Her Majesty's Commissioners to the Earl of Aberdeen.
Sierra Leone, December 31, 1843.
(Received March 8, 1844.)
HEREWITH we have the honour to transmit to your Lordship a list of all the cases which have been adjudicated during the year ending this day, in the British and Spanish Mixed Court of Justice, in the British and Portuguese, and in the British and Brazilian Courts of Mixed Commission, established in this Colony.
During the year of 1843, no case came before the British and Netherlands, the British and Argentine, the British and Uruguay, the British and Bolivian, nor the British and Chilian Mixed Courts of Justice.
The total number of vessels adjudicated during the year has been thirteen, twelve of which proved cases of condemnation, and one was restored. Only one was prosecuted in the British and Spanish Mixed Court of Justice, one in the British and Portuguese, and eleven in the British and Brazilian Courts of Mixed Commission.
Eight hundred and eight slaves were emancipated during the year, of whom eight hundred and five were registered here.
The total number of vessels adjudicated by the Mixed Commissions since their establishment in this Colony in 1819 up to the present date is four hundred and seventy-one. Of this number twenty-four were cases of restoration to the claimants.
During the same period there have been emancipated by these Courts sixty-one thousand and eighty-five slaves, of whom only fifty-three thousand four hundred and twenty-one have been registered here.
Of the thirteen vessels which were adjudicated by the Mixed Commission Courts during this year, only two had slaves on board, namely, "Furia" and "Temerario." The first shipped her human cargo at Lagos, and the latter at Cape Lopez. When detained both were found to be Brazilian vessels.
Nearly the whole of the thirteen slave-trading vessels, which sailed from different ports in Brazil to mere nominal ports in other places, found their way to this coast. Eleven were regular Brazilian vessels; one was Spanish, but captured under Brazilian colours; the other one was Portuguese. All were to have returned with their cargoes of slaves to Brazil.
The eleven Brazilian vessels engaged in the slave traffic were all, except two, cases of equipment. The Spanish and Portuguese vessels were also cases of equipment.
It is scarcely possible to name the exact ports of the coast to which these thirteen vessels were really destined, and we can only assign a probable locality to them from the places in which they were detained by Her Majesty's cruizers. Adopting this as our best guide, it appears that of the eleven Brazilian vessels, six were destined to the slave ports within five degrees north of the Equator, four of them to the African coast within eight degrees south, and one to Quillemane on the east coast of Africa. The Spanish vessel was detained sailing, under the Brazilian flag, off Cabinda; and the Portuguese prize was seized in latitude 6º 35' South, and longitude 10º 10' West.
There are at present four cases before the Courts, two of which had slaves on board.
From the foregoing statement, your Lordship will perceive that unhappily for the cause of humanity, the Slave Trade has greatly increased during the year 1843, and when we consider that many Portuguese vessels, of whose numbers we have no account, must have been sent for adjudication to the new Mixed Commission Court at the Cape of Good Hope, the increase will still be greater.
During the year just closed the Slave Trade in this neighbourhood has been most successfully and extensively carried on. At the Gallinas the slave-trading establishments have been all restored, and are in active operation. The notorious Pedro Blanco has lately returned from the Havana in an American vessel called the "Elsinore" to the Gallinas, with a full cargo of Slave Trading merchandize, particularly slave equipment articles.
We beg respectfully to draw your Lordship's attention to the manner in which the slave-trading vessels are supplied with coppers, shackles, bolts, handcuffs, chains, &c., nearly the whole of which are brought to the coast in perfect safety, on freight, under the American flag; other merchandizes for carrying on that inhuman traffic are also supplied by both American and British vessels. The resident slave dealers purchase their required trade goods from the British and Americans, for which they pay bills on London, or in specie. This at once accounts for the absence of cargoes in all the captured slavers during the past year.
During the year just ended, we have heard of numerous cargoes of slaves having been shipped at Bissao, Rio Pongas, and Gallinas; and within the last six weeks the brig "Volador" actually embarked 600 slaves at Sherbro, nearly adjoining this colony. The "Volador" had been chased six times by Her Majesty's brig "Ferret" off the Gallinas, from which place her cargo of slaves were marched overland to Sherbro, and there embarked. The brig "Clio," condemned in the British and Brazilian Court in March last, was bought at auction here by Mr. Pillegrin, a foreigner, and cleared out for Cape de Verdes and Cadiz, but proceeded no farther than the former place, where she was permitted to fit out for a slave-voyage, and she then returned to the Rio Pongos about two months ago, embarked 490 slaves, and got safe off with them. Last week we learned that a large brig, armed with six guns, succeeded in getting away with 1,000 slaves on board, from the neighbourhood of Whydah. To the very inferior sailing qualities of several of our cruizers must be attributed the escape of so many slavers; particularly from the coast between Gambia and Cape Coast Castle. Her Majesty's steamer "Soudan" owing to her inefficient state, has lain at anchor nearly the whole of the year 1843, in the river Sierra Leone. Her Majesty's steamer "Albert" whose sailing qualities are so bad that, with both sails and steam at their full power, cannot exceed five knots an hour, has been cruizing in this quarter, but without succeeding in making a single capture. Had these vessels been anchored in the Gallinas and Pongas, they must have prevented a large export of slaves from those two places, and proved a, great protection to the British traders. It is true that the aiders and abettors of the Slave Trade might term such a proceeding a blockade, yet common sense and justice at once prove that the British flag in those positions would be a real protection to the persons and property of fair traders. In making these remarks to your Lordship, we beg to disclaim the least reflection on the gallant officers of Her Majesty's squadron on the coast. Their arduous duty and exertions merit every praise.
For some time past an emigration of considerable extent has been carried on between this colony and Badagry, to which place and its vicinity about 700 liberated people from Sierra Leone have gone to reside. They have in general been well received by the king and chiefs of that country; and carry with them Christian principles, and a share of English morals and trade. From this and other circumstances, we are led to expect a considerable abatement of the Slave Trade at Whydah.
We beg to report to your Lordship that the Brazilian prize, "Loteria," which was sold at auction on the 22nd instant, was purchased by Mr. Niteroi, the late Brazilian Judge in this place.
We have, &c.
The Right Hon. the Earl of Aberdeen, K.T.
&c, &c, &c,