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Despatch from Viscount Castlereagh to Earl Bathurst, dated
AIX-LA-CHAPELLE, November 23, 1818. My Lord: I have the honor to transmit to your Lordship the notes of the Russian, French, Austrian, and Prussian plenipotentiaries, upon the two propositions which were brought forward by the British plenipotentiaries, and earnestly pressed upon their attention, as stated in the protocol of the 24th ultimo.
The result of these notes being extremely discouraging to our hopes, it was determined to review the objections brought forward to the measure of mutually conceding the right of visit, especially by the plenipotentiary of France.
After presenting this review to the consideration of the conference, in the memorandum B, (of which a copy is enclosed;) and, in an audience with which I was honored by the Emperor of Russia, I took occasion to represent to his imperial majesty, in the strongest terms, the necessity of taking some effec. tive measure of this nature, without delay, and without waiting for the de-, cree of final abolition on the part of Portugal.
His imperial majesty listened with his accustomed interest to my representations on this subject, and promised me to give directions to his ministers, to propose that the consideration of the question should be re-opened in London, under fresh instructions,
The modification which I have finally urged of this measure, and, I trust, with considerable hope of success, is, that, in addition to the limitation of the right of visit to the coast of Africa, and to a specific number of ships of each Power, the duration of the convention should be for a limited number of years—say seven; at the end of which period, the several Powers would again have it in their power to review their decision, after some experience of its convenience, or inconvenience, of its efficacy to the object, and of the necessity of its being renewed, regard being had to the then state of the illicit slave trade. This arrangement would sufficiently meet our most pressing wants, whilst it would go less permanently to disturb the acknowledged principles of maritime law, as regulating the right of visit. By the aid of this latter expedient, I fatter myself that I have made a considerable impression in removing the strong repugnance which was at first felt to the
A projet of the letters to be addressed by the sovereigns to the King of Portugal on this subject is also forwarded in this despatch; and I have to request that your Lordship will receive the Prince Regent's pleasure as to making a similar appeal to his most faithful majesty, on his royal highness's part, taking measures for forwarding the whole to the Brazils, by the first packet. I have, &c. &c.
CASTLEREAGH. EARL BATHURST, &c. &c.
FIRST ENCLOSURE ÎN No. 31.
AIX-LA-CHAPELLE, November 7, 1818. The Russian cabinet has laid before the emperor, and taken, in pursuance of his orders, into mature consideration, the different communications made
to the conferences of Aix-la-Chapelle, by the plenipotentiaries of his Britannic majesty, on the subject of the slave trade.
There is no object in which his imperial majesty takes a more lively interest, and which he has more at heart, than that the decision upon this question may be conformable to the precepts of the Christian religion, to the wishes of humanity, and to the rights and real interests of all the Powers invited to assist therein.
Although it cannot be dissembled that the measures in which these indispensable conditions are to be united, are attended with difficulty, his imperial majesty hopes, nevertheless, that the obstacles will not be insurmountable.
His imperial majesty entirely concurs in the proposition of the British cabinet, to make an amicable representation to the court of Brazil for the purpose of engaging it to fix a final and early termination to the power which it has reserved to itself to exercise the trade. The force of the motives upon which the wishes of the allied sovereigns rest, and that of the example which they have already given, will, doubtless, be sufficient to influence the free determination which Portugal is invited to make. The cabinet of Russia has hastened to draw out, upon the invitation of the British Plenipotentiaries, the projet of a letter which may be addressed, with this view, to the King of Portugal. This projet is hereunto annexed.
The emperor views with satisfaction the probable success of a measure which will complete the accession of all the Christian states to the entire and perpetual abolition of the trade.
It is only when this abolition shall have been thus solemnly declared in all countries, and without reserve, that the Powers will be able to pronounce, without being checked by distressing and contradictory exceptions, the general principle which shall characterize the trade, and place it in the rank of the deepest crimes.
Then, and taking this principle for a basis, may be put in practice the measures which shall serve for its application.
The cabinet of his Britannic majesty has communicated those by which it has already begun to give effect to the principle of abolition: that is to say, the conventions with Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands.
