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Home-Loney-Background-West Africa 1844  1846

Her Majesty's Commissioners to the Earl of Aberdeen.

Sierra Leone, December 31, 1845.
(Received February 24, 1846.)

MY LORD,

WE have the honour to enclose herewith a list of all the cases adjudicated during the year 1845, in the British and Brazilian Court of Mixed Commission, and in the British and Spanish Mixed Court of Justice, established in this colony.

No case came before the British and Netherlands, British and Argentine, British and Chilian, British and Bolivian, nor the British and Uruguayan Mixed Courts of Justice.

The number of cases adjudicated was thirty, of which nine were tried in the British and Spanish Court, and twenty-one in the British and Brazilian Court. Twenty-eight were cases of condemnation, and two were dismissed, having occurred subsequently to the 13th of March last, at which period the Convention of 1817, under which they were captured, terminated.

1189 slaves were emancipated during the year, of whom 1187 were registered. (During the same period 2,032 slaves, the survivors of 2,829 captured, were emancipated by the Court of Vice-Admiralty at Sierra Leone. These slaves were found on board of four vessels, all engaged in the Brazilian trade, but one of them only furnished with papers.)

The total number of vessels prosecuted before the Mixed Commissions, since their establishment in this colony in June 1819, up to the present date, is 528, whereof 501 were cases of condemnation, and twenty-seven were either withdrawn, dismissed, or restored to the claimant.

During the same period there have been emancipated by these Courts, 64,625 slaves, of whom 56,935 have been registered here.

Of the vessels adjudicated during 1845, three Spanish and one Brazilian had slaves on board when captured.

Two of the Spaniards had shipped their cargoes at Popoe for conveyance to Brazil, the other at the Pongas, and was bound to Havana.

The Brazilian vessel embarked her slaves at Lagos for delivery in the neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro.

The destinations on the coast of the other twenty-six vessels, were three for Rio Pongas, three for Gallinas and New Cestos; twelve for Lagos, Whydah, and Popoe, in the Bight of Benin; and eight for Loango, River Congo, Cabinda, Ambriz, and Angola: their return voyages, so far as can be ascertained, were to have been, five for the Island of Cuba, ten for Bahia, seven for Rio de Janeiro and Cape Frio, and four for Pernambuco, Santos, and Campos.

Of the twenty-one vessels adjudicated in the British and Brazilian Court, five had no passports, four had them dated at Rio de Janeiro, nine at Bahia, two at Pernambuco, and one at Santos.

Two of the Spanish vessels had their passports dated at Matanzas, three at St. Jago de Cuba, Havana, and Palma in Majorca; two had old Portuguese passports, dated in Lisbon, and two were without official papers.

Of the whole number twenty-two were captured to the north, and eight to the south of the Equator; seventeen were American-built, eight Brazilian, and five Spanish.

Nearly all the remarks made in the report of last year, sent from these Mixed Commissions, apply with equal force to the state of the Slave Trade on this coast during 1845.

In the immediate vicinity of this colony - in the Rio Pongas to the northward, the Sherbro and Cape Mount to the southward, although several vessels have been captured, still some cargoes of slaves have been carried off, even very recently; and we regret to state that the traffic seems by no means on the decline in those localities, although a partial check was given to it in the early part of the year, by the destruction of the slave factories of "Luis" and "Ximenes," at Seabar and Gallinas.

Theodore Canot of Cape Mount, has of late been one of the most active and successful slave factors in the neighbourhood, This man and the no less well-known Don Luis (Lemaignere) actually visited Sierra Leone in August last in the American schooner "Patuxent," a vessel which has since been seized by a United States' cruizer.

The American squadron has of late exerted some vigilance, having captured the schooners "Merchant," and "Spitfire"; and the disposition to co-operate with our cruizers, shown in the case of the latter vessel, taken by the boats of the United States sloop of war "Truxton," in company with those of Her Majesty's steamer "Ardent," cannot but tend, if generally acted upon, to break up that systematic assistance rendered to the Slave Trade by American citizens, and which has been carried to an unusual extent during 1845.

