Thomas Clarkson.

The History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade, by the British Parliament (1839) online

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Online LibraryThomas ClarksonThe History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade, by the British Parliament (1839) → online text (page 1 of 56)
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[Illustration: Thomas Clarkson]

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CHAPTER I Introduction. - Estimate of the evil of the Slave
Trade; and of the blessing of the Abolition of it. - Usefulness
of the contemplation of this subject

CHAPTER II Those, who favoured the cause of the Africans
previously to 1787, were so many necessary forerunners in
it. - Cardinal Ximenes; and others

CHAPTER III Forerunners continued to 1787; divided now into four
classes. - First consists of persons in England of various
descriptions, Godwyn, Baxter, and others

CHAPTER IV Second, of the Quakers in England, George Fox, and
his religious descendants

CHAPTER V Third, of the Quakers in America. - Union of these with
individuals of other religious denominations in the same cause

CHAPTER VI Facility of junction between the members of these
three different classes

CHAPTER VII Fourth, consists of Dr. Peckard; then of the
Author. - Author wishes to embark in the cause; falls in with
several of the members of these classes

CHAPTER VIII Fourth class continued; Langton, Baker, and
others. - Author now embarks in the cause as a business of his

CHAPTER IX Fourth class continued; Sheldon, Mackworth, and
others. - Author seeks for further information on the subject;
and visits Members of Parliament

CHAPTER X Fourth class continued. - Author enlarges his
knowledge. - Meeting at Mr. Wilberforce's. - Remarkable junction
of all the four classes, and a Committee formed out of them, in
May, 1787, for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

CHAPTER XI History of the preceding classes, and of their
junction, shown by means of a map.

CHAPTER XII Author endeavours to do away the charge of
ostentation in consequence of becoming so conspicuous in this

CHAPTER XIII Proceedings of the Committee; Emancipation declared
to be no part of its object. - Wrongs of Africa by Mr. Roscoe.

CHAPTER XIV Author visits Bristol to collect
information. - Ill-usage of seamen in the Slave Trade. - Articles
of African produce. - Massacre at Calabar.

CHAPTER XV Mode of procuring and paying seamen in that trade;
their mortality in it. - Construction and admeasurement of
slave-ships. - Difficulty of procuring evidence. - Cases of
Gardiner and Arnold.

CHAPTER XVI Author meets with Alexander Falconbridge; visits
ill-treated and disabled seamen; takes a mate out of one of the
slave-vessels, and puts another in prison for murder.

CHAPTER XVII Visits Liverpool. - Specimens of African
produce. - Dock duties. - Iron instruments used in the
traffic. - His introduction to Mr. Norris.

CHAPTER XVIII Manner of procuring and paying seamen at Liverpool
in the Slave Trade; their treatment and mortality. - Murder of
Peter Green. - Dangerous situation of the Author in consequence
of his inquiries.

CHAPTER XIX Author proceeds to Manchester; delivers a discourse
there on the subject of the Slave Trade. - Revisits Bristol; new
and difficult situation there; suddenly crosses the Severn at
night. - Returns to London.

CHAPTER XX Labours of the Committee during the Author's
journey. - Mr. Sharp elected chairman. - Seal engraved. - Letters
from different correspondents to the Committee.

CHAPTER XXI Further labours of the Committee to February,
1788. - List of new Correspondents.

CHAPTER XXII Progress of the cause to the middle of
May. - Petitions to Parliament. - Author's interviews with Mr.
Pitt and Mr. Grenville. - Privy Council inquire into the subject;
examine Liverpool delegates. - Proceedings of the Committee for
the Abolition. - Motion and Debate in the House of Commons;
discussion of the general question postponed to the next

CHAPTER XXIII Progress to the middle of July. - Bill to diminish
the horrors of the Middle Passage; Evidence examined against it;
Debates; Bill passed through both Houses. - Proceedings of the
Committee, and effects of them.

