The 1841 Niger expedition
The 1841 Niger expedition

Royal Navy1841 Niger expedition

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In the year 1807, Great Britain prohibited all her subjects from engaging in the Slave Trade, and the Legislature of this country, in accordance with the voice of the people, repudiated a commerce which had produced more crime and misery, than perhaps any other single course of guilt and iniquity; but neither the Government nor the Legislature, nor the subjects of this realm, were satisfied with a mere cessation from crime.

Remembering how deeply, in times of comparative ignorance, we had sustained and augmented this trade, so repugnant to every Christian principle and feeling, the nation determined to use its utmost influence, and expend its resources, in the noble attempt to extinguish it for ever.

The compass of this address will not allow even of the most compendious statement of the measures resorted to, of the treaties concluded with foreign powers, of the monies expended, and the various other efforts made to effect this object; suffice it to say, that since the year 1807, all the great powers of Europe have been induced by Great Britain to unite in expressing their abhorrence of this traffic; and with all, treaties more or less stringent have been made for its extinction.

The United States of America, though from political reasons they have declined any actual co-operation, have not the less denounced and prohibited all traffic in Slaves from Africa. Great Britain has expended, in bounties alone, upwards of £940,000, and in the maintenance of the courts established for the adjudication of captured slaves, above £330,000: besides a very large sum annually in supporting a considerable force of cruisers in various parts of the globe, to intercept and destroy the traffic. {This Expenditure, together with that caused by the payments to foreign powers on account of the Slave Trade, for the support of liberated Africans, and for other incidental expenses, may be shown, from official documents, to have amounted to upwards of fifteen million sterling.} An infinitely more important sacrifice has been made in the loss of British life, which has been necessarily incurred in pursuing this object. The result, the melancholy result, remains to be stated. The traffic has not been extinguished, has not been diminished, but, by the latest accounts from which any estimate can be correctly formed, the numbers exported have increased - the destruction of human life, and all the guilt and misery consequent thereon, hare been fearfully augmented; and at the same time it may be stated, that the numbers exported from Africa, are, as compared with the year 1807, as two to one, and that the annual loss of life has risen from seventeen to twenty-five per cent.

Let no man, however, say that these efforts have been thrown away. Who can tell how fearful might not have been the amount of enormity, if those exertions had not been made? Who would presume to say that the very assertion of the great principles of justice and truth has not accelerated the final extirpation of those detested practices? Who would venture to assert that a criminal inaction on the part of Great Britain might not have caused an indefinite continuance of the guilt on the part of other nations?

But the people of England have not succeeded to the extent of their wishes:- Assuming it to be so, what remains to be done?- but led on by the same Christian principles, the same devotion to truth, justice, and humanity, to continue our efforts, and to apply, if possible, other and more efficient remedies in accordance with these great principles.

Animated by these feelings, a number of noblemen and gentlemen of all political opinions, and of Christian persuasions of divers kinds, have formed themselves into a Society for the purpose of effecting the extinction of the Slave Trade; and they now call on the public to unite their exertions for the accomplishment of this great end.

That the British public, apprized of the extent of the enormity, and deeply feeling the guilt and misery now prevailing, will receive with favour the announcement of the formation of this Society, no doubt is entertained; but various opinions do and will exist as to the most fitting means to be adopted for the establishment of peace and tranquillity in Africa.

It is expedient, therefore, to state the leading principles on which this Society is formed, and the measures intended to be pursued.

It is the unanimous opinion of this Society, that the only complete cure of all these evils, is the introduction of Christianity into Africa. They do not believe that any less powerful remedy will entirely extinguish the present inducements to trade in human beings, or will afford to the inhabitants of those extensive regions a sure foundation for repose and happiness.

But they are aware that a great variety of views may exist as to the manner in which religious instruction should be introduced. Distinctly avowing, therefore, that the substitution of our pure and holy faith for the false religion, idolatry and superstitions of Africa, is, in their firm conviction, the true ultimate remedy for the calamities that afflict her, they are most anxious to adopt every measure which may eventually lead to the establishment of Christianity throughout that Continent; and hoping to secure the cordial co-operation of all, they proceed to declare that the grand object of their association is - the extinction of the Slave Trade.

The primary object of this Society will be constantly kept in view under all circumstances of difficulty or discouragement, as the grand end to which their efforts, of whatever character, should be resolutely and unchangeably directed.

As one of the principal means, they have cordially co-operated with Mr. Buxton in inducing Her Majesty's Government to undertake an expedition to the river Niger, with the view of obtaining the most accurate information as to the state of the countries bordering on its mighty waters.

The immense importance of this object alone, as opening a highway into the interior of Africa, and bringing the efforts of British philanthropy into immediate contact with the numerous and populous nations it contains, will be at once perceived and acknowledged.

