being understood, however, that no proper means of securing its attainment, and of accelerating its progress, are to be neglected; and that the engagement reciprocally contracted in the present Declaration, between the Sovereigns who are parties to it, cannot be considered as completely fulfilled, until the period when complete success shall have crowned their united efforts.

In communicating this Declaration to the knowledge of Europe, and of all civilized countries, the said Plenipotentiaries hope to prevail on every other government, and particularly on those which, in abolishing the Slave Trade, have already manifested the same sentiments, to give them their support in a cause, the final triumph of which will be one of the noblest monuments of the age which embraced it, and which shall have brought it to a glorious termination.

Vienna the 8th of February 1815.

Signed Castlereagh.
Stewart, Lieut. Gen.
Wellington.
Nesselrode.
C. Lowenhielm.
Gomez Labrador.
Palmella.
Saldanha.
Lobo.
Humboldt.
Metternich.
Talleyrand.

Notes[edit]

  1. Hansard, The Parliamentary Debates from the Year 1803 to the Present Time …, Volume 32. 1 February to 6 March 1816, T.C. Hansard, 1816. pp. 200201.
  2. British Foreign Office British and Foreign State Papers. 1814—1815 Volume II. Compiled by the librarian and keeper of the papers, Foreign Office-London: James Rigway and Sons, Piccadilly, H.M.S.O., 1839. p 162. DECLARATION des 8 Puissances, tur rabolition de la Traite des Nègres.— Vienne, le 8 Février, 1815.