In January Her Majesty's steam-frigate "Penelope" found three empty American schooners concealed in the creeks of the Rio Pongas, under very suspicious circumstances. In the same month an American vessel called the "Atalanta," was transferred at Cape Mount, where a cargo of slaves was immediately shipped; the American crew quitting the "Atalanta" on one side, as the slaves were sent up the other. The "Atala" and some other vessels condemned in these courts, are supposed to have been delivered by the Americans in a similar manner, and the practice is notorious.

A great blow has been struck at the Slave Trade, especially that carried on between Lagos and Bahia, by the very numerous seizures in the Bight of Benin, yet even from that part of the coast, despite the utmost exertions of the squadron, some cargoes of slaves have been carried off.

There has also been, notwithstanding the active endeavours of the Portuguese Government to suppress it, a very extensive traffic in the neighbourhood of the Portuguese possessions to the southward of the Line. Our own list of captures made in that direction is considerable; and it appears from the following extract of a letter addressed to Commodore Jones, by Her Majesty's Arbitrator at Loanda, dated the 12th of August last, that several cases have been brought before the Mixed Court established in that settlement: -

"During the three months I have resided here, I have received positive intelligence of eleven slave vessels which have appeared on the coast, of which number seven have been captured or destroyed by the Portuguese squadron, two by British cruizers, and two have escaped with cargoes of slaves; all within a distance of fifty miles on either side of the city of Loanda."

In our report for last year we commented on the apparent revival of the Cuba Slave Trade; the result of the proceedings of 1845 would however induce us to hope that that revival was merely partial and. temporary; the number of Spanish slave vessels shown in the present Return being considerably less than in that of 1844, and all, it will be seen, were captured within the first five months of the year. One third of them were employed in carrying slaves to Brazil; so that in fact, not more than six of the nine Spanish vessels detained, were engaged in Spanish Slave Trade.

On the other hand, the number of Brazilian slave vessels captured during 1845, has far exceeded those detained in any previous year, notwithstanding that the British and Brazilian Court of Mixed Commissions ceased to adjudicate in August last, and that with the exception of the "Adelaide," detained on the l2th of August, and subsequently given up, no vessel furnished with Brazilian papers was taken by any of Her Majesty's cruizers, between the 23rd of July and the 22nd of October, in consequence of the expiration of the Convention of 1817, and the Act 8 and 9 Victoria, cap. 122, not having come into operation,

This increase will be more evident from the following general statement of cases of Brazilian slave vessels, and of vessels engaged in Brazilian Slave Trade, brought here for adjudication during the year 1845:

Brazilian vessels proceeded against in the British and Brazilian Court of Mixed Commission at Sierra Leone, during the year 184521
Brazilian vessels captured between the 25th of April and 13th of August, and brought to Sierra Leone but not proceeded against, there being no court competent to take cognizance of the cases41)
Brazilian vessels captured under the Act 8 and 9 Victoria, cap. 122, and proceeded against in the Vice-Admiralty Court at Sierra Leone52)
Vessels engaged in Brazilian Slave Trade, but without papers or other evidence to prove a national character, prosecuted and condemned in the Vice-Admiralty Court at Sierra Leone, during the year 1845, and under the Act 2nd and 3rd Victoria, cap. 7310
Spanish vessels engaged in Brazilian Slave Trade, condemned in the British and Spanish Mixed Court of Justice at Sierra Leone, during 18453
 43
1)These were the "Princeza," "Emprehendedor," "Quatro de Mar&c.edil;o," and "Adelaide,"reported in despatches marked Brazil, of the 21st and 29th of August and 16th of September last. The "Emprehendedor" was broken up here, being unseaworthy; the "Princeza" was subsequently re-captured whilst engaged in a fresh slaving expedition, and was condemned in the Vice-Admiralty Court. The others are said to have returned to the Brazils.
2)On one of these, the "Boa Sorte," sentence has not yet been passed.