It will be one of the first duties then of this Society to watch over the proceedings of this expedition, to record its progress, and to digest and circulate the valuable information which it may be confidently expected to communicate.

When this leading step has been taken, it is anticipated that a large field for exertions of a different description will then be opened; but desirable as such exertions may be, it must be clearly understood that this Society, associated solely for benevolent purposes, can bear no part whatever in them: still, in order that a comprehensive view may be taken of the whole, though each part must be accomplished by agencies entirely distinct, it may be expedient to state some of the expectations which are entertained.

One most important department must entirely rest with Her Majesty's Government,- the formation of Treaties with the native rulers of Africa for the suppression of the Slave Trade. Such Treaties, however, will not be carried into execution, unless those wants which have hitherto been supplied from the profits arising from the sale of the natives, should be satisfied through the means of legitimate commerce. It may appear expedient to the Government to obtain from the Chiefs .the possession of some convenient districts which may be best adapted to carrying on trade with safety and success, and when this is effected, another and wholly distinct Society may, perhaps be formed, for the purpose of aiding in the cultivation of those districts, and of promoting the growth of those valuable products for which the soil of those Countries is peculiarly fitted.

The present Society can take part in no plan of Colonization or of Trade. Its objects are, and must be, exclusively pacific and benevolent; but it may by encouragement, and by the diffusion of information, most materially aid in the civilization of Africa, and so pave the way for the successful exertions of others, whether they be directed to colonization and the cultivation of the soil or to commercial intercourse, or to that which is immeasurably superior to them all, the establishment of the Christian faith on the Continent of Africa.

At home this Society will direct its vigilant attention to all which may arise with respect to the traffic in Slaves, and give publicity to whatever may be deemed most essential to produce its suppression.

In Africa there are various means whereby it may effectually work to the same end. One of the great impediments at present existing to the advancement of knowledge, is the state of the native languages of Western and Central Africa.

Amongst the many nations which inhabit those regions, there are certainly many different dialects, and not improbably several leading languages. A few only of those languages have yet been reduced into writing, and consequently the difficulty of holding intercourse with the natives and imparting knowledge to them is greatly increased. By the adoption of effectual measures for reducing the principal languages of Western and Central Africa into writing, a great obstacle to the diffusion of information will be removed, and facility afforded for the introduction of the truths of Christianity.

There is another subject of no light importance which would legitimately fall within the views of this Institution. In Africa, medical science can scarcely be said to exist, yet in no part of the world is it more profoundly respected. As at present understood by the natives, it is intimately connected with the most inveterate and barbarous superstitions; and its artful practitioners, owing their superiority to this popular ignorance, may be expected to interpose the most powerful obstacles to the diffusion of Christianity and of science.

To encourage therefore the introduction of more enlightened views on this subject;- to prevent or mitigate the prevalence of disease and suffering among the people of Africa,- and to secure the aid of medical science generally to the beneficent objects of African civilization, must be considered of immense importance; nor would its benefits be confined to the native population. It is equally applicable to the investigation of the climate and localities of that Country. To render Africa a salubrious residence for European constitutions may be a hopeless task; but to diminish the danger, to point out the means whereby persons proceeding thither may most effectually guard against its perils, may perhaps be effected ; nor must it be forgotten that in however humble a degree this advantage can be attained, its value cannot be too highly appreciated.

Various other measures may come within the legitimate scope of this Institution. It may be sufficient to recapitulate a few;- the encouragement of practical science in all its various branches,- the system of drainage best calculated to success in a climate so humid and so hot, would be an invaluable boon to all who frequent that great Continent, whatever might be their purpose. Though this Society would not embark in agriculture, it might afford essential assistance to the natives, by furnishing them with useful information as to the best mode of cultivation; as to the productions which command a steady market, and by introducing the most approved agricultural implements and seeds. The time may come when the knowledge and practice of the mighty powers of steam might contribute rapidly to promote the improvement and prosperity of that Country.

Even matters of comparatively less moment may engage the attention of the Society. It may assist in promoting the formation of Roads and Canals. The manufacture of Paper, and the use of the Printing Press, if once established in Africa, will be amongst the most powerful auxiliaries in the dispersion of ignorance, and the destruction of barbarism.

It is hoped that enough has now been stated to justify the Society in calling for the aid and co-operation of all who hold in just abhorrence the iniquitous traffic in human beings - of all who deeply deplore the awful crimes which have so long afflicted, and still continue to devastate Africa - of all who remember with deep sorrow and contrition that share which Great Britain so long continued to have, in producing those scenes of bloodshed and of guilt. A variety of collateral means has thus been suggested sufficiently important and interesting to demonstrate the necessity of a distinct Society, and to entitle it to the best wishes and firmest support of every sincere friend of Africa.

