Report of Mixed Courts at Sierra Leone for 1846
Report of Mixed Courts at Sierra Leone for 1846

Royal NavyWest Africa slave trade1845 ◄► 1847

Her Majesty's Commissioners to Viscount Palmerston.- (Received March 22)

Sierra Leone, January 27, 1847.

My Lord,

HEREWITH we have the honour to transmit to your Lordship our annual report of the proceedings of the Courts of Mixed Commission established in this place for the suppression of the Slave Trade; also on the general state of the Slave Trade on the west coast of Africa, during the year ending the 31st of December, 1846.

In the year just concluded, no case came before the British and Netherland, British and Spanish, British and Argentine, British and Chilian, British and Bolivian, nor the British and Uruguayan Mixed Courts of Justice.

The total number of vessels presented before these Mixed Commission Courts since their establishment in this colony in June 1819, up to the 31st of December, 1846, is 528, whereof 501 were cases of condemnation and twenty-seven were either withdrawn, dismissed, or restored to the claimant.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 the Courts 64,625 slaves, of whom 56,935 have been registered here (During the year 1846, 545 slaves, the survivors of 556 captured, were emancipated by the Court of Vice-Admiralty at Sierra Leone).

In obedience to your Lordship's orders in your despatch dated the 8th of October, 1846 we have now the honour to make our remarks upon the ten vessels which have been condemned as good and lawful prizes in the Vice-Admiralty Court at Sierra Leone. But as Her Majesty's Commissioners have in their two last half-yearly reports for 1846, fully informed your Lordship of the various circumstances relative to their seizure, adjudication, and condemnation, it will therefore not be necessary for us to occupy your time on this head further than respectfully to refer your Lordship to the two reports above mentioned.

Of these ten vessels seven were captured under the Brazilian flag, and three had neither flag nor papers. Nothing, however, was elicited on their prosecution which would induce the belief that they were not bond fide Brazilians. Nine of them were cases of equipment for the Slave Trade, and one had 556 slaves on board when captured. Four were bound from Bahia to the ports in Africa within 7º north of the Equator, two from Rio de Janeiro bound to the same locality, and. four from ports in Brazil to places within 6º south of the Line.

Though we are not in possession of an official statement of the number of prizes condemned in the Vice-Admiralty Court at St. Helena, we have fortunately obtained from a commander of one of Her Majesty's cruizers on the leeward station, the subjoined list, the correctness of which we have no reason to doubt: -

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Name of Capturing Vessel Commander No of Prizes With Slaves Equipment Total
Hecate J. West 1 Slaves   1
Kingfisher F.W. Horton 5   Equipment 5
Larne J.W.D. Brisbane 2   Ditto 2
Waterwitch T.F. Birch 1 Slaves   5
Waterwitch T.F. Birch 4   Equipment
Espoir G.S. Hand 1   Ditto 1
Sealark T.L. Gooch 3   Ditto 3
Bittern T. Hope 1   Ditto 1
Prometheus J. Hay 2   Ditto 2
Hydra H.B. Young 2   Ditto 2

Total number of Vessels condemned under the Brazilian flag in the Vice-Admiralty Court at St. Helena, in the year 1846 ........ 22

The above list shows that twenty-two prizes have been condemned for having been engaged in the Slave Trade in the Vice-Admiralty Court at St. Helena, during the last year; and as before stated, ten vessels for the same cause have been condemned in the Vice-Admiralty Court in Sierra Leone during the same period, which make together thirty-two prizes condemned. in the said two Courts in 1846; and so far as we have been able to ascertain, the whole were Brazilian property.

We have made an average of the number of prizes condemned in the British and Brazilian Court of Mixed Commission in this colony during the last five years, and it gives rather more than eleven yearly. But we think that a far greater number of vessels were employed last year than formerly by the Brazilian slave-traders. In proof of this there is an increase in the number of captures and condemnations, amounting to about 75 per cent.

The Act of the 8th and 9th of Victoria at once prepared us for the non-appearance in our Courts of Brazilian prizes, because by this Act all vessels captured under that flag for being engaged in the Slave Trade, were to be taken before the Vice-Admiralty Courts of Sierra Leone or St. Helena. But we were led to expect that several Spanish prizes would have been brought into our harbour during the last year; however in this we have been agreeably disappointed. Whether the late distracted state of Cuba, and the fear of increasing the slave population in that island, may have produced the unprecedented calm in their favourite trade, or whether the promulgation of the stringent Penal Act of the Cortes at Madrid, sanctioned by Her Catholic Majesty on the 2nd of March, 1845, may have caused this unexpected event, we know not; but not a single Spanish vessel has been brought into this port during the past year, nor have we heard that any Spanish slaver has been seen on the coast during that period. This cessation from the Slave Trade on the part of Spain forms a new and interesting era in the suppression of that inhuman traffic. We can only hope that it may prove sincere and final.