CHAPTER XXIV Continuation from June, 1788, to July,
1789. - Author travels in search of fresh evidence. - Privy
Council resume their examinations; prepare their
report. - Proceedings of the Committee for the Abolition; and of
the Planters and others. - Privy Council report laid on the table
of the House of Commons; debate upon it. - Twelve
propositions. - Opponents refuse to argue from the report;
examine new evidence of their own in the House of
Commons. - Renewal of the Middle Passage Bill. - Death and
character of Ramsay.

CHAPTER XXV Continuation from July, 1789, to July, 1790. - Author
travels to Paris to promote the abolition in France; his
proceedings there; returns to England. - Examination of
opponents' evidence resumed in the Commons. - Author travels in
quest of new evidence on the side of the Abolition; this, after
great opposition, introduced. - Renewal of the Middle Passage
Bill. - Section of the slave-ship. - Cowper's _Negro's
Complaint_. - Wedgewood's Cameos.

CHAPTER XXVI Continuation from July, 1790, to July,
1791. - Author travels again. - Examinations on the side of the
Abolition resumed in the Commons; list of those examined. - Cruel
circumstances of the times. - Motion for the Abolition of the
Trade; debates; motion lost. - Resolutions of the
Committee. - Sierra Leone Company established.

CHAPTER XXVII Continuation from July, 1791, to July,
1792. - Author travels again. - People begin to leave off sugar;
petition Parliament. - Motion renewed in the Commons; debates;
abolition resolved upon, but not to commence till 1796. - The
Lords determine upon hearing evidence on the resolution; this
evidence introduced; further hearing of it postponed to the next

CHAPTER XXVIII Continuation from July, 1792, to July,
1793. - Author travels again. - Motion to renew the Resolution of
the last year in the Commons; motion lost. - New motion to
abolish the foreign Slave Trade; motion lost. - Proceeding of the

CHAPTER XXIX Continuation from July, 1793, to July,
1794. - Author travels again. - Motion to abolish the foreign
Slave Trade renewed, and carried; but lost in the Lords; further
proceedings there. - Author, on account of declining health,
obliged to retire from the cause

CHAPTER XXX Continuation from July, 1794, to July,
1799. - Various motions within this period

CHAPTER XXXI Continuation from July, 1799, to July,
1805. - Various motions within this period

CHAPTER XXXII Continuation from July, 1805, to July,
1806. - Author, restored, joins the Committee again. - Death of
Mr. Pitt. - Foreign Slave Trade abolished. - Resolution to take
measures for the total abolition of the trade. - Address to the
King to negotiate with foreign powers for their concurrence in
it. - Motion to prevent new vessels going into the trade. - All
these carried through both Houses of Parliament

CHAPTER XXXIII Continuation from July, 1806, to July,
1807. - Death of Mr. Fox. - Bill for the total abolition carried
in the Lords; sent from thence to the Commons; amended, and
passed there, and sent back to the Lords; receives the royal
assent. - Reflections on this great event


Plan and Sections of a Slave Ship

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The invaluable services rendered by Thomas Clarkson to the great
question of the Slave Trade in all its branches, have been universally
acknowledged both at home and abroad, and have gained him a high place
among the greatest benefactors of mankind. The History of the Abolition
which this volume contains, affords some means of appreciating the
extent of his sacrifices and his labours in this cause. But after these,
with the unwearied exertions of William Wilberforce, had conducted its
friends to their final triumph, in 1807, they did not then rest from
their labours. There remained four most important objects, to which the
anxious attention of all Abolitionists was now directed.

_First_, - The law had been passed, forced upon the Planters, the
Traders, and the Parliament, by the voice of the people; and there was a
necessity for keeping a watchful eye over its execution.

_Secondly_, - The statute, however rigorously it might be enforced, left,
of course, the whole amount of the Foreign Slave traffic untouched, and
it was infinitely to be desired that means should be adopted for
extending our Abolition to other nations.

