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since the nature of the traffic has not at all altered, and since it was not from any new or clearer manifestation of its nature, that the legislature has subsequently forbidden it,
may not the trader think he has some right to demur to the decision, which pronounces that an enormous crime, which so very few years since was pronounced, in the same high place of acthority, and by many of the same individual legislators, an innocent employment of wealth and industry ? Is he to take it on authority, having but little time to philosophize,) that the principles of right and wrong, sometimes so majestically styled" eternal,' are, after all, such variable or equivocal things, as to depend on the mere will of a government? Or is he to attribute the change to some prodigious accession, during this short in. terval, to the virtue of the Authority that so then de. cided, and thus, reversely, has decided now? And if, perchance, he should be unable to do that, is his conscience bound to be solemnly at the command of those circumstances which, foreign to the essential morality of the subject, and to any general improvement in the virtue of the legislature, he may surmise to have had a very powerful influence in effecting so wonderful a change? Or, finally, is this conscience of his to be taught, that the enactment itself has made all the difference as to the right and wrong, and that it is the illegality' only of the trade that constitutes the crime ?
It is very needless to say, that these questions can be put for no purpose of extenuating the guilt of the slavetrade. They are suggested by our having observed, in some instances, a certain lofty air of virtue assumed in behalf of the nation and its legislature, on the ground of the hostility to the slave-trade, by persons who could see no excessive evil in the trade or its legislative sanction, till the time that such sanction was withdrawn : but the said sanction being now refused, they are filled with horror, and indignation to think that there should be men wicked enough to persist in such iniquitous work, as that of stealing, buying, and selling, the human species. We are become, all at once, by act of parliament, so marvellously good, that the slave-trader is regarded among us as a kind of demoniac. But verily we think he has a good right to say, “ Why, how comes all this? A very short time since, I was confessedly as good as the nation and its legislature, of which I enjoyed the most decided and formal approbation. The business I am employed in, was then knowu to be all that it is now known to be. I am not permitted to say, nor to think, that the nation and its legislature then, just so very lately, deserved all the epithets imputing barbarity, villany, murder; and that this change is absolutely: a conversion to righteousness, from the most flagrant wickedness. And yet, for wishing to remain just what I then had such splendid sanction for being, I am pronounced the most execrable of sinners: while you, by this sudden turn in your opinion, or taste, are all becoine admirable saints, and invested with judicial authority, to arraign me, your late associate and friend, at your tribunal. In the name of sense and decency, either withhold your opprobrious language from me, or tell me what is to be the estimate of your own national and le.. gislative character as it was at a much more recent period than ten years since.”
After this glance at the gross self-deception incident to self-love, to national pride, and to political superstition, which, amidst our indignation against crimes that we have withdrawn from committing, and that not always in mere obedience to virtuous conviction, can make us quite forget the shame and condemnation due to our owir conduct till a very short time since, we must proceed to a brief notice of the Report. The subject with which, unfortunately, it is almost wholly occupied, is brought forward in the first paragraph. - Nearly the whole of the last Report of the Directors was employed in detailing the extent to which the African Slave Trade had revived in the preceding year, and the means which had been adopted by them with a view to repress it. The present Report will consist almost exclusively, of similar details ; the evil in question having increased to a magnitude which has required the almost undivided attention of the Board. The civilization and improvement of Africa are indeed the great ends which the Institution proposed to pursue. But whal rational expectation can be formed of any material progress in the attainment of those ends, while the Slave Trade continues to flourish ? This traffic stands opposed to all improvement. The passions which it excites and nourishes, and the acts of fraud, rapine, and blood to which alone it owes its success, have a direct tendency to brutalize the human character, and to obstruct every peaceful and beneficial pursuit. Any advance in civilization is hopeless, where neither pro. perty nor person is secure for a moment.- On the Coast of Africa the same melancholy scene has been exhibited during the last year, which the Directors had the pain of describing in their former Report. The Coast has swarmed with Slave. ships, chiefly under Spanish and Portuguèze colours. These colours have, in numerous instances, been proved to be only, a disguise to conceal British and American property, and there is strong ground to believe that this would be found to be very generally the case, if the rules of evidence, in the Prize Courts of this country, always admitted of the investigation necessary to ascertain the fact.'
It is stated that, during the last year, about twenty slave ships have been condemned in the court of Sierra Leone, on satisfactory proof, either of their being American or British property, or of their having cleared out from a British port. "The whole number condemned in the several Vice-Admiralty Courts abroad, during the last six or eight months of the year 1810, is estimated at between thirty and forty; and several have met the same fate in this country. With regard to our right of interference with American slave ships, the report observes that,
• At the time when the Society last met, grcat doubts were enter. tained, whether slave ships, trading under American colours, could be subjected to condemnation in our Prize Courts, and the prevailing opinion then was, that some express stipulations between the two governments were previously necessary. The question, however, has since been happily decided in the affirmative.'
