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No. 12.--Mr. Sec". Canning to the Right Hon. F. Lamb. Sir,
Foreign Office, November 10, 1826. I have to transmit to you the accompanying Copies of Despatches from His Majesty's Commissioner at The Havannah*.
These Despatches prove most clearly that the Royal Order, transmitted from Madrid to The Havannah, for the more effectual execution of the Stipulations on African Slave-trade, is become a mere dead Letter; and that the Colonial Authorities of His Catholick Majesty, to whom the execution of this Order was especially confided, not only connive at the evasion of it, but openly shew that the discretionary power which they possess will be made use of by them to screen from detection and punishment the most clear and undoubted Slave-trade transactions, in the very Port of the Capital of the Province, and before the eyes of the Governor himself.
The Minerva, a Spanish Slave-trader, was chased into The Havannah by His Majesty's Sloop Pylades ; demand was made for her examination by the Mixed Commission, and a refusal was given by the Governor, on the pretext that she was not actually captured ; the real fact being, that she escaped into the Port of The Havannah, and that the British Officer (out of respect to His Catholick Majesty's Flag,) instead of taking possession of her, requested the interference of that very Governor to fulfil the Orders of his Sovereign.
Boats full of Slaves were seen to hurry from this Vessel. British Officers, placed in a Boat near the Vessel, solemnly attested the fact. The Governor, on its being represented to him, treated the statement of His Majesty's Officers as utterly unworthy of credit, and still refused to proceed against the Vessel, alleging, that there was no pretence for supposing that she had traded in Slaves; and although the regular Gazette of the Port had, on her commencing her Voyage, declared that she was sailing for Africa, the Governor intimated, that that account also was not to be believed, and that she caine, as the Captain now reported her, from Puerto Rico.
A British Officer then went on board of the Vessel, and found every thing indicating that her Cargo had been Slaves. The Governor still declined to act, even so far as to take the Depositions, declaring all the reports against the Vessel to be idle rumours.
It further appears, that, subsequently, some Slaves from this Vessel were, on their passage from The Havannah to a Port at the back of the Island, taken by a British Cruizer, and that the Vessel, on board of which they were, was tried by the Mixed Commission. Such, however, is the intimidation employed in the Island of Cuba against those who denounce Slave-traders, that the very Person, on whose information the capture was made, dared not give in Court his Evidence to the facts of which he was a Witness.
• See Class A.-Nos. 84, 86, 88, and 89.
A question being put, in the course of the Proceedings, whether the Slaves were part of the cargo of the Minerva, the Spanish Commissioners objected to it, on the ground that such questions did not involve the immediate merits of the Case before them, and it was not until the Spanish Governor had understood that the British Schooner was swamped, to which the Officer and men belonged, who had witnessed the disembarkation of the Slaves, that he offered to take their Depositions.
The extraordinary conduct of the higher Authorities, in regard to this Case of the Minerva, can only be explained by a suspicion, which cannot but be attached to the conduct of these Authorities, namely, that they themselves must be in some degree interested in the success of these illegal transactions.
With these causes, however, His Majesty's Government have nothing to do; but they cannot silently see the solemn Compacts entered into between the two Countries thus flagrantly infringed.
I have to desire, therefore, that you will bring these facts to the knowledge of the Government of His Catholick Majesty, and will acquaint the Spanish Minister, that His Majesty's Government do not presume to judge what steps it is necessary for the Spanish Government to take, in respect to the Authorities who have thus acted in direct opposition to the Instructions, and abused the high power entrusted to them by their Sovereign ; but that, unless some step be taken by the Spanish Government to protect and ensure the execution of the Instructions issued by them, in conformity to their Treaty, it is little less than a mockery to allow His Majesty's Commissioners to reside any longer at The Havannah, a Port which the Slave-traders will henceforth consider as the Harbour for their Cargoes, and for which they will openly and directly run their Vessels, laden with Slaves, as the safest mode of ensuring the success of their undertakings.
I am, &c. The Right Hon. F. Lamb.