_Thirdly_, - Some compensation was due to Africa, for the countless
miseries which our criminal conduct had for ages inflicted upon her, and
strict justice, to say nothing of common humanity and Christian charity,
demanded that every means should be used for aiding in the progress of
her civilization, and effacing as far as possible the dreadful marks
which had been left upon her by our crimes.

_Lastly,_ - Many of those whom we had transported by fraud and violence
from their native country, and still more of the descendants of others
who had fallen a sacrifice to our cruelties, and perished in the course
of nature, slaves in a foreign land, remained to suffer the dreadful
evils of West India bondage. It seemed to follow, that the earliest
opportunity consistent with their own condition, should be taken to free
those unhappy beings, the victims of our sordid cruelty; and all the
more to be pitied, as we were all the more to be blamed, because one
result of our transgression was the having placed them in so unnatural a
position, that their enemies might seem to be furnished with an argument
more plausible than sound, drawn from the Negro's supposed unfitness for
immediate emancipation.

In order to promote these four great objects, a society was formed in
May 1807, called the African Institution, and although, at first, its
labours were chiefly directed to the portion of the subject relating to
Africa, by degrees, as the extinction of the British Slave Trade was
accomplished, its care was chiefly bestowed on West India matters, which
were more within the power of this country than the slave traffic, still
carried on by foreign nations. But it is necessary in the first place,
to recite the measures by which our own share in that enormous crime was
surrendered, and the stigma partially obliterated, which it had brought
upon our national character, Thomas Clarkson bore a forward and
important part in all these useful and virtuous proceedings. His health
was now, by rest among the Lakes of Westmoreland for several years,
comparatively restored and his mind once more bent itself to the
accomplishment of the grand object; of his life, we may he permitted
reverently to suggest, the end of his existence.

Mr. Stephen and others, at first, deemed the certainty of the Act passed
in March 1807, being evaded under the stimulus, and the insurance
against capture afforded by the enormous profits of the traffic, so
clear, that they expected the law to become, almost from the time of its
being enacted, a dead letter. There soon appeared the strongest reasons
to concur in this opinion, the result of long and close observation in
the Islands where Mr. Stephen had passed part of his life. The
slave-dealers knew the risk of penalty and forfeiture which they ran;
but they also knew that if one voyage in three or four was successful,
they were abundantly remunerated for all their losses; and, therefore,
they were no more restrained by the Abolition Act, than by any moderate
increase of the cost or the risk attending their wicked adventures. This
was sure, to be the case, as long as the law only treated slavetrading
as a contraband commerce, subjecting those who drove it to nothing but
pecuniary penalties. But it was equally evident that the same persons
who made these calculations of profit and risk, while they only could
lose the ship or the money by a seizure, would hesitate before they
encountered the hazard of being tried as for a crime. And, surely, if
ever these was an act which deserved to be declared felony, and dealt
with as such, it was this of slave-trading. Accordingly, in 1810, Mr.
Brougham, then a member of the House of Commons, in moving an address to
the crown, (which was unanimously agreed to,) for more vigorous measures
against the traffic, both British and Foreign, gave notice of the Bill,
which he next year carried through Parliament, and which declared the
traffic to be a felony, punishable with transportation. Some years
afterwards it was by another Act made capital, under the name of Piracy,
but this has since been repealed. Several convictions have taken place
under the former Act, (of 1811,) and there cannot be the least doubt
that the law has proved effectual, and that the Slave Trade has long
ceased to exist as far as the British dominions are concerned.

