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the learned and amiable Dr. Briggs, of Liverpool, unhappily fell a sacrifice—an irreparable loss to humanity as well as science.
It appears that the course pursued on the coast is this,—The cruiser stationed there to prevent the Slave trade, carefully avoids going near the harbour or the creek where the Slavers are lying. If she comes within sight, the Slaver would not venture to put his cargo on board and sail. Therefore she stands out, just so far as to command a view of the port from the masthead, but herself quite out of sight. The Slaver believes the coast is clear; accomplishes his crime of shipping the cargo, and attempts to cross the Atlantic. Now, whether he succeeds in gaining the opposite shore, or is taken and condemned, let us see what the effect of the system is first of all, in the vessel's construction and accommodation—that is, in the comforts, if such a word can be used in connection with the hull of a Slave-ship-or the torments rather prepared for her unhappy inmates. Let us see how the unavoidable miseries of the middle passage are exasperated by the contraband nature of the adventure-how the unavoidable mischief is needlessly aggravated by the very means taken to extirpate it. The great object being to escape our cruisers, every other consideration is sacrificed to swiftness of sailing in the construction of the Slave-ships. I am not saying that humanity is sacrificed. I should of course be laughed to scorn by all who are implicated in the African traffic, were I to use such a word in any connexion with it. But all other considerations respecting the vessel herself are sacrificed to swiftness, and she is built so narrow as to put her safety in peril, being made just broad enough on the beam to keep the sea. What is the result to the wretched slaves ? Before the trade was put down by us in 1807, they had the benefit of what
was termed the Slave Carrying Act. During the twenty years that we spent in examining the details of the question—in ascertaining whether our crimes were so profitable as not to warrant us in leaving them off—in debating whether robbery, piracy, and murder should be prohibited by law, or receive protection and encouragement from the State-we, at least, were considerate enough to regulate the perpetration of them; and while those curious and very creditable
; discussions were going on, Sir William Dolben's Bill gave the unhappy victims of our cruelty and iniquity the benefit of a certain space between decks, in which they might breathe the tainted air more freely, and a certain supply of provisions and of water to sustain their wretched existence. But now there is nothing of the kind; and the Slave is in the same situation in
1 which our first debates found him above half a century ago, when the venerable Thomas Clarkson awakened the attention of the world to his sufferings. The scantiest portion which will support life is alone provided ; and the wretched Africans are compressed and stowed into every nook and cranny of the ship, as if they were dead goods concealed on board smuggling vessels. I may be thought to have said enough; but I may not stop here. Far more remains to tell; and I approach the darker part of the subject with a feeling of horror and disgust, which I cannot describe, and which three or four days gazing at the picture has not been able to subdue. But I go through the painful duty in the hope of inducing your Lordships at once to pronounce the doom of that system which fosters all that you are about to contemplate.
Let me first remind you of the analogy which this head-money system bears to what was nearer home, called blood-money. That it produces all the effects of the latter, I am certainly not prepared to affirm;
for the giving a reward to informers on capital conviction had the effect of engendering conspiracies to prosecute innocent men, as well as to prevent the guilty from being stopt in their career, until their crimes had ripened into capital offences; and I have no conception that any attempts can be made to capture vessels not engaged in the trade-nor indeed could the headmoney, from the nature of the thing, be obtained by any such means. But in the other part of the case the two things are precisely parallel, have the selfsame tendency, and produce the same effects; for they both appeal to the same feelings and motives, putting in motion the same springs of human action. Under the old bounty system no policeman had an interest in detecting and checking guilt until it reached a certain pitch of depravity, until the offences became capital, and their prosecutor could earn forty pounds, they were not worth attending to. The cant expression, but the significant one is well known. " He (the criminal) is not yet weight enough—he does not weigh his forty pounds”- was the saying of those who cruised for head-money at the Old Bailey. And thus lesser crimes were connived at by some---encouraged, nurtured, fostered in their growth by others---that they might attain the maturity which the law had in its justice and wisdom said they must reach before it should be worth any one's while to stop the course of guilt. Left to itself wickedness could scarcely fail to shoot up and ripen. As soon as he saw that time come, the policeman pounced upon his appointed prey, made his victim pay the penalty of the crime he had suffered, if not encouraged him to commit, and himself obtained the reward provided by the State for the patrons of capital felony. Such within the tropics is the tendency, and such are the effects of our liead-money system. The Slave-ship gains the African shores; she
there remains unmolested by the land authorities, and unvisited by the sea ; the human cargo is prepared for her; the ties that knit relatives together are forcibly severed; all the resources of force and of fraud, of sordid avarice and of savage intemperance, are exhausted to fill the human market; to prevent all this, nothing, or next to nothing is attempted; the penalty
. has not as yet attached; the Slaves are not on board, and head-money is not due; the vessel, to use the technical phrase, does not yet weigh enough ; let her ride at anchor till she reach her due standard of five pounds a Slave, and then she will be pursued! Accordingly, the lading is completed; the cruiser keeps out of sight; and the pirate puts to sea.
And now begin those horrors—those greater horrors, of which I am to speak, and which are the necessary consequences of the whole proceeding, considering with what kind of miscreants our cruisers have to deal.
On being discovered, perceiving that the cruiser is giving chase, the Slaver has to determine whether he will endeavour to regain the port, escaping for the moment, and waiting for a more favourable opportunity, or will fare across the Atlantic, and so perfect his adventure, and consummate his crime, reaching the American shores with a part at least of his lading How many unutterable horrors are embraced in the word that has slipt my tongue ? A part of the lading! Yes-yes-For no sooner does the miscreant find that the cruiser is gaining upon him, than he bethinks him of lightening his ship, and he chooses the heaviest of his goods, with the same regard for them as if they were all inanimate lumber. He casts overboard, men and women and children! Does he first knock off their fetters? No! Why? Because those irons by which they have been held together in couples, for safety—but not more to secure the pirate crew against revolt, than the cargo against suicide-to prevent the Africans from seeking in a watery grave an escape from their sufferings—those irons are not screwed together and padlocked, so as to be removed in case of danger from tempest or from fire-but they are rivetted-welded together by the blacksmith in his forge-never to be removed, nor loosened, until after the horrors of the middle passage, the children of misery shall be landed to bondage in the civilized world, and become the subjects of Christian kings! The irons, too, serve the purpose of weights; and, if time be allowed in the hurry of the flight, more weights are added, to the end that the wretches may be entangled, to prevent their swimming. Why? Because the Negro, with that herculean strength which he is endowed withal, and those powers of living in the water which almost give him an amphibious nature, might survive to be taken up by the cruiser, and become a witness against the murderer. The escape of the malefactor is thus provided, both by lightening the vessel which bears him away, and by destroying the evidence of his crimes. Nor is this all. Instances have been recorded of other precautions used with the same purpose. Water-casks have been filled with human beings, and one vessel threw twelve overboard thus laden. In another chase, two Slave-ships endeavoured, but in vain, to make their escape, and, my blood curdles when I recite, that, in the attempt, they flung into the sea five hundred human beings, of all ages, and of either sex! These are things related—not by enthusiasts, of heated imagination—not by men who consult only the feelings of humanity, and are inspired to speak by the great horror and unextinguishable indignation that fill their breasts—but by officers on duty, men engaged professionally in the Queen's