To its success, cordial and united co-operation is indispensable. It proposes to act by means in which the whole community, without regard to religious or political opinions, may concur; and though it does not embrace the establishment by its own agency of schools for the spread of Religious Instruction, it abstains from such an undertaking, not because it does not value the introduction of Christian knowledge as the greatest blessing which can be bestowed on that idolatrous land, but because a diversity of opinion as to the mode of proceeding, must of necessity interfere with the unity of action so essential for the common prosecution of such an important object, and thus impede instead of facilitate the objects of this Institution.

It is impossible, however, to close this address without again expressing, in the most emphatic terms, the conviction and earnest hope of all who have already attached themselves as members of this Institution, that the measures to be adopted by them for the suppression of the traffic in Slaves - for securing the peace and tranquillity of Africa - for the encouragement of agriculture and commerce, will facilitate the propagation and triumph of that faith which one and all feel to be indispensable for the happiness of the inhabitants of that Continent. Howsoever the extension of the Christian religion may be attempted, it is far more likely to take root and flourish where peace prevails, and crime is diminished, than where murder and bloodshed, and the violation of every righteous principle, continue to pollute the land.

Office of the Society,
15, Parliament Street,

14th February, 1840.


Thomas Fowell Buxton, Esq.

Deputy Chairman.
The Right Hon. Stephen Lushington, D.C.L. M.P.
Sir Robert Harry Inglis, Bart., M.P.

The Earl of Euston, M.P.
The Earl of Chichester
The Lord Charles Fitz Roy, M.P.
The Lord Nugent.
The Lord Viscount Sandon, M.P.
The Lord Ashley, M.P.
The Lord Eliot, M.P.
The Lord Worsley, M.P.
The Lord Bishop of London.
The Lord Calthorpe.
The Lord Seaford.
The Lord Wharncliffe.
The Lord Teignmouth, M.P.
The Hon. C.P. Villiers, M.P.
The Hon. F.G. Calthorpe.
The Right Hon. T.B. Macaulay, M.P.
Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, Bart., M.P.
Sir George Stephen.
Thomas Dyke Acland, Esq , M.P.
William Allen, Esq.
Captain W. Allen, R.N.
Captain Bird Allen, R.N.
George Babington, Esq.
Edward Baines, Esq., M.P.
John J. Briscoe, Esq., M.P.
E.N. Buxton, Esq.
Edmund Buxton, Esq.
Robert Barclay, Jun., Esq.
Jos. Gurney Barclay, Esq.
Arthur Kett Barclay, Esq.
Jos. Beidam, Esq.
John Bandinel, Esq.
The Rev. Dr. Bunting.
The Rev. John Beecham.
Frederick Bell, Esq.
James Bell, Esq.
Captain Bosanquet, R.N.
William Brackenbury, Esq.
James Cook, Esq.
Captain Cook.
Emanuel Cooper, Esq.
Dandeson Coates, Esq.
William Ewart, Esq. M.P.
William Evans, Esq., M.P.
William Storrs Fry, Esq.
J. Gurney Fry, Esq.
W.E. Forster, Esq.
H. Goulburn, Jun., Esq.
Charles Grant, Esq.
Dr. Gregory.
Samuel Gurney, Esq.
Samuel Gurney, Jun., Esq.
John Henry Gurney, Esq.
Samuel Hoare, Esq.
John Gurney Hoare, Esq.
William Hamilton, Esq.
The Rev. R.E. Hankinson, Jun.
Benjamin Hawes, Jun., Esq., M.P.
Dr. Hodgkin.
John Irving, Esq., M.P.
Andrew Johnston, Esq.
Captain Kelly, R.N.
J.J. Lister, Esq.
L.C. Lecesne, Esq.
Charles Lushington, Esq., M.P.
James M'Queen, Esq.
Richard Matthews, Esq.
The Hon. Captain Maude, R.N.
Colonel Nicholls.
Robert Pryor, Esq.
C.L. Phillips, Esq.
G.R. Porter, Esq.
W. Foster Reynolds, Esq.
William Rothery, Esq.
Thomas Sturge, Esq.
W.C. Stretfield, Esq.
Benjamin Smith, Esq., M.P.
William Taylor, Esq.
Colonel Torrens.
Captain Trotter, R.N.
H.R. Upcher, Esq.
Captain Washington, R.N.
Henry Waymouth, Esq.

J. Gurney Hoare, Esq.

The Rev. J.M. Trew.

Receiving Bankers :- Messrs. Barnetts, Hoare, and Co., 62, Lombard-street; Messrs. Barclay, Bevan, and Co., 54, Lombard-street; Messrs. Coutts and Co., 59, Strand; Messrs. Drummonds, Charing-cross; Messrs. Hanbury, Taylor, and Co., 80, Lombard-street; Messrs. Hankeys, 7, Fenchurch-street; Messrs. Hoares, 37, Fleet-street; Messrs. Williams, Deacon, and Co., 20, Birchin-lane.

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