While it is our pleasing duty to report to your Lordship that no case for adjudication has been brought before the Courts of Mixed Commission during the past year, we beg respectfully to express to your Lordship our firm opinion and belief that to the constant zeal and unwearied labours of our gallant squadron, in no small degree are we indebted for the present almost cessation of the Slave Trade by every nation except Brazil. The effective arrangement and sailing qualities of Her Majesty's cruizers stationed on the coast for the suppression of the Slave Trade, render it a matter of great difficulty for a slaver to escape from the coast with slaves on board.

We now respectfully beg to draw your Lordship's attention to the case of the only vessel condemned in this colony in 1846 for having slaves on board, because, as before stated, the other nine vessels were cases of equipment for the Slave Trade. This vessel, the "Paquete de Rio," Jozé Francisco Alves, master, was captured under the Brazilian flag on the 28th of October, 1846, in latitude 7º 9' N., and longitude 12º 23' W., by Her Majesty's sloop "Cygnet," Commander F. B. Montresor, and Her Majesty's sloop "Ferret," Commander George Spriggs. On searching the "Paquete de Rio," 556 slaves were found on board. She was brought up to this colony, and. proceedings were immediately instituted against her in the Vice-Admiralty Court, where she was condemned on the 15th of November following under the Act of the 8th and 9th Victoria, cap. 122.

As your Lordship may probably deem it necessary to bring this daring case under the notice of the Brazilian Government, we beg herewith to supply the following particulars relative to the proceedings connected with this slaver, for it is scarcely to be credited. that her character and ultimate destination were not known to M. Campos (who had just been appointed by the Brazilian Government Vice-Consul at Sierra Leone, and who came passenger in the "Paquete de Rio" to this colony.)

The "Paquete de Rio" arrived in this port from Rio de Janeiro on the 10th of August, 1846, with a general cargo of merchandise and forty pipes of rum (or rather aguadiente). The former was imported. by M. Joaquim Pinto Menezes Campos, the passenger, who also gave the usual bond at the Colonial Secretary's office for the vessel, and who subsequently, on the 22nd of August, cleared her at the custom-house for Yawry Bay and Leeward Coast, with forty pipes and two small casks of rum, or aquadiente. After a short absence she returned to this port on the 4th of September, having landed her spirits beyond the jurisdiction of this colony, and remained here until the 5th of October, when she was cleared out for the south coast (of Africa) and Rio de Janeiro, in ballast.

After leaving this harbour, the "Paquete de Rio" was boarded on the 24th of October by Her Majesty's sloop "Contest," when no indications of equipment being found on board, she was allowed to proceed. Nevertheless, so securely and promptly had the parties engaged in this enterprise conducted their arrangements, that within forty-eight hours after this visit, the "Paquete de Rio," measuring only seventy-four tons new English measurement, had embarked 556 slaves, with all the requisite slave equipment, water, &c., and was actually on her voyage to Rio de Janeiro, when she was fortunately captured by two of Her Majesty's cruizers, as before mentioned.

Herewith we have the honour to annex a copy and translation of the imperial passport and certificate of the nationality of the "Paquete de Rio." Also two extracts of documents transmitted with the despatch dated December 15, 1845, from Her Majesty's Commissioners to the Right Honourable the Earl of Aberdeen, which will give further information as to the status of Mr. Campos.

Before closing our report, we respectfully beg leave to submit to your Lordship a brief account of one of the many schemes adopted by the resident and other slave-traders on the Coast. As it proved successful, it will likely be tried again during the next rainy season, when the atmosphere is generally thick and cloudy.

The party thus successful in eluding the vigilance of the cruizers was the notorious Theodore Canot, who resides at Cape Mount, and has long been familiar to us as one of the most audacious slave-traders on the Coast.

The manner in which he effected his escape with 200 slaves about four or five months back is as follows: - For a length of time previous to his departure, he had been watching for an opportunity to elude the vigilance of the cruizers, by escaping with a cargo of slaves to a port in Brazil. An opportunity at last offered, of which he availed himself. During the thick cloudy weather in the last rains he took out the masts of a small schooner belonging to him, shipped about 200 slaves on board of her at Sherbro, near this colony, and then, during a fog, immediately by means of oars got clear away beyond the general cruizing-ground, where he re-shipped his masts, which had been towing astern of his vessel. We are not informed at which port in Brazil he landed his slaves, but he has lately returned to the coast, and is no doubt plotting a similar voyage, but as the cruizers are aware of the manner in which he effected his late escape, they will, we hope, be able to give a good account of him.

We are persuaded that Theodore Canot and others of the like renegade character are the chief agents that foster and promote the export Slave Trade on the Coast.

We have, &c.


The Right Hon. Viscount Palmerston, G.C.B.
&c. &c. &c.

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