This decision took place in the Privy Council, in July, 1810, in the case of an American ship, the Amedie, captured by a British ship of war, while carrying slaves from the coast of Africa to a Spanish colony. The Master of the Rolls pronounced the judgement in terms to the following effect. The slave trade is wrong in the abstract-having abolished it in our own case, we have a right to act upon this doctrine, assuming it to be an universal law of the world, till an exception is proved by the reclaimant of the slave ship we capture the exception is valid, if the legislature of his own nation authorizes the trade, for we have not a right to require other nations to assent to our doctrine that it is essentially wrong-but when any nation has legislatively adopted this doctrine, it has divested its subjects, who may still prosecute the trade, of all sanction and protection, and delivered them over to the universal law, which law any nation that has recognized it -has a right to enforce by capture—the American States have legislatively adopted the doctrine-and therefore we have a right to make prize of the ships of their subjects found employed in it..
As soon as this decision became known, the American flag disappeared from all slave ships, and was replaced by those of Spain and Portugal.
•The course which has since been pursued by the citizens of the United States embarking in this trade, has been, to call at some Spanish or Portugueze port; there to obtain fictitious bills of sale, and other papers, which might serve to disguise the real owner. ship.'
At first it was apprehended that this expedient would be
laccision on the which was in of these two
capable of securing impunity to American citizens, in the most extensive violation of American law; it being doubted whether the British prize laws, even as explained or practically extended by the decision in the case of the Amedie, could fairly operate on vessels bearing, in their flag and documents, the ostensible indications of Spanish or Portugueze property. This doubt must have pointed chiefly at the difficulty of obtaining proof of the fallaciousness of such indications ;-whether there was a previous question as to the national decorum of subjecting, in the first instance, a vessel bearing these indications, to capture; in order to try their genuineness, is not clearly stated. Every doubt, however, was soon removed by a decision in the court of Admiralty, condemning a slave ship captured on the presumption of its being American property, though under cover of the Portugueze flag, and correspondent documents.
A slight remark may be made, in passing, on the language in which the Directors speak of these two decisions. As to the question which was in doubt, previously to the decision on the Amedie,-whether our prize courts could lawfully condemn American slave ships, under American colours, without some stipulation first entered into with the American Government,--the Directors say, 'the question, however, has since been happily decided in the affirmative; and then as to the second condition of American slave ships, relatively to which the power, that is the right, of our prize laws had been doubted, -namely, when deceptively purporting to be Portugueze or Spanish,--they say, this practice, to which, on the first view, the case of the Amedie did not seem to apply, and which it was apprehended might be carried to an extent almost indefinite, has happily received a decisive shock, by a judgement recently pronounced by Sir W. Scott, in the High Court of Admiralty'
Now this kind of language seems to sound, as if our own prize code were something of a nature totally unconnect. ed with municipal law, something quite different from any creature of English will and interest; and as if the interpretations or application of it in question had taken place--not in a court exclusively English, and therefore necessarily under local influence-but in a conventional court of nations, or at least in a quarter far beyond the reach of any natural cause of partiality. This remark points merely and exclusively at the language here employed. Every good man will rejoice that the prize courts can and will do, not only what these two decisions have de
clared their power and determination to do, but évén much more now, by virtue of the last enactments against the slave trade. All we mean to say is, that a mode of expression might have been adopted, that would have avoided the appearance of representing our nation, as doubtfully and apprehensively waiting to hear, what its own law would declare, through the organs of its own judicaturo, in a matier involving its own wishes.
The latter of the two important decisions, was on a vessel called Fortuna, captured in coming out of Madeira under Portugueze colours; and a very good sample of the art and fraud most appropriately employed in the prosecution of the villanous traffic, is afforded by this brief account.
This vessel sailed from New York; under American colours, in July 1810, being then named the William and Mary, and arrived at Madeira in September, The ostensible owner at this time was an American citizen of the name of George Fowler Trenholm, who also acted as master. On arriving at Madeira, he landed a part of his cargo; and about a week before his departure from it, he executed a bill of sale for the ship to a native of Madeira, à Portugueze subject, of the name of Joao de Souza; and in ' consequence of this sale obtained Portugueze papers and assumed a Portugrieze flag. This Joao de Souza is stated to be a man notoriongly of no properry, who is employed as a clerk in the store of an English mercantile house in that island ; and in point of fact, no consideration was given for the vessel. In thus lending his name to this transaction, Joao de Souza appears merely to have complied with the wishes of his employers, who were the consignees of the William and Mary. The ship having thus become colourably the property of a Portugueze, was re-named the Fortuna, and another Portugueze of the name of Verissimo, was appointed master. Trènholm, the former master, was How converted into supercargo; and the whole conduct and entire controul of the ship and adventure were committed to him, without his even receiving any instructions whatever from the alledged owner Joao de Souza. The only part of the cargo taken on board at Madeira consisted of some articles of provisions for the voyage. The evidence obtained by means of he standing interrogatories, afforded strong suspicion that the sale at Madeira was a fraudulent and illusive transaction; and this suspicion was afterwards tully confirmed : and it clearly appeared from the mere inspection of the vessel, independently of other corroborating circumstances that the object of the voyage was to procure à cargo of slaves on the coast of Africa,' p. 15.
The jud ement of the court, as pronounced by Sir W. Scott, is given at great length; and is a fine specimen of clear thinking and precise expression, with a slight degree njore than necessary of the professi. vai phraséology.
The Directors confidently anticipate a great effect from