It is proposed to adopt generally, among 'he maritime Powers, the rules laid down in these three conventions, and more particularly to establish, as a general principle, the reciprocal right of visit to be exercised by the
The cabinet of Russia, in doing homage to the intentions which have dictated these dispositions, stipulated between the British Government and the three courts above mentioned, and in appreciating their real efficacy on the supposition that they were universally adopted, has only to express its hopes that the special and most urgent interests which each of the maritime States must consult, will not oppose the attainment of a general coalition. For inasmuch as it is true that the universal establishment of the reciprocal right of visit would contribute to this end, so it is equally incontestible that the measures in question must necessarily become illusory, if a single maritime State only, of whatever rank it may be, finds it imposible to adhere to them. It is, therefore, with a view to produce this universal consent, that the allied Powers should use their efforts, having once agreed among themselves upon the principle of the right of visit, to obtain the free adherence of all the others to the same basis.
The ministers of his majesty the emperor of Russia regret not to be able to contemplate an accession 80 unanimous. It appears to them beyond a doubt, that there are some States whom no consideration would induce to submit their navigation to a principle of such high importance. It cannot, then, be disguised, that it is not in this principle that the solution of the difficulty is to be sought.
It has been asked if some other mode, equally sure in its effects, could not be proposed, and of which the general admission on the part of all the States might be more easily foreseen.
Without prejudging the result of the overture of the British cabinet, a mode is here submitted, which, in the event of that not being adopted, is without exception in respect to the right of visit, and which will, perhaps, obtain the suffrage of all States, equally desirous of accomplishing a sacred duty, in putting an end to the horrors of the slave trade.
This expedient would consist in a special association between all the States, having for its end the destruction of the traffie in slaves.
It would pronounce, as a fundamental principle, a law characterizing this odious traffic as a description of piracy, and rendering it punishable as such.
It appears evident that the general promulgation of such a law could not take place until the abolition was universally pronounced, that is to say, until Portugal had totally and every where renounced the trade.
The execution of the law should be confided to an institution, the seat of which should be in a central point on the coast of Africa, and in the formation of which, all the Christian States should take a part.
Declared forever neutral, to be estranged from all political and local interests, like the fraternal and Christian alliance, of which it would be a practical manifestation, this institution would follow the single object of strictly maintaining the execution of the law. It would consist of a maritime force, composed of a sufficient number of ships of war, appropriated to the service assigned to them:
Of a judicial power, which should judge all crimes relating to the trade, according to a legislation established upon the subject by the common law:
Of a supreme council, in which would reside the authority of the institution; which would regulate the operations of the maritime force, would revise the sentences of the tribunals, would put them in execution, would inspect all the details, and would render an account of its administration to the future European conferences.
The right of visit and of detention would be granted to this institution as the means of fulfilling its end; and, perhaps, no maritime nation would refuse to submit its flag to this police, exercised in a limited and clearly defined manner, and by a power too feeble to allow of vexations, too disinterested on all maritime and commercial questions, and, above all, too widely combined in its elements not to observe a severe but impartial justice towards all.
Wonld it not be possible to compose this institution of such different elements as to give it no other tendency, as long as it remained united, but that of doing its duty?
The expense which it would occasion, divided amongst all the Christian States, could not be very burthensome, and its duration would be regulated according to the time required for the development of African civilization, which it would protect, and it might also bring about a happy change in the system of cultivation in the colonies.
In submitting these views to the wisdom of the allied cabinets, that of Russia reserves to itself the power, in case they desire to search into and examine them, of entering into more ample explanations upon the subject.
SECOND ENCLOSURE IN No. 11. Memoir of the French Government on the slave trade. France has proved, in the most evident manner, that she desires to concur effectually in the complete abolition of the slave trade. Engaged by the declaration to which she has subscribed, of the 8th of February, 1815, at Vienna, with the powers who signed the treaty of the 30th of May, to employ, for this purpose, “ all the means at her disposal, and to act in the employment of these means with all the zeal and perseverance due to such a great and noble cause,” she flatters herself that she has complied with this engagement; and, in a few months after the declaration of Vienna, she renounced the stipulation of 1814, which had given her a delay of five years for effect ing the cessation of the trade. She declared, the 30th of July, 1815, that, from that day, the trade should cease on her part every where and forever. The acts of her administration have been conformable to this declaration. The instructions given in the ports of France, and in the colonies, have preceded a special ordinance of the king prohibiting the trade.