That foreign states continue shamefully to carry it on, is no less
certain. There are yearly transported to Cuba and Brazil, above 100,000
unhappy beings, by the two weakest nations in Europe, and these two most
entirely subject to the influence and even direct control of England.
The inevitable consequence is, that more misery is now inflicted on
Africa by the criminals, gently called Slave-traders, of these two
guilty nations, than if there were no treaties for the abolition of the
traffic. The number required is always carried over, and hence, as many
perish by a miserable death in escaping from the cruisers, as reach
their destination. The recitals of horror which have been made to
Parliament and the country on this dreadful subject, are enough to
curdle the blood in the veins and heart of any one endued with the
common feelings of humanity. The whole system of prevention, or rather
of capture, after the crime has been committed, seems framed with a view
to exasperate the evils of the infernal traffic, to scourge Africa with
more intolerable torments, and to make human blood be spilt like water.
Our cruisers, are excited to an active discharge of their duty, by the
benefit of sharing in the price fetched when the captured ship is
condemned and sold; but this is a small sum, indeed, compared with the
rich reward of head-money held out, being so much for every slave taken
on board. It is thus made the direct interest of these cruisers, that
the vessels should have their human cargoes on board, rather than be
prevented from shipping them. True, this vile policy may prove less
mischievous where no treaty exists, giving a right to seize when there
are no slaves in the vessel, because here a slave ship is suffered to
pass, how clear soever her destination might be; yet, even here, the
inducement to send in boats, and seize as soon as a slave or two may be
on board, is removed, and the cruiser is told, "only let all these
wretched beings be torn from their country, and safely lodged in the
vessel's hold, and your reward is great and sure." Then, whenever there
is an outfit clause, that is a power to seize vessels fitted for the
traffic, this mischievous plan tends directly to make the cruiser let
the slaver make ready and put to sea, or it has no tendency or meaning
at all. Accordingly, the course is for the cruiser to stand out to sea,
and not allow herself to be seen in the offing - the crime is
consummated - the slaves are stowed away - the pirate - captain weighs
anchor - the pirate-vessel freighted with victims, and manned by
criminals fares forth - the cruiser, the British cruiser, gives
chace - and then begin those scenes of horror, surpassing all that the
poet ever conceived, whose theme was the torments of the damned and the
wickedness of the fiends. Casks are filled with the slave, and in these
they are stowed away; or to lighten the vessel, they are flung overboard
by the score; sometimes they are flung overboard in casks, that the
chasing ship may be detained by endeavours to pick them up; the dying
and the dead strew the deck; women giving birth to the fruit of the
womb, amidst the corpses of their husbands and their children; and
other, yet worse and nameless atrocities, fill up the terrible picture,
of impotent justice and triumphant guilt. But the guilt is not all
Spanish and Portuguese. The English Government can enforce its demands
on the puny cabinets of Madrid and Lisbon, scarce conscious of a
substantive existence, in all that concerns our petty interests:
wherever justice and mercy to mankind demand our interference, there our
voice sinks within us, and no sound is uttered. That any treaty without
an outfit clause should be suffered to exist between powers so situated,
is an outrage upon all justice, all reason, all common sense. But one
thing is certain, that unless we are to go further, we have gone too
far, and must in mercy to hapless Africa retrace our steps. Unless we
really put the traffic down with a strong hand, and instantly, we must
instantly repeal the treaties that pretended to abolish it, for these
exacerbate the evil a hundred fold, and are ineffectual to any one
purpose but putting money into the pockets of our men of war. The fact
is as unquestionable, as it is appalling, that all our anxious
endeavours to extinguish the Foreign Slave Trade, have ended in making
it incomparably worse than it was before we pretended to put it down;
that owing to our efforts, there are thrice the number of slaves yearly
torn from Africa; and that wholly because of our efforts, two thirds of
these are murdered on the high seas and in the holds of the pirate

It is said, that when these scenes were described to an indignant nation
last session of Parliament, the actual effects of this bad system were
denied, though its tendency could not be disputed.