From this it will be seen that forty-three cases of Brazilian Slave Trade were brought for adjudication into Sierra Leone alone; a fact from which some idea may be formed of the great extent of the traffic as regards Brazil, especially if there be taken into consideration the cases of Brazilian Slave Trade sent into St. Paul de Loanda, and to the Vice-Admiralty Court at St. Helena, by Her Majesty's cruizers during the past year.

These are stated to have been eighteen in number, which would give a total of sixty-one cases of Brazilian Slave Trade during 1845, without including the numerous captures made by the Portuguese squadron, or by Her Majesty's cruizers attached to the Cape of Good Hope and employed on the East Coast, where the Brazilian Slave Trade is at present said to be in great activity; but we have no sufficient information respecting the proceedings of either of those naval forces to enable us to include them in our calculation.

We have it however in our power, through the kindness of Commodore Jones, to afford a proximate view of the proceedings of the squadron under his command, and cruizing on the West Coast, between the latitudes of 20º North, and 15º 54' South.

From a list which the Commodore has furnished to us, it appears that the whole number of slave vessels detained or destroyed on this coast by Her Majesty's cruizers, between the 1st of January and the 9th instant, is seventy-five. (101 slave vessels altogether were captured or destroyed by the squadron between the 1st of April, 1844, and 9th of December, 1845.)

Of these the nationality, as shown by the colours and papers were, thirty-seven Brazilian, ten Spanish, two Portuguese, two Sardinian, one American (the schooner "Merchant," reported in Despatch, marked Spain, of the 1st of November. This vessel was given up, but was recaptured off Sierra Leone by the American Commodore on the 29th of November), one Monrovian, and twenty-two without colours or papers, and the cases were sent for disposal as follows:

Sierra Leone
55*
St Helena
16
Loanda
2
Genoa
2
* Some of these have not arrived at Sierra Leone, and it seems probable have gone to St. Helena

A result so highly creditable to the vigilance and activity of Her Majesty's cruizers, speaks much also for the excellent and judicious arrangements of Commodore Jones, aud for the general efficiency of the force under his command.

So destructive to the traffic has the employment of steam vessels of war been found, that the Brazilian dealers have been driven to the desperate shift of fitting out steam slavers. One of these, the "Cacique," has been captured, but another, we regret to learn, has recently got off safely from the Congo with a cargo of seventeen hundred negroes.

The "Cacique" was built in New York, where she was called the "Tigress," and ran for a short time as a passage boat worked by a screw propeller. In March last she was purchased by a Brazilian named Seixas, and taken, it is said, under American colours to Pernambuco, where paddle-wheels were fitted to her and the machinery of her engines removed to the deck, so as to leave an open hold fore and aft; a slaving equipment was added; the crew, with the exception of the four American engineers, changed; a long gun and small arms for thirty hands put on board; and in August she started for Cabinda, off which she arrived on the 20th of September.

At Cabinda Mr. Seixas, the owner, went on shore, and found one thousand slaves awaiting him really for shipment, but fifteen hundred being the steamer's complement, he ordered her to sea for ten days until the deficiency should be collected. She was, however, fortunately fallen in with and detained on the 26th, by Her Majesty's steam frigate "Penelope," having previously easily evaded Her Majesty's sloop "Cygnet" and another cruizer, by steering head to wind.

Some of the slave vessels captured this year, were furnished with the flags of Portugal, America, France, and Buenos Ayres, in addition to the colours under which they professed to sail; and some had equipments of an unusually piratical character, being heavily armed, and provided with crews of great numerical strength, and composed for the most part of persons of different nations.

The Spanish feluccas "Huracan" and "Pepito," and the Brazilian brig "Isabel," were especially remarkable in this respect; the two feluccas had long avoided capture and been successfully engaged in the traffic. We may also notice another piratical slaver, the "Borbolita," taken by the boats of Her Majesty's sloop "Pantaloon," after a very desperate defence, in which several lives were lost. This prize was condemned in the Vice-Admiralty Court.

