THE SLAVE-TRADE DEBATE.
Tax general effect of the debate on the Slave-trade on Monday night seems to have been very cheering. There was a prevalent uneasiness before,—a confused sense of things going wrong, or being doubtful,—of the trade itself being found too great for control,—of insincerity or opposition on the part of allies,--of in short, general failure, and uncertainty what to do next. Those must be perverse minds indeed which are not now comparatively at ease in regard to the facts of the case. The hundreds of thousands of negroes carried from Africa a few years ago have dwindled to tens of thousands ; there is only one great market for that declining number ; and the chief ground of hope of the ulti- mate extinction of the traffic,—the improved production and commerce of Africa itself,—expands from year to year. Amidst all fluctuations of opinion and temper, amidst the complications of interest, prejudice, passion, and wanton speculation, we have the sound consolation of knowing, by every variety of testimony, that the exportation of slaves is less by nine-tenths than within our own memory ; that the area for which they were demanded is reduced within ascertained and manageable limits ; and that peaceful, honest, and lucrative industry has risen up into such conspicuous contrast with the trade in men, that we can no longer doubt what we ought to do in order to complete and Secure the preponderance of the good trade over the bad, along a shore where they cannot coexist. We might not have chosen the method which was brought into question on Monday night. It is not possible to deny that many evils attend our policy of guarding the coasts of Africa, and latterly of Cuba, by armed vessels ; and we might, if the - enterprise were now to begin, point out other methods by which, in our opinion, more benefit might be obtained at less sacrifice. But this is not the business of the moment. The question is at present in a critical stage. The great object is to enable and encourage the people of England to show their unflagging determination to put down an abuse which is incom- patible with social progress, and with the political liberties of all races. The vote of Monday night, given against a mover who really had some sound objections to produce, is just the testimony we desired as to the unaltered will of Parliament to put down the slave-trade : and when the debate was read, and the whole array of cheering facts came out,—the diminished traffic in men, and the increased commerce in the products of industry ; the virtual extinction of slave-importation in Brazil, the good faith and energetic action of Portugal, and the responsibility cast on the United States of guarding their own flag from abuse and degra- dation, there was probably hardly a tax-payer within the four seas who did not feel heartily willing to contribute to the main- tenance of our squadron on the African coast, though there might originally have been better methods of pursuing the object.
It seems to be settled by facts that the decline of the trade on the whole points to its speedy extinction ; though its readiness to spring up again on the slightest relaxation of our vigilance, indicates the necessity of perseverance in the course which is the deliberate choice of the nation. In fact, as long as there is slavery, there will be a slave market ; and as long as there is a slave-market, there will be a slave trade. If this truth had been kept in view steadily, from the outset of the enterprise, we should now be nearer the end. The truth being before our eyes at pre- sent, and, as far as we know, undisputed, we can then discern the prospects of the question, and direct our efforts with new hopes of success. The main question then is—what markets are there ?
If the question were merely—in how many places is there Negro- slavery supported by importations from Africa—the reply would be easy. Cuba would be declared the only case. It is conven- tionally supposed to be the only one ; and the settlement of the difficulty is evidently approaching. If Spain will not do her duty, Spain may have to take the consequences, and lose Cuba. All Europe, and a large part of the United States, would be sorry to see Cuba absorbed by the great Republic which is convulsed by the Slavery question at present, and must see worse days before it can see better ; but, (though we find it difficult to anticipate such a re- sult,) yet it is poasible that the slave-trade in Cuba might be re- duced by its annexation to the United States. And whatever may be the grounds for opposing such an annexation, yet it would be unreasonable for Spain to expect her allies to preserve this colony for her, unless she also fulfils her own engagements towards them. If she will follow the good examples of Portugal and Brazil, and is earnest put down the Cuban alaire-trade, the opinion and feel- ing of the world will be on her side, against all buccaneering enemies whatever. If she goes on conniving at an iniquity which she denounces by treaty, nobody can help her, and she will have no right to complain of the loss of her fairest poesession. But would this market be closed, it is now asked, if Cuba were annexed to the United States, by fair purchase, or in any way ? Will not the United States reopen the African slave- trade? In spite of appearances, many think decidedly not. If any of the States did so, it is argued, it could only be by seceding from the Union ; and such secession, for such a cause, would not be allowed by the majority of the States. The subject is now dis- cussed throughout the republic ; and the mere proposal to import negro-labour under any name, has caused more menace to the Union within a few months than has arisen before, except on a very few occasions. It is this controversy which is now break- ing up Virginia into sections, which shows what may be expected if the question is extended, in a similar intensity, along the whole line of frontier States. It is fully understood that the American market can be opened for the importation of negro labour only after the Union shall have been dissolved, or the whole line of frontier slave-states lost to the south ; conditions under which, it is clear, no group of remaining states could support themselves and their retrograde policy.
The other market,—a true slave-market, though not admitted to be so —is that of the French colonies, for whose sake the Em- peror has established a disguised slave-trade. This is the darkest feature in the present prospect of the cause. We have to watch and baffle an ally who is carrying on the condemned trade in a contraband manner—causing as much barbaric warfare and social ruin in Africa, as much misery on the passage, and as galling a slavery in the colonies as if no false pretences veiled the iniquities of the traffic. For more than a year, remonstrance, argument, representation, have been tried in vain. Happily, great pecuniary loss has occurred to support the vir- tuous and politic side of the question. We must go on remon- strating, representing, and treating slave-ships as slave-ships ; and, if the contractors go on losing by their bargains as they have lost within the last yt ar, the French Emperor will revert to the spirit of the treaties from which the French people have, we are confident, never swerved. In the midst of the discouragement which this new French trade has caused us, we are cheered again by the latest news from the political centres in America : that the Washington Cabinet is in a mood of the deepest gravity at the turn that affairs have taken with England, in regard to the Visit and Search question. Our complete abnegation dell claim of the kind devolves on the President and his Cabinet the whole duty of pre- serving the national flag from abuse and desecration. Difficult as the task must be in a country in which slavery is established, it must be done. The Washington Government declares that it shall be done ; and we have only to support the determination.
Some months ago, it was not unreasonable to fear that the work of sixty years was likely to be undone, and the slave-trade to swamp the broad areas of civilisation won for the African races, and for the countries over which they were scattered. We have now brighter hopes, and can see the end of the evil foreshadowed in the industrial improvement of Africa. The most serious me- nace is the new French trade : but there are many indications that it can be only a temporary method—an experiment too thoroughly injurious all round to be long persevered in. As for the rest, we must keep up our system of watch and ward on the African coast, so long as we see peaceful industry gaining ground over the depraving traffic of old barbaric times.