It was averred that "no British seaman could be capable of neglecting
his duty for the sake of increasing the gains of the station." But
nothing could be more absurd than this. Can the direct and inevitable
tendency of the head-money system be doubted? Are cruisers the only men
over whom motives have no influence? Then why offer a reward at all?
When they want no stimulus to perform their duty, why tell them that if
the ship is empty, they get a hundred pounds: if laden, five thousand?
They know the rules of arithmetic; - they understand the force of
numbers. But, in truth, there is not an individual on all the coast of
Africa who will be misled by such appeals, or suffer all this to divert
them from their purpose of denouncing the system. There are persons high
in rank among the best servants of the crown, who know the facts from
their own observations, and who are ready to bear witness to the truth,
in spite of all the attempts that have been made to silence them.

The other great object of the African Institution regarded the West
Indies. The preparation of the negroes for that freedom which was their
absolute right, and could only be withheld for an hour, on the ground of
their not being prepared for it, and therefore being better without it,
was the first thing to be accomplished. Here the friends of the
abolition, all but Mr. Stephen, suffered a great disappointment. He
alone had uniformly-foretold that the hopes held out, as it seemed very
reasonably, of better treatment resulting from the stoppage of the
supply of hands, were fallacious. All else had supposed that interest
might operate on men whom principle had failed to sway; that they whom
no feelings of compassion for their fellow-creatures could move to do
their duty, might be touched by a feeling of their own advantage, when
interest coincided with duty. The Slave-mart is now closed, it was said;
surely the stock on hand will be saved by all means, and not wasted when
it can no longer be replaced. The argument was purposely rested on the
low ground of regarding human beings as cattle, or even as inanimate
chattels, and it was conceived that human life would be regarded of as
much value as the wear and tear of beasts, of furniture, or of tools.
Hence it was expected that a better system of treatment would follow,
from the law which closed the African market, and warned every planter
that his stock must be spared by better treatment, and kept up by
breeding, since it no longer could be, as it hitherto had been,
maintained by new supplies.

Two considerations were, in these arguments, kept out of view, both of a
practical nature, and both known to Mr. Stephen, - the cultivation of the
Islands by agents having wholly different interests from their masters,
and the gambling spirit of trading and culture which long habit had
implanted in the West Indian nature. The comforts of the slave depended
infinitely more upon the agent on the spot, than the owner generally
resident in the mother country; and though the interest of the latter
might lead to the saving of negro life, and care for negro comforts, the
agent had no such motives to influence his conduct; besides, it was with
the eyes of this agent that the planter must see, and he gave no
credence to any accounts but his. Now the consequence of cruelty is to
make men at war with its objects. No one but a most irritable person
feels angry with his beast, and even the anger of such a person is of a
moment's duration. But towards an inanimate chattel even the most
irritable of sane men can feel nothing like rage. Why? Because in the
one case there is little, in the other no conflict or resistance at all.
It is otherwise with a slave; he is human, and can disobey - can even
resist. This feeling always rankles in his oppressor's bosom, and makes
the tyrannical superior hate, and the more oppress his slave. The agent
on the spot feels thus, and thus acts; nor can the voice of the owner at
a distance be heard, even if interest, clearly proved, were to prompt
another course. But the chief cause of the evil is the spirit of
speculation, and it affects and rules resident owners even more than
absentees. Let sugar rise in price, and all cold calculations of
ultimate loss to the gang are lost in the vehement thirst of great
present gain. All, or nearly all, planters are in distressed
circumstances. They look to the next few years as their time; and if the
sun shines they must make hay. They are in the mine, toiling for a
season, with every desire to escape and realize something to spend
elsewhere. Therefore they make haste to be rich, and care little, should
the speculation answer and much sugar bring in great gain, what becomes
of the gang ten years hence. Add to all this, that any interference of
the local legislatures to discourage sordid or cruel management, to
clothe the slaves with rights, to prepare them for freedom by better
education, to pave the way for emancipation by restraining the master's

Online LibraryThomas ClarksonThe History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade, by the British Parliament (1839) → online text (page 1 of 56)