This ordinance has since been confirmed by a law, enacted in March, 1818, which pronounces against the violators of the dispositions agreed upon, the most severe punishments which the laws of France can inflict.
Measures of surveillance have also been prescribed with a view to secure the executions of the law; and the king has ordered a naval force to cruise on the Western coast of Africa, and visit
all vessels which should be suspected of continuing a trade which has been prohibited.
Such are the acts of the French Government; they clearly prove that they have used the means which they had at their disposal” to repress the trade.
They have displayed their zeal, in creating the means which were wanting, and in the adoption of a formal law.
Nevertheless, the government of his Britannic majesty, who, to secure the actual abolition of the trade, evince an ardor which cannot but add to the glory which the English nation have acquired in fostering whatever has for its object the good of humanity, have been informed, that the end of their efforts, and of those of the other Powers, is not yet attained; and that, in despite of the measures taken to prevent it, many slaves are still carried away from the coast of Africa, by a contraband trade. And they have conceived, that these violations of the laws evince the insufficiency of the dispositions to ensure the execution of them. They believe that a system of measures combined between the principal Powers already engaged, by a clause in the treaty of the 20th of November, 1815, to concert means for this object, might finally eradicate the evil. They have proposed, among other measures, to visit rigorously the vessels which shall navigate upon the Western coast of Africa; and, in order that this visit should have due effect, they have judged that it would be proper that each of the Powers should grant to the others the right of exercising it upon all the ships carrying its flag. The creation of mixed commissions, charged to pronounce upon the legitimacy of the expeditions suspected of fraud, forms the second part of the English project.
It would be impossible not 10 acknowledge, that, in proposing such a measure, the Government of his Britannic majesty have done all that depend ed on them to accompany it with precautions to prevent its abuse.
With this view, the limitation of the number of ships of war authorized to visit, and of the places where the visit may be exercised, the rank of the officers who alone can perform this service, give assurance of their respect for the rights of each of the contracting parties.
Three powers, Spain, Portugal, and the kingdom of the Netherlands, have subscribed to these propositions.
The Government of his most Christian majesty would eagerly follow such an example, if, carrying their views exclusively to the object, they did not perceive, in the means indicated for its attainment, dangers which attach perhaps to their particular position, but which it is their duty to prevent.
It would be useless to discuss here, in regard to right, the question of visit at sea in profound peace.
The English Government has done homage to the principle which ensures, in this respect, the independence of all flags; and it is only in limitation of the principle, not in denial of its existence, that they propose to grant to each power, respectively, the faculty of detaining ships carrying the flag of others, and of ascertaining the legality of the trade in' wliich they are engaged.
But, upon this first point, the Government of his most Christian majesty feel an invincible obstacle to the proposition of England.
France, by the reverses and misfortunes which she has lately experienced, and which, if they have not effaced, have, at least, obscured the glory which she had acquired, is bound to evince more jealousy of her own dignity than if fortune had not betrayed her. The nation, happy to be again under the rule of its legitimate sovereign, does not regret vain conquests, but she is more than ever alive to the feeling of national honor.
Without doubt, a concession, accompanied by the necessary precautions, and with that clause of reciprocity which would save the dignity of each party, might be proposed, without fear of wounding the vanity of any one. But it would still be a concession; and the opinion of a nation habituated to judge of the acts of her Government under the influence of a lively imagination, would be alarmed to see abandoned, even with every possible modification, what she regards as one of her most precious rights. She would conceive that the honor of her flag was thereby endangered-a point of the utmost delicacy, and on which she has ever shown aquick susceptibility. She would see, in the abandonment of this right, a new sacrifice, attached, as it were, as an indispensable condition to the evacuation of her territory, and as a monument of the state of dependence in which she was for a moment placed. There is no doubt, that
, in giving a generous example, in submitting to the reciprocal right of visit, which she regards as proper to attain the end proposed, England proves to the world that the visit is not incompatible with the honor of the flag. But, placed in different circumstances, supported by the opinion of the English nation, which for twenty five years has called for the abolition of the trade, Great Britain secures all her advantages, even in appearing to abandon the absolute exercise of them, and she cannot fear that the idea of a compulsory sacrifice might attach to the concession.
But even should the Government of his most Christian majesty feel themselves authorized to overlook such powerful considerations, and to adopt,