Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/239

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223
SLAVERY


Indies, and for the discouragement of the slave trade on the coast of Africa." This was the first society established in England for the purpose. The Quakers in America had taken action on the subject still earlier than those in England. The Pennsylvanian Quakers advised their members against the trade in 1696; in 1754 they issued to their brethren a strong dissuasive against encouraging it in any manner; in 1774 all persons concerned in the traffic, and in 1776 all slave holders who would not emancipate their slaves, were excluded from membership. The Quakers in the other American provinces followed the lead of their brethren in Pennsylvania. The individuals among the American Quakers who laboured most earnestly and indefatigably on behalf of the Africans were John Woolman (1720–1773) and Anthony Benezet (1713–1784), the latter a son of a French Huguenot driven from France by the revocation of the edict of Nantes. The former confined his efforts chiefly to America and indeed to his coreligionists there; the latter sought, not without success, to found a universal propaganda in favour of abolition. A Pennsylvanian society was formed in 1774 by James Pemberton and Dr Benjamin Rush, and in 1787 (after the war) was recon- structed on an enlarged basis under the presidency of Franklin. Other similar associations were founded about the same time in different parts of the United States. The next important movement took place in England. Dr Peckard, vice-chancellor of the university of Cambridge, who entertained strong con- victions against the slave trade, proposed in 1785 as subject for a Latin prize dissertation the question, “An liceat invitos in servitutem dare.” Thomas Clarkson obtained the first prize, translated his essay into English in an expanded form, and published it in 1786 with the title Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species. In the process of its publication he was brought into contact with several persons already deeply interested in the question; amongst others with Granville Sharp, William Dillwyn (an American by birth, who had known Benezet), and the Rev. James Ramsay, who had lived nineteen years in St Christopher, and had published an Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of the African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies. The distribution of Clarkson's book led to his forming connexions with many persons of influence, and especially with William Wilberforce (q.v.). A committee was formed on the 22nd of May 1787 for the abolition of the slave trade, under the presidency of Granville Sharp. It is unquestionable that the principal motive power which originated and sustained their efforts was Christian principle and feeling. The most earnest and unremitting exertions were made by the persons so associated in investigating facts and collecting evidence, in forming branch committees and procuring petitions, information and support of those who pleaded the cause in parliament. To the original members were afterwards added several remarkable persons, amongst whom were Josiah Wedgwood, Bennet Langton (Dr Johnson's' friend), and, later, Zachary Macaulay, Henry Brougham and James Stephen.

In consequence of the numerous petitions presented to parliament, a committee of privy council was appointed by the crown in 1788 to inquire concerning the slave trade; and Pitt moved that the House of Commons should early in the next session take the subject into consideration. Wilberforce's first motion for a committee of the whole House upon the question was made on the 19th of March 1789, and this committee proceeded to business on the 12th of May of the same year. After an admirable speech, Wilberforce laid on the table twelve resolutions which were intended as the basis of a future motion for the abolition of the trade. The discussion of these was postponed to the next session, and in 1790–1791 evidence was taken upon them. At length, on the 18th of April of the latter year, a motion was made for the introduction of a bill to prevent the further importation of slaves into the British colonies in the West Indies. Opinion had been prejudiced by the insurrections in St Domingo and Martinique, and in the British island of Dominica; and the motion was defeated by 163 votes against 88. Legislative sanction was, however, given to the establishment of the Sierra Leone Company, for the colonization of a district on the west coast of Africa and the discouragement of the slave trade there. It was hoped at the time that that place would become the centre from which the civilization of Africa would proceed; but this expectation was not fulfilled. On the 2nd of April 1792 Wilberforce again moved that the trade ought to be abolished; an amendment in favour of gradual abolition was carried, and it was finally resolved that the trade should cease on the 1st of January 1796. When a similar motion was brought forward in the Lords the consideration of it was postponed to the following year, in order to give time for the examination of witnesses by a committee of the House. A bill in the Commons in the following year to abolish that part of the trade by which British merchants supplied foreign settlements with slaves was lost on the third reading; it was renewed in the Commons in 1794 and carried there, but defeated in the Lords. Then followed several years during which efforts were made by the abolitionists in parliament with little success. But in 1806, Lord Grenville and Fox having come into power, a bill was passed in both Houses to put an end to the British slave trade for foreign supply, and to forbid the importation of slaves into the colonies won by the British arms in the course of the war. On the 10th of June of the same year Fox brought forward a resolution " that effectual measures should be taken for the abolition of the African slave trade in such a manner and at such a period as should be deemed advisable," which was carried by a large majority. A similar resolution was successful in the House of Lords. A bill was then passed through both Houses forbidding the employment of any new vessel in the trade. Finally, in 1807, a bill was presented by Lord Grenville in the House of Lords providing for the abolition of the trade, was' passed by a large majority, was then sent to the Commons (where it was moved by Lord Howick), was there amended and passed, and received the royal assent on the 25th of March. The bill enacted that no vessel should clear out for slaves from any port within the British dominions after the 1st of May 1807, and that no slave should be landed in the colonies after the 1st of March 1808.

In 1807 the African Institution was formed, with the primary objects of keeping a vigilant watch on the slave traders and procuring, if possible, the abolition of the slave trade by the other European nations. It was also to be made an instrument for promoting the instruction of the negro races and diffusing information respecting the African continent.

The Act of 1807 was habitually violated, as the traders knew that, if one voyage in three was successful, they were abundantly remunerated for their losses. This state of things, it was plain, must continue as long as the trade was only a contraband commerce, involving merely pecuniary penalties. Accordingly, in 1811, Brougham carried through parliament a bill declaring the traffic to be a felony punishable with transportation., Some years later another act was passed, making it a capital offence; but this was afterwards repealed. The law of 1811 proved effectual and brought the slave trade to an end so far as the British dominions were concerned. Mauritius, indeed, continued it for a time. That island, which had been ceded by France in 1810, three years after the abolition, had special facilities for escaping observation in consequence of the proximity of the African coast; but it was soon obliged to conform.

The abolition of the French slave trade was preceded by struggles, and excesses. The western part of St Domingo, nominally belonging to Spain, had been occupied by buccaneers, who were recognized and supported by the French government, and Prance. had been ceded to France at the France.peace of Ryswick in 1697. So vast was the annual importation of enslaved negroes into this colony before 1791 that the ratio of the blacks to the whites was as 16 to 1. In that year there were in French St Domingo 480,000 blacks, 24,000 mulattoes and only 30,000 whites. The French law for the regulation of slavery in the plantations, known as the Code Noir (framed under Louis XIV. in 1685), was humane in its spirit; but we are informed that its provisions were habitually disregarded by the planters, whilst the free mulattoes laboured under serious grievances and were exposed to irritating indignities. A “Société des Amis des Noirs” was formed in Paris in 1788 for' the abolition, not only of the slave trade, but of slavery itself. The president was Condorcet, and amongst the members were the due de la Rochefoucault, the Abbé Gregoire, Brissot, Clavière, Pétion and La Fayette; Mirabeau was an active sympathizer. The great motor