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'Further Papers respecting the Slave Trade on the East Coast of Africa and the System Pursued for its Suppression' [‎77v] (22/50)

The record is made up of 1 volume (25 folios). It was created in 29 Oct 1869. It was written in English and French. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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Such then are the facts of these two cases, so far as they are present known to your
Lordships'; and there are several questions that arise out of them, and which deserve your
Lordship's most serious consideration. T • .i, ,
The first to which I would wish to call your Lordship s attention, is the ground
alleged by Captain Meara in the second of the two cases under consideration for capturing
and" destroying the dhow, namely, the presence on hoard her of some domestic slaves;
and as a justification for so doing, he refers to the 51st Section of the Slave Trade Instruc-
tions, which declares that an officer will be justified in concluding that a vessel is engaged
in or equipped for the Slave Trade if he finds any slaves on board.
It is hardly necessary to observe that as a general rule it is unsafe to rely upon a
single clause without reference to the context or to the general scope of the Instructions,
and that such a course must almost necessarily lead to the greatest absurdities. But in
the present case it appears to me that Commander Meara has confused two things which
are essentially different, namely) slavery and the Slave Trade. The clause on which he
relies is taken from Instructions issued in 1865 to the Commanders of Her Majesty s_ships
employed in the suppression of the Slave Trade ; not instructions for ,the suppression of
slavery, but of the Slave Trade, or, in other words, the illegal transport of negroes for the
purpose of consigning them to slavery, and of selling them as slaves. The instructions
speak throughout of the Slave Trade, not of slavery.
And here I may observe that so far as foreign nations are concerned, we have
no right, nor do the Instructions authorize our naval officers to interfere with the
domestic institution of slavery, or with the employment of domestic slaves in such
manner as the laws of the country allow. All that the Instructions seek to do is to
direct naval officers how to deal with any vessels, which they may meet, suspected of
being engaged in or equipped for the Slave Trade. It is true that the section in
question says that a vessel may be presumed to be engaged in the Slave Trade if there
are found on board any slaves, and that it does not add that the slaves are to be those
only who are being transported for the purpose of being consigned into slavery and sold
as slaves; but surely such a limitation is unnecessary in Instructions referring exclusively
to the suppression of the Slave Trade. Indeed I should have thought that no one, much
less a naval officer, could have so misinterpreted the Instructions were it not that in a recent
case, that of the " Dahomey," the capturing officer alleged as a ground for seizing and
sending in for adjudication a Portuguese vessel, consigned with a cargo of palm-oil to this
country, the fact that she had at the time on board three domestic slaves, who had been
engaged to assist in shipping and unshipping the cargo. If, as I observed in that case,
such a principle were once admitted, it would justify the seizure and condemnation of almost
every British vessel entering the ports of a country in which slavery at the time existed.
It is, however, not necessary that I should say more on this point, as your Lordships appear,
from Mr. Hamilton's letter to me of the 12th instant, to have taken the same view of this
question. But if the idea generally prevails amongst naval officers that they are entitled
to capture any vessel, on board of which they may happen to find a domestic slave, on
the ground that the vessel is engaged in carrying on the Slave Trade, it would be
matter for consideration whether a circular ought not to be at once sent by the Admiralty
to all the commanding officers engaged in the suppression of the Slave Trade, instructing
them as to their duties on this point.
Another point which seems to deserve your Lordships' attention is the statement
that in both these cases, the Sultan's pass was destroyed by the officers of the capturing
ship. If this was really done, it is conduct deserving of the strongest censure; for the
only object of destroying the pass would seem to be to remove the best evidence of the
lawful character of the dhow, and to afford some apparent justification for what would,
in that case, have been grossly illegal acts of the captors in seizing and destroying her.
Moreover, it is in direct violation of the Instructions issued to the commanders of vessels
engaged in the suppression of the Slave Trade, which are very precise on this point.
Section 58 directs the capturing officer to cause all the vessels' papers to be numbered and
lettered consecutively, and a certificate thereof to be at once drawn up. Section 69 directs
him to deliver the vessels' papers to the prize officer charged to take the vessel into
port; and section 85 orders the prize officer to deliver them all into Court.
There could therefore be no justification for the destruction of the Sultan's pass in
either of these cases ; and if capturing officers will so entirely disregard their Instructions,
and commit acts of so illegal and unjustifiable a character, they must not be surprised if
your Lordships should hereafter refuse to relieve them from the necessary consequences
of their misconduct.
A still more important point, however, and to which it is necessary that I should call
your Lordships' attention, is the practice which appears to prevail on the East Coast of

About this item


This file contains correspondence between British officials regarding their attempts to monitor and prohibit slave traffic on the East Coast of Africa. The correspondence dates from March 1869 to October 1869.

Of particular interest are the following folios:

  • Folio 71 - French Government boat registration papers that had been given to 'Arab Dhows' allowing them to travel under the French flag.
  • Folio 73 - A chart entitled 'Memorandum of Number of Slaves landed and liberated at Aden, and how disposed of'.
  • Folio 74 - A copy of the Slave Trade Jurisdiction (Zanzibar) Bill, May 1869.
  • Folios 89-91 - 'A Memorandum by Mr. Churchill [Henry Adrian Churchill, Britain's Agent in Zanzibar] respecting Slave Trade on the East Coast of Africa'.
Extent and format
1 volume (25 folios)

The file is arranged in rough chronological order, with the earliest correspondence at the beginning of the file and the latest at the end of the file.

Physical characteristics

Condition: contained within a bound volume that contains a number of other files.

Foliation: The foliation for this description commences at f 67, and terminates at f 91, as it is part of a larger physical volume; these numbers are written in pencil, are circled, and are located in the top right corner of the recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. side of each folio. An additional foliation sequence is also present in parallel between ff 5-134; these numbers are written in pencil, but are not circled, and can be found in the same position as the main sequence.

Written in
English and French in Latin script
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'Further Papers respecting the Slave Trade on the East Coast of Africa and the System Pursued for its Suppression' [‎77v] (22/50), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/PS/18/B84, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 21 February 2020]

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