No. 13.-Mr. Sec. Canning to the Right Hon. F. Lamb. SIR,
Foreign Office, December 14, 1826. I HEREWITH send to you the Copy of a Letter from His Majesty's Consul at Cadiz, dated the 26th of October last, enclosing a Publick Advertisement in the Gazette of that City, for the sale of a Negress.
You have been made aware that similar Advertisements have already more than once, during the time which you have held His Majesty's Mission at Madrid, appeared in the publick Newspapers of Cadiz.
These acts of Slave purchase and sale, in Spain itself, are entirely repugnant to the spirit of the Stipulation by which the Catholick King, in the 1st Article of the Treaty of 22d of September, 1817,"engages to His Majesty, that the Slave-trade shall be abolished throughout the entire Dominions of Spain, on the 30th day of May, 1820.”
I have received The King's Commands, therefore, to desire, that you will place these facts before the Spanish Government, with the expression of His Majesty's hope, that you will receive, in answer, an intimation that Orders will be given, immediately and publickly, for the discontinuance of a practice which, by its prevalence in the Mother Country, must afford an example, the effect of which cannot but be injurious to the due maintenance of the Faith pledged by His Catholick Majesty, in his Compacts with this Country, for the abolition of the Slave-trade.
I am, &c. The Right Hon. Frederick Lamb.
(Enclosure 1.)-Mr. Consul Brackenbury to John Bidwell, Esq. SIR,
Cadiz, October 26, 1826. I BEG to enclose a Cadiz Diario of yesterday, which contains an Advertisement for the sale of another Negress. I have made this fact known to His Excellency Mr. Lamb.
I have, &c. John Bidwell, Esq.
J. M. BRACKENBURY.
(Enclosure 2.)- Extract from the Diario Mercantil of Cadiz,
Wednesday, October 25, 1826.—(Translation.) A NEGRESS, 20 years of age, is to be sold. She knows how to sew, to wash, to iron, to cook, &c. Further particulars in the Calle de las Escuelas, No. 160.
No. 14.—Mr. Sec. Canning to the Right Hon. F. Lamb. SIR,
Foreign Office, December 15, 1826. In reference to my Despatch to you of this Series, dated the 10th ultimo, upon
the subject of the flagrant acts of Slave-trade, committed openly and with impunity, in the Case of the Slaves imported into The Havannali, on board of the Spanish Schooner Minerva, and afterwards transported into another Part of the Island of Cuba on board of the Spanish Steam-vessel Mexicano; I have to transmit to you the Copy of a Communication from the Admiralty to this Department, containing some further details upon the subject of this Case.
You will make such use as may appear to you to be advisable of these Documents, in your Correspondence with the Spanish Government upon the matter in question. I am, &c. The Right Hon. Frederick Lamb.
(Enclosure 1.)-John Barrow, Esq. to Joseph Planta, Jun. Esq. SIR,
Admiralty Office, December 6, 1826. I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to transmit to you, for the information of Mr. Secretary Canning, Copies
of a Letter, and its Enclosures, from Vice Admiral Sir Lawrence W. Halsted, respecting the Slave-trade carrying on on the coast of Cuba.
I am, &c. Joseph Planta, Jun. Esq.
JOHN BARROW. (Enclosure 2.)–Vice Admiral Sir L. W. Halsted to J. W. Croker, Esq.
Magnificent, in Port Royal Harbour, Sir,
Jamaica, Septembör 29, 1826. COMMANDER JACKSON, of His Majesty's Sloop Pylades, having forwarded to me several Reports relating to the detention of Spanish Vessels engaged in the illicit Traffick in Slaves on the North Coast of Cuba, and also to the impunity with which that Trade is still carried on there, I send herewith Copies of the same, for the information of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.
The Enclosures, numbered from 1 to 8, shew, that the Pylades and Magpie Schooner, on the 16th ultimo, chased into the Port of Havannah a very suspicious Schooner, which afterwards proved to be La Minerva, under Spanish Colours, having on board upwards of 200 Negroes, who, notwithstanding immediate information thereof was given to His Excellency Don Dionisio Vives, the Captain-General, and to Commodore Laborde, 70 of them (women) were landed at a Publick Shipping wharf, in open day-light, on the day she was chased into the said Port; and the remainder the same night, as the enclosed Papers incontestibly prove.
