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When I have nothing else to attract my attention, which is pretty often the case in this very dull city, I amuse myself with attending the debates in parliament, that are sometimes interesting from the subjects under discussion. In this way I have had an opportunity of hearing the ablest speakers, on topics that afforded the best opportunities for the display of their talents. On a late occasion, in a question connected with African slavery, (a fruitful subject for declamation,) Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. Brougham, Sir James Mackintosh, Lord Londonderry, and several others, made their best figure. Each in turn complained of the encouragement given to the slave trade by many of the European powers, in possession of colonies in the West Indies, and at the same time reluctantly acknowledged, that our abandoned Republic was the only government that heartily and in good earnest co-operated with them in their efforts to prevent it.
I should have been quite delighted with this testimony in favour of our country, had not all these distinguished persons contrived, as usual, to turn the compliment to their own account, by ascribing our good behaviour to the influence of their own precept and example. Besides, we were of the same stock, which circumstance was, in itself, quite sufficient to account for any little glimmerings of virtue or humanity observed amidst the corruptions of liberty. I was not a little annoyed, and at the same time amused, at hearing Mr. Wil. berforce, who really has the most crying face, with the most evangelical gravity, indulging this inveterate John Bull propensity of taking to himself all the credit of other people's exertions. The struggle was mighty between his natural candour, which evidently prompted him to declare the truth that we set them the first example of humanity to the blacks, and that lurking vanity, which incited him to take all the credit to himself. The latter seemed to prevail; for, would you believe it? nothing was said that would have induced a spectator, ignorant of the real fact, to believe we deserved any credit in this business of abolishing the slave trade, except that of following their example! But at the same time that they bore this reluctant testimony to our honest and vigorous cooperation in this affair, there was yet one thing wanting to complete the climax. Our government had, it seems, firmly resisted every attempt to establish the right of search, that practice which Great Britain has most reluctantly relinquished, and which she made an effort to resume under this convenient cover of humanity. I think it highly probable another overture will be made on this subject, if it be for no other purpose than to afford another pretext for a little more cant on the part of Mr. Wilberforce, and a little more hypocritical regret on the part of my Lord Londonderry.
If this overture should be made, 1 liave no doubt but that our government will again promptly and decisively decline it. Under whatever pretext it
may come, it is nothing less than an insidious attempt to revive the old right of search, and to establish a maritime practice, under cover of which her vessels of war may again embarrass our merchantmen by vexatious delays, and throw the most serious obstacles in the way of our just and authorized commerce. In my opinion, a nation ceases to be independent, when, under any pretext whatever, she authorizes any other power to interfere in the enforcement of her own laws by sea or land. This proposed reciprocal acknowledgment of the right of search is, beyond doubt, an attempt to establish it upon the basis of a prescriptive and acknowledged right, and is part of a deep-laid plan for indirectly reviving the old pretension to the empire of the seas, under the mask of humanity, pretty much as this government is attempting to extend its empire in India, Ceylon, and Madagascar, under the mask of religion.
Our wise and temperate cabinet at Washington is too polite to tell my Lord Londonderry so ; but it cannot but be aware, that this new-born zeal for African freedom originated, or, rather, finally triumphed, in parliament at a most suspicious moment. It was just at the dawning of a peace after a long war, in which the trade of France was entirely cut up, and her West-India colonies were in great want of the necessary hands to cultivate their great staple of sugar. The British West Indies, on the contrary, were amply supplied with slares, and there were millions of Indians in Hindostan, capital substitutes for Africans. By preventing those European nations who hold American or West-India possessions from obtaining a supply of slaves, the English would be enabled, by underselling them, to monopolize the sugar trade, and at the same time get great credit for their humanity. Trade is, in fact, an object of which this VOL. I.
government never loses sight for a moment. The interests of trade are a sufficient justification for a violation of national' faith and national justice. Religion, morality, and all things else, are in turn subservient to this grasping principle. They go to war for the trade of an island in the West Indies; and when two nations are engaged in hostilities, the question of co-operating with either is always a question of interest, rather than principle. That the government has not long since interfered to repress the struggles of freedom in South America, as it has done every where else, is entirely owing to this trading conscience, which governs it on all occasions. The legitimate government of Spain prohibited all commercial intercourse with her colonies; while the establishment of the colonial independence will open the ports of South America. The present temporary revival of trade and manufactures here, is almost exclusively ow, ing to immense shipments to the new republics; and, at this moment, there are upwards of sixty ships, with nearly eight millions sterling of goods, waiting the fall of Lima. It will be a losing business to the shippers, but it will assist Mr. Vansittart in his budget.– A second affair of Buenos Ayres, which deceived the adventurers. What a fortụnate concurrence of circumstances was it then, when they could at the same time monopolize the sugar trade, and get credit for their humanity!
Humanity, when in its pure state, and uncontaminated by any mixture of interest or passion, is a widely extended and comprehensive feeling. It comprehends not merely one colour, one nation, and one quarter of the globe, but the whole human race in a greater or less degree. To oppress one people, and at the same time affect great commisseration for another, is not humanity, but hypo
crisy. It is assuming a cloak for some interested purpose; either to impose upon the credulity of, the world for objects of gain or ambition, or to prop up a falling reputation. If this government were really and sincerely actuated by a principle of humanity, not altogether confined to the colour of the epidermis, why has it lately permitted the Mussulmen to exercise the most cruel outrages on the Greeks; to carry on a war of extermination against Christians, who believe in the same Saviour as the people of England ? Why did not Lord Strangford, the English ambassador at the Porte, while dining with the Grand Seignior, an honour never before conferred on a christian dog, and basking in the sunshine of Ottoman favour-why did he not take the opportunity to interfere to prevent the indiscriminate massacre of christians, men, women, and children? Why?--because he enjoyed this very favour at the price of giving them up to the butcher-at the price of refusing admission on board the English vessels in the Archipelago, to those christian Greeks that fled from the Mussulman tyrant, who had issued a declaration that their existence could no longer be tolerated--at the price of uniformly, and from the very first, siding with Mussulman executioners against christian victims; and the issuing of a declaration, prohibiting the Ionians, who are under English protection, from assisting their countrymen upon pain of death-at the price of giving an English escort to Turkish ships, loaded with men and stores, for the purpose of bringing a christian people to the sabre and the bowstring of an infidel oppressor-in short, at the price of abandoning all the obligations of justice, humanity, and religion.
Why did not lord Strangford, at this auspicious moment, when the existence of the Ottoman pow.