An instance also of singular ferocity was exhibited by the Brazilian crew of another vessel, the slave-laden brigantine "Echo," detained by the boats of Her Majesty's sloop "Wasp," shortly after they had taken a Brazilian schooner named the "Felicidade," which was equipped only for the traffic. The crew of the "Echo" being excessive, had been divided and part sent to the "Felicidade," where, seizing a favourable opportunity, they overpowered and murdered the British officer and seamen in charge, and then attacked the vessel with slaves, but being unsuccessful in their attempt to regain possession of her, made off with the "Felicidade."

A few days afterwards, however, these pirates were fallen in with and re-captured by Her Majesty's sloop "Star," when the chief perpetrators of the massacre were sent to England, and the "Felicidade" despatched to Sierra Leone.

But this ill-fortuned vessel never reached her destination. Having upset in a squall, the officer and men on board managed to save themselves on a raft, and after enduring the extremities of hunger and thirst for twenty days, during which several died; the survivors were at length providentially rescued by Her Majesty's sloop "Cygnet."

The termination of the British and Brazilian Mixed Commission, the only remaining court that did not exact the breaking up of condemned slave-vessels, has for the time put an end to the possibility of such vessels being re-employed in the Slave Trade; an abuse which we trust may never be revived, feeling assured that in any future treaty which may be entered into between Great Britain and Brazil, there will be a special clause providing for the destruction of slave-vessels.

In the meanwhile, however, we have to record the fact that two of the vessels adjudicated in 1845 by the Mixed Commissions, and also two adjudicated in the Court of Vice-Admiralty at Sierra Leone, had previously been condemned here as slavers. And we think it more than probable, that some of those recently condemned in the British and Brazilian Court will also be returned into the traffic, having either been purchased at auction by known slave dealers, or by others likely to dispose of them to such parties.

Her Catholic Majesty's Government have recently appointed a Judge to the British and Spanish Mixed Court of Justice, and have also established a Consulate at Sierra Leone. In carrying out the provisions of the Treaty of 1835, we are happy to say we look forward to the cordial co-operation of our Spanish colleague, who seems sincerely disposed to use his best efforts to suppress the Spanish Slave Trade.

If, too, as we are given to understand, it be the intention of Her Catholic Majesty's Government to enforce the law against the crews of all Spanish slavers which may hereafter be condemned here; such a measure, vigorously pursued, must doubtless have some beneficial effect. At the same time, as we apprehend it is not intended to extend this interference beyond those subjects of Spain who may be found on board vessels condemned in the Mixed Court of Justice, it seems clear that the chief result as regards the Spanish slaver, will eventually be the destruction of papers, and other evidences of nationality.

This practice has indeed already been largely resorted to, from a desire to avoid prosecution in any of the Mixed Courts, on account of the nature of the examinations to which witnesses are subjected, and the exposure consequent upon the publication of the evidence, both of which the slavers are well aware they may escape in the Vice-Admiralty Courts, where they are not examined at all, unless the cases be contested, and even then it has not been customary hitherto for the evidence to be printed.

In concluding this report we regret to have to remark that there appears to be some ground for apprehension that the new French settlements on the coast, may tend to encourage the Slave Trade, if they be not kept under stricter surveillance than seems to be at present exercised over them.

We find that Bahia slavers are now despatched and regularly cleared for the Gaboon, of which river the French claim the sovereignty; and it is alleged that the small French military party there has afforded its protection to vessels engaged in the traffic.

As this is a subject, however, on which Commodore Jones has already, we believe, addressed the Lords of the Admiralty, it will be unnecessary for us to allude to it further.

We have, &c.

(Signed)M.L. MELVILLE
 JAMES HOOK

The Right Hon. the Earl of Aberdeen, K.T.,
&c, &c, &c,


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