In further elucidation of the circumstances of this extraordinary affair, I beg their Lordships' attention to the detailed Affidavit, No. 9, which I have obtained from Mr. (now Lieutenant) Nott, who came to join the Harlequin, by the Union Schooner, which brought me Commander Jackson's Despatches; and I purpose obtaining the Oath of Lieutenant Hast also to a duplicate of the said Affidavit, on the return of the Pylades. The Case of this Vessel is, I am informed, before the Spanish Admiralty Court, for decision, and not before that of the Mixed Commission.
By the further Enclosures, numbered from 10 to 14, their Lordships will learn, upon Commander Jackson having received good information, that some of the above-mentioned Negroes, who were landed from the Schooner La Minerva, were concealed on board the Spanish Steam-vessel Mexicano, which plies between Havannah and Matanzas, he, on the 20th August, boarded her when she was out 3 miles from the Morro; and although her Master most positively denied there were any such Negroes on board, and evinced every desire to resist being searched, 20 new Negroes, for whom he bad no Passports, were discovered secreted below.
In this Case, I must likewise refer their Lordships to the detailed Affidavit which I have received from Lieutenant Nott, No. 15, and to a Duplicate of which, on the return of the Pylades, I shall also obtain
the Oath of Lieutenant Hast. The result of this Trial before the Court of Mixed Commission was, that the Mexicano should be restored, the Spaniards interested having produced the greatest number of Affidavits; though, in this restoration, their Lordships will find by the Enclosure No. 14, that W. S. Macleay, Esq. the British Commissioner of Arbitration, has not concurred. With such glaring Cases as these happening in the Port of Havannah, their Lordships will readily believe, that the Schooner La Dichosa, mentioned in the last Enclosure, No. 16, found no difficulty whatever in landing her Slaves at an Ont.Port, as reported by the late Lieutenant Smith, who is perfectly correct in remarking, that this is not a solitary instance of the Spanish Brig of War Bellona affording countenance to Vessels engaged in the Slave-trade; the Brig alluded to in the Enclosure, No. 3, of my Despatch of the 24th August, 1825, being this same Bellona.
From the circumstances of the Case of the Mexicano, it will be apparent to their Lordships, how easily the Provisions of the Convention for the suppression of the Traffick in Slaves may be evaded, if the people of Cuba can transport their Slaves coastwise, without Passports emanating from the highest local Authorities. A Slave-vessel, in short, need only succeed in landing her Cargo on any point of the Coast, and, at leisure, remove them with impunity to all Parts of the Island.
I have the honour to be, &c. J. W. Croker, Esq.
L. W. HALSTED, Vice-Admiral.
(Enclosure 2,) 1.-Capt. Jackson to Vice-Admiral Sir L. W. Halsted. (Extract.)
H.M.S. Pylades, Havannah, Sept. 11, 1826. On the 16th ultimo, in company with the Magpie, we observed a very suspicious looking Vessel, which afterwards proved to be the Spanish Slave-schooner Minerva, standing in for the Land. Letters, numbered from 2 to 8, and Lieut. Smith's Letter, No. 5, will fully explain the circumstances attending this nefarious transaction, wherein it has since come to my knowledge, that part of the Slaves from the said Schooner were landed during day-light, even in the Port of Havannah, the others, as Lieut. Smith's above-mentioned Letter will shew, were positively landed during the night.
On the morning of the 20th ultimo, I boarded the Steam-vessel Mexicano, out 3 miles from the Morro; my Letters, numbered 10 to 14, and the Statement of Lieut. Hast and Mr. Nott, Mate, No. 13, contain an explanation of the cause of her detention; but in writing the Letter, No. 13, I could not possibly foresee, that Oaths would be made, and handed in, as opposite to truth as the North is to the South Pole.
First, the Master of the Vessel swore, that she was within musketshot of the Morro when boarded; next, that he did not deny having Slaves on board, nor permission to search, and that they were not secreted away.